Forgive

I find my voice better through writing instead of speaking. Forgiveness and loving others is currently something I am working through. It’s not been easy. Just when I think I’ve got it, I find myself stumbling again.  Here’s my random thoughts on what I’ve been working on this past year. I hope it makes some sort of sense.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude,  it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”

“Forgive.”

Keeping no records of wrongs means to forgive. To give a clean slate. To start over. Okay, I can do that. I can start over. But I can’t seem to get past verse 5 in 1 Cor 13: 4-8.

It’s the forgetting that is difficult. The reminders, the wounds not yet closed, past pains still fresh. Echos of past offenses rearing their ugly heads no matter how much I shout them down.  I rebuke the reminders that the Devil loves to dig back up and telling Him it is all on the Cross. Sometimes the shouting works. But there are times I find myself on my knees, his shouting louder than mine, crippled by past pain.

When the storm seems too rough, and the pain is too great, I want to run. I want to put on my running shoes, pack my bags, buy my ticket and bounce.  I want to rip up the roots that God has so carefully planted and take off. Vanish. Instead, I run to God, chaining myself to the Cross because if I don’t…I’ll run elsewhere.

Instead I let the waves hit and cling to the only hope I have in front of me, and remind myself :

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude,  it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”

“Forgive.”

Forgive in spite of pain, disappointments, broken trust, wrongdoings. It seems like so much, difficult for my human heart to comprehend. I want to self protect so that no pain is ever experienced again. God calls me to put down my shield, to be open, to love. To forgive. He applies His healing salve to my wounds that I thought my shield was preventing.

In those moments, I turn to the Lord and say,

“God how can I open my heart to those who have caused so much pain? How can I let them in? How can I let them get close again?

God gently reminds me,

” Baby girl (His name for me), I do that with YOU. With everyone.”

He reminds me of the Israelites, Gomer, Peter, David, Judas, Jacob, Adam, Eve…the list is truly endless. All of our names are on that list. God gives us so much grace and mercy. He could treat us like we treat Him.

I’ve  hurt my Father. I’ve turned away. I’ve put others things above Him. Yet, he waits. He’s patient and waits and when I’m ready, when my striving and wandering are done…He’s there. His arms are open; He showers me with His mercy, grace and love. He forgives.

He’s calling me to do the same.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude,  it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”

” Forgive.”

Forgive as God has forgiven me. Love like He loves me. Give clean slates to those who have hurt me.  God says that love covers a multitude of wrongs. I really hope it can. I need it to. I don’t want this to hold me back.

 

 

 

I choose love

God prompted me to write. I’m studying 1:Cor 13 and this past week, I focused on verses 4-8. These are my thoughts on it. Hope it makes sense 🙂

We are no match for the gates of Hell, for the sin that resides within us and the evil that seeks to destroy us and everything we hold dear. Alone we can not overcome this darkness. We are hopelessly lost.

The only answer that gives us a fighting chance is LOVE. Jesus is love. Through Him and only Him do we ever have a chance for victory.

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Now love is not easy. It is work, y’all. It takes putting ourselves aside, admitting that we are weak and need a savior. God has revealed that love is one of his biggest weapons. Jesus saved us all with one simple act. Love. He conquered sin and death for us all.  And when we use it, we can conquer anything. We just have to learn how.

So I took a look at 1 Cor 13, because I needed to figure out this “how to really love” thing. Like I mentioned before, it’s hard. Why is it hard?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. For one, I’m human. And with that comes selfishness, pride, impatience, foot-in-mouth syndrome, and anger. And when I’m  wronged, here come vengeance, walls a ninja can’t even climb and unforgiveness. It’s a mess, but its what you default to when you are human and try to go it alone.

So lets look at 1 Cor 13: 4-8

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends

There’s a lot to love, many things this one word seems to hold. Yet, it was Jesus’ one command to us:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34

I look at that command and think:

“God, I am so human. I want what I want, when I want it and how I want it. How can I possibly follow this? There are days that I remember who I am and that I serve you, but there are days where I forget (or times, like driving on the 41 on my way to work and there’s that one super slow driver….).

Whoops, rabbit trail. Ahem, back on track.

Yet, He calls us to love. It’s a scary thing because we’re human. And better yet, you want us, with all our mess, all our stuff, all our love of self, to join together with another human…with all their stuff and mess and love of self- and call it love.

Wow. Thats an even bigger command. To let worlds collide, very different worlds, and learn to love within them.

So what do we do with all of this? What is our plan?

We have to follow love. It’s the only way to win. It’s the only way to defeat the enemy. It’s like a throat punch to the devil every single time we choose to love. Every time we choose unity over separation, another throat punch.  Pretty soon the devil can’t speak anymore hate and fear into our lives because his throat is swollen shut. That’s an awesome thing.

Every time we lay ourselves down, and choose these things and choose Christ, the enemy reels back in horror. Our love for one another, our willingness to lay ourselves down  and follow Christ terrifies him. And it causes him pain. Doesn’t that just make you happy to know that every time we do this one simple act, to love, it destroys him. The devil, who steals our joy, wants us dead, destroys our families…it is wonderful to know that every time I choose love, it ruins him.

So I choose love. No matter how difficult, how scary or how painful…I choose love.

 

 

Reflection: She Reads Truth

This Saturday, one of my favorite devotional/bible study sites: She Reads Truth turns 1 year old.

Love this site!
Love this site!

I love their devotionals/ studies and they have really helped me read a LOT more of the Bible. Color me weird, but I have a tough time just reading the Bible straight. I do not focus well at all. I’ll start talking to God, which is not a bad thing, but then I just stop reading. Or I’ll just hop around from book to book, and not really take in what I just read. Or I’ll get distracted by a noise.  Or something shiny. ADHD much? Probably.

Yup, that's me.
Yup, that’s me.

Devotionals make reading the Bible a lot easier because I have questions, themes, etc that I can focus on while I am reading. I hope this changes for me though.

Currently they are doing an old testament series (which I have been DYING to get into, but SQUIRREL) and I just finished their study on Nehemiah. While checking their site for a new old testament book to study, I found that the site wanted everyone to vlog about their journey. I’m not good at talking about how I feel, especially on camera, but I’m pretty good at the writing thing, so I’ll stick to that.  Here’s the questions we were asked. Here are my answers. So pop some popcorn or make some trail mix if you actually decide to read all of this. It’s going to be a long one, and you’ll probably get hungry.

You can find this awesome recipe here while you read. You’re welcome.

How have you seen His faithfulness this year?

Oh man, there has been sooo much. I might need to give you a glimpse of what I went through last year so you can understand how much I’ve seen his faithfulness this year.

Last year was rough. There was a lot of growing and pruning. It wasn’t all bad, I got some pretty sweet blessings (new job, deeper relationship with God, friends, family) but it was definitely a tough year. I basically threw a fit with God and finally admitted to how much I do not trust Him and I did not forgive Him for my mothers death, which was hard to finally own and admit those feelings. This was the root of the not trusting junk.

This is what unforgiveneness was doing to me. Not pretty.
This is what unforgiveneness was doing to me. Not pretty.

So He put me on a HUGE trust walk so we could repair our relationship, and I could work on my faith. Of course, I was met with obstacles.  Things and relationships that I thought were solid started to fade. Promises that He had made seemed out of reach.  The enemy tried to discourage me and tell me that everything I ever wanted would not happen and pushed me to give up. I felt very lost and out of control…which is where God wanted me and I finally broke a lot of my stubbornness and started turning to Him first. The enemy didn’t like that of course, and turned up the heat.  Instead of giving up, walking in unforgiveness and running, I reminded myself of the promises God had for me. I prayed a lot and dived into the Bible (with the help of devotionals of course ).

Towards the end of the year, awesome blessings happened. And my, how they have continued! The promises I had asked for really started to show fruit. Relationships that I thought I had lost started to bloom. I was able to walk away from harmful relationships without guilt (HUGE for me).  I started getting answers from a job that I have been trying for for several months (still waiting for the job, but I know that it is coming) so there is finally a light at the end of that tunnel. I got honored at my current job by the CEO and the active duty members that I serve.  I got blessed with the chance to take a huge, much needed vacation with a friend.

Outlaw Run...I so can't wait!
Outlaw Run…I so can’t wait!

I got an amazing word from God, thanking me for walking in forgiveness and I was told that the promises that I asked for are coming and that He is quickly working over them. I will have so much happiness, I won’t know what to do with it. SWEET!

How has the Holy Spirit wrecked and rebuilt you?

Sometimes I still feel like the wrecking ball is still swinging.

Sometimes complete obliteration is necessary.
Sometimes complete obliteration is necessary.

It’s a good thing though, because there are a ton of things He needs to wreck. There’s a lot he has been working on, but I’ll go over the biggest thing he’s trying to knock down first.

What I have always viewed as being independent was actually just  a mask for pride and fear. Ouch.

When God pointed out my independence thing as actually a pride thing, I was so confused:

Me: Look God, I got this done by myself. It turned out pretty awesome!

God: Here’s the thing, what you keep calling independence is actually pride.

Me: God, I thought you liked my adventurous, driven, independent spirit?

God: Yes, I love those things and gave you those gifts. However, you need to come to me and depend on me.

Me: I do. I ask for your guidance.

God: Yes you do, but then you just do your own thing anyway if you don’t get answers soon enough.

Me:  But God, if you want something, you go after it. So I ask you and go after it. I’m just independent, just the way you created me.

God: No, that’s pride. You can’t do it all and you can’t do things independent from me.

Me: I’m not. I ask for your input, and I figure it’s what you would want me to do anyway, so I just do it. I’m just using the gift you gave me.

God: (Facepalm)

God and I had several of these conversations. Finally, I started getting smacked by my independence. I’d try to take control…SMACK…it would fall apart. It kept happening over and over again. The biggest area I got smacked in was in my career. Do you know how infuriating it is to turn down 7 jobs because you didn’t listen to God?  Or have to bail on interviews because you thought you could move things along faster if you had “control”?  Lemme tell you, it’s awful and very humbling.

Don’t be dumb like me.

 So after I finally grew tired of getting smacked,  I came into agreement with God that yes, what I viewed as independence was actually a ton of pride, and when He asks me to do something, I do it. I’m now on a YES walk.

It has not been easy, to be honest, it’s been scary. But, its been a good scary. I need to let go of the kung fu grip I have on my life. My need for control is actually fear based.  God has made it very clear there’s no love in fear and that there is no room for fear in our relationship. So I say, yes. Great things have come out of just saying yes. Lots of great things (see above).

Do I still freak out…oh yeah. You don’t stop being a control freak overnight. But,  I say yes, panic for a bit, God listens, reminds me that He’s in control and I keep moving.  It’s better than what I used to do and that was run away. In reality, I found that when I ran from God, this is what I was actually doing:

Cute, but dumb.
Cute, but dumb.

What truths have you read in His Word that have drawn you closer and deeper in relationship with Him?

I know I’ve said this before, but when I saw this question these were the first verses to pop in my head:

Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

When I first saw this verse, I kinda laughed. Joy and trials just don’t seem to go together. I am supposed to be happy and grateful for the tough times? I’m supposed to willingly embrace these moments as chances for growth?

It took me a while, but as I went through tough times I saw a lot of value in these verses.  After a particularly rough patch, instead of giving up, I would recite James 1 2-4. There were days I would read it over and over again just to get through the day. It was a constant reminder that God would never leave me nor would He fail me.

Through my past trials, my mothers death, losing relationships, job opportunities, disappointments, all these things have caused me to cling to God and grow my faith. Once the trial has ended, and I’ve gotten to the other side, I can see the growth and change the Lord  has done in me. I’m not dead or lying on the ground in defeat. I’m a lot stronger than I started.  It’s a cool thing.

So that’s it.  If you haven’t checked out She Reads Truth, you should because it is awesome.

Here’s the link: http://shereadstruth.com/

Thanks for reading.

Let Go…

I can’t sleep. A small part of my inability to turn down the lights is because I watched “The Woman in Black” and it scared the crap out of me. This is probably one of the scariest scary movies I have seen in a long time. Daniel Radcliff was brilliant, the story line was brillant and the effects were brilliant. I haven’t been this scared in a movie since I saw “The Ring” back in 2002. I even managed to scare other people in the theater when I screamed. I warned my friend I’m bad with scary movies. I hope she’ll still continue to watch movies with me after me being a dork, haha.

Did I really need an image? Why did I google this...creepy!

The funniest thing about me being scared over this is, I literally watched it all peeking through my fingers. I only saw like 20 percent of the actual movie, but I could hear everything, so I am still freaked out.  I loved  that I saw this movie until I realized that I live alone, in the country, on a very dark street.

After watching this movie, in my mind this is what my street now looks like...

Every time I turned down the lights, or walked to my bathroom at night, my vivid imagination started up and I imagined the woman in the corner of my room watching me while I slept.  Every noise I hear immediately causes me to sit up alert in my bed wondering where that sound came from. I slept with the lights on last night. I probably will sleep with them on tonight. I know I’m being ridiculous and that it’s just a movie.  I’m a huge chicken, but it’s my own fault for watching this movie knowing that it would freak me out. I’ll get over it soon, hopefully.

Yeah...probably not.

Anyway…

The other reason I can’t sleep is because I am troubled by an on-going issue I’ve been dealing with for the past few months or so. I know it’s gotten to be overwhelming for me when it starts screwing with my sleep, so I figured maybe writing about it may help get it off my mind. I can’t really go into much detail, and if you would like details, by all means, just ask me.

So here’s the exteremly vague version: I have been dealing with a troubling issue thats basically become very negative to me.  For a while it has gotten better, but the same issues pop right back up, and I am back to square one. I’ve talked to others about it and researched methods on how to deal with it, but nothing seems to work. It’s gotten to the point where something drastic needs to happen to make things better or I just have to walk away.

I have a hard time with guilt as I have mentioned before as well as letting go. It has gotten to the point where I have to tell myself ” When will it be enough, and how much more can I take?”

Sometimes you have to let go.

Such peace...

I am super grateful for the advice others have given me on this issue and I have tried out their suggestions. Now,  I am just going to let it go and give it to God. It’s strange, to me it feels like I am copping out because I can’t handle my own battles. Doing this strongly goes against my independent nature. My mom raised me to try to do everything myself. Although I am so grateful she pushed me to be independent, it’s developed into a sort of flaw when it comes to letting God handle stuff. Life would be so much easier if I let go and let Him take the reigns on my troubles.

I know Proverbs 3:5-6...but I tend to forget it in times of trouble. Funny how that happens...

This will probably be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  Deep down, I know that this is the smartest thing to do and probably how I should have handled this thing in the first place. However, I hate asking for help or admitting I can’t handle something. Because of that, it’s gone on a lot longer than it needed to and now it’s just a nightmare.

So, I am removing my kung fu grip from this burden and laying it at the Lord’s feet. It’s all that I can do. My hope is that in my stubbornness I do not try to pick it up again and take control because honestly, I’ve gotten no where. I just have to trust that He will help me through it.

Well, time to sleep. Here’s hoping the light bulbs in my lamp don’t burn out before I doze off…

The great church hunt…and other ramblings about trying to be a Christian.

So this new year has started off pretty awesome. New house, new job and renewed friendships makes life feel pretty awesome. In the past 5 weeks or so, I find myself disliking life here in Arizona  less and less and learning to appreciate what I have more. It’s nice to wake up and finally feel you have some idea that what you are doing is what you are supposed to be doing. It’s a pretty nice feeling actually.

Don't ask...

One area that I am still lacking in is the God area. I know I keep bring this up, but alas, it’s still an issue.  Now I’ve been told (and I know) that I was incredibly spoiled by my awesome church family back home in Fresno. I got amazing support in my faith and grew a ton while I was there. I made some awesome lifelong friendships and grew to love and trust other Christians because of my time at the Revival Center. Honestly, if it wasn’t for this place, my pastor and my friends at this church, I may have left Christianity. But that’s another story.

So, I’ve been in AZ a little over six months now and I still have struggled to find a church that is a good fit. Arizona has an interesting mix of churches. A lot of churches here are mega-churches, some are really tiny churches. Some churches have great teachings but the worship/ fellowship area is lacking. Some churches are great on fellowship, but the teachings have been downright bizarre or flat out wrong. Some churches have made me feel if I was in kindergarten for Christians. Others have used the guilt method.  I hate the guilt method by the way; how can we want to do anything for God from our hearts if we are guilted into it? How is that perfect love?

Who's bringing red vines?!

(Off my soap box and back to the post…)

Some churches  I’ve been to hardly talk about God at all, and focus on starting/ raising a family, money, being a good wife, etc.  Some talk about manipulating God and becoming the one to control Gods power. The sad part about the last church I mentioned, it was one of the ones I liked the most…and it turned out to be kind of a cult. Again, another story.

So, each church has varied greatly, but after each visit, I either leave feeling confused, awkward or irritated from my experience.  I know there is no such thing as a perfect church and I may be searching for a long time.  In the mean time I gotta find a way to feed my faith and fill that hole. It’s growing bigger and bigger and getting harder to ignore. I miss and long for the fellowship with other Christians and miss having a church home where I can grow and learn.

This is how I used to feel...

I know I need to feed myself spiritually. If I’m not getting it from the church, I have to provide for myself. I have to admit, it’s hard for me to do it alone. I need support in this area; it’s really hard for me without it.  I feel like I was taken out of a great supportive environment and left to fend for myself. Now I know this is not true because I choose to come here, but I am just having a really difficult time doing this alone.  He says we aren’t meant to be alone, but it’s kinda how I feel at the moment.

Kinda feeling like this...

In all fairness and not to completely whine about being here and not being comfortable, I have grown here quite a bit. I seem to have gotten a crash courses in trust, forgiveness and confrontation and am still in those courses. I hope to get an “A”  across the board when it’s all said and done. I really had forgiveness issues when I came here. I was the queen of cut-off. If you upset me, instead of dealing with it, I’d just cut that person out. Now, although its hard sometimes, I work harder at restoring and keeping friends when things go sour. On the flip side, I got to experience what it is like to experience unforgiveness and it SUCKED. It’s always a work in progress and there are times when I slip and regress back to my old ways, but I’ve gotten a lot better.  The end is result has been much stronger and deeper friendships so thats a plus.

As for confrontation, that’s still hard and I am constantly working to find my voice and stand up for myself. It’s funny, when do you have a weakness, God will find situations or friends to help you out in that area. I had previously had a job (no more, yay!) where I met that challenge every single day and towards the end, I found myself questioning my boss on decisions she made or defending a service denied to a client. I really didn’t stand up to the things she did to me personally which is my only regret, but what’s in the past is in the past. I am still meeting this challenge in certain friendships too, and there are times I want to give up but I’m hanging in there. As I said earlier, everything will be better for it.

I find that forgiveness and confrontation, although really hard things to do, really help build trust in others. Every person that I’ve had a difficult time with this past year and I stuck with my vow to confront them and forgive them our friendship/relationship has improved greatly. Of course I still continue to friendships/relationships where this rarely comes up and trust is already there with out it. I love that actually, but at least now through the difficult relationships/friendships I’ll know how to deal when conflict does arise.  Bottom line, conflict, forgiveness and trust are key in any relationship and without this element all you get is surface level friendships and relationships that really go no where.

Why even bother?

All in all, I’ve gone through quite a bit since being here, not all of it easy, but I believe it was necessary. I guess I got comfortable back home, heck I know I did and God saw that I needed to shake things up. I’m not too fond of the shaking right now, and I am hoping He’ll let up just a bit…a tiny bit maybe…so I can breathe.  In the end, I know its all to help me grow and become a better person, friend and Christian.