Run Away

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine from 23 years ago posted on Facebook that she was thinking of running away and starting over. She just needed a change of scenery and to be able to breathe again. Life had gotten overwhelming and she just didn’t want to deal with it. She spoke straight to me.

People who know me know that I do a fair bit of running. Whether it be ignoring things that (sometimes) shouldn’t be ignored, cutting off people with no warning/explanation, or the real act of leaving/moving. It’s a bit of a theme in my life, I think. Most of the time, “running” doesn’t help. I may have cut that person off, or I may be ignoring a problem, but the person and problem remain on my mind. The situations remain what they are and remain in my heart and mind because they haven’t been faced or handled.

On occasion, though, running away really does help. I’ll give an example:

I moved from South Georgia to run away from something. I was running away from a toxic 3 year relationship that I don’t think would have ever ended had I not moved. We were stuck in a cycle. We would be the model couple for a few weeks, and then one of us would lose ourselves and we would be each other’s worst enemy. We would try to get our relationship in line with God’s desire for us, but then our desire for each other would become greater than our desire to follow Him. Back to square one we’d be. The true downfall and nuclear bomb that ended all we had was the late 1st trimester loss of our child. After that loss, I just KNEW that it was because I wasn’t following God’s will for me. I started getting involved in a church down there. He tried, but chose to remain living as we had been before. So during this down time, I decided to move.

I definitely didn’t go about this move the right way. I won’t get into all of that on this post, but my actions with it didn’t follow God’s desire for my life, either. However, once I got my feet or more stable ground, I became active in church here helping lead youth. Turns out, my running away from something bad also helped me run TOWARD something good. A real, life-changing, roller-coaster of a relationship with Christ.

Even now, I’m in a completely different situation than I was then, but I still find myself trying to run from God’s plan. I can’t explain it and I don’t know why I do it. Maybe it’s the “I can do it myself” attitude I’ve ALWAYS had. It’s a constant tug-of-war between the old life and this new life I’ve created. A “tug-of-war” between what I think is best and what God knows is best. Through it all, though, I’ve learned that running from most problems just leads to others, and if I don’t continually remind myself to stop running from the problems and run toward God, then I will remain in a self-destructive cycle that’s neither good for me or The Kid. It’s a tough pill to swallow- not running anymore and allowing God to take control. It’s a process that, if you’re like me, will take years and years and years and years. But I have faith and trust in His Word that it will all be for His glory, and therefore, totally worth it.

Father, Today I come to you to ask you to do what I know you will- Chase me. When I try to run, chase me. When I act like Jonah and try to take over, send a storm, send a worm to humble me and remind me Who is in control. Remind me that when I am facing something hard, that You face it with me. And when You are facing a mountain with me, there is nothing that is too much and no that there is no need for me to run. Remind me that Your plan and path for my life may seem like they are leading me away from my desires, but when I am truly and faithfully following You, Your desires become mine. AMEN

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Why Do You Go to Church?

church_near_junction_city_kansas

John Vachon 1942 or 1943 Church near Junction City, Kansas

I’ve noticed recently that a good number of people at the church I attend have been pretty much mentally absent while being physically present at our services.  I don’t mean in the way that they are just preoccupied with something, I mean that they seem to just be there.  They play on their phone or sit in the service for a few minutes and then go talk to someone out in the entryway about things completely unrelated while still “Checking-In” to church on Facebook (or any other social media).  Naturally, this has caused me to begin to focus on the question “Why do people go to church?”  It seems like an easy, light question. . . . but it isn’t.  At least it isn’t in MY mind because I want to know the REAL “why” and not just the basic off-the-cuff answer.

So, if you guys who are reading this don’t mind, leave a comment and let me know your “why” and feel free to direct others to visit and share their answers as well.  Any and all answers are welcome and there will be no judgement.  I’m ready to get this conversation rolling!  (My “why” will be posted in a few days on another post I’m working on.)

 

Way to go, Me

A few weeks ago we were headed to school.  While we were discussing something that The Kid’s class was doing, I told him, “Don’t be scared to ask for help, okay?”  Immediately I thought to MYSELF, “Derp.  Way to go, me.  Giving him advice that I don’t even take.  Good grief.”  Seriously.  That’s exactly what I thought.  I’m not paraphrasing.  Haha!

I’ve been told by Mama and Deddy that my first sentence was “I [can] do it myself.”  If you know me, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t shock you in the least bit.  I detest asking for help.  I would much rather dig myself into a hole trying to figure something out on my own than ask someone to help me.  The past 7 years or so, I have spent so much time trying to control every single aspect of my life.  I’ve lost sleep and I’ve driven myself to the very brink of literal and certifiable craziness multiple times.  I am a master of over-thinking.  My picture is next to “anxiety” in the dictionary.  I like to make things more difficult than they actually are.  It’s a real talent, it is.  Usually by the time I’ve asked for help, I’ve spent a lot of time freaking out internally and running through every possible outcome.  I do this even on things that should be fun like picking out clothes, creating a piece of art, learning to play or sing a new song, or making brownies (or whatever.)

Does this remind you of someone (yourself) or of a situation?  I’m thinking it does….

How often do you try and figure things out on your own without talking to God about it?  How often do you wait until the last minute or until things seem unbearable to ask for His help?  I’ve gotten better in my communication with God.  Most nights I fall asleep before I finish praying and I spend a lot of the day talking to God in my head, but I have found that I STILL try to figure things out on my own.  The years since I moved back to Madison have been rife with evidence that I do not have to do things on my own.  The past year has been even more than those before.  Progressively, things have been organized without me even having to take the first step, but for some reason I can’t grasp the fact that it just isn’t possible for me to figure things out peacefully on my own, nor can I understand that I’m not strong/powerful enough to.  I have noticed recently, though, that the desire to be so tyrannical has weakened.  I have wasted a lot of time worrying, “when is the next time I will work?” “How am I supposed to pay for ‘this’ or ‘that’?”  (Sometimes the things are stupid things, but those are for another blog another day.)

Here’s an example of things working out without me even really beginning to worry about it.  (When I say “really worry,” I mean I haven’t entered “Freak-Out Mode.”  Yet.  Actually, I never got even the slightest bit close to “FOM” in this situation.)   I have to drive to school an hour away twice a week next semester.  I had been wondering what I could do to make a bit extra so I wouldn’t be so crunched for gas money.  All of the sudden and when I was least expecting it, God.  Proving Himself to me yet again.  Some members of my life-group at church always seem to need me to house sit or watch their kids at the exact moments I am running low on funds.  They go above and beyond to help me and I never expect it or see it coming.

Philippeans 4:6-7

It’s funny (but not funny at all) how many times we can read something in the Bible, but still not do what it says.  The same can be said for how many times we have to live and relive things before we FINALLY understand.  It’s human nature, I guess, to want to do things alone without asking some “man in the sky” for help or waiting for his answers.  But the thing is, God isn’t just some “man in the sky” or “fairy tale.”  He is our Creator.  Provider- Jehovah Jireh.  Counselor.  Shepherd- Jehovah Raah.  Teacher.  Lord God Almighty- El Shaddai.  Comfort.  Father.  He is everlasting- El Olam.  He is the most high God- El Elyon.  Elohim.  Yahweh.  Adonai.  He is the Lord of Peace- Jehovah Shalom.  The list goes on and on.

The point is that in everything we do and everywhere we go, He is there.  All we have to do is ask and listen.  He wants us to ask.  He wants to help us.  It would be a cruel god who creates a being and leaves it to its own devices.  I am so thankful that the One True God has not done this.  As many times as we fail Him, He continues to show us He’s still here- watching out for us, waiting for us to ask for His help, and for us to just follow Him.

1 Chronicles 16:11





Washed in the Blood

I feel confident in saying that most of you who are reading my blog posts know I was raised Methodist. If you didn’t know before, you do now! When I was born, my parents were members of a Presbyterian church, and then later switched to Methodist. (They’re pretty close to the same thing.) So.. both of these denominations have the tradition of sprinkling babies when they’re a few months old. In these churches, this is considered as your baptism. Occasionally older people are also sprinkled, but I honestly could count on 1 hand the number of people over…. about 2 years old.. that I witnessed being baptized in the Methodist Churches I have attended.

Another thing about these churches– eh.. I don’t want to bunch all Methodist churches together and say they’re all the same– So let’s say “another thing about the Methodist churches I have attended…” Another thing about the Methodist churches I have attended is that they don’t really talk about salvation. Well…. they didn’t when I was growing up. I’m sure they have adjusted a bit “with the times.” I don’t remember anyone ever talking to us about being saved. It seemed like it was mostly, “well you’ve been going to church your whole life and have known Christ your whole life, so you’re going to heaven.” There was no focus on the defining moment. There was really no rejoicing or even mention of people being brought to Christ.

So obviously, I was one of the babies who was sprinkled. We have pictures of me in a gown being held by the minister at the Presbyterian church in Vicksburg, Ms surrounded by my parents and grandparents. Assuming the words of a baptismal ceremony at a Presbyterian church are similar to that of the Methodist church, my parents were asked if they believed that Christ was God’s son, and then they and the congregation said something like, “With God’s help, we will so order our lives after the example of Christ, that ‘this child’ surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith, and confirmed and strengthened in a way that leads to Life Eternal.”

SIDE NOTE: I can’t believe I remember that! That and the communion liturgy are engraved in my brain, apparently. 

To me, that is more of a parental/congregational profession of faith and is more like a dedication than a baptism since babies cannot declare their belief as Jesus Christ being the son of God. I haven’t always felt that way.. I had The Kid “baptized” when he was a few months old. Small ceremony with just Mama, Deddy, and Cinda Walker and her son Peyton (I worked for her and babysat Peyton. They are special people to us.) Vaughn Stafford, my youth minister from 9th grade, is the one who baptized him.. Before I began really reading and understanding on my own, I felt that sprinkling was the right thing to do and thought that it was weird that others waited until they were older to be baptized. I really had no clue that baptism had anything to do with salvation. I thought, “Ok. People in the Bible were baptized when they were older, but that was just because they weren’t raised knowing Jesus.” Or “I was already baptized, so now that I’m saved, I don’t need to worry about getting baptized again.” I’m not saying that I was wrong, I’m now saying that I don’t believe in that process anymore. I do think that baby/child dedications are wonderful and in some cases help with accountability.

To give some back-story, I asked the Lord into my heart in 7th grade at a See You at the Pole rally. Like I said before, I didn’t really know it was such a big deal because I had always known that God was with me. To be honest, I don’t really think I realized that the way I lived should have been changed. Goodness knows I have made my share of mistakes and have done my share of sinning. My point is that I have felt like something was missing or wasn’t right. My thoughts here recently are that I feel that way because haven’t been baptized of my own accord.

For the past few weeks I have been praying about it. I had asked God to show me what I should do. Yesterday morning in church, I got the sign. I was able to witness another girl who was raised in a church that “sprinkled” get baptized. She felt the same way I have been feeling and decided to take the step. I worried that people would say that it was weird or pointless. You only need to “get saved” once, so why would you need to be baptized more than once? Right? Nah. Because of her, I was able to see that I am not the only one who felt/feels this way and it gave me the push to make the decision to take the next step in my salvation and be baptized. Matt, one of our preachers, told me to find a Sunday that my parents would be able to come (since Deddy is a music minister and works on Sundays) and that Deddy could assist in the baptism if I and he would like. We haven’t picked a day, yet, but I’m sure we will have one soon!

(Originally posted on my old blog on August 8, 2016)

Easter & H20-Proof Mascara

Happy Easter, everyone!!

We had some great Easter services at Fusion Church of Madison on Sunday. There were so many people at both services as is “the norm” on Easter. We (our church) were so thankful for those who decided to come and worship with us- even if they don’t come on any other Sunday.
I’ve been singing in church my entire life- although I was a wanderer for 10 years.. I’m not a stranger to singing solos in front of people. I was excited (and nervous) when asked if I would be ok leading Forever by Kari Jobe. (Click on that title and listen. You won’t regret it.) This is one of my MANY favorite songs and one I had been hoping we would do at some point. It never crossed my mind that I might be the one leading.
The moon and stars, they wept.
The morning sun was dead.
The Savior of the world was fallen.
His body on the cross.
His blood poured out for us.
The weight of every curse upon Him.
 
One final breath he gave as heaven looked away.
The Son of God was laid in darkness.
A battle in the grave,
The war on death was waged.
The power of hell forever broken.
 
The ground began to shake.
The stone was rolled away.
His perfect love could not be overcome!
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated!
 
Forever He is glorified!
Forever He is lifted high!
Forever He is risen!
He is alive!
 
We sing hallelujah.
The Lamb has overcome!

The words to this song are so very important, but never once have I focused on the words of the songs I was singing while I was singing on stage. I have always tried to focus on getting the words right, not falling or tripping, being in tune, etc. I have sung Forever so many times. In my car. In the tub. Around the house. Pretty much everywhere. I knew it would go well, although I don’t think my voice does the song justice.

After practicing the song with the band a few times and leading the song during our first service, I was certain the second service would be perfect and that I’d be able to relax and do what had been asked of us- “Worship WITH them. Don’t just lead.” So just like before, I grabbed my mic, turned it on, closed my eyes, and waited for my cue. As soon as I sang “His body on the cross” I started getting choked up, and by the 2nd verse I lost it “in front of God and everybody” as they say. I couldn’t sing, couldn’t say the words. Matt, one of our preachers, sings loudly. Since I like hearing him, I tried to focus on his singing to get myself together. During this breakdown, I also heard someone.. possibly Derek (because he had a super huge smile on his face at the time and was all but dancing while directing our group).. let out a cheerful yell or laugh- I’m assuming because what was going on with me was completely understood by this person. The combination of that single cheer/laugh, Matt singing, and the knowledge of how important the words are, composure was regained. It took a few lines, but what are you gonna do?

This had never happened to me before in front of other people. I have cried listening to others sing or play, but never while I was the one being listened to. I’m a visual person. What I hear or read, I see in my mind…. and this song always gives me such a vivid picture of the crucifixion and resurrection. It’s never one like in pictures or in movies. It’s different. First person. The abandonment Jesus must have felt.. The feelings of those watching.. It is all in my mind at once. If you’re the same way, you know exactly what I mean. Matt unknowingly described the emotions in his sermon on Sunday. Despair…. and then the greatest hope EVER. I’m not sure if it was the fact that I was tired, or the fact I had decided to worship instead of lead, or a combination of the 2 that got to me.. but I realized what I was singing and was just completely overwhelmed.

Lucky for us, we don’t have to experience the hope the disciples had when they met and followed Jesus only to have that hope ripped away. We will never have to feel the despair of watching our Savior be taken from us for what we think will be forever. We get to only have hope and joy because we know He will come back for us.

(Originally posted on my old blog on April 1, 2016)

Getting it Through My Thick Skull

Two days ago, I checked my bank account because I needed to get my oil changed and tires rotated. I needed shampoo and Jack needed toothpaste. Basically, we needed the normal stuff that everyone has to buy. As we are sitting in the car waiting for my report to print, I tell Jack, “I hope there’s at least $60 in here because we gotta make it to Friday.” He asks what we were needing to get, so I rattled off the list to him. My report finally printed, so I exited the ATM system, rolled up my window, and pulled forward before reading it because there was someone waiting behind me. I glanced down at the paper before pulling out of the bank.

“What?!” I was sure that I had somewhere around $40 in my account, so I went online to make sure. Yep. I had forgotten about a gas purchase and another small purchase and had let my account get down to $3.94. Wonderful!!

Because I was already 4,000 miles overdue for an oil change, I couldn’t put it off anymore. I drove to the shop and paid the bill with Christmas money from my “boss.” This left me with $20 given to me by Mama and Deddy for Christmas. At this point in my thoughts, I decided to text Deddy. “I need money because I don’t have enough for gas for the week because I HAD to get my oil changed.” I already had plans for what I wanted to use my Christmas money for. I had planned to use it ($80 total- $17 had already been used for a much-needed sweater for the Christmas Eve service at our new church) for The Adventures in Odyssey dinner table devotion book for me and Jack to do together, and use the rest for winter clothes (which are a necessity) and as offering for church since I have only given about $5 since attending Fusion. I wasn’t going to use money given to me to get myself something I wanted for something I need. Gas isn’t what that money was for!

While I’m driving home and waiting on Deddy to respond a quote by Wilbur Rees, which I’ve mentioned in a previous post, ran through my mind.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a warm cup of milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.”

Of course, Deddy asked me how much I needed. But after remembering $3, I decided I didn’t need him to send me money. I told him nevermind and that I still had $20 left over from Christmas that would suffice until I got paid on Friday. Like in  Mr. Rees’s quote, I thought I should be the one who decided what I need. I thought that because I didn’t want to use that $20 for gas that it didn’t count and that I should just live as if that $3 was all I had. But once again I was reminded that I’m not the one who gets to choose what I do and do not need. Once again I was reminded that He will ALWAYS provide me with exactly what I need, even if it is less that what I think and it makes me uncomfortable. If He provides extra, great! If not, I know I’ll always have at the least, exactly what I need.
Neither my parents or “boss” had to give me money for Christmas. They both had already gone above and beyond anything I expected. The fact that they decided to do extra was just something God used to help me learn that He’s always got my back. It wasn’t necessarily a reminder in the way I would want, but a reminder nonetheless.
(Originally posted on my old blog on July 6, 2016)

Hope

The past few years have not been easy for me. I moved back to Madison to be closer to my parents and, if I’m being honest, to get away from a relationship that I didn’t feel was going to ever be healthy or functional. It just was not right. Fussing, fighting, together, not together. It was a vicious cycle.

Once back in Madison, I found it extremely hard to find a job. See, being my son’s only parent, I am unwilling to take a job that will keep me from spending time with him and that will keep me from being able to experience life with him. I refuse to miss ball games, school art shows, plays, class parties, being able to take random day trips, etc. I refuse to miss these moments: (that little figure by the water is my son)
It may not be the most beneficial choice in the financial sense, but money is just money. You can always get money one way or another. Life, though.. you only get one. Since he is already missing an integral part of his (his father), I have to make up for that in any way I can.

Back to the main point. The past few years have been difficult. I couldn’t find a job that was beneficial for myself and Mini-Me. I decided to REALLY go back to school and stop just talking about it. When it comes to school, I have to work harder than some in order to retain the information I am supposed to be learning. I spend a lot of time doing school work, so that, too, cut back the time I would be able to work to an even smaller timeframe. Luckily, through volunteering actively with the youth group, I was offered a summer internship at the church we were attending. It was such a blessing. Then, someone in my Sunday school class asked me if I would keep their new baby from around 8-12 on weekdays while she taught at the preschool. I would be able to have an income, go to school, AND still be able to spend time with my kid. In late July/early August, we moved to a new house after a summer of fearing and worrying that we were going to be homeless after my landlords decided to sell their property. (Long story for another day.)

Life has just been a whirlwind lately. Very many downs and a fair number of ups. I would never have been able to get through it if not for having some amazing friends and having truly awesome parents helping me the entire way. At some point in our life, we are the one being helped to our feet. Other times we are the ones doing the lifting. C’est la vie. It’s life. It’s our calling as humans, but more importantly it is our calling as Christians. We are supposed to love others and lift them up when they need help.

There is fear in needing help. There is fear in helping others. Many Americans are scared of allowing refugees in to our country. They fear they pose a threat to our safety. The places these people come from are recently known for their hatred of Christians. So I would say those who are scared are not totally misguided in their fears…. but a well-known passage in Romans should give us hope ane help us realise we can help in spite of our fears. In Romans 8:28-39, Paul says this:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified, those he justified, he also glorified.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all– how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died– more than that, who was raised to life– is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I believe that our soul is what God promises these things to, not our human bodies. Our bodies are just the means which we use to act out God’s calling. We fear for our safety and the safety of our children.. but what do we really have to fear if the end-game for us is to be in heaven with Christ? Fear is a very hard thing to overcome. I didn’t sleep very well after hearing of the attacks in Paris because I know it is only a matter of time before there is another attack closer to home. Last week, I found a book by Charles Swindoll. You may remember me mentioning another of his books in this blog post. (I apologize for the crazy font colors. When I updated my settings, some things refused to be changed, so you may need to “highlight” to see parts of it. Bleh) It’s titled Hope Again: When Life Hurts and Dreams Fade. I haven’t had the chance to get very far into it, but a prayer on page 22 really speaks to me about these situations.

A Prayer for Hope Beyond Suffering
Lord, mere words about hope and encouragement and purpose can really fall flat if things aren’t right in our lives. If we’re consumed by rage and resentment, somehow these words seem meaningless. But when our hearts are right, we hear with new ears. Then, rather than resisting these words, we appreciate them, and we love You for them.
Give us grace to match our trials. Give us a sense of hope and purpose beyond our pain. And give us fresh assurance that we’re not alone, that Your plan has not been aborted though our suffering intensifies. 
Help those of us who are on our feet right now to maintain a compassion for those who aren’t. Give us a word of encouragement for others living in a world of hurt. 
Let us never forget that every jolt in this rugged journey from earth to heaven is a reminder that we’re on the right road. 
I ask this in the compassionate name of the Man of Sorrows who was acquainted with grief. 
Amen
(Originally posted on my old blog on November 17, 2015)