Tuesday, May 31, 2011

See ya later, Ruth! We will miss you until we meet again.

It was 1998 and this Women's Retreat was to be full of firsts for me. It was the first time I had ever left my children over night. It was the first time I had ever gone to a "Women's Retreat". It was the first time I found I couldn't keep from crying in public. And it was the first time I realized I could smile... A LOT.

Some history- 1998 was the year I became a Christian- accepting Jesus Christ as the only One who could save me from my sin. Before that, I had always been the tough girl who did her own thing and didn't give a rip what you thought of it. I had had two children outside of marriage, I liked to party and fight and thought that "religion" was something people did because they didn't know what life was REALLY like. Yeah- did God ever blow my socks off that year.

This was also the first time I met Ruth F. She was an older lady at church who was in a ladies discipleship program I had joined and my church planned a retreat for all of us to learn about healthy boundaries, refresh our spirits, and worship God together. I went to this retreat with so much apprehension. I didn't fit in with ANYONE- I didn't talk like these "Christians". I didn't dress like these women, and I certainly didn't think I thought like these people. But I felt so strongly that I should go.

Needless to say, God knew why I needed to be there. It truly was a turning point in my life and the beginning of a lifelong healing. I received more hugs, acceptance and love in that one weekend than I ever had before. These women were strangers to me- yet they were sisters. They were completely bizarre to me- yet they were such a comfort. I think I cried liters that weekend as God changed me completely, and I have never looked back. I smile all the time now, probably too much. I love life and people and instead of being the tough girl that "didn't cry no matter what", I cry like a baby over the most ridiculous things.

And I can still remember distinctly the moment all those changes happened during this retreat.

We were sitting at the round lunch table, probably about 8 ladies and as I looked around at the gray heads surrounding me, I felt so awkward. Friday night had been interesting and uncomfortable, but I was glad I came. I listened to these ladies talk about their families, children, life and love and I started to feel so stupid. Stupid because I didn't understand why they did the things they did. Stupid because smiling and love didn't come naturally to me like it seemed to for them. Stupid because I couldn't tell Bible stories or remember verses like they could. And I just started crying. Right there at the table like a big goomba. Not moaning and groaning, just tears streaming down my face. And that's the moment Ruth stepped into my life and I will never forget it. The whole table was being all lovey dovey to me and trying to comfort me as I blubbered out why I was so upset. "I just feel so behind- I'm 22 years old and I have wasted my whole life. I don't know how I will ever catch up to the faith and understanding you guys have of Jesus. It makes me feel so sad and lost."

Quiet Ruth looked me in the eye in her matter of fact way and said, "Well, you know, I was 27 before I became a Christian. So you are way ahead of me, dear." Bahahahaha! Talk about shutting things down! In her simple, honest sentence- she completely cured me of my self pity and gave me hope. We all started laughing and the ice was broken forever. Ruth opened the door to something I hadn't really considered. My life was just beginning and God had a good plan and purpose. She didn't laugh at me for being so dramatic, or tease me for my silly youth. She just said matter of factly, that God wasn't nearly through with me yet and I needed to gain some perspective.

Over the years we would make small talk and I would give her a big hug every time I saw her. She probably had no idea why this weird little Asian girl always stared at her and wanted to hug her, but it didn't matter. She let me anyway. After we moved back from AZ, I found that Ruth had gotten old. She never seemed old to me- when we were volunteering at New Heights together, or she was driving around all the old ladies who didn't have licenses anymore- she was always so busy. But now, she had finally slowed down. I still looked at her with awe, and loved to see her sitting in church next to her daughter- just staring at the back of her head and smiling in remembrance.

Ruth met Jesus face to face yesterday, May 30th, 2011. And I so wish I could have seen her quiet sweet smile when she looked at Him ...right in the eye, for the first time. I am so GLAD God let me know this woman, and I am so glad that I shared this memory with her daughter a couple years ago so she could explain it to Ruth before it was too late.

It makes me sad to know I won't ever see her little body with a big presence here on earth again...but I am so happy for her. No more pain, no more struggle...nothing but walking and talking with Her Father. The one who saved her at 27 and grew her and taught her and loved her every day of her life. Oh, Ruth- I love you, sister. I still hope someday to catch up to your faithfulness to Jesus...I want to grow up and be just like you. Thank you for always cutting to the chase and for seeing things so clearly. Can't wait to have lunch with you again soon... <3

"No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." Revelation 22:3-5

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cheap Entertainment on a Friday Night....

Editing videos. I love looking through old photos and cracking up. Now it's even better because Steve got me this software to make videos and it keeps me entertained when I can't sleep. Soooo good.

My girl and her friend, Burrito, have been riding together since the very beginning, and it has been so fun to watch them grow together. Anytime they end up within 10 feet of each other, there is guaranteed to be laughter and tears- because they laugh so hard they cry. I know, right? We should all have at least 1 friend like that. I just love that Jesus has touched both their lives and they are sisters forever through Him.

Hope you enjoy the video as much as I do, and if you ever need a riding lesson- I know two girls who can show you how it's done. Maybe not done RIGHT, but done with FLAIR. ;)

"The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray." Proverbs 12:26

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fridays make every other day worth it!

Too many whiner posts in a row, and I apologize. So instead, I wanted to send you a post of some things that I am thankful for. I realized yesterday thanks to the wise words of a friend, that I am running on empty, and that makes life bleak. But God is good- and all it takes is time well spent with Him, snuggling with His Word to fill me up, and today, my "cup runneth over"!

Thankful for my now SIXTEEN year old- that he loves me in spite of my insanity and is growing into the type of person I would actually want to be friends with.

Thankful for the ability to learn, which keeps life so interesting!

Thankful for my girl who has been stressed to the max with other people's drama and yet she never fails to work hard at loving and comforting everyone around her. She is my joy...<3

Thankful for all the things that make me scratch my head and laugh out loud.

Thankful for ladies who remind me why I'm here!

Thankful God gave us time to watch a little baseball! Love these boys so much, and seeing them grow is AWESOME!

And more than anything, thankful for the time God provides to rest and renew our spirits.

It was such a nice reminder to have God tell me that I MUST be "rooted...in love" for anything to be effective. Thank you Lord, for Your strength and peace. May I never forget again where it comes from, and help me to "grasp how wide, long, high and deep" Your love is for Your children. You will not leave them struck down or destroyed.

Spend some time in 2 Corinthians 4 or Ephesians 3 today, friend. It does a body good. ;)

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesian 3:14-21

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

If You want me to...

The valley isn't a nice place, but it's where we grow...

A week of heartbreak and sorrow for our community and it's impossible to understand the waste and reasons. Two teens with an entire lifetime before them are gone...and it just makes me so MAD. Mad at the Enemy for his deceitfulness and lies, mad at the world for telling these kids they aren't measuring up. And most of all, mad that hopelessness was able to steal their hearts.
Not enough words to express it, but wanted to re-post this poem for those who are in the "valley". It sucks to be there, but even in the worst of times- God has a GOOD purpose for us, to grow and bloom and shine. Oh, Lord- we are going to need SUCH a mountain top experience after the last month. I put all my hope in you, Jesus...

Sometimes life seems hard to bear,
Full of sorrow, trouble and woe
It's then I have to remember,
That it's in the valley I grow,

If I always stayed on the mountain top,
And never experienced pain,
I would never appreciate God's love,
And would be living in vain.
I have so much to learn,
And my growth is very slow,
Sometimes I need the mountain tops,
But it's in the valley I grow.

I do not always understand,
Why things happen as they do,
But I am very sure of one thing.
My Lord will see me through.
My little valleys are nothing,
When I picture Christ on the cross
He went through the valley of death;
His victory was Satan's loss.
Forgive me Lord, for complaining,
When I'm feeling so very low.
Just give me a gentle reminder,
This it's in the valleys I grow.

Continue to strengthen me,
Lord, And use my life each day
To share your love with others,
And help them find their way.
Thank you for valleys, Lord,
For this one thing I know
The mountain tops are glorious,
But it's in the valleys I grow! - Tracy Mayfield

I never want to doubt that God is active, that He cares and that He is good. Lord, grant us your perspective and above all else, grant us more faith to TRUST You when we can't make sense of this life.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"We can't afford to go wrong...

Oh, Lord! Forgive my arrogance and TEACH us to take you at your Word. Not adding or taking away...Thank you for your mercy and YOUR way of doing things.
(Props to Ron Merrell for posting this and bringing it to my attention.Word, Pastor. :)

"Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. " Isaiah 55:7-9

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hanging out with my "Ebenezer Stone"...

It has been such an insane couple of weeks, I truly can't even find a place to begin. Mostly I think God has just been reminding me that my Ebenezer Stone needs to be dusted off and "set up". (Click the link if you are thoroughly confused.)When I have felt completely lost, I just kept trying to remember "Thus far, the Lord has helped us."

Why do you think it is so much easier to take your own heartache than to watch others hurt? Is it because with your own, you feel some semblance of control? I just don't know. In the last month, we have dealt with so many things attacking the next generation, the Enemy has been fierce in his quest to make these young ones feel hopeless and ineffective. From alcoholic parents to anorexia, from suicide to drug abuse, from tears of self loathing to cries of shame, violence, depression, surgeries, illness- our teens are hurting. And as I look around at the boy selling newspaper subscriptions, or the girl making sandwiches at Subway, I wonder if they know just how special they are to the One who made them. I wonder if they know how loved they are by the people in their life who maybe don't know how to show it. And more than anything, I wonder...is there any way I can tell them, Lord?

I have been hanging out in Isaiah, just because it is such an awesome book. And God showed me just how cool He really is. In chapter 30, verse 18 says "The LORD longs to be gracious to you, therefore He will rise up to show compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; how blessed are ALL who long for Him."

Oh, how I long for my Lord. To know that He wants to be gracious and compassionate to me and the people I love so much, and all I need to realize how blessed I am is to LONG for him- what a comfort that has been these last weeks. When I look into the eyes of these hurting teens, I so wish I could help them to understand. Our Pastor said it so well on Sunday...basically that we aren't finished yet- we are just in the middle of our story, but the end is sure. It WILL be a happy ending if we love Jesus.

I wish I could tell them:
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched.
Nor will the flame burn you." Isaiah 43:1a-2

Now, don't get all bent out of shape. I know this is directed at the nation of Israel, but when I read it as a gentile believer in Yahweh, the one true God- it feels like a promise to all of us, doesn't it? If only I could tell all these hurting kids that God has CALLED them, that it is inevitable that they WILL walk through the fire, but He WILL NOT allow them to be burnt up in it...nor even singed. He will bring them out more beautiful and radiant if they choose to LONG for Him. To trust Him. I remember studying this passage awhile back in Beth Moore's Daniel study, and to come upon it now- when I needed the comfort the most was the sweetest gift. Now if God could just show me how to give that "gift" to these little peeps. <3

Needless to say, walking alongside this has put my own piddly problems in perspective. My son can whine about mowing the lawn and my daughter can talk about boys all she wants. I relish their little quirks and small heart aches, because it reminds me that they are alive, and talking (or fighting) with me. It reminds me that they are dealing with life in a healthy way, and it reminds me again...to tell them how much I adore them and how so very proud and blessed I feel to be their mother.

All in all, I am thankful that God is on His throne and He is working His plan. It is the one comfort in the midst of total madness. I am going to go cuddle up with my Lord and have a nice chat, and then tomorrow I am going to dust off that Ebenezer Stone and remember "Thus far the Lord has helped us" and keep my eyes on the horizon. The end of this story is going to be glorious...

"The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted." Isaiah 30:26

(The pics were just for fun- will try to get some horsey updates for you, Cassie is growing like crazy and we have some fun videos of our "sassy" little filly!)

Monday, May 16, 2011

A young "up and come"-er. Check it out and follow!


Just have to say how much I adore this kid. He has a smooth, whisper-like voice but it has a lot of power. So soothing. He is also a beast on the guitar, focusing more on acoustic than electric right now. And more importantly, he is growing in Jesus and I can't wait to see what God does with him. I would post a song I have of his, but not sure if he would be cool with that so you will have to simply enjoy the "heart" behind his lyrics.

Strongly suggest following his blog, not only for his encouragement but so you will know when he finishes his demo. It is going to be GREAT!

He's the little weirdie in the sweater vest! Bahahahaha! Love that kid! This was on our trip to Napa last winter with some of the youth to see Jordan's youth leader marry his cutie. It was an amazing time, and I think life changing for a lot of our teens. Commitments were made, Jesus was glorified. So good. <3