O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Come, Thou Fount has quickly become my favorite songs. Mainly, because of that verse right there. If I could write so eloquently, that would be my heart captured in those 8 lines. If there is one thing I've realized over the last year it is that I am a debtor. I am empty. I am broken. I've tried time and time again to fill the brokenness with people, things, places, positions. Nothing satisfies. Nothing besides God. And yet, I forget that so easily. So easily I wander. So easily I walk away from the promises God has given me.
A month or so ago, I was working on a bible study we were doing with the women's group at church and there was a question that asked- where is one place you were surprised to find God? I had to sit and think about my answer because I didn't want it to sound "churchy". So, I wrote down my honest answer- In the middle of my sin.
I spent 12 weeks purposely walking away from God. I didn't want him there because I didn't want him to know what I was doing. (How ridiculous is that?) I hid from him. And yet he pursued me. Every day he made himself known to me, even when I didn't want him to. When I made the choice to turn back to him, he didn't beat me with shame or punishment. He drew me to him with His love.
For 5 months I begged God to open his wrath on me. To pour it out on me so I could know the weight of my sin. So I could feel the shame and the sorrow. But God doesn't further smash the pieces of our broken hearts, he spreads his love on them like a healing balm. Instead of chastising me for the choices I'd made, He revealed himself to me in ways he never has before. He showed me that his love for me only grows deeper and my actions, my sin, my fear, my shame, my running- it doesn't change that. It doesn't change how he feels about me. God doesn't look at me and see my sin. He can't. When I chose to accept his salvation, I was covered with the blood that he shed on the cross. When he looks at me, he doesn't see who I was, the bad choices I've made, the fight. He sees his child, broken, needing love. Needing healing. He sees the child he loves. This changed things for me. It changed how I saw myself. No longer was I an unfaithful wife, a broken person, a product of my sin. I was a deeply loved child of God who was forgiven.
There are battles I will always fight. Always. I am an emotional person. In fact, emotions have always ruled my life. I've lived a life tossed about because I always followed the directions my emotions took me. I've learned the necessity of standing on God's truth. There are so many days when I have to take a minute and just say- God, I need your truth because all I can see is how I feel. If there is one piece of advice I can give, it's this- saturate yourself with scripture. Know the Bible. It's the truth I have to stand on. And God is always faithful. If I'm feeling particularly emotional about something and ask for God's truth, he always gives me a verse to stand on.
There is self righteousness so deeply rooted in my life that I think God will be weeding this garden till the day I die. I feel entitled to my dreams. I deserve my dream house, I deserve having that land, I deserve the perfect husband and kids. I deserve. I deserve. I deserve. But the truth is that what I really deserve is to live a life labeled by my sin and shame. I deserve God opening up that wrath on me. I deserve death. But because of that love I was talking about earlier, God will give me the best. And the best is his plans for me, not what I dream for myself. I've learned that daily I have to submit my dreams to God and to ask him to complete his will for my life, not the plans I have. Now, does this mean I live a life free of entitlement? Absolutely not. There are more days than not when I get mad at God and throw an "It's not fair" temper tantrum because I'm not getting what I want. But, God is working on me. Slowly, through His love.
And I've learned about love. Love is not a feeling. Love is a choice. Every day I can roll over in the morning and decide that today I'm not going to love Aaron, that I want to be done with him again. That I'm over the life I have with him. Because in truth, not every person is going to deserve love every day. There are days that Aaron drives me up the wall. I get so mad I want to just scream. But that's when I have to choose to do the hard stuff. I have to make the choice to extend him the grace I've been given. Those are the days I have to love him like God loves me. And every day has gotten easier. I can honestly say that there is a deeper love between Aaron and I now than there has ever been. God has honored our desire for a better marriage and he's helping us every day to become more like Him- ourselves and in our marriage. We are far from having the perfect marriage, that's for sure. But God has revealed himself to us through our healing process and restoring broken trust.
Don't ever follow your heart. Your heart will tell you all the things it's told me for so long- you deserve to be happy. Do what makes you happy. WRONG WRONG WRONG. I've learned that I have to do what makes me more holy, not what makes me more happy. Because in the end, God's not going to say- Where you happy? He's going to say where you holy.
Marriage is hard. Next to being a parent, it's the hardest thing I've ever done because it's exposed so much of my sinful self. But God has been faithful to me. And Aaron. And I know that he's not done with us yet. We've been praying about where God is leading us in our ministry, and we covet your prayers and we wait for God's leading in this area. God hasn't changed our calling to full time ministry. Walking the path we have in the last year only confirmed that for us. Does this path make us more hesitant? Absolutely, it does. Because not everyone is going to respond positively to our story. Not everyone understands God's redeeming love. We know that there may be more closed doors then open doors. But, God is still faithful. Regardless of what our past has looked like, we know he wastes nothing and He will use all things for his good.
I know this post has been kind of long, and I know that maybe you're tired of hearing about all this, but I can't feel like I've done our story justice if I don't say these things-
1. When you feel emotional, broken, beaten, angry, bitter- don't run to someone or something else to fix that or fill you up. Run to Jesus.
2. Never give up. Never give up on your marriage. Never give up on your spouse. And certainly never give up on God. We are living proof that nothing is beyond hope.
3. If you've walked a road similar to mine and you've dealt with shame, know this- God does not shame us. Satan does. You are NOT your sin. You are a loved child of God. I urge you to reach out to someone that you trust and share your heart with them. Send me a message, I don't care, just don't continue claiming this. Decide today that you won't walk around with that defining you anymore.
4. GUARD YOUR HEART. Stay away from situations that open a door for sin. If you are questioning if what you're doing is wrong, it probably is. Just don't do it. Sit down with your spouse, discuss what makes them feel uncomfortable, and agree on boundaries in your relationship. Like I said, I didn't wake up one morning and decide to have an affair. It started with a lot of rationalization over a long period of time. A lot of little things can lead to a big thing. I did a lot of little things I knew Aaron (and God) wouldn't like before I ever approached a full blown affair.
5. Never ever forget you are loved. God loves you more deeply than you can ever ever imagine. I'm just starting to scratch the surface of knowing God's love for me and it blows me away daily. He feels the same way about you. I promise. And he promises, too.
Thank you for sticking with me through this series. I can honestly say this has been one of the hardest things to put out there, but I'm so thankful that God has given me the right words. We thank you for your love, encouragement, and support.
At some point in our first weeks of counseling, our marriage counselor listened to my words, and hearing the emotions they were laced with and the struggle I was experiencing, explained to me that for women, an emotional affair is similar to a pornography addiction in men. It fulfills a woman's emotional need for love while pornography fulfills a man's sexual desires. But they are equally an entrapment. He said medical tests have shown that the chemicals released in the brain during an affair are similar to that of a cocaine addict during a binge. And there is a similar detox time for your brain and your body. 30-45 days. You physically cannot think/feel/act free of the effects of those chemicals for up to 45 days.
Now, I'm not putting this out there to excuse my decisions or behaviors. But to say that this is no joke. It's a dangerous thing. It's an addiction. Being emotionally fulfilled was my drug. Just because it's not something I drink, smoke, or shoot up doesn't mean it's not equally as powerful. And in truth, it is something Satan will use the rest of my life. I'll explain a little bit more about some of the realizations I had about this in Part 3, but right now I'll pick back up where I left off.
The month of November was hard for me. I lived in a torn state. I wasn't ready to give up on the affair because I had put so much of myself into it. I craved the attention and the emotional high of it. But, I didn't want to give up on my marriage because I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do. I knew that I needed to surround myself with a select few people who l knew would love me but be honest with me. I needed accountability. But, it didn't take long before I was back into the regular habits and patterns of hiding and lying to most of them.
On December 4th of last year, Aaron came home in a rage. He had found out again that I'd been lying about the situation and had finally had enough. He told me that he loved me and he wanted to make our marriage work, but my choices were making it impossible to do that. He went upstairs, packed himself a bag, and packed a bag for our girls and told me it was time to make a choice. I was either going to continue down the path I was on or I was going to choose to do what I knew was right. If I chose my current path, he was taking the girls and leaving. At first I was totally enraged. And indignant. In fact, I left. I got in the van and I drove to a CVS parking lot down the street and sat there and cried for over an hour. I knew it was time. I was at a fork in a road and the choice I made would determine what direction my life would take. But, ultimately, my decision to go home was 100% for my girls. It really had nothing to do with Aaron. I came home, sat down with Aaron and let him set ground rules for how our relationship would proceed. I cut off all forms of communication with the other guy. Then I went to bed.
I woke up the next morning and I felt a physical relief. It literally felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. But I still felt like a shell of myself. A rock hard shell. Yes, I cried. Yes, I hurt. Yes, I felt things. But I was so used to experiencing God in such a deep emotional way that I couldn't make sense of the fact that I felt almost nothing regarding the choices I'd made. I felt almost nothing towards to state of my marriage. And most of all, I just agreed to stay married to a man that I felt nothing for.
It was a few days later when I got some advice from one of those trusted people that really changed my life. The words themselves didn't change my life, the carrying out of the words changed my life.
It's not about how you feel. It's about what's right. And the right thing is doing the things you don't feel like doing sometimes.
Aaron and I decided from that point on we were going to do the hard things. The things we'd been avoiding, the things we didn't want to do, because we knew it was what we needed to do. God intervened in our life and relationship in so many ways during that time it's almost laughable now. During this time, Aaron was in the process of transitioning jobs from his old job to the post office. It ended up, because of the holiday's and his training schedule, he was home with us for almost the whole month of December. It gave us the opportunity to spend almost every minute together. It was like God dropped us into the middle of relationship boot camp. God led me to a bible study I did with a friend, and later with our women's group from church, and it addressed almost each and every issue I went into the affair with.
And still I prayed.
I prayed that I could understand my sin. I could understand my consequences. That I could grasp the chain reaction for potential generations that was put in motion by the decision I'd made. I wanted to feel guilt. I needed to feel shame. I wanted to feel anything really. I expected self loathing. Any self respecting person should right? I mean, I'm a christian- a Pastor's wife for crying out loud. I should be wearing sack cloth and rubbing ashes on my face. I wanted to wear around a Scarlet A. And in many ways I felt like I was. I'd walk through the grocery store and think... "man, if that person only knew what was going on in my life and what I've done". I sometimes felt like there was a sign hanging above my head. A flashing neon sign that labeled me. I expected everyone to judge me harshly. I knew that's what I deserved.
Mid January I learned an old word. A word that I'd thrown around for years but never understood. That word was grace. And grace changes everything.
To be continued...
A year ago I was in a fight for my life. Not my physical life, but my spiritual life. And my marriage. If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you might have seen me mention the road of healing and redemption Aaron and I have been traveling over the last year. Today I'd like to dive into that a little more. This might be a little long, so hang with me. I'll be doing this in a few parts. This is part 1.
A little over a year ago I joined an online weight loss community looking for some support and validation in my weight loss struggles. I found a great group of loving caring people who understood me and understood the struggles I was having losing weight. I was successful at losing about 20 lbs, doing my first 5k, and choosing an overall healthier lifestyle.
I also found someone who was willing to be what Aaron was not being (or more less someone I wasn't letting him be) to me and for me. I spent about 8 weeks involved in a full blown emotional affair.
Towards the end, I had pretty much made up my mind that the best option for me was to leave Aaron and start over fresh. Possibly with this new guy, but even being on my own sounded like a better option then staying in my current situation. Aaron and I couldn't hardly be in the same room together. We were polite to each other (at best) in public and at home it was pretty much no holds barred. When we were even home together. Aaron stayed at work most of the time to stay away from my angry bitterness. And I preferred it that way because I didn't have to deal with all the issues between us. My girls did not escape the drama and we had a constant battle with their behavior on our hands. Which only compounded the stress we were feeling.
And let's not forget that we were still serving in full time bivocational ministry. Aaron was youth pastoring and we were very involved at our church. WHAT?! A pastor's wife had an affair? Yes. And it happens more often than you think. How could this happen!? Those that knew me well and knew about my affair asked me that question immediately. Now, after a year with 20/20 hindsight, here is my answer.
It's a slow fade. (Yes, I'm referring to the Casting Crowns song) You don't jump into full blown sin patterns overnight. I didn't wake up one morning and say... oh, today I feel like being adulterous. It took time. It took lots and lots of me believing lies that Satan fed me and lies I fed to myself-
I deserve better. I should be happy. Everyone else has a better life than me. Everyone else has a husband who adores them. I should too. Why not choose someone who makes me happy. The grass is greener where you water it, but there's gotta be grass to water.
If there was a lie to be told, I told it to myself. And I believed every word. Past hurts and failures in our marriage created a wall that seemed insurmountable. So, I stopped choosing to try and climb it. I slowly shut myself off to Aaron in almost every way possible. We stopped being intimate. In fact, I slept on the couch most of the time. We stopped spending time together- why would we. We could hardly stand each other. We pretty much stopped talking unless it involved money or the girls and even that turned into an argument. And every day, the selfishness, bitterness, and anger grew and rooted itself deeper and deeper slowly pushing God out. Things started very innocently. Encouraging emails. Texts here and there. Rationalizations. Something inside me was being fed. A need to be loved was being met. Then starts the denial. Then the hiding. Then the lies. Eventually, I was lying to everyone I loved. I was living 2 lives.
Eventually, the lies caught up with me and Aaron found out. That day he stepped down from his position as youth pastor at our church. The next week we started going to counseling. I'd like the say that it was all sunshine and roses from there. But. It was hell. It wasn't like I woke up the morning after things came crashing down and I found myself madly in love with the man I could hardly bring myself to look at. No, he was still that same man and I was still the same hardened shell of a person. But every day we took a step forward. With help from our marriage counselor we made a rule that we talked first, apologized later. (I don't advocate this rule for everyone, but it worked well for us). We started communicating (for the first time ever really) and we started sharing with each other things we'd never shared before. We decided to do the hard stuff. Things we didn't feel like doing. But we did them anyways.
And guess what? It still wasn't roses.
When you've calloused yourself to God- to his presence in your life, to hearing his voice, it's not a switch you can flip and all the sudden you're back to this deep loving relationship with him (at least not for me) . I'd created such a wall between God and I that I felt nothing of him. I heard nothing of him. I just chose to believe he was there. And I prayed like I'd never prayed before. Even though I felt like he wasn't there, even though I felt like he wasn't hearing me. I prayed. And I prayed. And I prayed. I prayed that I would know the weight of my sin. I prayed that God would restore me. I prayed that God would restore my marriage. And eventually I prayed that he would restore our ministry.
But, emotional affairs are like a drug. A drug addiction. An addiction you can't just walk away from.
To Be Continued...
When I sat down and opened my Bible and journal this afternoon to continue to study this portion of verse 3 of 1st Thessalonians, I cringed. Just the topic- loving deeds, was enough to hit rewind on my day and I saw how I'd spent most of the morning and early afternoon doing everything but loving deeds. I suppose I should have done this study in the morning. It probably would have changed the course of my morning. BUT, that's the cool thing about grace. I asked for forgiveness for my chaos this morning and it's over with now. So, anyways, back to the study...
I started the same way this time as I did yesterday- with the definitions of the two words- Loving- adj., feeling or showing love, warmly affectionate, fond. Deeds- noun, an act or gesture, especially as illustrative of intentions, one's character, or the like. So, loving deeds are affectionate acts or gestures that illustrate my intentions and character.
Ok, so honestly, once I came up with that definition I thought... Oh, great. I get a little tense when the words character and intention are thrown around. I mean, those aren't words to take lightly. My next question was what are my daily intentions? What do I hope to accomplish (from an eternal perspective) on a daily basis. This was my list:
1. To instruct my children with biblical wisdom and point them to Jesus.
2. To live a life that points anyone I come in contact with to Jesus.
3. To display grace and live in obedience to scripture.
After all this I decided that I was feeling like a lot of this was just words on a page. I wasn't really feel like God was revealing his true application for my life through just the lists I was making. I stopped what I was doing and started praying again, in honesty, that I felt muddled. And because God is faithful, it didn't take long and this is what He gave me.
Loving deeds are the practical steps to faithful work
. Faithful work is the sign on the building, the loving deeds run the business. I can't have successful faithful work without loving deeds. Once I got that down I asked myself- What does this look like in my life?
- By knowing what love looks like- learning God's character.
The more I study something, the better I know it. The better I know it, the easier it is to emulate it. The more I emulate it the easier it becomes to do it naturally.
- By training/exercising love in my own life.
Everything takes work. I mean seriously, everything. If it doesn't take work it's probably too good to be true. And loving deeds are no different. You just have to keep doing it. Keep working at it. Keep doing it. Keep working at it. The more you do it, the easier it will become.
- By searching out opportunities to exercise love.
In the literal sense of the word exercise, it normally doesn't happen naturally. You have to make time to run, to go to the gym, to do zumba. Same thing with loving deeds. Always be looking for a way to show Christ's love to someone.
-Listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
And this is where I scored a big fat zero this morning. In the middle of being all bent out of shape with my kids, I was hearing the Holy Spirit say... Jessica, there's a better way to handle this. Jessica, Jessica, Jessica. But, I was frustrated enough, upset enough, mad enough that I brushed it aside and justified my anger. DON'T DO THAT. Listen for that prompting. AND OBEY IT!
- Setting myself aside.
This should actually be #1. Because this is the root of the problem. I can't have truely loving deeds towards others when I'm focused on myself.
Are you loving deeds setting up shop under your Faithful Work sign or is there and empty building that needs a business running inside it? The last and final phrase from verse 3 that stuck out to me was "Enduring Hope". I believe that Faithful Work is the business name, Loving Deeds is the work, and Enduring Hope is the outcome. But, you can't have one without the others. I'll touch on enduring hope next, but until then, I'm going to make a point to get my business of loving deeds running smoothly under may faithful works sign!
So I'm in that time between book Bible studies. Our Ladies Bible study finished 2 weeks ago and right now, nothing is on the calendar until the first of the year. I thought about starting another book study on my own and decided instead that I'd choose a book of the Bible to study. Just me, God, my Bible, a pen, and my journal. I felt a tad overwhelmed to begin with, because I didn't want to play Bible roulette, so I decided to pray about what book God wanted me to go through. After a minute of just listening, I was positive of the fact that God was giving me 1 Thessalonians. Now, I've read through this book probably 30 times. But I've never sat down with pen in hand and waited for God to bring the words to life. Well, wouldn't you know, I got about 3 verses in and here it came...
As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.- 1 Thes 1:3.
Now, maybe you think that's a random verse to stick out to me, but I grabbed my journal immediately and wrote these 3 phrases down...
I decided to take these each one by one and do a little digging. So, here's parts of what I recorded in my journal about Faithful Work. I decided to start with the actual definitions of the words...
Faith- Noun, confidence or trust in a person or thing
Work- Noun, exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil.
So, confidence in God motivates us. It motivates us to exert effort to accomplish something.
My next question was- What confidences do we have in God? I know the list is extensive, but I'm just going to add what I wrote down in my journal.
He will never leave us.
He will never forsake us.
We have hope.
We have a future.
He will always lead us.
He will always love us.
He is for us.
He wastes nothing.
Having these assurances, how are we motivated to work towards accomplishing eternal goals? A few of my personal observations were...
1. He will be with us and provide for us when we are serving Him.
2. We can move with courage knowing we will be successful in our work for Him.( Now let me add a little to this one- Am I saying everything we do will be successful? No. Back to the He wastes nothing. If God calls us to do/try something and we don't succed, does that mean all is lost? Absolutey not. That means God is doing something we can't see behind the scenes. Hold tight, there's a plan we don't see. )
3. If God leads us to something we can keep walking knowing he brought us there no matter how dark or unclear the path.
4. Searching out the things of God is never a waste of our time and energy.
So, once I had all those written down, I asked myself... What does this mean for me? Here's a few of the things I concluded...
- I need to to seek out God's will even if it doesn't seem like He's leading me to the right thing. (what I want)
- Everything means something. Every step has had a purpose. God won't discard that purpose and it will all be used for His good. (Amen to that!)
Perhaps this seems a little disjointed, mostly personal to me, a little more studyish, and lots of information compared to usual, but this is what I've deducted from this.....
My faithful work is this- Being assured of God's promises and using them as motivation to do what God has called me to do. Right now, my calling is to be the best wife and mother I can be. To love my husband, to be his helper, and to point him towards the cross. To love my children, to instruct them with biblical instruction, to teach them grace and humility, and to lead them to the cross every day. To show them who Jesus is. Knowing that God is for me, that he has a plan for me, and that he wastes nothing is motivation to live day in and day out knowing that folding laundry, doing dishes, breaking up sister fights, praying for graceful responses to my husband, though they seem mundane and unimportant- they are not. Because it is my faithful work.
What are you doing today, this week, this month, in this season of your life that is your faithful work? Are you like me- loving your husband, raising your children, keeping your home? Perhaps it's opposite of that. Whatever it is, I encourage you to figure out what your faithful work is, and do it well.
If there is one thing I've learned in a major way over the last 6 years is that I'm selfish. Extremely selfish. Like, sickeningly selfish. I'm sure if you asked anyone in my life to to tell you the absolute worst thing about me, this is what they would say. I seek to be happy, fulfilled, to have purpose, to be complete. However I can accomplish that for myself, that's what I do. Knowing how this impacts my life on a daily basis, how it impacts my family and my friends, majority of the time I pray this prayer about 23984203984 times a day...
Lord, empty me of myself.
I was doing that same thing again today and I got a funny picture in my head. It was like I was a God's little doll but I was filled with water and there was a small plug on the bottom of my foot. This mental picture kind of made me laugh for a minute, but then these words impressed themselves on my heart. Here's what I wrote in my journal...
When I lay myself down at the foot of the cross, God opens the plug and I drain out. For a minute I grieve the loss of those things that keep me selfish. The things that make "me". Then I realize that God is beginning to pour new life into me. I am still me. He created me after all, but his life inside of me, I am better. I see with his eyes. I use his hands for the things I do and I use his feet for the places I go. I smile his smile and I love with his love. Before I know it, I can't see me. All I see is who I became after I was emptied of myself and filled with him.
And I am happy.
I am fulfilled.
I have purpose.
I am complete.
Man how I want that to be true in my life. I want my happiness and fulfillment to come from being filled with him and being like him instead of being like me. I've chased, grabbed, scratched at, and practically stolen things that I thought would bring me happiness and fulfillment. I've turned dead end corners to find purpose. I've made hurtful dangerous decisions to feel complete.
Lord, empty me of myself. Fill me with you.
Yesterday I read a blog that a friend of mine had posted on Facebook. It was one of those blogs that's going to go viral among christian moms because it's pretty much something we all need to hear. And I knew it was a God thing because, in keeping with my life theme right now, it was all about grace. And not just grace in general, but allowing it in your own life.
As I read through the blog, it was one of those moments were I was like... wow, she nailed it. (Then selfishly I thought, man, I wish I could write like that!) But as I read on, she presented something that was, for me at least, almost an epiphany. I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with you today.
As you know, I value honesty on this blog. I purposed to write about real life. Not some made up, idyllic lifestyle with perfect pictures of homemade food I cooked and awesome thrifty DIY projects that are repinned 209384023984 times on Pinterest. That's not who I am. And that's not who I want to present myself to be. I'm screwed up. I'm selfish. I'm emotional. Way more whiny than I should be. I act entitled, I talk too much, and most of the time I'm slightly irrational.
I will never communicate God's love and redemption in my life (and his desire and willingness to do it in yours) if I don't allow myself grace. Because in allowing myself to receive it, I'm automatically extending it to others.
If I always try and appear to have it all together and act like the perfect christian, wife, and mother, I'm only presenting other young moms/women/people the opportunity for comparison. And comparison is the breading ground for guilt, and doubt, and any other mindset that's not of God. Basically, the opposite of grace.
If I'm honest about the struggles I have and the things I deal with on a daily basis and I say...
"Hey, I deal with anger towards my kids. God is really dealing with me about this and he's showing me ways to deal with them more effectively and in loving Christlike ways. But ya know what? I still only get it right 50% of the time and right now, that's ok. Because God is still growing me and I know he loves me in spite of it."
"I want to punch my husband in the face every time he bites his nails. I know that's not the most appropriate response, but I'm so over being nice about it. But, God is helping me identify my attitude and I'm figuring out better ways of communicating my frustration. Sometimes."
"I hate being broke. I know there are times when I don't handle our money as I should, especially when it's spent selfishly, but not having money to provide for my kids makes me feel like a bad mom. But, I know God understands my fears and I know he promises to provide for us. Sometimes I just have a hard time applying it in my life."
That is going to be WAY less alienating than acting like I'm super woman. Because I'm not. And I don't want people to perceive that. God didn't create us to be shiny happy people. He didn't act that way. His disciples didn't act that way. All the people throughout the Bible that mirrored God's heart- they didn't act that way. Why have we come to the point where we feel like it's necessary for us to be that way? I don't think that's God's intention for us.
In Psalm 51:16-17 it says....
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
God doesn't need us to bring something perfect to him. He doesn't need a nice pressed, polished, painted version of us. He wants the broken parts of us. He wants our willing spirit.
Don't get caught up in fake. Don't get caught up in your shortfalls. Don't get caught up in wish-I-could's. Be who you are. Extend yourself grace. Ask God for wisdom for overcoming those things and start seeking out ways to be more like him. And most of all- let's just be honest. Let's just be the person God sees. The broken, contrite ones. Those are the best ways to be. Don't fear the judgement of others. Set that aside and consider the freedom you could be offering someone else by just being the messed up, human, grace filled you. Consider the freedom you'd be allowing yourself! Try it today. Even if it's just once. I bet you'll feel better...
But it's about the paint. We heard these words over and over again while taking part in the Refresh Project, 2012 in Toronto. Aaron, myself, 2 other adult sponsors, and 5 teens from our church packed up and loaded up with 100 others from the Indianapolis area and headed to Canada. 12 hours later we met up with another 250 people (from MI, IL, WI, and other parts of IN) to take part in a week long mission trip. We were there working with Emmanuel Nazarene Church and thier community center, Ephriam's Place
. For the sake of keeping this post from being extra long, I'll just tell you to head to thier website and read the story about how Ephriam's Place got started. Below is just a recap of the painting we did. I'll do another post on Wed about all the awesome things God did and showed me while we were there. I put pictures at the bottom of the post.
We arrived on Sun night. We headed straight to the church where we got a basic rundown of what we'd be doing. After leaving the church we checked into our hotel and rested up for the next day. We had no idea what was in store.
Monday, we headed to our site which was about 45 mins from our hotel. We were in the city of Missisagua just outside of Toronto. We joined with 2 other churches that had smaller groups of kids, and between our churches, we had enough kids to create a girls group of 9 and a guys group of 7.. Our girls group (GG for times sake) was one of the last groups to be assigned to a unit. The boys group (BG) had a unit and got painting right away. Our workday was supposed to be from 9-4. At 10:30 we finally got into a unit and started painting. There ended up being about 23 people in a small apartment. We had the opportunity to work with another group of students that were part of the boys and girls club of Toronto. After we painted, we cleaned up at the hotel and headed to the church for dinner and a service. They provided Jamaican food for us. It was actually really good! After the service we went to Walmart so the kids could pick up some snacks.
Tuesday we headed back to the same sight but we painted down the street at some townhouses. We painted the living room, kitchen, 2 flights of stairs, 2 hallways, and 1 bathroom. The family had a little boy named Enrique. We enjoyed playing with him while we painted! After showering at the hotel we went to a local mall called Vaughn Mills. The kids had the opportunity to shop while the adults sat and ate at a really nice restaurant. We went back to the hotel and played some games before bed.
Wednesday we were back at the apartments. We worked with a nice man from Pakistan, Haza. We painted his kitchen, dining room, living room, entry way, hallway, 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and 4 closets. It was basically every wall in his house. He fixed us a very good (and VERY spicy) chicken and rice dish. We enjoyed painting for him. He even gave us ice cream when we were done! We had the opportunity to work with a few of the boys and girls club members again and one of the members of the worship team from Olivet on Wed. Later that night we headed back to the church for dinner and a service. We had Korean food for dinner. YUM! It was really good! After the service we headed back to Walmart for another snack run.
Thursday we (GG) worked in a townhouse again. The site leaders approached us on Wed and asked if we'd be willing to paint in a townhouse that had some special circumstances. The family that lived there included a 12 yr old autistic boy and they were sure exactly how the envoirment would be. We agree to paint it and headed out on Thurs morning. We got into the house and were overwhelmed with the smell and condition of the house. Dirty would be an understatment. But, we got to work! We painted the kitchen, living room, 3 hallways, 1 flight of stairs, 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. By this time we'd really gotten into a rythm and we were able to finish by 2:30. We had the opportunity to paint with some of the BG on Thursday, which we hadn't done all week. After cleaning up we headed back to Vaughn Mills Mall. The kids enjoyed shopping again. After that we headed back to the hotel and played some cards!
Friday was our free day. Kinda. We got to sleep in and headed to our site for a BBQ. We helped load up all the supplies we used throughout the week and then headed to the church. We had a debriefing and then headed into downtown Toronto for a Toronto Blue Jays game. The baseball game was totally unimpressive but being there was fun! We got back pretty late from that and tried to get as much packed as we could.
Saturday morning we loaded up and hit the road about 8:30. We made it home in almost exactly 12 hours!
Loading into the elevator with all our supplies.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Indians
One of the worship services.
The GG with some of the guys from the Boys and Girls Club.
Our whole group- Castlepointville. Adults and teens from Fishers Point Community Church, Castleton Nazarene, and Fortville Nazarene.
Well, it's here. Our 11th hour has come. Our rent is due today by midnight, and honestly, the money isn't there. Over the last few days I've approached this day as "The Day". Today is the day God is going to give us a miracle. Today is the day that God is going to come through with all that money we need. Today is the day. It HAS to be the day. I got up this morning and got ready for church, while continually thinking, "Ok, God. Today is the day. Let's do this!"
Then I got to church. We sang a bunch of great songs about praising God in the storm, and how He's still in control, and how my hope is in Him. Yeah. Of course it is. Today is the day. Then, Pastor Landon
started preaching. His message today was entitled "Absurd Surrender". His passage was from Philippians 1, specifically verses 12-26. Instantly, as soon as the passage started being read, God spoke to me and said, "Yes, Jessica, you're right. Today is the day." Today is the day that you need to decide that I'm enough. Landon preached about how we need to give up our rights. We need to do away with the mindset that... Ok, I've done _______, God, so I deserve _______. I tithed even though we didn't have the money, so God, it's time for my financial blessing. (BOOM!) Ok God, I went on a mission trip, it's time for my blessing.
Verse 18 really stuck out to me... But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Am I living my life in such a way that even in the 11th hour Christ is being preached through my life? And then, Landon laid it on me. I don't think he was actually directing it at me, but I'm positive God was speaking through Landon directly at me. And he said.... (this is paraphrased)... If God never promised us anything, if He never promised us blessings.... what would we do then? Would it be enough?
UGH! I've been living that last few weeks giving God the plan. I've been asking God for specific things, but never living in a way that showed God that He was enough. I knew that it was time. It was time for me to decide that if rent doesn't get paid, if the bills due this week don't get paid, if things remain the same for the rest of my life, that's ok with me because God is enough. In the eleventh hour, God didn't send me a pile of money (at least not yet) but He did show me that regardless of my circumstances, He will always be enough.
Last week I didn't do a My Favorites Friday post. Things were kinda crazy (and still are) but I'm not as discombobulated this week. But, a lot of good stuff happened last week, so this is going to be a combined post from this week at last!
1. Campmeeting and NYI convetion! I love campmeeting. I grew up in Michigan and although our campmeeting is slightly different than here in Indy, I love getting together with fellow [Nazarene] Christians and worshiping. Plus, it's always such a good reminder of the Christian heritage we have. And, it's a great time to catch up with friends I haven't seen in a while! NYI Convention, which is basically a business meeting for the youth department on the Indy District, was great too. Although, I missed a lot of the meeting since I was selected to be on one of the ballot counting groups. Oh well. It was fun being with teens and youth pastors. We got to meet some youth pastors on the district and network some!
Camp Meeting at Camp Camby
2. My girls have discovered sleeping in! Well, if 8:30 is sleeping in. Anyways, they're getting like an hour and a half more sleep than normal for the last 2 weeks. And although this has made me rework napping, I still enjoy getting a little more sleep.
3. GAME NIGHT! I'm so pumped about tonight. Some friends are coming over to recieve the worst Monopoly deal booty whoopin they've ever recieved. Plus, we're going to have grilled chicken, brats, fried corn and some other awesomness to eat.
4. I've mentioned it before, but the devotional book, Jesus Calling has been such a blessing to me over the last week or so. It's a great book, but it seems like what's written has been written exactly to me from God. If you haven't checked it out, you should!
5. Toronto in 8 days! The lists and spreadsheets have been made! I haven't really started on anything yet since if I packed now, I'd just have to pull stuff out of suitcases. And my parents will be here on Thursday, so if I did a deep clean now, I'd just have to do it again before they get here. So, on Monday, the cleaning starts in earnest. Aaron's got Wed (the 4th) off. So, hopefully, I can get alot accomplished while he's home to entertain the girls. And with my parents coming in early I'll be able to pack sanely since they can entertain the girls while I pack.