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A Part of HIStory

This weekend I had an incredible, terrifying opportunity. I was asked to do devotions for a ladies retreat and after a lot of prayer I said yes (Hey, it fit the criteria!) But I was pretty nervous because (believe it or not), I’m not much for public speaking. No one at my church thinks that is true because I make announcements all the time but they are too far away to see how much I’m shaking! I write, I don’t speak.

So I had to put a lot of thought into what I was going to do these devotions on. I had 5 sessions and a varied audience. I asked several people what they thought and I kept getting the same answer- tell your story. So that’s what I did.

I told the story of my life and how God’s grace was woven throughout it. Pretty much what I’ve written on here. I was amazed at the response and the conversations that I was able to have simply because I opened up.

And at some point it hit me- that’s something people crave: openness. We really have a desire to be honest and open with our struggles but so many things prevent that! Either from bad past experiences, fear of judgment or consequences, or simply a fear of being vulnerable to other people, we hide things that we are struggling with.

And yet this weekend, I found a wonderful group of ladies affected by my story and willing to open up to me. It takes one person sometimes to kick down the walls and find the common things we all struggle with. One person being honest for everyone else to be honest as well.

Through that simple honesty, I was able to share Christ. I didn’t open up any theological book for my devotions this weekend. I didn’t need to. I needed my Bible and my Backstory (like the alliteration there?) and it was simple and effective. Every believer has that. You don’t need a seminary degree to share the gospel with others. All you need is a willingness to be obedient and do it.

I’m glad I said yes this time. ūüôā

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2019 in evangelism

 

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Secured by God

I’ve had a lot of conversations recently on salvation, mine in particular. Whenever I used to tell people my testimony, I would always start it out with, “Well, it’s pretty boring…” But one day I was really convicted by that. I realized that ANY time God takes a dead person and breathes new life into them and gives them the gift of salvation, it’s INCREDIBLE! It’s MIRACULOUS and AMAZING! Who am I to call God’s work boring??!

So I’m here to tell you a story of Amazing Grace. To be quite honest, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in Jesus as my Savior. I know there must have been, but I don’t recall that. I actually remember being in 1st grade or so and my Sunday School teacher told us the gospel and asked who all in the class believed it. Well of course I did! So I raised my hand. And then she had all of us close our eyes and pray “THE” prayer after her. You know what I mean. And I literally remember sitting there and telling God that I thought this was silly and didn’t understand why I needed to pray this because I was already saved. Those 6 year old minds. ūüôā

It’s only been recently that I’ve realized what a huge blessing I’ve had all these years. I know A LOT of people that struggle with doubt and I never did growing up. Ever. God says it. That ends it. It’s true. God is who he says he is. It was pretty simple. I never doubted the Bible or my salvation.

2018 was hard. God and I alone know it. And let me tell you folks, it’s extra hard to be on three medications that cause depression. A sinful heart is enough to handle without that! And I struggled a lot last year. In my loneliness and desperation to be close to God, I worked so¬†hard. I worked myself to a frazzle praying and doing my devotions because I so desperately wanted to feel that Presence that was once there.

And there came ONE awful day. The first and only day in my life where I have questioned my salvation. Suddenly I looked at how hard I was “working” and verses and sermons flew through my mind and one single thought crept in out of nowhere, “You don’t understand salvation at all.”

I have been through many bad days but none as bad as that one. I can’t even describe the hopelessness and darkness that I felt on that day. And I felt powerless against it. No matter what Scripture I read or what I forced myself to think, nothing helped.

It wasn’t until very late that night that God gave me the thought I needed:
“You know what? I don’t understand it. It’s waaaay beyond me. But even if I wasn’t saved before, God can save me right now.”¬†With a rush every assurance came back. And with a immensely grateful heart I thanked God that my salvation was secured by him and not by me!

As I reflected the next day, I wrote in my journal that I never wanted to have another day like that again. It was terrible and confusing. But I can see how God has used that one day. I have NEVER been able to understand how people doubt God or salvation. But now I have a small point of reference, of empathy, of feeling. A way that connects me with my friends and helps me pray for them better, with a hugely humbled heart.

So take heart friends! I know the journey can be hard and thoughts creep in! God is ALWAYS faithful- that’s the ONE thing I’m positive of.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2019 in salvation

 

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It is Well

This morning, at 7:28am, I got a text from my best friend saying that a package was supposed to be delivered to my apartment around 7:30 so I probably wouldn’t want to get in the shower or anything. Sooo what I actually did was jump up, threw my morning hair into a messy bun, and scrambled into some semi-decent clothes, just in time to hear a very signature knock at my door. The knock gave it away because Natalie always knocks the same way and then I knew it was actually her and I needn’t have bothered.

She came because today marks 2 years from that very first seizure. It seems like sooo much longer than that- years longer. Two years ago, my life changed and went in a direction that I never expected. So she brought me an inside joke gift:

cake.jpg

If you read this post, then you know she did this once before when I hit another significant mark throughout this journey. Anyway, it was a great start to my morning! She is the best.

But today I want to talk about how epilepsy has effected yet another area of my life that I took for granted.

I have always loved music. I used to play piano, I took flute lessons for seven years, and it was a pretty rare day that we didn’t listen to some sort of music as kids. As an adult, I used to listen to music while I ran, while I cleaned, cooked, worked, etc. Almost constantly, I guess. It kind of ran my day.

Music is still very important to me but I have trouble listening to it now. My mind has trouble concentrating on things while listening to music and I almost CRAVE absolute silence. It’s really rare now for me to just turn on music as a background noise unless it’s for other people. That being said, I’m about to reference music and songs a lot, because they mean a lot to me. ūüôā

A song that is pretty popular right now and I actually really like is Even If by MercyMe. It is reminiscent of Job in my mind:

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

There is another line of that song that says, “Give me the strength to be able to sing, It is well with my soul.”¬†I didn’t learn the truth of this phrase until recently. I grew up singing the song It is Well and my current church sings it every so often. But it wasn’t until this past year that I stood up to sing it and my mouth closed as I realized I would be lying if I spoke the words. As I stood there in silence, it occurred to me that it wasn’t well, it wasn’t okay! I was hurting in several different ways and It. Wasn’t. Well.

I knew it should be. You don’t have to tell me what the meaning behind the words is. I know about eternal perspective and focusing on Christ. But sometimes, temporary issues (whether they are physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, or all put together!) cloud our vision of Christ. Some days, it’s REALLY hard to say, It is Well. Which is one reason I love the line from Even If, “Give me the strength…” Yes, Lord! How could we possibly be okay with earthly troubles unless God gives us the strength to lean into him?? Unless he gives us the strength to say (and mean) It is Well??

There have been quite a few songs that have helped me over the last two years. I’m going to reference one more. The chorus goes like this and pretty much sums up my life:

If I ever needed grace, it’s now
You are strong when I am weak, somehow
I am weak enough to see
I need You to cover me
If I ever needed grace, it’s now

 

(Jimmy Needham, If I Ever Needed Grace)

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2018 in epilepsy

 

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Dealing with Chronic Headaches

One of my co-workers walked by me and said, “Ugh, I have this headache today and it just won’t go away.” As he turned away to grab something, I literally had to clamp my mouth shut because the words, “Uhhh… I don’t want to hear it.” almost came out. After I redirected my thoughts and attitude, I said, “Aw man, I’m sorry. That really stinks, doesn’t it?”

What he doesn’t know is that I have had constant daily headaches for almost 2 years now. What does that mean? It means every single day I wake up with my head hurting and I go to bed with it hurting. The pain varies in intensity but it’s always there. There are things I know that make it worse such as: caffeine, sugar, lots of stress, exercise, social gatherings, loud noises, and the list goes on…and a few things that help such as: sleep, massages, and dark places. They aren’t migraines (I’ve had a few of those and boy are they terrible!) but more of a constant pressure with sharp pains here and there. I sometimes say that it would feel so much better if I could just poke a hole in my head to let out all the extra air that must be up there. So that being said, sometimes I can really relate to others with headaches and sometimes I have to remind myself to be compassionate.

Over the last couple months, since my seizures have stopped, I’ve been kind of holding out, hoping the headaches would dissolve too. But slowly, the thought has been growing on me that they might not go away. I hadn’t really considered that before, but veeerrrry slowly, God gave me grace to accept the idea that that may be the case. I started thinking of how I was supposed to adapt my life to these headaches, instead of sitting around waiting for them to leave. I’m not really a newbie to chronic pain (I’ve had back issues since I was about 11) but headaches somehow affect more of your life than other pain. They are exhausting in addition to the pain.

However, my neurologist and best friend have wanted me to see one of the headache specialists at Cleveland Clinic for a long time now so I finally agreed and went last week. Looking back it has occurred to me that as I prayed about the appointment, I never really prayed for him to have answers. I really just prayed that he would be a kind and compassionate person and that prayer was certainly answered. He sat and listened to me for over an hour and asked a lot of questions. He acknowledged how painful and frustrating these sort of headaches can be. He also admitted that they are very difficult to diagnose and are usually very resistant to treatment. I wasn’t a huge fan of being put on a medicine that he wasn’t sure would work and the side effects were tiredness and dizziness (I deal with enough of those!) so he gave me some natural supplements to try instead. I didn’t really feel disappointed or excited after the appointment because I hadn’t had any expectations for it anyway.

But now that it’s been confirmed that the headaches probably aren’t going away (short of a miracle from the Lord), I realize how many of my favorite activities are affected and how I didn’t really think this was going to be a long-term deal. I found myself stuck in a “What-if” rut the other day. Have you ever been there? I thought I was already surrendered to the idea of chronic pain but things like this started to run through my head: But what if I never run again without my head feeling like it’s going to explode? What if I can’t ever make it through a whole evening with my friends like I used to? What if I can’t sit and read for hours on end like I want to? What if helping out in nursery at church will always hurt my head this much?

Ha! And here I thought I was completely at peace with the whole idea! Again and again I countered those thoughts with the same verse: Three times I pleaded with the Lord¬†about this, that it should leave me.¬†But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for¬†my power is made perfect in weakness.’¬†Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that¬†the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Cor. 12:8-9

To be honest, some days I don’t understand how God’s power is made perfect in my weakness, how everything is working out for my good, how I can count it all joy, or how light momentary affliction leads to an eternal weight of glory. BUT I do know that these are the promises I fully believe and cling to. It is SO helpful for me to remember that Paul also was afflicted with something and asked God to take it away and the answer was no!

And like Paul I need to learn that his grace is completely sufficient.

 

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2018 in epilepsy

 

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Giving Grace

If there’s one thing this last month has taught me it’s to give more grace to others. When someone speaks to you in an angry tone, give grace. When someone lets you down again, give grace. When someone does something that you think is weird or odd, (mind your own business and) give grace. Why? Because EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. is going through something that you know nothing about. You have no idea what is going on in their life or what just happened that may be affecting their behavior.

Speaking for myself, (for better or worse), I’m one of the best fakers out there. My head could be about to explode, but I can still smile and ask how you are doing. And I’m willing to bet a lot of us are like that. Much of our suffering, whether it’s physical or emotional, isn’t seen by others. Now, we could probably save ourselves a little bit of trouble and tell a few certain people how we are feeling but you certainly can’t tell everybody.

Maybe we could all try to give others a little more grace. Maybe instead of whispering about that frustrated and overwhelmed mom in the grocery store, you could walk up and tell her she’s doing a great job and ask if you could help carry her groceries? Maybe if someone leaves early from a party, they aren’t really being a party-pooper, but it took all their strength and energy to make it as long as they did? Maybe that person eating a granola bar in church is trying to keep herself from throwing up because of meds and it was a struggle for her to come to church at all? In these circumstances, will you (will I?) be the compassionate person or will you stoop to judging and mocking?

I’ve just come to realize through my own situations that I really only see a very little bit of everyone else’s lives. I want to be the person who assumes the best of people and shares God’s grace freely and abundantly.

Whether or not it’s deserved doesn’t matter because I certainly didn’t deserve it and neither did you. So why not look for some opportunities to give grace and show compassion?

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2017 in encouragment

 

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Summer Debrief: Part 2

This July, God placed an amazing opportunity before me: to go on my first international mission trip! Some friends of mine went with our church to Trinidad last summer and I was blessed to be able to go this year. God provided for the trip in amazing ways! I was planning on paying for most of the trip myself but through family, friends, and church members the Lord provided for all of the financial needs!

We left early on Saturday morning. I was a little nervous about flying especially since I had the flu bug the day before and was still a little dizzy but I had no troubles. We arrived safe and sound Saturday evening in Port of Spain and were whisked off to Famous Trinidad KFC. They will proudly tell you theirs is the best in all the land. It was pretty good.

Monday – Wednesday we taught VBS in two locations. One in the morning and the second in the afternoon, as well as a women’s ministry at the second location.

The Morning VBS was the same place the group had shared at last year in a town called McBean, with approximately 23 children. These children have a basic knowledge of the Word of God, were very well behaved and they were so happy to see us.

Our Afternoon VBS was in a town called Carlsen Field. We had 30+ children. This was a much poorer, drug infested location where one of the members of the church down there lives. She and her family are trying to minister to the people there and the VBS was held on their home property. This was a much more challenging VBS because there seems to be very little knowledge of the Word of God and they did not pay attention very well. But when God sets before you a challenge, he also gives you the grace to complete it!

While the VBS was going on in the driveway of this home two of our ladies¬†were meeting with the women of Carlson Field on the patio of the house right beside where VBS was taking place.¬†There were two women that they were able to minister to.¬†One, who’s husband is an alcoholic, another who’s husband is a Cocaine addict and lives mostly at the local drug house and only comes home to steal from his wife and children and abuse them. Her 8 year-old son refuses to live at home and says he will kill his dad when he is older because of what he sees his dad do to his mom. This mother does not sleep at night because of fear. It was very hard to hear these stories and to feel helpless to aid these families. All we could do was proclaim Christ to them, knowing that THAT was what they truly needed anyway.

Tuesday evening we all loaded up in the van to go see the Leather Back Turtles that are 200 or more who come up on the shore and lay eggs OR to watch baby turtles hatch. Once again, God had another plan for us. There was a young woman walking toward us on the road. Pastor Bickram (the pastor who’s house we were staying at and a good friend) asked if she knew where we might see some Turtles and she said she would take us to them and got in the van with us. She said she was going to a town and we were headed in that direction but she was on foot. Now this is 15 miles of pitch black darkness of night with woods, tall grass on both sides of the road and she was 26 years old. Bickram pulled over under lights of the town to ask her some more questions and we ended up taking her to the police station and even that was a hard decision to make because often times they are as corrupt as the criminal. However, they were very helpful and were concerned for the girl’s safety. The bottom line is that she had run away from home and was headed for a drug house, apparently to meet someone she didn’t really know. The police told Bickram we saved her life that night. I have been praying for this girl ever since.

On Thursday, we did some sightseeing in Tobago before flying back on Friday. It was a great trip. God gave all of us the grace we needed to push through our tiredness and to love on kids that were not always obedient. The culture down there is so rough.¬†The last day of VBS, I was sitting on the grass at Carlsen Field and suddenly there were about 10 kids around me, all wanting attention. They were pulling my hair, pinching me, and kicking me: just to try to get my attention. I told one of the guys in our group that it felt like in movies where people are attacked by birds! I had bruises on my arms from it! I was glad to be able to show Christ’s love to the kids.

The situation down there was very eye-opening. The thing is: it was eye-opening about OUR country. I’ve heard stories of kidnapping and drugs, but to see that first hand in Trinidad made me realize that this happens in America as well. It may not be as public here, but it happens all the time. I have a friend who works in the Family and Children First Council around here and I hear stories from her that shock me. Our country desperately needs the Gospel. This trip has made me more committed to living out the gospel every day.

I don’t usually post a lot of pictures but thought I would share some with you.

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Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Trinidad

 

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Big Sister Mode

I used that term one time during a conversation and I got funny looks for it. Obviously, the person I was talking to was NOT a big sister.  However, the phrase could use some explanation I suppose.

Big Sister mode is when God gives Big Sisters an essential extra supply of grace just when they need it. 

Big Sister Mode is when your parents think your mom just had a miscarriage and is going to the hospital and you keep it to yourself so as not to upset your siblings.

Big Sister Mode is when your little brother has a life threatening seizure and you are bawling your eyes out but then your parents leave in the ambulance and you instantly collect yourself.

Big Sister Mode is when your younger sister almost drowns in a lake and you don’t scream or cry.

Big Sister Mode is when you find yourself in scary situations but know that you are the oldest and if you panic then so will your younger siblings. ¬†It’s when you put your emotions aside to deal with the emotions of others. It’s when you stop seeking someone to comfort you and you start to comfort others. You don’t have to be the oldest sister to have it; you simply have to be an older sister. (I suppose you could have big brother mode, but I’m not a brother so I’m not sure. ūüôā ) A friend of mine calls it survival mode.

I’ve thought a lot about those situations since that conversation. Why do I respond that way? I don’t think about it during those moments. I never THINK about going into Big Sister Mode. It just happens.

The more I think about it, the more I realize: it really is just by God’s grace. He provides strength at those times when it is most needed and mine is gone. ¬†He gives hope to me so I can share it. He comforts me so I can comfort others.

It reminds me of these verses.

Isaiah 40:29-31

29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in encouragment

 

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