Thursday, October 7, 2010

When Victory Comes Dressed as Defeat

This is my testimony of God's faithfulness.  I delivered this talk at a Ladies' Retreat.  Someone requested that I put it on my blog so I have backdated it and "hidden" it here.  Not because I am embarrassed of our story but because, in the wrong hands, it could be twisted and used against us. 

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!

You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;  none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.

Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord.

I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
 I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
 from the great congregation.
As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!

For evils have encompassed me beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.
Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me!

Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt!
Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!”

As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!
                                Psalm 40:1-17

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” Oscar Wilde

I grew up going to church with my mom.  I have very fond memories of sitting in the pew next to her, sometimes I could convince her to take her wedding ring off and let me play with it.  When I got old enough to write I would pass her notes with very important questions like “What is for lunch?” or “Can we buy Ho-Hos when we go to the grocery?”  I remember sitting up front for “Children’s Moments” where Pastor Tim or one of the church ladies would read a book or tell a story and they would often give us a piece of candy.  My dad never went to church with us except on Christmas Eve and Easter morning sunrise services.  When asked, he would say he went to church every time the doors were opened as a child and he had enough church.  Later his answer changed to “Why would I want to go to church with a bunch of hypocrites?” I went to vacation Bible school with my friend at the Baptist church down the road where the pastor would talk about a Savior and hell and salvation and would tell us to bow our heads and repeat what he said.  I repeated what he said.  Every time.  Every time for about 4 years I asked Jesus in my heart. 

When I was 12 I asked the pastor to baptize me.  He took me out for a Coke and asked me all kinds of questions to make sure I knew what baptism meant.  I guess I answered the questions right because one hot day in August I went in the water and was baptized.  The county fair was going on that week and there was a boy that I liked an awful lot.  I was trying to impress him and get him to notice me so I talked like a sailor.  He noticed me, alright.  And he asked me, “I thought you got baptized this morning?  Why are you talking like that if you just got baptized?”

I was the only girl my age in our youth group and since I was the people-pleasing daughter of a people-pleaser I was at every function the youth had and I was always the first to raise my hand to volunteer.  I went through fits and spurts where I was close to God but looking back now I wanted to be cool AND I wanted to look like a Christian.  I had a Bible and knew the gist of what it said but I thought as long as I acted like a Christian and said Christian-like things I was golden.   I went to church camp every summer and learned lots of church-y campfire songs and how to trust and how to be a leader and how to work together as a group.   When my mom didn’t like something I said or did she would ask me “Is that how a Christian is supposed to act?” or “Is that a very Christian thing to say?”  And so I learned to adjust my behavior to act & speak “like a Christian”.  I “looked” like a Christian but in reality my heart was still very dark and I was still very lost.

When I was in high school my church hired a terrific young youth leader.  She would do a lot of things with us including taking us to other churches so we could interact with their youth groups, fundraisers, a trip to Colorado for a national youth convention, and lots of group-building exercises.  One in particular I remember was going around the circle and writing one nice thing about each person on their piece of paper so when you got it back you had 7 or 8 things that other people liked about you.  One boy said I had nice boobs.

As I got older and got my driver’s license and a job I started hanging out with the wrong type of people and making wrong choices.  I felt an intense need to grow up and do grown-up things.  It was around this time that our youth pastor left the church and my grandfather passed away.  I never felt close to my grandfather but his illness and death caused a lot of chaos & turmoil in our house and since I’d always been the level-headed, reliable one my parents assumed I was making good choices.  Well, I wasn’t. 

I stopped going to church except when it “mattered”.  I left for college where I continued to walk this crazy line between bad choices and Jesus-freak (on the outside).  I somehow still managed to either hide my poor choices from my parents or they chose not to say anything about it.

I moved back from an out-of-state college and soon after this I met a guy named Dan in an online chat room about country music.  We started talking every day online and soon moved to nightly phone calls.  We exchanged pictures and a month later he drove 700 miles to surprise me for my birthday and we met in person.  We soon fell in love.  There were things that didn’t line up with us but I didn’t mind them.  I knew he wasn’t a Christian and I recalled sitting on a rock on a lake in Minnesota, at 15 years old, writing a letter to God where I promised I would marry a Christian.  But that was SO long ago and I had done SO many wrong things since then and surely it didn’t matter.  And besides that, I had no intention of changing my lifestyle – after all, hadn’t I gone too far to turn back now? – so I might as well keep going forward.  Dan proposed,  I accepted and we continued to pretend to be very grown-up .  We got married a year later and entered into for better or for worse.

If you had asked us then, we would have told you we were happy.  We had loads of fun with each other and really only fought over money and in-laws.  We had decent jobs, car payments and pretty soon a mortgage.  We paid the bills with our joint-checking account, went out with friends, bought whatever we felt like, and were living the American dream.  What more could we possibly want? 

After several months of trying to conceive, we found out we were expecting.  Very shortly after our oldest son was born, my husband lost his job.  Two weeks after I returned to work from maternity leave, my husband called me and told me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  I was still on the phone with him when the second plane crashed into the second tower.  I remember not being able to get back to my baby soon enough.  I would lie in bed at night nursing our son, Ashton, and watch the footage replay over and over.  What was going on with this world?  Was the world coming to an end?  I prayed for the first time I could remember in years.

Because I had been raised in church, I thought it was a good idea for our children to be raised in church.  I wasn’t concerned about raising them in truth, or to know, love & serve Jesus….just raised in church.  To hear the Bible stories I had heard, to sing “Jesus Loves Me”, and to maybe even go to church camp and have as much fun as I had.  I wanted my children to act and talk like “Christians”

I church-shopped for a little bit but didn’t feel that warm-fuzzy feeling I was looking for so I started going back to the church I grew up in.  It was home to me, not unlike most dysfunctional homes where you don’t necessarily want to be there but you can’t imagine being anywhere else.  My husband didn’t go with me but I didn’t expect him to.  He didn’t oppose me going to church but, being the strong-headed, liberated woman that I was it wouldn’t have mattered if he had wanted to me stay home.  I had grown up seeing married women at church without their husbands and it never really occurred to me to even invite him.

My husband soon got a new job working for a godly man.  He would come home and say “my boss said the stupidest thing today…” and then he would quote some loose interpretation of scripture.  I would reach into the recesses of my mind and try to remember something I had learned at vacation Bible school or church camp and say “You know, I think he may be right.”

This continued for several weeks and one Sunday as I got ready to leave for church, Dan asked me to wait for him while he got ready and he went to church with us.  His boss continued to minister to him and pour truth and likely much prayer over him.

Although I had been walking with my back to God for years, I still had a foundation of faith and stepped back into Christian appearance with little effort.  I knew all the right words and, though I would never come right out and say so, thought of myself as light years ahead of my husband in the faith department.  Still there was blatant, defiant sin in both of our lives that we ignored.  There was a lot of sexual sin that neither of us called sin.  I looked the other way and ignored, and even allowed, the websites, the movies, the pictures.  I grew up thinking men would be men and there were certain things men did and certain ways men acted.  I had no idea that my own sexual sin that I had brought into the marriage was so detrimental to our relationship and I had no idea what the Bible said about these things.  I would soon find out that I had no idea what the Bible said about a lot of things.

I wanted to be a good Christian so I went to the Christian bookstore.  I ran into an old co-worker who worked there.  Her face was radiant as she told me that she and her husband, also an old friend of mine, had gotten saved.  I told her how happy I was for her but as I got in my car I wondered what exactly she meant…what did “getting saved” entail?  After all, I had gone to church nearly my whole life and never heard of anyone “getting saved”.  I didn’t know what it meant but I wanted the joy that was so evident in her face.

On one of the visits to the Christian bookstore I picked up a Bible board game.  Soon after we were invited to Dan’s boss’ house and we brought along our board game.  As we started playing and everyone, except Dan and I, knew all the answers, I knew there was something different about these Christians and my Christianity.  They knew where the answers would be in the Bible and they pulled out several versions to verify answers.  As I got to know the wife of my husband’s boss, I realized there was just something different about her.  She oozed something that I didn’t know existed.  But I wanted it.  She and I had many conversations where I asked a LOT of questions and she had a LOT of answers.  They invited us to their church and we went.

We became regular church attendees again, Dan got baptized and we were growing in our faith and relationship with Jesus. Or tried to.  I recently watched a sermon where the pastor explained it better than I ever could.  He placed a huge pile of horse manure in the middle of the room and talked about dusting the room, cleaning it, laying out tea and cookies – and yet the pile of horse manure was still there.  This was very much our life – we talked the talk and we tried desperately to walk the walk but we kept stepping in that horse manure and acting like we didn’t stink from it.

I woke up one morning and cheerfully and excitedly announced that I was going to start being submissive.  My husband sat up in bed and said something to the effect of “Who are you and what did you do with my wife?” I did not grow up in a home where submission on the part of the wife was spoken or expressed and if I were to say the same about my husband that would be the understatement of the year.  Neither of our mothers ever burned their bras in public but we were both raised by women who clearly grew up in the rise of feminism.  So he was all “Um, why would we want to do that?”  I spent a good season trying to figure out what that even looked like.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I now see it was a prompting of the Holy Spirit.  It hasn’t been easy and I fail on a daily basis but just even trying to give up control to an imperfect earthly man has made it even easier to give up control to a perfect God I can’t see or touch, which I could not imagine how much I would need to do this later.

During this time God brought other women who loved Him into my life.  I heard about Mothers of Preschoolers on the radio and located an evening meeting on their website.  I showed up unannounced at the meeting one evening and was greeted by the nicest, most gracious woman.   As I developed a friendship with her, God used her to show me more Biblical truth and true intimacy in friendship.  That she was just plain fun to be around helped immensely.  A MOPS friend started a scrapbooking group and we would schlep all of our scrapbooking gear to her house once a month and stay way into the wee hours discussing all manner of weird things that only new moms care to discuss.  I sat across from this hostess one night and I still vividly remember her saying “God is not a God of confusion and chaos…”.  The scriptures just poured out of her mouth like milk and into my ears like honey.  I wanted to know God’s Word so much that I nonchalantly used it in conversation .  To nonbelievers, it’s called Christianese, but it slowly became a second language to me.  Where I once almost choked to say the words, “Savior” or “Jesus Christ”, not because they were bad words but because they were weird words, I now was able to talk about Him like the true friend He was becoming.  God used MOPS in this season of my life to provide me with deep friendships and show me intimacy like I’d never known before.

A lifelong family friend was also hugely instrumental in my life during this time.  She offered to disciple me and, although I didn’t know what that meant exactly, I took her up on the offer.  Every Tuesday for nearly a year we met and she showed me how to study the Bible.  She taught me so much, she listened, she prayed.  Even though she was old enough to be my mom, she was one of my closest friends and confidants and the biggest prayer warrior I’ve ever known.  She was the epitome of a Titus 2 woman.  She held me to a higher standard and made me hungry for the Word.  When we studied Hebrews she would call me up a month, two months, even six months later and tell me something she had just learned or forgot to tell me about during our Hebrews study.  To this day, even though she lives over 800 miles away, when she calls she will ask, “Last time we talked you asked me to pray about XYZ, how is that coming?”  I can never call her for a quick question because I know the conversation will be at least an hour long.  I am so grateful for the time and energy she poured into me and the worn carpet I know that has been made on my behalf.

It was also around this time that my husband and I saw the house of cards we had built our lives upon was starting to crumble. I was pregnant by this time with our second son and we moved back to the apartment we began our marriage in.  Despite this major speed bump in the road, we would have still said we were happy.  And by all appearances we were.  But that pile of horse manure in the middle of the room was getting bigger and when you see {or ignore as the case may be} something every day, you don’t realize how big it is growing.
We had a major event happen that made us realize how big the pile had become.  It ended in me piling the two boys, ages 1 & 3 in the car with the expressed intent of never, ever returning.  I drove to the gas station, bought a pack of cigarettes, drove in the dark to a random church parking lot, chain smoked half a pack of cigarettes and bawled my eyes out.  Then I drove home to find out that my husband had already called our pastor.  Our pastor came over at 11:00 at night and for the first time in forever we showed our manure pile to another person and for the first time in forever, we had hope that things could change. 

Things did change for a while, my husband did the best he knew how but you can only get help for the things you let others help with.  We were both white knuckling.  White is the color of our knuckles as we clench our fists and hold onto something with desperation. In recovery,  white knuckle sobriety means that we have not let go of our anger, fear or ego. We are trying too hard to stay sober. It means that every day is a struggle. We were trying to maintain control and do it all ourselves.  

Soon we moved to another house and found out we were expecting another baby.  I was going to school part-time, working part-time, and homeschooling.  During this time my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and my father-in-law passed away after a heart attack and lengthy hospital stay. My husband was involved in several church organizations and trying to keep himself busy, trying to keep this demon that constantly yelled in his ears quiet.

During this time the Holy Spirit started convicting me, through much prayer and studying of scripture, to start wearing skirts full time and I started wearing a prayer covering.  We soon decided we wanted our children to grow up in a church that agreed with the scriptural headship covering and modesty so we went church-shopping again.  We very quickly and by God’s prompting found our current church home, CornerStone.  

Soon after, we welcomed our third son into our family.
Once again, however, without our noticing, the manure pile, which had never completely been cleaned up, was growing again.  This was our asherah pole that we never cut down.

I got the phone call several hours after I expected him home.  He asked me to call our minister and come to the county jail.  My mind raced with wild thoughts.  We sat in the jail waiting room, our minister went back to talk to my husband because he was clergy but I wouldn’t be allowed in for another five days.  Our minister’s wife leaned over and said, “God is going to use this for His glory.  I know it doesn’t seem like that’s possible right now but He will work it all out for His good and in a few years you’ll be thankful for this.”  I honestly thought she had lost her ever-loving mind.  He missed our oldest son’s birthday, then he missed our middle son’s birthday, he missed the first day of school and soccer games.  There were visits, phone calls, court dates and a list of to-dos with items like: call lawyer, get car out of impound, call therapist.  Things no one should ever have on their daily agenda.  We moved in with my dad and mom. I had to explain, through tears, to the new teachers at the new school that their dad was incarcerated and so if they were a little off to give them grace.  God gave me grace with two godly teachers who loved the Lord. 

The wisest advice I received during this time was from that same minister’s wife when I couldn’t figure out how to tell the boys that their dad was going to be gone for a long time, possibly a very long time.  She said, “Tell them the truth.  They will never believe you again if you lie about this.”  Then she gave me a word picture to share with them.  So I explained to the boys that their dad was in jail and I had no idea of when he would be home.  The judge would have to decide that.  Of course, they wanted to know what he had done wrong and I explained Corrie Ten Boom’s word picture about a parent and child travelling together.  The parent carries the suitcase because it’s too big and too heavy for the child to carry.  Sometime, as the child gets bigger and stronger, they can carry their own suitcase and open it and see what it contains, but for now the parent has to carry it.  They came up with their own ideas about why Daddy was in jail, he drove too fast, he robbed a bank, on and on and I found myself wishing all of those were true.

I received many cards in the mail and one of them was a sympathy card.  I wished he had died.  It would be a lot less shameful, a lot easier to explain, a lot less unknown.  Now, of course, I’m ever so glad he didn’t. 

Many of the cards we received contained money.  When God says He will never leave you or forsake you, He means it.  When God says He cares for you more than the lilies of the field, He means it.  He took care of our every need.  When our children were sitting watching television and said they were cold I considered going home and getting them their own blankets.  Minutes later there was a knock at the door, a friend from our old church held three brand new lap quilts.  “The quilting club wanted to do something to help you out, could you use these?” 

After my husband came home and had a court ordered doctor’s appointment but needed a $100 co-pay, a check arrived in the mail the day before for $100.
God sustained us and met our every need during this time.  

But even more than God taking care of our physical and financial needs, He was molding us, wringing us out, teaching us to let go.  You see, for the first 10 years of our marriage, even though I didn’t realize its girth or depth, every once in a while I would rip back the cover on the pile and take a whiff.  I would nag and chastise and throw it in his face. “You need to get help, you need to stop.”  Always a guilt trip, always a cold shoulder.

When your husband sits in jail and you are only able to visit for 30 minutes at a time you don’t nag and you don’t chastise and you don’t have a cold shoulder.  You let go.  Satan is really good at setting up monkey traps.  There is a story that says in Africa the natives use a technique to catch monkeys. They hollow out one end of a coconut and they put treats in it. The monkey puts his hand in the coconut and when he makes a fist to grab the treats, he's trapped. The natives will pull a string attached to the other end of the coconut and capture the monkey.  The monkey wants what is in his hands so badly he refuses to let go.  He’d rather be trapped than let go.  We grab hold of the things we feel we need to control, our husbands, our children…our own sin, and we get a death grip on it.  After all, we know best, don’t we? We pet it, we bow down to it.  We keep it quiet.  We tiptoe around it so it doesn’t squeal.  And we don’t . let. go.  We white knuckle the healing instead of letting God heal us.  Corrie Ten Boom said, “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”  I had to make a choice.  Was I going to believe God and stay?  This was the sickness, the poorer, the worse.  I wondered if I should divorce. In God’s divine intervention I had read a book called Sacred Marriage in which the author, Gary Thomas, talks about marriage being a picture of Christ and His Bride.  Christ never leaves us; He patiently guides us and teaches us.  I had been unfaithful to God in my relationship with Him and yet He had never walked away from me.  I sought help from many friends and our church family. I visited my husband every time I was able when he was in jail.  He would write me letters begging me to take our children and leave him.  He knew he had damaged our marriage beyond repair and still did not know whether he would go to prison.  Even when he wanted me to leave, I refused.  God strengthened me every day.  

God is holy and cannot be in the presence of sin, that we aren’t zapped in an instant when we approach the throne of God is a miracle in and of itself.  Robert Benson, in his book Constant Prayer, writes,"...Any sort of prayer is built around the premise that we are in conversation with the God of the universe...and if that is not marvelous and wondrous and mystical, then nothing anywhere is marvelous and wondrous and mystical.  A priest or a minister will say 'Let us pray,' and we will all just bow our heads as though nothing out of the ordinary was about to take place.  What is about to take place is that we are about to presume to talk to the One who made heaven and earth, and presume that we will be heard....'Hear us, good Lord,' we say together and sometimes I want to add, 'Good Lord, He might hear us.'  There is something so astonishing about the whole notion of talking with God that sometimes I just want to lie down for a few minutes and catch my breath.  Every once in a while I will hear someone say, 'And so I just told God that I needed this or that,' and I wonder how it is they are still standing up."  

For the first time in my entire life I understood the scripture in Romans 8:26 & 27 that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.  I didn’t pray, I groaned.  I didn’t ask, I waited.  I could do nothing else but wait.  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11:28-29 say, “Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Sometimes you don’t realize just how heavy the burden you are carrying is until you hand it over to Jesus and can actually stand up straight again.
Two months later Dan came home and we really didn’t know what to do.  We didn’t know how to act.  He couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t seized the opportunity to run far, far, away.  I questioned my resolve to stay several times as well.  I began to see him as I believe Christ saw him.  We lost many friends through our experience, the people who had experienced God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness showed my family love, acceptance and forgiveness.  This was not just a “We forgive you” and a pat on the back however.  There were consequences, both in the short term and continuing to this day, for my husband and for our family.  I found help and very good council in another book called “Every Heart Restored” and laid out boundaries when my husband returned home.  The book “Every Heart Restored” outlined a plan.  I typed up a contract which spelled out what I wanted from my husband in order to allow God to heal our marriage.  He was to move out of the bedroom and into the “spare room”.  We would set aside every Friday for fasting and prayer and end each Friday with a date night.  Our 10th wedding anniversary was two months after he returned home and this contract would expire that day, 4 months from the time he went to jail.  We both signed it along with his therapist and one of our ministers. 

Again, God strengthened me and gave me words to speak over my husband.  My declaration years ago about becoming a submissive wife came to fruition.  Where I once would have been annoyed and angry over his lack of work, I encouraged him to use his time of unemployment to focus on his recovery.  When he was depressed I had words of encouragement. I can still remember thinking “How are these words coming out of my mouth?”  God was transforming me into who He wants me to be and He still is working on me. 
Because there had been so much sin in our dating relationship, this new contract allowed us to see each other in a different light.  We dated each other again.  Sure, we were now parents of three boys and so that changed the dynamics of things.  But the yearning for each other but exercising self-control, the really dating and getting to know each other, the inviting God in to be a part of our relationship?  That was all new and thrilling. 

On our 10th anniversary we invited some close friends and family to witness our vow renewal.  It was a very simple ceremony but we restarted our marriage with the third person that had always wanted to be a part of our relationship  – God.  We then spent two nights at a bed & breakfast – a very gracious gift from our church family.  We then had the honeymoon we never got to properly enjoy as two people who see intimacy as a gift from God, who understand that sex can be perverted by Satan and used as a tool to destroy. 

My husband spent the next 10 months unemployed.  He had several jobs here and there but nothing steady or consistent.  This was very hard for him and my main job during this time was to encourage him and remind him that God had seen fit to provide for us thus far and He would continue to do so.  God graciously used our church family to provide for us.  Our tax return shows an income of $21,000 that year and about $12,000 of that was mine.  Someone offered my husband a job for a week which turned into a couple of months which turned into 5 years.  Every step of the way I saw other people treating our family as Christ would.  And that, in turn, allowed me to treat my husband as Christ had treated me. 

Today he is once again working for the very same boss who witnessed to him every day.  It just tickles me to no end that my husband is once again working shoulder to shoulder with the man who brought him to Christ.
As the months turned and seasons changed I have seen growth in both of our lives.  My husband is walking in victory and recovery.  He meets with and mentors men who are walking the same path he did for so long.  He ministers with prison ministries and former inmates.  But even more than that, he is the head of our home that I longed for for so long.  He wraps me in big bear hugs and prays over me when I don’t even know I need it.  Erin Davis writes “Every sinful pattern in your life can be overcome by the power of Christ living in you.”

I realize that some of you may hear this story and say, “Well, that’s all good and fine for you because your husband wanted to change.”  Yes, I feel that his repentance and willingness to get the help he needed was more than half the battle.  I have very good friends whose story is drastically different than ours.  Does that mean she doesn’t have victory?  No, the victory is not our marriage.  Our marriage is a symptom of our own victory in Christ.  Our victory is trusting in Jesus and His promises and ways and not caving to what the world says the outcome should be.  Our victory, my victory, God’s victory is loosening my grip and letting the thing I loved the most on this earth, be molded and shaped into something better and for God’s glory.  Our victory, my victory, God’s victory was throwing back the cover and letting all of God’s grace and mercy, and yes, even consequences, to warm that manure pile and churn it over and over until it became compost.  A healthy fertilizer to grow other men, including the three under our own roof.  Our victory, my victory, God’s victory is a couple of sinners who were running the opposite direction, like Jonah, but now we walk in the Light of Christ, confident of who we are in Him and Whose we are.  Our victory, my victory, God’s victory is breaking the curse of generational sin and raising a new generation to love the Word, know the Word and be confident in God’s salvation.  What Satan meant for evil, the control, the conceit, the ginormous manure pile…God used every last bit of it for our good and His glory.  When all three of our boys were baptized within two weeks of each other last fall, that same minister’s wife who had sat with me in the jail waiting room whispered in my ear, “See, didn’t I tell you?” We all are fighting battles.  We win some, we lose some.  But “A victorious life is the sum of many victorious days.”  Spurgeon said, “My faith rests not in what I am, or shall be, or feel or know, but in what Christ is, in what He has done, and in what He is doing for me.”

Lysa TerKeurst writes, “This breaking of you will be the making of you. God isn’t going to waste one bit of your hurt and hardship. Trust the process. Hold fast to God’s ways. Hang on. Redemption is coming. A new strength is being developed in you by God for a good purpose. Just like muscle fibers must be torn to grow, this breaking of you will be the making of you. A new you.  A stronger you.”

In closing I would like to share a blog post that appeared on Grace Table on June 12, 2017, written by Elizabeth Marshall. I have personalized it to our story. "We live and breathe and have our being within a place of oneship. We are tethered, man and woman, anchored to our Shoreline. This is good for our one vessel.

All the shared living within a place of oneness leaves us both hungry and full. Satisfied and longing. We come to the table hungry for grace. It is our fuel. It feeds and sustains us. We come to the table thirsty for mercy. It is our saving grace.

The mystery that began that day (when we got married) continues to unfold. There has been unraveling and fraying, edges have been torn. There has been a temporary ripping and shredding of the very tapestry of our lives. Do not pull a thread. One woven in pain or joy, in hurt or sorrow or in pure delight. Each thread is a piece of our whole. And we are seeing that more clearly now.

Mystery reveals a nearly unfathomable sacred oneness. We feast on life together, hear the collective rumbles of our deep places crying out from a place of empty. And fullness. Feast and want. We have been fed, sustained by more than just enough. And we have feasted during times of abundance and plenty.

Like the silver of our graying hair, (mine and now his), we are marked by thick threads of gratefulness which remind us. Help us recall the what has come before. For we have known want. And we have been broken. But we are wholly love.

The making of one, mending and repairing of the tapestry, is a fabric of a thousand threads. Some muted, some golden, some silver, some neon. We are covered in a blanket of Love, protected and held. The threads are storytellers of all that we are. (The giant patch in the middle shows where we nearly ripped apart…but God)  All that we are becoming. Every strength and every weakness. Each one speaks of our total dependence. Each one, a thread of healing. 
And of Love.

We share in the wrapping and covering up, the soothing and the nurturing. We pray together and hold out our cupped hands for more of Him. In oneship there are two. No there are three. And we find the weak one will be covered by the stronger one. The strong one will hold the cup of grace. And offer it in love.

It is all so simple. It is all so mysterious. It is all love.
We shift within our vessel, the weight must be balanced or we tip. We tip, and then we right our ship. Tipping and righting. The ebb and flow in the partnership of us.
Daily, there is an opportunity to hold the cup to the lip of the thirsty one, hold the loaf of bread to the one who is weak and in need. These are the days of raised cups, clinking and clanking in celebration. The wine is poured as we look back in gratitude and whisper, we are here by way of a hard fought love. These are the days of celebration.

How do we fully grasp the intricacies of making a one life together, even after (all these) years? How do we grasp the continual binding and weaving that is happening at the hands of Love?

Our nightly breaking of bread…is an act of nurturing. A mutual refueling. A time to breathe deep over the day and celebrate what came before us individually and collectively. How could we feed our best us without this sacred time together?

These threads, added along the way, represent a decision, a moment, an act, words spoken, they provide a thickening, a strengthening of our fiber. Layer on layer. Love on love.

The cracks, when mended, have been mended with gold. The breaks repaired with staples, like the china plates we cherish, passed on from (nonnas and great-grandmothers), stapled back together so that they may continue to serve us. That staple is not hidden. It is seeable, a reminder that the china plate survived. It is a badge of honor to its resilience.

We are plates. We are tapestry. We are us, a me and a you. We are wobbly vessels in need of an anchor of grace and a bow line of mercy.

This is our marriage. This is our love story. This is our season of fullness and gratitude. Fed daily by the hand of the One. Mended by the Healer. Broken vessels, rich in love."  Elizabeth Marshall, Grace Table June 12, 2017

Satan's Opportune Moments

Today I was so blessed by what Courtney shared on her Good Morning Girls blog:
"I recently read this commentary from Dr. Charles Stanley discussing Acts 4:13 and was so encouraged by it that I wanted to share it with you today. Do you ever have those days where you feel un-usable for God? How about just plain ordinary….nothing special about you? Me too! Read this my sweet sister and be encouraged!

Anyone who studies God’s ways soon realizes they are quite different from man’s. Worldly wisdom says that extraordinary people and abundant resources are needed for great tasks, yet the Lord often chooses the small and insignificant to achieve His purposes on earth.

For example, Christ selected a rather unimpressive group of men as disciples, yet after being filled with the Spirit, they “turned the world upside down.” During His ministry on earth, Jesus fed thousands with a child’s meager lunch, and He viewed the widow’s two small coins as a greater offering than all the other generous donations (John 6:5-12; Luke 21:2-3).

God specializes in using people who aren’t naturally qualified to accomplish His tasks. Moses was a verbally impaired 80-year-old shepherd who liberated a nation. After Gideon hid from the enemy, God made him a valiant warrior. David was the overlooked youngest son who killed a giant with a small stone and became Israel’s greatest king.

God isn’t looking for impressive people; He wants willing ones who will bow the knee in humble submission. Being weak and ordinary doesn’t make you useless. Rather, it positions you for a demonstration of divine power in your life. He takes insignificant ones and delights in making them great.

Have you ever considered that your lack of ability, talent, or skill is the ideal setting for a great display of Christ’s power and glory? If you are willing to submit to His leading and venture into the scary yet rewarding territory of faith and obedience, He will do great things in and through you.
The devil knows our weaknesses, he knows where to kick us when we're down.  While he screams lies that we are useless and worthless...what good could ever come from you know what you've done, do you remember where you've been?"  God is whispering "For MY glory, do it for MY glory."
Yes I am small and insignificant, ordinary and unimpressive, weak and unqualified.  But my God is NOT!  My prayer is that I would be willing to bow my knee in humble submission and be in a position to demonstrate divine power in my life. My prayer is that when I am filled with the Holy Spirit I can use this blog to turn someone's world upside down and that His glory and power would shine through.   All of Him and none of me.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's Time To Order Thanksgiving Books!

If you've been reading here for a while you know that I love books and reading.  I especially love picture books.  In order to get the best selection of holiday books I like to put them on reserve at the library about a month before I actually want them.  Since I like to build up anticipation and prepare for a holiday (and also since the day after Thanksgiving I want to pick up my Christmas books) I usually request books around the first of October.  I have a teacher's card which allows me to keep books a tad longer than usual (if you are a homeschooler, request a teacher's card!) so this typically isn't a problem. 

I shared my exhaustive list with you last year, here are a few more titles I'm adding this year:
The Littlest Pilgrim (Dougherty)
Hide and Seek Turkeys (Enderle)
Too Many Turkeys (White)
Tobias Turkey (Robbins)
Countdown to Thanksgiving (Huelin)
Saying Grace (Kroll)
More Snacks! A Thanksgiving Play (Terry)
Who Stole Grandma's Million Dollar Pie? (Freeman)
Beauty and the Beaks (Auch)

And though I've never read a Thanksgiving novel before these two titles jumped out at me so I'm adding them to my stack:
The Diva Runs Out of Thyme (Davis)
Thanksgiving at the Inn (Whitney)