Friday, June 22, 2012

The Resurrected Family Part 2: He Calls Me Daughter

Daughter. Not a very difficult word. But for a long time for me, it was. I never liked the word. I grew up around a bunch of boys. I was the only female cousin. That made family events hard. All the "boys" would do their boy things, but I wasn't quite old enough to sit at the table and talk with the "ladies". I felt alone because of it. Left out. But more than that, left out because I didn't quite measure up. Not quite good enough for anything. So, for me, being a daughter was not what it was cracked up to be.

Then came Rick. He reminds me so much of my Dad and he says I remind him of his daughter, Micki (which I do, Micki and I are like sisters separated at birth!). It started a little jokingly, but now it fits because it's as real as real can get, but I would call him "Dad" or "Daddy" when I would see him and he would call me "Daughter". At first I remember thinking "Daughter? Why would he call me that where there are so many other great words he could use?" But, part of me liked it because when he said "Daughter" it was spoken with such love and joy, it made it a sweet word. And it's stuck ever since.

Then one day a few weeks ago I went looking for one of my favorite passages in Scripture. I love Dr. Luke's account of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years with no relief. I always found a reflection of myself in her story. This particular day I was having an extremely difficult time dealing with a physical issue that I had been battling for nearly a year, with very little relief. So I went to my favorite lady from scripture to gain a little encouragement to get through the physical agony of the upcoming day.

I flipped open my Bible and found the familiar pages of Luke 8: 42b- 48.

"As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
 'Who touched me?' Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, 'Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.'
But Jesus said, 'Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.'
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told him why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, 'Daugher, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.'"

My eyes locked on the word. Daughter. Right there in black and white. Jesus called her Daughter. He knew her name. He knew that she was the one who had touched Him, even prior to her confession. He could have called her a thousand different names, but He chose Daughter.

And for the first time, I saw that word as a wonderful, beautiful thing. I realized that the way that Rick calls me Daughter, which such joy and love and acceptance, is just a small glimmer at how God calls me Daughter. I realized, that even though her faith had healed her, He loved the sick woman as she was, with her illness and all. He loves her sick and He loves her well, nothing can make Him love her less.

And at that moment, I realized that God loves me like that, too. Sick or healthy, He loves me. He loves me when I look and feel healthy and beautiful and He loves me when I can hardly stand to be in this physical body any longer and am longing to go Home.

The word Daughter has taken such new meaning for me. I love it that God calls me Daughter. And I love it how I can hear a glimmer of His glorious voice in Rick's voice when he calls me by the name that God has given me.

I am taking to heart the whole sentence that Jesus said to the sick woman. "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." So much comes from that little sentence. It's like God wrote it just for me. "Daughter", that's who I really, truly am.  "Your faith has healed you", I'm trying to keep the faith that you will continue to bring about healing to this earthly body, Lord, until You take me to my eternal home. "Go in peace", my life's journey. Peacemakers who sow in peace will raise a harvest of righteousness (James 3:18) and the fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever (Isa 32: 17).  Shalom.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Resurrected Family Part 1: Ponderings of Restoration

I am convinced that God is nothing short of amazing. He is able to take the most broken, destroyed, thrown away things and turn them into something more beautiful than could ever be imagined. All I have to do is take a look at my life, at the true testimony that God gave me to see how miraculously He works in our lives. I want for nothing more than for the life I live to glorify Him.
To say that I grew up in a dysfunctional home is to chip the iceberg. I remember how we would joke about how dysfunctional we were, like it would make it better, less dysfunctional, normal. I had no idea then, but the upbringing I received would effect me into adulthood. It left each of us with more wounds and scars than we could possibly imagine. Some how we became messed up beyond comprehension and our own ability to mend the hurts. Or at least it did me.

I ended up like a piece of broken pottery. Just shards of brokenness. Missing who know how many pieces. Some of my first memories were of this very brokenness. For a long time it was so painful to look back on those memories, all I could do was do my best to suppress them and pretend that they never happened.

In the end, our family finally ended up physically broken. My parents divorced, I had issues with each parent (my relationship with my Mom took the worst beating; we hardly spoke for nearly 3 years) and there grew to be a large gap, both physical and emotional, between my once close brother and I.

But He gives us more grace. God has been so good to bring me healing and restoration. The last few years especially. I have been freed from some mighty strong strongholds and have had countless bad feelings attached to countless bad memories wiped away by the very fingertips of the Lord. And I have seen how He restores.

God doesn't just restore. He RESTORES! Scripture is right when it says that He gives you double for your trouble. He not only will restore back what was lost, but will give you extras. These extras are not to reward you for getting through the hard stuff, but He gives them to us just because He loves us. I have never seen God's love more strongly than I have these last few years.

The restoration I've received has helped to change the person I am. I believe that you can not really have an encounter with God and not be permanently changed. And the change is always for the better. The change may be subtle and maybe only you or a few chosen will see it, but change none the less happens. A true relationship with God will always bring wholeness. A completeness that can't be found anywhere else. That is a true gift from God. For I was once like broken pottery, utterly ugly and useless with no true form; just fragments of what I was supposed to be. But, He is the ultimate Potter. He is the only Potter I know who can take broken pottery pieces and turn them back from fire-hardened pieces into soft, supple clay. And then take that clay and reform it into something more beautiful and more useful than before. Only He can make a life truly changed, every cell, from the inside out.

And the restoration that He brings is not just on the inside. It's on the outside, too. I can now boast that Christ is actively restoring all of my family. I have great relationships with both of my parents. My Mom, who I barely uttered a word to for so long, and I now talk multiple times each week, sometimes multiple times a day! And the deep conversations on Scripture we share, I wouldn't trade for all the yoga in India. My parents each remarried and I am so thankful that I those relationships are working toward restoration, too. I am very fortunate that my Step Dad is a shining example of what Christ can do when you let Him have His way. I am eagerly awaiting the day when my husband and my step father meet for the first time. And my distant brother is still physically distant, but God has opened doors of communication and we have spoken more in the last few weeks via a phone call and email than we have in the last few years. If that were not enough, God has brought another Godly couple into my life. I like to call them my Spiritual Parents. They are an extra mother and father, who, although we've only known each other for a short while, are like an extra set of parents to me. A couple who loves me unconditionally and I know I can call any time, day or night. God has used Rick and Eileen in so many ways to it encourage my walk with Christ. I often say I'm the luckiest girl in the world because I have 6 parents who love me unconditionally; all given to me by my Heavenly Father who loves me more than all 6 combined and multiplied by ten thousand. A far cry from a little girl who felt unlovable.

When I look back over my story, the story God gave me, I often have wondered why He had me go through such a difficult upbringing. Then when I see the good that He is doing in my life now, I understand why.  It amazes me what He has done. Only He can get the glory for this. And that's how I want it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Yoga and Christian Contemplation Retreat at The Monastery of The Holy Spirit

 I had the most wonderful time at The Monastery of The Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA a few weeks ago. I went for the weekend Yoga and Christian Contemplation retreat and had an amazing time! The Monastery is the most peaceful, restful place on the planet.  I have never been able to slow down and come to such a place of peace in my body, mind and soul. I arrived on Friday evening stressed and wore out after a stressful week and left more relaxed than I've ever been.

The retreat was led by a wonder yoga teacher, Tyler, and a monk, Father Tom. The yoga that Tyler led us in was just up my ally, gentle with just enough challenge to keep it interesting. The contemplation talks that Father Tom gave were incredible. He is by far one of the most interesting men I'd ever listened to. When he spoke it was as if he was about to spill long kept holy secrets to unlock the universe; he had you captivated with every word he spoke.

The meditation talks were chocked full of well practiced knowledge and love making the principles easy to apply to out meditation practices. I went in with an open mind and realized that the style of meditation that I already practiced was in line with the teachings that were being discussed. It was a wonderful retreat to deepen my practice and come into deeper communion with God.

I learned so much in that short weekend. One of the biggest things that I took away from it is that God is everywhere all the time. I know that sounds rather elementary, but it come upon me afresh that weekend and continues to stay fresh. Father Tom had mentioned about how God is ever present, but He only chooses to manifest Himself at certain times and in certain ways. When we come into a time of meditation or contemplation with Him as our focus, we must remove any and all obstacles that hinder us from a closer, deeper relationship with God. Father Tom often reminded us that we need to come, as we are into the presence of God, just as He is. He talked about how really we can't begin to grasp God with our earthly minds and how ultimately, we don't even really know ourselves, so we must let go of everything, all previous knowledge or thoughts on who we are and who we THINK God is. Only then, after we have released ourselves from the bondage of what we think, are we really able to come into the presence of the Creator.

I spent many hours that weekend in prayer, and yoga and mediation practice, both in class and out of class. And I had gone into the weekend with the idea that this was a weekend away with God. And thought I was in the most peaceful place, with a calm mind, I was really shocked that I felt like I hadn't really "experienced" God. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed, but I consoled my spirit with the knowledge that the peace that I was able to experience was God. I realized that I was anticipating God to manifest Himself to me in a special way, as He had done before in my meditation practices. Then came Sunday morning. I had full intention of attending the mass service, but I just couldn't quite make the time lines (mass goes daily at 7am). Since I was running a bit behind I decided to spend some time alone with God in His Word at my favorite spot on the property, down by the lake. I grabbed my Bible and headed down. As I went down to the shore, God was waiting. It surprised me that I didn't "find" God in the yoga or meditation or even in the mass, but instead He met me right where I was down by the lake. We sat and watched the sun rise up over the lake together. Not a creature was stirring, no geese or ducks on the shore (which was the first time all weekend). Just peace and solitude. There was a fog over the lake as the sun rose quietly in the east. I don't remember what scriptures we read, but after we were done, eyes and heart wide open, I had what has become one of my favorite moments, just sitting quietly and being with God. Not expecting anything from Him, not feeling like I "had" to say anything. Just existing and basking in His Presence and love. It was at that moment that I was able to realize and put into practice everything that I had learned over the weekend.

No, not every practice has sweetness like that moment, but each meditation practice I do will bring my soul closer to Him and will give Him the opportunity to minister to my heart. I am so thankful for this trip and I can't wait to go back.

The view from my window. A view of the meditation garden

 My home away from home, the Retreat House

The Front of the Church
It was still Easter season on my visit; this was the beautiful cross at the entrance to the church

The inside of the church, all the windows are covered in hand made stained glass made by the monks.
The court yard between the Retreat House and the Church. Heather and I ate a few meals out on the lanai on the left.

Above Left: One of my fav spots, beneath the ginkgo trees
Above right: A bench in the park like grounds
St. Francis decorated for Easter

The meditation garden behind the retreat house. Koi pond and the perfect spot to stop and chat with the Lord.

Left: Only when you slow down and become present in the moment and look around do you see lots of hidden treasures all around the monastery grounds.
Right: One of the stations of the cross along a trail in the woods by the lake.
The trail coming from the lake to the retreat house

Best morning ever.
Sunrise over the lake on Sunday morning. :) Peace and serenity, the way God intended.

The gifts God bought me for my yoga room: a monk made sand casted Holy Spirit symbol and an Israeli blue Shalom tile. <3 I had asked Him to find me something that had Shalom (my mantra and the prayer word I used all weekend in the meditation practices) on it and the first visit to the gift shops came up dry. The second and final visit to the gift shop, just before I left the Monastery, and lo and behold, my eye caught this tile. It wasn't there the afternoon before. Only God. :) <3

Saturday, May 12, 2012

James: Mercy Triumphs

James. I must admit that I never thought that I'd ever do a study on the book of James. Truth be told, I wasn't even that super interested in doing it when I heard that it was coming out. I knew it was time for another in depth study and since Amy wanted to do James, I was going to do it with her. As I sit and type this, I wonder which of us got more out of this study. God has really been working on me during this study. It's hard for me to determine if it was because of the study or if it was just because He's God and I just so happened to be in this book. It doesn't really matter, I suppose. Either way, He worked some wonders through me.

This study was built a little more different than previous Beth Moore studies. In James she created different levels of participation. Level 1 was just watching the videos. Level 2 was videos and homework (for those who have done a Beth Moore study in the past, you know the homework alone can be intense). Level 3 consisted of Levels 1 & 2 & handwriting the book of James. Level 4 was Levels 1-3 plus reading some articles Beth's daughter, Melissa, wrote and included in the workbook. And finally, Level 5 was all 4 levels plus memorizing the book of James.  I thought the different levels were very interesting and I decided I'd go up to level 4. I was really going to push myself and try to hand write the book. I figured reading Melissa's short articles would be a breeze. I thought for sure those who chose to MEMORIZE the WHOLE book of James were out of their minds.

So, without knowing what to expect, I started handwriting the book of James. Slowly, painstakingly, I wrote every word that James penned so long ago. It was a very interesting process. I've never written down the scriptures that were used in Bible study before. Unless one jumped out that I wanted to write in my scripture spiral. This was a completely different exercise. God really used this time to help write these scriptures on my heart.  At times it was it was difficult to force myself to do, but I also looked forward to it each day. It was a precious time that I got to spend with God. Forever more I will be able to look back at my own handwriting and see what God helped me accomplish and remember the sweet times that we have spent together going through those ancient words.

But God is still working on me. He's not done with me yet, Praise His Holy Name! It has been during this study that He showed me an area of my life that I needed to get under control. I'd tried and failed to do it under my own power. I'm learning that all spiritual issues are like that. But this issue needed more ammo. The battle was waging and I would quickly run out of my resources. God showed me that what I needed was to have a supply of spiritual weapons that would not run out: Scriptures. I thought I'd try to read my scripture cards more. Failed. I tried to pray more when I would come under the enemy's attack. Epic Fail plus mental exhaustion. One thing remained. Memorization. I wasn't sure why it kept coming up. Besides, I couldn't memorize. I've always struggled with it, all my life through school I struggled to memorize anything. There was no way I could memorize scripture. But more and more God pressed on my heart that He wanted to me get His book not just on my heart through writing James, but into my head by memorizing it. After a little time, what I thought was so crazy suddenly seemed sane. I guess that's what happens when you get pushed to the edge of something so much bigger than you. Things that used to seem way out there are really very much within reach. So, I started. Some days its a struggle. Some days I'm too mentally pooped to pick up my cards and try to remember more words. Some days I fall off the memorization waggon. But this I know: that He who created a good work in me will carry it on to completion and that He is using this task to renew my mind and help me to overcome some more strongholds.

I thought when we tackled a few Goliath sized strongholds that, those would be them. That I'd be free, finally. But, after one falls, another is brought up, and off to battle we go again. I am just so thankful that God will not stop working on me. I know He's making me into something beautiful for Him and I am so very thankful.

Finally, for His glory, my handwritten version of the book of James:

Monday, April 9, 2012

All I Can Do Is PRAISE!!!

Praise! Praise! Praise! Praise! PRAISE!!! That's all I can do right now. I feel like I've spent more time face down on the floor tonight than I have been sitting up. And those times that I have been sitting up, continuing about my business, my heart has been face down on the floor in praise. Now I know how Beth Moore feels when she says that she's so overcome with the need to prise God when she's writing that she types with only one hand because the other is raised in praise!

It is nothing short of AMAZING how God works. You ask Him for one thing. One small, thing. Something that there's no way you can do on your own and He goes and BLOWS YOUR MIND!!!! He says, "I'm not just going to give you this thing that you ask for, but I'm going to give you this, that, AND THE OTHER THING! Not because of you, but because I'm God and I'm GOOD!" Just when I think that He's working on one thing, He goes and starts doing a WHOLE bunch of other things that I figured weren't more important than what I know I needed.

Trust. I wrote it about a few days ago. WOAH! Let me tell you!!! Let me tell you! Let me tell you!!! I knew I couldn't do that one on my own. So I asked Him for His help because I'm such a screw up. I don't know where He finds value in me, but He does. Help me trust You, that was my prayer. WOAH! TOTALLY DIDN'T SEE THIS COMING TODAY!!! The focus, the intensity. That alone would have been enough. Then He goes and starts answering one prayer after another. Just when I think "this has got to be it for today", ANOTHER blessing! BLOWING MY MIND!!! It's hit me like a freight train. Like I'm a blind, deaf person walking down the tracks and WHAM-O!! I'm run over with these blessings I didn't see coming! These answers to prayers that I wondered if they would ever come to pass. Nothing short of AMAZING!

This evening, checking out Facebook. And I see the first edition of the e-newsletter from my church. It looks good. I read it. I don't even get half way though and it's like the Holy Spirit pushes me down!!! I couldn't get down on my face fast enough! Praise, Praise, PRAISE!!! After I recover a bit, I spread the latest of the good news. We text back and forth and decide that if someone doesn't remember the thing we want him to remember, we'll make sure he doesn't forget again. Within a few moments of that conversation, I'm flat on my face again. The Holy Spirit, the Great Reminder, has done his job! Totally didn't see that one coming.

It's getting late. Had to blog. Had to get this out. I'm torn between jumping up and down for joy or just turtling up again in PRAISE! HE IS SOOOOO GOOD!!!! Doing more than I can ask, seek or imagine. BLOWING MY MIND! He's got this thing. He's got me. Praise God! Praise God! Praise God! Holy, Holy, Holy!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Authenticity, Trust and Peace

It's been heavy on my heart. Authenticity. Authentic is defined as genuine, real. It stems from the Greek word, authentikos, translated as original, primary, at first hand, the one who does things himself. The one who does things himself... That phrase seems stuck in my head. You can't be authentic unless you do it yourself. Unless it's real and legit.

I feel like we are in a world where authenticity is hard to find. So many people try to put on a front. They wear a mask to show only the parts of themselves that they want I have revealed to the rest of the world. I have grown to see how much a huge disservice that is to ourselves and our Creator. When we wear a mask, we distance ourself from our true self. When we distance ourselves from our true self, I believe that we also distance ourselves from God. I can't help but to think that God is looking down on us longing for us to hear His voice saying "You don't believe that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, just the way you are? Perfection through Christ? Come to Me and I will help you overcome your unbelief."

So, Lord, I come. Let it begin with me. Its time to take off masks and break the chains of spiritual strongholds. I'm sure that I've got some belief issues. God hasn't bought those to light just yet, but He has made me aware that I have some trust issues. Maybe this is why I've been thinking of trying new things. Old things actually, stuff I've tried before, but never really accomplished. Like headstands and Zumba. They require a certain level of trust. Trust in yourself. Trust in those around you. Trust that God has got your back while you're trying something new and scary (i.e. do it afraid). Trust that God is big enough and powerful enough to bring restoration and healing to all brokenness, be it physical, mental, spiritual or relational. You've done it before in me. Why can't/ won't I trust that You will do it again?

I listened to a sermon today while I was at work. The teacher made the connection between trust and worry. How really they are one in the same. That when you worry, your ultimately doing God a disservice because you're saying that you don't trust Him enough to take care of you and your situation. Those of you who are reading this and know me best know I'm a worry wort. Always have been. I don't plan on being this way forever. The teacher talked about how when you worry, you become anxious and how the anxiety is a result of not fully trusting God. That results in a lack of peace.

Peace. Shalom. My mantra. Now that I've been learning about for a couple of years. Why God chose to teach me about peace and residing in His peace before He started me on this journey on trust, I'm not sure. Peace and trust and authenticity. I'm not sure what this tapestry will look like when God is done, but I bet it will be beautiful. Until then, I am learning that I must come to God not only with unbelief issues, but trust issues, too. Every moment, every day. I believe that only He can release me from these these chains of bondage (ones that I didn't even know I had) so that I can continue to lift my hands to praise Him. Abba, Thank You for continuing to carry out this good work in me, making me more Christ-like, until the day of completion. Shalom!

Friday, February 17, 2012

How Close

This thought hit me the other day: 

If the Devil watches me so closely to the point of knowing when certain things are happening or about to happen in my life, how much more closely does God watch over me?

If the Devil is watching me to see an opportunity to try to take me down, throw me for a loop, do anything to fall away from God, then how much more closely does God watch me?

The Bible tells me that He knows when every sparrow falls. He knows when I rise and when I lie down. He even knows exactly how many hairs are on my head (a number that changes by day, sometimes by the hour). He says that I am engraved on the palms of His great hands. 

I can not wrap my brain around God and on the days that I try, I am only awed at how much that He does love me. All I have to do is look around me. The beauty of a blue sky, green trees and puffy white clouds. The millions of colors He paints the sky with each sunset. The vastness of a great ocean stretching out for an immeasurable amount before me. 

He who created the earth, the seas, the heavens, He cares for me. The God of the Universe! The One who can do what He wants, when He wants, however He wants cares for me. How can this be? Me, with all my faults, failures and strongholds? Me? Are You for real? And, yes, me with my skin conditions that make me cranky beyond my own abilities to control? You still look at me and see something beautiful. The King of the Universe finds me breathtakingly beautiful even on my worst days when my skin is inflamed and uncomfortable and my hair is a mess. It blows my mind. 

He watches me so close. Knows my every move. Knows my every heart beat. Nothing that is happening to me now or anything that will happen in my future is a surprise to Him. And through it all, He will continue to love me for me. 

Forever will I be grateful and thankful.