Freeze, Frozen, or Forgiven?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading the book “God Never Blinks” by Regina Brett. I haven’t been reading it front to back like you would  a normal book.  I’ve been flipping through and finding a little passage that relates to my day.  Last night I found one that has summed up my life the past month or so.

The section was titled “When in Doubt, Just Take the Next Right Step.”

The analogy that was used was the game of freeze tag.  Once you are tagged, you stop (or freeze) in place.

I can relate to being tagged in my life and I just stop in place.  I don’t look around, I don’t move forward.  And I definitely don’t move backwards.  I’m just there – blindsided by a strong hand that has stopped me in place.

I stay in my own little world stuck in one spot wondering what my next step is going to be.  Stay where I’m at and think of endless possibilities of how to become unfrozen?  Try to break my icy mold by myself and continue on?  Try to retrace my steps and find a way around finding myself stuck in a place I don’t want to be in?

Being human, we get so wrapped up into what has gone wrong, we freeze.  We meditate on all the things that have happened, all the things we wish we could have done, or all of the things that were done.

Shane and I experienced this about a month ago.  We were so blindsided by the actions of others that we froze in place.  When you take a married couple and both of them freeze at different places on the field in different positions, it’s not good.  You can’t communicate, you can’t console, and you can’t encourage forward movement.  You stay in place, facing different directions trying to figure out what comes next.

Well, in our situation, the obvious “next step” for us was a prayer of forgiveness.  We needed to forgive so that we could move forward.  We wanted to forgive so we could move forward.

However:

Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation.

I struggled with this concept – and still kind of do.  I have been raised thinking that if you forgive someone, their wrong doings are “erased” and you make the effort to restore what you had before you became frozen.  That’s just how it was.  That’s how it’s always been.

But, Shane showed me a new option:  you can forgive without having reconciliation.  Somethings just can’t be, won’t be, or (even in some situations) shouldn’t be resolved.

Kind of like that saying “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”  You can love someone without approving of their every move, decisions, or choices.

We “practice what we preach”.  We try to see everyone through the eyes of Christ and love everyone as we love ourselves, but there are times where this just doesn’t seem possible.  But we are told in Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.  And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”

We cannot be imitators of God if we are walking around judging, ridiculing, wishing ill upon our neighbors, or not loving our neighbors.

When Shane sat me down and told me that there can be forgiveness and Christ-like love but not necessarily reconciliation, it caught me off guard.  But here is where it begins to make sense. (Authors note:  Feel free to correct me here if I am wrong.)

Forgiveness and Christ-like love can be one-sided.  You can forgive someone without them knowing or returning the favor.  Just the same, you can show love to someone without them wanting to receive it or returning it.

We, as Christians, can fulfill our duty as being imitators without the acknowledgement of the receiving end.

Up until the last few days, I was frozen in place.  I thought that I had broken my mold and began my journey forward.  I was wrong.  I was just as frozen last week as I was a month ago.  I hadn’t taken the next right step. I had prayed but I hadn’t put into action what I had prayed for – because I was stuck.

I want to move forward and ONLY forward.  I will not be looking back, dwelling on the past.

If you have wronged me, my husband, or my kids, know that you are forgiven and you are loved.

Just as I have been forgiven, I have forgiven.  I have forgiven, I have loved, but I cannot reconcile at this point in time.

But I am no longer frozen.  I will not stand stationary waiting for the world around me to change.  I need to be the change in the world.

I need to take that next right step.

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Pray Or Be Prey

It’s been a while since I’ve last written something!  Over the last few weeks, I have found myself (once again) in the middle of this whirlwind of life.  How I was ever able to write once a day is beyond me.  The schedule of a full-time wife, full-time mom, full-time student, full-time employee, and full-time individual becomes a lot of chaos when one thing trips you up.

My absence started with a low.  I honestly can’t even tell you what triggered it but I found myself in a spot in my life where I felt like I was stuck.  I felt like I was at a place where I felt that what I had was as good as it was going to get.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m overjoyed with my life.  But something changes when you realize that there’s not much left to change – it’s the daily grind. Get up, go to work, come home, do housework, go to bed.

But, not long after I found myself at that point, I found a way to reconnect to real life – and not necessarily in a good way; but not in a bad way either.  A way that was able to grow my faith and the faith of the kids.

See, M has taken a liking to shows that deal with spiritual practices.  I’m not talking prayer and worship songs – I’m talking chants, Ouija boards, spells, etc., etc., etc.  Now, at first when it was limited to the show Super Natural, I didn’t think much of it.  But then she let it slip that her mom has taught her how to read palms – or “tell the future”.  She has also started the habit of throwing salt on her brother when he was “annoying” or “irritating” or anything of that nature.  There were also small things happening that were just throwing red flags that we needed to address and see what was going on.

Now, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with any of these things, I just personally do not believe in them.  I have sat down and watched shows like this and had zero issues and even done research on things like the Ouija board and other things but it was more for education or understanding than to form a belief or adapt to a practice.  However, when you are not spiritually mature and you begin to dabble in these things and you start to practice some of these rituals, you begin to open yourself up to a world that you know nothing (or very little) about.

When I heard some of these things come from M’s mouth, I was shocked.  I knew her mother is known for saying “I’m not religious; I’m spiritual.” but I never thought that she would try to push her daughter to become the same.

M&M have been raised in faith.  They have attended Sunday School and church with us, and they chose to be re-baptized since they understand what it is and what it signifies.  They are no strangers to these conversations and they know what these types of things can lead to – or at least we thought they did.  It becomes almost surreal when you see these types of things coming from a child… your child – and they don’t even realize how much it goes against what we know they believe.  How do you sit them down and tell them “This is not what Christ wants for you.” without giving them the impression that their mother is full of “it”?  (I don’t agree with her beliefs and I personally do not feel they are “right” but I cannot judge and I cannot force her to believe.  She is entitled to believe and practice what she wants)

We sat M down one night before supper and asked her a few questions.  After some discussion, we realized that what she was doing was more-so out of curiosity (because she saw it on TV) than for “practice”.  We explained to her about the dangers of opening herself up to things like that.  She began to see quite quickly that “spirits” and “angels and demons” are nothing to mess with.  She didn’t realize that what she was doing was something her mother wanted her to do; it wasn’t what she believed and what she wanted.

Ephesians 6:10-12 tells us “Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in hearts.” That’s really what it has come down to.

But it’s not just M that struggles with this, it’s me too, it’s probably Shane as well.  I get so wrapped up in things going on in my life that prayer and daily readings seem to be a chore more than they seem like a pleasure.

There was a time during my valley where I wasn’t praying.  Not because I didn’t want to, but because in that moment, I didn’t know how.  But it became quite clear (and quite fast) that if I didn’t pray, I was prey.

My Armor of God became weak without prayer.  I felt myself being tested in ways that only those evil forces would test me.  They put the blinders on and make it feel like God was testing me instead.  I had become the prey of all that could be considered “evil”.  Satan knew that my armor was cracked and he managed to find a way in.  He was as sly as the fox.  My faith became a little unstable and my view of Him became foggy for a brief moment in time.  But He didn’t turn away from me.  Instead, He guided me back to where my vision became clear, my mind was put at ease, and my armor was repaired.

I never realized how much I prayed until I didn’t.  A day or two had passed where not much prayer had been said.  But, one morning, Shane woke me up about 3:30AM telling me that he was on his way out the door for work.  He leaned down for a hug and immediately I wrapped my arms around him, my hands interlocked and I began to pray “Dear Lord, thank-you for blessing me with this man.  Thank you for blessing our marriage.  Please lead us and keep us on a path that is only pleasing to you.  In your name I pray, Amen.”

It was the first heartfelt prayer I had said in 48 hours.  It happened so quickly that it almost felt as if it wasn’t me doing it.  That day was a really good day.  My head was clear and my heart wasn’t heavy.

On Sunday, we heard a sermon that revolved around the power of prayer and how everyone has a story behind them but we are forgiven by His death and resurrection.

Because of that experience, I now remind myself “Pray or be prey.” I have so much to thank Him for and have so much to be happy and excited about – He deserves ALL the glory; in prayer and in conversation/blogs/etc.

I will not be prey.

Photo Credit:  Google Images
Photo Credit: Google Images

You Can’t Take It With You.

The saying “You can’t take it with you when you go” has more truth to it than we know.  I’m not sure about you, but every time I have heard that saying, I think of it in a “here and now” sense.  I can buy this or that, but if I move, there may be a chance I can’t take it with me.

Last night, I had a whole new spin to this saying put into my head.  See, my husband (Shane), our friends Katelyn and Ryn, and I attended a concert last evening.  We were able to see John Tibbs, Finding Favour, Audio Adrenaline, and Newsboys.  (Which, it was AMAZING and I’m sure I’ll be blogging about it off and on throughout the week because the amount of content we got is a lot to process!)

While each artist had a touching story of demonstrations of Christ’s love within their life (which I will go into throughout the week as I do my postings), there was something that grabbed me during the Newsboys.  Michael Tait (the lead singer) was speaking to the sold-out crowd.  He was commenting about how it is just so easy for us to collect things.  Things like clothes, homes, cars, toys, collectables, animals, money.  Just about anything that you can imagine (aside from necessities), we tend to have more than we need.

But what do those material items mean in this life?  Social status?  Risen self-esteem?  An act of jealousy or anger?  An attempt to “one-up” your neighbor?  But what good do these things do us in our next life?  You know, the new life that we are given when we die.

It tells us in Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” and in 1 Corinthians 10:14 “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.”  But, what does that really mean to us?

It means that even though we do not try, we put things, money, and social status above God and He does not want that from us.  I’m guilty of doing this even just this past week.  On my birthday, I tried to buy a good mood.  I went to ShopKo, I bought myself a new shirt and some other things for around the house and tried to buy my way into a good day.  I would almost bet majority of you have done that at one point or another.  Retail therapy sound familiar?

It is almost in that moment that we hand over the cash or swipe the card that we are telling God “I’m sorry but you just aren’t good enough.  I need to buy my happiness.”

I’ve never once intended to put God beneath the material items in this life, but it happens…even when I don’t want it to.

Michael then told us “I’ve never seen a U-Haul hooked up behind a hearse.”  That’s when I realized the “You can’t take it with you when you go” went so much deeper than just this Earthly life.  Our time on Earth is limited.  We all have a timer that is counting down to when we are eligible to begin our new life in Him.  Why should we waste our lives spending money on things that are of no value outside of this life?

Then Michael made this comment: “Instead of collecting things, we need to collect people.”  AMEN!  We need to stop buying our forgiveness from people, stop buying our social status, stop trying to be greater than our neighbor.  We just need to stop.  Instead, we need to show love towards people.  We need demonstrate patience, kindness, understanding and mercy towards others.  That is how we can show the love of God without being overwhelming, aggressive, and what others could consider as rude.

I for one will admit that I am not the best with this.  I would rather stay in my quiet little shell.  But, being in a room with 4,000+ other believers and feeling the power in there made me feel a new sense of boldness, a sense of strength, and a sense of desire to do this for Him, not for me.

It was during that concert, I felt the need to reach out to a friend who is struggling.  She has been struggling over the past month or so.  I know how not fun those challenging times are, and even though I felt like nothing anyone could say was going to help me, I felt like I could help her.  I felt that in those few moments, she needed to know that God was there for her.  I sent her a 10 second clip of 4,000+ people singing “It’s all God’s children singing glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns, He reigns.”  He does reign and I”Hey, I’ve got this.  I have you in my hands.  You are loved.”

Blake NeeSmith of Finding Favour couldn’t have said it better when he said “You are loved.  You are worthy.  You are enough.”

Are you satisfied with the things you can bring with you when you go or do they need some work?  I’m looking for form a prayer team, even if it is just on WordPress.  I want you all to hold me accountable for reaching out and showing others the love that Christ has for us!

By Your Side.

This past week I was fighting a hard battle.  I was having some vicious spiritual and emotional battles going on.  I was barely functioning for a week.  Everything was a challenge.  I was trying to sift through issues and tackle them one at a time but I could only do so much.  However, I was fighting to turn them over to God; even though I hammer it over and over again in my posts.

I had hit a point later in the week (Thursday or Fridayish) where I was so frustrated and beaten down that all I could do was cry.  I felt like I had failed my husband, the kids, myself and especially God.  I had fallen behind in school work, house work, and other general responsibilities.  Sunday came and I felt like church is exactly what I needed to “reset” my struggles.

I sobbed during church.  I couldn’t even sing a full song without bursting into uncontrollable tears.  It felt like every song we sang was directed towards me or the battles I had fought the past week.  I felt like God was doing some work in me, but why was it so hard to let go?  It got to the point where I had to actually leave church, gather myself, and then come back in.  I physically couldn’t stop the crying no matter how hard I tried.

This is one of the songs that we sang.  It was definitely the hardest to maintain my composure (HA!  More like black streaked face the entire song!)
I love this song and it is so true!

He was by my side through all my struggles, but Satan was battling back and made me feel like I was going at it alone.  There was not one point where I was alone, spiritually or physically.  God wanted me to stop fighting but I felt like all I could do was fight; fight to keep Satan out as best as I could.

He loves us and He is there for us.  We don’t need to fight alone; He’s fighting for us and with us.

The Root Of All Evil.

When I ask you to think of the things that make you most happy in life, what comes to mind?  Your car?  Your house?  Your closet full of clothes?  Your electronic devices?  Any other material items that you may have purchased?

They say that money cannot buy you happiness, but yet that’s what society show us.  If you’re mad/sad/upset/etc., there is always retail therapy.  If you want someone to fall “in love” with you, buy them things – a lot of expensive-ish things.  If you mess up in your relationship, buy them flowers, jewelry, or clothes to say “I’m sorry.”

We don’t blink an eye at spending $50 on a large bouquet of flowers to say “I love you.” or “I’m Sorry.” or spending $50 at the liquor store for a “fun” Friday or Saturday night.  Yet, when the offering plate comes around at church, we cringe at the thought of throwing a $50 bill in.  Why is that?

Is it fear that we will never see that money again?  That that money may be spent in “better” places?  Let’s face it, we have spent large amounts of money on some ridiculous things that we didn’t need.  I’ll be the first to admit, a few years ago, I would have rather spent my money on fast food, pop, candy, etc. instead of throwing it in the offering plate and giving back to The One who gave me all.  I would have rather chased after that temporary feel good than chase fulfillment in knowing that my money was going somewhere much better than the local gas station or fast food store.

Matthew 6: 19-21 says “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

A lot of truth rings out in that passage.  When we leave  bikes out in the rain, they rust over time.  When mice get into vehicles, they chew and destroy.  We put more money into repairs and maintenance over time than the initial purchase probably was.  Look at cars, for example, oil changes, tires, rotation, transmission flush, replacing brakes, replace wheel bearings, replace tie rod ends, head gasket repairs, and the list goes on.

With maintenance and repairs comes frustration.  “How much money are we going to have to put into this?!” The more money we spend, the more upset we get.  Sound familiar?

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  1 Timothy 6:10

Shane and I do not live outside of our means.  We don’t drive brand new vehicles, we tell our kids no, we budget wisely.  We weren’t aware of how much wasteful spending we had until we laid out the budget.  All the little $2.00 and $5.00 transactions added up.  We were placing our temporary feel good above our giving to the Lord – the one who provided us with the items for that feel good moment.

Shane and I have become much happier and feel more blessed now that we are actually “putting our money where our mouth is.”  We used to be the “hypocrites” who didn’t understand those who could spend endless amounts of money on alcohol or material items but claimed they couldn’t afford an offering; but we were no different with our pop or snack purchases here and there.  We didn’t need those things and they put a dent into what we could give.  There were weeks where it was too tight for comfort but we offered what we could.  After we cut our needless spending, we found that we were able to comfortably offer more unto the Lord when we weren’t so focused on ourselves and our desires so who were we to judge others?

We don’t realize how selfish we really are until we stake a step back and realize how much we do for our satisfaction (pop, fast food, electronics, etc.) instead of His satisfaction.

I realize that there are some of you who are doing all you can to make ends meet, I’ve been there done that.  God doesn’t care about the amount of money you have or the amount that you give.  However, he does care if we start to worship the goods that money can buy.

“No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.”  ~Matthew 6:24

So, what makes you happy?

Where Were You?

Well, today is going to be kind of a downer post.  I apologize in advance for that but this is something that we are thankful for! (I can safely speak for Shane on this as well.)

Yesterday, Shane and I experienced about two hours in the life no parent ever wants to go through.

Shane got a message from Terri around 4:40pm stating that M had not come home off the bus yet and was wondering if she had gotten off there.  Shane said no and so it began.

M was missing, her cell phone was turned off, and no one had seen her; not the bus driver (she didn’t get on the bus), no answer from the school, she wasn’t at her friends Tae Kwon Do gym, etc.  Without even thinking about it, I began to pray: “Dear God, please keep her safe.  Allow her to find warmth and shelter until someone can get to her.  Please have someone recognize her and offer her a ride to where she belongs.   Please keep her safe.  Please keep her safe.  Please keep her safe…”

Immediately, I felt anger.  We have been having issues with M for the last couple of months. .  The issues range in things from general disrespect and attitude, immaturity and lack of responsibility and now this.  But as time went on, it turned into fear for her safety.

After talking to Shane a bit and sensing growing panic, I told him it was probably worth a visit to the Sheriff’s department.  This day in age, you can never be too safe.

Shortly after he had stopped by and was filing a missing child report, one of her friends had located her sitting by the school and called Shane.  Luckily, there was a Sheriff nearby that was able to bring her back to town.

From what we were told, she was pretty shook up.  The excuse we were told was that she had the impression that one of us (Shane, myself, Terri or Mark) was going to be there to get her after school.  After talking with Shane, neither one of us had talked to her in depth since Friday when she went back to her mom’s.  Terri and Marc knew nothing of going to get her.  After about a half hour, she then changed her tune to “I missed the bus.”  She claimed that her phone had died and that she had tried to call us from a gas station but their phones couldn’t call out to cell phones.  I doubt we will ever know the whole truth but I am just so thankful that God was able to keep her safe.  Especially since the weather was a bit chilly yesterday.  But the fear that I saw on Shane’s face even after she had been returned to her mother’s house was heart shattering.  My husband was home but he wasn’t with me.

From the time that he got home from his men’s group until the time we went to bed, his eyes were glassed over, his voice was monotone and there was a constant crease in-between furrowed brows.

As we got ready to pray before bed, we realized that we, as her parents, had to pray for patience, understanding, knowledge, wisdom and strength.  We need to be firm but loving and compassionate.  We need to discipline but be patient and understanding.

When I woke up this morning, I had a reassuring passage from my dad sitting in my text messages.  He sent me Proverbs 31:28-30.

“Her children rise up and call her blessed.  Her husband also praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you excel them all.’  Charm is deceitful , and beauty is vain; but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”

Even though I had not told him or my mom what had gone on, it was like he knew.  He knew what I needed to hear after an exhausting evening of supporting and comforting Shane.

So, Dad,. thank you for that!  Also, I apologize for all of the horrible things I tried to pull as a child.  Going through it now myself with M is not fun.    If only she could feel what regret is going to feel like years down the road.

Even though she is home safe, I’m still repeating this verse:
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you.  Do not be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

However, this experience made me think of our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  How many times has he been waiting for us to show up in His house?  How many times has He asked us “Where were you?” and we made excuses as to why we didn’t show up?  Probably more than we would like to admit.  But, he still opens His arms to us and shows us love, compassion and forgiveness.  For that, we will forever be indebted to Him.