Seasons of a Tree

A good tree produces good fruit; a bad tree produces bad fruit. Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord,” are true believers. You will be known by your fruit.

Yet, trees are not always producing fruit. There is a time for growth, for soaking in nutrients and a time for rest. Growth leads to fruit, fruit leads to needing nutrients, storing nutrients leads to rest, and rest allows the tree to once again grow and flourish.

There is a season when the Gardener will prune and weed and trim and whack and dig and uproot. While these may seem like traumatizing, destroying actions the Gardener actually has the trees best interest in mind. He sees the potential of the tree and must make decisions that will allow the tree to grow to its fullness. He may even prune branches that are producing good fruit in order to redirect growth to the branches that are the best and will yield the most abundant fruit. The Gardener may also prune fruit bearing branches because He sees how vast the tree has spread, and perhaps if it’s spread so thin the quantity of fruit may be much but the quality is not much.

If we look at the different seasons of a tree we can see four distinct times, just like our climate. Expanding on what I mentioned above, let’s look briefly at those four seasons. There is a time for growth, when we begin to see the life within the tree show itself to the world (spring). There is a time for produce and fruit, when others are blessed by the abundance of the tree (summer). There is a time when the tree begins to shed its outer appearance, so that the inward may soak up the nutrients needed for the next season (autumn). And there is a time when what you see on the outside of the tree is no reflection of what is happening within, this is a time of rest and hibernation for the tree (winter).

As I look over the past several years of my life I see this pattern of seasons. I was most recently enjoying my summer season; fall came and past quickly, and this winter seems to be the worst I have ever experienced. But I have been reminded in this moment that my Gardener has my best interest in mind, there is a reason for this winter, and one day, one glorious day, spring will come. Life will return to my heart and soul. Color and beauty will once again be a part of me. Until then, I must remember that God’s Word is true, powerful, the most important weapon I have, and needs to be louder than any other voice.

May the Lord reveal His truths to you in your season. May He grant you peace, satisfaction, understanding, and hope where ever you are in your journey.


Depression Sucks

Life is hard. Life without Jesus is even harder. 
I’m a believer, for sure, 100%! Jesus is my Lord. But I don’t always live that way. Sin easily creeps in. Lies begin to penetrate the Armor He has given me. 
How is it that someone can go from such a strong foundation in the Truth to crumbling under the weight of life? How is it that someone can be so sure of God’s calling to wanting to throw in the towel? How do we get so lost from the path that God is leading us on? What is it that causes us to detour? 
How is it that I have ended up in a pit of dark depression when I have walked in His great peace, His beautiful truth, and unfailing love? How did I become so focused on everything except Him? Why am I back in this wretched place; I thought we conquered this once and for all, God.
I may never know the answers to these questions. At least, perhaps, not this side of eternity. 
This is the beginning of a post that I started back in May. God knew where I would be today, writing about that very abyss I had been avoiding over the last year or more…
Several times this year I have been taken to the edge. The very edge of what looks like a black abyss. A place where there is no hope, no peace, no joy. Not death. At least not physical death. Perhaps crossing over the edge could have led to a slow spiritual death. I will never know, because my God is a good God. He is faithful to answer prayers and bring us to place of hope and healing. As a friend reminded me, “Joy comes in the morning. It may not be the next morning. But it may be the morning of whatever season you’ve just come from.”
God is good. (All the time. He never changes). And He is good at being God. It is I who has changed. So where have I gone wrong? 
This is a question only Holy Spirit can answer, and I’m not going to find the answer in my Pastor, or my friends, or my husband. No. This answer needs to come from the Author and Perfecter of my faith, the Finisher of my Salvation, my Rock. My God.
Have you ever come to a place like this?
Remember the Truth. As hard as it may be to stand at all today. Remember you are can stand with His strength, on His truth, and on solid ground.
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of the darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken’ struck down, but not destroyed…
(2 Corinthians 4:6-9)
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
(Matthew 11:28-30)
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:6-7)
For me, I know the His Truth. But I haven’t been living in that Truth. And life circumstances made a storm great enough that I found that black abyss. But God is good, and He is bigger than any storm I will face.

Confessions of a Christian Woman

God is still writing my story in the pages of His book. Below you will find my testimony. I have been blessed to have walked a tough road, through many choices of my own. Blessed because now I get to impart truth, hope, life, and grace to those who would listen. In April I shared this testimony at our church’s yearly women’s retreat, and just a few weeks ago was able to share a snippet of this with the youth group at church. May the Lord bless and protect all who read this.

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When you examine your life and you really think about that one thing you want, that one thing you need, what would it be? Is it that job, or that house? Is it to have a marriage like them? Would it be to have kids that acted like her kids? Let me tell you that all of these have crossed my mind, and settled into my heart at one time or another. But really at the core of all these desires there is a lack of worth, a lack of true love. And as women, isn’t that what we want, what we need? In our deepest longings, in our heart of hearts we are screaming, begging for someone to tell us, “You matter to me. You are so worthy of all my love, and freely I give to you, unconditionally, all that I am. I love you!”

The apostle Paul nails it on the head in his letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, and the first letter to the Corinthians. He knows: women need love. We as women, as young girls are so impressionable, especially by the men in our lives. And before I go into my account of how God gave me worth, and told me that I was loved, I want to encourage you today to begin seeking your worth and meaning and true love in Christ alone.

In the book of John, Jesus says this, “For the thief has come to kill, and steal, and destroy” and how does he do this? With society. With the ideas that this is how you’re supposed to look, that you have to be super-mom, or super-wife all on your own, that you need to be happy, and that all the things will make you happy. But then Jesus says, “I have come that they,” they being those who have chosen Jesus to be their Savior, those who have said, ‘I am sorry Jesus for my sins. I know YOU died on the cross to save me. Please come into my life and change me!’, “may have life.” Note that Jesus doesn’t say happiness, but LIFE, “and have it to the full.” I truly believe that there should be an exclamation point after this statement (I think John got that wrong). Jesus gives a full life! And as you are about to read, I tried filling my life with all the things. In an attempt to find that fullness, to find that worth, to find that love I so desperately craved, and still do, I searched in all the wrong places. I might be showing my age a bit when I ask: Was it in the 80s that the slogan of “drug, sex and rock n roll” became a thing? Well…welcome to my life.

I should set the scene for you. I was raised in the church, a “Christian” household. I had accepted Jesus into my heart at a young age. My biological mother and my Dad ran the Children’s Ministry. So believe me when I say I never would have thought my family would be the victim of a divorce. Looking back now I remember having a happy family at church, and a tendency towards anger, dysfunction, and explosive behavior at home. Now that’s not to say we didn’t have fun and I don’t have fond memories, but I do know that the Lord shielded my eyes from many things.

I actually remember walking to the bus stop one morning when I was 8 or 9 and hearing all the neighbor kids talking about their step-moms, step-dads, or step-siblings, and the resentment you could hear in their voices was astounding. But I thought to myself, ‘How lucky I am that we are Christians, and Christians don’t get divorced.’

Not long after that our parents sat us down in the living room, only a small light was on, and we sat next to a dying fire. What an ironic picture for what was about to happen: “Mom is moving out.” At 10 years old, I had no idea what that meant, I had no idea what that was going to look like. I honestly thought that she was probably going to move a few houses away. My brother was 12, and my sister was 8. As you can imagine, for our Christian family, this was devastating. It was absolutely earth shaking, and over the next several years my foundation showed its weakness and cracks, and eventually crumbled away. Do you remember that kids song about the foolish man who built his house on the sand? Although I had gone to church for as long as I could remember, and I truly had Jesus in my heart, I had a foundation built on sand. I had not made a foundation of rock for myself. I had not owned my faith yet, my parents were still my foundation. But their foundations were broken too.

In the years to follow the ugliness, the brokenness, and the darkness in both of my parents came out full force, in different ways. Custody battles ensued, leaving a house divided even more, me with my Dad and my brother and sister with my biological Mom. Eventually I would choose to not visit her at all for various reasons but the main one being that there had been years of backlash from her and her second husband with me wanting to be involved in the church. I struggled with feeling abandoned: If the woman who carried me and gave birth to me couldn’t love and accept me for who I was, then who could?

The love and acceptance I so desperately needed could clearly not be found in my family, my family was a hot mess. My biological mother didn’t even want me. The feelings of abandonment and not being worthy of her love, the pain that enveloped me from this divorce would soon take me down a path I wouldn’t come back from for about 10 years. With every lie that Satan whispered in my mind, every one I began to believe, I was giving my heart to the enemy that had come to kill and steal and destroy. And while this story obviously ends with a wayward child returned to the loving arms of Christ, I still struggle with those destructive, negative thoughts.

Through Jr. High, in those few years right after the separation and divorce, I tested the waters of rebellion. I wore white eye-liner, like Brittney Spears, against my Dad’s wishes. I wore tight clothes, and shirts that showed my mid-drift. And to get away with these things I would often change at school, or put layers on so Dad wouldn’t see. I listened to Country music *gasp* but it was against my Dad’s wishes. And I was a serial dater. I was dipping my foot in the waters, testing it out, seeing what I could get away with. So you can see that in the core of me I was looking for acceptance, worth, and love, and I was beginning to seek it out in earthly things. But I still enjoyed going to church and doing all the church things. There was a spiritual war beginning in my life, and I didn’t even realize I was playing into exactly where Satan wanted me.

In the summer before my freshman year of High School, there was a revival within my heart, quite unexpected I might add, I suppose they usually are though. I went on a mission’s trip; I joined the worship team and eventually became a part of the student leadership team. I was finding acceptance and worth in my friends, and the things that I did for God. But there was still a big issue: I was finding love, and acceptance and worth in church and acts of service, not Christ. In a matter of 3 years I would leave high school as a completely different person then who entered in. Depression, self-mutilation, and Satan’s lies would entrench me by the time I graduated.

I began serious dating in high school, and subconsciously, in order to protect myself from the hurt of abandonment ever again, I would perpetually end relationships suddenly. Generally, it was because I had already started liking someone else. This would also carry into my “adult” life. And Satan would use these situations to pile shame and guilt in to my heart and mind; I knew it was wrong, but just couldn’t seem to stop it. Why? Because I hadn’t found my True Love yet.

Towards the end of my junior year I began believing that I was in such turmoil and pain because I was bi-sexual, and I was living under oppression from my Christian family, and I was being forced to live a lie. In a bold attempt to show my Mom (technically step-mom, but she holds the title of Mom) and Dad who I really was, and why I was in such turmoil I told them I was gay and had a girlfriend. I packed my room at lunch the next day and moved in with my biological mom. Because I just knew she would accept me as I was. I ended up living with her for about a week but during that time, I found myself at a college party with a friend, drinking heavily, really drinking for the first time aside from sneaking a bit here and there from my parents. And before I knew what was happening I was having sex in a bathroom with some guy I barely knew. Was it rape? No. However, in my naivety and drunken state, I really didn’t know what was happening until it was too late. I cannot even put in to words the shame and guilt I felt, how absolutely empty, bare and dirty I felt the next morning. And at this point I had no loyalty to God, but Satan was using this act of sexual immorality to take me further down a path of destruction. Much to my own dismay the pain I was now feeling was a catalyst to return to a safe place, and I ended up moving back in with my Mom and Dad a few days later. Talk about spiritual warfare. There was clearly a battle between Heaven and Hell for this child of God. And I felt every single bit of it. Turmoil and darkness surrounded me, while God and His angles fought for me.

Internally I continued to struggle with my sexual identity, and my depression. In 2007, my senior year of High School, I began dating a boy and really thought that I had found the love and acceptance I had longed for so long. Alcohol also entered my life more regularly and became a facilitator in numbing pain. And when you begin mixing alcohol, instability, depression, and teenagers, you know you’re bound for trouble. One weekend, I was feeling particularly invincible and thought it was a good idea to have some friends over and we had a bottle of alcohol. Mind you, my parents are asleep downstairs, my two youngest sisters asleep upstairs where my friends and I were. The girl that I had dated briefly was there that night, and we fooled around a bit, I gave her a ring to profess my love. But I’m still dating that wonderful guy, and guess what else? I wasn’t invincible, my parents found out about the alcohol.

Oh, the turmoil I suffered in those next few days. Not only was I dealing with consequences from my parents, I also had to figure out the drama I had created with this girl and this boy. On top of my heavy school load, because I was an Honor Student you know, and participating in sports, and, and, and… I could not cope. I couldn’t deal with the consequences of my actions. And on January 3, 2007, it would seem that Hell had won the battle for my life. It was a Wednesday night. I finished swimming practice, went home, grabbed a brand new bottle of Tylenol PM, and 2 or 3 handfuls of Ibuprofen. I only tell you the specifics of what I swallowed so that you understand it is ONLY by the grace of God that I am alive right now.

I wrote my last words down as I swallowed pill after pill, handfuls at a time. One might think that with all the people I felt the need to write to that night I would have snapped out of it. It’s shocking how engulfed I was in the lies Satan had been hissing in my ears.

Now, obviously I didn’t die, but boy I remember thinking in the hospital how badly I wished it had worked. Because not only did I still have to deal with the choices I had made prior to my suicide attempt, but I now had this suicide attempt to deal with too. After a night in ICU, a week in the hospital, and another week in inpatient psych care I left the hospital, and decided somewhere along the way that I was going to be continue dating that boy. We continued to date through high school, and shortly after graduating we were engaged.

Now, because of the nature of the relationship with this boy, not only did I struggle with who my true love was, acceptance and worth, I would now struggle with associating love as sex. He left for boot camp some short weeks after our engagement. So when the sex stopped I was easily swayed to fall for someone else. While Mr. Navy was away, I became involved with a guy at work, Mr. Lifeguard. I ended up moving in with him, at his parent’s house, and didn’t write to Mr. Navy for almost 2 weeks.

Mr. Lifeguard and I had a dysfunctional relationship to say the least, and I was not any more responsible than I was in high school, as grown up as I felt. Living on my own with my boyfriend…in his parent’s house. Mr. Lifeguard and I were together for about a year and a half, and towards the end of the relationship I began having feelings for one of our mutual friends. We’ll call him Mr. Married.

Again, turmoil; I was living with someone but was carrying on an emotional affair with another man, but the fact that he was married didn’t bother me. Eventually I made one of the most adult decisions in those days, and ended what was going on with Mr. Married. Although, much to my dismay about a month later Mr. Lifeguard would tell me that he didn’t think we should be together. So I moved in with a friend from work.

Mr. Married came back into the picture very quickly, as did a few other guys. Some physical, some emotional, some I led on because I thought that the attention was lovely. To be blunt I was acting a whore; in one 24-hour period I had sexual relations with 3 different guys. But soon all the sex, all the cigarettes and all the alcohol couldn’t numb me enough. I found marijuana, oh the sweet relief I felt when I was high.

My low point finally came when I began to be more concerned about being high than just about everything else. Only by the grace of God, did I continue going to school and working. Because of my desire to be high all the time I chose to become homeless so I could be with my “friends”, my suppliers. There were four of us, and one was a young mama with a 2 year old daughter.

My pastor mentioned in a sermon some time ago that people can become so entangled with sin that they do not care for the sanctity of others. This was true for me. There was one night when the little baby was so fussy that I thought, “Marijuana works to calm us down, it should work for her too.” So we proceeded to blow smoke in her face, hoping she would become just “contact” high enough to sleep. The poor baby was actually just hungry and dehydrated. She ended up in urgent care the next day.

Not too long after this my Mom and Dad had got ahold of me and asked me to come to dinner. Offering a shower and use of the washer and dryer if needed, but the stipulation was that only I could come. I obliged, thinking only of what I could gain.

To my surprise they offered as the main course God’s grace along with a plate of spaghetti. Much to my parents surprise I broke down in a broken heap of tears and accepted their sweet platter of grace. I moved back in the next day. Mom helped me straighten out my financial mess, I continued to work and go to school. There were house rules of course: no drugs, no alcohol, you have to go to church on Sundays, and other basics. But I NEVER went to church with them; I always made sure to be working.

God had been working in my heart in ways that I didn’t realize, and He would continue to use me, and orchestrate events that only He could. At some point during the summer Mom called me and said they were going to a local burger joint and the church picnic. I asked if I could go simply because I wanted a burger and I didn’t want to pay for it. I was always thinking about me, what could I get from a situation. But here’s where God started getting my attention. When we got to the park we were getting out of the truck and before I could stop the words from leaping off my tongue I blurted, “Since I’m not working Sundays anymore,” because I had been fired from that job (blessing in disguise!), “I’ll go to church with you guys, because I know it’s important to you.” I regretted saying it as soon as it had come out of my mouth, but there was a strange peace in that choice too. I dreaded every Sunday. I would sit sourly in service journaling about how communion was cannibalism, and popping my knuckles during prayers, dressing as masculine as I could.

One Sunday though, as I was driving home, I began arguing with God about His existence. And I knew He was talking back to me, and I don’t know how to describe it, but if you’ve heard Him talk to you, you know what I mean. I told Him, “I’m sorry, I just can’t believe You’re real.” God responded ever so tenderly, “I know.”

On December 14th, 2009 I was taking a shower and out of nowhere, I hit my knees, “God, I can’t do this alone anymore. I just can’t do it.” The peace and light that washed over me was so freeing. In that very moment I began building my foundation of rock. I had owned my faith, and asked God to be a present help in my life. That was the moment I asked Him to be Lord over my life. I promptly went downstairs and told my parents. And while I continued to struggle for some time finding my new life, I was finally on the right path to finding the love, and acceptance and worth I so craved.

God has done amazing works in my life following that day. I quit smoking marijuana cold turkey, on more than one occasion I have quit smoking cigarettes cold turkey, God healed me in a way that I no longer identify as bi-sexual. I am married to a great man with a beautiful 4-year-old daughter. While my testimony continues in a very different light after that day, it wasn’t until more recently that I truly began seeking Jesus to be my love, my acceptance and my worth. I’m not going to pretend that God made it all rainbows and butterflies after I was humble before Him. It’s not easy, in fact Jesus Himself said that we will have it rough; trials and tribulations. I have good days and bad days. I still struggle with depression, and have added anxiety into the mix, the lies of Satan still often drown out God’s truth, I have contemplated suicide on more than one occasion in the past 8 years, even in my marriage I struggle with associating sex with love. But God is so gracious to continue shaping us, and isn’t it so much easier when we are willing participants.

I would really encourage you, if you haven’t accepted the grace that God offers, the salvation that comes with Jesus’ death and resurrection, to seriously consider it. It won’t be easy, but you’ll have peace in the chaos. You’ll have troubles, but the love that God offers is true and unconditional. There will be drama, but God’s truth, God’s Word, the Bible, defines your worth. And if my life hasn’t convinced you that God will accept you as you are, wherever that is, then may He bring you someone’s who will.

 

 


SICK: My heart and mind

     Have you ever had one of those days where you wanted to throw in the towel? Those, ‘I give up’ or ‘What else could go wrong’ or my personal least favorite of all, ‘God, could you just take me now. What good I am down here?’
     I’m sure you’ve had them. I certainly have had more than I can count. And to be quite honest, more than I care to remember. And even more honestly, more than those elusive good days.
     Welcome to my life…
     I’ve been living with depression for longer than I haven’t. A life filled with depression, and oppressive, negative thoughts, anxiety, and self shaming thoughts can be so exhausting. If you haven’t experienced this first hand then I’ll liken it to this: have you ever been around someone, for any length of time, that is constantly complaining or being negative? Complaining about their husband (or for you gentlemen reading, their wife), the weather, how their kid did this, or the dog did that, and ‘I can’t believe what so-and-so said’, and that horrible noise the fridge makes when it turns on. You might be laughing, but you know the people I’m talking about. Well, that’s what it’s like in my head, and all the complaining and negativity is focused on self.
     I heard a Focus on the Family podcast some time back, where a woman mentioned this type of thinking is a form of broken narcism. Definitely a post for another time, but I do remember thinking, “Ouch!” as I  cringed at the conviction and nodded my head in full agreement.
     So when I say it’s exhausting, I mean It. Is. Exhausting.
     But there’s hope!
     There is a Hope so strong that the very gates of Hell tremble when The Name is mentioned. A hope that can only be found in our Righteous Redeemer.
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“How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the LORD his God,” Psalms‬ ‭146:5 NASB
     Do you suffer from the same thinkings that I do? Do you feel beat down, weary, discouraged, broken? Do you have a Bible app? Do a search of the word hope in your Bible app, and feel yourself being refreshed and renewed. Rising on wings like eagles.
     God’s desire is not for you to be stuck in this vicious, nasty, sinful cycle of negative thoughts. God’s desire is that you would see yourself the way He sees you. A beloved child of God, an heir to the throne, one who is holy, chosen, and called for a purpose. Do not put off God’s desires for your life.
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“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭13:12‬ ‭NASB‬‬
     I can’t tell you how many times I have made my own heart sick; how many times I have grieved my Heavenly Father simply because of what I thought about myself.
     This post started because of the yuckiness I felt inside. I thought surely someone could sympathize with my distress. Little did I know that the Almighty God would teach me and allow me to share this lesson with you.
     Don’t you see? By allowing ourselves to think critically, and negatively about this beautiful body, mind and spirit that God graciously gave, we are deferring His desire, and His hope for sin. His hope is deferred for sin. I am deferring the Creator’s hope and desires for sin.
     Oh God, change my thought pattern. Change the thoughts of the dearly loved child who is reading this. May Your hope and desires be on our minds. Lord, should someone need an encouraging word, I pray You would meet them where they are. You are faithful and righteous to redeem. Redeem our minds. Renew our minds. In Your Holy Name I pray. May it be!