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.

Spirit Filled Life

As a believer, the moment we ask Jesus to be a part of our life we receive the gift of Holy Spirit. The One whom Jesus called Helper. His best friend. The One who should be our best friend. After all, He is with us always. We are His home.

What does your home look like? Is it a place that you wold be proud to show your in-laws, are you comfortable with your friends just dropping by? If someone showed up to my house right now: there’s laundry piled in the laundry room, which is very visible, the kitchen has dirty dishes stacked up, the living room has blankets strewn across the couch, shoes laid out, a giant moose tied to the chair, and dust everywhere. I am blessed to say that our bathroom is clean, just don’t look in the shower…you’re bound to see ants…(Can’t seem to get rid of them).

That’s my physical home. My spiritual home? Without discrediting myself, or being overly critical while also keeping my pride in check: it’s about the same as my physical house. There is always room for improvement. I have had a much more beautiful spirit than I do now, but I have also had a spirit that didn’t seem to exist for anything but self.

So, then, this begs the question: how do we clean up our spiritual home? How do we live in such a way that we radiate Christ’s light within us? How do we become so full of Him that people can see a physical difference in us compared to one who is of the world?

We live a Spirit filled life. Galatians 5:22-23 lays out what the outpouring of a Spirit filled life is.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Over the next 10 weeks our prayer is to walk you through what a Spirit filled life looks like by examining the 9 different aspects of His fruit. Here are some important points to remember during the next two months:

1. This is a lifestyle;

2. It is a choice;

3. By His power you can change.

May our God, who is always faithful, loving and kind, provide you with all that is needed to live a Spirit filled life. In His Holy name, we pray…let it be so.

God’s Love vs Human Love

Have you ever been disappointed by love? Maybe your heart was broken by the one that you loved. Maybe those that are supposed to love unconditionally (parent’s) abandoned you. Somehow, in some form, we have all been disappointed, betrayed, hurt, or negatively impacted by “love.”

God’s love is so different from the love that we have come to understand and believe in our world today. Love to us has become a feeling. It’s fleeting, flimsy and just plain weak; that is, compared to the true love that God offers. We have come to believe that  we are at the mercy of love, rather than knowing that love is a choice. We hear people say often, “Well, we fell out of love”, or “We simply dont love each other anymore.” Because of what love has become in our world it’s no wonder many people don’t truly understand the love of God.

Do you know, even for the most righteous person, the one who walks the walk and talks the talk, His love is not fully comprehendable.

One of the aspects of the Bible that I really appreciate is how the authors, all throughout, have put human attributes on God. All in order that we, as humans, might be able to understand Him better. God’s hands (Psalm 31:5), His eyes (Proverbs 15:3), His arm (Isaiah 62:8), and the voice of God (Ezekiel 10:5). The problem, however, with this is the very thing we do best as humans: mess it up. I’ve been guilty if it, and I know I’m not alone; the process of taking more human, sinful traits and projecting these characteristics and tendencies onto the Lord. If doing such and such makes Him smile and pleased, then doing this sinful act clearly makes him sad and disappointed. There are a lot of assumptions made in a statement or a thought process such as this. And there is not a whole lot of truth in it.

When we begin to place our fallen, human characteristics on God, several things begin to happen:

1) We are calling God a liar. From His mouth it has been told to us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, My ways are not your ways. They’re higher.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, paraphrased);

2) We place God in a box, which leads to the third point;

3) His characteristics become human rather than that of the One True God. We strip Him of His sovreignty, His omnipresence, and His omnipotence. Everything that makes God who He is quickly disappears.

4) Ultimately, then, this leaves us completely devoid of hope. Without God, there is not Jesus. Without Jesus, there is no salvation. And without salvation, there is no hope.

God’s love is far beyond our understanding. I’m not convinced we’ll even understand it once we reach Heaven. God’s love is without conditions, it is the same today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow, nothing can separate us from the love of God. And because of His love we are able to experience true love, therefore being able to love others as He has loved us.

We are human, so we cannot do this perfectly. But as the Church we should set the example: forgive as you have been forgiven, offer grace and mercy as He gives us daily, live as a child of God not as a child of the Devil. Can you imagine the revolution, the revival we could have in our lives, homes, and community if we loved with even an ounce of the love that God shows us!?

Start today, ask God to change your heart and mind, ask Him to reveal His love to you so you can show it to others. Ask Him for a willing heart, a confidence that can’t be shaken, and courage to obey when it’s hard. When you ask, He will always answer. When you ask, you will receive (Matthew 21:22Jorhn 16:24, 1 John 3:22James 4:3). This will not be easy; I’ve adopted the slogan, “Being Christian is not for the faint of heart.” God is going to break you and mold you, to make you more like Him. While it’s no cake walk, the rewards are eternal, the joy that comes from serving Him with abandon is beyond describable, the relationship you forge with God is priceless. The rewards reaped from sowing in God’s love, will far outweigh any hardship you might experience.

Colossians 3:12

John 14:21

Prayer: God, we give you our lives and hearts. Take us deeper than we’ve ever been, farther than we dare go on our own. Jesus, make us more like You. Give us willing, obedient hearts, completely dependent on You. We love You, and look forward to Your plans with hope, peace and joy. In Your powerful name we pray, let it be so!

Our Natural Self: Good or Evil?

Psalm 14

Psalm 53

Ecclesiastes 7:20

Romans 3:12

A repeating theme throughout the Bible. So important to David, in fact, that he writes two different psalms about it (Psalm 14, 53). He must have taught this to his son because Solomon writes about it later in Ecclesiastes (7:20). Finally, the apostle Paul quotes it in his letter to the churches in Rome (Romans 3:12).

Why is this such a prevalent theme in Scripture? That’s a big question, and I can only come up with a small answer: it’s important for us to know.

As a follower of the Way, am I not called to love Christ first and love others secondly? It’s clear that I can not do this without the power of Christ in me. God Himself through 3 different people has said, “You are not good.” I can only assume then that people are not inherently good. We are born into a world smeared with, and shattered by sin. Everywhere you turn, you can see the effect of sin on the hearts of mankind.

Take a young toddler for example. If you have two children together, playing with the same toys, what is their natural reaction? “MINE!” Grabbing. Taking. Pushing. Do you think they learned that from their parents? No. These babes were not taught how to be selfish, they are born into it.

These babes then grow up to be you and me. And we aren’t any better. We haven’t out grown our selfishness, or our sin. In fact, we become better at sinning, not worse. If you’ve grown up in the church or been around the church scene for a length of time then you may have heard, “All sin is the same to God.” To Him sin is sin, whether you murder someone, or lie to your parents you’ve separated yourself from Him. From a human perspective, that is really hard to grasp and comprehend. Here’s the point: from a human perspective, the older we get, the longer we live in this sin stained world, the worse our sins get.

We grow from grabbing a toy from another child, into sexual immorality. Please do not mishear my words. It’s not that your child is going to grow up to be a terrible person because they took that toy, nor are you a terrible person now because you stole a toy as a child. The point is “There is not one who does good, no, not one.” We are all selfish; we are all sinners. This is the world we have been born into.

If you spend any amount of time with someone who doesn’t follow Christ, or really, even those who have been led astray, it won’t take long until you hear the statement, “They’re a generally good person.” Maybe referencing someone they know, or perhaps even referencing themselves. But unless you have Christ guiding your choices and your thoughts and your life, this can’t be true.

It’s a fascinating truth to meditate on.

I was listening to a sermon the other day about this topic. The pastor related that in America we may have this tendency to think that people are inherently good because we live in a Disneyland of a nation. If you look at the basis of just about any other country in the world, what do you see? Evil. Sin. Inherently bad. China deciding that men are better than women, so they murder female infants. Middle Eastern countries do not allow women much of any rights. Russia, oppressing their people for years because those in power don’t want their people to believe they matter. Hitler. Stalin. And if we’re being completely honest, we should look at our own history too. The concentration camps we put Japanese people in during the Second World War, the mass genocide and theft from the Native Americans.

No one is immune to sin. No, not one. Not even our great America. We just choose not to remember our past mistakes. The path of a nation is similar to the path of an individual: if we choose not to look back at our past, and learn from it, we will keep stepping into the same sin over and over again. Different day same story.

Now, I didn’t set out to make this a political post, nor do I want to continue that way. But I believe the point remains, and I won’t ever be convinced otherwise. All have sinned. There is not one who is good. The only good we have ever seen in this world comes from God.

Please don’t think that all hope is lost for mankind. No. That will never be true. Hope is never lost or gone. And there is a faith you can have that is in something more secure than mankind. Because over 2000 years ago a child was born, Jesus. The promised Messiah. He came to bring peace to those who choose to believe and trust and follow Him. For those of us who have chosen and will choose Him are filled with His righteousness. We have so many spiritual weapons and blessings available to us so that we may be different than our natural nature. We can choose righteousness rather than sin. We are now slaves to righteousness rather than sin.

Lord, I thank You for Your infinite wisdom. Thank You for revealing truth and knowledge to us. I pray that we would not sit stagnant when faced with truth. I pray that You would erase any words that are not Yours, so that my words would not settle in the hearts of those who read this. Rather, my God, I ask Your Word would take hold and grow in their hearts. In Your Holy, Mighty name I pray, amen.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Sheri Hollinger

Thanksgiving! What a great word to reflect on as we enter into the holiday season and head towards Christmas! Festive fun and joyous times, right? Or maybe not so much? I would like to address gratitude as we enter into the holidays. This season of hope and love can be shadowed by overwhelming emotions. Whether it’s triggered by facing loss, by the added financial stress, by our own (sometimes unrealistic) expectations, or even a byproduct of dreary gray weather, depressive emotions can lurk over any of us. I am referring to a seasonal depression. And that’s where the word “thanksgiving” comes in. Dare I challenge you to pour out gratitude where you don’t feel like it?!

Maybe this time of year feels lonely? Thank God for a kind cashier, a smile from a stranger, a text message from a friend, a note of encouragement… but you say none of that has happened? Well then I say be that person! Be kind, smile at others, drop a message to someone, give a card, etc… BE what you want to receive.

Maybe you’re dealing with illness or an injury? Thank God for medical care, as needed. Or for natural supplements that seem to offer relief. Or for a kind nurse or friend who shows compassion. If you’re not dealing with this personally, who can you reach out to that is?

Maybe you have difficult in-laws or estranged family? Be kind anyways. Yes, really. Thank God that you get to choose to be the better person. Even if it is by way of just saying nothing. You know, that old mom rule “if you ain’t got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

Maybe you are facing loss of a loved one. Whether recent or seasoned long ago, the heart has a void. Fill it. Be thankful for having had them in your life, share the memories, eat their favorite meal, do their favorite activities. By letting it all be a part of your holidays you are letting them be present anyway. Don’t hesitate to share the legacy of love they had in your heart.

Maybe the weather has you blue? Thank God for changing seasons and that this will eventually pass. In the meantime, choose joy anyways! Breathe fresh air, exercise, love on others, smile at strangers… be the blessing that others need. In turn, you will be refreshed as well.

Maybe its finances. Thank God the gift of giving has no limit. Be bountiful in creativity. Something simple yet thoughtful is far more valuable than expensive gifts without a meaningful purpose. Let’s face it! We don’t need more things, but more kindness. Offer a skill as a gift. Cook a meal, draw a picture, give cookies, offer free childcare, write a prayer out for them, create a poem, etc… anything done in Love IS the Gift.

Maybe it’s just pressure. Feeling torn between others expectation and your own desires for the holidays. Sometimes the pressure is our own perfectionism. Thank God that Jesus is the only perfect one.

Does it kind of feel like Thanksgiving is intentionally before Christmas as a way to prepare our hearts? Let us remember what is important; love and thankfulness, as it seems that gratitude turns what we have into enough!!

Thank you, Jesus!

Prayer is a Powerful Weapon

Andi Anderson

Have you ever had one of those weeks where nothing could get you down? It feels like you are walking hand in hand with God. He’s got you. You’re His girl, and He isn’t going to let anything knock you down.

And then there’s the week where everything seems to be going wrong. You forget your morning devotion time or skip it completely on purpose (!?). You’re at your Husband’s throat for no reason. AND you’re on your period.

While the last 16 weeks or so has been closer to the first described, this last week has been all of the second scenario and more.

Perspective Check: I don’t have cancer, I’m not addicted to drugs, and I’m not pregnant (Yay God!). This is a little thing some of my closest friends and I do when we’ve had a really rough week. And considering most of them are of menopausal age, it really is a YAY GOD that they aren’t pregnant. 

I was reminded this morning that prayer is one the most important weapons we have in our spiritual arsenal. I wish I would have done more to listen to that reminder. Hindsight and all that… The week has left me so emotionally raw. I can’t seem to focus, I’m on the verge of tears, I feel like I’m going to just lose it at any moment, my husband is getting the beating from it all, and all I need to do is stop and pray.

We could probably quote scripture to each other all day long about prayer: where to pray, how to pray, when to pray, what to pray, praying in Spirit and truth, praying continuously… Really, the list could go on. I could fill this blog post with all those scripture references, but where’s the fun in giving you all the answers? Open up your Bible and study prayer for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

I’m writing to you on my lunch break now. I want to convey to you how prayer has affected my day. When I began my day I was easily angered, picking fights with my husband, running to the bathroom every 15-30 minutes to have a mini cry session (talk about being unproductive at work!), unable to focus, and everything was setting me off. I sat in my car for lunch and started typing this post, and it was awful! The anger inside me was pouring out onto the screen in front of me and I couldn’t stop it. I finally threw my phone down on the seat next to me in utter frustration. “This is awful!” I yelled at God. And then it came. The release I needed. Sobbing, pouring my heart out to God. “I’m sorry I’m so angry. I’m sorry I can’t do it all. I’m sorry I’m letting people down. I’m sorry I was so mean to my husband…” The list went on. All the things I’ve been holding on to for days now came gushing out in tears, sorrow, pain and snot. I took a breath, and then I was done. I simply didn’t have any more tears to cry, no more snot to wipe. The sorrow and pain were gone. And all that remains is a peace that I can’t explain.

I needed to unload all my burdens to God, because that’s what He wants from me. I love being able to talk to Him about whatever: constipation or diarrhea, marital problems, parenting problems, friend problems, work problems, I get to thank Him every morning for the beauty I see during my commute, I get to praise Him for His handiwork I see in my life, I get to worship Him with my words for no reason in particular except that He is God.

Prayer is a mighty tool. A weapon that can not be forgotten during your battle. Our battle is 24/7 my friends, which is why we are instructed to pray continuously. Our enemy does not rest, but even greater than that, OUR GOD DOES NOT REST! He does not sleep. He cares about all the details of your life, big, small and everything in between.

I once had a patient tell me she only talked to God about the big stuff, because He was so busy you know with all the wars, and cancer, and other big stuff people have going on. How sad her faith must be. How misinformed she was. I pray to this day that she would know God’s true character. And I pray the same for you.

Share your life with God, share your heart with Him.

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.
“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.
“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!