Why I am Grateful for My Friends

Day 22 of 31 Days of Connecting 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

Day 22

I hold on tight to my friendships. It’s because I don’t have many of them. And that’s not because people don’t like me (as I once believed), but because I thrive with a few close friends.

My closest, dearest friends are those who encourage me towards love. The ones who teach me how to love, who love me, and reveal to me that I am lovable. They let me know when I am seeing myself poorly. They let me know when I am being overly harsh with a leader, my husband, or my kids. They listen.

I learn to love from them because they love well.

They don’t assume my circumstances are the same as theirs, but let me talk.

They let me feel my feelings, validating each and every one. But they point out the error in my beliefs when they are present. Because though my feelings are valid, the beliefs driving them often could stand for correction.

My friends don’t assume that their way is my way. They don’t tell me how to parent my kids, but encourage me as I figure out how it will work best for me on my own. They know I am not the same as them. They know my kids are not the same as theirs.

My friends have hurt my feelings. My true friends have let me tell them that and have apologized. And I am safe with them to confess my faults in the same way.

My friends let me cry. They don’t try to make me stop. They don’t tell me everything is okay when it isn’t. They let me feel. They pray for me. They stand by me.

My friends see me not for who I am, but for who God created me to be. They don’t give up on me, but allow me to stumble blindly as I reach out for the hope that was promised in Christ.

Yes, my friends love well.

To those who have been this for me, thank you for being my friend.

And though we may not live in the same city, state or even country, I hope to never stop meeting with you.

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How God Cared for Me

Day 20 of 31 Days of Connecting

The other day, in a fit of exhaustion, I posted a link to my sermon on trusting God. I promised that part of my story (which starts here) is part of the sermon… and it is.

But since I know most people do not have 30+minutes to listen to a sermon, I will try to tell the next part of my story here. Now. For those of you who did listen, thank you! What an honor.

Now where was I…?

Oh yes, God taught me that He wanted a deeper relationship with me.

About a month after that conversation with God in my car, I was still grieving. I was still uncovering the hurt I had buried, the distrust I felt, and the fear I had. I was starting to see other misunderstandings of God, like:

I believed God was grading me.

I believed God expected me to be perfect.

I believed God was punishing us financially because of something I must have done.

Yeah… that last one sucked. It was incredibly painful. After all, I had given up everything to follow his call, Tim had taken a huge risk in starting his own business, and there we were, barely making ends meet. But the alternative to my understanding was that God wasn’t providing for us financially because He wanted us to suffer for Him. Or He just wouldn’t provide because He doesn’t.

All bad ideas. All gross misunderstandings of the God who gave himself for us.

But I didn’t see that then. I just saw our grocery lists, our small pay checks, and our unpaid bills.

In April I went to a conference for pastors in our denomination and through the keynote speaker, God broke through the lies I embraced.

Together we read 1 Peter 3:7 which states Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. I know this verse by heart. I’ve sung it at summer camp, memorized it for youth group and heard it preached before.

But the preacher restated it: The God of the Universe has unlimited resources at his disposal, will you let him care for you?

Day 18

I felt my heart pounding in my chest as God called out to me. I realized how abandoned I felt by Him. How I thought He left us, financially. And the question rang out, “Will you let him care for you?” Followed by the fear in my heart: Would He care for me?

I went to my host home that evening praying and over the next several days I felt Love prompting me to trust Him. To ask Him for what I felt we needed and the promise that He would provide. I told my husband what God was prodding me to do and He said, “Good. Do it.”

How much do you need?

I thought… I hesitated…

$5,000?

Ok.

Really? Ok?! … $7,000?

Don’t push it.

I have never felt so sure in my life that God would answer my request. $5,000 sounded like a ton of money. I saw us catching up on our electrical and hospital bills. I saw the credit card being partially paid off. I saw myself breathing easily.

The next month came and went. I wasn’t sure how we did, financially. It felt good, but I didn’t take the time to check. I was too nervous! But then my husband texted me.

In May of 2013, our income added up to $5,000.84.

I couldn’t believe it. Numb with distrust, I thought surely that was a coincidence. But the more I considered the amount – the exactness of it – the almost to the penny answer to the prayer I had prayed – the more I was convinced it was God showing me He provides.

I can scrape and worry and count and stress and do all I can do to try to control things, but in the end He cares for me.

He cares for me.

We have not continued to receive $5,000.84 each month. In fact, many months we have been back at the bottom of the barrel, again being creative to get by. But you know what? I’m not afraid any more. God cares for me. He provides for me. He loves me.

I know that now.

I struggle trusting God with money, what do you struggle with entrusting to God? A relationship? Children? Career? An Illness? The God of the Universe desires to care for YOU. Will you let Him?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)

31 days of connecting

The God of the Universe cares for you… Will you let Him?

Day 18 of 31 Days of Connecting

A year and a half ago, I had been working through tons of anger with God for calling us away from our families and our financial struggles were just adding insult to injury. Does God care? was a huge question in my life. And then a preacher stated this:

Day 18

The God of the Universe who has unlimited resources at his disposal cares about you. Will you let Him?

I felt God telling me: Trust me.

So, I did.

You can hear the full story here, within a sermon I preached at Scum of the Earth Church on January 12, 2014. You will need Quicktime player to hear this sermon – or you can search for it in iTunes podcasts under “Scum Sermons.”

Thanks for listening.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

1 Peter 5:7 NIV

When you’re connected you can see love in action.

Day 17 of 31 Days of Connecting

My good friend is in the hospital. She has sudden preeclampsia and is barely 29 weeks pregnant. After seeing her battle infertility, my heart breaks for her and her circumstances.

And my heart sings because people love her. Not only do they love her, but they are showing her love through caring for her family.

I am taking her 3 year old for the weekend and have been in contact with at least 10 people this morning who want to help. Dozens and dozens are praying for the family.

You guys, God is at work in his people. Through their heartbreak, His is being expressed. In their action, He is moving. In their prayers, He is interceding.

My friend has been vulnerable with this community. In the midst of her struggle to get pregnant, she invited everyone to pray for her. She took a huge risk in being honest about her pain. And because of it, she is loved. Not that she wouldn’t be loved without her truth being out there, but her connection to the community is so strong because she took the risk.

They need your prayers. Their son needs comfort. We are all doing our best to provide, but we cannot underestimate the power of God in prayer.

I think of Jesus being interrupted constantly to heal. This is one of those interruptions and He is at work. I believe that. I see that.

To our community: Thank you for being the hands of Jesus. The words of Jesus. The prayers of Jesus.

____________

UPDATE: She’s ok!

A super discerning doctor decided to wait until at least this afternoon before doing anything. It turns out she had gallstones and only a mild case of preeclampsia. She is most likely going home, tomorrow! Thanks be to God. And thanks for your prayers.

That time God showed me I had Him all wrong (the continuation of my story)

Day 16 of 31 Days of Connecting (this is the continuation of my story which began back here.)

Two days after my friend prayed for me – two days after I realized God knew how much I was hurting, that God cared for my pain, I was driving home from church on highway 85 asking Him: How could you do this to me? How could you call me away from everyone I love – when I needed people the most? You knew I would say yes!!

Maybe I didn’t want you to.

Come again?

Maybe I wanted you to question me. Maybe I wanted you to be in discussion with me.

God’s words almost made me stop in the middle of Highway 85.

Could it be that I had God wrong the whole time? That he does not want me to act subservient or to be his “Yes-Man,” but to be in relationship?

Suddenly everything was clear. Suddenly I knew. I could have said no. I could have said no and been with my family. I could have said no and lived in the land of green trees, masses of water, and mosquitos. I could have said no.

Not that I necessarily would have… but I didn’t even consider pondering His call. I didn’t even think it was an option to think it over, to wrestle with Him about it.

I remember Jacob who wrestled with an angel of God all night one night. He would not let him go until God blessed him. Eventually, God did – and He gave him a new name, Israel: One who wrestles with God. And that name became the name of Jacob’s descendants, Israel: The people who wrestle with God are God’s people.

day 16

By assuming God desired a willing servant who did not feel, who did not question, who did not think, I had made God into someone He is not – heartless, distant, and careless with our souls.

If I had questioned God and told him about my aches and fears, I think those three years in Denver would have been different. If we had come to a decision together, I would not have resented the call. If I had worked with Him, I would have been more at peace, more secure in saying goodbye to our families three or four times a year.

But mostly, if I had been honest, I could have known myself as God’s child rather than gone on believing I was merely his pawn. His slave.

If I had been honest, I could have received His love.

Though I was not honest, I am learning to be honest now. And receiving His love has become my most favorite thing. I can’t wait to tell you those stories…

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. -Jesus in John 15:15

31 days of connecting

Leah: A Ragamuffin

Day 14 of 31 Days of Connecting

The other night Tim and I watched “Ragamuffin,” a movie about the life of the musician Rich Mullins.

As Tim and I watched Rich meet with Brennan Manning and as Brennan Manning taught Rich about God’s love for the first time I was brought back to my seat in Bethel’s Great Hall as Brennan Manning (I can’t write his name without saying first and last, it’s just impossible!) taught me about God’s love. It was as if I had never been taught the gospel before. In tears I purchased the book, got in line for an autograph, and asked the elderly man for a hug. Surprised, he did.

I went back to my room trying to wrap my head around such words as “grace” and tried to actually accept that it was for me. I tried to grasp “forgiveness” and kept repeating the phrase: “You shouldn’t should on yourself”… just trying to make it stick.

That was 13 years ago.

I still forget. 

I still try to win God’s favor. I still try to be perfect. I still try to live as if I don’t sin, denying the sins I do commit, and harming my ability to connect with others in the process.

Because I believe to be connected with your true self is to understand yourself as a sinner who is saved by the marvelous grace of Jesus.

No more masks. No more facades. But face to face with the harsh truth that but for Christ’s death on the cross, I would be lost.

He didn’t want to lose me.

And because of this grace, I am free to live as I truly am. When I see my sin, I can confess it, find forgiveness, and be equipped to live without it.

This is such a long process. Life-long. Though we can experience great healing and wholeness I don’t believe anyone ever experiences complete holiness in this life – no one except Jesus of course.

And so, we continue to fall back on God’s amazing, extravagant, prodigal, glorious, humbling grace until we see Him face to face.

And then we will truly live.

Please watch this two minute video of a piece of a Brennan Manning sermon. It could change your life.

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

I Will Not Tell A Lie

Day 13 of 31 Days of Connecting

31 days big

Today I had a choice:

Be honest. Be truthful. Or hide.

Say what was hurting me. Or put on a mask.

Encourage my kids to speak out. Or tell them to be silent.

Over and over again this past week I have been encouraged by those who have told me I have been brave for speaking the truth about the loss, the pain, the struggle that I have encountered in this life.

And over and over again I have read stories other women have written about their own heartache. About their addictions. Their infidelity. Their loss.

It is their honesty that keeps me going.

When I read my friend’s blog – and her commitment to be authentic for 31 days – that’s when I knew I needed to speak the truth.

We live in a culture that encourages falsehood and masks. From internet trolls who will smash the most vulnerable to photoshop that “corrects” a beautiful body, we are told we are not enough – that the truth isn’t good. And even church culture can tie the mask on tight. We encourage one another to “trust in God” when we don’t even know where He is in our own lives. We smile and say “praise Him” when inside we are weeping.

We encourage one another that we can tell the truth, but inside we’re afraid that if we speak up we will lose… again.

What would it look like if instead of giving a quick platitude we told our crying friends we don’t have the answers either? What would it look like if we just held them instead of trying to make them (or us) feel better? What would it look like if we learned to embrace the discomfort of honest emotion?

I am convinced the loneliness that surrounds us exists because we have not yet discovered the ability to be truthful. And it’s understandable after being rejected. Or rebuked. Or abused.

But we have to keep trying.

We need each other.

We need to be heard.

And we need to hear that others have experienced the same things, too.

day 13Is there someone you have that you can speak the truth to? Who is it? If not… who would you like it to be? Start looking and praying… I didn’t always have that someone either. And until then, be that person for someone else.

What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. (Ephesians 4:25 The Message)