Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Running Into His Arms

'This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond; for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.'- The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

At the age of 16, I went through a season that was unlike any other season I could have ever endured. Because of how I was treated by others, I turned to cutting my arms out of despair.  I turned to harmful substances as well, looking for any kind of relief that I could get. Gratefully, my loving parents hung on to me tightly through this season never giving up on me. They prayed for me and loved me unconditionally.

There was a time in my life that I was literally inches from hitting rock bottom because of my own despair. Similarly, I felt like Christian from The Pilgrim's Progress when he was trying to get out of the Slough of Despond. He felt the weight of his sins overwhelming him and he was sinking quickly because of the guilt he felt.

"The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to Him is not to believe that He loves you."- John Owen

Sometimes the guilt felt in making mistakes is worse than the actual mistake that was made. We feel guilty and have a hard time forgiving ourselves. However, the first step in getting past our pain is forgiving ourselves. I knew I was messing up, BIG TIME!  And knowing that I was messing up was a much more of a paralyzing feeling than any of my sins.

Be that as it may, my Heavenly Father kept His arms open wide. He kept on pursuing me. He kept on loving me. He showed me by the people He brought into my life. He showed me by bringing me back to confidence and helping me overcome the Slough of Despond.

"Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us."- Spurgeon

Is the pain from it still raw? Yes, very much so. Are there ever moments that I feel complete relief from the past? Not necessarily. Am I fully healed? I'm afraid I'd have to say no. Occasions come up where I feel like I am back in that swamp and my eyes will fill with tears as if I am still in that moment of fear. Yet, over and over, He comforts me. So I run into His arms and listen to His voice of reason.  He leads me besides still waters and restores my soul.

When I look around at where I am at in life now, I have an amazing husband and six beautiful blessings. I do feel like the weight of my sins have been lifted. I know I am forgiven and I know abundant things lie ahead for me as I continue running into His arms.

No matter where you are at in life, keep on running into His arms.  He will embrace you beyond anything you can ever imagine. One day, we will be with Him rejoicing in a place without pain or fear.  And it will be the most joyous feeling that can ever be imagined. All you have to do is keep on walking forward down the path that He has laid out for you. Don't give in to the thorns and thistles along the way. Don't allow the trappings of  misery get the better of you. You can escape the Slough of Despond and enter into the Meadow of Peace.

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

When we do make those mistakes, we must pick ourselves up and start running again. Look for the Light on the path before you. You may feel lost at times along the way and the path may seem lonely. Still, the Light is there, so look ahead and know that the Light is expecting you.

Friday, November 7, 2014

When You Don't Know Where to Turn

Bullied time and time again, the young girl felt out of place.  Just shy of being eleven, she was quiet and often kept to herself. Her favorite past time was reading and she often found herself nestled at a table during recess. She made straight  A's and was considered the Teacher's Pet. But she often found no escape from the torment of a couple of other girls who made fun of her on a day-to-day basis.

One rainy day, she stepped outside of the classroom on the second floor and started to head down the stairs to recess. To be funny, one of her tormentors pushed her down the slippery, metal stairs. Hitting the bottom, she could barely move. After time of nursing her bruised back from the fall, she hid her emotions in her heart and tried to move on.

As the adolescent years came on with a vengeance, this girl continued to be bullied by mean girls. She couldn't understand it. It didn't make sense as to why she was plagued with such meanness. A series of events led from one thing to another and she soon found her relief cutting her arms with a razor blade. She felt abandoned, unloved, and afraid. This girl was me.

During my teenage years, I went through a rough period where I felt lost. I was confused and felt alone. I lost a lot of hope but I was never given up on. Growing up a believer, I was blessed to have that place in my heart that kept my hope alive. Even at my darkest moments, God brought people and situations into my life that kept me going. 

So when you don't know where to turn, don't give up. Turn to the One who always loves you and will never leave you. When you are in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, know that He is there. Never give up hope.

If I had given up like I wanted to many times, I wouldn't be where I am today. God had a purpose for it all. God had a purpose for me. He has a purpose for you too. He gave me life, not death. He brought me love when I didn't know I could be loved in this world.  He built me up to be strong and I came out better through it all because of what I endured.

Remember when David was being hunted down by King Saul. Saul was jealous of him and wanted him dead. David wrote in the book of Psalms about how he felt at times. He asked God for deliverance, which God gave him.

      Psalm 59:
  Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
    be my fortress against those who are attacking me.
Deliver me from evildoers
    and save me from those who are after my blood.
See how they lie in wait for me!
    Fierce men conspire against me
    for no offense or sin of mine, Lord.
I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
    Arise to help me; look on my plight!
You, Lord God Almighty,
    you who are the God of Israel,
rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
    show no mercy to wicked traitors.[c]
They return at evening,
    snarling like dogs,
    and prowl about the city.
See what they spew from their mouths
    the words from their lips are sharp as swords,
    and they think, “Who can hear us?”
But you laugh at them, Lord;
    you scoff at all those nations.
You are my strength, I watch for you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
10     my God on whom I can rely.
God will go before me
    and will let me gloat over those who slander me.
11 But do not kill them, Lord our shield,[d]
    or my people will forget.
In your might uproot them
    and bring them down.
12 For the sins of their mouths,
    for the words of their lips,
    let them be caught in their pride.
For the curses and lies they utter,
13     consume them in your wrath,
    consume them till they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
    that God rules over Jacob.
14 They return at evening,
    snarling like dogs,
    and prowl about the city.
15 They wander about for food
    and howl if not satisfied.
16 But I will sing of your strength,
    in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
    my refuge in times of trouble.
17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
    my God on whom I can rely.
Heavenly Father, when I feel alone and afraid, bring me signs of hope. When I feel attacked by my enemies, help me to rely on You.  Like King David, may I sing your praises and rely on your strength to get me through those difficult times. Help me to remember that each person is made in your image and no matter how they treat me, help me to respond in love. I want to love others deeply. And Lord, help me bring hope to those who need it the most, those who suffered like I suffered. Help me to be that source of encouragement that will lead them back to you. Thank you, Lord, for second chances. Thank you, for loving me even when I mess up. You are amazing! Amen.
Taken from the To Write Love On Her Arms Website:
Self-injury is the deliberate harming of one’s body without the intent of suicide. Common self-injury behaviors include scratching, cutting, burning, hitting, biting, ingesting or embedding foreign objects into the body, hair pulling, and interfering with the healing of wounds. Research shows that, often, self-injury is used as a maladaptive coping mechanism to deal with intense emotions. (10)(11)

Some statistics:
-14-24 percent of youth and young adults have self-injured at least once. (10)
-4 percent of adults occasionally self-injure. (10) (11)

*Please note that I have not done this in years but my hope is to raise awareness. I knew many teenage girls that used self injury to cope through the adolescent years.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Overcoming the Hurt That Others Cause

The subject of forgiveness is a tough one for us all.  I know it. You know it. We all know it. All of us get our feelings hurt. All of us have moments where we feel persecuted. All of us get offended by the comments of others. All of us experience situations, some worse than others, where being able to forgive someone for the wrong they've done in our lives is pretty overwhelming. I wish I could say that as a Christian, it is easy to forgive. But sometimes, even considering forgiveness is out of the question.

"Very funny! Forgiveness? Do you even know what they did to me? I can never let it go. I mean, really. Why would I even want to forgive them? They were mean! They were hurtful! They made me cry! Never! I will never forgive!"

Quite frequently, I want to stay stubborn towards the idea of ever getting over what someone else has done to me. The pain of what they have done hurts too much. But, in reality, not being able to forgive leads to worse feelings than taking those steps to redemption.

2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Forgiveness doesn't mean that we forget what it is that hurts us.  Forgiveness means that we are trying to look beyond that hurt to a place of peace in our heart. Forgiveness allows us to not let our lives be hung over a fiery pit of torment. It helps us cling to God and question whether we've repented for what we may have done to others too. 

Words that others speak cannot be taken back.  They are buried inside our soul. The actions others can do to us cannot be forgotten. They are remarkably painful when we rehash it in our minds. But we must bury the hatchet of pain that this causes or we cannot experience unspeakable joy.

When I look back over the past events of my life, I can think of numerous times I have felt hurt and betrayed. I can remember specific events that cannot be erased without getting teared up by the hurt of those moments. It is never easy to move on from those feelings of pain. But what one suffers, God can relieve.

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

We all make mistakes in our lives.  We all say things that we can not take back. Every one of us is guilty of doing things we wished we hadn't done. But do we apologize for what we say and do? Do we confront the person we've offended and explain the errors of our ways? Or do we just shrug our shoulders and call the other person "sensitive"  and "mistakably wrong?"

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly  Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how  many times shall  I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?"

Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Even though we should come forth and forgive the other person, it doesn't mean that we must allow that person back in to our life, depending on what they have done. It doesn't mean that we don't need boundaries. But it does mean that we need to be loving. It does mean that we need to let it go and move forward as best as we can.

This week at church, we heard from this woman who suffered a great hurt in her life and learned to forgive the person who caused a major pain. Check it out:

"Forgiveness must issue from the heart. It must be sincere. God has forgiven us; if we fail to show grace to others who have repented-guilty parties in a divorce, former  gang members, adulterers, homosexuals, gossipers, crafty politicians- then this text simply promises us hellfire( compare Mt 5:7; 6:12, 14-15)."- Matthew Henry

Let me encourage you today to think of those situations you are currently in and pray about them. Pray for that person who is hurting you and pray that God can change your heart so that you can forgive them. Pray that God gives you a peace over the situation so that it no longer keeps you dangling over that fiery pit. He will help you through this and He will heal.

I also want to encourage you to repent to Him for the things you've done wrong. Seek forgiveness from others for any kind of hurt you may have impressed in their life, no matter how large or small. Above all, forgive seventy-seven times or more. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

My 10 Reasons That I Love My Big Family

My husband and I love having a large family!  Sure, it can get chaotic and messy around here.  But when it comes down to it, if we had to choose between an immaculately, well-designed house filled with the latest gadgets to an often cluttered and incomplete home with less material things, I'd choose the latter. I'd rather have less stuff and more joy that I get to experience with my children. With this, here are my reasons that I love my big family:

1.) There is always someone to have a conversation with available at just about every hour. Yes, I mean every hour. There is always someone awake. BUT... my body has totally adjusted to the lack of sleep by now and hardly misses it. The fact that someone always wants to hang out is actually pretty cool!

2.) Extra hands means extra helpers. We've heard the argument that it's not fair for older kids to help out with caring for the younger ones. Believe it or not, they enjoy it. Not only that, but even if we had two, the older one will still help out the younger one. That's just what siblings do! Our children are very selfless. The older ones on down to even our three year old love to help out with whatever we have going on.

3.) We get to experience every kind of personality and see how God works in all sorts of ways. They each have different desires and strengths.  One wants to be a pilot. Another wants to be a farmer. And even more, another wants to be a builder. Seeing how it all unfolds and how God leads them in their life is pretty amazing! As I tell them each night when I tuck them in bed, "The world is waiting for them." All they need to do is follow God's direction for them with their life.

4.) They teach me something new each day! I also feel that my relationship with God stays stronger as my weaknesses are pointed out to me that much more when I go about each day. We have lots of good times but also moments of all-around forgiveness too.

5 .) There are more of us to serve in God's kingdom. My children love doing things for others, whether it's opening the door for strangers to helping an elderly person in a mobile cart shop at the grocery store. They love bringing goodies to our neighbors and sending notes in the mail to encourage others. If it brings a smile to someone else's face, they'll do it. They want to be a light that shines for others so they can lead others to the cross.

6.) They are each other's best friends. They love playing with others but their siblings are their best friends. And if one person is busy, there is always someone else to kick the soccer ball with them.  It's never boring around here.

7.) I get a hand-drawn picture from someone almost daily! Can there be any more reason to love being a mom to many? :-)

8.) We hear lots of laughter within our walls. Giggling, telling jokes, and being silly outdoes any amount of bickering any day.

9.) No matter what kind of life craziness get thrown in my direction, I at least get to hear, "I love you" from one if not more than one person during the day.  Those three little words will help any person get through the day.

10.) Getting to see different traits that come from my husband and other family members in each one is pretty cool. And knowing that each one shares something from the two of us just shows the wonder of God's design for marriage and family. He will use each arrow in a different way as they deliver His message to this world.

While every family has it's size, these are the things I enjoy about being a mom to many little ones! I wouldn't trade it for the world.