Goodbye by Kendra

When I (Kendra) started this blog several years ago, I didn’t know what I was doing.  As I have mentioned before, I didn’t consider myself a writer.  I never liked writing in school.  It was hard.  I started the blog because I wanted to be obedient.  At the time, blogging had come to my mind repeatedly, and eventually, I knew I needed to start.

For a while, my blogs were just an update of my health. Sometimes I would go weeks or even months in between posting, because nothing had changed in my health.  But I knew that if I wanted to be obedient in blogging, I had to blog correctly.  I researched how to blog as I considered what God might do with it.  Maybe God wanted me to write more, speak more, and become famous.  The thought of others knowing my name and my story was appealing.

There were some days when I wanted to quit.  Writing continued to be difficult, and with each additional cancer treatment, it became even more difficult.  Other days, the possibility of influencing the world kept me motivated.  God had a different plan for this blog: He wanted me to better understand Him.

God redeems.  Life is hard.  Even those who have an “easy” life, they still have to fight hard.  This is because of sin.  Sin divides. Sin separates.  Sin affects the entire world: Christian and non-Christian alike.

God transforms.  Because of God’s love, He decides to take our ugliness (caused by sin) and transforms into his love.  He uses our pride, idolatry, fear, and more to show us His love and humbleness.

God desires trust.  The Bible tells us that God is working.  The Bible tells us that God is love.  The Bible tells us that He is the source of love, joy, and peace.  The Bible tells us to wait upon the Lord.  People don’t “wait” well.   When we see injustice in others, we want God to work NOW.  When we desire something, we want God to give it to us NOW.  When I want anything NOW, and I am not willing to wait, I question what the top priority in my life is.

God wants to be Number 1 in our life.  God doesn’t care about our timeline.  God doesn’t care about our reputation.  God’s priority is the relationship with us, His children.  God might refuse to give us something or someone that keeps you from enjoying relationship with Him.  We can’t manipulate God to get we want.

We have to trust God to reconcile and to produce the fruit.  I can’t do it.  I have to wait on his timing.  If I want his love, joy, and peace; I have to want Him as Number 1.  When I want Him, I obey Him. I don’t feel the need to know the future anymore.  As of this moment, I don’t need to what God’s plan is, I just need to know the next right step.  I trust that as I obey Him, He will do what is good.  When I obey and worship Him is when I see God working most.

I am very hesitant to post this: I don’t care if I become famous or if I die; I just want to follow Him. I don’t want to toot my own horn.  I still struggle with obedience.  The road of obedience is just as hard, if not harder.  When I am alone with God and realize how amazing He is, all I want to do is worship Him.  Because He loves me and pursues me, I can love Him too.  I can do the impossible.  I can die to myself and live again through Christ. I can obey, even when it is hard.

This blog is a summary of what God has been doing in my life.  And so, I am grateful for the lessons I have recorded because of this blog.   Because of this, I am sad as I say, “My next obedient step is quitting my blog.”  I may leave it up for a while, but I not going to post weekly.  Right now, there are many great opportunities to love and serve locally. Please pray for Amy as she discerns what her next obedient step is.

My prayer is that you will understand how God great our God is.  When He is #1 in your life, you can do the impossible by one obedient step at a time.

“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” by Kendra

“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

Oh! What an emotional roller coaster.  Two weeks ago, I thought we might be looking for a new job for my husband, but now, we are planning to stay.

A dear friend of mine challenged me to focus on the truth of Jesus and not my situation. When I tried to solve our problems by myself, I worried. When I covered my day with prayer, I felt peace.

After several days of controlling my thoughts and thinking about Philippians 4:4-9, I knew God would give me peace, but I didn’t realize that it would change how I worship.

So many people misunderstand worship.  They think it is singing or dancing or giving.  Worship is simply our response o our awesome God.  One of the things I have learned is that God is faithfully working for good.  He reveals. He redeems.  He reconciles.  He loves me, and He wants me to love Him.  This week, David encourage me with his words in Psalms.

Psalm 116: I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. 2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The snares of death encompassed me;  the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” 5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. 6 The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. 7 Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. 8 For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; 9 I will walk before the Lord  in the land of the living. (ESV)

My prayer for my readers is that you understand that God loves you.  He is faithfully working, especially when you obey Him.  If you want more peace, more joy, and more love in your life, take time to evaluate what God is doing.  Confess your sins.  Know that God will deliver you through whatever you are experiencing.

Diversions by Amy

The use of this word in my mind comes in two different forms. Firstly, as something fun to divert one’s attention from the daily grind and provide relief, and secondly, a military tactic used to keep the enemy from noticing your true target. I’m guilting of falling for both of these.

When I get to the end of a stressful or long day, the seemingly best idea is to veg out on the couch and spend some quality time with my best friend, Netflix. Sometimes we are joined by my phone, which provides endless mindless scrolling and swiping activities. I am thusly diverted from the activities that would actually bring life and refreshment to me (reading, praying, journaling, tidying, and, yes, even working out).

Amidst the endless scrolling and swiping, there’s no shortage of technological socialization, whether it’s joining in the, “Awww!” at a cute puppy video or finding a debate about any possible topic. And maybe it’s just me, but it seems the debates have become more frequent, more disrespectful, and more ugly. I have seen so many people getting sucked into these “discussions,” and I’m not saying that I am absent from this. I have topics where I get riled up and feel the need to prove why my opinion is the correct one, just as anyone else.

But what’s the point?  I see the point of discussing different opinions with an open mind to gain understanding or perspective. I encourage it.  I grew up rather ignorant in my content little bubble and have learned a lot by leaving that bubble for college and for work in my adult life; I’m deeply appreciative for it. But what I see on the social media platforms among my friends is stubborn, misguided, anger-filled messages of hate stemming from a judgmental attitude. And quite honestly, it makes me sad to see such negativity spread unchecked like a wildfire, particularly from my brothers and sisters in Christ.

It led me to wonder if it does any good. Then this verse came to mind: “Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God. The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions.” 1 Timothy 1:4-6 NLT

I confess: I am tempted here and now to express certain opinions about the NFL protests… REALLY really tempted… Or we could even begin a political discussion of how the media is getting us to focus on North Korea or the new medicare bill, whichever best suits their agenda that day. Did you know that a church was attacked last weekend? I only happened to hear about it by chance on the radio, and, to my limited knowledge, it wasn’t covered by the major news streams.

My friends, there will always be something to argue about. But we are allowing ourselves to be distracted by Satan from that which we are supposed to be doing. Our main objective is to tell people about Jesus. In case you doubt that, check out Matthew 28:18-20. If your Facebook post isn’t going to show the love of Jesus in you and towards others, don’t post it. If your argument/debate with your coworker isn’t showing the love of Jesus in you and towards others, don’t argue it. Yes, swallow your pride (I’m preaching to myself here, too, people).

The church I served at during my college years had a saying that you heard often as we tried to embed it into every aspect of the ministries done there as well as our personal spiritual growth. As I am someone who likes to keep things simple, I share it with you:

Love God.

Love people.

Serve the world.

Jesus told His closest disciples at the Last Supper, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.John 13:34-35 (NLT) It’s not your patriotism, not your arguments, not your social justice, not your church attendance record, not your book collection, your love.

My friends, I know this world is not an easy place to live in. But the truth I daresay is that it never has been.  Solomon observed, albeit pessimistically, that there is nothing new under the sun. Terrible things are happening.  Our God and King is not ignorant to our circumstances, on a personal, national, or global scale.  Are you trusting in His sovereignty to handle it, or are you trusting in your own personal agenda?

Compromise by Amy

What is it that’s really important?  

I know that I say God is my most important priority, as Lord of my life; but am I really reflecting that? How I spend my time doesn’t reflect that.  The thoughts that run through my head don’t reflect that.  My actions and accusations while I’m driving certainly don’t reflect that. But at the end of the day, if you blatantly asked me to compromise my dedication to my faith, I would put my foot down.

I guess that’s why the schemes of the enemy are more sneaky than they are straightforward.

He picks at how I spend my time, and I start doing other good things. My actions get picked at by my good intentions to help out. That which I devote my time and energy to slowly take over my thoughts. My thoughts affect my emotions.  My emotions slowly infect the condition of my heart.  And eventually, I’m back before God crying out and confessing and asking for His help to heal my heart.

I guess it’s something to be said that I don’t give up on my faith or my dedication to the Lord… not outright, anyway.  But I wonder at my own priorities when I evaluate what distractions I’ve made time for and what positive habits I’ve let go by the wayside.

And I know my excuses.  “Work was really busy this week.” “I’m so tired.” “I haven’t had time.” Which sometimes become, “God isn’t happy with me right now.” “He wouldn’t want to hear my prayers anyway.”

I’ve compromised my priorities, which compromised my habits, which compromised my time, which gets to my thoughts, my emotions, my attitude, my heart. The key to fighting this is to start with my heart, and it will be made right down the same trail. I know this; I’m not doing it. I hope you can identify with this confession.

I need to remember again that His love is unconditional, especially when my imperfect condition tries to convince me otherwise.

So, for now, my step one is to get back to the Truth. God loves me.  God knows me (including the fact that I’m not perfect, along with all my particular screw-ups). God forgives the sincere heart. I will trust Him to take me the rest of this journey that He knows what I need, and I will remember to serve Him with all that I am and am able to do.

If you haven’t checked out the song “Beloved” by Tenth Avenue North, I recommend it for remembering that you are truly and sincerely loved, just as you are.

Desperate? by Kendra

“You are acting desperate.  What is wrong?” asked my husband.

I didn’t have words to explain it.  Tears after tears ran down my face.  Did he really call me desperate?  Rarely has that word been used to describe me.  Was I?

I knew I was tired.  Our daughter was sick.  Although she was feeling better, now she had given it to me.  I hadn’t slept well for a few days.

I knew I was weak.  I had lost my appetite.  I was counting calories to make sure I was eating enough.  Although I knew I had eaten enough, I wasn’t sure my body was using them.  (TMI Warning: food wasn’t staying inside me).

I knew I was disappointed.  A Traveling Circus had come into town.  We talked about going as family. Because I didn’t feel well, I suggested that it become a father/daughter date.  It was my idea, but when they left, I was filled with disappointment.

One of my biggest fears is that I won’t be able to participate in my daughter’s life.  Whenever she does something new, I really want to be there for her.  Because of my health, I feel like I’m not around enough.  I hate it when she wants to do something and I just don’t have enough energy, even though I know that parenting is exhausting to most parents.

But “desperate.”  Was that me?

Dictionary.com described desperate as “leaving little or no hope; very serious or dangerous.”  I took my eyes of the Jesus. Yes, I was — I was desperate to be strong and independent, but God reminded me to find my hope in Him alone.

Ryan Stevenson wrote in the song “The Gospel”:

Can we get back to the altar?

Back to the arms of our first love

There’s only one way to the Father

And He’s calling out to us

Yes, we can get back to the altar. God is waiting for us, but don’t delay.

 

Isaiah 30:18

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,

   and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.

For the Lord is a God of justice;

   blessed are all those who wait for him.

Haircut Turned Therapy Session by Amy

Once upon a time yesterday, Amy wanted to get a haircut: nothing dramatic, just past time for a trim. She searched around on the internet, hoping to find a new “regular” place to go to often and get to know the people there. A salon was selected, an appointment was made, and she drove off in her non-magical car on an ordinary Saturday.

When Amy entered the salon, there were only two people there. Both of them were sitting at the receptionist desk, and looked confused about her presence.  Upon informing them she did have an appointment, one of the women said, “Oh! She’s with me!” And thusly Amy met her stylist for the day: a skinny, pale, black-haired girl in black clothes with a nose ring. We’ll say her name was Evie (for privacy reasons).

Amy followed Evie to her station, and again, Amy noticed there weren’t any other people in the salon. Being a Saturday afternoon, it seemed a little out-of-the-ordinary. Evie began her work; Amy made her usual attempt at conversation. It was cordial and superficial at first. Eventually, Amy’s social awkwardness and curiosity took over, and she queried, “Is it normal for this place to be so empty on a Saturday afternoon?” Whatever locks had been on Evie’s conversation interests were suddenly disseminated, and she did not stop talking until the haircut was over.

Evie confided in Amy that the salon was closing the following week. She was particularly frustrated because she had just relocated to that area of town to be closer to work, even after discussing the move with her boss to make sure it was a good idea before relocating. Evie went on to tell Amy that her boyfriend had just broken up with her right after the move, and right after he started introducing her to people as his future wife.

In the past 3 months, this young woman’s life had been turned completely upside down.  It was a story that started to sound more than a little familiar to Amy. Amy listened to all of Evie’s stories and tried to offer hope. After the haircut was over, Evie said, “Well, thanks for the therapy session!”

Amy doesn’t know why that particular salon with that particular hairdresser was chosen on that particular day. Amy doesn’t know if she’ll see her again, although it’s certainly possible. But Amy is hoping to meet her again and talk more about God, and Amy will be praying for her in the meantime.

In a time when I feel too small to make a difference in the world, I must remember that I have been placed here and now for a purpose. So whoever I come into contact with, I want them, at the very least, to have a glimpse of the light that is Jesus in me before we part ways. “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10

Where are you? by Kendra

Week after week, I look around our sanctuary, and I don’t see people that I love.  Some of them are going to miss a week here or there because of work or other commitments.  Others, I have no idea why they are not there.  Often when I see them, I encourage them to come back.  I don’t know how to convey what I mean.

I am afraid that you will misunderstand.  I don’t want to be judgmental.  I don’t want to be “holier than thou.”  I don’t want to be nosy.  I don’t want to cause guilt.

How can I express this? I need you.

I need to know that I am not alone.  I need to know that I belong to a good community.  I need to know that I am loved.  I need to know that others love Jesus too.  Our community has not separated ourselves from the One we all need.

And I want to encourage you, too.  How can we encourage you when your family fights?  How can we encourage you when you are sick?  How can we encourage you when the pain of life is too much?  I want to believe that you need me, too.

Other Christ-followers give me confidence, hope, and love.  I love when I know that I am being prayed for.  I hope you are experiencing that weekly.  I know that you can have Christian community without the formality.  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, holy places can be anywhere.  In my experience, I love when the church is that holy place; because we are more intentional and focused on what God wants from us — relationships.

Lord,

Help us to be intentional about finding holy places where we acknowledge you.  Help us to focus on loving others.  Help us to be intentional in encouraging others.  Sometimes, we get discouraged by business or others’ sin.  Help us to forgive and love like you do.  Help us do your good works. Help us to understand Hebrews 10:19-25:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

A year ago… by Kendra

It is hard to believe that a year ago I was recovering from my third brain surgery.  So much has happened since then.  I am more certain that I serve a God who heals (but on His time.) Last fall, someone from our church who believe differently about healing come to our house and prayed for us.  She told me that God wants to be be healed.  Sickness is apart of the sin nature and because I am a believer in shouldn’t be affected by sin.  Christ has conquered sin, therefore Christ has conquered my tumor.  I knew that wasn’t what I believe, but I didn’t know why.  So I studied her book and my Bible and found:

Ps. 116:15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

Ps. 166:1-9  Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; 2 from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.  Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, 3  for you have been my refuge a strong tower against the enemy. 4 Let me dwell in your tent forever!  Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah 5 For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. 6 Prolong the life of the king; may his years endure to all generations! 7 May he be enthroned forever before God; appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him! 8 So will I ever sing praises to your name, as I perform my vows day after day.

Matthew 21:16 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

John 15 -If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Philippians 2:12-13 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

1 Cor. 13 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.

After studying Scripture, I concluded the lady from church was right.  God wants me to be healed.  Sickness is apart of the sin nature and because I am a believer in Christ, He doesn’t want us to be affected by sin.  Christ has conquered sin, therefore Christ has conquered my tumor.

The problem with her theology is that missed an element.  Yes, when Jesus died on the cross, he did conquered sin but He hasn’t yet restore the earth.  We are supposed “to work out our salvation,”  pray for restoration, and wait on the Lord.

Is. 40:31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

In my experience, when we give God our whole heart (whole being), He reveal even more of his Works.  God wants us to know and love Him, because He is God, not just because of the things he can do.  When you know Him, he reveals his work.  Sometimes, He choose to reveal His character and His will to us.  Sometimes, He shows us how He is reconciles relationship.  Sometimes, He shows us how he redeems situation.  Sometimes, he uses us to restore the world.  Sometimes, he blesses us with the His rest.

Remembering by Kendra

It is amazing how emotions can spring out of control.  Recently, I learn that an acquaintance experienced a miscarriage. Before I even realized it, I was dreaming, thinking about our children: the emotions, the disappointments, the pain.  I have to remind myself to be thankful for the short time with us and the lessons I have learned.

I believe we became parents almost seven years ago (although our culture didn’t acknowledge it).    I still remember the excitement.  I remember the disappointment as I tried to deny the life.  It was easier to ignore the pain if I could convince myself there wasn’t missing life.  (Our doctor told us it was blighted ovum, meaning that the cells didn’t develop. It took time for my body realized that there wasn’t a baby there.) I was bitter, jealous, and in denial of the truth.

But even though I didn’t recognize it, God was working.  He was teaching me that shame separates.  My husband and I were keeping emotions at bay, and I separated myself from him, even though we were both hurting.  By the next summer, I was pregnant again.  But the joy didn’t last long. On September 13, I birthed a dead baby.  It is still one of hardest things I have even done.

I know this is the expected thing to say: if i had to have the first miscarriage, then I am grateful for the second.  Because I was further along, my doctor wanted me to miscarriage in the hospital.  At the hospital, the nurses were great.  They helped us mourn, not only this miscarriage, but also the first.  God provided healing in our hospital room.  We named our babies Enoch, because He walked with the Lord, and Corban, a gift dedicated to the Lord. The next few months were hard.  I felt like we were mourning both babies at the same time.  God was still working and healing.  I confessed being jealous and bitter.  Even through the third miscarriage, I held onto the truth that reminded me that He loves my children more that I do.  

When you confess your sins, God loves it.  He knows the truth, but He wants us to reveal ourselves to Him.  Through prayer and study, God reassured me that He loves me, just like I love my kids.  Truth be told, even though they caused me heartache and pain, I love them unconditionally.  And looking back, I can see God trying to show me that He loves me unconditionally.  

Through this difficult time for us, we became more aware of the pain that sin has caused in this world, and we look forward to the day that our family can be together again.  But in the meantime, we will strive hard to help others to become a part of the family of God.  These verses encouraged me:

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 8:18-21 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Getting Settled in the Promised Land by Amy

Your grace is enough.

Your grace is enough.

Your grace is enough for me.

We sang this song at my church not long after I (Amy) had moved into my new apartment…in my new city…with my new job…surrounded by my new community… and I wondered if these lyrics were actually true.  

I knew them to be true when I was still aimlessly wandering around the country and depending on God to provide money and food that I didn’t have. But now, He has (finally) placed me where He’d wanted me to go.  My “Abraham journey” was over, and I had arrived in “the land that I will show you,” but was His grace still sufficient?

It’s easy to say to people, “I spent a few months travelling, visiting my family and friends, before I settled here,” to those who ask what I’d been up to before moving here.  But it doesn’t do justice to the whole story of how God brought me through heartbreak, doubt, depression, wandering, aimlessness, and learning to depend completely on Him for every step, every need, every moment. Now that I can make my own decisions about food I buy, places I can go, the things I do, all because of the job that He provided… am I still content in the truth that His grace is enough?

I’m reminded of the Israelites coming out of their 40 years wandering around in the desert and finally coming into the Promised Land.  How regularly they forgot about the Lord after everything they had seen Him do! And how many times in my life I got frustrated while reading their stories, until the Lord was kind of to point out that humanity hasn’t changed.  How quickly I settled back into my life of “independence” where I make my own decisions about my time and resources and forget the One who brought me to this good place.

In Revelation 2, John is writing to the church in Ephesus, and says that they don’t have the love that they did at first.  They need to turn back to the Lord and do the things they used to.  That’s my challenge at this point: to remember where I’ve come from and that which I need to continue doing (depending on the Lord for everything, not to think that I know more than Him). Singing “Your Grace is enough” was humbling that day, and a reminder my Lord knew I needed.