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.

Change Your Brain by Kendra

“Did you know you can actually change your brain?!

“The human mind has tremendous potential for change.  Research on how the brain can change its structure and function through thought and activity is fascinating.

“It’s simple. Our brain reflects the life we lead.…”

I read that in a pamphlet entitled: Turning Point The Center for Hope and Healing.  I picked up the pamphlet at KU Medical Hospital while we were learning about my third brain surgery.  I thought, “Lord, I don’t know how to change my brain, would you do it for me?  I want to be healed.”

Although my MRI says there is little positive change since surgery, I know that Jesus is changing how I think. This summer, Jesus has encouraged me to focus intentionally on Him.  At CIY, we learned about Peter walking on the water.  He was able to miraculously walk when Peter focused on Jesus, but when when Peter was distracted, Jesus pointed out his little faith.

I am like Peter.  Sometimes, I am focused on what I think I can’t do because of the tumor. I was focused on my storm. But the story of Peter teaches that focusing on the storm demonstrates little faith, but when I focus on Jesus, miracles occur.

I want to see a miracle in my life.  Not only do I want to be healed physically, I pray that my brokenness will be healed on Earth.  

I am learning that God wants that, too.  At CIY, I believe that God sent me Kyle to pray over me.  Even though we never spoke before and I have no reason to believe Kyle knew my story, he prayed that I would see a miracle.  This happened during a time that youth sponsors were supposed to pray other the youth, but God sent him to me to encourage me, the youth sponsor.

God used Kyle like I pray that He will used me.  We need reminders:

  1. God loves.
  2. God works.
  3. God wants to redeem and reconcile.

Will we participate?  Will be changed to be more like him?  I hope our brains reveal that our lives are lead by Jesus.

Storms by Amy

Once upon a time when I was in college, I started driving down the highway one night to get back to school, not realizing that I was driving straight into a very dangerous storm. Through my own stupidity, I kept driving instead of seeking shelter, despite how terrified I was. I found out later I’d driven through tornadic activity and a flash flood warning. How could I not have known the storm was coming? Simple — I didn’t check the weather before I hit the road, so I was unprepared for that which I didn’t know was coming.

More recently, I was going to drive from Indianapolis to Cincinnati after work, and there was a severe thunderstorm raging around us a couple hours before I was supposed to leave. I checked the weather multiple times and found that I would actually be following the storm along my drive. During my drive, there was no terrified feeling, no stress, and not even a few raindrops along the whole trip. I knew it would be a peaceful drive, because I had checked the weather. I was prepared.

A preacher I know used to say regularly in his sermons, “You’re either in the storm, coming out of one, or headed into one.” His intended meaning went beyond our known global weather patterns, just FYI.

Storms in this life are going to happen. We know this for a fact. “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12. But we sometimes still are surprised. But if we remain aware that storms will come, whether immediately or in the distant future, then we can be prepared and not be caught off guard.

So how can we be prepared?

Like the verse says, don’t be surprised.  Jesus said that the life of His follower would be difficult: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Let us also keep in mind that this life is merely temporary, as are its troubles.

And troubles will come.  Verse 13 continues: “Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” The Lord allows troubles to come our way because He knows what’s best. And yeah, His ways are higher than ours. I can cry out with all that is within me, begging God, “WHY?” and “I don’t understand!” And I have had some nights where I have done just that. Peace comes when I let go of the need to know why.  I’ve learned it’s called “faith” for a reason.

1 Peter 1:6-7, “ So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (bold mine)

James 1:2-4, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

Trials, troubles, struggles, the problems of this life are not easy.  I’m not trying to make them seem insignificant in the slightest. But they will come.  When we have an idea of what is coming, we can be prepared for it, even though we can’t predict exactly what that will be. Remember that this life is not all there is. Our hope, our reward, our Lord is beyond it all and wants us to enjoy eternity with Him.

Romans 5:3-5, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

James 1:12, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

“Shame” by Amy

How readily are we willing to believe that grace is actually free and that God always welcomes back His prodigal sons and daughters who’ve strayed?

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve screwed up. When I think of Peter asking Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him and suggesting 7 times (Matthew 18), I wonder if Jesus chuckled on the inside because of how often our Lord must forgive us. When I read through some of the Old Testament history and see the Israelites making the same mistakes over and over and over again, I get so frustrated! They saw the very power of God in a pillar of fire, in splitting the Red Sea, in defeating all the nations who occupied the Promised Land, in a cloud of smoke covering a mountain they feared to approach! “What is wrong with these people??” I’ve wondered.

I daresay it’s not much different than what is wrong with myself.

The past couple months in my personal life have been a busy blur (you may have noticed poor Kendra has had to pick up my slack in not writing as often… I’ve not been a good partner). I started a full-time job, I moved into a new apartment 5 weekends ago, I’ve been travelling for the past 3 weekends, and every aspect of my life feels overwhelming. Someone will ask something as simple as, “Hey, did you go buy new work shoes yet?” And I want to collapse. I haven’t bought new shoes, because I haven’t made time for it and I’m waiting to make sure my finances have balanced out between moving expenses, needing to survive and eat food expenses, and then I’m behind on keeping my budget balanced because I’m trying to unpack and have a full-time job and a social life and… and… and… and now there’s a collapsed puddle of Amy on the ground.

Did you see anything in that crazy, rushed paragraph about prioritizing time with God? Yeah, there’s a reason for that. I haven’t. In all the setting up of a new job and a new place to live, a new routine hasn’t included regular daily time with my Lord.  And when that doesn’t happen, I feel guilty. And I allow that guilt to multiply until it weighs me down. Then I feel like God is mad at me and wouldn’t want me to pray or read His Word or even sometimes go to church.

I know that these are tactics of the enemy to get me to isolate myself. When I’m isolated, I’m weaker. We all are. When I’m disconnected from the Vine who gives life, I’m weaker. This is not an accident; this is an attack. And I know this. But that guilt still speaks louder than the truth sometimes. Or I am listen more to the guilt than the truth, because the Truth seems too good to be true. But the truth is I’ve been given grace by God; and I can’t take that grace away from myself.

And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. Romans 8:10

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:15-16

God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children. And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are His child, God made you His heir. Galatians 4:5-7

There is a newer song out there that always goes right to my heart. I think it’s because my Lord knows I struggle with thinking of myself as His daughter instead of as His servant and follower. If you don’t know the song “No Longer Slaves,” please follow this link. Let the words take over your mind in a fresh way. Believe that they are true. The Truth, the Word of God, that is our sword, and that is how we fight back when the enemy attacks.  

I had to read through those verses several times before the truth could speak to me louder than the guilt.  I’m no longer a slave to guilt. I’m not a slave to fear. I’m not a slave to my sin or my backsliding. God gives me so much grace; I do not get to decide that I’m not worthy of that grace. I’m not perfect, but I am a redeemed child of God. And no scheme nor entity can take that away. Ever.

When God doesn’t give the answers…

I (Kendra) know that Jesus wants me to trust Him.  He wants me to come to Him with my wants and desires, and He wants me to be confident that He is redeeming the world.

I struggle.  I know that God is at work, but the redemption process can be uncomfortable and even painful.  Often, I prefer just getting what I want rather than what is the best.  Monday night was one of those moments.  I wanted to be completely healed, because I was concerned that the tumor was growing again.  On Saturday, I had an incident where I couldn’t speak.  I knew what I wanted to say, but the words didn’t come.  I was terrified the MRI would reveal tumor growth.  I didn’t want to attack the tumor more aggressively.   

I knew that I should trust God.  God is more concerned with changing me than giving me what I want. Therefore, I was concerned about the lesson He wanted me to learn.

I trust Jesus.

I believe God is good.

The Holy Spirit is working.

He would be with me and equipping me to follow Him.

Yet, I couldn’t sleep.

Shame said, “If you truly trusted God, you would be able to sleep.”

Guilt said, “You know you are not supposed to worry.”

Truth says, “Keep fighting.  Jesus is making you into what He wants you to be.”  

Even though shame and guilt were discouraging me, I knew I was on God’s side.  I will join Lauren Daigle and declare:

When You don’t move the mountains

I’m needing You to move,

When You don’t part the waters

I wish I could walk through,

When You don’t give the answers

As I cry out to You,

I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You

Yes, God hasn’t yet moved my mountains or parted my waters, but He has given me strength to face them.  I am praising God that my brain is stable (no noticeable tumor growth), and my blood counts are strong.  As I learn to trust in Him, He gives me strength to rest in Him.

No matter the mountains that are in your way, Jesus wants to work through them.  Keep trusting Him.  Take your concerns to Him.  Confess your sins.  Replace shame’s lies with truth.  Be thankful.  And watch Jesus work.  His work is amazing.