God at work

Posts in Category

My Journey of Grace (Susan’s Story)

Seems appropriate to write this on a damp, foggy morning – it is a repeat of that morning eight years ago. After the nightmare that lasted nearly four years I was finally able to lay my head down at night knowing my adult daughter and her son were not only safe, but secure in the love and redemption of Jesus Christ.

My daughter refers to those years as being on tour, on the road, her rock star years. I refer to them as living hell on earth. But it was over. Every prayer I prayed had been answered; every tear I cried had been wiped away; every moment of pulling the sheets over my head and crying No More, Lord, No More, had been removed. My daughter was healed, clean, and addiction free – all of the messes of those years washed pure by the Blood of the Lamb. Free – free, at last.

However, those years took their toll, as hard times do. That August morning was the culmination of so many emotions I couldn’t unravel and I sat in that sacred space in the corner of our living room and cried out to the only One who knew my pain.

Why is it when we are in the throes of emotional tumult we lash out at those closest to us? For me, it was my husband, stepfather to all my children. He had ridden the roller-coaster of the previous four years with me.

grace-graphic3He was the one who would get me up on Sunday mornings and say, “Yes, you can go to church and you will go to church – now come out from those covers and get dressed!” All done in love and tender care. But that summer things got a little wiggy – daughter and rambunctious four-year old, toddler boy were staying with us and, although the miracle of Calvary had taken place three months earlier, the stresses of life and living were at an all time high. Financial. Little boy tantrums. Financial. You get the picture? Hubs and I weren’t good. We weren’t good at all.

That August dawn I sat in the small corner of our very large sectional, in the still and darkness of the morning.

Lord, I’m done.
Done with what?
I don’t love him anymore.
I know, but you love Me.
Yes, Lord, more than life and I’m so grateful. But I can’t live with him any longer. I’m done.
But you love Me.
Yes, Lord. I do.
Do you trust Me? I want you to stay and I will give you the grace to do that – I promise you.
O! Lord, I don’t know I can but I will try.

THAT day was the beginning of a journey of grace for me. It sounds crazy but my husband had NO idea I was so miserable, nor knew I pleaded with the Lord to let me leave – to this day he doesn’t, but it isn’t even needful because you see, God kept His promise. He didn’t just give the grace, He flooded me with it. Our marriage was in grace overflow!

It still is. Eight years later. I breathe grace. I walk grace. I talk grace. I sleep grace. I love with grace.

My journey of grace – God promised me grace if I would trust Him.

God is a Promise Keeper.

I love Him so.

God restores
He Restores What We Lost (Kristie’s Story)

I remember that night so clearly. I was sitting on my bed, crying, my mind running a million miles per hour. I felt defeated; I didn’t want to live anymore.

After years of suffering from an eating disorder, self harm addiction and depression, I was done. I believed that nobody cared about me, or would even notice if I was gone. I was angry at God and believed He had just abandoned me.

The hate I had for myself was huge. Looking back, I think that the intense self hatred was the reason I didn’t want to live anymore. Believing that nobody cared played a part, but ultimately I just hated myself, I was disgusted with myself and didn’t want to be me anymore.

I planned to overdose that night. But before my thoughts could be put into action, something amazing happened. God showed up. He showed me a picture of a funeral, my funeral. People were weeping, Jesus was weeping. The pain in that place was overwhelming. Then He walked me over to a photo hanging on the wall. It was a photo of me. People walked by and stopped to look at my photo, but over time people stopped by less and less. What Jesus said to me is still so clear, it’s as if He just said it to me 5 minutes ago.

He said, “Are you seriously willing to be just a picture on a wall? A memory?” He began to remind me that He has a plan for my life, that it was not meant to end that night, He wasn’t finished with me yet.

God restoresIn that moment chains were broken off my life. I wanted to live. I wanted Him more than everything, I needed Him more than anything.

No matter where you are at in your life right now, whether you are at the top of your game and everything is great, or if you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom and, like I did, wanted to call it quits, I want you to know that God is not done with you yet. The reason that you still have breath in your lungs is proof that He is not done with you.

As long as there is breath in your lungs, you have a purpose.

When we surrender our lives to Jesus and trust Him despite what our life currently looks like, it changes the whole game.

He takes our depression and gives us joy.
He takes our anxiety and gives us peace.
He takes our broken pieces and makes us whole.
He restores what we lost.
He is good. Always.

Precious one, you are deeply loved by the King who died to know you.

hebrews 13:2
The Homeless Man and A Bottle of Tea

The first thing that hit me was the overwhelming stench of body odor. Every part of me resisted allowing this dirty, wretched, man into my home. Men were filing into my husband’s Thursday night bible study, Band of Brothers. But then here was THIS man. One of the regulars brought him in hopes of reaching the man with the gospel of grace and hope.

Good intentions.

Yikes, I hate when that happens. My good deed of opening our home as a refuge to those seeking more of Jesus just was hit with a curve ball.

“Well, Lord, I really meant for it to be to the normal people.

The clean people.

I mean, really, how much is this to ask of me. I already give up my comfort for all these men.”

The ones who don’t make me uncomfortable or smell up my house.

Oops, really feeling not so spiritual right now.

I started to get angry at the guy who brought him. This is my home. Wouldn’t he know better than bring an “unsafe” guy here? This dirty man. This destitute man. Does he have a disease?

What if he was a thief? What then?

He seemed nervous and quickly walked past me to the back of the house where the men met each week. He also seemed to know instinctively what I was feeling about him and averted direct eye contact. I remembered him from seeing him make his rounds from place to place in our little town. Actually, I am pretty sure he walked everywhere.

Don’t you just hate the fact when you feel like you are really spiritual, and are busy patting yourself on the back, God comes on the scene and shows you exactly just how spiritual you really are?

I didn’t like myself right then; at all.

So many stories came to mind that I read in the bible.

The Samaritan man beaten and in a ditch and no one wanted to get “involved” in helping the poor soul, so those that walked by pretended they didn’t see him and kept right on going. And then there was that one guy who helped him. Jesus said he was the one who was the true neighbor. Luke 10:30-37

Then there are the stories of angels visiting us in the forms of people to see how we will react.

“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”
Hebrews 13:2 NLT

Uh oh! Am I in trouble?

It is so easy to do good when everything is clean and pretty and they rave about your hospitality and generosity. Then I feel rewarded.

But what about the unlovely people?

Ugh, I didn’t want to think about it.

I expressed my distaste to my husband when the study was over. He told me that the destitute man, though hard for him to sit still, sat there through the whole study and heard what was said. I felt a little convicted. But I still maintained that this was my home and off limits to open up to people on the street.

Just being honest with you.

A few days later I was home alone. I glanced out the front window and there was this homeless guy coming towards my house.

I thought, “Oh great, now he knows where I live and he has come back and he knows I am here alone.” I felt fear. I figured he had been living in the bushes in the front of my house watching for when I would be alone.

Then I heard a knock at my door.

“Now what do I do, Lord.”

“Answer it”, He said.

“Okay, but if he attacks me, it is in YOUR hands.”

No reply from the Lord.

I opened the door to the homeless guy. He stood way back because he knew I found him offensive. I didn’t indicate anything to that nature, but he just knew. He held in his hand a bottle of a name brand iced tea.

He reached out towards me with the bottle of tea, and with a gentle and grateful look on his face offered it to me. I took it with a puzzled look on my face.

hebrews 13:2He spoke sporadically, “Thank you for letting me come into your home.”

He had brought me a gift of gratitude that I did not turn him away. Who knows where he got the tea, but it was sealed and new.

I am crying right now as I share this story with you because of the compassion that flooded my heart at that moment and still does. This man was a soul that Jesus loves. He came to my house. I let him in with a resentful heart. He knew it, yet he reached out to me with his only understanding of love, which is to give something substantial.

I learned afterwards that he lived behind a dumpster about 5 miles from my house. I knew he had to walk a long way to find his way back here. Yet, he never expected me to do anything else for him. He wasn’t begging or asking to come in. Nor has he returned. He was just grateful.

My husband feeds people on the street all the time. He buys them food and shares the gospel. This was my test. I was made aware of parts of myself I am not proud of. I guess it is normal for us to freak out when we are faced with people we don’t want to see, and it makes us get out of our comfort zones, doesn’t it?

But let’s remember that Jesus said, when we feed the poor, we feed Him.

“For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me. Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you? And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

Matthew 25:42-45

photo credit: Patrick Doheny via Flickr, cc
Slow Processes

I grew up with Christian parents and we always went to church twice a week. I have no memory of the day I chose to put my faith in Christ. That used to bother me a lot. However, Christ has given me peace that it does not matter if I remember the exact moment I chose to trust Him and received the gift of salvation. What matters is that I am certain of my faith now and that I intentionally remember His works in my life to testify to His glory.

I think as Christians we tend to put too much emphasis on that ‘salvation moment.’ Don’t get me wrong, I think that believers who had a 180 degree turn, almost like Paul’s road to Damascus moment, should proudly testify of that moment God turned their lives around. But for those of us who don’t have such a drastic change, we sometimes think there is something wrong with us. We get so hung up on not having such a cool testimony that we forget the things God has given us to testify about.

All that to say, my testimony is not so much about the moment I came to Christ, but of the ways He has worked in my life.

I believe God works in my life in slow processes (sometimes excruciatingly slow). So I have compiled a short list of just some of the ways God has worked in my life.

  1. My family. I’m an only child, so my family consisted of my parents and me. How much struggle could a family of three go through? Quite a bit. I had a lot of resentment toward my mom and my dad because of the struggles we went through. I wish I could go into more detail about the struggles my family has endured, but I feel like it is not my story to publish. But I can say that despite the mistakes that were made, God has worked incredible reconciliation in irreconcilable situations.

    My family struggles caused me to draw nearer to God. He convicted me of my role in my family. Although I could not heal the hurts in my family, I could love them the same way God loves me. He convicted me to love and respect my parents and to daily pray for them. I did not exactly follow these convictions as much as I should have. In fact, I failed at them a lot more than I succeeded. But I came to know Christ more in the midst my family’s struggles and heartaches.

  2. There was a point in my faith walk that I fell into sexual sin. My life was quickly wrecked. I was abandoned by my best friends and my church. That sin left me in the deepest pit of loneliness. For over a year, I struggled with the worst depression I had ever endured. For a while, I felt abandoned by God because of my sin.

    clean heart

    But the Lord proved so faithful to me and reminded me that even in my sin, He sent Jesus to die for me. He rescued me out of the habit of that sin and provided me with healing from it. I clung to the words of Psalm 51, David’s cry of confession and repentance when he slept with Bathsheba.

    God also reminded me of the other many imperfect people in the Bible He used for great things, including Rahab (a prostitute) and Tamar (who pretended to be a prostitute to sleep with her father-in-law who had formerly wronged her).

  3. When I was about ten or eleven years old, I was not very good at making friends. That loneliness drove me to seek time with the Lord. Although I was lacking in friendships, I realized that I actually had a friendship with my Savior for eternity.

    This may seem like just a childish struggle that I outgrew as I grew in maturity and faith. In fact, many times I thought it was that. But as I’m now in my early twenties, I’m seeing that loneliness is a struggle I have not outgrown. I am still bad at making friends. As I get older, I want to use that loneliness as an excuse to be a home body. Instead of being driven to seeking out my always faithful Friend, I try to make time fly by with TV shows and movies.

    While I am so grateful for God rescuing me from deep family hurts and from sexual sin, my loneliness remains. The thing is, I have no reason to be lonely. I am blessed with great parents whom I very close with, in-laws who are so generous toward us, close girl friends that I can call up at any day for prayer and encouragement, AND my child whose face I get to see for the first time in approximately 26 weeks.

    As greatly blessed as I am, none of it compares to the incredible blessing it will be to see my Savior face to face. I believe that only then will my lonely tendency be wiped away to be replaced with a love that I could never fully understand here on earth.

God continues to work in ways worthy of testimony. My prayer regarding my testimony is that it points people away from me and my life and toward our amazing God: Loving Father, Perfect Savior, and Holy Spirit.

Megan’s Story – God’s Unfailing Love

I was raised in a good, Christian home with loving parents, sisters and a very close extended family. While they weren’t perfect, my parents did the best they could to raise me with a love of God and a good sense of right and wrong. At the age of 7, I gave my heart to Jesus and was baptized.

Honestly, I’m still not sure exactly where I began to wander off His path for me.

I grew up going to church, was baptized in elementary school, and really did love The Lord with all my heart.

At some point, that love became overshadowed by legalism and condemnation.

I believe it was a combination of several factors, but somehow my understanding of The Lord became more about fear and the quest to be the “perfect Christian” than it was about developing a deeper relationship with Him.

The problem with perfectionism is that “perfect” is not actually obtainable. At best, we can achieve the illusion of perfection for a brief period of time. But, inevitably, we will always come up short in the end.

It was a gradual process, but looking back, I can clearly remember a time in my life when I loved going to church and had a heart filled with the Holy Spirit, and then a time when I was so afraid of committing the wrong sin and angering God that I set myself up for a life away from Him.

My fear was not a healthy, biblical fear. My fear was of punishment and blame. I was afraid to make one mistake or risk losing my salvation entirely.

By the beginning of high school, it felt like I was living in a bubble. I tried desperately to make connections with other people, but something was always standing in the way. I had people who I considered my friends, and I had people in my life that I genuinely cared about, but I did not feel as though anyone genuinely cared about me.

The people I chose to surround myself with were as lost and broken as I was; yet I was depending on them for healing, understanding, and assurance of my salvation.

In middle school and high school, I began to despise all girls.

I still had my close group of girl friends, but I honestly did not like any of them.

Our group was full of malicious gossip, slander, envy and a bitterness that infected our very souls. Being out of the situation and looking back, I don’t believe any one of those girls had a wicked heart on her own. But, when we came together as a group, Satan had absolutely no trouble convincing us to tear one another down.

Even though I continued to consider these girls my best friends, I began to search outside the group for affirmation and affection. I repeatedly turned to the arms of boys through high school and college.

As I continued to date boys who made it clear they considered me of little worth or value, I reached a point where I saw myself the same way.

At the time, I felt the lie reinforced by every significant relationship in my life.

My sin was detestable.

I was detestable.

The combination of incredibly low self-worth and the absence of any positive influence in my life led to a string of unfulfilling, ultimately detrimental relationships and a heart which I attempted to bury from God’s reach. I hated myself, and was convinced that He must hate me as well.

My solution was to try and hide in my sin and my shame. I felt helpless to break free of my sin, and therefore made the same mistakes over and over again. After years of consistently choosing to love the people of the world above the Creator of the world, I fell into the same habits as those who are of the world.

I was angry, bitter, resentful, and dead in my sin.

Night after night, I would cry myself to sleep and pray for death. While I never questioned the existence of God, I truly believed I had lost my place in God’s kingdom. Salvation as I understood it had to be earned, and I would never be good and pure enough to earn it back.

Because I felt so dirty and unlovable, I avoided church. I would still attend with my family, and would pray on occasion. I would pray for others, but felt like I was unworthy of prayers for myself. By the time I got to college, I had stopped going to church altogether.

That which had turned to rubble and dust over the years, He began to piece back together.
But, through it all, God was constantly rebuilding my heart. That which had turned to rubble and dust over the years, He began to piece back together.

My sophomore year in college, He began to systematically remove every external influence from my life.

Every friend I had in college began to fall away. Every guy I had a relationship with was removed from my life. I was isolated in the desert. Abandoned and alone in Lubbock, Texas until finally, I was brought back to the One who would never abandon or forsake me.

That still small voice in my heart convinced me to wake up early one Sunday morning and go to church. There, sitting in the back row, I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone, looking at pictures of a party I missed the night before. Just as I was asking myself what had possessed me to skip a party in favor of getting up early to go to church, the small blonde in front of me turned around, stuck her hand in my face, and exclaimed, “Hi! I’m Michelle!”

Shocked that someone had actually noticed me, I offered her an unsure handshake and silently hoped she would just walk away.

Instead, she invited me to sit with her through the service. I followed her from my seat in the very back of the church to the front of the sanctuary where she led me to a chair in the middle of the third row. I was fully intending to offer a quick “Thanks for letting me sit with you, BYE!” and make my exit the second the lights came back on.

Michelle was a bit too quick for me and, when church was over, she invited me to get coffee with her later in the week. I gave her my phone number, never expecting to hear from her again. Of course, she texted me the next day and set a date and time to get together.

unfailing loveWhile we were having coffee, she managed to break down a little piece of the wall I had built up around my heart. As we were leaving, I accepted her invitation to join her bible study group.

Through the friendship of this one, brave, loving girl, I was drawn back into a relationship with The Lord.

The process was slow and incredibly painful at times, but it was so worth it in every way.

One by one, The Lord placed good, godly people in my life. It was over a year before I had any male friends again. I believe this was by design so I would have a heart softened towards women and free of the one idol I had clung to so tightly for so many years.

Now, I feel free. I know I am free.

After almost ten years of living in a prison of my own heart and mind, it is a truly incredible feeling to wake up every day knowing that I am not alone. Knowing that I am loved.

I am so incredibly grateful. His Word assures me that Christ alone is perfect, but that I am loved anyway. My salvation is secure through His sacrifice and His unfailing love – not by any effort or avoidance of sin on my part.

Times are not always good, and I know there will be many trials in my life, but I am secure in the knowledge that His plans are always good.

That He can use even my sin for His good.

That He is good.

Linking up with: Wise Woman, Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for your heart

photo credit: Sean MacEntee via Flickr, cc