Freedom in Forgiveness

We have all been hurt by different organizations (christian and non-christian), church’s, and people. We live in a world that sin runs rampant, so it is pretty inevitable that we will get hurt, and that we will do some of the hurting too.

Every person we meet is broken. Some haven’t worked through that brokenness yet, some have, and some are still working through brokenness or finding new areas of brokenness. Like I said, sin runs rampant.

Hallelujah for the coming of our LORD when sin no longer will run rampant and all will be perfect and glorious in the presence of God!

If any of you know me personally, or have followed my blogs before, you know that the past couple of years have been difficult for me, with some hurt. It has been quite a journey of walking through that and finding healing/freedom from it. I feel like I am finally at a place where I truly have been healed and set free from all of that.

So here are some things that I have learned over the past couple of years:
Part of the issue with getting hurt, is that we hold onto it. We hold onto what has been done to us because, ‘how dare that person treat me that way’, they love Jesus, and so do I. ‘I don’t deserve that.’ Well in fact, we do deserve it (Romans 3:10, 12). But that’s not the point I want to get across.

I had this realization today while driving to church; forgiveness is championing the one’s who have hurt you. Recently, I’ve been able to see how God has in fact healed my heart from hurt, and a lot of that is by how I have defended and championed those who have hurt me in the past, even the church as a whole.

Yes, even when working for a church, the church can still hurt you. I’ve worked for/in the church/ministry for just over 10 years. When working in a church and with leadership, I often tend to be the person to hear a lot of complaining and concerns about leadership and the way the church does things. Do I like hearing these things, no. Do I sometimes think it is necessary, yes. I would rather people share their concerns with me than anyone else apart from leadership in the church because I know I can handle it and can challenge how they view things, and have also been in their shoes.

We all want things to do be done a certain way, or people to think like we do and care about the same things that we do, but what good would it be if God’s people all thought the same way, and did things all the same way? I’ve walked through hard church times where the church was split because of differing opinions of how our Church should function. We need that tension of differing views. It can be a good tension to figure out what we value most, where we need be challenged, and if we are willing to let go of our own pride for the sake of a brother or sister or ultimately and most importantly for the sake of the Gospel and Jesus.
One thing I have found in hearing these concerns…is that I have become a defender of my Church and my leadership. I have had to lay aside my own hurt, for the sake of the Gospel and what God is doing through us. I have had to lay my hurt aside for the other hurt people too, so that I don’t make their hurt worse or let them stay there. It is gossip when we start talking about all the things that we don’t like within an organization or with people- especially if we don’t plan on confronting them in love or giving suggestions or even hearing out why things are done a certain way. We often don’t give the benefit of the doubt, or trust that people love Jesus as much as we do, but we have to. If you aren’t able to trust specific people right away, then trust God, who orchestrates everything and is much more jealous for His people and Church than you are, and is much more able to change people and turn them His way.

For a while I championed or defended because I needed to, but recently I have found that I desire to defend. I feel called to be one of the many defender’s of the church and of leadership, and to help those who have been or are hurt, to walk through their hurt. I have found the freedom that is found in forgiving others, and the redemption and restoration that happens in that, and also the JOY in that, is incomparable. And I look forward for those of you who are working through hurt, to find that freedom. It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, it will hurt, but God is good.

All you have to do is seek God. Pray for the ones who hurt you. And in praying for them, remember that they really are just like you, trying to be like Christ but wrestling against sin, and have been hurt also. Practice defending those who hurt you or offended you. Find the good, the Jesus in them, the things that they do really well and encourage those attributes in them. Pray also for your healing. Allow the Holy Spirit to do His mighty work in you, and be submissive to Him. He will lead and guide you. He never fails.

Matthew 6:14-15
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,  but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Mark 11:25
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

Colossians 3:12-14
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

 

18:30 Ocean Isle, NC

I love the beach. Particularly when it is warm. I have been going since I was a little kid. One of my favorite beach memories is getting up with the sun and looking for shells at sunrise on the beach. Usually my dad had to accompany me because I was a little too young, but now Im able to do it all by myself and have some real good God-time!

In 2009, we went on a big family vacation. I mean my mom’s whole side of the family. All of her sister’s, her Dad and step-mom. Travis and I were the only kids though (mind you, I was 20, Travis was 24). Our house was 2 rows back from the ocean, and we had a pool for convenience in the evening when we got tired of the beach (who gets tired of the beach?!)

This family vacation was a great one. I of course being the youngest, slept on the couch in the living room because there weren’t enough beds/rooms for all of us. I also am always up early on vacations..I’m not sure what it is, but I go to bed super early and wake up with the sun basically. But I love the ocean and the beach early so maybe that is why!

This vacation is where I am pretty sure I bought my first Sanuk shoe…and they have been my favorite shoe ever since.

The house we were staying in had a wrap around desk that literally went almost the whole way around the house! It was the best! We rented bicycles and rode our bikes around town, that was a blast! One of my funniest memories was my Dad, brother and I went to breakfast together to the local restaurant close to the house and we came back and Mom was upset with us that we went to breakfast without her. (My dad asked her if she wanted to go to breakfast and she said no, but she didn’t know travis and I were going…otherwise she would have said yes). We still tease her about that to this day.

My dad and I also went parasailing! That was a blast!

Family vacations can sometimes be stressful, as we all know, with many different personalities. But this one I just remember being fun. There is always lots of laughter with the family. So if you have never been on a family vacation, I highly encourage you to do so. Get a house, so that you can cook your own food and don’t have to eat out every night, but definitely splurge and eat out at least once! Go min-golfing, rent bicycles or scooters, go for long walks on the beach ;), play games with the family, take turns cooking, get up early, stay up late, explore the local area.

Enjoy the photos!

17:30 Washington D.C.

At the end of March I had the opportunity to head to D.C. with a friend. I had never been before, and we had talked at the beginning of this year of going to D.C. in April over a weekend to spend some time praying for the Country and seeing the sites. Killing 2 birds with one stone. Plus Mary has had an amazing testimony of meeting God in D.C. and so we were hopeful that this trip would be one of those weekends that God was just so evident. We were looking and expectant, and so of course it happened.
This trip, is probably one of my all-time favorites.

We had so many different encounters with people on this trip which is something I had been praying for. No matter how small the encounter, I purposed in my heart to remember the people and to pray for them. So after I got home for the trip I wrote down the people and encounters with them all that I remembered so that I wouldn’t forget and so that I will continue to pray for these people. Because my heart was blessed by each of them, whether they loved Jesus or not and i hope and pray that some day I will see all of them in Heaven!

What I love and appreciate so much about this trip though was that our praying was done silently, as we were walking the streets, while we were in our hotel room, while we were on the subway, while we were taking a coffee break. It wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t even seen over 90% of the time. But it was there. The Bible tells us to pray continually, and this trip, I feel was that – which I found to be very refreshing.

This trip was also just a blast. Mary is just very extroverted and always looking for an adventure, i am opposite of that – so it was not a dull trip! It can’t be when Mary is around. I also just fell in love with the city of D.C. It’s so easy to navigate around, and the cherry blossoms were beautiful, the sites and memorials were very humbling and it was a good reminder to never stop praying for our leaders and the people in American and in the World because we all influence each other. I don’t want to get into politics, so I am just going to leave it here and encourage all of you if you have not been to D.C, go! It is worth the trip, but be prepared to walk! I think my phone told me we walked over 10 miles alone on Saturday!

To give you some of the sites that we got to:
Arlington Cemetery, Pentagon, Lincoln Memorial, The Spy Museum, World War II Memorial, The reflecting pool, Across the pond of the Jefferson Memorial, The White House, Smithsonian of American History, Capitol Hill, Library of Congress, Supreme Court, …goodness I’m sure I am forgetting some. See it all folks! I look forward to going back again.
I would suggest staying longer than a weekend, if you really want to do museums, you could spend a whole day just in 1 of the smithsonian’s, so really choose what you want to do and plan it out in advance to make sure you can get tickets. even though the majority of the museums are free, you still need tickets. So try in advance to get them, they are really difficult get ‘last min.’ We kinda did everything on a whim, and mostly just saw everything apart from the American History Museum and the Spy Museum!
Favorite photos are below, enjoy!

Confess your sins

 
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

I am currently going through a lent study on Isaiah. And what I am getting the most out of it thus far, is that I am sinful, and God hates sin, but is full of mercy and is able to and desires to redeem His people, BUT there are consequences because of (our) sin.

Sin…it is what is deteriorating our world, physically and spiritually. We have a love/hate relationship with it, because as Paul says in Romans 7:14-20; ”

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

Man that can be confusing. As believer’s, we know what the right thing to do is, but often times what we want to do (as the good thing)….is not what we end up doing because of our flesh (sin). This is where confession comes in.

Many people associate “confession” with Catholicism. No matter your stance on whether Catholic’s are believer’s or not, I have come to believe that confession is a lost art within-in Christianity. Now, let me explain what I mean…

According to 1 John 1:9, if (which is a conjunction word, that makes this statement conditional, meaning that it requires an action) we want to be cleansed and forgiven we must be confessing our sin to God. Jesus is our High Priest in Heaven, sitting on the throne and He alone is able to forgive and to cleanse us from our sins, so if we don’t want our sin to consume us, if we want victory over specific sins, why wouldn’t we confess them? The Bible says that God is FAITHFUL to forgive us, so it’s not like we should be scared to go to Him. The word faithful means trustworthy…and our God is a Good Father, who enjoys to give good gifts to His children (for that is who we are).

In James 5:16, he talks about confessing our sins to one another. So, when we do wrong by another person, we should be going to them and making it right so that our relationship can be restored. (We’ve all had disagreements in relationships, if you want the relationship to be mended, you need to go to them and confront the sin and experience the beauty of restoration)
So it is with God. The Spirit does His work by convicting us, and making known to us our sin, and in the midst of that, sanctifying us so that we can look more like Christ, but it is our privilege to go to God, before His throne, and confess our sin to Him, and it is because of Christ that we are even able to go before the throne of God because Christ is our mediator, our High Priest.

So are are you confessing your sin?
I have to say that I grew up not confessing my sin. I don’t know if I was taught this way or what, but all I really knew or seemed to do was confess at the time of my salvation and just thought that I was good. God forgave my sin, past, present and future. But the longer I have been in relationship with God and have seen the effects and hold of sin in my life, I have seen and experienced how sin can tear apart relationships, especially our relationship with God – which is our most important relationship as Christians. If we want there to be depth, to be intimacy in any relationship, we have to get vulnerable and confess our sins (deepest darkest secrets). That is where we experience unconditional love – which happens to come from God. We will always be righteous in the sight of God because of Jesus’ act of love on the cross for us, but if we want to become more like Jesus each day, we have to die to our flesh (sin). Confessing our sins is a way to die to our flesh and it brings peace, and redemption to our relationship with Christ and with others, while also allowing God to cleanse us and make us whiter than snow. (Doesn’t that sound nice?)

When we are right with Christ, we can be right with others, and even able to be right with ourselves. I know many (including me) have struggled to forgive themselves. If that is you – I encourage you to start confessing your sin to God, and receiving His forgiveness each moment of each day, allowing Him to cleanse you and to see and experience His redemption. His Spirit is the best comforter, and the best teacher, learn to walk with Him.

*If you need prayer in any of this, don’t hesitate to ask.

What I have found through being able to confess my sin to God, but also to my friends – is that I am not alone. I also find relief. When I confess my sin, which feels so dark to me, to God and then to a friend, what I end up finding – is peace, and forgiveness, and kindness, and no judgment. I find the ability to walk through it, and wrestle with the sin not by myself. This feels like freedom to me. And I hope that you are able to experience the same.

‘Redemption depends not on our human will or exertion, but on our kind and merciful God.’ (shereadstruth)

 

 

 

16:30 Michigan

Michigan, Ohio’s arch nemesis, if you care about college football.   😉
(For the record, I don’t.)

I know plenty of people from the hand shaped state. I’ve had many Michigander’s show me where on their hand they live in Michigan. But some of my first memories of Michigan was when I was an older teenager/early adulthood, I went with my uncle to the Red Bud Motocross race for a weekend with my now sister-in-law. It was a blast! I’ve always enjoyed watching motocross, and my uncle had a ministry/was a Pastor at these events, and my cousin races. This was a whole new world for me, but I’ll never forget it, and the excitement of seeing the bikes come around the turns!

But most of the times that I have been to Michigan have been spent in Gowen or Greenville! I know the Tim Hortons across from Walmart in Greenville very well! When I worked for Off The Wall Discipleship, we spent a week in the summer at Lincoln Lake Baptist Camp, and have taken students there for retreats in the winter time, and now our church has partnered with Lincoln Lake and our students go there for winter camp! I love this camp. I never grew up going to camps, so camp life is very different to me and way out of my comfort zone, but I have had some incredible times when at Lincoln Lake. To even count how many times I have been there, I lose track. I’ve met so many amazing people via the partnership between them and OTW, that I am so very grateful for. I have had opportunities to be stretched to branch out and talk to people in ways that I normally wouldn’t. I have had so many laughs, almost peeing myself multiple times, taking runs (this lasted only a summer) early in the morning, swimming and going boating, watching kids water ski…I’ve had the opportunity to lead worship there, and to exhort others.

Being from Ohio, I feel like I’m supposed to not like MI, tehe, but I thoroughly enjoy Michigan and it’s people. I have nothing but fond memories and I hope that you do too.
#pureMichigan

 

 

Revisiting the woman in the red dress

Towards the beginning of last year, I had this vision.
It was a time when I was in the midst of extreme bitterness, anger and fighting with God. I was at one of our church’s evening worship services and  all of a sudden the only thing I saw was a woman wearing a tank top style red dress on the stage in complete freedom worshiping her Savior, Father, Healer, Redeemer, Friend, Lover with everything she had. She was dancing, and full of God’s light and freedom, and story and grace and love with the biggest smile. She was oblivious to everything else but Him. She was like a dream, but real.

I fought the tears. Because as soon as I saw her, it became very clear to me… 

the woman in the red dress, was me. 

 

Last month I got a new tattoo. I got the woman in the red dress.
And since getting her, I have been wrestling with believing some serious lies about myself and who I am and what God has called me to.
She is on my forearm, where I can always see her. So every time I look down, I see this image of this red dress woman, reminding me of who God see’s, of what He has called me to, of what He is able to do, of freedom, victory and redemption.
I may not be that woman in the dress right now, but there are pieces of her inside of me, she is there waiting. I need more story, I need more action, more faith, more obedience, more surrender, more rejoicing.

So whoever you are, wherever you are, there is hope. God is more than able to deliver what you need, to bring you out of darkness and into His glorious light, to bring victory and end to the longest battle…just hold on. Just seek Him and be found by Him. Surrender who you are now, each day and trust that He has a plan. He will get you where you need to go, FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE.

“Redemption depends not on our human will or exertion, but on our kind and merciful God.”
She Reads Truth

“Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst if the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 12:5-6

IMG_2960

15:30 Oklahoma

Summer of 2010 I got to go on a missions trip to Oklahoma to help out around a school for Native American’s, and do a VBS for a local church of Native American’s also. We partnered with a local church youth group from home, which some of those people, are still in my life today, which I am forever grateful! This was probably one of my most favorite mission’s trips I have been on. It was hard work, but also a ridiculous amount of fun.

I remember the food…the taco’s were on this amazing bread…yummmm, it was so thick and large! I love bread. It was SUPER hot. We drove…so it was about a 17 hour drive, and I slept basically the whole entire time (I can’t do that anymore). Don would drive on the rumble strips just to try and wake me up….but nope, I just went right back to sleep. We had some bible classes with the teens we were with and leaders, we did some karaoke, we played some Nukem (however you spell that) with the local teenagers at one of the church’s and they put on a service for us so we could hear and see them worship in their own language. It was really cool and special!

I particularly remember Doc Rasher. Who has the main man, he had the school we did work at and had the connections for us. He recently just passed away, which I am very sad to hear. He is pictured below with Beki, he is the older man with the white hair. He was sweet and wise and gentle man. One whom I will never forget taught me basics and balance…is what life comes down to. I’m still learning the balance part. He was a man who had a great legacy and ministry and will be missed by many. So I guess in honor of him, and the many awesome memories of Oklahoma and the friendships that still remain 7 years later, this post is Oklahoma!

 

14:30 Missouri

I’ve been to Missouri twice in the past year. I thoroughly enjoy having friends who live in different parts of the state, that way I can go visit them, especially when it is within driving distance.

I remember when I first went to Missouri everyone was asking me why I was going to misery. Some people may think MO is boring, but I thoroughly enjoy it! I love southern MO and all the rock along the highways, and the Lake of the Ozarks, the wine country. Usually whenever my friend Abby and I get together, wine is almost always involved, so we went to a few wineries and did some tastings. This past time I was there we got to celebrate her Aunt’s 50th at St. James Winery and that was a blast and a great location!

My first trip to MO i flew into St. Louis. So we spent the day walking around the city, went to see the Arch, ate near the ballpark, it was fun! This past time I was there for quite a bit longer, yet it went by so quickly. I spent most of my time in the Jeff City area, which is great. I had just started to get to know my way around the city a bit, and then it was time to  leave. Isn’t that how it usually goes? I was there in the summer time last time, and I remember we spent a large chunk of the day walking around the city, which is a great way to actually see the city, rather than driving through! So if your ever in Jeff City, walk around the city. There is ton’s to see, lots of history and character!

Overall, I think MO will always be a happy memory and give a happy feeling, because my time’s there are always refreshing with Abby. It’s the people that make a place, and she makes MO great! Also, Panera Bread is one of my favorite places to go, and fun fact, it started out as St. Louis Bread Company! I even went to one in St. Louis! #lifemade

 

Don’t Grow Weary

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10

To my fellow believers: People are tired. Tired from hours and hours of work. Tired from parenting multiple kids. Tired from growing babies. Tired from some of life’s circumstances. Tired from taking care of parents or grandparents. Tired from worrying about people. Tired from discipling/being invested in people’s lives…etc. Tired from all the activities we have to be at. Life is just tiring. And many of the things that make people tired, are not bad things, but really good things.

I have noticed that in many of my prayers and encouragements to others so far this year, this verse just keeps coming to mind and I think it is because people are tired. The majority of people I know, give and give, try and try, do and do until they are completely wiped out, and then they give even more until they crash.

I think what can be the most tiring, is when you don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, or fruit for your work. That’s where you need community, other’s to show you, remind you of the path, the journey and of the end goal.

I highly admire mother’s and people who have learned the ways of endurance. I see that as such a strength and an ability that I hope to grow in. I also know that in that, is a need for community. People to help you endure, to help pull some of the weight (bear each other’s burdens), to encourage you with where you are working so hard in, to bless you with ways to take care of you while your taking care of others. So if your tired, let people bless you. Heck, even ask for help if you can muster up the courage. Learn to take a Sabbath as the 10 Commandments tell us to. If your not tired and are a ball of energy, find a tired person and help them out. Encourage them, walk with them and remind them why they do what they do, and this season will not last forever, but that it is an honor to serve God in any capacity. And take care of them.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11).

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23

 

13:30 Charleston, South Carolina

In honor of spending 2 weeks with my friend Abby who is from and lives in MO, and once upon a time followed her dream and lived in a beachside town in SC, this month will be full of the times that I have visited her. The first being, Charleston, SC.

I went to visit her twice when she lived in SC. She had an apartment close to the beach @ Folly Beach. The first time I went to see her was with a group of other friends, the trip down was a hoot…dancing and singing to BSB like pro’s! And when we got to her place and spend the weekend with her it was just a good fun time! We did yoga on the beach, went to a few restaurants…and did our hair (she is a hairdresser) and got pizza (as girls do) and hung out. We also went to some of the oldest Oak tree’s. The Angel Oak, I believe is estimated to be 1,500 yrs old and is massive! There were (as you will see in the photo later) poles that were keeping some of the branches up. It was pretty spectacular!

The second time I visited her @ SC was for New Year’s! That was a blast. We once again went to a few restaurants, in the little beach side town, which can I just say, are some of the best, cutest towns. I love them so much, and they are much warmer than Ohio (which I like warmth!) This time we went into Charleston, which I had never been before and it was so delightful! I love the south. We took a carriage ride through the town to look at the all the houses and hear some of the history of Charleston, and then we ate at a restaurant by the water and saw some dolphins which was awesome! We also went to one of the inside flea markets, which i ended up getting a small, simple pearl ring that I still have and love!

If you ever get the chance to go to Charleston, please do! It is so quaint, and historical, and fun to walk around and see all the different colored houses and a lot had ivy on them and I love seeing that. And it’s close to the beach!