Thursday, May 22, 2014

My Prodigal Years...

I'm in the process of applying to be an on-line counselor/spiritual coach for Goundwire, and the application asks us to share our testimony. I've been a Christian for twenty-nine years, and that question always stumps me. Why, I wonder?

When I was first saved, I'd hear people give their testimonies ... dramatic kinds of things.

"When I got saved, God delivered me from a heroin addiction. I've been clean and sober ever since." 

"When I got saved, I was on the verge of a divorce, and God healed my marriage." 

"When I got saved, I was instantly healed of my cancer and transformed into the picture of health." 

Of course there were more sedate kinds of stories, but I seemed to zero in on the amazing, miraculous ones, and I immediately felt my own story could never measure up.

I've learned over the years that God doesn't use a yardstick. There's no measuring tool for testimonies. Every single one of them is an amazing miracle, given mankind's wayward nature and natural affinity to do things our own way; we all have a natural inclination to run from God, to resist anything that is actually good for us! Some of us just tend to get into bigger messes. 

But back then, I just felt like my testimony wasn't exciting, and that no one would care to hear it. I mean, after all, hubby and I read a Four Spiritual Laws tract, published by Campus Crusade for Christ

B-O-R-I-N-G!  Right?

As the years passed, I realized that the fact that hubby and I read the same tract, a week apart, and both got saved, was in and of itself something of a miraculous occurrence. I'd read the tract, prayed the prayer, and left the tract on the counter in the kitchen, not realizing exactly what I'd done in the spiritual sense (but it was enough for our great God!). A week later, hubby ~ he actually does have a name, Wayne ~ came to me with tract in hand ...

"Did you leave this in the kitchen?"

"Yes. Why?"

"I just read it and prayed the prayer."

"Oh, I did too."

A few days passed, and I couldn't get the tract out of my head. I read it again; it was then that I spied the phone number on the back. 

I dialed the number, and the woman who answered (she'd given us the tract at a Bible study we'd attended. Long story, but let's just say that we were at the study, not due to a hunger for God, but to please Wayne's boss) chatted with me for a few minutes, giving me a chance to let her know that I got her number off the tract. Then she said something that blew my mind.

"We've been waiting for you to call. We've been praying for you and your husband since we left the tract with you." 


So, okay. I know what you are thinking. That is pretty awesome. (Like I said earlier, we serve a great big God!) But you have to remember where I was coming from back then.  

That was then; this is now. My spiritual journey over the past year, which I talk about in my first post to this blog: Bare Naked Lady, really opened my eyes to God's providential hand in my life since the day I was born. I decided that's what I want to share with the folks at Groundwire. It goes like this:

I lived my teen and young adult years making one poor decision after another; choices rooted in a poor self-image that led to promiscuity, alcohol and drug use, self-sufficiency, and rebellious pride. There's no glory intended in the admission of the truth here; it's just who I was then. There was alcoholism in my family, and a molestation that occurred in my very early years, which I had never shared with my parents; these factors had convinced me that I could trust no one but myself. Sadly, my track record gave evidence to the truth that I was not trustworthy, either. 

When I experienced my first true love, at the tender age of seventeen, I was sure he was the answer to all my woes in life, that he would take care of me. I gave him everything; you can fill in the blanks, but I do mean everything. When I later found myself tossed to the curb, I spiraled into a string of empty one-night stands, stubbornly holding out hope that I would eventually stumble upon the magic Mr. Right, who would really care, who would unwittingly save me from myself and give my life real purpose because he wanted me. (Please understand, I do not harbor bitterness against my first love; we were two young kids who thought we were so grown-up and in-the-know, but in reality both very mixed up and confused; our end was inevitable.)

And I was blind to the love my parents had for me, at the time standing in judgment of them, because of their own struggles and confusion in life.

I did believe in God, even way back then, but there was no personal relationship. And I couldn't understand why, if He was so wonderful, He would let me hurt so much. 

After a few years of this crazy kind of living, I was battling depression and flirting with the idea of suicide, because I felt worthless and unwanted. But I was a coward, too, so all I did was flirt with the idea; it was easier to see myself as a victim and feel sorry for poor little old me. That's where God found me when He mercifully chose to intervene in my life, at the bottom of a spiritual pigpen. Luke 15:11-32

Even before I knew Him personally, I believe it was Providence that He separated me from my first love. He was not a bad person; he went on to become an upstanding citizen and a fine individual. But God had already hand-picked the one I was supposed to be with, the one who would be able to truly love me. My pigpen was the stage God set; it was there that He tapped me on the shoulder, got my attention, and began to woo me to Himself. A few years later, when a friend hounded me to go on a blind date, it was then that I met my real true love. A year later, on our first anniversary, Wayne and I celebrated not only our marriage, but our new birth together in Christ. And we've been walking with Him ever since.

In my Lord, I've finally found the answer to all of life's woes. The One who really cares. The One who saved me from myself. The One who gives my life true purpose. My True Love. 

God never ceases to amaze me. Wayne and I have walked with Him for twenty-nine years, and I am still just beginning to truly understand how much God loves me and who I am in Him. His gift to me, in the form of my dear husband, has been a picture of the love of God ~ unconditional, sacrificial, ever-growing, ever-changing for the better, for the good. 

That's the kind of love I want other women to embrace, for it is with that kind of love that God loves them too. That's the purpose of this Dare to Share blog, to unite us as women with our Creator, our Savior, our Father, our Friend; that we would all come to understand the incredible depth of His love for us! Ephesians 3:14-21

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bare Naked Lady

"I'm not sure about the whole courtship thing," my daughter, married now for two years, shared. She went on to explain that she'd not felt ready to handle some of the things she encountered when she first experienced a young man show interest in her. "Maybe if I'd dated a few guys, I'd have known how to handle that situation without freaking out."

Admittedly, her thoughts surprised me.

Over the next few days, as I pondered what she'd shared, I realized that even if I'd allowed or encouraged her to date, she would have still been unprepared, because I couldn't give her what I never had.

I'd done plenty of dating. And it was those experiences that led me to favor the idea of courtship for my own daughters. I'd been unprepared for dating. I assumed that having my kids wait until they were older to begin those opposite-sex encounters would protect them from the stupid mistakes I myself made. By the time I married their father, my heart was bruised and battered. I'd given pieces of my heart to each young man I dated, and I entered marriage with large chunks of it missing.

In fact, after thirty years of marriage, God is still restoring my heart. Some of the major repair work has taken place over the past year.

A little over a year ago, in April of 2013, I attended a women's conference called The Ruach Journey. It was a wonderful experience. Ruach means "the breath of God." I truly did feel the breath of the Holy Spirit in my spirit at that conference. I came back home, ready to change the world.

Here I Am, Lord. Send me! (Isaiah 6:8)

And in my quiet time with the Lord, He gave me my marching orders.

Wait upon Me. (Isaiah 40:31)

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

He was calling me to a time of rest, rest in Him.

My sails quickly deflated. But I've learned to trust my God. So I settled in to obey His mandate to rest and wait. I began to feel that He had me ensconced in a cocoon of sorts; a holy chrysalis, if you will. For the sake of information, I learned that the British dictionary defines chrysalis as: anything in the process of developing. Well, that was me. God clearly had me in a development process. And He wasn't particularly concerned with how long that development might take, or in sharing that news with me.

In November of 2013, I attended Ruach 2. Honestly, I'd grown so comfortable waiting with God that I thought maybe I wasn't ready for Ruach 2, but as I filled out the necessary application to attend, He made it quite clear that I was to go. It was yet another step in my development process.

Over the course of the past year, He used many resources to minister to me. To name a few:

God used these tools and my time with Him, to help me understand that though I'd walked with Him for over three decades, I was still in a very embryonic place in specific areas of my spiritual development. I'd spent many years being who I thought He wanted me to be, who I thought others expected me to be, but I truly had no idea who I was created to be. It is this sense of self that was missing in me. The question never had been whether or not I (or my daughters) should pursue dating or courtship; the question was (and still is): Did I ... Do I know who I am in the Lord? Do I truly know that I am His beloved? That He has chosen me? That I am accepted in Him? That He is able to redeem and forgive me? That His love is all that I truly need, and that love gives me worth and purpose in this world?

As He has enlightened (Ephesians 1:18) me over the past months, I've begun to realize that there are many women just like me "out there." Precious daughters of the King who have no idea who they are in Him. Coming to understand who they are will bring incredible freedom and joy. That's what I hope to accomplish in sharing my journey on this blog. I don't have all the answers. All I have are my two fish and five loaves (John 6:1-15), but I'll share them willingly and let God do the rest.

I've been feeling quite restless the past few days. The desire to reach out has been growing in my heart. But I've been letting fear rob me of my joy, letting it keep me from stepping out into the deep. I've been asking God for more confirmation, more reassurance that this is His call for me. During my quiet time with the Lord, for the past two days, He has prodded me.

Go. Now. I've freed you from the chrysalis. It's time to soar, little butterfly! Go.

So here I am. Soul bared naked before whoever takes the time to read this blog. (I'll bet you were wondering how in the world I was going to tie that title to this post!) And I pray that God will bless you, that anything He asks me to share here will help you along your own journey to freedom, joy, peace, and understanding in Him. Amen!