Friday, July 17, 2020

"Be strong, and courageous. Do not be afraid."

When I was a little girl, I attended VBS and there was a song that sang,
"Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid!" I remember the motions and feeling like I could be strong and courageous.  Like most VBS songs, it was a direct bible verse quote.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." - Deut. 31:6

Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I felt like I was trying to be bold and courageous, but still hesitated to really stand up for myself and speak my mind.  It wasn't until I became an adult that I started really using my voice.  The first time I really got into world issues was the election of Barak Obama.  I NEVER paid any attention to politics, and generally just listened to whatever my parents said and went along with it.  That year, however, I started researching for myself.  I looked into policies and listened to debates.  I started reading about the history of our country and why freedom and the constitution were important.  I have for YEARS battled with politics vs. the bible, and what we are actually called to do.  Should we really care that much what our leaders are doing?  Aren't we just supposed to listen to the leaders and put following Christ above our "American rights"?  I have seen evil all over the world, injustices, discrimination, slavery, poverty, starvation and thought to myself, "Americans are spoiled brats!" Because America really is very unique in the way the country is run. It is set up in order to be mostly "hands off" as far as Government, and give the people more of a voice, choice and ownership over their own choices.  Its a beautiful thing!  There are, right now, roughly 43,000,000 people waiting to get into this country legally.  These people are trying to start over and get out of their countries with over-reaching, power hungry leaders.  Legally, 1-2 million people per-year enter this country!  I, myself, am descended from immigrants.  My Nanny's parents were Swedish immigrants who came to America in the early 1900's.  My mom's grandparents were Italian immigrants.  Its amazing to think of all of these people seeking a better life and coming over here, free to worship as they wish and start businesses and raise their children the way they saw fit.

Growing up American is a blessed life.  Although we struggled to make ends meet from time-to-time growing up, we could still attended church and chose our schools and were free to speak our minds.  My sister, Rachel, was a missionary all throughout jr. high, high school and into her early adulthood.  She would come back telling us of the poverty and tragedy she would see in other countries and it would kind of wake us up to the reality that not everyone is blessed to live and grow in America.  When I went to Bible School in 2005, I had the opportunity to go to Mexico on a mission trip.  I don't really know what I was expecting, but when I got there I realized what Rachel had been trying to tell us all along.  These people, with nothing, are more grateful and humble people than some of the people I had known growing up who had everything.  They slept on the floor, couldn't throw their toilet paper in the toilet, had unclean drinking water, wore clothes donated to them that were often falling apart, didn't have air conditioning, walked everywhere they went, had poor education and weren't truly "free" the way we are.  And yet, they were grateful and joyful.  It is kind of a gut-check when you realize all the things you take for granted and complain about, are the very things other people weep and pray for.  Returning to regular life after that, comes with a new way of seeing, like the scales had fallen off of my eyes.   No longer did I give a lot of thought to what I didn't have, but started seeing the little, everyday things as something to be truly grateful for.  Throwing toilet paper in the toilet, not getting sick from drinking water from the sink, calling my parents on my cell phone, taking  a ride in a car and sleeping in a bed became things I would hold on to as precious.

Fast forward to 2020.  American citizens have more than they've ever had before. Instant gratification around every corner.  Order your Starbucks drink ahead of time so you don't have to wait in line, get your groceries delivered, order ANYTHING online, watch whatever you want with the click of a button, stress about paying off debt from buying things you don't need... we basically have everything and MORE that people all over the world weep and pray for.  Every night before bed, we pray with our children and in that prayer we thank God for the house we live in and the food we eat and the special, out-of-the-ordinary things we get to do because we want our children to understand that we live a blessed life.  God has blessed Jordan with a steady job and opportunities to promote.  He's blessed us with a house and comfortable beds.  We are blessed with so many clothes that doing laundry is the absolute WORST!  Dishes to be done means our bellies are full... I could go on and on.  I'm sure a lot of us could.  Jordan works his butt off so that we can have the things we have, and do the things we do.  I thank God every day for a man with such a strong work ethic and that we get to live in this country, in this state, in our town.

A few years ago, when I started to have my eyes opened to the awful world of human trafficking, I felt extreme guilt for the things I had.  I felt guilty that I had healthy children, a husband and a comfortable house.  I could not see past the pain of the stories of abuse that I was reading and started to cry a lot.  Jordan told me that these stories shouldn't stop me from living my life and enjoying the blessings I had.  It was hard, but I started to realize that since the beginning of time there has been sin.  There has been abuse and injustices.  I obviously couldn't run off to become a vigilante, so what COULD I do?  I had to stop reading the stories at the time because I didn't have the mental strength to handle it.  I donated some money to some organizations and that was it.  Then back in March, the fire was lit within me again to start talking about these issues.  To BOLDLY stand up for those without a voice.  I had been idle long enough and had been given the strength to start facing these ugly truths.  I couldn't be complacent anymore.  Pastor Joe from Celebration Church got up one time after Christine Caine had just spoke and shared about her organization A21.  He shared a bible verse that stuck with me and rings out in my head from time to time.

Deut. 22:27 "for the man found the girl out in the country, and though the betrothed girl screamed, there was no one to rescue her."

This verse was so hard to hear and immediately made me cry.  I thought of the women and children who are sold into sex-trafficking and I couldn't shake the image from my brain.  They're screaming and nobody is hearing their cries.  They're crying out for rescue, and their cries fall on deaf ears.  I won't sit by any longer knowing what I know about human trafficking and all that it entails.  In my research I have read some horrific stories and seen some horrific images. I KNOW that this is happening in high places, in normal homes in our neighborhoods and across the world.  The prevalence is sickening.   When I thought, "what can I do?  How can I help in this stage I'm in currently?" Spreading awareness and donating money to good organizations was what came to my mind.  I'm not in the place to leave my family and go on rescue missions or help victims in a hands on way.  Ultimately, my goal is to get involved in a hands-on way, but for now, with children at home, I have to be realistic about my limits.  This is why I won't stop talking about this.

THIS IS THE GREATEST HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE OF OUR LIFETIME!  
PERIOD!

I cannot sit back any longer and be silent about this issue.  There are obviously other things I've been speaking out about, but when I feel stirred within to talk about something or look into something, I will.  I have taken the back seat for a long time, not wanting to get too involved in politics or world issues or things that really matter to me because I haven't wanted to be divisive.  This morning I read a devotion that basically told me to stop being timid and be bold.  When I'm doing something hard, I recite that verse in my head.  "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid."  God has called us each uniquely.  He's gien us each different convictions and paths.  The things God has stirred my spirit about are human and specifically child trafficking, trusting His design for our bodies regarding health and wellness, homeschooling my children and trying to stay grounded in gratefulness and not constantly be looking for what I'm lacking instead of what I'm given.  Each family, each person will not ever see eye-to-eye and I have come to be okay with that.  I have been called to speak up and share things that stir within me.  Jesus was extremely controversial for His time and was hated and eventually killed for it.  He has told us to expect to be hated the way He was if we truly follow His call on our lives. 

"All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." Matthew 10:22 

Obviously, wanting to be liked and affirmed gets in the way of speaking out, sometimes.  Being called things like "uneducated" or "out of touch" or, lately, a "conspiracy theorist" shouldn't stop you from sharing what God has laid on your heart.  Pretty sure people think the entire Bible is a "conspiracy theory", so basically, we can't win. 

Please, join me in speaking up about the injustices facing our MOST INNOCENT, I don't think it's an issue that is divisive.  If anything should join people together, it's taking care of innocent children and adults being used and abused day in and day out.  

Put your ear to the ground, and hear the cries that nobody else can hear.  




Monday, July 6, 2020

"God offers courage, not escape."

If you are familiar with my story, you know that I openly talk about my past issues with alcohol over-consumption.  I decided to share this part of my story so that it no longer had this secret hold on my life.  I felt alone in my struggle and as soon as I spoke it out loud, I felt as if I finally had control and that there was a community of people who could relate with me.  Speaking out about our sin patterns gives us authority over our choices and sometimes even more awareness.  When we finally stare that sin head-on and say, "no more will you win", WE start to win.  It starts with little steps and grows into strides and finally into summiting our sin mountain where it's so far beneath us, we can't imagine going back down.

As I was thinking about how I would have typically reacted during a time of unsettling and staring into a foggy future, I started to be so grateful I gave up alcohol before the whole pandemic began.  The last drop of alcohol I had was on January 2nd of 2020.  I had lost the baby in November and slowly started sipping wine again.  It never got out of control, and for that I'm grateful, but it was just so clear that it fit me like an ill-fitting sweater.  It was uncomfortable and I felt like I looked silly in that sweater.  It was an old garment, used and tattered and ready to go in the garbage.  So I finally threw it away for good.  Soon after I threw it out, I did some hard work of making myself truly believe I didn't need it anymore.  I told friends and family that I would no longer have "casual" drinks and not to offer them to me.  I told them if they saw me drinking, to confront me about it.  I think giving others permission to help me in that way gave me even more confidence in my decision to be done.

At church a couple weeks ago, my pastor was speaking thoughts I had in my head before walking into the service.  I started jotting notes down on my phone and as soon as he started speaking, I got my notes back out and added to them.  He beautifully spoke to what I was thinking.  This whole quarantine/pandemic/summer of riots has felt very.... heavy.  strange.  tiresome. among many other descriptive phrases I could use... but I'll refrain.  Pastor Dave described them as stones being thrown.  Stone after stone just kept on coming.

Shut down - stone.  "Stay home"- stone. Closed parks - stone.  Closed schools - stone.  "You might die" - stone.  "Wear a mask or you hate your grandma"- stone. "You're racist" - stone.  "Defund the cops" - stone. Burning buildings - stone.  "Your opinions are wrong" - stone.  My Nanny dying - stone.  My 34 year old cousin dying - stone.  My great-uncle dying - stone.

Stone after stone just kept on coming.  My mind tends to be very optimistic (maybe to a fault) but it just seemed like a lot.

Then Dave said some powerful words.

"God offers courage, but not necessarily escape." 

 My mind immediately went to what I was writing as I walked in the building.  "When we start to focus on circumstances, we start turning to substances.  But is what we are turning to anything of actual substance?"  I was feeling those stones coming and I didn't see an end in sight.  My optimistic brain was short-circuiting.  I could only be positive about so much!  The world seemed doomed.  I didn't have my normal version of escape anymore, it just wasn't an option for me.  What I started to do was consume as much information as I could.  I read news and blogs and opinions all. day. long.  I was addicted to information.  I needed answers and there were NONE!  No matter how much I searched, the only answer I could come up with was, PRAY!!! Pray and know that this is part of the story that God is writing right now.  Humanity is full of sin and aching, as I wrote in my last blog post.  We will die on this planet (unless we live during the rapture - COME JESUS!!) and Dave said another set of comforting words. 


"God offers heaven, not earthly safety."

  God never ever promised that we would live a comfortable, safe and happy life on EARTH.  He promises us freedom from the worries of this world by giving us eternal life in Heaven.  Beautiful, sin-free Heaven.  Then he said,

 "When you live a heaven life, it changes how you see earthly circumstances around you."  

That couldn't be MORE true!  As soon as you slip on your Jesus glasses, your perspective changes.  This life isn't all there is.  There is SO Much more to look forward to.  While we are here, we aren't to worry or fret or lose hope.  Jesus IS hope!  He is the source of all we need.   The greatest comfort we have.  

"God offers peace while the stones keep coming." 

To give you a little perspective, Dave spoke this message after learning that his wife was diagnosed, yet again, with breast cancer.  Now THAT is a man of faith.  A man on a mission to free people from their circumstantial mindsets.  

Phil 4:7 " And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." 

As we stare into this uncertain future, set down your phone, seek the Lord and spend time in prayer.  We are living through something historic, possibly even "Biblical".  (definitely Biblical) Be grateful that we get to be a part of this time on Earth.  We were hand picked and chosen to be living here during this time.  Choose your words wisely, choose unity over division and relax in the Lord, knowing that He has this all planned out.