Living Surrendered

OK, so yesterday was apparently “World Adoption Day” and I’m a day late to post this…but then someone informed me it’s actually “National Adoption Month”—phew—I’m not actually late at all. ūüôā

HUGE UPDATE and PRAISE!!!

We decided to enter into the China adoption program with America World Adoption Agency (AWAA) this summer. It has been a complete answer to prayer and we know without hesitation, EXACTLY where God wants us to be! Without writing a novel, I will tell you this:

July 26th – Approval to be a part of the China program with AWAA (a miracle in and of itself…will explain at a later time)

August 1st (yes, SIX days later) – they asked us if we wanted to review the file of a little boy that they instantly thought of our family for. Of course, we immediately said yes!

August 11th – submitted what is called a letter of intent (LOI) to China—which basically says, we want to adopt this little boy!

August 18th – Pre-approval granted to complete the steps to adopt our little boy from China and to begin the home study process and our paperwork chase!

November 2nd – Home study report complete

So what’s next? We will submit our paperwork and home study for a bunch of authentications and certifications. Then we will be granted pre-approval from USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services) to bring our son into the United States. Once those steps are complete, we submit a GIANT stack of paperwork (known as a ‘dossier’) to China to receive our official approval (known as an LOA) to come and get our boy! We hope to travel in early 2018 and are trusting God for His perfect timing!

His hand has been all over this decision. Everywhere. We have seen Him move quickly and efficiently (for international adoption, our timeline has gone lightning fast!). We have witnessed miracles in the process—and in our son! Things have happened that can only be because of God. And we know, it’s totally because of prayer!

You see, before we entered AWAA’s program, we both began to pray for God to clearly show us the child He has chosen for us (along with asking our friends/family to pray that same thing)! Plant him/her in our lap, more or less. And boy, did He. Justin and I have been one hundred percent on the same page since stepping into this decision and have had such peace. Peace that transcends all understanding. Peace that allows us to say yes to very unknown possibilities. Peace that can only come from our perfect Father.

And while this process has been nothing short of incredible. Emotional. Time consuming. Exciting. Amazing. Faith building. And expensive. It’s totally and completely worth it!!! I’m not kidding you, we have seen miracles! Miracles that would make even the most skeptical of skeptics stop and ponder. But we almost missed it! Had we given up or given in when the adoption process took a huge turn of events earlier this year…we would have missed this. I honestly feel as though we would have missed His best for us!

Which, mind you, that phrase ‘best for us’ isn’t always in the way we think it is going to come. For us, it has been from our hearts being completely broken for all of the stories behind the faces of waiting children we’ve seen. It has been letting go of a little boy in Korea whom we dearly loved and were calling son and brother. It has been having conversations with our children (and each other) about how trusting God doesn’t mean we always know ‘the next step’ or the ‘why’ behind His decision. His best has meant keeping our hearts open and soft, with the complete possibility of them being broken again—all while knowing that He always works for His glory and our good. His best has meant having to be totally and shamelessly honest about my past, knowing that in that honesty, the possibility of adopting internationally could be over. It has been in the form of trust and then miracles. Small and HUGE. His best has taken us to the most beautiful little 4 year old boy, that is forever going to be a part of our family.

And while I wish I could share his precious face with you today, I can’t just yet…but know it’s coming soon! And until then, just know, God wants to bless each one of us with His best for our lives. We just have to realize that His best isn’t always ‘our way’ or our first chosen path. It might take a sharp turn to the left or the right to find it—maybe you’ve even heard it referred to as a ‘wrong’ turn. But, take it from me—do not be dismayed or discouraged when the path you could have sworn was His chosen path for you completely halts. Swerves. Or leaves you wondering, why or what on earth was that for?! Pray. Trust. And persevere.

Remembering always that Romans 5 is God’s spoken truth when it says, “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.” It’s impossible to fail or take a ‘wrong’ turn when you’re walking with and surrendered to God. Even the paths that end up suddenly ending or taking an abrupt turn of events are likely because He sees the bigger picture. He sees things from a Kingdom view. A perfect view. A view that always says, “I want what is best for you…which ultimately, is ME.”

So, I ask you this…is your life surrendered to a God who not only knows best, but loves you with an everlasting love and WANTS what is best for you, not just in this life…but eternity?

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. РHebrews 10:36

Bridging the Gap

Today I want to enlighten you to the fact God is always working. If you have yet to make the decision to follow God, He’s at work right now to soften your heart to Him! And if you have already made the decision to be a follower of Christ, He’s at work right now within you! Refining. Forgiving. Loving. Sanctifying. Encouraging. Teaching. Comforting. But in today’s world, if you haven’t noticed, the common theme is busyness. Or perhaps better yet, distractedness! That is why if I can get one person, for one minute today, to stop and think about the condition of their soul…I rejoice! Because when we stop to think about our soul, and life beyond the here and now…we begin to have a ripple effect on the rest of the world! Therefore, I believe God is challenging me to include a simple question that can change lives. So with every blog post I am going to be adding something called the “One Minute, Forever Changed” challenge. Something that takes less than a minute to read, and is going to rock your world (and hopefully other’s)!

So today’s question/challenge is this: Where is God calling you to allow Him to build a bridge of faith?

“The Lord only builds a bridge of faith directly under the feet of a faithful traveler. He never builds the bridge a few steps ahead, for then it would not be one of faith.” -L.B. Cowman

Think about it. ANYONE can walk on a bridge that they know has an engineer’s stamp of approval. Or perhaps they have seen others walk on. We can look at master plans and make an educated decision on whether or not it is structurally sound. Then walk. But when God is increasing people’s faith—which He has been in the business of doing since the beginning of time—He asks us to simply know Him, trust His goodness, and boldly walk forward in that knowledge. Because when we do that, it is then, our bridge of faith is built!

Right now, my husband and I are walking this out regarding God’s calling to our lives in adopting a child. I was adopted as an infant, so I’ve always wanted to do the same for someone else. And my hubby, well, God gave him the desire to adopt from the time he was a young man. Then, God so graciously put us together and we’ve always known we would. We just didn’t know when. Earlier this year we both individually sought God on this topic and came together in the decision that it was time. We know we aren’t getting any younger, and simply put, God showed us, the time is now.

So we began the process not knowing whether we would go into an infant adoption here in the US, or travel abroad to bring home a toddler. We were (and still are) open to anything. But can I tell you something right now? Our faith has been tested several times throughout the past few months. It’s as though we take a step, and He firmly plants our foot on the next segment of the bridge…then something unexpected happens in a direction we weren’t ‘planning’, and we take a couple back. Only to walk forward again onto what was just built, remembering His goodness, knowing this is His calling for our life and taking another step. Remembering that this isn’t a swaying suspension bridge—but a solidly built structure on God’s promises.

You see, due to the fact I went to counseling and treatment for my struggle with alcohol, it is actually disqualifying us from several countries. We fell utterly in love with a little boy in Korea. Only to then be told no, due to the fact this healing for me came less than 5 years ago. We really believed He was meant for our family. Our faith took us into an agency for him and now our faith takes us elsewhere. Because even though we can’t see the plan, or even understand the reason why we had to go through that heartache…we know, God is good. He is all powerful. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. He could have changed minds in Korea and they could have given us an exception. But He didn’t.

So now we have a choice. We can throw our hands up in the air. Complain to God about it all. And wonder why on earth, something that was so positive—me receiving healing—is now being held against us in a sense. Do you hear the quiet tone of ‘poor me’ in that thought? Which I’m not going to sit here and act all high and mighty and tell you I didn’t do just that. I definitely had a day or two where I really struggled in this. I felt discouraged. Sad. Irritated. Even mad at times. For many reasons!¬†Thankfully, God gifted me a spouse who in these moments when I’m wavering, reminds me of truth. Why can’t God still do something good with it? Who’s to say he hasn’t already? Which is when I hit my knees in repentance.

So now I am standing back up, forgiven and free, to move onward and ask God to give us the strength to continue to build our bridge of faith, one baby step at a time. It is not a flawless process, and PRAISE GOD he is gentle and kind. Forgiving us any time we do regrettably take a step or two backward. He has our best interest in heart. He wants to bless us and others through this process. We know it’s His deal, not ours. We know He loves that little boy in Korea more than we do. So with all that knowledge of truth, who are we to say no thank you to HOW He wants to build our bridge?

I learned something interesting recently…many years ago, there were actually automatic gates used on some country roads. These gates would open only if the oncoming vehicle continued to drive right towards it. The weight would compress the springs below the roadway and allow him to pass through. If the vehicle stopped moving too soon, it wouldn’t open! In my mind, I want to think that is the most ridiculous design ever. When in all actuality, it is the most creative. Just like those old country gates, God wants us to keep moving onward and upward toward these paths of service to Him. Even when barriers present themselves, drive right towards it and know that the most loving gatekeeper is going to fling that thing open so far and wide it will make your (and other’s) head spin!

So today, God is calling each of us to a place of service. Where is God calling you to allow Him to build a bridge of faith? Maybe it’s in simply saying yes to Him being your Lord and Savior. Maybe it’s in taking the step to recommit your life to Him. Or maybe, it’s to something which seems impossible to our limited human minds—but He’s just waiting for a yes from you so He can move mountains. Whatever it is, my prayer is ultimately for you to spend time with God today. Get to know Him in a way you haven’t before. And what better way to get to know Him than taking a step in faith and seeing how He responds? Knowing all well that faith is the bridge between where we are and the place He’s taking us!

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

 

The Edge of the Promised Land

So this morning as I was reading scripture, I found myself looking in the appendix for something pertaining to ‘contemplation’ or ‘wrestling’…and while there wasn’t something on either of those topics, my eye did scan across the words FOCUS. Then right underneath that title was the subtitle asking, “do you focus more on the negative than the positive”….followed by a page number and verse. Side note here–while I do not find myself to be a glass half empty type of person at all…sometimes, when you’re in the middle of big decisions and giant leaps of faith, my fear (which often times translates to negativity) wants to rear its ugly head and win the battle! So while I was hoping the scripture I was being led to was going to be printed in red and straight from the lips of Jesus, what I found was even better!!!

Numbers 13:25-30

25¬†At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.¬†26¬†They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land.27¬†They gave Moses this account: ‚ÄúWe went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28¬†But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29¬†The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country;and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.‚Ä̬†30¬†Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‚ÄúWe should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.‚ÄĚ

So here¬†is a time where God told the Israelites that the promised land was rich and fertile. And that this land would be theirs! GOD HIMSELF had spoken to Moses to send a group of Israelite men to first hand explore the land of Canaan (the promised land) and to then enter it. Now remember, up until this point, God had miraculously led them out of slavery, through the desert, protected them, fed them and fulfilled every single one of his promises. Yet how interesting that even then, these men were so quick to stop trusting God in the face of something scary. They even can see that this land is exactly what God said it would be…….but they became fearful and voiced their opinion loudly:

31¬†But the men who had gone up with him said, ‚ÄúWe can‚Äôt attack those people; they are stronger than we are.‚ÄĚ 32¬†And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‚ÄúThe land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33¬†We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anakcome from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.‚ÄĚ

So now we have a small group of men who were feeling defeat before even entering the battle. They saw things that scared them and made it seem to be an impossible undertaking. Oh how quick they were to forget what God had already done for them. They became so focused on their fears rather than their faith that it actually led to their demise. Their negative opinion and¬†humanistic view of a GIANT AND NEVER CHANGING GOD caused not only their death but that of many others. These ten men caused such a great rebellion among the people that they lost perspective. It caused all of them¬†(except two) to focus on someone’s opinion¬†rather than on the fact and truth of WHO God is. Their defeat spread like wildfire and caused so many to feel discouraged as well! In fact, Caleb was the only one willing to take the unpopular stand and go against the crowd! In case you missed it previously, here is the profoundness in this verse:

30¬†Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‚ÄúWe should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.‚ÄĚ

Caleb had seen the land himself, he had the right attitude because of His trust in God and he proclaimed exactly what the truth translates to…’for we can certainly do it.’ He knew this wasn’t something they could do alone–but he knew with God, anything was possible.

So today I urge you, use caution when you grumble. Make sure you have prayerfully considered voicing a negative/fearful opinion. As the ramifications for it can be much larger than you realize. And if you find yourself in a situation where there seems to be a chorus of despair and everyone is joining in. Be like Caleb.¬†Know God’s truth and stand firm in it. Remember the fact that God will never leave nor forsake you. It is only when we lose perspective and begin to focus on ourselves and our problems when we feel what we might call distance from God. He will not bring you to the edge of the promised land to then not let you in. Trust and wait in great expectancy of His promises to be fulfilled!

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Podium Finish

Wow. 9 months. It has literally been 9 months since I have blogged. It’s not as though I haven’t wrote—because Lord knows I can’t go for months without doing that, but it has been a season of change. A season of challenges. Forgiveness. Healing. Learning how to fully live in God’s mercy. Let’s just say it’s been a huge season of growth and as hard as it has been, I wouldn’t change a minute of it. But it did take stepping back from things in which are truly good to make sure they weren’t taking first place in my life. Or even sneakily becoming a crutch or a very temporary replacement for a very permanent God. Maybe we can just chalk it up to a time of assessment and examination—-because truly, life has a way of sneaking up on you if you’re not careful about where and how you’re spending your days.

On October 23rd, 2016 I took a leap of what I now call faith and reached out to our senior pastor. Someone whom we respected and admired immensely as his way of teaching and showing God’s love to others was incredible. Simply put…he’s¬†a true testament to a man living on fire for Jesus. He is so¬†inspiring and I knew God was asking me to reach out for help….but from HIM, I couldn’t possibly understand why! I was more than OK just being a person he knew on a first name basis from church and coincidentally, neighbors with. I didn’t really want to expose the turmoil and angst that was really inside of me at that time. Gah. Vulnerability. Again. So I thought, OK…I’ll reach out to him. He’s had a ton of life experience and I’m sure he’ll be able to guide me in the exact direction I need to go. This guy is FULL of wisdom so I’m sure he’s got a little extra for me.¬†I’m sure he has the answers…………………………

I’ll never forget the look on his face as he listened to me pour out my heart. From me there were no tears. No emotion. Just numb words coming from an empty pit. I was at a place of such brokenness that I didn’t see the way out of this hole. But there Pastor Steve sat, with such compassion. Such grace. Taking in every word and making me feel as if I was the only person on his agenda that day. Which we all know isn’t true…but what a gift. I was expecting him to answer my questions. How long does one really need counseling? How do I know when it’s time to take a break from it? What do I do? Because I felt stuck. Like I had gotten to a certain place in my healing journey and I wasn’t getting any farther. In fact, in this moment, I was lower than I had ever been. What was I doing wrong?! I couldn’t figure it out and I wanted him to for me. But in that moment. He looked up at me, reached out his hand in return for mine and said the most profound thing anyone has ever said….”Honestly, I do not know what you need right now. I don’t have all of the answers, but I know the One who does. And I know He is going to get you through this. I have no doubt.” As a gentle tear was on his face he began praying in that moment and I knew right then and there. I came looking to a man I deeply respected for answers and I didn’t get it. Not right then anyway. But as the next few days unfolded, I saw I couldn’t have gotten a clearer answer.

Seven short days after this meeting with our pastor, I made a decision. No more counseling. No more AA meetings. No more conversations feeling the need to force healing when perhaps it wasn’t the right time. Or maybe I already was healed on many levels and I couldn’t see it! My husband affirmed me in my decision…which was a total God thing in my eyes as I was fearful he was going to see the fact that he had been physically helping me get out of bed that week due to where I was at mentally and say I was crazy. But he didn’t. He said, “I agree completely.” Wow! Can you see God moving hugely in these 7 days? Here I thought God¬†was leading me to our pastor for the answers. When really, God knew I needed to go to the most inspirational man of God I knew to be pointed back directly to HIM—-to God himself. And THAT is how I came to my decision. Me pulling the plug at that moment on counseling wasn’t quitting. It was seeing that when you meet people (my counselor one of them as well) who are very connected to God and¬†also someone you look up to…sometimes we want to run to them first when in pain. Or trouble. Or even excitement. It can happen in any relationship actually. A child to their parent. A sister to their sister. A wife to her husband or vice versa. And what I learned from this interaction between my pastor and myself was God was in fact calling me deeper. To Himself.

And in that pull, God¬†said precisely this: Keeley, you are farther along than you realize. These people I have most definitely placed in your life to help you get to this point. All the way back to even before going to treatment! But now. Now you have to depend more on me. I am not saying you have to do life on your own. But what I am saying, is this final piece of healing you are longing for is going to come from intimate dependence on me. Not others. It is going to come from trusting that I am going to put people in your path who need to see the light. The light which is me shining through you. Just like you saw in your counselor, your pastor, your friends. It wasn’t themselves that drew you in. It was me. So now go, be the light. Live in victory. Proclaim my goodness. Always.

Can I tell you this right now. From that moment it has been a slow and steady climb out of that hole which had swallowed me up. The hole that the enemy wanted me to lie down in forever and be defeated. I can firmly, humbly and excitedly say that I am free!!! I am more than a conqueror through Christ and I carry ZERO condemnation that once held firmly over my life. There have been times in the past couple of years in which I have tasted a moment of this freedom…just go back and read some of my prior blogs…but somehow I would slide back down into a dark, stinky pit. So to be where I am today….FOUR months (to the day) past that meeting of desperation with our pastor is a huge accomplishment and something to be praised!!! This is more than a moment of freedom….I have lived enough days in it now where there is no turning back!

I know though that it doesn’t mean the old me won’t want to slip back up every now and again and feel defeated by my past or even my present—-but it does mean that I have been given such a strong foundation to build on, that in those moments I go straight to truth. I offset every lie with something that God says and I truly believe it! I don’t argue with Him. I know He created me for a purpose much greater than living under a blanket of fear, condemnation and guilt.

I am just so thankful and feel as though I just won a championship race and I’m standing on a podium. So of course…I have to thank my sponsors. ūüôā I couldn’t have made it this far without many patient people always pointing me back to Jesus. A pastor who knew how to teach the truth in the most humbling and profound way. A husband who has never once left my side. A family who has loved me through it all. And ultimately, because of the most beautiful God who LONGS for every, single, one of us…..to be FREE!

11 Lessons – Aboard a KTM

So a couple of weekends ago my hubby and I were blessed with the gift of a weekend away. Just the two of us. Alone. In the uninterrupted, lazy, no agenda type of way. It was amazing. We haven’t had that in a LONG while (too long)¬†and honestly, it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. As you can see from this blog…in a nutshell…our life has been nothing but crazy over the past year and a half. Well, really, long before that if I’m being truthful…but the past while stands out to me for some reason. Maybe because I’m sober now. Or maybe because things are changing—in such a new, needed and much overdue way—very similar to¬†our time away this weekend. Very overdue, and very needed. But all that aside, something really cool came of it for me. Aside from the obvious……did I mention we did whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted?! I’m talking eating breakfast at 10am. Dinner at 10pm. That hasn’t happened since, well, maybe ever. ūüôā We even took the long way to get to those stops just to explore the scenery and area! What?! Now we’re just crazy talking. No, but seriously. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on our time away and I think aside from all of fun we had rekindling our friendship and marriage—God did something pretty awesome on top of that. I’m going to try to explain it the best I can…

So for those of you who don’t know this about my husband, he loves dirt bike riding. Anything motorcycle related really. But dirt biking is what I would call a passion of his. Most people call him a quiet and reserved man, but ask him about riding and you’ll see his face light up and words flow freely. It’s so cool! I have always loved hearing about his trail riding excursions when he comes home and every¬†time, I¬†sit quietly and cherish each¬†story. Each treacherous hill climb or switchback. Each obstacle that he faces on the journey and in his determined fashion, typically overcomes. Each description of the mountain they’re on or vista they came to. It’s beyond anything I can explain well, but just know, it’s really awesome! But I’m going to share something else…deep down inside, there’s always been a part of me that wants to experience that with him. Not in the same treacherous hill climb or switchback type of way…but I’d sure love to see those vistas and lookouts. Or even watch him as he overcomes what appear to be impossible paths to make it through. I’ve always wanted to get a glimpse into that part of his life——and this same weekend we got to go away together, I got to do just that. And what God is teaching me from that adventure—-well, it’s incredible.

Pre-Lesson: dirt bike riding is WAY harder than it appears. I’m not going to lie. I felt pretty cool in J’s¬†riding boots, pants, helmet, chest protector and gloves. I even felt cool saddling up (is that what dirt bike riders do?!) and heading away from the truck. Ya sure, my nerves were at an all time high and I’m pretty sure I was scared as all get out—-but I was SO excited. I never had the courage to do this before, so just overcoming that hurdle alone was a lesson in and of itself. Lesson #1:¬†fear has no place…you can do things you never thought you could! So as we’re heading out I spot him leaving the parking lot and beginning our journey. The trail was muddy, full of giant water holes that you can’t see the bottom of…and in my eyes—ridiculous. Within the first 5 minutes I’m panicking….if this is the easiest trail (which he told me it was), then I’m hosed I said to myself—literally out loud in my helmet. Here I was, trying to get used to a bike I’d never ridden and also attempting¬†not to look like a complete fool just leaving the parking lot. Before I knew it I’m alone on this trail trying to figure out the best way to handle this overly powerful machine without injuring myself—or worse yet, someone else. Then I realized something…Keeley, breathe. Stop fighting this the bike so much. Let it do it’s thing….and just hang on. Stop thinking about everything so much and just have fun. Lesson #2: surrender and enjoy the ride. Pretty soon I see J waiting for me. I pull up next to him sucking the most wind I have in a long time…now mind you,¬†I’ve been working out diligently for the past 6 months…often times,¬†4 to 5 days a week. So to say I was SHOCKED to find myself so out of breath was an understatement. I think he was too. I remember trying to slow my breathing down and explain to him I have NO idea how this bike functions and I’m struggling to¬†remember to breathe. I think in his helmet at this point, he’s probably thinking…oh boy, this is definitely going to be a long day. But have I mentioned how full of grace this man is?! Well, I’ll say it now…..of any human being I know, God has given this man the biggest portion of grace I’ve ever seen or gotten to experience. Instead of saying any of the things that may or may not have flitted through his mind—-instead, he offered me a drink and asked if I was doing okay. He could have laughed at me or called it a day right then and there. But nope….instead he then proceeded to give me a couple of pointers about riding this powerful KTM and the best way to navigate the¬†trail. I can’t remember everything he said but there is one thing that sticks out to me and that is this…it matters a lot more where your front tire hits than your rear. Just focus your front tire on where you WANT to go and the rest will follow. Lesson #3: listen. And I mean really hear what people are saying to you!¬†Especially to those who have many years of experience or wisdom in some area of life you might be struggling in. Because the couple of things I did in fact hear—saved my hide over and over that day. We decided it would be best to hit a gravel road for a little while so I could give my nerve ridden body and mind a rest. I was surprised yet again how quickly I recovered. Within 5 minutes of riding this road I was thinking, good heavens, this is boring. Let’s find another trail. Lesson #4: even the things in life we once thought were treacherous and difficult will no longer seem so bad…they¬†actually give us the strength and confidence to walk head on into something else. Pretty soon we were headed back up another trail. I was pumped. My nerves definitely calmed down and I was no longer breathing like I had just sprinted for some sort of Olympic qualifier. My mind, body and even my soul were ready. Let’s do this. Already it was going SO much better. I was surprising myself left and right with what I could now cross. Honestly, I was actually¬†starting to enjoy the challenge of what was around the next corner. Lesson #5: fear has no place. Okay so that was actually the first lesson—-but it was a common theme for the day and I guess I feel like many of us need to be reminded of that fact. Pretty soon, he was stopped again. This time he was signaling for me to stop after he had just crossed something and was laying his bike down¬†to come cross it for me. I pulled up to it, stopped and checked it out. Sure, it looked hard for a newbie like myself…but I had gained just enough confidence that I wanted to try it. So instead of getting off the bike to let him do it…I simply asked him the best way to approach it. His direction was clear and straight forward. Exactly what I needed. I sat there for a minute and looked to the side of this particular crossing. Ditches were on each side and I had a fairly narrow trail and a rather large (to me) obstacle to get over. Perhaps I can’t do this I thought. Then I heard this small, yet powerful voice inside telling me to stop thinking and just try. So I did. And guess what happened. Yup, I crashed……………no, no, no. I’m kidding…….amazingly, I made it! I couldn’t hardly believe it.¬†I’m sure it wasn’t the prettiest of attempts—but by golly, I did it and was so glad I did! Lesson #6: don’t let your insecurities of how you might look while doing something keep you from trying—you’ll miss out on life waiting to look good!¬†Had I not tried and looked probably a little silly doing it, I never would have shown myself I actually COULD do it! But can I also just focus on one more thing right now? And that’s on my¬†husband….for being so kind to come and help me. I didn’t recognize even at the time what a sweet gesture that was—-but in hindsight, I’m so thankful for his considerate heart. Seriously, I know not all men would do that—heck, a lot probably wouldn’t even take their wives out with them. So all that to say, I’m thankful to you J! Lesson #7: appreciate your spouse.¬†For everything…even if it’s just a caring intention. It’s not always the things that you say that hurt a relationship—-but for so many of us, it’s the things that don’t get said, but desperately need to that kill it. So speak it out to them! No matter how small it might seem. I know I often times have avoided saying things that were on my mind or heart¬†because I was afraid of conflict that might have come from it. But anymore, I’m more afraid of the resentment and wedge that the seemingly small and unsaid thing places between us than handling the conflict which may or may not arise from it. This is a hard one—but ever so critical for every marriage…or any relationship for that matter!

Anyway, as the day continued I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having. And I couldn’t believe how easily J could just fly over every trail, rock, creek, hill or obstacle that crossed the path. He even would go OFF the path to find something to go over. It was so fun to watch. On one of his ‘guy’ riding days he would be on¬†much different terrain, so this particular outing¬†for him was much like a walk in the park, I’m sure. But nevertheless, very fun for me to see him in his element. It made the stories I’ve heard come that much more to life. But you know something? Even more than enjoying watching him and spending this time together, something very clear came forward to me as we continued along the trail that day. And looking back on it now, I know without hesitation it was such an important lesson for us both…..well, for sure for me….and I’m sure once he sees it explained like this he’ll agree. ūüėČ You see, every time an obstacle was coming that he thought I would struggle on or possibly need help…he’d stop just past it to either tell me how to do it, offer to help me across or just do it for me. Again, the intention was pure and insanely kind……but I began to realize something. Every time I could see him ahead stopped, my nerves would shoot through my helmet again and I’d begin to wonder….what am I going to have to cross now?! FEAR! Lesson #8: THIS is why God doesn’t allow us to see even a second into the future.¬†Our minds cannot handle it! Suddenly, I was faced with a challenge of communicating something well to him that I prayed would go over the way it was intended. I kindly asked him in that moment to not stop every time he was concerned about me struggling because it was psyching me out and causing me too much anxiety. So guess what, he granted my request. And there were times I regretted that request—but overall, I knew that was the best thing for me. It was like he wanted to protect me—but in that protection he was actually causing more harm than good. I couldn’t reach my full potential in that place. Much like in life. Many times we want to protect those we love from any type of harm—and sometimes we might even rather do something hard for them so they don’t have to do it themselves. Sometimes, we think they’re dependent on us in a sense—and maybe they have been—but¬†I realized in this moment that I am no longer am dependent on my husband in that way. I was no longer dependent on seeing him stop ahead of something hard to help me across because God has replaced the role I had put my husband in for far too long. A role that he couldn’t fill—-to be my savior, my rock…my healer. My identity is no longer lost in a man I admire and love more deeply today than I ever have before, but found in the God who created me. And how cool that God showed me this again on such¬†a fun adventure together. How cool it is that he reminded me that¬†we don’t learn through other people’s mistakes. We don’t learn through someone else doing things for us all of the time. And we certainly don’t learn from living in a constant state of fear and not at least trying to overcome our difficulties. Lesson #9: walking through the fire is hard——-but the refining that is done there is unlike anywhere else we can experience.¬†So back to that trail…….I was at a point I was cruising along pretty good and keeping my eyes just in front of me—not way down the trail—but also not right below my nose…it just was that ‘right’ place to focus apparently because before I knew it I came up to my biggest hurdle yet and I didn’t even have time to think. I leaned back (another tip from J) to take the weight off the front shock, kept a relatively steady pace and went for it. Making darn sure if nothing else to place my front tire in that ‘right’ place I learned of previously. I flew up it with little effort and literally had no time to even realize what I just did. That is until I got clear up and over this obstacle to find my hubby sitting on his bike, looking back and¬†holding¬†his thumb up in the air—signaling his approval of how awesome I just did! I stopped and began laughing. We were both chuckling when he said, “I figured I’d wait up here, where you couldn’t see me”…….. ūüôā No words. We were both slightly shocked and amazed at how well that worked though……him waiting (and probably praying) to make sure I was OK….but not in a place where I could actually see him waiting since that would only fill me full of trepidation of an impending possibility of crashing. It was a win-win. He gave me the room to grow,¬†yet I knew (and so did he) that¬†during the occasional obstacle I got hung up on….he wasn’t so far ahead that he wouldn’t know I was struggling……a simple over rev of the bike was a dead give away to my problems. So in those¬†times I did need his teaching/tips of how to do something….he was only a bike rev away. ūüôā But here’s the deal, even on the times I got stuck and needed a moment of instruction—I approached those places of the trail MUCH differently than had I seen him sitting there because of what that told my brain. It’s like I saw him stopped and thought ‘DANGER AHEAD’…and who really is going to feel confident about facing danger?! I’m sure there’s a few adrenaline junkies out there who might jump at that opportunity—-but not this girl. Nope. No way, no how. Yet, here’s the awesome¬†thing—I was able to not only face, but actually overcome obstacles on that trail that I might not have had I had more time to ponder the dangers of it and convince myself it was too risky. Don’t you think that’s what life is like? I do.¬†I realized there’s good reason for not seeing too far down the trail—whether riding or in life. I realized there’s good reason for not needing my husband to stop at places he knew I’d struggle—because had he continued to do that all day, I don’t think I would had grown in the way I did. And most of all, I learned Lesson¬†#10…Don’t try looking too far ahead. And most definitely don’t look only in the past. Find that ‘right’ place. That balance of recognizing things in the past and how they’re helping you today and will continue to help you and others¬†in the future. He showed¬†me that the trails I had been on were lessons. Learning adventures. Yes, they were in the past—and some of them harder than others, but they were all preparing me for what was yet to come that day. Without those trails at the beginning completely pushing me outside of my comfort zone and ultimately to be a better rider—I never would have made it up the hills, obstacles and challenges to come. Which by the way, that same trail we ventured out on is the same one we returned on at the end of the day and the words I mumbled under my sweaty helmet this time were much different. “I thought THIS was hard?! Look at how far you’ve come in only 4 hours—-this is SO FUN!!!”

God is so good. SO SO GOOD!!! I love that He used the man He gave me to help teach me so many things about himself and about life in this day. I love that He genuinely can use any one and any adventure to bring glory to himself! And most of all, I love what was¬†whispered to me in¬†Lesson¬†#11—“no matter what you have to face in the future….today…or maybe even still from the past—-I am here. No matter what you get stuck on. No matter what you feel you can’t climb. No matter how many times you crash. I’ll be here. Whether that be to guide you with words of wisdom¬†and truth….pick you up when you fall….or comfort you when you hurt. I’m waiting…….just far enough ahead to give you the opportunity to grow—-but not so far I can’t hear you—-sort of like that bike rev away. Confidently place your trust in me. I care for you in ways you cannot possibly understand. I will always stop along the trail, ask you how you are and offer you my living water. Confidently ride forward while always remembering just how far we have already come together. And please don’t forget lesson #1&2…..fear has no place here………keep surrendering and enjoy the ride.” – God.

Cut Your Rope

For all of you who don’t know me well…or maybe even at all, let me start by saying I used to be a quitter. Not just an every once in the blue moon quitter either. I’m talking, an all of the time, in almost everything I set out to do sort of way. I still haven’t put my finger on the specifics of why I was notorious for that….but this I do know: today, I’m NOT a quitter. I’m also not necessarily the fastest finisher, but by¬†God’s grace and some serious perseverance, I¬†will¬†finish.

Prime example…years ago I signed up to run a marathon¬†in Hawaii with a close friend of mine. Yes, a FULL 26.2 miles. I trained, I raised a lot of money for a cancer foundation…heck, I even had my trip planned. And let me tell you, from being a person¬†who has never really enjoyed running or¬†been considered an athlete for¬†my entire¬†life—I have NO idea why I thought this would help me overcome that, but nevertheless, I must have figured it was worth a shot. Well, it was a terrible¬†idea.¬†What did it do for me though? It began to show me what a good quitter I was. Honestly, I had every good excuse in the book to quit. Heck, I even convinced myself of some of those reasons. September 11th had just happened and I was terrified to get on a plane. TERRIFIED. Not to mention I began to have doubts if I could actually survive¬†a full marathon. And like hell if my ego and insecurities would allow me to be the last to cross the finish line!!! So between those seemingly gigantic fears, I backed out. Pulled the plug. Quit. So¬†today, almost 15 years later,¬†it’s been a bit of a bittersweet day for me because I just signed up for a 15k race in 2 weeks. Now, even though this is far less than my 26.2 mile challenge, it’s still a 9.3 mile challenge…and for someone like myself who isn’t a ‘natural born athlete’…well, it’s just plain hard….not to mention¬†I’m learning that¬†physical endurance at 33 is much harder to come by¬†than at 19. But that seems to be the place God has me right now, building endurance…as I am fully surrendered to Him in the most raw and scary way…I keep hearing Him say—Keeley, you aren’t a quitter. Nor did I make you to be an Olympic runner. But what you are, is mine. I told you I can redeem every part of your story—from the biggest of sin—right down to your choices to quit things you set out to start. Let me show you how capable my strength is…because I think you’ve already learned that your own human strength is no match for my plan, which sometimes, is going to¬†require only power I can provide.¬†And¬†can I just tell you…what He said to me there is so true! There have been times in this process I know it is only by his strength, power and grace alone which have gotten me through.¬†Honestly, there¬†hasn’t been much of anything about this¬†journey¬†to¬†which I would call easy. But you want to know what has been harder?¬†Fighting with Him on how it needs to happen or what it ‘should’ look like. It’s like I keep¬†noticing these¬†two paths in front of me and from a first glance……well, let’s just say they both appear to suck!

Take a look¬†at the path on the left. It is familiar. In fact, let’s call it just that—“Familiar Path”. Now I know what you’re thinking—what’s so bad¬†about familiar?! Well¬†honestly, more often than not,¬†I think that’s the last place we need to be. Because familiar for me, leads right back to where I used to be. Which when I think about now, is gross and destined for a fiery pit. But it’s also appealing and comfortable because I lived there for so long. It’s like your favorite old pair of jeans. It’s the path that leads me to making fear based decisions….like quitting if something seems too daunting of a task or nearly impossible. It is the path that leads me back to addiction…it is the path that leads me straight back into a life of condemnation, guilt and shame. A place where I could care less about myself—-which in turn I now realize, gives me the inability¬†to care for those around me no matter how hard I try!¬†I told you this path sucked. Honestly, it’s the path that leads me to destruction, self-hatred and right into the arms of the enemy. So WHY would I even consider that nastiness an option you ask?! Because from the edge it looks a heck of a lot better than the path on the right…

There’s a giant, luminous cloud that covers nearly every mile of what I can see. Think torrential downpour type of a cloud. Rain. Winds. Who knows how bad it is going to get on this path. At the beginning of it, it’s so dark I can’t really make any light out at the end.¬†Definitely not looking familiar in any way—and I most certainly wouldn’t compare it to my favorite jeans. More like these crazy¬†back in style¬†high wasted (and insanely uncomfortable) pants I’ve seen everywhere lately…I mean come on,¬†who really¬†can pull those things off besides MAYBE Jennifer Lopez?! They’re certainly¬†not nice to my body type in particular…………..okay, I am now WAY off any track I was on. *If you haven’t seen the movie UP, I highly recommend it because that is what we would call a major “SQUIRREL” moment* Now, where was I…oh yes, back to the path on the right…”Unfamiliar Path” is what this one is. Yet despite it’s unknowns there is something about it that seems to be calling my name.¬†There is a¬†gentle whisper reminding me that at the end of every storm—-and even right in the middle of one, there’s peace. Calmness. A glimpse and promise of a rainbow. A smell of freshness all around that can’t be mistaken. The word that comes to mind is¬†tranquil. Otherwise known to the English language as being ‘free from agitation of mind or spirit, free from disturbance or turmoil … quiet and peaceful’. But can I tell you something? Standing on the edges of these two paths as they appear side by side to me, it’s dumbfounding¬†how¬†much I have¬†actually compared which one I try to determine is going to be easier—or might cause less pain! For a few months now I have found myself on more than one occasion asking God, REALLY?! This is the path you want me to go down? Are you sure? Because it seems awfully stormy and scary—-and let’s be real, you know just as much as I do God, that I CAN NOT pull off those blasted high wasted pants!!! And even if I could, they are SO darn uncomfortable—and then there’s¬†the¬†whisper again that reminds me that the easier way—the more known way—aka my old comfy jeans sort of way…is not the way at all.¬†Yes, this Unfamiliar Path is uncomfortable, hard and even seems dark from first glance—-but the real question is, will you trust me?

I heard this story at church a few weeks ago about a mountain climber who went out climbing alone the¬†day before his group did due to his excitement for the journey. Maybe he even thought the path was going to be familiar and safe, I don’t know. But either way, during his time out there, the weather drastically changed for the worse and he fell from his climb and was left hanging from a cliff unable to hoist himself to safety. Due to¬†the darkness of the storm¬†which¬†had rolled in, he chose he would rather hang there through the storm and overnight until help came. Seemed¬†like the safer choice right?¬†Well, he was found the next morning by his fellow climbers frozen to death and dangling from a cliff…………which just so happened to be only a few feet from the ground. Can I tell you something? As I was looking this week at the path on the right, God connected these stories for me. This dangling climber and my path of unfamiliarity.¬†I can’t tell you how many times lately I have said…”I feel like I’m slowly slipping off the edge of a cliff. Fighting so hard to keep from falling.” As dumb as it sounds, I’ve actually been fighting between these two paths. I have been fighting this process of walking into that damn storm, because in all honesty,¬†it’s scary. And hard. And unknown.¬†And I’ve been fighting the urge to return to comfortable. And just like the storm prevented that man from being able to see the truth I’m seeing that it can do the same with us in everyday battles. ¬†Yet¬†if I look¬†back at every time I have walked head first into that crazy storm, God shows up. He always has done his part if I am willing to do mine. Which mind you, has been no small feat seeing as how it has taken me doing things that I’ve never done before! It has taken clinging to HIS truth in a way I never have. It has taken courage. And lots of it. Perseverance. Great amounts of humility. Vulnerability and honesty. Patience. Much help from those who love me…and most of all, allowing my God to love me and use me in whatever way He desires—-surrendering….over and over.¬†So I realized something this past week. God showed me so clearly….Keeley, cut your rope. That cliff that you’ve been teetering on, is not the problem. The problem is the fact that the storms prevent you from seeing me at times and so I’m asking you to cut your rope. Let go. I will catch you—-every. single. time. This path on the right IS going to be hard sometimes…I never said it would be easy. But simply put….where would you rather fall? Into the arms of the God who made you. Who loved you from before you were known. Or hang there to death just so you can fall back into that deceivingly safe, comfy pair of jeans that takes you back to the pit of hell?¬†Okay God, I get it! I can see now that the path on the right doesn’t suck at all. From first glance it¬†might appear¬†scarier and more uncomfortable than Familiar Path, but let’s just say, looks can be deceiving—-and¬†isn’t that just¬†how the enemy tries to fool us?! Deception??? And let me tell you a thing about deception….it’s sneaky! Today, looking out my living room window it¬†appeared to be a¬†balmy¬†75 degrees outside…but when I trotted out our front door to the mailbox in my bare feet, a tank top and yoga pants…well let’s just say, 40 degrees and sunny looks very much the same as 75 degrees and sunny¬†from inside the house. *SQUIRREL*

So today, I cut my rope. Fell off my so-called cliff (which ended up being more like a mole hill) and ever so graciously fell right into the arms of my Jesus. I am completely over the fight of ‘how’ this process of healing should be. I am over the fight of thinking it needs to look a certain way. I am over the struggle between the path on the left—and the path on the right. There is only one path which¬†is an option for me. And I am on it. High wasters here I come!¬†So¬†while I rock my new¬†pants¬†and keep cutting away at this rope, I¬†realize I am¬†giving¬†Jesus the reigns to many things He’s been patiently waiting for control of. Some of those being quite huge and others being as small as¬†signing up and whole heartily committing¬†to a 15k race in two weeks. And in case you think I’m 100% over my own ego¬†and a few creeping insecurities…let me tell you I’m not! I am still SO afraid of being the last one to finish. Heck, I am nervous about even being able to complete a 9.3 mile run, seeing as how the farthest I have gone lately is barely half that. But today, God also reminded me—you do your part. I’ll do mine. Whether you cross that finish line first—or dead last—it’s irrelevant. What matters is trusting me to carry you through these times when your mind, body and sometimes even¬†your soul says this is too much, I want to quit…so the question He asks yet again,¬†WILL YOU TRUST ME? To which I reply…………..

On your mark, get set———GO!!!!

Hebrews 12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Clean out your ears.

Go clean out your ears. How many times did you hear your mom or dad tell you that? I know I have to lovingly remind our older children rather frequently to go grab a q-tip so we can clean out theirs. And other times, in frustration of them responding to my question (which I KNOW they heard) with a quiet response of, “what’d you say mom?” or “huh?”…I will say in probably not as quite the most loving way…”GO clean out your ears.” Even though I know it isn’t their build-up of earwax that is preventing them from hearing me, it just seems like the natural response—and probably better than other things I could say. So now I know what you’re thinking….really Keeley, a blog post about earwax buildup and an apparent rant of your children’s obvious attempts at completely ignoring you?! Which might I also add, I think is a fairly common mom woe. Right?? Please tell me I’m not alone in this battle! “Huh?” “What Mom?” *blank stares* —- oh boy, if I had a nickel for every time I had one of those responses to my questions. *OK, rant over. Anyway, now for what this blog post is actually about…something that hit me square between the eyes this morning as I’m still amidst a bit of muck if you will. Something that needed to hit me because it’s critical to get us through difficult times. And that is a seemingly simple question. What are you choosing to listen to? In other words…what are you hearing?

We have two very clear things in this world we can believe. Either lies. Lies that come straight from the pit of hell. Or truth. Truth that comes from the most amazing, loving, gentle and merciful high King. There is nothing in between. As complicated as we try to make things…it’s really quite simple. Remember how my last blog post mentioned a roller coaster. Ok, well, I’m still on it but it’s starting to become less neck breaking and more gentle and gradual. Not because the circumstances or things that have happened are different or changed…but because I am purposing to listen only to truth. This morning God took a q-tip and began cleaning my ears. ūüôā How’s that for imagery? Yes, He loves us that much that he would even clean our ears. He knew just what I needed to hear. Today he used two different people to tell me the same thing. The first being the gentle voice of my husband, leaning over our bed telling me good-bye for the day. “I love you Keeley. I am so thankful to have you……….I treasure you!” <*insert one of those child like blank stares right about now and also the plausible thought of ‘huh?’, did I really just hear that correctly*> Simple words of truth…yet due to the lies that have swirled around in my head for so long my mind instantly thinks, nah, you aren’t a treasure. Look at your past. Look at where you’ve been. How can someone treasure YOU?! ¬†I didn’t catch it right that second because, well, let’s just say my ears have some buildup. So God tried again. This time through the voice of someone who also¬†cares deeply for me and speaks giant sized portions of God’s truth into my life RIGHT when I need it most…”Keeley, you are a lovely gift.” BAM. It hit me. I finally heard it. Truth. OK God, I hear you. I was instantly taken back to what Justin said to me a couple of hours prior…”I treasure you”… “you are a lovely gift”…I recognized a theme here. My mind proceeded to have¬†this little internal battle then I realized I was complicating it. No, I don’t deserve this kind of love all of the time, because let’s face it—none of us are perfect, squishy, lovable teddy bears ALL¬†of the time. But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that when Justin says that, he means it—because that’s just what he does……it’s as if¬†he set’s himself on purpose to love me. No matter what has happened, no matter what will happen and no matter what……’I still love you’ he always says.¬†Honestly, I used to cringe when I heard him say that for some reason…”I STILL love you”…because I heard negative in it. I heard lies. Now, on the blank space that hangs above our headboard, I want to make a sign that says just that in big capital letters: I STILL LOVE YOU. Because I love the truth in it. I love that when I hear Justin say this to me now, I am reminded of how¬†God is speaking to me in it…….’don’t dwell on the lies, Keeley. Deserving or not, I STILL love you. There is nothing you have done or places you have gone that can change this fact. No matter what.’

NOW, as peachy and beautiful as that sounds……I want to tell you something else. This process of being remodeled, restored, renewed—-it hasn’t been so pretty. There have been days lately that it is the greatest struggle for me to get out of bed¬†in the morning. I’m not kidding. The last time I felt this way was when I had just admitted to Justin how truly deep¬†my addiction was and I that I needed help. I call them trenches. For me, they’re not¬†pretty, but I’m realizing they’ve been pretty necessary. Because they’ve allowed me to see incredible nuggets of truth…about me, about others and most of all, about Jesus. They’ve helped teach¬†me to listen—for the truth. But it is also when I am in these trenches I have to live life on purpose if you will. I have to purpose to listen. Purpose¬†to love. This time, I had to purpose just¬†to get out of bed—every. blasted. day. Because deep down, I knew if I stayed there, the lies that were replaying in my head and the subtle deceit of the enemy would define me. I purposed to read God’s word. Whether I felt like it or not. I purposed to go to the gym. And Lord knows I didn’t feel like doing that most days.¬†After making the mistake of trying to relieve my pain in unhealthy ways, I purposed to confess that to others and do differently next time. I purposed to call someone when I felt as though the pain of feeling some of my life experiences that I never had allowed myself to feel was too much. I purposed to be here for my children. I purposed to lift my hands in praise¬†even when my mouth couldn’t sing because I am overwhelmed with tears, because by golly, I can still lift my hands. Do you see what I’m getting at?? In order to hear God speaking sometimes…you have to live on purpose. Otherwise our minds get full of garbage and just plain cluttered. Our ears get full of buildup. Literally…and before you¬†know it, we’re choosing not to hear God. And not because we’re knowingly throwing our middle finger up at him but because we have chosen to be complacent and unintentional. All too often we’re allowing¬†time, past experiences and the world change us…define us. It’s a slippery slope and that’s why I’m telling you today—-in my most loving mom voice, go clean your ears!

So don’t let these subtle lies¬†define you like they had me for far too long. Either knowingly or unknowingly. Ask God today—in full expectancy–that He reveal to you what lies you might be hearing or have heard in the past which are¬†causing you to be unable to hear His truth. Because you see, he’s got some ear cleaning to do out there. Because if we can’t fully hear his truth then how are we supposed to live it? Time will change you folks. There’s no such thing as staying the same. So you get to choose. I chose a few weeks ago to ask Him that very same question. You know what he is telling¬†me shall I choose to listen? That despite what many of my experiences in this world have pressed upon me……what people have said to me either by actual words or by their actions…that these lies couldn’t be farther from the truth. He is telling me over and over again:¬†I DO have worth. I am forgiven. I do have a voice. I am treasured. And most of all, He STILL loves me.

So go ahead, grab a Q-Tip and¬†get cleaning because I guarantee you, He’s trying to tell you something too. Question is, do you hear Him?

 

 

1¬†The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,¬†2¬†to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,¬†3¬†and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor¬†4¬†They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

 

A Wild Ride

So I’m just going to start by saying first and foremost. God is good. All of the time. Regardless of our circumstances and the pain we’re in—his goodness is still there, it might not be fully visible at particular moments…but I promise you. It’s there. Now that leads me to say this…this past 4 weeks or so have been nothing short of a roller coaster.¬†And know this,¬†I’ve never been a fan of roller coasters. Maybe itty bitty ones at Disneyland like Splash Mountain and the Matterhorn…but the big, upside down, jar your body and wreck your neck sort of ones. Nope, those have never been my cup of tea. So for reference purposes¬†when I say roller coaster, those neck breaking ones are¬†the kind I’m talking about.

Four weeks ago I was sitting here with my sister talking about life. Real life. God’s grace. Forgiveness. Anger. Sadness. You name it. I was living, breathing and dancing constantly to the song by Big Daddy Weave called I Belong to God. If you haven’t heard it, it’s awesome. Just a few of the lyrics are what really were hitting home for me at this phase of life were this: “no longer bound by fear, no longer found in shame……..I belong to God. I say to the darkness, you do not own me anymore, I belong to God.” Now get ready for it…this is the part that just hit it home, “I’m SO ALIVE with your life in me, now everything within me knows that I belong to God.” Can I just tell you though, satan is alive and well, and in a matter of one short week—that’s only 7 days people, he knew how to not only attack me in difficulties, but he knew how to keep me down for JUST long enough to make me doubt my freedom in Christ and¬†whether I truly belonged to the most high KING.

You see, it all started when I jumped out of my boat of safety if you will….in attempts to swim to shore to be alongside Jesus who I just knew was saying, ‘come…trust me’. I knew it was going to take sheer courage and an utmost opening of my heart. I knew it was going to hurt. And boy did it. It took the most vulnerability I think I’ve had to date which involved sharing the pain that comes from childhood sexual abuse. A pain I would wish upon NO ONE. A pain that has affected me for more than 20 years and I had kept to myself for not only most of my adolescence but all of my adulthood. But can I tell you something? It was in that pain that Jesus met me. It was in that pain he taught me how to forgive my abuser. Which might I add, doesn’t need to wait until we ‘feel ready’. It was in that pain which allowed me to see how deeply this abuse¬†had affected every, single, one of my relationships and especially that with my husband. It has been in that pain that I can look back and still see God’s goodness in my life. Always. But it was also in this pain in the neck roller coaster few weeks¬†that made me long for a drink and self medicate in a way I hadn’t experienced in over a year. I told you satan knew where and how to attack. But I’m here to tell you….once again, the enemy loses. The war isn’t over, that I know. But today, I’m learning to live with and in the pain of these battles¬†through God’s grace and goodness. That’s it. Now, as if that one giant thing wasn’t¬†enough to jump head first into and out of my boat for…I also got the opportunity to attend counseling with my husband for the first time in all of this as we both felt like this is the next step in this journey of healing…which clearly involves more than just me. Even though I have my own set of hurts and pain from my life…I also realize (more than I would like to probably) that I have afflicted him with pains over the years and in the depths of my struggle with alcohol that believe you me, I wish I could erase. But I can’t. So instead…we walked into the face of fear and the unknown to truly begin the process of restoration for our marriage. He has so patiently and graciously waited until I was in a better place, both spiritually and emotionally to begin this step, and I’m forever grateful to him for not only waiting—but being there so genuinely for me….loving me, in EVERY STEP of this journey. Honestly, I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. God most definitely knew what he was doing when he put us together. God’s goodness shows up yet again. So to say it has been a hard…taxing…emotionally excruciating….and painful time in this process of healing¬†is an understatement. BUT, with all that being said, I stand¬†kneel before you today singing a new song:

Mighty warrior. King of the fight. No matter what I face, you’re by my side. When you don’t give the answers as I cry out to you. I will trust. I will trust. I will trust in YOU. I want what you want Lord and nothing less. When you don’t move those mountains I’m needing you to move, or part the water I wish I could walk through. I will trust. I will trust. I will trust in you. You are my strength and comfort…my steady hand and my firm foundation, the rock on which I stand. Your plans are always GOOD.

I choose to trust in his plans because I know He is always good. I can once again say to the darkness—YOU DO NOT OWN ME ANYMORE. And every time this roller coaster of life happens, because let’s face it…that’s life. UP and down…UP and down…I will search for even the smallest ounce of God’s goodness because I know that even that tiniest bit¬†will get me through and defeat the enemy. Does it take the pain away? No. Does it make it bearable? Yes. Does it make that pain make sense? No. But you know what, I heard something not that long ago that did make a lot of¬†sense to me since my husband is a builder. Someone told me that God wants to in a sense, remodel us…every, single, one of us! So that not only we are able to be fully alive in Him but so that we might have the capacity to overflow onto others with His love. And in order to do that, it takes knocking down walls—which often times means pain or at least taking a look back in history—so that HE can restore us. Rebuild us to be more of what He intended us to be…for you, for me, and more importantly, for HIM and his glory!!! And trust me when I say, he can take the most run-down, stinky, mold infested, rotten house there is a make it beautiful. One. Wall. At. A. Time. I’m a work in progress…we all are…but only if we purpose to allow Him to have even the most precious of walls. Or scariest. Or darkest. He wants them all.

So today, after a seemingly nightmarish roller coaster ride…he’s got a couple more walls of mine knocked down. Which leaves me in eager anticipation of how they’re going to be rebuilt. Restored. Made beautiful. So maybe, just maybe…even the scariest of all roller coasters aren’t so bad after all.

Hope Filled Affliction

I want to preface this post by saying I wrote this weeks ago. Never published it and realize now, I think God was having me wait for the perfect time. I can’t go into detail right now, but I’m in the middle of yet ANOTHER storm. Another time of getting to choose to walk head first into hard stuff—or go the other way. So as I sat down to write today, I happened to pull this draft I had going but not yet published…read it and knew instantly, today was the day to do press the publish button. For myself, but also for anyone else who is hurting, grieving or just needs to be reminded that there is always reason to praise. Always reason to rejoice.

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Today I want to share with you good news. My chains are gone. God has redeemed my life in ways I didn’t know possible. During this past year when I felt so alone and sad and just plain scared, I know now that it was so I could learn to be continually emptied of myself so that I could be filled back up with so much more. ¬†And honestly, I can’t believe I can say this—but I am so grateful for my addiction…because it was the precise thing that God used to break me. Free me. Begin to heal me. So today, my darkness is turning to light. My shame is turning into freedom. And my guilt and nasty cloud of condemnation…well simply put, God’s taking that away bit by bit. And every time he takes something away that he’s been asking for, for far too long….he knows how to replace it with something so much better……..

HOPE. Despite great trials in my life, some major destruction caused by none other than myself, years of living in the dark and believing too many lies, today I stand before you a changed woman. Not by my own doing either—only by the life, death¬†and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Seriously. I was shackled on every extremity and today I am free. And you want to know something…in exchange for my Savior freeing me from my last shackle—-he is giving me a new heart!!! And because of this, I will never be the same.

PEACE. Which clearly cannot come from the quiet world we live in—because let’s face it, our world is SO distracted. But despite the world’s¬†enemy’s greatest attempts of distracting me, those attempts of diversion,¬†pale in comparison to my God’s truths. Because of this, my soul is able to rest in this quiet assurance of His presence…His forgiveness…His freedom. I have¬†peace from exposing my secrets—my shame. I have peace from being vulnerable and allowing myself to be genuinely known. And not just by God either, but by other human beings that I can trust with myself. I have peace because of HOPE.

JOY. And not the type of joy that is defined in the dictionary as ‘a feeling of great pleasure and happiness’…NO! I am talking about the joy that comes from knowing my God is in full throttle control of all of the days of my life. And not just mine either—but of those people in my life whom I love the most. I don’t really agree with the stance that joy has to do with a feeling. Because I’m going to tell you something right now that just might change your life. ūüôā People. Feelings are temporary. Sort of like ‘falling in and out of love’. Love has nothing to do with feelings either….it’s a choice. Joy comes from¬†a determined and difficult choice to praise God in the midst of suffering. It’s knowing that even in the depth of our pain from living in a fallen and broken world—there is always HOPE. And that alone for me is something to be joyous over.

SURRENDER. You see, this one for me is huge. Really, I think it is for all of us. I don’t think there is one human being out there that I have ever met that doesn’t like to be in control. In some way, shape or form. Some people are just more obvious about it than others. But here’s what God has so graciously been teaching me. I don’t need to kick myself when I start trying to be in control again. I don’t need to feel guilty because I’m not ‘good’ at being a natural surrender-er. All I need to do is when I catch myself in those moments—which I do—then I need to give whatever it is I’m trying to be in control of again back to my God I trust. That’s it. No self deprecation or feelings of shame…just give it back to him yet again, and move on. And this whole concept of surrender—it’s scary. Even though I KNOW God’s ways are much greater than mine—it’s still scary. Yet every time, He meets me there. In my weakness, He is strong. Every time I let go and allow Him to work—he blows my mind. Even when I ‘think’ I know how it’s going to turn out or how it ‘should’ turn out—-he does it so much different. Often times, so much better than I ever could have possibly imagined.

So I’m not going to sit here today and say my life is perfect and rosey—because it’s not. But what it is—-is free, grateful….forgiven. I can finally and clearly recognize¬†that my mountain high pile of garbage (aka sin—my own and also others who have harmed me) doesn’t stand between me and my God. No, no, no. Instead, he stands right next to me in front of that pile and takes my hand and says, ‘I’ve been right here the whole time. Waiting. Pursuing. And most of all, loving you.¬†Now let me take all of that and make it beautiful. Together, with my power and your surrender—beauty will rise from the darkest ashes. But don’t think you know how this should look or will look, because you can’t even imagine…’ How can I say no to that? So today what I will say, yet again, is YES! I humbly receive your gifts, my gracious God!!! Today, and always, I will stand my ground—where hope can¬†be found.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7-9

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Sparked

Ok, I’m not going to lie…this is another one of those times that I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to blog¬†about but I feel led (both internally and externally) to write. We’ll call it sparked…because that seems to be a common thing in my life lately…sparks. It reminds me of when you’re trying to start a car. Or any engine for that matter. Or even a fire. But what I really get an image of is a firework. You know when you’re kneeling down on the ground and you have your punk stick and you’re so anxious to get that thing lit. On one hand you can’t wait for it to catch fire and see the beautiful display of fireworks—and on the other you’re nervous as all get out and wonder WHY on earth do I want to blow this up…what if something ¬†goes wrong? Well at least for a worry wart like myself, that’s many times what I’m thinking. “This seems really unsafe” is a phrase that often flits through my mind. And I’m not just talking about with fireworks either. I think with life in general I tend to be in a constant state of protection mode. Do you ever feel that way? And if not, could you maybe be feeling that way and not even aware of it…much like I was for many, many years? Well that protection mode, it’s not so great. At least not for me anymore…

My counselor encouraged me yesterday to journal (note I say JOURNAL, but for some reason God has to take that a step further and tell me to blog) about the spark that I had a few¬†weeks ago. A spark no other than what I can call Jesus. I was so encouraged and just felt different. I felt lighter…joyful…dare I even say hopeful?! I remember going into her office and saying I was excited about life for the first time in quite a while. And when I say excited, I mean that kind where your gratitude seems to just overflow because you are so alive and can take every moment…….every thought……..captive. It’s odd too because this spark came at a time when I had been wrestling with God. Wrestling about not wanting to commit to something that will last for months and is going to be painful and require me to be extremely vulnerable at times—but yet deep down I know it is something God wants me to do. So perhaps more of my wrestling was with the enemy and I just needed to say yes to God and give the devil the finger. So that’s what I did……a little begrudgingly at first, but nevertheless, I said yes. And once I did…something ignited in me that I couldn’t put my finger on which is why I know it was God. And now, here I am three short weeks later and in need of going¬†back to that moment. Because you see, that thing I started and committed to that I was hesitantly excited about, it’s amazing….but it’s also really hard. This week I opted to share my story with a group of strangers. Seriously. I shared EVERYTHING. We were asked to be bold and basically hang it all out there so we could get to know one another within our small groups. Some what like what people do during small groups at treatment….be open. Candid. Real. Whatever you want to call it. Knowing that every one else is there for the same reason you are and there is no judgement. But when I was at treatment almost a year ago I wasn’t ready to do that. In fact, I didn’t even really want to do that one-on-one with my counselor. But then again, I didn’t think I had any¬†real brokenness or¬†problems then—other than some pretty stupid choices throughout my years of life. I might have even mentioned to my therapist at treatment that I don’t really¬†need to talk about my childhood because it was fine. *Enter the sound of myself laughing hysterically at that now—protection mode really is quite impressive when it wants to be*¬†No joke,¬†I just thought I had a drinking problem. But then I got to sit in on my first day of group with these ladies that had already been there a little while and I couldn’t believe the sheer courageousness they had. The things they were sharing. The brokenness they were exposing. I sat in awe. I actually sat and felt my heart breaking for them…and I think I broke a major rule of group therapy engagement and got up and hugged one of them. Whoops.¬†It was so inspiring yet seemed a little lot crazy to me. But then underneath that crazy, inspiring boldness they seemed to have, there was something more I noticed and I wanted to be a part of. There was this bond they had that was incredible. Even though their stories were all so different, they still had underlying similarities. And no, I’m not talking about the similar addiction thread. I’m talking about the heart condition part. The part that is the only part we should focus on rather than the symptoms which come from it such as addiction. They all had hurt in their lives. Yes, I’m going to say it, they all had so much unexposed brokenness. And it seemed to me that once they began exposing that brokenness, they began to heal. It took being truly known for them to begin to forgive others, begin to forgive themselves, begin to trust again and biggest of all for me, begin to love and BE loved. Because I am really seeing that in order to be able to give love……true, unconditional kind…..we have to be able to receive it. And how can we receive it if people aren’t really loving us for WHO we are at our core? And how do they know WHO we are if we can’t be exposed. Vulnerable. Honest. Simply put, they can’t. Beyond this….how can I let God love me if I can’t even let people love me? Oh my. What a revelation. If you get nothing else out of this than what I’m about to say, I think that’s what God is trying to get across. If I can’t be exposed¬†(which takes great vulnerability and courage)¬†then I am unknown. If I remain unknown, then I unbeknownst¬†to me feel unloved or perhaps even unlovable….which leads to a whole host of problems like feeling unworthy…….ashamed…never going to be good enough…….for people, or for God. I know I’m struggling with that right now. I’m struggling with accepting God’s love for me. I know the truth. I know He died for me. For you. But I am at this point of my healing that I really don’t believe I deserve it. Just like I really don’t feel as though I deserve my husband, who has been there for me through ALL of my crap. And then he continues to be there for me as more crap has come out over the past year. I want to believe it, but honestly, my hands feel too dirty to praise Him and to accept his love AND my husbands.

So¬†typically, this is where God brings it all together…………so please Lord, show me.

3 weeks ago, God sparked something in me. He inspired me AFTER I said yes to Him. After I trusted Him (and gave the enemy the finger). He ignited my punk stick if you will…and now I’m beginning to see why. He knew that in order for me to continue down this road of healing and have it be long lasting—it was going to require me to be known. Truly known. So that I can learn to accept being loved. For who I am at my core—-which is NOT an alcoholic or addict…but a beautiful child of an almighty God who gave His son so that I could live. And let me tell you, after experiencing that spark, I am SO ready to live. And what’s so amazing is that’s where He knew I have struggled……in my identity……which is precisely where I believe He is showing me, slowly, yet surely….Keeley, let me love you. Simply put. Let me love you for WHO I made you to be. Let down your guard. Your self preservation and protection is no longer necessary because your life is in my hands, just as it always has been. Which speaking of hands, I need you to understand,¬†yours¬†are washed clean in my blood and you bring me so much joy. So strip down, get ready to feel naked at times when everybody else is still clothed—because that’s what it’s going to take. Bold vulnerability and trust. Oh and your husband, you do actually deserve him because he’s a gift from me. Let him love you unconditionally. And remember that punk stick……..well, as soon as you learn to accept my love, grace and mercy exactly where you are for just what it is——a gift——get ready, because there is going to be the most spectacular fireworks show you’ve ever seen.

So for yet another day, I stay knelt down by that firework. Even though my mind says run away, this is too dangerous—too unsafe…..what good could come of this??? I know now….God’s just getting started and like he told me, I’m about to experience the most beautiful part.