Archive for God

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

 

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. 🙂 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!

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. 🙂 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.

 

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.