June 26, 2014

Come Close

I've often said that thinking about my life before Christ feels like thinking about a crazy movie I saw about someone else's life. It's incredible to know that what scripture says is true "If anyone is a new believer in Christ, the old is gone, the new has come."

I had an opportunity a week ago to share the story God has known from the beginning with a group of 60 high schoolers from Texas one night during their mission trip. I always thank God for these opportunities to give him glory for the ways in which he works mysterious.


There are a few things that I hope my testimony sheds light on for you. You are never too far from God. You are never out of his reach. He has a plan (and it is good!) no matter what it feels like. You can never make a decision too terrible or wrong to put yourself outside of God's reach, grace, healing, love and forgiveness if you repent of your ways and seek the Lord.

One of my favorite verses comes from one of my favorite books in the Bible. James. This book is power. 

James 4:8 says “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” or another version says "draw near to him and he will draw near to you." And that is what my story is all about.

I didn’t grow up a Christian. I grew up in Vegas. My parents were 19 & 20 when I was born. Young-ins. They were great parents and I had a good childhood, but by 6th grade they were divorced. 

I had an intense hole that could not be filled and so I did what most would. I tried to fill it. Because in 6th grade at the age of 12 I lacked (and all pre-teens or is it tweens?) the basic emotional skills to cope with the loss of my dad in our home. 

In 6th grade I starting stealing alcohol from my parents liquor cabinet and drinking at school. 

In 7th grade, I started smoking pot.

In 8th grade, I had a reputation I was dying to shake, but couldn’t. I needed to feel loved and accepted and needed someone to acknowledge my pain.

In 9th grade I was introduced to Crystal Meth. And thus began a 2 year addiction. I was kicked out (my mom and I still debate this one :) of my house and slept wherever there was a free couch, and free drugs. Which meant I worked for them. Thankfully my grandparents took me in for a summer and I was on lockdown. That meant no access to drugs and I got better. Or, I should say I got off Crystal Meth. But the hole was still there. It wasn't about removing things from my life, it was about filling up that big empty space.

Having discovered the high of being high, I exchanged one addiction for another.

Cocaine, any hallucinogen I could find. Anything that would numb me from the world.

Graduation night was spent on a couch in a drug coma. Huge chunks of time gone from memory.

By time I was 19, and had spent 6 years or so on some form of drug, I found myself living in an apt. engaged to a drug dealer and we ran a pretty lucrative drug business, that is until we got raided. I’ve never been so scared. And the reality of the life I was succumbing too became all too clear. 

I broke off the engagement and stopped selling drugs. But I had no peace. No answer to the hole in my chest that only grew with time. I was drinking heavily to cope. I decided it was time to end it all. I had hit rock bottom. I was only 20. This was about the time I learned my brother was going to be baptized. 

And I made my first move towards God. 

I didn't know I was making that move. But God did. So, I made my move and I attended his baptism and was asked to get in the water with him. It rocked me emotionally. My life continued on but there was an unrest about my life. I know longer wanted to end it, but I knew I needed something else. 

God was moving towards me! As I inched closer and closer, he drew me in like a moth to a flame. 

Several months later I made another move towards God. I called my little bro and attended church for the first time.  And again. And again. I couldn't get enough of those weird, hand-raising-while-singing, wild-eyed Christians who were so passionate, and yet quite peaceful through difficulties and struggles. I remember hearing testimonies of a couple who had lost a baby after she was born and another who was ready to kill himself before being dragged to a cowboy church (say wha?). There was a common thread through their pain- peace. reliance, not on themselves, but on God. Admittance that life is hard but we have a God who is for us. Several months later I fell on my face and committed my life to him. Truly committed to living for him. It was hard. The letting go of all I knew and embracing a new culture of Jesus was difficult. 

I came on my first mission to the DR several months later and began the journey as a believer. I was even asked to join the church staff. Wait, me? Former drug addict, abused, broken me? Yes, known and loved daughter of the King, me. I began as an admin for the youth pastor, then the children's ministry coordinator, then I sent off by the mother church as part of their first church planting team and then as a missionary working with GO. 

Today, after seven years of serving and living in the DR, I am married to an incredible believer, Alan and we have 4 year old twinsy girls who are the light of my life. 

I still struggle. The old is gone and the new has come, but the old has shaped me in many ways and learning to walk the new is a daily choice and path we navigate together as He leads me. Walking with Christ doesn’t mean we no longer struggle or that he will give us everything we want. He gives us what we need, according to His will for our lives.

I never thought that day I went to my brother’s baptism would be a game changer. I never thought I was moving towards God. But that is why he is God. He was calling me to him and as I moved, he so faithfully responded. 

Do you need to move towards Him today? What needs to be turned off and over to Him? How is he moving in your life closer to you?

June 14, 2014


I love Father's Day! It is such a special day to stop and be grateful for the dad's in my life. I have a few!

My dad.

I have learned some incredible life lessons and skills from this man. At the earliest of age he taught me the importance of being active and being healthy. Some of my fondest memories are of riding our bikes together on the weekend to Lorenzi Park. We would ride all around the trail stopping to do the pull-ups on the bar and the other excersizes they had available along the way. I am grateful for this as it has given me a foundation throughout my adulthood to live a healthy lifestyle.

I've also gained a sense of pride in my work. The Lord says it is good for us to work hard and to have work to do with our hands. I am grateful my dad and my dad's side of the family (through the family business) have instilled in me a strong desire to achieve and do well. To be proud of the work that is set before me and to do it well.

My dad is strong. I am strong too.

When I reflect on who I have become, I see a lot of my dad in me. I see a lot of my dad in the girls as well. I am grateful for this and for who he is in our lives!

My step-dad.
Even though my mom and step dad got married when I turned 18, I  have had the privilege of being welcomed into their home in my early 20's as I prepared for life as a missionary in the DR. Hank is strong and quiet. I admire that. He is slow to speak. I am admire that too! These aren't really qualities I possess but try to model because of the way in which Hank lives his life.

Hank is one of our biggest supporters in our work in the DR. We couldn't do what we do without his support. Each year, he and my mom welcome our family into their home for our 2 month extended stay. They take time off from work, cook extra meals, dote on my children because of their great love for us.

My husband.
Words can't describe the sense of love and completeness that seems so completely overwhelming at times watching Alan dote on our girls. He is an absolute gentleman, caregiver, teacher, and role model to our girls. I watch him teach them about God, about grace, about love, about doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord, how to pray, how to give, how to listen, how to cultivate kindness, dreams, friendship.

We do things very differently culturally (Alan and I) and it has been a beautiful and sometimes brutal journey doing life with someone so completely different than myself who challenges me and is being used by God to shape me more into the image of Christ. (Isn't that what marriage is about? Not our happiness but instead holiness?)

There isn't a more perfect papi for Stella and Amelia, than Alan. I am humbled and overwhelmed at the good gifts he has given our family. Our journey, marked with difficulties and triumphs is one that I pray glorifies the Lord in all we do.
My God. The Father.
The Great I AM.

While there are many good (and bad) examples of earthly fathers, there is none to compare to our Heavenly Father. No matter what emotions may be stirred up today for you by remembering your own examples of an earthly father, we can rest in the arms of our glorious heavenly Father, clothed in righteousness and honor.

Let us rejoice then in thanksgiving for who HE is!
Thank you God for being my Father.
Thank you that you teach us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
Thank you that you will speak through us. We are never alone.
Thank you that if two of us agree on something and ask you for it, if it is in your will, it will be done for us.
Thank you that if it is possible you will take away my suffering. If it is not, it is your will for me.
Thank you that I can put my trust and hope in you.
Thank you that as your child, I do not have to work for material possessions or food that spoils. You will meet all of my needs and I can concentrate on things that are eternal.
Thank you that if it is within your will, you will do whatever I ask in Jesus' name so that through me, Jesus will bring glory to you.
Thank you that you have sent the Holy Spirit who will teach me all things and will remind me of everything Jesus has said.
Thank you that if I sin you give me Jesus to speak to you in my defense.
Thank you that as one called by you, I am loved by you as my Father and kept by Jesus Christ.

Peace to you on Father's Day. No matter the memories we hold, may we REJOICE in our Heavenly Father who knows us and loves us so!

June 10, 2014

A Choice to Rejoice.

Do you agree with this statement?
"The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

Perseverance through trials seems to me to be an art. One I can be quite good at when necessary. I put on my game face, pull myself up by my bootstraps (did I even say that right?) and get to work to the task at hand. I have found I am particularly good at this. Put the nose to the grindstone (did I say that one right too?) and get the job done.  But at what cost to my own soul? If it simply is about my good works and making the best of a situation simply to survive and move beyond it, have I missed the point of it all? Was there even something to be learned? Have I missed the glorious refinement, the tailored pruning? Have I missed it all?

We are called to persevere.
We are promised hardship.
We are promised heart break.
We are promised persecution.

The Lord has also promised that our character will be refined. We will actually become more like Him in this process if we allow him, which is actually the point of most trials!

We will love deeper.
We will extend grace more freely.
We will be emboldened by the truth to live as Christ lives in us!
We will truly "see" ourselves and others as His children, saved by the grace of redemption.

There are many blessed promises and many ways he will develop us through perseverance and through the trials.

So, why do we get stuck in a rut? I was recently experiencing a bout with burnout. You know what I am talking about. The weariness, the fatigue, the there's-not-enough-hours-in-the-day to complete my growing work load or enough-hours-in-the-night to rejuvenate during sleep. The days begin to run together, each one looking the same as the last. Nothing changes, the work continues, the sleep decreases. I work harder. I get more tired. I work even harder hoping I will magically reach some level of completion allowing for rest... it doesn't happen. The mind wanders, the soul questions "is this it?" I begin to question if someone or something has put me in the position to "have to" persevere instead of "get to" persevere to become more like Christ. I blame. I get angry. I am snappy with my family (and I don't mean snappy in a musical theatre sort of way...). I am a bear to be around. There is no joy. I am working a J.O.B. in every area- motherhood, ministry, wifery. (did i just make that word up?) My life becomes joyless.

Why do we, when "forced" to persevere grow weary, bitter, angered as if we've been treated wrongly and that is somehow "unjust?" As if we were promised a life of easy choices, light work, minimal responsibilities... my mind goes there. It's a battle. And then I remember, then I hear that small but mighty voice deep inside whispering over the raging of my soul... "take heart, you WILL have trouble in this world, but I have overcome the world." And I find a strengthening of heart. That small voice increases until the words are pounding in my heart, ringing through my ears, coursing through the blood stream. This is what we are made of. This is what we are made for. To love Him. To love others. To become more like him. Nothing.else.matters. Nothing.

It is not someone or something that has caused this trial set before me, that sucks the life from my bones. God almighty who has infinite knowledge and insight and the Lord Jesus who knows my heart inside and out who has put the trial before me. I know it. I've known it all along, but somewhere along the way the heart is turned towards blaming each other, our jobs, our spouses, our kids, our sicknesses and we begin to live in a world of "what if's" and "if only I had..."

Friends, speaking from personal experience, this comes at a grave price. Romans says we must REJOICE in our sufferings because when we rejoice and count our trial as a gift from the Lord, we have an expectation of hope, an expectation that our character will be refined. We can expect to become more like him. We are aware, throughout enduring, the need to seek and remain joyful in Him, because we know this thing, this really hard thing we are fighting through will be the thing Jesus uses to make us more like him. We will see him clearer. We will hear him in our souls. And this glorious rejoicing, produces H.O.P.E. Deep breath in... Hope. Yes, there it is.

Do you see it? HOPE! The exact opposite of what so many of us live in daily, despair. Hopelessness.

But the key to opening your heart up to hope is right there... REJOICE. Give Thanks.

The key is to change our heart's tune to thinking we've been given another awful situation from God almighty or worse, because I failed at something into realizing the beautiful gift God has given us. He sees something in you and wants to perfect you to be more like Him.

I have tasted and I have seen the glory of the Lord working in and through, pruning me SO THAT I may bear good fruit, more fruit. He doesn't prune us, to punish us. He doesn't prune us to keep us down. He doesn't prune us so that we may be shamed or feel unworthy. He prunes us (sometimes not so gently) so that we may be more fruitful.

A gift. From Him. To you. To me. If you choose to see it as such and receive it as such.

Today I am giving over to His will. His gifts. His joy and giving thanks to the Almighty God. "Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite." (Psalm 147:5) His understanding is infinite and my soul rests in knowing that our Great, Almighty God understands more than I could grasp or fathom. He knows my own soul, his spirit is within! He will wash over me like the ocean's tide.

What about you? How do you see trials? What must you give over to Him today?
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