Monday, September 26, 2011

My Testimony

Yesterday at Church we had a celebration service which included baptisms. As I sat listening to the testimonies I couldn't get over how no one could quite explain how their life had changed. They obviously had become better people... but they just couldn't put into words the inward change that resulted in Joy and Peace. I love it! I love that God gives us something SO amazing that we can hardly explain it! Later in the afternoon I went on a walk with a new friend and we started talking a little bit about how we came to really love Christ and I could not truly explain all that went down and how my life miraculously changed. But I have felt the desire to share my testimony here for quite a while... so though I have a small vocabulary and my writing technique isn't quite the best, I am going to do it! May God be glorified through my story and stir the hearts that are sitting on the fence or completely on the other side.

Like many people from around here (small town Central IL) I grew up in a loving Christian family. We went to church every Sunday, my older sisters attended youth group and I attended AWANA and VBS. Most of my friends growing up were church friends. Living in a generally "Christian" town I was constantly bombarded by Bible stories or moral lessons. You would think this would be the end of my story. I was in love with Jesus from the moment I was able to understand who He was... unfortunately that's not how it happened. Though my family was amazing and loving we were all still human. There were times where fights broke out and stony silence took over the house. During these times I would get SO angry with  God. My life would be all rainbows and sunshine and then do a complete 180. I couldn't understand how there was a loving God that was in control of all of this. It seemed like such a lie. However, at the age of 7 I "gave my life to Christ." In all honesty I wanted my dad to say a prayer at dinner time so that everyone focused on me the rest of the night. It was all about the attention I would get and nothing about knowing what Jesus had done for me. The next ten years is pretty much a blur of living for myself. There would be times where I would think about God and at least some what realize I needed Him... but that feeling went away as soon as the T.V. came on or a friend called. I just really didn't care. Sure I thought God was awesome when life was going good. But I still didn't care enough to thank Him or get to know Him. But as soon as the tables turned and something went south I was very quick to let Him know exactly how I felt. I remember running into my room when things went bad and considering throwing my Bible right through the glass of my window, That would show God!!! I even wrote in my journal once that I saw God as a bored and cruel creator that made us just so He could toy around with us. I said that my family's suffering was His favorite day time Soap Opera.  I lived like that for so long. Then when I turned 17 I attended a youth group type deal called the cabin (It was literally held in a cabin for those of you asking why) The speaker one night talked about Jesus and what He had done for us. He explained to us that we were all sinners and all destined for hell unless we accepted Christ. That night I realized I was not a Christian. Once again I "gave my heart to Christ." I say it that way because I really don't know if I did. I told people I did for years.. but really I still didn't do it because I loved Christ but simply because I wanted life to get better. I didn't read my bible or get into prayer or anything. There was no fruit in my life to prove that I had truly accepted Christ. Later on that year I met my husband and started dating him. This is horrible to admit but I started acting like a good little Christian because I knew my dad didn't think I was ready to seriously start a relationship with a guy. So I lived out a lie for at least 2 years just to get my way. I started going to Harvest Bible chapel with Jason and really enjoyed it. I became a Sunday Christian. I loved church and getting to know more, but once Monday came I just wanted to be lazy and have fun. Oh sure when people asked I told them I was a Christian and I stuck to my moral opinions. I never went out and partied or did drugs or anything like that. But I did that to save face, not because I knew it was what God wanted.
On July 16th 2010 I married my sweet hubby. That poor poor man! Within the first week of our marriage I was crabby and oh so selfish. For the next few months I manipulated and whined to get what I wanted. If he didn't hang out with me the minute he got in the door I cried and cried. I'm so embarrassed by this! But I started realizing I was putting all my hope into my husband who is a sinful and selfish human being just like the rest of us! I could feel that something just wasn't right. But again I tried fixing it by getting a job or watching T.V. or just staying busy. Nothing seemed to work. I was interested in God but I just didn't want to take the time to get to know Him (story of my life) Through out all of this my mom was diagnosed with Leukemia and was getting sicker and sicker. About two years prior she had  been diagnosed with breast cancer  and had complications from chemo. God intervened there and miraculously healed her. But this time things were just looking complicated. For once I wasn't angry with God but I was just confused. How could He allow one of His miracles to get sick again? I just didn't understand... and still don't.
Suddenly in January of this year I got a real hunger to get into God's word. I started with Romans and couldn't put it down. I would read a chapter in my NLT bible, underline verses and then look them up in my ESV and NKJ. This is something I have never done. I kept a journal on what I was learning and felt it changing my heart. Here I get to the point where I just can't explain it. All I can say is it was not me at all, God melted my heart and stirred a desire in me. And man did He have perfect timing!
On February 8th my sweet wonderful Momma passed away. My normal human self would have ran to my bedroom and blamed God for all of my pain. I would have shouted at Him and told Him I hated Him....but God had changed me. Instead I felt such peace knowing that my Mom was with Him and wasn't having to deal with anymore Dr.s or pain. I believed the promises He gave me. His word is full of promises and evidence that He has kept them! I miss my mom SO much, but I can't get passed the grace that God showed all of us. This winter was my turning point. I am not who I once was. There are times where I want to fall back into my lazy apathetic state, but God tugs on my heart and I actually listen and respond. Only by His grace and power. I can easily tell you that I have changed so much on the outside. I don't get upset with Jay nearly as much, I am able to give up a little more control in each situation, I'm less anxious, I don't fall into anger as easily, and I am happy. But these things don't even begin to express that change that has gone on inside of me. There is so much Joy and Fire for my Lord. I trust and love Him. I have put Him in control of (most) of my life. I still struggle with that one. God is teaching me so many wonderful things! There are times when I don't want to die simply because I love the mystery of it all and love seeing God through His creation.  But most times I'm so excited to see my creator. UGH! I wish we had the words to describe this amazing feeling and life changing experience! Every time I try to tell someone about this I try to figure out what I did to finally change. Did I pray for God to help me? Did i finally figure out a good way to read the Bible? What finally did it for me? For some reason I keep thinking it had to have been something I did. But I didn't find a formula for reading my bible and praying. It had absolutely nothing to do with me. God just did it. He just made it happen. He could feel my heart softening towards Him. He knew I was on the fence leaning over towards His side. He knew I needed a bit of prodding and encouragement. It's about God's timing and who He is! Just ask Him to show you who He is. Let Him take control. He'll amaze you!

With Love,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

1st John 1:3

When the Holy Spirit speaks, He speaks directly to your heart. This is something that I'm continously learning. The Holy Spirit uses everyday situations, people in our lives, and of course God's word to teach us a little something about what it means to be Christ like and obedient.

On Monday I was really struggling with a sin that has always been my down fall, judgement against my brothers and sisters in Christ. I would get on Facebook and notice a certain persons post on one of their friends walls that does not glorify God... Or a certain group of people REALLY seem to be way off on what Christianity is all about and Seem to be people centered and not Christ centered  Oh Satan loves it when people do this! He uses it to his advntage to get me going! It makes me so angry! And though I may be right in being upset about it, I'm not upset for the right reasons. I get mad because I think "here I am doing all I can to spread God's love etc. and this person is acting like a complete fool! They're making Christian's look like complete hypocrites!" or "Seriously you guys look just like the world! Get your act together! Sheesh, no wonder people think Christians are wrong!"..... My thoughts are all wraped up in how it makes me look when a Christian isn't looking good on the outside. How screwed up is that?

1. It's not about me
2. God sees my sin on the inside and my sin is the same as Joe Shmo's sin even if his is more apparent on the outside.

This week I started a Bible study with some very sweet girls and we are digging into 1st John one verse at a time. So remember, on Monday I was really struggling with judging people. I didn't think they were good enough to be called Christians and I honestly wouldn't have wanted to hang out with them or do life with them.

On Tues. our verse was 1st John 1:3 "That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you , so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ."
Now I realize that not everyone will get what I got from this but I felt a very real tugging from the Holy Spirit when I read this. He was telling me "Where does it say that we have fellowship based on if our oppinions always line up or only if we struggle with the same "Socially acceptable" sins?" Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of "Christians" out there that are not right with God and really don't have their heart in the right place. I do believe that if someone is a true follower of Christ there will be fruit in their life... but I also realize that people get in ruts or even stray from time to time.   I was simply judging based on comments etc. I wasn't judging based on complete understanding of this person or group. Fellowship starts with our belief in Christ. Whether I like it or not some of the people I judge and get annoyed with really Are in His family! It is through Christ that we are bound together, not our good works or right sounding opinions. Instead of judging these fellow brothers and sisters I should be getting to know them and reaching out. May we have true fellowship with all who believe in Christ!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Life Training

"He just doesn't get it! I tell him "NO" when he's chewing on electrical cords, or if he's peeing on the carpet!"

Yes this is an excerpt from yet another "Venting hour with Abbey." I suppose I should give you a bit of background before continuing.... About a week and a half ago my wonderful husband and I picked up a tiny Beagle puppy. I was SOOO excited! I've wanted a dog my whole life and was finally getting to have one. Now I knew it would be a lot of work and take lots of responsibility, but I was ready for that!... or so I thought. He really is a great dog, but I just can't seem to make him understand certain things.

"All the books I have read and the people I have talked to make it sound so easy! "Oh he'll figure out what no means pretty fast!" Ya right! He doesn't even jump or move when I shout no!"

As I was whinning and crying to my husband these words popped out of my mouth,

"If he just knew that me telling him no and taking away stuff he wanted to play with was for his benefit I'm sure he'd get it! If he just knew that I didn't let him chew on the electrical cords because they'd hurt him I'm sure he'd run straight into my arms!"

Suddenly I stopped talking, I heard the faintess voice saying, "Now you get it."

For years I have questioned God as to why He allows uncomfortable and even painful things into my life. Why doesn't He let me have the things I want?  I felt like bad things kept happening or doors kept closing and I just didn't know why! Life would be going great and then BAM! something bad happened! I never realized that maybe that was God's way of turning me around or getting me onto a different path. It wasn't always punishment but just a prodding.

I realize my puppy doesn't understand that cords are bad for him... just like I may not realize that what I'm doing is bad or throwing me off. But I still have to say "NO!" and pick him up and move him. He always looks at me with those sad eyes as if to say "Why did you ruin my play time? You make my life miserable!" But I tell him "Oh Copper, if you only knew the good things I have in store for you, you wouldn't want those dangerous cords!"

God is like that, He knows the plans He has for us. And those plans surpass anything we could ever imagine! Especially since the end result is eternal life with Him! He's just picking me up and setting me down away from the "cords" even if I don't like it.

Thankfully God does it completely out of love and He's fully just and doesn't punish us simply out of emotional anger and hurt... Sometimes I get a little angry at old Copper. I'm learning a lot about Grace and how amazing our God truly is. Funny how a puppy can show you all of this ;) God's knows how to make a lesson really stick. He knows us SO well and knows exactly how we'll react to situations. I guess that's why He's God, He knows the beginning and the end... and everything in between.