Friday, August 23, 2013

ABOUT ME: A True Story

Speaking in church in 2013

About "Meridian"

It is my innermost desire to point my readers to God. A life hidden in God takes on meaning, gives beauty and wonderment, redeems and restores.  

~My Reason for Writing~

In my life and writings, I want to show and live out the immediacy of the ways that God is refining my nature. It is an invigorating process. My personal journey reflects the heart of the matter. What God is doing in my life is often humbling yet fulfilling, hard yet freeing, uncertain yet centered. I believe God is changing me into a selfless created-being who shouldn't or doesn’t need praise and recognition from others, whose ultimate fulfillment is the joy and satisfaction of living in close relationship with Him. It's all about relationship.

It didn't happen without pain. I began seeking God for truth. This path of spiritual discovery led me to a huge, revolutionizing fact. It is this. “Being” is first. “Doing” is second.

The more I study the more I find layers of truth. The more I consider God, the more I realize that He wants me in close relationship more than he wants me to be all about service. For when the love of God is formulating in the heart, the more a relationship with God is cultivated, the more it will resurface in something so alive that it has a great need to be shared. That is how God feels about us. He is eager to love on us. From my personal experiences and cursory observations, I've noticed that normal religion and scripted spirituality tends to reverse the two. 

Taking time to “be at one” with God, to read His Word, pray in openness, seek His heart, and to know Him with a sense of intimacy which comes by way of frequent meditating and considering of Godly truth and thought, are all necessary in this pursuit. I've found that each is expedient if a deeper relationship with God is to be sought, found, and actualized. I experienced this reversal in my life, going from doing to being. It happened as a result of seeking God, long before I read spiritual Greats in the faith who have come to this same realization. When “being” comes first, with "doing" as its outworking of faith, the spirit life is lived out of love for the Creator, in obedience to Him, and because His life of love transfuses a change within the inner person into one of Christ-likeness. 

If someone lives like Christ lived, it is evidence that He is on the throne of their life. No longer is Christianity a form or a charade where spirit life is lived out of duty or because of  performance-based expectations. Christians who minister to the street people often minister with a humble Christ-like presence, something I desire in my life.

~Point of Reference~

“God is enough.” There. I said it. The key concept, the defining point that describes my spiritual beliefs and my life. Everything I believe will dove-tail back to a central belief that God is enough for and in every trial, sad event, hopeless moment, frustration, and personal loss. He is the one who helps, heals, and restores. In this process, He gives us hope, peace and boundless love. All the icky things lose their power over us when we see that God is in it with us and He is painting a landscape, but we only see a minute section of the canvas.

I know for a fact that God will meet us where we’re at. He understands the biggies that trip us up: unhealed hurts, unmet needs, unresolved issues, anger, disappointment, and unbelief. He asks us to trust Him, to surrender our "stuff" to His care.

~Personal Response~
A personal response is required if we want God to meet us where we're at. It doesn’t just happen by osmosis. No. It can’t. Not possible. God waits for the responding, the searching. He keeps drawing the object of His affection to Himself by beginning a work in their hearts, then it's up to the person to turn their heart toward God. At times, it is a restlessness, a hunger for something "more."

When my life as a Christ-follower started to get "real," it was because I changed in my approach to spiritual matters. It was when I let go of my many spiritual routines and practiced traditions, and then I decided to let God take charge and begin a new work in me. I gave Him the reigns of my life. It became His way not my way. This was a decision made in response to pain. Life had dished out a lot of hurt and I didn't want to live that way any longer. In fact, I wrote down my intentions in a journal and then gave the list to God, an honest search began that continues on to this day. 

In the spiritual journey not much happens until there is a reaching out of a "want-to" in attitude and "wish-for" in desire. Seeking of God is first initiated in a person’s mind and their heart. It takes both. God may put circumstances or pressure points to draw someone toward Himself, even using pain to get their attention, but He will never force anyone to come closer or to follow Him. He is a good Father, the very best. He is patient and long-suffering. The story of the Prodigal Son is a beautiful story depicting the patient love of God for all of His wayward or self-righteous children. We find both in the story. In another way, Christ's death on the cross and God's perfect will in this, demonstrates God's perfect love to the world of children, women, and men.  All of us are loved equally.

We wear masks. In fact, we hide behind them and build a false image, a spiritual facade. The people who know us best can see the mask. We wear them at work, home, and church. I did too. God began revealing my mask through my family members, scripture, and prayer. There is no hiding and no pretending with God. For God to meet a person where they’re at, with their hurts, warts and all, for it to be really-real, will require the individual to become look-in-the-mirror open and honest with God. Trying to manipulate God to play the game the way they like, expecting His approval and acceptance of their want-to's in a self-serving life-style, will never bring a person into an intimacy of relationship with God. My pastor says to get alone with God and don't leave until you are different.

I can say, through my experiences and those I've read who have God as intimate friend, that to be genuine with God will mean that pretense and false beliefs about our real self must first be acknowledged then released and willingly given over to God. Otherwise, the individual's response will fall short. In a matter of time, waywardness, religiosity or spiritual pride will consume their heart instead of a continual work of God transforming the person's life. It is God who will redeem. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, forgiveness and wholeness can and will remove bondage and curses from the deadening impact that has long-crushed a darkening soul, freeing the person's spirit from its pain and sin, restoring them to a right relationship with God. It starts at the point of belief and then it continues on. I cannot explain how wonderful it is to be truly free. Words can't describe the delight.

Finding my Freedom

~The Story about Me~

Who I am is still under construction. It’s been forming for quite some time and it has never been boring. This will help you see who I am and where I come from, the background stuff of my life.

There are two key factors in my personality which are a positive for me. I am a thinker who likes to contemplate about almost anything, and I am a safe person who is easy to talk to, who understands the human stuff of life (I listen well). There are two key factors in my personality that are a trial for me. I am shy, and I am given to be fearful of people, new challenges, and trying circumstances (fear can be crippling)

My upbringing is a considerable contributor in the making of who I am. My family is close-knit. Christian faith is and was an integral part of our family dynamics. I was raised with a Christian world view, a perspective that says everything in our choices and lives are for a spiritual purpose and should be lived that way. We didn’t add on our Christianity, we lived it out. We were taught that our choices should be God-based in thinking and purpose.

My father farmed row crops and orchard crops. We five children always worked on the farm. Through years of working, we learned to be careful, responsible, and to think for ourselves. Our family lived simply with not many frills. I never resented this. It was a way of life. It made me value hard-work, and I knew I was well-loved. Both my parents and all my siblings are wonderful people. My father is a supreme example of a man with integrity, an honorable man. Not many come as honest as he. 

Mother is to be thanked as well, for her encouragement of music, spiritual guidance, and building into our daily lives. Protestant in theology, Baptist in church attendance, strong in Bible teaching and personal accountability, we children developed our Christian walk through home, church, and even in our college choices. I did see some chinks in the armor, though, later I would come to see some of the Christian identity in a different way. God would bring this to pass in His time.

My first venture out of the home was off to a Christian Bible college, Western Baptist Bible College in Salem, Oregon. During my sophomore year this same institution of higher learning became a liberal arts college, changing its name to Western Baptist College. Now it is Corban University. I studied to become an educator. Music and art were side studies. Vocal performance was always a part of my four years. I traveled in music groups on weekends, representing the school by performing in churches. 

I loved my years at WBC and look back on them with fondness. I dated Christian guys and loved the dynamics of being with like-minded peers, free from cussing and the non-spiritual side of my earlier public school education. All students were required to take 30 units of Bible, everyone graduated with a minor in Bible. I’ve been grateful for these Bible-based classes for they set me up in a solid way by giving me deeper roots in spiritual truth. Some of my shyness lessened during those years of positive social interactions.

After graduating, I returned to my home town of Chico, California. I began teaching in a Christian school. I broke up with my college boyfriend and began to date a local man. He was a new believer in Christ, raised in a much-different background than I. He made me happy and I liked being with him. I ignored rather obvious differences. We married in 1980. He was minus the structures that played so significant in my life. This would not bide well for us.

In 1982, I stopped teaching when we started a family. My husband and I would have five children, our fifth child was born in 1997. I planned to be a stay-at-home mom, not wanting anyone else to raise my children even if it meant there was not much money. Fortuitous. For nine years this was what I did, my favorite occupation ever. Over the years my little family was always active in the local church. I would be involved in a variety of positions in the churches we attended: Sunday School teacher, Christian Education Director, Women’s Ministries Director, Choir leader, Children’s Church leader and teacher, AWANA story time teacher, Christmas Program writer and director, and on occasion in more recent years, speaking for the morning worship service. 

In 1989 I became involved in the public school arena by volunteering in my children’s classrooms and then substitute teaching. We moved down from the mountains to return to my hometown where I became an instructional aide in a school, taught a disabled boy in the afternoons, and went to university classes two nights a week for six hours each. I updated my credential and began teaching part-time. I began taking classes to become a reading specialist. It was my hope that this would help me land a full-time teaching position and find a school home for my professional career. I was in my early forties. In 2004 I was hired full-time. My favorite instructional experiences were with my reading intervention groups, until budget cuts returned me to the regular classroom. By this time I was writing a book which was published in 2012. 

As a side job, since 1996 I have been farm-leasing a walnut orchard from my parents. Farm income has aided me in helping fund some of my kids college tuition and to keep the family afloat. The marriage ended in 2002.  I have been a single parent ever since.

The following  two lists contain a brief description of my life's ups and downs.

~The Hard Stuff~

There were many things that would be difficult in my life, causing me much pain. In some of my writings you observe me sharing the hard things and then how God ministered to me through them. At first, I listed them out, but I have removed the list. Somehow it does not seem appropriate for this blog. I felt the Holy Spirit's prompting, that it was not a good thing. In short I will complete the paragraph with a cursory review, just know that I suffered much pain but never quit believing in God. God always sustained me, and sent people my way to befriend me. There were a few major life earthquakes: Being left and abandoned without warning, a mate who is unfaithful, loss of a sibling to suicide, death of an infant niece to leukemia, pain of job loss, hardship of frequent job changes, being unwanted and unloved, having a breakdown when it all collides, and the emotions of a custody battle. I would lean hard on God's ever sufficient grace. There came a time when I was in so much pain that I had to give it all to God, to let Him take over. It was the best thing I ever did.

  ~The Good Stuff~
It is interesting how God allows pain in our lives almost like an initiation into the deeper way of life. We are given choices, opportunities to chose which way we will turn. Unbelief in God's goodness, anger, and bitterness can take the life out us. It was a challenge for me to not choose my way but to choose God's best. There came a day when I made a list, "The List." This list stated all the things that I wanted God to change in my life. The quagmire was sucking me in and I knew that there had to be a better way. 

I was serious, and God knew it. Taking me through a process, God began to change me by removing my anger and bitterness, by showing me my hurts and healing them, by speaking to me through His word and whispering voice, and by teaching me to trust Him that He knew what He was doing and it was a good plan. A couple of times God's presence was so real that I felt completely full of light and joy. It was beautiful and meaningful. He also removed the pain out of my heart. I will share one of the scenes with you.

 ~Healing of a Memory~

The most defining moment which will start the process of my healing happens during a walk in an orchard behind my house. A few weeks before this I have asked God to heal me even if it requires revisiting the past. It is written in the third person as in a story.

While walking one afternoon, a painful memory enters her thoughts. "Father God, is this one of them?" She pauses, giving her full attention to the memory. It is something she's not thought about in a long while. She begins to playback the scene in her mind. She is a new mother, the baby is in the crib asleep, they are living in a little duplex on Olive Street near downtown Chico. It is a Monday morning, Memorial Day. She is getting ready to go to the Fair, dressing up as a clown to help out at a Child Evangelism booth. Her husband has the morning off. He speaks to her. In a conversational voice he informs her, "I'm going to move out." What? "I don't love you. I'm not sure I ever did."

Remembering his words, she feels the pain return, how hearing those words felt so long ago. She remembers the total shock, disbelief, sense of denial, unreality. Not her? Not their marriage? What about our son? Can this really be happening? I thought marriage was for life. She remembers the tears she cried, so many that her eyelids became puffy and she couldn't go out that day, how she begged him not to leave, to give it another chance... During the duration of the memory, she feels the pain as if she is still there, so real that it feels like she can't breathe. She is crying now, so hard that it makes her heart hurt. Yes, it was at that moment, when her world crashed in, when she realized she wasn't loved or wanted,  that she knew life would never be easy or the same again.

A picture of a sword embedded in a heart enters into her thoughts. She sees where the sword pierces a heart. It has been dripping blood in slow deliberate drops. Her blood. It represents the pain that has sabotaged her life. Understanding comes in. The problem has not been her spirit life. It has not been a lack of faith, it has not been unforgiveness toward her mate. No, it has not been any of those things. It has been something far beyond her ability to control. Her happiness has been hijacked by this sword in her heart all these years. 

She gives the pain to God and asks Him to take it away.  "Father, it's hurt so much. Can you remove it?" With gentle grace, God removes the sword that has been piercing her heart. The wound closes, a scar remains. But, He is not done. Something else begins to happen. God takes the sword and begins to shape it into a cross, it's the cross of Christ. "By my wounds and by my stripes you are healed." She gasps, relaxes, thinking "For my tears He died." Her thoughts take her to the cross, kneeling before the Lord whom she loves. Her thoughts quicken. In amazement she senses the truth, "

At the point of my deepest pain, Christ was feeling my pain. He was hurting right along with me. When I suffered He was suffering too." A warmth begins to cascade through her body. It is then that she realizes, Christ understands my pain. "His arms are open wide to embrace me." In tears, she begins praying in thanks to God, praising His holy name. She also finds herself praying for her ex-husband who wounded her so many years before. There is a peace that settles in her, a completeness. The sky seems brighter. 

A couple of days later she starts noticing something. It is an absence in her. "What is it?" It takes her awhile to place it. "What is it that's absent?" And, then, she knows what it is. Her pain. It's gone. Her pain is gone! The internal pain that caused her to retreat, to sit by a tree where no one could see her cry when life was too much, the thing that has haunted her and dogged her steps with its unspoken, persistent presence, the pain that has walked with her in silence for some twenty years. She knows she is different. She knows she is free.
There are some things hard to talk about because they involve real people and real family members. It can sound like one is bashing, whining, or being petty. When I share my story, which is not too often, it is a risk I take. I want you to know, that I do not wish to do any of those scenarios. I pray for my ex, I want the best for him, and I pray that God will continue to redeem what the locusts have eaten. God can, and I believe He will.

In my strange story, I have learned and grown via a fascinating unconventional journey which has taken me to heights of joy after experiencing the depths of sorrow. God is enough. He really is. It is the heart belief that tells the truth about a soul's true health and its love for God. 
Trust Him.

~A Look into the Future~

I expect I will continue on with my journey by writing and speaking. I have so much to learn about the world of writing and publishing. At times it seems quite absolutely over-whelming. I spent a bundle on self-publishing my first book. I don't want to do that again. My unknown quality in authorship lacks the publicity platform needed to send it forth to a broader audience. It may not be even very good. Yet, I have seen God use it to speak peace to broken and bleeding hearts. It is a comforting book. 

To be taken seriously, I will need to come out of my shell, make a few contacts, put myself forward, all those things which are always hard for me. God will be my sufficiency. I am seeking Him as I always strive to do. I have several books in me, I just don't want to spend money to have them printed, a much-adieu-about-nothing enterprise. Am I jaded?! The following books are waiting for me to put pen to paper or to finish up. They are in varying stages of development. I hope they will come to fruition. Pray that God will provide me with the people and services to get the works completed and published.

-A Quiet Grace - close to completion, a collection of personal stories that show how and why we care.
-Tea Cups & Coffee Mugs - about people who have given goodness and wisdom.
-The List: When it Hurts and God is enough - my story of how God healed me.
-What’s Wrong with Me? - about Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).
-Christmas Programs – a collection of Christmas Programs I’ve written.
-The Holiday Collection - Storybooks for school teachers using seeds, plants, and recipes.

I finish with this. God has a plan and a future for you, for me, and for all of us. 

~Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.~

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