Beauty Instead of Ashes

Today God gave me a visual.  I kept seeing a flower, plants or other vegetation blooming through volcanic ash or solidified lava.

It’s crazy to think that when a volcano erupts, that it destroys all that is around it.  There is nothing but death and destruction.  Everything around it is buried, burned and destroyed.  Although the immediate effect of the volcano seems hopeless to life around it, nature (God) does something amazing.  He takes that nutrient from the magma and the ash acts as a fertilizer enriching the soil.  Some plants actually do survive.  But often, a new ecosystem emerges, sometimes more vibrant than before.

A year ago today I was in a deep, dark place.  It felt like my world was crashing in.  But, I had constant hope and reassurance that God was there and that he would (as Isaiah 61:3 says) give me a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, and festive praise instead of despair.

As the anniversary of that “disaster” and “destruction” came around, I was so appreciative of where I was and where I’ve come from.  But, I also felt some of that old feeling trying to poke through.  As I was driving today, I kept hearing amazing songs about God restoring us.  “Rise,” by Danny Gokey: “So rise, Breaking the dark, piercing the night, you’re made to shine, an army of hope, bringing the world a radiant light…You were made to rise.”  (By the way, a year ago his song “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” was one of the things that got me through).

Other lyrics I heard today, Matthew West’s song, “Broken Things:” “The pages of history, they tell me it’s true, that it’s never the perfect; it’s always the ones with scars that you use…Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King, I wish I could bring so much more, But if it’s true You use broken things, then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours….”  And then there’s the Natalie Grants song, “Clean (my current favorite):”  “I see shattered, You see whole, I see broken, but You see beautiful…You’re restoring me piece by piece…What was dead now lives again, Cause You’re restoring me piece by piece.”

I was able to reflect on the fact that just like these little bits of vegetation poking through the ash, God is restoring me, piece by piece.

“And even now, He is breathing on your dry bones

And there will be dancing
There will be beauty where beauty was ash and stone
This much I know…Oh My Soul…” (by Casting Crowns)

It might not be like it was before, but it is already better than it was before.  I am so grateful that He causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

I’m a Proud Parent of a B- student

I am blessed to parent two beautiful, talented and smart girls. When my oldest was born, we were in a new city, I was a stay-at-home mom and this baby girl was my world. It felt to me like she was completing all of the baby “milestones” ahead of time. So, I always told my husband (until we would laugh at my confidence in her), “She’s advanced!” She grew to be such a smart girl. She was reading Dr. Seuss books by four-years-old. I had friends compliment me on how smart she is. She’s a real “brainiac,” one would say. “She is going to be at the top of her class.” Teachers always had nothing but good to say about her, they all loved her.  She continued to excel in everything she did. She truly had God’s favor on her life. She would always come home with “4’s” or “E’s” (for Excellent) on her report card. She was in the Excel program at her private Christian school and then in the Advanced Placement “Challenge” program once we moved her to public school. She continued in some AP classes in junior high/middle school.

I never felt like I was a “pushy” or overbearing parent, especially in terms of grades and homework.  But, let’s admit it.  I loved being the parent of such a smart and talented child.

And then, life happened. We had another baby when she was 7-years-old and I grew busier.  She had been continuously bullied from 4th grade on. She had bullies all through elementary and junior high. She had some other unfortunate events that took place during those years that sent her on a downward spiral. She began to lack self-esteem and confidence. School began to be more of struggle at times. She lost the desire to go to school and the loss of the desire and excitement to learn. She began to be experience bouts of depression. Then came the panic attacks. We didn’t know what to do. This was not the “vision” or the “dream” we had for our daughter’s life. This was not the top of the class, “A” student, class leader that she once was. This was a struggling teenager who had become someone else. She closed off her emotions, she wouldn’t talk to me or her dad much of the time. She began to spend endless hours alone in her room with the door closed, the lights off and slept all the time.  One day I found her in the fetal position, curled up in a ball on the floor of her bathroom sobbing.

I had talked to her about going to the doctor or a counselor and possibly even trying medication. She refused for such a long time.  I don’t know if it was shame and embarrassment or what.  But, finally, one day she agreed.  We saw a medical doctor that would actually consider an anti-depressant / anti-anxiety medication for a teenager (because some wouldn’t agree to it).  The doctor suggested we treat this holistically: deal with every aspect of her well-being (spiritual, emotional, physical and mental).  She was put on medication, she began to see a professional counselor, we moved her to a new school in a different school district.  Eventually she began to focus on what she was eating and her sleeping habits.

At the same time we were dealing with our oldest daughter’s “issues,” our youngest began to have severe stomach issues.  I had to take her to the doctor, allergists, G.I. specialists.  She was missing so much school.

Then, one day I got a call from my oldest’s school informing me she was flunking a class (or two, I can’t even remember now, it is all sort of a blur).  Then, seriously moments later I got notice my youngest would not be allowed back at her school because she had missed too many days.  To top of that crappy moment in life, my friend unknowingly came up to me and began to boast about how well her children were doing.  She told me her children just got their report cards and were getting straight A’s, one was on the honor roll or in National Honor’s Society.  I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown.

Shortly after, I gave my notice at work.  I knew I HAD to focus primarily on my children.  Our lives had become too complicated and too rushed.

Slowly, but surely things began to improve for both of our girls, but especially our oldest.  She found a new joy in choir and then tried out for and made show choir.  This new passion gave her a new desire and drive to be at school and to more than function on a daily basis.  There were set backs here and there.  We had to have her medication changed at one point.  Her counselor moved, so she had to basically start over with another one (that has been a total and complete blessing).  She still got overwhelmed with school work, so eventually we were able to get her on a 504 plan.  (Her school, counselors, teachers have been wonderfully helpful and usually very patient and understanding 🙂

We now have a daughter that will sit and talk with us. Sometimes for hours.  She opens up about her life, her struggles, her fears and her dreams and desires for the future.  She has started volunteering at our church, even going on a missions trip to Mexico.  Seeing others who weren’t having their basic needs being met was an eye opener.  Her confidence has grown by leaps and bounds.  She is truly the strongest, bravest person I know.  She is not ashamed of her “diagnosis.”  She has seen it as an opportunity to empathize with others.  She still has such high standards and expectations for herself.  But, she is also honest with herself.

As for grades.  We care, but we don’t.  We encourage her to do HER best.  We encourage her to use the gift that God has given her and to follow her passions.  Right now, she loves performing.  She was just part of a wonderful high school musical production that she was GREAT in!!  While watching her, it was like I was watching someone else.  Maybe more like a friend who I was proud of.  It sort of felt like an out-of-body experience at times.  I know part of this was because years ago, I truly had to fully surrender and give her to God.  I couldn’t hold on so tight anymore.  I had to let her slowly start letting her go.

As the last show came to an end on Sunday night and then Monday morning I woke up and realized my baby was now 17-years-old…I became emotional.  I just kept thinking, “She is growing into such a beautiful, talented, smart, funny and wonderful young lady.”  She has actually exceeded any expectations I ever had of her.  I could not have dreamed this.  My shy (but yes, smart) girl who was at time an introverted, then stressed, panicked, fearful, and depressed young person who could not get out of bed to go to school, was soaring on stage as one of the leads in a high school musical.  What?!?

I’m sure life will continue to throw us curveballs from time to time.  But, I know we can handle whatever is thrown at us.  I have truly surrendered any of my dreams, expectations or desires for her life and have tried to be there as a support and advocate.  She’s even letting me slowly let go of those reigns.  Which is hard!

Now, I just try to be there for her.  When she wants to talk or vent, I try to listen (and shut my mouth, which is hard).  I of course give advice or the wisdom I can give when I feel like it’s needed.  Having a supportive, wonderful husband and father to my girls who is my total partner in this adventure is a blessing that I cannot even express in words.

So, when the report cards get ready to come out (once again), we just focus on areas that can be improved, but really continue to focus on the future, what is on her heart for her future.  Life is crazy.  To think that I would be excited with B- or or okay with some C+ grades is almost laughable to me.  But, I just see a happy, healthy girl and think, “What else can a mom hope for?”

Be blessed,

Kellie

The Lord is for me, I will not fear

I have noticed a recent trend on social media and the news: FEAR. Most of the fear is surrounding Ebola entering our borders. But, there is always something on the news or events happening in our lives or the lives of those around us that could cause us to be fearful: issues with our health, not having job security, the health and welfare of our children, anxieties and phobias, etc., etc. etc.

For years I struggled with fear. As a child, I feared the boogey-man. I remember lying awake at night, not being able to sleep because I was afraid of the dark, of something underneath my bed or that someone was going to come and get me. Often times, I would end up in one of my sister’s beds. (It was a blessing having four sisters to choose from). 🙂

When Aaron and I moved from sleepy ol’ Pocatello, Idaho to the Seattle-Tacoma area in 1998, that fear got a grip on me once again. I was bed ridden for months because of the hyperemesis gravidarum I experienced during pregnancy. So, I would sit and watch T.V. including the news 2-3 times per day. Going from pretty mild news reports to news about rapes and murders (some happening very close by, like just down the street) gripped me with fear. I began to fear someone breaking into our apartment and couldn’t sleep well at night. Then, when our first child was born, it continued into being concerned something would happen to her.

This continued on for years and only progressed when we moved into our first house in an area that would eventually have issues with drug related crimes, thefts and break-ins, etc.

I had faith, I believed in God and deep down I knew He would protect us. But, I couldn’t shake that grip that fear had on me.  I would pray over our house, walk around and pray over our property, etc, etc.  But, nothing seemed to help the fear subside.

I bought a little picture of an angel guarding a child’s bed and every night began to recite the passage that was printed on it:  Psalms 4:8, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.”  I had been reading, “The Power of a Praying Parent” by Stormie Omartian and would read the chapter on fear not just for my daughter, but for ME.  It was pretty humbling.  I tried to read other books on fear, but they all dealt with things such as stage fright, asking for a raise, etc.  Those are still very real and debilitating fears, but I felt like I was the only person who was fearing for my life.  (I saw Joyce Meyer has a new book on fear.  I’m curious to read it.  I bet that’s a great resource).

Looking back, I really cannot believe the way I was living.  I was truly a prisoner to my own mind and emotions.  On top of the fear, I was dealing with so many other “issues.”  God began to slowly peel away at those issues one by one.  But, it truly took FAITH to overcome the FEAR.

The first step I took (after reading the Scriptures on fear and praying) was getting a little booklet on fear that actually opened my eyes to how fear works.  For some reason, reading, “Freedom From Fear” by Kenneth Copeland made that little lightbulb in my brain turn on.  I had that “Aha” moment.  In the booklet, Copeland explains the law of reciprocals (“corresponding, but reversed or inverted” principles) that are discussed in Romans 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”  Understanding that fear is just faith perverted (by Satan) opened my eyes.  Satan is “limited to the forces of the world.”  He cannot create or come up with new ideas.  He just perverts the spiritual laws that are already in place.  “Sin was not a new law.  It was righteousness perverted.  Death was life perverted.  Hate was love perverted.  Fear was faith perverted (pg. 5).”  In the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve sinned, the first words Adam spoke to God were, “I was afraid.”  Genesis 3:10.  The enemy is here to steal, kill and destroy.  So, he took the faith that Adam had and it was turned to fear.  I love where Kenneth Copeland writes, “The counterfeit never is as powerful as the real thing” (pg. 7).  Therefore, we know that when we put faith to work, “it will always overcome fear.”

In our Christian walk, we have to walk by faith.  In doing so, we have to know the Word of God and stand on its (His) principles.  We have to know that Satan is under our feet because of what Jesus has done for us (as believers, we are free from every part of the curse).  So, why do we allow him to pull us around on strings of fear, worry, anxiety, depression, etc?  Yes, we are physical beings and will have physical problems.  But, God is bigger than any of our problems.  And…He has put other people, counselors, doctors (and sometimes modern medicine) here on earth to help us walk through some of the pains of life.  (I’ll talk about my feelings on that a bit more in another post) 🙂  However, the best resource He has given us is His word.  We can’t just read it, we have to believe it and apply it.  We have to speak it and believe what we are saying.  When we speak it, we must remember the authority that we have through Jesus and speak it with confidence, not with a question mark at the end.

As believers, we must hold our (negative) thoughts captive.  Then, we must renew our minds with the Word of God.  I will share some of my favorite passages below.  There are 365 references in the Bible that say or address, “Do not fear.”  Or as our Youth Pastor Terry said, one do not fear for every day of the year!!!  (I LOVE that!!)

After I read that booklet, I knew that things were beginning to change in my thought life.  But, it wasn’t until a women’s retreat (my first retreat with Inspiration Bible Church) I truly became free and broke off the chains of fear.  I had gone to get away and enjoy myself (and of course for the great teaching I would receive).  But, I didn’t realize it would be life changing.  I went away still battling the demons of fear, but left them in Cannon Beach along with hurts, bitterness, worry and the rest of the enemy’s lies he had been telling me at that time.  I was freed and in turn I bound the enemy in the name of Jesus because WE have the AUTHORITY to do that (once again because of what Jesus did for us).

 

Psalm 27:1-3

A Psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident.

Psalm 118:6

The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? (NASB)

Matthew 10:28

Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear (reverence) only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. NLT

V. 30 & 31, But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

Hebrews 2:14 & 15

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

 

Be a Blessing, Not a Jerk!

I had to take my car to Jiffy Lube recently.  They had a comfortable waiting room, with comfortable chairs, so it didn’t bother me to wait longer than the 10 minutes they usually try to promote.  However, the T.V. wasn’t working, so it was unusually quiet.  Most of us were on our phones or other mobile devices.  Then, a successful looking man got a call on his phone.  He was polite enough to take it outside.  But, his conversation was anything but private.  In fact, he was loud and proud to share with us all about his life.  This twenty-something businessman began to tell the person on the other line about how he had recently told his boss off.  He bragged about how he had a company car, took care of personal things during business hours and continued to boast about his lack of respect for the person in charge of him.

There were only two of us left in the waiting room at that point.  We just looked at each other and shook our heads.  Not in judgement, but just because this guy was trying to sound cool, but instead he sounded like a jerk.

I couldn’t help but wonder why his boss would allow him to treat him that way.  I doubted his success would last long (or at least at that particular business).  And more importantly, I began to wonder what caused him to become the way he was.  Did he begin to rebel because one of his parents was an authoritarian?  Or were his parents very permissive and let him get away with anything?  It made me actually very sad for this man and for his boss.

Over the years I have been blessed enough to work for some wonderful people.  And…I have worked with wonderful people who demonstrated what hard work really is.  As Christians, we have an even greater responsibility to be great workers.  We are to be obedient, submitting to authority (as I mentioned in my previous post on rebellion, “even to those who are unreasonable”) and use those opportunities where we don’t agree with those around us or in charge of us to grow.  Yes, there are times where are jobs can be so stressful, that we have to find other jobs.  We don’t want to risk our physical or mental health if we are truly that unhappy.  But, while you are there, be a blessing!  Don’t be a jerk!!

Jesus was the greatest example of a servant.  It is more precious for us to serve than to worry about our personal rights wherever we are.  When we are being persecuted, we are supposed to consider it a privilege.  But, our flesh wants to fight.  Jesus could have fought for His rights.  But, He didn’t.  He humbly submitted to authority.  Phillipians 2:6-8, “6 Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. 7 He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. 8 And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.”

I encourage you to read Phillipians to be reminded how to respond in times of affliction, how to humble ourselves, having confidence in anything other than Christ, and having peace with others.

I want to leave you with these reminders of how we are to submit and serve:

Service on the Job / Submission in Business / Submission to Each Other:   “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21 NIV

Submit to Our Employers:  ” Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.”  1 Peter 2:18 NASB

” Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear (reverence).  Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” Ephesicans 6:5

Serving: “Work hard, but not just to please your masters when they are watching.  As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than people.” Ephesians 6:6-7 NLT  (See also Colossians 3:22-24, “…It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” v. 24b)

My prayer is that if you would be a blessing wherever you are at, whether you are a Stay at Home Mom, a successful business person, or you make minimum wage.  You are important. Your job is important (whether it is in your eyes or the eyes of others doesn’t matter).  God has you there for a time and a season to Be A Blessing!!

Lesson #1 – Rebellion

Years ago I was struggling with something and was in prayer about it when I felt God say to me, “You have a rebellious heart.”  At first, I was like, “What?”  But, then He began to reveal to me areas where I had been rebellious and not submitted to authority.  Then, He gently urged me to ask for His forgiveness.

The person I remember the most was President Bill Clinton.  During the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal, I sat there and watched with judgement, disgust and self-righteousness.  God reminded me that we are to pray for those in leadership.

1 Timothy 2: 1, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Rebellion comes from a place of pride.  We think we know better or perhaps are smarter than those in authority.  Pride was the first sin.  Satan thought he could do a better job than God, questioned His authority and rebelled.  The Israelites rebelled against Moses.   Once again, they thought they knew better than Moses (ultimately God) and didn’t enter the promised land.

Hebrews 3:8 & Psalms 95:8 warn, “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,[a] As in the day of trial[b] in the wilderness,” (NKJV) or “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,[a] as you did that day at Massah[b] in the wilderness,”  (NIV).  Meribah means “quarreling” Massah means “testing.”

We have all been in situations where we did not agree with people in authority.  It may have been our parents, an employer or even law enforcement.  However, we are still supposed to respect and submit to those we don’t agree with.  1 Peter 2: 18, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.”  Peter urges us to have an attitude of submission for it is the Christlike way to bring harmony and true freedom (1 Peter 2:13-3:12).

Sure, there are times where we need to stand up for what we believe in, especially if what is being taught is unbiblical.  However, we must be bold and confidant in our faith, but humbled by our flesh. One of the best ways we can fight is through prayer.  Let God battle for us.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).  Be mad at the devil.  But, also, take a step back and examine your own heart.  Are YOU the one being unreasonable?  1 Samuel 15:23 says, “For rebellion is a s the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry,” (KJV).

There may be a reason God has allowed for you to work for an “unreasonable” boss or under the leadership of someone you don’t always agree with.  Perhaps He is trying to teach you submission to authority.  Use the time to learn, to grow and to be patient through the process.  Bless those in authority by praying for them, working hard for them.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily (from the soul), as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve,” (Colossian 3:23-24 NASB)

I pray that you will have a soft heart to hear what God is trying to teach you during this time.  Blessings~ Kellie

I Have Issues

I Have Issues.  Don’t we all?  I used to hide some of my flaws or try to mask or cover them up.  But, that gets really tiresome.  Instead, I have found FREEDOM in being truthful, open and honest about my “issues.”  I have found truthfulness opens up a dialogue of discussion when you mention that you deal with something physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually.  The wonderful thing about issues is…they can be overcome.  See, I AM AN OVERCOMER.  I have found VICTORY through Jesus Christ, my Friend, my Lord and my Savior for the past 20 years.  And…He has put it on my heart to share my struggles and my victories with other people.  See, none of us should feel shame or isolation because we struggle.  All of us do.  So, instead…let’s share our struggles with one another so we don’t feel so alone.  AND…we can learn lessons through it all.  Isn’t that what life is about?  For me, it has been the journey and I can’t wait for the destination!