Archive for the ‘faith’ Category
We make small plans: God multiplies and magnifies and the truly incredible happens! He is not limited by our imaginations! When we started talking about going to Juarez several months ago, we were basically inviting ourselves to tag along with one other family so we could cook a meal. Now, less than 2 weeks before we leave, we are expecting 5 families to make this journey with us- for a total of 10 adults and 18 children, ranging in age from 6 months (yes, another baby even younger than James is coming!) up to 17! The momentum that we are gaining (no blog title pun intented!) is nothing short of miraculous.
On Friday night we gathered with a house full of people for an information meeting about our upcoming trip to Arbol de Vida. The Schrimps are a couple with whom Chris works at Cherry Hills, they have lived at Arbol de Vida and continue to faithfully serve the orphanage from Colorado. They will be heading up this little adventure, and they were able to give us more specifics regarding the mission and purpose of Arbol de Vida, our safety risks while in the Juarez area, travel to and from Mexico, and the needs at the orphanage. We were also able to meet all of the families who will be joining us and to brainstorm about the difference we can make together. We’ve had so many great questions in response to our first letter I thought I’d put as much information as possible into one place for you.
The goal of Arbol de Vida is to provide a safe, family environment to youth who would otherwise be on the streets where they would surely turn to the gangs and/or to prostitution just to survive. Because these boys and girls receive an education, learn job skills, and learn about Jesus, there is hope for the future of Juarez. These youth are life in a town that is desperate for revival. Arbol de Vida is literally fostering the future of Mexico. Unlike many orphanages that cut off services when the child turns 18, Arbol de Vida is committed to the long term success of it’s charges. They provide a safe home for as long as it’s needed, they continue to provide training and support into adulthood, and they serve as a resource when life outside of their walls gets complicated.
In regard to safety, we will not be using the main border crossing into Juarez, but a small crossing well outside of town. The compound where we are headed is less than 7 minutes across the US/Mexico border. We will not be taking our kids into the city of Juarez- and in fact I doubt if any of us will go into town at all. If we do have needs that arise, it is safer and easier to cross back into El Paso, Texas to get what we need. The property that the orphanage is on is protected by armed guards who are loyal to the children of the orphanage and to anyone who is coming to serve them. Despite all of the well deserved bad press that Juarez gets, the orphanage is much safer and is apart from the main areas of danger. The town knows and respects the people who run Arbol de Vida and the gangs and drug cartels have left them alone (and in some cases support them!). We have been told that they have only ever had one problem- years ago some looters came in and stole and damaged some property and roughed up one of the workers- and that actually served to increase the protective nature of the surrounding community and the guards. We will be sleeping in the dorms, Chris and JT will be in the boy’s wing in their own bedroom, and I will have Kate and James with me in a private room in the girl’s wing. We will have access to clean, safe water- for drinking and bathing. The orphanage has it’s own aquifer well and reverse osmosis filtering system.
We have made one change to our itinerary- we decided to leave on Friday (Nov 16) to get a head start on the drive. We would like to meet up with all of the other families and cross into Mexico together on Saturday afternoon well before dark sets in. We decided that it is unrealistic to attempt the entire 11 hour drive on Saturday since we are expecting stops at least every three hours to feed James and to keep the kids from revolting. This means we will require an extra night in a hotel and does add to our expenses, but it seems like a more feasible itinerary.
Regardless of all that, we feel strongly that there is no place safer than where God has called us. We are trying to be as smart as possible in our planning, but we also have to trust that since God has put it on our hearts to go that He will protect us as He sees fit. Truly, I am more concerned with the logistics of the drive and time at the orphanage with three small children than our safety due to violence.
As to what we’ll be doing while we’re at Arbol de Vida, it turns out they have plenty for us to do! Because of the unrest in Juarez over the past 5 years, most of the U.S. support to the orphanage has dried up. People have stopped coming to serve, people have stopped sending money, and the youth there feel forgotten and abandoned. We hope to change that- by spending a few days with them and showing them that they are not forgotten and that they are important to us! We are planning to provide a big festive meal for them, repair some damage to their buildings, provide sporting equipment, and do some craft projects with them (we’re thinking we will make no-sew bags, duct tape wallets and purses, and hair accessories). We also will be bringing some specific items that they have requested- bras and underclothes, church clothes, toiletries and hygiene items, new bedding, etc. I believe that they deserve better than our cast offs, more than a check sent from afar. They deserve for someone to spend time with them, to look into their eyes and to show them that they are valuable. That they are beautiful. That their life is worth something. That they can make a difference in their community.
If you have already sent us money to help cover our expenses, THANK YOU! As of today our family’s budgeted travel expenses are completely paid for ($800!). As a group, we are hoping that we will raise enough money to purchase ALL of the supplies and goods that we have on our wish list. Our group goal is to raise $1500 for the building supplies and I estimate that we need an additional $2000 for the rest of our purchases. Specifically, we want to pay the orphanage for all of the food and expenses related to our group’s stay, buy food for a turkey dinner, paint, building, and roofing supplies, toiletries, undergarments and hygiene items for the girls, dress clothes for the boys, bedding, supplies to make crafts, and sports equipment. If you have considered making a contribution toward our trip, there is still time and we would love your support! We would also love to know if you have decided to partner with Arbol de Vida directly, it would mean so much to us to know that because of our trip you have decided to support their work.
We definitely appreciate and need your prayers. Of course, please pray for our safety. We are facing long hours on the highway, border crossings, and the risks of Juarez. Pray for good health for each member of our family. Please pray for unity among those of us serving together. Pray for the Spirit of the Living God to fall on Juarez- not just while we are there, but that revival would occur and that the community would be renewed. Please pray for the boys and girls who live at Arbol de Vida. Pray that they would reject the lies that they aren’t valuable, that life on the streets is the best they can hope for, that it’s time for them to strike out on their own. Pray that they will be encouraged by our visit and that they will continue to have hope for the future. Pray that our children would have soft hearts and develop a love for serving others. Please pray that us parents would have extra patience and wisdom as we are facing extra stresses there. Please pray as we continue to prepare for our trip, that the essentials will not be forgotten and that the details will fall into place. I’m sure that you can think of many other blessings to pray over us, and I encourage you to do so. I would love to know if you are committed to praying over our trip- please let me know!
I understand that we will have some cell phone coverage and internet access while we are in Mexico. I am hoping to keep my blog and Facebook updated while we are there so that you can know how to pray and what we are accomplishing along the way.
If you would like to support us financially, you can mail a check directly to us-
Melody or Chris Benschoter
2285 Wynterbrook Dr
Highlands Ranch, CO 80126
If you want to learn more about Arbol de Vida or would like to support them directly you can access their facebook page at www.facebook.com/TreeofLifeJuarez or their website at www.treeoflifejuarez.org.
Thank you for your love and support! I have loved hearing your reactions and responses this past week!
When Chris and I got married we set some short and long term goals for our family. One of our short term goals was to serve on a mission trip together before we had children. Sadly, we didn’t meet that goal- in the busyness of life it is something that got pushed off time and again. As JT and Kate are growing old enough to understand and follow our example as Christ followers, it has become more and more important to us to live out the gospel intentionally with and before our children. Our desire is to love our neighbors both near and far and to serve widows and orphans the best that we can as a family.
A few months ago Chris was chatting with a coworker about Arbol de Vida, the orphanage that he works with in Juarez, Mexico and that our church happens to support. During the conversation it was mentioned that last year the children had oatmeal for dinner on Thanksgiving. It’s like a lightbulb went on and we saw a need that we could meet. Why not provide Thanksgiving to these children? Why not bring our family down and serve it to them ourselves?
Chris and I have decided to answer God’s call to take our family on an adventure in serving Him over the week of Thanksgiving this year. On November 17 we will be joining the Schrimp family, the Babb family, and possibly two more families in driving 11 hours south to Juarez, Mexico to serve the children and staff at Arbol de Vida. We will be returning on Thanksgiving day, hopefully in time to celebrate with family at home.
We are excited for an opportunity to expose JT, Kate, and James to another culture, to be the hands and feet of Jesus to others, to love some children who can use extra love, to help meet practical needs at the orphanage, to show our children how God gives to us so that we can give to others, and to provide a turkey dinner with all the trimmings to the residents of Arbol de Vida. (Thank goodness I cooked Thanksgiving by myself for the first time last year! God knew what was in store for us this year!)
We are nervous about spending 22 hours+ with our three (very young!) kids in the car (especially since James is still breast feeding every 3 hours!), border crossings and travel in another country, safety on the road and in a town known for violence and drug wars, spending 4 nights in a dormitory (no naps = cranky kids!), exposing our children to the older children of the orphanage (most of the orphans are middle and high school aged), and living and sharing the gospel when we have so much to learn ourselves.
How can you support us on this adventure? First and foremost we need your prayers. We know that all things are possible with God and that prayer is a powerful agent of change. We will face many challenges during this adventure and will need an extra measure of wisdom and grace and patience as we face the unknown. Second, we would appreciate your financial support. We will require gas for the round trip drive, a hotel stay for one night, and groceries, toiletries, and goodies (all of which must be purchased in Mexico) for the children of Arbol de Vida. We would like to lavish the kids and staff with love and practical goods while we are there. If you feel called to support us, whether through prayer or gifts of money please let us know before November 10.
Thank you for your love and support-
Chris, Melody, JT, Kate, and James Benschoter
I love my job. I’ve always joked that as a dental hygienist I’m a cross between a nurse and a hairdresser. I love working in health care- helping people have better health and teaching preventative care. I love helping people look and feel better about themselves, and I love building relationships with my patients and getting to know them and their family. It can be tricky though; holding a two way conversation with someone who has a pair of hands in their mouth has it’s challenges. At the end of an hour there are some people whom I feel I have spent quality time with, there are others with whom I haven’t even gotten past the pleasantries. Sometimes it’s me- I’m tired, have a lot on my mind, I’m running behind schedule. Sometimes it’s them- they’re not feeling chatty, they have a lot on their mind, they hate being at the dentist. In any case, I try to pray throughout the day that God would use me to be a light to my patients. Sometimes I find opportunities to share the gospel or invite a patient to church, but more often I try to share by example and by being positive and encouraging to them.
The other day I had a patient in my chair whom I’ve seen 5 or 6 times during the past few years. He’s a 50 something man with three children- one of them is adopted and two have special needs. He always strikes me as someone who is making the best of a difficult life. He’s polite and friendly, but always seems tired and somewhat beaten down. I decided to ask him a little bit about his adoption experience and told him about how I long to start pursuing adoption for our family. We then segued into a conversation about marriage and the challenges of finding time to date our spouses and putting marriage first. I shared how Chris and I decided to do some marriage counseling as a gift to ourselves this year. How we plan on being married to each other for a really long time and want it to be the best it can be. I encouraged him to invest in his wife and to find ways to reconnect with her. And then he said “What about sex?”
Cue the long awkward pause.
Ummmmm, what? Yes it’s true I’ve been speaking about personal topics with you for the past 30 minutes, but I wasn’t really planning on going THERE!
I must have given him a funny look. And the increasingly long pause in the conversation was probably a clue.
“I mean the gender. Of a child. If you adopt!” He clarified.
Ahhhh. Now that’s something I’m happy to talk about with you!
I’m not big on t.v. That doesn’t come as a surprise to those of you who know me in real life, but for those of you who don’t know me, there it is. I’d much rather read a book or work on something crafty or play with my kids than watch a movie or t.v. show. So it’s no surprise that I haven’t allowed my kids to watch much t.v. either. Sure, my two year old can navigate my iPhone, has his own list of favorites both on youtube and on netflix, and can tell me the title of which episode of Blue’s Clues he’d like to watch, but really, he doesn’t see much t.v. either.
As a special treat the other day we headed “down basement” to watch a few shows on netflix. JT requested Dora- a show that apparently he’s watched with daddy (who does not share my distaste for t.v.!) and I obliged. After 10 minutes I texted Chris- “This Dora is painful. Literally hurting me.” and “Boots is whiny and Dora is bossy. I hate this show.” Not even to mention Swiper whose only role on the show is to steal things and hide them, as far as I could tell. Needless to say, when the episode ended I switched us back to our friends Steve and Blue. When Chris got home from work that afternoon he said to me “So, no more Dora for JT, huh? It’s been kicked off the approved list?” Now to tell the truth, I hadn’t really thought about it, other than I didn’t want to have to watch it. But as I paused I realized something. Why in the world would I allow my two year old watch a show whose main characters display behaviors that I don’t want him to emulate? So yes, it got kicked off the approved list.
This got me thinking about a conversation that happened years ago when my sister’s boys were young. My boss at the time mentioned a movie that he let his very young children watch and commented about how my nephews (who were several years older) must also like it. I replied that they had never seen it. He was shocked! How could my sister deprive her kids of this popular form of entertainment? I told him how very little t.v. her boys watch and that it would be too scary for them. I could have been speaking a foreign language from the look he gave me. Too scary? What in the world? It also reminds me of countless times during the Super Bowl or other televised sporting events when my nephews would literally look away and distract themselves during all of the commercial breaks. My sister allowed them to watch the sport, but trained them to turn away from the images of alcohol use, violent movies, and scantily clad women. Not a perfect system, but one that worked! In any case, the majority of their t.v. viewing was with video tapes- pre-approved by mom and with no surprises.
Now here’s where I’m sure I’m going to alienate 90% of you. I won’t let my kids watch Disney movies. Not now and probably not for a very long time. Every single Disney movie that I can think of has a major component of good versus evil. A mean/bad/scary/evil/cruel character. Usually there are several lesser mean/bad/scary/evil/cruel characters too. Now it’s true- good does tend to triumph over evil in the world of Walt Disney (notice I said good and not God). And some day- perhaps when my kids are in college- I’ll let them watch all the Disney movies they want. In the meantime, why in the world would I introduce such concepts to my toddler as a form of entertainment? Isn’t there plenty of time for him to learn about cruel bullies and mocking laughter? Wouldn’t he be happier not knowing about wicked witches and evil step mothers? How about if I put off telling him about people who kill dogs for their fur coats for a few years?
I know that I can’t shelter him forever. And I don’t plan to, actually. We already read stories about David and Goliath, Noah and the flood, Queen Esther who saved her people from death. The point isn’t that I’m pretending evil doesn’t exist. The point is that I want to teach him first about God’s perfect power. That God ALWAYS triumphs over evil. That God’s people are under God’s protection and need not fear the evil one. This is about choosing to fill his growing mind with the Good News, hope and love rather than crass humor, that morality is subjective, and that the means justify the end.
Will my kid be one of the few at school who has never seen Sponge Bob Squarepants? Who doesn’t know the Cinderella from Belle? Probably. Will he be one of the kids at school who knows the power of Jesus and the Way the Truth and the Life? I hope so.
Life hurts sometimes. Sometimes the pain is so deep you can’t picture making it through the next moment. Sometimes your heart is left in pieces that can not be put back together to make the same shape. Sometimes I don’t understand God’s will or His ways or His plan. Sometimes I understand exactly what He’s doing but I don’t like it. I don’t want it. Sometimes our circumstances are unbearable. Truly, literally unbearable.
But life is also beautiful. Have you ever seen God at work in His people? He is beautiful. Have you ever heard your 2 year old express empathy for a hurting friend? It’s a beautiful innocence. Have you ever read the words of a grieving widow? Caught just the smallest glimpse into her soul? It’s a beautiful window. Have you ever sat in silence because there is nothing to say? It’s a beautiful silence. Have you ever made a new friend- simply because she loves the one you love? It’s a beautiful friendship. Have you ever seen God’s people carry each other through? It’s a beautiful community.
If we struggle to make it past our pain without ever learning lessons from that pain we miss out on seeing God’s beauty. We miss out on a chance to grow more like Christ- our most beautiful savior and perfect example of one who shouldered His burdens with grace. One who helped others carry their pain. One who chose to step into the ugly to make something beautiful.
If I am going to go through it I’d like to come out the other side just a little more beautiful.
When JT was a baby he was a tank. I mean that boy was HUGE! He was in the 97th percentile for several months. So we never thought much about feeding him. He always seemed to get enough- even during that time of transition from breast feeding to solids. We offered him healthy choices, he ate what he wanted, and that was that.
Kate has always been petite. I mean tiny. As in 17th percentile at her 6 month check. As in she’s still wearing size 1 diapers at almost a year. And while she’s always been an enthusiastic breast feeder, she has refused to take any liquids from any other source. Bottle? ”No thanks.” Sippy cup? ”Not right now.” Breast milk, water, juice? ”I’d rather not.” We haven’t let this worry us too much since she’s happy to eat solid foods. In fact she loves to feed herself and prefers table food to baby food. The girl will out eat JT when she’s in the mood- it’s not uncommon for her to finish his leftovers!
So imagine my surprise when I brought her in to the pediatrician last week for the croup and they told me she’s fallen off the charts for her weight. She’s 11 months old and 16 pounds 2.3 ounces.
I don’t tend to be a guilty parent. Guilt doesn’t serve much purpose, and I’ve never been one to wallow in it.
But I knew she was tiny. Why hadn’t I been encouraging her to eat more? Why have I been so relaxed about ensuring that she has 3-4 meals a day in addition to breast feeding? (Because she rarely acts hungry and is such a good eater.)
When she was 9 months I debated with myself about bringing her in for a weight check, just to be sure she was still within the healthy range. And I talked myself out of it. (Because she is growing out of her clothes and has moved up a size since she was six months old.)
This one has thrown me for a loop. Perhaps it’s due to other circumstances in my life right now, but this is really bugging me. How could I not have noticed that she’s too small? What kind of a parent doesn’t feed her kid enough?
I know I’m overreacting.
I know that she’s happy and healthy and growing- even if ever so slowly.
I know that our pediatrician will have good advice for me when I see her next week.
So I’ve been praying for God’s peace and wisdom in this matter.
I actually suspect that God is using this challenge to remind me to stop being so reliant on my own strength and to be more dependent on His.
I am learning to listen more closely to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this is a lesson in listening.
I am trying to be more in touch with God’s plans for me and less tightly attached to my own plans. Perhaps this is a reminder to let go of the things I think I know.
I am desiring to be more grace filled and compassionate for those around me. Perhaps this is showing me my own fallibility, that I might have more sympathy for the mistakes of others.
Or maybe I’m overthinking the whole thing and Kate is just petite.
(Kate and her Auntie Susan)
Thursday morning, December 23rd, I was enjoying the last few hours of sleep before another busy day when the phone rang. It was 5:48 am.
Polly, the mom of my dear friend, Tricia was on the phone. We need you to come right away to get the boys, we’re taking Robb in an ambulance. Come right now, she said. Don’t wait. I threw on some sweats from off the top of the pile and was out the door in less than a minute, I’m sure.
The night before I had gotten a text from Tricia asking for prayer because her husband, Robb was very sick and she was taking him to urgent care.
I rounded the corner to their house and was confronted with a street full of flashing lights. Fire trucks, ambulances, police cars. This was not quite what I had expected to find.
I raced inside and saw Polly walking around the living room with Tyler while Tricia sat at the kitchen table reading scripture. The paramedics were milling about. The house was very quiet.
My first instinct was to pray, so pray I did. I ran to Tricia’s side and prayed out loud. The only words I remember saying are “please breathe life into him”. When I finished Tricia looked me in the eye and told me that she thought he was dead. She told me that she had performed CPR on Robb until the paramedics took over. That they had been at the house for 45 minutes and wouldn’t let her go upstairs. That she didn’t think he was alive.
I sent messages to my husband and our small group. Pray. Pray now.
Only a moment or two later a paramedic came downstairs to talk to us. They had been unable to resuscitate him. There was nothing more that they could do.
I took over caring for Tyler while Polly went to Tricia.
A few short minutes later Robb’s dad and brother ran into the house. I can picture Tricia so clearly as she stood and told them “he died”.
I will never forget the sound of the keening wail that followed. Never.
It is a sound I had never heard before. I pray that I never hear it again.
I pray I never utter such a sound.
The sound of raw grief.
Tricia jumped into action. Get the boys out of here. Take them and go.
Tucker was woken up and carried out my car where I was already buckling Tyler into a car seat a few sizes too small.
We drove to my house. They chattered about the Christmas lights that were on in the neighborhood. We all wondered if the lights were on yet at my house.
My husband took them downstairs to watch a movie.
I sat upstairs and cried.
For the loss of my friend.
For my friend’s loss.
For two little boys who lost their daddy. They are 3 and 5.
For plans that have been cancelled permanently.
For dreams that have been shattered.
For my husband.
For my children.
How do you move on from a loss like this?
This is not what I had planned.
You are missed, Robb. You are missed.
August 27, 1975 – December 23, 2010
Today I was surfing the blogosphere when I came across this post http://audreycaroline.blogspot.com/2010/10/sweet-sleep.html which stirred my heart. Angie Smith writes a beautiful blog and often shares opportunities to serve others. As I’ve mentioned before, God has been deepening my desire to serve orphans and the less fortunate. Particularly in Africa! Sweet Sleep (www.sweetsleep.org) has been working with ARC- the American Refugee Committee to provide a bed, mosquito net and bible to children who are returning from their refugee camps to the villages of their ancestry.
I encourage you to reed Angie’s post about this life changing ministry and then prayerfully consider donating. Chris and I have intentionally cut our Christmas spending WAY back the past few years to allow us to give more generously to those in need at Christmas time. This may just be the ministry that receives our gift this year!
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
I came across this marriage prayer on a blog today and loved it so much I personalized it by inserting our names into it. I would love to begin praying this with my husband and see how God answers our prayers. The prayer came from http://lysaterkeurst.com/ which I found through today’s (in)courage post http://www.incourage.me/2010/09/things-that-seem-so-small.html#comment-37709 which I loved! (If you haven’t been reading the (in)courage posts I recommend you skim through the site. I am really enjoying the encouragement and challenges here.)
The Marriage Prayer
Father in Heaven, thank you for our commitment to Christian marriage. As we look ahead, we pray that our future will never lack the convictions that make a marriage strong.
Bless my husband, Chris. Bless him as provider and protector. Sustain him in all the pressures that come with the task of stewarding a family. May his strength be my boast and pride, and may he so live that I may find in him the haven for which my heart truly longs.
Bless my wife, Melody. Give her a tenderness that makes her great, a deep sense of understanding, and a strong faith in You. Give her that inner beauty of soul that never fades, that eternal youth that is found in holding fast to the things that never age. May she so live that I may be pleased to reverence her in the shrine of my heart.
Teach us that marriage is not living for each other. It is two people uniting and joining hands to serve You. Give us a great spiritual purpose in life. May we seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness, knowing that You will sustain us through all of life’s challenges.
May we minimize each other’s weaknesses and be swift to praise and magnify each other’s strengths so that we might view each other through a lover’s kind and patient eyes. Help us every day to be kind and gentle, more like Thee. Give us a little something to forgive each day, that their love might learn to be long-suffering.
Bless us and develop our characters as they walk together with You. Give us enough hurts to keep us humane, enough failures to keep our hands clenched tightly in Yours, and enough of success to make us sure we walk with You throughout all of our life.
May we never take each other’s love for granted but always experience that breathless wonder that exclaims. “Out of all this world, you have chosen me.” Then, when life is done and the sun is setting, may we be found then as now, still hand in hand, still very proud, still thanking You for each other.
May we travel together as friends and lovers, brother and sister, husband and wife, father and mother, and as servants of Christ until He shall return or until that day when one shall lay the other into the arms of God. This we ask through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, the great lover of our souls. Amen.
Pray with me and see what God has in store for your marriage!
Last night was the launch of a new women’s ministry at my church. I am super excited about this for several reasons-
- My girlfriend Tricia is the main speaker and organizer
- I LOVE my girlies and can’t get enough time with them
- I would love to develop relationships with more women at my church
- I need to get out for the evening and laugh and talk and eat dessert once in a while
- What a great way to invite pre-believers to a low key event where they can hear about Jesus and meet other women in a non-threatening way
For this first meeting we needed a woman to give her testimony. I volunteered. I was chosen. Now I knew this was coming up for at least 3 weeks. I literally did not start thinking about it until the night before. That’s how I deal with public speaking- I pretend that it’s not going to happen until the last moment possible! Lucky for me I have given my testimony a few times in the past year, so I had it all in a Word doc and just needed to review it and tweak it a little bit for my audience.
Last night as I was laying in bed it occurred to me that those of you out there in the world wide web might like to hear how God redeemed my life almost 20 years ago and some of the things He’s done with me since then. So here it is- out there- for the whole world to see. Me. (and more importantly, God)
Hi, my name is Melody Benschoter. I’m married to Chris and have the two most adorable children in the world, JT who is 2 years old and Kate who is 7 months old. I’ve been attending South Fellowship since we moved to Colorado 3 years ago. Tonight I want to share my testimony of how God has redeemed my life and how He’s spoken to me over the years.
My mom would tell you that even as a very young child I never seemed to get enough attention or affection, and I was the type of kid who always had to learn each lesson the hard way. Although I grew up in a Christian home and I knew better, I began to look to boyfriends to find my approval and to get my fill of acceptance. I became very rebellious- especially through middle and high school. I became sexually active at 14, experimented with alcohol and drugs, cut school frequently, lied to my parents constantly, and generally did whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to do it. During my sophomore year in college my boyfriend of 2 1/2 years (and the guy I thought I would marry) broke up with me and moved in with my best friend. At that point I was about as miserable and empty as possible. As I was praying one night in desperation I heard God clearly say to me “You have chosen to fill your life with the wrong people and activities for all these years, and now you have nothing left. You can either choose the same type of people to fill your life with again or you can choose ME.” Starting that night I chose to cling to God and try things His way. My sister had been urging me to attend a college bible study at our church and it just so happened that I was suddenly free on Wednesday nights. On a whim I decided to go and found myself crying in a room full of casual acquaintances! These girls welcomed me and were willing to walk with me on my new path and encourage me as I began my Christian faith. Over those first few years I developed deep friendships and mentoring relationships that helped me find value in who I am in Christ and showed me that true joy can be found in Him.
One of the things I started doing was praying and journaling my prayers. I used these journals as a way to keep my prayer time focused- to prevent my mind from wandering- and to give me a way to look back and see how God was answering my prayers. I was coming from a place of real bitterness and heartache, and I also recognized how foolish I had been for the first 19 years of my life. One of the things I prayed for daily was that God would bless me with inner peace and wisdom. I knew that God had honored Solomon’s prayers for wisdom and hoped that He would honor mine as well. I also claimed Philippians 2:14-16 as my life verse.
14Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
I really liked the reminder to become someone who does things pleasantly… without complaining or arguing and that it would lead to me being a child of God who is blameless and pure! I also loved the picture of shining like a star in the universe while holding out the word of life. I felt that this was the person I should aspire to be in my new faith and prayed these verses for myself often.
During this period I also spent some time thinking about who I wanted to be someday as a woman and as a wife. I recognized that my old character was unhealthy and that I was not who I wanted to be. I began to study what the bible had to say about Godly character and to pray over the characteristics that I wanted to embrace. I also used scripture to develop a list of attributes I was looking for in my future husband. I really thought and prayed a lot about this and came up with a list of about 20 character traits and values that were important for my husband to possess. Now I need to say… because of the types of sin I was struggling with and the changes that I was trying to make in myself I didn’t date for quite some time after dedicating my life to Christ. In fact when I met my husband I had been single for 10 years to the month. Although I went on a handful of dates during those years, I was careful to avoid getting involved with any man who did not meet the criteria on my list or who I did not clearly feel God was bringing me to. In fact after my first date with my future husband I told him that we should just be friends. It was during this period of friendship that my eyes were opened to see that God was drawing me to him as my husband. I pulled out that old piece of paper and was amazed to see that he met EVERY SINGLE CRITERIA that I had written over 9 years before.
Speaking of my husband actually brings me to the second time that God clearly spoke to me. I had been involved in a women’s bible study for 5 years when my mentor encouraged me to transfer to the young adult class. I had reached a point in my life where most of my girl friends had gotten married and were having children and I was lonely for good female friends. At the same time I was happy with the bible study I was attending and didn’t want to transfer to the other class for fear of looking like I was going just to meet guys. My mentor really challenged me on my stubbornness and unwillingness to change, and after some prayer and consideration I agreed to try the other class. When I transferred my membership, the leader of the new class asked me to join the leadership team. I had been asked to join the leadership at my previous class 4 years in a row, and each year I declined because leadership meetings were held at 6:55am on Saturday mornings. If you know me, you know I love to sleep. So when the new class leader asked, I told her that I didn’t think I could do it, but that I would pray about it. Now when I said I would pray about it, I have to admit, I didn’t really think it would change anything. I had no intention of getting up so early every Saturday morning for the next year. But when I prayed, God said yes. I said no and God said yes again. And again. He and I really had it out for several days before I finally gave in to Him and agreed to do it. I can remember telling my coworker that this was going to ruin my life. And I meant it! 2 days later I showed up to my first meeting and met the rest of the leadership team. There happened to be a young man there who I had heard quite a bit about from my sister who had wanted to set me up on a date with him the year before. I had never met him, but I recognized his name and knew a lot about him through her and through a girlfriend of mine who was good friends with him. Being on leadership threw us together quite a bit, and within a month we went out on a date. Then I told him we should just be friends, and then I realized that he was the man I was going to marry! I quickly told Chris that he could ask me out again and 3 months after that we were engaged. I really believe that by obeying God’s call to that leadership team- which also built my leadership skills and taught me discipline and many other good things, God brought me to my husband.
And that brings me to the third and final time God has clearly spoken to me. I was raised in California and Chris and I lived about 20 minutes from the town where I grew up. For our first anniversary Chris and I came out here to Highlands Ranch to visit my brother and sister in law. One day in the car Chris said to me “Wouldn’t this be a great place to live?” to which I replied “Absolutely not!” A few days later we were flying home when I heard God say to me “If I asked you to move you wouldn’t go.” I knew in my heart that that was true. I loved my hometown- I had lived in the same zip code for my entire life until I married and Chris dragged me 20 minutes away. My parents still live in the same house where they brought me home from the hospital. I had never wanted to leave the Bay Area or my family and friends and never planned to. God and I really wrestled with this over the course of several months before I finally told my husband what was going on. At that point I still didn’t want to ever move, but I was finally able to tell God that if He ever called me someplace else, I would go. Sure enough, about a year later my husband completed his Master’s degree and was looking for a new job. We were also ready to start our family and knew that financially we were going to have to make some major changes to afford children. After months of discussion we decided that he would send out resumes both in California and in Colorado. And don’t you know the only job offer he got was here in Highlands Ranch! I held out hope for a CA job and resisted committing to the move until 2 weeks before we put the house on the market (which left me scurrying to get things packed, let me tell you!). But once the decision was made, I knew that I had to embrace it wholeheartedly. I never looked back, but instead decided to make the best of the situation and love my new home. And I do! I can’t imagine how we would have made ends meet if we had stayed where we were. But God provided my husband with a job he absolutely loves, and I am able to work one day a week and stay home with JT and Kate the rest of the time. God has put us in a home that is far nicer and less expensive than what we had in California, has placed us in a wonderful church, and has given us the opportunity to grow closer to my brother and his family. I wouldn’t trade where we are for anything. But I do hope I never move again!
I want to close by making sure that you know- I am by no means perfect in my prayer life. God hasn’t spoken to me because I’m extra holy or prayerful. I want you to know that God can and will speak to us- it may be with a clear voice, or He may use someone else’s voice to speak into our lives. Clarity has come to me through scripture and through my own conscience. Being open to hearing Him is the key- even if you have to wrestle with Him before you find acceptance!
Oh- and in case you’re wondering we had a great TIME (pun intended- our new name is It’s about Time… True, Meaningful, Inviting Encounters) last night! We had about 35 women, a wonderful talk by Tricia, lots of yummy dessert, and plenty of TIME (pun intended again!) to talk and laugh and get to know each other. What a blessing it is to live in community. Come and join us in October!
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