Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Bucket List

So one my sweet friends gave me this idea to take a composition notebook and fill it with my dreams, desires, passions, callings, etc. Often times I guess it would be called a “bucket list.” So over the past month or so I have been filling it with all of these things that I desire to do in my life. I just write one on each page and sometimes even draw a little image to go with the written words. It makes it more fun so I can look back and always laugh at my inability to draw! Then after I actually get to fulfill it, I write down the date and how it was fulfilled so to speak.

It is amazing to me how the Lord burdens our hearts for so many different things as believers, and how each one of us can have such drastically contrasting desires and passions and dreams, yet HE created us with those very specific desires, passions, and dreams for a purpose far greater then anything we could come up with on our own…these passions and dreams are given to us that through their fulfillment we may bring HIM glory! If not for this purpose, then why dream of these things? At the end of the day I know that the Lord has birthed even the silliest of these dreams deep within my heart because HE is the maker of all things good and HE desires for us to experience life, life to the full.

I share a few of my own dreams today in hopes that it will challenge you to take some time and ask the Lord to show you the areas which He has burdened your heart. How has He called you…created you really…to serve Him, to love others, to live life as He intended for you to…to live it to the fullest!

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”         -John 10:10

Monday, June 27, 2011

You Are More

For so many years of my life I struggled with an eating disorder among other things. It didn’t matter where I was at or who was treating me, every single professional in the field of treating eating disorders would refer to me as simply “a bulimic.” I can even remember hearing these words from one of my dearest friends at the time as well—Oh it’s okay, she’s just a bulimic. It was as if I was no longer of any worth or value apart from the fact that I often threw up what I ate. I didn’t just struggle with bulimia, I had become a bulimic in every aspect of my life. As more and more people in my life began to accept and even embrace this terminology, I began to accept and believe it as well. If I couldn’t be an excellent writer, a good student, a loving sister, or a caring friend, if people were never going to see me as any of these other things, then I might as well strive for something they already acknowledged I was good at—that was when I decided to set out to be the absolute best bulimic I could be.     

Just as I was often refered to as a bulimic, so often men and women without a home are termed “homeless.” This is true in regaurds to the state of their current situation in the sense that they do not have four walls surrounding them when they lay their heads to rest at night. However, I think that a lot of times as men and women with homes, we often allow the term “homeless” as a condition to become a term that actually identifies who these people are. Even I have done this so many times. But as I have been spending this time with Tiffany and several other women in Tent City, I am realizing that while these men and women are indeed homeless, as in they don’t have a house to go home to each night, this term does not even begin to represent who these men and women are in the eyes of the Lord, nor does it explain who they are as individuals. The men and women living in Tent City may not have a place to call home, but they are real people with personalities and hurts and joys and passions and dreams.

This past Thursday, I embarked on my very first solo trip down to Tent Town—just me and Mama Fogt. It was the most precious time with Tiffany. I love that each time I get to go down and visit with her, her personality just pours forth more and more. Each time it becomes harder and harder for me to see her as a homeless woman. When I think of Tiffany, the words homeless don’t even cross my mind anymore. She is hilarious. She has a gentle spirit but never holds back when she has an opinion to share. She has this steadfast boldness about her that draws people to her. She is confident in who the Lord created her to be and in her abilities. When she is gifted at something, she is gunna let you know! She doesn’t play games; she always says it like it is without hesitating. Oh Lord, allow me to learn from her! You know how sometimes you just meet someone and you just know instantly that you are going to be great friends? That is how I have felt about Tiffany from day one. Her confidence and wisdom and life draw me to her.
It is ironic that it is part of my job to go down to Tent City to teach her how to make these soda tab bracelets because really I think I am learning more from her then teaching her! After spending not more then a few hours with her over the past few weeks, I just want to know her more. I am beginning to realize that I talk about her all the time. Any chance I have to share a bit of who she is and what she needs, I do so without hesitation; this is so unlike me! I know this sounds weird to say, but I am passionate about Tiffany—I am passionate about seeing her experience freedom in her life and watch as the eyes of her heart are opened to the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As I just sit and reflect on all of her incredible characteristics, I can’t help but think how much greater each will be as she comes to understand her position as a beloved daughter of the Most High King! Wow. A world shaker—with a doubt. And yes, Tiffany may not have a home, but I’ll tell ya what—she refuses to allow this to define her. So I will fight for her, and for all of the other men and women who don’t have a place to rest their heads at night—these men and women are real people!

Tiffany has some bold ambitions—she has dreams. I want Tiffany to be given an opportunity to pursue those dreams. That is why selling these soda tab bracelets is so important—the more we can sell, the more Tiffany can make, the quicker she can have a place to rest her head at night as she dreams more dreams that are within her reach! As you go to bed tonight, I encourage you to think about those who may not have such a comfy or safe place to fall asleep. Challenge your thinking about those without a home—in your mind, are these men and women simply homeless or are they people with hopes and dreams, just like you?

“Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.”   -Proverbs 22:2

Sunday, June 26, 2011

This One is for the Moms

Me and My Sweet Mom

Mothers are created with a deep, intimate, indescribable and incomparable love for their daughters (and sons). Just as we are created to love and be loved by Christ, so a mother desires to love and be loved by her child. Unfortunately, when sin entered the world with Eve, she was suddenly unable to perfectly love her baby. I don’t know if she was too busy sewing together fig leaves to cover up her nakedness or if it was simply that sense of shame, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness that crippled her from selflessly loving her baby, but I do know that from her, the very first mamma, generation after generation of mothers who would die for the well-being of their children fail at loving daily.

Today, some moms put their own needs first. Some abandon their babies all together. Others forget to say I love you and give their kiddos a warm embrace. Some end their child’s life before the baby even has a chance to live. Then there are those who give their children everything they could ever ask for if it just silences the needs of the child for a moment. Some are controlling and manipulative. Then there are many who just spit out hurtful words amidst a stressful day. Sin so destructively distorts that place where a mother’s love pours forth.

But there is good news! Jesus redeems. Jesus offers grace and mercy freely. Jesus came down to meet us in our sin and brokenness and hurt; He came to redeem what the enemy came to steal. Jesus came that mom’s may be set FREE to LOVE their children as He has selflessly loved us. We are sinners…were never gunna have it all together…nope, not even super mom. We are going to fail at loving our kids. But He never gives us more then we can bear and He always gives us a way out to stand up beneath. He has the power to break off these old mindsets. He has the power to restore relationships in the family unit. Through Him, forgiveness and healing are attainable—and freeing! In the name of Jesus Christ, generational sin—sin passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter to granddaughter is BROKEN OFF!!!

Last week I was spending some sweet time with a mother of four incredible kiddos. We were just hanging out and watching TLC. As we were just talking about the past week of our busy lives, I realized once again how much I learn from these indescribable hours of fellowship with godly moms and wives. Literally every day or night of this week I have spent hanging out with wives and moms. The Lord sets the solitary in families! How incredibly gracious and sovereign is He, that He would not only allow me to finally understand my own mom’s inability to love me well, that He would show me how very much she loves me, that He would strengthen me in this restoration process between my mom and I, and that all the while He has been surrounding me with Mother after Mother to love the stinkin heck out of me, to encourage me, and more then anything to teach me by example, by just doing life on life together, how to be a godly mom someday. Ohhhhh Lord, never let me forget your faithfulness in my life. Oh how you see me and know me INTIMATELY and LOVE me DEEPLY.

For all you mamas out there just doing the best you know how…you will never have the capacity to love your kiddos well, until you understand the depth and selflessness of Christ’s love for YOU!
Thank you mom, for always loving me the best you knew how. Thank you for sacrificing so much for me to always have everything I needed. Thank you for working hard to make ends meet day after day. You are a precious blessing in my life and I love you more then words will ever express! I am also overwhelmingly blessed by the godly wives and mommas in my life. Angel, Cindy, Meg, Ashley, Shelly, Julie, Kelli, Terri, Mama Fogt—thank you doesn’t even begin to express my gratitude for allowing me to be a part of your lives as well.   
My Beautiful Sisters!
Incredible Wives and Mamas!

Ashy and Shelly...amazing wives and mom to four!

Ash and My Mama Fogt

The One and Only Kelli Cossey :)

Me and Terri...super mom to six amazing kids!!

Precious Julie Hunter

Loveeeee this Woman soooo much!

My Big Sis and a Wonderful Wife!!!

Incredible Nurse, Wife to my big bro, Mama of 2 incredible kiddos and sweet sister!

My Sister...Incredible wife and mother of four amazing kiddos!

Greatest mama to a precious lil guy...amazing wife...loving sister!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Love Covers Tent City

So this summer I am nannying part time and interning for a non-profit called Faith that Works part time. Faith the Works has a vision of helping women to put their faith into action. Over the past several years, FTW has helped me by offering women's bible studies, funding much of my mission trip last summer, supporting Mercy Ministries, connecting me with new women in the community, encouraging me in my walk with the Lord, and helping to equip me to put my own faith into action when it comes to helping underprivileged women, both locally and abroad. 

One of my roles as an intern this summer is to make and sell soda tab bracelets. Since Faith that Works has a heart to help women in need, one of the ways I have been able to my faith into action is to go down to Tent City once a week and teach women living there how to make these bracelets. Tent City is a homeless camp in downtown St. Louis where men and women live in a community and look out for one another. There are four different camps along this little strip by the river. Specifically, we are working in one of the camps right now, because there have been some uprisings and violence in the others.

This past week, I went down with Terri (the founder of FTW) and another woman involved in our bible study. With it only being my second time to Tent City, I knew I was not yet ready to venture down there alone. As the wheels of our SUV crush over the rocky train tracks, I begin to prepare myself for what is coming. Lord, give me your eyes to see. As I gaze through the window to my right, unable to avoid the impoverished of America, I can’t help but wonder how these people make it—how they get to this point of homeless? I mean, as humans, we all come from somewhere…parents, brothers, sisters, aunts uncles, grandparents, friends, neighbors, coworkers. Each and every one of them has a story to tell—a life that matters. I think that is what really gets me during my time in Tent City—these are PEOPLE with more hurts and heartaches then I could ever imagine…men and women with stories to tell.

As our SUV approaches the camp we are going to, the rubbish and brokenness beside the little gravel road never fail to stir something deep within my heart. Actually, the physical appearance of the camps in Tent City—trash, broken equipment, run down tents, stained mattresses, junk scattered through the weed-infested grass, tattered clothing and blankets abound—very much mirror the way society views the hearts that reside there as well. To so many Americans, these people are nothing more then broken, run down, stained, weed-infested, tattered “trash.” It is almost as if their living situation, living without a home, becomes their identity in the eyes of others. The trashy environment that surrounds them suddenly becomes the image to define their hearts and minds. Oh how wrong this generalization is.

I often wonder if the community that these men and women live in actually makes homelessness a better choice then living in a home but separated from this kind of community. As we pull up and park the big black vehicle in front of the cluster of tents and shacks before us, before we can even get a foot out the door, men and women are running towards us. This sight never gets old to me. Huge smiles and warm embraces are shared. There is no stench in this kind of love, none whatsoever. This is beautiful. They are beautiful. They are treasures.

Matthew 13: 44 says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” What a picture of what Jesus has done for these men and women—they are the treasure hidden in the field. The Lord joyfully gave it all, His one and only beloved Son, so that He could buy freedom for these men and women—He gave it all to purchase these souls in this trashed, run-down, weed-infested field. Oh what a faithful God we get to love. In fact, it is through THIS love…through knowing this Jesus that I get the privagledge of loving on these women in Tent City. This is the only kind of love I have ever known which wiped out the stench, the pain, the brokenness, the sin, the hurts, the stains, the weeds, the regrets…this love covers over a multitude of sins.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Wedding

Cassie and John
This past weekend was a joyous celebration of two becoming one. The second of many to come this summer, but by far one of the most precious and dearest to my heart. My beautiful niece (yes I said that right!) walked down the aisle and wed her man. I guess as an aunt you never really consider what it might be like for your niece to marry before you, but to me Cassie has always been more like a friend. She was simply radiant. There is really no other way to put it. My sister (her mom) was glowing as well.

Here Comes the Bride...
I will never forget the moment that my sister began walking her baby girl down that aisle. Everyone stared in awe. Then, rising to our feet in adoration, there was not a dry eye in the church. Cassie was gorgeous—her dress was fanned out to perfection, her makeup made her look like a woman (scary!) and not a hair on her head was out of place. The most beautiful bride I have ever seen. Through the tears, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face the entire ceremony. What a covenant to celebrate!

Despite my tears of joy shed on her behalf as the blushing bride approached her groom, I could not help but cry tears of thanksgiving, as I realized that as beautiful and perfect and blemishless as Cassie looked in that moment, what will it be like to see Christ come for his bride, the church?  

Cassie looked radiant and perfect. It is really just impossible for me to imagine the beauty, holiness, pureness, and perfection of Christ approaching me some day.

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband." (Rv.21:1-2).

Okay so get this…the Jewish wedding ceremony took place in three separate parts and it is amazing how each of these mandatory steps parallel Christ coming as our Bridegroom.

Part 1: Betrothal
Intense bargaining between the father of the bride and the father of the groom would occur. The “Bride Price” was very steep. Actually, the price was comparable to what would be the price of a new house today! When the bride was paid, there was a ceremony in which the couple was betrothed.

The price Jesus paid for us was also very steep. It was not silver or gold, but His own precious blood. If we have put our trust in that blood, there is a ring on our finger. We are betrothed. In the days of Jesus, this part of the ceremony symbolized a permanent commitment. It is the same with our relationship with Jesus.

Fun at the Reception!!
Part 2: A New Room and Beautiful Gown
Next, the groom went away in order to add a room to his father’s house. It usually took about a year, but the actual time was determined by the father. Imagine having to be separated for a year from the one you intend to marry! Finally, when the father said that things were ready when the groom would surprise his bride and bring her back with a great processional.

In John 14 Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” I also love the concept that the bride would have no idea when the groom and his father would have the room prepared for her…it would be a total surprise!

Meanwhile, the bride’s only duty is to prepare her gown. This involved much time and really emphasized intricate details. John says in Revelation 19:7-8, “For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean was given her to wear.” We, as we live on this earth, are getting ready to become His Bride. Jesus has gone away to prepare a place for us and He will be back. It will be a great Psalm and wondrous procession. Psalm 45:13-14 says, “All glorious is the princess within her chamber. Her gown is interwoven with gold; in embroidered garments she is led to the King.” Wow.

Cassie with her Aunts (and mom)!
When I think about all of the planning and timing and anticipation that goes into a wedding today, it is hard to even imagine that as a bride, you could have a days notice of your wedding! The bride just knows that her only job in until the big day is to prepare her gown. Yet, how incredibly beautiful is this, that in the same sense, we have no idea when Jesus is coming for His Bride, the church, and we must be ready! Just as it is the bride’s duty to prepare her gown, as the Bride of Christ, it is our duty to prepare ourselves, to be ready for His appearance! Oh what a glorious day.

Part 3: The Wedding And Feast

The final part of the Jewish marriage was the actual wedding and feast. Oh what rejoicing their will be in heaven at our wedding banquet! I mean, Cassie and John’s wedding reception was so fun and full of rejoicing and sweet time celebrating the newlyweds, but can you even imagine the wedding reception we will get to partake in when we are finally one with our Bridegroom?!? Most marriages at best, the couple will spend sixty, seventy years together. We will be with Him, our Bridegroom for all eternity. To celebrate our union with Christ that will last FOREVER…just the concept of forever in comparison to a few decades…this is unimaginable to me. I cannot wait for this wedding reception.

The Beautiful Couple!
In the meantime, we wait with great anticipation. Friends, we must be ready. We don’t know when, but we do know HE IS COMING! And oh what a glorious day!!! Paralyze this heart, oh Lord—this is not my home!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Consequence of Sin is Death

I have heard it a million times before—Sin always takes you further then you want to go, keeps you longer then you want to stay and costs you far more then you want to pay. Instant gratification feel so good in the moment. The desires and longings of our flesh are quieted. For a moment, that is. So I guess we should ask ourselves, does such a temporary gratification outweigh the cost of the sin that satisfies us?

I spent so many years of my life consumed in my sin. I lived to satisfy my flesh—instantly of course. Self-control? Patience? Gentleness? Joy? Peace? Yeah right…this was much better. Not for long. I have gotten the privilege of loving Jesus for the past three years of my life, still that same sinner. Now I realize my desperate need for a Savior. I understand the necessity of promoting fruit in my life over sin. I know that instant gratification solves nothing, it only destroys. Despite YEARS of the Lord healing my heart, drawing me closer to himself, teaching me to die to myself (and my very unwieldy flesh), walking in freedom, and graciously accepting His grace and mercies amidst my sin, I still struggle with the consequences of decisions I made YEARS AND YEARS ago.

At this point
 in my walk as a believer, I am beginning to face some unexpected consequences of past sin. The consequences of my lack of self-control, my desire to quiet the longings of my flesh by meeting them instantly. Hear it loud and clear—sin does cost you far more then you want to pay. Perspective is key. Oh how I wish I could have seen then the consequences that my decisions would bring forth in so many major and minor aspects of my life. Let’s just say I would have re-thought opening some of those doors to sin.

This past week or so I have been trudging my way through one consequence of a choice I made so carelessly so long ago. And of course I didn’t learn from it the first time I made it either; that would be far too simple! I had to make that same stupid decision again and again and again. Grace, grace and more grace. Praise Him that He makes us new—clean and upright in His sight.

Today was the climax of all of my trudging. I felt paralyzed by fear. Overwhelmed with hurt. Crippled by shame. Weighed down with old images flooding my mind. What a sight it was. How I wished I could turn back the clock…take captive the purity of my precious heart and mind. Sin yields death. But there is good news, and ohhh is it good!!! The FREE GIFT of God is eternal life!!!!  Apart from Him, I never knew how to live. I hungered for death; I felt dead, hopeless really. But He gave me life. Freely. That I will never fully comprehend. I know that He restores what the enemy has stolen. And today I experienced a beginning of that restoration. It was not easy to persevere through a necessary situation in spite of my mind screaming to just run outa there. But oh what a gift it is to overcome by His blood. And the protection of a sweet big sister in Christ makes it all that much more manageable.

Today, I experienced the consequence of my past sin in such a tangible way. And yet, His love for me remains. In the pit and on the mountain top…He loves me the same. How could I ever consider offering any bit of my affection to anyone or anything other then that God? Oh Lord, paralyze this heart of mine, for this is not my home. No one and nothing satisfies like you.

  "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
                                                                                                                         -Romans 6:23

Monday, June 13, 2011

A New Season, A New Blog

Well I knew that eventually this day would come...bittersweet I must say. Driven by my lack of blogger-technological knowledge, I have finally caved in and started anew in this world of blogging. Amazingly, it has been just over a year since I left for Australia and since "My Life a Melody to His Name" was created for the purpose of promoting that mission trip. After much prayer and thought, the Lord has really just shown me a new direction for my journey as a blogger, one that I felt deserved a fresh start, so to speak. Hence the new blog, "Forgiveness Made a Way."

I must confess, my originality in coming up with a new title for this blog was completely overtaken by a love I have for this song they keep playing on the radio. Hence the title, "Forgiveness Made a Way" comes from a lyric in this song by Chris August called Seven Times Seventy Times. This was a personal song he wrote about the brokenness of his childhood and his family life. It is in reference to Matthew 22:18 where Jesus tells Peter to forgive his brother who sins against him not seven times but seven times seventy times! Just as the author of the song pleaded with the Lord to teach him to forgive those who have hurt him in the past, along with those who continue to sin against him, Lord all this to echo as the cry of my heart as well.

What a burden it is to labor and toil with unforgiveness hanging from my shoulders like a bag weighed down by rocks. I know I have done it so many times and yet, here I am once again. This is quite an interesting place to be. I have a choice to make. And let’s be real—it is certainly not easy either way! Making the decision, the choice (because it is a moment by moment choice to forgive), to forgive someone who hurts you is not a joyful or freeing feeling at first. It is uncomfortable, unwilling, and certainly not simple to achieve. I am stubborn. So very stubborn. I guess that is one thing I have going for me when in comes to training for a triathlon—even when I am coughing up flem from being sick, my stubbornness ignites my will to press on. This works the same way with unforgiveness—even when I am weighted down and miserable, just barely making it, my stubbornness ignites my will to cling onto that unforgiveness. Oh how I love to be right.

Of course, it feels good to be in control. It is easier to hold onto something that would be incredibly painful to let go of. I guess a lot of times it feels as if the pain inflicted upon me by someone else just doesn’t seem to hurt as much as the pain I experience when I die to myself and choose to forgive. Hurt so good, I guess you could say. After the initial uncomfortableness wears off, though, the joy of loving like Christ, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and living for someone far greater then myself finally seems to kick in and wipe the tears and pain from my eyes. Forgiveness is a gift.

Sometimes I forget who I am and what I am capable of—scratch that I often forget! Oh how wretched I am. A sinner in desperate need of the merciful forgiveness of an almighty Savior. Who would I be if I were not covered by the blood, made new, made clean and white as snow? Ummmmm can you say SEVEN TIMES IS JUST NOT ENOUGH!!!! Praise the Lord He forgives us over and over and over and over again. Seven times seventy times doesn’t even begin to cover my desperate need for His radical forgiveness. So Lord, forgive me (once again) for my selfish need to cling to the unforgiveness you so graciously yearn to take off my shoulders. Forgive me for ever thinking it is freedom to cling to those hurts and heartaches—to hesitate in yielding them to you. Forgive me for my yearn to be in control—to be right, to have the final word. Forgive me for thinking I have a right to be mad, a right to be hurt, a right to seek revenge, a right to do anything but forgive. Etch your sacrifice on the cross, your heart of forgiveness towards me so deeply into my skin that I fail to escape it when it is me who must forgive, as you have so graciously pardoned my array of sinfulness.

With great excitement I have begun this new journey as a blogger, and I believe this is going to be a season of learning forgiveness (moment by moment) and finding overwhelming satisfaction in Christ alone.

I pray that you experience His love today and are comforted by His death which enables you to live forgiven and free. His mercies are new every morning, what a gift.  

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.f
23“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talentsg was brought to him. 25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.h He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
30“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”