My Testimony

I think it is about time I told my testimony. For those who are unaware of what a testimony is, it is the story of how I came to know Christ as my Lord and Savoir and my spiritual walk since then. It is how God has worked in my life and the journey I have walked on.

I grew up in a Christian household. My parents took us to church every Sunday, we attended church events and I went to Sunday school. When I was six years old, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior but my spiritual life did not stop there.

Life seemed to be perfect for me. My parent’s loved each other, we all followed God like we were supposed to, we read our Bibles every night, prayed before meals; but that all changed when I was thirteen.

When I was thirteen, my family and I were living in a small town in Texas. I woke up one night to my parents fighting. It wasn’t a surprise. I mean, everyone’s parents fight. But that night, it was different. After going out to see what was going on, my father told me that my mom had an affair and was pregnant with his child. My father, wasn’t perfect either. I found out he was struggling with pornography. My perfect world had now started to crumble down.

After months of what felt like pure darkness, my parents decided to stay together. The man my mom had an affair with, decided he didn’t like that and threatened to kill us. In an effort to keep us safe, my parents packed up everything we owned in a week and moved us back to Colorado. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone where we were going; not even my closest friends.

In Colorado, we tried to pick up the pieces of our lives. My mom had a miscarriage and my parents were living in separate homes. Eventually, they moved back in together but six years later, their divorce became final.

Throughout the years, my life has been like Job’s. Job, is a man in the Bible who the enemy was able to take everything from, except his life, and he still stayed faithful to the Lord. He lost his family, his home and his health but still loved God. I’ve ran for my life, dealt with verbal and sexual abuse, climbed out of a pit of depression, lost my home, have  grown up in a broken family that probably will never heal, have been to the point where I financially have nothing and have had moments where I didn’t understand how any good could come into my life.

The one true and strong stone in my life was God. He was there through the threats, the abuse, and the depression. He held me up when I felt like I couldn’t walk anymore. He was the one who gave me the strength to move on. And even through the darkest times, He has blessed me with the little blessings. He gave me a husband who respects and loves me for who I am, a beautiful daughter who I couldn’t imagine life without, a roof over my head, air in my lungs, and friends who were there to encourage me.

God is the one factor, throughout everything, that is good. There has been so much bad in my life but He is truly good.

I won’t sit here and tell you that my journey is all peaches and cream. I have my days where I don’t know how life can get better. I have my days where I don’t know what God is doing or what will happen next but that is part of being a Christian. God doesn’t tell us that life will be easy. In James 1:2-4 Jesus says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you my be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

God has worked and is working in my life. He didn’t leave me alone when my family and I were running for our life, He didn’t leave me when all I wanted to do was take my own life, and He won’t leave me in whatever trials are ahead. I will always persevere and lean on the Lord. That will never change.

Comparison is the Killer of Joy

Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram; all of the social media sites out there can be dangerous devices. I can personally say that, once a day, I go on Facebook and Pinterest to see what other people are doing. It is a great way to stay in touch with friends or family who live far away but it is an easy way to fall into the comparison game.

Normally, we all post the good things about ourselves. We put up pictures of the trips we have taken, the new car we bought or the new “toy” we got. How many times have you gone on to Facebook and wished you were able to do the things that others do or have the things that others have? I am guilty of this.

I see the homes people live in or the party they throw in their new home and I get jealous. Right now, my husband, my daughter and I are living in my grandparents basement. I am completely blessed to have a roof over our heads but desperately wish I had a home of my own. I dream, daily, of the future home I might have and when I see others posting a picture of their newly remodeled kitchen or newly bought home, I get jealous, and sometimes, a little bit depressed.

Deep inside, I know God has a plan for our lives and that a home may be a few years down the road but that is hard for me. This weekend, our pastor talked about how comparison can be a big part of depression and can often times steal our joy. For me, I do get depressed when I think about my situation. Living in my grandparent’s basement is not where I want to be but I often times forget about God’s plan.

Another comparison, I have failed deeply at, is the comparison of looks. On Snapchat, there are filters that make your eyelashes longer and your eyes sparkle. The filter also wipes your face clean and takes away any imperfections you may have. I have often times taken a photo on Snapchat and said, “Why can’t I look more like this? Why can’t my eyelashes be longer or my face look that smooth?” and once again, comparison has stolen my joy.

My husband tells me everyday how beautiful I am but then I think back to the filters on Snapchat and how I looked when I used those and I become depressed and self conscious. I tell him that I don’t feel beautiful and that there are so many things wrong with the way I look.

As I write this out, yeah it sounds stupid. God created me to be beautifully and uniquely different than anyone else. He made me and loves me just the way I am. God also gave me a husband who thinks I am the most beautiful person in the whole world. So how do we change from comparing ourselves to others to being content with what we have and being joyously thankful?

I want to challenge you all to do some things that I learned from my pastor.

  1. If you are dealing with depression due to comparison or comparison is consuming your every thought, get rid of social media for a while. See if it changes your view on life.
  2. If you are comparing the way you look by adding filters to your pictures, focus on only taking pictures without filters. Post the real you and see the beautiful comments that others say. Along with this, say three good things about yourself every day. Make it related to the outer and the inner beauty.
  3. If comparison is a comparison to the lives of others, wake up and say ten things you are thankful for; everyday. When you wake up the next day, come up with ten more. Continue to do this and make it a habit.

Comparison is not an easy thing to quit. It will be a hard and long road but the sooner you quit comparing yourself to others or to the “fake” version of you, the sooner your life will become brighter and more positive.

Trust me, I am struggling with these things too. And, especially in a time when my future seems bleak and uncertain, those are the times it will be most difficult to keep your focus and not compare your life. During this challenge, you will have good days and you will have bad days. There will be days you fail at being thankful and fall back into that comparison game; it is part of being human. However, when you do mess up, get back into the game of being thankful and joyful. God has blessed us with an amazing life. Let’s be grateful for the gifts He has given us and the blessing He has in store for our lives.

Life Happens So Trust God

For those who read my articles, you were probably wondering where the heck I have been for two weeks. Has it truly been that long? Well yes, it has been that long and let me tell you, life happened. All last week I was sent to Compliance School by work in order to receive my CUCE (Credit Union Compliance Expert) certification. I drove downtown Denver every day and spent all my time (7am-7pm) studying, learning from instructors and taking exams.

At the moment, I am still not CUCE certified. During the middle of the week, I came down with strep throat. Yay!…. I sat in class that day, feverish, shaking from being sick and my throat was killing me. I tried taking the exam that night three times and every time I attempted the exam, I failed. I went home defeated and frustrated. I was unsure about what life had in store for me.

I look back on that day now and the frustration I had and I shake my head. those thoughts of frustration and fear of the future along with the uncertainty of life has not been new for me lately. I have wondered where God is taking us for some time now. We are living out of my grandparents’ basement and feel a bit stuck. there are days I come home and wonder what on earth God is doing with our lives. When is He going to show us what He wants or where He wants us to be?

I should be turning my eyes to God and letting Him handle the big plans. So why is it so hard for me to do that? I want to be in control of my life and call the shots. I want to prove that I have life all together like I see in the lives of others. I want to stand up and say, yes, I have control of life and have my head on my shoulders.

The truth is, God is the only one who has complete control of our lives. He is the one who can move mountains, part the seas and change our future. At the end of the day, we need to relinquish our desire to control our lives and let God take the reins.

In Jeremiah 29:11, it says “‘For I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'”. I want us to think about this for a second. If God has a plan for our future wouldn’t His plan be greater than ours? I can set a plan for my life and an idea of what it could look like but if God, the Creator of life, has a better plan for our lives, wouldn’t we want His plan and not ours? 

I know it is easier to say we want God’s plan for our lives than it is to wait on His plan. We are a society who likes things now. So during that time of waiting, a time that I am currently in, I want to challenge you to do three things with me.

  1. Stay in God’s word: It is important for us to read His word. Not only do we learn from Him by reading what He has to say, but we can hear direction from the Lord as well. God can use bible verses to speak truth to us and it is a huge way for us to have hope during a time of confusion and loss of direction. I want to challenge us all to a 30 day study. It is a challenge called “God Is On The Move”. Isn’t it true? God is working in our lives and He is building a beautiful future for us. God Is on The Move
  2. Pray about everything: If you are feeling down, confused, unsure about life or just don’t know where to go, call on God. Pray and ask Him to help guide you. He hears all of our prayers and will not abandon us.
  3. Go out and serve: I’ve found that, in my darkest times, serving has been a source of healing. Not only does it help heal but it can distract you from worrying about what the future holds. While God is working in your life, go out and serve someone. By no time, God’s plan will be moving full speed ahead and you will feel like time flew by.

Throughout your journey, right now, know that God has not left your side and never will. Be strong in the Lord and know that everyone is fighting their own battles within their journey. You are not alone in your journey. If you need prayer for anything, don’t forget to send me a message. I am here to pray for you all.

Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”

 

 

Community is Necessary for Spiritual Growth

It has been a while since I have attended church on a regular basis. I grew up in the church and have gone to church almost every Sunday and even on Wednesday nights when I was a teenager. Over this past year, my church attendance has dwindled to almost never going.

I won’t sit here and tell you that you have to go, every Sunday, to church or you will go to hell. That is just incorrect and stupid. The ONLY way to get to heaven is through Jesus Christ. Having a relationship with Him and accepting Him as your Lord and Savoir. You can do that without going to church.

I will tell you that I believe community is an important part of your spiritual growth. We learn from others and see a different perspective on things. So for me, a year of on and off connection was a bad thing for my spiritual growth. I was going to a church that I thought would be our church family until the day I died. I was growing through the sermons, making friends who had kids the same age as my daughter, my husband began to learn how to be a preacher, and we were learning from our church community.

Well, things happened and the church started falling apart. It was then my husband and I realized that it was time to move on. There were hurtful words from the members who stayed and our hearts left heavy and broken. So we went to a church where my in-laws were attending. this time, there wasn’t any growth. I wasn’t growing spiritually, there weren’t any children my daughter’s age she could play with and learn from but my husband kept preaching and learning what it meant to become a preacher. I stayed in it for my husband but deep inside I felt stagnant. I was stuck in a place where I wasn’t growing and it was taking a toll on my spiritual relationship with the Lord.

Life happened and the church decided not to stand by our side but ridicule us instead; telling us we were wrong for everything that had happened in our life (things that had nothing to do with the church) and tore the preaching lessons away from my husband. Once again, we were broken and hurt by a church we trusted but let me make one thing clear before I move on. No church is perfect. Because the church is made up of a body of believers, it is also filled with individuals who all mess up; just like you and me. So in no way do I hate those individuals who hurt us. Yes, they were leaders of the church and was what they did right? No. they way they treated us was not the way anyone should be treated. However, I am, in no way, saying that church is bad, leaders of a church don’t also make mistakes, and no one will ever get hurt in a church. It happens.

So at this point, my husband and I were broken from two churches and didn’t know where to go. We still craved that community and spiritual growth that we both desperately needed. So once again, we went looking for a church and found one. It was a lot bigger for our taste but we decided to give it a shot. We attended there for about five months and during that time, we went through one of the hardest times of our marriage thus far. We went to the pastor and asked for counseling. We were set up for counseling but didn’t feel like anyone really cared.

The counseling fell through and we felt like no one really cared about helping us or encouraging us. We stopped attending church and even stopped reading our bibles. Our spiritual life grew dry and I felt like I was shriveling up. I was spiritually wasting away to nothing and I was growing further and further away from God.

My husband’s schedule eventually changed and he could not longer look for a church with me. He now works every Sunday morning. However, I didn’t want it to end there. I yearned for the community I once knew and the growth I once had in my life. I turned to a church I grew up in here in Colorado and decided to start attending.

You might think, well why did you leave that church in the first place? I left because I went to college four hours away from this church. After I graduated from college, I moved to another small mountain town where I met my husband. When we moved back to the Denver area, we wanted to start fresh together in a church where no one knew us and that is when we found the first church I discussed in this article.

When I entered the doors of my now current church, I felt like I was home and had never left. Everyone was very welcoming and warm and very inviting to my family. I left that day feeling complete again. Now, every Sunday, I want to go back and join the community in events, worship and even join a bible study.

My point throughout all this is that community is an important part of our spiritual growth. It might take us a little while to find the right community or the right church to fit in to but when you do find it, stick with it. I learn so much from the people of Good News Community Church every single week. The lessons we all have learned can be passed on to each other and we can be there for each other when hard times come around. That is a valuable thing to have in your life.

So if you think community is necessary for your spiritual growth and you feel like you are shriveling up and drying out, try to find that community. I promise, when you find the right church for you and you stick with it, you will grow in ways you never thought possible.

Who Are You Trying To Please?

If you are like me, you grew up feeling like you had to make people proud and please them. Whether it was pleasing family, friends or work. Growing up, I always thought I had to be just like my brother. I thought I had to get all A’s, get a full ride scholarship for college, be financially stable in every aspect of life, and have a solid head on my shoulders.

I felt like I had to please my family by being just like him. the reality was, I was, and am, nothing like him. I grew up making B’s in high school and struggled with certain subjects but I also excelled in English and Art. I had to get a student loan to pay for all of college and struggled with life (including finances) but life threw me some curve balls. It isn’t that I am not smart or can’t seem to keep things organized in my life. It boils down to one thing, life happens. It is because I know how to manage my finances that I have made it this far.

This past Sunday, my pastor talked about who we should be living for. People pleasing is something I have struggled with and still struggle with in my life.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to get approval from family but when we are seeking approval solely from them and not from God, it becomes an issue.

How do I do that? It is easy to say, I will do this for God and still do it for the approval of others. As we go through our day, everything should be for God. Our hard work we put in to our jobs, the report we write for the board of directors, or the things at home, should all be done for God.

As you go about each task, do it for the Lord. If you feel, at any moment, that you are trying to please someone else, stop, take a breath and redirect your goal to God. Remind yourself that you are doing this for the Lord and not to please others.

Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ”. Our actions and tasks should reflect us being servants of Christ and doing that means working to lease God and not others.

Loving Others; Even the Murderers

Here in Colorado, we recently had a man who killed his wife, two daughters and unborn son. After he admitted to killing them, a flood of Facebook posts came out saying that he should “burn in hell” or “I hope he rots in hell”. Post after post spewed with hateful things about this man. We all have sinned and deserve to spend eternity in hell. However, God sent His son to die for us on the cross giving us that gift of grace. That includes the murderers, cheaters, liars, even me.

I find this statement, that he deserves hell, a very harsh and hateful statement. If you think of hell what do you think of? In the bible it mentions a hot horrible place with gnashing of teeth. A place of pain and suffering. I googled the word “gnashing” and discovered that it meant, “a grinding of teeth, typically a sign of anger”. If hell is the most horrible place anyone could go, would you want someone to go there that you loved? No, you want your loved ones to go to heaven where they can spend eternity with God and eternity without pain. So, if someone wants another person to go to hell, doesn’t that mean they hate them? Isn’t hate the only thing that can drive us to wish a place like hell onto someone else?

With that in mind, Read 1 John 3:15. God says, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him”. NIV So, if we hate someone so much that we wish they would go to hell, doesn’t that mean that we are just as guilty as the murderers in this world? If hatred is how we feel, then we also deserve eternity in hell because hating another person is just like murder.

Don’t get me wrong, what that man did to his wife and children is very wrong and it makes me sad. In fact, it breaks my heart to think that they had to die at the hands of the person they loved. However, instead of hating the man, why don’t we pray for him. Pray that he can find God and ask Him for forgiveness for the horrible things he has done. Pray, that through the rest of his time on this earth, he realizes what he did was wrong.

Also, pray for his family as well. He has a mother and a father; maybe even siblings. What would you do if one of your siblings killed someone? You would feel a sense of loss as well. I know if one of my brothers killed their wife and children, I would be devastated. Not just because I had lost family, but because I cannot see them doing something that horrible. Everyone does things in their life that are wrong but I highly doubt anyone can see their family member killing someone.

So, as you watch the news and see the horrible things people do to each other, pray. Not only for the families who have lost a loved one, but pray for the one who was so lost and struggling so bad, that they could not see another way out of their situation. Pray that God will change their heart and they will ask for forgiveness before it is too late.

Little Joys

Over the weekend I watched my daughter as she danced and sang in the living room. Her arms rose and fell more graceful than I could ever do. Her feet hit the floor with every beat and her body swayed back and forth. Granted, the words she sang were hard to understand and most of the time, you couldn’t understand or follow what she was signing about, but watching her brought me such joy. She doesn’t have a care in the world and it shows in her joyous attitude. No matter what is going on in life, I can always rely on my daughter to bring me happiness.

Shouldn’t that be true for all of us? Let’s admit it, life really sucks sometimes. It is hard, full of painful memories or situations, exhausting both physically and mentally, and sometimes, life just doesn’t seem bearable. However, it is in those moments that we should look at the little joys in life that bring us happiness or remember the joyous memories that God has given us. Those are the moments that make life worth living.

If you don’t have kids, maybe it is that book you read in your favorite spot or the moment at the end of the day when you can come home and spend time with your significant other. If you don’t have kids or a significant other, maybe it is the time spent with your friends or family. Those special moments are the ones we should cherish. Those are our little joys.

Some of you might say that life is a dark tribulation for you and it is hard to find any joy in life. I’ve been there; I have. There were moments that all I could focus on were the hard parts of life and there didn’t seem to be any joy in what I was going through. However, the only thing that ever got me through those though times were the little joys in life. They might not grow like wild flowers in your life but those moments still count. Hold onto those moments and cherish them.

Maybe, in this time of darkness for some of you, you should look for your joy in the Lord. Spend time with the Lord when things get rough. Pray and read through His word to find that peace and hope that you might so desperately need. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”. NIV God is our strength in the hard times and spending time with God in the hardest times of our lives is the one thing that brings us the most joy.

If you have never read the Bible or are asking, “How can reading God’s word bring me joy?” Well, think about it, reading God’s word brings us closer to Him. Who wouldn’t want to be closer to the One who brought us to life and carries us through the hard times? That should be our main source of joy.

So go out this week and think about the little joys that God gives you. When life takes a turn towards a trial, hold on tight to those little joys and spend time with God. They will get you through some tough times.

What are your little joys?