He Is Faithful...

If you haven't read the first part of my testimony you can read it HERE.

Part 2- All Grown Up:

I left off talking about how even in the most beautiful of God's gifts- in my case- my marriage- sin can take root and cause pain and strife.

The hubby and I got married when we were pretty young.  I was 22 and he was 21.  He was finishing up his bachelors degree down in Texas when we got married- so after the wedding off to Texas I went with my bags packed with not only clothes, but big dreams of marital bliss and happily ever afters.

Once we were settled in we immediately started going to church.  Nolan had not gone to church since he had been in high school and his parents had made him.  However we were married now- so he was more than willing to go to make his sweet, new wife (me- haha) happy. 

I'm not going to lie- marriage was a huge adjustment.  When you move in with your significant other you find out all sorts of stuff about the other that you never imagined...some good- and some- not so good.  However, we made it through those first few years better for the things we'd experienced together.

In the next few years Nolan finished school- started a career, we moved a few times, and we began to start our family.  First God blessed us with a sweet, little boy, and then a few years later with a loving, cuddly, little girl.  It was around the birth of our little girl that Nolan began to struggle with his faith.  Now when I say struggle what I really mean is he came out and told me that he wasn't completely sure that he had ever truly believed in God, and if he did he definitely wasn't sure he believed in the Christian God.  He started throwing around words like atheist and agnostic.  He told me he would no longer be joining me and the kids to church.  He had always been a Sunday morning service goer- never Wednesday or Sunday nights.  I knew deep down that if I had ever said lets not go to church anymore that he would have said, "Sounds good to me".  But despite knowing this it still felt like he had literally punched me in the stomach, and that my world had just crumbled to the ground. 

Up until this point our marriage had been fine- good even.  We had the occasional disagreement, the occasional fight, but nothing, I mean Nothing, had prepared me for this.  I was literally devastated.  We had two little ones.  How was I going to explain to them why their daddy never came to church with us?  What happened when they got older and they started questioning why they had to go if dad wasn't going?  I was the wife- it is not biblical for me to lead our family spiritually- how in the world would I do it?  It was through all of these questions that I became very, very angry.  Angry at Nolan.  Angry at God.  The angrier I became the more I lashed out at Nolan.  The more I lashed out at Nolan the more depressed and distant he became.  He was confused.  He was very depressed.  He was hopeless.  He was Lost.  And I was just angry- and I let him know it often.

Around this time a close friend and mentor of mine was sweet enough to let me share my burden with her.  She advised me, prayed with and for me, and told me to bring my kids and come to her church.  So that's what I did.  Every Sunday I would load up the kids and go to my friends church without my husband.  I would love to tell you that I did this with a happy spirit, but the truth is- I felt like my spirit was completely broken.  I usually walked out the door with a snide remark to Nolan about him not joining us and him making me go alone.  This went on for about a year, but it was sometime during that year that God really laid it on my heart that all the nagging, complaining, and snide remarks were doing nothing beneficial in the war for Nolan's soul.  He revealed to me that what Nolan needed was prayer and grace. 

I'd love to tell you that over night I stopped nagging and that the angry outbursts just disappeared, but the truth is it took time and lots of prayer.  Prayer for Nolan to know the truth, and prayer for myself- that I would learn to love him right where he was.  And God was faithful.  He met me were I was- broken, hurt, and angry, and little by little my anger ebbed, and the atheist philosophical books littered around my home began to be replaced by Christian titles.  And then one day out of the blue Nolan was dressed to go to church with us.  And almost four years ago, sitting in our room alone, Nolan excepted Christ into his heart to be the Savior of his life. 

Since then God has begun a work in our family that is beyond anything I could have ever imagined!  Nolan has stepped into the role of spiritual leader of our family leading us in bible studies, prayer, and to church.  God has healed our marriage and brought us closer to one another than we have ever been.  In January 2013 God blessed our family with another sweet, baby girl.  In January 2014 I watched as God allowed Nolan to lead our 9 year old son to Christ.  God is moving, and we are willing and ready to answer and to follow wherever he leads.  And all of this because he was willing to answer my small- fragile prayers with power and faithfulness that has blown me away!

He is faithful.  Through this he has shown me so many things.  He has shown me to rely on him.  To trust in him.  To give it all to him.  He allowed me the opportunity to pray over my husband- to be a part of the amazing miracle that took place in my husband's life.  And while it was the hardest season of my life so far- He used that time in my life to draw me back to him because if I was being completely honest- before my husband came out and said he was a non-believer I was just going through the motions.  Doing the minimal- no more- no less.  He used what felt like a hopeless situation to bring about new life in Christ for my husband and myself.  I have recommitted my life to Him, and am so thankful that he was gracious enough and patient enough to show me the way back.

So while I became a Christian when I was very young I spent many years wasting time- not forming the relationship with Christ that he calls us to experience.  Through my husband's salvation he showed me the many areas in which my own relationship with him was lacking.  He showed me that he is my Savior and that he should be #1 in my life, not my husband, not my children, and not my things, that nothing else can replace the giant, God sized hole in my life but him.  Daily he transforms me, molds me, and shows me areas in my life where I need his guidance, grace, forgiveness, mercy, and wisdom.  Sometimes he has to teach me these lessons through discipline and suffering in order to humble me and to show me his ways are better, but thankfully these lessons always come through love, and with hope of a new and brighter day. 

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul,
'therefore I will hope in him.' "  -Lamentations 3:22-24

I don't know where you are in your walk with Christ.  Some of you reading this might not even know Christ, but as I sit here I pray over this testimony in hope that it will reach you right where you are.  That from it you can see how powerful and amazing the Love and Mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ are.  Maybe He's calling you to walk closer to him, maybe he's showing you areas of your life that need prayer, or forgiveness, maybe he's laying someone on your heart that needs to hear about his saving grace, or maybe it's you that needs his saving grace. 

Wherever you are- know that he is faithful, that he loves you, and that he will meet you right where you are- no matter where that might be.




All Roads Lead To Somewhere, But Where?

I have posted this before. It's my testimony- my hope and prayer is that you will take from it how much I love God, and how wonderfully, amazingly, good and loving He is. It's a two part post so I will post part 2 later this week (probably wednesday)...

Part 1- Before Marriage:

I have a true story to tell you.

It's about the road that has led me to this place that I'm at right now. While the road has been rocky and the journey a little ugly at times- it has led to the most wonderful of places.

I started on this road when I was about 7 I think (while the exact age seems to have left me- I remember clearly the place and the company). I was sitting in the hall of my house where I grew up waiting to use the restroom when my father came down the hallway. I asked him to sit down and visit with me for a minute- I had some questions. Questions about Jesus and God. Questions about my salvation and where I would go when I died. There in the hallway, with my earthly father's support, waiting to use the bathroom, I chose to believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior.

Fast forward a few years to a teenager who believed in Christ but really didn't take it much further than that. Who was super quick to throw others under the bus with judgement for their "sin", but felt like since she wasn't going to the parties and doing "those" things then she must be doing right by God. Right?.

Fast Forward a few more years to college. I continued to say I loved God and believed in his Son as my Savior, but unfortunately continued to live a life that was contrary to what I professed. I made many poor decisions and followed the road of the world in a way that I'm sure made satan sing with joy. I dated and then later became engaged to a guy that was a relationship unhealthy for both parties I'm sure. Emotional damage seemed to be the base for which that relationship was built on. I prayed and prayed that God would heal our tattered and torn relationship. I was marrying this man for crying out loud! How could we ever have a successful marriage if we couldn't even date properly? I shed tears over the brokenness of it all- all the while crying out to God to fix what we seemed to tear down and break so frequently. With invitations sent out, two wedding showers under our belt, dress, flowers, and cake all purchased, and less than a month before the wedding we threw in the towel and walked away from each other.

What had gone wrong? Had I not prayed hard enough? It felt like complete failure had consumed me. Embarrassment. Shame. Hopelessness. What had started as a smooth road, had turned into pebbles, then rocks, then boulders, and had come to its end as this huge mountain that I could see no way over. Along with the ending of what I thought was supposed to be the beginning of this new life came other changes. I immediately moved home to my parents after living on my own for 3 years, changed schools (or so I thought at the time), and basically just tried to figure out where it had all gone wrong.

The next few months to follow would not be what I would describe as pretty. Without going into too much detail lets just say that rock bottom seemed to be my new address. However I had mastered the art of putting on a happy face and making it seem like all was well in the world. I was not happy with the person I had become, and I know that God was saddened by where my life had gone.

It was one of those things that in the midst of the sin and shamefulness I could hear and feel the Holy Spirit convicting me. Telling me to turn away from the ways that seemed to be consuming me, but I just kept turning from him and digging myself deeper and deeper in. I just kept turning to the world to try to put out the pain, but it only seemed to produce more pain and more trouble.

It was during this time of lowness that the future hubster came into the picture (again. Seeing as how he and I had grown up together and then dated in high school for a couple of years off and on, only to part ways when I went off to college). I'm not going to lie and say that it was all roses right from the start, because frankly drama usually follows when your heart is saying one thing and your brain is saying another. However, after a few talks, a few situations, and a few shed tears it became apparent that Nolan was God's answer to the prayer I had prayed a year earlier. The prayer where I had prayed for him to heal the brokenness of another relationship with another guy. The prayer where I thought he had abandoned me and left me hopeless. The prayer I thought he had chosen not to hear- not to listen to. It wasn't that he didn't care or had chosen to ignore me- instead like a faithful and loving parent he had just chosen to say "No."

"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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord, "and will bring you back from captivity." -Jeremiah 29:11-14

You see, only He knew my future. My small faith had left me feeling abandoned and alone in my time of need. I felt that God had failed me, but he had really delivered me choosing to reveal himself true and faithful on his time, not mine. Most of all he chose to show himself loving despite the lack of love I had shown him.

Nolan and our marriage was a "good and perfect gift" that could have only "come from above," but like I'll show you tomorrow when I finish this story- sinful nature is not pretty, and can unfortunately, cause hurt and pain within the most wonderful of God's gifts.

For now I'll leave you with this. My hope is that through my story you can find hope. Just know that God is faithful, and merciful, and always- ALWAYS- shows himself true. Unfortunately we have to hit rock bottom sometimes to recognize our need for him, but find joy in those moments- for it is then that God's Glory and Awesomeness can truly be realized and we can find him.




"Shake, Shake, Shake"- Guest Blogger Tana...

Today I would like to welcome my sweet, friend Tana- who has graciously agreed to be my guest blogger today-  Yay!!!  I consider Tana to not only be a friend, but also a mentor.  She is a pastor's wife, a mother to three grown children, and  a blessing to me.  I'm so excited for you to read what God has laid on her heart.  Welcome- Tana!
When Kasey asked if I would like to guest blog for her, I was excited! I love Kasey! I also love to share what God is teaching me! As I began to think about what God has been showing me in my life, I realized how God has used several younger ladies to remind me of some very simple truths that I have easily been overlooking. Maybe you have been overlooking them also or maybe you need to share your enthusiasm with someone. Anyway, here it is...
Enthusiasm and Joy for what God is doing.
It doesn't matter how old you are or how long you have been saved, your enthusiasm for what God is doing should never become mundane. As I have watched these ladies embark on new directions in their lives, their enthusiasm and willingness to be obedient has been an inspiration to me. I am reminded that we should all be enthusiastic for the new paths that God is leading us down. If God is not leading you down a new path, then my heart breaks for you because I suspect you may not be listening closely to Him. I suggest you find someone who is excited about what God is doing and catch their zeal! Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm! If you have gotten boring and stale in your walk with God, then maybe you need to listen to MercyMe's song "SHAKE" and find a person who is simply trying to be obedient and catch their enthusiasm. Rejoice in the way God has changed you and "SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE, like your changed, changed, changed!" (Seriously, check out this song! I love it, even though my dancing in the kitchen causes great embarrassment to my 16 year old.)
Doing new things is hard but oh, so worth it!
One of my sweet friends, Katie, is taking her dream job with Compassion International. She and her husband (our youth pastor) of 14 months are moving to a new state, where they know no one, to impact lives in a global and kingdom way simply because God is calling them. Like most “God things”, it is exciting...and scary...and unpredictable...and exhausting...and peaceful. Most people would not dream of giving up all that Katie and Justin are giving up to follow God's plan. Most people tend to keep things the way they have always been simply because it is easier. Katie & Justin know that things would be so much easier to just continue as everything already is and they are serving God in an impactful way now. (And selfishly, it would be much easier on my family if they continued their work with our youth.) But what adventures and blessings would they miss by doing things the easy way? What adventures or blessings are you missing because it is easier to stay in the status quo? It's ironic that this is one of the lessons God has reminded me of because I often long for the status quo. I have to remind myself that it is a JOY to be allowed to be a part of something God is doing and if my life needs to remain unpredictable to experience it, then I need to rejoice and embrace the changes!
Theory and Reality are not the same.
Being enthusiastic and willing to get out of your comfort zone to follow a new path that God is leading you down sounds wonderful in theory but in reality…not so much. It sounds exciting but it is really scary. It sounds grandiose but it causes us to feel inferior. Doing God's will sounds spectacular until it means leaving everything that is familiar, that you love, to be obedient. The reality says that most people who embark upon these journeys do so knowing that many people - both family & friends - will not understand their decisions or share their enthusiasm. People need to understand that these two things, theory and reality, are not the same and that whoever is embarking on the adventure needs to know it is okay to admit the reality and deal with it. It doesn't make someone less willing to be obedient, it simply makes them human. SO, find a way to give REAL support. ACTUALLY pray for them on a regular basis. LISTEN to their thoughts and feelings without judgment because their pendulum will swing between a confident "I can do all things through Christ..." and "...I am not worthy, how can I do this?". They don't need you to fix anything, they just need some love, listening, & encouragement.
Being in the center of God's will brings peace but not necessarily happiness.
Most people think that if you are in the center of God's will, you will be happy. Read #3 again and see if that describes a happy person? Being scared, feeling inferior, uncomfortable, alone, and without support does not evoke feelings of happiness for most people. However, it does bring a peace that transcends all understanding and a contentment that can only grow. I can't imagine that the Apostle Paul was happy in prison but he was at peace and continued to be obedient. Life is not going to be easy just because a person is obedient. But the strength that God gives to live in obedience brings contentment and satisfaction like nothing else. Don't feel guilty when you aren't necessarily happy but be joyful and content, nonetheless.
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good.
When a person is struggling, it is easy to forget to praise God. When life gets too comfortable, it is easy to forget to praise God. When daily routines become mundane, it is easy to forget to praise God. But no matter what the circumstances of our lives, God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good! SO PRAISE HIM ALL THE TIME! When was the last time that you truly pondered the "God is good..."statement and believed it with all your heart? This fact has been one of the most consistent things I have found in my ever changing journey. Something we should ALL remember!
I am so thankful that God uses so many people to teach me so many things. I feel so blessed to have friends of all ages in every stage of life to learn from. I feel humbled that these friends allow me to walk their journey with them and learn through them. I am grateful that Kasey asked me to share this with you. It is not earth-shattering but I pray it spoke to you in some way! (If nothing else, check out MercyMe's song, "SHAKE"! It is so FUN!!!!)
Much love to you and the wonderful PURPLE CLAD JEWEL, Kasey!