Thursday, March 31, 2011

post 23

a hymn

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart
wean it from earth.
stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
and make me love Thee as i ought to love.
God and King!
all, all Thine own, 
soul, heart and strength and mind!
i see Thy cross; there teach my heart to cling;
o let me seek Thee, and o let me find.
teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
teach me the struggles of the soul to bear
to check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.
teach me to love Thee as i ought to love,
one holy passion filling all my frame:
the baptism of the heav'n descended Dove
My heart an altar and Thy love the flame.

george croley
| spirit of God, descend upon my heart

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

post 22 {personal testimony}

This is my story of my God and how great He is.


August 20, 1989
I was born on the exact day God planned for me,
to start this life and live it as many days as God allotted for me.

The daughter to one rescued worldly rebel,
with a past of extreme pain and regret,
born to and raised by God-less parents,
who were also born to raised by God-less parents.

And I was also the daughter of one spared "church kid,"
with a past of young faith + continued faith,
born to and raised by Christian parents,
also born to and raised by Christian parents.

Such different settings,
such different worlds,
pursued and loved and rescued by the exact same God.
Miraculously He brought mom + dad from opposite coasts
to the exact same church in a brand new state for them both.
They met, married + became parents.

One hoping God would continue a legacy of Christian offspring,
another hoping He would break a generational curse of worldly offspring.

February 22, 1991
This night is the first memory of my life.
I was 18 months old,
and my 12-day-old brother stopped breathing during a nap.
Mom checked on him,
he was blue,
she did CPR and called for help.

And the very, very first memory I have of my entire life is this:
sitting on my grandma's lap,
while she read me "Pat the Bunny,"
as blue + red ambulance lights flashed in the window
from the dark rainy night outside.

Many men in white came running in,
and they left just as fast.
With my mom.
And my dad.
And my brother.

Grandma, the woman who raised my mother, held me and prayed
"Oh God, help.
Oh help, God. 

I remember knowing something was wrong,
and God could help.
(my brother was just fine, by the way)

October 1991
I climbed onto my dad's lap one night for our weekly
"Situation World" talks.
He'd explain to me the two-year-old version
of outer space,
his work,
the economy,
and God.

We'd sit on his blue chair in the living room and having "special talks."
One night we talked about heaven and hell.
I was wearing polka-dot pajamas,
and had curlers in my hair.
And I did not like the situation of hell.

I remember understanding that heaven was where God lived.
And it was the best place ever.
Better then the park,
and better then McDonalds,
and better then grandma's house! 

But because I disobeyed mom and dad (and God,)
I wasn't allowed to go to heaven.
I had to go to hell.
God does not live in hell.
Hell was punishment.

I was scared.

I also remember understanding that if I wanted to live in heaven with God,
I needed to ask God to live in me.
Since God lived on earth,
and never disobeyed his mom or dad,
He died my hell for me,
and if I believed that I would be able to go to heaven.

It was basic: 
God is in heaven, 
I want to be where God is.
It's the best place ever.
So, even though I disobey, 
He loves me and wants me to be with Him.
And God proved that through the life of Jesus.
And I believed it.
At two years old.
Dad and I prayed,
and God took over my heart and life.

January 1995
I was in 1st grade and I memorized Psalm 23,
which to this day I quote to myself the most
and remember the most
of all the scriptures I've ever memorized.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness 
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

May 1995
My 1st grade class was having a Independence Day celebration at school,
in part to welcome a new girl to our church,
who had just been adopted from Russia.

We were supposed to wear red, white and blue
and come to school prepared for a patriotic parade around the building.
My mom bought a sparkly fireworks necklace for me to give to my new friend.

But when the day rolled around,
I wanted to wear the necklace myself.
I didn't want to give it to the new girl.
I didn't care if she felt welcome.
I wanted to wear the necklace.

My parents didn't say 
"No, you MUST give it to her."
And they didn't say
"Fine, just wear it."
Instead, they sent me to my room to pray,
giving me the wise advice
"Ask God what you think you should do."

it was the first time I remember God "speaking" to me.
I started to pray my 6-year-old prayer,
and I knew in my heart I was selfish. Unkind. 
I knew I needed to give my friend the necklace,
God lived in my heart,
and God called me to do something.

I came back to my parents and told them.
It was such a joy to give my friend the sparkly necklace.
Such joy to follow God.

April 1996
I was in second grade, and it was Easter Sunday.
Robin Boisvert was teaching the 1st-3rd grade class at church.
He was talking about the pain of the cross.
The whip marks,
the nails,
the thorns,
the thirst.

It sounded absolutely horrible to me.

And then he said something that changed my little life:
"The physical pain was nothing compared to the pain 
of Jesus' Father turning His face away from Him.
God forsook His Son."

Mr. B explained what "forsook" was.
He explained the emotional, spiritual and physical agony of God
pouring out His wrath on His Son.

At the time I couldn't understand why that was worse then nails in your hands.
But I remember that he said it.
And I thought about it a lot.

June 1998
I was 8 years old,
and after taking a mini-class,
talking with my pastor and my parents,
I was baptized in front of my whole church in a swimming pool in the mountains.
(My family lived in California at the time.)
Baptism did not save me,
but was an outward picture of what happened inside when I was saved,
drowned in the love of God
and wiped completely clean.
I understood I was doing this to honor and obey God,
and that I was already saved.

July 1999
I was 9 years old,
and had just for the first experienced 
a powerful, emotional move of the Holy Spirit.
After watching Pilgrims Progress at church,
I wept and shook and fell on the ground
in the worship time afterwards.
I had never felt God so present before.

My family had just moved across the country (for the second time in 15 months),
my mom was pregnant (also for the second time in 15 months, but the first ended in miscarriage),
and five days before her due date,
my mom and I flew back to the west coast to see my dying grandmother.

We never quite made it.
While we were in the hospital parking lot,
Grandma left this rotting world,
and left her cancer-eaten body,
and entered the gates of Heaven,
where God lives.

I was heart-broken.
We didn't get to say good-bye.
This was so sudden, it happened so fast.
My mom wasn't expecting this,
she collapsed in her sisters arms,
and wept and shook and fell to the ground.
My aunts and uncles and cousins and grandfather cried.
"Help God.
Oh God, help."
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… 
Your staff comforts me."

That night, sleeping in the bedroom my mom grew up in,
in the house where my grandma raised her,
I dreamt about grandma in heaven.
I couldn't wait to join her.
"I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

And a few days later we welcomed a new baby,
God's perfectly timed gift to our family.
I, to this day, can't remember a time where I felt 
God's incredible kindness towards me,
or understood His sovereign control + intentional plans + perfect orchestration for my life.
I just absolutely loved my new little brother.
"You anoint my head with oil,
my cup overflows."

Fall 2004
I was 14, a freshman in highschool,
oldest child in a family of seven kids,
happy as a clam.

Mom was pregnant with number eight,
and I was completely thrilled.
I loved babies,
loved my siblings,
and loved being a big sister.

But then mom wasn't pregnant anymore.
The baby died,
and I cried.

"What was the point of that, God?"
I wondered.

Then one Saturday morning a few weeks after her miscarriage,
my dad told us some more news.
Mom had cancer.
Breast cancer.
The same cancer my grandma died from.

Mom had had it for quite some time.
If she hadn't had the miscarriage she likely would have died.
If she hadn't had the miscarriage she wouldn't have been at the doctor,
wouldn't have even known she was sick.
Even if somehow they DID find out she had cancer,
at the rate it was spreading,
they would not have been able to treat a pregnant woman
in the aggressive way they needed to.

"The Lord is my shepherd. You are with me;
your staff comforts me."

In a whirlwind year of multiple surgeries,
chemotherapy, radiation, hair loss, wigs, throwing up,
growing up, flowers, meals, prayers,
community, tears, memories and lessons,
God taught me more about Himself.

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life."

His goodness does follow me.
But it's not how I would define "good."
It's God's good.
A lot of times God's good is quite hard.
God's good forsook His Son, after all.
And put nails in His hands.

But "He leads me in paths of righteousness 
for His name's sake."
Not on paths of easiness, nor paths of clarity.
Not paths I'd choose or paths with no thorns.
And certainly not paths for MY namesake.

My Shepard leads His flock to where He knows is good.
I'd be a stupid lamb in the brambles,
or a terrified lamb in the danger of lions,
if it wasn't for the good Shepard who doesn't let me wander.

It's not because I wouldn't wander:
I would.  I do!
But He doesn't let me go far.
He doesn't forsake me.
He pursues me on His initiative, the ultimate leader.
He leads me beside still waters.
It's His doing, His initiative, His faithfulness and His loyalty.
And I've grown to so trust His love.

I knew I did before,
but I do so much more now.
Every thorny patch and stormy night and chaotic mess 
has proven how good He is over and over.

"I shall not want."
There isn't anything I desire other then Him.
He's all I want,
because He's all I need.
Such joy to follow God!

March 2011
It's been almost 8 years since my mom had cancer.
I've had the incredible honor of walking through more trials since then.
Nothing incredibly traumatic,
I know many who have walked through much worse,
it's not even right to compare,
but they were difficult enough for me,
a simple emotional human.

Close friends rebelling, best friends mom dying, foster kids, 
questioning my faith, starting a business, paying taxes ;)
relationships changing, getting hurt,
hurting others, rethinking  "everything I believe",
crying, for the first time really understanding "grace",
my family moving away, me deciding to stay here on my own,
watching friends with dating issues, marriage issues,
fertility issues, heart-break issues.
Watching friends lose children, spouses, health, money.

"Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."

It's true.  
It never stops.
It follows me.
I can't escape it.
The rod is good.
The staff is good.
The valley is good.
The shadows are good.
The streams are good.
The pastures are good.
They hurt. They're hard.
But they're good.
Because the Shepard leads me to all those places.
Come what may!

And someday,
after more lovely paths + more scary paths,
(and it can't come soon enough,)
He'll lead me home,
and I'll live with Him forever.
I'll live where God lives.

"I declared,
and saved,
and proclaimed…
and I am God.
There is none who can deliver from my hand.
I work,
who can turn it back?

Behold, I am doing a new thing,
now it springs forth!
I will make a way in the wilderness,
waters in the desert.

You did not call upon me,
but I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my namesake,
and I will not remember your sins."

"I have been crucified with Christ,
and it is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me.
The life I now live in the flesh,
I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me
and gave Himself for me."

It's so all about Him.
He loved me before I was born,
He died my hell also before I was born,
then later He made me,
He worked in my little sinful heart,
He changed me,
He helped me,
He led me,
He fed me,
He taught me,
He lives in me 
and this all is for He.

And when the situations of this world are over,
I will go to THE best place ever,
the place I don't deserve to ever see,
because of goodness and mercy that are promised to me,
I'll live in Heaven with God.

I'll be there because He never, ever forsook me.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
and there proclaim, "My God how Great Thou Art!"