Monday, August 25, 2008

Rad and I talked a bit last night about my life and the changes I've been going through.

The transition to Northern California was tough and easy at the same time. I had a great man waiting for me, a great church and God. But I left behind some good friends and opportunities to participate in ministries as a single woman.

Much of my time these days is spent keeping the new house in order and looking for work. It takes a lot of work to keep the house tidy especially since we are somewhat crammed into a small space. My husband's house was packed before I arrived. After I got here with my things and then my son moved in, things were even more cluttered.

I've spent a lot of time cleaning the garage and making space inside the house. I've taken several trips to Goodwill to deposit items we aren't using or don't need or have 2 of. I've enjoyed the work - the feeling of participating in my new life, the feeling of making things nice and more comfortable for my new family.

I read a Max Lucado devotional the other day where he stressed that our first ministry is at home, with our family. This is something I'm getting used to. It is just hard to give up some of that control. When you're single, you can pick from a smorgasboard of ministries. It was a time in my life where I experienced a tremendous amount of freedom. But I think I knew that and I did live my single life to its fullest. I have no regrets, only really wonderful memories.

I think being married is the toughest thing I've ever done as a single person. (and you can quote me on that! haha)

Being married requires me to compromise, humble myself daily, have patience, have faith and work through conflict again and again and again.

I see now how ministry prepared me for marriage. The tougher the service in His name, the closer I got to being ready for marriage. That isn't to say that I didn't fail miserably in the "work through conflict" department - I did. Well, I failed some of the time, not all of the time. But all that I put into humbling myself, forgiving others and alternately holding my tounge and expressing my feelings in a healthy way (a craft I've yet to master but I'm getting decidedly more proficient with each trial)has contributed to preparing me for marriage.

My husband and I have conflict every day. Some would say "well, why did you marry that person?" Because our marriage is the most God-centered, fruitful relationship that I've had. It is authentic and real which means we bring our REAL, UNMASKED selves to the table and neither of us is perfect!

I pray that my new mom-ministry will be fruitful. I have my own son living with us now. He's 18 and in college. He has tremendous talent but we haven't the means to send him to art school right away. I still need to work on healthier boundaries with him and letting go. Then there are my husband's sons. They are getting used to me and me to them. I want to humble myself and be glad for the work and trials involved. I also want to be a healthy example of a woman who loves Jesus.

I know God has brought me to this point and I know, no matter how tough, I'll get through this with His strength. On my own strength, I'd be toast!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Read a friend's testimony today I am reminded of my own. I used to have it written here in this blog but I removed it after a time. To protect the innocent, as they say because I'd referred to some people in it and then decided maybe they didn't want some of those details made public. Still, I might re-write it again. I'm not sure. What I read today inspired me. The good thing is, my testimony is still unfolding...God's work in me just beginning. Chapters are building upon chapters.

I have grown more intimate with God in the past few years. And with the deepening of that relationship I've learned a lot more about Him and a lot more about me. Through counseling and the building of authentic relationships where I have encouraged people to speak truth into my life, I've had many valuable lessons. I dunno. Is this just another definition of wisdom? Whatever it is, it's painful. But it's surely good.

My friend's testimony was boldly written. She let it all out - the unsightly - the bruised - the ugly. I was intrigued, surprised and elated. Her honesty a testament to the trust-relationship she has with her savior. Her story, HIS story.

The first time I gave my testimony in church I believe now that I focused on the "victim" side of my life. I talked alot about what had been done "to" me and how I had risen above such circumstances and forgiven those involved. Now, I see that story as the "first layer" of truth. It was embarassing to talk about the stuff that hurt me. Hmmmm. But then, there are the things I did to hurt others.

Whenever I hear or read someone's story where they are willing to spell out what a lousy muck they were - I am humbled. I am amazed and I am weakened - my shell of pride stripped. One day, will I tell everyone all the things I've done? It took such a long time for me to tell Jesus.

But He knew all the time anyway, didn't He?

And everytime we humble ourselves and admit what a schmuck we are or have been (or are...does it ever stop?) we defeat Satan. We defeat our pridefullness. We give glory to the Father who loves us.

I've done some pretty pathetic things in my life. Betrayed myself. Betrayed people. Betrayed God. I know now there is a force that opposes God and seeks to destroy me. It is this one who whispered to me for a long time...we don't need to let people know THAT about you...THAT would be just TOO MUCH INFORMATION...THAT would make them JUDGE you and HATE you. But letting this stuff out is powerful - it is the type of authenticity Jesus called for.

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

The thief kills us by tempting us to hold onto the dirty stuff. The thief robs us of the joy that comes from knowing that God forgives us for (yeah) EVEN THAT.

Pride robs us of much. They say we are most like Satan when we are full of pride and I know this to be true. My own pride has caused my stubbornness, short-sightedness and distancing from God. Pride can accomplish a lot of damage. Even a tiny bit of pride can have a huge impact on a situation. But the pride I hold onto inside myself, the thoughts that no one knows about but me, are probably the most damaging.

Maybe it is jealousy, maybe it is judgement of others, maybe it is a tinge of unforgiveness...pride's potent in the smallest of amounts. Traces of poison over time can kill someone.

Humbling myself before God with all that I'd done and felt was difficult. Even hanging onto a "victim mentality" was poison for me. It blinded me so that I neglected to ask: was I responsible for any of the situations that hurt me. Sometimes, I was. Sometimes, I was just responsible for situations wounding me over and over again because I refused to humble myself and forgive.

The best part of my friend's story was the "ending" - gee, I hate to call it that mine, her story is still unfolding. But where she is at today brings glory to God and her faith is inspiring. How good it is to know that God will use every hurt we hand him? How good it is to know that when we're ready, he'll be there to listen?
Don't Be Reluctant to Show Mercy
by Rick Warren

When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won't give up in despair. 2 Corinthians 2:7 (CEV)

*** *** *** ***

In real fellowship people experience mercy. Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes aren't rubbed in but rubbed out. Fellowship happens when mercy wins over justice.

We all need mercy, because we all stumble and fall and require help getting back on track. We need to offer mercy to each other and be willing to receive it from each other.

You can't have fellowship without forgiveness because bitterness and resentment always destroy fellowship. Sometimes we hurt each other intentionally and sometimes unintentionally, but either way, it takes massive amounts of mercy and grace to create and maintain fellowship.

The Bible says, "You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others" (Colossians 3:13 NLT).

The mercy God shows to us is the motivation for us to show mercy to others. Whenever you're hurt by someone, you have a choice to make: Will I use my energy and emotions for retaliation or for resolution?

You can't do both.

Many people are reluctant to show mercy because they don't understand the difference between trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past. Trust has to do with future behavior.

Forgiveness must be immediate, whether or not a person asks for it. Trust must be rebuilt over time.

Trust requires a track record. If someone hurts you repeatedly, you are commanded by God to forgive them instantly, but you are not expected to trust them immediately, and you are not expected to continue allowing them to hurt you. They must prove they have changed over time. The best place to restore trust is within the supportive context of a small group that offers both encouragement and accountability.

© 2008 Purpose Driven Life. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Oh much going on...I have (yet again!) neglected blogging.

Life's been so full for me as of late. I was married a little more than a month ago...and leading up to life's circumstances changed dramatically. Looking back, I suppose it would have been nice to have been blogging my way through but it wasn't in the cards.

Today I'm just thinking about YOU. About anyone who is still reading this blog or drops in from time to time. I drop in on your blogs too. I'm grateful for the blogging community which provides each of us with a wealth of people who like to not only read about people like me (!) but on occassion, will give advice, send well-wishes and even pray for me. Thank you, cyber-friends.

Northern California is going well. I am enjoying being married and living with my husband and our sons...yes, my son moved in with us too. So we've got a busy household a few nights a week (some nights, my husband's sons are with their mom). The busyness of the house has helped me from lamenting too long or feeling the anxiety and depression which inevitably follows too much isolation for me. So thank you, Lord. You are GOOD. Continually, abundantly, remarkably GOOD.

I've experienced some profound losses recently. With many of those losses (like the loss of my old small group) the Lord has replaced the emptiness with something my current small group whom I deeply love. Yet one of the losses cannot be replaced and I find myself aching intensely when I think about it.

Without going into too much detail, a friend of mine asked that we part ways after she expressed that I had done some things that hurt her. We never really talked it out...she sent me an email explaining her feelings and declined an invitation to talk on the phone (as we no longer live in the same area).

I remember the last time I called her. It was just to say "hey, I heard this song on the radio...I'm laughing...I want to share with you..." Gee, I want to blog more on the subject but I need to leave it alone...

I was thinking back recently to the time when I first began this blog. My friend encouraged me to write and I found that it was my salvation in my darkest times. Through writing I've learned much. I have something to say. There are people who still want to listen. God loves me so much.

When I started this blog I was leading a small group and oh my goodness those times were hard. I didn't know the first thing about what I was doing and I made so many mistakes. It was like I couldn't help but make mistakes. I met some really wonderful people in my first small group. I know that the Lord put us all together and I still communicate with many of those people.

We were a bunch of people, mostly people who had returned or turned recently to Christ, and we really cared about one another. I used to grow frustrated when people didn't show up or take the study seriously (I took it all far to personally). I used to want everyone's walk to be exactly as my own.

Since then, I've faced issues with my co-dependency, my controlling-nature, my anxiety and fears. And the answers are always always always the same...go to God, take it to God, trust God.

Someone was sharing the story where Jesus asked Peter to get out of the boat and walk on the water...the more Peter began to THINK, the faster Peter began to SINK. For an intense person like me ... writing can SOMETIMES be a huge trap. Too much THINK...too much SINK. So I try not to over-analyze so much. Hmmmm, let me re-state that. I try not to think too much without talking to God about it first because often times, He has the answers. He is just waiting for me to quiet myself down so he can share them with me.

So that's the extent of my blog for know, too much thinking and all...thank you for continuing to read and care...our intersections are gifts from God!!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Just a quick post here...

I reflected a bit further on the subject of intimacy. Even though I've recognized some patterns that I have, I'm not sure I've completely "crossed-over" when it comes to intimacy. In fact, I'm sure that I haven't but I'm getting there and it feels good.

I think the kind of intimacy I'm talking about is where one enters into a relationship with someone and is willing to withstand and share truth (even if it hurts)and submitting to conflict when necessary. Plainly, these things are very tough for me. With truth, I am often afraid there will come criticism that would wound parts of my already insecure self. With conflict, I'm afraid the relationship will end or be permanently damaged.

This is why getting to know Jesus and understanding our place in Christ is so vital. Since I am in Christ:

I am the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13)
I am the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)
I am a branch of the true vine, a channel of Christ's life (John 15:1,2)
I am a join heir with Christ, sharing His inheritance with Him (Romans 8:17)
I am God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)

Wow! I'm a lot of things! A whole new person!

I'm headed this weekend to my first retreat with the study group I've joined at my new church. I'm looking forward to it. Later on this weekend, I will be serving with my church at a local festival. We will be handing out water and offering prayer to the festival attenders. I'm looking forward to serving.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Full Steam Ahead

37 more days to go and then I am married...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In my last post I reflected on my Exodus. My journey. Well, I'm on it to be certain. Yeah, there's been a bit of wandering but there have been revelations as well. I can feel deep changes taking place in my life, my self, my soul. Like a deep tissue soul massage. I've got knots and kinks in my heart and in my thought-life patterns. This extended soul road trip has been desperately needed and I'm praising God today for loving me so much.

Going deeper in my relationships with people is what set off a chain of painful yet healthy events over the past year. Stuff's come up. Stuff's come out. I'm getting to know me and the Lord in a whole new way.

Honey seems tasteless to a person who is full, but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry. Proverbs 27:7

2 years after I gave my life to the Lord I began serving on staff at my church. I loved to serve and I loved my church very much. I enjoyed helping others and it gave me a sense of significance that I was longing for. I met so many people and I felt loved by them. I also enjoyed being busy. Quiet and quality time with God was always interrupted. I typically found myself working on my Sabbath. But it's for the church, right? So it's okay. It's for the Lord, right? So this must be what he wants me to do. What baloney.

So whereas I was loved by many people and I felt love from God. I was floating just under the radar when it came to intimacy. Did people know facts about my life? Yes. Did people know what brought me to my knees and then eventually to the Lord? Yes. Did people know what was going on with me when I would grow down and frustrated about life. Errrrh...sort of. Hmmm. Well...not really.

In the past year that I have not served in ministry, I've had the chance to reflect more deeply on what's ailing me and work with a wonderful counselor. It was then I began to see some patterns in my life. I could see that I had issues with intimacy. I put the connection together that this was probably why I had remained single for so long.

Some of the biggest symptoms were that I couldn't successfully handle conflict or criticism. Which is what marriage is all about, right? Seriously, this is the mark of a healthy, strong relationship. This is honesty. This is authenticity. Yeah, it sometimes hurts when someone tells you you suck. But this dialog can contribute to how we grow. In godly relationships, truth is spoken in love. At the foot of the cross I came to some great truths about myself and my past. I also came to understand the depth and breadth of God's vast love.

I avoided conflict at all costs (not too hard to do when you don't choose to delegate say YES to way too much work then isolate yourself with it even to the point that it's killing you...). Criticism hit me deeply. (after all, a "martyr" doesn't want to hear she sacrificially killed herself for you the wrong way... or to put it another way, no one can bust you on your unhealthy behavior if you're always serving them like a dog, can they?) My behavior was really manipulative now that I think about it.

My name is Danielle
In my life, being a leader was how I received accolades and praise. When I stopped leading, the praise grew dimmer. People criticized me. People criticized my relationship with Radford. Throughout this time, I kept thinking of the meaning of my name, Danielle. It is from Daniel, which means "God is my judge." I kept thinking this over and over and telling myself not to worry about what other people might be thinking. I was living for an audience of one. It was difficult to climb down off my post at church and say that it was going to be all about me, for a time. Well, it was going to be all about me and my relationship with the Lord. Just me and Him. Cleaning up.

Charles Swindoll wrote:

"Hypocrisy permits us to travel both sides of the path--to look righteous but be unholy, to sound pious but be secretly profane. Invariably, those who get trapped in the hypocrisy syndrome find ways to mask their hollow core. The easiest approach is to add more activity, run faster, emphasize an intense, ever-enlarging agenda."

My hypocrisy, my profanity has been that I haven't trusted God with everything and that I was offering my busy life to God instead of my aches and wounds. How hypocritical I was to think that the Great Healer was there for those who hurt worse than I do. How foolish I was to limit the Lord and not take my burdens to him. For my weaknesses and my pains are really my transgressions, the wood plank in my eye.

When I gave my life to Christ, I was transformed in a very dramatic way. A lot of the anxiety I had felt was swept away. Much of my depression was gone. Knowing I was loved by God, that I was no mistake and that God has a purpose for me life was cool clean water to my thirsty soul. And I was a woman who was so broken. Christ's touch was soft and loving. Understanding and saving. But the causes of my anxiety and depression were still within me. I've been dealing with these issues for the past year with Radford's encouragement and the encouragement of my closest friends and mentors. I am learning it is going to take some work to break free from those strongholds. It begins with forgiveness of those who have hurt me. This is where I'm at right now. My prayer is that I can forgive fully and be rid of the hurts. To even get to this place has been tough. I am in the beginning of this process.

Oh Israel, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? How can you say God refuses to hear your case? Have you never heard or understood? don't you know that the LORD is an everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or wear. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. But those who wait on the LORD will find strength. They will fly high on wings of eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:27-31

One thing that attracts me to my husband to be and to my closest friends is their desire to grow. I connect with them because they also understand there's a freedom in Christ but that we won't get there unless we take some necessary steps to break free from these strongholds. Practically speaking, this involves examining our relationships with people and identifying where things went wrong or where thing are going wrong. And then trusting God to walk with us on the journey of conflict, confrontation and forgiveness.

I want to be strong for the Lord and allow him to strengthen me and direct my life. I believe I am still on that Exodus away from slavery. The promised land lies ahead. Or maybe to the left. Or maybe to the right. Hmmmm...I'm not too sure but I have faith that after I've finished my wandering and fighting these battles, I'll be with him forever. I'm learning too that sometimes in the wandering there is a plan, there is a purpose and even sidesteps can bring us one breath closer to the Lord. He's just cool that way.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What am I doing here?

I've been in Northern California for close to 3 months now. I'd like to say that the majority of my time has been spent looking for work. But actually, the majority of my time has been spent worrying about finding a job and worrying about my finances.

I do look for work. I've been on several interviews but nothing's panned out yet. Meanwhile, I spend a lot of time in my apartment just thinking...

I'd like to say that "the Lord's got me in this place" but I think instead that "I've got me in this place." And this is just a sick way of thinking. I'm just being honest here with what's going on in my head. This pity-party is what I'm fighting right now.

I battle worry and concern. I'm asking God for guidance. This is supposed to be my Exodus, right? Not the MOVE up here, friends. The exodus of my life, the exodus from my old-self to the new creation I am in Jesus Christ and that means getting away from the slavery of my anxieties and worry. That's what I long to break free of. That's what has kept me bound. That desire to control. That desire to know what's up ahead. Eish, I hate it.

David wrote in Psalm 34:

I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.

This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,

keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.

Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;

the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;

he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

The LORD redeems his servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

I have deep issues when it comes to my financial security. It was an issue for me growing up in a single parent home. I won't go into the full story here but I began working at an early age and I've always been determined to provide for myself. But it is the Lord who provides and who will provide for me. The Bible says "the love of money is the root of all evil." I haven't made money my God. I believe my worry over it is what's lording over me at the moment. I ask that the Holy Spirit would help me break free from this worry.

To start on that path to breaking free, I sing His praises. I sing in a loud and somewhat akward tone. I sing with a dry throat and shaky voice but I'm singing and I know, God, you are listening...

Lord, I praise you for this day
for your unending mercy
for being so BIG that I kept running into you
for being so loving that you'd forgive a wretch like me
for calling me to rest
for cancelling my debt
for teaching me what love is and helping me turn from my old ways

Lord, thank you for my blessings
for my fiance' who called to read me an inspirational devotional this morning from his car before he went into work
for my friends who write and ask "how can I pray for you"
for my friends who text message me notes of encouragement
for the chance to become a step mom soon and grow as a woman
for my new church
for all the new people I am meeting and enjoying


So you might be wondering why I put up a photo of a squirrel eating a pancake. Well, something about it appealed to me. Maybe because squirrels aren't supposed to eat pancakes but the pancake showed up none-the-less. I think that's what I'm waiting for. I'm waiting for the Lord to do something unexpected.

I'm waiting for my pancake.