Orphan No More

Back in the early 90’s the world became aware of the Romanian orphan crisis. I remember, as a college student, surfing channels late at night on my parents TV and stumbling across a news report about it. In 1989 communism fell. Things hidden in the darkness came to light as the world watched news reports of hundreds of abandoned children left in orphanages that were poorly staffed. The bare minimum was done to keep these babies and children alive. I was captured by images of one year old infants in institutionalized baby beds rocking themselves back and forth. There was no one to hold them, no one to comfort them, no one to sing to them, tell them stories, or even call them by name. They had adapted to such cruel circumstances by soothing themselves the only way they knew how. Rocking back and forth with a blank stare on their face.

This morning as I spent my quiet time with Jesus, the image of these children came to my mind. So I open my YouTube app and did a quick search of the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. The first link that caught my eye was a short BBC report of a young man who survived the Romanian orphanage. He was adopted at the age of 11 by an American couple from California. What struck me about his interview was a quote that he said, “I could not adapt to a family environment. My mind was just so used to living in an institution. I was desperate to go back to Romania…” Institution, abuse, neglect… that was all he had ever known. A loving family with his needs being met was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. He talked about how easy it is to spot those who had survived the orphanages. “When you see a grown adult, sitting or standing rocking back and forth or doing something only an institutionalized person would do, you can instantly recognize that person grew up in an orphanage.” The final phrase that stuck with me, “I miss the orphanage. It was my home.” The young man in the report went back to Romania to visit his birth family and he had found that his mother wasn’t able to be the mom he was looking for and he went back to the United States.

Everyone has a past. Everyone has things they wished had never happened or that they had never done. We all are very much like the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. Due to the condition of our hearts, before Jesus, we have become used to the methods to self soothe that we developed through the years (addictions and coping mechanisms), and unfortunately we have let the conditions we came out of become our home, where we feel we belong, deep inside of our hearts. The labels we were given, engrained in us, are what we believe we are. So much so that we find ourselves searching back in where we came from trying to find the missing piece instead of embracing the “New” that Jesus died to give us.

I’ve spent the last week reflecting about my own identity, who I am. It’s not an easy task. Because just as that Romanian man looks at himself as an orphan, at times I tend to view myself as a spiritual orphan, left to my own devices. God speaks to me in His word about how I am to renew my mind, my thoughts, by thinking about the truth of the Word. I am not what I’ve felt like I was. I am who He, God, says I am. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people…God’s special possession…” or as the Passion Translation puts it “But you are God’s chosen treasure…” When God came to my Spiritual orphanage and found me in deplorable conditions, rocking back and forth trying to feel some kind of comfort for my broken and lost soul, God picked me. He took me out, He cleaned me up and put medicine on my wounds, changed my filthy, sin stained, rags out with His beautiful, righteous garments, and in that very moment Zephaniah 3:17 says the One who Delights in me, God, my Heavenly Father “sings” over me, His chosen treasure. God sings…

It is at this point, the truth of us being His treasure, that you and I have to make a choice. Will we accept the gift we have been given, new life, new identity in Christ, or will we wander about unable to take it all in because we cannot shake the image of ourselves that we have seen for so long? Only to find that what we thought was our “home”, our lives without Jesus, was nothing more than a cold and lonely place far from where God, the one who loves us, wants us to be, with Him, held closely by Him.

“There Was Jesus”

July 2nd 1984, 36 years ago at a small church camp, Camp Sharon, was where I had my awakening. It was where I suddenly became aware of God’s desire, not just for me to give my life to Him, but my awakening to His desire for me to be close to Him. It all started when He began calling to me to let Him have everything, my plans, my life, my hurts, etc.

For an 8th grade girl, I’m sure I had become quite a surprise to those around me. I wanted to do this relationship right, and I wasn’t sure how to get there. I went to the local Christian Bookstore and bought a book that talked about how to have a relationship with God. It covered praying and reading the Bible. It said I should read 10 chapters of the Bible a day. So that is what I did. I wanted to experience God. Not just know about Him. I would spend hours in my room reading the Bible and praying. It was such a surprising response that my mom, a faithful Christian, was worried about just how much I was reading and pursuing. She was afraid that I would burn out on it. I was just HUNGRY. Hungry to know more of that feeling of peace and love I felt kneeling and uncontrollably sobbing in the sawdust near the altars of an outdoor church camp tabernacle. I remember telling God, “If you really want me you can have me.” It’s funny how much I didn’t understand. “really want me”?!?! He wanted me so much He walked the lonely road of Calvary and died on a cross to make a relationship with me possible. He tugged at my heart so heavily that night at camp that no matter how hard I tried to walk away, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I’m so glad I didn’t! I left that time of prayer new and free and filled with joy!

Through the years I’ve had my “hot on fire, so close to you” relationship with God, and others I’ve had my “It’s getting cold, where are you at God?” relationship. I’ve had my times of feeling like I had it all together and understood it. I’ve had times when I understood that I will never have it together and I won’t ever understand life. 36 years that Jesus was right there. His Holy Spirit living inside of me gently speaking to me which way I should go even when on my own I couldn’t figure out the way.

Lately I’ve been listening to Zac William’s album “Rescue Story”. I kind of have a tendency to get stuck on a song that speaks to me. Surprisingly to me, the song that sticks out to me the most off that album is a duet with Dolly Parton. “There Was Jesus”.

It hits where I find myself as of late. I’ve been looking at where I am in my life, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. The thing about the lyrics of that song that sticks out to me is that no matter where we’ve been, no matter where we are, no matter where we go, “There Was Jesus”. So the days of blessing that I laugh and smile through, He’s there enjoying the times of joy with me. The days that I struggle to understand and see, He’s there holding me up showing me the next step to take. He’s there with me when I feel nothing. He’s there with me when I feel it all.

I’ve been pretty open on this blog about my struggles and questions. It’s kind of the outlet I’ve chosen to let what I’m think about on the inside come out. You all get a little picture of what I’ve been contemplating as you take the time to read my thoughts. Most of the time I am able to lay out “the good, the bad, and the ugly”, but somehow take the turn back to the only answer I’ve found that resonates inside of me, Jesus. Struggles that we all face, whether they be depression, anxiety, addictions, PTSD, abuse, disappointment, etc. only find meaning and healing when looked at in the light of the presence of the only one who has been there for it all, Jesus, the love of our souls. The only One who is able to speak peace into storms of life, bring the dead things that we’ve given up on back to life, take a broken, wrecked life and make it a masterpiece is Jesus.

I can analyze my hurts, categorize my issues- give them names, and get understanding. These aren’t altogether bad things to do, but I shouldn’t stop there. I need to take the tools I learn to deal with the things I struggle with, and go to Jesus asking Him to heal what only He can heal. Do my part and let Him do the rest.

He has proven Himself faithful. I can trust Him where I’m going, even when I cannot see.

“There was Jesus”.

Jesus is there. Jesus was there, Jesus will be there.

The One

Finals week of my freshman year of college did a number on me. I was a walking ball of nerves. One class in particular gave me great angst, College Algebra. College Algebra was one of the main reasons I switched my major from computer programming to Spanish. The thought of taking another college level math course sent me into instant panic. It was in studying for the Algebra final I found myself broke down into tears. I was certain of the impending doom and my demise to being a total failure. One of the older girls in the campus house I lived in walked by in my time of despair. She encouraged me with words that have stuck with me through the years. It’s a southern way of saying the age old proverb of “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” She said in her distinct southern drawl, “You know my daddy always told me to remember how the best way to build a brick wall is, one brick at a time.”

One brick at a time, one step at a time, one person at a time, etc. I’m not sure what makes me and probably 90% of Americans think “when you go you’ve gotta go big.” I’ve lived most of my life with a “99 brick at a time” mentality to building a wall. It needs to be done and it needs to be done now. No steps, no process, just “bam!!” Instant achievement. That thought process isn’t very conducive to success when we think “everything is all up to me right now”. It just produces a bunch of anxiety, stress, and eventually I just shut down, “Can’t fix it, so why try.” I forget how important “the one” can be in the big picture of things.

Jesus has always been about the one, the individual. He had great crowds around Him at times, but when it came down to the life changing miracles He did. It was Him touching the one. I think His desire for individuals to be touched was what spurred His statement, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew‬ ‭9:37-38 NIV‬‬. In order to touch the individual lives of so many, a lot of hands would be needed.

The American church has been very fixated on numbers. The more we have in attendance the better. I’ve heard the arguments that Jesus is into numbers as well because he doesn’t want “one to perish”. So go big or go home. But sometimes my focus on how do I reach so many runs over the obvious “one” that is sitting right in front of me “face to face”. Maybe the better approach would be for me to look for that “one”. Pray for that “one”. Offer help to that “one”. So that as “the one” is reached they in turn will see their “one” and reach them too.

So let’s break this down to where I am today. A global pandemic speaks of masses of people being affected either physically, spiritually, or mentally. It’s the elephant that needs to be ate. It’s the wall that needs to be built. It’s the “one” who needs to be found. One person at a time.

Sad to say. I’ve lived here in my house for 12 years. I can honestly say that I don’t know the first names of the women whose houses and land are on each side of me. I’m pretty sure I would have a hard time identifying them as my neighbor at the grocery store if I ran into them. My excuse for not knowing, our busy lives… I’ve been working and volunteering in so many capacities for the past 12 years, all of them noble tasks, that I’ve not had time for my neighbors, and at times, “the one”.

The other day I was on my daily walk up and down my driveway when I noticed my neighbor in his yard. I contemplated what it would be like to walk on by and maybe not be noticed. (Not sure why). But instead I decided to make a point to wave and greet him. There’s been a lot of talk about how the life of Social Isolation has actually brought communities together. Neighbors talking to neighbors (from a distance of course), checking on each other’s needs. People making calls to loved ones and friends, to catch up and make sure they didn’t forget anyone and leave them alone.

Even the churches encouraging their members to be what we’ve always been called to be, family. Call and visit, make sure they have their needs met, give, etc. Since the opportunity to minister to crowds has been reduced greatly, we’ve been refocused on “the one”. I believe when this storm all blows over and we can finally come out of our bunkers we will find something new. All this focus on the one will cause us to grow and people will finally see what they have been needing to see all along. Instead of just one giant light house pointing the way to peace and safety in the storm, the homes of Jesus lovers on every street corner will be shining its light pointing the way. Because when we look all around us there is plenty to do. It’s been sitting under our noses all the time. It’s not only some gigantic move out there that changes the world. It’s also us touching “the one” next to us with the love of God and the truth of Jesus and His power to change a life. Then the next one, and the next, etc. “The one” is waiting, Lord open our eyes to see just how close and easy to touch they can be.

Is Jesus Enough?

What a week!  News nationally, state wide, and locally has gone from bad to worse.  Our small town that seemed to be so isolated from it all has developed five local cases of Covid-19.  I took comfort thinking, “At least I don’t live in the big city…” Now not so much any more…

Last night we decided to video chat with some friends we used to have a home fellowship with on Messenger. It was like water to a thirsty soul.  For about 15 min or more we laughed at each other as we, a group of 40’s/ 50’s year old’s, tried the different effects out and lamented how we wished there was an app for playing “Village Idiot” card game so we could play once again together.  It felt good to look at the faces of friends we have been doing life with for years, some of them for almost 20 years. After a while we started asking each other how they were holding up.  In our group, we have a pharmacist, a nursing director for a nursing home, a nuclear professional, a building contractor, and a couple of stay at home moms.  My heart ached as we talked about the fear people have and the measures we have had to go to in order to try to slow the spread of this dreadful disease.  My friend who worked in the nursing home talked about how they have had to limit the old people to their rooms in hopes of isolating them better, families bringing dry erase markers and playing tic tac toe outside of their windows and exchanging smiles.  My friend who works at the pharmacy talked about the extra orders of medicine and the lack of Tylenol for people who actually have something else, like the flu because of the panic buying.  We rounded off our evening with praying for each other and specific situations we are aware of, such as a mutual friend in the ICU currently hanging on to his life while his wife is praying not only for him to live, but that sh0e won’t have to leave his side because of Covid-19 protocol that has to be enacted.  Hard times…

As I laid my head on my pillow last night, I kept hearing the words, “Is Jesus Enough?” rolling around in my head.  It seems quite unfair for all these bad events to culminate at once, and these are just the few I know of in my little corner of the woods.  The more I thought about those words, “Is Jesus Enough?” The more I concluded, “Oh yes Lord, I know you are more than enough.”
Although these are crazy/ hard times, I have seen crazy/ hard times before.  At age 21, I lost a precious friend in a tractor accident while working at a church camp.  The very camp I came to know Jesus in.  I’ve watched loved ones suffer as cancer slowly, but really not so slow, took it’s toll on their bodies.  I’ve experienced the pain of miscarriage, loved ones deaths, limiting illnesses of those close to me, friends struggling with infertility, unfair abuse being heaped upon the innocent, etc.  And in each of those situation, I have seen Jesus be enough. 

My first and only experience with watching someone die has been my father in law.  For a little over a year,  he suffered as an aggressive form of prostate cancer ravaged his body, but with each visit, even up to his very last he never failed to grab ahold of us and pray for God to bless us. On his last day, I sat by him on his bed. As I watched him gasping for breath and then breathing so shallow, I saw him utter words after a complete day of saying nothing and showing no response. Moments before he took his last breaths. He suddenly began to speak, “Jesus… Jesus… Jesus…” and then he was gone.  It was in that moment that I felt something that I’ve never felt so strong.  It was God’s presence in the room.  The most heartbreaking, gut wrenching moment of our lives was made peaceful by a moment and a truth that is engraved in my heart. “Jesus is enough.”

I am a creature of comfort.  I would rather laugh, than cry.  I don’t enjoy pain. I have no desire to walk through difficulty, but I know that no matter what may come in the days, weeks, months ahead, “Jesus is enough.”

Psalm 16 has been rolling around in my heart today.  “Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.  I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing… Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.”” This Psalm was written by David.  David was a man that God describes as a man “after God’s own heart.”  David pursued a relationship with God.  He wrote many songs and poems expressing His love for God, at times rejoicing, at times lamenting, at times happy, at times sad.  David expressed it all.  He had times of great victory and times of great defeat, times of overwhelming joy and times of overwhelming grief.  But in it all He said, “God you are my portion.”  “You are my everything.”  David didn’t allow fear to rule over him because he had confidence that he would see God’s goodness.  I can be confident of the same.

Things may go well,this virus quickly passes by, and my life returns to normal.  Or, things may never be the same, pain, sickness, and death may come to me or those around me, but I have this confidence, “My Jesus is Enough!”

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I am practicing social isolation with four others, my husband and kids ages 16-21, here in a home that a few months ago seemed too big for us because it was often empty as we all ran our different directions living our lives. Now it seems too small as we all hunker down in one place together and it continues to rain outside… To lighten the mood we have posted some crazy videos of us singing “La Bamba” and rapping a rap I wrote 30 years ago in college about accidently hitting a cat with a car: Purely a joking/ crazy song intended for laughter, not violence against kitties.  (I have one I dearly love living in my house right now.)

I’ve posted these videos on Facebook and had friends from decades ago, laughing and sharing crazy stories of fun times passed by.  It was one comment that my cousin I haven’t seen in years stuck out to me as I laughed at the different replies.  “Had to share your post with pride– this is history and you are handling it with some awesome sauce instead of panic that is out there.  Making the best out of our situation.”  I thought about what she said, and contemplated what has made the difference.  Once again I come back to the answer of why I can have peace and joy in the midst of times of fear and sadness.  Jesus is enough!

(I’ve not really went here before on my blog, because I usually write as a therapeutic aid to my soul.  But I want you to know you too can experience this hope, peace, and joy. I would be happy to point the way and pray for you in the things you are facing.)

 

2020 God’s Year to Restore

I was in high school when God really got ahold of my life, and for a teenager I was pretty radical in trying to communicate it to everyone around me. I was one of those carry my Bible to school teens, and together with a couple of close friends I helped to start and lead a before school prayer group in my high school’s cafeteria. Then came the college years, I got involved in a campus ministry, and I was determined to do everything I could to show my generation the love of God and His power.

God has His ways of tempering a rough around the edges zealot. Lol. It’s called marriage, motherhood, and life. It’s not that I’ve lost my fervor and zeal. It’s just a process of deepening and enriching a relationship. It’s the understanding that comes when your newborn ends up in the NICU because of breathing problems and you feel so alone because your husband can’t wake up due to lack of sleep. So you call out to the only one who never sleeps and who never leaves you. It’s the comfort you receive after the miscarriage of a pregnancy you had been waiting for for a year. It’s the assurance of more to life after suffering two losses of a father in love and a nephew within 15 days of each other. The assurance that a God is there with you when you feel life couldn’t possibly get any harder or feel any worse. That’s the stuff that knocks off the rough edges of pride and self sufficiency in a person.

Sometimes the difficulties may wear the edges down too much, and you forget. That’s where I have found myself at times this year, while walking through some very tough situations with ones I love. I know I’ve got a deep well to draw from in my relationship with the Lord, but retrieving the bucket with the extra long rope can be overwhelming at times.

This morning when I woke up I remembered a time when I was younger that I would ask God to speak something new to me about the New Year. I would anticipate that verse or word to come and really set the tone for what is to come. I felt like God was impressing me to ask. But I, in my worn down fashion, thought… “uh no, well ok. What do you want to say to me God?” Then I opened my email to see this verse on my “Abide” app email.

“The years of the locust…”

Immediately my mind went to a time this year while sitting in the waiting room at a hospital waiting to hear what could be done to help my daughter after her suicide attempt. Satan had done all he could possibly do to try to destroy her. But God was bigger.

Then I thought of the positions I’ve stepped down from this past year. My husband and I have joked about how the song “Nobody” by Casting Crowns was our new theme song. If we ever felt like we were somebody we can be comforted knowing we can be “just a nobody trying to tell everybody about somebody who saved my soul.”

There had been struggles in other areas of our lives as well.

2019 seemed like a year the locust had a feast in our lives in some areas. But the good news is when the locusts have been having a feast, God promises to “restore”- to bring back to its former state, as good as new, or even better.

God is a God of restoration. His power “makes all things new” even the things that look irreparable. Because He is good!

There’s a song out by Bethel called “The Goodness of God”. It has been my theme song as of late. When we can’t see which side is up and our eyes are blind with pain we can be assured that God’s goodness is running after us. And the things that have been broken beyond repair are restored in God’s healing hands.

The locusts May have stripped our hearts bare, but God. He restores, and I am anticipating this year to be the year of restoration because of His goodness. Welcome 2020.