Archive | March, 2011

God Gave Me You

24 Mar

I was sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on the 56; trying to get to work on time, listening to The Mikey Show, sipping on coffee when I heard it. Mikey is known for having songs that grab my attention and make me go right to YouTube and search for them so I can listen over and over. This one was no exception.

As I listened to the words coming from my speakers, I began to tear up. Recently engaged and in the middle of wedding planning, I knew that we needed a song. Typically couples have “A Song” from the early stages of their relationship, but I am very cynical. As a true lover of music, but more of words, I couldn’t choose just any song to be permanently tagged as “ours.” It had to be a story; more so, a story that reminded me of us.

As soon as I got to work I turned on my computer and opened I-tunes. I typed in the name of the song, hit purchase, and 99 cents later, I had our song. I listened to it several times that day and the days following, and although I loved the words I was not completely sold on the singers voice.  I began to think of what I wanted in order for this to truly be  our song… Suddenly it hit me, and I knew what I needed to do.

He sings in the Edge at North Coast Church;  a venue known for having the  rowdier crowd and the best worship you might ever hear. A young guy, probably about my age, bald, arms covered in tattoos and a voice that you would never expect when you first see him. He is in fact,  one of the main reasons why “Last Call”, the Sunday night service in the Edge, quickly became my favorite. I cannot tell you how many times I walked into that building feeling defeated, broken and empty, only to leave with hope. His name is Russ and his voice is amazing.

I picked up the phone and dialed the number to our church. The nice receptionist answered and transferred me to his voice mail. I was kind of glad that I was able to leave him a message rather than speaking to him directly, for the risk of sounding like a total dork. Even though we had talked several times at church, a voicemail seemed like a safer bet. I said my name and briefly explained the reason for my call. I gave him my cell number and also my e-mail address, explaining that e-mail was probably the best way to reach me.  I hung up and went on about my day. The following afternoon, I opened my e-mail and there was a message from Russ. He said he got my message and was honored that I asked him to record this song as a surprise for my fiance on our wedding day. For a few  days we went back and forth throwing out different ideas, but I always went back to the way I heard it in my head when I imagined Russ recording it for me; just his voice and the guitar. Initially I  intended for this to be our “first dance” song, but after getting the final copy of  Russ’ rendition, I knew I wanted my daughters to walk me down the aisle to it instead.

The lyrics of this song summed up the journey I walked getting to that aisle. So, hearing this played as I began a new and amazing chapter in my life reminded me of prayers that were answered and some that weren’t.  God gave me Erik; for the ups and down’s in life. For days that are blissful and those that are painful. God gave me a man who brought life and love back into the deepest parts of my soul. This is “our song.”

GodGaveMeYou_v3

 

 

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Skeletons in the closet

20 Mar

I will never forget the day I sat in Pastor Chris’s office several years ago.  It was one of those “aha” moments in my life, kind like the one that brought me to that office. That past Sunday I sat among hundreds of other people in the Edge at North Coast Church. I was lost and empty, searching for something to fill the holes in my life. I was ashamed of the past I brought in with me, but to prideful to admit who I really was… and what I had become. So I sat there, numb to the possibility of hope and finding freedom from my past.

Here is why I love God!

I opened the weekly bulletin and pulled out the notes sheet. On the top of the sheet read, “Skeletons In The Closet,” and directly below that, “FACING THE TRUTH ABOUT ME.” I think I actually said to God under my breath, “REALLY??? in the most sarcastic tone possible and I am pretty sure he responded in the same sarcastic tone, “YES, REALLY.”

Pastor Chris started with a story about Thomas Edison. In December of 1914, after ten years of trying to invent a battery of some sort, spontaneous combustion broke out in his film room. Within minutes everything he had worked for was up in flames. Firefighters from 8 surrounding areas came and tried to put the fire out, but the flames were so hot and water pressure so low, everything was destroyed. Edison was 67 years old. In that moment he saw everything vanish. The Inventors 24-year-old son Charles, was searching for his father and when he finally found him, he saw him sitting calmly watching the fire. He said his heart ached to see his dad watching all his work and dreams go up in smoke. When Edison saw his son he yelled, “Charles where is your mother?” Charles didn’t know where she was and his father said, “Find her and bring her here. She is never going to see a fire like this again as long as she lives.” The next morning Edison and his family were sifting through the ruin and Thomas Edison said something that made me sit up in my chair, “There is great value in this disaster. All of our mistakes are burned up. We can finally start a new.” And three weeks after the fire Edison managed to deliver the first phonograph.

I knew sitting there I was a disaster but I was to lost to see the value in it. I wondered how many times I stood outside the ashes of my own ruin wanting to be forgiven never realizing I already was. What I needed was to be free. The problem is that in order to be free from my past, I would have to go back to it. Back to the events I hoped no one would ever find out about. It’s funny because I never realized the Bible is full of “pasts” and “trash”about it’s hero’s. Hearing Pastor Chris name a few gave me hope. For example, Adam & Eve; they disobeyed the one rule God gave them, hid their nakedness, lied & chose blame over accountability. Cane and Able; children of Adam & Eve, brothers; and one who committed the first murder in history. Moses; an amazing man of God who had severe anger issues. Rahab; a prostitute who hid the Israeli spies because she believed they were sent by God. King David; a great man who was also full of pride; suffered with an addiction to pornography, committed adultery, murder and had multiple wives. Jonah; a very selfish man, to the point of letting an entire nation die because of it. Samson; suffered with a sexual addiction. Sara; tells her husband to sleep with another woman to conceive a child. Abraham: sleeps with the other woman and lies to hide it. Gideon; led an entire nation into idol worship. Jacob; extorted his birth right from his brother. Judah; comes from the blood line of Christ, yet gets his daughter in law pregnant and uses the excuse that he thought she was a prostitute. Solomon; known as one the wisest men who ever lived yet had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Peter; a man who walked with Jesus, was a disciple and friend, yet denied him 3 times. Thomas; doubted Jesus rose from the dead after being hand-picked by Jesus and followed him for 3 years. Paul & Barnabas; the greatest New Testament missionary duo, got into a fight and were no longer able to work together because of their pride. From the beginning of the Bible to the end, it is book full of mistakes & failures. It is about a God who says, let’s go back to where it blew up; walk among the ashes, start over and print it so others can see the type of God I am.

The more I heard the words come from Pastor Chris, the more I began to see that not dealing with my past was robbing me of my future. A future that could be full of hope, peace, forgiveness, acceptance and freedom, but I had to face the truth first. I had to stop running. In all honesty I knew I wasn’t running from lies, but from the truth. I had to go back to the ashes and accept it for what it was. The beauty of this is that I didn’t have to thank God for what happened but thank him that in spite of it I am loved, valued and have purpose. Until I was able to do this my past owned me, I didn’t own it. Hearing these words was like giving someone who was dying of thirst, water. I knew God had forgiven me but I couldn’t forgive myself. I had no idea what it was to be free, because being free from the past means we accept grace over guilt and live with the closet door open.

We all have skeleton’s in our closet but we have a choice; we can allow those skeletons to be satan’s greatest weapon or Gods most powerful tool. We can hide our past or we can lead with it. I walked into that building desperate, broken and alone. I was trying to outrun myself. I had been praying that, like Thomas Edison, a great fire would happen in my life and all my mistakes and failures would go up in flames.

When I met with Pastor Chris that day, I was ready to go back to the past I had so desperately been running from. I didn’t want to just be forgiven I wanted to be free. In that meeting he said something to me that I have never forgotten; Failure is an event, never a person. For years I walked around with the word “failure” tattooed across my forehead. A title I had given myself. When I began to see that I, as a person, was not a failure but the events in my life were, I saw myself in a new light. He told me that I didn’t have to stay where I was. I could rise above the things I’ve done and things done to me, and I could use that to lead. Just like the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4, who met Jesus at the well. When Jesus asked her to go get her husband and come back, she told him she had no husband. Jesus said, “you are right, you have had 5 husbands and the man you have now is not your husband.” She told Jesus he must be prophet, and she knew the Messiah was coming and when he did he would explain everything to them. I love his response to her, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” The story goes on to say (39) Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” (40) So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. (41) And because of his words many more became believers. (42) They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

God uses those things in our past we are most ashamed of to lead others to him. Like this woman, Jesus had to go there! He had to go to the 5 and the 1. He had to tell her everything she had ever done and in that she became free! I knew that is what I had to do. I had to go to the 5 & the 1’s in my life. I had to face it, accept it and choose grace; thankfully I did.

Whenever we have a God “HAD TO GO THERE” time in our life we need to remember that the closet is simply being opened, and the skeletons are being set free, and we can now use our past to lead.

Stripped Free

9 Mar

04 Walk On the Water (Acoustic)

January-23-2003

She walked in through the main entrance of the club. She signed her name to the empty list of girls that was laid out on the DJ’s desk. She put her bag down where she would get ready for the night and headed to her locker to choose her outfit and shoes. In a complete haze, she returned to her chair and sat there looking in the mirror. She kept staring at the reflection staring back at her as she fought off the tears. Somehow she had to get through this night. She began to think of her son and wonder how she got to this point in her life. He was her pride, and joy and the one thing that has kept her going. She loved his big brown eyes, and round chubby face. She pictured the bright smile that would come across his innocent face when she walked in the room. He was her little miracle. Becoming pregnant at 17 was not what she wanted for her life, in-fact she had planned on having an abortion; little did she know that she would be hospitalized and fed through IVs, her family would find out and she would never make it to her appointment. It was over those nine months that she fell totally in love with the little life growing in her belly. Funny how something she didn’t want at first, had become the one thing she couldn’t live without.

With her makeup and hair done, she walked back to her locker. Inside was a water bottle. In the water bottle was vodka. She took a drink and began to think of her dad. When was she going to hear from him? How could this be happening? How was she supposed to continue on as if nothing happened? He was her dad and she was the sunshine in his life. She remembered the days when life was simple. She thought of all the times he took her to walk the beach to catch crabs under the pier. Or their Friday night tradition that consisted of happy meals at Carl’s Jr, picking out a toy at Target, and rushing home in time for her and her sister to watch TGIF. What happened to the days when their family was happy? The reality of what was awoke her from her haze.

She put on her outfit and did the best she could to hold it together. When did this become so hard? Why was the feeling of suffocation so intense? She couldn’t understand it. This night wasn’t any different from any other she has experienced in her three years there, so why wasn’t she able to drown these thoughts and feelings like she was so used to doing? What was wrong with her? Had her guilt and shame piled up so high that there was no room left to bury it? She took another sip and staggered toward the stall to do another line.

She gave two songs to the DJ and headed back into the dressing room. She couldn’t stop crying. She couldn’t shake these feelings. Her dad, her son, her life, all the shame and guilt, her worthlessness… it was all too much. What if she just came clean with everything? All she would have to do was scream and let out the pain, the lies and the truth she had done such a good job of hiding.  A tall man with brown hair wearing a black suit taped her on the shoulder; she almost dropped the water bottle that she didn’t realize she was still holding. It was her manager and before he could say anything, she heard her name being called in the distance. She had a feeling this was not the first time she had been called to the stage, but she couldn’t do it. She just stood there staring at the stage  realizing how sick and tired she was of pretending.

Pretending had become natural to her. It was how she made a living. She pretended that the way guys looked at her didn’t matter or the way they spoke to her was normal.  Pretending that the guy she was sitting next to was more special than any of other guys there that night. Making him believe that their conversation was interesting and important when really, all she was thinking about was how she was going to make this up to her son? Another night he was without his mom. She became good at pretending because pretending was the only escape left of what her life had become. It hadn’t been until recently that she started hearing a voice asking her “When are you going to stop pretending”? The problem was that she didn’t like the answer to her own question. Deep down she knew it was going to be when it was  too late and she would be sitting in a prison cell like her dad and there would be nothing she could about it then.

She continued to the stage… A stage; ”The platform of a microscope, upon which an object is placed to be viewed.” In three years she never really thought about the events in her life that led her to that stage. She never blamed anyone for what she willingly chose to do. She knew that everything leading up to this moment had been her choice and she was not going to start feeling sorry for herself now. She knew that God had always given her a way out, but she choose not to take them. She knew that in the beginning stripping was a means to support her son, but she also knew that somewhere in between then and now, she got lost.

Her cell phone rang. It was 8:30 and she knew the call was from her son. His little raspy voice came on the line, “I just wanted to say good night and I love you mommy.” She pictured him running to his bed in the same glow in the dark dinosaur pajamas he always wore. Getting ready to watch Toy Story, his favorite movie, and being tucked in by someone other than herself. A wave of nausea came over her. How many nights had she not called him back to tell him that she loved him and wish him a good night sleep? She just wanted to grab hold of him; tell him how sorry she was for what she’d become, and how sorry she was that SHE was his mom. She believed that she had been doing all of this for him; all of this for him; all of this for him??? The words were playing over and over in her mind like a brook record, but they  didn’t make any sense.  If she was doing all of this for him then why did she feel so undeserving of having the title, “MOM.”  The one thing she was living for, she had failed and let down. Tears began streaming down her face and for the first time, she saw things in a whole new light.

It was the first time in the three years of stripping that she was not able to pretend. There was no way of drowning the thoughts or numbing the feelings. It was there that she fell to her knees and asked God to help her! Help her get off the drugs. Help her to find some other way to make a living. Help her to become the mom she once was so proud to be. Help her to change from the inside out.

She doesn’t remember much more of that night. In tears, she drove herself home and to her son. The next day, she knew exactly what she needed to do and where she needed to be. Because her drug addiction had become so bad, she had to do a line of meth to help her function somewhat normally, but that would be the last line she ever did.  She met with her family and exposed herself for who she truly was and came clean about everything she had been holding inside. She prayed that one day they would all be able to forgive her and spent the next years changing her life and has been Stripped FREE!

This is my sisters amazing story. Actually, this is just a tiny piece of the miracle that is my sister’s story. Her healing began the night she realized she couldn’t do it alone and turned her life over to the Lord asking him to change her from the inside out. She wanted God to make her Mess… his MESSage.

My sister is an inspiration! She has an incredible story, but more importantly she has an INCREDIBLE God. A God who is always by her side and wants her to know… “Her Value Far Above Rubies and Pearls.”

Sis… I love you with all my heart. Thank you for letting me apart of this journey with you. I have no doubt that you are about to embark on something so amazing. Never question your potential and what you have to offer those who are where you WERE! I am proud and humbled to call you my sister and friend.

With all my love,

Sam

Jesus doesn’t have a website, but my church does.  If you are reading this post right now and feel like my sister did that night, and how so many of us have at one point our lives, please know that it is never to late to have a new beginning.

“This is not about what you’ve done, But what’s been done for you.
This is not about where you’ve been, But where your brokenness brings you to
This is not about what you feel, But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you loved.”

For more stories of hope and redemption please visit, www.iamatreasure.com

 

A talk with my dad

6 Mar

Growing up I always saw my dad as a tough man. Fearless, strong, never intimidated by the words or actions of others. I rarely ever saw him cry or show much emotion… he was this girls idea of …Superman.

Fast forward the tape to today, and instead of a fearless” superman”, I sat with a humble, raw and real father. A man whom I have seen break down, cry out and just want to run home. As a daughter it is never easy to see your parent in pain; just like it is never easy to see your child in pain. And as much as you want to rescue them, there are times that God wont let that happen because he has a different plan.

It was not very long ago that my dad was in a dark place. Alone and at rock bottom, he decided that he was going to do something he had been contemplating for months. He took the white sheets off his bunk and began rolling them up and tying them together. He started thinking of his life; past, present and future. His mind wandered to one bad decision after another and painful memories he could never erase. How could God ever forgive and love him?  It wasn’t possible, and in that moment he decided that ending his life was his way out.

It was in his moment of hopelessness that God’s grace and word became crystal clear. He said to me, “ All I kept hearing in my mind was the scripture that says, you my son will be separated from me for eternity.” And with his eyes filling with big tears he continued, “I knew that if I killed myself , I wouldn’t be able to ask for forgiveness. There would be no hope for me.”

It’s the words… Wouldn’t be able to ask for forgiveness, that I can’t seem to shake even at this moment. He would have lived eternity separated from God with no chance for forgiveness from that mistake. To his dismay, God had a different plan. Someone found him before he could take the next step and end his life and he said that from that moment on he had peace.

Ever been there? Stuck in a place that seems so hopeless and so far from God? Did you ever just want to jump?

I don’t think feeling like this makes one a coward or weak, I think it makes us real and fully DEPENDENT on God! It keeps us in a place of knowing that we are all sinners and have fallen short… but it is in those moments of great weakness, God shows GREAT strength. My dad wanted to run… he wanted out of the pain and brokenness and didn’t want to remember anymore, but God wanted and NEEDED him to remember… because it was those dark memories that finally made him run to the ONLY one who could truly set him free.

Our mistakes and failures make us rely daily on a God who makes the windshield of our lives bigger than our rear view mirrors


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