Monthly Archives: July 2010

Mountains and Valleys

I grew up through many youth camps in my life.  They were amazing weeks and I usually left on a mountaintop in my relationship with God.  And for many kids this week, that’s exactly what happened at Camp United.

These days I look at camp through a different life lens.  I’m no longer a teenager, the beneficiary of all the “awesomeness” or even in my 20s, when I spent many years working as a counselor in the middle of the “awesomeness.”  These days I am a forty-something mom with two tweenagers who are in the middle of the action.  I watch, work and listen as part of the support team, making sure I give them the space they need to be teenagers.

I am also at a very different stage in my walk with Christ than I was as a teenager or even as a young adult.  In those years everything was about feelings. I often equated feeling emotionally high or emotionally low as a gauge for the strength of my spiritual life.  When I was down and depressed or having a bad day, obviously things were not right in my relationship with God.  Or worse, if I screwed up and made mistake, then I was obviously drifting away from God even further.  And when you use feelings and mistakes as a spiritual gauge for your life, it is easy for us to look at our spiritual life and determine that as a Christian, we are a failure.

But what I’ve learned (especially in recent years) is that God is often more present and working in our lives during our spiritual valleys than He is in our mountaintop experiences.  If we are willing to trust him and let him use those experiences to perfect His work in us.  In the times we are at our lowest, we are the most vulnerable and moldable to his character corrections.

Which is why I love how Matt Larsen finished our final session at Camp United this morning:

“There is a difference between failing and being a failure.”

Matt made it clear to every teenager in the room.  As a Christian…you will screw up.  You will make mistakes that will challenge you to think that the decision you made for Christ really didn’t change you.  But making mistakes in your Christian walk does not make you a failure.

It is part of being human, but how I address my mistakes can make a big difference in how God can use me.  I can give up and walk away from God thinking that I can never be good enough to be used by Him, or I can do what might be the hardest thing of all.  I can allow God to use my mistakes, my failures, my spiritual valleys to shape me into the person He wants me to be.  The person He can use to build His kingdom here on earth.

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“We must be willing, if necessary; to abandon the life we’ve planned and dreamed of in order to receive the life our God has authored for us.  And we must keep our eyes on the cross remembering that our faith is born out of darkness and confusion.  Remembering that trouble is a given in this world, but that Jesus has defeated the world.  Remembering that God has been faithful to us and demands our allegiance in return, that he wants us to pursue Him even over our dreams and desires (which we’ve seen make lousy gods).

But remembering most of all – in the midst of the darkness and confusion of Plan B – that God is our passionate lover, willing to go to extreme limits and pay a huge cost so that we can enter into a relationship with him.” Pete Wilson, Plan B

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Things I need to remind myself of daily — Post 7 (and OUCH!)

The Pride of Imperfection

Evelyn Underhill

All this preoccupation with your own imperfection is not humility, but an insidious form of spiritual pride. What do you expect to be? A saint? There are desperately few of them; and even they found their faults, which are the raw material of sanctity remember. You know best when and how you fall into these various pitfalls. Try and control yourself when you see the temptation coming. Pull yourself up and make an act of contrition when you catch yourself doing any of the things.

Never allow yourself to be pessimistic about your own state. Look outward instead of inward; and when you are inclined to be depressed and think you are getting on badly, make an act of thanksgiving instead because others are getting on well. The object of your salvation is God’s Glory, not your happiness. So, be content to help, remaining yourself in the lowest place. Merge yourself in the great life of the Christian family. You have tied yourself up so tight in that accursed individualism of yours–the source of all your difficulties–that it is a marvel you can breathe at all.

Source: The Letters of Evelyn Underhill

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Family News

I have a family that I love to brag about because they are so awesome.  You’ve seen my husband’s pictures on the Flickr feed.  Our friends Scott and Shellie have been wonderful to include his work in several editions of the Spectator Magazine.

The June issue was the Father’s Day Issue in which he took the cover photo and wrote the story on “My Dad.”  The cover photo is of another wonderful family, our pastor, David Hughes and his family (minus Lisa his wife who was working hard in the background to make sure the littlest Hughes was smiling big).

June Spectator 2010

The July issue celebrates the 4th of July and Shellie and Scott were wonderful to include our oldest daughter on the cover.  She has an interest in modeling and comes fully equipped with her own photographer dad.  If anyone knows of any good modeling agencies with good values, please send them along via e-mail or comments.  One of the challenges we face as parents is allowing our children to explore their gifts, talents and passions while making sure that their lives and activities support and grow their faith in Christ.

July Spectator 2010

On the extended family news, my sister who lives in China and has been working to adopt a little girl for over 6 years has finally had her dream come true.  On July 5th she traveled to the orphanage in China to pick up her new daughter who is 19 months old and weighs about 19 lbs.  My girls are so excited to have a new cousin.

Our last two weeks have been spent in South Texas helping my mom recover from her first knee replacement surgery.  We’ve had a lot of rain and little access to Internet and TV in the world of rural South Texas.  This has not necessarily been a bad thing.  🙂

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Appreciate Forgiveness

One of the things that has always been difficult for me is unforgiveness. When I was a child, it used to eat me up when any of my friends were mad at me.  In my dating relationships, I hated being in a fight.  I would bake brownies and pick out the best Hallmark make-up card in hopes that it would remove the conflict from the relationship and bring things back to the harmonious state in which they belonged. I have apologized for many things that I probably didn’t need to just to know that it would make things better.

In recent months I have come to understand why conflict is so hard for me.

First, I am a woman. My husband and I (along with several other couples) have been working through Dr. Emerson Eggerich’s, Love and Respect video series. It is a great series that I highly recommend for all married couples, but one big learning for me was that men and women instinctively handle conflict differently. Most men tend to deal with conflict by avoiding it (or getting as far away from it as possible) while most women want to talk through things in order to feel it is resolved.

Second, I am an INFP. Myers-Briggs. My personality type not only avoids conflict, but is incredibly unhappy with conflict in their lives (spousal, kids, friends, even a good fist-fight in the airport bothers me). My instincts tell me that conflict is just not good. It’s not natural.

So one thing I have struggled with throughout my life is messing up and not knowing if I’ve been forgiven for it.  Not knowing if the conflict is ever resolved.

As I have worked through Dan Webster’s “Real Deal” workbook, I came across a verse that hit me with a different perspective than ever before:  Psalm 51:4

Against you, and you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

The setting for this verse is David crying out for God’s forgiveness as he realizes how out of step he is with God’s will for his life. This verse falls in the same Chapter of the Psalms that contains “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me. (v.10)”

I realized as I re-read this verse that the forgiveness I most take for granted is God’s. I know God loves me unconditionally and now matter how far I travel from His will, no matter how much I hurt Him, if I genuinely seek His forgiveness, He is faithful and He promises that His forgiveness will be there.

Verse 4 reminds me that maybe that is what I really need to be concerned about. While I can ask forgiveness from others, there is no guarantee that they will forgive me. After all, people are human and while I know some pretty amazing humans, none of them love me or care for me as much as God. If I’ve done all I can to reach out and sincerely seek their forgiveness then maybe I need to remember to be thankful for what I do have.

The forgiveness of a great and mighty God, who will always be with me and who has a plan to use my life for His glory.  If I don’t let the small stuff like conflict and worry sidetrack me.

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