Tag Archives: Jesus

Jehovah Jireh: More Than I Asked

Whew, I know it’s been another long drought since I last wrote, and a LOT has happened in the last few weeks…but this one is worth sharing over and over.

One of the things I’ve wanted more than anything over the past few years is to share my testimony in my church. I wanted to do it for several reasons: first, I sat alone in a church pew for years believing that I was the only woman who struggled with pornography or sexual sin or fantasies…and when I finally found a home in Celebrate Recovery, I realized that I was NOT alone. And though their stories might have differed, there WERE other women whose struggles were similar. I think one of the tools the devil uses against us is isolation: “You are the ONLY PERSON who has ever disappointed God in this way. You are the ONLY ONE with this struggle. Your struggles are unique only to YOU.” And I wanted to see women freed from that isolation, freed from hiding away in their sin and darkness.

It felt like each time I lobbied to share my testimony, I was blocked. I shared it here, on my website, but sharing it in person was not allowed.

Until now.

This is one of those things where God is just showing off. I wanted to share my testimony at my church. God allowed not only for me to share my testimony in my church, it was shared across the five campuses of my church. The video director said that folks came to him asking how they could share it with other churches. And I believe that God is using my story to bring light into dark places.

I asked, and my Jehovah Jireh gave me more than I could have ever asked or imagined.

I just had to wait for His timing. I just had to be in the right place. I just had to keep praying and asking and believing. And here it is, the short version to my story, captured neatly on video for me to share with all of you.

Praise the Lord for His faithfulness! And thank you to my church, Faith Assembly, for allowing me to be vulnerable in hopes of making room at the table for everyone. (Click on the link below to see it!)

Michelle Hill’s Testimony

 

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The Envious Eye

envious eye by nirots

image courtesy of nirots / freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve been really discouraged and frustrated lately about being single. The older I get, the more it becomes a real threat that I won’t have a husband or family. I know God calls some people to singleness, but I have never felt that call on my life. In addition, the Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:9, “But if they cannot control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.” And believe me folks, especially in the last few months: I’ve been on FIRE, out of control, and more than a little ticked at God about the whole thing.

For Christmas, my bosses gave me some little hand lotions and a spa gift card. Now, I don’t use conventional hand lotions because of all the chemicals, but these were really nice sets of lotions and I wanted them to go to a good home. So I stopped by a few offices on my way through the building last Friday, eager to give out these little lotions to some friends and coworkers. At the last office, I stopped and gave the last few lotions to the two secretaries that I always chat with when I visit that office. They were excited to have such a nice, little gift and very thankful that I thought of them.

As the two secretaries were sampling the lotions, another girl—we will call her Gina—came out from her private office and asked what everyone was doing. One of the secretaries answered, “Oh, Michelle brought us some lotions.” Immediately, Gina began to make a big deal about how I didn’t bring her anything, and I should have shared with her and not just these two girls, ad nauseam. When I pointed out to her that I was the giver, and she did not get to dictate who I gave anything to, she got even more incensed. I also noted to her that I had given her really nice gifts in the past, and she replied that that was “a couple of years ago.” I also pointed out to her that she had acted in this way before when I gave something to someone else—she had come in and started taking things that I had purposed for someone else. She then stated that the person I had given those things to had WANTED to share them with everyone. At this point, the two secretaries were so undone at how Gina was acting that they offered up their lotions to her. Then she made a big deal of not accepting them because that wasn’t what I wanted. The whole situation was totally embarrassing for Gina, even if she didn’t realize it or think so.

As for me personally, I was livid, really. You see, I had given to Gina in the past, and I felt it was pretty crappy and ungrateful for her to interrupt a thoughtful moment with her incredibly selfish banter. I was mad mostly because Gina is a Christ follower, and that kind of nonsense makes believers look incredibly petty—it was trial size hand lotions, for crying out loud. As I was recalling the situation and my anger to my mother, I said, “My gosh, does Gina act this way when God gives someone else something that He doesn’t give her? Because that would explain a lot!”

A few hours later, as I was stewing and trying to pray about this matter, God nudged me about that particular comment. He said very clearly to me, “But Michelle, isn’t that how YOU think? Don’t you believe that I should give you a husband and kids? Don’t you look at other people and go, they have a husband and kids, why don’t I?”

And that hurt. Because (as always) He was absolutely right.

I tend to believe that I am not all that selfish, but it’s really not true. My selfishness comes out in different ways—in fact, I act towards God like Gina did to me. I may not do it over hand lotion, but recently, I’ve definitely been doing it over getting a new job, having my own place, moving to a warmer state, and having that elusive family/husband. And though the Lord has provided so much for me—both now and in the past, I tend to interrupt any kind of thanksgiving with my own selfish banter about what I want and need right now that He has not given me. Or what someone else has that I want. And when God gave me a brief glimpse into that, I was embarrassed—this time, for myself.

Matthew 20 begins with a parable about a vineyard owner who is searching for laborers to work his fields. He hires three sets of laborers at three different times during the day, and each group he agrees to pay a denarius. The other groups are not aware of what each is getting paid. So imagine the anger of the first and second group when the third group gets paid exactly what the first two are getting paid. The owner doesn’t want to hear their grumbling. He is basically like, “Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? So then take your money and go.” But then he says something that catches my eye and rifles through my heart like a shot: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15)

This is the point that I tried to relay to Gina, and it’s the point that God in turn relayed to me. Gina had an envious eye, but so do I—and maybe you do, too. Wanting something that God hasn’t decided to give me yet isn’t the sin. The sin is seeing God’s generosity in other people’s lives and being envious that those gifts haven’t been given to me. It’s okay for me to want to be married and have kids and to have my own place, etc.—as long as I don’t want those things more than I want Jesus, as long as wanting those things doesn’t become the focal point of my life, as long as those wants aren’t what compel me. Seeing others get what I think I deserve—that is the real sin. What I truly deserve is death. Anything I get beyond that is gravy!

Mostly, I need to make sure I am taking pains to pluck out the envious eye every time it surfaces and regrows in my life. Because when you have an envious eye, you’re not going to see anything the way it really is—you’re only going to see what you didn’t get or what you don’t have. And by doing so, you’ll miss out on the real blessings God is showering you with every single day.

Good Grief

crying doll by Theeradech Sanin

image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin / freedigitalphotos.net

My father died today. I don’t think that there’s three points that I can give you in a blog format to help you learn more about yourself through the death of my parent. So I’m just going to unjumble my thoughts and let them flow here, and I pray that God will bless you in some way as you read.

If you’ve read my testimony, you know that I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad. Celebrate Recovery helped me do a lot of grieving and releasing, but especially with my father. It was good to grieve the father I didn’t have, the father I always wanted…to let go of expectations and begin to accept the reality of who my father was. To release my feelings of rejection and revel in the acceptance of my heavenly Father. I continued to do that for the next five years, never really desiring a full-time relationship with him for many reasons. As more and more information about the man I called “Dad” has surfaced in recent weeks, I know that God has been protecting me by removing that desire from me. Instead, I have accepted him as the flawed, sinful man that he is and loved him from an appropriate distance. I am thankful that God indeed protected my heart and gave me the strength to set healthy boundaries.

A couple of things happened as I began to grieve a few weeks ago when I was alerted that my father was on his death bed. The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t stop thinking about this one person with whom I had unfinished business. Death tends to bring out those unresolved situations in our lives, making us uneasy with leaving loose ends. Eventually I realized that what was on my mind was, “If I died today, is there anyone to whom I would need to make amends?” There was. I guess because my own father never realized the “error” of his ways and never sought to make amends with his children, I wanted to break that cycle. I could say “I’m sorry” and I could make amends. I wanted to start a new kind of cycle—one of grace and pure love modeled after Christ. And while I had been concerned because there had been no one to talk to about my situation (other than God), I eventually realized that I didn’t need to talk to someone else about it. I needed to talk to the offended party. So I sent an e-mail today. It was hard, and I cried more over that e-mail than I have cried for my deceased father. But I felt a burden lift once I pressed “send.” Life is too short for unfinished business, unforgiveness, and loose ends.

Second, I realized that I wasn’t carrying any burden towards my father. Finding out a few really terrible things about him in the last few days, I thought I would feel heavier about things. When I confessed his deplorable acts to a friend, she assured me that who my father was is not who I am. I reassured her confidently that I didn’t feel that anyway—and it was true. I felt disconnected from that because I had forgiven him. But I also felt disconnected from that because my identity is not in my earthly father anymore. I have secured my identity as a princess of the King and a crazy but amazing pushy prophet girl, and because of that, there is no burden for being my earthly father’s daughter. Whatever heinous acts my father may have committed, they do not belong to me…I have been cleansed and forgiven. I am my Father’s child.

Third, I realized the significance of sexual sin in my generational history. Numbers 14:18 says, “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’” I know that my grandfather and father’s iniquities have visited the generations below them and through me, and that is important for me to accept and understand in my continual quest for purity. Indeed, though I am my Father’s child, I now have some idea as to why I have struggled so mightily in the area of sexual purity. However, what grace and love the Father lavishes on us, that I can not only call myself His child but that I can receive forgiveness and cleansing from the sins of my forefathers. I am ready to break the cycle and bring forth a generation of purity. My tears have not been wasted; they have been collected by a loving Daddy who intends to use them to cleanse future generations as they walk in their PureID™. What joy that brings me!

So I stand here not crying, but instead praising! Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow, and I thank You, Jesus, for the opportunity to experience this blessed, good grief. Amen!

DISC and Spiritual Gifts: So Happy Together

DISC-logo-2014

image courtesy of Christian Coach Institute

My friend is a mercy gift—loving and kind, compassionate and empathetic to everyone. She can’t be around me when I’m angry because she will actually “absorb” my feelings. She is compassionate and giving, loyal to the nth degree. However, she is also very dominant and direct, especially in leadership roles. She has no problems telling you what to do or taking charge of situations, especially if the leadership is questionable. It seems she is crazy sometimes, though, because her primary concern is that everyone feels loved and is shown compassion, yet she can be very bossy and demanding. When you meet her, you may wonder what’s going on inside her—the conflict of her driving personality combined with her gentle, mercy-gifted spirit. But she was fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator of the universe, who saw fit to give her these conflicting motivations.

What happens when DISC and spiritual gifts combine? Can the two work together to give us a better picture of ourselves and our Creator? Of course they can! And here’s what you need to know about DISC and spiritual gifts together:

  • DISC personality profiles focus on your natural motivations. These are the motivations that you were born with that have been shaped by your upbringing, your experiences, and your desires. My friend’s personality profile is a high D because her life and natural inclinations have been to be someone who direct and in control in her home life and her work life. A lawyer by profession, she is used to taking action in situations at work. As a single mother, she also must be the driving force in her children’s lives. Her high D personality has been strengthened over the years as through leadership positions both personally and professionally. When I’ve worked under her leadership, I’ve seen first-hand her motivation for challenge and directness. However, I also know there is more to her!
  • Spiritual gifts focus on supernatural motivations. While our Creator God gave you your personality as well, He also gave you spiritual motivations to do His will and bring glory and honor to His name. My friend above is a high D and a mercy gift who God made to bring comfort to the hurting. I love seeing her spiritual gift in action, as she weeps with those who weep and celebrates with those who celebrate. I know when she is acting on her supernatural inclinations, she is walking in the will of God very clearly. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” I watch this play out through my friend’s spiritual gift of mercy, and I know that God is pleased to be working in and through her.
  • DISC and spiritual gifts are better together. When you understand that you have not only natural but supernatural motivations, you see a bigger picture of yourself and the God Who created you. Why is this important? Because the more you know and understand God, the more you will know and understand yourself—and vice versa! When I think about my friend, I think about how imaginative God was when He gave her an oddly opposite combination of a high D personality with a mercy spiritual gift. But Jesus also embodied that same of “odd” pairing—mostly because he was all four personality types and all seven spiritual gifts! This also makes Jesus a great mirror to which we can compare our personality types as well as our spiritual gifts. And DISC and spiritual gifts are definitely better together!

As we close this series on DISC, I hope you’ve learned a little more about yourself and the individuality that God has blessed you with through your personality (and your spiritual gifts). If you would like to know more about DISC and/or spiritual gifts, please feel free to contact me—I would love to talk to you about your uniqueness and how it can help make you a better leader, friend, spouse, and family member—because knowing yourself is the best thing you can give to the world!

The God Identity: Perseverance

Identity by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

If there’s one thing that I remember from having a porn/lust addiction, it was that during tough times, I had something to turn to—my addiction. Whenever I was feeling lonely or down, I could watch magazines or cable TV shows that would feed my “pleasure zone”—the receptors in my brain that released that oh-so-feel-good oxytocin. And if those things weren’t available (which they weren’t, after I restricted myself), it was fantasizing. I could easily lose myself in my thoughts, focusing on things that would make me happy, whether physical or emotional intimacy. By doing this, I would simply immerse myself in a world where I had no hardships until reality settled itself back down. Unfortunately, due to my hiding, my God identity trait of perseverance was severely underdeveloped.

Google defines perseverance as “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Here are three things I am learning about persevering as God intends:

  • Perseverance should make us joyful. The porn identity told me that no one cared that I was suffering, so I should withdraw from everyone and focus on my addiction/fantasy life. I would also whine and cry through my suffering (I’m still working on this!) until it was over. But the Bible says that we should rejoice in our sufferings (Romans 5:3)—one of the hardest things to learn. One of the ways I try to rejoice is by reminding myself that the devil is always going to attack those he feels are a threat to him, those who may have significance in the kingdom of God. So when things are going well for me, I have to ask—have I become complacent about my walk with God? Because Jesus did not say “if” you experience troubles in this world, he said “when!” So I should be joyful during difficulties, knowing that my suffering is normal and that God plans to use me in a great way—if I will just persevere!
  • Perseverance produces maturity. My porn addiction forced me to stay in what author Tim Challies calls pornolescence. This adolescent mindset made me believe that I could stay the way I was, keep doing the things I was doing, and still be godly and holy—and fulfill the God’s calling on my life. But truthfully, I was not growing in character, wisdom, or maturity in my walk with God. When tough times came, I was turning immediately to what would make me feel better, not what would make me BE better. But taking on the God identity means persevering and maturing in Christ. James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Trials produce steadfastness—if we let them. And when perseverance takes full effect in us, we mature in Jesus.
  • Perseverance brings blessings. I feel like I missed out on a lot of blessings in my life because I didn’t choose to persevere through trials—I chose to hide. I feel this most in my relationships with others. Being a prophet gift who sees and knows truth within relationships is difficult; and when I am hurt, sometimes I want to hurt others or withdraw instead of pushing through the difficulties of talking things through with others. Because of this, I’ve missed the blessings of strengthening my relationships. But the Bible says I’ve missed even more than that! The Bible says that those who endure will receive what is promised (Hebrews 10:36). The promises of God are many and wonderful, and I can’t help but wonder what other promises I have missed because I have not worked on developing perseverance.

The great news is that I don’t have to miss any more promises and blessings! I can start developing perseverance today—and I have. In the midst of my current hardships, I have been choosing to focus my thoughts more on God. Better yet, I am choosing to persevere, even though life is challenging right now. But I take solace in knowing that if the trouble is big, then the reward will be even bigger—including maturity and growth in my most important relationship (with God) and the strength to face whatever is next!

The Porn Identity: Object Lesson

ID-10056400

image courtesy of digitalart / freedigitalphotos.net

So I’m still sitting here stewing about my birthday. (I know, LET IT GO, PPG!!) Actually, I’ve been examining my heart the last couple of days to find the source of my hurt. The person who forgot my birthday is someone who I have spent a lot of time, attention, and resources on in the last year. And although I’m not asking for a return on my investment, to not even get a simple, “Happy birthday!” text made me feel very used and taken advantage of. It feels like the person doesn’t see me as a person with feelings, but instead as something to be used when needed and ignored when not. In fact, if I think about the “friendship” in its entirety, that’s exactly how I see myself: as an object.

Interestingly enough, I’ve treated lots of people that way through the years. One of the most difficult things to overcome from a porn identity is the objectification of others. Objectification is defined as treating a person as a thing, without regard for their dignity, personality, intelligence, or emotions. While physical or sexual objectification is the most common kind, there are others kinds of objectification that pornography encouraged in me. Here are a few of those object lessons I’m still struggling with:

  • Porn encouraged me to have no concern for others’ feelings or experiences. Pornography isn’t about feelings, and it’s not about other people. Pornography is about one person: the viewer and his or her pleasure. Porn teaches selfishness, plain and simple. In a world that was all about me, I didn’t care if I hurt other people with my words or actions, and I was very open about that. I had learned that life was all about me, and I lived exactly like that. I’ve learned over the past few years that selfishness is the exact opposite of what God requires of me. The example of Jesus was a selfless man who always cared about others—their grief, their heartache, their sin, their loss. I have improved in this area, but I still have a long way to go.
  • Porn encouraged me to throw people away. When people don’t give you what you want, cut them out of your life! This was a pushy prophet girl essential—get rid of people who aren’t serving your needs. In porn, you find a new partner to satisfy you. In life, you find a new friend or spouse or whatever. Relationships are not important. But this isn’t God’s way. Fortunately, Celebrate Recovery helped me to reconcile with many of those I hurt, and God continues to work in me. But learning to not push people away when they hurt me or disappoint me is the most difficult lesson I’m learning. I’m struggling with it today.
  • Porn encouraged me to accept these treatments for myself as well. It wasn’t enough that I felt like I could treat others that way…I also allowed others to treat me this way. I based my worth on what I saw and learned from pornography—I allowed myself to be physically and sexually objectified instead of allowing God’s Word to define me. I allowed others to not care about my feelings. I allowed people to throw me away when they no longer needed me. This is my current struggle. I know I am worth far more than my contributions to a friendship—but I’m worried that I’ve allowed myself to be treated as far less. That is why I am doing some serious soul searching—so that I can learn how to move forward in a positive, godly way instead of making the same mistakes over again.

Our culture sends the message that people can be objectified and dehumanized on every level possible, especially physically and sexually. But there is a God in heaven who wants us to treat each other better. He committed the most selfless act by sending His Son to be an example to us and to redeem us from our sin. In following Christ’s example, we must love others unconditionally, treat others as God’s children, and value ourselves as well. It’s one of the first steps in moving from a porn identity into a God identity!

The Struggle Is Real: Being Belle Knox

I was visiting my friend the other day and lamenting to her about how my heart was breaking for women these days, especially their struggles with sexual purity and pornography. She shared with me that she had watched The View and had seen one of their “Real People” interviews about a pornography star who is also a Duke University freshman—she is 18 years old and has done 25–30 porn films in the last year to pay for her $60,000 college tuition. Here’s the interview with “Belle Knox”:

This video filled me with such sorrow and literally broke my heart. Belle said a few things, though, that should be addressed, because they are sad truths about pornography:

  • “I, like most other people, have been watching porn since I was 12 years old.” The folks on The View were bewildered by this, but I was not. In fact, Belle was about two years OLDER than I was when I first experienced pornography. Today’s generation was exposed to pornography as early as age 8! Most every person you know has seen pornography in some form. Of 700 Christian women surveyed, most were exposed to porn between the ages of 10 and 12. It’s a harrowing statistic about our children today.
  • “Your parents support this?” “Yes, absolutely.” I truly could not fathom this statement. I want so desperately to believe that no parents in the world would support their children becoming porn stars simply to pay for college, but I know that’s not the truth. I know that we live in a fallen world where pornography is the norm—where people who aren’t watching it are more common than those who are. And I know that sometimes, people believe that making easy money is more important than working hard, and that attending a prestigious university is more important than cultivating true self-worth. But I have to ask: what will Belle benefit if she gains the whole world (a Duke degree, a porn career) but loses her soul? (Mark 8:36) And who in her life cares about that for her if not her parents?
  • “…there is a stigma about females watching pornography, so I was not open about it.” Among the ashes and death, there is still truth. And the truth is, she’s right: there is a stigma for women. Christian women especially tend to feel intense shame about their secret struggle with sexual purity and pornography. Christian women, however, tend to internalize the unbearable guilt and shame, becoming depressed while searching for accountability. On the contrary, Belle acts out to feel “empowered” about her body and her sexuality. Empowerment, however, does mean that we can do anything with our bodies; as Paul noted, everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23).

It’s a shame that they cut the video off before finishing Sherri Shepherd’s statement of how her heart was breaking for Belle. Like Sherri, I feel such sorrow for Belle. This story haunts me because, you see, I could have easily made the same choices that Belle Knox did. But I didn’t—because I had a mother and a Christian community who prayed for me. And because of those desperate prayers, I instead chose a Savior who gives me hope, love, and a bold identity in Him. The only difference between me and Belle Knox is Jesus Christ. And I am praying desperately that she comes to know Him as I do—as the Author of my hope, security, freedom, and true empowerment.

This Is My Story, This Is My Song: Celebrate Recovery

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. -Matthew 10:39

story song by Grant Cochrane

image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / freedigitalphotos.net

The loss of my guy friendship drove me straight into the place where God actually wanted me: Celebrate Recovery (CR). When I attended on that first Friday evening, I sobbed through the entire service. I knew this was the beginning of something entirely life changing. I just didn’t realize exactly how life changing it actually would be.

I spent a year in CR, faithfully attending each Friday night worship service and breakout session. After my first night, they offered the CR bread and butter: a single sex small group “step” study. I signed up immediately—filling out the card many times to make sure I was a part of a group where “the real healing occurs.” At the beginning, attending CR was a change—but I thought I had found my life, at least for the time being. However, about two months into my step study, I was laid off from my job at the data company. I applied for unemployment for the first time in my life, believing God for the best. I helped out an elderly gentleman and searched for jobs as the days passed, but I found no full-time employment. I was volunteering in the young adult ministry at the church where CR was located, but I was struggling as I began to look at the roots of my issues. Two months after losing my job and right as my step study deepened, my young adult pastor called to tell me that he was removing me from my positions in the ministry. Hurt and desperate, I fled to Arizona to hear from God about what was next. After spending nearly 40 days there, I returned to Maryland and CR, only to have a close friend berate me via e-mail about my choices and my personality. She basically ended our friendship. I processed that loss and found a temporary job, only to wreck my car twice as I commuted there—a sign, I felt, that I should not be there. I remember that during these months, I would wake up each morning feeling as if a house was sitting on my chest. I believed God was doing something great in my life, but I just couldn’t see that through the intense loss I felt.

It was during this difficult time that God reminded me of Jesus’ words in Matthew: sometimes, you have to lose your life for Christ’s sake in order to find it. Looking back, I can see clearly that God was stripping me of everything I had ever used to identify myself. He was forcing me to find my identity in the one place it could be securely anchored: in Jesus Christ alone. I lost my identity as the hard worker and wage earner when my company downsized. I lost my identity as a servant of God when my pastor removed me from my church positions. I lost my identity in my community when my close friendship ended. I even lost my identity as a car owner when I wrecked my car. So if I was not any of these things, then who was I? And could I find my identity solely in God as a co-heir with Christ and a child of the King?

It turns out, I could—and I did. And although it was the hardest year of my life, learning to find my identity in Jesus—by suffering the loss of everything I had used to define me—was the best thing that could have happened to me. God knew that I had to lose my life to find it.

In what ways have you had to lose your life for Christ’s sake in order to find it?

This Is My Story, This Is My Song: The Fourth Eight

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

story song by Grant Cochrane

image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / freedigitalphotos.net

My break from ministry did not last long; after about eight months, I found another job in youth ministry and moved closer to DC. I thought things were turning around…I was starting to settle down a bit. But something still was not right. I was not happy in youth ministry. Perhaps I was burnt out; perhaps youth ministry was not for me. Whatever the reason, I was searching for community and had yet to find it. I left that ministry job after a few years and moved to another church in the same county. Meanwhile, a ministry friend invited me to attend a young adult Bible study that her new pastor had started. I ended up not only attending the Bible study but leading the worship band at her church while still serving as the youth minister at another. However, like they always had, things fell apart at my youth ministry job, and I was once again searching for what to do with my life. I applied for the worship pastor position at my friend’s church (now my church) and didn’t get it; thus, I continued to struggle with what God was asking me to do. After a few weeks in Phoenix to settle my brain, I took the first job I was offered at a data company back in Maryland.

In the next year, my life exploded as I was imploding emotionally. I had a terrible fight with my pastor and left my church and worship leadership position abruptly. I decided to stop talking to my family altogether. I was really struggling to make sense of my life. I hated my job, my family, and my life. And then, I began attending a young adult ministry at a nearby church and I met him. He was an incredible man…my total opposite, perhaps, in that he was sensitive and compassionate in great contrast to my brash honesty. I was attracted to him like a moth to a flame. He was good looking and funny, and I just wanted to be around him. Our friendship was filled with pain and confusion, though, mostly because he was the first God-honoring man I had ever been attracted to and, thanks to my warped porn-and-lust-addicted mind, I had no idea how to treat him. Even though we had admitted a mutual attraction existed, I was (unbeknownst to me) completely un-dateable. I wanted so badly to have someone love me in the ways I had never been loved that I pushed and pushed…until finally, I pushed him away for good. I was broken, and for the first time in my life, I knew it. The day after our friendship ended, I attended my first Celebrate Recovery meeting.

One lesson I learned from my fourth eight is to never underestimate where the desire for true love, acceptance, and intimacy will take you. My longing had taken me to many worldly places—pornography, partying, fantasy, and deeper into myself. However, the longing was never truly filled, and in the end, the pain of staying the same—always losing relationships and jobs—became too much for me to bear. I knew where to find true acceptance and love—I had known since I was eight years old—but I had not been willing to surrender my pride to the pain of changing for the better. I had never TRULY surrendered my issues to God because of my need for control. But in the fourth eight, everything changed. I wanted to know true love and I wanted to know how to love—and the only way I could find those things was to run straight into the arms of the Author of love, who was waiting to heal my broken heart and bind up my wounds.

Where has the longing for true love, acceptance, and intimacy taken you?

This Is My Story, This Is My Song: The First Eight

“This is my story/This is my song/Praising my Savior all the day long!” Over the next few blogs, I will be sharing my life testimony with you, including the lessons I’ve learned from my past, the excitement I am experiencing in the present, and the hope I have for my future. Blessings!

“Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.” –Psalm 66:16

story song by Grant Cochrane

image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / freedigitalphotos.net

On Valentine’s Day in 1977, my mother went to the doctor believing she had a stomach tumor. As it turned out, she was actually pregnant with her second child—me. She was in the midst of separating from my father, and thus, in June 1977, I was born into a single parent home to my mom and a sister who was three and half years old. My father remarried when I was six months old to a woman I knew and loved my entire life as my stepmother.

I grew up in a relatively tight-knit family with my mom and sister, living next door to my grandparents (and sometimes my uncle). My father and stepmother lived in the same town, about 15 minutes away, though I only saw him sporadically as I was growing up. My earliest memory of my father is of him coming over to take my sister out—and leaving me behind. The rejection and isolation I felt, even at that young age, was palpable. It was the first of many rejections at the hands of my earthly father. Despite this, in my primary years, I excelled at school and found my many gifts—especially music. I attended church constantly with my family, and when I was eight years old, I responded to an altar call at my church and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I was in third grade. That same year, my maternal grandmother died of colon cancer. I had lived next door to her my entire life, as she spoiled me with homemade candies and a true grandmother’s love. This loss was devastating to me personally. Shortly after her death, to help care for my aging grandfather, we moved next door into his house with him.

My primary years were marked by changes and loss, and though it was difficult, I can look back and see a valuable lesson that marked the first eight years of my life: You are never too young to begin a relationship with Christ. Even though I was only eight, beginning my journey with God at such a young age helped established the strong foundation in my life that has continued to this day. I’m not saying I haven’t struggled or doubted. But looking back, I can see that God was always with me during the rejection, the loss, and the suffering I experienced from life. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Though I could not physically see God through my eight year old eyes, now I look back and see the truth of this verse lived out in my early years. I was rejected, but not alone. I experienced loss, but He helped me—even as a third grader with no deep knowledge of Him. God upheld me through this time of significant loss and change early in my life, and He still does the same for me today.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I am thankful that my mother not only believed this verse but lived it out so that I had a strong foundation on which to stand while facing the struggles that lay ahead for me in the next eight years.

If God can strengthen, help, and uphold a naïve, rejected, eight-year-old girl, what could He do for you today?