TEN YEARS CANCER-FREE

I don’t usually write anything in all caps. I’ve been working hard to not be a screamer. BUT, Y’ALL!! Today marks TEN YEARS since the day I got to hear the words, “You’re cancer-free.”

The minute I got the call from my doctor I sent a message to everyone I could think of saying, “I’m cancer free! All glory to God forever!” I knew at that moment that everything in my world had shifted. I mistakenly thought it had all shifted for the good and that the rest of my life would be smooth sailing.

That phone call took more than two years to receive from the moment I received my cancer diagnosis. In those two years of waiting God exposed wounds in me that were long buried and forgotten and forced me to deal with pains that I had been shoving under a tight lid for most of my life. Okay, He didn’t force me. I had a choice. But I also knew that I wasn’t ready to die and that I no longer wanted to hold on to anything that was causing unhealth in my body. And, if I was going to die, I wanted to experience peace and freedom on this side of heaven.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the grief to come. Anyone who has ever had any kind of cancer will tell you that the four words they hate most in the English vocabulary are, “Because of your history…”. Every single time I go to the doctor for anything, I hear those words. Anything in my body that is the least bit sick has become a reason for doctors to run more tests and explore the possibilities that I have a cancer recurrence. Every time I hear those words I am reminded that cancer may have given me freedom and healing, but it also took away so much. I no longer have the confidence that a cough is just a cough, an upset stomach is just an upset stomach, a headache is just a headache, or that every ache and pain are just the price of being 48 years old. I no longer have the amazing metabolism that allowed me to eat pizza for dinner and ice cream before bed without working out for two hours the morning after. I also no longer have a tolerance for toxicity or the ability to be anything other than transparent and vulnerable.

I wrote several years ago about what cancer taught me, but I left out how I’ve come to embrace transparency and vulnerability. If you know me IRL or you’ve read my blog for any amount of time those qualities may be obvious to you. What may not be obvious is WHY I can’t be anything other than transparent and vulnerable.

There’s just no point in even trying. Those words above were spoken by Jesus. In the next verse He said, “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” I don’t know about any of you, but my perimenopausal brain simply can’t afford to lose what little I understand. I want to spend the rest of my days hearing from God and understanding more about who He is and how He loves me. Also, I firmly believe that all that I’d held on to grew in my neck in the form of cancer and that’s a battle I’d prefer not to fight again.

It would be a lie to say that I’ve accomplished all I had hoped to accomplish in these last ten years, or that I’ve achieved complete spiritual/emotional healing and freedom, or that I believe I’ve fulfilled every purposeful opportunity that God laid before me. This morning I cried and repented for not accomplishing more for Him in the days, weeks, months, and years that He’s given me. But guess what? Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through!  They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Tomorrow I will wake up to the first day of my eleventh year of living without cancer. I will try my best to not take this life for granted. I will rest in the assurance that God’s love and mercy over me aren’t through. And I will give Him glory and praise Him for His great great faithfulness.

Happy Ten-Year-Cancer-Free-Day to ME!

Happy, Holy, Hard, Hopeful, Healing Mother’s Day

I awoke this Mother’s Day to a message from my firstborn letting me know that she had arrived in Cannes for the film festival. She made a film a couple of years ago that won a couple of festivals in the US and in December she was invited to show in Cannes. My joy and pride in her talent and accomplishments is nothing less than holy.

This precious picture of the four who call me, “Mama” was taken six years ago. Those years have been filled with uncountable challenges and some fairly traumatic wounds. Shortly after receiving the message from France, my boys brought me breakfast in bed (that they made together without arguing -Woohoo!), gifts, and the sweetest card filled with their gratitude that I am theirs and they are mine… healing.

While eating the breakfast my boys made me, I began to weep. I so wish that this day wasn’t filled with such a mixed bag of emotions. But it is. It is a hard day not just for me, but for so many people that I know and love. Some of us have no mother to honor today. Some of us have mothers that, due to unhealed wounds, we would rather not honor today. Some of us are grieving children both alive and dead. Some of us are longing for children we do not yet have. Some of us have children with no father to encourage them to honor us. Some of us have our children’s fathers around, but because we are not their mothers or because of their own unhealed wounds, they do not honor us or encourage our children to do so. Some of us are living with shame and regret over choices we’ve made as mothers. Some of us have children that are being raised by other mothers. And some of us are raising children that were birthed by women who will never get to hear those children call them, “Mama.” All of these realities complicate this day.

Deuteronomy 30:15-16, 19 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy... “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 

I’ve had a couple of recent conversations that have reminded me of God’s truth, dried my tears today, and given me great hope. Those conversations have revolved around the many times in the book of Deuteronomy when God said to the Israelites that He gives us a choice between life and death, blessings and curses, and promises that whatever we choose is not just for ourselves, but for the generations to come. God didn’t say that we have to wait for our parents to choose life, prosperity, or blessings in order for us to experience those promises. He didn’t say that we needed to think about our circumstances before choosing. He didn’t say that we are unqualified to choose. He didn’t say that we needed to wait until everything was easy and painless. He simply said that WE get to make those choices. And, if we love Him and walk in His ways, we (and the place we occupy) will be blessed.

Romans 5:5 Such hope in God’s promises never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Whether this day is filled with hardship, holiness, hope, or a healing process; my prayer is that we all find something today to be happy about and the courage and wisdom to CHOOSE blessings, life, and prosperity.

Have a Happy Holy Hard Hopeful Healing Mother’s Day.

Good, Gut-wrenching, Glorious Friday

Most historians believe that around three hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ, in Isaiah 53, it was prophesied…

Who has believed our message?
    To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
    like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
    nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
    a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
    He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
    it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
    a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for OUR rebellion,
   crushed for OUR sins.
He was beaten so WE (YOU and I) could be whole.
   He was whipped so WE could be healed.
ALL OF US, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.

He was oppressed and treated harshly,
    yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
    And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
    he did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned,
    he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
    that his life was cut short in midstream.[c
But he was struck down
    for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong
    and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
    he was put in a rich man’s grave.

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
    and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
    he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
    and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
    he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
    my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
   for he will bear ALL their sins.
12 I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
    because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
    He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

If you read Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19, you see that every single detail of the prophesy was fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion. His death was horrible, and painful, and exposing. Although pictures of the crucifixion always have him wearing a loincloth, the Bible says that he was stripped of his clothes and Roman tradition was to crucify criminals naked. So, we know that our savior, the one who literally gave up everything, including his life; was beaten, abused, and died a brutal death, completely exposed and broken. That is what today is all about…

He did it all so that when we are experiencing brokenness, feeling exposed, abused, in pain, ashamed, sick, stuck, hopeless, in bondage, or anything other than complete wholeness and freedom; we can leave it ALL at the cross with him. Because on the third day… he rose from the dead, insuring that you and I do not have to carry ANY of the things that hurt or weigh us down in this life, but live eternally with him.

This Holy Week has been been a beautiful, brutal reminder of the significance of this day and what’s to come on Sunday.

We have had a week to process sweet Evan’s diagnosis. I’ve probably spent more time in prayer this week than I have in any other week of my life. When I couldn’t think of anything else to talk to God about I have just starting giving thanks for every single thing I can think of. In all the thanksgiving, I remembered that I was not only healed of cancer ten years ago, but I was also completely healed of all the side effects of radiation that I was told would be life-long. In the process of healing me of cancer, God exposed layers and layers of wounds that were keeping me from living fully in all of His promises, poured out the blood of Jesus on them, and healed my heart and soul. He has healed relationships that had little hope of restoration. He has healed pieces of my children that doctors said we needed to learn to live with. He redeemed what seemed like a hopeless situation with my husband’s military career that we were completely powerless over. We’ve walked side-by-side with couples whose marriages are completely broken and witnessed God not only keep them together, but give them beautifully restored new life in their relationships. We’ve believed for dear friends to conceive who struggled with infertility for nearly a decade. In fact, this week, after crying five months ago because I thought I’d never get to meet their newest addition, my husband was asked to lecture at a University in Albany, NY and we got to spend a couple of days with their FOUR precious miracles.

Also, I’ve given a lot of thanks this week for the fact that God has (quite literally) carried me through the hardest times of my life. In the moments where it was hard to breathe or stand on my own two feet, I got through because of HIM. I don’t know about you, but I have a couple of things that I am trusting God to carry me through at this very moment (the brutal parts of this Holy Week). As I wait for new life to be breathed into situations that feel a little hopeless and scary, I know that I know that I know that God will be faithful. The goodness and the glory of this day, is that it guarantees that He IS faithful to fulfill every single one of the His promises.

So hold on, let go, trust God. We’re all in this broken, painful Good Friday world together. But… Sunday is coming.

Palm Sunday Prayer Requests

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There are rare occasions in life when you meet someone and instantly know that you will be friends for life. Nine years ago I was blessed with one of those occasions. By the time I was done having one conversation with my friend Jennifer, I knew that she and her husband Mark and their children were my people. I can’t remember there being any “breaking-in” period with the relationships between our families. From the very beginning it was just easy and comfortable. When we met Jenn and Mark they had two young boys (they now have four). Their baby at that time was the sweetest most charming one and a half-year old that I’ve possibly ever met. It seems like as soon as he could talk he began calling me “MY Calvaresi”. He is four years younger than Sofija and he is one of the only children I know who has never been afraid of her. In fact, as displayed in the picture below, he’s always accepted and loved her like I dream of the rest of the world doing. IMG_5906

Two weeks ago I got a message from Jenn asking me to pray. The night before, Evan had gone to the ER after a bad headache that lasted for a few days and a sudden onset of scary symptoms. He had an MRI that revealed a brain tumor the size of a racquetball and by the following morning was having brain surgery. The surgery was a great success. The tumor was located in an area just under the skull that enabled the surgeons to remove all of it in half the time they had anticipated. A followup MRI twelve hours after surgery showed that the space that had been occupied by the tumor had already been filled with healthy brain tissue. Three days later he was home and ten days after brain surgery he returned to school feeling great. 56659831_10161575664585627_826391968773832704_o

And then, on Thursday Mark and Jenn received the results of the pathology of the tumor. I have struggled all day to finish writing this post because putting it into words makes it feel like more of a reality. Evan has ATRT, a very rare, very aggressive cancer of the central nervous system. This sweet, charming, brilliant ten-year-boy needs a miracle!

I have been on an emotional roller coaster since I got the call from Jenn. I love living in Florida, but they are in central Pennsylvania and right now the miles between us are unbearable.

In between the dips of my emotional roller coaster ride (where my stomach is in my throat and my breath is taken away), I have had mountaintop moments of realizing all that God has already put in place to equip them for this fight. The details He’s already taken care of are MANY! And… I remember that this is Palm Sunday and we have just entered Holy Week.

Five days before Jesus’ crucifixion and one week before his resurrection, he made a triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem. His entry into the city was a fulfillment of the prophesy in Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, people of Jerusalem! Shout for joy, people of Jerusalem! Your king is coming to you. He does what is right, and he saves…

The early followers of Christ who celebrated his entry to Jerusalem laid palm branches in his path. Palm branches symbolized three things: rejoicing, triumph, and victory.

On this Palm Sunday, I am choosing to rejoice over all the details and pieces of the puzzle that God has already put in place for this battle, and I am claiming triumph and victory for our dear friends.

On a side note… in Luke 19:41, we are told that before Jesus entered Jerusalem, he looked out over the city, and he wept. Before the rejoicing, or the victory, or the triumph, there was crying by our Savior. So, if you’re reading this and just learning of Evan’s diagnosis, you’re crying in good company.

On another side note… Mark and Jenn are the kind of friends that are really more like family. I’ve written before that Mark was kind enough to share his Dad with Chad during the hardest season of our lives. Since our move to Florida, Mark’s parents have driven down from their home in South Carolina to visit us a few times. We have cherished those visits. They were actually just here last month and the week after they returned home Mr. John began infusion chemotherapy for the cancer that he has been fighting for a couple of years. Mr John and Mark have the type of relationship that I hope and pray for my boys to have with Chad. As long as we’ve known their family, they’ve always supported one another. Right now, as Mr John fights his battle and Mark and Jenn fight Evan’s battle, they are separated by more than 500 miles. The distance between them during this difficult season seems unfair right now, but I trust that God is also in the details of that.

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I am asking everyone who reads this to PRAY and SHARE! We are claiming healing for both Evan and Mr John. We are also claiming wisdom, peace, and unity in every decision that Mark and Jenn have to make. I also ask that you pray for HOPE to fill the hearts and minds of every single person that comes in contact with anyone in their family. God has already written the miraculous story that we get to watch unfold.

1 Peter 2:24 He personally carried our sins
    in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
    and live for what is right.
By his wounds
    EVAN is healed.

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Steal, kill, destroy…or satisfying life

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My Mermaid

I know that some readers still come here for updates on Sofija. So, before I dive into the title story, I want to share that tomorrow (Monday March 4th), for the first time since October 2015, Sofi Bea Brave is GOING TO SCHOOL! We’re all excited. Maybe me a little more than her, but whatever. Her two behavior aids that normally work with her at home will be at school with her and the administration of the school has been extremely accommodating and supportive of her many needs. So, if you just drop by this space because you care about our baby girl, feel free to keep her and everyone that’s working with her in your prayers. Specific requests: safety for everyone, peace for her, a few hours of freedom for me (translation: I don’t get called back to the school).

As for the title of this piece, I’m giving you a fair warning that I’m about to get spiritual AND expose my crazy.

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See that handsome guy I’m leaning on? Two weeks ago we were in Jamaica celebrating our 25th anniversary. Twenty-five years is a long flipping time to spend with the same person! We calculated that we’d been married for 1300 weeks and this was the first time in our entire marriage that we’ve taken a whole week to just enjoy each other. We’ve already booked another trip for August. We agreed that our time away was the best week of entire lives and now we realize that we’ve got some making up to do! If, like us, you’ve found every excuse under the sun to not get away with your spouse, do yourself a favor and make it happen. I started scheduling people to keep the house running more than a month out. The three weeks before we left were consumed with making sure we had 2:1 care for Sofija around the clock, groceries, and transportation for Seth every day that we were away. It was A LOT of work! But it was sooooo worth it!

The week before we left, a surprise package was delivered. My hot husband had ordered us the Fierce Marriage 31-day pursuit books and the 30-day couple’s devotional. I may have swooned a little when I opened the box. Reading is not my husband’s favorite activity and suggestions of doing a study together are usually met with little enthusiasm. But things around here have been changing. At the beginning of the year we started seeing a marriage counselor. When I did a get-to-know-you call with our counselor of choice, he asked what our number one goal was in counseling. I replied, “We want to learn how to fight.”

We started a list on our 18th anniversary of things we’d learned about marriage and we’ve added to it a few times. #15 on the list is: Remember that your spouse IS NOT your enemy. Here’s the disclaimer about that little tidbit… you’re still going to fight. My Mama used to say, “If two people agree on everything, one of them isn’t necessary.” It’s true. It’s boring to spend time with someone who agrees with you on everything. The question is, “How do you deal with conflict and disagreements?” In our case, the answer has always been, “Not no nicely.” We both came from homes where our parents were divorced when we were five years old. Our earliest examples of conflict resolution were not so great. Between our parents, step-parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, siblings, and extended families; we observed the following methods of resolving conflict:

1) Just don’t speak to the person ever again, or don’t speak to them for years and when you do act like nothing ever happened and only discuss the weather and sports.

2) Never address something painful in the moment and after bottling up wounds EXPLODE because the forks weren’t loaded right in the dishwasher and then precede to destroy each other with your words in front of everyone within earshot.

3) EXPLODE over every little thing and leave everyone around you walking on eggshells.

4) Physically fight it out.

5) NEVER speak up when you’re hurt or disagree and just talk bad about the person who’s hurt you to everyone who will listen, OR passively-aggressively get revenge.

So, for the first twenty-five years of our marriage we tried our damndest to do better, but all too often found ourselves repeating the cycles of what had been modeled for us. On January 2nd, 2019, we decided that it was time to actually do better. Once we made that decision we immediately knew that we needed a mediator to walk us through healing the damage we’d done and filling our tool chest with tools that we couldn’t seem to find ourselves.

Which led to the surprise package of books and our trip to Jamaica. RwWbiwFERD+E7SrwwgLSaQ

This picture was taken on Sunday February 17th, 24 years and 364 days into our marriage. My husband had posted a really sweet picture from the breakfast we’d had on our balcony that morning on Facebook and had been reading the comments to me all day. In order to make sure we weren’t distracted on our trip, we left our laptops at home and most nights I didn’t even charge my phone. That day was one of the days where my phone was dead. I took this picture while my husband was snoring on the lounger next to me. We had only been there for 24hrs and I was still struggling to just sit and be so I picked up his phone to look at Facebook. I couldn’t get the app to load so I opened his settings to shut down the apps using cellular data with the hopes of getting it to load. After shutting down a gazillion sports and news apps I see an app called “Telegram” that’s using cellular data and shut it off too. As soon as I shut it down I looked to see what folder he had it in on his phone. For those wondering, it was in a folder with tv and news apps. I made a mental note to ask him about it and went back to Facebook.

So… a little later, as we were getting ready to go to dinner, I asked in a completely accusatory tone totally loving and trusting tone, “What is that Telegram app on your phone?” He got uncomfortable and said that he didn’t know what it was or when he’d put it on his phone. By the time I asked, our room phone was ringing to announce that we needed to get to our dinner reservation. At that moment I made a decision that is completely unnatural and out of character for me, I would put my questions and crazy thoughts on a shelf and approach it later. Shelving the questions and crazy thoughts was a success! We danced in our anniversary and had the most fun that we’ve have together in ages.IMG_2249

Well, the “later” came at 3am when I woke up obsessively thinking about that stupid app. I looked it up on my phone (which I’d remembered to plug in before bed) and found that it’s a messenger app where the messages disappear like snapchat photos and has an option for secret chats that never appear on either user’s phone. And then I found myself, at three something in the morning on our twenty-fifth anniversary, crawling on the floor to his side of the bed and hoping that his cpap would drown out the sound of me taking his phone off the nightstand and sneaking it into the living room of our suite. I opened the app and found no history of messages or chats. I spent half an hour learning how to pull deleted messages and chats from the telegram cloud and felt confident that I’d find the answers to all my questions even if he wouldn’t answer them. I added the app on my phone with his account info and set it so that I would receive notifications of any messages sent or received. I then crawled back to his side of the bed, plugged his phone back in, crawled back around to my side, and climbed in bed with a million worst case scenario possibilities running through my mind.

The morning of our twenty-fifth anniversary was not pretty. My husband woke to me sobbing and I immediately told him all about my 3am exploits. He was frustrated, and I was scared and hurting. He continued to emphatically state that he had never used the app and he wasn’t sure when or why he’d put it on his phone. After talking in circles for about an hour he asked me to sit on the balcony and do our devotion. The day before we had gone over how the strength of our marriage was far more dependent on our beliefs about God than about our feelings for each other. The devotion had included Romans 12:2 Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.

John 10:10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” ~ Jesus

On our anniversary, the devotion was all about oneness in marriage. Matthew 19:6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” The first question that day asked if there are areas of our hearts that have hardened towards one another. The devotion led to an emotional, loving discussion that allowed me to put my 3am concerns in a little box that I knew we’d have to deal with later. I DID NOT want to be miserable on this trip! We were quickly about to identify that “the thief”, aka Satan, was CLEARLY trying to steal our joy and peace and destroy all that we’ve been working hard on in and out of counseling. We were also quickly able to see that Jesus had put the ad for Fierce Marriage in front of my husband’s eyes just in time for him to order it and have it delivered before this trip. God knew. He knew that we would be attacked and He knew what it would take for us to get back to enjoying each other.

I honestly didn’t think about the app again until we’d been home for a couple of days and I spotted it on my phone. Seeing it led me to look at the app store and see when it was downloaded. The day he downloaded it happened to be the same day that I left for England last November. Knowing that he added it on the same day that I was leaving the country did nothing for the thoughts of betrayal having a party in my head. So, after we did our devotion for the day I brought it up again. Chad quickly asked what I needed to make my doubts and insecurities go away. I replied that I needed to know the whole truth because I couldn’t think of a single harmless reason for a married man to have a disappearing messaging app hidden on his phone. He said that he understood, but he was growing concerned about how long this was going to keep us from living a “satisfying life”. I then told him that I had no peace about pulling the history of the app from the cloud because I needed to hear “the truth” from him. We’ve had a few discussions during and after counseling about the fact that offenses and betrayals are not what hurt the most. What hurts the most is learning about offenses and betrayals via channels other than looking each other in the eyes and confessing. Just be truthful. Period.

Everything in me wanted to believe that he had no idea why he had the app. But, all the voices of women in my life who’ve been played for fools were running through my mind. You know what was NOT running through my mind? God’s voice. Or the Holy Spirit’s voice. There was zero God-truth transformation happening in what I was thinking.

The same night that the app came back to the forefront of our conversation, our Serbian princess awoke at 3am. After battling her for nearly an hour to get back to sleep I started praying. First I prayed over her, and then I prayed over our marriage, and then I prayed over my mind. I asked Holy Spirit for the same thing I asked on the day that we received divine confirmation that we were supposed to adopt Sofija. “God, please change my heart and give me wisdom.” Almost immediately I heard, “Check email from the day the app was downloaded.” I scrolled down to that date in November and the first thing I opened was from a streaming service that we use. I returned from that trip last fall to find that we had finally cut the cord with cable. On the day that I left, my hot husband started watching tutorials and downloading streaming apps to all tv’s in the house. The first email I opened from that day gave instructions on how to get help with a particular streaming app. It said this, “Our support desk ONLY works with the Telegram app. Please download the app and add us as a contact if you have any questions.” There it was. A completely harmless and absolutely clear explanation for the app. I humbly ate crow apologized. He a little self-righteously lovingly gave grace.

“The thief came to steal, kill, and destroy.” It makes me sad when I think how close he came to destroying the best week of our lives. “But I have come to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Jesus!

Ephesians 6:12 Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. For they are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage.

Additions to the marriage rules list…

  1. Go to counseling if you need to learn to fight.
  2. Remember that your battle is NOT against flesh and blood. If you’re in a battle, there’s something spiritual going on.
  3. Look for all the ways God wants to equip you for the spiritual war we’re fighting.
  4. Go to Jamaica with your spouse.
  5. Share your crazy. Somebody out there (like me) needs to know they’re not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Being Saved…

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I am a Christian. I believe that I am saved and that after this life I will live eternally in Heaven. I keep finding myself in discussions about what “salvation” means and this morning I woke up with this post circling around in my head.

I’ll be honest. I’ve had more than one existential crisis in my life. The most recent was only seven or eight years ago. We were in a church with unhealthy leadership, I was grieving the many losses in a very short period of time, my husband was under federal investigation for something he did not do, and I was dealing with the reality of parenting a very broken and destructive little girl that I had been certain God wanted us to adopt. I was angry with God. I was disappointed. I was scared. I had no hope. And I began to question everything I had ever believed about my faith. If you’re in the middle of your own existential crisis, let me offer you some hope. You’re in the right place!

When I found myself at the lowest, scariest, most desperate time of my life, I made a conscious decision to start seeking truth from the Bible instead of looking for answers from books or sermons. I spent some time cutting out the middle-man. I won’t lie and tell you that it was easy. I had to come to the realization that much of what I’d come to not only believe, but practice and cheer for, simply wasn’t found anywhere in God’s Word. Probably my biggest revelation was concerning exactly what it means to “be saved”.

Romans 3:10 And the Scriptures agree, for it is written:

There is no one who always does what is right, no, not even one!

Romans 3:23 for we all have sinned and are in need of the glory of God.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Salvation is a gift that cannot be earned. We are ALL sinners and deserve death, but God offers eternal life. But what if you’re a good person? We are ALL sinners.

James 4:17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

Yeah. Did you eat well and care for you body today? Did you help the old lady at the grocery store that was struggling to load things in her car? Did you let the Mom in her minivan with three carseats have that perfect parking space you’d been waiting for? When your spouse said something that offended you did you respond with love and grace? Sin is sin is sin. It doesn’t matter if you committed adultery last night, or if you gossiped about your neighbor, or failed to pick up the phone and call your depressed friend when they crossed your mind. You’re a sinner.

But what if I’m a REALLY GOOD person?

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it was only through this wonderful grace that we believed in him. Nothing we did could ever earn this salvation, for it was the gracious gift from God that brought us to Christ! So no one will ever be able to boast, for salvation is never a reward for good works or human striving.

There is nothing you can do to earn salvation, except to choose it.

John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Dear friends, let me give you clearly the heart of the gospel that I’ve preached to you—the good news that you have heartily received and on which you stand. For it is through the revelation of the gospel that you are being saved, if you fasten your life firmly to the message I’ve taught you, unless you have believed in vain. For I have shared with you what I have received and what is of utmost importance:

The Messiah died for our sins,
    fulfilling the prophecies of the Scriptures.
He was buried in a tomb
    and was raised from the dead after three days,
    as foretold in the Scriptures.

 

To be saved means to wholeheartedly believe that John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 are true.

This is where what I believed about salvation got a little messy. Chances are good that if you’ve been in any church in America (and many other countries), at the end of a service you’ve heard someone ask those in attendance to pray a prayer if they wanted to be saved and then raise their hand if they’d “prayed that prayer”. While hands are raised the person who has led the prayer most likely counted.

Romans 10:9-10 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.

My guess is that the “sinner’s prayer” (as the prayer is often referred to) is derived from the requirement of “openly declaring”. But guess what? There is no “sinner’s prayer” in scripture. I struggle with a visceral response to anyone that measures the success of a church on the number of people who “prayed that prayer” on a Sunday morning.

If you’re struggling with believing that you ARE saved, let me offer you some freedom. If you believe and you openly tell others that you believe, you ARE saved. It’s really that simple.

But it’s not simple.

Once you believe, you have responsibilities.

1 Peter 2:1-3 So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

2 Timothy 2:22-26 Run as fast as you can from all the ambitions and lusts of youth; and chase after all that is pure. Whatever builds up your faith and deepens your love must become your holy pursuit. And live in peace with all those who worship our Lord Jesus with pure hearts. Stay away from all the foolish arguments of the immature, for these disputes will only generate more conflict. For a true servant of our Lord Jesus will not be argumentative but gentle toward all and skilled in helping others see the truth, having great patience toward the immature. Then with meekness you’ll be able to carefully enlighten those who argue with you so they can see God’s gracious gift of repentance and be brought to the truth. This will cause them to rediscover themselves and escape from the snare of Satan who caught them in his trap so that they would carry out his purposes.

Matthew 16:24-26 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

If you read those three passages and thought, “Holy crap!” How on earth will I ever perfect being a Christian?” Well, you won’t. If we could perfect it, we wouldn’t need a savior. But we DO need a savior. And I’ll let you in on something…

2 Corinthians 5:14-17 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! THIS MEANS THAT ANYONE WHO BELONGS TO CHRIST IS A NEW PERSON. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

When you wholeheartedly believe, you are changed. I once heard a sermon on salvation where the pastor posted a picture similar to this… screen shot 2019-01-04 at 9.47.12 pm

It is a great representation of what it feels like to believe and know Jesus. Sin is not the only thing we need to be rescued from. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t felt like they were drowning in some bad situation, or emotions, or illness, or addiction, or pain; at some point in time. Salvation is God reaching down and pulling you out of that thing you are drowning in, or at least holding your hand so that the thing doesn’t kill you. It’s a new and changed way of living.

Christianity offers so much more than eternal life. It makes it possible to endure human life.

It offers grace…

1 John 1:9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

It offers healing in relationships.

James 5:16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

It offers hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a HOPE.

It offers physical healing, and emotional healing, and freedom from all things that hold us in bondage, and peace, and favor, and all the good things we can never seem to find through our own efforts.

If you’ve read this far… wow! I’m impressed.

If you’ve read this far and want to share with someone that you believe, feel free to contact me. I filter my comments so you can leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

If you’re going through your own existential crisis, or you’re drowning in church wounds, or you prayed a prayer and raised your hand and nothing changed in your life, or this is all completely new information to you… I’d be happy to answer your questions, but I’m NOT the authority on Christianity. If you reach out to me I’d be happy to pray for you, but the very best thing you can do in any of the above situations is to READ THE BIBLE! If you don’t own a physical Bible I highly recommend that you get one (I’m a big fan of the NLT and ESV translations). If you don’t own a physical Bible and you’re not interested in getting one, you can download the YouVersion app on your phone or you can read it online at Bible Gateway.

Philippians 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

 

 

 

Grace

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Almost every year I claim a word for the year. Some years I choose a word that I desperately need or want to be the underlying theme for the new year and some years the word finds me. For 2019, the latter happened. Back in October I started hearing and seeing the word “grace” EVERYWHERE. By the end of November I was actually praying for God to give me a different word because, well, the thought of giving grace in every situation for an entire year kind of scares the crap out of me.

Several years ago I did one of those spiritual gifts inventory tests and guess what I learned… I have NO mercy gift. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE forgiveness. Heck, I’ve written and taught about the subject. I forgive quickly and let go of things quickly. I forgive because I’ve been forgiven and because I know that unforgiveness is toxic. But… forgiveness and grace and mercy are not the same.

The choice to forgive is simply the act of letting go. It doesn’t mean that you grant favor or honor. It just means that you let go of an offense. Forgiveness can often look more like being paroled for a crime. With forgiveness there are often still expected consequences and the person you’re forgiving often still carries the label of whatever they’ve done to offend you.

But grace… sweet, amazing grace… it’s a pardon. No labels to wear. Unmerited favor. Honor granted. Freedom.

grace – noun

Theology .

  1. the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.
  2. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
  3. virtue or excellence of divine origin:

So… why does the word scare me? Because I know that having it as the underlying theme for the coming year means that I’m going to have to give and receive it. It means that I’m going to have to approach every situation I face this coming year with the same favor and love that God has given me. And I’m human. Giving the kind of love and favor that God has given (and continues to give) me isn’t so easy.

2 Corinthians 12:9TPT  But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.”

Here’s to a year of grace… God, please help me not to need it or need to give it too much.

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