Friday, February 20, 2015

LIFE IS A STRUGGLE


I have been following the Compassion Bloggers trip in the Dominican Republic.  I have a teen girl, Daneisi, in the D. R.  The stories always make me smile, cry, laugh, and want to sponsor yet another child.  As I read the latest one, I realized that it's been a while since I've written on my own blog.  It's been even longer since I've written a devotion.  I pondered the reason, and it quickly came to me.

I have nothing encouraging to say.  I want my blog and my devotions to be a source of encouragement to others.  Yet, I cannot encourage someone else when I am not encouraged myself.  I am struggling in my own faith right now, and I have nothing positive to say to help someone else.

It's not anyone's fault except my own.  I don't reach out.  It's hard for me to do so.  I struggle with trust and relationships.  My problems with relationships come from my abusive childhood.  I learned quickly that my thoughts, my hopes, my dreams, my pain, didn't matter.  It's hard to overcome a coping mechanism.  Also, my inability to reach out and confide in others is also due to my brain damage.  I cannot articulate the words that are struggling to get out.  That is why writing has become my outlet.  I can write what I am feeling.

I don't have very good relationships with others.  During times of trouble, like the one I'm experiencing right now, I withdraw from everyone and everything.  I retreat into my own little world.  I feel safer that way.  People have mentioned to me that I am very hard to get to know.  It's true.  I am.  It's not that I don't want a lasting and close relationship.  I very much do, but when you go through life alone, it becomes comfortable.  A close relationship is impossible for me.  At least, it is right now.

I've been on a roller coaster of emotions for the past seven months.   One day I'm positive and upbeat.  Today is going to be a good day, when good things will happen.  My joy has returned, even if it is short lived.  The next day the darkness of depression overcomes me.  Why bother fighting for a better life?  Nothing's going to change.  Everything will remain the same.  Why bother trying?  I want to give up the fight.

Yes, I am a Christian, but I am not usually a joyful person.  Especially when hard times hit.  I get depressed quickly, and sometimes it's hard to come out of.  Sometimes, it lasts only a couple weeks.  Other times, it lasts years.  I'm afraid this time, it's lasted seven months, and I am finding no way out of it.  I do want to assure you that I do not have very many suicidal thoughts.  When I do have them, I usually find a way out of them.  Maybe I have clinical depression; I don't know.  It's something I've considered for a while now, but I have limited finances.  And there are more important things to spend my money on than a doctor's visit and medication.  I need food, for one, car and health insurance for another.  By the time my bills are paid, I have no money left even to save.  So my mental and physical health go untreated.  It's been that way my whole adult life. And it will probably continue for the rest of my life.

In April and May, I was on a spiritual high.  I was going where the Lord was leading, I had a good job, I was studying for my associate's degree, I was right where I needed to be.  My dreams seemed to be within reach, and I was excited.

As I adjusted to working in a full time job in a new career (and it's very hard, I assure you!), my joy knew no bounds.  I arrived to work early, ready to start the day, and I found fulfillment in my job.  Everything was going great.  I daily thanked the Lord for the job, for His fulfilled promises, and for His provision.  I couldn't say enough good things about Him.

In July, everything changed.  I lost my job.  To say I was devastated isn't accurate.  As I've mentioned in an earlier post, part of my symptoms of brain damage is the inability to show emotions.  While my employers talked to me and informed me I no longer had a job with them, my emotions shut down.  I admit I was proud of myself for handling the situation as a mature woman.  I didn't cry, didn't scream, didn't plead for another chance.  I accepted it gracefully and calmly.  Inside, though, I was crushed.  I loved the job.  As I crossed the parking lot with a small box of my things, the reality began to hit.  I was now unemployed, with no income.  It took me a good part of the afternoon and the night to sort through all the emotions.  Failure.  Disappointment (this was huge).  Worry (right next to disappointment).  Frustration.  Despair.  Self-loathing.

I did what any normal adult would do.  I immediately sought help from the government and was issued food stamps.  I called my school and got back into career counseling.  It was only to myself that I admitted my self-doubt, my confusion.  Could I really do another position like the one I was fired from?  Was this really where the Lord was leading me?

I spent the next month unemployed and without income.  It felt as if I lost everything, and in a way, I had.  My dreams of being self-sufficient and being a mother crashed.  With the death of my dreams came the depression once again.  Again, I struggled with more and more questions and doubt.

Why struggle so hard when everything gets ripped away from you anyway?  What is the point of pushing forward when I am constantly knocked back to my starting position?  I wasn't ever going to adopt a child; I would never go on a sponsor tour; I would forever be in poverty.  I would always be a failure.  My mother would always be supporting me.  There was no joy in living every day.

My faith hasn't returned to the fire it once was.  I doubt it ever will.  I still believe God is in control.  I still believe everything that has happened has been in His plans for me.  Yet, the darkness has covered my light and my despair has quenched the fire.  I am simply going through the motions of Christianity, with only small bursts of joy and gratitude sprinkled throughout.

Try as I might, I just can't get the fire back.  Even church has become just another part of my week.  I've only been going every other week, to save money on gas.  I watch the sermon online the next week.

Good things have happened, things that I can see God's hand in.  But the lasting gratitude and the praise of every day just isn't there.  Oh, I am grateful for the things that have happened, but my joy only lasts for the day.  The next day, the depression has returned.

One good thing is that I have been working part time.  I have returned to child care out of necessity.  I can quickly find a job in that career, and within a month, I was working again.  However, my hours are not guaranteed, and I am right back to where I was before April; struggling financially and with no end in sight.

Do I see the Lord in this?  Yes, I do.  He is providing me with exactly what I need, when I need it.  Just like always.  Just like He always will.  He is always faithful, and He always will be.  I have no doubt about His faithfulness.

Just this week, I accepted a temporary position that is also part time and will coincide with my schedule at the child care.  I am glad it is temporary, for it is a test to see whether I can regain my confidence, or to seek other educational opportunities.  Perhaps the medical field just isn't for me.  Maybe I should return to child care.  It is a career I know and am comfortable with.  It is something that, though I may not excel in, I am good at.  So why bother trying a new career when it's only going to lead to defeat and failure?  Because something in me wants to fight.  But I can only fight for so long.  Then I give up.  This second chance will prove to me whether I have what it takes to succeed in another career or if I should just seek a degree in early education, a degree that will not pay off monetary.  If I seek this kind of degree, I have to accept the fact that I will forever be in poverty, struggling paycheck by paycheck.

I cannot see the way the Lord is leading me.  Is He still leading me into the medical field?  Or is He leading me back to child care?  The way is not clear anymore.  It is murky and dark.  Even with the confusion and the darkness of depression, I keep putting one foot in front of the other, following the only One who can see the way out.

Even though I have lost my dreams, even though I can see no way out of this darkness and the pit of despair, I will still cling to my Savior, the only One who truly understands the way I am and still loves me with everything in Him.

And maybe one day, the light will return, and I will once again be on fire for the Lord.  Maybe, one day, the joy of living every day will also return.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

GOODBYE BLACK FRIDAY

Black Friday is no longer Black Friday.  Gone are the early hours of the morning, the crowded parking lots, the long lines, the excitement bristling in the air as the rush for an item begins.  Gone is the camaraderie of new friends as we search for items together.  Gone is the fun of traveling from store to store.  Gone is the exhaustion of returning home and crashing back into bed for a few more hours.

Instead, the stores are now  open on Thanksgiving.  Early in the evening rather than late at night. Will we one day say goodbye to this holiday and embrace a crazy shopping day that has replaced Black Friday?

I refuse to go shopping on Thanksgiving.  I do not want this day of gratitude to the Lord and a gathering of families to be replaced with a materialistic day.  Thanksgiving is supposed to be a family day, a day when stores are closed and people can enjoy being with their families.  For the past few years, this day has changed into an early Black Friday.

I miss Black Friday.  Yes, this is a materialistic day, but I did not go out to grab the biggest deal.  I went out mainly to enjoy the craziness. And to finish my Christmas shopping, which was usually something within my budget and not at all expensive.   I miss waking up at 3 in the morning and driving at night to find the parking lot almost full of cars that have grown cold.  While in line, someone would strike up a conversation with me, and we would admit how crazy it was to get up so early in the morning for something that is not going to last.  I miss the camaraderie as people wander through the stores.  Several times, I have pointed them in the right direction.  Several times, I have been pointed in the right direction.  The help did not come from the already frazzled store workers, but from other shoppers.

Two years ago, I went out on Black Friday, like usual.  Rather than the crowds and the fun, I was the only one in the store.  The sales had ended, for the store had opened on Thanksgiving.  This year, I am sleeping in.  This year, I am going to enjoy a day off work and be grateful for what I have.

Will you be like me and refuse to go shopping on Thanksgiving?  Let's bring back the joy and fun of Black Friday, rather than shorten our precious family time.  Let's give the retail workers a day where they themselves are able to enjoy a holiday with their families.  Not only are we sacrificing our families for the sake of a sale, but we are also forcing the retail workers to sacrifice themselves.  Is this fair to the workers?  Should we be so greedy that we forget what is truly important, our families?
Let's boycott Thanksgiving shopping.

Monday, November 17, 2014

CHILD OF GOD

CHILD OF GOD



Throughout my years of the Christian life, I have repeatedly heard the phrase, "I am a child of God."  However, what does that phrase mean?  A child of God?  

When I watch children play and interact with each other, I see the joy and the innocence they portray. Young children believe what you tell them, even if it is not true.  Does the childlike belief portray the meaning of a child of God?  I don't believe so.  The Bible tells us to test what we are hearing and seeing.  When we come to the Lord, we begin with a simple faith, a childlike faith.  As we mature (and children mature as well), our faith matures.  We become a teenager and then an adult in the faith.

I think of 'child of God' as being just that.  New parents will call their baby their son or daughter.  Biological and adoptive parents.  That child will always be their child.  When we first believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God is literally in the hospital room or in the airport (put another place in here), anxiously waiting to see His newest child.  Like all parents, God rejoices over each of His children and celebrates over each rebirth.   Once we become a child of God, we will always be a child of God. 

As any parent, God takes over the responsibility that comes with parenthood.  The frustrations and the joys of watching children grow.  Discipline and patience is needed, and God is no exception.  He teaches His child about Him, about His expectations, and about His grace and love.  Each of us is under His protection, just like a parent protects their child.  Each of us falls under His name.  God takes great pride and joy in each of us.

As a child of God, we can expect acceptance, love, and discipline.  In order to teach us, God has to discipline us.  God takes His role of Father seriously and joyfully.  He will not allow us to wander too far without warning and firm discipline.  When we do wander too far and turn away from Him, God anxiously waits for our return.  When we do return, He embraces us and forgives us.  We are  never too out of reach.

When you sponsor a child through Compassion, you become their second parent, the one they turn to for guidance and love.  We have the blessing of molding a young life, of discipling a child, of showing him/her the greatness of the Lord's love for them.  Will you open your heart and become a parent to a precious child of God?  If you do, please comment below and let me know.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

DOUBTING

I realized the other day that my blog is called one woman's faith journey.  How can I share my journey if I don't share everything?  I seem to focus on things that will uplift others rather than sharing everything.  I will share something that I struggle with when things get hard.  Doubt.  Have you ever been there?  No matter how 'mature' I become in the faith, there will be times when I doubt.

A few months ago, I stood before two roads.  I stayed in one place, praying and listening.  When I thought He had answered, I walked onto one road.  I'll choose the road on the right for this story.  At first, everything goes right.  I am confident this road is the correct one, the one the Lord has led me onto.  The path is smooth; the way is clear.  Everything is bright and new.  Life is full of hope and promise.

After a while, though, the path becomes rocky.  This is where I have been for the past few days.  The way is cloudy.  And I wonder if this is truly the correct path.  Doubts linger.  Have I gone ahead of Jesus?  Was I wrong to where He was leading me?

Right now, I am in a new job and a new career.  I have the education but not the training.  I knew this where the Lord wanted me to be.  The feeling grew as I applied for jobs, got a few interviews, and finally accepted a position.  The faith that this was in God's will is starting to fade.  Doubt is creeping in.  What if I was wrong?

Sometimes it is hard to discern God's will.  A choice remains for me.  Do I continue or do I quit?  What if this rough patch is only a test?  Will I give up just because this period of time is rough?

I have to pause and remember everything the Lord has brought me through.  I have to remember His promises, His reassurances.  I have to remember Him.  I  have to seek Him during this time of doubt.  And only, then, will His will become clear and my faith increased once more.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

HAPPY SECOND BIRTHDAY!

Okay, I don't really know the EXACT date that I accepted Christ.  I do know it was in April of 1994.  Today is the day that I celebrate my salvation birthday.  I have since my first year.

I must say, 20 years is a long time to know the Lord.  Yet  it seems as if it is such a short time.  I want to share some of my lessons of knowing Jesus Christ for 20 long/short years!

First, He is faithful, even when I am not.  There have been times when I just didn't think that serving Him was worth it.  I was tempted to walk away.  One time, I nearly did.  These times of wanting to quit Christianity come when I am at my weakest and my most painful days.  It's hard to keep going when you're in so much pain.

His faithfulness is one of the things I love about Him.  Growing up, I was abused, neglected, and abandoned. My mom would leave me and my sister and head off to who knows where.  We were left with our aunt.  My family is not the best role models.  I became the black sheep of the family, not because of anything I had done, but because of the family's rejection of me.  My family favors one sibling over the other.  The favored one becomes the one that is set up on a pedestal.  The rejected one becomes the scapegoat for anything the favored one does.  Thankfully, Jesus favors me.  He doesn't set me up on a pedestal.  Nor does He refrain from disciplining me.  No, His favoritism is just what I have needed throughout my life.  Just because He favors me doesn't mean that He rejects someone else.  His favor surrounds me, just like it surrounds every one who belongs to Him.

Which leads me to the second thing I love about Jesus.  He accepts me for who I am.  I don't have to pretend to be someone else that I'm not.  I don't have to pretend that I have no feelings, that I am immune to people's insults and rejection.  I can run to Him for comfort, just like I have always wanted to do with my own father.  He doesn't try to sugarcoat or explain my hurt.  He wraps His arms around me and holds me close.  When I try to hide my true feelings from Him, He gently reminds me that He is the One who created me.  He knows me, so why try to hide from Him?  So, I let Him  have it all.  My fears, my excitement, my anger, my disappointments, my pain, my joys, and my doubts.  I confide in Him every feeling that comes my way.  Prayer has become one way of my emotional release.  Jesus doesn't rebuke me for having these feelings.  When I am in His presence, He doesn't rebuke me for things I cannot control (like my memory, losing things, and getting my hopes up only to have them crushed).  His acceptance draws me ever nearer to Him.

The third thing that I love about Jesus is His unlimited love.  I don't have to do anything.  I don't have to say anything.  He loves me.  I can hurt Him, if I really wanted to.  I can slander Him and reject Him.  He will still love me.  His love is limitless and complete.  That means that I cannot earn His love.  I cannot make Him stop loving me. I haven't met anyone with so much love.  He loves me unconditionally.  His love draws me closer to Him.

With everything I have been through these past 20 years, I can say with conviction that Jesus is who He says He is.  My heart is ever entwined with His, and I am eternally His.  My faith  has grown to the point where nothing can separate me from Him.  I know His presence, I have felt His love, and I have seen Him work in my life.  I am strictly His, and there will be no other to replace Him.  He owns my life, my heart, my soul, and my mind.  I am deeply in love with Him, and it continues to grow.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

CHRISTIAN TOLERANCE

There has been much debate about Christian tolerance and intolerance.  Christian businesses are expected to compromise their beliefs over birth control or other spiritual issues.  Christian charities are beginning to go against the Bible.  Pastors are marrying homosexuals.  Disciplining a pastor for marrying a homosexual couple is headline news.  The list grows every day.  Sin, no matter what it is, is glorified and celebrated in today's culture. To stand against the glorified sin is viewed as intolerant.  Christians are being sued and despised for their view on sin.  Either they are ridiculed and possibly jailed, or they must compromise the Bible truths.

I don't usually get into political views or anything that will cause an outrage.  However, perhaps it is time for me to voice my own thoughts in the hope of giving those Christians who are facing the decision to compromise or to fight the strength they need to continue.  I don't want my blog to become a source of hate and bigotry.  Jesus loves people, and so do I.  I am concerned for others, and I accept others for who they are.

This is my take on these issues.  If it offends you, then my salt is rubbing into a wound that needs to be healed.  Pray that the Lord will open your eyes and allow you to see why my words have offended you.  If it doesn't offend you, good.  My salt has not lost its flavor.  Praise the Lord that He is good!

 The world is more accepting of sinful behaviors (not just homosexuality but also adultery and lying, etc) than it used to be even ten years ago!  The church is also more accepting of sin as well.  And more and more Christians are called intolerant because of our stand against sin.  The Bible says to flee from sin, not embrace it.  We are called to be the light in the world, not add to the darkness.  People are going to HELL, and we are expected to whitewash their sin and ignore it rather than confronting it and praying that they will turn away before it is too late.  If we as a church compromise our stand on sin (no matter what it is), how are we shining our light and showing others the way to the Truth, who is Jesus Christ?  The Bible also says NOT to have anything to do with the sinful BROTHER/SISTER.  It is the unrepentant CHRISTIAN (who says self has a personal relationship with Christ) that we are to deal with, not the unrepentant non-Christian.  We are called to judge those INSIDE the church, not outside.  The homosexual should be accepted into the Christian community, but, very lovingly and firmly, told that choosing that lifestyle is sin.  The same  is true for those unfaithful in their marriage, for those who lie, for those who steal, etc (put in another sin).  IF he/she is not repentant, then follow the Bible's instructions in how to deal with them.  What the Bible says (Paul's letters) depends on whether the person claims to be a Christian or not.
And, another thing. . . The Bible says that good will be called evil, and evil will be called good.  This is just one sign of the many signs that Jesus is about to return.  Even though I am saddened by the state of sin in the world, I am not surprised.   Each sign fulfilled brings us closer to Jesus' promised return.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

SPRING FEVER

Okay.  I know.  It's not quite spring time yet.  However, I have a high case of spring fever.  I want to go out for a walk.  I want the children that I work with to be able to go outside.  Trouble is there is still snow on the ground, and it is still very muddy.  Plus, it is still freezing outside, with slightly warmer days giving us hope that winter is ending and spring is coming.  It's still too cold for the children to be outside, for me to go on a half hour walk.
Yesterday, I received a letter from Niphaporn, my beautiful girl in Thailand.  I suddenly had the desire to handwrite a letter to her and to send her some things.  For the past nine months, I have been emailing my Compassion kids response letters.  It saved time, mostly.  And, being in school, I didn't have a lot of time.
I am currently in my last course before I graduate in April.  April 6, to be exact.  I do have an opportunity to pursue my associate's degree.  However, I admit I need a full time job before pursuing that opportunity.  The school has assured me that my associate's degree will only be 5 months, if I want to be considered full time, 8 months if I want to be part time.  I am planning on going for the 5 month one.
I have a strong desire to return to my normal activities before school.  Handwriting my response letters to my kids, keeping up with this blog, getting more involved with church, etc.  I am feeling the stress of learning lift off me.  It is a great feeling.  I now have more time to do the things that I have given up while I was in school. Oh, I am still in school, but the course load is more bearable, and I am able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Another thing that I am going to continue is writing my devotionals.  I haven't written many since June of last year, and I miss it.  I miss encouraging others in their own walk of faith.
With the arrival of spring, I have a high feeling of expectancy.  The Lord is about to do something wonderful. I will be in a new career, for one.  What else He has in store for me, I do not know.  But I can't wait to find out.
If you're feeling drained, emotionally worn out, or depressed, be encouraged.  Jesus has a great plan for you. You are only in this position for a short time.  Continue to grow your faith, to lean more on Him, to be more aware of His great care for you.  Keep looking to Him to bring an end to your troubles (at least until the next one begins).  He is constantly guiding you onto the path He is on.  Keep following Him.  Keep loving Him.  Keep serving Him.  And, one day, your spring fever will come upon you, and you will know with certainty that Jesus is about to do a wonderful thing in you and for you.