Could this be love?

Your embrace felt like roses; your touch as warm rain
Your smile like sunshine
and if friendship could sing.

Like dew drops collecting, as when laughing begins
is this care that I’m carrying for you,
my dear.

Between sunsets and memories, there begins something to stir.
Between poets and melodies, a new life has emerged.

Like sweetness, aromas; like heartbeats and cheers
A heart of forgiveness now brings me,
so near.

I dare, can I taste it? Can I hear it begin?
Can I feel its sweet delicacy? Can I see it take wing?
Not, I could mock, to a lover I sing.

But one mother will do.

My mother, my heart.
I think I too love, though you’ve loved from my start.

Why I like cats and how I’ve realized affirmation is really important to me.

Growing up, I was a cat lady. Good thing I got it out in my younger years. I didn’t spend much time with others (though I loved having the occasional sleep over) and by others I mean my brothers. They were mean and didn’t play very well (it wasn’t all bad). I don’t remember my mom and dad being around all that often either (I’m pretty sure they both worked places and farmed so they were busy). All this led to me playing by myself A LOT. Or actually, I was in quite good company since I usually had somewhere between 30 and 50 feline friends that followed me everywhere.
Raised many an orphan kitten, and also witnessed many a best friend die. We even had a cat graveyard next to the house. Life on the farm. It’s sad, but you learn to grieve quickly I guess.

One thing I realized is that, having a relationship with a cat is relatively easy when it comes to communication.
When you pet them (usually a pleasurable experience for yourself since they’re so soft and cute!) they are equally gratified and you can tell by the roaring motorboat inside their throat. You feel good about petting them, because they like to be petted and there’s a good experience from being able to tell plus the equal physical gratification because like I said, they’re so cute and soft.

When it comes to people though… they just don’t purr the same way. Sometimes people like to pretend their happy when they’re mad or they’re sarcastic when they mean well.

It’s confusing!

If a cat’s mad, they like scratch you and stuff. If you want to pet them and they don’t want you to, it’s really clear. “Thanks cat, got the memo! And a new scar.”

Not that I’m recommending people start scratching each other. Besides Proverbs 12:16 says a fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.

I however, maybe from just how I developed my communication skills (from cats) really appreciate clear communication when it comes to serving others. Do you appreciate what I’m doing? Am I doing it right? Should I do something different? Was this at all helpful? Should I come back again? Should I never come back again?

Affirmation is defined as a noun meaning (secondly) having emotional support or encouragement. It also says under that “the lack of one or both parents’ affirmation leaves some children emotionally crippled”. That’s interesting for me too. Sometimes I think we develop our “relational needs” from noticing we were missing something. I guess if it’s always being met, you probably don’t notice it’s missing too much.

Our church and our church’s movement has been talking about 10 relational needs:
Acceptance- feeling like you belong
Affection- need to be shown love, words or touch
Appreciation- need to hear gratitude
Approval- “I’m ok with you, I like you, I’m good with you”
Attention- maybe obvious, someone to give us the time of day
Comfort- feeling close, someone cares, “someone shares in the hurt with me”
Encouragement- someone’s there when we are discouraged
Respect- honored and valued
Security- having a commitment
Support- someone to be along side of you to help

Here’s a good message by one of my pastors on the topic!

I think affirmation probably covers quite a few of them. For me I think it encompasses: respect, acceptance, approval, encouragement, support, appreciation… I suppose maybe the others.

For me this comes into play the most when I’m serving people. I was doing someone’s dishes the other day and internally I have an incredible insecurity because I’m just not sure if what I’m doing is actually helpful. Or I was giving someone a back massage and I just wish they would tell me whether or not I’m wasting both of our times or if it’s actually beneficial. It’s very interesting.

Through reflecting on those experiences and petting a cat today I’ve concluded cats are really good at giving affirmation. Luckily, I’ve developed healthy relationships with more people and less cats. However, meeting one another’s relational needs is a lot harder to do… probably because we’re made in the image of God and all that… but here’s to fighting the good fight- and loving one another and building one another up in love!

Carry on in faith and love!

-Teresa

Song of Deliverance

As goodness seeps into the air, like dew and morning fog
A deeper longing starts to grow and settle on my heart.
A whisper from a distant dream, no- memories; they’ve all been mine.
Not the yet unachieved, but past is this constant dream
Speaking to me of deliverance.

In tiny fears, no instead tiny hands where fears first started to grow
as trials mended, spoiled, and tempted, where desperation I started to know.

In my mind and soul, as the world taught me to see, trust was given to nobody
it was You who helped me breathe.
Every last, though I resisted and painted a different kind of dream
one that schemed of endless bleeding brought forth from suffering.

Thankfully, you had a sweeter dream.

Even yet before that time, your dream was coming fully alive.
Though penitence may have been mine, it was your drawing and love:
I became Thine. You had still, greater deliverance in mind.

Within that suffering when I despaired, regretting every sense of hope
Abandoning truth, power, and strength… I stretched forth to find my own.
Yet your hand still beside me though I refused to pay any kind of attention to your love.
I thought I’d be better off.
My eyes wide shut.

Though a calloused stone, once called my heart, occupied this cavity
with time and distance you gently melted me
in time to remember why I’d left so long ago
only to be met by a God with might, His love that he loves to show.
Any reason can you guess to make this sinner whole?

And then from there, if there’s a yet to go, freedom began to fill this soul!
From mountains and valleys, building bridges again.
You’ve taken me back to the world I was first delivered in.
With bitterness, malice flowing away. Instead in its place- fountains of grace!

Oh and you see this isn’t even the end. The greatest deliverance has yet to begin!
From this old world to the eternal next, from Jesus’s blood- the first, the last.
I did taste and see, in my heart when I believed.
And then when mighty waters rise, I will not be reached.
You are my hiding place, my protection, my peace.
He surrounded me with songs
Of deliverance!

 

Tangible Peace.

I was just thinking of that verse… why be anxious, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus… you know, that one that requires you to actually go and do something before God to find his peace.  

Often times, my heart is dissatisfied by this “intangibleness” of God which is clouded in doubt, like that’s where my doubts stem from. I’ve been learning lately, that there’s something very real and unique that God puts in our hearts (something that is clearly felt) when we lean on him and depend on him and that’s peace

I was finding myself in an anxious place just earlier. Coming before God and hearing his truth about walking in love that doesn’t insist on its own way; I was asking God to reveal my heart and he did. After coming to him with conviction from what I was lacking (love and trust) I was led to remembering his grace through forgiveness by Christ (he knows my weakness and loves me still; he will work with me to grow). Then I just have this peace. A changed heart: from anxious anger to peace. What a tangible proof of God’s love. “Thank you for peace, Lord, it’s such a tangible proof to me,” is what I said to him. It’s been such a blessing and a reward I don’t deserve especially since my anxiousness usually stems from sin… and instead he gives me peace. What a great God we have! 

May we all come to him with our anxious hearts and find his glorious peace!

 

-Teresa 

Heart of Stone.

After 21 years of breathing, I’d have figured what it means to love. But even at your touch mama, your touch it makes me writhe, from all this painful and broken loneliness that still lingers here inside. 

Oh I’ve been trying hard, in vain,
to keep it from seeping into the outside, like some lie.
But I think we both know that when this heart of stone melts, it’s the only part left to show, and it’s been pouring out on this drought. 

And so I’m sorry what you’ve seen is this angry part of me that’s gripping on to the past: just hoping for redemption, though my soul already knows:
I’m forgiven. You’re forgiven.
Now it’s time to let it all go. 

Honestly, here’s this part of me that really just wants you to know,
intimately, my utter agony.
Yet I’m sure you’ve got enough of your own.

Oh my soul, just let it all go. 
Please my soul, just let it all go.

After 21 years of breathing, I’d ought to have figured out what it means to love.
Maybe by that perfect example shown to me by a greater blood. A price paid with pain, so what would I gain mama, making you feel the same way?

Vengeance was never mine to pay, yet taken upon One by the same greater blood, by a same greater love.

And even now I have this shame.
Oh how I’ve been nothing but a fool. Spirit help me live in grace.

“The greatest gift you can give a man, is to give him grace to live again” green river ordinance, better love.

The Resistance.

If you haven’t heard of Josh Garrels or have checked his pretty rad lyricist skills. You should. Here’s an easy link to his sampler album.

And here’s a song I’m digging lately: The Resistance.

“I was born into a system constructed for failure
It’s a sinking ship manned by drunken sailors
An escape artist behind the bars of a jailor
An asthmatic attack when we forgot the inhaler
If the shoe doesn’t fit what good is a tailor
In the midst of a crisis please cancel the gala
Without a symphony there’s no need for a prelude
To foreshadow what’s to come. 

See the secret committees, commence with their meetings
To make red tape in response to simple questions
Questions threaten the perception of the beneficial systems
A pyramid scheme with it’s cogs and it’s pistons
Mechanization of men, making more and more
Live in a miserable exhistance
How can so few, claim so many victims
And this begs the question

My rest is a weapon against the oppression
Of mans obsession to control things
Look at the long line of make believe kings
The lord of the flies want’s you to kiss his ring
Follow new rules with invisible strings
And become a puppet in the diabolical scheme
How do good men become part of the regime?
They don’t believe in resistance.

Hold fast like an anchor in the storm
We will not be moved

Lesson number one, overcome
Every fear of regret and confusion
It’s all illusion, delusion
Sent to disconnect the holy fusion
Of spirit and the flesh
Every mortal breath, is meant to bring forth fire
But only when the fear of death, gets consumed
On the funeral pier
So let the flames rise higher
Let every man be considered a liar
If he doubts the goodness and faithfulness of God
Itching ears will compulsively nod in approval
When unbelief is taught in all our temples and schools
But God can restrain the madness of a fool
He can bring His truth through the mouth of a mule
You can move an mountain without any tools
It just takes the faith of a little seed
to make a way through what might seem to be
Impossibility,
And the ability will match the occasion
The outcome will defy explanation
The liberation will not be televised
When it arrives like lightning in the skies

Hold fast like an anchor in the storm
For your love, we will rise and overcome
Through the fire

Hold fast my people and sing
Through peace and through suffering
All for the joy that it brings, to be free
It’s gonna cost us everything
To follow one Lord and King
True love endures everything
To be free

Hold fast, like an anchor in the storm
We will not be moved

 

Carry on in faith and love

-Teresa

Ahhh, a new creation.

A week and a half before graduating from college and moving out of the dorms, I lost my student ID. Sure. This happens all the time. Not that big of a deal. I’ve lost it time and time again, once even in Ukraine where it ended up on my porch in a lost suitcase from an exchange student traveling to Iowa State after losing it in the basement of some catacombs (now that’s a fun, long story for another time). Somehow it always finds it’s way back to me.

The picture on it is from before freshman year of college. I was tired and hot, and when the lady who took it asked if I wanted a different picture I sighed in exhaustion saying “I don’t really care, it’s fine.” To get a new one, it cost $25 and being a poor college student putting aside (generally) every penny to pay off my loans, I was satisfied with this picture of grungy, tired Teresa.

The problem with losing it a week and half before the end of the semester (and really not being able to find it anywhere) was that I only had a week and half left to the end of the semester. I was graduating! Why would I want to spend $25 for one week of class? Then someone pointed out that I’d be losing a lot more because I wasting some meals for our dining center. (I had like 15 left @ $10/ meal = a lot more than $25) So I caved and got a new ID. The lady wasn’t very amused at the photo place when I tried to share the story. Walking out from the office, I stared down at my shiny new ID that I would use for the last week of school.

It was my new picture that really caught my attention.

Four years is a lot of time to go by. Looking at this new picture, I started to reflect on the difference between freshman Teresa and soon to be graduated Teresa. (As I am now, Praise God!)

My old ID had a this grungy picture, and when I looked at it, all I ever thought about was that person… most of the time it made me shudder. Seriously. I was a broken, messed up kid. Looking at that picture, it just reminded me of all sin I was entangled in, all the anger, the hurt, the strife and I remember only my longing to escape the life I was trying to run away from.

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Then four years go by. God comes and rescues me from the pit, from the mire, and places me in a family of believers that comes a long side of me; struggling to fight the good fight, who are running to win the prize, and who want to love Jesus with all of their life… and with that for me came redemption, reconciliation, restoration, and reverence for my God, the God who paid for my sins on a cross and binds up my broken heart. Because of that I have a new identity. The old has passed the new has come. 2 Corithians 5:17 says “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come”. 

John 1:12-13 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Now I have this new ID, this new identity card, to remind me just of that. I’m a new creation, I’m not who I once was. And I’m quite glad I lost that ID because I don’t need old Teresa to identify me anymore.

Colossians 3:3-4
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

And we all are for those who’ve accepted Christ. I’m so thankful God gave me such a neat perspective. Almost like I just needed to lose that thing!

Carry on in faith and love!
-Teresa

Man of Many Mistakes.

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I leave a trail of mistakes behind me like leaves caught in the autumn wind. Maybe you can share that experience.

I lose things. I act like a fool. I follow my own heart way too often. I let my emotions seep out too far and they get the best of me. I speak when I should listen and forget to listen when I’m trying to listen. If there’s ever a gracious word to say, I usually think it after the conversations over (after I’ve already dug myself 6 feet in the ground). I forget things all the time.

Wisdom always seems to be the opposite of what I actually do. (Sure there’s moments, but those are few and far in between)

Most of the time the only “wisdom” I experience is when I look at other people’s lives and say… you know that’s really not a wise thing to do. Sometimes I think that way about Bible stories, forgetting I have the advantage of how the story ends. Such as with Joseph. I’ve thought to myself “You know Joseph, if you wouldn’t have shared those dreams you probably wouldn’t have ended up in the pit.” Or maybe Samson, if he hadn’t entrusted himself to that woman, he probably wouldn’t have lost his strength. Or Dinah: maybe if she hadn’t wandered off into the city alone, she wouldn’t have been raped. Adam and Eve… if you just wouldn’t have eaten from that tree. (Not that this criticism is right, but this is my tendency).

For those of us living in the mistake, it can be really discouraging to hear someone say, “Well you know… if you would have done this… if you would have known” because it’s too late. I’d do a lot of things differently if I had wisdom staring at me right in the face at every decision I make with a helpful arrow or maybe real life subtitles projecting in front of me. Problem is, wisdom must searched for like silver and hidden treasure (Proverbs 2:4).

But, what about that big trail of mistakes following me around like leaves in the autumn wind? What do I do with the ones where I missed all the words of wisdom flashing in bright and blinding neon lights?

Well, I was reading in Acts a bit recently and found this really encouraging, its the common told story of the storm when the apostle Paul was on his way to stand on trial in Rome for declaring Christ had come, and died, then rose back to life as the long awaited Messiah foretold. This is what it says:

Acts 27:18-25  We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.

God’s plan was to have Paul stand before Caesar. We know this because an angel told Paul. While, yes, the crew all missed the big arrow and subtitles in the sky saying that a big storm was coming (Paul mentions this before they leave) and ended up in the storm anyway, God was still faithful to accomplish his will. Paul was going to end up where he needed to be, at Rome, no matter what. And that’s what Paul says to the men to encourage them: that God will do what He has told He will do.

I think there’s great encouragement to be taken from this. At least that I take from this. Regardless of my mistakes, God will be working greatly. Regardless of the times I say the wrong thing or go the wrong direction, pull the wrong lever, make the wrong choice… God’s plan will be accomplished. We see that in His nature from the very beginning after Adam and Eve sinned and how Eve will bear a child [Jesus] that will crush Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15), God’s will was being accomplished even through their mistake. And so it goes for the rest of creation and even up to me and the rest of us until eternity.

Romans 8:28 For we know, God works all things for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his great purpose.

Maybe my trail of leaves is just proof that God’s power is made perfect in weakness as I walk humbly with my Lord, in the house of God forever.

When in Peace.

I’m not sure how many people have this experience, but do you ever reach a point when you’re not really in the midst of a huge trial that plunges you into the word and prayer and tears night after night… and then you’re like “what do I do now?” 

I’m out of the valley… now what? Besides the (maybe) obvious answer that is “PRAISE GOD!” I was reading in 2 Chronicles and found this example really fitting: 

Chapter 14: During the reign of Asa, King of Judah:
Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He removed the foregn alters and the high places, smashed the sacred stones, and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to obey his laws and commands. He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him. He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace. No one was at war with him during those years, for the Lord gave him rest. 
“Let us build up these towns,” he said to Judah, “and put walls around them, with towers, gates, and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the Lord our God; we sought him and he has given us rest on every side.” So they built and prospered. 

Later when an army comes, Asa and his army rely on the Lord and they defeat their enemies, the Cushites. 

I think Asa had a couple options here. He could have used this down time to tell everyone to catch up on their sleep, hang out, eat all day (though I’m sure there was celebrating), shoot the breeze. Instead he has them build up their walls and prepare for the future. He took the time of rest to fortify the walls and build up the towns. 

This encouraged me a lot. How do you use your time of peace? Do you use it to veg out, watch TV (insert potential menial task here) or do you spend it in the word and pray, building up your fortitude? 

I generally walk around my room aimlessly. This semester compared to last semester has been incredibly different! While, yes, I still come across things I need to work on and grow in, God’s given me a lot of peace time this semester. Last semester with Jeff dying and me having to drop out of a class after almost failing 3, there was a lot of time I spent in the word and prayer because I knew if I didn’t I wouldn’t make it through anything. (Yet, I think I am still convinced of this even now) 

I have a couple options here. I could use this mountain top time for my worldly pleasures, maybe reading less, or I can use it to grow my spiritual armor, my defense. The truth is, you never know when the next battles coming. If I want to stand strong, I better use this time to fortify my heart with the truth… so when enemies come, I can fight them off. Might be some old stones that need replacing or some holes that need mending. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Cor 16:13-14)

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Let’s fortify the city! 
Carry on in faith and love!

-Teresa

A Letter to my Mother.

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Kido immediately jumps on my shoulders whenever I come home.

At home in Wisconsin for Spring Break! Feels a little more like winter break though. When I got home, I was happily greeted by my cat and an otherwise empty house. My room was ice cold because its been closed off since I left home last in January and the fridge was surprisingly empty. (These details are important because it leads to me walking aimlessly around the living room for a few minutes)

Then I stumbled upon a letter my mom had stored in a picture frame on our mantle. I remembered writing it, but I hadn’t remembered what it was really about so I took it out. I wanted to share it because I remember God convicting me to write this to show my mom gratitude and to focus on thinking about “what is pure, what is true”: what is good. It was good for my heart to do. Not to boast in my self, but to give God glory because He is the perfecter of our faith and the reconciler of our relationship with Him through Jesus that overflows into our relationships with others. Mother’s Day is coming up in a couple of months, maybe consider writing your mom a letter to tell her how special she is to God and to you regardless of your past experiences! Whatever is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things! (Philippians 4:8)

To my beautiful mom, “Walk beside me and be my friend”-Albert Camas
Love. If I can say anything first, its that I love you! Even in all ways I fail to express it, I do. I’m so glad to call you my mom because I see so much of God’s love through you. You always sacrifice for me and you’re willing to do pretty much anything for me. I really appreciate it and I thank God for you. He guides us on a great journey through life and I’m so glad that we are on that journey together.
The failings and trials along the way: I can’t count them, but only to attest that God is far greater than ourselves and that He can overcome anything. Besides, there are too many things to be grateful for to waste time thinking on the things that are harder to be thankful for. Thanks for always providing for me even when it was hard, thanks for always being there for me, teaching me things, and making me work hard, even when I didn’t want to. I see how hard you work and how you made so much out of so little. I’m proud of you. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without you.
I love my beautiful mom because she taught me how to serve people and how to have joy in life. She continually teaches me through her life that God loves us a lot, has made the greatest sacrifice: himself; and shows me that we can have life and have it abundantly. Though we are far apart, like with God sometimes, she loves me still, unconditionally.
So thank you mom! I want to honor, respect, and serve you that the world may see God’s restoring power and love through our relationship which is always being transformed into something greater than ourselves.
Loving and humbly, Teresa
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” 2/21/13

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My mom and I at the west coast in May 2012

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that is may benefit those who listen….Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph 4:29,32)

Carry on in faith AND love! (1 Cor 13:2b)
-Teresa