New Foundations

For my faithful readers, you have been following a roller coaster ride on the relationship with my mom. I started this blog around 2011…. I think. (Just did a quick archive check… yup, November of 2011)

To do a quick recap (and for anyone that may be stumbling across this for the first time)… at that point in my life I was really struggling with a lot of anger towards her, a lot of temptation to blame her, and a stone cold heart. She’d say mean things to me, blame me for things, tell me I’m wasting time at church; I’d lie about how much I loved her and treated her like a jerk. But, at that time God was really knocking hard at my stone heart, knocking down walls and shining light into deep, dark infected places. The deconstruction began followed by this long, slow rebuilding of a relationship. The ministry of reconciliation that God has called us to mainly comes in sharing the gospel (reconciliation with Him, through faith in Jesus’s sacrifice and resurrection), but I believe it carries out in our relationships with one another. Specifically, I believe God has called ME to be reconciled to MY MOM. (2 Cor 5:11-21, Rom 12:18)

I was not convinced she was a believer at that time in 2011. It wasn’t until her boyfriend who’d been living with us for five years was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and died a month later. It was during that time that the gospel became the most important truth, especially for Jeff. The need for Jeff to believe it allowed us to have conversations that resulted in her accepting, believing, and affirming that the Lord Jesus is her Savior and she will spend eternity with Him in heaven.

After that, everything changed. But, the one thing that was different was I found myself wishing she wasn’t saved so she would suffer for the things I’ve suffered through. Harsh, right?  I think Jonah probably felt similar, but I am ashamed…

So it was clear to me by my attitude that there was a lot of work to do in my heart. So God continued to deconstruct and renovate my heart like the good carpenter he is. This covers the last two years. There’s high points and low points, but it wasn’t until this last Christmas Break that I reached the lowest point and considered giving up on the relationship all together. “I’m done! This woman is infuriating!” I told the Lord on my 5 hour drive home.

I was driving back to Iowa to a conference in Des Moines called “Faithwalkers” where we gather and hear teachings and encouragement from our sister churches all over the midwestern USA. God always has a way of using that time to redirect my life. A pastor of ours shared about trials and how the key to overcoming trials isn’t their finish, but in our endurance. That to endure is God’s prime objective. (Rom 5:3, Heb 10:36, James 1:2-3, Col 1:9-11) If we don’t… what does that say of our faith? So I was encouraged as it says in Colossians to pray this:

 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

May you be strengthened with power… so that you may have great endurance and patience…

I was really struck by that and considered that maybe God wasn’t calling me to give up, maybe this was a lowest of the low points. Maybe God is calling me to endure through the highs and lows of this journey to reconciliation. What I needed was to pray to persevere! God put it on my heart to do a little book study with my mom via the phone, so I mailed her some materials (because at this point I was all too frustrated to talk with her on the phone) and I thought if any thing could help this relationship, surely it was God’s word.

I thought Maybe I can’t trust her yet, and that’s ok. I can rest in the safety of God’s word. 

So each week (it’s been 3 now) we call each other on the phone and for 2 hours or so we study through the gospel answering questions about how Jesus claimed to be God and how we can have assurance for eternal life through faith in the blood of Jesus. There’s questions at the end that ask you to reflect on what you just read and there’s nothing sweeter than hearing my mom say “I’m so grateful for God’s mercy and I’m so glad I know I have eternal life because of Jesus.”

This breaks my heart of stone.

In all of my attempts of reconciliation, I never once realized how what we really needed wasn’t heart to hearts of disclosing past wounds (though there is time for that) or taking unsafe chances of sharing my life with her. What we need is a new foundation built up from the truth of the gospel. It’s there I find courage to confess my sins, to share how the truth impacts my life, to open up about who I am. Its there I build trust with a women who has the Holy Spirit living and active inside of her. It’s possible all of my attempts that seemed more harmful than good to reconcile weren’t useless, but it’s possible (and I pray so much for) that rebuilding our relationship on the word through studying it together will yield greater fruit than my plans to relive and bring up the past ever could have. I don’t mean to say there aren’t things we need to talk about or that everything is forgotten, but rather to allow time for God to knit our hearts together and to allow His word and His timing to reconcile our relationship. By having a relationship built on the trust of the Lord and His word, it makes it possible to talk about past hurts and pains in light of the gospel. It may be that the most glorious thing God will do with my life is to reconcile my relationship between me and my mom. And I pray for that. I’ve always prayed for that… that I would see His glory.

And a glorious thing it will be. Please pray for me. I am encouraged at what God has done in 3 weeks, but I need to depend on the Lord for strength and love and I can’t do it alone. Thank you!

In His love,
Teresa

 

Lost in Transition

I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic lately listening to “For Good” from Wicked. It was the class song of the graduating class above me, and while it wasn’t my class that sang it, in that class was the majority of my friends who would be moving away to college.

Recently, I’ve been listening to that song not because I particularly miss my friends from high school, but it seems I’ve found myself in a similar place once again.

Transitioning out of college has been an adventure in a half. Friends are getting married and moving away, other friends moving out, some changing ministries in the church, some changing churches all together, others getting into relationships, others are having babies, and some are getting full time jobs. It seems that a lot of lives around me are changing and we’re all going places, but it feels kind of like this:
grand-central-terminal

We’re all going somewhere and I jump on for the ride not really sure where I’m going to end up.
The only thing is when the train pulls up to the station and everyone gets off to where they’re going, it feels kind of like this:
Woman on train

and I’m just like… “Where’d everybody go?” And it’s not like I’m not going places with my life right? I’m applying for grad school now to get my Masters and I’m planning a trip to either Greece, Ireland, the Grand Canyon, or maybe Halifax with my roommate. I’m on staff with my church part time and I help out with some down and out kids in our community. My relationship with God is ever growing relative to my humbleness and I get to influence people for Christ. Where I’m going isn’t the problem, but its who I’m with and lately it seems like, now, everyone’s going new places without me and it’s starting to feel a little lonely.

Where I’m going isn’t the problem, but its who I’m with and lately it seems like, now, everyone’s going new places without me and it’s starting to feel a little lonely.

Over coffee (or actually hot cocoa and water) a sister and I were empathizing with one another as we feel we are in similar places since her childhood best friend is getting married and moving away. We joked about how one day, though now pretty content in our singleness, we will really appreciate being in a committed relationship because it semi-guarantees a person will actually stick by your side. They’ll be around, you don’t have to worry about them getting a job that moves them away… they’ll basically never leave you or forsake you, right?

“Sounds like God” one us said. “Yea, funny how that works.” A woman at a bible study gave a message the other day about her husband dying in October and just how lost and purposeless she feels. Even at the end of her life, and me at the beginning, it’s funny the same truth is what fills that space. Through the bitter conquest of war, to the bottom of our pocketbooks, to the loneliness of our hearts and love beyond death God reminds us “Never will I leave you or forsake you.” (Deut 31:6, Heb 13:5)

And while that doesn’t make it easier, it does show us that we’re built for an eternal relationship with our God. We can’t fulfill that in one another, but in the meantime, we can make an impact on one another for a short time. And we do, we help each other grow and grow towards Christ.

And so having the song “For Good” stuck in my head has actually been quite perfect. People come and go in our lives and they make an impact and its sweet or hard, but people change us and God uses them too. And we must learn, maybe as one friend leaves at a time, God’s the one that never leaves, and we can depend on that.

And we must learn, maybe as one friend leaves at a time, God’s the one that never leaves, and we can depend on that.

For Good:

I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those who help us most to grow, if we let them and we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true, but I know I’m who I am today because I knew you…

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you I have been changed for good

It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime so let me say before we part
So much of me is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me like a hand print on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end, I know you have re-written mine by being my friend…

Like a ship blown from its mooring by a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a sky bird in a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you I have been changed for good

And just to clear the air I ask forgiveness for the things I’ve done you blame me for
But then, I guess we know there’s blame to share and none of it seems to matter anymore

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better

And because I knew you I have been changed for good.

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.

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 

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

Good Grandmas

My grandmother was the person who shared Jesus with me the most when I was a child. We always went over to her house for “sunday school” where I generally colored bible story pictures and my brothers did others things with my grandma somewhere else. 

If it wasn’t for her prayers and faithfulness, my salvation wouldn’t have happened the way it did- and I’m grateful! 

I found a book the other day back at home that was dated Dec. 16th 2001. I got this book after I accepted Jesus as my savior, but I’ve never known when that was really. My memories are all mixed up. Now I have a clue and its kind of exciting, like I get to piece my life back together or something. The book is called God’s Love for You and I’ve taken to reading it for quick encouragement. Each “chapter” starts off my saying God cares enough to… (fill in the blank) and some verses. 

God cares enough to… love us unconditionally. 
Romans 5:5-8 “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 

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Grandma and I when I graduated HS. :)

Letting all go.

Here’s a song I wrote a couple weeks ago on the brink of forgiveness.

There’s a child inside of me crying, longing for you.
There’s a darkness that lingers around me, and nothing gets through.

And the strings of this pain that’ve colored this stain,
you’d think they’d pull like a noose.
Yet, I’m here to say when I give Him my pain,
there’s nothing that crumbles this cave like the truth.

Broken I’m falling before you, down on my knees.
Feeling the weight of regret, my soul needs relief.

Oh Father of mercy, please tell me you love me
and Jesus, you cover my need.
For my father before me, he could not protect me
from corruption and all that it reaped.

Here I am. Nothing in hand. Parched in a desert land,
and water comes from your hands.

Forever here I’ll stand, with your promise to the end.
For this world has left me wanting, though measured I have been.

When the wolves cry out to the moon; hungry, they encroach.
Yet laugh at them, though I must, for I will not let go
of the truth that has saved me,
the blood that renamed me,
and the penitence in all of my soul.
The healing He gave me,
the loves that replays in me,
and the freedom of letting all go, gives me hope.

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Nope, not by your own righteousness.

I’ve been reading through the old testament (slowly) for the past couple of months. Though now trekking through the Dueteronomy, I was in Numbers earlier and at several points had a reaction sort of like this:

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Because sometimes it gets a little scary. I was left feeling like Boo who accidentally caught my Father getting really mad and destroying people (Numbers 16:49). It was scary and I didn’t really know how to react. I did however pray that the Lord would give me the right perspective, because its says a bazillion times we should fear God… but I don’t think it should be a fear that keeps us from trusting Him or that makes us run from Him. (But stand in awe of him because he has ALOT of power!) Then I read a verse in Psalm 33:5 that says “The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” God’s wrath is an interesting thing to try and grapple with, but if the Lord LOVES righteousness and justice… he would not punish the innocent. “The Lord detests differing weights and dishonest scales do not please him.” (Proverbs 20:23) God’s promise was that if they (the Israelites) obeyed his commands and kept his decrees, God would bless their lives and keep them from disease along with a lot of other good things (Deut. 7:12-15). He even gave them signs and wondrous miracles in Egypt to prove He was God (7:19). And so I find myself in Deuteronomy feeling more assured that God in fact carries out justice, though it is hard to imagine the depth of their hatred towards God (and yet, I think I can). Better yet, God explains himself clearly (as He always does when I seek) that while He was humbling Israel for the hatred and forgetfulness towards God in the desert for forty years to reveal their true hearts, he was specifically disciplining them like a good father should. As God commanded Israel to defeat certain nations, God points out something very clearly: it was not because of Israel’s righteousness that they were allowed to defeat these other nations as they traveled to the promise land, it was because of those nation’s wickedness. 

Deuteronomy 9:3-6 (Moses is speaking to the Israelites) “But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out quickly, as the Lord has promised you. After the Lord has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on the account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to posses, for you are a stiff necked people.”

God will punish the wicked. That’s a hard to truth to tell, but I’m grateful that He does because that means justice. I think its hard to watch people die, and I’m sure it breaks God’s heart too as he desires all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), but from reading the Old Testament I can trust that God really does love righteousness and justice and He wouldn’t punish those who didn’t deserve it. It’s hard to imagine that people are so turned away from God, so cold, and distant… but it’s true. All God asks is that we turn from our stiff necked ways and fear Him, remember what He has done (in our lives and on the cross) to give him the glory He deserves

If I don’t trust, while reading about God’s wrath, that He is still good and loving, my understanding of God starts to fall apart. When I start making excuses for people’s sins, I start giving the devil a foothold to take my perspective of God and twist into something that isn’t true. Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding… right?

 

I’m thankful I have a mighty savior who stands to test against my questions and give me answers. 

Getting a grasp on life: thought for the night.

Often I reach out to take a hold of life, yet when it’s passing in my midst to finally enfold in my hands- alas, my circumstances prevail pulling it farther away, reminding me this is not what God itends but that I reach for Him instead. 

 

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,  that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,  for in him we live and move and have our being; […] for we are indeed his offspring.   Acts 17:24-28 

Praise Christ for dying and rising back to life and calling those He has and will, to be a child a God.

Cheers. 

Loving the Lord’s discipline.

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?… Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Hebrews 12:7, 10-11

A Reflection on the past 6 months. 

Never in my life have I experienced such a radical change in my relationship with God. I remember the start of really struggling with God and it starts back with my pride and my unwillingness to work hard… maybe around December. As months passed, I can look back in my journal and see how cold my heart grew as winter began fading. Anger towards God raged more and more, and it seemed that not so long ago I had been skipping class to read the Bible. I had to leave my bible at home it was becoming so distracting for me. Especially towards the end of the semester, a dear sister would pray with me and every word she spoke caused nothing but torment to come pouring out of my soul. Surprisingly she still stuck with me, and still kept praying. What I would have done without her patience, I just don’t know. 

In my heart, at that time, there were a lot of reasons I didn’t want God to be apart of my life and there were a lot of times I would yell at Him for not answering me to unlock my heart and expose my brokenness. By the end of the semester I was in tears a lot and just barely hanging on… and not only that, I was hit with a virus called Pityriasus Rosea… or what I like to call Leprosy. It spread all of over my body and BOY DID IT ITCH! I couldn’t even take showers without my body being drenched in frustration… you see, I couldn’t itch because it only made it worse… so fighting temptation became its own battle. God was stirring up a fire. 

Yet, when He begged me to open my heart… I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let him in. 

After school ended, I spent the next month pretty much weeping every night before bed. So fed up with my heart, that I couldn’t part with it, and now a new burden crossed my path. My dad wouldn’t call me back. For three months I waited, trying not to expect too much from Him, trying not to put my hope in him; but it hurt and it felt unfair that while the rest of the world looked forward to phone calls with their dads… I couldn’t… and it was obvious that God was inhibiting our relationship and a lot of other relationships in my life during that time to break me down. Eventually God did. He wore me away and showed me that I was rebellious and sinful.

This sin was unbelief. Doubt. 

Apparently I wasn’t putting my trust in God and His truth. Turns out, you have to believe it… and choose to believe it. It didn’t seem like God was good because I just wasn’t believing His truth, nor was I reading it. This is why God disciplines us. Oh how I longed for the days of old, but God wanted me to fight through this battle and come out on the other side. 

“Love the Lord’s discipline” 

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

It was hard to do, but through God revealing my rebellious heart to me, He showed me He was in fact disciplining me… because He loves me. It is hardly a joking matter to be humbled or disciplined, this I see and know first hand. If I could describe the last half of a year all I can say is “Hard.” Through God’s hand of discipline, and how severe it was… I see that God allowed all the situations in my life that I thought were merely humbling to take my heart and say “Hey, Teresa. You are not believing in me or my truth. Stop. Believe my words. I will never leave you nor forsake. Believe my words, with all your heart, mind, body, and strength.” 

I chose to believe it again. I chose to believe God is good. I chose to believe He has the best for me in mind. I’m continually choosing to believe His love is better than life. I’m continually choosing to believe He is, and was, and is to come. I chose to LOVE the Lord’s discipline because it is a mark of His love. Amen.