Monday, December 27, 2010
I am between quarters at Bethel and the first quarter was an amazing experience. I can't recap all that happened but there were so many lessons inside and outside of the classroom. I particularly appreciated the wisdom of our professors and the safety of the environment at Bethel. I feel cared for and nurtured and unafraid to ask questions, and this is a college! I would say making students feel cared for is outside the scope of any college's objective. Aren't they just there to educate? But I think that what they do for us is really what Bethel is all about. Oh yeah, and I did actually learn things about leadership and Bible interpretation! At least I had my view of these things expanded. It was awesome. I would not trade it.
I don't know if I've blogged about where God has us right now as far as serving in a faith community? In the fall we moved to the Chisago Lakes campus of Maranatha to attend and serve. We've been teaching Sunday school, children's church and now Dennis is teaching an adult Sunday school class. We pretty much do all of our "work" together. He helps me with children's church (which he didn't sign up for!) and I help him with the adult class if I have no little ones for Sunday school. We've been so blessed too in that Faith has had awesome Sunday school teachers - so dedicated and committed. They do a really nice job and teach the kids more than I've ever seen before. My experience is that sundays for kids are basically glorified babysitting with a little learning mixed in. I love Denise's (our kid's program director) focus on learning for them. We are really making disciples under her leadership!
I could go on and on because every day seems like an exciting new thing happening. Really there is never a day without God guiding us or teaching us something about Himself. I believe Dennis is on the verge of having his own business, which is a life long dream for him. God has been working with both of us to get that done.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
I am reading a book called "The Hole In Our Gospel". I had requested it from the library weeks and weeks ago. I didn't know much about it except that it is on Greg Boyd's reading list and I know that Woodland Hills (our first church home as a married couple) is very concerned with and involved in ways to help the poor. Turns out my book has a very similar theme!
Maybe a year ago already, Dennis and I prayed to work together if it was God's will. We wanted to support our family, side by side, instead of in different places each day. I have seen that prayer being answered step by step in our personal and church life. And now it looks like He's getting us on the same page in other ways through two different books!
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Two days ago, I was on the second to last chapter and God opened my spiritual "eyes" to see what He has been doing in our home, with our children, in our small group, and in His plans for our ministry. It was an experience I definitely would never want to forget. I have a sense today that all the good God would have for us would completely overwhelm us if we could comprehend it. It was only a couple hours of quiet time and I was in awe. Honestly, I thought I would bust. I'm guessing that would sound unbelievable because how could there be too much of God's glory? I pray you find out for yourself!
Saturday, August 14, 2010
We arrived and Mom and I started catching up and Faith played with her favorite toys at Grandma's. We prayed for whatever needs came to mind over about a five hour period. Some situations we could feel a shift in immediately. It was awesome. Mom had to work, so we went with her to Ladysmith and Faith and I played at the park until she was done. The three of us headed to the Rusk County Fair afterwards and stayed there until about 6:45pm when a very menacing storm blew in. We left and went to Wal-Mart to buy a few things and then went back to Mom's house. We left Winter without seeing any thing I would call life changing or earth shattering. I am trusting God that what I sense about this day being a big deal is going to be made known down the line. And if I know God, what was happening in the heavens might just bring me to my knees.
I remember asking God, shortly after we realized we were in the middle of a train wreck, why He had allowed us to buy it. He could have stopped the process. To top it off, we had prayed and prayed over the decision. His answer was that many people would come to Christ in this house. I held onto that through some very, very bumpy years. I didn't know how these people coming to Christ would manifest and I really didn't believe we'd have much to do with it except maybe praying. I figured whoever lived here after us would see it come to pass. I was barely a Christian and we weren't extremely social people. I also didn't believe we'd be here very long.
To avoid foreclosure, the mortgage company gave us a modification which made our payments higher and added onto our debt. And then within a year, they were willing to give us another one. By this time I had learned that adding to our payment was going to hurt us so I said "no way". Dennis and I don't usually make big decisions until we are in agreement. Dennis reminded me that on the 2nd modification he felt God was saying that he wanted us to accept it. My response was "then God is going to have to change my heart" and He did. My aunt, who has only called a couple times in over ten years, called and talked to me about foreclosure. It was the Friday before the Monday that our house was supposed to be sold at a Sheriff's sale. We accepted the 2nd modification, which rose our payment more. Does this make sense to you? It didn't to me. And we still hadn't progressed to the point where we were close to having good money management skills.
Round three, our only working car died. We had to choose between a cheap car and the mortgage payment. Our credit was trashed and actually by this time both of us wanted nothing to do with more credit, even if we could've gotten a loan. So once again we faced foreclosure. This time I was adamant - no way, no how. If (and that was a big "if") we could get a modification, I was not, under any circumstances accepting it unless it lowered our payment. God was a big enough God to meet me where I was at and I thought I was standing firm on His principals. Surely He would not want us to take on more debt. That thought was insane. We had started going to money management classes at our church and had consulted a few different debt counseling agencies. At this point, every person we talked to advised us to file for bankruptcy. Our situation was impossible. If you are a Christ follower, you know that nothing is impossible with God. The Bible says He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and all we have is His. It was about time to start believing that if He wanted us here, he would provide.
By modification #3, we had been through two different money management classes and I had a dollar figure in mind for what our payment should be based on our income. Lots of stuff had changed since we moved in. We had learned a lot, implemented a lot of what we learned, cut expenses, increased our income and could comfortably make some payment. And my husband was getting raises and promotions in the midst of an economic downturn. God was definitely in the middle of it all. About 6 months into this default and 6 months before the modification was signed, God had told me that our situation would be resolved with a 5/1 ARM. If you don't know what an ARM is, it is an adjustable rate mortgage. And a 5/1 ARM means it adjusts one time after 5 years. This totally boggled my mind. With a house that wasn't worth what we owed and cruddy credit, how would we get a new mortgage? And mortgage companies were no longer giving out mortgages like candy, especially ARMs, which were being blamed for the tremendous real estate crisis our country was facing.
After months and months, one day a modification offer showed up on our doorstep. We didn't know it was coming but when I saw the FedEx envelope, I knew what it was. I had just had a conversation with my closest Christian friend before it arrived and we were talking about the possible foreclosure. She and her husband were also going through the process and were on their third modification. God is so good and gracious to us. We were chatting and I said "$1600 is the limit. If we get a modification more than that, I'm not signing." On paper, that's all we could afford and that was my line in the sand. And she said, "If it's a little more, you could get a part-time job or something." That nudged my line and I agreed. The modification came and the new payment amount was $1611.16. It was also a 5/1 ARM. I was overwhelmed with the way God had cared for us and I wept.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Dennis (my husband) has a deep concern for politics in our country. It's part of who he is as a person. His service to the Lord has been held back by his concern for the safety of his family. In our country right now there is talk of a "national terrorist list" that is rumored to contain the names of "radical" (read fundamental, non-conforming) Christians. I don't know the truth of this matter but our adversary (the devil) has successfully scared plenty of Christians into hiding. On this July 4th Sunday, after hearing Pastor Mike speak, Dennis knew that he now would have to give us (myself and our children) up to the Lord and embrace his calling, even if it meant severe consequences. Interestingly I had my own revelation that intersected his.
Until Sunday, I was never quite sure if I could stand a test of physical torture without renouncing my faith. So many of our fellow Christians die around the world because they won't stop worshiping God or renounce Jesus Christ as their savior. I desired to be that faithful but in my heart I wasn't sure. It seemed as if I woke up on Sunday with the revelation that I am ready to die for my faith. I'm sure there were hours of prayer and some Bible reading in between but it seems like it was my first thought of the day. I told Dennis I had a proclamation and asked him for his full attention. He was doing laundry before church and he stopped to listen. I needed him to know how serious my conclusion was and that it wasn't an off the cuff, casual thing. I was finally ready to die for my faith. I knew exactly what I'd do if ever faced with it - I would pray for those inflicting the torture - and I knew God would be with me and strengthen me. And I knew that our life was about to take a turn. When Pastor Mike spoke on Sunday and Dennis came out of church completely convicted and sharing with me that he knew he had to now take action politically, I knew even more that things were about to change. I'm not sure how our revelations will play out but one thing is for sure. In the end we want to be known as faithful servants of the Lord God Almighty.
Monday, May 3, 2010
What was common in this girl's house that you hear alot about with families involved in drugs was abuse. The girl had been raped as a child, her sibling was almost molested in the town they lived in by a store owner's son, and sexual depravity was a part of every day life. There was also physical abuse. The girl's sibling was mentally handicapped and often was the brunt of the rage inside her parents that they tried to keep at bay with the drugs. (they too had seen their share of the worst of human behavior before becoming parents) As a result the girl and her sibling grew up as you might expect. The girl was promiscuous and repeatedly abused sexually and mentally by different men and the sibling became a rageful addict. It's a sad, sad story but I won't leave you there. I promise there will be a happy ending because I wouldn't be telling it unless there was. I love happy endings! BUT, I have to warn you that the tough stuff isn't over yet.
The first big turning point in the life of this family came when the girl was about to go into high school. One of her parents "customers" threatened to turn them into the police for a deal gone bad. At this time, her parents were growing marijuana in their basement and in a farmer's field a few miles from their house. There was a very frantic purging of the illegal plants from the home and by the grace of God, the parents quit the pot and pills. I think that's amazing. It's completely logical to imagine them disposing of their stash, but to quit drugs altogether is a bit of a miracle. Years and years of use and abuse ended in a moment that shook them at their core. I never asked the girl's parents what they were thinking or why this particular incident was any different than any other scary thing they had been a part of while involved with drugs, but somehow it changed everything.
After they got out of the "business" and quit using, the girl's mom got her GED and enrolled in college. Her dad also got his GED and eventually enrolled in college. Everyone was on their way to changed lives. But that doesn't happen over night and for the kids, a foundation had been laid that was not going to be changed without some big time intervention. The girl was to graduate high school the year her mom graduated from college. She got pregnant the summer between her junior and senior years and graduated before her mom. The father of her child abandoned them and she raised him as a single parent for many years. I know that she was always grateful that something inside her wanted a different life for herself and her child. It drove her to enroll in college shortly after graduating, it drove her to take 2 jobs most times, it drove her to get out of bed when she didn't feel she could. She wanted everything from her past to end with her. She was resolute that the legacy they would leave was going to be different and that came from deep inside her. I don't know what you call it, but I call that God.
It would be so neat if everything was perfect from that point on and there was no more hurt. Unfortunately, because we're all human and because there was no God in their lives, there would be more destruction. In college she dated someone and found out after the relationship ended that she was pregnant. Abortion seemed completely logical. She couldn't imagine raising another child alone. In case you don't know anyone who has ever had an abortion, it kills the child (physically) and the mother (spiritually and emotionally). Her self-esteem went from bad to worse. Thoughts of suicide were a persistent companion, as well as depression and self-loathing. She'll tell you that she believes the birth of her first child was a gift from God for many reasons, among them being a reason to keep on living. She was completely lost. Thinking that no one would want her with a child and a past, she settled when she met a man who paid attention to her in college. He was a muslim man from Pakistan and he showed her things she'd never seen before. He also used and abused her. She got pregnant after they married and this time it wasn't ok with her to consider an abortion. Even though she wasn't fully aware of what the effects of the first abortion had been on her, she didn't believe it was right to abort while she was married. There were two parents now! Her "husband" threatened to leave her and run to Pakistan if she didn't terminate the pregnancy. She asked to visit with his parents, hoping to get their support. What she hoped to accomplish quickly met reality. There was no support as the mother had had two abortions previously. Apparently in their country, abortion was an acceptable form of birth control. She was now probably in worse shape with her life than she had been the previous two times she had been pregnant and she didn't believe she'd survive a second child alone. The abortion clinic was marginally helpful in that they required her husband to leave the room when she broke down saying she didn't want to go through with the procedure and he continued to berate her. Alone in the room, crying, she didn't know at that time where her true hope could come from. She tried calling her parents and there was no answer. They were her last life line. She needed someone to say "it's ok" and "we'll help you" and "we'll do this together". There was no one else she knew to turn to and so ended the life of baby number 2.
It took a couple years for the end of that relationship to come. They lived in separate places and he used her for sex and she'd negotiate for things she needed. It was pretty much prostitution without the ugly face of actively soliciting oneself on the street with whomever would pay. And one day the Light came into her life and she was ready and she heard His voice.
Her child was watching television and she was laying on his bed in the room adjacent to the living room. She was in a deep depression. By now the episodes could last up to a month where she could barely get up. Thank God she had an uncle who lived nearby who gave her work in his business because she couldn't keep a job elsewhere. And thank God her son had school to go to and friends with "normal" parents. They lived in what was called "the slums" which was actually just the building they lived in. There really weren't any other slums. It was a very nice suburb of the largest city in the state and she would've sold a kidney to give her child a fighting chance. And on this day, laying in her son's bed, probably pondering what they could do that day, a voice in her head said "take your son for a ride". It wasn't an audible voice - no one outside of her head could hear it I'm sure, but it was very clear and it definitely wasn't her own. It was more masculine and had authority. She didn't make too much of it, except to note that it was a good idea and she decided to take him for a ride and of course it was a very good choice. That was the beginning of her relationship with the living God.
Lots of things started happening for them and life was turning a wonderful corner. She started keeping a journal of all the things she was grateful for and this one habit would keep her from and pull her out of depressive episodes until the day the Lord delivered her from it once and for all. She and her son were invited to attend church with the family of one of her son's friends and they became regular attenders. She was not sure about this Jesus who was said to be the son of God who came to die for our sins, but she was sure there was a God now and she knew He cared for them. She also knew He was involved in their lives and she began praying to him. She desired to know him, she desired to do good and sometimes she was able. She pulled out the old King James Bible that she had acquired from some place and occassionally would read it, looking for answers.
About a year into her newfound faith she and her son moved to a different state to live with a guy she had met and was dating and thought she may marry someday. It would be lovely if the moment we let God in, we could stop sinning but that is not the reality of fallen human nature. The relationship didn't last but it didn't matter. It was the vehicle that brought her and her son to where God wanted them. In their new city, far away from her past and her loved ones (all of which had a pretty antogonist view of the existence of a Creator) she would come to know the One who brings sight to the blind, hope to the hopeless, love to the broken hearted and redemption. They were getting a new life - in the physical and in the spiritual.
After the end of the relationship that brought them to the new city, she decided it was time for therapy. She knew that the coming and going of different men into her son's life was not healthy for him and she wanted that to stop and she couldn't do it alone. It was another life altering, path changing event. Her belief in and reliance upon God became more solidly grounded and she gained some very valuable life skills. She didn't date in therapy and for a few months afterward. That was the first time in her life she was alone and living for something other than the affection of a man.
During this time, they also found a church to become part of. They visited alot of churches and saw things they'd never seen. People were alive and loving the Lord - singing praises to Him at the top of their voices and being very demonstrative in their worship of Him. The music was good and she didn't fall asleep during the sermon one time! In the town where she grew up there were two flavors for church - vanilla and more vanilla (quite traditional Catholic and Lutheran). Even though her family did not attend church when she was a child, she would go with friends from time to time. In this place, church was really cool and it made learning about God fun. Funny thing is, she eventually settled on a Lutheran church with just a little more edge. I guess old habits die hard.
It would be good enough if the story ended there. We have a happy ending, complete with a good, solid, changed life and hopefully a new future for her son. But our God is so much BIGGER than a good life. He is our REDEEMER. Eventually she did find a man who truly loved her and her son and whom she married. She came to know about "this Jesus" and accepted His gift of reconciliation to God through His death on the cross. Her son had an earthly father who loved him through some difficult years as a teenager and they had a baby together. Can you imagine? They live a very good life and in all ways of the material world, they believe they "have it all". Their story together is still unfolding but if the past is any indication of the future and what they know of God, it's going to be an amazing ride!
If you're like me, you want to know how her sibling is doing. He too had challenges. I wish I had as much good to report but he still struggles. His handicaps make processing information more difficult but He is in God's hands and we know that's where he needs to be.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I have been told and read that one of the ways we can know that something is from God and His will for us is to get confirmation from other believers so that's what I've been asking for. And wouldn't you know it, He's been bringing it through my husband, through friends, through circumstances. Many things are on our plates right now and it looks like change is coming. And He's right there directing our steps. I'm thankful everyday for a husband who also loves the Lord.
Monday, March 15, 2010
I don't know that I've mentioned previously that I have been in business all of my adult working life. At any time if I didn't have my own business, I was studying business or helping someone else start one or grow one. My undergraduate degree is in business management and my "fun" was reading books about business - how to start them, how to improve them, how to lead in them, how to manage them. I thought for sure I'd be in business all my life. Then I got to leave the business world and just be a mom and a wife, and I liked it. After I discontinued selling Tupperware a year ago (May 2009) we realized we didn't need for me to bring in any income and I settled into my new role as VP of Household Affairs. It was a transition that actually took almost 3 years for me mentally.
When my husband and I met in 2000, I was supporting myself and our oldest. I had been doing that alone for 12 years. I don't mean that no one ever helped me care for my son. I couldn't have gotten through without relatives and friends. But financially, for the most part, I was it. When my son was little I worked and went to school, thinking education would be our only way out of the poverty I grew up with. Eventually I got a job that paid more than I hoped to make out of college and quit school. And that's where we were when I met Dennis and we got married. So when our daughter was born in 2005, I wanted to be home with her more than anything, but my mind had difficulty letting go of being a provider. I had a few different businesses from home but when Tupperware ended I was ready. I love being home with her and never missing a thing. I love seeing her personality grow and develop, and I love knowing she is getting more of the stuff we want her to have (hugs and kisses, love, Christ, the Bible) and less of the things we don't. It's a good time. Then I went to the women's retreat with church.
During the second night at the retreat, I was up from about midnight to 5 a.m. with God, working out "stuff". And the Holy Spirit said "What if you were made to be a business woman?" And it came out like "What if God MADE you for the purpose of being a business woman?" That kind of upset my apple cart. Once again, I didn't say "OK God, if that's the way you want it, I'm in." I wish that was my first response. That's my heart's desire - to always want the things He wants for me. But the reality is I'm human and I wanted to just stay an at-home mom. I didn't want anything interfering with my relationship with Him and I didn't want to engage in anything that took time from my family. I can't say too many times how loving and patient He is with us. I did come to grips with it and not long after the retreat, He gave me a wonderful picture of what business as a ministry could look like for our family.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
What about the actual serving part at the shelter? I met some wonderful people - homeless and not homeless. As I was driving into Des Moines it was raining. I thought about how the people who'd come for lunch would have to be in the rain once they were done eating. If you don't know, dear reader, they don't usually get to hang out in the shelters during the day. They can be there for meals and to sleep if they get a spot and then they are out. Also, on the way down I chose to eat an orange for breakfast and drink water only and I realized that the homeless can't even necessarily get water when they are thirsty. Seriously, what do we know about this life and the plight of others??? I realized that homelessness definitely has no "one size fits all" solution. Some of the issues these people face - mental illness, spiritual attack, lack of education, lack of family, lack of resources, lack of so many things, makes it a formidable task to help them out of that situation. I gained a new appreciation for shelters, even though most of what I've read makes them a place I'd never want to be. And honestly, I thought the shelter we served in was so decrepit, I cried. It looked nice on the outside and once you got in, it smelled bad, the kitchen was gross and dirty, paint was peeling. I wondered how the state wouldn't close that kitchen because if it was a restaurant they sure would. I felt that the people we were serving deserved better than that. And yet, at least someone was providing them a meal when without it, many of them would go hungry.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Anyway, I've been asking "God"... "so is this call you gave me a literal one?" Will we (my family and I) plant churches in general? Will we really open the coffee shop and bookstore in Winter? Will we be missionaries and plant churches that way? Will we plant a church that serves the homeless? I haven't previously mentioned that God has given me a "burden" for the homeless, meaning I feel passionately for them. It's the problem of society that can bring me to tears. Some people love animals, some save the whales, some work to help everyone get an education - for me it's the plight of people who've ended up on the streets. And I've come across a few churches lately that serve the homeless. So only God knows...
Sunday, January 31, 2010
I have a project due for a class where I've chosen to support some church planters through prayer, service, and financial gifts. I was sitting in the car alone about a month ago, waiting for Dennis and Faith so we could go to church. I was thinking about the church I'm supporting and wondering where the money would come from for my financial gift. We have a balanced budget -PRAISE GOD! But extras are not generally in it. In my head I was asking "Do we give from our normal offerings to our own church?" And then a strong thought (easiest way to describe the Holy Spirit's prompting in this case) was that maybe we'd get money from somewhere else for me to give. Proverbs 3:5 comes to mind right now. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;" because I couldn't see how that might happen. Within what felt like just a single minute, my mom called and asked if I do any outside (meaning outside of our home) work anymore. She had bookkeeping she needed done and she wanted to pay me! God is sooooooo good.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
One of the things that is important to know about the bookstore/church at this point is that our inspired mission was to "demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ through acts of service". We were there to serve a small community of 300 in one of the poorest towns and counties in the state. In case you're a person who knows the "church" as a building, I just want to clarify that the "church" is actually the entire body of those who put their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. It actually has very little to do with a building except that "churches" (groups of believers) choose to purchase buildings. In America we're so accustomed to "going to church" that we may not understand this important distinction.
The other thing that's important to note is that the bookstore itself was an act of service because the books were being made available to people on a "pay what you can" basis with the coffee being sold at regular retail to sustain the church. Understanding the economics of the area, we didn't want anyone to not have access to a book due to ability (or lack of) to pay.
My husband and I did find a church home last year after the opening was postponed. Actually it happened the same weekend as we were due to open, which is pretty interesting. Shortly after we started attending, one of our pastors made a kind of sarcastic joke about how "it never happens that someone tries to plant a church and evil moves in". That gave me alot of peace, knowing that what happened was normal and that here my pastor was talking about something we'd just gone through. What happened shook all of us, but I know that it especially tested mine and my mom's faith. It didn't test our faith in God, like we questioned whether He was real. It forced us to take a hard look at where we put our trust and where we were in our own relationships with Him.
At the same time, my husband and I were without a church home and in fact went through a period where we didn't go to church at all. To me those were difficult days. I knew we belonged in a church. God had specifically guided us out of our previous church home because we weren't growing and it was time for us to get into relationships with other Christians. So we struggled and "wandered the desert" as I like to refer to it. When I got God's invitation to open the bookstore, I had decided I was going to try churches, even if I had to go alone. And on one occassion I visited this fantastic church in Maple Grove Minnesota called The Edge. The church was in a shopping mall and had all types of people from all races and all classes and they served coffee and treats in church for free. This would be a life changing visit because after I left there, God revealed to me that the bookstore and coffee shop would be a church. On the surface that might not seem like an earth shattering revelation and for most people that may bring up questions like "how does a bookstore and coffee shop become a church?" To me it was undoing. I simply wept and I can't explain how I felt inside. I had once hoped to work in full-time ministry and at that time I received lots of messages about being where you're at and came to the conclusion that at least then, I wasn't meant for full-time ministry. I didn't believe I ever would be actually, so when God said the thing He invited me to start would be a church I was completely overwhelmed with joy. I guess that's the best way to explain it.