Monday, October 29, 2012

Week 19: Lisa Blomstrom

Lisa Blomstrom & daughter Stephany Allen
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a girl that loves words - I love to use lots of them when I am talking and when I am writing. In fact I have always dreamed about one day writing a book. How cool would that be? I have even thought of possibly writing a blog. But, then the whole fear of rejection thing pretty much took care of that. So, when I was asked to contribute to the Women's Ministry Blog, I was excited in theory, but, when I was given a deadline, my brain suddenly went blank. I have struggled for 4 days about what to write. I was told to just write about what God was doing in my life. You might think for a girl who loves words this would be an easy thing to do. No problema. Not true.
The Lord is doing many things in my life and trying to narrow it down, well I was going to just email them and tell them it was impossible. I needed more than just 4 days to make this the most inspiring, spiritual, uplifting, wise, motivating blog that ever was written. This was my big opportunity, I needed time to think and reflect and write and rewrite and perfect. But, the Lord in His infinite wisdom and mercy and grace and knowing me the way He does, rescued me from the abyss of "it’s all about me" and gave me a topic: Fear. I am not exactly sure what about fear, I just know that I am to write about fear. So here goes.
Here is what I know:
Fear destroys hope, innocence, opportunity, courage, trust, plans, dreams, desires, and relationships. At the root of every fear is a lie. A lie is the most oft used and most effective tool that the enemy uses on people period. He is no respector of age or gender. In fact the younger the fear is introduced the better; the more time the lie has time to root and for fear to grow and spread.
I also know that fear has been the driving force behind most all of my decisions in my life.
Who I married.
Parenting my Children.
Most all of my relationships.
My financial decisions.
My career decisions
You name it and pretty much fear was at the root of it. Now the enemy did start pretty early in my life. I was sexually abused as a child. I think there are a whole host of fears that move in with that. My home was completely destroyed by a tornado when I was 12 and everyone but my dad was in it. I was 9 ft tall when I was about 6, so bullying was a large part of my childhood, it didn't help that we moved, ALOT. Nor that we didn't have any money either. Fear of rejection was a huge hit with the enemy and he never tired of using that one. It was very effective. Still is sometimes. My father, though he never beat me, was emotionally abusive and I lived in irrational fear of my father. It wasn't until I was 37 that I began to realize I didn't have to be afraid of him any longer. I married someone I had no business marrying but, yep you guessed it, fear, is what drove my decision to marry a man that I knew was not the right one; but, my fear was that he was the only one that would ever want me. Once I had children, my fears became magnified. All of the fears from the past became so irrational. If there was a storm warning, I would put my kids in the car and drive to a store that was open (it didn't matter the middle of the night or day), so that we would be around people and not be alone. I was afraid that I would die and leave my children motherless, I was afraid they would die, I was afraid that someone would take them and hurt them just like they did me. FEAR, FEAR, FEAR. With all of this fear, there was no way that I could possibly live life, and most certainly not one that was based on a healthy relationship with God. Even after accepting the Lord as my Savior, fear drove me. I was extremely legalistic. Irrational in some of my thinking. I loved the Lord very much; my life was radically changed when I was saved. But, when you view everything through the lens of fear, if that is what colors your world, then everything is very skewed. Now this next part is my favorite:
BUT GOD..... But, God is faithful. He who began a good work in me October 30, 1984, will complete it. And in I John 4 it says: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. The Lord has pressed upon me the importance of His word. That is where I have learned WHO he is, what His heart is. Everything that I have studied over the last couple of years has led me to the same spot. Smack dab in the middle of his Word - His letter to me of His perfect love for me. Without it - I will continue to wrestle with what it looks like to walk out my salvation, without it - I am at the mercy of my enemy. With it, I can stand firm with the belt of Truth around my waist - the truth is that God is trustworthy and that He loves me. Period. No if's, I am His, He has chosen me. He knows all of my faults and failures; even better than I do (and I catalog mine quite often). When I am in His Word I can see where the path to freedom from fear is. It is trusting my Father to do exactly what he says He will do and that is forgive me when I fail and allow the fear to creep in and effect my decision making, to cast it as far as the east is from the west once I have confessed it; and that it is okay to move forward after that, focusing on what lies ahead and believing Him when he says "I know the plans I have for you Lisa, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope. I have learned that He IS perfect love; that He is always with me, driving out that fear, I just have to follow in his footsteps as he goes before me, just like he promises He will. I have learned that doesn't mean life isn't going to happen and scary things aren't going to happen; but, that He will never leave me nor forsake me and He means it. He has shown it over and over and over and over again. He longs for me to trust Him to be my provider and my protector and my redeemer. He calls for me to be strong and courageous. It takes courage to leave behind your failures and to press forward towards the goal. He longs for me to trust Him to not only take care my enemy but to fix all of my boo boos as well. He doesn't say that there is a time table to the completion of the good work that He began, only that HE will finish it in me. When I am thinking on these things there is no room for fear. When I am thinking of these things I can dream and believe that I will be free of all that entangles me and that He is going to use me to show someone else what it looks like to be a Woman after His Own Heart, warts and all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Week 18: Vickie Collins

When I was asked to write this blog my first reaction was fear. Then I thought, really? My story is boring! Plain.
I was born into what most would think of as a Christian family, we went to church, ALOT. We were there every single time the doors were open. My siblings and I would tease my dad and ask if he needed to let the janitor in. I grew up without much drama. Had both sets of grandparents until about 2 years ago. My parents are still married (52 years and counting) I have a great relationship with my brother and sisters and thier families. I met my husband of nearly 33 years in English class our 9th grade year of high school. We have raised 4 boys, have 3 amazing daughters-inlaws and 5 much loved grandchildren. See. Plain. Boring. Right?
My God and my husband have ever so gently reminded me that I've been blessed. Protected even. God has walked with me my whole life! He has NEVER left me. No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses.
I will not fail you or abandon you. Joshua 1:5.
As I think back on my life, God takes me on a journey through my Blessings....
My husband and I have raised 4 healthy boys that have grown into fine Godly men. He (God) reminds me of all of the "near" misses with these same boys. The "I'm in jail" phone calls. The ER visits, car wrecks, girl trouble and so on..... He walked right beside me.
My husband is self-employed in the construction industry. I think that statement says it all. We've seen some highs and some really low, lows but my God has met and continues to meet our needs. He's even thrown in a few "wants". God carried me through my dad's colan cancer, never failing to comfort me. He was even with me in my car when my then 15 year old son proceeds to tell me that he is about to become a father. This blessing has not been an easy one but I've never not felt His hand all over it. My God has been with me even through life's stuff that I have not even thought to include Him in.
So I'm praising my God for my plain, boring testimony.
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Week 17: Becki McAuley

Greg & Becki McAuley

When God Whispers…

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Was that God or just my own silly voice?” I truly believe that God speaks to us in so many ways, and one of those is with His still small voice which whispers to my heart.
In January 2011 I started reading a little book, Radical by David Platt. I was almost immediately captivated by what he was writing. He was challenging me in new ways about my relationship with Christ and how I was living that out on a daily basis. Also in January, I began to feel unsettled at my job. I chalked it up to simple restlessness and moved on. I have always loved working, and I especially loved my job at our church. I had prayed for this job back in 2001, and God had been so faithful to answer. My position had changed and expanded over the last 9 years. I was finally doing the things I had always seen myself capable of doing.

 Enter in God’s small voice…I began having this thought about staying at home and taking care of my family and house full time. WHAT?!?!? You see I’ve never, not one time in 18 years, had a thought about being a stay at home mom. I believed that I was a better mom because I worked. (I still believe that was true for those 18 years.) I completely put this thought out of my head thinking for sure either I was crazy or God was. When God is speaking to you, I’ve found, you can try to put the thought away, to file it in your crazy file or you can just listen. I did my best to put this thought away but God would not quit talking to me. My idea of staying at home was so outside my “norm” that I didn’t even want to talk to my husband, Greg, about it. I did the next best thing…called in my praying friends and asked for them to spend some time praying for clarity and discernment. Surely I was not hearing God correctly, and they would confirm that for me.
You really need a great group of friends that will pray for you when you need them. I’m so thankful and blessed for these ladies. And one by one they confirmed what God had been telling me for the better part of a month now…I was to resign my position and stay at home. Greg was a shocked as I was by this whisper from God. I asked him to pray about this decision and we could talk about it again after a while. I felt like we needed to each seek God’s direction separately. I believed that if He wanted this for our family, He would also speak this whisper to Greg.
To this day I still cannot believe the direction that God has led me in. Back then I believed God wanted me to be home and more available for my family. While I still believe that is true, I now see that He had other plans for our family that required me no longer working for our church.
On January 1, 2012, Greg and I felt like a change in churches was becoming necessary mainly for our children but maybe for us as well. We knew our teenager really needed a new student ministry to participate and worship with, and we believed this was the reason for visiting new churches. What we didn’t realize was how our passion for God and his people had waned over the last few years. We first visited Crosspoint Church on January 8, 2012 and became members soon after. Since joining CP we feel a new energy for serving, Bible study, life groups and for how we are living out our faith in our community. I see and feel it in each member. How amazing that God would bring us to a new place that honestly at the time we didn’t even know we needed.
About 6 weeks ago I was reflecting back on our year and all the changes that have happened for us (changing churches after 16 years, daughter’s engagement and upcoming wedding, father-in-law’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and the list goes on), then I heard God whispering again. No, it wasn’t another change or move for us but an acknowledgement and understanding for me. He showed me how my obedience back in early 2011 allowed for our family to be in the sweet space we find ourselves in today. God doesn’t always reveal His plans to us but oh how I love it when He does!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Week 16: Jennifer Anderson

Jennifer Anderson
I missed the summer Women’s Ministry meetings where they discussed this new blog (which I love reading and getting to know more of the CpW) and who would be writing for the blog and THEN, the September meeting rolled around and I was excited that I was finally going to be there to be a part of the “new” stuff I had only heard bits and pieces about UNTIL, they started to discuss who else was left to write for the blog…YUP, you guessed it, there I sat, “deer in the headlights”…HELP!!! Our fearless leader (Susan Allen) patted me on the arm and with her sweet smile said, “Oh it’ll be fine, you’re not getting out of this one” and without skipping a beat went onto the conversation she was having……
I was raised in a religion where every Sunday was a constant routine; church then, lunch at my grandmother’s house with the entire family and play with the cousins all afternoon. I loved Sundays because of that yet, had no clue what Sundays and being a Christian were like until I came to Crosspoint.

 I started attending Crosspoint with The Roberts family (whom I’ve known for 20+ years) back in early 2010 and kept coming back because for the first time in my life, at age 38, I was getting something out of the messages that this really funny yet serious, bald-headed guy standing in front of the congregation was lecturing on and I loved it! (Sorry if you are reading this Pastor Tom but it’s the truth!) I attended several of the classes, got plugged into a Women’s LifeGroup and eventually involved in the W2W mentoring program. Somewhere in the middle of all that I was baptized at the last service held at the Old Alvin Road Campus and it thrilled me to know that I was finally getting “IT” as an adult. I know now that this commitment brings pure joy into my heart, let’s me shine as a light I didn’t know existed and totally glorifies our Father!

After attending a month of my Women’s LifeGroup (that Susan Allen and Lisa Blomstrom lead), I was warned by many – “you have chosen the path of Christianity and it’s not going to be easy”; “you have a target on your back for Satan to attack”; “things may get tough before they get better”; and boy were they right on. All kinds of things in mine and my family’s lives started happening (4 very sudden deaths, illnesses, you name it-it happened) yet, I know I had the number one guy on my side, GOD! I can’t say there were big strikes of lightening or messages that said, “It’s God, listen to what I have to say...” – I just know that He held me in the palm of His hand through it all and that these events, were truly God working through me and for that I am eternally grateful and forever His.
My husband and I have two grown children who do not attend church with me. Although, over the last couple of years they have come to church when I’ve asked them to join me (I don’t push it) and support all the things that I am involved in at church – God things and seeds being planting. My son, who is now a Marine, has a 2.5 year old son himself. He was baptized while going through boot camp in San Diego this past March and I pray that he will continue to grow and lead a Christian life that he will share with his son. As for the other two in my household that I love so very much, I will continue to pray for them – that they will one day want to walk this path with me, these God things, and eternally be together.

I am by far still a “rookie” when it comes to the bible, still uneasy about speaking during our LifeGroup, and have not gotten to the point of praying out loud in large group settings YET, I know all of this is OK cause He knows the plans he has for me (Jeremiah 29:11). My spiritual journey continues…

Hi, my name is Jennifer Anderson and I am a real person seeking to do life together with other real people who want to follow our real God!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Week 15: Kelly Kersten

Kelly Kersten

Denial.  Anger.  Bargaining.  Depression.  Acceptance.

You might recognize that list of words as being what is generally accepted as the five stages of grief.  We have all lost someone precious to us – parents, friends, and even pets.  The loss that I’m currently dealing with is the loss of my job.  You see, in July of last year I was one of thousands of people who were separated from employment (a very PC term for being laid off) due to the retirement of the Space Shuttle.  Or, as my co-workers and I preferred to think of it – we were freed up for further opportunities. 

Losing an income is certainly hard enough, but it also brought the loss of friends, many of whom I had worked with for 20 years or more.  Many relocated to find a new life for themselves and others are still searching for new jobs like me, so it’s hard to get together.  It brought about a certain loss of identity as well.  I was one of the truly lucky ones who could honestly say, “I love my job!”   I had been involved with the Space Shuttle for over 27 years.  The home that I grew up in was literally across the street from one of the first NASA buildings and we were occasionally able to see some of the original 7 astronauts, so I had been around the space program my whole life.  So what am I now?  I still don’t know the answer to that question.

There were, of course, things that weren’t great like personality conflicts, the ever-present deadlines, and the tragic losses of the Challenger and Columbia.  In spite of those things, I enjoyed going to work and there was nothing as thrilling as seeing a successful launch or landing.

While I have been able to move through some of those stages of grief fairly quickly I will confess that I’ve not dealt very well with the job search issue as a whole.  Because of that I am trying to turn more and more to the best teaching tool that I know - the Bible.  The Bible isn’t just a bunch of words that were thrown down willy-nilly on a piece of parchment.  Those words were put there for a very specific reason.  God intentionally fed those words to us to use and to rely on.  I grew up listening to a very traditional pulpit pounding, Bible thumping Southern Baptist minister, so I’ve heard the words before.  The trick is to apply them.

Denial – this can’t be happening to me.  This was a very easy stage to move through because it wasn’t happening to just me.  On the day I checked out of work, over 900 others walked out with me.

Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Anger – How could they do this to me?  How could I stay angry when there were so many others going through the same thing? 

Psalm 37:8 - Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

Bargaining – maybe if I just . . . Yes, I tried to bargain with God, but not successfully I must add.  Really not a smart move to try and bargain with Him. 

Psalm 78:41 - They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel.

Depression – I’m never going to get a job.  This is probably where I am now.  A very dear and caring friend recently asked me how I was doing, and how the job search was going.  I started blubbering like a baby.  How lame is that? 

Matthew 6:34 - Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Acceptance – well, that stinks.  I’m not fully there yet.  I know that God has a plan for me and the journey I’ve been on during the last year is only a tiny part of it. 

Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

So, as I continue my job search I pray and give thanks for the job I had, what I am going through now, and for whatever the future holds. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I wrote the first part of my blog in early August as I was struggling to find peace again and to fully move into the “acceptance” phase. In the months before my separation date I really wasn’t worried about what was to come, because through my belief in God I knew that everything was going to be OK. Many of the people I worked with were finding it difficult to come to terms with. When I was asked how I was able to maintain a sense of calm, I was given the opportunity tell people about my faith in God and how I knew he was going to provide for my needs. Unfortunately, as the year progressed I lost that peace.
I tried to find it again in the best way I knew, which is prayer. Over the past year I prayed for many things – specific jobs, particular locations to work in, specific salaries. I prayed over job applications, and that my resume would be perfect. I finally let all that go and my new prayer was that I would get the one job that God wanted me to have and that I would get it when He wanted me to have it. Nothing more. I turned it over to Him and stepped back. By doing that I found my peace again.
Joshua 1:5 . . . Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
In mid-August, my sister-in-law was in a conversation with one of subcontractor’s that her school district occasionally uses. As they talked, Glenda mentioned that I was looking for a job. A day or so later, this gentleman – a man I have never met - came back and told her that he found me a job. Very, very late on a Friday afternoon she contacted me and gave me a name and a phone number of someone who had an open position that I might be suitable for. I immediately called and left a message that day, and again on Monday. When I didn’t hear back I thought, “OK – it’s not the job God wanted me to have”.
On Wednesday, I was talking to a good friend, Mary (a woman with a true, deep, and spiritual faith) from my old company. As we talked I brought up the story of this potential job opening that my sister-in-law found. I told her about the new focus of my prayers, and that I was OK with not having gotten a response from my phone messages. Mary encouraged me to stay faithful and to continue turning it over completely to God.
And then a God thing happened.
Before I even hung up the phone completely, it rang, and on the phone was the man I left the messages with regarding the job opening. After speaking for a couple of minutes, I offered to take in my resume. This was at 4:30 on Wednesday. At 9:30 the next morning I met with him and at 11:30 I walked out with a job! Praise God!
I have been at work for three weeks now and love it. It is the complete opposite of any of the specific things I had prayed for during the year, and I finally filled out a job application on my 3rd day of work. My resume that I wanted to be perfect? It was only glanced at briefly while I was in the interview. Also, looking back, I can see how each of the jobs I’ve ever had, contribute to the one that I have right now.
It’s a God thing.
Exodus 15:2 - The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.