An Honest Confession – I’m Afraid of Failure!

This is just an honest update about me and this book that I am supposedly writing. I’m going to give some background, be honest, tell you what happened yesterday, and ask you for prayer!

I never set out to write a book, or even have a blog for that matter. It all started about two and a half years ago with the website called Recovering Grace. Yes, I had spent ten plus years in a cult (I didn’t call it that back then), but I had tried to put it all behind me. It wasn’t something I talked about. Even my husband didn’t know most of the stories or the ways the teachings had affected me. Then Recovering Grace happened.

IMG_3567Recovering Grace is a website run by former ATI (Advanced Training Institute) students. ATI is the homeschool program created by Bill Gothard, creator of the Institute in Basic Life Principles. The Duggars use this curriculum (which if you dig deep explains a lot of their behaviors and beliefs),and so did my family. If you Google Bill Gothard right now, you will find that he, and IBLP, are being sued for sexual misconduct by 18 plaintiffs (which is the very tip of the ice berg since one of the plaintiffs was his driver for a few years and says he witnessed over 150 young ladies being harassed). You get the picture.

Two and a half years ago, Recovering Grace started publishing stories about women who were sexually harassed. Once they published these, the wheel started turning; people came forward from the 1970s and gave them hard copy information alleging financial and sexual misconduct, manipulation, intimidation, slander, etc. I started remembering, dissecting, processing.  After joiningg a Facebook community of former ATI students, I encountered many people who wanted nothing to do with Jesus or God because of the “Christianity” they experienced. It completely broke my heart! I realized that I was one of a few former ATI students who still considered themselves a Christian, who still had a relationship with Jesus.

I spent time in soul searching and introspection. As I thought about the lies we were taught about God and Jesus, I started to realize that the same lies are subtly present in much of Modern Western Christianity. Jesus found me in the middle of the legalism and lies, and showed me how to know Him. That is my desperate desire for the world…to actually KNOW God because of His Son, Jesus.

That was the beginning of this whole crazy journey. God wants me to write a book. He has made that abundantly clear over the past few years. But I don’t want to, and I have been dragging my feet. Mostly because I am afraid.

Look at what God has done!

  • As all of this went down, God confirmed that I was supposed to write, even having another woman say out of the blue, “Maybe you need to write a book”.
  • I started my blog, despite having reservations.
  • The speaker for  our spring Ladies Day at church not only confirmed my calling, but gave me the next step, the Speak Up Conference which just happened to be in Grand Rapids.
  • I won a full scholarship to the 2014 conference!
  • At the conference I shared my One Page (kind of like an introduction to your book idea) with a publisher and an agent and they were both interested. This does not happen!
  • After the conference, I freaked out and although I continued to occasionally blog, I ignored the whole book idea.
  • God did not let me get away. I continued to run into people who reminded me that He wanted me to write a book. I had plenty of excuses.
  • Over a year later, I revised my One Page and sent it to another agent (referred to me by a writer friend). She loved it and wanted to work with me. This does not happen either!
  • The Speak Up Conference this summer “just happens” to be on the only weekend that would work (since I’m working as the health officer at camp again) and they are willing to give me a significant discount.
  • I found an awesome cabin that I can get for cheap, on a lake, to go and focus on writing since I’m supposed to get my full Book Proposal done before the conference this summer.
  • BUT, I’m freaking out!! And freezing and wanting to run away…

All of this brings me to yesterday. We had a guest speaker at church. The minute he opened his mouth I realized that God was speaking to me, including a pounding heart and tingles going down my spine.

“If you’re on mission, just do what you’re supposed to do.”

Then he asked four questions, questions that originally came from Jesus.

  1. What are you afraid of? Failure, rejection, change, success, basically everything!
  2. What do you want God to do? This question scares the crap out of me. If I actually allow myself to dream, I’d say, I want God to use this book to push people to evaluate their Christianity, to make them question their beliefs, to see lies, and to start seeking for the real God, the God who is only more than we can ever imagine. I want people to realize that if they are feeling discontent and disillusioned with their version of Christianity, maybe they too have found an impostor and not the real Jesus. I want God to use my book to bring people to a real relationship with Him!
  3. What are your excuses? (Do you want to get well?) I have plenty! Trust me! Including not having time, being the mother of small children, not being wise enough or good enough or etc.
  4. Who do you say God is? If God is really who I say I believe He is, then I just need to shut up and get to work. It’s one thing to believe in my head and another to believe with my heart.

Ok, this brings me to the end of a very long blog post (389 words over my normal limit). Friends, I need you to pray for me! Pray that my faith will be stronger than my fear. Pray that I will stop making excuses. Pray that I will be obedient! I’m going to be starting a prayer team. If you are interested in joining me, please let me know on Facebook or by contacting me here. I’m closing with a final thought from the speaker-sent-from-God. 🙂

“God doesn’t measure success; He measures obedience.” Thank goodness!!!!!

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Living in the Real World of Gray

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I was raised in a world of black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, us vs. them. Granted, my parents were more tolerant than a lot of families I knew, but the atmosphere was still there. And, it didn’t help that I naturally tend to think this way anyway.

Let me give you some examples. Oy!

Wrong and bad things (in no particular order): dating, college, women wearing pants, public school, blue jeans, bearded men, women with short hair, being friends with the opposite sex, Disney movies, any movie rated more than PG, movie theaters, white bread, pork, music with a “back-beat” aka rock and roll, CCM, country, etc, tattoos, multiple piercings, you get the point.

Good and right things (contrasted to the bad ones): courtship, women in skirts and dresses, homeschooling, khaki slacks (for males), clean shaven faces, women with long, flowing, gently curled hair, sticking with friends of your own gender, movies rated G and PG that weren’t Disney, preferably old fashioned ones, fresh made, whole wheat bread, beef and chicken, classical music or instrumental hymns, one set of small stud earrings for females only, blah, blah, blah.

Okay, that’s extreme you say. What does this have to do with me?

Here is what I have noticed. Christians, even “normal” ones are often terrible at living in the real gray world. We choose sides, and fight to the death about stupid issues that aren’t even that important in the long run. We alienate people with our feisty opinions about politics, abortion, homosexuality, the End Times, Calvinism, debt, divorce, health care, etc. Before you get all mad at me for putting some of those topics in the category of “stupid issues”, let me say that I believe in personal opinions and convictions based on Biblical truths. But, our convictions and opinions should never be stronger than our love for people and our desire to see them meet Jesus.

If we have truly met Jesus in a real and personal way, if we have experienced His amazing grace and forgiveness, if we are overwhelmed by His love for us, then there should be one and only one issue that motivates us. Sharing the real Jesus with the world!

I’m sure as you’ve read this, other “hot topics” have popped into your mind. It’s not that I don’t have opinions about things like breastfeeding, organic foods, school options, political leanings, abortion, and gay marriage. I just realize that my opinions and beliefs don’t make me more or less “godly”. I’m okay with not being “right”. I know that there is only one thing that changes my status before the God of the Universe: what I choose to believe about Jesus.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:17-18

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Too often Christians forget that God didn’t rescue us so that we would be “perfect”. He made us blameless through Jesus so that we can have a relationship with Him. Why do we get so caught up in changing peoples’ actions and beliefs to make them look “more Christian” instead of teaching them to know Jesus so that He can change them from the inside out as He sees fit. Do we doubt the power of the Holy Spirit? Do we forget that He is real? Why do we put so much value on “outward” goodness while ignoring our own inner struggles and sins? What if all Christians set aside the things that divide us and chose to help each other really get to know Jesus. What if our love for Jesus and our passion to share Him with everyone around us was stronger than our differences? What if we cared more about Jesus than about being right?

ID-100365286Truth is that while there are some “black and white” truths in the Bible and in the Christian life, there is also a lot of gray.We need to welcome the gray even if it scares us and makes us uncomfortable. Because that gray area is where freedom happens and where our relationship with Jesus grows. There is room for gray because there is room for growth and change.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.:-)

What if God is more like TobyMac?

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You know that God you doubt/hate/are mad at/are scared of/etc? What if he doesn’t really exist?

Last week I was talking with an older, wiser friend, and one of the things she said stuck with me. It went something like this, “Too often we make God into our image instead of remembering that we were made in His.” I can’t stop thinking about it! I don’t expect non-Christians to have an accurate view of God, but those of us who call ourselves Christians should have it right…Right?

One Christmas, soon after I married my husband, my father-in-law was trying to figure out how to make a poster on Microsoft Publisher. I ended up helping him. We inserted an elephant and a bunch of ants from Clip-Art. Then he explained to me that God was the elephant and we were the ants getting stepped on. Ouch! But, if we are honest, I think many people share this view of God: a distant God, an uncaring God, a God who punishes us…

I used to think that God was angry a lot of the time. I used to think He liked me better when I was being “good” and following the rules. I used to think He was disappointed in me when I messed up.

My version of God was cut and dry, black and white, understandable. He fit in my box.

I also used to think that rock music was evil, and that anything with a beat was from the devil. Instrumental hymns or classical music with no drums were the only types of music that “godly” people should listen to. Yeah… Confession: Today I was totally rocking out to TobyMac’s “Feel It” in my living room. Freedom is amazing!!

Love came crashin’ in, Never gonna be the same again, Yeah, You came crashing in, You wrecked me, You wrecked me!

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Okay, here’s the deal. What if we are totally off on our view of God? What if we have made Him into our image? What if in our modern Western love of knowledge and intellectualism, we have put the Creator of the Universe into a box that we can understand. What if we think He’s like an instrumental hymn played on the piano (Nothing against hymns! This is for comparison purposes.), but He is really TobyMac? What if the god we have created for ourselves in our own image doesn’t exist? This is good news for people who were burned by Christians or the church and thought that was God!

I believe that God is bigger, and crazier, and more terrifying, and more wonderful, and stronger, and more full of love and grace and passion and emotion and depth, and more radical, and scarier, and wiser, and more incredible and mind blowing, and just MORE than we can ever imagine or comprehend. Even when we are trying to think outside the box, He is going to be MORE!

In our attempts at intellectualism, we pin God down and try to make Him human-like and something we can understand and dissect. We turn Him into big words and concepts. Or we stop trying to understand and just ignore Him, choosing to focus on what we can see and taste and touch. But God says that His foolishness is wiser than our wisdom, and His weakness is stronger than our strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25)

I don’t know about you, but I’m throwing away my calm, understandable, “instrumental” version of god, and reaching out for the radical, wild, incomprehensible, crazy “TobyMac” version that I believe exists! I want the real God to blow apart the box I have built to try and contain Him. Something deep inside of me longs for More, for Someone I was made to know. I was created in His image. You were created in His image! And guess what? He has promised over and over that if we seek for Him, we will find Him.

I’m not throwing away the Bible, because I believe that God wrote it and it’s one of the best ways to discover what He is like. But I am looking for a fresh understanding. I’m going to question and search and stop believing just because someone told me. If a thought or theology or mindset makes God seem smaller or more predictable or more containable, I’m going to doubt it. This isn’t supposed to be a religion! I’m supposed to be the daughter of the King of Kings. I wanna get to know my Dad, my Creator, my Savior, my Friend! For myself!

What about you? Is your god in a box? Do you long for more? Will you join me in looking for the real God?

That Dang Proverbs 31 Woman!

This is, if you couldn’t tell from the title, a rant. Fair warning!

I thought I was over her, had moved past, and was able to let it go. Guess not! Last night I came across a blog post written by two young, single, childless women about motherhood, and being a “godly” mother, and the evils of day care or working outside the home… (First off, sorry girls, but you don’t get an opinion on being a mother until you are one! Not to mention, people in their late teens, early 20’s (Especially home-schoolers. I can say this because I was one.) always think they know everything and have every answer (I did), but they don’t. Not by a long shot!!) Of course they cited my least favorite passage as one of their proofs, Proverbs 31.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Proverbs 31 in itself, especially if you read it in a version other that the King James. But that dang woman was held up as the epitome of womanhood All. The. Freakin. Time. growing up in my conservative, homeschooling “cult”. It was this impossible goal to try and attain. We heard about her every Mother’s Day at least, maybe more. The “Proverbs 31 Woman” home-schooled, and gardened, and made all her own clothes, and baked fresh ground whole wheat bread, all while running a home based business, and having 12+ children, and being super submissive to her husband. She wore skirts only, maybe even a head-covering, and always spoke in a soft, quiet voice (to demonstrate her quiet and gentle spirit). Sound like anyone you’ve ever seen before? *coughMichelleDuggar*

Okay, it’s possible that I might be exaggerating a very, little bit… Don’t get me wrong, I am not against gender roles (in a relaxed and casual fashion). I am a mostly stay-at-home mother of two little children and have been for the past 5+ years. I even started gardening a couple of summers ago. But, the teachings I was raised with, almost destroyed me as a mother. More on that in a bit.

I AM against re92570055strictive gender roles! I’m against the idea that women can’t or shouldn’t get educated or have a job. I’m totally against the idea that somehow women staying home and living like its the 1800s (or even the 1950s) is more godly! I absolutely HATE how some conservative groups still treat women as inferior. Have you read about Jesus Christ and his radical interactions with women??

If you want to stay home and bake whole wheat bread because You Want To, great! Fabulous! But if you want to go to college and have a career, that’s also great and fabulous! Our personal choices as a family shouldn’t be automatically viewed as a representation of our “godliness”. Can you say Pharisee?!

If you actually read Proverbs 31 (my version is ESV) you will notice a couple of things.

  1. It’s really more about a business woman than anyone else. She’s working hard, buying and selling, and making things.
  2. The lady has maidservants. MAIDSERVANTS!! Plural!!! So someone else is doing all her cleaning, cooking, and possibly caring for her children! Which is how she has time to be a business woman. (This was NEVER talked about in my fundy days!)
  3. Her children aren’t even mentioned until vs 28 and all they do is “rise up and call her blessed”.

So there! Ha! Go take your out of context Scriptures and insinuated opinions and stuff it!

By the time I had children, I was well out of my “cult” days. But the teachings I grew up with followed me. Somehow I still believed that motherhood was the ultimate calling of woman, and that I should be totally fulfilled by being a mom. But it was WAY harder than I ever imagined… Honestly, I really struggled the first few years with babies. I didn’t even like being a mom most days and the guilt of those feelings nearly destroyed me. Until…one day I realized the truth. God never said I had to be fulfilled being a mother. God never said being a mother was the ultimate pinnacle of being female. My feelings were validated! Surprisingly, that knowledge actually freed me to enjoy being a mom.

I am a woman, mom, wife, daughter, friend, blogger, hopeful author, pastor’s wife, lover of nature, substitute teacher, part time jewelry artisan, camp health officer, restorer of old furniture, etc. But most of all, I am a child of God, loved and valued, redeemed, able to have a relationship with my Creator because of my amazing Savior, Jesus Christ. Actually, I might even be a Proverbs 31 woman…someone who is working hard, using her gifts, and seeking to love and serve her family.

Striving to be meet certain “criteria” will never bring us fulfillment, whether we are staying at home or not. Only a real relationship with Jesus satisfies us, and that should be our ultimate goal no matter what else we do.

“….a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

Tiny Treasured Memories

 

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Yesterday I did something crazy (for me) and opened an Etsy shop. I am not necessarily a crafty type person, although people get irritated when I say I’m not creative.

The purpose of the shop is to make memory necklaces for women who have lost babies or children through miscarriage, still birth, or childhood death. I also designed a necklace (see picture) for a friend who did IVF with nine precious embryos, but never got pregnant.

If you have read my miscarriage posts, then you know that the pain of pregnancy loss is very familiar to me. It makes me happy to be able to understand what other women feel and give them something special to commemorate their little one.IMG_3910

If you haven’t read about the babies I lost before carrying the two children we have now, you can search for them under the category, “Things We Don’t Talk About”.

It’s amazing to me how many other women quietly hold the same pain in their hearts. It’s not something we usually share. I’ve only had my shop open for a day, but I have already heard multiple stories of loss and sadness. I wish there was a better way for us women to support one another and be open about miscarriage and the children we are missing.

IMG_3912Designing necklaces has also made me think of the women who are quietly missing children they chose to abort. I would love to make jewelry for them too, with love and no judgement.

I remember the first few weeks after delivering Trust (our second baby lost) on Valentines Day almost seven years ago. So much pain…so many tears…and questions…and doubts. Now here I am seven years later, able to turn that grief and sorrow into beautiful memory necklaces, able to tell other women that I understand, and hopefully able to point them to Jesus, the One who held me through it all!

If you would like to see my Etsy story, you can follow this link. https://www.etsy.com/shop/BeSimplyYou