Friday, January 30, 2009

Relationship -VS- Religion

I woke up thinking about how much my relationship with God has changed over the last 21 years (yep, I've been "doing this" for that long). For a long time, my relationship with God was so unhealthy. For starters, I likened Him to some of the other male figures in my life, and that wasn't so good. My relationship with Him was a lot like the relationship a battered wife has with her abusive husband. Not that God's at all abusive, but I made Him that way.

Being "saved" came with a checklist (to me). I would constantly worry and fret over that ridiculously long list of things that I could do and things that I couldn't do. I'd worry that the slightest mistep would lead me straight to hell and tried desperately to earn my way into heaven. Since the list was so long and impossible, I'd focus more energy on finding shortcuts and pushing the limits than I did actually knowing God. Honestly, I don't think that I wanted to know Him. That long list of rules and regulations made Him seem kind of mean, and instead of seeing His grace and mercy, all I could see was that huge inflated list. Romans 3:23 (NIV) "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." That's a relief! Everybody sins! James 3:2 (NIV) "We all stumble in many ways..."

Trying to live up to this long list of rules and regulations for "being saved" came with a cost.
  1. I became judgemental. Instead of looking at my own heart and putting my focus on straigtening out my own issues, I found great joy in pointing my finger at others. I can remember thinking, or even saying, "Well So-N-So does ____________." Or "I saw So-N-So at such-n-such." Much easier to look outside of yourself at others downfalls than taking a look within...
  2. I lived life on the edge. I would do whatever I could get away with and still stay inside that little box of regulations. I didn't know God at all, but I knew a lot about "the rules" (or LAWS as Jesus put it). Matthew 3:7 (NKJV) "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers..." That's pretty hard-core, Jesus calling someone a viper! The Pharisees and Sadducees knew the law. They were hard-core on the rules (more than I was). They knew how to look good and speak well and on the outside they looked holier-than-thou (and so did I). Oh but on the inside... Well, let's just say that's where I hid my "junk" (and I'm guessing that they had some "junk" hidden there too). Now it's important to remember that we can't just throw the rules, or laws, away. Matthew 5:17 (KJV) "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." However if we are so busy worrying ourselves with rules of serving God, we can totally miss God, just like the Pharisees and the Sadducees did.
  3. This is how I made God an abusive Father. I worried that if I fell, if I messed up on one of those rules, He'd "spank" me. I worried that if I stubbed my toe and a bad word slipped out then a bus ran me over before I could slip out a quick, "God, forgive me", I'd go straight to hell. "Serving Him" seemed so hard! And I guess it was. Romans 3:23 already lets us know that everybody falls short. Everybody messes up. But in my mind, since I couldn't put nice little neat checks by all of those rules, then I'd just rather duck out all together and not have to worry with putting checks by any of them. I was totally missing what it's all about...
  4. So sadly, the final price of my checklist was burn out. And who wouldn't burn out? That list of can's and can't's was so long that I couldn't even see the end of it. Constantly worrying if I could do this or that was exhausting. And justifying why I could get away with some things or pouting when I didn't feel like I could get away with others just wore me out. And so I dropped out.

Thankfully, the story doesn't stop there! Once that religion was out of my system, God introduced Himself to me and initiated something that I had never know before - a real true relationship. Like any relationship, ours has taken some hard work. Sometimes, it hurts. He wants me to be as open to Him as He desires to be with me. I'll be honest, that's a little scary. Being totally raw and vulnerable takes me casting off my covering of pride. He doesn't care how well I look on the outside. He's not fooled by what I say. He sees inside of me at all the "junk" and you know what? He loves me still! Isn't that mind boggeling?

Did you know that there are more than 350 scriptures in the Bible that speak of God walking or talking with people? Did you know that there are more than 500 mentions of Him hearing cries and prayers? Wow... So when your tears fall silently on your pillow and you think you're crying yourself to sleep all alone, He sees. When your heart cries out in confusion or hurt or whatever, He's listening.

So something odd happened when I chunked that list of rules out the window and just focused on getting to know Him. Things started changing. Not because I wanted a ticket to heaven; not because I feared a spanking from God; not because I wanted to have those nice little check marks. Things in my life started changing because I started falling in love with Him. The more I fell in love with Him, the better I wanted to be.

It's like a relationship in the natural. I'm in love with my husband. There are things that make him happy. He's happy when dishes don't pile up in the sink. He's happy when I don't scream or nag. He's happy when I don't max out every credit card we have on new shoes. And I want to make him happy because that's what makes me happy. My desire to leave dirty dishes piled in the sink, or act like a maniac, or put us in debt because of a shoe fetish pales in comparison to my desire to see him happy.

So it is with God. I love Him. I can't bear the thought of Him looking at me with disappointment. I don't want to make Him sad. And the closer I draw to Him, the more He shares things in my life that we can tackle together. I no longer worry about getting a ticket to heaven; or getting a spanking from God; or having check marks next to an invisible list. Instead I just want to walk as close to Him as I can. I want to sit at His feet and listen to His voice soothe over me. I want to hold His hand and smile knowing that He's always with me.

And so I have joyfully tossed religion aside and built the most beautiful relationship with God. And that relationship has brought some "religious" aspects along. Remember, He didn't come to do away with the law. He came to fulfill it. And by getting to know Him, those laws are not only fulfilled, but they finally make sense. I no longer do things because I have to. I do them because I want to. And that is awesome.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

These "side effects" will pass, right?!?!?

Friday morning I woke up feeling fine. I headed out for the yard to do some yard work that has been neglected for ages. Caleb and Sadie happily played all around me, and at lunch time we all decided to come in for a break. That's when it hit. Like a frieght train, suddenly my head felt like it was going to explode and I slumped onto my bed fearing that I was going to pass out.

Every day of my life, my head hurts. Most days are tolerable and I've gotten used to the aches, which is good since I had never before really had headaches and thought that I would NEVER get used to them. But still there are days when the pain in my head is paralyzing. And Friday happened to be one of those days. Caleb brought me the phone and I called Martin to tell him how badly I felt. Caleb crawled in bed beside me and we laid there for hours. I cried while he fell asleep.

It's been well over a year since surgery, and yet still I have "bad" days. They aren't nearly as frequent as before, but it's really hard not to get frusterated. I try really hard to be everything that I was before, but the truth is that sometimes I'm just not. I am back in the gym working out consistently to build up my stamina and I've been trying to shorten the length of my daily naps. I'm in school forcing my memory to grow and move that memory loss to the side.

Yet still I have to remember that as long as it's been, I'm still recovering. Martin, my kids, and my doctors are quick to remind me that I have to take things easy and I still have to recognize that even though I am a 25 year-old woman, I am recovering - and having such a major surgery won't go away overnight.

So as I laid in the bed Friday, clutching my head with tears rolling down my face, I thanked God that I am recovering. It's taken a lot more time than I ever would have realized, but I am getting better. And even though sometimes I hate the symptoms that I struggle with, I don't love God any less. If anything, I love Him all the more.

I'm not anything like Job was, but there is one thing we have in common. I don't just love God for what He can do for me (like the devil had suggested when speaking to God about him). I love Him because of who He is and because He first loved me.

And so even when there are days that my head hurts so much that I physically can't move; and even where there are days that my mind is confused and feels in a fog; and even when I have to make an effort to remember simple details and instructions (and still sometimes fail) - I love my God. So there! *sticking my tongue out* I can and will praise Him in this storm...

Friday, January 23, 2009

My Desire

This morning I was listening to Jeremy Camp's song "My Desire" and my heart began to ache. Every word of that song mimics how I am feeling.

I’ve had my fill of “religion” stuffed down my throat, and while I’m grateful for the things those days taught me – I want something real. And I want Jesus to be real. I’m not satisfied with reading about how wonderful He was. It’s not enough for the ink of pages to tell of His peace, and healing, and comfort, and restoration power. I yearn for that ink to become alive. I want Him to be wonderful NOW. I mean He is wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, but for so many of us “Christians”, He’s not REAL. He’s a beautiful character that we read about. That’s not enough for me. I mean I’m grateful to know what I do know about Him, but I NEED more. I crave more. “I know my heart is to fill You near and I know my life is to do Your will…”

Just like the Jeremy Camp song, I know how far God has brought me. I am in awe that He would ever look at me with anything more than disgust. When I couldn’t even love myself, He did. The King of all Kings looked at me and LOVED me!!!! Is He sure? I mean I’ve done some pretty despicable disgusting things… Of course He’s sure! He’s God! Psalm 45:11 (NKJV) The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. Enthralled? Beauty? ME?!?!?!?! To Him, I am beautiful (whoa). He’s forgiven and forgotten about all that “junk” that had me all marred and wounded. He sees through eyes that I’m yet to see through.

And get this, He believes in me. That’s crazy! So since He is all knowing and still He believes in me, then so do I. I’ll do whatever I have to do to bring Him alive. I’ll do anything to make Him real. I believe that He can heal the brokenhearted. I know that He’s a comfort in the storm. I know that He’s our strength when we’re weak. He’s a peace that passes all understanding. And I want everyone else to know without a doubt that my­ God is real. ­My God is more than ink on pages. Hebrews 13:8 (NIV) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Monday, January 19, 2009

P.S. - I love you...

So a friend recommended that we rent the movie "P.S. - I love you..." I knew that the movie was about a young couple and that the husband dies, but that's all I knew. Tonight my husband and I watched it and had one of those nights...

The couple wasn't in their 30's yet (like us); the man was this girl's first kiss and love (like me); he was sort of carefree (like me) while she was organized and detailed (like Martin); and the kicker - HE DIES OF A BRAIN TUMOR. Lovely. If I had've know that was how he died, I wouldn't have watched it. But I'm glad that I didn't know and that I did watch it.

Anyway, when I was so sick, and knew that death was just as much a reality as living was, I wasn't scared for me. I wasn't afraid to die and I wasn't afraid of what would happen to my kids if I died because Martin is wonderful and because my mom is wonderful. Granted, I don't want either of them to grow up without a mom and I love them fiercely, but I know that they would be okay. What did scare me, was what would happen to Martin.

I don't think that Martin would sink inside of himself and never shower and lose his job and never get out of bed. I know he'd keep chugging on for our kids, but what scares me is that he'd forget to smile. Martin has a smile that stretches across his entire face and when he looks at you and smiles you can see his eyes dance with sparkles. When he laughs, like truly laughs, nothing is more beautiful and you have to laugh too because you just have too. But if I were to die, and he was sad, what if he stopped laughing???

In the movie, that was his fear for her, and it's exactly what happened for that first year. She forgot to smile. She stopped laughing. I didn't just cry, I sobbed and at moments told Martin that I just couldn't watch anymore... Now I know that it's normal to mourn and there are some days that will just be sad, but not forever. No one deserves to feel their heartbreak in two each and every morning.

I did have surgery that removed most, if not all, of the tumor cells in my brain. My chances are very good. However, some of the tumor had spread into my brain stem and those are the hardest cells to reach. We are keeping a close eye on them. But just in case, if something happens, I want him to smile. I want him to be happy. I love him and he deserves to laugh until his sides ache.

We aren't really great about talking about "the tumor" because... well, we just aren't. So here is my public declaration: Martin, don't mourn forever. Laugh baby, for me. Smile, for me. Keep living, for me because you love me and because I love you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Whoever is not against us is for us...

· John questioned Jesus about a man displaying miraculous signs because he was not “one of them”. Mark 9:38-41
· Jesus prays for all who believe in Him. John 19:20-26

How can you tell who is for Christ?
· It’s simple really. Matthew 7:15-20
· What to be looking for. Galatians 5:22 -23

Ask, Seek, and Knock
· The promise of Jesus for us all. Matthew 7:7&8
· Perfect example. Acts 10

Careful not to judge.
· Matthew 7: 1 & 2
· Psalm 96:13
· Luke 6:37
- John 8:6-8

Lord, You are good!

Ever heard the song 'Lord, You are Good'? Well, in church yesterday we sang it, and as we got to the part that says, "You are good, all the time, all the time, You are good!" I started thinking about just how true that really is.

God is good when I have "headache" days and He is good when I feel fine.
God is good when I have difficulty remembering and He is good when I don't.
God is good on the trips that I take to the doctor or hospital and He's good when I don't have to make those trips.
God is good when I am laying in an MRI machine and He's still good when I'm not.
God is good when my prayers seem to bounce off the sky and He is good when they don't.
God is good when I don't understand the curveballs that life throws my way and He is good when there are no balls flying at me.
God is good when our finances look slim and He is good when our every need is met.
God is good when I feel helpless and hopeless and He is good when I'm reminded that He is my help and my hope.
God is good when medical bills stack up on my desk...
God is good when I feel overwhelmed...
God is good ALL THE TIME.
God is good when I feel lost or confused and He is good when I'm granted understanding.
God is good when the storms threaten to overtake me and He is good when there is peace.
God is good when my kids are angels and He is good when they seems possessed.
God is good when my marraige is struggling and He is good when it is strong.
God is good when I make 'A's on tests in school and He's still good when I barely make 'C's.
God is good when I don't understand His decisions...
God is good when my heart feels broken...
God is good ALL THE TIME.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

All Things Are Possible!

So by the hand of God, I am still chugging along at school. Tomorrow is our first 'official' day back, but I don't have any classes until the next day. It's so crazy to think that when I started back last semester, no one (including me) was sure that I could make it. Some days were hard. I'd have headaches so bad that I'd barely make it out of the classroom before fainting or throwing up. Two of my medications cause blurred vision so studying was like reading through beer goggles. I would cry. I would want to quit. But I kept on chugging. And somehow I made it through to register for another semester!!!

Just a perfect reminder that no matter how grim things may appear, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem, no matter how much you might want to quit - don't forget that all things are possible if you're holding hands with the Almighty!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Holidays THIS Year (Oh what a difference a year makes!)

No pictures of bald heads or walkers in these recent holiday pictures! We had a wonderful holiday and spent 8 days with my Papi and family in California (which is clear across the continent for us). I was surprised with how well I did with the altitude changes and all. My head hurt on the plane on the way there and there was only one day that I didn't have the greatest of days, but that was it! Maybe the "bad" days are getting fewer and fewer... That would be nice!
My kids got to see snow for the first time; and for the first time in ages I was able to read a book just 'cause! I read 'The Shack' and was surprised by how much I liked it and the volumes in which God spoke to me through it.
Coming back home was bittersweet, but we spent an evening with Martin's extended family and the next day with my mom's family. Both nights were great and we had a lot of fun.
To ring in the New Year we visited a Hispanic Church in town with a friend of mine and it was awesome! It was almost like being on the mission field or being plucked up from here and plopped in the middle of Mexico. We couldn't understand most of what was said, and no one could really understand us, but that was okay. Still the praise and the presence of God was undeniable and it was just too cool.
So now we are back to the 'real' world and I'm looking forward to it. I start back school Wednesday and I'll be taking Microbiology and Spanish. I'm pretty stoked. Micro should be interesting. Signing up for classes this semester just reminded me that no matter what obstacles may be thrown your way, with the strength of God, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Trying to forgive...

It's so hard to forgive when the hurt is so justified, and yet that is exactly what Jesus did for me. He forgave me even when there was absolutely no reason for Him too... What strength that must have taken! To forgive when your heart feels broken and hurt is nearing its' bitter turn to anger...

Shaky relationships have shattered and crumbled at my feet (and naturally I point the blame at "The Brain Tumor") and I know that I have to forgive, I want to forgive, and yet I can't. I've tried. I've thought that I had. And yet still it's obvious that I haven't because the wounds still ooze with pain. Truly I need the help and strength of God.

And He will help me and He will be my strength because He is strength.

Exodus 15: 2 "The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him."

Psalm 18:1 "I will love You, O LORD, my strength."

Psalm 18:32 "It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect."