Take My Heart

Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.  – Frances R. Havergal

Often, when Anthony and I enter into a time of trial, we will pray for God to use us and our situation to edify other’s faith. Only recently have I gained the foresight to plead with God to edify my own faith. It’s been wonderful, the results.

During a recent Bible Study, I read the words “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” It blew me away for many reasons, but the part I’ll write about today is this – Your enemies. 

What’s the significance? Everything. These aren’t my enemies, King David’s enemies or even my neighbor’s enemies – they’re God’s enemies. All of them.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12

You see, all of “our” enemies don’t hate us, nor do they want to hurt us. They’re fighting against God. We are physical representations of Christ, so we become the target.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.

Matthew 5:11

We are blessed because we’re God’s children. Because He’s been working through us and because there is a gain in His Kingdom. We know He’s been glorified because the enemy is mad.

Understanding this key spiritual truth has been a major breakthrough for me. I don’t need to stay low or stay angry when someone strikes me. It wasn’t me they were aiming for! I can forgive because really, there wasn’t much to forgive in the first place. I was not the target. Christ was.

Jesus laid up on that cross and asked God to forgive the very men who murdered Him. I can forgive those who’ve offended me, abused me, hurled insults at me. I can stand strong in the faith because I know

God has been at work in me

God has worked through me

God has been glorified

I’m important to God

And Satan is mad.

 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Matthew 5:44

Know that you’re important to God. The enemy will come because you’re His and that is something to be glad about. Dust your shoulders off, fall to your knees and pray. The enemy will come again so repeat, daily.

If being broken, abused, insulted and persecuted means that God is glorified, so be it! My life and everything I own belongs to God and He can use me however He sees fit.

Are you willing to let Christ use you however He sees fit? Have you ever considered that He is glorified through your trials? Do you struggle to forgive? Do you struggle to see your enemies as His?

Ask God to reveal Himself to you. Ask Him to help you forgive. He will! He will also strengthen you, prepare you for the road ahead and surround you with loving kindness. He will never forsake you or leave you. There is power in His name, so call it out whenever you need help. And remember, your enemies aren’t coming for you. They’re coming for Him.

In Christ,

Mandy ❤

Sunday Inspiration {Get To Church}

Sunday Inspiration: Get to church! No matter what, get to church today. Walk, run, hop, skip, hobble in on your last breath, roll in twenty minutes late. It doesn’t matter how you get there, just do it! Your church is your family and you need fellowship.

I grew up in an abusive home. Whenever my mom wasn’t looking, my step dad would pull me up  in his  lap and molest me. Daily. I wasn’t even safe in bed at night. Fear was my main emotion. It was my motivator for years. My grandmother started taking me to church when I was three. The Lord planted seeds of faith in me then and they’ve grown!

I’m an adult now and I do not have any contact with my family. Satan has used them to try to break me, to tear me out of God’s hand, but no one can do that! God loves me! He delivered me from the bowels of hell and brought me into sweet fellowship with His people. He’s given me a new name, a new hope, a new life and a new family!

It’s pouring down rain here in Oregon, but I’m going to DANCE my way into church today! Don’t let your circumstances or your emotions get you down. GOD SEES YOU and He deeply loves you. He’s working on your behalf to deliver you. Get to church. Fill up on His Word.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:38

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8  

I love you. God loves you. Get to church and share that love.

In Christ,

Mandy ❤

Menial Tasks Reap Heavenly Rewards

Perhaps this will come as a surprise to you, but daily I’m found grumbling about breastfeeding. Sometimes I count down the days or months until my son Jackson is one year old so I can just abruptly stop. I’m tired, it’s inconvenient, I have too many responsibilities… the list of grumbles goes on and on. 

Someday I’ll miss these moments. I know because I missed them after I stopped at 6 months with Theresa and 2 weeks with Chelsea. It was hard and it wasn’t what was best for myself or my babies.

I’m reminded of a few key spiritual truths as I consider this issue a third time:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

And

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  Matthew 25:40

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The Word of God asks me to consider what I’m doing as important work! It’s His work. I’m seen and known by a Holy God. Isn’t that wonderful?  He cares for even the tiniest, most menial tasks and rewards us for them.

Whatever you’re working at or tempted to grumble about today, just remember God sees you! You’re not merely mopping the floor, sweeping up crumbs or folding your husband’s shirts. You are doing God’s work and serving the King!

RV Life – Week Four (Debt-Free Journey)

God is finishing good works that He’s begun in me! This has been a very challenging week in our RV. I’ll share a little bit with you from last night and this morning in an early update on RV Life Week Four! 🙂

I’d fallen asleep early last night and had been awoken by my husband as he told me we’d suddenly run out of propane. Our gauge somehow failed us and it had been stuck for weeks, suddenly dropping as it hit empty late last night.  Our heater (along with our stove and oven) works on propane, so we did not have heat last night. It gets very cold on the Oregon coast and I have a rare allergy to cold. When I become too cold for an extended period of time, my heart stops and I will die. I’ve nearly died on two different occasions from becoming too cold (as a teenager and as a young adult) so you can imagine how worried we were.

I did not see a way for us to fill up on propane in a timely manner and I was very scared. I didn’t believe God would really make this happen for us before my husband needed to arrive at work and I knew that if it didn’t happen before work, it would need to happen after. That would mean no heat, no stove, no oven all day. All three kids were home with me and it was a very, very cold day.

We prayed about it and I wanted to react out of fear, but I felt God’s call to listen to my husband. I prayed that God would give my husband wisdom and cause him to speak immediately. I would follow Anthony’s plan. I asked God to calm my fears and give me faith to trust him. Anthony kept asking me for my input, but I would not speak. I needed God to show His strength to me. My husband decided to make it all come together in the morning when we woke up because the gas station would be open then. I didn’t care for that decision, but I wanted to trust God. I replied only with “OK” which drove my husband nuts. He wanted to please me. I wanted to trust God.

Morning came and it was even colder than we’d anticipated. My husband had us ready to go in less than an hour – an amazing feat in a cluttered RV. I was able to stay in bed with Jackson, wrapped in blankets to stay warm until it was time to move.  We were there and back in about twenty minutes time! Anthony had time to park the RV, hook everything back up, get dressed for work, assist me with a couple of small tasks and still make it to work on time!

My faith was strengthened by this miracle! For me, it was absolutely a miracle because everything seemed stacked against us. I am glad that no one helped us because it really showed me how strong God is and how much He works through my husband to make me trust both him and God. (I still struggle in my marriage too, so please pray for us!)

Then, to add to our blessings today – I prayed for my husband to be blessed at work and he was abundantly blessed multiple times in the way I had specifically prayed for him! His boss caught him hard at work in a very challenging situation. His boss is not generally making rounds during this time, so I know that it was God that caused him to be there at that time. God went above and beyond what I’d asked Him to do. I even received a blessing, as did my children when we went to pick up my husband from work this afternoon. I was able to hear the appreciation regarding my husband’s hard work from his boss as he greeted my kids and I on his way out to his vehicle. I’m so proud of my husband and it made me glad to know his boss is also proud.

God cares about us. He pays attention to small details. He knows our hearts and sees the areas where we need to grow. He knows how to amaze us and knock our socks off. 🙂

This week has been hard. Very hard. It has also been full of blessings. Every night Anthony and I have been reading through a one year Bible study plan. That has brought me so much joy. I’ve also spent a lot of time in prayer for others and myself in addition to studying the Word of God solo. I’m by no means perfect, nor am I spending enough time doing these things, but they have blessed me and given me strength when otherwise I wouldn’t have had it.

In Christ, I can do all things for He strengthens me. This is both scripture (Philippians 4:13) and personal testimony.

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God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.

In Christ,

Mandy ❤

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (In Two Months)

For me, Christmas is year long. I’m always thinking about it, always excited about it. I love Santa because to me, he represents generosity, joy and childhood. I’m reminded to give generously to fellow man, remain joyful knowing there’s better things coming (Heaven) and to have fun and come to Jesus as a little child.

I also love researching Lapland and watching Finish YouTube videos of the Lapland Santa. It’s fun, especially since half of my family has roots in Finland and surrounding areas.

As the calendar season of Christmas approaches, I’m especially excited to share my Finish finds with others. My kids are just amazed by Joulupukki (Santa in Finnish) and his reindeer. I love seeing their faces light up as they explore other cultures.

I had no idea until about three years ago that Santa wasn’t always a universally known character. Finland actually has a Christmas goat that scares naughty children. Other countries have a witch, elves, a naughty reindeer, etc. We’ve been researching other customs and beliefs for a few years now and it’s opened my kids up to new ideas. Take some time this year to research your family tree a bit and develop some fun new activities to do during the holidays. Who knows – you might rekindle old family traditions!  I know my kids would love to hang an upside down tree this year if we had the space. 😉

Speaking of small spaces, I’m excited to sit back and let Santa and grandma give the kids presents this year. Anthony and I have chosen to invest in experiences for the kids, rather than gifts. We’ll still gift wrap some things, such as books to read together, sandwiches when we picnic (because what kid wouldn’t find it hilarious to unwrap their lunch on a picnic?) and small items they need to enjoy the season, such as gloves, a scarf, ear muffs, etc. Christmas isn’t about the one day we sit around unwrapping clutter near a brightly lit tree – for us, it’s about coming together as a family, enjoying the life that a very special little baby afforded us by His sacrifice upon the end of His adult ministry. How better to spread that message than to come out of our overpriced cave, into the world and joyfully proclaim it?!

I can hardly wait for Christmas! How about you? There are just over 2 months until Christmas Day. How will you celebrate? What memories are you excited to create?

RV Life – Week Three (Debt-Free Journey)

This week has been expensive! We paid down a debt, washed laundry at the local laundromat, purchased groceries, bought minutes for our prepaid cell phones and filled the car with gas. I like to see the savings balance grow but it was not filled at all this week. I am happy we paid down a debt though!

On the positive side, I attended an amazing Bible study on forgiveness, another one that focused on Abraham and Sarai and I took a few walks, soaking in God’s beauty around me. It was awesome! I’ve loved being in this new town. It’s smaller, more peaceful and full of wonderful people. I’m so grateful God brought us here.

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Anthony’s job is still very stressful and consumes more of our time than it pays for, but isn’t that the case in most law enforcement families? Sometimes it’s so hard not to resent the badge, but then I remember to be grateful because he’s not in the Navy anymore. Oh, am I immensely grateful for that!

Both girls are doing very well, despite Theresa having a weird 24 hour stomach bug. They both love school and are making new friends. I’m very impressed with their teachers. All of last year I fought to get help for Theresa on her math, but her teacher stated that she was doing just fine. Five days into this new school and her teacher sent home math worksheets for Theresa to work on. Woohoo! I was so happy to have an honest conversation with her teacher about her educational needs. Praise God for attentive teachers and smaller class sizes.

God’s been working on me regarding some big issues. I finally understand a few key truths, which I intend to blog about very soon. Stay tuned for those.

Jackson is eating homemade baby food now. He’s so big and so hungry that if I don’t feed him big boy food, I’m strapped to the couch or bed breastfeeding him a majority of the day. It had been very frustrating for both of us, so he was introduced to the wonderful world of apples, bananas, blueberries, sweet potatoes, pears, ricotta cheese, tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes…This boy can’t get enough! He’s much happier as well and he’s sleeping a bit better. It’s been a good thing for all of us.

How about you? What’s your week been like? Have you paid off any debts? What is God doing in your life? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂

Keeping Quiet About Our Faith

You really shouldn’t keep so quiet about your faith. Why? Because God is never quiet about how much He loves you.

This has been on my mind since the shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. What if I had been there? What if I had been among those who were killed for their faith? Would anyone be surprised by my answer when asked to state my religion? I hope not, but the truth is that I’m just not sure. I think some people might be and I’m not okay with that. God makes it perfectly clear how much He loves me. Why is it so hard to return that love?

Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins. Without this sacrifice, I’d spend eternity in hell, separated from the God I love. Some folks have questioned the need for Jesus to die on a cross. Why couldn’t God achieve our Salvation another way? He is God. He could just grant it out of the goodness of His heart. Good question. I believe there’s a multitude of reasonable responses, but I prefer this – He loves us so much He humbled Himself in the most unmistakable way possible to drive that point home. He died as a criminal, being entirely blameless.

I want to be just like Jesus.

Christianity seems to be going the way of dinosaurs. Evolution is tromping all over what’s already here. In the desire for the latest and greatest way of thinking and doing things, Christianity is being choked out of society. We’re being persecuted for actively living out our faith.  When Christianity becomes illegal, I’ll still be worshipping God. I hope I’ll be brave enough to do it openly, inspiring others to do the same.

There is so much evil in this world, but it does not define us! We are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and we are carefully watched over by God’s mighty hand.

God will never leave us or forsake us. He will save us from every trouble we encounter here on earth. You have likely heard or read my testimony already, but if you have not, here it is in a cliff’s notes version:

I was born to a broken mother. My biological father was a drug abuser who beat my mother and my older, handicapped half-sister. My mother escaped that hell only to have me kidnapped by my bio-father for two weeks before I was found and returned to her. Eventually, he spent 8 years in federal prison for drug trafficking. I was not told of his existence until I was ten years old. By then, I’d already been abused sexually, emotionally and physically for 8 years by several men – mainly by my step father who married my mother when I was two years old. I was in talk therapy, recovering from the abuse. I’d reported it to local authorities not long before receiving this news. Unfortunately,  I never reported any man other than my step father until after the statute of limitations was up. By then, all I could do was pray for any other potential victims.

My step father and mother are still married. The emotional abuse never stopped. At age 14, just four years after my reporting the crime, my step father pushed his way back into my home, legally. Child protective services and the courts watched it happen. No one intervened. I died inside. I attempted suicide twice, a year apart.

Fortunately, my maternal grandmother had been taking me to church since I was three years old. I had my own Bible and I read it often. God’s name was not foreign to me, but His love was. I felt it was choked out by all the evil in my life. Looking back, I can see it’s evidence now. I couldn’t then.

I met my husband at thirteen. Anthony began sowing seeds of friendship and trust. He is the first good man I ever allowed myself to love and to trust. I’m grateful for his patience. We married in 2006 and it’s been a beautifully ragged journey.

I suffered several miscarriages and struggled to form a deep relationship with God. Never knowing who to trust, I struck out at others often. I blamed myself for my sister’s tragic death in 2003, never got over the loss of my grandmother in 2000 and still bore the shame of a sex abuse survivor. Memories came to the surface with the birth of my daughters, and kept coming as they hit certain milestones. I was deeply afflicted by PTSD  (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and I nearly  destroyed both my marriage and my husband’s short career in the U.S. Navy.

I found healing in a funny little rag-tag church in Lake Stevens, WA. The Pastor was an ex drug user from Vegas. He was also Italian. (This is important because he had a big personality and still does, though he now preaches elsewhere.) Pastor Mike’s passion for God reignited my own. I fought for healing, begged for it! God granted it. I watched sin after sin fall away. I watched God restore. Then I watched Him take away.

Though God removed my sins, others judged me harshly for them still. I’d spent years lying, cheating on my husband, stealing from friends and coveting what everyone else had. I lost nearly everyone but my husband, kids and Pastor Mike.

We moved to the Yakima valley in Washington state after my husband’s six-year enlistment was up. I had connected with my biological father at the age of 18. Desperate for a change, further healing and for a father’s love, I moved us to be closer to him. It was a mistake. A few months later, I found myself in court begging for a restraining order to prevent my father from trying to kill me again. He’d tried just a few weeks prior. I was granted a rare permanent restraining order, meaning that he can never in my lifetime, my kids or my husband’s, come within 500 feet of us. God is merciful.

We moved back to Oregon a couple of weeks after that. My husband started work at a new job shortly afterwards. He’s now working in the same jail that both of my father’s have been housed in, many years prior. It’s funny how God works these details out. Evil tried to win, but in the end, God restored everything and then some.

Our third child, a son (finally!) was born this past May. I’d prayed for years for a boy. He looks just like my husband. Our girls look just like me. God is good. He never gives up on us. He never leaves us, never forsakes us.

I have so much growing still to do. I know God will perform many more miracles in my life because He loves me and His strength is shown in my weakness.

I love God and I know He loves me. He desperately loves you, too.

Forgive your enemies. I forgave mine. God removed me from my family and gave me a new family. My mother in law is awesome and I’m praying God restores my relationship with my sister-in-law. She’s amazing, too.

Sometimes forgiveness means moving on and away from those who harmed you. I still pray for my fathers and my mother. They’re very weak and I know that since God is very strong He will show His power to them and through them too. I just won’t be there to see it most likely. That’s okay though.  I’m sure we’ll be reunited in Heaven someday and there they can be a part of my life again.

I trust God to make or not make that happen. Until then, I’m going to keep loving Him and sharing my story.

You should not keep so quiet about your faith. Why? Because God is never quiet about how much He loves you.

In Christ,

Mandy ❤