23 Apr 2014 Leave a comment
23 Apr 2014 1 Comment
A friend recently posed this question to me: “If you could go back to when you were sixteen years old and give yourself a word of advice, what would that be?”
Instead of blurting out what I knew was in my heart—fearful of causing an unwanted shock factor—I rambled on, explaining how rebellious and stubborn I had been at sixteen and how I should have listened to advice from my parents and those older than myself.
I pondered my friend’s question over the next several days and concluded that there was a compelling reason why I was so rebellious and stubborn. At the tender, yet naïve, age of sixteen, I had already endured four years of sexual abuse by a close family member, on an almost weekly basis. I was innocent, young, confused, afraid, and not sure where I could turn for help. Who would believe me? How would my family be affected if I revealed the secret? I felt guilty, dirty, and unloved.
If I were able to go back to sixteen, I now know I would fall on my knees, challenging myself to find another adult, somebody I could trust with the horrible secret hidden so deep within my being. If I could have found someone, anyone, to confide in, it may have saved me from another four years of tormented abuse.
Has someone ever deeply hurt you? Maybe you’ve also been abused physically, mentally, or sexually many years ago, or maybe recently? Perhaps a family member has mistreated you, or somebody you work with, and you can’t find within yourself the ability to forgive the person who was responsible for the mistreatment. You are positive that, regardless of the regret your abuser may or may not feel, and despite sincerest apologies and pleas for forgiveness, in your own strength you know it would be impossible to forgive them. I know what you’re feeling. I’ve been there and know firsthand that it’s not easy to forgive that type of abuse in your own strength.
Obviously, we live in a broken world where injustice is rampant in our society. But, despite this fact, where can we turn and in whom can we trust?
Being sexually abused by someone I was inherently taught to trust altered my view of a sovereign God who loved me enough to die for me.
* * * * *
I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few Christians who can proclaim that they know exactly when the Lord revealed his purpose for their life. Without a doubt, I’m completely aware of when he revealed his purpose for mine.
Over the past several years, I’ve felt an inward tug to share what the Lord has done and is still doing in my life with our hurting world. While I was going through difficult times, I wasn’t always conscious of how God was shaping my life. But as I look back, I can see his hand guiding me into what his desire is for me.
On October 30, 2011, my husband and I enjoyed the last morning of a whirlwind four-week trip through California, Oregon, and Washington. It was Sunday morning and we planned to visit a newly planted church where old friends were attending. But, for some unknown reason, that particular morning we felt more compelled to stay inside our cozy cottage, where we snuggled close together on the sofa and watched In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dr. Stanley’s forty-minute message centered on the purpose of our lives being used for the glory of God. He ended his sermon with a question that radically changed my life. Though I don’t remember his exact words, I distinctly remember the point.
One day you will stand before the Lord your God. All-knowing God will look you eye to eye and heart to heart and ask, “What did you do with your life that has brought glory and honor to me?” He’ll continue, “What did you do with the spiritual gifts I so generously gave to you, my child? Who did you tell the Good News of the gospel, possibly leading another precious soul to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?” How will you answer when he asks that all-important and soul-searching question?
Suddenly, as if I had been stunned out of a dispassionate spirit, I heard God’s voice, the words pounding deep in my heart, loud and clear. “Judy, have I not blessed you with a firsthand knowledge of my forgiveness, by my grace and mercy? I want you to tell others about the forgiveness I offer to each one of my children. It is I alone who can forgive your past, present, and future sins!”
I felt as if I’d been hit with a two-by-four. I immediately knew what my answer would be. A loud, reverberating voice inside me screamed out, “Write a book. Tell others about events of my life and how today I’m able to see that my Lord was with me along every step of my journey. Talk about how tragic and deep the pain of my past was. Include the answer to the essential question for someone who has been abused: ‘How could I possibly forgive another person, especially someone who abused me so deeply and continued abusing me for so long?’”
In the few years since then, I’ve discovered that I can truly trust what God’s Word promises to those who call him Savior; namely, that Jesus loves his children unconditionally. He knows we’re sinners in need of his mercy and grace, and without him, we’re completely lost.
Jesus relates a story in Matthew 19:26, following his encounter with the rich young ruler. Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible!”
Most of us have heard the poem “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson. The poem recounts a conversation when a child of God asks something like this, “God, why is it that during the hardest and most difficult times of my life and during my most painful experiences there are only one set of footprints and not two?” God lovingly answered, “Because, that was when I carried you.”
Come back with me to the difficult years of my life as I recollect a tragic, heart-wrenching journey, as well as many celebratory moments, when I was becoming Made New.
16 May 2013 1 Comment
Psalm 139: 7-10
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Rockhound State Park and Spring Canyon, New Mexico.
It was our second day of vacation and the middle of May. Dry, arid, windy, sun-scorched cacti for far as the eye could see. Nothing alive could grow here, could it?
Dried up ground, covered with a rainbow of colored rocks. Hunting for a treasure – a perfect turquoise stone. Turquoise wasn’t found, but beautiful green and red treasures instead, brought to life with a few drops of moisture applied. To remember this day I’ll take some home for my shade garden.
Animals were scarce, except for several enormous black ravens, catching the high winds rushing into the canyon, in hunt of something to eat. Surely, rattlesnakes and lizards slithered for cover.
It wasn’t hard to imagine how anything or anyone could live in such a harsh and deserted land.
Tall rock formations and deserted caves, rocky crags, some with what seemed like a type of arid moss, chartreuse in color.
Is that a cross in the side of a magnificent rock? It is! I see you Jesus, even in the middle of nowhere.
No matter where I go, YOU are there. Your love and faithfulness fill my soul anew every morning.
Thank you for the bountiful and beautiful reminders of your perfect love.
06 Dec 2012 Leave a comment
in Freedom, God's sovereignty, Growing Your Faith, hunger, nature, Parenting, privilege, third world country, Uncategorized, vacation, Where? Tags: America, hunger, life, third world countries, vacations
Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/freedom.html#xZoKSuuR41b2GWu6.99
October 2011: Pismo Beach, California.
Inviting aromas of Splash Café’s world famous clam chowder, served in a toasted San Luis Sourdough bowl and Mo’s Memphis style hickory smoke barbecue drifted up Pomeroy Avenue, towards the rocky cliffs separating the Central coast from the rest of the state.
My husband and I were on another vacation to an area of California that’s all too familiar for both of us, since that was the area where we met and fell in love. We leisurely made our way past rows of storefronts on our way to the pier and miles of sandy beaches stretched along the pacific coast.
Warm afternoon breezes and valley tourists packing up, preparing for the two and a half-hour drive back to the San Joaquin Valley.
Strolling hand in hand, reminiscing over previous years, once again taking in the thunder of the waves, and the cool, hard sand beneath our bare feet. Another pursuit, searching for a unique, yet somehow abandoned, discarded, home of a sea creature.
We sat down together on the soft warm sand, watching surfers riding an occasional wave and skim boarders sliding over a sheet of sand that looked like a giant mirror reflecting a biplane in the clear sky above.
I stopped a young man and asked, “I’ve never seen this before. The sand looks like it’s an enormous sheet of smooth glass. What does it feel like when you skim over it?”
“It feels like you’re floating on it.”
“Wow, that’s amazing!”
“Yeah. When it’s not this smooth, and we try to skim over it, we fall off our board a lot easier. We love it when it’s like this.”
“That is so incredible! You guys have fun!”
Two others, around fourteen, tucked their boards under their arm and waved goodbye.
Watching from a distance, I commented “If they’re fortunate enough to have a father who cares about their day, I bet when they walk into their house, Dad says, “Hey son, what did you spend this nice day doing?”
To which his reply may be, “Oh, John and I spent the day at the beach, skimming waves. The conditions were perfect.”
I don’t have a penchant to go into a political discussion, but I wonder if we really realize how good our lives are in this country.
Pete and I sat snuggled together and began an in depth contemplating conversation about how privileged we are and how much we take our freedom for granted. The reality of a difficult economy has kept many families from being able to afford to go on long vacations, but consider how freeing it is to be able to pack your family in the car and say, let’s go to the Coast for the weekend.
It’s so commonplace for us to just jump in our own car and drive anywhere we want to go, whether it’s to the grocery store, an afternoon matinee, or to a nice restaurant with a list of entrees a mile long.
If we think about it, one hundred years ago, only the wealthy would have had the type of luxury we enjoy today.
How about those living in impoverished nations? I have never been to a nation as poor as many third world countries, but by what I’ve read and seen in documentaries it makes me extremely thankful to be an American. I’ve never experienced the horrors of starvation and unhealthy living conditions friends have told me that they’ve experienced on a vacation or perhaps while sharing God’s love on a mission trip.
May 1998, after landing at Charles d’Gaule Airport and standing in the security line for what seemed like hours, Pete and I hopped onto a shuttle headed into the city of Paris. Naturally, everything was printed in French and the buildings had roofs that reminded me of old Disney movies like Peter Pan and the 101 Dalmatians. I felt as if I had landed on another planet. This was my first visit to a foreign country and it felt exactly like that, for me, foreign.
While in France we toured ancient castle ruins and saw how severely Christians were tortured for their faith as we made our way south towards vacationing for a few days along the Mediterranean coast. I was so thankful when we landed on US soil that I felt that I would kiss the ground.
Living in this Great Country, we have our own citizens living in unhealthy conditions and families that have a hard time making ends meet until the next payday, or those who are homeless, living on the streets, searching through a restaurant’s garbage to find something worth eating.
Why can’t we see how our nation is so fully loved by God? How is it that we’re so privileged and we’re able to live in a country so richly blessed, when there are so many souls in our world suffering? The amount of various responses to that question, is way more than I could possibly answer.
Sometimes, I think we lose sight of the freedom God has given us. We tend to take each other for granted.
Don’t forget that we live in the United States of America, where freedom reigns.
Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
26 Nov 2012 1 Comment
Chapter 15: The Waterfall
“God, where are you in my life?”
When you ask that question, you had better be ready for his answer. As this recollection of events will reveal, He answered in an unexpected way when Pete and I moved from California to Oregon.
Shortly after Pete and I met in 1993 and I first visited his bachelor pad in Santa Maria, I noticed a poster that his sister Linda had given him. He had mounted it in a plain black poster frame and placed it on the living room wall. The picture centered on a rushing waterfall that flowed into a rocky stream, surrounded by lush green ferns, trees, and thick moss, all under a darkened forest canopy and fair blue skies. My awe in the beauty of God’s creation in a full range of blue and green colors was breathtaking, and Pete and I couldn’t help but feel privileged to be able to enjoy something so beautiful together.
In 1997, while our new home was being built in Buellton, we removed the picture from under the poster frame, painstakingly trying not to tear it, which we did accidentally, having to discard part of the clear rocky stream. Once we had carefully removed the waterfall portion of it from the frame we rushed it to Michael’s crafts store and had it set within a simple wooden frame behind glass.
We were settling into our newly built home and wanted to place it in an area where we could enjoy looking at its beauty every day. So we decided to hang it in our small dining room, where it remained for the next five years until we carefully packed it away for our move to Eagle Creek, Oregon in June 2002. Once there, we decided to place it in our bathroom to create a feeling of the green Oregon outdoors.
It had been nine years and many hours of meditation, asking, “I wonder where that waterfall is, or it could be anywhere, only God knows where it is, and we’ll probably never know.”
Santa Maria is well known for its “Santa Maria style” Tri-Tip barbecues, prepared over red oak, and we wanted to share Pete’s expertise in preparing the mouth-watering meat for our new friends from AEC. We had settled into our new home and thought it was a wonderful way to begin making new friends.
Within minutes, a few of the guests came out to our deck, asking, “Where did you get that incredible picture in your bathroom?”
“Pete’s sister gave it to him before we met and we’ve loved it so much that we had it framed a few years ago. We’ve been enjoying it ever since.”
“Do you know where that waterfall is located?”
“No, we wish that we did, though.”
“You’re not going to believe this, but that waterfall is called Punchbowl Falls and it’s about a two-mile hike along Eagle Creek off of the Columbia Gorge highway!”
We couldn’t believe it! Of all of the waterfalls on this earth, God had placed this waterfall into our lives and we believed He was using it to guide us to where He wanted us to grow in our spiritual journey. He truly does work in ways that are mysterious to us and that we can’t even begin to fathom!
In August 2002, Pete and I took a three-day trip to San Francisco and Hopland, California for Fetzer Wineries’ annual event, “Fun in the Sun with Emeril Lagasse.” We knew the day we planned to return would be the perfect opportunity for hiking to Punchbowl Falls, so before leaving home, we made sure that we packed clothing and our hiking boots in the car.
When Sunday finally came we were both ecstatic and ready to fly back to Portland. Our plane touched down and we hurried to our car parked in one of the two long-term lots and made our way east on Highway 84 towards another new adventure.
I have to confess, I’m terrified of heights and rocky trails, much as I like hiking. But, somehow I managed to endure the two-hour hike along steep cliffs, cliffs that dropped off to Eagle Creek, one hundred feet below. It seemed as if I had a six-inch path to make my way on, trembling, wanting to close my eyes at times, wishing I wasn’t experiencing this. But, I was determined to see Punchbowl Falls for myself.
My feet hurt terribly when I asked somebody, “How much further is Punchbowl Falls?”
“It’s just around the corner!”
The last turn, there it was, Eagle Creek gently flowing into the small pool, making its way down a rocky stream towards the Columbia River.
Pete and I stood admiring this wonder located within a mere hour’s drive from our home in Eagle Creek, Oregon. We both knew that God had placed this into our lives for his purpose. We were in awe as we contemplated what the Lord was going to do in our lives next, and we didn’t want to leave.
A few moments passed, and as we turned to hike back to the car, a pure white butterfly flitted around my feet until it finally rested on my boot. I sensed God saying, “I’ve brought you here for a purpose. Trust me.”
Pete and I believe that God led us to Eagle Creek, Oregon for His divine purpose. God already had an incredible plan for our lives when I had asked, “God where are you in my life?” a few months earlier. He had already determined to show me!
Neither one of us believed that any part of what happened that day or in the weeks before could have been coincidental. When God does something this powerful in your life, you know in your heart that it can’t be just another coincidence.
I’ve shared this story with nonbelievers and they have said they think it was a mere coincidence. “I don’t believe in a god works that way in our lives,” more than one of them has said.
I know that my God does. It may sound strange, but I believe that God can use any circumstance, person, any place, or any thing, to make a positive change in somebody’s life.
We have had the opportunity to repeat this story, as well as other profound moments, with many of our friends and it never fails to amaze me how sharing the magnitude of God’s work in our lives amazes and touches their hearts. Ours has been a journey of unfailing faithfulness and trust. Punchbowl Falls made a lasting impression on us, for sure!
Jeremiah 29:11, has become the foundation of my decision to place my trust in the Lord. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.
27 Aug 2012 Leave a comment
Looking back, Pete and I can both see God growing our spiritual lives during those years. He has shaped and molded us all along the way. With all of his children, He grinds a little edge of our lives here, and then a little there, until He shapes and polishes us into the diamond He has set in His mind for us so that we can reflect His love and light to the world. Yet, our hearts yearn for it because we will not reach that ultimate perfection until we cross over into glory to live with Him forever and ever. It’s an awesome moment when you realize how God is transforming your life to bring glory and honor to Him.
15 Aug 2012 Leave a comment
An important fact that we need to focus on is that this life is but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. I fully believe that one day, when we’re in heaven with the Lord, we will be able to look back at our lives and the Lord will allow us to see how events unfolded from an eternal perspective. We should look forward to the end of our lives and do whatever we can possibly do to mend any broken relationship.
Have you ever asked the Lord to show you, or to reveal to you, who you need to go to so that past hurts can be healed?
This is where our faith and trust in God comes in. Romans 8:28 ‘We know that all things work for the good to those who love the Lord, those who have been called according to his purpose.
We must trust in God’s plan. God knows every single thought we have. He doesn’t just know all of our thoughts, but he also knows the thoughts of all who have ever lived and all who are presently living, and those that are yet to live on this earth! He’s omniscient! He’s sovereign! He knows and sees everything. God has called us to place our hope, faith, and trust in Him and Him alone! He knows everything about each one of us.
Why wouldn’t we want to get out own agenda out of the way and fall on our knees, completely surrendering our lives to the Lord? He knows where you’ve been and where you’re going. He has promised to reward us for our faith. If we slow down enough to allow Him to work in our lives, we will receive powerful revelations of His love and an intimate relationship with Him that will change our entire outlook on this life.
31 Jul 2012 Leave a comment
Have you ever allowed yourself to be lost in the wonder of God’s creation? For me, it’s in the flowers and nature. I see God in those things. In a snapdragon flower, I see two big dragon eyes right in the middle of that bud! Who, but God, could ever create something so breathtaking? I have to think ‘what was God thinking when He created this flower’. It’s amazing when we’re able to see details such as this. I have picked up nature photography and it’s allowed me to see how perfectly God has created every living thing. The tiny airbrush strokes on the face of a pansy, painted by the finger of God. He is the creator of every living thing! I believe we will spend eternity in a state of euphoria observing all of God’s majestic creation in heaven!
I’m currently reading the book ‘Heaven’ by Randy Alcorn. Along with the Bible, this book has made such an enormous impact on my spiritual journey with the Lord. Of all the promises God has made to His children, I believe that we have no idea of the profound love He has for us. This book has opened my eyes and the door of my heart to receive, and absorb for that matter, promises of the glorious eternity He has prepared for each one of us. It’s hard to fathom what our lives will be like when we step over into eternity.