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.
15 Apr 2013 Leave a comment
I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few believers who are able to proclaim that they knew when the Lord revealed his purpose for their life. Without a doubt, I’m completely aware of when He revealed what His purpose was for my life.
Over the past several years I felt an inward tug to somehow share what the Lord did, and is still doing, with my life and with our hurting world. I didn’t know if I would be conscious of how God would orchestrate it, or if I would even be aware of any of the details surrounding it.
October 30, 2011, my husband and I enjoyed the last morning of a whirlwind four-week trip through California, Oregon, and Washington. 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 snuggled together on the sofa watching In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley.
Dr. Stanley’s forty-minute message centered on our lives being used for the glory of God. He ended his sermon with a question that radically changed my life, “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 the 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? What will be your answer when He asks that all-important and soul- searching question?”
Suddenly, I heard God’s voice, the words pounding deep in my heart, loud and clear. “Have I not blessed you with a firsthand knowledge of my forgiveness, by my grace and mercy? I’m sending you to tell others about the forgiveness I offer to each one of my children. And that it is I alone who can and do forgive your past, present, and future sins!”
Wow! It was as if I had been hit with a two-by-four! I immediately knew the answer. A loud, reverberating, voice inside of me screamed out, “Write this book, telling 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 deep my pain was, including the answer to the essential question for someone who has been abused, ‘How do I possibly forgive the person, especially somebody who abused me so deeply?’
Throughout the last few years, I’ve discovered that I can truly trust what God’s word promises to those who call him Savior; namely, that Jesus does love his children unconditionally. He knows that we’re sinners in need of His mercy and grace, and without him, we’re lost.
Following Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19: 26: 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, when a child of God asks, “God, why, during the hardest and most difficult times of my life and during my most painful experiences are there only one set of footprints, and not two?” God lovingly answered, “Because, that’s when I carried you.”
Go back to those years with me as I recollect a tragic, heart-wrenching journey, as well as many celebratory moments, when I was Made New.
20 Mar 2013 Leave a comment
in Baptist, cancer, chemotherapy, Christ's love, feast, Fresno, Growing Your Faith, heaven, Holy Spirit, hunger, privilege Tags: Baptist, cancer, chemotherapy, Christ's love, church, feast, Fresno, growing your faith, heart, heaven, Holy Spirit, hunger, imprint, lord and savior, memorize, prayer, religion, scripture, spirituality, survivor
Joan began attending another Baptist church, near Caruthers, and we quickly followed. We were attending this church when our son was born in 1980. I became very involved in the young married couples’ group and made several lifelong friends. Another married couple, Bob and Bernice Pierce, began mentoring me in my spiritual growth. This godly couple proved to be a true blessing throughout the next few years of my life.
Although I don’t recall specifically what I was going through emotionally at the time, one evening I found myself crying near the church parking lot, having my first conversation with Bob. He was such a loving and tender man. His height, thin build, and gentle tone of speech reminded me of Abraham Lincoln. He put one long arm around me and said, “Judy, I don’t know what you’re going through right now. But, I want you to know that we have a promise from the Lord that we can lean on when times are tough. It’s Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
“Okay. Thank you, but I’m not good at remembering verses, but I’ll try to memorize it.” Not trusting in myself.
“If you can memorize it, you’ll always have a verse that you can cling too, when times aren’t so good.”
I’ve never forgotten the impact this verse has had on my spiritual journey through the years. Up to that point in my life no one outside of my family had had such a profound impact on my spiritual life as this couple did. Bernice Pierce was just as precious as her husband was. Shortly after we met, she told me that she was a breast cancer survivor, not once, but twice. I knew that this woman truly knew Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She seemed to have God’s Holy Spirit emanating from deep within her heart and it manifested itself in the way she spoke and in the way she prayed. Any time I had the privilege to be with her was a memorable one. Those times left an imprint in my heart and they were beautiful representations of Christ’s love for me.
My last memory of Bernice centers on a warm and breezy afternoon as I drove my ‘69 Corvette convertible towards Fresno Community Hospital to say my final good-byes to my dear friend. I walked into her hospital room, and as I entered her smile and the precious glow of her face, gave me a peace in knowing that she knew she would be making her journey to heaven soon. Though her skin was pale and she wore a covering over her head because of what the chemotherapy treatments had taken from her.
“Oh, Judy. Come here and let me hug you.”
Crying, I said, “Bernice, I had to come and see you one last time.”
Other close friends were present, as well, and we talked about old times; social get-togethers, swimming parties, Bible studies, Mary Kay parties, and Mexican feasts at Sal’s in Selma, California after church on Sundays.
She said, “Some day, we’ll all be in heaven together having the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, at one long table, big enough for all of us, and Jesus will be at the head of the table!”
I said, “Eating Sal’s Mexican food!”
Everyone laughingly agreed especially Bernice.
Bernice and I hugged and cried together. We knew that we wouldn’t see each other again on this side of heaven, and we both knew that she was ready to meet the Lord. Within a week, she did.
Excerpt from Made New: A Hippie Chick’s Journey From Abuse to Forgiveness
08 Feb 2013 1 Comment
in Forgiveness, Freedom, God's sovereignty, Growing Your Faith, heaven, Overcoming Abuse, privilege Tags: challenges, doors of my heart, eternal perspective, eternity, faith, forgiveness, heaven, journey, life, promises, randy alcorn, religion, spirituality, theology
Recently, I finished reading Heaven, by famous Christian author Randy Alcorn. Along with the Bible, it made an extremely profound impact on my spiritual journey with the Lord. I became keenly aware that out of all God’s promises we can’t begin to fathom or have any idea of the eternal and unfailing love He has for us.
My eyes, and the doors of my heart opened to receive more of His promises and the glorious eternity He has prepared for us. It’s hard to begin, or comprehend, what life will be like when I step over into eternity.
One important fact that we need to focus on is that our lives are but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. I fully believe that there will come a day, when I’ll be able to look back on my life as the Lord lovingly guides me, allowing me to see how both tragedy and joyous events unfolded from an eternal perspective.
We should look forward to the end of our lives, praying daily, seeking God’s will. His desire is for us to serve Him, showing Christ’s love to a hurting world, in the process, continually mending broken relationships through forgiveness.
That takes faith! Yet, remember, 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.
Years ago, I read Why do bad things happen to good people?
I don’t recall the name of the author, but he had an intriguing way of describing events that occur throughout our lives.
To paraphrase, our lives are like part of a tapestry, we only see the threads closest to us, each thread woven in alongside and beside us, but God sees the full picture of a beautifully complete tapestry, every thread carefully placed, and sewn in, by our Creator.
18 Jan 2013 Leave a comment
The girl with the funny accent…
A pretty fourteen-year-old girl with dark-hair and brown-eyes newly relocated to a Marine Corps base in the middle of the California desert. The year was 1972.
Several young teenagers, including myself, sat on the curb or on the grassy hillside under a large shade tree, comparing places we had lived with our Dad’s military service.
I said, “I just moved from Georgia.”
A skinny, dark-haired boy looked at me and pointed, laughing, “That’s what that accent is!”
I had no idea what an accent was and why this boy thought that I had one. I pushed back, “What accent? I don’t have an accent! Um, do I?” Obviously, his comment had made me self-conscious and a little bit embarrassed.
He went on to say, “It’s so obvious. I hope you can get rid of that accent, because if you don’t, it’s going to follow you around the rest of your life!”
“Huh, uh. That’s mean!” In my young and naïve mind I prayed that in time he wouldn’t be right.
Within five months my family moved to Fresno, where I became entrenched with California traditions, wearing bell-bottoms, midriff tops, Keds sneakers, headbands, and mood rings. I dreamed about having long, straight dark hair like Cher’s and fell in love with rock n roll music.
My friends and I held up the peace sign to our friends or to an occasional acquaintance without myself really knowing what the true meaning was behind a peace sign. I would later find out that it was about ending the Vietnam War and, at the time, unbeknownst to me personally, the Vietnam War would unknowingly make an impact on my life. But that’s another story.
Those were just the kind of things we did back then.
During my first days and months at Kings Canyon Junior High School, we talked about the Olympics in Social Studies class and I always looked forward to my last and favorite class, art.
And, within a few days I quickly became known as the girl with the funny accent.
I tried desperately not to talk like a ‘Georgia peach’, but the accent continued, following me through high school and well into my twenties. As much as I like to talk…uh, hum, somehow, California’s articulating accent began taking up residence. I’m not sure if that was a good, or a bad thing.
Well into my forties and on one occasional trip visiting family in Oklahoma, one of my nieces, about the same age I was when I first learned about accents said,
“Aunt Cheryl, how come you talk so funny?” Words strung into a question that took about ten seconds to slowly spill out.
Laughing, and with the same drawl inflection, “I don’t know Lauren. How come you talk so funny?” She walked away, with a look of bewilderment and everybody in the room laughed.
I knew exactly how she felt. I’ve never figured out why, but I’ve always had a fascination with accents. Although, I miserably failed French in the tenth grade, I still love to hear a foreign accent and find it interesting and fun. To ask somebody where their from and hear stories of other parts of our country, or even from around the world fascinates me. On many occasions Pete and I may be in a public place and hear somebody speaking with an unfamiliar accent. We almost always listen and discuss where we think their native country is. Sometimes, we’re brave enough to ask. It just amazes me how other people’s lives are so different from my own.
Sometimes, a person’s accent can really get in the way of a conversation. One stands out in my mind of a woman that I developed a very close friendship with when I lived in Oregon. Her name was Joanne.
Joanne was born and raised in Maine and her Northeastern accent, with the inflection on the rolling ‘r’ was quite obvious once I got to know her.
We talked about our lives and I listened intently to stories of her childhood and family members still living in the area. She told me about their family visits to the beach, lobster villages, and the Cape Cod style homes.
Joanne was in the prime of her life in the 1960’s. The way I saw her was that she was the new modern woman. She and Ron met when they worked together at the Safari Club in Estacada. Her personality was firm and she knew what she wanted and she wasn’t afraid to tell you.
We spent hours together, sitting at their dining room table, quilting, as she was who introduced and taught me how to quilt. I still enjoy it, although I really do miss her.
One early afternoon, Ron was reclining in the living room watching an old rerun as Joanne and I sat at the table, when out of the blue she said, “Cheryl, have you ever strip-pieced before? She spoke with her head down, facing her sewing machine so I couldn’t see her when she said it.
Thinking what does that have to do with what we’re doing, I laughingly responded, “What did you say, strip-tease? Um, no. I’ve never strip-teased!”
“No, strip-piece? Laughing at what I had said. “I’ll say it again, have you ever strip-pieced before?
I responded, “I’m still not sure what you’re asking? Did you say strip-peas? Yes, I have stripped peas.” At this point, I was thinking, Really? What does this have to do with anything we’re doing!
Ron eavesdropping joined in and laughingly responded, “That’s good!”
“No, like this,” as she took two pieces of fabric, placed them facing each other, and sewed them together, one after another…you get the point!
The three of us laughed hysterically for the next several minutes. I don’t think I had ever laughed so hard. I wasn’t able to attend Joanne’s memorial service in May 2005, but occasionally, I miss hearing her northeastern accent, and when I’m strip-piecing, I have to look to the sky and say, “Hey, Joanne! I’m strip-piecing!”
Like I said, those teenagers on that curb and grassy hillside had said something that would eventually come true because through the years my accent morphed into one of a West Coast native mixed with a little southern drawl.
I think I’m happy with it. But I have to ask, “Where are you from?”