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Forgiveness

Community, Forgiveness, Relationships, Your Story

Be There in 5 (aka 15)

May 18, 2016

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So I’m addicted to Veggie Straws, I have warts on my right knee, my husband says my hobbies are grandma-like, and I was once entirely convinced that I was going to marry Nick Jonas (Don’t tell me you weren’t too. YES, he was WAY cuter than Joe. Kevin was taken. End of argument.)

And girl, I am always late. Not by two hours, but almost always by two minutes. Sometimes I can make it up by running instead of walking or taking a few liberties with the speed limit, but I hate even typing that because I try SO HARD to be on time. Maybe it’s due to my lack of navigational skills driving and constant wrong turns or my desire to do five million tasks in 5 minutes and obviously never getting it done, but somehow, the clock always revels the unfortunate news that I’m late. I can usually get to work right on the dot and not one second too soon, but any casual appointments just don’t happen right when they’re supposed to.

I’m the girl you tell to be there 5 minutes before you are planning on hanging out so that I’ll actually be there around when we say we will be. Oh goodness! I don’t mean to be rude or inconsiderate or too busy! Thank you, Lord, for forgiving friends and a patient husband.

 

Being late causes rushing that I also despise.

Rushing makes me blow past people.

Rushing causes stress.

Rushing decreases my work’s quality.

Rushing makes me frustrated.

Rushing is dumb.

 

Last week, I pulled one long and wiry grey hair out of the side of my head. WHAT THE HECK?! Hello little hair follicles, are the organic veggies and magical sulfate free shampoo not enough to help you keep up your game? I’m trying here! Give me a few more years! Is this inevitable? Can I just make the hard-switch to total grey hair?

Being fully prepared, traveling to a destination without going exactly six miles per hour over the speed limit, and arriving with a few minutes to spare is just the BEST feeling. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out. When teleportation and time travel is a thing. For now, just give me my own time zone.

Family, Forgiveness, God, Redemption, Relationships

God is forgiving

April 20, 2016
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Have you ever known that you were loved by someone, but seemed to have a hard time feeling that love?
 
That may sound confusing but it was definitely the head-to-heart struggle that I had when it came to my relationship with my dad growing up. I always knew he loved me, but I couldn’t help but feel the distance between us. He was a respected businessman and had to travel for work all of the time. He was gone aaaalot. Sometimes 7 months out of a year. Although he was doing it to provide for our family, it slowly started to put him into one specific role – “the provider” – instead of any kind of emotional or relational father that we needed. Everyone saw it happening, and felt it happening, but to me as a little girl I really had no solution to the matter. I couldn’t ask him to leave his job and he was in the position where he had to travel, so…we just accepted it.
 
That was the secret to making it okay. Just accepting it, and not acting like you care, right? I didn’t need his help or guidance anyway, right? I have two amazing older brothers – they will be my father figures and that’s normal, right?
These were the thoughts that unintentionally started building up bitterness and resentment in my heart towards my dad. Sometimes it would come out as anger, or deep hurt, or complete lack of talking, or even total disobedience. I didn’t have a close personal relationship with him, so why take seriously all that he says and tells me to do?
 
I realized I didn’t trust him…
I didn’t know how much he hurt me and how I was sinning because of it.
I didn’t know how to forgive him for all the years lost between us.
 
Two years ago was when I married the love of my life. There’s really nothing like marriage that can bring out all of this kind of baggage over a dinner conversation:) My pain from not having a close relationship with my dad was clear and every so often it would be brought up if Hank disappointed me even in a little way. Hank is an artist and naturally has to travel for his music, but I really had never expected it to freak me out like it did in our first couple months of marriage. I automatically thought, “Traveling away from family for any reason = Bad”…but this was all just rooted in the fact that I had yet to forgive my father.
 
I could make so many excuses to convince you that this anger and resentment was justified to feel towards him, but when I looked to Christ and what he had done for me on the cross, I was deeply convicted. He died for me, offering forgiveness for all of MY sin. My sin that isn’t deserving of forgiveness at all.
 
Who was I to hold such a grudge? Who was I to let this bitterness build and build without even talking to my dad about it? Who was I to tell God that someone was unforgiveable?
 
Well, the conversation happened. And I wasn’t alone in how I felt. Girls, the guilt that my dad had been living with for years and years was heartbreaking to hear about. He knew what happened. He knew how his travel affected our family. He knew how it distanced him from his only daughter. He knew. He very sadly knew and regretted it.
 
The beauty of the gospel is that Christ’s kindness and immense love for us literally brings us to repentance: A repentance that both my dad and I needed to voice. And a repentance that CAN be forgiven.
 
Trust me, this doesn’t mean that everything is just perfect now with my dad and I. We still have a long way to go. But in the last two years God has truly brought us closer like we’ve never been before. Why? Because of one beautiful word. Forgiveness.
 
For the girl who has a great relationship with her Dad, but maybe it’s a sibling or friend that has really wronged you, I encourage you to dwell on this characteristic of God and ask Him to give you the same heart.
 
God is the God of forgiveness. 
 
I want to encourage you that forgiveness WILL set you free from the weight that you are feeling overwhelmingly burdened by. And when you can’t even imagine doing so, like I did for so many years, look to Jesus. He will give you the strength. Even if it’s an everyday decision to forgive over and over, God calls us to be like Himself in this way.
 
He is a forgiving God – therefore we shall be a forgiving people.
Faith, Family, Forgiveness, Redemption, Your Story

Redemption even when hopeless

February 19, 2016

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Written by one of our readers:

My story begins 6 or 7 years ago. Not because that was when I was born, but because major stuff has been happening in my life since then. You see, my parents separated when I was 2 (I’m 26 now), and my mom raised me and my younger brother as a single parent. Growing up we spent a considerable amount of time with our dad, but we lived our day-to-day lives without him.
About six or seven years ago, my dad and I had a huge fight- a fight big enough that it has kept us apart all these years.
I was hurt, angry and upset not just for this one incident but for a lifetime of hurt and pain that had been bottled up or excused away my whole life. I told myself I would never let anyone else treat me that way ever again. So I began to isolate myself and slowly gained about 150 pounds.
Long story short, I had a very personal encounter with the Lord. He made Himself so real that I just couldn’t ignore it, and it was also then that I heard His voice for the first time. So I made a commitment to follow Jesus. I went from not caring about myself or how I treated my body depressed and hurting, to having the motivation to become a healthy person both physically and spiritually.
Fast forward to last year. I found out that my dad was diagnosed with cancer. Not from him but from my brother who heard it from various family members. I was so hurt that he wouldn’t just call to talk to me I decided then and there that I didn’t care anymore. I was not going to waste my time and energy on someone who obviously didn’t want me there. The problem with my way of thinking is that God wasn’t done with him yet.
My uncle called and left me a message last week. “If you have anything to say to your dad, you need to come now”.  I felt the Holy Spirit say to me that this was it- I needed to go. So Friday last week one of my best friends offered to make the 4.5 hour trip with me to see him.  We get to the hospital to see him, and I cannot explain the level of peace that I felt in that room. I’m not sure what I expected to find, but it sure wasn’t peace. My dad and I sat next to each other and talked for the first time in years. He held my hand the entire time, and just could not stop looking at me.

Before I left I looked at my dad and asked “Hey, can I pray for you before I leave?” “Sure.” he said- and I did. I did what I thought I could never do. I prayed for peace, mercy and love to overtake him. I prayed healing over his cancer-ridden body. I held his hand and made eye contact with him for the first time in years. I also remember putting my hand on his face and saying “I just want Jesus to become more and more real to you.” His response was “He becomes more and more real every day.”
I never thought I could do it- and I promise you if it were up to me I wouldn’t have.  This is the beauty of our God- He chooses and transforms even the most unlikely of people. But these are exactly the kind of people that Jesus looked at and said, “Come. Follow Me.”
I got into the car and I felt like a giant weight had been lifted off of me. The memory of the last awful confrontation I had with my dad years ago has haunted me every day since it happened. I got saved, joined a church, went through Freedom ministry, conferences, personal ministry sessions, and even went through processing my feelings and thoughts with people I love and trust who love me unconditionally.  I could not break free of this memory. It kept me from feeling like people really love me; like I am good enough…it even affected me being able to fully realize the Father’s love for me.

It was not until the Holy Spirit in His perfect timing told me clearly to go that it changed. Now the last memory that we have of each other is good and peace filled.  But here’s the crazy part. I had to get up and go. My father was never going to make the first move. But what if it was never all about me? Sitting in that hospital room, I found that there were some things that I had to apologize for. My selfish and self centered attitude for one. You see, I had made this entire situation about what he did to me- my anger and my pain and hurt took over and I allowed those thoughts to distance me from him. That day, it just wasn’t about me.
Here’s an even cooler epilogue to the story- remember the peace I talked about? The peace I felt in the room that I couldn’t understand? My crazy awesome Jesus loving friend who went with me said in the car- “I bet your dad had an experience- that’s why you can’t explain it.” I thought to myself, well maybe he has…I’m not sure.
I arrived at my mom’s house the next day and was telling her how the visit went, and how I was able to lay hands on my father and pray for him. She said “well, you know he’s had a lot of people go in and out of his room praying for him…you brother said when he was there yesterday one of his old co-workers stopped by, had your dad kneel and led him through salvation.”
YOU GUYS. I’m not sure there are enough words to convey what I am feeling here. In my mind, this could never happen. This is a man I was convinced was too far gone… and he’s wasn’t. Jesus still came and was with both of us the whole time.
I want to encourage anyone who feels like there is a relationship that is past mending- I promise you it isn’t. If we let God write our story, it will turn out more beautiful than we could ever have imagined.

 

*Ashley’s Dad passed away this past week, just a few days after Ashley wrote this post for us. We are so thankful that she let us into her story. We love you, Ashley. -AGLM

 

photoMy name is Ashley Garza. I am 26 years old and have been following AGLM for the last 3 years.

 

Community, Faith, Forgiveness, God, Identity, Your Story

Not Okay.

January 29, 2016

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Written by one of our readers:

It was a typical Sunday morning as I walked into the doors of the church I have attended since elementary school. I smiled at the familiar face of a dear friend greeting me at the door and remembered all of the happy pictures on Facebook she shared. “Good morning,” I said cheerily, “How are you?”

“I’m good…” she responded hesitantly with a smile that would appear natural to anyone who didn’t know her. Her eyes appeared to be filled with a burden so heavy, she felt she couldn’t tell anyone… Not even someone she could trust.

I think this is a common story for us ladies in the brave new world of a social media saturated society. Everywhere we turn, there are highly filtered “picture perfect” moments captured and posted on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag “no filter” or “blessed.” At the beginning of this social media frenzy, photos were not at all filtered, were less than picture perfect, and certainly didn’t have hashtags attached. As time has passed, we’ve become unawaringly numb to the staged images that fill our brains on a daily basis. Now, we’ve started applying that filter to our everyday lives.

We apply a “happy” filter when we’re with good friends and telling them about our lives. We force our eyes to crinkle in a seemingly genuine smile and fill our sentences with words like “amazing,” “awesome,” or “fabulous” while on the inside we’re struggling with where we are at and questioning if what we’re doing is what God has really set aside for us. And our friends are none the wiser because they have their filter on too. We apply our “spiritual” filter at church to show everyone that we’re happy and we’re growing in our walks with Christ when really, we’re struggling with our season of singleness and wondering if this is really God’s best for us. We apply our “content” and “satisfied” filter with our spouse or our family members to show them that we are happy with where we are in life but inside, we’re questioning if there is something more for us in our career, our relationships, our household, and every other area of our lives.

We live in a world that tells us that it is not okay to be anything but okay or good or awesome. We live in a world of staged moments captured on social media and staged responses to basic questions like, “How are you?” We live in a world that tells us to always hustle and strive for perfection but at what cost? Our mental health? Our relationships? Contrary to popular belief, it is not healthy to hold all of those feelings of hurt, confusion, sadness, anger, or whatever other emotion is coursing through your precious veins. I can also tell you that you can’t build a solid foundation for a solid relationship (friendship or otherwise), based of off cookie-cutter responses to cookie-cutter questions. Can I also tell you something else very important? It is absolutely okay that right now, you’re not at all okay.

One of the things I heard in church a lot when I was growing up was, “It’s a sin to question God,” or, “You should never get angry at God because, well, He’s God.” You probably have heard some variation of those overtly religious statements. As I have grown (physically and spiritually) I have learned two really important things:

  1. Religion teaches us rules, while Jesus teaches us relationship.
  2. Part of having a relationship with Jesus means being completely honest about how we feel with Him. He already knows, so why not tell Him?

In my life, I strive to have relationship with Jesus Christ and not rules set up by religion interfering with my Christian walk. Let’s be honest, religion has a lot of rules. Base your life and walk with Christ off of Scripture and Christ Himself, and you’re doing just fine. Notice I said walk with Christ and not walk to Christ. That’s the best thing about the Gospel: we do not have to work to receive God’s gift of His Son. His Son came down to us to be with us as we journey to heaven to be with God for all of eternity. On that journey, there are going to be places where you are angry at God. Those are the places where your relationship with Him will grow and strengthen. Religion tells us to evaluate our lives and see what we’re doing wrong but Jesus tells us to come to Him, walk with Him, learn from Him, and in Him we’ll find rest, healing, and redemption (not in anything we could ever do or say). Religion tells us to grin and bear it. Jesus tells us to fall at His feet and be vulnerable before Him.

If you don’t believe me, read through the Psalms. There are so so many Psalms that David wrote where he is pouring his heart out God, getting mad at God, questioning God, and praising God for His presence and redemption. And what do people call David? A man after God’s own heart.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be scared. God isn’t expecting perfection. He’s expecting honesty and trust. Take your filters off before the God-Man that gave up His life to know you. Take off your filters before the people that love you and desire relationship with you. Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but a sign of trust and that’s all God wants from us: our explicit trust because if He has that, He has the rest of us. And can I tell you a secret? He will never let you down, never leave you, never hurt you, and never take advantage of you. He loves you more than life itself, dear one.

Processed with VSCO with b5 presetAllison Mozingo is 21 years old. She’s from Clayton, NC. She’s a junior at Campbell University and studying Elementary and Middle Grades English.

Faith, Family, Fear, Forgiveness, God, Identity, Redemption, Self-harm, Your Story

I am a messenger

January 8, 2016
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By one of our readers:
My story started when I was 9 years old. I got baptized. Not because I got saved, but so I wouldn’t have to do it when I was older. I did it to “get it over with”. Somehow I didn’t understand that you had to make a personal commitment to Jesus and I didn’t understand how to do it. I repeated a prayer after my mom but didn’t understand what I was doing at all. Just that it made me uncomfortable.

I found out in middle school what being a Christian really meant. I thought I was okay. I had thought because I had been baptized me and Jesus were cool. Boy, was I wrong. I struggled with trying to find who I was in Christ. I always had a fear that my (many) prayers to God didn’t count. I had “lost my salvation” by not being good enough for God. I went back and forth, gaining Hid favor and then losing it. I was a selfish, selfish person. I wasn’t a “bad” kid but I was bad in the worst way. Now I realize how disrespectful, angry, and hurtful I had been to other people. I knew I wasn’t good. But I was too self-centered and self-righteous to realize I needed a change.

But I digress.

2011 was the worst year. I entered the year and was bombarded with more bad stuff in a few months than in my entire life. I found myself alone. I fell silent and shut myself off from everyone. I continued to put a happy face on when I was around others. I refused to let them see me cry. I was surrounded by the sickness and death of my family. I struggled with what I believed about myself, other people, and God. I wanted to die.

For 3 years I dealt with these horrible feelings of loneliness, misery, hatred, fear in its deepest form, and the realization of who I truly was. I was a horrible, selfish person. But I couldn’t change. I wouldn’t change. I just wanted to give up and die. That’s what my mind was telling me to do. I couldn’t keep going. No one wanted me to keep going. I wasn’t needed. I was a failure and a screw up who just made people sad so why go on?

In the midst of all that I clung to the pieces of my shattered faith in the form of music. I discovered what I was feeling in the words of Flyleaf, Disciple, RED, Skillet, Evanescence, Tenth Avenue North, and many other bands. God was using those bands to keep me going. My unhealthy fear of God, my family, and those lyrics kept me going. The words of Disciple’s “Invisible” kept playing in my head. “You’re not invisible to Me.”

One year things changed. I joined a Christian theatre group. There I found friends. And not just friends to go to when I wanted to have a good time. These were people who cared. They were living out the faith that I thought I believed. Something began to melt inside of me.

One night I had gotten a “gig” playing drums for the theatre group’s production of “The Wizard of Oz”. Completely last minute. The night of the second performance I was hurt by someone close to me. They basically said what I had been telling myself for 3 years. No one needed me. I sat backstage listening to the kids worship God before the show (a usual ritual for them) feeling all those things I had been dealing with…Then the worship leader said something. She said “You know, we never think about how miserable we are before we accept Christ.” A light went on. “God, I’m miserable now,” I thought. “and I’m sick of it.

Take me or leave me. I’m done.”
He took me.

My castmates saw the change. I felt the change.
I never had a suicidal thought from that day on.

That same year me and my family moved to Charlotte. I was healing. Even though that first year or two in Charlotte hurt and I was lonely and scared. I was healing. God began to speak to me. He put evangelism on my heart. Fear began to creep in and taint my relationship with Him.

April 8, 2015 I went to a Disciple concert. I was finally going to see this band that had influenced me so much when I was lost and suicidal. They played a bit of “Invisible” and then told the story behind it. I wept. The story was the lead singer was out of song ideas for their next album. He prayed for a song that God would use as a message to the generation he would be singing to.

“Wish you were someone else. Every night you fall to pieces. Wishing you could save yourself. I can see you, I can hear you…YOU’RE NOT INVISIBLE. YOU’RE NOT INVISIBLE TO ME.”
God had sent that song to me.
To keep me alive.
Why? Because He loves me. That’s the reason.
How could I hold back anything from Him? How could I let fear creep in and steal my joy? I could tell you so many more stories of God’s hand in my life but that would take more than 1000 words. I believe God wants me to be a messenger through the music industry. When I was saved He took my selfishness and melted my heart of stone. He placed the salvation of His beloved creation on my heart. He wants to use me to reach them.

I was once dead. Now I’m alive. I am a messenger for Him. He wants me to use my story to help other people. I am a messenger.

My playlist: “Invisible” by Disciple

“The Reason” by Lacey Sturm

“Not Alone” by RED

“Beloved” by Tenth Avenue North

“SOS (hope won’t let go)” by About a Mile

“Breaking Down” by Disciple
“Walk on Water” by Britt Nicole
“Isle of Flightless Birds” by twenty one pilots
“Messenger” by Lecrae
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 This is Rachel Capps story. She is 19 years old from Charlotte, NC.
Community, Faith, Forgiveness, Identity, Redemption, Relationships

Unfriendable

October 14, 2015

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It may come as a shocker to you, but I am a hard friend to love. I’ll let you all take a moment to gasp a little at that thought. 😉 But seriously, I’m not always the easy friend in a group of people.

Naturally a little stand-offish and pretty opinionated, oftentimes I can come across as rude and unapproachable. My filter isn’t always very strong and sometimes even my most loving and gracious “encouragement” can come across as more of a lecture than a pep-talk. Know the type? Yeah, that’s me.

We’ve all got someone in our lives who’s “that friend.” The exhausting one. The Debbie-downer. The one who it feels more like work than a joy to to be around. The one who if you didn’t think it would be a total jerk move to do, you’d totally unfriend and unfollow them on social media. We all have them, and in truth, we might even be that friend ourselves.

What do we do when someone is difficult to love? Is every friendship worth the work? I know we don’t have to be friends with everyone, but how do we handle relationships with people who God has put in our path? Are some people just a lost cause?

About three years ago I would’ve said that some people just aren’t worth the work. Phrases like, “This is about as close as we’ll ever get” and “They just don’t want to know me or be friends with me” or “Forget them, I have other friends anyway” were common coming out of my mouth. I was very quick to dismiss anyone who wasn’t willing to put forth the effort I was and wrote it off as them just being stand offish and not friend material. Then I came out of the “I’ve been sexually abused” closet and everything changed.

For the first time in my life, I hungered for people to know me. I wanted people to see my pain and not only stand with me in it, but walk with me to see beyond it and find a new way of living. At the same time I was dealing with my crap, one of my dear friends was walking through the loss of a child. Her pain was far worse than my own, but her desire of being known was the same. Together we discovered something amazing.

To love well and to be loved well in return means to pursue the heart of another.

You see, I wanted so bad for people to see how I was hurting on the inside, but I was never going to show it on the outside. I needed to know that they were safe enough to entrust my fragile heart to. I needed to know that they cared for me not just when it was easy, but when I was at my most difficult to love. The only way I could know that was by them seeking out to know me and meet me where I was at.

Friends, we all carry secrets that create fortresses in our hearts. Wounds that build steel doors, keeping anyone at bay who may come too close. Yet it’s those very places that we want people most. Because those places of weakness, the places we hurt most, those are the places we need others. We just need someone willing to fight through.

That friend, the difficult one, she’s fighting a battle too. Her pain may run so deep that she has no idea just how fortified her heart has really become, and sadly, no one has ever tried to get in. So she keeps herself guarded, mean, and unapproachable not because she doesn’t want you as a friend, but because she doesn’t know how.

To be like Jesus to those around us means to press in, push harder, and love stronger even when there is never any return of the affection.

I’ve had a friend I’ve known for several years. She’s quiet and guarded. She’s so private with her emotions that I’ve only seen her cry once in the entire time I’ve known her. For many years I thought we’d never be more than casual friends, only discussing things like our kids and marriage. She was impenetrable and the only way we’d become closer was for her to change, or so I thought.

Last year I began to implement this idea of pursuing the hearts of my friends. She was my particular goal. I started slowly, just a simple text here and there letting her know I was thinking of her and praying for her. When we were together in groups, I’d make sure to invite her places and then let her know she was missed when she didn’t come. All the while on my own I kept asking God for an opportunity to let her know I loved her and wanted to love her well. He granted that prayer six months later over a cup of coffee.

While talking about a recent mission trip she had been on, I felt God give me a nudge to say something. I began by telling her how much I valued her as a friend. How I really was wanting God to use me to love my friends well and she was one of those. I told her how each of my friends needed love differently and so I asked her how I could love her better. What happened next was amazing.

We began to talk, I mean really talk, for the first time. She told me how I could love her better and what ways of approaching her or helping her would embarrass or make her uncomfortable and which ways would help. Then she said something that floored me. She said, “Heather, I really want to be known by people, I’m just not good at it. I need someone to help me.”

Ladies, that girl you find so frustrating, she wants to be known. That girl who you feel sucks the life out of you or never returns your kindness, she aches for friendship too. But maybe, like my friend, these girls aren’t good at it and they need someone who is willing to walk with them and help them break down those barriers to let someone in.

If Jesus Christ was willing to walk right into the depths of hell to claim our hearts, don’t you think we should be willing to do a fraction of the same for another?

Loving the unlovable is hard. It means loving simply because and not out of our desire to be loved back. It’s remembering that sometimes love means fighting for the heart of another, even if it doesn’t look like they want you to. It means drawing close when your instincts tell you to walk away. It means laying down your life, your needs, your wants, and loving simply because we are called to. I can say with full honesty that what comes out of that kind of love is something so wonderful and pure and holy that it is mind blowing. But you have to be willing to change yourself first.

How about today you put on those boxing gloves and go fight for the hearts of the unlovable. In time, you’ll set both your hearts free and discover the beauty of redeeming love.

Community, Faith, Forgiveness, Redemption, Relationships

Why the Church Is Messed Up

October 6, 2015

While you get ready in the morning, in the car, cooking, or in your waiting today, I hope you will listen.

I pray you will listen with an open mind as I know that some of you have been really hurt by the church and some have misconceptions about the church.

My desire is that you will understand what God intended the church to be, that it is FILLED with sinners, and that it is a beautiful gift that God has given us to understand more of forgiveness, love, and encouragement with one another.

Faith, Forgiveness, Relationships, Spiritual Life

She Loved Much!

July 29, 2015

Continuing to share BIG news with you about A Girl Like Me!! I am super excited, humbled, and a little nervous for this responsibility and PRIVILEGE to walk along side of you girls even more deeply! THANK YOU for loving us, all of the AGLM writers, so well and encouraging us to continue in ministry!!!

Would love to hear from you! and again sorry about the lack of video quality and that I retreated in my bedroom to make this… you will find out why :-)

– Allison

Faith, Forgiveness, Redemption

Hope For My Enemies Brings Freedom For Me

May 27, 2015

 

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Today I was a witness to a crime. I had left church and headed to the gas station to fill up my tank. While standing there I began to hear screaming. I looked up to see a man choke-holding a woman in a car, silencing her as she is screaming for him to let her go. Men rush to her aid while I promptly called 911 to tell them what was happening. The husband sped off in his car, and I stood alongside his terrified wife as we waited for the police.

“He’s never done that before.” she tells me. “He was mad. I just wanted to give him space.”

The police finally arrived and I was told my 911 call was my statement and was free to go. I left the woman, thanking God she was alright.

As I was pulling away, I found my thoughts wandering to the husband. He was a monster. How could any man ever treat a woman like that? Better yet, how could she somewhat defend his actions? She should leave him. He’s an abuser and abusers deserve no mercy.

This reminds me of this past week, reading about how the oldest Duggar son on that TLC show 20 Kids and Counting was exposed to having molested his sisters and some other girls when he was younger. The internet and social media have blown up, calling him, yes, a monster. People have told his wife she was letting her kids be put in harms way and she should leave him. He’ll always be a sicko, they’d say. And the hateful speech goes on.

At some point in our lives, we’ll all encounter the consequences of the fall.

Our broken world gives way to broken people who sadly make broken choices. Whether it’s to beat their wife or abuse their sisters, people make wrong decisions. But the thing I’m coming to wonder is, do bad choices, no matter how severe, make one eternally evil?

Almost thirteen years ago I fell victim to the poor choice of a broken person. My boyfriend molested me. As I spent the better part of last year finally starting to deal with the ramifications of that moment, I found myself caring about my abuser. I wasn’t worried that he was out there hurting more people or angry that he was some sociopath with little to no remorse, instead, I found myself hoping he was ok. I wanted to know that somewhere in his journey, he found healing. Healing from whatever broken place lived in his life that made him make that horrible choice so many years ago. I wanted to know he had somehow run into Jesus and found redemption.

Just as much as I wanted myself to be better, I also wanted my abuser to be better.

So often Jesus spoke of loving our enemies. Even when nailed to the cross, Christ took a moment to ask for forgiveness from the Father for the very men who had put him up there. When the guilty criminal who hung next to him sought redemption moments before he died, Jesus forgave him. He didn’t tell the man he had made too many wrong choices or that he was too messed up to receive such a pardon- no, Jesus gave grace and he gave it freely.

I think so often when we are wronged we’re quick to label the one who wronged us as forever a villain. We blanket them with descriptions, damning them to a future that we believe is fitting for them. We make ourselves judge and jury, when the truth is, that job is given solely to Christ and Christ alone. What we can’t see is that in choosing to believe the worst in them, choosing to cast judgement and wrath upon their soul, we are fastening our hearts to the chains of resentment, anger and bitterness. Our enemies may become an earthly prisoner, but we become a spiritual one.

Seven years ago my good friend Tony was shot to death while out as a police officer doing a routine traffic stop. The man was cold and calculated. Even during his trial, he showed no remorse and even clapped when the jury pronounced he’d receive the death penalty. My heart wanted to hate him. To be honest, there are some moments that I still do. But I also pray for him. I pray that in the quiet darkness of his lonely prison cell, Jesus’ light will shine upon him. That maybe, just maybe, the man I believe to be the lowest form of human in the world could be offered grace and found forgiven.

If I can’t believe that God can forgive and redeem the worst of people, then there’s no hope for my own redemption.

Girls…some of you have known great pain. Pain that reaches to depths of darkness I cannot even comprehend. And for a lot of you, that pain was given to you at the hand of another. A broken human, who in a dark moment, made a wrong choice. A horrible choice. Yes, their actions were most certainly wrong. Yes, you have every right to feel the feelings you do. Your hurt is real and understood and appropriate and I stand with you in it. Let that be clear. But please, let this be clear as well.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the broken places I’ve been, it’s that hoping for God to redeem my enemies allows for freedom for me. When I can believe that God is big enough to change the heart of my enemy, then I’m also able to fully believe he is capable of healing me. If I know that God will reach to such hellacious depths to rescue someone I felt was so horrible, then I know there is no place I could ever run to where God would not seek me out to redeem me.

I’m not sure if the husband I witnessed today will hurt his wife again. I’m not sure that my abuser won’t molest another or that my friend’s killer will ever repent of his actions. I can’t say that whoever wounded you, whether big or small, will ever regret what they did or even apologize. I’m not sure we’re ever meant to know. But I do know this, tonight I will say a prayer that God will meet them in their dark places, hoping that they will accept grace,  while I thank Him that he so lovingly meets me in mine. I hope you’ll do the same.

Faith, Forgiveness, God, Redemption, Uncategorized

A Bear Introduced Me to Jesus

February 11, 2015

Young woman waiting for the train

I began my relationship with Jesus via a bear…not a real one but one that was a man dressed up like a bear. Now that is not the way most people start their journey with Christ, but what I know is that when I was 6 during a show at church for kids, God drew me to Himself. That’s where it began but certainly not where it ended.

We all have struggles that we just can’t seem to get past, sins that we pray would go away but are still lurking in our minds every day, and the guilt of that specific time when we really messed up. Or maybe it’s something that happened to you that wasn’t necessarily your responsibility, but you feel like you’re still tainted, scarred, and you just want it to be erased.
I grew up being the church girl, and I really did love God! I wanted to to grow in my relationship with Him and tell my friends about Him. But, probably just like you, I still remember the countless times in high school and college when I thought to myself, “Why do I keep doing this? Why can’t I stop? If others only knew how bad I really am for what I do and think…”

I wanted to obey God because I knew he saved my life when I was 6 years old. But still I would have selfish, lustful, straight-up-mean girl thoughts about others. I knew it was wrong because it wasn’t “Christian”, but I didn’t know how to stop.
I would fight myself to get rid of these “dirty” thoughts. I hid my sin because I knew it was not honoring to God, but it was just making me feel worse and worse.

I wanted a way to restart. I wanted a way to go back when I first decided to follow Jesus, to be able to STOP doing what I didn’t want to do, and to erase all the sins I kept committing. I wanted to be the girl that God wanted me to be. I knew that I would find joy and freedom there, but I didn’t know how to get there.

I began to really search what it meant to be a follower of Jesus despite my sin and the struggles I faced. I read a lot of books on what the gospel really means. I went to a church that explained the gospel so clearly in a way that I had never understood it before even though I grew up being a “church girl.”

Something began to click and I felt like I had been given a restart every single day and even every single moment. Even on my worst of days, God revealed to me how I could have a clean slate, a do-over. I knew I would still struggle with sin, but I realized that even in the midst of my struggle, Jesus gave me a gift when I first received him when I was 6 that trumps any gift I could ever receive.

One of my favorite Christian authors explained the gospel in a way that made total sense to me…

When you make the decision to receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord, he not only forgives you by wiping your “slate” clean, but then he takes your clean “slate” and writes on it “RIGHTEOUS”. So not only have your sins been completely forgiven, meaning God chose to completely remove your sin, but then he chose to mark you as PERFECT!

Stop for a second and just think about that paragraph above as deeply as you can. If you understand it, it should revolutionize your entire LIFE!

He doesn’t just forgive and forget. He literally makes you a perfect daughter in His sight, and he wants you to believe this even more so on your worst of days when you feel like a complete mess up because those days will still come.

It’s ok if you don’t have it all together. It’s ok if you mess up and just don’t understand why you still struggle even though you pray every day. God knows your struggle. He knows your pain. And he is with you the entire way. It’s a journey, and it’s all for your good.

The difference is that you no longer have to feel guilty because you aren’t!

You no longer are damned or screwed because God sent Jesus to die in your place so that you could receive Jesus’ perfect life AS YOUR OWN! There is nothing you can do to screw it up once you are His. The gospel is a mystery and entirely beautiful because through the gospel, Jesus gives us a new life, a do-over, a restart forever.

I want to end with what the Bible says about this since it actually has power compared to my mere words :-)

Here is what Romans 8:22-25 says about this with my added comments in parenthesis,
“the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction

(no matter how bad you think your sin may be or how good you think you are):

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified

(or made “right”)

by his grace as a gift

(nothing we could have ever done on our own to earn this),

through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation

(which means Jesus bore all God’s wrath IN YOUR PLACE)

by his blood, to be received by faith.”

 

This amazing news will change your life the more you begin to understand it and give God the praise and glory for it.

Will you let it change your life?