I am gonna get a bit "churchy" on you all for a post or two...
The last year or so, I've had a lot of things going on..been seeing amazing things God is doing in my life, feeling an overwhelming peace and enjoying a life full of joy and happiness.
One huge positive in my life as been my involvement in MOPS(mothers of preschoolers). If you are a mom, then you MUST check this group out in your area.. (or if you're local) then check out the fabulous group of women at ECC's MOPS =).
So anyway, a couple weeks ago, we held our spring tea. The focus was on God's love for us. Pretty basic huh? Well.. we heard some very incredible and tear moving stories from a few woman who shared thru their experiences how they KNOW how much GOD LOVES THEM.
As table leader, I shared my story with my wonderful group of girls too.
I have to preface by saying.. the term "kingdom story" was something foreign to me.
I had always heard "testimony".. and heard countless people get up and share how their life was meaningless and then BAM.. one day they found Jesus. Life is all better now. The end.
So the thing about this terminology is that everyone has a kingdom story. In fact most Christians have several stories about their relationship with JC or how they have seen God work in their lives. Didn't say their lives were perfect. I said God was working.
The point of these stories is that we as Christians can use them to further God's Kingdom by sharing them with others(unbelievers). Pretty cool huh?
And they don't have to be these super polished(with Christianese) verbiage.. they can be simple stories to teach others about this person called Jesus. I used to think that I had to have this major, tear jerking story.. or it wasn't "good" enough.
I am so glad I shared my story, b/c I know that it touched people.Had several people approach me thanking me for being real. I have gotten emails where people are saying "me too".
What a comfort to know we are not alone in this journey.
so here goes.. my kingdom story:
I have always gone to church and I have always believed that Jesus died for my sins.
I grew up in a Christian home , was involved in Christian activities. I knew what Christians were “supposed “ to do and what was right and wrong.
However, God was not center of my life. I did not rely on him.. When we had our first child, we started going to church again. Selfishly, besides thinking it was ‘the image’ we should portray as new parents, I also longed for the abundance of friends that had disappeared since I left college.
Instantly we were met with acceptance. We were receiving invitations for this group, that bible study, this moms group and couples groups. I was diving deep into bible studies and my faith was growing. We were attending church on Sundays and we were part of this social “club”. Our schedule was full and I had “learned” what I was supposed to do as a church goer as I obtained my worldview of Christianity from the people around me. All the time I was maturing in my walk, I was also being held captive. Though I didn't know it at the time.
I thought that because I was actively pursuing a deeper relationship with God and with other Christians that life was going to be lollipops and rainbows. About 6 months after getting involved, stress and conflict crept into my marriage as I tried to achieve what I thought my role as a mom and wife was to look like. My outgoing and generous nature blended with what I saw in my church community. It became the norm for me to be extending invitations, helping with childcare and taking meals on a weekly basis. My time and energy was being exhausted as I tried to live the way that these people said I should live and not what God was telling me . My husband could see a difference in me, and after awhile, I could too. I had placed so much emphasis on doing for others, that I was forgetting about my family and more importantly forgetting about my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
I was soon learning that much of what I viewed as the “right” way to live out my faith was not real and not what God had intended for my life. I had become consumed by a culture of keeping up appearances and pleasing people instead of God.
The next several months contained a series of events that proved to me that God loved me and wanted the best for me. For what was once a time of comfort of activities, friendships and fun.. soon became speckled with hurts, confusion and ultimately severed relationships.
This was devastating to me for 2 reasons. One,- I had felt such happiness and comfort to be so accepted and included. And 2- how in the world could situations like this happen within the church community?
All the while I was enduring these hurts, I knew that there was purpose. I had learned thru my bible studies that God puts us thru trials to refine our character. I guess this is what he was doing.. but it sure sucked at the time.. I knew I had to just be patient, listen and turn my focus to God and I would have a sense of peace. Amazingly it did work. Even though the circumstances were yucky.. I still had a sense of peace about them. I knew that God was working in my life.
My husband and I continued to feel nudges as God used others (sometimes in a painful way) to get our attention.. I still wanted to hang on to the comfort and the false reality that I had created. I was going to this building and involved with the people, but was I involved with Jesus?. God knew that my faith was going to be stagnant if I stayed in this environment, and he made it clear that we were to move. It took me awhile to fully surrender and give up control, but we finally did.
It was not long before the Holy Spirit was alive in me. There was a fire burning and I couldn't’t get enough. I did'nt care about the people around me, I just wanted to be in church on Sunday to be in God’s presence. I had never experienced worship like this before and I was left in tears nearly every time. I started to sense some amazing things God was doing in my heart and in my mind. My family became my focus instead of those around me. My husband and I started working together based on what scripture says, instead of what our peers were saying. My expectations of how we were supposed to be living as a Christian couple were being met because God was showing us how to reach them. My schedule was freed from the play dates and activities so that I could actually get out my bible. I began to have a real comfort of simply being with my family instead of out being seen.
My husband noticed this huge change in me and I have to say that it is such a wonderful feeling knowing that God was directing my path instead of me trying to call the shots. It is has been so refreshing to be furthering my relationship with my Creator without the distractions of trying to keep up the appearances. I am back to being real. I am back to accepting who God has made me. I am finding that my acceptance lies in God and not in people. I know that God’s love is more amazing than I will ever be able to comprehend, and one that I will never be able to earn from people. I have realized and accepted that people will let me down. I have learned to put my trust in God, for He is my rock. I have learned what an amazing gift it is to extend grace to others despite hurts cast upon me. I have been able to connect with Jesus on so many cool ways. I know that I will still go thru yucky times, but I also know that God has great plans for me and he will bring me thru the valleys and give me strength to climb the mountains. I am turning to Christ for my worldview and finding refuge in knowing that He will never leave nor forsake me. I have realized that even though I am called to be part of a church community.. my identity lies in Christ.
feel free to leave a comment or ask me a question. I don't think it was random that the following Sunday our pastor preached on "taking the masks" off and revealing "your" story. It was profound, and I can't wait to share it with you all next time!