#FamilyFeud

I recently returned from a trip to visit family out west. I woke up and God had placed the overwhelming need to go. I was convinced he wanted me to visit my mother’s small hometown to visit my grandmother whom I hadn’t seen in years. I assumed it was to spend time with her before her health declined. After only a few days I realized God had something much deeper in store for me.

As we loaded up the car- My mother, daughter, nephew, and I- I was so sure that I knew what God was calling me for… big mistake. Never assume that you know what God is doing. He will always surprise you. Sometimes it will be joyous, sometimes it will hurt, but it will always be for part of His plan. We Began our 28 hour drive with the intention of making the most out of the 10 days we planned to be gone. This meant deciding on the sacrifice that my mother and I would trade off driving shifts to avoid stopping for the night, thus saving time and money.

I attempted to look up Wesleyan churches in the area so that I could attend church while I was away. I found that not only is the closest (and only two in the state) is 3 and a half hours away from our destination. The more research I did, the more I discovered the vast distance between churches in this region. Few and far between is an understatement. As I looked at the map on my screen, God gave me the words “blank canvas”. That was the first spark in the beginning of a journey soon to come… more on that in the future…

Twenty-eight hours later we arrived at my grandmother’s around 10:00 pm local time. She was very excited to see us, and stayed up talking for a long time before we went to bed. The next morning we had breakfast, prepared for a day of errands with her had lunch, and caught up. It was wonderful. Then came the third day…

After running some more errands and a day planned out of full tasks, things began to change. It had began to rain and we decided to take the kids to the indoor pool the town has. When we returned, she was a different person; yelling and angry. I was confused. I had no idea what changed. The next day it was twice as bad; yelling, screaming, throwing things, accusing us of things we hadn’t and scaring the children. She kicked us out and we didn’t even understand what we did. We were all in tears, we packed the car and were ready to begin the trip home after only a few days. I’m almost sure that my bipolar disorder does run in the family now. I saw two completely different people that day and the image I had of who my grandmother was shattered.

My aunt told us not to leave town yet. She opened her home and her heart to us. Her children, my cousins, did the same. In that moment I realized that at 28 years old… I didn’t even know my aunts and cousins. So much of my family were essentially familiar strangers to me. I retreated into the car to pray alone and spend time with the Father. I knew there was a purpose for this pain but at the moment I couldn’t understand what that purpose was. My sister called and we talked for a while. Granted, we have had a trying relationship at times but when it came down to it, she was there for support when I needed her. That is family. My sister helped me to realize that God was using this one broken relationship to deepen six other relationships for me and other family members. She also helped me to see that God was, in a way, showing me something to remember if I ever think I should come off of my mental health medication again.

My aunt was a life saver and a trip saver. She embraced us and refused to let that bad situation be all we remembered of our trip. We saw so many sights, had so many experiences, and didn’t want to leave when the time came. Sundays sermon was broadcasted on live stream from my church back home and I made a point to watch it. The message that was shared was so on point that I rewound it and made sure to have my family gather around the phone to listen to it. The spirit is alive and moving. He spoke to each one of us in that sermon.

All in all, throughout the trip, God deepened relationships. He showed me my next calling and told me to wait and prepare. He spoke to my family members. He gave me a deeper understanding of my family as a whole. He gave me a deeper understanding of my mother and her upbringing, even of my grandmother and her brief upbringing. Sometimes pain brings understanding, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt. We can understand how someone became who they are and forgive them without excusing wrong behavior. It is a hard thing to do though. My grandmother and I haven’t spoken so far since that day but I pray for her mental and spiritual healing. I do believe that God has started a healing in my family and the future holds so many big things that have yet to come.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for the hard lessons and the hard times as well as the good.

“Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.” Proverbs 3:7-8

“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:26-27

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See You At The Mountain Top

This weekend we attended our district conference for our denomination. Instead of the usual hotel stay, we took a differnt route and stayed in the cabins at Table Rock Wesleyan Campgrounds. Our pastor planned a climb up the mountain to a waterfall. Now, being someone who despises the heat… in July..  I’ll be honest i wasn’t too stoked about this. Especially when I  heard it would be about an hour ONE WAY. I almost “nope”d right out of there. Nevertheless, I laced up my sneakers, bathed in a cloud of insect repellant, and joined. 

The hike was long and the further we went, the harder it got. We stopped to pray and share devotional at a few points along the journey. I feel like these stopping points marked the “Beginner”, “Medium”, and “Advanced” difficulty levels ( had this been a video game. 
Near the top I was breathing hard, face hot, and realizing just how horribly out of shape I am. But then… the top. Most of our group stopped at a point just under the waterfall where some of the water pools about knee deep. My body was on fire and I said “finally”. But as I looked up and saw the waterfall where a few continued up to, I thought “no… I’ve come too far to not feel the waterfall on my face”. 
I climbed higher where a few others had gone ahead and sat beneath the water fall. With the water rushing around my ears and face, drowning out any sounds of the world, I closed my eyes and prayed. I shut out the world and there in nature took a moment to be still and feel God. The beautiful moment will stay etched in my memory.  The rushing water cold on my face and sweet to the taste. The warm embrace of the Father as I focused on only him. Even if just for a moment, it was everything.  

On the way back down we all began to realize just how steep the trail  was at some points. Going back down was a whole differnt story than our ascent. I found myself staring down at my feet to ensure my safety. Then, I stopped and realized… look up. If I stay looking at my feet and worring about my safety so much I would miss the beauty of the mountain all around me. And also, if I stay only looking up, I could fall and risk injury.  
Balance. This journey taught me that balance is everything. This is something I  logically know and have been struggling yet working on in all areas. As someone with bipolar disorder… balance is foreign to me. And yet, in accomplishing this small journey, balance transcended my logical understanding and was something that I FELT. 
I praise God for this experience.  I praise him for the blessing of even the smallest moments. Seek first the kingdom of God, brothers and sisters. Seek God above all else. Climb your mountain to steal away a few small moments with Him. Taste the sweet water and marvel at his amazing creations all around you. Look up. Be safe. Find your balance. 

Seek the Lord above all else and everything will fall into place. He restores balance. 
Lord, thank your for our moments with you, big and small. Thank you for the mountains -literal and metephorical- in our lives and for strengthening us enough to conquer them. Spark in our hearts a desire to seek you above any and every thing in our lives. Let us seek you above money, materials, spouses, etc. We love and thank you. In Jesus name, amen. 
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Get out the GUNK

Preparing for your future spouse starts with seeking God and spiritual cleansing.

Who here loves spring cleaning? … Yeah, me neither. I tend to procrastinate until the task becomes something I can’t ignore anymore. I keep saying “I’ll get to that later” until that embarrassing moment when you open the car door any your empty water bottles start falling out. Even if you don’t have this problem with physical tasks, you may be experiencing this problem with another type of ‘spring cleaning’… Spiritual cleansing. 

Believe it or not, spiritual healing and growth is some seriously hard work. It takes dedication and determination but even more so, it takes a deep desire. If you’re praying “God, bring me my future spouse” you should also be asking “God, what do you want to change in me for my future spouse? How can I be the best person I can be for you and for them?”. Just like you don’t want God to bring you someone who isn’t ready for you, He is not going to bring you to them if YOU are not ready either. 

I had an experience recently, a weird one. I recently had a period of time where I was unmedicated for my bipolar disorder, long story but if you’d like to check it out, the video is here: https://youtu.be/Eoi1fR3py9U . Anyway, since I’ve gotten back on track, I’ve still struggled personally. Its like God is trying to speak to me but I am underwater and can’t hear him clearly. I was still desiring things that God had clearly said were not for me and I couldn’t understand why God wasn’t taking the desires away when I prayed so many times for Him to. 

In the most random of moments I began praying in the shower for spiritual cleansing. I dropped to my knees, crying like some mad woman, and just begged God to renew me. Revive me. Bring me back from the dead. In that moment it felt like the Spirit reached inside of me and grabbed all of the filth, all of the sticky tar of unholiness that was still clinging to the corners, and yanked it out of me. I physically vomitted. Now, stick with me because I know that sounds super gross, but I felt clean after. I felt like the grime that was built up inside had been scraped out. God was doing some spring cleaning on my soul and was just waiting for that deep longing desire from me. I’m not saying everyone will have some weird, supernatural, vomiting experience, but He is waiting for that deep desire in you as well. Start seeking Him. Seek Him in His word, seek Him in prayer, seek Him in quiet time. Never stop. Let the spring cleaning begin. 

Tonight, I heard the word from several fellow pastors, members of my Christ family, and as always I am amazed by how much the Lord is moving. A few preached in the importance of witnessing, talking about the story in Mark 5 when Jesus drives a legion of demons out of a man and tells him to go share his story. Really that is why I’ve decided to share my story. Even wierd ones like this which I was going to keep to myself. Tonight’s messages reminded me that God needs us to share our experiences, even when it makes us uncomfortable; especially when it makes us uncomfortable. 
I’d like to leave you with this piece of scripture where Jesus works in the life of Saul, a man who has not only sinned and murdered but his job was specifically to murder Jesus’ followers. Specifically to persecute Christians. Man, if God can cleanse him and make him new… He can work for us too. Nothing is too big for God. But remember… Its a journey, not a moment. Even if you’ve been saved. There are times where you will need to be cleansed again, to confess again, to fall to your knees again. And that is okay. Never stop. 

 ““ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. “ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.  “ ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. “ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’  My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.  “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.  “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ ” – Acts 22:8‭-‬16 NIV

Lord, thank you for the amazing ways you are moving. Thank you for your unending grace ans mercy. Oh father, prepare us and change us. Lord, lead us to desire your desires. Lead us to want your path and plans. God, scrape out the gunk that is stuck inside of us. Break down the sinful desires we still struggle with. Break our chains, Lord. Create in us a deep desire for you and for righteousness. Lord, we love you and we thank you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen. 

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