Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A God-sized dream story

This week, Holley's "do what you can" step for our God-sized dream is to write about how we're inspired by a God-sized dream story of someone in Scripture, our family, our community or the great, big world out there online.

There are a few people who have inspired me that I will mention here. In particular, I'm going to write about one person whose online sermons I listened to again and again while I was going through the dark-night-of-my soul experience.

His name is Kris Vallotton and he's the senior associate leader of Bethel Church in Redding, California where Bill Johnson is the senior pastor. I have been deeply impacted by both men's ministries which seek to bring the experiences of heaven to earth and to operate in the supernatural like Jesus did.

Having prayed and pursued healing for my son's autism for years without seeing any change, I know how disheartening it can get. However, my husband and I have determined in our hearts that we are not going to get offended by what God hasn't done but instead to celebrate what He has done. Not just in our lives but in the lives of others, some of whom with testimonies that are way out of this world! We choose not to lower the standard of God's Word to our level of experience. Simply because by having our faith anchored in a God who heals, it gives us hope to carry on.

While in the pursuit of Joseph's healing especially when we came to the crossroad of having to consider residential care as an option a few years ago, I discovered a greater purpose: the pursuit of the Healer rather than the healing; of seeking the face of God (to discover who He is) rather than the hand of God (what He can do). 

But in the midst of the stress and anxiety of planning to let Joseph go into full-time care, I lost sight of this purpose for a while and had to learn the hard way that there are certain things that can only be received through rest rather than strife. In fact, the more I walk with God, the more I am learning that it's all about resting in Him and letting Him do things through us. During this time, part of the thing that kept me going was listening to Kris' messages like "Living Powerfully", "Living in Wholeness", and "Spirit War"; just to name a few.

Kris speaks from his personal experience of a nervous breakdown which lasted three and a half years during the early years of his marriage. His struggles with anxiety and how he overcomes them resonate deeply with me. His teachings on how the devil gains access into our lives to create havoc through our thoughts that become strongholds in our minds are so powerful. I used to listen over and over again to how he exhorts his audience to be kind to yourself, to nourish and cherish yourself as Christ does the church, to not lie down but keep walking when going through the valley of the shadow of death, because this, too shall pass. These exhortations based on the word of God were like water to a parched land; hope to a despairing soul.

Today, Kris' prophetic insight as well as humorous delivery has made him a much sought-after international conference speaker. His personal testimony of deliverance from fear and torment brings hope and freedom to thousands of people. He has written several books, including the best-selling "Supernatural Ways of Royalty".

To me, it is so refreshing to hear someone share his struggles with great transparency, and at the same time with such insights and revelations that I feel empowered to believe that I, too, can be an overcomer. I loved it when Kris said in some of his sermons that he was speaking to himself as much as he was speaking to his audience. That out of one's test comes the test-imony; out of one's mess comes forth the mess-age.

Out of the mess that I found myself in came the discovery of how much God loves me, yes, even when I was at rock bottom and totally unlovable! It is with this message in mind that I am writing a book based on my journey which I hope to be able to publish in the not-so-distant future.

This discovery was a huge revelation for someone like me who has struggled with self-acceptance most of her life. That is why I find Holley so encouraging with her constant words of exhortation that we are already amazing just the way we are! By the way, Holley is the best-selling author of "You're Already Amazing" and her second book "You're Made for a God-Sized Dream" officially releases next week.

So, thank you, Kris, and Bill, and Holley, for your messages of hope and courage that have helped me move forward and enabled me to start dreaming again!

Linking up with:

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

You are so loved

More than you'll ever know, you are loved. By the One who made us. Deeply, truly loved......

I thought I knew that. After all, I've been a Christian for more than twenty years.

Most of us are familiar with John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

In the past, I could tell people that God loves them and really feel it for them. But strangely, I couldn't genuinely feel it for myself.

Not until the time I hit rock bottom a few years ago. And where I stayed for a while......... a good while........

It was there that I felt Him. His presence was so real, and so comforting. There was no judgment; no condemnation. No reproof of “why are you here?” or “Christians aren't supposed to feel this way”.

He just held me in His arms and rocked me like a baby, whispering words of love and comfort that I wasn't alone. That He was with me, and He always would be. That together, we would get through this.

I will never leave you.............. I am with you always...........

During that time, I had a taste of what it feels like to be unconditionally loved. A love that is not based on what I have done, or what I am doing for Him. He loves me for simply being me. Yes, down-trodden, exhausted, heartbroken, beyond discouraged, ready-to-go-home me! It blew me away, this revelation of how much He loves me and His complete acceptance of where I was.

It has whetted my appetite for more because I realised that what I had experienced was but a drop of water in a vast ocean. There's an entire expanse of His love to be experienced each and every single day. And to be shared with others.

So, I'm sharing His love with you now. He is absolutely wild about you and He longs to show you what He thinks of you. He wants to wrap His arms around you and whisper this in your ear:

I love much.......more than you'll ever know........

Can you hear Him?

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:38,39 ~

"...No one can snatch them from the Father's hand." ~ John 10:29 ~

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

You are more important than the things you do

I peer sleepily at the digital clock by my side. Two hours before I need to get up to start the day. I roll over and close my eyes, intending to sleep till the alarm wakes me up.

One by one, however, thoughts begin to enter my mind. First, they are thoughts of what I plan to do today. Next come thoughts of an email I need to respond to and what to say. Then there's the fund-raiser that they're going to have in church. Not now, I tell myself. Lots of time to reflect on these things later. Now go back to sleep.

As hard as I try, sleep will not come. The thoughts then start to take on a life of their own. Before I know it, my mind feels like it's racing even though there is nothing chasing it as far as I can see. The list of to-do things become not just what I need to do for the day, but for the coming weekend, then the week ahead, and the week after....

With that, my heart beats faster to keep up with the rate that my mind is going. I start to feel overwhelmed and my breath comes in short, shallow bursts. God, help!

I'm here..... I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on me....., comes a clear thought out of the murkiness of all the other jumbled-up ones.

God's here! Relief takes over as my mind latches on to my Maker. My breathing slows down while restored peace floods my mind and soul.

It doesn't matter what I've got to do today. Or tomorrow. I just have to do my best and let God help me get through them all. What cannot be accomplished today can be done another day. There is nothing more important than being aware of Him. Of leaning on Him. Of knowing that it is His strength that I depend on and not my own.

You are important, my matter to me more than the things you do.......

I smile gratefully into the darkness. As my thoughts turn to how much God loves and cares for me, I drift back to sleep without even trying to.

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” ~ Isaiah 26:3 ~

Monday, 11 February 2013

Sufficient grace for each day

My husband posing with our son, Joseph

Joseph is the older of our two children. He is autistic with high needs and has moderate intellectual disability. As he entered his teens, he was also diagnosed to have mood disorder; he goes through a repetitive cycle of being restless, loud and demanding for about a week or two, and then quiet, passive and withdrawn for the next week or so.

A few years ago, my husband and I had to make the most difficult decision in our lives so far -  to let Joseph go to full-time care outside of our family home. 

We had applied for residential placement, but Joseph was placed in a government-funded project along with 15 other children who were all under 18 years of age. The project aimed to find individual foster homes to maintain a more homely atmosphere and better care for the 16 children.

Nearly three years and two foster families later, Joseph is doing well with his second family. My husband and I meet regularly with Joseph's support team to monitor his progress and well-being.

Joseph now comes home once a week for an afternoon during the weekend to spend time with us.This is our special time with him to bond and to see for ourselves that he is doing okay. And if there are things to be improved on, we are his advocates.

It is so good to see his beautiful smile and hear his contagious laugh, to watch him enjoy his favourite food, and to simply just spend time with him being his parents rather than his caregivers.

As Joseph becomes an adult, plans are in place for him to move into adult services which include a flatting kind of arrangement rather than boarding. How this is going to pan out is still both hazy and scary to us.

To be completely honest, thinking about Joseph's future scares me so much I can't really afford to go there. But we are so thankful for the provision that he has at the moment. And we need to allow that gratitude to become a daily attitude that helps us live in the moment and enjoy what we have.

For when I was in deep sorrow and despair when Joseph first left home, God provided for him. Furthermore, He met me where I was and there was enough grace to see me through. Even though I could neither see nor feel it.

There will be grace tomorrow for tomorrow's problems. Today's grace is only sufficient for today.

Even when our feelings tell us otherwise, His Word is the truth that we need to train our minds and hearts to embrace....

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." ~ Matthew 6:34 ~

What to say yes to

This week, together with the other God-sized dreamers, we're to write about one of the things we choose to decrease in our lives so our dreams can thrive. As Holley Gerth wrote, "Sometimes even what’s good can crowd out what’s best."

When I start thinking about what I need to say 'no' or 'not now' or 'not so much' to, I realise that it's not so much having to say 'no' to what's already on my plate. It's more about what to say 'no' to as things come my way. 

I used to say yes to most things. Actually, I can't remember saying no to anything! Simply because those things were expected of me. My paternal grandmother used to remind me when I was growing up, "Be a good girl for your [adoptive] parents (I was given away to my father's brother when I was two); if they don't want you, you can't go back to your real parents as they wouldn't want you either!" So, I behaved (well, I tried very hard to) and did everything that was expected of me, just so I could have a roof over my head and not be cast out onto the streets. What fear, anger and resentment that I kept pushing deep into the recesses of my heart!

Decades later, all these negative emotions blew up like a volcano after Joseph had to leave home because I got burnt out caring for him. The huge eruption left a ginormous crater that had no room for yesses. No, sir, I mean, ma'am, none whatsoever!

So, basically, I said no to everything. At first, it was because there just wasn't enough energy or motivation to be able to sustain even the most feeble of attempts at doing anything. Then when I started to heal (something which I thought was impossible initially), I still found it hard to say yes to anything as there was a lot of self-doubt and resentment accompanying those yesses. I needed to come to a place where I was saying yes to things that fulfilled something in me, and not just to please others.

What joy and freedom it has been to discover that it is ok to do things for myself and to be happy! That I can value and celebrate myself for who I am. That I can say 'no' to things that I would rather not do and not feel guilty about it. Truth, when it gets transferred from being head knowledge to being a heart experience, really does set one free!

So, this year, I'm going be very deliberate about what I choose to put on my plate. So that I can live whole-heartedly. As Holley says, "You’ll know when you’re living wholehearted because you’ll experience more joy, energy and enthusiasm about what you’re doing." Laurie Wallin's guide to know when to say yes will be a very valuable resource indeed.

Priority number one: writing. My manuscript, that is. And blogging. It can be so refreshing and invigorating. As long as I don't wear my eyes out. I'm still adjusting to my first pair of progressive glasses and it hasn't been a fun ride.

And the rest? Anything that brings joy, fulfilment and a sense of well-being that doesn't distract me from priority number one.

"But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your "No', 'No'...." ~ Matthew 5:37 ~

 Linking up with:

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Facing my fears

This week, Holley asked us to write about one fear we've faced when it comes to our God-sized dreams. Also, we're to think about the truth that's bigger than that fear.

To be honest, I've got so many fears I don't even know where to begin!

Okay, maybe I'll begin by giving you a few more details about what my God-sized dream is so you can have a better understanding of my fears. It's to write a book about the burnout that I experienced while caring for my autistic son, which led to him having to leave our family home to be placed in the care of others.

That was nearly three years ago. He was 16 years old then.

I thought the burnout would kill me if I continued to have to care for him. What I didn't realise was how difficult it would be to let him go. The guilt and grief was just devastating. I'm not sure if I would have made it through without the support and counsel of my psychologist whom I saw for nearly a year, the love and support of my amazing husband, my daughter's need to have her mum whole again, and the comfort and love of my Heavenly Father.

There has been so much to recover from. It was like I had walked into an emotional minefield that brought everything crashing down around me. I've had to pick myself up from scratch; learn to take my first baby steps again; and deal with every issue that stumbles me, some from way back in my childhood.

During my time of healing, what has helped to give me a sense of purpose and meaning to my life is the idea of writing a book about these experiences. To share about my pain and to let others know that they're not alone in theirs.

So many fears have attempted to discourage me in this process. I mean, it is a big thing to attempt writing a book. It's an even bigger thing to try and find a publisher who will want to publish it. After all that I've been through, have I really got what it takes to do this?

To be honest, I don't really know. All I know is that writing this has given me a focus and a drive that otherwise will not be there.

The truth I'm telling myself is this: I am stronger than I think. Wait, was it Pooh Bear who said that? 

Or, to quote the words of Paul, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

Yes, I've got to keep believing that. After all, getting to where I am now took courage that I didn't even know I had!

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