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Seen through the blindness of dreams

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For 27 years, I chased the perfect life I dreamed of. I did everything I could to actualize my dream of owning a big house with a fenced in yard where my dog could run freely, where friends could visit, where I could be an amazing husband and someday raise a family. I put all my trust and passion into making this life a reality no matter the cost. I believed there was a God, but I was doing everything on my own, so I saw no need for Him in my life or reason to be involved in the church community. I was proud, independent, and stubbornly focused on what I had gained and where I was going.

On a sunny summer day in July, the life I dreamed of that raised me up became the weight that brought me to my knees. With anxiety boiling up from deep in the pit of my stomach, I asked my wife one simple question. After a long, agonizing, silent pause, I hoped that the answer I feared would not leave her mouth -- but almost like ripping off a bandage, my wife confessed that she had been unfaithful. All my anxiety suddenly disappeared, but so did all my emotions and sense of reality. I know now that I was in a state of emotional shock. Soon after, I discovered that for the entirety of our marriage and relationship, she had been like a wolf in a sheep’s skin. Fidelity had never had a chance. No matter how much I tried and was willing to work for our marriage, she was done with being married to me and told me that she never even wanted to be married in the first place. To no success, I tried my best to fight my way out of my emotional shock, save our marriage, and maintain the life I had worked for. It felt like desperately grabbing a handful of earth, only to have it helplessly fall between the cracks of your fingers. It was all too much for me to handle. I was drowning in a pit of devastation and barely surviving each day. I felt hurt, betrayed, abandoned, lost, weak, emasculated, purposeless, useless, desperate, hopeless, and broken.

I knew I needed to find help but could not afford it between a mortgage and high insurance deductibles. I searched online for help and support groups and came across a program called DivorceCare through a church called East 91st Street Christian Church. I decided to try it even though it was through a church, which I thought could be a little weird or feel like I was being preached at. The people were welcoming and friendly. Everyone had felt the pain of divorce or separation, and after hearing everyone's stories, I felt like I could be understood and safely talk about what I was experiencing. The meetings did help me for at least one day out of each week. Still, I felt separated from the world and my community for a long time. Then my friend Wilson passed away in a sudden car accident, and this began to pull me from my emotional shock. I was experiencing deep grief and unable to process it with anyone. A leader in DivorceCare told me about a service offered through E91 called Crucible Counseling where the cost would be based on my financial situation. Counseling eventually became a place where I could peel away at the walls and begin to trust someone with my thoughts and emotions. It was a long process of taking two steps forwards and one step back, but eventually, I was able to express my suppressed emotions comfortably and make progress through the many stages of grief. With all the grief, every day and night was filled with processing the losses, including the loss of personal confidence. When I am overwhelmed by an internal struggle, I have interpretive dreams where I confront the issue that is bothering me deep down. This is a coping mechanism I developed in my brokenness to internally express emotions and bring struggles to light. One night after I felt like I had barely made it through the day, I had one of these dreams. I was worn out emotionally and physically and was sitting with my head down at a long wooden table in the forest, awaiting a meal. A child appeared out of nowhere and sat next to me at the table and we talked: “Are you going to be okay?” he asked. “I don’t know if I can make it,” I answered. "Just take it one day at a time,” he replied with a smile.

This dream was the most vividly that I have ever experienced the presence of God, and it came when I needed it most. Taking one day at a time was what allowed me to accept, move through, and then move past all the personal challenges I faced.

The next Sunday, I decided to give a church a chance. I nervously walked into East 91st Street Christian Church and sat in the back row while I waited for the service to start. A woman named Carmen introduced herself and asked me how I found the church. After realizing I was new and a bit shy, she introduced me to Zach, who took me under his wing, introduced me to so many people and got me plugged into a life group that met near me. The life group was a place where I would slowly open up and trust in people. It was a place where I learned about Christ and where no question was too silly because everyone genuinely cared and wanted to help me take next steps with Jesus. I learned a lot about the Bible, but also about community and its role in growing one’s faith. What once felt like the end of my cold and empty story was really just the cavity that God intended to fill with His grace and redemption. A little less than a year after I first came to the church, I stood before the congregation and Zach baptized me. A couple weeks later I found myself on a mission trip in Kenya. My heart grew so much bigger there, and my faith was inspired by seeing the Kenyan people’s faith lived out on a daily basis. I learned about my strengths and weaknesses and will continue to utilize those to glorify God. The dream that I was blinded by was not the same dream that God had planned for me. God has fulfilled a new dream for me by giving me hope, redemption, and love.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

-Jeremiah 29:11

( If you are walking the hard road of separation or divorce consider coming to a DivorceCare group meeting starting up again on Tuesday evenings August 23rd from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. - For more information contact Natalie Hubartt. )

 

 

He Makes Beautiful Things

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I grew up in a Christian home. All my life I lived a “good” life. I was baptized when I was six and participated in about every church function I could. I was a nice girl at school, read the Bible occasionally, studied hard, stayed sexually pure, never cussed and never drank. I prided myself on these things.  

Yet, even though I was proud of the “clean” life I lived, I knew my relationship with God was incomplete. I felt like a relationship with God was more of a chore than anything I really desired. When I saw other people have that strong desire, it seemed like there was a critical piece of the puzzle that I was missing and that everyone else had.

After graduating college, I started attending E91 and a life church. One night at life church, God removed the scales from my eyes so I could see. He revealed to me that His real purpose for my life was to glorify Him. It was so obvious that I wondered how I had been missing it all of this time. But in the months to come, it was clear that God knew exactly when He was ready to make me His own. 

Unbeknownst to me, the expense of fully following Christ was going to cost me more than I ever expected. It is hard to realize your need for a Savior when you think that living a good life and following the rules are enough to appease God and get you into Heaven. But this was exactly why I didn’t know Christ. I was a modern day Pharisee. I didn’t need a personal relationship with Jesus because I thought that a relationship with God was just following the rules to the best of your ability. I didn’t know that even on my best day my actions were still dirty rags when brought to God. I needed the blood of Jesus to save me from my worst days and my best days so I could stand blameless before the Lord. Only His blood would do that – not my actions.

God had to do some major work in order for me to understand that I wasn’t good, even after all my years of staying “pure and clean” by the world’s standards. He did this by me losing the one thing that I held in highest regard – my virginity. And He allowed it to happen in the most humbling way possible. I lost my virginity to a guy that I literally met on the street walking to work. I had no interest in this person and knew that I would never be in a relationship with him. However, I let myself start down a slippery slope that I was unable to climb back up. The one thing that I thought would never be part of my story became one of the defining moments.

Fortunately, God was able to remove me from the relationship quickly, but Satan still told me terrible things about myself – that I was a failure, that I was dirty, that I was worthless. But the truth is, compared to Jesus, I was all of those things. Not because of that one thing I had done, but because of the selfish prideful nature of my flesh. I wasn’t at all clean before I lost my virginity and it didn’t make me any dirtier after. I was “pure and clean” because of the blood Christ shed for me on the cross.

God used the situation to teach me that there is absolutely nothing I can do to make Him love me less and absolutely nothing I can do to make him love me more. His love for me is not based on how well I follow the rules. He loves me because I am his daughter. God loves me right now as much as He ever will. He loved me this much when He died on the cross for me 2,000 years ago, and He is going to love me this much until He calls me home.  

We all have something: some sin, some pride, some thing we don’t want to let go of or that has pulled us away from the Lord. If we hold on to it too tightly, God will surely force it out of our grasp in order to have a more intimate relationship with us because that is the most loving thing He can do. When God finally forced this pride out of my hand, I was able to come to His feet as a dirty, broken and helpless sinner and understand my desperate need for the cross.

God used this situation to give me the missing puzzle piece, and I now realize what it means to follow Jesus. It means that I finally realize that I’m a sinner and no act I do is worth anything if done apart from Christ. It means that because of the blood He shed on the cross, my debts have been paid – past, present and future. It means that I understand the magnitude of his love, grace and mercy, and I cannot help but share that with others. It means that my prideful self has died and Christ now lives in me. It means that I now walk with the joy and purpose that only comes from a daily, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. 

He has made the ugliest part of my life into something absolutely beautiful, and I am so grateful for it.

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