First Call in Time of Help

As I was doing triceps extension in the gym this morning, the sun shined through the window and I began to feel a sense of urgency to get my workout done. I wanted to hit the trail with my bike while the sun was still out. I hurried back to the hotel, changed over into my new gear I bought yesterday so I could ride and not freeze my feet, hands and well…my butt off.

Didn’t take long I was pedaling off base and into the woods.  I love the circuit of trails that are easily accessible from base.  They lead to small German villages, incredible open fields and beautiful views; a true joy to explore, albeit a bit risky when it comes to getting lost. I always take my phone with me, for Google maps which surprisingly has most of the trails mapped out and also for emergency in case my bike breaks, I get hurt…etc.

As it were today, I ended up stuck in the mud with my chain locked up.  I back tracked out of the mud and I tried to fix my chain for awhile with no luck.  It was really stuck and I couldn’t even figure out how one part got to where it was. I broke out my phone to figure out where I was…while I was looking at a 14 minute bike ride back to base it was a 41 minute walk back.

Funny thing as I looked at my phone, for the first time in a long time I actually knew there was someone I could call who wouldn’t think twice about coming to help me. I could call MGySgt Ward. I can’t say I’ve ever known someone so willing to go out of his way to look out for Marines and take care of anyone in any situation. I wouldn’t even have my bike if it wasn’t for him…and I love my bike!

I’ve spent my adult life single and living away from my family.  I don’t make friends very easily because quite frankly, I’m an introvert that much rather be alone lost in my own thoughts. I’ve prayed to have that special person in my life but so far, God hasn’t introduced him to me, so I either take care of myself, wait on God to provide or I go without. I don’t have a network of friends to turn to and my family members are thousands of miles away.

In time of emergency though I never worry, I know I’m always taken care of. I took great comfort in knowing I could dial for help but my first call is always to God. I put my phone away and walked farther up the trail where there was a fence.  I leaned my bike against the fence and asked God to help me fix the chain. This time it didn’t take long for me to figure out how to fix it…I was back on my bike for the 14 minute ride back to base.

The experience made me wonder if I would take for granted calling on God first to help me with all my needs, hiccups and emergencies if I’d always had a handful of other people to lean on for help?  God should be our first choice, not the answer if we have no other choice.

Who do you call first?

A New Spiritual Growth Spurt

Last Saturday was a rather monumental transition in my walk with the Lord. I realized the strength of the Spirit overtook the strength of the flesh.

When I gave my life to the Lord, He began to work in me.  In the years that followed He peeled the layers to show me where I needed to change; this caused me much pain, struggles, confusion, but also incredible joy, happiness and revelations. I hung on with dear life to all the amazing things He had accomplished in my life each and every time a new phase of unveiling came creeping in because of how painful they were and how much struggle they caused. Over time, as the cycle repeated itself, I started recognizing it and used the trust and faith I have in the Lord and His Grace to overcome whatever He set to work out of me. I was more knowledgeable, I knew what to pray about and how to rely on the Holy Spirit to show me what I needed to know and to guide me. Each and every time my relationship with the Lord grows stronger and my understanding of The Word clearer.

Then I finally found true joy in living an obedient life according to God’s plan…or at least that’s what I wrote in my first post of 2014 about 2013 after having an incredible Christmas in Rome and New Year in Baden Baden. However, things got bumpy again when I got back to work.  My joy became a puff of smoke and misery was creeping in again. I was allowing my circumstances and the environment at work to finally get to me – I was cracking because of how unhappy and miserable work was making me. The question “why Lord, why” was once more knocking at the door.

I began to pray on what was happening.  The feeling of dissatisfaction intensified. I have grown very familiar to feeling like this and I know the battle in these moments are real. It’s an opening for the devil and God will only speak when we’re ready to hear Him.  Faith is critical. I spoke to the Lord “All I want is to serve you Lord in a job that leverages who I am, doing what I love so that you will be glorified.  Why do you keep under utilizing me? You know how much joy and satisfaction I can get from work I love”

At this point in my walk with the Lord, He didn’t have to say much to me to realize all that’s wrong with that statement; but He none the less opened my eyes to three very important lessons:

1. I’m still looking to have things my own way. He spoke to me of all the blessings in my life right now and how I’m choosing to focus and be wrapped up in the one aspect of my life (being work) that is not what I want it to be. I was literally turning my back on God’s Blessing to focus on what I want from the work I do. My loving Father had to bring on suffering for me to appreciate His Blessings.

2. I know it’s unbelievable but the pathetic “But God” followed that revelation.  “But God, you know I get my pleasure out of the work I do. I love being challenged. I’m driven. I love to accomplish things”

To which He replied.  “I know. It’s time to change that, Ann.  I am your source of joy – do not put anything or anyone above me. You have been seeking your worth and validation in the wrong places.”

Many, many years ago, either in High School, or my first year in the Marine Corps, I told myself I never wanted my job to feel like work.  I wanted my job to be part of who I was and ever since I made that statement; I placed work above everything else in my life – that is until I was saved.  Once I was saved, God began to untangle the mess I had made of my life because of the way I had set my priorities. But while the mess has been untangled, the root cause still remained.

Finally, He set me up in Europe with financial stability/freedom and opportunities to enjoy so much more than just work, but it didn’t take long for me to overlook all that and focus on work again. He placed me in the perfect position to unveil something deeply rooted in me that must change.

That’s how God works when you give your life to Him and you let Him work things through you/in you.

3. Spirit over Flesh. So how am I/was I to go about handling how miserable I feel because of how unsatisfying the work I do is with what the Lord is trying to change in me/teach me??

I tried doing this with my own strength and failed.  Meaning, my first approach was to use mind over matter. It’s how I initially dealt with it but in the end I cracked. I also know trying to control/change the actual work environment is not the answer. I’m not in the environment to change the environment. I’m in the environment for it to change me. (Sometimes it’s vice versa, pray for discernment to know which way it’s supposed to go)

Then one night this week, I was laying in bed thinking about work and realized deep down, I was happy. My Spirit was in complete peace. God is working in my life, He is clearly with me every second of everyday, I’m living my life to serve Him, obey Him and I know He has nothing but great things for me…so what if I FEEL miserable?!? Feelings are of the flesh. My flesh is suffering. My flesh is experiencing feelings it doesn’t like but my Spirit is in a wonderful place.

Never before I have known the two to be so completely separated; we are to live in the Spirit not the flesh. Romans 8:4 “so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” The fruit of the Spirit or the character of Jesus Christ, is reproduced in the believer who is under the Spirit’s control.

Galatians 5:16-25 But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want.

So there you have it! What I need to work on now is how to move ahead living in the Spirit more and more each day. And of course, as luck would have it (imagine a huge smirk on my face) God has set the perfect environment for me to work on that while I enjoy all of His blessings!

God is incredibly GOOD! He set up an difficult task but not without providing me all I need to get through it.

Final Thought

If you haven’t given your life to the Lord and you are cracking open self-help book after self-help book to figure out how to change and improve your life you are trying to achieve the impossible. Hand your life over to God and He will set your path, provide you the strength, the answers, and all the opportunities and tools you need to be successful at becoming a better person. He will make you who He created you to be while being right there by your side.

Just like me, at some point in your life while you were living outside His Will you probably made certain decisions and promises to yourself that sent you down the wrong path. God will straighten all that out if you agree to follow Him.

God: Author of My Love Life?

God: Author of My Love Life? Ready for me to explain that crazy title? It all started about two weeks ago…I was on leave in Massachusetts for my sister’s wedding (had a really wonderful and much needed relaxing time) where I decided to take some time to read some books.  I’ve been making a full switch in my Christian walk.  I listen mostly to Christian music and I have been focusing more on reading Christian books.  I’ve noticed the more I commit my life to my Christian walk the less appealing the things become in the secular world.  (I also realize I need to remove some pictures and other things from my own website which I don’t necessarily want to make public anymore…)

Anyway, I’ve never been a relationship person…and I have certainly NEVER been one to read relationship books so why it is I found myself downloading “When God Writes Your Love Story” by Eric and Leslie Ludy and “Finally the Bride” by Cheryl McKay to my Kindle is beyond me.

As if downloading the books wasn’t bad enough, I found myself thoroughly enjoying both books and realizing just how much I’ve been missing in the few relationships I’ve had. I have completely turned my life over to God so to me, that clearly also means my love life…that is, the lack thereof. Although, makes sense based on the many changes that have occurred in my life that meeting a man hasn’t been added to the mix…but what about now?

What am I doing reading books about relationships when I never would have considered it before? Why am I learning the real meaning of a God lead Romance, Relationship and Marriage?

Reading those two books made me realize my absolute lack of interest in relationships and marriage had a lot to do with the type of relationships I’ve been exposed to/that exist in our society. I’m not at all interested in the shallow, physical, empty and unfulfilling relationships that run rampant today. Even before God entered my life, I knew I rather be single then be with a man I didn’t respect, admire, and cherished. I had given up I would ever find such a man.  I was right in giving up because I can’t find him…only God can find him!

I have much renewed hope now in true romance and I can imagine myself walking down the aisle, committing myself to marriage and even changing my last name but ONLY for the man God has picked out for me. Only for God’s best…if that’s what He has planned for me.

Being that I’ve been single pretty much all my life and have lacked interest up until now in relationships…I’m not entirely sure if God is calling me to marriage or a life of singleness. He is igniting a desire in my heart that has only been present in rare moments in the past. Of course, I’m not overlooking the fact He is igniting this desire at a time when He’s cleared everything else out of my life that once kept me from even considering entering a relationship. I used to be so goal oriented and focused on my dreams and ambitions there was no room in my life for romance, love and a relationship.

I believe now nothing is more beautiful, amazing and incredible as a God written Love Story and yes, I would love my own. It would be an incredible blessing if God was in the process of writing my love story.  Thankfully, the two books I’ve read have prepared me for it…to include keeping my eyes and focus on Him while He does what He does.

I’m embarking on so many brand new fronts!

Born Again: Hitting The Reset Button

I get a monthly email from a credit score tracking company with my current credit score, current activities and they also provide email notices if anything changes with my credit score. Signing-up with them obviously required a Username and Password which of course, overtime, I forgot and was unable to retrieve via the automated system.  Long story short, while plenty of notices came in – I didn’t get to login and check what they were about (yes, defeating the whole purpose for paying for this service in the first place).  However, I had noticed an increased in credit card applications coming in via regular mail.

So last weekend, I finally made a call to the service desk in order to retrieve my username and password and logged in to check on my credit score.  I was pleasantly surprised and relieved to see what it was!

In early Spring 2008, I had to move out of my townhouse due to a foreclosure, my credit cards were maxed out and creditors were hassling me on a weekly basis. In 2009, I proceeded to get some of my financial footing back but it shortly got shot back to hell.

I’ve talked about it before and will probably never stop saying it – it wasn’t until I was born again that everything in my life started getting back on track. Once I turned the reigns over to God and allowed Him to take charge of my life; He proceeded to clean up every aspect of my life.  Some of the positive outcomes in a variety of areas became more obvious faster…while in some other areas, it took longer for me to see/realize how He guided me to take care of them.

Since turning my life over to God…in only 3 short years He has healed my relationship with my family, guided me to get my BS Degree, lead me to be in the best shape of my life, healed my anger and depression, reset my financial status; He has matured me and provided me with wisdom, understanding, grace, and forgiveness.  My faith has grown by leaps and bounds.

Life hasn’t been a cake walk these last 3 years and sometimes I still struggle.  I’ve been putting in A LOT of hard work and I’m not clear where this will all lead me but I fully trust the Lord and His plan for my life.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned these last few months is to be grateful.  To keep looking at what I have instead of what’s missing. To look at how I’ve changed and grown…not on where I thought I would be by now.  To stay focus on the “who” not the “where”.   This is how I was able to see how much work God has been doing in my life by resetting everything I had screwed up when I was being lead by my ego and flesh.

About a year ago I taped a piece of paper to my computer that says “God is working in my life”.  I read that saying at least once a day, but for the most part; I don’t see it manifesting itself everyday…however, when I look at the big picture I can totally see how much God is working in my life.

There is still ample of work for me to do, issues to resolve and areas where I need to change/improve but that doesn’t bother me at all anymore.  God is working in my life, leading me, providing for me and pacing everything according to what I need and can handle while leaning on His strength.

The Road to Forgiveness

Today I am part of a story in the Wall Street Journal on forgiveness. As many of you who regularly read my blog know, my family is now after God, the most important “thing” in my life but it definitely wasn’t always the case.

As a child, things happened and didn’t happen that caused me to see my childhood a certain way – I carried many of the hurts I felt were committed against me with me for years after leaving home.  I did leave home in a hurry.  While I did fall in love with the Marine Corps and being a Marine became what I wanted to be/do when I was a Freshman in High School; I also recognize now it was the fastest way for me to leave home and be on my own.

For years I was closed off to my family, carrying feelings of hurt, rejection, and anger.  For years, I didn’t see or realize how emotionally closed off I was and had been at an early age. I took on the world alone and found myself in so much pain and constant struggle.

It did all eventually cumulate to me falling down to my knees and praying to God; admitting I couldn’t do it alone – that’s when I died to self and started to give my will over to Him. I began to obey His will for my life and He brought incredible change in me which lead me to being able to see the errors in my ways, my stubbornness, ego, arrogance, my self-pity, and all the love I was missing out on.

God lead me back to my family and armed me with the ability to forgive, forget and move forward. Forgiveness requires letting go of the pain we carry with us, with the emotions and hurt that become part of our identity over the years. We become so attached to that pain we almost don’t know who we would be without it. I didn’t want to be associated with a story of pain and self-pity anymore, with God I wanted to be associated to grace, glory, righteousness, strength, forgiveness and love.

Everyone in my family welcomed me back with open arms and I do recognize that as a blessing from God and I do know not everyone will necessarily encounter the same happy ending.  However, for the sake of your walk with God, your peace of mind, health and well being I definitely recommend seeing the errors of your ways in the relationship(s) where forgiveness is needed and offering that forgiveness.  Free yourself from the pain, hurt, anger and the identity you have tied to your story of wrongs done to you.  It does not serve you; it hinders you.  Create a better identity for yourself – one that involves being able to forgive.

Walking out of the Valley

In times of struggles turning to God seems for many to be the thing to do. However, in times of extended struggles and/or extreme struggles for many that’s when we turn away from God because we can’t understand how He would let this happen to us or to the people we love. We become plagued with the question “Why, God, Why?” We feel completely abandoned and forsaken.  We take actions in our own hands, we turn more towards people instead of God, and we direct our anger at God. I’ve been there…a few times.

This is the first time in my life that while my struggle has increased and persisted so has my reliance on God. The story of Joseph (son of Jacob) and his many years of hardship while never losing his faith brings me a lot of comfort. It has taught me to really appreciate and love my struggles and how to leverage them to deepen my relationship with God.

We were created in the image of God and his son Jesus…and while no human being is perfect; there is one human being Jesus, who walked the earth in perfection. He who came to teach us His ways by living and going through the same things we face day to day.  In all He does, God is working to lead us to live to the level of perfection He created us to be. To realize the intensity of our flawed and sinful natures is to understand why there is so much struggle in our lives and in our society.

What’s happening and not happening in my life right now are not adding up, but there are good things definitely starting to happen. I see myself walking out of the valley and into a promised mountain peak a truly changed person.  There’s still a thorn/heavy burden that every now and again I pick-up vice letting God carry it; even though I clearly know I cannot track up the mountain if I choose to carry the weight of that burden. That’s when I hear God say; lean more unto me, more trust, more faith…more letting go (or rather letting go again what I went and picked back up). In the mean time, I’ve continued to grow more patient, forgiving, and less critical.

I’ve said this before…when God is really at work in your life things are not going to add up, make sense or be logical.  All I keep reminding myself to do is to believe, have faith, pray and obey.