Hospitality and the Introvert

Hi Everyone!

It’s been a little while since I’ve written a blog post at length, so grab a cup of tea and settle in.

I am an introvert.

Most people laugh when they hear this because I am the most outgoing of all introverts. I serve on the hospitality team at my church and love every single moment of greeting and getting to know everyone who walks through the door. It honestly brings me the greatest joy to find others who want to discuss the Bible in depth, and I will discuss for hours, as my Life Group knows, if allowed. I am not afraid to introduce myself or go places alone. I have no problem cozying right up to a group of people I’ve never met before and talk about deep and awkward things (whether they want to or not). But this doesn’t make me an extrovert. An extrovert is energized by being in a group of people while an introvert recharges alone. While I love every minute of my time with people, I must have a substantial amount of downtime in between events in order to be my best at the next. I do this at home. I stay at home, snuggle with my family, and hermit my way back to a clear mind.

As Christians, we are to love others. I watched an interview between Russell Moore and the amazing Rosaria Butterfield last night. Gosh, she is wonderful, isn’t she? If you haven’t heard of her, she is a former professor who was converted to Christianity out of homosexuality.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34

Russel Moore asked her if there was anything the church needed to know about the LBGTQ community. She said that when she was in it, there was always and open house with a meal available. The people were so loving. She said that the church is starving when it comes to this kind of love.

Ugh. So true! Not everyone, of course. I know Christians who would welcome anyone in need into their home at any time. But I know I don’t! I have my scheduled “loving” times, and then I resort to hermit mode where I do not answer the phone or door. Not even texts!

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

The bottom line here is that it doesn’t matter if I am an introvert or not. If I am going after Christ, I must deny myself, take up my cross and follow Him. But doesn’t that void loving someone? If you don’t want to open your home or longsuffer with someone, it means nothing right? Of course not. Look at John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

For God so LOVED the world, that He GAVE.

It doesn’t say that God had a warm and fuzzy feeling toward the world, it says God gave. Gave is an action, therefore, love is an action.

We must love as Christ loved. We must love even when it isn’t comfortable.

But what do we do if our spouse isn’t on board? What if there are things holding us back from being as generous as we can? First, ask God. When He wants something done, it gets done. Second, Theodore Roosevelt says it best, do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

We just have to do our best.

Questions:

Are you an introvert or an extravert?

What is a time that someone showed you love? What made it so special?

Peace and Joy Q & A

peace and joy.png

Good morning!

Here is a Q & A for those of you who have been Christians for some time and have yet to understand when or how we receive peace and joy from Jesus. I called myself a Christian for a long time before I understood so I am passing this along to you because there is no greater peace and joy than that from Christ…but you have to actually receive it. I urge you to be honest with yourselves as to if you truly are experiencing the peace of Christ. If not, it’s ok, read on.

Q. When does peace actually come to the person who believes in Christ?

A. I used to think that just believing that Christ died for my sins was “believing in Christ” but it’s actually the complete understanding of what He has done for me. Once you understand this, the peace and joy come!

Q. What is it that Christ actually did for me?

A. To understand this fully, you have to understand your heart. The heart is desperately sick. We have to fully understand our plight before we can fully understand how God rescued us from it.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  Jeremiah 17:9

You don’t have to take my word for it. You should take the Bible’s word for it, but even if you don’t do that, take a moment and ask God to reveal to you your sin. It may not be right after you pray the prayer, but He will. You will be disgusted and you will be thankful He has saved us.

Q. How do I gain peace from knowing that I am terrible? 

A. Once God opens your eyes to your issues, a number of things happen. You are so thankful that the God of the Universe took time to show you the truth. You are so thankful that He came to earth and took the punishment that you now know you deserve. You are at peace with God.

Again, this isn’t something that someone can convince you of. You must take time to get alone with God and ask Him to open your eyes and increase your faith. Be brave.

Q. Where does joy come in? 

A.  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
     Romans 8:31

God has chosen to reveal His truths to you. You prayed, and He answered. You have found your purpose in life that has eternal benefits. If that doesn’t bring you joy, again, ask God to show you His truth. He will.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  Matthew 7:7

Q. Why would someone not ask God to open their eyes?

A. Because they want to remain blind. This may seem strange but it’s true. Our minds can’t imagine that what we aren’t desiring could actually be better. We naturally desire the things of this world. We must pray and ask God to change us even though we currently have these worldly desires.

When I was pregnant with Anna, I did NOT want a girl (I know, terrible. I blame hormones!) I wanted another boy. I couldn’t imagine how having a girl was going to work out because I only knew how great having a boy was. But now I have a girl and she is absolutely wonderful! Of course, she is! I can’t believe I ever thought it would be otherwise. But I couldn’t see it before. We must believe in things that haven’t been shown to us yet. We must want things that we don’t want yet. ASK!

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  Romans 8:5

Q. So do I just wait for godly thoughts to pop into my head and my heart to suddenly be pure?

A. No.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Matthew 6:33

Why would God have left a Bible for us if He didn’t want us to read it? God’s word is powerful and He reveals Himself through it. Ask…and then SEEK Him in His word!

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 

Then pray. But get serious. Be reverent. He is God.

He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them.
Psalm 145:19

Do you even fear God? Is He even hearing your prayers?

Q. How in the world does all of this bring peace and joy? Find out how terrible I am? Give up all my wants? Be fearful of God?

A. I’m telling you, it really is like me not knowing that I was going to like having a girl. Just ask, seek, and knock and you will understand. What do you have to lose? What do you have to gain?

Seeking peace and joy? Ask God to open your eyes, Seek Him through His word. Knock. The door will be opened. I have full confidence in this.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.  2 Thessalonians 3:15

Blessings,
Angela

 

 

 

 

A Tale Of Two Lives

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  2 Corinthians 5:17

What I have come to realize in my thirty-five years on this earth is that this proverbial “normal” that we all think everyone else is, does not exist. If you are messed up, congratulations, you are normal. Everyone one has problems, everyone has things they have to work through. Everyone.

BUT

If we are in Christ, we really are a new creation. We will still have troubles, we will still sin, but our heart will be different. Christians, is this true for you?

Before I was a new creation, I thought I was. I believed that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins so according to my pastor at the time, that made me a new creation in Christ. There was just one not-so-small problem. I was exactly the same as I was before. For those of you who are new to the blog, my “before” was filled with vulgarity, dishonesty, addiction, and a pathetic longing for approval that I was willing to get at any cost. I was this way before I was a Christian…and after.

Why? Because though I believed in God and believed that Christ died for my sins, I did not know the depth of my sin and just how much Christ had saved me from. I never really read the Bible but I listened to sermons telling me how to live my best life, I read Bible verses encouraging my endeavors and made sure to have a quiet time with a feel-good devotional and a prayer asking God to bless me. Other than that, I was perfectly fine with dressing and talking provocatively, “accidentally” drinking until drunk, and gossiping was my absolute favorite pastime. Seriously! The new creation in Christ must just be that once we believe we don’t go to hell because of how terrible we are.

NO! That’s not it! AND YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THIS!!!

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.  Luke 8:15

I had postpartum depression and anxiety after both of my pregnancies but the worst was after my second. I was overwhelmed with the constant thoughts that something awful happening to my son. No matter what I did, the thoughts came back. Night and day I worried. I felt like I was walking around in a constant nightmare. I was always scared, I was always sad. I cannot stress to you the constant terror that I felt. But this was good.

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.  Psalm 119:71

It was only when I was hit with the worry of something happening to my son that I finally opened to the Bible to see what God had to say about my plight. I decided to start in Genesis and read until I felt better.

I did not feel better. Not at all. I felt much, much worse.

As I read through the Old Testament, my eyes were opened to just how much God hates sin. The things that I brushed off daily because “everyone does it” were absolutely disgusting in the eyes of God. As a professing Christian, my heart loved the world. And as a professing Christian, my heart was repulsive in the eyes of God. If the terrible feelings I was having were God telling me that I was about to be punished severely, I certainly deserved it.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  Revelation 3:16

My eyes were now open to the fact that the punishment for sin really is death. Christians, have you ever stopped to think about that? What we actually deserve. I grew up in the 90’s and early 2000’s. “I deserve it!” was practically our anthem! But no, what we deserve is something really awful. Awful, just like our hears.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

Needless to say, I had never been more thankful for the words of the New Testament. For Jesus! When I finally got to the New Testament, I loved every single thing I read about the Lord. He is God. The one who hates my sin. He came to earth, He lived a life without sin, and then took the punishment that I am now fully aware that I deserve.

THANK YOU LORD.

I will never forget reading about the woman who washed Jesus’s feet with perfume. My attention was caught when I read that she lived a sinful life.

A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.  Luke 7:37

That was me! I had lived a sinful life. A very sinful life. More sinful than I even knew! And I knew a good bit.

But then came the end of the chapter…

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7:48-50

Your sins are forgiven! Go in PEACE!

I cried. After a life of spitting in His face, He did not repay me with what I deserve. He blessed me. Who loves like this? No one, but our Lord.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

I tell you all of this because I know there are many out there like I was, saying you are a Christian but living like the world. You have to know that when we are a new creation in Christ, we really are different. You don’t even have to try, you just change. Of course, I still sin but I am changed. The desires of my heart are nothing at all like they were and I’m telling you that is a miracle. I am so thankful for what Christ has done and I want to live my life in a way pleasing to him because of how thankful I am. He truly saved my life!

Be honest with yourself today. Are you sure you are a new creation now that you are in Christ? If you are, the desires of your heart will agree.

Blessings,
Angela

Question:
Has this happened to you? Please please share!!!

 

 

 

 

I Didn’t Know God. I Wasn’t Hearing God. Sadly, I Did Not Know The Importance of Christ.

God told me

Good Morning Friends!

I have so much to tell you that honestly, I don’t know where to start. I am just going to type and pray that God sends the words through my fingertips!

Last year was a mess. Such a mess! It all started last April. I was expecting things to get really good. I had a vision board that I prayed over every morning. I had a plan, a vision, and was certain that it was God’s will and that I would be successful in my endeavor.

A man’s heart plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

And that is what happened. I had big plans but God had His own plan and that, thankfully, is what I lived out. But make no mistake, it was not in the least bit a blissful experience. No.

There were lessons that I needed to learn and healing that still had to be done. A LOT of lessons and healing. I have learned so many things this past year, more than can be told in a blog post. It’s the most important lessons that God was blatantly teaching that I am going to try to tell you about today. That so many times, when I had said God was doing something, He wasn’t. Because when God does something, it is perfect and unmistakably Him. That I needed to read and learn the actual Bible. I called myself a Christian all those years without wanting to hear from God! I would hear about God in sermons and in books about God but I was not hearing from God because I was not in his word, the living and active vessel of His voice.

Ok, let me slow down.

I Didn’t Know God. I Wasn’t Hearing God.

I have called myself a Christian for most of my life. I went to church, I did devotionals. I even listened to sermons online while doing housework. I read books about God. I listened to sermons about God. But I did not know God and I wasn’t hearing Him either because I was not fervently reading His living and active word.

We have all said, “The Lord told me…” or “I heard God say…”

But did He? Non-Christians have accounts of “gut feelings” telling them things that are extremely similar to the “God told me…” instances that Christians have. So is God talking to all of these people through their gut? Is that the way God tells us things? We just get a feeling? Thoughts pop into our minds telling us the right direction to go? No.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35

Even just typing Mathew 24:35 reminds me that just knowing Bible verses isn’t enough. Before actually reading the whole Bible, I thought that verse was talking about the end of the word. That after the apocalypse, the universe as we know it would be gone but the words of Christ would still be around. NO! It’s the new covenant! Christ died for us. Thank you, Lord! Then forty years later the temple was destroyed. This was heaven and earth for the Israelites. It passed away. The former dwelling place of God was gone and now Christ lives in the hearts of all those who love Him! And what do we still have externally? His words.

But I didn’t know that even though I had heard Matthew 24:35 many times. Without the context, I thought it meant something it wasn’t.

We must read the word. Pray that you absorb every fiber of it.

Unfortunately, not knowing the Bible wasn’t the worst of my problems.

Sadly, I Did Not Know What Christ Did For Me

This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'” Zechariah 13:9

Because I was not in the word, I did not have a full knowledge of what Christ did for me in dying on the cross. Now I know how awful my ignorance was. Last April, it felt as if someone had picked me up and placed me in a terrible nightmare. I was literally fine one day and then consumed with paralyzing anxiety, fear, and obsessions the next! Over what? The fear of something terrible happening to my son, Ryan. I had previously dealt with postpartum anxiety so I expected it after I had my daughter, Anna. It came and with a vengeance. But why was my anxiety centered around my son this time? Shouldn’t I be having postpartum anxiety about the baby I just had?

Then on May 7th, I had a dream that sent me over the edge. I dreamed that my son was dancing around in the basement and then a huge vividly colored snake came out of nowhere and consumed Him but then spit him back out. Ryan then looked at me, he was dressed in white, and said “Look! I have a new body!”

So now, I realize that to you, this dream does not seem very scary except maybe to those of you who fear snakes. But to a postpartum anxious mind, already worried something terrible was about to happen, this dream was utterly torturous. For those of you who do not understand mental illness, I described the nature of OCD in this post. So many questions were racing through my mind. Why was Ryan eaten by snake? Why was he dressed in white? Did that mean that something terrible was going to happen to him and that he would end up in Heaven? Of course, we want our kids to go to Heaven, but hopefully after a long and fruitful life!

*Side note-This is a whole other post in itself, but clinical depression, anxiety, and OCD are mental illnesses. No matter what anyone thinks, it does not change that fact that the sufferer is rendered helpless. If you are unlucky enough to have not experienced the refinement that these disorders bring, please do not interfere with someone else’s refinement by telling them that it is just “mind over matter”. If you would like to sympathize with the sufferer, go slice your finger off. Now, think away the pain.

Do not think about the pink elephant.

(If you thought about the pink elephant, welcome to the human race.)

So in my postpartum anxiety/OCD, I was rendered paralyzed by the dream, wondering if this was a sign that all of my fears were going to come true. I began obsessively Googling postpartum anxiety experiences, dreams, and anything that might ease my mind. But as with all Googling, I only received more and more confirmation that Ryan’s end was near.

I was distraught. At this point, I no longer feared something terrible happening to Ryan, I believed something terrible was going to happen to him. I didn’t know when, I didn’t know how, but it was coming. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t think of anything else.

So I did the only thing left, I got on my knees and prayed for mercy. I prayed that God would not take him. I prayed and prayed and even fasted and prayed.

Months and months went by, I still had no peace. My anxiety grew worse and I began experiencing physical symptoms. I was constantly feeling like my legs were going to give out. I had to pull over on the side of the road to let my heart stop racing. I couldn’t make it through a shower without feeling like I was going to pass out.

I know this all seems crazy, and it was. It was utterly insane. But this is what I needed in order to understand what Christ did for me.

There came a point where I knew that there was nothing else I could do. If God was going to take Ryan, I could do nothing about it. Nothing. Even if I lived a sinless life, God is sovereign. He has a plan, a perfect plan, and my plans have no part in it.

This was unnerving in itself, but the fact was that  I had not lived a sinless life. I had lived a sinful life…and just how sinful I had yet to find out.

See, the fear of losing my son, drove me to find out what the Bible says about these kinds of things. Does God still give us dreams today? Does Christ’s death cover our punishment on earth as well or does it just get us to heaven? Funny how this suddenly mattered a lot to me.

Well, in reading through the Bible cover to cover, you pass through a little section called the Old Testament. Here, God’s wrath is displayed. His wrath came to those who did exactly the things that I had done. I had not done them once, but many times. The more I read, the more all of my sins came to the surface of my mind and I was nothing less than repulsed by myself! But it was the story of David and Bathsheba that brought me to nothing. David sinned with Bathsheba and their baby died as a result. I was divorced. I had my son with my new husband. David was a king chosen by God. There was no hope for me! I deserved the worst of punishments and the punishment that David and Bathsheba received was, in my mind, the worst. I was terrified. I cannot tell you how terrified.

Now, I know to those of you who are not Christians, this makes no sense. But to those of you that are, my goodness, this is God! This is how God speaks to us. Do you understand? I deserve the worst to happen to me… but God sent Christ. His son. To die instead.

The New Testament came and I cannot tell you how thankful I was for it! Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection had never made more sense and I had never been so thankful for anything in my life! Thank you, Christ, for your mercy and grace and for taking my punishment! You are the Good Shepherd who lies me down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. You refresh my soul! You guide me along the right path for YOUR NAME’S SAKE.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

He has brought us peace. I will never forget the morning that I read about the woman and the alabaster jar.

A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. Luke 7:37

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; GO IN PEACE.” Luke 7:50

Tears!! Tears of thankfulness and joy. Thank you, Christ, for saving me! Though I am saturated in my sin, you let me go in peace!

How in the world did I go so long without reading the word of the Lord? I am so grateful to God for driving me to it! I learned the most important lesson I would ever learn.

But then, to my surprise, there was more.

He Truly Healed Me

For four years, I have been blogging about healthy eating and exercise. I was doing so much better than I had been, worlds better, so I thought I was healed. But now I know that I was still in bondage. I still had fears of gaining weight. I still had many food rules and my identity wrapped up in my appearance. I was afraid of letting go. Even though I didn’t know I was still sick, I didn’t want to be better!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

I cannot tell you how true this verse is. When you truly know the love of Christ, you are changed. You are different! And there is no way to keep it to yourself.

What I was so afraid of letting go, was keeping me from experiencing so much joy. This past weekend, my dad was so wonderful to take us to Great Wolf Lodge. It was such a blast! The kids had the time of their life and I was so grateful to God for healing me. I could finally just swim with them, eat with them, act crazy with them, and all of that fun stuff that I was too worried about my image before to truly enjoy. It is the strangest feeling to not have an ounce of worry or anxiety in me or a care for what others think. But that’s not all! My mind is free, and a love of writing and cooking has blossomed. As you know, I spend a lot of time writing fiction and now I even cook with the kids! I was never able to enjoy cooking because it centered around food. All of this is such a lovely bonus because, truly, coming to know who Christ is and the significance of his death and resurrection bring me joy than I could have ever thought possible.

So… Was The Dream From God? 

Now, when I think about the dream that spurred all of my anguish, I realize that it was from God. Not in a prophetic, tell the future kind of way, but it was what my Bible illiterate, insecurity riddled, secretly horoscope believing, feeling and thought driven mind needed to send me running and screaming into his infallible and unfailing word.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10

But since my natural OCD mind still wants to give meaning to the dream, if anything, I was Ryan. The snake was the year of suffering. The new body was the new creation that I am now in Christ.

Thank you, Lord.