Would I Do It Again? Would You?

It was a Wednesday.

It was my worst day.

It was the worst day.

The kind that doesn’t come with a manual on how to survive, the kind that people don’t write blog posts about, because most people don’t endure this kind of bad day.

Which has made me feel terribly alone, almost all of the time.

And like I’m stuck in a life that isn’t mine, that I didn’t ask for, and that (if I’m being honest) I really don’t want.

New beginnings are hard. And when life throws you one of those curve balls – one of those gut-wrenching, “I didn’t sign up for this” kind of curve balls, it can be really hard to view new beginnings as good things. 

Because new beginnings really just trigger the memory of why you have had to come to this new beginning – and why things couldn’t stay as they were.

It can be really easy to feel down. And sometimes that’s even okay. After all, we can’t deal with our grief if we don’t acknowledge it.

The most miserable thing about grief, in my opinion, is that it comes in waves. Everything can be just fine, then out of nowhere, the grief hits again. 

That’s where I’ve been…hangin’ out with my grief.

Hi, my name is Rebekah and I have grief. And sometimes it’s easier to pick up the grief and hang on to that because it’s familiar, because I know how to deal with it.

This week I watched “Do You Believe“. I was particularly challenged by a few lines that talked about not letting other things become our identity – whether it’s loss, grief, financial status, whatever it might be in your life. Rather, as Christians, our identity needs to be “child of God”.

That can be so hard to live out on a daily basis. Exercising our faith is tough. I struggle with the “I didn’t sign up for this” mindset and so it’s hard to accept some of the things that have happened to me / around me and not feel “down for the count” (if that makes any sense).

Feeling our emotions is a good thing – even a healthy thing. However, we also have to remember that God is the one who gave us those emotions in the first place. And so even in the midst of whatever we are feeling – anywhere on the spectrum from extreme joy to extreme pain – we are still a child of God because those feelings, those emotions, were given to us by God.

Still, though…

That hasn’t always been enough for me.

(I’m just being honest…and a little blunt because I’m realizing that maybe I’m not the only one who struggles with this.) 

So how do you keep on going when you’re struggling through all of your feelings? Especially when it’s feelings of hurt, caused by someone else. 

And how in the world can God use us, broken as we may be?

A couple weeks ago, I encountered a man in a store. He was wearing a US Marines hat. Another gentleman commented on his hat and thanked him for his service. He shared a few tidbits of his time overseas and the number of years he served (30 years in the USMC).

He seemed to shy away from the thanks and kind words that were spoken to him.

I’ve seen these kinds of interactions before. Thanks are given for service provided. The one who has served may nod or might say something like, “It was an honor.”

This man said something I’ve not heard anyone else say – at least not that I can remember.

He said,

“I’d do it all over again.” 

Given the opportunity to do it again, would you? Would I? Why our answer to that truly matters!

I’m not sure what the others in the store took away from hearing those words. I thought it was a nice sentiment. 

Today, though, something different occurred to me.

When that man,
whose name I don’t know and who does not know my name,
stood there having lived through 30 years of some of the toughest things imaginable,
and said he would do it all again,
what he was really saying was that
my life – and your life – is still worth fighting for, no matter what.

This man’s service to the United States probably ended at least 20 years ago, which means that his service started before I was even born.

Whatever his reasons were for enlisting in the first place, or for staying in the Marines for 30 years, had absolutely nothing to do with me because I wasn’t born.

Yet today, if he had it to do again, he would.

And I think that’s because he realizes that there is something to be lost in life if we don’t fight to keep it.

Maybe it’s our freedom, maybe it’s the pursuit of happiness, maybe it’s just the possibility of being all we can be. Maybe it’s something different for each of us.

Whatever it is, he’s willing to stand up and protect our right to that freedom.

And that’s when it hit me:

This man would willingly fight for my life, and for yours, to protect our freedoms. In fact, he already has fought for us.

HAS THE WAY I’VE LIVED 
BEEN WORTHY OF HIS EFFORTS? 

HAVE I LIVED IN SUCH A WAY THAT WOULD 
HONOR HIS CHOICE TO WILLINGLY PROTECT ME?

It’s the same with the Lord.

He sent His Son for our lives.

He willingly sent His Son not just to fight for us, not just to protect us, but to die in our place.

Does the way I live honor that choice?

Can I be honest? Can I be really honest?

The answer to that question is a simple, painful “No.”

I don’t have to like what has happened to me. I don’t have to feel okay about it – I really don’t.

But when it detracts from how I should be living my life? That’s where the problem comes in. 

The pain is okay. Jesus endured pain. The Father endured pain. 

The tears are okay. Even Jesus wept. 

The decision to rest and try to find healing and rejuvenation is also okay. Jesus often went away from the crowds. 

But the taking up that grief as my identity? Nope. That’s not okay. 

That’s exactly why Jesus came – so that my identity no longer has to be
Sinner
Grief-Stricken
Imperfect
Unrighteous
Unloved

He knew, even before going to the cross, how each of us would respond to His free gift of salvation. He put us each at a specific time and place in history, on purpose. 

I don’t know why I’m here today, and I don’t know why you’re here. But I know it’s not by accident. I know it’s part of a grand design.

We matter – here, today, right now. God’s put us here to benefit someone else’s journey, and for God’s glory.

If I’m living encumbered by all the tough stuff, and not trying to move on…
If I’m so wrapped up in my own issues and struggles that I forget I’m here for a purpose…

then am I telling God that His fighting for me was in vain? 

Would I tell that Marine that I didn’t need his protection? No way!

And so I shouldn’t treat Jesus as though His protection is not needed.

I thought about asking a few of my blogging friends what they’d say if they were asked to write a post to themselves.

I decided instead, to take that challenge myself.

These are the words I’ve needed to be reminded of tonight.

Someone willingly fought for me. Is the life I’m living worth it?

When I stand before Jesus one day, having lived out my appointed days on this earth, will I say that I did all I could do, that I did my best, or will I wish I could have done more? 

Will I have done all I could to minister to the people God has put in my life? If the people I have crossed paths with were to pass before me, one at a time, could I say that I’ve done all I could to be worthwhile in their lives?

Would I be able to look them in the eye as they pass into Heaven and said, “I’d do it all again”?

That’s how I want to live my life – with a sense that these earthly struggles are just that: earthly. temporal. 

We have heaven to look forward to. And I hope that these days, these pains, these struggles, would be worth it because of who I can minister to, and who can minister to me.

At the end of it all, I hope I can say that I would do it again.

I’m not sure what you’re dealing with today, but there are people out there who would willingly put themselves in harm’s way for you.

Jesus did. He put Himself on the cross as a covering for your sins.

Are you living worthy of that?

Am I?

If not, what needs to change?

For me, it’s my perceived identity. I need to pick up the “child of God” sign and wear that. It covers all the others: grief-stricken, feeling shamed, fearful… The only one I need to choose, to believe, is “Child of God”.

Dear Shame {a farewell letter}

Dear Shame,

It’s been a little while since you last visited. I almost didn’t recognize you.

Dear Shame {a farewell letter} Jesus Paid it All!

 

The last time I saw you, we also ran into Fear, Inadequacy, Pain, Exhaustion, Stress and a few other friends of yours. I felt like I was trapped with all of you, and had no way out. You fooled me into thinking I had to stay at your “party”, that somehow yours was now the badge I had to wear.

One day I realized I didn’t like your party and I couldn’t stand your friends.

Maybe I finally had a good night of sleep; maybe I was just fed up with your cruelty, the way you made me feel.

I remember the day I said, “No more.

It was as simple as opening the door to my house, and my heart, and kicking you out.

Dear Shame - a farewell letter

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And now you’re back.

I know just how you came in. You piggy-backed in when Fear came by.

I’m not surprised; you two have been hand-in-hand for some time now.

Anyone working toward redemption, in any form, has to face their failures, their wrong-doings, their SIN, head on. It’s an ugly thing, sin. The realization of just how wrong we were, can be almost too much to bear.

How could we have been so wrong? How will we be able to make amends? 

Shame, you’ve come around with a different friend from time to time. I have to tell you, I don’t like this friend. I can deal with Exhaustion, Pain, Inadequacy. They can get me down, they can get anyone down, but it’s not forever. And, I don’t think their efforts are designed to keep us down forever.

But this one – Judgment – he’s hard to figure. Sometimes he seems very real, other times I think I just perceive him to be around. Either way, he causes pain and he seems to incite fear.

Judgment shoves us right back into your corner, Shame.

Support for women who are standing for their marriage, trusting God to restore and redeem.

Click this link to fill out the short form for the Facebook group.

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Here’s the thing, Shame:

You spend a lot of time making sure we feel badly. And you often succeed. You’re very good at how you manipulate our feelings.

But, it doesn’t matter what anyone knows about us. It doesn’t matter if they know the worst of our sins.

You need to know this:

Jesus paid a price for my sins – for all my sins.

He paid the price for everyone’s sins.

Not only that, but He took the guilt, the shame, the pain. He conquered those on the cross.

He conquered those on the cross. 

I can choose to let you stay and hang out, or I can kick you out. 

I don’t think I always realized that the choice was mine. 

You had me fooled into thinking that my situation determined my feelings. So, a tough situation would mean that I had to deal with the tough feelings.

But, oh, Shame…

It hit me last night as I was doing my mundane evening routine.

The situations we find ourselves in give us choices.

We can hang out with the feelings we have – shame, fear, inadequacy, pain, grief, sorrow. And sometimes we have to do that. Sometimes we need to acknowledge where we are so we know where we need to go.

Then after we’ve determined where we are we can begin to look for the redemption.

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You see, confessing our sins doesn’t lead to a lifetime of guilt and shame – as much as you’d like us to think it does, Shame.

No, confessing our sins turns us to God. We have to take our sins, our shame and guilt, our fear and face Jesus.

We have that time in our life where we first meet Jesus. We acknowledge our sin, our need for a Savior and we invite Jesus to be the Lord in our life. At that time, we are counted among the saved and redeemed. We belong to Jesus.

But we aren’t on our own. We aren’t sent to survive the rest of our days on our own.

And maybe that’s the best part of redemption – that we don’t have to continue through life in our own strength.

You see, Shame, you dangle my sins in front of my face. You mock me, you remind me that there is probably trouble around every turn. You point out my failures, the places I’ve fallen short. You remind me of all the shortcomings in life.

You spend so much effort in keeping my attention and you often succeed at making me feel very badly. You keep my face lowered – the ultimate posture of shame.

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I hear my name being called, ever so quietly, peacefully. Is it you?

I lift my eyes up, questioning if this is some new way you are taunting me.

It isn’t you calling my name.

It is the only one who can save me, who has saved me. It is the Lord who has already paid the price for my life and continues to redeem each day of my life.

It is the voice of my Savior; my salvation draws near.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalm 121

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The voice of salvation speaks softly.

It does not mock or taunt as you do, Shame.

It speaks peace to my heart and reignites the flame of joy in my heart.

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
Isaiah 41:1,2

Those words – those right there – they remind me that I’m not going to be immune to trouble. I won’t get a free pass from trials and turmoil.

But I have the Lord who goes before me, who protects and guards around me, and who shields me from behind.

He has redeemed me.

He paid the price for my life.

He freely offered his life as payment for my sins.

He didn’t wait until I had my act together to love me.

He loved me in the depths of my wrongdoing.

At the time I most needed His mercy and grace, He extended His hand to take mine and to call me His.

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Dear Shame,

I don’t want you here.

I do seem to learn a lot, though, when you come around – which is probably not your intent.

I learn how powerful your attacks can be. I learn just how much damage you can do. I realize you usually travel with friends and that while you may seem pretty innocent yourself, it may be that you cause some of the worst pain and damage because you bring your friends (Fear, Pain, Inadequacy, Exhaustion, Grief and others).

And then I hear the voice of my Redeemer, calling softly.

He never forces us to choose His way. He speaks softly, peacefully, calling gently to our soul.

He waits patiently for us to turn to Him.

And so now, Shame, I’ve heard Redemption calling me. I’ve heard my Savior call my name.

He promises rest, peace, help, a way out.

Dear Shame, Jesus Paid it All

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Just a turn toward Him is all it took.

Peace. Hope. Rest. Joy. Gentleness. Salvation.

It’s all there.

And the instant I realized that, an attitude of worship quickly flooded my soul.

I choose the hand of the One who gives peace, who is my hope. I choose the One who provides rest, who IS Joy, and has paid for me.

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Dear Shame, here’s the door.

You and your friends are leaving now.

I don’t need any of you hanging around.

You can’t do anything that will benefit my life, and you can’t offer me anything good that I don’t already have.

Most of all, you can’t offer me anything of eternal value. That has already been done.

You see, Jesus paid it all.

Jesus paid it ALL.

O Praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!

 Sharing at Grace & Truth

The Road to Redemption in Marriage

We sat in shock as Maggie shared the tragedy that had ripped her heart wide open. It was a story of the deceit, hidden secrets, a double life almost, that took place around her, and it all came crashing down with one powerful knock on the door. There was no more secrecy, no more hiding in darkness, only the consequences of the choices that her husband had made. She wondered aloud to us if she would be strong enough for the challenge ahead.

After 14 years of marriage, she was loved well by her husband. Their marriage hadn’t been easy, but there was no doubt of his love. Thus, the early morning knock on the door by the detective was completely shocking to her because while life wasn’t perfect, she had no idea that his secrecy had taken on this form, requiring legal intervention.

Over the next few months there were phone calls to be made, there were meetings and required expenses, and there was fear, Maggie said, lots of fear. She faced difficult and embarrassing conversations with many, including those who questioned why she didn’t pack up her husband and ship him back home – or why she didn’t take the kids and hit the road. Why would anyone stay when someone else has almost utterly destroyed life?

She told us that her answer wouldn’t be enough for us.

She wasn’t even sure it was enough for her own heart in the midst of all the pain.

What could possibly entice her to stand beside her husband despite all the wrongdoing?

“The grace of God,” she stated, firmly and with a strong voice.

“The redemptive grace of God that is freely available for even the worst of sinners.”

Maggie's Road to Redemption - surviving a tragedy in marriage and continuing to move forward in faith

 

Some who questioned Maggie’s reasons laughed right in her face, or shook their head at her seemingly-misguided judgment.

Yet she stood, asking, begging and almost daring God to prove Himself faithful if He was, indeed, asking her to remain steadfast in her marriage.

Maggie described the peace that God gave her in the midst of the tumult she faced. It was more than just a feeling – you could tell her peace was soul-deep, a peace that passed understanding. We certainly could not understand it, others would not attempt to understand it, and she herself was blown away by the power of such peace.

“It’s God’s hand on my head,” she whispered, “keeping me right where I am, and not letting me move. I believe He is asking me to be still and to watch while He works in my husband and in the various circumstances of our lives.”

A glance around the table revealed a mix of emotions, mostly disbelief. Maggie was the good one – the one who was raised well, educated well, the one who balanced and juggled everything that was thrown at her. Yet, we now witnessed a different view of her – complete brokenness. She was stuck in this mess, unless she left. She had an easy ticket out, but chose not to use it.

And with that, the questions swirled in my head:

Why? Why did her husband have to go and mess up so badly? Why did she choose to stick it out? Why not check out of her marriage and move on to a life without the legal hassle, where she could move past the loss and rebuild her own life?

I heard her say that she had no choice but to trust God through this.

But really, who has that much faith in God?

Maggie explained that she wanted her husband to experience the grace of God’s forgiveness and redemption in his own life. It may be the last chance he would ever get, given the situation he had to overcome.

“God has given me hope from the very first moment,” she shared, while gently adjusting the wedding band on her finger. “I trusted Jesus completely when my eternal salvation was on the line. This is my beloved, with salvation – both spiritually and physically – on the line. If I truly believe that God can do what He says He will do, why wouldn’t I stay to see God work?”

“It’s an unpopular decision and I know it,” Maggie whispered.

She spoke of loss that resulted from her decision to stay, of friends who chose to let go, of mental, emotional and spiritual turmoil.

Yet in the next breath, though her voice shook, she told us of catching a glimpse of Jesus every step of the way. She shared about gifts of grace and mercy that were extended to her by complete strangers and by family and friends.

Maggie’s situation doesn’t deserve the favor of God – at least that seems to be the general opinion of most, maybe even my opinion, too, if I’m being honest.

But that’s the thing about grace – it’s undeserved.

Despite the mess that Maggie shared with us, she shared an even greater measure of the grace of God within her marriage. Maybe it’s because she asked for grace, time and time again, that it was heaped upon her in overflowing measure.

Or maybe it’s simply the way of God – full of grace and mercy for those in need.

Maggie’s story is a difficult one, one that won’t be completed for her anytime soon. The worst is hopefully behind her, but the future remains uncertain.

For all that she has endured, for all the doors that have closed, she remains confident that God is moving her family in a new direction. While she’s not sure what that is, she has confidence that God will open new doors at just the right time.

Maggie’s confidence in God? It’s unshakeable. Unwavering.

The reason for that confidence?

Purely, the grace of God.

Support for women who are standing for their marriage, trusting God to restore and redeem.

Click this link to fill out the short form for the Facebook group.

*names have been changed to respect privacy

Linking up with Holley Gerth at #CoffeeForYourHeart, Jaime Wiebel at #SittingAmongFriends, Alisa Nicaud at Salt & Light, Suzie Eller at #LiveFreeThursday, Susan B. Mead at #DanceWithJesus, Arabah Joy at Grace & Truth, Kelly Balarie at #RaRaLinkup, with Crystal Storms at #HeartEncouragement

Leaving the Amish

Has God ever moved you on? I’m sure we’ve all faced that in our lives, in one way or another. There may be fear and insecurities in the transition process, but when we are following God’s will, we know He will redeem those fears and be faithful in what He’s called us to do. Today, my friend, Kaylene, shares her redemption story of Leaving the Amish culture and how God showed His faithfulness to her.

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“Have I not given up enough already?” I cried.

I collapsed onto my bed, weak and feeling suffocated by the sheer weight of what I knew the Lord was calling me to.

Hot tears streamed down my face, each one carrying fear, anxiety, disappointments and anger at the uncertainty of it all.

He was calling me to the unthinkable. I was to follow my husband to a vast, unknown world beyond the Amish community and culture I had known my entire life.

My heart was broken, my dreams shattered, hopes crippled and, I was sure, my prayers unheard.

How could I give up everything I knew, loved and understood? Did God not know that what He was asking was beyond my capabilities? Did He not understand that this meant purposely putting myself and my little family in a spotlight of scorn? Our friends and relatives would not understand. They would turn away. How could I bear watching lifelong relationships dissolve?

Did I even have the courage or the faith it took to leave my Amish heritage? 

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You can read the rest of Kaylene’s story at her blog. I’d encourage you to click over because her story is so beautiful, so compelling, and one that you don’t often get to hear about, simply because of the culture. She has bravely shared, her experience, for God’s glory! I’m so thankful for this glimpse into how God works so beautifully, even in major transitions in our lives.

If you have a redemption story to share with us, we’d love to hear yours as well. You can get the details for that here: Jump In – What’s Your Story?

Leaving the Amish Culture - how God can redeem our fear and insecurities

 

Coming Home

He came bounding down the stairs, arms outstretched, shouting, “Daddy, Daddy, you’re home!” His feet couldn’t carry him quickly enough and he went flying into his father’s arms. Pure joy was evident as a son was reunited with his beloved father. It was the first time he had ever responded that way to his dad coming home.

Tears welled up in my eyes as the relationship we’d been waiting for finally began to grow. See, my son has always struggled to form relationships. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be friendly or to love his family, but he struggles with understanding how those relationships work. He has delays that don’t allow him to develop those friendships and relationships at a “typical” age.

That’s the amazing thing about love, though – there’s no “typical” about it. Coming Home - how to understand the love of our heavenly Father and choose eternal life with Him Long before the relationship between my husband and son looked like a typical father-son relationship, there was love there. When my son offered a favorite car to play with, he was showing love. When they walked outside together, that was love. When my son put on his dad’s shoes – love.

I watched my husband carefully over the years; the lack of “typical” relationship was evident, but my husband never let it bother him. He was appreciative of all the other ways that he was able to connect with our son. And then the evening came where our son bounded down the steps, showing his true excitement about his father being home.

Through a lot of perseverance, my son started to understand relationships. And he began to show more affection. The day he actively ran to my husband was the start of something new. It was like the flip of a switch – the understanding that we are family, that we love each other and that we, all of us together, are home.

I will never forget that evening, nor the privilege to be able to see it with my own eyes and experience the moment with my own heart! That was an evening for rejoicing!

And it was a tiny glimpse of what happens in heaven. 

 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:7

Okay, my son wasn’t repenting but he was acknowledging his true need for, and love of, his father in a very meaningful way.

My husband had waited years for that moment, just as any father would.

Just as our heavenly Father waits for us to acknowledge our need for Him and our love for Him. 

The verse above is from Luke 15, which is a collection of 3 different parables of Jesus. Each parable talks about a lost item – a sheep, a coin and a son. And each parable in that chapter has a verse that says how much more important the one “lost” item is, than the ones that aren’t lost.

Why is that?

In the parable of the lost sheep, there are 100 sheep and one goes missing. Why is that one so important?
The parable of the lost coin talks about a woman with 10 silver cons who loses one of them. She still has nine – why is that one so important?
And in the parable of the prodigal son, the father has one son who remains devoted to him. Why is the lost son so important to him?

Worth.

It has to do with the worth of the lost item. It was valuable to the one who lost it, therefore it is important.

And so are you, and so am I.

God has made a way, through His son, Jesus, for us to be with Him in heaven. Eternally. Forever. He isn’t willing that any of us should perish – He doesn’t want us to miss out on the opportunity of eternal life.

And that is why He paid so dearly – with the life of His own Son: 

to assign worth to our lives. 

Think about it – has anyone else paid a price for your life?

Fortunately, many of us come from loving families where our father, or our husband would willingly lay their life down for our life if need be.

But, friends, Jesus has already done that.

Someone has already made the ultimate sacrifice for your life. He’s paid in blood and death.

And while it’s not a beautiful image to conjure up in your mind, the truth is that Jesus’ death gives you the opportunity to choose eternal life.

That’s important there – His death gives us the opportunity to choose eternal life.

The truth is, you can also not choose eternal life.

But God isn’t wanting you to choose eternal death; He wants you with Him for eternal LIFE!

His death assigns WORTH to your life. 

He is the father, waiting for His son to realize his need for his father and come running home.

That’s why the night my son came running down the stairs to his father was so precious to me. It was that moment in his mind, and in his world, where he visibly and purposely chose to acknowledge his father. And there was great rejoicing in our home!

When you choose Jesus, when you choose heaven as your eternal home, there is rejoicing in heaven. The angels, Jesus, God the Father – they celebrate your choice! Can you imagine?

If you have chosen home, wonderful!

If you haven’t made that choice yet, today could be your day. Heaven is waiting to rejoice over you. The Father is waiting for you to come running into His arms. If you’ve never made that choice, and you are ready to, it’s just a matter of a simple prayer – and there’s no right or wrong prayer. Just something like this:

Dear Lord, I acknowledge that I need you. You have paid the price for my wrongdoing, for my sins. You’ve placed worth and value on my life because you love me and are full of grace and mercy. Please forgive my sins and make me whole. Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for the opportunity to live with you eternally. Help me to learn and grow in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If this is your day, please share that in the comments below or find me on social media (icons are at the top of the page) and let me know. It would be an honor to know that another sister or brother is coming home!

 

From Mourning to Dancing – Elizabeth’s Redemption Story

Today I have the privilege of introducing you to my new friend, Elizabeth.  She has a story to share with you that moves from mourning to dancing, from grief to joy. Elizabeth shares a heartfelt story of girlhood dreams, “Tutu Tuesdays” and the sudden, unexpected loss of her father-in-law. Her daughter’s performance, one that should be full of joy and beauty, was to take place the day before Father’s Day – the family’s first Father’s Day without her father-in-law. How do you grieve such a fresh loss and enjoy such beauty all at once?

Elizabeth’s story is one in which God weaved beauty through the grief, joy into the tears, and drew a family together for all to feel well-loved. God worked beauty through the hard time that this family dealt with, and offered redemption in the situation as only He could do.

Please head over to her site to read the rest of this story. There is so much evidence of God at work, loving this family and working as He does to show just how much He loves us!

Please click over to read Elizabeth’s story.

From Mourning to Dancing - Elizabeth's Redemption Story

Preparing to Bounce {Before You Can Bounce Back}

If your life is at all “normal”, you’ve likely bounced back from something, and you’ll probably bounce back from something again – heartache, frustration, sickness, loss. I’ve been kicking around some thoughts about “how to bounce back” for the past few days, for those times when you’ve been down or have been sidelined for whatever reason. I was coming up with some ideas for reclaiming life, for starting small and not getting overwhelmed. And then a completely different thought hit me and sent my mind turning in other directions…
You have to bounce before you can bounce back. So here are a few thoughts on preparing to bounce.

Preparing to Bounce {Before You Can Bounce Back}

We talk about bouncing back, so let’s take a look at the first bounce – the one that causes the pain from which you’ll have to bounce back.

You have to bounce before you can bounce back. Click To Tweet

Jesus was honest with his disciples in John 16, as He was preparing to leave them and return to the Father.

In the world you will have tribulation.
John 16:33b

For our purposes, He’s saying that in this world, we’re going to have pain. We’re going to hit hard.
We’re going to bounce.

But that’s just one small part of the verse. Look how Jesus surrounds that portion of the verse with hope:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

He surrounds the problems, the pain we’ll have in the world, with peace and salvation.

If we were to summarize the thoughts in this verse, it might read something like this:

Jesus wants us to have peace in Him.
There will be trouble.
He has already overcome the world.

Or, to put it in even simpler terms: 

Peace.
Trouble.
Salvation. 

This verse reminds me that we aren’t walking through life blinded to the fact that we’re going to have trouble. Therefore, (and I struggle with this) we shouldn’t be blindsided by troubles that come. (Don’t get me wrong – we don’t know when trouble will hit, but we shouldn’t be surprised that it happens, or blame God that it has happened.) 

Who, from the Bible, do you think of when you think of “bouncing back”?

Noah – bounced back from the scorn of the world and was saved because of his faith to build the ark
Isaac – bounced back from near death at his father’s hand – a life redeemed by God
Hosea – bounced back from the adultery committed by his wife
Gomer – Hosea’s wife – bounced back from adultery to be loved by Hosea as Christ loves His people
Saul – bounced back from being blinded by God and later imprisoned as Paul (and much more!) to become a great man of God

There are many others – open your Bible to just about any passage and you’ll find a story of someone enduring trouble.

And this week I was reading about Joseph (Genesis 37-50):

Favored.
Hated.
Plotted against.
Abandoned.
Sold.
Enslaved.
Trapped.
Imprisoned.
For years.
Interpreted.
Ruled.

There are so many other things that happened in Joseph’s life. This is just a quick turn-of-the-pages as it relates to his life.

Look at all the negative things that happened in his life. If ever there was someone who wondered if he’d bounce back, it would be Joseph.

Here’s a man who endured hit after hit – bounce after bounce – yet the Bible doesn’t record much in the way of Joseph begging for mercy. When he is imprisoned, he asks the others to mention him to Pharaoh.

He continued to trust God, no matter his situation, and God’s favor was upon him. He was placed in charge of Potiphar’s house, he was given charge in the prison, and he eventually came to be second in command.

Now I’m sure that Joseph didn’t just go along quietly with all the trouble he endured. Let’s face it – if family gathered, plotted against us and sought to do us harm, we wouldn’t just go along quietly with what they did. No doubt we’d cry out for mercy, and I’m sure that was true in Joseph’s case as well.

But the bigger story is God’s power of redemption despite all the troubles that Joseph endured.

Joseph took some hard hits.

But all of those things – every hit he took, every time he bounced hard – were what propelled him to the position God planned for him. By becoming second in command, he was able to provide for the safety of his family – the same family who abandoned and sold him originally – when famine hit the land.

Talk about raining mercy and grace on someone’s head…

Joseph’s brothers started the long chain of awful events that happened in Joseph’s life.

And then for Joseph to be the one who provided for their physical needs during famine, for salvation for the family – the mercy and grace of God!

Joseph accepted the evils that came his way, fully trusting God for a way out.

And God provided.

We can learn about handling the hard times from Joseph’s story.

God doesn’t always provide a way out, but He certainly is faithful in walking us through the tough situations we face.

The hard circumstances in our lives are propelling us to what God has for us. The troubles may hurt, they may cause extreme pain in our lives, but the story of Joseph reminds us that God will be faithful in those hurts.

God is going to provide a way to bounce back, but you’re going to have to bounce first. The troubles are going to come. But, we can remember the super-simple summary of John 16:33 – peace, trouble, salvation.

We can live in peace, despite troubles, because we know God has made a way of salvation.

original photo source

Sharing at Grace & Truth

Your Redemption Stories {Sherwood M.}

I recently shared a post asking for your redemption stories. I’m so excited that I’ve heard back from a couple of you with permission to share your stories! Please feel free to send your story, if you’re interested – my email is on the Contact page at the top of the blog. I love to hear people’s stories and I love the opportunity to share the stories for the glory of God.

Your Redemption Stories - an opportunity for you to share your story with others || RebekahMHallberg.com

Today I have the honor of introducing you to Mr. Sherwood MacRae. He has been such a blessing to me in my blogging. He doesn’t just get the emails and read them, he takes time to respond and share his thoughts with me. Today I have the pleasure of sharing his story with you. Thank you, Sir, for sharing your story with us!

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

I was born on August 28, 1929, not a good year for those who were financially set for life as sixty days later, the Stock Market crashed, and men were known to have jumped out of windows in their proverbial Ivory Palaces to their untimely deaths.

I have the feeling my father was not particularly pleased.  He had been married before, had two sons, and married my mother with the dream, he would finally have his daughter.  I was not what he had hoped for, planned for and I had heard that story, long before my young mind could grasp its true meaning.

To make my birth a little more confusing, they had to find a name for their new son, and it was mentioned to me, it should be something like Shirley, as that was the name they had chosen for their daughter, after Shirley Temple, the child star of all child stars.  So, I was named Sherwood, a name I would detest for far too many years.  Worse, my middle name is Brown, in honor of my grandmother’s maiden name.

And to complicate matters, I had the measles when my sister was finally born and they could not bring her home immediately, because of my measles.  So, they sent me home with my grandparents to their farm, which should have become a God send.  I loved it and cherish the years I was privileged to live there until I joined the Army Air Corps at age 17.

Actually, I was running away from the family that would never be able to send me to college, a hope I had cherished for years.  My father had died along the way, I was not told or if I was, I never had an opportunity to mourn his passing.  Actually, he was only a man that others seemed to like, but he was never a part of my life.  And my mother was never really a mother, she was an occasional visitor to the farm.

The Air Force was a grand experience.  After basic training, I was sent immediately to Japan, in 1947, where I would be stationed until May of 1950.  I did two tours, was promoted to Tech Sergeant and was very proud of all my accomplishments.

I came “home” to a place where I was scarcely recognized, except for my “grand” mother, so I went back to my real home in the Air Force.  Three years later I decided to go to college and for the first time in my life – that I could recall, my mother helped me to enroll at Georgia Tech.  I would live with her for a while and then ran away – again, to the arms of a lady I had met in church and we were married.

Really bad mistake.  I had not realized it yet, but I had developed an escapist mentality, if I ran into problems, I would just leave.  And all the while, I continued as I had since my earliest childhood, I was “in” church, not really listening.  The marriage did not last and I was gone.

Met the sweetest girl I had ever known, in church of course, she became pregnant and we were married. Our oldest child was the answer to my dreams.  I was a father.  There would be three more children and lots of problems, problems piled upon problems, most of them I would eventually recognize had developed because of the decisions I made along the way, but since she denied any involvement, the marriage would end in another divorce.

I had to find help for what I had come to realize was MY problem.  The church was not any help, so I sought help from a Pastor I knew in a distant city.  Along the way, I opened my Bible that I knew so very little about, to where Jesus was speaking and He called upon His listeners to repent.  I had no idea as to what He meant so I tried a practice I had used over the years to no particular avail; I cried out to God.  This time I had to believe He heard me as my mind began to be filled with thoughts of my life over the years, the times I had tried to control the circumstances and the times I thought others had abandoned me and it became apparent, it was not the others, but my responsibility to make amends.  I was a mess, tears streaming from my eyes, I cried out to anyone who might listen and then, I was at peace.  How did that happen?  But then, I knew.  Old things were passing away; a peace like I had ever known overwhelmed me.  I was not in church, I was on a bus!

And I knew that I knew, I had new life and I knew that as I stopped hurting myself and blaming others, my prayers would be answered.  And they were.  Not all of them of course, but since I began to believe that my mind had been renewed and my heart had taken on a new dimension, “we” could make it.  And WE have.

I started back to church and continue to this hour.  The Bible I hardly knew became my daily guide. Some believe in promises, I believe in premises – evidence leading to the right conclusion, based on what God has had written in the scriptures for our guidance.

I recently celebrated my fortieth anniversary of that night on the bus and my declaration that I would never turn back – and I never have.  Perfect?  Oh, no!   Perfected, oh yes, by the constant presence of His Grace.  We used to sing that song that goes, “It gets sweeter and sweeter as the days go by, Oh what a love between my Lord and I.”  I will never forget that song.  The Sunday after my renewal, I found a church and they were featuring an “older” group singing songs that had changed their lives.  Afterwards, I approached an “older” guy and asked him if that was true in His life.  He assured me that it was and that now that has become my testimony as well.

Some have told me that they were in Hell before He came into their lives.  Well, I have never gone that far but the more I think about it, I probably have smelled the smoke.

But I etched in my heart, not long after I came to know the Lord, these words from the book of Acts; “And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be My witness – not in the days and circumstances of the world when they were first uttered, but here today, ever present, even as I pen my words of affirmation.

‘Come now”, the Lord is saying, “let Us reason together….” 

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Sharing at Grace & Truth

Jump In – What’s Your Story?

Some of my favorite times have been with coffee and friends – whether it’s in real life, or reading their thoughts on their blogs. In fact, a few of us who share the gospel through our blogs have joined together to share each other’s writings, believing we are spreading the Word more effectively together. (I share posts from their blogs on Facebook each week – have you joined us?) This past week, one of these friends gave some information about a writing contest. I decided to jump in because I had a story to share. I’ve never done one of these contests before, and I might not ever do one again, but for right now I’m choosing to jump in.

I don’t like contests very much. I almost didn’t enter this one. I would have been okay saying, “Not now,” and letting my friends participate.  I’ll be honest, though – I’d love to win this one (you can win an appointment with an editor from a major publishing house).

However, what really got me interested in this contest was
the opportunity to share Maggie’s story.

Maggie has a story of trusting God for the redemption of her marriage. Her story is ongoing, so I’ve changed her name to protect her privacy. She could have moved on and she could have moved out, but God asked Maggie to stay and to watch His redemptive work in her life.

Maggie’s story of hope and redemption is my entry for the writing contest
that I joined with some of my friends.
You can read it here,
and if you’d like to click the heart at the top of the new page that opens,
and add your vote, I’d be honored.

This blog is called Sharing Redemption’s Stories. I would love to hear / read / share redemption stories from others. Even you. Yes, you! I believe we all have some amazing stories of God’s goodness that we can share with others to encourage, strengthen, and build us all up in our faith.

Jump In - What's Your Story? Here's an opportunity for you to share your redemption story || RebekahMHallberg.com

I’d be honored if you’d like to share your story with us. If you are so inclined, please feel free to type it up and send it via email, and I’ll share it here. (If you’d prefer to not be named, or have your name changed, like Maggie, I can do that as well.) My contact information is up in the Contact tab when you’re ready to send your redemption story.

What am I looking for, specifically? It could be a story about your salvation, or a situation that God redeemed, or something that signifies redemption in your life.

And that’s how Maggie’s story came to the be shared here.

I’m excited to be starting the process of opening this space up to other redemption stories.

It’s your turn to grab your drink of choice, join us at the table and jump in with your story!

 

Sharing at Grace & Truth 

The Comeback of My Joy

It’s pitch black, but I’m wide awake. I should be long asleep, but I’m savoring the goodness of my life. The celebration of another year is deep in my heart. When life knocked me down recently, I knew I wouldn’t die but I didn’t know if I would ever fully live again. There was one phrase that kept coursing through my brain: “…God is setting up everything for the comeback of your joy.” I had no idea what it meant in my life, yet it lingered. When verses, prayers and encouragement escaped my mind, “the comeback of my joy” was often my very next thought.

The Comeback of my Joy - how God restored my joy || RebekahMHallberg.com

This was the day that we celebrated two family birthdays – my son’s and mine. We share a birthday and today was the day we celebrated with our family. My first little son, less than twenty-two inches long when he was born, now stands taller than me at fifteen years old.

This was also the day that I let go of one last part of my life that just doesn’t seem to be working out right now. I spent a lot of time writing out my thoughts and feelings, but they were not conveyed. Instead, my letting go was a simple request, just one sentence. Sometimes we have to get it all off our chest, out of our system, in order to truly move on, to truly move forward.

I’ve heard people say that real life starts at 40. You’ve grown out of the “what ifs” of your 20s, you’ve moved through the early stages of parenting or career or growing into the life you’re making in your 30s. And then 40 comes, and you begin to settle into the life you and God are creating.

I’m turning 40 this year.

I have let go of everything outside of my family that used to be a part of my life.

And at midnight, I’m wide awake, looking into the darkness, just a street light here and there to illuminate my thoughts.

I’m in my room while my husband sleeps. My sons sleep in their room, growing up too fast, and my daughter is in her room where she likes a strand of white twinkle lights as her nightlight.

Peace has settled into our house.

All is well.

Our house turns 9 years old on April 28. If these walls could talk they would tell of a guy who walked in during construction, asked how to get in touch with the owner or sales manager, and how God even worked out getting this particular house. And a few months later, after much paperwork, many numbers crunched, phone calls galore, inner workings that I can’t begin to imagine, the papers were all signed, the money was paid, and the keys were handed over to our hands, by the grace of God.

When it’s still and quiet on spring and summer nights at our house, you can hear a variety of animals – ducks, bullfrogs, cats, dogs, birds and more. And in the way-too-early-morning, the woodpeckers awaken us, the birds sing sweetly to one another, the mama birds flutter to and fro finding food for their young.

After beautiful, warm months, the green gives way to the splendor of fall. The leaves turn bright colors and fall softly, revealing the homes of the birds who sang us awake each morning. And I’m in awe of a God who creates so intricately, so magnificently that every animal has a home, cares for its young, reminds us of a Creator.

In winter, the kids sled down a small hill in our back yard that really sends them flying when the snow is packed just right. Small feet in big boots trudge up one side of the hill, leading the sled, as they prepare for their next fast venture down the hill.

And now, at 40, after facing the possibility of losing all of this – the home that was delivered gracefully to us, the splendor of the seasons in this home, even the family who sleep peacefully inside these walls – I’m awake, looking out into the darkness, marveling at these gifts that God has given.

Yes, there was loss – friendships, relationships, ministry opportunities, security, peace of mind.

But, oh, friends, at every step there was Jesus.

And faith.

And hope.

The setbacks were big – strong and mighty.

But God built a fortress around my heart. I believe that the blessings inside the fortress are the ones that are needed. And the ones I’ve had to let go of – well, just a reminder that God is painting a bigger picture that is moving in a new direction.

The losses have been mourned greatly, the healing has taken time, the letting go has been difficult.

But my faith has never wavered.

“There is faith that in the midst of the setbacks,
God is setting up everything for the comeback of your joy.” 
-Ann Voskamp

 

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:13,14

Friends, maybe you are in the fight of your life.

Stay the course.

Theodore Roethke says this –

Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley. Click To Tweet

The path over your mountain is ahead. You keep following God’s leading. You keep moving at the pace that He requires of you.

If He is asking you to give up something, to step out of what was the familiar and into a life different from what you planned, trust Him.

Why?

I love this reminder from John Piper:

“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life,
and you may be aware of three of them.”

 

At 40, I have crossed the mountain – at least, that particular mountain. And while it’s true that we are only aware of a few things that God is doing in our lives, I am thrilled that I get to see God at work in my life and in the lives of my precious family.

Have faith, friends. Have courage for the hard times, and remember that God is at work, even if you can’t see it today.

In the wee hours, in the darkness of night, here I am, wide awake.

God has set everything up for the comeback of my joy!