Wednesday, September 17, 2014

the checklist: my testimony


I was raised in a Christian home. I grew up in a Baptist church. In many ways my identity was wrapped around the church. My parents were very involved - they still are - and to this day I can walk in to that church and be recognized as "one of the G___ kids. My mom founded and directed the preschool program; my dad served as an elder; and my siblings and I went to youth group, church camp, mission trips, and anything else that was on offer.

The summer between my junior and senior year of high school I served at the camp I had attended for years. It was a favorite summer. I still have great memories of that camp and the people I met there.

I spent my first year of college at a state school. It was too much for me. I wasn't really prepared for LIFE at that level. It was a rough year. My parents encouraged me to transfer out. I didn't want to at the time, but I can look back now and see that getting out was necessary and best for me.

I finished my degree at a Quaker university in a small town in Oregon. I met J at George Fox University - although he wasn't attending at the time. I was checking off boxes right and left on the "how Christians should live" form, but I wasn't really participating in my faith, and it certainly wasn't growing. I didn't attend church most of my college years, but I did (reluctantly) attend the mandatory chapel sessions.

A month after graduating from university J and I married. Once again I was checking off boxes:

- graduate from Christian university - check 

- marry Christian husband - check

- find a church - check

But my heart wasn't in it. I was going to church because that's what I was supposed to do. That's what I had always done. And that's how J was raised too. Although he was raised in a different denomination. It took a little time for us to see eye to eye on how the other worshiped. The first time I went to the church he grew up in and saw flag waving I was like, hey hold up, I'm BaptistI'm not even sure about clapping in church ...

J and I found a great church in the town we moved to after I graduated. We connected with the congregation, we joined a small group, and we started to get involved. Then we moved to Salem - which is where we live now - and the 45 minute drive to church and small group soon grew tiresome.

We spent a long time looking for a church in Salem. Well, we spent a lot of time talking about looking for one. We went to one church, but were so overwhelmed by the enthusiastic greeting we received we didn't return. When J began working at the hospital full time he connected with someone in his department who encouraged him to try his church - Salem First Baptist. I can't remember when we tried it for the first time, but that is where we've been ever since. I know we were new attendees around the time Charlotte died, because the pastor from our old home church came to the house after she passed away.

And honestly why we stayed initially was born out of sheer laziness. J wasn't sure how he felt about a Baptist church. Neither of us were sure about the size (it is, by far, the largest church we have ever attended). We talked about switching for years, but we had friends who attended and we enjoyed seeing them on Sunday mornings. We also liked the pastor and his teachings. And then we started to make more friends. And then I was asked to start a pregnancy and infant loss ministry. And now we are in the process of becoming members.

When Charlotte died my checklist faith proved insubstantial. My thoughts about God at the time went something like this:

HEY NOW! I did my part! I upheld my bargain. See this here - waves checklist in the air - I followed it! I did exactly as I was supposed to! And my "reward" is a dead baby?! I didn't sign up for this! This wasn't supposed to happen! Raise children to love the Lord is the next thing on the checklist. How am I supposed to mark the box if my baby is dead????

That was my rock bottom, friends. That was my lower than low, this has got to be as bad as it gets for a person, moment. And it was a years long moment.

Moving past that moment to where I am now was such a slow, gradual process I don't know how to write about it. I didn't wake up one morning and believe again. I'm not even sure I stopped believing. I was in between for a long time. I think that's the best way to put it. I was wary of God and I didn't know how to apply my checklist faith to a life torn by loss.

I had to hit that rock bottom so that I would start asking questions. I needed to seek Jesus, but I wasn't going to do it with a full deck of cards and a heart that believed all was in place. I had to make my faith MINE. I had to choose to believe in God because I need the hope of heaven, and I need Jesus to guide me through every day, and I need to know that I will see that baby girl of mine again someday. I had to stop going to church because it was expected of me and I am a people pleaser. Even at 31, I am seeking approval from earthly things and people, and God says, STOP.

I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

And I had to throw out the stupid checklist and realize faith is not about what you've done, or the order you've done it in. Faith is hope in things unseen (Hebrews 11:1) It's understanding that there will be unanswered questions this side of heaven. It's accepting that God numbered Charlotte's days at one, and though I can't understand that doesn't mean I can't acknowledge it as a necessary part of His greater plan.

I finally believe in Jesus because when everything in my life is stripped away and I have nothing I want to surface with the knowledge that I have everything because He loves me and died for my sins.

I believe that, friends. I believe He died on the cross and rose again. I believe the Bible is His word. I believe it is "God-breathed," and that its commandments and exhortations are to be followed (2 Timothy 3:16). I believe in a heaven, and a hell. I believe that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ and the incredible sacrifice of His death on the cross. And I believe that God loves me no matter what. There is absolutely nothing I can do to make Him stop loving me. And there's nothing you can do that will make him stop loving you. That's incredible, friends. I urge you to grab hold of His outstretched hand. He will sustain you in ways no human can.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

long journey home


J and I are in the process of becoming members at our church. We've been there FIVE plus years. It's definitely time. Part of the process is sharing a little bit of our testimony. For those who don't know what that means, it's just your story. How you came to believe. What shaped you as a believer. When you accepted Christ as your savior. Why you accepted Christ as your savior.

There are four lines on our membership sheet to write out our testimony and a short time at a lunch gathering to share it. I need about two hours and sixteen sheets of paper to get mine out. I have been on a long journey to Jesus.

I've shared bits and pieces of my testimony here. In some ways this blog is my testimony. If you go all the way back to the beginning you'll see me hanging out with God, but not really making him a part of my life. Then you'll see me struggling mightily with my faith. Then you'll see me start to figure bits and pieces out. Then you'll see me put it all together, claim my faith and relationship with Christ as my own, and get excited about my faith.

That's where I am right now. EXCITED. I want you to know my Jesus. And that's why I've been blogging about faith so much lately. We'll get back to home improvement projects, cooking and the kids soon, but I want to stay with this subject a little longer.

Today I thought I would throw the question to you: what's your story? Whether you believe or not, tell me why. Tell me who you are.

And then I'll take the question back and I'll share my full testimony here in a few days. If there are any questions you want me to answer about why I believe please ask them!

Let's talk honestly about who we are.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

becoming someone new


I am guilty of participating in social media because I want people to see me.

I want people to see who I have become and what I've done with my life because validation matters to me. It doesn't matter to everyone, but I am a people pleaser and I want everyone to like me.

The downside of wanting everyone to recognize me is feelings of worthlessness.

I don't have ...

I am not ...

I haven't done ...

I'll never be ...

God says I am enough.

Without Him I am nothing, but with him I am enough.

John 15:5 - I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

And while I am worrying about how useless, and worthless I am, how I haven't done much of anything with my life, or how all I do with my days is wash dishes, clean the floors, and chase the kids, God is shaking his head and holding his arms open wide.

He points out all of the good in me - daily, hourly even - but I've been so wrapped up in becoming and striving I couldn't see Him, or how much he loves me.

I alone am not amazing.

When people look at me they should think, "Wow, look at how she has been transformed by Christ!"

It is incredible that I came through the fire of extreme loss, but not because of anything I did. I walked from the flames with hope and faith intact as well as a stronger belief in God because I put my trust in Him after Charlotte died. I would not have been able to accomplish that alone. The hope of heaven is the only reason I can make it through day after day without Charlotte. When I get discouraged, or overwhelmed by grief I ask the Lord to remind me that this earth is my temporary home (2 Corinthians 4:18).

I first accepted Christ into my life when I was four years old. FOUR! That was a looong time ago. I've renewed my faith a few times, but this latest round has been more real and painful than before. The four and a half years since Charlotte died has been a long process of renewal. I had to rethink and reexamine everything I believed, but the end result has been great.

My faith is finally my own, and because of God and his love for me I am someone new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I want to change my life and attitude so that people see Christ in me.

Why do I act the way I do?

Why do I speak the way I do?

Why do I raise my kids the way I do?

Because I have been redeemed by the one true God and he is completing a great work in me (Philippians 1:6).

This week I began writing verses on index cards and taping them around the house. B has a little memory verse too, from our Before Five in a Row series, which is what we are using for "school time" right now.

My focus right now is:

PRAYER: 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 

EMPTY ARMS MINISTRY: 2 Corinthians 1: 3-5

SHE READS TRUTH MEMORY VERSES: Hosea 6:3, Hosea 12:6 

CONTROLLING MY ANGER: James 1: 19-21, James 1:26, Proverbs 14:29, Proverbs 15:1, Ephesians 4:31

That last one is tough. When Charlotte died I got mad - and I stayed mad - and most days that mad comes out in inappropriate ways. I'm praying -more like begging - for a heart change in that area.

What are you struggling with?

How do you feel about God?

What's on your heart tonight?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

intentional living




I shared this paragraph on my personal facebook page this evening:

I'm making my world here a little smaller. I want this to be a place where I interact with people I know well - in real life or online. If you follow me because you read my blog you can like my page - Little Bird. Or you can find me on Instagram -@angelarodman. My phone is having problems so I'm going to factory reset it this evening, and I'm going to leave the Facebook app uninstalled when I (hopefully) get it going again. I'm tired of news stories that make me sad, and having constant access to a feed that doesn't always align with my beliefs isn't good for my soul (Proverbs 4:23 - "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.) I'm not saying we can't be friends because our beliefs are different, but there are things I need to shield myself from because they increase my anxiety. I need less negativity in my day to day life. (I am super lazy so if I put the laptop upstairs I won't haul myself up there to hop on Facebook more than once a day). I'm trying to live intentionally and with purpose. I'm trying to spend more time with the kids and Jonathan. I'm trying to focus my heart on seeking approval from the Lord instead of earthly, temporal things, and part of that for me is blogging less and interacting online less. I want to live in community, build relationships and love the people right outside my door who need compassion. I'm not leaving, or deleting - this too can be a place to be spiritually uplifted - but I am taking a step back and realigning my priorities.

I have been feeling so convicted lately. I'm working on my first study with She Reads Truth, and it's opening my eyes to so many things I need to change about my life. The current study is in Hosea and every day of study is eye opening and heart changing.

Hosea 8 talks about reaping empty harvests - v. 7: "They sow the wind / and reap the whirlwind / The stalk has no head ; / it will produce no flour / Were it to yield grain."

Because of that verse, and the study guide at She Reads Truth, I began asking the following questions:

What am I tending to that is useless?

What/who am I making "king?"

And then I was hit with a HUGE realization: 

I need to stop seeking approval from everyone BUT the Lord.

I've let a lot of things matter that shouldn't. This online community saved me in many ways, but then I tried to make it define me. I thought I mattered if people followed me on Twitter, or left comments on my blogs, or added me on Facebook, but those thoughts and beliefs are false.

I matter because I am a child of God.

I feel bad sometimes for those who began following me because Charlotte died and are now watching me wading into spiritual waters and wondering if they want to follow. But the thing is, this is my journey. I'm going where the Lord leads me, and I'm not going to apologize for following Him.

I want to talk about your faith - or lack of it. I want this to be a place where we talk about what we believe, and why. I'm studying the Bible more so I want to talk about what I'm learning. I hope you'll join me. I want to introduce you to the awesome God I serve. I want you to know God like I do. I want to wash away any anger and erase the bitterness, doubt, or fear that lingers within you, but I can't do that. I can support and love you, but I can't change your heart or mind. I want to talk to you about why I believe what I do. I want you to know this is a transitional time for me; a time when I am choosing to live with intention and purpose - to share the great gospel that shapes my life. And I want you to know that I'll be open about this journey, just like I've been open about grief and how it's transformed me.

************

I shared this post on She Reads Truth link up. See what others learned from studying Hosea HERE.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

new phone // old house


My phone has been shutting off randomly, as well as refusing to do anything I ask of it, and restarting whenever it feels a breeze. It feels personal, but J thinks it's just the battery. I hope it's just the battery! We're (read J) in the middle of painting the South side of the house and I can't handle much beyond a simple battery problem right now. (Speaking of batteries, the smoke alarm upstairs sounded the replace the battery alarm at 4:30 am the other morning. Why in the world can't they program those things to do that in the daytime?! It always happens between 2 and 5 am.)

(J put this battery saving app on my phone. It's just making me panic, you guys. I see the battery winding down - it's on all the time, I can't figure out how to make it go away - and it honestly makes me nervous. I'm hands on hips why is this thing going from 86 to 60 in two minutes?! while B shoots me nervous glances and gives me lots of space.)

We have rotting window frames, friends. Soggy, wet, but not yet crumbling! window frames in a couple places. Original sounds so good until the cost of upkeep comes sliding down the dining room table.



J and I were talking about the paint and the work and the windows, which is now part of the painting project because NOW is the time to fix it, of course, because the windows are scraped and the project is in limbo.

Wait - what's that you ask?

Did we hire someone?

HA!

No.

J is on it. As he is always is.

He has skills I don't possess. J sees the window problems, hops online, and figures it out. I see the window problem, hop on Instagram to whine, and eat a bar of chocolate.

Anyway. I'm pushing for a crew to come in and do the rest when it needs done.

J said, "We'll see. If we sell next year we'll hire, otherwise I might just do it."

Me: "......." (I'm going to fight this battle with all guns blazing when it comes up again because I really think this is one of those things we should just pay someone else to do.)

Then I said, "At least the roof is good," because we were staring at the house as we chatted in the front yard and my sister told me roofs and painting are the two things her super handy husband won't do.

J: "Yeah, it's fine. It will probably be fine for 25 years. By then we'll have moved. Or we'll be 50." (over 50 actually)

Me: "Either way, we're not re-roofing it."

I'm not the only one who imagines J up there in a safety harness in 25 years trying to give me a heart attack, right? But he promises it's much too steep for him to even attempt it, and I'm fingers crossed hoping we'll have moved on to another house by then.

And even though I keep looking at houses built between 1910 and 1950 a house built five years ago is beginning to sound like a good idea. I love character and uniqueness, but this 1939 charmer has issues.

I really need to clean up after dinner, but I am tired of spending hours in the kitchen without noticeable results. I think trying to make my phone do something other than turn off any time I try to access anything is a much better use of my time. I've been thinking about deleting Facebook off my phone because I prefer Instagram (it's happier, okay?!) and feel a little overwhelmed/unkind whenever I open it up. Maybe this is my sign to cut that particular tether.

Friday, August 29, 2014

seven months with a hearing aid {an update}



I've been struggling with Ainsleigh's hearing loss. Well, not so much the loss as the caring of the loss. Ainsleigh went through a phase where she absolutely would not leave her hearing aid on. I would spend one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon sitting on the floor with her and putting it in over and over and over. Then life happened, we got busy, we weren't at home as often, and I stopped putting it in.

For three weeks or so I didn't put Ainsleigh's hearing aid in at all. I thought about doing it, and I worried about the long term consequences, but I couldn't find the energy and patience to sit with her and force the issue. Plus the person who conducts our in-home visits was off in August (no funding) so I didn't have anyone calling to ask me how things were going.


Ainsleigh is doing so well I forget she can't hear. Then J calls her name from the doorway in the living room and I watch her swing her head frantically from side to side trying to find him and it hits me all over again what inability to localize actually means. It's not just a line on a form, or an explanation in her medical records. It's gently leaning forward, getting Ainsleigh's attention and showing her where to look. It's worry that she will be hit by a car someday because she's looking the wrong direction when she hears something before crossing a street. It is understanding, as our in-home counselor says, that just because we can't see Ainsleigh's disability doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

I forget that sometimes.

I am so overjoyed Ainsleigh is alive I forget to worry about her hearing loss. Who cares about an ear that fails to perform when her lungs, heart, kidneys and other major organs function as they should? And unilateral hearing loss is so tricky because speech delays don't show up until 18 months. Sometimes delays in other areas crop up, but so far Ainsleigh is hitting all of her milestones without issue.

First step three days shy of ten months!! 

Our in-home counselor said something the other day that hit me really hard, "I hope Ainsleigh's disability is never obvious or apparent, but if it becomes obvious you will want to ensure you've done everything you can for her."

The next day I put Ainsleigh's hearing aid in as soon as she woke up. And she left it in. Ainsleigh has been wearing her hearing aid most of the time she is awake and she's only taking it out two or three times a day.

And you can praise me for sticking with it, or her for being a little older, but the truth is that I've been leaning on Jesus for this one because I can't do it alone. It's too frustrating, overwhelming, and hard. I can't sit with Ainsleigh for an hour twice a day right now. There's too many other things going on.

It's early days, I'm not sure how tomorrow will go, or the next day, but right now Ainsleigh is wearing her hearing aid, which means I can stop worrying all. the. time. about how I'll feel if she shows delays in eight months.

In some ways I feel like we're starting over, but three weeks off really isn't that long. And thankfully life (and Jesus) leaves plenty of room for second (and third and fourth and fifth ...) chances.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

B is 3 (almost): digger party!


Try explaining to a 3 year old why their birthday party is happening before their actual birthday. You'll need about three days.

I felt really disorganized, but everything came together and he had a good time. We stuck to a family only party, because in our family that is nearly twenty people. Add in friends and we need a backyard extension.














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