Freedom

In the United States we celebrate the anniversary of our freedom from British rule on July 4th. This celebration typically includes things like cookouts, barbecues, potato salad, pie and fireworks.

In the upper Midwest, participating in the requisite fireworks usually requires a bath in deet or running the risk of being carried away by hummingbird sized mosquitos. Having two kiddos with neurological issues, we try to avoid the deet bath. Instead, we have been taking the kids to our local dirt race track for their “Fireworks Spectacular” event. Where, either the noise, diesel fumes, or dirt, deters the pesky bugs and the kids also get to watch the races. fireworks5

We load the van with blankets, clear protective glasses, sweatshirts, sunscreen, ear protection for five, and more money than I want to part with. Once everyone has used the bathroom one last time we make it out the driveway with only three trips back in for forgotten items. As usual, we arrive about an hour before the races start which is not early enough to avoid sitting just downwind of turn four, but just early enough to stuff some food into the kids before the race starts and it’s filled with dirt. This year, the toddler complies with the ear protection requirement, which means all five of us are able to watch the races and make it to the fireworks portion for the first time since Mini Hubby was born.

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Well past Mini Hubby’s bedtime, he’s curled up on my lap, waiting for the promised fireworks. My chin resting on the top of his little blonde head I can smell the unique “Speedway Smell” of diesel fumes, exhaust, dirt and burnt rubber with the underlying earthy smell of toddler, i.e. sweat, sunscreen, more dirt, popcorn, pickles and something sticky which I’m bound to be covered in as well. Preteen has let his “I’m too old to be excited” mask slip and is trying in vain to find popcorn at the bottom of the bag that isn’t too gritty to eat. Baby Girl has moved past tired into overdrive, squirming on the unrelenting (even with blankets for padding) aluminum bench, and grinning from ear to ear and has only asked “How much longer” approximately eight times in the last fifteen minutes.

As the first firework is lit, shoots out of it’s tube and covers the sky in bright, loud, red, white and blue, three expectant faces follow it’s trajectory and smile. Eyes bright, mirrors of the cascading light. I smile. Watching joy spread across their faces and fill my heart. In between the repercussions and the patriotic music being piped tin through speakers, I hear it.

Soft and sweet.

Do you feel it? No fear.


Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.


Lamentations 3:57
You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.”


Just joy.

There had been no fear all night. No stray fears about crashes and random parts flying into the crowd to sneak in and steal the joy of watching my family pick their “winning cars” for the next race.

No stray fears about someone stealing one of the kids to sneak in and steal the joy of watching Mini Hubby play in the dirt by the fence five feet away between races.

And now, no stray fears about tipped over fireworks or big explosions to sneak in and steal the joy of watching precious upturned, dirt filled, excited faces.

I’ve lived a life afraid. Afraid of bridges, wall mounted speakers in movie theaters, car accidents, kidnappings, wrong decisions, mistakes, and fireworks. Over the last few years I’m slowly learning to live a life of hope, in Jesus. To be brave and courageous. To walk this journey with perseverance and endurance. With Him. Until this blindingly beautiful gift of a moment I don’t think I’d really realized just how much work He’s done in my heart. I can get caught up in the mess of who I am, the frustration of fighting the desires of my flesh, and just how far from complete I am and forget that I am a work in progress. And that He’s been working all along. feartofreedom

I look up into crackling flashes across the sky, slightly blurred from grateful tears and celebrate true freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom in Christ.


2 Corinthians 3:16-18

16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.


 

WE Are The Church

Below is an open letter to our church family along with pictures of the gift that accompanied it.

July 6, 2016

 

Dear Faith Community Church,

Six years ago I brought my family to Faith Community Church for the first time for a Christmas Eve service. At the time, this was going to be my third, and final, attempt to see if God was what was missing from my life. The Holy Spirit revealed The Gospel to me that day through a creative portrayal of life before the coming of our Savior and the sharing of The Gospel throughout the message.

By nature and experience I am a cautious person and had zero knowledge of the Bible. So, for the next several years Jesus met me here, as I was, where I was, and FCC became my classroom. I learned the importance of obedience and through small (yet significant for me) acts of obedience I made enough connections to become comfortable here. Eventually taking a Bible 101 class that made me more comfortable digging into His Word on my own, my classroom extended into my everyday life. An invitation by a beloved sister in Christ to coffee led to my first Bible Study. In September 2014, we made a large step of obedience in dedicating our children, Jordan, Joelle & Jace to the Lord and acknowledging that they truly belong to Him. An entire sanctuary of you committed to help raise them in Christ, as part of this church family. I wonder now, if you realized what you might be called to do, and that you would follow through so beautifully?

When we received Joelle’s first diagnosis, you wept with us, you prayed with and for us, you paid for and encouraged me to attend a women’s retreat during which I was able to surrender to God’s will and start our family’s healing process through His peace and comfort.

When we received a second diagnosis, this time for both Joelle and Jordan, you continued to lift us up in prayer, lead us to His word, and remind us of His great love and plans for these children.

Then, when financial stress in the form of years of expensive medical testing and astronomical prescription costs overwhelmed us, you opened the doors to FCC and your hearts. You gave incredibly generously of your time, giftings, and resources for two fundraisers that have helped us to more fully rest in God’s grace and provision for our family. You showed us, and many others, the beauty of Christ’s bride; that through a building of broken sinners, God’s glory can shine.

FCC was the building I brought my family to years ago. But, you the church, through your love and obedience to Christ, have been our teachers, brothers and sisters in Christ, and become our church family.

Words can’t express our gratitude for the blessings given to us through you and your willingness to walk this journey beside us, helping us to walk with Jesus.

This glass was originally installed in a church sanctuary in Minnesota in 1922. The original panels were salvaged, re-cut, and reset by Tim, for you. We do not have the means to invest in the

ministry here in a substantial financial way right now. But, we pray that this gift to FCC, and the history behind it, would remind you and all of those that come in the doors in the future, not just of the aesthetic beauty of the glass, but the beauty of Christ’s bride, the people of the church. The hundreds that once sat beneath this glass in the past, those here at FCC now, and those that will come in the future.

 

Blessings,

Bobbi, Tim, Jordan, Joelle, & Jace

The response of our church family over the last year, and our gratitude for God’s grace and provision, through them, was as beautiful as it was humbling and more than a little overwhelming.

God has been so good to me in gifting me with words on paper to express my heart that I fear would overflow at times with gratitude if I didn’t have a way to get it out. Hubby had no such outlet or way to express this. The stained glass panels had been sitting in storage in a pole shed for several years. At the time, Hubby appreciated their history and beauty and knew I would love it too. He planned to have something made for me for my birthday or Christmas but over the years was unable to find someone that could work with the old, fragile, glass and lead.

His timing and grace never cease to move me. Hubby, with no prior experience and more than a few cuts and broken shards of glass, was able to make these panels. Blessed with a way to express his gratitude, both to the church family, and God, this was as much a gift to the church as it was to Hubby.

 

Baptism

Well, I did it! I was baptized! What a beautiful, emotional, experience shared with a loving church family and friends that came to support me. This act of obedience, this outward sign of my inner change, was a long time coming for me, and something I said just two years ago that I would never do if it meant getting up on that stage. I was wrong. Thank you Jesus! Below is the short testimony I shared, along with photos a friend took to capture this moment for me.

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I was raised in houses devoid of faith and crumbling in brokenness. Addictions, neglect, abuse, and abandonment were the foundation of my childhood.  He who knit me together in my mother’s womb, carried me safely through and gifted me with the desire to seek love, security, and safety. The world told me where to find it. I went to college, married a wonderful man, was blessed with two happy, healthy children, had a comfortable home, two new vehicles, a savings account, college funds, the privilege of staying home to care for my family, and plans. A life better than I ever dreamed I could have.  FB_IMG_1458346556622

Imagine my surprise when I was still plagued with terrible anxiety and depression.  I was led to a therapist, Believer, and now beloved friend. Who used her gift of compassion, patience, and love to, over time, chip away at that decaying foundation to make room for something more solid. She encouraged me through the doors of the worship center where the Holy Spirit opened my eyes for the first time to the gospel, with a heart finally ready to receive it. For several years He worked in my life, laying a new foundation in Christ; A carpenter, creating a new structure of trust, faith, and belief through His word and His church. He even added a surprise room for a third happy, healthy child.

Almost two years ago I was hit by a storm in the form of genetic disorders that I know, had that new foundation not been laid, would have taken down that new structure and I would not have survived the fall. Those transient, worldly things that I had held so tightly to and was so terrified of losing? The things I was sure would bring me love, security, and safety? Some of them were washed away. Healthy kids, financial security and plans made way for true love, security, and safety in Christ. Surrendering everything I have and everything I am to my Savior (sometimes on an hourly basis) has freed me from overwhelming fear. His blueprints for my life may look vastly differently than the plans I had, but He has shown me time and again that He and His promise are trustworthy. And the love, safety, and security I searched tirelessly for can be found seated at the right hand of God. I will follow Him, wherever He takes me, all the way Home.


Acts 22:16

16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’


 

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The Pursuit

I know God was with me for the first half of my life because, frankly, I survived. But when I look back to see when He started to pursue my heart, I am brought back to the tender age of 18.

I was very sure that the one who loved me the most, was myself. And that was the only person I could trust to do what was right for me and take care of me. The fortress I had built around my heart not only led me to seek people who required no commitment from me, it caused me to be controlling, anxious, and fearful. After all, protecting yourself is a lot to take on. But, overall, for my plans, it worked. I was a straight A student, preparing for college and success. However, protecting yourself almost always causes you to hurt other people. I will not share the details because I believe that they will not bless you, or glorify Him in any way. I will say that once in possession of my soft, squishy heart, I spent plenty of time confessing and repenting those sins and left them at the foot of the cross. I would have continued on with my “plan” had God not intervened. And boy did He!

He was six feet tall, covered in dirt and a smile. Fresh from a mosh pit, his clothes didn’t match and his collar bone was swollen. He was a cross between Pig Pen and the kid goofing off in the back of class. He offered to show me the back seat of his car, or my car, whichever was closer. I was not impressed. I’d had plenty of similar offers that night. And this is not a reflection of my vanity, but of the hormones of a 20 something male. Oh, physically speaking he was right up my alley. Solidly built with wide (although one swollen) shoulders, blonde and blue eyed and though dirty, legs that should really be in a magazine. And he made me laugh. Future Hubby was not at all what I was looking for. Thank God!!

It would be three more encounters before Future Hubby took me on a date. By the third week I knew I was in trouble. He was so very far from what I was looking for, yet I knew we fit better than I was comfortable with. We were polar opposites. Exactly what we needed. He breathes sports, I tolerate them and never play them. I love to read, he falls asleep after the third page. I like to dress up, he prefers nothing more than comfort. Matching is not on his list of priorities. He is messy, messes make me nervous. I like to plan, he flies by the seat of his (mismatched) pants. You get the picture. But he made me laugh. And right from the start it was obvious that this man was either the worlds best actor, or there wasn’t a shred of pretense about him. It was the latter. He is completely incapable of lying. The genuine article. You see, he possesses no filter. Thoughts travel directly from his brain, out his mouth. He is uncomfortable with anything resembling untruth. Seventeen years later, and I can not think of a single instance in which he has been deliberately mean or hurt someone’s feelings on purpose. What he lacks in social skills, he makes up for in loyalty, sincerity, and dependability. Much like a Labrador retriever, but less hair.

He was exactly what my untrusting, fearful, guarded heart needed. He brought me out of my “safe” box, made me laugh at myself, and stop living five years in the future. He brought me laughter, joy, and relief from the path I had set myself on. He was the chink in my armor. How could I not trust someone so genuine and true to who he was?

There are plenty of times that I am certain our differences will drive me crazy. (Think basketball player that cannot manage to hit the hamper with his underwear.) And then, I will be in full panic mode about something that isn’t going according to my plan, and he will laugh at me, hug me, and tell me everything will be okay. I will be about ready to throttle him while he’s watching some sport and not hearing a word I’m saying and there will be a commercial break and he will have our toddler laughing so hard he’d pee himself if he was potty trained.

I know that God’s plan included Hubby. I am so very grateful that in His pursuit of my heart He gave me someone who slowly, carefully, made his way past that fortress and helped me to trust, love, and find joy. Hubby was the first step in a new plan. One not of my own making, but so much better than I could have imagined. And it all started with the tearing down of walls and the careful exposing of my heart. For His glory, and my good.


Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

  • -Proverbs 19:21

First Glimpse

Just to give you some of my background, I grew up in a house void of faith. Churches were for weddings, funerals, baptisms and the occasional Christmas Eve service. I loved the stained glass, the “church clothes” (mine and everyone else’s), and the coffee hour or reception afterward but was confused by the (what I thought were) lengthy sermons, sitting and standing every few minutes, and the multitude of books to reference in the (rock hard) pews. But most of all I was confused about the HALF NAKED man, hanging on a cross! No one thought this was strange?! I knew nothing of the trinity and certainly knew nothing of what the blood on that cross meant. And, I didn’t learn for many more years to come.

My first glimpse of faith didn’t come until I was a preteen. I used to spend six weeks of my summer with my Mom in the Midwest. One year she was living with my great-grandmother at the time. This woman intimidated me and intrigued me in equal measures. She lived on an old farm complete with winding dirt driveway, several dilapidated outbuildings, a dozen or so barn cats and a box of a house added onto over the years to accommodate more children and the modern convenience of indoor plumbing. It smelled of the farm animals and since my great-grandmother wasn’t especially domestic, it sometimes looked like they may have bedded down there on occasion as well. Okay, that last may have been a slight exaggeration.

My great-grandmother was a reflection of the farm itself. Old, sturdy and well-built. They both unashamedly screamed honesty and hard work from the chipping of the floor boards, to the bare light bulbs with strings in the upstairs “bedrooms”. They were a haven for anyone who needed somewhere to go. And many wayward family members found refuge under the sagging roof over the years. As far as I know, she welcomed them all, loved them all, and forgave them anything. That being said, she was also blunt, sarcastic, and loud. Not accustomed to her brand of “realness”, I was more than a little afraid of her. But like the several dozen June bugs that made their way in through baseball sized holes in her screens, I was drawn to her just the same.

That summer, I also learned that she was a woman of great faith. She loved God, His church, and her “stories” i.e., “The Young And The Restless”. In that order. It was hard to keep track of her. Although she seemed to like such advances as plumbing, the telephone was not her favorite. After all, it was on the wall, on a cord and she was even worse with phone etiquette than she was in person. If she answered the phone, the conversations were brief, and when she was through talking she often just hung up. So, if you wanted to visit, you took your chances with the winding driveway, parked by the shed, and looked for her little blue car. If it was there, you got out and listened. If you heard “singing” you had only to follow the noise to the massive garden, or to the kitchen. (If you heard nothing, she was sleeping on the couch after watching her soaps.) Now, I use the term singing pretty loosely here. She was not blessed with a singing voice. Really. It was awful. But this did not deter her from singing her favorite hymns, terribly off key, sometimes at the top of her lungs. Someone once told me that when confronted with her less than stellar singing voice she replied, “If He didn’t want to hear me worship, He’d have made me mute! “. Since this sounds like something she’d say, I tend to believe it. She was almost always barefoot with dirty feet (whether in the kitchen or garden), decked out in rollers, and wearing a tattered apron that served a plethora of purposes. If she was out, she was caring for kids, helping families with laundry, with her “church ladies”, visiting people in the hospital, or delivering pie. I would have considered a hospital stay for the strawberry rhubarb.

I observed over six weeks that her faith followed her from garden, to kitchen, to church bazaar, to anywhere someone needed her. I learned that though rough around the edges, she radiated peace and love in a way that was hard for me to understand at that age. I recognized it, but could not understand how someone with such a barren looking life in the way of material things could seem so content and giving with everything she had. How someone who had seen so much and endured such hardship could not only weather those storms, but come out on the other side so….well, happy! I could go into all sorts of family stories but frankly, they would probably make your toes curl and I don’t want to be responsible for any nightmares. Suffice it to say, this lady was tough, and happy, and peaceful, and content in a way I had never seen before in people who had plenty of money, possessions, power and prestige. This little spit fire with the dirty bare feet, ratty apron, crazy curlers, belting out songs of worship while she toiled had more than anyone else I knew. And whatever it was, I wanted it! Okay, since I was just a preteen at the time I wanted it for a few weeks and then forgot about it until I saw the next pair of shoes I wanted. BUT, 20 plus years later, during my first bible study I made a timeline of my “faith journey”, and the first stop in my journey? It was on an old farm, with a firecracker of an old woman who practically oozed Christ’s love.  And as I worked my way through the book of James and both my heart and mind simultaneously understood James 2:18 and it spilled into my life, I knew my first victory!


But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

James 2:18


I could almost hear her screeching rendition of “How Great Thou Art”, taste the strawberry rhubarb pie and smell the cow manure! Not bad for a first glimpse.