In my favorite poem by Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay, he reminds us that like the seasons of nature, life is one season melting into another, and quickly fading away. This is my attempt to document each season in my life and my family.

Forgiveness

Filed under: Random Thoughts — Rachel at 2:02 pm on Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Table of contents for Transparency
  1. A Transparent Life
  2. What’s Next?
  3. Friendship and Faith
  4. Freedom
  5. Forgiveness

I promised you guys a post about forgiveness about a month ago. I had a whole series of posts planned, and was fleshing them out as I got to each topic. The true burden on my heart was to write about freedom, but there were at least three others after it. Once I wrote and published “Freedom”, though, the burden to write the others was lifted. I guess that was because, for me, forgiveness has been a journey, and there was more I needed to learn before I wrote about it. I find myself here, now, with a burden to write what God has taught me.

This past summer, I was actively seeking after God. I was so thirsty. I needed Him to fill me, because I was running on empty. It seemed like I could only get so far, though. I was running up against a wall. A wall between me and God. A wall of unforgiveness. I built this wall, block by block, over many years. With each thing that hurt me, I grew more bitter toward the one who hurt me…more defensive…and built a wall around my heart. I would pray for God to heal my heart, and He would ask me to take down the wall. This wall had stood between me and God for most of my Christian life. My unwillingness to get rid of it had kept me from growing as a Christian. I felt entitled to my hurt. Justified in my sin.

Day after day, I would pray for God to change me, to fill me, and to heal my heart. I knew, though, that I was holding on to this unforgiveness. I tried to push it to the back of my mind, and get around it some other way. It was there, though. I had to decide what was more important to me…guarding my heart or obeying God. It was so hard. I spent an inordinate amount of time remembering and replaying every little hurt I was holding on to…every way I had been done wrong…defending my right to keep the wall I had built. I felt like if I forgave then I would have to forget, and I knew I could not forget. It was not a matter of forgiving and forgetting, though, but forgiving because I was commanded to. Because I had been forgiven.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15

I told God that night that I would forgive the person who had hurt me, not because I wanted to, but because He had forgiven me. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but, the very next night, I went to this person and told them I forgave them. I didn’t know what kind of reaction to expect, but the one I received was not what I expected. They didn’t know what I was talking about. I must admit, this hurt.

When I told Amy about what happened, she said something that I will never forget. I actually wrote it in my Bible, so as to never forget it.

“You know… Jesus experiences that pain daily. He offers His forgiveness and humanity looks at Him blankly and says, “What for?”…not knowing how much they have hurt him.”

That quote struck my heart and forever changed the way I think about the subject of forgiveness. It was yet another example of the fact that no matter what pain or hurt or injustice we feel, Jesus has experienced it before us, and He can perfectly comfort us.

It wasn’t received in the way I hoped or expected, but I did what He asked of me. A weight was lifted. I understood that the unforgiveness was no burden on the one I chose not to forgive, but a burden that I alone knew about and carried. Since then, I have had to remind myself many times that I have forgiven, and ask the Lord to again forgive me.

I thought that was the end of my lesson about forgiveness. I was going to write this post, and wrap it up neatly right about here. I just couldn’t seem to write it, though. I believe it was because I had only learned the first part of my lesson. He had more to teach me.

In recent days, as recent as the last several days, I’ve learned that, not only do I need to offer His forgiveness to those around me, but I need to forgive myself. When things get stressful, my first response is to run back to those old habits. I condemn myself. I tell myself that I should be over this by now. I told the whole world that I am free, so why have I returned to my chains…picking them up, wrapping them around me, checking to see if they still fit. It’s a cycle of guilt. I was reminded, though, that I am His, and there is no condemnation in Him.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

He offers forgiveness. He offers strength. I try to do it on my own, and then condemn myself when I fail. The truth of the matter, though, is that I cannot do this on my own. He doesn’t even expect me to. So, when I confess my weakness to him, He doesn’t say, “I already forgave you. You should be over this by now.” No. He says, “I forgive you. I don’t condemn you.” I have learned that I must forgive myself. I can’t continuously beat myself up, telling myself how worthless I am, because He does not condemn me. When God looks at me, He sees Jesus. I cannot live in self condemnation, but I must accept His forgiveness and walk in the knowledge that I can freely accept the pardon He offers and try again.

Forgiveness is not always a one time thing. Sometimes, we are required to forgive over and over. How many times can someone hurt me, though, and I still be required to forgive them.

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22

Doesn’t leave much room to wonder, does it? Whether it is another person or myself who slights me, I must forgive. It’s not optional. It is, however, incredibly freeing.

 

The last few days have left me hurt and sad. I don’t want my blog to be a battleground, but I want it, in everything, to glorify Jesus. So, if nothing more can be accomplished from the dialog between two sides of a viewpoint, let us learn a lesson about forgiveness. Let us forgive those who hurt us. Let us offer our forgiveness even if they look at us blankly and say, “What for?” feeling they are totally justified in what they said or did. Let us forgive ourselves for being but weak flesh. Let us fall on Jesus and ask Him to use this conversation and these words that may have hurt instead of edified to teach us something. Let us love one another. Let us offer forgiveness and grace all around, because how could we not after He has so graciously offered it to us? Let us seek to grow and honor Him in everything we say and do, even if it’s in an ambiguous Internet world, because, even here, we bear the name of Christ. Let us not disappoint Him in the way we treat our brothers and sisters. Let us love as He loved.

 

Oh, Lord, let it be so!

Anonymous

Filed under: Random Thoughts — Rachel at 1:08 pm on Saturday, September 29, 2007

I received a comment yesterday on my previous post that never made it past moderation. When I read it, it was like a punch in the stomach. I thought of little else for the rest of the day. At first I was so very hurt. Then I was confused. Then angry. Then hurt again. I don’t understand why, on a post about my friends, someone wanted to leave this comment:

Rachel, the things you say are so touching. Its great that you have such a good friend as Amy. Although I feel as if you have changed in many ways since you have had this friendship. I feel as if you have changed your mind on many different issues. The KJV for instance. Maybe you should be a little more careful when it comes to being so easily influenced. I am praying for you. I am praying that you will stay strong, and remember the things you have learned ever since sunday school. You cannot separate God and HIS Word.

The given email address, of course, did not work, so I couldn’t reply privately. I don’t think a private reply was wanted, anyway, since this person commented on a post instead of contacting me through the contact form. So, Anonymous, here is your reply:

My friend…from the tone of your comment I assume we must have at one time been friends…I am sorry if I have offended you in some way. I have tried to be very deferential on my blog, knowing, of course, that my views on certain subjects differ from a lot of my friends and family. I assume that it is understood, though, that my views are just that…my views. I have not tried to push them on anyone, persuade them to believe as I do, or change anyone’s mind in any way. This is my personal blog, though, and I feel I have the right…and responsibility…to be honest.

I have tried to be honest…transparent, if you will…but I have also tried to be respectful of the views and positions held by my church family. We don’t see every issue the same way, so I tried not to to be troubling, because I love them and would never want to hurt them. The problem with that, Anonymous, is that you have gotten a very misguided idea of the change that has occurred in my life. I hope this reply will help clear things up.

First of all, since you mentioned the KJV issue, I need to clear that up. Mine and Chris’ stance on this issue has changed, not because of my impressionability and a new friend, but rather as the result of several years of study, prayer, and an open-minded approach. While we don’t always read the KJV for our own personal reading and Bible study, we still memorize from it, and are happy to use it at church. We don’t have a problem with using it at all, however I’ve been greatly helped and encouraged by reading the ESV. Since that is the version I read from, I felt it would be dishonest and a little silly for me to switch the verses I posted to the KJV, especially since half of my readers are not even aware that there is a KJV controversy. When questions arose before, maybe I should have done a better job explaining things. I assure you, though, that this change had already occurred and was firmly held before I ever even met Amy.

Secondly, I have tried very hard to think of what some of the “many ways” I have changed are, and what the “many issues” I’ve changed my mind on could be. Without any way to contact you, Anonymous, I can only guess. Could it be my mentions of Contemporary Christian Music? I know there are a lot of people I love who don’t think I should listen to it, but I just don’t agree. I understand that you may feel differently, but I just don’t believe there is any Scriptural reason that I cannot listen to this music. It was one of the main things that started turning my heart back towards the things of God after I had let it grow cold and hard. It has encouraged me, helped me, cheered me, and strengthened me over the last several months.

Could it be that my best friend is from a different denomination? Does it bother you that our friendship is not bound by denominational differences? I’m sorry if it offends you, but we will just have to disagree about that. It seems you think I am hopelessly impressionable, but I really do have a mind of my own. It’s true that Amy and I may have some theological differences, but we are okay with that. She does not try to sway my beliefs, and I do not try to change hers. You know what I’ve learned, though? We are not so different as you might imagine. We are, after all, closely related, having the same Father and all.

My friend, if there are any other issues that maybe I’ve not thought of, please feel free to contact me through the contact link. I would be happy to further explain my positions, opinions, or clear up any unanswered questions for you if you like.

Thirdly, while I welcome your comments and questions, I was hurt that you chose to publicly write these things on a post about my friends. Anonymous, I am trying to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you did not mean to hurt me, but I just don’t see what your comment has to do with what was posted. To imply that Amy has not been a worthy friend for me…well, to be honest, that hurt me deeply and it hurt her as well. If only you knew what a gift from God Amy’s friendship has been. She has stood with me these past few months, and my life is forever better because of it. I know you’ve only got to hear bits and pieces and see a photo here and there. You don’t have a complete picture of what has went on with us. For this reason, Anonymous, I’ll try to break it down.

What Amy Cannot Be Blamed For:

  • My reading of the ESV
    (This one is all on Chris and God.)
  • My music
    (This one is all me. I was enjoying it before I ever even met Amy.)
  • My open-minded consideration of the world around me
    (This one is just a new realization that I can actually think for myself.)

What Amy Can Be Blamed For:

  • I’m not lonely anymore.
  • I laugh a lot more.
  • My Scrabble skills have been honed.
  • My use of the word “crazy” before pretty much anything. For instance: “crazy cool”, “crazy beautiful”, and “crazy hungry”.
  • I know what it’s like to have someone pray for me when I’m having a hard time.
  • I have someone to talk to about things husbands aren’t interested in.
  • I get to talk to a crazy cute little five year old girl on the phone almost daily.
  • Last, but not least, I remember what friendship feels like.

Anonymous, I hope this will clear up any misunderstandings. I appreciate your concern for me, and I thank you so much for your prayers. I definitely need prayer, and I will gratefully accept. I do need strength. I need strength to hold to the blessing God has given me, and to not be afraid of those who think I’m wrong.

Pray for me, Anonymous, and I will pray for you.

Nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. II Timothy 1:12b (KJV)

More to Come

Filed under: Random Thoughts — Rachel at 11:04 pm on Thursday, September 6, 2007

I have more to write in my Transparency series of posts, but I am going to take a bit of a break. It may sound silly, but, after my last post, I feel incapable of writing more heavy stuff right now. So, bear through some fluffy stuff, and I’ll be back with a post on Forgiveness in a few days.

—————-
Now playing: Third Day – I Can Feel It
via FoxyTunes

What’s Next?

Filed under: Random Thoughts — Rachel at 9:52 pm on Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Table of contents for Transparency
  1. A Transparent Life
  2. What’s Next?
  3. Friendship and Faith
  4. Freedom
  5. Forgiveness

Thanks, Everyone, for your comments and input on my last post.

I guess, if we all agree that we should live transparent lives, the next question is, “Do we have the courage to be transparent.” I know some of those who commented do, because I’ve been reading their blogs.

Jenn, you should know that your recent post about what you’ve been dealing with was what encouraged me to write about this topic. I appreciate you, and I appreciate your vulnerability. I really believe that God is using you to help people going through similar situations.

My prayer is that we will surrender our pride and our concern for what people think, and just listen to Him and follow His prompting. Has God prompted you to be transparent? The more transparent we are, the more God’s grace can be shown in our lives.

What does He want you to do?

A Transparent Life

Filed under: Random Thoughts — Rachel at 12:57 am on Sunday, August 26, 2007
Table of contents for Transparency
  1. A Transparent Life
  2. What’s Next?
  3. Friendship and Faith
  4. Freedom
  5. Forgiveness

Are you real? Is what people see the real you?

I’ve been asking myself these questions lately. We spend so much of our lives trying to show people what we want them to see, that sometimes we never let them see who we really are.

Does that matter? What about in the lives of Christians? Does it make any difference if we put up an attractive front to impress people?

Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that it does matter. We are important to one another. Like it or not, we often take our cues from those around us. When it seems like every other Christian we know is leading a perfect life, it makes us feel as if we are somehow inadequate…not good enough to have reached the place where we have everything together. Then we beat ourselves up. We must be doing something wrong. We must not be as good of a Christian as everyone else. If we were not somehow lacking, wouldn’t we be as happy as everyone else?

I’ve recently come to realize something, though. What you see is not always what is real. People don’t really have everything together. They are flesh and blood just like me. They have hard times, they have low times, and everyone has their stuff that they struggle with. Everyone has stuff. Everyone! Your stuff may be different than mine…it probably is. You may deal with yours better than me, or maybe I deal with mine better than you. When it gets down to it, though, we all live in a fallen world, we are all human, and we all have stuff.

So, what? Why does it matter if we paste on a smile and give everyone a perception that our lives are what we wish they were? Shouldn’t that inspire them? Shouldn’t they want what we’ve got if it seems like we have got it all together? Well, maybe. Or, maybe, other Christians would be more encouraged if we lived a life so transparent that we could see each other’s struggles and know that we are not alone? Life can be hard. It’s not long, but it is hard. It shouldn’t be lonely, too. Jesus didn’t intend for us to be lonely within our churches. He meant for us to encourage each other. He meant for us to support one another. He didn’t intend for the church to be a group of people who met three times a week to impress each other with how much they had it all together.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25

How can we stir up one another to love and good works? By being together. By encouraging one another. More and more as days pass, we need each other. We need to be real with each other. Feeling alone does no one any good. Feeling like you are the only one with that thing that you have struggled with for so long doesn’t help anyone. It’s so unnecessary.

What about our testimonies? Shouldn’t we deal with our struggles privately, and just let others see that God is taking care of us? Shouldn’t we show them a neat and tidy life so that they would be encouraged that their lives could be that way, too? Well, maybe, but what if that’s not the best way? What if we just lived our lives transparently? By that, I mean living our lives as an open book? Wouldn’t it be more encouraging to someone, first of all, to see that they are not alone. They are not the only one that still struggles. Often, it seems like salvation is a magic pill. Once you take it, your life is all better. When it doesn’t work that way, we wonder what’s wrong with us that it didn’t fix everything. It is isolating to think you are the only one. Secondly, if we had been watching someone’s life…if we knew about what they were dealing with…and then we saw how God worked in their lives, well, how could that not be encouraging?

Aren’t we supposed to be strong, though? Aren’t we supposed to put our best foot forward? If salvation is not the cure all for what’s wrong in our lives, why would anyone want it?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. II Corinthians 12:9

Paul wrote that verse after talking about something in his life that he had repeatedly asked God to take away. He didn’t want to have to deal with it, but it was there. The verse above was written in acceptance of this thing that he had to live with. He came to the conclusion that even though he had to live with this thing, not only would he accept it, but he would be glad about it. Why? Because he knew that through our weaknesses, God’s strength would be made all the more apparent. From that, I conclude that if we just put on a happy face and show people a sanitized picture of who we are, all they get from it is an appreciation of our own strength. Living transparently, though, allows them to see Christ’s strength in our lives. Letting them see the real struggles of real people also allows them to see the real power of a real Savior.

Could we handle it? Could we handle Christians being real?

**I really would like to know everyone’s thoughts on this post. If you are reading this post, please post your thoughts in the comments. i would really appreciate it.

It’s Over

Filed under: Random Thoughts,School — Rachel at 6:32 pm on Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My summer is over. Finished. Done.

Amy’s gone, Kyra’s been in school for a week, Chris’ classes start tomorrow, and I have to be at school at eight in the morning for some mandatory freshman experience thing. It’s really kind of irritating, since I have already attended two semesters there. Oh, well. My classes start on Monday. I have a psychology class on Monday nights and Comp II on Thursday nights. Plus, three web classes. I’m really looking forward to school, but, for once, I’m kind of sad to see the summer end. When I was a kid, I was always ready for school to start. Call me a nerd, but I loved school. I still do, when we’re not talking about math. I do have another math class this semester. Hopefully, it won’t be as stressful as the last one.

I’m looking forward to what this semester is going to bring. I’m looking forward to meeting new people. I am looking forward to the classes themselves. I am taking three classes that I’m really excited about, and one more that will probably be interesting. And then there’s the math class…but I’m not going to dwell on that. All in all, though, I’m excited about what the next few months hold for me, and terribly expectant. I expect the Lord to do big things in my life. How could I not? He’s been doing crazy cool stuff for me lately.

Excited and expectant…what a way to start the semester!

Too Much Fun

Filed under: Random Thoughts — Rachel at 8:39 pm on Friday, August 17, 2007

People have been wondering why I’ve not been blogging so much. To be honest, I’m having too much fun to sit still and blog.

Right now, we are having a talent show in my living room. Jeremiah, Kyra, Sarah, and Elijah are taking turns climbing up on a table and singing songs. We just got through with an awesome song and dance routine by Jeremiah doing “Trading My Sorrows”. Amy was dancing around my kitchen holding Sarah, and Owen is just walking around in his sleeper “singing” along with everyone else, smiling from ear to ear.

Who has time to blog when I’ve only got a few days left? I’m having too much fun!

Still Alive

Filed under: Excellent Adventure,Random Thoughts — Rachel at 3:55 pm on Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I know it’s been forever and a day since I last blogged. Well, at least since August 7, as Amy just pointed out to me. I don’t mean to neglect posting. I should have told you guys more about our vacation and added more pictures. I think I’ll just skip that, though. The trip was great. It made it even better to have my mother-in-law and Amy and her kids with us. It was a really awesome trip. An actual restful vacation. It was gorgeous there, and I couldn’t have had a better time.

Kyra started kindergarten on Monday. She’s enjoying it so far. My classes don’t start till the 27th, but I believe Chris’ start a week before mine. I’m enjoying my last few days of relative calm. It’s going to get really hectic before too long.

Amy and her kids are still here with me. She thought about leaving tomorrow, but neither of us wanted her to. It stinks not knowing when we may see each other again, so we have to get the most out of this visit. So, I’ve been spending my days hanging out with her. Read about our trip to Frozen Head at Amy’s blog. Our kids are alternately having fun playing together sweet as can be and flipping out on each other and running to tell on each other. It’s great. Too great for her to leave tomorrow, so she’s going to stay till Monday. Several people at church were asking how long they were staying with us. Sarah put it best when she answered someone’s question of how long they were staying with, “Till I’m done.” That about sums it up. We’re not done yet. Still having lots of fun.

I’ve got some posts brewing. Stay tuned.

Another Great Day!

Filed under: Excellent Adventure,Family,Friends,Kids,Random Thoughts — Rachel at 12:14 am on Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Today was fun. I woke up right after the sunrise on the lounge chair out on the balcony. My back was stiff and sore. Amy and I had been out there talking for forever the night before, and I just stayed out there. Besides the fact that Chris, Elijah, and Owen were all asleep in my bed and there was no room for me, I was just really into laying there on the balcony watching the stars and waves and listening to them crash on the beach. It’s hypnotic.
So, I drug myself to the bed when Owen woke up some time early this morning, and then got up for good around eight. We lounged around for an hour or two, eating breakfast burritos, listening to music, and posting pictures for you guys. Then, we all got into our swimsuits, gathered up a bajillion shovels, pails, floats, swim rings, towels, and other beach paraphernalia, packed up some stuff for lunch, gathered our five small children, and hit the road. We went to this really awesome state park. I regret to tell you all that I didn’t take a lot of pictures of this place, but it was because we were too busy actually doing things. This place was shielded from the big waves by a rock jetty, and it was really shallow with just enough small waves to make in interesting. There was plenty of wet sand for playing in, and dry sand up on the beach to stick your umbrella in. We played and played. The kids all had a blast. We built a really awesome sand castle. Amy and I and all of the kids contributed to our sandy work of art, and we were quite proud of the end result. Chris, Velvet, and I went snorkeling, which was cool. Chris really, really enjoyed that. I had more of a hard time, due to my sinus infection (which is much better than when I came, in case you are wondering). I kept coughing into my snorkel. It was fun while I did it, though. There were fish swimming around all over the place.
After we finally drug ourselves out of the water and across the beach with our five little children, our bajillion shovels, pails, floats, swim rings, towels, and other beach paraphernalia, we made some sandwiches and had a picnic. We were starved after being in the water and playing in the sand for several hours. We played around for a while, and then went to Alligator Lake, where we actually got to see some alligators.
Once we got back to the condo, we went down to the swimming pool and the hot tub. It was fun, but we were exhausted by the time we made it back to our room. We had a late dinner, and all of the kids were soon asleep. They all played hard today, and were so exhausted.
Right now, I’m the only one up, waiting on a load of laundry to finish, so we can have clean swimsuits and towels for tomorrow. It’s so cool to have such a fun day and know that you’re just going to get up and do it all again tomorrow.

Click here to see pictures from Monday.

Insert Witty Title Here

Filed under: Family,Friends,Kids,Random Thoughts — Rachel at 5:06 pm on Sunday, August 5, 2007

So we are in Florida. Florida! We are having a great time. I would say that we are too busy doing crazy cool things to be blogging, but, in all honesty, Amy and I are sitting here at the counter in the kitchen of the condo eating dry Froot Loops (Amy says they are not generic fruit loops but real Froot Loops. [We sent the man to the store. He apparently doesn’t know that buying real Froot Loops is insane.]) and planning a trip to Walmart. However, we spent several hours down on the beach with five little children. Five very happy little children. Five very soggy, sandy, happy little children. We are in recovery mode right now. Several Most of us are slightly sunburned, but not to the point of tears. We are right at this moment trying to decide if we want to get all sandy and have to take baths again. I think we probably do.

Stay tuned for pictures and video.

**Update: Most of us are moderately sunburned, and one of us has been pretty close to the point of tears. We’re still happy, though. Cause we’re in Florida!!!

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