Nobody’s Doormat

I have been pondering ‘authority’ in relationships and the need to set healthy boundaries. Specifically when the person with whom we need to establish those boundaries is someone who has authority over us, or is in a co-leadership position with us. It is a sensitive thing at the best of times, and more so when someone in authority over us violates us and boundaries need defining.

We all have the ‘right’ to be respected. It is not just a human rights issue—it is a right that God has given us. He made us in His image, to reflect His heart and His likeness. Each of us, in our individuality, is made to uniquely represent Him, here on earth. This is true whether we are Christians or not.  The effectiveness and impact of that, whether we allow that God-likeness to flow through us or not, is to an extent dependent on our faith in Him, but regardless of our beliefs, God’s likeness is in us.

When we function under leadership and authority, whether that person is a boss, a father or mother, a husband or any other leader, we should expect to be treated with dignity and respect. When that doesn’t happen, we have a choice; we choose silence and allow victimization—usually ending up feeling sorry for ourselves, or we confront (hopefully gently so that we are heard), or sometimes we may need to first reach out for help. We may not initially have the strength to confront, or, alternatively, we may come off too strong because of personal defences.

Years ago, as a young woman working as a secretary, someone in leadership asked me to do something illegal—I was to ‘fudge the books’ to make things look differently than they really are.  I was the person that signed off on documents for the government reports and to do so would have not only risked the company being slapped with a huge fine, but I would have been responsible.  In submitting documentation I always signed the typical ‘I confirm that the information contained in the report is true…’ and to sign that, knowing I was intentionally doctoring reports, was not something I could do.

However, because it was a leader who asked me to do this, I was in a conundrum. Should I defy my leader and not say anything? Should I do what I was asked? Should I confront?

Me, being me, I opted for confrontation. It’s not that I like confrontation, but silence, either way, would have made me feel victimized and I don’t tend towards accepting that role.

I walked into my boss’s office, defences high, and asked him to explain exactly what it is he wants me to do. Again, he outlined the exact steps I was to take in reporting.

“But that’s illegal,” I said.

He mumbled something that didn’t support me doing the right thing and, without a further thought, I leaned over his desk, handed him the reports and told him, quite boldly, “It’s illegal, and if you want it done that way, you will have to go do it yourself!”

Stunned, he looked at me without a word. After the pause, he told me to go do the right thing.

Back at my desk, my heart was still beating like a drum in my chest. Had I really just done that? My head was spinning. I was proud of myself for taking a stand but felt bad… almost sick, over how I had done it. And yet, it had been the truth.

Maximizing Impact

My boss’s son, having heard the exchange, walked over to my desk. A quiet gentleman, only a few years older than me, he spoke with great wisdom a lesson I have taken with me for life, “Trudy, what you have to say is often bang on. If you would learn to say it differently, it would be easier to receive and would have more impact.”

I don’t remember if those were his exact words, but they were pretty close. That advice has changed the way I address leadership. The Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren..”

In my pursuit of healthy boundaries I made some pretty big mistakes. And that’s okay. I was learning a new and better way. It is better to make mistakes on the journey, than to choose apathetic disinterest in growth. It is in making mistakes that we learn to do it right.

The next time my boss asked me to do something sketchy, I calmly rose from my chair at my desk, looked him in the eye, ushered him to sit down and calmly said, “If you want that done, you will need to do it yourself. I find it offensive.”

Again my boss looked surprised, but this time was different. With a new respect he said not to worry about doing it. He never again put me in that kind of a position.

When it comes to family, especially a father, mother or spouse, the familiarity can cause us instinctively to do one of two things. It can make us defensive, angry and disrespectful, or cause us to completely withdraw in fear or anxiety.  Like their wives, this can be a very real part of a husband’s journey. If we overcome these tendencies and learn to calmly speak the truth—that we have value and are not willing to be a doormat—we will have much more impact.

Recently, watching a video series on working through various issues, the one example jumped out at me, illustrating how to do this well. The speaker guided her audience on a gentle approach to establishing a strong boundary. In her example she was addressing a father, and the words were something to this effect: “Dad, I have worth. God sees value in me. I am His daughter and He treats me with respect. You need to treat me with respect and talk to me with respect. Until you can do that, I am not willing to subject myself to abuse.”

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” More is said in the tone of voice than in the words we speak. The truth, when spoken with calmness, has authority. The same truth, when spoken in loud or angry tone, loses impact.

The key to ending the doormat lifestyle is to first see that we have worth and value, and then to live a life that commands respect, in word and in deed.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

To be a Friend of God

It all started with a random thought about my brother-in-law, Leonard Hursh, who is in ministry with the Eastern Mennonite church in Pennsylvania. That thought took me back to my own days in the Mennonite culture and I started recalling the preachers of my childhood. Some were dynamic speakers with passion for truth, regardless what their perception of truth was, and these men inspired me even where I did not agree with them. Some were very on target in their teachings, almost charismatic. Others were dryer than dinosaur bones. Yet others manipulated the mind out of a need for control and power. We saw it all, as most denominations and cultures do—the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

This thought led me to asking the question, Where was God? In a culture that had so much good in it, how was it that the true God seemed to have slipped into the shadows for many? Hidden at times, angry and in your face at other times. In a culture that prided itself in two main things—peace and humility—how did God become so violent and angry for some, or even for many?

This was not true in every conservative Mennonite denomination, or in every preacher, but my experience from age nine to fifteen often felt like a ‘graceless’ existence. Because of the hard-handed distant leadership of some key preachers and authority figures, I became disillusioned with God, faith, religion and, particularly, my denomination—the Conservative Mennonites. I have since learned to know many kind and caring individuals there, who are Born Again believers. Even in my childhood memories I can now find the good in those years of anxiety and fear, but at the time I was a lost child who mostly felt the anger, fear and shame.

Today, as my brain stumbled through the past, one memory overtook the others. It was not a one-time thing. It happened repeatedly, starting at age ten until I was about fourteen, in the days before my heart was completely hardened.

The song leader would get up, go to the front of the church, perch his Hymnal on the music stand, clear his throat, and announce the song number. As we began to sing, tears started to pour down my face and I could not stop them. There were a few songs that did this to me, but two especially disarmed me. I didn’t understand why then. I felt ashamed. Angry.

I presumed anyone within earshot of my sniffles or sobs, or anyone who saw the tears fall, silently prayed that I would repent, assuming I was feeling convicted of some great and horrible hidden sin. That was the only time we really saw tears in church. And that is why the tears made me angry, because I wasn’t convicted of sin.

Hidden behind that surface anger were feelings I couldn’t identify.

I recall one morning when the song leader chose both of the songs that so deeply touched me. Today, as the memories returned, I revisited the words of the songs and I started to let myself feel all of those things again. As I did, I allowed myself to explore those feelings and discovered a deep heart cry that I believe most of us have, if not all of us.

The first song, Precious Memories, tore at my heart. The only ‘memories’ I carried were of pain and trauma. I wondered what it would be like to sing that song and burst with joy, to know that the memories of family, love and closeness would go with you for life. Depressed and sad, tears spilled down my face. I wanted desperately to know love.

The second song, had I understood it all back then, was the definition of true love.

“I come to the Garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” (Couldn’t resist sharing…. As I wrote this I listened to Elvis Presley’s version of In The Garden on Youtube.)

A prayer I have prayed for years, and continue to pray, is that people will know me as someone who loves God and considers God to be my best friend, through Jesus. I want to be a friend of God. More importantly, I want God to know me as His friend—someone who is not afraid to identify with Him, even when it’s not popular.

James 2:23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.

Like Abraham, who made some pretty messed up decisions, and was still called God’s friend, I want that to be my story.  Though I’d be happy to do without the messed up decisions, it’s too late to avoid that part… I’ve already made those.

As I travelled down memory lane and felt the same emotions in these words, I realized that the tears were the tenderness in my heart for God, as my Friend, in the midst of the chaos and hell of the abuse and violence in my childhood. Reliving the memory, I see myself sitting in the Lakeview Conservative Mennonite church as an eleven year old girl, crying. I see Him walking beside me in a cool and quiet place—the garden of my heart—reminding me that I am His, engaging in conversation, listening to my pain, and telling me that I will not walk the path alone.

The song ends with needing to go, bringing with it a sense of sadness at needing to part and reminding us that our ‘this world life’ awaits, drawing us away from that sweet connection with God.

Thirty-two years have come and gone, since that beautiful spring morning when my heart cried out to know God that way, to be close, to be confident that I am His friend, that He values me and delights in me. Thirty-two years… and many, many rough waters later I see that I have what my heart cried for that day.

Life isn’t perfect. Heck, I’m not perfect so how could life be? I mess up. I sin. I fail. But always, always He is there, my ‘walking buddy’ ready to lift me up and encourage me to keep walking when I fall.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

I Am Loved, Accepted

(How Should We Receive One Another? Faults and all!)

Romans 15:7

Receive one another as Christ received you. This will honor God…

(How Does Christ Receive Us? Broken and Imperfect)

Titus 3:5-6

not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Today I thought a lot about what makes us accepted. It all started with breakfast in bed. Well, sort of in bed. I came downstairs to find my two youngest sons already awake.

Todd, who is almost 13, was a bit disappointed to see me, but not because he doesn’t love me. “Aw… I was hoping Daddy would come down first,” he said. “I wanted to make you breakfast in bed.”

I told him I would quickly finish what I was doing and then go back to bed. This pleased him and immediately he set out to make my breakfast. He scrambled several eggs with cayenne pepper in—he knows I love spicy food so decided to be creative—and neatly arranged grapes, cheese and half of a pear on a plate.

I was just wrapping up what I was doing, and was ready to run back to bed when he decided to make a cup of coffee for me. I didn’t realize he has never used our Tassimo with the new disc holder so I didn’t offer any assistance. Almost instantly I heard a hiss and a sizzling sound.

Fortunately I was still downstairs and immediately I ran to the Tassimo to find coffee grinds everywhere and a mess on the counter. I cleaned it up, showed Todd how to use it and then went upstairs and pretended to sleep.

Minutes later Todd appeared in our bedroom, gently ‘woke me up’ and told me breakfast was ready.

Much picture taking and fussing later, I enjoyed a lovely meal.

Kordan, who is ten, walked into our room and disappeared into our closet. Moving a stool along the closet so that he could see the top level, he carefully studied my clothes. At length he arranged a selection of four tops that I could choose from to wear for Mother’s day. And in his favourite colours—three had predominant colours in various shades of blue, and one in red and black. I tried them on, one at a time, posing for Kordan so he could pick his favourite.

When all was said and done, his favourite one was a bit too snug and we had to go with his second favourite…. a top I don’t wear often. It’s one of those tops that I loved at the store and then it never quite made it to my favourite list. But Kordan gave it a ‘thumbs up’, so I wore it.

It occurred to me, as I thought about these special Mother’s Day moments, that sometimes our love for God is like that. We offer Him our service, broken by humanity, tainted at times by selfish motives. Our imperfect love is more about us than about Him. It’s like we serve Him coffee with grounds spilled everywhere, even in His cup. And the outfit we dress Him in is more to make us feel good, than to represent Him.

As a mom I was delighted with breakfast, even though it left a mess. I loved my outfit, even though it wasn’t my favourite top. I loved both of these gifts because I saw the love my sons poured into the offering. It wasn’t their perfect presentation that made their gift acceptable.

Only two things made these gifts so special this morning. They are my sons. That alone is enough. And their hearts desire was to bless and honour me. That was the true gift.

We struggle sometimes to see that God accepts us and loves us because we are His children. We fail and fall short and then fear rejection. We doubt His love and acceptance based on our shortcomings. When I lived my Christian life that way, it was all about me, and I missed the blessing of the unconditional love He offers His children. In my lack, I also placed these expectations on my children.

They say we live out in our lives what we believe about God, and there is truth in it. In the days when I felt God demanded perfect service, the mess would have overtaken the purity of the gift and my clothing preference would have overruled my son’s love. I would have been frustrated, maybe even angry.

How tragic to go through life that way and miss the wonder of the love in a child’s heart—messes and all!

The wonderful thing is that it’s never too late to change how we think. It is never too late to accept the purity of our children’s love. And it’s never too late to receive the love and acceptance God offers us, on His terms—Jesus—and not based on our perfection.

What adjustments do you need to make in how you see God’s love and acceptance?

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Happy Mother’s Day: The Power of the Father’s Affirmation

Zephaniah 3:16-17
“[…] Do not fear […], let not your hands be weak. 17 The Lord your God […] will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

On Wednesday evening I attended Sozo, a ministry training video series that teaches what it means to be saved, healed and delivered. This week they taught about ‘The Father Ladder’ and how our perception of God is shaped, to a large degree, by our relationship with our family.

God, Our Daddy-Father, Provider and Protector Who Delights in Us

Our perception of God whether distant and harsh or near and loving, comes largely from our earthly fathers. When our fathers provide, protect and affirm our identity, we tend to see God that way. If Daddy adores me and is proud of me, I am more likely to believe that God adores me and is proud of me.

When our fathers fail in these areas it is in forgiving them that we are freed from that misconception about God, and rediscover Him.

They talked about how many wounded women choose partners that have the same negative and abusive behaviours of their dads had. I thought about past boyfriends. I almost made that mistake. I remembered Howard, a man who stepped into the ‘Dad role’ in my life before I met Tim. I have never known a man more like Tim than Howard is. I thanked God, again, for the example Howard was in my life.

I thought back over the years to childhood… the pain, the disappointment and the deep wounds that are now healed. And then a new revelation hit me: I have never dealt with abandonment. I have always known that I felt abandoned. Awake at night, as a little girl, terrified by the shadows in the doorway, I had to do it alone. I could not cry out for my Daddy to come and protect me. In fact, I feared the shadow was his, and he was coming to hurt me. At six…seven… eight… nine… and until 15 when I left home, I could not call out to him. I was alone.

I had forgiven him for hurting me, for terrorizing me, but I had never forgiven him for abandoning me and not being my protector. No wonder I struggle to believe that God will protect me when I am in a bad situation. No wonder, when I face a difficult situation, whether spiritually or practically, I struggle to believe that He will come through for me and protect me. In that moment of revelation, I chose to forgive my Dad….. again.

The timing couldn’t have been more significant. I needed to know that right now, to believe that God has not and will not abandon me.

Jesus, Our Brother and Friend

Next we learned how Jesus, our Friend and Brother, can seem distant and hard to connect with depending on our childhood wounds from siblings and friends.

In a family with sixteen children, each in survival mode due to violence and dysfunction, wounding is inevitable. Sure, we forgive, let go, move on and understand what we all lived out of, but the scars remain for a time. Healing comes, one layer at a time.

I thought back to my wounds. I’ve forgiven my siblings and moved on. I abandoned my family the month before I turned sixteen and in the next two years they only saw me about a handful of times, if that. Then I suddenly reappeared. For almost two years I lived close to home but spent very little time there. And then I disappeared again, keeping limited contact.

I’m sure I have done my share of wounding my siblings. It was survival of the fittest, and my survival was in taking care of myself, to remove myself from the reach of my family so that I would not continue being wounded.

Now, all these years later, I love my siblings, I care about them. Still, the reality is that an element of bonding never happened under the circumstances of our home life. Again, the woman said, forgiveness is key in freeing us in our relationship with Jesus.

Finally, we learned how the nurturing, comforting and teaching mother represents the Holy Spirit and, when misrepresented, there is confusion. I heard this part of the teaching, but stayed stuck on number one and two. Not because there are not things to look and work through in my relationship with my mom. Not because there are no wounds. There are. But the first two were all I could handle in one evening. My mind was tired, and my spirit needed time to process it all.

The Father’s Affirmation

Thursday morning I intended to get several items  from the grocery store first thing. I should have slipped out at 8:30 in the morning. I was out of detergent and laundry piles were waiting. And I was almost out of cream for my coffee. But I stalled.  An hour passed. And another. Still I stalled. For no particular reason. Another fifteen minutes.  Finally, at about 10:45 I slipped out, regretting slightly my late start, but only  until I discovered that God had His own agenda taking shape.

I grabbed my items, and headed for the check out. Slipping my card in the chip reader, I saw a gentleman across the store. Howard? I squinted. (Should have worn my glasses!) I wrapped up paying for my purchases, squinted again and was confident it was Howard.

When I was twenty-one, Howard and his wife Alice stepped into my life and helped me unravel the pain and trauma of those early years. Together they showed me love, acceptance, grace and offered me hope for healing.

I walked across the store, abandoning my big box of groceries. The thought occurred to me that they were paid for. Someone could walk away with them. That was a risk I was willing to take.

Howard saw me and his eyes lit up. With pride beaming from his eyes, he told me how proud he is of me. He had recently spoken with someone whose wife had attended a women’s retreat where I spoke. He encouraged me and blessed me. A second time he said, “Trudy, I am so proud of you! And I love you very much!”

I felt like a little kid again, but this time I was soaking up the blessing. There was no fear, no pain, no abandonment.

A great big Howard-kind-of-bear-hug later, I walked out the door, more empowered than a kid after eating a bag of candy and a Red Bull to wash it down!

It wasn’t until I walked away that I felt God saying, “I’m proud of you too. I sent Howard today, just to remind you that I am here. I know what you’re going through. I see your struggle. Your fears have not escaped my attention. I am here. You are loved. I bless you.”

That alone could have taken me a long way. But God wasn’t done.

At home I unpacked my groceries and had just tossed the empty box in the hall, to be taken to the garage for recycling, when the doorbell rang. There, peaking through the side panel, stood my ‘little’ brother, grinning from ear to ear. He’s thirty-five now and taller than me, but he will always be my little brother.  Some things never change.

We spent several hours together on Thursday, talking, laughing and sharing heart to heart. He’s a wonderful young man and I’m so proud of him. Proud to be his sister. Proud to be his friend. Proud of how honest he is, how authentic, how transparent. Proud of his heart , his kindness.

He told me I am easy to talk to. He shared some cool ideas he has and wondered if I wanted to be part of making them happen. Of course I do!  And then he left.

As he drove away, the previous night’s Sozo lesson returned. Jesus, my Brother… my Friend. He is as willing to interact with me, to be part of my life. I love Jesus. He lived transparently. He stood for Truth. He lived authentically. His heart is kind.

In one day two unplanned meetings, both relating to the previous night’s teaching and my struggle, had affirmed a deeper truth about God in my life.  And in that affirmation, my heart was strengthened for the battle we call life.

As I thought about this post, and it being Mother’s Day weekend and all, I wasn’t sure how appropriate it was to share right now. On further thought, I realized how much fathers hold the power to influence their daughters—the mothers of tomorrow.

This weekend, while Howard is not my Dad by birth, he did give me an amazing gift by showing me the gift of being valued. I observed how he did this with his birth daughters years ago, when I first moved into their home. He told them how beautiful they were, how proud he was of them. I had never heard a dad talk that way before but that example changed my life and shaped my expectation. I saw that I have value and should be treated with respect.

My brother gave me that same gift of respect and value. While he was here on Thursday, he told my fourteen-year-old son how fortunate he is that we can discuss sex. Understandably my son mumbled something about it not being cool, to which my brother replied that it’s very cool. He told my son that he is fortunate. While he may not have thought of it, he blessed me in my role as a mother.

I love being a mom to my kids! I thank Howard, my brother and all those who influenced and empowered me on this amazing journey!  Especially the godly men in my life who bear the image of God and represent the Father’s heart.  Through you I am reminded that God is my #1 cheerleader—that He delights in me.

God Has My Back

In my previous blog I shared a super cool story about a cheque we received, at Faith Girls Unleashed, from a donor for the unusual amount of $13.71. The uniqueness of the number toyed at my mind, like the dripping of a tap that drives you crazy until either turn it off all the way, or fix it, if that doesn’t work.

Turning it off didn’t work. I told myself it was silly. I lectured myself about the foolishness of trying to find a hidden meaning in nothing. Still, there was this persistent niggling that the number had a deeper meaning.

I tried to be biblical about it first. If it was the first book of the Bible, the third chapter and the seventh verse, then what would the last ‘1’ be? Furthermore, having checked that verse out, it didn’t hold any particular meaning that applied to our ministry. I tried several other searches, but nothing. That was my attempt to turn the tap off.

For about one day I forgot about it. And then it returned. Drip. Drip. Drip. Nagging. Distracting me constantly. There had to be a deeper meaning. I looked at the number again, as a whole. Nothing. Next, I looked at each number on an individual basis: 1. 3. 7. 1.  No real pattern. A three and a seven, sandwiched between two ones. And then it struck me. Numbers have meanings. I did the search and was intrigued by the following combination of number meanings.

1 = One God; God (the Alpha & Omega) the beginning; the only; whole; complete

3 = Time: past, present, future;

7 = full; satisfied; complete; to have enough of; Spiritual Perfection

1 = One God; the only; whole; complete; God (the Alpha & Omega)

Our ministry, at Faith Girls Unleashed, is a faith-based ministry. We invite God into the pain of the past so that we can find healing in our present, and move forward with hope for the future. In Him we are made whole again, complete and fulfilled, regardless of what the past has been.  Always, in all things we bring our experience full circle and our focus back on God.

Pretty cool! An affirming discovery, to be sure!

Could there be another meaning? That as a long as we make God our focus—our beginning and our end—and give Him our past, our present and our future, that He will provide and our ministries needs will be met?

I can’t explain why the significance of this number persisted until I found this fascinating meaning. Was it a message from God, or possibly a message from my friend—maybe even both?

I am encouraged by the reminder that God is interested in my life and that, hidden in an odd number, is the message that He is my Source, my Provider.

God has my back. In Him I am whole and complete—all my needs are met.

When God Sends a Note

 Every now and then, something so unbelievable happens that it leaves my mind reeling and my spirit completely humbled. Not humiliated, humbled. Today was one of those days.

I pulled the stack of envelopes—mostly junk and flyers—from the mailbox. Quite a large stack for a Monday. A few bills. A yellow envelope with tickets to an upcoming fundraiser. A few ‘preapproved credit card’ offers. Yeah. Like anyone on planet earth needs those!

And then it caught my eye: A pretty envelope, a little angel in the bottom right hand corner, addressed in neat handwriting to our ministry, Faith Girls Unleashed. The envelope was quite fat, like it had a lengthy letter inside. Curious, I opened it before pulling away from the mailbox. Inside the envelope was a wad of papers, neatly folded. Maybe a story… I get those from time to time and it’s always an honour. Maybe a testimony of some amazing freedom experienced at a conference. I slipped the envelope back into the stack and headed for home This was no ‘road side’ read.

Immediately after I pulled into the driveway, I opened the envelope again. If it was a story or a testimony, the driveway would be the perfect spot to read it, away from the hullaballoo of five children and ‘life’. Unfolding the first bundle of papers, I discovered another neatly folded note containing a cheque. Amazing! I had not even started fundraising yet.

I read the note before I looked at the amount. It was from a young woman with whom I had been meeting with, from time to time, ever  since she attended a Faith Girls Unleashed conference. The note read:

Dear Trudy,

I know this isn’t much, but I am praying and believing God will multiply it supernaturally.

I want you to have this to go towards you need… for your next project.

Thank you so much for the work you are doing.

(donor name)

As I read the note, tears started to fall, my hands trembled and my chest got that feeling of ‘fullness’ that comes when God whispers our name.

 Her cheque was a gift, an odd amount of $13.71. It was her investment into the ministry dream that God has given me—her seed of faith that God will open doors for the ministry go further, and touch more lives. In the memo line she had written: Isaiah 54:2. I looked up the verse and found this promise of provision and growth:

“Enlarge the place of your tent,
   stretch your tent curtains wide,
   do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
   strengthen your stakes.”

 Because of confidentiality, respect, and simply for her protection, I cannot share details of her story, but what I know is that she probably gave everything she has, almost literally, if not literally. I know the sacrifice her gift is.

It was only a few years ago that she fled a life of violence and abuse, to spare her own life, choosing life on the streets for some time, as a safer alternative. Now that she is healing, I see her reach out and bring the love of Jesus to other people in practical ways, even returning to the streets to let others know they are not forgotten. She struggles to make ends meet, still she gives generously.

The gift I received in the mail today touched me deeply, and is a reminder that God also gives generously, sacrificing heaven’s best for us. It inspires me to trust God’s plan, to have a young woman invest so generously into God’s call on my life, and believes this much in the ministry He is doing through us.   

I am humbled, honoured, blessed and encouraged, knowing that God doesn’t ask us to do what He has not already provided for. He goes before us and makes away—though He does not usually reveal it in advance—and then invites us to join Him in His dream for our lives, dreams that go beyond anything we could ever have hoped or imagined without Him. Our part is to listen to that inner voice–His voice–and move courageously into the unknown. And every once in a while, He sends us a note or a cheque, as a reminder that there is even more ahead.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a tent to extend, stakes to strengthen, and curtains to stretch… God has plans and I don’t want to miss out on the exciting next steps!

Welcome 2012!

Reflecting back on the year, 2011, I feel, in some ways, as though I’m peeking in on someone else’s world. So much has happened in one short year—so much that I was not even capable of dreaming one year ago tonight. And that has opened up a whole new world, allowing me to dream bigger dreams for 2012, and the years to come.

What thrills me most is that my dreams are bigger than me. I suppose one could say that’s criteria for a ‘dream’, however, some dreams can be achieved single-handedly. But the thing that meaningful dreams are made of is partnership, team and the effort of many people. And that is the dream that I embrace for 2012!

I have been blessed in the past year and six months to do ministry with Faith Girls Unleashed, and God-willing it will continue, however, when we started this ministry we discovered quickly that we had dreamed too small. As people—men in particular—approached us sharing suggestions and ideas for a bigger vision, we knew we needed to make some changes.

I’ll be honest, when I first heard things like, “maybe you’re not supposed to just do conferences” and “maybe God has a bigger plan” and other such comments, I resisted. Almost rebelliously. For fifteen years I had dreamed of these conferences and they were coming to life just as i dreamed them, except better, more fulfilling. How could God ask me to change direction or add a ‘twist’ to this ministry?

But then something happened and in a moment when I felt as though the dream required more than I had to give, God showed me a need, and in that need He birthed in me a new passion and the will to fight for something greater. This led to redefining the next level of the former dream, and making some adjustments. The result is that, early 2012 we will officially establish a charitable organization that offers conferences and training specifically to address the epidemic of abuse and violence. Where Faith Girls Unleashed specifically targeted women, the charity will address the needs of men, women and families in general. Faith Girls will function as a program within the new charity, rather than as a separate entity.

Within the new charity we have designed programs targeting various oppressed and vulnerable people groups. We will partner with individuals within these cultures to work together for maximum impact and to best meet their needs. One of the programs, for example, will translate books into Low German, using High German phonetics, to develop material for an oppressed Low German culture where abuse is prevalent but the women and children have nowhere to go for help, due to the fact that many know only their mother tongue–which was, until recently, an unwritten language–and are otherwise illiterate. These doors have begun to open in the last few months, as God miraculously connected us to some key contacts there.

With other programs we will target both the Christian culture and secular culture, including colleges and universities, where doors are already starting to open. One of our goals is to do presentations in churches to share the vision and work together to offer hope both internally and in the community, by setting up support systems, such as weekly group teaching sessions, as well as offering subsidized counselling for those needing assistance.

The initial response of business men we contacted for sponsorship, has been supportive and encouraging—for this we thank God and thank them.

We believe that 2012 will be a year of dynamic impact, both on a personal level and on a ministry level. We embrace this challenge with wonder, humility, passion and as a gift from God. We look forward to experiencing the dreams He brings to life throughout this year.

Thank you for your prayers, your support, and ongoing encouragement. May your year be filled with God-sized dreams, that only He can help you fulfill! God bless you all in the New Year!

Life on the run…

… we’ve all been there… we’ve all done it… living life peeking over our shoulder–figuratively speaking–nervously waiting for something to crash, fearing the truth will be revealed, lies exposed… constantly on the verge of drama… wondering, what if someone discovers who I really am? What if…

….The fear of the truth backing us into a corner and leaving us stripped haunts us.

Like most of you, I have done this. As I think about it now I wonder–What was I thinking? Why was I so afraid of the truth that I lived a lie–a life of pretences? What if it didn’t have to be like that? What if our most terrifying secrets didn’t have to hold us captive? What if a life of ‘no lies, no fear, no pretense’ was a safe option?

Not long ago I had an encounter that, like a breath of fresh air on a muggy day, reminded me about the wonder and beauty of honest living. I was about to enter the auditorium at an event when I heard footsteps and a young friend approached me, practically running. As she got closer I realized she was on the verge of tears. “I have to tell you something. There’s something I’ve done and I have to confess it!” I held Sonja and comforted her as she wept and spilled the story of the two days leading up to the confession. When she had ‘told all’ we spoke at length about what she was feeling, what she wanted to do about it, and what she felt would make the situation right again. The most difficult part for her was feeling like she had disappointed a God she loves. One prayer later it was all over, forgiven.

King David says it well when he says (in my own words) ‘I will live with integrity in my own house.’ Sonja showed me what this verse means. What she shared with me could have been her own little secret. No one would have needed to know.

There is beauty in raw integrity: I am what I say I am, no pretense. I do what I say I will do, no misleading. I speak truth and embrace it.

I have learned to trust Sonja over the past few years, not because she makes no mistakes but because she is humble and I never wonder if there’s another side to her. I see her strengths and her weakness and somehow they make her a beautiful, believable and well-rounded woman.