My Family

My Family

Friday, 13 December 2013

The Joy of Christmas

It's Christmastime! Its the most wonderful time of the year!  This is a season I have just fallen more and more in love with over the years. I have always enjoyed the festivities of the holiday yet my level of enjoyment increased dramatically after beginning to date Dan during the holidays in 2008. Now every year since then I can fondly think of the memories of us just getting to know each other. I remember the nerves and excitement that came with each moment together, watching Christmas movies, going to see Christmas lights, and skiing. I had no idea what our future would hold but there was something incredibly intriguing about being around this man. Then in 2010, my excitement about the holidays heightened once again as Dan got down on one knee in front of a beautiful 40ft Christmas Tree and asked me to be his wife. I look back to that year and remember the elation at the real prospect of beginning a life forever with him and entering into this very new and very exciting stage of life. 
Last year at this time, I was grateful more than ever to be able to make more blessed memories with my friends and family. I clung to this joyful holiday as there was so much grief and heartache that flooded my emotions on a daily basis. Christmas was a bit of relief from those fresh tragic memories where I could focus on the jubilant lighthearted ones.  
 
Christmas has become a season of joyous memories in my life. I look forward to this holiday with such anticipation every year.   As I look back over the years and I reflect on all of these feelings and emotions and how they've gotten stronger each year, it is more than just happy memories that makes me love this holiday. I have fallen in love with Christmas more each year because I have fallen in love with Christ more each year. 

My heart is filled with wonder when I read John 1.  In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

God chose to come to earth and take on himself humanity in all its flaws and imperfections so that we could be redeemed and reconciled to him. He demonstrated his amazing and unconditional love for us as he entered this world and walked among mankind. I am in awe as my brain tries with futility to fully comprehend this great act of mercy and grace. So regardless of the earthly memories that I have, the recognition that the Messiah has come to earth is truly something to celebrate. May we not forget the miracle that this truly is and the testament of the amazing grace of our Savior. This year as I anticipate the arrival of my own child in the coming year, I can praise God that He is a God,who in despite of all the suffering and evil in this world, is still there demonstrating his love and goodness to us. This is what draws me to Christmas. Its a reminder that in all of this darkness and grief, there is good. The birth of Jesus was quiet and unnoticed by so many at the time, however at that moment the hope that the world had been waiting for became a reality. This is what Jesus offered as he walked on this earth. He is life and peace offered to all who receive. May Christ be the reason for your JOY this Christmas. 


Friday, 6 September 2013

One Year Later.

          It's hard to believe that one year has passed since my attack. Everything has changed. My life was turned upside down last September 8th. This has been the hardest year of my life by far. As I sat down to reflect on how to write a blog to commemorate this anniversary, so many thoughts and ideas came to my mind that I had a hard time organizing them into a focused and concise blog thus resulting in a hodgepodge of thoughts thrown together! Enjoy!
        I have spent much of this past week reminiscing about the memories that surrounded last September. Although there are so many graphic and painful memories that flood my mind, I am also encouraged by those that are positive and joyful. I must hold on to and remember the ways that God protected me and provided for me. Last December I wrote a blog listing out the miracles that I have found through the tragedy. If you haven't read that yet, here is the link
http://ashleyeballard.blogspot.com/2012/12/finding-purpose-in-pain-list-of-miracles.html.
.It is a good for me to read these often and continue to add to the list throughout the year. May God be glorified for all that He has accomplished through the last year and what he will continue to do.

           One of the things that has really helped me in my healing is hearing how others have dealt with their grief and sadness in the midst of this trial. .A really close friend of Dan and I opened up to me recently about his experience dealing with the knowledge of my attack. He was angry with God, like really angry. He struggled immensely for the first few weeks. So much so, that one day he left church and began yelling at God. As he wrestled with God, he was led to Psalm 73:21-22 which says "When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked at heart, I was brutish and ignorant. I was like a beast toward you.".  He felt God rebuke him and speak to him by saying "You don't know me". At that time, he walked out of the room and agreed with God, he for sure didn't know a God who would let something like this happen. He felt extremely discouraged as he is a discipleship pastor and his job was leading people to know God better, and now God had told him that he didn't even know him. He soon realized that God has given him a new and bigger view of who He is. Of course we don't know God. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. We will never understand why God chooses to allow the things that he does. He is God. He is all knowing and all powerful. I am human. I am finite and know very little. Just like my friend, I am encouraged by this statement, "You don't know Me". I don't know Him and why he allowed this man to commit such violence against me, but I must learn to trust Him despite this.
The next verses in Psalm 73 say "Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing I desire on earth besides you". How beautiful and gracious is our God that His response to our anger and ignorance is compassion, guidance and acceptance?!

 * I am thankful to this friend for being open and honest with me about his emotions regarding my attack. I would love if others would be willing to do the same. If you are reading this blog and have been impacted by my story or God has taught you a life lesson through it, please message me and let me know! I would love to be encouraged by you.
       

 God is leading me on this journey, and step by step He is bringing me healing. So how am I commemorating this one year anniversary? The reality is that this day could have gone very differently one year ago. My family and friends could just as easily be mourning the one year anniversary of my death this weekend. That being said, my husband and I are very much aware of the beauty of the gift of life. This weekend we plan to celebrate the life that God has given me and the life that God has allowed  us to have together for at least one more year. It should be a celebration of survival and the love and support that has been showered over us this past year. So lastly, I wanted to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you who have prayed for me and supported me over this last year. I seriously could not have done this without you. I encourage you to take this weekend and join me by celebrating the life that God has given you.


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Get Real.

Being real  with God. It just makes sense. He can read every thought and knows every emotion. He created our beings and knows the inner workings of our heart, mind and soul. He knows we are finite and He is infinite, yet why do we feel like we have got to have all the right theological answers and responses when calamity comes our way?

Over the last year I've been faced with two major trials in my life. God has been revealing to me more and more that I need to break down all the barriers and come to Him broken and without answers. It's okay to be really real! I'm allowed to ask hard questions and be frustrated and confused by the answer or lack of answers. In fact, I am supposed to be. The last year has taken a lot of my theology and tested it and broken it (see previous entry Broken Theology). I've experienced a lot of pain and heartache and for sometime I thought I needed to have it all together. I wanted to understand everything biblically and accurately. I was encouraged and even positively reinforced to have a positive attitude and look on the bright side of the things. People from all over praised me for my amazing faith during my struggle. Although these are all good things, it was making me push past the true pain and hurt that I felt, as I was looking for wise spiritual answers. I began to think that if I were to expose the intense pain  I was experiencing, that I would be failing God and those around me. Even if my prayer times, I felt it wrong to be angry or upset at God. I wanted to hold on to his sovereignty and just accept it as truth..  I feel like only recently I have discovered how to just come to him broken and desperate. I feel like for the first time I'm being really real with God.

I heard a sermon recently about the difference between wrestling with God and wrestling against God. He said wrestling with God is coming to him out pain and grief and fighting it out but all the while clinging to him through it and never letting go. Wrestling against God is when you give up, get angry at God and walk away from Him. I think we can see the best picture of wrestling with God in Job. Job definitely wrestles with God. While his friends are trying to spiritually explain the reasons of his suffering through the lenses of their theology, Job goes to God with his questions and frustrations. He says things to God, that I would be fearful to say, but God is so gracious. Throughout all the words that Job spoke to God through his anguish, God never counts them as sinful. God praises him for his earnest desire to be before Him and come to Him with his suffering.  I think God expects us to come running to him during a time of suffering, but not necessarily to just praise Him and repeat scriptures back to him, but to express our anguish and sorrow in a REAL way.
As for me, I've been wrestling with God a bit lately. My prayers times are intense, emotional and sweet all at the same time. I have been nervous to even utter some of the thoughts I've been keeping inside for months, until I realize God knew the very moment it crept up and has been waiting for me to bring it before him. Why do I try to be spiritual before a holy God who knows the deepest part of my heart and understands me infinitely better than I do? As I have begun to get real, I can feel his love engulfing me more than ever and in return I want nothing more than to cling to Him. I think this is when true healing can begin.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Finding My Identity

            Today is my 27th birthday. I have always loved birthdays and thought they were special. I have always celebrated my birthday by reflecting on the past year of my life. However this birthday feels different than all the others. This year I appreciate my birthday more than ever before. Maybe this is because I understand, in a more complex way, the beauty of life. I understand that birthdays are never a guarantee. I understand that every year, every month, every week and every day of life is truly a gift from God that we far too often take for granted. I am hit by the reality that I could not have made it to this birthday. My number could have been up at 26. The truth is though that reality has been true every year of my life, this is the first year I have truly contemplated it and not taken it for granted. During my 26th year, I lost the life of our precious baby and nearly lost my own life as well. How much more so do I realize that life is beautiful and to be treasured? 

            I know that God has a purpose for me to stay on this earth a little while longer. This past year I have struggled with the feeling of losing my identity. I had wrapped up my identity into my ministry and mission work with refugees in the apartment complex we lived in. When all that was stripped away, I felt devastated. Who was I? Who am I now? I lost all my labels. God is continuously trying to teach me that when we place our identity into the things we do, where we live, our job, our relationships or any other thing of this world we will be unsatisfied. All of these things are subject to change and could be taken away at any moment and if that happens the results are devastating. There is no identity of this world that is permanent and constant. 
            I am learning that there is only one identity that can never be taken away from me. There is only one identity that never changes and that is the identity I have found as part of the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ. I have been called a daughter of the King and in this I am secure. I have been given new life and freedom in Him.  I am loved unconditionally. I have been forgiven of every mistake I've ever done. I am given a purpose and hope to live for.  If I find my identity and security in Him, I am confident that will never change. 
            May my 27th year be a year for growing closer to the one who gives me life!
Happy Birthday to me :)

          Where do you find your identity? Watch this short youtube video if you would like to hear more!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsDQEb-qlyM

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Deception of Fear.

Definition of Fear: An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. 
           I have experienced this unpleasant emotion way too often in the past months. I had begun to think that I had conquered fear and that I was on an upswing in that area. However I began new counseling in April and through this counseling I quickly discovered that fear still had a strong grip on my life. Through much talking, I learned that I am most fearful of what could happen to me in the future. I found myself saying "that I could never handle anything like this again" . I found myself saying " There is no way I would be prepared or strong enough to go through another traumatizing experience". It occurred to me that I have absolutely no control over and no guarantee that I will not have anything else happen to me again. This thought paralyzed me with fear.  However, God reminded me of a conversation that my husband and I had within a week after I was attacked... It went a little something like this........

                 It was a beautiful quiet starry night. Dan and I were sitting on the trampoline talking about and reflecting the events of the past week. We were both still in shock that such a tragedy had occurred in our lives. We were grateful for my life being spared and that we were together. I was still feeling the amazing grace of God in my life and felt such an overwhelming peace around me.  I had heard stories and read the verses about the grace of God that surpasses all knowledge, but it wasn't until that time that I finally understood the true meaning.As  I was reflecting on that grace,  I felt God speaking to me. He told me that if I had known about my attack a few days before, I would never have thought God's grace would have been enough for me that day. I would have lived my days in fear. Interestingly, My biggest fear was not being raped or attacked before this time. My biggest fear was that something terrible would happen to my husband. I joyfully exclaimed that I feel blessed that this was the suffering upon me and not my biggest fear of losing Dan. Dan looked in my eyes and I realized that for the first time Dan's biggest fear had actually come to fruition. With tears in his eyes he looked at me and told me that he would never have expected to feel such joy and peace in his heart in the midst of the greatest struggle he could have imagined. We talked that night about how fear is truly deception from the enemy to make us believe that whatever we fear is too big for God's grace in our lives.  When we live our lives in fear, we ignore the promise of grace in our lives. We claim that He is not enough for us and focus on our own strength. What a revelation this was as we were in the midst of God's grace being poured out on both of us. 

                     
                       I had forgotten this memory all too quickly. This revelation of what fear really is had brought so much peace into my life, but I had lost hold of this in the recent months. More than ever before, fear gripped me. I was so focused on not letting something like this happen in my life again. I walked in fear, checking every lock twice, looking behind me, and carrying my pepper spray and cell phone close at hand. However, I could do everything "carefully" and "right" but still never guarantee that danger would not come my way. I must trust in God's plan and sovereignty over my life. Fear is deception!  God promises us that His grace is sufficient for all our needs. I have experienced first hand how when fear turns into a reality, God is there with an abundance of grace and mercy to carry us through. We must realize that he does not give us a stockpile of grace to save up in case of an emergency. Although this would be ideal, he chooses to wait until the exact time we need it and give it to us in full. This is the reason we cannot fear future tragedies and sufferings. We are not given the grace to handle those today, but only if and when they do come. 
Do I still struggle with fear? Of course I do, but daily I am surrendering it to Christ and asking him for his strength to trust him. I cannot trust in his promises on my own strength. I will fail every time.  Praise God for his amazing grace. 
                                         2 Corinthians 12:9-10
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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  

Monday, 6 May 2013

A Husband's Perspective

Being married has been the most amazing blessing that has ever come into my life. My husband is my best friend in the whole world. He has always served and loved me, but since the days of my attack I have learned even more about what the love of Christ means through the way that Dan loves me. I have shared my heart and what God has shown me through this experience, however I was not alone in it. Praise be to God, my husband Dan has stayed by my side through it all. Both of us thought it might be beneficial if he shared his perspective and how God has been leading Him through this time.
Here are his words..........

         For a while now, I have wanted to share my heart and what God has been showing me over these past months.  You all have been following Ashley share from her perspective, but I feel that as a husband I have a unique perspective to share.
          Last September, our lives were changed forever.  I could have never imagined that life could be so hard, or that God is so sufficient.  My entire outlook on life has been shifted, and in many ways it has been for the better.  I have personally encountered a lot of pain and trials in my life, but nothing could compare to this.
Ever since I have met Ashley, she has been everything to me.  I love her more than I ever thought possible.  She is the best thing to happen to me, short of Jesus.  My biggest fear has always been that something would happen to her.  I would always think to myself that there was no way I would be able handle it if anything happened to her.  I can handle going through hardships myself, but the thought of seeing my wife suffer was more than I thought I can handle.  What I know now is that I had been seriously underestimating how powerful the grace of God is.
          If you would have tried to tell me a year ago that Ashley and I could make it through this trial, I would have seriously doubted you.  If you would have told me that I would be able to forgive the man who did this to my beloved wife, I would have told you that you were insane.  I am very protective by nature, and I do not take it well when someone near to me is wronged.   The amazing thing is, through all of this, I was wrong.
           I remember Ashley bursting into my office when she escaped like it happened 5 minutes ago.  I can picture her, terrified and bloody.  There are some days that I cannot get the image out of my head.  I remember exactly how I felt….and to this day it rocks me to my core.  I felt an extreme and immense love for my wife.  I literally felt Jesus calm my soul, and the one thing that I cared about was making sure that Ashley was okay, and that I was doing everything I could to take care of her.  I can honestly tell you that in that moment I had no anger within myself.  None.  My coworkers tell me that I amazed them with the way that I cared for Ashley.  They said that they would have gone after the man.  They said they would have killed him.  A year ago, I probably would have told you the same.  I had no idea how to take into account just how powerful the love that Christ has bestowed upon us is.  There was no room for me to have hate.  My wife is part of me, and she was broken, so I was broken.
       The day, and weeks to come, continued on in a blur.  We were blessed to have good friends come to the hospital, and Ashley’s sisters joined us that night.  Ashley has spoken of this, but what I will say is that I am extremely grateful.  We both felt more loved in that time than I can ever remember feeling loved.  Over the next weeks I hardly left Ashley’s side.  I served her as much I possibly could, but she was asleep a lot.  This gave me a lot of time to think.
          I honestly struggled greatly through this time.  I felt extremely guilty.  I am her husband.  I am supposed to be her protector.  She was on the same property as me, experiencing the worst thing I can imagine, and I had no idea.  I wrestled with this relentlessly, and sometimes still do.  In my mind, I had failed her so greatly.  What I had to come to grips with is that God is a good God, and that He loves Ashley far more than I do.  I realized how extremely limited I am, and how much better at protecting Ashley than I am.  It is honestly a miracle that she is alive now, and I know it is purely because God was protecting her all the way through.  God is very gracious and revealed more truths to me every day.  I really feel like I learned a lot of what it is to be a husband in this time.  I was a proud man before.  I thought that I was a great servant and a great protector for my wife.  I thought I had it all together.  God has used this time to grow me greatly, and I still have a long way to go.
I honestly do not have words to adequately describe the pain and trials involved over these months.  As a husband, it has been an incredibly hard journey.  Even though nothing physically happened to me, I feel as though I have been on the brink of death.  I would give anything, and everything, to take this pain away from her.  The fact of the matter is I cannot do that.  This experience has helped me so much to understand the love that Jesus has for his Church.  I understand more now what it means when Jesus calls husband to lay down their lives and serve their wives.  I can only do this by His power.  I have to trust and rely on Him every single second of every day.
           Almost every day, I have to leave Ashley and go to work.  Every day, lingering in the corner of my mind, is a crippling fear.  I realize that something terrible could happen again at any instant.  However, every day God gives me the strength and ability to trust in him, and to put Ashley in His hands.  He gives me the strength to be the leader that I am called to be, and to point her towards Jesus.
          Writing this today, I can tell you happily that a year ago I was very misguided.  I had a very small view of God.  What I have learned is that God’s grace is sufficient to get us through any trial that life may throw our way.  I have learned the peace and love of God in ways that I could not have imagined.  I can tell you that Ashley and I both have complete forgiveness for the man that did this, which can only come from the Holy Spirit.  I have learned what it is to be a servant, and to love my wife.  Being Ashley’s husband is my greatest privilege, and I thank Jesus that He has let me take this role.

Friday, 22 March 2013

A Broken Theology

           I've always considered myself of having a solid theology, a good understanding of the attributes of God. I know that He is faithful, omnipotent, sovereign, holy, full of goodness and mercy, and the list could go on. It's easy to say good theology  and to speak of these attributes of God when all is well in your life. Its also easy when things are going wrong in a friend or family members life. We are always ready to throw Bible verses and cliches their way so that way we can pat ourselves on the back and feel like we have offered something hopeful without truly listening or investing into that person. This is how I have operated so many times over the years with people I know.
          Over the past 6 months God has been breaking my theology down in a way of challenging/forcing me to stop "saying" things but to dig deeper and truly believe them as truth in my own life and circumstances. This has not been easy. I absolutely believe and know that God uses suffering in the lives of his followers to bring glory to Himself and the kingdom. I read the Bible and see the lives of the apostles and how their lives represent lives of suffering. However when suffering heads my way, I recoil. I am confused, hurt, and left feeling abandoned by God. How can this be??
           When I was attacked in September I remember my thoughts throughout that experience. Through the struggle and fighting, I can remember specifically calling on God and feeling sure that He would rescue me from this experience without rape occurring  I truly was confident that God would allow certain things to happen to me for a specific reason, BUT he would never allow "that" to happen. Rape was too awful of a thing and God would never allow a daughter of His to experience something such as that. My theology during the attack was challenged and broken. He did allow such a thing to happen and I struggled with that ever since.  When I look back at my understanding of what God would allow and would not allow, I realize how incredible foolish I was. There are no promises of such things in His word. He promises to give us grace, peace, and love to endure difficult situations but not to escape them.
                I was faced with this challenge once again in the past two weeks. I had recently found out I was pregnant. My husband and I were ecstatic. We wept with joy when we heard the good news. I had felt it was a gift from God to help with the healing from September  In fact from the day I learned I was expecting all symptoms of PTSD that I had been experiencing had faded and were replaced with a wonderful joy! A few weeks later I started to have major complications and fear set in. Something was definitely wrong. We went to the ER and they diagnosed me with a threatened miscarriage, but said that it was not confirmed yet. It could go either way. So for one week we lived with the statistics, 50% chance our baby would live or 50% chance it would not. Dan and I prayed fervently and once again my "me-centered" theology began to take over. We have experienced so much pain and suffering already, God surely would not add to that now. Once again that theology was broken and we lost our little baby. Devastation came swiftly. Pain again? Really Lord? Haven't we endured enough? Why can't I catch a break? Do you have it out for me? All of these thoughts filled my mind. My brain knows that its a broken theology, but my heart is breaking at the same time.
           We have a problem when we "know" who God is in a objective point of view yet when it comes to our life, our theology all of sudden changes with our circumstances. This is extremely dangerous for our faith, yet I am so guilty of this. Who am I, to try to tell God what He should or should not allow in my life? I know He is sovereign, but am i trusting in that? I know that He is faithful, but am I acting on that? I know that He is good, but am I still believing that when His goodness looks different than mine?
          I read this quote by John Piper yesterday..... Jesus Christ is mightily loving his people with an omnipotent, moment by moment love that does not always rescue us from calamity but preserves us for everlasting joy in his presence even through suffering and death. We must hold onto this! Our lives are truly just vapors compared to an eternity spent with Him. Revelation tells us that one day God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more pain or sorrow. This is where we can find joy in our pain here in on earth. We do have a hope in Jesus Christ. I must have a firm grip on His love for me, so that it does not shift when calamity comes my way.

Friday, 15 February 2013

We Need Each Other

         This morning I received a text message from my mother asking me to pray for a missionary family who lives near my hometown. She said yesterday, Valentine's Day, a man came into their house and shot and killed the wife and mother of three young children. I immediately was crushed and heartbroken. Such a tragedy! I understand that God is sovereign and in control of all things, but sometimes its difficult to grasp when things like this happen. My thoughts immediately went to when I was attacked. This story could easily have been my story. I began to question God. Why didn't the man who attacked me bring a gun? Why was I allowed to survive such an ordeal but this mother of three young children was not? Emotions overwhelmed me, and I began to think about the pain that this family must be going through today. What will bring them peace? 
        My mind was all over the place this morning but finally God rested it in these thoughts. What brought me through my time of great trial? First of all it was the amazing grace of Jesus. Secondly, it was the love, prayers and support from family, friends and the Christian community. I am still completely and utterly overwhelmed when I think about the amount of love, prayers and support I received in the first few weeks afterwards.I got an outpouring of visitors, flower bouquets, packages, cards, emails and text messages from people all over the world. What was even more humbling that many of them were from people I had never met, but who had heard my story one way or another. Why would all these people care about me? Who was I in the scheme of things? I felt so unworthy of all of the affection I was receiving. Despite these feelings, I realized quickly that it was this that was carrying me through. For the first time in my life I felt like I could actually "Feel" peoples prayers for me. I describe it as though I was riding on the prayers of others as they were carrying me up to the throne of our Father. It was the prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ that brought me into the Lord's presence. I knew there was really nothing that I could do at that time. I was still so physically weak, I barely had any energy to pray or read the Bible yet my relationship with Jesus was stronger than ever. I felt so LOVED. 
       We are reminded over and over again in God's word about the importance of community in our lives. We were not meant to be alone in this world. We are created to desire and have  relationships. We are meant to encourage and love each other sacrificially. So often there are people around us that are hurting and we have no idea. How often do we stop and ask each other how we can pray for each other? I realize I am guilty in so many areas surrounding this. Recently,  my symptoms of PTSD have increased dramatically. I have been struggling for awhile in silence. I have friends, family, and a good church community, yet my pride keeps me from wanting to be vulnerable. My husband has been gently counseling me to be more open with others and share my struggles. It's easier to just tell people the usual "fine" answer when they ask how things are going in our lives, however it's more difficult when you feel alone in your pain. I know and have experienced the power of others praying for me and giving me encouragement, yet I still find it difficult to be honest and open. Why is this? I believe that Satan wants us to be isolated and alone in our faith. If he can disconnect us from others he can more easily attack us. 
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A Person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

         Let us take this as a lesson to come along side those who are struggling and alone in their faith.  Let us also be more open ourselves with our own struggles and ask for help when we need to. This is not weakness or failure but this is where we gain strength.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Power of the Testimony.


         Someone recommended to me to read the autobiography of Helen Roseveare as an encouragement to me. I am blown away by this woman's story and perseverance.  She was a medical  missionary to the Belgian Congo (DRC  today) in the 1960's and was kidnapped by rebel soldiers, beaten and brutally raped. She escaped and returned to the Congo a year later to serve the people who had persecuted her. What an incredible testimony this woman has. Her story has inspired me in unimaginable ways. As I read her story I found several similarities to my own story. It was if she was speaking right to my own heart. In her book, she says she felt like God spoke to her and said this " Can you thank me for trusting you with this experience, even if I never tell you why?" This question is powerful and I feel as if God has asked me the same question. He has trusted me with this experience of being a victim of assault and rape, and now how am I going to respond? Am I being a good steward of it? 
            I recently completed my biblical counseling sessions. At the beginning of my sessions, I had the notion or idea that  my healing would be 100% complete by the end of the sessions. I thought I would "be over" the suffering and move on with my life. It was as if I thought there was a time limit to my pain and the time expired when counseling ceased. This was not true. In fact the pain is as real as ever. I lay awake at night with memories haunting me. Every day I am triggered with a flashback of a painful experience. I cry out to Jesus and ask Him when this will be over?! When will a day pass without moments of fear and anxiety?
          I have recently realized that I am asking all the wrong questions. I already know the pain is for a purpose and that God is teaching me and leading me closer to His heart through all of this. So why not stop asking "when" and start asking "how"?  How Lord can I turn my fear into a deep trust in your Sovereignty?    How Lord do I use this pain for your glory?  How Lord can I encourage others in their faith? When I begin to ask "how" the answers flow and healing comes. I have discovered that the more I share my testimony with others and someone is encouraged or uplifted in their faith, the more strength I receive to keep on going. 
         Jesus is our perfect example of how to submit to suffering. He laid down His life for us while we were yet sinners. After Jesus' resurrection, He appears to Thomas who is doubting the validity of the testimony of others. What does Jesus do? He shows Thomas his wounds where the nails and sword had pierced him. He showed him the scars of his suffering and pain so that Thomas' faith would be increased. This is our example. We are all trusted with painful experiences in our lives. Many times it is more comfortable to hide them and bury them instead of exposing them to the world. However God gets the glory far more when we are vulnerable and show the scars of the past. We can see the victory and healing that God brings along side of the current painful situations that He is still redeeming. The Hebrew word for testimony comes from a root word that means "to repeat or to do again". When we share our testimony with others we are declaring that God is faithful and can do the same miraculous things in the lives of others. 
I started this blog as a way to "show my scars".  My desire is be a willing vessel and be used however God sees fit.  2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 says Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.   Even though there are still "hard days', the comfort I have received from Jesus is indescribable. I would be lost with Him. My heart breaks the millions of women around the world who experience abuse daily without any relationship with the Great Healer and Restorer. May God use my testimony to bring about his healing and restoration in someone else's life. 


Monday, 7 January 2013

A New Year Brings Expectation

A new year brings new hopes, new dreams, new anticipations about what this year may hold for us. We all look expectantly at the year 2013 and pray that its our best yet. Resolutions are made in attempts to "do better' this year. We hope for great blessings, peace and prosperity. We hope for our families to be loved deeper, protected and comforted more than ever. We pray away any suffering that might touch us or our loved ones. This is natural. This is to be expected of our human nature. Who would look expectantly for trials and hardships that may befall them in the coming year?  However all of us as believers of Jesus Christ are called to a life of pain and suffering. It makes us become more like our beloved Savior. So even though the trials are painful, we should be expecting them to come into our lives to mold us and change us for His glory.
I Peter 4:12-13 says
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

       As I refect on the year 2012, I can see the ways that God was drawing me closer to Himself. He called me to shed so many identities and accomplishments I had built up for myself. He asked me to follow Him at all costs. It was the hardest year of my life, yet I grew closer to Him than any other year. I think all of us can look at our lives and find that during the hardest times was the times we drew closer to our heavenly Father. So these moments of pain and heartache may not be something we look forward to, however we can expect them to happen and realize that we are in His hands and being drawn closer to Him.  

         In late August of this past year, I found myself in a time of prayer with the Lord. I had watched a video of Pastor Matt Chandler and his response when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He talked about Hebrews 11 and the great heroes of faith.  In that chapter, the author speaks of those who had great victories and triumphs in their lives but quickly switches to those who were persecuted and suffered for the the name of Christ. He says the world was not worthy of them. The Holy Spirit pierced my soul. My life so far was full of good things, nice home, nice job, nice family, ect. I had a great amount of favor and blessing being poured out. I had never endured any great sufferings. I fell on my knees that summer afternoon and cried out that God would consider me worthy to suffer for his name. That when faced with a trial I would glorify him and praise Him. That my life would be a testament to His sufferings and His redemptionI had no idea that just a few short weeks later, I would be assaulted in my Refugee Resource center barely surviving. 

         This experience has changed my life. I see suffering in a different light. I am sure not perfect and find myself at times wishing it would all just go away and God would take away the pain that still resides inside after 4 months. However, I must realize that this life I live is not for me. It is for Him. My life purpose is to become more like Jesus and he uses the pain and suffering for His glory. 
        I recently heard a pastor preach that the safest place to be is in God's will. I cringed as he taught that physical protection comes from being in God's will and danger and suffering comes from being outside of the presence of God. This is completely anti-biblical, in fact the gospels teach us the complete opposite message.  It seems the more you become like Christ the more of his sufferings you will be counted worthy of.  Examples include: Every Disciple of Jesus, Stephen, the Apostle Paul, John the Baptist, and the millions of Christian martyrs around the world. 

I have no idea what the year 2013 holds for me or my family and friends. I can pray for a year of blessings and peace for us all. However I think what God truly wants us to pray is that we will become more and more like Jesus this year no matter the cost. From my experience this is not an easy prayer and one to be taken lightly. We must trust in the sovereignty of our Lord.