About three weeks ago I went with the high school youth from our church on their retreat. I was asked to share just a bit of my story. The theme for the weekend was about God being REAL. I thought I would just post what I shared, here at The Perch, so that I would have a record of it. (And for those of you who might be reading this & are familiar with my story....I AM A YOUTH GROUP LEADER AGAIN!! God is so amazing!!)
Last summer I was out to dinner with my daughter Ellie and my niece Emma. We were talking about tattoos and I said that I wanted to get the word Shalom on the inside of my wrist written in Hebrew. When my niece asked why, I explained that the true meaning of Shalom was more than peace…. it means COMPLETE peace…. nothing missing, nothing broken.
Ellie looked at me, laughed and said something like “well why would you get that…. so much is missing and broken”. I remember telling her that that was exactly why I wanted to get it. So much in my life seemed “broken” but GOD was the complete peace and the one giving my life wholeness without anything missing or broken.
I believed in God at a very young age. Asking Him to be my Lord and Savior. The asking and the believing was just the beginning. And unfortunately for many years that was all it was. I didn’t go deeper. I didn’t really KNOW God. I spent many years angry & disappointed because I thought He must not really love me, He must not really listen to my prayers….He had left me alone (or so I thought)
When I was a young girl my dad got cancer. I prayed that God would make my daddy better. But my dad died. Then in 6th grade my mom remarried and I moved to a new state away from all my friends and all that I called home. Just a few years later I entered high school and decided now was the time to have fun. Make my own rules. Do what I wanted whether it was against all I’d been taught or not!! And I did it really well!!
MANY years later after I had kids, I decided that maybe there was more to this relationship with God thing and started going to Bible studies. I learned a lot and felt like I was beginning to understand more about how God works in our lives. I made a lot of changes in my life and felt like God really was at the center of my life finally.
And then…. my life took another hit. 6 years ago I became very ill. It was not a life threatening illness but it forever altered my life. For the first year and a half, I was homebound. Usually bed-ridden. I had difficulty walking, couldn’t drive, was dependent on others to do everything for our family. In the midst of that, my husband decided to leave our family. Ellie and David were just 12 and 15. I could NOT believe that God was allowing this. But I clung to one particular verse in the Bible…Isaiah 61:3. Part of that verse says that God will bring beauty from ashes. That means that God will take the junk and bring beauty from it. He could take my illness and bring beauty from it. He could take my divorce and bring beauty from it. He could take my kids’ heartache and bring beauty from it.
Along the way I have had some really bad attitudes, spent time in the pit of depression, questioned God, chosen some sinful behaviors…. But God has never left my side. Never given up on me. Never stopped loving me. Life has been hard. It’s tough being a single mom and especially a single mom who is sick. God provided! Whether it was people coming alongside us. Or finances. Or meals. People driving my kids everywhere. God cared about every detail of our lives and made himself very real to us! Through this entire struggle I have come to know God in a way I never would have. I can honestly say that I am grateful for the ashes because I never would have known God’s power and God’s unfailing love like I do now!!
He is real. His love is real. His forgiveness is real. His ways are always perfect. He never makes a mistake. He never takes his eyes off me. He really does bring beauty from the ashes.
And as for that tattoo…