Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm Not Much On My Own, But God...

I have been following a little girl on caringbridge...Kate McCrae. She has a brain tumor...she just turned six and, I have tell you, she is the most beautiful child I have ever laid eyes on. Her story...her mom's entries..they take me back. It's such a frightening place they're in, and she's just a baby. I can't imagine. I cannot imagine. Pray for this little girl. Google "Pray for Kate" for her website...

Last week, I told you I was going to share with you about my own unfaithfulness to my God, but first I have to start with my own salvation story. It's a simple, but special me anyway.

I remember as a child hearing my parents talk very often about this "Christian" word. It came up constantly, and I had not yet clued in to the fact that this word..."Christian"...had to do with the Jesus I was learning about in Sunday School. They talked about it passionately with their friends, and they seemed to really be defined by it in some way. So, at 8 years old, one evening in our family room I asked my dad, just in a conversational kind of way, "What does it feel like to be a Christian?"

He got a funny sort of look on his face.

I thought for a moment, as he looked over at my mother, that I had said something bad. Then, he got up, strode across the room, put his hand out, and said, "Well, let's go and talk about it." That night, kneeling on an old bench in my bedroom, my own father led me to Christ. Precious. I wish...more than anything...that I could tell you that from that moment on I led a life that honored God.

I can't.

You know, as I look back, the most frightening thing is that I never did anything that this world would consider out of line. And, honestly, I was a pretty tame teenager by the world's standards. There are two standards we operate by, and they are completely mutually exclusive. A worldly standard, and a biblical standard.

"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
-Matthew 6:24

The devil got ahold of me by blurring the lines of right and wrong, and who exactly my "god" was, and he made a fool of me in the process. I don't want this to be a confessional of my many sins, but I want you to know that I struggled profoundly for many years to overcome bondage that I had walked right into. Actually, I sort of strutted into it. It came in an attractive package but, in the end, it wrought years of regret for me. Still does, in fact, in a lot of ways.

I knew, probably beginning around 10 or so, that my folks were different. I know now that I was noticing they were "set apart." As in holy, sanctified...Christ living in them. At younger ages I didn't think much of it, but as I grew up it started to bother me. When you're a teenager, you just want to be like everybody else. My parents made that difficult. God bless them! My "mess" started innocently enough, but eventually I was sneaking around and lying to my folks, rolling my eyes when they voiced their concerns...I was so young, what were they so worried about??? It was no big deal. But, before I knew it, years had passed and I felt powerless to do anything to get away from what had become an idol to me. It haunted me...and ridiculed me. It made such a fool of me. I still wince when I think on it.

By my mid-20's, I was feeling all used up inside and so I was trying to walk up a down escalator and had been for nearly 10 years. Something had to give, and I knew it had to be bigger than me. I was getting a good taste of the permissive will of God...versus the PERFECT will of God. Big difference. Big. For years I had known God was unhappy with the life I was determined to lead. He had, very patiently, been giving me hints and even small amounts of I suppose what you would consider discipline...consequences...along the way. Conviction was happening, but I was ignoring it. That had all begun to increase both in frequency and severity. I had been "back in church" for a couple of years at this point and I was growing in the Lord, but I had this one particular idol that reared it's ugly head now and again. It's almost like when it came around, I was another person...turned into the worst version of myself. I had not dealt with it...I wanted to keep that one to myself. The evening that it all came to head, I remember driving home with so much regret and shame over it that I could barely hold my head up, as a thunderstorm absolutely raged around me. It was late when I walked in the the early morning hours...and I came face to face with my father.

You want to get my attention about something...involve my dad.

Through a crazy set of events, my dad had been clued in on my whereabouts. And, even though I was no child at this point...I am still his child, and he was ready to deal with me. It was rock-bottom. I saw in my dad's face, yes, some anger...but mostly worry and pain and (shutter) disappointment. I fell in his arms and sobbed and sobbed, confessing to him what I was guilty of. Again, from a worldly perspective, there was nothing terribly wrong with what I was doing...but my dad's perspective is not worldly. It's biblical. And I was miserable because when I accepted Christ I became NOT OF THIS WORLD. I couldn't seem to "just be like everyone else" for a reason...I wasn't everyone else. I'm not everyone else. Christ lives in me.

My father was disappointed and hurt, but incredibly loving about the situation. He gathered me up in his arms and let me know we would get through it...together. I hated to let him see that part of me. I wanted to be perfect for him. And for Him. I see now, it's why Jesus came. It's the only way we can be perfect before a Holy God.

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."
-Romans 3:22

We can't do this without Him! We have GARBAGE. Heck, I grew up in the Christian version of the Cleaver family and this lost world messed me up something fierce. We have to come to Him WITH our garbage...and He will work it all out as we surrender ourselves to Him. In His will and for His glory. So often we think we have to get "clean" before we go to Him..., but, hear me very clearly when I say this, HE does the cleansing. If we try and clean ourselves up in your own strength, all we wind up with is more dirt and a bitter heart. Believe me...I know.

That night, with my dad and the thunderstorm, was a turning point for me. I became obedient to some very specific things God had been calling on me to do for some time...and with that obedience came a freedom I cannot begin to explain. I have never once looked back. And that's the honest truth. I praise God.

That surrender...that what He's looking for. Turning my back on my own stubborn ideas of what would make me happy was the catalyst my walk with God was looking for. Simple obedience. I'm not here to tell you I haven't sinned since. I have and will again...but I found a place in my walk with Him that I recognize what sin does to it binds me. It's like bricks on my wings. And I want to FLY...wherever His wind takes me. That's where I want to go! He changed me. He changed my "want-to's." He changed my desires! Who better to show me my true desires than my Maker and Builder Himself...

I know who I was 10 years ago, trying to run my own life. I wasn't much. I knew it, even if I fooled those around me. I know who I am today, surrendered to my God. It's more than I could ever accomplish on my own, even with all my trying. And we're going places! The difference?

I turned my back on myself...and walked His way.

The way to Ephraim.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

10 lbs....

Last week, I had dinner with a couple of girlfriends I grew up with in Albemarle. Sushi and ice cream always makes for a good time, but the laughter and conversation made it a GREAT time! Sometimes, things like that help to align me...remind me of who I am and what I'm about. I was so blessed by these girls, and the beautiful women they have turned into. They've got good heads on their shoulders, they're sweet as peach ice cream, and they're just REAL. I love real people! Really, because I can feel free to just be real right back, you know? I'm sort of over putting on's so 5 years ago for me. ;) It takes some confidence, though. Not in my Lord. I know that. Anyway, one of them asked me about the blog...what it was about...where the emails that I often start with originated...just wanted clarification on the story and how it all went down. It occurred to me that there may be a lot of you who need that, so I'm going to spend the next few posts sharing my testimony.

As I've shared before, my childhood was as close to perfect as this old world can offer. There were hiccups, but no major drama. My mom and my dad did their very best to honor God's model of a family, and we were just flat out better for it. My brother's and I are not perfect...but we know Truth. Because we were taught. At home, and at...

Sunday School.

I can of my earliest memories, actually...sitting in 5 year old Sunday School and, while I was supposed to be praying with my eyes closed, I was staring down at my white patent leather Mary Jane's. They were hot. (My obsession with footwear came at a very young age.) However, even though I was staring at my shoes, I was talking to Jesus. I can remember the prayer of that sweet baby girl almost word for word. I told God that I wanted a baby...right then. I knew I was too little to be pregnant, but I was sure I could handle it and people wouldn't think it so strange once they saw what a good mother I was. I promise you...I'm making none of this up. Pinkie swear! you can imagine...I didn't have a baby. BUT, less than a year mother did. Yes she did. Alexander Tyler Sullivan. Born May 14, 1983 and weighing in at over 10 lbs. They all called him a "surprise," but he was no surprise to me at all. That was my baby. And at 26 years old...he still is.

I think back on that now, and I get a lump in my throat and tears fill my eyes. Even in 1982, God knew what my future held. I imagine Him looking down on that little child praying that naive little prayer, and weeping for the heartbreak He knew she would face in 25 short years...when she lost the only brother she had...and He had mercy on me. On my family. That little baby...put his arms around me and carried me out of the hospital room where our older brother lost his battle with cancer on October 1, 2006. He is an instrument of healing to me straight from God. And that prayer that I remember from all those years ago...a testimony of the never-ending faithfulness of my God.

Next week...we'll talk about MY unfaithfulness...


But, God...

"...if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown himself." - 2 Timothy 2:13

This is my story of Ephraim.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Chicken Little

So...I know it's been more than a week since I wrote. I should have included in my "weekly pledge" that church holidays are an exception...because my hair is usually on fire around Christmas and Easter.

Give a girl a break. ;)

I was in Charleston this weekend with my folks...I cannot believe, considering what went down for us in Charleston on Easter of 2006, that my parents actually live there now. Can I tell you? We had the greatest weekend! Low key, family time, no drama or tears (at least loud tears), Mom went to church on Easter Sunday for the first time since 2006...we're settling in to ourselves again. Praise God! Still can't wait to hang with the Sullivan 5 again, though. That's one day I look so forward to. Me, Dad. Mom, Alex, Chad...and Jesus, too! It's almost too much to stand I get so excited thinking about it!!!

Yes. I'm a dork. A Jesus dork. Live with it.

Do you have stuff...not public stuff...private stuff...that stresses you? Me, too. To make matters worse, I sorta have "Chicken Little tendencies." Do ya'll understand this? You know, I will pronounce the sky is falling...when in reality only one little piece of it fell. God has had to teach me, largely guessed it...Chad's illness, that all He asks me to deal with is my present reality.

I take this to extremes.

I live life in 24 hour increments. I've talked on this before, but it's so huge to me. It has been a learned habit...I was NOT born with this. So...when something unsettling and a little scary showed up on my doorstep this morning, I have learned to look it over, consider it, find some calm, talking with God all the while or none of the previously mentioned steps would have occurred...and then I make the best decision I can on what I HAVE TO make a decision on at that moment, in my present reality. Nothing more. I don't make decisions based on things that have not happened yet...what some of us like to call "preparation," but in my world I get out of hand with that and wind up in a place called "manipulation." Not that preparation is always a bad thing...I just don't know when to stop. Manipulation ensues.

I'm special, and a little remedial. The Lord is patient with me.

So, anyway, God has taught me to step back and assess the reality He has placed me in, and then He and I decide ONLY the next step I MUST take. This is incredibly hard to describe, but it basically keeps me from panicking (which I am a little bit prone to do) and, most importantly, it keeps me from taking matters into my own hands...which, 9 times out of 10, produced the mess I'm in to begin with.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
Psalm 40:1

I'll be in Albemarle this weekend sharing my testimony with the folks at Bethany United Methodist Church on Sunday morning. Keep me in your prayers over that.

Is there any way I can pray for you? I wish you would let me know...

Hugs...all the way to Ephraim, friends!