Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Enjoying some days off!!!

We spent some time geo caching, picnicking, and consuming calories. Will took the pictures this time because he has the better smartphone....

We missed getting pictures of the actual geo caches or the really funny birds taking a bath in the water fountain at the park.

My Testimony Part 3: Can anyone understand me?

PART ONE HERE: where-it-all-began-part-1
PART TWO HERE: along-for-ride
Please note that the only glory I want to bring is to God. I am so thankful that He has allowed me to be where I am today. This series is going to serve 2 purposes.
 1. To glorify God, I feel like I need to tell it without shame and  
2. Hopefully to help someone come back, or decide to come, or decide not to go. 

The following words are extremely hard to publish, and I know they will get harder, but here they are- from my heart:
Have you ever heard a song and the melody and the lyrics took you back to a time and a place the last time you heard it? Or maybe the 1st time you heard the song, you stopped and listened, and now you remember the feeling in your heart.

Am I the only person this happens to? I think I could write a whole book and it would composed of just lyrics, and it would describe my life completely. However I am not sure I can remember them all! Just as some memories I have held have faded away, so have these lyrics. One thing that has not changed is the effect that music has always held on my life. As our Pastor preached last week, music has an effect on everyone! What you listen to changes who you become.

As I gave into peer pressure at the end of my last post, I also consistently listened to music that was not Godly, and was very worldly. In fact, looking back I think that my love or rather lust for the wrong kinds of music, was what started the drift away. Every time that I returned, the songs played at the altar of repentance were all that more precious to me! I stood in one of these altars at a church camp, knowing I would soon move to the city of sin. I dedicated my life again to Him, knowing that I could be a soul winner for Him!

I did have the honor of showing a dear friend the Truth, and she heard and accepted the salvation message of Acts 2:38. I went through a trial, and received a tremendous healing. (that part of my testimony is told here: i-had-hole-in-my-foot) However, as I would soon find out, at the end of each victory, is a very big test. I remember bawling in the altar, praying daily, reading my bible, and I remember slowly letting it all slip away. I started listening to the radio, singing the lyrics of all the top artists, thinking I was just so cool. Another friend and I fed off of one another. When I could have lifted her up, or she could have told me to cut it out and turn it off, we helped bring each other down, and we didn't even fully realize what the end results would be.

At this point, the bitterness had grown so deep in my heart, I already felt like I was too far gone. I didn't know what I wanted, but all desire for holiness was gone. I had no idea how far I gone into the trap of sin. Oh, if someone had only told me what was going to happen, or if I had a watcher for my soul! Alas, no ifs! Just Thanks to God for where I am today.

I wrote a short story for a school project when I was 16. The events that took place happened when I was 14.

Before the story I wrote begins:

(I am going to change the name of my friend to Karen, I have since lost touch with her)

Karen and I planned to go to a service with our youth group. All day we had been listening to music (Eminem, various popular boy bands, etc) She brought scissors in her bag, "Just in case." Remember, this was a very short journey on this spiral downward! No one really knew that we had backslidden so far already in our hearts! It turns out, that no one else in the youth group could make it, so it was just us. We both wore our hair parted, and straight, and asked for many bathroom stops so that each time we could get more red bulls, and more money out of the ATM.

I remember the service going on, and the presence of God so strong, but it felt like I was an outsider. I felt like I could not break away and get to the center of His presence again! I remember thinking that I would never feel it again, so why not just leave? I wouldn't have the freedom and the liberty to worship, so why should I try! I made my decision. Karen and I got up and walked out.

We went into the bathroom and cut each others hair. Again, I felt like I had been set down. I no longer had the protection of my Father's arms. Through the spirit of rebellion we had let go of so much. As we walked back into that service, I felt like a hopeless cause. No one would ever understand. How could they? No one would ever love me again. Karen and I had our hair pulled back, hoping no one would notice. We found out we were invited to the minister's dinner, and our hearts sank! We told our youth Pastor what happened, and let down our hair. This began our road of mercy and forgiveness.

All the way home, we again kept stopping for red bulls, and for money out of the ATM.

Here is where the short story I wrote for school begins:

Lost and Found: A True Story

I wake out of a dead sleep, not knowing what awoke me, at 5 am. Still not fully awake and express the first thought that came to my mind; "We gotta go!" We both scurry down the hallway and pause at the office door. There is a light coming from my parents' bedroom. Are they awake? Can we grab our backpacks from the living room? "Let's just go," I whisper. We go through the office and out on to the front porch. The screen door shuts with a bang, so we start to run. We run around the block, both of us running faster than we have ever ran before. We stop for a minute, I am thinking my lungs will burst, and suddenly realize how cold I am. Its February 1st, and I am wearing a thin long-sleeved t-shirt. Karen was the smart one, who's wearing a thick leather jacket, but like mine, her pajama pants are thin. 

We start running again, and as the neighborhood wakes up, we have to duck, and sometimes jump behind or under a bush, car or even just into someone's yard. I lived in a gated community, and as security slowed down by the bush we were behind, we both realized we had never been this scared before. We run to the second entrance and right before we get there, I hear the screams of a mother who has just lost her baby. "Laura! LAAAAAURA! Lau-" then no more, just me imagining her sobs. We keep going, now on Nellis Blvd, a six-lane road in Las Vegas. We cross and then enter another neighborhood. Then we make a stop, because all the red bulls from the night before catch up with me, and I leave most of them in someone's driveway. 

We finally make it to the bus stop we want to get to, and as we wait, I discreetly dig through my wad of money in my pockets for some change. We both still can't believe I am carrying almost one grand in my pockets, small change and bills in one pocket, big bills and my cell phone in the other. Up until this point, I had the complete trust of a family member, who stored some savings in my bank account. Suddenly all the jokes I had made about spending that money was haunting me in my worst nightmare. While we still are waiting, my cell phone rings, breaking the stillness of the morning in a big city that never sleeps. My heart stops, I don't answer, it's Karen's dad. 

When we finally board the bus, an older guy with lots of bling, eyes us and gives us the once-over. We suddenly wonder if we are in for more than we bargained for. We ride the bus line to the end in the worst part of Las Vegas, and walk from the bus station to the nearest Casino, and get into a taxi. We give the guy a story about our brother dying, (another lie, and with each one they get easier and easier) and tell him to hurry to get us to the airport. We go inside and go the counter to pay for our tickets that Karen's boyfriend reserved. (He too, walked down a similar path of destruction, and although I never knew his whole story, I know he played both parts well. One part of a aspiring preacher, and one of a thug) I suddenly feel like every security guard and adult is watching as I count out almost $500 in cash to the agent. Her eyebrows raised, but she let us go. Now for a 3-hour wait for the plane. 

We both thought we wouldn't make it. I was hoping we wouldn't be able to leave. So many times, I thought of sneaking away and making a call. A part of me wanted to scream at everyone waiting with us: "Do you understand what you are letting us do?" We watched in horror as everyone crowded the televisions as news broke that the Space Shuttle Columbia had exploded and seven people died. We sighed with guilty relief, to know that our faces were not displayed on the screens!

Our plane is finally called, and we get in line to board, still fully expecting any moment to get escorted away. There's an excitement when we reach our seats on the plane. We both wonder who knows, who cares, who doesn't. We both try to hold on to the attitude that we do not care, but we do. We do. As the plane lifts off the ground, not only are we leaving, but my hopes, my dreams, my plans for my entire life seem to soar away. We try to sleep, and maybe we did a little. Our plane touches down in St. Louis, MO and we go meet Karen's boyfriend. Then we hit the stores for a shopping spree, since we left with only the clothes on our back, which were only pajamas. Karen's boyfriend takes us to a place he has arranged to stay, (which was a backslidder's home). We had no idea what kind of place it really was. 

(To Be Continued)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I almost didn't go to church tonight.

I strongly considered it. Or tried to find something that would make sense for me going exactly how I was. ( cleaning house and heat: it wasnt pretty)
You see there was a very big obstacle in my way. I couldn't brush my teeth or comb my hair. (No not the duffle bag that I still haven't found a home for. No one sees it, unless I post pictures of it on the internet. Don't judge. )
For some of you this may seem funny but not to me. Ok maybe a little bit. But not to Bentley either, he just blows on it and said, "I touched it!"

Why do we let such big fears stand in our way sometimes? When really they are just little things that we can jump over? ( which I did, and made a big mess and a mad dash out of my bathroom)

God is bigger than all our problems, but sometimes we are too! Of course, God can fix it all, but we are made to be more than conquerors too!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fun at the fair!

My breath was taken away as I was convinced to let my little BABY boy
go down the zipline.
My heart pounded as he crawled into a big beach ball and floated on water.
And both happened as he rode a pony for the first time!
From yelling CHURRO to YAwhatho! From the 1 week old baby to the cute little old man...
From the dear person with downs syndrome, to the 500 people  that didn't speak my language ...
From the first time I heard "I'm going home", to the final time I got to say it.
From the first dollar to the last.
With every breath, every yawn, every sigh, every laugh and every belly laugh,  let our worship, let our praise be lifted up. Every pain, every stain is all worth it. Thank you Jesus for blessing our church food booth and bringing in profits for the church! Our profits so far are higher than ever!!!
Above all else Thank You Jesus for letting us all be a witness for you.
Thank you for allowing us to break YOUR bread, letting me handle YOUR money, and letting us serve those you care about most: souls that need you!
I stand in awe again of how good God is! God is truly working in Porterville.

See MORE pics of the fair at our incredible church website:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Little Preacher Man

Granna and Grandpa Carlos came to visit! Granpa Carlos made Bentley quite the impressive suit of armor!

Then it was off to church and all dressed up!!

And finally everyone came over for Dinner and Bro. Bentley preached a bit, but didn't get too many listners since the adults were busy talking. Of course after everyone left, he had quite the impressive sermon and special song! It was ok if no one was here, he set up his animals to listen and PRAISE!

My Testimony Part 2: Along for The Ride

PART ONE HERE: where-it-all-began-part-1
Please note that the only glory I want to bring is to God. I am so thankful that He has allowed me to be where I am today. This series is going to serve 2 purposes.
 1. To glorify God, I feel like I need to tell it without shame and  
2. Hopefully to help someone come back, or decide to come, or decide not to go. 

The following words are extremely hard to publish, and I know they will get harder, but here they are- from my heart:

Serving God is not an even thing. Just as I (and most people I know) do not wake up every day extremely bubbly and happy, spiritually I do not wake up every day happy as well. Some days are so exciting to see what God has in store next, some days are spend trying to overcome fear and doubts. All days living for God are better than anything that world has to offer. ANYthing.

 Picture a young girl who is overweight, wears glasses, sticks out in all her school pictures as a big dork, has a last name that sounds like a food, and "OH!" she wears skirts all the time, and never ever cuts her hair. That girl was me. (I am not going to say "Oh woe is me." I am just trying to paint a picture of what happened.) Every person has trials, and peer pressure never goes away. (Just ask me how many times my PEERS have PRESSURED me to go to Starbucks lately!) It gets much much worse when you enter the work force, believe me. But that part of the story comes later on. Back to this girl.

So she wears skirts and doesn't cut her hair, and she knows why, but its not in her heart. Others around her have found a devotion to God, and a way to worship Him, that is so peculiar, it is unlike how most other religions worship. She counts the days until school is over for good, and counts the hours everyday until she can go home. Some days she counts the taunts and the jeers and some days gets called ugly, fat, etc over 15 times a day. She tries to make light of the taunts, but somehow that makes it worse, and fuels the fire of her tormentors. She finds solace at church and strives to find a daily prayer life. The push and pull is never ending. One week she is on fire for God, willing to tell all her peers that she meets about the God she serves. The next week she hits rock bottom when she gives in to peer pressure and says a bad word, or hangs out with the wrong crowd again. Every day is a uphill battle to climb, but every few months she falls to the bottom.

There's a boy that suddenly think's she is cool! He notices her! He promises her that she will be popular and in the in crowd, if she will just spend some time with him. Of course she can't tell anyone, not yet... But then he tells everyone what kind of friend she is and what she has done. There she is at rock bottom again.

There's a girl that offers her a drink on the way to school. She refuses. One day she accepts. And thank God, she never gets completely hooked.

There's a camp or a retreat, a special service, and she lays it all on the alter, determined to live for God, only she walks out those double doors and suddenly feels alone. Sometimes the mountain top experience lasts for days, months, a couple years at most. And then the world comes crashing down.
She starts a Bible Club, she meets a boy. She brings people to church, she is climbing higher everyday.
She tries on a pair of pants.

She cuts her hair.

And suddenly she realizes. She had never once been alone. Angels were surrounding her every day through every hallway, and sitting with her in every classroom. They were what gave her the strength to carry on, and God was with her always. He had her wrapped so tightly in His arms the whole time.

But when she cut her hair, she cut loose of all those ties. Suddenly she felt like God set her down and removed all protection she had. Suddenly- she really was totally and completely


~To Be Continued~