True Confessions of a Pastor’s Wife

Sometimes I don’t feel very spiritual…there, I said it. It’s true…off and on throughout our marriage, I’ve questioned whether what I’m doing is actually “advancing God’s Kingdom.”  Is it profitable, or should I do something else?

This week, June 29, Brad and I will celebrate 21 years of marriage. That number is CRAZY to me. We have served in every area imaginable at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Plainview, Texas.  I always knew I’d marry a pastor and that we would serve in a local church…but throughout the span of 21 years, I never imagined how my life would be challenged, how much I’d grow in my love for Christ and my love for others. Or that we’d find ourselves where we are today, leading and loving the most humble and giving people I’ve ever met.  And yet, in the middle of such a great life, I’ve continually found myself questioning my role.  Does what I’m doing matter?  Is it really enough for me to love Brad and serve him and our family?  Is it enough that I show up on Sundays and hug those I run into and pray for people God puts on my heart?  Too often I’ve felt like I could be doing more, and I’ve questioned whether I’m making a difference.  

God so graciously spoke His truth to my heart a few weeks ago concerning this issue. I was once again in my cycle of feeling unimportant and useless. I was reading in Malachi, and I came across the verses in 3:13-15:

‘Your words have been arrogant against Me,’ says the Lord. ‘Yet you say, “What have we spoken against You?” You have said, “It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the Lord of hosts? So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape.’

You see, after reading that I realized my words have been arrogant against God. Who am I to say my work isn’t enough, to question if what I’m doing is vain or profiting God’s Kingdom?  Brad and I, to the best of our ability, have prayed and listened to God’s direction. We’ve lived in such a way that our family is surrendered to Christ. And in this obedience life is found.  In this obedience God produces abundance.   I quickly repented for my arrogant words toward God and asked Him to renew my mind. 

I write this post not to get any accolades or reassurance to my place in the church, but to encourage you, the reader. 

I can’t help believing more people than just me have ever felt this way. I think in general women question their place and whether what they’re doing is making a difference, and what I want to say to you is yes!  Yes, it is!  When we are listening to the Holy Spirit and following His lead, what He’s asking us to do is not in vain. It is for a purpose. It’s to advance His Kingdom. 

Each diaper you change, each paper you grade, each dinner you make, each hug you give, each prayer you pray, each text of encouragement that you send, each word of affirmation you give to your husband or your child or your friend. It matters, it’s changing lives, it’s impacting this world for Christ, and it’s not in vain. 

And our service at church…wow, what an impact it’s making in our community.  Over 80% of our members serve in our church. That number is unheard of. I promise you, God sees where you’re giving, and He says it is not in vain.  

We just finished a week at our Catalyst Youth Camp. As I watched countless sponsors love and serve on over 140 of our teens, my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude, admiration, and appreciation.  

Each sponsor not only took a week’s worth of vacation, they also paid their own way to go to camp. It was a huge sacrifice and a huge commitment—one I understand and one I’ve embraced many times throughout the years.  The life of a Christian is one of sacrifice and commitment. It’s laying down one’s own agenda to love and serve others.  It’s something you don’t fully understand until you’ve fully surrendered to Christ and His word.  And this work, this way of living, this life of surrender is not done in vain. It’s done out of obedience, and it advances God’s Kingdom. 

So let’s keep being women who hear the voice of God and obey His calling, and let’s stay in a place of humility where we don’t question our calling, where we agree with God’s word, that what we’re doing is making a difference. It is changing this world for Christ. We all look different; our callings and careers are different. It’s the beauty of Christ. What a gift we are to this world.  

Lovingly,

Julie

This post was written by Julie Snellgrove. To read more about her, click here. 

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Honestly

Honestly, I never thought myself as much of a caregiver. Yes, I loved my ministry as a mom and wife, but that was in my wheelhouse. I was MADE for it!

Yet, God chose to stretch me.

In 2001, an elderly couple asked me and my husband to be their medical guardians. Their only child had been killed in 1997 at the age of 40. So, they chose us and we chose them. From that moment on, we were their ‘Smith kids.’

We sailed along for several years…no major hiccups. Even in their mid-70s, they were able to take care of themselves. I stayed in the wings, taking them to appointments, knowing their medical issues but leaving it up to them.

Then, in 2009, Mrs. Roberson was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The stretching I spoke of earlier, this is where it starts. The decision was made to fight it.  Since I’m a cancer survivor (that actually came in handy!), I knew the lingo and the cancer community in Lubbock. The race was on. Chemo, radiation, surgeries, colostomy, and the devastating side effects of all that. They looked to me for strength, guidance, and hands-on care.

Mr. Roberson wasn’t in good physical condition, so I learned quickly to love even though my flesh was saying ‘no’ when treating the chemo side effects and changing a colostomy bag. I learned to fight for her because, frankly, the elderly are often ignored. When I thought I had reached my limit I would rely on Psalm 71:9:

Do not cast me away when I’m old;  do not forsake me when my strength is gone.

Mrs. Roberson died in 2012. I had promised her she wouldn’t die alone, and that I would take care of Mr. Roberson. I kept those promises. I learned so much from her graciousness and strength in the battle. 

Mr. Roberson never left the nursing home after her death. Battling years of obesity, a bad heart, old and worn out joints that left him in agony, a slight addiction to pain meds, and many other issues…it often proved too much. Hard decisions legally fell to me and my husband. Decisions that were made somewhat easier by the promises we had made to Mr. Roberson: he wouldn’t die hurting, he wouldn’t die alone, and we would take care of him and fight for him.

He died this last November.

I’m so happy to have allowed myself to care for them. We were related by choice, not blood. After we had chosen each other as family, I came across this scripture in my prayers:

If anyone doesn’t provide for their family, he has denied his faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8

I was created in part to take care of those two old people.  I see now that by allowing God to use me in ways that were so uncomfortable, He taught me humility and compassion. He taught me to get over myself and my hang-ups and discomfort with sickness and disease and death. The lesson is to love with unflinching compassion.

This post was written by Deborah Smith. To read more about her, click here. 

Peace in Parenting

I’ve been doing this mommy-thing for a little over eight years now, and I’m getting a few things figured out.

  1. God really is who He says He is.

Every family is different. I’ve decided I can compare notes with other moms if I want to get a little inspiration here and there, but nothing will bring the peace I crave like spending real time in prayer. The Lord wants to Father me in my parenting. In all things, really. But most of my life I have depended on my human understanding to plow through challenges that might arise. This is a mistake. I can only plow for so long before I run out of resources.

  1. Praying with my husband really works.

I know this is a no-brainer. We all know this, but I’m not sure many of us are practicing this on a regular basis (and I don’t mean regularly once a year!). I can’t tell you how many times I have felt frantic in my heart about a parenting issue. When I carry inner angst, I start to behave like a scary momma. Like monster-under-the-bed momma. I have no idea why I don’t think that it would be an excellent idea to tell my soulmate and have him pray with me. Without fail, anytime I’ve asked my husband for help he’s shared the load and stood in the gap for me. Just knowing that my husband is my teammate means the world to me. I am not alone and we can tackle anything together. Why, WHY would I not make prayer a priority with my husband when we get such amazing results?

  1. My kids need structure and healthy boundaries.

If I’m going to help my kids learn healthy boundaries, then I must learn what my healthy boundaries are, too. I recently started seeing a counselor to help me work through some of my own issues, and it has been one of the most positive experiences of my life. I see myself differently, and I feel more empowered to lead my children than ever before. I’m learning what makes my kids tick, and that means we can cooperate better. I am in authority because I am under my husband’s authority. My children understand how that looks in our home. When they push the boundaries, they know that we’ll enforce them. Because we’ve laid this groundwork, we have a spiritual peace in our home even when we’re loud, creative and adventurous.

I’m grateful for all the Lord has taught me throughout the years and I’m excited for all that’s yet to come. If you’re looking for a breakthrough in your parenting, may I suggest getting involved in a Life Group and getting prayer as a first step?

I’m curious, what was your “aha moment” that brought peace to your parenting?

This post was written by Jodi LaFrance. To read more about her, click here. 

The Birth of Peace

Five years ago, after three years of trying, we became pregnant with our sweet miracle Jude. From the very beginning we had complications with the pregnancy. I was always in a constant state of fear. We waited so long for this baby and our hearts ached for him.

At 34 weeks, my placenta ruptured. I found myself in the middle of the floor, and Bret called 911.  I started to replay my night. Did I feel him move last night? Fear crept in. I started to doubt, thinking, Did we make it all this way, and we are going to lose this baby?

The ambulance arrived within minutes. I was put under anesthesia and rushed for an emergency C-section. When I woke up I had an empty belly and a 6″ incision. As I waited to see Jude, anxiety and fear overwhelmed me, crippling me into multiple anxiety attacks. That anxiety and fear basically became a part of me and ruled the next year.  I would be so distraught with Bret leaving the house or simple day-to-day tasks. It took many months of constantly calling that fear out before I felt “normal” again. There was no way I was going to have another baby. Why would I knowingly put myself or my family through all of those emotions of another pregnancy?

Fast forward to almost a year ago. I said that the only way I was going to get pregnant was if we had a “Mary” kind of moment, where she wasn’t planning on having a baby but God had better plans. There was still so much fear that surrounded being pregnant, anxiousness for whether we would have the same pregnancy with bed rest, or if we would have an early baby, or an awful post-partum that included emotional and physical stress in our marriage.

At the beginning of January, I was in such denial that I could be pregnant that it took a friend coming over with a test and a Starbucks to actually confirm I was pregnant. I took the test(s) and…  No fear, no stress, no anxiety. Peace. God gave me this immediate and overwhelming peace over the pregnancy.

At 32 weeks Bret and I hit our knees in prayer about home birth. In my mind, I thought I was crazy for even pondering the idea of giving birth at home, but it was around this time I had a dream. The dream took place in our home with worship music in the background, and during each contraction I was on my knees with my hands lifted high, giving glory to God. It was after that dream that each time I thought of having Scarlett at home, I thought of that God-given word… peace.

The night that Scarlett came the lights were dimmed. Worship music was blaring in the background. As each contraction passed Bret would pray and proclaim over the labor, me, and Scarlett. We sang worship songs through contractions, words like “It’s your breath in our lungs.”

Not an ounce of fear ever swept in. That spirit of fear was replaced with boldness and peace. Scarlett made such a fast appearance it was unreal. This baby girl took her first breath in the most peaceful, spirit-filled way I could have imagined. The Holy Spirit was undeniably there. He transformed a birth that was surrounded by fear and anxiousness into a birth of peace and boldness.

I pray that by sharing our story, it can bring someone hope during the trials. God is eagerly ready to release us from whatever it is, fear, anxiety, or shame.  He hears our prayers and truly wants to give us our heart’s desire by giving us power through His Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 41:10 –

So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Romans 15:13 –

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This post was written by Kendra Huey. To read more about her, click here. 

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Creating a Welcoming Place

I want to be like Betsie ten Boom when I grow up.

She was a sister to Corrie ten Boom, who wrote The Hiding Place, which chronicles their family’s courageous decision to hide Jews in their home during WWII. Betsie found joy in flowers, cups of tea, and the blue sky. Even while in the concentration camps, she was astoundingly able to create a place of order and beauty. God gave Betsie dreams and visions of establishing places of refuge and peace for those ravaged by the war…even though she never saw it actually come to pass. She wanted these places to have gardens and lots of flowers.

Betsie told her sister, “It will be so good for them…watching things grow. People can learn to love, from flowers.”

I love that. I want to create a place of beauty and welcome for those around me.

One of the first places that we create beauty is in our own homes. We create places of peace for those who daily live in our home, and we also open up our homes to others.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. In a way, this is opening up your life and heart to people, and extending the invitation for them to do the same.

To invite people into our homes is to respond with gratitude to the God who made a home for us.

It can be simple. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Use what you have. Be creative. Improvise. One of my favorite things is to have a bowl of mints on my desk at work. In a small way, I am saying, “Come in, you are welcome here; you are valuable.”

It does have to be intentional. As impersonal as it may sound at first, get out your calendar and write down when you want to have people over. Schedule a time and stick to it.

Take time to make things around you beautiful. What does beauty look like for you? What makes you take a deep breath and relax a little bit more? What makes your heart happy? Surround yourself with these things.

When you are at ease and your heart is open, your guests’ will be, too.

This post was written by Heather Dillard. To read more about her, click here. 

My Struggle with Depression–and My Healing

God has done so many wonderful things in my life, giving me many stories to tell of His goodness.  One story involves a battle that I have fought three different times in my life—chemical depression.  I have often had background skirmishes, but three times the battle has been more intense.

When I say they were major battles, I am not saying that flippantly.  Each episode had different degrees of symptoms but some overall themes were:  great anxiety, strange physical symptoms, total lack of hunger, inability to sleep, feeling hopeless (and you sure need hope in this!), and inability to concentrate.  My whole body would feel weird, and it seemed like I couldn’t remember feeling normal.

This particular story was during the worst episode which occurred after the birth of my first daughter in the form of post-partum depression.  I hardly even want to go there to explain how dark a time period that was, but that’s also when I saw God’s hand move in a miraculous way. When you have endured several months without sleeping, without much eating, and with no peace whatsoever it can wear on you in a big way, especially when caring for a baby.  We lived in Houston at the time, and my mom came to help me.

I remember crying out to God out of total desperation in my closet one day (yes, I sometimes pray in my actual closet).  The next Sunday at church I met someone during the greeting time named Sandy.  Our church was fairly large (a few thousand people), so I didn’t know everyone and I hadn’t remembered seeing her before.  I had to leave to go to the nursery to tend to my daughter which happened so often that everyone knew my number on the screen—0012 (which I still remember 20 years later).

While I was gone Sandy came to my mom and asked her if I was going through a hard time, and my mother briefly explained the situation.  Sandy replied that God had put it on her heart for several days to pray for a person named Karen who was going through great difficulty.  When we had met, she was very intrigued that my name was Karen and asked the Lord if I was the one she had been praying for which the Lord confirmed.  Through that encounter we talked more, and she relayed to me that the battle would end and it helped me get started on a different path.  It sure wasn’t immediate by any means, and many dark days were still ahead.

Yet, I cannot describe what comfort it was to me for the Lord to reach out to me in that way to let me know that He saw my pain, that He sent someone to pray for me, and He gave me hope that I would get past this battle.  He met me where I was!

God is so great and loves us so much.  God not only helped me in this supernatural way, but He revealed to me some ways in the natural to combat the depression as well.  When I say depression, that can mean anxiety or depression or a combination.  I learned that they are two sides of one coin.  They both are the result of a serotonin deficiency, and your body and personality may just manifest them in different ways.

As for supernatural means to fight it, obviously, we should first seek God to show us what we in particular need to do.  Due to your brain feeling so muddled when chemically depressed, that may require the help of Godly friends (or a counselor) who will seek God with you.  Here are some supernatural weapons that I found to be effective for me:

  • Praying God’s Word over myself, declaring that I have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16), that no weapon formed against me will prosper (Isaiah 54:17), that great is my peace (Psalm 119:165), and that God’s peace would guard my mind (Philipians 4:7).
  • Praying in tongues, especially when I didn’t know what else to pray.
  • Praising God! The Word says that you put on (like clothing) the garment of praise in exchange for the garment of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). This could be through music or by pouring out the praise in your heart to Him in plain words.
  • Keep standing! Sometimes existing for another day is a victory and one step closer to complete victory.

As for natural weapons, medical research is making great strides in this area. (I grew up wanting to be a doctor, and I read these types of things because they are so interesting to me.)  Recently, research has pointed to inflammation in the body (or even an allergy to inflammation) as being a cause of depression, but there are many, many causes, and there are many effective natural ways to battle it:

  • In terms of drugs, in my three battles, one time I used a natural herb (St John’s Wort), once I stuck it out long enough that the depression eased on its own, and once I took a prescription anti-depressant. You have to do what’s right for YOU, receiving no condemnation for what path you feel is best in this area.
  • Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to be as effective as a prescription anti-depressant if done regularly.  (The scientist in me wants to give references for this but it is pretty prevalent anywhere you want to look this stuff up.)
  • Taking an Omega-3 oil supplement (or flaxseed or walnuts) is great for the brain.
  • Finding out what is a trigger for you can help. In the most recent battle, my doctor and I realized that the three times that have been true battles for me were all associated with a major drop in hormones.
  • Seeing a medical doctor to be tested for things like low thyroid or even food allergies/sensitivities.
  • Making sure to do everything in your power to be thinking right thoughts.
  • Having a good, loving circle of friends standing with you (or God can even provide a stranger like how He did for me in Houston—He’s limitless!).
  • Talking to a counselor. I do think that if there are any underlying physical causes then addressing those first helps the therapy to be even more effective.

One more word to the wise:  I found that everyone has an opinion about depression and anxiety.  Some will say it is only caused by hormones out of whack because that is what their experience has been.  Some will tell you that you are just not thinking right, and you just need to start thinking right.  Others may say that prescription medicine is the only way to go.

I think of it as how different blind-folded people see an elephant—the one holding the trunk think it’s hard, the one holding the tail think it is feathery, the one holding the legs think it is like a tree.  Our understanding of depression is so limited at this time and can have so many DIFFERENT causes and cures.  The good news is that God can see “the whole elephant” and knows how to deliver you!  Our victory is assured as we follow His pathway to deliverance!

This post was written by Karen Earhart. To read more about her, click here.

**Note: This is one person’s story, and not advice from a professional doctor. If you are in a place of depression, please contact the HCF offices for a list of trusted counseling resources (click here for Campus contact numbers).

On Grief

Grief can occur from a multitude of things. I grieved when Daddy was diagnosed with cancer. I grieved when Mother was diagnosed with dementia and I realized that the mother I had known was lost to me. I grieved when each of them died. All three forms are the same process, the same pain.

There are 5 stages to grief:

  1. denial and isolation
  2. anger
  3. bargaining
  4. depression
  5. acceptance

You don’t always go through them in order, and may not experience all of them. Grief is unique to the individual, and can hit you out of the blue: in a movie, at the store, when you pick up the phone to call them and realize that they aren’t there to call.

You have to allow yourself to grieve. There is no correct amount of time and no right way. It is personal, but if you don’t allow yourself to heal, you can move into complex grief, which requires professional help.

One of the hardest things in dealing with grief, is that while you are dealing with yours, and trying to hang on, others are dealing with theirs, and trying to hang on, and you are thrown into the mix together.

There are 3 personality types for expressing grief:

  • Intuitive mourners– touchy, feely, comfortable with emotion. Sensitive to others. Less able to rationalize and may appear more overwhelmed and devastated.
  • Instrumental mourners – seek accurate information, analyze facts, make informed decisions, problem solvers. They may appear to others as cold and uncaring, seeming to be dispassionate and detached
  • Dissonant mourners – in conflict between what they experience internally and what they express outwardly. They are in conflict with themselves and want to avoid it. They struggle to hide their true feelings in order to maintain the image they want to put forth. They may condemn themselves and feel guilty for not feeling what they think they are suppose to feel.

Whichever category you are in, to you that is the right way. It is easy to judge others and be angry, but it is important to remember to have grace for those in the other categories, too.

In the body of Christ, we are gifted in different areas. Some are merciful, others are nurturers, others servants. But as we grow in Christ, we try to develop all of these areas within ourselves, and learn to do what doesn’t come naturally.

The way you handle grief and caring for elderly parents can be viewed in the same way. We need to step up and do whatever needs to be done. Do your part and let others do theirs, in all areas. You need each other, and need to help each other stay healthy.

There are people willing to help you. Let them. Find someone who has experienced it, and ask questions. Turn to your family and friends. They are the physical hug from the Living God Who will get you through this.

This post was written by Darla Carthel. To read more about her, click here

Focusing on What Matters

So. I’m a homeschool mom. Wait! I know that homeschooling is not the most “normal” way to educate your children, but before you back out of this post, you should know that we probably have a lot more in common than you might think. Do you ever feel overwhelmed with parenting, wondering if you’re “training them up in the way they should go,” or providing them with the right opportunities (education and extra-curricular activities) to become who they were created to be? I do.

At the start of this year, I had lunch with a precious, veteran mom and homeschooler. I was feeling pretty burned out with trying to “get it all done” every day and hoping she would have some encouragement for me. This wise woman had some great advice and thought-provoking questions that brought me clarity and focus. First, she asked me how much I actually remembered from my school years (A little).  Second, she told me that she had learned that people will teach themselves what they really desire to know.

Third, she asked me, “What are the most important things you want your kids to know by the time they leave home?” We talked about the things that mattered, and I went home and made a list of what I hope to have imparted to my three blessings by the time they leave home: Love, character, and financial wisdom.

Love: That my children would know that Jesus and their parents love them, and that they would love Jesus, their family, and the world around them. That they would know that their parents loved each other.

Character: That they would become persons of character—honest, forgiving, obedient, humble, dependable, and willing to embrace hard work.

Financial wisdom: That they would know how to manage their money well—to tithe, give, save, not rack up credit card debt, to make wise investments, and be able to live on a budget.

This is where I landed. Your list might look different from mine, but whatever the list looks like, it offers us direction and focus as parents. When I start fretting about not getting all 36 weeks of the science curriculum completed in one school year, or worrying about the robotics and music classes my kids aren’t taking right now, I remind myself that if Sonny and I are teaching and modeling love, character, and financial wisdom, then we are on track.

And finally, when wrestling with what opportunities to give my children, I remember Psalms 16:5-6:

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

These verses help me be at rest with the amount of “opportunities” that fall into the boundaries of our budget, schedule, geography, energy levels, and the time it takes to have a healthy marriage. God’s boundary lines are not the same for everyone, but they are very good.

This post was written by Erin Smart. To read more about her, click here

Starting by Resting

…He who has entered His rest has himself (herself) also ceased from his (her) works as God did from His.  Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest.

Hebrews 4:10-11

I have been an over-achiever since I was a child.  I came from a home that was very poor, with an alcoholic father.  My way of coping was to do everything better than anyone else. I dreamed that I would get out of the life I had as a child, get married, have 2 or 3 kids, and live “happily ever after.” The common denominator in this is “I.”

Of course, living with a fighting mother and father, I didn’t know how to be a good wife; I didn’t have a good example. But I was determined. In 8th grade, I went to a church with a friend, and stayed for 21 years.  My feet hit the floor running. I volunteered for everything. I could do it all and I could do it with excellence. There is the “I” again.

I grew up, graduated, and got married. Again, my hands and feet went into action. I bet I had the cleanest house of any one, and that is not an exaggeration. I was obsessed! Then it was time to have those children. They would be the prettiest, most well-mannered, and the BEST. But there were no children…It was a downward spiral that wouldn’t stop. And then divorce.

A baby learns to sit first before they crawl, walk or talk. The Christian life should also start this way. God “raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). How well we work depends on how well we sit in His rest because of the finished work of Jesus.

The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years because they didn’t sit in His rest. I wandered in the wilderness for many years because I did not learn to sit in His rest before I learned to stand and walk in His presence. I was not taught the finished work of Jesus was all it took.

As most of you know, I am now married to Dewitt, a man after God’s own heart. And he is a true servant. We just had our 21st anniversary last week, and our life together is good. We do rest in the Lord together. Has our married life always been great? No…we didn’t start our life as we should have, serving the Lord. But since we have been at Harvest, we are growing leaps and bounds in our walk and in our marriage. We still do volunteer, but I have said “no” also. It has been a struggle, but we are so happy and enjoying a blessed life.

If I can be of any help to anyone that is just starting their lives together, that is my prayer.  Don’t do the way I did. Start in His rest.

So today:

If you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…be diligent to enter that rest.

Hebrews 4:7,11

This post was written by Debbie Crosby. To read more about her, click here. 

My Story: Taking off the Masks

When I was first asked to “write my story” for the HCF women’s blog, I hesitated.  I mentioned it to my husband and he replied, “Have you?”  Uh no, my first thought was fear. Fear of being vulnerable, of being a not-so-good writer, of what others think…..I was then reminded in a gentle voice, “I did not give you a spirit of fear but of courage.” Well then, here I go.

I have always been one that had put a “mask on.” I have lived with so many of those that I couldn’t remember who the real Kerstin was. I hid in shame from many different things, such as things done to me as a child. Other things were poor choices I made as I went into my teen years and then as an adult. I hid anger toward others by hurting myself, hid so many emotions and feelings; I didn’t know where one started and another ended. Masks don’t allow a person to grow, love, feel, share—they only allow you to “exist.”

I “knew” God existed, but I placed Him in the area of the “punisher/doesn’t care” category in my life. As an adult, I went to church, and was involved in church activities…all the while pretending with my mask of “goodness.” And then about 8 years ago my life started to come together in the right direction.

I married the man I have always known in my heart. We didn’t listen to God and our hearts 35 years ago, and in those years we existed without each other. During these last 8 years, we have come to know the Lord together, and are building our relationship in love, respect and truth through our commitment to the Lord.

During our wedding ceremony, we had a rope placed around our hands and took our vows, showing that Christ is the tie that binds us. Our hearts are now one with Christ. I have finally let those masks fall, realizing that with Christ I don’t have to fear what others will think, or of being vulnerable. I was able to share those secrets about my masks with my husband—some that I have lived with since childhood—and I did it without shame, fear or guilt. I felt such deep love and respect from him when I did it, and felt peace and a release of a very heavy burden. I finally felt the peace and love of God.

My husband has been my biggest supporter of who I am—a woman, friend, mother, spouse and grandma who loves fully and deeply, who cries at commercials on TV, who is a playful, joyful free spirit dancing to the songs on the radio, and best of all a child of a loving God. I do this without being a “slave to fear” as the song “No Longer Slaves” reminds me.

What “masks” do you put on? Would you let them fall today and surrender them to Jesus?

This post was written by Kerstin DelDonno. To read more about her, click here.