Thursday, May 10, 2018

Kinsman Redeemer: My Story, My Testimony, My Life

Have you ever lost a car and  a house and had to file bankruptcy all in the same year? I have and it rocks your world to the core. But today I get to share with you our story of redemption that has finally come full circle. This is not something that I like to talk about and was very difficult for me to even write, but the testimony is worth it. 

Ugh. This vulnerability is frightening. I’m just going to dive right in…

Beginning in 2007, my husband and I walked through incredible financial hardship after the economy tanked. Jeremy had just transitioned to the mortgage industry about a year before the housing crisis began and the bottom fell out. Once he was laid off, the stock market crashed and the country went into a major recession. With unemployment near an all-time high, it was several years and many job transitions and careers later before Jeremy would find stable employment again.

There are certain seasons that seem to scar us and shape us and this was ours. I’ll never forget being woken up around 5am to the sound of a diesel truck and hearing the chains scrape the concrete as it towed away our Chevy Tahoe. I ran to the window in just enough time to catch a glimpse of it leaving our street, but the worst part was having to explain it to a 5yo and a 3yo that couldn’t possibly comprehend what just happened. That sound and that feeling is something that took many years to recover from. Any time I EVER heard the sound of a diesel truck after that, my heart would pound out of my chest and I would run to the window just to make sure my car was still there…even though I knew we weren’t behind on payments. It was a fear that’s hard to describe if you’ve never experienced it firsthand.

After that, our home in North Carolina was in the process of being foreclosed and we decided to move to Texas and file bankruptcy in 2008. We left the keys on the counter and packed up the moving truck. God had spoken VERY clearly about our move to Dallas, so we had no choice but to trust Him. Over the next several years, we would assist in various church plants, take in multiple families and teens and move from rental house to rental house. The Lord provided every penny, space and home needed for each transition.

Once we moved to Dallas, the economy was still recovering and Jeremy would go through 3 more job transitions before he finally just decided to start his own staffing company on the side. A couple years later and in addition to, Jeremy also began working in the auto industry in October of 2015 and quickly grew to love it. He started at Honda in sales and is now the Inventory Manager over multiple Chevy dealerships. Life had turned around so to speak, but my heart still longed for a home of my own, a home to finish raising our family. But our credit was far from great and the fear, shame and anxiety that plagued me on a daily basis would require real deliverance.

Over the years, we received countless prophetic words about God honoring our faithfulness, bringing restoration and fulfilling our dreams. I knew the enemy was going to have to repay all that was lost, but I was tired of waiting even though I could tell it was beginning to trickle in. Still, I cannot tell you how many times I cried out to God through tears and frustration saying, “We’ve built YOUR house…many times over. Now, when will you build ours?!?” In essence, we held up our end of the stick. We’ve been obedient; now when will you hold up yours? I’d find a community I liked, but it was either no peace or the wrong timing. The disappointment was heartbreaking each time. I got to the point where I didn’t even want to hear any more of God’s promises, but regardless, I had resolved to obey and to worship UNTIL…until He came through because deep down I knew that his promises wouldn’t return void no matter how long it took.

Well, last year was another major transition year for us across multiple fronts, but necessary in order for Him to fulfill his promise to us. What I didn’t see or understand in that moment, the Holy Spirit would gradually reveal as each new page unfolded. I didn’t realize that Jesus was giving us our heart’s desire in this process. All of a sudden…yes, literally sudden, things began to fall into place. We prayed for wisdom and direction, and God directed us to a community called “Inspiration.” We fell in love with the development, but my heart still wondered if this would ever be our reality. We proceeded to put down a deposit on a beautiful lot knowing that it was a HUGE risk. I was scared out of my mind. We still had so much more work to do on our credit, but things seemed to be progressing. We went through a very lengthy credit repair process and a difficult underwriting process. But the Lord set up divine connections from our realtor to our mortgage brokers and everyone in between. Confirmation after confirmation. All was well. But then the fear would creep back in…is this too good to be true? That’s when the Lord shook me. He began to change my perspective because the Lord IS good and the Lord IS true! So why should I expect anything less?

At the beginning of this year, the Holy Spirit gave me a word for our family during our time of fasting. It was that He would be our “Guardian Redeemer” aka “Kinsman Redeemer.” Truth be told, I had never heard of this nor did I understand the fullness of what it meant. So I really began to dive in and study it. The Kinsman Redeemer is a male relative who, according to various laws of the Pentateuch, had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need. He was responsible for buying back family or land sold during a crisis, buying back enslaved relatives if applicable, providing an heir for a dead brother and avenging and caring for relatives in difficult circumstances. The Hebrew term for kinsman-redeemer designates one who delivers, rescues or redeems property or persons. I had no idea that Boaz in the Old Testament was known as the Kinsman Redeemer to Naomi and Ruth. The idea of the Guardian Redeemer is also used at times to refer to God and His redemption of Israel. In these passages, God is Israel’s nearest redeemer, stepping in to bring the nation back into his family when the people could not do it themselves. But then we look at AFTER the cross, Jesus became the Guardian Redeemer for all who accept him. Jesus rescued us and made us His bride, so we could have access to everything in His kingdom. He purchased our sin, but for me, the realization that he bought our shame became much more prevalent.

Then the Holy Spirit took this revelation a step further and made it even more PERSONAL to me. He revealed that he was specifically going to REDEEM us because we had already been RESTORED. I didn’t even realize the difference between redemption and restoration until now. Restoration is a process and something that is returned to its former state. But redemption is instant and makes all things new. It wipes away the past.

I quickly began to see the irony of it all. Our Chevy Tahoe may have gotten repossessed at one point, but now Jeremy oversees the entire used car inventory of multiple Chevy dealerships. Now HE is the one sending out the tow trucks. But it doesn’t stop there.

We were able to FINALLY close on our home last month. Remember when I said that we were praying for wisdom and direction? Mark 11:24 (NIV) says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Well, our neighborhood is literally called “Wisdom” and our street address is called “Lantern Faith.” Then if there was ever any doubt about his promise to redeem us, He ties it all up in a nice bow because the floor plan of our home is called the “Carolina.” When we signed the closing documents, we knew that all had been redeemed IN AN INSTANT.

I felt that I needed to share our story with you today for a couple reasons. One is that it hopefully helps you to stand firm in believing that His promise will come to pass in your life. The second reason is for me. By sharing this testimony publicly, the enemy can no longer hold the fear and shame over my head. No longer can he say, “if they only knew…” because now you do, but so does he. He knows that my God is greater and that He took that pain, so that I don’t have to carry it any more. And for that, I’m forever grateful.

Let’s pray. Lord, all I can say is thank you. Thank you for your redemption. Thank you for always wanting the best for me and for silencing the lies of the enemy. I ask that your peace surround each of these readers and I pray that they would experience your presence in their lives today. In Jesus Name, Amen!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

First Love

Happy Valentine's Day!!! Today, we are going to talk about our First Love. You know, the love that gives you butterflies and that head in the clouds kind of high. It’s a love that aims to please, protect, praise and respect. It’s fun, new and exciting. You can’t seem to spend enough time together. You’re constantly learning each other and listening to each other. You could listen to him talk for hours…or in my case, play his guitar for hours. You’re so in love and you don’t care who knows it! But then life happens. Now the things you once found precious are the things that get under your skin. The sweet romantic strum of the guitar that used to put you to sleep at night is now the racket that wakes you from your nap. All the molehills have turned into mountains. The underwear on the floor or the trash that can’t seem to find its way 2 feet to the can now spark a rage of emotions capable of peeling the paint off the walls. Throw in a couple kids, a few job transitions, ministry dynamics, deaths and divorces and you’re kind of left numb and wondering which way is up. Maybe the husband is working too much or too little. Your post-partum depression has temporarily taken every ounce of your sanity, and your patience and grace have become non-existent. Anything that takes time away from you, albeit church, video games, music, etc quickly becomes “the other woman” and before you know it, your marriage has spiraled farther downhill than you ever thought possible. So you decide separation is the best solution because you’ve obviously got irreconcilable differences. Meanwhile, the thought of divorce is looming a bit too close for comfort. 

This was me and Jeremy in years 5-6 of our marriage. I began to ask the following questions: What happened? How did we get to this point? And how do we come back from it? But, it’s ironic because we can become the same way in our relationship with Jesus. It gets stagnant. Doubt creeps in and the passionate love we once had for Him seems to fade. We forget about the fire that used to burn so bright, and our moments spent daily in His presence, reading His word and fervently praying have now become constant battles for our time. New priorities have taken the throne and we don’t even know how we got there. Then we find ourselves asking the all too familiar questions: What happened? How did we get to this point? And how do we come back from it?

So we have to fix our relationship with God first and then we can work on the rest. Here’s what’s awesome. God’s Word can answer all of those questions with one simple solution. Go back to your first love, repent and do the things you did at first.

To the church in Ephesus…
Revelation 2:4-5a NIV “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”

Revelation 2:4-5a AMP “But I have this charge against you, that you have left your first love, you have lost the depth of love that you first had for Me. So remember the heights from which you have fallen and repent. Change your inner self, your old way of thinking, your sinful behavior. Seek God’s will and do the works you did at first when you first knew Me…”

Notice I never said it was an “easy” solution. I said it was a “simple” solution. We’re gonna break this down practically, so let’s go back to my and Jeremy’s story. We decided to make one last ditch effort before we threw in the towel. We weren’t going to last through 6-12 months of counseling sessions once a week, so we opted for a marriage intensive. This 3-4 day intensive was supposed to be equivalent to a year of counseling. I wasn’t even sure that was possible, but I was willing to try. If you figure that in a 50 minute counseling session, the first few minutes are pleasantries; the next few minutes are spent recapping. You might get 20 minutes of actual beneath-the-surface conversation, and then the last several minutes are spent bandaging and wrapping up. With an intensive, once you’re in deep, you stay there for hours. It actually ended up being very productive and was a lot less wasted time. Basically, we were in a hotel room with a therapist for 8 hours straight. Every layer was peeled away and every hurt exposed on day one. It was excruciating. Then we had individual homework after that. Not fun. On day two, we started start addressing issues and repairing. This is where we learned about communication which was the single biggest crux of our relationship. By day three and four, we realized this is all an attempt to bring us back to our first love, the things we once did and the things we once said.

The principles we learned in that intensive saved and sustained our marriage. The things we paid a ton of money for, you now get for free. LOL. Here were our top two takeaways:
1.       Learn how to communicate
a.       Listen (Listen and repeat exercise)
b.      Remember your manners (Remote control exercise)
c.       This reintroduces respect into the equation
d.      Practice, practice, practice
2.       Go back to your first love
a.       Do the things you used to do…for us, that meant worshipping together, playing volleyball together and finding our common interests again.
b.      Make date nights a priority.

After getting back to our first love, we grew more in love than we had ever been. We developed the love we had into something that could stand the test of time and anything else life decided to throw at us and that’s been proven year after year. We’ve been together for over 20 years and married for 16 of those years. He is everything I want and everything I didn’t know I needed. But here’s a bonus… one of the other things I learned over the years was not to compare my relationship to others and definitely not to the Facebook version of other’s relationships. The perception of perfection is deception because no relationship is perfect. We should be proud to be authentic and be proud of the ups and downs in our marriages. I kind of view young love as a little tree, a sapling if you will. It’s young, immature, requires extra support to stand tall, and the roots don’t spread very deep yet. But eventually that sapling or that love will grow mightily. Strong winds allow for deeper roots and greater growth. And since healthy things grow, my goal is for a healthy marriage, not a perfect one…and it all goes back to our first love, the spark that started it all.

Whether it’s your relationship with Jesus or your relationship with your spouse, rekindle that flame. It’s not out yet. Remember, that some embers burn hotter than the flame. I love what this description of an ember from Wikipedia says, “An ember is a glowing, hot coal that remains after or precedes a fire. Embers can glow very hot, sometimes as hot as the fire which created them. They radiate a substantial amount of heat long after the fire has been extinguished and can rekindle a fire that is thought to be completely extinguished.” It reminds me of camping when I was a kid. We would start the fire the night before and let it burn out before going to sleep in the tent. Then we’d get up in the morning when it’s freezing cold and poke the embers covered in ash. You would blow on it and it lights up a bright orange. We’d grab some leaves and twigs to throw on it. And after several repetitions, you’d see a little flame and all that hard work paid off. I just remember being amazed at how that was even possible.

Never did I think I’d be relating that to love later in life, but it all starts with a little effort and a little time. Start by making time with each other a priority and that spark will eventually become visible again.

Let’s pray. Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the wisdom in your Word. Thank you for calling us back to our first love. God, ignite a greater passion in my heart and in the heart of these women. I want to know you deeper and know you more and I realize that only comes from spending time with you. I love you. In Jesus Name, Amen.