Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Contentment

Contentment: A state of happiness and satisfaction.

Philippians 4:11-13 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. 

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be truly content in the Lord. As I was browsing through pinterest (probably not the best place to seek contentment:), I noticed several pictures that were labeled as "contentment". 
Now keep in mind that these are the world's views of contentment and do not represent true contentment found in the Lord. 
I was intrigued by the "pictures" of contentment. They are all so different, yet have one thing in common: Dependence.

The baby. He is dependent on his mother for life. He can't plan his next day. His contentment is found in trusting, not worrying, and just resting. 

The Couple. There is a reason they are pictured together. They depend on each other for this feeling of satisfaction. Something that is only found in the love and friendship of two people. Notice that contentment in this situation isn't pictured as this couple having all the money they need to pay their bills, buying their first house, getting promotions, or any of the many things that we would deem as "successful". This couple is simply resting in the joy that is found in each other's love. 

Nature. For some reason, we always look at scenery, a simple flower floating in a pond, a cloud-filled sky and say, now that is contentment. But nature too is dependent. What flower says to itself, "I had better make sure I store up enough sunshine to make it through tomorrow"? Or what sun setting worries that it won't rise again? Everything in nature is provided for by the hand of God. 

Matthew 6:28-34 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Yes, I know all of my summaries are a stretch, but I give them to stress one important truth. Even those who do not know the source of true contentment realize that it is not found in all of our accomplishments or even the things we are proud of. We find true contentment as we rest in the Lord and His provisions for our life. All the things we think we need in order to be content are substitutes for true contentment. 

The book "Calm my Anxious Heart" by Linda Dillow, gives 5 steps to contentment. 

1. Never allow yourself to complain about anything-not even the weather.

2. Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.

3. Never compare your lot with another's

4. Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.

5. Never dwell on tomorrow---remember that tomorrow is God's, not ours. 

I'm sure I will write more on this to come as God continues to teach me in this area. But just think about this, If we learn to be truly content, then where does that leave complaining, nagging, envy, jealousy, bitterness, anger, and so many other things that seem to stem out of a lack of contentment? What do you think?

 I know, I know-focus on one thing at a time;)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Happy Birthday Hubby

Well I'm two days late giving my hubby a happy birthday blog post! I promise it's because we were too busy celebrating!
Jimmy's birthday fell on a Sunday, so we had church, of course. However, I knew that if anything would make his birthday special, it would be some fishing. 
It was the perfect fishing weather and we had just enough time in the afternoon to take the canoe out on the lake!
Isn't it beautiful...spring is on the way!!!!
 I had to get a shot of my fishing boots (formerly barn boots). They still smell like cows from when I worked on the farm. I'm a weirdo but I miss that smell!
Fishing away-and much to busy to turn around for a picture;)
Clearly, I was not as dedicated as he was...which may be why he ended up with 3 fish and I ended up with none.
Either way, we had a great time together.
 I'm so blessed that I have not just a godly husband who fears the Lord, but also one who I can have fun going fishing with.
I'm a lucky/blessed girl!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Silent Sunday

Great reminder!

May this be a much needed reminder to let Christ be the Lord of our lives. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Coffee Date

Thank you so much for those of you who took the time to join me for coffee the last few weeks.


As we sit down yet another week for a friendly chat over our virtual cup of coffee (weird thought), I would probably let you know from the beginning that I am exhausted.  In fact, I haven't really been feeling up to talking, but I will do my best to share with you what has been going on in my life. 


I would tell you that I started doing Jillian's 30 day shred workout plan this week...and as a result I feel like I was in a car wreck. Seriously. My husband laughs at me when I try to get up off the couch! It hurts! But I have been trying to be more disciplined about reading my bible, getting good sleep, and keeping my body healthy. I'm off to a painful but good start. :)I would tell you that I started tutoring a wonderful Christian woman on Thursday nights, and even though I went into it thinking I was going to be a blessing to her, she has ended up being an amazing encouragement and blessing to me.I would smile for a moment as I tell you that I LOVE random acts of sweetness. I like them even more when they come in the mail! I, along with many others, received the sweetest card of encouragement this week from Sarah Yoder at Life on Walnut Street. I have been blessed to be a part of a great group of Christian blogging women who are a daily inspiration to me! 


I would finally look across our little coffee table and 'fess up, admitting that I'm stressed out by everything that seems to be going on all at once in my life.  As I sit here trying to gather my thoughts, the dirty dishes in the sink, the overflowing pile of dirty clothes, the papers to be written/graded, the Etsy orders I have to complete, and the million other little responsibilities in life seem to crowd their way into my mind. I know most women have a pretty lengthy mental "to do" list. It's one of our many talents as women:)
However, I am trying to challenge myself with this question:
Does that list control me, or do I control it? 
Lately, it has been controlling me, and I need to change that.
How important are the things on my "to do" list in light of eternity?

Hebrews 12:2-3 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.


Thank you all for joining me today. I hope you will head over to my friends at Boerman Ramblings and Nats Knapsack for a delicious coffee refill:) 

Monday, February 20, 2012

25 Ways to Show Your Hubby Respect


I'm a newlywed. I'm young. I'm still learning about marriage, and what it means to be a good wife. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing great....and other times I am a disappointment to myself. But no matter what kind of wife I find myself being at times, I never want to stop learning what it means for me to be respectful, loving and submissive to my hubby. 

I have been slowly reading through a book called "Becoming the Woman of His Dreams" by Sharon Jaynes. In this book, Sharon details 7 qualities that men long for in their wives. It's very encouraging and challenging. This week, I read her chapter on respect. She outlines 25 ways to respect your husband....

1. Do not talk down to him

2. Do not talk badly about him to others

3. Do not check behind him to make sure he did something to your standard

4. Do not disregard his wishes

5. Do not ignore his requests

6. Do not laugh at his mistakes

7. Do not make him the brunt of your jokes

8. Do not compare him to other men

9. Do not complain about your finances or his ability as a provider

10. Do not speak sarcastically or with verbal jabs

11. Do not roll your eyes when he makes comments you don't agree with

12. Do not continually "have a better idea

13. Do talk to him in a pleasant tone

14. Do speak highly or compliment him in front of others

15. Do allow him to do tasks his own way and then thank him when he is finished

16. Do value his opinions

17. Do support his decisions

18. Do try to fulfill his requests

19. Do thank him for providing for your family

20. Do allow him to make final decisions

21. Do support him in his decisions regardless of the outcome

22. Do avoid the words, "I told you so"

23. Do take care of your appearance

24. Do ask his opinion about your clothes/hairstyle etc...

25. Do tell him you are proud of him


Wow! If you are like me, you never knew that this much went into being a respectful wife! This was challenging to me as a wife that even when I think I'm doing "pretty good," there's always room for God to challenge and teach me more. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Coffee Date



It's hard to believe that it's already Friday again. Last week was a big step for me as I shared my past with you. As we get together this week for our "heart to heart", I want to start off by thanking all of you who not only took the time to read through last week's post, but left me comments, messages, and were a HUGE encouragement to me. A lot of you asked me questions that I plan to answer in future posts. 


As we sit across our imaginary table, coffee in hand, and a feeling of relaxation because it's Friday,  I would ask you how your week was, and share mine with you as well.


I had an amazing Valentines Day with my hubby. He sent me flowers at work, and then bought me chocolate and wine along with cooking an amazing candlelight dinner for two! I have a good hubby:)
After bragging about my amazing husband for a while, I would tell you how much I love 2 hour delays:) Yesterday, we had one because of the fog. Let me tell you...that extra hour of sleep makes a whole new teacher out of me!

Finally, I would get serious with you and admit to you that this week I haven't been feeling very motivated in my time with the Lord. I go through phases where I take the time to read my Bible and pray and then I forget how meaningful it is as I slowly let it drift out of my life. I would ask you to pray for me that I start to make that time again. I have been very challenged by my hubby as I see him really seeking Christ in his personal life. I want that. Not just for me, but for those whose lives God wants to use me in. My lack of self-discipline doesn't just harm me, but those around me as well. I can't be an effective witness or discipler for Christ if I'm not being a disciple myself. 



Then I would address the question that many asked about my post last week. 


How is my relationship with my parents now?

That's a loaded question, and before I began to write on this subject, I made sure that my parents were okay with me addressing this in public. They were supportive of it so I am more than willing to share with you the transformation that God has done in my parents lives as well. To start, I will be honest with you and tell you that I was very bitter at my parents for many years. In fact, I even turned my back on God for a while, blaming Him for my past.

Today, the opposite is true. I can see very clearly how God allowed the circumstances of my childhood for a reason. I can see him being glorified through it every day and I praise God for that. In the same way, because of Christ's forgiveness in my life, I have been able to look at the mistakes my parents made and say "I forgive you."


Matthew 6:14 "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."

No, it's not all better. It still hurts. Forgiveness doesn't make everything go away, but wow is it healing for the relationship.  Forgiveness means that we no longer dwell in the past and start over with a clean slate. It has been a process for us that includes me being very honest about things with my parents. You can't forgive, if you don't address the things that need to be forgiven. Although that can be very painful, it is very freeing in the end. Over the past few years, I have come to the realization that I can blame my parents, be bitter at them, and refuse to let them be a part of my life, but as a result, I would simply be hurting myself, and missing out on the relationship that we can finally have, and someday that my children will have with their grandparents. 

Now, I understand that reconciliation is not possible with every situation like mine. What makes my situation unique is that my parents have changed, and God has changed my heart as well. They have admitted to their mistakes and asked forgiveness for the hurt they caused. That too is an amazing miracle of God. 

I now look at my past and have understanding for my parents rather than anger. I realize that they were entangled in wrong thinking and firmly believed that they were doing what was best for us. They believed that they were loving us by the way they raised us.When I look at it that way, my heart hurts for the pain that they experienced as well. 


Tears would probably stream down my face as I shared with you the story of my dad dancing with me at my wedding and how I saw how much he loved me through his willingness to do something he didn't necessarily feel comfortable doing. ( You can read about that story here). I would tell you that I have the best phone conversations with my mom about life and she listens to me when I share with her and she shares with me.
No, I can't go back and change the past, but I can make choices to positively affect the future.  I believe that my parents and I have a more functional relationship than many children have with their parents because of the Lord's working in our lives. 

I don't think my story is extraordinary, or even that unusual. I have yet to meet a parent who did everything right and a child who was never angry with their parents. What makes our story unique is the fact that we have forgiven and have been forgiven.



Well thank you for joining me for coffee today! I'm sure that many of you still have questions, and I would love to answer them if you leave me a comment or send me an e-mail. Someday, I may have my mom guest post about her story, and how God has worked in her life as well! 


Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's a love story part 3

My junior year of college (2010) I remember feeling like God was working in my heart, preparing me for marriage. July, 2010 our friends Matt and Nicole were married and we stood as the maid of honor and best man.
I remember wondering if our day would happen soon.

As the year continued, we both waited patiently for God to lead in our lives. We prayed for each other and with each other for purity in our relationship. I knew that Jimmy wanted the best for me, and I felt the same way for him.

Sometime in September, Jimmy had a dream that I died. He woke up sick and horrified. He called me in the middle of the night to make sure I was okay. Although that seemed like something random, God used it in Jimmy's life to show him how he really felt about me. He didn't want to lose me.

As the last few months of 2010 crept up, there was a guy at the school I was going to who expressed serious interest in me. This was all Jimmy needed to convince him to step up and claim what was his....my heart:)

On December 18, 2010 Jimmy asked me to be his wife. 
You can read where I wrote about The Proposal!

We set the date for May 14, 2011 just 5 months later. Yes we were crazy! 
I was in school full time, working 2 part time jobs and now attempting to plan a wedding on a limited budget and away from my family! But by God's grace and the help of many family and friends it all came together beautifully.
The most beautiful part of that May day was the fact that with the blessing of God, our family, and friends, I was starting the rest of my life with my best friend!
*Post about Our Wedding

 We started off our married life with an amazing honeymoon to the smokey mountains that you can read about here. And we have only grown more in love from that day forward! 

Many may say that this is where the love story ends, but this is just our beginning. Love is a choice that we choose to make every day. I can't wait to look back someday at 50 years worth of a love story and see how God has worked in both of our lives. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's A Love Story Part 2

Last post, I shared with you how Jimmy and I met, and started talking. Love Story Part 1.

Although we were both skeptical about being in a relationship, we continued to talk on the phone every day. We grew deeper and deeper in love and began to pray together for the Lord to direct our relationship.
We both sought godly counsel from those around us and really wanted to be sure that what we were doing was right before we got in too deep. We were encouraged to continue in our relationship and most everyone around us saw positive changes in our lives as a result of us being together.
That's always a good sign right?
Whether we realized it or not, we found ourselves in a long-distance relationship which is never easy. We knew we cared for each other, but it was difficult having never really been together in person. One October week, Jimmy told me that he was going to drive to MN with Jake to visit.
I was VERY excited!
The only problem was that we weren't sure how my parents would react. Jimmy told me he had decided at the last minute that he wasn't going to come anymore. 
I was disappointed, but understanding.

That weekend, I was sitting outside talking with my friend Emily Ranch about Jimmy and how much I wished we could be together when a car pulled up and out walked Jimmy!
It was a great surprise and we spent the weekend acting as friends because Jimmy wanted to talk with my dad first before we were anything official. 

Spending that weekend together made saying goodbye so much more difficult. Jimmy left me with a CD of his favorite songs, a single red rose, and a promise to visit again soon.

 I loved him, and I could tell he loved me. 
But he never said it! It drove me crazy! 
He would always end our conversations with "I care about you" or "I think you're awesome."
I knew he wanted to wait and say it in person when he was really sure.

I can't describe the feeling of being in love with someone so far away. There was always a part of me missing. I hated that we could never go to movies together, hang out with friends together, and all the other things that normal couples do.

As thanksgiving got closer, Jimmy and I talked about the possibility of him spending the holiday with my family and meeting everyone! All the details worked out for him to make the trip and the week of Thanksgiving 2008, Jimmy met my family and asked my dad for permission to get to know me better! 
Fully expecting my dad to say no, and fully prepared to stop talking with Jimmy out of respect for my parents, I was more than shocked, when my dad told Jimmy he was alright with that!
Everyone who knew my parents at the time, will admit that was a work of God!

I took Jimmy ice-skating for the first time, and he held my hand. I'm not sure if it was for balance or for love but I liked it either way! Later that night, he finally whispered in my ear, what I had been waiting to hear for months. 
"I love you".

It was great to finally be in an official relationship! I made my first trip to Indiana to visit Jimmy for New Years Eve 2008! 
We took our first Christmas Picture together:) 
 And spent New Years as a double date with Matt and Nicole!

Every visit was more painful than the last every time we had to say goodbye. We knew it couldn't be like that much longer, so I decided to apply for college close by so we could be together. If this was really something we were serious about, I knew one of us eventually had to move. 

I not only got in to the University nearby, but also received an amazing scholarship! God was directing my path pretty clearly. 

We made it through 2009 taking turns driving to see each other. I was slowly getting to know Jimmy's friends and family in Indiana and looking forward to finally being together once I started school in August 2009.

Leaving my family and moving to Indiana was the biggest decision I have ever made. It was hard. I remember crying as I left the driveway. Off and on as I made that 12 hour trip, I questioned if this was really the right decision. I was scared.

College was a big adjustment from my life growing up. For those of you who read The Real Faith, I'm sure you understand. 

It was also an adjustment for our relationship. We had been doing long-distance for a year. We didn't really know how to communicate face-to-face! We didn't know how to just hang out and have fun together because we had gotten so used to just being on the phone together. 

We were both under a lot of pressure to make things work, but we didn't know how to pick up where we had left off. We  had to start over at the beginning and learn about each other in person, learn how to hang out, how to laugh and have fun together!

There were times when it was discouraging. In our minds we had built up being together to be whatever we wanted it to be...even if it was unrealistic. Through a lot of ups and downs, God worked in our lives and in our relationship. But still, we weren't sure where we were headed...

To find out where we ended up, read the last part of our love story!

Monday, February 13, 2012

It's A Love Story Part 1

My hubby and I have been working through Andy Stanley's video series "Staying in Love." I definitely recommend it for every couple. No, it doesn't give an easy fix for how to stay in love, but rather he gives practical advice and challenges couples to make love a verb (action) rather than a feeling. He also suggested, taking mental visits back to when you first fell in love, and what you loved about your spouse to begin with....so that is where I am headed, and I'm taking you all to visit with me!

The circumstances surrounding me and my hubby's first meeting is nothing short of  a miracle. I grew up and lived in Farmington, Minnesota and he grew up and lived in Mt. Vernon, Indiana. We couldn't have been in more different worlds, or so it seemed.

God began setting up the circumstances for us to meet back in 2006 when my friend Jake decided he was going to attend a University in southern Indiana. It just so happened, that this was the University where my Jimmy and his best friend Matt went as well and it wasn't long before Jimmy, Matt and Jake became very good friends.

I met Jimmy for the first time in May, 2008 when Jake brought him and Matt to MN for his sister Nicole's (my best friend's) graduation celebration.
 I was still in high school, and Jimmy was in college....I wasn't looking for a relationship, and neither was he, so we simply met, and that was that. 
I didn't think anything of it. 
After that week, Jimmy went back to IN, and I kept living my life in MN.

However, it wasn't long before Jimmy's best friend Matt started dating my best friend Nicole! And it also wasn't long before Matt and Nicole were trying to set Jimmy and I up! 
Don't you just hate it when friends do that?

Now Jimmy wasn't interested in me at the time, and I wasn't interested in him either. In fact, at that point in my life, I was not really wanting to be in a relationship because of  how I had been hurt in the previous years. I was content being single, and I think that's exactly where I was supposed to be for the time being.

I will never forget the day in August that changed my life forever. I was merging hay in the fields in my favorite tractor (didn't know I was a farm girl?) when I got a text from a guy at a number I didn't know. This guy told me he had met me in Denver where I had been on a missions trip in July. He told me that he was interested in me and asked me a bunch of questions about myself. (Yes I know I was not being smart texting a "stranger", but you try being stuck in a tractor for 12 hours at a time;) you would have texted him too!) So I told him about myself. I told him I was a country girl, in love with Jesus, loved farming, liked the outdoors, camping, fishing, four-wheeling etc. And then I asked him about himself. He told me he was a country boy, loved Jesus, liked the outdoors, camping, fishing etc...

Needless to say, I was interested in this Jesus-lovin country boy! 

Try to imagine how I felt when I realized the number I was texting was not from Denver.

It was from Indiana.

It was Jimmy.

I was livid! I felt like he had tricked me he knew I was upset.  Jimmy felt horrible and tried to explain to me what had happened. He had thought that I had been pranking Matt from my phone, so Matt had asked him to get me back and he had just been trying to mess with me....

Even though the conversation was a prank, we both had told the truth about ourselves and who we were....and now we were both curious about each other. There seemed to be something there.

Jimmy continued to text me, apologizing for what he had done, and I continued to text him back for reasons unknown. It became a daily activity. I looked forward to getting those simple text messages from him asking about my day. Even a random "good morning" text, made my heart feel something funny...something that I had never felt for anyone before.
I struggled. I didn't want to fall for someone, much less someone in college who lived 12 hours away from me. This wasn't in my plan!

But I guess it was in God's plan.
We texted every day for nearly a month. One evening, our text messages weren't getting through right and Jimmy sent me a text that said, 
"can I call?"
I can still remember how fast my heart started beating. I was nervous! We had never really had a conversation before and I didn't want to ruin it. 
I tried to hide my excitement by texting back
"yeah I guess...give me 5 min"

Well Jimmy took my "yeah I guess" to mean that I wasn't really interested in talking, so he decided he wasn't going to call.
I sat there waiting for 5 minutes....
When he didn't call, I sent a text saying, 
"It's been 5 min?" 

Thank God I sent that last text, because when he called, that phone call consisted of about 4 hours of deep and meaningful conversation that we will never forget. 

We had a lot in common. We both had very similar beliefs about the Lord and how we wanted to live our lives. We challenged and encouraged each other, something that I had never experienced with a guy before.

After that night in August 2008, Jimmy called me every day.

Eventually those "good morning" texts turned into "good morning beautiful" texts. There's nothing much better than that.

But things were still complicated. 
I was still young. 
Indiana was still far away. 
I had parents who didn't believe in dating. There's no way they were going to let their 17 year old daughter date a guy 12 hours away in college!

Check out parts 2 and 3 for the rest of our love story!

Linking up with Women Living Well

Friday, February 10, 2012

The real Faith

Hi friends (and yes, I consider you readers my friends)! I am starting something new and asking you to join me for a virtual "cup of coffee", aka a heart to heart talk. As my blog has progressed, there are many of you who I do not know personally, and who do not know me. I want to change that!
 
I do not want to seem like some distant "blogger" girl who has it all together. 
I don't. 
So if you will bear with me through this post, you may find that we have a lot more in common than you thought!
Yes, I do have an About Me section that if you want to get to know me a little better you can head on over and read! But for today, I want to get even more personal and share with you more about the real Faith.
I would love to talk with each of you in person, but since that's very nearly impossible, I'm going to imagine throughout this post that you and I are sitting across the table from each other just having an honest chat about life.

I would begin by telling you that it's hard for me to be honest because being honest means being vulnerable and I don't like getting hurt. In fact, I actually began this blog a few years ago and kept it a secret. I was afraid everyone would laugh at my posts and think I was stupid for trying to share my life like this.

I would tell you that I opened my blog to the public when God convicted me that I was not living out Matthew 5:15-16 "Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

But then I would clarify....there is nothing good in me that I can boast. Who I am today is only because of the grace of God and nothing more. 2 Corinthians 10:17 But, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." I truly want my life and this blog to be about my boasting in the Lord.

I will be the first to admit that I fail at that. I easily become self-focused and lose my vision for sharing Christ. I get caught up in the number of followers I have, how many sales I've made on Etsy,  the awesome comments that you all leave. I look at my life, my amazing hubby, the education I'm getting, the life we have been blessed with and I so stupidly begin to boast in myself and my accomplishments. But God always so faithfully reminds me of where I was just a few years back...and where I probably should be now.

You see, what you probably don't know about me is that I grew up very differently than most of you might expect. I seem like your average, have-it-all, happy go lucky girl. 
And that's exactly what I'm comfortable with people believing about me. 
But it's not the truth.
In reality, I struggle with many insecurities, emotional issues, confusion, and so much more as a result of bring raised in a very legalistic man led organization..To put it simply, it was a cult. So much so, that we didn't even realize we were a part of one! The lifestyle I was raised in was accompanied by harsh discipline, as well as large amounts of false indoctrination that my family blindly followed.

Surprised? 

Well before you get any crazy images in your head, let me explain. To avoid hurting my parents and other loved ones around me, I will spare a lot of details, but will briefly share with you some of what we experienced.

We considered ourselves Christians, read the bible, prayed, and everything associated with that. 
But it was all a show. 
We were led by a man who told us how to look at the Bible.
Verses were twisted with such skill to mean whatever our leader wanted them to mean.

The Bible was used to abuse rather than heal.

We kept ourselves separate from the world, so separate that I never knew I was different. I thought all little girls had to have long hair, wear long dresses, and work in the house all day. We didn't listen to music, watch TV, or play normal kid computer games. I never attended school...my sisters taught me at home. I learned how to grind wheat to make homemade bread, skim the cream off the top of the milk to make butter, use our old sewing machine to make dresses,, cross-stitch, knit, be quiet, and and all the other things women were supposed to do. 
This organization had a military academy, and other training seminars on how we were to live. These trainings were one of the few places we were allowed to go when we left the house. There were so many specifics on how we were to live...all set up by the organization rather than Christ.

I was taught that it was wrong for me as a woman to go to college, work outside of the home, or live on my own. In our world, I was expected to grow up, have a man chosen for me by my father, start a family, and live as a part of the organization for the rest of my life.

As you can see, life has turned out very different for me. 

My family left this organization when I was about 14. 
I wore my first pair of jeans on April 18, 2005.
Talk about culture shock.

I went through a time of inward rebellion. We left the church we were going to, I lost everything familiar to me and felt as though my whole world was turned upside down. I was confused, hurt, alone, and mad at God for all he had allowed me to experience during those years as a part of the organization.. 
I was emotionally scarred and it took me a long time to get over my bitterness at God and my parents. 
It is by nothing other than the love and grace of Jesus in my life that has healed me from my past. It is not explainable. 

It has taken me years to learn about life and what a true relationship with Christ is like. Some things still don't come easy for me. 
To  this day, people still get a kick out of the things I haven't seen and done because of the way I was raised. But I love it. It's who God has allowed me to be and I wouldn't have it any other way.

So you can see, friends, why I believe it's a miracle that I am where I am today. When I share my story, people tell me that I should probably be a bitter atheist with severe emotional disabilities, living in sin, and miserable.
But God used many people in my life (my hubby being one of them) to teach me about true love, forgiveness, and true Christianity. I'm still a work in progress and learning how God wants to use me and my life.

One thing I know, is that God did not allow my past experiences for me to hide them and pretend I'm something or someone I'm not.
I've been hurt, confused, lonely, and lost, just like most of us have been at some point or another. I'm struggling through this life just like you and I'm blessed to have the friendship and support of so many of you. 

I am a work in progress. Aren't we all? I'm so grateful for the work God has done in my life and is continuing to do even now. I hope you were blessed and encouraged by my honesty. 

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