Friday, May 22, 2015

Eagerly Await for God to Rebuild



Today 2010 Mercy Graduate Alison shares a bit about what God has been teaching her. Alison recently obtained her Masters of Arts in Biblical Counseling. She is a joy and blogs here.

If you are a Christian, you know the joy of God giving you the sweetest blessings and the heartache of God taking away some of the things that bring you the greatest sense of security in this life. I’ve experienced a lot of God’s goodness. I could tell you about how God rescued me from a seemingly impossible and hopeless situation. I could tell you about how He brought me out of a sinful lifestyle that was leading me towards death. I could tell you about the amazing people that God has brought into my life. I could go on and on about how God has blessed me. Yes, I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
But what about seasons when God’s blessings seem to be absent and pain seems to be the only emotion that we can feel? What happens when something so traumatic occurs that we are left completely paralyzed and unable to function? What do we do when it seems like a bulldozer has systematically destroyed every aspect of our lives, one right after another, leaving nothing left? What do we do when we are used to being able to trace God’s hand in our lives, and then it seems to disappear altogether? I think about the psalmist who appears to know exactly what we are talking about: “God’s way was through the sea, God’s path through the great waters; yet God’s footprints were unseen” (Psalm 77:19). I think about unseen footprints. Footprints mean presence. He is still with us.
In the past year, I’ve found myself in some sort of twisted version of the major aspects of my life being “systematically bulldozed.” So what have I learned?
I have always been good at “pulling myself up by my bootstraps” even when things have gotten hard. I’m the girl with grit. In difficult seasons, it was still relatively easy for me to tell people that things were “fine,” knowing that they probably would be soon. So what happens when no amount of closing your eyes and gritting your teeth could ever get you through a season like the current one? What do you do when the bottom falls out – not just in one area of your life, but when all areas seem to be the targets? God’s answer for me?
You Eagerly Await for God to Rebuild
When all seems lost, God teaches us through His Word to remember. We remember primarily who God is and what God has done throughout history and in our lives. Even before God created the world, He had a plan of redemption and restoration set in place for us through the perfect life and horrific death of His Son, Jesus Christ. He planned to save us from our greatest problem and worst circumstance that we could ever possibly be in: our sin and the resulting separation from Him. We see through the gospel that God loves rescue. He loves redemption. He loves restoration. While this is the clearest and most significant picture of restoration, this theme continues throughout the Bible in significant ways. For example, throughout the book of Deuteronomy, Moses repeatedly reminds the Israelites to remember how God brought them out of Egypt and slavery. It’s a call to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness to them in the midst of a really difficult situation (those days in the desert do not sound like fun to me).
In seasons of suffering, God also calls us to remember. He calls us to remember that “if God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). He calls us to remember the seasons when His presence was easier to see and His good gifts were easier to spot. He reminds us through His Word that even when everything hits the fan and the circumstances aren’t changing, He is with us. He knows pain. He knows suffering. He knows heartache. His footprints might be unseen, but they are there. He reminds us to look for glimpses of redemption in each day as we long for the glorious day when all things will be redeemed.
When God gives us grace to see Him rightly, even when all on earth seems to be lost, there is a kind of hopefulness that comes at the idea of waiting for God to rebuild. But here’s the catch that took me awhile to understand: I’m not the one who can rebuild my life and fix what is broken. There’s a sweetness in considering the mess that has somehow become my life and deciding in these moments not to panic and instead to surrender to God’s plans, to rest in His goodness, and to trust Him in His timing. I think that I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of the security that I could find in the Lord as I continue to learn to lean into Him no matter the circumstances.
There have been two verses that God has basically engrained in my mind during this season that have proven to be true over and over again despite many losses. The psalmist explains, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing” (Psalm 37:25-26). God has been lending so much to me during this season and I pray that in turn, I will become a blessing.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Flashback Freedom Friday

For this Freedom Friday, we flashback to our beautiful 2014 Mercy Graduate Francis sharing her story for the 2014 Merry Mercy Christmas Benefit. Francis is the epitome of beauty, redemption and resilience. God's light shines in her smile and in her dreams to change the world!!

Friday, May 8, 2015

A special Mom and Mercy graduate shares her heart!

In celebration of Mother's Day we are honored to share the story of a beautiful mom and 2015 Mercy graduate, Danielle!

When I walked into Mercy in September of 2014, I knew I was where I was supposed to be. This was my pathway to true freedom. As I unpacked my things that first day I’ll never forget the thoughts that crossed my mind of my beautiful children, who I left in the care of my parents. I smiled thinking of their laughter and how much I'd miss it, but in the midst of sadness there was also peace. For the first time in a long time I had made the right choice.

Before Mercy, I was a single mother of three--with no fathers in the picture, and a drug addiction that cycled in and out of my life like a hurricane. I beat myself up on a daily basis for my failures as a mother, and by the time I reached Mercy, I felt like I didn’t even deserve the love of my children or to be a part of their lives. I soon discovered that was a lie planted by the enemy. I felt like my addiction not only controlled my life, but it consumed it from every direction, engulfing the very essence of who I was. I was a drug addict. It always seemed that simple to me. However, during my stay at Mercy, I learned that there were so many things that were controlling my life. I discovered that my addiction was not my problem, it was the solution I chose for my problems. In counseling, the barriers of those problems were demolished and exposed, one by one. One of the most meaningful things I learned at Mercy was to forgive myself for my past and have compassion for the girl I used to be. I accepted the decisions I made out of pain and brokenness and came to realize that through Christ we are all new creations. The Lord is always on my side.

I no longer have fear of what the future of motherhood holds. Rather, I anticipate the joy it will bring me and the challenges it will create. I no longer seek a man to love me or to step in as a father for my children, I rest in solace knowing that my God is a good father. He has it all worked out for my good, and my babies are His children, above all, and I could not ask for more in a father. Being a mother has been my greatest blessing, my hardest test, my longest roller coaster ride, my funniest story, my saddest song, but it has never ever been my biggest failure.

So for Mother’s Day I would like to offer a few words of encouragement and advice to all the other moms out there and moms-to-be, from my heart to yours. First off, before you consider any other advice or tips out there for being a mother, put this one at the very top of your list: Never ever let the enemy convince you that you’re a bad mother. When he tries, because he will, remember who your Creator is, and know that he makes NO mistakes. He carefully selected you to be a mother. He chose you to nurture his son or daughter. The enemy has no hand in giving life, therefore he has no hand in your calling as a mother.

1. When you get frustrated and feel like you just can’t do it anymore and you want to cry… girl, cry it out!  Trust me, it helps a lot and you’re totally normal for feeling that way. Every mother has days when she wakes up and just doesn’t want to do life that day, or the dishes, or laundry, or change diapers, or shower. Give yourself grace.

2. There are no supermoms out there, so do not attempt the “I’m going to do it all on my own” bit. You cannot do it alone. I assure you, I’ve tried. Your elders and other experienced parents are blessings in your life--accept the blessing.

3. Nobody, I repeat nobody, is ever fully prepared to be a mom, and you cannot predict what it will be like. Don’t stress over making everything perfect to bring your baby home. New mommas do not need stress, just focus on your baby, all else will fall into place.

4. For all the single mommas out there like me, just breathe. Mercy taught me the value of routine. When you only have two arms, but more than one child or a newborn, routine saves you a lot of stress, anxiety, and worry.

5. Instead of stressing the mess, stop, and spend time with your child daily even if it’s 15 minutes. Find a group activity to include all your children, but try once a week to make one on one time!  It shows your children just how unique God made them and it will change the way you parent on so many levels.

Children are a God-given gift and you were chosen specifically by Him to love nurture, guide, and protect your little one. This Mother’s Day, I encourage you to celebrate your children. Celebrate the honor you hold as their mother and let them know what a blessing they are to you. Let them know that when they came into this world, it was them who gave you life.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Special Post for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Today's blog post is from 2013 Mercy graduate, Angie.  Angie shares a piece of her story below as we wrap up Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Alongside Angie, we urge you to be on the lookout for those in your life who may be suffering the effects of sexual abuse in silence.  

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and I am advocating on behalf of all sexual abuse. This month, the Mercy Multiplied Ambassador Program challenge was to return to the emotions surrounding our testimony, further inviting God to speak truth over it, and then share it with someone in that context. At first I didn't know how I was going to go about finding someone to talk to, and I brushed it off. However, as the month progressed, I felt it laid upon my heart to utilize social media as a means to reach others.  
In the past week I have gone through my photo albums to find pictures of my younger self for the collage featured right. I chose the photos that held the most memories. I often talk to people about my eating disorder, and I seldom share the reason why I had an eating disorder. I am a sexual abuse overcomer, and for the longest time all I did was merely survive the abuse. There was not much joy or happiness that disbursed from me. The smiles I gave were often forced, and in each of these photos there is a definite guard that presents itself. The photo of me wearing a1999 Academic All Star t-shirt is the one that breaks my heart the most. I have allowed myself to feel the pain that I was experiencing at that time in my life, and am thankful that I have given myself that opportunity.
I am here to share with you a small portion of my life. While you read, I want you to try to put yourself in my shoes, and ask yourself: how can I make a difference to someone who is hurting?

My life rapidly changed when I was 16 years old. I had informed a teacher, via an essay, that the harm I was doing to my body through my eating disorder was a result of sexual abuse. I then experienced firsthand how the court system in this country works. I was taken out of my parents’ house, placed into a group home, and then eventually into a foster home. I found myself the topic of conversation at school and at church. I was eventually in a court room facing seven jurors and having a lawyer try to tear my story to shreds. During that year and a half, I faced a lot of rejection, ridicule, and blame. I did not have the support that I have now, and I faced a lot of that journey alone. I found my support in a few teachers at school, a couple of friends, and a family who took me in.

My pediatrician often saw me during my childhood years, and when he found out that I had been sexually abused, he had a hard time forgiving himself. He was often amazed at my high pain tolerance growing up. I had several injuries in which my reactions to the pain did not match the severity of the injury. During my court process I had to go see my doctor for some tests, and while I was in his office, he apologized to me for not doing his job correctly. He told me that he should have asked me more in depth questions about my high pain tolerance. His tone was full of regret, and he had tears in his eyes for the life that I had lived. 

I was an angry pre-teen and teen. I was often in trouble for beating up my younger siblings. I had anger consuming my entire being but then became sullen and withdrawn. I would go weeks without talking to anyone at home. I would do a lot of “uh-huhs, mmmms, mmmhmms” and other nonverbal cues to get by. There was often a scowl upon my face, and my hatred for others could actually be felt within my heart. I was often told, “If looks could kill...” then whoever my glare was aimed at “would be dead.” 

The clothes that I resorted to wear were tennis shoes, blue jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies. I wanted and needed to cover up my body. I did not want to draw extra attention to myself, so I often wore clothes that weren't very bright. I was not comfortable in my own skin, and the more clothes I had on, the safer I felt.  
I am thankful that I am not that girl who I once was. I no longer have the hatred and anger laying upon my heart and squishing the life out of me. I have shared my story so that awareness can be brought to the subject of abuse.
Be aware of the signs for abuse: I want you to pray for those who are being victimized and pray for the perpetrators. Pray for their families and ask those who are hurting, “How may I help? Teach your children, spouse, friends, and family “to walk in love, as Christ also has loved us” (Ephesian 5:2). 
You can and will make a difference in someone's life. Thank you!