Past Hurts, New Answers

Past Hurts, New Answers

Recently, a new scripture has taken on a whole different meaning for me. Psalms 23, the oh so famously memorized set of scripture you see people quoting in fearful situations or at the dinner table. What I love so much about this verse is how much strength I feel, and how I feel like my anxiety and depression in the past has been accounted for.

Seasonal depression has plagued me every year since the end of middle school. Of course I didn’t know what it was back in the day, but I started noticing a pattern towards the end of High School and finally made the conclusion my freshman year of college. Sometimes only lasting a few weeks, and sometimes lasting a quarter of a year. Each time, wanting an immediate escape. Each time, wanting immediate answers. Each time, not knowing how it started, and why I felt utterly alone amidst the presence of very strong friendships and being a believer.

It was my sophomore year that I asked my mentor her view on it, and I remember her saying, “sometimes God lets these things happen. We don’t know why, and it doesn’t feel like there’s a point. But it creates an overwhelming need for Him, which draws you either closer to Him or further away. But God is still there, and He wants you near Him”.

I wish I could say that that advice was all comforting, but only slightly haha. She was right, but it probably wasn’t what I was going for.

I remember my seasonal depression taking a sudden turn as well, switching from the season I was used to preparing myself for to my favorite season: summer. And it was truly an odd twist, because I was surrounded by Jesus as a ministry leader all summer. Where God’s presence should have comforted my lonely heart, where some of my best friends were too-that I could lean on… yet still feeling alone and further from God.

I was spending time with God daily and still felt far away from Him. Helpless, lonely, and angry. I didn’t understand (and still don’t sometimes) why I had to go through it. Especially during a time where memories were flooding my mind of past abuse.

As someone who felt hopeless, alone, and anxious before giving their life to Christ, feeling these feelings were all too scary and real. I gave my life to Christ so I wouldn’t feel that way.

The first part of Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (ESV version)

I looked into this verse and read a commentary that separated the words to give them more meaning. And while the words through, valley, and death interested me, the word that captivated me the most was the usage of shadow in this verse. (These descriptions are a mixture of mine, the dictionary, and blueletterbible.com commentary via David Guzik).

  1. Walk: moving at a fairly slow and regular pace
  2. Throughmoving from one side to another
  3. Valley: a pit, a surrounding low area of land, 
  4. Shadow: partial or complete darkness
  5. Death: we all know what this means.
  1. So, if we were to put these descriptions back into the verse for a fuller meaning, this is what we would have:

Even though I move at a fairly slow and regular pace, moving from one side to the other, in this surrounding pit of complete darkness of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

(also, notice how David is saying that God is with Him. Not waiting for Him on the other side. Not rooting in the distance for David to make it out, but He’s with Him. Every. step. of. the. way.) The fact that hard seasons, dark seasons, lonely seasons plague us isn’t some new thing. And this visual David has given us has meant so much to me, becuase even if it isn’t fun, it comforts me knowing that I can still find comfort in trusting God and patiently endure something that is really only a shadow of something that I never have to endure.

Things I’ve taken from this verse and from my own experiences:

  1. When God takes you through hard seasons, you usually walk through through them. You don’t sprint, run, or jog. They usually feel slow and painful. 
  2. A valley is an accurate description of a hard season. You usually feel surrounded, hopeless, and the only way to get out when you reach the other side, is to climb.
  3. Like in the verse, David faced the shadow of death. It wasn’t truly death itself, because Jesus has conquered the ultimate death. And if you’ve given your life to Christ and have a new life in Him, you will never experience ultimate death. But David was surrounded by the shadow of that dark, leering death. But for David (and for other believers) it’s just a shadow of death. The shadow of death can’t hurt us; it can’t take away our salvation. 

    “Death in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains. Some one has said that when there is a shadow there must be light somewhere, and so there is. Death stands by the side of the highway in which we have to travel, and the light of heaven shining upon him throws a shadow across our path; let us then rejoice that there is a light beyond. Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a man’s pathway even for a moment. The shadow of a dog cannot bite; the shadow of a sword cannot kill; the shadow of death cannot destroy us.” (Spurgeon, blueletterbible.com)

And that, is powerful.

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The Boring Gospels

The Boring Gospels

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I’m ashamed to say that I don’t find all books in the bible… interesting. Or captivating might be a better word. When I go to the bible for a daily quiet time, the gospels never jump out at me to read. Never. I mean Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are all eye-witness accounts of the life of Jesus. In my mind, I’m thinking why do we need so many? I’ve read Matthew. Do I really need to read the other 3? And on another note, it’s hard to apply a single verse. It’s not as easy as reading the book of James, for example. It’s basically a black and white small book about what one should/shouldn’t do to become more like Jesus/growing closer to Him. Easy read, easy stuff (for the most part).

But, reading the gospels take time. Because it’s an account, it’s written in a story like way. There isn’t a lot of room to choose one verse to memorize. Most of the time, the take away is an entire story. And what I’ve found for myself, is that sometimes I don’t even understand how cool one of the stories/miracles are until I understand the context of the story. And understanding the story can take time, because you have to dig and research what stuff means. And research takes time, folks…time. :/

If you ever have been reluctant to read the gospels for fun, a quiet time, or to do a study over it, here are some reasons that have given me a desire to read and appreciate them.

  1. The books are an account about the one who Saves us. The most obvious reason is here; “It’s all about Jesus, of course it’s important”. If you are a true Christian and have a new life in Jesus, wouldn’t you think it would be important to know about the very One whose life you gave? To even trust his holiness and sovereignty? It’s pretty important. And even just to get a glimpse into the life of the One who is all-powerful. Reading about the miracles he performed, how He talked to his people, how He he initiated with people who doubted Him, how He treated His disciples, How he is the ultimate example of sacrifice and love? If this one reason isn’t enough for someone to want to read them… I have more.
  2. IF you’re like me, sometimes you need more convincing. More proof. More evidence. More….evidence to sway your mind. So on to number two. The proof of the four accounts (books) is evidence that these were real events that happened, given by four different men. As a naturally doubtful person, my first inclination when reading or hearing about something that is “miraculous” is to wonder if it really happened at all. But it’s really cool to think that even God desired to have four different accounts about his Son, Jesus. It’s said that if things are repeated they’re important, right? Well think about how much God wanted us to know about His son, and why He came for us. That makes it seem more personal to me, that our God really wanted me to get it… To emphasize that we are all sinful, and just like all of those people Jesus saved on His time here on earth, He wants to do that for me and you too.
  3. Really piecing apart stories and just reflecting on them is so rewarding. There are things that make you sit back and think about. And most of the time, I walk away with information I had never intended or expected to learn.

Here is a link to a song-sermon that brought some life to the gospels for me. The pastor is Judah Smith.

This song-sermon is special to me, which I might add why in another post sometime.

If you have any favorite stories from Matt, Mark, Luke, and John feel free to share!

Happy September folks!

 

Vulnerability

Vulnerability

So this summer has been different for me. I’m super extroverted and so this summer has been really cool how to learn to be content with what the Lord has given me or taken. And one of the coolest things I’ve learned this summer is how to confront fear/doubt in relationships, situations, and with God, and also how to be vulnerable with Christ and other people. So, bear with me because I’m about to become vulnerable over a computer screen. And my flesh hates talking about brokenness because of pride, but I’ve learned to love being broken in Christ because I get to boast about Him – and He is the STRENGTH in my oh so many weaknesses.

Spent about 3 weeks in Colorado with CRU sharing the gospel.
Spent 3 weeks in CO sharing the gospel with CRU.

My goal is to be whole in Christ. In Colossians 2, Paul talks about how as believers we should be pursuing spiritual fullness in Christ. I started praying in May that God would reveal to me things in my life and heart that were hindering my ministry and relationship with Him. This summer, I was given the opportunity of being alone for most of everyday and used that time to spend in God’s word and prayer. Jesus loved me enough to strip me of my community and spend quality time with me all day everyday. And here’s the thing, I just have to praise Him because He has done so much work in my rebellious and frightened heart AND has been SO faithful in staying by my side when I want to run. Oh how He delivers!!!!!

  • Jesus is healing a girl with severe anxiety that has lead to medical disorders where my body doesn’t work how it should.
  • God has revealed lies I’ve lived by, has helped me dig up those roots, and in turn planting truth in those areas
  • The Lord showed me that I put a lot of my confidence in makeup, and how I could present myself
  • God has given me so much compassion for people and life and an overwhelming desire for ministry.
  • He has helped me trust him with my dietary difficulties and has helped me learn to be content with the cup and portion that He has assigned me.
  • Jesus has shown me to be dependent on Him and on Him only.
  • By grace, the Lord has given me tools to help confront fears and stop having nightmares as frequently.
The girl who promised to stay by my side.
The girl who promised to stay by my side.

2 Corinthians, Apostle Paul is addressing the church in Corinth and verse 10:17 says But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” Ask me about it, because I would love to tell you how cool Jesus is. He is intricately woven in every area of my life.  405-808-4803.

So how can I be complete when all of these things are going on in my heart? Well, I can’t. That’s where God comes in. And because I’ve surrendered my life to Jesus, the same power that raised Him from the dead is now the same power in me. . . By God’s grace and because He loves me so much, I get to bring all of these things to Him and let Him dwell in the places in my heart that are hurt, confused, or lonely. I’m holding hands with the Creator who keeps me still when I want to run in fear, and because I’m his child, He will never let go.

Jesus can redeem and restore your broken life.

I have the greatest love story known to man. The love of my life accepted death on my behalf because he was more concerned about restoring the broken relationship between me and my heavenly Father. Someone loved ME enough to not let that happen… Is that sinking in? Jesus said I was worth it. ME! The person who left him there on the cross! I was worth it, and so are YOU.

Jesus is worth giving up everything for!

He is worth it.

Summer thunderstorms are my absolute favorite type of weather. The temperature is comfortable enough to remain outside and be caught up in it. Rain is just beautiful and I feel like I’m in the middle of God’s mystery when all of these things are combined. And tonight Jesus let me be apart the storm. I’m in bed with my curtain open and there’s nothing better than watching the storm and God’s glory begin unfolding before I sleep. So undeserving.

Jesus is showing me how anything broken can be restored AND redeemed. I’m falling more in love with my Savior everyday.

Jesus is worth it.

White-Picket Fence

White-Picket Fence

That’s what I’ve always wanted, a white-picket fence. A cute little thing protecting my suburban-y home in a neighborhood that had a warming community. I wanted to host weekend barbecues after I got back from teaching my elementary students at school nearby. And spend time with my hopefully christian husband and attending church on Sundays.

That’s why I chose Elementary Education. My mom and dad wanted something different for me for practical reasons, but every time I prayed about changing my major I was convicted not to. So I didn’t. All I knew is that I cared a lot about people and their well-being and I wanted to show them the love that I had because of what Jesus did in me. I don’t know if I was even totally convinced myself that I wanted to be a teacher. Throughout my first semester of college I looked into different careers that included those very broad characteristics, but didn’t come up with anything I felt comfortable changing my major to. Then the summer after my freshman year I spent the summer at Florida through a university organization and learned how to dive deeper into God’s word, how to live out what I was learning, learn how to actually share God’s love with people-which is by sharing HIM with them and how He changed my life. I always thought there was something lacking in my walk with Christ, and I finally had found it! There was nothing as amazing as obeying God when he would lead me to talk to someone about Him. But I think the coolest part of my summer was working a job in Panama City that also offered positions to many foreigners who were either traveling abroad or in desperate need of a job. I met people from Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, Thailand, Mexico, India, and the Czech Republic. The friendships I made from this job were so special to me, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that pieces of my heart didn’t make it back to Oklahoma come July. Between the friendships I made at work and the people at my camp, it’s easy to say it was the best summer of my life.

I returned back to school in the fall as close in my walk with the Lord than I ever have been. During class, I would daydream about where I was going to live post-college. I started creating this ideal house with the kind of decor I wanted. What was my elementary class going to be like? How would I teach it? How could I teach about Jesus? I had a bunch of ideas. I thought about what kind of car I could get after selling my jeep. Would I have a husband by then? Everything seemed ideal, but I couldn’t shake the small doubt that this dream somehow still felt somewhat empty.

A couple of months later, that dream was shattered the night I put on a black dress to attend my friend’s funeral. Unexpected and so sudden, it was hard mourning the loss of someone I had memories with since childhood. I spent weeks grieving, and although I felt so broken, God was working in my heart in a way I hadn’t experienced before. He created this hole in my heart that nothing besides doing ministry and international missions would satisfy. I crave an intimacy so deep with Jesus and people that I would be so discontent in the life that I dreamed of for so long. Don’t think God can change the desires of your heart? Think again.

Typing this makes me laugh because of how much joy I thought sharing a nice house with a husband and being a teacher would bring me; like once I had those things it would “complete” my life. Or I would have FINALLY found that missing link I was looking for. The world and “current” Christians told me it’s “normal” to not be content with just Christ. It’s “normal” to still want other things, and that my “Prince Charming” would come someday, because “God has the perfect one for me”. And I even felt entitled to these things. But the more time I started spending in the Bible, the more I realized that Jesus never promised me these things. He never promised me a nice house, a job as a teacher, or that I would even have a husband (and boy was that a tough pill to swallow). It says many great things about marriage in the Bible and how a couple should glorify Christ, and how single people can glorify Christ as well. But never did it once say “and woman, when you finally find the betrothed I’ve promised you since day one blah blah blah”. Never promised, and it’s refreshing. Owning a nice house isn’t bad. Living in a pretty neighborhood isn’t bad. Having a spouse isn’t bad, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m asking you to think again.

What I’m asking is if you understand that we have a living GOD that created us for a time like this? Earth has been here for over 2000 years. Different centuries bring different social problems, social classes, struggles, epidemics, laws, and advances in science. Nothing God does is random. So why would he plop us here “just because”. There are thousands of different years you and I could have been born in, but He put you and me here, today, February 23, 2015.  Where were you born? It could have been anywhere, any continent. Who’s your family? I wonder if God put us here because he made us specifically for this time. Jesus formed us intricately according to how he wanted us (Psalm 139). We are wonderfully made by the same Being who created the stars you gaze at at night, the mountains you like to ski on, and the water so blue you can see your reflection. You are specially created.

If you lay down your cross (i.e., your reputation, sin, entitlement, selfishness, time) to follow Christ WHOLE-HEARTEDLY, He will use you and give you dreams so big you’ll think it’s impossible. Do you really think that Jesus died on the cross for you to live a plain, simple, and comfortable life by only following Him enough to say you’re a Christian but not enough to really let Him change your life? Think again. 

Kaleo: Summer Discipleship Program

Kaleo: Summer Discipleship Program

Dear Friends and Family,

I want to bring you up to date on what has been happening in my life since I graduated from Oklahoma Christian School last spring. Last summer I went through formal recruitment and I am a current and active member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Going to college brought on a lot of fear for me since I had come from a Christian school where they encouraged us in our faith daily. My first semester was a culture shock, and it took me awhile to adjust and also to find a youth group and get plugged in. My faith has grown tremendously this past semester and I’m so blessed to have sisters in my sorority who challenge me and give me more knowledge about the Bible. I’ve learned that God has made his people personally responsible for the Great Commission- Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with always, even to the ends of the age.” God has put this on my heart and has also presented me with an opportunity this summer that I wanted you to know about.

This summer I plan on attending a nine-week discipleship program called Kaleo. This takes place in Panama City Beach, FL and is sponsored by Student Mobilization, a non-profit, non-denominational ministry. This organization is on campuses in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas to help students come to Christ is a personal way, establish their faith, and equip them to reach others. I hope that as a result of training at Kaleo, that I complete what God has put me on Earth to do.

I am in the process of developing my Kaleo sponsorship to help me attend this program, and when I thought whom to contact, your name came to mind. In order to provide the necessary funds of $2500, I am asking people to consider investing financially knowing that ANY amount could help me achieve this final cost. And in addition to any financial support, I would appreciate your prayers for me throughout this summer while I’m at Kaleo.

Sincerely,
Jordan Clark

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Donation Instructions:

Go to https://secure-q.net/Donations/StudentMI/2726 to give online.

1. Click “Kaleo – PCB North (TU, OSU)
2. Type in donation
3. Click “One Time Donation”
4. Type “Jordan Clark” in the Ministry of Which Person blank

OR

1. Make out checks to “Stumo”
2. Mail checks to 207 North Eldridge 73054 Luther, Oklahoma

 

**Once again, ANY amount given will help. I appreciate your time. 🙂

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The Strength in Welcoming Attacks

The Strength in Welcoming Attacks

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My heart fools me.  My head fools me.  The “wisdom” that I think I have fools me.  Since when have I become almighty?  All knowing?  I haven’t.  I want everything to go my way, but where does that leave room for God?  How do I expect God to show His path for me when I’m not trusting Him?  I am so annoyed with myself because my soul yearns for structure while my flesh yearns for rebellion!

I sobbed to a spiritual mentor of mine once, relating to her my personal struggles with my faith.  I had a close relationship with God my entire life until I drifted away at fourteen for no specific reason.  And once I recommitted my life back to Him the summer before my junior year, life got hard.  I was being asked to do things by God that were completely out of my already small comfort zone, and when I would take a leap of faith, the situations didn’t always turn out how I expected it to. (However, this could be exactly how God wanted it to be, He’s behind the scenes and I am not).  I would take one step of faith, and then be spiritually attacked from every angle.   Another step, and even more attacks.  I was getting hit by every angle, and I hated it.  I hated feeling new in my faith again, and I hated not having “everything together”.  But while I was wallowing in self-defeat, my spiritual mentor told me something that changed my life and my perspective.  She said, “the minute you commit your life to Christ is the minute you’ve placed a target on your back for the devil.”

It started to make sense.  I wasn’t a target before because I was already in bondage to sin.  The devil had me where he wanted me, in the palm of his hand.  But when my heart changed, that made him uncomfortable.  He wasn’t in-between the Lord and I anymore.  It’s like Satan was standing between the Lord and I, and the moment I ridded the sin of my life there was nothing separating me from God anymore.  Each act of faith brought more attacks, but I stopped viewing them as that.  These little “setbacks” were like small obstacles in the way of my path with God, and I could either use them as a reason to turn away from Him or as a chance to grow deeper.  And once I started seeing them for what they were, these obstacles/attacks/setbacks (whatever you want to call them) began to fuel my fire for God even more.  All of a sudden I secretly didn’t mind these things I perceived as “attacks”.  In fact, I dare call them beautiful.  Beautiful reminders that I’m running the right direction.  Wonderful affirmations that the call God has on my life threatens the enemy and his destruction.  And lovely storms, that force me to dig deeper roots in Christ so that when bigger storms rise, I can face them with ease.

Now, I’d be fooling you if I said I saw situations like this all of the time.  So I don’t want anyone to think that this is a normal or natural mind set.  I’m just trying to show that the devil doesn’t want us to be happy and live a life in love.  He doesnt want us to be successful. He doesn’t want us to have peace in Christ, feel secure in who we are, and become free from the bondage of sin that HE placed us in!!! The enemy is the one that chains you, tempts you, and wants you to live life in fear, not God.  God provides the way out of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).  God provides life (John 10:10).

I want my light to shine so bright for the Lord that the enemy can’t STAND me.  I crave the boldness from the life of Esther, and yearn to possess the courage she had to stand up to the king and save her people.  I long to be the Proverbs 31 Woman that my husband, children, friends, and family deserve someday.  But most of all, I want my life to reflect Christ and that everything I say or do points people back to Him.

Faithfulness for the Faithless

Faithfulness for the Faithless

How the Lord is faithful!  I could say it a million times and it still wouldn’t be enough.

This season of my life has been anything but easy.  My advice is to not tell God that you’re willing to do something unless you mean it.  But I have learned so much and have grown in my walk with Christ along the way that I wouldn’t trade it  for anything.

The coolest thing about some of the struggles I’ve overcome and still are overcoming is seeing the power in prayer and how God’s love really is unfailing.  Awhile back I told God I was willing to lose everything for Him, so I don’t know why I was so shocked when He asked me to do just that.  For a brief period of time I was left with no one to talk to and I felt like I had been stuck in a deserted area and was told to endure this storm by myself.  Nothing like this has ever happened to me, so I had no idea what to do.  I was further away from God than I thought, and everything was extremely foggy.

It started making sense that the reason everyone was being pulled from my life was because I needed to talk to God.  A close friend of mine once told me how the life of his family member had changed after years of constant prayer.  Encouraged by this, I constantly prayed for understanding and for certain things to happen over and over again.  At first, my “prayers” weren’t prayers though.  And what I mean by that is it was mainly me shaking my fist at God and demanding to know why I had to go through this pain.  I accused Him of sitting up in Heaven, not doing anything, and just taking pleasure in watching me suffer.  But deep-down I knew it wasn’t true, I just wanted someone to blame for the mistakes I had made.

After a week of my “prayers”,  I really began to pray.  The prayers shifted from me telling God what I wanted to happen to me trusting Him and praying for His will to be done.  That statement finished most of my requests. “Please let this happen if it’s according to Your will.”  “Please change my heart and random person’s heart to this if it’s Your will.”  “Provide me with this if it’s apart of Your will.”  I prayed for healing, understanding, peace, and most of all, for God’s will to be done.  I still couldn’t feel anything but I kept reading my bible and praying.

In the middle of class a couple of days later, God spoke to my heart.  It was undeserving how quick this answered prayer was. And for the first time in a year I felt peace and finally felt like I had something to cling onto ; hope.  There was HOPE for my future.  Lies I believed about myself and my life were melted by God’s love.  I was amazed at how God had so quickly changed my heart and my goals.  Also, a prayer for a changed heart had been answered for two of my loved ones since then.  I was completely shocked that God could or even would do that for me.  How LITTLE my faith was!  Did I not trust that the God who created you and me could change a person’s heart?! HOW POWERFUL is my God!  These little victories push me forward in my faith.  I understand now that the journeys He asks us to take are hard, but there will be JOY and HOPE among the pain! And if that isn’t good news to you then I don’t know what is.

I struggle on a daily basis.  My uncle was just diagnosed with cancer.  I fight battles that no one knows about.  And I struggle with trusting people.  But my God is bigger than my biggest struggles and He’s bigger than yours.  He’s stronger than the problems that you and I face now and the difficulties that we will face in the future! “I have told you these things so that in ME you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

So… what are you praying for?