Monday, September 14, 2015

What I Learned This Summer, Part 2

PART 2 OF 4:

Okay, so I left off at camp. Week one. I woke up at 3am inspired to give a campfire message. I figure you want to know what that was (because I would if the shoe were on the other foot). Lucky for you, I wrote it all down.

**I didn't get this quite right. There are things you think you know, but you don't. And you don't know them until you know them. Of course, that makes me wonder about the validity of anything I write ever. Because that learning thing is an ongoing process. And I don't know right now what I don't know... ::sigh::

However this is what I said:

Tonight I want to tell you my story. Give you my testimony. Because people don't care what you know until they know that you care. But the truth is they don't care what you know until they know you. So, I don't want to just tell you what I know, but how I learned it.

What I know: Life will knock you down.

 If it hasn't yet, it will. How you deal with that will depend on your relationship with Jesus. Even so, there may be times when you, like the Prodigal Son, decide to take your own path. And, like the Prodigal Son, it won't work out well for you. But, also like the Prodigal Son, the Father will welcome you back with open arms.

I grew up in the church. Accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior when I was in elementary school. I started coming to this camp the summer before 7th grade. I had good and bad times, but life was mostly good. Honestly, life was mostly good until it wasn't. I made some bad choices 16 years ago**. Choices I should've known better than to make. Choices that ended up hurting me very badly.

What I know: When you make a choice (any choice) there are consequences.

I dated and then married a man who wasn't a Christian. I should've known that was a terrible idea. Our core values weren't the same. But, I brushed those doubts aside and rationalized that it would be okay.

What I know: If you have to make rationalizations for your choices, you need to rethink those choices.

In fact, he turned out to be an abusive husband. He never hit me, but he threatened me repeatedly, and it was scary being married to him. His two children from a previous marriage moved in with us six months after we married (and out of a physically abusive household with their biological mother). The weight of responsibility for those children fell heavily on my shoulders. I knew that I was their one and only parent with an inkling of how to love and nurture a child.

What I know: You cannot save another person. Only Jesus can save another person.

We've talked a lot about shining this week. The longer I stayed in that situation, the less I shined. I got a migraine that wouldn't go away. Ever. No doctor. No medication would make it quit. My neurologist told me on my first appointment, after asking about my circumstances, that so long as I continued to beat my head into a wall I would have a migraine. I refused to accept that and continued to beat my head into that wall for another two and a half years. My philosophy was "I'm not a quitter," and "I'm not getting a divorce. Ever."

I was sick. My ability to effectively work my sales job diminished to the point that my paycheck was severely affected. The migraine took over my life and I became a shell of who I was. My mother constantly expressed her fear that I was going to die. It wasn't until I fully agreed with her (staying married would end in imminent death) that I filed for divorce.

What I know: When you're sick and/or abused, you push everyone away. You don't want anyone to know.

My relationship with Jesus moved from a daily dialogue and weekly worship to occasional cries that sounded a lot like, "Please help me!"

What I know: God listens to all prayer. Often, we stop listening when we feel surrounded by darkness. 

After my marriage ended, my migraines didn't get better. I didn't understand it. Over the course of the next year I actually got worse. I fell behind on my mortgage payments, and the electric was regularly being shut off on my house. I dreaded calling my parents and asking for help. Eventually, I financially fell through the floor. I had no choice but to sell my house and move in with my parents. It was devastating.

Once upon a time, Jesus and I were like that (fingers together), Now we were more like this (fingers apart). And we were gaining on this. (hands apart)

What I know: God will not always answer your prayer.

Remember the first thing I said? Life will knock you down. I was down and God seemed to have disconnected my number. At least, that's what it felt like. I wish I could tell you that I took all of this with grace and remained faithful that God had my back.

Fast forward three years.

I became really angry with God. I spent a lot of time shaking my fist at Him. I put away my Bible and stopped even trying to go to church. Remember what I said about life knocking you down? I was down.

What I know: God listens to prayer. Even when you stop listening, God remains faithful.

A friend of mine said, "Tell me about your relationship with Jesus." (That would be you, Stephen T. McCarthy)

I was offended. I didn't want to think about it and definitely didn't want to talk about it. My response was something like, "None of your beeswax."

However, I couldn't stop thinking about the question. So, I pulled out my Bible off the shelf. Went back to church. Started singing in the church choir. Started reading books by people smarter than me. I found relationship with Jesus. Again.

What I know: You must choose Jesus every day. Being saved in elementary school doesn't carry you through life. You must choose Jesus again and again.

So, what do I know?

Life will knock you down.
When you make a choice there are consequences.
If you have to make rationalizations for your choices, you need to rethink them.
You cannot save another person. Only Jesus can save another person.
When you don't feel shiny, it's too easy to push everyone away, including Jesus.
God listens to all prayer. Often we stop listening to Him when we feel surrounded by darkness.
God remains faithful in every circumstance of your life.
Lastly, you must choose Jesus again and again because He's always choosing you.

(The end)

Yes, it was long and there turned out to be some crying. I know what you're thinking, but it wasn't JUST me. Me and a few other people. Young people who probably felt like their relationship with Jesus wasn't where they wanted it to be. Therein lies the beauty of a painful story (life). If you can turn that disaster around, there is hope. Or to put it another way, "It ain't over 'til it's over."


  1. Amen!
    God answers prayers, just in His time not ours, and often in ways we don't expect.
    And sad but true - we can't save others. Only Jesus can.

    1. That is definitely true. The thing that gets me (now) is the relief I feel that God didn't answer every prayer request I had as a young person. And by that mean... up until last week. ;)

      It's a hard thing to accept that you really can't save someone else. You can love them tons, but you can't save them.

  2. This was phenomenal! I believe that God puts in certain places, surrounded by certain people for very definite reasons that sometime He can only understand. But the outcome always makes us better for going through what we did. I've never felt God more strongly than when my marriage was at it's worst. I knew everything would be "okay" as long as I had Him by my side.

    I wouldn't be surprised if you were put in those kids' lives to show/teach them what true love and caring really is.

    Great post!

    1. I'm not sure that I've said it here, but I don't believe in coincidence. I believe that God puts people where they need to be when they need to be there. I think we also stay sometimes in unpleasant places for much longer than we'd like until we learn the lesson we're meant to learn. God never leaves us during those times, though sometimes we leave God.

      I'm glad that during those really dark moments of your marriage you KNEW that God was right there with you (because He was). Knowing that makes it easier to keep on keeping on.

      I think every counselor who chooses to go to a Christian camp is there for a reason. God has something in mind for them that they might see. Or they may never see. But it's all for the glory of God. Just like the Bible says.

  3. Humans are flawed and I think we've all had moments of doubt and perhaps anger at God. I'm glad you've found your way back.

    Susan Says

  4. Thanks for sharing. God gives us freewill, which is a wonderful gift and a terrible curse at the same time.

    1. You got that right. Although, I choose to think of it as a wonderful gift.

  5. Well, since Jesus is on my team, I say: You must choose yourself every day. Self care must come first, last and always. I think people need to stop waiting for God/someone or something else to fix things. That's up to humankind. And a person isn't "saved"; they need to heal themselves. I imagine we have the same beliefs, though, just slightly different semantics.

    Be well, Robin. Glad you got so much out of your camp experience.

    1. Let me just say that no matter what religious tradition is yours, self care is necessary.

      My mom was always fond of the saying, "The Lords helps those who help themselves."

      I think that my life works better when I allow God room to move in it. God chooses better than I do... :)

  6. A truly beautiful post. We all have a tale like this to tell, not everyone lets it get to such dreadful straits. I remember reading that the Spirit never leaves you- but will put you "on the shelf" when you don't want to listen. This can be a life situation, like yours, or like a certain time in my life- and it can be a "day trip" like my last Tuesday. The one thing in common is, they begin with not listening, and do'nt end until we stop whining for five minutes- or stop running after so many miles- and listen.

    1. The ONLY good thing about going so far off the rails is that I can say I got back on. Not everyone does. I also think that people need to remember that forgiveness (by God and self) is always just around the corner. As soon as we say, "Yes."

  7. I do connect with that phrase, It ain't over till it's over. It seems to accompany your life and you do very well with it.

    1. I like to think that I'm slowly, but surely, learning the lessons.

    Sorry I'm so late commenting here. It's only because of BOTB. But as you know, I read this blog bit right away, on the day you posted it.

    I gotta say that this is probably my favorite thing you've posted on your blog. I didn't know you in your early years of blogging, so I haven't read everything. But in the time I've known you, I think this is my favorite.

    It is so profound and so inspirational. And I can't even find the words to express what I feel in my heart. I am truly honored to know that I played some small part in helping you to get right with Christ Yeshua again, by asking that question.

    I still remember that. Ha! I know we discussed it once briefly, since then, after having become friends, and I now think it's funny that we got off on the wrong foot. I remember your curt response to my Q, and then I WAS OFFENDED, too! In fact, shortly afterwards, I believe I stopped 'Following' your blog for awhile. But something made me return again and sign up to 'Follow' a second time.

    And think of all the great conversations and the exchanging of ideas we've had since then. That "Something" apparently knew what He was doing.

    I thank you so much for this. I Emailed a link to this blog bit to my Brother and he replied: "Woow! That was interesting and powerful. You have a good friend there."

    I couldn't agree with him more!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. I'm glad you liked this blog bit. I don't think it's quite so embraced by my "regular reading audience." Of course, that isn't that surprising. The Bible clearly states that many people will not embrace Christ after hearing about Him. And it could even affect your relationships with others (positively and negatively). When you know that, it's a fairly risky proposition to ask someone about their "relationship with Jesus." Heck, your chances of a positive response aren't even quite 50/50. I think it's more like the Law of Thirds. 33%.

      So, that makes your asking more admirable. Although, I'll suggest that if you do it again (and you get a similar response) take a beat and think, "Hey, I've been here before. Maybe I'll just let this simmer and see what happens." :) The truth is that it's really hard to talk about your relationship with Jesus if you don't have one (and you used to) or if you think you know, but you don't. Either way, just tossing out the question is likely to make something happen.

      As for your brother, he was half right. I think I came out pretty good in the friend department, too:)

  9. I struggled with what to say on this post because I'm not even sure where I stand with the J-man. I pray for others, but I don't often pray for myself, because I don't feel right in doing so. My thought is that I got myself into this mess, so why should I have God bail me out? Shouldn't I take responsibility for my own actions? And so traditionally when I pray I simply give thanks for what I've been given, even something as simple as a roof over my head and insulated walls. But it doesn't really create much of a relationship, so to speak.

    1. If you don't mind a suggestion, I think the appropriate prayer for you would be to ask for a relationship. Something I've learned (about anything, really) is that all you have to do is cultivate the desire to make things happen. I think that if you prayer for a desire to have a Relationship, God will begin to work in your life to make that happen.

      I know that it works that way with forgiveness. When I need to forgive someone, I begin with the desire to forgive. I don't focus on the how, when, and especially the how. If we focus on how to get somewhere (and really have no idea on the details), we can get mired in that. Instead, focus on the fervent desire for the forgiveness. If you do that, one day you'll realize it's a done deal.

      I don't know that your relationship with the J-man will work precisely that way, but I think if you pray for relationship, doors will be opened that lead you to it. After all the Bible says, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7

      BTW, don't knock prayer of thanksgiving. God listens to all prayer, remember? :)

      Thanks for commenting. I think this was hard for you. That makes me appreciate it all the more.

  10. Robin, I am getting caught up on your posts that I've missed while I was gone. Holy cow I missed some great stuff but now I'm caught up. I love this post. It is so real and raw and genuine ! What a blessing those young girls had when they got to witness this testimony. God is so good to put you where you needed to be at that camp.
    Here are my nosy questions: do you still have relationship with your stepkids? I am sure they appreciated the love and support they had from you while you and their dad were together.
    What I have noticed is that yes I lost a few followers over the years when I posted about my faith, etc. However many of my blog followers are Christians too and I was happy they stayed with me.
    Thank you for sharing your testimony with us. Truly a blessing!

    1. To answer your nosy questions (ha!)...

      Yes, I still have a relationship with my ex's kids. They are teens now (which is so strange to me) and it's easier in some ways (they have their own phones) and harder (they're teenagers).

      I don't think anyone has unfollowed yet, just chosen not to comment. And, hey, that's okay!


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