All I Ever Have To Be

When I was much younger, probably only in fifth or sixth grade, I became acquianted with the music of Amy Grant. My first cassette (I'm not that old..but I do remember cassettes!) was her Tennessee Christmas album. I must have played it nonstop from Christmas through July that year! Afterwards, I found some of her older cassettes on sale at a Christian bookstore, and increased my collection of her recordings. One of my immediate favorites was her song "All I Ever Have To Be".

The song spoke to me right where I was, in the midst of an unhappy childhood, in the midst of people-pleasing, in the midst of never being good enough. I understood at 10 years old the fear of not being good enough; I wrangled with it daily. And although at the time I was not able to grasp the solution in Christ that Amy was sharing, the song got me through many dark times.

Flash forward to the last ten years, as a wife, mother, and employee. The effects of my childhood were still haunting me, and I continued to struggle with not being enough, trying to live up to someone else's expectations--my husband's, my children's, my employer's, and even God's. I struggled to know where God wanted to use me, mostly because I struggled to understand how He could.

I was not completely naive about God and how He chooses and uses people. I could show you ten examples of broken, ordinary people within the Old and New Testaments who God reached down, plucked them from their utterly forgettable circumstances and pain, equipped and then used them to change history.

I also personally knew Christians who had powerful testimonies of how God had reached down, picked them up, turned them around, and brought them out of their sin and pain. But although Christian friends encouraged me to write and even someday to speak, I could not find anything like this in my life.

That's not to say that I hadn't experienced growth in my walk with God, or that I hadn't had a painful past marred by worldly choices that left me further broken. I just really failed to see how my story was unique enough that others would want to read my story or hear me speak.

And then my moment came. The dirty, little secret that I had so carefully tucked away from the light of day, from the knowledge of even my closest friends and family members came into the light. I stood, as if on the edge of the Grand Canyon, knowing that on the other side of the chasm was everything that I wanted to have and to be. Before me lay the impossible and it would require things that I was confident that I could not do, even with God's help! Behind me lay the bondage of the same-old, the "good enough" but not "GREAT!"

Going back to my childhood home to take over my mother's legal, financial, and health issues was not really in my plans. I had carefully crafted my exit from my personal hell fifteen years ago, and although I knew the day would come when someone would have to step in, most of the time I prayed it wouldn't be me. But now, it was clear that I was the person and the time was now. But how could I possibly face it all?

I couldn't. But with God guiding me, He would equip me to face the nightmare, the hoard, and the painful memories of past emotional abuse. With God, and only with God, I would not only cross the Grand Canyon, I would get to the other side and embrace the promises of "All I Ever Have to Be". I would get to the defining moment that revealed exactly what God made me to be, and I was willing to rest in that identity, even if it required facing the past and my present fears.

The journey wasn't easy. It was long, and it was just as painful as my memories had taunted me they would be. But in the midst of taking it all public and doing "Hoarders" with my mother, it hit me. This was it! This was my story, and while it wasn't necessarily unique (there are an estimated 3-5 million hoarders in the US), I had hope, and I could practice grace and mercy. I could help and love my mom, not for what she had done, but for the same reason God could help and love me. God didn't wait until I was perfect to call me His own and to love me.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.--Romans 5:8 NIV

God wanted me to love my mother right now for one simple reason--she's mine, just as I am His.

I learned some powerful lessons about grace, mercy, acceptance and love during the process of cleaning out and selling my mother's home as well as in moving her across the country to live near me. I learned that secrets destroy, but shared truth gives freedom (Luke 12:2). I learned that I didn't need to wait until my mother got treatment to love her, but that I was called to love her right now, in the midst of the frustrations, shame, guilt, and anxiety. And I learned that I could love her. I could forgive her.

My story was unique because it was being played opposite the best leading man ever known! As I looked back at my childhood and wondered where God was, I realized slowly that He made have seemed absent for periods, but my life was in His hands the whole time. I'm here now to write about this, and I am embracing healing and hope which means that He was always there.

And those bad moments when I asked Him to give me an escape, yet it seemed He had ignored me, those moments were for growing me to be a woman of faith, a woman of victory, a woman with a heart for others. I have a story to tell--of growing up in the dirt and darkness of mental illness and hoarding, but even better still--of God making good of my life because of it!

And that is all I ever have to be.

I have been encouraged to write a book about my experiences, and some believe that I will go into public ministry in a powerful way. I still struggle with what I don't believe I possess yet. But then I remember what a wise woman once told me:

"God doesn't call the equipped, He equips those He calls."

And that is why I would love to go to the SheSpeaks Conference held by the wonderful women of God who are Proverbs 31 Ministries. The conference is held annually, and the goal is to equip women of God to reach out--via writing/blogging, through speaking engagements, or in Womens' Ministries. Lysa Terkeurst announced that a generous donation has been made to enable three women to get scholarships to attend the conference, this summer, made by Christian writer, Cecil Murphy. Today's entry is my hope that God will bless me with the ability to go and learn more about writing and/or speaking publicly so that I can share the hope that has gotten me through the years of pain, fear, shame, and anxiety with other women. (I secretly believe that Cecil would love for a "Cecilia" to be among the winners too! LOL)

If you are interested in the scholarship to attend the SheSpeaks Conference, you can find more about it here.

I know that whoever wins, God will use. And since my first entry here, my prayer has been that of Isaiah:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" --Isaiah 6:8 NIV

Father, thank you for being faithful to stand beside me each step of the way. When I feel like I can't do something, you remind me that you will equip me. When I think that I don't have the strength and energy, you remind me that those who run will not grow weary, and those that walk will not faint. I know with all my heart that as long as I remain open to you, you will use my story to encourage and strengthen others in your name. That, and that alone, is my heart's desire. In Jesus' name, AMEN.


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