Monday, August 29, 2016

August 2009 Series ~ The God Who Restores

The month of August 2009 is when God intervened in my life and radically altered my life, through my unborn baby, my darling Lily girl. Each August, I am flooded with memories of His faithfulness, in both the huge things and the smallest details that He used to speak to me. I like to share the blog entries about that time each August to share of His great love and faithfulness. I will call the posts the "August 2009 Series."


I look back on my life and see the things that were painful for me were the very instruments God used to bring me to Himself. I was bullied in middle school and my freshman year of high-school, felt extremely self-conscious, and just never "fit in." I see God's fingerprint through all those years of awkward adolescence, when I didn't feel His presence, but can now clearly see He was there through it all.

He brought me to a place, after my freshman year, where I was longing for truth and beauty and something beyond what I saw all around me. I didn't even know what I was looking for, but my heart was wounded and was in a place where I was wide open for the Lord. That's why I can say I thank Him now for allowing those things into my life because He knew how He would redeem it and use it for my good and His glory. He knew He would use it so I would be in a place where I could hear His voice beckoning me to come to Him.

That is when He led my mom and I into a Christian book store in Clayton, North Carolina and I stumbled upon the book, "Authentic Beauty" by Leslie Ludy.

I had never heard of the Ludys before and honestly don't know exactly what drew me to the book. I vividly recall being in that store on that summer day in August 2004. I had just turned 15 that month and was soon to start my sophomore year of high-school. I must have been intrigued by the cover of the book. If you'll notice, there is a beautiful lily on the cover that is delicately blooming. Leslie talks about in her book about being a "lily among thorns," meaning living as a set-apart godly young woman in a world that mocks all things pure and lovely.

By that point in my life, I felt like there were no guys in the world that truly treasure girls, and that they only use them for their selfish pleasure. I felt worthless. In that loneliness, pain, and heartache, God whispered to me, through the book "Authentic Beauty," that He would love me in a way that no man on Earth ever could. That His love is authentic, pure, good, and true. He romanced my heart through the chapters in this book. With the turn of each new page, my heart was awakening to the beauty of a life lived fully surrendered to Jesus Christ.

In her book, Leslie details the experiences from when she was a teenager, many of which I related to. Because of her painful and challenging years, she was able to speak to me when I was in a similar place in my life. I remember poring over this book when I went with my family to Massanutten Resort in Virginia, something we've done nearly every year for vacation since I was a baby. I was writing in my journal, reading this book, praying and feeling Jesus so near, and just being with Him. He was healing me and showing me my worth to Him and in Him. Leslie introduced me to Jesus Christ in a way I had never known Him before. I literally fell in love with Jesus. He captivated my heart and I knew that I could never turn back. I knew I was changed by a love so divine that I could not go on as if I didn't know it was real. Not that I would ever want to.

...However, as we know from what happened in my life in the years that followed my reading this book, I slowly let go of my relationship with the Lord. I never saw it coming, I didn't even know what was happening until it had already happened. It reminds me of a Casting Crowns song that says, "It's a slow fade when you give yourself away, it's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray. Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid when you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day, it's a slow fade." I recommend listening to the entire song either below or by clicking HERE.

It's not like people plan on spiraling into a life of depression and sin, but if we are not vigilant in guarding and cultivating our relationship with the Lord, the enemy and the world can sneak in. That's what happened to me... the world seduced teenage-me. I take responsibility for my actions and the choices I made, but I do also see how some of the things that happened have reasons (not excuses) behind them.

Some people have asked my mom and I how if I were truly a Christian, how could I have ever made the choices I did. They assume my relationship with the Lord must not have been "real." I assure you, it was. And that is why I believe that I am living for the Lord today (more on that later). As I have thought about it over the years and contemplated myself why I was susceptible to falling into sin, I believe part of the reason was the culture's influence on me. Let's be honest, it's not exactly easy for young people these days to live for Jesus, especially when they are floundering on their own and don't have the necessary tools and support to live set-apart for Him. And it's exactly as the song says, a slow fade. It doesn't happen overnight, but gradually over time, you can find yourself in a place you never imagined you'd be. I believe that anyone in the world is capable of sinning in ways they never would imagine, given the right (or shall I say wrong) circumstances. Who are we to say we wouldn't have chosen different sins that we look down on with such intensity, if we had the same upbringing and circumstances as the people who chose those things? It is truly only by God's mercy that we haven't made devastating and life-altering choices and that we are living for Him. It is His grace that saves us and keeps us.

Anyways, fast forward to the summer of 2009, in the month of August when I had just turned 20 and was in my first trimester of my pregnancy with Lily. The Lord was drawing my heart back to Himself and giving me the courage to choose life for my baby. I knew in my heart (because I fully believe He showed me so that I would connect to my child) that she was a little girl and her name was Lily. He showed me that she was to be a symbol of my renewed purity and redemption in Christ (both Lily and Katherine mean "purity and innocence.") He showed me that He could wash away all the sins that I was ashamed and regretful of. She was not a sin.

I knew in my heart that the God of the Universe was knitting together a very special little girl, quietly hidden within my womb. Jesus supernaturally intervened in my heart and life and used her life to bring me back to Him. Lily was the bridge between my Savior and I. She changed my heart, she changed the road I was walking on, she changed my future, she changed everything...rather, Jesus changed everything through her life. I treasure her name. To me, it is not simply a pretty name. The flower and name are so meaningful and significant to me.

The Lord was giving me hope for her future, my future, and showing me that He had a plan and purpose for her precious life.

Over the years, as I have thought about how I read "Authentic Beauty" when I was 15, I have wrestled with feelings of regret and wishing I could do things over. I should have known better. Instead of harping on what could have been had I not chosen what I did and had I remained close to the Lord, I instead thank Him for His great redemption plan. I thank Him for leading me to that book because as I said, I believe it is part of the reason why I am now living for the Lord. You see, if I didn't know His love and was satisfied in the worldly life I was living, I wouldn't have thought anything was wrong with the choices I was making. I thank Him that He allowed me to be utterly miserable without Him! I knew what I was missing. I wouldn't have turned back to Him because I wouldn't have turned to Him in the first place. I knew that He was The Way, The Truth, and The Life, even in my sin. I didn't deny Him, but rebelled against Him and His plan for my life. However, because of how He captivated my heart when I was 15, I knew His voice and was drawn back to Him when I was 20.

Both of the times when He worked so mightily in my life were in the month of August. The month He brought my life into the world was the month He brought me to life in Him. My birth month is my re-birth month.

I looked up the meaning of the word "restore" and it said: replenish, repair so as to return to its original condition.

The Lord has shown me through the cover of this book that He can, has, and will continue to restore me. He will take me back to who I was when I first read it, meaning I am not damaged or un-restorable like I have felt. He used my Lily to bring me back full circle, to the time when I read the book with the lily on it, to the time before the mistakes and when He captivated my heart completely. It's all almost too deep for me to fully wrap my mind around and articulate. It's not too late. It's never too late for Him to restore, friends.

He can restore those years of my life and make it as if those things never happened. Not that I could ever forget Lily or Luke or that I'd want to forget them or the things I've learned through my experiences, but I can forget the pain and shame associated with my memories and experiences. He can restore our lives, our hearts, our relationship with Him and others, even the things that feel they are too wounded or damaged.

Years after the time I wrote it, I was reading through an old journal from when I was 16 and was struck by something I wrote and the faithfulness of the Lord. Perhaps He wanted me to one day look back and see His hand... I asked the Lord to never let go of me, even if I let go of Him. I don't know why I wrote this, but am amazed that I did and that He didn't let go. What undeserved love.

It reminds me of a quote I read that says: "O God, take my heart, for I cannot give it; and when Thou hast it, keep it, for I cannot keep it for Thee." -Fenelon

It also reminds me of another quote that says: "Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you." -J.I. Packer

Lord, thank You for keeping my heart. Please continue holding fast to me. I am more thankful than I could ever describe because You love me and saved a wretch like me.

Read a post on The Gospel Coalition blog that I love: "God Can Restore Your Lost Years."



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