Tag Archives: found

I’ve Lost It!

The other night, something jolted me awake from a dead sleep at around 2:30 a.m.  My left hand immediately flew to my ear, and I realized that the diamond stud earring that I always wear was gone.  Oh, no!  Quickly I checked my right ear, and that stud was firmly in place.

I checked the left again.  Yep, still gone.

Not wanting to wake my sleeping husband, I began feeling around my pillow in the dark to see if I could find the earring.  I found the back to it, but no diamond stud.  Had my husband added my jewelry on our homeowner’s insurance?  I wasn’t sure…but I knew I had to find that earring.

I went into the bathroom as I thought that would be the most likely place for the earring to have fallen out.  I turned on the light and looked everywhere.  No luck.

I went back into the bedroom and decided that I had to search the bed.  I couldn’t find it by feel, and I started wondering if it had fallen to the floor.  I had visions of it being sucked up into the vacuum cleaner, never to be seen again.  I had to find it, even if it meant tearing the whole house apart in the process.

Eventually I turned on the bedside lamp, hopeful that it wouldn’t disturb my husband.  I turned back the covers….and there it was.  Whew!!!  What a relief.  I quickly turned off the lamp again and then tightly fastened the earring back into my left ear where it belonged.  The whole escapade didn’t even wake up my husband.  🙂

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a parable of a woman who lost a gold coin and turned her whole house upside down looking for it.  A parable is a story that Jesus used to help his contemporaries understand what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.  In the parable, the woman eventually found her lost coin.  When she found it, she threw a party and invited her friends to come and celebrate with her.  In verse 10, Jesus concludes:

“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  To repent just means to turn away from your sinful ways and to embrace God’s ways.   Jesus says that even the angels of God rejoice when just one sinner repents.  Isn’t that amazing?

I well remember in my own faith story, which you can read here, how God used a pastor’s words to help me “Get found!”  Yes, I was the lost child that God valued so highly that He would have torn apart the whole house looking for me.  When I came out of hiding on October 14, 2001 and got found by Him, there was rejoicing in Heaven – they threw a party to celebrate!  Can you imagine that??  It’s astonishing to me.

You can get found, too, if you haven’t already.  Just pray a humble prayer that you truly mean from the bottom of your heart, and Jesus will accept you.  You don’t have to clean up your act first or get your life in order – He wants you just as you are, right now, wherever you are.  His Word tells us that “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).   You can use your own words, or you can pray this simple prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinful person and I have fallen short of your glory.  I ask that You would please forgive me of all of my sins – past, present and future – and wash me clean.  I no longer want to live that life; I want to follow Your ways.  From this day forward, please come into every area of my heart and lead my life.  Be my Savior.  I receive your gift of grace and I receive your incredible love for me.  Thank You, Jesus.  Amen.”

AMEN!!!  If you have just prayed that prayer, would you please tell me so that I can celebrate with you?  If you’ve already received Him, I’d love it if you’d post your date in the comments below so that I can celebrate you as well.  🙂  Blessings to all of you!

My Faith Story: Loss and Hope

Faith has always been an important part of my life. My father and one of my grandfathers were both Presbyterian ministers when I was very young, and the habit of going to church was instilled from the very beginning of my life. I grew up believing that Jesus was who He said He was – the Son of God, come to save us from our sins.

When I was young, I started experiencing what would turn out to be a series of serious losses. My parents divorced when I was 8, and later that year my grandfather became terminally ill. I prayed with all the faith that my eight-year-old heart contained that the divorce and my grandfather’s death wouldn’t happen, but they did anyway. Within the next couple of years, both of my parents re-married, but my new stepfather soon became terminally ill and died. I was devastated by all of these events and didn’t know how to respond to them. However, people around me seemed happy and seemed to want me to be happy, too, so I began to stuff the feelings of sadness and confusion, hiding them down deep, and tried to at least act happy.

At the age of 12 or 13 years old, I went through my church’s affirmation classes, the completion of which allowed me to be a participating member of the church. I could take communion and was able to vote on church matters and so forth. I thought that was what it meant to be a Christian, and I was very glad to have made that decision. However, very little in my life changed as a result of joining my church, and I still carried the sadness and confusion deep inside.

More tests to my young faith came as I entered the eighth grade and my high school years. More deaths were happening around me, and many of these were young people. A classmate was killed in eighth grade, leaving me shocked that death could even sneak up on someone my age. A young man from my church was killed in a tragic airplane crash. My great-grandmother passed away. Others who were more peripheral to my life also died. The sadness and confusion about how to cope with these events became heavier.

When I was 15, I once found myself in need of a ride home. An acquaintance from school offered to take me home, and I gratefully accepted. However, before we got to my house, he took me to a secluded area and raped me. I was filled with guilt and shame at what had happened, so I told nobody at all. I took shower after shower trying to remove the dirty feeling from my body, from my very soul. Nothing worked. I stuffed those feelings of guilt and shame down deep.

Around that time, I joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at school. Down inside, I thought that if I could be a better Christian, these horrible things would stop happening to me. I tried hard to read my Bible, but I couldn’t understand it and found it boring for the most part. I tried to pray more but all I heard from God was a deafening silence. I felt like I was “okay” in God’s eyes as long as I was successful at living the Christian life, and I feared what He thought of me when I wasn’t.

My senior year of high school came, and along with it came another huge loss. A very close friend of mine, Kelly, was killed by a drunk driver on New Year’s Eve of that year. My heart shattered into even more pieces as I learned this news. My mom and stepdad drove me to the hospital that night. On the way there, we passed a car that had flipped and was upside down on its roof, and yet all four of its occupants were standing next to it, unhurt. I became hysterical and began screaming at God in my pain and anger that He had taken Kelly but not these people. “If that’s the kind of God You are,“ I shouted, “I don’t want anything to do with You!” I quit going to church and quit trying to lead the Christian life. I still prayed when I needed something, but I certainly didn’t expect to get an answer from Him. More deaths happened to people that I loved, but I was so shell-shocked by all the losses over the course of my life that I barely even reacted to them.

I spent the next twenty years of my life trying to “fix” things. I tried to control my circumstances, which of course I couldn’t do. I tried to pretend that everything in my life was normal, but it wasn’t; I was still a hurting and broken person. I tried to find answers in spiritual ways but only found things that left me more empty and confused than I had been in the first place. I even attended a Billy Graham crusade and went forward to “rededicate” my life to Christ. That was followed by a brief return to church, but it didn’t last. I kept all of the pain and confusion in my life buried as deeply as I could and tried not to think about it.  I felt hopeless and alone.

At the end of that twenty years, I was a mother to three young daughters and was on the brink of a second divorce. I was doing some deep soul-searching, and cried out, “God, how could you have let my life turn out like this?” This time, I heard an answer: “Remember, you kicked Me out of your life.” I was immediately taken back to the night that Kelly died and the horrible words I had shouted. I was filled with remorse, and begged Him to forgive me for that. I promised Him that as soon as I could, I would find a church where my daughters and I could attend.

I found that church a few months later, and for the first time I started hearing stories about a God who loved me and sacrificed everything to make a way for me to be with Him. This God was not distant and uninvolved; He was intimately involved in every detail of our lives. I wanted that. I began asking questions and trying to reconcile why my experience of God had not been like the experience that so many people around me were having. As I began sorting these things out, it suddenly hit me one night that the reason my experience of God was so different was because I didn’t know Him. I knew OF Him, but I had never had a relationship with Him. I was dumbfounded, but my next reaction was to thank Him for having preserved my life to the point that I could have that realization.

The next couple of months, I peppered my friends at church with my questions about God. I began to really hear His voice and realized that He was drawing me nearer to Him. I started asking Him to show me why He had allowed so much pain and heartache in my life and what He was doing during those times, and He showed me clearly how His heart had broken for me and how He had longed to hold me close during those times. He showed me that He had protected me in those circumstances from much worse than what I had actually experienced. I began to trust more in His heart for me.

A key moment during that time came with the tragedy of 9/11. As I watched the planes slam into the twin towers and watched those towers collapse, God allowed me to feel His heart breaking over the tragic events of that day. I felt as though the tears pouring down my face were His tears. I was amazed that He would show me His heart in that way, and I was amazed at how much He cared.

A few weeks later, I walked into church on a Sunday morning when I knew my pastor was going to offer people a chance to pray to receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. I knew that there were people who were praying that I would receive Jesus for myself that day, but I didn’t feel ready for that step just yet as I made my way into the auditorium. I still had so many questions about God that I thought I needed to understand first. However, God had other plans for me. As my pastor began his message that day, he was telling the story of a kid who was so good at hide and seek that nobody could find him, and he stayed hidden for hours. An adult who was watching the game wanted to yell out the window to him, “Get found, kid!” Those words inexplicably cut straight to my heart. I knew that I was that kid in hiding, and I could choose to stay in hiding for the rest of my life and to never be known or I could choose to step into real community and real relationship with Jesus. All of a sudden, it felt as though I could not breathe one more breath until I had Jesus in my heart. I waited anxiously for the message to be over and for the prayer to be offered. I wanted Jesus to not just be around me, but to live inside of me, and I could scarcely wait for that to happen.

Finally, my pastor led the prayer, and I prayed it. I have never prayed more earnestly for something in my whole life. I surrendered control of my life to Him and asked Him to lead me and guide me from that day forward. As soon as I said, “Amen,” I inhaled deeply and filled my lungs with air. It felt like there was a whole different kind of oxygen in the room that I had never breathed before, and it satisfied like nothing had ever satisfied. Immediately I felt a physical warmth in my heart, and as I sat there while the service ended, the feeling of warmth spread throughout my body. I was a bit afraid and prayed, “What is happening to me?” Immediately came the answer: “I’m washing you from the inside out.” Oh, what a relief!!! Finally, I had found what would wash the stains off my soul. The guilt, the shame, the confusion, the pain…all of it dissolved and melted away. There was only peace and joy in that moment. I felt light and free in ways that I had never experienced previously.

It has been almost seventeen years since the day I gave my life to Jesus. In those years, I’ve experienced some of the greatest joys of my life. I’ve also experienced the deepest heartaches that I could ever imagine. Through all of the highs and lows, though, Jesus has been with me. He has never once left me. I hear His voice as he leads and guides me. He celebrates the victories of my life with me and he cries with me during the heartaches. He is transforming me into the person that He made me to be. I certainly don’t follow Him perfectly, but even when I’m at my worst, He is still there and He still loves me. I am so glad that I stepped out and “got found” by Him.

Finding Sydney

This story happened several years back when my daughter, Sydney, was probably about five years old.  I had stopped at the mall with her and my other two daughters for a quick look at some exercise equipment in the sporting goods store that was at the end of one of the “arms” of the mall.  Since we were just going to be there for a few minutes, I left my cell phone in the car and off we went.  In the sporting goods store, we quickly looked at some of the treadmills and moved on to the workout clothing, when suddenly I realized that Sydney was no longer trailing behind me.  I re-traced my steps with my other two daughters, expecting to find Sydney still looking at something we had already passed, but she wasn’t there.  In fact, I couldn’t find her ANYWHERE.

If you’re a parent, you can imagine what was going through my mind — every story I’d ever heard of every child abduction and all the ways that this could end really badly.  Very calmly but firmly, I asked for the manager to come right away because I had a missing child.  The manager seemed willing to help but uninformed as to what to do, so I calmly asked him to post security people at each of the entrances/exits from the building.  I waited, but there were no reports of having found her.  I had them check the bathrooms and the changing rooms, and those were also reported to be clear.  Other store personnel were fanning out across both floors of the store, but they were coming up empty.

This simply could NOT be happening.  I felt the fear really beginning to rise now, although I was fighting it.  I knew I needed prayer…but my phone was in the car.  I had no way in that moment to reach out to my prayer warrior friends or to ask people to come to the mall and help me find my daughter.  WHY had I left my phone in the car???  Meanwhile, I was still directing the search for Sydney with the help of the store manager.  I was standing at the entryway to and from the mall “arm”, scanning everywhere for the light brown curls of Sydney’s hair as I clutched the shoulder of Sydney’s twin sister.  

Fear threatened to turn to outright panic.  I prayed hard.  Seconds felt like minutes…minutes felt like hours.  I said to the store manager that he needed to lock the store down and call in the police if she weren’t found in the next minute or two.  I saw the indecision on his face and was preparing to convince him, when suddenly a young man walked up to me and said, “Are you missing a little girl?”  HOPE sprang up in my heart.  “Yes,” I said, and I described her to him.  He said he thought he had seen her down the “arm” of the mall and asked if I wanted to come see if it was her.  I did, but I also didn’t want to leave the store I was in, afraid that they would stop the search for her and that I would never again see my precious girl.  The young man saw my dilemma and asked instead if I would rather he go check and see if it was, in fact, my daughter.  With gratitude beyond anything I could measure, I said, “Yes, please.”  He jogged off down the mall.

Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  So much time had passed.  Where was she?  Was she okay?  Was this going to work out all right?  I prayed fervently.  

Finally, I saw the young man returning to where I stood, a huge smile on his face.  Just behind him was a concerned-looking woman holding the hand of my precious daughter.  A cry of relief sprang from my lips as I ran to her, my arms open wide, with a quick, “Thank you SO MUCH” to the young man.  He was my hero for sure.  As I hugged Sydney, the woman with her explained that she worked at the pretzel place in the middle of the mall and that it was her habit to watch for lost kids.  When she spotted Sydney, she brought her into the safety of the pretzel stand and they tried to call me, not knowing where I was.  Again, I mentally kicked myself for not bringing in my phone on this “quick trip” that had almost turned into a nightmare…but the most important thing was that I had my Sydney back safely again, thanks to these two heroes — the woman who found her and the young man who recognized the look of anguish on my face and put it together with a missing child.  There is nothing that I wouldn’t have done to repay these two heroes for returning my daughter safely to me.

It struck me later that day that this is how the Father feels about His lost children.  His heart breaks because they are apart from Him, and He searches and searches.  “Have you seen My son?  Have you seen My daughter?”  Every now and then, one of us gets to help one of these lost children find their way home.  We get to tell them about the love that the Father has for them, how He longs to hold them close and tell them how precious they are.  Then, we get to knock on the door of Heaven and ask the Father, “Is this him?  Is this her?  Is this the one for whom You’ve been searching?”  Then we get to put the child’s hand in the hand of the Father, and His heart is overwhelmed with gratitude and love.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”  Luke 19:10