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Friday, May 19, 2017

My Story

I recently featured my mother's story on the Stand for Life page on Facebook, and was asked to post it here. I decided that in addition to that, I would elaborate further on the story, from my mom's perspective. So although this is an unusual post in regards to my normal posts, I hope that my mother's story, which has become my own as well, is a blessing and encouragement to the discouraged, for those who are struggling financially, for those who don't think they'll make it, and for those who have been told to take a different route in life.

My parents were nineteen and unmarried when my mother found out she was pregnant with me. Both of my parents came from broken homes filled with poverty and abuse. My mother didn't know where to turn to, so she consulted one of her sisters about what to do. Out of my aunt's concern and kindness, she directed my mom to a Planned Parenthood, not realizing issues that might arise from that advice. My mom was asked a lot of questions pertaining to her pregnancy, and even though she planned on parenting me, she was still asked if she wanted an abortion, to which she responded, "No." I'm very fortunate to have a mother who wanted me from the beginning, and that no one persuaded her otherwise when others brought up the abortion option.

After mom's trip to Planned Parenthood, she never went back. Instead, she and my dad decided to raise me together. Dad took on multiple jobs to provide, as he only had a high school diploma, and mom worked right up until she had me, as she only had a high school diploma as well. Dad was there for my birth, and six months after I was born, mom and dad married. It took so long only because mom had refused dad the first two times!

Although it seemed like a happy ending to what could've been a bad beginning, that was far from the truth. Because mom and dad didn't have college degrees, they struggled financially. It was just like when they were younger and went hungry as kids. Mom would pretend to be full and sometimes skip meals because there wasn't enough food for everybody. She felt that me and Dad needed the food more than she did, especially because dad worked so much. When they felt like they couldn't get out of the struggle with poverty, Dad went into the military to provide well enough for us.

While in the military, Mom experienced health issues and ended up having a hysterectomy shortly after. I was her first and only child. I sometimes wonder if she would have been childless had she ever decided to abort. Mom feels blessed to have one child, even though she wanted many more. That contentment with just one child though was something that only occurred after she became a Christian.

Once Dad got out of the military, he began working in the chemical plants, working his way up until we were at a good place financially, but spiritually we were not. My mom finally felt it was time for us to go to church together as a family when I was nine. It was through that attendance that my mom came to know Christ and my dad followed. Eventually I followed in their footsteps too, not because it was the thing to do, but because I knew it was the truth!

Mom and Dad have been married for over two and a half decades and have not had to worry about finances like they did when I was little, despite the fact that they only hold high school diplomas! And I have been raised in a home where the cycle of abuse ended. There was no alcoholism or violence within my home, only love, even before my parents were Christians. Although I didn't have the added addition of being raised in a Godly environment until I was nine, that doesn't hinder me spiritually at all today. I feel as if I grew up in a Christian home anyway, and knowing about God as an older child never hindered me from coming to Christ.

What I would say today to young couples who are experiencing an unexpected pregnancy today is this: Adoption isn't always the best option, abortion is never a good option, and sometimes parenting can actually be the best option. Today, women in the same situation my mom was in are told that their child would be better off in homes where the parents can provide well for the kids. They are told that the cycle of poverty and teenage pregnancy will continue with their children. They are told that the future looks bleak for their children because they as parents don't even have degrees to provide well enough. That was not true in my parent's case. A child doesn't need wealth to know he or she is loved. My best memories of when I was little are of the copious amounts of gifts I received Christmas day, something my parents had to save up for all throughout the year. So despite the poverty, all I remember is having an abundance. My mom has told me the story of when we would go shopping as a little girl and how I would point out the things I wanted in the store and ask for them. Mom said that she always told me, "Ashlea, we can't afford that. We don't have the money for that." I would look at her with a blank stare and say no more. I honestly have no recollection of that. I don't even know if I knew what that meant, but I certainly know that I never went without. My parents got out of that hole through my father's hard work. I received my master's degree last year and work as a Professor of English. I beat the odds. My parents beat the odds. God has guided us to this good place, and we owe it all to Him.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Full Suffering

In my last post I discussed the importance of accepting suffering because Jesus suffered for us, but I think that most of us tend to forget just how much suffering He went through. It's one of those things where we go, "Oh yeah. I know He did." And then the next moment, we go off and live our lives as if we don't even understand His sacrifice for us. Because tomorrow is Easter, I wanted to remind us all of just how much Jesus suffered, so we can realize its implications and walk accordingly.

Jesus didn't just suffer on the cross. Yes, that was a lot of agony, and I'm not minimizing that suffering, but I think we tend to think that was the full extent of His suffering. Here's a list of things Jesus had to go through

  • Endured constant loneliness (Isaiah 53:3)
  • Endured rejection (Isaiah 53:3)
  • Endured sorrow (Isaiah 53:3)
  • Endured constant weariness (John 4:6)
  • Endured constant danger of being murdered before the appointed time (Luke 4:29)
  • Endured being misunderstood (Luke 6:2)
  • Endured being mocked (Matthew 27:31)
  • Endured constant disrespect (Luke 6:2)
  • Endured temptation (Luke 4:1-13)
  • Endured hunger (Luke 4:2)
  • Endured poverty (Luke 9:58) 
  • Endured being beat (John 19:1)
The verses listed are just some of the verses that point to these things. There are many other verses not listed.  Jesus went through the same emotions we go through in order to save us and redeem us. Jesus understands our turmoil in life because He has been there, and it's been far worse than whatever we're going through.

There's something even greater though that Jesus endured and that was something that happened as just before He died on the cross.

"they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it." Matthew 27:34

Jesus had just been beat and mocked by the soldiers. As he was on His way to be crucified, some people, gave him this odd mixture. Have you ever wondered what gall was? According to Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers, gall was a "poisonous herb . . . given by the merciful to dull the pain of execution." I'm not sure about you, but I always thought Jesus refused to drink this odd concoction because it was disgusting. It actually symbolizes Jesus's deep love for us to take on the full suffering God had planned for Him. He instantly knew what it was when he tasted it, as poisons are bitter, and knowing that it would numb the pain to a certain extent, he refused to drink anymore. Instead, He chose to endure the full amount of pain he would receive on the cross. 

This is His great love for us! If Jesus purposefully endured all of the pain and didn't bail out and try to ease the suffering, then how much more should we as Christians? He drank the full cup, and so should we, in honor of our Lord who gave up so much for us.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Accept Suffering

We know that Jesus suffered for us, but a lot of times we don't correlate that Jesus's death and resurrection was an example for us to emulate.

Our culture tells us that it's important to get a good education, having a nice job, and make a lot of money in order to live in a big expensive house, drive a luxurious car, and buy other luxuries. There's nothing about suffering that bit. Oh sure, it's accepted that sacrifices in college will be made for a future life of luxury, but that's about it. After that it should be smooth sailing and life should be enjoyed to the fullest, cramming it with every whim and desire. Because of that mindset that is blatantly against God's will for the life of a Christian, we tend to mix that with our Christian mindset, not even realizing it. We know it's wrong, but it becomes intertwined with our viewpoint when we complain about not getting that job we want, that relationship, that promotion, that degree, that house, that car, etc. We grow weary when we can't have that child we so desire or a clean bill of health. We're sick of not being happy and having that cloud hang over our heads. If only we had that one thing, we'd be happy. And it's this attitude that comes literally from Satan.

This is what Jesus said about his future suffering:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." - Matthew 16:21-23

Jesus accepted that it was God's will for Him to be killed, though he was innocent and had done nothing wrong. He did not fight it. He accepted it and treated it just as if it were a normal activity. Peter couldn't accept God's will for Christ though and encouraged Christ that this was not a good way to think. Jesus's response revealed that Peter's denial of submitting to God's will was an attitude that only came from Satan.

Satan wants us to believe that we deserve to be happy and shouldn't have to suffer. He wants us to feel miserable until we get that one thing we desire and the misery is over with. But that's not God's will for us. His will is to accept that times of suffering will come to every believer and to accept and endure it, just as Jesus did. This is God's will for us, and anyone who opposes this doctrine or who resists submitting to God's will of suffering for their life is acting against God.

Suffering isn't enjoyable. It's not supposed to be, but it's supposed to draw us even closer to God. During times of suffering, it's hard to accept it and continue to bear the burden, and sometimes we just can't muster the strength to do so. It's in these times that we remember that Christ accepted suffering though He had done no wrong. He was perfect. He didn't deserve it. In a way, we deserve any suffering that comes our way as we are still sinners who sin on a daily basis. On the other hand, we can take heart that oftentimes suffering doesn't come because we have committed a certain sin that deserves suffering as punishment; rather, if Jesus had to suffer punishment He did not inflict upon Himself, then so must we.

So what will your attitude be when suffering comes? It's coming, and you should prepare to accept it with a humble attitude, which pleases the Lord.