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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Life Line Part 7: Sudden Death

Three years later, in the summer of 2007, I completed my third mission trip with CTI. I was 24 years old and had already spent a month in Australia, a month in Singapore, and another month in Mexico; I was officially a missionary (at least according to the missions board at my church). By this time it had also been four whole years since I surrendered my relationship with Nick to the Lord. I thought for sure now that I had given my life to Him in missions, He would fulfill that longing inside me to move forward with Nick and start a life with him. After all, I had been so faithful. For four years I had done nothing but pray, wait, and serve the Lord. Surely I would be rewarded.

In actuality things turned out much different than I expected them to. Nick had stopped waiting for me a long time ago and by 2008 he was engaged to someone else. It was the death of a dream. I felt almost slighted by God, as if I trusted Him and He betrayed me. That wasn’t the only death that year. Just a couple months before I found out about Nick’s engagement my stepfather died suddenly of a brain aneurism.

Death is always tragic, because we weren’t meant for it. We were meant to live a life of eternal perfection. I couldn’t be angry because I found love and then lost it, or because I finally knew what it was like to have a loving father only to have that torn from me too. This was all part of living in a fallen world. I was crushed, but the Lord could repair even this brokenness; He could carry the weight of my heaviest burden. And in time He would use the ashes from these deaths to bring new life; one that I could enjoy fully.

Affects on Counseling

 This is one of those instances that remind me of the Lord’s faithfulness and mighty power. In my counseling I can trust Him to show that same power. Of my own will I cannot counsel anyone through trials as big as death or despair, but I will faithfully trust Him and watch as the Holy Spirit brings beauty out of ashes.

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Life Line Part 6: Missions

DSC_0246In the first year of my waiting for God to return to me my “Isaac,” I started thinking maybe the whole reason I needed to give up this relationship was because I needed to learn how to serve God fully on my own before I could be useful serving Him in a marriage. So I decided it was time for me to look into some missions opportunities. Now, this was a big deal to me because, when I was younger, for some reason I thought about missions a lot, but I always decided the Lord would never call me into the mission field because of my health. I simply assumed there would be no way I could survive a lifestyle of missions and keep up with the demands of my medical condition at the same time. I actually asked my aunt and uncle one time, when I was eight, if it was a sin that I wasn’t going to be a missionary. Very strange question for an eight year old to ask in my opinion, but I asked them specifically because they had been missionaries in Zaire for seven years. Their response to me was, “everyone is called to something different, but if you are called to missions and you don’t go, then that’s a sin”. I was ok with that answer because, again, my thinking was that my disease gave me a “get out of missions free” card. In fact, I hadn’t given it another thought. But the Lord has a funny way of moving us into places we never thought we’d go, and in 2004, at the age of 21 I went on my first mission trip with a ministry called CTI Music Ministries, and it changed the course of my life forever.

I was pleasantly surprised when the Lord led me to this particular ministry because it had to do with music. I had been under the impression that I was no longer allowed to be part of music, due to my tendency toward self-glorification, but the door seemed very clearly opened to me now. My audition to get into CTI was so vastly different form my experience with Disney World that there was no way I could deny the Spirit was at work in the situation. This time I sang with no practice, no notice even, and no mistakes. They accepted me into the program on the spot.

During my first ministry opportunity with CTI Music Ministries I had the chance to play concerts all over the country of Australia: in prisons, schools, churches, street corners, and the like, but more importantly I learned how to share my testimony from stage. The whole goal was to share our struggles and our sin and how God had worked in our lives despite (and sometimes through) those things, in hopes of relating to our audience and bringing hope where there may be none. It was incredibly freeing to be so vulnerable in front of thousands of people I didn’t know. Sharing my life like this was another way the Lord showed me how relevant my story is. People would come up to me after concerts and tell me their own story of how their father left them, or how they are sick or full of pride. They thanked me for being courageous enough to share because it encouraged them to seek out Christ and the work He may want to do in their own life.

Affects on Counseling

The hardest part of learning how to share my story was knowing that I needed to start sharing it with people I actually knew. It’s something I will probably always struggle with because it’s so humbling. I don’t want people to know I’m weak, or prideful, or hurt over my father abandoning me, but I tell people because it might help them not be ashamed of their own shortcomings. It will be the same in my counseling. If there is an appropriate time to share about myself and my experiences with the Lord I want to be a good steward of that opportunity, because it may be the thing that helps a client work through their own issues.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Life Line Part 5: Nick

Image
I spent the next couple years pursuing a knowledge of God, with a passion I had never

known before. I was in college with a full load of courses, but most of my time was spent in

Bible studies, small group studies, church services and personal devotion time. I was hungry

for the word of God and I was falling head-over-heels in love with Him the more I read. I was

reveling in this new life that was completely focused on Him and being in His presence. And

that’s when I met Nick. By this time (in 2003) I was 20 years old and had never dated

anyone, never kissed a boy, never even held a guys hand. Needless to say, when Nick started

to pursue a romantic relationship with me I was very excited. He was perfect, he seemed to be

just as passionate about the Lord as I was, he made me feel beautiful, and he didn’t care that

I had Cystic Fibrosis. He wanted to take care of me. I thought for sure he was The One. Five

months into our relationship we started talking marriage, and I could not have been happier. I

just couldn’t believe someone would want to be with me for the rest of their life, knowing I was

sick, knowing how much work a life with me would be, and knowing that my life may be short

anyway.

Because everything seemed so perfect I could not have been more shocked when Nick

and I were sitting in the hospital during a routine stay, and I felt the Holy Spirit tell me I needed

to break up with him. I kept hearing, “do you trust me? Do you trust me?” And I kept saying, “of

course I trust you Lord. You know I do”. My heart completely broke when I heard, “Ok, then

trust me when I tell you to let go of this relationship”. So I did. I did not understand it, and every

fiber of my being wanted to ignore that nagging voice inside me, but I did it out of faith.

My only consolation was the story of Abraham and Isaac. I was convinced that God

would see my faithfulness and restore our relationship just as he did for Abraham. And that’s

what I waited for. For the next four years I did not even look at another guy. I just waited on the

Lord while everyone around me looked at me like I was ridiculous. Though I felt very alone in

those four years, they were some of the sweetest years with the Lord. It seemed as though every

verse of scripture I read and every sermon I heard was directly meant for me in this specific

situation. I would often wake up at three in the morning with a burden to pray for hours. The

Holy Spirit was so close, so comforting, and so alive in me. It was awesome. That’s how I knew

I was doing the right thing by waiting. I decided the only thing that would make me stop waiting

would be if Nick married someone else. Which wasn’t very likely because Nick had told me

he was going to wait for me also, and his entire family believed we would eventually get back

together.

Affects on Counseling

When I look back on this time of my life I can see it was a time of testing. I needed to

be tried and refined, and I needed to show that I was willing to lose everything for the sake

of Christ. No matter what anyone around me said, my allegiance was to Christ alone. That

allegiance will carry into my counseling as well. I want to do the best job I possibly can in

serving any client, and I want to build my knowledge in technique and theory as much as I

can. Ultimately though my desire is to be guided by the Holy Spirit. People might not always

understand it but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I would rather be a fool in the eyes of clients

or those around me than a fool standing before the Lord.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Lifeline Part 4: Disney World

ImageSo about this seed of pride I mentioned earlier. It is probably the thing I am most
ashamed of, even now that I am well into my adult life. It is the thing that will instantly bring me
to tears thinking about, and bring me to my knees in praise remembering how the Lord broke me
of it. Here is how it happened.
It was 2001, I was 18 years old, and I was standing in Orlando, Florida about to audition
for a musical character at Walt Disney World. For the past several years all I wanted for myself
was to be famous. I wanted to be a singer on a big stage, in front of thousands of fans, and
this was my foot in the door. I was quite confident the audition would go well too. I had the
experience from high school performances, I had the talent, and I had a story of tenacity that
would bring people to tears. Not only that but I had an all-powerful God who would give me
anything my heart desired. (That’s what the Bible says right? Ask and ye shall receive). In my
mind and in my words my obsession with being famous was meant to draw attention to Christ.
On the surface I wanted a platform to share my story of perseverance-through-trial in hopes that
people would turn to Christ upon hearing it. I imagined myself being a role model to young girls
across the country. In reality though, my motives were less than pure. What I really wanted was
to draw attention to myself. I wanted to be in a position of constant accolades, I wanted to show
the world I had talents and not just a disease, I wanted to prove I had worth. Deep down I wanted
my birthfather to see what a great person I had become. I wanted him to realize it was him who
was missing out on me, not the other way around. And I was going to use God to give me all
those things. But in the audition room, where all my dreams were about to come true, the Lord
graciously crushed all of that pride and egotism, and brought me all the way back to my 12-year-
old-self, so I could get reacquainted with humility.
During the actual audition it was like someone else took over my body. I could not sing
for the life of me. The judges let me start over three times before they excused me and sent me
on my way their words, “this isn’t for everybody” ringing in my ears. I was devastated, and
angry at God, until His spirit gently rebuked me on the plane ride home:

Gretchen, you’re acting as though the gifts I give to you are meant for you. You are

acting as if I were some genie in a bottle waiting around to grant your every desire. You are

acting as though I owe you something. No. You have a sad life ahead of you if you think glory

belongs to anyone but Me. Choose this day whom you will serve: yourself or me. Then spend

your life on that.

Affects on Counseling

I am not sure whether this event will directly affect my counseling, but I can say this: if
I succeed as a counselor it will be because of the Lord’s mercy and not my talents. My decision
that day on the way home from Disney World was to serve Christ and His glory. I hope that
shows in my entire life, whether in being a counselor, a wife, a worship leader, or whatever I do.
I want more of Him and so much less of me.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Lifeline Part 3: Make-A-Wish

make a wishBy the time I was 12 years old I had withstood some pretty scary medical instances. The nature of Cystic Fibrosis is destruction of the entire body.  It fills the body with sticky mucus, causing intestinal and pulmonary complications, pneumonia, weight loss, fatigue. Not only that, but each time there’s a pulmonary infection it scars the lungs, which is why life expectancy is well below average because eventually the lungs will fail to keep up, and that puts extra strain on the heart, and so on and so on. You can imagine the toll something like this takes on any body, let alone a child’s. Each time I would go into the hospital there was always that question in the back of everybody’s mind, is she coming out this time?

Because of my medical history, in 1995 I was granted a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. To begin with, the patient makes three wishes (in order of priority) and the foundation tries to grant one of those wishes. So I wished for what every 12 year old girl in the 90’s would wish for: to meet Tom Cruise, or to go shopping in the largest mall in the world (I don’t remember the third wish. Whatever it was it clearly was not important to me even then). Unfortunately Tom Cruise couldn’t fit me into his Hollywood schedule, so I ended up with an all expenses paid trip to the Edmonton Mall in Canada.

Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t the actual trip that made such an impact on me at this point in my life, it was the compassion shown leading up to it. It was the first time I had ever felt humbled. I knew something was being done for me that I didn’t deserve. I remember sitting at a Christmas party for my dad’s work a couple days before we left for our big trip, and his co-workers were presenting me with a money-tree to take along on my shopping spree.  As we counted the bills, right there tears started to well in my eyes. I was completely overwhelmed with a feeling I had never encountered before. These people I didn’t even know cared about me; they cared about my family, they were touched by my story, and they were giving me a gift (close to a thousand bucks! Also known as, a fortune, for a 12 year old) just because they could. When my mom noticed I was all choked up she asked me what was wrong. I told her I didn’t know how to explain it, I was happy but I also felt like I shouldn’t be happy because I didn’t do anything to make people treat me this way. “That’s called humility,” she told me.

The incident with Make-A-Wish and the money-tree did two things for me. The first was introducing me to humility and showing me that my story matters to people. I had gotten used to feeling like a burden to my parents and trying to hide the fact that I had a disease, but this experience taught me that people will come around me and love on me despite the fact that I’m sick and even though I didn’t do anything to deserve their affection. The other thing this experience did for me was not such a positive thing, and that was to plant a seed in my thinking that would grow until my senior year in high school. That seed was pride. I started to believe that because I was sick people would give me special treatment, and that God would give me everything I wanted in life without much work on my part. As if He owed me for making me this way.  It’s something I’m very grateful the Lord worked out in me before I went down a long dissatisfying path of selfishness…but we will get to that later.

Affects on Counseling

If there’s one thing this scenario will do in my counseling it is to help me encourage clients to acknowledge their weaknesses and allow the Lord’s power to be made perfect in them. The Lord is glorified when others love us and help us in our weaknesses, and His power is made perfect when He carries us through trials of many kinds. When we are afraid to talk about those weaknesses or the fact that we are in need of the Lord’s power, we deny Him the glory due Him. I want to exhort my clients to look for opportunities to point to Christ even in their weakness and humility.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Uncategorized