To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Refiners Fire

Written from the third chapter of Malachi, a song "Refiners Fire" has been one of my favorites to sing in church. Refining precious metals involves heating them up to a temperature they can hardly handle, to rid them of blemish. To perfect them. To bring them to their best, most valuable potential.

I feel as if I have been in the fire these last few weeks. It emotionally exhausts me to retell the story detail for detail. I have had ups, downs, highs, and lows, these last couple of weeks regarding my employment. I love my job, I love my boss, and I love my environment at work. It's been a great five months, full of growth, change, and revelation. Five months I've been there.

The company I work for is struggling financially, and it's no secret. An entire office was laid off weeks ago, bills are going unpaid, and employees are wondering if and when they will see their paychecks. It's been a venue of concern, but so long as my coworkers and boss stayed strong, I would too.

It was revealed to me last Monday, however, that wasn't the case. People were losing faith in the company, and employees were looking to jump ship before they were thrown overboard. After the conversations I had that Monday, I went in to survival mode, and applied for six or seven jobs online that night.

Tuesday morning, 8:24, I got a call from one of those jobs. They wanted to interview me later that afternoon. That same afternoon. I was shocked. I did not expect that at all. I went in for the interview. It lasted an hour and a half, and went really well.

Wednesday my boss had a meeting with the CEO of the company, and was encouraged and energized. He made a commitment to stay for the long haul. Therefore, my loyalty was with him. He asked me to consider staying, though he reiterated he understood if I felt I had to take another job.

Thursday he fought for me. He didn't want me to leave, and I still had reservations. Being encouraged is one thing, but saving a struggling company is another. I'm in a position where it's possible hubby and I will want to start a family, and I can't - I won't - make that decision based on whether or not I have a job, or have job security.

Friday I had interview number two at the same place, and they offered me the position. I asked for the weekend to consider. Eighteen different times I changed my mind. I was going to stay. I was going to go. I was going to stay. I was going to go. I felt like out of loyalty to my boss and coworkers, I should stay. I also felt, however, I should consider my own stability and security.

Today was my deadline for deciding. I still hadn't made up my mind. I went to the potential employer this morning, with the intention of telling them thank you, but I would be staying with my current employer. No one was there. I left a Christmas card and a plate of fudge and went to work. My boss popped me up on instant messenger. He encouraged me to do the right thing - the safe thing - though he didn't want to lose me as an employee, he couldn't live with it if I stayed and lost my job or the company folded.

I have been a wreck. An absolute wreck. You know the oldie but goodie, "Should I stay or should I go now?" song? That has played through my mind more times than I care to count. I knew I needed to go. I didn't want to admit it though. I had been praying for an answer all this time, and here it was right before me, and I thought I knew better.

I begged for an opportunity to be safe, stable, secure, and happy in my work. It was presented to me in less than 24 hours. I wasn't convinced, so it was presented to me again three days later. I still wasn't convinced so I went to turn it down, and no one was there to receive my decline of the offer. I got a call and decided to go back this afternoon.

I cried in front of the interviewer. I cried. In front of the interviewer. My potential employer sat there and let me cry while I was working through this mental struggle. Can you believe that?! The offer still stood. With pure conviction she looked me in the eye and said, "You've told me you're a Christian and you believe in a reason. At some point, you have to get out of your own way."

Holy buckets.

I will never be perfect here on earth. I will never claim that I am perfect, blameless, or without fault. I do believe, though, that I am being held in the refiners fire, and that he is building me to be the best, most beautiful creation I can Him.

Am I sad to be leaving my boss and coworkers? Absolutely. I've shed many tears about it today. Am I scared to start this new venture? You bet your patootie. Am I faithful that all things work to His glory? Until my last breath is drawn.

He is holy. King of Kings. Lord of Lords. I worship Him. He has a provision, a plan, and a purpose. Sure the heat might be hard to bear at times, and I will want so badly to give up and go my own way. But I have the chance to be made perfect in Him. He's taking the time to refine me. To erase my blemishes and faults.

I may have only had this job for five months, but He's had a plan for me my whole life. Who am I to stand in my own way?

Refiners Fire
My heart's one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for you, Lord.
I want to be Holy
Set apart for you, my master,
Ready to do your will.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Since I posted the Love Through Hate blog, I have not been able to stop thinking about Chrysalis and the teens I encountered. I have not been able to stop thinking about how God ties everything together in His timing for His purposes.

It started when I attended the Walk to Emmaus in February of 2005. My best friend and her husband sponsored my husband and me for the retreat weekend. I don't know what to say other than it was one of the most moving and powerful experiences of my life. I absolutely fell in love with God and had one amazing experience after another. [Cindy B and Rita G ~ if you ever read this, know that I think and pray for you two so often. You were the best W2E moms I could have hoped for. :o)] That whole weekend, things were revealed to me about purpose, grace, love, and forgiveness. Things I've always found myself struggling with, no less.

One morning while the ladies were getting ready for breakfast, I found myself in a bit of a rush to get ready in time. I was combing through my hair when one of the women attending W2E turned to me and said, "You have been so much fun this weekend. You need to be working with teenagers." Another woman chimed in, "Oh yes, I can totally see her doing that!" The first responded, "I know. Wouldn't she be perfect with those teens?"

I froze. Teens? Me perfect? TEENS? I didn't blurt out what I immediately thought, which was, "Oh, thank you, but I can't stand them." I stood there in shock, smiled sheepishly, carried on a bit more of the conversation, but kept thinking to myself, "She can't be serious. If she knew the can of worms I had....."

I quickly forgot about that encounter and went on with the rest of the weekend. I wanted, so badly, to be called on to help with the next Walk To Emmaus. I wanted to go and be with those women more than anything. I never got the call. Instead, my best friend proposed I be on team at Chrysalis. And in my previous blog, you can read all about my reaction to that.....just imagine snot, sweat, and tears. Leaking salty fluids out of every body part! When we were instructed to be the salt of the earth, I don't think that's really what God had in mind, bawling in panic and fear at a friend's dining table.

I went to Chrysalis. God changed my heart. I fell in love with those teens. I laughed with them, I cried with them, I was inspired by what servants they were and how they desired to grow closer to their Savior! I wanted to adopt every one of them and just show them as much love and encouragement I could muster.

At one point during the Chrysalis weekend, I ran in to that woman from the Walk. The one who caught me while I was combing my hair, and told me I should work with teens. The one who I thought was out of her mind. She was there, she recognized me, gave me a huge hug and said, "I knew it! You're supposed to be doing this! I'm so excited my daughters are here and with you!"

Her.....daughters? Enter lump in throat. When this woman suggested I explore opportunities to work with teens, she was saying this from her heart ~ her heart that was unconditionally loving her two teenage daughters. This mother of teenagers envisioned me ministering to that age group. I started to cry. I thanked her. I asked in my heart that I could be forgiven for thinking she was crazy, and for being so belligerent in not wanting anything to do with Chrysalis.

Since moving to NoDak, I've been hungering for more opportunities to minister to teens. I've been timid in approaching our youth pastor at our current church, as they have such a good program going and I wonder, "How could I contribute to make it more? It's already fantastic!" I know, though, I need to get on that. I want to be with those teens and walk with them in their relationship with Christ. I want to tell them the story about how this crazy woman at the W2E had God speak through her, how I tried to ignore Him, and how He brought me to where I am today.

I will never forget those weekends. I will never forget Mrs. A. I will never forget her two teenage daughters. I will never forget that God knows what's best, and I have no sense in fighting Him.

De Colores.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Drive Safely!

My favorite verse growing up was Matthew 5:16:
Therefore let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Honestly, it's been a while since I've thought of this verse. This morning, however, it came to mind in an unpredictable scenario for sure.

It's December in North Dakota, and therefore it's snowing and cold. This morning was no exception. I started the car to let it warm up a bit before making the drive to work. Here's where I let you in on a little bit of a secret: I have been known to exercise road rage. It's true. And it's pathetic. But....I'm praying the Lord will heal me of that one day, because goodness knows other people won't change how stupidly they drive. *Ahem*

This morning as the snow fell and gathered on vehicles and the roads, I took every extra precaution and safety measure to ensure my arrival to work in one piece. I brushed all the snow off my windows so I could have clear and uninhibited visibility. I brushed off my headlights and tail lights so others could see me. I turned my headlights on and drove slowly and safely, focusing on the road and on others around me.

It was gray, dark, and snowing outside. I was stopped at a stop sign, preparing to make a right-hand turn on to the main avenue that takes me to the interstate. That's when I saw it. A white car ~ white car, in white snow, with gray sky ~ without its headlights on. Headlights are not to be used solely for the purpose of seeing where you're going or what's before you. Headlights are also to be used so other people can see YOU.

Normally, this sort of situation gets me quite riled up. I usually think things like, "Are you just ASKING to be hit?" or "Way to drive defensively. Turn your lights on, so people can see you...moron..." However, this morning, and I kid you not, the first thought that popped in to my head was, "Therefore, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

I laughed. Not a hearty belly laugh, but a notable chuckle nonetheless. A car with no headlights that completely blends in to the scenery, and could have very easily been hit ~ by me ~ made me think of a life-application verse. The rest of my drive to work, it was all I could think about. Turning on my car headlights are one thing, but to truly let Christ's light shine through me, continually, and on a daily basis, is quite another. I know there are times I've gone without turning my headlights on. I know there are times I've only turned on my parking lights and felt visual enough to the rest of the driving world. But how many times have I become upset when other people don't do either? How many times have I driven around talking to people who can't hear me, even if I do raise my voice (okay, I might yell....) telling them to turn their lights on?

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

Therefore let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.

I made it to work safely, though there was one close call. My focus for the day, however, is changed. I need Christ to see where I'm going and what's before me. I also need Him, however, so others can SEE Him through me, and praise Him and give him glory.

Turn your headlights on. Others are in the dark.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Love Through Hate

This has been a fantastic holiday season. Above the stress, hustle, bustle, and more hustle, I have found a peace in my God that I haven't experienced for a long time. Things have happened, and whether or not I remember to write in my prayer journal, I remember to talk to God. When I'm excited, when I'm beaten down, when I'm scared, I'm able to carry on those conversations with Him I recently thought I had forgotten how to orchestrate.

Allow me to be ultimately reflective. And long-winded.

I do not like birds. At all. Birds give me the heebie jeebies. They're so fragile, yet so aggressive, and so .... complicated. Plus, they carry diseases. I know this, because my mother raised me to know that I should never touch a bird, because birds carry diseases. I tell a story of one day hitting a bird with my car and driving around (for about 70 miles) with it on my windshield, before finally going to my dad and asking him to remove said bird. It has always been a funny, entertaining story. Several years after it happened, I realized how relative it was to my spiritual walk. Here I go, around for ever and ever with this huge, disgusting obstacle in my life, and it doesn't go away no matter what I do ~ until I take it to my Heavenly Father. God used a bird...a dead bird, to draw me nearer to Him. Something I can't stand, God used for His glory and to show me His love and mercy. A dead stinking bird! I still tell the story, but it has a different ending now. A meaningful one. His love, shown through something I hated.

My teenage years were brutal. I was morbidly depressed, miserable, involved in harmful relationships, easily a whole, I cannot look back on my teenage years with any sense of pride or dignity. I despised my life as a teenager, and no amount of money or persuasion could convince me to give those years another go. As a result, I harbored a lot of ill-will toward teenagers in general. I knew what they were up to, what they were trying to pull, what they wanted to get away with, and I had nothing but contempt for teenagers in my heart. My best friend asked me to serve on team at Chrysalis. (If you're not familiar with Chrysalis, check it out here) First, I sat in disbelief that she would even consider asking me. She knew how I felt about teenagers. She knew my disdain, and she knew the pain it rendered within me to think about having to relate to people from such a sore spot in my past. I bawled at her dining table. I sat, head in hands, and cried for almost an hour. That night, God used my best friend to reach me in a way I'll never forget. She looked me square in the eye, and rather matter-of-factly asked me, "Did you stop to think that because of your past, and because of how you are intuitively aware of what teens are thinking, God wants to use you specifically for this purpose?" I couldn't play a woe-is-me card that would have debunked her words. She wasn't sympathetic, no matter how much snot, sniffle, or salty tears I tried to decorate her table with. She was right. I had to own up. I had to reconcile with evils I never wanted to face again...and not for my benefit, or necessarily for the benefit of these teens, but for His glory. I fought it...right up until the day those teens walked through the doors to start their weekend retreat, I fought it. I don't know if I had any influence or impact on those teens that weekend, but I will tell you that God softened my heart. God broke down walls and I was given a new purpose that weekend ~ to love teens like I never thought possible. The girls who were at my table have left lasting footprints on my heart, and I still pray over them. The teens I met who served on the leadership team that weekend were incredible, and I still keep in touch with some of them. God used the most painful, hated era of my life, to once again show me his grace and mercy. That weekend at Chrysalis changed my life. God healed me of my contempt and disdain, and those blessed teenagers were His choice vessels. Smelly, hyper, mouthy teenagers! I love those teens.

I don't know what God has in store for me next. I don't know if my next "aha!" moment will come from someone pulling out in front of me, or over anything involving raw fish....but I'm on to Him now. I've seen how He uses things I hate, or can't stand, or have a real problem with, to draw me nearer to Him. The unfortunate thing, is He has such a long list to draw from. Or maybe it isn't so unfortunate. The fact that my God delivers me from bondage, and actively pursues me, using whatever methods possible ~ that says more to me than anything.

Believe me when I say this ~ there is nothing in your life that can't work for the greater good. He's with you now. Regardless of how good, bad, or indifferent things are, He's there. "Enjoy the quiet moments, for that is when God whispers when the world is loud."