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Trust and Obey

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It won't always be easy and being a follower of Jesus doesn't mean I am problem free. I have made so much progress over the last year, but I still struggle. The difference now is I am learning to turn to Him when I have my hard days.

There was a hymn I grew up singing in church called Trust and Obey. The chorus goes, "Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”  Sounds easy enough. Yet as I look back at what has happened in my life over the last eight years, the words have such a different meaning for me now. Now I really understand what they mean. Sometimes trusting and obeying can be easy. Sometimes it's hard and painful and tiresome.  We live in a society where you can have just about anything that our heart desires, but what if what our heart’s desire is not what God desires for us?  What happens then? Do we still trust? Do we still obey?

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In May of 2008, in a span of four days, my father passed away suddenly with no warning, and my mother-in-law who was suffering from terminal cancer also passed away. Their funerals were three days apart. Everything was different; our lives had been shattered and I started to spiral out of control. My mom had died when I was 21, just two months shy of my first wedding anniversary and now this. God had taken away too much and I was mad.  There was no more trust; all I felt was anger and despair. I tried to put on a brave face, but inside I was a mess.  Depression, anxiety and anger -so much anger.  I was on so much medication to cope with my emotions I could barely function. Did I still trust? Did I still believe in the things I had learned growing up in a Christian family and in the church?  Did I still want to obey?  That frame of mind caused me to be addicted to some of the medications I had been prescribed to help me deal with all that was going on in my life. I just wanted to stop hurting. I was a mess and all the medications only made things worse.  I could only focus on my pain and how I felt.

I had been attending Apex for a while. Even though I was mad at God, I knew deep down in my heart  I needed to be there. I would come and sit in the balcony, listen to the sermons, feel convicted for a while and then fall back into living a life filled with fear and anxiety and anger. Despite not knowing what I really believed, something kept drawing me there. I even got involved in a house church and got to the point where I managed to stop taking the medications on a full time basis. I just used them as a crutch when I felt like I really needed it. Why deal with all of the pain and hurt, if you can just pop a pill and forget about it.

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Early last year I learned about a summer mission trip to Cancun that Apex was leading. I had spoken with Rita Haworth and soon my daughter and I were signed up to go on the trip. After we paid our deposits, I started to panic.  What had I done? How would I manage my anxiety? What if I had a total meltdown in front of people I didn't know?  I didn't want anyone to know what was going on in my life. I decided it was not such a good idea to go on the trip and I told this to Rita. She looked at me and smiled and said, "Well you already paid your deposit, so it's too late. Guess you will just have to go."  I didn't know how to respond. I said, “OK” and walked away. Looking back, I now know Rita was the push that I needed.  She believed in me, but most importantly God believed in me and knew what I needed.

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We left for Mexico on July 19th and I didn't know Rita well at all, but we soon became great friends. She was such an encouragement to me when I would get nervous or wonder what the heck I had gotten myself into. It was hard and painful and emotionally draining being there, but the difference was I was crying about the things I was seeing and experiencing. It wasn't about me and my pain, I was thinking about something other than myself.  At the end of the week, I was so thankful for the experience and through God's grace and mercy, I not only made it through the week in Cancun, but my daughter and I ended up going the very next week to Monterrey because of some spots on that trip opening up at the last minute.  When I got home, I realized I had been able to do something I thought was impossible.  I spent two weeks way out of my comfort zone and I had done it without medication. My heart was beginning to heal. I came back with such an appreciation for all the things God had given me, instead of what had been taken away.

This summer I served in India and went back to serve another week in Cancun.  I know there will always be challenges and struggles, but I feel I am finally going in the right direction. Now, when I sing Trust and Obey, I know I have to trust God’s plan for my life. I must continually trust God’s plan is what's best for me. It won't always be easy and being a follower of Jesus doesn't mean I am problem free.  I have made so much progress over the last year, but I still struggle.  The difference now is I am learning to turn to Him when I have my hard days. With God's help I have learned to deal with things for the most part without any medication.

I would trade all the hard times for the life I have now, because I know it's my story; it's how things are supposed to be and I'm ok with it.

 

 

Story Collaboration by  Joanie Wolfe, Emily Ogden, and Jennifer Ward

Photographer: Hilary Tebo

The Hour I First Believed

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I didn’t want anyone to tell me that going to heaven had nothing to do with being good, if that was the case then I would never believe in Jesus. Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed!

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Hunter Osborne remembers that hour. The hour her life was radically transformed forever by God’s amazing grace.

Hunter was raised in the Mormon Church.  As a young child she was passionate about attending LDS seminary classes before school and committed to being in church every Sunday.  To her it was a privilege.  “I thrived in it.  I absorbed everything I was taught.  When my mom grounded me, not being allowed to attend church was my punishment. That’s how much I loved learning about the Heavenly Father and Jesus. My entire life’s dream when I got older was to marry a returned Mormon missionary, get sealed in the church, and have lots of babies. I clung to that hope.”

As hopeful as her church life was, Hunter’s home and family life were painfully opposite.  Hers was a childhood of abandonment by her birth father, of physical and sexual abuse, and so controlled by her mother that even the idea of having one friend was out of the question.  This unfortunate reality hid behind the veil of a normal middle class family consisting of an adept mother, adopting stepfather, and four beautiful sisters.  “Mormonism is very appearance-based and legalistic.  It’s about what shows on the outside and wearing the right mask.”  However, cops showing up at her front door for domestic disturbances and her mother’s irrational outrage weren’t abnormal.

Religion was Hunter’s escape. She dove into her studies and immersed herself in church activities.  The leadership of her Mormon Church knew very well what was happening in her home.  “They were very involved in my life,” she said.  “I was honest with them and told them what was going on.  Everyone knew that I wasn’t living in a healthy environment, but no one ever stepped in. No one did anything about it.”

One Sunday every month was open microphone for anyone to stand up in front of the church and share their testimony.  “Every testimony,” Hunter said, “no matter if you were five years old or a hundred, all started the same way:  ‘I would like to bear my testimony.  I know this church is true and that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God.’ There were a lot of cliché phrases like that.”  Hunter sought to understand more.  She wanted less rote memorization and more “why?” answers to what she believed in.  But it was clearly not welcome to question anything other than what she was taught. It left her frustrated and confused.

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At 17, she filed for legal emancipation from her mother’s control.  She spoke about it openly with her bishop who finally admitted they had always known about the abuse in her home but wanted to keep her close so she could keep coming to church. “If they called Social Services I would likely be placed in foster care and wouldn’t necessarily be under their watch.  That was a poor judgment call on their part.  And worse- no one in the church, not my youth leaders or my friend’s parents, or any Mormon family ever opened their home to me- no one stepped up for me, no one protected me.  At that time in my life I was 17 years old with nowhere to live.”

Hunter doesn’t blame the Mormon religion for letting her down, though she knowingly admits now to the fallibility of Mormon doctrine.  “All that happened to me could very easily have happened in the Christian Church, but at the time those people, those leaders in particular, totally abandoned me.”  In her anger she shut the door on the Mormon Church.

For the next seven years she became a practicing witch, casting spells and studying the finer points of spell work, entangling herself farther into decadence and depravity.  But that’s another story…

Near the end of those seven years she took a job at a local bookstore hoping for a break and a fun atmosphere to work.  Little did she know her co-workers at the bookstore were believers from Apex who would gently and humbly pour love, truth and scripture into her life.  Over time her questions and curiosity brought her into the church…the building, at least.

“I had always banked my eternal soul that even if I was wrong about witchcraft or about every choice I’d ever made, I believed there was a God out there and that He’ll know in the end my intentions were good. I saw myself as going to the good place. I didn’t want anyone to tell me that going to heaven had nothing to do with being good, if that was the case then I would never believe in Jesus.”

She requested a face-to-face meeting with Pastor Rob Turner.  During their visit he drew an illustration asking Hunter to evaluate her life on a scale of good versus evil.  “Having to write my name somewhere on that line, I finally realized I wasn’t good.  No one is good enough to be in Heaven with God.  For the first time I knew without a doubt I was destined for hell, a hell that is real and deserved. I panicked, I shook, I started hyperventilating. It seemed like forever before he shared the good news of Jesus. I knew what he was saying was true. I believed. I was saved and it had nothing to do with being good. I know what it feels like to be made new.  From that moment my life was drastically changed.”

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Hunter hasn’t wasted any time since then to tell other people about the amazing grace of Jesus. She shares her personal testimony openly and honestly to speak truth into the lives of women of all ages.  She speaks of purity, boundaries, forgiveness, and healing.  She is inspired through her own life experience, and through a shattered heart mended by her Savior’s mercy, to love and embrace God’s definition of femininity, a soft heart, submission, and obedience to Him.

 

Author: Carrie Kempisty

Photograher: Hilary Tebo

 

Extravagant Love

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That promise of purity was long forgotten as I gave my one body to boys who whispered tight-lipped proclamations of love and who went out of their way to smile at me; boys and sex became the primary motivator behind everything I did.

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I was baptized in the 6th grade; I remember being immersed into the water - feet flailing and head resisting the going under. Looking back now I realize those seconds of baptism would come to define my relationship with God, or lack thereof, in the coming years. After being baptized I was given a promise ring by my parents; I promised to remain chaste until I was married. To say I was pure in the years to come would be an expansive understatement.

Shortly after being baptized and making a promise, I allowed a boy to go too far, too fast; but I was still technically a virgin - that's why I told myself over and over again. I got through Junior High and arrived on the front step of my freshman year with my technical virginity intact and a very passive belief of The Lord in my heart.

In January of 2003, the Lord caught my attention in a monumental way; He removed someone I loved deeply from this fragile life. My 15-year-old cousin was killed in a car accident. For a time, I threw myself into attending church and earnest prayer, convinced that the combination would remove the pain and questions.

Then not even a year later my handsome grandfather was called home and the fold of family strength still clinging by its hang nails crumbled beneath the weight of confusion, devastation and sorrow. I became enraged at a God who would step into the ring of my shaky existence and knock me off with these one, two punches. With the death of two of the finest men I will ever know, I flung myself at any man who would look my direction.

That promise of purity was long forgotten as I gave my one body to boys who whispered tight-lipped proclamations of love and who went out of their way to smile at me; boys and sex became the primary motivator behind everything I did; relationships with the only people who actually did love me, when the lights were up and the air wasn't thick with sweat, began to unravel. My early twenties were predominated by figuring out who wanted me, how much, and when.

I feel as if everything came to a really fine breaking point in September of 2012; I had just graduated and was online dating and, overall, feeling remarkably poor about myself.

Growing up in a farming town allows no room for encounters with strangers - just the boys starting varsity under the lights every Friday. But online dating brought a very new and very dangerous endeavor - the one night stand; I struggle to admit that far too many decorate my 25th year.

In the midst of my online dating escapades and then becoming serious with someone, I accepted a job. I began working at Ruskin Elementary and was quickly placed in an after school classroom with a beautiful woman named Emily - she was kind, gracious and smart. Shortly after we began teaching together, Em invited me to a night of prayer at Apex - I recall being emotional over the music, words spoken and the people I met – I could feel the pull of the Lord on my heart strings; He was showing me what a life could look like if I allowed Him back in. I left that Friday night feeling a new lightness.

But God needed my full attention. Saturday morning brought the realities of unfaithfulness from the man I was seeing and there is no chance of coincidence that Emily Riggs was the only phone call I could get to go through.

I know that Jesus Christ saved me - He died for my filthy sin and looks past the number of sheets I've allowed myself to get tangled in, but He worked through the Riggs’ that weekend, and continues to, to save me from myself.

Soon after the night of prayer and the subsequent breaking my spirit needed to cling to Jesus, I found out what being part of community truly meant. My house church and quad have come to be some of the best friends I could hope for and the Lord’s love, grace, and promises are clear and tangible through each of them in the ways they pray with, and for, me, love me, and remind me that He doesn’t change His mind about His children.

The idols of sex and male attention litter my past, along with loss, but my walk with the Lord has shown me that the beauty of this life is framed by grace, redemption, and accountability. So every day when I’m quick to forget that those moments don't define me, I try to remember that I'm not the author of this story - and the One who is doesn't require revision.

 

Author: Stephani Duff

 

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