From the Streets of Nicaragua

JoyPreach

While on a vision trip to Nicaragua my dear friend Joy Rudbach shared the following words with 300-400 women.  After listening to her words I knew that they were not just for those women, but for all women so I asked her if I could share them with you all.  I pray they fill your soul with hope and remind you that you are known, you are loved and you are valuable. 

Here are Joy’s words…

God sees YOU.

In this very moment of your struggle. He knows your name. He knows your heart. He knows every hurt and need.

My story begins as a little girl full of hopes and dreams for my life. I accepted Christ at the age of 10 – maybe more because my friends were doing it than of an understanding of “who” I was accepting. I was raised to be a “follower”. So I began to follow rules. I believed growing up that if I did not do everything perfectly that God was mad at me. That I wasn’t loved or deserving. I tried to do everything right just to please people. The problem with having rules to follow is that I was completely unable to do it on my own. My will power, my strength, my desire to be good was not enough. But I tried really hard. And got really good at pretending. And while I called myself a Christ follower I couldn’t have been farther from God.

When I was 18 I left home to be “an adult” but I was still very much a child. I was sinful in so many ways. All the things that I had promised God I would never do – became who I was-or how I identified myself. I began to view myself as only valuable when I could turn a mans head. The enemy began to lie to me in ways I wholeheartedly believed. I became highly sexual, I used drugs, I drank and buried myself in the “party scene”. All mechanisms to cope with what I had done. But even during this time I tried to look on the outside like I had it all together when inside I was dying in my sinfulness, shame and regret.

My heart was broken repeatedly by men. I had been raped, devalued, objectified, as well as “willing” to participate in sinful acts. I believed that If I became a willing participant-the aggressor- that I would be in control and therefore unable to be hurt again. I became hardened, bitter, lonely and oh so afraid. Ten long years of destroying myself all for the fear of pleasing men. And an obvious inability to change. All the while God was holding me and guiding me in ways I wouldn’t discover until years later.

When I was 28 I moved away from my past, my sinful surroundings, my constant reminder of my failures. God was wooing me to come back and be set free – but I didn’t know how to find that freedom. Again I “tried” in my own strength to start over, to be “good”, to sin “less” – and I failed. Again and again and again I failed.

3 years later I met my husband and fell in love with a complete façade. I thought “finally” – its my turn to be happy – this is gonna be good. I wish I could say that it was good. I was with this man for 13 years. After the first 2-3 it became the hardest part of my life. What was supposed to be joy filled became more bitter heart break. In a relationship that God intended for both people to find joy and satisfaction in one another became some of the worst years that I would ever know. I was unrecognizable. Invisible. So I felt. I was not seen, I was not heard, my opinions did not matter, my dreams were stupid. My thoughts couldn’t possibly mean what I said or have any real value. My faith was a punching bag for his amusement and ridicule and for pointing out how colossally I failed at it on a daily basis. I was nothing. Noone. Even as a wife. For years I prayed that God would change his heart. I begged, pleaded, bargained – no change. I learned to keep my mouth shut and my head down just to keep the peace. During those years I learned to pray in a different way. I began to ask God to change ME. Help me. Love me. I was emptied of myself year after year. Still no change. At least not for good. My husband began a deeper descent into the darkness as I was steady grasping for any ray of light or hope. Until it became unmanageable and unsafe for my children. The hardest decision I ever had to make was to leave that life – even though it was an unstable and volatile one.

In the months and years to come I would finally discover my true identity.

During this time there had to be an “undoing” in me. Layers upon layers of lies that I had been told about myself that I had believed throughout my whole life.

I’m no one without someone. Its my fault. I deserve this. I didn’t do enough. I didn’t try hard enough. I should have stayed. I gave up too soon. I’m not strong enough. The list is endless……

All lies from the enemy that I had buried deep inside me.

But God!

In his infinite and merciful grace decided at THIS moment in time – face down on the floor, crying out to him, in the most painful days I could have ever imagined – to reveal himself to me in a way that I had never known . A beautiful image in the spirit that I will never forget of Him saying I love you Joy. I’ve got “this” and I’ve got you. You don’t have to be afraid.

And so began my freedom in Christ and my journey to healing. A moment that would forever mark me and change me. At 44 years old I finally met Jesus! Not just the bible school Jesus. Or the Jesus loves me this I know Jesus. But the lover of my soul – redeemer of every part of my life – real and tangible and present – Jesus!

Thankfully, I can look back on my life and see how he has used every part of it. Every hurt. Every abuse. Every single thing done to me and every single thing I willingly participated in. And He is using it to draw myself and others unto him.

So my words to you are:

I see you.

God sees you.

You are not invisible.

You are not disposable.

You are not forgotten.

You are seen by your heavenly father that loves you more than you may know in this very moment. And he is calling you unto himself. All you have to do is say “YES LORD”. Fully surrender it all to the only one – Jesus Christ – who has everything you need for this life. I pray that you will say yes and find your freedom too.

Isaiah 61:3  “To grant to those who mourn in Zion-to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that HE may be glorified.”

Romans 8:1  “There is therefore now NO condemnation in Christ Jesus.”

He has borne our guilt and shame.

His word says that I am:  Redeemed, forgiven, loved, whole, a new creation, righteous, beautiful, a daughter of the king

I AM FREE.  YOU ARE FREE!

Love, Joy

LONGING

busy-women

Day after day I live my life going through daily routines. As a follower of Jesus, a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend and minister my list is endless, there is always something to be done. I am also a type A, driven, list loving person. Add these ingredients together and you get a woman who will drive herself into the ground before realizing I need rest.

Rest – freedom from labor

FREEDOM! Now that is a word that I adore. My favorite movie of all times is Braveheart and I think everyone knows the famous scene when William Wallace yells at the top of his lungs “FREEDOM”. Tears stream down my face every single time I watch that passionate speech, a speech reminding the common folk that they deserve freedom as much as anyone. I love that movie so much because the anthem still rings true for you and me, we, as common folk, deserve freedom. We not only deserve it we NEED freedom…. including freedom from laboring.

Labor – expenditure of physical or mental effort especially when difficult or compulsory

Ever feel like your laboring through life week after week? Even the easy weeks when there is no drama or major hiccups it can still feel like we are laboring to get through our daily routines. Drudging away at the things that require our attention and affection. Wondering when any kind of relief from the mundane will come.  I have come to realize that the freedom I seek in these moments is simply experiencing the presence of God. This is the one place that true rest is found.

Matthew 11:28 Jesus tells us “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

What does it say that we must do to receive the rest he offers? “Come to me”. That’s it! It’s that simple. We must go to him when we feel like we are laboring with no relief. He promises rest. So, how do we go to him and receive this rest? We STOP. We stop long enough to ask him for what we need. We stop and lean into him. We stop and wait on him. He will respond to our asking. He will bring the rest that we long for.

In the midst of my busy life my heart cries out….  “Lord. Turn my heart to you when the life around me isn’t what I prefer. Lord, you are the glory and lifter of my head. Turn my gaze back to you. Take me to that sweet place shared by you and I. That place where nothing else matters. That place where our eyes are fixed on one another, where you pull me close and your heart is all I care to hear. Turn me now Lord. In the midst of jagged rocks and rough seas. Turn me and pull me close again. I want to be with you in that place where we are face to face and I can feel your breath on my skin giving me renewed life again.”

Maybe today as you read this you recognize the same longing I have, the longing to be free from everything that feels like labor to your soul. Stop, be still, and go to him. Get somewhere alone, turn on some worship music, open your Bible and lean into him…. and wait. Linger in his presence and let him bring you the rest that you long for.  There is no better place to be and nothing on the face of the earth to desire more than his life giving presence.