Oh How He Loves Me

I knew this girl who saw herself as alone in the world. She thought there must be a God out there somewhere, but He wasn’t going to be bothered with someone like her. He had bigger things and other, more important people to look after. She was flawed, imperfect and broken in so many ways. Carrying scars that would permanently mark her as lost. What she didn’t know was that those same scars that marked her, would one day open pathways to helping others. I also witnessed this lost girl being found by her Heavenly Father and her life being changed forever.

To fully understand her story, you would need to know a little bit more about her. She had always had a caring heart – one that led her to tend to others before herself. She was an overachiever, always trying to gain acceptance and self-worth from those around her. She was successful in anything worldly she set out to do. She was an accomplished athlete and an honor roll student graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree before she was 20. She was on a career fast track. But then her life was hit sideways. She found herself pregnant at 24, unmarried and unattached. To her credit, she decided she would find a way to raise her daughter and support them both. Accepting her fate, she courageously branched out – raising her new baby while at the same time starting a new business venture on her own. Lots of late nights and sleepless days later, she found herself successful in her venture and a good mother, but the deep rooted marks of guilt and no self-worth were still with her. She wasn’t worth it. The “it” being happy, free, loved, cherished, cared for… she was still lost.

A few years later she found herself deeply tangled in a manipulative and abusive relationship. She truly believed that her inadequacy was the cause of the relationship’s dysfunction. She tried to break free many times, but was never strong enough. He would use heavy guilt combined with various fear tactics to always control her. You see, when you feel you are worth nothing, or at best worthy of punishment and repercussions, that’s exactly what you receive and accept. Her life had turned into a series of painful conversations and insane experiences always ending in tears and often in hiding. She was trapped with an addict who was carrying mental disorders and a history of violence with him.  He would tell her that she was the reason he was using and if only she were better he wouldn’t have to.

Deep in a miserable and destructive cycle, she tried everything she could to be “better.” But nothing was ever right – she was never enough. She suffered terrible depression and anxiety. Panic attacks would overcome her when his name appeared on her phone. She knew she had to break free from him, but how? Begging him to leave her and pleading him to let her go – he refused. He would never leave. Desperate, she turned to the only thing she hoped could help her…God. If only she could find a way to become worthy. She started praying, reading, singing. She covered herself in the Word. She posted sticky notes of Scripture verses all around her house. She would walk at all hours of the night listening and singing. Pleading for forgiveness. Begging for help, for she was drowning in a situation that was life threatening.

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At one of the lowest points in this girl’s journey, she was threatened to be killed or to do it herself. She stood in the kitchen weeping, singing “Here Now” with her back turned to him as he approached her with a kitchen knife in his hand. His hatred towering over her like the dark shadow of Satan. The fight was real, just as the Pastor had preached, for she had seen evil face-to-face that night. But in that same moment when she saw the blackness of Satan in his eyes, she experienced the power of her Father’s protection and grace. Just when she thought she couldn’t matter less – that she wasn’t worth it – her Heavenly Father came and claimed her. He covered her and brought to her heart a message that would change her life forever. He loved her! She was always worth saving. He had always been with her. Jesus was holding her hand. She was His. She only had to ask.

So you may be asking yourself who this girl is and how I could have such insight into her story. Truth be told – she was me before I was found. I was the lost girl of this story. I thought I was alone and broken beyond repair. What I never expected was to find that my Father was with me, even at my very worst. He lifted me up as a testimony that He is always with each of us. There is no such thing as too broken. Too ugly. Too torn.

The beautiful thing about our Father is the minute you accept Him, everything changes. My life, although still in turmoil, had hope. God sent into my life the right people who could help me in all the ways I needed. I went through intensive Christian therapy. He started healing my heart and the dirty, foggy lenses I saw the world through cleared. A new family was given to me through The Father’s House. Support came in from all around. Now my situation and self-esteem didn’t all get fixed overnight. But by “leaning in” when my life was in pieces, God not only helped to put me back together, but made me a new creation. One better than I could have ever imagined for myself.

As I continue in my life journey I know Jesus is holding my hand. I wear the armor of God. I’m a living testimony that your Father waits for you to turn to Him and ask. Surrender. Lean in. You will be forever different.

God, help me to know Your love. To meet You as my Father. To know You are always with me. You know all my scars and love me just as I am.   Broken. Thank You for bringing hope and strength to seek the life that You want for me. A life filled with love. AMEN.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bio ShotDomestic abuse is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.

If you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, please consider reaching out for help. There are many resources available including The Father’s House at 760-798-9418. There are always women there who can help and pray with you. Christian counseling, Mitzi Steele with New Growth Counseling comes highly recommended at 760-494-4394, or contact TFH for the names of other qualified counselors in our area. If you are in immediate or eminent danger call 911 or the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

 

Going Home

I have been asked to write about my journey with our beloved Cathey Anderson during her last days and what that experience has taught me. Nobody gets away from the teacher Mrs. Anderson without learning something, am I right?!

To do this, however, I need to go back in time to 1998 when Cathey and I first met. Actually, Allen and I met Cathey’s husband Mark first at Forest Home during a summer Family Camp Estate Planning talk. We were living in Rancho Penasquitos at the time at the end of a cul-de-sac on a very suburban-sized lot. My husband traded some work on the Anderson’s home for Mark’s help with a Trust. Allen and I were happy campers living in Rancho Penasquitos: the kids had tons of friends and we had good neighbors. We were very content. But Allen would come back from having been to the Andersons’ home in Valley Center with this “hospitality on steroids” high. A few months passed and the “kingdom contagiousness” of the Anderson’s was all over us. God moved on our hearts and pretty soon we were opening escrow on three acres in Valley Center.

Talk about feeling vulnerable in a new place! I had one name for all three spaces on the kid’s school emergency contact cards: Cathey Anderson. I hardly knew her, but that would soon change. She and Mark made sure of it. I found myself asking, “Who are these people that flow with such enthusiasm and life like the call of the sea to a sailor’s heart? Who could beckon others to “come and see” with such ease, causing them to do what they would not normally do otherwise?” Friends of Jesus, that’s who.

When we arrived in Valley Center, Mark was there to unload our U-Haul and Cathey soon became the “other mother” to my oldest daughter. We joined a church plant in which they were involved and where we met most of our life’s greatest friends. We went through many hard times together including fires and deaths of students, as well as good times like Egg Day and Ag Day and Western Days. Cathey helped my kids birth pigs and raise chickens. She even grew grapes on the hillsides around her home. When it was time, we helped her prune, pick and stomp grapes to make our own wine. There was ever a dull moment with the Andersons.

Mark and Cathey lived to give extravagantly. Mark took Cathey up Mount Whitney and helped her overcome her fear of heights. When she later got her vision for the Freedom Climb, he supported her while she helped others overcome their fears. They modeled their gifts and talents in all aspects of their lives. I learned a lot along the way, watching them for the past 17 years. Before my eyes they lived these verses in John 15: 12-14:

“This is My commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.”

They knew the love of Christ and they loved others likewise. I thought they lived a surrendered and sacrificial life before Cathey’s diagnosis. But what I learned from them was even more: how to live for Christ, “as unto death.”

Our Life Group was there with Cathey during the diagnosis, diets and chemo drugs; the pain and Pic Lines and all the prodding; surgeries and sticks and suffering with the after-effects of it all. And yes, there were times of tears. We heard Cath tell of getting to the brink of hope and meeting the Holy Spirit in the depths of the dark night. We heard her in the pit of her physical pain. We heard her when she was brave, bare and raw. Mark was her pillar of strength, faithfully holding it together and they showed us how to live for Christ and die for Christ. I think the saddest words I ever heard her speak were, “the doctor says I will have this drain in my side for the rest of my life.” She was resigned to the will of God. She wanted to believe the prayers would heal her, and ultimately they did, but unto a better healing than just a physical one.

Once she rounded that corner in her mind, once the reality of her “homegoing” set in, she resolved to show us how to die with dignity, the same dignity with which she lived. Don’t get me wrong: she was “fully human.” She struggled to understand a Lord who did not live up to her expectations, but she was Christ’s friend, so she prayed and read herself out of the pit that can be dug with the lie that God is somehow not good, is a withholding God, is one to pull the rug out from underneath us so we should doubt Him. She resigned herself to heaven, and then she lived fully to teach others that this mountain, Cathey’s Mountain, was one she would summit well. Once she wrapped her head around the trail Jesus was taking her on, she couldn’t wait for heaven. She showed us how to fight a good fight, but more than that, she was going to show us all how to end well.

If you attended Cathey’s Celebration of Life you saw she left no detail undone. She made it special for everyone. Her fingerprints were all over it: teacher and kingdom farmer, wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. Some were even “born again” by the preaching of the Gospel message she made sure was given. That’s a friend of Jesus. That’s “Palace Style.”

Joann Hummel told it best when she recounted a story that day we gathered to celebrate Cathey’s life. She was on a Freedom Climb with Cath, Kilimanjaro. Joann had gotten very sick. Cathey, seeing that Joann could not keep going, arranged for her to get off the mountain on the back of a pony. As she was descending, Joann turned around. Unbeknownst to her there was Cathey following behind that pony on foot, “making sure I got home” I believe were Joann’s words.

I had the immense privilege to “make sure Cathey got home” her last night. It was not hard. Cath and Mark, and really, their whole family, had shown me how to do it, how to surrender as a friend of Jesus. It was easy to follow in their footsteps.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

IMG_3375I’m a wife of twenty-five years, married to Allen, my high school pen pal whom I met at Young Life camp in 1976. We were crowned king and queen that week but took 14 more years to make us man and wife. I’m Mamma to three of my greatest joys in life: my beautiful daughters Kelly, Karrie and Erin. I’m YaYa to equally beautiful joys: my grandbabies Hartleigh, Saila and Navy and the one-on-the-way, the mystery babe who is due on my birthday this year. I’m a nurse by career and calling for the last thirty-four years which makes me “seasoned” with many “smile lines.” Who am I? I am a lover, friend and child of God, and blessed to be a Daughter of The Father’s House.

 

Season of Contentment

Upon leaving the Women’s Retreat, I began searching my heart for what God would specifically say to me in the area of being tested. I was nine months pregnant, feeling great, and ecstatic for where my life was and where it was going.

For the first time in a really long while I find myself truly content. Of course, there are things that I would enjoy having like more time or a little more money. While I wouldn’t turn any of these things down if they were offered to me, I don’t find myself coveting them and focusing my mind, money and attention to try to gain more of them. At times, being content doesn’t seem possible this side of Heaven but I have clung to 1 Timothy 6:6 which says, “But godliness with contentment is a means of great gain.” This must mean it is possible to be content. Through this passage, I’ve discovered that the closer I am to God, the more content I will be despite my circumstances. It also brings perspective in regards to finding contentment with life’s necessities and not all of life’s luxuries. Paul wants to be sure believers realize that conforming to God’s truth and being godly is of utmost importance and he is advocating that you truly can be content in being godly. We don’t have to look to other things or get caught up in greed to find fulfillment since God is the only true source of contentment.

It’s often difficult to focus on a topic or message that doesn’t seem to immediately apply to you, such as the topic of “being tested” was for me. Sure, I’ve been through my fair share of trials and I know without a doubt that more are on the way, but at this point in my life I have found a joy, peace, and an ease to life that seem like the antithesis of testing. While reflecting and processing the amazing truths and stories of women who are going through or who have gone through immense difficulty and struggle, I found myself immediately thinking—Oh no! Life is good…which means something bad must be lurking around the corner. How easy it is for me to think that enjoying life and being content must mean that I’m doing something wrong as a Christian! And yet Jesus promises a full and abundant life (John 10:10). How sly of the enemy to take even a sweet and fulfilling season of life and bring fear and uncertainty because life can’t surely be this good, right?

I’ve learned that it’s okay to hear a message for a season that I may not be experiencing presently. Instead of tuning out the message because it doesn’t apply to me, I know that my God is strategic and wants to help me through the tough times, even before I get there. I have chosen to pay very close attention and to meditate on the scriptures and stories of those who have walked through the valley. I am saving the stories of my fellow friends who have gone through incredible testing and I am holding onto the things that have gotten them through. I am also guarding my heart and mind to not be consumed with fear about when it will be my turn to walk through the valley. Philippians 4:8 instructs us to keep our minds on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, anything excellent, and worthy of praise.” When thoughts and feelings that do not reflect these attributes instantly come rushing in I find that I have to take control of my mind and surrender it to the Lord, asking Him for help. He reminds me that this time of learning about trials and testing isn’t to scare or warn me about imminent trouble heading my way. It is to reveal the refinement and purpose that He has done in my life through past struggles and to equip me for whatever may come my way in the future. To think that the Lord would allow me to glean from others and to hear their stories and battles in order that my faith in Him might increase is truly beautiful.

No matter what my life looks like, if God has a truth to tell me or a lesson to teach me, I want to listen and learn. The future is uncertain to me, but as I keep my eyes on Jesus and live in obedience to His word I can be sure to experience contentment, regardless of life’s circumstances. It is perfectly fine to experience times of joy, peace, and contentment—in fact, I believe it is God’s desire for us to experience these things often. Your situation is not always a reflection of your performance. While consequences to sin are real, we serve a God who is perfectly merciful, just, gracious, right, and loving all at the same time. He gets to determine what to do with us. We have the privilege and responsibility to trust and follow Him through the good times and the bad times. There is no room for guilt when experiencing a good time in life. And when things get difficult, look back and see how the Lord has given you wisdom, support, and strength to help get you through the difficulties. I think you will be amazed to see what you will find. I am grateful for a God who generously gives good gifts to His children that often tend to be wisdom through His word and through the Testimony of other believers to strengthen and encourage us through each and every season of life.

All praise and glory and honor be to God!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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I am Kaity Harmon. I’m 27-years old, I have been married to my amazing husband for five and a half years and am now the mother of a beautiful 6-month old. I am currently on staff at the Father’s House as the Discipleship Process Administrative Assistant and have been attending The Father’s House for about two and a half years. I graduated from Life Pacific College with a degree in Biblical Studies and have a heart to see people grow in their full potential in Christ.

Learning Adaptability in the Unexpected

I had my doubts about having kids since my first marriage in 2001. My first husband and I were married five years, and I never had the “urge.” My clock wasn’t ticking—perhaps I was missing batteries. We divorced, and I went into a downward spiral of reckless dating, selfish ambitions, traveling, sex, booze and rock ‘n’ roll. I did what I wanted when I wanted. I was in an identity crisis that would last me seven years. I don’t regret all the time I journeyed through this wonderland rabbit hole, but I presume it could have been less painful. I was struggling, and it took me a long time to unravel my responsibilities.

I met my Vince in 2009 during an event that my best friend, Victoria Thomas, and I were coordinating for the community. It was called Justice Day, human trafficking awareness. He was the sound guy. Sparks flew, and we were inseparable. We eloped 12 months later.

Our relationship started off rough. He had a divorce and two kids. I had a divorce. He had his own struggles. I was in my identity crisis struggling with insecurity, bonding issues, mother wounds and father wounds. I was abused by a female when I was young and therefore struggled with sexual identity issues. I couldn’t keep close female friends and misplaced myself among men. I have a long line of sexual predators, sexual abuse victims, three murders and a lot of emotional detachment in my ancestry. What a legacy! To top it all off, I would have gone rushing back into the arms of my ex-husband at the drop of a hat. Perfect recipe for a happy marriage.

In 2012 Vince and I decided to renew our vows. Life was “surface-peachy” until one month before our renewal when my ex-husband suddenly passed away. I went into a deep depression. I lost my mind. Then, as I was well-trained to do, I stuffed it as far down as I could. I smiled and went on planning my beautiful vow renewal.

Two days after my vow renewal (which was lovely), my cup runneth over. I got our cell phone bill and WHAMMY. It showed me that Vince was corresponding with another cell phone user way more than me. I went into a panic attack, and I was spinning out of control. When I got in touch with Vince, he slowly confessed his need for an unbiased connection—I was in my basket of stuff, and he needed an outlet. Amid the news of the emotional affair, Vince also admitted his closet drinking to numb his pain. We were in bad shape. We did the only thing we hadn’t done yet: We exposed ourselves to our pastors, ran to Jesus, dove into community, became very vulnerable, booked into counseling and lay in ICU for the next year.

After a year of intensive work, we said our little prayer: “God, we are making plans, but please direct our steps. Amen.” And then scheduled a vasectomy for Sept. 9. However, two days before the procedure, my period was late. I took a pee test and WHAMMY. What the heck?! No way. Holy schnikies, PINK. Oh Lord. (I didn’t really respond too much.)

I thought for sure I would miscarry and this whole thing would end. There was no way I could bond with a baby. I didn’t have the capacity. I was barely out of intensive care. The kicker came when I saw she was a girl! I went home, sat alone and I lost my cookies. It was the first and last time I cried in anger about my pregnancy. It came with a vengeance. Wailing. I was so mad at God: “How could He do this?! I would never bond with a girl! She would end up a victim. How would I protect her in this family legacy? This was horrid. God is cruel.”

The rest of my pregnancy I was completely detached and “un”expecting. Livvy Lou Luchetta came into the world May 23, 2014, at 42 weeks and 1 day gestation. The day after she was born, I was smitten. I cried and cried. I fell in love—deep love. I found compassion. I found a new understanding. I finally understood love. I began to forgive people. I started seeing things through new eyes. God even started to heal my relationship with my own mom. And I could bond! This was a creative, unexpected, miracle blessing from God.

When we had Livvy, Vince and I were so blessed to have five weeks off together. During that time, we found new direction. We decided that both of us needed to raise Livvy. We would do whatever possible to bring her a simple, organic life, loving God and loving people. Her mom and dad would share the intentional task of resourcing her life into adulthood. Vince and I both changed our work hours down to part-time and simplified our expenses. We made purposeful, value-driven decisions to shrink the gap of disconnect between what we want and what we have. The path we have chosen for our family is not easy, but it’s life-giving and fruitful.Luchetta Family photos

Not everyone can copy what we have done, but anyone can bring their own vision closer to reality by taking intentional steps. You may be surprised by the unexpected. I hope that my days with Livvy will be life-giving and teach her adaptability in a world of unexpected outcomes. Her life has taught me that very lesson.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bethany Bio photoBethany Luchetta has been doing Real Estate for the last 10 years. She is currently a business owner and Real Estate Broker for Feel Good Property Management & Sales in Carlsbad, California. She has been married for 5 years to her hubby-poo, Vincent. Together they have a vibrant toddler, Livvy Lou. They are also blessed with Vince’s two older daughters, Paige (11) and Makayla (15). Bethany loves to write and will one day return to finish her degree in Marriage and Family Therapy so she can help other families navigate the adventures of life.

The Source of My Worth

Identity in Christ. This is an area I fought and struggled with when Joe and I first started attending The Father’s House in January 2004. I was far too concerned with what others thought of me and felt that I needed to look and do everything perfectly to have value. Learning the lesson that my value lies simply in being a daughter of the King was something that I grew to feel confident in, and because I had struggled so greatly, it’s an area I’ve devoted a good amount of time in prayer for my own daughters.

I thought this was a battle that I had fully conquered (with God’s beautiful and loving help, of course), until I became pregnant with my 5th daughter. I am usually sick in my pregnancies until around 16 weeks, so when it hadn’t worn off by week 20 I started initially to feel just kinda bummed. Then around week 24 I was suddenly hit with depression. I prayed and asked some people to be praying for me. Then our precious Lord so sweetly helped me to realize the source of my depression. In one word it was worthlessness.

You see, I take great delight in serving my family and taking care of them. I also love to help others through bringing gifts and meals, and here I was, pretty much full time sick in bed for six months. I hadn’t been able to do the things that I so greatly enjoy doing, so I was not only mourning that but also realizing that I had an unhealthy worth attached to it. There is nothing like being sick in bed for months to really check the source of your worth if you enjoy taking care of others as I do.

In my private crying out to the Lord and through some texting with a close friend, I was able to see this precious lesson the Lord was teaching me through this time. I am a daughter of the most high King and even if I was to never again be able to serve my family or anyone else in this life, my value is just the same. It cannot be earned or even maintained. It simply is because that is how my precious God made it to be.

My friend encouraged me to soak up this forced time of rest and let my children learn to serve me and our family the way that I had always done. This was a huge turning point for me. Being able to lie still without guilt is huge! I mean, there is always a to-do list that’s miles long that I can never seem to accomplish, and now I am lucky if I cross one thing off my list in a day. Lying in bed directing traffic may sound wonderful to some, but it was misery for me. I’m learning to embrace it, though. I see the value in my children learning to work hard around the house and grow in compassion for me and for each other. I cannot tell you how precious it is when I receive texts from my teenager asking if I’m doing ok, or when any of them willingly doing more than their fair share to help around the house. Even my 2-year-old notices when I’m especially sick and lays her sweet little hands on me and prays.

Believe me, it isn’t always this picture perfect, but I can look at all God has been accomplishing through this time (not to mention growing a sweet little baby girl) and feel content. I trust my God so completely. He has proven himself trustworthy time and time again. No trial ever has been or ever will be wasted.

So may I encourage you, if you’re feeling down on yourself in a certain area, cry out to God about it. Get prayer from a trusted friend and/or elder at church. All He wants is to bring you into more freedom so you can fully feel and express His love to this dying world. I pray right now, sweet sister who is reading this, that God, the greatest gentleman ever, would so sweetly show you an area where you might have undue attached worth. I pray that he would bring healing to any hurt you have in that area, and that you would trust it to Him. Amen. You are beautiful and oh so loved, precious daughter of the King! I pray you know it deep within your heart and live each day confidently in that knowledge.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

unnamed-2My name is Andrea Pinner. I’ve been married to my handsome husband for 16 years. We got married shortly before we both turned 20 and it’s been a challenging and beautiful ride. God has used our complete opposite personalities and giftings to bring great refinement and glory to Himself. We have four wonderful daughters and I’m pregnant with our 5th daughter due in January. I am passionate about sharing the love of Christ practically with those around me, and encouraging women in the struggles we all face so we can overcome them in Christ.