Monday, January 30, 2012

Pain is the Pathway

As I sat down to do school with Luke this morning, he noted that we are at the end of January. My heart sunk instantly. It was February 2008 that we were blessed with a little boy named Asher (Happy) Joseph and it was the same day that he was born that he entered into the arms of his Heavenly Father.

Four years later, February still steals my breath and leaves me struggling to see the story the Lord is writing in our lives. February 2008 is probably the single most defining month in my faith and while it brings feelings of joy and love it also brings with it a sense of sadness.

Often times that sadness is served with a side of guilt. I mean it has been four years...shouldn't I be over it? I have no intention of coming here and whining and woe is me-ing, but if I am being honest it still hurts. I have seen the hand of the Lord in my life and it has been GLORIOUS and Asher's life has a HUGE part in that, but if I am being transparent, I have to say it still brings a sting.

Sometimes it frustrates me that in our society we are expected to ever "get over it". I for sure don't think it is healthy to dwell on it and let us consume us, but largely our heartache and pain make us who we deny it is to deny a part of ourselves. Instead of fearing the pain we need to FEEL it.

February 2008 was a tough month for me. It began with maternity photos in an effort to soak in every moment we were given and ended with a preterm birth and saying good bye to one of the most amazing little men I have ever had the privilege to know and love.

Slowly, I am learning to disregard what society tells me is acceptable. I am learning to listen to the prompting of the One who defines wisdom. He is whispering...He holds me as the tears fall even four years later...he embraces me and encourages me to enter into the pain and really feel it as uncomfortable as it is, that pain has purpose and beauty will come of the brokenness...but we have to be unafraid to feel it.

So often I push it aside...I feel the floodgates begin to open and quickly slam them shut pretending they aren't bulging and ready to burst...I know February is a bittersweet month for brings the only memories of my sweet fourth born that I have, it also brings the memories of the most tangible love I've known through His hands and feet in others. It also brings an aching to hold my sweet four year old boy and kiss him and know him.

In this season in my life, when I want to push the pain away I am more and more feeling the presence of my God pushing me to embrace enter in and to feel it. The greatest compassion comes from a heart that has known pain. Though uncomfortable, I am honored to share in his suffering. I pray that he continues to use my pain for His good and for Him to give me the courage and strength to enter into the pain of others and show them the comfort He has shown me. February might be a tough month for us but it is also a sacred month...I know His grace will be always is.

The truth is that sometimes God's gifts don't come in neatly wrapped packages with a bow on top...sometimes they come in pain and heartache and day by day I am learning to accept the gifts He gives no matter the form...even when they don't feel like it...His gifts are good. I can honestly say, knowing what I know now, if given the choice...I would still choose having Isaac and Asher even knowing I would not get to keep them...the love and blessing far outweighs the pain...the pain has been a pathway that has opened my eyes and heart to so much and for that I m so grateful.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Florida "Fun"

Once upon a time, a crazy family made a last minute decision to drive through the night from Pennsylvania to Florida to visit the children's long lost Auntie after Christmas.  The family's van broke down about an hour from their destination and required a RIDICULOUS amount of work and money to fix.  Thankfully they were rescued by AAA and made the most of their trip!

On the way home they got to meet the fabulous Jonah Williams.  A highlight of the trip for SURE!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ask and You Shall Receive

This week, feeling all too comfortable, and almost complacent, I prayed for God to break my heart. I asked him to open my eyes to what He sees and break my heart for what breaks His. I desperately want to follow hard after Him and long to be used by Him. I don't want to fall into the trap of being lukewarm, I want to do as He commands.

Today it happened. This afternoon I sat through a class in preparation to be a foster mom. I sat through course on child abuse. Tears fell silently as the social worker shared a few sample cases and I had a hard time trying to understand how this world got so broken.

The worker warned that the slides she was about to show were graphic. She also went on to say that if we needed to get up and leave the room she would think no less of us. Sitting there...visions of my own dying babies in my head my body wanted to turn my head and run as far and as fast as I could. I closed my eyes and I prayed. I prayed for the Lord to use this. My heart shattered to pieces as I gazed upon one of His children who had bruises covering his entire back from being beaten with an electrical cord. I asked God for permission to get up and run. It was too much...too much pain...made too real.

I felt his embrace and his nudging of my heart to enter. To allow myself to enter into the pain I feared. To enter in to the pain of His children who were hurting so much. Tears continued to fall as the reality of a parent burning the soles of their child's feet with cigarettes, or making their child stand in boiling water leaving burns on the feet and legs of a sweet toddler burned into my heart. I thought of my own sweet toddler and how she trusts me and knows I would never hurt her. I wondered what must go through the heads of these innocent kids as they are tortured and belittled. My heart broke. I can no longer turn a blind eye. It is hard not to listen to the whisper of Satan, telling me I cannot save them all. My God reminds me constantly that He isn't calling me to save the world...only He can do that...all I can do is love and if we are able to pour the love He has so graciously given to us into the life of even one hurting heart, we are following at a time is what He is asking...He will do the rest.

My heart also broke for the parents who just don't have the tools to parent...who try the best they know how and yet still fall short. Don't we all? Today, God broke my heart. He broke it for the hurting families out there...the hurting children AND the hurting parents. We live in a world so very broken and for some of these families all hope seems lost. Tonight I praise God that all hope is NOT lost. I believe He is calling...he has broken my heart for what breaks his. He has opened my eyes and asked me to enter into their pain, to put my own heart on the line and love unconditionally and with reckless abandon. Love one another...He commands this. How different the world would be if we could all love one another with reckless abandon...I am heartbroken, and excited to get to love His children...for a few moments, a few days or a lifetime. I know this journey is going to be hard, and I know He will be with us each step of the way.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Have you asked God to break your heart lately?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bolte Family Christmas

 Highlights from our Christmas.  In NO particular order...Blogger uploaded them all crazy. :)  Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!  We sure did!
 Nativity scenes helped us get our hearts ready to celebrate Jesus' birthday Christmas Morning!
 Before we opened presents we first opened the gift of baby Jesus from each of our Nativity sets and read the Nativity story from the Jesus Storybook Bible.  (Hope slept in her new snowboots)

 I made homemade cinnamon rolls! 

 Christmas Eve Reindeer feeding
 Christmas Eve gift of Pillow Pets for all!

Opening gifts and Grandma and Grandpa Bolte's House

Christmas morning at our house

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How do you choose it?

I have been very sick the last week. Strep throat to be exact. In the time that I was sick, I actually had a lot of quiet time. Time to read and time to reflect are rarities, and they were mine for three days while I recovered. I am struggling with a few things and am wondering YOUR thoughts. God calls us to a life of radical obedience. He calls us to love Him above ALL else. He even goes so far as to say

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26

I believe this verse calls us to love God above all else. to love him SO much that compared to our love for Him, the love for our family resembles hate. I believe God gives us a family and calls us to love them so I don't think he wants us to literally hate them...I "think" it is a comparison thing in this verse.

Anyway, as a mom, wife, woman, I struggle with this..I have let go of two of my own children and while I can praise him through that...I would not choose it. If I were Abraham, and God called me to sacrifice my own family by my own hand, to take the life of the child I prayed for and desperately wanted, part of me wants to say that I would do it in trust and obedience, yet in honesty I am fairly sure I wouldn't. Now we all know how the story goes. We know that God in fact does not allow Abraham to take the life of Isaac, but he was ready to do was IN MOTION.

I guess I feel kind of stuck on where do I go from there? What does it mean if I want to follow Him radically, but if I were given the choice between God or one of my children or husband, I am not sure what I would choose if I am being honest. Do I love my own life too much? How doe one get to THAT place of trust and obedience. It is easy to trust Him when it has already been ripped from your hands and you had no choice in the matter, but how do you choose it?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Are you a Sheep or Are you a Goat (Repost)

On January 17th of last year...I wrote the following post...I've got to be honest as I examine my OWN heart over the last year I am questioning which category I fall into. I desperately want to follow God, BUT do I love Him above all else? Do I surrender ALL control to Him? If I were Abraham, would I have gone so far? Am I bearing good fruit? I guess I am in a season of self examination, but I've got so many questions about what LIVING all of this should look like. Anyone else struggle with this?

I will be honest. I have had it on my heart to write this post for weeks, and yet I have been dragging my feet because it is hard. I have committed to reading through the entire Bible this year and the plan I am on has me reading from the New and Old Testament daily as well as Proverbs and Psalms. I have never been really good at making myself sit down and read the Bible each day but I have to say somehow this plan has me motivated. Anyway, in my daily reading, I am finding myself challenged each day often by things I know I have read before, but it is hitting me differently now.

My heart has been so broken lately. After reading Matthew, there were several verses that hit me like a ton of bricks. My heart is so stirred and my hunger to devour His word has been reignited. That said, my heart is also broken. Broken because many of us live with a false sense of security. We think that if we say the "Sinner's Prayer", and are basically a good person, our ticket to Heaven is guaranteed. This could not be further from the truth. God is very specific in warning us that this is not the case.

It is a hard message to deliver, but I feel this intense sense of urgency to get this message out. Too many of us are living under a false sense of security. We are talking the talk but not walking the walk. God is really pressing these things on my heart, both for MYSELF and for you.

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14

He is telling us here that there are two gates. A narrow gate, and a wide gate. The narrow gate leads to Heaven, to eternal life and the wide gate leads to destruction. He also tells us that MANY find the wide gate and yet few find the narrow. Kind of unsettling isn't it? I mean, I think that today in Christianity we have created this "Middle Road" because we are "basically" good people, you know, we aren't going around stealing and killing people, BUT we also don't want to submit ourselves to radical obedience like the Lord calls us to, so we kind of take this middle road. We go to church, we tithe what we can, we serve on committees and pray before meals. Surely God will look upon us with favor right? Not so much. There is NO middle road. It is either RADICAL obedience or destruction. He doesn't care if we are "basically good people who go to church". He calls us to obey his command.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17-20).

Here we are being warned again. It does not matter how our lives LOOK on the outside. God has no use for Pharisees. We are called to be righteous, to choose the commandments of God over the Commandments of men. We are called to surrender ALL, not part, but ALL of our lives to Him. ALL of our day. As I sit and reflect on my days, I can say with great certainty that most days I do not live out radical obedience to the Lord. I think mostly about MY comforts and MY wants and My needs and let's be honest, TRUE Biblical Christianity is not about self. In fact it is about the opposite, it is about denying self. It is about giving beyond what makes you comfortable, it is about taking risks. It is about TRULY loving others MORE than you love yourself. I can also tell you that through my time with the Lord and my reading of His Word, I yearn to live my life the way HE wants. I want to wake up daily and die to myself. I want to pick up my cross and follow wherever He leads. I can tell you there are going to be some BIG changes in the Bolte Household in the coming year as we take the focus OFF of ourselves and aim it directly at the ONLY ONE who matters.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.” Matthew 7: 21-23

What this verse is telling us folks is the cold hard truth. One day, we will all sit before Him and he will separate the sheep (righteous) from the goats (wicked), and the scary thing is that the Bible tells us that many who think they were sheep, will in fact be called out as goats. Choosing Christ is not about a man made "sinner's prayer" it isn't about going to church or tithing your leftovers.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
If we have TRULY given our hearts over and allowed the Holy Spirit FREE REIGN, we can't help but be different people. We live differently and we act differently. We should WANT to obey his EVERY command and not find excuses for not obeying them. IF in fact our hearts are changed, our own sin should cause us to mourn. It should cause us to repent and make the changes needed to live a righteous life. I am not saying anyone is perfect here and I will be the first to admit that it is easier to type these words about what you should do than to live it out myself. But the day is coming. The Bible warns us that many of us are living with a false sense of security in our salvation, we think we are basically good people who are living a good life. We think the Kingdom of Heaven is ours, and yet He tells us we have to give it all. We have to TURN FROM SIN. We have to CHOOSE to follow Him and not man. It is a narrow road. There is NO middle road, it is RADICAL obedience or disobedience. PERIOD. No in between, and when the day comes, will you be a sheep, or will you be a goat?

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 The Year of the Free

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

So I know a lot of people like to pick a word to help them set goals and define the upcoming year...I have never done that but as I have been praying and thinking about the upcoming year, I am thinking that writing down the areas I hope to grow and spend time focusing on them will help me be more successful.

As I thought about the things I'd like to see change in my life in the future there was a theme running through all of it. I have allowed myself to become shackled despite all that I know to be true.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

This verse above...I have read it many times...I know it is true...and yet I feel like I keep submitting to that yoke of slavery. There are so many aspects of my life that have become a weight that I feel chained too.

He HAS set us free. It is done. What an amazing gift. Yet, I keep refusing to graciously accept that gift.

My word for 2012 is FREE. I am going to make every effort to accept the gift my Father has given and REALLY receive it. I have struggled lately with anxiety. I feel shackled to financial burdens, educational burdens, church stuff, and just all around expectations that I hold for myself and NEVER live up to.

Expectations are huge for me. I see in my head how lets say, homeschooling should look...and guess what...NINE times out of ten it doesn't look the way I had imagined. I plan a picture perfect family fun day and it is wrecked because I am disappointed that it doesn't look how I had imagined. My house is never clean enough, meals never perfect, children well behaved enough. That isn't is slavery...slavery to expectations...I resolve to accept my freedom in Christ and break the chains that bind me to my own expectations.

We carry a significant amount of debt, some from the stuff of life that no on expects and in the moment you just have to take care of, a huge portion for our college educations, and some just from poor decision making. This year, I resolve to break the chains this debt holds on us. This one has been huge for me. I never really thought it was hat big of a deal, and God has really shown me that our money cannot be used as His money when it is all tied down to debt. We are on a quest to financial freedom and we have made a plan.

We have struggled for several years now with the bondage that church can sometimes bring. Don't get me wrong...I am not here to bash any church or tell you that churches are bad, we have been blessed to be a part of a couple of really great church families with some really great people, but as I grow closer to the Lord I find that I am saddened by what the institution of church has become. I yearn for something authentic and convicting and we are praying through what that means for our family. I resolve to be open to whatever the Lord has for us in this area. I know that fellowship, teaching and worship are very important and we have been lacking in those areas.

Homeschooling, is an area where I feel especially chained. I think a large portion of that bondage comes from fear. I fear that I won't be adequate or that I won't have the tools to help these amazing kids be all that they can be and so I stick rigidly to a curriculum that just isn't really working for us...resulting in frustration as we merely go through the motions and just get by. This year I resolve to be intentional in my teaching my children and to have FUN with them. I pray to overcome the insecurities and cling to the truth that God CHOSE me for this. He chose me to be their mom and He will guide me in what is best.

Food, food is a struggle for me and let's be is a drug of choice for many of us. I am an emotional eater and since having Isaac I have packed on the pounds and while fretting about appearances is a bondage in and of itself, allowing myself to become unhealthy is not what God wants from me. This year I resolve to go to God first. I resolve to pray before putting anything into my mouth that it may be to nourish my body and not to numb my pain.

So I choose for 2012 to be the year of the Free for me! This will be the year that I break away from the things that are holding me back from what God wants me to be. I have to admit...sometimes I just want to take the easy route...I just want to be comfortable...and I am learning that God really isn't interested in my comfort...growing hurts.

God offers us freedom in Him. He has paid the price and given us a gift we don't deserve and I have been an ungracious receiver. I pray that 2012 is the year that I open my hand, receive His freedom and break the chains that are binding me.

“Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?” Acts 15:10

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us.” 2 Corinthians 1:10

“In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and He answered by setting me free.” Psalm 118:5

“Since the children [are human], He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy Him who holds the power of death– that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Hebrews 2:14-15

What is your word? What are your 2012 goals? How can I pray fr you?