Last Tuesday, Julie Luse shared her story about how God pursued her and saved her in the midst of a family life full of disconnection and the chaos of poor choices. Here are some of the lessons God taught her through the pain of her past.
When I became a Christian – my life didn’t get better. In fact, some might argue that it got worse. My family fell apart and stopped talking to each other. But my self-worth was no longer tied to my family of origin – and I believed I was who God told me I was.
But my story didn’t stop there.
God is at work in my family. And He’s at work in me. I’m learning that even though my parents didn’t work at leaving a positive legacy (in part due to their own parents not leaving a positive legacy) – I can change that story.
I can choose a different legacy for my own family. And that feels really empowering. Even though there was a lack of good influence in my life growing up – I can change that story. I can be a woman of influence to them and to future generations.
And even though God hasn’t fully restored my family the way I thought it should look – that doesn’t mean that He’s not hard at work restoring one thing at a time.
In fact – let’s talk about restoration. Since my birthday is so close to Thanksgiving – back in 2001 I tricked everyone in my family by telling them all I wanted for my birthday is for them to come to my house. I told each of them individually because previous to that my family wouldn’t have come together for Thanksgiving. They all showed up at my house, and I surprised them all with a big Thanksgiving feast and said, “For my birthday, I just wanted to have Thanksgiving with everyone together.”
It wasn’t perfect or pretty. It was actually a bit awkward – BUT every single year since then, my whole family comes together in one place for Thanksgiving and makes it work. And in the last several years, they all come together for Christmas too – as my younger brother has worked with me to keep the tradition alive.
A few years ago my aunt Ella on my mom’s side had a sudden death. She lives hours away but we made the trek down to her funeral only to learn the most amazing news. Ella had accepted Christ and even got baptized before she died. The story started when my cousin’s husband was struck by the gospel shared at MY wedding in 2002. He made a commitment after that to turn his life around. This affected his wife and then my aunt Ella. After her death, Ella’s husband Larry decided he wanted to be in Heaven with his bride so he chose to follow Christ as well and was contemplating getting baptized also. At his funeral, I also learned that another set of cousins had become Christians as well.
My little brother recently turned his life around and just got married this past summer to an amazing girl. They’ve both come to Berean a few times and are expecting their first child in the spring. In January, we almost lost my dad (he’s been sick for a while and I don’t expect him to make it too long). At that time, we talked to him about death and Heaven and Jesus, and though he wasn’t ready to make that decision, we know he’s been told about the truth, and we keep praying for him. His illness has allowed my little brother and I to have some really good heart-to-heart conversations about our past and how it might have affected us as adults. That has really grown our friendship.
And the Lord continues to stir in my mom’s heart and has helped me grow a friendship with her that I never had growing up. Though I spent many years being angry at my mother, the Lord began a restoration in my heart towards her several years ago. Now I completely empathize with what she went through and how hard that must have been for her. She has a hard time expressing her feelings of love towards me, but she’s really grown at it over the past several years. And she just started texting last year. I’ll never forget one of her first text messages to me last November when she got her new phone. It was simple and may sound to you like a normal exchange of words between a mother and daughter, but it rocked my world and left me in tears. I felt truly seen by God. The text was . . . “If I haven’t told you, you are the greatest Daughter, Mother, Wife and the best person ever. I love you! Mom.”
If God is a God of restoration . . .
- It means we can change the story. If we don’t like the story or the legacy we started out with – we can change it with God.
- It means that while you cannot change the circumstances, you can change your attitude.
- It means that while you cannot change what happens to you, you can change how you react to it.
Our God is in the business of taking the hard and broken stuff in our lives and making something beautiful out of it.
If you’ve gone through some hard stuff in your past, or even if you are going through it currently, I want to encourage you with these two things.
- Contentment comes from looking up (gratitude). Being grateful and thankful for what you have and what God has done, and what you have been saved from.
Complaining comes from looking around (comparing). The comparing of your story to another’s and doubting what God is doing in your life because of it.
- Being a woman of influence in today’s culture is no longer a vertical posture – as in I’m being influenced by somebody above me or before me and I’m influencing somebody below me or after me. Instead Being a woman of influence is a horizontal posture. Its leader is vulnerability – and the vulnerable life, the sharing of our stories with each other, is how we develop connection and the community we all crave and God designed us for.
I just want to end with a verse that is my favorite and has become my life verse. I’m going to read it out of this bible that was given to me by my grandmother after I went to college. At the time, I didn’t realize the importance this book would play in my life. And she had no idea how this would rock my world. But, I’ve written dates and names and events and things in here that mark my spiritual journey. It’s literally falling apart and even my kids have scribbled in it. But it’s another picture of God weaving his story where I didn’t realize he was working.
So the verse is this:
1 Peter 3: 15-16
In your hearts, revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience – so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ will be ashamed of their slander.