Monday, February 28, 2011

Share your Story

As to no ones surprise, when Keme Carter shared her story last Sunday at The Moody Church, we heard incredibly positive feedback from women. And not just women from our church, but even from women who heard Keme online and wrote to tell her how her story encouraged them.

Keme admitted that when she sat down to write out her story, she was terrified. She commented on the Feb 21 posting, "... I was so terrified about giving my testimony that I hadn't even begun writing it. I went home and wrote most of it that evening. One thing I learned from Mary through this process is that we should tell our stories often. It's extremely hard being so vulnerable, but it's all for God's glory!!"

Perhaps a coincidence, but the Monday evening after Keme shared, Mary contacted me and asked if I would participate in a video project she was working on for her Christian Working Women Retreat. (Another lovely woman was scheduled, but had to pull out last minute due to a family emergency.) I'd do anything for Mary, so I didn't hesitate to say yes. However, it was 7pm Monday night and the shoot was scheduled for 11am the next morning! I was to have a three minute testimony written and be prepared to record it the next morning! It wasn't at all coincidence that Mary asked me...she already knew what Keme and I learned...writing out your story IS therapeutic! God showed me so many new things about myself during this process that I had a hard time limiting myself to just three minutes!

Below is the script I wrote. And I was so nervous sharing this on camera that I actually read it while filming, but hopefully you won't be able to tell that when the audience watches the video (don't tell anyone I told you that insider fact!) 

So my challenge to you ladies -- take some quiet time and try to write out a three minute (or longer if you need it) version of your testimony. Ask God to show you some themes He has threaded together over your life that may be a new insight to you. Pray for Scripture to come to heart and mind that will uplift and encourage you through this process. And then, I encourage you to share it with someone. The morning before the shoot, I read my story to a super close friend who knows me well -- I wanted her to tell me if she thought I was being true to myself. Not only did she confirm that I was spot on, but God used her in that moment to encourage me even more. Just what I needed before the shoot!

"My store begins with an end. My parents divorced when I was 8. And this wasn’t the first time they had each been through a divorce, this was a second failed marriage for both of them. Childhood for me, although had moments of joy, was really filled with anxiety, instability, and let downs. My dad was an alcoholic and that played a large part in his two failed marriages. Like many families plagued by alcohol, there were bitter fights and deep emotional trauma.  Although my parents did their best to love and care for my brother and me, right from the beginning of my life I was longing for emotional voids to be met.

Church was not a part of my life so when a friend invited me to her church when I was 13, it was God’s plan that I go and hear the Gospel for the first time. I knew nothing of Jesus accept of what was described that night – He was loving and accepting, He didn’t care where you came from or what your family was like. He would never abandon me, He would always forgive me, He would stand in my place at the Judgment of God and by grace, I would have eternal life. Choosing to accept Christ that night was the beginning of my redemption plan.

I wish I could say that from that moment on, I obediently followed Christ. But like most women, I have struggles...some so big that at times I question whether I’ll ever get over them. I was a product of the world – my moral standards came from what our culture said was right and wrong. My influences were secular and my desires were self-centered. So I wasn’t transformed over night...God’s plan for me has been consistent as He has been stripping me of my deeply ingrained worldliness into eternal desires.

I picked up some habits growing up in my dysfunctional, blended, unsettled family that have been really hard to shake. First, I could put on a front. I could leave the mess at home and prove to the outside world that not only was I fine, but I had it all together. Still struggle with this one today – I’m pegged as the one who is always on top of it. It’s not true. I’m actually quite a mess at times.

Another trait I picked up along the way is one of shame. For example, having a godly marriage and raising children to love the Lord is new to me! It wasn’t modeled when I was growing up, to me or my husband, so we’re clueless at times in our household. I’m afraid that people will judge me and my family b/c of where I came from.

And one other struggle I can thank my roots for – I really want to please you. And I really want you to like me.

If you had told me that part of God’s story for me included working in leadership at a church in Chicago that led other women to the throne of grace, I wouldn’t have believed you. There is no way that God could use my mistakes, my background, my insecurities for the purpose of leading other women. That’s just crazy.

But that is the coolest part about how God can redeem our story is that we cannot dream it up!

Now my job is to tell you all about my baggage and dysfunctional family! Transparency is practically in my job description...the shame is fading and the insecurities, although still there, are be filled by my security in Christ. God’s story for me is still unfolding, but this I know...I’ve been redeemed."

If you take the time to do this exercise, please let us know how it goes! Share you insights and anything you learned in the comments below.

With deep love for my Redeemer,

Monday, February 21, 2011

In Her Own Words, Keme Carter

I hope you were able to hear Keme Carter's testimony on Sunday...but if not, you're at the right blog! For those of you who did hear her, I'm sure you'll agree with me that Keme is one transparent women. I'm personally proud of her for being so open and honest about her life...something that I wish more women were like. As an incredibly respected woman at our church, I found it to be refreshing that she is just like you and me: she once was lost but now is found; was blind but now can see. 

Here is  Keme's story  in her own words:
"As a person who grew up in the south, the bible belt of the United States, one would have thought that during my childhood and adolescence I would have heard the good news of Jesus Christ many times, and understood why I needed a savior.  I had wonderful, loving parents who stressed the importance of integrity, discipline, hard work, and education, and who took us to church infrequently for the purpose of developing high moral standards. As a young adult, I actually considered myself to be a Christian- and as far as I knew, everyone in the south was a Christian. For the most part, my friends who also considered themselves to be Christians had lives that at least superficially looked no different from mine.

After high school, I headed to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, and having a Type A personality, I had an agenda. That agenda, in a nutshell, consisted of having fun, but not too much fun, doing well academically, and heading on to medical school after graduation. But then I met a boy, his name was Jamail, and he would become my husband. I thought Jamail was fantastic- he was smart, funny, an athlete on the football team, loved his parents, and for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why no one else could see that Jamail could single-handedly turn our football program around. Jamail and I, when we started dating, engaged in sexual immorality. Like me, he was not walking with the Lord, but unlike me, Jamail always had an intense feeling of guilt immediately afterward and would voice his concern about not knowing if he would go to Heaven or Hell should he die. At that point in my life, I could never have predicted the degree of hurt and regret that I would carry with me, even into our marriage, as a result of that sexual sin.

Jamail found a mentor in the chaplain of the football team and became saved. It was quite clear that his heart had changed and that he would not and could not have a relationship with me as a nonbeliever. He was more concerned about my salvation than our relationship and he found Godly women who could explain the gospel to me. I recognized husband material when I saw it, and was more concerned about my relationship than anything else, and so I listened to the gospel. What I came to understand as a 19 year old woman, was that I was dead in my sin, that my sin would have devastating repercussions, and I could be saved only one way, and that was through Jesus Christ. It would take some time before I could begin to comprehend the love, holiness, and providence of God, and allow myself to be truly cleansed by Him.

My last year of college was one of spiritual growth as I was attending a bible study regularly, had other Christian women holding me accountable, and Jamail who would consistently challenge me to learn more about God’s word. But after graduation, I moved to another city where I attended medical school and I entered some of the most spiritually stagnant years of my life. Looking back, it is clear why- again I had my own agenda. My most important priority became doing well in medical school and maintaining a long distance relationship with Jamail so that at the beginning of my 3rd year we would become engaged. I didn’t look for a church home, didn’t seek out or pray for a spiritually mature woman who could disciple me, and didn’t find time to read God’s word. Jamail, during this time, was continuing to grow spiritually and walk faithfully with the Lord and found a pastor to be his spiritual shepherd. Jamail also during this time had told me that he would not necessarily adhere to my time line of becoming engaged. God was preparing him to be a Godly husband, he told me, and this process was on God’s time line. 

One day, I walked into the office of one of my attendings to ask for a recommendation. At the end of our meeting, he invited me to his church and told me that he would like to introduce me to his wife. The Lord sent his wife, Janice, and the wife of Jamail’s pastor to get me back on track. They modeled for me true Christian wives and mothers. They challenged my definition of purity. No, purity did not just mean abstaining from sex, but actually being able to present my body as a living sacrifice to God, avoiding temptation and lust, and having a pure heart. I then understood that if I could not truly, consistently, and unconditionally love a perfect man, Jesus Christ, then how could I love and be the wife God wanted me to be to an imperfect one? I realize now that I have a tendency to form idols in my life- they were Jamail, my education, and later, my children. But it’s different now because I have a husband who leads me, a church that grows me, a small group that prays for me, and Christian women around me who understand my weaknesses and aren’t afraid to speak the truth like, “you are first a child of God, then your husband’s helper, then a mother, and lastly a doctor.”   

I praise God, that in His mercy and love, He always lovingly, albeit sometimes painfully, refocuses me on what is most important…a Christ centered life and an open and honest relationship with Him. Because if this is maintained, the rest of my life will be in order, and I don’t have to have my own agenda."

Thank you Keme, for your boldness to share how God has shaped your life. You're an example of the true woman that Susan Hunt describes in her book (The True Woman): "Her redeemed character is shaped and driven by God's Word and Spirit. Because she is the very dwelling place of the Lord God, her reflection of Him is manifested in every relationship and circumstance of life." Now if you'll excuse me, I'm so inspired to reflect this as well that I'm off to spend some time with the Lord!
If you were encouraged by Keme, please say so! Post a comment blow!

With love,

Monday, February 14, 2011

Welcome and Recap!

Welcome to the first official blog post of TMC Women’s Ministry. I’ve always been hesitant to start a blog because I wasn’t sure I had anything interesting to say. Plus I’m a bad speller! But after the Women’s Ministry Luncheon on February 12, I knew it was time to fire up a blog. If you happened to attend the luncheon, then you understand why I have a message to get out. And if you missed it, let me try to give you a recap. Brace yourselves.
We were introduced to an organization called Women at Rick (WAR) and heard from the President, Becky McDonald. To put it mildly, Becky opened our eyes to the brutality of women all over the world. The statistics that she shared were mind blowing and the evil that WAR has seen firsthand is hard to imagine. Becky shared stories about women like Neelu – a young Muslim woman who was told she had no rights, no value and no voice. To remind her that she had no voice, family members poured acid down her throat to burn away her vocal cords. We heard that between 800,000 to 1 million women and children are trafficked across international borders each year and 300,000 women and children are at risk here in America. According to WAR, there are more children sold as sex slaves in one month in New York City then women who die of breast cancer each year. Her point was loud and clear: women and children are at risk all over the world starting right here in our own land.
But there is good news! WAR is doing something about this and invited us to join in. Becky explained that they have a three-prong approach to their ministry:
Curative – WAR goes and finds women in places where she is held captive and rescues her; they follow this up by empowering her to make her own living and live independently of her abusers. One of the ways they empower women to start providing for themselves is to teach them to make jewelry. As displayed at the luncheon, the jewelry (along with pendants, stationary, and more) is exquisite and unique. All proceeds made from selling the jewelry goes directly back to the women. They begin making a living for themselves. They begin to find hope.
Preventative – WAR targets women who are targeted by traffickers and tries to save them before ever being taken captive. Similar to the women rescued, these women are also taught a trade or given a microloan to start her own business – depending on the situation and country. As a part of WARs training to churches, they outline warning signs of local trafficking and what to do (and not to do) when you suspect harm.
Supportive – this prong is all about advocacy. WAR works with and trains churches all over the world to get involved and be the hands and feet of Jesus to these women. Becky had an interesting take on this idea – she believes that women are, by God’s design, nurturing individuals and that we naturally want to help others. However, by the influence of Satan and his attempt to keep us from doing this, we end up using our energy to hurt each other! We can spend more time tearing apart the body of Christ then working together for God’s glory! As tough as that was to hear, I have to admit that I know it can be true at times.
What I loved most about the luncheon was Becky’s call to us women to live our lives, as she said, with “steel in our backbones!” If we personally knew the value and worth God places on each one of us, then we would give and give and give to make sure others knew that same truth. Christian women and the Church as a whole would figure out how to mobilize the Church to make a greater impact on the world around us. Becky believes that Satan has a true distain for women (she bases this on Genesis 3) and because of that, women in particular are his target. If we want to have a heart like God’s, then we’ll model what His Word says:
Psalm 82:4: Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Micah 6:8: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
I left the lunch more aware of the pain and suffering of women all over the world…and right here in Chicago. I believe there were women sitting at this very luncheon who have experienced some of the unthinkable evil Becky shared with us. But I also felt encouraged by how big our God is! How amazing is it that He would want to use someone like me and you to be a part of rescuing and loving women who are currently chained to a bed as a sex slave. And of course I thought of my daughter – how I want to instill in her the value and worth that I know God has for her. I want her to know that the life we have been given is for one purpose: to bring glory to our God. More than ever, I want to model that to her – which is why our church will not sit still on this issue. Be in touch with us if you want to be a part of what God will do in us and through us to help women who cannot help themselves.
For more information on WAR, check out their website:
PS: the Women’s Ministry Luncheons are good y’all! We are intentional about who we bring in and what the topic is about. If you haven’t been to one, this is the time! The next luncheon is March 19…details coming soon!
Associate Director of Women's Ministry
The Moody Church