Posted by: bellissimanh | November 11, 2008

Trash to Treasure

The theme for our monthly women’s gathering at church in November was “Trash to Treasure.” We brought in things that might otherwise be discarded and created something new out of them. Here are a couple of examples…

*Magazine clippings were turned into beautiful magnets

*Old mesh screen was stretched across a broken picture frame and dressed up to become a wonderful place to organize and hang earrings

*Pine cones and green boughs became wonderful firestarters when old candles were melted down and used to “glue” it all together

*Old wallpaper scraps became beautiful decorative fans

 

This month it was my turn to bring the teaching. Below is what the Lord impressed upon my heart and what I shared with the ladies. God is so faithful to take us as we are and redeem us… to create something new and beautiful out of what others might have thrown away.  I’m happy to report that while my eyes did well up a few times, for the most part I got through this without a huge meltdown and I left feeling that everything the Lord wanted me to express was communicated, in spite of my tender heart. He is so amazing.

And on a special note… Diane, Candy, and my sweet, precious Mom: your prayers today were felt and appreciated more than you know. I am blessed beyond measure to have such strong godly women in my life who are quick to come and stand in the gap when requested. I love you all very much

 

Trash to Treasure – Because of Christ!

 

When we first started kicking around the idea of “Trash to Treasure” as a concept for our November meeting, I told Fran I’d come up with a devotional to share with you all. Anyone who knows me well knows I’m the queen of the internet and I can find just about anything, so I figured no problem… I’ll just find something appropriate and share it with you all.

But as I began looking, I realized that God had other plans. I heard Him speaking so clearly to my heart that this month was not to be a “canned” teaching gleaned from someone else’s thoughts. My own life is rich with a trash to treasure example, and He intended for me to bring this one from MY heart. Like Moses, I had all kinds of excuses… “But that will take so much time, Lord!” “But what if I cry?” “But You have so beautifully orchestrated the course of my life… what if I get tongue-tied and can’t express it in a way that does justice to that?” But, nothing. When God clearly directs you to do something, the best response is obedience.

So I thought I would share with you some of my background. It’s funny. I generally feel like I’m an open book, and growing up in the church, I’m used to people knowing all my business… so when I share something and someone says to me, “I can’t imagine you ever doing that!” it always surprises me. I just assume everyone knows everything about me already. I’m learning that’s not the case… so for some of you, this will be things you already know. For others, you may see me in a whole new light after tonight. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. J No… truly, God has been so amazing to me and faithful through the years. It’s a beautiful thing.

I already mentioned that I grew up in the church. My dad was a Pastor for 20 years. I was raised in a godly home with godly parents who truly love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Yet living in the church parsonage was kind of like living in a fishbowl. You have forty sets of parents and they all know what you’re up to. When you screw up, everyone knows it.

I have been fascinated with the Word for my entire life. Even as a child I loved memorizing Scripture, reading Scripture. I can remember one particular Sunday School class as a Jr High student that taught us more about how to study for ourselves. I ate that up! I could recite all the verses that would lead someone to salvation and walk you through right up to praying to receive Christ. But at that point in time, it was all head knowledge.

As a teenager, I quickly tired of being viewed as a goody-goody. Jodi can tell you what they say about Preacher’s kids and cop’s kids. It’s almost as if I set out to prove that I WASN’T a good girl. I don’t know that I did it consciously, but I knew that I didn’t want to be different, and I overcompensated. It’s ironic really, because now one of the things I want most out of my life is to be dramatically different… to be set apart for the Lord.

My rebellion led me to do many foolish things that eventually resulted in a series of events that would change the course of my life forever. I’m not going to give all the details because we’d be here for hours…  the snapshot I AM going to give you will take long enough. J

I earned a four-year full tuition scholarship to Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI and never attended because I became pregnant the summer before first semester.

I married, had my daughter Jessica and was separated before my first anniversary. Divorced before the second. My husband was a hopeless alcoholic. As crazy as that made me when we were together, it wasn’t long after we were separated that I turned to drugs and alcohol myself. I fell apart. I drifted from party to party, from job to job, and from bed to bed until I ended up losing the one thing that mattered most to me… that precious baby girl. My ex-husband’s parents threatened to sue for custody. I was such a mess that I told them to go ahead and take her until I could get my life together. In my whacked out brain we were talking months (I really didn’t even realize how bad off I was at that point). In reality, she remained with them for three years.

Over the course of those three years I did have another significant relationship, one that served to help me put an end to my destructive behavior and bring stability to my life. I moved to VA with my fiancé for two and a half years (he was in the NAVY), and when we returned to NH after his discharge I set about working to get Jessica back. I was completely paranoid during this time period. I imagined private detectives watching me from behind every bush. It didn’t help that my fiancé (who I was living with) would bring his underage brother to our house to drink. I had become more involved in church again and was feeling the Lord drawing me back to Himself, and that was something that created tension between us as well (in spite of the fact that we both grew up in the same church). We eventually broke up when he cheated on me and I was devastated. That’s a story for another time. My paranoia over the spies, and the thought that I might not win custody of Jessica back became all-consuming. I was physically ill with fear. I finally gave up. I fell in a sobbing heap before the Lord and told Him that I couldn’t do this anymore… I couldn’t take the worry, the fear, the panic. I laid the entire custody battle at His feet and asked Him to take it… to do whatever He thought was best. I told Him that if I didn’t get her back, then it I knew it was His will.. and miraculously, I was ok with that. It still amazes me. I woke the next morning with this peace that I had never before experienced in my life. For the first time in my life, I had experienced God. I hadn’t just read about Him, or memorized Bible verses about Him. In that moment, He became real to me. I knew that He was in me, and loving me.

I continued to pull things together, and while I did go through a few more relationships that weren’t good for me, for the most part my life was coming together. Around this time I met and Jasmine’s father, who was the son of a Baptist minister and claimed to want to get back to a deeper relationship with the Lord although he had walked away as I had. [This was HUGE for me. One of the deepest desires of my heart was to be married to a godly man. The struggle came in feeling that I wasn’t worthy of having one. I figured with my past, what truly godly man would ever want me?]  He was a musician, so that was another huge thing, and it seemed a match made in heaven. He told me that he had cancer, and that it was coming out of remission. My parents were very supportive – seeing all the same “signs” that I did and thinking this must be God’s will. We were married within a few weeks – yes… I said weeks – and began life together.

Within 6 months, Jessica’s father told me that he was giving me custody. He didn’t want to go to court, he didn’t want the responsibility, and he felt she needed her mother. Just like that. Can I tell you that this woman did some rejoicing that day! The Lord had proven His faithfulness to me in taking away my anxiety over the custody battle, and then He had given my baby back.

I continued to grow closer to the Lord and began serving in ministries in the church. I eventually took over the music and drama ministry from my mother, and loved serving Him. I felt as if things had finally come full circle for me on that front, and I was experiencing the joy of living with Christ as my all in all.

On another front, things were not so wonderful. I had Jasmine and she brought such joy to me. She was a gift straight from heaven, just like her sister. My marriage, on the other hand, was a disaster. My husband constantly ridiculed my faith (and my God), he was controlling, and became verbally and eventually physically abusive. Cancer? He had lied about the whole thing, as well as many others. On our second anniversary I found myself at a rest area with my parents and the girls, trying to decide if he had broken my ribs or not and whether I should go to the hospital. Fear of making him even angrier kept me from that. I sought Christian counseling, and he refused to attend with me. He told me that I could go all I wanted, it wouldn’t matter. He didn’t love me, didn’t care about me at all, and was only staying with me so he would have a roof over his head (I worked two jobs to support us). He told me he didn’t WANT the marriage to work so I could do whatever I wanted… it wouldn’t make a difference. After speaking with the Christian counselor, he informed me that for my children’s safety (and my own), I needed to leave. I struggled immensely with this…. But in the end, a domestic violence counselor said the same thing, and after much prayer, I agreed. I could share with you the biblical basis for that… but it would take way too much time. Let’s just say I have a very soft spot for battered wives and Christian women who have faced divorce.

As a single mom, I faced a new set of challenges, but the Lord was so faithful. He was there every step of the way. During that time I learned that until you are satisfied with Christ alone, no other man is going to fill the void in your heart. I learned that when you think you’ve run out of options, that’s when He gets to step in and steal the show. For every question I’ve ever had, He has become the answer. There is not a need or a desire I have that He can’t fill. Nothing! As my faith grew, so did my friendship with Joel.

We actually were friends for six months before we ever considered each other “dating material”. And once we did, it was another year and a half before things grew more serious than that. As much as I enjoyed his company, Joel was never a marriage option for me because he didn’t know the Lord. Despite offers to bring him to church with us, he wanted no part of it. After a while, he got sick of spending Sundays alone, so he decided to come with us. I would pray so hard… each and every week… that the Lord would touch his heart. Finally, one week it happened. I was leading worship and I looked down and Joel was wiping tears away. That afternoon at lunch, he told my Dad, “I know where I need to be with God… I just don’t know how to get there.” My Dad had the privilege of leading him in the sinner’s prayer and it was a beautiful day. J He and Jessica began baptism classes together.

They were baptized on Easter Sunday, and I cried through the whole thing. Once the service was over and everyone turned to go, Joel stopped them. He dropped to one knee, pulled out a ring and proposed in front of the entire congregation. He said that as he started his new life with Christ, he wanted to also begin his new life with me and the girls. I don’t remember much about the rest of that day, but every day since has been a blessing.

I’m only going to touch on this briefly, because most of you are aware of Jasmine’s story. We were married on June 6. On Jan. 15th of that next year, a candle caught the hem of Jasmine’s dress on fire and she suffered 3rd degree burns over 90% of her body. They didn’t think she would live, much less walk again, but God is so amazing. He answered prayer and performed miracle after miracle. Again – that’s for another time, but what I want to share with you is that during that period of waiting in the hospital, I had no choice but to trust God. He gave me hours and hours to spend in His Word, soaking up His presence, drawing closer and closer to Him and while I would never want to repeat an experience like that again… it was a defining time for my faith. The Lord brought me to a deeper understanding of Who He is and how much He loves me. He showed me that He is trustworthy and faithful… and that even if He had chosen to take Jasmine home, He would have sustained me. I know that without a doubt. I felt that even when her life was hanging in the balance. When I was overcome by guilt over my inability to protect my daughter, questioning my worth as a mother, He gave me Noah. When I say that Jesus is everything to me, I mean it. I don’t know what I’d do without Him.

As I look back over the course of my life, I am overwhelmed by how the Lord took all of my trash, and turned it into treasure.

Isaiah 43:1-7

  But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob,
      And He who formed you, O Israel:
” Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
      I have called you by your name;
      You are Mine.
  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
      And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
   When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
      Nor shall the flame scorch you.
   For I am the LORD your God,
      The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
      I gave Egypt for your ransom,
      Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
   Since you were precious in My sight,
      You have been honored,
      And I have loved you;

Therefore I will give men for you,
      And people for your life.
 Fear not, for I am with you;
      I will bring your descendants from the east,
      And gather you from the west;
 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
      And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’
      Bring My sons from afar,
      And My daughters from the ends of the earth—
  Everyone who is called by My name,
      Whom I have created for My glory;
      I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”

 

I was afar off… and didn’t resemble anything close to what the Lord created me to be… yet He pursued me. Not only that, He is my Redeemer. He doesn’t just redeem people, He redeems everything! All of my mistakes, my poor choices, my junk… He redeems it all.

Revelation 21:5 tells us that He makes all things new. I am so thankful for that!

I thought with the whole trash to treasure theme, a woodworking analogy might be fitting. Have you ever thought about Jesus and wondered, “Why a carpenter?” A good carpenter can take an old piece of furniture and transform it. They strip it down, they sand the gashes and blemishes, they put a coat of sealant on it and it ends up as something that is presentable… lovely… just like new… maybe even better!

So here are some lessons from the workbench:

1. Your Heavenly Father sees the potential in the wood

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them.” Eph. 2:10

God has a plan for each of us. It was ordained before we were born. It doesn’t matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done. He chose each of us and fashioned us to fulfill a special purpose. Our lives have been uniquely designed to equip us for the tasks He’s called us to.

 

2. He is able to transform the rough into the useful

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10

Perhaps no one knew better than Peter what it was like to fail the Lord. Can you imagine the power with which he writes these words? After denying His Lord three times, the Lord commissioned him for service and gave him a new name.. Peter… the rock. It’s easy to look at the mistakes we’ve made and think we’re unfit for service in the kingdom of God. Even when the Lord convicts us of something in us that needs to change and we set forward on that path, Satan loves to take that and use it against us. He’ll try to convince us that we’ll never get it right and God can’t possibly use us after what we’ve done. Don’t let the enemy beat you down with this! Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32) Jesus knew Peter would fail… but He knew it wouldn’t disqualify him for service and He encouraged him to keep going. He does the same with us… He knew how miserably I would fail… but He also knew that He had a plan for my life and He intended to use me to further His kingdom. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done… don’t give up! He wants to use you!

 

3. He uses His “pieces” to meet needs

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God will take what we’ve been through and use it to help others who are facing similar struggles. God has us exactly where He wants us, and He will take us through situations so that we can learn from them, and in turn come alongside others who are experiencing what we’ve already endured.

 

4. He’s in the business of restoration

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
         And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
         And sinners shall be converted to You.” Psalm 51:12-13

Jesus wants to restore our joy! We don’t have to walk through life defeated. We have a Savior who has taken us from the trash heap and treasured us! When we experience that overwhelming peace and joy that comes as a result of resting in His hands, it should motivate us to reach out to others with the love of Christ.

 

5. The Master Carpenter wastes nothing

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Life can be messy. It can be difficult. It can be downright painful. Sometimes things get thrown at us that we just never could have imagined and we wrestle with wanting to know why. Why would You allow this to happen to me? I have learned that our Lord wastes absolutely nothing. He uses all of it – the good and the bad – to shape us into the women that He created us to be. We don’t have to lose sleep over what could have been, or what we wish hadn’t been, because He uses every piece of our lives for our good and for His glory. Count on it!

God is in the business of taking all of our blemishes and mistakes and creating something beautiful out of them. He can take us back to bare wood again. Looking back over my past there are a lot of gouges and stains, but He has the ability to rub and polish them until they end up being the prettiest spots on the piece… a testament to His life-giving, life-changing power! See, I show up a mess, but He sees the potential. He is the Master of taking something sitting on the edge of the driveway waiting for the trash truck and instead refinishing it… creating a beautiful masterpiece. I am so thankful that Jesus pulled out His tools and began the work of reshaping my life. It was a labor of love. He has used His blade to cut away strongholds of sin… drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity. He has taken sandpaper to my rough edges to smooth away the pain of not only things that I’ve done, but things that were done to me… and He has used different circumstances to apply a coat of stain that somehow brings a beauty out of what I once considered such garbage. Because of Christ, I am a new creation. This work of heart is so far from being finished, but Philippians 1:6 tells me that He will be faithful to complete the work he’s begun in me… and in you! He has taken my heart from the trash heap and brought forth treasure, because He has the power to change broken into beautiful.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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Responses

  1. What a powerful and beautiful testimony! I loved reading this. God has turned trash into treasure in my own life as well. If you have time to visit my blog, read devotional for a single mom. I was blessed by reading your words. If you don’t mind, I’ll add your blog to my list.

  2. Wow. Just…wow. What a powerful testimony to the grace of God and to His sovereign rule over creation! You are such a blessing to me and to the women in your local church.

    Xandra

  3. You have quite a story! And you said it well. Beautiful verses – some of my favorites. And the theme was very creative and lovely, I’m sure – what a perfect way to tell your story.

  4. Heather, that was just such an amazing testimony in a time where women to hear it most. Your story and mine are so similar, it gives me such courage and hope to know that God is in the business of making “broken into beautiful” and that I am not the only one who has gone through these situations to come out with all things working for the good. I cried when I read Isaiah 43 in your testimony. That was the very scripture God gave to me when I was in the midst of my bad marriage. I also was so very touched and inspired by #5 – God wastes nothing. I was feeling so discouraged tonight and that just brought it all into perspective.

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  5. you are an amazing woman and deserve all the Blessings God has given to you.Thank you for sharing. I am sure you inspire many woman who have gone thru simular situations.

  6. Hi Heath,

    Your welcome for the prayers…so sorry I missed it. But I read it and it was beautiful!

    Can’t wait for our precious Lord’s return!!

    Love you,
    Candy

  7. No wonder. This is where your wisdom springs from. You have given me hope today. Thank you.

    Kate

  8. […] road of my past is littered with frost heaves and potholes — mistakes and failures that I’d often like […]


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