All posts by Terri Sorenson

Finding Favor

Have you ever had those moments that seem like a nuclear explosion of chaos in your world? I have joyfully, respectfully, and gratefully taken on the responsibility of leading a team of twenty people from three different states on a missions trip to a children’s home near Kingston, Jamaica. This is my first experience taking on such a role. Coordinating this team, although not without its’ challenges, has actually been rather fun for the most part. I have enjoyed the challenge of recruiting and coordinating team members and all we need as a team to make this trip successful. But recently I came upon a situation that would make even the toughest cookie feel like crumbling… I tried to purchase airfare.

I’m sure purchasing airfare seems like such a simple, even boring task. I mean really… How complicated could it be? I needed to coordinate airfare for twenty people out of three different states, getting them all to Kingston, Jamaica at the same time. But this is 2014. We are not without multiple resources to get it all done. Even still, I first decided to let a travel agent help me out. After about two full weeks of not getting much from her, despite my phone calls and emails, I finally received an email back with some travel options. A bit disappointed with the results she gave me, I did some research myself. I was finding the very flights she sent me at significantly lower prices! I called my travel agent, and in a respectful and much nicer tone than I wanted to have, I showed her the great deals I found in only five minutes of searching… as opposed to her two weeks. (I left out that last part… But I was thinking it!) I asked if she would be willing to book these new and better flights for us. Of course she said yes… for a fee of an extra $30 per person! Ugh! I respectfully declined and decided to do it myself.

Since we have so many people going on this trip, we qualify for a “group” status. What that means is that we can reserve all twenty tickets without having to pay the full amount up front. We also have the flexibility to change names on the tickets if needed. When dealing with a big group who are still trying to raise funds, these options are pretty important. I called the airline and spoke with a gentleman who quite obviously spoke English as a second language. I let him know our circumstances and asked if I could book our group tickets with him. He was certainly willing to help… for a $25 per person fee! Once again, I respectfully declined. I know those fees may not seem like a big deal. But when you’re raising funds, every penny counts. I need to be responsible for what monies I have been entrusted with.

Not wanting to lose the decent flight deals I had found, I figured I would just go online and book them all myself. The bad part of doing things this way is that the tickets would be officially purchased and issued… No refunds… No changes. If anyone had to back out at this point it would be too bad. The money would just be lost. Before making such a significant purchase, I needed to get all twenty team members to agree. It didn’t take long. In less than two hours, most everyone responded in agreement. I logged on to the airline website only to find the prices of the tickets had jumped up… significantly.

At this point, more than half of my day had been spent dealing with these tickets. When I saw the new, higher price, my stomach did a gigantic flip flop. The current price of our tickets were almost $100 more than our budgeted amount. Had I remembered to eat lunch, I easily could have lost it. Brain swirling, eyes hurting, feeling anxious, nauseated… *DEEP BREATH* “Be still and know that I am God”. As I heard that, I couldn’t help but wonder if God had been paying attention to my day so far. Ok… one more deep breath. I prayed for God’s favor as I picked up the phone and called the airline back.

Hallelujah! A sweet lady who spoke perfect English answered. I explained the unfortunate price jump to her. Unfortunately there was nothing she could do about that. Just as it seemed there was nothing she could do to help me, I felt prompted to tell her where we were going and why. She placed me on hold for a minute or two. When she came back on the line, she offered to waive the $25 per person fee and book the tickets for me with the “group” status. Although the ticket prices were still higher than they were earlier that day, at least we’d get the tickets reserved before prices potentially jumped up again. One of the other benefits of group status is the flexibility in the tickets. If prices drop, I can call and have our price lowered. She also gave me contact information to get free baggage vouchers for everyone in our group! With the savings in baggage fees alone, that brought our cost below the price I had found earlier. Amazing!

At the end of my conversation with this sweet lady, she told me that her hometown is actually Kingston, Jamaica. She wanted to express how thankful she was for what we were doing for the children in her country. That is the favor of God! No amount of my efforts, anxiety or frustration achieved anything. But one deep breath, a quick prayer and stepping back to let God do His thing did it all.

Letting go of control is so hard. Things couldn’t have looked worse when viewing the situation through human eyes. Only by letting go… by being still and knowing HE IS GOD, was I able to see His perfect grace in my little nuclear explosion of chaos. Compared to Him, I guess it doesn’t seem that big a deal after all.

Dreams

Can you remember back when you were a kid? Of course you do. What I actually meant to ask was, do you remember the dreams you had as a kid? Think about it. Your initial reaction may very well be to say yes. But if you take some time on this, I think you’ll agree that it may just be an automated response. While you might remember some of the ambitions you had, have you ever pondered why you wanted what you did?

It seems that everywhere I turn, the topic of dreams has been coming up. Admittedly, I haven’t thought about dreams in a long time. I’m very happy with my station in life. I love my husband and kids. Oh sure, there’s always something I’d like to change, have, get rid of, do differently, etc… But all in all, I’m good. So why is this topic surfacing like crazy to me? Experience tells me that there are no coincidences. God must want me to pay attention.

As I think back to some of the dreams I had when I was younger, I remember that I wanted to be a star on Broadway. I wanted to have at least six kids (all before I turned the old age of thirty, of course). I wanted also to be a psychologist in my spare time… You know, in between Broadway productions and raising kids. I had some dreams! They sound pretty ridiculous, right? Perhaps not as ridiculous as you might think.

What was it about those things that I really wanted? What did they mean? Why was it important to God to bring me back to those dreams? Surely it wasn’t to point out how I’d failed at reaching every single one. (ouch!) I never made it to Broadway. I only have three kids… The first of which I had at the age of thirty. (FYI – Three is enough!) And despite how I love to try and fix the world’s woes, I never did become a psychologist.

I knew it was God bringing me to this place. So I asked myself the question, “WHY did I want those things”. Well, after really pondering it, it was pretty simple. I wanted to be loved. That’s it. Nothing more. I would have fans who would love me for what I do, children who would love me for who I am, and patients who would love me for how I help. Love.

The next thought I had was not about how I failed in accomplishing my dreams, but rather how I succeeded. I am loved. There are people who love me for what I do, who I am, how I help, etc… But most importantly and unfailingly, that’s how my heavenly Father feels about me. He loves me not only for all those things in me, but even more, because He sees Jesus when He sees me. It feels good to be loved. It feels good to be successful. It feels good to be covered in the Grace that allows me both.

Don’t Be So Surprised (Part 2 of 2)

In my last post, I wrote about having witnessed God’s miracle healing. It was an incredible boost to my faith. But it was also an “in your face” reminder that not everyone was experiencing this miracle. Why? What was the difference between my situation with Faith’s chicken pox and anyone else experiencing, or not experiencing His healing? There had to be a reason.

I had been in church long enough to see people getting prayed for over and over again for things they never appeared to be getting healed from. As a new Christian, I just assumed that meant that sometimes God wants you healed… And unfortunately, sometimes He doesn’t. Maybe there was a prayer quota that God required… Like signing a petition. Then people could be healed. Or maybe it was getting the right person to pray. Surely a more “seasoned” Christian would have a better shot than someone who wasn’t as passionate about prayer. I wasn’t really sure why people weren’t getting healed. God was a slot machine. Pull the lever… Come on Jesus! Seven… Seven… Rats! Not a winner this time. Pull the lever again. Maybe have a friend pull the lever for good luck. Rats! Not a winner this time either. Healing was a gamble. And a bad one at that.

I spent the next several years witnessing and even experiencing the miracle of healing from God. Unfortunately, I spent those same years also witnessing and experiencing the let down and disappointment of not seeing miracles happen. Praying for healing became more of a ritual than an expectant hope. It was just something we did. The bigger the sickness, the more people we’d get to pray. Where were we going wrong?

I became more and more familiar with healing scriptures. One of my favorites, and probably the most well-known and used scripture is Isaiah 53:5. “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed”. This verse was practically stamped in my brain. Over and over I would quote it whenever the slightest symptom would rear its’ ugly head in my body or in my family. I had incorporated God’s Word into my “sick time ritual”.

Surely there must be some sort of consistency to God. He can’t really be as wishy-washy as the track record showed. If I was ever going to have a trusting relationship with Jesus, I had to make the decision that God’s Word is true. Profound, isn’t it? I decided that if God was real, and I knew He was… And if He is the one who breathed every word into the bible, and He did… And if I had received Jesus as my savior and become a joint heir with Him, and I did… Then what God spoke was for me… every time!

I’m believing God. I’m believing His Word is for me. Why were people still getting sick? I don’t know. But what I do know is that God says I’m healed. So sickness is not from Him. Sickness is not His will. There is never a time when God doesn’t want you healed and living in that perfect health. Scripture says that Jesus bore all our sickness and disease. You are not the sick fighting to be healed. You are the healed, resting in the promises of your creator and redeemer, resisting the weapons formed against you by the enemy. God promises that no weapon formed against you shall prosper. He never said no weapon would be formed. So when the ugly weapon of sickness or disease shows its’ ugly face in your presence, fight the way Jesus taught us to fight… “It is written”.

Don’t Be So Surprised (Part 1 of 2)

“Don’t be so surprised”. As long as I live, I will remember those words… I was a fairly new Christian, having only been a church-goer for less than a year. My husband Neal and I had three very young children. Garrett was two, Eddie one, and Faith was just a baby. One Friday afternoon, as I was washing up the kids, I noticed a few little red spots on Faith… and then on Eddie. Within a very short period of time, they were multiplying. One conversation with the doctor later and it was confirmed… Chicken pox. Ugh!

At that time, I was a member of the church choir. So Sunday morning, after changing one more round of diapers and checking on the state of the chicken pox, I headed off to church to perform my choir duties, leaving Neal at home with the kids. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember what songs we sang that morning. I don’t even remember what the topic preached during service was. But I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine in the hallway outside the sanctuary after service was over. We were talking about people getting, or rather not getting miraculously healed by God.

As my friend and I stood in the hallway chatting about this, I looked at her and said, “If I ever saw anyone actually get instantly and miraculously healed, I’d be SO surprised”. She nodded in agreement and added that we shouldn’t be surprised. But the unfortunate truth was that we would be.

After the morning church activities were over, I went home to relieve Neal of his nurse duties. I picked up Eddie and changed his diaper, checking on the chicken pox. Thankfully, there were still only fifteen or so spots on him. His case was so mild that he was able to handle the chicken pox really well. Next was Faith’s turn to get her “once over”. I took her diaper off. No spots. I took off her jammies. No spots. I took off every stitch of clothing she had on. No spots. They were gone! I searched her skin from top to bottom. That morning when I left for church, she had at least thirty or so spots. Just a few short hours later… zero. There wasn’t even a faded mark where the spots used to be. Her skin was as perfect and beautiful as God created her to be. I was so confused, bewildered, and otherwise shocked. And then I heard this voice resonating somewhere in the center of my body, “Don’t be so surprised”.

God had healed my daughter of chicken pox. I was finally witness to God’s miraculous healing power. There was absolutely no denying it. Faith was healed. And there was no explanation outside of God. I made a promise to God at that moment that I would never be surprised again at seeing someone get healed. I would always be amazed… But never again surprised.

Fat

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“Terri, you just wouldn’t be you if you lost weight”. Those were the words I heard from a very well-meaning friend after listening to me grumble about how much I hate diets. I know that what he meant was probably something like, “You’re loved just the way you are. Don’t sweat it”. But what I heard down to the very core of my being was “I define you as fat. Fat is not what you are. It’s who you are”.

I remember, even as a child, I had an uncle who would make up songs about how chubby I was, and sing them to me regularly. The intention was to be funny. But the result… “I define you as fat… and that’s funny”. My dad, in a gesture of strange pride and even encouragement used to joke to family and friends how he loved taking me to a buffet as a kid, because he “always got his money’s worth”. Keeping up with my dad at dinner was one way that I knew (or believed in my young mind) that I was meeting his expectations and earning his love.  I know all my dad meant was “isn’t it cute how my little girl can pack it away”. (*note to parents… It’s NOT cute. It’s unhealthy*) What I heard was, “I define you as fat… You’re good at that”.  As a teenager, I helped out occasionally at a nearby horse farm. One afternoon, as I was riding one of the horses, the man who owned the place came over to me and said “If you lost a few pounds, you’d look amazing on that horse”. He knew I had been trying to lose weight. What I’m sure he meant was “keep it up and you’ll achieve your goals”. What I heard was, “I define you as fat. If you ever become not fat, you may be attractive. But right now, you’re fat”.

Like many others in my situation, I’ve got a whole list of other examples I could share. I’ve spent my entire forty-plus years of life being defined by fat. I fought it for many of those years. Somewhere along the way though, I quit fighting. I’m not sure when it happened. But at some point I subconsciously agreed with that definition of myself. It is who I am.

A few nights ago, my seven year old daughter and I were having a “girl’s night out”. We went to the mall, got her hair done, enjoyed a super delicious gelato… And to end our evening out, we went into one of those little instant photo booths. We waited excitedly for our strip of pics to pop down out of the picture chute. Finally, there they were. I almost gasped out loud at how ugly and grotesquely fat each close up of my face was. My daughter, of course, looked beautiful. But me? Most definitely not! My face became flushed and my eyes quickly teared up in embarrassment. I felt a sense of pity for my gorgeous daughter for having my fat face ruin our strip of pictures that we were just moments ago so excited to see. All I wanted to do was rip them up.

But then… My little girl grabbed the strip, looked at the pics with a gigantic and recently toothless grin, and said “These are awesome Mom! Can we pleeeease put these on the fridge where everyone can see?!?”. She loved them. She didn’t even flinch at the sight of them. Not once did she even offer a bit of sympathy and say, “don’t worry mom… they’re not that bad”. Nothing. She was looking at those pics as though they were beautiful… Because to her, they were. She wasn’t defining me as fat. She was defining me as mom… and everything beautiful that “being mom” represents.

Later, as I prayed about this situation, I heard God speak directly to those wounds created with the words I had let define me all my life. “I do not define you as fat. I define you as all the beauty I created you to be… wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, Child of God… Made in the image of beauty and love Himself. See yourself as I see you.” I asked for God to show me just exactly how He sees me. Having a bit of bible knowledge, I fully expected at this point to be led to Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs… depending on your translation). This was where God was going to say flowery wonderful things to me. Or perhaps I would even be led to Proverbs 31. I know I’m not superwoman. But maybe God was about to reassure me regarding all my good efforts to be the best wife and mother I can. Nope. Not this time. I prayed and prayed for a scripture. Nothing was coming. Then I turned to look at my daughter. My beautiful, precious, perfect beauty… My princess who totally has my heart… My daughter who I am eternally proud to claim as mine… My child who needs only to ask, and I would give her the world, were it in my hands.  And then I heard, “And that, my sweet Terri, is how I see you”.

While this revelation feels at the moment like a great healing, (and I’m sure it is), I get the feeling this only marks the beginning of my path of restoration. But by the Grace of God, as I am led by the Holy Spirit, I’m willing to redefine me. What or who defines you? Broken words or words of life? I choose life. I choose Jesus. I choose restoration. I choose Grace.  Grace that looks at me and sees love… not fat.

A Little Perspective

I was thinking… How is it even possible to love my children as much as I do?  I thought to myself that no one could ever have a measure of love for my kids that even comes close to mine.  As I looked at them with the eyes only a mother has for her babies, I heard a little voice inside reminding me that there is one who’s love surpasses even mine… Jesus.  Almost as quickly as I heard that first thought, a second one came.  Jesus loves me that much too.  What a crazy and unique perspective to have.  If my love for my children is that great, and His love for us exceeds that… WOW!  It’s practically unfathomable.  I know that it seems like such a simple concept.  Duh!  Jesus loves us.  It doesn’t get more basic than that.  But do we really “get it”?  We are constantly putting “conditions” on His love for us.  I think of how my love for my children is so great and so unconditional that I would GLADLY give my life to save even just one of them.  They don’t earn my love and sacrifice through their goodness.  It’s my goodness as a mother (if I may so brag) that causes me to gift them with my love and willingness, even pleasure to sacrifice for them.  Truth be told, they are really the gift given to me… But you get the point.  That’s what Christ did for us.  His love for me was so great that He DID die to save me.  What a powerful thought. 

Put it into a “closer to home” perspective.  How would you feel about me if I took a bullet for you?  That bullet was headed right for you and I threw myself in front of it.  I died so you could live.  How would you feel about me then?  You’d be eternally grateful to me for what I did.  You’d testify to all your family and friends… maybe even strangers on the street about what I had done for you.  If anybody said one unkind word about me you’d jump to my defense.  The memory of what I had done would forever live in your heart.  Now think about Jesus.  Not only did he take that bullet, but he suffered unspeakable torture…  for you.  He wasn’t praised for what He was doing.  He was ridiculed.  He didn’t jump in front of a bullet as a quick, no time to think, reaction.  He left His “perfect” to enter our “fallen” and accepted everything that he suffered through… for you.  He allowed himself to be tortured and humiliated.  He allowed spikes to be hammered through his flesh.  He breathed his last and died… for you, for me, for my babies.  If you would be willing to praise me, defend me, and forever love and honor me for taking a bullet for you, how much more for Jesus?  I want to be that grateful person.  I want to acknowledge what happened and never be ashamed, embarrassed or afraid to tell the account of my savior.  I want to testify to the world about every beautiful thing He’s done.  He loves me.  He loves you.  He loves unconditionally.  What a perfectly beautiful place to start.

Truth

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TRUTH.  Everyone thinks their opinion is full of it, when sometimes they’re just… well… full of it.  If you are anything like me, you probably aren’t interested in what someone else thinks is the truth.  After all, what makes one truth better than another?  Throughout time, truth has been shifted, bended, twisted and shaped to suit the agenda of the one proclaiming their so called truth.  Sadly, this has turned “truth” into a very subjective variable, leaving no real truth left.

In our overly “PC” society, it’s hard to recognize real truth.  The goal has become less about learning and growing and more about how many ways to be offended. There must be a better way.  There must be a truth above corruptible truths. There must be… God’s truth.  Let’s take a look.

Romans 3:23 says, “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

But here’s the GOOD NEWS…

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

What does all that mean?  Simply put, it means that every single one of us is in need of a savior.  God knew that, and so provided.  Because Jesus Christ was willing to “pay our fines”, we are now free to focus on His love and plan for our lives.

What Jesus did, He did freely and willingly for YOU.  Jesus loves YOU.  I don’t have to know who you are or what you’ve done (good or bad), to know that “Jesus loves YOU” is the truth.  If it weren’t truth, He wouldn’t have… couldn’t have said it in His Word.  God so loved YOU that He gave Jesus Christ to pave YOUR way to Him.  All that is required of you is to receive the gift.  That’s grace.  That’s Jesus.

It really is that simple.  Some people, whether well-meaning or just plain mean, have complicated things to the point of scaring and scarring people with their version of “truth”.  God’s truth simply states that He loves you.  So receive it.  Period.

Say yes to what Jesus offers you.  Pray often.  Listen as you feel God’s Holy Spirit nudging and guiding you.  Share with others what you experience.  I promise, your life will never be the same… And you wouldn’t want it any other way.

God bless you!