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Learned Helplessness

I mentioned in my last post that my husband and I were starting a Bible Study with a young lady who is new to our church. We have been able to do a couple of lessons with her and through the Lord, I believe that we are off to a good start. It is a blessing to be able to teach with my husband. In the past when I have taught Bible Studies I have done so on my own so I am keenly aware of some of the subtle differences. We are able to play off each other’s strengths in Bible knowledge to give a more well-rounded approach to the Scriptures. Where I might forget or overlook an important detail, he is able to jump in and offer additional insight. I appreciate his love for the Word and for this opportunity to be able to partner together in ministry.

The young woman we are working with is tormented by fears and anxiety. Her need for constant reassurance is heartbreaking. She wants to call and text at all hours of the day and night. The amount of free time I have in my schedule is very limited so these constant interruptions can be taxing. I have had to set boundaries with her as far as when and how often I can talk to her. She has a deep-seated fear of abandonment so I want her to know that we aren’t going anywhere, but also establish appropriate parameters so that I am not too drained to be a benefit to her spiritual walk.

What we’ve learned about her story is disheartening. The state removed her from her mother’s custody as a toddler due to abuse and drug addiction in the home. She then bounced around in the foster care system for the next six years. These were not always the best environments for a young child. Finally, an aunt took her in. Her aunt did her best to love her and help her, but because of her past she was not always the easiest child to raise. At sixteen years old she got involved with the wrong crowd and ran away from home. She moved from couch to couch living with friends and boyfriends, suffering abusive relationships, and experiencing many things that she harbors deep shame over. After a few years of this, she eventually returned to her aunt’s house.

She has a number of learning disabilities and mental health issues so the aunt was quite overprotective of her at times. Over the years she essentially learned from her aunt that she isn’t capable of doing anything on her own. The aunt constantly reinforced her learning disabilities and did everything for her to the point that she genuinely believes she isn’t capable of living on her own. She now lives with a sister that she only met a few months ago and readily admits that her sister has to take care of her almost as if she is one of her children.

It won’t happen overnight, but I truly believe this girl is capable of living on her own. It’s going to take some work, a little faith, and a lot of Jesus, but this is not beyond her. With God, all things are possible! She will need some help to learn some basic skills such as applying for a job, how to cook, and how to do laundry on her own, but it’s not as if these things are beyond her intellectual capacity. Yes, she may have some learning challenges that will have to be taken into consideration, but there are people with significantly more severe disabilities that live independently. Her main obstacle is not her ability to master these skills, it’s with her ingrained belief that she can’t.

The God we serve is a God of transformation. He is well able to take an anxious insecure girl and turn her into confident and capable woman. As she grows spiritually, I expect to see that she will also grow toward independence in the natural. It is my prayer that her learned helplessness and dependence on others will shift to an unequivocal and faithful dependence on the Lord. I am excited to see where God will bring her on this journey. I am not sure where my husband and I fit into her spiritual walk, but I am humbled to have an opportunity to witness even a tiny part of it.

Dear Readers, if you have read this far, I would like to ask you to take just a moment of your time to say a prayer for this young lady. Pray peace over her life. Pray for spiritual discernment and a deep abiding love of the Almighty. Pray the Lord would send her helpers that don’t hinder her by doing everything for her, but rather help to do it on her own. If you’re feeling particularly generous, say a prayer for my husband and I that when we feel drained that God would supernaturally fill us up. Pray that we generously give of ourselves in love and service to our wonderful Savior, Jesus the Christ.

We serve an amazing God!

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

Discipleship

“To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God.” – John 1:12

A few weeks ago our pastor contacted my husband and me regarding a young woman who has just moved into the area and is looking for a church. She doesn’t drive so my husband and I were asked if we would be willing to pick her up for the following service. Of course we said yes without hesitating. She has attended nearly every service with us since.

She is only about four years older than our teen so to us she seems a lot like a kid, though legally, she is an adult. From what we’ve gathered, she’s experienced far more in her young life than she should have had to. That said, she knows what she needs is the Lord and she is hungry to get to know Him better. I’ve been praying that she will experience true healing as only the Lord can give.

There is something about this girl that reminds me of a lost neglected puppy. She seems almost desperate for someone to care for her. She doesn’t appear to have learned the basic characteristics of responsibility, communication, or being accountable for one’s own actions.

She comes across as very unsure of herself. In one moment she has the capability of carrying on intelligent conversation; in the next, she struggles to answer even the most basic questions about herself. When asked where in Connecticut she moved from, she could tell us the town, but not anything about the town or even what other cities are located near it for reference. She eventually said that she wasn’t from there; she is originally from Boston. So trying to make conversation, I asked her what part of Boston she is from. Everyone I have ever known from Boston will quickly tell you they are from Beacon Hill, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Southie, Hyde Park etc. and usually with such pride that when you ask where they are from, they may not even say Boston at all, but will jump right to the neighborhood they hail from. When I asked her this question she looked really confused and told me, “Massachusetts”, as if Massachusetts were a part of Boston instead of the other way around.

In another instance, she seemed really unsure of where we are in comparison to other places. She referred to places south of us as being north etc. She also hasn’t given us the slightest idea of how long she has lived at any of the three places she has mentioned or whether she’s lived anywhere else. She only mustered a feeble, “not very long” in reference to her current residence and gave the same response to the residence just prior to this one. I get the feeling she may have moved around a lot.  I am not sure if she really knows so little about where she is and where she comes from or if she is just evading the questions because she doesn’t want us to know too much about her. She is a sweet girl, but something appears to be lacking in her basic comprehension abilities. My husband and I have decided not to push her, but to let her open up to us as she feels able and comfortable.

Her first service at our church she went right to the altar and cried at His feet. She experienced the amazing infilling of His Spirit. Unfortunately, shortly after that, she experienced a panic attack in our fellowship hall. Thankfully, another sister and I were able to pray with her until she regained a sense of calm.

She readily agreed to come again the following service. It was after that service that she began to expound on some of her health issues both physical and mental. She struggles with anxiety and depression as well as a sense of being invisible to the world around her. She also confided that she has had long time stomach and digestive issues that cause her great discomfort and a fear of food.

During her third service at our church, she asked me to pray for her mother and revealed that her mother is a drug addict. The next service she disclosed that she is living with her sister and that she just met her sister for the first time a couple of months ago. She recently disclosed that she also has a brother that she has just met.

We are unsure exactly why she had to move in with a sister she barely knows, but we suspect her mother’s drug addiction may have something to do with that. It might also be the debilitating anxiety she is constantly under. She sometimes texts me dozens of times in a day asking the same questions over and over and practically begging for some reassurance that she’s doing okay, that she hasn’t lost her salvation, and that God won’t leave her.

My husband and I will be starting a Bible Study with her this week in the hopes of discipling her in her walk with the Lord. The Bible Study is a twelve week course that is designed to give a basic overview of the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Please pray for my husband and me as we embark on this journey with her. It is our prayer that the Lord will anoint us for the task, help us to be sensitive to her needs, and give us the spirit of discernment to best be able to serve her. Most importantly, we are praying for her spiritual development and salvation.

Though we don’t yet know all the details of her situation, we know that “all things work together for good to them that love Him” (Romans 8:28) and we believe that God “makes all things new” (Revelation 21:5). She has begun a beautiful journey in the Lord and we feel blessed to be given an opportunity to witness it.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

First Day

Rebekah M. is currently on a Medical Missions trip in Western Europe. She gave me (Rebekah L) permission to post this reflection she wrote chronicling her first day of the clinic on her behalf. Her access to wifi is limited, but we hope to be hearing more about her trip as it progresses!

As I’m winding down from my first day in clinic,  I can’t help but reflect on such a crazy day.  It seems the people of the village think at times that we can offer better than their own system and although they may get better access to us, some have come in methotrexate for their RA, x-rays for their back,  and even problems with their legs after a stroke,  hoping we American doctors can do better.  It is hard to come to a place of recognizing I have nothing to offer.  I had one patient who had no desire to live and the only thing I could offer her was prayer and the promise that God loves her.  With tears in my  eyes,  I told her of how I too had been in a place of wishing I was dead and how God had been my strength.

It is weird both in acknowledging that I had that time in my life but too… To use it to reach out to a patient in which I have nothing else to offer her.  Honestly…  The time in my life still feels so fresh,  the rawness of it still lingers.  I had no plans to kill myself,  just no plans to protect myself from death. In my heart I welcomed it.  I wanted to be dead.  But God gave me a hope and a dream.

Today I did the morning devotional and spoke of meeting our daily appointment with God- a chance to minister to a soul and in doing so live the words of Jesus how in ministering to others,  we are actually ministering to Him. I challenged myself and implored to others in joining me in meeting that appointment.

I think she was one of them and I pray my words reached her.

My final thought from today is from my favorite moment of the day- the Ukrainian counterparts of the team led night worship and it was amazing.  So passionate and full of life,  I loved seeing and hearing God worshiped in a language I didn’t know,  yet I completely understood and joined with in the spirit.

Thank You Jesus for this day. 
Thank You for my appointments with You. 
Thank You for this abundant life.

-Rebekah M.

God Provides

testToday at work I received a payroll check for one of our employees. The check was a replacement for one that was originally issued more than three and a half years ago that was somehow never cashed. The employee had no idea this check was coming. I live for these moments.

When I saw her I exclaimed that God had sent her a blessing as I handed her the check. Bewildered she stared at it and of course inquired what it was for. After I explained, she nearly broke down. Recently, she has been struggling financially as she had to take a cut in pay last year. She told me that her bank account is currently $33 in the negative. She said that she had committed to sending $100 to a missions work in Cambodia and even though she didn’t have the money, she sent it anyway. She told her father that God would provide the money. Her father was skeptical and said, “How is He going to do that?” She said she didn’t know, but she believed He would. The check she received today was for more than $1200!

Let me be clear that I am not advocating for anyone to be financially unwise. We need to budget and plan accordingly. However, if God places it in your heart to step out in faith and give, and you make a commitment to do so, don’t back out of your commitment. Trust that He will provide!

I live for these moments. It is wonderful to watch God provide for His children and strengthen their faith. She stepped out in faith and God opened His windows of heaven to pour out a blessing! Yes, it was technically already her money, but it was money that she didn’t need or miss at the time (nearly four years ago) and instead it arrived exactly when she needed it! God’s timing is impeccable. She kept her commitment to the souls in Cambodia and put her trust in God. He provided. It is a testimony to her father and it is a testimony to me. To God be the glory!'GOD' 'ALWAYS' ‘PROVIDES' - Philippians 4 verse 19

Thank you, Jesus!

In His Love,

Rebekah L.

PS. Please share your recent testimonies with us.

We love to hear them!

Send Me

I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me.” -Isaiah 6:8

I have exciting news. I will be going back to China and Taiwan! It will be another short trip through my company similar to the one I went on last year. It won’t be for a while, perhaps not until spring, but the plans are falling into place. I have no idea what the spiritual significance will be, but I have no doubt that this is the will of the Lord. I had to go through several steps over a period of months during the selection process which entailed completing an application, submitting an essay, getting letters of recommendation, having a panel interview, and taking a Chinese proficiency test. At each one of these steps I prayed for the Lord to either open the door or close the door according to His will. From a human perspective I am far from the best candidate for the job so I know that being selected was only by the hand of the Lord. He has a purpose for allowing me another opportunity to go and I am humbled, grateful, and excited. I pray that He will allow me to be a vessel to reach the souls I come across. Lord open doors, open doors, open doors!

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

For Arthur

When I was a new Christian I had a co-worker who was the bane of my existence. He was rude, cruel, and crotchety. He bullied other employees mercilessly. After witnessing his abusive behavior for months I had learned to avoid him. One day I watched him hurl insults as he suddenly cut the power on a piece of heavy equipment another co-worker was using. This caused the huge machine to stop short so that the man using it fell forward into it, twisting his body and resulting in what must have been a very painful fall.

I felt my righteous indignation rise up. I lost my Christian cool. In defense of the injured employee I lashed out uncharacteristically and swore at the tyrant, calling him a name that I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking. I will never forget the look of shock on his face. Had another person said it, he probably would have just responded with an equally abusive retort, but coming from me, he was literally stopped in his tracks. He never expected the timid, quiet, little Christian girl to say something so insolent.

I instantly regretted it, but I could not take back my words. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I had not acted as a Christian should. For days after that, I became his target. Where previously he would hand me his paperwork at the end of the day, he started coming in and literally throwing the stack of paper on my desk with such force that it would scatter across the desk and onto the floor. He said, “You called me it, so I guess that’s what I’ll be.” He took every opportunity to belittle me in front of others and to point out my hypocrisy. I felt awful. I thought I had ruined my Christian witness with this man and with all my other co-workers. In a moment of weakness I had destroyed my opportunity to show them Christ.

I confided to a friend what was going on. She agreed with me that his behavior was out of control and that management should have stepped in to curb his antics long before that, but she also didn’t let me off the hook. She told me to stop feeling guilty for the way I reacted. No, it wasn’t the right reaction, but the past was past. If you’ve repented, you need to move on. You won’t help the situation by wallowing in shame. Then she reminded me that it’s easy to love people who are nice to us; it’s very difficult to love people who are unkind. She told me he was the perfect opportunity to practice my Christian love. He was an opportunity to practice turning the other cheek. He was an opportunity to learn to be a better Christian. He was not an obstacle. He was an opportunity.

I took her words to heart. From that day forward I did everything I could to show him godly love. I refused to react to his negativity and hurtful behavior. I went out of my way to make his job easier. I made it a point to ask how his day was going. I inquired after his wife and kids, his hobbies, his frustrations. I prayed for him constantly. He began to soften up. Instead of eating alone at lunch, he started to join me and another co-worker. His anger subsided. He not only treated me better, but he treated everyone better. He started talking about his life; his hopes and disappointments. He showed an interest in my well-being and after a while he was not only accepting my efforts, but reciprocating them. In fact, I have yet to see someone, anyone, make such a complete turn-around in behavior that I witnessed in Arthur. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I genuinely came to think of him as my friend.

I began to share Christ with him. I continued to pray for him. I told him he needed the Lord. He said, “I know, but I’m going to wait until right before I die.” I said, “The trouble with that is that no one knows how long they have.”

What neither of us knew that day was that within a few short months, my friend Arthur, would be dead. He was 36.

Truly no one knows how long they have. In fact, the day I had this conversation with Arthur was the last day he ever worked. I remember asking him that day if he was feeling alright because he just didn’t look right. He confided in me that he hadn’t been feeling well lately. The following day he called in sick saying he had the flu. He was out all the next week too. Shortly after that he was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

I had many conversations over the following weeks with both him and his wife during this time. I was as much of a support to them as I could be. I kept praying. I believed God fully for his healing. But this time, healing didn’t come.

His wife told me how much she appreciated my friendship. She told me that Arthur hated his job before I befriended him. Having a friend changed his whole outlook, she said. She would call me on the phone and cry about how difficult it was to deal with the whole situation and my heart just broke for her.

Ultimately, I think my friend died without knowing the Lord, but I am not the judge. I cried and prayed for months feeling I had failed him. But in the end, I know that he heard the gospel. What he chose to do with it was up to him.

I look back on him with fondness. He taught me one of the most powerful lessons I have learned in Christianity. He taught me to love even when someone is unlovable. He taught me that an angry and volatile exterior is often a cover for a vulnerable person who just needs a little compassion. He showed me that sometimes gaining a friend only takes being a friend.

Happy Birthday, Arthur.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

His True Face

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” ~ 1 John 4:11-12

“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, 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…..The King will reply, ‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these you did for me.” ~ Matthew 25:35-36; 40

When we move in love, especially when such a walk is new to us, one question reigns supreme. How do we love a God we cannot see? How do we love a God we have never seen, and will never see until our time on earth is done? Sure, we worship. We praise. Hopefully our hearts and spirits are stirred by such things. But to actively love on a God we can’t see? I mean it isn’t like we can go up to the guy and just give Him a big hug, you know?

But there is an answer. See, even if we have a God we can’t see, we have a person standing in front of us who we can see, and see clearly. Love on them. When we do, God’s love is made complete in us.

Note how this verse doesn’t say ‘made complete in you.‘ No. This act takes two. When we love one  another His love is made complete in us. When you love another, your spirit stirs. But His is awoken and made complete in both you and the person you’re loving. And since God Himself is love…well there’s your answer, isn’t it?

How do you love a perfect God you can’t see? By loving the broken one in front of you that you can see. Look closely into their eyes, let yourself see them, really see them. The eyes of Jesus Himself are staring back at you. He is truly residing in the least of these – don’t miss His presence just because it’s cloaked in shabby clothes. Don’t miss His beauty because it’s masked by a not-so-beautiful smell.

The face of Jesus is young. It is old and weathered. It has a gaze of brokenness, bearing years of pain and loneliness and abandonment. It is sometimes hidden behind a mask of hostility because at its core it is a vulnerable face. It is a face that remains hopeful despite all circumstances; or it is a face that reached its breaking point long ago. It’s a face you pass every day without a thought; it’s a face you’ve never seen before.

It’s the face in front of you.

God bless!

~Rebekah A