Always First

One of the biggest, hardest lessons on this journey to a relationship with God was putting Him first, before EVERYTHING else.  It may sound simple to some of you, but for me it was one of the hardest learning experiences.  It took years for me to be able to say to God, “Whatever you choose for me I will trust You, even when I don’t understand.”   For me, being in the pit of despair was the hardest place to put God first because I felt like He had abandoned me.  I felt alone.  I’m not sure why it took me so long to learn that everything I had was already God’s anyway, but it did.  Maybe for most this is an easy lesson, but for me I struggled to keep control over what I held close and loved most. (Like I thought that I could do that better than God?!)
Looking back, I think maybe I could not put Him first because I was way too busy being angry at Him.  I remember thinking that if the God I’ve heard about all my life loved me I would not be in this situation.  I did not deserve this.  I felt I had given up everything for Him already: we had moved from several Churches which meant starting over every time with no friends, living in homes that were never ours, all the different ministry challenges and I lived away from my NY family.  My thinking was that I had given my life to Him in service, was that not enough???  
Let me just say how WRONG I was!  I hadn’t given Him everything. Yes, I was a Christian, Yes, I loved Him but I was just going through the motions and doing kind acts of service.  It was more about religion than relationship.  Don’t get me wrong about this because I feel this goes along with our relationship with God,  but it is ALL about the matters of the heart – not the “what I have done or am doing” list.  It is about total surrender on every level.  It was about saying, “ok God…WHATEVER you choose to do with my life, my husband’s life, my children’s life I will trust You.”  When I think about it now I wonder how I never understood how everything we have is from Him already – why do we think we can claim it as ours? Without Him we would have nothing because He has created it all!  Please understand for me this was a L-O-N-G process (years).  I do believe God can deliver us immediately from the things that hold us back, but for me it was a painful and very difficult learning process.  It seems that God really needs to stop us sometimes to get our attention.  I was stopped.  I had no one but Him – and this was when I learned that He was all I have ever needed and truly all I will ever need.  Everything else in this life is an added blessing, a bonus, a gift.  We deserve nothing, yet He gives us so much.  Much grace has been given to a sinner such as I and I am truly thankful for His grace and His blessings in my life.
I can remember the night (almost 10 years into this lesson) when I was lying in bed and I said to God: “OK – if this is how you want my life to be – then I will live it this way.  Just help me to be able to do it.”  From the moment I spoke those words in my head, the moment my heart meant every single word I prayed, the moment I surrendered it all to His will and to be willing to follow His plan for my life and my family, no matter what that meant – everything changed!  God showed up in a big way!   After years of begging for some kind of release from my situation, a way out of it all, something easier, something different – I finally surrendered it ALL to Him, truly trusted Him with my life and I can tell you with all my heart: “Our God Saves!”
It was the next morning that I would sing this song with a heart that trusted completely, that was totally surrendered, that was thankful, and that had finally started a true relationship with God. With tears streaming down my face, hands raised, a heart overflowing with praise, believing every single word I sang:  It goes like this…
Our God Saves
BY: Paul Baloche
“In the name of the Father – In the name of the Son
In the name of the Spirit -Lord we’ve come
We’re gathered together -To lift up Your name
To call on our Savior -To fall on Your grace
Hear the joyful sound of our offering
As your saints bow down, as your people sing
We will rise with You, lifted on Your wings
And the world will see that
Our God saves, our God saves
There is hope in Your name
Mourning turns to songs of praise
Our God saves, our God saves
Our God saves, our God saves
Our God saves, our God saves”
Please note the three lines in the song in red! Those three lines offer so much hope!  My friend, if you are mourning – there is hope in His Name!  If you are mourning – He will turn it to songs of praise!  If you are mourning – OUR GOD SAVES!  What wonderful promises these are.  Although this life is not easy and I still deal with past issues and things I dealt with in the pit,  I have full confidence in my Saviour, my God who saved me and loves me enough to keep working on me, to keep teaching me, to keep help me understand the things I would not know otherwise.  Wherever you are on your journey to relationship with God I can promise you that OUR GOD SAVES.  If  He can do it for a sinner such as I – He can do it for you also!!  Trust Him!  Run to Him!  Give Him your ENTIRE life.  You will never regret making the decision of total surrender.
Psalm 30:11-12 “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!”
So, until I write again I encourage you to:  Be Strong, Stand Firm and Believe in Miracles!  
Our God is a God of Miracles!     

Count Your Blessings,   

The Anchor Holds

“Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  (Isaiah 40:28-31)
HOW MUCH TRUTH IS IN THAT VERSE?!  So thankful He never grows weary or tired because, believe me, I feel like I must exhaust Him at times.  It seems like I’m always asking, asking, asking and He is always giving, giving, giving.  What a wonderful thought to think of ourselves being able to soar on wings like eagles and running and not growing weary or faint.
Do you find it hard to believe that when you feel so weighted by the things of this life that the possibility of soaring like an eagle seems impossible?  The burden feels like a weight tied around your neck and you are dangling over the edge of the ship waiting for the last wave to sweep you overboard where you will never see the light of day again.  Life gets like that sometimes.  I think almost everyone who speaks honestly can say they have been to the edge of that ship and they were almost hoping to be swept over by the wave just to be done with it and not have to struggle with the burden anymore.  Ever feel like that?  If so, do you know you are not alone?  There is no person on this planet, with some years under their belt, that at some point hasn’t felt overwhelmed by this life.
Thankfully, God has a better plan!  Thankfully, God sees the bigger picture!  Although we don’t always understand it He is working for our good, even when we can’t understand the “Whys”.   He knows all about us, He created us, He is just waiting for us to say, “Ok God – I’m yours – make me want you want me to be.”  I do have to say here though that usually that takes hard work.  It is never an easy process.  It usually comes to us via hard times, heavy burdens and in the places where we are taught to lean fully on God and nothing else.
God’s timing is not our timing.  This has always been a hard concept for me.  Many times I have asked “If you can do anything then why aren’t you fixing this NOW?”  I want everything now.  I’m not good at waiting and probably you aren’t either, especially in those dark times when we just want the storm to calm.  I have been thinking about this a lot recently, the BIG picture.  The only One who sees the entire picture of our life is God.  He works so many different things together, just in time, to save us during the storms, to keep us afloat.  He is working ALL things together for our good.  That is a promise in the Bible:  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  AMEN to that!  Where would we be without Him working for our good?  I don’t even want to think about it.
There is a song I have known for many years and always liked, but never fully appreciated until I had journeyed through the long dark night. The Anchor, that being God Himself, truly does hold!  I am living proof!  
The Anchor Holds
By: Ray Boltz
I have journeyed through the long dark night out on the open sea.
By faith alone, sight unknown and yet his eyes were watching me.
The anchor holds though the ship is battered.
The anchor holds though the sails are torn.
I have fallen on my knees as I faced the raging seas,
The anchor holds in spite of the storm.
I’ve had visions, I’ve had dreams, I’ve even held them in my hand.
But I never knew they would slip right through, like they were only grains of sand.
I have been young, but I am older now, and there has been beauty these eyes have seen.
But it was in the night, through the storms of my life,
Oh, that’s where God proved His love to me!
Are you journeying through the long dark night? Are you walking by faith alone?  I KNOW that His eyes are watching YOU!  Have you had dreams that slipped right through your hands?  I KNOW that your Anchor will hold.  No matter how battered, no matter how torn, no matter the raging sea, KNOW that the God who is your Anchor will prove His love to you through the storms of your life. He will not let you drown in the raging sea.  All you have to do is reach out to Him, take His hand, let Him be your Anchor, your strength.  Turn to Him, trust Him and eventually in His time, as He is working all things for your good, He will calm the storm.  You can trust Him with your life.  
Did you know that He loves you so much He gave His own Son to die on a cross so we could spend eternity with Him?  Have you ever loved someone so much you would send your child to die for them, fully knowing they still may not love you in return?  It is a love we cannot fathom and we do not deserve, but it is given to us freely if we only will accept it.  I am so unworthy, but am so thankful that the God who created me, knows me and loves me enough not to  let me stay the way I am, but to keep working on me to make me what He wants me to be.  I am just a sinner saved by grace and believe me when I say, “He is still working on me!!!” 
Psalm 30:5b says:  “….weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
So, until I write again I encourage you to:  Be Strong, Stand Firm and Believe in Miracles!  
Our God is a God of Miracles!     

Count Your Blessings,

Religion to Relationship

Romans 8:26-28 (The Message) “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along.  If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter.  He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” 
Looking back at my 10 year journey from religion to relationship, I see how much God desired for me to turn to Him.  It seems like when I was down in the pit I became disoriented.  I was so busy begging and pleading for some kind of relief from my situation that I didn’t stop to seek God or listen for Him.   Unfortunately, this is the devil’s favorite playground: confusion, pain and suffering.  This is when he will do his best to throw fuel on the fire, so to speak, and if we are not paying attention to him the fire will consume us. It will become so overwhelming that we see no hope.  That is satan’s goal:  to make us feel hopeless and give up.
So many things seemed too big, out of my control and hopeless.  Those were the hardest days of my life.  I felt I had no one who could help my situation and that God had abandoned me.  One of my worst fears was being alone and I truly felt alone.  Why was this happening to me?  What did I do to deserve this?  It was kind of like standing in the middle of a hurricane while everything was spinning around me, life carrying on, but there I stood – it seemed like nobody could hear or see the pain I was in. I could cry out, scream, yell – but nobody noticed.  Time marched on and the hurricane just kept spinning. It is hard to explain, but those of you who have been there might understand what I am speaking of.  My pit was permanent, I was sure of it.  How could I go on?
Although I didn’t see this at the time, I see it now:  The verse above states that God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us and if we don’t know what to pray, it doesn’t matter because His Spirit does it for us.  When I couldn’t pray, when I couldn’t speak, when all I could feel was pain or numbness GOD’S SPIRIT was right beside me…keeping me present before Almighty God.  WHAT A WONDERFUL GIFT!  
My friends, if you are in a pit that seems too big and too deep, please KNOW that God has not abandoned you.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  If you cannot speak, if you cannot pray, if you are paralyzed then just remember that His Spirit is right beside you, hearing your silent groans and taking them to the Father on your behalf.  Don’t let go.  Just hold on! 2 Corinthians 5:7 says: “For we live by faith, not by sight.”  Even when we cannot see we must choose to believe.  I believe this is part of learning what true relationship with God really is.
I am reminded of the lyrics to this wonderful old Hymn “I Don’t Know About Tomorrow” by Ira P. Stanphill.  The chorus especially reminds me that there will be trials on this earth and we will not understand, but we can KNOW WHO holds our hand and Who is standing right beside us!  Also, we have the promise of a home in Heaven where no tear will ever dim the eye!  Praise The Lord for this wonderful provision! 
“I don’t know about tomorrow;
 I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what lies ahead.
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
Every step is getting brighter
As the golden stairs I climb;
Every burden’s getting lighter,
Every cloud is silver-lined.
There the sun is always shining,
There no tear will dim the eye;
At the ending of the rainbow
Where the mountains touch the sky.
I don’t know about tomorrow;
It may bring me poverty.
But the one who feeds the sparrow,
Is the one who stands by me.
And the path that is my portion
May be through the flame or flood;
But His presence goes before me
And I’m covered with His blood.”
I write this today not from the bottom of that pit, but outside of that pit.  Please don’t think that means I have it “all together”…I do not!  I am a work in progress and God’s definitely still working on me!  Memories at the bottom of the pit still remain:  how deep it was, how lonely it was and how scary it was.  BUT, I can tell you with all assurance that God, in His time, will help you out of whatever pit you are in.  He will not abandon you.  My friend, if you are in a pit that seems too deep – there is HOPE.  Run to Jesus and don`t let go!  Trust Him with your life and your deepest, darkest pit!  Thankfully, I emerged from the pit a different person.  If God can do that with me – God can do that for anyone!  I cannot finish this paragraph without giving praise to THE ONE who rescued me by His Amazing Grace.  I am grateful, thankful and blown away by His faithfulness to me.  I do not deserve it, but He gives it freely.  
 If you only know of religion but do not have a relationship with Jesus, now is the time!  He is waiting for you with arms wide open.  He loves you.  IT IS AS EASY AS THIS SIMPLE PRAYER: 1. Confess that you are a sinner and need Jesus.  2. Believe that He died for you to give you eternal life.  3. Repent and turn away from your sinful lifestyle. 4.  Receive Him into your life as Lord and Savior.  
God never promised us that this life would be easy.  He did promise us that He would always be with us every step of the journey!   He is waiting to journey with you…So, until I write again I encourage you to:  Be Strong, Stand Firm and Believe in Miracles!  

 Count Your Blessings

Against The Wall

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” -Psalm 59:16
Most of you that know me know that I love music.  It touches the very depth of my soul and takes me to a place where it is just God and me.  Music ministers to my spirit and reminds me of the many, many blessing I have in Christ.  What a wonderful day it will be when I am singing praises face to face with The King of Kings!
At the beginning of my 10 year journey (that would be the start to my deep pit of despair) my parents were visiting us from New York.  While sitting in the living room one day, the Gaither’s came on the television and the words below caught my Mom’s attention.  She mentioned it to me and I looked it up.  Little did I know that this song would carry me along for years during my journey to a true relationship with Jesus.  If you have not heard this song before, check it out on www.youtube.com .
Praise His Name – By: Jeff & Sherri Easter 
When you’re up against a wall 
And your mountain seems so tall 
And you realize that life’s not always fair 
You can run away and hide 
Let the old man decide 
Or you can change your circumstances with a prayer 
When everything falls apart 
Praise his name 
When you have a broken heart 
Raise your hands and say 
Lord, you’re all I need 
You’re everything to me 
And he’ll take the pain away 
When you feel you’re all alone 
Praise his name 
And you feel all hope is gone 
Raise your hands and say 
Greater is he that is within me 
And you can praise the hurt away 
If you’ll just praise his name 
Ohhh, You can overcome 
By the blood of the lamb 
And by the word of your testimony 
You’ll see the darkness go 
As your faith begins to grow 
You’re not alone, so how can you be lonely
I would often put that song on and cry out my heart to God, begging Him for relief from the inner turmoil inside my heart.  I particularly love the line “You’re not alone, so how can you be lonely.”  In the midst of those trials when we can’t feel or see God – we are not alone.  He is unchanging.  He is right beside us.  He NEVER leaves us.  What a wonderful promise! My heart overflows with gratefulness as I consider His GREAT Faithfulness to me over the years.  There were times when I wasn’t holding on to God – but He was definitely holding on to me!  
This song came along when I felt like everything I knew had fallen apart.  I had been hurt very deeply by several Christian relationships and lost people I considered friends.  At the same time, Raymond and I were also struggling in our marriage, I had 2 small children, I was living in a “fishbowl” surrounded by gossip, and I was far, far away from my NY family. (I know that the “Raymond and I were struggling” part may come as a shock to some of you – but we are no exception to any marriage “rules” – Marriage is hard!!! But totally worth it!   Just Sayin’!).  I truly felt alone.  You know that feeling when you discover that a broken heart is truly a physical happening…something you never knew could happen…then it does – it’s devastating…truly.  Many of you will understand what I am speaking of.  Many of you have been there or are there presently.
For the next several years I just existed.  I was struggling to get through the daily routine of everyday life – just going through the motions really.  I cried and then cried some more.   During these days I started going to a Christian Counsellor, which turned out to be a good thing for me.  I learned a lot about me – and realized that there were things that needed to be taken care of – for me!  So I did.  I am glad that God got me to the place where I needed talk to someone else.  It truly changed me in all positive ways!  This was not only a blessing to me, but to my family as well.  PLEASE NOTE: There is no shame in seeking help! 
With those details I just gave you about me, I think we need to try and understand this about others:  
-Just because people look like they have it all together – doesn’t mean they aren’t falling apart.
-Just because people laugh on the outside – doesn’t mean they are not crying on the inside.
-Just because it looks like people have everything – doesn’t mean they do.
We ALL have trials and there are not exceptions to this rule. Don’t think for a minute you are the only one with trials.  We are all on this journey of life, filled with unknown twists and turns!  We need each other!  I am here today to tell you from experience that: We have a God who is Faithful, Loving, Kind, Compassionate, Who loves us on our worst days, Who hurts when we hurt, Who cries when we cry – WE ARE NEVER ALONE.  He has proven this over and over to me even when I was far, far away from Him.  My friends, if you find yourself in the position of a broken heart….remember these words to the above song:  “Raise your hands and say – Greater is he that is within me – And you can praise the hurt away -If you’ll just praise his name.” You are loved by THE KING OF KINGS!  He cares and He wants a relationship with you!
So, until I write again I encourage you to:  Be Strong, Stand Firm and Believe in Miracles!  Our God is a God of Miracles!
Count Your Blessings, 

Trista  

Heart-Full

1 Peter 5:10:   And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.“
Over the past few months I have been feeling “Heart-Full”.   I was talking to Raymond the other day saying, “I wish I had a way to tell people what is in my heart.” It is full of love to a God who truly saved a wretch like me! He is The One who has given me so much undeserved grace.   Those of you that know me know that I am not a public speaker.  I never have been.  So, as I was thinking about how to get my feelings out there to my friends and Church family, a newsletter of sorts came to mind.  This will not be a newsletter of information about what is going on around us, but rather what is going on in my heart.  It will never be the same twice and hopefully will encourage you along in your day to day walk. If nothing else, you will see how real my life is with its ups and downs, twists and turns.  For that reason, I am calling it Trista’s Treasures.  The definition for Treasure is: “Prized Possession or Entity”.  The definition for Entity is: “Object that exists.”   Therefore, Trista’s Treasures will be a reflection of my prized possession, which is a wonderful God who definitely exists!  
I am not sure how often I will put this out, but feel I need to start somewhere.  Please know you are not obligated to read any of them if they do not appeal to you.  I am certainly not a “writer” and will have no ill feelings if this is not something that interests you.  If it does, I hope you find them to be real, helpful and a reminder of the many promises we have through Jesus Christ.  I’m not sure I can put into words how much He means to me and how thankful I am to know Him and how thankful I am that He knows me – and He still loves me anyway!  So, if you would like, keep on reading….
A little history about me:  I grew up in a Christian home with loving parents and a brother who is four years younger than I. We lived on a dairy farm in upstate NY.  We grew up attending Church twice on Sundays, Wednesday night Prayer Meeting and Youth Group every week.  We went to Church Camp every summer and often attended week long Revival meetings. 
I went to the altar for the first time to receive Christ as my Saviour when I was 10 years old (August of 1980) at a local Church Camp.  I landed at that altar many more times through the years, but those are stories for another time.  I grew up knowing Jesus, the Bible stories, the Hymns and Choruses but I must tell you it was really just “religion” in my life, not a relationship. I knew how to act and I knew what to say. I talked the talk but didn’t always walk the walk.
 I share that with you to say that through the years I have turned to Jesus in times of trouble, or sought His help when I didn’t know the answers, etc… etc… BUT, it has not been until the past 10 years that I have truly learned what a true relationship with Jesus is.  Not a religion, not ritual….just true relationship and a love like I have never known.  I never knew what I was missing. Granted, for God to get my attention He put me through the fire.  I went through a ten year period of despair, heart-ache, loss, loneliness and betrayal. I cried more than I laughed. I took myself to the bottom of the pit of despair, where everything was stripped away and I didn’t even feel I had the ability to look up.  All I could do was cry out to God, to save me from myself and the hurts that surrounded me.  All I had was Him.  That is when I learned that He was all I have ever needed.  He truly is all we need.  
The above is very condensed version of my past 10 year journey, but as I write, over time, you will hear more about that time in my life.  I tell you all that to say this:  Whatever you are going through, wherever you are on your journey in life, God is right beside you, cheering you on! Don’t quit now! Keep going. Don’t think for a minute He has left you. Don’t think for a minute no one else has problems.  EVERYBODY has problems.  Life is hard.  But we have a promise in Jesus that He will never leave us!  I promise you He will always be with you and He will see you through every situation.  Even during the times when you can’t see Him, can’t feel Him and He seems silent. Trust Him with your life.  Trust Him with those you love most.  
I look forward to sharing my heart with you.  I look forward to seeing what God will do with the babblings of this “wretch” like me.  I am not worthy, but He is.  It seems like the very least I can do is give praise to The One who saved me with His amazing grace.  I cannot even imagine where I would be today without the grace of God.  I would like to leave you with the words to one of my favorite songs.  This song blesses my heart and I can’t wait for the day when I am singing it directly to the King of Kings. I hope it blesses your heart as well.
Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)   –  by: Chris Tomlin
“Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God, my Saviour has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God who called me here below
Will be forever mine, will be forever mine
You are forever mine”
So, until I write again I encourage you to:  Be strong, Stand Firm and Believe in Miracles!  Our God is a God of Miracles!  

Count Your Blessings,