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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Get Out Of Your Element

First, I would like to thank you all for your covering of prayers and encouragement last week. I felt them and know they made all the difference! Secondly, I don’t know how to begin to sum up True Woman 2012 but I will give it my best effort - sorry it's long! 

You know you have really arrived when coming down the escalator at the airport, a man in a suit is holding a sign waiting to escort you to your private car… granted the name on the sign was not my own (Dannah Gresh) but it was still cool to feel like part of an entourage!

By God’s grace, I was able to proudly set up the Bride booth Thursday night.  It was a difficult task but I am proud to say that I conquered it. That evening in the large session, I found myself sitting in the midst of Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Priscilla Shirer, Dannah Gresh and Joni Erickson Tada… one of these things is not like the others – that would be me.

Blessed by the message of seeking God, I was really stretched  when we were instructed to pray with those around us. Yup… those women were in my prayer circles. Talk about being out of my element!

Friday morning came. I was nervously excited about speaking to the teen girls. However, I struggled with the Lord. I knew He was the one placing me on that stage, but oh how I wished I didn’t have to be.

I have always felt called to be a speaker. I figured I would be speaking about hip dysplasia or how to have the perfect marriage. It never occurred to me that I would be speaking on brokenness and rejection and God's goodness in the midst of pain.
The Teen Track at True Woman was based on the book Lies Young Women Believe. Dannah admonished the girls to identify the lies that they believed and replace them with God’s truth. I was to be a live example of how this was done to nearly 500 girls.

I walked on stage and told the “perfect love story” that had all of the girls gushing – especially the proposal. I then explained how we said our final goodbye at an airport - unbeknownced to me. “We just knew you were going to say he died in an accident,” one girl told me following the session. "That would have been easier," I thought to myself. I proceeded to explain how the world I knew and the man I loved was gone in an instant without any warning or explanation. 

Sniffles could be heard around the room. Monday I had the privilege of teaching at Grace Prep… this time I was a real-life example of God’s truth and healing. This required being incredibly vulnerable and exposed. If you know me at all you are aware of how tough I like to be… again I was out of my element.

Dannah Gresh and Erin Davis joined me on the stage – together we were going to demonstrate how to pray through lies and find God’s truth. This was not rehearsed or practiced at all.

“What feelings are you battling right now, Heather?” Dannah asked. “Anger?” I timidly responded. She said there is always something that lies under the surface of anger. Dig deeper. I tried again. “Rejection, maybe?” I continued to grow more and more uncomfortable as I realized I was no longer in control of the conversation. “Ok, we can work with that… why do you feel the sting of rejection?” No duh… I thought to myself. I hate being vulnerable.

Then the Lord grabbed hold of the hangy-downy thing in the back of my throat and threw words out of my mouth, completely bypassing my pride. “I am not good enough.” WHAT? Did I just say that out loud in front of 500 girls?! They will think I am not strong…. Oh my stars... 
Wide-eyed, I stared blankly into the crowd – this is NOT how I envisioned this going. Dannah was finally content with this answer. We labeled the lie. “Heather, you need to find truth to replace this lie,” she handed me a Bible. I was hardly even aware that it was a lie I was believing... it was. “Girls, can you help Heather replace this lie?” Bible pages started turning. The Lord impressed Isaiah 43:4 upon my heart. Taking the microphone, I read aloud, “Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you. I gave men in return for you, people in exchange for your very life.”

She then turned to the girls. “If you have a word of truth that you would like to share with Heather, please stand up.” Nearly two-dozen girls immediately rose to their feet. We know that I pride myself in the fact that I don’t cry…. In continuing with the “out of my element” theme, I lost it.

Three girls shared via microphone their word from the Lord. One mom who was in the room powerfully spoke over me 2 Corinthians 3:11, “For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.”

Basically at this point I am a bawl baby. For the sake of time, Dannah instructed the rest of the girls who had a word of truth for me to write it down and give it to me after the session. I left with 96 pieces of paper covered with God’s truth…

I spent the following hour after the session talking to and praying with girls who were dealing with their own feelings of “not being good enough.” WOW. That night, I continued to be shaken by the message of stepping out of the way and making room for God by Priscilla Shirer and the powerful message of forgiveness by Joni Tada (I know you don’t have all the spare time in the world, but click and listen if you have a chance!) My boat was rocked this weekend - I will be processing for a while! 

I could not even look at the stack of truth letters without tearing up. Monday we had the day off to rest. I sat on the floor of my room surrounded by the pieces of truth. Many girls shared Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28. Some shared their personal favorite verses. Others simply thanked me for my transparency and willingness to speak out. One girl shared of her own struggle of not being good enough; “I have been cutting for a year… your story gave me hope. I know I am good enough to GOD - I don't need to cut anymore!”

I was blown away by the encouragement, prayers and testimonies. I was finally beginning to accept that I might be a crier after all… tears streamed down my face with each letter, overwhelmed by what the Lord was doing despite my pain and my flesh. I was nearing the end of the stack when I unfolded a piece of notebook paper. All it read was, “He is an idiot.” I erupted into a heap of joyful laughter! This poor girl, like me, must have difficulty engaging her filter sometimes! My heart was brimming with joy and refreshment. I smiled at God's goodness and well-timed sense of humor. 

Of course, having followed the Lord’s calling means coming into opposition with the Devil. This week – for the first time in months- I am struggling with dreams of the man I loved. Bad dreams that cause me to awake in tears, reliving the hurtful words all over again. Spiritual warfare is real people! 

I would lie if I didn’t tell you: this morning, I woke in tears. I drove to work in tears. At work, a lovely woman on the phone asked me if I was “in a relationship” as I hung up the phone, you guessed it – tears. I came home today and cried. My host family is gone, my parents are 2,000 miles away, Jack is not here, I have no bike… every coping mechanism and thing I have clung to for comfort is gone.

So, I started out on a drive to just be alone with the Lord. Unaware of where I was going, this is where He led me…. WOW. We met on the hilltop.

It still hurts... but God makes beautiful things out of our pain. 

“Those who would be vessels of mine must be tested, for the passage of my power demands the durability only the tests can build.” From the Father’s Heart pg. 70

     I promise – when you get out of your element, you step into God’s.
 That is where I desire to be.

“Remember not the former things, or consider the things that were. Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth, don’t you see it?!” Isaiah 43:18-19 

Purpose to allow God to use your pain for His glory... Get out of your element. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Renewing of Vows

Yesterday I shared the testimony of my broken engagement at Grace Prep High School. This was the first time I had spoken about it publicly – I did not volunteer for the job and I did not want to do it. I wish I could have had a different topic… 

Thankfully, God spoke through me as I shared our incredible love story as well as the shock that stopped my world from spinning. I explained my process of healing (The Pearl for those of you who know and are praying!). I mentioned that we all have some pocket of pain in our lives but we can either allow it to kill us or we can trust God to make a pearl out of it.

I desired to be accessible and told the students I would pray with whoever needed/wanted it. I was blown away as a dozen girls asked me to mentor them, to help walk them through their own pain. With tears in their eyes as well as mine, I held girls in my arms- finally I am seeing the bigger picture.

Yesterday I spoke with 60 students… On Friday, I will be in front of nearly 500 teenage girls sharing my very raw testimony again. In speaking yesterday of the man I loved with my whole being, I felt a twinge of guilt; like I should not be talking about him in this way.

Having no closure, zero understanding and 500 questions I would love for him to answer; talking about him is very difficult.  It is almost as if the man I would have given my life for died in a car wreck and some stranger took his place. The man I knew, I loved more than words could express. The person who stands in his place is someone I don't know.

In December of last year, he and I exchanged our wedding vows with each other. We desired to write our own and with the help of a pastor, combine them into what we would pledge on our wedding day.

I spent months pouring over my vows, writing, rewriting and praying. I read them to him with tears streaming down my face and my heart moved with more love than I knew I was able to contain.

He then read me his. I cherished each and every word. He promised to love and care for me all of the days of my life as he was certain that God had anointed the two of us to be an example of the Lord’s picture of marriage. Daily I prayed over our vows as both of them hung from my bathroom mirror. 

I meant the words that I wrote… unfortunately he did not. I took the exchanging of vows very seriously. A promise is a promise and although they had not yet been exchanged at the altar; it was a binding commitment in my eyes (as was the engagement ring a year earlier).

I have still felt bound by my vows to him. A friend suggested that I write new vows to take their place; vows to my Heavenly Bridegroom; vows to serve as a foundation for the ministry God has given me.

Imagine me standing at the altar with Jesus by my side. I invite you to be a witness in these new vows – just as many of you would have been a witness on June 2, 2012:

I have stepped across the line. I am going God’s way and am not turning around or looking back anymore.

I will use my life as well as my pain to celebrate the goodness of the Lord, the faithfulness of His character, the redemption of His love and the wholeness of His family.

I will communicate His Word boldly and without restraint. My eternal reward is in Heaven; I refuse to waste another breath on shallow living, trivial talking, petty thinking or faithless worry.

I desire that my life minimize me and magnify God. I will continue to grow in maturity, remain consistent in ministry and fulfill my purpose as a Warrior in Christ’s Army.

This life is fleeting and merely a preparation for the next. I will give it all I have without holding back; exchanging “me” for “we,” wealth for worship, comfort for character, status for service, possessions for people and glory for grace.

I will do the best that I can for Christ with what I have each and every day. I will not become captivated by culture or motivated by praise; frustrated by problems or intimidated by the devil.

I will focus on the race straight ahead and not become distracted by the sidelines or those running beside, in front of or behind me. My eyes are locked on the finish line. When times get tough, I will kick it in to overdrive and keep moving forward by God’s grace and His strength within me. 

I am purpose-driven, spirit-led, and mission-focused. I will not be bought or swayed. I will not quit.

My answer in advance is YES to anything and everything you ask me to do, Lord. Wherever you lead and whatever the cost, I am ready to make the sacrifice.

I want to live to hear YOU say, “Well done my beautiful and faithful Princess. You delight me with your love, my Bride.”

Forever committed, Heather M. Bullock - September 18, 2012 

I trust the Lord to restore to me ten-fold what was lost. 
Reviving my hope as well as my heart....

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Healing Through Hurt

Life has graced us all with moments that just plain hurt. I have been learning through the past six months that I have a choice: do I want to heal, or not? Because of all of my hip surgeries, I can relate well to the intense process that is called healing.

The day after violent and invasive surgery, two “perfectly healthy” human beings walk into your hospital room declaring themselves physical therapists, requiring you to get up and walk. I would love for them to be on the other end of that demand once in a while! [Each time it has resulted in me passing out when I reach the designated chair.]

But, the next day you walk a bit further… then you get to go home. A walker is necessary for a while because you are too weak to balance on your own. Once you’re stronger, then come crutches. When there is a hole permanently burned into your armpit from the dad-gum crutches, you get a cane. All the while attending ridiculously painful therapy sessions.

While painful and unpleasant, it is a necessary process by which the healing will occur in the weak places of your body. Over time, muscles develop and the pain lessens. The healing of my heart is following such a pattern.

Leaving all comforts and security behind, I followed the Lord's lead and moved to Pennsylvania. This was my crutch moment. It had only been five months from the unexpected blow that left my heart in intensive care. Another month later, and my armpits are sore… it is time to move to a cane.

Working for Dannah Gresh has been an experience I can hardly put into words. The author of And The Bride Wore White, the book that saved my purity and ultimately my life, has challenged me to grow spiritually as well as take steps toward forgiveness, which will bring about my ultimate healing.

I have shared my heart, my struggles, and the deep wounds left by someone I once loved and trusted. Each time, more pain is brought to the surface and is able to be burned off. However, this week I faced a new challenge….

Dannah asked me to go with her to the True Woman Convention in Indianapolis next week! I was thrilled! Then I got my pre-convo assignments. While we are in Indy, we will be promoting her newly revised book, And The Bride Wore White. We will have our own booth in which we can talk to women about the powerful message of the text. The table in our booth is to resemble that of a bride and groom's wedding reception table. No coincidence I’m sure, this table just so happens to look almost identical to the one I was to share with my groom on June 2.

The process of shopping for and decorating a wedding table has been far from pleasant. Since I have been in PA, I have put on the “tough” face (imagine that!). I haven’t let myself cry or hurt… tying ivory bows and pearls onto chairs caused feelings and emotions to rush to the surface and I lost it - finally.

Sometimes God calls us to go to bat with the things that are taunting us; the things we try so hard to ignore. David took a stand and faced Goliath while everyone else tried to pretend he wasn’t there. My Goliath is an ivory wedding table - and I am conquering it. 

In addition, while at True Woman next week, I will be speaking in the Teen Track, giving my very raw testimony in a seminar called, “The Truth About Relationships.” Over four hundred girls will be present and I will speak following the incredible Priscilla Shrier. (Insert shock, awe and nausea here.)

Never in my wildest dreams did I image that seven months later I would be standing on a stage sharing my deepest hurt with teenage girls. The rawness is good. The pain is good. The lack of closure is good. This helps me know those faith muscles are working and healing is coming.

So, no matter how daunting or difficult it seems, I challenge you this week to go to bat with your Goliath. Face it head on! I will proudly go set up a wedding table at this convention knowing that Jesus is my groom and that He saved me from something He knew would have caused even more hurt.

Once your Goliath is conquered, you will likely be sore, tired, and have bloody hands and dirty clothes. This is good! You can come back from your battle with raw experience and tell others of the great victory you achieved provided by none other than the Lord Himself!

So, while I have no idea what I am going to say to a room of four hundred teenage girls, I know God will provide the words. The rawness and the pain and tears this week will bring forth a harvest next week – I am sure of it. When we are face to face with our weakness and our pain, I believe God is able to create a transparency to which others will gravitate.

I appreciate prayers for humility and gentleness as I continue to strive to honor this young man’s reputation. Ask that the Lord would give me the words to speak and that He would uproot any and all bitterness in my heart.

Honestly, the truth is, I am still angry, devastated, struggling with rejection and am trying to move toward forgiveness. I even considered becoming a nun…. I don't know what the "Truth About Relationships" is! I just know that the only One who will never disappoint me; who will ALWAYS love me and consider me His Bride is JESUS. 

Maybe, it is those very human struggles and real emotions that make us relatable to others. Embrace your pain and allow Jehovah Rophi not only work a miracle of healing in your own heart, but watch and be amazed as He draws others closer to Him as a result of your vulnerability. 

“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”  2 Corinthians 12:9 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sunny With a Chance of Thunderstorms

Yes, you read that right. SUNNY with a chance of thunderstorms… For all of my desert friends, what I am fixing to share will be mind-blowing to you. Brace yourself.

I grew up praying for rain. In Middle-of-No-Where, New Mexico where it rains less than 10 inches per year, a staple in bedtime prayers is, “Lord, please send your rain on this dry ground.” Right?!

Well, now I live in central Pennsylvania. I think these people have mastered the rain prayers... They experience an average 87 inches of precipitation each year. Thus far this year they have only had about 50 – the locals are complaining about the drought. I laugh.

Nearly every afternoon is accompanied by a light rain shower. My first few weeks here, I relished the rain as it is a relatively new concept for me! But now, I am wishing to see the sunshine and blue sky more often!

It even rains when there are no clouds… Yup! More than once this has been the case. I told you it would blow your mind.

This week at work, I was thankful for a finally-sunny day. My window in the office was open and I was enjoying the sound of the birds and the cool breeze. Then I heard what sounded like a shower. “Surely it can not possibly be raining AGAIN!”

I stood up from my desk and sure enough… torrential rain. From my vantage point, the sky was still blue. White, wispy clouds floated past and yet it was pouring. I was baffled.

In New Mexico, we see a dark, looming cloud from 20 miles away and even then it doesn’t usually bring rain. But here in Happy Valley, PA – this happens all the time. The clouds may be on the other side of the hill out of sight bringing a flood of moisture to the ground.

Leaving the office I became even more paranoid of the freak rain shower. I was driving into the bright blue sky and right in front of my car a lightning bold hit a tree… it was not dark and grey; I couldn’t even locate a cloud in the sky capable of producing such a powerful ray of energy! I gripped the steering wheel tighter.

If you know me very well at all, you know that I do not care for thunderstorms – ever. I began to pray on my drive home through the mysterious shower. Out loud I was thanking God for the beautiful things I noticed, simply hoping this would take my mind off of the storm and get me home. I thanked Him for the skyline and the surrounding hills covered in a blanket of fog. I continued, “God how cool would it be to see a rainbow?!” Literally seconds later, I drove up a hill and watched as a rainbow slowly began to arch across the road in front of me.
 I was in awe… it still gives me chills to think about! I pulled to the side of the road and soaked in God’s goodness.

In life, we have unexpected showers. We all know I just had one! It is a beautiful, sunshiny day and then KA-BOOM. The heavens open and you are drenched. These storms are un-forecasted, out of no-where, and by the time you realize what is happening, you are soaked to the bone without a clue of how on the blue planet this just happened.

Six months ago in the height of my delightful, spring day, I was hit with a lighting bolt from a cloud I never saw. By the time I could gather myself,  I was soaking wet, cold and alone.

What was your lightning bolt from nowhere? A relationship gone sour, the loss of a job, the betrayal of a friend, the diagnosis of cancer… These storms are sometimes more terrifying than a black cloud you can see heading your way. No one likes to be caught off guard without an umbrella and rain boots.

But, its these types of storms; a heavy shower followed by (or accompanied with) the sunshine; the rays of light are captivated in a cloud creating a rainbow; the rainbow of God’s promise never to destroy the world (your world) again.  Genesis 9:13

Even if you didn’t see the cloud – the Lord did. He knew you would be scared. He knew you would be wet. He imagined you would be in shock. He figured you would question the origin of the storm. But, He also knew that you needed to see a sign of His goodness – the hope of His promise.

So, if you are dripping from a downpour you didn’t see coming, shake it off and drive up the hill. God desires to remind you of His promise; that He will not give you more than you can bear. That He won’t take away something from you unless it will cause you harm. That He has your best interests at heart and desires for you to place your hope solely in His plan for your life.

Drowned rat with stringy, wet hair in your face, look up! Observe the rainbow and trust in the one who painted it in the sky for you.