Death AND Goodness in the Land of the Living

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Psalm 27:13-14  I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.

What does despair really mean anyway?  The dictionary defines despair as losing all hope.  Have you ever been there? Does that describe how you are feeling today?  If so, I believe that it is by no accident that YOU are reading this right now! David declares in the above Psalm that he would have been in the same place you have found yourself in (without hope) had he not BELIEVED that he would see the goodness of the Lord this side of Heaven.  He made a choice to believe that He would see God’s goodness even though His circumstances did not change right away.   Believing meant he had to wait on God.  I know we do not like to wait. ever. But believing followed by waiting is key.  I believe that our God super-naturally and graciously imparts to us just what we need to push through and push forward when we choose to believe.

Believe + wait = strength + courage + hope + peace + trust + Joy

Though, at the moment, you may not be able to see anything “good” IN your circumstances, we know that God IS good and because God is good, His goodness CAN be experienced in the midst of our darkest moments, in the here and now, no matter what that “now” looks like!  As Christ followers, we believe to see not see to believe!  SO, look for Him, wait for Him….EXPECT to see His goodness revealed even BEFORE your mess changes.  I understand that some of your hopes and dreams may not be alive and well in the land of the living.  I get it! Actually, you may be having to grieve the death of some of them, BUT God!!  Friend, no matter how painful, hurtful,  devastating and unwanted your losses or you mess may be, GOD desires to pour out His goodness upon YOU, His beloved daughter!

Psalm 23 is often quoted at funerals and rightfully so,  but I have come to love this scripture in walking through my own valley of the shadow of death.   Death of my marriage,  death to my dreams and death to what I thought my life was supposed to look like.  Despair tried too many times to count to take up residence in my heart and mind.  Believing that God was with me and that His Word trumped my feelings and despairing thoughts helped me to rise up from the ashes in the valley and keep walking through the darkness…  Sometimes, actually many times,  it took the prayers and encouragement of my faithful friends and church family upholding me and pouring God’s love into my broken heart.  That, my friend was part of God’s goodness that I was blessed to experience.  His goodness is there all the time, we just have to have eyes open to see it!

What about you?  What hopes and dreams have you had to grieve over?  While the enemy roars defeating accusations to your vulnerable self,  God’s Word for you declares that there is reason to HOPE in this valley of death.  HE is our shepherd, HE walks with us in the valley and He comforts us.  He brings us through to bring us out and when we come out we are never the same.  As God’s chosen daughters, His invitation to walk us THROUGH brings transformation and treasures we take with us as He leads us OUT.

Psalm 31:19  says “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You and worked for those who take refuge in You, in the sight of the children of mankind!” I want to draw your attention to the word ABUNDANT.  You could easily exchange that word for plentiful, liberal, bountiful,  or even galore.  Let me ask you, do you fear God?  Are you His child? Do you take refuge in Him? Then this promise is for YOU! God has an abundance of  Goodness galore…that is stored up just for you! Stored up means it is ongoing, it will never run out! It is there when you need it! OF course, the devil would like to shout to you otherwise and cause you to lose all hope and stay and live in his prison of despair.  Don’t do it! Believe God’s Truth and live in freedom that keeps you free no matter what you are facing! HE is with you my friend, and HE will not fail you, no, not ever! EXPECT to see God’s goodness galore, WAIT for it. Be strong, be courageous, TAKE refuge in GOD and HE will bring you through this valley with goodness and mercy as your faithful companions.  Rise up dear sister, and believe that you WILL see God’s goodness in your midst! There are many rising with you!

Keep Running, Sister!

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Need some encouragement today? Are you weary from your season of difficulty? I understand!

Friend, read the scripture below again and again AND apply it to your own life! Let the TRUTHS of God’s Word be an anchor of HOPE for your troubled heart. THROW OFF distractions and hindrances (stinkin’ thinking and actions), RUN your own race with determination. FIX your eyes on Jesus (don’t be consumed by your circumstances). Think about the secure future God has ordained and provided for you! CONSIDER Jesus and all that He suffered for YOU! HE gets it…He understands your struggle! You are not alone, ever! AND His unfailing, abundant love for you will never change! You can be assured that there are treasures to glean, things to learn and God-ordained opportunities and purposes right in the midst of the hurdles and challenges you may be facing this very moment!
Therefore, keep on running, beloved sister! There are many running with you! We are strong and we are brave! Jesus in us enables us to run THROUGH this present darkness with JOY, strength and God’s sufficient Grace! You GO girl!! 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

No Turning Back

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After a lengthy season of engaging in travailing prayer for a specific heartbreaking situation, weariness can set in. Especially, if what you have been praying for seems to be going way south…. heading in the opposite direction of what you have been praying and believing. You have done all you can do. You know you are praying according to God’s Word. You have believed with all your heart and still, you wait. However, the winter season has been long. Your wait is losing its strength and your hope of change is fading. Maybe you are praying for the healing of a close loved one or friend and you hear the devastating news that it is time to remove “life support” or maybe you are told that hospice has been notified.  Maybe you are praying for a spouse whose choices have destroyed your marriage and you can know longer deny the evidence that God is preparing your heart to let go. Or maybe it is a son or daughter who is headed down an extremely dark path that has left your heart immensely broken as you struggle to find a way to rescue them only to finally accept the fact that you can’t rescue someone who doesn’t want to be rescued. Oh, help us dear Jesus! How do you keep from being taken under by discouragement? How do you NOT take on offense towards God? In these times, deep seeded discouragement begins to wrap itself tightly around your bleeding heart and instead of healing the wound it only works to squeeze all joy and hope out until there is no peace. 

I understand. The struggle is real. After one phone call, overwhelming joy that I enjoyed just minutes before, quickly dissipated. Discouragement and hopelessness became my companions. I felt myself starting to cave into my own pity party. It was at that moment that I felt this question evade my broken heart. It was if Jesus was asking me, “What if you don’t get what you are praying for? What if the very thing you want to happen more than anything never happens? Will you STILL trust me?” It reminded me of the question that had been placed before me in the past, “What if I never answered another prayer, will you still love me?  Will you still allow me to be your Father?”  These are the moments that question our faith and cause us to wrestle with our beliefs, motives and even our own selfishness. Will we stay committed when we don’t get our way or will we turn away from Jesus just as many did because they did not understand what he was doing?    

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”  But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?  Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)  And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”  After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,  and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6:60-69 

There have been hard moments in my wrestling when I have been reminded of the above scriptures.  Sadly, I understand those who thought His sayings were “hard”.  I understand the disappointment of things not going as they thought they should.  I understand the offenses that can come from not understanding His ways.  God’s Word tells us that some disciples turned back from following Jesus because they were offended by Him.  They did not understand so they let their misunderstanding lead their heart away from the ONE who could save it.

Jesus then turns to the twelve disciples and basically asks if they want to turn back, as well.  There is something about His question that causes me to pause.  To camp there a while.  My heart tries to imagine what Jesus was feeling at that moment.  Rejection is hard…even for Jesus.   As I think about the times I have asked that question in my own mind regarding relationships that I have had, I feel grief.   Going through a divorce magnifies those kind of thoughts and demands losses you never saw coming.  It is heartbreaking.  So is life.  Rejection is just part of it.  I am thankful to know that Jesus understands.  He gets it.  That is enough for me.  That is all I need to know to surrender my losses to Him and let them go.   I appreciate Peter’s response to Jesus.  He was not offended by Him, only committed to Him.  No turning back for him.  In my own wrestling and in the midst of unanswered prayers, I too, like Peter realize that no matter how much I don’t understand His ways, Jesus holds the words my heart needs to hear.   His invitation to surrender and stubbornly plant my messy self in the safety of his loving sovereignty and amazing grace trumps the bate of offense that satan offers.

More than answered prayers, more than things going my way, more than understanding the why’s of life, I need Jesus.  Not so much for what He can do for me this side of heaven, but for what His extravagant love has already done for me that guarantees my happily ever after in the next.  What love!  He has proven Himself faithful to me in the past, no matter how my heart perceives the trials and tribulations that may be in my future.  God is STILL trustworthy.  He is STILL faithful.  His plans are GOOD.

Matthew 11:6 says, “And blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is he who takes no offense at Me and finds no cause for stumbling in or through Me and is not hindered from seeing the Truth.”

Friends, allowing ourselves to become offended towards God is a real issue.  It can happen.  How will you respond when your prayers aren’t answered that way you wanted?   What about when you don’t understand…when the questions come?  Jesus tells us that we will be blessed when we do not take on offense towards Him and allow it to take root in our hearts.   Throughout my seasons of heartbreak, I can boldly proclaim that I have been sweetly blessed! God’s Word to me has never failed to lead my heart through the valleys and dark places I never thought I would travel.   It has not at all  been easy but I decided a long time ago that there is NOTHING worth losing my relationship with the Lord, nothing! Not unanswered prayers, not misunderstanding, not offense, not bitterness, not divorce, not disappointments, not brokenness, not pain……NOTHING!

What about you?  Sweet friend, can I encourage you to search your own heart?  Do it before the hard things come.  Determine that you will not let ANYTHING cause you to turn back as many did.  Allow God’s Word to be the compass of your heart and NOT your misunderstanding of His higher ways.   Remember His faithfulness to you in the past.  Remind yourself of how very much He loves you.  Let His truths be your anchor in the wrestling.  Just like Peter, let’s follow Jesus and determine to not turn back…ever.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  Romans 8:18

 

 

Freedom in Surrender

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He came unexpectedly and out of nowhere.  She uncomfortably and bashfully squirmed with a smile as she tried to embrace the extremely sweet and generous affirming words coming from the other end of the phone.  Her heart undeniably longed for them to be true and trustworthy but her heart struggled to believe.  And rightly so.

Over the years, she had gotten used to feeling less than and undervalued.  It was her normal.  All the while, masking the deep desire she had for her spouse’s love behind stubborn faith and her Father God’s unconditional love and acceptance.  After all, as a woman of faith, God’s love was what mattered most.  So what if her then husband’s actions broke and wounded her heart time and time again?  So what if she could not trust him?  She tried really hard.  She wanted that with all of your heart.  On several occasions, she even prayed to have a bride like love-like-you-have-never-been-hurt kind of trust but the truth is, trust has to be earned and earning it was not something her, then husband, did very well.  However, she had God. She could trust HIM.  We are never told in scripture to trust man, anyway, right? She was called to love the unlovable and just maybe her love would be the catalyst for the deliverance she adamantly waged war for.  Her battle scars were many, with wounds that never stood a chance of healing with each new discovery and reminder that she would never be enough.  Nothing could fix this.   Each season of counseling and accountability gave her hope but hope that quickly would turn to despair again.  Nevertheless, she did not let that stop her.  Consequently, she even began to wear that as a type of prideful badge of martyrdom after years of the same brokenness.  BUT just maybe that is what helped her heart to survive each new season of pain.   She wanted so badly for God to be glorified in her life and in her marriage.  And for her, if that meant sacrificing her own heart, then so be it.  To some, she came across as strong and whole but inside there was a different kind of story to tell.

She kept believing after every revealing that maybe THIS TIME would be the LAST time.  After years of the same destructive cycles repeating,  it had become obvious to her that she could not control his last time  but she could control HER last time, and she did.  She finally gave up on her dream that change would permanently come.  She knew that the final revealing was her prayers and the prayers of others being answered.  Freedom and bravery came to her that day.   You see, God always answers our prayers but it may not look like what we had envisioned.  Nevertheless, His ways are so much higher.   She knew she was being released and rescued and she embraced it.  For her, it was bittersweet.  Tears of relief but yet tears of sadness realizing how far unchecked sin can takes us.

And Now.

After nearly two years following her divorce, she meets him.  Their meeting was nothing but miraculous and still yet, she was determinedly cautious and understandably fearful.  Looking for red flags and any reason to run, she did what she could to find out about this man who was awakening things in her heart that she had long ago determined to let go of.  And slowly but surely, it happened.  She began to imagine life with someone whose values and love for God were similar to her own.  She began to dream again.  She hesitantly allowed herself to believe that just maybe there was someone that could love her as God intended.

She is still learning. She is still growing.  She is moving forward.  She is intentionally surrendering her past at the feet of her Savior and He is setting her heart free. Free to believe in love again and free to hope in new beginnings.   And, even though she is not fully confident she can trust again, there is a glimmer of hope in her heart that just maybe she can.  SO it is with that, that she is bravely allowing her soul to be awakened to love and her gut tells her, it may just be worth it!  Let it be so, Lord!

What about you?  What is it in your life that you need to let go of in order to embrace the good plans that God has for you? Are there fears from your past that are holding you back from your tomorrows?  Friend, God is faithful and He can be trusted to take your mess, your hurts, and your disappointments and work them together for good and for a future that has His blessing and favor interwoven throughout.  No need to fear…God’s got you! Today, will you be brave and choose to surrender all the ashes from your past and give your heart freedom to experience life to the full? With God’s grace, you CAN do it! There is truly freedom in surrender…freedom to embrace this new day, new beginning, new chapter and new you!  Let’s do it! Are you with me?

The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step].  Psalm 37:2

Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:18-19

Divine Sisterhood

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Everyone has a story.

Stories of  love and loss.

Stories of beauty and brokenness

Reality is…..in every one’s life there will be stories of both triumphs and tribulations.

So, what about you? What’s YOUR story? Are there things you’ve overcame?  Things you’ve endured?  Things that left scars. Things that humbled you?  Things that changed you?  Things that you STILL struggle with?

Could it be that God may have brought you through the very same circumstances that the lady you run into today is going through?  She needs hope.  She needs to know that she is not alone.  You may be the answer to the prayers this sister has been praying…her heart cry for a friend who understands her, who really gets what it’s like to face what she is facing.  Please, don’t be silent.  Look deeper, past her smile and recognize the pain.  Reach out to her.   Love on her.  Bring light to the darkness that surrounds her.  She needs you.  She needs you not just to give her a hug and tell her how sorry you are, she needs to hear YOUR story. There is something divine that happens as we share with a transparent heart what God has brought us through.   As she hears how God transformed your brokenness to beauty, a flicker of hope ignites in the ashes of her heart.  God may use that very moment to whisper to her wounded heart that Jesus desires to bring healing to her heart, as well.

He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.  2 Cor 1:4 

This is Love

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He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and pains, and acquainted with grief…..

Isaiah 53:5

Have you felt the pain of rejection?  Has your heart bore the pain of being broken by those you love the most? Have you lived with regret over your past?  Have you experienced sorrow and grief?  If you have lived on this earth for very long you soon realize your heart will not go untouched.  To live and to love brings the opportunity for pain.  There is no getting around it.

The good news is, there is hope. You are not alone.  There is One who sticks closer than a brother.  Do you know HIM?  His name is Jesus.  He loves you so much that He suffered and died for you and now is seated at the right hand of God interceding for you!   JESUS KNOWS about rejection.  JESUS KNOWS your pain.  JESUS KNOWS your sorrow.  Not only does He know about such pain, but He, Himself, has experienced all of these and MORE.  The amazing, beautiful thing about Jesus is that He experienced pain, rejection, and sorrow by CHOICE.  He chose to experience these things in order to set your heart free.  He chose to suffer because of His amazing love for you and for me.   No one would choose the pathway of pain. No one would choose to walk through the door of grief and sorrow.   We all know, It is one thing to experience pain at the mercy of others but to choose to be broken, to be wounded…  Who would do that?

Jesus would. And He did.  For you.  For me.  For the world.

Hebrews 12:2 says “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross… what joy could there possibly be in the excruciating death He suffered? YOU…you were His joy!! Joy which compelled Him to walk the pathway of darkness…to endure the suffering of the cross…. He was filled with joy at the thought of redeeming you and me and of saving a lost world.   He knew you needed a Savior to heal you, to deliver you, to take your sins and my sins upon Himself.

He went through it all so that He could write your love story.  He came to rescue you.  He came to save you.

Do you sometimes have issues with self esteem?…Do you sometimes feel like no one cares, no one loves you?  Turn your eyes to the cross and see His love poured out for you. You are so very valuable to HIM!! Because He CHOSE this kind of suffering, there is healing for you, there is beauty awaiting you in the midst of your brokenness.

There is no one, nor will there ever be, anyone who loves you like Jesus loves you!  At the cross, He meets you there and He offers extravagant love, forgiveness,  rest for your weariness and healing for your deepest wounds.  Place your hand in His….His nail scarred hand, and allow your heart to be captivated by His love.

Will there be more pain in your life?  More struggles?  Yes.  The difference is Him.  He will give you strength and peace in the midst of your storms. There will be treasures to be found in your trials.  He will never leave you, nor forsake you.  He will turn all things around for good in your life.  Your life of surrender will have purpose and meaning.  

But you must Choose.

Are you going to hold on to your life, your ways, your sins, your pain,  or will you surrender ALL to Him and allow Him to give you His beauty for your ashes.  You will find His grace is sufficient for you.  Look into His Word, get to know Him and fall in love with your Savior, your Lord, your King.

Just as Jesus was resurrected from death to life, He can bring life to the dead places of your heart.

How do I know these things?  I know them because I have experienced His love and mercy in my own life.  His forgiveness has freed me from the chains of guilt and shame. He has brought life to places that were dead.  I have seen His power and love change hearts and turn brokenness into beauty.  He has given hope where there was no hope. His love has captured my heart.  The dreams I used to have as a little girl of the “happily ever after” have been resurrected.  My future is secure in Him,  My prince has come and rescued me.  He offers the same love to you.

Run to His arms, my friend, experience TRUE love…. say YES to the extraordinary love He died to give you and allow Him to write your love story.

For God SO LOVED the world that HE GAVE His only begotten son, that whosoever would believe in HIM, would not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

Helpless But Not Hopeless

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There are days when life throws unexpected drama, issues, troubles, pain, and you name it.  There are moments that rip a momma’s heart right out of her ever loving chest. Moments that cause anguish, worry, and can totally freak us out. Most moms, myself included, like to feel that they are in control and when a situation arises that can’t be fixed and made all tidy with a little gorilla glue or pretty designed duct tape, we get our ugly cry and this-can’t-be-happening-to-MY-family on real quick.  True Story! Just when you get through one difficult season a new one is on the horizon.  Different circumstances but the same helpless feeling that tries to attach itself to us and steal our peace and joy.  No one is exempt.  This. is. Life. We all have been there and will be there again.  How is that for encouragement, ha!

Sweet sister, may I remind you…as a beloved daughter of God, though your circumstances may cause you to feel helpless, you are not hopeless! Not. Ever. The enemy would like you to believe that the two are interchangeable but that is far from the truth. The fact is, you were never meant to be in control in the first place.  Our place of helplessness invites us to a powerful and beautiful place of undone abandon to the One who knows all and cares about the tiniest details.  In one act of surrender, God reminds us that HE is in control.  It is in this place of humble surrender that enables us to exchange our helplessness for God’s hope.FULL.ness!

Phillipians 4:6-8 has been a special scripture to me.  While attending a connect group at my church we were challenged to memorize it.  In doing so, these verses became a life line to me that has given me hope and peace for many situations that has left my heart feeling helpless.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

The Word of God tells to not be anxious about anything……that means there is nothing that we should allow ourselves to be anxious about.  Easier said than done, right?  So How do we do that? It pretty much spells it out for us.  We pray! We bring our anxious thoughts, our mound of worries, our list of fears, and our helplessness before God.  We thank Him because thanking Him takes our mind OFF of our burdens and on to our Burden-bearer.  Thankfulness helps us to align our focus back to our gracious, faithful and loving Father.  Thankfulness infuses the trust that we have in our Mighty God.  Thankfulness reminds us of ALL that He has done for us in the past.  When we are thankful, we find peace!  That peace…God’s peace,  will actually set a guard over our hearts and minds! However, in order to keep our peace we have to keep reading.  What does it say? After praying and releasing our worries to God we have to be proactive with what we allow ourselves to think about.  We are to think GOOD thoughts…not the what if’s, why me’s or how-can-this-be thoughts.  Stinkin’ thinking will take you right back to that pit of anxious thoughts, again!  I get it. It is not at all easy. When you feel as though your world is falling apart it takes determined faith, stubborn courage, and stark discipline….but isn’t peace so worth it? Your peace and hope is important to God and it should be important to you.