What I Love About You….Our Happily Even-After

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     I truly felt like a love-stricken teenager at heart as I taped each envelope on the door to surprise my sweet husband.  This was only our second Valentine’s Day together as husband and wife but felt even more significant than our first. Why? Not sure! But I think it may have to do with the fact that I feel like I fall in love with him more everyday! Yes, it’s true!

As I purposely wrote each thought my heart was overwhelmed by God’s abundant faithfulness and amazing grace.

You see, Just a few years ago I really didn’t think I could entrust my heart to anyone in marriage again. The risk seemed way too high for this messy girl.  From my past experiences, love to me was painful and it meant to live sacrificially broken with unrelenting heart wounds for the sake of another…..because that’s what Jesus-loving girls do, right!??? (Not!! That was simply WRONG thinking! Blog post or maybe I should say “rant” coming soon, ha!) Unfortunately, just when hope of change was sparked and healing was in sight the messiness would come again and again….and again. So the story goes. 

But God….

When I first met Chris, even though I was undeniably drawn to him, my fears told me to run and I listened…ha! I was understandably scared and with a determined  stance, I stuck a  “closed” sign tightly over my heart.  But thankfully, with much prayer and wrestling AND the support of my dear mentors and friends the story didn’t end there! Chris respectfully, patiently and gently continued the pursuit and the rest is our happily-even-after!!! 

Even after….. 

Even after we both had made our share of mistakes. Even after we both had hidden scars from our messy and broken past. Even after we both had experienced the tearing apart of significant relationships. All because our God is the God of the “even after”! Our God is so so good!! He truly does bring beauty from ashes!

The words I wrote on each note were a reflection of my heart being able to experience…for the first time ever, the love that was meant to be shared between a husband and a wife! It’s altogether beautiful and I can say that I am truly thankful for the lessons learned from our “before” scars that have brought us to our “even after” story today. 

Friend, whatever your gut-wrenching story looks like today, it’s not over! In Christ, it is only a chapter, a season, and a tool to propel you towards your God-ordained, God-weaved, God-blessed and God-planned destiny! YOUR happily even-after story is coming! Believe it! 

Romans 8:28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

You’re Going to Be Okay!

 

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Are you at a messy place right now and your mind wonders if  God really does redeem our stories?  Not just when we enter our heavenly home but here and now, this side of eternity?  Maybe you have found yourself on a detour that you never saw coming.  Maybe you are facing this very moment some ugly, difficult and untended parts of your story that have left you face down on the carpet desperate for God’s intervention.

Friend, can you just pause for a moment from your tears, your questions, your doubts and hang with me for a moment?  Our. God. Is. Faithful. Always.   I get it….. your circumstances may NOT be okay!  However, YOU’RE going to be okay! How can I proclaim this so boldly and confidently? Because I have walked through those kind of chapters and am now reaping the joys that God brings as the pages turn.

The pain in my eyes that I had for literally years is now gone and has been replaced with precious peace and radical relief.  God DOES redeem! He takes the worst parts of our stories and redeems and truly creates beauty from the ashes that may surround us.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Is. 61:1-3

If you need hope this very moment please read the above scripture again.  Pay attention to every word.  Do you see it?  Heavy words like brokenhearted, captive, darkness, prisoner, the grieving and all who mourn are the ones being addressed in this passage.   Friend, if any of those words describe who you are or where you find yourself on this journey, your heart can be FULL of hope! You’re going to be okay!! Why? Because Jesus came for YOU! He has already made a way for you.  Your ashes are no match for His abundant grace.

February 2, 2019 represents so much more than my wedding day…but a rescue of sorts.  A day when God boldly declared to my heart as well as others that He is well able to redeem and take what the enemy meant to destroy me and my family and make it so beautiful.  It represents the answer to countless prayers prayed by many that I did not even know were  praying for me and my family.   You see, it’s not just our victory in Jesus but other’s victory and testimony, too!  Those who loved us, supported us, believed in us and more importantly those who believed that God had good plans for us in spite of how it looked then.  My heart is so thankful.  My prayer is that in sharing this it will give YOU a shot of hope because at numerous times, I was wondering and struggling, too! Broken, wounded, stressed to the hilt, and ever so desperate.  It wasn’t just one hard thing but many that left me with eye twitches and stress rashes…..but God! No, things did not happened as I had prayed but God took me on a path that has been paved with amazing grace and beauty for ashes.  If you are wondering if this could ever happen for you my answer to you is a resounding and confident YES!!! It is so hard to believe when your heart is filled with pain and you can’t see clearly for the fog that surrounds you. I get it. I really do. I promise you, our God is faithful.  He sees you.  He invites you to trust Him as He is working out the future that He has for you and those you love.

So my friend, whatever chapter you are in know this;   it’s only for a season.  Many times we have no control how long our painful seasons may last  but you can be assured that God’s timing is perfect and purposeful. You, my friend, are on the pathway to greater joy and intimacy with Christ than you have ever known.  Stay on the carpet, ugly cry and let your knees burn.  Don’t ever stop wrestling. Stubbornly hold on to your faith as you hold on to your God.   Follow hard after him…stay obedient no matter what your feelings tell you. Expect God to move! He will sweet sister, He will!! Your waiting time is not wasted time…He is creating room in you for the beauty that is yet to come!  One day,  you will see clearly that He not one time left you in your darkest moments.  He was cutting away the lies from the past to make room for a NEW season, a NEW beginning that could not compare to anything you have experience before.

Psalm 27:14

Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring.  Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the lord.

 

 

Like Mother, Like Daughter

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Over the past few years we have experienced the death of two marriages in our family. To say that our family dynamics have dramatically changed is an understatement.  To see where we are today is nothing short of a miracle.  Not the instantaneous kind but the kind that comes from wrestling and determinedly walking out your days with God’s gutsy braveness and strength not because you are super spiritual but because there is no other option.   The odds were certainly against us.  The chances of us coming through such huge changes with relationships still in tact were not at all in our favor.

To be perfectly honest, when my oldest daughter came to me and told me she was getting a divorce…I selfishly fought against it.  See,  I was in the midst of my own messy, crazy and hard divorce from her father.  I held it together for the moment and then as soon as I could get away, I hit the carpet in disbelief.  Really, Lord? Why now? This is absurd! I can’t carry her brokenness and my own at the same time let alone my other kid’s brokenness!!  This was just too much….for her, for me, and for our family.  “Like mother, like daughter” was not a phrase that felt good  in the midst of our unwanted circumstances though it would seem fitting, Ugh! Having five children experience the terrible aftermath of the destruction of their own family unit is one thing.  However, to have one of those five children also experience the same kind of loss……in the same season, was inviting chaos of the worst kind to reek havoc in the hearts and minds of ALL my children. Oh my word!! I knew I had to get a grip.  As I ugly cried into the carpet that day in prayer pleading with God to intervene and wallowing in my own pity party,  I was reminded that He knows all things.  This was absolutely no surprise to Him.  His grace would be sufficient.   What seemed like such horrible timing and so messy would be worked for good no matter how things felt or looked from my limited perspective.  I had no choice and I knew it.  I had to embrace what I knew to be true of God and not let my emotions get the best of me.  I had to be strong for all of us.  I eventually stood up with a stubborn resolve but it was only a short time after that the guilt bombs and accusations attacked my mind from different directions. Subsequently, this only gave way to even more stinkin’ thinking.   I went from “please, God” to “oh, no…did I cause this?  Were my children reaping the consequences of my decisions? Was my own divorce giving my precious daughter permission to give up on HER marriage?  After-all, God hates divorce.”  Reality is, I hate divorce and yet here I was on the cusp of the “D” word being a part of my story and now doubly so for my daughter. We all know as a mom,  it’s one thing for life to happen to us but when it hits our kids it’s a whole different kind of brokenness.  They had already lost enough.  The possibility of it being a part of my daughter’s story, too…broke me.  “How dare I claim to be a christian and put my family through this.  Have I opened the door of destruction for those that I hold most dear to my heart?”  This thinking and more attacked every aspect of who I have ever claimed or wanted to be.   I hated the helplessness I felt but I knew  I had no control over outcomes.  This was not something I could fix nor wish away.  In the midst of this overwhelming sorrow, I repented.  I begged for God’s mercy to cover and heal any brokenness in my children that I may have caused.  I was so sorry for my part in all of this messiness.  Then I rehearsed in my mind the road that led me to the decisions that I had made and  I had a renewed resolve.  Now was not the time to question what I had already previously settled in my heart and mind through much prayer and counsel.  I knew what I knew.  I needed to be extremely careful of whose voice I was giving power to.  Did what I was hearing line up with what I knew to be true, if not…then I had to choose to let it go!! Not to say that I didn’t struggle anymore, because I did. I just did not allow those tormenting thoughts to be the boss of me……..I surrendered them to Jesus over and over again and slowly but surely they lost their power over me.  Thank you, Jesus!

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.     John 1:16

Now, several years later we are living out our stories redemption style.  The losses we went through do not compare to the new joys we are now experiencing.  What was meant to destroy us has only made us stronger and has given us a story that shouts of God’s amazing grace and faithfulness.  Only my children know the depths of the chaos and craziness that we have walked through but with that they have also known and witnessed the greatness of our God as He has came to our rescue time and time again!

Just recently, as I had a few precious moments with my daughter before she said “I do”, I was given the opportunity to pray with her.   As the words begin to flow, so did my tears. God so sweetly reminded me of how He had given us each other to share not only in the pain that had been a part of our stories, but also in these specific joy-filled beauty-for-ashes moments.  I don’t know of any mom who would ever plan nor want to go through a divorce at the same time as her daughter BUT not every mom gets the blessing of sharing the season of being engaged and married with her own daughter either.  How precious and how special.  I could not see in the get go, as I poured out my heart beside my bed that day, that God would so graciously weave our stories so closely together and create a beautiful ever after from the ashes we both carried.  I could not see then that God would take the ugliness of divorce and bring a strength and closeness among my children that wasn’t there before.  I couldn’t see then that I would get to meet and marry a special man and have the privilege of being  a bonus mom to two incredible kids and a mother-in-law to a man that would love my daughter and her siblings like no other!

Our God is truly the God of abundant mercy and grace and He is no respecter of persons.  In the midst of the unwanted parts of our stories, God redeems. He covers our shame with His love and creates within our story HIS story of amazing grace.  His grace is even more beautiful to me now than ever before.  I have been ever so desperate for it and I have  experienced the extravagance of it.   His grace has anchored my messiness to His marvelous perfection and created something so beautifully new.  His grace has truly been sufficient for me and my children and I can assure you that His grace is truly sufficient for you. Believe it, my friend!

I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for and confidently expect the Lord;  Be strong and let your heart take courage;  Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord. Psalm 27-13-14 

I have set the Lord continually before me;  Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

…May grace (spiritual blessing) and peace be given you in increasing abundance [that spiritual peace to be realized in and through Christ, freedom from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts]. 1 Peter 1:2

 

 

 

Unanswered Prayers and Longing Hearts

Daisies were my mom’s favorite flower. Honestly, her life resembled their beauty. She was a sweet spirited, gracious woman of faith pouring out JOY and the love of Christ to all who knew her.  Though her marriage of almost 50 years was not how she would have envisioned it, she stood strong and courageous and embraced her place.  She believed God for better days ahead and kept believing, in spite of the many obstacles.  Hidden behind her beautiful smile, her life consisted of frequent frustrations and brokenness.  There were seasons when she wanted to walk away but it was fear that kept her where she was but faith that gave her the guts to dare to believe that her tomorrows would be different.

I understand my mom so much better these days. The struggle between fear and faith, comfortable and risky, holding on and letting go.  Oh, how I wish her life could have been different.  Fear is a prison that shows no mercy if not reckoned with.  As her daughter, my heart breaks for hers still today but really, that’s so silly.  She is basking in her eternal home with Jesus now which takes away so much more than the sting of death but also the brokenness that she lived through.

I hoped and believed with my mom for things to change.   After all, we knew we were praying according to God’s will, so why did my mom not get to witness the fruit of her prayers?   I know about free will, choices, and all of that however, being aware of those kinds of things doesn’t lessen the pain of our heart’s longings, right?

SO, what do we do with unanswered prayers, longing hearts and chronic suffering?

The day I lost my mom is the day I lost my best friend.  It was a loss like no other.  I  think about my fervent, pleading prayers and belief for my mom to be healed of cancer and am wistfully reminded of her passing each day and most heavily each time my kids have milestone moments that I am unable to share with her.  AND now with my precious grand-babies, her loss is felt even more.  Oh, how she would so love them!! Nevertheless, I am quite aware that we are not, by no means, the only ones on the planet to experience this kind of long-suffering in what seems to be a never-ending journey through the wilderness of pain and unanswered prayers.

I think about the couple who unceasingly prayed for years to conceive a child, finally giving birth to a beautiful baby boy, only to have their dreams forever crushed as they lost their precious baby to cancer.

I think of the little girl who cries out to God to heal her daddy, only to have him die in a car accident, three months later.

I think about the parents who fervently prayed for their child who was put into prison for drugs, only to have him released and then die from an overdose.

I think about the missionary who felt the call of God to go to a foreign country, who interceded on behalf of the lost, who believed God for protection only to be martyred, never seeing the fruit of his labors.

I could go on and on about loss, suffering, and unanswered prayers and perhaps even add your story to the above. This side of Heaven, THIS. IS. LIFE. IT. IS. HARD.  However, this is not meant to depress you, to tell you that prayer is meaningless or to deflate your faith!  Please stay with me.

Though my mom’s prayers were not answered  this side of heaven the way she had hoped,  she died in faith, STILL believing that our God is faithful.  And you know what?  There are MANY who passed before her, whose FAITH stood the test of much patience, suffering, brokenness, along with those who were burned, tortured, stoned, imprisoned, whipped and oppressed even unto death. Of course, for the most part, these beautifully brave and courageous followers of Christ were not noticed by our world Their faith did not earn them any special accolades or awards.  I can promise you this; if they were standing before us they would say none of that mattered to them.  They were doing what they did for an audience of ONE.  Friends, that ONE took SPECIAL notice of their kind of faith, so much so, that He felt it important enough to speak of them…

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back.  But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.                Hebrews 11:13-14

Did you catch that?  Read the first part again.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them.  

They did not receive what was promised

Friends, sometimes our prayers are answered quickly, obviously, and even miraculously.  Our faith is ignited and our doubts are laid dormant in light of God’s evident working power in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  Other times, God’s perfect plan comes to fruition in ways that we might not recognize or understand.

Over the long haul of asking and believing, it gets tough. We get weary.  Our faith wavers.  We don’t like to think about having to continue in the wilderness of suffering and unmet longings and certainly we don’t want to even consider leaving this earth without seeing our gut-wrenching prayers answered.  Friend, you already know this, but maybe it is time to really embrace it; your prayers may not be answered THIS side of Heaven the way you would like them to be.  Can you be okay with that? What will your response be when things don’t go as you had prayed?

Whatever it is you are praying for or against, GOD has a purpose weaved all through it.  He lovingly filters ALL things that impacts the lives of his children.  If he allowed it, HE plans to use it for GOOD.  Not only will He use it to transform YOU, but to bring about HIS Kingdom purposes on this earth and in the hearts of those you love.

This is a quote worth sharing;

“We can be sure our prayers are answered precisely in the way we would want them to be answered if we knew everything God knows.”  Tim Keller

If you step back and look at it from a Heavenly perspective, those in Hebrews 11 really received the GREATER promise…the promise of their happy eternal after with Jesus.  By God’s grace and strength, that is what they kept their eye on, as the scripture tells us.  That is how they faced the horrific and unimaginable suffering that they were subjected to.  I adamantly pray that I could do the same. How about you?

Friends, this journey on this earth is NOT the MAIN thing!  So much of the time we are so short sighted that we lose our eternal perspective.  In the scheme of things, THIS life on earth is SO short, so minute compared to eternity.  Let me just remind all of us, myself included,  that God’s calling upon our lives, first and foremost is to be His hands and feet to a lost and dying world.  That is God’s heart…to save the lost.   Are we grieving over the lost and interceding for them or are we obsessing more over our own unanswered prayers? I know for me, sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own little world that I lose sight of what is REALLY important.  I get so distracted by what is right in front of me.

Don’t misunderstand me; I am in no way belittling the heart-wrenching things you may be praying about.   Even as I write this, there are tough and difficult circumstances in my own life that I am continually laying on the alter of prayer.   I want things fixed NOW! I don’t like waiting, I don’t like feeling out of control, I don’t like pain, and I don’t like the unknown.  So, are things changing? No, not altogether…but what is changing is me.  Trusting, believing, and even waiting brings growth and maturity that cannot come otherwise.  For now, that is MORE important to my loving Father than to change the circumstances I am praying about.  So,  I will keep praying and believing that my God is in control and hears every prayer. I can be confident that God has a Divine plan that exceeds my limited vision.

It is obvious that prayer is important to God.  After all, it has been noted that there are around 650 prayers in the bible. Prayer is powerful and brings about amazing and Divine things on this earth! Jesus even prayed and gave us the ultimate example to follow.

Without prayer, there is no communication and no communication means no relationship!  Therefore, keep praying, by all means.  And as you do so, think about your difficulties this way; if what you are suffering and/or praying for is keeping you humble and dependent upon Jesus then consider it a divine blessing of grace! Amen?!

Will you continue to believe God and not allow your faith to be shaken though your prayers may seem stagnant in the wilderness of waiting or chronic long suffering? Can you passionately pray a bold and courageous prayer just as Jesus did and proclaim from the depth of your soul “not my will but thine be done”?  Lord, Jesus help us!

Will YOUR name be added to the precious saints that God deemed worth mentioning because, by FAITH, you continue to believe until your last breath on earth?  I don’t know about you, but Hebrews 11:13 gives me tenacious HOPE and a resolve to bravely and steadfastly continue to BELIEVE and TRUST God no matter how long the waiting or the pain of brokenness my heart may endure.

Friend, God sees you! God hears you and His perfect love for you will answer your hearts cry as every circumstance and every difficulty is filtered through His amazing grace.  Keep praying, keep believing, keep trusting, and keep serving!  Always remember what God has ALREADY done for you! May you be filled with HOPE as you see heaven and Jesus as the backdrop in every single thing you encounter on this journey! He is faithful and the ultimate Promise Keeper! Believe it!

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her. Luke 1:45

So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in Heaven which we have not yet seen.  The troubles will soon be over; the joys to come will last forever.  2 Corinthians 4:18

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.  Psalm 55:22

Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart.  For consider what great things He has done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24

When Things Can’t Be Fixed

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Life is full of broken moments, broken things and broken hearts…..

As a daughter…

Upon getting older in life, we realize life really does come full circle.  As children, our parents  care for us when we can’t take care of ourselves.  As we then become adults, we end up taking care of our parents and watch them return to that child-like dependence that we once had for them. Walking along side of them as they go through the transitions of old age including sickness, loss of strength, loss of memory, loss of mobility, and eventually, the  loss of their beautiful lives, is a pain that is in a category all of it’s own.  There is nothing that can prepare you for these difficult and heartbreaking seasons and years.  It can seem unbearable, at times.  I never knew my heart could hurt so much, It really is true that you wake up the next day after such loss and wrestle with the morning itself….after-all, you feel that the sun should not be rising, that life should not be going on without them. It just feels wrong.  It cuts to the very core of a child witnessing the deep emptiness of death itself.   I so remember feeling like an orphan after losing both of mine. I did not anticipate that, but nevertheless, it was something that I had to process and work through.  Maybe you can relate.

As a wife…

When our marriages are on the brink of destruction we pray like nobody’s business.  We plead for God to fix it.  We invade heaven asking for Divine intervention.  After-all, we want our happily-ever-after! It is what we dreamed about as a little girl in pig tails watching Cinderella.   We anticipated the day when our own Prince would come and rescue us and forever love us and in return, we would fully and devotedly love them and write our own “happily-ever-after’ story!  That’s just how it was supposed to be, at least that is what Disney wanted us to believe!  But then, real life happens.   We are left feeling short-changed.  We marry but we find out that it is hard and even heartbreaking at times.  Some struggles challenge the marriage and only propel the relationship to be more intimate than ever before.  Some things, however, drive a wedge that can forever separate and destroy.

As a mom…

Walking along side of your kids as they go through painful stuff is heartbreaking. We do everything we can to try to protect them and try as we may, we can’t always keep them from those unintended times when situations are out of our control and our protection is not enough. We are confronted with the harsh reality that just as we can’t protect them from pain, we can’t easily “fix” their broken hearts or protect them from life-altering situations or sickness. There are also those gut wrenching moments when your child may become “that” child…you know, the one that you heard about that got in trouble with the law and you swore your child would never, ever do such a thing? Then there are those courageous moms who have experienced the excruciating pain of losing a child. There are no words that can describe the pain. This is life. It’s hard, It’s humbling.  It’s full of unwanted devastation as we get the front row seat that demands us to experience the heartbreaking moments of being a mom who loves so deeply. Yet, whether we are moms by birth, spiritual moms, moms by adoption, grand-moms, we would choose it all over again!

As a child of God…

There are experiences in our own lives that take us by surprise and knock us off our feet. Unanswered prayers, broken hearts, pain, sickness, loss, and yet we know from scripture that we WILL have trouble.  The “why me?” questions force us to examine our true motives for being a Christ follower. Is it more about our relationship with Him or about what He can give us beyond the greatest gift of our salvation? If we are not careful, our expectations can turn selfish over time.  We get mad at God and blame Him as if we should be able to dictate our own lives with the avoidance of pain and suffering. Being a follower of Christ does not exempt us from the tough stuff.  Jesus told  us in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” There is no where in the bible that ever promises a life without difficulties this side of heaven.

SO what do we do with our brokenness, disappointments,  loss and those things that can’t be fixed?  How do we carry on when the pain goes so deep?

Here is what I have found….there are days when darkness seems to win; when fear bullies faith right out the door, when facing another day takes all the courage and bravery we can muster.  There are moments when desperate and broken hearts wonder if their dreams of the “happily ever after” are but, forever gone. So is life. I get it! However, there is an underlying component that brings a powerful flip-side to each and every agonizing heart.   It’s the God-factor! Because of our “BUT GOD” that follows and pursues us on this journey, we are never, EVER without hope, even in the most dire circumstances.

Friend, what if we spent LESS time focusing on our difficulties and MORE time looking to Jesus and capturing the precious blessings He provides in the midst of our mess! Not easy, I know. BUT it’s the most productive, powerful and peaceful option! I promise, you WILL see Him  in the worst of circumstances if you can but change your focus! He IS with you! He IS walking you through to bring you out!  Can I just say that faith challenged is a faith that is growing as opposed to faith that is comfortable and stagnant?  Comfortable faith brings us to lukewarmness and even a subtle move towards self-reliance which leads to pride and compromise…ugh!  We don’t like to admit it, but our flesh is so prone to wonder when we don’t feel a “need” for Jesus or when things are going great.   True story!

You may very well be thrown into the fiery furnace of difficulty, loss, divorce, or chronic illness.  You may find yourself in the lion’s den with fierce situations and roaring opposition!  You or someone you love may be going through the dark valley of loving a prodigal child.  You may stumble upon Red Sea moments that stop you in your tracks,  BUT God.  He comes.  HE rescues.  HE delivers.  HE protects.  HE heals.  HE comforts. HE speaks “peace be still” as the storms rage around us.  Throughout these turbulent seasons, we are reminded  that God does and will do what we can’t as we painfully SURRENDER our hearts and the hearts of those we love to Him, fully TRUSTING HIM for the outcome.  It’s called grace! And God has an abundance of it precisely stored up just for YOU and for me! We will find that in His perfect timing, His purpose will outshine the pain and that He will use the very pain we tried to pray away to transform us and others into the beloved children He created us to be!

Friend, because we know Him as our Lord and Savior,  we can say with stubborn resolve and unshakable courage “I am blessed!”  What a testimony for the Glory of God! As God’s very own beloved daughters, we have this ANCHOR that keeps us steady no matter the strength of the winds that threaten to destroy us or the devastation and loss that surrounds us.  Sister, our “happily ever after” WILL come because our future is secure in Jesus! Our hope goes way beyond the here and now! When all is said and done, we WIN because Jesus has already won this battle for us!! Can I challenge you to start focusing on and proclaiming out loud how very “blessed” you really are!?  That is TRUTH that no circumstance, devil, or person can take away! LIVE blessed, THINK blessed! It is YOUR inheritance! Receive it today and everyday with abundant JOY and know that the best is yet to come!

Jeremiah 17:7 But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.

Hebrews 12:1-2 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.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Revelation 21:3-4  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

How Will They Know?

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Deuteronomy 32:3

I will PROCLAIM the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God!

If you have known the Lord for anytime at all, you have, no doubt, experienced the greatness of our God.    Since the day of your salvation, God has been writing your story.  A story FULL of His divine, amazing grace.  What has God done since that day?   What storms has He calmed?  What wounds has He healed?  Are you proclaiming His greatness? Somebody needs to hear about the faithfulness of your God….somebody this very minute needs hope.

Think about it……….

How will the mom who has lost her precious baby know that He is the God of all comfort?

How will the wife whose husband left after many years of marriage know that He is the God that will never leave her nor forsake her?

How will the man who is bound by addiction find out that He is the God of deliverance and freedom?

How will the couple on the brink of divorce find out that He is the God of restoration and redemption?

How will the parents who are utterly devastated by the choices their child is making find the strength and courage to continue to pray and believe for divine intervention?

How will the woman who has just went through the brokenness of divorce find that her identity is not defined by her marital status but in who Christ says she is?

How will the man who feels he is at the end of his rope find hope and hear about Jesus dying on the cross for his salvation?

How will the lady who has just been diagnosed with cancer find faith to believe that Jesus is her healer?

How will the woman who aborted her baby and is now consumed with regret and shame find out the He is the God of abundant mercy and love?

How will the father who has lived a life of regrets and shame find out that He is the God of forgiveness and new beginnings?

How will the girl who feels she can never measure up and therefore, wants to give up, find that she is fearfully and wonderfully made…created by God who loves her completely and unconditionally?

I could go on and on with regards to life and the gut-wrenching things that people face day in and day out.  Life is hard! This world needs HOPE.  This world needs you to share the HOPE that has brought you through! 

Jesus walks with us through the wilderness of pain, loss, rejection, and brokenness not only to transform us into His likeness and to heal us but so that others can be transformed and healed, as well.

Here is what I have found to be true.  Broken people can confide in a Pastor for prayer and wisdom, which is very beneficial and recommended.  They can go to a Godly, licensed counselor to help facilitate healing and wholeness, which is absolutely wise and proactive.  They can share their pain with a friend which will bring great comfort to their hurting heart. But there is nothing like hearing God’s story of redemption and hope from someone who KNOWS what it is like to go through what you are experiencing. 

I understand this first hand.   The years of betrayal leading up to my divorce left my heart broken and full of loneliness and even shame, at times. For so long, within my close circle of friends, there was no one who had experienced what I was going through. Though they were so very kind and gracious, they couldn’t really understand my pain. When God finally brought someone into my life who had been where I was and was willing to share her own story, I found hope like I hadn’t had before.  I devoured every word she had to say….I knew she understood me.  The LIES that the enemy had been shouting to my wounded heart were exposed.  I wasn’t the only ONE who ever faced this.  I was NOT alone.  My feelings were NOT crazy!  God was STILL with me!  Truth  brought some bright hope to my darkness that day  because one dear sister was willing to be transparent about her past and God was glorified.

Dear friend, our painful and messy lives can be used to proclaim God’s powerful message to the hurting!

Part of me wants to passionately ask…how can we NOT tell them? How can we not tell about how God gave us hope when we had none? How He saved, healed, redeemed, restored and delivered?  How can we possibly keep silent when God has been so abundantly gracious to us?  

Lord, thank You for Your amazing and precise grace that has saved us and brought us victoriously through our most darkest and unwanted seasons.  May we boldly proclaim your goodness!  Help us to bravely allow our struggles, brokenness, and pain to be used to bring GLORY and HONOR to your name.  Amen!!

2 Corinthians 1:4  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

 

 

He Gets Me!

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The Lord is good, a Strength and Stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows (recognizes, has knowledge of, and understands) those who take refuge and trust in Him.  Nahum 1:7

I am so very grateful that God gets me.  He understands me.  Lately, I have found great comfort in knowing this.  Not to justify or make excuses for my messiness but to find the grace and strength to expect change.  I can’t do it without Him, nor do I have to! Thank you, Jesus!  He knows why I am the way I am.  He has witnessed my brokenness.  He understands my insecurities. He understands why I am so messy! A toxic marriage and now divorce have left their ugly marks and I sometimes get frustrated with the depth of those marks. Ugh!  I am good at justifying and downplaying red flags.  I question my own intuition.  I struggle with insecurities.   I sometimes carry the burden and responsibility of the choices and consequences of other’s upon myself.   Please tell me I am not the only one? Oh, and there is more…Ha! The truth is, we can get upset and frustrated about our own weaknesses and struggles OR we can thank God that we recognize them and allow Him to turn our weaknesses into strengths that will glorify and honor him.

Transformation is more often than not, an intense and long process.  Unfortunately, short cuts cannot be taken. Old mind sets can take a while to rewire.  It takes work. It takes discipline. It takes a whole lot of grace.  However, we need not allow our struggles define us.  We have a loving Father who patiently and kindly reveals, heals, and makes new.  He is so eminently patient with us and FULL of grace.   He WILL complete the good work he started in you and in me.  He loves each of us way too much to allow stinkin’ thinking and past survivor- mode- mindsets to continue to hold us hostage.   He wants us free and He will not relent until that happens.

Today, I choose to surrender wholly to Him all my inconsistencies, all my insecurities, all my stinkin’ thinkin’, all my fears and all of my messiness.  The truth is, life will continue to have its messiness in one way or another, which means more messiness in me to work through, ha! Therefore, this will, by no means, be a one time event, but an ongoing need throughout this journey.  AND that’s okay because as long as you and I continue to surrender and replace lies with Truth,  the devil can’t win and we are truly made MORE than conquerors through our Savior who love us! Amen!?

How about you? Aren’t you glad that God gets YOU? You don’t have to invite discouragement to be your companion because you are still struggling to overcome.   The Lord understands.  Let me remind you that He has walked with you through your most darkest seasons.  He has witnessed all that your heart has gone through.  He has seen the well of tears that you have cried when nobody was looking.  He is fully aware of your knee jerk reactions to certain situations because of your past.  He knows that you want to be free and the good news is… He reveals only to heal, sweet sister!   He is the Master Potter who re-forms, re-shapes and chisels away those unwanted rough and sharp edges that are placed in His hands of mercy.  As the scripture says, “The Lord is good, a Strength and Stronghold in the day of trouble…”  Think about that! He is GOOD! He is your STRENGTH and He is your STRONGHOLD in the midst or your troubled heart.  “He knows (recognizes, has knowledge of, and understands) those who take refuge and trust in Him.”  Rest in that, my dear sister knowing that you are understood and that your God GETS you and even MORE profound than that is that He’s GOT you! Friend, remain on the Potter’s wheel and your beauty will shine forth as you encounter your happily-even-after days ahead! Believe it!

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:  “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.  Jeremiah 18:1-4

What Divorce has Taught me About Life and the Hard Stuff

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I thought I knew a few things about God, life, myself and relationships pre-divorce… ha!! Needless to say, I knew so very little.  It is interesting how going through the wilderness seasons can be so full of difficulties and yet it is during those times that we learn and grow the most.

Just a warning, this is a long post. I am breaking the “blogger’s 101 rules for success”…but I am okay with that!  Believe me, there is more I could write on this subject so there may be a part 2 at a later time.

Please understand that journaling is heart therapy for me and because I am choosing to live #fearless in 2018, I am sharing!  Everyone’s journey through divorce is different so not everyone will be able to relate to everything that I mention.  However, just maybe there is at least one nugget that may help you in your own life if you find yourself in this place.  If divorce is not a part of your story, maybe this will help you in understanding some of the thoughts and struggles that divorce brings to the heart and mind of someone you may love and care about.

The following is the result of things said to me, things I had to learn the hard way, things that God showed me, things that helped me, things that I struggled with and things that I felt needed to be said. New things will be added later as I am still on this journey.  Please don’t judge me or anyone else who is walking down this road.  Nobody approaches their wedding day thinking or wanting this to be a part of their story! It is so messy, so hard, and so crazy difficult!

First of all, you CAN be divorced AND love Jesus!  You CAN have God’s favor and blessing over your life unlike what some may have told you!  You are NOT a heathen.  You have not been ousted from God’s grace and love. Yes, I had to say it! Now we can move on…ha!

Divorce is life-changing not life-ending!  Your marriage may have died but you are still here! Believe Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11.  The Word of God STILL applies to you!  God’s promises for you have not changed!

Letting go of your toxic marriage is NOT giving up on God NOR your faith.  There are times when it takes MORE faith and courage to let go than to hang on.  KNOW the difference.  I believed that lie for way longer than I care to admit to.  Our Father God is so gracious toward His broken daughters!

There are many losses that divorce demands.  The loss of  your dreams, your family unit, some friends, your extended family,  your “wife” and “Mrs.” status, your plans of growing old together, celebrating 50 years together, sharing grand-babies together and on and on. It is good heart therapy to make a list of your losses and take time to grieve over each one.  It is a process.  Embrace this season and the pain you are feeling.  Don’t deny it or try to hide it so that you can get THROUGH it!

Need some joy?  Let God use you in the midst of your own brokenness! Yep, it is possible!  Sister, you have NOT been put on a shelf! You are not deemed unusable for the Kingdom of God.  That is a lie from the enemy!  I understand that you may need to take a break from some ministry commitments for a season, and understandably so.  However, being overly self-absorbed for a lengthy period of time is not at all beneficial.   Take some time to reach out or simply make yourself  available to encourage a hurting sister.   Not only will it bring you joy to do so, but it might just help with your own healing!

You will be judged.  That’s okay!  Not everyone will understand because not everyone knows the details of your story…AND not everyone needs to know.  The Lord will reveal truth in His timing to those who need to know, the rest… let go!

Guard your heart! You are vulnerable!  Give yourself time to heal.  Give your kids time to heal.  Do NOT rush into another relationship! Make peace with who you are and embrace your singleness. Wait until you can confidently say and know that you are going to be okay with or without being in another relationship.  Ask your Godly mentors and friends if they think you are ready to date.  USE wisdom! Don’t be needy thinking you HAVE to have another man in your life…sister, you don’t!  Under these circumstances, desperation invites devastation! Seek God’s will for YOU!! HE knows what you need! Deal with your stuff…your mess, as much as possible so that you are not a target for another toxic person to come along and bring MORE messiness to your life.  Remember, your choices effect all those in your sphere of influence, especially your children….choose wisely!

The big “D” label it feels you are wearing on your forehead does not exist.  You are not an outcast as though you have the plague. Hold your head up! You are the beloved daughter of God Almighty! Walk like it, talk like it, and act like it!

Find your tribe! You will need prayer warriors who will go to battle for you and your kids on a consistent basis.  You will need those surrounding you who will speak God’s truths to you to combat the lies that the enemy wants you to believe.  You will need mentors, counselors and/or pastors who will come along side of you giving you encouragement and much needed support, wisdom and even rebuke. This is so very important!  Seek them out! Pray about who God wants to use in your life that will have your best interest at heart along with Godly wisdom.  There will be days when you will be in a brain fog, numb, and unable to even pray, but these precious God-sent people will fill in the gaps and lock shields in prayer on your behalf.  DO not for one second underestimate the power of your inner circle and those who you are allowing to speak into your life!

The enemy is your accuser, not God!  You are a child of God.  Your marital status does NOT define you, only God does!

Do NOT use your kids to hurt or get back at your ex.  Do NOT try to get them on your “side” by slandering and speaking negatively about your ex!  Do NOT post degrading and ugly things on social media about your ex!  Your children don’t miss a thing! They are watching! They are listening! Let God be your defender. Let God reveal truth. Do NOT bring more messiness to their broken hearts by taking part in this type of yuck!  Love your kids MORE than yourself and your need for revenge! (Leave the revenge part in God’s hands! Take the high road  always! Read and study Psalm 37) Look out for their best interests! Keeping your mouth shut is the best policy.  If they ask questions, speak truth as God leads but stick with the facts. Don’t bring your emotions into it.  This is not easy but the most beneficial and God honoring, heart-protecting thing you can do.

Some relationship dynamics will change.  Don’t be upset with the friends who do not send you invites any longer.  Show grace.  After all, it’s awkward.  Things ARE different.  Just maybe they do not know what to do with you so they just don’t invite you.  They don’t want to hurt your feelings when all the couples show up and then there is you.  Maybe they think they are protecting you.  Again, show grace, live in grace, and do NOT let offense take root in your heart.  You have enough messiness to deal with, don’t add to it!  God knows the close circle of friends that you need surrounding you.  Be thankful for them and don’t get bogged down with those who are choosing to love you at a distance, it’s okay!

Live. One. Day. At. A. Time. Seriously, I HAD to live this way on my darkest days.  I could not fathom my tomorrows and how things were going to turn out with all the craziness that never seemed to end.  Friend, God will give you grace for THIS day.  AND when tomorrow comes He will give you sufficient grace for THAT day.  He tells us to NOT worry about tomorrow.  Be obedient to His word. Trust Him with ALL of your heart. AND at the end of the day do it all again the next day! HE is faithful!

There are times when you will want to hide from the world and go into seclusion. This is okay in small amounts but if you find yourself in a pity party in which you can’t seem to find the exit door, force yourself to reach out to a friend or mentor.  You were not created to live life without community.   Recognize that caving into seclusion is a tactic by the enemy to destroy you.  Don’t let him.  YOU have a choice to make….choose wisely and don’t ignore that text from a friend or that phone call.  It just may be God’s life line and blessing towards you…receive it!

If your ex is toxic (and maybe even if he is not), cut off all ties except for what is absolutely necessary (due to children).  Looking at his posts on social media will keep you bound and hold you back from moving forward.  I did this. I looked. I watched. I checked it often. AND guess what?  It was NOT at all beneficial to me or my healing, it was just the opposite.  I ugly cried, I battled with the “that’s not fair” scenarios, I got angry, I had to forgive over and over again, I lived in fear.  I wanted to defend myself (thankfully, I didn’t! Always choose the high road!!!)….it broke me time and time again.  Everyone kept telling me to stop but I found it so difficult to do.  Thankfully, God’s mercy saw to it that it was stopped by His intervention and I am SO thankful! Guess what it did for me? FREEDOM! That’s right! Wow! I did not even realize how very much it was affecting me until it was stopped.  I walked a little more upright  without that heavy burden of accusations and negativity that I was allowing to keep me bound.  I moved forward in ways that I hadn’t before.  It may be hard to do but once you break that need to “see” and “know” you will find freedom that is so lovely, I promise! LET it go!!!  Just do it already!

It’s okay to not be okay!  You will experience some of the same emotions as if someone you loved had died.  You may be sad, angry, depressed, lonely, and downright heartbroken… you are normal! You are grieving the death of your marriage. It’s a process.  You are not crazy! AND just when you think you have got your footing, it starts all over again.  That just means you loved deeply and there is no fault in that!  Jesus’ promise to you is that He is with you…He is close to you in your brokenness!  You are NOT alone!  Psalm 27:18 declares it!

This could very well be the time that you have to be braver than you have ever been! You may have to stand up for what you believe is right! Let God empower your backbone! Fight for righteousness, fight for what’s in the best interest of your kids, speak the truth and don’t cower in the face of opposition.  You will be surprised at the inner strength and courage Gods give you….it’s a beautiful thing, really! “Jesus makes me brave” became the words I spoke over myself SO many times! AND He DID it!  I did things I felt so incapable of doing because of Jesus in me! He is the difference maker AND game changer in any and all things that we will face in this life! We are blessed! If God is for you, who can be against you? Romans 8:31

Just to re-emphasize…..You may have lost your partner in life but recognize that you are not alone, not ever.  God is your partner, He will help you and fill in the gaps. He will help you as a single mom, as well! It’s you and Jesus and He will not fail you!

A few final thoughts…

Friend, you are going to be okay! Jesus came for broken girls just like you and me. His Word tells us that He came to bind up the broken-hearted (Isaiah 61:3).  He is the God of new beginnings and fresh starts.  He forgives, heals, redeems and makes new!! I understand that this is not the life you had planned. It stinks. It hurts. It’s devastating. However, this is NOT the end of your story! There are chapters still to be written! The Lord’s GOOD plans for you are STILL good and have not changed just because your marital status changed.  What you are going through right now is only for a season.  It will not always be this hard or hurt this deeply! I promise! I understand that may be difficult to imagine right now.  However, I am confident that you will look back one day and be amazed at what you gleaned and the beauty that emerged from this time of broken holy dependence upon God…..from one broken sister to another, that is TRUTH, my friend! Our God is faithful, Believe it!

 

Everything

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HIS Divine POWER has given us EVERYTHING we NEED for life and Godliness through our knowledge of HIM….2 Peter 1:3

EVERYTHING means EVERYTHING…

When our hearts feel overwhelmed  
When we’ve been hurt
When we need strength
When we need courage
When we need wisdom
When we mess up
When we need peace
When our marriage is failing
When our kids are straying
When our health is declining
When we feel alone
When we feel overlooked
When we don’t understand

Friend, can I just encourage YOU today?  Can I speak into your life as if we were sitting across from each other at the local coffee shop and you have transparently just shared with me your greatest fears and your anxious thoughts?  As your sister in Christ, I feel compelled to be a voice in your life this very moment to dispel the lies that the enemy is using to hold your emotions captive.

No matter what you are thinking regarding your specific situation, know this;  As daughters of ALMIGHTY God, we have been divinely equipped for LIFE… in all of it’s messes, pain and uncertainties, struggles and adversities! Go back and read the above scripture! We aren’t just equipped to handle such things but armed with all that we need to respond with bold faith and unwavering tenacity.  Just maybe what you need is a change in perspective? If your faith is wavering, maybe you need to sit at the feet of Jesus and allow His wisdom and knowledge to be poured into you and the way you perceive your situation. So, When was the last time you have allowed God’s Word (His knowledge) to feed your spirit? When was the last time you hit the carpet in surrender and worship and turned your focus onto your Savior?

Sister, you and I have been given ALL that we need at ALL times to be brave and courageous through our knowledge of Him! This is NOT some pie in the sky positive way of thinking…this is Truth to live by. Truth from God Himself, straight from His heart to yours!

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  Romans 15:4

The Word of God is what brings hope and encouragement to our wrestling souls. You may not FEEL like you are equipped but what does God say? What is the truth? More importantly, what will you choose to believe?

We CAN respond with wisdom, strength, endurance and God-confidence.  Not because we have those things in and of ourselves, but because the same power the raised Jesus from death lives on the inside of us!

We can embrace our now moments with hope and stubborn faith that allows us to shine and rise above our unwanted circumstances and bring glory and honor to God.

When you feel weak and the devil is screaming in your ear that you can’t make it, remember what God has spoken!  Replace lies with God’s Truths!

I am not sharing this with you as some wishful thinking, fluff  or “christianeese”…..but from a messy girl who has had to walk out these truths for herself to survive. AND I can honestly tell you that I am so very thankful for those desperate moments that beckoned my heart to hit the carpet time and time again.  Not for the circumstances themselves, of course, but for the desperation in my heart that landed me at the feet of Jesus.  There is nothing that will empower you more than the presence of God…nothing!  I still struggle and I still have my many anxious moments but I KNOW what to do.  I know who to turn to.  My flesh is not always quick to do it, I will admit, but I am learning and surrendering more often than not these days! Thank you, Jesus!  I remember the enemy’s accusations so clearly.  Time and time again I heard his lies and many times I allowed him to reek havoc on my mind and emotions.  All peace was gone and I was left struggling and feeling defeated until I chose to hit the carpet in trust and surrender to my Savior.  Those are such precious, holy moments! With my faith arising, I knew in my spirit that I could NOT give into the enemies accusations.  My God, my family and even my own life depended on it! Remember the promise that when we are weak, HE is strong?  Sister, that is truth!  You can do, accomplish, and walk through things you never imagined! God abundantly pours out His precise and sufficient grace for every situation you will ever encounter.  As I look back and reflect on my most difficult seasons I am amazed by my God.  He empowered me to do things I could NOT have done otherwise and He WILL do the same for you as YOU choose to trust Him!

So let me ask, what is it that you need this very moment? Lean upon Jesus, let Him speak to you and empower you through His Word…you will find what your beautiful soul needs in the very pages of His love letter written just for you! Read it, believe it and trust HIM knowing that you have been well equipped for “this” whatever your “this” is! You go girl!

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.  Hebrews 13:20-21

Perfect Timing

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It was a dreaded and difficult day as I sat across the table from my oldest children at a local restaurant and shared the devastating news to them that would forever change our family dynamics.  I hated it.  It was the first conversation of several that I never wanted to have.  We do all we can to protect our kids from such things but sometimes our efforts are just not good enough.  I tried to come across strong and full of God confidence but inside I felt as though I had failed them as a mom and I was a broken mess.

Subsequently, just a few short days later, I found myself sitting across the table at our favorite coffee shop with my daughter and her husband as they excitedly announced that they were expecting their first sweet bundle of joy and for me, my second precious grand-baby.  Wow!  Talk about the gamut of emotions not only that I was experiencing but my daughter and our whole family, as well.  I was elated and filled with happy tears and yet the truth of our current circumstances quickly and unfairly tried to deplete and overshadow our sweet blessing.

Isn’t life like that?  One moment is painful, difficult and unwanted and the next is full of eager anticipation and downright excitement!  God created us as really amazing beings to be able to emotionally and physically handle the wide chasm of heart-changing, heart-breaking, and heart-warming circumstances that are inevitability, a part of our story.  How do we keep our footing?  How do we balance it all and keep moving forward?

In my mind, life certainly did not seem fair in those moments, especially for my daughter.  My heart broke as I tried to imagine what she was going through at the painful news of her mom and dad’s pending divorce intertwined with the thrilling news of expecting her first precious baby.  Loss and new life certainly makes for a bittersweet bag of emotions! Even though there was a side of this momma bear’s heart that roared and questioned God’s timing, there was an anchor of hope that held steady.  Yes, our family was broken and on the cusp of entering a season of questions, change, pain, and loss,  BUT GOD.  There was a fierce battle raging in my soul for my children, but God’s amazing grace came to my rescue and silenced the voice of the enemy.  He so sweetly reminded me that His timing is always perfect….even at that very moment when our world seemed to be crumbling before our very eyes. Even in the midst of our broken hearts.  He was giving us a precious blessing that ignited JOY and lit up the darkness which hovered heavily overhead.  Yes, this indeed was HIS perfect timing and HIS perfect grace cascading over us.  A precious and welcomed diversion from the hard and burdensome days that lie ahead.  My anxious thoughts were put to rest as I embraced God’s timing knowing that He divinely ordained ALL of what was happening.  His precise grace would cover and protect my daughter as he equipped her with inner strength and bravery to embrace this painful season of change AND precious season of pregnancy. New life and new beginnings were being birthed in more ways than I could comprehend.  My children WERE going to be okay and our family WOULD overcome this difficult season of divorce, in spite of what the enemy was whispering in my ear.

SO it is with you, sweet sister! Whatever losses or uninvited and unexpected predicament you find yourself in, God knows. AND not only is He aware but He is working His purposes in the midst of your messiness!  Yes, there may be loss and pain that you never saw coming but God has been preparing you for this day.  He is not at all surprised at what you are facing! If you will allow yourself, you will see HIM.  He WILL reveal Himself to YOU! He WILL bring blessings that will bring light to the darkness that surrounds you.  What may seem as horrible timing is God’s perfect timing.  You may very well have tears because of your pain but God will provide blessings that will bring you tears of JOY!  Embrace them! It really is possible to experience both! He wants you to know that HE is with you in the mess, in the loss, in the brokenness! You are so loved by Him! Your future is secure in Christ! YOU have this anchor of hope to keep you steady in the midst of the unwanted seasons. There is beauty arising from the ashes. Believe it, my friend!

Let me tell you the rest of the story….the beauty and blessing is that God gave our family this precious baby girl but there is a much bigger picture of grace in how God divinely orchestrated it all.   You see, my first birthday following my separation and pending divorce, was the very day she was born.  For most people who have gone through the arduous season of divorce, every first holiday following is painful, just as when someone you love has passed away.  However, God in His extravagant mercy gave me a precious gift and a MORE extraordinary reason to celebrate than I had to grieve.  AND, this was not just any birthday, it was my 50th birthday.  Coincidence? Absolutely not! God’s timing is perfect and significant, always! Now, year after year, on my birthday AND hers, I am humbly and delightedly reminded of God’s abundant faithfulness and amazing grace in the middle of our mess.  I have much to celebrate, year after year….because I will remember!  That is how our God works, that is who He is and this messy momma and blessed Mimi will forever be thankful!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven, a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance... Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.  Psalm 126:3

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

Believe!

Sister, do you desire righteousness to be credited to you as it was with Abraham?

Can I encourage you for a moment?  Today and everyday choose to BELIEVE God’s Word in spite of how you feel or what is coming against you.  Respond to life with belief in God’s promises as your anchor.  This means that no matter what you see before you, what unforeseen or unintended circumstance is staring you in the face, no matter what has broken your heart, you will BELIEVE God and walk in confidence knowing that He is the ultimate promise keeper!  I KNOW this is NOT easy but GROWTH never is! Be brave and do it any way and experience the peace and faithfulness of our God!

Will you be a woman of FAITH and COURAGE and pray this prayer with me?

Lord, Help me to continually BELIEVE as Abraham believed and GROW strong and be empowered by FAITH as I praise and give glory to YOU!  May I be fully satisfied and assured that YOU ARE ABLE to keep your Word and to do what you have promised. Lord, help me to embrace these growing pains as I surrender my mess and tenaciously choose to BELIEVE your Word above all!!!

Romans 4:20-24

No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God, fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised.  That is why his faith was credited to him as righteousness (right standing with God).  But the words, it was credited to him were written not for his sake alone, but they were written for our sakes too.  Righteousness will be granted and credited to us also who believe in (trust in, adhere to, and rely on) God, Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.