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

Trusting and Waiting

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It happened several years ago, one August morning. In some ways it seems like forever ago.  Yet, I still remember it so vividly.  I was awakened from a deep sleep with the following scripture on my heart.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:3-5

I would love to sound all spiritual and say this was a normal occurrence in my life.  However, being awakened with a Word from God just pouring into my spirit wasn’t something that I was used to.  It is for that very reason that I knew this was special and I needed to pay attention. Of course, I didn’t understand it then but it was soon to be my life-line for the most difficult season I had ever encountered.

You see, a few years before that memorable August morning, something had gone way south in my marriage. It had happened many times before but this time was different. I knew it. Sure, our marriage had been extremely difficult over the years and there was much brokenness and betrayal throughout but I believed that we had finally progressed beyond all of that.  I so longed for the testimony that we had previously shared with our church family,  to continue to be the testimony of our tomorrows.  I knew God was able! Even though my gut persistently screamed at me and I saw the red flags waving, I didn’t want to give significance to any of it.  I wanted to believe that I was just being paranoid and overly sensitive.  But deep in my core, I knew.

My consistent and gut wrenching prayers became more desperate as time went on.  I asked God to bring light to the darkness, for Him to reveal what I felt like I already knew.   I begged Him and pleaded with him time and time again.   Consequently, there was no big reveal, no explanation, no tangible evidence, nothing! However, God was not totally silent. Thankfully, He gave me an anchor to hold onto.  The word “faithful” was graciously dropped in my spirit.  What did that mean?  I knew.  God was calling me to be faithful in the midst of the not knowing, the brokenness and the pain. He was asking me to simply trust Him and wait.  I had to be faithful…as a wife, as a mom, as a daughter of God and in God’s timing, He would bring truth to light and reveal His wisdom.  I could not let my feelings dictate my actions.  I could not run, I could not give up.  I had to continue right where I was, doing what I knew to do in that season of waiting.  It was a daily battle.  I prayed and surrendered my concerns, fears, frustrations, anger and pain to Jesus as I had so many times before.  However, things seemed to only get worse.  I cried and grieved a lot during that time and to say a lot is not an exaggeration. I think I knew in my heart what was coming and it broke me.  I had dear friends who tried to intervene but, unfortunately,  their kind efforts were unfruitful.

Looking back, I am beyond grateful that I was given the gift of divine space to begin the grieving process while still within the boundaries of marriage. I think I can compare it to a loved one being taken care of by Hospice at the end of this life. You know the end is coming and God, in His amazing love and grace, begins to prepare your heart to let go. I have no words to describe the difficulty of that season. It truly was like a slow death.

In the short years that followed, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and I was his care-giver.  He lived in my home  before he entered his heavenly home. I will not go into the added chaos and brokenness this brought into my life but it was very much a distraction from the sinking feeling that my world was about to be forever changed in more ways than I could comprehend.  Looking back now, the Lord was so very gracious.  He cares so very much about our burdens and brokenness. He knew this broken girl could only handle one huge life changing thing at a time.  It was not until about seven months after my dad had passed away that some truths were finally revealed. Subsequently, a month or two after I had awakened with the scripture I mentioned earlier. God’s timing is always perfect!  His ways are so much higher than our own!  Though my heart was broken in more pieces than I could count, I praised my God! I distinctly remember falling to me knees at that precise moment…it was bittersweet.   I thanked Him for finally bringing to light what I needed to know, even though it hurt so deeply.   It was then that I knew it was time. When you know, you just know.  I was rescued. I was released.

I used to always wonder how couples who had been married for 30 years could end up getting a divorce.  It seemed totally crazy to me. After-all, if you made it that far, you should be able to ride it out for the long haul, right?  Well, now I get it.  There comes a time when you finally say, enough is enough. I can’t do this any longer.  I need peace. I need to take the short years I have left and live them to the fullest even if it means living them alone.  It is not the life we would have chosen but that is how things sometimes turn out this side of heaven.

It has been nearly three years since I made that decision,  I dealt with two deaths in a short amount of time, the death of my father and the death of my marriage.  The death of my father was so very hard..but the death of my marriage and the challenges that have followed have proven to be the most challenging and painful season I have EVER walked through. Even though the struggles were overwhelming at times, I know my God rescued me.  Yes, God ordained marriage, Yes, God hates divorce! However, I know He loves His daughters MORE than He hates divorce.   I do not for one second condone divorce.  It is ugly.  It is hurtful.  It is devastating.  It affects SO many people. It is not how it was supposed to be.  I would NOT encourage any sister of mine to walk this path without first seeking wise Godly counsel and WAITING for God to reveal His guidance.  Waiting is a key factor.  You cannot make this decision based on your hurt and brokenness.  Emotional decisions are not wise.  You have to give yourself time to work through some of your brokenness before making such a life-altering decision…this applies to every area of our life!

I am 100% FOR marriage!  I am 100% for commitment and staying for the duration.  I am also 100% convinced that when you have done all you can do… the braver, more courageous choice is to let go and let God lead you out.  After 30 years, it was scary, it was stepping out of the boat of “I can’t do this” and taking hold of Jesus, trusting Him to keep me and my children from sinking.  It was like having a somewhat twisted, toxic and unhealthy security being pulled out from under us.

So why am I writing all this? Because somebody needs to hear it.  I used to think that going through a divorce was the worst thing that could ever happen, so I adamantly avoided it at all costs.  Friend, I can confidently say with humble thankfulness, that what seems like the worst thing that could ever happen is NOT the worst thing because we serve a faithful God! He  walks with us through the yuck and the messy and helps us to be braver and more courageous than we ever thought we could.

The morning when I woke up with Proverbs 3:3-5 on my heart was a divine father-daughter moment in which I will never forget.  Of course I did not understand the significance of it then but now, wow!!  He wanted me to know that I could trust Him through the unwanted, challenging and downright messy season I was about to enter into.  He was going to be with me… leading, guiding, protecting, and upholding me and my children and though I would not understand it all, I could still trust Him.  He would make me brave.  He would give me courage to face what was coming.

Throughout this journey, I was reminded of that scripture  time and time again.  I prayed it, repeated it, cried through it and stubbornly held onto it when my feelings told me otherwise and my God never failed me.

AND so it it with you, dear sister!  Our God can be trusted!  I have heard it said, “You don’t really know what trust is until you have to trust!” That is so true!  I can tell you, at your point of desperation, God is there.  He is with you.   He is writing your story and His grace and mercy are weaved all through it bringing beauty from what may have appeared to be something that you could not fathom having to endure.

Sweet sister. NO matter what your scary thing is, God is bigger! Though you may experience pain like you never have before, you will also experience God’s amazing grace like never before. He is such a loving Father.  So what is it? What scary thing is the enemy using to torment you with by whispering “you can’t do it, you can’t make it, you’re not good enough, God can’t use you, you’re too messed up, you are not smart enough”, etc? Stop listening to THAT voice and take hold of what God says! Your problems are no match for God’s promises! Be brave and take hold of HIS grace and step onto the waters of obedience and mercy and see what He will do!  

Is it a time of waiting and preparation or is it a time of action and application? 

Whatever season you are in, God’s grace is precise and sufficient for YOU! Trust HIM with ALL of your heart.  God’s plan is so much bigger than what you can think or imagine.   Seek that father-daughter relationship with Him and as you do, you can be CONFIDENT that He will hold you, comfort you, lead you, protect you, provide for you, empower you, bless you, and work ALL things together for your good and for HIS glory!  THAT, my friend is WHO HE IS!  Believe it!

Have not I commanded you? Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

 We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. Romans 8:28

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.  Psalm 27:14

Fake or Faith?

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Recently,  I had a dear friend transparently express to me that she feels like a “fake” many times as a Christian woman.  Yay! Somebody was finally real enough to say it!  I can so relate and just maybe you can, too! Our feelings and flesh are at war against our Spirit. When life is not going as we had hoped, prayed and envisioned the wrestling is fierce. We put on our smiles and our best foot forward in front of the watching world as we battle against anxiety, stress, pain, anger, unbelief or doubt behind closed doors.

I vividly remember that feeling of “fakeness” during countless seasons of feeling betrayed and deceived.   I sucked it up and lived many of my days pushing aside my brokenness in front of the outside world.  I would intentionally put on my mask like makeup as I headed out the door, all the while hearing whispers about how “fake” I was being.   But what I didn’t recognize at the time was that satan wanted to not only destroy my family but the very foundation of who I was as a beloved daughter of God!   How? By accusing  me of being a  “fake” Christian, time and time again.  For a broken girl who wanted nothing more than to serve the Lord and honor Him, those accusations were felt to my core.   The majority of the time while attending church events, girl’s night out, small group meetings, family gatherings, prayer meetings, etc.,  I was there with my smile in tact but inside I was a train-wreck.   The accusations of the enemy left me feeling even MORE defeated.  Since then, I have gained a different perspective.   It reminds me of the verse in 2 Corinthians 2:11 in reference to satan…”For we are not unaware of his schemes.”  This feeling of “fakeness” is no doubt, one of his “schemes” to cause us to lose our footing and faith and give up all together.

Here’s the deal…I believe that when I chose to stubbornly walk in a room with my head held high,  replacing tears with a smile, forcing one foot in front of the other, faith was winning! Sister, that is NOT fakeness!   Did my smile make me fake?  Did my determination to hit the floor each morning in spite of wanting to give up mean that I wasn’t authentic?   All of this wasn’t because I was a “fake” in my walk with Christ, BUT because I HAD faith even though my feelings were all over the place.

It is true that sometimes, okay…many times, we put on our masks.  Let’s just be honest.  We ALL do it! If we all walked around allowing our feelings to dictate our lives, what a messy and ugly world it would be!  Therefore, we wear our masks.  We wear them NOT because we are fake but because we live by faith.  Faith that doesn’t reveal our brokenness but our hope that our lives can be a testimony of God’s faithfulness to those who need it. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about transparency, sharing our stories and by all means, inviting others into our brokenness….but I believe that the enemy tries to discourage us by telling us that we are less than and not authentic in our walk of faith when we choose to put on that smile while feeling as though we are dying inside.

I am extremely proud of my dear friend that I mentioned earlier. Why?  Because her wrestling proves that she is throat punching the devil every time she chooses to continue to serve Jesus even though behind her smile she may be filled with doubts, fears, anger, pain, anxiety and all that other unwanted yuck that life tends to dump on us.

As women of God, we cannot base our life on our feelings. You may feel “fake” but if you are holding onto Jesus and battling those negative emotions by believing His Word, you are anything BUT fake! You are walking out your faith in a way that trumps your feelings! “Faith it till you make it” wins!  The next time the enemy whispers that you’re living a “fake” life, sweet sister remember this;

Your faith is the very reason you can STILL smile even if it is forced for a season and  even if, behind closed doors, your tears cover the carpet.

Your faith is the the very reason You can STILL get up and show up even though you may not “feel” like it and getting out the door takes all the fight you can muster.

Your faith is the very reason You can STILL worship even though it may be the last thing your flesh “wants” to do as the enemy is relentlessly whispering his lies in your ear.

Your faith is the very reason you can STILL serve and minister in spite of the tears and wrestling that no one sees because your faith is not based on your feelings but on choosing to do the right thing, in spite of them.

It is God’s grace that upholds us in the darkness so that we can display His Glory in spite of our fickle and changing feelings and circumstances.  That is living by faith!

Let God lead you, my friend!  There are opportunities that God places before us for the purpose of being real, vulnerable and transparent that is beyond the scope of  our intimate circle. However, there are many more times that you may need to intentionally put on that smile and put on your faith as you walk out the door AND that’s okay!  You are NOT a “fake”!  YOU, my friend. are a daughter of God Almighty who is walking out her faith in a way to bring honor to her Lord! Keep walking, keep shining, keep putting one foot in front of the other and know that one day your faith will become sight!  Faithin’ it and smiling with you, my sister! Faith wins!!

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7

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.”

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