Death AND Goodness in the Land of the Living

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Fretting Allowed

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Psalm 37:3-6

Do not fret because of evildoers,

Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.

For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,

And wither as the green herb.

TRUST in the Lord, and DO GOOD;

DWELL in the land, and FEED on His Faithfulness.

DELIGHT yourself in the Lord,

and HE SHALL GIVE you the desires of your heart.

COMMIT your way to the Lord,

TRUST also in Him,

and HE SHALL BRING IT to pass.

HE SHALL BRING FORTH your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

REST in the Lord, and WAIT patiently for Him;

DO NOT FRET because of him who prospers in his way,

Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;

DO NOT FRET—it only causes harm.

Before I get into these scriptures, I want to preface it by making it clear that the words above have been my anchor and my guide throughout what seemed like a very long and difficult season.  Going through a divorce and the aftermath that goes with it is full of obstacles and challenges.  I have been brought back to these verses time and time again!  In the get go, I embraced solid and loving advice that was given to me ….”Don’t shoot arrows back no matter what! Take the high road and God will take care of everything else.”  Good, Godly wisdom, right?  Well, Psalm 37 shows us what that really looks like.  As I am sure you are aware,  social media can be used as a blessing or a curse and even for ministry or misery.  As Christ followers, no matter who is coming against us, we must be careful what we post and how we respond to the posts of others.  Many are creeping on your Facebook page. Especially when there is drama going on! Many want to see if your actions line up with who you claim to be as a follower of Christ.  I can tell you that as I have chosen to take the high road and put these scriptures into practice I have seen God reveal truth and clothe me with strength and dignity time and time again.  Thank you, Lord!!

Friend, God has made it so very clear as to what we are to do when faced with opposition and it applies to EVERY Christ follower including you and me. Those who say that Christianity is just a crutch obviously don’t get it.   Let them try holding their tongue, to forego the opportunity to seek revenge,  to not be easily offended, to not worry themselves right into a full blown panic attack, to turn the other cheek or to determine to think on good things in the midst of the mess!  It takes a woman of strength and courage to believe God when all hell is breaking lose!  Okay, this rant is over…let’s dive into this scripture.

No matter what your life looks like this very moment, The above scriptures can help you experience abundant joy instead of discouragement, peace instead of chaos, rest instead of panic and calm instead of confusion.  They contain the antidote against anger, revenge and bitterness and even fear.  Yuck, yuck and yuck!!! However, it won’t just happen because you have read them and checked these scriptures off of your daily reading list.  NOR will they help you just because you call yourself a Christian.  There are things YOU have to DO.  You see, my friend, we cannot be lazy disciples of Christ and expect to receive ALL that God has for us.  We cannot be passive and just allow our circumstances or emotions to rule our lives.  We must be intentional.  It is work.  It is hard.  It is warfare.  It is not for the faint of heart.

So why this Psalm of encouragement? Obviously, those David was addressing were really struggling with some of the people that were in their midst, evil-hearted people to be exact.  It seems that these certain people were causing so much alarm in the camp that David decided to step up and say enough is enough! Maybe those he was addressing were wanting to escape their homes and run away in fear because of the evil doers. Maybe they were fretting over things that were being said to discredit their character.  Though we don’t know exactly what their enemies were up to, we know it was causing an emotional response by those who were getting the brunt of it.  Instead of jumping on the bandwagon and fretting with them, David shows them how to handle their situation God’s way!  It seems that the real battle here is in their own minds which is where most of all our battles take place, as well. SO what does he tell them? Don’t fret about them, your enemy, because God will take care of you.  David mentions the word “fret” three times in this Psalm.  In verse 6, the bible tells us it can lead to harm.  Obviously, we need to take these instructions to heart. When we are fretting, we can be anxious, worried, upset, displeased, troubled, angry, and even grieved.    He is telling us to NOT fret about the actions of others…..GOD will take care of “THEM” as we choose to trust in HIM!! It won’t happen by accident.  It goes against our flesh.  However, as followers of Christ, it is who we are and what we do! It is a life of day in and day out faith in our God.  Subsequently, we TRUST Him but we don’t just trust Him…we do good!  DO good, really?  That’s asking a little much, HA!  So, I can’t try to fix this MY way?  I can’t put them in their place?  I can’t go after them the way they have come after me? How many times are we tempted to make wrong choices in the midst of being attacked by the enemy?  We allow ourselves to dwell on them and become consumed with what “they are doing or saying” and find a way to get back at them.  This is not God’s way. His way is actually quite the opposite!

SO, what do we do?  We trust, we do good and we stand tall and courageous…not ducking our tails and running away in fear and shame.  We stay put.  We dwell in our place in peace, while feeding on God’s faithfulness.   How do you feed on God’s faithfulness?  Honestly, you are feeding on something at all times.  You are choosing what you think about, what you dwell on and what you allow inside your Spirit.  You can choose to fret and live in fear and allow your enemy to consume your every thought OR you can choose to feed on God’s faithfulness.  SO, in other words you can choose junk food or healthy food to feed on?  David’s menu recommendation is to chew on what we know to be true about God and his character. His very nature is faithful, steadfast, and constant.  He never changes.  When we remind ourselves of that and choose to have a steady diet of His Word, we then can’t help but do the next thing….DELIGHT in HIM instead of focusing on “them”.

Delight yourself in the LORD and you won’t be fretting about your enemy! THAT is what we are called to do.  No excuses will suffice.  Either you are going to believe God is who He says He is and choose to delight in Him OR you will lead a miserable, less than, defeated life.  It’s a no brainer, right? Again, I know first hand, that it is not at all easy to do.  Our flesh wars against our spirit constantly.  Thankfully, God has given us the grace and the keys on how to overcome and live victorious!

The next few verses go onto say commit, trust, rest, wait and again do not fret!  As we trust and commit our lives, our circumstances, our loved ones and even our enemies to our gracious Father, we will find rest for our anxious souls.  Rest that enables us to wait patiently for HIS plans and HIS will to unfold.

Now the good part…..tucked in the middle of what we are called to do is a sweet but bold word of encouragement that we can lean into that will help carry us through.  God tell us the HE will bring forth our righteousness and justice as the noon day sun! There it is.  This is God’s promise to you and to me! Our righteousness is God’s character shining in and through us that invites His light into every messy and unwanted moment. It is God who goes before us and will extinguish every fiery dart that is pointed our way.  He will do that!  His justice will be demanded….we do not have to seek it for ourselves, God will do it!

I do not know about you, but Psalm 37 helps my anxious heart to rise up and say no to the enemy and his attack on my life and and big yes to God.  Friend, can I encourage you to read it, study it, learn from it and DO IT!!! Go and Fret no more!

 

 

 

 

 

Lay Your Burdens Down

Are you heavy burdened today? Me, too!  It started last night for me.  Dealing with the repercussions of divorce is hard.  However, getting a front row seat and sitting by helplessly as you watch your children deal with it is just too much.   I thought by the time I went to bed that I was good.  I had prayed and surrendered their broken hearts with determined trust.  However, this morning the heaviness was back. What I appreciate is that God knew we would have moments and even days like this!

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken”.  Psalm 55:22

I am so thankful that the heaviness I was feeling this morning was unwarranted and became obsolete in the presence of my Lord.  The song below is the song that God placed on my heart to hush my anxious thoughts and sound the battle cry of my heart.  An invitation to lay my burdens down in complete surrender.  Honestly, the first few times I listened to it involved the ugly cry….laying down those we hold so dear is hard! Especially for us momma bears! But, I was determined. By the 10th time of repeating it (okay, it wasn’t quite that many times, ha!) my heart finally found release.  This ole flesh is stubborn, ya’ll!  The struggle is real! But God! He is so patient and gracious!   What about you, my friend?  Can I encourage you to make the time, find a song, and worship your King in the midst of your troubles! Choose to cast your burdens at the feet of Him who longs to be your Burden-bearer!  Your circumstances will most likely not immediately change, but God WILL sustain you by His sufficient grace and His powerful presence! You were not meant to be the one to carry those heavy burdens.  Jesus paid a high price to take all of your unwanted baggage upon Himself.  Sweet one, you are free! God’s got you and will take care of the things that compete for the consumption of your mind space.  How are we able to cast those burdens onto Jesus?  We can do this because we trust that He cares of us and those we love.  It is a beautiful act of faith! It is strategic warfare!  As we lay our burdens down we rise victorious!  Go and be victorious today!

 

Our New Normal

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It has been just short of two years since my divorce.  For the first year and a half, thinking about entering into a new relationship has had no appeal.  Instead,  I lived with an intentional guarded heart as I  poured my time and energy into my children and in the quiet moments, gleaning over all that had previously transpired.  It was a precious season of healing and blessings in spite of the many court dates, the attorney fees, the forced bravery and the utter unbelievable craziness that had unfolded. However, within this defining journey, came the realization of how very distracted my mind had been throughout the longevity of my marriage, by the way, which never served me nor my children well.  I was overly occupied with fighting for my marriage and for my husband.   This is not a bad thing…for a season.  However,  being on this side of that battle shows me that I was fighting a war I would never win without losing myself in the process. I am not talking about the lose-yourself-like-Jesus-sacrificial way but the lose-yourself-like-your-heart-doesn’t-matter kind of way. Yet, I was determined.  Many of my days consisted of feeling overwhelmed and anxious about doing all I could to keep my family together while dealing with my own personal brokenness and pain.   Were my children taken care of? Was I a good mom? Yes and yes! I loved them the best I knew how at the time.   Actually, they may not even have noticed how distracted and even broken I was, after all,  it was normal to them as this had been life as they had always known it.  I had learned to wear the mask well and hide my messy self behind my stubborn faith and relentless hope that things would get better.  However, I know in my heart that my preoccupation with my, then husband, and his issues is what occupied a huge space in my thoughts and with my actions.

It is interesting and yet, sad to me how we can learn to live with brokenness and weeping wounds, for YEARS for the sake of marriage, children, reputation, and what you think is the “biblical” way for those who claim to follow Jesus.  The pain is always there no matter how hard you try to pray it away.  However, God is so faithful! He is right there with you in the middle of your mess. He is so very gracious to His daughters whose only desire was to grow up, get married, have children and live their happily ever after.  Am I the only one?  I don’t think so!  Maybe you are reading this right now, and you can relate.  I can tell you, my God never left me.  His sweet presence enabled me to rise, if only my head at times, from the pit that had become so familiar in a twisted yet comfortable way and I am utterly thankful! He saw every gut wrenching tear and I am wholly confident that He even divinely protected my heart from things that I still to this day, do not know a thing about.  AND, I am okay with not knowing.  I know enough.  Exposing lies and secrets became my dreaded challenge time and time again.  However, the uncovering of hurtful things never got easier, never.

My prayers for my, then husband, and our marriage were not answered the way I, and so many others had prayed and hoped, and I am okay with that now, too.  He had his issues and I had mine.  We were both broken, just broken differently.  By God’s undeserved and extravagant grace, He rescued me.  The lie that I had held close for so long was gently and unashamedly exposed.  To let go of my marriage was not, by no means, giving up on God NOR my faith.  It was quite the opposite. Trusting that my God had brought me through only to lead me out took MORE bravery and MORE courage and challenged my faith way beyond what this girl could ever muster.  Instead of gaining a healthy marriage, I gained something so much more than I even have words to express.  I gained Christ. Yes, I know… I was His daughter throughout but I have undeniably experienced a deeper level of his amazing grace, his presence, his love, his strength, his faithfulness, and his blessings like I had never experienced before.   All this in the midst of my broken, unpredictable and unintended journey. That to me, is worth SO much more than answered prayers.  What I have experienced is something that no earthly relationship can ever compare to, at least that’s my broken girl story, for now. 

I am not shameful of who I was all those years.  I tried. I tried REALLY hard to be the best wife I could be and the best mom I could be.  I strived to do everything I could to fix us, to fix him, to make it better, to hide the hurt and to survive.  I was not at all perfect nor was I a “holier than thou” kind of wife.  I had my sins, my struggles, and my shattered heart that wanted control so that I would not get hurt, again.  I own it.  AND I have released it, forgiven by my Father whose extravagant love for me overshadows the broken girl that I have been.  If not for the grace of God, where would I be?

Subsequently, the first year following my divorce I found freedom.  Freedom to be the mom I had always longed to be buried beneath the insecurities, the confirmed suspicions and a wounded heart.  My kids captured my complete attention.  They are who I built my life around.  Them and Jesus.  We needed each other.  They needed to know by my priorities that they had someone in their corner.   Someone that they could depend on. Someone who would love them, invest in them, and love them unconditionally.  And I needed to know that I could do this single mom thing with the Lord up girding me, day in and day out.  Life as we knew it had forever changed; new home, new school, new job, new friends, and only the three of us.  And yet, our faith was our constant companion.  Our God never changes even when we feel ripped to shreds in the confines of the crazy and the messy.  Even when our heads were bent low attempting to escape the new labels and scary statistics that the world threw at us, particularly me as a single mom.

Since then, we have pushed through, we have stood together, strong though broken.  We have experienced God’s sweetest blessings through the relentless support of family, faithful friends, church family and Pastors. We have proven that life can go on after such brokenness and that we can even laugh, smile, and enjoy our space again. The beauty of God in our midst is the light that has invited confident hope in the darkest places of our hearts.  It has not been easy.  I will not candy coat any of it. There has been more hard stuff and more brokenness to walk through that caught me blind sided.  That. is. life.  My “word” for 2017 was surrender and that is exactly what I had to do time and time again.  Hitting the carpet in abandoned surrender was truly my survival arsenal.   AND yet, again, God has been so faithful.  HE has been our Anchor that has held us steady through the most horrific storms.  I am abundantly thankful!

A new season is within reach! I am looking forward to the future God has for me and for my children with expectancy and anticipation and maybe, just maybe I will find love again and if not, that’s okay, too! My God is faithful!  My God is enough! I am one blessed girl that has learned that trusting God does not always mean our marriages will be saved or our journey will look like what we had desired or even prayed for. 

What about you?  Has your life taken you on an unintended journey?  Have there been gut-wrenching prayers that seemed to go unnoticed and unanswered?  Sweet sister, God has heard every single one!  You and I can be fully confident that our loving and gracious Father is creating beauty from our ashes, purpose from our pain and preparing us for our eternal ever after!  So be it, Lord!