Death AND Goodness in the Land of the Living

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Running, Sister!

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

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

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

Freedom in Surrender

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

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

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

And Now.

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

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

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

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

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

Divine Sisterhood

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Everyone has a story.

Stories of  love and loss.

Stories of beauty and brokenness

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

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

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

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

Helpless But Not Hopeless

At the end of the day

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

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

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

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

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

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!