Freedom Isn’t Free

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from Heaven and forgive their sins and restore their land.”                                                          2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT

Today is my nation’s 242nd birthday.  People all over this country will be coming together to celebrate and pay tribute to the good ole’ U.S. of A.  Star-spangled clothing will be worn; red, white and blue decorations adorned.  People will host cookouts and barbeques.  Lakes will be flooded with boats, floats and beach goers.  Parades will march.  Attendees will applaud Veterans.  ‘God Bless the USA’ and other patriotic melodies will be performed.  When the sun goes down, fireworks will explode as the grand finale of the nation’s greatest display of American pride.  For most, today will be a day filled with fun, family, friends and many, many festivities.

A true Independence Day celebration reminds us of the sacrifices that were made for this country to have the freedoms we stand on today.  The Revolutionary War was the start to gaining our freedoms.  In googling statistics, according to World Book Encyclopedia, found at www.answers.com, 25,700 Americans were killed during this war.  Traditional US History classes teach that this war came about to separate us from the tyranny of Britain’s then monarchy. Our US constitution was written to give and protect freedoms to its citizens. Since we became a nation we have engaged in numerous wars and military conflicts to ensure this country and its residences are protected and that freedom will forever reign.

One entity that is honored on Independence Day is our US military.  We remember the fallen and we honor the living, those who have served and are serving.  In fact, most Americans, when encountering a member of the US Military, will thank him or her for their service to our country because we recognize that military personnel sacrifice a lot during their time of active duty.  They’re training alone teaches them how to be sacrificial and how to survive in the most dangerous and cruelest of situations.  They are moved periodically to different states and most serve overseas on at least one if not multiple deployments.  They sacrifice time with their families, their jobs, their health and even their lives to protect this nation and to especially protect this nation’s freedoms.  One thing we Americans value is our freedom.

God also values freedom.  Galatians 5:13a tells us “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters…”  We read David’s confident statement in Psalm 119:45 when he declares that he will walk in freedom for he had devoted himself to God’s commandments.  Again in 2 Corinthians 3:17, we are reminded that wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  As a Christian, we are called to walk in freedom.  But what does that mean and how do we do that?

First we need to look at what freedom looks like to God.  Freedom in Christ means freedom from guilt, shame, despair, bitterness, etc.  It most assuredly means, freedom from fear and from death.  If you’re an unbeliever reading this, you may question that last statement or possibly even mock it because people die every day.  The death mentioned above is not a physical death, its freedom from spiritual death.  This means after we experience physical death we are promised eternal life with Christ.  (1 John 5:11) Just like a US military member pays a price to protect our nation’s freedoms, as a Christian, our freedom was paid when Christ died at Calvary and then resurrected three days later.  Freedom is not free.

So if freedom isn’t free, then walking in freedom will also cost us.  If my country’s freedom and Christian freedom were both paid by the sacrificing of lives, it only makes sense that in order to walk in spiritual freedom, we are called to sacrifice our lives as well.  PLEASE NOTE!  This is metaphorically speaking.  This post is not leading to a call to drink some magic red poisoned Kool-Aid that would actually kill us.  The life sacrificing I’m referring to is the sacrificing of lifestyles, life habits and negative thoughts that do not honor Christ and inevitably separate us from the freedom He has promised us.

Anything that is dishonoring to Christ separates us from His freedom.  That can come in the form of deliberate sin such as a battle with lust, purposefully holding grudges, becoming best friends with pride, refusing to obey when God gives us a direct order.  That can also come in a subtler form like battling with an addiction or holding on to wounds that Christ wants to heal and release us from.  Whatever stronghold we allow in our lives becomes our way of life and keeps us captured in a spiritual roller coaster that simples goes round and round in circles but never seems to end.  No matter what human effort you make, if you’re not willing to sacrifice the stronghold or repent of the sin, you will not know or be able to walk in Christ’s freedom.  You will also grow weary and face conditions like depression, anxiety or physical health conditions that develop when we are wait down by burdens we are not meant to carry.

Can you relate to struggling with deliberate sin, battling with some sort of addiction or just feeling bogged down by all life has thrown at you?  Do you long to feel free from past wounds?  Do you want to guard your heart, as the Lord directs, without putting up walls that inevitably push others away?  Are you willing to make the sacrifices required to know Christ’s freedom?

If you want to know and walk in Christ’s freedom, you (and I) must be willing to place all that weighs us down, at the foot of the cross.  We have to humble ourselves before our King and confess the sins we commit, confess the hurts we hold on to and confess the addictions we wrestle with.  We have to seek Christ’s forgiveness, choose to forgive our offenders and also, choose to forgive ourselves.  This also means sacrificing ungodly habits such as gossiping, complaining, procrastinating, cussing, overeating or whatever else we may turn to in the place of Christ to “cope” with what burdens us.

This sacrifice is not a one-time event consisting of one prayer or even one fast.  This is a daily sacrifice that involves refocusing our thoughts, asking Christ to renew our minds, softening our hearts to obey His word and practicing the art of discipline to refrain from turning to back to dishonorable behaviors.  This sacrifice also entails understanding that making these kind of sacrifices, changing our coping skills, letting go of the past and forgiving those who have trespassed against us is a process.  It’s a process that doesn’t come naturally and takes much discipline to master.  It’s a process that has to be practiced every day and it’s a process that will include backsliding and failing.  But it’s also a process that through commitment, God’s strength, His grace and your perseverance, brings victory and true freedom.

Zach Williams is a Christian artist who performs a popular song called, “Chain Breaker.”  The lyrics to the first verse and chorus are this:

“If you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles

If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies

If you’re trying to fill the same old holes inside

There’s a better life

There’s a better life

“If you’ve got pain,

He’s a pain taker

If you feel lost

He’s a way maker

If you need freedom or saving

He’s a prison-shaking Savior

If you’ve got chains

He’s a chain breaker..”

As I am personally walking through this process of letting go of my strongholds in order to gain Christ’s freedoms, I recorded myself performing this song praising God even before the chains I have bound myself to are broken.  Jesus is the chain breaker of all that holds us back from the life He promised us.  When you’re willing to sacrifice what He’s calling you to let go of, when you’re willing to endure the painstaking process of confession, forgiveness and healing, then you are ready to chase after Christian freedom and walk in it, freely.  Freedom isn’t free.  But our Jesus paid the debt when He gave His life on a tree.

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I’ll See You Soon…

“I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete.”

‭‭2 John‬ ‭1:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

There’s a movie titled Dear John. It’s a love story about a couple who spent most of the beginning of their relationship in separate countries. Their occasional face to face encounters were short lived because other commitments kept them going in different directions. The bulk of their relationship consisted of letter correspondence.

Throughout their relationship, the couple never said goodbye. They parted ways and ended their letters with “I’ll see you soon.” To them, “goodbye” was something final and permanent. Because they wanted to be in each others’ lives, they chose to part ways with a sentiment that would remind them that they would be together again no matter how long they were apart.

Even when their relationship seemed to be permanently over, it’s really not the end. The final scene leads the viewer to believe their relationship rekindles. There’s also a voice over of the woman reading a letter to the man. The letter closes with this:

“…no matter how many years go by, I know one thing to be as true as it ever was, I’ll see you soon.” Those words are a depiction of an incredibly powerful connection and a love that was never ending.

In the scene where the relationship ends, the man burns all the letters he ever received from the woman who was rejecting him. Oh how I’ve “cleaned house” to rid myself of past relationships in an effort to heal a broken heart and move on. In fact I recently unfollowed certain social media pages just to forget about a close friend whom I’ve parted ways with. A close friend that I used to say “I’ll see you soon” to. A close friend that if I’m being honest, I loved as more than a friend but a real relationship never came to pass.

The very day I decided to remove all that reminded me of him, Dear John aired on TV. My hardened heart tempted me to change the channel but the Holy Spirit prompted me to keep watching it. Truth be told, I didn’t get why until I tried writing this post. I’ve deleted two drafts and quit writing briefly before realizing what the Holy Spirit was showing me.

God used this movie to remind me He keeps people in our lives in His way and for His reasons. Some people come into our lives to help us develop our character, to test our patience and to stretch our ability to forgive. These are people we sometimes beg God to remove from our lives but He keeps them near us-sometimes too close. But there are others who’s purpose in life is to grow our hearts to a love that supersedes anything we could ever imagine (like what God promises in Ephesians 3:20.) These are the people we want to keep that God may take away. He does this, not because He doesn’t love us but because He knows that heart break grows a compassion that produces more love. I am a walking testimony to that.

If you’re reading this-I believe God has a message for you through this post. God wants you to know how much He loves you and just how deep He wants to grow His love within you. If you’ve written off the idea of loving someone or ever being loved, don’t say goodbye just yet. Instead, place your wounded heart in Jesus’ scarred hands and let Him fill it with a love that will make you feel as though you’re going to burst. The process is painful and overwhelming. It will bring you to your knees and even make you sob. But oh the joy that is felt when you are filled with a heart that is hand crafted by Jesus. Don’t say goodbye to love my friend, simply tell love, “I’ll see you soon.” It’s then and only then that our joy will be complete.

Show Me Love

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I seem to write a lot about love. More so, God seems to put this word on my heart a lot and so I write about it. I’ve written about different types of love, the cost of love and what real love is. This weekend, God has really been pressing on me to write about breaking down walls in order to give and receive love. The walls I’m referring to aren’t that of someone else-they’re the walls we build around our own hearts to keep us from getting hurt.

There are a variety of reasons those walls are there-perhaps your parent deeply wounded or abandoned you. Maybe a lover or spouse was abusive or cheated on you. Maybe you grew up around members of the opposite sex who were abusive and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Maybe you’ve gone through a string of relationships feeling used and disposable because that’s how past lovers treated you. Maybe you’re like me and select “all of the above” as your reason for hiding your heart behind those walls. Whatever the reason, each disappointment or heart breaking experience added another brick or layer and your wall is probably at a point where no human in their own strength could ever break through it.

I watch a lot of romantic comedies and Hallmark movies. I love Love. I love watching couples meet, flirt, date, share a first kiss, fall in love, face conflict that nearly tears them apart yet and in the end see love conquer with them living happily ever after. My favorite fairy tale has always been Cinderella. Realistically speaking I don’t wait for a prince on a white horse to show up with a glass slipper and whisk me off to his castle but I do long for a man who would cross the ocean and travel through Hell or high water just to be with me. I think some of that stems from watching so many romantic movies.

Movies are a great source of entertainment. I work two jobs and my second job is actually working at a video store so I obviously love movies. Romantic movies can give us a false sense of what real life romance and love are really all about, but they can also model what grace and forgiveness look like. Take for instance the Hallmark movie, All of my Heart, Inn Love, starring Lacey Chabert. In this movie, Lacey’s character is small town girl with dreams of being a successful baker and owning a country inn. Her fiancé is a big city financial guru who moved to the country and joined in on Lacey’s character’s aspirations. They’re character set-ups are really polar opposites. Every love story has to have a climax-the moment where viewers think the couple is breaking up or will never end up together. In All of my Heart, that moment comes when the big city fiancé takes a temporary job back in the city to help make ends meet and starts displaying old characteristics that Lacey’s character isn’t attracted to. Obviously they’re wants start to pull them away from each other.

At one point, Lacey’s character gives the engagement ring back telling her fiancé to give it back to her when he’s ready to come back to the life they were building. Then there’s a few minutes of scenes showing them living apart and both very unhappy. In the end the fiancé realizes a life with the woman he loves is more important than any successful business adventure or financial gain. He leaves the city life for good and returns to the small town, goat farming, inn keeper life devoting himself to celebrating his fiancée’s accomplishments. Of course the ending is written to lead the viewer to believe the couple lives happily ever after.

Here’s where grace and Forgiveness comes in to play. Never in this movie does Lacey’s character attack or speak hurtful things to her man (her fiancée also never speaks unkindly to his woman either.) When he returns to the home they were sharing, she greets him with open arms and embraces him. There is no punishment or even thought of punishment or spite displayed. She does nothing to make her fiancé prove his love for her or make up for nearly abandoning her and their relationship. She simply welcomes him home and shows him love.

Then there’s my heart. When I watch these movies I tend to think about how I would handle such scenarios. With each conflict I’ve watched in these types of movies I tend to have the same response-put up a wall, don’t forgive easily and make the other person prove his love. Unfortunately, this is how I’ve handled many relationship issues in my own life. Why? Because I unknowingly have punished new relationships for past lovers’ mistakes. I’ve also been far too prideful to ever admit that to anyone or myself, until now. I have a wall built around my heart. I’ve blamed men from my past for having this wall. I naively believed God was going to send me a man so out of this world that would have the super strength to demolish this wall and then I would know it was safe to love him. But let’s be real-God is telling me I need to open up my heart and let Him knock down this wall because my fortress is not only impenetrable, I think it’s covered with barbed wire to ensure nobody can even try to climb over it!

There’s a song from the 90’s by Robin S called Show Me Love. It’s the inspiration for the title of this post because it’s been playing through my mind today. The first few lines of this song describes my heart to a tee-

“Always been told that I’ve got too much pride,

Too independent to have you by side

Then my heart said, all of you will see

Just wont live for someone until he lives for me…”

Character was definitely God’s word for me in 2018 but I am thinking love is too. Maybe it’s a sub part to my character? I’m not certain but I do know this-God is showing me the walls that have to come down so that I can freely and unabashedly love those already in my life and everyone God will continue to bring into my life.

What about you? Do you live behind walls of false security? Are you governed by pride? Are you holding on to past wounds and guarding your heart in an unhealthy way? I pray Ezekiel 36:26 over you and stand on God’s promise to “give you a new heart and a new spirit. May He remove from you this heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” May you and I become fully surrendered and allow God to demolish the walls we’ve hidden behind for far too long. It is only with a surrendered will that God can really show me (and you) love.

The Voice of Truth

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””

‭‭John‬ ‭8:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As we go about our daily lives we engage with many voices throughout the day. Some of those voices are encouraging, some are critical. Some voices are loud and direct while others are barely audible and more passive. Nonetheless, these voices tend to skew the way we see and carry ourselves. We give a lot of power to these voices but the only one that truly matters-the one that can truly define us, is the voice of God.

But first-let’s look at the different voices. There are voices of encouragement. These are messages that build you up, strengthen you and motivated you. These can come from your family and friends who love and support you. Heck, maybe they come from Tony Robbins, Joyce Meyers, Bishop T.D. Jakes or Steven Furtick by means of a self-help book, devotional or YouTube video. Whatever the form, these voices help you walk taller, see yourself in a positive matter and display a “can do” kind of attitude.

Then we have the critical voices. These voices see your flaws and define you only by your worst moments or mistakes you’ve made. These voices condemn you, berate you and can cut deep and severe emotional wounds. They leave you seeing yourself in a very lowly manner. If you listen to them long enough these voices can lead to you feeling depressed, anxious and believing you are what these voices tell you. Ironically-these voices always seem louder and more direct than any voice of encouragement. Truth be told-these voices are liars.

The voice of truth is God’s voice. Since we are His creation, his voice is the only one that can truly define us. It’s also the only one we should be listening too. However, God’s voice isn’t always easy to hear or recognize. David describes the voice of the Lord as a thunderous roar that echoed above seas (Psalms 29:3), is powerful and majestic (Psalms 29:4), strikes with bolts of lightning (Psalms 29:7), and can split might cedars (Psalms 29:5.) In 2 Samuel 22:14, the voice of God “thundered from Heaven”, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 we read that the voice of the Lord is a commanding shout. Thunder, echoes, shouting-these words all describe LOUD! Yet far too often, the liars are louder than the voice of truth. How can they be, what can we do about it and who are we really according to the voice of Truth?

In biblical times, we read multiple examples of God speaking directly to His people. I firmly believe He still speaks to us directly through His word and the Holy Spirit but in today’s day an age we have to remove all distractions and get quiet before Him to really hear His voice. I believe this because of the passage in 1 Kings 19 when Elijah is at his lowest point, asking God to End his life and God speaks to him. “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (Verses 11-13.) God’s voice was a soft whisper. Can you hear whispers in the middle of noise and chaos or are whispers best heard in stillness and silence? Why else would God tell us is Psalms 46:10 to “be still and know that [He] is God.” And again in Exodus 14:14 when promising to fight for us He says, “you need only to be still.” We can’t hear God because we’re too busy, too distracted and most likely to stuck on the critical voices that tell us we are the opposite of who God creates us to be.

What can we do about it? This is going to sound simple and cliché but we can stop, drop (to our knees) and pray. We have to carve out moments of silence daily to get into God’s word, the only source of really truth, and be still before Him. We have to pray for open hearts and open ears with the God-given ability to hear His voice and then allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and speak to us. We have to be patient when we spend a day or weeks in these moments hearing nothing at all. We have to persevere and choose to stand on His truth every day. Most importantly, we have to recognize the voice of God over the voice of the creator of lies. God’s voice will always coincide with His word. God’s voice will always be pure, peace loving, gentle, full of mercy and sincere. (James 3:17). It is never condemning and will not remind you of your mistakes. (Romans 8:1, 2 Corinthians 2:5)

So who does God say we are? First and foremost we are HIS! James 1:18 confirms that with this: “He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.” A prized possession is a priceless treasure that is safe guarded, protected and preciously cared for just as God Himself, treasures, protects and delicately cares for us. We are also FORGIVEN! 1 John 2:12 states it very matter-of-fact like: “I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.” Luke 7:47 reinforces that with, “““I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love…” and 1 John 1:9 promises that “if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

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God also say we are LOVED. He confirms this in 1 John 4:19 “we love because she first loved us.” For those who have never been unconditionally loved, this one is probably the hardest to understand. How can someone love you in spite of your failures? How can someone love before you were even born? For God it’s quite simple-God is love and He creates our inmost beings. He loves us because He created us and He knows us more intricately than we or anyone else can ever know us. One of the best ways to combat our critics to let go of their harsh words and cling to God’s love for us. It’s the only way we can rise above hate and truly walk in love.

There are many more things God says about us and you can find them all in His word. We have a choice to listen to the voice of critics or the voice of truth. When the enemy strikes you with harsh words, when liars try to remind you of your past or haters criticize you out of jealousy or selfish ambition, stand on God’s truth and if you can’t cling to His love just yet, cling to this one simple verse: “But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” Acts 11:9 If you’re a child of God, He has made you clean no matter what dirty mistakes you’ve made. You are not who your critics say you are. You are exactly who God says you are. Walk as the hold of God He made you to be.

With These Broken Wings

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I do not respond well to rude or arrogant men. I do not respond well to anything that I interpret as rude, arrogant or controlling especially if it’s a man that displays it. I am not a man hater, nor am I a feminazi. My reactions stem from my experiences with men who repeatedly did not act as a man should.

I grew up with a single mom. My biological father abandoned us when I was only two. When I was three years old, my mother married the man I called “daddy”. For four years I felt the most love and security I have ever known. God blessed me with a man who chose to raise me as his own child even though we had no genetic ties. I firmly believe it’s the reason I love so many children as as if they were my flesh and blood. But my daddy died. And I spent the remainder of my childhood and teenage years being raised by a single mom.

I grew up around alcoholics and abusive men. One of these men screamed at me so much that I vomited. Another took me into a room, turned the lights off and started yelling just to scare me because he knew I was afraid of the dark. I never had a male teacher that I liked or respected. To this day I struggle with male authority because I am simply inexperienced with it.

After my daddy died I longed to feel loved and secure again. My mom did her best and she worked hard to provide for us. I know she loved me and she made a lot of sacrifices for me. She’s the reason I have the strength to persevere through the trials I face as a single mom. But she couldn’t replace the love I lost. She couldn’t give me the amount of love two parents give. After all, that’s humanly impossible. So when I became a teenager I chased after that love through boys and dating relationships.

Most boys I had crushes on didn’t give me the time of day. The ones who did tended to be trouble with a capital T. My senior year, I was blessed to meet a young man who became my boyfriend all through college. He was funny, kind, loving and very protective. He definitely seem to be the answer to what I had been missing. But we were young, immature and hadn’t the first clue on how to make a relationship work. Our relationship eventually ended based on the decision that we were better off friends than in a romantic relationship. When it ended, the void began again.

Over the next few years I found myself drawn to men who had zero desire of settling down and making an actual commitment. They were mostly looking for a woman who wanted to party in various forms. Time and time again I was left disappointed and feeling undesirable. Yet I kept chasing after this desire to be chosen. I defined my self worth based on whether a man would choose me or not. Because I was rarely chosen, I convinced myself I had no value.

Since that college relationship, I’ve had two other long term relationships. One produced my two children. The other occurred a few years ago. Neither filled the void, made me feel loved or protected. Both brought more insecurity than I was able to handle. One was dangerously toxic and consisted of years of being emotionally torn down. The other should’ve never happened because I was incredibly broken and hadn’t even begun healing from the first one. A bird who tries to fly again with broken wings only ends up hurting itself more. That’s exactly what happened in the latter relationship.

Bitterness engulfed my heart like a neglected garden overtaken by weeds. I grew critical and more distrusting of men. I closed myself off to dating. To be honest, I also had some very angry moments with God. Many times I asked God what I did wrong to deserve such maltreatment. After all, suffering can be the result of our own mishaps. But it can also be something that God allows to happen or even brings upon us as part of His refinement process.

Through the years God has tugged at me to begin the healing process. That starts with laying down my brokenness and surrendering my past completely to Him. That is not an easy thing to do. As exhausting as it is to carry around heavy burdens, they’re a constant reminder to stay guarded and work as a shield to keep me from getting hurt or broken again. But God won’t heal me if I’m not willing to tear down the wall and lay my burdens down. He beckons all of us to come to Him, weary and heavy laden, and promises to give us rest. (Matthew 11:28).

Another part of the healing process is confessing my bitter heart and choosing to forgive those who have wounded me. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to forgive the man who abandoned me or the one who yelled at me. I certainly don’t want to forgive the one who cheated, the one who lied, or the one who was only interested in me for “one thing.” I don’t want to forgive the one who continues to text me harassing messages and just recently admitted to “hating my guts”. But want to and have to are two different things. I don’t want to forgive them but God tells me I have to. Not for their sake, I have to forgive them for my own. I also have to forgive them as an act of obedience to God. (Ephesians 4:31-32.) Right now I’m at the stage where I can confess my unforgiving heart and seek God’s help in changing my desire to choose forgiveness.

Once I choose to lay my past down and practice forgiveness, I then have to face my fear of getting hurt once again. This doesn’t mean I start chasing after relationships or become a serial dater. This means I seek discernment in establishing healthy friendships and even professional relationships with men. This also means learning to understand and decipher how men communicate to avoid becoming easily defensive or even shutting down. Too often I’ve assumed the man I think is offending me is like the others from my past. Eventually, God willing, it will mean opening my heart up to the man He will send me who will choose to love, respect and protect me. If that happens, it also means not punishing this man for the mistakes of those from my past.

Lastly-and this one is key-God has been teaching me that no human being, male or female, parent or spouse, can provide the love and protection I truly desire. He is the only One who can. (Jeremiah 31:3; Deuteronomy 31:6) No one I chase, nothing I seek comfort in will ever fill the void I have like Jesus can. Chasing after anything or anyone else is idolatry and God

refuses to have any other gods before Him. (Exodus 20:3)

When a bird breaks its wings, the wings can be immobilized and the bird is ground bound. Although tying the bird’s wings down keeps the bird’s travel abilities restricted, its a necessary part of the healing process. When the wings are healed, the restriction is lifted and the bird can soar once again. When the human heart is broken it becomes immobilized too. It can shut down and even become paralyzed,metaphorically speaking. It’s in these moments we need to allow God to wrap Himself around us and heal us from the inside out. His healing brings wholeness, renews our spirits and strengthens us to soar on wings like eagles.

Currently, my heart is still immobilized because I have chosen the path of self healing instead of walking through the process God’s way. He remains faithful though. He has sent me a handful of kind, godly and selfless male friends who have been encouragers, and helpers. He even blessed me with an older gentleman who treats me like one of his own children teaching me how a man should father a daughter. God never ceases to awe me that’s for sure.

Has your heart been broken? Do you feel crushed? Have you been abused or treated harshly? Do you struggle with relationships with the opposite sex? Are you longing for the freedom of walking in His healing power? Is your past keeping you bitter? Is fear holding you back from letting go or choosing forgiveness? Take a step toward the healing process by simply confessing to God exactly where your heart is, admitting to carrying around old wounds and trust Him to remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

Do You Miss Him or Are You Just Lonely?

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 4:23 NIV

***This post is for every woman who finds herself pining away for the man who broke her heart or simply wasn’t her Mr. Right.***

When you first met him he seemed like everything you had been praying for.  Maybe he was charming, maybe affectionate, maybe he studied the bible, or maybe he just said all the right things.  Whatever he was displaying, you fell quickly and you fell hard.  In a few short moments, you found yourself head over heels in love.  He appeared to be feeling the same way and life as you knew it just. seemed. perfect.

At some point you started dreaming of a future with him.  Maybe it was after your first kiss or maybe it was after he said “I love you” the first time.  Maybe your future consisted of a beach wedding at sunset or seeing yourselves growing old together sitting on a porch swing cuddled under a wool blanket during an autumn afternoon.  At some point talk of the future arose and he seemed to share the same dream. You found yourself in the relationship you were looking for and life. seemed. perfect.

Then came the moment you wanted to make the dream a reality and suddenly he sits on a fence of indecision.  Or maybe he changes the subject when you bring it up or makes excuses when you push for a deeper commitment.  Maybe he completely ghosts you and you’re left wondering what went wrong.  More devastating, maybe he found someone new and replaced you like a pair of old shoes.  No matter the circumstance or how it happens, this man of your dreams walks out of your life and you’re left alone and heart broken.

Alone.  For a large family or a person who is continuously surrounded by large crowds, this word means peace, tranquility and rest.  For someone who longs for relationship, thrives on interpersonal connection or desires human touch, alone is a word that brings up feelings of abandonment, rejection or can lead to questioning one’s self worth.

Alone is just a word in the dictionary and loneliness is simply a state of mind.   There are times I feel alone.  Sometimes I feel most alone when I’m in a crowd that I don’t feel like I belong in.  Other times when I’m home alone and I’m counting my blessings, I feel overwhelmed with the amount of friendships and the loving family I have been gifted.

There are times I also feel lonely.  Those are the times that can get dangerous for people.  You see, loneliness is a feeling that can really tug at one’s heart and travel one’s mind down memory lane.  During that journey we find ourselves remembering little things about a former lover.  Lonely memories don’t usually trigger the red flags in the relationship.  Lonely memories trigger all the things that made you fall in love with the person-and those memories tug at your heart strings a little too hard.

Sometimes those memories make you think you miss the one who walked away.  The more you meditate on the memories, the more you miss him and you may find yourself longing to be in a relationship with him again.  You may even find yourself praying, asking God to bring you back together.  If you entertain this too long, you could become convinced you two were meant to be together and take action to reunite.

A trip down this kind of memory lane is a slippery slope that needs to be stopped before your mind even thinks about turning down that road.  One way to do that is to take the thoughts captive and recognize what triggered them.  Maybe a love song started playing, maybe their name was spoken or you ran into someone that looked just like them.  Whatever it was, recognize it.  Then remind yourself of what you don’t miss.  Maybe you don’t miss the lies they told. Maybe you don’t miss feeling like you never measured up to their expectations.  Maybe you don’t miss being cheated on.  I am confident most of us could say we don’t miss the excuses they made for not committing or the emotional roller coaster ride they put us on with their “Come close then get away” behavior.  Whatever their character flaws were that broke your heart-list them out to remind yourself of what you don’t want in a relationship.

Then, recognize what you do miss, not in the person, rather list the behaviors that you miss.  For example-maybe you miss the daily texts messages and how it felt to be pursued.  Maybe you miss having someone to study God’s word with and to share in depths conversations about scripture.  Maybe you miss having someone pray for you and with you.  Maybe you miss the laughter and jokes that only the two of you shared or the silly nicknames you called each other when the relationship seemed solid and loving. Those are all good things to miss.

But guess what.  Those things you’re missing aren’t qualities that only your ex possesses.  They are universal character traits that you can find in someone else-someone who will love you exactly as you are, someone who won’t lie, cheat or play games with you and someone who will choose to commit to you.  That someone is your “Mr. Right” and God will lead him to you when you’re most ready to receive that kind of love.

Why?  Because you are marriage material and you are worth making a lifetime commitment to-hands down.  How do I know this?  Because Jesus proved it when He died on the cross long before you or I even existed.  There maybe things that God wants to change in you and some areas of refinement needed before you meet the one He designed for you.  Just know this-when the time is right, the Lord will make it happen. (Isaiah 60:22) In the meantime, don’t pine away for someone who isn’t pining away for you.  Turn your focus on Jesus-He promises to go before you and to never leave you nor forsake you. (Deut. 31:6.)  One more thing-the next time a love song comes on and you feel loneliness knocking at your door-change the station or make the song about your love for Jesus and remind yourself just how much you are loved by Him. Meditate on His word-especially on scriptures that reinforce that you are never alone and will bring you comfort when you do feel lonely.  Never turn back to one that rejected you.  That can only open the door to an endless cycle of broken heartedness. Don’t chase after another Mr. Wrong in effort to fill the void that rejection left. Chase after the One who is always with you, Who is near to the broken hearted and Who is the Creator of Agapé.

Please know this post was not written out of bitterness or with a man-hating heart. This is not an anti-man post nor is this an assumption that all break-ups are bad. This post was triggered after I found myself missing a friend and the steps I took to help me recognize what I was truly missing. There are examples listed of some things that have happened to me in past relationships but this isn’t triggered toward one specific person. This post also lists common examples that happen to anyone involved in a toxic relationship or simply found themselves having feelings for the wrong person. I pray those who read it, male or female, especially those who may be struggling to move on, find encouragement and maybe, just maybe, the strength to take that first step of allowing God to heal your broken heart.

Heavenly Father’s Day

Tomorrow is the day we in America celebrate the men who are dads.  For some that is their biological dad.  For others it may be a grandfather, uncle, step-dad or honorary dad.  Still for others it stirs up feelings of disappointment, abandonment or sadness because they’re dad is either gone or not a positive part of their life.

For those who are struggling with not having a dad I want to bless you with this encouragement from our Heavenly Father in hopes that it will fill your hearts with peace, comfort and even joy.

In His word God promises to be the Father to the fatherless.  (Psalm 68:5.) He again reminds us of this in 2 Corinthians 6:18; “And I will be a Father to you, And you will be My sons and daughters,” Says the Lord Almighty.” There are also numerous verses that describe God as our “Heavenly Father.” And more that call us His sons and daughters or refer to us as being adopted as His children.  No matter what relationship you have with your earthly father, and some may not even know who their father is-God is your Father and you can know Him in this capacity/be adopted as His son or daughter when you accept His own son, Jesus, as your personal Lord and Savior.

Some reading right now may be asking “How do I accept Jesus as my Savior?” What does that all mean?  Well some believe you have to pray something called the “Sinner’s Prayer” where you confess your sins, confess Jesus as God’s son, confess that you believe Jesus died for your sins and rose again and invited Him to live in your heart.  There’s nothing wrong with that prayer but there’s a lot of human formality to it.  The Bible tells us this is how we become children of the One True God.  “…Believe in the Lord Jesus [as your personal Savior and entrust yourself to Him] and you will be saved, you and your household [if they also believe].” (Acts 16:31)  In John 10:9 Jesus Himself tells us “I am the Door; anyone who enters through Me will be saved [and will live forever]…” And Romans 10:9 is even more direct with this; “because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” To put it simply-salvation (becoming a child of God and securing eternity with Him) means confessing and believing that Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins and conquered death for you and for me!

Salvation makes you a child of God but studying His word, talking with Him through daily prayer and building your faith by walking in obedience to Him is what grows your relationship with Him and opens your heart to knowing Him as your Heavenly Father.  When you grow this wisdom in your heart you will learn three very important things:

1) God’s love for you is unconditional and everlasting! (“…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”‭‭ Jeremiah 31:3)

2) God will never leave you nor forsake you! (“…for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.”  DEUTERONOMY‬ ‭31:6‬)

3) God is your true Protector and Provider! (“He will cover you and completely protect you with His pinions, And under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a wall.” ‭‭PSALM‬ ‭91:4‬ and “…my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”‭‭. PHILIPPIANS‬ ‭4:19‬)

For the dads out there who are engulfed in their children’s lives fully dedicated and devoted to raising their children, thank you for your commitment and love to your children.  To those who weren’t gifted with this kind of dad or who’s father is no longer living, I pray this post blesses you and draws you to either pursue a relationship with God or if you’re already saved, draw you deeper into the knowledge of Him as your Heavenly Father.  Abba, which is a word used to describe God, means “Daddy.” So start by praying to Abba daily and see how your heart grows toward Him when you view God in this way.

I want to close with the lyrics of Chris Tomlin’s song, Good Good Father. This is a song I resented until last summer when I had to make the difficult decision of emotionally detaching myself from my biological father who had broken his sobriety and gone back to drinking.  It was just after Father’s Day that I mailed him a letter informing him of my decision.  A week later I found myself at a Christian festival hearing Chris Tomlin perform this song live and where I felt God release the chains that had hardened my heart toward seeing God as my Abba.  With a rush of overwhelming freedom I raised my hands up and worshipped my Father as tears streamed down my face.  It was His emotional healing at its best.  I pray these lyrics bring healing for those who need it also.  God bless.

“Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night And you tell me that you’re pleased And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good, Good Father It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are And I’m loved by you It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Oh, and I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide But I know we’re all searching For answers only you provide ‘Cause you know just what we need Before we say a word
You’re a Good, Good Father It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are And I’m loved by you It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

’cause you are perfect in all of your ways You are perfect in all of your ways You are perfect in all of your ways to us

You are perfect in all of your ways You are perfect in all of your ways You are perfect in all of your ways to us

Oh, it’s love so undeniable I, I can hardly speak Peace so unexplainable I, I can hardly think

As you call me deeper still..Into love, love, love

You’re a Good, Good Father It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are And I’m loved by you It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

You’re a Good, Good Father (you are perfect in all of your ways) It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are And I’m loved by you (you are perfect in all of your ways) It’s who I am, it’s who I am it’s who I am…

Father’s Day in May

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy 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.”

The month of May brings hopes for warmer temps, budding trees and blooming flowers.  It also holds the day we celebrate mothers and remember those who sacrificed their lives for us as well as loved ones who have passed on before us.  But for me, the month of May holds another special day-not one most would celebrate or even wish to ever have happen.  May holds the anniversary of the man whom I was blessed to call dad’s (His name was Skeet), death.  May 15th, 1983 to be exact, is the day that  made me half an orphan.

Although it’s been over 30 years, I can still remember many details from that night.  Some details are foggy but what still sticks with me is this:  My mom woke me up in the middle of the night telling me there had been an accident and my uncle was taking us to the hospital.  When we got to the hospital I remember sitting in the waiting room praying to a God I didn’t know asking that it be my grandfather who was hurt, not my daddy because in true 7-year-old logic my grandfather was “old” and I didn’t want God to take my daddy.  But then I saw the doctor talk to my mom and I watched her lose all strength in her legs.  She was so stricken with grief that she literally collapsed and a wheel chair was brought in for her to sit in.  The days that followed were something like this:  We moved in with my Aunt and Uncle temporarily (we never returned to the apartment we lived in with my dad.) My mom was catatonic for days.  She said nothing, I don’t recall her eating much.  She just sat on the couch and stared into space.  I grieved alone.  I remember getting a new dress for the funeral.  I loved that dress.  I think I got new black shiny shoes and white bobby socks with lace trim (don’t laugh, it was the early 80’s.)  I remember there was a tornado warning a few days before the funeral and I made sure to grab my and my mom’s funeral outfits before heading to the basement because I didn’t want them to be ruined.

The day of the funeral lots of people were there.  Lots of tears and sadness filled the room.  I remember my dad was buried in a brown polyester suit (again it was the early 80’s.)  Thinking back now, I think he would’ve hated that suit and preferred to be buried in one of his button down butterfly collared shirts and nice pair of blue jeans.  But my mom chose a suit.  I remember what he looked like at the funeral.  He looked like he was lifelessly asleep.  It was the first dead person I had ever seen.  I kissed his nose.  That was a shock-dead people don’t feel warm and soft like a live person.  I have never touched another dead person again after that.

I sat in a side area of the funeral parlor for the service.  I don’t remember what was spoken I just remember looking around and seeing lots of tears.  One teenaged boy in particular went through at least a full box of tissues from sobbing. I knew he was my dad’s biological son whom he wasn’t allowed ever see.  I have to admit I’ve lived with a guilt of being blessed to have been loved and cared for by this man and his biological son never knew what he was like as a dad.  I know it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t his either but nonetheless there’s still a burden I carry of having such a blessing that his own son was not fortunate to have.

Just a few short months after Skeet died, mom and I moved into a huge home in town that she purchased.  It was my most favorite house I have ever lived in.  We moved next door to a minister and his family and it didn’t take long for me to form a friendship with the minister’s children.  Soon I was invited to their church and that’s where I came to know Jesus as my personal Savior.  My mom still went out from time to time but soon, something stirred in her and she felt she wasn’t being a good role model for me so she quit the bar scene altogether. It wasn’t long after I became saved that my mom started attending the church also and she too gave her life to the Lord.  For five years we lived in a few homes (the house my mom had bought was just too big for the two of us and we moved around to a few different spots.)  We finally ended up in a 1-bedroom apartment upstairs in the house my mom had originally purchased (and later sold to someone else.) My mom started dating a man from our church and they ended up getting married.  That man and I had no bond.  I wasn’t ready to let go of the dad I had lost and he didn’t know how to father a 12-year-old child.  My baby brother, however, was a beautiful produce of that short lived marriage and I am forever grateful for that union because of his birth.

But then it was just my mom, my baby brother and me-and again, we moved around a lot.  I had a different address each school year.  My mom didn’t have to work when my step-dad died and for some time after because we lived off his life insurance policy.  But when that ran out, my mom was jobless and relied on public assistance temporarily.  One lesson I learned from that hardship was the value of an education.  My mom attended secretarial classes at the local career center, paid for by the government, and was eventually hired by the school as one of their secretaries.  She hated being on assistance and took action to ensure that hardship was only temporary.  While she was pregnant for my brother, she walked to work (4 miles round trip) just to keep her job and continue to provide for me and him.  We walked a lot growing up.  We experienced a lot of financial hardship.  But through it all, my mom kept persevering and providing for my brother and me.

Can I get real for a minute?  Grief is a very challenging thing to deal with and if not dealt with properly can cause years of problems and dysfunction.  How do I know?  Because I am one who didn’t grieve well and it took its toll on me for far too long.  For years after Skeet’s death I was numb for two days in May-the day of his death and the day after.  I would tear up and then eventually suppress the sadness because I didn’t want to feel sad.  I couldn’t visit his grave without crying so I eventually stopped visiting.  I hated to cry. I gave myself a time limit to grieve and after a while I told myself I shouldn’t be sad anymore so I shut down that part of my feelings.  I resented my mom too.  You see, they were together the night he died and she left the bar early.  He was drunk and decided to drive home (like many, many times before) and he caused the car accident.  Thankfully, the person he hit suffered only a broken leg and only my step-dad’s life was taken.  I am not thankful he died but thankful no other lives were lost in what could’ve been a preventable accident.

I have dealt with anger issues and lived a very long life feeling half of me was missing.  I also felt like I was robbed of the only security I had ever known.  I had times I was angry with God too. I couldn’t understand why He would take my daddy away from and allow me to grow up without a father.  I strayed from the church in my 20’s because of my anger with God and felt I had been force fed the Bible for far too long.  During my bar days, I would get into near fist fights with people who had been drinking and were going to drive home. I was a designated driver for many years and honestly didn’t even have my first alcoholic beverage until I was 23.  I was even controlling with my first real relationship because I was afraid to lose him.  Having something so tragic and out of my control happen to me at such a young age put me into a tailspin of always being in control, expecting the worst and never really enjoying the happy times because I vowed I would never feel that out of control or lost again.

It took years to learn that I am not in control of anything but my own response or reaction to the curve balls life throws at me.  It took years to recognize that God is in control and He does what He wants, when He wants to whom He wants because He is God and He can do that.  It also took me years to truly believe that all things work together for His glory Romans 8:28)-even the worst tragedies of our lives.  And it literally took 30 years for me to feel free from the burden of grief.  In fact-it was almost 30 years to the day of his death that I found myself at the same funeral home surrounded by the same family and at the same cemetery honoring the life of his great aunt.  After her graveside services and I said my goodbyes to his family, I mustered up the courage to walk over to his grave site.  While standing there, I found myself talking to the stone as if he was there in person.  I suddenly heard a whisper in the wind say, “I’m sorry.” And I felt my whole heart whisper back, “I forgive you.”  It was that moment all the grief, sadness, resentment and anger was finally released.  I walked to my car with a tear stained face and heart full of freedom.

Last fall I found myself traveling to the town I lived in when Skeet had died.  It was for my son’s football game.  While driving home my children and I drove past the place I lived at the time of his death.  Suddenly floods of memories came back that I hadn’t thought of since I was a small child.  Good, strong happy memories.  As I was telling the kids many wonderful stories, I began to cry.  Only this time, I didn’t suppress it.  I let myself tear up and feel the sadness that never truly goes away.  You see, when you live the rest of your life missing half of yourself, no matter how fully healed you are, there’s a sadness that will never go away.  I have learned that that is truly ok.  God can fill us up and He can make us whole.  But even God knows what it feels like to be grief stricken and feel like half of you is missing.  So I believe He fully understands the emptiness we forever feel when someone we deeply loved is taken from us so suddenly.

Although Skeet was only my dad for nearly 5 short years, he impacted my life tremendously and his death forever changed me.  One thing that came from such a loss is this-I am living proof that God is near to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18), that He turns our mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11) and that He makes beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3.) A life changing tragedy is what led me to Him and continued circumstances beyond my control, including other moments of heartache and grief continue to keep me close to Him.  Tomorrow is another anniversary of the day my life was forever turned upside down.  But because of God’s healing touch and His perfect love for me, I will face tomorrow with joy in my heart and gratitude for the years I did have with Skeet instead of focusing on the years I have lived without Him.  God is always faithful to His promises-especially the promise of healing (Isaiah 53:5) and to bind up the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1.)

God calls us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18.)  This doesn’t mean I have to thank Him for taking my daddy away from me.  What this does mean is that I can choose to be thankful for the years I had with him and for all the ways God protected, provided and loved me unconditionally in the years I have lived on since Skeet was called home to Jesus.  It also means I can thank God for His faithfulness in the promise that He is our Heavenly Father and is especially faithful in being the One true Father to the fatherless.  (Psalm 68:5)

I Need a Heart Transplant, do You too?

“I will give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stony stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”  Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

I’m a girl with her head in the clouds, figuratively speaking.  I’m not referencing myself as a space cadet or an “air head”.  I’m referring to actual clouds-sky watching. I love sunrises and sets and seeing sunrays beam through the clouds. I love searching the skies for messages from Heaven, God’s wisdom in the shape of a cloud or glowing through a majestic rainbow stretched across the sky.

This time of year, where I live, sunrises and sets are few and far between with days filled with a fog of gray.  Trees are merely blackened sticks barren of their leaves covered in a dusting of snow.  People who don’t believe in seeing life in black and white should experience winter in North America because most days are just that-black and white coloring every.  Winter brings cold, ice and more darkness than daylight.  It’s the time of year I can fall into seasonal depression, becoming overly tired, cranky and just craving warmer temps with opportunities to soak up sunshine.

Earlier this week I took a quick trip into town to pick up my son from a friend’s house.  The day was your typical December gray day.  Temp was cold, and snow covered the ground and roads making travel slower than usual.  Out of habit, I searched the skies fully thinking I wouldn’t find anything beautiful or eye catching amidst the dullness.  But that day, right above me slightly to the left of my view was a stone colored heart shaped cloud.  I blinked a few times to make sure I saw it clearly but each time I saw the same thing-a stone colored heart.  The cynical side of my immediately thought; “How typical to see a stony colored heart on a cold winter’s day.”  But then Ezekiel 36:26 ran through my mind and I immediately thought about what it means to have a stony, stubborn heart and how God transform it into a heart of flesh.

I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on that verse and thinking of how it applies to me specifically.  I felt God heavily speaking me showing me reflections of this past year and how I handled different situations.  I finally realized He was showing me that I have a stubborn stony heart.  People closest to me may disagree.  I have many people in my life who tell me regularly how beautiful my heart is.  When I really blow it or make a big mistake they are the ones who remind that God sees my heart.  They’re right, He does.  I used to think He saw a solid black heart because when I’m angry and hurt I can have some pretty hateful thoughts. But I believe He was showing me my heart is gray, the color of stone because that’s what I have built around it to protect myself.  He also gently reminded me that He wants to remove the stone and give me a heart of flesh.  But I have to be let go of certain things in order for Him to pluck the stone out of me.  He’s been chiseling away at the stone for years but He knows I’m more bullheaded than a mule and short of zapping me with a bolt of lightning to knock me off my stubborn keister or throw me into the belly of whale, He lets me repeat the same mistakes over and over again like a wandering Israelite lost in the desert for 40 years.

Tomorrow is a New Year and I believe God has been telling me there are things I need to lay down and leave in 2016.  They don’t belong in the 2017 that He has planned for me.  Instead of partying hardy to ring in the New Year, I will be spending this evening home reflecting on the things I need to leave behind to make room for God to transform my heart into one of flesh that can receive His love and all He has planned for me.  I don’t know everything He wants me to lay down but three things have been tugging deep within me already this week.

  1. Pride-Pride is something I have wrestled with most of my life.  I grew up in very humble means and chose to pursue a college education believing that degree would bring me a salary where I could live comfortably and never know financial struggles, never need anyone’s help.  I couldn’t have been MORE wrong.  My college degree has led to me to the career I have but it also afforded me a large almost unpayable debt and the paycheck of a social worker is far from lifestyles of the rich and famous.  Being a single parent means being the sole bread winner.  Short of working myself to death and never sleeping or seeing my children, my income is limited to what my salary brings.  Money is tight and there have been many times I could not make ends meet.  Pride kept me from asking for help when I really needed it and getting buried in such financial dishevel that asking for help became my only  With a broken spirit and in utter embarrassment I would sob words of failure to my family and friends who graciously have helped me throughout the years.  Just tonight God blessed me with an unexpected offer of help (and answered a prayer to pay off a debt I have been battling with for a few years.)  The first sentence spoken to me before the offer was made was, “Put your pride in your pocket.”  Thankfully I prayed ahead of time asking God to help me swallow my pride before meeting with the couple who blessed me tonight.  I left their home with a check in my pocket and utter awe in my heart for how God uses everyone in our lives, even people we would least expect consider the role they play in our lives, to help us in time of need.
  2. Selfishness-I am a very “me” centered person. I grew up feeling invisible and looked over, viewed only as average or ordinary.  The only time I was noticed was if I was acting out, being loud and obnoxious or simply to be the butt of someone’s ridicule.  Add a few neglectful relationships in there and suddenly I took on this whole new defensive persona that felt no one would fight for me so I had to fight for myself.  I busted my backside living down the lies people spoke about me and lies I believed in myself.  I did it in my own strength.  If someone didn’t notice good in me, I made sure to point it out to them.  I was very much a “Look at me-I’m worth noticing.  I matter too.” person.  I refused any type of constructive criticism and immediately reacted with accusations and attacks to my critic’s character.  I was very much a “Who are you to talk to me that way?” thinker.  In a nut shell, I lived for me.  Even my prayer life was selfish.  Oh I prayed-I prayed daily. I made myself get out of bed at 4am every day to get on my knees and pray.  I was even faithful in fasting.   Why?  Because I wanted God to give me what I wanted.  I didn’t pray seeking what God wanted.  I prayed for Him to selfishly grant me my desires-like a genie in a lamp granting me three wishes.  When He told me no I believed the lie that fasting was futile and my prayers didn’t travel any farther than my living room ceiling. I couldn’t admit that I was praying wrong and with selfish motives.  James 4 is very clear when in verse 3 he says, “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong-you want only what will give you pleasure.”  That was me.  I wanted what I wanted and didn’t consider what God would want.  Mostly because I feared God wanted the exact opposite of what I wanted and I couldn’t accept that. Which leads me to the third thing God wants me to leave behind in 2016.
  3. Fear-Fear is probably my biggest stronghold. I have missed out on amazing opportunities because of fear.  As a child, I wanted to be a Disney animator, work as a marine biologist for Sea World and perform on Star Search.  I believed I wasn’t good enough in drawing or smart enough in science nor talented enough as a singer to pursue any of those dreams.  In high school, I studied performing arts for three years, performed in talent shows and school plays.  I dreamed of studying at Juilliard in New York and star on Broadway.  Fear of rejection and being told I wasn’t good enough kept me from even applying.  In college, fear kept me from doing a study abroad in France for five weeks.  I feared losing my job, losing the relationship I was in ad flying overseas in an airplane.  Fear kept me from taking a lot of risks and trying many things for many years.

Fear has been a factoring role in many of my relationships also.  In college I would fight with my boyfriend if he wanted to have a drink or go to a party because I was afraid he would drink and drive and cause an accident (my step-dad died in a drunk driving accident when I was 8.)  I stayed in a very destructive relationship for many years because I feared being a single parent and having to raise two children on my own.  I held onto the hope of another dead end relationship out of fear of being alone.  And I settled into a “this is as good as it’s going to get” mentality career wise for years because I was afraid to pursue something new and fail again.

Fear of rejection and fear of failure are my two biggest controllers in life.  Fear of failure has shaken me from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and kept me away for hours just tossing and turning worrying about failing.  It’s kept me from speaking up when I should and saying the wrong thing when I should’ve remained silent.  Fear of rejection has kept me from chasing my dreams time and time again.  Fear is the most crippling baggage I need to let go of and probably the hardest one for me to separate from.

Pride, selfishness and fear. Three controllers I will be eliminating from my life TODAY so God can strip all the stone from my heart and transplant into me a heart of flesh filled with the Holy Spirit.  Thankfully God’s word has some pretty specific thoughts on all three of these areas to help me let go of them.  For pride God says; “Pride ends humiliation, while humility brings honor.” (Proverbs 29:23), “And when they cry out, God does not answer because of their pride.” (Job 35:12) and “He shows them the reason; He shows them their sins of pride.” (Job 36:9.)

For selfishness, God specifically says, “For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom.  Such things are earthly, unspiritual and demonic.” (James 3:15), “And even now in your holy festivals aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?” (Zechariah 7:6) and “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” (James 3:16.)

God’s word speaks even more about fear.  Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not worry (fear) about anything, instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.”  In 2 Timothy 1:7 we read, “for God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”And Deuteronomy 31:6 specifically tells us to “be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.  For the Lord Your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Today I will leave these three in 2016 and refuse to carry them with me tomorrow as day 1 of 2017 begins.  But because old habits die hard, I won’t be doing this on my own strength.  I am finally at a point in my life of surrender to God and His will for me making it easy for Him to do as He has promised-remove my stony stubborn heart and give me a spirit filled heart of flesh.  Today-I will be undergoing a heart transplant by the best Heart Surgeon no money can ever afford.  As you begin a new year, I invite you to reflect and see if you too need a heart transplant.  What better time to gain a spirit filled heart of flesh than at the beginning of a new year?

A Modern Day Hester

If you’ve ever read the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, you are familiar with the main character, Hester Prynne, who was publicly punished for having an affair.  Her punishment included imprisonment and standing in the town square for hours wearing a red A on her clothing (the A stood for adulteress.)  Hester had a child by her lover but chose to never disclose who the lover was despite the threatening pressure she endured.  In fact, the only time she fought back was when select townspeople threatened to take her child away when the child started acting out.  The story is full of deception, secret lives and guilt stricken consciences.  In the end, Hester carries on, wearing her scarlet A with no healing from the mistake she made.

I am a modern day Hester.  Now before I go any further let me clarify-this is NOT a confession of having an affair nor am I pregnant with a love child.  But-I have made some pretty sinful mistakes in my life and if I had lived in the puritan era like Hester, I would’ve been her cell mate. My scarlet letter probably would have covered my entire body.  Like I said, this is not a confession. In fact, guilt rarely even has control over me anymore.  This is transparency for my readers in hopes to raise awareness of forgiveness, mercy, grace and healing.

I was called a “loser” recently.  Being call that not only shocked me but it greatly stung.  In fact, in nearly knocked me down.  I was called a loser because of a mistake I made.  It was a mistake made from a broken heart and out of mass confusion. I confessed it not only to God but to the person who called me this name trusting that person would be understanding and forgiving. They weren’t.  They were angry and instead of mercy and grace, they verbally pinned me with a big old scarlet L (for loser.)  This is not the first time I’ve been called names for making a mistake.  My “favorites” are being called “a head case” when I had post-partum depression, and “a financial disaster” because I struggle with money management.

We are all human.  We ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23.) David was an adulterer and a murderer.  Do you know what God did to him?  Made him king of Judah.  Moses was also a murderer and a coward.  God chose him to take on Pharaoh and lead God’s chosen people out of slavery.  Rahab was a prostitute and God used her to hide His spies who came later to conquer the city she lived in.  God did punish them-David and Bathsheba lost the child that was conceived by their affair.  Moses was exiled for 40 years after committing murder and I’m sure Rahab lived a fairly miserable life as a prostitute.  But God also redeemed them.  And once redeemed, He then promoted them!  That’s just how God works.

God doesn’t call us names.  If He is tearing us down it’s only to remove the bad.  Any tear down from God is guaranteed to have a major build up and fill up with His forgiveness, grace and mercy. God calls us to the do same with each other.  His word is full of scriptures like; “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith… (Jude 1:21), “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11), “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25) and “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8.)  The Bible does call us to admonish one another but He does not call us to shame or condemn one another.  In fact, He says the opposite in Romans 8:1; “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”  That verse is pretty straight forward and if your Christian walk is anything like mine then we both need straight forward, aye?

Driving to work today, God reminded me of Hawthorne’s novel.  He played a Casting Crowns song for me on the radio with these lyrics,

“Not because of who I am

But because of what You’ve done.

Not because of what I’ve done

But because of who You are…

Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.

And You’ve told me who I am.

I am Yours, I am Yours…

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin

Would look on me with love and watch me rise again?” ~Who am I

He then spoke to me with these words, “You don’t wear a scarlet A or L, Beloved.  The blood I shed on the cross for you removed every transgression I knew you would commit in your lifetime.  Beloved, the cross took that A and L away.  I have emblazoned you with a new letter-a V, washed white as snow.  It stands for the victory you have in Me.”

Ironically, when googling those above song lyrics, I stumbled upon the lyrics to one of my favorite songs by Jessica Andrews.  It’s called, Who I am.  The second verse in this song is my anthem;

“So when I make big mistake

When I fall flat on my face

I know I’ll be alright

Should my tender heart be broken

I will cry those teardrops knowin’

I will be just fine

‘Cause nothin’ changes who I am..”

I know who I am.  I am not a loser, a head case or a financial disaster.  Who am I?  A modern day Hester redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.  I AM the DAUGHTER of the ONE TRUE KING, His Princess and His only.  No cruel word will ever change that.

For those living in a pit of guilt and shame-get out!  Shake it off and straighten your crown.  For you too are redeemed, washed white as snow and wear a V for victory on your heart.  Live victoriously as the son or daughter of Christ that you were made to be.  For those casting stones, stop it!  Stop forming a firing squad.  If your heart is hurting and your angry then pause and pray.  Ask God to fill you with the grace and mercy for those whose mistakes hurt you.  But remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees who wanted to condemn a woman caught in adultery in John 8:7, “They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” God called us to be bridge builders-not stone throwers.