Monday, May 1, 2017

Weeping Forward

Weeping forward is a term I recently came across in Kelly Minter's Ruth Bible study and it struck a chord deep within.  Since then, it's a prayer I've been praying for a lot of friends as they deal with hard, hard things...divorce, suicide of a loved one, prodigals, illness, the list goes on and on.   And then this morning I got my daily alert for the The Bible App verse of the day.  It comes from Psalm 42, which is the perfect psalm for a weary soul.  The Psalmist has gone into the depths and all hope seems lost.  But then he emerges.  He writes, "Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God."


Weeping forward is the notion that when life seems to be crashing in around you and you feel like you're paralyzed with fear, anger, regret, or sorrow; you refuse to stop and wallow.  Yes, wallowing and having a pity party is the natural, human instinct and reaction.  But instead of succumbing to those emotions, you push forward.  You put one foot in front of the other and take it one day at a time.  And you always keep moving forward.  Always.  No matter what.  Like the mountain depicted in the picture above, sometimes it's a steep uphill climb.  But climb, dear one.

 There may be pain in the night but JOY comes in the morning:

I know what it means to live this.  I feel like almost the whole decade of my twenties was spent weeping forward.  There was weeping over a failed relationship, not being able to find a job in my field, piling amounts of debt incurred by many different situations (some my own fault, some not), dealing with miscarriage and then infertility.  It was a trying time in my life, but I learned many important lessons through it all.  I learned what it meant to weep forward.  And through that, I saw God's providence and His deliverance.

The only way I learned how to weep forward was to surrender my life to God fully.  Grasping for control was keeping me planted right where I was.  There was never any growth because I dug my heels in and refused to surrender.  Once I was brought to my knees in full surrender, I suddenly felt the weight lifted.  Nothing about my situation had changed, but who carried the burden of my situation had shifted.  Instead of me packing it upon my own shoulders, I gave it to God.  I began to spend time with Him and learn His word.  Through that, He showed me many truths that encouraged me and kept me moving along the path He had laid before me.  He gave me enough light just for the next step.

After your season of suffering. God in all His Grace will RESTORE. Confirm. Strengthen and ESTABLISH you.   1 Peters 5:10:

If you're in this situation today, I want to encourage you and remind you that there is hope.  And that hope is in Him and Him alone.  You are not alone and you are loved more than you can imagine.  If when you do what is right and still suffer, patiently endure it.  This finds favor with God (1 Peter 2:20).  The patience you are gaining is ultimately strengthening your character.  Keep weeping forward, finding your strength from the Lord. One day you will be able to look back and see the beauty that was once just ashes.


Monday, April 10, 2017

I am Invited

In the summer of 2016, my MIL and I had a discussion one night about feeling left out, uninvited, and simply not thought of or remembered.  We talked about our feelings of inadequacy and rejection among various groups of people.  While I remember thinking, I'm glad I'm not the only one who has these feelings, I was overcome with a sadness that I can't even put into words.  As I listened to her hurts, I could clearly see the devil's attacks on her.  It made me want to take all of her hurt away and assure her that she WAS wanted and always invited.  If you know her, you know how beautiful and sweet she is.  Her mere presence is simply a blessing in her sweet spirit and my mind couldn't even bear to think that she'd been living all of that time believing she was anything less.  And all of a sudden, it was like the veil was lifted.  In my own feelings of inadequacy, I always thought there was something wrong with me.  I wasn't pretty enough, funny enough, didn't wear the right clothes, live in the right neighborhood, etc, for people to want to be around me.  I simply thought I just wasn't good enough. I never once saw all of these insults I hurled at myself as the devil's attacks in my own life. 

Why is it so easy to look at someone else and know exactly what their problem is and how to fix it, but when looking at ourselves, we can't see it the same way?  Please tell me I'm not alone in this.

A couple of weeks after this conversation, Lysa TerKeurst's new book, Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely, was released.  I immediately went to Lifeway and bought a copy for the both of us.  She read hers quickly but mine got shoved to the bottom of my book stack.  I wasn't currently feeling less than, left out, and lonely, so no need to read it yet.


That all changed rather quickly.  I don't even know what caused this shift in my thoughts, but I suddenly began to feel very isolated and withdrawn from everyone.  Maybe it was hormone related from recently having my daughter, maybe not.  All I know is I was heading into a dark place of feeling very lonely, left out, and less than.  From the outside looking in, I'm not sure if anyone could even tell.  I appeared to have it all together.

To cope, I began to immerse myself in God's Word and cracked open Lysa's book.  I even posted the picture above on Facebook and I had so many women respond to that post either through a comment or personal message.  Our church has already offered two Bible studies on this book and I would not be surprised if the demand is there for a third.  That many women are seeking comfort in dealing with these feelings. 

Over 600,000 copies of this book have been sold from August 2016 to March 2017 making it a #1 NY Times bestseller.  That's great and all, but that tells me that a whole lot of us women all feel the exact same way.  We all hurt and want so badly to feel loved and accepted.  How did this happen?

In my search for answers, God has been opening my eyes to the lies I believe about myself and the truths I should know about myself.  I'm only to chapter 5, so about a quarter of the way through the book, but I felt I needed to write this now and maybe readdress it again when I'm finished.  It's totally possible that I may talk about something she discusses later in the book and that's okay.  That's just  further confirmation that the Lord is leading my thoughts in the right direction.

From what I've gathered, I see three major lies that us women tend to believe about ourselves:

1. I am not loved (enough).
2. I am not good enough.
3. I am not invited because of something I did or didn't do.

We often think we are not "enough" in many circumstances whether it be in the way we look, how much we weigh, clothes we wear, foods we eat, how we raise our kids, the decorations that adorn our homes, exercises we didn't do, you get my drift.  We measure ourselves against standards that are unrealistic and unattainable.  NO ONE can be all of that all of the time. But it sure looks like it on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat.  It's EXHAUSTING to try to live up to that!  We don't feel loved (or loved as much as we want to be) because we read about what our friends' significant others are doing for them and well, that's never been done for me so I must not be loved. Or we seek love from someone who's toxic to us and can never love us the way we so desperate need it.  And those pictures your friend just posted of her amazing weekend with all of your other friends and...you're not in it...in fact, you didn't even know they were all getting together.  Yeah, it must've been because they didn't want to be around you. It hurts. That's what you're thinking, right?

All of these are LIES.  And it's such a vicious cycle because the more we believe these lies, the more pain we unintentionally inflict on others and ourselves because we are so desperately trying to feel good enough, loved enough, wanted enough, that we start posting our pictures, telling our friends' secrets to gain that "in", and so on that we cause this cycle to start with someone else. Let's break these chains. Please.

Out of these lies come the three major truths that I want to leave with you:

1. You are loved.  You are so loved in fact that Jesus came down to earth because He didn't want heaven without you.  He was willing to die for you because He loves you that much.  And He wants nothing more than for you to return His love and to show others His love.  Love is a big deal to Him.
As Lysa says in her book, "Live from the abundant place that you are loved, and you won't find yourself begging others for scraps of love."

Live from the abundant place that you are loved, and you won't find yourself begging others for scraps of love. - Lysa Terkeurst, from Uninvited, the book. (Simple, but not necessarily easy.):

2. You are more than enough.  As I stood at the crib watching my beautiful girl sleep, I prayed, "Lord, she is so beautiful.  I praise You because she is fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works.  Oh how my soul knows it well." (Psalm 139:14)  And He whispered to my soul, "So are you."  If we don't start seeing ourselves; our bodies, our minds, and everything in between as enough and perfectly created by God, what kind of message are we sending?  There are many things about my physical appearance that I wouldn't mind changing, but why?  I challenge myself and you to live in the peace of knowing that you are beautiful and perfect the way you were made.  Measure yourself to God's standard of you.  Not Cosmo's or the latest and greatest beauty trend.  It's all so fleeting and ultimately won't leave you fulfilled.  I speak from experience.

Psalm 114 "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" Wallpaper Download Free from Life By Elizabeth:

3. You are always invited.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me..."  I'm sure you've heard this verse before because it's a well-known verse about turning your troubles over to Christ, but don't miss the first part.  Jesus says, "Come."  That's all we have to do.
Lysa says in her book, "The more fully we invite God in, the less we will feel uninvited by others."  This is so true.  Seek Him first above all else and let His love pour over you, calm you, and reassure you.

My prayer for myself and for you is that we will be able to discern the lies from the truth.  I pray we will return to Christ over and over for fulfillment instead of seeking that from someone else.  You are loved, you are enough, and you are always invited.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fast Fixins - Erica's Greek Chicken

Have you ever had someone make you a meal and you could just feel their love through it?  Isn't that the best feeling?

 ∞ ❤ :) ❝ ❞ ×○ ➹ ♬ ✦ ❄ εїз ♖ ✧ ✩ ❀ ♕ ♡ Her heart is a secret garden and the walls are very high. ♡ ♕...:

Cooking is one of the ways I show love to people.  I would feed everyone if I could afford it.  I guess it was how I was raised.  My dad was always in the kitchen whipping up something.  His specialties were cheese grits, biscuits & gravy, lemon pound cake, and brownies. The man always had a slew of food available for anyone that might walk through the door and he made sure you never left hungry.  I think that's what my childhood friends remember most about coming to my house.

I have a sweet friend, named Erica, who brought us a meal after Emmy was born (and has since cooked for us a few more times), and every time I bite into one of her dishes, I know that cooking for others is a way she shows love.  It's there in the fresh ingredients, the time she spends chopping, cutting, and dicing vegetables and herbs.  This is one of her recipes that's not only delicious, but quick and easy too.

Erica's Greek Chicken (makes 4 servings)

Ingredients:
-4 washed and trimmed boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (or breasts - I prefer cutlets because the cooking time is less)
-1 cup all purpose flour
-2 tablespoons Greek seasoning
-Olive oil
-Feta cheese
-Kalamata olives
-Cherry tomatoes, sliced
-Green onion

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325. Mix flour and Greek seasoning and coat chicken in mixture.
2. Sear in 1 tablespoon of olive oil on high heat in hot skillet until light brown (about 1-2 mins per side).
3. Place seared chicken in a foil lined pan and sprinkle with as much feta cheese, olives, tomatoes, and green onions as you'd like.
4. Bake at 325 for 15-20 mins (depending on thickness of chicken)


While the chicken bakes, I make my vegetables to go with it.  On this day, I paired it with fresh green beans and sweet potatoes.  You can cook a sweet potato in the microwave in 7 minutes if you don't want to wait for it to bake in the oven.  These green beans take about 8 minutes.  I flash steam them in a little bit of water for 2 minutes in a skillet, drain, then return to the hot stove and cook over medium/high heat with a drizzle of olive oil, minced garlic, and a little salt and pepper for about 3 minutes. Quick, easy, healthy.  And CHEAP during their peak season.  You can get a whole bag for about $1.50 at Publix that's easily 4-6 servings per bag.

You can also pair this with rice or cauliflower rice with another green vegetable.  It's such a flavorful, colorful, healthy dinner that's ready in less than 30 minutes.  I hope you try it and enjoy it as much as we do!


Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Vase

Our daughter's first birthday was a few weeks ago and we had a small family party for her.  While I was getting the house cleaned up for guests, I had to find something to do with this vase full of wormwood (another post for another time) my Meemaw gave me several years ago that I've been using as a space filler for a drab corner of our kitchen.  It was where I needed Emmy's highchair to go so that I could configure good seating for her little party.


So, I took the vase and put it in a corner in our master bedroom because that was the most *logical* place for it to go (along with all of the other junk that I couldn't figure out what to do with) and closed the door.  Guests don't need to go in there anyways, right?  Tell me I'm not the only one who does this.  People will comment that my house is so clean and I'm like, "Look...you don't even want to see my closet or bathroom." We can't have it all together all of the time.

About a week after her birthday party, this vase was still in our bedroom.  (I guess I have selective OCD.  I am so organized and on point when it comes to some things.  Apparently this vase is not one of those items.)  Jared and I were sound asleep one night when all of a sudden we heard a loud CRASH.  It scared the daylights out of us both.  Our hearts were beating out of our chests as we jumped up to face whatever fate may await us.  Our hearts slowly returned to a normal cardiac rhythm when we realized one of our dogs had gotten up to go sleep in this corner I had now "decorated" with the vase and had knocked it over, waking up the whole house.  I knew I should have moved it out of our room a week prior.  I had even thought to myself that it was a matter of time before it fell over because it was unsturdy on the carpet in our bedroom.  But instead I let it sit there.

As I took deep breaths to try to calm myself back down, a parable Jesus spoke to the masses came to my mind.  It was one that I think about often because I feel like I've lived difference aspects of it.

It comes out of Matthew 13:18-23:

Hear then the parable of the sower.  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.  This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.  The one on whom seed was sown on rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporal, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.  And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty.


There is so much packed into these six convicting verses that I could never cover in one post, so I want to focus on the bolded verse.  And I want to focus on the bolded verse because this used to be me.

In the church, you hear a lot about a "God-sized hole" that we all have.  Well, I believed and I knew I had a God-sized hole that I was constantly trying to fill with various things - friends, clothes, boys, cars, money, education, job, alcohol, etc - things of the world that could never sustain me.  I was always so interested in learning about God when a friend would take me to church with them, but as soon as I got home or away from it, I was right back to my old way of life.

You see, I had no solid foundation in Christ.  I had no serious convictions about the way I was living my life so when any form of temptation came my way, I was sucked right back in.  If others would question me or taunt me because of Jesus, I would give right back in to my old way of living.  I couldn't stand on solid ground because I wouldn't lay down my life in surrender so that Christ could lay down the foundation for it.  This vicious cycle repeated itself for many years until finally one day I surrendered. Only through the work of the Holy Spirit in my life did I became like the seed that was sown on good soil.

If you find yourself in any of these other states, there is hope and as long as you have breath in your lungs, it's never too late.  You do not have to live your life in turmoil, without that peace that passes understanding.  Allow Jesus to be your hope and foundation and know that I'll be praying for you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Quiet Time

The past seven years or so I have rocked establishing a quiet time.  It was simple because my schedule was the same everyday and I could always plan for and carve out time to spend with my Lord.  And He always showed up.  No matter how little or how long I prayed, studied, etc, He always revealed truth to me and taught me His word.

Now that I've been delivered from my infertility and have my sweet little precious goo to care for each day, establishing a quiet time again has been difficult.  Once we get a "schedule", it quickly changes.  Can I get an amen, moms of young kids?!  And don't for one second get me wrong.  She is the answer to years of prayers and I would never trade her.  I've just had to make adjustments and finding quiet time has been one of those.

But this week I had a little revelation.  Quiet time doesn't have to be quiet.  Especially for this season of my life.  Hear me out on this.

I had in my mind that quiet time had to be completely silent in my house with no distractions - No TV, no cell phones, computer off.  A hot cup of coffee with my bible, prayer journal, and any study materials were supposed to be spread out neatly on my kitchen table as I took a sip of steaming hot coffee with the perfect proportion of creamer and dove in to God's word.  Is this ideal?  Sure!  Is it realistic for my life right now?  Absolutely not.

It is a lie.  And it was a lie I completely believed and fell for for many months.






This is what my quiet time looks like these days.

Quiet time doesn't have to be quiet in the sense that all noise has to be removed.  Quiet time is a time to quiet my soul and spirit before the Lord.  It's a time where I open His word and pray for His Holy Spirit to teach me.  It's a time where I give thanks for the wonderful gifts all around me.  It's a time where I be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).  He doesn't care how I come to Him, just that I come.  He will take care of the rest.

In James 4:8a, His word says, "Come near to God and He will come near to you."  That's what you have to do.  Take that step and walk toward Him.  You don't have to have it all together.  God doesn't care about that.  In fact, He tells us to come to Him, all of us who are weak and heavy burdened and He will give us rest (Matthew 11:28).

Matthew 6:33 says, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  This is encouraging to me because all God asks me to do is seek Him.  I don't have to have myself put together, hot cup of coffee brewed, house neat and quiet.  That's just not my reality right now.  And frankly those are distractions, those flaming arrows, that are shot at me to take my eyes off of what I should be focusing on.

He simply wants us.                                                       …                                                                                                                                                                                 More:

Be encouraged today.  You are enough.  Believe it and rest in His peace and presence.  Simply come, quiet your soul, and open His word.  He will take care of the rest.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lukewarm

My heart has been so burdened lately by the thought of being a lukewarm Christ follower.  Just for fun, let's take a look at Google's definition of lukewarm:

luke·warm
ˈlo͞okwôrm/
adjective
adjective: lukewarm
1. (of liquid or food that should be hot) only moderately warm; tepid.
2. (of a person, attitude, or action) unenthusiastic.

I don't know about you, but when I read that, I can conclude that lukewarm is not a very pleasant thing.  No one likes their coffee lukewarm.  Starbucks sells it hot or cold.  No one likes a lukewarm bath - Unless you have a fever....and then that's just a miserable experience all around.  Trust me, we experienced that last week with Emmy during a nasty sickness.

But the words that really grip me in the definition above are "unenthusiastic, tepid".  Yikes.  Do I want those words to describe me in any aspect of my life?  Absolutely not.

Jesus has a strong word for people who are lukewarm for Him.  In Revelation 3:16 He says, "So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth."

I recently saw another quote that read, "The single greatest cause of Atheism today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and deny Him by their lifestyle."


The single greatest cause.  Let that soak in awhile.

With the explosion on social media of everyone's thoughts and opinions on every topic under the sun, my spirit can easily get sucked in.  And not just that.  Friends and family can have influence over my life too and it's not always positive.  Gossip and rumors seep in to conversations, discontention arises, so on and so forth.  And while I always try to rise above, I confess that sometimes I really struggle. If we're honest, all of us do.  If you don't think so, you may want to ask God to examine your heart.

I write all of this to say that I've been heavily burdened by this lately and I recently had a breakthrough.  In reading 2 Corinthians 6:17a, the apostle Paul writes, ""Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord."  What a healing word this was to my soul.  I do not have to conform to what anyone thinks I should conform to.  God says I am to be separate and He will welcome me (v.17b).  He calls me His daughter and He tells me that He will cleanse me from every burden I carry if I will only come to Him and talk to Him about it (2 Cor 7:1, 1 John 1:9).  What a loving Father.  He always knows just how to light my fire.

 Image result for he restores my soul'

My soul feels refreshed.  He always provides light and a way.  He reminds me that it's good to be different because that's who He called me to be.  I don't need to worry about acceptance because I am acceptable to Him.  Maybe you needed this word too.  Maybe you feel rejected or burdened because you sometimes don't know where you fit in or are welcome.  And maybe it's all made you feel a little lukewarm.  Good news!  God always has His arms open to us, ready to welcome and receive us no matter how far we've strayed or what we've done.  And it's a warm, rich embrace.  Amen and amen.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sweet Sufferings

I have so many posts that have been in my head (and I've been HORRIBLE about posting), but this is one that keeps pressing me with urgency.  Maybe it's because of all the heartache all around me.  Whether it be breakups, loneliness, divorce, miscarriage, infertility, death, any kind of heartache - I want to encourage you that you are not alone and you are loved.  You are loved more than you can imagine.  I was gifted with a glimpse of this love and my mind can't comprehend it.

After your season of suffering, God in all His grace will restore, confirm, strengthen & establish you. 1 Peter 5:10:

If you belong to Jesus, your suffering is never in vain.  He showed me that through my years of infertility struggles.  Our suffering will never be greater than God's comfort.  He is the Father of compassion. 

Rest assured, your pain is for a purpose.  According to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, "...the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."  This means suffering connects us to other people in a way no other experience can.  No one gets it quite like someone who has been there.  The purpose for your pain may be that you are supposed to walk through it in order to help someone else who will be going through it later. 

Suffering also creates in us a patient endurance that might not have been there prior.  In fact, I'm 99.9% sure that it wasn't.  Patience is born out of waiting.  And sometimes that waiting is painful.  I love Romans 5:3-5 where Paul says, "And not only this, but we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

Tribulations -> Perseverance -> Proven Character -> Hope -> God's Love
You like my little illustration there?  The end result in God's love.  He loves you through it all, but I don't think you can clearly see it when you're in the depths of it.  Hold tight,  When you make it to the other side...ahh, what a glorious view!  He loves us SO MUCH.  He loves us so much, in fact, that He often times saves us from what we think we want because He has something better.  

Nothing teaches you obedience quite like waiting.  Isn't that how we train our puppies?  Sit. Stay. Good boy!  Not that God speaks to us like that, by any means.  It's just an illustration of how obeying yields rewards.  I feel like God's talking to us is more like, "Be still.  Calm down.  Don't fight me.  I've got this.  If you would just be quiet, I will fight this for you.  I love you and I'm going to do what's best for you." in the calmest, most assuring, loving voice you've ever heard.  I know I've spoken those words to my precious Emmeline as she's battled me during nap time.  She's flailed and screamed and I knew what was best for her as I tried to gently soothe her and rock her to sleep.  But she could be relentless!  Isn't that just how we are?  Exodus 14:14 and Psalm 46:10 truly came alive to me in the person of my little bity baby.  And I could see clearly how I learned to stop, be still, wait, and listen as I waiting during my trial.

Sufferings can bring us to the end of ourselves.  But it's not THE end...because there's Jesus, arms open wide.  He's waiting this whole time.  Suffering can shift our reliance from being on ourselves to relying on God.  What a sweet release that is when you finally surrender.  Again, I love Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 12:9 where he says, ""My grace (Jesus' grace) is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."  Powerful.  Weakness is actually a gift from God.  It's His way of reminding us that we don't have to do this alone.  He's got this.  He loves us, listens to us, and will work everything together for the good of those who believe in Him. (Romans 8:28)

 2 Corinthians 12:9. Literally just wrote tho sin my journal this morning.:

Let your heart be encouraged.  You are never alone.  You are loved more than you can imagine and every little thing is going to be okay.