Just Breathe!

Sometimes we feel so defeated by trials that we forget we still have much to be grateful for.  I feel like I run at a million miles a minute and anything moving that fast is bound to run into quite a few speed bumps.  Acknowledging the speed bumps is important and crucial to my success because I have to know when to slow down, but I can’t allow myself to be overcome by something that was merely meant to cause me to slow down.

This past school year, one of my teenagers gave us such a hard time that we have opted to change her environment and put her into private school.  My son has autism and last week, 20 minutes into our beach day, it started to rain and as lightning flashed across the sky, my son began hysterically trying to leave the beach.  My oldest daughter lost her third cell phone, and I have gained so much weight that I had to get new clothes.  To top it all off, my husband went outside last week and realized that while we were sleeping at night, someone had come into our driveway and stolen his car.

Most of these are things that required immediate attention, but then I had to remember my daughter is quite moody, but still alive.  She even sang our praises last week when she talked about how great her parents are. Go figure!  We did something right!  My son has autism and hates storms, but about five years ago, he was barely talking.  He has grown by leaps and bounds.  My oldest daughter can work and buy herself a new phone. She is also still alive. Praise the Lord!  Within a week of losing the car, my husband was able to replace it with an even better one.  Years ago, we would not have been able to make it if someone stole our vehicle.  It may be a used car, but it’s new to us.  God is good!  P.S. I got the new clothes and a new plan for my health.

At church today, the pastor talked about focusing on the blessings instead of the struggles.  It really changes your perspective and challenges what you value in life.  I know that problems will arise, but sometimes we need to relax and just breathe.  There is so much to be thankful for.  If you just took a breath you are blessed.  Use that breath to fight for the best.  Never ever give up, no matter what.  Just breathe.

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Purpose and Gratitude

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I haven’t made time for this blog in a long time and I regret it.  Lately I’ve been under attack in so many areas of my life that I’ve taken my eyes and focus off the very one that serves as my everything.  I know I need the Lord, but unfortunately my time with Him has suffered.  This morning, I woke up to the sound of Pastor Kevin Furtick on T.V.  He was talking about becoming a graduate of gratitude.  In the kindergarten level, we’re grateful for what we have.  By high school, we are grateful even though we may endure a trial or two.  As a college grad, we see the blessing in the storm.  We accept the Lord’s invitation to dine “in the presence of our enemies.”  We trust Him so much that we know He’s working ALL things for our good.

One of the lessons that I constantly discuss with my girls is the importance of understanding purpose.  It’s easier to make good choices when we understand and focus on our purpose.  There’s a song by Hillsong United that says, “I will call upon your name, and keep my eyes above the waves.  When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace, for I am yours and you are mine.”

Oh, how difficult it is to keep my eyes above the waves!  The trick is to spend time with the Lord daily, not just when we find ourselves surrounded by stormy waters and we need a life line because time is what builds relationships.  When I spend time in His presence every day I am reminded of how much He loves me.  I am reminded of my purpose and then I have peace so…. when the storms of life blow relentless winds of pain and the waves rise above my head I am already focused because I know that greater is He that is in me than He that is in this world.

I must keep reminding myself early in the morning before I do anything else that I am a servant of the Lord before I am anything else.  Before I am a wife, before I am a mother, before I am a teacher, and before I am a student, I am a servant of Christ.  That’s who I am and my purpose comes from that role first.  It drives the rest of my roles so my time with the Lord is of the utmost importance.  I can’t do life without Him, and when I try I am constantly overwhelmed by stress. Then, when something big finally does come, I can’t keep my eyes on Him because they weren’t on Him to begin with.

So here I go again, just like an Israelite.  Lord, I messed up again and I forgot about how important our time is.  Forgive me and let’s start anew so I can focus my eyes on you and keep them there.  My heart’s desire is to maintain an attitude of gratitude in ALL things.

The Great Commission

In Isaiah chapter 6, Isaiah sees the Lord sitting on the throne in His temple.  There are angels around Him crying out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.”  When Isaiah realizes where he is he freaks out.  He admits that he is a sinful man and that he lives among sinners. He thinks that he is doomed.  One of the angels overhears him and goes to him.  He puts a coal on his mouth and he’s like, “Dude, you’re good.  You are forgiven and your slate is wiped clean.”  Right after that, Isaiah hears the Lord asking about who He will send to minister to the people.  Immediately, Isaiah says, “Lord, here I am. Send me” (Isaiah 6:9).

When I read that I was overwhelmed with joy.  Isn’t it amazing how the Lord can use us in spite of ourselves.  How many times have I said the same exact thing?  The Lord doesn’t need a perfect person.  He needs someone who is willing to be used by Him, someone who is obedient and ready to surrender their own will.  At the beginning of the year I prayed this prayer:
Lord, I don’t know what you are doing.  I don’t always understand why things happen, but I know that you said in your word that your ways are not my ways and your thoughts are not my thoughts.  Despite all the wrong that I’ve done and despite the fact that I am not worthy to be called yours, you love me.  I know that you have plans for my life so Father strengthen my faith so that it will be greater than my fear…and God here I am.  Send me.

Repositioned not Abandoned

In our darkest moments we tend to feel as though the Lord has abandoned us.  Sometimes He’s re-positioning us for something greater.  We can’t see where He’s taking us because we are so set on where we were.  Pastor Rick Warren says that worry sets in when we take our focus off of God.  Instead we lean on our own understanding and worry.  We want things to happen in our time and in our way.

Just remember that God loves you and always has your best interest at heart.  If you can remember that very important fact then focusing on the Lord even during the most trying hardships will be easier.  The bible says that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His way are not our ways.  Keep your eyes on Him so that when he re-positions you, you aren’t left feeling gloomy over what was in yesterday.  You’ll instead rise to the occasion and see the blessing in what is to come.

Staying on Track

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I never thought in a million years that I would write overtly Christian messages.  I thought I’d just write good inspirational “feel good” posts to uplift and encourage.  I never wanted to come across as preachy because I have people from all different walks of life who confide in me. A part of me has always believed that people feel comfortable talking to me because I’m NOT preachy.  I never judge and I work hard at being understanding and loving.

Lately, my covert op to “softly and subtly” spread the love of Jesus has taken on a much different turn.  Everything that I get seems to be very blatantly Christ centered.  What can I say?  Underneath it all I’m just a real life Jesus freak!

Now, on to today’s post…er…message…um…sermon…oh gosh…here goes…

As Christians our mission is to be the salt of the earth, but sometimes when life attacks we fall off track.  During tribulations we have to remember the mission of our adversary: to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  The enemy wants to refocus our attention on life’s challenges so that we can serve his plan and not the plan of the Lord.  Broken hearts, shattered dreams, and mistakes are just distractions that Satan uses to take us off of the track that the Lord has set us on.

Allowing ourselves to get submerged in the tragedies of life derails us.  We begin to think that we are so broken that we cannot be of service to the kingdom of God.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are definitely times when we need to step down and repent.  We need to ask the Lord to reorder our steps and allow Him to heal us, but we are NOT to get swallowed up by our troubles.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4: 17 NIV).

If we can remember that these periods in our lives serve a greater purpose, then we can thwart the plans of the enemy.  God wants to use our troubles for His glory.  Don’t you know that you aren’t the only one facing those trials? Your deliverance and perseverance through the storms of life provide hope for others.  As you give hope to others you simultaneously point them to the one whose very essence represents hope.

Trusting in God When Prayers are Unanswered

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Have you ever wondered why God didn’t answer your prayer?  Ever been excited for something that you just knew was going to happen and then it fell apart?  I’ve spent the last three months on a similar journey.  I was so frustrated that I even took time away from writing my blogs.

Crying Out

I spent the last three months crying out to God for something very specific that I strongly believed I needed.  To date He has not answered my prayer, at least not in the way that I wanted him to.  I had come up with this brilliant plan about how I would do all these things and God would give the increase as I needed.  In my prayer time I was like, “God all I need you to do is throw down the blessing and anoint the plan.”  When it didn’t happen in the timing and in the way that I wanted it to I was so hurt.  I felt rejected.  Guess what?  Sometimes God rejects our plans, but He never rejects us.  I cried like a baby, “Why? Why? Why?” Because:

My thoughts are not your thoughts. Nor are your ways My ways (Isaiah 55:8).

God sees the things that we can’t see.  We see what’s right in front of us, but God sees what’s in front of us, beside us, behind us.  He sees how things will unfold if they happen OUR way.  He never intended for us to understand everything and that is the reason we have to trust in Him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding (Prov. 3:5).

Our own understanding is so limited that when we go to the Lord with our plans we don’t even know if our plan is best.  It’s usually not and that’s why we ask for His will to be done.

In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:6).

I didn’t acknowledge the Lord.  I assumed that I knew best and in doing so I asked Him to follow me instead of me being directed by Him.

Today, after choosing His presence over my plan I finally understand why my prayer wasn’t answered in my way.  I am so glad that God rejected my plan and chose to embrace me instead.  In these moments I am reminded of the importance of trusting in Him even when I don’t understand and He doesn’t answer the way I want Him to.

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10a).

True Unconditional Love

Most of us feel pity when we see others suffering.  If we see a woman crying or a child who has fallen and hurt themselves we feel some type of empathy.  We feel sorry for the people who have been unjustly killed or sacrificed for the sake of hatred.  We become responsive.

Funny thing is, most people can’t even stand the people that they see every day like co-workers, bosses, family members, church members, and/or neighbors.  Since they irritate us we would rather not deal with them at all and we aren’t even compelled to figure out what ails them.

Ministry is so much more than a pulpit, a stage, and a microphone.  Sure we appreciate a praise team who helps to usher in the presence of the Lord.  We are inspired and encouraged by the word of the preacher, but what about us?  Outside of “church” related areas of ministry what else should we do?  We should love.

My goodness!  It sounds like the easiest thing in the world to do, but apparently it’s harder than it sounds.  How can I get on stage and minister to a group of people, but then refuse to deal with the ones who are in some way related to me?  Doesn’t God require me to love all?

I watched a doctor show a little while ago and there were two doctors talking.  They were arguing over whether or not to help a patient who was deemed a bad man.  One of the doctors said something so powerful.  He said, “We don’t get to choose who we help.  That’s the oath that we took. We help whoever needs help.”

I know that it sounds so plain and simple, but ministry is the same way.  We don’t get to choose who we minister to.  We minister to everyone that we come in contact with.  This list includes: annoying family members, cruel bosses, jealous co-workers, rude neighbors, and prideful church members.  Add to the list if you like.  The point is that as a disciple of Christ we can’t minister to or love people on the left while turning our backs on the people to the right because they “get on our nerves.”  Let’s love with a true unconditional love.

Overcoming Shame to Inspire Hope

Today I saw a beautiful illustration of hope on Instagram. It was a picture of a root deep below the dirt.  The caption on that picture said, “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but actually you’ve been planted.”  I love that.  That’s called hope.  It’s the light at the end of the tunnel that tells you that you can make it and better days are coming.  That’s what I aspire to represent for others.  I want people to see me, hear my story and be inspired by hope.

I learned an important lesson about giving hope.  It starts with overcoming shame.  We don’t go through storms and make it to the other side so we can hide the past.  We aren’t supposed to bury our struggles and challenges.  I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t have a story.  There’s something lurking in everyone’s closet that is a part of their past.  If you don’t get healed from it, that thing will continue to lurk around and you will never be able to inspire hope in others.  I personally cannot and will not be ashamed of where I have come from, where I am, or where I’m going.  Walking in shame says that I don’t appreciate what God has done for me and keeps me from acknowledging my progress.  On top of that shame is like being shackled and bound.  It’s oppression.  It’s also pride and my bible says that “pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Like I said I want to be the person that people look to for hope and inspiration.  Don’t look at my life and think about perfection. See the struggles and the journey that has brought me to where I am today, then you can look at your own life and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you too can make it.  You are bigger than your circumstances and trials in life do not have to define you. You can be victorious while walking through the storm and triumphant when you choose not to be consumed by your issues.

I haven’t always been this passionate about overcoming shame.  At the end of 2011 I found out that my husband was “dealing” (selling).  Yes.  I said it.  At the end of 2012, he went to jail to serve a four year sentence.  I was devastated.  Here I am this Christian woman known for loving Jesus and my husband is a wannabe thug.  It’s okay. You can laugh.  I was a stay at home with three kids (one with autism) and I had never lived on my own before.  I cried out to God and screamed and hollered.  I had to move into a new house without the help of my husband.  I have been raising our three children since 2012 by myself.

At first I wanted to die.  Seriously, I just wanted to die. I couldn’t believe that something like this was happening to me.  Not me!  Yes me.  I even stopped going to church for almost a year.  It was too embarrassing.  I was so worried about what religious folks and naysayers would say about me that I couldn’t bring myself to go and be ministered to.  Crazy huh?

Let me tell you what I learned during that time.  First of all, I have the best family in the world. I love them.  They love me.  Nuff said.  They rallied around me and my sister, God bless her and her husband, they have come to my rescue so many times I lost count.  This journey was as much about my husband’s rehabilitation as it was about mine.  For years I have learned to rely on others. The thought of standing on my own two feet was terrifying.  I am the prime example of the damsel in distress who awaits her knight in shining armor. I had to decide that I was either going to be crushed by this trial or I was going to grow stronger.  Like I’ve said before, I have always had a desire to motivate and encourage others so I had to make a decision that I was NOT going to allow this situation to take over. I am not someone else’s mistakes. I am not a damsel in distress. I am not weak.  I am an overcomer.  I am a warrior and I am not alone.

I started reading the Bible after I picked myself up off of the floor.  “He will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  I eventually went back to church and even got involved in the infant’s ministry and I served as a greeter/usher a few times.  I had to move beyond self.  It was hard.  I stuffed tears back into my eyes many times.  (You know how you look all the way up so the tears roll back?)

Let’s cut to the end shall we? I went back to school with a determination like never before.  I worked and really learned what life is like as a single parent.  It aint’ easy, but I survived.  I learned to pay bills…on time.  I learned to take out that nasty trash…on time.  I learned to be thankful for every blessing that I have.  I stopped feeling sorry for myself and got up.  I graduated from Regent University on May 9, 2015.  I had an amazing teacher that talked me into writing this blog.

Guess what else?  My marriage is the most surprising part of the whole story in my opinion.  We didn’t fall apart.  Nope. Even though our union seems impossible, I learned that nothing is impossible with God.  He keeps showing me this over and over again.  It’s refreshing each time I relearn the lesson.  We are still a work in progress. I don’t want to take away from his testimony because he can’t wait to get out and share it so I won’t go too much further on that topic.  I will end with this.  It ain’t easy, but I survived and I’m doing well.  I have a smile on my face and I’m happy.  I haven’t been able to say that in a long time.  I’m happy.  Feels good to say and to type.  Guess what?  You can make it too!  Don’t let the naysayers and religious folks keep you from walking in victory.  Hold your head up.  You are an overcomer who triumphs not because you’re perfect, but because you don’t quit.  Don’t roll over.  So long as you have breath in your lungs you keep fighting and keep believing.  “He will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  Be inspired!  #loveshopeheals