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The Struggle is Real

Everyone loves a good victory story. How someone overcame a hardship and found victory. We can easily place ourselves in their shoes and imagine what it would feel and look like to have that victory. But more often we read these victory stories and we strive for it ourselves but we come up short. Our walk is hard and we struggle and fail and we can’t even see the finish line and we doubt if victory is even something we can even have.

This same victory story plays right into our witness to others. It is easy to tell of the great things God brought you out of and how you have been saved but what about witnessing right in the thick of things? What about saying I’m struggling I don’t see the end and I’m doubting. No victory story, just a very real and very hard struggle story.

In my past, my go to mode of operation was when I felt weak or struggling I would retreat. I would hide the weakness and the pain and I would doctor myself up. Of course I would pray, I would study my bible and I knew the only true healing I was to find was in Christ alone but I didn’t want anyone to else to see me. What type of witness was me doubting? What type of encouragement can be brought about through a person who can’t even seem to apply what she understands in her head but for some reason can’t get it in her heart?

So, today I am reminded to witness through the struggle. I am having a hard time. I’m stressed and anxiety is at my door trying to beat it down. I know all the right things to say to myself, trust God. Let it go. Give all your worries and burdens to him. I’m praying and I’m studying God’s word. I know not look at the storm around me and to focus on Jesus. I know every one of these things in my head but my heart is hell bent on other things. I doubt and I war within myself saying God I know I am to do this but why am I struggling to do so? He is forever faithful and provides everything I need. I could quote scripture until I’m blue in the face but it seems to have no effect.

Today I struggle. Today I war, whether within myself or I fight the enemy. My problems aren’t magically solved right away. It’s a moment by moment ordeal to not throw in the towel. It’s a moment by moment fight to keep my wandering eyes and heart on him. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. It’s hard, it’s gritty and painful. Today I struggle. Tomorrow I may find victory but I might have to do war again.

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭7:14-25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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A Time and a Place

This morning the Lord reminded me of the importance of His timing. I feel like in my short amount of years, the Lord has revealed a great deal of teaching and wisdom in my life. So much so, that it feels as though my heart and mind will bust if it is not let out. My hearts desire is to tell everyone of the truths I have been taught so that they can experience the blessings and intimacy with God that I have received. However, the words do not flow out but are stuck. I have prayed and pleaded with God, “why have you shown these things to me but I am unable to speak them?”

His response: My timing is perfect and I’m preparing the way. I’m preparing hearts and minds to hear the message. I will make you a city on a hill a strong tower. You will proclaim all that I have taught you. It is all in my control.

This message is a hard one to swallow. Who am I? No one. I’m not special I’m not qualified or experienced. There is nothing about me that suggests that I would be used in a mighty way or even be on a radar to be used at all. I don’t understand why the Lord reveals truths to me that seem so beyond my years. But I am thankful for it. I understand I have been given a gift and I have a responsibility to care for it, invest it and not squander it away but it isn’t from me. Nothing that I do entitles me or makes me deserving. I just know that Christ has radically transformed my heart and he keeps doing it and I cannot slow the pursuit of Him. I want everyone to know of this intense love and relationship that can be found in him.

So I must trust that the Lord will allow the messages to flow in His perfect timing. I must not be a bomb splattering truth across all that I see but understanding He chooses to use me as precision tool using the Holy Spirit to cut to the hearts for true change.

This is a hard message.

Jeremiah 1

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Carrying Emotional Stress of Others

Lately, God has shown me a new layer of myself. I have known I was a emotional and sensing person (Myers-Brigg personality ISFJ), but I did not realize to the extent of how it effects me. Over the last 9 months or so God has been teaching me about rest and the need for it regularly. Physical rest and spiritual rest in Him. He has disciplined me to be more diligent in my physical well being and bringing my concerns and personal worries to Him.

However, over the last few weeks it seems like I could not shake a tiredness of spirit. It wasn’t until God opened my eyes and helped me to understand that I had been carrying emotional stress of others on my back. I had no clue how others felt effected me so deeply.

He revealed to me my heart and where this empathy is good and where it had taken a wrong turn. The Lord created me to be able to sense others emotions and be in tune with how they are feeling. I can sense a turn in someone’s mood without them saying a word or a shift in a room. He gave me the ability to see past someone’s words and sense a deeper conflict even when they say they are ok. He gave me His Spirit that enhances it and spiritual gifts to see others the way he sees them but with all of that it can get skewed. I had allowed mine to get skewed. My heart goes out to the hurting and those who are having a hard time. I just want to wrap them up and protect them and care for them. Even more so I want to open their minds and heart and dump everything God has ever taught me into them so they can see. But this is an impossible thing for me to do. I am not God. I cannot be everything for everyone. I cannot protect them from hurt and pain. I cannot put a magical salve over their issues to make it easier. Oddly enough I know that trials and testing are good and it draws us closer to God but I know how painful they are as well. All of that had been weighing on me.

God in his goodness reminded me that I was not created to carry these burdens around I was created to carry them to Him. I have the power to intercede for those I love with God. I have the power to carry those people to the cross and surrender them there. Only Jesus can break the barriers of hearts and walk through walls of wrong mindsets. Only he knows what each individual needs and only He is strong enough to carry the weight of each person on His back. Satan wants to hop on my back and try to tell me I’m neglecting these people and abandoning them by not doing more but it isn’t neglecting and abandoning when you carry them to the one who loves them beyond understanding. It’s not neglecting when you carry them to the High Priest who can sympathize with every pain and heal all the brokenness.

“Also, let’s hold on to the confession since we have a great high priest who passed through the heavens, who is Jesus, God’s Son; because we don’t have a high priest who can’t sympathize with our weaknesses but instead one who was tempted in every way that we are, except without sin. Finally, let’s draw near to the throne of favor with confidence so that we can receive mercy and find grace when we need help.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:14-16‬ ‭

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To The Tired and Exhausted Mama, I See You.

This morning I told the Lord, I just want to pour out my brain to help other women and moms. I just want to say, I see you!

So in his goodness, He let flow into words where I have been and where He has taken me.

Here is a letter to you Mama,

I see you there. You are working so hard to care for your family and your marriage. You give all you have but then there isn’t anything left. Then you get attacked by the enemy, your energy is gone, you don’t feel good about yourself, your discouraged, disappointed, and depressed. You get angry easily, your tired and you feel over looked. Your screaming on the inside “DOES ANYONE SEE ME?” Does a soul care? You try to read encouraging quotes and books to help you change but it doesn’t. Still deep down there is that exhausted mom, a shell of a vibrant woman lost in diaper duty and cleaning products.

You get tempted by the future days of kids getting bigger and older to do things on their own. You are tempted to wish away the younger years because you barely feel like you are surviving let alone thriving. I see you mama because I have been where you are. I see you trying to keep your head above the water and try to keep it together. No I don’t mean the house or kids, I mean on the inside trying to keep together your heart and your mind. Desperately trying not to worry about every little detail.

I have hope for you. I have an answer but it’s not easy. It’s hard. It cuts right down to deepest reaches of your heart. It unlocks the darkest of rooms and cleans the dirtiest parts of hearts and minds. It challenges you constantly. It pushes you so far beyond yourself that your life is like walking on water. The answer is the answer to every tear you have cried silently over babies heads and in the brief alone time in the shower. It is the guilt freeing answer to the to the anger that wells up and is unfortunately unleashed on the unsuspecting children and husband. It is the answer to the discouragement in your marriage. The answer to the lack of connection and communication. It is the answer to every fear of the present and the future.

This answer can only be Jesus. It isn’t the brief devotional about him in the morning or just on Sunday. It is the hard silent time with him. It is the waking up early before the day begins relationship with him. It is a life to live outside the norm or the status quo to have something better and deeper. Not a bandaid over our issues but a healing and transformation of our hearts and minds. A life that produces eternal fruit a joy that cannot be stamped out by circumstance. This is the answer to your tired and weary hearts. He is the strength you desire. He is the love the you desperately want and He is the comfort and provision to your every need. So mama, as you work tirelessly for your family, I challenge you to lay them down at his feet and begin to work towards knowing the one who has the answer.

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10 years of Marriage

Today we hit the 10th anniversary mark of our marriage. I would love to say it’s been sunshine and rainbows but it hasn’t. It’s been hard. Life has taken many turns that I never expected. When we first got married our future was nothing but a picture of all of the beautiful possibilities I had envisioned in my head. However, as I travelled down the road of life the Lord led me in different directions other than white picket fences. He led me to unimaginable circumstances and a life full of fruit that is bared through surrender and sacrifice. My marriage is no where perfect and I’m not perfect. I struggle daily to set my selfish desires aside and pick up the Lords. I struggle even with the basics of caring for myself so the well isn’t dry so I can give to my husband and my family. But see, during this incredibly difficult seasons of extreme discipline, fruit that is eternal is being produced. Love is being shown beyond circumstances and feelings. Joy is being found amidst trials. Peace and comfort abounds during storms. I can praise the Lord when the days are hard and painful and I can praise him when they are sweet and fragrant.

This isn’t where I imagined life. It is better. The Lord grows in me a deep love for Him and for my husband. He is sanctifying me through my marriage. He uncovers what is hidden deep in my heart and heals old wounds. He transforms my mind and heart to be like his. He sets forth and produces a heritage for my children’s children. A heritage of blessing and transformation by a God who loves and has more for his people than this world can give.

As we embark on future years of marriage, it is always humbling to remember that our marriage is only a reflection of the covenant marriage between Christ and the Church. He is our bridegroom and we are his bride. Forever together, saved and made holy through his perfect blood.

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The Slippery Road of Unfaithfulness

Love and faithfulness are fruit of the spirit. Neither can come out of us apart from Christ. We may claim we love someone without having a relationship with Christ but what happens when the other person isn’t loving us back? Are we still loving them? What if they don’t make us happy any more or don’t supply our needs? How do we react? Are we faithful to stay or do we turn our hearts away?

True Godly love only comes from the spirit of God and it cannot be manufactured without him. The same goes for faithfulness. Some might say, well I’m faithful in my marriage I’ve never cheated on my spouse. A physical line might not have been crossed but has emotional one?

In our marriages, our first love must be God himself. He is loving and He is faithful to us. He will meet every need we have when we place him first. When we do this, It opens us up to love our spouse rather than feel needy toward our spouse desiring them to fill a hole only God can fill. But if we do not have God first in our lives our sin nature is to be self seeking. We turn our backs on God first. As we become unfaithful to him this unfaithfulness trickles down into our marriages.

Unfaithfulness doesn’t start off as a torrid affair. No, if that was the case we could see the enemy’s schemes and temptations and run. It comes slowly and slippery. It comes comfortably and what seems to be justified. We all have different ways we desire to be loved and when it is not fulfilled by our creator through a relationship with him and is not met by our spouse (which is impossible for them to do fully) we will begin to seek it out in other ways.

Maybe you desire quality time and the opposite sex lends a listening ear. So we cross the emotional line and begin to desire that time with someone else rather than God or our spouse. Maybe you like gifts, and the kind coworker brings in thoughtful tokens of appreciation and you begin returning the favor in kind and your heart moves from your spouse to another. Maybe you are the physical touch person and you begin desiring to see someone else because of the small physical gestures they give you. The pat on the back the hug across the shoulders the rub on the arm and your heart begins to turn away from your spouse. You could prize acts of service and delight in the person that is always so thoughtful in helping you out and begin to turn your heart away from your spouse. You might need words of affirmation. Where you might not get them at home, you seek to get them else where. Where ever the need is being met, our selfish and unfaithfulness will cause us to keep craving it from that place. We will invest more of our time, our heart and our mind there. We will desire to be where the need is seemingly being met rather than being with God or our spouse. Our desire for God and spouse will fade. Where we once cared, we will no longer care, we will just keep going where we think the need is being met. There may never be an intentional thought of hurting our spouse but the selfishness and sin that is in everyone of us only brings destruction and separation.

How is your relationship with God? How is your relationship with your spouse? Have you been emotionally faithful to them or have you began to walk down the road of unfaithfulness? We won’t see the devastating effects of unfaithfulness until we are well down the road. I pray that if you are on that road that you turn first back to the Lord and then back to your spouse. If you are a hurting spouse, I pray that you seek every need you have in the Lord. Allow Him to restore you and love you. Allow Him to heal your broken heart and help you to forgive and love as he loves despite the situation and circumstance.

Scripture

“He replied, ” You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭22:37-39‬ ‭

“I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires. They are opposed to each other, so you shouldn’t do whatever you want to do. But if you are being led by the Spirit, you aren’t under the Law. The actions that are produced by selfish motives are obvious, since they include sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good, idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, that those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:16-26‬ ‭CEB‬‬

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Practicing Rest

This morning as I was praying, I was made acutely aware that I was approaching the end of summer very quickly. Even more so, I was approaching a host of commitments I had on my plate that I really needed to get prepared for. My mind swirled for a minute, where do I begin? How do I prepare? The Lord took me a very different preparation route than I expected. He told me I needed to practice resting. What?!?! resting?!? How is this going to help me stay ahead or the at least on schedule with everything I will have to do? This is His beautiful explanation to me:

Our walk with the Lord is a marathon race. Paul describes it as a race in 1 Corithians 9, and we are to go into strict training and we are to beat our bodies and make them our slave. Well, let’s say before a big race I trained only in the weight room. I built up my muscles and and made them strong and powerful. I focused solely on the strengthening of my skeletal muscles that I never actually strengthened my heart and lungs for a longer race. The heart and lungs, a vital part in endurance, will not be strong enough to carry the necessary oxygen to these powerful muscles to keep them from fatiguing and cramping. Come big race day, I might have prepared but I did not prepare correctly. I will begin the race fast and strong but I will soon tire quickly and become fatigued and overwhelmed. I will not be able to finish the race. However, if I train appropriately strengthening the heart and the lungs I will learn to pace myself and take the necessary “breathers” that I will need to persevere.

Learning to rest, which seems ridiculous that you would need to learn to rest, is the training of the heart and lungs for the marathon season that lays ahead. So what types of rest are there? The Lord pointed out that I need three types of rest:

1. Spiritual Rest: this is resting in the Lord. Finding solitude with Him every day. Having Him renew my mind and resting/trusting in His assurances. This rest prioritizes everything else in life. It is where anxiety and stress is laid down and peace is picked up. This is where I can say I don’t have to do it all, and I let go of worldly expectations.

2. Mental Rest: This rest is a pouring into of the mind. So often life demands so much of us mentally. Always thinking of what we have to do. We also pour out into others lives praying and caring for others. Mental rest is a time to pour back into our minds. The best source to pour in is scripture because it feeds all parts of our body. Paul also speaks about whatever if lovely, honorable or praise worthy think about such things. I found when I listen to praise music or read a Christ centered book for my encouragement or teaching this pours into my mind and gives me rest from pouring out.

3. Physical rest: This rest seems to be a no brainer but too often it doesn’t happen. In America, if you aren’t moving and going you are losing or falling behind. We even have a city that is considered the city the never sleeps. Physical rest is stepping away from our normal every day work to pour into our bodies. Sometimes that is literally a nap. Other times it is exercise or a fun activity that honors the Lord.

When we pour what is good into our bodies and minds, it comes back out. For a long time, the enemy deceived me about rest. I was convinced that I must keep going. I must keep serving. Taking time away was selfish but where that landed me was an extremely overwhelmed and stressed out mom who had a short fuse. The enemy hates when Gods people rest, because rest restores the Lords army to keep waging war. If we never rest, we will become battle fatigued and overwhelmed. So how are you resting? Is rest apart of your life? Your family’s life? We all have our marathon seasons to run will you have trained in all ways including rest so that you can endure when the pressure is on?

Scripture

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

1 Corinthians‬ ‭9:24-27

“Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:3‬ ‭

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭5:15-16‬

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬