The Self in Cleansing

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There I was. Irritated. I had been working so hard on taming my words, yet here they were flying out of my mouth like I had never made an effort. This is, by far, my biggest flaw and, in that moment, it seemed as though I wasn’t equipped to conquer it any time soon.

The Sunday after I failed miserably, our pastor’s words hit home. That’s when I realized I am suspended in an uncomfortable space between my old self and the spiritually mature self. She is the self in cleansing. She is living in the divine space where the ashes of old are sifted through to polish and refine what’s buried beneath. It is in this place where she must truly be still and allow the purging of her surroundings draw to completion. The self in cleansing undergoes this purification process to be redressed in a more Christlike patience. She is to rest in an unfamiliar stillness and loosen her grip on unfulfilling dreams she desperately clung to for an identity that can only be found in Christ.  This is where God arms her with grace and understanding while relationships and things she invested time, love, money, and energy in dissolve. The self in cleansing is the stage where we are practicing the art of letting go with integrity. It is the stage of refinement.

 

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Once the beauty of these words settled on the screen of my computer, God revealed a similar process to me… the refinement of gold. In order for this valuable metal to be made pure, it must be extracted from the earth as ore, crushed, then processed depending on its nature. For example, higher grades of ore require a more extensive level of processing than lower grade. Then, according to providencemetals.com, the actual refinement process of gold happens when impurities are stripped through melting in high temperatures, treated with chloride, then passed through an electrolytic cell which results in 99.99% pure gold. In other words, it takes an extreme process to bring gold to its pure state to make it a metal of obscene value.

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Isn’t it amazing how similar that sounds to a person who is spiritually maturing in their relationship with the Lord? The ugly effects of sin, such as anger, has to be extracted from our heart. Old plans are crushed to reveal a bigger picture that leads to the spiritual maturing process. The extent of maturing needed is dependant on the nature of our brokenness. Then, refinement happens when we are suspended in extreme conditions, where we are required to sit still while God purifies our lives as new christians! I feel like my job right now is to sit still without saying a word, let nature take its course, whether good or bad, and let God remove all that doesn’t line up with the integrity of my life as a new Christian.  I believe so many people avoid taking those first steps because it seems like so much work. Truth is, it’s tons of work! But what is our other option?? Staying stuck in a ridiculously difficult, meaningless life that requires three times the effort to struggle through while sucking every bit of energy that we were meant to use to love others? Dramatic? Maybe. But we all must understand that the most valuable element of life can be found at the end of refinement and cleansing… a Christlike peace in trusting God is waiting for us! That is what true happiness is!

The more I learned about gold, the more intrigued I became. I wanted to understand where this precious metal was first found. So, I buried myself in an article from ZME Science where I was introduced to the theory of how gold got to Earth. It said that about 200 million years after the formation of a pretty important planet, meteorites loaded with incredible metals plunged onto its surface. Molten iron sank to its center to form the core of what we now call Earth… the only planet, that we know of, in the universe that is home to life29D2A57D-58CD-4E0F-9DCF-898D50D7AB0AWhile reading about this theory, I, also, found out an interesting fact! Gold can match the human body’s temperature when worn as jewelry! Think about this… the earth’s most valuable metal lives at the core of the only place God’s most valuable creation exists. Like people, gold becomes moldable under extreme conditions and, if worn, it can actually coordinate its temperature to become a physical part of us. 

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According to britannica.com, “Gold’s chemical stability is based on the relative instability of the compounds it forms with oxygen and water.”  As I dug deeper to understand why God would want me to dissect this process, I had a revelation. I began to think about how environmental and social elements throughout my life effected my emotional, mental, and spiritual stability. I began using my words to defend myself when I was very young. Taming my tongue is going to be my biggest battle and God is removing impurities from my life so I will be less tempted. Patience is required on my part, and, obviously, I was going to need a lot of it. I have known for quite some time that my life was undergoing some kind of major transition. Now that I understand that God was bringing me closer to His plan, I see the insability effect of gold happening in reverse in my life. I am witnessing the destruction of environmental and social elements of my life that do not align with scripture or His assignment on my life. Doing this research made me realized the self in cleansing is a necessary process of refinement that will eventually expose the most valuable trait that will be most useful for leading others closer to God’s mercy.

Lord, I ask that you watch over me during this season of purification. Give me the wisdom of discernment while you remove what’s necessary from my life. Help me to forgive others as quickly as you forgive me. In your name, I pray. Amen.

Sweet child, be free.

Love, D

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Confessions of the Approval Seeker

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I try my hardest to shed light on what is real in every blog post I write…well, this nugget of truth just might come as a huge surprise to many… but this confession is necessarry for living my truth with integrity, which is so important on my journey of following a God led path…

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We might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law because by the works of the law no human being will be justified. Gal 2:16

An interesting post flashed across my computer screen today. Alongside the post was the picture of a woman in a bikini with a perfectly sculpted physique on stage for a bodybuilding competition. The author wrote, “I can’t understand how a woman could let herself go after having children. I stay fit and healthy so that I can play sports with my children one day. I choose to be healthy to set a good example for my children.” I thought about what she said and, must say, my flawed human heart saw something completely opposite of what this post communicated. My first thoughts were, “Is she seriously trying to convince me she is healthy???  She is prancing around on Facebook in a bikini and heels, which she, obviously, does on stage in front of judges to win their approval….and is clearly comparing and criticizing other women. Yet, she is trying to be a good role model to her children?? Is that really society’s image of a healthy woman?????”

Yes, I know. A christian woman should not be chastising or judging anyone for anything. I am not the judge of this world, God is, but bare with me here, my point will become clear…

I watched an interview with Collette Nelson from 2010 by Bryan Gumball on YouTube. In her interview, Collette says, “You’re the most unhealthy the day of a show. You’re dehydrated. You’ve eaten limited food. You’re taking some type of diuretic, whether it be natural or not. That day of the show, I’ve gotta tell you, you look like perfection, but inside you’re just, you’re barely hangin’ on.”

In other words, the day she needs the most approval in in her career, she is at her peak level of unhealthy. Let that sink in and resonate.

The aforementioned post brought to mind a few women who have shared their lack of enthusiasm for clothes shopping with me, lately, in part due to weight gain. I, myself, am struggling with this because I am so busy I have no time to dedicate to my health. Then I realized,  this woman and myself aren’t that much different. She may be using her health and appearances as a scapegoat to win the approval of others,  while I am doing the polar opposite with the same end goal in mind.

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Ladies think about this… could we, actually, be throwing our health away because we are carrying the work load of 3 full time jobs, getting our children into every sport possible, hosting pinterest worthy birthday parties, building massive homes that we don’t actually need, and killing ourselves to make our households appear perfect… to win the approval of people who are doing the exact same thing to win ours?  Are we seriously letting ourselves go  physically, emotionally, mentally, and morally because we are chasing something far beyond our reach?? 

After spending my day thinking of all the ways I seek approval from others, I decided to research the word approval back to its origins to try to find out what it is, exactly, that we are all desperately seeking. The word approve comes from the Latin word approbare. If you take the first two letters off that word and break it down, you get probare, which means to esteem as good. What I find compelling, is that when I dug deeper into the word good, to see exactly what the human definition of good was, I noticed something astonishing. The Old English origin of the word good…. gõd. Does this word look familiar to anyone else?? We are not hungry for human approval, ladies. We are starving for GOD

Now, I don’t know about you, but I was a little mind blown at that point… which leads me to my mighty nugget of truth…

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3 years ago I decided to open a business… for the wrong reasons. I’m pretty decent at what I do… but truth is, I always felt I could do better for myself. I have a bigger passion for the relationships that I get to build as a result of my career than I ever did the actual job. At the time I openned my busiess, I was actually trying to win the approval of another person in hopes that some day he would see that I was good enough to invest his life in.  I needed his approval to validate my worth.

When I was 26 years old, I quit the industry that I was in to go back to college and pursue what my heart truly desired. I was doing great. I was on the dean’s list and in honor’s classes. However, my living arrangements weren’t the best and I was having a difficult time passing Algebra (yuck!) Instead of sticking it out and pushing through, I chose to take the quick and easy route to further my education in the industry I was trying to leave, in hopes to quickly land a more stable job that would be a better fit than what I was doing previously. To make a long story short, it wasn’t a successful plan , but it got me out of my living situation, away from all of the partying, and utimately lead me to the place I needed to be  to heal. So, I have no regrets there.

However, in the meantime, I met Jacques. I instantly fell in love with him because he was the most responsible person I had ever met. It was the first time I felt safe. Unbenounced to me, I was in the middle of a life transition that I was completely unaware of at the time and I needed his support in ways that he was incapable of giving at the time.

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Jacques was not used to sharing his life with anyone. He is seriously an incredible guy, but when I first met him, he knew nothing about being a life partner. So, I did what most broken, unhealthy women do. I did everything I could to prove to him that I was worth investing his life in. I opened a business to earn the approval of the man that I love. The good part of the story is that the business succeeded. The sad part of the story is that it didn’t do for my relationship, or my life for that matter, what I had hoped. I fully understand why, now. God’s approval wasn’t a priority in my life at the time. I was putting man’s approval ahead of my Fathers.  Nothing will work according to any other plan but His.

I attempted to use worldly resources to fix what only God could.  And what did this get me? A business that has grown faster than I can keep up and heartbreaking lessons about the society I live in. I’ve learned that in an ego focused world, no matter how much you love people, we live in a disposable society. Which means, regardless of what these relationships mean to you, you will always be disposable in a world where the next best is right around the corner. We are starving for the approval of people which means a piece of us dies each time we are rejected. God doesn’t reject us. His grace accepts us right where we are. When human rejection  hurts us, God’s love rescues us.

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Ladies, what I am trying to tell you is that everything we seek from outside sources can only be found in God. We want others approval because we believe their approval proves that we are good… when God has already claimed that goodness over us!! 

Genisis 1:31 tells us that “God looked over all he had made and saw that it was very good.” Now, I dont know if you are familiar with this verse, but  before God made man, he made the sun earth moon and stars. When he looked over those things, he saw that they were good. Once he added man to the equation, he saw that it all was very good.  You see, before we understood the concept of approval, God had already set us apart from all that He created.

What I have learned from this past year is that no amount of human approval will offer our lives the peace that we so desperately need.  Our children cannot quince that hunger. Our husbands are not capable of approving of us just as much as our bosses, co workers, or clients. I hate to breaks it to you, we are not capable of fulfilling those needs for other people as well. We are just to love and serve like Jesus and allow God to fill us with his peace and approval.  I don’t know about you, but divine approval sounds so much more appealing than earthly approval.

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To the ultra fit bikini wearing Facebook lady:

God bless you and your incredible confidence. I pray you find the peace you need and the approval you seek.  You are worthy, you are valued, and you are loved beyond measure. You had the stamp of God’s approval before you were even born.

If you would like to start seeking God’s approval instead of earthly approval there are steps you must take. Begin by, first, acknowledging approval seeking behaviors.  Pray and ask God for the wisdom and courage to eliminate them.

Next, evaluate the earthly things in your life that tempt you to seek the approval of others. Again, pray for the wisdom to minimize these temptations.

Most importantly, spend more time in your Bible. Try to learn all that you can about the foundation in which we were created.  Only God can feed our human desire for approval. He approved of us that day he created us. There’s no performance based  standard that we need to meet  in order to earn that. It has already been given.

You, my friend, are good. You are God approved.

If you are feeling beat up and starving for the approval of the world say this prayer with me today:

Dear Heavenly Father

I come to you today and lay my worries at your feet. I ask for the wisdom to overcome my need for outside approval.  Your approval is sufficient for me Lord. Gift me with your mercy while I eliminate the temptations of approval seeking behaviors in my life.  I ask that you walk with me on this journey and protect everyone that my choices will effect. Lay your hands on the lives of my friends and my loved ones and grant us peace for our future.

In Gods name I pray, amen.

Sweet child, be free.

Love, D

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What It Really Means to Be Free

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Did you know that slavery, still, exists today? Do you believe that your neighbors are held captive against their own will for generations upon generations? Did you know that you work with slaves? Pass them in the grocery stores? You see at least one slave a day and you are too busy to notice them.

I recently read a compelling story of a family who had been saved from slavery of working a brick kiln. It is a gruesome example of manual labor, where workers prepare and bake clay into bricks. They dig up this clay, prepare and mold it, bake, then drag the bricks off to the side to repeat the cycle.. over and over again, every single day of their lives.

The first mention of a brick kiln is in the book of Jeremiah. Even as far back as 626 BC, work in a brick kiln was a job known to slaves.

Today, most who work brick kilns have been born into this life of slavery. They are held captive by generations upon generations of “debt” owed by their ancestors. Brick kilns will often take advantage of a slaves illiteracy to manipulate paperwork so the debt can never be paid back. Can you imagine what it must feel like to be born into an unimaginable form of slavery where day in and day out you wake to dig, bake, and drag this material next to a scorching furnace?? I can’t.

As I sat and read the miraculous story of this family’s rescue, my heart sank for them, for their bondage is far from over. Their physical escape is just the beginning. It will take nothing short of God’s mercy to carry them into salvation from the mental and emotional anguish inflicted on them through slavery.

I wondered, “If I passed a member of this family on the street, today, would I notice the effects of this turmoil in their smile?” The answer to that question was probably not.

This made me think of the many faces I pass everyday. I wonder how many of them are emotionally and mentally held captive from the effects of abuse, mental illness, inescapable addictions of family members, or slavery of another kind… I will never know.

I now feel a responsibility to all slaves. Whether it be slaves to the physically inflicted, or slaves to the mental and emotional inflicted. For I have been set free from my own bondage and it is, now, my job to take up my cross and share what the grace of God looks and feels like.

I will forever remember the beginning of my physical relief from mental and emotional slavery. It all began smack in the midst of the peak of my career.

I moved 6 hours away from my entire life to raise a child, alone for the very first time, without help, while pursuing my dream job. This was a blessing and a curse. I had yet to get to a place in life where I had the opportunity to deal with the past pains of rejection and labels of worthlessness.

As I struggled to make it in the city alone, the owner of the company I worked for did something insane! He had the audacity to believe in me. He not only told me he believed in me, he showed me by trusting me with the leadership of a pretty incredible team of students.

This was a double edged sword. As I have always longed to have someone believe in me, I, also, starved to be accepted. Though I earned the acceptance of my boss, my co workers were a different story. I spent endless hours trying to prove myself as a viable teammate to my coworkers, while battling emotional slavery to past labels of worthlessness. The feelings of failing at raising a child with no one around to help balance the workload didn’t help much, either. The dynamic of this picture would not have been as big of a big deal had it not confirmed what had been said to me so many times in the past… “You Aren’t Capable! You Are Not Enough! You Do Not Measure Up.” Though I was certain of my abilities, I constantly questioned whether others were. I had never felt more like an imposter than I did during that season. I had physically been rescued but I was, still, living like a slave.

Though I live with the regret of leaving because I may never get the opportunity to see what I was truly capable of, coming home was necessary at the time. It taught me that good performance is a band aid. It may feel good at the time, but obedience and faith in the real hero, Jesus Christ, is the only way to complete salvation and freedom.

We can get physically saved from bondage, but until we have full faith and trust in Christ and Christ alone, we will never truly be set free.

Since this family was rescued by an incredible non-profit ministry team, I have no doubt they will get the tools they need to build a fruitful relationship with the ultimate Rescuer!

You may know someone who is bound by physical, mental, and emotional slavery, or you, yourself may be weak from the chains of bondage… if so, I ask that you say this prayer with me today:

Dear Heavenly Father,

I lay the cross of slavery at your feet today. I have complete trust in You that I am now set free from all that has held me captive physically, mentally, and emotionally. I rely not on my own understanding but on You, Lord, and You, alone. For You sent Your only begotten Son to save me from shame, guilt, and worthlessness. You are the One, the only true light to our salvation and I lift up my past, present, and future up to you in accordance to Your divine will. In God’s name, I pray. Amen.

Sweet child, be free.

Love, D

Weatherproof

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It was a night that I will never forget. I was working on my camper when I realized the “small leak in the skylight,” actually meant the entire roof was damaged. It was this night when I found out that the majority of my soon to be home needed to be gutted to its bare walls and rebuilt if I were ever going to live in it.

I found the issue when the first rain of the winter season came crashing down and the strong winds ripped away the tarp I used to cover the roof. The front bedroom walls were soaking wet. I had to climb onto the top of the camper to secure as much of it as I could to protect what little work I had already done. While on top of the slippery roof, it sank in that there was no way I would finish this project in a month. I had no place to live, no help, and no light.

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The more my heart sank, the more frantic I became. The more frantic I became, the more difficult it was to solve the problem at hand…which was to temporarily weatherproof my future home to get through the night. Had it not been the middle of the night, I would’ve screamed outloud at God. All I could do was sit there, on my knees, 12 feet off the ground, on a slippery roof, in the pouring rain, and sob. My heart was so broken that I had been lied to and it would effect my survival for the next 6, long months. It was the second most vulnerable moment of my life.

Just as soon as I began to cry, I thought about the end result. It felt as if something told me, “it may be messy right now, but there will be something miraculous at the end of this!” So, I, quickly, gathered my thoughts, dried my tears, and completed the task. Considering what I was already going through, as devastating as it was, that raw moment gifted me with hope and grit. The next morning, as I layed in my bed, I told myself, “DeLayneif you can get through this, you can get through anything. 

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It has nearly been a year since that night. I still remember that helpless feeling at the pit of my stomach, as if it happened yesterday.  That night taught me a great lesson.  We cannot prevent the storms in our lives from coming, but our faith in God can weatherproof our spirit through any circumstance. 

Since then, I have often wondered how I could further weatherproof my spirit by going directly to God before falling apart like I did on that roof.

I have always been told that when making behavioral changes, start small. So, I decided, that if I were going to weatherproof my spirit through all circumstances, I must, first, identify where there is a leak in my faith. Because, as Phillipians 4:13 says, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. A true follower of Christ doesn’t reflect that only when the sun is shining.

Recently, someone told me that when used figuratively, the word weatherproof means “incapable of failing, unassailable.”  One translation of unassailable is to secure against attack.

The question that I want us to ask ourselves is, “How often does our Godly spirit begin to falter when our sense of stability falls under attack?”

I know mine does, more often than I would like to admit. When I am feeling defeated, I allow it to effect my peace. I worry. I analyze. I create scenarios in my head that haven’t even happened yet. I do everything but find joy and give thanks for the current season, which as God promises, is being weaved together for good.

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With the crash of the oilfield in recent years, I am witnessing so many people in my community falling on hard times. Families are losing homes, relocating to find work, downsizing, selling all of their belongings. There seems to be silent panic and histeria. When I think of them, I think of how I felt on that cold, wet night. I relate to their questions and momentary doubt. If there is one thing I could share with them, it would be a glimpse into how the story ends. We may not have physical proof right before our eyes, but we have God and we have His Word. God’s word is truth. His truth is all we need to weatherproof our spirit in the middle of a storm. As hard as it may be, we must find joy in the storm.

Paul, in his letter to the Phillipians, says, “I long to depart and be with Christ which is far better but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that, because of my coming to you again your boasting in Christ jesus may abound.” Philipians 1:23-26

Paul wrote this letter during his time of imprisonment. His point was that his heart was split in two. He was ready to go home to God, his father, because he would no longer have to worry with worldly burdens.  Paul, also, knew, however, that he still had work to do on earth. If his life would be taken, he would no longer serve his fellow disciples as God needed. Because of this, he chose to find joy in serving while he still had time.

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Life is hard when our resources run out. Failure creeps up on us like death. However, what could possibly come of this? As God says in Matthew 6:27, “Which of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” 

There are many interpretations of this verse. My favorite one being the King James Version, which argues that the Greek term for lifespan is helikia. This can sometimes mean to add physical height to the body. I like this interpretation the best because when I begin to worry, my anxiety grows and I become more aggressive in my efforts. This is a learned behavior I picked up over a lifetime of living in survival mode. My brain has grown accustomed to thinking that the more aggressive I become, the better chances I have for survival. This makes me feel bigger than what I really am but it also makes me a difficult person to be around. My spirit becomes weathered and gray. I don’t want to be difficult. I want the world to see Christlike love when they see me.

I am trying to retrain my brain to remember that I don’t have to be big. I don’t have to be aggressive. My God is big. I don’t have to risk the state of my mental health over something as simple as worldly security. As the bible reminds us, does God not feed the birds in the sky? He values me much more than I value myself and if He is denying me, there is a reason. For whatever that is, I want to learn to be joyful in that so I can continue to do His work. All I want is to learn how to be present in the current season with a weatherproofed spirit.

If you are longing to find joy in your season of labor or waiting, pray this pray with me:

Dear Heavenly Father

I come here today to thank you for all seasons that I am allowed on this earth. Because your hands weave everything for good, I know you have got my life under control. I ask for a joyful heart in the meantime. Until then, I ask that you help me weatherproof my spirit to withstand the most grand storms so I can continue to praise Your most glorious name. Thank you for all that you are and above all, thank you for loving me, even when I am hardest to love.

In heaven’s name I pray. Amen.

Sweet child, live free.

Love, D

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My Testimony, His Grace

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A while back, my therapist asked me who my favorite actress was. My response? “Diane Lane.” I think she is the most beautiful, modest, graceful woman, on and off the set. I have thought about that question from time to time and discovered that most women I have admired throughout the course of my life seemed to share one common trait. Grace. Make no mistake, it’s not that I felt like I had anything in common with them. I am the quirky,  messy, loud, artistic type with the ability to lose everything I come in contact with, fall, or spill on myself at the most inappropriate times. I am anything butgraceful. After meeting the puma in Grace In a Glass Case, I felt compelled to dig into more research of this word to explore a deeper reason as to why I become enamored and inspired by anything that exhibits such grace.

By His Mercy, Not My Merit

I thought that if I could learn how to carry myself as the women I admired, I would “look” more graceful. My faith journey is teaching me that there is so much more to grace than what we look like on the outside. It is a gift we must connect with on the inside for it to reflect outward. Through my research, I have learned many things about grace. One is that it’s sole producer is God. It is because of His mercy that we are able to receive grace. I grew up thinking that if I performed good deeds and went to church, God would bless my life. Last Sunday in church, our pastor made it very clear that grace is unmerited. We cannot do anything to earn it. God decides how, when, where, or why we receive it. Why is this important in MY understanding of grace in others? Because, just as I explained sin in What If…., the same applies here. I had to be able to recognize what grace feels like in order for me to appreciate who is responsible for giving it and the effort it takes to reflect it. There are many ways that God sheds grace on my life, but I haven’t always been able to recognize it. Now that I am spiritually mature enough to see grace as it actually is, I feel the need to share what it looked like before and after I was saved.

Damn This Life Of Mine

I truly wanted to believe that somewhere along the way I got the short end of the stick. That somehow, of all the people in the world, God pointed at me and said, “Here! She’s a hot mess, so give her the messy life!” For the entire first half of my life, it seemed I just couldn’t escape drama. Everywhere I turned, there was something happening! If I wasn’t fighting with family, I was fighting with friends. I was the troublemaker. I “stirred the pot,” as some would say. And I won’t deny that! I was always caught up in something I was not supposed to be. Looking back, honestly, that’s all I really knew how to do. I didn’t understand what the word surrender meant because I never had a safe place to practice that skill. I didn’t understand how to be a peacemaker because I grew up in a family that constantly argued. So, as I got older, fighting was a part of natural daily life… with everything and everyone. I have been blessed with many gifts, but if there were a degree in drama, back then, I would’ve been top of my class. Yet, I look back and remember how I longed for peace and quietness. I was starving for softness. Inside, I was dying for a place to submit so I didn’t have to pretend to be so strong anymore. It was catastrophically exhausting. Since I couldn’t find that safe place in my surroundings, I created created my own. It was one that could’ve completely ruined my life.

When I got out of high school, I was desperate for approval. I became involved with a troubled group of people that were quite heavy into the drug scene. With these friends, I experienced things that no young girl should ever. I had every type of drug at my disposal, and, since, I finally felt like I belonged, I happily participated in disposing of it all, almost nightly. I was so naive as to allow heavy amounts of traffic in and out of my apartment on a regular basis. It was normal to have about 10 people hanging out with music blaring, without a care that there were other tenants residing in the same complex. It was all fun and games until one day, I received a knock at my door. When I was expecting the arrival of a group of friends armed with jello shots and the evenings party favors, I was surprised to find a group of undercover agents at my door with guns and a search warrant. The following weeks were a nightmare. Though I was not charged with anything illegal, my “friends” accused me of setting them all up to get out of trouble, which I had not. A few weeks later I was jumped by 3 girls in a nightclub. Grace was present during that time of my life. If it weren’t for the grace of God, my life would not be what it is today. In the pit of deep, dark brokenness, he has continuously shown undeserved mercy on me. He pulled me out of a shame stricken life when I had no idea what he was doing. Little did I know, in those days, grace came in the form of physical and legal protection.

He Who Is In Me Is Bigger Than Anything Formed Against Me

When I started to get my life back together, another part of me began falling apart. You see, I had a child at 17 that, much to my regret, I didn’t raise. I wanted to… more than anything, I just wasn’t allowed. I wanted to speak the truth about my sons father, but it was forbidden. The adults in my life made parenting such a constant fight for 3 years, I didn’t stand a chance. I became so distracted with fighting for my right to be a parent, that I never learned how to be his mom. When I gave up, I met the aforementioned group of friends. I ran so hard from the guilt and shame of circumstance that I couldn’t stand the sight of my own shadow. Things began to change after spending a year away in my early twenties. When I returned and started cosmetology school, my confidence slowly started to resurface. When I met other young girls going to school and raising their children alone, I began feeling like I could do it too. When I mustered up the courage to go for it, I was faced with resistance, again. What I wanted and needed didn’t matter. Taking my son from my parents would turned into an 8 month court battle where I wasnt even allowed to see him. I was reminded almost daily that I could not measure up to what they were to him. And even though I won, the battle never ended. He’s 20 years old, and, still, today, we have not been able to repair what was taken from us. Regardless, God’s grace was always with me. He always believed in the real me. God offered His unconditional love and mercy, even when my earthly parents didn’t know how. When the world may fail us, He is our shelter. Through Him and only Him are we capable of experiencing grace when the world tells us that we are worthless. His grace is the means to our salvation.

For I Know The Plans I Have For You

Through it all, God saw something bigger in me. Around the age of 22, I attended a faith renewal weekend retreat with my brother and sister in law. During this retreat, I received my first call. It was during an hour of silence where I sat alone in an empty church and opened up the missalette to find a gospel reading where Jesus told one of the apostles to “be a shepherd to my flock.” He instructed them to go out into the world and teach the word of God to the people. Later that evening, when we broke into our last small group of the day, the exact same scripture had been given to my group leader. Even though I wasn’t obedient, I have always had a special relationship with the Lord. I knew what He was telling me, but I was too broken and ill equipped at the time to follow through. I didn’t know it at the time, but God’s grace was in full swing. He, as He promised, was working it all out for the good. Make no mistake. When it seems like all God’s grace has overlooked you, He is there, like a candle in the night. Whether you believe it or not, He is busy making a way for you.

Last week I had an incredible experience. I attended my first women’s small group at church. For the first time ever, I was in the presence of Godly women who seem to hear God’s messages just like I do. I had always been scared to speak of His messages because I thought people would think I was a lunatic. But these women showed me that there are others, just like me, who experience God’s word on the same level that I do. It is because of God and God alone that I escaped a life of spiritual imprisonment. It is because of God’s grace that I have risen from the ashes of my own hell on earth. It is because of Jesus Christ that I have an image of humility to look up to.

Grace In Its Many Forms

I am learning that grace comes in many forms. It comes to rescue when we are falling off His path. Grace comes in the form of helping human hands. It floods our lives in the most difficult times. God sheds His grace on us when He feels we need it most. I look back and recognize His grace the second my life flipped upside down! He was transforming my life to prepare me to be a completely different person…. a true woman of faith. An imperfect, (still sinful) woman of faith… but one prepared for His plan and humble repentance. He was preparing me to give every distraction up for the sake of His call. He was preparing my future husband. He was preparing our marriage. God’s grace is still grooming our entire household to take on the responsibility of ministry.

We can experience God’s grace every single day. When we are ready to receive it, we begin to resonate the same grace outwardly. We cannot just appear to be graceful. Grace’s only source is God. When we connect with Him, our lives are transformed by it. We appear more graceful when our lives are directly in contact with God and God alone. He is the water of life!

If you are having a hard time recognizing God’s grace, pray this prayer with me:

Dear Heavenly Father,

I come to you today to ask for your forgiveness in sin. I am an imperfect sinner, Lord, but I am ready to be transformed by your grace. Thank you for making the way for me through your son Jesus Christ. I ask for your help in seeing the presence of your grace on my life, Lord. Walk with me and guide me along your path while I study and live out your Word. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.

Sweet child, be free.

Love, D

What If….

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I read the most wise biblical perspective on the difficulty of life, the other day. Every time I think of it, I simply say, “wow.” It said, “Jesus’s life on earth was not easy. So, why would I expect mine to be?”  Let me put this in laymen’s terms.. God sacrificed His only son’s life to bring His divine plan to completion. What makes me think I am entitled to an “easy” life if HIS son didn’t even have one???

“I just want easy!”

What if... is a question we, as a society, try to avoid at all cost. We live life dangerously to eliminate any possibility of a future what if. How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering,What if.'” I have heard this countless times. I, myself, have not only said it, but I have relentlessly ran from it. I have spent my life blind to my own ignorance of avoidance. I used this when I was afraid to commit. I have said this when I was scared to accept the reality of my situation. I have said this in hopes of, some day, stumbling on my what is. I’ve noticed I’ve become a little more tired as I have gotten older. I recall saying, “I just want easy,” on multiple occasions. The statement above made me realize that I have become spoiled in worldly ways and have demanded easy when we weren’t given easy. Through Adam and Eve’s sin, we were given sin. Therefore, as cliche as it sounds, life isn’t supposed to be easy. 

“What if we first needed sin to understand Our Savior?”

No one but God can justify God’s actions, but what if He waited until we felt the full capacity of sin before sending Jesus to die for us? I can’t imagine we would’ve recognized what He had done for us if Jesus would have come any sooner. What if we needed to fully comprehend brokenness to identify Jesus’ wholeness? I could never wrap my head around the pain inflicted upon Him during His Crucifixion, but what if we need to be able to identify with pain in order to grasp what Jesus endured for us? Just like our children need to understand wrong to know what is right, what if we, first, needed sin to understand Our Savior?  What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory. Romans 9:22-23.

“I needed to feel the pain of my own brokenness in order to  be saved.”

As soon as the first sin was committed, God knew Jesus must be sent down from Heaven to defeat satan for our salvation. I dont know about you, but I would never want to be put in a position to sacrifice my son’s life for another human beings mistakes. The selfish human heart inside of me says, “I would sacrifice my life, but not his.” That would be an unbearable kind of pain. Yet, God did that for us. The statement above made me process this on a deeper level than ever before. After reading those words, I began to wonder how could I ever pay Him back for what He has done for me?? Truth is,  I can’t. He asks nothing of me, except to love Him and my neighbors as He has loved me. Yet, I complain about life being hard. I am beginning to realize, God was helping me understand the capacity of His love for me when He delivered hard times upon my life. I needed to feel the pain of my own brokenness in order to be saved.

“I need to lean into the very question that I have been running from for the last 37 years.”

I have been asking myself, “Now that you get it, how can you retrain your heart to thank Him for His goodness instead of wishing things had been or would be easier?” I have decided that maybe I need to lean into the very question that I have been running from for the last 37 years. Instead of asking for easy, what if I prayed for a spirit of joyful persistence? What if I owned up to my own selfish expectations and asked for His help in defeating them?  What if I asked to be better equipped for the hard, instead of asking for more comfort? What if, instead of asking for my circumstances to be different, I asked Him to make me different?

Pray with me

Today, I pray this prayer as a plea for help. Feel free to say it out loud or use it whenever you feel the spirit of defeat over the nature of your circumstances:

Lord, I don’t know what your plans are for me, but I know that I have been selfish in my own ways by not putting my complete faith in what you have done for me. I have complicated my own life by pursuing easy, when your own son was crucified for my sin.  I want to lay down my life for others, with a servants heart, as your son has done for us. I pray for a spirit made in Jesus’ image, which can only be achieved through Your Grace, not my merit. I surrender all that I am to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sweet child, be free.

Love, D

“Here am I. Send me!”

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You guys will never guess what I just did……..

I can remember as far back as 20 years when my sister-in-law said, “You need to write a book.”  At the time, I had no idea that I had a niche for putting words together. All I had were untold stories hidden in my soul that seemed so unfair, but they were, in fact, my reality. I could very well fill up an entire book on the chaos that has surrounded my life. It’s a wonder that, at 37, I am as tired as a grey haired woman rocking in her front porch rocking chair. Though that book is burning inside of me, I know that I am being called for something so much bigger in women’s ministry. I am on a one woman quest to understand the path God is leading me to.

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Dont mistake God’s patience for His absence. His timing is perfect, and His presence is constant. He’s always with you! Deuteronomy 31:6

I have had many critics while figuring out my life’s destiny. I could only imagine what my relentless search has looked like to others, so I cannot judge anyone for judging me during this process, as I have judged others, as well. However, none of us should ever judge someone else’s journey. In my case, I am just now, at 37, getting to the core spirit of who I am. It has taken a lot of work and “reparenting” the broken parts of my childhood to repair the areas that shaped who I became later on in life. It’s a wonder that I have been relentlessly searching for meaning. There has been an empty space in the center of my core self that I was unable to connect with to guide me to the place I belong. I am approaching my year anniversary in therapy and it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about how lost I was on that very first day. My heart overflows with completeness when I think about how my healing could benefit other broken women. There is a God centered connection that I have when I think of what I could bring to women’s ministry. It is not just a desire, it’s a conviction unlike anything I have ever experienced. I still have so much to work on but I am more ready to commit my life to becoming a light for other women than ever! I am ready to lift my life up to God to become completely selfless for the healing of other women.

I began exploring this call through Toastmasters this year. The club lead me through my first set of jitters in speaking and gave me the confidence that I needed to begin. I am so appreciative for the club curriculum, but, unfortunately its focus was not directed to the specific area that I needed to do God’s work. I know in my heart that if I am going to make an impact in other women’s lives the way that I am called to do, I have got to surround myself with church leaders who can support my spiritual walk and hold me accountable in the areas that I need the most help. The responsibility that I am willing to take on is huge. Because of this, I will need people in my life who have to uphold their own selves to the same level of standards that I will have to hold myself. Since my parting with Toastmasters, I have been feeling somewhat discouraged in where to turn next.  I know I am being called to women’s ministry, but I was feeling left with the burning question….what now?

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The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” NLT, Psalm 32:8

If I lived in a bigger city, this process, probably, wouldn’t feel like such a daunting task. In smaller, southern areas, however, there are not many options when looking for educational opportunities to grow in areas outside of a traditional workforce related college setting. For this reason, I have researched every avenue for answers, including christian women’s conventions. If this tug felt small, I would just begin to start hosting small groups with my church, which I intend on doing as soon as I am allowed, and go from there. But this is different. Guys, God brought me to the mountains…. ALONE. He is consistently sending me messages through scripture and “coincidences” that are undeniable…even my family is starting to see it. It’s impossible not to feel big feelings about this experience.

During my exploration process, God has been working in other areas of my life, just as He promised He would do when I went camping. As I have mentioned before, my significant other has recently pursued his own relationship with God. Studying the Bible has become almost a nightly routine in our home. This has either deepened our connection or has given him patience while thinking I have completely lost my mind! Either way, it has given him the tools to become incredibly supportive in my quest. His new walk in his faith has allowed us to discover a church where we equally feel comfortable in exploring God’s plan for our lives. As I have also mentioned in a previous post, we are completing Growth Track, as well as being baptized together next month. Jacques and I have talked a lot about the direction I need to pursue in women’s ministry. He sees how passionate I am about the work that Lysa Terkeurst is doing in this particular area, and he understands how much I relate to her vulnerability when teaching God’s Word to women. Matter of fact, he recently surprised me with tickets to attend her Word Alive conference in Houston with my best friend in a few short weekends! After all our struggles, thank you, Lord, for working in my Boaz, because I desperately needed his support in this moment. 

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Then I heard the voice of the Lord, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

This past weekend, at Growth Track, I heard a word that I had never heard. Our pastor simply said, “If you are being called to ministry, get involved in a seminary.” So, of course, you know what I did! I went straight to my computer and began researching seminaries near me. VOILA! There it was, in black and white! All the guidance and classes that I needed to begin learning all I needed to learn about women’s ministry! There are degrees for this people!!! Who knew?!?!? I knew there were Bible colleges, because I have been looking into this for a couple of months now. However, I had no clue that there were programs specific to majoring in women’s ministry, christian public speaking, and christian writing. Even though I will be the one paying for this, I feel like it’s Christmas!!

This morning I took the first step to begin online studies in theology and I cannot be more excited to see what God has planned for this journey!

If you are being called and have no idea where to start, I encourage you to take the smallest step to begin your journey! Whether it is getting on your knees to ask for help, reaching out to your pastor for help as I did….DO IT!!!! Wherever this may lead, you will be closer tomorrow than you were today!!

Sweet child, be free.

Love, D

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