Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace

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For a child has been born for us,

   a son given to us;

Government rests upon his shoulders;

   and he is named

Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,

   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His government shall grow continually,

   and there shall be endless peace

for the throne of David and his kingdom

He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness

   from this time onwards and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7

This week at work seems to be crazier than the week before Thanksgiving, so I slacked on yesterday’s Advent post. However, the readings in my study are absolutely wonderful. Yesterday’s reading was Micah 5:2-5, and today’s is Isaiah 9:6-7. Both scriptures bring forth the idea of peace through the reign of our everlasting king, Jesus Christ.

I love how the authors prophesy about the coming of Christ in, both, their time, as well as the future. With the rising tensions of political power today, the world, desperately, needs something to hold onto and hope for. Both of the above scriptures are a reminder that we are, still, in waiting for our Beloved King.

I can’t remember a time where I was allowed the luxury of feeling peaceful. I sought for it, but, never, had I truly understood what it would feel like to just be in the moment without some kind of anxiety for the future.

As I studied these two scriptures, I realized that, even if life on earth felt “easy” and peaceful, it would be a false sense of security. We are not given the right to eternity on earth. We gave that away in the very beginning. We do not own these homes, cars, and families like we think we do. These are earthly gifts that do not follow us at the end of our journey. So what, exactly, is the point?

The point is to learn how to love unconditionally in the meantime. The point is to learn how to rest in faith while we wait for our Father.. or as Isaiah says it, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” to come rescue us from the mess we have gotten ourselves into through sin.

I am struggling with the idea of patience and unconditional love right now. As a mother of boys, adolescence can be somewhat brutal. My household has been in the midst of middle school madness for 2 years now and, boy, is this momma tired.

When it seems that life has finally settled down and I can finally enjoy that unfamiliar peace, my 12 year old decides to wreak havoc on our 7th grade year, as if 6th grade wasn’t difficult enough! He has gotten his self in quite the messes here lately and I can’t seem to catch a break from the phone calls from his teachers or emails from other parents.

After 9 days straight of working, and a heartbreaking phone call from my son’s teacher, all I could do was sink myself into bed, last night, and cry myself to sleep. I am a mom who exhausts the idea of teaching life lessons around every corner. I believe in consequences and discipline. I raise my son in church. I teach him about respect and manners… and, yet, he leaves my hands each day, goes out into his world, and turns into something so out of character in the way he is brought up. The dude is practically on house arrest with no contact to the outside world, at the moment, so I am running out of discipline options, here.

Then, I sit down and read the words of Isaiah this morning. I am reminded that I don’t have to live in fear for Grayson’s future. For whatever reason, his journey through middle school needs to be a hard one. I am not the author of his life. I am only fortunate enough to play a supporting role. I have got to stop battling with my own insecurities over the situation. You see, just because it feels like other’s cannot see how wonderful our children are, doesn’t mean they aren’t destined for a promising future. I mean, some people even thought Jesus was a troublemaker… right??

I don’t want to justify Grayson’s actions. I just want to learn how to love him through his bad decisions, even when they effect my own inner peace. Just as God does for me.

Through my advent study this morning, I was reminded that Jesus Christ is the only Prince of Peace and I need to rest in Him during these trying times with my son. It is only in His name that we find security and stability. Before He was ever born, His name was mighty. I have got to learn to trust God’s plan for my son and remain steadfast in the way I raise him, regardless how painful.

If only they came with instructions.

Lord, bless our future generations and all that they are exposed to. Let the evil in the world fall off of their shoulders and bring them closer to your protection. In your name, I pray. Amen.

Sweet child, live free.

Love, D

Advent: A Lesson in the Importance of Bible Study

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14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Genesis 3:14-15 NIV

 

Lately, I have been trying my hand at Bible interpretation. I read a verse from my Bible, then, compare my interpretation to multiple commentaries to examine its theological context in all its glory. Since the beginning of this practice, I have become more and more astounded at how I misinterpret the text, which inspires me to dig deeper with every verse of scripture I study. It’s a wonder why it takes so long to read..I say this with a happy spirit! It’s a plethora of knowledge. From the very first sip, my thirst has tripled!

I am beginning an Advent Bible study this week. I wanted to document the experience and share what I have learned on each day. It is intended to be my way of living the anticipation of Jesus’ birth just like the apostles did in The Old Testament. My biggest desire right now is to learn how to love with compassion, forgiveness, and humility, just like Jesus. So, I decided to take a walk with Him this Christmas season.

I started today off with the above scripture. I used a different study method this morning. Since I am using Love God Greatly’s 2016 Advent study, God With Us, I tried my hand at their acclaimed SOAP study method. The idea of this method is to write the scripture out, make your observation, discuss life application of that scripture, and, then, pray over that lesson. I must say, I really enjoyed it!

I got super excited, though, after comparing my observation to the commentary of my Women’s Evangelical Commentary of The Old Testament. So much so, that I ran into the kitchen to begin writing this blog post and found myself in a discussion about this scripture with my, bright, 12 year old son, Grayson, over breakfast. I read it to him and asked him to tell me his interpretation of the verse. Much to my surprise, he interpreted it similar to its commentary.

We had, recently, watched an incredible  interpretation of the Book of Genesis by Tim Mackie with The Bible Project. (If you have not experienced this caricature inspired commentary, I suggest running to your Bible app and doing so immediately!) It connects the dots in ways that I have never seen, and Grayson subconsciously matched this verse to the video interpretation, without the video stating the exact verse. I was so impressed!

My “aha!” moment came in verse 15, “I will put emnity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.” I know this sounds so amateur, but I was, first, visualizing the hatching of a snakes egg. Then, it settled on my heart when I realized a modern distinction to this verse. Think of all the Biblical referencing that is being stripped from our society in this day and age. I thought, what if satan’s offspring could very well be a prophecy of the animosity between believers and nonbelievers?

I don’t know about you guys, but I notice the eye rolls and snickers when I passionately speak of my faith. Matter of fact, I have a friend who is nipping at the bit to sit down with me to discredit the Bible. Doesn’t that sound similar to what God predicted? I love him dearly and I would never put him down for his lack of faith, because I don’t have to. I can love him as is, just where he is. The reason is because I am so happily solid in my faith and in what I have found in the arms of God. I don’t want anyone taking that away from me, because, frankly, I choose to live in hope that the life I am working towards is so much greater than anything I have experienced here on earth. I live in hope and I genuinely want to be a living testimony to His grace and mercy.

The second lesson for me was when God issued Satan’s punishment, I couldn’t distinguish who He was talking about with the use of the pronouns, she, then he. My observation was simply that when a believer’s faith is weak, Satan will be “nipping at their heel.” When, in all actuality, God was speaking of Jesus’ coming.When He says, “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel,”  He is actually pronouncing, as Tim Mackie puts it in his commentary, the prophecy of the wounded victor, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Guys.. this is why I am so on fire with studying the Bible! It is so much more than what we see when we sit down to read it for the first time! The Lord blessed my life the day I started attending women’s conferences and, then, again when I started seminary two months ago. The Word is not a topical book. It is a beautiful study of multiple genre’s of literature all wrapped up in one amazing book about the ultimate Creator of our lives. It is not to be read. It is to be lived.

I hope this study rests on your hearts and I encourage you all to share with me what you are reading during this season! You can go to my Facebook page (link at the bottom of the page) and start a discussion. I would be delighted to participate!!

Facebook Link: Advent: A Lesson in the Importance of Bible Study

Sweet child, live free

Love, D

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Aquilla and Priscilla: Everything is Better When Working Together

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Don’t you ladies hate when you get home from work to see that your husband didnt go to the grocery store like you asked? When asked why, his response, “I thought I would wait for you.” I immediately kick back with, “REALLY?!?!? I have been working all day! You couldn’t do this one thing??? SERIOUSLY??”  Now, let me say this, I don’t want to sound like I am complaining about my husband nor do I want to sound boastful, but I am very fortunate to have a husband who cooks, cleans, and keeps me organized. I have actually admired him from around the corner while he sets my sons clothes out for school the next day. I, like most women, get caught up in those selfish moments when I forget that maybe my husband just wants to run a household errand with me. Why is it so easy to jump to a negative assumption about their intentions when we have no idea what they are thinking? I don’t know about you ladies, but it’s hard enough trying to examine what my own emotional female brain is thinking, much less his male brain.

Over Thanksgiving break, while my husband was at work and my son was visiting family, I hosted a “home retreat” for myself. I wanted to start doing an in depth study of the book of Romans and get some writing done without distractions. So, I brought all of my electronics, especially my phone, to my friend across town, and left them with her for 3 days. During my study, I learned about a couple, Aquilla and Priscilla, who worked with Paul. The more I learned about them in their character profiles through my study bible, I had so many “Aha!” moments regarding my own relationship and how appreciative I need be!

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Isn’t it horrible how quick we can stop appreciating the things that we once begged for?? 

My Life Application Study Bible (you can find the information below) mentions how Aquilla and Priscilla were never mentioned seperately from each otherThis couple apparently did everything together, especially in reference to the pursuit of spiritual education. To me, they sounded like the biblical example of the perfect couple! My flawed envious spirit momentarily wanted exactly what they had. Then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t help but snicker, because I had forgotten to appreciate the gift in something as simple as a grocery run with my husband. The sad part….as I thought about how selfish I can be sometimes, I was reminded of a lonely time in my life where I cried myself to sleep and prayed that God would send someone to me to do things, like grocery shop, with. Isn’t it horrible how quick we can stop appreciating the things that we once begged for?? 

There have been times where I have gotten caught up in complaining because my husband and I are SO different. I am a free spirited social butterfly and he is a calculated and logical introvert. I love to hike and camp in the wilderness, and he likes the idea of resorts and fine dining. His ideas of a perfect vacation include walking and shopping while mine include making mango salsa in a jungalow without makeup and clothes. I remember how boring life felt when we were a year into our relationship. It hit me that we, seriously, had nothing in common. At the time, it was easy to forget what had attracted me to him in the first place, which was his level of responsibility, not his likeness to go tent camping for a week. Granted, if I were to ask God which of these qualities are more important in a significant other, I would bet He’d say, “Girl, my standards for you is a man of responsibility and character.” 

The part about Aquilla and Priscilla that I loved the most is that they used their own home for evangelism. They didn’t set out to eagerly build an empire like modern day couples do. They made their income as tentmakers but built their lives around ministry together. They didn’t need lavish lifestyles to prove the competency of their ministry. How amazing and peaceful does this sound? 

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I lost track of my family, my self and God along the way….all in the name of “success.” 

When the idea of their simple, Christ led life sat on my heart, I sighed. 3 years ago, I opened a hair salon with the hopes that business would explode and I would, finally, be successful in my industry. I named it, L’eau De Vie Salone, which means “Water of life.” Not long after I came up with its name, I attended a women’s conference, where I was, first, saved. It was there that I read John 4:14, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”  From that moment on, I said that my busines will be a place where we will work with a servant’s heart. My water, I thought, would be serving others in His name.

My business grew faster than I could keep up with as a one person business owner. I got so overwhelmed that it bacame impossible to stay grounded. I stopped going to church. I lost the meaning of the word, “no.” I put my family, especially my son, on the backburner to slave over the approval of the public so that people would want to return. It didn’t feel like success. It felt selfish and vain. And with the rise of the term, “selfie,” I began to feel less like a person who enjoyed serving others and more like a disposable means to shallow. The more people demanded perfection from me, the more resentful I became, and the less energy and love I had available to work with a servants heart. I lost my family, my self and God along the way.. all in the name of “success.” Have you ever met a person like that? They aren’t fun to be around. The interesting thing about being saved, is that now I can look back on my life and pinpoint every single time God has brought me back to His reach. Just like a shephard does when one sheep out of the 100  strays…. He leaves the 99 to retrieve it!

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I was completely unaware that I would find myself and God in that dirt.

As I sit here thinking about the ministry work done through Aquilla and Priscilla’s home, I look out the bay window of my dining room into my back yard where I see the garden that saved my soul. It is the place where I spent months, barefooted, tilling and preparing soil for seeds that would eventually blossom into the most beautiful variety of flowers and colors. I was completely unaware that I would find myself and God in that dirt. Yet, here we are, almost 2 years later, and every plant planted, with the exception of one stubborn spot, has bloomed. Today, sitting a few yards away from that garden, is a canary yellow shed with white trim and a soft blue door, and windows on every wall that will soon be the Secret Garden Bungalow where I can finally lay my worries to rest and devote my life to a more Christ centered work with an unwavering servant’s heart.

The moral of this story is that we can learn a lot from Aquilla and Priscilla. As my bible reminded me, “God does not want us to focus on what is happening between a husband and wife, but what is being achieved through them.” He does not want us to put focus on the material contents of our homes together, as much as how we use our home to glorify Him. He does not expect every couple to become church leaders, but to grow in their spiritual education together, which will result in a deeper level of intimacy. So, ladies, maybe it begins with late night grocery store runs after work. Let’s use that time to build a very important part of God’s kingdom, instead of beating our husband’s up over it. Let’s invest in our lives, at home first, with our husband’s to become living testimonies of God’s power in us! 

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank you for trusting Jacques as the leader of our home. I am forever grateful for his kind heart and willingness to follow in Your example. I thank you for our home, which I will now use to serve Your name. I ask that you remove all my selfish tendencies so that I have ample opportunity to grow in my faith with my husband by serving on Your behalf.

In your name I pray. Amen.

***P.S. The study bible that I use regularly is the New Living Translation Life Application Sudy Bible by Tyndale House Publishers. It is absolutely amazing!

Sweet child, live free.

Love, D

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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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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.

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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