God is for always…

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Things change. We change. Circumstances change.

Change is always and inevitable. Good change and bad change. Sometimes it seems as if the things we want to change….never do. And yet the things we want to stay the same….become different.

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” Psalm 33:11

Not many things do that. Stand firm forever. In fact, nothing else will stand firm forever. Nothing that is, except our salvation.

When my circumstances change and leave a rather unpleasant taste in my mouth, it seems easy to ride the wave of disappointment. To follow my circumstances to their bitter end, watch my expectations crumble, and then sit angry at the one who makes all things new. To blame Him for what happened, as if He has somehow had a cosmic personality shift and now has it out for me. As if He has suddenly stopped looking out for my good and now wants to see me suffer and let things get bad…bad…bad.

The truth is, my life can get bad. My circumstances can look bleak. And my mind can choose to follow the wreckage into the gutter, believing that God has now abandoned and forsaken me. But it’s not true. Because my God, our God, doesn’t change. His promises are true today, tomorrow, and forever. He says He loves you…and that’s for always. That He knows what’s best for you…that’s for always. That He will protect you and uphold you with His rightous right hand…that’s for always. Circumstances cannot and will not change the character and goodness of our God. He stands firm. Always.

So we trust Him. We wait on Him. We study His Word. We believe in His character which is righteous, unchanging, and good. It’s not always easy, our eyes are quick to follow the change, but we must keep our focus upon Him who does not change. Our sovereign God, through every generation.

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. Psalm 33:20-22

Heart of our desires…

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Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

I love this verse, and yet it bothers me. Delight myself in the Lord and whatever this little heart desires shall be mine? Really Lord? Because my heart desires some pretty rotten things. Didn’t You say my heart was deceitful in Jeremiah 17:9? So You really want to give it what it desires? And what about all those people who desire good things, but their prayers seem unanswered? Where is the the fulfillment of their desires? Why do some go fulfilled while some seem abandoned and alone?

I think of the mom who longs to be healed of cancer, but never is. The little girl who wants her mommy to be healed, but she must say goodbye anyways. The mom who watches her child struggle. Or the one who just can’t seem to stop hurting. Surely if any desire should be fulfilled, isn’t it these Lord?

He reminds me of one thing. One true and perfect promise. That all was, and is fulfilled on the cross. And yet tell that to the widow, or the bewildered momma…it almost seems cold.

Cold until we look at the heart of our desires.

At the heart of my desire to see a child relieved of suffering, is the need to know God loves them and sees them. That He protects them and knows what’s best for them. And indeed, amidst suffering in its worst form, I know my God is faithful. My desire has been fulfilled.

At the heart of my sweet sister in Christ, longing for the pain to stop, she just wants to know she is loved. Or perhaps that her loved ones are cared for. And yet His promises assure her that they are. Desire fulfilled and overflows.

And the sweet daddy who can’t stand to see another day with His wife scrawling in pain, he just needs to know it will end. And in Him there is no more pain. The desire stands fulfilled.

Even when the desire of our heart seems ignored, He sees the heart of our desires. To be loved. To be known. To be relieved, and see others relieved of suffering. He sees, He knows, and He summoned His only Son forth from the grave – that we may always receive what is at the heart of our desires.

Getting out of the car…

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If you are visiting from Proverbs 31’s Encouragement for Today let me say welcome! I am so glad you are here! I would love to share a bit more with you about my journey towards healing…

Have you ever had one of those dreams that you have over and over again? I have one where I’m pressing my foot on the car break as I hard as I can, but I can’t stop! Inevitably, I ram the cars in front of me and awaken with a jump!

Have you ever had an experience like that in life? There’s something you desperately want to stop doing but no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop? I have. A few years ago when I went through a period of depression, I wanted to make it stop.

Well meaning people would tell me that I could stop depression if I wanted to. That I could choose to feel better, and I wanted to choose these things. But no matter how hard I pressed on the brakes of sadness and tried to numb out my feelings, they wouldn’t stop.

So what do we do when the brakes aren’t working? When feelings like overwhelming sadness or anxiety hijack the brakes and we find ourselves destined for a crash?

We jump out of the car.

The devotion I shared today dealt with forgiving when an apology never comes. I jumped out of the car when I chose to forgive the person who hurt me, and forgive myself, even though my feelings screeched in the background. My feelings told me that life was unfair and that I was justified in my anger. My feelings squashed me with shame, telling me that I was and would continue to be a failure. My feelings were traveling 90 to nothing in the direction of destruction.

The only option for me was to acknowledge that these feelings existed and were real, but also to acknowledge where they were taking me. The feelings were unproductive and taking me in a direction I never intended to go. So I got out of the car.

I’m not saying I simply chose for my depression to leave. But I did choose to forgive, to seek medical care for the biological base behind my depression, to seek counseling for the emotional issues, to engage myself in activity and exercise, and to seek the Lord with all my heart. All of these choices made by the strength of The Lord helped me find a new car. One with brakes that worked, and one headed in the direction if life and healing.

Dear sister, if you are tired of feeling the same old way, the same old hurts, and dealing with the same old pain, maybe it’s time to get out of the car and head in a new direction. It’s not easy, but in Him all things are possible. It’s not about choosing away our feelings, rather choosing to take steps to heal so that He can restore our lives and emotions.

Sex after sexual abuse or assault…

If you’re married, it’s practically inevitable. A wee bit, or a long bit, of time in the bedroom with your husband on Valentine’s Day is good! But for some of you…and I realize this may be a minority audience today…nothing causes you more anxiety than intimacy with the man you love. Why? Because in your past you were sexually abused or assaulted, and sex just isn’t fun for you anymore.

Our marriage didn’t start out this way. I had sex regularly with my husband, and it seemed as if all was well. What he didn’t know was that I completely dissociated. Dissociation is like mentally and emotionally leaving your body anytime you feel uncomfortable. I could be with my husband physically, but my mind and emotions shut off. My body was an empty shell and my mind floated away in need of escape.

It wasn’t that my husband had ever, or would ever, hurt me. Sex was just unsafe for me – period. I had been raped in the past, and out of protection, my mind and heart decided it was better disconnect anytime sex happened. That way I would never risk getting hurt again, and I would remain in control.

When I started going to counseling, things changed. You might think they changed for the better. Eventually, they did. But before they got better, it got worse. I began processing through the emotions and feelings and actually choosing to remember what happened when I was raped. I could see, smell, and hear everything that happened. It was 10 years prior, and yet it seemed like yesterday. Intimacy with my husband now left me in tears and feeling violated. He had done nothing wrong and yet I wept. For the better part of a year things played out this way. And then slowly, with my mental and emotional healing in tandem, it got better. Way better.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the tears were good. They were the first steps to connecting on an emotional level during sex. Not the appropriate emotional level at that point, but the groundwork was being paved for a deeper connection between me and my husband. It took time, but now I am actually present more than physically and have experienced what true intimacy really is!

If you have a past involving sexual abuse or assault, I want to encourage you. First of all, intimacy issues are common. But that doesn’t meant they have to continue. I would encourage to seek counseling so that you can process through your past if you haven’t already done so. Also, you will want to talk to your husband about what is going on. Once I explained things to my husband, he was so understanding. I even provided him with some reading materials about sexual abuse and assault so that he could grasp a further understanding of what I was dealing with. Also, you may want to practice physical displays of love other than sex. For example, decide that you will give your husband a kiss every day when he comes home from work. Snuggle with him when you are watching TV. Over time, you will become more comfortable with physical touch, and your mind will begin to make the transition that your husband is safe, and it is okay to get physical with him without engaging in dissociation or panic.

Finally, don’t shame and guilt yourself. It takes time to heal! Given your past…it’s okay to not be okay! But as my pastor has always said, you don’t want to stay that way! Individual counseling was essential for me. Followed by marriage counseling for me and my husband. God has done way more than I could have ever asked or imagined with our marriage, and He can and will do so with yours as well! Blessings to you sweet sister and praying that you enjoy a fabulous Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart.

Were it not so…I would have told you…

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“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:1-2 KJV

If it were not so, I would have told you.

God’s promises are thick and brimming with hope. It’s easy to think they are just pipe dreams. Idealistic references, suitable to dream about, but never to bank on. But here’s the thing, we can take God’s promises to the bank. They are true. We can cash them in. Were they not real, He would have told us. Because that’s who He is. Sovereign God. Were it not so, He would have told you.

I wonder how many things we could stop worrying about if we took our focus off of our troubles, off of man, and placed our eyes on Him.

But we doubt. We doubt His will for our lives and we doubt His sovereign intentions. Seeing only what is immediately before us, and refusing to see through the eyes of the God man.

He lays it out so clearly…

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:11-14 NIV

We can ask anything in His name, and He will do it. Were it not so, He wouldn’t have told you! When we ask in line with the Spirit of The Lord, the true Spirit of freedom, we can ask anything in His name and trust that He will answer. He is not a God to be doubted in, but one to be banked on, trusted in, and grounded in completely! Completely.

Today seems hopeless? Pick up that doubt and insecurity and take it to the throne room of God. Hand it off to Him, whatever it is, and walk away with peace. The promises and sovereignty of who He is. If He were not God, if His Word was not true, He would have told you. Walk in peace dear sister, God had this, and you covered. Completely.

Stubborn and lost in the dark…

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Hotel curtains seem to have superfluous black out properties. It can be mid afternoon and still pitch black in your motel room if you have pulled the curtains.

I am not a curtain puller. I don’t mind a little light at night and I enjoy sunny glimmers on my bedspread in the early morning. But not everyone is like me, and many people choose to pull the curtains.

This past year I shared a room with Melissa Taylor at She Speaks. She is apparently the blackout curtain kind of girl, because she pulled the curtains every night. This was okay with me. I’m not that picky. However, one night I got up and had to go to the bathroom. Now you talk about DARK! I don’t think I have ever been in a darker room. I first ventured out of my bed and began to walk to what I thought was the hallway, smack, there was a wall. I decided it would be best to place my hands out in front of me rather than beside me. So as I felt along the wall, I felt everything but a bathroom door. I was certain I was going to wet my pants right there and then. I had just about given up when my fingers ran across the smoothness of the bathroom door and I was finally able to go in. I had never been more thankful to locate a hotel bathroom in my life!

The need to control is kind of like living your life with black out curtains. Although, it doesn’t seem that way at first…

Have you ever asked God to show you His will only to turn and run in the other direction because you didn’t like His instruction? I know I have, and I am not alone. Jonah is famous for this in the Bible. God asked Him to do something, He ran, and God sent a storm to chase Him down.

So why do we do this? Why do we hear a word from the Lord and choose to deliberately disobey? Fear is a usual factor. What if we are incompetent or make a mistake? But even deeper than fear is the need to be in control. And then at the core what do we find? Lack of trust. Lack of trust in God.

It seems like it should be easy to trust God. After all, He is the one with the capital G at the front of His name. He is the man with the plan. But we operate as if we are stuck in the room with black out curtains. And in many ways we are. We are often left completely blind to everything other than what is directly in front of us. And when everything around us is dark, that’s where it happens. We lose the capacity to trust.

God tells us to turn to our right, we really should trust Him, but we don’t. So we turn to our left. And perhaps we hit a brick wall. But we chock it up to coincidence and sometimes even choose to run into that wall again, and again. Talk about being a control FREAK! When we do the very opposite of what God has asked us to do, all the while blind and refusing to listen to His direction, that is the height of FREAKISHLY FREAKY need for control. But we do it!

The thing is, God can see in the room with the blackout curtains. He knows the plans He has laid out for us. The plans that lead us where He wants us to go, and where He wants us to go is good!

Look at Jonah. When He finally did what God asked Him to do thousands were saved! And yet Jonah was still angry. He still was in despair. He had lost His capacity to trust even when God showed Him that His will was perfect, right, and good! God had led Him to the safety of the bathroom in the room with the blackout curtains and yet He still refused to trust God!

Is this you? Maybe God brought you safely out of the storm? He showed you that His will is good and yet you continue to reject Him and the power of His saving grace? Have you lost your capacity to trust Him and replaced it with an oversized, dysfunctional capacity for control?

If so, you need to go back to the source! What happened in your life that has left you so hurt and filled with bitterness that your refuse to trust God? Did a religious leader hurt you? Was your father abusive or did He abandon you? If so, how are you going to deal with these things? Will you continue to wander around in the dark or will you start working through these past issues so that you can trust God to guide you to safety even in the darkest of nights?

It is time to ask yourself, what has damaged your capacity to trust? And what steps will you choose to take to mend it…are you willing to let it go…and let God free you from the darkness and walk you safely into the light…

Letting go…

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The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14

A few months ago God called me to step back from something I love, Online Bible Study. As I heard His voice and felt His Spirit prompting me, I was afraid.

How could You God? This is something I love, with people I adore. How can You call me away?

I didn’t understand, but God didn’t offer a choice. He made a mess of me until I chose obedience.

So why am I back? Why am I here doing Online Bible Study again? Why did He call me away, completely away, only to send me back the way I came?

In my tiny human brain it seems silly, pointless even. I’ve struggled with why questions. I like to be in control. If I’m not in control, at very least, I want to understand.

Yet here I lay this morning, heart spread open before The Lord in thankfulness. God didn’t call me away from Online Bible Study because He wanted to take from me. He asked this so I might see the beauty of His will working in my life, in the lives of others, minus the stranglehold of my tight gripping fingers.

I had a grip on Bible study. I knew what I wanted to accomplish. How I wanted to set people free. And how I wanted to share my wisdom. The letter “I” was all over the place. But God took “I” out of the equation and left me with others. Amazing women who serve in Online Bible Study. Phenomenal, gifted women who participate in Bible study. Women doing the work of Christ each and every day.

He took me out so I could see and learn that His ways are always good. That letting it go doesn’t always mean saying goodbye, but moving into the future of a current project with open hands and a renewed heart of worship for what He is already doing.

The Word, The Lord, is doing an awesome and mighty work in your life too. Right now. Amidst turmoil and sorrow. Pain, and even blessings. He is what He is. He does what He says He will do. You need only be still, let it go, and allow Him to press on…

Trust…

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The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Trust in The Lord. Depend confidently on His strength. What He has said, He will do. We may choose to confidently rely upon Him. In all things, and circumstances, He knows best. And if He knows best, it’s assumed that I do not.

I do not know what is best for me. That’s a tough truth to swallow. That my heart is indeed deceitful in many ways. That it knows what it wants, and what it thinks it needs, and that these things may be completely out of line with The Lord’s sovereign will.

And so do I confidently trust? Do I know and expect His will to be better? Do I wait in line for Him to call out my name? Or do I rush to the finish line declaring that I know how to play when I haven’t even heard the rules of the game?

Because when I place my trust heavily and bountifully in The Lord, I do not have to worry about stepping outside of His will. He will indeed make my path straight. But when I trust in my will, the will of man, error takes place.

Error that chews my life story up and spits it out on the opposite side of His will, far gone from perfection and slithering away from what I had envisioned.

I thought I knew better. I thought I knew His plans. And I find I was gravely mistaken in error. Deceived by a heart guided in sinfulness.

I cannot direct my own steps unless I desire to end up in the wasteland of human would be saints.

I can never desire or control myself into the place of God’s sovereign authority.

Into the place where I can know His will without seeking Him first. I cannot decide myself into His Lordship.

The only way to seek His will is to submit my deceitful heart and tumultuous mind to the measure of His understanding. To trust that what’s gone is gone and what will be will be.

That the choices I make have no bearing on getting me, or anyone else, into heaven or hell – but it’s only by the sovereign grace of God I or anyone else will be saved and somehow squared up in the corner of His will.

To trust in The Lord surpasses all I know. Yahweh. My sovereign Redeemer. Bravely taking His seat and enthroned above my sinfulness. Somehow He calls me good. Loved. Saved. Daughter. Sitting with Him, I can be whole. Saved and glory bound. His will, undefeated.

Negative thoughts? Time to specify and modify…

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“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

I should be a lawyer. That’s what my mom always said. I can argue my way out of anything and won’t stop until I win! With age, I have learned to choose my battles wisely. But when I feel strongly about something, I will fight the battle until I win! Yet when it comes to standing up against my negative interal chatter, I seem to let it run all over me!

I wonder what it is that makes us accept negative internal dialogue without a fight. If anyone said the things we say to ourselves to someone we love, we would immediately stand up for them! If someone told my daughter she was not good enough, they would get an earful, but if I think this about myself…it’s somehow seen as acceptable.

I try to dismiss negative thoughts. To pretend they don’t pop in my head. To rope ’em up and send them launching into space, but it doesn’t always work. I began to wonder what I was doing wrong? I didn’t want to dwell and drain my emotional energy on internal dialogue. Yet no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop!

When I began to dig into what the Bible says about negative thoughts I remembered 2 Corinthians 10:5. It doesn’t say to try and ignore, stuff away, stomp on, launch into space, or bury our thoughts. It says to take them captive. To enslave them, to dominate them, to confine them – and then make them obedient. But how do we do that?

When I think of “enslaving” a thought, I think of how I can make it work for me – for my benefit. For example, many people have the thought that they are not good enough. This is a very general statement we make to ourselves. It does not specifity what we are not good enough for, or who we think we aren’t as good as. One thing we can do to enslave our thought is to specify it and then modify it. Let me give you an example.

When you have the thought that you are not good enough, get specific.

Ask yourself questions like:

What situaton are you in?

Did you recently fail at a task?

Did you get passed over for a promotion or opportunity?

Getting specific is important because it helps us move from a genealized negative thought pattern to what we are really thinking.

The other day when my husband was cleaning my house, I had a negative thought that I wasn’t good enough. I got specific. When I dug a little deeper I found that I felt guilty for not being a better housekeeper. I felt guilty for spending too much time writing this week. I felt like a failure. My thoughts even traveled to the far off place of, “what if he finds a better wife who cleans more than I do, is that what he wants?, is he going to leave me?”

Rediculous right? Getting specific helped me realize how irrational I was being. It’s not that “I am not good enough”. It is that housekeeping is not one of my strengths, and my husband loves me anyways. If I want to be a better housekeeper, I can. I can work on that. But even if I don’t, having weak housekeeping skills does not mean that I qualify myself for the blanket statement of I am not good enough.

By getting specific we can enslave our thoughts and make them work for us! I am not good enough turned into I struggle with housekeeping. I can get better at it if I want to. I can choose to take small steps in this area and improve. I am a good and faithful wife who loves her husband. I do lots of things well.

Try this strategy out this week and let me know how you like it! Enslave those thoughts and make them work for you! I would love to hear how this strategy is working, not working, or challenging the way you view inside chatter.

Much love and blessings to ya’ll! Love my sweet bloggy sisters in Christ!