Wounded Women Of The Bible…

I met her in the break room. The sweetest woman, and a powerful writer.

dena

Her name is Dena Dyer. It’s at crazy story. Two women very much involved in writing and ministry, yet each working jobs that were totally unrelated.

I work for a school district and Dena at the time worked for an organization that resettles refugee families. Our agencies shared a very small space with a coffee pot and a sink. And you know where there is coffee, writers gather. Dena and I had passed by each other several times and smiled. But one day Dena took time to introduce herself. As we chatted, she shared about a few of the books she had written. I stood there with my jaw on the ground. I had been praying about opportunities to meet other writers in the Amarillo area. And God brought her, right to me, in the break room down the hall.

As we got to know each other, Dena shared with me about her current project. A book titled “Wounded Women of the Bible”. She knew a little about my story and invited me to contribute a small piece about Dinah.

Crazy good how God is…

A few months before, I began studying the story of Dinah. It worked out perfect. I shared my writing with her, and much to my surprise, she actually wanted to use it! I was thrilled. And now here it is, in print!

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I wish I could express to you the fullness of what this book means to me. Don’t get me wrong. I love that the book afforded me the opportunity to share a bit about my story and about healing, but what I love even more is the heart of this book. That Dena and her co-author Tina Samples would care enough about broken and hurting women to pen a book just for them. Just for me. Just for us.

Abuse…loneliness…betrayal…miscarriage…loss…rape…just a few of the issues addressed in this book. If you have experienced some type of wounding circumstance (and who hasn’t) this book is for you. As I thumb through the pages, I can’t help but well up with tears at the power of God’s amazing redemption. Before you go…I want to share a quick excerpt with you from my contribution to the book…

Following Dinah’s rape, her father remained silent as well. Can you imagine how this broke her heart? No anger, no outrage – just silence. The word used for “silent” in this passage can also be translated “held his peace.” Dinah’s father “held his peace.” Could lit be that my Father was holding His peace, holding my peace?

Peace is not a word I would use to describe my battles. It was a struggle to keep my head above water, to make it through every day without having a complete emotional breakdown. I cried out to God day and night, and yet I felt so utterly and completely alone. He was silent.

He knew there was not an answer to my questions that would satisfy me. He knew I needed to feel my emotions. He knew I was hurting. He knew it was hard, but He never, ever stopped keeping the peace.

And when the time came, I reached up, stopped asking questions, and grasped the hand of the One who holds the peace.

You can purchase the book by clicking here!

And hey, hey, let’s have a giveaway!!!!!!

I am giving away one copy of Wounded Women of The Bible next Tuesday via blog post! To enter to win, share a scripture below that you find or have found comforting during a difficult time. I can’t wait to read what you have to share through the power of His Word.

Blessings and lots of love!!!!

Stephanie Clayton

Throwing mountains…

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It’s everyday conversation…. How are you? How’s your family? Nothing out of the norm. Nothing deep. But as sweat beads roll down my back, I’m reminded, I struggle with an anxiety disorder.

You might not know. I speak in front of people. I love to laugh and joke. I come face to face with crisis and homeless situations daily. I’m a normal person. But inside, it’s not always easy.

I choose grocery store lines where the cashier doesn’t appear chatty, that way I won’t have to talk. Sometimes, I avoid outings with friends. I prefer the safety of my nose in a book, or eyes locked on my IPhone. It’s just easier that way. I evade the inevitable sweating that comes with social interaction and they dodge my awkwardness. It’s better that way, right?

My flesh tells me I should base my life, and all the things I do, around what, where, and how I feel most comfortable. That if social interaction makes me nervous, it’s okay to tuck myself away in the bedroom. That the message God gives me to share in public places or private conversations are not worth sharing. That my communication will always be ineffective because of the anxiety that lies behind it.

Those of us who struggle with anxiety have another level of difficulty when it comes to saying yes to God. We want to say yes, but everything in our bodies says no.

For example, I might say yes to a speaking engagement. But this means stomach problems for days before the event, choosing an outfit I won’t sweat through, and having my face break out in acne due to all the stress.

It’s not just a mental battle. It gets physical.

Racing heartbeats, shaking voices, sweating bodies, hives, psoriasis outbreaks, sleepless nights…and the list could go on and on and on.

I have been through counseling. I have hashed and rehashed my past. I am a Licensed Counselor myself. I take an anti-anxiety medication every single day. Yet at times, the battle rages on. Anxiety continues to rear its ugly head, especially when I am super stressed.

It would be easy to give up. Mind you, I have wanted to several times. But God gently spurs me forward.

I thought by now, after years of seeking and trusting the Lord (plus counseling and medication), He would have emptied me of these symptoms. They have improved, but never completely disappear.

So why am I sharing this with you? Because I want you to have hope. So often we view issues like anxiety or depression as an identity. A defining factor in our lives. When in reality they are little more than mountains.

Mountains you say? Yes mountains. Mountains are not easy to climb. They can be treacherous and daunting. Climbing them can be painful. At times we may fall down. But Jesus says this about mountains:

“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. (Mark 11:23 NIV)

Mountains may be impossible to climb. But with Jesus, they can be thrown. Might we still struggle with symptoms? Yes. Might it be difficult at times? Yes. But these mountains have absolutely no power to keep us from traveling where The Lord would have us go.

So what about you? If you struggle with anxiety or depression, now is the time for action. Pray about it. Maybe it’s time to see a doctor. Or a counselor. Or maybe just time to step out in faith. Whatever God is asking you to say yes to, anxiety and depression are no excuse. It’s time to throw some mountains and get on the move with Jesus.

Awesome art credit: http://southernbellesoulmountainbrideheart.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html?m=1

For those working the dream…

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To be in passionate pursuit of a dream is a gift. And also a worry. Will I be good enough? Can I handle the reality of the call? Is this life really for me?

It’s a blessing given with a tag of obedience. Yes, radical obedience, that at times looks like stress.

But in hot pursuit of the calling, we continue to walk. Forward. Engaging in every step to the fullest of our ability. Negotiating the price to a mere portion of what we may afford out of our love banks. Requesting just a few more days, a few more hours, to prepare. But the righteous step out in faith and go forward.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way. (Psalms 37:23 NASB)

Her steps driven by the very feet of God who blazes a trail on the path before her.

She takes each step with pride, not of her own ability, but the One who set her free. Surely if He has accomplished such grave unbinding wonders, He is capable of even more than this. And so she walks the trail that follows Him wherever it might lead. Trusting in the hand that pulls from graves.

Surely He is capable of even more than this. More than we could ever ask or imagine. And so radical obedience becomes radically blessed at the hands and feet of nail scarred limbs. Ready. Waiting to walk in the gaps. The places where obedience might falter or look strange and daunting. He stands the gap. And she walks. Courageously motivated by the will of her amazing Father in heaven.

The one who breaks it all. All the chains. Just for the sake of making her new. She rises with passion in her purpose and inches one step closer to who He has called her to be. She is radically obedient. And He calls her radically blessed.

Can you hear the stones drop?

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When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 NIV

I imagine the sound. Stones dropping. Delicate thunks in the sand. One by one. Tiny clouds of dust as each stone slips through bent fingers, escaping wrath, embracing the fall.

Familiar with this story, I’ve contemplated God’s mercy and grace. No longer condemned but forgiven of sin. It’s a beautiful thing.

But what about all of those left behind stones. Stones that would have, could have, been thrown at this poor woman. A sinner just like me. And yet because of Jesus, un-launched stones litter the ground.

Littering the ground, I can’t help but wonder if they no longer litter someone’s heart?

Let Him without sin cast the first stone.

And yet no stone was cast that day.

Rather stones were dropped and everyone walked away.

The man who cheated on his wife. Stone dropped.

The woman who lied to her husband, her sin stone hits the sand.

The one who cheats the tithe, reluctantly dropped.

As stones met the ground I wonder if Jesus knew the weight that would be dropped that day.

The weight of human sin that would have been cast on another human. Launched hurt and anger, now cast fully upon him. And not only cast, but accepted, given the proper sacrifice, and ultimately forgiven.

And so we stand with our stones. Stones of bitterness and anger ready to launch at others who sin or hurt us.

But I wonder if we too could make the drop. Stones on the sand, confessing our sin to to Jesus. Accepting His forgiveness and even offering it to others. And at His feet, may we all hear the stones drop.

Too blessed?

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A few months ago we were blessed with a new corgi puppy, Bella. She is the cutest dog on planet earth. I’m pretty sure if her ears caught the wind right, she could sail in the sky with them. Her little legs are so short they disappear in the grass, and everything about her is adorable. However, her behavior is a different story. Much like me, Bella has a shoe fetish. There is not a shoe in our home that has not been loved by Bella. In fact, she loved my favorite wedge sandals so much; she decided to eat them. God made her so cute, because he knew how ornery she was going to be! Bella is a huge blessing, but she has come with a weight. We get up in the middle of the night to let her out, we buy new shoes way too often, there are freshly dug holes in our yard, and my morning coffee time has now become a battle between me and Bella over who gets to drink it. Yes, with blessings often come responsibilities. Which begs the question, is it possible to be too blessed?

Is it possible for God to bless you so abundantly you can’t bear the weight? Sometimes it feels that way.


Deuteronomy 14:25-26 says this, “But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the Lord your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the Lord will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the Lord your God will choose.”

This chapter of Deuteronomy concerns how a person should tithe out of their crops and flocks. They were to bring a portion of the tithe to the temple, and then consume it there, that way they might enjoy it in the presence of the Lord. But if the weight was too much, and the journey was too far, they were to exchange the crops and flocks for silver, then purchase the items to feast on when they arrived.

I realize most of us do not have crops and flocks. We do not tithe in this way. We tithe a percent of our financial blessings. If you are like me, financial blessings do not overwhelm you, but other types of blessings – blessings that come from the works of your hands – can be overwhelming.

For example, I am working on writing a book. I am also working full time as a counselor, not to mention my duties at home as a wife and mother. The weight can seem overwhelming. I found myself whining to God about how I didn’t have time for it all. How did He expect me to write this book when I can’t even get 10 minutes of free time? Then it hit me…I have been praying for years that God would help me write a book. Now it has come to pass, He is blessing me, and I refuse to go to the temple and feast with Him. The weight just seemed too much.

Thankfully we no longer have to travel to be in the presence of the Lord. Because Jesus died on the cross, we are the Lord’s temple. His temple is accessible to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have no excuses to miss out on the feast. To get in His presence and enjoy the blessings. So how do we do this, how do we add one more thing to the list, when we are already overwhelmed?

We make spending time with The Lord our top priority. Other things can wait, even important things can wait, but let us not make God wait. He is the one priority that permeates every other priority. We must choose to spend time with him, not only asking and requesting, but positioning ourselves to feast in thankfulness with Him.

Also, as we feast, we choose to trust Him. If He has provided the blessing, He will also provide the resources for us to manage the blessing. Feasting at His feet, we thank Him for the strength and innovation to bear the responsibilities we aren’t certain we can bear.

Is there an area of your life where you can see blessings, but even taller stand the responsibilities?

Resolve to take time today to feast. I will enjoy my sweet Bella and scratch her big pointy ears. I will place the frustrating portions of my manuscript on His feasting table and thank Him for blessing me with a beautiful message. What will you bring to the table to enjoy with the Lord?

Dear Lord, Thank you for blessings. Thank you for responsibilities that come attached to blessings. When I feel overwhelmed, remind me to come and feast in your presence so that I might remember your all sufficient might and power. Forgive me for the times I haven’t made feasting with you a priority. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Whispers of Love…repost…

I first wrote this post for incourage.me in 2010. I have healed and grown since that time, and my writing style has changed a bit, but the Lord led me to post it again. I hope it blesses someone special today…

you are loved

 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31

There is something to be said for the most difficult, gut wrenching times in our life. While we are going through them, we may be numb to what is going on. Our minds have a way of protecting us and keeping us from what would otherwise be overwhelming. But when it comes to the surface, the pain is just as fresh as if it happened that day. It’s still there. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Only God heals these wounds.

Wounds of the heart. Wounds of the soul. Wounds of the spirit. Wounds that can only be healed by Jesus.

My wound was like this.  I buried it for years. It was a productive little wound. It went a long way in pushing me towards pursuing my degrees. Although, I would soon be disappointed that even after the degrees, the hurt was still there. That wounded little girl was still cowering inside. No amount of education, money, affirmation, or addiction would heal her. In fact, I spent a long time wondering if there was anything that would ever heal her, and for that matter, why my loving Savior let her get wounded in the first place.

I still don’t know if she is healed completely, or that she ever will be. I don’t have answers to all the questions, and that is okay. Like I said, the wound is part of what has gotten me to the place I am today. But…I do know that I love her, and I know that Jesus loves her too. I do know that He never abandoned her, and that she no longer abandons herself. I do know that she is beautiful. That although she blamed herself for years, it really wasn’t her fault. That there is a difference between a 29 year old woman wishing she would have made different decisions as a 15 year old and a 29 year old woman blaming a 15 year old for an assault that she did not ask for. I do know without a doubt that I love her. Which, coming from someone who less than a year ago wrote words to her that she would never have written to her worst enemy, is a gigantic step.

I know that God would ask us to be humble and forsake ourselves for the love of others and for Him. However, for some of us, it is easy to interpret that as, “it’s okay to hate myself as long as I am doing things for others”. But it’s not okay. If it was, why would He have commanded us to love others as we have loved ourselves?

If there is a part of yourself that you have cut off, buried alive, maybe it’s time to bring her back to the surface. Maybe it’s time to let her breathe again. Maybe it’s time to forgive her. The road is long, and the journey is difficult, but it’s worth every step. It’s worth it to know you have nothing to hide. That you can love others and God with your whole heart, holding nothing back. It’s worth it to know you can love yourself again. It’s worth it to hear your Savior whisper I love you in your ear and be able to whisper it back to Him knowing you have given Him all of you, faithfully, forever.

 

Palms open…

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Frantically she jabbed anything she could find down the space between her car window and the door. Locking keys in the car is irritating and mortifying all at the same time. And yes, I would choose the parking space right next to her.

I hear God whisper, “Go in and get money for her. She can’t afford a locksmith.”

“No God,” I reply. “I’m in a hurry! Ryan leaves for camp tomorrow, plus I have to pay for Bella to get spayed….where is this money going to come from? Can’t somebody else help her? If she’s still out here when I get done shopping, I will help her.”

Well, I finished shopping, and guess what, she was still there.

The kind young man who loaded my groceries noticed her plight and offered to find her a better tool than the coat hanger she continued to frantically finagle.

“See God, she doesn’t need my money.”

But $40 cash sits in my purse like a lump.

Again I hear God whisper, “Give her the cash. She can’t afford a locksmith.”

But I harden my heart and tell God no. It’s the end of the pay period, school supplies will be needed soon, and bills are due. No God, I can’t.

So I smile at the woman, tell her I hope the kind grocery sacker finds the tool she needs, wish her well, and drive off in my car. The whole way home, trying to shut off the guilt trickle now flowing like a river in my heart and mind.

I could have helped her. I could have said yes. But I said no. I held to my financial security tighter than I held to God. I trusted my bank account more than I trusted God. And it was $40, easily spared had my hands been open. But I gripped that $40 tight. I had earned it and I wasn’t about to let it go.

Fast forward a few days. I read the first chapter of “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God” by Lysa Terkeurst – the subject of the Proverbs 31 online bible study that begins today.

Then I read the bible study assignments for this week. The phrase for the week is #palmsup. The material challenges me. Could we choose to hold everything with palms up, loosely, so we may say yes to God.

Conviction falls like a ton of bricks. I thought I had this obedience thing down. After all, stepping out in faith and writing a book is huge for me. But what good is obedience in the “big” things if we choose disobedience in the “small”.

God wanted to bless the woman locked out of her car. He chose to use me, but I refused. I robbed her of a blessing, and even more so, I robbed myself.

I wonder if I am alone in my struggles. And I know I am not. Why? Because over 21,000 women are signed up for the Proverbs 31 Yes to God study. 21,000 women want to say yes to God, but probably struggle just like I do! And what freedom there is in knowing I am not alone and that I can learn to do better. The study starts today. You can still sign up here. I would love to have you join me. And let me pray for us before you leave…

Thank you Lord for forgiveness and grace. Thank you that your will is accomplished regardless of our obedience. But God, please help us to choose obedience. We want to live with palms open. In Jesus Name, Amen.