There is nothing-no circumstance, no trouble, no-testing that can ever touch me until, first of all it has gone past God and past Christ right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a GREAT PURPOSE, which I may not understand at the moment. As I refuse to become panicky, as I lift my eyes up to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will ever cause me to fret-for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is- that is the rest of VICTORY!!!!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

More Than Enough.......

Why is it that it takes absence in order for us to appreciate blessings that we once took for granted. There is a saying that says "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and I believe there is validity to this statement. Over the past 3 years or so I have realized that indeed the absence of some very simple things in my life have opened my eyes to the reality that I took the littlest things for granted and only appreciated the big moments instead of each moment. Although health challenges have rattled our lives and shaken us up pretty badly at times we have taken on this new role for our lives and tried to embrace it. At countless times it's as if a veil has been lifted and my eyes opened because there is this new and fresh sense of perspective and appreciation over each blessing in my life. There are so many times where the simplest things throughout my days have helped me truly realize how crazy blessed I am. I have days where I throw myself pity parties but the Lord continues to remind me that it could be so much worse and nothing in this life is promised. Just as I grieve some of the lost simple moments in my life, I embrace what I do have and realize that tomorrow that could be gone.

When I got very sick 3 years ago Macie was only 4. At 4 years old you love being swung as mommy and daddy stand on both sides of you and swing you by your arms screaming "wee" with joy and excitement. At 4 you fall asleep in the back of the car after a long day and want someone to carry you inside and tuck you in bed. At 4 you still can't quit reach the water fountain and need someone to lift you up to get a cool drink. One of the most difficult realities though with me being so sick is not what I have lost but that regardless of how difficult our circumstances became our daughter was still a 4 year old with the same wants and needs. She didn't understand my physical limitations and although she was ever so patient with me it broke my heart that I couldn't be what I thought was "enough" for her. I couldn't swing her or pick her up or lift her for a drink and that to me was devastating. I remember many moments siting by myself crying because I felt like she needed more from me and although it was my best she deserved more. I beat myself up many times and even cried out to God broken hearted and at times mad because it seemed unfair and then it hit me one day as we were going up the stairs. It was a season physically that I was really struggling and not feeling well and it was exhausting for me to even go up stairs. As I stopped halfway up to rest it was everything I had not to start sobbing uncontrollably while I said to Macie "I'm so sorry Macie." Through her tiny little voice I heard back "its ok mommy I know your trying." A moment I will never forget, a moment that I realized although I didn't feel like enough, to her I was everything and more.

Even though physically I have limitations Macie sees my heart and devotion. I wonder how many of you feel like this with your relationship with God at times. I know there are moments where I feel like I can't quit measure up. I feel like I will never be enough and what God wants. I even have had moments where I wondered if God was disappointed in me and felt like I was a failure. In those moments though I hear the words to a song that say "You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same, You are amazing God."

This past week as I was climbing into bed I stopped in Macies room and my heart ached to hold her. My heart ached to turn the hands of time back 3 years ago and get back a moment in time that had been lost. As I bent down to kiss her goodnight I instead wrapped my arms tightly around her, picked her up and held her in my arms. It was a moment I will never forget and as she soundly wrested in my arms her eyes started to flutter and I heard those 4 sweet words "I love you mommy." 

 There are times when I still struggle with being enough as a mom, wife and christian but what I have realized is that Macie doesn't want a supermom but me as her mom. My husband doesn't want a perfect wife but me as his wife. And God doesn't want a perfect perfect daughter but a broken daughter who is completely dependent on Him. Even in the moments where I feel insignificant and less than enough He can look into the hidden places in my heart and see my love and adoration for Him, He can see that I long to measure up and please Him and He wants nothing more than to hold me close and tell me how proud He is. God doesn't look at how together we are, God doesn't want superstars but just us in our weakest moments and most unattractiveness because that's what unconditional love is.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Off Limits"

When I started writing 3 years ago it was merely a way for me to process the things in my life. Something about writing and pouring my emotions and heart onto paper helped me sort through the details of my circumstances. With each post I wrote there became a new comfort and honesty unfold and I knew then that I may never write a bestselling book but I promised to be real and raw and be as transparent as possible to others, myself and God. I have shared posts about my health battles, my marriage, my daughter, my struggles and weaknesses and tried hard to be sensitive to the voice of God and be obedient to whatever direction He wanted me to share yes that is true EXCEPT that one area, that one place I have tucked deep down in my heart hidden from the world. I have said to God “use me God for Your glory, use my story as a testimony to Your goodness, I am Yours but don’t even think about asking me to uncover that one piece. No that piece of my journey isn’t for the world but only me, that area God is off limits.” Even this morning I let out a huge sigh when I felt God was asking me to write about this and I thought to myself “ugh are You sure God, can’t You pick something else.” Does this sound familiar to anyone? Those things that God wants to bring to light the enemy will continue to cover even deeper in the darkness of your heart. Instead of looking at that part of your story as a testimony to how far God has brought you and what He has brought you through you allow it to fester into shame, guilt and bitterness. Even when you think it doesn’t bother you anymore and it’s no big deal Satan knows how to dig his nails into that painful wound and pick and pick until the pain is unbearable once again. ‎"

When the Archenemy finds a weak place in the walls of our castles, he takes care where to plant his battering ram and begin his siege. You may conceal your infirmity, even from your dearest friend, but you will not conceal it from your worst Enemy. He has lynx eyes and detects in a moment the weak point in your armor. He goes about with a match, and though you may think you have covered all the gunpowder of your heart, he knows how to find a crack to put his match through. Much mischief will he do, unless eternal mercy prevents." Charles Spurgeon
I read a devotional this morning that was a reminder to me about some of those very areas that many people are facing, those areas they keep tucked away and hidden. 

“An Apology”

By: Stephanie Clayton
"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

Numb to the pain, I sat in my counselor's office to talk about the rape that occurred 10 years prior. I wanted to share what happened but the words would not come. Even if they did, would I feel better? I hoped so, but doubted the process. This part of my life had been hidden for 10 years; surely another 10 wouldn't hurt, right?

Although I wanted desperately to run, I desired freedom more than escape.
Freedom from nightmares, uncontrollable mood swings, panic attacks, and the feeling of gasping for air. Freedom from unforgiveness. Hiding any longer from my pain would never help me move forward. So I stayed in counseling.

Uneasy, I described what happened. The sounds, sights, and smells returned as if it were yesterday. I was left wanting one thing.

An apology.

Couldn't someone say they were sorry for what happened? Not a shallow apology, but one that would restore meaning to my life. One that would somehow return my loss of innocence. Surely an apology from the man who raped me would make a difference, right?

After 10 years, I knew I wanted freedom from the unforgiveness that seemed to enslave me. But how was I supposed to forgive when he never said, "I'm sorry"? I spent a lot of time praying and studying how to move forward when bitter and angry. How to forgive when an apology never comes. Along that journey, I learned a few things.

First of all, for forgiveness to bring freedom, I had to offer it freely, with no strings attached. Not because the person who hurt me earned it, but because it's Christ's gift. If you are a Christian, no one's sin, not even your own, has the right to hold you captive. That means you are free to forgive.

You may not feel like forgiving, but that is where you ask for God's strength. Ask Him daily for help until you are able to offer forgiveness freely to yourself and others.

Second, I had to release my shame. Often when someone hurts us, we blame ourselves. If we had been a better person, done something differently, or spoken more assertively we could have avoided what happened. Right? Wrong! Pressing shame and blame upon ourselves is not conducive to freedom and healing. Galatians 5:1 says, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."

Shame is a yoke of slavery. Instead of accepting shame, choose to stand firm in Jesus' love. Stand firm in His freedom that releases you from shame. Because of His sacrifice on the cross you are free!

Third, I had to keep walking forward. To move past your past you must walk through it to move beyond it. This might involve time and professional help ... but here's the freeing part: your past does not define you, Christ does!

I never received an apology from the man who raped me. But I've come to realize that even if he were to apologize it would not make up for the hurt he caused. His apology could not and would not set me free.
Freedom is not contingent upon receiving an apology from those who have hurt us. Instead, forgiveness leads to freedom and is possible because Christ's death on the cross set us free.

Maybe you too have experienced some kind of abuse whether it be physical, emotional or sexual. Maybe you have been through a painful divorce, affair, addiction, or other traumatizing event. Like the author regardless of whether it was 10 years ago or 10 days ago it’s just as painful, it’s just as real and it hurts. You may feel alone, damaged, ashamed and bitter and although I can’t understand what you are personally feeling I know the power of Jesus is bigger than any darkness or pain of this world. The enemy may try to keep your story hidden but Jesus can break the chains of your infirmity and use every single moment of your suffering for His glory and purpose. 

Dear Lord, thank You that Your death on the cross gives us all the strength we need to forgive those who have hurt us. Where there is unforgiveness, uproot it with grace. Allow Your mercy to fall on the burdened places of our hearts and minds and show us the areas we need to be set free. Thank You that Your grace, always has been, and will always be, enough. In Jesus' Name I Pray, Amen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Freedom and Healing.....

As I stand with arms raised high and heart surrendered I notice the tears welling up within my eyes and slowly creeping down my cheeks. My palms start to sweat, my heart starts beating quicker, and tightness in my chest begins to form as an array of emotions creep in. It’s as if the wind has been knocked from me and I stand hit with the realization that I am blessed beyond human comprehension and my life has been spared.

Everything about my past and childhood outlines a very different manuscript and story for my life. Just the fact that I’m standing in church on Sunday, married to a man that isn’t abusive and not on drugs or in prison is a change from the status quot of the cycle that my  I could have easily followed. I have been through a tough battle with health complications but the most desperate places I have searched for healing hasn’t been physically but instead those hidden places in my heart that the world has damaged and scarred. At a young age I learned that you fought to survive. You fought with everything in you always putting on a tough girl attitude. There came a point in my life though where desperation to be free from conforming to the patterns of what was comfortable and normal rang loudly in my heart.  It was a white flag moment, the moment in my life where time seemed to stand still my body and mind ached for freedom and instead of fighting to survive I fought to let go and surrender. 

My heart echoed the words to a beautiful song, “we raise our white flag the war is over and love has come, Your love has WON.”  It was a moment that the love and power of Jesus broke every chain that the enemy tried to keep me entangled to. It was a moment that the destructive whispers and reminders of the past were quieted by the tender voice of Jesus. It was in that moment, that deep wounds on my heart were penetrated by the hope of Jesus and traded for promises of healing and redemption. 

See standing in the middle of a beautiful worship center today it hit me like a ton of bricks that my life was spared. The world had given me every reason like so many of you to be chained to unhealthy relationships, poverty, violence, addictions, and crime but Jesus protested on my behalf and said “I will not allow my precious daughter to walk that path.” When you raise your white flag you throw your arms up in the air in surrender, you let go of the struggle of doing it on your own and you welcome freedom with open arms. When choosing freedom you decide that the world can and will no longer have a hold on your life, on your dreams, on your passions, on your joy and you hand over each piece of your story to the strong and mighty hands of Jesus to deliver you. I have sat cowering in a corner filled with disgrace from the ugliness of my reality and choices but through Christ I was set free! Through Him we are MORE than conquerors. 

Today I was overcome with emotion because I realized there isn’t something that makes me special and set apart or more deserving than a prostitute or drug addict. I don’t hold a resume of a glamorous past or accomplishments but the very things that qualify me instead is the messiness, the pain, the scars, the chaos and dysfunction. The only thing that separates me today is that Jesus saved me and spared my life because I could be sitting on the streets, broken, hurting and a prisoner to the enemy instead of free, saved and redeemed. We look around so often at the pain of the world and it’s dysfunction like “poor them” but really we should be saying “lucky me I am blessed.”

"You, with all your faults and imperfections; you, with your defects and failures; you, with your hang-ups and emotional scars; you, with your weaknesses and your defeats; you, with all of your blunders, brokenness, and floundering: you are God's beloved, God's favored, the disciple whose name God calls, the one Jesus prefers to hang with, eat with, play with, talk with, cry with, and laugh with. You are the one whom the holy God of heaven and earth longs to spend time with. You are all of this and more. You always have been. And you always will be." Mike Yaconelli 

I keep thinking “thank You Jesus, thank You because I didn’t deserve to have a life so blessed and with a happy ending but because of His grace I don’t have to follow the story that the enemy had for me but instead will fight against the odds because Jesus is my defender and shield. Romans 8:37 “Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him who loved us.” It’s not enough just to break the chains and get by but to surpass our captivity and have a story redeemed by power and beauty. 

“In death and life I’m confident and covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid there’s nothing that can separate my heart from Your great love”
-One Thing Remains- Kristian Stanfill-