Thursday, December 29, 2011

There's Hope

For the past couple of weeks, I've been revisiting some of my old blog posts and articles.  Here's another one from the archives, originally published in my EEW Magazine column in January 2011. I pray it's a blessing to someone.

While many have embraced the fresh start a new year brings, there are many who are yet hurting. Although some were able to let go of the pain of their past as the clock struck midnight, there are those who are still held hostage by guilt and shame. 

I was once a prisoner of my pain, guilt, and shame. Year after year, instead of finding my way of escape, I fell deeper and deeper into the bondage of my hurt. 

It shackled me. It crippled me. It consumed me.

 I was a hurting woman, and I believed that was all I’d ever be. From the pain of molestation, to the guilt of sexual immorality, and the shame of using alcohol as a coping mechanism, I turned inward, and was well on my way to self-destruction. There was a part of me that wanted to be free from the past, but that part of me was buried so far beneath all of my deeply rooted pain that I could not hear its faint plea for help.

 I wanted to be whole, but I only knew how to hurt. So I subconsciously chose to stick with what had become familiar to me. Oftentimes, we allow ourselves to get stuck in one area in our lives simply because we grow accustomed to being comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Though scripture tells us to be content in whatever state we are in, it does not instruct us to ever become complacent. Complacency is a handicap.

 Just because you’ve experienced hardship for the majority of your life, does not mean you’re supposed to stay there for the remainder of your life. God only has you where you currently are for a reason and a season. 

There are so many hurting women, bound by the remnants of the past and plagued by the pain of the present, who feel that all they’ll ever know is hurt. This week, I simply want to offer hope for hurting women.

 Whatever you’ve been through, whatever you’re going through – whether it’s rape, divorce, abandonment, sexual immorality, molestation, abortion, substance abuse, past criminal history – whatever the case may be, you are more than your hurt. You no longer have to be held prisoner to the guilt of your past. Neither do you have to succumb to the lies of the enemy that says you will never be more than a woman filled with shame and pain. 

God wants to turn your pain into purpose. He wants to reveal the beautiful jewel on the inside of you, and help you to realize your priceless value to the Kingdom. You are the daughter of a King; that alone makes you royalty. He desires for you to open your eyes to embrace the undeniable beauty you possess in Him.

It is not God’s pleasure to see His children suffer; that is not His plan for you. He’s only allowed you to experience the things you’ve encountered to prepare you for the ministry He will birth out of your pain.

You will not hurt forever. You can have a fresh start and move forward from your place of pain. Your new beginning does not lie in the date on the calendar, but it lies in the Man that holds your life in the palm of His hand. Your past is over in Christ; accept your freedom so that you may fulfill God’s divine purpose for your life. You are no longer bound; your chains have been broken. It’s time to fly. Christ has come to give you hope.

 I want to leave you with one of my favorite scriptures:

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11~

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Change Your Mind, Change Your Life

**NOTE: This is a repost of my very first article published in EEW Magazine back in September 2010.

“Good riddance,” I thought to myself as 2009 officially came to an end. I was too happy to step over into a new year, because 2009 had proven to be one of the most trying years of my life. Facing one situation after another, depression, despair and distress had become all too familiar to me. But, I told myself that 2010 was going to be better…things were going to change.

A few months into the year I realized something – nothing had gotten better. In fact, things were worse. How could this be? I’m praying; I’m in church every Sunday; I’m praising and quoting scriptures, so why isn’t God changing the situations in my life? Why am I sinking deeper into depression, and continuing to feel defeated?

One day, smack dab in the midst of one of my lowest valleys, I had an Aha! moment – Your situations haven’t changed because your mind hasn’t changed. There I was, expecting victory when my mind was still wrapped around defeat. I had to realize that change first began in my mind. Before anything else, the paradigm of my thinking needed to shift. It was then that I adopted the motto Change your mind, change your life.

Through continuous prayer, fasting and meditating on God’s word, God began to destroy the yoke of bondage in my mind. Although it wasn’t easy, it was in the changing of my mind that the spirit of depression and defeat were lifted and I learned how to deal with the trials in my life, instead of allowing them to deal with me. Though not every wrong situation in my life has been made right, because my mind has changed, my life is changing for the better and it’s absolutely amazing.

Change begins in your mind. The thoughts you think determine your attitude. Your attitude determines your actions. Your actions determine your outcome. The adversary wants nothing more than to entangle your mind with thoughts of defeat, hopelessness and despair, in hopes of causing you to give up on life. I encourage you to tell the devil he’s a liar and seek God for a mental makeover. Ask Him to rid your mind of every debilitating thought that keeps you from moving forward, and help you to take on the mind of Christ.

 As your mind begins to change, so will the situations in your life. Your thoughts will change; your attitude will change; your actions will change; your outcome will change. Think victoriously!

~May you live in His love.~

Thursday, December 22, 2011

You Deserve A Better Life...Yes, YOU!

About a week ago, I was lending an ear to a young lady going through the process of transitioning from brokenness to wholeness. On this particular day, she was having a hard time believing that she deserved to be made whole, and was ready to throw in the towel. “I want to give up” she said, “why is it so easy for me to believe for others, but so hard for me to believe for myself?”

She sounded just like me about a year ago. Ready to call it quits because I could not find the courage to believe that I deserved to be made whole and have an abundant, joyful life in Christ. Now I could freely encourage and believe for my fellow sisters, but when it came to me, not so much. But why not? Why couldn’t I have that same enthusiasm for myself?

I did not realize it then, but I now know that I simply could not get over myself. I could not see past my issues and struggles. I refused to look beyond my faults. I convinced myself that I could never be more than a woman filled with guilt and shame, and did not deserve redemption.

The adversary did not need to use anyone else to work against me because I had become my own worst enemy, fighting against myself. Whenever I would gain a small ounce of belief, I’d instantly diminish it with self-demeaning thoughts. I’d think to myself “Who are you kidding? You’ll never be more than what you are right now.” And to be perfectly honest, that’s exactly what I believed in my heart.

Because I could not see beyond what I was at that moment, I always felt less than. Because I felt that way, I always settled for less. I figured I didn’t deserve anything better than what was at the bottom of the barrel. Meaningless relationships, dead-end jobs…I mean I was lucky just to get leftovers, right? Absolutely not!

It took me a lot of praying, counseling, and finding myself through God’s word to realize that this was not the mentality God wanted me to have. Just as I did for others, He wanted me to believe that I, too, deserved to have a better life.

He wants the same for you.

No one knows your issues better than you. No one knows your secret struggles better than you. No one knows the depth of your pain better than you. So who better can the enemy use to fight against you? Yep, you guessed it – You. Today I encourage you to decide that no more will you allow the enemy to use you as his puppet.

Instead, allow God to erase the former things from the forefront of your mind, so that you can believe Him for the new thing He desires to do in you. (See Isaiah 43:18-19) 

No one can believe for you. It’s one of those things we all have to learn to do for ourselves. Know this – Because of the grace and mercy of our God, and the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses every blemish in our lives, we are deemed faultless in the eyes of Christ. See yourself through the eyes of Christ, and know that despite your past and present state, you are deserving of love, life, and liberty.

Here’s a simple prayer: Lord, help thou my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)

**Originally published 2/2011 in my column in EEW Magazine.**

Monday, December 19, 2011

Unforgiveness Is Poison

  **I'm revisiting some things I've written over the years. This was originally published in my column in EEW Magazine in October 2010.

Have you ever disliked something so strongly that the mere mention of it made you cringe?  I have.  Only it wasn’t something, it was someone.  Truthfully, I hated this person.  For years, she had been blatantly disrespectful and condescending towards me.  Instead of nipping things in the bud in the beginning stages, I harbored feelings of hurt and allowed them to turn to bitterness; my bitterness led to unforgiveness; unforgiveness formed hatred.

My hatred towards her had gotten so bad that I sometimes found myself having evil thoughts about her.  I felt that she had insulted and infuriated me far too many times without showing a fraction of remorse; therefore, she did not deserve my forgiveness. As a Christian I knew this was wrong, (I studied all of the scriptures concerning unforgiveness.) but I couldn’t seem to get over my feelings.  I could not open my heart and forgive her.

I’ll spare you all the details, but I will share this – She had no clue about my feelings towards her, so at the end of the day, I was the one who suffered.  She didn’t feel the pain of my hatred towards her, I did.  I suffered spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  I was the one losing sleep, stressing, going to the altar every Sunday, and feeling disconnected from God because of my inability to forgive.  At this point, it was no longer about her; I had to look inward.

I had to decide whether I was going to continue to allow my flesh to rule my heart, or tap into the God within me and love her with the love of Christ.  Needless to say, I chose the latter; however, it wasn’t easy.  My heart was willing, but my mind put up a fight.  It took A LOT of touching and agreeing to break that unforgiving spirit that had festered in my heart.  I didn’t forgive her for her sake, but for my own.  I needed to be free.  And trust me, there is such freedom in forgiveness.

Perhaps you’ve been deeply hurt by someone, and you’re finding it quite challenging to offer forgiveness.  If you think about, it’s pointless to hold a grudge, because the only person it really affects is you.  There’s a quote I like: Harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting on the other person to die.  Think about that for a minute.

Unforgiveness makes you bitter and angry, and prohibits you from sharing the genuine love of Christ.  There are three things you can do for someone who wrongs you, that will free your heart and mind: forgive them; pray for them; love them.  Besides, how can we expect God to forgive us, if we can't forgive others?  No, it’s not always easy to do, but it’s definitely the righteous thing to do. 

Unforgiveness holds you hostage, and keeps you from moving forward.  Forgiveness breaks those chains and sets you free. Choose today to no longer allow unforgiveness to rest in your heart.  Let’s pray:

Lord, forgive me for not operating in the spirit of forgiveness as your word commands.  I ask that you would help me release the offender, and the offense, that caused me pain, and cleanse my heart and mind so that I may show the same love and forgiveness towards them that you have shown towards me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*RECOMMENDED SCRIPTURE READINGS: Matthew 5:44; Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 18:21-22, Mark 11:25-26

Friday, December 16, 2011

Coping Through Rough Seasons

This was originally published in my column in EEW Magazine.  I wrote it earlier in the year, and thought it may still serve as a blessing to someone today.

In life, each of us will be confronted with difficult seasons. It’s inevitable. One thing we all must do is deal with those trying times in our lives in some way or another. The way we handle tribulation has the power to determine how bearable, or seemingly unbearable, that season may be.

I haven’t always been successful at coping with the stress of hard times. In fact, I found that my choice of coping mechanisms actually made me feel worse than the things I was facing at the time. Instead of going with the flow of the currents of my tough seasons, I often acted on impulse, panicked, and did things that caused me to drown in my sorrow. When I should have been using prayer and praise as ways to cope with stress, throughout the years I either turned to pornography, sex, or alcohol. Though they offered a temporary relief to my flesh, because I knew these things were wrong, my spirit became wounded; thus causing the problems I was already facing even harder to bear. In fact, I really wasn’t dealing with my tough times, but only suppressing and pacifying my feelings with sinful lusts of the flesh. At a time when I should have been drawing nigh to God, my inability to man up and deal with what the Lord was allowing to happen in my life, ultimately as a means to grow and mature me, I became caught up in my feelings and allowed my sins to separate me from Him.

I eventually came to realize that my way of coping was totally wrong, and caused more harm than good. I knew that I HAD to learn a better way. It took some time, but through my Fool-Proof Combination: Prayer, Fasting, and Studying God’s word, I learned that God wanted to give me beauty for my ashes, the oil of joy for my mourning, and the garment of praise for my spirit of heaviness.
(Isaiah 61:3) He taught me how to adopt prayer, praise, and worship as the perfect way of getting through the difficult seasons in my life. I am a witness that it works!

There’s no doubt that He will bring us out of the tough times we face, no matter the level of pain and difficulty. Although God will see us through, that does not negate the fact that we must learn how to go through His way. The way of escape is already mapped out; however, we must be in tune with God in order to allow His Holy Spirit to lead us to that place of deliverance. This can be accomplished by praying, praising, and worshipping the Lord, even in the midst of your fiercest storm.

I know sometimes it can be difficult to praise when your whole world seems to be falling apart. And I know that sometimes the pain can be so intense that all you want is a quick relief. But instead of turning to things that have no lasting power, I dare you to tap into the One that has all power. Praise invites God into your situation, and anytime God is present things are guaranteed to change. Consider Paul and Silas when they had been unjustly arrested, bound in chains, and thrown in jail.
(Acts16:23-26) What did they do? They prayed, and sang praises to God. They invited God into their situation, and He showed up. He caused every chain to be loosed, and they were made free. How much more does God want to do the same thing for you?

There is no better formula for coping with the trials of life than that of prayer, praise and worship. When you go into your secret place and commune with God, He will come and sit smack dab in the middle of your raging sea and command peace. Try it, you’ll see!

~May you live in His love.~

Thursday, December 15, 2011

God's Word Encourages

I want to share with you a passage of scripture that dropped in my spirit today.  As I opened my Bible, and read its words, I knew the Lord led me there.  It greatly ministered to my heart, and met me exactly where I was.  I love when the Lord does that.

If you've found yourself under attack by the enemy working through those around you, I believe this will encourage you.

Psalm 27:1-6 NIV

"The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD."

Praise God for His Holy Word!

~May you live in His love.~

Enjoy my song of the day posted below:

Friday, December 9, 2011

Encouragement In The Wait

Waiting can be one of the hardest things to do when you more than want what you're anticipating, but you need it like yesterday.  Whether healing in your body, financial increase, restoration in marriage, a job...whatever the case may be, I'm sure there's a particular area in each of our lives where we are waiting on God to move.  But doesn't it sometimes seem like God is taking forever?  Don't you sometimes feel like maybe God forgot about what He said He was going to do for you?

I've certainly been there; quite recently, to be honest.  There are some things I've had before the Lord, and some things He's promised to do in my life, for quite some time now.  It's seems as if I've been waiting, anticipating, expecting, and praising in advance for a LONG time.  At least it appears that way to me.  I mean, how much advance praise do I need to give before the Lord makes good on His word?! Don't act like you've never felt that way. *giving you the side eye* LOL!

Just this week I noticed the enemy trying to come in and plant the seed of doubt in my mind, so I quickly went to my Father for reassurance.  I had a little talk with God, and it went a little something like this:

Lord, have you forgotten about me? He answers, "Never. I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:16)

Well, have you changed your mind about what you said you'd do? He answers, "I am not human, that I should lie, not a human being, that I should change my mind. I do not speak and then not act. I do not promise and not fulfill." (Numbers 23:19)

But Lord, haven't I been waiting forever? He answers, "If it seems slow in coming, wait. It's on its way. It will come right on time." (Habakkuk 2:3)

Can I be honest, Lord?  Sometimes I feel tired in the wait, and it seems like my righteous living is going unnoticed.  He answers, "Don't become weary in doing good, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)

Why do you keep telling me to wait? He answers, "Because they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31)

OK, OK, I'll wait...but can you give me an idea of when things are going to manifest?  He answers, "To everything there is a season..." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

I left that conversation with the Lord with my faith and strength renewed.  He ministered to my heart, and assured me that my waiting is not in vain.  I am all the more encouraged to hold on to my faith and my promise from the Lord, trusting that things will manifest in His perfect timing. I am furthermore persuaded to continue believing that although He may not come when I want Him to, He is right on time...not accordidng to my watch, but His.  And in the meantime, I am confident that He will never fail to meet every need in my life...and yours.

If you're in a waiting place, be encouraged.  Stay with God, hold on to your faith, believe in the promise, and remain in expectation.  Though it may tarry, wait for it; it will surely come.  The Lord always keeps His word.

"Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD." (Psalm 27:14)

~May you live in His love.~

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Be Free

I am free
Praise the Lord, I'm free
No longer bound
No more chains holding me
My soul is resting
It's just a blessing
Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, I'm free

As I was mopping my kitchen floor this morning, that song dropped in my spirit.  I began singing it over and over and over, and before I knew it tears were streaming down my face, my mop was on the floor...and so was I.  I had gotten lost in worship.

Over the past few weeks, the enemy has been trying his darndest to attack my mind.  He's sent all kinds of opposition my way, and I admit, for a minute it had me very anxious in my thoughts.  I gave in to the negativity and found myself feeling down in my spirit, moping around my house, and just not really feeling it.  I had allowed the enemy to come in, and hold my peace and joy hostage. 

My mind used to be the devil's playing field.  He'd get in there and play all kinds of games, and have me some kind of messed up.  And even though the Lord has freed me from the bondage in my mind, that doesn't stop the enemy from trying to sneak in and attack me, especially now that my life is surrendered to Christ, and I'm committed to carrying out His call on my life for the upbuilding of the Kingdom.  This time, his little sneak attack got to me.

It happens to the best of us.

Before I went to bed last night, I spent some quiet time with the Lord.  Although I couldn't quite find the words to say, as I stilled myself in His presence I could feel Him wrapping His loving arms around me, letting me know He heard every unspoken word flowing from my heart. He reminded me that where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17)  And at that moment I felt free...Free in my spirit, and free in my mind. Because I was resting in the spirit of the Lord, the enemy had no choice but to take his hands off of me.

Praise God for renewed freedom!

I know what it's like to be bound in so many areas of life, and since I have experienced freedom in Christ, I never want to return to that place.  There are so many people who are bound in their mind, in addictions, in pain, in sin, or in relationships, who want to be free.  If that happens to be you, I'm here to tell you that there is freedom in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  You don't have to be bound.  Just like the spirit of the Lord broke the chains of Paul and Silas and freed them from the bondage of prison (Acts 16:19-40), so can you be set free from the chains that hold you down.  And as John 8:36 declares, "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

No matter how heavy the chains, the Lord can destroy every stronghold that hinders you from walking in the abundant life Jesus has come to give us. (John 10:10)  Once you tap into the spirit of the Lord, and allow it to work in your life, you'll be worshipping God just as I was this morning, singing "Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, I'm free."

Enjoy this song entitled "Be Free" by Kierra Sheard, and be free!

~May you live in His love.~

Friday, December 2, 2011

Smile :-)

I wanted to talk to you via video blog today, but after the week I've had, I literally look like I've been through the storm and the rain!  Not cute.  So the video blog will have to wait until next week; I've got to get myself together!

Moving along...

Last night I received a phone call from a really sweet lady.  Her name is Sharon.  She called to tell me how, although I'm a little more than a decade older than she is, I am an inspiration to her.  That made my heart melt.  And then she told me something that made me blush.  She told me that she loves my smile, and whenever she sees a picture of me smiling via Facebook, it's almost like seeing sunshine.  Sharon said that no matter how she's feeling, my smile makes her smile.  She made my whole night.

There was one thing my sweet friend said to me that made me reflect back over my life, and led me to praising God long after we'd hung up.  She said, "Your smile is so pure."  Now that may not seem like a big deal, but to me, it was.  See, I used to never smile, and if I did it was fake and forced.  I was always so sad.  Even as a young girl, there was no sparkle behind my eyes, and no song in my heart. 
People would think I was mean because I always walked around with such a harsh expression on my face. I can't tell you how many times people would walk up to me and say something like "Smile; it's okay" or "You should smile sometimes."  But because depression weighed so heavily upon me, among other issues, flashing my pearly whites was uncommon for me.
But nowadays smiling comes naturally to me.  I built a closer relationship with this guy named Jesus, and spending time with Him has changed my life.  He gave me something called joy, and He planted it deep down in my heart.  Because of His love, and His goodness and mercy towards me, every now and then that joy rises from my heart, spills over onto my face, and causes me to smile.  As broken and dejected as I was, nothing but the grace of God could do that.

Yep, He'll even give you a smile.
I'll leave you with Matthew 11:28, it says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  Jesus gave me rest; that's why I smile.
You never know how something as simple as a smile can impact someone's day, or even your own.  So go ahead and turn your frown upside down; you'll feel better...and you'll look so much better.

Enjoy the video below.

~May you live in His love.~

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thankful For God's Strength

I've been sick all week.  It started Sunday afternoon when I began to feel the onset of a cold.  By Monday morning, I was coughing, sneezing, and had bodyache, headache, congestion and stuffy nose.  No fun.  Now that my cold is a lot better, I'm feeling extremely drained, and nothing seems to settle on my stomach.  Juggling being sick and taking care of my daily responsibilities has been quite challenging, but thank God for His grace and strength.  With my husband away on a business trip (Thank God he's on his way home!) I have had to rely solely upon the Lord's strength this week.  I've called on Jesus so much He's probably tired of me!

Yesterday evening my almost 9 year old son, Joseph, joined me in the kitchen as I prepared dinner.  In the midst of me asking the Lord to give me strength, he tilted his head to the side and said, "Why do you keep saying that?"  Totally oblivious to what he was talking about, "Saying what?" I asked.  "You keep saying Lord give me strength. Why do keep on saying that?  You say it a lot."  I chuckled a bit.

"Because mommy's body is tired and weak from fighting this cold. My energy is totally gone, and since the Lord has a never-ending supply of energy, I need Him to give me some, or else you and your greedy little brother won't have a hot meal tonight" I told him.  He laughed, and jokingly told me that I was crazy.

He doesn't understand it now, but I'm sure that once he's grown into a man and experiences life on his own, he'll be asking the Lord for strength just like mommy.

On any given day, at any given moment, I'm petitioning the Lord to increase my strength.  Especially when my own has been stretched paper thin.  And I am so glad that His strength is made perfect when mine is small.  As a mom of three, a wife, and as a servant for the Lord, I need God's muscles every single day.

Fictitiously speaking, God has huge muscles, much bigger than those of Popeye, that are strong enough to hold us up and carry us when our strength fails.  I'm thankful that I never have to rely upon my own strength to make it through challenging times, whether physically or spiritually, but I can plug into my Father's energy supply through prayer and His word, and obtain all the juice I need to keep it moving.  Isaiah 40:29 says, "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."  Thank God for that.

You don't have to go at life feeling weak and worn; the Lord's strength is available whenever you need it.  Lean on Him.

~May you live in His love.~