Armoured Up

Archive for the tag “spirituality”

Trust and True Sisterhood

IMG_0488For the last nine months I have been studying the book of Genesis with the greatest group of women in a neighborhood bible study.  I limped into Community Bible Study about a year and a half ago needing a place to congregate, really intending to just get lost in a crowd and spectate for a while after having been heavily entrenched in ministry.  Well, you know God always has other plans…you can kick and scream if you like, but once you quiet down, He’ll have His way in the end…you may walk away with stronger legs from all that kickin’ and a need to repent from all the screamin’, though!  Today I’m healthy and strong, enjoying a freedom I haven’t known for a long time.  I was asked to join CBS as a Core Leader in 2012 and in March of this year during my time at bat for devotion, I shared this little dittie on Trust.  Today, I share it with you…

You know, when God has an assignment for you, every force in nature (at times in the form of people), comes against you in order to make you stumble, retreat or even give up.  I cant even begin to properly express how much I have gleaned from our  journey through the book of Genesis – how much the lives of these people – their faith, their obedience, their trials, their drama, their failures, their victories has reminded me of my journey with Jesus.  I have been Abraham, leaving my home and family to come to California in support of my husbands dreams; I have been Sarah, longing for a baby, sadly watching as friends around me added to their families while my arms remained empty, overjoyed when God finally said yes; I have been Hagar in my own times in the wilderness, feeling apart from God needing to know that He sees meHe hears me.  Ive been Esau, deceived and lied to and Ive been Jacob, operating in fear, making plans without first consulting God and then praying for His help.

Most of our failures and victories all surround TRUST.  Who you believe, what you believe, where you place your trust and with whom.  Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.  But did you know that you can put your heart on lock down where you choose not to trust anymore; you cash in your chips and decide isolation is the best place to be when in fact its the most dangerous place to be, for the enemy works best when we isolate ourselvessomehow he talks more and louder and actually sounds believable.  It’s in that dark, lonely place that we really get pummeled. 

I think WOMAN really is Gods most amazing masterpiece.  We are machines….such contradictionstender but tough; too weak to lift heavy machinery, but strong enough to carry another life and then push it through a key hole.  We are healers, nurturers, encouragers, life givers and much more, but we can also be the opposite of anything good and uplifting.

I arrived at CBS as a wounded warrior bruised, but refusing to be broken.  Once again my trust had been breached by women and the last thing I wanted to do was be in the company of women, but here I was in the company of women.  After day one of my circle time as I drove home, I said out loud I wont be participating.  Ill just sit and listen. (My way of keeping walls up.)  That declaration was followed by a loud OH YES YOU WILL PARTICIPATE, rising from within.  Huh?  Hmm!! I got home and my husband asked me about CBS and I replied, I wont be going backits not for me.  Two days later I was at my desk doing my lesson.  As I released my grip on MY will for me, God got to work establishing HIS.  You see, you must release in order to receive.

I sat under the leadership of Carol, a dear, powerful woman of God, and as my heart thawed out I witnessed quiet strength in action; I witnessed Gods grace and His gentleness operate through Carol as I, and the other ladies, respondedand yes I opened my mouth – probably more and louder than most.  And in my yapping I divulged to someone that during this season I wanted to receive ONLY, so imagine my surprise when I received a call from Carol asking me to pray about whether I would be interested in being considered for Core Leadership the following year.  I was honored (while we were on the phone) and as I hung up I was horrified and once again I felt that wall creeping  up only to have it kicked down by my husband who quickly responded positively to the opportunity to re-engage.  (I wonder if he really wanted me out of his hair already!!)

After praying and seeking God for His will, I felt released to accept the opportunity and waited for the next step, which was a call from Cindy…the “interview!”  As I recall, there was only one spot remaining and more than one lady in waiting poised to occupy that spot.  We had a candid conversation and I remember as I spoke, I heard that still small voice.SCREAMING!!!! YOURE TALKING TOO MUCHYOURE TALKING WAY TOO MUCHOKAY, YOU BLEW IT NOW! I felt like I was laying it all out there honestly to her, half hoping that she would turn me away — only to have Cindy push back by saying something like, you are exactly the type of leader the women will respond to because you have been through something.  Those words cut through the wall I had built around my heart and jump started my process of healing.   That day I had a Jericho experience – that wall came a tumbling down!!  I made a choice to position my heart to receive and to trust again.

Circle of Sisterhood LogoSo what would I have missed had I not turned around and returned to CBShad MY will been done and not Gods?

 I would have missed witnessing grace under pressure; strength in a storm; Gods hand of healing; love in action (with no strings attached); humility; encouragement; support; kindness; tenderness; respect; generosity; sincerity; transparency; unity.

I would have missed experiencing true sisterhood; comfort; a feeling of belonging to something special but not exclusive; I would have missed experiencing unspeakable joy and barrels of laughter; opportunities to connect and engage; to refresh and be refreshed.

I would have missed an opportunity to witness Gods daughters behaving and interacting the way God intends. 

I would have missed an opportunity to learn to trust again.

The Amplified version of Proverbs 3:5-6 says it best…”Lean on, trust in and be confident IN THE LORD with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.  In all your ways know, recognize and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.

I came across a great quote recently that said, “You could run from your past or you can embrace it and learn from it.  You can let it hold you back or you can move forward and have a better future.”

Im so glad I embraced it and learned from it; that I moved forward to a better future, one which included CBS and all of  my beautiful sisters.

Oh and as a footnote

I knew this was a sisterhood when on Day 1 of orientation, I was approached by another Carol who said “I have panties that match your dress exactly.”  “You do?” (What an icebreaker, I thought!)  She continued, “Yes, would you like them?”  “Do you have them on now?” I asked.  “No,” she said as she laughed…”I’ll bring them tomorrow.” – It was then that I knew I was home!

God has a plan and a purpose for each and every one of us, but His plan cannot be enacted until we yield to His voice and respond to His calling in order for that purpose to be revealed.  How amazing is our God and how great is the journey.  It doesn’t always make sense at the time, in fact it’s downright aggravating, but in the end if we don’t grow weary, if we don’t give up, it all makes sense…every bit of it!

*Community Bible Study  (a bible study where many churches are represented by women of all ages and stages in their walk).  Find a study in a city near you at www.communitybiblestudy.org/ There are co-ed studies too:)  Ours is a ladies only affair….a whole lotta tissue slinging, I tell you!

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A Perfectly Woven Web, Part II

You can catch up by clicking here and reading Part I –https://armouredup.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/a-perfectly-woven-web/

I couldn’t have been happier seeing Mary come out of the grocery store pulling her luggage, a look of uncertainty in her eye.  Her outward look matched mine; however, I wore mine on the inside.  We embraced and she confessed that she woke up that morning uncertain that she would be joining us and was close to canceling.  “I’m so glad you came,” is what came out of my mouth, but what I was thinking was, if she had cancelled, I would have also.  We boarded the bus warily, I’m sure each of us skeptical for different reasons…she, never being around so many Christian women in so intimate a setting and I in the midst of healing after having my trust breached (once again) by Christians.  We pull off, eyebrows raised, destination known, future uncertain…with only God knowing what the condition of our hearts would be on the ride back home.  During the ride I pointed out Rashayna and told her that I wanted to introduce them that weekend.  She stared at her for a while and said she looked so familiar to her.  We settled in and chatted the rest of the way about nothing and everything.  We arrived and were given our room assignments and instructions to meet in the dining room.  We met our other roommates, a sister who had recently discovered she was expecting after the devastating loss of child born extremely premature just a few months prior and our fourth roommate was a woman I had never met, but was strangely drawn to with a story which would prove to blow back all of our hair.  She was one of the speakers and all I knew about her was that she had a story!!  The Weaver was busy weaving…

After dinner, we gathered in our meeting room.  I found seats for us and held my breath as the program began with worship.  I so wanted her to be comfortable and I was straining to focus as our first speaker took the microphone; opened up in prayer and began to talk about the many veils we wear as women to mask our feelings.  <“Breath, Arlene, she’s talking to you,” is what I kept hearing…”Let Me handle Mary and you just receive.  I am God, you know.”>  Note to self and the reader….Uh, God is God and we are not!  How refreshing is that??? – With an exhale, I began the process of entering in that rest I so needed, casting my care and Mary over to Him and guess what?  It works!  I spotted Mary taking page after page of notes.  Our next speaker talked about the labels we wear as women; some self-imposed, some inherited, some given to us, some of which stick and alter our perspectives, our choices, our decisions. Was that a tear I saw Mary wipe away or was that mine blocking my vision?  The program closed and a spontaneous decision was made for all of us to take a walk to a fire pit where our weekend’s leader kicked down “discomfort’s door” and with transparency that later Mary would say moved her beyond belief, she welcomed us into her pain and floored us with the details of what was currently raging in her personal life, threatening to prove that God had forgotten her and her family.  That opened up the door to many other women sharing intimate details.  I noticed that Mary had sat with Rashayna and they had been chatting.  I sat off to the side  praying that Mary would get up and unmask the enemy giving her an opportunity to disarm him in the company of some powerful women. Just as our time that first night as a group was coming to an end…the cold becoming a bit much and just as I was pleading to the Lord for her to raise her hand, Mary did just that and with the strength that I saw in our leader just moments before, she stood up, introduced herself and poured out what she had shared with me, ending her introduction with something like, “I’m not sure exactly why I’m here and I don’t know if I’ll ever believe the way you all do, but I’m here,” and that, my friend, is all that God needed to hear!

We retired to our rooms, some too amped to stay behind closed doors and us four opting  for a more intimate setting in our room.  Kim, the woman I was so drawn to began to share a little of her testimony.  I noticed her peace, how beautifully she spoke…both gently and confidently, with so much ease.  Mary, who is as smart as a whip, and Kim began engaging as I listened.  Kim answered some pretty difficult questions with such practicality and with a deftness I hadn’t seen in a while.  She too, had miscarried her baby just six weeks prior and would be sharing her story.  She hesitantly shared that she had a picture of her 12 week old baby and asked if we wanted to see.  She also wanted our opinion as to whether it would be too shocking to share as part of her story.  God worked it out that our fourth roomie was fast asleep and missed our conversation altogether.  Kim shared the picture of her baby and she just beamed as she showed us.  That picture would prove to change Mary’s mind regarding the horror of abortion.  God…on the move even up to the time we turned our lights out and said goodnight.  I’m sure Mary had a lot going on that she was processing, as I fell asleep thinking about Kim and her amazing faith.

I have asked Kim’s permission to share her testimony, one which she so powerfully shared with us on the next day, which concluded with a letter she had written to her baby the day after she miscarried, along with the picture she took of her baby.   Kim’s response to my request was “Of course.  Anyone who values your writing, I’m confident will value what God has and is doing through that letter and photo.  It’s funny that you bring up Mary…when this woman who I did not know (with wavering faith) looked at the photo and said, ‘I don’t think I’m Pro-Choice anymore,’ I knew God was going to do great things with this.  I trust whatever you decide.”  Here is a link to that letter and photo.  http://wynottme.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/dear-baby/

The next day Mary woke up with a lightness to her.  After breakfast, we met once again to hear our sisters speak on topics varying from dealing with envy and strife to one of my personal favorites…the testimony given by the former Miss Alabama and powerhouse woman of God about faith and the word and how to wield it while God works in accordance with it.  We took a break for some quiet time with the Lord, after which we would have lunch, some free time and then back for the beginning of Mary’s long-awaited breakthrough…when Rashayna would share what appeared to be a message prepared just for Mary’s ears.

Rashayna has a soothing voice which has a buttery or velvet-like texture to it and she began speaking from the back of the room as a video played.  She showed the Lifehouse skit “You’re All I Need,” which tells the story of a young girl having found Jesus, only to be wrestled away by the demons of her past, and the fight which ensues and ultimate victory as Jesus breaks through to win her back.  Rashayna shared her message with the precision of  a surgeon and I knew without a doubt that this message was the most important message that Mary would hear that weekend…this would be the message which she would never forget and later, Mary would confirm that to be the case.  At the end of Rashayna’s message, prayer was offered and as I opened my eyes, there was Mary making her way forward.  Of course I began directing traffic in my head saying….”no, don’t go that way, go to the right, towards Rashayna…no stop!”  Another sister reached Rashayna before Mary could, but God had a better plan.  As the evening drew to a close, after many more tears, it was time to head back for the night.  Mary said she wanted to stay behind for a minute.

A minute turned into at least 2-3 hours as Rashayna swooped in and spoke to her in a language only they recognized, their past beliefs, experiences and circumstances being eerily similar.   Mary met her match in Rashayna who is extremely intelligent with the most tender heart.  Rashayna was firm, tough as nails and determined not to allow Mary to wear her out with her questions and stubbornness.  One of my favorite lines that the Lord dropped into Rashayna for her to deliver was one which gave Mary pause to think about and for which she had no response.  It went something like this – “The philosophies and beliefs you have, have gotten you to this point.  They are no longer serving you and the lifestyle you are striving for.  It is time to establish new philosophies and beliefs based on the Truth.”   Can’t you just hear that “ZING” where you are?   Just as we were wondering aloud where Mary was, she appeared at the door with a tear-stained face, red nose, looking like she had been in a fight and had lost!  haha. Rashayna followed her in looking pretty spent as well.  She told her to tell us what she had just done.  It took her a minute to form her words, but she said it and when she did I could have just fallen out again, but I kept my composure as I heard her say, “I gave my heart to Jesus…I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.”  I went to sleep that night with the biggest smile and with a heart filled with gratitude…in awe at how God had moved and planned and orchestrated so many circumstances, situations and events in order to make Himself known to one, while healing the heart of another.  (My journey to healing began on the zipline, which I shared a while back in my blog titled, “Zipline to Freedom.”)

Our final morning together, Mary got dressed up in her Sunday best and I asked her (although I knew the answer) why she was wearing heels.  She said, “I’m going to church…I think I can make the 1:00 service when we get back.”  hehehe  One of the last things I said to her the night before was that she should prepare for a bumpy ride, since the enemy is not happy at all about losing one of his soldiers and those words were prophetic.  Soon after she arrived at church that day, she received a message from back home that her mom was being hospitalized and it was serious.  Mary’s first text to me was a prayer request.  Here’s what she wrote…”Just got a text…my mom is in the hospital.  My dad, sis and mom r in such fear. I’m at service and will stay here then call my family. What r some scriptures that I can pray for my mom. I don’t feel equipped with the bible and jesus and I feel I will be on a plane to Chicago by tomorrow.”   God was wooing her back to her family, the family she had disengaged from for years.  She was in Los Angeles…as far away as possible from her former life and the crippling pain she had run from seven years before.  She arrived in Chicago with her notes from the weekend which she used to strengthen herself and her mom.  Here’s another text she sent me giving me an update.  “…The good thing is she is asking for jesus to help her and he is right here with me…I prayed over her when I first got here but I now need to do it again and feel confident without doubt.”  God moved on her mom’s behalf.  Mary made the decision to move back to Chicago to pick her life back up and move forward.  She has found a church and is serving and just recently shared with me that her mother, sister and aunt have all received Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

A couple of weeks ago she was in town and she and I met with Rashayna over lunch and I was able to rest my eyes on a miracle.  While she spoke, I marveled once again at how far she had come, recognizing that the Lord was still doing a work in her in order to complete His “takeover” of every stronghold that attempts to linger.  I sat back staring at the two of them visiting the memory of what I just wrote about and as I write this I am teary once again at the lengths our Heavenly Father will go to in order to prove His unfailing love.  As life will have it, Mary is back in Chicago, Rashayna and her family are packing to move to another state and here I remain amazed that for that moment back in February our lives merged and what began as a favor for a friend (Victoria) became a story woven so beautifully, so intricately that no one person could ever take the credit for…for it was the Master Weaver at work behind it all.

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!” Psalm 36:7 NIV

A Perfectly Woven Web

When God has His sights set on someone, there’s no changing His mind.  He will move heaven and dip into hell to free the one who’s lost; He’ll leave the 99 to go after the 1 and He’ll use you to do it.  I received a prayer request about a lost dog and I found myself praying like never before that Comet would be found.  “Lord, show Yourself strong on behalf of this situation; prove that You have heard their cry and bring back Comet.”  Well, He heard; He moved and Comet is back at home.  I revisited this prayer request and once again marveled at its request-or.  I smiled as I recalled how God put us together, once again recalling with amazement the perfectly woven web He created…too perfect to be regarded as coincidence.  So perfect, it could only be God!!

Earlier this year, I received a 911 call from Victoria, a sister from church, about her friend (who had just started attending our church) who had absolutely stretched her to the point where she felt her counsel would be fruitless.  She said she called me because of the counsel I had given her in the past and she looked up to me, etc. etc…you see where this is going too, huh?  She wanted to know if I knew “someone” who could minister to this fiery little Puerto Rican.  Victoria knew exactly what she was doing, but as I listened I wondered if I would be up for this challenge, since I was still licking my wounds from a hurt I had sustained.  (God saw this as a perfect opportunity for me to finally disengage from my pity party…hearing myself encourage someone else using His word would no doubt shake me out of my funk.)  Of course, I took her number and called her and we spoke for quite a while and though she quietly listened, I felt that I needed to see her and sensed a bit of urgency since Victoria informed me that she was off to see a “spiritual healer” later that week.  I switched some things around and met her at Starbucks where we met over coffee, tears and transparency.  She released a whole lot about herself, her past, her present and her uncertain future, all pointing to someone who was desperate, scared and wanting to change…needing to change, but not having a clue where to begin.  As she was talking there was a familiarity about her.  I figured it was that we were both Puerto Rican…both fast talkers (not in the shady way) and I knew all about the fire I was picking up from her…that stubbornness…strength…loyalty…genuineness…love of family.  Let the weaving begin…

I wanted to switch channels to give her a minute to recover so I asked her about her family…where they lived currently…where they were from in Puerto Rico.  Her response almost knocked me out of my chair.  Her family is currently living in Chicago (I have family spread out in Chicago and Indiana).  Her extended family on her mom’s side lives in a small (I mean super small town) in Puerto Rico…the kinda small that says that if you meet someone who is from there, the chances are great that you are related somehow)…well as it turns out, my parents are both from this small town as well (they are NOT related, thank you very much:) and we’ve narrowed it down to where we must be related on my dad’s side since we share the same family name.  Get outta here!!  God’s got jokes indeed.  Now, it has become personal and I am fully invested.  We say our goodbyes and I promise to keep in touch…Oh, you bet I did!!  And so the weaving continues..

I got home and called my girlfriend who was busy preparing her message for a weekend retreat where she would be sharing her testimony.  She was excited at the prospect of my having met a potential family member and joined me in awe of that divine appointment.  She shared what she would be speaking on and as I listened I realized that her testimony was one that my newly acquired family member, “Mary,” needed to hear.  Rashayna would be able to speak to her and touch those areas that I would be unable to reach because she had the benefit of experience and had been to those places from which Mary was struggling to be freed.  Rashayna suggested that I invite Mary to the retreat (DUH, me) and I jumped on it!!  Remember Victoria the girl who called me to counsel Mary?  Well, I was reminded that she and Rashayna were former roommates and I later discovered that all three of these women worked for the same organization at one point.  Mary had heard of Rashayna.  Coincidence?  Nope…just part of that perfectly woven web.

I got “Mary’s” voicemail and left her a message inviting her to the retreat, telling her that I know that she’d be blessed by it.  I explained that I realized that it was super short notice and that she shouldn’t allow finances to affect her decision about going.  She would be covered.  I hung up the phone and prayed for her.  I knew the enemy was working overtime to keep her isolated.  I felt that she was probably regretting sharing all that she had with me and was most likely wishing that I’d just go away.  Rashayna and I began to pray for her.  Mary and I traded phone calls and we finally connected, she being prompted to trust me by Victoria (whose phone I was absolutely blowing up) trying to ensure that she get ahold of Mary since I couldn’t seem to get her to answer.  Persistence and I are one:)

I had to now brace myself for the retreat.  I wasn’t really too keen on going myself.  I didn’t want to process any pain in front of anyone…me and my hurt little self could handle it on our own as we usually did.  I knew this would not be the case now that Mary had agreed to join me.  I still wasn’t keen on going but now I had a purpose…oh silly me — who am I to think I have anything under control…the web was half way completed.

I couldn’t have been happier seeing Mary come out of the grocery store pulling her luggage, a look of uncertainty in her eye.  Her outward look matched mine; however, I wore mine on the inside…

I’m going to pause here and pick it up tomorrow.  I don’t want the length of this one to scare anyone away.  🙂

“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.”  Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you.  Than you will seek Me., inquire for, and require Me (as a vital necessity) and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found  by you, says the Lord, and I will release you from captivity…”Jeremiah 29:11-14a AMP

“Those words…those beautiful words…”

The word of God is living and powerful…it is able to reach into the darkest of places and bring light.  God showed this truth to me during a hospital visit and it served a dual purpose.  I received word from a friend’s sister that my friend had been hospitalized.  She was heavily sedated and would not even know I was there, but Marie thought it was important for me to know where my friend was, just in case.  With my bible in hand, I walked into her dark room and was met by her nurse who said I was welcome to visit, although my friend would be asleep throughout our time together.  Once we were alone, I approached my friend and I prayed for her and then decided to sit for a while with her.  She never moved as I pulled the chair across the floor to get closer to her.  I opened up my little book of healing scriptures and I began to declare the word of healing over her, personalizing each one.  It went something like this…

Ann, Jesus bore your sins in His body on the tree; therefore you are dead to sin and alive with God and by His stripes you are healed and made whole.  Ann, Jesus bore your sickness and carried your pain.  Therefore, you will give no place to such sickness or pain.  For God sent His Word and healed you.

I continued in this vain until I heard “Ann’s” voice.  It was groggy and soft, but I clearly heard her say…”Those words…those beautiful words…thank you.”  I approached her, encouraged her and then sat back down and read the rest of the book to her until she fell asleep again.

Recently, Ann and I were having some time in the word on the subject of prayer and I asked her if she recalled the above incident.  She said it sounded familiar, but she wasn’t sure.  On my way home from our time together I thought of the time my brother was on life support.  My sisters and I prayed together for his healing.  After we hung up, as I was washing the dishes I closed my eyes and saw my brother in a casket and I was shown who his pallbearers would be.  I immediately called my sister and told her we should change the direction of our prayer from healing to assurance of salvation.  I wanted to get that message to my other sister who was on her way to the hospital.  I wasn’t able to reach her but the Lord heard and later my sister told me that she had a strong unction to get in my brother’s ear and talk to him about Jesus.  His vitals had been on the decline, but while she was talking my brother was reacting, even though he wasn’t able to do so outwardly.  He passed away early the next morning and the Lord has shown us in many different ways that my brother heard and received.  This may be doctrinally challenging for some, but it has brought peace to our family.  When we met at my brother’s apartment to clean and pack his belongings, next to his favorite chair was a letter from me sharing my testimony and desire for him to come to Christ.  I know I will see my brother again.  Those words…those beautiful words!!!

The word is living and powerful…it is able to reach into the darkest of places and bring light.

How Great Thou Art!!

I caught this video on my Facebook newsfeed today and it captured my attention because I love Carrie Underwood and I LOVE Vince Gill.  I still think country music has the best, most creative lyrics…just a random opinion:)  Take a look at this video and witness a young woman who came from nothing to celebrity and it seems that she’s taken Jesus with her!!  Not because of the songs…there’s a peace to her that can only point to Jesus and when she opens her mouth to sing…. I couldn’t help but lift my hands during this video and I’ve cried each time I’ve seen it (at least five times already).

I don’t know, maybe I’m just weepy today…you watch until the end and tell me if you feel something:)

Enjoy…let everything that has breath, PRAISE THE LORD!!!

Daughter…You were Planned…You are Loved

If God is for us, who or what can come against us…and be successful?  Nothing and no one you might say and I’d beg to differ, coz there’s always YOU!  Those three letters separate you from Him and every good and perfect thing He has reserved for those who would yield to Him and believe that YOU are what HE says you are; YOU can do everything HE says you can do.  You are that whosoever He speaks of in Mark 11:23 KJV.

Lately, the story of the woman with the issue of blood has been coming up a lot in messages.  I always tune in when I hear her story in Mark 5:25-34.  This woman had some issues.  Don’t we all!!  Imagine having a continuous flow of blood for twelve years and desperately seeking a cure, going from doctor to doctor until you’re left financially ruined and in worse shape than when your nightmare began.  Imagine the physical toll on your body; the ruinous effect on friendships and forget about any kind of relationship with a man.  Like the lepers of that time, according to Mosaic Law, she was excluded from society and was forbidden public access unless she announced her arrival using the word “unclean” to describe herself, giving people ample time to steer clear from her.  Imagine that humiliation!  Imagine the hits you would take from the “theys.”  Those who gather to point at you, to gawk, to spread rumors…imagine the things said about you; the names you’d be called…outcast, unclean, pitiful, cursed, nasty, poor, loser.   Nothing can be said about you that would rival the tapes running in your head, recited in your own voice…adding to the horror, the feelings of anger, shame, loneliness, hopelessness, sadness, depression, fear.

But faith…it comes by hearing and hearing by the word.  This woman heard about Jesus, the Word made manifest in the flesh, and she moved…pushing her way through the crowd despite her weakened condition, her outcome already settled within her as she pressed forth.  She didn’t wait for Him to see her…she saw, she reached out, she took her healing.  I absolutely love her encounter with the One who healed her.  He could have corrected her for interrupting Him; rebuked her for coming out in public in her condition…instead, He replaced every awful name she was ever called when he called her “Daughter.”  He healed every hurt when he continued saying, “your faith has made you well.  Go in peace.  Your suffering is over.” NLT

I shared this message with a  group of teens/young adult women and then I passed around a gigantic, hand held mirror and asked each girl to tell me what she saw.  The responses ranged from just okay to not good enough to one of the girls not even wanting to look at herself.  I took that opportunity to remind them that they were His daughters and they were on His mind…have been for a long time and will be forever; they were loved by Him unconditionally and were not a mistake…were perfect in His sight.

And so I invite you to read and receive, then take and make yours the way they did..

You Were Planned

– I knew you even before you were conceived. (Jeremiah 1:5)

– I pre-appointed the exact time of your birth and where you would live. (Acts 17:26)

– I knit you together in your mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)

– You are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)

– You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in My book. (Psalm 139:15-16)

– I brought you forth on the day you were born. (Psalm 71:6)

– I know everything about you. (Psalm 139:1)

– I know when you sit down and when you rise up.  I know what you’re thinking. (Psalm 139:2)

– I am familiar with ALL your ways. (Psalm 139:3)

– Even the very hairs on your head are numbered. (Matthew 10:30)

A Father’s Love

– You were made in My image. (Genesis 1:27)

– You are My offspring. (Acts 17:28)

– It is My desire to lavish My love on you, simply because you are My child and I am your Father. (1John 3:1)

– My thoughts toward you are as countless as the sand on the seashore.  (Psalm 139:17-18)

– My plan for your future has always been filled with hope because I love you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 29:11; Jeremiah 31:3)

– You are My treasured possession. (Exodus 19:5)

– I will be with you; never leave or abandon you. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

– I will never stop doing good to you. (Jer. 32:40)

– I rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

– When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you. (Psalm 34:18)

– I comfort you in all your troubles. (2Corinthians 1:3-4)

– I am your greatest encourager. (2Thessalonians 2:16-17)

– I want to show you great and marvelous things. (Jeremiah 33:3)

– If you seek Me with all your heart, you will find Me. (Deuteronomy 4:29)

– I desire to establish you with all My heart and all My soul. (Jeremiah 32:41)

– Delight in Me and I will give you the desires of your heart, for it is I who gave you those desires. (Psalm 37:4; Philippians 2:13)

– In Me you live and move and have your being. (Acts 17:28)

– Every good gift you receive comes from My hand. (James 1:17)

– I offer you more than your earthly father ever could because I am the perfect Father. (Matthew 7:11; Matthew 5:48)

– I am your provider and I meet your needs. (Philippians 4:19)

– I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine.  (Ephesians 3:20)

Stay Out of the Chocolate Factory

The best advice never taken was given by me to a mentee…”Stay Out of the Chocolate Factory.”

This morning I lingered in the book of Judges reading about brother Samson and his troubles.  His life began with the most promising words, “So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson, and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him.  And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him…”  God was going to use this man of promise to defeat his people’s enemies, but a funny thing happened on the way to his destiny…his flesh got in the way.  What in flames was Samson doing traipsing through a vineyard anyway?  Note to self…when entering the enemy’s camp, expect to encounter some enemies!!! DUH!  It seems as though instead of changing his atmosphere, the atmosphere changed him…getting caught up with the locals, eating, drinking, touching, playing house with everything and everyone that caused his demise.  What is this tendency that we have to hear what is right for us, to be given a roadmap loaded with blessings in exchange for obedience; to be empowered by His Spirit, only to end up living out Plan B, which usually works out for our good (God is merciful); however, it ain’t Plan A.

Once upon a time I encountered a college aged girl at Target…she was a checker and she was checking me out in more ways than one.   We chatted a bit and as I headed out the door, I heard the Holy Spirit instruct me to return, give her my phone number and offer to stay in touch.  She was so appreciative and even said she had prayed for a mentor like me and wished we could stay in touch.  That day marked the beginning of our Mr. Miyagi/Daniel-san relationship (reference to Karate Kid…one of my faves)!! 🙂

I poured in, she received and so it was with us as she became a fixture around our home.  She was moving right along making great life choices..doing well in school, working and serving in church.  At one point she “confessed” her guilt over getting a little intimate with her boyfriend when he was in town.  It happened again another time and this time the enemy worked her over, convincing her that hers was a sin too great for her to be serving in church.  She shared that intimacy was a weakness for her, but that she was fighting to maintain her virginity.  I once again counseled her and prayed her off of that ledge and after a time, she was serving in church again and life was back to normal.

That summer, she announced her intent to spend some time reconnecting with her dad back east (where her boyfriend lived).  She would be staying with her boyfriend and his mother.  (Insert sound of needle being scratched over a record here.)  “Not a good idea,” I said which was followed by an assurance that she had learned her lesson.  They had made a promise to each other to wait until they were married to consummate their union, blah, blah, blah.  Her mind was made up and there was no changing it.  She left with my advice ringing in her ears….

I said something like this…”Say you have a weakness for chocolate, let’s say a chocolate easter bunny…one of those giant ones.  You’ve been told that it’s not good for you and you really should stay away from it because the temptation would be too great to eat the whole thing and that could hurt!  You ignore that wisdom thinking you could control yourself and so you nibble at the ear and before you know it that ear is gone and that wasn’t so bad, so you fix your eyes on the second ear….before you know it, you’ve thrown caution to the wind and have scarfed Peter Rabbit down in one sitting.  My point is this…You cannot go near the chocolate factory…chocolate is your weakness so you need to stay away…in fact, you need to stay out of the chocolate factory altogether.”

She said okay, we hugged, she left and the next time I heard from her was via telephone (long distance) early one Sunday morning.  She called to say hi and to tell me about a message on forgiveness she had heard at church.  She said she had to call to forgive me for hurting her.  (insert crickets here) – She was offended at my chocolate factory analogy and was holding it against me.  When it was my turn to speak, I told her I stood by the analogy and challenged her to prove me wrong.

Two months later, I was at a bookstore and saw her seated on the floor reading.  I approached her and we embraced and her body temperature gave away her secret.  We chatted a moment and I walked away only to have her run after me to tell me one more thing that I already knew.  Her baby was due in April and she was no longer with her boyfriend.  As it turned out, there were things she discovered about him that had she known, would have altered her choices.  I changed the subject and told her I was so happy she chose to keep her baby and to prepare for a hard time, but the Lord would see her through. (She had no real support system.)  She said she recognized that things would be difficult but figured this was God’s will for her.  I had to tell her that choosing life is always God’s will, but the timing of it all was hers.  I left her that day feeling so bad for her and months later she came to mind again and I reached out once again.

That turned out to be a divine appointment since she needed the support.  I held her hand through the last weeks of her pregnancy and was blessed to be present  to hold her hand once again as she pushed that life into the world.  I was there during the early days and moved on once I was certain that she could remove the training wheels and ride on her own.

Five years later, she has moved back east to be closer to a larger support system which includes her son’s father.  They aren’t a family, but he is involved.  She’s a great mother and is on track for a successful life — as a single mother, for now but having great hopes for her future.  I’m certain that she wouldn’t have changed a thing about her journey thus far, as the love she feels for that boy has caused her to forget the difficult times she has endured…well, maybe she would have considered the timing of her choices..and maybe her choice of father and every other “maybe” she probably has to live with.

For the longest time, I thought that my mentoring days were over, until a whole new little crop sprung up around me.  I fought it for a while until the Holy Spirit encouraged me about choices…everyone has them and it’s up to them to receive the truth or not; it’s up to me to be prayed up and not offer my opinion…just the truth.

How many of us forego His way for our way and settle for Plan B when Plan A was His desire for us?  I’m grateful for His mercy, His kindness and His forgiveness when we do lose our way.  I’m grateful for lessons learned for the next time…and there will always be a next time!

Be Thankful!!

Yesterday as I was preparing for church I was reminded of a song I had written during a “blue” period entitled “Thank You.”  Odd title when you’re going through it, huh?  During service, Psalm 100:4 was quoted and I caught it and saw it….”Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him and bless His name.”  I saw myself entering through those gates and approaching the Holy of Holies where the presence of the Lord was contained in that day.  I recognized the need to enter in; the desire to get lost in His presence, but knew before He made a move (though He was hovering) I must make the first move, by inviting Him in with my praise and with thanksgiving.  He inhabits the praise of His people and while His people offer praise and thanksgiving, the enemy is brought to a standstill.

This morning I woke up with thanksgiving in my heart and when I sat down in my prayer area, before my daughter could fill my ears with requests for the day, I closed my eyes and just began to thank Him.  I thanked Him for those things I take for granted; things I forget to thank Him for…my vision…my hearing…my sense of smell, taste, touch.  I thanked Him for my husband who after 25 years still pursues me; for my children who honor me; for my family who loves me; for my friends who celebrate me.  I thanked Him for my church, my Pastors (past and present); my home, which is more than a house with stuff in it.  I thanked Him for His word which is so rich and powerful, unchanging and everlasting.  I then began to intercede as the Holy Spirit led.  I never asked for a thing for myself. He knows me and knows what I have need of today.  Today my time was set apart to thank Him first….to bless Him first.  He is so worthy to be praised!

Thank You

To the One who sits enthroned above the heavens
To the One who was and is and is to come
To the One and only God You are so worthy to be praised
I thank You Lord, thank You, thank You Lord

You are the lifter of my head
My defender, my strong tower
You cover me with Your mighty hand
And when I’m weak I am made strong
by Your love and by Your power
Thank You Lord….thank You, thank You Lord

The Other Woman

Time stood still on the day that the other woman died.  I was deeply grieved that day.  I held my husband and cried with him.  I still remember the look on his face as I sat at the kitchen table doing homework with my son.  The look of utter sadness, shock, horror when he silently beckoned for me to meet him in the hallway to say, “she’s gone.”

The other woman I speak of was my blessed, beloved mother-in-law, Marie B. Nadall; otherwise known as Ma.  Everyone called her Ma; everyone loved her and vied for her attention. People who didn’t really know her were drawn to her because she was just so kind, so encouraging.  Those who knew her, knew her to be non-judgmental, loving, accepting and so peaceful.  I got to know her feisty side.  We giggled a lot and I love when she’d pretend to be scandalized whenever I’d say things to shock a reaction out of her.  “Oh Arleeeeeeeene” she’d say and she’d twist her mouth to the side and let out the laugh she couldn’t suppress.  I knew her to be a prayer warrior.  I recall the first time I visited my husband’s family during a 4th of July weekend.  I retreated to my room with a horrendous headache and was going to miss the fireworks.  My husband’s sister checked in on me and asked me if I had gone to Ma for prayer.  I did so hesitantly.  No one had ever prayed for me before.  Ma got her anointing oil, anointed my head, then laid her hands on me as she prayed and I felt the power of God released through her hands.  I stood up ears flaming and ringing with no sign of a headache.  Her response?  “Just Jesus,” as she sat rocking back and forth and smiling.

She didn’t blink when she found out her only begotten son 🙂 was marrying a Catholic girl.  She loved me and showed me the love of God.  When she found out I got born again her response was, “that’s nice.”  She loved me the same!  Her fast days were Wednesday and Saturday and she was faithful.  Her phone would be especially busy on those days with the numerous prayer requests she’d receive.  Everyone knew Ma’s prayers reached heaven!!!

She shared her heart with me and I felt really special those times when she’d ask me to agree with her in prayer.  I was good to her…she was royalty as far as I was concerned.  My husband appreciated our relationship and was so happy that I never made him choose.   I was not jealous of their bond..I encouraged him to visit her whenever he was able to and encouraged him to call as often as he liked.  I loved her, honored her and respected her.  I miss the other woman.

I’ve heard women speak negatively of their mothers-in-law; have heard the jokes, etc.  I’ve always opined that she had him first and perhaps that’s why it worked with us.  I released him to continue being a son and she released him to be a husband.  He was never forced to choose between us…he was free to love us both and that freedom made him a better husband and an amazing son.

I recognize that you reap what you sow; you get what you give.  Because I understand those principles and because I know that one day I will be the other woman, I expect to be loved, honored and respected too!

A Word about Joe Paterno….Shhhhh

Daniel in the bible had a sterling reputation.  In Daniel 5:14 Daniel finds himself before the king hearing these words “I have heard of you, that the Spirit of God is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you.”  I have made that my personal confession and declare those words to be true for my husband and children.

As we witness Joe Paterno’s memory and legacy take a hit, I’m driven to wonder what the memory will be of my choices, comments, actions, interactions, associations.  How sad that Paterno went to his grave in shame with a host of people shaking their heads and uttering tsk tsk.  He apparently saw and didn’t say and his silence hurt people and devastated him and his legacy.  He compromised his beliefs, most likely…probably not to be a snitch, possibly for professional reasons.  His legacy…all that he built, forgotten in the memory of a secret he kept.  Secrets don’t usually remain a secret.  We have a tendency of sharing our heart (hopefully with someone who will cover, conceal and protect it and guard our secret).  When we share we expose ourselves and take a chance that our secrets may no longer be.  That was not the case with Mr. Paterno.  The secret he should have exposed, exposed him, bit him, hurt him, sent him to the grave probably shaking his head too!  My point is not to throw salt on the wound or judge the situation.  The facts of the case judge him and the participants enough.  I feel for him and his family; for the reputation as a professional he built.  The monument built as a lasting memory of him and his accomplishments will probably be yanked from its foundation…all for a secret.  I especially feel for all of the victims within this secret, for their families and loved ones left with the feelings of “I should have known” “I wish I knew” “If I only knew” and it wouldn’t be fair not to feel for the family and loved ones of the perpetrator.  People tortured, families scarred, reputations ruined, legacies lost…all because of a secret.

Lord, may my reputation, born from the choices that I made, what I stood for, what and who I spoke up for, the company I kept, the decisions I made be so in line with Your Word, Your will, Your plan, Your purpose for me that those who knew me will be able to say without a doubt that, “she lived for Him, with Him and He operated through her”…may it be known and be apparent and may You get every bit of the glory.  May the only secret kept be between us as I share my heart with You and tap into Yours…in Jesus’ name!  I love the Lord…that’s no secret!!

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my (firm, impenetrable) Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right, persevering, and steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

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