Church service had ended and I was talking with a sweet couple. Soon I went to move and found myself surrounded by a circle of people. I made a joke and hugged some of these precious people. I could have just waved it off but I realized that these people in some sense surround me often with prayer.
For a large part of my life I felt betrayed, alone, & sometimes exposed. I didn’t feel safe or known. No more.
As I was reflecting on my past and seeing the extreme difference in my present it made me smile. It was just a circle of people surrounding me but it was more than that. It was an example of what is & what will be.
God goes before you and he stands behind you. He places people in your life to surround you and go on the front lines in prayer on your behalf. You are never alone. You are loved.
I love the people in the circle. They are a reflection of God’s heart for me.
My heart is full of gratefulness.
I am blessed.
I absolutely love Picturing Heaven: 40 Hope-Filled Devotions With Coloring Pages! The illustrations are by Lizzie Preston while the book was written by Randy Alcorn. One of the sweet surprises were the gold detail on the pages. Not only does this add a gentle detail but it enhances your own coloring of the pictures.
The daily devotions are Randy Alcorn’s own thoughts and interpretations of the scriptures about heaven. I may not fully agree with every detail that he presents but it still is a fascinating study. The most important aspect of the book is that it is so full of hope. Not only did it affirm my longing for heaven but I found that I enjoyed imagining what my eternal home will be like while I was coloring the pages. I imagined walking with Jesus, having everything restored & being with family & friends who are already there.
This is a fun devotional that adds further interaction from the artist or amateur. The other suggestion that I would have that would add to this book is to have a journal or reflection page where readers and artists could either draw a picture or write out thoughts. This addition is not necessary but while I was reading and coloring I wanted to add more to the picture as well as take time to journal. Heaven is so near yet it is still a mystery to those of us waiting to go home.
God is preparing a place for us. He loves us. Picturing Heaven is a great reminder to us all to live for eternity even before we get there. We are just travelers passing through. There is so much to look forward to!
I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers and these thoughts are my own.
My amazing husband and I were talking the other day about mercy after reading Micah 7. This followed a conversation I had with a good friend the night prior about how I was living in His mercy every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). It is an amazing truth!
It is hard to see heart-wrenching things happening all around us. I have asked, as have many of you, why God hasn’t done something sooner to help a situation or specific person.
As I was processing out loud with my hubs I said things like, “I know God doesn’t like it when people hurt his kids. I know he is for our daughter but I don’t understand why he hasn’t switched things around more?”
His response was wise and it hit me in my gut, “He is extending mercy to her Mom. It took me 30 years to finally give my life to him and he extended me mercy over and over again. Why wouldn’t he do the same for her?” (I am so blessed by him!) 🙂
Finally it made sense. I need to extend mercy more. My Mama bear heart can contend for justice but it also can extend mercy to someone who is really in need. I can speak truth in love and still extend mercy. When it is hardest to love mercy (Micah 6:8) get on your knees & pray.
I need mercy. You need mercy. My enemies need mercy.
God is a good God. He is faithful. He waits for each of us because he loves us so much.
You are worth it (even my enemies).
I felt compelled to declare this truth today. We have been walking our daughter through some difficult things. Her sweet heart has been holding onto guilt for things completely out of her control.
The more that lies are said and hurtful things are done I can see how pointless it all is. Do you want to know why?
Because love wins.
As long as I choose Jesus, forgiveness & love, nothing can compare to Him. I have started saying, “I forgive you” out loud because I want love to reign in my heart. Ever since I have started to do this I have literally seen a shift occur. Truth surfaces & a confidence in Jesus & who I am deepens.
Dear ones, when life hurts due to the actions & words of others choose love.
I literally have three different Step Mom posts in my draft folders. There are several reasons for this. My fellow Step Mom friends will understand that the role we choose to take on is full of rejection, back stabbing and hard holy work as we love and cherish our kids. Sometimes we struggle with our roles because it can change depending on what our child needs at the time and what family gathering we might be at.
To begin I want to talk about honor. Too often honor gets dumped out as things get messy sharing kids back and forth between homes. Our daughter has three and you can just begin to imagine how difficult that is. Ever since the day I officially had the privilege to start my Step Mom role I wanted to make sure that my daughter’s Bio Mom was respected and honored. This can often feel difficult when it is not reciprocated. I have walked through a constant grieving process as I have honored her Mom and Grandma’s role. I would be quiet at mutual gatherings, stand back and watch rather than introduce myself, and go without hugging my daughter.
I would be careful with every word and every action because I feared any backlash upon my husband and daughter. Fear kept me from being fully myself. But I am so sick of this. I am sick of believing lies about myself.
I used to believe the lie that I made things worse. It seemed like the more I loved her, and supported her Daddy, the more both of them would receive backlash. For that reason, I hid in the shadows and remained quiet. But I felt like I was the big elephant in the room no matter what I did.
We are not welcome and our daughter continues to pay tremendously just because we are in her life.
I used to cringe at the thought of knowing that by showing any love for her in person would end poorly for her later. It made me want to stop anything just to protect her from the verbal and emotional abuse later. But why would I choose to not love when she so desperately needed it? Which one was better for her to go without? Why would I choose both lack of love on my end as well as the other end?
So I choose to love no matter what. I pray and weep knowing what she often faces for our love but at least she knows love. At least she knows the difference. I hope one day, ashes will fall and she will rise victoriously courageous knowing who she is and that she is deeply loved even if other people show her and tell her the opposite. I hope that what she remembers is that we chose her. I hope she remembers love, the unconditional love that remained through every trial, heartache, and joy.
Yes, daughter, you are chosen. You have been fought for. You are loved. You have been made victorious!
There is a song by Misty Edwards with a line that says, “I want to put my passion in a bottle and break it over your feet”, like the time Mary anointed Jesus with perfume.
If I could put all that I am; all my dreams; all my passions; all my love; all of me into a bottle I would want to break it over Jesus’ feet and anoint him with it. As I think about what this means, it puts everything into perspective. There is nothing more that I would want other than to love my Savior in this way.
As I reflect over the past several years, everything that I have gone through has been worth it. It helped fill up the bottle of expensive perfume to anoint over the feet of the one who calls me Beloved. My bottle is full of joy, gratefulness, thanksgiving, blessing and every part of who I am. I long to give to him all of me even though I know it is nothing in comparison to what he has given to me.
I will live my life filling my bottle to pour over Jesus’ feet. I pray that it is a sweet aroma that brings a smile to his face.
Lies are falling to the floor. Like drops of rain lies hit the ground with a gentle splash. I stomp over every single one. Joy rolls out from deep within me.
Laughter fills my belly. New wrinkles appear on my face from joy filling up my face.
My new declaration has been,
“Thank you Lord for the lies that are crumbling and falling to the ground. Thank you for filling the gaps with your truth.”
Everyday I say this declaration. I say it even if nothing has occurred. I say it when I feel defeated or lonely. I say it after having conquered and won. I say it believing every word.
This journey is like dancing in the rain and sleet. It is not an easy task but it is a joyful one.
I know who my God is. He is mighty. He is powerful. He breathes life into my lungs. He is joy. He is love. I would not trade this life with him for anything else. Freedom feels good; it feels like the wind against my face running in fields of wildflowers. The sweet scent drifting up from the petals reaching towards the son fill my lungs and heal deep wounds that once made it hard to breathe. Now I breathe holy fire as if nothing had ever happened.
God is good.
He is my one-and-only.
This is from a previous blog that I wanted to repost. It has been good for me to be reminded of this post personally and I hope it will inspire others. Enjoy!
She stood there shimmering with a beauty that defied all logic. After everything that she had been through many believed that she would be destroyed forever, left in the dirty muck. But there she stood, clothed in truth and a freedom that came only from the Almighty.
A man, who watched silently in the shadows, wanted nothing more than for her to stay bound in the dirty mud that once encased her. He looked her over with jealous disdain. She was clothed in white and wore a pearl necklace of remarkable worth. This necklace represented real beauty that is found only in an honest relationship with Jesus. It represented the truth of being redeemed and having every chain of fear, abandonment, abuse, and lies dropped to the grave. She was free. She was pure. She radiated Love.
In anger he pulled out a fake pearl necklace and walked toward her. He was tired of seeing her stand upright, smiling with joy. Her laugh grated at his nerves. She glanced his way the closer he moved towards her. She recognized his face. He was a familiar companion yet one she had been freed from years ago. Despite his advance towards her, she started to sing, closing her eyes as she peacefully smiled in worship.
This infuriated him so much that he screamed for her to take off the necklace she was wearing and put on the one he had in his hands. She opened her eyes in time to tell him no and made sure her footing was firmly planted so that she would not move. Being denied, he furiously brought up his hands and attempted to rip off the necklace around her neck.
Pain shot through her neck, head, and back. Nothing he did was able to break such an incredible gift. The more he tugged, the firmer she stood despite the pain. When he was tired of yanking her necklace, he wrapped his hands around her neck to strangle out her voice, which she was using to speak words of loving truth. The tighter his grip, the stronger she fought for her voice.
She pleaded with the Lord, asking for help from such binding actions. Jesus, having been the one to give her such a gift of priceless worth stepped into the room. She saw him in the distance with relief. He nodded to her to do what He had prepared her to do in this moment. In an upward motion, and with all of the strength within her, she broke off the hands that were slowly choking out her voice.
His eyes went wide. His grasp on her had been broken. Pain shot through her entire body as she gasped for air. Her throat throbbed.
Then Jesus, in all of His glory, appeared behind her. She was filled with awe as the man could only cower, desperately fighting the urge to kneel to the King of Kings. And as he collapsed to the floor, she stood victorious. Jesus wrapped His arms around her gently and whispered in her ear words that filled her with strength. These words she would forever remember.
Jesus said, “I am so proud of you!”
That is all that she needed to know.
Life with Jesus is the best adventure! It truly is.
In my life, I have been through some very hurtful and hard things. I have seen betrayal, loss and heartache over and over. So have many of you. One of the most interesting things about us is our response or reaction to the times where our lives are being hit with one painful process after another. Some choose to ignore the pain and let it rot within them. Others quite literally look pain in the face to meet it head on in order to let it go.
I have found that facing the pain head on is where you are faced with the decision to choose freedom. A year ago today I was physically ill (much more ill than I originally thought) and was experiencing grief as the holiday season was rearing its head full on. Looking back there is a complete difference within my heart as well as my body today. Part of my healing process has been a physical journey where I have made lifestyle changes as to what I consume and even how I care for myself. Another part of my healing journey has been confronting pain and kicking it right in its face! I am not even joking here. I literally have confronted issues, vocalized them out loud and then verbally forgave every single person that was involved, forgiving individuals even for how their action or lack of action made me feel.
When you hold onto pain eventually you get used to it being around. Pain can be a friend when its cause is to alert us that some action needs to take place immediately in order for healing to occur after. But pain can be our foe when we allow it to rot within us choosing to ignore the causes to the symptoms we are having. Some may not even realize how pain rears its butt ugly head in their lives but it eventually does manifest itself. It takes a toll on your body. Now just imagine for a moment what it does to your heart if you are not inwardly taking care of the issues that pain has caused. It gets more ugly the deeper in you get.
The beautiful thing about God is that he joins us in our healing journeys. When we look pain in the face and expose all the ugly, it is an opportunity for us to welcome our healer and our Abba God to come and do what he does best. He cleans us up and turns all the scars from our pain into something beautiful. When the shackles of pain release through the act of forgiveness freedom and joy like never before come to flood our soul. This is good for the body too! Forgiveness is one of the best self care protocols that everyone should practice regularly.
Be kind to one another. Be kind to yourself as you allow God to work deep in your heart to bring you into a greater level of freedom. Face the pain and get to the root of it so that you can punch pain right in its face. Do not harbor this any longer! Let it go. Forgive. As you do this it is sending long quenched nutrients to grow the fruits of the Spirit in your life.
(photo: Hannah Hope Photography)
The year two wave of grief hit and it caught me a bit off guard. I found myself crying more than I had intended. The intense heartache returned with a vengeance.
Grief is never an enjoyable experience but it does change. The heartache did not last as long this time but it reminded me how long I had lived feeling that way every day, all day for months. If you are still going through that cycle of grief, please know that it does lesson ever so slowly.
Just the other day, I had been weeping over so many different things that made my heart ache. I was struggling with not only my Mom but also so many family details and seeing the solution without any way of being able to change one thing. So much of being a Step Mom has shown me how true love is a love that has grit. I want to be a woman that has grit but the process hurts!
As I was weeping I opened my Bible to Luke 19 and read verse 41, “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it”.
This post is by no means an exegetical description of this chapter. But this spoke volumes to me that Jesus wept over the hearts of people in the city of Jerusalem. He knew the answer to all of their heart issues. He knew everything about them, their pain, and the depravity of their hearts. Jesus wept. Jesus knew grief.
As I listened in the quiet, allowing tears to fall rather than get stuck, God spoke such tender words. He said, “My own Son felt strongly. He wept. He loved deeply. Why should you feel wrong for feeling so strongly for people, for weeping? This is one of my favorite things about you. I made you this way!”
In that moment, in the acceptance of my Lord, I experienced healing. Inner turmoil I experienced for years for feeling wrong for how I felt so deeply and often ached for others began to release. Did you know that the very things that you may dislike about yourself could very well be Gods favorite things about you? When you realize this truth you will find yourself closer to Father God. You will realize that you do not need to do things to protect yourself from getting hurt because you will realize that God continually heals your heart and soul. God desires freedom for you. He wants to help you conquer everything that distances you from him. He loves you!
(Hannah Hope Photography)