All to You

The perfect morning is sitting out on my deck with the sun beaming down, the Word opened, and the aroma of fresh coffee steaming up from my cup. Rather than feeling the heat of the sun though, I feel the coolness of a gentle breeze. My eyes are closed and I breath in deeply. There’s a song in heart, and I can sense God is all around me. This is perfection. This is peace in the midst of chaos, known as life.

I began to recognize how to sense God’s presence when I went on my first mission trip in June of 2005. We had just arrived in Salvador, Brazil, and that evening we went to Plataforma Baptist Church. As we were worshiping and singing praises, in a language I didn’t know or understand, I felt a movement in the air around me, a simple breeze, and I had no clue, nor do I now, if anyone else sensed the gentle brushing, but I knew in my spirit it was the presence of the Lord. Even today, ten years later, and numerous times since when I find myself in a true heart of worship, when I am in the quiet place and stillness surrounds me, I feel the gentle brushing of the air around me.

In the years since, as I have grown in my relationship with the Lord I’ve come to recognize that my communing with Him is a conscious choice. When I focus my heart and my mind on Him, He never fails to meet me there. Whether I am in a crowded sanctuary or on my deck. He is always there. He is always near, ready for me to seek Him.

No matter how long it’s been: several days, a week, or just a few hours, since I found solitude with Him; He’s there. The Lord never fails to meet me. He desires to meet with me, but it’s conditional on whether not I’m willing with meet with Him. Am I willing to stop. I am willing to leave the toys scattered about the house, the dirty dishes in the sink, and the clean dishes in the dishwasher waiting to put away, in order to be with Him. I have to choose, which is more important to me. Today I was faced with this decision, and I chose to go out onto deck and meet with Him. However, I far too often choose the latter, as I think I’ll just get this picked up and then I’ll take the time to be with Him, but before I know it nap time is over with and I’ve yet to stop.

It never fails though, when I do put Him first, when I stop or when I get up early in the morning, my baby girl seems to sleep just a little longer. Anyone can reason this away to coincidence, but I believe God honors our desires to be put Him first, to seek Him with all of hearts. He deals with us. He changes our hearts. He moves in powerful and awe inspiring ways. When we get alone with Him and seek Him in the solitude, in the stillness.

In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah was fleeing for his life. During this period of time the people of Israel had turned from the ways of the Lord. All of the other prophets of Israel had been killed, and now Jezebel sought to kill Elijah in order to avenge the death of the prophets of Baal. In verse 9, we find that he had been traveling for 40 days when came to take shelter in a cave.

“Then the Lord spoke his word to Elijah. He asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He answered, “Lord God of Armies, I have eagerly served you. The Israelites have abandoned your promises, torn down your altars, and executed your prophets. I’m the only one left, and they’re trying to take my life.” God said, “Go out and stand in front of the Lord on the mountain.” As the Lord was passing by, a fierce wind tore mountains and shattered rocks ahead of the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. And after the fire there was a quiet, whispering voice. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat, went out, and stood at the entrance of the cave.” 1 Kings 19:9-13 (GW)

God didn’t come to Elijah in the power of the wind, an earthquake, or fire, but in the stillness of a whisper. I get chills thinking about the awesome power of God and how He chooses to display His glory. It’s easy to get our attention with force of a fierce wind storm, the violent shaking of the ground beneath our feet, and mighty blaze of a fire, but in order to hear a whisper we must be still, it must be quiet.

In scripture we often see Jesus seeking time away from the crowds, away from the disciple. He didn’t seek this time because He was introvert or because He found large groups annoying. He sought time alone with the Father. He purposely carved out time to be alone with the Father. Jesus modeled the perfect relationship. We as his disciples are to seek solitude, time alone with Him, away from the hustle and bustle of life. Nevertheless, God is always with us. In the quietness of a room away from the noise or in the quietness of our heart and soul.

One of my favorite songs is “On My Knees” by Jaci Velasquez. The second verse paints the perfect picture, it says:

“I can be in a crowd, or by myself in almost anywhere
When I feel there’s a need to talk with God, He is Emmanuel
When I close my eyes, no darkness there, there’s only light
I get on my knees, I get on my knees
There I am before the love that changes me
See I don’t know how, but there’s power
In the blue skies, in the midnight, when I’m on my knees”

When I am on my knees, figuratively or literally, before the Lord He meets with me because He loves me, because He desires for me know Him.

The older I’ve become, and the new seasons I encounter, now as a wife and mother, I become more aware of how my relationship with the Lord is to mirror my relationship with my husband and my daughter. As a wife, I desire and crave those moments alone with my husband when I can give him all of my attention and visa versa. In these moments we have the opportunity to talk about important things, what’s on our hearts and minds, but it’s also when we are able to talk about nothingness and laugh, simply being best friends. It’s intimacy of the heart, not just physical, and God desires and craves the same with us as His followers. As a mother, I love nothing more than when my baby girl is snuggled up in my lap, just before she falls asleep, with her blanket in hand, pressed tightly between her face and my chest, and she looks up at with this sweet face. It melts my heart and makes those fussy, whiny moments from earlier dissipate. I treasure these moments. I long for these moments, and in these moments I am overwhelmed with love for her, love unimaginable. This unimaginable, indescribable love that I have for her is minute in comparison to how God loves me. To be honest I can’t even begin to comprehend this type of love, because the love I have for my daughter is a love I never knew I had within me until she entered my life. This is exactly how it is with God’s love. When God’s love enters our lives. When we open our hearts and allow His love to enter in, it’s overwhelming. Our lives take on new meaning. Things that once mattered, only pale in comparison. Even on my worst days, when I truly and utterly fail, His love for me never dies. When I lose my temper because my patience has worn thin. When I say the wrong thing or I choose to be selfish rather than selfless. He still love me.

I can’t help, but reminded of the psalmist words in Psalm 40:1-5 (GW),

“I waited patiently for the Lord.
He turned to me and heard my cry for help.
He pulled me out of a horrible pit,
out of the mud and clay.
He set my feet on a rock
and made my steps secure.
He placed a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see this and worship.
They will trust the Lord.
Blessed is the person
who places his confidence in the Lord
and does not rely on arrogant people
or those who follow lies.
You have done many miraculous things, O Lord my God.
You have made many wonderful plans for us.
No one compares to you!
I will tell others about your miracles,
which are more than I can count.”

This morning in the perfectness of the quiet moment, in the brushing and movement of the air, the song God brought to my heart was the chorus from Chris Tomlin’s “At the Cross”, which says:

“At the cross, At the cross
I surrender my life.
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red, and my sin washed white.
I owe all to You, I owe all to You Jesus.”

I had just finished reading Psalm 139. In this scripture the psalmist remarks that no matter where he goes the Lord will always be there. In verses 8-12, he explains if he were go up to heaven or down to hell, there the presence of the Lord would be. Whether he sought shelter in the darkness there would still be light because “even the darkness is not too dark for you. Night is as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.” (verse 12) Then the verses, which we are all familiar with 13-14, “ You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this.” (GW)

Back to the chorus, my heart goes, “I’m in awe of you! Jesus, I’m in awe of you!”. How could He love me? How could be concerned with me? I’m just another woman in eastern KY. I’m just a stay home mom of a 13 month old. I’m nothing special. But the truth is…I’m more than just a woman in eastern KY, who is a stay at home. I’m more. I’m special to Him because He created me, because ordained this very day, this very moment to meet with me and speak to my heart. The heart that He gave me when I surrendered my life to Him and for that “I owe it all to You, Jesus! I owe all to You!”

The Mother in Me

It’s May! Warmer weather, flowers in bloom, and Mother’s Day is near. All over social media people are honoring their mothers. Countless commercials on television and radio remind us that the special day to honor the women who have cared for and nurtured us is near. Saturday evening as I was perusing through my newsfeed on Facebook, I came across a link to a blog post entitled “A Letter to the Motherless Daughters on Mother’s Day” (http://justjennarose.pazoo.com/grief/letter-motherless-daughters-mothers-day/), which started my mind whirling.

I try not to think about Mother’s Day to be honest. I’d rather skip over the day and treat it as any other Sunday. Thinking about it, writing about it, even now creates a large lump in my throat and a desire to fight back tears. For myself Mother’s Day is a sad reminder that my mother is dead, that I’ve now spent 25 Mother’s Day without a mother, and even though this year I will celebrate my first official Mother’s Day, I’d rather just let it pass by. I don’t want anyone’s sympathy. I just want to continue on with life as normal and not let my heart be sad.

The author of the blog post, Jenna Rose Lowthert, explains that everyday she misses her mother, every day just as much as the next, since her mother’s passing two years ago. For myself, 25 years removed from the pain and loss of my mother, I remember her in some way daily and I do miss her, but it doesn’t hurt. It’s a passing thought that brings a smile to my face. However, on Mother’s Day the memory of her is painful. This special day reminds me that she’s gone. It reminds that I’ve been robbed. I’ve been robbed for 25 years growing up being different than most of my friends. It makes me jealous. It makes me feel alone and all I want to do is be near her one more time, to be able to sit down and talk to her, to be able to ask a question about being a mom, or just enjoy the experience of having my mom as my best friend.

Lowthert continues on and explains that our mothers who have passed would not want us to cry or be sad on Mother’s Day, but rather celebrate them. I often find this easier said than done, as most things are in life. Over the years I’ve become an expert on how to survive every day life without a mother. To quote a classic kid’s film, Finding Nemo, as the great and wise Dorey would say, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”

JustKeepSwimming

After time continues to move on you realize that life has to go on. You can’t live in the past because the past will never return. It’s just that; the past. So, I live life. I live my life to honor her memory. I’ve named my daughter after her. From the time I was a teenager I wanted to have a daughter, so that I could fulfill my mother’s dream and raise my daughter just as I know she would’ve me.

I could sit and wallow in the fact that I’m a motherless mother, but what would that accomplish. I miss my mother. I miss everything about her, but I’ve come to realize that God has placed very special women in my life who have in part been a piece of my mother here on earth. Some of these women have been a part of my life for years, some have come and gone, yet each has played a very special role in who I am today as a woman, wife, and mother. I am grateful for these wonderful women who love me as their own, who nurture me, and pour into me. I wish I could honor each of these women in some very special way. I wish I could thank them personally on this Mother’s Day, yet inevitably I’d run out of time and miss someone. Nevertheless Hallmark would love me for clearing their stock and keeping them in business. 😉

This year, on my very first official Mother’s Day, I will honor her as I do every day by being the very best mother I can be. I will continue to pour into my daughter. I will read her Bible stories. I will read her scripture and explain to her the truth of the Word. I will teach her to love the Lord with all her heart, all her soul, all her mind, and her neighbor as herself. I will lavish her with hugs and kisses, even when she is tired of it and pushes me away. I will share memories from my childhood and I will create special memories with her. I will love her when it is easy and when it is not. I will be her biggest cheerleader. I will always be proud to be her mother.

To my sweet sisters out there who are motherless on Mother’s Day, cry if you must or if you want. I have and I will. I promise it’s okay. No matter how long it’s been since you mother passed: you love her, she loves you, and you miss her. Feel the emotions of the day; all of them: good, bad, or indifferent. After that find another woman who has poured into you as a mother would their daughter. Give her a hug if possible or call her if she’s farther way, but nevertheless acknowledge her and love her today as you would your own mother if she were here. Finally, smile. Relive moments with her that bring your heart joy. Share a funny story with a friend or other loved one. Wear something that was her’s, no one has to know, but you. I recently found a pair of my mother’s old sunglasses when I was cleaning out a closet at our house. I also found several piece of her jewelry. I occasionally wear these. Thank goodness they’ve come back in style. And wearing these make me smile. It’s my silent way paying respect to her.

In the end it’s all about how you live. It’s your legacy. Your mother left her legacy to be lived through you, and it is your privilege to now live out your legacy passing on pieces of her to the next generation.

In the Peace, In the Silence: I Am Waiting

I sit here and I could be watching the Kentucky Wildcats’ men’s basketball game on television; however, I’d rather enjoy the silence. In this busy life I’ve come to crave the silence. I’ve come to thirst for moments to myself. For so long I desired constant movement from one activity to the next. I wanted to constantly fill each minute of every day. I guess I thought if I was filling each minute then I must be living life to the fullest. In reality, well…in hindsight, I was afraid to be alone.

As a wife and mother I feel as if there are times that I am never alone. So, I cherish the quiet, the stillness…the sweet silence. I cherish the times when I’m not needed or mind is not going in so many different directions. As much as I long for this peace, this stillness, I’m reminded not to wish my time away. For all too soon I’ll blink and there will no longer be a little girl tugging at my leg wanting my attention or trying to climb up onto the couch to be in my arms. For not too long from now she’ll be all grown up and won’t need her mommy as she once did. I’m also reminded that each day with the ones we love is a gift, because one day, I pray a very long time from now, my husband and I will be parted by death. Therefore, I must make the most of each moment we have together. I must take time to write him notes, laugh out loud at his goofy jokes, and snuggle up close to my personal heater because one day I’ll blink and we’ll be old with gray hair rocking on the front porch reminiscing over the days past.

My life is not perfect. By some standards far from it; however, as I sit here and look around I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness. I am so unworthy and undeserving of this life I am presently living. When I was preparing to leave for the mission field I became very nostalgic and I remember thinking back to my goals and ambitions as a 18 year old graduating from high school. To be honest if my 32 year old self would have told my 18 year old self at graduation that this would be my life I would laughed and said “Whatever. Yeah right.”

This life is far from my 18 year old dream. Although my 18 year old goals and ambitions weren’t set to the desires of God and now almost 15 years removed from high school, life looks quite a bit different than I pictured it.

My 18 year old dream:

I would live somewhere very “Southern”, perhaps Georgia or South Carolina. I would have a corporate job with a big title. I would be someone important. I’d be married to a man who was a professional and prominent in the community, perhaps a lawyer or a doctor. We’d live in a large prestigious neighborhood in an extravagant home with the finest furnishings. We’d also have two or maybe three kids, very intelligent and athletic. In addition, we’d have two dogs, probably one small inside dog, something white and fluffy, and a large outside dog, definitely a German Shepherd.

My real life:

After several years of being away I’ve found my way back home to my small northeastern Kentucky roots. We presently live in my childhood home, which my husband and I have worked on to make our own. I’m a stay at home mom, former high school English teacher, and I am blessed to share this life with my wonderful, intelligent husband who is an Environmental Specialist for a local refinery. We have two furry babies, a poodle and a dachshund, and one beautiful baby girl.

My reality is much different, nevertheless, I wouldn’t trade this present life for anything. I love my life. This wasn’t my plans, but the best plans are never our own. “‘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)

The Israelites, God’s chosen people, had been carried off into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. When they received a letter from Jeremiah, what we know as the 29th chapter of Jeremiah, he had several important messages from the Lord.

In the letter he explains and encourages them:

1) to accept their captivity. They were to basically make the best of a bad situation. (Jere. 29:4-7)

2) not to listen to the false prophets who were trying to feed them a false sense of hope for a quick release. (Jere. 29: 8-9)

3) that they will be released from their captivity; however, it will be 70 years. (Jere. 29:10-14)

If we only read verse 11 of Jeremiah 29, then we miss out on the important promise and message from God to His people past, present, and future. Our plans are not God’s plans. Thank goodness. Neither do His plans work on our time table. Sometimes God says: yes- now, yes- but wait, and no- it’s not in your best interest or my plans.

As such, we must make the best of our present circumstances, whether they are what we planned or something else. We have to listen to the Word of God, not the world around us and not pop culture. Sometimes God uses people to like Jeremiah to speak truth into our lives; however, we should always weight the word of man against the word of God, scripture. Also, waiting is never easy; however, in the waiting we can find something extraordinary- freedom.

I’m sure the Israelites didn’t want to be or expected to be in exile for 70 years. Could you imagine being told that you were going to be away from your home, everything you knew as familiar, for 70 years. Seventy years is a life expectancy today. People during this period of time lived longer than we do today; however, how hard would that be? So, for 70 years the Israelites were unable to worship as they had previously been accustom to. They were not able to go to the temple in Jerusalem and make their sacrifices and worship their God. Life as they knew it was different, yet God promised them that He had a plan. Not just any plan though, but a plan for their good, to prosper them.

It’s easy to read verse 11, I remember as a young Christian in my early twenties reading it and clinging to the hope that God had a perfect plan, and He does; however, there’s more.

“‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.'”

In verses 12-14, He reminds His people that they are to seek Him, and when they seek Him they will find Him, and then they will be brought out of captivity. Because of the prior and preceding verses, verse 11 is more than an inspiration saying to give hope to a broken, wondering spirit, but rather it’s a call in the midst of the uncertainty, in the midst of plans and dreams unfulfilled- yes, cling to Jesus- cling to the hope that He has a perfect plan. However, don’t stop there because then you miss out on the beauty of it all. Cry out to God. Give Him your heart. Let Him know your hurts, your fears, your hopes, your joy. Seek God with all your heart. Be so covered in Him that in order for people to see you they must first see Him. Then in God’s perfect timing- immediately, in 70 years, or _____ (fill in the blank)- you will be freed.

It’s not about the answer to the prayer. It’s not about the end result and how the plan all works out. On the contrary, it’s about the journey through it all. It’s about the silence. It’s about finding the peace and the joy of knowing Christ intimately.

I believe Rita Springer put it best in her song “Worth It All”.

Sometimes we find ourselves in captivity and bondage because of our works, because of our choices and decisions, which do not give God His proper place in our lives. As a result, God in His perfect plan He has circumstances and situations, which we must go through. Sometimes these are easy and sometimes they are more difficult, but in the end their is always freedom. In Christ we are set free- from our past and are given a new hope, a new future.

You are Forgiven

My Plans:

As an English teacher and writer I had a plan for my blog. I had ideas of how I would progress through topics and organize my writings. I had ideas of what I would write about. These were my plans. Perhaps God will, in His time, allow me to share about these ideas. However, what I will share is what he has laid on my heart. To be honest I have no other choice because every time I go to write on what I want to say I get writers block and overwhelmed, and as a result end up no where.

Oh, how this parallels real life. I make plans and they are never God’s. I try and I try in my own strength yet they end in frustration and I find myself further behind than where I once began. Scripture tell us that God’s plans are greater than our own. (Isaiah 55:8-9) It also reminds us that as we seek to do His will, He will direct us by His voice telling us this is the way to go. (Isaiah 30:21)

So, here’s my confession: I am very excited to be writing. I believe in God’s hands this could be amazing, but in my own strength it will fall flat and fail. Believe me from past experiences, anything I do in my own strength will fail, even those good plans; therefore, it is only by His grace and strength that I may write or accomplish anything for His glory.

His Plan:

Over the past week God has continually spoke to my heart about forgiveness and pride. How do these two correlate? Where do they intersect? The cross. God’s unending grace.

Opposition…

As I was reading Charles F. Stanley’s Pathways to His Presence: A Daily Devotional on February 5 one sentence stood out and pierced my thoughts. “Though God desires that everyone should be saved some people are so contrary and opposed to God that their very fruit is evil.”

For myself, found in God’s grace, it’s hard to think about how someone could be so contrary to God and His ways that their very fruit is evil. Evil is ever present in our world today. We turn on the TV and there we quickly see the depravity of man and the sinful, evil world that surrounds us. To be honest, I often feel removed from this present evil. I see its effects, but I don’t personally feel its grasp.

I live in a small town in eastern Kentucky. I’m a stay at home mom. I have an amazing husband who loves and provided for his family. We both love the Lord and were blessed ourselves to be raised in homes that were God honoring. I have lost loved ones to sickness and disease, but not to violence or some other depraved action. Terrorism, persecution, violence against fellow man, anger and hatred often feel distant.

However, if I consider the reality of these circumstances, apart from God’s grace I would be contrary and opposed to the things of God, and my own fruit would be evil. When I stop and recognize that all of my good deeds are, but filthy rages before Him, I am quickly met with a slap of who I am in my own sin. Furthermore, when the rubber meets the road, before I became a follower of Christ, I was depraved and I was contrary and opposed to the things of God. My fruit was evil.

In Genesis 4:7 (NIV), God speaks to Cain after rejecting his offering and says, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Yesterday in our pastor’s sermon he reminded us that just like Cain we too are just one decision away from disaster and destruction. Apart from God’s grace and mercy, apart from His hand on my life I am evil.

Grace…

Now as a follower of Christ, the thought of being contrary to God, having such hatred toward Him that my very heart produces evil is hard to wrap my mind around. At the same time I am hit with the stark reality that there are people in our world, our country, our state, our city, and perhaps even next door, who are in this very present state and it breaks my heart. It breaks me because my chains are gone, I have been set free by His amazing grace, and oh if they only knew Him they too would be broken.

In the same moment, my heart and my mind swirl with questions: How can this be? Have they never heard the Truth of the Gospel? Have they really reject Christ? I think of the end consequence. I think what will happen to them if they never know the Savior and my heart hurts. Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours! This has been my prayer and it does break, but if it breaks and I do nothing then what is the benefit?

More than Love…

God desires in His infinite power and wisdom to make us whole. He wishes that no one would perish, but that all would have eternal life. Yet in man’s free will he chooses to reject this free gift of eternal life. Do others see the same Jesus that I do? My God is love, but He is more than just love. It was more than just love that sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross. He is more than this present culture’s picture of sadness and weakness, broken and beaten on a cross. He is more than love. He is righteous. He is holy. He himself became sin in order that I might not face the wrath of God.

David Platt in his book Radical profoundly brings to light who God really is and who we really are. Platt explains, “Yes, God is a loving Father, but he is also a wrathful Judge. In his wrath he hates sin.” Unfortunately, our culture has misrepresented God, the Father, and Jesus, His Son. Does love win? Yes, but more than love sent Jesus to the cross. On the eve of His crucifixion Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, and as He prayed, sweat and blood fell from His head. However, this was not a result of fear and anguish over the pain He was to face. On the contrary, Platt states, “Listen to his words:’My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.’ This ‘cup’ is not a reference to divine judgement. It is the cup of God’s wrath.” He continues to illustrate his point and says, “This is what Jesus is recoiling from in the garden. All God’s holy wrath and hatred toward sin and sinners, stored up since the beginning of the world, is about to be poured out on him, and he is sweating blood at the thought of it.” (28-35)

Jesus took upon Himself my sin, the sin of all mankind. He bore the wrath of God, His holy, righteous anger, from the beginning of time: from Adam and Eve to Sodom and Gomorrah to the reject by his chosen people, Israel, to the great persecutor, Saul, who later became Paul and even to the present depravity of man to you and to me. So yes, love propelled Jesus to the cross, but His desire for the glory of God to be displayed through holiness and justice held Him there.

Truth…

His love is perfect. It is self-sacrificing, but this does not make Him weak or frail. Rather this, He is almighty, righteous, holy, and most of all powerful because He was willing to be shunned by His Father in order that we might be accepted.

1 John 4:17-18 (The Message), reads, “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.”

Ultimately, the truth of the Gospel wins out over love.

My Disclaimer…

I don’t claim to know everyone’s story. There are many hurts that can be experienced in this world in a lifetime. I personally, can not comprehend all of these; however, there is someone who does. He has experienced and felt every human emotion. He is the creator of these emotions. He knows our hurts, and He also knows our greatest failures because He paid for them on the cross under God’s wrath.

I lost my mother at the age of six, it was ten days before my seventh birthday. Most of my memories are broken or filled in with the experiences of others along with photographs and home videos. However, most of what I remember is her battle with Breast Cancer. She was 41 when she was diagnosed and fought the good fight for almost four years, but in the end it was God’s plan for her to be with Him.

I was fortunate enough to be raised in a Christian home by Godly parents. I knew about God’s love at a very early age. As a result, I also had the assurance that my mother went to heaven. I knew this because of her life of faith and trust in God. One specific memory I have is of her explaining that I am to love others even if they’re mean to me or call me names, because God loved me enough to forgive me and its what He’s commanded us to do. As a child I didn’t want to hear to this. I wanted to be mad. I wanted to hurt them, too, and least of all did I want to forgive them.

With all of this knowledge of God and about God I still had a hole in my heart. For many years I tried to fill it up with the things of this world. However, no matter how hard I tried to cover it up, fill it up, or stuff it full, in the end the hole was still empty and often times it seemed as if it had grown wider and perhaps even deeper than before. Until one day when I came to the end of myself and I accepted God’s perfect love, which filled every crevasse of this hole in my heart.

The Hole Truth…

We all have a God shaped hole in our hearts. This God shaped hole is no respecter of persons, it doesn’t matter how wonderful or how awful our life circumstances have been or presently are. We are all in need of this hole to be filled and the only way that it can be filled is through our acceptance of Christ as our Savior.

Romans 10:8-11, explains the process perfectly, “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.'”

There’s no magical recipe for this. There’s no perfect prayer to pray. I remember my mine went a little like this, “Okay, God! I’ve had enough. I can’t do this on my own! I’m not perfect. I never will be. You’re the only one who was or ever will be perfect. I just can’t do this. I need your help.” I had prayed the sinners prayer at the age of eight, but to me it was more of a get to see mom again card. It wasn’t about letting go of myself and all of me in order to follow Jesus.

I had to learn that there could be no pride in coming to Christ. For a long time I had thought if I made everything on the outside look all put together then no one else would know how messed up I was on the inside. God had to strip it all away. He had to force me to recognize that I wasn’t self-sufficient and I wasn’t Miss Independent. I had a need. I had a need, I couldn’t fulfill on my own, no matter how hard I tried. So, God brought me to the end of myself. I was stripped bare of who I was and there I stood before Him, recognizing my deepest need was Him alone.

Forgiven by Laura Story

Do you remember
The last hand that was held out to you,
The last time you heard the words inviting you to come,
The last time there were arms open wide for you
Do you remember
Ever knowing anyone
Who saw you as someone
Who called you by name and saidForgiven
Every word and deed you are forgiven
He says to you, my child,
You are chosen, you are loved
You are forgiven

Do you remember
Last time you truly felt safe
The last time you were honest about you feeling pain
Knowing there was someone who could take that guilt away
Do you remember
When you heard the words of love
Living in your heart
That you are worth the cost

You are forgiven
Every word and deed you are forgiven
He says to you, my child,
You are chosen, you are loved
You are forgiven

I am set free
All my stains are washed clean
Jesus, my God and King
Thank You for saving me

I am forgiven
I am forgiven
I am chosen, I am loved
I am forgiven

I have been set free, I’ve been forgiven
You say to me, my child,
You are chosen, you are loved
And that will always be enough
I am forgiven

Eight Years Later… My Heart Still Beats

My heartbeat

Eight years ago, I started this blog as a way to communicate with my prayer partners while I was on the mission field in Swaziland, Africa. Now, life has changed, and though I am no longer on the foreign mission field God has led me to use my talents and spiritual gifts in new facets of life: as an educator, wife, and mother.

Most recently I have embraced the calling to be a stay-at-home mom. It was not easy leaving the classroom; however, just as I felt called to Swaziland and called to education, I too felt called to be at home.

So where do I begin? As I look forward to this chapter in life my heart is full of joy, nerves, and excitement as well as fear.

Joy and excitement as I am expectant of what God will do.  Yet, nerves and fear of the unknown. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of knowing what I am truly capable of if left to my own devices. However, this fear of knowing my true self apart from Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit is what motivates me. It keeps me faithfully pursuing His call on my life. It propels me to brave the unknown waters of faith and be willing to recklessly abandon what seems safe for that which is counter to our modern culture.

Since returning from my first mission trip to Salvador, Brazil (June 2005) my passion and heart for ministry has been to encourage others to leave their comfortable for the uncomfortable, the known for the unknown. As a young 22 year old woman, I didn’t fully comprehend or even recognize what God was calling me to. All I knew was that I had experienced a life outside of God’s will and from that moment on I was going to be committed to never return. I had experience something life changing. I had experienced life outside of the boat, out on the open waters of faith and obedience. When I think back to these moments my heart is moved and my eyes well with tears. To think of where my life was and the heights to, which God has taken me is humbling.

I’m not a Bible scholar, nor do I claim to be. I’m simply a woman with a heart for the Lord, a gifting to teach, a passion for sharing God’s truth, and a love for writing. I hope to share truthfully, honestly, and boldly as I write about what God has and is presently teaching me.

My testimony: Brave2faithful

I knew church from an early age. I knew who God was and what Jesus had done for me. For a long time I had a lot of head knowledge, but little heart knowledge and commitment. I didn’t know what it meant to be a true follower of Jesus. I had spent most of life knowing Jesus, but I had yet to experience who Jesus truly was.

At the age of 19 (2002), our community, my church family, and loved ones lost an amazing Godly man before his time. Many felt the wake of his passing. I remember our pastor saying his death should not be in vain, but rather it should inspire us to live a life worthy of Christ. It should call us to repentance. It should call us to a true life saving relationship with Christ.

I said to myself, “I’ll start to live for Jesus once I’m married and have children. I have the rest of my life to start to live according to His word.” This loss woke my arrogant heart. I didn’t have a guarantee of tomorrow. What right did I have to say I’d wait? Did Christ prolong his journey to the cross so He could live the life He wanted and not fulfill His purpose on earth?

After this realization, all didn’t fall perfectly into place. The Lord still had a lot of disciplining and correcting to conduct in my young life. He never gave up on me, even when I fell to the same temptations. He was faithful even when I was unfaithful. However, He set in my heart a new love and new passion, something even my friends at college started to notice. They would comment, “something is different about you” or “you’ve changed”, but couldn’t quite put their finger on just why and neither could I.

Everything changed as a new season arrived the summer and fall of 2004. It was a game changer. As I sat at a women’s conference one evening the speaker shared from Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 and after she read verse 6, “a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,” (NIV), she paused, and then came the gut check as she said, “And tonight some of you have trash in your life that you need to get out.” All summer long God had been dealing with me about this “trash”. I had tried to reason it away or find a way to get rid of it, but not the way He was asking me to. However, that night those words pierced my hard heart as I felt as if I was the only one in the arena.

As a result, I prayed that evening and I committed to starting cleaning out the “trash”. It wasn’t easy. I lost friends, well people who I thought were my friends, in the process and by the end I felt all alone, but that was exactly where He wanted me to be because then it’d only be the two of us. I had lost my hiding place. I had no where else to go, just like Adam and Eve in the Garden God was calling out “Where are you?”. In my heart I cried out, “Here I am.”, and in my loneliness, I asked, “Why?”, and in my hurt, I recounted, “If I had only knew it’d be this hard I would’ve never gone through with it.”

This was where the rubber met the road. If had known hard it would be, if I had known the hurt and the pain and the suffering I would’ve never gone through with it. Now here’s the amazing part, Jesus knew about the suffering He’d endure during His earthly ministry and subsequently on the cross, and He went through it anyway. He borne the wrath of God for my sins on the cross and the cost wasn’t too much. My sin debt was paid in full because He knew that one day I’d need His blood as payment in order to enter into a true, real relationship with Him.

Weeks later, after the women’s conference, I found myself at a missions conference. I was familiar with missions. My childhood pastor had left our church to go and start a seminary in Uganda. However, from my naive eyes missionaries were those crazy people who didn’t realize how good they had it in America. Once again God spoke to my heart. Over the course of several days, after listening to missionary, after missionary share their testimony, every hard speck was chipped away from my heart to realize that I was called to be one of those crazy missionaries.

June of 2005, I went on my first mission trip to Salvador, Brazil. They had to force me to get on the plane to come back home; however, I went home and quickly had things in order to return in August for another six weeks. During this time I realized that I could return to the States and pursue a career in marketing; however, I would never truly be satisfied. I knew there was something more. I knew there something more to life than just status quo and I knew I had more to offer than just a few weeks or months. As a result, I applied with the International Mission Board, the sending agency for Southern Baptist Churches, to become a Journeyman, a two year missionary.

The process was stretching to say the least. I had lengthy paperwork, interviews, and the decision of where to serve. In the midst of all of this people would congratulate me or tell me how proud they were of me and even tell me that I was brave. To myself I thought, “Proud? Brave? Me? I’m just doing what I’m supposed to.” Then the kicker would come next, “Only if I were 25 again and I could do what you’re doing, but…” You fill in the blank with whatever excuse: I have a family, I have a spouse, I have children, I have a job, I have debt. I could continue on. At times I would get so annoyed and angry with their excuses as to why they couldn’t serve. I thought, “Why not stop your excuses and take action. Give of your time. Give of yourself. Give the best resources your have to offer. Leave it all behind and follow.”

Now a 30 something wife and mother, I realize perhaps there’s a little validity to their “buts”. I realize the temptation and ease to use my current stage in life as an excuse not to serve or give greatly of myself. A career, spouse, children, and finances are immediate needs, which are constantly at the forefront of our minds, our priorities. They are what we see every day.

Consequently, we can go through life and miss the greater need. The need to live sacrificially. Sacrificial living doesn’t mean only going to Africa for two years or giving away all your possessions, etc. It means giving of your most precious resource, whatever that maybe: yourself, your time, your money. It means getting out of your comfort zone and be willing to follow the call of Christ where that may lead: down the street, to anther city, state, or country. Act 1: 8 states, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Wherever your calling is live boldly for Christ. Speak truth, justice, honor, and love for the calling of Christ.

There is my passion. There is my heart. I want others to know about this man named Jesus and the one true and living God who is not just love, but is just and holy. Therefore in awe of who He is and what He has done for me, I do fear who I used to be because I know what I am capable of. I am capable of self love, of finding my identity in the praise of man, of living in my own strength rather than His. This propels me to great heights for His glory, for His kingdom because I know where I am going one day I can not take these earthly treasures that moth and rust and thieves and dust destroy. For I am going to the mountain to worship my King.

I pray that you will join me in this journey. This new ministry. This new mission field.

I pray that I can perform His work and His calling with the glory and honor He so deserves.

My New Mission Field

I’ve been back in the good’ole USA for almost 2 months now.I’ve had my cultural ups and downs and all that’s in between, but can I just take a moment to say, “GOD is GOOD!”. He is the one constant when everything else seems new or weird. I think that’s what makes me fall more and more in love with Him. However, at the same time I realize more and more just how wretched and unworthy of His favor I truly am. What a beautiful Savoir, King, Redeemer, Friend, and Aba I have to worship, serve, adore?!

I’m in Tifton, GA now and have been for a little over 2 weeks now. I’ve fallen in love with Tifton and I’ve fallen in love with the people of First Baptist. It is only by God’s divine province that I am here. My new boss and co-worker are AMAZING! The staff and members of First Baptist have warmly welcomed me. It is more than I could ever ask for or imagine. Thank you, Lord!

Thank you also to all you who pray for me regularly and have supported me in my ministry for the past 2 plus years. I am blessed beyond what I could deserve. Praise the Lord for His abundant grace and provision! I’ve just finished laundry at the church. How thankful I am that I can come here to wash clothes since where I live doesn’t have a washer and dryer. Speaking of which, I am blessed also to be living in a little house/apartment at the back of a wonderful little lady’s house, named Mrs. Sumner. It is perfect! It has all I need; a living room, bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom as well as some awesome closet space.

Well here’s some pictures for you. I’ll try to get you some more very soon. Hope you enjoy! Love you all!!