Fight Right

I started writing this post several months ago.  In fact, what I am about to share has been on my heart now for over a year.

I am currently in a season of life that I do not like all that much.  It seems crazy to even admit that because truth be told I have nothing to not like.

I have an amazing apartment with a walk in closet and a pool (dream come true for me) and a roommate that I share such a special friendship with, and added bonus she makes amazing waffles…what more could I ask for?

I am working at a job that I love and have honestly prayed (even though I had no idea my prayers would lead me to this specific ministry) for years now.  Even more incredible, while I was away I was praying about volunteering in this ministry when I came back home, and God provided a job in this same ministry I was seeking to volunteer at.

God has brought an incredible man into my life.  This is HUGE for me!  Really…if you know me you know that I do not date.  I have been waiting and praying and waiting some more for the past five years for God to bring the man He has for me into my life.  While others thought I was crazy for not putting myself out there enough with men, I held true (most of the time) to my desire to wait for who God has for me.  This was so hard!  Sometimes I was tempted to give in and take matters into my own hands.  I still remember trying a free trial of some online date thing and when it showed me my “matches” it said none found!  How terrible I thought, but really I knew it was God telling me He already found my man for me and I wasn’t about to find him online…clearly!  I am thankful for His protection from all of the wrong men throughout the last five years and am even more thankful for the right man He has found for me.

I have an amazing sister who encourages me and inspires me on a daily, actually moment by moment basis.  I have incredible friends God has brought into my life and I am the happiest aunt in the world, especially when I get to influence my nieces and nephews for Christ.

Reading all of this I seriously wonder why the struggle.  As I think about the “why” behind the struggle I realize woven in between all of these blessings from above is a fear and a doubt and a defeat I have never known before.

Since coming home from my time abroad I feel I have lost a part of me: the part of me that fought against this defeat ever becoming a reality for me.  So now that I am feeling so defeated I equate this with no other thought than I have lost the fight.

The reality is that this thought is the furthest thing from the truth!  In fact, I do not even have the capability of losing a battle that was never mine in the first place.

…for the battle is not yours, but God’s.  2 Chronicles 20:15

And, the One whom the battle belongs to is the One fighting for me.

The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.  Exodus 14:14

And, the One whom fights is already victorious!

…but victory belongs to the LORD.  Proverbs 21:31

And because He is VICTORIOUS, I am victorious.

but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.             1 Corinthians 15:57

When I choose to fight this defeated feeling, I am fighting a battle that was never mine to fight.  The enemy would love to keep me in this place of losing heart with every attempt to fight against something that was already won by God on the cross.

The longer the enemy keeps me in this place, the longer I am stuck believing I have lost not only the fight but a part of me also.

My fighting doesn’t look like gaining victory, it looks like losing control.  I cannot gain something God has already won for me.  I can lose control of my “battles” give them to the Lord and pick up the victory He fought to death for me to have.

Maybe like me,  you have been fighting against something for far too long.   It is my prayer that you start to see with a heavenly perspective the truth about what you have been fighting, and that you have the strength to give the battle over to the Lord and rest in His victory!

 

 

 

Reminders of All He has Done

When I first started my job, simply walking through the door to start the day was hard for me.

Not because I didn’t want to be there but because that walk through the door reminded me of everything I did not want to be reminded of.

I was reminded of a time in my life when I felt so much shame and guilt for all of the decisions I was making as a result of things that happened to me or as a result of my own ignorance.  My life was spiraling out of control and I held onto people and things that caused nothing but pain and heartache because I simply didn’t know how to hold onto anything else.

By the grace of God, I found His hand in my mess to hold onto.  God brought me to a safe place: His arms.  God renewed my life and all of my old ways and traumatic past was gone and all that was left was a new life in Him.

Instead of remembering all of the ways God had saved me and remade me, I was focusing on all of the awful things I once did.  Then one day it hit me: I can either walk through this door and think of who I used to be or I can walk through this door and think of what God has done for me.

God has done a miracle in my life.  Years ago you could have found me walking through those doors defeated, desperate for help.  Now, when I walk through those doors each day I am nothing other than God’s redeemed daughter.  Because of Jesus I have victory and because of Jesus I am now able to help those God brings through the door.

 

Walking through the door for work is now something I look forward to as it is a moment to stop and give thanks to God for all He has done for me.

It is a true gift to be reminded each day of God’s transforming love and an even greater gift to share that love with the people I meet in this life that have found themselves in a place I once was.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.  Psalm 40:2-3

 

Hope-filled Brokenness

This morning I wanted to reflect on one of my favorite chapters in Isaiah, Isaiah 53.  I have read this passage many times and there is always something sweeter about reading it in my own Bible.  The page is creased with probably a few tear stains.  There are circles and lines around certain words that have touched my heart.  There are places I have been and people I have met written next to certain verses.  Each time I read through this particular part of Isaiah it is an opportunity to go back in time and remember the faithfulness of God throughout my life.

As I traveled back in time remembering the first time these words touched my heart, a new verse struck me and my pen quickly underlined the following:

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.  Isaiah 53:10

When I close my eyes and think of Jesus during the time of His life leading up to the cross I become overwhelmed with the idea that He probably didn’t like that time very much.  Jesus fulfilled the will of His Father even though that meant being crushed and suffering immensely.

Jesus was crushed and suffered for all man kind.  Each person that ever lived, each person that ever will live, Jesus was, IS, the Ultimate Sacrifice.

This level of crushing, this level of suffering, I cannot even comprehend.  Jesus knows it well.

Recently I read the following in a book:

“God will always break what is offered to Him.”

When we think of brokenness it comes along with words like hopeless, ruined, destroyed, helpless.  In fact you can probably think of at least one situation in your life right now that has left you feeling broken.

I like to think that when God thinks of brokenness He think of Jesus.  After all, His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ was broken and that break was the furthest thing from hopeless.  In fact, it was just the opposite.  God took the brokenness of His own Son and transformed that very brokenness and the suffering that went along with each blow and used it to fulfill His Will.  He used it to heal and make a way for each one of His children to find Him, to come to Him, to be His.

**I cannot ever write these things without tears filling up in my eyes.  Every time I try to find the words to express the gratitude or the feeling I feel when I am reminded of all Jesus has done I come up empty. **

Jesus, as the Ultimate Sacrifice, was broken and as a result fulfilled the Lord’s will.

In this world we will experience brokenness.  When we offer our lives to God, he will break us.  This is not a hopeless break, in fact it is just the opposite!  We are broken to allow our lives to be a showcase for Jesus that others may find Him through the breaks and come to know Him as their Lord and Savior.

So as we continue through this life with the threat of brokenness right around the corner let us shift our sight on the most beautiful sight brokenness has to offer, Jesus Christ.  We can find peace and hope to continue through any brokenness we face holding onto Jesus and remembering that He knows this brokenness and He sees the very thing that this brokenness is producing.

 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Romans 5:3-4

 

 

 

 

Nothing to Fear

I remember the day I thought my “triggers” were over.  It had been two years and I thought to myself, surely that is the last trigger I will have.  I was ecstatic.

Shortly after, I had another trigger and currently I find myself in a season filled with a lot of triggers.

I could give you the dictionary definition of trigger if you are not familiar with the term, however I prefer my definition because this is exactly how I experience one.

It comes out of the blue, when you least expect it.  You are just going about your day and BAM all of a sudden something happens, you are not sure what, but you go back in time to that awful memory running through your mind.  It is as if you go back to when that memory wasn’t a memory at all it was when that awful memory happened for the very first time.

After the tears and shaking you try to trace back the trigger.  You wonder was it the smell, the way the word was spoken, the feeling, the touch.  Sometimes you know, sometimes you don’t.  Then you tell yourself I am never going to do this or that ever again because if that is what may have caused this trigger, I never want it to cause another trigger.

You avoid any and everything that may cause a trigger.

But, in this season God is not letting me avoid anything.  He is lovingly and gently allowing me to face these triggers and stop the avoiding game I have played for so long.

I trace back the roots of the avoiding game and every time will come up with one thing: fear.  I am simply scared of triggers.

The reason for the fear is because triggers are the only moments of my life when I truly feel separated from God.  To say this is the worst feeling is an understatement.  It is a horrifying thought.

But the truth of the matter is that feeling, that thought is a big fat lie.  In fact, I actually have nothing to be afraid of.

God’s Word says so:

…“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you…

Isaiah 43:1-4

The price that God paid?  Jesus, His only Son, being separated from God while His beaten and bloody body hung on a cross so that mine never had to be and so that I never ever will be separated by God.

Just writing those words fills my eyes with tears.  I will never know the weight of each word I just typed.  Only God, only Jesus will.

All I know is that God promises me that no matter what comes my way He will never leave me, never forsake me.  Jesus was separated so that I never need to be.  This is amazing love.  And it is this love that carries me through each and every trigger I face in this life.

I am learning so much about triggers.  I am seeing them no longer through the lenses of fear but rather through the lenses of truth.

As I avoid the “avoiding game” I see so clearly that God is with me in each and every trigger.  This knowledge removes the fear and allows me to confidently embrace life freely hand in hand with God.

On a personal note: one of the main things in life I chose to avoid for years was men.  I was sure they would cause heartache and a bundle of triggers so I avoided them.  I still had a desire for one to be mine one day but that desire was not strong enough for me to actually risk opening up my heart to one.  I came face to face with this fear of mine the day I met my now boyfriend.  I was so distracted by my fear of kayaking (which is what we were about to do together on our first date) that I forgot about my fear of actually meeting a man with the intent of letting him know my heart.

Being with this man has not meant no triggers, quite the contrary, it has meant lots of triggers.  I am learning one thing: I would not have it any other way.  After avoiding the “avoiding game” I find myself embracing God in each trigger that comes my way instead of embracing fear.  How thankful I am for a man on earth who loves me through each one and a God in Heaven who not only loves me through each one but sees me through and knows how each one will be used for His good and for His glory.

Thank you Jesus!

 

Seeing Life

It is hard to believe exactly one year ago at this time I was writing my annual Human Trafficking Awareness post while living in an aftercare home for young girls and boys rescued from the brothels in India.

My eyes were opened while living in that home.  It was in that home God highlighted the issue of the value of life.

I say this because many people from all backgrounds would argue that the lives of those children I grew to love while in India should have never existed.

In our world there is an argument about the idea that a life brought into adverse circumstances should not be a life at all.

I know this argument because I used to fall silent when I heard the comments.  “That child won’t have much of a life at all, why didn’t they use birth control.”  “Those parents are irresponsible those poor children are going to suffer, why were they born?”  “That abortion saved that child from growing up without stability.”

In the silence is where my heart wrestled with what I knew to be true; that every life has value.  The reason for the wrestling match in my heart is because I could understand never wanting to see people suffer.  I used to think if suffering can be stopped before it starts, it definitely should be!

I understand these arguments in a different light after going through my own experience of suffering.  Suffering has a way of turning our worst into God’s best.  To keep people from suffering is an injustice in itself.

My heart still breaks for those children I lived with last year at this time.  Their wounds are wide open, gushing pain and suffering.  I learned in that home: the wounds they possess do not affect the value they possess.  Their value was determined for them before they were born into brothels.  Anything they have gone through and things they are yet to go through will never change the value of their life.

God didn’t wait to see how we handled this life before He chose us to be His own, He chose us before we were born, still in our mother’s womb.  He did the same with these precious children.

God created our lives for a purpose and with value.  Do we believe that in our hearts?

So often I think we fight for causes because we are covering up the pain that comes from the lack of purpose or value we feel in our own lives.  We want to feel significant, we want to prove our life has value so we do something, we fight something.  Meanwhile, the cross and empty grave prove our significance and value.  Jesus fought and won our biggest battle for us so we could hold onto His victory.  Any battle we now face, we face holding onto God’s victorious hand.

The injustice of human trafficking can feel overwhelming because it does have so many aspects.  Yet we face this injustice with God’s victory.  He is fighting for each life impacted in one way or another by slavery.

He is also fighting for you.  You cannot give someone something you do not have.  If you struggle to find value in your own life, how can you possibly tell someone who is held captive, trapped in misery, that their live has value and purpose?

Let the reason you “do something” about human trafficking be embracing and professing the value and purpose God places on every life before they are ever born into any set of circumstances in this world.

Little Disclaimer: Since being home I have felt my passion to do something about human trafficking fade away. I had/have a hard time understanding this as I believe God is the one who put that passion in my heart to begin with.  As I write this post, I see so clearly how God wants my passion for “doing something” to be motivated by His heart not my sight.  It is easy for me to see a need and fill it, yet God has called me to see life and proclaim it valuable.

There was a time in my life, more recent than I would like to admit, that I struggled knowing and believing the value my life held.  When I read the following verse in John every lie I believed about the value of my life was washed away: children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  John 1:13.  I am more than my parents plan for a family, I am God’s plan.  You are God’s plan and so are all of those children that melted my heart in India.

Currently, God has me in a season where I find myself constantly confronted with the question: Do you believe this life is valuable?  I am learning the value of life in ways I never have.  God is not taking these passions away; He is simply strengthening them in Him.  It is not a simple process but it is necessary and I am thankful that in this new season, His love remains.

Last Year At This Time

Lately every day I have found myself saying the following:

Last year at this time I was….

In Amsterdam

In India

In Spain

and so on and so on.

If I really think about it I guess I have always struggled living in the here and now.  Instead, my thoughts drift to the past or hope for the future.

There is nothing wrong with remembering the past and planning for the future, however there is something we cannot miss about the here and now.

I am entering this new year with almost a sense of grief leaving behind everything this past year held for me.

This was the year I was able to live in a country I call home.  This was the year I received a front row seat to the amazing works God was doing in the lives of people God entrusted to me to minister His love, healing, and grace to.  This was the year I found myself really understanding and living out true obedience to our Lord and Savior.  This was the year I found myself fully relying on God in a way I never have before, ultimately bringing me much closer to Him.  This was the year I found myself so close to God’s broken heart.  This was the year I saw God provide for me in ways that I could never imagine possible.  This was the year I learned what a step of faith looks like, personally.  This was the year I understood what standing firm in God’s truth really means.  This was the year I met the man I have been waiting for…for a really long time!  This was the year I cried more tears than usual but also laughed more joyfully than usual.  This was the year God brought me to a job where I get to learn the value of life and use the talents and gifts He has given me for His glory.

There is an almost overwhelming sadness knowing that this year is going to be completely different from last year.  Part of me wants to go back.  Yet another part of me wants to embrace the here and now.

That is the part of me I am really embracing as I start this new year.  Maybe this new season of my life will be one where the BIG things of last year will not exist.  I have decided I am completely content with that.  In fact, I am excited for that because if there is one thing I have learned these past couple of months, it is that we cannot live for these BIG moments.  We must live for all of the little moments in between.  Any BIG thing is not the end, it is truly only the beginning.

So as I reflect on the BIG moments of 2016 I look forward with excitement for the true ending with God in Heaven one day.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:14

 

 

Joyful in Hope

I meet it as I lay my head down for the night.  As I settle into my bed, it settles to the rim of my eyelids and tears fall down my cheeks and find their way to my pillow.

I meet it in those moments throughout my day set aside for God.

I meet it as I see a reminder or think of where I was and what I was doing exactly a year ago this time.

And for all of the moments in between; I meet it then too.

It is this deep sadness in my heart.

Since being home I have had this deep sadness welling up in my heart and have been trying to get to the bottom of this feeling.

God is helping me see the source of this sadness and so much more.

While I was away I found myself saying, “I am so close to God’s broken heart.”

And I was.

I hugged and kissed His broken heart as I tucked sweet children into bed for the night.  Children who were born into a horror story, rescued into a home where they are safe, but are still left vulnerable, and scarred by pain and trauma they should have never known.

I looked into the eyes of His broken heart each time I looked into the teary eyed men who were once enslaved to addictions but have made that courageous decision to get help.

I felt the weight of His broken heart every time I allowed her tears to soak my shirt as I held her and she cried on my shoulder.  She was a victim of abuse, trauma, rejection but I saw her as a victor.

Being so close to God’s broken heart changed me.  Surprisingly, I did not feel hopeless for this brokenness I came to know so well.  Instead, I felt joyful in hope.

I knew well that brokenness caused by people can feel hopeless, but God was showing me that brokenness entrusted with Him is full of hope.

I found and held onto God’s promise for this brokenness in the midst of my many tears that fell from my eyes and heart each time I would encounter yet another piece of His broken heart.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.  Psalm 126:5

I know for every tear that has fallen from my eyes over the brokenness my heart touched, would one day be turned into a beautiful song of joy and praise for God’s redemption, love, and grace.

Now that I am home away from this brokenness I knew so well for months and months, I find myself still with tears.

These tears fall because of the empty place His brokenness once filled.

I carried an imprint on my heart of His brokenness home with me but I can no longer hug it, kiss it, touch it, carry it.

It is in this empty place I’ve found this deep sadness settle.

All I can be reminded of is the same promise God spoke to me then;

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.  Psalm 126:5

This life will have us in tears more times than we would like to admit.  When we encounter brokenness it is my prayer that we can entrust it with God, knowing the hope we can have and the joy we can find to replace the sadness welling up.

And as for my tears that are still falling, I am waiting for the moment God turns them to tears of joy instead of tears from sadness.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Romans 12:12