July 31st, 2014 was a day to celebrate! It was my husband’s birthday. We had gone out to celebrate with our whole family. All the girls in our family were also planning and preparing to go to the Coast the next day to celebrate my Grandma’s 80th birthday! We were making more summer plans to go camping and enjoying the summer life that so many love here in Bend. But that never happened.
That night we had relatives staying with us and I had said good night to them. I fell asleep snuggling next to my husband, Sonny, and my seven year old daughter, Rhynn. At about 1:00am Sonny was awakened by a loud thump. He felt Rhynn next to him but couldn’t feel me. When he got up to try to see what had caused the thump he saw me slumped over, wedged between the bed and the dresser, and I was having a Grand mal seizure. He immediately noticed I wasn’t breathing. He ran to get my Aunt and Uncle and asked them for help. They thought maybe a tree had fallen because of how loud the thump was. They called 911.
The paramedics showed up and rushed me to the hospital (Rhynn never woke up in the midst of all of this. I believe an Angel was in the room protecting her). My sister followed close behind. I don’t really remember much of this. I just remember being scared and confused. I was paralyzed on the left side immediately. I couldn’t move my arm or my leg and half of my face was paralyzed. I do remember, however, having an MRI and then being told I had tumors in my brain. I had Melanoma for the second time in my life.
Over the next four days of my stay in the ICU it was a blur from the drugs I was on. I went home and waited for the swelling to go down so they could do surgery. What I thought was one night was actually four nights before they could perform surgery on me. In those four days, friends and family came in and out of my house, one after another, encouraging me, praying for me, loving me and my family.
My diagnosis was three to six months to live, three months with no treatment and six months with aggressive treatment. The Doctors didn’t think they’d be able to remove all three tumors (I didn’t know this at the time). Two nights before surgery my long time friends, Joe and Katherine, came to my house to pray over me. Immediately afterwards I lifted my left arm up, something I had not been able to do, then I got up and started walking. My brother-in-law later commented he wouldn’t have believed it had he not seen it with his own eyes! That was one of the many miracles that I’ve experienced since then.
The night before surgery we had about 100 friends and family come over to pray over me, sing worship songs and they took turns telling me how much they loved me. Afterwards Sonny made a video of me for my kids. I wanted my kids to hear what I thought was most important, in case I didn’t make it through the surgery. I told them I loved them, that Jesus loves them. I told them through many, many tears how much I love them, that when we belong to Jesus He will pursue you and that they always belong to Him. I said the things I never thought I’d have to say to my kids for them to watch when I was gone.
When I went to bed that night my son, Randon, who was 18 at the time, came into my room and told me he didn’t want me to do treatment because he didn’t want me to be sick the last three to six months of my life. That was the first time I had heard that diagnosis. I was shocked and confused. We cried together, talked about how it would be one day at a time, fighting all the way. I told him I needed him to pray for me and believe that God would heal me.
My pastor, Steve, came the next morning before surgery to pray for me. I don’t remember it but I’m so thankful for him and the church family that we love so much. They have been such a big part of my journey with their generosity. I was told the entire waiting room was filled with our church family and family members, standing room only. The Doctors ended up removing all three tumors! I stayed in the hospital for about a month, or maybe longer. I don’t remember exactly how long. I don’t remember a lot of it. It was still being said that I would probably only live for six months with aggressive treatment. There is no treatment for Melanoma cancer. Today it’s been over a year since my surgery. They were wrong. God is good. I have continued to say “You’re talking Science, I’m talking God. My God is bigger than Science”.
Joy and her husband, Sonny, live in Bend Oregon with
their four children ranging from six to twenty-one years of age. You can learn more about Joy’s journey through her blog where she inspires many with her transparency, strength, and hope in Christ.
She and her family repeat a daily mantra together:
“I am powerful and what I believe changes the world! So today I declare: God is in a good mood. He loves me all the time. Nothing can separate me from His love. Jesus’ blood paid for everything. I will tell nations of what He has done. I am important. How He made me is amazing. I was designed for worship. My mouth establishes praise to silence the enemy. Everywhere I go becomes a perfect health zone. And with God…Nothing is impossible.”
Fear is not my friend.
It never has been.
It never will be.
Fear has done nothing but reek havoc on my life, paralyzing me in a web of lies and confusion. It has gripped me in believing the worst instead of focusing on truth. Many times it has kept me from stepping out into God’s best and hindered my passion to pursue and love the way Christ has commanded. It has caused me to fear the unknown and what is to come. It is NOT MY FRIEND or YOURS. It is, however, a friend to the biggest deceiver, satan himself.
If we choose to “be-friend” this lie, it can ruin us. So why do we continually welcome this unfaithful, lying, deceitful so called “friend” into our lives? Horrific circumstances happen. Sin happens. Tragedy happens. It can shake us to our core causing crippling effects both physically and emotionally.
I have learned that when I am entangled in this web, it’s because I forget who my God is…I doubt His ability. I question His sovereignty. I waiver on His unfailing love for me. And sometimes, I shamefully choose to sit and stay in the comfort of it all because it has become EASY. Battling fear can be draining. And when we try to battle on our own strength, we fall, we crumble. We become slaves to “our friend” fear.
God’s word says, “For God has NOT given us a spirit of fear, but of POWER and of LOVE and of a SOUND MIND” -2 Timothy 1:7.
These three things- power, love and sound mind, are a recipe for defeating the enemy when it comes to a spirit of fear.
Know the POWER of the living God that lives in you!
Know the LOVE of Christ that cast out ALL fear!
Know the peace of a SOUND MIND -His peace that will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
Fear cannot dwell in a heart who’s mind is focused on the things of God. We have the freedom to choose…Fear…OR…Faith.
Our God is so much BIGGER! And our FAITH in Him has to be Greater than our fear.
Jesus tells us, ” In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have OVERCOME the world.”-John 16:33
Our faith can rest in that…He has OVERCOME!!!
I want to leave you with this absolute truth bathed in a promise that God will be with you NO MATTER the trial, no matter the tragedy, no matter the sorrow, no matter the pain, no matter the fear….
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do NOT be afraid; do NOT be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”-Joshua 1:9
Cheryl is passionate about Jesus and making Him known. She serves as a leader in women’s ministry and on the worship team of her church. She believes that by His stripes we are healed and we are nothing without Jesus, but EVERYTHING with Him. She believes there is freedom that awaits all our brokenness, all our mess, all our shame, and all our past if we turn our lives over to Him. She is married to her college sweetheart and they are blessed with three beautiful children.
Sometimes God answers our prayers and we see right away what He has done. There are big crisis prayers and little tiny prayers, but His answers aren’t always what we expect.
In the journey of life, we have unexpected trips to the Emergency Room, moments where we look around for the adult, then discover “You are the adult”. God reminds us who is in control at the times we have no control.We were certainly aware of prayer in that experience. This year, my six year old had some fluke tummy-upsets on our 4th of July trip. No fever, just needed the tummy to empty itself. (too much sugar and fun at Grandma’s house?) In between the first and second round, we quietly sat in the bathroom at my parents’ house at 4:30am.
After we prayed for her to be healed, we discussed that God made our bodies to throw up if something bad was in them. “God’s way of healing you may be to have you throw up again.” “It’s not the healing you would like, but you’ll feel better.”
After I said that, the profound wisdom hit me.
How many times have I thought God didn’t answer my prayers because it wasn’t the answer I wanted or the answer I was looking for?
A year ago, God answered a prayer for healing. My friend had been battling cancer and was suffering greatly. Her health took a sharp turn in just two weeks. I was grieved and asked Him to either heal her completely or take her home, “but please don’t leave her like this!” She’d been battling osteosarcoma and had just turned 22. The next day, she passed away early in the morning.
I wanted God to restore her to her pre-cancerous self. He chose to remove her pain for eternity. This was not the healing I had prayed for, was it? I wanted Him to answer the prayer my way.
But sometimes, “it’s not the healing you would like.” Maybe we are allowed to endure things for deeper healing. Maybe the healing is still coming. Maybe we are allowed to experience something sad so we can offer strength and comfort to others when they have a similar experience. We validate their pain with “me too.” “I know what you are feeling.” “I’ve been there.”
Don’t lose hope when God’s answer is not the one you asked for. We don’t see or know everything. At BraveGirl Community, we are committed to praying with you. We have seen prayers answered, and even when bad things happen, God can turn them around for His glory.
When we remain faithful to God in trials, it is a slap in the face to our enemy. You are never alone.
The video below is Rachel’s testimony when she’d successfully battled cancer the first time. I believe it will bring hope and encouragement to you today! (And for you email subscribers, here’s the youtube link )
How can we pray for you today? Leave a comment and we’ll be sure to respond!
BraveGirl Tammy ran her first triathlon this weekend. I’m sure her family was there watching and cheering her on to the finish line. I can picture it now, “Go Mommy, Go! You’ve got this! You can do it!” And then finally, “Congratulations! You did it!” at the end.
Each one of us has our own race to run.
In the heat of the race we all need encouragement. We need endurance. We need to hear our names and remember who we are. We need the reminders, “Keep going! Don’t give up! You’ve got this! You’re almost there!”
You are deeply loved.
God planned for you and loves you as a parent loves a child from the very idea of conception. He thinks about you all the time. He has been your cheerleader, advocate, and supporter since the beginning of time.
He loves you so much that He let His own Son die for you, so that you can live with Him forever.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)
He loves you right where you are. Yes, even in our mess, He loves us.
God is love. 1 John 4:8 (NIV)
His perfect love casts out fear. His love casts out jealously. His love casts out anger. His love forgives.
When His love fills your heart there is no room for past hurt or pain.
You are deeply loved. When you love the One who loves you a champion is born within.
He calls out your name and says, “You’ve got this! Hang on! Don’t give up!”
Do not be afraid today. By our faith we know who wins.
For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. 1 John 5:4
His love gives you courage. Let the past go so that you may be healed and set free. Let the present go if it is keeping you from Him. You cannot move forward if you continue to hold onto the past.
His love gives you the courage to do the right thing. Make the right choice. Christ will draw you away from the shore into His embrace and His love will crash over you, fill you, and make you brave.
God is for you. God is not against you. God created you and He loves you.
When you know you are completely loved you show love to others.
May your hearts be encouraged and your souls nourished by the depth of His love today…
Would you believe me if I told you I have learned in the past year how to win every fight? Especially if it’s not my fault? All I have to do is picture a traffic light.
I’m sure that you have had somebody close fight with you. You don’t know where it came from, or the magnitude surprises you. Your knee-jerk reaction is one of pain and perhaps retaliation.
This is when you need to visualize a traffic light. Big time!
Green! (Quick to LISTEN)
Stop all noise. Virtual and otherwise. Turn off your phone, get away from people, find some solitude and quiet. Especially if you are reading a comment on Facebook or a text message. Take time to come down from your initial emotional reaction. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Maybe go for a walk. Pray. Remove yourself from the situation for a minute. Perhaps you are just an unfortunate recipient of somebody’s pain and hurt, and it has nothing to do with you at all. Are they under a lot of stress? Have there been recent changes or losses in their life? What may have caused them to lash out?
Yellow. (Slow to SPEAK)
We want to answer immediately. Often, though, our emotional response is less than gracious. Giving yourself a day or two (if possible) before responding can also open an opportunity for explanation. Maybe their intent did not come through in their words. What they meant to say and what they actually said could be two different things. You can ask questions to clarify, giving the benefit of the doubt, and possibly receive a resolution immediately.
If you are genuinely upset, a vague “rant” on Facebook will stir up curiosity from many not involved. Leave them out of it. Instead, if you must talk to someone—choose only one. Speak to them directly if you can. The digital age often results in misinterpretations with lack of facial expression. Emojiis just don’t cut it compared to tone of voice.
Red. (Slow to become ANGRY)
Assume the best about this person. If you’ve had a great relationship until now, a fight is upsetting. Why? You are afraid of losing this friendship. You clearly value this person and what they think of you—which is why you feel so wounded. Don’t throw away what you have in a moment of pain. Remember why you like them. Pray for them. Ask for reconciliation. Will this matter a month from now? A year from now?
“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” ~Proverbs 17:9 (NLT)
If you didn’t immediately recognize our traffic light, it’s found in James 1:19. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” This, my friends, is how we win the fight. We choose love.
Sometimes, we will have to love from far away, but often “hurting people hurt people.” There is a hurt inside that person that is spreading like a wildfire. You can choose to respond in love and stop the cycle of hurt.
How can we pray for you?
You’re going to have many role models as you grow up. From your parents, teachers, family members, and friends, life will give you many examples to follow. You might even look up to musicians, pastors, or celebrities one of these days. Whoever you choose to hold in high esteem, I hope those people point you to Jesus. Above all, I hope you pattern your life after His because there is no greater person to value than the Son of God.
Besides the four Gospels, there are numerous passages in the Bible that shed light on Jesus’ example. The twelfth chapter of Romans finishes strong, offering a clear picture of how Christ followers should strive to interact with and respond to others this side of Heaven.
Here are ten ways to live like Jesus:
1. Love genuinely. (v 9)
It’s easy to love my own. I love my people, the ones I most relate to, naturally and genuinely. Love becomes a challenge, and often near-impossible, when I’m faced with those who look, believe, or sin differently than I do. It’s easier to write someone off or label them than it is to love them. So how do I demonstrate true affection when it becomes a struggle? The answer is Jesus. He loves each one of us with a deep, authentic, unfathomable kind of devotion. If I am to show this love to the ones I find hard to accept, I have to tap into His supernatural resources. I have to dip my cup into His stream of mercy until it overflows and naturally pours out of me. Walking in genuine love is possible with Christ.
2. Honor others. (v 10)
It’s been said before, Your life is not about you.” When I get wrapped up in my to-do list, I forget to really see others around me. And if I don’t notice people, I can’t reach them for Christ. Honoring others means I put my own agenda on the back burner so that God’s plan might be furthered through me. What does it mean to honor others? Maybe I go out of my way to do something unexpected and unrequested for someone, whether they’re a friend or a stranger. Perhaps I put somebody’s needs before my own. Any time I sacrifice joyfully, not for recognition or reward but because I want the light of Christ to shine, I’m magnifying my Savior. Jesus himself modeled honoring behaviors by healing, forgiving, and serving. He won many to His cause through this radical, loving actions.
3. Serve your Heavenly Father with passion. (v 11)
The passion I need in order to serve God comes from nurturing an honest personal relationship with Him. I think about my best friends and how none of them started out that way. It took time, back and forth communication, and a deep understanding of a person’s character before a deep friendship based on trust could develop. It’s no different with Jesus. When He walked the earth He got real, eating meals, forging friendships, and making memories with the disciples and other followers around Him. I have to be as intentional in cultivating a relationship with Christ as I am with my favorite people. The passion I feel for serving Jesus is a direct correlation to the amount of time I spend with Him.
4. Rejoice in hope, have patience in tribulation, and pray continually . (v 12)
Jesus set the bar high on this one. He relied on the Father’s plan, trusting that as His purpose was carried out in human form, Almighty God would raise Him back up to immortality. Christ rejoiced in knowing mankind would have fresh hope to be reconciled to God because of the cross. He stayed in close communion with his dad, often retreating to pray. Because He talked to God so much, He had the ability to display remarkable patience in the face of persecution and accusations. He willingly suffered. He possessed true joy. He did it all for me. For you. For all of creation. And because He lives in me, I claim these characteristics in the midst of my circumstances. Whatever darkness I’m confronted with, if I respond with joy, patience, and prayerful meditation, people around me will take note. They’ll see something different – they’ll see Jesus.
5. Help those in need and be hospitable. (v 13)
I’m extremely blessed to live in relative opulence. I have a roof over my head, some cash in the bank, a cozy bed to sleep in, a pantry full of food, and a little family to dote on. I haven’t been given these amenities because I deserve them or so that I can kick back and luxuriate my way through life. I know that “to whom much is given much is required.” I’m in a wonderful position to take my money, time, talents, and material wealth and pass them along to those who are lacking. I gravely sin when I hoard these blessings and refuse to open my house, wallet, food, and heart to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the orphan. Jesus walked the path of charity. He’s calling you and me to join Him – so I’m slipping on my shoes and rushing to catch up!
6. Bless your enemies. (v 14)
“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” If ever there was an acceptable time to curse an enemy, I’d say the moment that they’re nailing your wrists and feet to a cross, piercing you with a sword, and mocking you as you die ranks pretty high on the list . I don’t get mad about a lot, but if you disrespect my Lord, I’m ready to throw down. I get angry when I read about the suffering Jesus endured at His crucifixion. Then He goes and speaks a blessing over the ones who are murdering Him, and I’m chagrined, much like Peter after he cut off the centurion’s ear in defense of Jesus. My only real enemy is Satan. My existence is reduced to petulant dramatics when I spend it dwelling on revenge. I want to live the way Jesus died – offering forgiveness even as I’m being wronged. Blessing those who may never feel anything but contempt for me and what I stand for.
7. Share in the joys and sorrows of those around you. (v 15)
Jesus wept when he heard the news of a friend’s death. He celebrated weddings and feasts with family. He had compassion. He delighted in local children. He immersed Himself in the joys and sorrows of those He loved. He’s equally invested in me. One way I want to follow Him is to entangle my life with the lives of my companions, however messy it might get. I can show up. I can laugh, cry, hug, and listen. I can encourage and even talk some sense into them when need be. I can share my junk because they’ve shared theirs too. I can link arms with these kindred spirits I’ve claimed as my own and forge through the muck towards Jesus.
8. Esteem others higher than yourself in the name of peace. (v 16-18)
But for Christ, we would all look the same to God: black hearted and full of evil darkness. It’s the second I forget about the state I was in when He rescued me that I start to walk a precarious tightrope of self-righteousness. I begin to confuse His presence, the only good thing within me, with my own disposition. I put my opinions, viewpoints, and experiences on this pedestal of self-worship. I become judge, jury, and executioner of anyone who dares to cross me. And it’s like I’ve dressed myself in the finest royal garments shipped straight from the King – oblivious to the fact that I’m actually wearing filthy, soiled rags of my own making. I’m not fooling anyone except myself. I wreak havoc on those in my wake, bruising souls and crushing spirits in the name of truth and justice. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He traded a throne for a cross. His righteousness is all I can boast in. His peace is worth calling a truce for.
9. Leave your battles in God’s hands. (v 19-20)
I cringe when I think of times in my life when I’ve let anger get the best of me and then lashed out impulsively. My heart breaks when I think about how many non-believers are turned away from saving faith by witnessing Christians duke it out amongst ourselves. When I feel justified, filled with righteous indignation, or entitled to my anger, I’m more apt to storm the battlefield without a working weapon or an exit strategy. You don’t have to be in the military to know that’s a recipe for failure. Jesus was accused of things He was innocent of. He was interrogated, beaten, and killed by spiteful, smugly moralistic men. Not once did He defend Himself or argue. Christ knew and relied on a truth that’s sometimes hard for me to accept: God is fighting my battle on my behalf. He is a formidable, undefeated opponent. If He is for me, who can be against me?
10. Overcome evil with good. (v 21)
In today’s society, evil seems to be gaining ground. At times it feels like darkness is choking out the light. I have to remind myself of one thing when I start to feel discouraged: Christ has overcome ALREADY. If I belong to Him, I’m on the winning side. Why should I live a defeated life when I share a being with His triumphant Spirit? On my own strength I can overcome little. Evil engulfs me if I try to fly solo. But I’m not alone. I’m sheltered under the umbrella of His protection. I am more than a conquerer! I have the ability through Jesus Christ to overcome the evil around me with good. I have love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control on my side. I defeat wickedness by DAILY stepping in Jesus’ footprints, letting Him guide me to loving others. It’s an arduous journey – He never said it would be easy – but it’s a trip with a greatly-desired destination…my home in Heaven.
I’m praying you’ll join me in this layover-life as I attempt to humbly honor the Father, genuinely love others, and offer everything I am to the One who makes my brokenness beautiful.
Some things in life bear repeating. For over a month, I have been under the downspout of grace. So, this week I’m sharing what God has shown me. I’m not done with grace, and hope you can handle another dose!
“Justice is getting the bad we deserve.
Mercy is NOT getting the bad we deserve.
Grace is getting the good we don’t deserve.”
~Dr. Helen Fagan
I’ve been learning about grace. Grace is offered to everybody. You may know about it your entire life, or perhaps you don’t. Maybe you live a heavy life of imperfection—knowing you don’t measure up. Then, one day, you hear about grace and you are set free!
Matthew 20 begins with a parable about the kingdom of God. I’d always thought it was speaking about salvation, but am glad to know it is talking about GRACE!
In this parable, a vineyard owner hires workers for a denarius (a day’s wages). As the day wears on, he hires more workers at three or four different times. “In the eleventh hour, he went out and found still others standing around…’You also go and work in my vineyard.’ ”
When it comes to the end of the day, he pays all the workers the same wage, regardless of when they began to work in the day. The all-day workers are upset that the eleventh-hour workers also received a denarius, and that there was no extra pay for themselves.
“He answered one of them, Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first and the first will be last.”
This doesn’t seem fair, but the truth is? Salvation is not fair. We sinned. Jesus never sinned. He died to pay for our sins. That’s the epitome of “not fair”. And? He did it because He loves us. He knew we could never be sinless, so He spent His own life-blood to pay our ransom.
An excellent example of eleventh-hour grace is given in Luke, chapter 23. Jesus is on the cross, between two criminals. One is taunting and mocking him, but the other defends Jesus. “But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:40-43)
Grace is given to all people, regardless of our stories. Maybe you’ve been a vineyard worker your entire life. You’re serving God with passion and purpose. Maybe you came to him in your childhood. Or maybe in your teens, twenties, fifties, eighties—the amount of grace offered is the same. We can’t earn grace. Our good deeds don’t outweigh our bad ones. Jesus is the one who gives us all that righteousness that we long for.
When you accept grace, it frees you to extend grace to others. We forgive others because all our sins are forgiven. I encourage you to start living in grace. Strive to do your best, but allow a do-over, a fresh start, for the days that are less than your best.
And remember, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
You will find that the more you live in forgiveness, the more peace you find within. You look behind the offense to the hurt that caused a lashing-out. You begin to look on others with love and compassion, and you transform into a vessel full of grace. It begins with one small act of forgiveness and grace at a time, but it becomes a habit and then a lifestyle.
We’re walking this road together, you and I. And don’t forget that grace is extended to you, so forgive yourself as well.
I’ll leave you with a song about Grace. It’s called “Broken Vessels” by Hillsong. It speaks so beautifully about how Jesus sees us. (If you read my posts through our email subscription, you don’t see the video links. The videos are embedded on the web page)
So, here’s the youtube link.
How about you? Are you longing for grace but unsure how to start? Leave a prayer request in the comments. We’d love to pray for you!
I remember the feeling all too well. That gnawing, churning pit of trepidation began in my gut and worked its way to my chest. I remember feeling hazy and weightless, as if my spirit was trying to escape what my body was exposing it to. I was on the edge of a sharp precipice, and my next decision would determine my fate. The boy? Well, I don’t remember too much about him in that moment. I do remember the unspoken challenge in his eyes. The “I dare you” message he was sending me. To this day, I can’t explain what made me push away except that maybe in the midst of the silent roaring between my ears I picked up on a whisper – a still, quiet voice that said, “This is not who you are. You are not his. You are Mine.” And it was enough. I didn’t free-fall into darkness that day; instead, I backed away to safety. He stopped calling. I swore off guys. Ironically, a month later I met the man I would one day marry.
Sounds like an after-school special, doesn’t it? Girl faces temptation but makes the honorable choice. Girl is rewarded with a husband. Yeah…except there was slightly more to it than that. My story cannot begin to be summed up in this one event, but that night almost fifteen years ago was a defining moment in my young life. At nineteen years old, I did make a choice. I said no. Part of me wanted to say yes, but mostly so I wouldn’t disappoint a boy who clearly wasn’t giving me the same consideration. And while I still managed to blow it big time in many ways over the following months, that decision unveiled an inner strength that could only have come from God. So why even mention that night? Because of the redemptive power of Jesus – you see, this story, my story, is really all about Him…
My favorite book of the Bible is Romans, and Chapter 12 holds a special place in my heart. Each of its’ twenty-one verses have helped shape me as a woman and continually challenge me to look at others through the eyes of Jesus. The first verse specifically speaks to Christians who struggle with temptation:
This verse…wow. It’s not one of the more popular, make-you-feel-good verses we love to quote on Facebook and Pinterest. This verse is a command to every saved man, woman, boy, and girl. It’s a verse that unapologetically declares we are to treat our bodies as if they are not really ours to lay claim to. It’s hard to hear and even harder to adhere to.
So what do you do with this verse if you feel a sharp sting of shame when you read it? What if, like me and thousands of other women around the world, you’re guilty of offering bits and pieces of your body up on that relentless altar of lust? Maybe you’re dealing with consequences of your past choices: disease, ruined relationships, emotional turmoil, or separation from God. As you read these words, you may even be thinking to yourself that your life is over. It’s hopeless. You’ve made so many wrong turns that the way back to Jesus seems impossible to find.
This is quite an uplifting letter, am I right? (insert sarcastic emoji) Hang with me, if you will, because Good News is on the way! The One who created you knows all about your sin, and His opinion of you might just sweep you off your feet. Shake off the Enemy’s lies that you are worthless, alone, or beyond the reaches of Christ’s love. My darling daughter, take a moment to consider Scripture. Remember who you belong to. Start fresh today.
Remember Who You Belong To
This beautiful truth from Isaiah says it all. You are His. He knows you, and He calls you by your name. He has redeemed you. That word – redeem – is one of my favorites. If you are a child of God, you have been redeemed. It’s eternal. Nothing you do could ever separate you from His love (Romans 8:35-39). That fact alone should make your soul leap!
He hasn’t condemned you, even if you struggle to forgive yourself. Romans 8:1 says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” If you are a daughter of the Risen King, He will never cast you aside. What’s more, His abounding grace is strong enough to break the chains of sin that paralyze you.
Read Psalm 139:1-6 and 17-18. Trust me on this. Even if you’re familiar with the passage, read it again. When my spirit needs to be refreshed, when I’m longing for a love that surpasses human capacity, or when I’m doubting my qualifications as a representative of Christ, I find the most comfort out of these verses. I marvel at a Savior who reaches out to cradle me even as I’ve wronged Him.
Take a moment to absorb the magnitude of His all-consuming love for you. You don’t deserve it. Neither do I. But it’s ours for the taking if we’ll only receive it!!
Start Fresh Today
By now, I imagine you’re feeling at least a glimmer of hope that your messy and marred life-offering can be salvaged. With a renewed confidence in His love for you, you can boldly make your next move. If you really desire to present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, you’ve got to do some turning.
There’s a well-known story found in John 8 that describes Jesus’ reaction to the woman caught in the act of adultery. Her accusers were eager to carry out a death sentence. She must have felt panic and terror, but not a lot of hope for rescue. As Jesus silently wrote in the dirt, her denouncers began to leave, one by one. I wonder what went through her mind as she faced the Son of God. He could have justifiably handed down a myriad of punishments. Instead, He tells her she is not condemned. He says, “Go, and sin no more.”
Can’t you just picture the shock and relief that must have registered on the woman’s face as she felt the weight of her sin replaced with the freedom of forgiveness? What an amazing testament to the character of Jesus! Notice, though, His parting words: “sin no more.” He didn’t say, “Eh, it’s not that big of a deal to commit adultery.” He didn’t give her a free pass to keep on living her life the way she had been. He gave her a second chance to turn things around. An opportunity to change her ways. He expected that out of her and He also expects the same from us.
So how do we go about this turning away from sin business? It can be a daunting process, but it’s infinitely worth it! It might even look different in your life than it has in mine. In my experience, I have found five things that work:
1. Pray often. Daily. Come clean before your Heavenly Father. Praise Him. Ask for His forgiveness. Pour out your heart. Bare your soul. He knows it all anyway, but there’s something about having an honest conversation with God that brings healing and clarity. (1 Thess. 5:17)
2. Read the Word. Allow inspired truth to break down your defenses. Pursue Jesus. Let Him speak to you. Believe what He says. Hide His words in your heart. (Psalm 119:11)
3. Seek Counseling. Confide in a family member or trusted friend. Talk to a pastor. Find a professional if necessary. Turning requires healing.
4. Find Supportive Friends. Distance yourself from negative influences. Get to know someone new. Be brave. Don’t walk through this alone. Be accountable to someone you trust.
5. Serve Someone. Stop thinking about yourself all the time. Get your hands dirty. Be God’s hands and feet. Meet a need. Sacrifice your time. Do it with love.
None of us can change our past. We all face temptations daily on every level. We are weak. But God understands our limitations. He knows you and He meets you where you are. He will walk with you and give you strength that’s made perfect in your weakness. If you’re reading this and you don’t know what it is to succumb to sexual temptation, I say to you: keep doing your thing, girlfriend! God’s will for all of His children is that each of us choose a path of purity. It’s no small thing to accomplish, but with the Father’s help you can persevere. And daughter, I pray that as you walk your path you will not allow your past to define who you are. Give your future to the Redeemer, and turn towards Him with every fiber of your being. He IS faithful. He’s cheering you on, and so am I!
I’m writing this letter about twenty years early (or forty if your father has his way), but one day you will read these words and they will connect. They will mean something to you. What I need to tell you can be summed up in one word: WAIT.
Let me explain…
Yesterday I was resting in my favorite chair. It was about 5:00 pm, and I had been feeling under the weather all day. I sat and watched your daddy take stacks of folded clothes from the couch into our bedroom to put them away. Stacks that I folded two days ago and that I could have easily put away, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. He didn’t say anything; he just did it. He did it for me because he knew I needed help. And as I watched him, I had to fight back tears because I suddenly had this thought: “I hope Molly finds this some day.” And I think you will, if you can remember to wait. Wait on the guy who finishes your chores for you – who comes through in little ways to let you know he cares.
Wait on the man who looks you in your eyes and holds your gaze as he tells you you’re beautiful. Wait on the man who has a habit of telling you this when your hair is greasy, you’re makeup-free, and you’re wearing yesterday’s sweatpants. You’ll know he means it.
Wait on the man who gets up and goes to work. Wait for the guy who sacrifices in order to provide for his family. Wait for the guy who has a strong work ethic and takes pride in what he does. Wait for that man who dreams big and invites you to dream with him.
And when your dreams seem too big, too scary to ever come true, I hope you wait for the one who listens to your insecurities but then speaks truth into your heart and breathes confidence into your spirit. This man will bring you to tears by reading Proverbs 31 to you, telling you YOU’RE that woman, and believing it with every fiber of his being.
Wait for the man who thinks for himself – the man who stands apart from the masses unapologetically because he is rooted and grounded in God. Wait for the man who doesn’t need anyone’s approval. The man who teaches you how to be brave and courageous. The man who will fight for you and for what he believes in. Wait for this man.
Wait for the man who looks at the stars with you and ponders the mysteries of the heavens. Wait for the one who writes you poems…not all the time, but just enough to remind you how deeply his love for you goes. Wait for the man who buys you jewelry and flowers, but no stuffed animals (because that’s just cheesy)!
Wait for the man who makes you feel strong, capable, and worthy. Wait for the man who would never disrespect you. The right one will honor you even when he’s out of your presence. You wait on this man, and your heart will never doubt him.
Wait on the man who allows God to break him down and mold him into the man he’s meant to be. Wait on the one who has a calling to serve his Heavenly Father. Wait on the man who isn’t perfect, but who keeps pressing on, getting back up, and learning from his mistakes.
And finally, wait on the man who smacks your booty when he walks by, who hugs you for a full 60 seconds when you need him to, and who gives you amazing massages, even though you’re quite possibly the world’s worst masseuse and will never be able to repay him!!
My darling daughter, one of these days you will be wondering if it’s love and if some boy is the right one. My prayer is that your daddy will set such a high standard in your eyes, that you will never be tempted to settle for anyone less than who you deserve. Don’t get in a hurry to find love. Don’t feel pressured to give yourself away. WAIT. Wait on the Lord, and He will send you a man who is everything to you that your father is to me. God will grow the love between you as the years pass. Your patience will be rewarded.
Here at BraveGirl Community, we try to bring you encouragement regularly. So, we’ve got a schedule that’s flexible, but gives us a small bit of structure. My posts are supposed to come every other week, and we call them “Thirsty Thursdays with Tammy”.
A little alliteration there, but this week really does have to do with thirst.
Many of us are trying to “do it all”. We’re balancing our work lives with our personal lives and in the midst of all that we’re doing, we’re drained. There is a general sense of exhaustion that cannot be pinpointed, but it’s there in the background—if I stop long enough to notice it. Frequently I choose to then busy myself to drown it out.
If you study dehydration, the body mistakes the need for water with a hunger sensation—therefore not drinking enough water leads to weight gain. How many of us are spiritually dehydrated? We consume our social media, our music, our activities, anything we can find to try and fill that nagging, gnawing void.
Like a sponge, we don’t work as well when we’re dried out. And? A clean sponge, moistened with soapy water, will clean up a mess without absorbing too much of it. A dry sponge, on the other hand, will absorb every bit of that mess and it will be difficult to separate the mess from the sponge. It soaks up the dirt, the spill, and it becomes part of the sponge.
In Isaiah 55:1-3, God calls to us. “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I have been so thirsty lately.I recognize a restlessness, a discontent, and it seems to be linked to the amount of time I’m spending on the computer or on my phone. I have a craving inside for something, but what? What is it that I’m really wanting?
(in verse 6-7, we get the answer) Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
And if we seek Him? Here is His promise—here is the power of His word: (starting in verse 10) “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.“
If you are feeling empty, restless, needy, discontent, unsatisfied, perhaps you too are needing the “word that goes out from my mouth”. I long to go out in joy and be led forth in peace! Oh how wonderful that sounds!
I’m subscribed to a few pages on my Facebook feed that consistently share Bible verses and I cannot count the times that it has helped me.
Below is a list of phone apps or Facebook pages or emails that have “fed” me and brought me strength. BibleGateway has a daily verse on their homepage. GoTandem is a free app for your phone that will give you up to four verses a day and they tailor it to your needs based on a short survey you fill out. They also take prayer requests. Proverbs31 Ministries has a daily devotional sent to your email (Monday-Friday). Christine Caine has a daily email. Unveiled Wife has a daily prayer for wives that can be sent to your email. YouVersion is a great app for Bible Verses.
There are many others out there, so please add your favorites under this post in the comments. My best encouragement to you is to find a short scripture that fills you up and write it out, hang it up where you’ll see it, and commit it to memory. (write it on your heart)
Here’s one that I found easy to remember. “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” ~Psalm 90:14
Also be watchful of the entertainment you seek out. You will absorb whatever you see, hear, meditate on. If you aren’t feeling filled, maybe there is a worship song that will focus you and feed you.
Mine lately is “Oceans” by Hillsong.
Again, we always love to hear from you. Visit us on our facebook page, send us a tweet, or email us! Leave a comment with a scripture that’s been feeding you. It’s guaranteed not to return void!