Sometimes I’m a Bad Driver

Sometimes I’m a Bad Driver

Wow. This wasn’t the post I wanted to write. I wanted to encourage and inspire and share something that would bless other women from my own comfort zone.

Instead, I’m going to tell you something real and exercise the bravery that we try to encourage here at BraveGirl.

I grew up in a Christian home. I was involved in Christian groups at my public college. I even worked at a Christian bookstore (and am currently employed as a schoolteacher at a Christian school).
Honestly, I have really embraced Jesus as my Savior on my own since the year 2000, as a college freshman.

But when it comes to my vehicle, I’m incognito…I don’t claim my Christianity.
I don’t have a window sticker of any of the ministries I support displayed on the back. No artistic rendition of the one cross, or the three crosses. No fish emblem. No Bible verses.
I only have stickers from my local chain coffee shop that I’m very supportive of (they give out really great window stickers btw!)
I have a generic white minivan. The lack of window stickers have helped me avoid awkward moments in the parking lot more than once.

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Why am I telling you this? Because there’s a reason I don’t have any Christian representation on my car.
I’m afraid.
I know that once in a while, I have been going too fast to stop and it’s questionable if I was all the way through when the light was green or yellow.
I know that sometimes I have changed lanes and cut somebody off.
I am afraid that if I drive poorly, and I am supposed to be representing Jesus, then I will turn people away from Him.

So instead? I hide my faith behind my tinted windows and sunglasses.
There are two solutions to this problem. The first? Become perfect.

Perfect. Driving. Every. Time.

And though I may have good reason to reconsider some of my habits, I don’t think that this is the real answer.

How many of us are waiting to share our faith until we’re perfect examples of Jesus?

Thinking that way means I won’t be sharing Jesus with anyone. EVER. The truth is…our imperfections highlight the NEED for a Savior. Hiding my imperfections says ‘once I needed Him and now I don’t.’ When we claim Him, in spite of our failings, others realize they can also come to Him now. They don’t have to wait until they stop making mistakes.

Plus, it denies them the opportunity to see how Jesus changes us. By letting others see us as the imperfect humans that we are, they will also get to witness Him As He changes us. THAT’S how people see Him most.

So, if I cut you off accidentally or don’t keep my speed in check approaching a traffic light, I apologize in advance. Just know I’m a work in progress. All of us are.

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TammyIf you want more mini van stories…check out clean on the outside and acci”dents” . It seems this van is one of God’s tools for helping me grow.

 

 

The Sin Good Girls Won’t Name

The Sin Good Girls Won’t Name

I showed up to a get-together with a covered dish and some juicy news to share. It was an opportunity to shock my friends and therefore receive some odd sense of satisfaction, attention, and praise for revealing such scandalous information. Before I could get it out, one of the ladies asked,

“Who has some good gossip?”

Now I was the one who was shocked! We can’t “gossip”. That’s so sinful! How dare she just come out and say that!

Oh, wait…

At least my friend wasn’t in denial about it. She called it what it was. She named it and it made me think twice about what I was about to reveal. Good southern Christian girls like me don’t like to name our sin because acknowledgement brings that uninvited guest named Conviction to spoil our party.

Gossip seeps its’ way into my perfectly innocent conversations, even ones that start out to be godly and life-giving. It is anything but harmless and we have to stop.

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein

on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”

-James 1:26

I didn’t recognize gossip as a problem in my life until my own filthy laundry became the hot topic. When people have been whispering about you, it is beyond hurtful and embarrassing. It permanently damages friendships and deteriorates trust. It’s anything but harmless.

God, help me not to harm others with my desire for entertaining conversation.

Being highly experienced in this area, I’ve narrowed gossip down to four types so it will be easier to recognize the next time it sneaks into your conversation.

1. Secret Telling Gossip
“Promise you won’t tell.”
Even if you are dying to spill someone else’s secret and you know you can trust your best friend, it’s still gossip. If it’s not YOUR business, keep it to yourself.

“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,

therefore do not associate with a gossip.” -Proverbs 20:19

2. Prodding Gossip
“How’s Sarah? I heard she’s going through a tough time…”
If you are on the receiving end of a gossipy loaded question, you are not required to answer! People will respect that you politely refuse to give up information and you will prove yourself to be trustworthy.

“For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer,

contention quiets down.” -Proverbs 26:20

3. Angry Gossip
“Her marriage is falling apart, so she’s taking it out on me!”
Someone hurts you so you tell others all of the unattractive things you know about her life. Don’t let your short term emotions cause long term effects. You will regret it later.

“Argue your case with your neighbor,

And do not reveal the secret of another.” -Proverbs 25:9

4. Concerned Friend Gossip
“You need to pray for our friend because you won’t believe what happened…”
Of course we need to pray for and support each other. Just always make sure to keep your motives and your sincerity in check when you reveal anything personal about someone else’s life.

As you go back to your workplace, play dates, and PTA meetings, keep in mind what God’s Word says about gossip. Learn to recognize it, call it by name, and put a stop to it. Don’t let this “innocent” sin creep its’ way into what could otherwise be sacred spaces of trust, encouragement and friendship.

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;

Keep watch over the door of my lips.” –Psalm 141:3

BraveGirl Robyn

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Joy Comes In The Mourning

Joy Comes In The Mourning

It was a Friday afternoon in February of 2000 when my life suddenly changed forever. 

I’ll never forget the phone call that came after business hours. I was in my office with coworkers and picked up after the first ring. The voice at the other end of the line was my children’s father, my ex-husband.

His voice was filled with concern as he said, “Sharon, you need to sit down.” Of course I didn’t as I recall…and then he said bluntly as if he had to say it before he couldn’t, “Chris is dead.”

I remember being stunned and confused about the words before they sank in, wondering why he would say such a horrible thing. I even remember asking, “Are you sure?” which I know was my mind begging for one more moment of not knowing. My knees weakened as he finished telling me what he knew about what had happened.

He had been out of town on business and upon returning, found our oldest son alone and gone from this world. Mercifully, gratefully, he had gone home to be with Jesus and that ray of Hope would be the shred of life that would survive while my heart and mind pulled on a shroud of deep black darkness.

The next few days I lived the nightmare of my greatest fear since becoming a mother, losing one of my boys. My heart was filled with infinitely more pain than my fear of it ever had. I isolated myself most of the time as family and friends came to the house offering condolences but I wanted to be alone…in my darkness. Even though I took comfort in knowing Chris was a believer and I would be reunited with him in heaven, my mother’s heart was aching and struggling with accepting he was gone from this earth.

Since Chris was an otherwise healthy 24 year old, his father insisted on an autopsy. The following
Monday was a holiday, so in short the funeral was postponed until almost a week later. I’m not sure how, but it was arranged and attended by more than 800 people I was told.

I can recall only bleak snapshots of that miserable week of waiting…my dad sitting in my living room in the navy tapestry wingback staring blankly overcome by grief, food piled up on every countertop and bulging from the refrigerator, and our house busy with well meaning guests. Then I woke up in the emergency room after blacking out for an extended period of time. I remember hoping to see Chris one more time and for some strange reason thought he was at the hospital. In times of deep sorrow and shock, your mind takes strange pathways.

In the following month, there were many beautiful cards, (I still have every one of them), visits and frequent phone calls of consolation. I returned to work way too soon because I didn’t know what else to do. Sorrow and emptiness became my new painful normal.

Grief is exhausting…not only emotionally but physically as well.

I often tried to pray, but the prayers never seemed to make it above the ceiling. Even though Chris’s dad was very angry at God for the untimely death of our son, for some reason, I never was. But I couldn’t feel His Presence.

Weeks turned into months and months into two years. Cards and visits had long since stopped. Everyone had resumed their own lives. The cruel emotions of hurt and self pity were added to the suffering because I felt so alone in my sorrow.

Sadness. Loneliness. Fear. Dread. Pain. Despair. PURE DARKNESS…EMPTINESS.

And then one Sunday morning we were getting ready for church. I was weary and worn thin from the weight of my grief. I had prayed to die so many times, but this morning, I literally looked toward heaven and cried out loud in total desperation, “God, please replace this horrible darkness and grief with some kind of joy!”

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That morning, as I sat in the comfortable stadium seat of our church with hundreds of others, the message was entitled…
“Where Do You Turn When Life’s Not Working?”

I don’t know if there was a single other person in that congregation who needed to hear those words more than I did. I felt as if they had been eternally penned for me. I knew in the depths of my soul that it was God’s answer to my desperate plea earlier that morning, delivered by His obedient servant, a pastor I hardly even knew.

The message clearly charted the course of the healing power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As the words washed over me, I experienced a lifting in my soul. That day I actually felt for the first time the warmth of His Loving Arms enveloping me. I saw a beam of His Radiant Light shining from the far end of the heinous darkness in which I had hidden for the past two years. I saw Him…I felt Hope.

It’s not that I had never heard the things that were presented in that timely message. It’s that I had not chosen them as my foundational truths. I had spent a lifetime of self will ignoring the very thing that sustains us through times like this.

God loves us and is constantly pursuing His independent self willed creation.

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He already knows every detail of your struggle and is patiently waiting for you to turn to Him for help.

Even though I had experienced salvation at the age of eight, and had been in church most of my life, I confess I had not invested in my relationship with my Heavenly Father and had grown very little spiritually. My quiet times were never very quiet and those spent in His Word were hurried and rushed. There is no wonder why my faith was so shallow…

I trusted Him with my eternity through my salvation experience but thought I could handle the “living on planet earth” on my own!

Simply put, when faced with the most difficult challenge of my life, I had chosen darkness instead of His Healing Light!

During those two years, many times, I had begged God to let me die, to be free of the pain. But He had chosen not to answer those misplaced prayers.

He did not send His Son to die so that we would be left in darkness!

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The awakening that day was only the beginning of my healing. Over time, the hole in my heart was graciously being filled with His Truth and Promises as I spent time with Him, meditating on His Word. Leaning on Him for my strength and direction was infinitely the better choice…it was filled with hope and the blossoming of joy and new life.

One day as I was in His Word, He gently reminded me that He had also lost His Son and He knew exactly how I felt.IMG_4958 2
And there it was, the very essence of Truth that sponged up the last ounce of my self pity. How could I have ever felt alone? The Creator of the universe, my Heavenly Father, knew how I felt. He had never forsaken me. I had NEVER been alone.

The realization of His intimacy flooded over me! I finally knew in my heart that throughout every moment of the journey since that Friday afternoon phone call, He had been right by my side. I had missed the miracle of it because of my foolish self will.

I realized His desire for me to live was a blessing. He was not finished with my story. He wanted me to share it and His message of hope with the world!

Would I have ever wished my son would die? Of course not, no mother would. But I will tell you that had I not gone through the devastation of losing him, I may never have ever known the glorious riches of walking with my Lord and Savior!

Someone said, “He never wastes a hurt.”

So be encouraged no matter what you may face, THE God of the universe loves you. So much so that He sent His only Son to die for you. There is nothing too big or bad for His sacrificial Love to cover. You only have to trust and receive His beautiful Gift of Salvation.

Life is full of crossroads and choices…choose life! Let Him lead you into His Marvelous Light!

He is a good good Father and His Mercies are new every morning!

In the past fourteen years, I still grieve over Chris but I have also experienced more Joys than I could have ever imagined because I opened my heart up to Him. Please don’t miss it! He will give you joy in your mourning too. Let Him have that chance. Open your heart up to Him…and ask Him.

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Dear our precious Heavenly Father,

We thank you for your love, your faithfulness, and your son Jesus who died for us. We thank you for the person who is reading this post. I pray for the one who is struggling to open her heart up to you in her time of pain and grief. Please soften her heart to want to know you. Give her a hunger for your word. Give her your peace, your rest, and your comfort as she prays and cries out to you. Give her a humble and open heart that is ready to receive your joy and blessings and lean into you every day so that as you carry her, she finds her rest in you. Amen.

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Sharon

Vulnerable and Covered in Grace

Vulnerable and Covered in Grace

I have been a pastor’s wife for 19 years. I was a young 19 years old when I married, and my husband accepted his first pastorate. Looking back, I now realize I knew nothing. Seriously, nothing. I knew how to stand at the back of the church dutifully by my husband’s side and shake hands with sweet people who really didn’t know me. I did this for many, many years.

Throughout those early years in ministry I tried really hard to be a supportive, strong, encouraging leader in our churches. I really wanted people to like me. And in order for people to like me, I needed to dress the part, serve in every area effortlessly, and make sure they didn’t know any of my deep struggles. And God forbid they know any of my sin. It was exhausting and lonely and I was stuck.

This past Sunday, Angie TeachingI taught with my husband about marriage. We shared openly about our own struggles, and afterward, so many people thanked us for being vulnerable. I was actually surprised at the ease with which we shared some difficult stuff about our past. But this has not always been my story. God has been so faithful to draw me out, change my heart, and in the process prove His faithfulness in so many lives.

When we left Arkansas to move to southern California to be part of Saddleback Church, for the first time, I was not the lead pastor’s wife. In fact, I was one of many pastors’ wives. There was no pressure. No eyes upon me. I could slip in and out of church with no one even knowing I was a pastor’s wife. God used this time in my life to show me a better way.

He surrounded Brandon and I with a small group of people that showed us what authenticity looked like. They weren’t “doing” church. They had real problems with real hurts and relied on a real God for help. They also relied on each other. This was foreign to us, and life changing. We left Southern California to plant Grace Hills Church back in Arkansas, and we came back to “the natural state” different people.

We 0a9d9dcb9a0480aec9325d015258c4bfwere determined that we would share our lives with whomever God asked – not just the pretty part of our lives, but the hard stuff. Honestly, the first year of planting was one of the hardest years of our marriage. The enemy was seeking to steal, kill and destroy, and some days he seemed victorious.

It would have been easy to pretend that all was well, and most days it was really tempting. Being real is hard. It’s risky, and sometimes painful. There were days I begged God to let me go back to being the girl that nobody really knew. Many times, sitting with someone who was hurting in their own marriage, I felt the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit saying, “share your story.” Seriously, God? I. Don’t. Want. To. But I did. I shared my weakness. I shared my pain and my sin and then I shared the grace that covers me and the redemption of a Savior who brought life and hope to a hurting marriage.

The more I opened up, the easier it became. The veil of shame was lifted and Satan no longer had a grip on those dark places. They were pushed into the light, and there I stood… vulnerable, and covered in grace.

I will say this: I don’t share everything with everybody. I wait and I listen to the Holy Spirit. I have surrendered my life and my story to God to use as He wants to. So I walk in obedience. I desire to be real. I believe Jesus was real, and I desperately want to be more like Him.

Sharing my life – the good, the bad and the ugly – with hurting people has been one of my greatest joys, and I won’t ever go back. I have moments when I’m tempted to retreat, but I reflect on Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, “We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (HCSB).

My people – the ones I do life with, and the ones I’ve yet to meet – are dear to me. Precious in my heart. Nope. I won’t ever go back.

BraveGirl Angie

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What God Says About Your Water Slide

What God Says About Your Water Slide

It has lurked its’ way into my thoughts my entire life. I was terrified of storms as a little girl, afraid I wouldn’t be accepted as a teenager, and still spend way too much energy worrying about everything as an adult. In a world where a child can be snatched from his father’s hand on a family vacation and a horrifying shooting takes place almost daily, it’s so easy to be overtaken by fear.

A week ago, my husband and I meticulously bubble-wrapped every belonging in our house and packed it all on a truck that would meet us at our new home halfway across the country. I knew it was God’s will for our family to make this move, but once again, fear took over. How will we make new friends? What if our kids hate their schools? Can we afford this financially? Should we be doing this?

We stayed at a hotel with a water park on our way from our old home to the new one. My husband has been trying to convince our daughter to go down a water slide with him for years. He’s offered her every reward he could think of and tried every tactic to help her believe she will be safe with no luck. He knew how much fun she would have if she just gave it a try. He finally miraculously convinced her to climb the massive set of stairs all the way to the top. He slid down first so she knew survival was possible and then waited at the bottom for her, yelling up words of encouragement. She mustered up all of the courage she had, reluctantly sat down, and let the water carry her into the dark tube. When she got to the bottom, she was all smiles! She absolutely loved it! She dragged her daddy back up those stairs and down that slide over and over for the rest of the morning. When we were leaving I asked her if she realized what she had been missing all this time. She said,

“I learned that when you are afraid,

you miss out on really great things in life.”

Yes!
It took a hotel water slide and a 9-year-old little girl to open my eyes to the fear that was gripping me. Just like her earthly father went first down the water slide, our heavenly Father goes before us in everything we do.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

-Deuteronomy 31:8

He goes before us. He knows what’s in my family’s future and He placed it on our hearts to make this move anyway. I have nothing to fear. He has big things in store for us if we will just step away from what makes us comfortable and trust Him to bless our obedience.

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

Wherever I go. Even 600 miles away from the only place I’ve ever lived. He tells us right there, in black and white – do not be afraid.1010770_10201477105873578_2072287366_n While it’s true that God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7),

He also commands us not to be afraid.

Believe me, I know all too well how much easier it is to say it than to actually do it. While I have so many irrational fears that will most likely never happen, I have also had some of my biggest fears in life come true. Fears I thought I’d never survive if they actually manifested. But guess what? Not only did I survive, I truly believe God is real because of the way he carried me through those times in such a precious way.
In the midst of strife and sorrow, we can feel God more closely than we ever do when life is going our way. He didn’t promise us that nothing bad would ever happen, but He does promise that He will be there to help us through it.

In this world you will have trouble.

But take heart! I have overcome the world. -John 16:33

He is always with us, even when our fears become our reality, so we never have to be afraid.
All of that being said, because I know myself and my human nature, I know that fear will slink its’ way back into my thoughts again as my family and I continue to face so many unknowns. When it does, I am going to try my best to intentionally seek Him and His truth because I know He alone can rescue me from my fear.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;

he delivered me from all my fears. -Psalm 34:4

I don’t know what fear is controlling you today or what it is keeping you from doing, but I hope you will join me in trying to seek the Lord rather than spending more of our short time on this earth contemplating worst case scenarios. What do you feel God telling you to do? What doors have been opened that are calling you in a direction you aren’t particularly comfortable going?

What’s YOUR water slide?

My daughter realized that day how much fun she had been missing out on for so many years because she was afraid. I don’t want to miss anything that God has for me. Let’s choose obedience over uncertainty. Trust over fear. Let’s climb those stairs, sit down at the very tip top of that water slide, and enjoy the ride because the ride is where we get to experience Him the most.

BraveGirl Robyn

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When God Doesn’t Show Up

When God Doesn’t Show Up

Today is June 5, 2016. I remembered the significance of today while sitting in church this morning. I realized that today is going to be just another day. A day where I’ll attend church with my family. A day where my husband will rush off to work after lunch. My daughter will nap. Our small group will meet. Nothing earth-shattering will happen today. Today will not go down in history like I thought it would one year ago…

It was June 5, 2015. I was enjoying a women’s ministry event in my community. At the end of the night there was a time of prayer. My sister wasn’t there because she was attending a friend’s wedding. But she was on my mind that night. As I prayed, I found myself pouring my heart out to God and asking Him that by June 5, 2016, something would be different in Martha’s life. That she would have a baby or be pregnant within the year.

My little sister is BraveGirl Martha. She’s a gifted writer with a hilarious and gentle soul. In my opinion, she’s one of God’s best creations. You may have read her recent BraveGirl post HERE where she talks about her struggle with infertility. For years I’ve watched her as month after month the waves of disappointment crash around her. Sometimes she stands strong against that fierce tide, but other times she gets taken under by the current. I’ve never once heard bitterness in her voice. I’ve seen nothing in her but a quiet dignity, a strengthened faith, and the spiritual growth that only occurs when you’re in the middle of a storm. She’s right in the thick of it, and she’s a beautiful testament to how God can and will work on His children when they cling to Him.

I admire the way she deals with the pain of waiting because I walked the road of infertility myself – very impatiently and with WAY less fortitude than Martha has shown over the years. One of these days I’ll write about my own infertility struggles, but today it’s not about me.

Today is June 5th. The day that God was supposed to show up, make His miraculous power known, and be praised for answering my selfless prayer. Because that’s the way He works, right?

We pray. We ask. We pass the time. Then God moves, swooping in, handing out answers to prayer the way Oprah gives away cars. And He’s also supposed to adhere to the deadlines we impose on Him…right? Am I the only one who secretly treats God as if He’s a genie in a lamp, just waiting to grant me my every wish?

It’s days like today that leave me questioning. Doubting. Wondering why, and why not? My faith feels a little shaky when I’m confronted with the idea that God didn’t come through. He failed to show up. I mean, He could have easily answered my prayer and today would have been a day of rejoicing and bragging on my Savior’s sovereign power and love. I tell myself, I would have given Him all the credit.

“God, you really missed an opportunity to be glorified,” is what my sulking heart wants to say to the One who loves me, my sister, and you beyond measure. Days like today make me feel like a toddler on the verge of a very loud and public meltdown.

Ever felt that way? Ever wanted to shake your fist at God over some unanswered prayer? Maybe you’ve already walked away because He never showed up for you when you thought He should.

Maybe today you get how I’m feeling. As I sit here writing, in the midst of my questions and hurt feelings, I know it’s decision time. It’s time for me to make a choice that perhaps you need to make as well. I’m choosing to remember my place. To remember who my God IS and who He ISN’T.

I’m choosing trust instead of a tantrum. I’m choosing what I know to be true over what I feel in this moment of doubt.

God IS NOT a magical genie. My Heavenly Father doesn’t exist to please me or you. He doesn’t sit around waiting on one of us to tell him what we want and when we want it so that He can bend His will to match ours. He doesn’t have to prove Himself because He already has.

Christ IS faithful. I’m choosing to stand on that truth today. And He isn’t faithful because of some prayer He has answered or will answer – He is faithful because HE IS FAITHFUL. It’s inherent to who He is. Even though it might seem like He didn’t show up today, He did.

He put breath in my lungs.

He surrounded me with people who care about me.

He gave me His living, breathing Word.

He chased hard after me today to remind me of the things He has promised me, Martha, and you! Promises He keeps. Promises like the one found in Proverbs 3:5-7:

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So that’s what I choose to do today. If you’re mad at God, disappointed in prayers that have gone unanswered, or just doubting His existence altogether, try something with me.

Let’s send up a new and different prayer to the heavens. Let’s admit that we are small but arrogant in our view of God. Let’s honestly bring our doubts, fears, and desires to the foot of the Cross. Let’s stop treating the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as if He’s nothing more than a well-stocked but faulty vending machine for our lives. I’m in…are you?

And on the days I forget to remember just who my God is, I’m going to follow the example of Martha and others like her, who are waiting faithfully, acknowledging their Savior at every turn, and allowing Him to direct their paths in His own perfect timing.

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Seven Years Ago Today

Seven Years Ago Today

Flashback Friday thanks to #timehop. I’m in the middle of working on book projects, laundry and wondering how to squeeze in at least five episodes of Gilmore Girls in before car rider line beckons…and then I get sucked into a vortex of reflection, memory lane and all the feels. All. The. Feels.

On this day seven years ago, my Facebook feed was filled with friends eagerly awaiting the gender reveal of our sweet baby.

This day. This infamous day.

Not but a few weeks ago Jaxon had some surgery done on his nose. This surgery felt routine compared to the other handful of times we’d been there for surgery. This is his first surgery in several years. He’s a giant now. He gets it now- we can talk through what is happening and what he can expect. He can bargain his way into a treat from the gift shop…every time we are at Children’s. He didn’t wail for me when I handed him off. And this time, I walked out of the surgery door and met my Dad who hugged me. We gathered our things and headed to the cafeteria to grab some lunch while Jax was in surgery.
On the way my Dad looked at me as I sighed largely as we walked.

“How ya doin, girl?” He asked.

I nodded, sort of taking assesment of myself, “I’m good.”

“You’re dandy? Not a care in the world.” He probed a little, jokingly.

A brief tear threatened to push upward, stinging but I held it in check, “Well, He’s in good hands. I’m ok.”

And I smiled to myself as we walked into the cafeteria. I’m not the same person that I was when we started this journey.

Seven years ago we waited through an extra long ultrasound and waited an extra ordinarily long time to meet with our doctor. We had panic souring in our stomachs, confusion making us feel dizzy and dread pushing any ounce of faith we thought we had out of our feet.

Birth Defect?

Cleft?

Craniofacial?

Cosmetic?

Surgery?

What did these words mean that were coming out of the doctor’s mouth? They weren’t pretty, positive words like breastfeeding, birthing plan, epidural, bassinet, normal, healthy, routine, baby shower, getting your body back. He was saying all the wrong things. We drove home blank. We were supposed to leave HOURS ago. We were supposed to post that he was a he…and we’d break the internet with rejoicing. Baby X was Jax!

But instead…

We wrestled with how to tell our parents, our friends and when to tell them. We struggled with why. We knew he had a big healthy heart, he had all his arms and legs and no extras. He had all the things he should except for a palate and a complete lip. He was alive. He didn’t have cancer. He didn’t have a terminal disease.

But that doesn’t mean that my expectations of pregnancy, birth and parenting didn’t feel wiped away like the jelly that had been wiped off me belly at the end of the ultrasound.

But that’s the thing with my expectations. They are all kinds of wrong. Sometimes they are much too high when it comes to humans. But when it comes to what God has planned, my expectations are so far below low that they aren’t even on the chart. I had dreams, plans, ideas, goals about what I wanted. What I wanted to have, what I wanted to have happen, what I wanted to do or even what I wanted my kids to have. But God’s dreams, plans, ideas and goals have much more to do with what/who he wants me to be. Sometimes it seems like he is saying all the wrong things. Sometimes it feels like he’s doing all the wrong things. Especially if he loves us, right? But just because it feels wrong or we hear it wrong…doesn’t mean its not the exact right thing that we need to become who he wants us to be.

Seven years ago I was not ok. I was shattered in pieces. My heart was broken. I died a little. I felt defective as a person, as a woman and as a mother. I screamed, “Its not fair!” at God, in my heart, like a child. I was clueless, hopeless and most of all an emotional, devastated pregnant woman.

But over the next seven years I have, in stages, begun to learn (I’m not done yet) that20151031-_MG_9689 belief can solidify in the midst of unbearable pain, strength is truly imparted in the midst of desperate weakness, dreams have to be dashed in order to be replaced with brilliance, and the character of God is experienced in the midst of the darkest hours.

I wrote a post on Facebook the day he had surgery about the hand-off and I’ve written about it several times before but its a small example of the change God has begun to enact in me. I am so glad that I’m not that girl anymore. I wish I had been more grateful for my body back then, but other than that- good ridance. I’m so glad God wouldn’t let me stay that way. And I know that I won’t be the same seven years from now. I have no idea what else the future holds. What else the Lord will ask us to walk through. But I don’t know that it matters anymore, because we’re in good hands. And we’re ok.

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Megan Meredith

20151031-_MG_9832Check out more posts from Megan at: meganmeredith.org.

 

What Happens When You’re Shaken?

What Happens When You’re Shaken?

Author’s Note: Last year, my oldest son, Kyle, relapsed with leukemia, making me a two-time Cancer Mom. I’m sharing our journey not to ask for your pity, but for others who trudge this same road feeling isolated and alone. And for friends and family who watch the suffering and want to help, but don’t know where to begin.

I swallowed a sip of burnt coffee and glanced across the blue vinyl booth at my oldest son. His brown hair was messy, like when he’d stepped out of the shower this morning, he’d forgotten to tame it.

Since he’d moved to college, our occasional breakfast date usually made me smile. But I wasn’t smiling this morning. I was trying to shove the words from Building 429’s song, “We Will Not Be Shaken,” out of my head. Because after we finished our bacon and eggs, we had another date—with an ultrasound tech at the clinic across the street.

A few weeks earlier, Kyle had discovered a testicular mass. A mass that might be normal—if he were any other nineteen-year-old who hadn’t shared a sordid history with cancer.

“Whatever this is,” Kyle picked up his fork, “it can’t be as bad as leukemia.”

“You’re right.” I set down my mug, hoping he’d miss the way my fingers trembled.

God had this, didn’t He? He loved Kyle. He wanted good things for him. He knew the devastating battles we had already fought and won. He’d seen the permanent scars, physical and mental, that leukemia had left on Kyle.

Kyle first met cancer when he was ten. Their relationship lasted four long years. But he’d been clean for the last six, a year beyond the cancer survivor’s five-year magic milestone.

“It’s gonna be okay.” He dropped his fork onto the plate without taking a bite. “Not like last time.”

“I know.”

The waitress topped off my coffee and I touched my son’s hand. We will not be shaken. The words to that song wouldn’t quit playing in my head.

He looked up, his expression oddly calm. IMG_8848“Everything we went through? I wouldn’t ask for it again, but I wouldn’t take away what came out of it either. I wouldn’t be in nursing school. My faith would be different. Does that make sense?”

“Yes.” It did make sense. I’d changed too. Become more focused. More empathetic. More real. My marriage was stronger and I was grateful for my relationship with Kyle. We shared a bond most people would never understand.

We will not be shaken. Yet, there were those words again, like foreboding music in a movie that isn’t going to end well.

That morning, we finished breakfast and headed to the clinic. Kyle’s ultrasound showed the mass to be suspicious and led to a comprehensive CT scan to check for other tumors. The CT showed no additional tumors and surgery was scheduled. They would biopsy and remove the testicle.

Hoping we were being paranoid, but wanting to be prepared, we talked through the threat of testicular cancer. It was a very curable cancer, an inconvenience compared to the nightmare of leukemia. After surgery, Kyle might need some radiation, but then he’d be fine to return to college.

We will not be shaken. I had to admit, I’d been a little shaken.

Surgery came and went. The hope that the mass was nothing crept back in. We held our breaths for a week waiting for biopsy results, desperate for a reason to celebrate that Kyle remained cancer free.

I’d like to share the mass turned out to be nothing. I’d like to say our lives went on after a Grand-Canyon sigh of relief. I’d like to say our story ended there.

But I can’t.

The phone call came on Friday evening. Kyle walked into my room, clutching his cell, shaking. “Here. You talk.” He dropped the phone in my lap and sank to the carpet next to my bed.

IMG_8850“I’m sorry.” The doctor let out a deep breath. “It’s leukemia. This almost never happens. It’s a very rare form of relapse. Six boys get it a year. Kyle’s looking at twenty-four months of aggressive treatment.” He paused. “Maybe more.”

I don’t even remember ending that call. All I could hear was the word relapse. All I could see was my big, strong boy crying on the floor.

We will not be shaken. The words played over and over. But I was more than shaken. My faith wasn’t enough. Knowing God had our backs wasn’t enough. Remembering that Kyle had won this battle before wasn’t enough.

I crumbled. That word, relapse, picked me up, ripped me open, and clawed out my heart.

“Why Lord? Why give us hope? Why let us think Kyle could have surgery and go back to school? Why keep us waiting for this news for ten excruciating days? Why pile on rock after rock? Finding the mass. The abnormal ultrasound. Possible malignancy. Surgery. Biopsy.  Leukemia.”

They weren’t rocks. The Lord’s voice brushed across my heart. I gave you one piece of news at a time. You couldn’t handle the word relapse that first day.

The pain of knowing what was ahead gripped me tight. “You weren’t supposed to let this happen again. We fought. We won. We’re done.”

I understood that God had protected me. Set me up for the news of leukemia. I didn’t understand why he allowed cancer to come back into our lives. And I couldn’t cling to the words of that song.

The only thing I had left was what God had done for us in the past. He’d gotten us through. Somehow we’d survived our four-year walk through cancer’s hell and come out better on the other side. Even Kyle had seen that.

So now, in this moment, I had a choice. I could trust Him to get us through again. Or I could turn my back and face cancer alone.

I looked at Kyle, falling apart on the floor. He needed me to be strong, to have faith, to tell him we weren’t alone.

So I slid off the bed and pulled him into my arms.reading-rainbow-1391673 copy We cried together for a long time. He clung to me and I clung to David’s words from Psalm 16:8. “I [will] keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” And I prayed for the faith I was quickly losing.

I had no power over the news we received that day. I couldn’t take the cancer away or change the journey or dull the pain. But I could choose how we walked our journey. I could choose to face Kyle’s cancer with God lighting the way.

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20160401_215938Lori Freeland, wife, mother, inspirational author, and writing coach lives in the Dallas area. She’s published in various e-zines and anthologies and is a former editor for The Christian Pulse. When she’s not writing for Crosswalk.com or hovering over her three kids, you can find her drinking too much coffee and messing with the imaginary people in her head. Visit her website http://lafreeland.com to read more from Lori.

BraveGirl Martha

Hi everyone!

My name is Martha and I’m a newer face here at BraveGirl. I’m honored to be a part of this community of women who keep me inspired and encouraged! My hope is that God will use my words and my story to comfort and strengthen other women who are walking similar paths.

I’m a girl who spent a huge portion of her life trying to hide her flaws. It was an exhausting way to live. The big secret I kept growing up and even into my mid 20’s was that I struggle big time with social anxiety. The transformation that’s taken place inside of me can only be attributed to God’s restorative power. He’s taken me from a timid daughter bound by fear to one who is learning to embrace my title as Daughter of the King, one who has hope.

I am married to an amazing man, who only becomes more amazing in my eyes the longer we walk through life together. Our marriage is another testimony to God’s restorative power as we have survived more than one obstacle that could have easily broken us. We are currently parents to a funny little pug named Simon, and long for children of our own. The 5+ years of infertility we are walking through is shaping our story even further, and we are in it together, expectantly waiting to see what God has for us in this area of life.

I’m a preschool teacher who enjoys thrifting and crafting in my free time. Pinterest has impacted my life for the better, and my happy place is Goodwill. I’m not really an athletic, competitive person unless I’m hunting for a deal, and I can’t really decide if that makes me relatable or just plain quirky.

I look forward to sharing and connecting with you more! My hope for us as women is that we will embrace the unique creations, flaws and all, that God designed us to be. Let’s walk alongside each other as we resolve to be overcomers and difference makers for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Love In Christ,

BraveGirl Martha

When I Don’t Hear God

When I Don’t Hear God

There I was, driving down the highway with all these questions in my head about life that were STILL unanswered. I get tired sometimes waiting for God to reveal answers to questions I KNOW He has the answers to.

It’s just not happening fast enough and I’m tired of waiting.

Sometimes I flat out rebel and go my own way which usually leaves me in a pity party with my friends frustration, bitterness, and resentment. They’re all really fun for awhile and then I realize they’re actually poisoning me instead of comforting me. They feed off each other and slowly but surely separate me from the voice of God. I stop caring, stop praying, stop getting into God’s word, start being rude to others, and worst of all, stop hearing from God…and He’s the one with the answers.

Do you ever find yourself there? If you’re like me, you need a game plan. You have to recognize what’s happening and then take action. I don’t know about you, but I rather hear from God than my buddies at the pity party. He’s so much wiser and when He reveals himself, it’s better than any party I’ve ever been to. And trust me, I’ve been to a lot of parties. His are the BEST! So here’s my action plan for hanging at His house and not the other one.

1) TALK TO HIM
God’s word says to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:1), not just when we need a favor or because it’s meal time. It’s a never-ending conversation going on between me and God. Prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude, prayers asking His will, prayers pouring out my heart to Him, prayers to guide my next step and lead me every day. He WANTS to hear from me…and YOU.

Ask yourself, “Is God an acquaintance in my life? or is He really my best friend? my “go-to”?

The answer to those questions reveals a lot about our level of intimacy with God.

2) LEARN ABOUT HIM

God’s word is His voice. It is “God breathed and is useful for teaching and training in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16)

If we want to hear Him, we have to KNOW HIM…and His word is where it starts. My mom’s voice sticks in the back of my head more than most people because of the connection we have. It’s the same with God. We’ll be able to hear Him because we KNOW how and what He thinks.

3) HONEST CHECK-UP

I continuously need to check where there is sin in my life. When we are living in disobedience to God, it’s REALLY hard to hear what He wants to say to us. This is a piggy back on my first point about prayer.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

When I am struggling to hear God, I get in prayer and get honest…Untitled

“Where am I messing up? Where am I wrong? What is in my life that is not of you? Show me where I am not listening. Show me where my heart is hardened.”

After a prayer like that, 9 out of 10 times, people or things pop into my head where I know I have been hurtful, stubborn, selfish, prideful, etc. (we don’t have to list all my shortcomings here ok).

4) DEAL

I try and deal and go head to head with those areas God showed me in that honest check-up.

Then I pray for strength to change my actions in those specific areas so that they are lined up with God’s will. This is a daily need for me and a lifetime process of pruning and being renewed so that I can walk in obedience to Him.

It’s a domino effect because obedience leads to hearing His voice.

If we want to hear the spirit, we have to walk WITH the spirit. This isn’t easy, but it’s necessary.

5) BE PATIENT

We are in an instant gratification society…we don’t understand the concept of patience. We are patient..just for a little while. Ha…which isn’t patience. This is where it can get tough, but it IS possible. We have to be patiently focused on God. It’s a day by day process of living for Him. It’s a learning process which can feel really slow and even painful at times, yet then it becomes freeing, fulfilling and life changing.

At God’s party, we will be changed from the inside out and that’s where we will find Him, His voice, and ultimately ourselves. And the best part…we’re ALL invited.

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Brave Girl Christy

 

Jesus Loves You

Jesus Loves You

There are some of you who will read this post who “get it”. You get this Love. You know this unconditional, rich, no strings attached, everlasting, never leave you, beautiful, grace-filled, sacrificial Love of Jesus. If this is you, then you know that there is NOTHING like it and you know it to your very core. And I can bet that if you know the Love of Jesus like this, You cannot wait to share it with everyone! Can I just say AMEN?!

But what about those that don’t “get it”?
Amazing, godly people, who love Jesus, are wandering aimlessly wounded, feeling unworthy, unloved and not good enough in the hopes that God “might” love them. We like to tell about His love to others, but when asked the question, “Do you believe God loves you?” overwhelmingly there is a pause and the answer is…”No.” I hear and see it ALL the time and I have personally experienced it.

So my post today is for the person who doesn’t know that Love, but who longs to understand. The person who doesn’t “get it”, but is desperate to know it in their heart. The person who has gone to “church” all his/her life, but doesn’t know the all encompassing LOVE of the Father. That’s who I am writing this to…YOU. Jesus’ love is FREELY given and available to you and me. Sometimes its not a matter of us not believing he loves us….but RECEIVING this unbelievable gift.

Jesus Loves you.

Let me say that again (in all caps)…JESUS LOVES YOU.
I come to you with a humble heart to say, I have been there. I have sung or talked about these three words over and over, pouring them into others, but not realizing I needed to know it for myself. I accepted Christ over 20 years ago and have had an amazing and precious journey with God. I have seen him move in ways I could never explain. I have seen him heal and breathe new life into my own wounds and hurts. I have seen his Word transform me and become alive and active… and yet… somehow I had not fully understood the simple Truth… He Loves me.cherylpicohhowhelovesus

It wasn’t until after a service at church last fall that I began to see that something was missing.
We sang the lyrics “He LOVES us…oh how he loves us”. I spoke right before this song about His love, praying that you/they could “get it”. Everything I said that day was absolutely my heart and what I believe…but I didnt fully comprehend it for myself. I had a lot of head knowledge, but my heart wasn’t quite there. I didn’t need more wisdom or information on God’s Love for me, but a transforming revelation in my spirit.

I got in my car after the service with tears in my eyes and said “God, please don’t ever let me speak on your love without knowing it myself. I want to be the real deal.” It was sometime shortly after that day that I heard a sermon specifically on the love of Jesus, with scriptures on His love and how some of us don’t feel worthy to RECEIVE that love-but God gives it FREELY. The pastor spoke on the simplicity of the song we all know, “Jesus Loves me this I know..for the bible tells me so…” and he even began to sing those lyrics… I began to cry. Truth had just collided with my heart… HE LOVES ME.

“I have LOVED YOU with an everlasting LOVE; I have drawn YOU with unfailing kindness…”-Jeremiah 31:3

From that day forward, something changed. I focused the next few weeks on His Love to the point of telling God (not that he needed me to) “I receive your love.” Saying that out loud was helpful for me to declare it whether I felt it or not! And you know what, I started to “get it”…I believed it! I realized that His love has ALWAYS been there-I just didn’t see my self worthy to receive it because of my failures and my flaws. I thought if I can just do or be enough and love God enough…then maybe I will be worthy. But that’s “conditional” love….not Jesus’ Love.

The song isn’t just familiar lyrics anymore-” JESUS LOVES ME this I know”…it is truth! And I want you to know that this is TRUTH for YOU as well.

HE LOVES YOU.
HE LOVES YOU beyond anything you can comprehend.
HE LOVES YOU in the midst of every flaw, every failure, every sin.
HE LOVES YOU even as you run in the opposite direction from His open arms.
HE LOVES YOU when you silence your ears to hear his voice.
HE LOVES YOU even when you pick up that bottle, that drug or gamble that last penny.
HE LOVES YOU when you are doubled over a toilet because you feel unworthy.
HE LOVES YOU when you doubt His goodness, doubt that He is who He says He is, doubt that He can and will fulfill his promises.
HE LOVES YOU even when you don’t choose him….because HE. CHOSE. YOU.

His love was displayed on the cross before you were ever even born. He knew you would arrive on this earth one day, because He chose YOU, He planned YOU and He created YOU. His love was poured out on the cross, so that in return it could be poured in to you. His horrific death was to show you he deems you WORTHY of HIS LOVE. This kind of Love can melt the hardest hearts, restore a broken marriage, cover and heal lies that you have believed all your life, expose fear that has gripped you to no end (1 John 4:19-His perfect LOVE casts out all fear)….but even if these things never change(and I believe they can) He simply LOVES YOU and that is ENOUGH. It is unconditional, radical, incomprehesible, unfathomable, everlasting, grace filled Love. Our minds cannot grasp this kind of love, but guess what, our heart’s can and….it’s FREE!

I pray that YOU, being rooted and established in LOVE, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the LOVE of CHRIST, and to know this LOVE that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of ALL the fullness of God.-Ephesians 3: 17-19

This is my prayer for you and I today! That we know, to our core, the Love that has lavishly been poured out on us. That we come to Him with open hands and open hearts to say “I receive your LOVE.” Let’s freely receive so that we can freely give(Matthew 10:8) and overflow with the love of Christ! Let there be a rise within the church to LOVE extravagantly because we cannot contain something that is so AMAZING!

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BraveGirl Cheryl

Hi! I’m Cheryl.

I am so honored to be a part of Brave Girl Community! I am a mom to three beautiful children. Two precious daughters and a son who… Rocks my world! I am a wife to one Amazing man, my college sweetheart, of almost 14 years. God out did himself when he entrusted me with these four. They are my World and I love them dearly!

I LOVE Jesus….and in the midst of my imperfect human self, I desire to be more like him everyday…More of him, less of me-john 3:30. I am nothing without Jesus, but EVERYTHING with Him because of the cross! By His Stripes, I am Healed and Made Whole-Isaiah 53:5

I am STRONGLY passionate about Worship-Its the continual theme of my heart. I love leading others into God’s holy presence in the worship of our King! There is Nothing like it. It overwhelms me (in a good way) to know that God has given me the privilege to Sing to him. May he ALONE always be magnified and exalted!

I love, love, LOVE Women’s Ministry! I am continually blown away by how good God has been to me in the area of women in my life. God has used the bondage from my past to fuel a fire in me for women to know who they are in Jesus-and nothing less. There is FREEDOM that awaits all our brokenness, all our mess, all our shame, all our hurts, all our past. I know this…because he did it for me. I was a captive…..but I have been Set FREE! Amen!

My Greatest Desire is to live out the fullness of what God has planned in my life. I want to be the “real deal”. I want to live a life worthy of the calling I have received(Ephesians 4:1). I don’t want to miss a thing! I want to be led by the Holy Spirit… Love and forgive endlessly like My Father…. set fires of Truth in the hearts of the hurting and the lost…but Most importantly…I want to see Jesus made known on this Earth. Because at the Heart of it all, it’s ALL about King Jesus and His blood that was shed for you and for me.

I tell my daughters every night…”I love you…but JESUS LOVES YOU THE MOST.” And that is my prayer for you. Thanks for letting me share a small piece of my heart.

In Christ’s Love and Mine,

Walk By Faith

Walk By Faith

What does it mean to walk by faith? What does it look like to you? Have you ever walked by faith? If so what happened? If you haven’t why not? Maybe we don’t because of the possibility of being exposed to ridicule or being drilled with multiple questions.  What about that ugly lurking pride that can’t risk being wrong—especially in front of others. Our words may say we believe, but do our actions reflect what we believe?

My dad recently found a new love in his life after the death of his wife four years ago.  This October I was blessed with the opportunity to spend some time with Marge and my dad when they came to Oregon for a visit.  She had also suffered the loss of her spouse three years ago.  During their visit they shared with the family that they were planning on getting married.  The wedding would be in Tulsa, Oklahoma in six weeks!

My family lives a simple life—either we have the money or we don’t.  You won’t find any credit cards in our wallets. The savings account was low on funds, the holidays would be here before you know it, and our six month car insurance bill would be in our mailbox soon.  For three weeks I prayed, asking God to provide the means for me to go to the wedding.  One day, as I was praying, a question came to me. Did I believe that God would provide for me to go? My answer was, of course! If I did believe, then what was I sitting around for?  I had a wedding to get ready to go to!  As I thought about the preparations I would have to make for the care of my children, it occurred to me that I could share with people that I believed God can and would provide for me to go to Tulsa for my dad’s wedding—which was only three weeks away now.

For we walk by faith, not by sight 2 Corinthians 5:7  

The first person I invited on my journey with God was my husband.  I asked if he had any objections about me going to Oklahoma if God provided the funds. (Since he would be out of town hunting, our boys would have to stay with friends.)  He didn’t have any objections.  I opened up to two Christian friends who offered encouragement and prayer support through this.

For the next two weeks there were moments where it was easy to share with others and other times when I couldn’t get the words out.  This was definitely exposing my weaknesses and fears.  The clock was ticking and I still had no way of getting to the wedding.  I felt discouraged when people would say “Oh you’re still doing that?” or “Don’t you think you should start asking people for the money?” and “How are you going to get the money?” There were times when I was tempted to ask a Christian friend who is financially secure for the money. I didn’t want my friend to provide, though. I wanted God to provide. I valued my friend’s wisdom more than her money. What seemed like a simple walk of faith was more challenging than I had anticipated.  Countless times my eyes instantly flooded with tears at the thought of not being able to go.  One night I found myself sitting in a parking lot with a foul attitude. Not wanting to go home and expose my family to it, I prayed asking God for help and to take my ugly disposition.  The truth was that the gift was becoming more important than the giver.  My prayer changed as I began thanking God for everything in my life.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Then call on me when you are in trouble and I will rescue you and you will give me the glory.  Psalm 50:14-15.

On a Wednesday morning I made the final arrangement by asking our teenage neighbor to watch our dogs.  There were only nine days until the wedding.  That night as I sat in the car waiting for my son’s basketball practice to finish, I received a call from my dad.  He was calling to find out if I was going to the wedding because I hadn’t responded to his text.  What text?  The text that he sent on Saturday to all of his children offering to help pay if any of us wanted to go to the wedding.  A text that I never received but all my siblings did.  My response to my dad was YES! YES! I want to go the the wedding! That night I had my airline tickets to Tulsa!

The next couple days were amazing as I shared with others how God had provided. Even the dreaded “what to wear to the wedding” was a humbling and praiseworthy experience.  Instead of complaining that I had nothing to wear and no money to buy something, I shared what God was doing with a coworker. My generous coworker lent me a dress.

I was scrambling to finish all the loose ends at work on a Tuesday when I received a message from Marge’s son. He asked if I would like to say a few words to represent my dad’s family at the wedding. Marge’s grandson would be speaking for their side of the family.  My first reaction when I first read it was “No. Someone else can do it better.”

But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before the Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” God answered, “I will be with you.” Exodus 3:11-12

I decided to take my break and call my Christian friend who just happens to be the same one in this story who is financially secure.  She immediately said Yes I should do it, because it’s a wonderful opportunity to honor my father.  With no clue of what I would say, I responded in obedience and said “Yes, I’ll do it.”  My future step-brother and I decided that this part of the wedding would be a surprise for his mom and my dad.

Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you what to say. Exodus 4:12

Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours before my flight would leave, my husband arrived home from a successful hunt.  All the preparations that took me three weeks to plan only took three minutes to undo. I was amazed that my pride didn’t take over.  I usually don’t take it very well when all my planning and organizing is undone. We celebrated God’s provision of food from his hunt. I was also grateful to spend time with my husband and our boys before I left.

It was Thursday and I was finally in Tulsa! The next twenty four hours were filled with meeting the new family members and friends. I spent quality time getting acquainted with all my aunts and uncles who I hadn’t seen in years.

Dad & Marge 4 Dad & Marge

Friday evening we all entered the church for the wedding.  It was beautifully decorated in an autumn theme.  The centerpieces had lit lanterns surrounded by fall leaves, branches and pheasant feathers.  There were brightly lit candles on and around the stage.  A slideshow of pictures representing both families was presented on the large screen. Instead of your standard wedding cake, they had a magnificent tower of assorted gourmet cupcakes.  With the guests seated, the music began and the ceremony started.  Within a few minutes, our surprise was in motion as Marge’s grandson was the first to speak on behalf of her family.  When he was finished, he handed me the microphone.  Here is what I said to honor my dad…

Daughter’s Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I sing glorious praises of joy to You for bringing all of us here to be a witness to this precious covenant. My heart overflows with gratitude because You have united my Dad and Marge.  The presence of Your peace rests in me when I see the two of them together.  Thank you Father, for graciously giving my Dad and our family a kind, loving, woman of faith.  Please watch over them and protect them. I pray that this covenant radiates the love of Christ and glorifies You.

With all of my love,
Amen

I handed back the microphone and returned to my seat. As the ceremony progressed something wonderful happened. I was filled with overwhelming joy! Not just because I was at the wedding, not because I finished speaking, but because my dad was TRULY HAPPY NOW!  He wasn’t alone—he had someone who would be by his side and would take care of him. The agony of losing his spouse to cancer and the years of loneliness following were finally over.  My dad was not only marrying a loving woman of faith, but he was graciously accepted by her family, church and friends. A new season in my dad’s life had begun. Knowing all this was a precious gift from God.

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. Psalm 9:1

May your faith be strengthened and blessings be bountiful as you walk by faith in 2016!

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Shelly

Dad's Visit

Photo Credit for Cover Photo  

Worthy Of A Miracle

Worthy Of A Miracle

“You’re a miracle! Linda, you are a miracle!” my friend kept repeating it over and over.

What is she talking about? What happened to me? IMG_0734I frantically scanned the room and looked down to see my limp body with tubes coming out of every orifice of me.

I was diagnosed with cancer 5 months prior but I had no recollection of how I ended up in a hospital bed unable to move any part of my body.

I was terrified. I could not remember anything except that I had cancer.

On September 29, 2009 I became extremely ill while undergoing chemotherapy and was admitted to the hospital. Within days I was put into a medically induced coma to avoid going into cardiac arrest. I was asleep for almost a month. Doctors told my family I had less than 5% chance of survival and “if” there was a miracle and I survived I would never walk or breathe again on my own.

Exactly one year later from that horrific prediction, I ran my very first half marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team In Training program.

While I was thrilled that I fully recovered from cancer and had 100% of my physical health back, I never really could accept the “miracle” label. Every time someone would call me a “miracle” it felt as though they were shining a bright floodlight in my face. I wanted to put my hands up to shield myself and hide. It was too much to comprehend.

I had struggled with not feeling “good enough” my entire life. I came from a broken home, was not the best student and felt insecure with just being me. Believing that I was worthy of a miracle was just too hard to comprehend. Instead of feeling elated, I felt defeated. For two years after my healing, I lived in limbo waiting to be found out that I did not deserve a second chance at life … worthy to be alive.

All of the doubt and insecurity wrecked havoc on my faith. I began to question God and his existence. One day I finally gave up and turned my back on God all together. I stopped going to church, reading my bible and even put my Christian life coaching business on hold, secretly hoping to never return to it.

I was in a spiritual crisis! I needed an even bigger miracle, to have faith to believe in God’s unimaginable love for me.

Several years later, I can confidently tell you that God did provide an even bigger MIRACLE in my life! This November I have my very first book coming out, Worthy of a Miracle, that takes you through an entire journey of not only one miracle, but multiple miracles. I want to encourage you today, that you too my friend are WORTHY OF A MIRALCE, worthy of all good things, and most importantly Worthy of God’s Love.

Signature_Guest

Linda

www.lindakuhar.com
HeadshotLINDA KUHAR is a Board Certified Coach with the Center for Credentialing & Education, Certified Christian Life Coach with Christian Coach Institute and has led women worldwide through online Bible studies. Linda speaks to organizations such as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, churches, and women’s ministries throughout the United States. Click on the video below to see the trailer for Linda’s new book, Worthy Of A Miracle.

 

Remember

Remember

photo: wordswag image

Remind me God of who you are.
The one who speaks to the waters,
Who calms the storm.
A God who is gentle,
a good father and my friend.
A God who is my forever Savior until the end.

Remind me of your faithfulness
because I cannot see.
My mind is covered by my enemy.
Your truth shields my thoughts,
Your word refreshes my soul.
Breathe Holy Spirit into these dry bones.

Remind me of your everlasting love
that runs as far as the east is from the west
A love that does not fail
But guides me through every test.

Remind me of your protection
Your legion of angels standing guard,
to defend me in all my ways
Even when the path seems hard.

Remind me of your grip
that you hold me so tight.
When I am weak and I fail,
You are there to fight.

Remind me of the power of your unbelievable name
Let it be the first word from my mouth
JESUS I will proclaim!
No other name
will silence the fear,
calm the chaos
and draw you near.

Remind me Lord,
Because I am drowning without you.
I need you desperately…
without you, I cannot move.

And you gently respond with a whisper to my soul….

REMEMBER my Truth.
I am the God who SAVES.
My love NEVER runs out
and is NEVER delayed.
My arms stretch out to ALL in need .
I am your GOOD FATHER and will ALWAYS be.
You can TRUST me in the deep
when your heart is overwhelmed.
Reach out for my hand,
I will NOT fail.
You can REST in my faithfulness,
you can TRUST in my love,
Let go sweet child…I will NEVER give up.
You have my PROMISE
that I will Never EVER leave.
I am right here with you,
open your EYES and see.
COME with me and see
what I have in store,
my plan for you EXCEEDS that
and even MORE.
Taste my Goodness
because it NEVER runs dry,
stretch out your WINGS
and prepare to FLY.

Signature_Guest

Cheryl

cherl'sprofil picCheryl 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.

When God Hits Pause…

When God Hits Pause…

We hate to wait, don’t we?

Whether it’s rush-hour traffic, the doctor’s office, or the next major life event on our horizon, waiting tests our patience, our character, and often times our faith. In our daily lives, waiting is usually nothing more than a minor inconvenience, and our response is soon forgotten when the time of waiting is over. It’s when we feel those minutes begin to stretch into days, weeks, and years that our response becomes vital to the health of our soul.

If you’re in a season of waiting and you feel like God has pushed the pause button on your life, you’re probably asking questions like these:

“I’m all alone in this. When is it my turn?”
“Has God forgotten me? Does He even care?”
“How do I survive this when I can’t seem to function?”

At least those are the questions I asked myself in the past when it felt like I was stuck in never-ending cycles of waiting. As time passed and God chiseled away behind the scenes, I eventually learned to ask a new set of questions that helped redirect my heart:

“Who am I becoming in this season of my life?”
“What do I have to be thankful for in this very moment?”
“How is my view of God affecting my attitude?”
“How do I feel joy instead of bitterness?”

The questions you entertain and the way you respond while waiting are litmus tests for how you’ll most likely come through on the other side. Because there is that other side. There is a place where waiting ends. That light at the end of the tunnel is not a myth. There is hope. There is joy. There is peace. The best part is you don’t have to wait until you’re “unpaused” to experience victory and live a fulfilled life.

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God is faithful. And not because of what He gives us or how quickly he answers our prayers. God is faithful because He is faithful. It’s his character, His DNA. If you’re in a place where you keep finding yourself watching the clock and wondering WHEN, try this:  try praising your Heavenly Father for who He is and for His perfect timing. Ask for joy, patience, and peace if they seem to be eluding you. And remember, as much as you may feel like you’ve been placed on hold, your life is progressing with every breath you take.

You see, in reality, God doesn’t press the pause button on your life or mine. If He has called you to wait, He won’t leave you hanging. He will wait patiently with you, hand outstretched, beckoning you to sit with Him and learn from the stillness. And who better to wait with than the One who already knows where your path leads and when you’ll get there?

Signature_Emily

 

Whose Flag Are You Flying?

Whose Flag Are You Flying?

Who do you love? What do you love? How would those closest to you describe you?

Each of us have two identities: one public and one private. Sometimes the two coincide; often the image we project is vastly different than who we are in our heart of hearts. For me, it’s so much easier and seemingly less painful to keep the “real-ness” of who I am a secret to most people. But it’s time to get real. It’s time to shed the mask and fess up to my sin of idolatry.

You see, we do all kinds of things to project the image we want to be known for. As I type this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop wearing yoga gear and Chacos. Earbuds are in place, and a made-to-order caffeinated drink sits in front me. My Jeep is parked right outside the door. It’s like I just came from the gym and now I’m luxuriating on my iPad and checking out the latest bands before I meet my friends for some outdoorsy adventure. Problem is, all of the above is false. I’m sitting inside because it’s too hot to be outdoors, much less go hiking or rock-climbing. I don’t take yoga classes or even belong to a gym. My earbuds are playing classical music. I couldn’t tell you the name of one song on the pop charts. And my Jeep has features that will never be used…4WD, anyone?

What a poser, you may be thinking. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’m not the only one…any of this sound familiar?

We wear brands and styles that sell the lifestyle we want to emulate. And we wait for people to notice.

We drape ourselves in jerseys to let everyone know what team we support. We plaster bumper stickers on our cars. And we fight tooth and nail defending our side’s merits.

We drive vehicles that tell other motorists how important we are. And we impatiently overlook the less-fortunate drivers whose cars can’t keep up.

We fly flags proudly to represent our nationality, our sexuality, our faith, or our heritage. And we cause misunderstandings and misgivings when the flag we fly is controversial or offensive.

We sacrifice daily on the altar of public opinion, all too quick to ignore or cover up the thing that makes us who we are in order to make everyone else think we’re something more – more adventurous, more attractive, more spiritual, more well-off, more right.

So what is it that makes us, well, us? And why is it so easy to ignore our deepest, truest parts?

It’s been said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Your soul is the essence of who you are. Wrapped up in your soul is who God created you to be, all uniquely yours. The depths of our souls cry out in worship. It’s what they were made to do. In a perfect world, we would worship only our Father God. In our fallen reality, we worship everything but Him.

God knew when He gave us free will that this was likely to happen. I remember reading in the Old Testament the account of Israel being led by God through a pillar of fire and a cloud of smoke as they escaped captivity and made their way towards the Promised Land. Just pause and absorb the reality of how closely this group saw, heard, and felt His presence! One part of this story always dumbfounded me. In Exodus 32, Moses is up on the mountain talking to God. Everyone down in the valley got tired of waiting, decided to take matters in their own hands, and formed a golden calf to worship. These people, who had witnessed the undeniable power of Jehovah with their own eyes, who walked on dry land where there should have been sea, who had received daily provision from Heaven, these people crafted a statue and declared it their new God. I mean, really?? How could someone who had experienced the true, miracle-working presence of a Holy God be so quick to deny Him?

And yet, even as the people were melting their jewelry, God was handing down the rules to Moses. Exodus 20:3 gives the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me.

Back in the day, and in some cultures still today, idols have been worshipped in place of God. When we hear the word idolatry, we most likely envision statues in temples. The Bible clearly states in various places just how common and dangerous idolatry really is. Isaiah 2:8 reads, “Their land is full of idols; the people worship things they have made with their own hands.

Because most of us don’t physically bow down to some graven image, we think we’re off the hook. We fail to recognize the immense tendency we have to worship anything and everything besides the only One who deserves our adoration. We must own up to the fact that as modern-day Americans, we are a most idolatrous generation. We too have experienced miraculous redemption and transformation, provision and grace. We live with His presence IN us! And just like the Israelites, we have focused our worship on creation rather than the Creator. It’s time to take some personal inventory and examine our hearts for traces of hidden gods. Because as Dr. Phil likes to say, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”

So what’s the big deal? Who really cares if we drive a nice car, spout off football stats to win an argument, wear the latest trends, or fly a flag from our porch, our car, or our Facebook page? I’m not hurting anyone and it’s none of their business anyway! No harm no foul, right?

The problem with that line of thinking is that it’s wrong. Satan is deceiving you if you’ve convinced yourself that what you choose to project into the public eye has no bearing on anyone else’s life but your own.

Especially if you proclaim the name of Christ.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that rooting for the home team or being interested in fashion is wrong. I’m definitely not saying you shouldn’t defend your convictions. And if God has blessed you with nice possessions, who am I to tell you not to enjoy His gifts?

My point is this: these things aren’t wrong in and of themselves. They become sinful when they dethrone Jesus and take His rightful place as the thing we worship…

When we spend more time shopping than we do with our Heavenly Father.

When we know more about our favorite players on our number one team than we know about the character of our Savior.

When we constantly seek approval from our peers but never seek God’s will through prayer.

When the flag we fly (literally or figuratively) causes pain, shame, fear, or anger but we fly it anyway.

The unsaved world scrutinizes believers, looking for a reason to follow Christ. Sadly, we give them plenty of reasons to reject Him instead. The gods of our hearts look and sound just like theirs.

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So what do people see when they look at you? Better yet, what does God see when His eyes rest upon you?

Psalm 106:36 speaks of idols becoming a snare to those who serve them. What’s got you trapped and ensnared?

Jonah 2:8 says, “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.” Is your hope and conviction that God loves you diminishing? Have you forsaken your soul’s deepest desire by paying regard to vain idols?

Mercifully, God is all about second, third, hundredth chances. He’s a living, breathing, REAL being who responds when we put Him back where He belongs in our life. I know from first-hand experience how precious Christ becomes when I give up the idols that keep me from loving Him.

When we die to self and bow in surrender to our King of Kings, something miraculous happens: suddenly it doesn’t matter so much what we’re wearing or who we’re impressing (or not impressing). We gain the ability to lower any flags that previously flew higher than the cross and in their place unfurl the flag of the Gospel. When we realize that NOTHING is worth proclaiming more than the name of Jesus Christ, we lift up our Creator in all we do and say. We worship the one true God instead of false idols made with our own hands.

So what idols are you struggling to dethrone in your own life? I’m praying for you as you ask God to reveal hidden idols in your heart and seek the courage to worship Him alone as King and Lord of your life. Victory is found in Christ!

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
1 John 5:21

Signature_Emily

Three To Six Months To Live

Three To Six Months To Live

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.

TheIMG_7058 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”.

Signature_Guest

Joy  

click here to visit Joy’s blog

correctionjoy

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.”

Power. Love. Sound Mind.

Power. Love. Sound Mind.

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.

IMG_4382God’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

Signature_Guest

Cheryl

 

cherl'sprofil pic

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.

Failers Aren’t Failures

Failers Aren’t Failures

When you at first do not succeed, what do you do? “Try, try again?”
Or, do you slip into a self-loathing monologue?

Early in my marriage, I made a financial decision that was unwise. And, it affected us both. My husband and I worked through it, but I did not speak to him immediately when the problem arose. I wanted to solve the problem by myself. This led to lies of omission—which break down trust. Recently I was reconciling our account and discovered a missed transaction. Since it had been a month, we’d thought there was a surplus in our budget and the money had already been spent. When I caught my error, I made like Eve and grabbed my leaves. The fear and shame of making mistakes crippled me—I want to be dependable and never let people down. (but, I’m not capable of perfection. Only God is.) I was internally upset for a few days before telling my husband. When I mustered the courage to tell him (shame from the last time), he was gentle in his response.
I was sobbing and he soothingly said, “We’re on the same team.” “I’m “for” you, Tammy.” “I just want you to tell me right away.” “I love you.” “When you wait to tell me, it separates us.”

As he said these things, I had a revelation that God is also speaking this to me—and to you. He is “for” us. When we avoid Him, it separates us. Not because He is stern or upset, but because we are trying to hide something from Him. It eats us up and robs our peace and steals our joy. We don’t trust Him, and fear an unloving response.
1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (NKJV)

God knew us in our mother’s womb. He knew what we would need help with, and He’s cheering us on as we try to take steps, even if we totter and tumble. We’re trying and He’s cheering.
Confession frees us from the burden of our sin. We are not free from consequence, but the weight of shame and guilt will not be there. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Jesus told the woman, “neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Grace is not a license to keep doing wrong, but a key to the locks on our chains. We do not have to be locked in to the cycle of sin any longer!
Take heart, friends, we are being perfected and transformed to look more like our Maker every day. As long as He is our strength and perfection, then we can rest in the fact that He created us to do His good works. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

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Recently, I failed to run the entire 5k portion of my “try”athlon, but I was not a failure. I still finished. You and I are here to glorify God’s name. We may be failers, but we’re not failures, and we’re not going to give up. 

Tammy