Exchange Baggage for Rest

suitcases

Saying yes to God is not something that you do once and simply move on, like an item on a checklist. One yes to God will take you on a journey that will have additional forks in the road where you will have to choose to say yes and follow God’s leading or go your own way.

Many times I have thoughts I knew best. I knew what I should be doing, the goal in mind and exactly the steps I needed to take to get there. However, I didn’t consult God first before setting out. I thought I had it all figured out.

Having traveled this way more times than I care to recall, I can attest to the fact that I was carrying a lot of baggage on my trip. I am not referring to my clothes and cute shoes; no I mean fears, anxiety, doubt and stress. You see, going out on your own we have to carry the load. This generally leads to discouragement, frustration and being overwhelmed.

Through the course of the What Happens When Women Say Yes to God study, I have turned in my excess baggage for peace and rest. This is not to say that my journey is smooth sailing. It just means that I no longer need to let doubts and fears dictate what I will do. By saying yes to God and trusting His leading, I can let go of fears strangling grip and truly find rest in Him.

God has a specific purpose and plan for each one of us. However, we must decide whether we will say yes to His path and leading in our lives.

By giving God command of our lives, we can realize what it feels like to have a heart at rest.

 

What path will you choose? What will you say YES to?

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Who Am I? Discovering the “Me” I’m Meant To Be

magnifying glass

We fall victim to societal pressure to believe that our appearance, status and possessions will make our lives better. When we give into this notion, we are letting society construct our identity. The real question we need to ask ourselves is where does our identity come from?

Another way to put this is: What types of things define a person? Say, for example, you were to introduce yourself to someone you do not know: How would you define yourself? Would you define yourself by your family relationships, by a professional title, or lack of one, or by where you live or go to church? People generally define themselves by age, intelligence, education, marital status, material things, and family.

Satan, the Enemy, knows exactly how and where to attack each one of us. He knows where we are vulnerable. As Christians, we need to learn to recognize the lies and replace them with God’s truth. Satan wants us to focus on our flaws and feelings of inadequacy, and then exhaust ourselves trying to hide them. God, on the other hand, wants us to focus on His acceptance, security and significance and thank Him for His promises that remind us of who we are in Him. We need to remember that God is well pleased with us before we do anything simply because we are His children.

God was there from the very beginning. He spoke each one of us into our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), at just the right time to be here now. It was not by accident, nor was it a surprise to God. We need to get rid of any image of ourselves that is not from God. We have to stop believing what others have said or how we have been labeled in the past, and stop accepting how others define us.

This is a concept that I have struggled with for some time. Honestly, it is so much easier for me to believe the negative than the positive about myself. My insecurities about myself and falling victim to the lies started back in the first grade. My teacher’s negative comments stuck with me. Throughout school, I became more swayed by what others thought about me. Before long, I could not even begin to answer the question, Who am I? Because I had no idea. I had lost all sense of “me” and who I really was. It took quite a while to break free from those lies. In fact if I let my defenses down, the lies and insecurities start to infiltrate my mind and try to take over even to this day.

When we let these lies take hold in our mind, we begin to feel as if we have to hide behind a mask. That way, we can present to the world what we think they want to see. In actuality, by listening to others instead of God to frame our identity, we are building a wall that masks who we truly are. With the empowering of the Holy Spirit and prayer, we can start taking down this wall that has been built by others piece by piece to pave the path to victory — our identity in Christ.

When you start comparing others’ outside with your inside, you need to stop and be reminded what God says about you. (identities from Made To Crave – Lysa TerKeurst, 52)

  • Forgiven child of God (Romans 3:24)
  • Set-free child of God (Romans 8:1-2)
  • Accepted child of God (1 Corinthians 1:2)
  • Holy child of God (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • Made-new child of God (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Loved child of God (Ephesians 1:4)
  • Close child of God (Ephesians 2:13)
  • Confident child of God (Ephesians 3:12)
  • Victorious child of God (Romans 8:37)

When the comparisons start flooding your mind, let the words of this song, More Beautiful You, wash over you. You are loved, special and beautiful – just as you are.

Dear Heavenly Father, I come to you today loaded down with the burden of trying to be what others want me to be. I ask that you take this from me and remind me that my identity comes from you alone. You formed me for a specific purpose and plan. You do not make mistakes. Therefore, help me to daily let my true identity in You shine forth. In Your Precious Name, Amen.

Greatest Gifts Disguised

Gift

We play a game with my mom’s side of the family each Christmas called “Sneaky Santa.” Everyone brings a wrapped gift from his/her home. The presentation can be deceiving – the beautifully box with matching ribbon could be a set of shop towels or the huge gift bag could be a votive candle. It is difficult to distinguish what treasure is hidden beneath the wrapping.

The same idea is true in our lives as well. Many times God uses challenging circumstances – ugly wrapping – to bring about some of life’s greatest gifts.

The best example for me would have been my divorce. It was a very dark time for my three kids and me. I couldn’t understand why I was having to go through this, let alone how anything good could come from it. Little did I know that rumpled up, torn time in my life God was going to bring about the most incredible gift – my husband, Mitch.

I, honestly, didn’t think any man would be interested in me with three small children. But God had everything taken care of.

When Mitch volunteered to help us move before ever meeting face-to-face, I know he was something special. It certainly wasn’t the first impression I was hoping to give – loads of boxes, toys and dirt hiding behind and underneath furniture, but I needed the help and he volunteered.

I will never forget the way my heart jumped when he pulled up that day. God brought everything I was looking for and so much more right to my doorstep.

Dear friend, I want you to know that if you are walking in a valley right now, God is right next to you every step of the way. He will work it out for good. Just trust Him and remember that some of the greatest gifts in life come in the most unlikely packages.

What about you, how has God used a challenging time in your life to bring about something good?

Psalm 84:2

My-soul-years-Psalm-842Each one of us was create to crave, that yearning, longing was knit into our being by our Creator. God also gave us free will. Therefore, it is our choice where we place our focus. Our focus leads to a craving.

As I enter this first week of the Made to Crave online Bible study, I am amazed at what God is already bringing to light in my life. This study is not designed strictly for people who desire to lose weight. No, this study is for anyone who craves anything above God. Let that sink in. If that applies to you, I encourage you to take that first step and sign up for the study.

The key verse for this week really speaks to the desire to crave God above all else.

“My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord, my heart

and my flesh cry out for the living God.” Psalm 84:2

Let’s break this verse apart and see what it is saying to us. The phrase “my soul yearns, even faints” is describing a deep longing or craving, if you will, to be in God’s presence. This same idea is expressed by the Psalmist in Psalm 42:2, “My soul thirsts for God.”

Take a moment; push the cold winter weather out of your mind and think of a hot summer day. You have been out in the garden working or laying on the beach (imagine your favorite summer activity) and you are hot and thirsty. You cannot think of doing anything until you get a big glass of ice water. That very desire is the type of longing we are to have for God – wanting to be in His presence more than anything else.

The last part of the verse, “my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” simply means that every part of our being – internal and external – is calling out to God.

Don’t let failures in the past keep you from coming to God. His mercies are new every morning.

This is a journey comprised of one decision and one step at a time. Let me assure you that though it may not be an easy road it is the only way to gain true and lasting peace.

Take a moment to watch this video and let the words wash over you today.

 

Your Turn:

  • Take a moment and rewrite Psalm 84:2, making it personal (insert your name where it says “my”). I encourage you to make that the desire of your heart
  • What is holding you back or getting in your way from craving God?
  • I would love to pray for you today, simply leave a request in the comment section.
  • If you are participating in the Made to Crave study, please let me know. I would like to connect with you.

Amazed

amazed

In my quiet time this past week there have been several verses that have spoke to me. However, what really stuck with me was from Revelation 12:11, “by the word of their testimony”, we need to share our journey with others. So today, I’m going to reveal a little of my story with you.

If anyone would have told me years ago I would be where I am today, I would have laughed. In my mind, there was no way that God would use me. Those positions were reserved for those with certain looks, specific gifts and certainly no shadows in their past. I determined that the only thing I was qualified for as far as God was concerned was sitting in the back of the church on Sunday and occasionally helping in the nursery.

But God had other plans for me. He used me with my past mistakes and failures in such a mighty way.

Over ten years ago, I thought my world was coming to an end. My husband left our three small children and me. I was blindsided and completely devastated. I didn’t understand why we had to endure this valley. I felt like since my husband didn’t love or want me that God must feel the same way.

But God turned that mess into a message. I have been able to lift up, encourage and walk beside ladies traveling in that same valley.

The desire that God placed in my heart for women, like myself, who struggle with insecurities, doubts and fears, birthed my first book, Get REAL: Stop Hiding Behind the Mask.

Those things alone are amazing, but God continues to remind me that He is not done with me.

Last fall, on my birthday, I received news that rocked me to the core – it’s cancer. During the time frame from diagnosis through surgery recovery, I have the privilege of having family, friends and my Online Bible Studies sisters lift me up in prayer. It meant so much to me to know that they were not only praying for me, but also checking in with me to see how things were going. This season planted a seed. Months later, that seed has blossomed into the Online Bible Studies Real Hope Prayer Warrior Team that I am the director of.

God knew even before I took my first breath that He would take that insecure, frightened young woman hiding in the back of the church and use her in a mighty way.

Amazed doesn’t begin to put my feelings into words. I now know that no matter how you see yourself, it is how God sees you that matters (John 16:33). This is not just true for me. God can and will use you. Do not think for a moment that you are too far away for God to reach you. He loves you dear friend – never forget that.

Simply say Yes to Him and follow His leading and be amazed.

Your Turn:

  • How has God amazed you this week?
  • In what area do you need to stop listening to the lies and simply follow God’s leading and see what He can do in and through your life?

 

 

 

 

Hello…Hello…Who is it?

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I love talking to my family and friends on the phone. It is so much more personal than a text message or email. The other night, I called my oldest daughter, Taylor, who is away for the first time at school. When she answered the phone neither one of us had to ask whom we were talking to. After almost 16 years, I immediately recognize her voice and she recognizes mine.

This phenomenon is the same with any relationship. In order to recognize someone’s voice, we have to spend time getting to know him or her.

I have had people ask me, but what about with God? How can you be certain what you are hearing is actually from God? Since, I have never heard His voice audibly, I have to ask myself a series of questions to see if what I am hearing is from God or not.

The following list of questions is from Lysa TerKeurst’s book, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God. (A special thanks to my dear friend, Kristy Aiken, for making this beautiful picture incorporating the five key questions).

five key questions

By filtering everything through these five questions, I can quickly determine whether something is from God or not. He will never contradict Himself and His Word.

At this point in my life, I do not want to simply push my own agenda. I long to live a life saying Yes to God and therefore, I must make certain it is God’s voice I am following.

The next time you hear a still small voice, I encourage you to examine it to see who is on the other end.

What about you, how do you discern God’s voice? What steps have you taken to make certain you can recognize His voice?

Palms Up

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Numerous times in the Bible we are instructed to “lift our hands” to God. Have you tried doing this with clinched fists? Let me ask you a different question, how effective can you lift up anything if your hands are not open? Try this with me, I want you to make a fist with each hand, now pick up a piece of paper, not using your fingers, just your fists, and lift it up. Now, try the exact same activity with your hands open. Which way is easier? Without a doubt, the second way is much more effective.

The very same principle can be applied to our relationship with God. What is holding you back from growing closer to God? In other words, what are you holding on to so tightly that your hands are not open to what God has for you? For me, my fears and insecurities have kept me from fully surrendered to God.

When I was younger, we were given coins for milk money at school.  I held tightly to those coins the entire bus ride.  I did not want to take the chance of losing them.  My hand would begin to cramp and hurt, but I would not let lose of those coins until I was safely at school.  When I did release the coins to the school secretary, the imprints still lingered.  It does not really matter what the object is, heavy or light, the result is the same – it is tiring. The same is true in our lives when we try to hold on to our fears, insecurities or personal agendas.  By holding on to these things, not only is it tiring, but it also is keeping us from reaching those dreams that God has for each of us. In order to accomplish this, we must not only let go of our own plans, but also step out of that comfort zone.

Fear usually is the obstacle that stands in our way. We are limited in our focus because we do not see the big picture. We must remember, “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). God’s love for us far outweighs our fear. Do not fall into the trap of letting fear rule your life. You will miss out on what God has for you.

Dear friend, God has a purpose and a plan for your life. More than that, He longs to pour out His blesses upon you. However, you and I will not be able to receive these blessings if our hands are tightly clinching the past, fears, or our own plans. We must open our hands and lay everything we have been holding onto at God’s feet. Then with our palms lifted up to Him, we are ready to say Yes to His leading. When we make that decision and step out in faith, the blessings will flow in and through our lives.

Don’t let anything hold you back from a deeper relationship with God. Lift your palms up to God today and Say Yes.

Exciting News and an Invitation

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The Lord has truly blessed me beyond words over the course of the year. As this year draws to a close, I look forward to 2014 with eager anticipation for what God has in store for me. I would like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to come together on my blog this past year and help to grow this community. It is such a blessing to be able to share and reach out to women around the world.

And now for the exciting news, starting the week of January 6th I have the privilege of leading a group of ladies from Maryland Community Church through the What Happens When Women Say Yes to God study online. Therefore, my Monday and Wednesday posts for six weeks will be centered around this book. I invite you to join with us in the study. For more information or to register, visit the church’s website. If you would like to take the study a little deeper, I invite you to contact me directly and I will add you to the facebook small group. Whether you attend MCC, register for the study or not, I invite each one of you to start the new year off on the right foot by being openhanded with your hopes, dreams and goals and saying yes to whatever God has in store for you.

Another great way to start off 2014 is by choosing to crave God above everything else. I would invite you to sign up for the Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study Made to Crave. It will begin on January 19th and run until March 1st. My Thursday posts starting January 23rd will center on the topics in that study.

I have participated in both of these studies in the past and I would highly encourage you to sign up for them. I promise that God will take your step of faith and use it in a mighty way.

Feel free to contact me with any questions regarding either study. I am so excited to spend time studying God’s word together in 2014.

Priceless

priceless

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the credit card commercial that went something like this:

Pizza with everyone’s favorite toppings – $30

Board game everyone can agree upon – $20

Quality time with family – PRICELESS

I just love those. It really makes you stop and think about what is important and of value in your life.

I know that as a wife and mother, I couldn’t begin to quantify my love for my husband and children. That’s why this week’s key verse in A Confident Heart study really hit home with me.

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 36:7, NIV).

God’s unfailing love for each one of us is priceless. The Hebrew word for unfailing love is one of the most important in the Old Testament and central to God’s character. No matter what you and I do, He will always love us because His love does not depend upon our actions. It is everlasting.

Dear friend, not only does God love us, but He likes us and accepts us. You and I can truly be ourselves and not fear rejection.

This principle ties directly into the name of God used in this scripture – Elohim. It refers to God as the creator. Nothing exists by accident. We didn’t come into being by chance. Each and every one of us was fearfully and wonderfully made. God displayed His love and care for us by carefully crafting us, knitting us, together with His loving hands. Never doubt your love and importance to the creator of all.

The last part of the verse talks about taking “refuge in the shadow of your wings.” You and I need to solely put our trust in God because He is our only reliable source of refuge – our strong tower.

I truly believe that if we really grasp the depths of God’s love for each one of us we would live differently. I encourage you to discover by reading, studying and spending time with God a glimpse of how much He truly loves and accepts you this week.

Speaking of priceless, I want to leave you with this song.

When the kids were younger, I can remember hearing their voices sing out this song whenever it came on the radio. Let us curl up and take refuge in the shadow of our Heavenly Father and not lose that child-like faith and love.

Isaiah 49:23

isaiah 49 23

I love going on a trip, whether it is overnight or for an entire week. It is so refreshing to just get away from the every day routine. However, with the joys of vacation also come the realities of laundry and unpacking all the bags after returning.

Having just returned from a trip over fall break with my family, I am well acquainted with unpacking the suitcases. To successfully empty the bag, you must look at each item and determine where it needs to go. The very same idea is utilized when “unpacking” a verse of scripture. To really get the most out of the passage, you can’t simply read it once and move on. Just like my suitcase from vacation, it is necessary to examine the contents.

Today, I will spare you the task of unpacking my families’ bags, but I would like to do some unpacking of Isaiah 49:23b, the key verse for week 1 of A Confident Heart Online Bible Study.

Then you will know that I am the Lord. Those who hope in me will not be disappointed (NIV).

As I read through this verse over the course of the week, three words really jumped off the page at me – know, hope and disappointed.

My wonderful husband gave me a Hebrew-Greek key word study Bible for our anniversary, so I was able to go back to the original Hebrew words and dig deeper into the meaning of this scripture.

  •  Know  – comes from the Hebrew word Yada, which is one of the most important Hebrew roots in the Old Testament. It means to discern, be familiar with, also signifies a person’s relationship with God.
  • Hope – comes from the Hebrew word Miqweh, meaning confidence, hope and expectation.
  • Disappointed  – comes from the Hebrew word Bos. It often occurs in the context of humiliation, disgrace and shattered emotions. There is usually a connotation of guilt.

Armed with these definitions, this verse really comes alive to me. In order for me to know that He is the Lord, I must be familiar with Him. I have to have a personal relationship with God, which requires time and effort on my part.

However, it does not stop with a simple relationship. God follows it up with a promise. Whoever puts her trust or confidence in God will not be disgraced and full of guilt.

It is no accident that Isaiah 49:23b was chosen for the first key verse. This scripture needs to be the foundation, not only for this study, but also for our lives. Everything else needs to build upon this. You see our confidence needs to be in Christ alone and not bogged down by guilt and shame. If we are in Christ, God does not see our past because the blood of Christ has washed us white as snow.

Everything in our lives needs to run through the filter of how God sees us and what He thinks of us. If we rely upon ourselves, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. God, on the other hand, promises that those who keep their confidence in Him will not be disappointed.

What about you, where is your hope and confidence today?