Gratitude, thankful, belong, identity, pilgrims, provision, salvation, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry, nonprofit

Pilgrims in the World: Embracing Our Identity in Christ

As believers, we are pilgrims in the world but are not of the world. We must embrace this identity to truly follow Christ. 



Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.

1 Peter 2:11, KJV

As believers, we are pilgrims in the world but are not of the world. We must embrace this identity to truly follow Christ. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #gratitude #thankful #belong #identity #pilgrims #salvation #provision

Pilgrims in the World

Recently my sister in law made an intriguing comment. She was recounting a simple, yet profound statement that her pastor had made to their congregation. He told them that, as believers, if they do not feel out of place in this world, they could be headed for trouble. If they always feel at home in the world, perhaps they’re trying too hard to fit in.

Her pastor was encouraging them to live as Christ instructed His followers to live: as pilgrims passing through. Ultimately, her pastor’s point was that, as believers, we are called to be in this world but not of this world. So, if at times, we feel out of place, most likely we’re actually doing something right in our walk of faith.

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

John 15:19, KJV

Leaving Egypt

A few years ago, I found myself in a situation where I truly felt out of place in the world, even among some believers. I had earned a Master’s degree in Social Work and had worked as a community organizer and advocate to empower people in poverty. My husband had a degree in economics and owned a small business as a general contractor for high-end residential projects.

By all accounts, we were doing pretty well in this world. We were establishing successful careers, building a large community, and just generally enjoying life’s pleasures. But our faith in the Lord was small. He was about to completely dismantle the safe, little life we had arranged for ourselves through our own pride and strength.

Just like the Israelites, little did we know that we were embarking on a pilgrimage out of Egypt into the wilderness. Over the span of about two years, our careers, our community, and really our entire life changed drastically. After having our first child, my husband and I prayed and asked the Lord whether I should go back to work or stay at home to care for our baby…

It became very clear that I needed to resign from my salaried position with a large nonprofit. There went a big chunk of our steady, reliable income along with our health insurance coverage and my professional identity.

Questions…

About a year later, a number of times in prayer, my husband had heard from the Lord that it was time to close his small business. His company was our family’s only source of income. So, he was naturally resistant. And we had a second child on the way. These things did not make sense to our natural minds. And I had a lot of questions.

Why was the Lord calling us away from the careers we had been working so hard to establish? What would we tell our friends and family? How could He expect us to walk away from our only source of income? What about the mortgage? How would we feed our family?!

The Lord was trying to show us that our earthly provision was not secure. He was our provider and the source of our security, financially and otherwise. So, after a great deal of discussion, prayer–and quite a bit of fear and trembling–we decided to follow Christ’s instruction to close my husband’s business.

Pilgrims in the Wilderness

For the next year, we became pilgrims wandering in a financial, spiritual, and emotional wilderness. Stripped bare of all our earthly identities, we truly began to learn what it felt like to be outsiders. With a baby and a toddler in tow and no source of steady income, we were living in the world, but we did not have the means to be part of it. We could barely even explain what we were going through to ourselves, let alone to our friends–many of whom were not believers.

We tried to share our hearts with people in our church and fellowship groups, but even to them, the choices we were making seemed foreign. I often felt completely isolated and alone. Watching the world go on about its business, I felt as if I were orbiting just slightly outside of their circles. Despite the fact I was following the Lord and growing in my faith, a part of me was still desperately wanting to fit in. To re-enter the world’s normal orbit and simply go with the flow.

A Peculiar People

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Peter: 2:9, KJV

As believers, we are indeed a peculiar people. Pilgrims from a kingdom that is not of this world. Part of being a pilgrim passing through is following Christ, even when He calls us to say or do things that don’t seem to make sense to the world. And Beloved, this can be a tough and lonely row to hoe. The world might look at our faith and call us unreasonable, irrational, irresponsible, even crazy. Because faith is not their paradigm, reason is their religion.

I’m not saying that believers should not act according to reason. But sometimes what the Lord calls us to do can feel like it doesn’t make any earthly sense. Sometimes there are spiritual steps of faith that we must take in order to follow Christ. We have to learn to trust that even if those steps don’t make sense to our natural mind, they are still the right ones to take.

We can’t let our faith be swayed by what others–in the world or in the church–think of us. And if we’re faithful and obedient to follow His leading, we will see there is a rhyme and a reason to how and why He takes us in certain unlikely directions.

Sometimes there are spiritual steps of faith that we must take in order to follow Christ. We have to learn to trust that even if those steps don't make sense to our natural mind, they are still the right ones to take. Click To Tweet

Rebuilding

Honestly, our wilderness season was one of the most difficult and frightening times of my life. Yet during that pilgrimage, my faith in the Lord and my trust in His goodness grew exponentially. I saw Him move in miraculous ways on behalf of our family. We went without many things that the world calls necessities. But we never starved, and we always had clothes on our back and a roof over our heads. Ultimately, the Lord had taken us on a journey out of the worldly system and into the wilderness. And today we are living in what feels like a promised land where we can rebuild what was lost.

We are once again establishing our careers, but this time, we’re doing so according to the gifts and callings that He has placed on our lives. We’re building community, but now we’re doing it intentionally with other believers who are on their own pilgrimages. And we’re enjoying life again, but not just for the earthly pleasures that the world offers. Now we’re experiencing the true joy that only Christ can bring. I get the sense that this is only the beginning of what He really has in store for our life.

From Pilgrims to Citizens

Our pilgrimage made no earthly sense at the time. In retrospect, however, I can see how the Lord perfectly orchestrated each step of faith. I feel so thankful that He considered us worthy of having that experience. It made me realize that I do not need the world.

But it also showed me how desperately the world needs Christ. Now I can show Christ’s love to a world that is lost, even when they feel like they are at home. Somewhere deep down, they want and need to be found. They long to know that they are not alone. That there is a real, lasting place for them. That is the beautiful offer of the gospel: to be pilgrims in the world for a time but to belong for eternity.

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.

Ephesians 2:19, KJV

When have you truly felt like a pilgrim in the world? How have you balanced living in the world but not being of it?

As believers, we are pilgrims in the world but are not of the world. We must embrace this identity to truly follow Christ. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #gratitude #thankful #belong #identity #pilgrims #salvation #provision

unsplash-logoEsther Ann
Clean, grace, mercy, messy, sin, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry, nonprofit

Surface: Allowing The Lord to Deep Clean Our Hearts

When it comes to our hearts, a surface cleaning won’t suffice; the Lord is in the business of deep cleaning in order to set us free.



The other morning, in a bit of a rush, I accidentally knocked over a big glass containing a fruit smoothie I’d just made. Thick, dark purple liquid splashed all over the counter, blanketed the stovetop, and promptly drained down into that deep, dark abyss–otherwise known as the small crack between the counter and the stove! Needing to get out the door, I hastily wiped up all of the visible mess on the surface. But I knew that upon my return, the goopy, gelatinous puddle in the abyss would require some serious deep cleaning.

When it comes to our hearts, a surface cleaning won't suffice; the Lord is in the business of deep cleaning in order to set us free. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #clean #messy #mercy #grace #sin

The hidden, nasty mess…

Later that evening, after the kids were in bed, my husband and I settled in on the sofa to watch a movie. It was shaping up to be a nice, relaxing evening…until…dun dun dun… Cue the cheesy horror film music…reent reent reent! I remembered the hidden, nasty mess awaiting me in the kitchen.

For a moment I entertained the notion of postponing my deep cleaning job until the morning. After all, getting all that gunk out would require pulling out the stove, perhaps vacuuming, mopping, and who knew what else.

But I had a sneaking suspicion that by morning, there was a strong possibility my kitchen would reek. So, I got off the couch and got to work. I’ll spare you the dirty details, but suffice it to say, the scene I encountered underneath and behind my kitchen stove was disgusting…borderline disturbing!

To think, at least twice a day I’ve been cooking meals in that room, and all of this filth was lurking there, just below the surface! It’s a wonder my family is still alive! Ok, so perhaps now I’m overexaggerating a hair…

Downright dirty…

As I knelt down and scraped up those nasty globs of who-knows-what off of the floor, I thought about the parallel between my cleaning and the cleansing work God does in our hearts.

When it comes to our hearts, the Lord is not satisfied with a cursory surface wipe. In fact, when He does an important work in us, the process can get downright dirty. As believers, in order to truly be clean, we simply can’t stay on the surface where things feel orderly and comfortable.

Friends, we need to be willing to open up the cluttered cabinets of our minds, pull back the dusty drapes shrouding our dreams, and expose the grimy residue clogging our hearts. This means that sometimes our walk of faith requires getting down on our knees and delving into the muck and mire of deep spiritual cleaning.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisees, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

Matthew 23:25-26
Sometimes our walk of faith requires getting down on our knees and delving into the muck and mire of deep spiritual cleaning. Click To Tweet

Surface cleaning…

But admittedly, too often, surface cleaning is the way I tend to keep my natural house and my spiritual house. I like for there to be order in my home, so I keep clutter to a minimum. I don’t leave things in places where they don’t belong, and I don’t allow messes to accumulate. But I confess that it’s not very often that I really and truly deep clean my house.

Polishing the spiritual side of this coin, we can see that it looks similar. I’d wager to say that, as believers, most of us try to keep a tidy, sanctimonious outward appearance. We attempt to maintain some kind of daily quiet time routine. Perhaps we listen to worship music in the car or post scriptures and uplifting memes on social media. Most of us regularly attend Bible study, small group, or a weekly worship service.

Scratching the surface…

But in a sense, don’t all of these religious routines constitute forms of mere maintenance cleaning? Albeit good practices to be in, taken together, these activities barely scratch the surface of the deeper spiritual walk that’s required of a true believer.

But how often do we turn our hearts and minds over to the Lord to really allow Him to scrub, and cleanse, and purify us? Scripture strongly warns against the danger and hypocrisy of this kind of surface cleaning.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Matthew 23:27-28

Skeletons in the closet…

Now, thankfully I didn’t find any dead men’s bones under my stove! But spiritually speaking, when I confess to the anger, hatred, and judgement, that I’ve harbored in my heart, I definitely have hosted some skeletons in my closet.

Had I never spilled my smoothie, I probably would not have thought about cleaning under and behind my stove. Meanwhile, dust, mold, and bacteria, would have continued to fester there, to the detriment of my home’s air quality and our family’s health.

Often, this is the way spiritual problems reach our radar. Maybe our “spilled smoothie” looks like an argument with a loved one where anger and harsh words spill out of our mouths–exposing deeper roots of bitterness that have taken hold inside. Or perhaps we see someone getting praise or recognition for the same kind of thing we would like to do, and thoughts of jealousy and envy rise up in our spirit.

A spiritual makeover…

Friends, I hate to say it, but all of us have an ugly, dark abyss that needs deep cleaning, and this time I’m not talking about the crack between your countertop and your stovetop. I’m referring to the shadowy recesses of our hearts where our unhealed wounds, sin, and shame reside. Those hidden places where we fear that God’s grace can’t, or won’t, reach. But the Lord sees the exact spots on our hearts that need His thorough cleaning and healing.

And no amount of outward adornment–pretty clothes, makeup, half-hearted smiles, or even well-rehearsed Bible verses–can hide our spiritual blemishes. Sisters, we must be willing to ask the Lord to do a full-on deep cleaning in our hearts. Yes, this makeover is likely to hurt our pride, expose our weaknesses, and destroy our false sense of security. But, ultimately letting go of our dirt–jealousy, shame, failure, and fear–allows us to truly be clean. To be beautiful. To be free.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

Have you resorted to surface cleaning spiritually? Does your heart need a deep clean?

When it comes to our hearts, a surface cleaning won't suffice; the Lord is in the business of deep cleaning in order to set us free. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #clean #messy #mercy #grace #sin

*All scripture references are from The King James Version of The Holy Bible.
unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt
Addiction, hope, hopeful, hopeless, salvation, rescue, devotional, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Hopeful: Sharing the Love of Christ with The Hopeless

When we know Christ, He gives us a hopeful spirit. As believers, we are called to share the Hope of Christ with those who feel hopeless.



Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Romans 15:13

Last month marked four years since my mom passed away. When she died, she was at home, asleep in her own bed. I think when most of us picture the ideal way we’d like to go to our Maker, this peaceful scenario fits the bill! But what gave me the most consolation about Mom’s death wasn’t the peaceful circumstances alone. It was the fact that before my mom died, she had regained something of utmost importance: her hopefulness.

When we know Christ, He gives us a hopeful spirit. As believers, we are called to share the Hope of Christ with those who feel hopeless. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #scripture #devotional #addiction #hope #hopeful #rescue #salvation #hopeless

A Whiskey Addiction…

You see, a few years before she died, Mom had descended into a terrible downward spiral of whiskey addiction. Now, I’m not an expert on alcoholism. And I can’t claim that when she died, she had completely sworn off all alcohol. She did still drink wine and beer, but she wasn’t hitting the hard stuff anymore. In short, she was no longer suffering from the severe hard liquor addiction that had stolen her hope and had nearly taken her life just a few short years before.

The following is an excerpt from a family memoir I’m writing. I want to use it to paint a picture of the utter hopelessness that I encountered when I arrived at my mom’s little, off-the-grid homestead in southern Indiana in the early summer of 2008.

The Hopeless Valley…

As I looked around the room, I quickly realized that in some ways, the pitch-black darkness of the night before had been a blessing. It had masked the complete pigsty that Mom’s place had become. What once had been a pleasant little one-room country cottage now looked like a hovel where a homeless person was squatting. Surveying the room, I saw trash everywhere. There were countless Styrofoam take out containers with little bits of moldy, rotten sandwiches strewn on stacks of junk mail topped with dried puddles of candle wax and dirty napkins.

And then I saw one of the most sobering scenes I’ve ever seen. Behind the large fireplace– where there once had been a small passageway leading up to a little ladder staircase—now sat a huge pile of large, plastic empty Wild Turkey whiskey bottles. Too weak and lethargic to tote all the bottles outside to the burn barrel, Mom had apparently resorted to chucking them from her bedside into the little passageway. It was not as if I needed any more proof, but there it was: a mountain of sad evidence rising next to the hopeless valley into which she had descended.

Piss Ant…

Low moans and groans began to emanate from Mom’s bed. Any teetotaler would have loved to tout those torturous telltale sounds of a hangover. The repercussions of the last evening’s escapade were making their obvious appearance. As Mom tried to sit up to throw up into a bucket beside her bed, she saw me. It was as if she were seeing me for the first time.

“Hopey! What are you doing here?” Disturbed, I answered, “Mom, I got here last night. Don’t you remember?” “What? You drove all the way up here from North Carolina?! Where are your friends?” “Mom, I told you. I came by myself.” “You mean to tell me you drove all that way by yourself?” “Yes, Mom. I did.” “Oh my goodness! But I told you not to come. You little piss ant! I knew you would though.” Despite its foul sound, ‘piss ant’ actually served as one of Mom’s sweeter terms of endearment. If only she had known the double entendre of that nickname, given the events from the night before!

A Hopeful Commission…

I can’t recall all the things that transpired that day, or the next, or the one after that. Perhaps because I’ve tried to block out some of the more unpleasant details! Suffice it to say that what occurred was an awful combination of a detox cleanse, an ongoing hangover, and severe withdrawal. I helped nurse Mom through this process without the advent of indoor plumbing. Oh, how a flushable toilet, a sink, and a washing machine would have aided the effort!

To fill in the most important blank: Mom got sober, at least from the whiskey. She admitted it had gotten so bad that she had begun to give up any hope of stopping it. She hadn’t been eating. And too weak to go draw up water from the well, she hadn’t had anything to drink for days, besides the whiskey. She said over and over how she had just about given up all hope. But now, here I was, her Hope! And she knew that the Lord had sent me to help her. At first, I wasn’t convinced of this divine commission Mom alluded to, but as the next few days unfolded, I began to hold that same hopeful belief….

Hope Deferred…

Throughout that week I spent with my mom, I truly felt the weight of the name that my parents gave me: Hope. A relatively new believer myself, I was nursing my own mom back to health. And more importantly, back to hopefulness. Mom’s was a classic case of the scripture: “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick…” (Proverbs 13:12). Wallowing in years of regret, shame, and fear, Mom had reached for the bottle to drown her sorrows. But what she ended up drowning was her own hope.

Groping through the darkness in her pit of shame, she had lost touch with the Light. She had lost any hope of rescue. And as she clasped that whiskey bottle, her hope of ever being truly forgiven and loved slipped further and further from her grasp. I thank the Lord for bringing me to my mom’s bedside to minister to her, both in the natural and spiritual. To remind her of who she was and Whose she was.

A Tree of Life…

The second half of that verse in Proverbs—which is so often left off—reads: “… but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12). Slowly but surely, Mom got back in touch with her desire to live and to heal. And as she reconnected with that desire, I witnessed the small hopeful seed within her grow into a tree of life. Although the last few years of Mom’s life were by no means easy, I saw her transform into the happiest version of herself that I had ever seen. She became hopeful once again.

Beloved, we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth. Whether it’s our own mothers, our friends and neighbors, or complete strangers, the Lord has equipped us to help them see the Light. To help them know the hopefulness that is only truly possible in Jesus Christ. Because when we know Jesus, His hope is ever-present to help us. To rescue us. To raise our spirits back to life once again. He is the Hope that lives inside of us.

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Colossians 1:27

Have you ever found yourself in a pit of hopelessness? Is Christ your Hope? Are there people in your life who need to know that it’s possible to be hopeful?

When we know Jesus, His hope is ever-present to help us. To rescue us. To raise our spirits back to life once again. He is the Hope that lives inside of us. Click To Tweet

When we know Christ, He gives us a hopeful spirit. As believers, we are called to share the Hope of Christ with those who feel hopeless. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #scripture #devotional #addiction #hope #hopeful #rescue #salvation #hopeless

All scriptures are from The King James Version of The Holy Bible.
unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt
addiction, freedom, Holy Spirit, new, salvation, sin, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

All: Applying ‘In Jesus’ Name’ to Every Part of Our Lives

As new creatures in Christ, we must turn over all areas of our life to the Lord. When we do this–in ways large and small–He becomes our All in All.



And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:8, KJV

“In Jesus’ name. Amen.” We hear these words so often. Typically at the end of a spoken prayer in church, at a Bible study, or around the dinner table. But what about in the rest of our day to day life?

What if we, as believers, were to apply these words to our entire lives? After the thoughts we think about ourselves and others? After the words we speak? When choosing the music we’re going to listen to or the movie we want to watch? When we’re considering whether to marry someone or start a family? How might our lives change if we were to apply these three words: “in Jesus’ name” to all that we think, say, and do?

As new creatures in Christ, we must turn over every area of our lives to the Lord. When we do this--in ways large and small--He becomes our All in All. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #addiction #freedom #HolySpirit #new #sin #salvation

All Means All…

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV

I looked up the definition of the word “all,” and guess what it means? All! Everything. The totality of a person or thing. The whole shebang! So if we are to trust the Lord with all of our heart and acknowledge Him in all of our ways, then every single aspect of our lives should reflect who He is. If we were to truly give Him our all, wouldn’t the choices we make look like His best for us in every situation?

Sometimes our choices feel small and of very little consequence. Other times, we face big situations that require very difficult decisions. But, as we commit to inviting the Lord into every choice–small or large–we make, we begin to see how His good and perfect will applies to all that concerns us. And, we don’t have to fret about the choices before us or worry whether we’ll make the right decision. If we’ll ask Him, the Holy Spirit inside of us helps us know the right thing to do at all times.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

John 16:13, ESV

Small…

Here’s a small example…

My husband and I have always loved watching movies together. Pre-kids, that meant late date nights at the movie theater in comfy reclining seats, replete with an entire barrel of popcorn doused with “movie butter.” Don’t ask me what was in that stuff, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t actually butter, and I’m also positive that it tasted delicious!

These days, movie nights look a lot different. Showtime is at 8:30 p.m., in our living room, in our pj’s, on our non-reclining couch. A movie requires a full, strong cup of coffee after dinner just to stay awake, and the popcorn is a slightly healthier version.

But the setting and the movie butter aren’t all that’s changed. The content we regard as entertainment has shifted dramatically. So much of what used to captivate and thrill us now disgusts and saddens us. If a film is full of foul language, gratuitous nudity, violence, and empty, nonredemptive plots, we just won’t watch it. In other words, if I can’t say “in Jesus’ name” to my choice, I can’t press play.

The check in my spirit simply won’t allow me to sit through two hours of anything that doesn’t somehow uplift, inspire, or motivate us to live a more full, joyful life. Friends, we have to be careful about the choices we make, even in things as seemingly small as entertainment choices. Because if we aren’t careful, we can allow in “little foxes” of sin and doubt that seek to spoil our faith.

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

Solomon 2:15, KJV

Big…

Now, choosing our entertainment is a relatively easy area to distinguish between dark and downright unholy and offerings that are good and wholesome. But there are other, bigger areas of our lives that hold much greater significance–like whom to marry, which job to take, whether to have children, how to respond to a health crisis, how to overcome an addiction, and such. In these areas, the “in Jesus’ name” litmus test applies to an even greater extent.

A number of years ago, I was struggling with a problem that falls into the big category. A drug addiction. As a relatively new believer, I had become a new creature in Christ, yet I hadn’t fully allowed all of my old, sinful habits to die. In other words, I wasn’t all in for the Lord.

Throughout high school, college, and through my 20’s, I smoked marijuana. I had wrapped so much of my identity as an artist into my identity as a pot smoker that I feared I couldn’t create anything good unless I was high as a kite. I recall many a late-night spoken word poetry and songwriting session punctuated by bong hits and coughing fits.

For years, I used this drug recreationally and never suffered a guilty conscience from inhaling ungodly amounts of smoke. Much less from flouting the law of the land! But once I asked Christ to come into my heart, I began to understand that what I was doing was wrong.

I knew that I was, in fact, sinning. Both by breaking the law and also by altering the chemical state of my brain–which was supposed to be a holy temple for the Holy Spirit. But for years, the pull and the desire to smoke weed held a very strong grip on me.

A Realization…

One day I was driving down the highway on a long road trip by myself. As I was singing the words of a new song the Lord was giving me, for some reason, my thoughts turned to the drug paraphernalia in my glove compartment.

Part of me really wanted me to do what I’d always done on road trips–pull out my trusty pipe and take a toke. But an even bigger part of me felt repulsed by the very notion. The Spirit inside of me was warring against the sinful choice I was about to make.

And in that moment, I had a realization. I wasn’t high, yet I was coming up with a new song! And in fact, I had a bunch of new songs that hadn’t come to me while I was smoking. Like a lightning bolt, the epiphany struck me: the source of the creativity inside of me was not the pot I was smoking. My creative gifts came straight from the Creator Himself. Buzzing from the excitement of this new realization, the Holy Spirit inside of me rose up, and I began to praise God.

Eventually, I did reach into the glove compartment. But it wasn’t to smoke a bowl. Instead, I grabbed the little embroidered bag that held my pipe, lighter, and weed, and I chucked it out the window. And I have never looked back. In retrospect, I guess I committed another sin that day–breaking the littering law. But I hope the Lord won’t judge me for that….or for my marijuana addiction!

Become New…

Beloved, when we allow all of the old things–our old sins, old ways, and our old choices–to pass away, we can begin to truly live a life where “all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17, KJV). Earnestly trying to apply “in Jesus’ name” to all that we do, clears the smoke in our vision. It allows us to see that so many of the things that used to please us were really chains that bound us.

Before I quit smoking pot, I thought that life wouldn’t be any fun without it. Like the ashes from my bowl, I pictured my creativity just drying up and blowing away. But I can tell you today, I feel better than ever. I’m having much more fun and I feel more creative than I ever did during those years when my entire life was shrouded in a smoky haze!

All in All…

The enemy wants us to believe that the Lord is a divine killjoy who wants us to live boring, mundane holier-than-thou kinds of lives. But friends, nothing could be further from the truth! When we walk away from all the old, sinful counterfeits, we are able to see that we serve a good God who wants to give us all things for a full, joyful, abundant life in Him.

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.

2 Peter 1:3, KJV

Beloved, if we’ll let Him–just like the old hymn says–He truly will be our “All in All.” In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Is there a small choice–“a little fox”–in your life that won’t allow you to say “in Jesus’ name” afterward? Maybe a big area of your life where you need the Lord to make all things new for you? Is He your All in All?

Earnestly trying to apply 'in Jesus' name' to all that we do, clears the smoke in our vision. It allows us to see that so many of the things that used to please us were really chains that bound us. Click To Tweet

As new creatures in Christ, we must turn over every area of our lives to the Lord. When we do this--in ways large and small--He becomes our All in All. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #addiction #freedom #HolySpirit #new #sin #salvation

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Bitterness, sin, stress, salvation, repentance, forgiveness, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Turning: Repenting of Our Sins and Returning to The Lord

True repentance happens in turning away from our sins and turning back to the Lord. Once we are in right standing with Him, we can face any battle.



I had had enough. I was at the end of my rope, and I was angry. A root of bitterness was taking ahold of my heart, and I was blaming anyone and everyone–my kids, my husband, even God–for my situation.

There were too many bills and not enough money to pay them. Too many hours in the day with the kids and not enough activities or patience to fill them. Way too many frayed nerves and not enough peace to calm them.

In this perfect confluence of stressors, I was overflowing with anger and frustration. And my husband was bearing the brunt. Instead of turning to the Lord and asking Him to forgive and help me, I was turning my back to Him. In doing so, I was making everything even worse.

True repentance happens in turning away from our sins and turning back to the Lord. Once we are in right standing with Him, we can face any battle. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #bitterness #forgiveness #salvation #repentance #stress #sin

Turning Our Back…

What is it about turning our back to someone that makes us feel powerful? When we refuse to engage with someone, we don’t hold any true power over him. And we surely don’t have the upper hand.

In fact, in an actual physical fight, the most vulnerable position one can assume is turning his/her back to the opponent. Self-defense 101 cautions to never turn your back to your attacker. When you do so–unable to see what he’s doing– you render yourself defenseless against his attack.

And, what’s worse, as believers when we turn our back on our own ally, the Holy Spirit, we weaken our defenses against our true enemy: the devil. The Holy Spirit’s role is to comfort, counsel, and empower us to face any challenge we encounter.

So, by turning away from Him, we expose our weak side, making us even more vulnerable to our enemy’s attack. And we know what the devil’s sole intent is:

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…

John 10:10, KJV

A Hard Heart…

Part of me knew what I needed to do, but my heart was hardened to the point that I refused to pray to the Lord and ask for help. And I’d begun to feel justified for feeling the way I was feeling and for acting the way I was acting. Even though it was getting me nowhere, and actually setting me back, I stubbornly refused to pray.

Because of your hardened and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed.

Romans 2:5, CSB

By refusing to pray, in essence, I was doing the devil’s work for him. I was fighting against myself. Beloved, when we turn away from the Lord, we side with our own enemy. But my hardened heart had blinded me to this reality.

Thankfully, the Lord does not take any delight whatsoever in watching us suffer as we play into the enemy’s hand. In fact, He wants nothing more than for us to turn away from our sin, to turn our back to our real enemy, and to turn again to Him–our very present help in time of need.

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Ezekiel 33:11, ESV

Turning Back…

Luckily my husband has pretty razor-sharp spiritual discernment, so he understood the state that I was in. Even though my mouth was hurling fiery darts at his heart, he was deflecting them with patience and lovingkindness. And he kept encouraging me to pray with him and to ask the Lord to help me. I thank God for giving me a husband who is a true man of God, who can recognize when he needs to fight for me in the spirit. Even when I am trying to fight against him in the natural!

It took me awhile–way too long in fact–but eventually, I agreed to pray. I wish I could say I repented quickly, but honestly, it was a pretty slow, forced, and ugly process. But as I began to pray, the hard shell on the exterior of my heart began to crack, then soften. And before I had finished praying, all of the stony parts of my heart seemed to melt away, leaving trails of hot tears streaming down my cheeks.

Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.

Acts 3:19, ASV

When we turn away from our sin–in my case, frustration, bitterness, anger, and fear–we can turn back to the Lord. And that is what repentance simply is: turning back to our Savior. Turning back to the One who loves us, and forgives us, and washes us clean. And when we are in right standing with Him, we will be able to face the real battles in our lives.

When we turn away from our sin, we can turn back to the Lord. Repentance simply is: turning back to our Savior. Turning back to the One who loves us, and forgives us, and washes us clean. Click To Tweet

Search Me…

No matter how far along we might think we are on our spiritual path, we never outgrow our need for repentance. I think too often we as believers view repentance with a capital R. Like it’s a one time, one of a kind thing that we do only when we’re first saved. When the Lord first forgives us.

But repentance begins with a little r. It’s just a regular, daily thing that we have to do as believers. Turning our hearts back to the Lord has to be a common, daily practice because unfortunately, sinning and falling short of His glory is a daily, ongoing challenge.

But thankfully, the Lord has made a provision for this continuous problem: repentance. Any time we feel disconnected or out of sync with the Lord, we can ask Him to search our hearts and reveal any areas where we have strayed. And when we humble ourselves and turn back to Him, fully repenting for our sin, He softens our hearts and erases our slates. He continually takes away our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24, ASV

Is there an area in your life that you need to turn back to the Lord? Do you treat repentance as something that begins with a capital R or a small r?

True repentance happens in turning away from our sins and turning back to the Lord. Once we are in right standing with Him, we can face any battle. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #bitterness #forgiveness #salvation #repentance #stress #sin

unsplash-logoChristiane Nuetzel
honesty, stories, hope, testimony, uncomfortable, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Testing: Sharing Our Struggles in The Middle of Our Stories

When we vulnerably share our stories of the struggles we face, we invite our brothers and sisters to help us pass any testing or trial in our lives.



I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the middle. You know, the part of the story before the denouement–before the climax. Before all the plot lines come together and the connections become clear. It’s the part when the story gets messy. Even downright ugly. The part when the protagonist goes through a time of testing. She doesn’t know how it’s all going to play out, and she’s trying not to lose hope. It’s a time when things can feel awkward, uncomfortable, even scary and hopeless. It’s the middle.

When we vulnerably share our stories of the struggles we face, we invite our brothers and sisters to help us pass any testing or trial in our lives. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #hope #testimony #uncomfortable #honesty

Unfinished Stories…

A while back, a dear friend shared a very raw, transparent testimony about traversing the middle of motherhood. She was struggling with the fact that her story was one in which the Lord’s redemption was not yet evident. She admitted her heart’s longing to share a testimony where all the loose ends were tucked in–where it was all wrapped up in a pretty bow. But, at this point in her story, that’s just not where she is. She’s in the middle. In the throes of motherhood, where each day feels like a battle. And she’s fighting to find joy amid the struggle.

My friend’s honest and vulnerable talk touched the heart of every woman who heard her speak. It opened the floodgates for an incredible discussion about hard things like depression, anxiety, and shame. And it invited conversation about deep desires for joy, peace, and healing. My friend’s willingness to share the good, bad, and ugly of her situation gave the rest of us permission to honestly grapple with the difficulties we’re facing. Because we are all in the middle of our own unfinished stories.

The “Test” in Testimony…

The middle of our stories is when the true testing of our faith happens. Folks, there’s a reason why “test” is part of the word “testimony.” Without seasons of testing, we’ll never know what we are truly made of. And without His testing, we’ll never fully grasp the goodness of the Lord. Through our walk of faith, we learn that God doesn’t maniacally test us to watch us fail. Rather, He lovingly allows us to walk through tests and trials in order to prove our faith and to strengthen the power of His Word in us. He tests us to show us that He truly will lead, guide, and deliver us through every trial.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4, ESV

We–as believers, women, and just humans in general–need to know one another’s struggles. Yes, it’s wonderful to hear a testimony of the Lord’s goodness once the story is all said and done. But what about the middle part? What about the part when we are in the heat of the battle? When the struggle is raw, and things don’t make sense? At all. When life is hard and holding onto our faith isn’t easy? Beloved, we need to be able to share our hearts–even when the testing of our faith exposes some sharp, jagged edges that don’t fit so neatly into religion’s pretty box.

Beloved, we need to be able to share our hearts–even when the testing of our faith exposes some sharp, jagged edges that don’t fit so neatly into religion's pretty box. Click To Tweet

Passing The Test…

Sisters, we can’t gloss over the testing phase when we share our stories with others. We must testify of His goodness even in the midst of our stories that are unfolding. This means we shouldn’t shy away from sharing our testimonies in the middle of the test itself! It can feel extremely vulnerable to talk about current struggles we’re facing, battles we feel like we’re losing, and hard circumstances that don’t look like they’re changing. But when we’re honest about the fact that we’re in the middle of the story, it allows our sisters and brothers in Christ to come alongside us.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV

We can invite others to pray with and for us and help us in the ways they can. As members of one body, we are called to help shoulder one another’s burdens. To point each other back to the One who ultimately delivers us from all of our tests and trials. When it comes to passing these kinds of tests, the Lord doesn’t look at sharing and helping one another as cheating. In fact, He encourages us to walk together. 

A Brave Testimony…

Recently a dear friend bravely shared her story of being in the middle of a season of grief following a miscarriage. With her permission, I want to share the way she beautifully gave her testimony in the midst of this trial. She posted a picture of the empty “baby’s room” in her home, and then she went on to share her heart:

“I’m not pregnant. We are a week away from [our son’s] due date and there is no baby coming. The ache and recovery for all of us have been quite a journey. We’ve kept the door closed to this room and passed by it several times a day. The reminders that we bought this house to grow our family are all around us. Yet, today I stand here with an achy longing of hope. I’m not crying! That is a miracle and the result of time, support, great therapy, taking it day by day, and riding the waves of postpartum miscarriage hormones that took about 5 months to settle (just sharing to normalize how long it takes to “recover” from a miscarriage even though it’s something one never recovers from).

We set up [our daughter’s] big girl bed today to celebrate her successful potty training. It also forced us to put the crib in the “baby’s room” as we still call it. We rearranged and I showed her all the baby items. Things left untouched were played with and dusted off. We are hoping and waiting to see if this crib will be used again. This morning [our daughter] said she’s praying for a baby sister. Will you join us in the risky hopeful prayers? We think we’re ready to get back in the ring…Here’s to all of us grieving, hoping, celebrating.

If you’re surprised by my sharing in such a public way, it’s because this middle part of the journey isn’t talked about. It’s hidden. Sometimes there isn’t news of a new baby coming to make the loss feel less painful. We can breathe a collective sigh of relief when we finally see the widow get remarried or have that rainbow baby or find the job or go into remission. But what if those things don’t happen? Can we sit with each other in the uncomfortable middle of the journey?”

Conquerors…

My friend’s courage to share her struggle–in the midst of her story–serves as a  powerful reminder to us all. Beloved, this walk of faith is not a cake walk. It’s a fight for our lives in the middle of an intense battle between good and evil. But praise God that through every test, through every trial, we serve a loving Father who indeed sees us through. In Him, we find our strength to persevere through the tests of the wilderness seasons, when it feels as if we are holding onto our last shreds of faith. But as we hold fast to the One who never leaves nor forsakes us, we enter the Promised Land as more than conquerors! 

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

Revelation 12:11, ESV

Are you in the middle of an unfinished story? Would you consider sharing your testimony in the test you face? Do you have a sister in the faith who needs your help to pass the test she is facing?

When we vulnerably share our stories of the struggles we face, we invite our brothers and sisters to help us pass any testing or trial in our lives. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #hope #testimony #uncomfortable #honesty

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt
love, light, God's love, hope, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Buckets: Being Filled and Filling Others with The Love of Christ

When the Lord fills us with His love and light, our buckets are full to overflowing. With full buckets, we can fill others with Christ’s love.



I was sitting in the gymnasium at my kids’ elementary school as 200 squirmy students sat on the floor, their teachers perched slightly above them on metal folding chairs. The atmosphere was charged with palpable energy, excitement, and anticipation.

They were all waiting for a guest performer to take the stage. The man was Red Grammer, a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and performer who the CBS Morning Show described as: “a superstar to the young and a hit with parents too!” And we were all about to find out why!

When the Lord fills us with His love and light, our buckets are full to overflowing. With full buckets, we can fill others with Christ's love. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #scripture #devotional #hope #light #love #GodsLove

Moved to Tears…

As Mr. Grammer began to sing his first song as if on cue, all 200 students chimed in:

Everybody here has a bucket. (Yes!) Everybody’s bucket holds light. (Right!) Add a little light here, add a little light there, till everybody’s bucket shines bright.

It was an incredible moment to behold. I don’t know what it is about a bunch of children singing together, but it gets me every time. As I looked around the room, I could see I wasn’t the only one who was deeply touched by what I was witnessing–many of the teachers and staff were wiping tears from their eyes too.

As I sat there in my chair, tears streaming down my face, I tried to soak up every ounce of the beauty that I was beholding. Moments like these don’t happen often enough. Moments when time just sort of comes to a stop. It’s as if a divine hand pushes an invisible pause button on all of our worries, anxieties, and fears. And we’re invited to simply take in the moment. And in the middle of that busy, secular public school, I experienced a divine moment.

As Mr. Grammer continued on with his performance, his 200-member backup choir followed suit. They added choreographed hand gestures and signs to match the lyrics–which their amazing choir teacher had taught them. There was a sweet ballad called “See Me Beautiful,” about asking others to try to see the best in us, even when we might be at our worst. Then, a fun tune called “I’ve Got A Lid” about protecting our hearts when someone comes to “dip into our bucket” with harsh words or actions. Followed by a call and response number called “I’m All Filled Up”–with happiness, good thoughts, and love. And the hits rolled on…

In A Nutshell…

Although Red Grammer is not a Christian artist, the simple messages of his beautiful songs cover the gamut of scripture. The overarching theme on his Circle of Light album is “bucket filling”–the simple notion that we all have buckets that hold love and light. Sometimes our buckets are empty; other times they’re full.

When someone’s bucket is empty, s/he might “dip” into others’ buckets by tearing them down. But we all have “lids” that we can use to protect our own buckets from dipping. We can always help to fill up others’ buckets by sharing love and light with them. So, essentially bucket filling represents the basic tenets of the Christian faith in a nutshell!

Love and Light…

First, our buckets are filled with love and light. As believers, we know that God is love:

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

1 John 4:16

God’s son, Jesus, is the light of man:

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

John 1:4

Bucket Filling and Dipping…

Next, God fills our “buckets” (our body, soul, and spirit) with His love.

And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:19

Sin empties our buckets and causes us to hurt or “dip into” others to find fulfillment.

There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

Psalm 38:3-4

Using Our Lids…

Finally, we must use our “lids” to guard our hearts and minds against attacks by the enemy and worldly sin that so easily ensnares.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Ultimately, our job as believers is not to judge or fight our enemies, but rather to see them as our brothers and sisters whose “buckets are empty.” As believers, we are called to help “fill others’ buckets” by showing them the love of Christ.

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.

Luke 6:27
Our job as believers is not to judge or fight our enemies, but rather to see them as our brothers and sisters whose 'buckets are empty'. We are called to help 'fill others' buckets' by showing them the love of Christ. Click To Tweet

A New Family Ritual…

That night after the concert, as our family sat around the kitchen table, all of our buckets were full. My husband had helped set up the sound equipment for Mr. Grammer. I had helped emcee the event and both of our kids had attended the show. As we sat there eating–in typical mom fashion–I suggested that we go around the table and share one way that we had filled someone else’s bucket that day and one way that someone else had filled our bucket.

It was so sweet to hear how our kids had been touched by their friends’ kindness and how they had helped others throughout their day. Each of us enjoyed this activity so much that it has become a new family ritual at dinnertime. Sometimes things are so simple that they just work. And this concept of bucket filling has given our family a common language to consider how we are treating others and how they treat us.

Power to Change The World…

The final line in another of Red Grammer’s songs goes:

Filling up a bucket seems like a small, small thing. But it has the power to change the world!

Amen! I am so thankful we serve a loving God who wants nothing more than to fill to overflowing the buckets of all of His children.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Romans 15:13

How have you filled someone’s bucket today? How has someone filled your bucket?

When the Lord fills us with His love and light, our buckets are full to overflowing. With full buckets, we can fill others with Christ's love. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #scripture #devotional #hope #light #love #GodsLove

All scripture references are from The King James Version of The Holy Bible and all song lyrics and bucket filling references are drawn from Red Grammer’s performance and his Circle of Light album. For more on Mr. Grammer, visit: https://redgrammer.com/
unsplash-logoHeli Ruiz
let go, release, control, hold fast, worry, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Release: Letting Go of Our Control and Clinging to the Lord

When we release our worry and control to the Lord and cling to His promises, we can experience genuine freedom in our lives.



A few mornings ago, I awoke at dawn to the familiar sound of birds chirping outside my bedroom window. A refreshing stretch of beautiful spring weather has called for sleeping with the windows open. And each morning, I’m treated to a choir of birdsongs. There are the high pitched, staccato offerings of the finch. The cardinal’s piercing siren-like call. Soft, plaintive cooing from the mourning dove. The warbler’s high lonesome vibrato. And all this is punctuated by loud, boisterous squawking solos from the blue jays, blackbirds, and hawks!

When we release our worry and control to the Lord and cling to His promises, we can experience genuine freedom in our lives. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #release #control #worry

The Woods

Over the nearly four years we’ve lived in this home, I’ve grown accustomed to this morning avian greeting. You see, although our neighborhood sits in the heart of town, we’ve been blessed to live right beside nearly 15 acres of undeveloped woods. Our family has taken daily walks with our dog in those woods. The woods have provided a natural buffer against impinging traffic noise and light pollution. And the woods have enveloped our property, creating a peaceful oasis for gathering around the fire pit with family and friends.

But within the past year, a real estate developer–that builds high-end apartment complexes–purchased the land. And soon, this wooded sanctuary will be leveled to the ground. Given all the development in this area, my husband and I used to joke that the name of our town, Wake Forest, should be changed to Wake “Used to Be” Forest. But now that the woods right next to us are on the chopping block, this moniker is no laughing matter!

The Developers

So, what has been a quiet, sleepy dead-end road in front of our house will soon become a thoroughfare. The place where our kids and their friends from the neighborhood have learned to ride their bikes and play will no longer be safe for children. And to add insult to injury, a row of large garbage receptacles for the entire apartment complex will sit a mere 20 yards from our bedroom window! So goodbye to my morning chorus of birds, and hello to the daily dumping of stinky trash and clanking recyclables!

A while back, the developers held a public hearing where they presented their site plan to the city planning department. They explained how they will maximize the property’s potential by removing all the trees, grading the land, and constructing apartment buildings with sprawling parking lots on every side. It’s like I’m seeing firsthand what Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi lyrics lamented: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot! Ooo bop bop bop bop!”

Release

My initial reaction was to “bop” those developers over the head, mount a neighborhood insurrection, and send them packing! But, I’ve come to the realization that this is not the battle I need to fight. In fact, the whole situation has caused me to examine my own internal battle–of learning how to release those things over which I have no control.

Needless to say, I’ve had some difficulty wrapping my head and heart around this impending change. Because I’m having trouble letting go. Letting go of the wonderful memories that we’ve formed in this house. Of this peaceful place that we’ve been blessed to call home. Releasing fear and worry about what the future will hold for our family’s living situation.

But isn’t our walk of faith so often about letting go? In this case, I need to release something that’s ultimately pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. But in the past, I’ve tried to cling to things that the Lord, in His grace and mercy, was trying to take out of my hands. Things like childhood traumas, unhealthy relationships, a career that was not life-giving, a drug addiction, and a home that was too small and breaking down around me.

Casting Our Cares

Although all of those things were destructive, I was holding tightly to them because they felt so familiar to me. In many ways, I had solidified my whole identity with them. So the thought of allowing the Lord to remove them from my life felt extremely unsettling and downright frightening. But the thing was, none of them was serving me. And some of them were actually pulling me further away from the Lord.

So, in His grace and mercy, He allowed my life to crumble to the point where I eventually cried out to Him for help. I finally let go. And when I relinquished control over my life, I experienced the freedom that comes when we cast our cares on Him.

Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

Psalms 55:22

A Continual Process

And this is a continual process, isn’t it? So often, when the Lord has helped us through one challenge, there’s another difficult situation awaiting on the horizon. But when we let go and allow God to carry us through, He proves Himself faithful. Beloved, if we’ll cling to Him, we’ll see that He is good, that we can trust Him, and that He is leading and guiding us perfectly. And no matter the trial, He will be with us, shepherding us through. Because our Abba is not in the business of harming His children, but of loving and helping us.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans not to harm you but to give you a hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11
When we allow God to carry us through, He proves Himself faithful. If we'll cling to Him, we'll see that He is good, we can trust Him, and He is leading us perfectly. Click To Tweet

Clinging to Him

So, in the case of the development going up right next to my home, I am letting go. No longer sulking over the loss of my family’s carefree lifestyle in this home, I’m thanking the Lord for the good times that we’ve shared here. I’m releasing my worry about where we’ll end up next and whether we’ll have a soft landing. And I’m holding fast to His promises to take care of me and my family. I’m clinging to Him who says He will never leave nor forsake me.

And the LORD, he is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

Deuteronomy 31:8

Are there things in your life that the Lord is inviting you to release? Are you clinging tightly to Him?

When we release our worry and control to the Lord and cling to His promises, we can experience genuine freedom in our lives. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #release #control #worry

All scripture verses are from The King James Version of The Holy Bible.
unsplash-logoNick West
restoration, healing, beautiful, beauty, create, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Restoration: Allowing The Lord to Heal Our Brokenness with Beauty

When we hand over the broken pieces of our hearts to the Lord, we can expect restoration. We emerge from His mending with even greater beauty and value.



A few years ago, I found myself in one of the most lovely places I’ve ever seen: Duck, North Carolina. A tiny barrier island at the northernmost tip of the Outer Banks, Duck is nestled between the peaceful sound on one side and the mighty ocean on the other. It was such a blessing to spend a week in this coastal paradise.

I made the trip with a group of eight close friends who were walking intimately with the Lord and with one another. One of the women in our group had a friend who owned this gorgeous beach house, and she allowed us to use her home for our annual girls’ getaway.

The place was palatial! Beautiful balconies off of each bedroom provided perfect perches for sipping coffee and savoring quiet time in the bright morning sun. Sprawling wrap around decks with rocking chairs and hammocks offered comfy spots for leisurely reading or napping in the afternoon shade.

The rooftop deck invited early evening musings as we took in stunning sunsets over the ocean. And incredible waterfront views on every side lent a picturesque backdrop for sweet conversations or time alone with the Lord.

When we hand over the broken pieces of our hearts to the Lord, we can expect restoration. We emerge from His mending with even greater beauty and value. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #beauty #healing #create #restore

A Sisterhood of Believers

In this place, we were surrounded by such magnificent beauty; yet each one of us had brought broken pieces of our hearts that needed mending. (For the sake of anonymity, I will not use my friends’ real names).

Nancy’s husband had been in and out of the hospital for over a year with repeated major surgeries and life-threatening infections. Rosalynn’s daughter was struggling with anxiety and other mental health issues. Sara’s husband had a severe health problem that forced him to indefinitely halt his career as a commercial airline pilot. She was also heartbroken over her son’s battle with alcohol and drug addiction.

Ana was dealing with severe exhaustion from issues related to her diabetes. I was in the middle of a very deep financial wilderness season where I could barely keep my kids fed and a roof over our heads.

Each one of us had arrived with so much brokenness, suffering, and strife. Our hearts longed for restoration and peace. Throughout that week, the Lord refreshed our souls with the natural beauty of the island. He comforted our hearts with the sweet fellowship of this sisterhood of believers.

Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Three Artists

One of our dear friends almost didn’t make the trip. The previous year, Mary had suffered a tragic loss in her family–a loss involving the ocean. Reeling from the emotional aftershocks of the incident, Mary was still trying to find her bearings. She was not sure if her heart could handle returning to the sea. Shortly before we left for the trip, however, the Lord gave Mary the courage to go.

One afternoon, I was standing in the kitchen visiting with Mary and Sara. To set this up properly, I should mention that–in very different ways–all three of us are artists. Mary is an amazingly gifted painter, Sara is a wonderful poet, and I am a songwriter. As the three of us gathered around that kitchen island, the Lord did something beautiful for our broken artist hearts. He gave us a glimpse of the tender beauty and care that He so lovingly uses to mend the hearts of His beloved daughters.

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

A Poem…

Sara had brought a poem that she wanted to share with Mary. The piece described the Japanese art of Kintsugi, which means “golden joinery or repair.” This ancient art form involves the restoration of broken pottery with a lacquer that’s mixed with powdered gold. The resulting pieces–the mended vessels–hold even greater beauty and value than the originals.

As Sara recited the sweet poem, we beheld a beautiful depiction of the way the Lord heals our hearts. Just like the Kintsugi artisans, He carefully considers and deftly handles each delicate and fragile shard. And with His loving touch, He gently puts us back together again. Restoring us, He fills our seams and our scars with something even more precious than gold–His love is the bond that makes us whole. Under His master hand, we emerge even stronger and more beautiful for the mending.

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Job 23:10

Restoring us, God fills our seams and our scars with something even more precious than gold–His love is the bond that makes us whole. We emerge even stronger and more beautiful for the mending. Click To Tweet

A Painting

As Sara finished reading the poem, Mary was in tears. Mary shared how she had just returned from a long walk on the beach with the Lord. She had been so reluctant to return to this place of such heartbreak and loss. Yet the Lord–in His tender and merciful way–had softly touched her heart by opening her eyes to the beauty surrounding her.

As she took each step on the soft sand, He guided her gaze to a new colorful sight. Each one contained uniquely beautiful tones and hues. The soft pinks and subtle blues of the seashells were like watercolors. Puffs of white foam on the grey sand strewn with black sea bark–a black and white rendering. Stark streaks of marigold and turquoise across the sky–a bold acrylic abstract. Wisps of bright green sea grass gently waving from the breezy dunes–a simple yet alluring landscape scene.

Like a palate resting on her arm as she made brushstrokes on her canvas, this natural array of color offered new creative possibilities. Her Creator was reawakening her painter’s heart. All of this splendor was right there in front of her, on magnificent display.

Through the beauty of this simple seaside setting, the Lord was showing His beloved daughter one of His most treasured works. It was not the physical scenery that lay before her–it was her very own heart. She was a daughter after His own heart. A painter, gifted and trained by the Master. And she was His masterpiece.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

A Song

As Mary finished sharing, I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Earlier that day, the Lord had taken me on a similar journey on the beach, and He was speaking to me through all the broken seashells along the shore.

I had been pouring out my heart to Him. Desperately seeking peace and assurance that my family would survive this wilderness season of deep hardship and lack. And as He often does, He brought me solace through the lyrics of a new song. I sang it there in the kitchen for my friends, as I knew it was meant not only for me but for their hearts as well. It’s called Broken Seashells:

Broken seashells, on the seashore: works of art, strewn in the sand.

In this masterpiece, He has created, even the refuse is grand. O even the refuse is grand.

We all long for beauty, the desire’s built in.

Made to reflect His glory, we’re hewn by a master hand. Yes we’re hewn by our Master’s hand.

With a blueprint on every fingertip, and a light in every eye,

a love in each heart, and a story to live by. It’s His story we live by.

We all long for meaning, for a purpose within.

Made to trust His leading, and follow a master plan. Yes we follow our Master’s plan.

With a blueprint on every fingertip, and a light in every eye,

a love in each heart, and a story to live by. It’s His story we live by.

Broken people, on the seashore: works of art strewn in the sand.

In this masterpiece, He has created, even the refuse is grand. Yes, even the refuse is grand.

Broken seashells, on the seashore…

Hope Anderson, “Broken Seashells”

Restoration

So the Lord used a poem, a painting, and a song to bring restoration to our hearts. And although not every wound was completely healed in that week, He touched our hearts in such beautifully unique ways that we could not deny the goodness of our Creator.

What has the Lord used to bring restoration to your broken heart? Do you know that your heart contains the bonds of His love, which is far more precious than pure gold?

When we hand over the broken pieces of our hearts to the Lord, we can expect restoration. We emerge from His mending with even greater beauty and value. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #beauty #healing #create #restore

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All scriptures are from The King James Version of The Bible.
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Beauty: Allowing the Lord to Restore Our Brokenness

When we allow the Lord to restore the brokenness in our hearts, He makes us into something beautiful. Indeed, He makes all things beautiful in His time. Beauty for ashes. 



A few weeks ago I attended a friend’s beautiful birthday celebration. But this was no ordinary birthday party! It was a Girl’s Day (and night) of epic proportion. I’m talking lunch, coffee, pedicures, shopping, cocktails, and a gourmet dinner. It was truly a fairy tale kind of afternoon.

But like any beautiful fairy tale, brokenness emerged as part of the story. At one point, we were all sitting around a table on a warm, breezy veranda. That’s when the birthday girl suggested we play a get-to-know-you trivia game. 

When we allow the Lord to restore the brokenness in our hearts, He makes us into something beautiful. Indeed, He creates beauty in His time. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #brokenness #redeemed #beautiful

Bits of Brokenness…

As my friend read off the unique facts about each woman, we were to match the descriptor with each woman’s name. As she read the descriptions, bits of brokenness revealed themselves. One woman survived breast cancer. Another woman served in the military in Afghanistan. Someone else had just given birth three weeks ago. And another’s husband almost died twice last year….the incredible list went on! Given that I was new to the group, I had no idea which description matched which woman.

And as I looked around the table at all their beautiful faces, pretty clothes, and newly painted nails, I was still at a loss. Honestly, I found it hard to believe that this group–of such outwardly put together women–could have experienced such deep depths of brokenness. When my friend revealed the answers to the questions, I looked at each woman at the table. Each one was a testament to the amazing beauty that emerges when we allow the Lord to restore our brokenness.

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

A Therapeutic Process…

A simple illustration of how the Lord has turned my brokenness into beauty is through the craft of jewelry making. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved making jewelry. As a little girl, I would sneak into my mom’s sewing kit, hunting for colorful embroidery floss. It took some doing to unwrap the threads from the pokey pincushions and other sewing supplies. But once I had my assortment of colors, I’d spend hours making elaborate macrame friendship bracelets.

Amid the emotional chaos of my parents’ unraveling relationship, the slow straightening, pulling, and knotting of the long strings became a therapeutic process. I remember feeling so satisfied when I’d finally finished a bracelet.

Slowly yet surely, I would transform the once tangled, stringy mess into a tightly fashioned pattern of beauty. And doesn’t this mirror how the Lord works in our hearts? Under His patient and steady hand, the once seemingly hopeless, jumbled mess of a broken heart is mended into a beautifully woven masterpiece.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted….

Isaiah 61:1

Castaways…

A few years ago, I found myself in need of some jewelry therapy once again! My husband and I were in the middle of a financial wilderness season–which posed a problem for someone whose love language is gift giving! I simply couldn’t bear the thought of allowing a friend or family member’s birthday to pass without giving her a gift. Because I couldn’t afford to buy anything, I decided to make jewelry to give as presents.

The only problem was, the pretty new beads from the local bead store were pricey. But the Holy Spirit gave me an ingenious idea for how to get my hands on free jewelry supplies. I began asking friends and family to give me any old, broken, or castaway jewelry that they were willing to part with. Then, I’d take apart the old pieces and make them new jewelry from the supplies I received. Upcycling at its finest!

Their Trash, My Treasure…

It was only a matter of time before the floodgates of jewelry supplies opened. Soon, women were bringing me bags of broken or unwanted jewelry, and their trash truly became my treasure! Amid my fear and uncertainty about our family’s financial future, once again, I was able to find comfort in the simple physical process of making jewelry.

After putting my baby and toddler to bed, I’d sit for hours sorting through all the broken pieces, dismantling and organizing the beads, playing around with different color combinations, and exploring new designs. As I delved into that creative process, the Creator was sorting through the broken pieces of my heart–untangling knots from old wounds and refashioning me into His original design.

Broken to Beautiful…

Fast forward a few years, and the Holy Spirit began to show me how this creative process–of taking something broken and making it beautiful–has tremendous potential as a tool for ministry. That’s when the Lord gave me the idea to host guided jewelry making parties as a form of ladies’ fellowship. I presented the idea to my pastor’s wife, and our ladies’ Bible study group decided to host our first Broken to Beautiful event.

The evening was such a blessing! My pastor’s wife shared a powerful message about Christ’s restoration; we enjoyed a time of food and fellowship, and I shared my testimony of how the Lord has taken me on a journey from a place of brokenness to one of beauty.

That night, I shared with those ladies something that I know to be true: We are not beautiful despite being broken; rather, we are beautiful precisely because we have experienced brokenness. And when we allow the Lord to restore our broken parts, He puts us back together perfectly, making us even more beautiful than before. When that evening ended, two new souls were added to the kingdom, as two women handed their broken hearts over to the Lord. He is now making them beautiful.

We are not beautiful despite being broken. We are beautiful because we have experienced brokenness and allowed the Lord to restore our broken parts. Click To Tweet

Precious Jewels…

Before long, our ladies group began to take Broken to Beautiful events to the young women living in a nearby orphanage. The girls sort through the broken, dismantled jewelry, choose their favorite beads, and create beautiful new pieces of jewelry. Through this hands-on activity, they experience a physical picture of the spiritual process that the Lord wants to do in each of our hearts.

He sees their broken hearts. Not as accidents or mistakes to be discarded and thrown away. But as precious jewels, full of splendor and worthy of honor in His kingdom. Each time we finish an event with these young ladies, their countenances change–from dark and sullen to light and hopeful. And their bracelets serve as a powerful outward reminder of the inner beauty and worth that they possess.

Oh Lord Help Us…

Recently, the Director of Oh Lord Help Us, Rachael, invited me to begin holding Broken to Beautiful events in our community. We hosted our first one last week and plan to host many more. We’re inviting women to bring their old, broken, and castaway jewelry to the events, and they will leave with a beautiful new piece that they have created.

Pieces from their broken jewelry will eventually show up in the new designs created by women at future gatherings. Their beads could also be incorporated into beautiful pieces created by the young ladies in our Hope + Vine artisans program.

So, Beloved, our brokenness becomes our beauty. Literally and spiritually. Because we are women who serve a God who gives us beauty for ashes. A God who truly makes all things beautiful in His time. 

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

How has the Lord turned your brokenness into beauty? Would you like to host or attend a Broken to Beautiful event? If so, contact us: events@ohlordhelp.us

When we allow the Lord to restore the brokenness in our hearts, He makes us into something beautiful. Indeed, He creates beauty in His time. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #brokenness #redeemed #beautiful

Debby Hudson

All scripture references from The King James Version of The Bible