How To Be Strong When There’s A Weak Link

I’m 4% permanently partially paralyzed. A fancy way to say I have a torn ACL from a workman’s comp injury.

I have a weak link. 

As my surgeon released me from treatment, he said my knee will only be as strong as the muscle above it.

You have to keep that muscle strong.

For a lifetime.

Physical Therapist Working with Patient

No pressure there. In addition to working, doing ministry, being a wife and mother, spending time in God’s Word, eating right and exercising regularly, I have to keep my quad muscles strong or my knee will give out.

I have to make strengthening this muscle a priority because it’s the key to compensating for the weak link.

Do you have muscles you need to keep strong?

Are there emotional, spiritual or mental muscles to you need to strengthen to compensate for weaknesses?

how to stay strong when there's a weak link

My physical journey has spiritual parallels in more ways than one.

Knowing I have a weak link in my knee makes me feel like Paul the apostle and Jacob, son of Isaac.  Paul had a weakness he asked God to take away, but God’s response was, “My power is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)). Jacob wrestled with God because he wanted God’s best for him, and was left with a lame hip (Genesis 32, NIV).

Both of them were marked by weakness which reminded them of their dependence upon God.

What weakness in your life causes you to be dependent upon God?

Strengthening my muscle teaches me to strengthen other spiritual, mental, and emotional muscles in my life. If I don’t, the weak ares of my spiritual, mental, and emotional world will collapse, like my knee.

As a woman who lives in the shadows of an eating disorder and other unhealthy behaviors, I know my weaknesses all too well.  I know if I don’t exercise self-control in all areas of my life (yes, all areas), the weak links buckle and I’m crippled emotionally, mentally, and physically.

I know the importance of strengthening what needs to be strengthened.

I live it, I breathe it.

I make choices every day to strengthen weak links so I remain strong.

Before I messed up my knee, I completed a half-marathon. I felt invincible.

Now reality awakens me. Just one foolish side-step and I come crumbling down.

I must strengthen the supporting muscle. I must rely on God to be strong in my weakness.

When life is going well, are you tempted to feel invincible, too?  Do you feel strong based on your own merit, apart from God?

how to stay strong when there's a weak linkEvery patriarch in scripture had a weakness that they needed God’s strength to overcome.

For Abraham, his honesty.

For Moses, his speaking ability.

For Joseph, his reputation.

For David, his love for women.

For Peter, his impulsivity and temper.

What is your weakness?  What do you need to strengthen so you are not defined by your weakness?

What choices to you need to make to keep your spiritual, emotional and mental muscles strong?

How can I pray for you or support you in this journey? I would love to do that.  Feel free to comment or to email me at yoderbl@gmail.com and I will pray with you and encourage you on that journey.

Your Father is with you always, His grace sufficient for you, His strength made perfect in your weakness.

For when you are weak, He is strong.

Facing Insecurities: Why I Don’t Look In The Mirror

It’s summer time here on the Back Forty.

photo 1 (8)

With summertime comes natural beauty, fresh fruits and veggies from our garden.

The first strawberries of the season.
The first strawberries of the season.

With the changing of the seasons come the changing of life’s seasons, too. Years roll from one to another… and we’re the same person in all of them. I’m the same person I was many summers ago….ten, twenty, thirty years ago.

You are, too.

Every once in a while I hear the voice of the fifteen-year-old me though I’m well-aged past fifteen. 

She {or he} is inside of you.

Does she {or he} ever catch you by surprise?

????????She recently caught me by surprise when I realized how much I shied away from looking in the mirror. A full-length mirror showing body parts I’d rather keep covered by sweatshirts and layers of winter gear.

I realized how much I hate looking in the mirror. But it’s how I cope.

Cope with what?

 You’re probably rolling your eyes.  

Yes, I’m considered “small” if you compare me with others

But I can’t compare myself with others.

It’s as dangerous as looking in the mirror.

Because the fifteen year old me says how unworthy, disgusting, and repulsive I am when I do.

Do you have similar lies that whisper in your ear?

Your lies are different than mine.  Maybe yours say, “You’re stupid, ugly, not-good-enough,” or worse.

At fifteen, I was bound by an eating disorder that kept me in prison for all of adolescence and young adulthood.  I work hard at living addiction-free, but I can’t separate myself from the girl I was in childhood. I’m the same person even though I’ve dropped the chains of the past.

Do you have chains in your past?

Insecurities get the best of us.  My mirror-avoidance behavior reminds me that insecurities still whisper in my grown-up self.

I’m no different than you.  Do you have insecurities?

While avoiding the mirror may seem cowardly, it’s my way of honestly living with my weaknesses while not letting them cripple me.  It’s hard work to live healthy and balanced when you’ve had distorted thinking and addictive behavior in your past.

Can you relate?

Your struggle may be different, but if you battle insecurities, it’s a challenge.  Here are things I’ve learned in living with a life-long challenge.

Facing insecurities takes courage. It’s easier to hide behind our insecurities. It’s safe to hide behind self-MP900262788pity.  It’s comforting to enable our insecurities.  “I’m can’t do that, so I won’t try.”  “I was hurt in my past, so I need to self-medicate.” “That doesn’t feel comfortable, so I won’t…..” The list goes on.  Acknowledging our insecurities and saying, “What am I going to do about it?” requires courage to face what we don’t want exposed and courage to push ahead regardless of what our self-talk says.

Facing insecurities requires realistic thinking.  Don’t set yourself up for failure.  Realistic thinking means setting goals you can handle.  Looking in a full-length mirror is damaging to me. That’s why I avoid the darn thing.  It’s also why I don’t weigh myself or consider dieting.  These things will send me back to disordered-eating in a heart-beat.  Finding life-long, realistic goals you can be successful at is important in overcoming insecurities.

Facing insecurities means knowing your limits.   Going on diets and Facing Insecurities Why I don't look in the mirrorgetting on a scale plays mind games with me.  What things play mind-games with your insecurities?  How can you strengthen your resolve to work through your insecurities while balancing the weaknesses of your limits? This is crucial in not being bound by your weaknesses.

Facing insecurities means you give grace to yourself when needed.   Early spring is never the best time for me to look in the mirror.  I’m not as fit in the winter and I carry extra weight.  These are issues for me even though I don’t obsess over them.  When the fifteen-year-old me begins whispering lies about myself, I counter-act the lies with truth.  My image does not define me.  I’ve learned to give accurate grace to myself when self-loathing begins.  Where do you need to give yourself grace?

What insecurities lurk in your shadows?  What lies does your younger-self tell you?  I’d love to encourage and support you in your efforts to lay them at the feet of Jesus and start taking steps toward the the peaceful-you.  Feel free to share in a comment below or email me at yoderbl@gmail.com.  

Fans in Stadium Celebrating

It would be my privilege to pray with you and cheer you on.

Mother’s Day: Inspiring Women and Messed-Up Experiences in Motherhood

MP900341759Today is Mother’s Day –  the day we think of the blessings of motherhood. In reflecting on this day, I’m reminded of inspiring women who had messed-up experiences in motherhood.  Many biblical women endured hard places, being forced to lean on the Lord alone and nothing else. For example:

  • Jocabed, mother of Moses knew her child would be taken away and killed if he were found.  Emotions if I were her?  Fear and anger (Lord, why would you give me a child only for him to be taken away or killed?anxiety and depression. But she responded with faith in God even though He gave her a child at a difficult time. Faith that He would take care of her and the child. Faith that the Author of their story knew what He was doing.
  • Mary, mother of Jesus knew her divine pregnancy defined her as morally corrupt and open for misunderstanding and judgment.  Emotions if I were her? Fear, anger, anxiety and ambivalence.  While knowing the honor and calling on her life, no doubt there were dark days for her, being aware of the whispers, looks, and judgment that came her way.  But she responded by clinging to the Lord she knew was writing her story, clinging to Him when no one else may have encouraged her.  She clung to him when she felt alone.
  • Sarah, mother of Isaac was pregnant past her prime, when her husband already had a child from another woman.  Emotions if I were her? Fear and anger (Lord, why would you allow Hagar to bear Abram’s child when you knew I was to have one?), anxiety, jealousy and bitterness.  While she knew she was bearing a child anointed by God, the strained relationship between her, Hagar and Ishmael must have caused some strife in her life.  She responded by remaining faithful the story line the Lord gave her, even though it was hard. Scripture tells us she laughed (Exodus 21:6) and took one day at a time.

There are truths these women encountered that face many of us:

Life wasn’t supposed to be this way

This isn’t what I expected

Motherhood has more pain than joy right now.

MP900227697I hear these statements when I share with women. Mother’s Day can be painful to individuals suffering in heartache, often alone.  But motherhood pain isn’t a popular discussion in bible studies, church meetings, coffee breaks or in social media.  Facebook or Twitter statuses rarely say, “Motherhood is not what I bargained for. I don’t think I can make it.”

If Hallmark doesn’t fit the bill for you this Mother’s Day, God’s Word does.  It shares the lives of real women in hard places, with real pain….. in places they didn’t expect to find themselves….places where there are no easy answers.  If you or a woman you know faces a tarnished Motherhood this year, share these principles from biblical women who were hard-pressed to find joy in motherhood.

  • They each knew the Lord intimately.  Each of these women could stand in their circumstances because they knew the Lord and His character when the truth of their circumstance dictated His absence from their situation.  God is never absent from our situation or that of our children He sees beyond the trial and knows the ending.  In that we can take hope.  When there’s no hope in sight, we must look to and know the author of the Story.
  • They clung to the Lord and His character.  Clinging conjures up visions of grasping hold of, refusing to let go because doing so would result in disaster (clinging to a raft vs. drowning, clinging to a ledge vs. falling to destruction).
    Clinging
    Clinging

    Despite their emotions, these women clung to the One they easily could have rejected.  If motherhood only includes blessings, then what do you cling to when the image of motherhood is not what you signed up for?   You cling to a sovereign, good God who sees the bigger picture…..clinging to the truth of His character when the “truth” of our emotions can lead us away from Him.  Our emotions can betray us.

  •  Motherhood does not define our happiness, but our relationship with God does.  What do you think got Mary through the whispers, misunderstandings and acts of judgment thrown her way?  If Jocabed’s happiness was determined by baby Moses, what was she left with when God’s plan took this child from her?  Happiness for these women did not rely on their motherhood or dreams for their children, but was rooted in their relationship and identity with the Living God. 

Wherever this Mother’s Day finds you, take encouragement from these women. They were real women whose encouragement didn’t come from the culture around them, but from the Lord authoring their story.  You can receive the same encouragement, too.

Lord, thank you that You are the Author of our stories.  Will you encourage each woman who is hurting this Mother’s Day?  Thank you.

I’m A Fighter. Why Fighting For What’s Important Is Worth It All

photo (87)Thank you to those who read Kaylee’s inspiring story, “Loving the Kids“.  Her words were a gift because we’ve seen the depth of her journey. Like her dad, she’s not one to put herself out there.  I honor her words because it’s a testimony to her love of Christ and willingness to go outside her comfort zone for a greater cause, wanting others to see the orphans she’s fallen in love with. I encourage you to look onto sponsoring a child a Hope of Life International by clicking here.

If you read the prelude to her story, you’ve witnesses a mother’s journey in letting a child go.  A process with much depth, sorrow, and scars behind it.

Each of us have battle wounds, my daughter and I.

I hold back from sharing our journey where the conversation between me and you is anonymous.  It’s an intimate, personal story.  It’s my story. My daughter has her story.  Both of us are Jesus’ story.

“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (NKJV Genesis 50:20)

*****

When my little girl came into the world, like your firstborn, she was all I dreamed of.  Smiling young doctor holding a beautiful newborn baby.But God doesn’t prepare us for the challenges of parenting, the things in our children that bring out the worst in us.  God gave me a beautiful daughter with passion, a strong will, an internal sense of right and wrong, and wisdom in many ways.

All the things that reek havoc in a toddler and teenage body.

Do you have a child like that?

Even if you’re not a parent, you have relationships that challenge you. How do you handle them?  Do you may shrink back, run and flee, or stay and fight?

I’m a fighter.

So is she.

The enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)

I did the best I could as a first-time parent in moments that took me by surprise. Moments where both of our wills went to head to head.  Christian parenting books didn’t tell me what to do with a passionate, temperamental child. Oh, I read the books {The Strong-Willed Child}.  We even taught the parenting classes {3x}.  But “the right formula” didn’t work for our situation.

Hilly RoadAnd the battled raged on.

As we walked, climbed, fought, got up and walked, climbed, fought again, God worked in us and through us.

I’m convinced there’s nothing separating me from the worst behavior on earth, except for the grace of God and the love I have for him. 

I am a selfish creature. Are you?

When anger, bitterness, pride, insecurities, and “my rights” rule in my heart, I become a fighter that can destroy myself and relationships.

But when I choose to let the Lord of the universe change me

He trades these ugly things for His character:

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22)

As a woman, I’ve walked a journey that’s challenged everything I thought I knew about life, God, parenting, relationships, and the picket-fence life I dreamed of.

Things aren't what we expect them to be.
Things aren’t what we expect them to be.

Do you have expectations of life that have been shattered?

When the bottom fell out of my life and my family, I was faced with one choice.  Choose to change or let my anger and bitterness destroy our family, my relationship with my daughter, and the hope and future God had planned for us.

A future taking His child to a mountain where she kisses His children’s tears.

A future where she runs to her Father for her identity and security.

*******

It’s easy to fight when it comes naturally.

MP900405622

But it’s hard when you’re fighting to change destructive behavior and trying to hold on to what’s most important in life.

 Family, relationships and your character.

Are there behaviors you need to change that are impacting your health and the relationships around you?

There is hope.

Hope for our relationship came when I realized I couldn’t change her or anyone else in the equation.  I could only change myself and what I could control.

I’m a fighter, so I fought for change.

I’m passionate, so I ran after God, declaring God’s work and presence I believe He promises in His word.

I’m strong, so I pushed through the guilt, shame, insecurities, worry, and judgment I wanted to run from.

Qualities the enemy meant for destruction, but God meant for good.

It was worth it all.  

I’m redeemed by a God who knows the good, the bad, and the ugly, and still loves me.

I’m restored in relationships with my daughter and family. My sons know Jesus is real because they’ve seen two lives transformed before their eyes.

I’m a sinner saved by grace.

That’s really all I know.

*******

Each of us have battle wounds of some sort. 

We can take those battle wounds and submit them to the work of the Living God.  Or we can pick at the scars, preventing them from fully healing, keeping them alive and well so the pain never goes away.

How are you taking care of your wounds today?  Are you choosing to let God heal them, or do you continue to let them fester and deprive your soul of peace?

It’d be my privilege to pray for you, no matter what your wound, no matter what you’re needing to fight to over come, not matter what relationship that needs to be restored.  Email me at yoderbl@gmail.com. It would be my honor to bring you before the throne of God in prayer as your prayer warrior.

Thank you for listening, for reading, for sharing part of our journey.  I share my full “Hope Beyond the Picket Fence” story of hope and restoration with audiences throughout the Midwest.  It would be my privilege to share it with your women’s group, mom’s group, or church group to bring encouragement in areas that people are afraid and shamed to talk about. Email me at yoderbl@gmail.com if you would like more information.

Dear Jesus, that you for  your love, your grace, the hope that you give us in our weaknesses and failures. Thank you that you are the hope we have for change in areas we need to change.  Thank you that you created everything about us and you have the capacity to turn our weaknesses to strengths for your honor and glory.  Thank you for the restorative work you do in our lives, and that your mercies are new every morning.

We love you, Lord Jesus, our redeemer and friend. Amen.

The Gap, The Holes, and the Race to Fill Them

boredomShe sat there with a batting glove on her hand.  It gave her power in the identity she’s forming.  She’s a fighter.  Inside is a girl who wants to be something else.  I see it in the way she cocks her head and the way her eyes get big when her heart softens.

He sat there saying he didn’t do it when the evidence said different. His mom was angry, again, out of frustration with her son who doesn’t think the way the rest of us do.  Another adult was exasperated because he couldn’t understand him either.  I saw I young man who doesn’t understand himself.  And we all sat, frustrated at a mental illness that can’t be ignored.

She sat rattling off the fun she was going to have with her dad who was getting out of jail.  They were going to the racetrack over the weekend because they would finally all be together.  She had a smile on her face and her hard-core demeanor had a softened glow about it.  Her dad was coming home.

He walked down the hallway swearing and texting.  His anger was too far-gone.   Mamma gave up on him long ago and he is free and loose to do as he pleases.  His  heart is soft, but the hunger for relationship and anger at the lack of it has hardened him.  He’s given up on himself because others gave up on him years earlier.  It’s only a matter of time before he self-destructs.

These stories live behind the eyes of a child.

Stories with gaps so large anything will fill it.

Anger, fear, blame.

We try to fix it, but some days it feels like

we’re dumping sand into a sink hole

and there’s no end in sight.

MP900402910But each day I pick up a shovel,

fill it with compassion,

the Truth of God, and encouragement

and pour it into the holes.

Hoping it will fill a gap somewhere.

Having faith that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it. (Phil 1:6)

Having faith that one man plants, another man waters, but God makes it grow. (1 Corinthians 3:7)

Trusting that God will fill in the gaps.

Who are you pouring into that needs to be brought before the throne of God?

Why The Breakfast Club is Still Relevant Today

CB100664When I taught high school Sociology, we studied stereotypes and social groups via the movie “The Breakfast Club.”  As I’m watching it at home tonight, I realize the movie’s content may be even more accurate in today’s high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools than it was thirty years ago.

As a present elementary/middle school counselor and former high school teacher, I’m concerned more and more about children, families, and what’s happening in society.  It’s not about bombings or shootings, but our ability to face life, adversity, pain and fear.  Recently, a shooter threatened to attack five schools in our local area on a particular day.  On that day, more than half of the students were kept at home due to fear. The day went without a hitch, the threat was not realized, and strategic safety measures were put in place.

The same day, two bombings occurred in Boston.

The irony? More and more children are not safe in their own homes.  Violence and sex are in video games, apps on tablets and phones.  Sexual harassment, cyberbullying, dating violence is occurring at younger ages in schools.  Drugs, addictions, and self-medication is increasing in our families.  Kids’ reading levels are low not because schools aren’t teaching them, but because it’s a rare thing that someone at home is reading to them.  Children stay up late using technology in their rooms when parents think they’re asleep.  In a recent poll I did of 5th graders, 3/4 of the classroom admitted they are on Ipods, smartphones or tablets when their parents think they’re sleeping.

Do you know what your kids and grandkids are watching and who they’re interacting with?

Danger doesn’t lurk at finish lines or at the hands of a random gunman…but in our homes, in society and in hearts left unguarded.

Recently I read an article titled “Why Social Media is Better Than Your Granny.”  It was the morning after the Boston bombings.  I read it before starting my day as a counseling professional in a large urban school.  I was stunned by the comment in this article that “Grannies don’t live forever…” but social media does.  Feel free to read the article.  This was the response I posted:

I’m a teacher and counselor in today’s schools, both rural and urban, and also am a behavioral professional. While kids benefit from technology, nothing replaces relationship for them in their development. Today’s kids lack human interaction because they are exposed and reliant on technology too early in life. It effects their social, academic and emotional development. Human nature doesn’t change over time and nothing replaces the power and influence of relational people in our lives and the lives of children.Four Hands Joined Together
“Grannies don’t live forever”…. Everyday I see the power of human connection and inter-generational connection that fills gaps in the souls of people. Call me a fool, but at the end of human life – our own or our grandparent’s, who will be standing there? What will we be remembering? Will we wish we spent more time with someone who loves us in our worst days or for our best online behavior? What will you tell your child when your mom dies? Perhaps you haven’t encountered this yet. Perhaps you don’t sit with kids experiencing grief over grandparents who they know love them and nurture them more than their own parents. Hashtags don’t answer the questions or fill the voids.

A narcissistic society feels good from social media because it feeds self-absorption. Today’s kids are craving nurture and attention from the people in their lives. The power of encouragement by people they have genuine relationships is what they want. A majority of today’s kids are raised by grandparents. Why? Their parents are either self-destructive or self-medicated and they leave their children to the care of their parents. They are more invested in their online presence than their physical and emotional presence with their kids. Have a child tell you their mom spent money on herself instead of buying birthday gifts for them. Have a grandma tell you in tears she is the only stable thing in a child’s life. Then tell me that granny doesn’t matter….that Twitter will fill that child’s soul.

When purchased Twitter followers and FB friends fail to engage or respond, Grandma will always be there. I’d rather have Grandma.

Why does The Breakfast Club still speak so loudly?  Because it displays the complexity of relationships, the power of human connection, connectedness, and community.  In a world of bombings, shootings, Twitter, Apps, and Facetime, the power of human connection still trumps all.

It’s been a rough week in America, in our schools, and as a counseling professional. But a colleague of mine shared this video which shows the power of human connection far beyond social media.  Click the link below to watch.

The Power of Human Connection

Where have you seen the power of human connection this week?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

PS…Those of you who are “prayers,” pray for me Saturday as I speak to women for a retreat in Zionsville, IN. Thank you!

In His love,

Brenda

How to Fight A Lion and Other Principalities

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12a prowling tiger

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8

Words are bouncing around inside my head like a pinball machine.

I need hours to write what I really want to say, but my soul just cries.

Today’s one of THOSE days.

A day where the brokenness of life seems to wash over you like a tsunami

Waves crashing as the reality of selfishness and sinfulness seems to be everywhere leaving you wondering

Is anyone whole?

I know the answer is yes and somedays the joy and peace of life is so good.

Too good that I forget (and maybe you do, too) that there are spiritual battles being wages for our souls.

I forget there is an enemy of my Savior, of goodness, of peaceful souls, of marriages, of wholeness.

Today I’m reminded greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4)

Today I’m reminded that my God is greater, but action is required on our part to present requests and petitions for change in people’s lives.

In our own lives.

In my life.

I’m committing today to pray fervently for people I love.

to pray consistently for change and healing and hope

Woman Among Lit Votive Candles

to cry out in intercession against the rulers of this dark world.

I believe prayer changes things.

Serious prayer.

I’ve experienced it in my life and in the lives of others.

It’s battle time again for the hurting.

Who in your life need intercessory prayer?

Do you need intercessory prayer?

A friend reminded me today of Romans 12:2

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

I’m committing to be faithful in prayer.  Will you join me?

The Sound of Silence

And there was silence in Heaven.  Revelation 8:1

I don’t feel right writing, but in my selfishness, I do.

The tears roll down my face today.  My heart is broken.

Broken for a childhood friend who lost his son today.

For a best friend whose lost a nephew, for the mother who gave up her life, for brothers who grieve.

For another family grieving the loss of their little one from cancer.Harvest time

For the boys in my office today who don’t know their father,

For the tears that ran down their faces in anger and heartache

For the tears shed yesterday by a child not seen by his mother

For the tears of another child recounting the abuse he’s endured.

There are times nothing seems appropriate but silence.

Silence because God doesn’t seem to be speaking

Silence because words cannot do justice to the moment filled with tears.

Silence because there is nothing I can say in my humanness

Silence because God’s presence is the only thing that is left.

It only seems appropriate that this space remains silent for a few days.

Silent as I speak to women about hope

Silent as I do life with people I love

Silent as I mourn and grieve for friends, acquaintances,

and Lost Boys.

As I listen to the sound of silence.

Running Away, Giving Up and the Benefits of Being Caught

the dreamThis week, I’ll be speaking in Western Michigan for two women’s groups on Hope Beyond the Picket Fence.  I’ll be sharing what I call “my angry mom story.”  It’s the hope and truth our family has lived through when the storybook image came crashing down and my faith journey of perseverance and surrender instead of giving up.

It’s the hope I have in a living Lord who restores, redeems, and came after me. 

Do you need hope that God loves you and is willing to come after you?

Several years ago, I found myself running from the God I love.  And as I ran, He pursued.  He ran after me.  He’s pursued and brought me where He wants me to be.  He’s allowed me to see that desiring more of Him is better than being content with what’s not-okay.  I’ve found when I relinquish what I want to what He wants, the rewards are always better. 

This requires selflessness, surrender, and giving up control of “the inmost being,” what scripture calls the most personal parts of ourselves (Psalm 139).  This is scary, because the things inside of us are usually things no one else knows but God.

Yet despite knowing our ugliness, He still desires us.

As I’ve learned to trust God with things I haven’t let anyone touch, I’ve experienced a love that is so lavish, I don’t want anything else.  For a person with an addictive past, that’s a bold statement.

Nothing satisfies like the peace and grace of God himself.

I’ve learned to say, “Lord, I want you more than……,” and I’ve learned He won’t lead me astray or abandon me.  I’ve learned His goodness over my control is like water to a thirsty soul.

I humbly ask you to pray for me and the women who will hear my hope-filled journey this week in Michigan.  But I also invite you to accompany me on a life-long journey of letting the Father “catch” you, whoo you, and pour His lavish love on you.  

It’s a lifetime journey, taking the Father’s hand and releasing everything in you so He can mold you in His image and design He has for you.

Believe me, it’s worth it.  There is nothing greater.

For you created my inmost being.” Psalm 139:13

Blessings to you this week,

my signature

Inspiring Stories: Stacey’s Story

Friday I posted The New Normal: 8 Tips for Working Moms at Not Alone Mom.  

It is my greatest privilege to share Stacey’s story of love and grace.  She has walked many paths familiar to women – loss of love, abandonment, abuse, looking for love only the Father can fill.  Stacey Wilson blogs at Shakin’ the Foundation and She Stands.  You will love her heart.me bday (1)

One would think it would be easy to write about their life, to give their testimony, but as I begin to write my own testimony I struggle where to begin. Too many words can drag on, not enough words can leave holes and wonder for those reading.  I will do my best to share my life from the beginning to where it is now in the hopes you, the readers, will see God’s love and grace with each word written.

I was chose to follow Jesus Christ at the age of six. I truly didn’t understand the importance of such a wondrous decision, but seeing all the “big” people take their walk to the altar, I knew I wanted to as well.  I tugged on my Daddy’s sleeve and as he bent down to hear what I had to say, I pointed to the altar and said “I want to go up there.”  Looking in my eyes, he gave me permission to go. I began my walk by myself and suddenly found myself over-shadowed by the adults standing there.  I stretched my neck as far as it would go hoping our pastor would see me and reach for me. I tried my best to make my way through the crowd but to no avail. I was no closer to the front of the altar and could not be seen.

Disappointed, I remember looking to those around me, hoping someone would see me and help me get to the front.  As I continued to search the crowd, I felt two hands grab hold of me and place me in their arms, the arms of my Daddy. He had been watching me to see if I could get to the front alone and when he saw I couldn’t, he reached in and picked me up! I made it to the front!   Little did my six year old mind know, but that was the best day of my life, the day I gave my heart to Jesus.

When I was a pre-teen, my parents divorced and I was a struggling young girl. Angry that my dad left us, I slowly walked away from God.  Rejection settled in my heart and I no longer believed God loved me. If my own father didn’t want me, how could a God I could not tangibly see want and love me?  I became rebellious and angry at the world. Being the oldest of three, I didn’t want the responsibility of my siblings. I loathed having to help my mom by babysitting.  Saying I gave her “hell” on earth would be an understatement!  And my attitude did not get better as I moved into high school.

MP900285063As teenager, my life was all about me and my desires.  No longer did I talk to God. My life consisted of football games, dances, parties and my boyfriend.  I was too busy for God, not to mention it was not cool to speak of religion with my friends.  By mentioning God in a conversation, you automatically became strange, off the wall and crazy in the eyes of my peers.  When things in my life became too crazy, I would pray in secret.  I was riding the fence, one foot in the world and the other on my bible.

At eighteen, I graduated from high school and got married.

After searching to be loved and after several bad relationships, I was convinced I was loved and no longer rejected.  My new husband was the one who filled the hole in my heart and life. When my first child was born, God came to my mind. I looked in her eyes and realized the love of a parent is far beyond any love the world has to offer.  I felt complete.  However, God was not the center of my life.  I prayed more, but we were living for the world, not God.  Without God as the foundation of my marriage and life, the perfect world of mine crumbled.  Sadly, after three years of marriage and a beautiful daughter, we divorced.  Once again I went out looking for “love” to fill the hole in my life, the empty spot in my heart.  The “clubbing” and parties began again.

Four years later, I met my next husband.  He came from a God-fearing family and I just knew he was “the one.”  Our denominations were different, but I over looked all the red flags. “Equally yoked” never came to mind as I once again marched down the aisle to say I do. He loved to dance as much as I did and said his prayers in secret as well. Perfect match, right?

After six months the abuse started. I never once saw through my “love blinders “ that he grew up in a house filled with rage and abuse.  It was church on Sunday and fights through the week.  At this point, I prayed out of fear. Even though there were those who are reaching down to pluck me out of the situation, I stayed out of fear.  I was emotionally beaten, physically harmed, and too scared to walk out.  After three years and another child, I finally walked – no ran – out.

Once again God came to my mind and my prayers became more frequent. I was still looking for love, so my prayers begged God to give me a man to love.  A good man I asked.  Never once had I asked for a godly man, a man after God’s own heart.

I was single for several more years and moved to another state.  I searched for God.  I attended a great church and God blessed me with a wonderful church family. I was learning and receiving His instructions. Taking baby steps, I was walking on His path.  The “rejection syndrome” would pop its ugly head up periodically to remind me I was alone as far as a soul mate here on earth. I watched others in church whose husbands lovingly prayed with them, praised them and prayed for them.  I longed for that in my life. I didn’t allow God to completely fill that hole in my heart.  I believed to be whole, I need a man. My children were happy, I had awesome friends, a great church family, was involved in my community and church and yet I was still lonely.MC910216396

“How can that be?” I ask the Lord. I didn’t wait to hear His response.  Again, I took matters into my own hands and husband number three came along. He was fun, loving and was wonderful to me and my children. He often came to church with us, but never on a regular basis. I was okay with that because I thought I had all I wanted.  Those feelings were temporal.   After a few years, I  was growing in the Lord and want more.  More than my husband could give.  I now understood “equally yoked” and we were not.  I prayed, I cried, I begged, I got angry.  I yelled at the top of my lungs for God to change this man.  I did not seek God in my decision or listen for His voice, but I demanded Him to fix “us”.

I refused to go through another divorce.  By this point, the enemy of my soul was taunting me, telling me what a failure I was and how those who loved me would reject me for another failed marriage. I would disgrace children, family and friends. I would disgrace to God.  After six years of marriage my husband filed for divorce.  I believe in my heart God knew I could not do it.  I think there are things in life we try so hard to hold on to that God himself removes!  My husband left me and married another woman.  I was broken, shattered, and devastated beyond words.  The only words that could come from my mouth when praying was one….JESUS!

My healing process was a lengthy one.  Christ had to go to the root of my pain, the rejection of my Dad.  The little girl who made her way to the altar at the age of six, grew into the woman who ran from the one true love in her life…..Jesus.  Through my healing process, the Lord in all His splendor has shown me who I truly am. The world wants me to believe I am a failure.  But my Daddy God says I am victorious in Him. Just as my earthly father raised me up Woman with Arms in the Airin his arms so many years ago at the altar, God himself has raised me up over all the circumstances in my life.  It didn’t matter if they were by my choosing or something the world threw at me, He placed His hands on me and placed me in His arms.

The Lord moved me home three years ago. After twelve years away it’s good to be home. My teenager has had some adjusting, but with God’s grace, she is also learning how much He loves her as well.

The Lord had me start a ministry blog in 2011 and then another one in 2012. When I asked the Lord why He would choose me to come into the ministry, after all my track record is not a great one, He spoke to my heart and said to me…” You have a story to tell.”  “ I do not call the equipped, I equip the called!”

My testimony is God’s grace in the midst of my running.  It’s God’s unfailing love when I rejected Him.  It’s His grace in my healing and His mercy in my down-falls.  It is a Father’s love that can never be replaced or taken away. It is the glory of God shining His light in the dark places of my life.

I have made many wrong choices in life, we all do. However God’s word tells us in Roman 8:28 (NIV)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who  have been called according to his purpose.

My life is nowhere near perfect.  I am still a work in progress.  However, I’m full of God’s love and grace. He never promised we wouldn’t have trials in life, He promised to never leave nor forsake us.  I am living proof He stood by me through all my craziness in life.  He never gave up on me and I promise, He won’t ever give up on you!

Blessings to you all,

Stacey