On a dark and starry night!

During a recent heart to heart with God, underneath what appeared to be millions of his perfectly placed stars, I had an epiphany.  Now, I know the Bible tells us we are more valuable to our Heavenly Father than the birds in the sky and the flowers in the field (Matthew 6: 26 and 30), but what if we are more valuable to Him than all the stars in the sky…and just think about how beautiful they are!

 

What is a star after all?  A star is a luminous ball of gas, mostly hydrogen and helium, held together by its own gravity. Nuclear fusion reactions in its core support the star against gravity and produce photons and heat, as well as small amounts of heavier elements. (Source: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-resources/what-is-a-star/)

 

Surely humans, that is you and I, are far more complex with our DNA, proteins, amino acids and biochemical processes (you get the picture, right?).  Surely we are more complex than all the stars in the sky.  And I haven’t even scratched the surface of our complexity in terms of emotions and thoughts.  And just imagine, the same God who placed every single star in the Heavens, also knows every single hair on your head, every single tear you have cried, every single laugh…He’s always there!

 

Do you ever wonder where stars go when we can’t see them?  Now I know there is a scientific reason behind it (cloud cover, rotating and tilting axis of the earth and all), but let’s think about it.  The stars are still there even though we can’t see them.

 

Guess what, God is still present even when you can’t see, hear or feel him.  He does hear your prayers, and perhaps what we perceive as His silence is really Him at work in us for a greater purpose.  This idea brings to mind Romans 5: 3-5 which declares “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love.” (Life Application Study Bible NLT)

 

What if our struggles are shaping us to shine brightly like a star for God’s glory?  No, I know it doesn’t make them any easier, but I do take some comfort in that thought.  And guess what that is…HOPE!!!! For humans, we cannot enjoy the beauty of a star except through a vast distance.  Perspective of our problems requires the same thing, except for us distance equals time.  We cannot possibly see our growth from our struggles while we are in them; it takes time and perspective to see how God uses them to shine us up and refine our character.  That is one reason why we should continue to be thankful in our trials, because we know that when we come through them, we will not be the same person as when we went into them.  We can also be thankful for God’s enduring love and presence throughout the trails…he has personally promised me that He will never leave me and that the trials I face today I will not face forever…I feel the Hope rising up ya’ll! (Yes, I am from the south!)

 

Just as God created the stars in the heavens to shine for us, He also created us to shine for Him!

 

Love,

Olivia

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Never Too Late

About a year ago I was reading my daily devotion from Jesus Calling, by Sara Young.

COME TO ME CONTINUALLY.  I am meant to be the Center of your consciousness, the Anchor of your soul.  Your mind will wander from me, but the question is how far you allow it to wander.  An anchor on a short rope lets a boat drift only slightly before the taut line tugs the boat back toward the center.  Similarly, as you drift away from Me, My Spirit within you gives a tug, prompting you to return to me.  As you become increasingly attuned to My Presence, the length of rope on your soul’s Anchor is shortened.  You wander only a short distance before feeling that inner tug-telling you to return to your true Center in Me.

Hebrews 6:19; 1 John 2:28; Matthew 22:37

 

We tend to get so caught up in our emotion and let our minds wander.  As I was reflecting on the devotion and God’s word, so many emotions came over me that day. I wrote some thoughts down that day and wanted to share them with you:

 

This devotional is where I have been in my life over the past few years.   As I have gone through my twenties and entered into my thirties, my life has changed.  The biggest challenge was moving away from family to start my career.  I knew God had a hand in it but I did not realize the big impact.  My husband and I had our first child in our late twenties and welcomed our second baby in our early thirties.  I have doubted my salvation from time to time.  I have questioned if am I really saved.  How do I know that I am saved?    Like this devotional says, your mind will wander from me, but the question is, how far will you allow it to wander? After having my second child, I had to overcome a lot.  I think it was my breaking point.  Life changes.  I had entered my thirties, received a few promotions at work—raising two kids and working full time.  It was then that I realized for the first time in my life what my salvation meant to me. It was then that I started pouring my heart out to God.  It was then that I knew that he died on that cross for me!  He arose three days later for me!  His blood shed for me!  How could I live through my twenties in doubt?  It was exactly what Sara Young was saying in this devotional—I  let my mind wander!  I let the devil attack me!   As I approach this new season in my life, I am thankful for His grace and mercy.

 

We switched churches about 6 months ago.  At the beginning of June, we attended a class at the church for potential new members.  At the class, the pastor made a major statement that had an incredible impact on me.  I went home and talked to my husband about it and called my friend to tell her about what he had said.  I knew I had to contact the preacher.  So this Sunday I am getting baptized for the second time in my life!  This time has more meaning to me.  It is me telling the world that I know that I know that I know!  There is no doubt!  I am his!  He is my first true love!  It may have taken me longer than some to realize that but wow does it feel good!    I am telling each and every one of you today!  We all struggle in life.  It could be our job, our marriage, raising our children.  Life is not perfect but one thing is true—he  will never leave our side.  Hebrews 6:19 is written on a sticky note on my desk at work.  I read it every morning: We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.

 

So friends, it is a year later and I still struggle.   Life is not perfect.  We will struggle.  If you are at the point I was at year ago, I have a few things to share with you:

God never said it would be easy.  He said he would hold our hands through it all.

It is never too late to submit to Him.  There is no age limit on your salvation.  Come one, come all!

He is a forgiving God.  Your past does not define you.

If you have doubts like I did, find someone to talk to about your salvation.

We need God every hour of every day!  The old hymn says “I need Thee every hour, Most gracious Lord: No tender voice like Thine Can peace afford.”

 

Love,

Leah

Present in His Presence

I think a lot of us feel like we want to hear God more. We want to know what He has to say to us.  But why is it so hard to hear Him? 

It was Easter weekend, 2015, and I was frantic.  In the midst of making sure all three kids had decent clothes and shoes to wear for church, I decided to take some time to get a pedicure and shop for a new dress.  Apparently every other woman and girl in town wanted to get a pedicure at the same time as me.  It took over 2 hours to finally get my toes painted and then I felt guilty about shopping after that much time away from home.  My husband had already sent the “where are you” and “how much longer” text messages.  I began to resent my precious family because I couldn’t just do something for myself for a few hours without feeling like I was abandoning them.  Then the inner-battle ensued.  My thoughts immediately swirled about how I’ve completely given up everything I want so that I can make sure that everyone around me will have what they want.  {Let’s be honest: It was a full-blown pity party.} What did I even want? I had no idea.  I mean, it really wasn’t about the pedicure or the new dress.  Did I even really want a new dress or did I just want alone time, or someone to recognize how much I’ve given up? If someone asked me what I wanted—my hopes and dreams—what would I say? I didn’t know what I wanted….and I didn’t realize what was missing in my life to make me feel so crazy and forsaken. On the outside, I had it all—the wonderful family, the really good job, the awesome house, etc.  But on the inside, I was just a broken, messed up person in need of a savior.

Sadly, I didn’t think to talk to God about my struggles that day. I wasn’t willing to be still and just listen for His guidance. I rushed around, busy as ever, taking care of everyone else—constantly controlling everything I could. Sitting still was certainly not an option for this super-busy momma.

The following Monday at work, I nestled into my little cube with my nice warm coffee and started to enjoy my peace and quiet (a definite perk of being a working mom is quiet coffee time at 8:00 on Monday mornings). But then a co-worker approached me. I hate to admit it, but I prayed that God would make him go away.  Didn’t he know I don’t talk to people this early on a Monday? “Ughh… here we go,” was the only thought that I could formulate. I was trapped in my cube—forced to be still. So he started in…and I quickly tuned him out. He definitely was not about to stop talking any time soon. But suddenly, I was jolted.  I vaguely heard him say something about taking care of myself and making sure that I knew what I wanted. (WHAT?! How could he possibly have known that this was my struggle over the weekend?)  He had my attention now, for sure. {I was finally present in His presence! I felt God pulling on my heart strings.} This man started talking about how my children needed to see that I was happy and that I did things for myself, etc. Before I knew it, tears were streaming down my face. What was happening to me? Did I even know this man well enough to cry in front of him? I was dreadfully embarrassed! Then he said, “May I pray for you?”  I was overcome with emotion, I bowed my head and couldn’t tell you the words of his prayer, but I felt them. I felt that prayer deep in my soul. There was always a tiny flame in there somewhere that would flare up from time to time. But this time, that tiny flame ignited into a fire—I was changed in that moment.  Through my tears, I squeaked out a “thank you” as he finished.  And then, with confidence he shrugged and said, “Meh, sometimes the Holy Spirit just knows.” Then he walked away.

What happened next is the beginning of my total transformation. {I will tell y’all a little more about that next month!}  What I really wanted to share today was the importance of being still enough to recognize God’s presence.  Thanks to an obedient soul who was guided by the Holy Spirit, I heard God that day. Sometimes God will force us to be still and listen. So just be still and listen—not just with your ears, but with your heart and soul. He is always with you. He is always guiding you.  You must be still and be present in His presence in order to hear Him.  In reference to our inability to hear from God, Pastor Larry Stockstill once said, “God’s always broadcasting—you don’t hear radio stations if your radio is not on either.” Be still. Be present. Let your burning ember turn into a flame. He’s waiting for you.


 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  Exodus 14:14


What can you do to be still and present in His presence so that you don’t miss His message?

~Jamie

 

 

 

Trusting God

A truth that has hit me heavy recently: in every area that humans fall short, God excels. The people we love the most WILL fail us, and we WILL fail them in return. Despite our best efforts to be kind, honest, loving, loyal, generous, patient and forgiving, we often fall short. Our sin nature trips us up despite our best intentions. The Holy Spirit empowers us to love people, but no person loves perfectly as God does.

Lately I have struggled with deep trust issues; I feel betrayed, and I wonder if I will ever be able to trust again. I constantly question and examine every word that is spoken, and I have to continuously fight to keep my peace. As I was wrestling with my hurts in prayer, I heard a powerful song that adjusted my perspective.

[[You Alone by Lauren Daigle]]

“I will trust in You alone

You are a fortress for the weak

The strength carries me when I am on my knees

The cross reminds my heart to trust

Your faithfulness and love will always be enough

God used these beautiful words to assure me of this: “You can always trust Me, My child. I have never and will never fail you.” These are not just empty words: he showed his love and devotion to us on the cross. 1 Corinthians 4:20 tells us: “…the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” He went all in; he did not withhold an ounce of his love from us, and he is still all in. In her book Girls with Swords, Lisa Bevere states that “the cross is the ultimate assurance of every promise kept”. Thank you, Jesus.

He isn’t just MORE trustworthy than any person we know; he is always only trustworthy. He IS faithful. The scripture below tells us faithfulness is ingrained in his character.


If we are unfaithful,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is.
2 Timothy 2:13


Be assured, he does not and cannot lie. Every Word he speaks can be trusted wholly. His love for us is completely pure; it is never motivated by insecurity or selfishness, and it is in no way marred by sin. I am grateful for these truths that create a confidence in Him that can anchor my soul during the storms of life.


God is not a man, so he does not lie.
He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
Numbers 23:19

So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.
Hebrews 6:18, 19


~Lacey

You Are Not Alone

You may know that dreadful feeling, and if not, you are quite lucky! Many of us have, though, known it all too well… a pounding and skipping heart, a numbness in the arms or other limbs, a nervous stomach (putting it mildly, in case you are eating your lunch while reading this), an overwhelming feeling of dread, or like you are dying or going crazy. Yes, it is anxiety resulting in a PANIC ATTACK!!! You may think “which is this, a flight or fight response?” In those moments, maybe neither seem to fit. I contend there should be a third category…freeze. That’s what anxiety and panic attacks do. They freeze you in that dreadful moment unable to focus on anything outside of those trigger thoughts and feelings.

During my current 10 year journey with anxiety and panic attacks, I have run the gamut of treatments…from hypnosis to a pill pushing psychiatrist. Notice I said current journey, as I still struggle with anxiety (the full blown panic attacks have lessened though). But, I find consolation in knowing anxiety is a battle we all fight together. Every person on this earth has anxiety, some call it stress or having a bad day, but what it evokes in our body is anxiety. No two people are exactly the same in their anxiety though, it manifests differently in all of us and we all have different levels we can cope with. Here are some statistics to help put it into perspective:

• According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, “an estimated 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders.” (Source: http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety) Notice the key word in there…estimated! Could be more, could be less, but I tend to doubt the latter!
• If there are 318.9 million people in the US, then 40 million with an anxiety disorder represents about 13% of the population.
• According to the CDC, “more than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection” (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/overview/ataglance.html). That’s only 0.3% of a population of 318.9 million!
• Also according to the CDC, the number “of adults who have ever been diagnosed with cancer: 20.3 million.” (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/cancer.htm) Now I read that as who have EVER been diagnosis with cancer, and we all know someone who has had cancer, right? This only represents 6% of a US population of 318.9 million. So you are twice as likely to know someone who has an anxiety disorder than someone with cancer!!!

The statistic list can go on and on, but my basic point here is You Are Not Alone!!!

Now, I am not a professional, but I have learned there is no one cure all for the masses. This is because we are all beautifully unique in our self-perceived weaknesses. For me, the best coping strategy has been a combination of faith based growth along with cognitive behavioral therapy. Attempting to re-label and re-frame my anxiety as what is truly is has helped tremendously. But I’ll tell you more on that in later posts.

Drawing closer to God has also significantly helped in “unfreezing” me from the grips of daily anxiety and panic attacks. There was a period of about 8 months after my son was born that I was plagued by anxiety and panic attacks. I was jumpy all day long, afraid of everything! My world was collapsing around me, I was literally afraid to leave the house because something bad might happen to me. The panic was freezing me from living life, from seeing my blessings and God’s love for me. I would wake up in the middle of the night sweating and gasping for air. I was under attack even in my sleep!

So, in the middle of the night I would crack open my bible and look for comfort. Up until fairly recently, I really didn’t know how to read the bible. Not that there is a right and wrong way, I just didn’t have enough of a relationship with God to take away the personal message He had for me. I tried starting at the beginning, but found it to be confusing with all the so and so begot so and so who begot so and so…can I get an uuughhhhh! So, I got a study bible, which helped immensely. I also started reading at the point of the New Testament…yep, that’s me…let’s get right to the good stuff. I mean come on, if there were ever anyone who should have been completely entitled to anxiety, it would be Jesus! He knew what was headed his way, but faced it with courage, knowing that His purpose for coming to earth and His death was for a far greater purpose than any temporal pains He would suffer here.

So, back to those middle of the night explorations into the Word of God…I came across several verses that have stuck with me and that I have to remind myself of, even today, that I would like to pass along…
• Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
• Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
• Matthew 6:34 So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
• Proverbs 3: 5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
(Above verses are from the New Living Translation Life Application Study Bible)

This is where I want to give all glory to God…there has been truth and transformation in my life through His Word and the people he has placed in my life. I pray that as you read this you will find comfort in knowing you are not alone and remembering life is a journey, one that I still struggle with some days, but it is possible to live productive happy lives with anxiety and panic attacks! Go in peace my Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

~Olivia

Comment Below! What verses have helped you through your own struggles with anxiety?