“This is not our home…”

That sweet thought brings me the Lord’s peace every time it enters my mind. It is what gets me out of bed every single day. It is what motivates me to keep seeking the Lord on a daily basis. This life is hard. And, the closer I get to the Lord, the harder it becomes. The enemy makes sure of it. I have finally learned to accept that. I keep the words of Jesus from John 16:33  close to my heart. I see so many struggling to survive this life.  That was me not too long ago.  I pray that they learn to turn to Jesus so that they don’t have to just survive it.  They too, can live an abundant life if they choose to turn it over to the Lord.  ALL of it—it’s all or nothing. 

Not so long ago, back in the days of mind-numbing depression, the enemy had me in such tight chains.  He convinced me I was worthless.  He used alcohol to give me temporary peace.  I was hooked. I could hardly breathe in that darkness. I used to wonder how many tears one person could cry (honestly, I still wonder sometimes). God was nowhere to be found, even though it turns out that He really was there the entire time.  I was giving up.  I had grown so tired of trying to keep my head above water. Every time I had a little bit of happiness (the enemy would loosen the chains just enough to make me think it was all good), I’d be yanked back deeper into the pit. I had no hope.  I didn’t think I’d ever be freed from those chains, but thankfully Jesus changed all of that when I opened my heart to Him.  No wonder why the enemy is so mad and threatened that he lost me, especially because a higher calling has been placed on my life.  That makes my heart smile extra big. I can feel the Lord smiling too. 🙂 

The closer I get to the Lord, the harder the enemy works at trying to steal my joy.  I am finally catching on that he never sleeps.  Thankfully, neither does God. I admit that I still slip and let my guard down once in a while. It is mostly when I am exhausted, and the enemy is right there waiting for the slightest opening to come in and pounce.  He never misses the opportunity.  When the enemy can’t come at me directly, he then tries to use other people to do his dirty work.  When that doesn’t work, then he tries to come at me by attacking people I love and that is harder on me than anything.  But together we come against it and God is with us making us stronger. 

I must keep my eyes on Jesus every single day.  It’s the only way I can make it through.  I have literally learned to take one day at a time. I don’t just pray to God when I need Him. I talk to Him all day, every day. Developing a real relationship with Him is a must.  I have learned to mostly thank Him throughout the day, but many times I am asking for His help for me as well as for others.  My talking to Him comes so naturally now, I find myself doing it a lot at my desk when I am at work and I love that I am not concerned who sees it.  I do it quietly and respectfully, but I realize that someone may notice that my head is down and my lips are moving…I actually want them to see it.  I want them to see what that does for me so they will want to do it too.  I don’t know if it’s working, but I am glad that I don’t have to worry about it because it’s not up to me. When I talk to God throughout the day, it keeps me so close to Him.  I can truly feel His Spirit and I so need to where I work!  I need to improve on this, but I have also learned to spend quiet time with Him every day and not do all the talking.  Lots of us forget to sit still and listen.  He needs to be able to speak back to us and if we’re on the go all the time and/or talking all the time, we are going to miss out on what He has to say! I don’t want to miss out!! 

I confess that I used to feel bad when I would see others that don’t put God first enjoying their life so much—at least on the surface it appears that they are happy. They are able to travel to beautiful places. They have nice homes, cars, etc.  I am grateful that the Lord straightened me out on that.  I have learned not to compare myself to others.  I used to be embarrassed for not having much at this age, I am not anymore. Today, what I have is much greater than anything this world can give. I am richly blessed in so many ways. I have eternal life. I have the Lord dwelling inside my heart. I belong to God’s family and He has placed the most incredible godly people in my life.  I have incredible everlasting joy and peace from the only One who can give it. The list goes on.  And when the Lord is finished using me on this earth, He will call me home to be with Him. I love knowing that.  I admit I get homesick sometimes because home with Jesus is where my heart is.  But He has things for me to do still so I’ll just keep doing what I am doing. When I do get to go home, boy is there going to be a tremendous celebration!  

This is the longest I have gone between posts, but I was waiting on the Lord to give me something to share.  He sure put a lot on my heart and I can only hope that I have shared it well.  Here’s one final thing for today…I keep hearing Laura Story’s Blessing a lot lately, and I love these lyrics: “When friends betray you, when darkness seems to win, we know the pain reminds this heart…this is not our home.”  I speak strictly from the heart because of my own experiences and I just want to say to those who are struggling right now, know that Jesus loves you. Spend time every day working on trusting Him fully. It takes a daily effort to learn to trust. Whatever you’re going through, you don’t have to go through it alone. Call out to Jesus and He will carry you through. Remember Jesus’ words like in Matthew 11:28. He wants you to come to Him and find rest in Him, so do it. When you are going through tough times, also remember what Jesus did for us on that cross. Our suffering is nothing compared to His. I believe remembering that helps us to keep on keeping on no matter how difficult our circumstances become.  And finally, at least for me, it helps a great deal to remember that this is not our home.

Brokenness into Beauty

I AM BEAUTIFUL. Well that certainly is a bold statement coming from me.  It sure is not easy for me to write that about myself, especially after decades of brokenness and low self-esteem.  I want to make it clear that I am not speaking of my appearance.  I am speaking of the beautiful heart that the Lord has given me, for which I am eternally grateful for.  I believe when someone has a heart for God, that they are just naturally beautiful altogether. I say that because I can see it in so many godly people around me. 

Ever since the Lord changed me inside and out, whenever I see my reflection in the mirror, I smile because I no longer see the lost soul that used to be looking back at me.  For me to be able to look into the mirror today and actually like what I see is a major breakthrough the Lord has given me.  When I see myself, I see an amazing smile that lights up the room.  It has nothing to do with me.  It is only because Jesus is now in me and His light shines so brightly through my eyes and my smile.  I hear it so many times.  I think it just took a while for me to be comfortable with it.  I learned to pray for the self-esteem of Jesus and I am grateful that my prayer was answered.  So I just do my best to shine His light wherever I go.  One of my constant prayers is that when people see me, I pray they see more of Jesus, and less of me.  I am still a work in progress.

So many things from the past that kept me in the darkness are now being used for God’s good purpose.  There are so many that I can reach out to and help because I have walked in their shoes.  I am grateful to be used by God.  I am grateful to finally be living a purposeful life and I am so excited for all God has in store.  I know there are a lot of people out there who are where I used to be, and I pray that I can be an encouragement to some.  I want to encourage people to seek His purpose for their own life too, if they do, their life will never be the same.  There is so much more to this life than what most are seeing with their human eyes.  

I share such personal stories and thoughts because I believe God has asked me to.  I pray I do the messages that He puts on my heart justice.  It is not like He is giving me word for word to write, so I pray His messages do not get lost in translation. 

I believe that there is at least one person out there that may find hope in something I share.  I believe that there is at least one person out there that just might open their heart to Jesus like I did. I happened to be at the right place at the right time to hear a message that I needed to hear.  Perhaps God will put this blog somewhere at the right place and time for someone out there.  That is my hope.  God can do amazing things with a willing heart. My journey is proof of that.  I want to see this happen for many others.  This is what makes me willing to be so transparent, helping at least one person is beyond worth it to me.  As tough as it can be, I am thrilled to be used by God.  I am beyond blessed. I pray more people will allow Him to bless them in this way.  It is an incredible way to live.  For me, it is now the only way to live.  I realize I may never know if anybody is reached through my sharing and I am okay with that because I know it is not up to me.  I am not God, and that is a good thing!!

Let God turn your brokenness into beauty too!

“How long, Lord??”

That is a question I find myself asking Him more and more lately.  I feel like I have been in the fire for a long time now. It seems it started quite early on in this journey.  God is up to something with me that is for sure.  He has been growing me so quickly.  Honestly, sometimes I feel like I am barely hanging on.  So many times lately, I find myself asking Him when I am settling in for the night: “How long is this going to be for, Lord?  I am tired…”  I am glad He is teaching me how to fully rely on Him.  I am glad I am teachable!! 

It is not just me going through the fire.  It is also many of my Christian brothers and sisters whom I love dearly.  I am not as strong as some of them.  At least I do not think so.  I think I might be one of the youngest (spiritually speaking) so I really look up to them and I am hanging in there like they are. I thank God for placing them in my path. I know it was for a reason.  I am pretty sure I would not have been able to last this long had it not been for their example. I know that God is working behind the scenes for all of us because amazing things have been happening little by little. Things that only God could ever make happen.  It is exciting!  I am glad God allows me to see a little bit at a time because it helps to keep my hope alive. I trust God has great plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11) and that is what keeps me going.  Some day in the future, I believe God will use me to help a new Christian who will be going through some really tough times early on in their new walk with the Lord.  I will admit that I wish I could fast forward this just a little, but I do not want to miss out on ANY blessing the Lord has for me so I shall remain faithful, obedient, and patient. No matter how difficult it gets. 

It is so amazing to look back at when the Lord was first getting through to my heart.  He chose a place to do it where I would need to grow quickly.  Things that happened early on are just now starting to make sense for me.  Of course I do not know all that He has planned and I know that is a good thing.  I am certain I would be scared away if I could see it all coming.  But, He sure has been doing mighty things in my life for the last couple of years.  He has given me little glimpses of things. Although it still can be intimidating, I just keep following Him and being obedient.  I keep climbing out of the boat for Him–so not easy to do.  Sometimes I think I am shoved out, but it really is all good because it is all for God.  What else am I going to do anyway?  I spent my entire adult life lost in darkness. I refuse to go back to that.  I am not afraid of dying, but I am terrified of living in the enemy’s chains again. I cannot ever let that happen again, so that is my motivation to keep on keeping on.  Through it all, my faith is rising.  I am getting stronger.  Thanks to Jesus, I am an overcomer!! 

Well, I think the answer to my own question of how long has just come to me: “As long as it takes…”  Thank You, Lord!  I am grateful for this second chance at life that You have given me.  You never let me down, so I do not ever want to let You down either. 

 The incredible journey continues…onward!

Random thought: “So you’ve surrendered your heart to Christ…now what?”

For some reason, God placed that thought on my heart to share this morning.  It sure isn’t a thought I had each time I surrendered my heart (yes, I had to do it more than once). I think God wants me to share this probably because He doesn’t want people to do what I did next…which was nothing.  At least not for a long time. I was in my early twenties the first time.  I was lost.  I didn’t know what I was doing.  Even if that thought had come back then, I’m guessing it wouldn’t have mattered.  I remember I had a sincere heart, but that’s all I remember.  I have no idea whether or not the church tried to follow up with me, I wasn’t a member of that church. I didn’t have a church I attended regularly.  Plus, I was too lost and too shy to want to try to find any Christians to reach out to.  I’m not putting the blame on anybody but myself. Looking back, I just know that I wasn’t ready.  I wanted to, but I just wasn’t ready to give Jesus my all.  I don’t count that altar call because afterward, I was still going through the motions. I kept doing my own thing…for another twenty plus years. 

I responded to another altar call at the age of 39.  It was at that time that the Lord really started to reach me (a little bit).  But, I still wasn’t ready to completely open my heart to Him.  It took another four years of absolute misery when I responded to another altar call.  Again, I continued to struggle for a bit.  I didn’t know it then, but little by little the Lord continued to reach me.   After that last time, it took another year before the Lord finally got through and I surrendered ALL to Him.  I finally learned to die to self.  I truly learned about His forgiveness AND about repentance (something that I see a lot of people take too lightly like I did initially).  SO grateful that my eyes, ears, and heart had finally been opened!  At first it bothered me that I was 44 when I finally caught on, but I’m okay with it now because nobody is ever too young or too old or too bad to give their heart to Jesus and that is great news! 

I receive a daily devotion from the NLT Life Application Study Bible, and a couple of weeks ago it was in reference to Isaiah 48:22.  I’d like to share what it said:  “Many people cry out for comfort, security, and relief, but they haven’t taken the first steps to turn away from sin and open the channels to God. They have not repented and trusted in Him. If you want true peace, seek God first. Then He will give you His peace.”

I see a lot of people cry out to God then wonder why things are good for a while only to see things fall apart again, again, and again. I see a lot of people doing what I used to.  They say they believe in Jesus and they are thankful for what He did for us, but they act as though His dying on the cross is a free ticket to continue the same sins.  Glad I know now how wrong I was by doing that and I’m so grateful that I’ve learned to turn away from those sins that I have been forgiven for.  I’ll always be a sinner, but I’m not doing the same sins over and over like before. I trust Him, I seek Him daily, I have His peace!

As I end this post I’d like to share one more thing. There’s something I heard Joyce Meyer say regarding Jesus as Lord that sticks with me all the time, especially when I seem to lose focus thinking I’m in control of something.  It goes something like this: “He is either Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all.” It’s all or nothing and I’m so glad He’s my all!!  When that quote comes to mind it makes me stop what I’m doing and I immediately give it back to Jesus and say “Sorry, Lord, I know You’ve got this!”  I can just picture Jesus shaking His head and smiling (many times) when I mess up like that.  What can I say…I keep learning as I go…after all, I am a life-long learner.