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Living In The Dark

 

I really didn’t plan on sharing this, but God continues to place in front of me stories of people who are dealing with anxieties, depression and thoughts of not wanting to be alive anymore. I know God enough to know that when He does this, there is usually a reason for it. He has put on my heart the burden to share my own testimony of His healing power and love. This past Spring and Summer, I went through a dark period. It lasted from about May until August. I call it my dark night of the soul. I felt disconnected from God and felt overwhelming sadness and anxiety. I feel anxiety on a regular basis, but this was different. Usually, I feel situational anxiety, this was a constant feeling of not being okay in my mind. I had a sense of being depressed and not being able to pull myself out of it. There were times when I could only whisper, “hang onto me, God!”  I had never had a feeling of not wanting to live until one morning in early July. My daughter was dropping me off at work and as I got out of the car, I started to sob and said through my tears, “I don’t want to live anymore!” I was completely stunned! I had not being feeling this. I knew then that my mind was taking on a life of it’s own and that I really needed to fight to stay sane.

It was a couple of days later, when I was scrolling through Facebook that God spoke to me through a Facebook post (God can speak to us through any venue, if we are open to His voice). The post was a link to an article talking about how Satan will use our minds to keep us disconnected from God and keep us from doing God’s will. I knew that God was telling me who I was fighting against. I already knew how to fight: prayer, Bible study, doing the will of God and abiding in Jesus. I dug my heels in and I fought. I prayed for God to protect my mind and I rebuked Satan. I told him to leave, that he would never win this battle and in the precious name of Jesus, that he needed to go. He did go! Throughout August I started feeling whole again and I now feel fine. I still deal with some situational anxiety, but it doesn’t overwhelm me. It keeps me connected to the vine. It keeps me from wandering to far from my heavenly Father. I now know that the enemy wants my mind and I am determined that he will NEVER get mine!

Satan will use whatever he can to control our minds: drugs, alcohol, fear, greed, etc. You name it and he will use it. God warns us of this:

1 Peter 5:8

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

I had thought of seeking therapy, but did not need to. I want to say that therapy is sometimes necessary and not a bad thing. Medications are not always a bad thing, as long as, they are a temporary solution to calm your mind enough to allow you to find long-term coping skills. There are definitely times to seek help from mental health professionals. Make sure that any professional you seek help from is open and positive about your relationship with Jesus. I am here to tell you that the #1 coping tool is a relationship with Jesus Christ. We can find other coping tools: running, writing, art, etc. but they can be taken away. My daughter loves to run and it is a way for her to cope with anxieties. She hurt her back and can not run. How do we deal with depression and anxiety in those situations? If we abide in the life giver, He will always be there to help us cope in any situation. Jesus is the ONLY coping tool that can never be taken from us. By developing an intimate relationship with Him, we have the only coping tool we will ever need.

If you are reading this and you have or are dealing with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, please contact me. I would love to correspond with you and pray with you for healing. I am not a trained psychologist, but I can help you develop an close, abiding relationship with God. I know the anguish that comes with constantly fighting your mind. I am here for you, friend. You are not alone!

 

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Thy Will Be Done

 

I have been reading a book on prayer, Busy Lives and Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life, written by Becky Eldredge. In the book, Becky talks about the instances when God says NO! to our prayers. She asks us the question, “Would you still be willing to say Yes! if God’s answer is NO!?”

As I pondered on that question, I realized that there have been times when God did say NO! or NOT YET! and I still found myself trusting Him. Hanging onto Him until the storms of life passed. Yes, I have struggled through a divorce and the transition to single motherhood. I have struggled with poverty, chronic illness, and anxieties. I have prayed for God to alleviate the pain that these issues have caused. I have prayed for God to work in the tough situations of my life. I have heard my fair share of God’s NO’s! I still struggle. I still deal with the same situations. 17 years later and life is still a struggle. But, I have NOT prayed for the healing of a child or spouse and still had to watch them die. I have NOT lived through a mass shooting or a terrorist attack, praying for an answer and never seeming to get one. I have not tried to save a fellow Marines life while in the middle of a firefight, only to see him die and trying to find the Why in it. As much as I have struggled in life, as many times as I have prayed for help, I have not had to live through a life altering trauma such as those listed above. If I had to live through such a tragedy as any of these, could I still say, Yes! to God. Could I still say, “Thy will be done”?

Luke 22:39-44

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 

Jesus prayed for “this cup” to be taken from him. From my perspective, this can only mean that Jesus did NOT want to die. He knew the suffering that He would soon endure and He did NOT want to face that suffering. But, in the same breath, he says, ” yet not my will, but yours be done.” Remember that God said NO! to Jesus. God said NO! to His beloved Son and Jesus still had faith enough to trust God’s will.

If Jesus, facing death, and dealing with human emotion, was willing to say, “thy will be done” when God said NO! than I should be able to follow that example when God says NO! to my prayers. But can I? Will I? I wish I could say that I knew for sure that I would still say YES! to God in that type of situation, but because I am human and I do deal with anxieties, I honestly don’t know.

This is something that I am working on. I continue to pray. There are times when God says YES! and there are times when God says NO! I continue to go deeper in my relationship with God. I continue to push myself to where I can say YES! in any circumstance. I continue to grow in my faith.

CHALLENGE: Reflect on the question, “Will I say YES! when God says NO!?” Be willing to get real with yourself. Don’t be afraid to admit that you would not say YES! Don’t be afraid to admit that you are still growing in faith. That’s okay. Most of us are. Get real with God and find out what you need to do to get to the YES!

In the meantime, I am always here if you need me to pray with you or journey with you. You are NEVER alone!

 

 

 

Commitment Ceremony

                  

 

            

 

The commitment ceremony on November 18th was beautiful. It was a full day of reflection, prayer and sharing. It was a day that was celebrated by the 22 of us making our first commitments, those Associates that were able to come celebrate with us and the Sisters of Providence. It was a celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Associate program and a looking forward to the years to come. It was a fond farewell to Sister Diane, who is retiring after years of dedicated service to the Associate program. It was a day of laughter and tears and it was a day of peace in my decision to become an Associate. This day has been a long time coming for me. I started this journey in 2011 and it has taken me this long to get here, but I persevered. I knew that God was calling me into this relationship and as I sat there during the ceremony, eagerly anticipating the moment that I received me associate pin, I knew that this was right. I felt at home. I felt at peace. I knew that Saint Mother Theodore was looking down on me and I was now a daughter of this remarkable woman.

I still don’t know where this journey is going to lead. I am taking one day at a time and trusting in God to lead me in His will for my life. I know that I will still have moments when I want to run, but I trust in Providence. I know that as I delve deeper into this relationship with the Sisters, God will continue to work in my life. As I open my heart to those around me, God will provide opportunities for me to BE Providence in the lives of others and to bring love, mercy and justice to the world around me.

I am blessed to a part of this community of Sisters and Associates and I know that in this place, I am home.

Do Not Be Discouraged

fear-not-tomorrow

 

Joshua 1:9

 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Deuteronomy 31:8

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

God promises that He will go before us and be with us. He promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us, but He also expects something from us. He expects us to be strong and courageous. He expects us to look fear in the face and have enough faith to step out anyway. He expects us to look past our current situations, as bad as they may be and have faith that as long as we center our lives around Him, everything will be okay. We will not drown in our circumstances. We will not faint under the pressure. The struggles of life will not take us down, as long as we stay strong and trust God.

But, you don’t know my circumstances, you say. No I don’t. But, I know my circumstances. I know my life and I know that my life has been full of trials and struggle. It has not been easy to raise 5 kids as a single mom. It has not been easy to live under the oppression of poverty for 17 years, working my butt off and feeling like I am still drowning in my circumstances. I know how it is to feel like you will never get ahead in life. I know how hard it is to be an outcast as a foster child in someone else’s home. I know the grief of having your dreams destroyed along with your marriage. I know how discouraging it is trying to find out who you are and trying to find a way to fix your mind because you struggle everyday with an anxiety disorder and a Schizoid personality disorder. I know the frustration of dealing with chronic illness and the ups and downs of that illness. I know, but more importantly, God knows. God knows how I struggle to simply exist some days. God also knows your circumstances and how you are struggling to get through each day. Don’t think that God does not care. He cares and He has promised to be with you wherever you go. Have courage in your circumstances, knowing that God is in those circumstances with you. He is not going to leave you struggling alone. He will never turn His back on you. Be strong. Have courage. Trust God. He is with us in every situation of our lives. He will comfort you. He will fight for you. He will NEVER forsake you! DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED!

 

 

 

 

A Woman Scorned

 

 

 

John 4:1-26

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

John 8:1-11

1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Psalm 139:7-12

7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Yes, the women in the above passages were living in sin, but from my experience, when women find themselves in the depths of sin, it is because they are trying to heal themselves from pain and heartache. They are trying to self-medicate. They turn to alcohol/drugs, men, and other sinful ways of life. But the pain of the past does not just go away, instead guilt, shame, and self-hatred result.

I believe the Woman at the well and the adulterous woman had suffered pain and heartache in their pasts. No, the passages do not say this, but I feel their pain and I believe that something happened to them in their pasts to lead them to the life they were living when Jesus found them.

Our pain can lead to so many bad decisions that lead us to even more pain and hurt. The pain and hurt in my own life have led to an anxiety disorder, a schizoid personality disorder, low self-esteem, a need to please everyone else, even sacrificing my own welfare to do so. I hate confrontation and have allowed others to control me because I have felt powerless and did not want a confrontation. I did not want to be hurt and the sting of hateful words can hurt deeply. The old saying of, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is so not true. Words can sting and they have the ability to stay with you a life-time. I have allowed my fear keep me from obeying God when I knew He was telling me to step out in faith. This is disobedience and sin.

Jesus found these two women at their lowest, but instead of condemning them, He confronted their sin in love. He was compassionate and offered them eternal life. He gave them HOPE! He loved them where they were and offered them a hope of something more. It is the same for us today. He loves us in our sin. Yes, He confronts us about our sinful natures, but he is merciful and gives us hope for a blessed future in Him. Jesus knows my heart and He knows your heart. He knows our past and the pain that has led us to where we are. He sees through our sin and sees our hearts. He loves us and His compassion is overflowing. My sister, allow Jesus to meet you where you are and give you that living water that only comes from Him. He can and will heal you, right now, right where you are. Open your heart and allow Him to pour out His love and compassion. Your past and present does not have to dictate your future. Only you can decide what your future holds. If you allow God into your life and live out His will for you.

You may be a woman scorned right now, but that does not mean you always have to be. With Jesus in your life, together you can write a new story: a story of courage, strength, love, compassion and hope! Let the love of Jesus heal your wounded heart. Step out in faith!

 

No More Silence

 

 

dv

 

October is domestic violence awareness month. I wanted to write a post that brings awareness, not only to domestic violence, but to human trafficking and child abuse as well. Abuse and oppression of women and children is on the rise due to the increase of addictions, poverty, and human trafficking. Women and children are still at risk of abuse in today’s society. Abuse crosses socioeconomic, religious, racial and educational lines. I will let the statistics speak for themselves:

Domestic Abuse

These statistics were found at www.beaconofhopeindy.org:

*Nearly 1 in 4 American women between the age of 18 and 65 have experienced domestic violence.

*Up to 6 million women are believed to be beaten in their homes each year. Only 4 million incidents are reported, and up to 90% of battered women never report their abuse.

*On the average, a woman is battered in the United States by a partner every 9 to 12 seconds.

*50% of all homeless women and children in America are fleeing domestic violence.

*According to the American Medical Association, family violence kills as many women every 5 years as the total number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War (approximately 58,000).

*4 million women require police or medical attention each year due to severe beatings.

*According to studies, up to 30% of arrested batterers who receive treatment will hit, slap, kick, or strangle their spouses within 6 months.

*Approximately one-third of the men counseled (for battering) are professional men who are well respected in their jobs and their communities. These batterers included doctors, psychologists, lawyers, ministers, and business executives.

Human Trafficking

These statistics were found at dosomething.org:

*Trafficking primarily involves exploitation which comes in many forms, including: forcing victims into prostitution, subjecting victims to slavery or involuntary servitude and compelling victims to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography.

*According to some estimates, approximately 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, and 19% involves labor exploitation.

*There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today.

*According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children.

*The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14-year-old. Many victims are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children.

*Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking). It reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion every year. Of that number, $15.5 billion is made in industrialized countries.

*The International Labor Organization estimates that women and girls represent the largest share of forced labor victims with 11.4 million trafficked victims (55%) compared to 9.5 million (45%) men.

Child Abuse

These statistics were found at www.americanspcc.org:

*The latest 2015 Child Maltreatment Report from The Children’s Bureau was published in January 2017. The report shows an increase in child abuse referrals from 3.6 million to 4 million. The number of children involved subsequently increased to 7.2 million from 6.6 million. The report also indicates an increase in child deaths from abuse and neglect to 1,670 in 2015, up from 1,580 in 2014. Some reports estimate child abuse fatalities at 1,740 or even higher.

*The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average almost five (5) children every day to child abuse and neglect.

*Child abuse crosses all socioeconomic and educational levels, religions, ethnic and cultural groups.

*207,000 children received foster care services.

*Annual estimate: 1,670 to 1,740 children died from abuse and neglect.

When it comes to the abuse of women and children, we have a long way to go to bring justice for these victims of abuse and oppression. It is time for us to speak up for those victimized by these injustices. We need to be a voice for those who do not have a voice. We need to be a voice for those women and children who can not speak up for themselves. NO MORE SILENCE! If each one of us uses our voice to advocate for the women and children who are victimized, we have the potential to save the lives of millions of women and children. Why would we not want to do that? I think the statistics speak for themselves. We need to stand up for women and children. We need to be that voice.

NO MORE SILENCE!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have seen pockets of spiritual renewal in the midst of the violence and chaos that has been created by the hate, intolerance and racism. Pockets here and there of goodness, compassion and love. But, is it enough? Are occasional pockets of spiritual oneness enough to be called a spiritual awakening? I don’t think so. It’s a start, but we have a long way to go to get to the place where we have a true spiritual awakening in America. It begins with each one of us examining our hearts and making the decision to live a life that glorifies God and letting go of the things that keep us tied to the world. The Church has become an entertainment industry. In our effort to bring people into the Church, we have become more secular and less like Jesus. We think it is okay to take middle school girls to see vampire movies as a youth event. We think it is okay to have viewing parties to watch the Walking Dead in our churches because we want to reach the unchurched. We forget that it is NOT our job to bring people into the church. It IS our job to live as Jesus lived in our daily lives. It IS our job to build relationships with our friends, family and neighbors; relationships built from love and compassion. It IS our job to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of ALL people. As we reach out in love, the Holy Spirit will bring them into the church. We need to get back to putting Jesus #1 in our lives and leave the rest to God. There are 5 things we can do to bring true spiritual awakening to the United States of America:

  1. Pray: We need to be on our knees on a daily basis praying that God will protect this country. We need to pray that God will place His angels to protect the borders of this country from evil. We need to pray that the plans and plots of the evil one will be revealed, so they can be stopped. We need to pray that God will pour out the Holy Spirit in such abundance that Satan will have no choice but to flee. We need to pray for our Mayors, Governors, Senators, Representatives and even our President. We need to pray for our Pastors, our faith-based leaders, each other and ourselves. We can change things. Satan WILL flee, but we need to pray. Every lasting spiritual awakening starts with the crying out of the Saints in prayer. We need to come together as one and storm the heavens with our prayers. It starts with prayer.
  2. Repent and Transform: As we find ourselves on our knees in prayer, we need to pray that God will reveal the darkness in us that causes the violence and pain and that He will transform our hearts. We need to be willing to repent of our sins and trust that God will bring good out of it. We need to be willing to be transparent with each other and trust that our brothers and sisters in Christ will accept us as we are: sinners redeemed by the blood of Jesus. We are all sinners. We have no right to judge each other. We ALL need to look into the deep recesses of our spirits and repent of the sin that lies there. After we repent, we need to leave the sin behind and transform our lives to glorify God. We need to continue to renew our minds daily through prayer and Bible study. We need to transform our lives so the world will see more of Jesus in how we live our lives then they see of us.
  3. Love: We need to love those around us, even when they seem unlovable. We need to pour out love into our communities instead of hate. We need to open our hearts and eyes to where there is pain and step out in love to be Jesus in a broken world. If we don’t, who will?
  4. Serve: When we start to love the people around us God will reveal areas where we can serve. When we start to serve those in need around us, we build relationships with those who need the healing touch of Jesus and the Holy Spirit will open the doors for us to share our Jesus story. Serving others in love and compassion allows others to see Jesus in us and allows the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. Through our obedience in serving, the Holy Spirit will fill our Churches and revival will come.
  5. Disciple: We need to start discipling new believers. One of the biggest things that is missing in the Church is discipleship. I grew up in the Church. I went to Sunday school. I learned my lessons, but I was never discipled in the Church. There was never anyone that came alongside me to disciple me. No one ever taught me how to be a follower of Jesus. No one taught me how to live this life through the ups and downs. Sunday school is great, but we need to be willing to sacrifice some time to come alongside a new believer for a significant amount of time to disciple them. We need to be willing to teach new believers how to stay connected to the Vine: Jesus. I was finally discipled. I was thirsty for more of Jesus and God sent the Holy Spirit to disciple me. Outside of the Church. I was not finding Jesus in the Church. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Church. I do. That’s why I am so passionate about bringing the Church back to where it needs to be. We need to be more proactive in building discipling relationships and not depend so much on our Sunday schools. We need to be more proactive in turning new believers into mature disciples of Christ.

We can bring spiritual awakening to America. There is hope! God still loves us and we can turn things around. One pocket of spiritual renewal here and another pocket there CAN turn into a National revival and Satan will have no choice but to leave. Never give up hope! With God ALL things ARE possible!