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Encourage One Another

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Hebrews 3:13

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Why do we find it so hard to encourage one another? We lash out in anger, frustration and impatience and tear each other down. I regret the times when my kids were younger and in my frustration I hurled words of discouragement at them. I regret the times that I have been less than kind to a cashier because I was impatient and in a hurry. I have found that in today’s society, we have gotten used to tearing each other down to build ourselves up. We judge each other, we belittle each other, we embarrass others for their differences, we make others feel small and we have started to think that this behavior is okay.

This behavior is NOT okay. God tells us to encourage one another and build each other up! I work with teenagers in my job and it is easy to get impatient when I see an “I don’t care” attitude. I have had to be careful that my own attitude is one of encouragement and not discouragement. I am not perfect and I am not always the role model I should be, but I try to make sure that the words I choose are building up our young people and not tearing them down.

My challenge to you: open your heart to the opportunities to build someone up. Look for ways in which you can encourage your family, neighbors, co-workers and others that you meet in your daily life. Don’t get discouraged if you blow it. We all do occasionally. Simply, move on and keep on encouraging. When we encourage others, we start a ripple effect that can change countless lives. Those we encourage feel better about themselves and start to encourage others in their lives. You never know when your encouraging word can save someones life. You never know when building someone up can give them a positive outlook, changing their lives forever.

Remember the old school saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Words do hurt. Our words have the power to change someones life forever. I choose to encourage others. I choose to build others up. I choose to use my words to give others life. I choose to let others know that they are loved.

HOW WILL YOU USE YOUR WORDS?

 

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Are You Listening?

 

1 Samuel 3:1-10

The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

 

Samuel did not know the Lord, but he was still willing to listen. I have a relationship with the Lord, and yet I still do not always listen when He speaks to me. Why is that? Why don’t I listen? Why do I waste my time fumbling through life, when I would be so much better off if I would listen when God speaks? I have found that there are three main reasons that we don’t hear God:

  1. Physical Busyness– We live in a time where we are always on the go. Our days and nights are jam packed with activity and we are so focused on the next thing on our to-do list that we miss the voice of God. Is there an activity or two that you would be willing to give up to make more room for quiet time with God?
  2. Mental Preoccupation– When we aren’t physically running around trying to check things off our to-do list, we are mentally writing tomorrow’s to-do list and thinking about what is to come in the future. Even on the rare occasions when we find ourselves at rest, our minds are still going a mile a minute. What can you do to quiet your mind enough to hear the Lord speak?
  3. A Closed Heart– There are times when we are so set on having our own way that we refuse to hear God’s voice. We can get so caught up in our own agenda that we forget that God knows what is best for us. God speaks, we simply refuse to listen. What can you do to focus more on what God says, rather than on what you want?

 

I have no excuse for not listening to the voice of the Lord. I am challenging myself this year to slow down, quiet my mind and open my heart to what the Lord has to say to me. I don’t want to miss out on what God has in store for me because I refused to listen. I sincerely believe that God does still speak to His children. We simply need to be still enough and be willing enough to listen. When God speaks my name, I want my answer to be, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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!