Blessed to be Broken

God's not finished with me yet!

Life Interrupted

JoyoftheLord

Being new in my faith, I can’t say as I always “get” what God is trying to tell me.  I can read His Word and listen to Worship music, tap my feet and sing till someone tells me to stop because I’m told, someone else is on the radio for a reason. I can go out into the world, smile at people and say a friendly hello, come home and plop back into my comfortable life.  Those are all very good things, but there’s something that God didn’t see from me.  So, what started out as a subtle Fatherly nudge, over the course of a few months, suddenly became my life interrupted.

For years I’ve lived my life day by day in a state of what I would call, dutiful.  I know what it means to be a dutiful child, a dutiful mother, a dutiful friend, and well, you get the picture.  But there was no real joy in all of this duty.  Somewhere along the road of life and all it entails, I can say I truly lost my joy.  I love to help people, and you would think that would bring me great joy.  But, it didn’t.  I love to give, and you would think that would bring me great joy.  But, it didn’t.  I love to make people laugh, and you would think that would bring me great joy.  But, it didn’t.  I love to receive (just keeping it real), and you would think that would bring me great joy.  But it didn’t.  I asked Christ to come into my life and I got baptized and you would think that would bring me great joy.  But, it didn’t.  Now don’t get me wrong, best decision of my life was to give my life over to the Lord, but that didn’t mean I took a magic pill and I was instantly transformed.  Took me years to get to where I am, and I gave God a lot to transform.

All around me now are Biblical verses and messages of joy, and love, and joy, and love, and joy and love; have been for quite some time actually.  This is where God’s nudges have turned into…umm, hello, will you let Me not just talk, but will you listen and obey?  Of course God, but, I’m still not sure what you mean, I’m doing what you’re telling me.  I’m loving on people and I’ve got my smile on, so why the same messages?  Did you just hear God sigh? I think He may have just sighed.

Deep down, way deep down, there was this child, who never got to be a child.  Life became very serious, very early on.  Life was chaotic, emotionally and mentally destructive and painful. In order to survive, she shut herself down and started to live life dutifully. Everything was done out of this sense of duty instead of joyfully.  So it should come as no real surprise for her to understand that God didn’t want this for her…God didn’t want this for me. I took joy and shoved it under the weight of many blankets and I carried out my life dutifully.  In doing so, I left myself wide open to all kinds of spiritual warfare.  I needed my life interrupted so I could get my joy back.  But first, I needed to understand a little bit more about joy.

In all of my Bible teachings no where have I read that life is meant to be lived dutifully.  In my pea brain, this is how I got it worked out.  First off, I had to understand this is not a circumstantial emotion. Regardless of our circumstances we are to do everything with joy.  Roll my eyes, yea, blah, blah, blah.  No disrespect meant here.  My structured logical brain got it.  My emotional brain was still saying….huh?  Okay, so let’s try it from this perspective.

If I don’t have joy knowing God is in control and that He works everything out for my good, then when life beats me up, what will happen? I’ll lose my joy, feel defeated and now the enemy can come creepy crawling in and fill my head with lies.  That’s why God says to “rejoice” always, not sometimes, not just when I feel like it, but always.  If I’m busy re-joy-cing, no matter the circumstance, the enemy can’t come in and turn me into a dutiful, depressed, the life has been sucked out of me zombie.  Joy doesn’t have to be complicated.  Simply put, I have joy because I have God.  So that’s where they joy comes from, it’s a gift from God.  He gives it, and all I need do is receive it.

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#Amazed-The one who walked away

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For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently participating in an on-line Bible Study called “What Happens When Women Say Yes To God” by Lysa TerKeurst.  Let me just say, it has been one #amazed eye opening experience after another. So much so, that I find myself sometimes going…”do I reeeally wanna read that next chapter?”  Not in a bad way, in a “am I ready for this” way.  When you decide to say #YesToGod, you had better be prepared to be convicted to the core.  So I hunkered down and got ready for Chapter 4, “You never know how God will use you until you let Him,” and use you, He will.

Did you know your life experiences were not necessarily yours to hold onto? That maybe just maybe you weathered some pretty nasty storms so that you could help others who are maybe less equipped to do so?  Of course their situations aren’t going to be exactly like yours, but they will be similar enough that once you start talking, you start seeing a reaction.  They might cry, laugh, hit you in the arm and tell you to “shut up,” or even get up and walk away.  Yesterday, that’s exactly what happened; she walked away.

It was a beautiful day at the lake, the sun was setting and God was painting the sky with hues of cotton candy pink and blue.  God had given me a day to spend with some sisters in Christ, and I was talking with two of my new friends about a situation going on in my life where I had stepped out of sync with God’s Word.  I had put the cart before the horse and I was now paying the price of a broken relationship.

Little did I know as I was telling my tale of disobedience, God was using this experience to help another from possibly making the same mistake.  You see there were two other ladies whose backs were to us as they too were enjoying the sunset.  I was mostly to the end of my story when both of those ladies decided to get up from their seats and walk away.  I really didn’t think anything of it since I was not speaking directly to them, but one of the gals walking away, stopped and held fast to one of the women I was speaking with, and she said she was sorry, she didn’t mean to eavesdrop but she couldn’t help it and now it was too personal and she had to leave; she walked away.

Needless to say I was a bit perplexed as the woman I was talking with was now smiling from ear to ear, nodding her head as she sat for a moment drinking in what just happened. She looked directly at me and said “you don’t know it, but God just used your situation to speak loud and clear” to the one that walked away.

I had no intention of telling women I had just met my current situation, it just happened.  I was actually ashamed to be telling them the story, but it was like my mouth opened and the words just poured out.  My brain was like, shut- up, shut-up, shut-up already, and yet my lips kept flapping away… and just like that, God used me.  So to the one that walked away, let God lead you, not the flesh and you will be #Amazed at what He has in store for you when you just say #YesToGod.

 

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What’s your Idol?

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I love to read; my best friend however, not so much.  So you can imagine my surprise when I was talking with my friend on the phone and she started telling me about the books she was reading.  What?!  Did she say “books,” as in plural?  Again, my friend didn’t read books and if she did occasionally pick up a book it most certainly was not read to the frenzy she was describing.  As I listened to her excited chatter about the story line, I became very intrigued.  It was a love story, but not your typical love story. After getting off the phone I ran down to the local book store and found two of the books that she gushed about with great enthusiasm.   Seriously, what woman doesn’t adore a love story where she can both lose herself but also replace herself as the object of affection?

Having nothing else better to do once I got home from the bookstore, I decided to dig in right away.  In my favorite chair, I got my favorite pillows around and got all comfy ready to lose myself in the pages of this “epic” romance that had taken the country by storm.  It didn’t take long at all to become immersed in the pages of that book when I realized I had to buy the last two books in order to complete the series.  So in between chapters, I ordered the other books in hopes they would be on my doorstep before I finished the first two.  Best part, because I came so late to this party, there was already a movie out and score, it was playing in the local movie theater.  I finished that first book in 2 days.  I can’t even remember the last time I lost sleep over a book because I just couldn’t put it down.

After I read the first two books, and I saw the movie twice, I anxiously awaited the arrival of the last two books in the series.  Every day I anticipated my new found “friends” would be home when I returned from work.  When I finally got the other books, I couldn’t wait to pick up where I had left off.  Nothing else mattered.  I couldn’t read fast enough to find out what happened next.  I finished all the books in ten days; and that’s only because I had to wait for the other two to arrive in the mail.  My friend and I talked and e-mailed about the books and what happened in them.  We spoke to others about the books and we shamelessly talked of which character we loved the best and who we would rather spend our lives with.  Oh, but it didn’t stop there.

Over the next several months, we planned trips to coincide with the movie premiers, sat for hours in line with other crazed fans and we even took a trip to where the story-line took place.  It was like we hit the mother lode when we walked through the play land where our fictional characters lived.  We went to souvenir stores, restaurants, hotel rooms decorated in the theme from the books/movies and we happily posed for pictures with our life-sized cardboard fantasies.  Here we were, middle-aged women acting like giddy teenagers over people who didn’t even exist.  In our mind’s eye the characters of the book were so beautiful and perfect we couldn’t fathom how we ever lived in our mundane world.  It’s safe to say we were just a wee bit consumed and we were not ashamed to spread our obsession. We smiled, laughed and gloated when we got others hooked right along with us. We threw theme parties and people knew us because of our obsession.  It was super easy to let everyone know with social media updates what had taken over our lives.  Therein lies the problem….our obsession turned into idolatry.  I most certainly didn’t see that coming.

We are warned in the Bible: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8-NIV.   Being of sober mind does not necessarily mean that you’ve had a little too much to drink.  We can get totally become “drunk” on all types of books, video games, television shows, food, and the latest fitness craze.  I mean the list can go on and on.  I’m not saying these are bad things, I’m saying when they become what you are known for, when they consume you, and when you think you can’t live your life without them, maybe it’s time to hit your knees, ask forgiveness, and get yourself centered back in the only One who can fill the voids with real substance.  So I’ll ask you this…when was the last time you got someone hooked on the Bible and let those teachings and our God consume your life?

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#SayWhat

forgiveness-prisoner

I was sitting in the craft room at my computer no doubt doing something of no real value when I felt this nudge….“confess.”  In my head I said “I’m sorry, #saywhat?” I looked around the room as if someone were there whispering from the hallway.  Nothing.  So, I shook my head and went back to what I was doing and then it came again…..”confess.”  My heart started to beat rapidly and I’m pretty sure I was holding my breath when I said in my head, a little more timidly this time, “#saywhat?” and now there was no doubt; God was telling me it was time to “confess.”   

I pondered what I should do about this “nudge” which now felt more like a full-on assault. I knew what I needed to confess was more than just a “little” sin.  In my mind, this was huge, this was “lives” changing and this could never be taken back once it was out there. There were gonna be serious consequences and I played all of them in my mind and none of them were gonna be pretty.  It’s done; it’s in the past, what good could come from any of this coming out now after all these years?  “Seriously Lord, I can’t wanna do this.”

I thought when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, got baptized and started walking in the ways of the Lord, I would just be able to shake off that prison. I mean I was forgiven, right? I was a new creation in Christ and I was forgiven.  Total truth!! Problem was, the Lord forgave me, but the past regrets and fear of one day being found out kept me from forgiving myself and moving forward.  I pushed my chair away from the computer and defiantly walked away. I started pacing the floor arguing the whys, and no-ways of how this was not going to be good for anyone least of all me.  I worried about the past catching up with me and letting the lies be found out by the very people I sinned against. Nope, absolutely no good could come from such a confession.

I don’t know why I argue with God.  He will win when you want to live the life He has planned for you.  What I didn’t know or truly understand was sometimes you will be found in a place where you will have to be radically obedient to what He says.  This was one of those times.

Hands shaking, tears already welling up in my eyes, I sat down to type one of the scariest letters of my life.  You see, I was a wife..not once, but three times.  During those days there was no personal relationship with the Lord there was pretty much only self gratification.  I was a good wife, but, gulp, I wasn’t a faithful wife.  I gave no heed to the commandment “thou shalt not commit adultery.”  So in not paying heed to that commandment, I also broke many more.  I would like to say I didn’t commit murder, but in fact I had murdered a spirit…mine.  I walled myself in; built an emotional fortress, cementing the wall with tears, pain, shame, guilt, anger, worthlessness, and loathing and no matter the forgiveness I knew the Lord gave, I just couldn’t get past what the lies were holding together.  Confess. Confess.  Confess.

It’s true you know….confession IS good for the soul.  It took time to tell all three of my ex-husbands what I had done and no, it wasn’t an overnight feeling of “I’m free,” but day by day the guilt lifted.  God knew what I needed. In my own strength there was no way I could have ever confessed, but He lovingly carried me through and continues to prune the garden of my heart, pulling the weeds and filling the cracks with His everlasting love.  I think I’ll take love over guilt any day!  Best part….the enemy no longer has that foothold in my life.  It’s crushed under my feet and I stand firm on the rock that is my God.

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Hands in the air

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 “So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.”

                    Psalms 63:4 (ESV)

When I first started attending church a couple of years ago, the first thing I noticed was this was not the church I grew up in! The big ‘ol pipe organ had been replaced with a full-on band which later I learned was called a worship team, there were screens projecting the words to the songs being sung and in the back there were people working the behind the scenes sound and projection systems.  Church had gone high tech.   I must admit, I felt a little out of place since I didn’t really know any of the songs but as I stood there listening to everyone sing songs of praise I took notice of something odd; odd to me at least.  “Why are people putting either one arm or both arms in the air?”  It was pretty random hand raising so I thought, “do they have a question?” There didn’t appear to be anyone looking to ask them what was up.  No one was coming over to them to give them anything, so “why on earth are their hands in the air?”  Eventually their hands would go down and they would just continue to sing songs of praise.

I found out after worship service that this hand raising was a personal thing between God and the hand raiser.  Some people are so moved by the Holy Spirit they lift their hands to the Lord in thanks, in awe of Him, for forgiveness, for total offering of themselves to Him, and countless other reasons.  Well, let me tell you, no way was this girl ever going to raise her hands in the air.  I bet God just shakes His head, smiles and thinks, “we’ll see about that.” I would like to add these same people who lifted their hands while singing also lifted their hands throughout the sermon and even said things out loud; Amen, praise God, Hallelujah, Yes Jesus, and of course there’s the vocal sound of uhmmmm-hummm. Not only did folks raise their hands and get vocal, but they also shed unashamed tears.  I figured these folks to be seriously moved by the Holy Spirit.

The more I attended worship service this feeling started stirring in me and I would have this conversation going on in my head, “I am not raising my hands, I am not raising my hands, no siree, I am not raising my hands.”  But the stirring didn’t stop there so another conversation would go, “I am not going to cry, I am not going to cry, no siree, I am not going to cry.” So, another service would be over and no hand raising went on and no tear shedding happened to this girl.  Whew!!  Funny thing is I had no problem back in my clubbing days throwing my hands in the air.  I had no shame in putting myself on public display for all to see while I “worshiped” a different genre of music.

Why was it so hard for me to let loose the new stirrings inside my soul?  Why, would I want to stop myself from praising in every way the God who loved me unconditionally and saved me?  To be totally honest, I felt like a phony, like I didn’t belong there with all the others.  I felt out of step with the ones who came to Christ much earlier in their lives. I felt like they could see right through my soul and know that I had lived a life of ungodliness. There it is.  I was embarrassed so I choked back my tears and kept my arms down and I suppressed the joy I felt because I thought I was being watched.  I cared more about what others thought over pleasing my Father.  I would imagine, the One who has done everything for me was watching from above, no doubt hurting for me as much as I was hurting for myself.

Fast forward to last month when I attended my very first Christian women’s conference called She Speaks.  I had no idea of what I’d gotten myself into.  First thing we did in the morning before the conference started…worship in song.  There were over 700 women singing their hearts out to the Lord, raising their hands in the air and yep, shedding those tears.  I looked around that room and I was in awe of all of these godly women giving it up to the Lord our God and you got it, first the tears, then the hands went up in the air and I imagined God sitting on His throne saying “gotcha,” and all I could do was smile ear to ear through my tears and let the Holy Spirit move me as I offered everything I had to my King.

And now for your entertainment, I present Tim Hawkins on Hand Raising!!  Enjoy 🙂

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#yestoGod

There was a very long time in my life I had no clue what a personal relationship with God was all about;  46 years to be exact.  Oh, I knew there was a God and I conveniently prayed when I thought times were desperate, but other than that, I thought I was pretty happy doing pretty much whatever I pleased.  Then year 47 came into play and God finally said enough and He stepped in. He grabbed a hold of my life and it came tumbling down.  You see in order for me to realize I needed God, I had to be broken with nowhere else to turn. I in no way think God takes any kind of pleasure from this, as I can’t imagine from a parent’s perspective how heart wrenching it would be to watch my child fall as far from grace as I had.  So in 2010, my comfortable life drastically changed and in the fall of that year, I fell to my knees, threw my hands in the air and with tears streaming down my face gave my life over to the Lord.  And then the most miraculous thing happened…no, not really. Gonna keep it real here. It took a lot of years to get me to where I was, and this was not going to be an overnight transformation. But, let me give you just a little glimpse of what saying yes to God has done for me.

I’m not gonna start at the beginning, I’m gonna fast forward you into year 2.5.  I got engaged and moved in with my fiancé.  We knew the rules, but we did it anyways. Being new in my faith I was confused about a lot of things but one thing was for certain, Christ was not in the center of this relationship.  So, it should come as no surprise this was not working out.  This was not what I had signed up for and as we grew further and further apart I got myself a new “friend.”   Hello wine, how can you help me?  So, I decided to bury my situation by drinking wine. Not a glass here or there, but like 2 bottles a night kind of drinking.  As my fiancé and I grew further and further apart, spending less and less time together, I planted myself in my craft room on the computer.  Not only had I become a (gulp) wine-alcoholic, I was now addicted to all things internet. Stick with me, this is where it gets good!!

It was on the internet that I found my first On-line-Bible study. I poo-pooed it away at first, thinking how could you get any real fellowship on-line? But, I kept getting pulled back to it, so I signed up for “Let.It.Go” by Karen Ehman. I didn’t know what to expect and I was very timid at first. Being fairly new in my faith, I was quite intimidated by all these well versed godly women. But I stuck with it. I grew to love my small group and its leader. Little by little I participated and hey, I wasn’t judged. These women were just like me!! We were all searching for fellowship with other women who loved Christ. Yay!!

When the first OBS ended, I started another and then another. I was hooked!! I also found on the internet a Christian Life Coach, and this amazing church where I found myself sometimes watching 3-4 sermons a night. I just totally “got” how Gods word was being preached. God was speaking to me and I was listening and crying and laughing and questioning and singing songs of praise. Each morning I would read my Bible, devotions and listened to Christian music all day long. Next thing I knew I kept feeling this impression to fast.  Say what?!  I don’t fast. Are you sure you want me to fast Lord? Okay Lord, you say fast, I guess I’m fasting.  It was during the fast I felt “destroy” and I was like, huh? “Destroy?” Uhhhh, what am I supposed to destroy?  As I looked around the kitchen I knew exactly what I had to destroy.  So that day, every bottle of wine, every wine glass, every picture, every piece of art that dealt with wine went into the trash. I didn’t want to do it, but I knew I could in no way disobey “destroy.”  The very next day, (no joke) my group leader from the OBS told me that a leader in charge of running the OBS was trying to get a hold of me because after prayerful consideration, my leader had recommended ME to be a small group leader. Say what?!! I didn’t even know at the time I wanted to be a group leader.  But how ironic that the next study on the table was entitled “What Happens When Women Say Yes To God” by Lysa TerKeurst, and I was being asked to be a leader. Page 13 of Lysa’s book says “you don’t need perfect circumstances to be a woman who says yes to God.”  I managed to turn wine into a “trusted” idol, but because I pursued God, listened to His word, and radically obeyed when He said “destroy,” He took my bad and turned it into good.  So many years of saying no, so many years of disobedience and yet He never stopped loving me.  He’s taking all my broken parts and putting them back together in the way He intended me to be all those years ago when He formed me in the womb. Saying “Yes God” is so much more rewarding and my life is forever changed. Psst…He really does know what He’s doing.  Just saying!!

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