radiance.

I have been burdened with feelings of shame before. These uninvited senses of remorse over poor choices I had made would haunt my whole being. My energy and emotion would be rendered in attempt to suppress these wretched feelings and regrets. Voices in my head would tell me that I had gone too far, that I had messed up too much, and that I was not worthy of another chance, nor would I ever have one.

I was convinced that I was unredeemable and undesirable, unforgivable and unworthy.

I was overwhelmed with disparaging thoughts that told me that I was just not enough. I questioned how God could even love someone like me, a sinner.

LIES. All lies, and my mind believed every single one. Forget the red flags of evil, I stubbornly and selfishly chose to listen until the lies became a false-truth and dictated my self-perception and perspective, and I was ashamed of who I had become.

Then one day, I read a Psalm that changed my life. My entire outlook brightened, and the more I read it, the more I believed it. I realized that I had been harboring these feelings of shame from past mistakes that I had never once taken to God. I assumed that since I was disappointed in myself, that God would be too. Since I saw myself as unworthy, God must too. I was too wrapped up in this blanket of lies to recognize the sources of evil orchestrating the  shame I felt. I failed to realize that my theory did not align with the character of God displayed throughout His World.

“The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.” – Psalm 34:22, ESV

“Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” – Psalm 36:5, ESV

I began to understand that God does not make mistakes. He only offers total forgiveness and unwavering love. There is nothing that I can do that would be too much to disqualify me from His love and forgiveness. I am very worthy to him, very precious and very important in His eyes. He loves me. He forgives me. He does so because he wants to.

“I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” – Psalm 34:4-5, ESV

Take heart! God loves you and is ready to forgive you too. You are worthy and precious and important to Him as well. The moment you seek Him and ask His forgiveness, you will be showered with this amazing love. God does this not because He has to, but because He wants to. He wants to love you and have a relationship with you.

My redemption through Christ reversed all signs of damage, both visible and invisible. He removed all my shame and replaced it with His unfailing love.

In spa terms: God reversed the signs of aging, exfoliated and removed all the dead cells, and left my skin glowing with radiance. It’s like a heavenly facial!

This heavenly spa is open 24/7/365. Walk-ins are always welcome. No appointment needed. All you must do is seek God. Call to Him, and He will hear you. (Psalm 34:15)

These beautiful words are a prayer of confession from my church service yesterday. Make this prayer your own. Remember we are never too far gone for God’s redemption.

“Gracious God, our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo.

Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear, and what has become for us a weight too heavy to carry.

Set us free from a past we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed; and grant us to grow more and more into your likeness and your image.”

ESV = English Standard Version Bible

pity party planner.

We must remember that on this journey of life, we are never alone, though it often seems that way. We do not perceive life clearly when we are focused on the world around us. Instead of hearing God’s truth for our lives, we hear the world’s lies. We stumble and fall and conclude that God has abandoned us. Why else would we feel alone?

“Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” – Psalm 10:1, ESV

Then the pity party begins! Don’t we all love to host a selfish soiree?! If pity party planning was a real career, I would be retired to an island at the ripe age of 34!!

Take heart, ladies! We know that every grand event always has a PARTY CRASHER! Something or someone reminds us that we are not alone, that we do have a God that loves us. That little glimmer of hope gives us the strength we need to refocus and to remember that God is there. He always has been and always will be.

“And now, O LORD, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” – Psalm 39:7, ESV

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8, ESV 

We only see what we gaze our eyes upon. Of course we surmise that God has abandoned us when we take our eyes off Him and focus on the world. I assure you that God is present. We must look up and not down, toward Him and not all around. If you cannot see through your tears, do not worry! Speak His name, and He will hear.

“When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:17-18, ESV

“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law,” – Psalm 119:18, KJV

We are human. The world distracts us, and we take our eyes off God. Know that pity parties will happen, and be a smart party planner! Sometimes we just need to cry. Let your tears be therapeutic and releasing, but do not allow the self-pity soiree to last all day!

It is in my feeling of destitution that I find God is closest to me. In my life, I have felt His presence most tangible and near in times of weakness, sadness, and despair.  

I keep verses posted all over my house and several easily found in my phone for the sometimes unavoidable surprise pity party that arrives. I also try not to party alone! When I am feeling down, I call a friend to help me crash my own party! A dear friendship is a blessing soaked in God’s love that always reminds me that I am never journeying alone.

ESV = English Standard Version Bible,  KJV = King James Version Bible

 

 

bad hair day.

I have a lot of hair. It’s thick and long and a process to blow dry after its been washed. However, if I want my hair to behave, then I must not skip any steps! A hair dryer is not a necessity to live, but mine greatly improves my life!

Not all hair dryers are the same. Some of you may can relate. (If not, then please just stick with me anyway; I’m going somewhere deeper than hair with this!) I have tried so many different dryers from every make and model and every newest function and ionic-whatevers. I found that the newest, flashiest model did not necessarily do the best job. I would find a great one, only to have it quit on me later. I needed something dependable, solid, that I knew would not let me down. My Dry Bar Buttercup hair dryer is just that.

When I travel, I carry my travel-size hair dryer with me, because I know that without out, I am guaranteed to have some serious bad hair days while I’m away from home.

We try any and every new shiny thing that promises to bring us joy, instead of just sticking with what we KNOW works. Sometimes hair is no different from life. We put our trust in the world to give us smooth locks and joy and end up with tangles and frizz.

We must put our trust in God to provide and take care of our every detail, from our hair to our future.

The world is constantly producing the newest, greatest thing with empty promises of unending joy and satisfaction and lifetime guarantees, but those things never deliver.

We need something we can depend on for our entire lives. Not just today, not just for one season, not just for one year, but for an entire lifetime. God is that answer!

Just like a hair dryer, we must take God with us everywhere we go. Please note, I am not suggesting that you find a travel-sized God; there is no such thing! He’s one-size-fits-all and mighty and not to be squeezed into your carry-on. However, I am suggesting that you purchase a travel-sized Bible to carry with you, or perhaps download a Bible app on your phone!  Just like traveling without my hairdryer invites bad hair days, leaving home without God invites a bad day period!

Remember the Israelites? The ones that Moses led out of slavery in Egypt? The ones who wandered in the desert for 40 years in route to the Promised Land?

God provided for the Israelites from the moment their journey began.

“And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar… did not depart from before the people.” – Exodus 13:21-22, ESV

God had already planned the trip from Egypt to the Promised Land. Everything was mapped out, meals planned; they could not have asked for a better tour director! The journey under God’s direction is going so well, until the people decided to leave God behind. They no longer need His guidance or protection once the flashy world caught their eyes.

In the South, we say ‘the grass always looks greener on the other side.’ For the Israelites, the sand must have looked lusher on the other side that was not under God’s guidance. Their choice to journey without God resulted in quite a delay! God set them to wander in that desert for 40 years because of their stubborn disobedience.

“And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them… I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.'” – Exodus 32:7-9, ESV

God tells Moses the people have ‘corrupted themselves! They have turned aside quickly from His ways!’ Halfway through the journey, they decided they could plan the trip better than God had. They attempted to desert God and change His travel plan, but instead, they traded a direct journey to the Promised Land for a 40-year delay in the desert. The supposed upgrade the world offered them was a scam, nothing more than a downgrade!

There are no direct flights for the disobedient, no upgrades for the ungodly.

Each day we live is a journey. We have the choice to be stubborn travelers or smart travelers. Be smart! Choose obedience and travel with God! He guarantees a good journey!

The encouraging words of the LORD to Joshua before they entered the Promised Land: “…Do not turn from [my Law]… This [Book] shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success… Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:7-9, ESV

ESV = English Standard Version Bible

 

Standing on an hourglass

From ‘My Hope is Built on Nothing Less’ by Edward Mote:

on Christ the solid rock I stand/ all other ground is sinking sand / all other ground is sinking sand”

How often do you feel that you are stuck in sinking sand and that time is working against you? No matter how hard you try, you just cannot go fast enough to beat it. Despite all efforts, you cannot achieve enough to make it out. Some days feel like you are drowning in the sands of time, barely able to catch a breath, seeming as though you are standing atop an hourglass with the sands steadily slipping away from underneath you as you sink further and further down.

Like flood waters creeping up, this fast-paced world can very quickly sweep us away. It tells us daily that we are running behind and have unmet deadlines. Everyone’s deluge may look different, but the residual feelings are the same: empty and discouraged souls, exhausted from efforts to reach an ever-rising level of achievement.

Modern conformity comes only at the price of your sanity and your soul. 

Think of an hourglass. The sands of time are slowly trickling down to the bottom chamber. Once the hour has passed, our time is up. This very time device is what the wicked witch used to scare Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Some 80 years later, the world uses the same trick as Hollywood did in 1937 to scare us today!

We feel this insatiable pressure from many directions, yet we cannot identify the source.

None of these worldly timeclocks were set by us or with our consent, but they are the gauge on which we are measured. This is the standard by which our success is measured, our value is measured, and if we are not careful, our self-worth is measured.

Who set these socially accepted standards for measure? God? Oh no, the world did. The world, comprised of flesh and human minds, moral and unmoral, ethical and unethical, godly and ungodly, set these standards.

How many times as women do we hear:?

  • You better hurry up and get married before you get too old!
  • You better hurry up and have babies. Your time clock is ticking!
  • You haven’t even made partner yet. What are you waiting for?

So why do we even acknowledge these worldly standards? They are nearly impossible to ignore. They are everywhere: social media, TV, magazines, billboards, radio, etc. The worldly standards have even crept into our churches and into our homes.

“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” – 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, ESV

What if these standards are means to distract us from God’s direction in our lives? Just little lies, small voices telling us we are not enough, have not done enough, do not have enough. When does it end? We get close to the next level of enough-ness, and to our dismay, the standard of achievement has been raised. We may not can stop these worldly lies from spreading into public places, but we can control what enters our homes and our minds.

“Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping…  He [God] only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken… Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” – Psalm 6:8, 62:2,8, ESV

 

ESV = English Standard Version Holy Bible

Grudges make smudges.

What happens when we hold a grudge against someone for something they did or didn’t do, or did or didn’t say? Perhaps we hold a grudge against someone for never meeting an unspoken expectation that we had set for them in our minds.

“Guard you heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” – Proverbs 4:23, HCSB

So what’s the big deal about a grudge? It takes up valuable real estate in our hearts, space that could be given to God and used to love someone.. maybe even ourselves. Grudges we hold are not limited to OTHER people. Sometimes we detest some quality or lack thereof about ourselves so very much that we build up feelings of anguish and discontentment that overflows in negative thoughts.

  • “I hate my ___________ [thighs, nose, etc]. I’d be happy if only mine were ______________ [smaller, bigger, thinner, etc].” 
  • If I was a little less / more _________________ [organized, in shape, etc], I’d be so happy!”
  • If only I had _____________ [a husband, a better job, a cleaner house, more time], then I’d be so happy!”

Do any of these sound familiar to you? The if only scenarios seem to be blocking our happiness. But maybe there is something more, something deeper?

Let’s take a step back and really look at these if only thoughts.

  1. Did you get this information from a credible source? That you won’t be happy until you achieve / obtain _____ .
  2. Are any of these goals CONCRETE things that will sustain your happiness, or are they fleeting and temporary feelings?

God knows us and sees us for who we really are. He forgives us of our many shortcomings and imperfections and still loves us anyway. Why do we struggle to forgive and love “as is”?

Perhaps you have some area of brokenness in your life right now. Maybe a relationship in need of mending, a habit you can’t seem to kick, a neglected duty, or just a pile of grudges against someone. God is calling us to look deeper and find those areas where we are withholding forgiveness. Look closely. These grudges may be towards another person, towards God, or even towards yourself. When you find these grudges, give them to God. Allow Him to shine His light on the areas of smudgy darkness. A clean heart is a healed heart. Only God can miraculously erase smudges long engrained on human hearts.

“That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” – John 1:5, HCSB

Let God heal your broken and smudged heart. His light can outshine, overwhelm, and overcome any pain that you have. His laser of love will mend your broken heart and make you whole again.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” – Psalm 139:23-24, HCSB

ab-grudge
Annabelle holding a grudge

[HCSB: Holman Christian Standard Bible]

New Year. New Time.

The beginning of a new year brings rushes of excitement and dreams of change. It represents a seemingly rare opportunity to hit the reset button and have a fresh start on life! A do-over. A clean space. A new page. A new time.

With the new year, we find blank space in which we get to create and choose. The possibilities are endless! We have a chance to erase the mess from the previous year and start all over again. We must not be so quick to move forward that we miss any valuable lessons to be learned from the past year. Whether you have gathered small subtle tips or large life lessons, I encourage you to carry the wisdom forward with you but leave the regrets and frustrations behind. No time for that in 2017!!

“… let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.. ” – Hebrews 12:1b-2, ESV

We start the new year with a blank canvas full of room for our hopes and ideas! I encourage you to choose wisely what you allow on your canvas. Look past what the world deems important and focus instead on things above, things that truly matter and will last. Things that will strengthen you rather than weaken you, encourage you rather than lead you astray, comfort you rather than ignore you, and love you rather than entertain you. The world is full of flash and eye candy, but these sparkling moments of happiness are fleeting. Seek the joy that truly lasts.

This [bitter jealousy and selfish ambition] is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual … For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder … But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” – James 3:13-17, ESV

I assure you that God will outshine anything fabricated by the world. When we seek these  temporary worldly joys, we focus only on ourselves and our own personal gains. James points out that disorder will likely ensue on a group filled with jealousy and selfish ambition. The first church did not need chaos and neither do we!

Seek God to find the joy that truly lasts. Make spending time with Him a priority in your day. Carefully choose what will be allowed to fill your life and enjoy each new day!

 

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Annabelle

Check out this article from Proverbs31 Ministries on Time Well Spent!

http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/time-well-spent/

 

Start 2017 with 40 Days of Prayer Scripture – LifeWay Women All Access

With 2016 coming to a close, take a moment to reflect on the past year. Praise God for all the blessings and seek His comfort for all the rest. Realize the mind tends to overshadow the gains with the losses. Allow Him to heal those painful areas and make you new.

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  – Ezekiel 36:26, ESV

With a new year comes new ideas and resolutions, desires for growth and improvement, and plans for change. I encourage you to consider a new kind of resolution in 2017… one that will result in more growth and change than you [and Pinterest] can ever imagine! Spend time with God every day in scripture and prayer. Resolve to make Him a part of your everyday life. Be intentional. Seek Him with a genuine heart and an open mind. He welcomes us all, whether we come mourning with heavy hearts, dancing with light hearts, or flaming with angry hearts.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  – Colossians 3:2, ESV 

Lifeway Women has developed a plan to help us be present in the Word and spend quiet time daily in God’s presence. 40 Days of Prayer is a guide with daily readings from the book of Psalms along with prayer and time / space for your personal reflection.

Just think of the power of women around the world praying and reading the beautiful Psalms together for 40 days! Think of  just a few of the magnificent stories in the Bible of those who obediently accepted God’s invitation to be in His presence for 40 days:

  • Noah built a boat in the desert and then spent 40 days and nights with his family and animals aboard. He survived a devastating flood! (Genesis 7-8)
  • Moses entered God’s presence on Mount Sinai and neither ate nor drank for 40 days and nights, then received the Ten Commandments. He maybe lost weight and watched a miracle take place! (Exodus 34)
  • The giant Philistine stood ominously before Israel for 40 days and nights before young David slayed him with a sling and stones. David became king! (1 Samuel 17)
  • Jesus spent 40 days and nights fasting in the wilderness, with wild animals and Satan’s temptations. Angels ministered to him during that time! (Mark 13)

This series starts January 1st! Follow the link below to sign up online. You may choose to receive your daily lessons via email or download a PDF version for viewing or printing.

2017. A new year full of new possibilities! A new space with time for God. A new heart to desire and seek God. Start the year off right. Seek God joyfully each and every day! I hope you find this resource from Lifeway Women inspiring and inviting!!

“I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” – Psalm 145:1-3, ESV (David’s song of praise)

 

Source: Start 2017 with 40 Days of Prayer Scripture – LifeWay Women All Access

The time is here!

From PROPELwomen: “Now is the time to close the gap between where you are in the present and where God is calling you to go in the future.”

How exciting! This blog is a journey for which God has been preparing me and calling me. It is with great excitement that I commence this new chapter in my life and my ministry as I leap into the plans that God has for my future. I have NO IDEA what all those plans of His entail but I trust that they will far exceed any expectations I can imagine. This step of obedience in my walk with Christ rattles my nerves, yet I know He will not lead me astray!

The theme of my blog is “seeking JOY in every season of life.” Regardless of your age, race, career, relationship status, number of children, etc, you are in a season of your life. There are women who have gone before you, women with you, and women who will follow after you. I hope to rise above the social divisions in which the world labels women and speak to all women at once. As Christians, we sometimes fail to support and encourage those closest to us and overlook those nearest and dearest. You need not check a category or status box to qualify for God’s love and truth. True joy comes from seeking Him every day.

I hope to share wisdom and insight that I have gained from experiences in my life thus far. I have seen many happy and carefree days, but I have also seen many troubling days. I have spent so much time at rock bottom that I was once receiving mail there. Some have broken my heart, shaken my confidence, and uprooted my trust. Thankfully, others have shown me love and compassion, offered support, and helped me rebuild my confidence. ONLY by the power and grace of Jesus Christ am I here today to speak to you. God has saved me from despair more times than I can count. No matter how many times I wander or how far I go, he always finds me and redeems me. He is my saving grace, my salvation, my ALL.

Remember, it isn’t IF hard times comes, but WHEN they come. You must know whose you are and whom you shall call upon in times of trouble. You must remember that fears and doubts are NOT EVER planted in your minds by God. He is purely love and peace and security. The rest you hear are lies to deter you from the path that God has laid out for you. Seek HIM first, ladies; seek Him first, and joy will come in the morning! It is not always sparkly, but it is always solid and always there.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” -Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV

“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” -Psalm 145:18, ESV

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” -Psalm 147:3, ESV

a-and-sm
Sallee Mae and Annabelle seeking joy!