Two Kingdoms & Hope For A Weary Heart

img_8382Straddling two kingdoms. Some days I feel my legs stretching into the splits as the crevice between the two grows farther and farther apart in my heart. Looking down and wondering about a free fall. The tears flowing down my face from the pains of this one, while I gaze into the bliss of the other. When will there be no more dying, no more pain, no more ugly… and oh God, I cry out… where is the justice? The windshield wipers clicked back and forth in the rain… I wish I had one for my eyes too. Where is the justice? For children who suffer abuse around our world, for those suffering mental health that are judged and criticized while they are suffocating, for the hurting and the rejected. For the kids who hear whispers behind their back about their clothing, hanging their head in shame.. Don’t you think they wish they had nikes?? Or clean clothes? Don’t you think that they see the differences? Don’t we understand that no matter how tough the exterior is everyone would love a comfy bed like yours or a hot shower in the morning to be a norm? Don’t we know that every soul on this earth is struggling along every day just wanting to know true love… just like me and you?

But, oh the screaming and labeling. The shouting and the angry voices. The fear… the insecurities.

And so where is it that my heart lives? In this struggling, fighting, insecure world? Or does my Saviour invite me to look elsewhere?

Seek His kingdom now. We are in this world… not of this world. My heart is breaking for us as we straddle the two, but oh that we might more and more gain sight of the kingdom He offers!

We must awake all our senses to this gift. Take a deep breath, and inhale the fragrance of His grace. What we don’t deserve, but so freely given. My pastor this past week in his sermon said, “free, not cheap.” No, not cheap – this costly, precious exchange of His life to give us ours with feet set firmly in a new kingdom! May we stretch out our arms and let it flow… We have the opportunity to be the healing hands of Jesus.

For those struggling with mental health who need to be carried!

img_8386For the poor and rejected!

img_8385For the neglected and forgotten!

img_8384

For those without a voice!

Aren’t these the ones that Jesus reached out to? Didn’t He come to seek and save the lost.. the broken.. we that are in need?

img_8310Because the kingdom that He invites us to seek.. Oh, my friends! This is the kingdom of a radical Saviour who sees the value of a soul!

It’s a kingdom of hope!

It’s a kingdom of peace!

It’s a kingdom of joy!

It’s a kingdom of love… love that is patient and kind. Love that isn’t selfish or rude, or seeking its own interest. Love that isn’t boastful or conceited. Love that doesn’t get excited over wrongdoing… running in corners to whisper or delight over tragedy. We know the passage.. but do we really sink into the passage? Do we see how God pours out that passage lavishly all over our own lives?

Oh God, Your kingdom, come..

What will your heart given to the complete trust and reign of God look like? Take a minute to ponder that… Seek His kingdom first, Christ says. And all will be added. So, we look at the line we straddle, we lift our eyes up to Him, take a deep breath… and free fall into His love. His kingdom. Every choice, every thought, every talent.. all His. What’s in your life that you can place to use in His kingdom? Why, simply your all. All. All. How shall we walk in one kingdom, and live in another? That’s the miracle He offers us. Seek His heart today. Openly look to Him with eyes afresh and clean…not clogged up by the media, fear, or our own understanding. Lean in; freefall in His love. God will guide you as you navigate this messy world with a pure heart to fight in His kingdom for the news of this love.

For meditation: 1 Cor 13, Proverbs 3:5-6, 1 John 2:15-17, 1 John 4:18-19, Matthew 6:33-34

To A Wild Rose: Straight from the Heart of Renee

As the series continues I would like you to meet my friend Renee. It’s truly a joy to work and walk beside Renee in this crazy life-journey and as we both serve at the East Texas Pregnancy Help Center.  Renee has the integral role as Administrator and amazes me daily with her multi-tasking, multi-hat abilities!  Renee holds a Bachelor of Science Business Administrative degree from College of the Ozarks and has traveled and worked in many different, beautiful, wonderful places, and we are so happy to have her now here with us.  She is a constant light to my life, and a faithful friend.  Here’s a little piece of her heart in words..

The “wild rose” theme fits when I think about how counterculture my story has turned out.  And I am thankful my story has unfolded the way it has.  It has molded and shaped me in the exact and unique “wild rose” that God intended.

14414-girl-with-roses

My story may be considered “wild” to the world.  I remained single until almost 40 years old (pausing for the jaw-dropping gasps here.)  And an even “wilder” fact is that I chose to wait for my husband (…pausing again..)  How often does that happen anymore?  I give credit to the grace of God!  But admittedly, these facts about my life have been difficult to navigate emotionally far too often.  I have been very messy emotionally!

The world is full of messages that if you are not married early in life, there is something wrong with you.  Well-intentioned friends and family unceasingly ask questions such as, “Are you dating anyone?” “Are you going to stay single forever?” or make insensitive comments “Well, your standards may be too high.”  or  “It will happen when you stop looking.”  Without meaning to, they caused me to feel like they thought there was something wrong with me as a woman since I was unmarried and childless.

True story… one year I came home from college, probably about age 19 or 20.  My grandmother traditionally made full-sized afghans for her grandchildren as they each got engaged, however, she had already gotten it in her mind that I might never get married.  She actually called me an old maid and announced that she went ahead and made me a twin-sized afghan.  I am sure I turned all shades of red that day! Lol  Side note: she passed away almost ten years after that and I now treasure the twin-sized afghan.

There is an important truth that the world is not shouting to us as women.  The truth that we as women need to hear is that we are whole, we are beautiful, just the way we are.

Whether we are single, or divorced, or dating, or married, or widowed, or whatever our “label” happens to be…. and whatever the reason happens to be, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with us because our label is not something else. 

field

Getting married does not make you mature or complete. Nor does singleness.  God made each of us in his image and He directs our steps.  One truth that help me reconcile my time of singleness in contrast with the messages the world sends is that God himself is the chooser and giver of my blessings (and the blessings of others).  As I embrace my own gifts, I can celebrate joys with others without a jealousy/pity party because I am truly glad God has blessed them.  And I can trust a God who gives every good and perfect gift.  We do not know how long we get to enjoy the gifts either, so if your gift is singleness, savor it.  If your gift is marriage, savor it.  If your gift is mom, step-mom, grandmother, savor it. Savor every gift while you have it.  One of my gifts was an extended time of singleness and I do not regret it.  I followed the Lord and had exciting adventures during those years.  I will be married 2 years in about 6 weeks.  I am the same whole, beautiful woman I was before I was married.  And I am savoring this new adventure as an equal but different gift.

I want to shout this message to the youth of our day.   In the era of social media, they are bombarded with even more false messages about relationships and what is and is not appropriate in them.  I want them to know that they are whole, they are beautiful JUST THE WAY THEY ARE!  No relationship can give them value or add to their value.  The value is already there. Embrace your value and celebrate who you are.  And I challenge all of us to be mindful of our words as we inquire of others.  We may not fully realize the messages we are sending, even the unintended ones.

To A Wild Rose: Straight From the Heart of Joy

Today the series continues, and I’m beyond honored to have one of my heroes share with us.  She’s a ginger-snap that I like to call my little Toodles.  Joy is a giant-hearted person who continually shows me what true perseverance, courage, and faith look like.  Joy is the fourth in my lovely quintet of sisters. She graduated Cum Laude in 2015 from Stephen F Austin University with a Bachelor of Arts for Creative Writing.  Currently, she is a Masters Candidate in Creative Writing and a Teacher’s Assistant with the English Department at Arkansas State University.  I pray that this post reaches deep into your heart, as it did mine.  

Rings left by coffee, stains left by people

I almost always buy my clothes second-hand, coffee-stained sleeves and lipstick-stained collars, worn-down and fraying and faded and beautiful. I love the history that comes with an article of clothing that has been worn by a stranger: it could have gone hiking in the Smoky Mountains, could have soaked in the tingling, woody smoke of a campfire, could have spent days in bed cuddling a newborn, or drinking coffee and watching old movies. I love that things have histories. They do not begin and end with me and my personal joys or tragedies. The world spins, and I am only a small part, watching.

vintage-clothing-store-pf1yzjmuvmu

Isn’t it amazing that the people we love live on beyond us? It is not as if, after we have lunch with a friend, they get in their car and immediately vanish from existence. They may disappear from our sight and our mind—but they are now in their own little world, experiencing their own little joys and tragedies. They are mysteries to us. We can speculate: are they eating lunch right now? Are they slathering mayonnaise on bread or making too-strong coffee with heaping teaspoons of sugar? Are they happy? But we never know, for certain. We are stuck in our own limelight. They have exited off stage and are in the dark of the wings.

Like most Americans, I am guilty of being very self-absorbed. I live in my own head, with ghosts of old words. In my life, I have been hurt by individuals who entered and exited. Their cruel words become a stain on my sleeve, their lies broke a button on my shirt. I repeat the thing they have done to me like a mantra: hurt, hurt, hurt. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I forget that they have exited off the stage, that they are living out their own mystery elsewhere, and I become obsessed with the way in which they have changed me.

As a woman, I have lived through a series of expectations. I passed through them like wandering through bewildering rooms in an old house. Sometimes I felt very lost. I was raised with the expectation that I would marry and have children, because per the culture, that was God’s plan for women. Guys I liked told me that they thought women should be modest and cover their legs, their breasts, their hair, but also stay in good shape so that they could be sexy. Men in churches told me that I should be submissive to authority figures and not argue or dispute ideas publicly. Teachers told me I had to try harder, because women still didn’t get the opportunities that men did unless they went above and beyond their male colleagues. Friends reminded me that I should major in a field suited to a woman: like teaching or nursing, because other jobs were too masculine.

But I didn’t want any of that: I wanted to be a leader, a shaker, a dreamer, a doer. I used to pray to be magically transformed into a man, because I thought men’s lives must be more exciting. For a few years I bound my breasts and wore boxy clothes to pretend I didn’t have a figure. I rejected every romantic intention of any guy that came near me; because I thought love meant submission to degradation, meant agreeing with my partner’s crazy thoughts, meant shutting up when I disagreed, meant taking abuse…out of love.

Looking back, I recognize myself as an intelligent, creative child who was just curious and excited about everything. So much got stifled by those well-intentioned comments to be more ladylike, to talk quieter, to dress feminine, to eat less and stay in shape, to find a husband, find a husband, find a husband.

Now I know better; I know as a woman I am just as whole and full of potential as a man. I believe in the adventures of being a woman. Yet I am guilty of letting these old comments stain my perspective on myself. Sometimes when I’m teaching I think, Wow, I sound bossy. Sometimes when I’m standing in front of the mirror I think, My teeth are so ugly and fang-like, so gross. I like rock music and science fiction (that’s not ladylike), I prefer other people to cook for me (I’ll never be a good wife).

Recently I found out, due to some issues, that it is almost impossible that I will ever be able to have children. My first thought was: I guess I’m not a real woman. But that thought was ugly and untrue, that thought was an old ghost of someone who told me, once upon a time, that the only reason I was born was to serve a man and have babies.

rosedance

And I know that thought is untrue because the women I love are doing amazing things. They are sometimes mothers and wives, yes, but they are also personal trainers and musicians, globe-trotters and activists, counselors and preachers, nurses and nannies, business-owners and orchestrators, singers and dancers, makers and creators, dreamers and soldiers, rockstars and fashionistas, bakers and brokers. I see them jogging in the morning. I see them at coffee shops, reading for pleasure. I see them wearing clothes that make them feel good. I see them building fences and chopping wood, plastering walls painting houses. I see them moving abroad to Italy or China. I see them fighting crime, speaking out, turning in their abusers, being so very loud and so very lovely.

And I am in awe of them.

I am in awe of you.

You are my mentors and heroes, you are why I tell the ghosts to shut up, and get off the stage. You are why I silence my fears that I’m bossy or unladylike or weird. You’re why I’ve learned to love being a woman again.

Because whatever unkind words have been spoken to you, whatever little rips and tears have been made to your soul, you wear yourself with grace and purpose when you live to be who you truly are. When you gamble on yourself, when you believe in your dreams. You are as beautiful as that dress, hanging in a thrift shop, that dress that has been danced in, twirled about. The dress that has seen the sun and rain both, that is worn in as soft as down, yet sturdy and durable. There are stains, yes, but they are beautiful because they tell me your story: you survived, you overcame, and you are still needed, yes, and desirable, unique in your history.

It’s hard to leave the old expectations behind, because they resurface quietly, they are still little wounds that are healing. Yet: “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

It is best to let the ghosts go.

We are surrounded by victors and achievers and those breathing heavy and dripping sweat because they are running ferociously down the path set out for them, they are living their true purpose. I would much rather listen to their voices, strained and panting though they may be. Wouldn’t you?

To A Wild Rose: Straight From the Heart of Tracie

Next up in the series, you have the pleasure of meeting my friend Tracie.  We’ve known each other quite a few years from the days of pushing our little ones around in baby strollers, to now sharing the bittersweet moments of waving goodbye as our “babies” drive off to college.  Tracie is proud mom to three amazing kiddos, and wife to Pastor Richard Boyd.  She serves our school district as the Help Desk Technologist, and is one of the most giving ladies you’ll meet. From taxiing around our kiddos, giving me much needed reminders, and so much more I’m blessed to know Tracie… and I think you will be too as you read her honest, open words.  

As I sat this morning, all alone, looking at the decorations in our house, drinking coffee, and remembering where each ornament came from I was flooded with love, and something else.  I realized I have wasted alot of time.  I have held grudges, judged others, not forgiven, and not shared the gospel like I should.  My dad is in the hospital right now, and I just lost my grandma and a lady who was a spiritual mother to me, so my heart is kind of heavy.  More than the heaviness of the loss of people, is the loss of time.

feet-blog

I didn’t speak to my dad for five years when I was a teenager, and I have always felt a little estranged from him, but last year when his dad passed away, things changed.  He needed my help, and I freely gave it.  We have had the best relationship in this last year because I let us.  I let go of old hurts and pain and just loved him where he is.  I let him love me in his way, not the way I want him to love me.  I let go and let God.

My dad is not saved and I have tried to discuss it with him before, but he doesn’t see a need for a relationship with Christ.  I have tried to live my life in front of him, and hope that it has been a witness, but as I sat there this morning I thought, “Has it been?”  “Have I shown the love of Christ with my grudges and un-forgiveness and judgmental-ness?”  “Would anyone want to know about Christ watching me?” The answer is no.

Young couple holding hands in the wheat field on sunny summer day.

Time is short people!  Even if you don’t believe in the end times, you can look around and see how fast time passes!  My daughter is looking at colleges, my son is grown and gone, I will have another teenager in a month, time has passed me by!  I have wasted something God has given me with “MY” hurts, that I really haven’t shared with the fixer of those hurts, Jesus.  

Please don’t let the time continue to go by another day having “junk” that keeps you bogged down to the point that you can’t live for Christ as you should, or share the gospel like you should.  Forgive people, love people, and tell people about Jesus.  There is someone looking at your walk, whether it is your children, husband, friend or stranger.

Walk in a walk that they will know He is walking with you.

To A Wild Rose: Straight from the Heart of Emma Jane

Today as we continue our series, To A Wild Rose, I want you to meet my friend Emma.  I’ve known this curly-headed, inspiring brunette since she was 5 years old, and I’ve watched her grow into a young woman who challenges my heart to love strong and always stay careful of complacency. Her mother,who shined so bright in Jesus, went to her eternal home in 2011, and Emma continues Jamie’s legacy by singing of the Love that endures forever.  Emma is big sis to four little sisters, completing her senior year of high school, is quite the musical gal (sings, plays piano and ukulele, songwriter, etc..) and is in prayer as she chooses the direction for her life this next year.  Read the words from the heart of a courageous young lady.  

—————————————————————-

Those of you who know me are well acquainted with my thought-pattern or lack thereof. It’s mildly hilarious considering how hard I try to be a writer.  All I ask is that you read to the end. I promise it’ll make sense (hopefully).

I am not a gardener for sure, but I have always loved plants. Cacti especially. Momma was never a gardener either….. I was blessed with a jack-of-all-trades for a dad. Most every year, we had a gigantic garden. Even though I complained about working it, I loved every minute I spent with my parents out in the sweltering heat. I learned a lot about plants over those summers in the dirt from my daddy. I love how God gives us real-life examples of aspects of our walk with Him.

Roots are extremely important to a plant. They are the source of life.

They soak up all the goodness that the plant needs to flourish, and they offer protection. A tree with deep roots is going to be harder to blow over than a tree with immature, weak roots.

roots

In June, I was uprooted from my comfortable home and thrown out into a new church, new school, new life. These past six months have revealed my strengths and weakness like no other trial in my entire life. I have spent days and nights crying out to God, in desperation when I see all that I am missing out on. I have spent long evenings, dancing on the dock in front of a glorious sunset, praising my Creator for this great love He lavishes upon me. I have been taking care of my roots, so to speak. Through this trial, I have been seeking God. It is not always easy, In fact, it’s never easy. I constantly pray that God instills a desire for deeper roots. Through all of this, I am reminded of how easy it is to fall into “surfacey Christianity.” We go to church, post inspirational Jesus quotes, and try to be decent people. Beloved, we are so deceived! Relationship with God is so much more than these. When God draws us, He woos us with His love. He courts us, and calls us into this divine covenant with Him where we offer ourselves, ugly, broken, hurt, and confused.

Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called His children – 1 John 3:1

blog-rose-emma

This love is my comfort. This love is my hope. I feel like I spend way too much time missing things that often I fail to appreciate and love the present. In the midst of my hurt and confusion, God is God, and He is GOOD. He wants more than anything for us to be pulled deeper into a loving relationship with Him. So spend some time with Him today. Let your roots go deep, so you can withstand the crazy stuff life throws at us.

He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit – Jeremiah 17:8

To A Wild Rose; Straight from the Heart of Abby

Once again, I’m delighted to have my niece Abigail as a guest post for my blog.  She joins us in the conversation regarding women, and as always I’m in awe and grateful for her transparency. Abigail is beautiful mommy to Mr Liam Jonathan McBride.  This past January her loving, devoted, one-of-a-kind husband Jonathan went to his eternal home, and Abby remains here carrying on the legacy of love giving to all she encounters.  You can read a little of her story here.  She manages her home business, The Little Farm Kitchen, and also manages her little growing farm! A braver, stronger, more loving ginger snap of a woman you will not meet.  And, I’m priviliged to be her Aunt and a recepient of that love. Lean in, listen, and let’s continue to stay mindful and in prayer over this vital topic.  

In all honesty I have been avoiding writing this. I kept going over topics in my head that I could write about, but I couldn’t get this out of my head.

You see, the last 11 months of my life, no matter how I tell it, it has not been what I ever imagined. And I think that sometimes as Christians we try to glorify our trials. Today I just want to be brutally real with you all.

I am a strong person. I know that. People who know me know that. But I would like to put forth the notion to you that mountains are strong, trees are strong, there are many strong forces, however after enough small persistence of any given thing, they slowly begin to fade. It’s almost undetectable. First it’s just small things, you don’t smile quite as big, your laugh sounds pitiful in your own ears, you look for excuses to “check out of life” not in a suicidal way physically, but emotionally and mentally. You begin avoiding people who can truly see you. You begin avoiding anyone that might catch a glimpse of what’s underneath your surface.

Praying woman hands

I would love to believe that I have only been doing this in the last 11 months, but I know that I have been doing this since I was about 11 or 12 years old. I smile and laugh and reply “I’m fine!” But deep down a little voice is saying “I’m not fine, please help me!”. In my life I have suffered mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. I have lost my husband. I have seen my family torn apart by another family member, I have seen some of the Devils best handiwork. And even after ALL of that, I reply, “I’m fine!”.

What we as men and women need to understand is that brokenness is the beginning of healing. Our culture loves to shame and ridicule those of us who admit that we aren’t ok, it seems sometimes especially the Church. If we do not acknowledge that we are indeed broken, how are we to begin the process of healing? It is impossible. Today I ask that we all do our part to break the stigma of shame that has been cast on Depression, Mental Health Disorders, Anxiety and many other prisons of the mind.

And finally, yes I am weary! I am weary of doing good, and being repaid with bad. I’m tired of pretending. I’m tired of seeing people treated like with hate and disrespect. I’m tired of people defending and protecting pedophiles and abusers and turning their backs on their families. I’m tired of not seeing more good in this world than bad. I’m tired.  But I’m not done! Just as the persistence of bad wearing and tearing down overtime, so works the persistence of goodness and love. And I’ll be darned if I let the bad wear me down to the point of defeat. If we will persist in doing good, if we will persist in giving love, if we will persist in being strong, if we will persist in teaching respect through our actions, over time, and maybe not in this life, but over time, we will see the rewards.

Hands rose.jpg

Dear friends, let us not grow weary in doing good. You never know if you might be the last face someone sees as they seek help and hope. And when we do grow tired, remember there is someone out there who wants to truly see you and know you and help you.

You are so loved.

To A Wild Rose: Straight from the Heart of Ronnie

New perspective, new eyes, and opportunity to listen to another’s story!  I’m thankful for how these posts are filling my heart with insight and the same for you.  So, today meet my dear Ronnie.  She is wifey to Shane, devoted mother to Ezra and Israel, and works currently as the Head of the Mathematics Department at St George’s British International School in Rome,  Italy.  Originally from Berkshire in the South of England and me from Southeast Texas, we met in Grand Cayman during a season of life that fused us together with a close bond that still holds fast with even an ocean between us.  Read her heart shared, open and honest, and ponder with your heart these words.  

Biblical womanhood in a world of confusion

I am writing this blog on the Sunday before the 2016 US Election where one candidate has confessed on tape to having some pretty ugly views on the purpose of woman, and the other proudly promoted the need for late term abortions, meanwhile on the other side of the pond the current Prime Minister attempts to fight to make something that is unconstitutional constitutional. So that being said it’s not a great time to look to worldly leaders for great ideas about womanhood. Even in the evangelical church there are myriad of messages concerning this topic, even amongst persons of like minded agreement there is, well, disagreement. We are flooded with contradictory or conflicting or just pure fantasy-based images in the world and often in the church.

Be a big shot at work and come home to cook a magnificent three course meal for four friends, have a baby and start a successful home business, dress impeccably and successfully entertain five six year olds in an afterschool playdate.

I probably don’t speak for all women; I imagine there are women out there that can achieve these things. Yet, I am not one of them! I am so completely not one of them! So for me I need something else than these fantasies, something more than contradiction, something tangible that is worth something, that means something, that has real value beyond this current moment and even this life; a hope for my identity, as a woman.

prayer-on-my-knees4

I hope that my value comes as a gift and a given. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” [Genesis 1:27] I am His creation, and He is the almighty God who stitched together the entire universe. He has gifted me with His image, and since God has gifted it, it is certainly a given that it is of high value. My mere existence, my presence, my being alive is of immense value as the bearer of His image.

I hope that there is value in my singleness. “An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.” [1 Corinthians 7:34] The Lord loves my attention and devotion, I was created to worship, and so fully can I do this outside of dating and marriage and children. The Lord values my committed in the time I give and the heart I have for him.

I hope that there is value in my marriedness. “ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” [Ephesians 5: 31-32] My marriage is the symbol of Christ’s headship over the church, and my submission to my husband is the wonder of all God’s children following Christ.

I hope for value in my motherhood. “Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. “ [Titus 2:4] How I love my children has a direct impact on those around me, the love I have for my children prevents people making harmful and untrue statements about the Word of God.

I hope for value in my work. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” [Colossians 3:23-24] Wherever I work, whatever my work, my work is for the Lord, He values it so highly that for my work for Him I get an actual inheritance from Him as my reward. There is no greater work than the work we do for Him, and when I teach or account or clean or wash up or lawyer for Him I can know I am earning my reward.

I hope for value in my beauty. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” [1 Peter 3:3-4] Praise the Lord for this! In plain text, God, the almighty ruler of heaven and earth, values greatly the beauty of my person not my body. The beauty of my heart, which never fades, not my clothes or hair. Praise the Lord!

I hope for forgiveness in my sins and for life eternal with my God, my Saviour, my redeemer, my friend.  “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” [Ephesians 2:6-7]

I hope with the certainty of a person that has been promised promises by one who never breaks them.

I hope for my God to come.

I hope for my life to please Him.

I hope for my identity to be His.

I hope.

 

 

 

To A Wild Rose: Straight from the Heart of Moriah

Oh my.  This “Wild Rose” series has really been so encouraging for my heart, and I hope it has for you, too!  Today’s post is written by my lovely niece, Moriah.  She is blissful wifey to Connor, “Moriah Mommy” to precious Gideon, and currently works in retail, and as a music teacher.  Moriah is an accomplished violinist and pianist (I could listen forever..) and she is one of the dearest, bravest warrior hearts you’ll meet.  I’ve always loved her forthrightness, and this is a beautiful example of her “realness” that inspires me.  

Here’s the thing, I don’t write, I mean, I can make a pretty mean grocery list but that’s usually the extent of my skills. Growing up I hated reading and writing so I would always beg my older sister to read my school books to me, as well as try to look off her page if we had a writing assignment.

But, my lovely aunt asked me if I would be interested in opening up, and sharing my opinion on a few subjects. So here I am, coming to you with no writing skills but with an open heart.

Growing up I guess I had a weird view of men. I see it now, but then it was the norm. I saw men as the greater of the two genders, the leaders, the decision makers. Sometimes I even wished that I’d been born a boy, it must be so fun to have all the power, and so amazing to know everything. Or so I thought. I wanted to know why men always made me feel so small, it didn’t matter their size or age, I always felt a need to submit, no matter the relationship. From age twelve and up I REALLY started to contract a hate for men, but it was weird because I still wanted their approval. I mean, it felt good to be complemented on my looks, the attention was addicting to be honest. So in turn I fed off of empty remarks, stupid flirtations and basically any male attention. I remember when I was alone, or at night I would ask God what was wrong with me, why my life seemed to be a roller coaster of stupidity that I couldn’t stop.

girl-light

I wanted to be free, free from it all. I wanted to be Anne standing on the red beaches of Prince Edward Island, the wind in my hair (Lol for all of you Anne lovers).

I wanted peace so bad that sometimes I would put my headphones in, play a soundtrack from a favorite movie and just close my eyes and dream of what it would be like to feel whole.

I hate that I felt like that, and that I was too prideful a lot of the time to ask for guidance, because obviously I should know how to get my crap together. I kept telling myself it was my own fault for getting myself into stupid situations with guys.

I can’t tell you the day, or the time but a few years back I hit a wall of numbness. It was God. But everything that “got” me in the past suddenly didn’t interest me anymore. I wanted to go off the deep end because I felt like I deserved it, but part of me still didn’t want to be “that” girl, the girl from a big family that everyone thought was so great but ended up lost in the world. So I held on a little longer, and my earthly savior did come, in the form of my now husband. He taught me to love myself first, to take care of myself first. My eyes were opened, we need to take care of US first, or what good can we do for others?

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s ok to cry out to God and just ask him to hold us. I don’t understand a lot of things, I don’t understand loss or hurt but God does. I want to fall into the arms of Jesus everyday. He’s there, just ask.

light-road

Everyone has their own story, I tell you part of mine in hopes that I can help someone not feel so alone, as I did. Everyone needs a friend to fall back on. Get well, peeps. And go BE that person for someone.

Hugs and love to ALL!

To A Wild Rose: Straight From the Heart of Joanna

Next up in our series, “To A Wild Rose,” I have the privilege of introducing you to my little sis, Joanna.  They say (who is they?) that dynamite comes in small packages, and that fits our Joanna.  She is small in form, yet has the biggest, strongest heart that you will find.  She currently works in child care caring for little ones; her hobbies include collecting silver-screen flicks, children’s books and movies, gardening, and she is currently a yellow-belt in karate.  Read on, I think you will be inspired by one of my heroes.  

What God Wants

I used to have a really bad habit of mentally bashing myself over the head. When I would feel bullied by other people, I would then bully myself even more. I would repeat the mean words they had said over and over in my head. I have come to realize that I was probably my biggest bully because other people might have lit the fire, but I was the one who poured gasoline on it. (I just want to stop here for a second and say if some is bullying you in any way don’t think that you can’t talk about it! Go to someone you trust, maybe a friend, a pastor or a counselor and tell them about it. I have learned that it’s ok to talk about things.)

I still have the problem of bullying myself from time to time. But, the difference is I used to think I deserved to be bullied, now I know I don’t. Don’t let someone bully you, and don’t bully yourself. I can tell you it’s not right. I like to remember the words of  Eleanor Roosevelt – “No one can make you feel inferior with out your consent.” If someone is verbally bullying you, you don’t have to listen to them. And you do not have to have the same thoughts about yourself. You choose who you are and what you think of yourself. I’m still learning to think positively about myself. I have came a long way through the encouragement of loving friends and family, and I would like to share with you a quote that I have grown to love.

“God wants us to be victors not victims; to grow not grovel; to soar not sink; to overcome not be overwhelmed.”  — William A. Ward

Ok, now I’m going to tell you when I first read this quote I liked it…. but, part of me did not like it. Because I had been so harsh on myself and always running myself down there was a part of me that felt judged by this quote. I knew I was doing the opposite of what this quote was saying that God wanted. I had spent so much time  beating myself over the head that I did not understand the way that God wanted me to be.  I also had a messed up view of God, and so I thought, “Wait does this mean that God is going to be upset with me for not being a victor?  For choosing to grovel at peoples feet? For allowing myself to sink down into sadness? For letting everything around me get me so overwhelmed??”

But, as I have grown to know God better I have actually learned just how much He loves me.  

God loves us so much that He Wants us to be victors. He Wants us to grow in Him. He Wants us to soar high in His happiness. He Wants us to overcome obstacles through HIM and HIS love.  He Loves Us and Truly Wants the Best For Us.  He is not sitting up in heaven going, “YOU better get this right.” He is up there saying, “You can do this and I’m going to help you if you’ll let me.”

I am learning to look at myself not how I see myself, but as God sees me.
o-black-woman-happy-outside-facebook
We can be victors. We can grow. We can soar. We can overcome through Christ and God’s love. But, you know there are a lot of days that I don’t just jump out of my bed and be like, “WOOHOOO I’M A VICTOR!”Some days I look up at God and I’m like, “God, I don’t feel like a victor today I’m struggling with some stuff.”  Soo, I was like hmmm I’m going to look up the meaning of the word VICTOR (a person who has overcome or defeated an adversary; conqueror / a winner in any struggle or contest)and  that made me start thinking… you must first run the race to win, or climb the mountain to stand on top.  We might be in the middle of a struggle, but we can get through it.

woman-mountain

Speaking of mountains, I was thinking, you know that kids song “the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, to see what he could see, and he saw another mountain, he saw another mountain….” Anyway, the point is this bear keeps climbing all these mountains, and every time he gets to the top there’s another mountain and I was thinking That’s Like Life!!! We are constantly going through something, or struggling with something.  These are our mountains and no matter how many mountains we climb there always seems to be another mountain. But, as long as we keep climbing we can make it to the top of our mountains, and when you stand on top of one of your mountains, even if your looking at another mountain right in front of you, you can stand at the top and say I am a victor! And, right now if you’re in the middle of  climbing one of your mountains, holding on to God’s hand, telling God “I’m tired I’m thirsty are we there yet?”….Just remember don’t give up and remember What God Wants For You.

God wants us to be victors not victims. To grow not grovel. To soar not sink. To overcome and not be overwhelmed.

To A Wild Rose: Straight From the Heart of Kristenn.

As I read each contribution from these lovely friends who have so graciously shared their stories with us for this “Wild Rose” series, I’m so inspired and in awe of the diversity God created in each one of us!  Today, meet Kristenn.  This is a joyful mom of three, loving wife, and an encouraging friend to many. She is a student of light.. through her hobby of photography and in a deeper way as she studies the Word.  Kristenn knows how to laugh at the days to come, because she knows who goes before her.

 

As you know, this is an installment in a series titled: To A Wild Rose.  My friend, Joani Burchett, challenged me to offer something on the subject of women, to encourage those who feel the hurts that this world throws our way.  I was blank for a while and then the following words came.  I do hope it is encouragement to you all, who feel anything but hopeful, and redeemed.

lonely-in-field-1024x768
Early one morning last year I was taking some time to study scripture, followed by prayer.  As I prayed an image flashed through my mind.  The best I can describe it is that it was impressed in my spirit and understanding.  It certainly wasn’t my own thought, and didn’t pertain in the least to what I was studying or praying about.
If this has ever happened to you, you recognize something unique about it.  It’s a quickly passing thought, unlike the norm, it’s clearly not your own, and it does not feel as though it came from your imagination.  I believe it’s God revealing.

 

The image was that of a young woman.  I could only see her back view from head to mid-thigh.  She was wearing a historic dress corset.  The corset was rapidly tightening down around her waist, and her blonde hair was growing just as quickly to cover it.
I immediately wrote it down because it was such a fleeting sight, I was sure I would forget it.  Without question, I understood the corset represented bondage.  As the months passed on and I would periodically think and pray about its meaning, I came to understand the hair growth was an effort to cover the bondage taking place.

Easy right!?  God wants me to know that people are in bondage.

Not so much.  He was beginning to show me myself.  As the year passed that message continued to unfold, and I would find myself in unplanned discussions, bible studies, meetings, and scripture readings that opened my eyes to the deceitful, hidden, bondage that sneaks in, and takes over.
How did I get there?  How do I get out?  Here’s hope, I do have a direction to share with you today.  I want to first say you are in good company, so many great women I personally know, and women of scripture, and women of faith have been victim to numerous types bondage.
Bondage comes upon us like weeds in a rose garden, wrapping itself so closely it almost appears to belong.  It is defined as the state of being a slave, in servitude, subjection, oppression, domination, exploitation, and persecution.  It comes to entangle a life with and without consent.  It comes in the form of harsh words, criticisms, violation, victimization, unwanted attention, regrets.  It sets up a camp in our emotions, and then it gets to determine our actions, and self-worth.  It’s relentless, and holds us captive.  Good news, scripture says, “Jesus came to take captivity, captive.”

Every moment you’ve ever lived, good or bad, has molded you. 

 

But we are to be clay in the Potter’s hands.  To often the enemy, and this world get its say in our mold.  Not what God desires for us!  In the words of Joani Burchett you are, “a wild rose, beautifully wrapped up each one individually with different layers of petals…variant sizes, hues, and even scents.”  I hope the following will help you embrace the layers but enjoy the change that all our life circumstances can ultimately bring, even the hard ones.

I’d like to lead off with some scriptural examples of this, straight out of the genealogical line up of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  Unlike most Jewish, scriptural genealogies Matthew choose to list women in his.  He listed the generations from Abraham to Jesus, five women popped up in those verses detailed in Matthew, chapter one.  We see Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.  I’m going to give you a PAINFULLY short description of their lives.  It’s really hard to shorten these women down to a few sentences but I’ll try.  The words you see in parentheses are the emotions I imagine likely fit their situation.
transparent-scroll-line1
Tamar was a two-time widow of brothers (sorrow/depression).  She was refused her cultural right to marry the last living of the brothers (cheated/fear/alone).  This left her with no inheritance, protection, provision, or children (desperate).  Tamar posed as a prostitute, and sold herself to her  father-in-law (shame).  She became pregnant, in return he hated her  (rejection).  He eventually accepts her as his wife, and they raise their son, Perez, who carried on the lineage of Christ (redeemed).  
transparent-scroll-line1
Rahab the harlot was a resident of Jericho (used/depressed/shame).  The scripture does not tell how she became to be a prostitute, but we do know she lived with her family and helped support them in this way (stuck/desperate).  Soon she was given a chance to help two Israelite spies hide for protection (fear).  She became a hero, and had a crucial role in the Israelites coming to the promised land.  She eventually married Salmon, an Israelite, and saved herself and her family from the lifestyle they were stuck in, and bore a son named Boaz to carry the lineage of Christ (redeemed).
transparent-scroll-line1
Ruth was a Moabitess who married an Israelite in her own country of Moab.  Moab is described as a sinful, despicable people who worshipped false gods (hopeless/deceived).  Ruth became widowed at a young age (sorrow/depression).  Her sister-in-law, and mother-in-law also become widowed.  Her mother-in-law decided to return to her homeland.  Ruth went with her, thus leaving behind her blood family, and all she had ever known (fear/vulnerable).  She soon found herself in a land where she was and outcast who was judged by her roots (depression/alone/animosity).  By bold, faithful, and relentless action she married Boaz, and they bore a son named Jesse to carry the lineage Christ (redeemed).
transparent-scroll-line1
Bathsheba seems to be known for her beauty (pride?), and adultery with King David (shame).  Adultery, coercion?  I’m not sure which it was, but I tend to see her as more a victim (used).  She became pregnant by David, which carried the death penalty due to being an act of adultery (fear).  Soon enough David arranged to have her husband murdered to cover the sin.  Bathsheba was a widow (sorrow/guilt).  David took Bathsheba in and she became one of his wives (jealousy/anger).  Their son died as an infant (sorrow).  She and David later bore another son, Solomon who would carry the lineage of Christ (redeemed).
transparent-scroll-line1
Mary, mother of Jesus, a 14-year-old girl faced with the ultimate honor and dilemma.  She was God’s choice to carry out a virgin birth of Jesus (shock/fear/confusion/denial).  I do write Mary’s emotions with a bit more hesitancy.  I can’t know what the understanding and knowledge she felt in the moment she learned that she was to be the mother of the Savior of the World.  She soon married Joseph (lineage of David).  He sought to protect her reputation, and the fall out that it would carry if it became known as a sexual scandal of  becoming pregnant out of marriage.  We know Mary wasn’t sinless, but scripture does leave her as a great example of faith and virtue. She would eventually see her Son punished, tortured, and killed for the sins of the world (I’m not sure there is a word in our vocabulary for this).  Prior to His death, Jesus entrusted her to the care of one of he beloved disciples (redeemed).
transparent-scroll-line1
Did you catch the words in bold?  Do you know some or all of them all to well?  Life sure has a way of slipping those things in on us.  If you’re like me, you carry plenty of scars from the past.  Plenty of baggage that became bondage that could have long since been left behind.  We unknowingly hold tightly to the handle of things that have been said and done to us, things that we clearly remember, things that are not so clear but came into our life and colored who we are and continually impact us, things we had a say in, things we didn’t!  Some of these things obviously make us who we are, some we carry around unaware.  Some of these things we stuff deep down, and never discuss.  This my friend, is bondage.  Just as easily as a rose may fall prey to the bonds of overpowering weeds, we too fall prey to the bonds of life’s challenges.  As I said you are in good company.  The women who stood in the very lineage of Jesus, faced these things head on.
blog-rose-girl
But God, always had a plan and a way for redemption.  He holds the “spiritual garden shears”.  He wishes to see us all free and redeemed.  It comes at a cost to you though.  It will cost you the relinquishing of your control, it will cost you putting your trust in the One who knows best, it will cost your time, and maybe your pride. 
But the benefit….will be that of a rose, brightly bloomed, every bit as vulnerable as it is strong, growing in a garden, trusting the Gardener to meet its every need.
rosesd.jpg
*Lineage of Grace, a book by Francine Rivers, is a wonderful resource to get a picture of what the lives of these women were like.  Francine gives her insight based on what she knows from scripture and from the historical times.