Martha moments... even when things don't go exactly as I planned..
Getting ready for Thanksgiving this week and our garage door spring breaks and has to be replaced... our roof had a few loose shingles-not enough for insurance claim.. so out of pocket then to top it off as I was baking... I know no laughing..( those who know me know I don't know how to cook-but my mom has been helping me-thank goodness!) I burned a small cake cause I forgot I had it in there.. who wants a doorstop? Ha!
So in all the hustle and bustle of the holiday, I could see myself as Martha.. Not enjoying a time of relaxation in the midst of life.. I mean really who would have thought everything happens 2 days before Thanksgiving?
So after my disastrous cake, I needed to sit down and I began thinking of Martha.. Jesus was coming to visit and Martha was bustling around so busy she failed to sit at Jesus feet like her sister Mary did...I never want to be so busy that I take for granted how thankful I am for the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, my family, my friends and all the blessings in my life. I want the Mary moments to be more important to show Gods love and grace to others and in this Thanksgiving week to take time to reflect and love on Jesus.
2 Corinthians 4:15
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Have you ever wished you could have a do- over? A do- over of the day or week? Or maybe a do-over of your past? You know the things you wish you could have done differently from your past or even your present? I’m sure we all do at some point of our lives. But there is good news! Restoration can come to you. You do not need to live in the past or present of destruction, pain and bondage.
So what does it mean to be restored? The definition of restored is defined as: repaired or renovated so as to return it to its original condition. So restoration means becoming what God called you to be defined with a destiny and purpose. So how do you get there? Let’s give you some examples from God’s word of restoration.
First let’s look at the story of the Prodigal son. There was a rich man who had two sons. One day the younger son decided he wanted to leave home and he went to his father and asked for his inheritance. It is evident that the father and son did not have a good relationship. The son even though he loved his father, he decided he wanted to be on his own and he didn’t want to do the authority of his father. He wanted to go his own way, do his own thing and be his own boss. Sounds like he didn’t want to surrender his will, doesn’t it?
After a time he ran out of money. He had spent it all for his pleasures. Then he found himself in a desperate situation. There was a famine on the land so he had to go to work. Guess where he went to work? He went to work on a farm feeding pigs. Because of the famine in the land, he started eating with the pigs. Finally, the son thought I can’t do this! So he decided that it would be better to return to the house of his father as a servant than to continue to eat with pigs and eventually starve.
As he came down the road, his father saw him. His father had been waiting for his return. So when his father saw him, he ran to meet him. The father didn’t bring him home to be a servant like he thought. His father gladly welcomed him home, not as a servant, but as a son. A feast was made. A robe and a ring were given to the son to attest to his position in the family. Though he had gone away, his father accepted him back with no change in his status as a son. My friend that is how God is. No matter what you have done, what your life looks like, when you come back to the Lord, He restores your life… a life of restoration.
My junior year of high school, I saw a counselor once a week for several months. I saw her and she saw me. She saw the very worst parts of me. My darkness, the raw pain that I had buried, all of my tears of sadness and anger and frustration. She was incredible. She prayed with me, cried with me, helped me uncover the roots of my self destruction and much, much more. To this day she is the most Jesus-like person I have ever met, but that's beside the point. A little less than a month ago I ran into her at a conference in Lexington. We shared many hugs and smiles but the most significant part of our encounter was when she told me that I "looked beautiful" and that I was "glowing," not because I appreciated the compliments but because I knew how she meant them. I knew she wasn't talking about my physical appearance. I knew she could see my spirit and I knew that when she saw me, the girl she saw was very different from the one she saw 3 years ago. I knew she could see how far God had carried me.
Let me take you through a brief summary of my past, not to dwell on it but solely for the purpose of testifying what God has done for me.
From my 8th grade year through my freshman year of college, I battled a pretty severe case of depression. Now depression looks very different for different people but one thing is for certain: it changes who you are completely. It sucks your life away. I remember coming home from school and sleeping for several hours, waking up to eat dinner long after everyone else had already eaten, taking a shower and going straight back to bed because that's all I had the energy for. Many days I couldn't even muster up the strength to get out of bed. I gave up on school, my perfect grades went down the drain, I didn't want to go anywhere or do anything or see anyone. The things that I loved were no longer enjoyable for me and my relationships with the people around me withered away to nothing. I intentionally damaged my body for years because it made me feel something when I was otherwise numb to the world around me.
I absolutely believe that depression is a direct attack from the enemy and no one can tell me any different. On one hand I was told, "you're being dramatic" and "you're just looking for attention" and on the other hand I was told, "it's just part of being a teenager" and "everyone goes through it." But they didn't know. They didn't know that every day I laid in bed wondering why anyone would ever have to go through that kind of pain. They didn't know that most nights I cried myself to sleep begging someone to just please make it stop. They didn't know that I spent a lot of time thinking of ways to kill myself because death would certainly be better than continuing to live here in this hell. Throughout those years I did attempt to take my life on more than one occasion. I (obviously) was never successful and I never understood how or why. God always showed up and intervened but I never recognized that for what it was. Either someone I loved very much showed up on my doorstep on a night I shut myself in my bedroom with a loaded gun, or I woke up the next morning after taking handfuls of mixtures of pills from our medicine drawer, or my body cleansed itself after I had drank myself into unconsciousness, or the cars coming toward me somehow always managed to stop just in time instead of hitting me when I would run red lights on Nicholasville Road in the middle of traffic. Whatever it was, it never made sense.
But now it all makes perfect sense. God stepped in every time because He wasn't done with me. He knew I would overcome and share these stories, and that people would know that it was only by His goodness that I made it out alive. I would never wish the things I went through upon my worst enemy but I am thankful that God allowed me to walk through them because through the process I have developed so much compassion and understanding for mental illness and have been able to help people I love and even people I don't know through their own battles.
I can't pinpoint a specific day or time when I was delivered from depression because it didn't happen overnight or instantly. I'm not telling you it just magically disappeared because it didn't. I'm not telling you it's easy because it wasn't. It took time. It took prayer. It took me deciding that I wasn't going to claim it over my life. There are still days when the enemy takes the form of depression and rears his ugly head but instead of allowing myself to saturate in it, I take authority over my mind and stand against it. God taught me to be very intentional about speaking life and positivity into myself and I'm still doing it because it works. I spent (and still spend) my time in the car and in the shower listening to worship music because it opens the door to the presence of God instead of pouring negativity into me the way most secular music does these days. I often read stories of people like Job and David in the Bible who also battled depression to encourage myself. I try to watch uplifting podcasts or funny TV shows instead of the news because I know that the latter is meant to brainwash me to believe the worst about the world. I surround myself with people who radiate positivity and who I know will cover me in prayer because I don't have time for anyone who speaks nothing but negativity. I seek council from God because I know that the world will point me to temporary fixes that will eventually leave me feeling more empty than when I started. I am very careful about what and who I allow into my life because I know that my mental health is very important and very fragile.
So no, I can't give you a time when my depression melted away. However, what I can give you is a snapshot of my life now as opposed to a year ago. Overall, I am happier than I have ever been. I love my life, I cherish every moment and I recognize that every single breath is a blessing. I genuinely look forward to the days to come and I am so excited about my future, which is something I never thought I'd be able to say. I do my very best to walk in the Joy of the Lord and to spread that joy to the world around me. That's who I am. That's who I wanna be, it's who God created me to be. It's how He wants me to live. Happy.
If you've never battled a mental illness, I encourage you to educate yourself. Do research, ask God for understanding and for compassion. Be kind. Listen to people when they reach out. Give them grace, be patient with them. Love them and most importantly, pray for them. They could be struggling to survive and you'd never know.
And if you're currently fighting a war inside your mind against depression, anxiety (this is a big one for me but I'm still in the process of trying to break it), PPD, bipolar disorder, OCD, addiction, MPD, any eating disorder, PTSD, whatever it may be, I want to encourage you as well. First of all I want to tell you to keep fighting. Wake up every morning and tell yourself that there's no way you're giving up now, you've made it this far and you'll make it even further. Remember the times you wanted to let go so badly and God gave you the strength to hold on. Do more of what makes you laugh. Get around people who will speak life into you until you learn to speak it into yourself. Reach out and ask for prayer. Someone will stand in the gap for you and cover you and if you don't know anyone who will, I would love to pray for you. Talk to someone. But if I can encourage you to do one thing more than anything else, talk to God. About anything and about everything. He will listen. Make Him your best friend. He will carry you. I am living proof.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" // Matthew 11:28-30
I really didn't want to write this week. At all. The past several days have been pure hell. My heart has been aching in ways I can't explain and the warfare in my mind has been absolutely raging. To the point that I have felt physically ill. Every little thing the devil could find, he has used against me and it has taken a massive toll on me.
I am off work today and had planned on spending the day before church tonight just laying around, reading and listening to worship music and talking to God. But I didn't even know where I wanted to read today so I popped open a devotional that I sometimes read from. First of all, this devotional was extremely timely for me. But as I was reading I kept hearing "119." A few weeks ago I began the book of Psalms, so, since that's what I had most recently started reading, I went ahead and flipped to Psalm 119. I thought the devotional was a timely word for me... man. I can't even tell you how much I needed to read this specific Psalm today. My heart and my spirit were so convicted all throughout (in the best way).
I mentioned before that this past week had been hell and to be totally honest I was beyond frustrated. And it showed. My entire being radiated pure annoyance and frustration. I was rude to my coworkers and my customers at work, I kept away from pretty much everyone, even my mom noticed something was very different. Why? I have seen nothing but junk coming from every direction in my life. I feel like everyone around me is under attack and I can't fix it. I have sensed so many ugly spirits around me and it has made me want to stay inside my apartment and never come out. The shooting in Vegas has made me absolutely sick to my stomach, I can't help but hurt for those people and their loved ones. I have stayed up all night and struggled to even eat due to worrying about situations that are completely out of my hands. I've allowed the enemy to get inside my head with all kinds of lies and it got the point that I reached out to ask for prayer from everyone around me because I felt completely helpless and like I couldn't do it for myself. My patience has been worn down to nothing. I know that God is good regardless of any circumstance and that I should praise Him because I know my sufferings occur for a reason. And I usually can, I usually press in the hardest when I don't want to. But this time was different. This was an attack like none I had ever experienced. And man is it hard to walk around in goodness when you don't feel it.
And that's exactly why God lead me to Psalm 119 today. Because it's all about delighting in God's word and in His law even when the world is throwing all sorts of junk at you. It's all about walking in holiness and righteousness even when life really sucks. It's all about pushing through and praising through your sufferings because you know that's when you're growing the most. It's all about trusting Him so much that you don't waiver in the face of adversity because you know where your provision comes from. It's all about embracing the pain and learning to love the process. It's all about asking God to provide you with understanding so that when it hurts, you know why it hurts and when it's hard, you're able to hold on and see it through to the end result.
It's funny because verse 164 says, "Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws," but we often tweak it to say, "Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws when you're pouring out blessing upon blessing over me," or, "Seven times a day I praise you when I see your promises unfolding," or, "... when life is great," but that's NOT what it says. It says "seven times a day I praise you." Point. Blank. Period. Every day. Seven times. No matter what.
I'm pretty guilty of not doing a whole lot of praising this last week or so. But after reading what I had just read, there was no way that I couldn't. So I spent the next few hours in my bedroom floor, on my knees and on my face, screaming out His name and telling Him how good He is. Not asking for anything. Not begging Him to forgive me for my actions and for the thoughts that have been running through my mind. Not telling Him how much I am hurting. Just simply loving on Him and allowing Him to love me right back. And I was flooded with tears because I was so overwhelmed by the love, grace and peace that I felt.
Sometimes that's all Jesus wants from us. To recognize His goodness. To show gratitude for the light instead of allowing the darkness to overtake our minds and our hearts. To shift our eyes to focus on the GOOD rather than allowing our vision to be blurred by the hurt. Sometimes He becomes quiet in our trials because He wants to see if we will continue to stay true to what we know without constant reassurance.
We all have these pretty pictures in our minds of what everything should look like. There are certain ways we would love for our lives-- every year, every month, every week, every day, every scenario, every conversation-- to play out. We want to physically see God's work in everything. We want to hear His voice as guidance in all of our ways. We want to see chains fall and grounds shake and demons flee. We want people to find Him through us. We want everyone to love everyone and to be surrounded be righteousness and holiness at all times. We want minimal conflict in the body of Christ and we want everyone to have pure intentions. We want people who are given platforms and opportunities to lead to do it justly. It's great when things work out that way. It's wonderful when everything flows smoothly. But most times, it doesn't. And even when it doesn't, He is still good and worthy to be praised.
I can't recall many times in my life when I haven't felt very alone and very misunderstood. That feeling of being alone in a crowded room? That's my life. Every day.
And I'm not one who enjoys the feeling of loneliness (not that anyone really does). Being alone, I can handle. Feeling lonely? Not so much.
LUCKILY, Jesus has taught me a few things about that "loneliness" feeling. Spoiler alert: It's not actually loneliness. It's called being set apart.
He didn't call me to be like the rest of the world. He called me to lead others to Him and to reach the broken, but in order for that to happen I must be DIFFERENT from the world around me. Romans 12:2 very specifically addresses it, "Do not conform the the pattern of this world, but he transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing and perfect will." And sometimes that doesn't exactly feel good. Because in most cases (everyone has their battles) you have to go through a process in order to come to a place where you can be around certain things without taking part in them. God has to literally SET you APART from what is normal and familiar to you for a while in order for you to be set apart from it. For me, one of those things just so happens to be alcohol. I would be lying if I told you that it was easy for me to stop drinking. Because it's one of the hardest things I've ever done. God tried time and time again to get me alone for a (pretty lengthy) period of time so that He could RESET my mind and my heart and PREPARE me with strength so that I could still go back out into the world and minister to my friends and anyone else who needed me without being sucked back into the lifestyle that I used to live. But I broke that process several times and went right back to it because I absolutely could not stand being alone and feeling left out of the fun -- I couldn't see the bigger picture of what He was doing for me. So that's where I am right now. Because I finally see it. And again, it's not exactly been fun. Hear me when I say that the enemy works SO hard when he knows you're trying to give something up that will allow you to walk in the fullness of your destiny. There are times when I have questioned if surrendering my life to Jesus is really worth all of this. Very rarely do I ever see my friends anymore, and of course I miss them. But I know that God has more for me than the things I used to think I'd never go without. I know He will use me to bring others out of what He has brought me out of. I know how good this process is for me even though it doesn't always feel so good.
So right now, I don't necessarily have people I talk to about my petty daily struggles or even the big stuff. I don't go out of the house much anymore unless it's to see my mom or go to church. I don't do a lot of things the world would consider "fun." But that's okay. Because what I do do is spend a whole lot of time at home, in my quiet place with God. I was seeking council from all the wrong people in all of the wrong places and God pulled me away so that He could teach me that He is my counselor. I was calling on the world and the things/people it offered me to fix my brokenness and He showed me that He is the only one who can. Sometimes when we don't recognize it ourselves, He strips everything else away because when you have nothing and no one else, you know exactly who to turn to. This is the time that He has spoken more to me than I've been able to hear my whole life. I've learned so much about Him and we've gone so much deeper into the intimacy that He desires with me. So even when it does feel a bit lonely at times, I am thankful because I know that I am not truly alone, I am only set apart.
When God calls you to things bigger and better than you could ever imagine, you are going to lose things and people you care very deeply about during that journey. Not everyone you love is going to make the cut to go where you're going and not everyone is going to understand why you're leaving where you are. In fact, most people won't. And I'll be the first to tell you: It hurts. Boy, does it hurt. BUT don't let that tempt you to turn around. Because I'll also be the first to tell you that where you're going is worth so much more than what you lose along the way. You will never reach the top of a mountain if you keep going back down to pick up what you've dropped along the way.
You're in the midst of one of your happiest moments, listening and sharing, laughing and crying, reminiscing days already gone and anticipating days to come. You're in a room full of beautiful women of God who were obviously placed in your life for very specific reasons. You think to yourself, Wow... I am so blessed. I love these people so much. Thank you Jesus for putting them in my life. I couldn't ask for better. You know that you are right where you belong, surrounded by exactly who you are meant to be with. But suddenly, it doesn't feel so good. The room shrinks and you feel your chest collapsing. Those women seem so far away and you seem to stick out like a sore thumb. They see you. They know what you've done. They don't want you here. You don't belong here. You aren't even worthy of being in their presence. You aren't "good" like them. All you can think about is getting out of there. In the blink of an eye, one of the happiest moments of your life turns into a horror movie in your mind. Shame takes over.
Or maybe you're getting ready for church on a Sunday morning and decide that you shouldn't even go because your thoughts remind you of that boy you slept with several months back and you tell yourself God doesn't want you coming into His church. You can't even pray because you feel unworthy of even speaking to Him. Shame takes over. Maybe someone asks you what your story is and your mouth suddenly becomes paralyzed because you can't imagine telling them the kind of life you used to live. Shame takes over. Maybe you see someone in need or you can tell they are struggling internally and God prompts you to pray for them or to speak life into them but you don't because who are you to try helping anyone with anything when you struggle too? Shame takes over. Or maybe you're alone in your bedroom and you come across those broken razor blades and that little voice inside your head says, "Do it. You're worthless." Shame takes over.
Ya know, the devil is not stupid. But he's also not a genius. As I have heard it said time and time again, his tricks do not change. Ever. Because he knows what works. He knows what will break you down the fastest. One of his favorite weapons? Shame. I have never encountered anything that forces its way into your mind and shuts you down more quickly than you can even see it coming, the way shame does. I have never experienced anything more crippling.
The bad news: Shame is pretty common. I'd be lying if I told you that those scenarios I described weren't direct anecdotes from my life. I have yet to meet one person who has never experienced shame.
The good news: Shame is not from God. Like I said before, it is a weapon formed AGAINST us by the enemy. Why would God ever make me feel like I was unworthy because of my struggles? Why would He ever tell me that I'm not qualified to be used by Him because of what I've done in the past? He wouldn't. John 10:10 says, "The theif comes only to steal, kill and destroy," it ALSO says (and this is my favorite part), "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." He will NEVER do or say anything that would do anything but benefit me, or you, or anyone (and sometimes it doesn't feel good, but that's a topic for another time). There is a vast difference between feeling conviction from the Holy Spirit and feeling condemnation, guilt and shame from the enemy. God wants us to recognize our wrong doings and to ask His forgiveness on those things but what He does NOT want is for us to dwell on them, allowing them to cripple us.
The better news: We have authority over shame. Every shameful thought that enters my mind, I have the authority to tell it to leave. I have it. You have it. Authority-- because of the Blood. In Isaiah 54:17 we are assured of this, "no weapon formed against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you." Typically I use this verse as a reminder about people in the natural who falsely speak out against me or when I'm in the middle of a tough situation and need to remind myself that it will not break me down. But often times I forget that it pertains to the enemy and his lies as well (because that's exactly what shame is-- a lie directly from hell).
The best news: We are not disqualified. I am not, and neither are you. The biggest lie that comes from a shameful mindset is the one that the things you did before you surrendered your life to Christ, or the things that you battle even after you've given your life, take you out of the race to be used by God. If that were the case, a huge chunk of the Bible wouldn't exist. Jacob lied, God used him. Elijah went through depression and had suicidal thoughts, God used him. David committed adultery and murder, God used him. Peter DENIED Jesus right in front of His face, God used him. I did a lot of things, God uses me. You've done a lot of things, God uses you.
I have wanted to share these thoughts for quite some time now but truth be told, God wouldn't let me. He brought me through it first so that I could fully understand it and understand how to fight it. Because up until just days ago I was a walking billboard with the word "shame" written all over it. I allowed it to overtake every part of my life and it kept me from stepping into the fullness that God wanted for me. But on Sunday, September 17th I was delivered from shame. Fully, completely. I answered an altar call (which is something I normally don't do because, ya know... too ashamed) and as I stood receiving the truth being spoken over myself and many other men and women, I felt the shame that once drowned me completely leave my mind, my heart, my body and my spirit. I fell to my knees overwhelmed by the glory of God and as I was there He said. "Now is the time. Write it down."
That's not to say that shame won't try to creep in from time to time. What it means is that when it does, I know how to destroy it. What it means is no more walking around feeling inferior to everyone around me because of my past. What it means is no longer doubting the power in my testimony. What it means is fully knowing that God can and will use me no matter how torn, beaten and broken my slate is. What it means is freedom.
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." // Romans 8:1-2
One of the hardest battles I have ever had to fight has been accepting that I am unconditionally loved.
Sounds crazy, right? Let me explain.
I grew up learning that God was this untouchable power in the sky who ruled over all and watched our every move, and that our actions were judged and would determine whether or not we made it to Heaven. In my 19 years of life, I have made some really, REALLY terrible mistakes and because of the way I viewed God, I turned and ran as fast as I could. There was no way He still wanted me after all I had done... No way He would ever have any use for me now, right? I completely rejected the idea that He could possibly forgive me and still want me as His own and it destroyed the way I viewed myself. It became what seemed to be a never-ending cycle of trying to fill the enormous voids in my heart with alcohol and sex and then hating myself even more because I felt like I was disappointing God more and more every day. I allowed the enemy to fill my head with the lies that I was disgusting, I was a disgrace and useless to God, I was unworthy of His love and His grace. I allowed people to treat me like I was worthless, to walk in and out of my life as they pleased, to use me for what they wanted and leave, to make no effort to show that they cared at all while I gave them everything I had. Not just men but friends, family, everyone. I have always accepted much less than I deserve from people because I never truly knew that I deserved better. I took whatever I could get.
It wasn't until recently that I began understanding God's unconditional love and not just understanding it but WALKING in it. He broke down my walls and has poured out an abundant amount of love in recent months. Through song, through scripture, through His words, and through those little moments each day that I know He creates to romance my heart. Lysa TerKeurst puts it so well in her book Uninvited, "Live from the abundant place that you are loved, and you won't find yourself begging others for scraps of love." Once you feel, accept and receive UNCONDITIONAL love from a Savior who loved you enough to take your sins and die a brutal death at the cross before you even came into existence, it is so much easier to walk with your head held high daily, knowing that you are worthy of only the very best. I made a promise to Jesus and to myself to never again settle for less than I deserve from ANYONE. Why? Because I am loved. Fiercely, unconditionally, relentlessly. I am loved.