Twenty Candles

20 candles.

20 babies.

7 women.

All loved equally by their Abba Father.

I was honored to attend a memorial service for babies who had been lost to abortion, but quite honestly, I was also a bit uneasy about what I was about to witness. As we gathered together in the pastor’s office in love and reverence, I heard their stories.

“I didn’t know it was a baby”

“I thought it was the right thing to do”

“I was forced to do it”

After being together for several weeks in the Post Abortion Support Team (P.A.S.T.) recovery group at Fellowship Monrovia, they have cried together, they have grieved together, and they have loved each other through painful memories. Now these precious women were gathering together one last time to acknowledge their mistake in giving up the life of their child or children for the sake of convenience, and to lay their children to rest in the arms of the Father.

They were sorry. So deeply sorry. Many had not been able to move forward in life, even though it had been years. Some carried the physical scar of not being able to get pregnant after multiple abortions and not knowing exactly why.

The medical community had no answers.

They tortured themselves with whys and what ifs.

Their friends and family said to get over it.

But they couldn’t.

These women are part of the beautiful few who have chosen to come to Jesus with their post abortion pain and accept healing and wholeness. Each one wearing white and lighting a candle for each baby.

Previously unnamed, each child was given a name by their mother. One young mom even brought a box of baby things to lay on the altar of forgiveness and grace.

I heard them, one after one, say “I now know I can still be a woman of God and move forward into my calling even after having an abortion.” And “I’m so comforted to know I will see my baby in heaven.” So profound. So heartbreaking. And so beautiful. As God forgave them, each one had to work through the process to come to a place of forgiving themselves. And that is the hardest thing.

There were tears. Oh yes, there were tears. This night showed me the messy beauty of God’s love. He loves us in our mistakes. He loves us in our mess. And he brings people alongside us to help us out of that mess. Also part of the group that night were women who were many years beyond a similar program of healing. Now they were turning their pain into purpose by leading these women to the very throne of God where they could lay down their past and be renewed in His spirit and His truth to walk in forgiveness and healing.

20 candles.

20 babies who will never be forgotten.

7 women who are now walking forward in wholeness and with hope.

“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”

Hebrews 8:12 ESV

 

DON’T LOSE HEART

Have you ever gotten so discouraged you feel you can’t make it through another day?  I guess if you’re part of the human race you certainly have had moments or even days like that.

As I was watching the Patriots play against the Falcons during the Super Bowl,  I really gave up hope.  I thought there was no way the Patriots could catch up….let alone win the game!

My friend said, “Don’t worry…be a Fan!!!  The Patriots have plenty of time to win this game if they stay calm, play smart, and don’t give up.”

The Patriots were down by 28-3 (25 points!) at half time.  By the 4th quarter the Patriots were scoring!  They tied the game in the last few seconds by scoring a field goal.  The Fans went crazy!  The game went into overtime (first time in Super Bowl history) and the Patriots scored the first touchdown to win!  It was awesome!

I learned a life lesson from that game…..don’t give up hope, keep trying to do your best, and DON’T LOSE HEART.  Because hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12).

The Apostle Paul tells us in II Corinthians chapter four of the struggle he and his fellow ministers had in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.

Paul says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed….to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us!  Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

So….dear friends, DON’T LOSE HEART in your life troubles.  God’s got this!!!  You will come out a winner in the end!!!

Rest

Why do we run ourselves into the ground?

Why don’t we ever stop?

Why don’t we rest?

What is rest?

Rest, I believe, looks different for everyone but there is an element that remains the same, we all need it! It doesn’t matter how you rest as long as you take the time to do it and it refreshes and restores you.

God continues to tell me to slow down. If you know me you know I always have a million things going on. I am involved in so much and I am very active. So slowing down is hard, but I came to the point of complete exhaustion and was running on empty. I was pouring out my energy in all aspects of my life including into other’s lives and in return I depleted myself. I was not myself and did not feel right.

I realized I have never fully taken a Sabbath. A day of complete rest without working. I have taken partial days, a few hours of rest but never a full day.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he RESTED from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he RESTED from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis 2:2-3

It’s biblical! God rested! He rested the whole day. Not part of the day, not half of the day! THE WHOLE DAY! God did this as an example for us. He wants us to rest. He did it so we would follow suit. So why don’t we? Why do we fill our days with work, work, work and feel like there is always more to be done?!

I always have a “to do list.” I think of things that I need to do and let it consume me, even on the day I should be “resting.” I have a trick for that if you are like me…have a note pad with you and when you think of something that you need to do write it down. This way it gets out of your head and you have space for rest. Try it and let me know if it helps you! : )

Let’s all take a Sabbath day. It doesn’t have to be on Sunday. Pick a day, any day of the week!

This week, I chose Sunday because it worked best for me. I slept in for the first time in a very long time with no alarm and got 11 hours of sleep!!!! Obviously my body needed rest. I had been neglecting it for too long. Then I made some coffee and sat with Jesus in my living room, journaling, and reading the Bible. And then He and I decided to go for a prayer walk. I got in the car and started driving towards the coast. I walked along the beach talking with God. It was so rejuvenating! I let go of some things, revelations were revealed to me, and God reminded me how much he loves me. I felt at peace and very calm. I had no distractions. I had my phone off the whole time and WOW! That was freeing!

And now I feel like I can take on the week and pour into those areas important to me. Look what a day of rest can do! 

What are you doing to rest?

We all need it. One day a week. Stop trying to push it aside. You will only make it worse.

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Little Shoes for a Big Purpose

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“What’s the story about your favorite pair of shoes?”

Kind of an unusual question for church, but every week the Question of the Day provokes some interesting getting to know you conversations with those sitting nearby. It’s a tradition at Fellowship Monrovia, where I attend services.

I turned around to chat with the woman behind me, thinking about mentioning the snow boots I bought in college more than 30 years ago and still own.

With a huge smile, she shared her shoe story:

My favorite pair of shoes was my very first pair, when I was 10 years old. I was in an orphanage in Greece during the war, and needed shoes. They traced around my foot on a piece of paper during my birthday in July, and then asked my sponsor in America for the money. That Christmas, I received my first pair of shoes. They were so precious to me! I polished them every night before putting them away in the box. I loved those shoes!

Oh.

Yeah, I had no shoe story after hearing that.

During the rest of the service, I couldn’t stop thinking about that precious Greek lady and her shoe story. I knew I needed to know her.

We met for coffee last week, and through tears she told me of her heart for the Greek orphans, even now. There is no public money available for them. If an orphanage is no longer funded, those little ones are in the street. What she told me is a story repeated countless times in countries around the world.

Meeting someone like this, who has lived a good life because a family cared enough to adopt her is inspiring. Her work now is dedicated to the children in Benjamin House, and she carries on the work that one person inspired in her by providing a pair of shoes.

Small beginnings for very big things. It all started with a pair of shoes for a 10 year old little orphan girl, provided by someone who had never met her.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”   James 1:27

 

Believe the Impossible

Going into the new year I have a been doing some reflecting on the past year.

What have I done?

I have done a lot.

Attended 7 weddings. I was in 2 of them.

Became a life coach.

Hiked the tallest mountain in the lower 48.

Began discipling woman and have been discipled myself.

Experienced inner healing and have been learning how to give myself grace.

Turned 28

Partnered with M2B ministries to help missionaries with re-entry.

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God is doing a lot and I know there is more to come in 2017.

One thing that I desire this year is to have more intimacy with God. I know I need to pursue God and spend time with him. I must pray and sit and be in His presence. This is something I need to be discipled in and practice. I must turn it into a habit, a good habit. I know this will be a habit that will change my life! I want to hear God’s voice and be able to share what he tells me with others to encourage them and hear what he wants to say for my life.

This past year I have also been learning how to dream big and if my dreams don’t scare me, they are not big enough. That’s a scary statement. I think before I would never allow myself to dream so big it scared me because I figured it would never happen. But that’s not the right attitude!!! I must believe in my God to do the impossible. I must believe that he has my best interests in mind and wants the best for me. He can make the imaginable possible and that is what I am hoping for this year! I want things to happen that can only be explained in one word… GOD.

Why don’t we live like that? Why don’t we live life thinking the impossible will happen? Believing the impossible will happen!

It’s a mindset. We need to change our mindset and our focus to be on Jesus. We need to trust him and his ultimate plan for his life.

God gave me a picture many months ago of me and him standing hand in hand on a stone. It was a stone that looked like part of a stone path but all I could see what the stone I was on. As I was hand in hand with him he led me to the next stone. As put my foot out to take the next step the stone appeared.

My interpretation of this vision is that God is with me every step of the way but that he wants me to trust him and to stay present. He wants me to stay focused on where I am and not where I am going or where I have been. He wants me to take the step of faith and trust that he has something there for me even though I cannot see it.

And I believe this is true for you as well. God wants you to stay present but to trust him in the process and to take his hand and let him led you. It’s scary but great things happen when we step out and take risks.

I pray that for us going into this new year. I pray we grab onto God’s hand and allow him to led us to the next stepping stone in our lives even if we cannot see it! I also pray we stay present where we are and enjoy the moment.

Believe the impossible.

Enjoy the moment.

Trust God.

Feeling Insignificant?

I’m just one in a million. Who cares about my point of view? I just plug along day after day like the billions before me, and have nothing original to say.

Do you ever feel this way?

I do. I struggle with the fact that I am literally one of billions of humans in the history of mankind, yet God created me to be unique. This seems contradictory.

You are, literally, just one of billions of other humans that have walked, walk or will walk the earth. However, there is NO ONE else exactly like you. You are genetically made like none other, EVER. You also have a unique Spirit which has been fostered in a unique set of circumstances. This means your perspective is one of a kind.

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You are created in the Image of God, in His Likeness. He is Creative, therefore we all have the capacity to create. Your life itself is art. Art is: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.

I am learning to shut out the critics and negative voices within and without. What I have to say is valuable, first to God my Creator, and then to me. I learn something every time I create. Every time I snap a photo. Every time I write. Every time I interact with a stranger. Beyond that, if someone else appreciates what I say or create, it is just icing on the cake.

I must stop seeking to please others, constantly wondering what “they” will think of my life/art/writing/creation. If God is pleased and I have grown, that is all the purpose it needs. Our society values others’ opinions too highly.

My challenge to myself and to you is to stop giving credence to the “critics” and to listen to what God says about us. His voice is the one that matters most. Sure, we should have checks and balances, and there are healthy ways of achieving this. However, if your life and your art lines up with Scripture, and your unique soul is connected with your Creator as you live your life, then you are on track my friend.

I also challenge us to stop being so critical of others. Allow others to uniquely create as God has inspired them. Encourage and uplift.

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
Aristotle

Psalm 139: 13-16 says:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Take heart. Know you are special and that your insight into this life is unique and meant to be shared. Be empowered and strengthened by the fact that God your Creator designed you just as you are. The rest of us need to see and hear and feel what you create. Be bold and share it. You were created to do so.

Word.

The Christmas decorations are still up, the cookies and fudge are still in great supply, the trash truck hasn’t hauled away all the spent wrapping paper and boxes yet, and if you’re like me, you haven’t even put away your new socks Santa brought you this year. And here we are, already thinking about what the New Year will bring.

Maybe we should turn that around and think about what will we bring to the new year?

A few years ago, I first heard about the concept of choosing a theme word for the year. I thought it was a good idea, but didn’t really give it much weight. Still, I found choosing a word was much easier said than done. You can read about my process on my blog post by clicking here, but the end result was my word was DEEPER that year. When I think back on that year, deeper doesn’t even begin to describe it. God began a process in me to truly bring me deeper in all areas of my life, and that’s still going on.

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My word in 2016 was INTENTIONAL, and although every aspect of my life didn’t reach a level of intentionality I had anticipated, just having that word ever before me caused me to evaluate my faith, my relationships and my business in light of how intentional I was being to create my best life. Looking back on this year I can see I failed at being intentional so many times.

And that’s okay. Really.

The point to searching your heart and mind and praying for a word to cover your year is growth. Progress, not perfection. Which brings me back to my original thought – what am I bringing to my year in 2017? How can I promote growth in myself to become the best I can be? If I want to bring my best self and gifts to what God is asking of me, I must be willing to learn and grow.

I’m still praying and thinking on what word God wants to use to define my year for 2017, but I am hearing words like Leap and Jump and Increase, so I guess I should anticipate a pretty exciting year!

If you have never chosen a word for your year, I encourage you to try it. Make a list of every word that comes to mind. Then do it again. Notice what words keep showing up. Pray about it & ask God to lead you to the word that describes where HE wants to take you in 2017, and then do your best to keep up.

If you’d like to find a community of people who have chosen your same word, take a look at OneWord365.com

Take the leap!

Have you found the perfect gift yet?

I get amused with the Christmas shoppers in the Riverside Gift Shop I am managing at the retirement village.  They will come in and say they’re looking for the “perfect gift” for someone and they’ll “know it when they see it.”

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This month of Christmas music, programs, parties and shopping can become stressful to some people.  We have been made to feel guilty if we don’t give extra to the needs of those less fortunate.  There are the lonely people who actually hate this time of year.

But wait…..what is it really all about?  And I mean more than remembering a miraculous virgin birth of a baby 2000+ years ago.

The miracle of Jesus the Christ…..the Anointed One, is that He is fully God and fully human!!!    The doctrinal word for that is Incarnation……….and I don’t mean a flower!!!

This is one of the mysteries of Almighty God.   In His Son, Jesus, God became a human man to save us ultimately by shedding His blood on the cross, dying and arising from the dead, without ceasing to be God.

Philippians 2:5-11    Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

WOW!!!  That’s quite a bit to comprehend.  It’s so “far out there” our human minds cannot figure it out……not possible….don’t go there!!!

It is child-like FAITH which is a GIFT from God to receive THE TRUTH.

If you are struggling with the reality of who Jesus is, and that He is more than a baby in a manger, ask God to give you the faith to believe.  Be honest with God, He knows the thoughts and intents of your heart anyway.  Don’t try to figure it out…..just know that God loves you with unconditional love.  Once you realize that great love through Jesus Christ you will never be the same again!

The celebration of Jesus’ birth this week will give you JOY and an INNER PEACE that is unexplainable.

JESUS CHRIST IS INDEED THE MOST PERFECT GIFT TO YOU!!!

Romans 6:23  The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What are the desires of your heart?

Do you have desires deep in your heart that some people might not even know about?

Do you have hopes and dreams that are buried deep that you are even afraid to acknowledge with the fear they may never come true?

I love this verse

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalms 37:4

DELIGHT in the Lord and HE with GIVE YOU the DESIRES in your heart that you and him may only know about. But he knows. He knows your heart and if you spend time with him he will deliver.

“The plans of God are only revealed in the presence of God.”

I am reading through a prayer challenge book called “Draw the Circle.” It is by the same other who wrote “Circle Maker.” He talks about praying circles about your hopes, dreams, desires, and wants. It’s about being persistent and trusting that God will provide. Sometimes he doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want him too but he answers them in a better way. Sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes it’s yes. With that he has our best interests in mind.

He knows the deep desires of your heart and he wants you to pray into them. Sometimes patience is required because things don’t happen on our timing but in God’s. And that’s how it should be. He knows all the details. He sees everything we cannot see. Imagine trying to do a puzzle with your eyes closed and some of the pieces missing. You will never be able to complete it. But God has all the pieces lined up in front of him and he can see everything! So why are you not trusting him with all that you are and the desires and dreams of your heart. He knows what they are, but he is wants you to pray into them.

Pray circles around your desires. I am doing that now and I am writing it down. Writing your prayers and desires down is helpful for later when you can go back and see how God connected the dots and how he answered your prayers! He most likely will answer them in ways you are not expecting.

“When we pray regularly, irregular things happen on a regular basis.” (Draw the Circle).

Seek God’s face every day. Bring him your hopes and dreams and desires. He has a plan! You must be patient, trust him, but take action by praying!

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You Never Know…..

Not to be morbid, especially at this joyous time of year, BUT….

None of us were born with an expiration date printed on our skin. We NEVER know what day will be our last day, what words will be our last words.

A few days ago on my drive home from Thanksgiving break with my Mom in Florida, I had to stop for two hours and put my car in park on I-95. Thousands of cars were backed up in a stand-still at the Georgia/South Carolina border waiting for a crash to be cleared. It turns out it was fatal. Those people had no idea when they woke up that morning that it would be their last. I wonder if the last words they said to their loved ones were good ones?

Upon my return to Charlotte I found out that my godson’s 35-year old baseball coach had a seizure, fell and hit his head and died – on Thanksgiving Day. He left his wife and two young children with no warning. None of them woke up that morning thinking it would be his last. I hope their last moments together were positive ones. What an unexpected tragedy.

“In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26

I have failed at this at times, as we all have. But, my Mother engrained this in my mind and my heart, and for the most part I do not allow myself to go to sleep or to part ways with loved ones after an argument or disagreement without at least agreeing to talk later and letting them know I love them. For we must always be prepared. We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

The election has been a time of division among many families and friends, and now we are in the thick of the holiday season. The holidays bring joy and many people together, but they are also times of grief, pain and isolation for some. Let us remember to speak life to all we meet – and especially to remain in good relationship with those closest to us, regardless of our differences in opinion.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32

Speak life today. Forgive. Do not hold on to the things that bring bitterness. Be kind and do good. For you never know what day will be your last.