What Did I Learn Through My Husband’s Stroke? – a devotional

Editor’s Note: This is a guest submission from Sheila Lloyd. Sheila’s husband had a stroke in 2014, and this is part of their story of recovery. Thanks so much, Sheila!

WHAT DID I LEARN THROUGH THE STROKE?  How I am more like Jesus because of this experience?

I WILL ADMIT, WHEN ONE OF MY EDITORS POSED THESE QUESTIONS TO me, I was at a loss.

So…as I am flying in a plane at 20,000+ feet, I will endeavor to dive into that question and see what happens.  Couldn’t pay me to strap on a parachute and jump, but then again, this kind of feels just as precarious.

Do I wish the stroke had never happened?  Yes!  And No!  What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.  And in the timeless words of Winnie the Pooh to his best little pink friend Piglet, “You are stronger than you think.”  Now, please understand that I am not trying to glorify myself or my own strength!  Sheila, in the flesh, had no bucket from which to draw water from the deep well of the life-altering trauma the stroke had brought into our lives. 

However, as 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, “I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me…when I am weak THEN I am strong.  God’s power is made perfect in weakness.”

At this writing, we are 3 years, 2 months since the stroke.  We have traveled many miles–physically, emotionally and spiritually to the moon and back.  I have railed screaming, fists raised, at the heavens with the gut-wrenching wail, “WHY?!”  I have soaked my old carpet with tears wrought from an internal void I didn’t think would ever be filled.  I have looked out at the desert climate with eyes glazed over wanting desperately to go back to LBS (an acronym a friend lovingly tagged for “Life Before Stroke.”)  I have often wondered how we could continue living in this new reality.  Why did things have to change so drastically? 

And then, one day I realized that I was no longer just surviving.  We were no longer just recovering, or even the next phase, recuperating.  We were starting to live again, to dream, to laugh truly without the empty horror lurking behind the edges.  There is Life After Stroke.

There are still times when I wish Brian could be physically the big, bold, strong as an ox, football-player build of a man as he was before the stroke.  He still experiences deficiencies and weaknesses due to that blasted brain bleed.  The Lord has not YET fully restored his ability to play guitar or have the lightning quick reflexes normally contained in a functioning human hand.  Does that mean that I didn’t hear God about “full, complete restoration, better than new” in those first hours and days?  No!  One thing I have learned loudly and clearly: God’s timing is not my timing.  His ways are not my ways.  His thoughts are higher than my thoughts.  (Isaiah 55:10)  I believe now, as I have from the beginning, that the Lord could completely restore Brian in the fraction of a blink.  And He is. 

But it is a process to which Brian surrendered.   Numerous times I have had to surrender to the process as well. I have learned that the vows one says at a wedding ceremony can truly be put to the test through a traumatic health event.   Marriage is more than passion, financial agreement, success or even friendship.  It is a commitment.  And I’ve learned that when those stormy seas are navigated (only by the grace of God) the ensuing relationship is sweeter, deeper and stronger for having survived the battle. 

I’ve learned some things about myself, about God, and about others.

About God: He truly will never leave me or forsake me.  He is utterly and completely faithful and dependable.

About others:  We don’t really comprehend how people watch our lives, I think particularly those who claim to follow Jesus draw attention and inspection especially during crisis.  People in this world are desperate for hope. Desperate for truth.  Our stories can be used to encourage others in ways we will never know. 

About myself:  oftentimes in my life I think I’ve been characterized as a princess (and not the flattering meaning of the word.). Too often I have escaped hard work and have perhaps appeared as though I had more than my share of blessings.  But through this process I learned that when the rubber hits the road, true character comes out.  What my parents and God poured into me over the years came out.  I’m stronger than I think. 

For many years, my worst fear in life was losing Brian to death.  Now I know that regardless of what happens in this lifetime, my Jesus truly does hold me firm.  He will never let go.  Therefore, despite the moments when I don’t think I can continue to draw breath, I will breathe.  Because He is the very breath of life. He, not Brian, is my life, my sustainer, my Provider, my Hope.

HOW AM I MORE LIKE JESUS FROM THIS EXPERIENCE?

Wow.  I’d have to say the main character trait I see He’s developed in me is in the area of being a servant.  Not a doormat.  Not a slave.  But in considering others’ needs above my own.  Servanthood was not a badge I was desiring.  Except that Jesus desires it for me.  Commands it actually.

 I fail miserably. Often.  Repeatedly.  I serve at times looking gracious on the outside but seething on the inside.  Or I serve seething on the outside and whining on the inside.  Or at times I actually find that I am serving in joy.  Must be His joy.  Wow.  Ok.  Thank you Jesus. 

How could I actually even consider saying that I don’t regret the stroke? Because my husband has become an even more amazing man.  And who he is spiritually today would not have existed without that sub arachnoid hematoma which occurred July 10, 2014.   The journey we have walked has shaped us and allowed us to minister to others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) There are SO many experiences, people, insights, impressions, miracles, blessings, friendships, revelations we would have missed if this pathway had not been presented to us.

There have been hours of emotional pain, free-falling somersaults during which I felt like my heart was on fire ready to explode…or implode.  However, because I was able to face the grief, feel the pain and navigate the pain with the Lord, I’ve been able to enter into others’ grieving to offer an ear, a hug, or a prayer. This I see as an amazing gift gained.  Life isn’t fair, and it’s not easy.  Even as Christians, we are not promised a life without pain. (John 16:33). But we are promised an abundant life because Jesus overcame the world.  That means he overcame weakness.  And death.  And pain.  And grief.  And strokes. 

Sheila Lloyd, excerpt from her book, It’s OK! I Had a Stroke, released May 2019 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Contact info: sheilalloydlive2@yahoo.com, Facebook discussion page titled, “It’s OK! I Had a Stroke.” Website: http://sheilalloydlive.com/
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The Faith that Endures – a devotional

Editor’s Note: This is a guest submission from Agnes Amos-Coleman, who just writes the best devos for us! Thank you Agnes!

My friends, I don’t know about you but there are times in my journey of faith when the journey just gets hard and I think, it is extremely difficult to make it through the day as a Christ follower.  It is during these times that the word of God in James 1:2-3 provides strength “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance”.

As we grow in Christ, our faith will be tested. However, these tests will make us better and stronger people but most importantly, we will be a living testimony for others to see.  Most people will never set foot in church but our enduring faith is what will draw them to the God we serve.

Living out a faith that endures daily means walking in an intentional mindset that:

  • Trust in God to help us persevere – It is impossible to walk this journey of faith without the help of the Holy Spirit.  With His help, we can make the right choices in our words, action and deeds when the journey gets tough.
  • Chooses to identify with Christ – No matter the pressure from our personal and business relationships, we must never give up. 
  • Values the eternal perspective – We must fix our eyes on Jesus, the perfecter of our faith.  We are sojourners here on earth where everything is temporary.  However, as we look toward eternity, our affliction here pales in comparison to the reward that awaits us.

Christ follower, pray that God will give you a faith that endures till the end. If you are currently not a Christ follower, the blood that Jesus shed on the Cross of Calvary is for you – come and experience Him today.

All glory to God!

Agnes Amos-Coleman
Agnes is a leader with proven business acumen in a variety of industries. She holds an executive MBA from the University of Hull, United Kingdom, and is also a Certified Meeting Planner (CMP). She is the author of Transforming Business with Godly Governance: Nine Characteristics for Workplace Success; God Cares for Me in Every Season: Godly Insights for Singleness, Marriage and Divorce; The Provisions of God: Insights from a Cat Named Mascot, and  Weekly Insights for the Workplace: A Devotional for Christian Professionals
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Removing my Ego – a devotional

Editor’s Note: This is a guest submission by Rachel Erickson. Just read this one!!

My husband and I and our four kids live overseas in Indonesia as missionaries. Yesterday I was in the kitchen making breakfast when my husband asked for some papaya leaf tea. It is a tea we brew whenever we start to feel a sickness coming on. So I go to our papaya tree, pick a leaf, soak it in bleach water for 20 minutes, rinse it off, boil it for 20 minutes, drain it, pour it in a cup, mix it with some chocolate powder and stir it. Ta-da! Done. I set it on the counter for him. Later I noticed that he never drank it.

I got all upset and blew some steam as I declared my frustration to the entire family. There are many healthy ways I could have done this but I chose the “yell and spew” method.
 
After awhile, I sat down to do my devotions and was reading in Acts 1:24 where the eleven disciples were praying to God to show them what man should be the twelfth. Their prayer started out with this sentence-“Lord, you know everyone’s heart.”
 
I stopped. Those are powerful words. Everyone’s heart including mine. God knows my heart. And He knows all the angry words I proclaimed earlier. What is it with me? I seem to keep falling into the same ruts.  And the ruts are deeply lined with one word- “Me. Me. Me.” 
 
I sat there and recalled example after example where I clearly only thought of myself. Where I was pushing my agenda, declaring my thoughts and not giving consideration for anyone else.
 
I wish there was a plug to pull or a tab to open to deflate “self”. It’s big and bulky and takes over the room. Often it’s hard to see what else is around me because this large air-filled mass is floating by.
 
Oh. A kind word spoken in the corner. A struggling attempt by another to share their opinion. A forgotten soul alone at the table. I missed it all. Just pushing “me” into the room head first yelling, “Don’t miss me everybody. Don’t forget to stop and listen to my opinion. And make sure you work hard to do things my way. Because when it all comes down to it, I matter more than you.”
 
Seriously? Enough of that! Who died and left me in charge? Yeah, no one. It’s time to deflate this ego. Let the air out of this massive head. Stop walking into a room head first, or mouth first. I have importance, but I am not the most important. My opinion matters, but it’s not the only one that should be heard.
 
Removing this ego stacked air allows me more room for things like understanding and compassion, gentleness, and forgiveness. And a shift of perspective. It changes my inward focus upward. Instead of demanding attention on me, I can draw attention to Him. My inflated self- proclaiming mass can become an arrow pointing to the one that truly matters, the One who gives me importance.
 
The One, the only One, who is truly worth it.

My name is Rachel Erickson. My husband and I and our four children have been missionaries in Indonesia since 2007.  We are Hostel parents for an International school in the area. My loves include cooking, gardening, reading, writing, all things family, and telling everyone that will listen what God is teaching me!

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Joyfully Abandoned – a devotional

Editor’s note: This is a guest submission by Ann Grace. She has shared her story before – most recently here. Today’s devotional may be hard to get through as it’s very emotional, but powerful. Thank you, Ann.

Is it even possible to be joyful in the midst of feeling abandoned? My life has been filled with my share of feeling abandoned and lonely but these days, I’m once again experiencing it again. My husband of 1 year has left us. No contact. No “I love you”.

Nothing. It’s been almost two weeks of pure grief not knowing whether he will come back or file for divorce. I’m angry. I’m confused and just plain heartbroken. You know, I look back and can say that being widowed at 31 was easier than this! During these hard days, I’m finding rest in my Savior’s arms. I never thought in a million years that I’d have to experience such grief again. The sad part is watching our 5 children relive their “Dad” leaving them. Oh, how my heart aches for their lack of understanding in this fragile situation. Is there joy to experience in this valley of the shadow of death?

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6–9

After reading this scripture, I’m comforted to know that joy and grief go hand in and. A great example that came to my mind is of my own experiences of child birth. Right now, I am 7 months pregnant and am dreading in some way the day I have to actually go through labor but am joyful knowing that it will all be worth it once I see the beautiful boy the Lord has blessed me with. I can’t see the it now, but I rest knowing it’s coming!

Whatever situation you are in, I know its tough. It’s hard to stay focused on the Lord and trust Him with all your heart… It’s hard to feel comforted by what feels like an “invisible God” when you just need desperately a strong embrace… I know its easier to be upset and fall into a pity party for ourselves but God doesn’t want us to stay there. Of course, He’s not shocked by our emotions and reactions in our trials but we must remember that dwelling on them no longer produces joy. Joy doesn’t have to be smiles and laughter though…It’s ok to have tears, righteous anger and passionate conversations with our Savior. In fact, our Lord wants us to come boldly to His throne and tell Him how we feel and what we are struggling with. But, then He wants us to surrender them ALL, not some, not most, but ALL at His feet. Geez, that’s the hard part. I should know, but I’m telling you, fear and worry will only grow if we choose to hold on to them. They will destroy us! As believers in Christ, we must remember that the Lord is in control of our lives and He promises to carry our burdens on His shoulders while giving us rest. And boy do I need
rest!

“ Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

I pray that we surrender our lives to our Heavenly Father today and let him be our Savior. You may not know how to let go of your fears and pain but simply praying and asking the Lord’s help is the first step. It may take some time to actually change our habits of wanting to worry but don’t give up! The Lord is faithful and He will not abandon us. Hevwill be our husband, lover and father if we let Him.

He will hold us close and carry us when all we hear is silence.

Psalm 68:5 ESV
“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”
So when you feel beat down and abandoned, trust Christ with your heart and life and He will, in His perfect timing, make everything new.

“And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’” Revelation 21:5 ESV

 I am not a blogger, professional writer, photographer or foodie. I’m simply a mother of five (soon to be six) who has walked a road of grief after losing a husband and baby. I continue to encounter a Lord who is faithful. My desire is for others to know Him like I do and let Him be glorified in all I do say and do.
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Spiritual Self-Evaluation

Spiritual Self-Evaluation

Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by contributor Agnes Amos-Coleman. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely been in a position to do some spiritual self-evaluation lately!

My friends, whether you are employed, unemployed, own your own business or retired – you have probably been involved in some sort of performance evaluation, or self-evaluation of how you think you have performed during a given period.

Our Christian walk is no exception. As the year winds down, there is no better time than now, to conduct a spiritual self- evaluation of our walk with the Lord. If we are not doing so well, reset and start again because we serve a God that is gracious and merciful.

After spiritual evaluation comes a renewed focus to live for Christ.  How, you may ask?  The answer lies in the following:

  • Remembering the God that is head over heels in love with us– (John 3:16) reminds us of this great love that led Him to give His Only Son Jesus to die for us so we do not perish but have eternal life. This thought should give us great focus to live for Him and for the joy of eternity that awaits us.
  • Remembering who the source of our existence is – (Acts 17:28) always gives me great comfort knowing that we live, move and have our being in Him. It will help us to live and do right for Jesus, knowing that we are His children and He is there with us and for us.
  • Remembering to share the love of Jesus with others – (2 Peter 3:9) reminds us that it is not His wish that anyone should perish, but for everyone to come to repentance. We owe it to our circle of influence to share this love with them. We do so by our actions, attitudes, and behavior.  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”. Matthew 5:16.

Christ follower, choose to live for Jesus.  If you are currently not a Christ follower, don’t wait another day, Jesus is calling – come

All glory to God!


Agnes Amos-ColemanAgnes is a leader with proven business acumen in a variety of industries. She holds an executive MBA from the University of Hull, United Kingdom, and is also a Certified Meeting Planner (CMP). She is the author of Transforming Business with Godly Governance: Nine Characteristics for Workplace Success; God Cares for Me in Every Season: Godly Insights for Singleness, Marriage and Divorce; The Provisions of God: Insights from a Cat Named Mascot, and  Weekly Insights for the Workplace: A Devotional for Christian Professionals

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Storms of Life

devotional diva

Storms of Life

Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by contributor Holly McConnell. I love this quote: “Allow Jesus to shine in your dark times even in the midst of your storm. He is there! And he is doing BIG things!” AMEN!

Have you ever been caught in a lightning or thunderstorm at the beach? It can be beautiful and terrifying at the same time. One minute the sky is dark and then lightning strikes. It creates a bright sky with the ocean in the background responding with powerful waves. It’s God’s beauty and power and it can be hard to watch when the storm becomes more than we can handle or becomes bigger than us. But it is also hard to take our eyes off of.

Storms of life! We face many different challenges. Some that knock us off our feet and others that prepare us for what is to come. Some aren’t so bad and sometimes in the end they turn out beautiful or we find beauty. However, they can also leave us broken, destroyed, and sometimes ruined.  Just like any storm…damage happens! So, what do we do when we enter a season of life with storms? 

We embrace our Father, cling to HIS word, rely on him to provide us with the tools we need, and ultimately TRUST HIM. Now, is this easy? No!!! In times of trial and hardships we like to think we can do it ourselves. However, this always ends up creating more problems and usually more emotions. We can’t do this alone and we were never intended too! I hear this phrase spoken a lot from people, “If God loved us he wouldn’t have let this happen”. Well, let’s talk! This is totally NOT true.

In Romans 5:3-5 ESV:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We suffer and go through stuff because of sin. We were born sinful, dirty. And God allows us to go through these things, BUT he is going to produce something in us. And it’s going to give us endurance, character, and a hope. Our sufferings are not caused by God. We make our own decisions, which lead us to these sufferings. He already knows what is going to happen, but he allows us to learn and build ourselves through these storms of life. I know we don’t want bad things to happen, but we want to grow closer and stronger in him. So, sometimes we have to go through the tough, dark times. 

I have been suffering with a pain for over a year. Doctors can’t seem to pin point a cause. I have prayed, prayed, and prayed some more. I have gotten upset, cried, and still don’t understand why? BUT, God is building me and forming me. He is using this to help me understand. We all go through things, but I’m using it and producing something in you. 

Yes, we’re going to get boo-boos and yes we’re going to have accidents and problems, BUT God is still at work and is preparing us. Creating something new within us. 

Storms of life are going to be hard. There are going to be days that test you, hurt you, and completely change you. These might even turn into days, months, years. But God has us! And he is building something in us. Your story, your testimony, it speaks wisdom and shows who God is and what he can do when we give ourselves to him. We must share our battles, storms, hardships….whatever you want to call them! Even if you’re in the midst of one. Share your heart with others so they can see what work God is doing. 

In Psalms 107:29 ESV, He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. This applies to us. He can make the storm be still because HE is in control. Pray for God to reveal his will, to help you to understand, and to prepare your heart for this time or season you are going through or might go through. God has you and whatever you are going through. It might get dark and it might seem like no light is around… but think about the storm at the beach. The lightning filled the sky and produced light. We are never alone. He is the light that is needed and given. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5 ESV

Allow Jesus to shine in your dark times even in the midst of your storm. He is there! And he is doing BIG things! 


Holly McConnell is from Northeast Tennessee where she resides with her husband and two kids. She serves in her church as the women’s ministry leader and assistant youth director. She writes weekly on her blog at www.honestmom87.com about connecting scripture and words from God to mom life, adventures, and battles that she personally faces. Instagram @hollymcconnell87


Thanks for reading! Blog comments are closed. You can follow Devotional Diva on Facebook here, on Instagram here @devotional_diva, on Twitter here @devotionaldiva and email me, Maggie, at editor(at)devotionaldiva(dot)com anytime. If you’d like to join our email list to receive new posts, please follow this link.

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Show Me Your Fruit

Show me your fruit

Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by contributor Agnes Coleman. See Agnes’ last post for Devotional Diva, Say No to Crises.

If you had asked me this question few years ago, I would have looked at you like a deer in the headlights.  For those of you who are not familiar with this expression – it means caught in a state of surprise.  I was raised in a Christian home and thought I did the right things but didn’t know I had to bear fruit.

So, what does it mean to bear fruit?  I am glad you asked because the word of God gave us a clear definition in (Galatians 5:22-23) of what it means – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”.

As I reexamine my Christian walk with this definition in mind, I realized how ignorant I was and knew that I had to start by asking for forgiveness of my sins and choose to intentionally begin the process of bearing fruit with the help of the Holy Spirit.  I am not there yet, but I am not where I use to be – praise God!

My friends, there are 3 areas that Satan uses to hinder us from bearing fruits – the lust of the flesh; eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).  However, to live a victorious life, we must:

  • Daily choose to do life God’s way – By evaluating and bridging the gap between God’s way and Satan’s way.
  • Be embracing people – Loving what God loves and hating what God hates in His word.
  • Pursue God’s purpose for our life – Call to salvation; spiritual growth and call to serve others.

Christ follower, pray that the Holy Spirt will ignite in your heart a passion for bearing fruit. If you are currently not a Christ follower, Jesus loves you – come and experience Him today.

All glory to God!


Agnes Amos-Coleman

Agnes is a leader with proven business acumen in a variety of industries. She holds an executive MBA from the University of Hull, United Kingdom, and is also a Certified Meeting Planner (CMP). She is the author of Transforming Business with Godly Governance: Nine Characteristics for Workplace Success; God Cares for Me in Every Season: Godly Insights for Singleness, Marriage and Divorce; The Provisions of God: Insights from a Cat Named Mascot, and  Weekly Insights for the Workplace: A Devotional for Christian Professionals

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Devotional Diva Turns 10!

On July 15, 2008, founder Renee Johnson (now Renee Fisher) wrote on Facebook that her work was cut out for her thanks to her coach. That was the day DevotionalDiva.com was born!

Editor’s Note: I asked Renee to share a note on the anniversary of Devotional Diva turning ten! Here is her letter:

It was my (Renee’s) dream to become a published author, and my coach, Marcia Ramsland, suggested I use DevotionalDiva.com as my website and brand because I had already blogged hundreds of devotionals.

I worked hard to launch the website in September and bought the trademark. Within a few short months, I had a literary agent and a publisher for my first book, a 365-daily devotional for 20-somethings entitled Faithbook of Jesus.

My first book sold so well that I was offered a second contract from NavPress. Then the economy tanked and my contract was canceled. I had no idea what God was up to or what might come next.

Another dream of mine came true, In 2011, I married a wonderful man and God gave me a new identity, and not just because of my new last name. He called me “Peaceful” despite my health issues of anxiety and severe eczema. 

What started out as one woman bravely sharing her story of overcoming incredible odds became a mantra to spur others forward to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).

I had no idea that God would use my voice to empower hundreds of women to share their story so they too could be set free. 

It was such a comfort for me to create an online platform that encouraged women to share their joys as well as their sufferings. I loved inviting women, as well as being asked by many women for the opportunity to share their story. 

When Devotional Diva® took on a life of its own, I knew it was time to pass the baton to the next generation. It was never mine, to begin with. I was just the steward!

I met Maggie Winterton at the San Diego Christian Writers Guild in 2013 when she asked if she could share her story. Her courage to talk openly about her trials and tribulations inspired me.

The next year, I felt called to step down as Editor-in-Chief.

After Maggie saw my original decision to end Devotional Diva, she felt God compelling her to email me and offer to help keep DD up. 

If it wasn’t for Maggie’s courage once more, Devotional Diva® would have ended.

It felt like an Abraham moment when God asked me to sacrifice my baby. Not only was Maggie the only person to ask me, she now owns the website and the trademark. This is a relief to me because I am no longer a devotional writer. I help women self-publish their stories with the world on my website here. I don’t have enough words to say thank you to the many women, including Maggie herself who bravely shared and will continue to share their story. 

The bravest thing we can do is to use the voice God gave us to speak up and share from the heart. To be open about all the things. 


renee fisher

Renee Fisher is an author, coach and consultant who recently launched a full-service creative agency for authors. She is passionate about defending dreams and spurring others forward to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). #DreamDefender. Renee is a BIG fan of glitter, a graduate of Biola University and lives in Austin, Texas with her handsome husband and their fur child named “Starfish.”

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Grace for the Least of Us (Especially Me)

grace

Grace For the Least of Us – Especially Me

Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by Heather Ream. This is SUCH a powerful message about grace. Thanks, Heather!

When I was 10 years old, our church hosted their first Halloween event.  Unsuspecting patrons, thinking they were touring a run-of-the-mill haunted house, were shown the horrors of hell and what awaited us in eternity unless we accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation.  As people finished the tour, they were given the opportunity to learn more about the Lord.  Some found it so moving, they became saved that very night.

One of those people was my cousin, a popular, charismatic kid who was already getting into trouble in and away from school, despite the fact that he was well-loved and had ample opportunities for success.  I adored him, but I didn’t understand how he could act so bad yet still supposedly feel remorse for his sin.  I also didn’t understand why my mom was breathless with joy about him.  “He’s part of the Lord’s family now, Heather!  And he always will be!” she had exclaimed.  My cousin was already a favorite in our family and in our school.  And now he could act the way he did and still be loved by Jesus, too?  I was pea-green with envy.

As adults, my cousin and I took wildly different paths.  I was blessed with a wonderful husband and found deep spiritual satisfaction serving my community – a “decent” woman by most accounts, with a reputation for helping others without being asked.  My cousin, however, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for drug manufacturing – after he had already served 7 years for aggravated robbery. 

Throughout my life, my mother continually defended my cousin’s adolescent spiritual epiphany.  Several years ago, he wrote a touching poem about needing God’s protection in jail and mailed it to her.  She framed his poem and displayed it proudly.  “Give me a break,” I told her, “Don’t you realize that he only seems to love God when he’s up for parole?”  I wasn’t having it. 

“I can’t prove what’s in his heart, Heather,” she said, “but I believe him when he says he is saved.”

Late last year, things began to change with Mom.  She became more impulsive, argumentative, and just plain rude.  I had always enjoyed debating her on the finer points of theology, but suddenly her counterpoints completely deviated from Scripture.  Eventually, she withdrew from discussion altogether.  This baffled and irritated me, as she was cornerstone in my own Christian walk.  When we received the diagnosis of vascular dementia, however, I was relieved.  I now understood she had a broken brain, not a change of heart.  But I still wasn’t prepared for the emotional upheaval the diagnosis unleashed.

“God hates me,” she began telling me over and over. “He did this to punish me.”  Sometimes her tone was self-pitying, sometimes it had a streak of nastiness.  No matter how many ways I calmly explained that this wasn’t the case, she would not or could believe me.  No matter how many times I prayed with her or reminded her of her favorite Bible stories or examples of God’s provision in her life, she would not or could not believe me.

She has developed a reputation of being a difficult patient in her nursing home.  While the staff understands her diagnosis, there is also evidence that her some of her behavior is intentional.  Yet, I often spend time with her nurses, pleading her case.  I guess what I’m saying is, I can’t prove what’s in her heart, but I believe her when she says she was saved. 

I believe her because I still have the memories of every time she sacrificed her own well-being for her children.  I remember the feeling of being loved by her, often deficiently but no doubt constantly.  I remember her prayers on my behalf, her encouragement of me to use my God-given talents boundlessly.  I believe it because I know it. 

No doubt she believes the same thing about my cousin. 

That’s not to say that I definitely know what’s in anyone’s heart.  Those thoughts are visible only to the Author of All.  But if I truly believe that God’s grace applies to those who call on His name with repentance, even imperfectly, then I have to believe that she may be right about him. 

Limitless grace is not a license to sin, nor is it a blanket eternal pardon for those who do not know Jesus. 

It is instead a priceless, undeserved gift of a patient Creator.  After all, when does grace expire?  Is it after my mother’s purposeful refusal of medication for the 3rd time, or the 4th?  Does it perhaps expire on a thin mattress when an inmate lies in the dark, planning for his survival?  Is it reinstated after a beautiful poem?  Did grace exist for me when I jealously dismissed my cousin’s conversion?  Was it retroactively applied when I walked the long Baptist aisle at age 11 and told my pastor I wanted to be saved?

The truth is, grace either works for every Christian or for no Christian. 

Otherwise, we may spend our days only doling out love and forgiveness for the kind of repentance that looks “right.”  If I believe what the Bible teaches, then I must change my petty, myopic view of grace.  If I don’t, I’m merely a pardoned offender, serving a self-imposed sentence in a prison cell that was unlocked long ago.


Heather Ream is an emerging writer from Knoxville, Tennessee.  The Lord blessed her with an incredible husband, Ben, and a joyful desire to serve others in her community.  You can follow her East Tennessee adventures at www.runningtowardthefire.blogspot.com.  

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Life is Chaos

Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by Monica Braun. Love this mom life devotional! Thanks, Monica!

Life is chaos.

I am a working mother to a 15-month-old, my son named Danny.  I am pregnant, and expecting in July. Let’s just say that our lives are a little, um, messy.

The kitchen is usually disheveled. Dishes and sippy cups are consistently piled in the sink. The dishwasher is full on most days from making dinner and cleaning it up and doing it all over again the next evening. 

The leftovers from my grandma’s pasta recipe that I made are dripping all over the oven and the delicious red sauce is oozing all over little Danny’s face.

There are permanent crumbs on the floor, which resemble dried pasta. They seem to be painted on the carpet under the highchair where Danny eats.

When he is not in his high chair, he is crawling on the floor trying to eat his leftover dinner.

He must have really liked that pasta.

As such, sweeping and vacuuming have been added to the never-ending to-do list.

And the pacifier. As soon as I give it to him to appease him, he swiftly throws it on the floor, forcing me to make several trips to the sink every day to sanitize it. It seems as though what is ‘pacifying’ him is making a game out of his ‘pacifier.’

I remind myself that he is not trying to make me run laps around my house on purpose.  

Not to mention the new baby gear scattered all around the house

as we prepare and welcome home another little bundle of joy. The new baby bottles, pacifiers, and breast pump parts are scattered on the counter, waiting to be washed and used for baby number two. 

And then there is the laundry that needs to be washed. All. The. Time.

The list of chores makes me want to throw in my dishtowel, crawl upstairs in bed, and forget the chaos that ensues around me.

I feel helpless, overwhelmed, frustrated.

And that friend who texted me last week? I forgot to call her back because I was so busy.

How I miss the long conversations over wine that we used to have.

It seems like no matter how much we clean the house or try to check off our never-ending to-do lists, we just cannot catch up. Ever.

Is this a cruel cycle of events? Like a video game determined for us to fail at the end?

And are we supposed to win this game?

Life is messy. Relationships are messy. We are inherently flawed.

Before I throw in my dishtowel, I consider that we are not supposed to do it all or have it all together. If that were the case, would we need God?

Jesus said, “Come to me all ye that are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.

Jesus is our refuge and our rock. He wants to take all of the burdens from us, big and small. So, instead of trying to control our messy lives, we should try to surrender it to Him.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we should sit lazily on the couch as the leftover pasta dinner dries on the floor, but it does take the pressure off of having to be perfect.

Jesus doesn’t want us to be perfect. He doesn’t want our lives to be wrapped up in a tidy little box with a bow on top. He wants us to embrace the chaos of life: the joys, the sorrows, the unpredictable turn of events. He wants us to be present in these moments as we trust in Him. Because this is life, and life is messy. Along with our house. 

As we embrace the chaos, joy abounds.

So when I have an urge to clean sporadically or feel guilty about an unanswered text from a friend, I try to shrug it off, embrace the chaos, and hold on during this wild ride called life.

No matter where the ride leads us next, Jesus will be there to help us land safely. We cannot lose the game with Him by our side. Victory has already been won for us.



Monica Braun has a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University and a master’s in education from Aquinas College. She teaches High School English in Racine, Wisconsin, and is an aspiring writer. She has one son and is expecting another! She is a follower of Jesus Christ. (picture is attached below).Facebook: @embracingjesus Twitter: @monicambraun 

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