God Likes You! (+Giveaway!)

god likes you devotional diva sandi krakowski bemore

[Guest post by Sandi Krakowski: This is an excerpt from Sandi’s book #BEMORE. I picked out this section to share with you because I think it’s important to remember that truly, God likes you!]

Your thought for today: God not only loves you, He likes you.

He doesn’t look at us as sinful, disgusting people, but as tender children He loves and adores. After all, He sent Jesus to give us all we need and to fix our mess. He’s not mad at us! He is for us, not against us. He delights to give good gifts.

Yes, He has feelings and is hurt very deeply when we ignore Him. His greatest desire is to see us live in favor, grace, peace, and power. It is important to him that we know how much He cares about every single thing, every detail of our lives.

He created us with all the love he has in Him and though we may disappoint him, it’s not about getting angry. He just wants the best for us, and when we take our eyes off of Him, we make it difficult for Him to lead us to the abundance He has set aside for us.

I truly believe that one of our deepest needs is not only to be loved but also to be liked. The reality of our relationships is that we can absolutely love someone while not really liking them. You see, loving someone is a deep and abiding thing that allows us to have care and concern for their well-being. It is what keeps us connected. But, liking someone means that even with their flaws we enjoy spending time with them. We seek out their company and find our interactions with them rewarding and enriching.

It is possible to love your sibling who has brought pain to the family and dislike their behavior and life choices. In those cases, we don’t really get enjoyment out of spending time with them. On the flip side, we can like the coworker we have lunch with every day or our college roommate who is a lot of fun without ever developing feelings of love toward them.

When we get to like the person we love, it creates a whole other dimension to the relationship. The things you do together mean more because you like and love one another.

The great news is that God doesn’t just love you because he loves all of His creation unconditionally. He really and truly likes you, too. He went to great effort to create someone very special and you mean a lot to Him.

Stop listening to those who do not teach the true nature of God and who are controlling, scaring, and threatening people into submission. This is a tactic of the enemy to keep us from fulfilling our purpose. Keeping us afraid of God prevents us from seeking Him and His guidance for our lives.

The enemy knows that with one glimpse of the deep, deep love of God all the darkness begins to disappear. It’s absolutely amazing what happens when one human being realizes they are loved by God and He’s not mad at them.

When you know this truth, no matter what happens in your life, you can take comfort in the knowledge that God is on your side. My friends, this is the key to BE MORE.

This is an excerpt from Sandi Krakowski’s best selling book, #BEMORE: 77 Secrets To Your Powerful Life. You can order that here: http://TheBeMoreBook.com Used with permission, all rights reserved.

I’m giving away a copy of #BEMORE to the Divas!

All you need to do to enter is answer a question in the Rafflecopter widget below. This giveaway is US-only and will run for one week. I will contact the winner.

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Sandi Krakowskisandi krakowski on devotional diva is a popular social media influencer, author and speaker who is passionate about teaching how faith works in the workplace, and how that alliance can effectively help anyone run a successful business and have an incredible, meaningful life. Sandi has spent more than two decades working successfully in online marketing and business development. A noted Facebook marketing expert, she was named by Forbes as a “Top 20 Online Marketing Influencers of 2014,” “Top 20 Women Social Media Influencer” and a “Top 50 Social Media Power Influencer.” She has helped build 11 notable companies by utilizing her experience in eCommerce, Internet marketing, direct response marketing, publishing, book creation, copywriting, sales and management, team development and leadership.

Disclaimer: I recieved a free copy of #BEMORE so that I could pick out an excerpt to share with you!

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Fighting for Bud: An Update

fighting devotional diva

[Guest post by Jenee Day: About a month ago, Jenee shared with us why she was writing to distract herself. Here is an update on her son Bud’s health and how she is fighting for him.]

Some of the most difficult times in my life as a mother are when my children are sick.  The emotions that come along with nurturing our little ones are various and deep.  Helplessness, sadness, confusion, hope and determination are just a few of the feelings my husband and I have experienced recently.

As Bud was admitted to the hospital again last week, we held on to each other and to our faith.

I have a tank top that I wear to the gym that says “Lover Not a Fighter” on the front of it.  That’s me in a nutshell.  I don’t like to argue and avoid confrontation at all costs.  In fact, my dad’s nickname for me as a child was “Peacemaker.”  

In the last few months, however, I have fought like a champion boxer.

I have fought to get my son seen by a good doctor, fought for someone to believe that something was wrong, fought to get tests run.  I have fought doctors about his treatment and fought nurses over torturous procedures.  My heart has been ripped apart, watching him scream and wail in pain, then plead with anyone who would listen to “please stop it.  Please stop hurting me.” 

The “Rocky” films are some of my favorite movies of all time.  I enjoy the underdog and hero story, the man with so much heart who fights against the odds and emerges victorious.  As a matter of fact, when Bud was born, my husband gave me a card and signed it, “Yo, we did it!”

If I am Rocky in this scenario, then God is my trainer, my Mickey.  He can see the whole fight and he helps me navigate each attack.  He coaches me, teaches me, corrects my form and sometimes shouts at me to focus and keep moving forward.

Honestly, there is no other time in my life that I remember being in the ring so much.   I feel like I have gone from pacifist to competing in the World Heavyweight Championship, with no preparation or training in between.  Thankfully, God is using this battle for my good and his glory.  How do I know?  First, his word says so. [Romans 8:28]  Beyond that, I know quite simply because I am still standing. That would not be possible if not for God and his presence during all of this. 

During his five days in the hospital, Bud endured several IV insertions, countless painful blood draws (and unfortunately many failed attempts), an EKG, an MRI, and even a spinal tap. Waiting to see him after the spinal tap procedure, I fought the urge to panic, fought to have faith that God’s might hand was on my boy.

In this time of waiting and suffering, I fought with mighty effort the urge to weep.  I fought to keep Bud calm and I fought my own fears and doubts.  I fought (and lost a few times) the temptation to lash out at loved ones asking for information.  Round after round, I fought.

Most of the time I sat in Bud’s hospital bed with him, watching cartoons or napping.  My sweet husband was with us whenever his work schedule allowed it, sleeping in the uncomfortable non-reclining recliner to my right.  I took advantage of his being there, making the short drive home to shower and pick up anything Bud might need.

When I was alone in the car, I prayed.  Not with words as much as with tears, but I did the best I could.  I offered my heart to God, gave him my pain and anxiety, begged for restoration and healing.  Then I dried my eyes, drove to the hospital, and steeled myself for the next round of tests.

Currently, we do not have a solid diagnosis.  We are working with an oncologist who has done research into mitochondrial and metabolic disorders.  Right now, his best guess is something called Pyruvate Carboxylase Deficiency.  If I had to explain it, I would fail.  All we know so far are the basics: it is genetic, it is rare, and while possibly treatable, it is not curable.  (Again, this is not a firm diagnosis.)

At the end of a boxing match, a loud bell rings, signaling to fighters and spectators that the fight has ended.  We still have not heard our bell.  The time for fighting is not over.  In this time of hardship, we are training and being taught by our creator to endure and to rely on him.

I do not feel prepared, and most days I do not want to get into the ring again.  However I am encouraged by the truth that the enemy can never knock me out, and by the promise that this will work out for my good and his glory.  I am honored to be God’s prize fighter.

Romans 8:28 [NASB] And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.

Jenee Day on Devotional DivaJenee Day is a freelance writer and researcher and published poet. A member of the Spiritual Writer’s Association, she has written for textbroker.com and various regional publications.  She lives in Alabama with her husband and two kids, and her heart belongs to Jesus.

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Writing to Distract

writing to distract jenee day on devotional diva[Guest post by Jenee Day: Previously, Jenee wrote for Devotional Diva on the topic of gossip. Today, she shares why she’s writing to distract herself. We’re praying for your family, Jenee!]

 

I am writing this to distract myself.

Waiting is not something I have ever been good at, and today I wait for a phone call that may literally change my families’ lives forever.

Bud is just 5 years old now, and he is the light of our lives.  Handsome and silly, sometimes quiet and others completely rambunctious, he is generous with his kisses and with his desserts.  Bud is everything I ever hoped my child would be.

And now… my son is sick.  My perfect, sweet, smart, beautiful boy, is battling some illness that has yet to be diagnosed.  Right now I am sitting on the floor of our living room, crying and typing while he naps.

How did we get here?  In the past year, Bud has had several episodes that we have come to describe as normal for him:  Fever, paleness, vomiting, night sweats, loss of appetite, dehydration, weight loss, irritability and other vague symptoms.

Recently I brought Bud to our local Pediatric Emergency Room, suffering from one these episodes. I packed myself a bag, vowing not to leave the hospital until we got some answers about what is going on in his little body.

We were admitted immediately.  Within a couple of hours the nurses had him on IV fluids and had taken about 10 (no exaggeration) vials of his blood for testing.  We saw no less than half a dozen doctors over the next few days.  I vascillated between stoic and panic-stricken. I prayed.  I laid in the bed with Bud and endured more hours of “Spongebob Squarepants” than any parent should have to.

One phrase rolled around in my head throughout this ordeal.  It’s from the book of Matthew, chapter 8 (also found in Luke, chapter 7), the story of the Centurion who had great faith.  He had heard about Jesus’ great healing power and begged him to heal a servant in his household.  Jesus said “I will come and heal him”, to which the soldier replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my servant will be healed.”

Lord, I am not worthy to be in your holy presence, but only SAY THE WORD and he will be healed.

As the hours went by, I answered frightening questions about family history.  I heard words like “metabolic” and “mitochondrial”. Doctors and nurses came and went, sometimes offering comfort and other times speaking in hushed tones amongst themselves.  I tried to do my own research on the internet, but that only served to magnify my fears, so I stopped.   I stared at magazines.  I held Bud close to me and I and kissed his face.

I prayed before my husband arrived.  We prayed together over our son.  We praised God for his goodness and we thanked him for the doctors and nurses working so hard to heal our precious baby.   Mostly, we waited.

Neither of the possibilities is appealing.  Mitochondrial disease means that something is not working correctly on a very basic level – inside the cells in Bud’s body.  According to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation website, mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90% of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth. When they fail, less and less energy is generated within the cell. Cell injury and even cell death follow.

On the other hand, metabolic disease means that Bud’s little body has difficulty breaking down certain substances (carbohydrates, fat, nitrogen) to use for energy.  These types of diseases are inherited, and it’s likely that my husband or myself (or both) carry the defective gene and we passed it on to our son.  Mild forms can be treated with supplements, while others have no defined treatment.

Finally, we were released to our home awaiting test results.

We immediately went into “make it feel normal” mode, starting with a bubble bath for Bud and some cartoons in warm fuzzy pj’s.

I washed everything that smelled like hospital and cooked a big dinner.  We all sat together and loved on each other .  Once Bud was asleep, I completely dissolved into a messy, blubbering heap. I wept and I prayed and my sobs interrupted my thoughts so often that I kept starting over, trying to plead with God, trying to understand what was happening.

At first, all this waiting seemed like a nightmare.  I am not a patient person anyway, and anyone who has sat more than one night in a hospital can attest to how mind-numbing it is.  But then I began to understand the work that God is doing in my heart.  I believe he has used these times when I have no choice but to be still, to draw me closer to him.

He has shown me truths about who he is, and who I am in him.

God has reminded me that:

  1. *He is in control.  In our lives, control is an illusion, and while I struggle to figure out how to fix this for my son, God wants me to rely on HIM in times of crisis.
  2. *He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all I ask or think (Eph. 3:20).  Or, as my husband would say, “Don’t put God in a box”.
  3. *He is growing my faith. Like the Centurion, I want to be able to approach my Savior and know confidently that if he only says the word, my son will have no more sickness.
  4. *I am not alone.  Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned in all this is that God has not left me to fend for myself.  He has been with me, listening to my prayers, speaking through friends, comforting me with recalled Scripture so that I might find rest in him.

So this is where I am today.  Frightened and uncertain, yes, but more and more at peace, thanks to God.  I do not know what will happen in two weeks, or in the weeks that follow.

But I do know the one who is already there, and I continue to rely on Him.

Prayers for Bud are, of course, greatly appreciated.

Jenee Day on Devotional DivaJenee Day is a freelance writer and researcher and published poet. A member of the Spiritual Writer’s Association, she has written for textbroker.com and various regional publications.  She lives in Alabama with her husband and two kids, and her heart belongs to Jesus.

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Called out of mourning to fall at His feet

called out of mourning on devotional diva christian blog grief loss[Guest post by Sarah Coleman: I’m so glad Sarah is back to share another story on Devotional Diva! I was so moved by her piece on mourning, and hope that it can encourage you, too.]

 

 

 

Women aren’t bullet-proof. We like to think we are. That nothing gets under our skin. But it does. There can be days, weeks, months, years when things hurt. Bad.

We live in a broken world. And broken things, break things. Hurting people, hurt people. Precious ones die. Love is lost. Sometimes babies slip away before ever being able to say, “Hello.”

Shattered. Completely shattered.

It can cut so deep you think you will never be happy again. That there will always be an ache in your heart, drowning out every gladness.

John 11 describes a time when Jesus visited a grieving family. Mary had just lost her brother to a terrible illness. When Jesus arrived, Mary stayed inside her home, mourning. In His beautiful way, Jesus gave Mary time. He let her express the full impact of sorrow.

I love that Jesus gave Mary space to mourn. He didn’t expect her to bounce back. He gave her that season.

You may feel emptiness, acute pain, numbness, despondency. Divorce, separation, death of a loved one, death of a child, miscarriage, even abuse, will do that. And that’s okay. God is giving you time. He provides space to lament, but He will also call you into healing.

The Master beckoned for Mary. She was not to mourn forever. When Mary heard that Jesus was calling her, she immediately left her house, and fell at His feet. At His feet, Mary found hope and healing. She encountered resurrection power. She exchanged grief for abundant joy.

When Jesus calls you out of mourning, fall at His feet. He is the resurrection and the life. He brings comfort and renewal. He will raise you back to life. He will revive your situation. He will restore your dreams. Come out of mourning. There is more for you to enjoy.

Revelation 5:5 But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Jesus is given many names in the Bible, but this is one of my favourites. Here, we see Jesus as He is. He was battered and bruised while on earth, but today He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Resurrected in glory. Ever victorious. Ever strong. Ever faithful.

Woman, stop weeping. There is victory in your circumstance. Jesus has overcome. Look to Him. Fall at his feet. Allow Him to breathe life into your being. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is here for you.

sarah-colemanI’m an Aussie passionate about Jesus & family. Through blogs and books I minister life and encouragement. Download my FREE eBook, Be Amazing: You Know You Want To. Find more of my thoughts atsarahcoleman.com.au

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I Must Be Perfect

i must be perfect perfectionism perfectionist rachel madden devotional diva[Guest post by Rachel Madden: I think Rachel’s story on perfectionism will really encourage some of you, especially those who struggle with being a “perfect mom.” Remember “I must be perfect” is just a lie!]

 

Psychology Today quotes, “For perfectionists, life is an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. A one-way ticket to unhappiness, perfectionism is typically accompanied by depression and eating disorders. What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure, so theirs is a negative orientation. And love isn’t a refuge; in fact, it feels way too conditional on performance.”

Please tell me this quotation strikes a chord with one of you as well, that you come dangerously close to connecting to this quotation as much as me. We started a sermon series titled “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire,” and the first lie uncovered was “I must be perfect.”

Thirty seconds into the sermon I knew I was in trouble.

Although I claim to be a “retired perfectionist,” it is a work in progress.

The topic of the day told me paying attention was essential and notes may be required. And if I hadn’t recognized this fact on my own, it was clear as my husband Chris continued to jab me in the side, saying, “This is you! This is you!”

Both of us had a child on our lap (11 month-old twins) and he had to take our son Miles to the cry room. That left me with the choice to take notes or continue to hold our daughter Norah. I’d like to think it’s the teacher in me (although more likely it’s the obsessive compulsion), but I chose to throw Norah to the curb, or somewhat pay attention to her on the floor, while I ferociously took notes.

Before you judge me, please know that bless her 11-month old heart she doesn’t crawl and can’t go from sitting to laying down on her own; therefore, Norah spent the service on the ground. For the church members who witnessed the borderline negligence, I told myself I was already breaking free of the “I must be a perfect” lie, specifically the “I must be a perfect mom.”

This sermon hit me so hard I specifically told the pastor after church that bullying was wrong and I didn’t appreciate being profiled.

We know human perfection isn’t real. We tell ourselves it doesn’t matter.

But for those of us who are challenged in this area, we may accept those truths for others, but not for ourselves.

For example, I don’t think Norah is any less of a person because she isn’t developmentally in the same place as Miles. Of course not; the thought doesn’t even cross my mind. And yet for most of us, especially perfectionists, the lie that we aren’t measuring up creeps in daily.  

It doesn’t matter if I ate a healthy lunch, I had a donut for breakfast. Who cares that I spent two hours playing with my kids earlier today? This afternoon I turned on the TV so I could catch up on work. Losing 10 pounds can’t be celebrated; I shouldn’t have gained weight in the first place; I’m so lazy. Or a current lie in my own life right now: So you nursed your twins 11 months? It doesn’t count if you don’t make it to the full year.

The lie that says striving for perfection means you’re hardworking and accomplished, a person worthy of love and happiness is all-consuming and paralyzing.

We put the pressure on ourselves because somehow being the best we can be at everything we do makes us…what? Good?

As Christians, we know this isn’t true. No matter how good we try to be on our own merits, it doesn’t change our need for God. If we could find perfection on our own, there would be no reason for Christ’s death and resurrection.

Sometimes I’m preoccupied attempting the “perfect life” because it somehow validates me as a person. Have your achievements ever taken precedent over what truly matters? For the perfectionists out there, it doesn’t mean you have to be okay with mediocrity. It doesn’t mean it’s time to lower your standards or become less passionate. But let’s intentionally choose not to measure our worth based on our performance and abilities.

In 2015, let’s stop carrying a validating performance record around – one that affirms us because of our achievements or accomplishments. As the Bible says in Romans, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Today, let’s celebrate this freedom and bask in His perfection alone.

rachel madden on devotional divaRachel Madden is a teacher, wife and mother of twins. She experienced a bout with bulimia in college and was later diagnosed with anxiety and depression. She started a blog in 2014 at crazyMADDENINGworld.com to share her story about motherhood and living a passionate, Christian life with mental illness.  

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A Story of Rediscovery

a story of rediscovery by erin marie shell on devotional diva[Guest post by Erin Marie Shell: This is a story of God’s love, a story of heartbreak and a story of rediscovery. Thanks for sharing, Erin!]

Exhausted after a full day of work, I arrived home late one night, opened the front door, and entered the darkness.  As I walked into the house, my heels clicked on the floor, greeting me with a very loud, unfamiliar echo. Without turning on the lights, I began to realize what had happened. 

After 11 years of marriage, he had moved out. The shock of an empty house left me reeling in confusion.  I was exhausted with life, exhausted with familiar feeling of not being good enough, exhausted with begging him to see me…really see me. 

As though life itself was being drained from my body, I sunk to the floor with my sleeping baby girl in my arms.

Physically, emotionally, mentally, with certainty, I knew that this would be the one that I could never overcome. Surely, this was the blow that would take me completely out. I cried for hours, and I lost track of time. There was no one I could call, there was no one who could understand.

The journey to this point had been traveled imperfectly by him and me alone. We were both responsible for what appeared to be a tragic failure.  I had given more than I had to give to a marriage that was never satisfied, a marriage that didn’t care if I suffered, a marriage that refused to justify our existence in it.

I felt dejected, fooled, and crushed with disappointment as I lay on the floor, my body heaving with every cry and breath.

But it was on that floor, in a single defining moment, that God met me, and gently picked up the shattered pieces of my spirit, shattered beyond my recognition.

He met me there, right where I was, and flooded my heart with His love.  Suddenly, I didn’t feel like I was alone – I was accompanied by a great, warm Presence. 

God reminded me that in my weakness, He was strong.  This was not an opportunity to give up on His abilities, instead, this was an opportunity to give up on my abilities.  I had to give up on the belief that I had to do it all by myself, that I was alone, and that I would fail.

This was my opportunity to let go, and allow Him to be God.  This was the beginning of my ultimate love-encounter with God.

I began to experience my love-encounter with God, beginning with my own personal meditation practice.  This was a time that I dedicated to listening, feeling and recording the knowledge and wisdom that God impressed upon my spirit in a delightful, soothing way.

Just as with anything you devote time and energy to, over time, I came into a deep knowledge of what I was studying – God and my Self.  As a result, I was restored, stronger, more radiantly than I can recall with any previous awareness.  This delivery of restoration reverberated throughout every aspect of my life, from my spirit and relationships, to my career, business, family, and ministry.

During this period of time, Beautiful Wild Free – Spiritual Healing for Women Rediscovering Themselves, was birthed.  Women began contacting me as they experienced the inevitable challenges of life, looking for answers.

“Why?” they asked, and as we engaged in conversation, I discovered that a process of rediscovery was a natural result of having been spiritually broken.  It doesn’t really matter what did the breaking – the loss of a child, a marriage, a relationship, health – it was simply the fact that there was a breaking that positioned them perfectly to embark upon a journey of restoration that would exceed any understanding of possibility or expectation.  

What would you do to discover peace, to wake up vibrant, to embody radiance that illuminates that life path that you’re walking?  At the base of all created things is an energy of love.

Love has the power to restore, create and enliven.

It takes more than just a knowledge of love to accomplish this, it actually takes a love-encounter.  An encounter with love brings you to your most authentic self, which is a gateway to true personal freedom. As you learn to love God, then to truly love yourself, you can then love others – even those who have purposefully committed severe acts of hurt and hate against your spirit.

This is where you find true peace and love, and where you learn to position yourself to receive what it is your spirit truly desires…to rejoice in the beauty of love, wildly, freely and with abandon. Beautiful.  Wild.  Free.

Erin Marie Shell on Devotional DivaErin Marie Shell, MBA is a passionate lover of Jesus Christ, bestselling author, compelling speaker and successful businesswoman whose life purpose is to help women achieve spiritual healing by coming into an intimate encounter with God’s love. She is the creator and spiritual catalyst of her women’s ministry Beautiful, Wild, Free: Spiritual Healing for Women Rediscovering Themselves.

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You've Got a Plan

you've got a plan by karsyn robb on devotional diva power of god healing christian song[Guest post by Karsyn Robb: Karsyn contacted me to share her beautiful song “You’ve Got a Plan,” and I was so excited to have a musical submission! Below is the story behind the song, followed by the video. Enjoy!]

 

At the end of my freshman year of college, two fellow students attempted to sexually assault me on my university’s campus. I was fortunate enough to be able to get away, but the trauma from that night nearly destroyed me.

For five months I kept what had happened a secret because I was terrified of how people would react once they found out.

It didn’t take long before the stress from it all took its toll causing me to briefly end up in the hospital. So by September, I knew I couldn’t keep quiet anymore and told my family and the university what had happened as well as filed a no contact order against the guys.

In January the following year, I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in the UK for six months, which was exactly what I needed to begin the healing process. It was during my first week in abroad when I wrote, “You’ve Got a Plan.”

The song was a prayer expressing the brokenness I had felt the last eight months and admitting that I wasn’t strong enough to deal with everything by myself anymore.

It was time to put all that had happened into God’s hands. Being away from the place and the people that had caused me so much pain was my chance to start fresh and begin the long process of picking up the pieces.

It didn’t get easier overnight, in fact it is almost two years later and there are still days that are almost impossible to get through, but I am healing. I am stronger than I’ve ever been because I surround myself with people that love and support me.

Most importantly though, I have the King of all kings fighting for me so I know I’m going to be okay.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWbF2ovVCUg

If you’re unable to see the embedded video, click this link to listen to Karsyn’s song “You’ve Got a Plan”

karsyn robb on devotional divaKarsyn Robb is a 20 year old singer-songwriter from Nashville, TN. She is currently earning her bachelor degree in Music Business and Marketing with plans to graduate in December of 2015. Although music is her favorite passion, she also has a heart for traveling and photography.

photo credit: Cactus with yellow flowers. Less than 3 inches tall, it is nearly full grown. via photopin (license)

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Alive Remains the Manger Scene

christmas guest post series on devotional diva 2014[Guest post by Rebecca Lamarche: Rebecca also blogged recently, but when I received this beautiful poem from her, I knew it had to be the final post in this Christmas guest post series! Merry Christmas, everyone!]

 

 

 

 

 

ALIVE REMAINS THE MANGER SCENE

Sweet Baby Jesus asleep on the hay
With reverence I kneel down before You today
In worship and prayer, tears fall from my eyes;
For You’re God – yet and infant – with soft gentle cries.

I wonder – were Your infant tears shed for me?
Because of my sin, and the great penalty
That I could not, on my own ever pay?
Were they tears of compassion that first Christmas Day?

Please take from my hands the gold that I bring,
It’s the honors I’ve taken for every good thing
That I’ve done or I’ve said or I’ve given away;
For these trophies are Yours, Little King in the hay.

Please take from my heart this frankincense, too,
For all of life’s pleasures – for me – come from You;
My dreams, my adventures, my thanks raised in song…
The passions of love come from You all along.

This myrrh…this You’ve already taken from me:
The grief of my sin that You bore on that tree.
The sapling You planted and watered and fed
So that it would be sturdy to hold You up dead.

Sweet manger scene – the world celebrates
The King of all Kings, the Greatest of Greats!
And so as I, too, lay me down now to sleep
I ask, Baby Jesus, my soul You will keep.

Yes, I lay that down too at the foot of Your bed,
The hay in the trough where Your mom lay Your head.
As she shivered, she wrapped You up warm in her shawl
With the love of a mother – most tender of all.

I wonder: was she extra gentle and kind?
Knowing that one day Your hands men would bind,
As they whip You and beat You and mock Your great Name?
Did she shiver with dread until that cold day came?

I wonder what Joseph felt holding Your hand?
Did he question how he would teach God how to stand
For honor and righteousness?  Teach Jehovah to pray?!
Yes, what were his thoughts as he stared at the hay?

The shepherds that trembled with fear, then with awe,
How their hearts must have swelled as they gazed at the straw!
Were they young boys who grew up to meet You again?
And to bow down once more, when You both were grown men?

Or were they weathered and old? Downtrodden by life?
Did they rush breathless home to tell children and wife
That first Christmas Story, as they gathered round
Their meal, talking of the great Gift they had found?

The Magi who saw the New Star in the sky
Quickly packed up their camels and left by and by.
Did they hear from the trade routes what travelers said?
The Messiah King’s birthplace an animal’s shed?!

Did their dreams dance to music they never had heard:
What meaning…this star? This vision? This Word?
Their hearts must have pounded with joy in their chest
When they found You – by this time – a toddler at breast!

The first Gentile converts; they believed You were King
Over all earthly Kingdoms, redemption to bring.
The Messiah!   For ages, this hope to be free!
And here by this young girl – his mother – was He!

Did they understand the true worth of their treasure?
That their gifts would outlive them for time without measure?
For centuries later, someone just like me
Would bow near a manger scene on bended knee.

And offer my Savior, the God-Babe, in the hay
The very same gifts that they brought Him that day:
The gold of my trophies, my incense of prayer,
the myrrh of my life I present to You there.

Then HARK! I hear angels announcing again:
“A Savior is born in the hearts of all men
Who will simply believe He’s Redeemer and King…
And on bended knee just their faith they will bring!”

rebecca lamarche on devotional divaAs an Author and  Bible Teacher, Rebecca Lamarche hangs her cowgirl hat in beautiful Austin, TX.  She has a passionate faith, undaunted by life’s many challenges that have made her road steep and rocky at times.  She walks in intimacy and power with Jesus, shepherding women through healing, deliverance and wholeness through her ministry, Spirit Alive Women.  Her new book,I BORROWED DAVID’S HARP is a collection of personal worship psalms and stories, much like David, who sang his experiences in poetry and praise​ to the God in whom he placed his trust.

This guest post is part of the first-ever Devotional Diva Christmas guest post series entitled, “The Gifts God Has Given You.” This is the final piece in that series.

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Extending God's Gift of Grace

extending god's gift of grace on devotional diva christmas guest post series 2014[Guest post by Carla Gasser: Carla submitted this piece when I was scheduling for this series, and although she didn’t intend to be a part of it, I thought her story of God’s grace was perfect for the series. As God gives grace to us, we should extend it to others!]

I had an interesting conversation with one of my sons (whose name I will graciously withhold) at breakfast this morning.

I was asking why he was wearing the same khaki shorts for the third day in a row.  He started complaining that he had no clean shorts because “someone” had not washed them.  Excuse me?   I held my breath while slowly counting to ten in my head and then calmly replied: “Well, why doesn’t “someone” sort and bring his dirty clothes down to the laundry room?”  And then he said it.  Yes, he did.  Four little words:

“IT’S NOT MY JOB.”

Oh, really?  To most of you moms out there, those are fighting words, and I had to do everything in my power not to go completely off on him.

I had a choice.  A teachable moment.  An opportunity.

I also had a lot of laundry to do (obviously!)…

I have four children and have been primarily a stay-at-home mom for over 18 years.  I have done a lot of laundry.  A lot.  You could say it is part of my job (although no one has ever dared until today!).

My boys, who are now teenagers and play many sports, can take up to 3 showers a day.  It is not difficult to imagine how much laundry that creates.

One day while folding seemingly endless pairs of underwear, my youngest child ( and my only daughter) came into the room and saw the piles stacked high of just underwear.  For fun, for kicks, for laughs (ha ha), I asked her to count them.  37!  Yes, 37 pairs of just underwear!  Although math is not my strong suit, I pulled out my calculator…I just had to know.

37 divided by 3 boys=about 12 per boy.  Let’s see…I did a load of their clothes about 3 days ago.  More math….ugghhhhh!  I guess that means that each boy went through 4 pairs of underwear per day.  Seriously????????  I called a family meeting to discuss the situation.  That was several months ago…and the laundry saga continues.

Back to this morning and my response to my son.  A few years ago, I would have given him a ten minute lecture, refused to do his laundry for a week, and taken away his phone (I think I threatened at least one of those things today!).

I also would have been angry, bitter and resentful.  I would have sulked and thrown myself a pity party.  I would have called my husband at work and ranted for several minutes about how he needs to get “his son” under control.

But today I chose differently.  

Maybe I am getting soft in my old age, maybe I am tired of fighting the same laundry battles, maybe the sunshine lightened my mood.  I don’t really know.  But I think it has something to do with grace.  

God’s grace.  His unmerited favor toward me which he unconditionally extends every day. The same grace that covers me even though I say “It’s not my job,” when He asks me to do something.  The grace that was graciously extended to me when I was lost, broken and not even remotely looking for God.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us:

“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!”   ~Ephesians 2:4-5 (New Living Translation)

The older I get, the more I appreciate and realize my desperate need for that kind of grace.  And maybe the more willing I am to attempt to extend that same grace to a strong-willed son who needs it as much as I do.

P.S. I did all the laundry (and there were only 17 pairs of underwear!)

carla gasser on devotional divaWhen not teaching, writing or speaking, I am most myself as a wife and mom living in Hudson, Ohio with my four very active children and my husband of almost 25 years. I enjoy serving in the women’s ministry at my church, mentoring young women, and volunteering in the local public schools my children attend.  I try to blog weekly and about how my messy, imperfect life and God’s amazing love and grace intersect in the most extraordinary ways.  Please visit me AT THE CROSSROADSwww.carlagasser.com

This guest post is part of the first-ever Devotional Diva Christmas guest post series entitled, “The Gifts God Has Given You.” Look for more posts with this theme now until December 23rd!

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Mental Illness is My Gift from God

mental illness is my gift on devotional diva christmas guest post series 2014[Guest post by Linda Svoboda: Thank you, Linda, for bravely sharing your story on mental illness! It’s challenging to accept mental illness in your life at all, let alone call it a gift from God!]

I am so thankful for all the gifts that God has given me, but I am especially grateful for one that He has blessed me with.

Many people would not see it as a gift, but rather a difficult challenge.  Most people have a hard time talking about my gift and don’t understand what it truly is.  However, a few really get it.  They understand that my gift is indeed a truly unique treasure and that I need to share with people what it is all about.

Being bi-polar is my gift.

You may wonder why I see being diagnosed with a mental illness as a blessing from God.  It is, and I would like to tell you why.

Before I was diagnosed at age 16, I knew that God loved me, and that His son Jesus died for me, but I yearned for a deeper walk with Him.  I didn’t know how to talk to Him.  After I was diagnosed, I started spending time with Him.  One of my favorite places to be with Him was a lake a few blocks away from my house.  I would go there after school and just talk to Him while I walked with Him.

I found myself just pouring out my heart to God, and I knew He was listening to me.

It was so peaceful being by the water and hearing the birds sing as they flew above me.  I loved the crystal clear lake and I enjoyed feeling the sunshine on my face.  I did this nearly every day, and I just treasured the time with Him.

I remember asking God, “Why?  Why am I bi-polar?  What’s going to happen to me?  What about my future?  I’d love to be a wife and a mother someday, but is there anyone that would want to marry me?”

I just felt God saying to my heart, “Trust me.  I have a plan.”

So I trusted and waited.  And God did some amazing things.  I graduated with honors from both high school and college.  I taught pre-school for a few years, as I love to be around kids.  I loved being involved at church, and I enjoyed hanging around some wonderful friends.  I learned how important it is to stay on my medicine, and how valuable Christian counseling is.  I experienced how awesome exercise is to relieve stress, and understood that I really needed to take care of myself.  Proper nutrition really helped me tremendously!

However, there was a longing in my heart to be a wife and a mother.  My Mom and Dad prayed with me that God would bring a wonderful godly man into my life, and He did!  Kevin and I married in 1998, and he truly is a blessing from God.  He has been there for me when I was sick, and we’ve had many awesome years when I was well.  I am so thankful for him.  We began praying for a child when we were dating, and God has answered that prayer twice.  We are so thankful for our 2 precious beautiful children.

I want to tell everyone that God does hear our prayers, and that our God is the God of miracles!

He has taken a very difficult diagnosis at an early age, and turned it around for His glory.  I have friends that have struggled with mental illness and I’ve been able to share with them what’s helped me.  The greatest gift that He gave me was not only to have a mental illness, but also to have the chance to fellowship with Him in my sufferings.  Being able to have a deep relationship with Him and loving Him and knowing that He cares for me and my family is indeed a huge gift. 

I have realized that knowing Jesus is the greatest gift of all.

Even though it came through a difficult situation, I now realize that He indeed had a perfect plan.  That perfect plan was for me to know Him and that is by far the greatest gift He could have ever given me.

 

linda svoboda on devotional divaLinda Svoboda is so thankful to have an awesome husband and two beautiful children. She is a children’s book author, and loves to read Christian historical fiction. She loves going  on long walks, and enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She feels blessed to be able to share her story with you.

This guest post is part of the first-ever Devotional Diva Christmas guest post series entitled, “The Gifts God Has Given You.” Look for more posts with this theme now until December 23rd!

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