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.

photo credit: Petite Blonde via photopin (license)

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My Fight with Vulnerability

my fight with vulnerability on devotional diva[Guest post by Kerri-Anne Lafu: Unfortunately, sharing your vulnerability with the world is a problem I think a lot of women go through. But it’s even more important to try to share it with God!]

These last few months I think God has been challenging me on the need to be real, vulnerable and honest with myself, Him, and others. I, like a lot of people, have massive insecurities about showing people who I really am.

Instead of loving others and being with others fully, I’ve limited who and how I’ve been based on the parts of me that I think people would accept.

It was through a hard season that we went through as a family (and are still going through now) that I’m really learning the need to be just me all of me in all of my relationships — especially my relationship with God.

When my mum got sick it took me a long time to process what was going on, and my faith was really tested. I went from being so reliant on God, sharing everything with Him at the start of last year to my relationship with Him changing to only talking to Him about the parts of my life that were going well.

I was really resentful towards God because I thought that because of what we had already been through as a family, it wasn’t fair that my mum was going through what she is now. I began doing the same in my relationships — only talking about what was going on at home in a factual basis.

I intellectualized it and made sure no one knew how much I was actually struggling.

I think I had even fooled myself into believing that I was okay when I obviously was not okay. After hearing a message on faith and the need to keep believing despite our struggles, a real talk with one of my siblings about our fears about our mum’s health, and then reading books on grace and vulnerability, I realized I had a problem. 

I decided that from then on, if someone asked about my mum and how she was doing I would give them a real answer, no matter how awkward I made them feel, or emotional I felt doing so I would.

It was something small but I knew that it was a start; I knew I also had to be real with God, and so I decided to give it to Him and surrender all of the ways I was trying to deal with it myself.

I gave Him my anxiety, fears, doubt, frustration and disappointment, my intellectual reasoning of it all and my hiding from my emotions.  It’s been a journey for all of us and my mum’s doing well, considering the doctors have said there’s not much else they can do since her cancer is rare and nothing has helped.

My mum is my hero and is an amazing woman of faith that continues to show me through her vulnerability in this journey of hers the need to be real and honest with those in our lives and with God.

I’m hopeful that, although we don’t know the end to this journey, that we have a God that does.

And by holding his hand no matter how much I want to let go of it, He will get us through it and make all things work together for our good.  So for now I’m doing my best to be as real as I can possibly be in all that I do — especially those things that I’m struggling with, no matter how uncomfortable and hard it is.

To make the most of what God has done for me through Jesus would be living free, and living free to me means living vulnerably with God and others out of the revelation that my value is secure in His love for me.

kerri anne lafu on devotional divaKerri-Anne Lafu just finished university & works in sales. She lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her family. She’s on a mission to help girls realize who they are in God & blogs regularly at awkwardisoverrated.

photo credit: lets.book via photopin cc

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The Magnitude of Our Gratitude

magnitude of our gratitude[Guest post by Sherrie Harris: Sherrie sent in this post that is perfect for this thanksgiving time! Please enjoy her inspiring story of gratitude and grace.]

As the girls entered the room, trickling in one or two at a time, their faces shone with gratefulness and possibilities. They began to cry out in unadulterated and uninhibited praise, as the tears of answered prayers streamed down their faces. “God is faithful,” they confessed. “God is faithful!”

In 2012, I had the privilege of ministering to and serving women and children in Africa, during a missions’ trip with like-minded servant leaders.  Our team traveled to Kenya with the hope of resembling the sheep of Matthew 25.

“All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’” Matthew 25:32-36

The journey was one of the most life-altering gifts I’ve received in service to others. I’m richer in perspective, wonder, and gratitude.

Heartrending snapshots from that time remain imprinted on my heart. Watching small faces pressed against makeshift school walls, anxious to partake, but lacking the uniforms needed to join their peers. Rows of cribs filled with abandoned babies left to find hope. Stories of abuse from the innocent. Children raising their voices in song as gifts. Female prisoners that cried of unjust justice. Girls entering a small room, erupting in praise after seeing their new décor and freshly painted walls inscribed with words like, “Dream Big,” “Love,” and “Inspire.” The scene swelled my heart, blood rushed with joy.

It was just one of contributions during the trip. Though amateur, we gave it our personal best. It felt amazing and humbling to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We couldn’t take ownership for the idea, skill, or materials. God owns everything. We manage a little.

The girls stood there weeping and praising, praising and weeping, confident in their truth. God, helper of the fatherless, mobilized a few ordinary people to travel across the waters to adorn their dream space with love and inspired faith. Though they were visibly obliged, I suspect their gratitude was less about us, and more about God’s unconditional love for them.

No lack of earthly possessions or hardship could separate them from the love of Christ. There were no distractions between them and Jesus.

At times, the magnitude of our gratitude is amplified by the distance our blessings travel to find us, the degree to which the impossible becomes possible in our lives, and the level of sacrifice required to serve us. The evidence of Jesus inspires gratitude. He paid it ALL!

Thanksgiving is near. Life itself is enough to be thankful for and many of us have been graced to receive renewed and abundant life. Some will gather with family and friends, celebrate connection, eat until they can’t, and store leftovers for the days to come.

What better season to give praise, radical praise! Not for how many (or few) possessions you have, those things are temporal, but for eternity and the hope thereof. Give thanks for the demonstration of God’s love in your life and works of His people. Give thanks for grace.

“And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Acts 4:33-34

You don’t have to travel across the waters to serve one another in love, open the doors of your homes and hearts this holiday. Share what you’ve been so richly blessed to receive. Put no distractions between you and Jesus.

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

 

sherrie harris on devotional divaSherrie Harris is a woman of faith, pastor’s wife, proud mommy, career professional, servant leader, an introvert with spurts of extrovertism, encourager, coach, and a few or more laughs. Sherrie created a new blog called aPOP, http://aplaceofpower.com this year to share her heart with other women and open up a virtual gathering place for women to be inspired, encouraged, challenged, and provoked!

Photo provided by Sherrie Harris.

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Little Miracle on the Way!

maggie winterton on devotional divaI’m writing this post on my 3rd wedding anniversary.

When I was younger, I always used to imagine being pregnant on my 3rd anniversary. I guess I just thought that would be a good time to have my first baby. And I wanted a May baby, because my home state of Iowa usually has pretty good weather in May.

Both of those teenage dreams are coming true!

My husband, Brandon, and I are expecting our first baby in May 2015 (I’m beginning the 2nd trimester now). My official due date is actually the day after Mother’s Day, which I think is kind of cool.

I’m so excited to finally share this with you because this baby is an absolute miracle to me. I believe all living things are blessings (well, maybe not ants…I really hate ants!) but after the year I’ve had, there was some doubt about my fertility.

I don’t know if this is something I’m ready to fully write about yet…It was a painful experience and I don’t think it has been long enough for me to process. And this is supposed to be a joyful post. So I’ll try to keep this part short.

It’s something I’ve kept mostly a secret, but I’ve been dealing with serious pelvic pain since January (although it has improved during my pregnancy, thank the Lord!). Pelvic pain isn’t something that is easy to talk about! The main reason this whole situation is so emotionally painful is because I was not treated well by the doctors in charge of my care. Because of that, I still don’t know why I even had the pelvic pain.

And since we didn’t know what the cause was, we didn’t know what the fertility situation was. Depending on what was actually going on, there were many things that could prevent having a healthy baby. Brandon and I planned for a year that summer 2014 would be our time to try to have a baby.

I’ll admit, I did let the negativity of my possible fertility issues get to me. But something inside of me told me that it would be okay – and I had faith in that.

In just three months of “trying,” our little miracle happened. Surprisingly, I haven’t even worried that much about miscarrying (and I’m the queen of worrying).

I’ve just felt so peaceful and had so much faith in the Lord that this baby is meant to be ours.

Everything is just so wonderful and working out perfectly. Not-so-ironically, Sarah Coleman’s guest post on peaceful pregnancy was set to be published just a few days after we found out about Baby Winterton.

God is more powerful than anything going on in my body. I believe having faith that He would give us the precious baby we prayed for aided us even further. A conscious effort to keep positive thoughts can’t hurt; and doing so really helped me feel less stressed.

Nurturing others is what I think God made me to do. That’s why I love being the editor of Devotional Diva; helping women share their stories here is so fulfilling to me. When I felt down about the unknowns of my fertility, I thought, “I would give up everything to just be able to be a mom.”

God has fulfilled this prayer of ours and given us a little miracle. I can’t tell you how good it feels to just have so much faith in the health of our baby. Take it from this worrier, it’s much more enjoyable to relax and be positive.

So, if this baby is a girl, obviously she’ll be a “Little Diva.” But what if it’s a boy? Should we call him a Divo? 🙂

P.S. If you’re from the States, thank you, Veterans, for your service!

→M

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Hope with Painted Wings

hope on devotional diva[Guest post by Rebecca Lamarche: This post is a two-fer! First, Rebecca shares a poem. Then, she has an “insight” that is more devotional style. I hope you enjoy Rebecca’s wordsmithery and viewpoint on hope as much as I did!]

Hope with Painted Wings

From the genesis of forming me inside my mother’s womb

Through the exodus from innocence so early in my youth,

In the desert of my wandering, I was thirsting for my purpose,

And You led me through the sandstorms to oases of Your truth.

 

From every bucket of belief I drew from wells of tainted water,

You dipped ladles full of murky thoughts and turned them into wine.

You did miracles of transformation, restoration, healing ~

Oh, I wonder at Your power and Your tender love divine.

 

You’ve remade me from the broken shards of clay You crushed to powder,

And on the Potter’s wheel Your artist’s hand remolded dreams.

In Your faithfulness You walked with me from pain to perseverance,

From perseverance onward into hope with painted wings!

 

Your Word, now, is the compass that I follow on my journey,

My future holds new promise with a purpose from Your mind,

And from the splintered crosses that I’ve built and nailed myself to,

You resurrect my true self from the life I’d crucified.

Rebecca Lamarche, 2013 I BORROWED DAVID’S HARP, Westbow Press /Thomas Nelson Publishers

 

Shame.

Fear.

Captivity.

These are the splattered  black stains crippling our destinies.

It’s shrapnel from a childhood reprimand, words stinging like a scorpion’s tail, assuring us we are but a sorry disappointment.  It’s the hot wave that rises from neck to face in red humiliation when mockery and ridicule is pronounced over us.

Shame is when the leviathan of guilt and regret wraps its constricting tentacles around our woundedness…   We feel compelled to lock ourselves into a pointless, twisted sort of resignation  to succumb to an existence without hope, instead of a life bound for dreams.  We declare ourselves unworthy.

Such can be the colorless subsistence of the mind tortured by Shame;  and Shame’s offspring are the self-lies and the fears that mutilate our relationships and sabotage our destinies.

Yet, there is a Way, through Truth, to Life…

In our formative years, so many events and influences affect whom our personality ultimately portrays.  We each learn to hide our vulnerabilities and weak spots; and we develop coping behaviors that are often self-destructive, and are built on self-lies that need to be washed in Truth!

The psychological stepping stones of an individual’s belief system – the inner “rules” by which the brain tells each of us how we need to play our personal game of Life – are placed into order based on how they ‘drive’ us into action:

1)  Core Beliefs drive…
2)  Thought,  which drive…
3)  Emotions, resulting in…
4)  Actions  and reactions.

We view life’s events, and conduct our relationships, through the lens of experiences that have etched a belief system into our subconscious. We interpret circumstances and process events by forming thoughts that reinforce that core belief.  If memories are painful, it is here that our survival instinct can develop a misguided set of “rules”, or core beliefs;  hence,   misunderstanding, suspicion and self-lies are born, because our beliefs may be founded on untruth.  For example, a child bit by a dog forms the belief, “all dogs bite”,  concluding (thought) “all dogs will bite me”.

Those thoughts drive emotions of fear, even perhaps hatred, thus determining the way that she will instinctively  act, or react, around dogs to survive and avoid pain.  The belief that all dogs bite is faulty, resulting in unnecessary and crippling fear.  If later in life she marries a dog-breeder,  to survive her subconscious phobia, she may take copious amounts of anti-anxiety medication, developing an addiction that self-destructs her health and relationships.  Now, replace “all dogs” with core beliefs about “all men”…

God ladles all self-lies and fears out of the well of our tainted thoughts, transforming them into truths that set us free from self-deceptions and painful dysfunction.   He dips into His Word and pours truth and healing over us, His endless wellspring purifying our core beliefs and thoughts, that we might see ourselves as God created us, revealing our infinite value to Him.  With this new “mind of Christ”, our entire selves are transformed by constant renewal. This reinstates within us shame-free, fear-free, healthy  emotions that reflect in positive behaviors,  healing in relationships, and restored daring to dream!

Life doesn’t always fly on painted wings, but hope does!  Float free on the winds of the Holy Spirit until you reach your destiny!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

 

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.

photo credit: voodoo@zjy via photopin cc

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Wait on the Lord

wait-on-the-lord[Guest post by Samantha Godette: When I received this post from Samantha, it was something I really needed to hear at the time. I love how the Lord can provide inspiration like this at just the right moment! If you’re waiting and wanting for something, this is for you.]

Over the past few years I have been fighting, fighting and fighting for something I thought should be mine (something monetary). I knew I deserved it but couldn’t figure out why God didn’t see fit for me to have it.

I was seriously hurt while serving in the United States army and I have developed severe rheumatoid arthritis. Some days it can be a struggle to get of bed, to comb my hair and to just perform everyday tasks.

I have been in pain every day, all day for several years. I have learned to live with it and praise God through my pain, but I still needed help.

However, every time I would fill out my paperwork for compensation it would get lost. Then I would have to fill out a new one. Then they needed something else. Then they would need something else. Then it would get lost again. It became a never-ending cycle.

I became weary and tired and almost gave up. I couldn’t fathom why He wasn’t answering my prayers. A year came in and a year came out and nothing happened.

I suffered physically, then emotionally, and then financially.

Through all of my pain God saw it fit to send me a great husband. He is amazing and makes living with arthritis easier. He has been a gift from God that I didn’t see coming.

Then a year later he saw it fit to bless me with a child — a child that doctors said wouldn’t happen without fertility drugs.

“You’ve been medicating for so long because of your disease. You have been on heavy medication that causes infertility. It will be nearly impossible to get pregnant.”

This is what they told me, but I never listened because I knew God had the final say. What they said went into my ears but never seeped into my spirit.

I had a great life. A husband that loved me and a daughter that melted my heart but I continued to struggle with my health and financially.

I eventually decided that what was for me was for me and if it was meant to be, God would deliver it to me when the time was right. If he could lay his hand on my womb and create a beautiful baby girl, then I knew he could do anything.

One day, I came home and in the mail was the answer to my prayers. Something I had wanted and prayed about for over ten years was hand-delivered to me by the grace of God right to my mailbox.

My husband and I immediately fell to our knees in gratitude and gave God the honor and glory he deserved. I was approved for disability by Veteran Affairs. I will be getting compensated for all the pain I have been in and will be in for the rest of my life. And guess what? I will be getting compensated back pay for all the years I didn’t receive compensation. At that very moment, I understood!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 NIV).

God wanted to bless me and He heard my prayers. He never ignored me. But he wanted to bless me when I needed it the most. Who knew that a husband was going to walk in my life and then a baby girl? God blessed me more than I could ever imagine. He listened to every prayer and He never turned His back on me.

He never said “NO.” He said, “WAIT.”

God knows best. Although we may not understand it at the time, it is in our best interest to trust him and to wait on whatever it is that you have been praying on. God hears your cries and He understands your struggles, but He also knows when to bless you and how to bless you.

I guarantee if you trust and believe in him and never waiver in your faith, He will show up when you least expect and bless you more than you ever thought possible. Nothing is too hard for him.

Don’t try to understand your situation when God has the blueprint of all situations.

 

samantha ford-godette on devotional divaSamantha Godette is a mother to one and a devoted wife. She has a degree in Social Work from Fordham University. She loves the Lord, her family and all things fashion. She addresses herself as a Faithful Fashionable Diva. She’s has started a blog this year, http://www.faithfulfashionablediva.com. She wants to express to all women that loving Christ doesn’t mean you have to neglect yourself.

photo credit: Éole via photopin cc

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The Scarless Pledge

takiela bynum on devotional diva

[Guest post by Takiela Bynum: Do you struggle with self-harm? Are you ready to take the scarless pledge? So glad God brought Takiela to Devotional Diva to share this!]

Some people cut for relief, I cut because I wanted to die.

She’d taken several pain killers to prevent her from feeling any pain. Besides, she needed a backup plan in case the other thing didn’t work out.

She located the vein, turned her head and quickly slid the razor across her flesh. She winced at the sharp sting. The warm ooze drizzled down her hand and left its trail on the hard wood floor. She climbed into bed and hoped for death to quietly greet her while she slept.

That was a dark day in my teen life, one I’ll probably never forget. The pain and hurt I endured left me hopeless. Numb from any feelings of hope and craving death.

I know what it’s like to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Family issues, the kids at school, boy drama, grades, and the list goes on. Sometimes, life has a way of upgrading from bad to worse.

When in a hopeless state of mind, having hopeless thoughts and making hopeless decisions come with the territory (i.e. depression, cutting, suicide thoughts/attempts, etc.)

In actuality, although I didn’t realize it at the time, my hopeless disposition conveyed that even God is incapable of salvaging my mess of a life. It’s entirely too complicated for Him. From my view, things were the worst it could ever be and would always be this way – hopeless.

Ultimately, I shut out the only One who could bring me out.

Thank God His view is far beyond mine, His thoughts and ways soar high above my own. I was absolutely oblivious to God’s plan for my life. I desired death, but the Lord…abundant life. There is no way anyone would have convinced me that God had a plan for my life that was full of hope. I would have completely rejected the idea.

Since I was a little girl I’ve Ioved math. Why? Because to every problem there was an answer, each formula would provide an inevitable solution, simplifying the complex. I wanted answers to my life’s problems. Me plus life never equaled hope. Ever. However, Christ plus life always equals hope. Always. It took some time, but after many struggles here’s what I know, the Lord is my answer and He is neither simple nor complicated.

Can you relate to any of my struggles? Do you know anyone who self-harms? I’d like to invite you to join me in taking The Scarless Pledge right now!

Today let’s make a pledge, from this day forward we’re going “scarless!” We can’t do anything about the old scars but we can choose not to make new scars. Let’s put down our razors and pick up scarlet red eyeliner. When or if we ever get the urge to cut, use the red eyeliner. It’ll help remind you of the blood Jesus shed on the cross for you and it’ll also wash away…never leaving a scar.

I, (insert name here), being of sound mind and body, here do pledge to God and all who love me on this month (insert month here), of this day (insert day here), in this year (insert year here) to bury all self-harming ways, never to be exhumed again! In the sight of God and all witnesses, I promise if and/or when I get the urge to self-harm, I’ll replace my instrument of destruction with an instrument that represents hope, a scarlet red eyeliner pencil, instead. I will do this in remembrance of the blood Jesus shed on the cross for me, (insert name here). I am committed to the “scarless” pledge. With God nothing is impossible.

Find an accountability partner, someone who will help you commit to this pledge. Know that you have fans cheering you on and praying for you in heaven and all over the earth. Even though I’ll already be praying, if you’d like me to pray for a specific person/situation or if I can help in another way comment below publicly or email me privately (takiela@takielabynum.com).

Take the “scarless” pledge today!

 

takiela bynum on devotional divaTakiela Bynum, founder of Leading Young Women to Hope Ministries, is a speaker and author with a passion for any hurting women. She empowers and encourages young women to have hope in Christ, equipping them with the tools (word of God) necessary to live victoriously in spite of life’s tragedies. She tackles hard topics while pointing young women to the redemptive power of the cross. Find out more at www.TakielaBynum.com

 

photo credit: Miss C.J. via photopin cc

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Celebrating My Next Chapter {Literally}

celebrating my next chapterI, Renee Fisher, asked Maggie if I could share my exciting news with you all today! Don’t worry, she’ll be back next week to continue her journey here on DevotionalDiva.com.

Today I am celebrating my next chapter {literally}. Today is my 32nd birthday and I have three B-I-G news to share!

First, I am officially no longer working with MacGregor Literary Agency. That means I am going it alone without my amazing agent, Amanda Luedeke.

I decided it was time for me to write my next chapter {literally} as a self published author. I enjoy the creative process so much, and can’t wait to see where God may lead.

Plus, if publishers are requiring authors to do all the work — why not own the rights too? Am I right?

Second, you can now purchase Loves Me Not and Dream Devotional directly through me on Amazon. And, I even lowered the price to $2.99 each!

To those who wrote beautiful reviews of Dream Devotional, would you please resubmit your kind words on Amazon? If you don’t remember what you wrote — don’t worry I saved them, and will email them ASAP.

Third, Dream Devotional will be available for purchase IN PRINT in time for the Launch Party on July 13th! {View the open invite here}.

I am jumping out of my skin of excitement. I still can’t believe the timing of  everything, and on my birthday nevertheless.

If you are still doubting your dreams, I hope you dream.

It’s okay to lean only on God. 
He is strong enough to save you when you fall.

I was reminded of a verse God gave me when I started Devotional Diva. I shared the verse along with an encouraging word on Facebook:

I wish our culture celebrated SMALL beginnings instead of idols, BIG breaks, or fame. Zechariah 4:10a says, “Who dares despise the day of small things?”

As I am transitioning into a new season with ReneeFisher.com, it hit me last night when people at the San Diego Book Awards Association recognized from Devotional Diva. And yet, looking back 5 years ago, I never thought I would make it this far.

I am most grateful for where God has me. I refuse to be ASHAMED, and I especially refuse to compare myself to others who are further along or experiencing a BIG BREAK. (I am also applying this to all my friends who are having babies or just had babies).

If you find yourself in transition — rejoice in the place where you are TODAY. God has plans for you. And you know what? Maybe they’re even BIG plans!!! Until then, continue to walk daily with Him hand-in-hand. He’ll promote you at the ripe time (Gal. 6:9).

I wanted to close with a poem by my good friend Teryn O’Brien entitled there must be dreamers.

there must be dreamers
in this sad, dark world,
dreamers who believe
that peace and unity and love
still exist,
dreamers that hold a candle
which shatters the darkness
of hatred and pride,
walking into the great unknown
of what might be possible.
dreamers ask,
could we?
could we love?
could we share?
could we agree?
could we agree to disagree?
could we raise above the pettiness?
dreamers are scoffed at,
but all that is good in this world
has been founded
on dreams
that once were not, but
through blood, sweat, tears,
laughter and scorn,
were drawn into existence.
dreamers are mothers and fathers,
bearing children of light into a barren world.
life only comes through
the hope,
the pain,
the joy
of dreaming.

Enter to win a $50 Giveaway to The Rusted Chain on ReneeFisher.com to celebrate. Click here to enter. A winner will be chosen by the end of the week.

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Choose Joy in a World of Sorrow

joy

[Guest Post by Kay Warren – When I attended the Mental Health and the Church Conference at Saddleback Church, I was inspired by Kay’s story. She has learned to choose joy through sorrowful circumstances. If, like Kay, you find yourself in mourning or grief — I hope you are encouraged today because of Jesus!]

Sisters, Jesus was a man of joy. He was a man of joy!

He showed it in his attitude; he drew crowds who couldn’t get enough of him. He showed it in his words; he was a master communicator who impacted those who listened to him in person two thousand years ago, and he impacts us today.

He showed joy in his actions; he treated people with good humor and patient understanding of their human foibles, and he was skillful in bringing them to the spiritual realizations they needed.

His joyful essence was evidenced particularly in the way he interacted with his disciples. He spent three years with them, day in and day out. He did not spend those three with them as a lecturer on the speaking circuit who used them to organize his comings and goings: “Okay, let’s go over the agenda. Who will be taking care of the donkey this afternoon? Oh, and make sure the people know that I’m coming.”

He didn’t relate as a distant professor who made them sit still while he instilled: “Now, I have three points I want to make today, and I’ll be testing you later. Is everybody writing down what I’m saying?”

No, Jesus lived his life with them.

They saw him when he was sweaty and stinky from a long walk from village to village. They knew when his stomach growled from hunger pains. They probably heard him pass gas and burp a few dozen times. I’m not saying that to be sensational; I really believe it.

Jesus spent nearly every waking—and sleeping hour—with  these twelve men for three years. How could they not really know each other? I’m sure Jesus and his friends shared many private jokes, funny stories, and poignant memories, which happens only when people spend intentional time together.

I am convinced they laughed till their sides hurt at every opportunity. He loved them and invested in their lives as individuals. I think he probably knew the names of their family members for a couple of generations back; he knew the beauty and dysfunction that created each one of them. He believed in them, ultimately entrusting them with his gospel message of a joyous relationship with God. As his time on earth drew to a close, they were the ones he wanted near him—these friends who had become brothers.

Why does it matter that Jesus was a man of joy?

It matters so much more than you might have ever realized! Some of you may need permission to seek a life of joy for yourself. The burden of grief that you carry, the health issues, the relational pain, the financial questions, the internal struggles and temptations no one else knows about—sometimes all of that weighs you down so much that you give up on the idea of joy.

At times I have felt I could identify with the title given to Jesus in Isaiah; I could call myself “Kay Warren, woman of sorrows.” Perhaps that title fits you today as well, and you could fill in your name too.

Many of us need permission to recognize sorrow but go beyond it and still choose a life of joy.

Yes, Jesus suffered, but we can’t stop there. We can’t let that truth dominate how we act and how we speak about him. There was a reason why Jesus chose to endure all that he did. There was a reason why he allowed himself to be bloodied and beaten and tortured.

Hebrews 12:2 gives us an insider, behind-the-scenes look at why Jesus allowed all of that to happen: “who for the joy set before him endured the cross.”

But what was the joy that was set before him?

What joy was so rich, so satisfying, so deep that he was willing to suffer such terrible abuse? You were the joy set before him! I was the joy set before him!

He suffered so he could be reconciled with you.
With me.

When people spat at him, his disciples left him, and everyone mocked him, he was thinking of the joy. When he was flogged, when that cruel crown of thorns was jammed on his head, and when he hung on the cross, he got through  it because he was holding on to the joy of presenting us to God.

Here she is, Father; I brought her back to you.

The joy of restoring the broken relationship, of living with me and you forever . . . that was the joy set before him, that was the joy that kept him nailed to the cross.

Jesus knew that for him to fulfill his God-given role here on earth, he would have to experience abandonment, betrayal, torture, and death. Yet knowing full well what was ahead of him, he chose to laugh, to tell jokes, to roll around on the ground with children, to build rich relationships, to have meaningful work, to experience joy.

Jesus’s life is an illustration of the two train tracks converging into one. He shows us how to see joy, a joy that sometimes comes in darkness. And for that joy he endured the greatest suffering anyone has known.

This is what Jesus’s life tells me: It is possible to experience enormous burdens, pain, and struggles—the weight of the world on our frail shoulders—and still experience joy.

Jesus’s life reminds me that joy is possible no matter what.

His life gives me permission to seek a life of joy for myself even in a world of sorrow.

Kay Warren Doorway (Proof Only)Kay Warren cofounded Saddleback Church with her husband Rick Warren in Lake Forest, California. She is a passionate Bible teacher and respected advocate for those infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as orphaned and vulnerable children. She founded Saddleback’s HIV/AIDS Initiative. Kay is the author of Say Yes to God and coauthor ofFoundations, the popular systematic theology course used by churches worldwide. She has three children and five grandchildren. Learn more at www.kaywarren.com and follow her on Facebook (Kay Warren) and Twitter (@KayWarren1).

[Excerpt taken from Choose Joy by Kay Warren, published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2012. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.]

[photo credit: Rosa Dik 009 — On & Off via photopin cc]

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Hit the Start Button {of Your Faith}

the start button

[Guest Post by Nicole Unice – We go way back to before the days we were published authors. We met at Story Conference in Chicago, IL — and it’s my pleasure to spread the word about her newest book entitled Start Here: Beginning a Relationship With Jesus. May you be encouraged wherever you are on the journey, that it’s never too late to start, and restart!]

It was late on a Saturday night and we were sitting at a bar.

There were six of us crowded around, and conversation drifted, the men talking among themselves while the women turned to the normal topics, of marriage and mothering and work. And then she turned to me pointedly and told me about a recent conversation with her kids, about monkeys and people and evolution, and she confessed that she didn’t get it. And maybe it was because of the wine or the time of night, but she spit it out.

“If the museum display says we come from monkeys, then who the (bleep) are Adam and Eve?”

That conversation is just one of many I’ve had in my ministry life, over French fries with middle school girls, over coffee with college students, and even over the crowded noise of a bar. As human beings, we’ve all been wired to pursue purpose, to satisfy the inner ache in us that wants to find real, true, full life.

And I’ve become convinced that everyone has questions, no matter how far they may seem from finding God.

Even if you’ve been following Jesus for years, we can find ourselves asking some of the same questions—who are we?

How did we get here?
What gives life meaning?

It’s in these questions that we can find a common language with our friends who don’t yet know Jesus. It’s in the yearning of our own hearts that we find passion to help others find their way.

I have a friend who once taught that faith is like a treadmill. We all get on the treadmill and can be moving at different speeds and distances—but no matter where we are on the treadmill, at one point, we all have to hit the “start” button.

As believers in Christ, we’ve all hit the start button—crossed over from death to life.

Some of our friends might be standing on the treadmill but need to be encouraged to start. Hitting the start means going from nothing to something—even if we doubt, even if we have questions, even if we aren’t 100% sure—we can still hit “start”.

After Jesus had a conversation with a Samaritan woman about the water—and life—she was thirsty for, she immediately went back to her town to tell everyone she knew about meeting Jesus.

Did she have it all figured out?
Would she have called herself a “Christian”?

I have no idea—but I do know what the Bible says—“many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39). Before she even knew what was happening, she had hit the start button, because she started talking to Jesus and started talking about Jesus.

We can encourage our friends that they don’t have to have it all figured out before they join our bible study, come to church, or start praying. They can just hit start and we can trust that Christ will meet them there.

My friend who wanted to talk evolution on that Saturday night is still seeking. And I hope I’ll be one who can help her press start, trusting that God is the author of our hearts and our faith, and He is always working to draw us to Himself.

Nicole UniceNicole Unice is on the ministry staff at Hope Church and co-author of Start Here: Beginning a Relationship with Jesus. Find out more at http://nicoleunice.com or http://StartHereBook.com.

[photo credit: stevendepolo via photopin cc]

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