My Doubtful Voice

italian beach

My Doubtful Voice

[Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Devotional Diva on Feb 02, 2016. Due to a glitch, I’m simply republishing it!]

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

James 1:6

December 21st, 2015
That doubtful voice inside my head is becoming ever stronger. What if this goes terribly? What if it’s too much? What if my husband is gone more than we expect? What if I am really homesick? What if I don’t make friends and I’m really lonely? Can I even handle this? Do I go through with it?

I remember a time not so long ago when I had these same questions running through my head. Another time when I sat up at night worrying about a big change. In fact, it was also December and January four years ago.

Four years ago, I was newly married and about to say goodbye my new husband, Brandon, for (what I thought would be) 2 months. He was about to go to Navy basic training, where communication to the outside world is extremely limited. I couldn’t imagine not seeing (and barely speaking to) him for that long. I didn’t know how I could possibly handle it.

Of course, I chose to put myself in that situation months before when I accepted his marriage proposal.
And even though I knew for a very long time that Brandon would leave in January, I became more anxious as the date drew closer. Panicked and desperate is a better description.

I begged Brandon not to go; to just forget the Navy and not enlist. At the same time, I was also asking him to throw away his dream and our newly-formed family’s future. He tried to illustrate how good the military life could be for us, but all I could think about was the impending separations (since I knew he would eventually be deployed as well).

Fear was eating me alive in the days before he left, just like it is in the days before we now move to Italy.

Our new life is so unknown to me that it essentially feels like my current life is ending and I’m a beginning a new one. We really don’t know what to expect when it comes to many aspects of our new command. I still don’t know a lot of Italian, and that worries me. I’ve never even been outside the country before. We don’t know what kind of a home we’ll have in Italy, or when any of our belongings will arrive. The scariest thing for me is that you never know what deployments will be like at a new command (or ever really, since it does kind of depend on world events).

I don’t know what my life will be like in the new year at all; I don’t have a picture of our future to play in my head, or any way to plan. It’s kind of freeing, but also terrifying.

Although many of my feelings and fears are just like the ones I had four years ago, there’s one huge difference: I’m a mother now.

For me, that makes everything a lot worse. My baby deserves the best life possible, and I don’t want anything to jeopardize that for him. I don’t want to become overwhelmed or depressed and not be able to take care of him like he deserves. I’m not going to have a lot of support out there in the beginning, and Brandon could be sailing away at any time. It’ll be just me and my little boy.

Right now I’m at the panick-y point of calling it all off – Not going to Italy with Brandon. I figure that I could keep my son in our home state and stay with family, because at least I wouldn’t be completely alone. Or I could cancel our property management deal and go back to live in our home in comfortable and familiar San Diego.

This time I’m not trying to squash Brandon’s dreams, but my own. God knows how I’ve longed to go to Europe and really experience this world. Receiving orders to Italy was my dream come true.

And there has to be a reason, doesn’t there? God doesn’t make mistakes.

What I’m grappling with right now is wondering what God really wants for me. Does He want me to make a big change myself, proactively protecting myself and my family from any hardships to come in Italy? Or to go in faith to my Promised Land of sorts and reach out to grab this opportunity?

Brandon went to bootcamp. I didn’t stop him. Due to an injury, he was there twice as long. But I still made it. Looking back on those days he was gone, I realize that I really grew as a person during them. And I know I’m certainly a stronger person because of it.

I don’t know what God wants. What I do know is that I can’t make decisions out of fear.

So I’ll pray, and I’ll trust. And whatever happens, I’ll know we’ll get through it.

January 20th, 2016

I am writing this little follow-up as I sit in my hotel room in Italy. After writing the above, I felt a lot better and stronger in my decision to go to Italy. I am homesick, but I feel I made the right decision!dd-sig

Continue Reading

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)

Continue Reading

A Christian Fairy Tale

devotional diva christian love story[Guest Post by La Micia Genova: I’m thrilled for you to “meet” La Micia today because, although our stories are different, La Micia and I both dealt with depression before God gave us our knights in shining armor. I’m all about princesses and fairy tales and this is an awesome Christian fairy tale!]

Do you believe God can give you a happily ever after? I’ve done things my way for 20 years and when I finally came to God, he gave me my fairy tale.

I probably made just about every mistake a teenager and young adult could make, and what’s crazy is I grew up in the Church! From impurity to drunkenness, I was a mess. When I submitted to Gods way of doing things I saw Gods plan for me come to life. 

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

As I grew in my relationship with God, and really applied the “seeking” part of the passage in Jeremiah, I began to see him move in my life in powerful ways. From my friendships, to my family life, and eventually, my dating life.

As a hopeless romantic, I always prayed for my knight in shining armor to magically arrive and constantly asked God for the desires of my heart.

Growing up, what young girl doesn’t want to live out the Disney movie fairy tales? I was no different then the majority of girls my age and I never grew out of this phase. I continued believing this was possible, but heartbreak after heartbreak led me to feel God’s hand was against me.

This all changed in a vacant lot in south side Chicago in 2010.

I was 20 years old and had just given my life to Christ. I was at a conference in Inglewood, Chicago helping our volunteer group clean up vacant lots. I was dirty, tired, and focused on the cause. This was not the place I expected to meet my knight in shining armor. It was cleaning this lot that God intervened in my life for what later turned out to be a fulfillment of one of favorite scriptures in psalms.

            “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”

            Psalm 37:4

I met Patrick G.

At the time I had no idea that this was who God had planned for me to spend the rest of my life with, but as three years went by, you could say my eyes finally were opened.

One night Patrick began to open up to me about his struggle with depression and I felt like for the first time ever, someone understood me, the real me.

I grew up dealing with depression, and felt that no one could really understand.  I was constantly fatigued and didn’t know why. I had so many self-defeating thoughts, I really hated myself, I still struggle with this to this day, but at least I have a name for this monster. When Patrick got vulnerable with me about his fight with depression and how it made him feel, I felt like my feelings weren’t all that crazy.

I realized that I am not in this fight alone and that God has put a guy in my life that could understand me. From this conversation forward we leave off where my book, Becoming Ms. G picks up. I hope and pray you enjoy the rest of the journey that God has taken me on with my knight in shining armor, Patrick.

lamicia genova on devotional divaLa Micia really has a heart for doing Gods work and being a voice for women who deal with depression, anxiety, and self esteem issues. La Micia created a blog called “No Place to Lay”, www.noplacetolay.com this year to share the ways God is working in her life through struggles. You can purchase her book, Becoming Mrs. G here.

photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading

Why I Chose to Marry Young

 

Why I chose to marry young

I chose to marry young — at 19, to be exact.

As some of you may know, I am still pretty young – 22, to be exact.

There’s that Taylor Swift song “22,” but I don’t relate to it at all because I’m married and have been for 2 and a half years. I don’t know if you’ve heard that song, but here are a couple quick quotes:

Everything will be alright
If we just keep dancing like we’re 22

 

And

 

It feels like one of those nights
We won’t be sleeping

Nope, does not describe my life at 22 at all.

I do not dance anywhere, except I did dance at my wedding.

And YES, I will be sleeping because I have things to do tomorrow! Every day I have things to do!

I’m not complaing in any way. I love my life! I just think it’s comical how different my life is from this Taylor Swift song and actually, most of my peers’ lives.

When I wrote about How God Changed the Course of My life Completely, I told you about how supportive my now-husband Brandon was (and still is) and how we met.

But what I didn’t tell you then was how big of a role following my heart played.

Brandon and I have a fairy tale love story – with some major kinks thrown in.

We had a lot of opposition going up against us the whole time we were dating.

For one, I was in a horrible place mentally and physically in the beginning. I talked about this in that post I mentioned, but it really was a struggle. My mom knew that Brandon was the one for me because of how he stuck by me through it all.

I mean, I was in the mental health unit at the hospital (more than once) and he stayed with me. He supported me. He showed me love. I know that I was not able to show him the same kind of love at that time, just because I was going through so much.

And it was a shock to everyone around us when we started dating because Brandon is 7 and a half years older than me.

But we got through all that stuff. I got better. Things were going great, and we were happy.

Then Brandon decided to join the Navy.

At first, we didn’t even consider getting married before his boot camp. But as we went through his recruitment process, marriage actually seemed like a pretty good idea.

I knew I loved Brandon and wanted to be with him forever. He said he always knew that I was “the one.”

It soon became clear that we did want to get married before Brandon would leave for basic training.

But I was so nervous about what my parents would say.

I felt like they would disapprove, because I was only 19 after all. Now-a-days, that is young.

It wasn’t like getting married so young was in their (or my) plans for my future.

I worked up the courage to talk to my mom about it first, and she eased my dad into the idea. They were accepting, more than I thought they would be. They supported us.

Brandon formally asked my dad for my hand in marriage in June, and a few days later he proposed to me. In November, we said our vows at my childhood church.

My mom said she felt the presence of Jesus so strongly during the ceremony.

We’ve been married 2 and a half years now, and things are working out for us. We’re happy. I see how God had these plans for me, and there’s no doubt in my mind that I was always supposed to be with Brandon.

I followed my heart and ended up with a great man. But getting married at a young age is not for everyone. Honestly, everyone’s situation will be different. When you find your mate is up to God.

I still get surprised reactions when people find out I’m 22 and married, let alone that I have been married for almost 3 years now. That’s okay, but I wish there wasn’t so much judgment.

It’s not just people who marry young – I know those who wait until their later 20’s or 30’s are judged too.

Bottom line is that everyone has a different path; Let’s get over expectations.

→M

Continue Reading

Top 10 Bible Verses About Marriage

top Bible verses about marriage Since wedding season is upon us, I decided to share my top 10 Bible verses about marriage. They aren’t actually all directly referring to marriage, but all of them are great to apply to marriage.

In no particular order:

1. Ephesians 5: 25-33

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.  
 

These verses are commandments from God about having a holy marriage. I think it’s a beautiful section describing how Jesus loved the church, using it as a metaphor for how a husband should love his wife.

2. 1 Corinthians 13:4-10

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  

 

We’ve all heard this one! A favorite for weddings, this Bible verse about marriage describes true love.

3. 1 John 4:7

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

 

This is one of my favorites. While not only about marriage, it does speak about Godly love.

4. 1 Timothy 3:12-13

12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well.13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

 

I like this verse from 1 Timothy because it expresses God’s will for a Christian household.

5. Proverbs 31:10

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

 

I think this is one of the most popular quotes from Proverbs 31, which is in itself a very popular section of the Bible! Proverbs 31:10 is one of my top 10 Bible verses about marriage because it stresses (and honors) being a noble wife – having good character, which in today’s world is especially important to retain.

6. Deuteronomy 24:5

If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.

 

I love this verse! In a fairy tale kind of way, it’s cute. And a very good idea for newlyweds.

7. Colossians 3:18-19

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

 

This is an important verse, and often misunderstood. I know for a long time I felt weird about “submitting” myself to my husband. It wasn’t until I heard Joyce Meyer speak about the subject that I began to understand what the Lord means.

It’s kind of a big topic, so I won’t go into it too deeply here, but briefly:

God doesn’t give permission for a husband to take advantage of a submissive wife. No, he directly calls husbands to love their wives and not be harsh.

Wifely submission isn’t a bad thing – it’s just respecting your husband and letting him lead (essentially).

8. Ecclesiastes 4:12

12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  

 

Okay, so this one is not directly speaking on marriage. Nonetheless, it’s beautiful applied to marriage because it represents a couple and God.

9. Ephesians 4: 2-3

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  

 

This verse from Ephesians is a good reminder for any marriage.    

10. Matthew 19: 4-6

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Ephesians 5:31

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

Gen 2:24

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.  

 

I count this as one quote, because these three scriptures all focus on the same thing: that a husband and wife are one flesh. It must be a pretty important fact if it’s in The Bible three times, right?

 

I think if everyone made a “Top 10 Bible Verses About Marriage” post, they would all turn out differently. The Bible has a lot to say about marriage! In any case, I hope that you enjoyed mine!

P.S. I am posting videos regularly on the Devotional Diva YouTube channel now — you should go check them out and subscribe!

→M

photo credit: 19melissa68 via photopin cc

Continue Reading

Practice Patience with Your Spouse

practice patience

[Guest Post by Ashleigh Slater – I always appreciate returning the favor when a fellow author lets me share about my book on her blog. This is Ashleigh’s first book entitled Team Us. I appreciate her sharing wisdom on 4 steps to practice patience with your spouse’s old habits. Enjoy and be encouraged!] 

In the weeks that led up to our wedding, my husband Ted informed our friends, family, and anyone who would listen of his impending death.

“Death?” you ask.

Yep, death. Death, that is, to his single self.

The self that could buy a new Nord Electro on a whim. Or stay up until two in the morning on a regular basis. That guy who worked late into the evening because he didn’t have a wife waiting at home.

Sure, death isn’t the most romantic thing to broadcast prior to one’s nuptials, but Ted was right. Marriage doesn’t jibe well with many of the single habits brought to it. What I don’t think he anticipated, though, was that the death of old patterns takes a while.

In the last eleven years of our marriage, here are four practical ways we’ve learned to practice patience for the old habits as we work together toward the new. You may find them helpful too.

1. We Pick Our Battles

I’ve come to realize that not all of Ted’s old habits are necessarily sinful. Now, before I address a behavior of his, I first stop and categorize it.

Sin means to “miss the mark.” So I ask myself: Is Ted missing God’s mark? Or is he simply missing mine? Is it a quirk I find grating, or is it offensive to God and hurtful to our relationship? If it’s a matter of annoyance, not destructiveness, then maybe I—and not Ted—am the one who needs to change.

Sometimes the bothersome things simply aren’t worth the battle. Often when I choose to move a bothersome thing to the conversational front burner, it doesn’t improve my marriage, it simply feeds my need to have things a certain way. The majority of the time it’s better for me to apply the wisdom of Proverbs 19:11 here, which says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

2. We Have a Realistic View of Ourselves

Sometimes my habits don’t seem as bad as Ted’s do. There are instances when I’m inclined to give myself a break, but not so quick to give him one too.

The problem is, though, drawing comparisons between our habits masks the reality that I’m no better than he is. While, yes, some behaviors are more destructive than others, we can both use growth. When I put my own behavior into perspective, it gives me more patience for Ted in the areas he struggles.

tedsays013. We Sandwich Our Criticism

Ted and I both earned master’s degrees in communication. One of our favorite techniques we picked up in our studies is what’s termed the “communication sandwich.” For those of you unfamiliar with this, it basically boils down to using praise and affirmation to sandwich criticism.

What I love about this approach is that it doesn’t put Ted on the defensive. When I use it, not only do I speak well of him, pointing out the ways I recognize and appreciate him, but I’ve also made it about me. I’ve focused on a “this is how I feel,” rather than a “you did this” approach.

4. We Focus on Progress, Not Perfection

Nowadays, Ted doesn’t buy a Nord Electro on a whim. He also doesn’t stay up until two in the morning on a regular basis. But time management is still an area under construction that could easily leave me frustrated.

But I’ve determined not to focus on his failings, rather on his successes. When frustration sets in, I stop myself and focus on all the ways Ted has grown and improved in this area over the years. It’s hard to be angry when I realize just how far he’s come.

At times, it has seemed inconceivable that some of those pesky single behaviors Ted and I both brought to our marriage would change. But we’re finding that we can kill old habits with time. Ted’s not where he was ten years ago, and I know he won’t be where he is now in another decade. He can say the same for me.

Ashleigh SlaterAshleigh Slater is the author of Team Us: Marriage Together (Moody Publishers). With almost twenty years of writing experience, she loves to unite the power of a good story with practical application to encourage others. Ashleigh and her family reside in Atlanta, Georgia. To learn more, visit AshleighSlater.com or find her on Facebook.

(Parts of this article have been excerpted from Team Us by Ashleigh Slater. Used with permission from Moody Publishers © 2014).

Win a copy of Team Us by Ashleigh Slater by leaving a comment below. A winner will be chosen at random.

[photo credit: analogophile via photopin cc]

Continue Reading

Resolved to Surrender

surrender

[Guest Post by Andrea Portilla – Why is it that we try to work harder, give and serve more when all we need to do is simply surrender? I appreciate Andrea’s post, and I hope you will too!]

At the beginning of the New Year I had made a resolution: I was going to take a bubble bath once a week!

A perfect kind of resolution!

The first few weeks into the year I was beside myself, for I came to realize God desired so much more from my life than I had been giving Him. In the midst of motherhood and babies; being a loving wife and intentional mother, I lost the vision for myself.

I lost the desire to dream in the midst of diapers.
I lost the desire to plan in the “to do” lists.
I had lost the joy of the work set before me.

The idea of God desiring to use me for more was daunting and overwhelming. I had nothing else to give. Yet, I was restless and discontent.

One evening I was soaking in my bath tub, enjoying the warm water and quiet hum of the jets as the scent of lavender and peppermint permeated the room and the fizzy bath salts tickled my toes. Candles were lit and soft music was playing.

Despite the serenity of that moment, my heart was shattering. In the weeks prior everything I tried so hard to be “good” at seemed to crumble. My marriage was strained by stress and hard parenting issues. My relationship with my children was strained because of disobedience and strong wills.

I had no words to encourage my husband.
I had no wisdom to parent my children.
I had nothing.

I was desperate. So I took baths and I prayed.

I was crying out to God; angry, scared and uncertain of all I was “suppose” to do.

“Lord, somehow I have lost myself. I was trying so hard to juggle all this stuff. I was trying to keep it all together and instead, everything is a jumbled mess. What do you want from me? I can’t do anything…I have nothing.”

“Surrender.”

The word that had been haunting me for months came softly into my soul, like a soft wisp of wind gathering strength in the valley to flow through the trenches of my heart. In the quiet of that moment, I gave my nothing to Him. I offered all of my lost dreams, desires and doubts to Him.

Every plan I had for my children.
Every formula I had desperately tried in hopes for better.
Every desire I had for my marriage.
Every fear I had for each of those beautiful blessings.

In that moment, with airy bubbles all around, I lifted my hands in complete surrender and said, “I’m done.”

“I’m giving it all to you…all of it. My husband, my family, my life…it’s yours. Do what you want with all of it.”

I was breathless and vulnerable and completely free. My spirit was consumed with joy and overwhelmed with His love. All those selfish desires that were hindering me to live a life completely devoted and in full surrender to His purpose were gone.

In my bath tub full of bubbles and bath salts, I completely submerged myself; baptizing myself to show the Lord I was in.

For the first time in my life I was resolved to live this life with raised hands and open palms. A life emptied of all my nothingness and filled with His everything.

Beloved, He desires to use every part of your life. He desires to empty you of your plans and fill you with His purpose. He desires for you to give Him all your dreams, your visions, your doubts and your fears. He wants to take all you have been called to and every gift that he has given you, to send you out to those who only you can love and minister to because that was His greatest reason for creating you.

Lift your hands up in complete surrender and give all of yourself to the God who called you, so that He can give you the life He purposed and created for His kingdom.

Surrender your life so that He can give you the life He died for — A life worth living.

Andrea PortillaAndrea Portilla lives in Richmond, Texas and has been married to her high school sweetheart for 11 years. She is a mom and home educator to three amazing kids. Andrea writes at www.beautifulcraziness.blogspot.com, loves to entertain family and friends in her home and spends whatever time she has left pretending to be crafty. Connect with Andrea at http://www.beautifulcraziness.blogspot.com, the Beautiful Craziness Facebook page or on twitter @andreaportilla9.

[photo credit: Dennis Wong via photopin cc]

Continue Reading

Life as It Is Meant to Be

life as it is meant to be

[Guest Post by Hannah Anderson – I met Hannah through my friend Lisa Velthouse, founding editor of PickYourPortion.com. I always appreciating meeting new people through others. It excites me even more when I found out that they are also (shocker) a writer! Please welcome Hannah who writes with grace and glory — while reminding us what life as it is meant to be, looks like!]

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”—C. S. Lewis

One summer my husband, Nathan, and I drove from Seattle to Los Angeles on Highway 101. We had both been raised in the eastern United States, more at home in the rolling Appalachians than anywhere else, but we were visiting friends in Seattle and decided to drive down the Pacific coast before flying out of LA.

We had been on the road only a few hours when, somewhere in Oregon, we crested a bend and I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. I yelled at Nathan to stop the car, quickly jumped out, and ran to a short length of beach. I stood there taking it all in — the waves pounding against the rocky coast, the rough winds whipping my helpless hair, the gulls crying as they somersaulted above the water, and the salt sea biting at my upturned face.

And I felt very small.

Like David, I couldn’t help but think, “What is man that you are mindful of him? And the son of man that you care for him?”

And I wondered, How does one person make any difference in all this?

The fear that our lives lack significance, that we are merely specks of dust floating in the massive cosmos, can easily spark the search for identity.

Add to this the fact that we must devote vast amounts of time on the basics of daily life (I once calculated that in my lifetime I will prepare nearly 50,000 meals for my family), and it’s a wonder we all don’t run off to exotic places in search of ourselves!

This fear drives some women on a never-ending pursuit of success and perfection. From the fast-paced executive always scrambling for the next deal to the tiger mom bent on shaping her child into a future Supreme Court justice, we are hounded by the thought that our existence will somehow be worthless unless we achieve quantifiable success.

For others, this same fear causes them to retreat into their own zone of comfort and hide from the greater world, content to be a big fish in a small pond if it means avoiding the constant reminders of their limitations and irrelevance.

And yet the deeper magic is that no matter how small we may feel — no matter how small we actually may be — we are not insignificant. We are not lost in the grand cosmos.

We do matter.

But it’s not because of anything we’ve done; it’s because of something God did back at the beginning.

Genesis describes the first moments of human existence like this: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, after our likeness . . .’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them . . . .”

Unlike the rest of creation, as majestic and glorious as it is, only men and women are made in the image of God.

Only we have the breath, the very spirit of God, flowing in our earthly lungs; only we can be truly called His children.

And this is why your life is significant.

It’s not because of what you accomplish or how many people you influence. Your life is significant because when God created you, He “crowned you with glory and honor” by making you like Himself.  So that as you walk and talk and live and move — and prepare those 50,000 meals — your very existence, your life itself, reflects and represents Him on this earth.

This is where you must find identity; you must find it in God’s image. Because you are made in God’s image, you exist to reflect and represent Him on this earth. Because you are made in God’s image, you are made to proclaim what He is like by doing what He does.

Because you are made in God’s image, you are made for glory.

Hannah AndersonHannah Anderson lives with her husband and three children in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and is the author of Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image (Moody, 2014). You can connect with her at her blog sometimesalight.com on Twitter @sometimesalight.

[Excerpt from Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image, Moody Publishers, All rights reserved.]

[photo credit: anneh632 via photopin cc]

Continue Reading

Riding Waves of Faith

waves of faith

[Guest Post by Emily Rose Massey – When she asked if she could share her story, it was hard to narrow it down because this girl has gone through so much! Her testimony is as huge as her heart. I know you will be encouraged by her story. If you currently feel stuck under the waves of life, you are not alone. Stand and have faith with Emily today!]

Our faith is tested under waves of faith, and in the weight and pressures of life.

It’s in the fire, the trials, and the storms of life that we are truly strengthened. We can choose to rise above the chaos or allow it to overtake us.

Recently, my husband and I endured a time of testing and trial as we lost our first baby at just 6 weeks along in my pregnancy. I carried that child for two weeks before ever knowing that the baby was with Jesus and not going to be a part of our family here on earth.

Our faith in Jesus Christ is what has been our anchor through all of this.

Having an eternal perspective definitely helps you put one foot in front of the other when you are going through a storm. God’s overwhelming love and amazing grace has overshadowed us and carried us. We have felt His arms hold us close and we are thankful. We are also so grateful for the prayers of so many friends and family who have continued to lift us up.

As someone who doesn’t like to admit weaknesses, not out of pride, but because I constantly declare Philippians 4:13 over my life, I have had a hard time realizing that it is okay to grieve and it’s okay for grieving process to take time.

I have heard the grieving process described as “coming in waves,” and I can definitely attest to that.

Grief becomes a danger when you allow those waves to pull you under instead of rising above and riding those waves with the grace and strength that the Lord pours out for us. Just because you have God’s grace and strength to endure difficult times doesn’t mean you won’t ever have to face sadness or grief.

Just like all attacks from the enemy, the Lord gives us the armor to withstand whatever is thrown at us, as well as a firm foundation beneath our feet. One of my favorite pieces of our armor is the sword of the Spirit because it is our offensive weapon to cut down the devil’s lies with God’s Word.

Faith comes by hearing the Word and that faith is released when we declare God’s truth and promises. Those promises are what give us hope. Jesus promises us in John 16:33 that we will have trouble in this world, but He also promises us that we are safe because He has already overcame the world.

Whatever you are facing has an expiration date.

You won’t have to live with that trouble forever; it cannot overtake you, unless you let it.
So take heart!

Stand firm on the foundation of your Rock, Jesus Christ. Let nothing shake you because you have been made an over-comer through Jesus’ victory on the cross. Sadness and grief will come, sometimes like a tidal wave, but you have an anchor of hope and His name is Jesus! He gave you the power to walk on those waves and He will not let you sink. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

I am praying for those who may be going through a season of sadness, grief, or loss. Lift your eyes up to the hills where your Help comes from. He will keep you from sinking!

Emily Rose MasseyEmily Rose Massey is the author of The Vessel: From Marred to Honorable, a true story of a life delivered from the mire and filthy pit and bondage of sexual sin and molded into a vessel for the Lord to flow through to reach others for His Kingdom. She and her husband are both active in many areas of leadership at their church, including worship ministry, drama ministry, children’s ministry, and youth ministry.  In addition to teaching and preaching the Word of God, Emily also pours out her passion for the Lord through her songwriting. Her songs spring forth out of a forgiven heart full of thankfulness and devotion unto God. To connect with or learn more about Emily, visit www.emilyrosemassey.com.

[photo credit: esther** via photopin cc]

Continue Reading