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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Sink or Swim?

sink or swim

[Guest post by Sophia Reed: I hope you enjoy this inspiring story that shows no matter what, you can swim.]

When I was 23 years old, I found myself in a situation that was going to change my life forever: I was going to be a mom.

At 23 I was not doing bad for myself. I had a bachelor’s degree, my own place, and my own car; but I was far from being the ideal mother. My life up until that point consisted of living for myself, and although I considered myself a Christian, I was far from being Christlike, I still had a way to go in my walk with God. 

The father of my child was not supportive and his answer to my pregnancy was to have an abortion. Even though I was not a perfect Christian, abortion was not something I could imagine myself doing. This is when I made the decision to take responsibility for my actions, and go at the whole parenting thing alone. 

I would love to tell you that my life turned into complete perfection after deciding to have my son. But it was far from. I went through my pregnancy alone and I was working at a correctional facility. I worked 12-16 hours shifts during that time.

My pregnancy was filled with more worry than anything, but I tried to remain hopeful and happy.

When you know you are doing the right thing, the only thing you can do is to trust that God has a plan for you. I can’t really say I trusted God completely. Life was getting so hard and pregnancy was not all “peaches and cream.” Plus, as the only one in my household, I had to work up until I had my son; My last day at work was 7/2/08 and I had my son the next day on 7/3/08.

During the next six weeks of being on maternity leave, things got even more hectic. I had a crying infant that I was responsible for all on my own. Four weeks after my son was born, his father became incarcerated for larceny, where he remains till this day. 

This was a “sink or swim” moment. I could play the victim and be down on myself, or I could pick myself up. I decided to swim.

Within the next three months, I found a babysitter and a new job. Over the course of six years things got even better.

It is true when they say that God knows you better than you know yourself. As I was sitting at my job one day, God put it on my heart to go back to school for counseling. I really didn’t know much about counseling, but I obeyed God and who would have thought that helping others was actually my gift. 

At 30 years old, I am a true story of how God transforms people. I went from being a 23 year old women who lived for herself, to a 30 year old single mother. Now my son goes to a Christian private school, I own my own home, I completed my Master’s degree, and am now working on my PhD.

I learned that what the devil means for bad, God meant for good.

As an African American single mother, statistically I am not supposed to be where I am today. But God had other plans for me, and because He did, I want to share Him with the world.

I wrote a book, Waiting For A Man After God’s Own Heart, that talks about me being a single mother and my relationships struggles.

I have come to learn not to be defined by what the world thinks of single mothers. Just because I am not married or had a child out of wedlock, it doesn’t meant that God loves me any less. It just means He has chosen to work in a bigger way through me to show others that everyone matters in His eyes.

 

sophia reed on devotional divaSophia Reed is a single mother of one. She has a master’s degree in Human Services specializing in marriage, couple, and family therapy/ counseling, and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Human Behavior. Sophia is a Christian, and enjoys meshing her Christian values with her education and experiences. Sophia’s blog is http://therapyncounseling.blogspot.com

 

 

 

photo credit: Hani Amir via photopin cc

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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]

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Shame, Our Souls, and the Gospel

shame

[Guest Post by Kimberly Davidson Campbell – I have never met a woman who had it all together on the inside. Maybe you do a good job or holding everything together on the outside, but there’s always traces of shame that tries to steal our joy. I appreciate Kim’s words of encouragement today. Like fresh water in a desert oasis of my heart. Receive them today with love!]

As I sit in the passenger seat of my husband’s now trip-cluttered (otherwise immaculate) Camry, I am intrigued and overwhelmed by all the areas of shame that plague me. 

These areas of shame don’t just plague me — but in some way — they plague most of the women we know.

According to author and blogger Shauna Niequist in Bread & Wine, most women are battling shame in two areas: how their bodies look and how their homes look. I would like to add one as well: how their children look (or act).

Here are some of those examples in my own life:

+ I’m ashamed that my husband is unable to give me a piggy-back ride or carry me over the threshold.  This isn’t because he isn’t strong.  He is.  I love his arms and how strong they are. It is because I weigh almost 40 lbs more than him.

+ I am ashamed because of my flabby body.  It is now covered with stretchmarks from two kids and losing large amounts of weight several times. I wouldn’t trade my boys for anything – but I don’t like stretchmarks.

+ I am ashamed because my closet is a mess and my husband’s is all in order and tidy.

+ I am ashamed because I struggle to keep our home as clean as the mister would like it.  So I come unglued when he suggests that he could help do some of the dishes or vacuum. Shame affects pride.

+ In high school, I was ashamed as a part of the cheerleading squad and traveling singing group because the order size for my uniform or dress was always bigger than everyone else’s.

–        I struggle when I am in public with my toddler and he is pitching a temper tantrum because he doesn’t want to do something.  My parenting skills are not what they should be if he is misbehaving.

+ I (wrongfully) pride myself in that my boys have never had to have their nursery number put up on the screen during church for me to come and get them. I would die in horror if that ever happened.

You may or may not be able to resonate with any of these examples, but I’m sure you have examples of your own.

Maybe it’s why you can’t look at pictures taken long ago. Or why you keep private stashes of House Beautiful or Shape for midnight reading. Maybe your shame in your body comes from a tattoo from another time in your life you would gladly remove if you could. Or maybe it’s the scars from an abortion or eating disorder.

Shame is not only an indicator of the outward home or clothing size or perfect children. Shame reaches our souls and steals our joy!

Shame also reveals many other truths about our hearts:

  1. It reveals pride. I’ve mentioned this before, but pride is so ugly in a believer’s heart. Everything we have ever received is from God and is not of our own doing. So, when we strive to keep appearances up for the sake of making ourselves look better – it is not a helpful tool in sharing the truth of God’s Word.  (Ephesians 2.8-10; Isaiah 2.17)
  2. Comparison is a nasty habit. Whenever we compare our lives with those of others it reveals an ungrateful heart to the Lord. It is wrecking friendships as well. Oh, be grateful in your heart for all that God has done for you and in you! He works all things together for our good and His glory! (Romans 8.18-39; Colossians 3.15-17)
  3. Both of these areas of our hearts reveal a lack of love for others. One of the two commandments we are given in the Word is love your neighbor as yourself. Friendships are one of most important things in my life.  I love the sweet friends that God has blessed me with over the years and in every place I’ve lived. But, when I let sin hinder those relationships, it brings bitterness that takes forgiveness to overcome – by the truth of the Gospel.  (1 Corinthians 13)

The Gospel – the life and work of Jesus Christ – as it does for every area of our lives, has a direct impact on our life and soul of shame.

  1. Jesus doesn’t love you because you are skinny or wear a certain size. I remember Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada boasting in the fact that she was now in a size 4. But, her life wasn’t any happier than it was when she was slightly bigger. Jesus work in our lives often to heal us from an addiction to the scale or the tag on the skirt.
  2. The gospel isn’t yours only if you have a farmhouse table in your dining room or your baseboards never have a speck of dust on them. The gospel is ours not because of anything we have done – but because Jesus has done everything.
  3. Christ is ours no matter how our children behave – or misbehave! Claim that truth!
  4. Christ frees us! Romans 8.1 is a verse that every believer needs to claim for their lives as a mantra. We are free. There is no condemnation!

The next time you find it hard to believe that you are more than your house, your outward appearance, or any other area you find yourself ashamed of – rest in the doneness of the Gospel of Jesus! And boast in that!

kimberlycampbellKimberly Davidson Campbell is a wife, mother, freelance writer and photographer who resides in the Atlanta area with her family. She graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity in Education. Her passions include life-on-life discipleship, speaking, teaching, writing, cooking, being healthy, and photography – and mostly spending time with her husband and two very active sons! She blogs regularly at http://kd316.com.

[photo credit: Jims_photos via photopin cc]

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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.]

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The Parenting Package

parenting

[Guest Post by Marci Seither – I met her at an event I hosted a writers event at my house last year. I am excited for her to share a parenting story with you today!]

I handed my daughter a new toothbrush and toothpaste to pack alongside of her bathing suit and flip-flops. 

“Do you need more sun screen or the little stick that you can swipe across your nose?” I asked. She continued folding clothes she would need, along with her journal and an assortment of pens.

“I think I’m fine,” she said, looking under her bed and retrieving a lost tennis shoe.

“Do you have batteries for your camera?” I asked.

I remembered the first time I dropped Emma off at camp. She was eight years old. I had a hard time getting back into the car and driving off without her. I remember the quiet car ride home and couldn’t wait until the week was over to pick her up.

The sunny days had freckled her nose and left light streaks in her brown, bobbed hair. She smelled like a mixture of fresh air, mosquito spray, and marshmallows. She had the time of her life.

For the first time, I realized that she was more than capable of surviving without me than I was of surviving without her.

But this wasn’t just a weeklong stay at Camp Joy.
This was six months on the other side of the world.

Emma had graduated a semester early from high school and opted to travel to Saipan to experience Island life before settling into the rigors of college. While I wanted her to trust the Lord with her plans and stay in His presence, I was having a difficult time not getting in the way and, at times, casting my own shadow.

“Mom,” she looked at me. “I am totally going to be fine.  Plus, I will be staying with Aunt Beth and Uncle Andy. Really. You don’t have to worry.”

But worrying tends to be part of the whole parenting package.

How odd it is when you find out you are expecting a child. You are sent home after your first ob/gyn visit with a small diaper bag full of coupons, samples for baby products you never knew existed, and a thick book titled “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

You have nine months to prepare to bring your bundle of joy into the world, yet very little time to prepare for when they begin to stretch their wings, lift off from the nest, and soar into the next chapter of their life without you.

This is a huge transition for kids, but also for parents. We assume that the Lord gives us kids so we can help them grow up. But in reality, I wonder how many times it is the other way around.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7-10).

So pack your bags and be ready for the journey.

Because whether it is Camp Joy, Saipan, or somewhere in between, the Lord is with you and your kids.

Marci SeitherMarci Seither and her husband, John, live in California. They have six pretty awesome kids who have provided her with volumes of adventures, symphonies of laughter and loads of laundry. Her book “Empty Nest: Strategies to Help Your Kids Take Flight”  by Beacon Hill was just released this spring. It is available on Amazon.com or you can visit her website at www.marciseither.com.

[photo credit: FulgentKlutz via photopin cc]

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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.

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I lost more than a marriage

tin can phone

[Guest Post by Kathy Moore – I have been walking alongside my friend through her separation, and then divorce. It has been especially hard to watch as the gossip train has started, and doesn’t seem to stop. If you are a “Christian” who knows others who have been destroyed by gossip, please forward this to them. If you are one of them — be encouraged by my friend Kathy’s story today.]

I am divorced.  

Out of obedience to the Lord, I have been silent to share my story — until now. Due to continuing gossip, I have felt the Lord’s prompting to speak truth.

Matthew 5:13-14 reminds me as a Jesus follower I am to be salt and light to the world.  Salt, as we all know, flavors, and light reveals. In addition to being a flavoring, salt is a healing agent, though at first it stings like no one’s business.

And light? While we are thankful for all the wonderful gifts it brings into our lives. Sometimes, when we look straight into it — we are blinded. I realize that there is a cost in being salt and light.

I have had my own healing happen through the stinging, cleansing agents of salt. I have looked into the light and been found wanting.  

I have yielded to both the stinging and the blinding, and I have come out stronger for it. I have come out a stronger follower of Jesus, a more compassionate friend, an empathetic leader, and a mom who is able to instill healthy boundaries into her children.

It was not without pain, tears or anger at God. 
God has brought me full circle. 

He took an anger so deep that it turned logic into chaos. He lovingly comforted me as I came to the cross, a 41 year old broken, humbled, beaten woman full of repentance and asking for forgiveness. He has restored my heart, even in my deep brokenness.

It is time to speak up and confront the abuse — spiritual and otherwise — that continues in my life and the lives of my children.

January 2011, my life unraveled. 

I had known for many years that things were not right. I worked and worked to make things right. But. Nothing stuck. Healing did not occur. My husband and I had separated 3 times in 15 years together.

The final time, I sought assistance from church leaders. I realize now they were not equipped for such a large task. I knew that my church did not support divorce, and I didn’t want one — but I knew I could not keep living in a terrible situation.

I was angry.
I was hurting.
I was out of options. 

The problems had started years and years before. I never really had the guts to bring the situation into the light. My husband and I did not fight well. As a matter of fact, the fights often turned abusive. Chocking, hitting, name calling, and being thrown down occurred more than once.

I admit, sometimes I fought back. The last time we fought, my diamond left a cut above his eye. But years of verbal, physical and emotional abuse left their mark on me. All I wanted was out. And so I began swallowing over-the-counter migraine medicine. That one act created a firestorm that led to my eventual divorce. Unfortunately, the firestorm really didn’t hit the true cause of my misery — abuse. It only added to the abuse by adding a layer of spiritual abuse.

When I filed for legal separation, I lost more than a marriage, I lost a church family and the support of those I had counted on.  

I was left a shadow of what I had once been.

What I have failed to mention is all the gossip that has occurred since my separation, and then divorce. Though I filed for separation, I was not the one to check the divorce box. I never wanted divorce. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what was happening inside the four walls was not healthy for me or my kids and it wasn’t getting any better.

I have been called a run-away wife. 
I have been told that he found better women. 
I have been told I am a terrible mother.
It has been said that I’ve slept around.

And who said all these things? Christians. The very ones who turned their backs and didn’t wait around for the real story.

I am tired. 
I am righteously angry. 
And now, my children have gotten caught in the insipid chatter.

Ladies and gentleman, abuse is never ok. Abuse is a symptom of a much deeper issue. 

I tried everything imaginable to stop the abuse. I stayed for 15 years. I loved my husband. I wanted a better future.  I drove those who really loved and cared about me nuts, because I could not leave my marriage. And yet, the marriage and abuse were killing me, slowly.

It is a rare day when I don’t pray for my children’s father.
It is a rare day that goes by when I don’t grieve over my broken marriage.
It is a rare day that goes by when I am not confronted with the damage of divorce. 

On the other hand, rarely am I not thankful for who I have become. I wish I had had this strength when I was married, I believe maybe there could have been a different ending.

I like who I am.
I like who God created me to be.
I like the woman who relies fully on Jesus — for everything. 

God has shown up and continues to show up — financially, emotionally, and with gifts I couldn’t have asked for.

And yet, the gossip continues. People. I am divorced. I left an ugly situation hoping and praying for a different outcome, which still hasn’t come. However, God has come into my life and scooped out the anger and given me a heart of forgiveness towards my children’s dad; a forgiveness I’ve extended verbally to him.

Before the Lord, I am clean.

I have kept silent about the true nature of my marriage, because I wanted to protect not only my kids, but their dad as well.

I prayed that understanding would come. I have begged and pleaded with the Lord for someone to stand up for me — and yet here I am, with full peace knowing I must stand up now and speak truth.

Truth shines light on wrongdoings. 
Truth exposes sin. 
Truth is love. 

Love isn’t just sappy and happy. Sometimes love hurts. But, what is the outcome? Peace. True, God-given peace. I have walked a very lonely road. Often times the road has left me in the dark, by myself for long periods of time.

I’m thankful for it.
I’m thankful that I know Jesus intimately.
I’m thankful that it’s purely Jesus, me and my kids going down this road.

I continue to pray for the kid’s dad. I pray true, salt and light repentance occurs.   continue to speak truth into my kid’s lives. I continue to love them and have fun with them and all the while encourage a deeper relationship with Jesus. For those that think they are helping by speaking “truth” into my kid’s lives about me or my church or my life — stop it. If you really want to help, confront the sin that is standing right in front of you masquerading as “right” living.

For the rest of you who have so faithfully stood by my side through tears and really, really tough junk. Thank you. I pray one day I can do the same for you.

Kathy MooreI am Kathy Moore, a daughter of Jesus and mom to three. Writing is my passion and encouraging others towards a deeper, more authentic relationship with Jesus is my goal. I’m funny, serious, a bit weird at times, but overall a fun person to hang out with. I’ve been through a lot–just like the rest of humanity and try to use my “a lot” to help others. Connect with me at delivered2thrive.com.

[photo credit: Florian SEROUSSI via photopin cc]

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When it's Easier to Declare Defeat

declare defeat

[Guest Post by Mara Rose – I am so encouraged by her story because someday if my husband and I decide to have kids I will have to go off my medications, and that will not be easy. I love what she says that God still performs medical miracles. Believe it! Be encouraged today my friends.]

Sometimes it’s easier to declare defeat prior to trying, rather than to try and fail later.

There are so many things that we can worry about in life. And our worries can be amplified when we decide to have children. This past summer, my husband and I decided that we felt ready to start a family. Unfortunately, my ability to carry a child was still questionable.

My issue with doubt and self-defeat stems from 15 years of chronic pain and a questionable reproductive disease known as Endometriosis. I’ve spent years on medications to try and help me function “normally”.

I have often thought that my body should come with an instruction manual. Thankfully my Maker knows the number of hairs on my head, He knows my fears, He knows my desires, He knit me together in the womb, He knows it all.

Yet, I still had doubt.

What would happen to my body if I went off medications? What would happen to my pain if I got pregnant? Not only that, but statistics say women with Endometriosis can take up to 1 year to get pregnant and some aren’t able to conceive at all.

The answers were uncertain — which is when we took a leap of faith and gave it a try.

My first thought after reading the positive pregnancy test was, “Holy cow! This is a miracle.” My second thought was, “I need to talk to my doctor”.

Joking aside, it is incredible to know that despite my doubts and fears — God blesses us anyway!

In the first several weeks of this pregnancy, I was gripped with anxiety and uncertainty. I felt better after speaking with my doctor about how to treat my pain while pregnant, but I still had fear.

One day I was overcome with emotions (and hormones). My husband lovingly took my hand and said, “You aren’t the first person to have chronic pain and be pregnant. Trust God to take care of it.”

Even with the blessing of this miracle baby growing inside me, I was focused on trying to control my pain instead of giving it over to the Lord.

Our baby isn’t here yet but I am already learning so many things about myself through this pregnancy. Everything has improved since my first trimester. There are still challenging pain and energy days, but I’m learning to cope with it. Most importantly, I have to say that my faith in the Lord has grown immensely. He showed me that His Plan and His Power is far greater than any statistic or prognosis.

No matter what your doctor has told you, medical miracles still happen every day! Believe it.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:4-7, NIV).

Mara_RoseMara Rose is an up-and-coming author and Christian writer. She has endured years of chronic pain and strives to be a light for Jesus even on the darkest days. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Jonathan, who serves in the military and is an OIF Veteran. You can read more from Mara on her blog,wordsbymara.com, or on Twitter @MsMaraRose.

[photo credit: lanuiop via photopin cc]

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When Your World Comes Crashing Down

when-your-world-comes-crashing-down

[Guest Post by Rochelle Frazier – I met her through the Top 10 Blogs for Christian Women post I compiled. She was nominated for the list, and when I looked at her blog–I knew I had to have her share! For anyone who has seen their picture perfect like come crashing down, this is for you today. Be encouraged! You are not alone.]

Is it possible to arrive at the place where you stop asking, “Is there more? Should I be more?”

Is it possible that your restless heart could actually find rest right where you are?

Satisfied?
I dare to say “Yes!”

I don’t have the story of overcoming an addiction or a broken, battered, and abused childhood. I not only grew up in church, but you could find me there whenever the doors were open. My story was more on the line of the over-achieving, people-pleasing perfectionist. Everything in order and perfectly decorated, even my children.

From the outside, it appeared I had it all. And according to the “American Gospel,” I had every reason to believe that I did. You know the gospel that teaches us to be all that we can be, to own, possess, and claim what is ours, to climb a ladder that is placed on the wrong mountain and burst through the ceiling that has no eternal significance. And do it our way! This same spirit even carried into the way I served the church.

So when my perfectly orchestrated life left me empty searching for something more, I had no idea it was Him that I was missing.

I had it all together, right? Believing I was spiritually full, I offered my little teacup to the world asking… will you fill me?

But it didn’t come as I expected being a wife or a mother.
Nor through my perfectly decorated home waiting on Southern Living to arrive.
Nor from improving my figure or my social agenda.
Nor from becoming the top of my industry.

And then when my perfect little world came crashing down in 2006, broken and believing irredeemable, I turned to the very things I had avoided in my pursuit of perfection to see if they would fill me. But nothing satisfied the deep longing of my soul.

And then I finally came to the end of me, and because I needed God so desperately I would finally fill the calling of Jeremiah 29–not the one that I had worn on t-shirts and pasted on journals claiming that He has plans for me, but the rest of the verse that says,

“When you seek with your whole heart, I will be found. And bring you back from captivity.”

I was praying for captives. Quick to point out the captives. I had even prayed for God to open a door so that I might visit the captives in Africa. And then reality hit that I was a captive. My heart would become restless trying free other captives who, like me, bought into the wrong gospel.

So how did I come to this place?

There was a year that changed my life. Our community was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, a few months later I would be diagnosed with congestive heart failure delivering twins, and while seeking to beat all odds against me, I would become a single mom.  I was told I may never work again, and with my three precious angels and a healing heart, I offered up a prayer,

“Would you give me an idea that would change my life?”

And He did. I began writing what is now the children’s series, Sweeteas, and these precious little characters would absolutely change my life. However, what truly changed me was that He answered that prayer.

A collision with the fully present God who I had enthroned in eternity wrecked my life. I was never to be the same. He became a reality and my life had to adjust to the true Gospel. The Gospel that says,

“You will find your life when you lose it” (Matthew 10:39).

And I did!

Sweet friends, when your world comes crashing down your heart has tasted eternity (Ecc 3:11). It will be restless until you return to His love. But when you do, you will find that the longing of your weary soul is satisfied!

Rochelle FrazierRochelle is a storyteller by nature infused with undeniable markings of a true Southern girl: charming accent, gracious hospitality, and her passionate and infectious faith. She is the author of the children’s series Sweeteas and He Gave Me Pearls and journeys with women daily through her blog “Living with Divine Purpose.” Her story is one of inspiration birthed at a time of desperation, and gives hope to women that He still brings beauty from ashes. She is the mother to a beautifully blended family of seven including her husband Todd, and children Joy, Jadyn, Holland, Houston & Jackson. She is currently finishing her newest book, Something More: Daring to Live on Purpose. Connect with Rochelle at http://www.rochellefrazier.com.

[Photo: A National Acrobat via photopin cc]

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