God Cares For Me In Every Season

agnes-amos-god-cares-every-season

[Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Agnes Amos’ latest book, God Cares for Me in Every Season: Godly Insights for Singleness, Marriage, and Divorce.  (I did receive a copy of this book so that I could pick out the excerpt!) Agnes contributes regularly to Devotional Diva and has become a good friend of mine, so I wrote this endorsement that appears in the book; I wanted to include it here, too:

Each of us goes through at least one of the seasons discussed in this book – singleness may be our total path, or perhaps we go through all three seasons into divorce. In today’s modern world, these seasons are indeed normal and like Agnes discusses, trials of faith. I receive emails from women all around the world in the same positions and I know these chapters of encouragement are much-needed. Singleness and divorce especially are not discussed enough in the church, which is why I think this book is so unique. The situations are not unique, but the conversation is. There has been so much shame and guilt around both singleness and divorce, but Agnes reminds us in this book that God never leaves us – not then, not ever. Singleness is not a curse. Marriage may not be perfect (I know mine is not! Marriage is work!) and divorce may be inevitable. But you are always loved, Child of God.]

God Cares for Me in Every Season

I am an avid walker—this is a hobby I inherited from my earthly father, Papa Amos.

Walking is a time when I seek God’s face for my life and for others, and it is during these times that the Holy Spirit gets my attention. So that I don’t forget what He says, I often record it on my cell phone.

For those of you who are wondering, “Does God speak to humans like us?” The answer is Yes, He does in many natural ways. Here are the most common: Impulse, Ideas, Inspirations. The Bible is filled with many examples of how God speaks to His children.

Personally, I am learning to listen when God speaks, and my life continues to be transformed by this experience.

It was during one of these experiences that the Lord laid on my heart to write this book to encourage global Christians (and non-Christians) on His never wavering care during every season of their lives, especially the seasons of singleness, marriage, and divorce. I have to admit that when the idea came, I was reluctant to respond, and asked the Lord, “Why me?” The reason for this question is because the season of marriage is one where I have failed woefully in the past.

I do not consider myself to be an expert in these three seasons—at least that is what I thought. But the Holy Spirit reminded me of a truism I have heard in church many times: “A faith that is not tested cannot be trusted,”

My friends, I have been tested, and have failed and been redeemed in each of the three seasons I share in this book—single, married, and divorced. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I am here to share with you the truth that the Lord is in every one of these seasons. I want you to know beyond a doubt that He is indeed interested in and present with you in every season of your life.

For many years, I found myself struggling in each of these seasons. I was walking through each season with one leg in the world and one leg in Christ. After years of failing to succeed in any season, I finally discovered that living God’s way in every season of life is the best decision I could ever make. I have now begun a journey into a new and fulfilling lifestyle in marriage by focusing on Christ rather than my marital situation. I praise God for the truth of His Word in 2 Corinthians 5: 17 that says:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

My prayer for you as you read this book is that you will be encouraged as you discover that our God is the God of the impossible. Nothing that happens in your life is impossible for Him to handle (Luke 1: 37). He will do the impossible for you in each of these seasons. He is the God that can convert your pain to gain and cause all things to work together for your good (Romans 8: 28). I had to learn that lesson, and you may need to learn it too. Perhaps, you will discover—like I did—the God who waits to help you in your seasons of singleness, marriage, or divorce.

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

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My Modesty Story

modesty story

 

modesty story

[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Hannah Anderson. Today Hannah is sharing her personal modesty story — and I commend her for that. Everyone has different modesty standards today; let’s face it, there’s no cut and dry rules. Hannah felt led to share and I love the lesson in her story! Thank you Hannah for being brave!]

A twenty-something Christian woman who always always held herself up to Christian standards of purity and modesty (sort of, more on that later) and wore her father’s purity ring he gave her a decade prior with pride. This woman always liked to talk about how above the world and the pleasures of the flesh she was and how sorry she was for other women who destroyed their lives by going outside God’s boundaries.

However, this woman was self-conscious. She thought herself to be homely and overweight. She noticed that no guys ever paid attention to her except to be her friend and she pretended this didn’t bother he because that is not what a Christian woman should care about. She also noticed that homely girls could get attention from guys by dressing immodestly, but she deigned not to go down that road because of her faith.

This woman met a man at work she really liked. He was an independent contractor working there temporarily. They talked all of the time on lunch break but he never pressed it further. He was about to leave and the woman was tired of being just a friend so she did something. She bought some new clothes that were still very modest but could be quickly made immodest. The lady would be dressed just as demurely and modestly as ever except when talking to the man on lunchbreak when she made sure he saw more than he could handle.

The woman rationalized this behavior by telling herself she was still “dressing modestly.”

The man saw what she was showing and lusted after her. After a week he asked the woman out. The woman was happier than ever but she felt very guilty about using immodesty so he would lust.

Well, you can probably guess the woman is me and the man is now my husband. We have talked about this and while he did lust after me that was not the reason he asked me out. He said he always liked me but was too shy to ask me out and wanted to wait until he would never have to see me again in case I said no. He said he felt just as guilty about lusting after me as I did about being immodest. I, of course apologized to him just like I did to God so many times.

We should never break God’s commandments no matter what advantages we might procure, for he is the one who knows what is best, and sometimes, God in his graciousness gives us what we want despite messing up. Finally, we need to obey the spirit of the law and not just the ‘rules’ that we can keep while violating the principles behind them.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

hannah andersonI grew up South of Atlanta and got a degree in philosophy from Emory University where I learned to think deep thoughts while accruing even bigger debts. I now live North of Atlanta with my husband and son.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Don't Throw Yourself Away

throw yourself away

[Guest Post by Wendy Griffith – I really resonate with her story and not throwing your life away. If you find yourself struggling with your worth in Christ today, be encouraged! You are not alone.]

My heart was crushed—but somehow I was still breathing.

It had been just a week since my breakup with a man whom I had once believed was the love of my life when Dr. Pat Robertson, founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, called me into his office.

Like a concerned father, Pat gently commanded, “Wendy, come in here. Tell me what happened.” The compassion in his voice caused the tears that were already close to the surface to come flooding down my cheeks. I reached for the box of tissues on his desk and told him everything. Robertson, a man who has sat down with presidents and kings, a man who once ran for president of the United States and who formed a global media empire, wanted to hear about my heartbreak. I was deeply moved.

After I had finished talking, Pat gave me some heartfelt advice.

“Wendy, you are special. You are beautiful, and you are talented. Don’t throw yourself away!”

At the time I wasn’t quite sure what Pat meant by, “Don’t throw yourself away,” but apparently God wanted me to remember it, because Pat said it over and over during our short time together. “Don’t throw yourself away!” Later I figured it out. He meant, “Don’t settle. Don’t throw yourself away on a guy who is not worthy of you, because you are worth so much more than you realize.”

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it (Matthew 13: 45-46).

Ladies, the Lord wants you to know that you are a pearl of great price, a treasure worth pursuing and protecting. You are worth fighting for and, like the pearl in the parable, worth everything it might cost a guy to obtain you. You are worth someone sacrificing his time, his routine, his comfort, his money, his whatever in order to have you. You are worth it!

One of the most inspiring love stories in the Bible is the story of Jacob and Rachel. In fact, it may be one of the greatest love stories of all time.

Jacob had been sent by his father Isaac to find a wife from a relative’s family. He traveled a long distance to his mother’s family, and when he met Rachel at a well, for him it was love at first sight. Jacob single-handedly moved the great stone cover off the well, perhaps trying to impress Rachel:

“When Jacob saw Rachel, daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud” (Gen. 29:10-11, NIV).

Interestingly, it wasn’t Rachel who cried but Jacob. He seemed to know with certainty that Rachel would be his bride. Rachel ran to her father and told him about the young traveler. Rachel’s father, Laban, ran out to meet Jacob, and then he hugged him and kissed him and invited him to his home.

Jacob stayed with Laban’s family and within a month fell deeply in love with Rachel. He was determined to marry her. But before he would allow Jacob to do so, Rachel’s father convinced Jacob to work for him for seven years. Jacob agreed. Jacob was so in love with Rachel that the Bible says the time flew by: “They seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (Gen. 29:20, NIV). Wow, talk about romantic! I’d like to see a modern romantic comedy come even close to depicting this kind of love and sacrifice.

Jesus Is the Ultimate Example

There are many examples of men who “paid the price” for their brides, but the apostle Paul says that the greatest example of sacrificial love is Jesus: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).

What kind of love sacrifices its very life so that we might live? The love of Jesus does—and the Bible calls men to love their wives with that same kind of love:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself (Eph. 5:25-28, emphasis added).

You are a prize to be won, and so am I! You are worth fighting for. You are not only worthy of love, but you are worthy of “I love you” period.

You are a royal daughter of the Most High King, a princess in the palace, a pearl of great price and beautiful beyond measure.

Wendy GriffithWendy Griffith is an anchor and senior reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network and cohost of CBN’s flagship show, The 700 Club, with CBN founder Dr. Pat Robertson. She also co-anchors two other shows for CBN: Christian World News and CBN Newswatch. Wendy is the coauthor, with Craig von Buseck, of Praying the News. More information can be found on YouAreAPrize.com.

(Adapted from You Are a Prize to Be Won!, by Wendy Griffith. Copyright (2014), Gospel Light/Regal Books, Ventura, CA 93003. Used by permission.)

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Lessons Learned from Fasting

lessons learned from fasting

[Guest Post by Elise Boggs – We met many years at North Coast Church. She worked on staff with the College ministry, and I was serving as a volunteer in the 20-something ministry. It’s pretty amazing to see how far she has come. If you find yourself like Elise, unfamiliar with fasting — I think you will like to hear her story.]

Miracles do happen.

Last year was a challenging year. I made the decision to leave my role in ministry, I ended a two year relationship, and I became overwhelmed with anxiety to the point of being issued a mandatory three month sabbatical by my doctor.

I felt like a stranger in my own skin.

My identity as a visible leader in ministry was traded for anonymity. The hope of an enduring relationship was replaced with the issuance of metaphorical “Go back to Start” card. My challenges with anxiety bubbled to the surface the day I went into work and shortly thereafter returned to the parking lot because of a panic attack.

I thought I was dying — in a sense I was. There were ways I was functioning that did not work anymore, ways that needed to die.

The first sermon of the new year  I heard was based on Philippians 3:13 where Paul encourages us to forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead. I decided to start the year off with a spiritual discipline I have always avoided.

Like people who say (those people being me) that they aren’t runners, I always believed I was not one of those people who could fast. I am a lightweight. two glasses of wine is my limit, energy drinks make me nauseous, and I once threw up Golden Spoon frozen yogurt because it was too sweet for me.

When I thought of fasting, I envisioned myself failing miserably, too weak and disoriented to grasp any spiritual insights.

Despite my hesitations, I felt a nudge to start this year differently and attempt a fast. To help me acclimate to this discipline, I chose the Daniel fast, which is a 21-day partial fast consisting of fruits, vegetables, water, nuts, beans, and whole grains. The only beverage permitted is water.

Here are three of the most significant lessons learned from fasting.

1. I can change. I am a foodie. I watch the Food Network and read cook books like novels. My friends know that if they are looking for a recommendation for a good place to eat, I have a mental file cabinet of every cuisine stored away for every occasion. I enjoy every kind of food and am every person’s easiest guest because I like everything.

Enjoying food is a good thing. Being addicted to certain things, especially those that aren’t good for you is another. My addiction? Starbucks! A single day does not pass that I don’t think about my next Starbucks beverage. My daily ritual consists of coffee at home in the morning to wake me up and an afternoon fix at Starbucks to keep me going.

2. It’s not you, it’s me. When you care for something, you protect it. This fast has caused me to be more discerning about what I do and do not allow into my body. When going out to eat with friends, I have had to stick by these values as I watch them enjoy my favorite coffee or bite into a delicious burger.

As the days passed and I remained committed, I noticed that I began to experience a care for myself and well being in a way that has been foreign for me. Cherishing the body God gave me has been a tangible way to show love to myself, a continual message of my value to be nourished and protected.

3. The best exercise of my self will is letting go. The book of Daniel illustrates a constant struggle between submission and power. Daniel is submissive to God and His ways of living. The kings of the time were interested in their own power and half hearted in their devotion to God, despite the miracles they witnessed in Daniel’s life. During this fast I realized I have a hard time submitting to God.

My fears whisper that if I surrender, I might get hurt. Like the kings of Babylon, I do many things, even good things in my own strength, but have not experienced the miracles Daniel did. I often wonder if miracles even still happen? I don’t want to get my hopes up, but deep down I do.

The focus of a fast is spiritual — it is not an excuse for a diet or vanity.

I have not stepped on a scale since I began the fast. Surrender and submission are often associated with weakness, but if I take God at His Word, He says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that “My grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I have heard this verse, but I don’t know that I have lived this verse. I have a hunch it’s because I have not fully surrendered those areas in need of his grace and power and I have been sitting in the nosebleed section in the house of miracles.

I anticipated symptoms of withdrawal and probable failure, but to my surprise this has not been the case at all. God’s power is the reason this fast was easy. I have no other explanation for it. My willpower is less than stellar when it comes to food. Each time I drove past a Starbucks, His power kept me moving forward forgetting what was behind and moving towards a new future. When I was hungry, He gave me patience to prepare a meal and not worry that it was taking away from something more productive. Each time I smelled meat cooking or went out to eat with someone, God kept my thoughts fixed not on what I couldn’t have, but what I could have,  a second helping of Him.

I have struggled for freedom in so many areas without success and I believe God in His mercy allowed me to experienced freedom in this seemingly small way to give me confidence of His power in the other areas of my life that seem insurmountable.

He is teaching me that I can change!

I can be free from anxiety, depression, financial struggles, approval addiction, unhealthy relationships — with His help and doing it His way, I can be free.

Who knew being released from these small things would have larger implications? Romans 12:2 promises us that God can transform us into a new person by changing the way we think. During my fast, my thinking shifted from believing that I could not overcome deeply ingrained habits to being set free in a very short amount of time.

This has larger implications for so many areas of my life where I have been battered and bruised or compromised my values for the approval and acceptance of others. It is easiest to blame something external, but the truth is that I don’t believe that I have loved myself in a way that has let the good in and protects from the bad.

I have come to believe my challenges with anxiety are rooted in my own self-neglect. But there is hope!

Now that I have had a taste of what it looks and feels like to care for my body, I can begin learning what it means to live out the message of Proverbs 4:23 which says “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.”

Elise BoggsElise currently teaches at Chapman (Brandman) University in the MBA and Organizational Leadership programs. She also directs her own consulting practice specializing in leadership training, team and organizational development, and career and life coaching. Connect with Elise at {eliseboggsconsulting} at {gmail} dot {com}.

[Photo: Susan L., Flickr]

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When Your World Comes Crashing Down

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[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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How to Motivate Your Son to Follow Christ

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[Guest Post by Rhonda Stoppe – Whenever I meet a fellow Harvest House author I am excited to connect and have him or her share their story on Devotional Diva. If you are a mom of a boy or boys, you will appreciate this how-to!]

How can I motivate my son to want to follow Christ?

Moms ask me all the time, How can I get my son to want to follow Christ? My answer? You cannot coerce, manipulate, or even reward your son enough to make him want to live in full abandon to Christ. You can however, live in a manner that makes following Christ irresistible!

Your son–as well as his generation–longs to see what genuine Christianity looks like. They are aching for someone to lay down all the trivial cares of life and show them, by example, how to live completely sold out for Christ. Your son can come to understand the infinite importance of surrendering his future to the Lord if he sees you living with total abandon for Christ. And your son will learn to joyfully expect the Lord to direct his future as well.

In her book A Woman After God’s Own Heart, Elizabeth George penned the cry of my heart: “I am in fear of missing what God has for me in this life. I don’t want to be robbed of even one of God’s riches by not taking time to let Him invade my life…”

And I am equally concerned that my sons not miss any opportunities to serve the Lord in their lives.

When Christ “invades your life,” what spills over is a passion for Him and for His kingdom purposes. Your son will not be able to ignore your message if it flows from a genuine longing to honor the Lord in all you do.

To let Christ invade your life, you may need to do a little housecleaning. To determine whether you are serious about living in a manner that will inspire your son to live for Christ ask yourself these questions:

+ Am I willing to forfeit relationships that do not honor the Lord?
+ Am I willing to refuse to be entertained by anything that is contrary to God’s commands?
+ Am I willing to forsake all activities or opportunities that would draw me away from wholehearted obedience to Christ?

Your willingness to lay aside anything that besets your passionate pursuit of Christ and to His leading will not only set an example for your son to follow, but create an appetite in him to do the same.

To make a lasting impression on your son, you must be set on fire by the single most glorious purpose of life–to know Christ and joyfully exhibit His greatness in all areas of life!” (Excerpt Moms Raising Sons to Be Men, Stoppe pg 188)

Rhonda StoppeRhonda Stoppe’s book Moms Raising Sons To Be Men is selling 1000 copies per month mentoring thousands of moms to guide sons toward a no regrets life. With over 20 years experience of helping women build a No Regrets Life as a pastor’s wife, speaker, and author, Rhonda has helped women to impact the moral fiber of the next generation by raising children with integrity, and become more influential than they ever dreamed possible. To follow Rhonda’s blog, free resources for no-regret parenting, or to book Rhonda for your next Women’s event visit www.NoRegretsWoman.com or “like” her page on Facebook.

[Photo: JefferyTurner via photopin cc]

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Why Not Pursue Him?

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[Guest Post by Paula Hendricks – I met her many years ago at the True Woman Conference in Chicago, IL. We were roommies and it was fun to meet her when I published my first book, and now years later it’s my turn to return the favor. Please welcome my friend Paula!]

Ever been tempted to force your fairy tale? Yea, me, too.

On those days when I’m tempted to act like a beggar or an orphan (instead of an adopted daughter of the King of Kings!), here are four truths I often come back to. I pray they spare you the frustration and heartache I’ve experienced along the way.

1. You are already loved completely and unconditionally. 

You no longer have to fight for attention or find your worth in a boyfriend. Listen to how deeply—and how long—the King has loved you:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jer. 31:3).

2. You don’t know what is best for you, but God does.

Have you ever set your sights on a guy only to realize later he’s totally wrong for you? I’ve done that more times than I care to count. That’s because:

“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Prov. 19:2).

God, unlike us, knows everything. Including the hearts of all guys (1 Kings 8:39b). You can trust Him to lead and protect you, His daughter, even when you don’t realize you need protecting.

3. You’re not actually waiting on a guy to pursue you—you’re waiting on God.

Whenever you’re frustrated over how long it’s taking a guy to notice you, remember that God is in control of everything:

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it wherever he pleases” (Prov. 21:1).

If the Lord can move the heart of the most powerful man in the land, He can turn any guy’s heart. Wait for His perfect timing.

4. God has nothing but good in store for those who wait on Him. 

You can rest easy. Psalm 25:3 says:

“None who wait for you shall be put to shame.”

That’s a fact you can count on from Your God who makes promises and keeps them. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’ll always get what we want when we want it. God tells us that in this world we will have trouble. But ultimately, in the end, He will work everything together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).

Having said this, I feel like I should add the following disclaimer . . .

Trusting God with your love life doesn’t mean everything will work out beautifully, or that you’ll get what you want. God isn’t a formula. God is a Person—one who’s more interested in securing our forever happiness than our temporary happiness. Hard to believe, but as our Creator, He knows better than we do what will truly make us happy. And ultimately, the ache we’re looking to fill will never be satisfied by anyone or anything other than Him.

And with that said—why not pursue Him?

Paula HendricksPaula Hendricks lives in southwest Michigan where she no longer tries to catch guys’ attention by swallowing live goldfish, arm wrestling, and jumping down flights of stairs. Instead, she blogs for teen girls and women by day and journals her adventures by night. She’s worked at Revive Our Hearts for nearly nine years (whew!), where she currently serves as Writing and Editorial Manager. Catch more of her writing at PaulaWrites.com.

 

confessions of a boy crazy girl*Adapted from Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom.

To win a copy of Paula’s book please leave a comment, and the winner will be chosen at random on March 6.

[Photo: Robby Mueller via photopin cc]

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