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Don’t Give Up

God loves you. Please hear me out. God loves you! Nothing you’ve done and nothing you do can ever change that fact, that truth. So many times, the enemy would have you believe that you’ve gone too far, made too many mistakes, slept with too many people, had too many drunken nights and “high as a kite” days to ever make it back into God’s grace.

Do you want to know the truth?

On your worst day, God still loves you. On your best day, you’re still not perfect. None of us are. And God loves us anyway. You have to pay attention to who has your ear. Who or what are you listening to? God is not a man that He should lie. His word tells us that He loves us (John 3:16). So, if what you’re hearing is anything other than God loves you, it’s not from Him.

Now, don’t get me wrong. God may not be happy with some of the things you’re doing, things that He considers sin. But, He still loves you. And, He will still accept you back into His family, if you would only repent, turn from foolishness, and follow Him (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Take heart and be encouraged. It’s not over for you. You who was considering suicide, you who’s been depressed for years, you who feels like you’ve messed up one too many times, you who feels like a failing mother or a failing father…You are still here which means you still have a chance to get it right, to let go of the pain, deal with your past (or your right now), and embrace God’s goodness and love for you and your life.

I’m praying for you and believing that God will do what needs to be done in your life.

Don’t, I repeat, DON’T give up. God has a plan for you! 

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Grace to Give

Grace is something God provides daily. We make a mistake; His grace is there. We go left when He says go right; His grace is there. Freely, He gives grace to us. So, why do we find it so difficult to extend grace to others?

Recently, I was in a check-out line at a grocery store. So distinctly, I felt God leading me to encourage the lady that was working the cash register. Immediately, I started thinking about how she would respond to me telling her, “God loves you,” and fear showed up. That cashier didn’t seem to smile during our encounter, and I began to wonder what would come of this. Would my words encourage her or be the last thing she wanted to hear at that moment? So many thoughts swirled in my head as I weighed my options. In the end, I paid for my groceries and walked away without speaking any words of encouragement. I felt awful about it. She may have needed those words, especially today. Instead of beating myself up for the rest of the day, I prayed for God to continue to increase my boldness so I can speak up when He truly needs me to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Later that same day, another lady reached out to me and expressed how she had been doubting herself. I was able to encourage her, and although I didn’t push beyond fear earlier that day in the check-out line, I was glad I was able to push past feelings the second time around. More than anything, I was thankful for God providing grace and loving me, even when I didn’t get everything exactly right. He would soon remind me to extend that same grace to my oldest daughter, at a time when she needed it most.

My oldest daughter, all of nine years old, had two recitals coming up at her school. She would be playing the violin, once during a class assembly, and again during an evening recital for students, teachers, parents, and friends. She was okay with the class assembly (only students and faculty present), but she was not thrilled about performing in front of a “room full of adults.” Her explanation: “Mom, you know I have stage fright.” I explained that she would have to overcome this fear and that I expected her to perform during both events. Unbeknownst to me, she had already had a conversation with her music teacher and was excused from performing at the evening recital. How could my daughter just decide she was too afraid to perform? Didn’t she know she would be okay? Should I just let her get her way? As I was still adamantly explaining that she would, in fact, have to perform during the evening recital, God ever so gently reminded me of the grace He had extended me when I was too afraid, on more than one occasion.

At that moment, as much as I wanted to persuade for her to perform, I knew I had to extend grace. It was my turn to show her what grace (and a mother’s love) should look like. When she, again, declared that she would not be performing during the evening recital, I merely said, “Okay.” I then proceeded to explain that we would work on getting over her stage fright, “little by little until you’re finally ready.” Though neither of us knows when “finally ready” will be, I am determined to extend grace, along the way, just as Christ continues to do for me.

So, the next time you find yourself in a situation that could use a little (or a lot) of grace, remember, God provides us with grace daily. The least we can do is extend to others the same grace we are in need of every single day.

 

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Beauty for Ashes

 

pic with dad“How do you love God, the Father, when your only experience with a father has been anything but righteous or right?”

My biological father, who should have protected me, groomed, brainwashed, and abused me. I became his child-bride, and for over a decade, I was under his control: mind, body, and soul. I still remember how he made me “marry him” in a promise covenant before God. Initially, the promise was to last until I was seventeen, however, as I found out, breaking free was not going to be easy. By seventeen, I was ready for freedom, but he would not allow it, using tactics that were anything but loving. I was forced to continue being sexually abused for four more years.

Fast forward three years. I’d had a child, married my college sweetheart, had a second child, and was living in Europe. Although I knew God and believed in Him, I didn’t really understand how to properly view Him as my heavenly father…the fatherly example I had made it hard for God to connect with me. I had walls up unaware of how to let them down, or a desire to do so.

God knew He would have to intervene for true healing to take place in my life. In a pure God move, I connected with, Herb and April Adkins, a Christian couple that I attended church with while in Europe. They were the coordinators for a women’s conference that was to take place nearby in early 2012. I needed change, was tired of being tormented by my past and felt the women’s conference would be just the thing.

On the last night of the three-day conference, at about 12:30am, while sitting at a table eating Hawaiian pizza, Herb said God had revealed that I would be one of his spiritual daughters. Though I wasn’t sure what to think of it at the time, his words resonated with me. The following day, with tears in my eyes, I told him, in front of his wife, that I received his words as truth. I was going to have a second chance at this father thing.

I was going to have a real father. Wait! What?? What does that even mean?

After returning home, I told my husband about everything that happened, including the words spoken by Herb. To my surprise, he was excited for me. I then proceeded to ask my husband questions, with all sincerity. “How does this work?” “How do you have a father?” “What does the relationship look like?”  After much prayer, and with overwhelming anxiousness, I allowed God to show me, through Herb Adkins, what it was like to have a real father.

The blessed thing about all of this…there was an instant God connection. Over the next few months, Herb and I talked via phone, text, Facebook messenger, at church, and via hand written notes. He and his wife, April, invited my family to be a part of their family. They even went so far as to discuss an adult adoption (that’s a real thing) to make our family bond official. Our families grew closer and closer, to the point where newcomers in the area didn’t know that we were not blood-related. My children looked forward to seeing their Granddad and Nana April, Josh was happy to have some wisdom talks with his father-in-love, and I was ecstatic that I actually had a father, on this side of heaven.

God was showing me that He did love me, He had not forgotten me, and He would restore what the enemy took from me. He allowed me to experience the love of an earthly father, which caused me to be more open to God’s fatherly love and affection toward me.

It has now been more than five years since God placed Herb in my life, and our genuine, Godly father-daughter relationship has only grown stronger. I refer to him as Dad, not Herb, not spiritual father…affectionately, sincerely, Dad. Why? Because that’s who he is to me. In five short years, he has shown me more about Godly, fatherly love than I had previously learned in all my prior years. I have God to thank for that. Dad, along with Mama April, considers me to be one of their own, no different from their biological children, and it’s a beautiful thing.

God gave me beauty for ashes. Because I finally understood what it meant to have a real father, and what that love was to look like, I was able to open up to God, my Heavenly Father, and develop a closer, more genuine relationship with Him, the One who loves me unconditionally.

So, how do you love God the Father when your only experience with a father has been anything but righteous or right? For me, it was nearly impossible, but because God loved me so much, He extended grace and mercy and provided another, Herb, who showed me what a father’s love looked like, enabling me to truly accept and embrace my Heavenly Father’s love, and open the door to true healing, peace, and joy.