You don’t Have to Walk Alone

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)
I remember the moment I realized Jesus, God’s Son, connected the Old Testament to the New Testament. I had joined a Bible study that required us to read the Old Testament. I almost quit that study before I started because I was so intimidated at the thought.
The Old Testament always seemed so complicated and irrelevant to my life. I’d always believed the story of Jesus began when He came to earth. But the more I read, the more I realized how wrong I was.
As I hesitantly began reading Genesis, I saw that Jesus was with God the Father in the beginning, creating. God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26a, NIV).
A look at Colossians 1:16, in the New Testament, and we see: “For in him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, … all things have been created through him and for him” (NIV).
Jesus and His Father labored together to handcraft each and every created thing … including you and me – our hearts … our smiles … our purpose. All part of Their creative process!
But it wasn’t enough for Jesus to be part of creation. There came a point in history, a time Jesus knew would come, when those precious created ones would need more. When sin and disobedience would reign and rule on the earth. When the devil would initiate a battle and relentlessly pursue the souls of those God created.
It was then they would need a savior.
At the right time, God announced that Savior through one of His spokesmen — the prophet, Isaiah. Isaiah 7:14b, also in the Old Testament, says, “The virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
That Son, Immanuel, is Jesus.
Let this soak in, my friend. Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah prophesied His birth.
The human and the divine collided.
The Eternal One became a real man of particular height and weight, with a particular color of hair, speaking a particular language.
A miraculous act driven by divine love done with the absolute intent to be with us.
By His very name, we know this. Immanuel means God with us.
God is not distant; He is here with us. God is not unapproachable but drawing ever near. And even better … He came not only to be with and near us but also to equip and empower us.
Immanuel came to equip us with confidence to face any challenge life presents.
We live in a fallen world. Hardships, tragedies, sickness, death, betrayal, all come our way. It’s inescapable. But we do not do this life alone.
Hold tight to these beautiful promises:
“Now, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:37-39, NIV).
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you … When you walk through the fires, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze … For I am the LORD your God …” (Isaiah 43:2-3a, NIV).
Immanuel came to empower us so that we can accomplish all He calls us to do.
God’s Holy Spirit, Who comes to live inside of us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, seals and infuses the heart of every believer. It’s miraculous and inexplicable what transpires in our bodies in that moment. The old is gone. God does a new thing. And this new work transforms and initiates a work deep within us that we cannot do in our own flesh.
Walk confidently in these promises:
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NLT).

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NLT).

Sweet friend, in the deepest of valleys, through the darkest of times, Immanuel promises to be with us. Whether we see Him or not. By His very name we know He is there.
Whatever you are walking through today, walk confidently, equipped and empowered, because Immanuel is with you every step of the way!

Keep Your Armor On

Several years ago I volunteered in a hospital that had a floor just for the elderly.  Some of them lived there for full-time care and some only stayed during the day and went home to their families at night.  I had the opportunity to make some wonderful friends there!  We played cards and Bingo, we sang songs and made crafts; I wrote cards and letters to their families as they dictated because shakiness or arthritis kept them from being able to write.  I listened to their stories and asked lots of questions to keep their minds sharp! So many of them were such a blessing to me, but one lady in particular really made an impact on my life – her name was Miss Ruby.

Miss Ruby was in her 90’s, bed-ridden and blind, but she was a firecracker!  Every time I went in her room she would say “Now go in that drawer beside my bed and get out that can of snuff and put a little under my lip, but don’t you tell the nurses.”  Haha!  As soon as she got her snuff Miss Ruby would say “Did you bring your Bible with you? I want you to read to me.”  Then she would proceed to tell me exactly what scriptures she wanted me to read.  While I read to her, tears would stream down her cheeks as she was so moved by the Word of God.  And once I was finished she would pray – prayers for me, prayers for her family, prayers for this nation and prayers for the world – some of the most powerful, heartfelt prayers I have ever heard!

Miss Ruby never told me about her life or her family.  Our time together was short and she kept our focus on the Word and prayer every time I sat with her.  But one day I asked her for one word of advice, as a Christian, walking with the Lord in the world today.  And she said simply “Keep your armor on.”

Fast forward to today when the world seems so crazy and so much is happening.  There is war and ISIS and people desperately fleeing in hopes of finding peace.  Christian campuses are being attacked and social media is an all out war person vs. person picking fights, striking offenses and trying to win our vote or “Like” for one side or the other.  There are so many voices coming at us in rapid fire and it’s easy to lose sight of the truth in the midst of all the distractions!

This week I have been praying through two verses in the Bible: Matthew 24:12 and 1 Corinthians 13:13.

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

As I meditated on these scriptures I started to wonder – How could love remain – even outlasting faith and hope if the love of most grows cold?  And how can I keep my love from growing cold?

When I prayed over these questions I heard the answer in Miss Ruby’s words – “Keep your armor on.”  And went straight to Ephesians 6:10-18 – The Armor of God:

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.   Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

We are engaged in a battle that is unseen and often goes unnoticed. We think that our armor is to protect us from harm and help us fight the enemy, and that is true, but the armor given to us by God is also to protect what He has put inside us – His love.  Our armor can keep our love from growing cold even when the world around us is utter disaster.

tree heart prov 4.23

May we keep our armor on.  Even when life is calm and you are at peace. Even when you’re at rest and there is no danger in sight.  Let’s never be without the helmet of salvation to protect your mind from doubt and distraction. Or the breastplate of righteousness to protect your identity in Christ.  Everyday, tie on the belt of truth so the lines between truth and lies/ right and wrong are never blurred, but clear as night and day. Tie on your boots and retie them often; be ready to serve and share God’s peace with confidence and courage.  Hold strong to the shield of faith, never allowing your circumstances or what you see going on in the world cause you to question God’s power, ability, sovereignty or willingness to help.  And finally, never tuck away your sword – the Word of God – study it, meditate on it, let it be written on your heart and use it to speak life to others.

“God is strong and He wants you strong.  Put to use every weapon the Master has set out for you.  This is no afternoon athletic competition that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours.  This is for keeps, a life or death fight to the finish.  Be prepared, you’re up against far more than you could handle on your own.  Truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation are more than words.  Learn to apply them.  You’ll need them throughout your everyday life.  God’s word is an indispensable weapon.  In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare.  Pray long and hard.  Keep your eyes open.  Pray for each other and keep each other’s spirits up.”  ~Eph 6 MSG

The reason that we can stand firm in full confidence and without fear is because the battle for eternity has already been won.  We are fighting from victory instead of to victory because Jesus has paved the way for us to overcome.  You do not fight alone – the Creator of the universe, His army of angels and believers around the world stand together.  So stand firm, stay ready. Let the joy of the Lord strengthen you.  Keep your eyes on Jesus and stay close to Him. Be full of hope. Rest in the assurance that God is in control. Keep His word close to your heart. Be sensitive to His spirit, leading you in peace.  God is love and love never fails!  Guard your heart and fight to keep your love from growing cold.  And no matter how you feel, KEEP YOUR ARMOR ON!  “Stand firm and you will win life.” Luke 21:19

“By surrendering ourselves to quiet communion with God, by resting for a while from all our thinking, acting and serving, by leaving all things for once in our Heavenly Father’s hands, secret wounds are healed, gathering unbelief is dispelled, and displaced armor refixed.”  ~Oswald Chambers ( Run Today’s Race)

 

 

 

It’s Okay to say “No”!

A few months ago I wrote a post about being “Coach Mom” for the second consecutive season.  I had a blast coaching basketball and always enjoy being with the team.  But with it came the challenge of how to manage my schedule.  I keep a whiteboard calendar on my fridge to keep up with everyone’s schedules – I wish I could show you what my February calendar looked like – it was crazy! And then March was so busy I didn’t even update it.  I knew that this commitment was just for a season and that I could push through, but even though I was having fun, the busyness eventually started taking a toll on me and my family.

One night in the car on the way from an all day b-ball tournament to a church dinner, my daughter said “Mom, you can’t physically keep going like this – you need to rest.”  My kids don’t usually notice things like that, so for her to notice enough to say something meant that I had let things get out of hand!  Of course, I knew she was right, but I blew it off thinking I have to finish what I started; it’s just for a season; I need to push through, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!  I even used scripture to justify my busy schedule and to try to encourage myself – “I can do all things through Christ…”, “Don’t grow weary in doing good…” ect.

A few days later I left for a week-long work trip and I continued to push through and all throughout that week in my time with the Lord, He was speaking to me about rest.  Over and over, the Holy Spirit was telling me that it was time for a season of rest.

  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29
  • “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
  • Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well.  John 4:6

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it – lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?”  Luke 14:28-30

In the fast-paced world we live in we always feel pressured to do more, strive for perfection, try harder…  It’s almost as if we feel like we have no purpose if we aren’t constantly busy.  We wage this war in our minds, telling ourselves we need to conquer the world and if we don’t push ourselves we’re being lazy… And by the time we come face to face with our own humanity, it’s too late, we’re already committed and we think that quitting means failing.  Yes, God does call us to do things, and pour into others lives and not be idle, and He gives us opportunities to be stretched and used, and He gives us strength for those seasons.  But wisdom is required to hear and obey that still small voice saying “Come away with me”.  Luke 5:16 says that Jesus OFTEN withdrew to be alone and pray.  If Jesus needed time to withdraw, rest, reflect and be alone and seek God – how much more do we! In fact, we can’t get very far without that being prioritized in our lives.  We are commanded to “Seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

So, how do I decide what to do when my heart and mind don’t line up?

There are times when we are given opportunities that we feel like we are expected to get involved in, and we genuinely want to help, but also feel a sense of caution.  Your heart may want to say yes, but it might not line up with your reality. Take yourself through a process of evaluation that includes your capacity.  It’s good to use wisdom, knowledge and an understanding of your resource capacity to assess your decisions.

Filter the situation through these 5 questions:

  1. Do I have the resources to handle this request along with my current responsibilities?
  2. Could this fit physically?
  3. Could this fit financially?
  4. Could this fit spiritually?
  5. Could this fit emotionally?

Learn to pay attention to your emotional capacity and be honest with yourself when you’re stretched too thin. When we push ourselves to the limit physically, it catches up with us emotionally. When we allow ourselves to get overloaded emotionally, often the worst version of ourselves emerges. And it’s not good for anyone!  Stop and evaluate – do you have the capacity to add this thing on and keep an attitude of love?

Whenever there is a conflict between what we feel we’re expected to do and what we feel we should do, it’s time to step back from that decision, and seek clarity from the only source free from entanglements:

God.

Seeking God first and being filled with His Spirit will give you the capacity to walk in love, even if it means saying no.  Saying yes when you don’t have the complete capacity to finish the work can leave you burned-out, the situation not successfully completed and can hurt your relationships.

Praying for wisdom and considering these 5 questions will give you the peace that God will provide.  He’ll provide for the situation, and He’ll provide you with an assurance that not every opportunity is meant to be your assignment.

 “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”  Proverbs 24:3-4

Beside the Waters

“He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.” Isaiah 49:10

A few years ago I was in Uganda and had a chance to take a 3 day kayak trip down the Nile River.  In the water we went from Class IV, V, and VI rapids to flat water with Hippos and Crocodiles beneath the surface.  I was so thankful for my guide on that trip – a pro kayaker from South Africa who knew the Nile river better than anyone.  He could read the rivers lines through the rapids and he knew when to tell me “tap your boat here for Hippos” or “hold your paddle here for Crocs”.  He knew where it was safe to stop and camp, and I knew that as long as he was leading me everything was probably going to be fine, and the unknown variables – the “what ifs” that went through my mind kept me alert and excited!

Imagine what that trip would be like for me, a NC girl who hadn’t seen more than Class III rapids, to have tried to kayak the Nile solo!  I probably wouldn’t have survived – actually, I know I wouldn’t have! My guide knew how to read the river and trace it’s path.  He knew how to read the lines of the rapids and the currents in the eddys.  He had a keen eye and could easily spot a “cheeky lizard having a bake” on the rocks!

What if I had known nothing about kayaking, and being on the Nile was my first ever experience?  Without training or practice, there is no way I would have been able to maneuver through some of those rapids.  It was important that I know how to paddle, roll, bail and many other things before going into a fast moving river, even with a guide.  I needed to understand the lingo, so when the guide gave me instructions, I could respond quickly and avoid danger.

What if I had stood on the shores of the Nile and allowed fear or doubt to stop me from going?  I would never have known the thrill of getting through the big rapids or the beauty of the sunsets on the Nile, watching elephants and giraffes drink on the shore as we paddled through a national park, the camaraderie built with the people you experience the river with, or falling asleep under a mosquito net after a day in the African sun, and listening to the sound of Hippos grunting (like the bullfrogs when I’m camping at home!)!!

Now, this memory of the Nile River is one that often comes to mind when making decisions.  Allow me paint a picture for you:

Have you ever had to make a decision about something that seems so exciting, but you can’t seem to shake the hesitation in your heart?

Imagine this opportunity as an amazingly attractive but fast-moving river. There is so much that looks extremely appealing about this river that you’re going to be tempted to jump right in. But once in the river, you have diminished your ability to make decisions. That river is moving so fast that it will take you where it is going. And if you haven’t carefully determined in advance whether you want to go all the places where the river flows, you’ll be in trouble. Trace the path of that river before jumping in.

Before jumping into the river, you have the ability to walk up and down it’s banks with ease. You have the ability to stick your toes in and consider what this water will be like. You can talk to other wise people who know things about this river. And sit quietly, listening for God’s voice, reading His Word and looking for confirmation on what to do next. But once you jump in, the current has a way of demanding your full attention.  The sound of the rushing waters makes it hard to hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.  It’s not that you can’t make adjustments once you’re in the river; it’s just a lot harder to go a different direction once you’re in it. Some of my sweetest times with the Lord have been beside the river; it’s there that God is close, giving us discernment, wisdom and guidance.

Several verses describing God’s leading, directing and guiding beside the water have been great comfort to me:

  • “He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water“ (Isaiah 49:10).
  • “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3).
  • “With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel” (Jeremiah 31:9).

A lot is talked about in the Christian world about stepping out in faith — which I believe in wholeheartedly. I believe God clearly instructs us to jump right in sometimes and trust Him to lead us through each rapid and flat, just like my skilled river guide. But that doesn’t mean God calls us to jump right into every opportunity that presents itself. My dad wisely told me once that just because a good opportunity comes along in your life, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best that God has for you.  Taking his advice led me to turn down a good job offer, and wait for the job that I was passionate about and felt led to – a call that came 3 days later!

Sometimes the greater act of faith is to let God lead us, talk to us and instruct us beside the water.

God knows the plans He has for us (Jer. 29:11), and they are good!  When you are faced with decisions that cause hesitation in your heart, take a deep breath, trace the river’s path from the banks, let the Holy Spirit speak to you and either guide you down that river or lead you to one that is the best for you!!  The river God leads you to will be the one that is best suited for you, He will not lead you to a river that you’re unprepared to navigate.  If you’re in that place – beside the river, and God is telling you to wait, soak in the chance to listen, learn and draw close to Him.  And when God says it’s time to jump in, then move forward with confidence and be ready for the most beautiful and exciting ride of your life!!  You will never regret letting Him be your guide!

Mended with Gold

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3)

The other day I found my favorite coffee mug buried in the back of the cabinet and broken on one side.  I broke it several months ago when I was in a hurry and threw in a bag to carry home from work.  I heard it break when it hit something else hard that was in there and my heart sank.  It was a beautiful, expensive, hand-made local pottery hand-warmer mug that I had splurged on and used every morning until it broke.

Broken things are common in my household. If certain broken pieces are able to be fixed, they normally find a temporary home on the shelf, like my mug, waiting for super glue repairs. Or maybe just tossed out if unable to be neatly pieced back together and strategically repaired without a patchwork of super glue lines. Often, it takes too much work to fix what is broken. Sometimes it’s easier to just buy a new one.

Ever feel that way? Broken. Shattered. Set on a shelf. Tossed aside. Or thrown away. It takes too much work to try to restore. “Just get a new one,” the mindset of our culture whispers to us. “Don’t let anyone see the broken flaws.” Such reality in the way we often live in this world.

With our broken families…

our Broken marriages…

our Broken finances…

our Broken relationships…

our Broken dreams…

Since the 16th century, the Japanese have made an art out of restoring broken things. An ancient practice called Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi, meaning “to repair with gold”, and understanding that breakage and repair is part of the history of the object, making it more beautiful with it’s imperfection.  It  is an age-old custom of repairing cracked pottery with real gold, not only fixing the break, but greatly increasing the value of the piece.

Turning what is broken into beautiful, cherished pieces, by sealing the cracks and crevices with lines of fine gold.  Instead of hiding the flaws, Kintsukuroi artists highlight them, creating a whole new design and bringing unique beauty to the original piece. The pottery actually becomes more beautiful and valuable in the restoration process because, though it was once broken, it not only has history, but a new story.  One artist described it this way:

“The piece of pottery became more beautiful for having been broken. The true life of the bowl began the moment it was dropped. The proof of its fragility and its resilience is what makes it beautiful.”

While most normal repairs of broken things hide themselves, like nicely sealed super glue fixes, the usual intent is simply to make something “as good as new.” Yet the art of Kintsukuroi reinforces a profound belief that the repair can make things not only as good as they were before, but “better than new.”

Better than new.  Soak that in for a moment.

There are lies that swirl around in your mind and whisper to your deepest soul in weak moments – when you’ve lost your grip, and things come crashing down. You feel the need to hide the scars. You feel like the brokenness has rendered you useless in life, that no one will ever want you. You feel beyond repair at times. You feel tossed aside. Forgotten. Shamed. Rejected.  You sit on a shelf, feeling stuck.

Yet God breaks through all that mess. You are never beyond healing.  You are never too broken for restoration. You are never too shattered for repair. Do not be ashamed of your scars, of the deep crevices that line your soul, or the broken places of your life. They have an amazing story to tell.

Here is truth:  Just because you’ve been broken doesn’t mean that you are thrown away.  Just because you’ve been broken doesn’t mean that you are un-usable.  Just because you’ve been broken doesn’t mean that you are forgotten.  In fact God wants us when we are broken; it’s a perfect time for us to see who God is.

David wrote about this in the Psalms; “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and contrite heart, O God.” ~Psalms 51:17  and “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”  ~ Psalms 34:18

There is power in brokenness, unlike anything else, to bring forth new beauty, strength, and inspiration to others. Because it’s often in those moments when we’ve tasted deep suffering, that we realize – we were made for more. There’s better.  There’s purpose.

It is in our brokenness before God that His glory is able to shine through us as He mends and restores us.  The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:

We have this treasure from God, but we are only like clay jars that hold the treasure. This is to show that the amazing power we have is from God, not from us.  We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We often don’t know what to do, but we don’t give up. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed.

 So we do not lose heart.  Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.  Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine.  We don’t look for things that can be seen but for things that can’t be seen. Things that can be seen are only temporary. But things that can’t be seen last forever.” 

The scars of life, the healed wounds, the deep lines, they all have stories to tell. The cracks in our lives allow God’s glory to be seen by others. Yet often we try to hide them, preferring instead to present to the world, a safe façade of who we are, a more “perfect” version of ourselves.  It’s too difficult to risk the real vulnerability of exposing what once was, or what still is.

We have a Healer, One who repairs and can fit the broken pieces that no longer seem to fit properly into a perfect design. He works, often behind the scenes, mending, fitting together, creating a better work of art – more than we ever dreamed possible. He makes all things beautiful (Ecc.3:11), especially the broken pieces of our lives, all by His grace. It is real life – jagged edges and all – that has so much meaning.

And that is what the story of Jesus is really all about – bringing life to what was broken. He was willing to take on the brokenness of the world in exchange for our freedom. Beautiful, Savior.  Jesus.  He sets us free. He makes all things new. He redeems our life. What Lavish love!

May you, in times of hurt and brokenness, find the courage to be vulnerable before God – brave enough to give Him all of the broken pieces of your life.  It is there, in the skillful Hands of the Creator – the Master Artist, that your true life will begin, and it will be more beautiful than you could ever imagine!  God longs to restore your life and make it beautiful.  He’s already made a way.  No matter how much you’ve messed up or how broken you are – He waits for you.

“I will give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.”  Isaiah 61:3

Becoming “Coach Mom”

I am a 5th and 6th grade boys basketball coach!  I NEVER, EVER imagined that I would say that!  I am getting ready to begin my 2nd season as “Coach Mom” as the boys have named me, and it is still so surreal – God most definitely has a sense of humor!!

Last year I started off 2014 studying the life of Gideon, beginning in Judges 6.  The story of Gideon is one of the many examples in the Bible where God uses the weakest, least likely person to accomplish great things.

Here’s a brief synopsis (but really, go read the whole story – you will love it!):

  • The Israelites were hiding in fear from the Midianites. An angel of the Lord came and sat down under a tree where Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress.  When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
  • “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
  • The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
  • “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
  • The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
  • Gideon went to battle with a small army of men and defeated all of the Midianites.

So, of course, as I studied how the Lord strengthened Gideon and led the Israelites to victory, I started praying that God would give me new opportunities to do extraordinary things. (Be careful what you pray for!) I wanted to experience God’s strength in my areas of weakness.  I wanted to experience God in the greatest capacity possible and glorify Him with my life.  I wanted God to exceed my life far beyond my dreams, expectations and imagination.  As usual, I had in mind what some of these opportunities might include – feeding the homeless, overseas missions, disaster relief projects, digging wells, fostering orphans…BIG adventures!

As I was waiting for these big opportunities to present themselves, I went about my life.  It was time to sign my son up for basketball so I ran over on my lunch break to register him. While I was getting all the info the guy organizing the teams said, “Would you be interested in coaching this year?”  Ha! Seriously?!  I mean, did this guy see me?  I’m a 5’1″, I’m a woman, and I have never played basketball (unless HORSE counts)!

I really thought he was joking, and I totally laughed in his face!!  Haha!  He said “No, really.  A lot of extra kids signed up, and we really need another coach.”  I mean, I like basketball, and sure, I grew up watching Michael Jordan slam dunk, and I’ve been a Duke fan (don’t hate)ever since Grant Hill and Christian Laettner played, but I didn’t know nearly enough to coach!!  If he had asked me to coach football or baseball, it would’ve been an easy yes, but not basketball!  He said, “we can give you a coaching manual and all the tools you need, we just need someone to help.”

I couldn’t believe it!  There was no way I was going to be able to coach boys basketball!  I had a few more minutes of my lunch break, so I sat in my car and prayed about it.  As I was praying, God reminded me of some other prayers that I had prayed over the years:

Shortly after I became a single mom, when Ty was 3, he started playing t-ball.  Taking him to t-ball was one of the hardest things for me.  I would sit out at the field and look at all the dads out there with their kids and just be so brokenhearted for Ty!  I don’t know how many practices I cried through and prayed that God would send our family a godly man that would be willing to be out on the field with him.  As time went on it got easier, I made friends with the other parents, Ty’s coaches got to know him and really invested in him on and off the field.  And soon the fact that our family was different wasn’t so hard to accept.

Secondly, (hello!) I had been praying for new, God-sized opportunities, right!

So God said,” Mandy, this is your chance! I’m answering those prayers. This is Ty’s chance to have a parent with him on the court and your opportunity to be involved in your community in a new way. Where is my girl that wanted adventure and to learn how to rely on My strength? I am with you Mighty Warrior!  All you have to do is say yes.”  Just like Gideon, I thought about how unqualified I was.  I was scared, I was excited, I was nervous; I couldn’t even imagine myself on a basketball court leading a team, but I trusted my Lord to do what He promised.

Sometimes God rescues us from a hard situation, but sometimes God empowers us through it; and when He empowers us through something the end result is always victory!

For Gideon, it was a victory that impacted an entire nation for 40 years: “Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years.”  Judges 8:28

So, I called back and said yes!  The guy was really surprised that I changed my mind, but he put me down to coach!  The next day at the coach’s meeting I got some strange looks as the only female in the room!  All the other coaches were talking about the game rules and asking questions about defense and I had NO IDEA what they were even talking about!!

I spent the next several days studying, researching, talking to people who had coached before and just trying to learn as much as I could.  I ended up with a great team of boys who played hard and kept me laughing!  One practice I was having them run suicides (or whatever the politically correct term is these days) and they all hiked their shorts up like Steve Urkel and said, “Okay Coach Mom, we’re ready!”  Hahaha!  I’ve been “Coach Mom” ever since!

I drilled them on the basics during practice and at game time I told them to just go out there and have fun!  We ended up as the #3 team out of 14 in the county, we won an award for best defense and 2 of my players qualified for the state All-Star tournament (where we got stomped!)!!  Before, when people asked me about Ty’s ability to play basketball, I would always say that he was really great at football and baseball, but basketball wasn’t really his thing.  With me out on the court with Ty, he found the confidence he needed to be aggressive and play really well!  We had both wins and losses, but we all had a lot of fun and learned a lot!  So, when I was asked to coach again this year – I was excited to say “YES”!

What I love the most about this story is that I can’t take any of the credit for a successful season – God is the hero, all I did was say yes!  God wants to get us where He wants us to go more than we want to get where God wants us to go – all we have to do is follow.  God will use whoever is willing.

I do realize that this story and the events that took place is not of high impact to the world at large!  My coaching basketball hasn’t changed history in any way and there’s no way to tell at this point if any of my 5th and 6th grade players will ever play in the NBA or even remember this season years from now.  I didn’t preach the gospel at games and have people on their knees ready to accept Jesus as Lord.  I didn’t get calls for  interviews or WNBA job offers! 🙂

But it was never about all of that.  It was a beginning step that led to something bigger.  Like a proud parent watching their child take their first steps, God rejoices over every baby step.  And He turns our small steps into giant leaps.  I got to experience God in a deeper way and it was a profound turning point in my life!  That first “yes” to coaching was the key that opened the door for more opportunities. The more I say “yes” to God, the more He allows me to do and the more I get to experience Him.  Our walk with God is designed to be progressive, He leads us step by step on the path He has planned for us.

Right after basketball season last year I was presented with another opportunity that was also a big challenge.  I prayerfully accepted it and, within weeks, the Lord opened a door from there that led me to something even better! And then I got to do some of the big things I had dreamed of – I got to travel, work on a disaster relief rebuild project, feed the homeless and share the love of Christ through a women’s ministry!  The opportunities keep coming my way and I don’t have to strive or fight and worry to make things happen.  It’s my job to listen for God’s voice and it’s His job to establish my steps! And when I do my job, He does His!

As I look back, I realize that each step of trust and obedience led to the next opportunity.  I would not be where I am today if I had allowed fear, shame or doubt to keep me from the opportunities God sent my way.  Being dependent on God’s strength has also allowed me to grow closer to Him and experience His power and hear His sweet voice in a much deeper way!

The Bible talks a lot about how when we are strengthened by God spiritually, then we are physically able to do what He calls us to do:

  1. ” I CAN do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13
  2. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”  2 Chronicles 16:9
  3. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10
  4. “The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs and will strengthen your frame.”  Isaiah 58:11
  5. “I will strengthen them in the Lord and in His name they will live securely.”  Zechariah 10:12
  6. “But the Lord is faithful, He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”  2 Thessalonians 3:3
  7. “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.” Daniel 10:19
  8. ” But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ That is why I delight in weaknesses. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  9. “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”  2 Peter 2:11
  10.  “The Lord has given us everything we need to live a life that pleases God.” 2 Peter 1:3

I have all I need to do whatever God wants me to do. The same is true for you. He’s equipped each of us to do everything He’s calling us to do!  God is in the business of strategically positioning you in the right place at the right time, but it’s up to us to see and seize those opportunities.

Many of you have asked about my story, so I thought that my birthday, the beginning of a new year, was the perfect time to share how my journey with Jesus began. Enjoy!

 Mariposa

I grew up in the beautiful mountains of NC. My parents had moved there right after they got married to hike and explore the Appalachain Mtns.  My dad was a carpenter and my mom stayed home with my younger brother and I, and we lived a simple, but happy life.  My family began attending church when I was 3. And when I was old enough to start school I was able to attend a Christian school where I was given a strong foundation in the Truth and how to walk in a relationship with Christ. This in itself was a miracle because my family could not afford the tuition to send me to this school, and an anonymous person paid my tuition and God provided a way every year for me and my brother to attend! I accepted Jesus as my savior and was baptized when I was 9 years old.  I had a strong relationship with the Lord. I remember when I was 11 and 12, I would take my Bible and my dog, Bear, and walk down to through the woods to the creek to spend time with the Lord. I spent a lot of time in the Word and prayer and listening for God’s voice.  I was very active in church, in the youth group, in Young Life and volunteering in the community.

And then something happened in my family, and I found out that someone very close to me had been struggling with addiction for a long time.  Some of the people in my church were very legalistic and their reaction to this and their treatment of this person who needed God’s love was anything but loving. I ran to a lady that I trusted for help and she prayed for me that the addiction would never have a hold on me. The addiction in my family grew worse over time and I felt like I was living a double life – living for God at church, with my Christian friends, and being surrounded by a party life at home. It was a very confusing time in my life and I felt like God was so far away.

I grew tired of “fighting the good fight” and instead chose to live the lifestyle that was around me – to see what else was out there.  I stopped attending church and started partying with my friends. I can honestly say that I tested the waters and addiction never grasped me.  Drinking was always something that I could either leave or take and my intensions in partying were never to get wasted or high – I just wanted to have fun hanging out with my friends!

Not long after that, I found out that I was pregnant.  My boyfriend of 1 yr. responded to the news with “There’s money that can fix that.” I was scared, but I knew that abortion was not the answer for me.  I had already made a lot of mistakes, and this was a road I didn’t want to go down. Some other people tried to convince me to give the baby up for adoption saying that I would never finish school, I would never find a man and I would never have a life if I had this baby. But I decided to keep her anyway- no matter what happened, and my boyfriend chose to pack his things and leave town. My parents and friends stepped in and surrounded me with support. And now my beautiful Caroline is now almost 14 – I can’t believe it!

Choosing to be her mom has not always been easy, but it’s a decision I have never regretted! I had started dating an old friend while I was pregnant with Caroline – he helped me and supported me throughout my pregnancy and when Caroline was born he treated her as if she was his own. I felt that God had shown me mercy and sent him into my life even though I wasn’t living for Him. And a year and a half later we were married.  Partying was still a part of our lifestyle. Even though I recognized God’s hand in my life I still was not ready to surrender to Him completely.  Six months after we got married my husband’s job offered him a promotion that required a move Spartanburg, SC.  Upon accepting the offer, we decided to have our second child and I was given the opportunity to live my life-long dream of being a stay-at-home mom.  I made a decision then that it was time to get my life straight and start seeking God again.  Because of this decision I faced very strong opposition from the enemy and an intense spiritual battle over my life began.

When we moved to SC, I quickly became friends with a neighbor who had a child the same age as Caroline and we were also both 4 months pregnant.  She started talking to me about God at the pool one day, and from our conversation we seemed to agree on what we believed.  She invited me to go to church with them one Sunday.  My husband was working, and we were sharing one car at the time, so my neighbors picked me up for church.  When we pulled into the parking lot and I read the church sign “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” my heart dropped.  I knew some about what the Mormons believed, and that it was different from what I had been taught, but I was stuck there for the service.  So we went in, and the service started just like any other church service I had been to – singing, praying, scripture reading… So I just said a prayer, that God would show me very clearly if this was of Him or not.  As soon as I prayed that prayer I started feeling extremely sick – intense headache and nausea and I immediately had to leave the room!

On the drive home from church my friend said, “Wow, the spirit was so strong in there today.”  And I knew right away that the spirit she felt was NOT the Holy Spirit that I had known. Once I visited the Mormon church, I became a sort of target for their missionaries.  They were always calling me, coming over, and inviting me to do things.  These people were my friends and I liked them, but I didn’t know what to do.  So I went and spent time with them.  But at home I had dusted off my Bible and started reading it again and praying to the God that I knew.  Every time I met with the Mormons something crazy happened – God made it loud and clear to me that this was not where I needed to be.  And even though I hadn’t walked with the Lord for several years, His truth was still in my heart.

One day we were sitting in my friends’ living room with the Mormon missionaries and after we discussed some things they asked me to profess that the book of Mormon was the extended word of god.  I hadn’t read the book of Mormon, but I knew in my heart that it was not the Word of God.  And whether it cost me my newfound friendships or not, I looked them in the eye and told them that I believe the Bible is THE Word of God and I do not believe in the book of Mormon. I was at peace with my decision to claim Christ alone and knew that the Holy Spirit had given me the strength and courage to stand for His truth, even though I was not strong in my faith. I know that I was able to stand firm in the Truth of Christ because of the strong foundation that was established in me as a child.

Just a few weeks later, my son Ty, was born. Due to the stress from moving and some other difficult situations that I had been through while I was pregnant, a deep post-partum depression came over me.  I was so depressed that I couldn’t do anything.  I would get up in the morning, after sleeping all night (Ty was a great sleeper!), walk to the kitchen to make Caroline breakfast and I would have to sit down in the kitchen floor because I didn’t even have the energy to walk to the couch.  I had never dealt with depression before, but I knew that if I turned to God, He would help me.  One night I got on my knees to pray and I knew that the Holy Spirit was there. And in His presence, I remember thinking I am lost, – this is what it feels like to be a lost person – how did I get here? I was at the lowest point in my life – I was face to face with darkness, and God lifted me out of it. He showed me that it was not too late. Even though I had gone so far away from Him he still wanted me!  I began to pray, seek forgiveness and I felt the Holy Spirit giving me peace and comfort. I heard God’s voice telling me that I was His child and He loved me more than I even loved my own children.

The following Sunday I took my kids to church (the first Baptist church I could find, because I knew it would be safe there!!).  And before the preacher was even finished giving the altar call, I was running down the aisle, with 3-week-old Ty in my arms 3 year old Caroline beside me to give all of my life to the Lord!! With the new joy of my salvation and the daily strength of the Lord I felt I was ready to face all that my decision to follow Him brought my way.  Christ tells us to pick up our cross and follow Him.  He also tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us.  But part of the process of God “working for our good” (Romans 8:28) requires that we must die to our old life and our old self.

“If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Giving my life to the Lord didn’t mean that all of my problems went away. It wasn’t like the Christian movies where someone prays and then God grants their wish and they all live happily ever after.  Instead, it was a 2 year process of God stripping away everything in my life that wasn’t of Him. The night after I gave my life to Christ, I shared with my husband what had happened.   Before we got married we had talked about God.  We had both grown up in church and agreed that at some point we would raise our children in church. But when I shared with him what had happened at church that day he was angry and he didn’t understand. He told me that he hated church and God and didn’t want his kids having any part of it. In the weeks and months that followed he started drinking more and staying out.  He didn’t want me taking the kids to church, so on Sunday mornings, while he was at work, we watched church on tv, and I read the Bible and prayed with the kids. I decided that with the second chance at life that the Lord had given me, I would give my husband a second chance as well and I prayed that God would change his heart.

We were transferred to Winston-Salem, NC and decided to make an effort to be a family and work out our problems and differences.  But the next 2 years were an intense struggle.  Things would get better for a few months at a time and then the walls would crash down around us again.  There were many times when I didn’t know what to do, and God was always there to help me and strengthen me to press on.  My husband’s addiction to alcohol got worse and worse.  There were days at a time when he didn’t come home at all and I didn’t know what to do.  I got down on my knees before God and said “God if you want me to stay married to this man then please change his heart, but if there is any other way then please set me free from this.”

My husband and I were talking one day about priorities.  He had asked me who the most important person in my life was.  I had answered “God”, and he wasn’t happy with my answer – he was angry.  He believed that my husband should be #1, and  told me that I needed to make a decision.

I needed to choose – him or God.

I wish that I could say that I responded in a loving way.  But we had been battling this out for 2 years and I was weary; so in my flesh, I quickly told him “I choose Jesus”.  Later as I was praying, I was reminded of the verse in Joshua 24 when he told the people to Israel to “Choose this day whom you will serve.”

Nothing changed right away, but then one day I got home, and my husbands things were gone and his wedding band was on the kitchen counter.  No note, no explanation – it was over.  I was in shock.  But at the same time, Peace washed over me and I knew that this was God’s plan. I took the kids out to the yard and we knelt before God in prayer and dedicated our lives to Him.

The next day, I found out that my name had been taken off of our bank account and I was left with no means to take care of 2 kids.  When I got a hold of my husband on the phone he told me that he had met someone else and that he was moving to Texas to live with her.  When I asked him how I was going to take care of the kids he said, “Maybe your God that you love so much will take care of you.”  How many of you know that God doesn’t back down from a challenge!?!  My Jesus has proven Himself faithful! This “stripping away” is very hard – it’s not fun and it’s not easy, but if we cling to God and persevere in trusting Him, He will positions our lives for His glory and our good.

God uses our times of brokenness to show us His love and bring us closer to Himself. God’s promises are real and He takes care of those who put their trust in Him – I wouldn’t have experienced that truth if I hadn’t come to a place in my life where my only option was to rely on God to provide.  The Bible tells us “that in all things God works for good for those who love Him” (Romans 8:28).  It doesn’t say that He will only allow good things into our lives.  Actually, He tells us that we will have trouble (John 16:33); and that the “rain falls on both the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).  God’s will for our life is not to be happy, healthy and wealthy – His will for our lives is to bring glory to Himself through us. But He does also promise Life to those who believe in Him.

“I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”  John 10:10

I laid my life at God’s feet, put Him in charge and left all of the details in His hands.  I moved home to Boone, NC and God didn’t waste any time arranging my life to where He wanted me to be! Two weeks after we moved, on August 15, 2006 Caroline (5) started her 1st day of Kindergarten, Ty (2) started his 1st day in a Christian daycare and I started my 1st day working for Christian organization – Samaritan’s Purse!!  When God restores our lives He leaves out no detail and carries us beyond what we can imagine or could obtain on our own – He blesses us so richly! God knows our desires and needs better than anyone else and when He blesses us He holds nothing back!

It has been the 3 of us for the last 9 years and throughout our journey with God, we have seen Him move in the most amazing ways!  We have always had everything we need and we have had the opportunity to help others as well. God has been so tender and gentle with me in His love and healing. God has cultivated in each of our hearts the desire to share this love that we have found in Him with the people around us wherever He would allow us to go.  We have learned how work together to take care of our home and each other, and how to serve God, our church and our community as a team.  The Lord has opened the doors for many adventures and carried us through some tough times as we started our lives over.

I can say from experience that there is no place safer or more exciting place to be than in hands of the God who loves you and has a plan for your life!!  I praise God that I am free to serve Him wholeheartedly and without reservation!

My ex-husband went down a dark road after he left and was absent from our lives for 3 years.  But when he got the help he needed and got back in touch with us he was able to see that God had indeed taken care of us and that I had forgiven him. Because God has taken care of us and I knew He would continue, I only asked my ex-husband to focus on rebuilding his relationship with the kids. He has been consistent in doing that and we have been able to respect each other and work together, along with his new wife, to do what is best for the kids despite the situation, and across many miles.  It hasn’t always been easy – it has taken a lot of communication, grace and understanding; but it has been worth it for my kids to be reconciled with their dad and find healing.

God has brought us through so much and as I look back, I see so many situations where God’s hand was there to lead and provide in miraculous ways. I am so grateful that the tough things that I have been through have helped prepare me for what God had in store and it wasn’t all for nothing.  I can truly say that those whom Christ sets free are free indeed!  Depression has never again had a place in my life, and I have known true joy instead (even on the hard days!).  Even though my life was surrounded by addiction for several years, it never had a hold on me – the prayers that were prayed over me as a child were answered.  I have found freedom in forgiveness and surrender and God has restored so many things in my heart and life.

God has given me purpose in my pain and I am thankful to be able to realize that all of the nonsense of yesterday helps make perfect sense for the purposes of today. Our Jesus calls us to himself through His infinite love and kindness.  Throughout my life the Lord has let me know that He is here for me and He waits for those He loves to turn to Him. I have had many opportunities to share my story with churches, women’s groups, pregnancy centers, women and single- moms all over.

The last time I was preparing to speak, I noticed how many times I said that I chose Christ – as a young child, when the Mormons asked, when my husband told me to choose…  As always, when I speak, I asked God how I could point the way to Him through my story, and He led me to these scriptures:

“You did not choose me, remember, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

John 15:16

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” 

Ephesians 1:4-5

Wow!  What an amazing God!!  Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and allowing me to share how my journey with Christ began 11 years ago!  It is for God’s glory that I share what He has done and I pray that it will encourage all who hear/read it!  I look forward to sharing with you many more stories from my journey.  I hope that reading my story will give you the courage to share yours as well!  We all have a story and everyone’s story is important.  What makes us vulnerable is what makes us beautiful.

When we are winning and life looks good on the outside, people want to be like us. But when we are honest and share our broken and disappointed places, people strongly connect with us. When we connect with others, we can find purpose in our struggles like never before. In this honest and connected place we also find a powerful pocket of influence. God wants to use our hidden places for His glory and to bless us with community. Our weaknesses unite us and God meets us in our mess.  Don’t be afraid to own your story and be transparent – there is someone out there that needs to know that they are not alone!

I know that as I walk with my Jesus by my side and you, sweet brothers and sisters to walk with me as well, the best is yet to come – stay tuned!!! God is doing a new thing in 2015!!  ~ Mandy Southern

13 Signs You’re A Classic INFJ

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about identity. I am working on a few pieces on that topic that I’ll be posting soon. But I thought I would start off with this post- an accurate look at my personality type. One that I feel best describes me!!

Thought Catalog

Flickr - Image / bost Flickr – Image / bost

INFJ – Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Judging. INFJs are known to be great listeners, big dreamers, and deep, complex people. As the rarest personality type INFJ’s only make up less than 3% of the population. If you’ve taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator you probably know what you’re categorized as but these are some signs of a classic INFJ.

1. You’re always in search of a deeper meaning. At work, in relationships, with friends, and interactions with strangers you’re continually looking at life and situations in an obscure way to discover what’s beyond the surface.

2. Although people have an easy time connecting with you sometimes you can be a difficult person to really know. You value your privacy and often feel like you can only be your “true self” around those closest to you.

3. You’re a highly empathetic and sensitive person with an innate ability…

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I Choose Gentleness…

“I choose gentleness… Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.”― Max Lucado

When God made me, He made a girl who loves, loves, loves for everyone around her to be happy!  A girl that smiles at strangers and laughs all the time! A girl that wears her heart on her sleeve and is gentle in speech, in action and in touch.

During a time when I wasn’t really walking with God, I totally was overrun by emotions 24/7. I try to be thoughtful in everything I do and say, so when people weren’t as thoughtful back, it just rocked my emotions – I didn’t and couldn’t understand why they weren’t thoughtful too!

So I really started to focus on trying to not be so ‘weak’, because to me, gentleness, kindness, and thoughtfulness are perceived as weakness to others. And I found myself becoming cold and callused by things of the world because I didn’t allow myself to show my soft side any longer.

I was tired of being hurt.

 I wanted off the emotional roller coaster. When someone wasn’t kind to me, I was rude back. When someone gave me a mean look – I gave one back. I was slowly but surely conforming to the world because it was much easier to simply not care. Little did I know that I was actually choosing to constantly be hurt which snowballed to where I was choosing to be bitter about it all.

I was choosing to let others actions affect me instead of choosing to look to God to see who I really was in Him. I look back and see how vicious this cycle was and realize now that my joy and healing was only made complete when I turned to God.

 “You are the only you God made… God made you and broke the mold.”-Max Lucado

As my relationship with God grew, I learned that I Am What He Says I am and I don’t have to conform to the world just to function. I was created in His image!! (Genesis 1:27) God softened my heart and returned it to it’s original state, and then some! I stand confidently on the promises that He has made me and I now can say that I can be gentle and kind and loving to everyone and still be More than A Conqueror through Christ.  He also showed me that in a world that can often be harsh, it takes strength to be gentle.

 Now the actions of others don’t affect my emotions in a negative way.  Instead I try to seek ways to give compassion and gentleness to those who need it.

I can be sure to tell you though, that this change wasn’t me. It was God working in me to renew my heart and mind. Now I can look at myself in the mirror and realize that all the qualities that I once thought of as weaknesses are beautiful – they are reflections of Christ in me.

I love the part of Elijah’s story in 1 Kings 19 that illustrates the gentleness of God:

“The Lord said,  ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.   After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

How amazing that because of God’s love, in a world that can be so cruel, I can be soft and kind! In a world jam-packed with mean and harsh people, I can be gentle and sweet with all that I come into contact with. I have not accepted the calluses that the world tries to give me because I am not of this world and God’s Word is my truth.

When I turn to the Word of God I can see that Gentleness is a character trait of God that I am called to imitate.

  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  ~ Galatians 5:22-23
  • “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  ~ Colossians 3:12
  • “But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” ~ 1 Timothy 6:11
  • “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”  ~ 1 Peter 3:15

In all the times that my actions should have let God down, they didn’t and He has continued to love me all the same. Don’t let the world harden your heart and turn you toward bitterness and callousness.  Choose to walk in love and gentleness today.

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”  ~ Saint Jerome