Sunday, December 29, 2013

God's Favor... Is NOW!

I was asked to speak to a group of people a couple of months ago. When I received the invitation, I had no idea what I was going to say to them. But as time progressed, I felt the Holy Spirit impress upon me to speak to them about God's favor. Truthfully, it came to me one night around eleven o'clock, right as I was trying to fall asleep (the Holy Spirit is like that, but He knows I'm a night owl so it's all good).

God's Favor 
The reason for speaking on this is that God wants us to know that His favor is NOW. God is raising up an army of women NOW. Here's why... Women are being used, abused, and thrown aside like trash. They are treated as such, made to think as such, and are the victims of many abuses such as verbal, mental, emotional, physical, sexual... women and girls are being sold into human trafficking. They are victims of pornography, prostitution, drugs & alcohol. And God's favor is upon several woman who have been rescued, healed, or brought out of some form of many of the above mentioned things, and HE has sent them out to give others HOPE. I know. I am one of them. 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come." ~Luke 4:18-19, NLT

I come from a background where I was constantly ridiculed for my looks, my actions, I was told that my ideas were "stupid" and that I would "never amount to anything." Verbal, mental, and emotional abuse is what I lived under. I literally lived in a modern day "Hotel California." I could check out any time I wanted. But I could never leave.

There are many women today who are living this way and God has said, "Enough!" When He healed me in May of 2012, He also gave me the above Scripture as a sort of "marching orders." Since that time, I have slowly begun to see a pattern in the people He is placing in my path. I have made mistakes along the way, but thankfully God is patient with me and continues to teach me and send more women in my direction for me to encourage with my story of healing.

The day I realized what was causing my issues with depression, I realized that I needed my mind healed from the hurt and the abuse that I had endured for way too long. It was turning point in my life because the next week God literally healed me from the inside out! But not only that, He didn't leave me at just healed. He directed me to the new path He had waiting for me.

He has a path especially for you, too. No matter your background. No matter your circumstances. God has something in mind for you. He always has. Everything God has planned for you are good. The problem is that there is also an enemy out there who doesn't want you to find it. And he will do everything in his power to keep you from finding that healing and that purpose. But one thing he doesn't know is that he has no power unless you give it to him! So, if you are believing the lies people are telling you, the negative, hurtful things that people say and do to you, then the enemy is keeping you from God's favor.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. ~Ephesians 2:10, NLT

My friend Karla Akins*, is doing a Saturday blog post about Strong Girls. She is also one of God's Warrior Princesses who is diligently working to help others find the purpose God has for them. She is sincerely trying to help girls and women find freedom in healing and helping them discover who God says they are! I encourage you to check out her blog as well and find encouragement.

God has something special for you my dear sisters! Trust me on this, and trust God. You have something special to offer to other girls and women, to give them encouragement and hope that there IS something better out there. Don't be a victim any longer. God's favor is NOW. He is waiting for you with open arms.  

*Karla Akins is the best-selling author of several historical biographies, novels and more. When she's not writing, you may find her zooming down the road on her motorcycle or looking for treasure.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Unlocking Your Door

A very dear friend of mine gave me a gift a couple of weeks ago; a lovely little journal. I love journals. This one is red and it is tied closed with a piece of red suede. But I think the most precious thing about this gift is that tied to the journal is an antique skeleton key.

The key is pitted, dingy, bent, and twisted. It has been used and a little abused, as you can tell just by looking at it. But this little key means more to me than just a key. And it means more to me than just what my friend gave it to me for.

We had recently finished a wonderful Bible study by Priscilla Shirer entitled, Gideon. (I would highly recommend this study if you are looking to discover how God can use your weaknesses to do mighty things.) One of the lessons in the study talked about how our weakness is the key to God's strength. It is the key to unlock the door to whatever it is that God is calling you to do. However, once unlocked you must open the door!

I began to think about that and when I saw the skeleton key, I immediately sent my friend a text and told her how much I loved her gift, especially the key. Her reply? "I chose that key specifically for you...That key was the only one in the batch I got that was bent. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was to go to you. And I mean that in every good way!"

It may seem trivial to some people, but to me that key represented a lot of things in my life. I'm a little bent and twisted myself from all the things I've been through in my life. And I mentioned to my friend just that and the fact that the key still has a purpose, just like we all do. She agreed.

We all go through various things in our lives. Some are extremely hurtful and they scar us and bend and twist us. We get pitted, just like my little key. But the amazing thing about that is the fact that long before we ever went through any of that, God knew it was going to happen. He knew the things we would go through. And He also knew that those things, that we call our weaknesses, would be the very things that He would use within us to show His strength. What does that mean? It means that He is going to use those things through us to help others find the hope that we have found!

Yes, I've been hurt deeply by other people. I have been wounded and scarred both mentally and emotionally. But God healed me of that and when He did, He turned me around and said, "Now, use that to help other women find hope that they are not alone. Help them find Me. Show them that they have purpose. Show them My love. Show them the way out." These were not audible words, but a strong desire in my heart. I knew that this is what I was supposed to do. God used my key and unlocked the door. But I had to open it and step through. 

Shift our focus from the key itself to the door God can unlock with it. Use what you have -- no matter how weak -- and God will take care of the rest. ~From Gideon, by Priscilla Shirer

There are so many things going on in the world today. But you don't have to be the victim of them. People are going to say and do hurtful things. They are going to say things about you that are not true. They are going to try to convince others that what they are saying is "the truth." It is up to you to show them the real Truth. Jesus.

Most of my scars are from the past. But just because God healed me doesn't mean that I don't still run up against people who want to cause hurt. Because I do. I am. And that's okay. My key is still helping me to unlock new doors. And I am still helping others learn to use their keys.

Don't focus on your weaknesses as something that hinders you. Instead, let God use them to unlock the doors to what He has in store for you. You may just find something beautiful behind your door!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

In the Valley

I love going to Maggie Valley, North Carolina. It is one of my most favorite spots to vacation...or really just to get away. I love the mountains, and being in the valley I can look in any direction and see them. But also going on a ride up the mountain pass, I can also look out over many valleys and see exactly where the hand of God has touched. It's everywhere!

The mountains are beautiful. So is the valley. Yet, some valleys are not so beautiful. Like the spiritual valley we sometimes find ourselves in when we hit a slump. I'm not really fond of that particular valley. However, I have learned that when I slide into the valley, I am there for a reason, so it might be a good idea to look around, check out my surroundings, see what I can learn, and figure out an exit for this valley!

Sometimes we get out of sorts when we find ourselves in the valley. But really, how else are we going to learn anything or grow stronger in our walk with the Lord if we DON'T walk through the valley? In the twenty-third Psalm, David writes about walking through the valley. I guess if David can do it, so can we!

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. ~Psalms 23:4, NKJV

It never says that we will die in the valley. We'll just walk through the "valley of the shadow of death." But God is there with us, which is comforting to know. And not only does He walk through it with us, He protects us and comforts us while we are there! So I guess the valley isn't as devastating as it might seem.

We all like those mountain-top experiences though, don't we! I love being on top of the mountains. It's beautiful to look out, down, and all around and see the beauty that God created. But I also know that eventually we have to come down off the mountain and go back into the valley. But if you look around while there, you can find many beautiful things as well.

It's the same in life, too. We can't have mountain-top experiences without a trip through the valley. Because while in the valley, that's where we learn something new, or experience something amazing, or have a face-to-face encounter with God that will shoot us right back up on the top of the mountain!

Have you had a "Valley Lesson" lately?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Best Handmade Gift

I love the Christmas season! I think it's the overall atmosphere that it creates within me. But this is also a kind of sad time for me as well. I remember, and miss, many people who were part of my life who have now passed on and are no longer with us. And that makes me sad, but I also know that this is part of life. 

And while I may miss certain people, they left a legacy here that lives on within me, and now my kids in some part. My great-grandmother, both grandmothers, and my mother all crocheted. They worked and weaved strands of yarn into beautiful afghans, baby sweaters, hats and booties, doilies, pillow case trim, scarves, and many other things.

Weaving a legacy can be done in many different ways. The afghans are a nice reminder of days gone by which keep us warm when we are cold. But those crocheted items won't get us into heaven no matter how beautiful they are, how difficult the pattern, or how much love went into making them. The only thing that will get us into heaven is a relationship with Jesus.

As I reflect on what the season means, I am overwhelmed with emotion as I realize the magnitude of what God went through in sending Jesus to be born for me! For you! Do you actually know that Jesus was born FOR us? He was!

There has been born FOR you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. ~Luke 2:11 (emphasis added)

What a tremendous act of love on our heavenly Daddy's part to send the perfect sacrifice for us, knowing that all the sacrifices in the world would never be enough to make us right with Him. So He sent His own! God gave us a legacy. He sent us Jesus.

Not only that, but He knits as well! He knit us each one together as we were being formed in our mothers' wombs. But He also continues to knit us together as we journey through life! He places people in our path for reasons, seasons, and lifetimes who will spur us on, encourage us, love us, and be there with us throughout our journey and into the next.

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.14  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. ~Psalm 139:13-14, NKJV

But the greatest gift of all, by far, is Jesus. He is knit into our very being not only as our sacrifice, but as our Counselor, our Advocate, our Confidant, our Brother, our Master, our King, and our LORD! HE is the very Reason we celebrate Christmas. HE is the very breath I take every minute of every day. HE is the reason I live. 

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. ~Galatians 2:20, NKJV

I am so glad that God knit me together with Christ! I am so glad that that we were woven into His story. It takes my breath away every time I think about it. Whenever I think about what He has done for me, not only when He saved me, but years later when He reached down and healed me... I can hardly take it all in. It overwhelms me greatly.

I truly hope that this Christmas season, whether you crochet or not, that you realize how fearfully and wonderfully you were made. That you realize what a Gift you have been given by the Master Knitter! We may be able to knit or crochet beautiful things. But God knit the MOST Beautiful One of ALL!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Memories and Keepsakes of Christmases Past

Revisited from my post "Christmas Keepsakes and Memories" @ The Barn Door

When I was a little girl, I can remember going to a Christmas party every year at the local Moose Club. There was food, games, Christmas Carols, and then a very special visit from a "Jolly Old Elf." Every little boy and girl got to meet Santa Claus, sit on his lap and tell him what we wanted for Christmas. We would also each get a Christmas present from Santa. The adults would also buy raffle tickets and they would have drawings for prizes. But it was the Christmas of 1968 that my grandpa Johnny won what was to become my most favorite Christmas item. 

I was three years old at the time, and while I don't remember the event, I've been told that Grandpa was adamant about taking me to the Christmas party. Now, one thing you must understand... Grandpa Johnny was a rough sort of man. He was a former Marine who fought in WWII. So his voice was loud and gruff when he spoke. And he didn't care what he said or to whom, except to one... me (I was his only grandchild at the time). Apparently this particular year, Grandpa had bought some raffle tickets because he had his eye on this little angel that played Silent Night. I say "little" but in reality, she is a good sized figure. However, Grandpa bought the tickets, and when the drawing took place, guess who had the winning ticket? I did.

I came home from the Annual Moose Club Christmas Party with not only a present from Santa, but the most beautiful, musical Angel. My mother sat her out on the table for me, wound her up, and let her play her tune as she spun round and round. 

I loved looking at her fuzzy, snow white dress, creamy complexion, blond hair, blue eyes, halo, and white lace wings, complete with gold stars. In one hand she held a tiny bell. Round and round she went as the precious tune tinkled on. As the wind-up wore down, she stopped playing and stood still. Year after year, Mom would put my little angel out, wind her up, and let her play. And year after year, the box she came in got more and more tattered, and my little angel got darker and darker. 

Grandpa passed away in 1983, just a few short months before I got married. Still, we put my little angel out and wound her up, probably more for sentimental reasons and in memory of Grandpa than as a decoration for Christmas. But nonetheless, she came out.

My little Christmas Angel... The picture is my grandpa
in his Marine uniform, when he was in his 20's
When I got married in June of 1983, Mom gave me my little Christmas Angel, reminding me that "Grandpa Johnny won that for YOU." So every year at Christmas, when my husband and I would put our Christmas decorations out, we would hang the first ornament on the tree together, an ornament with "Our First Christmas" and the date on it. Then we would get out my little angel, wind her up, and listen as she played her little tune. And in my sentimental state, I would cry.

My three kids have all gone through the "ritual" year after year, of watching their mom put out the angel, wind her up, and let her play. When they were small, I would tell them the story of how I got her and who got her for me. I watched as their little eyes would light up when I pulled her out of the box, unwrap her, straighten her wings, then wind her up.

My Grandma Ann & Grandpa Johnny
Both, precious memories now, too.

My mother is gone now, too. My kids are all grown up and moved out. I also have two grandsons now. And my poor little angel is 45 years old this year. Her box is long gone, having disintegrated many years ago. Her white dress is now a dingy yellowish grey. Her wings are faded and droopy, although I have tried to wire them back up. Her halo is also droopy and grey. But she is still the most beautiful thing to me. I leave her out all year now instead of putting her away. My reasoning is that I want to enjoy her more than just once a year. I also want everyone else to enjoy her. Occasionally, I will wind her up to hear her play her little tune. And every time I look at her I remember my Grandpa Johnny and smile... sometimes with a tear in my eye.

What is your favorite Christmas memory?

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Women of Christmas

There are only eight chapters in the book. But in those eight chapters is a plethora of information, knowledge, and blessings that one can hardly take it all in! Not only that, but in the back of the book is a study guide and notes that anyone wanting to dig in deeper and learn can have at it. I'm talking about the book "The Women of Christmas" by Liz Curtis Higgs.

Liz is such an icon among women's ministry. She is funny, full of knowledge, and very sensitive to the things women go through...mainly because she has gone through some life-altering things herself. Liz is a kindred spirit to all women. She's been there, been through it, and has experienced the forgiveness and healing of our Savior, and been commissioned to share it. 

With that, she brings to light the lives of three women who played vital roles in our Messiah's birth; Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna. We have read about them for years and years, but in "The Women of Christmas," Liz helps us get to know them even better!

Each of their lives are vastly different. Elizabeth was married, mature. Mary was young, unmarried, yet engaged to a carpenter. Anna was an elderly widow whose every moment was dedicated to God. Within the pages of this book, Liz shows how each woman was chosen by God for a specific purpose. And as Liz writes, "what boggles my mind" God has chosen us too! * Believe me, it boggles my mind too.

Can you imagine being chosen by God to fulfill a specific purpose of ushering in the birth of the Savior of the world? Chosen by God to fulfill a specific purpose of introducing others to Him? Chosen by God to fulfill a specific purpose of encouraging other women that He has chosen them too? Chosen by God to fulfill a specific purpose of giving other women hope that they have actually been CHOSEN by God? Can you imagine? 

You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you [I have revealed to you everything that I have learned from Him]. ~ John 15:16 AMP

I couldn't imagine it either. I mean, I'm a nobody. I'm not even sure I know what "being chosen" or even "being called" by God MEANS! Well... I didn't know. Not until a clear, starry night in May of 2012, when God actually SHOWED me what it means. Believe me, just like Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna, when God calls you... YOU KNOW IT!

So, Elizabeth was chosen to have the child who would prepare the way for the Lord; John the Baptist. Mary was actually chosen to have God's Son, Jesus! And Anna, precious Anna, was chosen by God to be a prophet (see Luke 2:36)! A female prophet! She was chosen to proclaim the truth of the Messiah! Each woman of Christmas chosen by God, hand-picked you might say. Can you imagine now?

Why would God choose women? In a world where men ruled. Why pick women? Ah! Therein lies the wonderful-ness of our God! To show mankind that Jesus came for everyone, men and women alike, so that "one of each sex might bear witness to him." *

It doesn't matter what our age, gender, or race. God has chosen each of us to bear witness of Him. We all have a testimony of the things He has done in our lives. Just like Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna, God has given each one of us a very specific, very special purpose. It is up to us to use that to show and tell others of His wonderful love for us.

The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you. ~Psalm 9:9-10, NLT

Still not sure God has chosen you? Maybe you think there isn't anything special about you. Or maybe you think that you don't have anything special to share. Well, Elizabeth was barren...yet God chose her to conceive. Mary was still just a child herself, yet a woman by the standards of her time...and God chose her to bear His Holy Son! Anna was a widow, a very old woman, who devoted herself to God... and He chose her to bear witness as a prophetess. He used each of these women in a unique and special way. Each in a different season of their lives. In each of the seasons of our lives, we have worth as servants of the Lord too.

There is a purpose for you. You are special to God, He loves you, He is crazy about you, and He has chosen you to do something very special. No matter what your age or your level of spiritual maturity, you my sisters are also part of The Women of Christmas!

* From The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs ©2013

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