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Reflecting for the New Year|By Heaven Harris

The Christmas season is the perfect time to reflect on the year as it comes to a close, and the perfect opportunity to dream for the year ahead. Every year, I pray that God blesses me with a word and/or scripture that will mark the year and season I am stepping into or still walking in. Every year, He is exceedingly faithful in my request. For 2018, my words were JOY and ROMANCE, and my scriptures encompassed those very words.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” -Hosea 2:14

“He brought me to the banquet hall, and he looked on me with love.” -Song of Solomon 2:4

This year, my divorce was finalized. As that part of my life was coming to a permanent close, I struggled to understand how joy and romance could possibly be what God was trying to incorporate in my life.  I felt empty and void of either. However, God knew the place He wanted in my life. He wanted to be my husband and show me a different side of His perfect and true love.

For the entirety of this year, I let Him pursue me and allure me through every high and low. I let Him romance my heart straight into the healing I was longing for. As my heart healed, my joy was daily renewed in ways I never experienced. It has not been easy. It has taken intentionality.  It has also taken honesty. There have been days when I have thrown my hands in the air yelling, not wanting His love or presence.

My intention is never to hurt Him, but in the humanity of it all, sometimes I feel I have nothing to give or even the energy to receive. Can we just take a moment to be thankful that even in those vulnerable moments, He never leaves or forsakes?

Actually, it has been the most vulnerable moments that He shows Himself a strong tower, and I can be nothing but thankful.

As the scripture goes, His grace is sufficient, and His strength and power are made perfect through our weaknesses. My heart simply desires that He shines bright through my pain and weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9 paraphrased)

That wilderness spoken of in Hosea 2 was lonely at times, yet I never felt more surrounded. As I reflect on 2018, there were so many opportunities for me to let God in and romance me more.  Yet, I sit with contentment that He has my heart in a way that He never has. I sit knowing that there are worldly desires I never thought would be quenched that He miraculously replaced with an urgency for Him and His touch. I find myself hungry more for a touch of Heaven and less for pleasing people. I want eternity to be my mark.  

My prayer for you in this season of reflection is that you can see His hand in everything you have encountered this year, even those hard parts.  Even more, I pray that 2019 has your heart fluttering with hope for what He will continue to do for and in you.

My word for 2019 is MARVEL. My scripture is Isaiah 54 (NLT).

In this chapter, it speaks about a barren and desolate land. One that has been riddled with storms. I too have battled many storms in my life. But, God has a promise for this city as He has a promise for you and me.

11  “O storm-battered city, troubled and desolate! I will rebuild you with precious jewels
   and make your foundations from lapis lazuli.


12  I will make your towers of sparkling rubies, your gates of shining gems,
and your walls of precious stones.


13  I will teach all your children, and they will enjoy great peace.


14  You will be secure under a government that is just and fair. Your enemies will stay far away. You will live in peace, and terror will not come near.


15  If any nation comes to fight you, it is not because I sent them. Whoever attacks you will go down in defeat.

16  “I have created the blacksmith who fans the coals beneath the forge
and makes the weapons of destruction. And I have created the armies that destroy.


17  But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the Lord; their vindication will come from me. I, the Lord, have spoken!

Read the rest of Isaiah 54 here.

I will walk into 2019 clinging to such a love letter, and I choose to begin this year with pouring out into your cup the overflow of mine. I believe these scriptures are for some of you, and the shaky ground you stand on. Embrace His heart for you in this upcoming year. He is ready to give you every desire of that precious heart of yours.

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Praying for a Broken World| By Jasmine Beard


Everyday there is bad news…

I mean, really bad news. Within the last week, I have learned of three crimes that, in a sense, have rattled me, scared me, and left me questioning God.

I have a lot of knowledge of God. Not saying I know it all, but I know all about what His word says about Him – His character, His love, and His sovereignty. I have even had revelation of His goodness in my own life. The good things that God has done in my life could literally tower to the size of a building.

But still, I find myself in this moment bewildered, scared, and confused about the very knowledge I know of God and the very experiences I have had with Him.

In the last week, I have learned through the news of a local pastor’s wife being carjacked, ran over, and killed. Secondly, I heard about a baby being disposed of in a garbage can. And lastly, just last night, I heard of a 52-year-old woman who while trying to help a homeless woman and her baby was stabbed to death. Stabbed….to….death.

When I heard that last story, it felt like the last straw. I wept, and I felt so so hurt by this.

“Then you may be the sons of your Father Who is in heaven. His sun shines on bad people and on good people. He sends rain on those who are right with God and on those who are not right with God.” – Matthew 5:45

I know God is good in the midst of the unforeseen growing bills happening in my life. I know God is good when I hear of incurable diseases my loved ones have. And I know God is good even when people die from things like cancer and other diseases.

But tragedies, I just do not understand.

Tragedy- an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.

As a Christian, how do I marry the idea of God’s goodness and the badness of tragedies?

In my heart, mind, and soul, I know I serve a God of miracles. MIRACLES…like He parts the sea, He raises the dead to life, He heals the sick. Yet tragedies still happen..Why?

As I have felt the grief and the weight just a tiny bit from being a spectator from the outside, my heart has ached for these people- the victims, their families, the perpetrators. I’ve cried for them, I’ve prayed for them, and I have questioned for them.

Today, I am reminded that God HATES murder. Also, any empathy or sympathy I feel for another human being is not because of my human nature, but because of my God nature through the Holy Spirit.

Tragedies happen and have happened for the entire duration of my 25-year-old lifespan. Why am I just now questioning tragedies?

Is it because of the first murder happened right in my city? Right down the street from my apartment and workplace?

That the baby thrown away reminds me of all the aborted fetuses that happen in my state?

That there are so many children in foster care who never get adopted?

And this last news story.

Did it affect me so much because I care so deeply for the homeless community? And knowing the woman stabbed to death while giving could have easily been me or any other caring person I know?

I am not sure. I think questions are good. Really, really good. I know God can handle them and longs to give me insight and direction.

The insight and direction that He’s given me on these tragedies is to PRAY.

Many of us are hurt by tragedy, bewildered by circumstances, and question God. This is fine, but we cannot stay there. If all we do is ask questions and complain about unforeseen tragedies, we miss God’s goodness in the midst of them.

I don’t understand tragedies, but I do know I serve a kind and loving God. These tragedies were a spiritual awakening for the call on my life and every woman and man of God to intercede and to pray for your city, state, region, country, and the world.

“Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.” – Psalm 143:8

Wherever there is ungodliness, carnality, and sin in History, you will find murder and tragedy…

The only way to change our city is to pray for godliness, revival, and love to run rampant there. Our prayers need to be less about us and more for this dying world.

I once read a quote that said, “If all of your prayers from last night, came true today would it change the world or would it just change yours?”

That’s a powerful statement/question that I think all of us should ask ourselves.

We serve a kind, kind God who serves selfish, selfish man. Let’s join Him in his kindness, mercy, and empathy for our cities, states, and country through communing with Him in prayer and bringing His love and light to a broken world.

“But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side.They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.” -Luke 19:41-44

Pardon the Interruption|By Chelsea Verdin

My eyes were closed, and my heart was heavy. I had been wrestling with God without even noticing it, until I felt a small hand brush my arm. Instantly, I opened my eyes and looked over to my friend who was standing next to me with her baby boy. So sweetly, he reached out his arms to me, and I graciously accepted his invitation to cuddle him up into my arms.

I held my worship experience, still focusing on Jesus, but also enjoying the sweet affections from this baby boy. As he gently rested his head on my shoulder and patted my back with his tiny hand, tears filled my eyes, and an explainable peace swept over me.

A flood of emotions expanded my heart, and I just stood holding him, singing and surrendering to Jesus. This sweet boy represented the image of Christ, and in that moment, He was wrapping His arms around me and confirming me in the most tangible way.

Here’s what I learned: interruptions are divine appointments with Jesus. So many times, Jesus interrupted people’s daily lifestyles and invited them to sit with Him. Often times, Jesus’ own life was interrupted by people hungry for His ministry and desperate for His love. Each of the disciples were consumed with their own lives when Jesus chose them to follow Him. They could have rejected His invitation and went on with their lives, but instead, they embraced the interruption and gained the sweetest revelation and friendship.

When Mary was to marry Joseph, she had her life planned out. She would marry and have children. She would make a good wife and mother. Then suddenly those plans were interrupted. The angel Gabriel was sent to Mary in the middle of her wedding planning. He brought great news and an even greater invitation. Not only was Mary favored by God, but He had chosen her to birth the Messiah.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,

27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.

28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.

30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!

31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.

32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.

33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”


35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.

36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.

37 For the word of God will never fail.”

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

-Luke 1:26-38

How differently would things look if Mary would have rejected God’s offer and decided to proceed with her wedding untouched by the Holy Spirit?

Interruptions are invitations to sit with Jesus. He invites us to be still with Him that we may learn and know who He is.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” -Psalm 46:10

That we may honor Him and make space within our busy lives to accept the hand selected task that He specifically creates for us.

Sometimes, we see the interruptions as distractions from the plans we have mapped out for ourselves, but what if we chose to see them as encounters with Jesus. Moments to talk to Him or get alone with Him in the midst of our chaotic lives? How differently we would be if we met one of His interruptions with the heart of Samuel as he tried to sleep and the Lord called to Him several times in the middle of the night.

“Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” -1 Samuel 3:10

God has been teaching me to come away with Him in the middle of the chaos. When the noise all around me is trying to silence His voice in my life, He reassures me that solitude is not just about being alone. It is about who we are alone with. He uses the embrace of a child to confirm me and to remind me that I am still His, He is still mine, and He is good always.

Friend, if you look around you will notice Him speaking too. Maybe not always audible as we would like, but always speaking to the heart of who we are.

Like a sunset taking away the day, some interruptions are meant to be beautiful invitations to be still and know.

When the Cake Crumbles| By Tori Savoy

Running a cake business can sometimes be scary. You spend hours on a cake, unsure if it will turn out exactly like the client requested or whether it will stay together throughout the day.

I will never forget transporting a cake that had several elements to it. I had spent hours working on it. As I drove, I heard a thump come from the box.

My heart skipped a beat.

Once I stopped at a red light, I opened the box to discover that the fondant shapes on top the cake had began to wilt, and one of the pieces fell over and down the back side of the cake.

“Oh my goodness! I can’t give this to the client,” I thought.

I ran through my mind how I was going to explain to the customer that her cake was ruined. I prayed that she would be understanding.

Once I pulled up, I began to explain and tried to quickly mend as much of the damage as possible as she walked toward my car. I even offered to give her a discount.

She smiled and said, “Well let’s see what happened.”

And as she took a look, she said “Oh, just give me that piece that fell. I’ll take it to the trash can. The cake looks beautiful without it. You wouldn’t even know it was missing something.”

“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.” Jeremiah 18:3-4

Somehow, I felt like this is what happens when I am too afraid to come to God with my broken pieces. I see the parts that are “wilting” and believe my complete self is ruined, unworthy to be an offering for God.

However, He looks at me and asks me to just hand over those bad parts for Him to dispose of. He says, “See! Look how beautiful you are without that.”

Just like my cake customer, Jesus did not need a discount. He paid the full price for our broken souls right there at the cross. He takes our mess, throws away the bad parts, and makes a beautiful masterpiece of what is left.

“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

God does not ask that we bring a perfect product to Him. He takes us in as we are and only asks that we let Him handle those broken pieces. I charge you today to come before God just as you are.

Unveiling Eden Gives Thanks

 

Chelsea
Chelsea Verdin, Contributing Writer

Something I am thankful for this year that is different than last year….

SOLITUDE

Sometimes we can get so focused on the busyness of life that we forget how refreshing it is to just get away – away from the noise, away from the distractions and just sit in our secret quiet place, absorbing and rediscovering who Jesus is.

I spent a fair amount of my life constantly wanting to go, or be, or do. When I received more responsibility or territory, I realized how sacred isolation can be in some atmospheres.

Isolation doesn’t always mean loneliness. It can also mean elevation.

Sometimes, He has to take us away in order to lift us higher. Sometimes, He has to quiet our souls so that we may learn to listen. And sometimes, we have to be alone to understand who He is.

A letter to my daughter……

Heaven
Heaven Harris, Staff Writer

Dear Evelyn,

You are too young at the moment to read this or even understand, but my hope is that this letter finds you years from now and gives you a glimpse of my heart.

This thanksgiving is technically our second one together, but last year you were barely a week old. Therefore, this is our first real thanksgiving with family and friends that you won’t be sleeping or nursing the whole time:).

I want you to know sweet girl, that next to Jesus, YOU are what I am most thankful for this year and for every thanksgiving to come. Nothing and no one has brought more joy and love to my life. This adventure we are on, even with all it’s lows and highs, is worth celebrating and being grateful for.

Getting to be your mother and the bond that I was able to form and steward with you has brought me to life in places I was sure was dead. I am thankful to you, for that, even though it’s beyond your comprehension right now.

And know that it truly takes a village, and we have the best one around. We are so blessed with the most amazing friends and family that love and support us and surround us with laughs, hugs, and deep and strong prayers that usher in God’s presence to daily move mountains in our favor. We are beyond blessed and highly favored.

So this Thanksgiving, I will give honor and glory for us where it is due. My prayer is that I am able to show you even in seasons that don’t include the Thanksgiving holiday, how to be grateful because He works it ALL for our good.

I love you my princess, until kingdom come. 

Jasmine
Jasmine Beard, Editor-in-Chief

Something I am thankful for this year that is different from last year…

RESTORATION

“The act of restoring ; renewal, revival, or reestablishment.”

Restoration has always been something I have believed in. I know that I serve a God that can do all things, including the miraculous.

Although I know this, I did not think a relationship with a family member could ever be good. I settled in the fact that while forgiveness had been given, the state of the relationship could never be repaired.

Through my own healing of hurt this year, I was able to see the person who had repeatedly hurt me through a different lens. I no longer saw them as the person who had hurt me continuously, but as a hurt person themselves.

I had to take that person off of the pedestal of expectations I placed on them. I had to simply see them as a child of God. Once I did this, I no longer thought of all the pain they caused me. I instead saw all of their wounds and knew because of their own pain they hurt me.

” Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!

This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!

I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”’-

Ezekiel -37:3-6

Just like these dry bones, God breathed life into my relationship with my family member. Something that was once dead and barren has began to sprout new life. Thank you Jesus!

Stephanie
Stephanie Cain, Contributing Writer

A letter to my mother……

Dear Mom,

Words cannot express how thankful I am for you.

I have always loved and appreciated you-  I mean,  you are my best friend and my flower girl. But this year, you helped guide me into motherhood. You showed me that perfection is not the goal and that you must allow yourself grace. You loved me through the difficult times. When my world felt crushing, you were there to hold me. You reminded me I can do it and that God gave me this new purpose the He would help me fulfill. All this while still being a shining example of motherhood for me, an amazing wife, and learning how to be a mama to my baby boy.

I will always be grateful to you for everything you have done for me and my family. I love you more than words can convey.

Sincerely, Your Sally

Tori
Tori Savoy, Editor

Something I am thankful for this year that is different from last year…

CONTENTMENT

Contentment – it is described as “a state of happiness”. I believe the world is always searching for contentment in the tangible things of life such as money, success, life milestones and so forth. If only we could reach that certain goal we have in mind, we would find contentment.

However, this is not the same definition God would like us to use.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11, “…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

As a Christian, my contentment is not determined by my state. My contentment, when anchored in who God is, remains when times are good or bad.

Worldly contentment gives us no reason to better ourselves, but Godly contentment pushes us closer to our source of happiness – God Himself.

This Thanksgiving, I thank God for giving me a “state of happiness” despite circumstances that try to steal my joy.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For me brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” 1 Timothy 6:6-7

Gives Thanks UE

All Who are Thirsty| By Jasmine Beard

IMG_6919This is a picture I took a couple months ago of the Great Smoky Mountains. Breathtaking, I know. As I opened the cabin doors and walked onto the balcony, I was awestruck at the majesty of God and His splendor.

As I gazed into the skies and saw the glorious mountains and trees, I envisioned God crouching down from the Heavens whispering into my ear sweet whispers from Heaven.

His words are like honey to my soul. The very sweetness of Him quenches the longings of my soul and every inkling of my Spirit.

How I long to be in awe of Him all the days of my life into eternity forever and ever. I dream that He picks me up in the palm of His hands sweeping me away into the clouds of His majestic being. I am dancing in the glory of His beauty and drinking from the palm of His hands for the rest of my days.

This picture reminds me of the Samaritan woman at the well.

She came to the well for a drink of water for she longed to quench the thirst of her body. Unaware, she met Jesus who did not want to only quench the thirst of her body, but of her soul as well.

“…But if anyone drinks the living water I give them, they will never thirst again and will be forever satisfied! For when you drink the water I give you it becomes a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, springing up and flooding you with endless life.” John 4:14 (TPT)

In that same way, Jesus met me, and it is because of this that I am able to see His majesty, to see His glory, and to drink from His cup.

After I dance with Abba in the clouds, He gracefully places me back down to earth. I look around, and I no longer see the beauty and splendor that I saw before. I see brokenness, dirtiness, and darkness all around me. Nothing in me wants to stay and be back on Earth, but God tells me,“go forth and love my people and tell them of this majesty you have found and this water that never runs dry.”

I once saw a picture of myself at a well. The depth of this well was deeper than I could ever hope to see. Then I saw a picture of a wide well, and God instructed me to never be a fat well.

This picture may seem funny to you, and it is a bit funny to me as well. However, that picture is packed with so much meaning..

If we are fat wells, it means that we have no depth to our reach. We just take up excess space. However, if our well has depth, we can bring nourishment to barren land.

Jesus does not show us His splendor or allow us to drink from His cup just for our nourishment. If we just continuously receive from God but never pour out, we become essentially a “fat well.” However, if we instead allow God to fill us deep into our soul and allow others to drink from the well inside of us, we become a deep well.

‘“All at once, the woman dropped her water jar and ran off to her village and told everyone, ‘Come and meet a man at the well who told me everything I’ve ever done! He could be be the Anointed One we’ve been waiting for.’ Hearing this, the people came streaming out of the village to go see Jesus.”’ John 4:28-30 (TPT)

The Samaritan woman dropped the very water that would quench the thirst of her body because she had found drink for her soul. Today, be a deep well bringing the same gushing fountain that has quenched your soul to God’s people.
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Tidal Waves| By Stephanie Cain

image2 (3)

Over the last year, almost every area of my life has been stretched, prodded, or flat out attacked – especially my faith. A few days ago I was watching my son play in his walker corner when I had a flashback. A few years ago my husband’s family decided to go to the beach together. On that day, the water was rough – not enough for red flags but enough that children did not leave the shallows. However, as adults, we ventured out to chest height and jumped into the tidal waves as they rolled in.

One time I did not jump soon enough, and the wave swept over me. Suddenly, I was tumbling under the water with no clue what was up or down. My feet found the ocean bottom, and I pushed up, gasping for air as soon as the next wave rolled in. I was immediately toppling under the water again desperately trying to find the surface for air. This happened two more times until finally my husband caught me and helped me stand. It was such a scary experience that I stayed in the shallows after that.

Where I am now in life feels a lot like that beach. As soon as I find my footing and catch my breath, a new wave is rolling in on top of me sending me spinning again. However, Jesus reminded me of something He did while here on earth.

Mark 4:35-41 chronicles the time when Jesus and His disciples were in rough waters because of a storm. Jesus spoke to the storm and said “Peace! Be still!” The winds and waves obeyed him and stopped. Jesus reminded me that He does not just calm physical storms, but He can calm the waves in our lives. If we listen to Him as He speaks through the Holy Spirit to us, “Peace! Be still!”, we will see the waves that were engulfing are now a soothing ripple. This is not to say that we will not have storms. Of course we will! There may be times in our lives that the winds and waves are so loud and big that you can’t hear the Lord’s still, small whisper of peace.

Another time in Jesus’ ministry (Mark 6:45-52), His disciples were in a boat rowing against the wind. This time, rather than calm the wind with His words, the Lord walked on top of the water. He invited Peter onto the water with Him, and as long as Peter kept His eyes on the Lord, He walked over the waves too. This is HUGE! In those times when we cannot hear Jesus speaking peace in our situation, we look to Him and trust Him for every step onto the waves.

In my life, that looks like this:

A problem arises. I see no possible solution. Anxiety swells. Rather than allowing it to topple over me I say, “I can’t see a way, but I trust you Lord. I know you have a plan, a purpose, and it is for my good.” Take a deep breath. Move forward with my life one step at a time.

My hope is that these words encourage you today. Whether you are in the storm of life or not, I pray that you keep your eyes focused on Him because walking on the water is a much bigger adventure than hiding in the shallows.

“The LORD your God is in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

A Mother’s Redemption| By Amanda Maduell

image2 (2)As I lay and watch my two-year-old sleep, it is hard to believe that not long ago he started out as a tiny “blip” on the monitor. As I laid on the exam table at my OBGYN office, tears of guilt, shame, and fear rolled down my cheeks. This is not the reaction that any woman deserves to have as she experiences the expected arrival of her first child. A woman’s heart should be full of joy, love, and excitement during this time. My story is not the same.

For I know the plans I have for you ,”declares the LORD, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Everyone knows this Bible verse as it has become so incredibly popular, but it is so much more to me. This verse was my bread and butter. I had it saved on my phone screen saver for my entire pregnancy. Every time I was in despair, God reminded me of this message.

When I was encouraged by the father of my child to have an abortion, I turned to God and this verse.

I would think to myself, “God created this life inside of me, and He already knows the plans for it! How could someone want to throw this away?”

“For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14

I knew from the beginning that abortion was never an option for me, but I could not convince the father of my child to feel the same way. I thank God everyday for giving me His strength to see through and overcome that. I agreed that I would trust God, and I would wear the shame of my sin in front of me, whether the father of my child was willing to stand by me or not.

I have to admit that it was not easy.

At times, the enemy convinced me to believe that it was me. That I was not good enough or worthy enough for this person, and that this is what I deserved for committing these sins. But again that was just the enemy.

I felt lonely from the outright rejection that was displayed toward my unborn child, and I was immersed in pain. I wanted nothing more than to be loved, appreciated, and respected by the person whom I had created life with. I experienced just the opposite.

I remember coming home from working one of my two jobs and crying so hard in my bathroom that I would vomit. I lived alone, and I was too ashamed to reach out to many of my friends, I felt as though I had, “brought this upon myself.” I was scared of the unknown, I was scared of what people would think of me for having a baby without a father, I was scared of being another, “single mom statistic”, and worst of all, I was scared that I would never be able to trust or love again.

I was disappointed in myself for taking a chance on someone who had consecutively lied about his commitment. I had become so consumed in sins of the flesh. Although I considering myself a “Christian”, I still thought it was okay to have sex with my ex-boyfriend. I justified it by telling myself, “we were in love”, and because we, as adults, have “needs.”

However, I was reminded that God has a purpose for us. Although we may not always understand it, the Bible clearly states that His plan is solid. God knows before we sin against Him, and He still sends His love and grace down upon us in ways we don’t even realize in the moment. For some, like myself, it takes “struggles” like this for us to see God’s unfailing love and mercy for us.

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Jonah 2:2

Before my son was born, I picked the name Jonah after reading the short book of Jonah in the Bible. In Jonah’s story, he disobeyed God, and he was swallowed by a big fish. He prayed to God and asked for forgiveness from inside the fish. After three days, the Lord had the fish spit Jonah out, and he was forgiven.

Jonah knew that he was disobeying God by not following his instructions to go to the city of Nineveh and speak out against its wickedness. Just as I knew that I was disobeying God by continuing a sinful relationship with my son’s father. I felt as though going through an unplanned pregnancy without the father was my storm.

However, the birth of my son was my forgiveness, my redemption, and my second chance. We are children of a loving and forgiving God. I cried out to him at my lowest point, when I experienced the rejection, fear, and disappointment, He forgave me and restored me by allowing me to be the mother of one of His precious children.

After the birth of Jonah, The Lord continued to be the father that my child and I deserve, time and time again. Just when I reach my breaking point he catches me and says, “Trust me.”

Two years later, my son and I are doing great. I am blessed with phenomenal parents who were there for me during my pregnancy and birth of my son and also now. I am part of a women’s group, and I just signed a mortgage on our first home. All of this is possible because we are the children of a perfect and faithful God who has a perfect way for us, even when we can see no way for ourselves. 

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Behold Your King| By Heaven Harris

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“Girl, you are a precious daughter of the King!”

Sounds amazing right? Who doesn’t enjoy being called a princess?  I know I do!

But who is your King?  Do you know Him? I mean, really know Him?

“Women, teachers, let’s shift our emphasis from ‘girl, you are a precious daughter of the King’ to ‘behold your King’,” -Jen Wilkin

I read this quote recently, and it has not stopped burning deeply inside me since. I have heard for years that I am a princess of the Most High God, that I am royalty.  It is right here in scripture.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of the darkness into his marvelous light.”  -1 Peter 2:9.  

Learning I was royalty when I first surrendered my life to Jesus was quite amazing, and my heart still skips a beat when I hear it. However, the depth and true wonder of that statement was still not eternalized within.

Growing up, my self- image, my vision if you will, was that of a peasant girl.  I always pictured myself and even dreamt of being dirtied up, scouring in a corner wearing filthy rags and begging for scraps from the table where royalty laid their hands.  No number of compliments or words could change that movie reel playing over and over in my mind.

But JESUS.

I encountered Him.  I encountered His love and experienced His passion for me. I sat at His feet beholding His beauty and all He had to offer. I began to know him. – know him intimately, freely.   From then on, as the days passed, and I continued to lay myself bare at the altar of this mighty King, I realized my rags were stripped away and replaced with His robes of righteousness.

Isaiah 61:10 (ESV) says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Have you allowed yourself the chance to lay before the feet of Jesus and simply behold who He is and let Him begin to portray Himself on you?

“We can all draw close to him with the veil removed from our faces.  And with no veil we all become like mirrors who brightly reflect the glory of the Lord Jesus.  We are being transfigured into his very image as we move from one brighter level of glory to another.  And this glorious transfiguration comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (TPT)

The only way to understand how to walk out the royal name given to us is to be in the presence of royalty. The more of your life you spend willingly in that sacred place, the more you will be able to mirror and walk out being His princess and complete the calling He has on your life.

My charge to you is this…

Find your secret place.  Set everything and anything aside and sit and behold the creator of the universe, the maker of your heart, the one whose face shines like the sun.  Let Him take over everything you think you are or aren’t, and let Him become the mirror to your reflection! I promise, you will never walk away from the moments disappointed.  Behold your King.

You are Altogether Beautiful| By Tori Savoy

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I slipped on my best dress, used as many beauty products on my face as possible, and straightened my curly locks until they looked like sleek perfection. It was girls night, and I was set on looking my absolute best.

My husband caught a glimpse of me and told me I looked beautiful. I responded with a quick thank you, as our usual routine, then returned to doing a full-body check to make sure I looked exactly right (completely letting that compliment go in one ear and out the other).

I slowly turned and looked at every inch of where my dress laid to make sure there were no noticeable bumps, or abnormal body shapes. I then proceeded to run my fingers through my hair and got face-to-face with the mirror to look at every detail of my face – especially to make sure those pesky dark circles and eye wrinkles were masked as much as possible.

Forgetting my husband was in the room, I heard a little giggle from behind me.

“You sure do look at every little detail, don’t you?” My husband said with a smirk on his face.

“I guess I’m just self-conscious of the little things,” I responded.

“Well, you look gorgeous to me.”

Somehow, God taught me a lesson right then and there.

You see, my husband did not see the little flaws I saw because he looks at me as a whole and thinks I am beautiful. Even as I stood there focusing on every flaw, my husband stood there admiring my every move.

This is very similar to my relationship with God. His word tells me I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. He calls me beautiful and beloved. Yet, I can hear those words over and over again and still turn to the mirror to pick out my imperfections. Just like my husband’s words, I let God’s words go in one ear and out the other. I view myself through a mirror of self-hate rather than God’s mirror.

I come to God and say, “But look at these imperfections in my heart. Look at the ugly.”

He looks at me and says, “Look at all the beauty I created.”

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them..” Genesis 1:27(NIV)

It can be a difficult thing to break a life-long habit of self-destruction and self-hate. Words that were said to me at a young age continue to repeat in my head to this day. Things like “You’ll be as big as a house and never find a husband if you keep eating those cookies” constantly remind me that my body weight and physical appearance need to take priority. Those feelings were heightened when my chronic illness made me gain significant weight. My outer appearance determined whether I was worthy of love from others.

However, God’s word tells me otherwise.

“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you..” Song of Solomon 4:7 (ESV)

You see, from the moment I was created, God began a work in me – molding me perfectly into a unique creation. He continues to mold and shape me each and everyday, making me more beautiful than the day before. His definition of beauty stretches further than just the surface.

Instead of viewing ourselves through a distorted mirror molded by our own opinions or the opinions of others, we must see ourselves through God’s lens. You are a daughter of the most high King and possess all the beauty and grace of a princess.

I would encourage you to meditate on what God’s word says of each of us.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalms 139:13-14