Journey Back To Her: Finding the Girl I Once Was| By Jasmine Beard

I am on a journey back to find her. The girl I once was. Maybe you can relate to this…

Once upon a time, I was a young fifteen year old girl who tasted Jesus for the first time. I ran into the arms of my Heavenly Father for everything and wanted nothing more in life other than to see people run to their Father’s arms as well.

I remember the days following my salvation, seeing the world in a totally new light. The world seemed brighter than it once had been before.

But Somewhere along the way, I lost her. I lost that girl who had the ability to see the brightness in the world that outshines the darkness. Maybe that’s adulthood for you or maturity, but I find as a 26-year-old woman that I do not see life as brightly as I once did when I first gave my life to Christ.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:5 (NLT)

The world at times just looks dim. I am now aware of the world’s problems, I am aware of the church’s problems, I am aware of my personal problems in a way that sometimes clouds my once singular focus of simply seeing Jesus in the midst of a dark world.

When I gave my life to Christ, He was the picture. He was everything and nothing else was crammed into the big picture that I saw Him in. It was all about Him and connecting with Him and connecting others to His heart.

I miss that fifteen year old girl. She was overzealous and a bit prideful at times, but she got what was important. She did not let the world’s darkness cloud her view of the world. She did not allow people’s judgements or opinions to cloud her focus, and she did not let world systems or politics cloud her mind. She did not care about climbing the corporate ladder or about buying a house by age 30. She simply abided in Jesus and enjoyed Him.

I am on a journey back. A journey back to find that girl. I think she could teach this woman a thing or two about simplicity.

The simplicity of the gospel.

Jesus makes it plain in Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT) , it says, 

 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” 

The gospel is plain and simple and beautifully laid out in scripture. We must love God with every fiber of our beings, and love our neighbor in the same way we love ourselves.

SO simple. Yet, as humans, we complicate it, or we allow the world to cloud our views of what is truly important.

Today, I want to encourage you to strip the things that cloud your mind. Maybe it is religious habits, politics, worry, anxiety, or comparison. Whatever it is, let it go and look to lock eyes with God like you once did when you first got saved.

It really is that simple.

“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:22 (NKJV)

I’ll leave you with this song. 

Joy Comes in the Morning| By Gabby Jones

Feeling stuck in life is not the easiest place to be. You begin questioning yourself and questioning where God wants you, but you cannot seem to put two and two together. Do not be discouraged in this season, but let God continue to shape what He has for you. God does not have you between a rock and a hard place. He is preparing you for this next season coming up.

After graduating college in 2017, God was throwing open door after open door for me, and I was having a great time walking through each of them. At the time, my friend and mentor Amber seemed to be clear from cancer, a guy was pursuing me, and I had some amazing friends. However, it all came to a crash by the end of the year. My beautiful Amber passed away from breast cancer, the guy decided not to continue his pursuit, and I lost a great friendship to confusing and unfortunate circumstances. Life did not pause for me, but I did stop. I stopped embracing everything God had for me.

For a year after that, I sank low in depression and just wanted the world to stop so I could mourn the many losses I had in such a short amount of time. God was still beside me, but I could not fathom how He would let so many things fall apart after He opened so many doors beforehand. In those moments, I just wanted to close those doors and stay in my bed forever. I had enough energy each day to get out of bed, go to work, and come home to lay in bed again. I did not make any effort to ask God to remove me from depression, but my spirit was crying out. 

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18‭-‬19 (NIV)

In December of 2018, God asked me what my heart wanted, and He broke through my depression and tears and made my heart beat again. I felt alive, and I felt like I could finally breathe. After God broke depression off of my life, I was ready to take on the world, but that did not happen. Months passed by, and I began to realize how much I was not doing with my life. My personality had gone from extrovert to barely leaving the house, I stopped serving in the many areas I was in, and my friend circle was smaller than it had ever been. I was no longer who I was.

When these truths hit me, I began crying out to God. I wanted to feel the Joy of the Lord again. I wanted to be the Gabby I was before tragedy overtook my heart, but that is not what God has planned for me. God has a new and fresh perspective for me, and He does not need the old Gabby to fulfill it. He needs who I am now. 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

I was still wrestling with feeling stuck, up until a few weeks ago when I realized something; I was the reason I felt grey! I had begun to take a step back from God, and all the while, I was questioning why He was not there! I was feeling the pressure of depression because I decided to not seek God for His joy. God revealed this to me, and I began worshipping who He was and what He had done for me.  I felt his joy rain down on my life again. 

If you are feeling stuck in this season, I encourage you to hold on and continue praying that God will reveal His will to you. This is not an easy season, but God promised to be there with you no matter what. Keep seeking the face of God as He brings you out of this season into something new. Keep seeking His joy in your sadness, His peace in your chaos, and His love in your loneliness.

“Wait for the Lord ; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord .” Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

Choosing God Over Porn|By Gabby Jones

Shame is a touchy subject in my life. I have carried shame on my shoulders since I was 11 years old. It was around that age that I began looking at porn. Nothing or no one led me to look at it, I was just a curious little girl who happened to click on the wrong link. 

Back then, I was not saved. However, I was still full of shame because it was unheard of for a woman to look at porn. After I received Christ, when I was 15, a completely different shame came over me. 

How could a CHRISTIAN WOMAN look at such vulgar material. Only men struggle with that. You are supposed to be a Christian. You are not supposed to watch stuff like that. 

Those thoughts went through and are still going through my head. It took me 14 years to admit I was a porn addict, but it also took me 14 years to realize I do not have to do this alone.

There are very few people who know about my addiction because I was so ashamed and afraid to tell anyone, even my family. Porn is one of those things you can do in private, and no one would ever know just by looking at you. Unlike other addictions (alcohol, drugs, food), porn is easier to hide on the outside, but it does more damage on the inside. Due to my damaged insides, I felt hopeless for so long. I did not think I could ever get over this one hill. If I could just win this one battle, I could do anything. I then began to get angry. I was angry at myself and God. I was angry at myself because I could not stop, and I blamed God for allowing this in my life. 

Then I heard God speak, “You have free will. You chose to look at it; you chose to continuously choose porn over me.” 

That shook me up. I did not want anything getting in the way of my relationship with God, yet I kept choosing this sin over Him, time and time again. Yet, each time, He would speak to me gently and welcome me back in His love. That night, I made a choice to choose Him every time. 

“The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need.” Psalms 23:1 (GNB)

I started going to a group after that, but I still carried a dark cloud of shame because I knew I would be the only person in my group who struggled with porn. As a woman, it was embarrassing, but as a Christian, I knew they would welcome me with open arms. I did not speak about my addiction for a while, but when I did, they told me how they prayed for someone who would open that door to help other women with the same issue. Ladies, that door is open, and the conversation is on. It does not matter what sin you go back to again and again, there is no shame or condemnation in Christ. 

The God of many chances is calling your name, and He is calling you out of your sin, addiction, guilt and shame. There is nothing you have done, are doing, or going to do, that will change God’s mind about how much He loves you. Drop those shame chains and run freely to the love, strength and freedom God has for you.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10 (NIV)

Although I still struggle with porn today, it is easier to fight back with God as my strength and with the women who are surrounding me. Do not fight this fight alone. Call on God’s strength and get a rock solid support system. Your freedom is waiting.

“Freedom is what we have — Christ has set us free! Stand, then, as free people, and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again.” Galatians 5:1 (GNB)

Rising from the Ashes| By Ashley Siliezar-Kinchen

“For our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29

It was about 8 years ago that I woke up to a screaming sound at 12:28 in the morning. It was my brother who was yelling that the house was on fire. It took me a while to understand what was going on because I was half asleep. I immediately took action and called 911 and woke up my family to evacuate. Believe it or not, despite how hard the fire was on our family, it was an answer to a prayer.

Have you ever prayed for something small and God transforms it into something much bigger? I am sure we have all experienced God in our own special way.

I have encountered God’s greatness in such a personal, yet supernatural way that it hardly seems real at moments.

In the years leading up to 2011, I lived in what seemed to be a storm of my own making. A troubled past coupled with resentment and bad decisions made me a cold person.

However, my father continued to bring my brother and I to church every Sunday. Life for me started to change because of this. But there were still times that I felt alone, like God could not hear me.

I would think, “Am I doing this right?” or “Can he hear me?”

I would think that that maybe He was upset with me because it seemed like some people around me had God’s direct hotline. However, no matter what guilt I felt, I knew that He always loved me and that guilt was the enemy trying to put distance between me and God.

As it turns out, God never abandons his children, and He had always heard my prayers. I did not know it then, but God was planning something that would change my entire life.

“Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” John 13:7

When my house caught on fire, I remember everything being such a blur. However, in the midst of it all, I remembered to grab one thing – my bible. At that moment, nothing else mattered, other than my family being alive.

When we stepped outside, I watched my mother drop to the ground and scream at the top of her lungs. It was painful to watch my mother drop to her knees as she saw everything crumbling in front of her. It was painful to see everything that I have ever known, burning in front of my eyes.

Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” Matthew 7:7

My thoughts were racing all over the place, but the only thing I can remember thinking was, “How can this happen?”

But then it hit me. I had to prayed to God to light a fire in my heart for him. Fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. I prayed for God to bring me closer to him. My heart was yearning for God’s love. That is exactly what God did.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

The day we lost our house we lost many things. We lost almost all of our belongings and even some of the memories that we made as a family in that house. But as the phoenix rises from the ashes so did we. Although it was painful to see our belongings burned, God always protects and provides for his children. God provided us with amazing people that helped us get back on our feet. He provided us with an even more beautiful home, and most importantly, He kept us safe.

He did not burn down the house to punish but to free me and bring me closer to him. The fire that burned my house down lit a fire inside of me. I yearned for God even more than I did before. Nothing can ever put out that fire.

Caged, But Still Singing| By Chelsea Verdin

christopher-windus-92825-unsplashHave you ever wondered why a caged bird still sings? It is held bound in a metal cage with no freedom. It cannot do much and hasn’t received much, but still every morning, it manages to sing out a song. Sometimes the song is dressed in beauty with loud joy, and other times, it is a quiet mourning. But everyday, the caged bird still sings.

In the last year, I have felt like a caged bird. When we lost my three-month-old nephew last October, my entire world was shaken. Everything I knew was now questionable and unreliable. From the outsiders view, I looked like a pretty little bird happy in her own little world. You would have never imagined that I was caged in by depression and so much grief because I still managed to smile and sing through the pain.

A cage is not a place that anyone wants to be in. Birds do not even want to be in them. We want paradise because it looks good in pictures and feels like freedom. However, I have learned that you can be in paradise and still not be okay, and that faith can take deeper root within the cage.

Faith is messy and hard and meant to pull out of you the deep questions that challenge everything you think you know, so that you may learn the ultimate truth.

There is a story in Mark 5 about a man who sought out Jesus to heal his ill daughter. In the story, his young daughter dies, and Jesus heals her with some very simple words.

“Little girl, I say to you, ‘Arise’.” Mark 5:41

Instantly, she stands and begins to walk around.

This whole past year I felt like this young girl – alive on the inside, dead on the outside, caged in by illness. I desperately needed truth to speak to my heart and awaken the girl inside of me. I needed the courage to arise, stand, and walk in freedom. But grief crippled me and told me that because I questioned God that I could not live. I could not go to him with my doubts and seek real answers.

The enemy knows that our voices are weapons. They hold so much power and can strike him down instantly. He tries to make us believe that we need to be silent. He tries to make us believe that we cannot enter into the presence of God messy, but I have learned that even the most inaudible whisper slices through the clouds of the enemy and lands on the ears of our King.

The truth was God had not strayed away or left my side during this hardship. In fact, He drew closer because He knew I would need Him. And when I ignored the other voices and let my own lips sing, I found that the cage is not always there to hold us in. Sometimes, it is meant to be a safe haven, a place of rest to sit still and let Him sing over us.

“The Lord your God 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

And when we answer the call to sit and to seek Him out, we learn that a caged bird does not sing because it is caged in. Rather, it sings because it knows that freedom is not found outside of the cage, but from within the song it sings. And it does not matter how loud or even how inaudible the song is. Sometimes we have to sing until we believe it – until we believe freedom has arrived.

Your whisper is a roar in heaven.

Winter is just a season. The cage is just some metal walls. And your victory has already been proclaimed. Like my friend says, “This is just another battle you get to win.”

“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. For the winter is over, and the flowers are blooming. The time for singing has come.” Song of Solomon 2:10-12

The caged bird is still singing my friend and so are you.