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

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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.

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.