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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Come Alive|By Heaven Harris

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I have always considered myself a dreamer – a visionary. Dreaming came easy for me and those very words have often been used to describe me over the years. I had a big imagination, and I was not afraid to use it.  

Over the years though, often without realizing, I found my dreams becoming smaller and smaller, and my heart to dream dying. Sure, there were certain things I would find myself believing for and visions I would catch a glimpse of sometimes in the secret place of prayer, but my BIG dreams…what happened to those? The ones that made my bones rattle and my heart quiver because they required the work of my BIG God.

I think I even created the excuse that it just happens that way sometimes. We grow up; we become adults. The yearning to dream is drowned out by the weight of responsibilities and failures we have experienced. It is subtle, of course. We do not even realize it sometimes. We trudge through life, and many of our dreams deteriorate from life-like and life-size to mere bones laid bare and dry.

Ezekiel 37:3: “He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’”

This scripture was laid on my heart about a month ago. Most of us know this story or have heard a sermon on it in some form or fashion. I would venture to say that most the times we take in this story is in reference to praying for those hearts that we long to see come alive to the love and purpose of God. We pray that He breathes His holy breath on our family, our schools, our church and brings forth the army referred to in the scriptures.

The rest of the story in Ezekiel goes like this…

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!

5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.

6  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.

8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”

10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

I was waiting for Him to tell me who I needed to pray for and instead He said, “See those dry bones?  These bones represent those dreams  I have laid on your heart and given you vision for but that lay dead in the valley. Can these bones live? Can these dreams and the words I have spoken over you live again?”

I was honestly at a loss for words. As I sat in the presence of my sweet but direct Savior, I began recalling those dreams and words spoken over me throughout my life, and my reality check was that most of them I had allowed to dry up and become barely a whisper in my heart.

So, let me ask you…

Are your dreams thriving and breathing before a Holy God or are they laid bare in the valley somewhere? If you are looking back and realizing that you have dreams that have no life to them, let me encourage you with this scripture:

“The earth and sky will wear out and fade away before one word I speak loses its power or fails to accomplish its purpose.” Matthew 24:35 (TPT)

When reading this. I hope that you see the pattern. That every word and dream God spoke WILL come to pass without FAIL. Let your heart rest in knowing that those beloved words, passionate dreams and those vivid visions He has whispered to you in the quiet places are alive and well and will find their way to fruition. You need only to speak.

The word prophesy simply means to say that a specified thing will happen in the future; to speak as if divinely inspired. I urge you to prophesy to your soul! Prophesy to those dreams!  Prophesy to your heart!

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Fast forward to the here and now, as I chose to take God at His word and began speaking those dreams out loud, I have now applied and been accepted into college. I am moving out of state due to an amazing opportunity that opened up for me to stay home with my daughter and go to school. I know this is just the beginning of an amazing new season.  

I urge you to take God at His word and let the presence of God soften your heart and remind you today of the dreams He has given you.  Then speak them aloud and ask God to breathe His Holy breath on them and watch, in His timing, everything He has promised you will come to life!

 

When My Steps Fail Me| By Stephanie Cain

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Breastfeeding is hard. Those who have tried know this already, but if you haven’t yet, let me just reassert that breastfeeding is hard. Before I had my son, I had this image in my mind of breastfeeding him. There I was in a softly lit room, my child lying peacefully in my arms, me glowing while I looked blissfully down at him and my hair magically blowing in the same imaginary breeze that is featured in the Pantene commercials.

It was beautiful.

It was also no where near the reality! The reality was that I had a strong-willed, independent child right out of the gate. He is very independent, does not like to be confined, and is strong physically and mentally.

So here is what the reality was more like: me in my barely lit bedroom at two in the morning, trying to guide my sons head to the milk, and him with his head shoved in one direction (inevitably the wrong one). He was convinced he knew where the milk was and how to get to it!

During one such moment, I remember saying to him, “Son, if you would just let me guide you, this would be so much easier! I know where the food is, let me help you!”

I felt the Holy Spirit jump inside of me. He had been trying to tell me the same thing.

When we come to a fork in the road or a difficult situation, our human nature is to pick what we think is the right direction and go head first down that path. However, we cannot see all the way down those paths. We can’t know for certain what comes from going “that direction” in our lives. The good news is that we are in the hands of the One who does!

The Bible says in Jeremiah 29:11 that the Lord knows the plans He has for us and that they are plans to prosper us, to give us hope, and a future! It also says in Isaiah 58:11:

“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

The Lord is ready, willing, and oh so capable of guiding our steps. However, we have to allow Him to guide us. We have to relinquish that tiny bit of “control” we feel we have. It is a hard thing to do, but if you think about it, whose hands would you rather your future be in? Yours or the hands of the Creator of the Universe?  

We, myself included, have to make the daily (sometimes moment by moment) decision to remind ourselves to rest in Him and in His promises, to seek Him for guidance, and to trust that He is faithful in all things. It is not always an easy thing to relinquish control and trust in the Lord. I struggle with it daily. BUT if we do, there is joy, overwhelming love, and indescribable peace that will flood our spirit like an overflowing fountain and an abundant life waiting for us.

He Who Promised is Faithful|By Tori Savoy

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“Oh are you expecting? I’ve noticed you’ve put on weight.”

This question was like a knife through my heart. No, I was not pregnant. Yes, I had gained a lot of weight. I thought people had enough sense to not ask that question to a woman.

I smiled politely and replied, “No ma’am, I have just been dealing with some health issues.”

Driving home that night, the tears hit me. Any woman who has been asked this question when they are not actually pregnant knows how belittling it makes you feel.

But then another fear shook me and made me want to cry even harder. This health condition I was faced with decreased my chances of having children at all. What if I never got to experience pregnancy and motherhood?

God swooped in on my wandering mind and reminded me of His promises.

But when the promise is not in sight, how do you maintain hope?

I have found I must remember first, what God has already done for me. Secondly, I must hold tight to those promises with full faith.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

WHAT GOD HAS DONE

In my life, God has brought so many promises to pass, and sometimes I forget those. For one, my husband was a promise I had to wait patiently for. We had been friends for about 6 months when God began to affirm to me that I would marry Brandon one day. Unfortunately, I was only 17 at the time, and it required A LOT of waiting. We dated five years before getting married, but “He who promised is faithful.”

When I was 12, God told me one day He would be using my love for writing to bring him glory. Here I am, at 24 years old, writing for Unveiling Eden that is being read in over a dozen countries. He who promised is faithful.

If for one moment I forget how faithful God has been in my life, I will be left wandering in the wilderness of doubt and fear just as the Israelites were unable to obtain the Promised Land because they failed to remember all of the promises and miracles God had done in their life leading up to that point.

HOLD TIGHT TO THE PROMISE

God has been preparing me for motherhood my entire life. You see, since I was a young girl, motherhood was all I dreamed about. I was the oldest of four children as well as the oldest grandchild in my family. All the adults called me “Mama Tori”, even when I was as young as 5 years old. I was always taking care of a baby in my family.

Around high school, God promised me I would raise up children one day for His kingdom and told me not to chase after any job that may prohibit me from investing in my children the way He planned for me.

Have you ever made a promise, and you closed the deal by joining pinky fingers? Or you “crossed your heart and hoped to die”?

Yet who hasn’t broken a pinky promise?

People will fail to keep their promises, but my God is faithful. He does not seal His promises with just a simple gesture, but with something much stronger. His promises are sealed with the blood of Jesus, who was also a promise to all of mankind.

“When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.’” – Hebrews 6:13-14(NIV)

“God keeps every promise He makes.” Proverbs 30:5 (GNB)

No matter what words of fear this world or the enemy try to throw at me, I must let my faith in his promises be stronger than my fear. I must hold tight to those promises.

If you are struggling to believe in his promises, remember where He has brought you out from and have faith that He who promised is faithful.

Cheerios on the Floor| By Rachel Lukinovich

 

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Laundry to be folded, dishes in the sink, stuff all over the counter, and cheerios, occasionally crushed, spread randomly throughout the floor.

Does the cycle ever end?

The life of a stay-at-home mom seems over-glorified and desired by many. It has truly been one of the biggest blessings for me to be home with my two precious girls every single day, but like everything else in life, it definitely comes with its challenges.

However, when I am faced with challenges, I hold onto these two words – embrace and appreciate. The not so easy days in motherhood have allowed this to be the best ride on my spiritual journey with Jesus thus far. I have learned to embrace and accept. God has used my children, my weaknesses, and so much more, to reveal His pure and beautiful heart to me. I wouldn’t trade one second of it for the world.   

One area I find challenging is housework, the dreaded word to a stay-at-home mom. I am not a huge neat freak, but with the amount of company that comes to our house, I have always prided on having a clean, peaceful home, so everyone could see how nice and put together it was.

Did I say “it”? Really, I need to drop the “T,” leaving only the letter “I”.

I somehow came to believe that my house was a display of how together I was. Sometimes I really was doing well and could keep my house completely in order, but other times, it felt like such a huge burdensome task that never ended, and left me feeling overwhelmed and defeated. You may not be a stay-at-home mom, but I bet you can relate.

It wasn’t until recently, as I was on my knees before the Lord pouring out my heart, that my mind started to wander into thinking about the endless list of things to do. I was likely telling God how I felt I couldn’t keep up with it all, but regardless of what I said, His response is all that I can truly remember—

“The cheerios on the floor are not what define you. I only care about the cheerios in your heart. Are there cheerios in your heart? Do you have mounds of laundry needed to fold in your heart? Is there clutter in your heart? This is what defines you.”

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

Freedom was released to me in that moment. A freedom that allowed me to breathe and not be overwhelmed when the house is not completely straightened. More importantly, a freedom to actively pursue what should overwhelm and consume me most – the presence of Jesus.

We all have pressures to perform to some degree in our lives. With new added challenges, it only increases the pressure and feelings of being unqualified. Most of us want to perform to this sometimes unrealistic standard we place on ourselves so we can feel accomplished and feel good about ourselves. It is like you somehow have it all together, and if you don’t, then “you need to get yourself together.”

“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” Ephesians 4:7

Gracethe word we all need to hear, receive, and accept. Although we should strive to do our best outwardly, it’s the condition of the heart that determines if “we have it all together” or not. Daily repenting and in return receiving His love, His grace, and doing the best we can with what God has given us – This is where our freedom lies. Let the challenges come, and accept and embrace them by knowing and growing in Him and His grace.

“But grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18

I Am Not A Single Mom| By Chrystol O’Connor

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I’m not a single mom. I have several roles, and single and mother are just two of them. I hate when there are categories that I am forced to fall under. I am a sister, a teacher, a student, a daughter, a woman, a mother, an American, and most importantly a child a GOD.

Indeed, I am a single mother. I have a five- year-old daughter that brings absolute joy to my life. Just like every other role in my life, this too has its challenges. Being a mother is not easy, especially when you do it alone.

Of course, sometimes we receive help, a great support system or awesome parents who help make the load feel lighter. I, for one, am one of those single moms. I have great supportive parents and lots of sisters, which means several built in sitters.

But, it is still not an easy yoke to carry. I dealt with feeling inadequate as a mother, crazy, afraid, and shameful because when I got pregnant with my daughter I was involved in church.OH MY GOSH, yes, all in church. Shame and regret were things that I carried in my heart for a long time.

The enemy comes at us in so many different areas especially when raising a warrior for the kingdom. God has had to come and remind me so many times of my value regardless of past mistakes. I am reminded of this scripture 1 Peter 2:9:

“But you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into wonderful light.”

Even though it doesn’t have everything to do with me being a single mom, it signifies what God has done in my life. It reminds me of the redemption that took place in me when I had my daughter.

I decided to live for Christ shortly after finding out I was pregnant, perfect timing right? I had a daughter to set an example for and God had proven himself so faithful when she was still in my womb. I am forever grateful for the grace and mercy that was showered over me while I was bearing proof of my sin in my stomach.

Maybe you’re reading this, and you’re a single mother. I want to inform you that there is hope. GOD is truly so faithful. I look back at my past struggles and some of the seasons and changes God brought me through, and I realized He was walking with me the entire time. Just like me, you are a daughter of the most high God, and nothing can separate you from His love– no past mistakes, no past pain or hurts, no regret or shame.

Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride| By Jasmine Beard

andre-hunter-263233-unsplashPerfectly primped hair, floor length gowns, blooming flowers, and a beautiful couple at the altar – this scene is all too familiar to me. Over the past five years I have attended countless weddings and even stood in a couple.

Ahhh the life of a bridesmaid! Last year I had the privilege of standing in two of my friends’ weddings. I was over the moon for them and could not wait for their big day.Through my elation and shower planning for my friends, I thought to myself, “when will it be my turn?”

I thought to myself, “Lord, I’ve done it your way, when will I receive what you’ve promised me?”

Have you ever prayed for something and the Holy Spirit whispered a word of encouragement to you and a promise of the very thing you prayed for?

Maybe you’ve said similar things to God. But what if I told you the very thing you’re waiting for is not the prize at all?

That a husband is not a reward for purity, and a baby is not a reward for a godly marriage.

Shocker I know! You see in our carnal nature we think because of our righteousness we deserve certain things. But the Bible tells us that our righteousness is like filthy rags before the Lord.

“But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6 NKJV

As we tap our foot in impatience and complain about the things we do not have, God is waiting.

Waiting for you to notice him.

Waiting for you to remember him.

“…I  will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 NKJV

In a season of waiting, remember that God has not left you. He has not forgotten you. He hears you and He cares about the prayers you whisper because you’re too embarrassed to pray out loud.

As a bride sets her eyes on her handsome groom, choose today to set your eyes on God instead of the very thing you are waiting for.

When you set your eyes on the God who lives outside of time and space, the wait doesn’t seem long at all.

Trust Him and wait expectantly for your promise and most importantly keep your gaze on the best Promise Maker and Promise Keeper.