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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Your Wasteland is Your Wonderland| By Heaven Harris

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February 7, 2007. A day seared in my mind forever. This was the day that I found out my dad had committed suicide. I woke up that day like any other day, and by the end of it, I felt like a freight truck had hit me at 100 miles an hour.  I was broken, lost, confused, angry, and sad. So many emotions, and life just seemed to stop for me in those moments. My grief overcame me and blinded me to even see that God was in my midst. My once good life was now laid barren and broken before me, and I had no clue what to do with those broken pieces.

What could God possibly do with an orphan daughter and how could He possibly use such a tragic situation for any good at all?

How many times have you asked such questions? Maybe your wasteland came from the loss of a child, or the job that fell through, or maybe the countless times you hoped to see the plus sign on the end of that pregnancy test. Maybe you are living the single life longer than you ever anticipated, or maybe it’s the divorce that you feel like follows you like a scarlet letter.

No matter your questions, no matter your wasteland, first thing is first…

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18

The next thing I will tell you is Romans 8:28 tells us that He works ALL things together for good.

You may be wondering how that is even possible. Believe me. I have been there. You may be there now.  You may be wondering how such pain could be good for anything. Know that it is not wasted. You may just be in a place that requires a perspective change.

We all know the quote, “One person’s trash, is another person’s treasure.”

I have heard it my whole life and always knew it referred to perspective, but until I began to truly serve God, perspective was something I focused very little on.  As my maturity in the Lord grew, so did my understanding of how important it is to have God’s perspective on EVERYTHING. As seasons pass by, as the storms rage and trials blindside us, without proper perspective, sinking sand is our foundation. As a result, we end up wandering in our wasteland.

Unfortunately, as human flesh would have it, I have become narrow sighted too often and found it extremely difficult to walk in God’s perspective of every situation.  Some situations hurt too bad or seemed to impossible in human form. There were times when I couldn’t see the purpose in the pain and was demanding all the answers NOW.

As I was walking through the season following my father’s passing, I read an analogy that really opened my heart to God’s ability to turn it all around with just a little perspective change.  I realized in that moment that my wasteland was God’s wonderland.

The analogy was about two clay vases. One is in immaculate condition with not a single scratch or hole in it; a beautiful piece of pottery. The other one is not so beautiful on the surface.  Its edges are rough, there are big gaping holes all over it. It looks like something you would throw away without hesitation.

If I turned the lights out and placed a lit candle in each vase, something interesting happens.  In the first vase, perfect in form, the light from the candle shines beautifully out the top of the vase.  Now the second vase, once the candle is placed inside, through every hole and scratch, that light is illuminating its surroundings.

It’s all about perspective.

You, my friend, are the vase.  You aren’t perfect. None of us are. You have gaping holes in your life as it has side swiped you and broke you down. But the light of Jesus can shine so much brighter through those rough places and empty spaces.

“Your lives light up the world. Let others see your light from a distance, for how can you hide a city that stands on a hilltop?” Matthew 5:14 (TPT)

God’s desire is to set you apart and use even the hurts and pains of life to glorify Himself. If you will just allow Him to shift your perspective, you will realize that we don’t serve a moderately big God, but a God that is GRAND!!!

Your wasteland is God’s opportunity to write your story.

For me, that wasteland became a platform for me to share my heart with others who have not only found themselves struggling with family or friends who deal with suicide, but I have also had the opportunity to share the love of God with those who directly deal with depression and suicidal thoughts.  God has opened so many doors in my pain for His love to not only heal those I was reaching, but also my own heart.

When I felt like trash, God was right there to remind me that I am His treasure, and so are you.  You are God’s treasure and His love for you is immense.

I encourage you today to hand Him over your trash and let Him turn it into His treasure.

Let Us Return to the Lord| By Tori Savoy

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“Just give up on me. I am not worth it any longer,” I told, or basically yelled, toward God.

My guilt had overwhelmed me, and I felt as if I would never be good enough to be loved by a perfect Savior. Even though I knew God gives us forgiveness, I could not quite forgive myself enough to accept God’s love again. I kept failing Him time and time again. I did not feel deserving of His love. All I felt was shame.

But Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) tells us differently.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?

36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)

37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The love of God is something we could never earn, and if we cannot earn it, how could we lose access to it?

One of the most impactful books of the Bible for me is the book of Hosea. A prophet of God, Hosea was given instructions to take Gomer, a prostitute, as his wife. Yet, over the course of their marriage, she remained unfaithful and went chasing after her lovers.

Eventually, she became used up and worthless to the point no man wanted her. However, Hosea bought her back for a costly price.

“She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, “I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'” Hosea 2:7 (NIV)

“When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, ‘Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.’” Hosea 1:2 (NIV)

This story is a representation of God’s love for us. We have chased after our lovers whether that be a person, money, or success to fulfill us. God knew before we were even born that we would rebel and be unfaithful to him. Yet, He willingly chose to go to the cross and pay the highest price for our souls.

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Yes, there will be consequences to our decisions, but God is always waiting with open arms to forgive and shower us in love.

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.” Hosea 6:1 (NIV)

The Devil will fill your heart with shame. But God will shower it in forgiveness. The Enemy will make you feel hatred for yourself. But God will reign down His love upon you. No matter how broken you return, God just wants you back in His arms so He can mend you.

If you are dealing with guilt over mistakes you have made, God is calling you to return to him. He is waiting with open arms and unending love for you. Nothing can separate you from that love, and no love of this world can compare to the love of a Savior.

Where?

After my cousin passed away, I thought about death a lot. And eventually I began to have a repetitive dream of my own funeral. For a suicidal teen, the dreams were somewhat satisfying to me, as morbid as that sounds. I began to tell my best friend that I thought I was going to die soon because of the dreams I was having.

Around that time I began visiting a local church’s youth group as well as a weekly Bible study. I mostly went because I enjoyed getting out of the house and spending time with friends. At the time, I thought simply believing in a god or deity made a person a Christian.

I believed in God my creator. I read all the children’s Bibles as a child – at least, the first few chapters about creation. I knew about the God who created the Heavens and the Earth and the God who created Adam and Eve, but anything past that I had no knowledge of.

I had heard of the name Jesus and that He was the son of God. I took that information at face value and I guess I believed it, but that still didn’t mean much to me.

The summer after my freshman year of high school finally arrived, and the church I had been attending was having a youth camp that June. I wanted one thing that summer, and it was change. I wanted to be different and to feel different than I was. I didn’t want to feel depressed and have a cloud of shame and guilt floating over me. I didn’t know if that was possible or if it would happen, but I hoped.

On my way to the youth camp, as I rode with my best friend and Bible study teacher, I began to tell them about the dreams I had been having. I told them I thought the dreams were weird, and that I thought I would die soon.

My small group leader’s response baffled me. Instead of playing along with my morbid view of my dream, she instead believed the dream was symbolic and that the dream represented my old self dying and my new self being born. I had no idea what that meant, but her response somehow gave me the assurance I needed.

On the first night of camp, we were shown clips of The Passion of the Christ. In the clips, men beat Jesus beyond recognition. They continuously yelled at him and showed no empathy for the pain inflicted upon him. Before this moment, I did not know anything about what Jesus had done on the cross or what His blood represented. I suddenly began to weep like never before. Goosebumps filled my arms and legs, and the blinders finally fell off my eyes.

In that moment, I experienced peace for the first time. After the clips, the pastor gave a quick message about salvation. He told us Jesus died on the cross and took the punishment for all our sin. And that He did this so we could all be forgiven of our sin and have eternal life in Heaven with Him.

That night, light shined on the emptiness I had held onto for years. I realized I no longer had to live a life full of depression and rebellion. When the pastor gave an invitation to receive Christ as Savior and Lord, I didn’t just walk. I ran to the altar.

It was in that moment I realized life is worth living. There is life after death, that Heaven and Hell were no longer things I read about in a story book or just places I heard about, but they were real. And I now knew through Jesus I could have eternal life in Heaven.

Romans 5:6-8 ESV

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person— though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 

Why?| By Jasmine Beard

Often times the who’s, the what’s, and the how’s of life can be pondering questions in our souls. For me the question was, why? Why do trees exist?  Why are people here? Why do people die? Why are people here in the first place? But, most of all why am I here?

These “why” questions clouded my fourteen-year-old mind. I thought to myself, “I don’t want to be here, I have no reason to live, what’s the point of all of this, why am I even here?”

On the outside, I had everything going for me. I had great friends and supportive parents. I was talented and pretty, and I appeared seemingly cheerful on the outside. But, on the inside I was breaking, constantly pondering suicide and a way out from this world.

At this time in my life everything was changing. I had just started high school, and the course work got heavier and harder. I was in school with 18-year-old guys who were “pursuing me” and suggesting anything other than gentlemen like behavior.  People dressed differently and spoke differently.

On the outside I was just like my peers. I wore the tight shirts and short skirts. I yelled and spoke the profanity, spitting them out at any time I had the chance. I also gloated at the attention I received from boys.

You see my entire life I had been teased for not acting “black enough”. From the ages 12 to 14, I made it my mission to become black enough. I thought to myself, “I just want to be able to hangout with the black kids, and fit in.”

For some reason the color of my skin wasn’t enough for the ones who teased me. I figured being loud, disrespectful, and obnoxious is what they want. And if that’s what I have to do to fit in, I’ll do it.

But, on the inside I felt as though I was dying and suffocating in the pain of trying to fit in and trying to be a rebellious teenager. At fourteen, the persona I was playing was cracking. I didn’t like being angry all the time. I didn’t like tight clothes. I didn’t want to use profanity. I didn’t want to talk to guys who didn’t have the right intentions.

Fourteen was the first time I truly grasped death at least in a carnal way. I had experienced death of grandparents in the past, but I just didn’t quite get it. It wasn’t until six people within nine months passed away in my family, the last being my fifteen-year-old cousin who I went through virtually every grade with. I was in complete disbelief that a person the same age as me could seemingly be fine in the morning and just be gone that same day in the afternoon.

On top of all the self-hate I had inside my heart towards myself, everything was falling apart. I didn’t understand why everyone was dying and wished I could fix it.

Once the fact that my cousin had passed away began to set in, my question stopped being, “why”, but “where?” Where did Jordan go? Did he go to Heaven? Did he go to Hell? Was any of that really real? I always thought I believed in those places, but it wasn’t until this loss in my family that those places became a reality to me.