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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Love Affair| By Jasmine Beard

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I am a child of God. He is my dad, and I am His beloved.

I often see myself sitting on the lap of my Heavenly Father. I appear as a toddler. He tells me secrets, makes me giggle, and dances with me. In this picture, I see that I find satisfaction in the Father alone, and the joy I have is solely because of Him.

I gave my life to Christ 10 years ago. I remember being blown away by the love of the Father. I wondered how and why he would want someone like me. His love didn’t make sense. It was incomprehensible, and I could not compare His love to anyone or anything. I was on a beautiful love journey with my daddy.

But somewhere along the way I got lost.

He became the God I knew and had knowledge of, instead of the God I gleefully giggled with and simply delighted in.

He became routine. He became church. He became my religion.

I read my bible, prayed everyday, never missed a day of church, told everyone I knew about this love I knew – this love I had so much knowledge of.

Still somewhere along the way I missed it. I missed the gaze of my father. I missed why I was even running.

God whispered this into my heart,

“Little one slow down. As you run, don’t forget to look at me and gaze into my eyes and keep that gaze.”

“Don’t run for me, run with me.”

Just like Martha I had forgotten what was important.

Luke 10:39-42(TPT) says,

39 Mary sat down attentively before the Master, absorbing every revelation he shared.

40 But Martha became exasperated by finishing the numerous household chores in preparation for her guests, so she interrupted Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t you think it’s unfair that my sister left me to do all the work by myself? You should tell her to get up and help me.”

41 The Lord answered her, “Martha, my beloved Martha. Why are you upset and troubled, pulled away by all these many distractions? Are they really that important?

42 Mary has discovered the one thing most important by choosing to sit at my feet. She is undistracted, and I won’t take this privilege from her.”

But isn’t God in the works? Didn’t He realize Martha had to get those chores done? I mean, what would her guests think of her? She had to perfect and prepare her home, right?

Wrong.

With that way of thinking, God’s children are sucked into the lie that we have to do for God. We forget the truth that we are to live in a love affair with God all of our life until eternity.

Religion says the romance and fire of a young Christian goes away with age and maturity means less excitement.

Love tells us that our love with God deepens and our fire burns brighter for God over time.

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.” -1 Corinthians 13:1-2 (MSG)

Works are great, but if it is not motivated by the love of God, it is meaningless – just like chasing the wind. as Solomon would say.

Today, let our pursuit of Christianity be motivated by falling in love with God. Instead of focusing on what we can do for Him, may our desire be to sit on His lap and let Him speak sweet whispers in our ear that make us giggle, and allow him to romance us.

“Love the Lord your God, and love one another. Love one another as he loves. Love with strength and purpose and passion and no matter what comes against you. Don’t weaken. Stand against the darkness, and love. That’s the way back into Eden. That’s the way back to life.” -Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love

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.

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.