Saturday, December 31, 2016

Putting Away My Rearview Mirror

Something that I have continued to struggle with is regret. Regret over past sins and mistakes. Regret over making unwise choices. Regret of not taking advantage of certain opportunities.  Regret of things that I could have done better as a mother when raising my kids as a single parent, and even now.  I find that these periods of regret are intensified when I visit the place I grew up or raised my kids.  Sometimes these feelings are triggered by a song from past seasons, or an old, familiar scent. I take a mental trip down memory lane and become melancholy, and start to wish that I could go back in time, to either relive “the good times” when my kids (and I) were young, or to go back and correct past mistakes. Self-condemnation comes knocking on my door, and becomes relentless. But is that the way God wants me to live my life?  To be held captive by regret, guilt, and condemnation? Doesn’t the Word tell us that He came to set the captives free? Free from whatever burden that may enslave us?

When I find myself in that dark place, the Lord has been so merciful and loving by bringing to my mind that whatever I have done, Jesus took care of it on the cross.  My past sins, He has forgiven me.  My unwise choices, He will restore the years that the locusts consumed. He also reminds me that some unwise or painful decisions eventually turned out to be a blessing later down the road.  For example, years ago, I had purchased a home, with the hopes of improving the quality of life for me and my kids.  I was still a baby Christian, so I didn’t seek the Lord in my decision to move an hour away from my mom and the city I called home for 30 years. I got caught up with the mentality that owning a home equates to being successful.  I loved having a big, spacious home, but the cost, upkeep and stress finally got the best of me, and I decided to sell it three years later.  Sometimes, when I am feeling discontented with our small living quarters now, I find myself looking back and wishing I still had that big home, but then I look at where I am at now, and I realize that I am in a much better place now.  If I hadn’t sold my home and moved to the city I am in now, I wouldn’t have found the church family that I have now. And, I wouldn’t have met my husband.  So things turned out much better in the end.

It is a little harder for me to overcome the regret of past sins. I think part of the reason is because of the religion that I was brought up in, living under the constant burden of guilt and shame.  I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and their stance on sin can be pretty harsh, with their discipline being very severe.  I was disfellowshipped, or shunned and ostracized, from this religion, which I had been raised in and a part of for 30 years, for being what they determined, an “unrepentant sinner”. Never mind that I had been heartbroken and depressed over my sin, and in tears when meeting with the panel of elders. They decided my fate, which ultimately soured my kids on religion and God, and sent me almost over the edge mentally and emotionally. But again, God was so wonderful, because he used this painful experience to get me to start seeking Him, the real Him, and I found Jesus, and became born again, and the chains of bondage to this religion was broken. Though my mind knows that I have complete forgiveness when I confessed my sins and accepted Jesus, I still battle in the heart with regret and shame, and it is a constant struggle that I am slowly overcoming, with His help.

As always, I find great comfort in finding examples in the bible of people who struggled with the same issues that I do.  Peter also struggled with regret. After telling Jesus he would lay down his life for him, it was only a few hours later that he denied Jesus three times.  Can you imagine how Peter felt after Jesus turned and looked at him after that last time of denying Him? It must have pierced Peter’s heart sharply, because it says “he turned and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62).  But Jesus was so loving and merciful.  He forgave Peter and restored him when He reappeared after His resurrection. After asking Peter three times if he loved him and Peter responded in the affirmative, Jesus gave him three commands:  “feed My lambs, tend My sheep,  and feed My sheep” (John 21:15-17).  I’m sure at times Peter must have felt regret and shame over his actions for the rest of his life, but he didn’t let it hinder him or hold him back from what Jesus called him to do, which was to shepherd, or pastor, His flock. He accepted Jesus’ grace and forgiveness, and he became a bold witness for Christ, ultimately dying for his faith, being crucified upside down.  Paul is another example.  I am sure he must have felt enormous regret over all the Christians he persecuted and killed prior to his conversion. He referred to himself as the “least of all apostles” and said “I am unworthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the house of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9).  He referred to himself as “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15), but he didn’t let his past hinder his future. He focused on what was ahead and on what was important: furthering the gospel, preaching it far and wide, and encouraging his brothers and sisters in faith with his eloquent and heartfelt letters to the churches. He said “but one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ  Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). 

I am learning that in order for me to overcome my feelings of regret, I need to keep my eyes focused on Jesus and what he has done for me. He doesn’t judge my worth by my past mistakes or sins.  He has cast my sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12). My life is not over because I have past failures. He is not done with me; He is the Author and Finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2). As I was reflecting on it this week, the Lord reminded me that there is nothing good to be accomplished by looking back, and then he reminded me of Lot’s wife, and we know what happened to her when she looked back.  True, she was probably looking back because she was longing for the material things she enjoyed and did not want to leave that comfortable life behind, but isn’t that kind of what I’ve been doing? Longing for my younger years, so that my older self can make my younger self avoid the pain of costly mistakes, and make my younger years more easy and comfortable?  If they had been, I may not have been driven to seek the Lord, and submit myself to Him, because life might have been too good and comfortable and I would have been complacent living status quo.  I know that God uses painful situations and despair to get us to turn to Him, so that is another reason that I cannot live my life in regret, because God used my past failures to help me to be a better and wiser person now, so that I can perhaps share my stories and wisdom with someone else.  Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”, and this comforts me when I am feeling regretful over something. I think Paul was talking to me in Titus 3:3-7, when he said “we were also once foolish, disobedient and deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures”, but he reminds me that God, by his mercy, saved me, by the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit”.  Oh, how great a comfort these words of encouragement are!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Gratitude is Attitude

Yesterday, as I reflected on the many things that I was thankful for, I realized that my attitude has played a big part in my gratitude over the years.  For a long time, I think I was sucked into the mentality that I should have a big house, fancy car, the career that I’ve always dreamed of, etc. (especially by my age) to be successful. As I compared myself to others who had those things, I felt like I was missing out on something and that I was inadequate, and as a result, I couldn’t see and appreciate the beauty in the things that were sitting there right in front of me. So I don’t think I had a lot of gratitude during those years.  Now that I am getting older, and I look around me, I find myself appreciating a lot more the little things that I have and becoming more grateful, especially more so as my walk with Lord continues.

“This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” - Psalms 118:24. The closer I get to 50, the more I realize that tomorrow is not guaranteed.  I see death around me more and more.  Just this year alone, I have seen 5 people who I used to work with pass away.  Also, this year we were hit with a cancer scare, when two large masses were found in my husband’s lymph nodes. Praise the Lord that they turned out benign, but during that waiting period, just the thought that they could be cancerous was enough to bring me to my knees and give thanks to the Lord for each day that he has given and continues to give my husband.  Every day that I wake up, every day that my husband wakes up, I am extremely grateful for.  I try not to take my health for granted either.  To show this, for years now as a personal Thanksgiving tradition, I get up and go to the gym and work out. I thank the Lord for the body that He has given me, the body that still works and enjoys things, because I know there will be a day that I won’t be able to do this anymore. When I was at the gym yesterday, the Lord put someone in my path who showed me even more so how good I have it.  This elderly gentleman is a regular I see often, but I learned yesterday that he lost his wife and daughter years ago and spends Thanksgiving alone. I saw in this man resilience in moving on despite his heartbreak, and purpose in taking steps to stay active and connected to others by exercising regularly.  I was blessed to learn more about this man, and it made me more aware of the fact that the holidays are very hard for a lot of people. We should make an extra effort to pray for those who are alone during this season that may be anything but joyous for them, and if possible, spend some time with them, even if it’s brief.  You never know what that extra word of encouragement or love will do for that person.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:18. One of the things that I struggled with the first year of my marriage was our living situation.  We live in a small, one bedroom apartment, so at times, it can feel small, tight and cramped. After my kids grew up and left home, I lived alone in my quaint little apartment for 7 years, and I felt like a queen in my spacious home, doing whatever, whenever I pleased. When I first got married, I had to downsize quite a bit, parting with a lot of things that could not be accommodated in my husband’s small apartment. It was hard saying goodbye. Not only was I parting with personal things that meant something to me at one time, but I was also saying goodbye to what I considered spacious and quiet living quarters, and more importantly, my independence and freedom to do what and how I pleased. But no matter how difficult that process was, I was also ecstatic, because the Lord had now given me my life partner and best friend, and I was no longer alone. So while I was thankful for the time I had spent alone, doing things I probably could have never done while married, like travel and visit Israel and Rome with my daughter, and get a great education, I am now thankful for this different chapter in my life, that of a wife to a very godly and devoted husband. This is one that I find myself extremely grateful for every day. Marriage has its challenges for sure, but with Jesus in the middle, it becomes a masterpiece. Every bump in the road is smoothed out when we turn to God’s Word. Every fear is squashed when we go to Him in prayer. My husband is my biggest cheerleader whenever I am faced with some difficulty.  He quotes scriptures to me all the time. He prays for me and gives me encouragement. He is like a walking bible dictionary. Whenever I read the Word or am studying for my women’s studies and I have a question about something, he knows the answer off the top of his head. And whenever I have been, let’s just say, a difficult wife, whether by mood, stress, meltdowns, etc., I know he prays for strength and wisdom on how to deal with me. Praise the Lord for that, because I know how difficult I can be! Being married to someone who loves the Lord first and above all is something that I am tremendously and utterly grateful for. For all you single ladies who are looking for a mate, I implore you to please don’t settle for less. Wait for that man who loves the Lord with all his heart and puts God before you or anyone else.  Wait for that man that the Lord has in store for you. It is worth the wait, I promise.

One of the most important things I have learned from my husband is to learn to be content in all things. I think the scriptures he most often quotes to me is “for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11). I tend to stress a little bit (ok, a LOT a bit) over finances.  Due to health reasons, my husband wasn’t able to work for a while, and I stressed out a lot over bills and finances.  His words to me all the time were (and are) “we will be all right, we trust in the Lord!" And yes, he is right, we are fine, and we continue to be fine. We may not be able to do or buy what we want to all the time, but all our needs are met.  Another thing that I have learned to embrace is our small apartment. Well-meaning people have asked “when are you going to get a bigger place?” and at first that used to bother me quite a bit.  There is no chance of that happening anytime soon, especially the way rents continue to soar in our area, but I have learned to be content in our small living quarters, seeing it as my small, safe haven, where I find rest and contentment with my husband, reading God’s Word and trusting completely and entirely on Him. Is there any greater freedom than that? 

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” - Colossians 3:15-17. Something else I find myself extremely grateful for is my spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ.  The encouragement that I get from them is priceless.  There have been so many times that I have had to drag myself to church or bible study because I didn’t feel like going or was depressed, and I left in a much blessed and better state than when I came in. Sometimes it was a word spoken to me, or a prayer offered up on behalf of me or my family. Other times it was a hug or a smile, or just hearing someone else’s life circumstances and how they still have the joy of the Lord and an unwavering trust in Him. When I look at the freedom we have to meet and encourage and build up one another, I am filled with gratitude.  There are a lot of people who don’t have this freedom, and I never want to take it for granted.  I cherish my time spent with my fellow believers, and each time I leave, I am a better person.  That’s why the Lord instructs us to “ not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). In this day and age, where there is a lot of hurting, lonely and lost people, being able to meet with those who encourage us and lift us up is something to be very grateful for indeed. As I grow older, I see the bigger picture and what’s most important in life: God, family and friends, and health. I appreciate what I have, and I am learning to be very content in my circumstances.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Black Sheep are His Sheep

I’ve been feeling “off” lately (my word for depressed or, as my husband likes to say, lacking the joy). I was searching Facebook today for something that would sum up my feelings, and I came cross this quote from the page:  “I like weird people…The black sheep, the odd ducks, the rejects, the eccentrics, the loners, the lost and forgotten.  More often than not, these people have the most beautiful souls.” Bingo! I saw myself in that list 100%. People often misunderstand me; they mistake my introverted personality for being mad or aloof. Many times, I cannot go to a social gathering without feeling awkward, weird, and out of place.  All my life I have been a loner, the odd man out. In high school, I would gravitate towards the misfits, the outcasts, the ones the popular kids made fun of and avoided.  And now, when I find myself having to attend some social function, I gravitate towards children, elderly people, or pets, people I feel safe with, people I feel most comfortable with. They don’t judge me, form bad first impressions of me or make me feel like I’m weird. They just accept me as I am. 

Because I have always felt like the black sheep, in my family and society, I was always looking for an explanation for why I was the way I was.  I also suffered from depression for many years (and still do occasionally) and I wanted answers to that too. So when I decided to go to college in my 30’s, I choose psychology for my B.A., and then got my master’s degree in counseling (MFT). While I didn’t get a career in that field (that’s another story), I did gain a wealth of knowledge from all those years of studying personalities, mental illnesses, cause and effect, nature vs. nurture, (you get the idea). I did a lot of painful introspection during those years (and still do, because once a therapist, always a therapist). And I realized that it was my childhood experiences that shaped my personality, along with some heredity thrown in.  My parents divorced when I was young, so that had a big impact. Children need both parents in the home, and for girls especially, if they don’t have a positive male role model in their lives, many will start looking for love and attention in all the wrong places, which is what happened to me. In middle school, I was betrayed by my supposed best friends, when they told the whole school my father was Black. From then on, I was bullied and called horrible and ugly racist names. I think that is when my social anxiety began. That is when I started to hate being around groups of people, because I felt like a freak, never knowing when the next slur would be hurled at me.  I became rebellious, started getting involved in things that I shouldn’t have; I ran away from home when I was 13, staying in a car in Nevada and Arizona for a week.  Now that I am a mother, I can’t believe what I put my mother through, and how scared she must have been, not knowing where I was or if I was still alive.  Middle school turned to high school, and the feelings of weirdness and depression intensified, to the point of me wanting to commit suicide.  I remember walking home from school many times, feeling hopeless and worthless, and wanting to run into oncoming traffic to end it all. No one understood me at this time, with the exception of my wonderful grandmother, who tried to intervene when my mother threw her hands up.  The pain of loneliness and rejection is what led to me getting pregnant with my son when I was 16.   I thought that I would finally have someone who would love me for me.  I think my son saved my life in way, because as depressed and messed up mentally and emotionally I was at that time, I don’t think I would have lasted much longer.

Having my son did help me, but I still wasn’t right emotionally or mentally. I had 2 more children by the time I was 23, but I still had emotional baggage. I still felt like I was “different”. I made a lot of bad decisions, still struggled with depression, and when I was in my 30’s suffered my first panic attack. I remember it clearly.  I was at work, and the most intensifying feeling fear overcame me and I had to call a friend to come get me. The depression continued, and I tried antidepressants and alcohol to make it go away.  It wasn’t until I found the Lord, that things started to get better for me.  I didn’t get healing overnight. In fact, I suffered an intense panic attack about 3 months after I got married, which kind of  threw my husband for a loop, and it was right before he was to leave for a men’s retreat no less (the first introduction to “for better or for worse”). I still get periods where I am feeling down, or feel that panic may set in, but the difference now is that I know the Lord. No, let me rephrase that because I did know the Lord when I had some of my most low or fearful episodes; it was when I learned to TRUST the Lord, and go to Him first when I start feeling this way, and not to some self-help book or worldly wisdom. I have been blessed to have some sisters in my life that knew exactly what I was going through, and they helped teach me what I needed to know to get through these episodes.  They directed me to the Word of God, and from there I found the wisdom and comfort that I needed.  And I started to trust and feel God’s presence when I would cry out Him, and I felt His comforting touch. One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 91:4: “He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”  When I am feeling down or scared, I read this scripture and I picture God holding me and protecting me, shielding me until the wave of panic and sadness leaves.  As I continue in my walk with the Lord, I find comfort in finding other examples in the bible of people who suffered depression, rejection and anxiety.  Elijah is a big one. He was a bold and courageous prophet; he challenged evil king Ahab, had a showdown with the false prophets of Baal, and was used by God to provide food miraculously to a widow and her son during a famine (1 Kings 17-18). In spite of his bold actions and faith in God, he too, suffered from depression. When he heard that Jezebel was out to kill him, he became depressed, sat under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. Jeremiah is another one. Known as the weeping prophet, he was rejected by the people he cared for and tried to witness to.  God had forbid him to marry and have children, so he must have been especially lonely and depressed, which you can see when he said “cursed is the day I was born” and “why did I ever come out of the womb to see sorrow and shame?” (Jeremiah 20:14-18). Other examples are David, who many times wrote of his anguish, Jonah, who asked God to take away his life, and of course Job, who we all know of the horrible sufferings he endured.

But no one felt more alone and rejected than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Isaiah 53:3 prophesied about Him saying “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised and we did not esteem Him”.  How awesome to know that our Lord and Savior can sympathize with us and feel our pain, our hurts, our sorrows. He knows what it feels like to be rejected, to feel different and out of place.  He knows everything I have felt. He knows that I am different, I am weird, and I am unique, but He loves me, insecurities and idiosyncrasies and all. I may suffer from time to time with feelings of rejection, depression or fear, but not like I used to. It no longer has power over me, because Jesus set me free.  Just like the men and women in the bible who turned to the Lord for comfort, protection and release from these feelings. And we have that same confidence.  I’m sure there are many of us who feel like they belong on that list I mentioned in the beginning. But that’s who Jesus came to save. Turn to Jesus, and He will bring you comfort and healing, and you will never feel rejected or alone again.

Monday, October 10, 2016


As I continue to grow in my walk with the Lord, I am realizing that being transparent is vital for growth and maturity. It is also crucial for developing strong, close relationships with fellow believers.  What does being transparent mean? According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, it means: a) free from pretense or deceit (frank); b) easily detected or seen through (obvious); or c) readily understood.

I recently attended a women’s retreat where many women shared their stories of struggles, pains, and joys, and I felt more connected and blessed because of their openness.  I think being transparent helps us in many ways, and is helpful for both the person sharing and the person hearing.  Even though we may have never endured what the other person is going through, we have compassion for and an understanding of that person, and more importantly, this moves us to pray for that person.  Another reason is that we may see a little of ourselves in that person, and it helps us to realize that we are not the only one who has ever struggled with or experienced a particular issue.  This is especially true for me. At times, I have felt like no one could understand or relate to particular issues I have battled with, things that are very personal, and at times painful or shameful to discuss. It was when someone shared their deepest troubles, their past experiences, things that I could relate to, that I was able to open my heart and grow and let go of these feelings of shame or inadequacy that has kept me down for so long.

Early in my walk with the Lord, it was hard for me to feel connected to other believers. I felt like I didn’t have any one that I could relate to.  It seemed like people kept discussions at the surface level, and it appeared that they had their life together and were super Christians.   It seemed that everyone had been Christians all their lives, were married, happy, and being blessed financially. I was the total opposite: a new Christian wet behind the ears, a single parent struggling with depression, and broke.  As a result, I felt I was an inadequate Christian, and that I must be doing something wrong because my life wasn’t perfect. Looking back, part of the reason may have been because of the type of churches I was attending; prosperity was the focus.  I didn’t want that brand new BMW, I just wanted to be loved and accepted as I was, and to feel released from the burden of shame and guilt.  It wasn’t until I started attending churches where transparency was evident, and hearing personal testimonies from the pastors and people at church, that I began to feel connected.  I can’t explain it, but there is this sort of bonding that happens when people share their stories, unabashed and unashamed. We open our hearts and cry with them, or we silently cheer for them at what they have overcome with the help of Jesus, and we marvel at what the Lord can do with anyone and any circumstance. 

At the retreat I recently attended, many women shared their personal battles that they had endured or continue to struggle with.  Some things were very heartbreaking to hear and very painful for them to share. But it was because of their willingness to share with us, to be transparent, that all of the women were blessed.  I think it made us feel united in Christ and encouraged us to keep fighting the fight, whatever each of us may be personally be going through. I also believe that because of the environment of safety and love and encouragement that was present, it made it easier for the women to share.  And they bravely did so because they have been set free by the love of Jesus, where there is no condemnation, only restoration.   I know this has had a big impact on me. It has always been hard for me to open up to people for various reasons. It can be scary to share your personal struggles with others.  It feels risky. I often thought, “Will they judge me?” “Will they look at me differently?”  Of course we should use discernment and be discreet when it comes to being transparent, because not every environment may be safe to do so. I have been very blessed to find sisters where I can do so safely. I have realized that I have also found freedom when I have shared my experiences.  I am not sure why that is. Maybe it’s because I feel like burdens have been released.  The scriptures say that we are to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), so perhaps when we share with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are no longer hanging onto our pains and sorrows, but are releasing them, and in turn being prayed for and encouraged by our Christian family.  It is like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders.  The problems may still be there, but we are not alone.

When we are transparent, others see what we have been through and see how faithful we are to the Lord in spite of how difficult life may be. They see how He has pulled us through whatever trial we’ve been through. They see how He has transformed us from the old person we used to be, to a new creation in Him. Being transparent encourages others and gives them hope that they too, can overcome or can endure.   One of the most important things I have learned from other’s testimonies and frankness is the forgiveness and grace of God.  When I heard women sharing stories similar to mine, and I saw how they have experienced the forgiveness of God, it gave me hope and peace that I also can be forgiven and set free from that bondage of guilt and shame.

There are many examples of transparency in the bible.  David and Paul are the first ones that comes to mind.  Paul often talked openly about his weakness, failures and past mistakes, and I have been encouraged time after time when I read his words.  How many times did David cry out to the Lord about his weaknesses, fears and failures? The Psalms of David are the most loved and most quoted scriptures in the bible because they are so encouraging; we have a real man, a powerful man, being real before God and real before people, faults and all. Above all though, we learn from King David that being transparent before the Lord is the most important thing.  Yes, God may already know what’s in our heart and every little detail about us (Psalm 139), but by openly crying out to Him our innermost pains, desires, sorrows, and joys, draws us closer to Him, and strengthens our relationship with Him. The more we open our hearts to him, the closer He gets to us, and our relationship continues to grow deeper and we experience freedom in knowing He forgives us and accepts us, no matter where we came from, or what we’ve done. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Prayer Box

Several years ago, someone gave me a prayer box.  Since I was a new believer at the time, I really didn’t understand what it was for or how to use it, so I didn’t give it much thought. Over the course of time, occasionally, when I would find myself going through a difficult or painful challenge in my life, I would write out my prayer request, put it in the box, and then forget about it.  Recently, I pulled down the prayer box, dusted it off, and started reading through my requests.  There weren’t many, about 15, but as I read through them, I realized that God had answered every one of them. Sometimes the answer was what I asked for, other times it wasn’t, but was instead something much better than what I could have imagined at the time.  As I read through each one and saw how the Lord answered them, I am filled with awe, gratitude and love, knowing just how much He cares for me, and that He heard my cries.

As I reflect on the ways God answered me, I am learning more about Him and seeing how His Word is so true and so trusted. I had a few requests that were basically the same, but were asked differently each time. I asked for a good, rewarding job, with health benefits.  The Lord answered that 15 months ago, when I got the job that I am at now.  I am amazed because I wrote some minor details about how I wanted my job to be, and this job pretty much has all that I asked. Another request was for an end to my years of loneliness and to provide me a Godly husband.  This one blows me away.  When I look at my husband, I can’t believe just how good God is. He really did give me the desires of my heart.  The person God chose for me is perfect in every way, and little things that I continue to observe proves that God really does know who or what’s best for us. This answer to my prayer took longer than I wanted, but I know it was because I wasn’t walking fully in line with the Lord or His commandments. Once I completely put God first in my life, and walked in obedience, did God finally answer this prayer.

Was it the prayer box that made God answer my prayers? Did it hold some powers that miraculously turned my prayers into reality? No, I believe that it was because I earnestly sought Him, believed that He would hear me, and had faith that He would answer me. 1 John 5:14 says “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us”. I also believe persistence played an important part; I didn’t just ask once and give up, I kept asking. Jesus taught His disciples in His parable about the persistent widow, that they “always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1-8). Also important, I believe that it was having a repentant heart and walking in obedience, that God answered my prayers (Psalms 66:18).

One of the stories in the bible that touches my heart and shows me how much God is moved by our prayers is the story of King Hezekiah. He is one of my favorite persons in the bible and I can’t wait to meet him in heaven. He was a mighty king who loved God and was very zealous for Him; he “did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord” (2 Chronicles 31:20).  He boldly tried to eradicate false worship in Judah, destroying all the false idols and pagan alters and temples, and brought back a revival of true and pure worship of the Lord (2 Chronicles 29-32). Later in his life, he had become very sick, and the prophet Isaiah had told him to get things ready because he was going to die.  Hezekiah immediately turned to the Lord in prayer, and he wept bitterly. Before Isaiah even left the building, the Lord answered his prayer.  The Lord told Isaiah that He was going to heal Hezekiah and extend his life 15 years (2 Kings 20:1-6). I remember reading this story a couple of years ago, and it brought tears to my eyes. Hezekiah’s story touched me for several reasons. Here is this mighty, valiant king who loved the Lord and wasn’t ashamed to openly worship Him and do things that were considered unpopular or “politically incorrect” for his time. He boldly and unashamedly started tearing down pagan alters and destroying idols. Can you imagine what would happen if we started doing that today? And as mighty or powerful as he was, Hezekiah wasn’t ashamed to weep bitterly before the Lord, nor was he too manly or proud to ask for more time on this earth.  But what touched me the most were God’s words, “I have heard your prayer, and seen your tears, surely I will heal you” (2 Kings 20:5). What comfort I get from reading this! Our God loves us and hears us. He knows all of our needs, pains, fears, and He wants to help us. Nothing is too small or too big for our God.  Nothing.

During my reflection, I also realized that when we pray on the behalf of others, God hears us.  Another prayer request had been for a co-worker who had been falsely accused and unjustly fired from his job. I prayed that the Lord would take care of his needs and bless him with a better job. About a year or two later, I found out that he had found a very good and high paying job, much better than the part-time job he had before. This was a powerful reminder to me that we should never give up on praying for others. Even though we may not see the final outcome, or feel that anything is happening because we aren’t seeing changes, God is in control, and He is working behind the scenes, in His timing, to answer, according to His will.  This is encouraging to me. We all have people that we pray for, and sometimes it feels like the situation might be hopeless because we aren’t seeing any results. I myself feel like this at times. There are certain painful situations I have been praying for, and I catch myself feeling hopeless and that it is too big for God to handle because I am not seeing instantaneous results.  But I am reminded by examples in the bible, or my past answered prayers, that God does hear and will answer, but in His timing, and His way. This means I will have to wait and trust in Him, and not give up in prayer or in hope.

I encourage you to never give up either.  We can encourage and build up each other by continually praying for one another (James 5:6) and bearing each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). We can’t do it alone, and just knowing we have others in the faith praying for us when we don’t have the strength ourselves to pray is uplifting and encouraging.  We may have prayers that we can’t even articulate in words because they are too painful, or we are too ashamed or embarrassed, but trust that God knows our heart and every detail that we can’t express (Psalms 56:8). He is the God of comfort, and will indeed comfort us in our trials, so that we may be able to comfort those in trials of their own.  If you need someone to partner with you in prayer, please feel free to contact me.

God bless you.


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 3-5

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Introduction: The How & Wise

I am an introvert. That can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it.  On the downside, I can be mistaken for being aloof, mad, or standoffish. Participating in small groups and group activities can be a somewhat taxing, and having to speak aloud in front of others can be downright nerve-racking. The positive side, however, is that I am a deep thinker, with thoughts running through my mind a mile minute; I have a calming, quiet spirit (so I’ve been told), and I am a good listener, filing away even the most minor details to be recalled much later down the road.

Because of my introverted personality, I have spent most of my life feeling misunderstood, and as a result, always felt like I never belonged anywhere.  I felt odd, out of place, and socially awkward. It wasn’t until I was in my final year of graduate school, when a professor told me that I was an introvert, and that it was a gift, that I finally understood. A light bulb went off in my head and I said “that’s what’s wrong with me!” I began reading anything I could to understand myself better, and with time, and God’s help, I began to accept myself, and become comfortable with who I truly am. It is still a struggle, but the Lord is helping me grow and overcome the hurdles. He has put people in my life that have given me encouragement to step outside of my comfort zone.

 Last year, I started attending a women’s bible study group.  When I first came to know the Lord, I bounced from church to church, never quite feeling like I fit in.  Then, when I found the church I now attend, I instantly felt at home.  But it wasn’t until about 3 years later that I found the courage to attend a women’s study, a study that would break out into small groups (yikes!).  And what a blessing it has been.  At first, I would do my usual “quiet observer” routine, but then, as I felt the safety and love from the women in the group, I began to share. Trust me, it was very scary at first. I have fears due to past betrayal and hurt, so sharing openly and letting anyone in was truly a very intimidating and frightening thing for me. But because of the love of Jesus that these women showed, I felt welcomed and comforted. 

In my walk with the Lord, I have learned that he loves and uses all personality types. Each of us has our own unique gifts that God gave to us, and we shouldn’t feel bad because someone has the gift to speak, and we don’t, or because someone has the gift of helps, and we can’t.  We should seek the Lord and ask Him to reveal to us what our gifts are, and embrace them, and be ready to step out in faith and use them (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). I am always encouraged by examples in the bible of people whom God used who are just like you and me.   I take comfort in the example of Moses, because I believe he was also an introvert, and he had the fear of speaking and felt very inadequate, much like me. (Exodus 4:10). Yet, with his feeling of inadequacy and limitations, God used him mightily. He led the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 14), he was a witness to some of the greatest miracles, the 10 plagues (Exodus 8-12) and the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus: 14:21-22), to name a few, and God gave him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).

Because of my introversion, I am a better writer than an orator.  In my first English class in college some 13 years ago, my teacher told me I should think about becoming a writer, a thought that has been in the back of my mind ever since. Lately, I have felt a tug from the Lord to share what I have learned and experienced in my walk with Him, in order to bless and encourage others, like others have done for me. It is my hope that I can learn and grow in my walk with the Lord, along with you, being transparent as I share my journey, experiences, and pearls and nuggets of wisdom that I have learned from the wisest of all, Jesus, from His priceless, Holy Word, the bible.



“Therefore encourage one another and build each another up, just as in fact you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11