Broken Pieces

The evening had finally arrived for me to walk across my high school gymnasium to receive my diploma. As the speakers began to reminisce over the 1985 graduating seniors, my mind was flooded by countless memories. Yet, as I sat with my classmates on that Friday evening, I could have never imagined the paths I would one day travel, nor the heartache, tragedy and loss that would occur.

Moving forward years later, instead of pondering fond memories, I would find myself at the end of a course, sobbing uncontrollably. I had blown it in the most horrific way. With my life in shambles, the mere thought of God ever wanting me again seemed unattainable. I would quickly learn, however, that God’s love for me was not dependent on me. My Shepherd came to rescue, redeem and restore. (Luke 15:3-7)

I soon came to experience firsthand that God never despises a broken person nor does He turn His back. He took the shattered pieces of my life and began to put them back together again, all for His glory. 

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.”  (Psalm 147:2-3)

Point to Ponder: A person never has to remain in the same shape brought on by sin he or she is in because Jesus came to redeem sinners!

At times, when an individual gets off course, the enemy will immediately whisper, “That’s it, you have out-sinned God’s ability to forgive.” Yet we must remember that God’s Word always trumps the enemy’s whispers. We must align our thinking according to God’s truth.

 

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. (Psalm 32:1-5)

Whatever we may envision as the end, God sees a new beginning. While we may see only the pain, God sees the purpose. He will turn a trial into a blessing and a mess into a message. Although His rescue plan may include voyages we never envisioned, we can know with certainty He will never leave broken pieces unassembled. He loves us too much.

Prayer: Lord thank you for Your willingness to restore and rebuild shattered lives. Thank you for sending Jesus to save the lost, to heal the brokenhearted and to bind up wounds.

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of four and enjoys both roles tremendously. She also loves the opportunity to serve through ministry and share through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and will begin her doctoral work at Southwestern in family ministries in the fall.

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Letters to God from a New Mom

As a new mom I found a closeness with God during those wee hours of the morning when I was nursing and rocking my son back to sleep. In the quietness of the house, God’s voice seemed ever-present and comforted me through the [still ongoing] emotional journey into this new foreign role called ‘motherhood’. I was desperately seeking an understanding of my purpose and an assurance of my capabilities.

Often during these times, I would focus my mind on passages that declared God’s might and power, passages that spoke of His faithfulness and His provision, or passages that displayed His unending compassion and grace. Then with a deep sigh, I would continue to rock slowly and whisper my thanksgiving. I knew His promises.

These words that slipped past my lips often fell into a specific cadence that was deeply personal and sounded almost like a letter to a good friend. Because, after all – that’s what they were. So below is a passage that I wrote early one morning when I was exhausted and needed comfort. I was drawn to Psalms and Isaiah, reminding me that our ever-present God is full of love and ready to tuck me under His wing.

Lord, I feel so alone. So tired. And so insignificant in this endless cycle of the newborn cries. But I know you’re there. Thank you for your never-ending compassion towards me.

 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:6-8)

 Your scriptures tell us that you have measured the waters in the hollow of Your hand and marked the span of the heavens. That you have weighed the mountains and calculated the dust on the earth. (Isaiah 40:12)

 You are mighty beyond comprehension, and yet here you are beide me, fully present and loving. You know every tear shed through these trying days. But I rest knowing that my name is written on the palm of your hand. (Isaiah 49:16)

Thank you, I love you.

I miss the closeness that I found in those dark and quiet moments. The business that so easily consumes our days can drown out these opportunities. In looking back over the last 18 months, I realize that the rocker has become my most common meeting place with God. I still find myself there in that chair feeling stranded and at the mercy of my child, but once I settle in and he nods off, I find God waiting patiently for time alone with me. I am fully focused on Him, and He’s ready to talk.

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project.

God Sees You

A writing venture was soon to begin, as I pulled into a vacation lodge in Alabama. I was both intrigued and overwhelmed by all that awaited me. As I proceeded with the production, my mind became captivated with the mere thought of finishing strong while the energy to continue was fading. Time was running out and so was my joy. However, as I continued to work hard on the job at hand, God was working intensely on the heart within.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23 NASB

After days of writing, I knew I needed to remove myself from the room and take a ride in my car. Yet what I thought would be a time to clear my mind, God knew would be an opportunity to calm my heart.

I was completely engrossed by a sermon on the radio as I pulled up beside a boat dock that over- looked a beautiful river. Tears began to stream down my face, as I sat there alone, listening and praying. God knew that submerged deep within me were issues that needed resolving regarding my life.  As I poured my heart out to Him, I was deeply touched by the mere fact that His eyes saw me. I was in the middle of nowhere, tears pouring, yet my Lord took notice, just as he did for Sarai in the Old Testament.

Sarai, unable to conceive a child, wanted desperately to have a family. While taking matters into her own hands, she resolved to give her Egyptian maid, Hagar, to her husband, Abram in hopes of obtaining children. Yet immediately after Hagar conceived, a great friction took place between the two women, and Hagar ran away.

While traveling through the desert, Hagar found herself sitting down by a well, broken, rejected, and afraid. No sooner had she arrived than an angel of the Lord met her there. As He began to encourage her heart, she was engulfed with joy by the mere fact that God took notice of where she was and of what she was going through. She later sighed, “You are a God who sees.”

Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees.” Genesis 16:13 NASB

Just like Hagar, I too was overtaken by the goodness and mercy of God. And even though my journey was producing discouragement, earnestly imploring me to quit, God met me where I was.

Discouragement and hopelessness will always beg for entrance to your life. Yet when you allow God to flip on His light switch to your heart, you will be amazed at what transpires. As He takes center stage of your spirit. Hopelessness will quickly bow out.

There is nothing which you and I will ever face that God will not notice. God met Hagar sitting by a well. He met me sitting by a river. And He will meet you wherever you are today.

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of four and enjoys both roles tremendously. She also loves the opportunity to serve through ministry and share through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and will begin her doctoral work at Southwestern in family ministries in the fall.

 

 

 

 

 

Failing Under Pressure

I don’t like to fail…I still fail though. Years back I attended one of the top 10 universities of the world at the time. I was the only paying foreigner in my group of peers. Everyone else were elite students from all over Russia who had worked their whole lives to be among the bright-eyed geniuses who were awarded entrance into Moscow State University Lomonosov. I felt dreadfully out of place, but was determined to do my best. I love to study and love to learn, but my language skills couldn’t begin to compete or suffice. Remnyova Marina Leontyevna, the Dean of our program, said something that stuck with me, “Students, there is talent and there is hard work. Hard work will get you further.” I took that to heart and have since tried to do my absolute best to achieve the desired results in almost every area of my life.

 When it comes to my character though, I see time and time again that I do not have the power within me to be who I want to be—to be like Christ, the purest, most loving man to walk the earth. I can decide all kinds of things that I want to do or be that seem to resemble Him, but then not have the ability to carry them through long-term.

 Proverbs 24:10 says, “If you fail under pressure, your strength is not very great.”

 Agreed. I’m weak. Not to say I don’t try, but it’s still not enough. Like salvation. I can try my whole life to please God, but it wouldn’t be good enough (Eph. 2:8-9) for Him to receive me. Thank God for Christ, who allows me entrance into a relationship with God that I don’t deserve otherwise. Thank God for His Holy Spirit who is faithfully accomplishing in me what I can’t make happen by praying more, reading more, giving more. Thank God that it is His power in me that frees me from the high expectations I have for myself that I can’t fulfill. Thank God that sanctification (the process of becoming more Christ-like), just like salvation, has more to do with Him than me. It has more to do with HIM doing and me accepting what He decides makes me look more like Him. That’s a very peaceful message. In the words of a famous missionary to India, Amy Carmichael:

IN ACCEPTANCE LIES PEACE
He said, “I will forget the dying faces;
The empty places,
They shall be filed again.
O voices moaning deep within me, cease,”
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in forgetting lieth peace.

He said, “I will crowd action upon action,
The strife of faction shall stir me and sustain;
O tears that drown the fire of manhood, cease.”
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in endeavor lieth peace.

He said, “I will withdraw me and be quiet,
Why meddle in life’s riot?
Shut be my door to pain.”
Desire, thou dost befool me, thou shalt cease.
Not in aloofness lieth peace.

He said, “I will submit; I am defeated.
God hath depleted My life of its rich gain.
O futile murmurings, why will ye not cease?”
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in submission lieth peace.

He said, “I will accept the breaking sorrow
Which God tomorrow will to His Son explain.”
Then did the turmoil deep within him cease.
Not vain the word, not vain;
For in Acceptance lieth peace.

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

A Woman Who Fears the Lord

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30

Recently, I was part of a group of women “of a certain age” waiting to have our pictures taken for a brochure. The Texas sun was almost directly overhead as we gathered outside, searching for the most flattering angles and backgrounds. A couple of us opted to wear our sunglasses for the photos, a technique every woman knows can erase at least 5, if not 10 years. Much to our dismay, the sunglasses were nixed and we stood bare-eyed in all our middle-aged glory, squinting and smiling for posterity. The fact that the purpose for the photo shoot was a BIBLE study brochure didn’t lessen one bit our concern with how we would appear on those glossy 5 by 7 pages. After all, God reminds us that while He looks on the heart, men (and especially women getting their pictures taken) look on the outward appearance. (1 Samuel 16:7)

The Hebrew word “beauty” in Proverbs 31:30 literally means “a breath, or vapor”. Just as quickly as our makeup evaporated under the hot midday sun, so fades the “beauty” of what the world considers important. Those of us who have seen more than three decades know how literally we are outwardly “wasting away”. Yet, hopefully, we are inwardly being renewed day by day…IF we are fearing the Lord instead of fearing growing older. (2 Corinthians 4:16) For, truly, this is vanity: the preoccupation with our outward appearance, which is destined to be left behind once we step into the timelessness of eternity anyway.

The gods of this world: money, prestige, power, lots of social media followers, fame, physical beauty, and looking forever young are constantly vying for our worship and calling us to “fear” them, to be in awe of the created instead of in awe of the Creator. Psalm 1:1 tells us that we are blessed when we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. It’s a good idea to check from where we are allowing our hearts to be most influenced. Elisabeth Elliot wrote in her devotional “Keep a Quiet Heart”: “Be cautious when the advice given makes you feel comfortable when you know you’re really wrong.” But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised”  . . .  and she “smiles at the future (v.25) . . . laugh lines and all!”

About the Writer:
Nan Haines is so grateful to belong to God’s people. She loves getting to know all kinds of people and enjoys discovering new places, which is a good thing since she’s moved twenty five times. She has been married to Jim, a pastor, for 34 years, and together they have four grown kids, a son in love, and three grand puppies.

 

Noble Wife

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.  Proverbs 31:10

Have you ever wished that King Lemuel would’ve just run out of ink at verse 9? Me too. On the surface, the Proverbs 31 woman seems like this perfect specimen that we, mere mortal women, are supposed to aspire to be, a goal which seems impossible.  Here’s the thing about “impossible”: God LOVES it! God is just waiting for you to allow Him the opportunity to perform the impossible in you. Now, does that mean that your kids are going to get up in the morning calling you “blessed”? That’s the impossible in them, not in you!  Herein lies the REAL challenge: you are trying to become this Noble Woman whether or not your family is trying to become the Noble Family.  I don’t know about you, but I was NOT trying to be the Noble Daughter when I was growing up (my poor mother!) so why would I set that level of expectation on someone else? Now I am trying to be worthy of God’s blessing and live the purpose He has for me. Why? Because my mother was striving to be Noble! I think she succeeded! Perfect? No way! But always striving, she set the example for me, so now it’s my turn to do that for my family. While we are striving, and seem to be getting nowhere, God is there, working things out for good the whole time, and not for just our good, but of those who see our efforts as well. So even if you’ve never considered a field and bought it, and then planted a vineyard, that doesn’t mean you won’t someday. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever known a 23-year-old that I would consider Noble, (Proverbs 31:28-31) but I do know quite a few of 50-year- old women that I would put in that category. This is all process. God spoke all creation into existence but the Bible tells us that He formed man and then placed him in the garden. He fashioned the woman and then brought her to the man. I interpret that to mean that He took His time and used His hands, focusing on the details that make a human a scientific marvel. He brought it all about then as He does now: the impossible through God is just done! So don’t fret that you haven’t achieved nobility because there is a big, fat “yet” at the end of that sentence. Keep on striving, sisters!

About the Writer:
Cindy loves being an RN, wife, mom, and CiCi (that’s a grandmother but I’m way too young and hot for normal terminology) to one sweet little 5 year old girl. She loves the Lord with all her heart and wants to serve Him with gladness til her dying breath. Cindy plans on starting seminary very soon. She can hardly wait for Wednesday and Sunday to roll around so she can sing with the choir and experience just a sliver of the joy we’ll have when we all get to Heaven!

Promises, Promises

When I read the book of Joshua, I am overwhelmed with the patience and persistence of God to fulfill his promises to his people in spite of their unfaithfulness. Throughout the book we read about how the Israelites responded disobediently to the instructions of the Lord . . . taking things from the destruction of Jericho that had been set apart for the Lord (7:1), and building an altar for themselves to rebel against the Lord (22:16).  And what was God’s holy response to their acts of disobedience?  We find it in chapter 21, verse 45:

Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.

In fact, from chapter 6 all the way to chapter 23, we keep reading about the Lord and exactly how he fulfilled his promises.

Wow!  That just blows my mind.  When I think of the times that I have been disappointed by friends or family, it doesn’t come to my mind to fulfill all the promises I have made them.  I tend to lean toward unforgiveness, thinking of the unfairness against me, or even lashing out or getting even.  But not God . . . in His mercy He forgives my unfaithfulness.  In His grace he forgets my desire to build walls against Him or his loved ones. In His love He continues to fulfill all the promises He has made to me. Now, that is worth praising Him.  That is worth trusting Him.  That is worth serving Him.  That is worth loving Him.

As a matter of fact, when I read these verses, I want to be forgiving like God; I want to be faithful like God.  Instead of dwelling on the unfairness of life, or my own plans for improving my situation, I want to let Him continue to show me His character of faithfulness through these Bible truths, like he does in the book of Joshua.

He has such a long way to go with me, but I’m so very thankful he doesn’t give up. He just keeps on cranking out the lessons with His promised blessings attached.  And then I am reminded . . .  “Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.”

About the writer:
Pam is Director of Women to Women Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and grateful to be included in this great team of Yada Yada bloggers.

Do One Thing Every Day that Scares You

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

It’s interesting how we overlook things that are commonplace until they somehow collide with our experience.

One day, not too many years ago, I literally stumbled across this sign in a favorite shop in Savannah, Georgia. My heart was heavy, and more precisely, I was afraid. I found myself in a circumstance that threatened to overwhelm my ability to keep my emotions in check. During the daylight, I could derail the scary feelings, but at night, they would loom large in my dreams and thoughts. I knew that God was with me, that He loved me, and would give me only good things. Even if He allowed bad things to happen, I clung tightly to His promise that He would work even those for my good. (Romans 8:28) But I was still afraid. Never in my life had I known the sheer, white-hot panic that taunted my normally logical thoughts. Logic led my thoughts of the future to an even scarier place, and I prayed and cried and quoted Scripture and . . . . still the fear nibbled at the edges of my consciousness, taking larger bites of my confidence for a favorable resolution.

Meditating on Scripture, the very God-breathed Word that gives life and hope, helped to calm the biggest waves of anxiety. But still, those relentless poundings of “What if?” beat against the peace that just wouldn’t seem to stay. I sought counsel from people wiser than I, read stories about conquering impossible odds, and tried to practice everything I had encouraged others to do. I walked miles at the park, praying and begging God to deliver me from the fear that threatened my health.

Finally, in absolute desperation, I cried out loud, “Lord, what am I missing?!” “Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10a NKJV) was the thought that came, straight from the Bible. “ I can be still, even if I can’t still my pounding heart or the anxious thoughts,” I told myself as I sat perfectly still. “Be not afraid,” was the next thought. (Isaiah 41:10)  – another Scripture I knew. “But HOW do I not be afraid, Lord, I don’t know how to DO it!” Joshua 1:9 began to part the mist of confusion: “for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” At last the peace came as I reached like a drowning swimmer reaching for a life preserver. When you’re drowning, you simply take the preserver and put . . . it . . . on. The presence of the preserver is designed to rescue only when the perishing person simply rests inside the buoyancy provided by the preserver. The reality that God is with me reached from my head to my heart. The anxious feelings still came, but now they were met with faith in the presence of my Heavenly Father. I floated above the waves of fear, secure in the nearness of the everlasting arms.

About the Writer:
Nan is so grateful to belong to God’s people. She loves getting to know all kinds of people and enjoys discovering new places, which is a good thing since she’s moved twenty five times. She has been married to Jim, a pastor, for 34 years, and together they have four grown kids, a son in love, and three grand puppies.

 

Broken Promises

I have been married three times. Unfortunately, I know the deep pain of broken
promises and breaking promises. Broken vows come with devastating consequences. Some memories take years to heal, and I still occasionaly struggle with the tidal wave of grief and loss for those earthly relationships and covenants that were never created to be shattered.

God holds us accountable for our words. In Matthew 5:37, when talking about promises Jesus says, “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes ‘ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” In Matthew 12:36 “But I tell you that men will give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” And finally, Matthew 15:11 “A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but by what comes out of it.”

 Jesus had much to say about words in general, but vows carry an even heavier weight. In the book of Joshua, chapter 9, there is an interesting account of the people of Gibeon. The Gibeonites deceived the leaders of Israel by creating a heart-tugging story that wasn’t true so that the people of Israel would not destroy them as they had all the neighboring tribes in their conquest to take the Promised Land the Lord had set apart for them. The Gibeonites convinced Joshua that they were foreigners and begged for peace between the two groups of people. Joshua and the leaders made an agreement with the Gibeonites without consulting the Lord. Within a few days the truth was discovered, but, alas, it was too late. The treaty was binding in the eyes of the Lord, and they dared not break it lest the Lord be angry with them for breaking their word—even though the Lord’s initial command had been to destroy all the nearby cities and peoples.

 But all the leaders said to the whole congregation, ‘We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them. This we will do to them, even let them live, so that wrath will not be upon us for the oath which we swore to them.’ The leaders said to them, ‘Let them live.’ Joshua 9:19-21a

 Many of us have made promises or commitments only to talk ourselves out of them by our own logic. But for anyone who has done so or even just said a careless, hurtful word, there is hope: God sent His own Son Jesus Christ to suffer greatly, die, and conquer death and sin itself to remove that sinful stain from our hearts, minds, and spirits. In the process, God also teaches us to value our words and promises, even when doing so is uncomfortable or disquieting, as it was for Joshua and the Israelites. What a gracious God we serve to give us new opportunities to follow through on our promises.

 I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. Shout for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Isaiah 44:22-23a

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

The Harlot is Mine

joshua-rahabRahab, the harlot, you have heard of her right?  The harlot of Jericho who God gave divine wisdom, helped the Israelites scout out the city of Jericho, and was given protection when the city of Jericho fell. She now has the privilege of being in the ancestral line of Jesus (Joshua 2, Matthew 1:5).

Her story sings the beauty of grace no matter who you are or what you’ve done.  It’s a message we must always remember; not only for ourselves when we sin against God, but also for others when they assail us.

What does embracing the broken actually look like in a Christian’s life?  Or as a dear friend likes to say, “What does it look like on a Tuesday?”  On a Tuesday means showing grace and mercy to the person who has wounded you the most, extending mercy to the supposed friend who cut you down.  It means mercy to the parent who has failed, to the child who has deserted the way he should go, to the boss who is unjust, and certainly to the adulteress.

Biblical truth says you are no more worthy than any of the people who have wounded you.  You need grace; and as a Christian, you’ve received it.  Praise God!  In your great joy of salvation, see how God can use everyone.  God has said even the harlot can be used by me.

Hear me, loving someone who has deeply wounded you is impossible apart from Jesus Christ.  You have to be safe and secure in the greatest refuge before you can extend mercy to those who have trampled on you.  If you try to will yourself to unconditionally love apart from Jesus you will find the task unbearable.  However, if you instead put your total focus on Him, your weakness is perfected in His power (2 Corinthians 12:9).  He will show you the way to walk.

Seek Him today.  It is the way to freedom for all, even the harlot.

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  
I Timothy 2:3-4.

About the writer:
Caroline is a wife and mom who loves Jesus. She also has a career in commercial real estate investing. God has given her a heart for encouraging other women. She and her husband, Eric, are the directors of the Fellowship Class, a young married Sunday School class, at First Baptist Dallas.