Yesterday was tough. Really tough. It was one of those days. You know the kind. Where it all seems to be falling apart and you can barely keep it together. Where you run on coffee and adrenaline. One of those days that you just don’t stop. I knew there was a lot to do that day and wanted it to start off with some quiet time with God.
My husband is old fashioned and still likes to buy the paper. One morning as I was reading yesterday’s news over my coffee I saw an advertisement for a grand opening. In a nearby city, a trendy restaurant was holding a round of open interviews. They knew that once they were in business they would have a lot of demand but little staff. “No experience needed! Willing to train!” The ad exclaimed.
Today is my daughter’s first day of school and to kick off the academic year right I created a free 5 day Back to School mini devotional! Since many kids have already returned to school or start mid-week like mine, this devotional is made for Monday-Friday. It’s never too late to begin!
“The dog days of summer have come to an end and the cool autumn winds carry with them with them a new school year. Whether we home school or send our kiddos on their way each day, households with school aged kids have to adjust and settle back into the school year routine.
I think parents and kids alike could use some encouragement to help us ease into the new academic year confidently and prayerfully. I hope that this 5 day mini-devotional will help you to do just that!”
Click the link to get started and have an amazing year!
When I was 17 years old I got my first tattoo. I was at the home of my then boyfriend’s friend who was a tattoo artist and was getting black ink embedded into my hip in the form of a Celtic knot symbol. I did this of course without permission behind my mother’s back and was very pleased with myself thinking how smart I was to put it in a place that I could easily hide it from her. I thought I was so cool! Though the Triquetra symbol has been known to be used in various cultures and beliefs, what I thought was just representing the Irish in my blood took on new meaning later in my life. Little did I know that the symbol I chose was also known as the Trinity Knot and has historically been associated with early Christianity symbolizing the holy trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yes, even in my rebellion it was clear that God wasn’t giving up on me that easily. Indeed, he wasn’t finished with me yet.
The Seal of God
Ephesians 1 describes the seal of God as the Holy Spirit which comes upon you when you believe.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. -Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV)
During my defiant years I was adamant about denying the Lord but, God in his faithfulness kept his seal of protection over me. As much as I may have tried I wouldn’t break the seal of the Holy Spirit. As much as I would resist, I thankfully couldn’t erase my name from his book of life. Even when I let go, he held on to me and I’m so grateful that he did.
When I was 19 I was in the throes of an abusive relationship. One day I was wearing a Celtic knot cross necklace, again for style more than anything else. I got into a fight with my ex which quickly escalated and I ended up punched hard in the chest. Later that night after the chaos was over I looked in the mirror at my sad reflection. Tired eyes, bloodshot and puffy from crying, a sore face that I couldn’t bring myself to take home to my mother, and a red cross shaped bruise where the necklace once was. I never felt more alone.
The word sealed comes from a Greek word which means “to stamp with a private mark” and refers to preserving and protecting the object which is sealed. I was quite literally stamped with the mark of my salvation through the cross of Christ. I kept the charm and when I left the relationship I held onto it for years in the drawer of a jewelry box. Just to remind myself to never allow something like that to happen to me again. I didn’t know it at the time but looking back this was more evidence of God’s seal on my life. Through my sin and the circumstances it placed me in, it was a harsh reminder that I still belonged to God. Though the harm of my body might not seem like protection it was. And it would eventually lead my soul back to a place of repentance.
Refined by Fire
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. –1 Peter 1:6-7
Soon after that physical fight another even worse one followed which lead to me and my daughter (barely 9 months old at the time) escaping that situation for good. It caused me to move home and rent an apartment from my mother which allowed my daughter grow up close to family and gave me the support I would need as a young single mom. Moving there put me back into my old hometown where I reconnected with my estranged friend group (isolation happens often within abusive relationships) including my now husband, and we fell in love.
Hindsight allows me to see that hard season as a fire that refined my faith, a harsh lesson and a blessing after all. It started a chain reaction of PTSD, anxiety, and depression which would only be healed by a relationship with the Lord and without those humbling factors I might have continued to convince myself that I didn’t need him.
So many things happened because of that difficult time in my life that made me who I am today. It lead me back to my faith which is now the foundation of my life and the source of the joy I am blessed to now experience daily. It’s funny to me that both of these significant “marks”, the tattoo and the bruise, had the common theme of Celtic knots. God planned it that way so I would know for sure that it was him.
As I was writing this post I received a pair of earrings in the mail from my Dad for my upcoming 30th birthday-Celtic crosses! The emblems though they remained the same in each situation have been transformed. Just like God gave new names to people changed by his grace in the scriptures, so these symbols and experiences take on new meaning to me in the light of God’s love. No matter how hard our battle, we can turn our trials into inspiration and the symbols of our struggles into symbols of our strength.
How have your trials refined you? How has God made his mark on your life?
If you or someone you know are in an abusive situation help is available. It is possible to move on, heal, and live a better life!
…You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. …This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. -1 John 4
This week has been another tough one for me. As I am quickly approaching my 26th week (and 6th month) of pregnancy I am beginning to feel the weight.. literally and figuratively. I haven’t been feeling my best and my lack of energy and fuzzy brain has been messing with me big time!
I’m trying my best to write but, every time I go to formulate a complete thought I can’t think straight. I get frustrated with my lack of focus, my kids, house or dog distract me, or I feel dizzy and just want to lay down. Though I made a goal of creating lots of pretty, white inventory for the upcoming wedding season, my Etsy shop should be selling tumbleweeds. I have five unfinished projects that are giving me side eye each time I walk by them.
This loss of momentum has been disheartening. The lack of inspiration has been making way for feelings of doubt to slink into the corners of my heart and mind and cast their shadows on my soul. I began to slack on my spiritual disciplines and allow my feelings to sweep me into a tide of old bad habits. I began to let cyclical negative self talk revolve in my mind like water swirling a drain. I started to question everything that I was so convinced of just a few short weeks ago.
As believers we have the comfort of living in the truth of God’s love and presence in our lives but, we can’t forget that as long as we are on the Earth we are subject to spiritual warfare. God has been speaking clearly to my purpose and I’ve trusted him and pursued it like never before. This doesn’t please our enemy. He wants nothing more than for me to just give up. He places thoughts in my mind that are contrary to what the Lord has been asking me to do.
Often when we start to listen and make progress for the Lord is when the spirit of falsehood will come around like a prowling lion ready to devour. It doesn’t want me to do the work that God has asked of me but to doubt the Lord’s promises, question my abilities, feel rejected, give into depression, abandon my plans, and roll over in defeat. Even if my words only reach and inspire a few people he wants to prevent that!
It took all week for me to see this attack for what it was and take my power back through prayer. We all stand in victory with Christ so when the enemy tries to make us doubt all we have to do is remind ourselves of that fact. Instead of continuing to believe the lies and sabotage myself I stopped them in their tracks and threw them out like the trash they are. I prayed for strength in the Holy Spirit, restated the Lords promises, remembered my calling, and banished evil back to the sinking pit it crawled out of.
Know that when you reach an incline you are approaching the mountaintop! Don’t give up when you fall off track or things get difficult, just keep going! I am not going to be pregnant and lagging forever although it can feel that way, and I still have talent and dreams and creativity even if they evade me at times. Perseverance is the only way we can break through! I know that the joy that is coming doesn’t compare to the trials of today. I just need to remember not to let so much time go by the next time and banish the spirit of falsehood as soon as it attempts to make me stumble.
How do you banish doubt and negativity in your life?
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven -Matthew 18:1-4
Oh, to have faith and trust in the Lord like my child trusts in me. When my 1 year old stumbles and falls she doesn’t hesitate to get up and run to me.
When she is weary she seeks me for comfort, knowing I will take her into my arms to rock her to sleep.
When she looks up at me, her stubby hand out and says “Cracker?” she doesn’t doubt that I will feed her.
She doesn’t question where it will come from but instead waits expectantly, her doe eyes fixed on me in joyful anticipation.
She never questions if I love her, she just runs to me, climbing me like a tree to wrap her little arms around my neck and kiss my cheek.
She doesn’t question if she’s safe because she knows I faithfully care for her each day. She doesn’t wonder if I will be with her because I watch over her, constant as the sky.
She can’t speak to me with eloquence but, I know she adores me with barely a word.
And all I am is an imperfect mother how much more than does our perfect Father in Heaven deserve our trust and confidence in him?
If you’re an 80’s baby like me you might remember those “choose your own adventure” books. The whole idea is to assume the role of the main character and the book periodically presents you with options. The choices you make determine the story’s ending. The thrill is in the mystery and anticipation; not knowing what will happen next! I being an eager child (& now adult) often decided to skip all of the build-up, and stress by flipping to the back and reading all three endings at once. That way I could choose the ending I liked the best and enjoy reading the story with the comfort of knowing how it ends. Only, once the adventure book lost it’s mystery it also lost its excitement. It ended up on a cluttered bedside table with a tangled up yo-yo and an abandoned braid of gimp. My impatience and need to know rushed the book and took all of the joy out of it!
The theme of this third week of advent is joy! We light the pink candle and look forward in joy to Christmas which (unbelievably to me!) is now only days away! There are so many things in my life which bring me joy that I could choose to write about today, my husband, my children, a good book and a hot cup of coffee..but, since we are looking forward to the coming of Jesus into the world I would like to focus on him, our ultimate and eternal wellspring of joy!
The joy that comes from my relationship with him cannot be contained in my heart and spills over into every area of my life. Carrying his spirit with me enhances everything and gives even the smallest things a sense of wonder and deeper meaning. When you come to know the Lord you understand that all things are a gift from him. Think of the joy you feel or witness in your children on Christmas morning when they eagerly unwrap their presents and reveal what treasures await them. That is what a relationship with the Lord can bring to your daily life. How can you not feel joyful and thankful when you are constantly receiving gifts?
It is not always easy to see everything as a gift but, when we live in a state of gratitude it leaves little room for malcontent! Joy is our inheritance in Christ and we can claim it! Choosing joy and seeing things through his eyes just makes everything richer, deeper and more meaningful.
When I am walking through the woods and see a beautiful tree or the sunset I see more than just scenery, I see the beauty and power of God’s creation and feel happy that he created such a gorgeous world for us to live in. Or when I look at my children, I see more than just cuteness (although they are quite cute!) I remember that God knew them and set them apart before they were even born, he has plans for them which I can’t begin to imagine, and he formed them in my womb and allowed me the honor of actively participating in their creation. It’s nothing less than miraculous!
Or when I look into my husbands eyes and appreciate all that our marriage means to me and our family and how much pleasure comes with it and to know that it is also something that honors God and personifies the gospel! Or when I am pursuing my passions to write and read and create with my hands, a need that God himself placed within me. These things I enjoy so much are more than hobbies, its the avenue through which his will in me will be accomplished. Or when I see others through the loving eyes of God and appreciate how different he made us all and see the good in them and it makes me want to bring others happiness or speak words of encouragement to them when they are down. I want to share the joy that I have found so everyone can experience it!
Joy can be a choice. With so many difficult things in life and negatives to focus on we can choose instead to think positively, view ourselves and others positively, speak positively, appreciate and focus on what we have rather than focusing on what we lack. When I remember how much I have to be thankful for it is difficult not to feel joyful. Gratitude proceeds and breeds more joy. Even my trials take on meaning, I know they are shaping me into the person I’m meant to be and even in those dark times I can see God’s light shining and hold on to the glimmer of his promises.
So when we are opening our presents on Christmas morning lets remember what they are to represent, the gift of salvation and a daily, enriching, interpersonal relationship with God through his son. Let’s remember that the spirit of this holiday and the people who surround the tree are far more a gift to us than anything that we could find under it.
I know I am a little..okay, a lot.. late to be writing about the theme of Advent Week Two: Peace but, this week has been hectic! #Momlife am I right? But I digress… Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. He desires that we find peace with him not only in Heaven but also while we live out our lives here on Earth.
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
Since childhood I have struggled with depression and anxiety. Though they go hand in hand my depression was the main problem when I was young. I was at a tender age where I was learning that not everything in life is pleasant and when my parents divorced it filled my safe-feeling world of innocence with doubt. As I became older anxiety took the reigns and was unfortunately exacerbated by PTSD. I am a survivor of domestic abuse (a story for another post). My ex and I had a daughter as teenagers and after a traumatic stretch of time we separated. My second family in a few short years had crumbled before my eyes.
A couple of years passed and I moved on. I went to school and worked hard to provide for my daughter as a young, single mother but, put little thought into healing myself. Time went by and things got better. I met an amazing man, now my husband, that treated me well and showed me what it was like to truly be loved and respected. I grew up Catholic but had turned away from the Lord in my youthful angst. Once I was in a stable job and relationship, the feelings I ignored in order to put my life back together after the abuse started to come back up. I was experiencing flashbacks, waking up screaming with night terrors, and this is when my anxiety became crippling. I could feel the longing for the Lord in an empty place in my soul. He was calling me and so I sought Him out and he took me in (My testimony story for another post too!).
Fast forward a few years…I was in one of the happiest but, busiest times of my life! I was engaged to my husband, working full time in the medical field, taking college classes online, raising my daughter, and planning our wedding. I was thankful that my life was so full of positive things but, my anxiety had become a staple of my everyday life and was at an all time high. I was taking medication to ward off panic attacks up to 3 times a day.
About 4 months after our beautiful wedding we found out we were expecting a baby! I was so happy to have another chance at motherhood and to finally give my daughter a sibling after 9 years. As you mamas know, pregnancy changes your life in so many ways. One way for me was that I could no longer take my medication. That crutch that I had held for so long was kicked out from under me and my only option was to limp. I was forced to find other ways to cope.
When I felt my chest tighten and my heart race I resorted to breathing exercises, hot showers, or asked my husband to talk me down. Those things helped but, what brought healing was leaning on the Lord. I would come to him in desperate prayer, meditate on his promises and ask him to take my burdens and carry them for me. As I did this I entered into a deep and transformative life of prayer. I knew that God would help me through if only I would turn to him. As my trust in him grew my hope grew with it. My anxieties faded and before I realized it they had all but vanished. Anxiety was no longer was the staple of my life, instead it was hope.
Without all my time being spent worrying there was space in my heart and mind to receive the things the Lord was trying to reveal to me each day. So my trust, hope and faith grew deeper and deeper still. Sometimes I still get nervous when I worry about my children’s futures or when I don’t know how we will make it to pay day. But, instead of wallowing in my doubt I have hope! When the path ahead feels dark and unknown I try to remember where God has taken my life from where he found me. When I was bruised and broken hearted I never could have imagined the life I have been blessed with today. I trust in my heart of hearts that God has a plan for all of us, he is faithful, and he will help us to get through and provide for us every step of the way.
Do you suffer from anxiety? How do you deal with it?
If you or someone you know are in an abusive situation help is available. It is possible to move on, heal, and live a better life!