Sunday, February 24, 2013


Ok, so before I write this post, I am just gonna say it.  Most of the thoughts that have been going around in my head all started yesterday afternoon.  You see, I spent most of yesterday afternoon priming and painting the bathroom the little girls and I share a new color.  So, the thoughts that randomly popped into my head either could have been Spirit-led or totally just paint fumes.  I will let you decide, but if you feel like the paint may have gone to my head, maybe just this once, don't mention it to me...  ;)

After thoroughly re-organizing the garage yesterday morning, I decided it was time to tackle my bathroom.  I dearly love my little sister.  However, I seriously question her love for all things green.  She and her husband stayed in the basement I call mine for a few months after her oldest daughter was born.  Not joking, every room was a different shade green.  At one point, six spaces in this house were green of some sort.  We used to tease her, because we could all see exactly which rooms were hers at one point.  If it was green, chances were really good it was hers when it was painted.  Thinking about it, I don't think a single room is green in her house now.  Wonder why...  I really do love her.  She is an awesome little sister.  Anyway, before I totally get distracted, I will keep moving.  So, this split pea soup green bathroom that I have lived with for way too long was finally going to see its last day.  I gathered up spackle, tape, rollers, brushes, paint, primer, a ladder, paint trays and cups, and a few other items needed to get the job going.  I prepped the bathroom, sanded some rough places on the walls, repaired some small nail holes, and taped around about a million fixtures.  It looked a lot like this:

This really did not do the green color justice.  It was not a muted color.

It was around this point that I began to either be totally impressed upon by God or be trapped with paint fumes for a little too long.  I started to think about how my heart is so like those walls.  (Em, if you are reading this, please don't be offended.  I just really don't like green walls, not that there is anything wrong with them, they just aren't me...)  The walls of my heart used to be this nasty disgusting shade of pea soup green, with little holes every now and again, a few gash marks here and there, some funky flaking going on around the edges.  Not really thinking I could be anything more than ugly.  Worn out.  In need of some repairs and fresh paint. 

As much as I hate to think about it, a lot of the ugliness I put there myself.  I can't even begin to express how often I heard I was worthless, stupid, unimportant and without ability to be beautiful.  Eventually, I didn't need to hear it to just know it.  Something I learned early in school was the difference between common knowledge and knowledge you had to back with proof.  Common knowledge was basic; something everyone knew.  Anything else needed a citation, proof that it was fact, evidence going for the statement.  Well, me being lower than scum was pretty much common knowledge.  If you don't believe me, well, let's be nice and just say it was accepted as common knowledge.  I knew I would never be a good enough wife, mother, housekeeper, fix-it man, cook, or anything else.  The harder I tried, the worse I felt, the worse I became.  Eventually, I would just walk around doing my normal day-to-day stuff and bad mouth myself.  I knew it was going to happen anyway, so I may as well get part of it over with.  The worst part, you ask?  The thought that I would never get any better.  Nothing I would ever do would change any of this common knowledge.  It was fact, believed completely, unchangeable.  I began to really tear myself down so I didn't have so far to fall when other people in my world did, because in that part of my life, it was only a matter of time.

Filling in the holes, sanding down the rough spots, I started thinking about how God will soften our hearts to things around us.  He will start gently taking care of the blemishes, the ugly spots, long before we allow him to finish the work.  For me, this started last year with the book You're Already Amazing by Holley Gerth.  This book taught me to replace ugly words and lies with God's truth about me - straight from the word of God.  God just started filling in hole by hole, gouge by gouge, until all I had left were the little white patches, all I had were the scars.  Every once in a while, one of those scars would burst open, a fresh wound would appear.  Little by little, I started learning where to turn when I experienced "ugly" moments.  Replace the yuck with truth, ask for help and encouragement, and walk forward knowing I was only ugly or worthless or unimportant or stupid if I allowed myself to be that way.  I made the choice to refuse to believe it. 

Then came the fun part of priming it.  In all honesty, I am just going to say I hope I never, ever, ever have to paint the bathroom ever again.  In my best Taylor Swift voice, like ever.  Seriously.  Anyway, it was at this point that I was frustrated, a little lonely, a little more than sore (more from lifting and moving boxes all morning than painting), and starting to throw myself a mini pity party.  I decided I was done complaining.  I was going to just be thankful for a new coat of paint.  Literally, not symbolically.  So, I began thinking and praising for what I did have.  It made me really start thinking about how God must feel when we finally let go.  We aren't quite finished, but we get to be healed and washed clean.  Priming that bathroom did not mean I was anywhere near done, but it did mean I had a workable canvas.  It made me really think about whether or not I was letting the heavenly artist do his work, or if I was going to keep undoing what was already done.  Keep gouging those weak areas that weren't completely dry and ready for the next step, or if I was going to allow God to sand them down and make them usable.  He had my battered, bruised, hardened heart.  He made some repairs, but I wasn't his finished creation just yet.  What was I going to allow him to do? 

By the time I finally got to put on some soft, romantic pale lavender paint on those primered walls, I thought I was gonna do some happy dancing.  I just started to think about the ugly that those walls were, but how amazingly beautiful they were gonna be when I was finished.  I am not God, nor do I want anyone to think that I think I am.  But, I did start to think about the way God must feel when he sees one of his daughters walking forth in renewed beauty.  When we finally let his mighty hands cover up all of those ugly, battered places and make them fresh, renewed, beautiful.  I felt so happy, so relieved to be done.  I just wanted to sit in there and soak it all in.  Yeah, I know this sounds ridiculously silly, because I really sound crazy, but He does this awesome thing in us, and just wants to sit back and enjoy it with us. 

I guess my questions tonight are these:  Can you praise him while he's filling in your holes?  What about when he's wiping the canvas clean?  Do you praise him when the work is nearing completion or just run to the next thing?  He has a plan.  He has a vision and a dream for you.  To take you from ugly pea soup to peaceful, soothing pale lavender.  Just wait for him.  It is a process.  Praise him.  Thank him.  Let it go.  Quit destroying the work he is doing, and let him be the artist.  Just as I had a purpose and a plan with that sandpaper, those rough times are just softening you, getting you ready for something bigger and better.  Are you ready?  Cause He's waiting with exactly what you need to be healed and whole, refreshed and renewed, beautiful. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Shameless Persistence

I am almost to the halfway mark of my senior year.  Not quite, but almost there.  For the last 4 weeks, I have struggled with a class that has kicked my behind, in more ways than one.  It has taught me to endure through more than the first week, it has taught me to open my mind and accept things that are not in agreement with me, and that I can do this.  It is so funny, because today, this is school.  Two weeks ago, this was being a single mom.  Two years ago, this was a divorce.  Six years ago, this was a miracle baby I couldn't imagine having.  Whatever this is for you, I am sure you can relate.

This class has been a hard one, probably more so in my head than actually in the classroom.  I was struggling with it once, and dropped it within the first week.  It just was so overwhelming.  The syllabus was beyond my understanding, and I just couldn't wrap my mind around it.  The instructor was difficult to work with.  Then, Jess got sick in the second week of this same class when I was forced to drop it a second time.  My kids are my first priority, but I also don't want my grades to suffer because of them, so over the last few years, a few courses have been dropped in the first few days to help ease stress.  I took another class instead, and was confronted with this one again at the beginning of the year.   I have never wanted to quit so bad in my life.  But, I didn't.  I refused defeat.  I refused to quit.  I refused a lot, actually, but I have three more days of this class.  I can make it, I think.  ;)

But, really, isn't that what life is typically like?  There is always some battle we have to fight.  There is always that person that rubs us the wrong way.  There is always that situation we desperately want different.  There is always something preventing us from having happiness or complete peace within our homes.  We all say, "If I can just make it through __(fill in your blank here)___, then I will be joyful again."  Our focus becomes making it out alive, instead of being happy right where you are and finding joy within the craziness. 

Since the beginning of the year, I am more than guilty of making that statement several times a day, most often to myself, underneath my breath, but still.  It recently hit me that instead of being content where I am, I keep allowing myself to postpone contentment until the circumstances are right for it.  I find myself struggling to keep my head above water, because I am completely missing the boat.  I love the story of Peter walking on the water.  For the last six months or so, it has just spoken so many life lessons over my life.  Being bold, asking for what you want, trusting that it can happen, what faith can do, and stepping out.  Also, learning mistakes happen, and that Jesus is so incredibly quick to forgive and move on, even in our human inability to fully trust and believe.  I recently heard another add-on to this story.  The storm was still raging around Peter when Peter stepped out of the boat.  The waves and storm did not ease until after Jesus saved Peter from sinking and they were both back inside the boat.  Peter prayed, and his miracle happened while the storm was raging, but his faith, his lack of trust and communication stopped it from happening in the way I think Jesus intended it to happen. 

My pastor has been doing a series on prayer for the last several weeks.  It has been amazing, but I have felt so discouraged upon leaving.  I am not an awesome prayer warrior.  But, I pray often throughout my day.  The pastor has said more than once to use shameless persistence.  Keep praying until you get it.  So, let me tell you.  I have been shamelessly persisting.  I was shamelessly persisting that one same prayer again this week, when I felt God stir something up in me.  And, I was slapped.  Hard.  Straight across the face. 

You see, when we are going through whatever "this" may be, we probably pray about it all the time. It is that one need, dream, hope, desire, longing, or promise that most often comes to mind.  We pray until we are blue in the face from praying about it.  We know if we do this or we do that, God will see our need and grant us our desire.  So, we pray.  We serve.  We worship.  We persist that one thing.  And, that one thing, I persisted.  Let me tell you, so much so, that I realized I was finding it hard to pray about anything else.  So, during this prayer time, I felt God ask me, "Cil, if I gave you this one thing, you would have nothing else to pray about, because this is ALL you pray about."  Talk about a revelation.  My communication with God had become consumed by what I want.  And, as usual, He was totally right.  It wasn't about what I was doing.  He will not answer because I prayed solidly for "x" amount of time.  He will answer because I believe He will do it.  Shameless persistence is great, but are you truly believing He will do what you are shamelessly persisting Him for?  Is your shameless persistence because it could be the "magic formula" that forces God to answer you?  Or are  you persisting the communication that is so vital to the relationship between yourself and God?

I spend a few minutes each day praying for the needs of those around me.  I am ashamed to admit that after I do this, I don't think much about their needs or their concerns.  I feel (or felt) as though I had placed a bright, red check mark next to their name and could move on.  Granted, sometimes a person comes to mind throughout my day, and changes that, but for the most part, the above is true.  Instead, I focus on myself, my girls, our wants, our needs, and praise God for the things I know He is doing.  And that one thing.  Prior to last weekend, it had become all consuming.  You know, I really thought it was okay to be consumed by it, because after all, I was praying about it so often.  I wasn't taking control of the situation and running with it.  I was praying and waiting and waiting and praying.  But, the lack of answered prayer began to cause discouragement, unhappiness and honestly, it was a joy stealer.  I was looking for the answer, for the specific formula, so that I could pray, have my prayers heard, and be done, moving on to that next thing on my list of needs or wants.  And, wow, does that sound so incredibly selfish. 

This week, I have tried to maintain the prayer, but focus more on those around me and the things He is doing that I see right now. I feel renewed hope, more joy and contentment in the things I have, instead of just wanting or needing more.  It is so funny, how a year or two ago, I would have taken the reprimand with shame and guilt and allowed it to stand between me and God.  I am so incredibly blessed to realize He can love me and correct me without me needing to be ashamed and it has allowed me to feel more connected with this amazing God I serve.  I realize that it is okay to shamelessly persist something, but only when you are communicating with God about every aspect of your life, not just that one thing.  I guess my thought for the day is this:  Are you talking to God about every aspect of your life, or just that one thing you so desperately want?  Are you telling Him all about you, or just a tiny part about you?  He wants us to seek Him with all our heart, to be thankful for what He has done and is doing, and He wants us.  More than He wants to do good things for us, He wants to know us, to talk with us and love us.  We are His prized possessions.  So, yes, by all means, shamelessly persist.  But don't forget about everything else. 

As I re-read this, I realize I need to clarify something on my heart.  I am in no way thinking my Pastor's words were wrong.  They were so incredibly not.  My understanding was biased to my particular situation and I only heard the parts that I wanted to hear, causing me to misinterpret what his meaning really was.  God wants our shameless persistence, with our entire lives resting in His capable hands, not just a part.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Strength is SO Overrated...

I am totally going on a massive lack of sleep, so I am pretty punchy.  Cassie had some issues that kept her up throughout last night, then when I finally got her to stay asleep around 3 this morning, Jessie woke up and was up until after 4.  I didn't fall back asleep until after 5.  This Momma is tired.  And punchy.  And in seriously rare form.  Might even be wise to just not read this post.  Or it might be pretty comical and full of craziness.  Who knows.

You see, yesterday, I prayed that God would help me wake up so that I could spend some extra prayer time with Him.  Next time I pray that prayer, I will absolutely be more specific.  I need to actually get some sleep before I get woken up.  However, I haven't prayed over my girls like I did last night in a long time.  Okay, well, really, ever.  It was pretty cool.  And irritating that they had to be awake all night.  And exhausting.  And I wish I had a magic pill that would take my crankiness away tonight.  And, on top of that, I am just about out of coffee.  And I can't concentrate on schoolwork, not at all.  Okay, my complaining is done.  Well, I hope it is done. 

Have you ever been given a compliment that was genuine and kindhearted and totally awesome, only to realize you wish you didn't have that quality?  I was given some encouragement tonight, and I so needed it.  I experienced a total weak moment in the midst of tired and school and schedules and just one more thing, and lashed out.  I shouldn't have, and will probably find myself apologizing again because my mouth just spouts off at just the right second.  I am seriously going to have to watch work on that.  Or maybe just staple my mouth shut and cancel texting privileges on my phone.  I started my morning this morning with an apology for something my mouth got me in trouble for.  Hey, at least I know I am good at something, right??  If only I could just have a surgeon put my foot in my mouth and keep it there.  Would probably be way easier...

Anyway, it made me sort of think about how the grass always seems greener.  When we see that amazing Mom at Kroger, using a quiet, kind voice that just screams Proverbs 31 woman, we envy her patience.  Or we envy her compassionate spirit.  Or we long for an extra helping of organizational skills we lack.  Maybe it is the Mom on the PTO board whose makeup is always perfect, clothes impeccable, and seemingly has never known what it is like to have single mom struggles.  And we sit there and wonder what they did that was so right, that they got the perfect life.  Or the perfect patience.  Or the perfect hair.  Or the perfect husband.  And the list just goes on.  We immediately start to compare.  Okay, I immediately start to compare. 

Have you ever stopped to wonder how that woman got the patience to not be frustrated by two squirming toddlers fighting over who has the bigger cookie?  Or that single mom who the strength to just keep it all together?  Or that parent at the school who just has the perfect life?  Over the last few years, I have realized I am strong.  I can endure many challenges.  I can overcome worry and doubt and hating myself.  But, how do we get to that place of knowing we are capable? 

Oh yeah, by walking it out.  By living it, one day at a time.  And, it's tough.  I hate that in order to gain more of something, we have to work harder to achieve it.  It is like training for that next big run, or acing the final, or making your marriage work.  It doesn't happen overnight.  We are each given circumstances to help us train for the bigger goal.  For me, my strength came from experiences I don't really like to think about, and God knows, I sure didn't want to experience them.  However, during those tough times, I realized how capable I really am, because He never leaves my side, never quits fighting for me.  I have been given the tools I need for this season of my life.  And, when this season is over for me, I will possess tools that will be valuable to someone I can help later.  I might wish I had more patience or compassion or most definitely a quiet spirit.  What I don't realize is that in order to gain those things, God is absolutely going to put me in situations that will require those actions to be practiced and proven. 

It is so simple to look backwards and compare myself to others, to my old self, to my closest friends, to my greatest enemies.  To wish I had their lives instead of mine, to wish this or wish that.  And I think of one of my favorite verses, "Forget all that - it is nothing compared to what I am going to do (Isaiah 43:18)."  Forget about it all.  Don't waste time comparing where you were to where you are now.  Don't worry or wish or fret over what is or isn't happening right this second.  I'm just gonna be honest, the compliment was a hard one for me.  I am tired of being strong.  I am not strong because I want to be, but because I have no other choice.  It was one of things, I immediately started comparing myself to others around me.  I want their life, their patience, their house, whatever.  I want to be better at ________...  I had a much needed meltdown tonight.  I was tired.  It was necessary.  It has been a WAY emotional weekend, leaving me high and low and all over the place.  I'm pretty sure I was described as a roller coaster yesterday.  Side note: you know who you are, and let me know if credit is required...  ;-)  Focusing back, I know comparing myself is only going to lead to failure.  I can't be anyone except myself.  Anything less than me is failure.  I have strength.  I have the ability to keep going when I don't really want to.  And the most awesome thing is that I have the ability to look up when I don't feel able to do anything else.  Tonight, I feel weak.  I feel tired.  I feel unfocused and incapable.  And then I remember, I know who holds my tomorrow.  I know who gives me my strength, and who is in charge of laying it all out for me.  Philippians 3:8 says it perfect.  "Everything else is worthless, when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."  Tonight, I feel weak and unable to take anything else, but I know strength comes when I hit my knees.  I'm tired, but He gives rest to the weary.  I feel incapable, but know that I am capable of anything with God on my side.  Yup, it sounds cheesy and just so easy when I read it.  It seems so simple, like magically all my problems just vanish into thin air.  Doesn't work quite like that, but I can sleep knowing my peace, my strength, my hopes are in Someone who only wants His best for me.  And how can I not feel strong and capable and ready to fight these stupid battles with that going for me?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

From Victim to Victorious

Whew.  My heart is hammering inside of my chest and I feel like I am going to throw up.  The thought keeps going around in my head.  "I AM GOD.  Do this thing.  Get it out.  Do this for my glory."

Obedience is a really difficult choice.  It requires a sacrifice, an action and a continuous walking it out.  It requires confidence that God will see you through, and boldness to finish it.  You see, we can choose to obey, make the sacrifice and allow God to move in it.  Or, we can run.  Most of my life I have chosen run.  Get out.  Get away.  Don't worry about it, just get away from it.  Mom says no, I say yes.  I was a very very rebellious teenager.  Funny as it is seems now, my rebellion turned criminal through a simple act of disobedience.  That simple act of disobedience took me away from God, my family, and the possibility of a life with way less pain and struggles. 

That one simple act of disobedience and disregard turned into one massively huge redemption story.  It amazes me today how God can take something so ignorant, rebellious and unwise and turn it into the most amazing story of love and grace that I have ever heard.  It is my story.  It is hard to think about.  Hard to accept.  And even harder to understand how His love for me surpasses it all.  Though my heart pounds, healing and glory occurs when I open my mouth (lol, or swipe my fingers over the keyboard) and give God the praise He fully deserves.   That another life will be redeemed because of the testimony He has allowed me to speak out. 

When I sixteen years old, I disregarded the religion and church that I was raised in.  I hated the rules, the regulations, the chains that the church placed upon my life, and decided if that was God, I wanted nothing to do with Him.  I denied there was a God, and that He was just some big, cruel, coldhearted joke.  The words pain me to now to realize how reckless I was.  How easily I walked outside of his protection and love all for the sake of me.  I was involved with a boy that none of my family, friends or church approved.  I ran away to be with him, and am incredibly thankful God's protective hand followed me.  Even after I denied Him, offended Him, walked away from Him, He danced all over me.  I don't feel the need to go into specific details, but His hand covered drunkenness, sexual immorality, a very unplanned pregnancy and the horrifying miscarriage that ended it.  This thought rages within me, that God used for good what the enemy intended to take me down with.  When I think back about things my 17-18 year old body was walking through, I have no doubt in my mind that God was there, even in my disobedience and refusal to accept Him. 

I got married at the very young age of 18.  I knew then, deep down, that I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing, but really thought love could fix it all.  You know, that fairy tale we all think marriage and happily ever after is.  At that point in my life, I had suffered a miscarriage at 14 weeks gestation, physical and emotional abuse, and the reality that there was nothing I could do to fix it but get married.  I did love him.  And, deep down, I know he loved me the best way he knew how to. 

By the time I was 21, the marriage had created an amazing daughter, but with the struggles of parenthood came escalating abuse.  In addition to the abuse, I was dealing with the trauma of another 3 miscarriages.  I left my husband for a brief period when I saw that he was capable of killing me. The night before I left, he tried to strangle me.  I realized surviving that night meant things had to be different.  I tried to find comfort and solace in the church of my childhood, but was only offered the pain of going back into a violent, terrifying marriage.  I loved God, I wanted His protection and His love, and was told the only way to keep all of that was to not break my marital bonds.  So, I went back.  Human promises were made to me.  Promises of hope, a new marriage, and a fresh start.  Within 3 months, the honeymoon was over.  The emotional abuse, verbal attacks and alcohol was a new burden for me.  A very unexpected burden.  In my naivety, I expected butterflies and rainbows and unicorns.  I realize now that I wish the physical abuse hadn't stopped so that the mental abuse might not have happened or been as severe.  Those wounds are far more difficult for me to handle and deal with than the bruises that have been gone for years.   And, I begain to completely give up on God loving me.  I began the process of convincing myself I was too broken and screwed up for Him to even look twice at me.  He wouldn't asnwer my prayers, nor would he fix me, because I disobeyed and I just wasn't worth the time or effort.

Years passed, and my hopelessness turned into desperate despair.  Through the grace of God, I found Northridge Church.  I was able to recommit my life, and realize that a personal relationship with God was not only possible, but was mine for the taking.  I went to a women's retreat while in the early stages of my last pregnancy.  A personal relationship between God and I happened.  Shortly after the event, He spoke precious, sacred promises over my life and the lives of my daughters.  He began to lead and guide my paths, though I was afraid to wade into deeper waters with Him.  I wasn't sure what He was going to ask or want from me, so I kept Him at arms length.  I wanted love and acceptance and forgiveness and a prosperous marriage, but felt lost and hopeless.  I fought with feelings of unworthiness and knowing that I really wasn't worth it. 

During the final months of my pregnancy, I sank into the depths of depression.  I despised the situation I was in, and felt like God didn't hear my cries or care about the promises He spoke over me.  I was frustrated, discouraged and felt completely alone.  During this period of time, I was made aware of how out of control my life had become, and started focusing on becoming dependent upon God and trying to be who He wanted me to be.  This lasted for almost 18 months.  Fighting to maintain a relationship with God, knowing it was destroying my hopes for a solid marriage.  Knowing that I couldn't leave, or I would lose my salvation, the personal relationship I had with God.  And then, knowing my relationship with God was the most secure thing I had going for me, so I must just have to tough it out.  Through months of prayer, fasting and waiting on God, I discovered who He was.  That He did love me, and didn't want me to stay somewhere so harmful to the health and safety of my daughters and myself.  In this period of my life, I was given release from my marriage.  I was frustrated, as I was a Christian woman, and this divorce contradicted everything in my Bible.  I made a commitment to my marriage in front of God, and felt so confused as to how and why I could possibly be being freed from it.  I felt like I would surely be rejected at church, that people would call me a hypocrite and make me go back.  And I was wrong.  So wrong. 

During the months the divorce was being processed and finalized, my life was a living hell.  I was scared.  I was alone.  I was afraid of my own shadow.  Everything my ex-husband had threatened, spoken over me, and promised me would happen was happening.  The emotional scars were beyond what I thought could be fixed.  I thought I was going to be broken for the rest of my life.  I started seeing a Christian counselor, and was quickly diagnosed with PTSD.  I would sleep for maybe 2-3 hours each night, only to be woken intermittently with nightmares and panic attacks so severe I literally wanted God to let me die.  Fear reigned over my life.  I tried to cling to the promises I had been given, cling to the faith that had told me to move.  Almost a year into the depression/PTSD/hell I was in, God snapped His fingers and everything just stopped.  The nightmares quit happening, the panic attacks slowed down. 

You see, I had started speaking life over me.  I had started speaking the promises of God over me, over my anxiety, over my stress.  I had women surrounding me with love, support and prayers.  I started focusing on relieving stress with exercise, conquering anxiety with the Word of God, and eventually started sleeping soundly through the night.  I proved the lies of my ex-husband wrong with scriptures I still carry with me daily.  I had to be fully broken before God could really begin fixing me, restoring me, redeeming me. 

Which leads me to right now.  God is amazing.  There are no words to describe who He is to me, or how much I know He loves me.  I had the amazing experience of serving on a team for an Encounter weekend this last weekend.  In preparing for it, I was asked a very simple question.  What has God redeemed for you?  What have you been redeemed from, Cil?  And, wow.  I sat there, in complete and utter denial that this question would be posed towards me.  I wanted to run.  I wanted to get out.  I could feel panic bubbling up in my chest.  You see, the question wasn't only what I'd been redeemed from, but also stepping out in faith and obedience and telling 90 women what I had been redeemed from, too.  I felt God stirring in me, telling me it was time.  Let it out.  Finally, I stepped out.  I told the director that I hated my word, I hated the ugliness.  I hated the shame and the guilt that I had allowed another person so much control over me, who I was, and the pain that I allowed that person to cause me.  I told her my word.  Actually, she told me the proper term for my word, but I stepped out.  Within 10 minutes, I had received confirmation from God.  My devotion that morning read:

God uses life experiences to mold, train and equip us.  Sometimes what we want to hide - those horrible trials we want to forget - are the very things He wants to use the most.  We all suffer trials.  When we surrender and lean on God, we come out the other side and He is glorified.  Nothing is worthless.  Everything has value.  God uses it all to shape us for our calling.*
At that moment, I knew I had done right by God.  I knew that He was going to be my strength, cover my shame, and be glorified.  Let me just say this, I underestimated God.  I seriously underestimated God.  I carried my sign almost a week later.  At first, I was ashamed.  I was disappointed in myself.  And, I was so gently reminded the only reason I would have had to carry the shame was if I hadn't followed God in what He wanted put out.  He redeemed me.  There is no shame in redemption.  There is no guilt, fear or judgement in redemption.  I was freed from captivity, and it opened me and prepared me for the most intensely emotional amazing weekend of my life.  Over the course of 46 hours, I was reminded exactly who He is and exactly the price He paid so I could live a life of redemption.  I am redeemed.  I am loved.  I am unworthy, but His sacrifice paid my debt. I realized being redeemed had a greater message.  I am no longer a victim, but instead victorious. 

****Devotion written by Wendy Blight.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ruby Red Slippers

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted ruby red slippers.  Just like Dorothy.  I also wanted Toto, but that is a whole different story...  Anyway, I chased around a spunky, daring, little blonde wearing red sparkly shoes through the park yesterday.  These slippers ran through mushy mud puddles, squealed to go higher on the swings, and even swung herself across the monkey bars (yeah, ok, so she had a LOT of help with that one...).   The entire time I watched her tackle the scary "swinging" bridge, the super duper twisty slide, and go around the big sisters who kept telling her what to do, I thought about the hopes and dreams I had for her, really for each of her sisters, but she was the one wearing the shoes I envy, so...

Anyway, as a Mom, I find myself hoping and praying for blessings over my girls.  I pray they know enough challenges to make them strong, and still lose enough battles they understand how to savor victory.  I pray for good grades and college scholarships.  I pray for love and adventure.  But, most often, I find myself praying they know God better than I do.  I long for them to know Him so well that they don't make silly mistakes like I have.  I long for them to experience a life under His protection and His calling for them.  Not walking in disobedience, but knowing how to have the abundance and prosperity that comes from living a life of obedience. 
I don't typically have spiritual moments at the park, but stranger things have definitely happened.  As I was running after Jess yesterday, I realized how many hopes and dreams I have lost or changed.  As crazy as it is, it really did all start with the silly shoes and how much I wanted shoes just like that when I was little.  After many years, that dream sort of changed, and it helps to know that my kids have sparkly shoes.  I kept thinking about how to best shield and protect her from the mean girl cliques at school, bullies who steal ice cream money, or best friends who will inevitably stab her in the back.  I thought about all of the mistakes I have made, and the lessons I learned through them. 
I kept thinking about the goals I have for her as a parent, those things I so desperately want to give to her.  I kept thinking about the ways I cradle her, protect her, wipe away her tears.  And then realized again (in a wow moment) just exactly how much God feels towards us.  I know the Bible tells us in several different places that we as earthly parent give good gifts to our kids, and that God gives even greater things to those that really seek His heart.  I began to really think about the things I do for the girls, and the love that goes into those things.  Except, the reality part didn't hit me until later. 
Pushing her on the swing, Jessie kept crying out, "Mommy, push me higher!  I want to go higher!"  And, seriously, I felt God just speak over me, "Cil, I want you to go higher." I realized as I was laughing at her adamant squeals, I wanted nothing more than to go to that next level with God.  I want to be able to just know where I am with Him and exactly who I am with Him.  The last few weeks, I have spent more time praying, praising and reading than I have in quite some time.  My prayer life has grown, and I realize I just need to go a little higher, experience just a little more. 
I feel such an urgency this morning to just fully depend on God for those promises I am waiting for.  To just release my desires and dreams fully to His completely capable hands.  As I was laying in bed last night, I just felt so close.  I just felt that still small voice remind me His promises are never broken.  Waiting has always felt like doing nothing.  I hate that part of life.  I like to know I am doing all that I can to complete a task.  And, waiting feels like sitting around, doing nothing.  But this morning, waiting feels like I am doing something.  I am relying on Someone way bigger than myself to complete His promises to me.  I am releasing control of my situation to the Creator of my days.  And those two things most definitely do not feel I am doing nothing. 

Throughout this season of my life, I have often looked back and allowed myself to be discouraged, frustrated, just wanting something or someone to let me I am important, that I have value, even when all evidence points to the contrary.  For so many years, nothing I did could ever equal worth.  Nothing I did earned respect or an uplifting word.  As I read my devotion this morning, I got the most awesome reminder of who I am.  I am Cil, the one who Jesus loves.  I realized human words are just words.  They can be spoken.  They can be written.  They can be thought or even implied.  But, in all reality, people use them with such wreckless abandon that they often mean nothing to the person speaking them, but everything to the person receiving them.  We allow our tongue to just move all the time, without thinking about the real meaning.  But, when I think about what God says about me, I know they aren't just words.  They are promises, they are true, they are meaningful.  And, I am loved.  I am a marvelously made masterpiece, you know, the one that Jesus loves.  So, this morning, I sit back and complete the action of waiting.  Depending.  Relying.  Knowing that God's promises are eternal.  He won't take it back or change His mind.  He's got this, so I don't have to worry.  And, the awesome thing?  You don't have to either, cause you, too, are the one Jesus loves.