Thriving After Your Storm

 

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As, I look back on this year, I am amazed at the goodness of the Lord.   And I’ll tell you why.

My son was married, to a beautiful christian girl.  My oldest daughter is engaged to her long time love.  My youngest is in the final stages of wedding preparations.

I have a wonderful fulfilling job working as an advocate for women and children.  I find myself strong, happy and more peaceful than I ever thought possible.  At the beginning of the year I was diagnosed with cancer…after radiation treatments and medication, I am doing better than I should be.

At the beginning of this year, I heard the Lord speak to me as I sat in church with my head bowed in prayer.

I felt God speak louder and clearer than I had ever heard before. a short message that held life-altering repercussions. “Go and share!”

I became overwhelmed with emotion. I had stop speaking to women a year and a half ago due to the affects of my divorce and past abuse. I was amazed that God had spoken to me about this at all, but even more so at the three words I heard. Go and share? Go and share what?

Then it hit me. Fear immediately overwhelmed me and I sank into the pew, trembling at what I thought God might be asking. I began to question God, “Surely You can’t mean share my past, Lord. I thought you wanted me to stop sharing? I don’t want to continually relive this hurt….Surely You don’t mean go and share what I prefer to keep secret.” Yet, that is exactly what He meant. And I was full of fear.

Return home and tell how much God has done for you. So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:39

The man who was healed from demon possession in the scripture above experienced similar feelings. He was a tormented man that lived as an outcast for many years, naked and alone in the tombs of Gadara, near Galilee. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees and shouted at the top of his voice, begging for mercy from God. Jesus commanded the demons to leave him and then cast them into a herd of pigs that rushed down the steep bank into a lake and drowned. The man was healed physically, but more importantly, spiritually.

He was so overwhelmed with gratitude for what Jesus had done, he begged to travel with Jesus and stay by His side. But Jesus had other plans. Instead, Jesus told him to go and share his story. And he did.

What had once been a burden to bear became a powerful story of holy transformation. This man’s past, and the healing he experienced, became the foundation of a purpose in life that he would have never imagined — living his life as proof of the life-changing power of Jesus.

This man’s story became a testimony he was willing to share with others. How many people believed in Jesus and are now spending eternity with Him simply because this former demon-possessed man willingly allowed his terrible past to become a story of redemption and purpose?

People can cannot deny, dispute or ignore God’s transformational power in someone’s life. Our stories of pain, adversity and overcoming in Christ are meant to serve as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and power, evidence that God really can take what the devil meant for evil and use it for good.

I’ve since learned it is always God’s desire for us to go and share our stories, whether we want to or not.

God never wastes our pain. Only we do. God has a plan a great purpose and a beautiful future for all who believe in Him. Not despite our past, but because of it.

For years I’ve believed in, written about and spoken about the promise found in Jeremiah 29:11, which says “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Do I still believe it?

During the year of 2016 – which honestly had felt much like a disaster – I had endured one of the most difficult, heartbreaking and horrific storm I’ve ever had to go through.   But I have to admit there have been times when the burden felt too heavy to bear and an overwhelming deluge of emotions seemed to be controlling my mind and my life. I was not only dealing with a divorce, but the painful memories of years of childhood sexual abuse.  There were days when I felt weak, inadequate and hopeless, despite leaning into God as hard as I could.  The future I once thought was secure and all planned was now so uncertain, in addition to the personal sorrow of being catapulted into the unwanted roles of a single woman.

At the time, I loved my husband dearly, and have always prayed fervently for him and our marriage. Over the years, I prayed endlessly for a change in his heart and mind, and even prayed for some type of miraculous restoration to occur if that was God’s will. However, at this point, it seems abundantly, clear that restoration does not appear to be in God’s plan for us.  I have since learned many truths about my marriage that caused me to see that it was never what I thought it was.  Played for a fool in the hands of a man that used me because he could not have the life he desired. An unwilling participant in his obsession with youth and the paradox of what is appropriate and what he desires.  I was forced to play a game, I had no chance of winning. I sadly, realize now, he will never be happy, no matter who he marries until he sheds his old life and confesses, allowing the Lord to shed light on his dark life.

I would have done anything in the world to avoid this happening. However, I’ve finally come to realize through a lot of prayer, faith, and emotional and spiritual healing, that sometimes, no matter how badly we want something, strive for it or pray for it, it may not work out the way we wanted or prayed for.

The reason the Lord wanted me to share is:

God uses the hurting to help the hurting. He uses the redeemed to help redeem. God used a divorced women during my darkest days, early in my divorce healing, to give me hope that I too would survive this divorce… and maybe even thrive someday.

Every day women need to hear that I have been through an abusive marriage and a divorce, that I have been abused as a child, that I have been raped and I’ve healed, and I’m more than thriving on the other side sharing this hope and healing with them. Someone you meet is going to need to hear that you too have been through a divorce or whatever storm you have been through. Seeing how your life is better now, what it took to get through the healing process, and that you’re doing well, which will give someone hope, needed to keep moving forward in her own healing journey.

Whatever God’s purpose is for you, do it to shine a light into the dark places of pain, hurt, and struggles. Your purpose may look very different than mine, and mine different from yours, but we all can be used in distinct ways to comfort others in their times of troubles and use our purpose to benefit the Kingdom of God.

The good news is that God has been incredibly,  faithfully present throughout this storm.  I can see tangible evidence of His speaking hope into my spirit every time I so desperately needed it and how He gave me strength on the hardest of days.

Admittedly my faith has felt weak at times, but I have now personally experienced how God is strongest when we are at our weakest.  His obvious intervention in my life, along with the unconditional love, support, encouragement and prayers from beloved friends and family, are what have carried me this far.

So today, despite it all, I can honestly say I do still wholeheartedly believe in the promise of Jeremiah 29:11.   I truly believe God has a great plan and purpose for what I am going through and for my future.

Although the happenings of 2018 are yet to be known, I am choosing to be hopeful and believe God has a wonderful year ahead with exciting new opportunities, relationships, blessings and adventures in store. I am choosing to believe my story is still being written, and trust God will be with me during the journey.

In His love and trusting in His continued goodness,

God Uses The Weak

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I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of women who have suffered childhood sexual abuse yesterday. I almost canceled, because I had a huge setback in my recovery as a survivor this week. It was a setback that almost made me stop and retreat, it was something that on the surface should have been no big deal, but left me deeply wounded and hurt.  It left me doubting my gifts and my ability for God to use me. No one ever talks about the little things, the not so obvious things that we as survivors of childhood sexual abuse have to manage privately. …The imprint of childhood trauma shows up in our lives in the smallest ways. In what we see, in what we hear or what we smell. … It’s all those things that trigger us day in and day out when we least expect it.   Sometimes, it’s what people say that tear us down, like telling us we are acting like a victim or get over it and move on. These little things can make us retreat and shut down. Every story deserves to be told and every voice deserves to be heard. We need to encourage survivors and victims to speak out and talk about it. Don’t be the cause as to why they remain silent.

The Lord in His goodness showed me that He uses the weary, feeble, powerless… Sometimes when we feel physically or spiritually weak, we’re tempted to take a “time-out,” thinking that God will use us again when we are stronger. In Judges 6, we’re introduced to Gideon who was taking a “time-out.” It was wartime, and Gideon was hiding when an angel of the Lord appeared to tell him that he would be the one to save Israel. Imagine Gideon’s astonishment: “How can I save Israel? Lord, I come from a nobody family, and I’m the lowest nobody in my family. And You’re going to use me?”

After God enlisted the nobody Gideon, He got a nobody army. Then God took those nobodies and won the battle! God takes us in our weak state and uses us so He alone can be glorified. Thank you, Lord.

Why does God delight in choosing the weak:  The first reason is found in 1 Corinthians 1, verse 29: “that no flesh should glory in His presence.” When we get to heaven, not one of us will be able to say we got there on our own merit. We’re saved simply by the grace of God. The second reason is found in verse 31, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” If we operate in our own strength and not God’s, we risk taking the glory and credit for ourselves. Scripture tells us that we must be weak and low enough in order for God to use us.

God wants to take us down to the very depths of ourselves to teach us that if there is any power, it is the power that is in God, and not in us. God doesn’t need to make us into performers or superstars in order to use us. Instead, He’s looking for men and women who have hearts that say, “Lord, I’m a nobody. I’m nothing without You. Will You use me?” When God finds such a heart, something extraordinary happens — that nobody is promoted to the ranks of God’s nobility.

Don’t allow the enemy to convince you that God cannot use you because you are “flawed”, weak, or seemingly inconsequential. Like I almost did! No, instead, remember that He uses the ordinary, often broken, people…to do extraordinary things. Our God is not looking at your wealth, your social status or your education — He’s looking at your heart! If your heart is willing and your life is available, then He is more than able to perform miraculous work through you for His Kingdom’s sake. With so much work to be done, don’t allow the enemy to stifle or steal the Lord’s vision for your life –- He has a plan to use you to confound the wise of this world, and to bring to naught the things th

Wounds That Do Not Show

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I grew up in a world where I was afraid all the time. Sexual abuse starting at age 5, stalker and rape at age 15, alcohol and drug abuse permeating my childhood. All of these traumas I kept quiet. For years. I lived under that unwritten, unspoken mandate that to tell was to betray.

It wasn’t until I met Jesus at eighteen that the secrets started to spill.  Although, it would be many years before I had the courage to tell the whole truth. I have been met with very different reactions, from encouragement to well, maybe don’t tell everyone. What I have learned is, that hiding the truth will cause it to fester, which is what I have been doing for many years. Proof being many failed relationships. If we want Jesus to set us free, we need to tell the truth…the whole truth. I would be lying if I said it no longer hurts, but the Lord has allowed me to use my hurts for His glory, which feels amazing.

Unfortunately, the imprint of childhood trauma still shows up in our lives in the smallest ways. In what we see, in what we hear or what we smell… when we least expect it. It can cost us everything if we do not seek help.

Healing is worth it. Sometimes our very existence can be exhausting. Yet, people will want us to heal on their time. They will ask us to hurry up, forgive and move on…and my favorite “get over it.”  However, people don’t understand that it takes a lot of focus, prayer and courage for us to just show up.  I am living testimony that you can heal with Jesus, that you can transform in such a way that people would be shocked that you ever walked that path of pain.

You may be thinking, well that is great for you but you don’t know what I lived through…you’re right. I don’t. But consider this…Instead of seeing your past as a burden, start seeing it as a chance for God to use it for his glory! We actually have an advantage really, because we know our need for Jesus..sometimes, it is all we have. We know we can’t heal on our own. Our weakness is the starting place for the Lord to set us free.

That’s why, I can now thank the Lord for the pain, shame and fear in my childhood.. Because of it I am a better mother to my children. It helps me see my desperate need for Jesus and my unshakeable faith.  It is like a verse in Job where after all the terrible things that happened to him he say’s “I knew of you (God), but know I see you.”  We have seen the worst and we survived, there is freedom in that.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”  Psalm 55:22

If you have found yourself burdened down, anxious, or worried about any area of your life, I believe this message is for you, you are not reading this by accident. God wants you to know that you were never meant to handle everything on your own, which is why you feel weighed down with the cares of this life. If you haven’t already, pray about that thing that you are worrying about, and release it to God, knowing that He has promised to take care of you. Ask Him to show you if there is anything you can do, and leave the rest to Him.

Dear Lord, Please help those struggling with hurts in their life, to be able to accept these issues and heal Lord. To understand that some things take time to process. I pray for encouragement so that we may not tire of waiting or doing good. While these things may take time, slow progress is being made. May the Holy Spirit assist us in doing these things, guiding us and filling us with wisdom. May we feel your love today. Please equip us with the patience we need to endure in Jesus’ name AMEN!