It’s 1:44 am and I can’t sleep. The words of a devotional I read early keep replaying themselves in my head. It was a passage from Judges 6:23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” You are not going to die. Those words jolted me from a place I hadn’t realized I had traveled to. It was like an electric shock shooting straight up my body. Even now some almost 24 hours later I am still feeling that surge of energy that comes with a new enlightenment.
I realize that like Gideon I had become timid, almost afraid to move forward in certain areas of my life. While I love counseling and being able to help those who are hurting, I have often felt God has placed a larger calling on my life. A calling that I have been running from or rather using my counseling practice to escape from. After all, it’s easy to hide behind appointments and meetings. It’s safe!
Safe! So here I sit at almost 2 am coming to grips with the fact that God did not call me to play it safe. 2 Timothy 1 versus 6 – 7 instruct me to fan into flame the Gift of God, which for me is to use my speaking and teaching abilities to reach the multitudes of those who are hurting. Women who like me have battled with feelings of not being good enough, not being pretty enough, not being smart enough. Women who have, out of fear, sat on the sidelines under the guise of being a background player while silently attempting to quench a raging fire bursting to be allowed to expand and roar. It also tells me that God did not give me a spirit of timidity but one of power, love and self-discipline. The power to boldly step forward and embrace the woman he has called me to me. The ability to love beyond limits and meet the needs of those who are hurting and in need of guidance by sharing my experiences, the good, the bad and the in between. Most importantly, he gave me a spirit of self-discipline, which enables me to stand firm in my faith even when things are though and it seems as if there is no way to overcome the confusion, hurt and pain I may be feeling.
Now, here I sit reflecting on my life and the things that I have been through. The loss of two children, one to an ectopic pregnancy and the other to a miscarriage, the deaths of family members and close friends, the loss of friendships and the general ups and downs of life, I ask myself, “did I die?” and the answer is a faint but firm NO! No, I did not die. I am here to tell the story, my story in the hopes that the things that I have experienced throughout this journey I call life will in some way help another along the way.
So, stay tuned. There is more to come!
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
What does having life to the full mean to you?
What are some things that you believe cause us to NOT live life to the full?
What about our thoughts, how we view ourselves, others and our world. I believe they play a huge part in our living life to the full.
Think about it:
FIRST: We listen to the lie (told by someone who has influence in our lives or most often it’s the negative self-talk that goes on in our heads that comes from our own faulty thinking)
SECOND: We dwell on the lie (we replay the scenario or the words that were spoken or the assumptions made over and over again in our heads)
THEN: We begin to believe the lie. We allow the seed of negativity to grow. You know the ones, (I’m not good enough, I am not pretty enough, I am not smart enough, and on and on) even though God’s word tells us we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”
LASTLY: (PROVERBS 23:7) KJV says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…”We act on the lie: What we believe about ourselves begin to manifest itself in our actions, how we treat others and ourselves.
Matthew 22:39 instructs us to love our neighbors as ourselves, but if we are allowing negative self-talk and insecurities to affect how we view ourselves, how can we effectively extend true Godly love to our neighbors?
Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message Bible) Says “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven
Do you consider yourself a light to the world?
Vs. 15 says, "I am putting you on a light stand."
That doesn’t sound like God intends for us shrink back. When I think of a lamp on a stand, I think of something beautiful that you would place in a focal point of the room so that it brightens everything within its reach.
So, what about you, what are some ways that you allow your light to brighten the lives of those you come in contact with?
ZEPHANIAH 3:17 (English Standard Version) – “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing”.
What do you think it means to be quieted by God’s love
For me, When I think about this verse it gives me chills. I think of all the negative thoughts that run through my head at times and then I envision God taking me in his arms the way you would a crying baby and enveloping me with his love and compassion and gently smoothing my hair and softly whispering to me that everything is going to be alright, I am here, I have you!
I encourage you to pause and think about the past 24 hours. What has occupied more space in your thoughts: Your hurts, worries and anxieties or the assurance of God’s love.
Let's chat about. Take a moment and share your thoughts below.
As I sit and look out of my window this morning, it amazes me who quickly things change. Just yesterday it was partly cloudy and warm, the roads were filled with people moving rapidly about there day and school children heading off to start there day. Now, one day later we are a city paralyzed by the thought of snow. Yes! I am writing this blog from my just outside of metro-Atlanta as we prepare for our “big non-snow” snow event. Funny yes, but it brought to mind how the heart behind the decisions to close schools and business while pure may have been hasty and isn’t this how we sometimes respond when we react based on our emotions (our heart) instead of aligning our responses with God’s word.
In Romans 12:3 Paul says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Paul encourages us to be self-aware and maintain a sober judgment. A judgment void of excessive or extreme qualities of fancy, emotion or prejudice.
We are also instructed in Proverbs 4:23 to, “guard our hearts above all else, for everything flows from it.” Everything, every thought we have, every decision we make, every response, everything!
Today, I encourage you to take some time to examine your heart as we work through Psalm 139.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Question: What does intimate mean to you?
Intimate – defined as closely acquainted, familiar, close
Question: Do you realize that God has an intimate knowledge of your thoughts, fears and dreams?
PAUSE & REFLECT > What do you think God sees when he looks into the depths of your heart?
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, “even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.
PAUSE & REFLECT > Ask yourself is there anything in your life that you don’t want revealed to God? Are you running away from God?
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.
QUESTION: How does it feel to know that everything you are was intricately crafted by God?
QUESTION: Do you accept that where you are at this very moment is exactly where God wants you to be?
If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.
QUESTION: Do you count as enemies not only those who go against God, but do you hate YOUR actions that go against God?
QUESTION: When was the last time you cried out to God asking him to rid you of the things that take you away from him?
NEXT STEPS: Now that you have taken a glimpse into your heart, take a few minutes to write a personal prayer to God asking him to help you to truly see and gain a conviction about anything in your life that his keeping you away from him?
Part three of a three-part series: "New Year, New You." A practical guide to beginning your journey to live the life God Predestined for you!
Over the past weeks we have looked into the scriptures to gain a deeper understanding of God's will for us, and begun the process of identifying our Godly Purpose by:
We have also addressed recognizing the Godly transformation that is taking place in our lives by being more conscious of:
Most importantly, we have begun to accept the fact that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made."
Marianne Williamson writes in her book, Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles":
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
So who are you? "…you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light," according to 1 Peter 2:9.
As we conclude the series, "New Year New You," I would like to focus on embracing, wrapping your arms around and taking hold of the person God made you to be.
How do you feel about that? How do you feel about taking the time to love you, not in a selfish ungodly way; but in a way that brings glory to God, through your thoughts, your actions, your speech, your very being. Let me ask you:
So how do you begin to walk in the life God as ordained for you?
Romans 12:6: "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us."
2 Corinthians 10:5: "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
Romans 9:20-22: "But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?'
So, who are you? Are you not brilliant, amazing, and talented? Are you not a child of God? Yes, you are, I am, we all are, so embrace it, walk confidently in it, show it to the world simply by showing up!
Psalm 2:7-8 says: "I will proclaim the Lord's decree: He said to me, "You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession."
Today I challenge you: Look in the mirror at the wonderful work God created and simply say to yourself, "I Love You!"
Remember, God is a God of grace and each new day provides us with the opportunity to begin again. Choose God and may the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life!!!
Part two of a three-part series on identifying, embracing and walking in your God-given purpose.
Are you aware that God has a plan for each and everyone of us and that plan is as unique and individual as we are after all, Jeremiah 29:11-12 says "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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
As outlined in Part I—New Year New You—the four steps to finding your Godly purpose are:
Step 1: Survey where you are in your walk with God
Step 2: Pray for guidance and direction
Step 3: Establish Relationships with others who are focused on God
Step 4: Identify & change things in your life that are not in line with God's word
Once you have completed these steps you may ask, "Now what, where do I go from here?"
Romans 12:2 says … Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
To be transformed is to change in your form, your external appearance, or structure, the way you are made up, your essence your way of thinking and being. It's to a have complete metamorphoses or profound and complete change.
When you begin to go through a Godly transformation, it will be noticeable in many ways but there are three areas that I would like to touch upon:
1. Your thoughts and actions
2. Your outer appearance
3. Your reception by others
1 Corinthians 13:11 … When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. Think about it for a moment, you may not have begun to physically age as you embark on living your Godly purpose but you are growing spiritually, and this should be evident.
Thoughts and Actions
Your Outer Appearance
Which leads into the last point I would like to touch on; I would like for us to take a walk through Mark 5:1-20 and look at the transformation of a demon possessed man:
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"
"My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
Your Reception by others
Remember, God is a God of grace and each new day provides us with the opportunity to begin again. Choose God and may the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life!!!
When the clocks struck twelve and the calendar flipped over to a new year many of us had neatly drafted lists detailing the things we were leaving behind, the things we are changing and the things we are beginning. We have made definite and earnest decisions about the changes to be made in our lives. We have resolved to become a new people, different from the way we were before!
Have you ever wondered what is God’s plan for your life or what are the things that you have already been gifted with that God is just waiting to release in you?
Jeremiah 29:11-12 says… 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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you”.
God has plans for each of us. With one person being born every 7 seconds and one death every 13 seconds there are over 7 Billion people on this earth. Yet, God has singled each of us out with a unique plan for our lives.
I don’t know about you, but I have one husband and two kids and putting a plan in place for a simple one-week vacation takes more effort than I care to think about at times. Can you imagine what it must be like to plan out the lives of over 7 billion people with different needs, wants, desires, etc.?
In ~Isaiah 55:10-11 God declares…As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
So, if God says he has a purpose for our lives, you can rest assured he has a purpose for our lives.
But, you may ask, how do we find out what our true Godly purpose is?
~Acts 17:24-28… says “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’
To find your true Godly purpose you must first start by reaching out to God. ~Matthew 7:7-11 says… “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Below is a four step process I take my clients through before we begin to work through outlining and establishing their professional, personal and spiritual goals.
Step 1 Survey where you are spiritually:
Step 2 Pray for guidance and direction
~Isaiah 65:24…”Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear,” says the Lord.
~Jeremiah 33:3”Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know,” says the LORD.
We know from previous scriptures that God’s word does not come back empty and in these two scriptures he clearly tells you that he is not only listening for you to come to him he is anxiously awaiting you. Imagine you only have to begin to speak and before you are done God has already begun to put things in place to answer your prayers. Jeremiah 33 goes on to say that when you call him he will not only answer you but he will make known to you great things, things that you have not even begun to seek out, but things that he has planned for you and you alone.
Step 3 Establish Godly relationships
~Proverbs 13:20 says…He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
Which would you say you gain from those you keep company with; wisdom or foolish sufferings?
Step 4 Identify and have the faith to rid yourself of worldly distractions
Before you begin this 4th step I encourage you to really submit yourself to prayer. A really good scripture to pray through would be ~Psalm 139 with a special focus on vs. 23-24…Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Pray about the positives because although you may have a lot of great things going on you can never be close enough to God and you should always remain humble with an attitude that you can always grow and develop spiritually. Pray about the opportunities so that God will change your heart and reveal to you the intimate details about the things you need to change. In this way your changes will not be ones based on intellect or momentary sorrow, but instead your changes will be for a life-time based on Godly convictions and a desire to live a life that is in-line with God’s word.
As 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 says…Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.
The Greatest Love of All – Love for Self
For many years I lived a life defined by other’s expectations of me. From a very early age I was told I was smart and I spoke well, so instead of engaging in activates that I longed for in my heart like dance and sports I conformed. I read books, participated in plays and basically said and did all the things that were expected of me. It all looked great on the outside and looking back it was not all bad.
It wasn’t until my junior year of high school when I heard the lyrics to Whitney Houston’s song Greatest Love of All that I paused to think, “what if”. Now mind you, it was only a pause – a momentary interruption in the normal ebb and flow of my teenage life. But that brief pause planted the seed of “what if” that allowed me to begin to think a little differently.
Later as a young adult, I can recall sitting in my bedroom miles away from everything familiar on a cold, rainy and just plain dreary day, again listening, a little deeper this time, to the lyrics of Greatest Love of All. I was 21-years old and had made the very grown up decision to relocate 1,025.7 miles (15 hours and 21 minutes) from everything I held dear. And again, living a good life but just not fully the life I wanted. This time however, a second song immediately followed. It was Stephanie Mills’ “Home”. Now I know what you’re thinking, “God does not speak through R&B music”. Well, I am here to tell you that on that faithful morning God used the morning DJ on a Milwaukee radio station to play just the right songs at just the right time and in just the right order to get this girl’s attention!
The lyrics that struck a chord in me where:
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I'll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity……
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
(Whitney Houston, Greatest Love of All)
Maybe there's a chance for me to go back
Now that I have some direction
(Maybe there's a chance I'll get home)
It sure would be nice to be back at home
Where there's love and affection
And just maybe I can convince time to slow up
Givin me enough time, ooh, in my life to grow up
Time be my friend
And let me start again
(Stephanie Mills, Home)
I won’t say that everything changed overnight, and I immediately began to make decisions without giving a second thought to what others believed. I will say that this revelation started me on a journey of self-discovery. One that has had it’s ups and downs and wins and losses, but a journey that I will never regret, because it has led me to discover the fearfully and wonderfully made woman God designed me to be!
What I have learned and strive every day to pass along to those I encounter and engage with, is that living authentically begins with accepting ourselves as we are, flaws and all. It is living a life where our daily actions align with our beliefs and values. It is being true to ourselves and boldly embracing the amazing person that God has designed us to be!
I have also learned that I do not have to be the smartest person in the room. God has generously gifted many amazing people with the ability to encourage and teach others. So, with that I encourage you to take a listen to the 4-minute video below featuring Brene` Brown and Oprah Winfrey discussing Faking it, Perfectionism and Living Wholeheartedly.
As a young child I enjoyed dressing up in my moms high heeled shoes, jewelry and any piece of fancy clothing that I could get my hands on. It was like being transported to a magical land of make believe. I would spend hours pretending to be a fairy princess or a celebrity! It was great, but at some point, the make believe would end, the clothes, shoes and jewelry would go back in their proper places and I would once again go back to being Crystal. The little girl that lived on West 6th Street.
Even as a teenager and young adult I would spend hours getting lost between the pages of a romance novel. I would spend hours reading about and dreaming about love everlasting, moonlight kisses and magical romances. Again, this was enjoyable, but there would yet again come a time when I had to return to reality and embrace my life for what is was. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but most of all tangible and real!
Even today as a wife, mother and mental health clinician I still find myself getting lost from time to time in a great day dream. The key word however is dream and the reality that it is just that a series of thoughts, images and sensations that are occurring in my mind, not in my reality.
So often, however, it is hard for many to accept the everyday realities of life. This leads them to hide behind their titles, careers, money, marital status and so on. Many of us on the outside looking in buy into the mask, engage in the superficial conversation and walk away with the belief that because everything looks good it is good. This is so far from the truth!
With the tragic deaths this week of Fashion Designer, Kate Spade and Celebrity Chef and TV Personality, Anthony Bourdain, it has become all to clear that we must pause as a society and take the time to look behind the façade that so many put forth. We must begin today to ask the uncomfortable questions of those we love and often of those we have chance encounters with. Questions like:
We can no longer accept the standard polite “I am good” or “things are fine” responses. If we claim to love someone we must be OK with maintaining eye contact during those few moments of awkward silence that often come when we ask the tough stuff.
We must begin to look past materialism and titles when we feel in our gut that something is just not right. Feelings of hopelessness are real. People are hurting. People are dying because of the stigma associated with Mental Illness. We no longer have the luxury of keeping it safely tucked away in the shadows only to be discussed in secret discreet whispers during family gatherings.
According to a 2016 Center for Disease Control Report, suicide claimed the lives of nearly 45,000 people and was listed as the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States. However, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34 and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54. In 2016 there were twice as many suicides (44,965) in the United States as there were homicides (19,362).
When you feel something is not right 9 times out of 10 something is not right. Below are a few warning signs that someone may be having suicidal thoughts:
Proverbs 20:5 says “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out”. We must start today to be that man/woman that will take the time to draw out what is really going on within a person.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). It’s always open, and you can speak to a trained counselor.