New Beginnings. New Hope.

Blog, Devotional, Lifestyle
Insecure, beaten down, low self esteem, just plain depressing. That pretty much wraps up the past several months of my life. A lot has attributed to that. Not just one incident, but many over my life span actually, and they build and build into multiple scenarios, until there’s that one last thing that causes the snap into a downward fall.
And you see it happening, you watch it take place – “but however am I to get myself out of here?”
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IMAGE: NOELIA CHRISTINE PHOTOGRAPHY

I recently listened to a devotional which reminded me that even Jesus felt these very feelings of being forsaken, forgotten, just left hanging on his own – pun definitely wasn’t intended there, but hey, it’s true. He went from praying “Abba Father, please let this pass” (Matthew 26:38) in the garden right before he was captured and led to his death. Then when the whole crucifixion business went down, he said “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46). The difference between the two? “Abba” is a term that literally translates as “Daddy” – a term of familiarity, closeness. Jesus goes from there to saying “My God, My God.”
You sense his feeling of being abandoned. All alone in his situation. Right there. That very place. I know it and I feel it. I’m sure anyone can relate to some degree. Though not to this extent of being tortured and left to die, feeling abandoned sums up much of our hopelessness. Hopelessness after being beaten down so many times and in so many ways. However am I supposed to get back up again and keep trying? I’m tired. I can’t. I don’t have anything left in me. I am exhausted and tired of the fight. Spiritually and emotionally exhausted.
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IMAGE: NOELIA CHRISTINE PHOTOGRAPHY

And that is where Jesus is ever present. The God who came to me and lived the unfortunate emotions and experiences I face everyday. He becomes our strength, our hope, our joy. Because the very moment he gave up his life for us, he defeated the spirit of things that are essentially death. The despair, depression, pain, hurt, anger, self-hate – all those things and more.
Easter and beautiful springs are a reminder to me that the dead things aren’t the end. There is new life. There is hope. There is beauty yet unseen. There is joy to be had. How my heart leaps at thinking of the moment when in that tomb Jesus’ heart started to pulsate again. His eyelids parted. Hands pressed against stone to lift his body from where he laid for 3 days. Feet now standing. Boom. Yes. Sweet, sweet victory. This is the stand Jesus has taken for us. “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]” (John 10:10).
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So here I am today – reflecting on the girl who didn’t recognize herself for the past several months. I am thankful for this hope and newness of life that I can look forward to because of Truth that permeates my heart.
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what courage looks like

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“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” This is a quote from the late Billy Graham who passed away just yesterday. There are so many wise things that he’s said over the course of his life but this one speaks to me personally on so many levels. I admire his courage. He was an ordinary many who simply used his life to do what God has commanded us all as believers to do – in our own way.

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“Courage is contagious.” – Billy Graham

So many hearts were saddened by the news and you might have heard rejoicing on other ends. Why is that? Because as Christians, we know with every ounce of assurance that there is something eternally better and lasting than this current life. There is absolutely no doubt about it. “Living means living for Christ, and dying is even better” (Philippians 1:21). Better yet, I love how The Message translates it: “Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.”

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Billy’s life was lived famously for Jesus; but his death was even more so a victory. My first thought upon hearing the news of his passing was absolute delight as I replayed scenes in my mind of him facing Jesus for the first time and hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Wow! THAT just took place! To face Jesus and be embraced by Him…purest joy! What a party in heaven!

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My second thought was, ” I have also been entrusted with a life and the message of truth. Am I being faithful with this life and message everyday?” We might not all be called to be evangelists but we were all given the same message to the reason for the hope that we have! We all come across hungry and hurting souls in our day-to-day lives. Are you called to be hairstylist? Who is it that’s sitting in your chair? Are you a waitress or barista? How many unhappy or lonely people are you crossing paths with? Are you called to be a nanny or a teacher? Could that child in front of you be the next Billy Graham?

I watched a Today Show clip of Kathy Lee Gifford’s reaction to Billy Graham’s death and it was a beautiful reminder of this treasure of a good news that we have as believers and the need to share it! “Jesus: The cure for the malignancy of the soul.” – That’s how Kathie Lee put it best.

 

If you’re like me you may have sometimes felt that sharing the message of Jesus would be too difficult or complicated for others to understand or even accept. What if it really is as simple as reaching someone at the core of where they need it most? God has given every single one of us a platform, an area of influence where we can share this wonderful news. What’s yours? How are you sharing your light? How can we courageously start doing that this very day?

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“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)

 

when you’re just not sure how to believe God right now

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I’m tired of living life as is. Mundane. In redundancy. In complacency. Spiritually complacent. Never truly expecting to see God move in incredible ways. Continually hearing about how God is working wonderfully in the lives of others but not seeing that come to fruition in my own life is difficult.

Have you ever prayed like crazy for someone – lots of someones – and see God answer those prayers left and right; yet, when it comes to prayers for yourself getting answered you can hear a pin drop? Why is that? You’re happy for that person. Genuinely happy. But the walk to your car after church service or after a get-together with friends can admittedly be one of the loneliest. Sometimes I feel like my heart is carrying bricks. The only solution seems to be avoiding those events altogether. Arriving late and leaving early because you don’t want to hear about anyone’s life or answer questions about your own that will only end up in a mascara-ruining situation. No thanks.

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Truthfully, I’ve had past experiences of seeing God do unimaginable things in my life, but right now it’s a struggle. Is He done acting on my behalf or something? Or is it just my inability to have any shred of hope in Him right now?

Faint memories remind me of a time when my heart leaped at the thought of what God could possibly do. I had a joyful anticipation of His crafty hand delighting my soul with a miraculous surprise. But I’m afraid I’ve lost that anticipation and somehow gotten lost in the world of having little to no expectation – FOR ANYTHING. There’s just not much that I expect from God. The eager joy has escaped my heart like that of a girl wooed no more. The words “have faith” now produce a strong sense of resentment within me. I don’t believe that “moving mountains” ordeal as I used to…at least my heart doesn’t.

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One of the godliest men whom I have crossed paths with has become sort of like a spiritual grandfather to me. He listens and encourages with great, Godly wisdom. I don’t get to see him often but I know that if I’m having a rough time I can send him an email or just send updates on my life. To have that is a great blessing itself. He recently reminded me that in Genesis 8 it says, ‘and God remembered Noah.’ “So dear sister, He has remembered you. Your time adrift on the boat is coming to an end. You’re in the palm of His hand.” Coming from someone who should’ve lost his battle with cancer numerous times, those words brought a comforting hope to my heart. God has remembered ME…little old me.

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Jesus does in fact pursue my heart and He does delight in my seeing evidences of Him in incredible ways. As seasons change and look very different in our lives I think it’s the same way with the Lord. He doesn’t want to stay in the same place with us as it was a year ago…or even months ago! Like any relationship, He desires us to grow and be closer to Him. And sometimes, that requires difficulty or maybe even the feeling of being distant so that we’ll press into Him more. So that we’ll seek after Him.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

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I want my God to open these eyes to see Him in ways I never have before. I don’t want to stay stuck in spiritual complacency. I want to dream endlessly walking by His side and have a part in His grandest of plans!

facing fears. finding adventure.

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Analytical. Over-thinker. Doubter. Fearer. Sure, I know “fearer” isn’t a word but for me it might as well be. Classic representation of what marks my life right now. In fact, if I think about it, it has always marked my life for as long as I can remember.

Little girl, afraid to climb anything too high, if anything at all. Why? Because of the fear of a scraped knee. The fear of falling. The fear of being made fun of by other kids for not being good at something. The fear if failure. Or…The fear of facing the unknown. So I stay back. I shy away from anything remotely close to climbing or exploring. I stay where it’s safe.

I still remember this same girl on the school playground watching my best friend climb high up on the monkey bars. I made an attempt but barely got very far. I admired my friend, her courage, her adventure. Yes! Her adventure. From where I observed she experienced a world of fascinating things that I would never come to know. Her perspective was more expansive than mine would ever be. Adventure. Perspective. This turtle in a shell of a girl deep down felt a certain sadness. Why was I not born brave?

Brave. Today, decades later, the scared little girl inside of me decided that she wanted to be brave. Still scared, and with an even more layered version of fear, I’ve taken on a sense of overanalyzing, overthinking, and skeptically doubting. Phew! That’s a whole lot of weight to fearfully carry around!

So imagine my lot when I get harnessed to a rope and with the company of a dear friend climbed my way to a ropes course. I feel my heart pounding with gradual, heavy beats now. But I’m determined. Because the only way to truly conquer any fear is to face it head on.

I bravely tackled most of the courses on one level and was ready to call it a day. Until I was challenged to go to the highest level. Heavy sigh, looking above, and not wanting this thing to get the best of me, I agreed and climbed my way to level 3. Oh my jeepers! “Don’t look down” is all I could think. I discovered some courses that I was more comfortable with – though still terrifying. “Kameish, try this one,” I hear that friendly voice call out. No…No… I can’t. I can’t do this. Pervasive thoughts as I stood clinging to the piece of my rope that kept me harnessed. Jumbled thoughts in my mind all culminating in the word, “No.”

Deep down, I know I have to do this. And I want to cry now. But if I do, I let my emotions, the over-thinking, the over-analyzing get the best of me. So I step out. Sweaty palms. Wobbly feet. There are no side rails to hold on to up here. I can’t look down but I need to watch my feet in order to continue across. I see the ground way beneath me. I’ve already stepped out, therefore I can’t turn back now. Only continue.

I feel the thoughts wanting to rush to my mind and as they do I feel the sole of my foot begin to slip off the tiny rectangular piece of swaying wood. No. The only ‘no’ that belongs here is saying no to the thoughts that cause fear, cause me to doubt, cause me to lose my steadiness. Don’t over-think. Stay the course. Focus on the next step. Then the next one. Palms so sweaty that my hand begins to slip off the rope. Drowning out the overbearing thoughts, I steady myself and finish the course.

Done. Defeated. Conquered. Fear faced. I learned much about myself. I saw firsthand the result of over-thinking things and letting my mind wander off to the place of “why did I decide to do this?” “I shouldn’t have done this.” “I made the wrong choice.” These thoughts caused me to lose my steadiness.

This is my life. It’s what I’ve allowed to happen to me as I’m inundated by fear. But the Lord reminded me that I’m harnessed to Him and He is sure, steadfast. As He draws me to take the next scary step in faith I must hold on to Him knowing He won’t let me fall. Don’t let the thoughts of all the ‘buts’ and ‘what ifs’ flood my mind. Just focus on the course ahead. Take the next step, and go! Adventure awaits. Go out there and embrace it!

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)