Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I Cannot Believe This

Have you ever had something absolutely tragic happen to you or something incredibly amazing and thought to yourself, "Wow, I cannot believe this is my life." Life is full of unexpected twists and turns that usually leave us feeling either hopeless and confused, or joyful and excited.

Throughout my life I've had this same reoccurring thought. After my father passed away, I was in complete shock and denial. I couldn't believe that I had become a child who lost a parent. I remember thinking to myself, "I cannot believe this is my life." Then I had the thought again when my family joined with another, and again after struggling with anxiety, insecurity, and grief. Yet after every season of my life, whether full of pain or joy, I am reminded of the goodness of the Lord.

There are those sweet moments in our life when our greatest burdens become our greatest blessings. Sometimes our disbelief of reality comes from a place of hurt, but the knowledge of God's grace restores our thoughts and brings comfort to our soul.

My life has taken many different turns, and soon I will move eight hours away from my family to begin one of my life's greatest journeys. This time when I think to myself, "I cannot believe this is my life," it won't be from a dark place in my heart, but from the part of my heart that shines the brightest. We are blessed in every season of our life because no matter what we go through, Jesus remains constant.

I'm astounded by the doors and opportunities God has given me. I simply cannot believe that this is my life and that I get to serve such a giving and loving Father! He is good.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

God Brought Me Through It

A few weeks ago in church, we had an incredible service full of worship and breakthrough. God's sweet, sweet presence was so evident in that service. Through a servant's obedience a testimony was shared, and then another one from a different member of the church. Both testimonies touched my heart deeply, but one thing was said in one of the testimonies that has stuck with me and encouraged me to publish this blog. The statement is as follows: "God brought me through it!"

As soon as I heard that statement, it started ringing through my ears. I could not help but to feel so overjoyed by everything that God has brought me through. It really made me start to think of everything I have gone through in the past five years of my life. I began to ponder every setback, every trial, every challenge, and how God was there with me through it all. "God brought me through it," those words are extremely powerful because they shift your focus from your circumstance to your victory.

We often focus on what we are going through far more than on the One who can bring us through it! 

It is easy to feel blinded by your circumstances. The enemy has a good way of stealing your focus. He knows just how much pressure to put on you in order for you to lose sight of the Lord, but believe me when I say, no matter who brings you to it, God will bring you through it. He will not leave you alone to suffer, to struggle, or to stay the same. The amazing thing about testimonies is that they all end in victory! What you have gone through in the past is not what you will go through in the future. Your struggle today does not have to be your struggle tomorrow. Always keep moving forward!!

My challenge to you is to look back on your life. Think about every circumstance and situation you have gone through, and shout "God brought me through it!!" There is so much freedom in declaring His good name in every situation. You may be sick in your body, but God will bring you through it. You may be fearful in your spirit, but God will bring you through it. You may be struggling financially, but God will bring you through it. Whatever it may be, know that God will bring you through it!!


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Five Years Without You

To my hero,

In the past five years without you, I have experienced more pain and more joy than I could have ever imagined possible. In some ways it feels as if time has flown by, but in other ways it feels like it has been an eternity since you left us. I wanted to do something special to honor you today so I am writing you this letter.

I remember the day the Lord called you home, I remember walking down the hallway, hanging on to Pastor's side for dear life, and in that moment I felt as if time were in slow motion. I remember the tears running down my face and wondering if I would ever reach the end of that hallway. I knew that the worst was waiting for me and that my life was about to change forever. Saying goodbye to you was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but in that room there was so much peace. Peace I had never felt before, but peace I would soon become familiar with.

Since you've been gone so much has changed. There is not one thing that is the same and I wish I could tell you all about it. God has done incredible things in my life and in the lives of other's around me. He has turned sorrow into joy, mourning into dancing, and dreams into plans. My life has certainly not turned out how I imagined it to, but God has done more good than I could have ever imagined He would. I don't know where I would begin if I tried to tell you all that He has done and that has changed so I'll leave it at this: the past five years without you have been the most challenging times of my life. I have grieved, I have grown up, and I have made mistakes, but God has taken my brokenness and transformed it into something beautiful. He has given me the best family I could have ever asked for. He has taken care of your girls in a way that only He could do. He has certainly not abandoned us in our time of need. God has done such a work in me in the past five years and it is mind blowing to me that I was once just a thirteen year old girl who lost her father. Today, I am so much more than that. I have grown up to be a woman of God, a hearer of His word, a learner of His love, and a servant of His kingdom. I can imagine that I have grown up to be everything you would have wanted me to be and I hope that I am making you proud.

There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about you. The hardest lesson I have learned is how to grieve and how to accept the process. Some days are easier than others, and on the other days I have to ask the Lord to help me. I never would have imagined that I would lose you, but over time I have realized that God's plan is greater than my own. I may never understand why He had to take you home when He did, but I know that He is in control.

But even with that knowledge I still miss everything about you. I miss your voice, your sarcastic tone, and your raspy laugh that would turn into a chuckle then even into a wheeze. I miss your touch, the feeling of your soft touch on my back when I was giving you a hug, your slight grip when I was holding your hand, and your gentle kiss on my cheek. I miss your writing, your words of encouragement, your words of wisdom, and your midweek rantings. I miss your preaching, the way you could captivate your audience, the way you allowed God to flow through you, and the way you got so excited while doing the very thing you loved to do. I miss our days together, getting drinks, holding hands, and sitting across from each other without saying a word.

I will forever hold every feature, quality, characteristic, and memory dear to my heart. You are the most incredible man to me and I will always be proud to call you my father.

Daddy, thank you for being my hero and my guardian angel. I miss you more than my words could ever explain and I love you more than life itself.

Love,
Madison

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

You are His and He is Yours

Isaiah 43:1-3, " Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're mine. When you are in over your head, I'll be there with you. When you're in rough waters, you will not go down. When you're in between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end -- Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior."

I want to break down these verses to really get down to the meaning, to really grasp the depth of what this scripture is saying. In the first verse it reads, "Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're mine." We cannot forget who we belong to. When you are going through tough times and you are doubting everything in existence remember who you belong to. You are the child of the one true King. No matter what you have done in the past or what you are doing in the present, God has redeemed you. He has called you by name and you are His. Think about it for a second, think about how amazing it feels to be had by the maker of Heaven and earth. Nothing you could ever do or ever go through would separate you from being His. God says, "You are mine." You are mine despite your mistakes, your circumstances, your insecurities, You are mine.

In the second verse it says, "When you are in over your head, I'll be there with you. When you're in rough waters, you will not go down. When you're in between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end." God sees exactly where you are at. He sees every struggle you face, and every temptation you face. He knows what you can handle and what you can't handle. God is not caught by surprise when you ask for His help instead He runs to you. He doesn't want you to struggle alone. He wants to be there for you. When you're drowning in sorrow He will pull you out of your misery, and He will give you rest. In Matthew 11: 28-30 it says, "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." When your heart is in distress give it to God. He doesn't want us to withhold from Him. What can we learn from Christ's gentle and humble heart? When you're in a crisis don't panic instead find rest for your soul. It is easy to get overwhelmed in life. We take on too much and feel like we have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders but that isn't the case. God has given us a way out by taking our load and carrying it for us.

Let this speak to you, whatever you are going through take upon His yoke, for it is easy and His burden is light. In verse three it says, "Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, Your Savior." Imagine you are in your prayer closet and your praying to God asking all of these questions: "God, why am I going through this trial? Why am I uncomfortable where I am? Why did you bless me like that? Why did you forgive me? God, why do you love me?" Then imagine you hear God say, "BECAUSE I AM YOUR GOD." Let that be the answer to your questions because HE is YOUR GOD you have peace of mind, you have an abundance grace, you have mercy overflowing, you have freedom to worship, you have healing and forgiveness. Because HE is YOUR GOD you have a place to rest. Because HE is YOUR GOD you will make it through.

So don't be afraid, child of God, when life gets too hard He will give you rest because He is your God.




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Come As You Are

Anyone who really knows me knows that I am without a doubt a perfectionist. I constantly feel pressure for everything to be perfect at all times. Whether it's as tiny as my locker being completely organized from the smallest book to the largest book, or the perfect outfit for a certain occasion, or just constantly trying to be prepared for anything and everything. It's a little bit of my OCD but a whole lot of my need for perfection. Throughout my walk with Christ this has been my struggle, trying to be perfect in an imperfect world with an imperfect body, mind, and spirit.

See, the problem is I feel that I have to be in a perfect standing with God to give Him praise or worship, or to be in any type of communication with Him. I feel the pressure to be a perfect child in order to receive love, forgiveness, grace or mercy, or any blessing. If I feel like I am anything less than perfect in my relationship with God, I slack off. I simply stop trying because if I don't feel perfect then I feel unworthy. I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as lukewarm. You are either all in or you are all out. I refuse to become lukewarm in my relationship with Christ and because of this I'll stop all together. I don't want to be something I am not, I don't want to give off the impression that I have it all together when in reality I am falling apart. This has been reoccurring in my relationship with God because I want to be my best self for Him.

 I am reminded of the story in Matthew 14:22-36, when Jesus called Peter out onto the water. Jesus didn't answer Peter's request by calling him to walk on the water with the notion that Peter already knew how to walk on the water.  It took Peter stepping out, and Jesus simply saying, "Come." Come with your imperfection, come with your struggles, come with your pain, come to me and keep your eyes on me. Of course, when Peter saw the wind and the waves he became afraid and he took his eyes of Christ. Peter started to fall, he started to lose sight of Christ, but then Jesus reached out his hand in Peter's time of need. Then Jesus asked, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Why do we doubt that Jesus is in control? Why is it so easy for us to be overwhelmed by the waves of our insecurities and circumstances? Why is it so hard to stay focused on Christ?

I relate to this story because recently I have taken my eyes off Jesus. I have lost sight of his comfort and of his love. I took my eyes off of Him, and I fell into the waves of fear and distraction. I  forgot my purpose but I also forgot Jesus' purpose. Jesus came for us who are not perfect, which is all of us, and He came to save us for that very reason. He doesn't want us to come to Him perfect, He wants us to simply come to Him.

So, here is my point: Don't lose sight of Christ. Keep your eyes on Him. Simply come.
There is no need for perfection because HIS perfect love makes us whole. His love covers all of our imperfections. We are not worthy, but He is!!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Aerial View

Have you ever played that game where you're shown a close-up of an image and you have to try to guess what it is then you see the full image and it's usually totally different then what you guessed it to be? Yeah well, this is how I find our walk with Christ to often turn out. God puts us in a up-close and personal situation where it is difficult to see the bigger picture. This is one of the most basic messages but it is true. This is a struggle we have all faced in life. Here are a few questions that come to my mind when I think of these "situations"... How can we trust God when we can't see what He is doing? What is God doing? How do I go on?

It can be difficult to be in a situation where there seems to be no way out. It can be heartbreaking to be in a situation where you simply don't understand what God is trying to do. It can be frustrating to be in a situation where it seems that more harm than good is coming your way and it's all at the hands of God. None of these situations or scenarios are good, but we don't have to go through them alone. This brings me to my first point: You are not alone in this. "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10. It can be frightening to be in a situation and feel so alone, but isn't it awesome that even when we feel alone, we really aren't? God is with us in every situation good or bad. We never have to go through anything alone. My second point is God is in control. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34. There was a time in my life where I didn't understand what God was doing and I didn't want to understand. It was heartbreaking and no matter what I tried to do I couldn't gain control of my feelings or the changes happening around me. I kept worrying about tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. I kept worrying about me instead of trusting the process God was taking me through. I had to come to a realization that God was moving with me or without me and it was my decision to follow His plan or not. There is something incredible that happens when you completely give God control even when you do not understand. It gives you so much strength and with that strength you can tackle any situation you are placed in. So do not worry when you don't understand the situation because when God finally reveals the full image you will be glad you trusted Him. Our life is like a giant puzzle, and we only see the individual puzzle pieces when they are placed in front of us, but God sees the entire puzzle just waiting to complete it. Do not get hung up on your one puzzle piece that you miss out on the others. Whats that saying, when one door closes another door opens? Or how about my story isn't finished yet? You are not in complete control of your life and while that may seem scary find comfort in the fact that God is in complete control.


I recently went on a trip to visit family in Illinois. While flying up there I was completely captured by God's creation. I couldn't stop looking out the window and taking pictures. Then I thought to myself, "Wow, this is what God sees." We walk this same earth every day but yet it looks so different from up here. Do you get where I am going? This is the bigger picture that God sees. You see a mess, but God sees a masterpiece. You see a loss, but God sees a victory. Man, I am so blown away by God. 

Whenever you get discouraged by your puzzle pieces, and your situations, remember who holds the world in His hands. 


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

God > Your Circumstances

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20 NIV

"Joseph replied, Don't be afraid. Do I act for God? Don't you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now --- life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear. I'll take care of you and your children." Genesis 50:20 MSG

Can I just brag on God's love for a second? His love is impeccable, absolutely breathtaking. I cannot help but be eternally grateful for a love that never fails, and never forsakes me. God's love that hears all prayers, gives strengths, directs paths, calms spirits, forgives souls, comforts the weak, provides, protects, gives an abundance of grace, and so on and so on. God's love is steadfast. His love lasts forever. Wow, God's love is amazing!

How do you face diversity? How do you handle attacks? There are many circumstances we face that take us by surprise. Out of the blue we become overwhelmed by our circumstances. Some circumstances we face make us feel like we simply cannot catch a break. Have you ever felt like you were being hit from all sides? Have you ever been suspicious of things being "too good" and just waiting for the punchline? Unfortunately, these circumstances always seem to be reoccurring. Just as God is working, the Devil is too, and he is working overtime. That's the punchline. The Devil would like nothing more than to see your circumstances get the best of you. He would love nothing more than to see you struggle over and over again, or for you to be caught completely off guard just as you thought everything was going well. It can be overwhelming and you may feel like a ticking time bomb, but let's go back to the most important part. God is working. Isn't it incredible how mighty and powerful our God is? I love this verse (Genesis 50:20) because it reminds me of just how powerful God is. Who else could turn evil into good? The Lord is our Shepherd. He guides and He protects us from all harm because we are His children. Let that sink in for a second.. your struggle, even your greatest pain can be turned around for YOUR good. The Devil is doing everything he can while God is sitting back saying, "Relax, I got this." Don't be discouraged when it seems everyone and everything is out to get you, instead rest in the assurance of God's love. Only God's love will save you from your circumstances.

"Your circumstances don't define God's character." - Kathe Wunnenberg