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Where Redemption Happens ~ Guest Post

Let me introduce you to Laurie Coombs.  I met Laurie at She Speaks for the first time.  While at lunch with a group of ladies, she shared her story with us.  I was held captive by what Jesus redeemed through an unspeakable crime.  I sat in complete stillness, unable to say a word (and for those who know me, THAT in itself is a miracle.)  I saw the radiant peace wash over Laurie as described her journey and knew without a doubt it was not faked, it was not a show, it was the real deal, found only through Jesus.  Welcome Laurie and let her story show you that no matter where you are, Jesus can always redeem ANYTHING. 

I knew something happened. Shaking my head, I adamantly whispered, “No. no. no. no…” But with tear-filled eyes they told me. “Laurie, your dad was murdered last night. He’s dead.”  Startled, my eyes began to dart around the room, not knowing what to do with I had been told.  As my new reality began closing in around me, I felt the shackles of a heavy burden weighing me down, but there was no escape. I wanted to run away. I wanted to scream. I wanted to hit something, throw something. This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening, I thought.  But it did happen. And in that moment, my life was forever changed.

Nine years later, Jesus called me to embark on a journey to forgive the man who murdered my dad. But then, He took it a step further: love your enemy, He said. Honestly, the word “love” in the same sentence as “enemy” didn’t seem to make sense to me. What’s more, the word “love” in reference to the man who murdered my dad was repulsive.

I cried out to the Lord and said, OK, God I get the whole forgiveness thing, but love my enemy?  How am I to do THAT?!? Immediately, His response came, bring him a bible. And this is how it  all began.

What began with a call to follow Jesus into my unknown, scary places resulted in the redemption and healing of not only of myself, but of the man who murdered my dad as well.

I have seen the unimaginable happen. And I know first hand that it is God’s intention to take the horrible chapters of our past and create beauty out of our darkness. Toward the end of this journey, I felt God saying to me, Laurie, this is what your journey has been all about. Changing lives. Bringing good out of evil. Beauty out of ashes. This is where it’s at. Not in your past. But what I will do with your past if you will continue to follow me wherever I lead.

God is good! It is His desire to lift us out of our despair and our pain and bring us to a new place.  A place that is rich in beauty and blessing. Yet, God has shown me that in order to get there, we must choose, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, to say yes. To say yes, my Lord, I will follow You. Yes, my Lord, I will obey Your commands. For, it is when we lay down our fear, our pride, and our resistance that we are able to experience life as He intended. The life that Jesus died for us to have.

This is where redemption happens.

And I pray that you are encouraged to say yes to Jesus to whatever He may be calling you to and to embark on your own Jesus-led journey.

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Thank you so much Laurie for sharing your story with me at lunch that day and for sharing with the readers here today.  You are a picture of grace and beauty.

Laurie is a writer who encourages others to draw closer to the heart of Jesus. She lives in Reno, Nevada with her husband, Travis. They have two little girls and are in the process of adopting one or two more children from Ethiopia. Read more on her Blog, and visit her on Twitter and Facebook.

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Wendy Blight Visits…..

I am thrilled to have Wendy Blight stop by for a visit on my blog today.  There are not enough words to describe the special place she holds in my heart.  Her book Hidden Joy literally changed my life.  If you have deep hurts that are causing you to live with bitterness, anger and maybe even hatred in heart, I encourage you to read her book.  Wendy has a special message today:

Veronica, thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog today.  But even more, thank you for being such a blessing in my life.  You have a beautiful servant’s heart, and I am so thankful to call you friend.

As I prayed about what to write, the Lord laid on my heart a woman who feels unworthy, unimportant, average, and most of all without purpose. At one time, that woman was me.   What is my purpose God? How could you ever use me?

But as I journeyed with God through some painful years, years I believed would never have any value in my life, He taught me very powerful Truths.

For those of you sitting in the place I just described, this post is for you.  May you never forget God created you with a special purpose.  He says in His Word…

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.
~Psalm 139:13-16

God says in Jeremiah 29:11

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.

Sometimes we hear a voice whispering in our ear:  You are unworthy. God could never use you. But Jesus tells us in His Word that words like these have one source and one source only.  They are spoken by the evil one, the one Jesus identified as “the father of lies” in whom there is no truth.  He seeks to steal, kill, and destroy all that is God’s and all that is good.

You, sweet friend, are God’s child.  As His child, you are good.  Satan’s goal is to keep you from believing this and prevent you from being the wonderful creation God created you to be.

Please, please do not listen to him. Instead of believing lies, believe TRUTH from the One Who says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Hear Truth from God’s Word today:

You are LOVED

with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)

You are PRECIOUS and VALUABLE

your name engraved on the palm of His hand. (Isaiah 49:16)

You are WORTHY

for He gave the life of His only Son, Jesus Christ, for you. (John 3:16)

You are FORGIVEN

you need only repent of your sin. (Acts 3:19)

You are REDEEMED

the old is gone and the new has come…in Christ you are a new creation! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

You are SAVED FOR A PURPOSE

one which He specially created for you. (Ephesians 2:10)

Will you believe with me today that God created you for a great PURPOSE…one that only you can fulfill?

If you don’t know that today, promise me you’ll spend time in these verses and ask Your Father in heaven to make them very real to you! As I close this post, I am going to pray for each one of you that God brings here today…pray that this is a day you will have an amazing God moment…where you KNOW that you KNOW He is working in your midst, listening to the cry of your heart. He desires to heal your hurt and bring you back to wholeness.

I am praying for you!

And if you have a story or truth you would like to share on this topic, please leave a comment today.  From the comments left, I will choose a winner to receive a signed copy of my book Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner:  The Transforming Power of God’s Story.

Veronica, thank you again for allowing me to be your guest.  I pray the Lord uses the words He laid on my heart to bless and encourage someone today!

Blessings,

Wendy
www.wendyblight.com

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Thank you so much Wendy for guest posting today.  For all the visitors here today, check back later in the month for a follow-up to this post from me.  God’s timing is always perfect.  At the exact moment that Wendy sent this to me, God had just whispered to me my own special purpose.

Hidden Joy IS life changing, grounded in scripture, written by someone who knows exactly what it means to be fearful and have shattered dreams.  Wendy’s journey to healing shows that God redeem any shattered dream and making it so much more.  I don’t just believe in it, I am living proof, so I too will be giving away a copy of Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner:  The Transforming Power of God’s Story.  Leave a comment for Wendy and she will pick TWO winners to receive a signed book!  Thank you all for visiting today.

Chapter 6 ~ An Untroubled Heart

LEARNING TO TRUST AGAIN

Big week in our study this week, read Melissa’s NO EXCUSES post from her heart.  You can get to her website here.

For most of my life I have been intimately acquainted with that word.  Fear followed me through each and every day, fear kept me from living the life I was created to live, fear kept me up all through the night even as a small child and well into adulthood.

Fear was constantly at my side.  I can remember as a little girl at the age of 7 feeling like I didn’t belong.  I didn’t even feel like I belonged in my family – so much so I thought I had been adopted.  I didn’t feel like I fit in at school and I was always on the outside of my circle of friends.  I wanted to be loved, to be valued, and to be important to someone.  I wanted it so much and I was so fearful it would never happen.  I tried harder to fit in; I tried harder to be a perfect child for my parents – if I was more than they wouldn’t need alcohol or to be a member of a biker club.  If I was better I could tell my parents what bad things happen to me at night.  If I was better I would never feel lonely or unwanted.

In elementary school I wanted to fit in.  I wanted to belong so I tried out for the cheerleading team, basketball, gymnastics and volleyball – you can imagine how I felt when even as a small girl in grade school I wasn’t good enough for any of those things.

My dad coached little league and I thought that would be perfect – I wanted his approval desperately and I thought this would be a way to be the “son” he never had.  So my best friend and I joined the Yankee’s Little League Baseball Team – the only two girls (they didn’t have separate teams for girls back then).  Remember though my fear – I was petrified of being hit by the ball, so being at bat was not fun and I never did hit the ball.  My best friend well she did better, she became the star pitcher for our team.  My dad and I never got any closer and again I felt on the outside looking in.

In junior high I finally decided I would be the best student, then my parents would be happy, wouldn’t fight and they would be proud of me.  I also finally found something I could do – The Drill Team!  I became a straight A honor roll student and was a member of the drill team for 2 years but that didn’t do anything to alleviate my fear to leave me, to fit in and for my parents to love me more.

By this time my parents divorced and while I was happy about that I still had a ton of fear.  I also felt a sense of grief once – once my parents divorced I hardly ever saw my dad, it left me feeling afraid, unloved, unworthy and unimportant.

The years moved on and by the time I was 20 years old, I was married, had 2 children and still living with fear daily.  I could never express exactly what was missing that made me fearful but it took over my whole life.  I didn’t even recognize the person I had become.

At the age of 31 years old I lost my mom very suddenly and unexpectedly.  I immediately felt like an orphan, even though at this time my dad and I had established a fresh start.  However, less than 5 months later on what was my mom’s birthday – the first of many where she wasn’t here on this earth – the hoped for relationship with my dad came to a screeching halt.  Some things are better left unsaid and this is one of those times.  Essentially my dad chose between me and his newly wed wife of 15 minutes.

For weeks any progressed I had made in getting rid of my fear and living through the stages of grief where lost.  I couldn’t explain what I was feeling but I grabbed my Bible and started searching for answers, I didn’t know what they question was but I needed an answer.  I came upon this Scripture:

And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna.  ~Matthew 18:9

In my life application study Bible the notes said this:  We must remove stumbling blocks that cause us to sin.  For the individual, any relationship, practice or activity that leads to sin should be stopped.

When I read that I thought “AHA – there it is right in the Bible.  Any relationship – must be stopped.”  I asked my husband “so you think that means I can walk away and have nothing to do with my family ever again?”  He looked at me with sadness and concern and asked “why does it matter?” I replied “because I want to know that I can stop trying to fit in where I don’t belong.  I want to know I can stop trying so hard and get nothing in return.”  My husband asked again “but why does this matter so much now, you have been hurt, disappointed and sad before.  Why does it matter so much this time?”

Can I say as I am writing about this day my heart is beating and I can remember everything about this conversation:  the time 6:11 pm, what I was wearing – my favorite summer pjs and I was laying on my bed diagonally, the sun was streaming through the room and Larry was sitting at the end of the bed cross legged.  The room smelled like fresh mowed grass – Larry had been outside mowing.  And tears were running down my face, my heart felt like there was an empty hole in it.

And I finally knew the answer – the answer I was searching for my whole life.  And without thinking about the words I blurted it out:

I want just once, just once in my life to know that I matter, that I am the most important thing to someone.  Just once I want someone to love me enough to fight for me, to stand up for me

As the tears ran down my face, I heard clearly, distinctly and lovingly “I do Veronica and I did”  I knew instantly that was the voice of Jesus and for the first time ever I left fear behind and knew I was worthy, special, important and mostly loved.

My journey to having the LORD as the love of my life started on January 26, 2003 the day my mom left this life.  I have had a lot of starts and stops along with the way but one piece of advice from a dear friend helps me to get back up again.  I share it with you today:

Step out of the boat, keep your eyes on Him, and don’t look down.  Place your hand in His and step out of the boat.  He will never let you go – He will never let you drown.  Hold onto His hand and keep your eyes on Him.

 Remove all distraction, sit with your eyes closed, slow your breathing down, now envision that, soak that in, and get that mental picture.  Take a deep breath, open your eyes, step out of the boat my dear friend.  He is there waiting for you.

Flowerbeds and Weeds

This morning I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and let’s just say I did not come out looking good in the whole thing. However after some time I made an amends…

I decided to help my husband weed all our flowerbeds. As I was weeding I began praying for all my friends and family, everyone who is struggling, needing surgery, recovering from surgery, is in distress or just needing Jesus. As I was praying I came to the conclusion that my flowerbeds that are completely overgrown with weeds, dead flowers and haven’t been watered are very much like our lives. When weeding flowerbeds we do so because the weeds are taking over the beauty of the flowers we lovingly planted.

Now if they are overgrown like mine were – it’s been over a month since I cared for them – then after weeding them they look very sparse where before they looked full, even though it was deceiving because they were full of weeds.

As I was weeding I realized since the flowers haven’t been cared for in such a long time some of the good flowers and foliage had to be removed as well so the plant could sustain itself. How fitting – God is our Weeder, if we allow Him to be. He weeds us and in doing so ad He pulls the weeds (sin, negativity, bad habits, etc) He pulls up some of the good flowers (things that don’t harm us but don’t do us any good either, or take our focus off Him). It hurts when He does this, we seem sparse and very vulnerable as we go through the weeding but in doing so that’s when others will be able to see His work in our lives!! When our flowers bloom and the beauty is eye catching.

However, what if God weeds us and then we are never watered – the weeds grow back spreading even further, the flowers wilt and then no one can tell where the flowers start or the weeds end – it’s just chaos!

The flowers need watered and weeded constantly just as we do – God is our Weeder and His Word our Water ~ we grow, we blossom, we show the world His beauty and mighty hand when we allow Him to be our Weeder and our Water.  The thought “bloom where you are planted” comes to mind as I write this and I think it’s very fitting but just as fitting is the thought, don’t allow your flowerbeds to go without water or weeding for very long – it’s hard work to sort it all out afterwards, its much easier to water and weed daily.  So “tend to your flowerbeds daily” and then in doing so others will ask “how are your flowers so beautiful in this season of heat and drought” and you can give glory to the LORD by telling them about your Waterer!

~Weeds grow and spread with no water, taking over every area in the flowerbed, while the flowers wilt and die.  It is the same with your faith and relationship with the LORD.  Have you watered yourself today? ~

Below are two pictures after we pulled up all the weeds and dead flowers, they don’t look that great now but wait in just a short while with some water and daily tending, they will be gorgeous in no time.

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After giving loving care.

Bible Study ~ Hidden Joy ~ Day 41

Today is ending week 6 (hard to believe) and Stephanie’s last day of leading us through the study.  A wonderful post from her this morning at Melissa Taylor’s Blog.

I want to end the week with something Stephanie mentioned at the beginning, it’s worth remembering today and everyday: 

What would happen if you got up tomorrow, and promised yourself NO MATTER WHAT, you would refuse to harbor bitterness and/or anger towards ANYONE? I wonder how things would change? Try it? What have you got to lose?

Was I able to completely forgive just from reading Chapter 6 and answering the questions?  No, 30+ years of hurts and unforgiveness doesn’t go away in 6 short days HOWEVER…..I do feel my heart softening and yes, I will be able to forgive those who hurt me and probably today.  That’s not the hard part, the hard part is forgiving myself ~ I will be able to forgive myself what is harder is forgiving and then letting it go.  But I will because this isn’t the life I want for myself or my family anymore and I know it’s not the life God destined me to have.  I want to walk in His light, love and joy no matter the circumstances.  So will I be able to forgive by the time Chapter 7 comes around on Sunday ~ Yes, I just did!!!!  So I was wrong 30+ years of hurts and unforgiveness can go away in an instant….when you give it to God and let Him to His work.

Dear LORD thank you for moving within my heart, body and soul as I was writing this entry.  Thank You for whispering those words “why carry it around anymore, give it to ME.  I am willing and ready to take it, I have been waiting years for you to give all this to Me. ”  Thank You for opening my heart and for changing me.  Please LORD keep renewing me and strengthing me in You.  I know without a doubt that I will be tested shortly by the devil but help me to remember I gave it all to You and that’s all that matters, because I am now remade in You.  Thank You LORD for the tears that fell this morning finally!!!!  Who knew that in order to feel, be able to cry and feel my sorry all I had to do was forgive and give it over to You.  You are amazing and I love you more each day LORD.  Please be with each of my Hidden Joy sisters LORD as they work on their healing and relationship with You ~ strengthen them, remain in them, give them Your peace and comfort.  Bless and protect today and always Wendy, Melissa and Stephanie.  Thank You LORD for each one of them and for this study.  And as I say In Jesus’ Name ~ Amen!!!!  You have brought to mind words to one of my favorite songs:  

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

Bible Study ~ Hidden Joy ~ Day 40

Day 40 was on July 7, 2011.  Stephanie posted very late on Wednesday on the blog for Thursday, very powerful and inspiring blog today, click Melissa Taylor Blog.

Today’s assignment was to answer questions 4 and 5.

4.  God’s Word warns that harboring anger and bitterness in your heart causes deep trouble in your life.  Often your unwillingness to forgive hurts you more than it hurts the person who hurt you.  If you have places in your heart in which you have harbored a lcak of forgiveness in the past or are currently harboring it, do you see the trouble.  Scripture warns about (affects other relatinships, physical illness, unanswered prayers, throughts of revenge, unforgiving hearts pour over into other areas of your life?)  Have you experienced any of these effects?

  • Wow, I have never really had it put to me like that but you know I do believe this may be the road block I am having.  And why I am always so angry at others even though they have done nothing to me.  Why I am in a bad mood consistenly and why my home is always in disagreement.  I have reoccuring headaches, stomach issues and many unanswered prayers.  Time to get right with God and forgive!!!!

5.  To overcome these thoughts and attitudes, Colossians 3:12, 14 tells us to clothe ourselves with new ones:  compassion, kindness, humilty, gentleness, patience and love!

  • a.  Choose one of the attitudes listed above and commit to grow in that area for the next week in your relationships, especially any relationships where you harbor anger, bitterness, or a lack of forgivness.  I encourage you to model what we have done before ~ take the above verse from Colossians and write it down, memorize it and make it a prayer. The new attitudes I am choosing are patience and gentleness ~ for me these two go hand and hand.  My prayer: Dear LORD please help me to grow in PATIENCE and GENTLENESS. I believe LORD when I have gentleness I will be more patient and when I have more patience, I will be more gentle with others. I invited You into my heart and ask that Your presence reside in me, clothing me in patience, getleness and above all Your love. Help me to remember that each person I come into contact with is loved and forgiven by You just as I am. In Jesus’ Name ~ Amen.
  • b.  After one week, write down how your change of attitued affected you, the other person(s) and your relatiionships with them.

Bible Study ~ Hidden Joy ~ Day 38

Will update this more later today….I am falling behind once again 😦  However, if interested you can read the blog post for this day on Melissa Taylor’s blog

Day 38 was actually on Tuesday, July 5, 2011.

Today’s assignment was to answer questions 1 & 2:

1.  Have you ever resisted forgiving someone who hurt or disappointed you?  Do you currently harbor a lack of forgiveness in your heart against someone?

  • To the first part of the question….yes, I always have trouble forgiving people, it’s the “Pride – the right to be right” as Wendy says on Page 86.  I feel justified because I have been hurt and I want the other person to know how deeply they hurt me even if it was a small offense.  This is where I need work ~ I need Jesus to work on me in this area!!!!
  • To the second part of the question….I know I  do harbor a lack of forgiveness in my heart against someone – I can feel it physically.  The problem I have is who?  I am sure it’s more than one person ~ I fear the biggest one though is myself!

2.  For the person(s) listed in question 1, why is forgiveness difficult (e.g. you feel you always give in, this person has not taken responsibility for his/her actions, this person has not asked for forgiveness, this person will get off easily, this person repeatedly hurts you and/or others):

  • hmmm, hard question.  But basically for each of the individuals I know I need to forgive it boils down to I feel that this person(s) repeatedly hurts me and/or other; this person(s) has not taken responsibility for their actions and I feel like I am always giving in to keep the peace.