Strength For Today

A journey of keeping my heart, mind, and body in TODAY

It’s Not My Fault

I have been doing some thinking this morning. Pondering, really – over this beautiful life that I get to lead today. I have been considering where I stand and contemplating where I stood.  I have been quietly reflecting on what it used to be like, what happened, and what it is like today.  And I have decided, that it is NOT my fault!

For the past week or so, I have been studying the book of Hebrews.  I’ve been doing it in community and on my own.  I have been asking God to reveal to me that which HE wants me to understand.  And I think that He is reminding me, this amazing place I sit today has NOTHING to do with me, and EVERYTHING to do with Him.  He is the One who has done it, not me.

If my life were of my own making, I would still be stuck in the shameful, sinful ways I used to live.  On my own, I am a sinful woman, filled with desires of the flesh – and behaviors which today, quite plainly, disgust me. On my own, I can still be that woman if I choose to.  I can still let the desires of my flesh devour the peace that has taken root in my heart.  I can follow any path I choose, as a matter of fact.  If it were up to ME – just Dawn, apart from God – I’d probably still be making the same poor choices and walking the same dark roads.

But, thankfully, it isn’t up to me anymore.  I took that burden off my shoulders when I surrendered my life to Christ.  I removed from myself the RIGHT to live in my sins when I CHOSE To give everything I am to Him.  Today, this life I lead – this amazing life, abundant with beautiful things – this life is CLEARLY not MY FAULT.  It is not my doing, not my design, not my intended way to live.  And I am so grateful for that.

I am in awe of the way God works.  The changes He has made inside of my heart which have overflowed into my outward “self”, still simply amaze me.  And I hope it always does.  The way I live today, the choices I make, the words I say, even the thoughts I think – none of it is ME.  It is all Him.  And I’ve never been happier or felt more FREE than I do today.  Simply one of the most amazing paradoxes.  I DIE to myself daily, so that I can live truly FREE.

I am so grateful today.  Words cannot express the true depth of the gratitude I feel, but hopefully this gives you just a taste. Life WITH God in control, is truly that.  LIFE.

 

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

He Makes Wars Cease

There is so much darkness in our world.  Especially right now.  Every time I turn on the radio, I hear more reports of violence, war, pain, suffering, and death.  I have to be honest and say that sometimes, I just have to pop in a CD instead.  The escape into beautiful Praise and Worship music feels so much better than listening to all the horrific things that are happening in our world right now.  It literally makes my stomach churn.

Well, God must be doing something in this area of my heart, because lately I have turned off the radio less, and have been listening more.  I am starting to pay attention to the happenings of the world.  I am starting to listen, really listen. And I have to say that there is a fear that creeps around the edges of my heart when I think about the safety of our country.

Thank the Lord that I have Faith, because my Faith is what keeps the fear from seeping into my heart.  My Faith keeps that fear at bay.  I have confidence in what I believe.  I believe that the God I serve is GREATER than anything that is happening in our world.  I believe that He is Sovereign, and that all that is taking place is not only known by Him, but also allowed by Him.  I believe that if God wanted to put an end to the evil, He could and He would.  I do not understand why He is allowing it to go on – but that is not my place.  As the Word tells me:

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

and again….

“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”  Romans 11:34

and again….

Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor?  Isaiah 40:13

and again….

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.   Ecclesiastes 11:5

and yet again….

“Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?   Isaiah 45:9

It is not my place to know why or to even try to understand why God allows the things He allows.  I can trust that it is for the ultimate Good.  I can trust that He is going to use every bit of it to further the Kingdom.  I can trust that those whose lives are being sacrificed because of their belief are resting perfectly in His absolute Love in Heaven right now.  I can trust that He is GOD, and He is in control.  Why can I trust in these things?  Because I have Faith.

I have Faith that God is who He says He is, and He will do all that He says He will do.

Wars will cease, I have no doubt.  It may not be in my lifetime, or yours, but they will cease.  And it is God who will cause that to occur.

Until that day, what can we do?  Well, it is not up to us to change the world, but I believe we can make a difference.  It starts in our home, with our own children.  We can teach them love, acceptance, and tolerance as a way of life. We can teach them about Christ and lead them to loving Him with their whole hearts.  We can encourage them to live lives of peace and love.  We can do this every single day.  We may not be able to do anything about what is happening globally right now, but what we choose to do today does impact our future.  There is an old hymn that is coming to mind, and feels like the right thing to start living by:

“Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me”.

 

Leave a comment »

Identity Crisis

A question was posed to me at church this weekend, which spoke directly to the heart of what I have been struggling with in my soul:

 “What is distorting your true identity?”

In order for me to expand on why that question was so poignant to me, let me tell you a little bit about what has been going on inside of me.  I have been struggling with this concept of “not fitting in” again recently.  I say again, because it is something I have battled for most of my life.  That sense of belonging was one that never quite seemed to settle on my heart while I was growing up, and even throughout most of my adulthood.  Since coming to Christ, however, and since stepping into recovery from my alcoholism, I have really not been dealing with the issue of not belonging.  In fact, for the better part of the last 4 years of my life, I have felt that I finally found the place where I did belong.

So, why the struggle?

That is the very question I have been asking myself.  It is like all of a sudden, this deep desire for acceptance has consumed my life again.  This unquenchable hunger and thirst for validation, for approval, for comfort.  These things have not been a focus of my walk, so when they come up with such a vengeance, I am forced to take a look at myself.

A couple of things surfaced immediately.  I recognized that I have been lazy in my mornings, and my routine is way off.  You might not find that very significant, but this is a big deal for me.  My mornings are my time with God.  It is in my mornings where I “fuel up” for the day, so to speak.  If I start my day spending quality time with the Lord in prayer and meditation – journaling, reading, connecting – I typically spend the rest of my day feeling happy, joyous, and free.  When I start my day “running on self”, the rest of the day typically falls apart!  Sometimes I am fortunate enough to recognize it, and am able to stop and focus myself on God – a type of “reboot” – and finish off better than I began.  But sometimes that is not the case.  Sometimes I spend an entire day running on “self”, or several days, or sometimes even longer.  You can bet that those strings of time spent living in my own power are days which I am not feeling, thinking, or behaving quite right.

What has been going on lately has been probably the worst string of “self-driven misery” that I have had in quite a while. It didn’t look or feel the way it typically does when I am stuck in myself, therefore I didn’t recognize it right away.  Then, when I did become aware that I wasn’t placing God first, I started trying to change my performance, but my thinking remained the same.  Have you ever tried that before?  Tried to change something you are doing without changing the way you are thinking?  Let me be the first to tell you: it is a DISASTER every single time.  I have found, time and time again, that I simply cannot change my actions unless I first change the way I am thinking.  So, needless to say, I was continuing to walk in a very uncomfortable way.

I’ve been in this battle with self a lot lately.  Good days.  Bad days.  Blah days.  But, it has been a constant struggle to maintain anything for very long.  I’ve been unable to write with the freedom I typically write with.  I’ve been unable to pray with the fervency I typically pray with.  I’ve struggled in my relationships, in my work, in everything.  And the answer was so simple, so right there in front of my face all the time – how I miss it, I still do not understand.  But it came to me from a simple question:

 “What is distorting your true identity?”

 

The answer?  ME.

I distort my true identity.  I get in the way of the mirror that God so lovingly places in front of me every single day.  Who am I?  I am Dawn, a beautifully redeemed daughter to the One True King!  I am Dawn, a fully restored and rightly-placed child of GOD.  I am Dawn, a wonderfully renewed and perfectly accepted woman, created by GOD, and placed in the role of mother, of wife, of teacher.  I am Dawn, clothed in a ROBE of the RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ! I am Dawn.  I am free.  I am no longer bound to my flesh, no longer bound to my sin, no longer bound to live a life apart from the saving Grace of the Lord Jesus Himself, the author and perfecter of my FAITH.  I am Dawn, and I am FREE.  That is my true identity.

Perhaps that is where I need to start every single day.  Reading those words to myself, reminding me of my true identity – and looking in the mirror that GOD gives me, instead of the distorted image that I create myself.

Anyone with me?

Leave a comment »

Suicide : Is There Any Hope?

Suicide is not a fun topic to write about.  It is not something that I care to spend much time thinking about either.  In fact, if I were to be totally honest with you, I would say that I am extremely uncomfortable even typing these first few sentences.  What do I know about suicide?  Nothing, really.

But, I do know that yesterday’s news of Robin William’s death has really stirred up something in my heart.  A desire to learn, to understand, and to help.

Robin Williams is not the first person I have known to commit suicide.  Pause here.  Did you notice that I wrote “I have known” in that last sentence?  I mean, what did I really know about Robin Williams??  I knew nothing of the person behind the actor.  What I did know, was that he continuously portrayed happiness, joy, and a lightness of spirit in almost every movie he ever acted in.  I find it interesting, yet not at all surprising, that those of us who have watched his films over the years would be SO SHOCKED that he ended his own life yesterday.

On the surface – the Robin Williams we all “knew” was the definition of HAPPY, right?  I mean, he was the GENIE in Aladdin for goodness sake!  He was the voice of Good Morning Vietnam!  He was the sweet, loving, kind-hearted father who went to extremes for the sake of the love of his children in Mrs. Doubtfire.  He was Robin Williams.

He was an actor.  A darn good one at that.  And it is not like I am not aware of that fact.  I realize that there is a person behind every actor.  A person that the public rarely gets to know.  Why?  Because they would become too real.  They would become human. And maybe we would stop idolizing them.  Stop putting them on these pedestals.  Stop expecting them to be perfect just because we see them that way… or should I say, we WANT to see them that way?  Stop the pressure.  Just a thought.

The point of this message is not that actors should be more real. Please don’t stop reading here.  The point I am trying to get across is that EVERY person is an ACTOR.  And EVERY actor has a truth behind the life they lead for others to see.  I am an actor.  You are an actor.  We all present ourselves one way to the “world”, and another way behind the safety zone of our own hearts and minds.

This has become incredibly clear to me as I have walked alongside other women in recovery.  Being totally transparent and honest with others is something that does not come easy.  God blessed me early on in my recovery with the gift of transparency without shame. I have come to understand that this is a gift I should not take lightly.  I have learned that one of the most difficult things for some people to do, is to expose their “underbelly”, so to speak.  To get real.  To get gut-wrechingly honest.

And I have learned that this is an incredibly painful reality for those who suffer from the darkness of depression.  More often than not, they suffer in silence.  They become captives inside their own mind – prisoners in chains.  They walk a fine line of hopelessness, feeling very alone and isolated in the world.  They may not show it on the outside, but on the inside they are screaming for someone, anyone, to SEE them.  To know them.  To help them.

More often than not, we think we do know the people in our life.  We think we know them because we see what they want us to see.  Very few people ever get the opportunity to witness the true person behind the actor.  Sometimes I wonder if we were to invest a little more effort into the relationships around us, would we discover that most people are NOT who they portray themselves to be?  Would we discover that there is hurt and pain inside every heart, inside every life?  I would venture to say yes.  As I am beginning to invest myself into the lives of others, I am coming to find out that there is a great number of people just in the circle of those I know who suffer from depression.  Who battle constantly with negative self-image.  Who see themselves as “less-than” the rest of the world.  A great number.

I did a little research on suicide today.  Did you know that the number of suicides that take place every year in the United States of America is over 30,000?  Does it make you stop and wonder if anyone in your life might be heading in that direction?  Chances are, someone you know has contemplated ending his or her own life – probably more than once.  Even scarier is the fact that you probably know someone who has TRIED it.  Maybe you even know someone who has done it.

So, herein lies the REAL question I am posing:  Is there hope????

I say a resounding YES!!!!!  Depression has been around for as long as there have been people.  If you know anything about the Bible, you know that the psalmist suffered from severe depression.  How did he endure?  He dug his heels into his relationship with his Creator!  He called, cried out desperately, to God – and he was saved!!!  It’s all over the place in the book of Psalms.

Does that mean that all we must do is cry out, and sit and wait for God to move?  That is NOT what I am saying.  What I am saying is that a relationship with God is vital.  Crying out to God is the very first step we must take.  Then, as we are prompted to act…we must act.  Sometimes God will cause a miraculous healing to take place, and crying out to Him is all it takes for the darkness to lift.  More often than not, however, once we cry out to God – He will create circumstances in our lives in which we will be able to receive the help we so desperately need.  He will place resources in our path which will become vital to our recovery.

One of the most precious resources that God has bestowed upon us is people.  He gave us the gift of relationships.  We have EACH OTHER.  We are not alone!! What an amazing and priceless resource this is!  Reach out to someone today.  Ask them how they are. Then listen when they share.  Talk to them.  Listen to them.  Share with them.  Be someone’s hope.  You never know… God might use your words to reach them at exactly the right moment.  God might use YOU to save someone from walking the dark and desperate path toward suicide.

Get to know someone today.  And let someone really get to know you.  It might just save a life.

 

 

Leave a comment »

I am NOT Worthy

Me.

Unworthy.

Inadequate.

Insufficient.

Lacking.

Incomplete.

Limited.

 

I have been in an emotional battle lately.  I have been in face to face combat with feelings of inadequacy in many areas of my life, especially my writing.  I have stood toe to toe with the monster of unworthiness.  I have been dodging bullets of insufficiency, and tiptoeing around in the minefield of all that seems to be lacking within me.  I have wrestled with my own incompleteness until the point of exhaustion.  And I have fallen into the trap of doubting my limited human capabilities time and time again.

At first glance, this appears to be spiritual warfare to me.  At first glance, I think that I have been listening to the lies of the deceiver, and giving him victory over my emotions.  At first glance.   I should tell you all that I haven’t been combatting these emotions blindly.  I have been fully aware of the war, and actively engaged in each new battle.  In fact, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve just told Satan to GET BEHIND ME!

The emotional battle continued, no matter how many times I rebuked the LIE!  I must admit, it was starting to get downright aggravating.  Until it hit me.  This is definitely a spiritual battle that I am fighting.  But I’m starting to think that it isn’t with the deceiver.  I’m starting to think that this emotional turmoil is actually exactly where GOD wants me right now.  Why would God be responsible for these ugly emotions?  Only one reason comes to mind:  Because its TRUE.

I believe God wants me to fully submit to His worthiness, His adequacy, His sufficiency, His abundance, His completeness, and His limitlessness!  The only way for me to fully submit to these attributes of God, is to fully recognize my own humanness.  If I am still depending on my own strength to get me through, then how can I be fully committed to Him?  Simple.  I can’t.

My human nature, my FLESH, wants me to believe that I can handle this life.  The truth is, apart from God, I can handle nothing!  I am not worthy of my calling.  But GOD IS worthy of my obedience to His calling.  Alone, I am inadequate for just about everything I am called to do.  But GOD is completely adequate.  My strength and my talents are insufficient to carry me through to the final stretch of this journey called life.  But GOD is totally sufficient.  In fact, His Word tells me that His strength is made perfect in my weakness!!  On my own, I lack for any good thing.  But, thank GOD that HIS ABUNDANCE makes up for all that I lack!  I am and will always be incomplete while on this Earth, in this body.  God is the only complete that exists, and I will know completeness when I stand before Him in Heaven.  Finally, my capabilities are definitely limited.  I am only one person, and can only do and handle so much.  But when I place my life in His hands, the possibilities are limitless, because God is limitless!  

Oh, Thank the LORD that I do not have to rely on my own human strength to make it through this life!  Praise God that I can LEAN into Him in every single area of my life, from my parenting to my writing, from my finances to my career, from my health to my marriage and recovery…  in ALL things, He is and will continue to be MORE THAN ENOUGH.

Finally, I think I get it.  I can stop fighting these emotions.  I can start accepting that this is exactly where God wants me.  He wants me to experience my humanness in FULL right now because He has something He is preparing me for.  Whatever that is, I am not privileged to know.  But I am led to believe that it is going to require my total trust in HIS capabilities and not my own!  In His Sovereignty, I can trust that He knows all.  He knows exactly what He is doing and exactly WHY He is doing it.  God never promises a comfortable life.  In fact, He promises suffering, trials, and tribulations.  And He promises that we will NEVER walk through them alone.  Tonight, I am going to rest in that truth. God is working out something within me, so He can use me for His purposes.  Ok Lord, once again, YOU win!!!

 

 

God.

Worthy.

Adequate.

Sufficient.

Abundant.

Complete.

Limitless.

 

 

1 Comment »

How Does God Speak?

How does God speak to you?

Think about it for a minute.  If we believe what we say we believe as Christians, and that is that GOD IS ALIVE AND ACTIVE in our lives every day, then He must be communicating with us, right?  And there are so many available options when it comes to communication in our day and age!  I mean, there’s the spoken word of course. God uses people to speak to us all the time.  There are sermons given at church, on-line, on the radio, and on the television. There are amazing Praise and Worship songs out there today as well!  Then, there is the written word (I’m actually referring to the ‘old school’ WRITTEN word here… like BOOKS).  There is the Bible, daily devotionals, various individual, small and large group studies, and other Christian books written by a myriad of respectable and noteworthy authors. There is also the cyber word!  There are emails, on-line Bible studies, on-line devotionals, on-line prayer groups, and pretty much everything else you can think of!  God has a multitude of ways to get our attention!

images

One of the most amazing things about God is that He cares deeply for each of us as individuals.  We are not just a collective group of His people.  We are a collective group of His children.  And like children, we each have a unique learning style.  We each have a means of communicating and receiving communication that works BEST for us.  And you know what?  God cares about that!  He cares that you receive information best through reading, while someone else receives it best through listening.  What amazes me about this whole thing is the astronomical NUMBER of people that God is intimately concerned about.  It’s a number too large for my simple mind to comprehend.  And that is OK.  That is where my Faith comes in.  I believe what I believe because God says  it is the TRUTH.  And so, I believe that He takes the time to communicate on a very personal level and in a very intimate way, with each of us.

So, how does He speak to you?

Like anyone trying to communicate with us, God cannot get through to us unless we are willing to listen for Him.  I mean, think about it!  If your spouse is trying to talk to you, and you are in the middle of talking to someone else, would you really be able to hear him or her? I mean, really hear?  Basically, that is what we do to God.  We are always so busy busy busy!  Busy doing this and that, busy talking to this person and that person, busy with our jobs, our parenting, our relationship building, and even our thinking!  We are often so busy, that we miss God’s messages!  I don’t know about you, but just that thought makes me feel uneasy.  I, for one – do NOT want to miss a single word that God has for me!  So, how do I do this?  Well, a wise person once said some words to me, and they have helped a great deal in this area of hearing God speak.  She said, “Dawn – sometimes you just have to shut your mouth, quiet your mind, sit still, and listen!”

Sitting quietly before God is a wonderful thing to do.  Some people are able to just shut off their minds and sit before God meditatively, receiving messages galore from Him!  I must be honest with you.  That is not me.  I have tried and tried, but my brain will just not QUIT when I am sitting in silence.  And to be honest with you, the noise of my thoughts (even the thought “Be quiet brain!!”) becomes loud enough to drown out anything that God might have to say in that time.  So, while I enjoy quiet times of just sitting still periodically, that is not the way God speaks to me.  But it is a good start.

For me, going before God with my mouth quiet is essential.  Being still is not necessarily as vital for me.  (In fact, I hear from God a lot when I’m running.) But the number one way that God speaks to me is through the written word.  I get revelations through reading the Bible, devotionals, and other individual or group studies.  I hear God when I read alone, and when I read with others. I have discovered over the years, however,  that God communicates with me on an incredibly intimate level the most, through my own writing.  It is awesome really.  I usually think I’m just “venting” or “praying” or “reflecting” in my journals.  But when I get a prompting to go back and read something, I typically receive messages from God for THAT moment from something I could have written weeks, months, or even years ago!  Also, sometimes I think I am writing for a specific purpose, and I come to find out that I was really writing because there was something God was trying to communicate to me.

Case and point:  In my most recent blog post, Letter to My Daughter, I thought I was initially only writing to my daughter.  Thenthought I was writing for other mothers/fathers to share with their daughters.  It was only yesterday that it hit me.  I was writing that letter because GOD had something to say to me.  In fact, it was this sentence that struck me, and caused me to re-read my words to my daughter in a very different way:

 “If you have a strong connection with the Lord, you are going to recognize your True Beauty and Worth.  You will KNOW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that YOU are a daughter of the MOST HIGH KING, and you are perfectly LOVED, perfectly VALUED, perfectly ACCEPTED, and ADORED.”

Yesterday, I realized that I had been struggling with this very issue.  I had been struggling to see my own True Beauty and Worth. I was having a difficult time remembering the TRUTH about being perfectly loved, valued, accepted, and adored…simply because I am HIS daughter.  It hit me, and I cried like a baby.  God loves me so much, that He spoke personally to me through my very own writing.  It never ceases to amaze me, How incredibly loving and faithful our God is!!  Every time I am discouraged, or down… every SINGLE time, He comes through the fog of my mind, and speaks.  My only part is to listen.

 

So…  How DOES God speak to you?

 

Leave a comment »