Beautiful, Courageous You


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Rise Up… Take Courage & Do It!

purpose

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God wants to heal you from depression, anxiety, shame, addiction and whatever else holds you captive, He wants you to dream again, to dream big and fulfil the God-given purpose you were created for! As the New Year approaches may I urge you to establish a vision for your life that captures your heart and imagination, something so big that you become purpose-driven. For this to happen you must first confront your captors, those past hurts, habits, and unforgiveness must be dealt with before you can launch out into a new life of complete freedom and joy, ready to dream again, to truly live again!. Doing this requires courage, plenty of it! Author Bob Gass writes: “On the heels of every dream there’s a demon of doubt. No sooner is your dream conceived than your mind is suddenly filled with all the reasons why it may not work…” Your inner dialogue may go something like this:, receiving prayer ‘doesn’t really work’, going to a counselor ‘may be a waste of time’, I have been this way for so long now I doubt anything will ever change… this is ‘just the way I am’… “ and there will be folks around you who’ll be quick to confirm those fears. In spite of doubt and fear, you must forge ahead and dream; otherwise you’ll spend the rest of your life fulfilling the dreams of others”.  It is time to stand firm and declare you will not stay this way, break free from the shackles of fear, God has more for you than you have been settling for. ‘Rise up; this matter is in your hands… take courage and do it.” Ezra 10:4


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He’s Very Fond of Me

love for youIf you’ve ever tried to ‘just forget it’ move on, ‘let it go’,  you will know that it is very difficult to switch off from the pain associated to hurtful memories. For many years I tried to wipe away painful memories through a season of being bulimic, drinking too much alcohol, hypnotherapy, sessions with new age practitioners calling upon the Universe as if it was some magic genie that would wipe away the past!

All attempts I made to be complete and happy were futile until I came to the complete end of myself, I’d hit rock bottom and from there I found myself running back to the arms of Jesus.   In my quite times with Jesus, reading His Word and in prayer, I have learned of His affection for me, His perspective of me and His interpretation of who I am… when you take hold of a Heavenly perspective of yourself it changes everything!

You are His beloved, He delights in you and longs to see you set free;  “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32 (NKJV).

In these clear-cut words Jesus revealed that the key to freedom lies in knowing Him, knowing what His word says about you and your life. Our earthly reference to love cannot be compared to God’s love for us, the gospel of John defines what love is; “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us”.1 John 3:16 (NKJV).  Jesus is saying to you today, you are worth dying for, your worth is priceless, you are loved.  Earthly, human love is fickle, people are always falling in and falling out of love but the love of Jesus endures forever. Amazing, awesome… word’s fail to capture the profound expression of God’s love for us, the wonder for me is how would my life change, what sort of person would I be, if I could grasp, I mean truly believed the scripture testimony of God’s extravagant love for me?

Brennan Manning tells the story of an old Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, “You must be very close to God.” The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles, “Yes, he’s very fond of me.”

My prayer for you is that you will allow God to take your past hurts, be healed of them so as you can really begin to live. In spite of what others say and think about you, may you gain a heavenly perspective of just how amazing and wonderfully loved you are… and yes, He is very fond of YOU x


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Deep cries out to Deep

            

Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me Psalm 42:7

Psalm 42 tells of a deer that longs for a refreshing stream, verse 5-7 speaks of the sons of Korah struggling with depression as deep calls unto deep. I believe this is a cry from the deepest part of our soul, desperate for intimacy with God a cry that say’s i’m completely overwhelmed from the trials that have come across me . In the months ahead of Jaeya’s birth I would experience a place where, like the deer with nothing to quench her thirst, I was desperate to believe in God, I longed to experience His heart and all He is, to drink of the living water, to go deeper in Him. This longing came from the depths of my soul, completely cast down with nowhere else to go, the Lord said ‘go deeper’. In my experience, going deeper, desiring to know God more intimately brings your faith under trial as seen in the story of Job, he was tried and his latter end of life was more blessed than his beginning, his faith was deeper, fortified and proven. Perhaps you have cried out ‘Jesus I want to know you, are you real, do you hear my cries’? Don’t be surprised if He takes you aside into a furnace of fiery trials for a while. There is great purpose in our suffering, like a refiner of precious silver or gold, the heat is turned up as high as needed for the dross, the impurities of the metal, to float to the surface. To his delight, after he has skimmed the dross from the surface, the refiner can see his reflection and the precious metal is ‘proven to be real’. Jesus takes the impurities that surface in our ‘furnace of suffering’,  and although painful, the Great refiner knows what is necessary in order for His precious one to be all that she was created to be. Beyond the refining process  He smiles, for now she reflects His glory. Perfected through trial & suffering our Lord makes something precious, a someone beautiful… so precious and so beautiful that priceless is your worth!

“Are not my troubles intended to deepen my character and to robe me in graces I had little of before? I come to my glory through eclipses, tears, death. My ripest fruit grows against the roughest wall. Job’s afflictions left him with higher conceptions and lowlier thoughts of himself. “Now,” he cried “my eye seeth thee”. Streams in the Desert, Oct 4. Pg. 294


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Affliction Eclipsed by Glory

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Here’s a little snippet from my book “Beautiful, Courageous You” due out early 2013…

On the precipice of denying my faith and completely giving up on ever feeling joy again, I made an appointment to see a psychologist who just so happened to be a Christian lady. My first appointment she prayed before and after the session, in a cynical tone I quipped ‘good luck with that’, she responded ‘with what?’ ‘prayer’ I said… ‘ you really believe prayer works?’. ‘Ah yes’, she warmly smiled, ‘when I pray for you I believe we have already won the battle for your healing’. Okay good for you (I thought to myself), then my thoughts went into a spin:  ‘maybe this faith thing is a big hoax, or maybe we are like pawns on a chess board that God moves as He pleases’!. My pain and sorrow had me feeling negative, disillusioned and feeling very disappointed with God, if in fact He even existed.

In spite of my doubts I pushed on to keep seeing the psychologist and week after week she closed her eyes and prayed for me whilst I rolled my eyes to the ceiling anticipating ‘amen’ and anxious to get the session over with. One day, as she was praying for me,  she said God had shown her that my empty arms needed filling, that the desire to love and nurture a baby had begun when I birthed our stillborn son (Connor) and this desire would not be fulfilled by anything else.

The thought of another pregnancy was frightening, I recall during labour with Connor I cried ‘ I am never doing this again’ not because of the physical pain but the pain of loss again would be too great to bear. Perhaps God would redeem what we had lost? Could He really turn our mourning into dancing? Would He eclipse our affliction with His Glory?

Somehow in the midst of doubt and unbelief God was drawing me back toward trusting in His unchanging love.  Early one morning I began to pray ‘God where are you when life hurts?’ I felt Him whisper ‘I am with you…  when you hurt, I hurt also’. By faith (the very little that I had) I made the decision to try for another baby – God willing,  I would do it afraid rather than live with the ever-present ache of empty arms. Lee and I were blessed with another pregnancy 4 months after the loss of our baby boy.

30th March 2010 we welcomed our little girl (Jaeya) into the world. As she lay in my arms I gazed at her in awe of the miracle of life, in that moment I caught a glimpse of Jesus as His presence filled the room with peace, love and joy… our afflictions had been eclipsed by glory, for indeed God had proven to me that while He had been silent never was He absent, for God has said “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” Hebrews 13:5 (MSG)


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The Truth Shall Set You Free

“God is real, I am healed!” was my response after reluctantly joining a prayer group for some ‘help’. I was overflowing with joy, how is it possible to move from a deep depression into being overcome with joy? This is not the result of positive thinking, it is impossible to change a negative thought pattern in the space of a few hours, but with God all things are possible.

Through the power of prayer, I had God’s Word, the Truth, spoken into my spirit and this was the beginning of my journey back from a deep depression. Truth is powerful, the Bible tells us that the Word of God is, “living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword” Hebrews 4:12. The Word is the greatest weapon of all, when you hear or read the word of God and you know the truth of who you are, when you stand firm, with true determination and resolve that you are more than a conqueror, that you are loved by God… this perseverance leads to breakthrough, without fail!

 Nick Vujicic, author of “Life Without Limbs”, understood this when he said: “in life if you don’t know the truth then you cannot be free, because then you will believe that the lies are the truth”.

So why did God move in such a powerful way to bring a miracle healing upon me? I believe He answers the cry of a desperate heart, we must thirst and long for God, surrender our lives to Him completely. For most of us, we only completely surrender once there are no other options. Like me, going to a prayer group was my final attempt to get well. Begin today to truly seek Him with your whole heart and expect Him to answer your cry for help, if you feel distant from God, I assure you He is not the one who has moved.

The story is told of a young student who went to his spiritual teacher and asked the question, “Master, how can I truly find God?” The teacher asked the student to accompany him to the river which ran by the village and invited him to go into the water. When they got to the middle of the stream, the teacher said, “Please immerse yourself in the water.” The student did as he was instructed, whereupon the teacher put his hands on the young man’s head and held him under the water. Presently the student began to struggle. The master held him under still. A moment passed and the student was thrashing and beating the water and air with his arms. Still, the master held him under the water. Finally, the student was released and shot up from the water, lungs aching and gasping for air. The teacher waited for a few moments and then said, “When you desire God as truly as you desired to breathe the air you just breathed — then you shall find God.”

 


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His Tender & Wise Purposes

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“What God can prevent in His power, He permits in His wisdom”– Arthur Burt

Childlike faith, it would seem, does not just happen for everyone. Like me, you may have many unanswered questions, why didn’t God prevent this from happening? Why hasn’t He changed this situation? , we reason. Sure enough I have questioned why my path has led me through pain and sorrow why should I have to suffer this way?.  After all, I have honoured and served God in all the ways I know possible so how come things worked out this way?. Did Jesus sit on His hands and let our baby boy’s death top the broken heart charts for Lee and I?

Many times people are perplexed that I choose to glorify God, they have questioned how can I still believe in God let alone trust in His goodness? When I was trusting in Him, He let me down?! Didn’t He?? I have grappled in my mind with these arguments for the past three years, ‘is God good? Does He love me? Why do bad things happen to good people?,  in fact why do bad things happen at all? Finally I grew tired of trying to figure it all out and made the choice to trust in the Word of God, my faith has been renewed and I have entered His rest. I still have painful memories and even present day sorrowful situations, but I am learning to transcend them by actively pursuing God in prayer and reading scriptures.

Proverbs 3:5-6 implores us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;6  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths”. Day and night I have meditated on this truth. Trusting in the Lord means, rather than blaming Him for what happens, rather than doubting His love for us, we relax and rest assured believe that our Heavenly Father has our life in the palm of His hand.

Above all else, author Bob Gass writes: “when God doesn’t seem to meet your expectations, it’s not that He doesn’t care; it’s that He sees the big picture and He’s handling issues you can’t even begin to comprehend. So trust Him!”

 I believe God, in His wisdom, allows some things to happen where at the time it seems painful and senseless. The very experience which is so grievous and distressing may be to augment your power so as to be of use to others. He sees the big picture of our lives and knows, just like a loving father, what is needed to help us become exactly who we were created to be. I can honestly say you will ‘grow under the load’ as you continue to trust that your Father in Heaven has your best interest at heart as He walks you through the valleys of life and accompanies you to the glorious mountaintops.

Nelson Mandela said: “I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one finds many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended”.

Life is both good and bad, mountain top experiences are amazing, but, most of us spend our lives climbing in and out of the valleys. I am glad for my time spent in the valleys, I am glad for what God in His power did not prevent, for it has given me a depth of compassion and great empathy for the broken-hearted. In His wisdom Jesus takes our pain and makes it something beautiful, as the prophet Isaiah writes, the spirit of the Lord was upon him, “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” … 61:3. Today I have beauty in my life, a joy which remains immovable and an attitude of praise that leaves the world perplexed. Many times people I meet are completely baffled that I would choose to praise God and glorify Him in every circumstance and not just circumstances I find acceptable.

As you read the following thoughts penned by H. W Smith, may you be encouraged to praise Him no matter the circumstance and begin to trust in His tender and wise purposes toward you;.

See God in everything, and God will calm and colour all that thou dost see!  It may be that the circumstances of our sorrows will not be removed,      their condition will remain unchanged; but if Christ as Lord and Master of our life, is brought into our grief and gloom, He will compass us about with songs of deliverance. To see HIM, and to be sure that His wisdom cannot err, His power cannot fail, His love can never change; to know that even His direst dealings with us are for our deepest spiritual gain, is to be able to say in the midst of bereavement, sorrow, pain, and loss,                                            “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”…


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A Gift… Peace of Mind & Heart

“I’m leaving you with a gift, peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives.

So don’t be troubled, don’t be afraid” John 14:27

Giving birth to my twins at 28 weeks was truly my darkest hour as fear and physical pain overwhelmed my entire being.

Labour was difficult, a sad pain knowing what the outcome would possibly be. My firstborn was, Jessica, alive and beautiful, she let out a cry as the midwife laid her on my tummy in that moment I was hopeful. Time went by slowly, as she lay there safe in the arms of her mummy, but the cold reality of her being born too early was about to hit me hard, as they cut the umbilical cord Jessica passed away. Immediately she was taken away and I was being told to push for the delivery of my second born baby girl, Jasmine. She was born and her loud healthy cry put a smile on my face, a perfect baby girl lay in my arms. I held her for a short while before the paediatrician came to take her for observations and then she would be placed in an intensive care crib.

Exhausted and in shock, confused should I be grieving or rejoicing? Once I had taken a hot shower the nurse led me down the corridor to see my little baby girl. So small yet so perfect  and she was mine, barely could she be seen due to all the tubes and bandages that covered her tiny body but I could reach one hand in through the side hole on the crib, I placed my finger in the palm of her hand. Never will I forget in that moment I knew I was a mother as her tiny hand gripped my finger my heart ached to hold her. The doctor’s had told me Jasmine was having difficulty breathing and was not expected to live through the night, I stayed by her side all day until she was moved to a larger hospital (without me).  Later that evening she passed away. I weep heavily at the time of writing this as the pain of losing a child is something you never recover from, but my hope in the promises of God gives me a deep peace. It is this peace that I pray you will find in your darkest hour, a peace that the world cannot give, a peace that is almost tangible yet all at once incomprehensible.  As teardrops fall to the keyboard I can almost hear the voice of my Saviour, Jesus Christ as He whispers ‘I am with you’.  At this time of writing and re-living my past pain and sorrow, I find I have more questions than I do answers, questions which will remain unanswered until I meet Jesus face to face.

When that time comes…

It’s the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty
When grace is ushered in for good
And all our scars are understood
When mercy takes its rightful place
And all these questions fade away
When out of the weakness we must bow
And hear You say “It’s over now”

Lyrics by Mercy Me – The Hurt and the Healer

How I long to hear Him say “it’s over now”… the pain and suffering in this world – ‘over now’.


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A Gethsemane Moment

Not long before Jesus was to be arrested and later die on the cross, He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42.  This was His ‘Gethsemane moment’, deeply distressed, Jesus prayed three times for ‘this cup’ to pass Him by. “Nevertheless”, He prayed, in complete surrender to the will of His father in heaven. Jesus showed us that even those with the strongest of faith can feel weak and overwhelmed in a time of crisis. In our times of deepest sorrow, in the middle of a Gethsemane moment,  it’s hard to believe that all things will work out for good, in fact it’s hard to believe in much at all. Understand this, it’s okay to feel weak and afraid, one of the things we can learn from Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is that He understands when we feel overwhelmed and frightened of what lies ahead, Jesus has been there.

The day of our 6 month pregnancy appointment is recorded in my mind as a Gethsemane moment, a moment when I was faced with imminent physical and emotional pain, exhausted from deep sorrow I fell to my knees and cried out ‘God take this from me’. I know we are called to trust Him but I prayed He would change things so as I didn’t have to trust Him. All I could think was ‘save me from this nightmare’. Author Wayne Jacobsen writes that in every situation we encounter, there are two options in prayer.; ““Father, save me,” or “Father, glorify your name!”” One will lead you to frustration and disillusionment, the other to the greatest wonders in God’s heart”.

What began as a day of trusting in a loving Heavenly Father would soon become a day wrought with frustration and disillusion. 9am was our scheduled appointment, as we drove to the clinic a strange impending grief washed over me, like a robe of sadness had been draped across my shoulders. Our obstetrician, George was always so warm and caring, he re-assured me that I was looking well, healthy and perhaps a little anxious given my past experience of loss. However ‘to put my mind at ease’, he offered ‘let’s have a look at bub shall we’?.

Today as I write, my eyes glass over with tears, tears I have not yet allowed to fall… grief is such a mysteriously long road.  I recall the moment both Lee and George anxiously gazed at the monitor, they could see what I had been feeling – no presence of life in my womb. With tears in his eyes, George turned to me and said ‘I am sorry’. Clear memories of what I felt in that moment fail me, the shock and terror of burying another baby gripped me with an iron fist around my throat. I found it hard to breath and hard to cry!.

Much happened between the labour, birth and saying goodbye to our baby. After a night in hospital, we packed our belongings and embarked on a long silent drive home, so empty, so disillusioned, physically and emotionally exhausted. My  4yo daughter was waiting outside, excited to see us, as we hugged I explained that she was a big sister to a baby boy and he was not well so God had taken him straight to Heaven. Tears in her eyes she said ‘that’s okay mummy we’ll see him in Heaven’. Oh to have the resilience and ‘matter of fact’ attitude of a child, so faithfully they cope with life’s hurdles. Her childlike faith and absolute trust in God made way for her healing to begin immediately, unlike myself and most ‘grown-ups’ we want the facts, question ‘why me?’, hurl accusations at God then journey through a maze of guilt, doubt, shame and unbelief until we come full circle back to where we began… at His feet and completely surrendered. The moment we choose to trust in a loving Father with faith of a child, not having all the answers but trusting in the One who does, that is the defining moment when we receive a peace that surpasses understanding, a peace which is beyond words. Perhaps that is why Jesus so loved the little children He took them in His arms and blessed them “… Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14.


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Anchor in the Storms

When you give your heart to Christ and begin to follow Him, life does not magically become a blessed experience where never again will you experience heartache, despair and general everyday problems like the ‘non-Christian’. Have you ever met a genuine Christian whose life rolls by from one blessing to another?

I have met Christians that like to pretend this is how their life is, they have a ‘church mask’ that is worn on a Sunday to show other church goers how holy they are and just how amazing their relationship with God really is (tongue in cheek).  This masquerade they hide behind is what makes many believers feel inadequate in their faith,  even more so someone that does not know God is made to feel ‘inadequate for that Christian stuff until I have it all together’. In my experience this type of pretense is what causes a believer to doubt the love of God and those that don’t know Him feel they could never measure up to the Christian ideal. The ‘church-mask’ caused me to doubt how much God really loved me, most Sundays my inner dialogue would go something like this…  “if He really loves me, how come my life is full of calamity, and theirs is so perfect?, oh I really need to pray more, read my Bible more and stop being so grumpy with my kids”. In fact when I was at my lowest point with depression,  I would often come away from a conversation with ‘Suzy Super Christian’ and feel spiritually blackmailed as though my weak faith and depression etc. was all my fault. I was once told ‘you are not well because you are not believing your prayers’!  For two years I felt like I was a stench in the nostrils of God.  Oh if only I knew then what I know now about the love of my Heavenly Father, His Grace, His Goodness His unconditional love.

Jesus says, ‘… In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NKJV).  Jesus  knew well in advance that this life would be full of trouble, He has not promised when you believe in Him your life will be trouble-free, He has promised though that no matter what you face He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Trust me, when I gave my heart to Jesus there were no bolts of lightning tracking through the sky,  the devil did not send me a congratulations card and wipe me off his list,  what did happen though was a deep peace moved into my spirit, to this day that peace has been my anchor in the storms.

Hope Anchors the soul – Hebrews 6:19


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Songs in the Night

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Much has happened in my 39 years, in more recent times I have changed, I have grown spiritually and been strengthened by life’s challenges.  What has changed most significantly is my response to the challenges I face. Life has many lessons to teach if we are a willing student, by God’s grace I have learned to respond by trusting in His promises. Despite what my circumstances look like, no matter how hard life gets, He is still in control and He can be trusted. As you read the following poem I pray you also shall heed to the beck and call of Jesus, as you do, may you gain confidence and assurance that He holds you in the palm of His hand… never shall He let you go.

I have been through the valley of weeping,                                                                                                            

The valley of sorrow and pain,                                                                                                                         

But the “God of all comfort” was with me,                                                                                                     

 At hand to uphold and sustain.

As the earth needs the clouds and sunshine,                                                                                                      

Our souls need both sorrow and joy;  

                                                                                                             

 So He places us oft in the furnace,                                                                                                                  

The dross from the gold to destroy.

When he leads thro’ some valley of trouble,                                                                                                         

His omnipotent hand we trace;                                                                                                                                   

For the trials and sorrows He sends us,                                                                                                                   

Are part of His lessons in grace.

Oft we shrink from the purging and pruning,                                                                                              

Forgetting the Husbandman knows                                                                                                               

 That the deeper the cutting and paring,                                                                                                                 

The richer the cluster grows.

Well He knows that affliction is needed;                                                                                                                    

He has a wise purpose in view,                                                                                                                                

  And in the dark valley He whispers,                                                                                                              

“Hereafter Thou’lt know what I do.”

As we travel thro’ life’s shadow’d valley,                                                                                                           

Fresh springs of His love ever rise;                                                                                                                          

And we learn that our sorrows and losses,                                                                                                              

Are blessings just sent in disguise.

 

So we’ll follow wherever He leadeth,                                                                                                                        

 Let the path be dreary or bright;                                                                                                                                

For we’ve proved that our God can give comfort;                                                                                                   

Our God can give songs in the night.

Streams in the Desert, Zondervan Corporation, 1996, p. 239