The Empty Box

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I got this prayer box necklace from my aunt years ago and recently it got me to thinking.

Looking at the empty box, I could have worn this as just a pretty necklace over the years, or I could take my prayer and place it in the box, close to the heart. I chose to write my favorite scripture and put it in the box and whenever the necklace moved or I saw it in a reflection I would meditate and believe that word was qualified in my own life.  The empty box did not remain empty.

I use this, as an illustration, to show how we may take the time for our empty box during our downtime. We have spent all day, pouring out our energy and when we stop we are depleted. When we take the time to recharge,  we make choices. Those choices are to leave that box empty, fill it with distraction, or fill it with life.

For a season I found myself filling the empty box with distraction. Such as binge-watching Netflix or spending hours on my social media accounts when I wanted to just ‘chill’. Not before too long it became habitual and without any thought, I pick up my phone first thing in the morning and throughout the day, all day, and mindlessly scroll.
Then there is the other box in the room that grabs my time. As soon as I sit on my couch I would reach for my remote and scroll for an hour looking for something to watch.
Then one day it hit me, did I really just waste an hour (or hours)  scrolling nothingness?

There is a danger for me personally to use ‘nothing’ or distraction during down time. Before too long it becomes same old’ same old’ and if not careful I slip into the melancholy of nothingness and the empty box turns into a life of meh.

Think of your own life, are you working and going home and doing nothing? Is the place that you want to be in 5 years? I ask this because if you are filling your free time with nothingness or distractions, then in 5 years time, you will accomplish only keeping your box empty.

I know this may be an extreme thought, but for me it became extreme. I was created to write, paint, minister and to be present, yet I filled up a season of my life with nothingness and wondered why I was not getting anywhere. It all turned so quickly and without notice went from a few minutes of decompressing daily, into a lifestyle.

I am being exposed here. Not because it is fun to admit it, but because I know I am not alone and my hope is that others will see before the melancholy or time thief sets in. The thief of your time can also be a thief of your joy.

So what can you fill the empty box with?

I am determined to fill my life with things from the Lord through prayer, worship of all forms and pursuit of my future that He has planned for me. I want my empty box to become filled with life. So that I may pour it out onto others and not be running on a nothingness.  So that I may remain young and strong.

Psalm 103:5- He fills my life with good things so that I stay young and strong like an eagle.  

Fight the Battle

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One thing I have discovered with life… there is always something.
There is always an opportunity of one kind or another to fight the battle ahead.

When the battles seem overwhelming our nature may be to retreat. Some of us are fighters and some of us need to learn how to fight. Others are natural warriors that don’t see anything but victory ahead in the midst of it all. This is how I want to fight the battle.

I want to be the warrior that sees their victory ahead of the attack. Just as a good coach, sees victory for his team and focuses on the win rather than the idea of loss, I want to set my sight on a glorious outcome rather than the moment I am fighting the battle.

How do I walk this out? How do I fight the battle, when I feel the onslaught of ‘life’ coming at me from every side?

*RECOGNIZE
I used to bury my head in the sand, instead of looking at the battle head-on. I used to make excuses, and except the battle as just a part of life. Yes, our battles are a part of life, but I don’t have to accept the defeat before even entering the ring. I can’t roll over and just keep getting kicked while I am down. I must stand up and fight not only for myself for all those around me that a defeated outlook or blindness to the situation will effect. If I roll over and am exhausted by the battle, with just a smile on my face, I am affecting my family, my ministry team and others the Lord has placed in my life. It is like a soldier watching everyone get shot around them with a smile on their face that all is fine. NO, it is not fine. It is a battle and I am going in!! This is how we fight the battle. We recognize we are in one!!

Ephesians 6:12- For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

 

*EQUIP and Position

This is the time to take out all the resources in your tool belt! A soldier going to war would not do well if He forgot all his equipment, and just showed up for battle in his shorts and flipflops.
In this same line of thought, a soldier or a team needs all their partners in the battle. Know your team members. Share your heart, let them back you. Know your source of support. This is key to fight the battle. The most important member you can have to back you is the heavenly creator, that has purposed for you to be victorious. He has a battle plan. He has the equipment ready for you to put on and take your stand. Even if all the other team members have run from the fight, you still have that coach pushing you on. He is ahead of the battle. The battle is HIS to fight. We need to ready our ears and hearts to listen and fight the battle.

Ephesians 6:13-18 

The Whole Armor of God

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

* FAITH
Be ready to fight! Posture your heart in readiness. Walk in boldness that you are mighty in victory. Know that the battle belongs to the Lord and the outcome is always victory. It may not look like it at the moment, but the battle is won, when we are ready to win. When we are ready to fight the battle when we are ready to take ownership of victory. We have won. It does not matter what we are seeing. We see with a different lens. It does not matter what we are feeling, our feelings are fleeting. It does not matter that it all is crumbling and falling down around us, we have a master builder, that is ready to remodel and build fresh and new. The fight in the battle is knowing we have won!

Proverbs 21:31- The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
    but the victory belongs to the Lord.


*CELEBRATE- 

Rejoice in your victory! Be thankful the battle is won. You may not see it yet, well, set your eye on the other side. Celebrate your last victories! See what has worked in your favor. Celebrate how you have come out a victor before in your battles. Your battle does not own you. Your battle does not define you. Your battle is what you walk through and you already have the tools to overcome! Celebrating the one that sees you through, is a mighty weapon in the fight of the battle. Praise and worship, it goes before me. I am equipped and ready. I am the victor and I am seeing the victory ahead! I know the victory may look very different than I expect, but it is mine and I will take it and praise Him for it.

2 Chronicles 20:21- Jehoshaphat asked the people for advice. Then he appointed men to sing to the Lord. He wanted them to praise the Lord because of his glory and holiness. They marched out in front of the army. They said,

“Give thanks to the Lord.
    His faithful love continues forever.”

BE ENCOURAGED WITH THIS ONE : This is how I fight my Battles

Can I have a Do- over?

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I remember playing games when I was younger. There were times that the dice didn’t roll the way I wanted it to or a play didn’t quite go the way that was planned, and I would ask, “Can I have a do-over?”

I don’t know how many times in the last twenty years I had asked God that question. My prayers have often included, ” Lord if only I could take that back!” or ” Please let me try that again, I will do better next time.”  After the question leaves my mind or lips, I always had to face the reality that there was no do-over.

All those opportunities that I either had taken for granted or thrown away, I can not grab those same opportunities back. I find that no matter how big the regret of my mistakes, and the mess that they made, I can not erase the consequences of something I did.

One thing I can do is pursue from this moment on a life full of joy and promise. I would rather have a life filled with joy and hope for my future than looking back and always wishing I could have done things differently.

Living a life full of joy is an action involved in a journey. I can not live in joy if I am constantly walking in shame or regret. I can take those moments that I messed up and say, “Well, I hope not to do THAT again!”, ” Or how can I grow from this?” and move on.

There is a season of growing and learning from these past wrongdoings, mistakes, or foolishness, but I am not to allow it to hold me down or hold me back. When I have repented and done what I can do to make a situation right in His eyes, the Lord forgives us from our sins and our past mistakes, the slate is wiped clean. I do not have to keep rewriting the mess out over and over again. I too can let it go as the Lord has.

When I am walking in the question, “Can I have a do-over…..PLEASE!” I am walking in condemnation. I am not walking in victory. If I have taken my issues to the Lord and asked for forgiveness, then I am forgiven. The Lord does not want us bogged down by regret and shame, constantly looking back at, “what if” and “if only I had”.

If I have missed an opportunity because of foolishness, I can trust my God is good enough to bring new opportunities my way. It is important I learn, grow and then let go.

Walking in a life with Jesus, I don’t have to ask ” Can I have a do-over?”, because He already finished the game and gave the victory to me!I just need to stop and remember to accept it.

Psalm 103:12

as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

( NIV)

Ready to Fly

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2 Corinthians 5:17- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

When we come to the Lord in surrender, ready for the new life that only He can give I see His arms wrapping us like a caterpillar in a cocoon. It is in the moment of surrender that God begins the transformation. He prepares us to be ready to fly.

As the caterpillar goes through a transformation before release, so do we as His children. He begins a process. He speaks to the innermost parts that need to hear His whisper and makes us new, ready to fly.

So many times, as the Lord is transforming an area in my life, or renewing my mind, I want to hurry the process. I have tried to fly before I was ready and equipped. Just as if a caterpillar tries to exit the chrysalis too soon, it will not be fully ready for what is to come. If I try to walk out plans the Lord has in store before I am equipped, I will be discouraged and often have to land before the target is hit. I was not ready to fly just yet.

Then the beautiful happens. His transformation and molding, perfection is done. I have seen new life, I have new hope and I hear His voice say, “get Ready for new things. Ready for a new plan. Ready for a new path. Ready to fly.”

It is work to break free from that cocoon. I have to work my own wings, I have to take my own lessons and break free from old behaviors and patterns, to emerge fully transformed and ready to fly.

Romans 12:2- Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

By spending time wrapped in His arms, renewing our mind, and listening to His plans and directions, we have a flight plan when we are ready to fly. We have a purpose. We have a mission.
Allowing Him to transform every area that we need to be transformed for the preparation for our next destination. We are called to accomplish a work only HE has for us and in that process to accomplish, He equips us with all that we need for His pleasing and perfect will.

Now I have to ask, have you ever seen a butterfly return to the chrysalis and take on her old form?
Have you ever seen a butterfly revert back to her caterpillar self?


I know I am human. I know that life happens. But I shudder to think how many times, the Lord has transformed my mind and situation and I have returned to old ways.

I now hang out in the old ways far less, but the distractions still come. But thankfully each time,  the Lord will wrap me in His arms like a cocoon ( I can return to Him and His process and protection) and work on my heart in new ways. In deeper ways, He takes me and  prepares me for my next.

As I have grown I have learned that it is imperative I walk out living out that transformation every single day. This means I must be intentional about what I allow to impact me.
I have been made complete in him, I surrender to His best plans, I am ready to fly.

Give a Listen : I surrender 

COMMUNITY

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“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much” – Helen Keller.

I had started a very basic purple painted canvas on the first day of spring.
I asked my social media friends, to share what color they wanted on the picture, fully intending to see who matched what was on my mind for the painting. The interesting thing, everyone had a different idea for the secondary color than mine. As I stood and stared at the purple canvas, deciding which color I would pick, the name of the piece came to me, “Community”. 

This painting wasn’t about one or two solid ideas, but about combining the creativity of many into something of beauty. I took each color that my friends had suggested and I thought of them and prayed as I painted their color. I sought where the Lord would have them impact the piece and prayed for individual situations. A few friends had chosen teal, it didn’t matter, as I applied the color again, a new friend came to mind. Another, shared her idea for the technique to add dimension and direction. This was a wonderful example of community, each contributing, every individual uniqueness adding a new depth and detail as we collaborated. 

This piece alone reminded me of how important it is to be in community with one another. I could have said, ew I don’t like that color, it would never look right, but looking at this painting, it needed every single color whether at first, I thought it would belong or not. As I looked at the painting with each layer I was timid to place more colors, yet a sense of belonging came over me as I saw the work coming together. 

You would not know that two years ago, I had my self hidden away, shying away from the world, from being hurt, from being ignored and passed over. I had a horrible sense of my self. I had lost the knowledge of my worth somewhere on the journey of surviving grief and illness that had reared its ugly head like never before and the depression wanted to take over. In the past, I was swallowed by that depression. I cut everyone and everything off and literally wanted to die.

The amazing thing, this time, depression could not stay! While I started blocking people out of my life, there were the solid, the community that would not let me. There were the people who reminded me of who I am. There were the people that pointed out when I was being flat-out ridiculous and that I needed to stop identifying with what I was facing and start identifying on who God says I am. It was my community that picked me up and reminded me how much ground I have gained and even in this hiccup, it was safe to spread my wings and fly again. 

Community: A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Romans 12:5-
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Do I always agree with everything they do? No. Do I enjoy every single personality within my community at every moment? No.  Do I share every single belief and value? No. 

Do I drive people in my community crazy at times? Ah, YAH! 

However, when in the community, despite our human differences we can choose to stay united with a common goal. Intentional to build together, to hold one another up by carrying each other’s burdens and remind each other there is hope in a sea of unknowns.

When the going gets tough, we can be tempted to run from our communities, but all that brings is isolation and loneliness, which in turn becomes bitterness and anger. I think this is why the Lord mentions not forsaking the gathering of our brethren. He knew that we needed far more than to hear our own voice whisper silently to the wind. 

Hebrews 10: 24-25-
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 
not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

 

A different lens: Perception

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I recounted a story that changed my perception years ago, at Shaey Anthony on YouTube.
If you are interested, give it a view as it places this blog in a fuller context.

Heart Connection- Intimacy

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The truth of the matter is, you can know someone, know all about them, even be in a relationship with them and still miss out on the deep heart connection of intimacy.

There is head knowledge of our salvation: This is the same as walking in life with someone, knowing they are always going to be there, but stopping at that and continuing on with your life without the heart connection. A knowing without intimacy.

John 5:24- Most assuredly I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in Him who sent me, has everlasting life and shall not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.

You can have the head knowledge that you are saved. You can know because you dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s that you will enter heaven. But what good comes from a relationship that has begun, but has not been cultivated.
You can miss out on a deep-rooted heart connection intimacy with the Lord and all the glory that comes with it if you do not seek it.

♥ Heart Connection takes investment:

So often in life, we become distracted in the different seasons that we face. We become overwhelmed, feel inadequate and exhausted. Often our messes in life become our focus, and slowly without meaning to our hearts grow distant.
Just like any earthly relationship, you must invest in your relationship with the Lord.
For a deeper heart connection get to know Him by spending time set apart only for Him.

Invest in:

Prayer
– is our communication with the Lord. An opportunity to talk and share. Cry out and be real.

Word-
The Bible reveals His heart for us, His plans, and His hopes. Loved saved, thought of and not forgotten.

Praise and worship
– Reveals our heart for Him. This is our chance to pour out our love on Him and lift Him up.

When you are feeling lost, disconnected, frazzled, and overwhelmed, make sure to slow down and set time to be settled in your heart connection. It makes all the difference.

♥ Heart Connection takes pursuit:

In this life, you must pursue the ones you love. Lack of pursuit and interest leads to stilled relational growth. At times lack of pursuit can lead to opening a door for another to enter.
It is in our lack of pursuit that the enemy comes in with lies. When we are not fully pursuing the Lord, it is easier to believe that we are less than or lacking. We are not building our relationship on His truths.
Then life comes and smacks us in the face and we can begin to develop resentment. We risk growing angry with the Lord when disaster and hurts have stood to in the way of pursuing him. Resentment turns into resistance.  Examine what is holding you back from pursuing Him. Is there anger, bitterness or distrust there? In order to overcome, you must pursue His heart for you, and not listen to the lies the enemy is trying to win you over with.

♥ Heart Connection takes vulnerability:

Vulnerable – To be exposed.

We are taught to hide the ugly. We are taught to toughen up, don’t be so sensitive, shake it off and to be good. We have learned that when we show our true selves, anywhere that we are lacking others will reject us or ridicule us. We have been hurt in unspeakable ways, rejected and unwanted. So we build walls, we hide, we self-protect.
It has become a habit to hide away anything that is not perfection. The danger in this with relationships, you are holding back your full self. Everything that is hidden, is becoming a barrier between you and the one you love.
The sin areas in our life that are standing in the way of our growing need to be exposed. We do not need to self-protect with the Holy Spirit. God knows our mess, He wants us to be able to trust Him enough to let Him love us through it.
The enemy wants to keep you bound up and hiding. He does not want you to experience the full heart connection that comes from being raw and real with the Lord. It is through exposing all my junk to the Lord, that He is able to come in and do His work. It is recognizing I need Him in a way only He can fill. I can’t do the cleansing and the healing on my own. His amazing power comes in and does the work and I get to rejoice. For being exposed, leaves me open to being held.

As I am held close in the Father’s arms, there is hope. HOpe builds within the Spirit man within us as we experience the Father’s love.

ROMANS 5:5- Now Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given us.

It is in our weakness that makes us whole. He wants all of us, not just what we think we have together. He wants our ugly, He wants our flaws, and He wants our weaknesses. For In Him He makes us strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10- But He said to me my Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so the power of Christ may rest upon me.
For the sake of Christ then I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecution, and calamity. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

When the Lord makes us strong in our weakness, all the glory goes to His power and not on ourselves. I tried to do it all myself for years in my own strength.  I got nowhere, except broken and exhausted. It is our testimony to what God accomplished when we have overcome in Him.

Reflection- Often times we base how we have been treated by others, on how we think the Lord will receive us. Others judge harshly that is how we see the Father. Others reject us or abandon us, we may expect the Lord to turn away when we are a mess. BUT His word says;

Psalm 27:10- “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.”

No matter who leaves us, or abandons us, hurts us and betrays us, the LORD is ready and waiting to embrace us. Arms wide open. Ready for a deep heart connection intimacy. One that does not forsake.

Give a listen to this song:  INTIMACY by Jonathan David Helser