I woke up early, slathered as much sunscreen on as possible, gathered my notebook and pen, and headed for the bus. Anticipation and excitement built inside me for this trip it was hard for me to believe I was finally there. It took months of prayer, leaps of faith, and a whole lot of heavy conversations between my husband and I to finally be there, in the very place God promised to take me over a year before.
It felt like I was in a dream. People were conversing all around me. I sat silent on our tour bus, only able to stare out my window, in shock at the landscape that was before me. It wasn’t at all what I expected from the second I stepped out of the plane. When I pictured Israel, I pictured dessert and camels. Instead, this land was lush, green, and thriving.
The mountains were soaring into the clouds, speckled with wild olive trees, green vineyards, and large date trees dripping with ripe fruit, just waiting to be plucked and eaten.
There went my first blinder of deceit. God called this land “fruitful”, but I thought that was a phrase used to describe what once was. No, it’s now; it’s today. Mike, my husband, grabbed my hand, and smiled. He pulled my mind back into reality as we boarded our tour bus.
“We’re here. Get your book bag,” he said.
I filed off the bus into a sea of other tourists, all wearing their wide-brimmed hats and “Whispers”, the tiny ear bud attached to the sound box hanging around our necks by a lanyard. These were small listening devices that allowed our tour guide the opportunity to speak softly into her microphone, allowing us to hear her no matter how close in proximity we stood. If you looked up “tourist” in the dictionary, there would have been a picture of me and my group. Never in my life would I have wanted to look this “touristy”, but halfway across the world? I invited it.
Nothing was familiar. The common language is Hebrew and/or Arabic, its’ letters indistinguishable, to an English-speaking girl from Virginia like me, even on the road signs. It was intimidating yet, intriguing. The currency is still Shekels; which took some getting used to.
Shekels? Like, straight out of the bible. It’s like I hopped off the plane into a time warp that dropped me off back in time, way back. It was both unsettling and intriguing, all at the same time.
The tower of tan rocks stood before our group. I stood staring at it, wondering what history those rocks would tell if they could speak. It reminded me of the coliseum in Rome, just on a slight smaller scale. This wall was the first sight I had of Caesarea. It was the amphitheater we would move into and sit, learning our first bit of information about this beautiful, coastal town.
Katherine, our tour guide, ushered us into the theater, and we all took our seat on the large, smooth stones that once held Roman leadership, gentiles, and where the launch of the great commission took place. The amphitheater once held between 3,000 and 5,000 people. It’s the place where the Romans made huge announcements and entertained their people. It’s where they imposed their Roman ideology on to the people of Israel.
But this is also the very amphitheater Peter preached to the Gentiles for the first time (found in Acts 10) and where he shares the gospels with Cornelius. I was sitting in the very place, envisioning the large stage in front of me with Peter, preaching to the gentiles, the starting point of missions. I pictured what it would be like, the holy spirit falling down on every person, hearing their shouts of joy and admiration for their savior. My pen was boring a hole in my notebook and it wasn’t even ten o’clock in the morning.
Back to the darker portion of history of this place. The Roman theatrics on this stage were extreme. The towering pillars would have held scantily dressed Romans, draped in togas, representing their Gods, parading their ideology in front of a crowd of Jewish people who sat in the very seats I currently rested in. They would fly down from the tops of the columns and swing down to the floor, trying hard to impress the onlooking crowd of Jewish people.
I could feel how frustrated and oppressed they must’ve felt as they were ushered in and forced to watch. This ideology went against everything they believed. It would’ve been offensive; blasphemous. My heart stung and my stomach turned as I imagined how they felt, completely disrespected and mistreated. I could feel the weight and darkness of oppression sweep over me as Katherine spoke into my ear.
This is the very place the Jewish revolt against the Roman empire took place. Just forty years after the death of Jesus, Rome used Caesarea, the capitol of Israel at the time, to institute “Pax Romana”. This term meant “Roman Peace”, but it was a false peace.
The Roman empire was “Christianized” in 313 AD, under Constantine, who used this false sense of peace to wreak havoc on the Jewish people. He made Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, illegal in 333 AD under the umbrella of Pax Romana. Removing the ability for the Jewish people to celebrate their holy rest, mandated by God, provoked the Jewish people into revolt against the Romans.
This was the root of separation of the bible. My mind was so confused. How could something representing peace under the guise of Christianity be used as a mask to hide some of the greatest oppression of the Jewish people, God’s chosen people? It all began where I stood. More weight, more darkness.
Rome used its conversion to Christianity to then illegalize the Old Testament. More oppression, but now to the cross. It started with God’s chosen people and then spread to the savior himself. The lies layered upon one another, building off the one before it. I could see the enemy’s hand laying on the backs of every Roman leader, deceiving the people, with crooked smiles and perverse joy. I swallowed the lump in my throat as the vision of evil passed through the confines of my mind.
“This is how the enemy works. He waits for us to accept a small sin, making room for more, distancing us further and further from truth.” I wrote in my notes.
This wasn’t a new tactic, but one that’s been used time and time again, from generation to generation, nation to nation. How could we see this and let it continue?
“We forget.” I whispered under my breath.
My heart was so heavy as we stood to walk into the next section of Caesarea. So many lies used to oppress the Jewish people and destroy the name of Jesus just forty years after He died on the cross. I walked with notebook in hand, recognizing this trip was already shaking up the foundations of what I’d always believed to be true.
Another blinder of deceit being lifted from my naïve eyes. I never fully understood how the Jewish people had been oppressed throughout the ages, and I was now learning that it’s been happening since the first temple period.
“The rocks with cry out”, Jesus said, in Luke 19:40.
Oh, how the rocks of Caesarea cry. Each one telling a story of their own. They stand to serve as a reminder of the truth we as humans so easily forget. My heart beat faster, the heat beat down on my chest as sweat trickled down my neck, landing on the collar of my already damp shirt.
“Remember to drink water,” I heard my pastor, Michael, say through my whisper.
I needed those reminders. My mind wandered in the things my eyes and mind were learning; the needs of my body were easily lost in the revelations pouring into my ear by Katherine.
We began to walk through the other side of the amphitheater. We learned about old sarcophagus’ and archeological remains scattered around. Katherine was the equivalent of a walking history book being played in my ear. I was in heaven. I couldn’t get enough. Writer’s cramp was a real thing on this trip.
A wall towered in front of me, separating my eyes from the sounds of the crashing waves just beyond it. We filtered through the door of the remains of the amphitheater and when I looked up, I gasped.
The sounds of the Mediterranean Sea crashed in the distance, just beyond the wall in front of me. As I passed through the small opening, I gasped. The remains of King Herod the Great’s seaside palace took my breath away. Was I really looking at his palace? My eyes took in the wonder and beauty as I stood overlooking the rest of the whole town.
Herod’s pillars still stood on top of the remains of his courtyard. The mosaic tile from his freshwater pool were being uncovered, chiseled away by archeologists meticulously uncovering thousands of years of history. Tarps covered their ongoing excavations and tourists, like me, were taking pictures of the things they were seeing. My hand reached out and touched the columns that King Herod may have once touched.
“How? How could he have built this type of palace, with a pool, at the very edge of the shoreline?” I rhetorically asked Mike, who seemed to nod, wondering the same thing.
I imagined Harrod soaking in his seaside pool, conversing with friends and leaders in his courtyard, surrounded by the colorful mosaics and lush botanicals. These rocks gave me a window into what life may have looked like so long ago. It seemed so silly, but I wanted to cry.
I could feel the tears welling up inside me, but I swallowed them down, and continued to walk and listen. It was too early to cry, after all, this was only the first stop. I was overwhelmed with where I was walking and what I was hearing.
The large, oval, sand covered area was where we would head to next. As the group walked along the coast, my feet felt the soft, dry sand underneath my sandal, cradling my every step. A false sense of comfort.
We found a little shaded spot with some rocks and wooden tables to sit. Our group gathered there to listen and learn about what we just walked through. I had no idea what it was or what it would’ve been used for.
Some of the remains of the fresh water pools just outside the palace walls pictured above.
The teens in our group ran down from the seaside palace and laughed as their bare feet touched the shores of the sea. Their eyes filled with excitement and joy as they soaked in the experience with friends and family. It made me happy to watch them, but it made me miss my kids. I wondered for a moment what they were doing and imagined one day bringing them to the very land I was walking. I imagined them as teens doing the very things the teens with us were doing.
“Herod the Great, known as ‘the great builder but also the great pretender’ dedicated much to different Gods”, Katherine said in her slightly English accent. Her voice would be a welcomed and regular sound in my ear for the next ten days. Every time her voice echoed in my earbud, I learned so much about the things my eyes were seeing. Her voice breathed life back into the rocks I was seeing.
Herod the Great was brilliant but evil. He was extremely wealthy, owning dozens of palaces. He was of Jewish and edomite. The edomites are a people stemming from the family line of Esau. Here lies one of the greatest revelations about Herod.
It says in Malachi 1, “I loved Jacob, but Esau I hated”. How could God hate Esau? Esau flippantly gave up his birthright as the first born to Jacob, for a bowl of soup. His birthright made him heir to the covenant made between God and Abraham. This birthright was a link in the line of descents through which the promised messiah was to come (Numbers 24:17-19).
The truth is, Esau considered God’s covenant and his birthright worthless, amounting to less than a bowl of stew. God knew Esau was a godless man and that he would produce a generation of enemies to Israel, God’s chosen land, but God also knew Jacob was a man of integrity. Therefore, Jacob was preordained to be the lineage of Jesus.
Herod, being apart of the lineage of Esau, was hated by God because of his own Godless character. He may have been brilliant and wealthy, but He worshiped himself. However, God is still God and can use the hearts of stone in any man for the His glory. And this He did in Herod.
“I guess all the lineage stated in the old testament really does have a purpose” I whispered to my husband. He gave me a little laugh, rubbed my back, and opened his eyes a little wider as we continued to listen and walk.
Mike and I standing on the overlook point of Caesarea, looking down at the palace and the hippodrome for the first time, pictured above.
Harrod the Great invented hydraulic cement making his seaside palace in Caesarea possible. He recognized the trade of the world was located in Israel and if he owned it, he would control the wealth of the world. So, he built the port of Caesarea to house over three hundred ships with huge jetties that held back the sea to make the port larger. He did this in honor of his then friend, Caesar Augustus.
In Herod’s day, the sandy floored hippodrome I walked through hosted the Olympic Games. This is the place where Romans would satiate their thirst for blood. Gladiator against gladiator, animal against animal, prisoner against gladiator, prisoner against animal, all different types of horrific fights to the death occurred on the beautiful, white sandy floor of this now, peaceful hippodrome.
The sand once absorbed the massive amounts of blood spilled on the very floor I walked on that day. The wind would carry the stench of death into the crashing waves as Romans would sit, shouting for more and cheering on the brutal games before them. This was entertainment. This, made my stomach curl in knots.
Worse than these games came a fate much more horrific for the Jewish people. During King Titus’s reign, he called for the heads of 2,500 Jewish people as a birthday present.
“A BIRTHDAY present?!?” I exclaimed, with an exasperated face.
My pen took a jarring stab at the paper underneath. I looked up and saw thousands of innocent men, women, and children, brought to their knees, and decapitated as Roman onlookers cheered this on.
Titus’s response to this massacre? “This wasn’t enough Jewish heads”.
The blood lust for God’s people now colored the white sand before me with crimson red. The sound of the sea billowing in the background turned from peaceful to heartache.
I stood up, choked back tears, placed my pen in the top of my notebook, and walked in silence toward the exit. We passed by souvenir shops, restaurants, and a little gelato shop where kids were enjoying a cool treat, laughing and running, oblivious to what once happened where we stood.
I hated it.
I couldn’t stomach the thought of people making money on the very ground where so many were killed. As our group took a bathroom break, I sat under a tree on a little stone wall near our pastor, Michael Hines, as he gathered people around. His voice in my earbud would soon represent the biblical context that would penetrate my own heart throughout the trip.
He reminded us that this was the place Paul tells his story of conversion to King Agrippa and began his fateful journey to Rome (Acts 27). How unlikely God would choose the setting of Caesarea for the fulfillment of the prophecy spoken in Isaiah 49:6. God chose the site of Paul’s imprisonment under Felix and trial before Festus as the very place that Israel would be “a light for all nations”.
God chose Caesarea, the place where both oppression of Jewish people and pagan worship sored to birth the promise that Abraham’s descendants would be as many “as the sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17). The very sand stained crimson red in the hippodrome would represent the promise He would fulfill for the gentiles, for Abraham, and for His people.
This place was filled with both great sadness and great hope and was the starting ground for the greatest faith journey I’ve ever experienced. This was the site that began my own pilgrimage, fulfilling Ephesians 2:12-13 for the gentiles. We, though “strangers and aliens” from the “covenants of promise” have been “brought near by the blood of Christ” came alive in the rocks of Caesarea.
I knew this land would invite me in and leave me completely transformed and inspired to deliver truth and hope to everyone willing to hear. This was the launching point of my own great commission, and the place where the holy spirit would begin to fall fresh on my heart, just as it did in the amphitheater, thousands of years ago, as the gentiles felt the holy spirit fall fresh on them listening to Peter.
Next stop, Mount Carmel.
Points of Reflection:
I believe you are the son of God and that you came and died on the cross for my sin. Please forgive me of my sins and for turning my back on you. I trust you with my life, as my Savior, and I wish to follow you as my Lord, and turn from my own ways. I invite the holy spirit to come and live in me from this day forward. Guide my life, Jesus, and help me do your will.
I pray this in the name of Jesus.
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I wanted to publicly share the news about what God has called my husband and I into... Here is one of my weekly Insider's Scoop Emails that I sent out telling them our story of how we were called. I hope you'll join me over there, friend!
I FINALLY got the go ahead from God to completely SHARE the craziness that’s been happening in Mike and I’s life! I can’t tell you how excited I am to let you in on this one, boo…. Cause there’s no denying Him in it.
Are you ready for this roller coaster ride? Cause it’s a really, really cool one… like the kind with loops and drops and twisty-turns. Gaaaaaaah! Even the verse I heard when whether I could write and tell you today is amazing. Wanna start there?
I prayed and asked the Lord if this was the week to share Mike and I’s big news and He gave me this verse: Joshua 1:9.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” ESV
I was worried about sharing our story because I didn’t know if it was the right time and if the right people would hear it. He reassured me in every way and told me to assume command of my story and share it with others so that they too can see the glories and wonders He is doing. And yes, I got alllll that in prayer time… pretty cool, right?
So, I’m gonna do a writer’s no-no and give you the ending before I start… the thing we’ve been praying for? The thing I’ve had on my heart for over four months? A trip to Israel….
WE’RE GOING TO ISRAEL Y’ALL….. THIS JUNE!!!!!!!!
Yep, you heard me right… Israel… the holy land… Mike and I are heading out in just a month and a half to the place Jesus did the largest portion of His ministry and I am BEYOND excited.
So, wanna hear how it happened? I started praying and hearing the Lord call me to Israel last year in December. Mike and I were feeling drawn to “the mountains”, unaware of where these mountains were. We started considering vacationing back in Colorado, where our first child was born, but every time we considered it, it just didn’t “feel” right. It didn’t feel like these were the mountains we were drawn to. We traveled back to Lynchburg, where Mike and I met, where we went to school, because the Blue Ridge Mountains hold such a special place in our hearts and lives. Still, the yearning for the mountains was still there.
I brought up back in January that I felt we were being called to Israel, not having any idea if the mountains we were both feeling lead to had anything to do with Israel. For all I knew, Israel was a dessert and maybe had some sand dunes. I seriously had no insight or even a draw to this country before I began praying into it.
When God spoke to me through His word for the very first time I was sitting around a little farmhouse table with a select few women whom I didn’t really know all that well. He promised to redeem and restore me, regardless of the things that had happened in my past. Isaiah 61 has been tattooed on my heart ever since that precious day. My redeemer took all the knowledge I’d learned in therapy and finally aligned my heart with it, showing me just how real and alive He is.
I didn’t see it that day, but Isaiah 61 came back up when I was praying about the mountains I felt drawn to.
“to grant to those who mourn in Zion- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified” Isaiah 61:3, ESV.
This verse stuck out. Zion is defined as “the HILL of Jerusaleum on which the city of David was built” or “the heavenly city or kingdom of heaven”. I knew, right then and there, the Holy Spirit was calling me to Mt. Zion, I just didn’t know when. As I prayed and looked at different trips offered by our church, I originally thought January would be a good time to go, but it was too soon. I prayed again and asked if I was to go on my own and the holy spirit spoke to me in a vision…
I saw Mike and I walking up a path on a hill, hand-in-hand, and I knew we were to go together. But Mike felt otherwise. Not only did he have absolutely no draw to Israel, but it made Him almost mad when I would bring it up. The more I prayed the desire to go this June grew in my heart and the calling became louder.
I was so confused. The Lord was doing so much in our lives at that point. He was calling us away from our current church home into another, I was working on my book, Mike was looking at traveling to other places, and every time I would bring it up it seemed to cause discord and division between him and I.
I prayed one last time and God simply told me to “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10, ESV.
Good Lord if you only knew how hard that was for this girl. I wanted so desperately to talk about it with Mike, but it was like the Lord zipped my mouth closed.
During the same month, January, Mike and I invited our dear friends and now pastors over to our home. Mike wanted to know how I was hearing from the Lord and I suggested having them come and just sit with us for him to ask questions.
By the end of that meeting, I’ll never forget what my husband said, “Wow, I feel like I’ve found a new toy (in reference to the bible).”
He heard the Lord speak to him through the bible for the first time ever and He gave Mike Amos 3:11.
Both of our responses were, “Amos? Is that even a book in the bible?”. Ha… but that’s how the holy spirit works. We both had never even heard of that book in the bible before that particular night.
“Therefore, says the Lord God: An adversary shall surround the land and bring down your defenses from you, and your strongholds shall be plundered.” Amos 3:11, ESV.
This verse spoke something so powerful over my husband. God told him, that night, January seventh, 2019 that He would begin to break strongholds in his life, and He has been, ever since. The man I know today is completely different than the man I knew, even just a few short months ago. He’s always been the man of my dreams, but He’s now the spiritual leader and man of God I always knew He would be.
Mike wasn’t the only one who heard from the Lord that night. God spoke something so very clearly to me through Amos.
Above the verse Mike heard in verse nine it states, “Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt, and to say, “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria, and see the great tumults within her, and the oppressed in her midst.” ESV
Ashdod is located in Israel and so are the mountains of Samaria. I knew these were the mountains the Lord was calling us to, but I knew I had to wait.
The deadline for the trip drew near and Mike and I had to pray and ask the Lord if June was the time for us to go, but every time we’d try, it would result in the Lord restoring and revealing strongholds in our hearts that needed to be dealt with. I lost almost all hope. I thought I heard Him so clearly yet every time I tried to talk about it with Mike, we’d hit a wall.
I gave up. My heart sank. I would pray in my quiet time every day and ask the Lord to remove the desire to go on this trip, but instead, it grew. It was one of the most frustrating things I’ve had to deal with in a long time. I mean, I would literally be sitting watching a movie with my kiddos and some random commercial would come on about traveling to Tel Aviv. I was so upset yet God kept placing it in front of me, in both my quiet time with Him and throughout moments of my day. I was getting a little irritated, not gonna lie.
So, the deadline of the trip passed and about two weeks ago, Mike sat me down in our pub and talked through the possibly of saving up for a family trip to Ireland in about three years. I sat and listened but my heart was hardened toward him and his aspirations for any family vacation. I wanted so desperately to forget about Israel, I obliged him and talked about the possibility of going to Ireland.
Fastforward to the day after easter weekend. I was exhausted, my kids were all off from school, coming down from a very large sugar rush, and I planned on catching up on all things that involved housework and laundry. A friend was suppose to come over and talk and I seriously didn’t intend on getting out of my jammies that day.
Mike called me about four times in a row, desperate sounding when I finally picked up the phone.
“Babe, you need to come meet me for lunch today. Something has happened and I need to talk with you about it” he said with excitement.
I fought him for a while but could hear the urgency in his voice, so I reluctantly agreed. I called my friend, got my kids dressed, and threw on some shades and a half decent outfit and headed out the door.
My husband has a pretty regular routine in the morning. He gets out of bed, washes his mouth out, starts the pot of coffee, and goes to the bathroom where he sits and either reads the news or dabbles a little on pinterest. That morning, he was pinning two different pictures of Ireland to his Ireland board he created solely for the purpose of planning our family trip we had discussed. He said just as he was about to pin them, he heard loud and clear, “Why are you looking at Ireland when I’ve called you to Israel?”
He was shook up. He said in that moment, every picture he had been yearning to pin and eventually go see suddenly fell dull.
“It was the equivalent of placing a bland cracker in your mouth” he told me, sitting across from the table at lunch.
I sat, listening and wondering where he was going with this story. He continued. On his way in to work, he began to pray and tell the Lord all the reasons why we couldn’t go to Israel. The deadline had passed, we didn’t have childcare, and we most certainly didn’t have the funds, so why would he speak that over him now? The Lord called Him to ask just one more time if we were suppose to go to Israel in June.
Before he could finish the question he heard a verse.
“Behold Zion, the city of our appointed feasts! Your eyes will see Jerusalem, an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken” Isaiah 33:20, ESV.
I about spit my water out laughing so hard when I heard him say this. Shocked, overwhelmed, and a bit numb to what was happening, I sat with a grin and a napkin balled in my fist, ready to catch every tear about to burst out of my eyes.
Mike continued on saying he STILL needed confirmation from the Lord, that this verse wasn’t enough.
“Did the Lord strike you down right then and there?” was my reaction. That’s all I would’ve needed to hear, but not Mike.
So, he asked the Lord, “Ok, I know you’re calling us to Israel, but are you calling me in June, Lord?”
Again, before he could finish the question, another verse pops in his head.
“But this command I gave them: Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you” Jeremiah 7:23, ESV.
Again, my response was nothing but a whole lot of laughing, combined with crying and excitement. In ONE MORNING, the Lord not only answered my prayers and silenced my doubts that I’d never really heard Him call me to Israel, but He called Mike to Israel at a time and in a way that there’d be NO other way he could assume it was anyone other than the Lord calling Him.
So, before calling to tell me everything God spoke to him, Mike called his father. As he walked through the events that morning, he brought up all the things that would keep him from going, starting with childcare. His father stopped him and immediately told him that him and Mike’s mom had been wanting to take the kids and spend time with them this summer, and they’d be so happy to watch them.
Then, Mike gets off the phone with his father, and calls our pastor, Michael Hines. He runs through the events of the morning with him and Michael just starts laughing. Evidently, just six days before, Michael had been praying with another couple and he felt the Lord leading him to request for another bus on the June trip, allowing more space for people to come. So, not only was there room for Mike and I, but more people would begin to hear from the Lord and feel called to go this June.
Lastly, the funds. We still don’t know exactly how we’re going to pay for this trip. We have four kids, a mortgage, a pool liner that needs to be replaced, and a conference I’m going to in July that still isn’t paid for. The funny part about this portion, is I had been praying for the $8,000 to come through our IRS return (which, we NEVER get money back on our return, we either pay money back or come out even because we work for a family business and usually get raked over the coals when it comes to our tax bracket and returns… but that’s for a different discussion). Without me knowing, Mike had been praying for that exact amount too, to pay for our pool liner (about $4500.00 and to pay for some credit card debt that had been hovering over us for the past couple of years).
We both got the answers we were praying for. Our tax return was almost exactly $8,000.00, to the penny. So, my husband prayed and heard a while ago that we were to pay our debts off with the return (getting a scripture about paying debts down in Romans). I thought this was the end of the discussion about traveling to Israel, because he had gotten this verse before he heard the Lord call him to Israel.
So, now, we know the Lord is calling us to pay down our debt and the pool liner with the return, but we’re still unsure of where the money for the Israel trip will come from… and we’re leaving very, very soon. HA!
But you wanna know what’s cool? Neither of us are worried. We know the Lord will provide when He calls us into something. We know the money will come and as long as we trust and obey Him, He will provide the very amount we need exactly when we need it.
So, this is my God story… so far. Jesus is aligning my husband and I’s hearts through this process and giving us the ability to speak about how He’s moving in our lives to so many others. He is going to do transformative things for both Mike and I individually and for us, as a couple. For me, God will replace my season of mourning with the oil of gladness and praise for my faint spirit. He will anoint me with a beautiful headdress instead of the ashes I bore for so long. For Mike, He will stand on the mountain we’ve been called to for so long and proclaim the strongholds God has been breaking in him.
There won’t be a defense that can bring us down, a stronghold that can plunder our lives, or an ounce of mourning left in my body. He is gifting us friendships founded on the principles of Him, peace and comfort even when we don’t have all the answers, and restoring hope in our marriage and lives by leading us to a place where we will learn so much about Him and His call on our lives.
If the beginning of this journey is as sweet as it is, I can’t even imagine what He’s planning to do once we’re there.
I hope this story, so far, is a blessing and a testament to just how real and alive Jesus is… and if you want your own God story, all you have to do is begin to lend your ear toward His word.
As always, I hope this gets you through til’ Friday! Until next week, have a great rest of yours!
Also please be praying for me...
Pray for continued increase in our faith as we walk out the details and the financial pieces of our trip. God's not done writing our story and we're so excited to see how He makes this happen!
THINGS TO CELEBRATE:
(I'm a firm believer that celebrating milestones, no matter how big or small is pivotal in the process we're in. It acknowledges our achievements and reminds us of how much we've learned since starting out on our journeys...)
My book proposal is COMPLETED and ready to be sent out to literary agents! I'll be starting on that THIS WEEK!!!! EEEEEK!
There is so much preparation that goes into the start of football season. I got to see how much time, energy, and effort my husband invested in to become the best version of himself. We began dating in college, where he was the starting center for Liberty University. Dating a football player had its perks, like free club seat tickets, but it also came with its hardships.
There wasn’t a whole lot of free time to go and “do” like other students. When regular students got out of class, they often got together to hang out. My husband hurried off to practice and then headed home to do homework, for both football and school. He understood that his position required more of him, and he worked hard to be the best version of himself for it, because he considered it a privilege and an honor. He was a full scholarship athlete and knew he had to work to earn his pay, because a number of other guys were ready and willing to take the position if he wasn’t.
The time he spent practicing paid off with success and perfected skill, but it required focus and drive. The energy he used in practice would be pushed to its limits, especially during summer two-a-days. Most, if not all the players, ended up vomiting from suicide drills and sheer physical exhaustion. Those days ended in full body ice baths and a whole bunch of taped ankles and physical therapy. The effort he put in, both on and off the field, set him up for success when the pressures of a game begged him to quit.
The process of spiritual maturation is no different than the one my husband so faithfully demonstrated in his collegiate football career. His growth as a player greatly depended on his ability to listen to his coach’s instruction and then learn how to apply it practically. Sometimes that meant hours’ worth of time and energy spent in the weight room and other times it meant hours of diligently studying playbooks and game film. It also required him to know when to rest and when to work, when to listen and when to act, and eventually, when to learn and when to lead.
He started all four years as the center for LU, and his growth and success landed him the captain position his senior year. There were so many game nights players would come off the field with a win, gearing up to celebrate into the wee-hours of the night. Not Mike. He knew as a leader, he had to sacrifice what he once participated in, to be an example for those who looked up to him. To lead requires great sacrifice but yields great dividends.
I’ve wrestled with this truth in my own life recently. As I gain followers, as I lead women in ministry, and as I lead my own children in to their futures, the weight of my actions and decisions have gotten heavier. I have more eyes and more responsibilities pressing on me than when I wasn’t pursuing God’s call on my life. I had more freedom and liberty to do without repercussion, and if I’m honest, I miss that freedom sometimes. It was easier.
But I’m recognizing that as I step into the calling of leadership, the things God is stripping me of, He replaces with a greater desire for Him. It doesn’t come naturally to sit down and ask God to “search my heart” for anything that may be driving a wedge between Him and I. The old phrase, “be careful what you pray for” comes to mind. But as I trust in His voice and obey His command, He gently corrects my wrongs and grows me from the spiritual milk I once drank to the solid food of relationship He has for me. And believe me, a big, fat juicy steak tastes so much better than a bottle of milk.
To learn how to lead well is to continue to die to oneself so He can begin to replace the old with the new. It changes who I am in the most literal sense. I am not the same as I was even a minute ago. My desires, goals, and aspirations all shift and change. This changes the dynamics of my friendships, my marriage, and my daily routine.
“…Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” 1 Corinthians 5:6-7, NIV.
Paul is appealing and warning the church of Corinth to imitate himself by setting an example for others. He was able to make such a bold statement because of how closely he walked with God, how much time he spent in the word and in prayer, and was always aware of God’s presence in his life. God was Paul’s example; therefore, Paul’s life could be an example to other Christians. Paul wasn’t expecting others to imitate everything he did, but they should imitate those aspects of his beliefs and conduct that were modeling Christ’s way of living. Paul was exemplifying what a great leader in Christ looks like.
The yeast Paul speaks of represents sin. As the Hebrews prepared for their exodus from slavery in Egypt, they were commanded to prepare bread without yeast because they didn’t have time to wait for it to rise. And because yeast also was a symbol of sin, they were commanded to sweep all of it out of the house (Exodus 12:15, 13:7). Christ is our Passover lamb, the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Because he has delivered us from the slavery of sin, we should have nothing to do with the sins of the past, or as Paul describes to the church of Corinth, “old yeast”. To grow as a leader, we must be willing to give up the sins of our past and present to move into the giftings in our future.
Whether we’re leading in life in our place of work, church, home, or community, we all need to recognize that the maturation process may be difficult, even painful at times, but it’s necessary for growth and success. If we focus on our hearts and the corrections the holy spirit is lovingly revealing, we will continue to move into the things God has for us. We will continue to get stronger, making us more capable of the things He has in store.
If God has called you to be a leader, you must submit your whole life over to Him so you can become the person who is capable of handling that position. Great leaders go first, sacrifice much, and in return, gain access to the Kingdom of God.
I sat crying this morning as I prayed on a bar stool in my pub. I felt like a failure. I felt alone, scared, and utterly disgusted with myself for feeling guilty about my tears. As I spoke out in prayer how broken and wounded I felt, I clutched my bible close to my chest.
“Lord, what’s wrong with me?” I shouted.
The need to hear and feel Him close was stronger than anything else. The words Isaiah 61 repeated in my mind, getting louder and clearer as I sobbed. I pulled the bible away from my chest, unclenched my fingers from its spine, and fumbled my way to Isaiah. My eyes landed on chapter 61 through blurry vision and tear-soaked hands.
“Remember my promise,” He whispered as I wiped my nose on the collar of my t-shirt.
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” Isaiah 61:1-4, ESV.
There are days I smile and laugh more than most, these days encouragement comes so easy. Then there are days where I cry and wonder what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. More often than most, my days consist of a coexistence of both.
But this is what growth looks like, this is the reality of pursuing a dream. I am called to bring good news to those who are imprisoned in the same shame and fear I once sat in. He has given me a desire to comfort those who mourn, to speak for those who are silenced by their past.
I’d be lying if I said that on my worst days I don’t second guess everything I’m doing, feeling more like a hypocrite than a leader. How can I lead and bring others to Christ when I still deal with so much sorrow and pain? How can I write when I can't even figure out the difference between a run-on sentence and one that's well-crafted?
I want to quit. Throw in the towel. Give every stinkin' voice that told me "you can't" a reason to say "I told you so". So, I do. I bury myself in anger and frustration as I lay my head on my garage bar and weep.
Then a vision of me running in the hot sun, ear buds in, sweat trickling down my neck appears. It was me, on a break between my counseling appointment and my neurofeedback appointment a mere year-and-a-half ago. I had to get in at least a three-mile run or I’d miss a workout, and if I missed a workout, I spiraled into worthlessness and shame. The music in my ears was angry, the blood beneath my skin boiling, and the drive behind my steps was sheer punishment.
I hated who I was. I ran and ran until my feet bled and my throat produced nothing but hot breath. Food was restricted so I could feel the pangs of hunger, to punish myself further for being so weak and needy. The desire to stop, to over indulge on things that would numb the pain, they begged and begged until I caved. Then I would hate myself more for giving in, feeling weaker than before. A never-ending cycle of punishment. This was my reality as I walked through trauma counseling. This was the constant difficulty I faced as I stumbled through healing the wound of sexual abuse that festered and grew for over twenty years.
“Jesus, I can’t go back there,” slowly trickled out in broken, weak syllables as I sat on my bar stool.
The vision of that run combined with Isaiah 61 reminded me of just how much I needed Him. I wept as I read the passage out loud. Without Him, I’m weak, surrounded by sin that relentlessly beckons me back in the shackles of exhaustion and pain.
I won’t lie to you. I will be open and honest about the journey I’m on. There are good days and there are bad. The good ones are still mixed with tears and pain, triggers that make me want to clutch to bourbon and long runs rather than Jesus.
Then- there are days that are simply just bad. I struggle to get out of bed, find any joy, and I find myself curled up in the fetal position in a pool of tears. I isolate myself from people, drown my sorrow in self-doubt and contempt, and it takes every bit of energy to muster up the word “Jesus”.
But in the middle of this season, I am reminded that the coexistence of both the good and the bad isn’t just okay, but normal. Life is filled with challenges I’ve either just overcome, am in the midst of, or just about to embark on. And I have a choice with each one to face them, or not. I’m realizing that facing them is harder than not.
Facing the fears, the doubts, the hardship is all apart of growing and becoming the person God is shaping me to become. He’s lovingly pressing, shaping, and mulling me into the oil I am becoming so I can walk into the promise He has for me. And that kind of process is difficult, to say the least.
When I turn my eyes upon Him, my tears still spill down my cheeks, but in gratitude for His presence. The holy spirit reminded me that my strength comes from Him, not myself. Fear will continue to reappear, but if I face it with Him, it won’t win. He will. I will. We will move on, press on, becoming stronger and closer than the season before.
When I choose to take my faint spirit to Him, He replaces it with a garment of praise. He exchanges my mourning for the oil of gladness and places a beautiful headdress upon my head to replace the ashes that once covered me.
This journey isn’t easy. There are moments of doubt and fear, but as I continue to cling to Him, He continues to replace my shame with His everlasting love. I am choosing to put on His garment of salvation instead of the chains of bondage. I am holding tight to the promises He gave, instead of retreating to the ashes that once consumed me.
In Him, I am strong. In Him, I am capable. In Him, I am equipped. And in Him, I find freedom. I am not a hypocrite, but a leader. I am not bound by fear and doubt. I have hope because I have a father that loves me, right where I’m at. And so do you.
I still remember the night I sat knowing that the trajectory of my life was about to shift in a completely different direction. The lump in my throat and the clamminess of my palms made it difficult for me to take notes. Our church went to a women’s conference every year and this was my second time attending. This night seemed fairly insignificant because I’d never heard of the speaker and it was the first night of a three day conference. So I sat completely unaware of just how big this night would be.
There I sat with pen in hand, ready to hear anything God would speak, truly unaware of how powerful the message would be. This was the moment I heard the Lord whisper in my ear, “Nikki, this is your year of awakening”.
The complexity and future of unknowns that surrounded that statement hovered over me. I didn’t like unknowns. They scared me. What I know now is God planted a seed of faith in me that night. I had to choose to either plant and grow it or ignore and let it wither away.
We all have choices to make in life. Some are easier than others, but the ones I’m talking about are usually the scariest to say “yes” to. Making the decision to plant that little seed of faith set me out on a path that was full of twists and turns I couldn’t predict. With each turn I had to learn to give up control, relinquish my fears and insecurities, and resolve to follow regardless of what the outcome may be.
But you see, the holy spirit is gentle. He didn’t give me a huge decision to make in the beginning of my journey. He gave me ones that taught me how to hear Him and trust Him. Seeds require a lot of nurturing in the beginning of the process of growth. As it matures, it becomes stronger and much more rooted in the foundational elements it once needed to begin to grow.
God is preparing us for what we were always born to do through the process of maturation. The more we lean into the seeds of faith He desires to grow, the stronger we become in our faith. The stronger we grow in our faith, the bolder we become in our walk. You see, as a sapling I was more prone to the elements around me. The slightest bit of wind would knock me down. The more I mature, the heavier the storms I can withstand and endure.
There is a verse in Esther that the speaker that night mentioned, and it’s been pivotal in keeping me on the path God set me on a mere two years ago. In Esther, chapter four, Mordecai, her older cousin and mentor was persuading Esther to help him. She felt unequipped for the task at hand. She was the unlikely choice for saving the Jewish people from the grip of King Xerxes, the Persian king. Esther was going to have to risk her life to follow through with what God was calling her to.
Mordecai sent a messenger to remind her not to get distracted in the King’s house by all the pampering. God put people all around Esther that didn’t look like her, but it was up to Esther to stay on task.
“He sent back this answer, ‘Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4: 13-14, NIV.
Esther’s mentor was reminding her that she was placed in the position by God who would not leave her. All she had to do was be obedient in her call and God would bless her. It was in Esther’s response that truly spoke volumes of her faith.
“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. AND IF I PERISH, I PERISH.” Esther 4: 16, NIV
Esther knew the risk she was taking by asking the king to free the Jewish people, but her faith was so strong that she was willing to be obedient, regardless of the outcome, even if that meant death. God grew Esther in her faith and obedience by giving her other decisions to make that lead up to this pivotal moment in her life. As she walked those other decisions out in obedience, her faith grew.
God is sovereign and loving. He knew the heart of Esther and He loved her through every step of her journey. Esther, the unlikely, uneducated, Jewish girl became the key that unlocked a whole nation from captivity because she chose to say “yes” when God gave her a choice. She chose to plant the seed of faith He offered.
I don’t know what the outcome of my little seed will be, but I know if I continue to let God grow me, I and others, will be blessed. You see friend, I believe we all have a mission, together.
It isn’t just about you or just about me. If you sow a seed you get a seed and in return, we become mission minded women, together. And when women of faith stand together, we are a force to be reckoned with. There is an anointing that resides in all of us that is released when you decide to emerge and answer the call placed on your life.
We are all women who have the potential to be movers and shakers if we choose to stay on the path God has chosen for us to walk. The investment He is making in you is for the oppressed, but the journey will bless you by growing you into a strong oak, not easily destroyed or dismayed.
I urge you to choose your plantedness, friend. Say “yes” to the seed of faith that God is gifting to you because the favor of God is not random, but purposeful, and it is in Him you will find the path to freedom and fruitfulness.
My husband and I have been married almost ten years this upcoming March. It’s been a fruitful, whirlwind of a decade. We’ve been each other’s best friends since college and supported one another through some of our most difficult moments.
Most recently, we had to learn how to walk through trauma counseling. About two years ago my world was flipped upside down when I chose to confront the painful memory of a sexual assault in my past. I talk openly about the affects it had on me as an individual, but the affects it had on my marriage have been just as life altering.
Healing from such a deep wound required me to uncover a lot of callouses. Although it was healing, it was tough work. God chiseled away the hard-outer shell I diligently built, revealing a softer, more vulnerable heart than I’d ever known existed.
Walking through a transformation of this magnitude had a direct affect on the closest relationships around me, most especially, my marriage. The brokenness of my past robbed me of my ability to be vulnerable, trusting, or emotionally intimate with my husband. I confused a sense of humor and people-pleasing with vulnerability. I replaced physical intimacy for emotional. Instead of walking into forgiveness I chose to avoid conflict and hide behind a façade, pretending I was a tower of strength, when I was truly wounded.
Learning how to love after walking through trauma was difficult, but it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done for my marriage. It was the equivalent of removing a blindfold that was costing us our joy, peace, and truly being known.
Trauma caused me to callous my heart towards the person I loved the most in this world and I didn’t even realize it. God began to heal my marriage by restoring my trust in Him, first. Learning that I wasn’t a sum total of my past and that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139) shattered the lie that I wasn’t worthy of being loved.
Being open and vulnerable in my communication paved the way for deep, meaningful conversation.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” James 5:16, ESV.
Praying with my husband was one of the very first things that lead us to being more open and vulnerable with one another. It opened a door to seeing each other’s hearts that we’d never known existed. God gently lead us in to healing conversations that helped shape and mold the way we spoke and loved one another. He simultaneously softened both my husband and I’s hearts towards one another as He realigned our own hearts towards Him.
Trauma gave me a warped view of vulnerability. I viewed it as a gate that would invite more pain if ever unlocked. The truth is, vulnerability paves the way for restoring intimacy in our marriage, giving us the desires of our hearts and restoring them to Jesus.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Thess. 5:23, ESV.
Without being vulnerable, I would never learn how to trust in a relationship again, both with my husband or with Jesus. Trusting someone with my heart after experiencing trauma seemed reckless and unnecessary. It wasn’t until I began trusting Jesus with the most tattered, broken pieces of my heart that He would begin to transform my view of trusting in my marriage. It was in my own heart transformation that birthed a transformation in my husband and me.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9, NIV.
I humbled myself and asked God to forgive me for trying to heal my broken heart without Him. Taking the healing out of the Healer’s hands bore pain and division in my marriage. Once I repented, He did what only He could do by restoring and repairing the wound that once spread out into the most precious portions of my life.
Asking my husband to forgive me for causing any wounds, even if unintentionally, caused a flood of tears to come pouring out. I had no idea how unaware I was. My guarded heart caused me to be brittle and unempathetic to the man I desired to be closest to in my life. His tears were the cleansing agent we needed to restore the brokenness between us. The further we walked down the road of forgiveness, the more emotionally intimate we became.
God began to restore our marriage, establishing our hearts toward Jesus first, organically drawing us closer together. Marriage is stronger and healthier the more we pursue Him.
Learning how to love Jesus has simultaneously began to heal our marriage through the deep wounds of trauma. May we constantly pursue the redemptive grace and hope of Jesus by walking in alignment with His word. May our marriages constantly be restored by our willingness to submit to Him. And may we cling to His redeeming love more than anything else, believing that He is the only healer that repairs the irreparable.
Fair warning, this article is going to ruffle a few feathers. #Sorrynotsorry needs to be said before you read any further.
Y’all, there are a LOT of Christian bloggers out there with their panties in a bunch over Rachel Hollis and her message. I had no idea the magnitude of the controversy until I read a facebook post about it two weeks ago. I want to take a couple minutes to unpack just why I absolutely LOVED this book and why some of the subjects being discussed on other blogs are, in my opinion, incorrect.
As a writer, I really appreciate this woman’s simplistic style, relatability, and her delivery. She’s such a gifted communicator and inspires and encourages others by being transparent and vulnerable about her own personal struggles in life.
She is self-disciplined in reaching her goals and I absolutely love that about her and the way she communicates this in almost everything she does. She stays in her lane and is freaking killing it because she doesn’t try to be anything other than herself, which is simply beautiful to me, as a writer and as a woman.
Here are some of the things I’ve heard Christian bloggers saying that I personally disagree with SO MUCH that it kind of fires me up. Like, if you were in front of me discussing this, I’d get all red in the face and start talking fast, because that’s what I do when I get passionate about something. I can’t help it, y’all.
First thing that got me all fired up: Self-help is Selfish.
Whaaaaaa? … Hold the phone, girl. When I read this on multiple blogger’s websites my jaw literally dropped to the floor.
Definition of self-help: “the action or process of bettering oneself or overcoming one’s problems without the aid of others” per Merriam-Webster herself.
RH writes about striving towards her goals by pushing herself harder, regardless of how difficult it may be. She’s encouraging others to do the same because she believes they have it within them to do. We ALL have it within us to help ourselves, especially when we’re walking out our faith with Jesus. She’s simply trying to convey the thought that we are all our own best advocates. Even if you have the most loving spouse, mom, friends, or dad, no one is going to want your dream more than you.
God plants the dream but if we aren’t willing to do the work we aren’t allowing Him to utilize us as His vessels. Her message is simply this: help yourself regardless of others opinions, fight to achieve the dream that’s been placed there on purpose.
“The bible says, let that which is in darkness be brought to light. When things are allowed to sit in the darkness, when we’re afraid to speak them aloud, we give them power. The darkness lets those fears fester and grow until they become stronger over time. If you never allow your fears out, then how in the world can you disseminate them?” Girl Wash Your Face, pg. 61.
One blogger wrote that RH was “loosely” referencing Ephesians 5:11-14. She was not. She is referencing multiple scriptures that all point to this subject of revealing the lies in our heads by exposing to the light of Jesus (by both prayer and communicating with friends). To name a few more scripture verses that align with this quote: Mark 4:22, Luke 8:17, 1 Cor. 4:5, and John 3:19-21.
We can get ourselves caught in a horrible trap when we start to condemn others for something they didn’t do. Rachel is taking the knowledge she has obtained from multiple scriptures and applying it in a very real and relatable way to women.
Fear is a pivotal tool the enemy uses to discourage and throw us off track from pursuing our calling, the God-given dreams planted in our hearts when we are aligned with Him. She unpacks the sufferings she has gone through and reveals how speaking out the lies that inhabited her mind, trapping her, was pivotal in eradicating them.
The bible is supposed to be used as a living, breathing word that speaks directly into our lives, not utilized as stories we can simply learn and take away from. She is simply utilizing the bible in this capacity, which some people have a hard time comprehending.
The blogger who accused RH of loosely referring to one piece of scripture alluded to Rachel equating her present-day struggles to that of Paul’s because he wrote this passage suffering from multiple beatings, being shipwrecked, and nearly dying. The errancy that sticks out to me the most is that God could’ve given Rachel this specific scripture during prayer to encourage and inspire her through her sufferings.
If we always weighed our current sufferings with biblical ones, my sufferings would always seem to come up short. I can relate to biblical figures and their suffering, even if I haven’t walked through the same sufferings as them.
The truth is, my current sufferings are just as important to Jesus as Paul’s were.
RH isn’t elevating comfort over obedience, which is what a slue of bloggers are alluding to, but the exact opposite. That would be accusing someone of idolatry, which is a sin, in and of itself. It’s the holy spirit’s job to convict, not ours. When people do it, it’s offensive and condemning and it’s exactly the kind of thing modern day Christians do to drive people away from the arms of Jesus instead of towards them.
Pursuing her career has caused RH pain and strife and God comforted her with His word to help keep her on track. He spoke truth where lies once lived. Evidence of this is her strength in being vulnerable. This is a sign of a life walking in alignment with Christ, when someone is bold and confident in their faith.
Second thing that got me fired up: She doesn’t devote enough attention to her spiritual development.
Let’s address this by breaking down a couple key components about her as a person and the book’s purpose. RH’s target audience is both non-believers and those who are starting out in their faith. The book’s purpose is to encourage, inspire, and challenge women to overcome common lies to become the best version of themselves they can be. She references Jesus, her faith, and Christianity in each chapter of the book.
If you look at the categories this book falls under, you’ll find the top 3 on amazon are: self-help, motherhood, and Christian living. For the love of simplicity, guys, the subtitle of this book is blaringly obvious about what the primary message is: “Stop believing the lies about who you are so you can become who you were meant to be”. This sentence could not be clearer or more simplistic about its purpose. This is not a book dedicated to biblical teaching, like Beth Moore or Priscilla Shirer. Its’ primary focus is self-help with a biblical context to a target audience that may not know Jesus at all. She isn’t trying to convey that she’s been completely dependent upon herself to achieve fulfillment and success. This is a horrible generality and accusatory.
Her faith isn’t the main topic of the book but that shouldn’t be cause for dismissal. It speaks to her target audience, uplifts and encourages them to be the best version of themselves and she happens to do so by mentioning how her faith had a pivotal role in her success and the overall calling placed on her life.
Third thing that fired me up: She didn’t quote scripture in her book.
I really appreciate when authors who are speaking to an audience of both non-believers and new believers don’t over saturate their storyline with biblical and theological truths. I look at it kind of like a maturation process- non-believers need to be bottle fed biblical truths before they begin to grow into the solid food of theological principles. Her book mentions her faith, which was powerful for people (especially in Hollywood) to hear. Her self-care approach softened that audience to hear the trail of biblical truths in her book, which seems to have been impactful to many.
Another book that comes to mind is Donald Miller’s, “Scary Close”. There’s minimal reference to biblical context but it is saturated with reference that is evident to the spiritual aspect of relationship.
I believe Christians have an obligation to speak to non-believers in a way that will draw them closer to Him, not scare them away. RH is feeding her audience the starter food for a relationship with Jesus, instead of trying to shove a steak and potato meal in their mouth. She’s gentle and caring and doesn’t over complicate the message.
This is what I know. No one is perfect. No one gets it all right. It’s difficult to put yourself out there and it’s even more difficult to have people pick apart your life’s work. I truly believe it takes a strong woman to build another woman up. It takes an even stronger woman to stand up for the ones being condemned. Let’s be those kinds of Godly women. The kind that support, encourage, inspire, and speak of others with love and gentleness.
We could all take a page from Rachel and start striving to better ourselves for both ourselves and others. When we begin to believe in ourselves it’s then we can begin to receive the love of Jesus. Cause here’s the thing, if we can’t love ourselves first, we can’t allow others to love us. And if we can’t allow others to love us, we most certainly can’t fathom the Creator of the Universe loving us.
Girl, Wash Your Face was written to inspire other women to love themselves and believe in their dreams. I will always celebrate other women being vulnerable and transparent so they can hopefully impact others for the better. Let’s all strive to do the same.
I believe one of the most powerful tools we posess lies in our own individual stories of triumph. This is a letter straight out of my journal from a little over four months ago. Looking back and remembering what I went through and how writing allowed me to process and overcome it wasn't just powerful then, it's also powerful now.
Writing was a tool for me to process and heal during my recovery but I didn't see how it would continue to impact me after. What I'm realizing, is on the days I struggle the most, I'm able to look back at what God already delivered me through and remember just how good He was. Those reminders help keep me from forgetting that I didn't get to where I am today on my own accord. They remind me of the miracles He did to get me here.
I felt God call me to share this exerpt from my journal with you. It's my hope that it will speak into your own hearts, as it continues to do to mine.
Journal entry: A Letter of Hope
"This past year has been a rediscovery of who I am. For years I masked who I was in fear of being rejected by others, but for the first time in a long time, I’m coming out of my shell. I often envision a butterfly emerging from a cocoon as a representation of how I feel. But if I’m being honest, the past year has looked a lot more like childbirth. There’s been contractions increasing in strength with less time between as they built in stamina. The pain experienced is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. This process has been chalked full of exhaustion, heartache, and moments of clawing for strength to push when I felt I had nothing left to give.
The reality is, healing has been tough work. It shook the foundations of my identity and left me in darker places than I’ve ever been. I’m finally turning the corner of a very difficult season, recognizing there has been purpose in my pain.
I’m unashamed of who I am, regardless of who likes it or not. The inner struggle has been replaced with an inner peace as I accept the calling placed on my heart. I’m more present and in love with my kids and my husband. The friendships that lasted through this last year have grown deeper and more precious than I ever thought possible. The new friendships that have sprouted from it are beautiful, because they see me, and they love me for who I am.
There’s nothing quite like going through one of the roughest storms of your life, experiencing fear and suffering like never before, and finally seeing end in sight. There’s a peace and relief lifting your eyes, seeing the clouds roll away, feeling the warmth of sunshine that you thought you’d never see again. I appreciate the tiny rays as they begin to emerge, piece by tiny piece, so much more than I did before.
I’m at the start of a new season, one that promises hope and joy no matter what life throws my way. I’m scarred and a little wobbly, but I’m not alone. The battle of my past has been won.
I’m no longer a victim, but a warrior. The wounds that bled crimson red and threatened to break me are now fine lines on my strong, beating heart. They don’t define me or shake me, just remind me of how capable I am.
There’s an inner beauty that’s beginning to shine through. Like others whose stories started out with pain and suffering, mine didn’t end there. I chose to take the time to heal, rediscover who I am, and birth a new life far more exciting than I ever thought possible.
If you’re in the middle of a storm, let my story be a glimmer of hope. Hold on to your anchor in Him, you will get through this. You are capable, you are not alone, and you are worth the journey. The wounds of your past don’t define you, no matter how big or small. They can heal and become beautiful scars permanently etched into your heart, serving as a reminder of what you’ve overcome; each one unique and telling of a powerful story, victorious and miraculous.
Are you struggling with something you’ve been avoiding, fearful of the pain it may cause? I want to challenge you to boldly face it, casting fear aside, and allow the wounds that are controlling you to become scars that no longer define you.
You can do this.
You are loved, valuable, capable, and worthy of freedom.
Sincerely, A glimmer of hope"
I had no idea this letter would continue to bring me strength, and possibly be a letter to breath strength in to others. It's my hope that if you're sitting reading this in a difficult season, it does just that- delivers a glimmer of hope. I challenge you to write your own prayers and difficulties down- so that one day, when you've overcome them, they will serve as a reminder of just how far you have come and how you got there.
Rejection in any form hurts. Whether it happened five minutes ago or five years, time doesn't heal the pain, God does . I'm going to show you why it's necessary to confront the pain of rejection and how it will benefit you .
First, I think it's crucial to understand WHY we need to overcome it. When we bury, stuff, or avoid the pain of rejection, it does the opposite of what we want. The avoidance actually stirs more anger and bitterness up, resulting in carrying the weight of that wound into your future, other relationships, and could potentially sever relationships we desire. When we decide to confront that rejection, with Christ, we rid ourselves of the negative affects it could cause on our lives.
Here are the five key steps I've learned to utilize in recognizing and overcoming rejection in relationships:
1. Identifying Rejection
Rejection is defined as, "to refuse to accept, consider, submit to, take for some purpose, or use", per the Merriam Webster dictionary. In other definitions, Merriam Webster describes rejection as, "to spew out", "throw back, repulse", or, "to cast off". All of the adjectives the dictionary uses to describe the word rejection cause a negative, or painful response.
When we are rejected by others, it results in emotional damage. The result leads to feeling depressed, lonely, worthless, unworthy of being loved, that you're not good enough, or fear. The sad truth about this world is that we've all expereinced rejection of some form because people are imperfect, and cause harm, sometimes unintentionally. If you have ever experienced these feelings before, it's a sign that you've felt the pangs of rejection.
I've experienced it on varying degrees throughout my life- from being refused a promotion at work to being broken up with- each and every degree of rejection can cause one or multiple of the emotional symptoms described above. It may seem silly to describe the symptoms of rejection, but identifying it when it occurs allows us to move forward in healing it before it's allowed to sit and fester into a much larger wound. When rejection isn't dealt with and time lapses the result is a piling of more emotional damage, further isolating us from the very thing we need to heal and overcome it.
2. Fear of Rejection results in further damage, not protection.
The aftermath of undealt with rejection can have an affect on the present and the future of the person who experiences it. Fear of rejection leads to codependent, clingy, obsessive, jealous, or angry behavior in relationships. We tend to guard ourselves from other people to try and avoid experiencing the pain of it again. This severely compromises the quality of an individual's life.
Fear is an innate human response that has purpose. Utilized in "fight or flight" it can save lives, but used in emotional wounds it causes further avoidance from loved ones, isolation, lack of deep, intimate relationships, depression, anxiety, and can begin to affect a person's physical state. When we avoid emotional pain it can manifest itself in our bodies. Lower back pain, chronic headaches, digestion issues, insomnia, fatigue, and referred pain are all examples of common physical complaints from those who have anxiety and depression but aren't able to identify why or when it began.
It's pivotal to understand that fearing rejection may be our innate response to try and protect ourselves from being harmed again, but it's not going to produce the outcome that we desperately need, which is healing and wholeness. We need healing so we can move forward with our lives without carrying the emotional baggage rejection causes.
3. Replace the lies with truth.
It's crucial to understand that rejection is NOT a reflection of who you are. The only way to confront rejection is through replacing the lies it instills in your mind with TRUTH- and truth is found in the bible. Understanding that rejection happens to everyone is pivotal. Matter of fact, it even happened to Jesus.
When Christ hung on the cross, doing the greatest work of all of His ministry, His death came at highest point of rejection He'd ever experience.
"About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" Matthew 27:46 NIV.
He was calling out to His father, "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?". At the most pivotal moment of His life, He felt rejected by His father. We need to understand that Jesus identifies and understands our emotional damage and that He's already come and done what was necessary to heal it.
Remembering bible verses to combat the lies that tend to seep into our minds after rejection is pivotal in combating them. Here are a few of mine:
When you feel unwanted: ""If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." John 15:18, NIV
When you feel abandoned: "Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close" Psalm 27:10, NLT
When you feel alone: "When his people pray for help, he listens and rescues them from their troubles. The Lord is their rescue all who are discouraged and have given up hope. The Lord's people may suffer a lot, but he will always bring them safely through. Not one of their bones will ever be broken." Psalm 34:17-20, CEV
When you desire retribution: "Because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement" James 2:13, NIV
When you feel unworthy: "You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God's temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor." 1 Peter 2:4, NLT
When you feel weak: "But he replied, 'My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.' So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am." 2 Cor.12:9, CEV
When you fear punishment: "If you belong to Christ Jesus, you won't be punished." Romans 8:1 CEV
When you feel ashamed: "You have been set apart as holy to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the Earth to be his own special treasure." Deuteronomy 14:2
When you feel unloved: "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him." 1 John 3:1, NIV
When you think you're not enough: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" 1 Peter 2:9, NIV
4. Heal the wound of rejection
You will never be rejected from God, no matter how many times you experience it in life. If you're struggling with the aftermath of rejection, pray this prayer and release yourself from the bondage of its damage. Jesus has already paid the price that was necessary to set you free from the bondage of walking through life alone and carrying the weight of sin done to you. He's just waiting for you to come and ask. He will never force himself on you, our God is a gentleman. Pray this prayer when you desire to heal from rejection and walk into the freedom He has for you.
I give up the desire to understand why bad things happen to me. Take my fears of rejection and replace them with your love and comfort. I give up my desire to prove my worth to others. I give up my resistance to trust you even when I can't understand. I am sorry for being self-consumed in an attempt to guard myself from ever being hurt again. I give you my anger, unforgiveness, and pride that tell me to guard myself when I know it's you who will protect me. I ask that you heal and repair my broken heart and replace the lies that have infested my heart with the love and comfort of your holy spirit. Burn the weight of my rejection with the flames of your holy spirit and consume them, O Lord.
5. Walk in preperation and forgiveness.
Be ready for the rejection in life. The bible instructs us to put on the full armor of God to prepare us for spiritual warfare. Let me be clear, rejection is the enemy's playground. If you aren't intentional and aware, he will come in and consume your wound. Prepare yourself by walking closely with Jesus, aligning your heart with Him, and remembering the truth in His word when the enemy tries to whisper lies.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people." Ephesians 6: 10-18, NIV
If you need help, have questions, or just want someone to talk to I'm available to help you find it. Contact me through my contact page and we'll chat! I have so many resources and truly love helping others overcome rejection.
Forgiveness has been a really difficult subject throughout my life and especially throughout the last two years. I had to be taught who it's for, why we do it, how to do it, and what the results are. So, I've broken these four truths down to simplify the complicated nature of this action.
1. Who is forgiveness for?
This might seem like a silly place to start, but I've learned it's the simple questions that we sometimes get wrong. We have to first establish the foundational principles before moving forward.
FORGIVENESS IS FOR YOU... not the person you're forgiving. YOU are the one hurt. The other person may not even know that you're hurt. You are the only one being affected by unforgiveness. It's creating a wound in your own heart that needs healing, not the other persons.
2. Why do we forgive others?
We've been taught from a very young age that the act of forgiveness is necessary. Think about it. If Susie hits Bobby on the playground, the teacher instructs Suzie to apologize to Bobby for hurting him, but often won't explain WHY she's apologizing.
When we allow ourselves to walk through life with unforgiveness in our hearts, we allow anger to fester and spread. If it goes on for too long without resolve, that anger turns to resentment and bitterness, and before too long? We don't even remember how we became so hard and calloused.
When we allow ourselves to forgive others, we remove the anger, resentment, and bitterness that takes us space in our own heart and make room for joy, peace, and freedom to replace it.
Forgiveness is the first step in reconciliation. When two people agree and decide to move forward forgiving one another, it's important to understand that our words are very powerful in these moments.
I teach my kids not to respond to someone asking forgiveness by saying, "It's okay, don't worry about it" because this is telling that person that what they've done to hurt them is "okay". The act of forgiving is not to say that the action or words that were said are "okay" because there are still consequences to that act or words.
FORGIVENESS IS ACKNOWLEDGING THAT WHAT THEY DID HURT BUT YOU'RE AGREEING TO LET IT GO AND PUT IT IN THE PAST IN ORDER TO MOVE FORWARD AND START OVER FRESH.
I tell them when someone asks them to forgive them the proper way to respond is to say, "I forgive you".
3. How do we forgive others?
This is the part that seems to stump people the most. It's really difficult to do in the beginning, but once it's done, it gets easier and easier to do it again. We will continually experience hurt throughout our lives and the act of forgiving will never be completed. Learning to forgive is a lot like exercising a muscle, the more you do it the stronger it becomes.
-Sit down with a piece of paper, pen, and a red marker.
-Pray and ask God if there's any unforgiveness in your heart.
-Sit and write down anything that comes to mind.
(The first time I did this I had over fifty things written on my paper. There were things I didn't even realize were still in my heart that needed to be addressed. That's the work of the holy spirit. He reveals the wounds of our heart so we can then heal from them.)
-After you've finished, go down your list, one by one, and ask God to remove the unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, and resentment towards that person or incident and replace the wound with the holy spirit.
-Cross out the prayed over portion with the red ink pen. This symbolizes the blood of Jesus, wiping the wound clean and making you white as snow. The tool you need to rid yourself of the burden you carry has already been done through His sacrifice on the cross. You were never meant to carry the burden of unforgiveness. Giving it to Jesus is what will free you.
-Lastly, crumple the paper up after you've finished marking out each incident or person and BURN IT. The burning process is symbolic of removing everything that once weighed you down, removing it from your present, and placing it in the hands of Jesus. This frees you from carrying it into your future.
The more you do this exercise, the less and less time it will take. You'll begin to be able to forgive without needing to walk through each one of these steps.
4. What is the benefit of forgiving others?
There are two benefits of the act of forgiveness. The first is redemption. Redemption is the act of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil. Redemption only requires you and God. It isn't always necessary to tell the person you're forgiving that you've forgiven them. Sometimes all that's needed is to be able to move past it and redeem your life.
The second benefit is reconciliation. Reconciliation is the restoration of friendly relations. It's important to distinguish that redemption and reconciliation don't always hold hands. Redemption only requires you and Jesus but reconciliation requires two people agreeing to forgive one another, so they can move past the hurt and not carry it into the future of the relationship. Some people aren't willing to forgive. Plain and simple. We have to be okay with their answer.
It's important to remember that if someone rejects the offer of forgiveness, God is simply redirecting your life, and even though rejection hurts in the moment, it may be necessary to steer you in the direction He is calling you. So, even in cases where reconciliation may not be possible, redemption is.
Forgiveness is a process and it is pivotal in understanding so we can grow in our relationships. We learn how to love one another better when we learn these four truths about the act of forgiving.
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" Colossians 3:13, NIV.
By forgiving others, we remove the anger, resentment, and bitterness in our hearts and replace it with joy, peace, and freedom. It relieves you of the weight of sin on your own shoulders and gives it to the One who has already freed us from it.