Have you ever heard Father tell you to “Step Back”? I have heard Him say that to me quite a bit over the past few years. For those of you who know me, you know that I tend to be extremely busy and the word “no” never seems to enter my vocabulary. About two years ago, Father started telling me to step back in some areas of my life. I would love to say that I immediately stepped back and never questioned this or fought back, alas, I did not. I was very involved in a leadership role at my school through attending training meetings and being involved with various committees. It came to a point where I had to make a decision about deepening that involvement. I felt like I should take the plunge, but something within me was struggling. Then, the voice of reason from my husband gave me a reality check on the time commitment that it would involve. This was the first of many step backs. I remember at the time being disgruntled and upset about it, yet now as I look at my life, I see the wisdom in that decision.
So while I was attending all these leadership meetings for my school, I had people suggest that maybe I should go into administration. I began to pursue that thought and looked into various ways to get my certification. I was about to start an online program when again I heard, “Step Back,” and my husband confirmed it, along with another special friend. That next year ended up being the beginning of some crazy personal struggles going on in my life. I would not have been able to be a mom and wife, go to work, and take classes. Again, I saw the wisdom in this decision as I look back at the season my life was about to enter.
One of the benefits of stepping back was being able to spend more time on the SHINE Club at Bonne Ecole. All of the hugs and smiles I receive from all of those kids was and is one of the best gifts I receive at school. Father was intentionally removing things from my life to make room for better things. Years ago when Father called me into teaching, He whispered in my ear, “Love the children.” Through being involved with SHINE, I have been able to love many children. I am honored to be able to work with all of them. This year I was able to have an even bigger team for SHINE. There really are no words to describe how amazing all of these ladies are and what a blessing they are to me and the students at Bonne Ecole. SHINE is something that I let consume me at times as well, yet this past year, I had to step back more and allow these ladies to step in. There was a day when I could not come to school at the last minute due to a medical emergency in my family. These ladies stepped in and took over the SHINE meeting for the day. Their ideas and talents have made this year wonderful for the SHINE Club. If I had not stepped back, they would not have been able to step in and SHINE!!
The next step back was a very personal one. I tend to get really involved in the lives of others when they are hurting and struggling. I jump right in many times without thinking of what this will cost me personally (especially in the area of time with my family), spiritually, and emotionally. I got to the point of utter exhaustion. I was so busy helping others and worrying about their problems that I did not realize I was about to be overcome by an avalanche of my own issues. For me, it is easier to step in and help others and ignore my own issues. Father loves me too much to keep me from healing and growing more in my knowledge of who I am in in Christ. That was why He said to step back and take care of myself. That is a REALLY hard thing for me to do, yet it has been one of the best decisions of my life. You see when you finally stop helping everyone around you, it opens the door for others to actually step in and help you. I am so used to being in the role of helping others that it felt very weird to start asking people to help me.
I began to really need to ask for help when I had some family members go through some major health battles, and I had to ask MANY friends to help me and to help them. I have never been so overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of others until I went through all of this. I had friends from school and church bringing food to my family members, come and sit with them and pray with them in the hospital, come and sit with me and bring food to me, and I even had some who went and decorated my door at school. I needed to learn how to receive from others. Let me tell you … it was a struggle for me. I felt like I caught myself constantly apologizing to people. I remember having some friends stop me as I was apologizing and tell me what a blessing it was to give to me. I knew that I needed to receive these gifts of love from all of them. I have grown so much in this area, and I am learning to say, "I cannot do this on my own; can you help me?"
Father wants me to live in a state of dependence on him, not in a state of independence. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
Stepping back does not mean disengaging from life and becoming a hermit. It means I am in a place where I am learning to say no and knowing that it will be alright. I was not made to do everything and be in the middle of everything. My prayer for all of you is that you are able to discern areas where you need to step back and reevaluate. My pray is that Father will whisper into your ear and speak words of truth as to who you are and whose you are. Below I have included Dennis Jernigan’s interpretation of Zephaniah 3:17. As you read these words, imagine Father speaking them over you.
The Eternal, self-existent God
The God who is three in one
He who dwells in the center of your being
Is a powerful, valiant warrior
He is come to set you free
To keep you safe
And to bring you victory.
He is cheered
And He beams with exceeding joy
And takes pleasure in your presence
He has engraved a place
For Himself in you
And there He quietly rests
In His love and affection for you.
He cannot contain Himself at the thought of you
And with the greatest of joy
Spins around wildly
In anticipation over you
And has placed you above all other creations
And in the highest place in His priorities
In fact, he shouts and sings in triumph
Joyfully proclaiming the gladness of His heart
In a song of rejoicing...
All because of YOU!!
Resting in His Love,
Mercy and Grace in the Midst of the Storm
I have been pondering for weeks now what to write about for a follow-up to the session Claire and I lead on Mercy and Grace. Shortly after that SHE event, our family was delivered some life changing news. Henry, the four year old nephew of my brother in law, Joe, and my sister, Michelle, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He underwent surgery almost immediately, and surgeons were able to remove 50% of the tumor. No more treatment will be done at this time, and Henry is currently under hospice care. When you hear news like this your mind begins to buzz with millions of questions and emotions. Whatever emotions or questions you may be asking as you read this; I have already felt or asked over the last month. On Halloween, the local news station in Georgia did a story on Henry. I will link it for you to watch, but be prepared, you WILL need tissues.
As I watched the video, I was overcome once again with a deluge of emotions. Yet, as I reflected back on it today, I see lessons that Father can teach all of us. When Claire and I lead our session, we never said that extending grace and mercy to yourself and others would ever be easy. It is a struggle and a battle. He wants us to lean on Him and His strength for EVERY NEED. The Kelley family is doing that right now. They are in the midst of leaning on Father to meet their every need right now. They are not only doing that, but they are proclaiming the HOPE that can only be found in Jesus during this time. The fact that the news station did not edit Jessie’s words about her faith shows that Henry does have a story to tell. Is this the story Ian and Jessie dreamed their son would tell?? Of course not, but they are just following Father’s hand as He leads them through their story. "We believe that Jesus's heart is for us, and for Henry, and for healing and restoration," Jessica said. "We may not see that on this side of glory. We'll still be with him in a short amount of time, forever."
In one of the most poignant parts of the video, Jessie described a recent experience with Henry.
"We were throwing pennies in the pond and I said 'You're supposed to make a wish before you throw the penny in the pond. What do you wish for? If you could do anything in the world right now, what would it be?' And he said, 'This.' And it was the most amazing lesson to me to just enjoy the moment with him, that there is joy and peace because right now, my little boy is throwing pennies in the pond and we can smile and we can cherish that to a new level."
Children can teach us so much. They see the world in such a different way than we do. Sometimes, we just need to sit back and take a look around us and be thankful for the situation we are in right at that moment. I did that recently as I sat with some friends and thought back to when I first got involved with Total Woman U. It was amazing to sit back and see how Father’s hand had guided me and lead me to where He has me today. That road was not smooth and straight…it was bumpy and rough and lead me through some tough times, but without them, I would not be where I am today.
Henry’s situation is not fun nor is it something any of us would want our children to go through. I just know that when these kinds of tragedies rock our world, there is someone who can keep us from falling. Father holds us up in such an amazing way and makes Himself known to all those around us. Jessie, Ian, Henry, and Miri Kelley are allowing Jesus to shine through them wherever they go. Do they have rough days?? YOU BET THEY DO!! Please pray for them over these next few months. Continue to pray for a miracle. Our Father can do amazing things. Pray for peace in the midst of this storm and for comfort.
I am praying for all of you that Father can give you His perspective in the midst of your circumstances. Know that ALL of the ladies on the TWU team love you and pray for you. Next time, I will be reflecting on a song by Matthew West on our perspective.
I love you!
http://www.11alive.com/news/article/262491/3/Henrys-Last-Holidays Story Link
This week's follow-up is a bit different. After Claire's blog post, one of you sent us 2 poems you had written as well as a great quote. Darla, you were touched by her blog and we were touched by you!
We postponed our next follow-up so we could share these poems and quote with you. It is so beautiful to hear how God speaks differently to us all. These 2 poems say SO MUCH and we know you'll be blessed by them as we were.
Thanks to Claire for writing the personal post last week, and thanks to Darla for sharing parts of her journey with us.
Blessings to you all this week!
"Perhaps that is the very reason we are in this world where sin and sorrow and suffering and evil abound, so that we may let You teach us how to react to them, that out of them we can create lovely qualities to live forever. That is the only satisfactory way of dealing with evil, not simply binding it so it cannot work harm, but whenever possible overcoming it with good. "
Behind my wall
I find myself again
Sheltered and safe, no one can get in
A place I go to heal
And hide away
What I must remember
This is not a
Place I can stay
Isolated and hidden
No harm can come to me
But over time and
With a prayer or two
God will help me see
To be His servant
And messenger of His word
Behind a wall
I can not be heard
Take a chance
On the people He sends my way
We're here to learn from them
Trust in who He sends
Getting hurt is a maybe
But God will guard my heart and
Catch me if I fall
His hand waiting for me
Reaching behind my wall
The Bible says to me
Sometimes this road is filled with obstacles
That I did not see
Can I find it in my heart
To forgive the hurt and pain
I know that when I can forgive
There's so much I will gain
A sense of peace and freedom
A burden lifted from my heart
Dear God teach me to forgive
Please show me where to start
Forgive myself and others too
You can show me how
There is no more waiting
The time to begin is now
Forgiving is the first step
To start my walk with You
Dear Jesus take my hand
Show me what to do
Show me how to break down the wall
And give You more of me
To forgive means to trust in You
This is the life I seek
Be with me as I take that first step
Sometimes on shaky ground
It is in Your grace and words
The next step can be found
I am praying that you are walking in TRUTH, listening to the TRUTH, and speaking the TRUTH to others. I often find that when Father is trying to teach me something, He often uses others around me, books I am reading, and messages I am hearing to solidify that truth. Back when I wrote that prayer letter so many years ago, I was reading a book called You Gotta Keep Dancin’ by Tim Hansel. For those of you who know me well, I am sure the title made you smile because of the double meaning for me. This was a quote that really ministered to me back then and still does today:
We may desire to bring to the Lord a perfect work.
We would like to point when our work is done,
to the beautiful ripened grain, and bound up sheaves,
and yet the Lord frustrates our plans, shatters our purposes,
lets us see the wreck of all our hopes,
breaks the structure we thought we were building
and catches us up in His arms and whispers to us,
“It’s not your work I wanted, but YOU!!”
It is funny that people back then looked at me and thought I was so confident, yet my confidence was based on what I had done or achieved, not on what HE had done. Tonight, I was reading to my son from the Story Bible and it talked about how in Jesus’ death, He came to refute the BIG LIE….the lie that we have been left alone. We are not alone. He is our strength, our peace, our wisdom….the list goes on and on. I had to get to a point where I let myself fall in His arms and let Him speak words of TRUTH and LIFE into me. It has been said that you cannot give what you do not have. At that point, I did not have confidence in Him. My confidence rested in myself. He will not rest until we rely on Him and Him alone.
Another quote I want to share with you is from a sermon my pastor, Frank Friedmann gave back during this time in my life.
“Where there is honesty, there is intimacy.
Where there is intimacy, there is power.
Where there is power, there is freedom from destruction.”
At SHE, I challenged you to identify the lies that you believed about yourself, God, and others. That is just the beginning of this journey for you. Through that honesty you expressed that day, it began to build intimacy in your relationship with Father. That then turns into power….the power to stand up against the lies in HIS strength when they come to try and haunt you again. Ultimately, it leads to a relationship that is not shaken by the circumstances and storms that will come. Of course, this quote also applies to our relationship with others. I need to bring honesty into my marriage, into my friendships, into my relationships with family members. Being honest does not mean you strike out in your flesh (your coping mechanisms to survive apart from Father) and just tell people off. It means being honest with your feelings and thoughts about situations. It means admitting that you were wrong when you lost your temper when talking to your child. It means telling your spouse about your struggles instead of pretending you are doing fine.
Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. "If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you." John 8:31-32 (The Message)
“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” Ephesians 4:15, 16 (The Message)
My prayer for you is that you continue to grow in truth. Read the Scripture below to see more of my prayers for you!
“That's why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn't stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!” Ephesians 1: 15-19 (The Message)
I love you my sisters in Christ….I am praying for you!
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