Mistaken Identity

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Photo by J. Beales

My husband, Mac, has been interested in learning more about his ancestry for several years. His father died when he was a baby. So, he never had a chance to know him or hear his stories.

His mother didn’t share what she knew; she rarely spoke of his father. Whether it was self-protection or lack of knowledge, he could never decipher.

Yet, he wanted to learn more about his background and the history that shaped his life.

For his birthday, I purchased a DNA kit and database membership from one of the many DNA analysis companies. He read the disclaimers and instructions, collected his sample, and shipped it off.

Soon he would receive his analysis opening the door to his past. Painting the picture he hoped would fill in the empty spaces left by his father’s passing and his mother’s silence.

Several weeks after sending the sample, an email arrived. The big day had come; all that he had been told about his family would soon be confirmed. The door unlocked to unknown uncles, aunts, and cousins. The doors opened to undiscovered truths surrounding the family stories, so much anticipation and now…

He worked for months putting together his family tree. Discovering distant cousins, clearing up misinformation, and yes finding some answers to the missing pieces left from the family legends.

Then one afternoon he walked into my office and announced, very confidently, that he was going to start researching my side of the family tree. He needed to do this because his tree would not be complete unless he included my family. Yes, he is a sweetheart!

So this is where this beautiful “in search of family” story takes an interesting twist.

My family was small, mom, dad, brother, and sister. That’s all, well unless you count fur and feather babies. Then my family exponentially multiplies.

My parents were oddly quiet about our family history. I knew my mom had a sister but that was it. My father had dark skin and we were told our grandfather was Chinese, grandmother African American, and great grandmother Native American. My mother was light-skinned, creole (African American and French). That’s what we knew – that was the history. So, how I had defined myself, the image I created, was based on this small amount of information.

A few weeks after announcing he was going to start working on my family tree, Mac came back to my office. This time not looking as confident as previous, he shared that he had found birth information for my maternal grandparents, aunt, her husband, and family. I was so excited but was a little confused, he didn’t seem excited. So I asked, “you don’t seem excited – what’s up”? His response – “your mother is not creole and I started looking into your father’s history. Dad isn’t part Native American”.

So, the stories told and what was found through birth records and census data did not match. The history I had constructed as a young woman, my family identity all became obsolete with a simple search through an ancestry database.

I have to admit I was surprised, confused, and a little frustrated by this information. Mac double-checked his findings several times making certain there were no mistakes. The evidence is certain, I am not who I thought I was!

What do you do when your personal identity and definition no longer match the truth?

What happens when how you define yourself, the identity placed on you by the world and God’s definition becomes a clear mismatch? Whose identity and definition do we adopt, who do you trust?

We tend to define ourselves by our family history, the stories we are told, and as we grow up, we refine those definitions by our current life experiences, what we have accomplished, what we have acquired, our education, our titles – married, single, mom, MD, Ph.D.

The world will categorize us by our ethnicity, our economic status, by our beliefs, by our preferences.

But God…

Well, He uses a completely different approach to defining His creation, giving us identity.

God defines us by what He was willing to sacrifice. He defines us by remembering His son Jesus hanging on a cross, dying for us.

(18) For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. (19) It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. (20) God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days, he has been revealed for your sake.

1 Peter 1:18-20 New Living Translation (NLT)

God defines us as priceless and valuable.

Sisters, we often tell ourselves we are what we do, what we accomplish, what we have.

The world will affirm that we are better if we have more, do more, but will also challenge us by categorizing us into simple buckets by race and status. Both of these approaches leave us with a mistaken identity.

We are more because Jesus is more.

Colossians 3:1-4 reassures us we are new creations, we have new lives, new identities when we come to trust in Jesus.

(1) Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (2) Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (3) For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (4) When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory… (10) and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

New International Version (NIV)

We have our identity wrapped in the likeness of Jesus. He tells us that when we place our trust in Him; we take on His image, our true identity. We become complete in Him.

Beloved, I encourage you don’t be deceived by the image you have created in your head. Please don’t rely on family history, personal accomplishments, or the world’s influence to define you, to define your value.

Please rely on the unshakable, unchanging truth from God,

(21) Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, (22) throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. (23) Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. (24) Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT)

You are a new creation.

Created to be like God.

Created to be His image bearer.

Be Blessed,

Signature - Allison


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Unclaimed, Unopened, Often Ignored

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Photo by J. Tinneberg

The box sat outside her front door. Tucked neatly in the corner of the doorway. A potted plant pulled close to distract others attention. Yet, in view by those walking by.

I passed her doorway daily and after a week, then two, now going on three – the box remained, half-hidden yet visible.

The amazing thing, she was home! She walked through that door daily. Yet, the box sat untouched, perhaps even unnoticed.

Week 3 came and passed and finally one afternoon while passing the doorway I noticed the box was gone!

She had finally opened the door and claimed her treasure.

We all have unclaimed, unopened, often ignored treasures waiting in our lives.

The taken-for-granted hug from our spouse, a friend, a stranger sensing our needs – a treasure ignored.

An unaccepted offer of help when our days are packed to the brim and spilling over – a treasure unopened.

The disregarded plea for forgiveness – a treasure unclaimed.

It took her more than 3-weeks before she noticed the box at her doorstep. Her busy distracted life kept her from seeing, from acting, from receiving.

There are times in our lives when our relationship with Jesus can feel like a box sitting on an unattended doorstep. We are busy people, life gets complicated, time gets tight. Yet, Jesus waits patiently for us to notice the gifts He offers – unconditional love, undeserved grace, and amazing mercy.

Unintentionally, we can treat his gifts as misplaced boxes, placing them in the corner of our closets, in the shadows of our basements. We walk around them, occasionally pushing them aside to make room for our own dreams, our own desires, our own plans.

Eventually, we forget they are even there.

Unless we are willing to receive and open Jesus’ gifts, we are destined to stumble through our lives wondering if this life is as good as it gets. We are destined to a life that disappoints; a life that is never complete.

His precious gifts sit in a box, a gift unopened, while we search for more.

In the book of Revelations, John writes to a church that had become satisfied in their personal riches, comfortable in their self-sufficiency. Yet, they ignored God’s invitation for relationship. They had lost their passion for Him.

John writes,

Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me.

Revelation 3:20 Living Bible (TLB)

We must be careful that we don’t become so comfortable with the routine of our lives, so overwhelmed by the burdens we carry, prideful of our personal accomplishments, or complacent by the head knowledge we have about Jesus, that we stop searching for Him.

We stop longing for relationship and intimacy.

Jesus stands at the doors of our hearts and knocks. He will never demand that we open the door. He will never force us to open the box and receive His gifts.

He will wait, letting us go about our daily activities until finally we pay attention and turn to Him.

Sisters, I encourage you to take the time to open your hearts and claim the treasures Jesus has for you, a gift freely given.

Please remember,

He loves you.

You are his daughter.

You are his BeLOVED.

Blessings,

Signature - Allison


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Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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Photo by A. McCormick

I’ve shared in previous posts that I am an avid gardener. Although I often question my sanity when faced with the ever-changing weather of Central Oregon.

My very favorite thing about gardening and being in nature is observing God’s amazing creativity.

His infinite imagination and attention to the finest details of His masterpiece.

Last week, I passed a neighbor’s garden and picked a few dried poppy seedpods.

Have you ever taken a few minutes to look closely?

It’s fascinating!

The pods are teacup shaped, each wearing a little top hat, completely enclosed. All around the rim of the pod are small needle-sized holes.

When you shake a dry pod, the seeds inside sprinkle onto your hand, like black pepper sprinkled on scrambled eggs.

The pod’s design is so intricate, so delicate, and obviously specific to holding the seeds in place until the perfect time of release – a gentle wind that spreads them across the yard and neighboring fields.

God’s creative beauty on grand display.

He didn’t only expend His creative power on nature; He turned the same mastery to the formation of His sons and daughters.

In Psalm 139:14 we are reminded,

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

New International Version (NIV)

We (you) are fearfully and wonderfully made.

As women, we face the ever-present clamor to conform to the world’s unrealistic and ever-changing standard.

We place unreasonable burdens on ourselves that drive us to perfectionism, hyper-busyness, and desperate overachievement. All done in the name of being a capable/accomplished multi-tasking woman.

Family and friends, although many times unknowingly, challenge us to perform – to meet their constantly shifting needs. Be the nurturing loving mom, the supportive daughter, the available best friend, the drop it all and meet the needs of all those around us woman.

Yet in the quietness of our hearts, we struggle because these activities don’t fill our need to be valued or help us define our purpose. In fact, the constant movement and activity bring exhaustion, isolation, doubt, and fear.

If we are fearfully and wonderfully made, why do we struggle with aligning our perspectives, our actions, and beliefs with God’s truth?

Why are our hearts dry and searching?

Why do doubts and fear chase us?

The Bible shares a story in the book of John that may help bring light to this struggle.

(24) I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. (25) Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.

John 12:24-25 New Living Translation (NLT)

When we struggle with mistaken identity and misaligned perspective, we must consider that it could be caused by an unwillingness to die to self. An unwillingness to relinquish control of our lives. An unwillingness to surrender our plans and desires.

Jennie Allen in her book, Restless – Because You Were Made for More shares,

The kind of life you want lies on the other side of death.

I never noticed the hope in it until my heart was completely his (God). Before we begin to dream, there is one foundation that must exist: surrender.

Sisters, it’s not about what we do. It’s not about our performance. The answer to the dilemma rests in our willingness to surrender to the God that created us. And if we are honest with ourselves, surrender is not something we like or want to do.

Jennie Allen goes on to share,

Our mattering doesn’t depend on a stellar performance. We matter because we are children of the living, breathing, reigning God of the universe. We matter because we were bought with the blood of the son of our Father God. He set us in our spots and in our time. He numbered our days and counts our hair. And we matter because he says we matter.

We have value because we were given breath by God.

We have value because Jesus sacrificed the glory of heaven and surrendered His life – dying for us.

We have value because the Holy Spirit indwells us.

We have value because Jesus gives us purpose – being His audible voice, His hands and feet.

When you sense anxiety or the desire to perform, the pull to be more, do more, or give more – stop.

Stop and consider how does what I’m feeling align with Jesus’ truth about me.

Stop and remember that you are fearfully and wonderful made.

 

Be Blessed,

Signature - Allison


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Photo by C. Ardeleanu

Broken Pieces Made Whole

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Photo by Unknown

Last week my husband, our 10-year-old fur-baby, and I visited the Oregon Coast.

During our trip, we stopped at a local glass blowing shop and we had a chance to watch the creation of a glass float.

It’s a fascinating process.

Raw materials, shards of color glass and molten glass, molded together – refined by the fire and placed under the pressure of the artist’s tools to mold the glass into the desired shape.

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Photo by K. Lyons

Then the moment came, the artist literally blew life into the molten glass. Allowing it to expand, taking on its final shape.

The finished float was heated with a torch to polish its surface and placed in an oven to slowly cool overnight.

The process had taken bits and pieces (from a naïve perspective items that would have seemed worthless) and made them whole.

The finished float was beautiful.

Luke shares a story about a “notorious” woman whose life had been shattered by her habitual sin. Luke 7:36 – 50 says,

(36) One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and He went into the Pharisee’s house [in the region of Galilee] and reclined at the table. (37) Now there was a woman in the city who was [known as] a sinner; and when she found out that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume; (38) and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began wetting His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and [respectfully] kissed His feet [as an act signifying both affection and submission] and anointed them with the perfume. (39) Now when [Simon] the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this Man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him, that she is a [notorious] sinner [an outcast, devoted to sin].”

(40) Jesus, answering, said to the Pharisee, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Teacher, say it.” (41) “A certain moneylender had two debtors: one owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. (42) When they had no means of repaying [the debts], he freely forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” (43) Simon answered, “The one, I take it, for whom he forgave more.” Jesus said to him, “You have decided correctly.” (44) Then turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house [but you failed to extend to Me the usual courtesies shown to a guest]; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair [demonstrating her love]. (45) You gave Me no [welcoming] kiss, but from the moment I came in, she has not ceased to kiss My feet. (46) You did not [even] anoint My head with [ordinary] oil, but she has anointed My feet with [costly and rare] perfume. (47) Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (48) Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (49) Those who were reclining at the table with Him began saying among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” (50) Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith [in Me] has saved you; go in peace [free from the distress experienced because of sin].”

Amplified Bible (AMP)

Luke’s account of this woman is all we will find in the Bible. Yet, her story powerfully depicts God’s response to human brokenness.

The woman had a reputation – shards of brokenness, a social outcast, a person that had devoted her life to sin.

She heard about Jesus and when given the chance, sought Him out, knelt at His feet, and surrendered her past.

Through her tears and a selfless act of love, she demonstrated her repentant heart. A simple act of humility changed the course of this unnamed woman’s life.

She was transformed by an encounter with Jesus and in return, Jesus forgave her and set her free.

Before Christ, our lives are filled with shards of brokenness, our pride, self-righteousness, anger, and sin.

Yet Jesus waits patiently for us to come to Him and in that instant and for the rest of our lives, our creator refines us, molds us, and polishes us into the image of Himself.

We are transformed, broken pieces made whole.

BeLOVED, you can be confident that regardless of your sin, the struggles you may face, the pain you may be experiencing, Jesus is available to make your broken pieces whole.

Trust Him.

Rest in Him.

Be Blessed,

Signature - Allison


To share your thoughts, go to Leave A Comment at the top of this post.

Take a few minutes and checkout the new devotion on the Devotion page.

Holy Moments

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Photo by Morgan

A stillness fell over the room. The type of quiet that forces you to take notice.

The music played gently in the background and the early morning light cut through the window leaving a shadow across the small wooden table and her favorite cup of tea.

The children were hanging on to the last remnants of their dreams, the dog was curled at her feet, and her husband was buried under his grandmother’s quilt.

She sat motionless, fixed on an indescribable peace. A sweetness, a warmth that enveloped her.

A holy moment; a moment where she could feel Jesus’ presence.

A moment she knew that she was loved like a father loves his daughter – loved unconditionally, effortlessly, intentionally.

Our lives can get so complicated. They can become busier than we planned. They can become out of control; keeping us from the most important thing, time alone with Jesus. Sitting in His presence, lounging at His feet, spending time getting to know Him, loving Him, surrendering to Him.

Holy moments are found in the stillness of our minds, in the quieting of our hearts, in the intentional discipline of seeking God.

Tim Hansel shares,

God has spoken very boldly about his desire to be a presence in our lives. If I want to heal the ache and loneliness in my own life, one of the things I need to do is get away, alone with God. . . In the silence, God will speak to you most powerfully. Too often his words to us get muffled, lost, or covered by the crowd of many noises both inside and outside of us. We must have a quiet heart in order to hear God’s distinctive message to us.

In Luke 10:38-42 we are told about Martha and Mary.

 (38) As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. (39) She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. (40) But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

(41) “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, (42) but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 Martha was the doer, serving Jesus and His disciples, making certain the meal was ready, and all the many details were addressed.

Mary’s desire was to sit at Jesus’ feet. She took this precious time to be still, to grow in intimacy and knowledge of this man Jesus. She chose not to get distracted by the busyness of His visit, the preparation, her sister’s call to do more. She made the choice to be present, to quiet her heart, to focus on God.

Seeking God in a busy world requires some intentionality, a little planning, and perseverance. But Jesus says in Luke 10:42B,

Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

Jesus confirms that Mary had it right. His desire for our lives is time spent in His presence, at his feet, in relationship with Him.

But how do we make time?

What do we do while in His presence?

What are Jesus’ promises for our time together?

Making Time

Jesus himself was the best example of making time for God. He was often found stealing away to a quiet place to pray and worship.

Luke 5:16 shares,

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

We need to get away from the distractions to a quiet (lonely) place. A place that allows us to focus; a comfy chair in the early morning before the family places their daily demands. A Walk in the neighborhood or hike in the woods, just you and Jesus. A late evening encounter, the day is done and you can rest in your Father’s arms.

You may only have 5 minutes, take the time. Jesus waits to meet with you.

Make time, BeLOVED, for your savior – daily – intentionally – consistently.

In His Presence

Three things we can focus on while we are in the presence of God; prayer, praise, and pondering His goodness.

Colossians 4:2 tells us,

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

We can use our time alone with God to pray, talk with Him about every aspect of our lives – not just our needs (He already knows all) but also our dreams, share those tiny things that bring us joy.

Psalm 117:1-2 gives us another hint at what we should focus on during our time with the Lord,

Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!

Take time to praise God for all He has done and continues to do for you. The Lord loves to hear the praises of His people. Listen to worship music, sing or pray in the quiet of your mind, sing or pray at the top of your lungs – don’t forget to praise!

Pondering God, reflecting on His character and nature, allows us to grow our knowledge and understanding of the person of Jesus. Reading the Bible, a daily devotion, journaling are all excellent ways to reflect on God.

His Promise

James 4:8 shares God’s promise for our time with Him.

 Come close to God, and God will come close to you…

Our time with God brings intimacy and builds our relationship with our loving Father. Our faith and trust grow, burdens shift, pain takes on a new perspective, and our lives are transformed.

Sisters, I know many of you are going through difficult times. Times that cause you to fear, question, and challenges your faith. Times where you think I don’t have time to be still, I’m just hanging on!

I encourage you, even in desperate times, to make time to be with Jesus. Because it is during these times – we need to focus on Him even more. We need to sit in His presence, lounge at His feet, spend time getting to know Him, loving Him, surrendering to Him.

(31) Therefore do not worry or be anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted), saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ (32) For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; [but do not worry,] for your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (33) But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.

(34) “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:31-34 Amplified Bible (AMP)

BeLOVED, don’t get lost in the busyness and the distractions of this world. Spend time with the One that can meet your inner longings, your deep loneliness, and your unimaginable losses. 

Nestle into your favorite chair, settle into the corner of a coffee shop or a bookstore, walk a quiet path – spend time with your creator.

In return, He will reveal Himself, His passions, His purpose for your life and you will find yourself resting in a holy moment.

Blessings,

Signature - Allison

FULLY KNOWN

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Photo by J. Applegate


Guest Blog by Stacia Cruz

Sometimes I go by a different name. That may sound crazy but it’s true! If I’m placing an order at Starbucks I give the barista my daughter’s name instead of my own. Her name is easier to write and pronounce. But I can only do this because this barista doesn’t know me.

God is all-knowing which means He knows me personally and intimately. There is nothing about me that is hidden from Him. God knows all of my thoughts, words, and actions from the past, present, and even the future.

I am reminded of the encounter Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well. We read in John 4,

Usually, women came to the well in the morning or evening when it was cool. This particular woman was drawing water by herself at noon. The shame she felt over her lifestyle choices compelled her to try and hide from others.

There are struggles we as women experience that can lead to feeling shame: being a working mom when our friends are not, money struggles, a mental health issue or an addiction. As a mom, I know well the feeling of shame when I respond to my kids in impulsive anger. Thankfully God is fully aware of who we are and accepts us anyway!

In this encounter with the Samaritan woman, Jesus began to show her His full knowledge of who she was. When this woman told Jesus that she didn’t have a husband He replied,

(17) You are right when you say you have no husband. (18) The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.

Although Jesus shared how much He knew about her He did not shame her. Instead, He responded with love and acceptance. Once this woman came face to face with Jesus, she was moved to share about Him with others. Later in the chapter we read,

(39) Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”

With God we are fully known, perfectly loved and completely accepted no matter what!

Nothing is hidden from Him.

The psalmist writes in Psalm 139 of how intimately God knows us,

(1) “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. (2) You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. (3) You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”

Remember today that you are fully known and loved. Take comfort in the fact that you are His precious daughter free of all shame. No matter what you’re struggling with, God is here to give you freedom.

In His love,

Stacia


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Stacia Cruz

About the Author

Stacia and her husband Ryan have been married for 15 years. They have 3 children: ages 12, 8, and 5.

Stacia oversees the women’s ministry events for New Hope Church. Her desire is that women grow in their relationship with God while building connection with one another.

She is passionate about God’s word and loves to challenge woman to think about who they are in Him.


Please visit the DEVOTION page to read Stacia’s devotion.

If you would like to share a comment, please go to Leave A Comment at the top of this page.

Follow the Light

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Photo by A. Burden

I am an avid gardener, although every year I ask myself “why.” I live in Central Oregon and our weather can be very challenging, 90°+ during the day and low 40s – high 30s at night. Clear skies in the morning and by mid-day a rainstorm. We have crazy, unpredictable, ever-changing weather.

This year was particularly hard. I started confident – planted early, everything was growing really well. Until late June and the thunderstorms rolled in. One particular storm dropped significant rain, which then turned to pea-size hail and the garden was nearly destroyed. Leaves were shred, tender sprouts were crushed and any blossoms formed were gone. It was the worst hailstorm I had experienced in Central Oregon.

However, one thing withstood the assault of the pounding hail, our sunflowers. The leaves were a little pitted but they stood strong, towering over the rest of what was once the garden.

I like sunflowers. There is something about their big bright flowers that make me smile. They make me feel like an accomplished gardener. Although in reality, they will grow anywhere and require no maintenance. Sunflowers, the variety, size, and colors just  make me happy!

You may already know this little fact, but the young flowers follow the light. In the morning, they face East soaking in the sun’s rays and by evening they have turned West – it is fascinating to watch!

The sunflower’s behavior is one we should all consider mimicking – following the light.

When life is peaceful, prosperous, and easy – follow the light!

When life is a struggle and complicated – follow the light!

When your children make the wrong choices, the dog is sick, and you and your husband/friend/business partner are at odds – follow the light!

When the diagnosis comes back positive – follow the light!

The sunflower has no other option, it was created to follow, innately equipped to follow.

Humans, not so much. We have a choice to follow, free will, and we are innately equipped to wander.

So, what does it mean to follow the light?

In John 8:12 we learn,

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

New International Version (NIV)

True light comes from a single source, Jesus. He will provide direction for our lives and in the midst of our sin and disobedience offers light to show us the way to repentance and restoration.

As we build a relationship with Him, we begin to reflect His light in our own lives. We enjoy learning about Him, following His truth, thinking more about the needs of others than our own wants, and holding on to Him in the face of disappointment and despair.

Our lives are transformed.

Matthew 5:16 tells us,

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

NIV

Our transformed life, the light that shines in us, can then be used to tell the world about God, His love, and His amazing grace. We do this by the way we live our lives, share our talents and skills, and communicate our story.

Our light draws others to Jesus.

But we know that as humans, we sin and often choose to ignore God’s instruction. We choose to ignore the light of His truth.

Matthew 6:22-23 challenges us,

(22) The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. (23) But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

NIV

We turn our faces away from God and follow our own path. Darkness surrounds us; lust, pride, self-righteousness – our sins.

Yet, He waits patiently for us to acknowledge our sinfulness and return. Be restored by His light.

There will come a day when we will experience His eternal light. Living in His presence in our heavenly home. This is not something we earn or win as a prize for living the best life. It is freely given to those who trust in Him.

Revelations 22:5 paints a picture of our future,

There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.

NIV

There will be no more need to strive or struggle, we will rest in the warm glow of Jesus’ love.

Our faces will search for His and just like the sunflower, we will move in cadence with Jesus. Following Him from East to West, across the heavens for eternity.

We will have consistently, obediently, humbly followed His light.

Ladies, we can live confidentially. Jesus is our light. As we trust Him, we reflect His light to a broken and hurting world, and then we will rest in Him eternally.

Follow the light dear sisters.

Follow it when you don’t think you can persist. Follow the light when you are fearful and living with regret. Follow it when the darkness of heartbreak, longing and, shame work to control your mind.

BeLOVED, follow the light!

Blessings,

Signature - Allison


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Visit the new devotion post, Adam and Eve – Wandering Costs, on the Devotion page.

 

A Wound Lying Just Under the Skin…

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Photo by A. McCormick

This is Titus, our 10-year-old fur-baby. Titus has been in our family since he was 7 weeks old. He grew up under my desk while I worked from home. He loves to fetch a ball, a cold river swim, and a run on our local golf course.

This week he had a vet appointment to check on one of the many skin growths he has cultivated over time (Titus is part Labrador Retriever and skin growths are common to the breed).

The morning of the appointment, Titus woke with a significant limp! When we looked at his paw, we found a red, raw, spot lying under a small bead of tree sap. Evidently, the sap had stuck to his hair and rubbed the area raw. Poor baby, his humans hadn’t noticed the irritant that laid just under his fur.

Have you ever encountered something or someone that proved to be an irritant in your life? Perhaps rubbing your emotions, patience, and confidence to the point that your heart is red and raw, and you find yourself limping through life in pain. Dragging behind you the memories and baggage of a nagging, angry, untreated wound.

Those around you, those that love you, may see you struggling but they don’t know the cause of your pain. They are oblivious to the thing that has causes you so much discomfort.

  • The neglect, abuse you suffered as a child.
  • The unkind words you encountered as a teen.
  • The comparisons made that left you feeling less-than as a young woman.
  • The disappointments faced as an adult.

All irritants will cause wounds that fester and worsen if left untreated.

I am glad to report that Titus’ paw is healing nicely and he will be free of one more of those little skin lumps next week.

But for our wounds, it’s not that easy to heal and move forward. So what do we do when a wound doesn’t heal, an irritant won’t go away?

You may have read the story of a young woman shared in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. She is unnamed in these accounts but we learn she had a physical irritant. An illness that would not go away regardless of prayer and seeking help from others.

Mark 9:25-26 shares some details about this woman,

(25) A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. (26) She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years, she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.

(All verses taken from New International Version (NIV))

This woman suffered for 12 years. Trips to the doctor had proved ineffective. In fact, based on scripture,

She had suffered a great deal from them.

Her money was gone and the thing that plagued her, the thing that drained her, caused her frustration and sadness had gotten worse.

The Bible doesn’t share anything else about this unnamed woman but we can assume that based on the culture of that time, she was considered unclean – a social outcast.

Her illness, the irritant that plagued her, rubbed her soul raw, her spirit raw, her confidence raw, had robbed her of her dreams. She stood weak, frail, exposed. She needed more than the doctors could provide; she needed Jesus.

Mark 5:27 tells us,

When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.

In spite of this woman’s illness, her impurity, her social status, she knew that Jesus held the answer. All she had to do was touch His clothing. All she had to do was have a brief encounter with the living God and as Mark 5:29 states,

Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

A woman that had suffered for 12 years, a woman whose heart and soul had been rubbed raw, a woman whose faith held out hope for a miraculous healing – was healed IMMEDIATELY!

Lysa Terkeurst shared in a recent Frist 5 devotion,

God doesn’t answer our prayers at any time but the right time.

His time may not feel right to you and I. It may feel delayed, I bet it did to this woman. His timing may make us anxious, fearful, lonely, and betrayed, the list can go on and on, but sisters please know that His timing is perfect for all you are going through.

Your irritant will not defeat you. What is rubbing you raw will not overcome you. Whatever is holding you down, back, sidelined, or defeated will not overtake you.

Because our God promises to work it out,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Our God uses our raw, broken hearts to transform us, shape us into His image.

• Your childhood – an open wound… God heals!
• The pain of your teenage years – a raw spot on your heart… God heals!
• Your self-doubt, lack of confidence – an irritant… God heals!
• Your adult disappointments and sin – a wound lying just under the skin… God heals!

And then He uses us to touch the lives of those around us.

BeLoved, just as this unnamed woman sought out Jesus and didn’t stop until she touched his clothing, seek Him for what you’re facing today. Don’t stop, don’t lose faith if God seems delayed. Remember, He is refining you. He is transforming you; He is healing you.

Blessings,

Signature - Allison


Take a few minutes this week to read the story of this woman in all three gospels:

• Matthew 9:20-22
• Mark 5:24-34
• Luke 8:42-48

Then reflect on the following questions:

1. What was the woman’s response to her healing?
2. What was Jesus’ response to the woman?
3. What do we learn about how we should respond to our suffering and healing from this story?


To leave a comment, please go to the top of the post and click on “Leave A Comment”.

Closed Doors

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Photo by L. Bordoni

It was a Friday afternoon, long after the rest of her staff had left. Amanda stood in her office doorway, cardboard box in hand. She thought about the years spent within these four walls, the conversations, the accomplishments, the challenges. It all had gone by so fast and now she would pack her office and walk through the company doors one last time.

A door was closing on a season of Amanda’s life, a rich, growing season but at this point, there were no new doors opening. No window had appeared to provide a new start.

So, Amanda packs years’ worth of memories into a cardboard box, glances fondly out the window, and walks out of her office – a closed-door behind her.

We all have faced them:

•  Didn’t get accepted to that club, college, team – closed door
• Singleness, divorce – closed door
• Infertility – closed door
• Widowed, lost child, parent, a close friend – closed door
• Fired, downsized, restructured, retired – closed door

Last week, I introduced you to Esther, a beautiful young Jewish girl that became queen and saved her people from certain destruction. What I didn’t mention in that blog was why Esther became queen. To better understand how this came about we have to go back to the book of Esther and meet Queen Vashti.

Queen Vashti was Persian, born into royalty – the daughter of a king. According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, her name means “beautiful” and as we will learn, she lived up to her name. The book of Esther, chapter 1, shares that she is King Xerxes’ first wife and based his great wealth Queen Vashti must have enjoyed all the benefits of being on the throne.

During the third year of King Xerxes’ reign, he threw an elaborate party for all his officials, military leaders, and the empire’s elite. The party displayed the wealth and power of the king. The event lasted 180 days and once complete, King Xerxes held a 7-day festival for all the people of his province from the “least to the greatest.” It was a time of lavish drinking and celebration.

According to Esther 1:10-12

(10) On the seventh day of the feast, when King Xerxes was in high spirits because of the wine, he told the seven eunuchs who attended him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas — (11) to bring Queen Vashti to him with the royal crown on her head. He wanted the nobles and all the other men to gaze on her beauty, for she was a very beautiful woman. (12) But when they conveyed the king’s order to Queen Vashti, she refused to come. This made the king furious, and he burned with anger.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Herbert Lockyer states in his book All the Women of the Bible,

The Bible plainly declares that Ahasuerus (Xerxes) summoned his wife to the feast simply “to show off her beauty”. Had the king been sober he would not have considered such a breach of custom, for he knew that Eastern women lived in seclusion and that such a request as he made in his drunken condition amounted to a gross insult.

Uncertain about how to handle the Queen’s refusal, King Xerxes consulted with experts and in Esther 1:19 we learn the queen’s fate,

Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also, let the king give her royal position to someone who is better than she.

New Living Translation (NLT)

With the king’s declaration, Queen Vashti was faced with a closed door, slammed shut, no recourse. Yet with that single decision, the window flies open for Esther and she is swept from her meager life as Mordecai’s adopted daughter to the new queen.

Picture in your mind the emotions that swirled in Vashti’s head, the pain felt in her heart, the panic that welled up as she was deposed from all that had defined her. She would be leaving the comfort, wealth, and prestige of being King Xerxes’ queen to an uncertain future.

The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to Vashti, we can only speculate she either was completely outcast from the palace or became a member of the king’s concubine. But, we know her life was never the same after leaving her position as queen.

Most of the time, doors close when we least suspect them and when we are least prepared emotionally to handle them. But we can be certain of this, every closed door leads to something new, something different, a new opportunity to grow, learn, and change.

For Queen Vashti, a door closed and God used it to open a window for Esther. Her temporary discomfort led to a nation of people being saved.

We can’t always understand why doors close but we can choose to trust God, the one who knows the answers to all our whys and allow our temporary discomfort to build our faith, draw us closer to Him, transform our lives.

Doors close but God’s love is steadfast. His heart for his daughters is unchanging. We can trust that we are forever His BeLOVED and He will use everything that happens in our lives to form us into His image.

Sisters, trust God when doors in your life close. He has a plan for you, today, tomorrow and in the future!

Blessings,

Signature - Allison


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Take time to look at the new devotion on the Devotion page!

A Life-Altering, Future-Shaping, Present-Shaking Call

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Photo by Unsplash

OK, I am going to confess something to you and I’m not certain how you’re going to take it but stick with me!

I really like the movie Baby Boom. I mean, I REALLY – like – the – movie! I saw it the first time as a new release in 1987 and watch it periodically because, well – I REALLY like the movie.

Perhaps you aren’t familiar with this epic tale. The movie stars Diane Keaton as J.C. Wiatt, a successful advertising executive that seemingly has the world in the palm of her hand. She has a powerful position in a prestigious firm and is being considered for partnership. She is financially secure, lives in a stunning New York flat, and has a relationship with a man that is her professional and financial equal. She has it all – until…

One night she receives a call that her distant cousin has left her an inheritance. Coming from a wealthy family, J.C. is certain it is a monetary gift but instead, she learns her cousin and his wife were killed and the inheritance is a toddler, a little girl!

Needless to say, this announcement shakes J.C.’s world and as the movie unfolds brings this powerful woman to her breaking point. A point that forces her to make a decision – continue to work towards the world’s definition of power or to follow this yearning, deep calling to make a change, go a different direction.

We all experience situations that force us to reassess our path, our purpose, and drives us to question the future direction of our lives. It is in the midst of these situations that we have an opportunity to evaluate our source of purpose and value and usually these times lead to significant change.

We find in the book of Esther, a similar life-altering, future-shaping, present-shaking call.

Esther was a beautiful young woman that had been adopted by her uncle Mordecai after her parents died. They were Jews living in Persia. Mordecai worked in the palace and gained favor with King Xerxes after alerting him to a potential assassination plot.

Through a set of what I will call God-ordained circumstances, Esther becomes Queen. So just to be clear, we have a Persian King with a Jewish Queen – not common in that day. But in Esther 2:10 and 4:20, we learn something interesting. Esther had not shared her nationality with King Xerxes or his staff – hold onto this little fact as it will be important moving forward.

As the story unfolds, Mordecai makes a decision to honor God and not bow to the demands of King Xerxes’ second in command and the most powerful official in the empire, Haman. This encounter results in Haman convincing the king that Jews should be killed and sets into motion a decree that would result in the annihilation of all Jews in the empire.

To protect her people, Queen Esther reveals her nationality to the King and asks for mercy for herself and her people. She also reveals the evil intent of Haman resulting in him being executed. This young woman makes the difficult choice to stand for her God and not be swayed by the power and wealth that surrounded her.

God presented a challenge to Esther, a life-altering, a nation-altering decision. She was forced to face the potential loss of her privilege, status, comfort, everything the world defines as success as King Xerxes’ Queen to stand for God and His people. This decision changed everything; it brought the unjust to justice, freedom to those in bondage, and opened the eyes of a King that had been blinded by greed and power.

The obedience of one woman, her willingness to sacrifice her own life and put aside her personal plans, to take a different path allowed a nation of people to survive!

J.C. went against the pressures of the world to seek after personal success; deciding instead to keep her cousin’s toddler and move to the country. She shifted her value and purpose from being a corporate legend to loving and providing for her daughter. Her obedience to this new calling did result in success – a balanced life, a loving relationship, and the recognition of a new dream.

Baby Boom is a simple movie and even though it is not a Christian film, it carries a thoughtful reminder. Our value as women is not what we do; it is not our financial security, our status, or our material possessions.

Ladies, the story of Esther helps us to understand the origin of real value. Real value comes from a relationship with a mighty God and obedience to His will for our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, God will call some of us to positions of power, corporate success, and financial/material abundance but those things are not what we are to seek after. They are mere outcomes of our relationship with a loving father, obedience to our King.

In Matthew 6:33 it states:

Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

      New Living Translation (NLT)

It is all a gift from a God that loves us more than is humanly possible. Don’t be deceived ladies, we are God’s BeLOVED and just like J.C., just like Esther, God has a plan for who you are, how he created you, and all your life experiences.

Please, don’t settle for anything less than God’s absolute best!


Take a few minutes to think about and reflect on the following:

What, who is defining the direction of your life? ilker-simsekcan-1249592-unsplash

What has you wrapped up so completely that you can’t hear God’s gentle instruction, His direction for your life?

Who is speaking into your life, affirming or challenging you to follow your God-given yearning to serve?

What fear, barrier, lie do you need to walk away from, change, redirect to be able to fully experience God’s purpose for your life?


Have a wonderful week Ladies, I am praying for you, and please remember you are God’s daughter — the Daughter of a King.

You are His BeLOVED!

Blessings,

Signature - Allison

Finding our true value and purpose in Christ – 2 Corinthians 5:17