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

Sister

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Photo by Unsplash

My sister’s birthday was right around the corner and I was so excited! She was going to spend her special celebration with me in Bend, Oregon and we had plans.

There were garden shops in Eugene to visit. Farmers markets to explore and a few favorite restaurants, coffee shops, and bookstores to meander through. It was going to be a special time together, talking, catching up, and growing closer.

I recognize family visits can fall into two categories. You are either very happy they are coming or you can’t wait until they leave. My sister’s visit falls into the first category, I can’t wait to see her and when we have to leave each other it is a tear-filled departure.

You have to understand a little of our background to understand why our visits are so special. My sister is 12 years older than me and she married at 17. For the next three years, I saw her intermittently but after that, she was estranged from our family. She came back into my life when I was a young woman and we’ve worked hard since that reunion to make up for missed years, missed holidays, missed special sister times.

We had plans but God’s plans were different than ours.

Two weeks before my sister’s visit, I had emergency surgery that would require me to take it easy for the next few weeks. It would require us to change our best-made plans and shift our time together doing less and sharing the gift of together more.

There was a puzzle to be completed (1000 pieces that are still sitting in my living room partially completed), stories to share, brief walks to master, and tea – yummy Chai lattes.

God’s plan was for us to spend real quality time in the presence of each other. Not distracted by the busyness of constant movement – I am definitely a constant movement girl, so trust me we would have been on the move.

God’s plan was so much better than ours.

We were able to continue to build our relationship, discover new similarities and laugh about our differences, and understand that the best part of our visit is sitting with a cup of tea and holding each word shared as a gift – the miles between us can never take those gifts away.

Alice Walker shares:

Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister.

This was so true of my sister’s visit. She encouraged, scolded when needed, and supported me – such a blessing and one that would have been completely missed if God’s plan had not been fulfilled.

In the book of Genesis, chapter 16, there is a fascinating story of a woman with a plan. Her name was Sarai. She was desperate because she and her husband Abram were childless. (Note: Sarai and Abram’s names were changed later in the book of Genesis, Genesis 17:5 and 17:15, to Abraham and Sarah.) They had waited for years to have a child with no success.

I’m certain Sarai struggled, questioned God, and envied the other women in her community. When desperation was too much to bear any longer, Sarai formed a plan. She encouraged Abram to have a child by her Egyptian slave Hagar. This plan on the surface would address their immediate problem but there were consequences that were not being considered. Unfortunately, Abram agreed to Sarai’s plan and Hagar became pregnant. But this is where the story gets interesting. Once Hagar was pregnant, the Bible tells us in Genesis 16:4 – 5

…When she (Hagar) knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.’

Wow, do you see what happened? Sarai devises this plan to address her childlessness and ends up in strife with her slave and her husband!

The best-made plans often do not come out the way we’ve planned. This is especially true when we fail to consult God about His will, ask for His guidance, and wait on His direction.

I am learning to wait on God, trust His plans for my life, and slow down long enough to hear Him. But this is increasingly hard when God’s plan allows struggles, illness, bareness, and challenges. What are we to do in the midst of all the pain?

I want to encourage you to hold on to the constants that cannot/will not move –

  • You are God’s BeLoved!
  • He will never forsake you or leave you.
  • God remains in control.

Go ahead and make your plans but don’t forget to consult God and when He has a different plan, know that it will mature you, grow you, transform you, and deepen your relationship with Him in ways you would never expect.

Blessings,

Signature - Allison


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Epiphany

I stepped into the shower; it was warm and the steam was just starting to rise. I could feel the tension, pain, and stress of the past few days being washed away.

The steam was starting to form a film on the shower glass but I still could catch a glimpse of my image in the mirror above the sink. As I looked more closely, I saw the scars and the reality hit – I just had open heart surgery!

It was an epiphany. That moment of clarity, where I came face to face with the truth. The point where the reality of the situation met my perceptions and I knew life had significantly shifted.

Although I had experienced all the elements of the surgery and initial recovery, I had been so busy just accomplishing the next milestone, I had not stopped to truly grasp the enormity of the past week.

But standing there in the shower, warm water running down my back, it hit me and my initial response was to cry. Not proper controlled tears but the type of crying that comes when your world has taken a sudden and unexpected change.

I need to share a few things to help you understand why this came as such a shock.
1. There is NO history of heart disease in my family.
2. I don’t have high cholesterol.
3. I have NO history of high blood pressure.
4. I eat a healthy diet.
5. I routinely exercise.

Yet, in July 2017 I had a stent placed in the major artery that feeds my left ventricle. They call it the “widow maker” many don’t survive a significant blockage of this artery. Then just 5 short months later, that same artery re-blocked and another stent was implanted. Last week BOTH stents failed and I had bypass surgery!

Doctors can’t explain it, family and friends don’t understand it, and I certainly DON’T get it.

I worked hard to be healthy, yet a curveball, an unexpected event, a life – perspective – personal definition altering moment.

I believe God uses curveballs, life-altering events to gain our attention. He uses these times to shift our perspective from self-focus to a dependence on Him. He uses these events to remind us that we are His Beloved, His daughters, a loved child. And in our pain and fear, He holds us and reminds us that He loved us so much that He suffered and died to ensure an eternity with us.

God uses curveballs and life-altering events to demonstrate His involvement in our lives. I experienced this togetherness in a profound way about two weeks before my surgery. A gentle nudge, an uncomfortable feeling that things weren’t right. And then, a gentle voice delivered a single word “BYPASS”. It happened on two separate occasions while walking my dog and now, looking back at the sequence of events, I know He was preparing me for the imminent.

Our lives do take twists and turns. For me it was a health issue, others face a loss of a job, spouse, or child, and for some, it arrives unannounced as a loss of direction or purpose.

These events can derail us. They are the situations and times that challenge how we see ourselves, make us question our value and worth, and leave us empty and searching. Yet, we can be confident that we never experience these situations alone.

In Joshua 1:9, we are reminded

… For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (New Living Translation).

God is with us through all our circumstances. He is the constant that we can depend on when we get lost and are uncertain if we can get through the storm. He can shoulder our doubts and help us make the necessary shifts when we no longer see our way.

God has a plan and purpose for every life, your life. Through the difficult and beautiful, He is transforming us into His image. Trust Him, rest in Him, and know you are His BeLoved.

Blessings,

Signature - Allison


BeLoved was created to help us wrestle with the changes life brings and to challenge us to remember that our identities don’t lie in our circumstances but rather a God that redeems, restores, and refines us. Loving us more than we are equipped to understand.

To help us explore God’s amazing restorative work, we will share stories through a weekly blog, encourage routine devotion, monthly book|author suggestions, and resources. We want to hear from you, so please feel free to share your stories, leave comments, and ask questions.

2 Corinthians 5:17