Monthly Archives: May 2013

You are browsing the site archives by month.

The Birth of Compassion

rehema

 

I opened an e-mail and began reading about Rehema. The tears flowed down my face as I focused on her birth date. She was born the same day as I was. I knew at that moment God had divinely chosen this woman for me to support financially through a sponsorship. It wasn’t a coincidence. It couldn’t be, I thought. But still, I wanted a confirmation to know for sure.

I contacted Lisa, the sponsorship coordinator, and left a voice mail message. “Did you know that Rehema had the same birthday as mine?”

“No I did not know that was your birthday!!!! Yes, God wanted you to sponsor her. I am sure,” Lisa wrote to me in an e-mail.

I wept as I celebrated this milestone in my life, and thanked God for matching me with a woman who shares my birthday as a sign of His sovereign power. This is truly a celebratory week for me. Rehema is a house mother at the Hands of Love Orphanage in Uganda, East Africa. She’s the mother of five children, and has been caring for orphans for two years. She’s a dedicated volunteer that works up to fifteen hours each day for no money.

I had signed up to be a staff sponsor through Hands of Love USA, a non-profit organization that helps fund two orphanages in Kampala, Uganda. I attended a Hands of Love event in 2011 and began sponsoring one of the children back then.

My heart is drawn toward helping the poor and the orphaned children more than any other cause. God placed these desires in my heart many years ago when I didn’t have the means to help meet the needs of orphans. I share this story not to boast about myself, but to bring honor to Christ and share of His ability to turn our pain into a life of purpose.

I remember lying awake at night years ago praying and begging God to redeem my broken life. My heart was filled with questions for God during those painful times for our family. Why has my husband been laid off from work four times? Why have we had three failed businesses? Why are we left in a situation where we can’t afford health insurance? Why am I battling chronic stomach illness?

In those quiet moments of desperate prayer, I heard the still, small voice of the Lord saying, “These hardships are preparing you for the work I have for you to do.” It was then that I learned that our greatest need as humans is the need to give. We were created to give, and when we have little to give it hurts deeply.

In those moments of experiencing a true lack of resources, I shifted my focus off of myself and would think of the children in Africa who don’t even have clean water to drink, a roof over their head, or clothes to wear. Thinking of the ones with much greater pain lessened my own suffering.

Many times, in my spirit, I heard God confirming His will for me as He spoke so softly. “I’m preparing you for your destiny, a life of giving to those in Africato those who are in much greater need than you’ll ever be.” His words always brought me comfort because I knew my suffering was not in vain.

My dream of helping African people came to fruition after my husband earned a college degree and began working in the medical diagnostics field in the summer of 2010. We began working hard to pay off the mountain of credit card debt we had attained during the years of famine. We are now 100% out of debt other than our house payment. We are free to fight the injustices of the world.

Every time I look at the photo of Rehema I get weepy because I know the intense joy she is experiencing in knowing Christ has provided for her needs. I envision meeting her some day. I can only imagine the joy and tears we both will experience as we rejoice together over what Christ has done.

I celebrate the fact that I was once impoverished and in lack. It was during those times of need that I drew nearer to the heart of Christ. My suffering allowed me to feel His heartbeat and know the yearnings of His soul.

It’s easy to question the goodness of God when we are sufferingespecially when there are tragedies like the tornado that recently devastated families in Moore, Oklahoma. Nobody can fully understand these kinds of disasters.

For me, I choose to believe that God is good no matter what happens on this earth. He loves us deeper than our hearts and minds can comprehend. (Ephesians 3:17-20)

God is love. (1 John 4:8) God is light. (John 8:22) God desires to give us good things. (Matthew 7:11)

There is a fierce battle going on at all times in the spirit world. The dark side wants us to be tormented eternally. The heavenly realm wants us to live in harmony with God, and to walk in oneness with Him eternally.

When bad things happen, we can cling to God, or we can run from Him and live in darkness. It’s when we’re surrendered to Christ that we see how He takes the most devastating circumstances, turns them around, and uses them for good in our lives.

He uses our pain and our losses to birth the compassion of Christ in our hearts. It’s in our suffering that we begin to take on the very nature of Christ, and love others like He loves us.

I have a compassionate heart now that I could’ve never attained without going through what I did. True compassion is birthed out of getting a glimpse of what others have experienced. So if it takes suffering to grow closer to the heart of Christ, I welcome it and embrace it.

As I was finishing typing this story, I felt the Lord nudging me to look up the meaning of the name, Rehema. I smiled and got teary, but I wasn’t surprised at all when I saw on Google that her name means, “Empathy; Compassion.”

God did it againHe confirmed to me that He knew all along where He was leading me to when I was suffering.

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” 1 Peter 4: 12-13 (The Message)

Hidden Treasure

 

100_1858

I woke up and looked out the window of the beach house we had rented. Something was compelling me to go out to the seashore. We’d been staying right on the ocean all week, and this was our last full day to be there. Most days that week I had waited until after breakfast before I headed outside. But this day was different. I was drawn to the sacredness of the peaceful water. Shortly after 8 a.m. I rushed out to the edge of the sea, and was amazed at what I saw. I yelled to my mom, who was sitting outside on the deck of the house.

“Mama, come look at this; there are so many seashells!”

It looked like thousands of beautiful seashells on the beach. She walked over to see, and the words spilled off her lips that had already been in my head. “God did this for us.”

Call it a coincidence if you want to. But if you were there, you would’ve agreed with us. It was so obvious that God had pushed these shells to the shore just for us.

We had walked for miles up and down the beach all week. And there were barely any shells around before. That morning it was like the seashells were strategically placed directly in front of where we were staying. I had heard about beaches that were known for having countless seashells, and I had even seen a few of those places. But I’d seen nothing like this before.  Instead of being spread out over a large area of beach, they were densely confined to a small area.

 100_1875

 

I hollered for my husband to come see, and he brought me a bag for collecting the shells I wanted to keep. As I was looking through the shells I heard the Lord’s still, small voice speaking to my heart.

“My Kingdom is like these piles of seashells. There are countless, hidden treasures to be found. Search for them and you will find them.”

While carefully looking amongst these treasures, I found some of the most beautiful, perfect seashells I’ve ever seen. I could have spent hours and hours looking at what seemed like a never-ending supply of shells.

God is amazing. He longs for us to look for His treasures. He’s always waiting for us to open our hearts like a little child would. He wants to fill us with awe and show us His signs and wonders. His Kingdom is a never-ending source of goodness and joy just like the seashells on the beach that day. His love never ends. We’ll never stop discovering new and fresh signs of His love for us.

“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:3 (NIV)

A Woman After God’s Heart

100_1808

Anyone who knows my mother knows why I’ve always wanted to be like her. During the hardest of seasons, my mother was the wind beneath my wings. She taught me the most valuable lessons of my life.

Today, I am remembering the years after my dad divorced my mother and how she turned to Christ to help her restore and renew her life. I truly believe it is what I witnessed during those years that made me the woman I am today. What stands out in my mind the most is how my mom depended on God. While watching my mother, I saw a hurting woman turn to Jesus for her every need. She was a young, beautiful woman and she could’ve easily turned to other men in her desperation. With amazement, I watched her closely as she sought God. Most importantly, I watched how a woman’s passionate love for God could make a bad situation turn into something good (Romans 8:28).

My mother was the first person I ever saw fall deeply in love with God. Since she no longer had a husband, she depended on Christ for everything. I can still vividly remember my mom sitting with her Bible in her hands and reading it for hours. She was always seeking to know God better. Her life was a true testament (and still is) of the goodness of God. Her love for Him, while I was growing up, was evident by the fruit in her life. I saw the fruit of the Spirit growing daily as I watched my mom’s example.

I saw a woman giving sacrificially, like no other person in my life. One time, she literally gave away the jacket on her back. It was her favorite jacket, one she wore all the time. She gave it to a young teenage girl because the Lord had asked her to. In that moment, I remember thinking, “I want to be like Mama.”

I learned from my mother that following Christ can be a great adventure. Shortly after my dad moved out of our home, my mom bought a special ring to replace her wedding ring. She beamed as she told her friends why she wore the ring. It was a ring that told the story of her heart—the story of the adventure that God had swept her into. From the side, the ring looked like a roller coaster, symbolizing the excitement of following God. From the top, it looked like a music note, symbolizing the beauty God was creating in her life. She wore the ring as a symbol of her commitment to God, and His commitment to her. This was the first time I saw how the Lord personalizes our ties to Him.

The way my mother reacted to the pain in her life was teaching me a life lesson that would stay with me forever. I learned from my mother to see the best in everything, how to be an over-comer, and how to live life to the fullest in the midst of suffering. I learned from her how to see God in every situation, and how He rescues us in times of need. Above all, I learned from my mother how to forgive completely, how to love others unconditionally, and how to be a woman after God’s heart.

“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Proverbs 31: 29-30

This tribute was originally written in May, 2009.

A Hope-filled Book

 

 

I recently read a book that holds the message of redemption at its core. The new book, Dear Dad, by Sundi Jo Graham will touch your soul deeply and make you want to run to Jesus to find the Living Waters that healed a young woman’s broken heart. It will have you rejoicing over all that a hurting addict was able to overcome through a divine connection with God.

Christ died so that we could live an abundant life on earth. He spilled His blood out so that we could be free from all our pain and past hurts. I see this book as one of the greatly needed resources for the hurting souls in our world. Sundi Jo’s life story stands as a powerful testament of the hope found in Christ to overcome anything—abuse, addictions, unhealthy relationships, or any other thing that keeps us from experiencing a beautiful and fulfilling life.

For more information, visit the Dear Dad website.  deardadthebook.com

His Unfailing Love

freeimage-5310747-high

I saw something recently that caught my attention and made me think of God’s perfect love toward us. I was driving home from doing errands. As I was making a right turn, I saw a motorcycle and a bicycle turn in front of me. At first, it struck me as really odd because the cyclist was riding so closely behind the motorcycle. But then I could see clearly what they were doing. It was a father and a daughter riding together.

The man looked to be in his forties or fifties. He was riding his motorcycle directly in front of the girl. They were so close together that it looked as though they were touching each other. The girl looked about sixteen. She had on a biker’s shirt similar to what the professionals wear. She was obviously training for a serious race, and her dad was there to help her train. It was like her father was guiding her and protecting her along the way. As I passed by, the dad was turning around to look at his daughter to make sure she was okay.

While driving by them, emotions rose up in my spirit. I saw a picture of how God loves and protects us.

I could hear God’s still, small voice speaking to me in my heart.

He whispered to me so gently. “I love you with an unfailing love like a father loves His child. I go before you to mark the path that is best for you. Stay on the path with Me, and I will keep you in the shadow of My wings.”

I had tears of joy as I drove home thinking about such a beautiful picture of God’s love for us. I realized in that moment of watching the father guiding his daughter on her bike, how we don’t need to move ahead of God, outside of His protective shelter.

Isn’t that amazing to think about? God our Father is continually with us and sheltering us as long as we don’t try to sneak away from His loving guidance. The Bible says God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity (Joel 2:13). As we stay close to God, He will keep us from harm, and make us sing for joy all our days on earth.

I pray that you will experience the immeasurable love of God today. May His peace rest upon you, and may you always know you are His beloved daughter or son. Most of all, I pray you will bow before Him and be satisfied in His unfailing love.

But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.” Psalm 13:5  (NLT)

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 36:7 (NIV)

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” Psalm 90:14
(NIV)

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8 (NIV)

In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.” Psalm 143:12 (NIV)

From Darkness to Light

from the darkness comes a light

                                   Photo Credit: Christa von Borstel

It was springtime in 1997 when I hit rock bottom and ended up in a deep, dark pit. It should’ve been a happy season for me as I had recently given birth to my second child. But instead of feeling joy, I had a serious case of postpartum depression. I was in a place of desperation. I wanted to die and prayed for my life to be over.

It seemed that everything good in my life had been lost. My marriage was broken, our finances were a complete mess, and I felt hopeless.  My busy life had pulled me away from the intimate relationship I had with God in my youth.  My prayers had become last resort petitions to God instead of daily communion with Him. I was surrounded with darkness.

Deep in my heart, I knew the only answer for me was the power of the resurrected Christ to pull me up out of my desperation and awaken my soul with His healing light. My personal journal revealed the darkness in my soul.

May 22, 1997

God, do You hate me? I feel so helpless. Please show me Your love. Please make a way for me out of this.

In that moment of being at the lowest point of my life, I cried out desperately for help from God. As I prayed, Jesus pulled me out of that pit, He began restoring my life little by little and step by step, and I eventually found the faith in Christ I had always dreamed of having.

Through prayer and the encouragement of a close friend and mentor, God brought me into His light. My friend Bonnie shared her faith with me during that dark season.

With certainty in her voice, Bonnie said, “Amy, I went through a time similar to what you’re going through. God will bring you through it.”

Her words brought hope to me in a way that is indescribable. It was as though her testimony drew me into the light that had brought her through the darkness I was experiencing.

Bonnie suggested that I listen to worship music continually and focus on God constantly. Her encouragement was worth far more than pure gold. She encouraged me in too many ways to count. I can still hear her sweet voice in my mind.

She sweetly said, “Write Scriptures on note cards and place them all over your house as a way to keep focused on the truth of God’s Word.”

Bonnie’s words were a reminder to me of the faith-steps my mother and grandmother had taught me when I was young, but I had allowed my hectic life to distract me from the spiritual disciplines my soul needed. As Bonnie suggested, I wrote out Scriptures on 3 x 5 cards and taped them wherever I thought my eyes would be drawn to. As I prayed and focused on the Scriptures that were strategically placed on my window sill, on my stove, on the bathroom mirror, and on my car dash, I felt hope rising up inside me.

The hopeless feeling I had lasted for a short season. By the time my son was five months old, I was feeling like a new person in many ways and beginning my journey of growing into a passionate praying woman.

Ultimately God is the only true Source that can heal our souls, but the encouragement from Bonnie and from my family pushed me in the right direction. Their encouragement gave me the hope I needed to keep praying and seeking God.

It’s been sixteen years since the darkest season of my life, and today I celebrate how God brought me through the tunnel of darkness and into His illuminating light.

That dark time in my life is what brings me here to begin writing on this new site. I want to do for others what was done for me at a time that I wanted to die. If you’re going through a dark season, I am here to say that it will get better as you pray, press into God, and seek to know His Truth.

I hope my life will stand as a living testimony and that you’ll stop by my site whenever you’re in need of encouragement. I pray that the peace of Christ will permeate your soul and bring you into His marvelous light.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…” 1 Peter 2:9 (New King James Version)

This post is written in memory of my beloved friend, Bonnie Morrell (1959-2008).