Finding Purpose in God’s Plan

I am a planner. I have to know what I’m doing and when.  It’s a struggle some days when life throws a curve ball that I can’t catch. Depression, and overcoming it, is truly one of life’s lemons.  I am learning how to make lemonade though.  It’s sweetness completely depends upon what God has planned for me that day. Depression, and all that accompanies it, is a day-to-day battle.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13

Let me be clear about something in regards to my depression. When I’m in the throes of a deep depression, to the point of suicidal ideation, I don’t want to find joy or think about things that might make me happy. I want to curl up on my bed and wallow in my tears. I have no motivation to do much of anything. I’m argumentative and easily agitated during this period. Emotionally distraught, I tend to shut down and shut people out.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

My mind was in a very dark place but I heard God calling me. He was offering me respite from the darkness. The next thing I know, I was on my knees calling out to Him. It wasn’t easy. The tears were flowing down my face. I spent most of the time in silence, waiting to hear my Heavenly Father speak to me. I heard Him. He was telling me to reach out, not only to seek Him, but to bring some very special people closer to me. I needed accountability to overcome what I was going through. One of the hardest things I had to do was face myself and to lay my heart out to these women. I continued to pray before I picked up my phone to send the first of many text messages. I never realized how much I needed to have Godly women in my life. When I started the process of reaching out, I felt a light come on inside of me. There was a yearning that I hadn’t felt before. I had to humble myself in order to feel God’s presence.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” – 1 Peter 5:6

Admitting that I needed God to combat the demons of darkness that were waging a war in my mind was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Only God could cast out my demons. He is doing just that and I believe He has used my depression to draw me nearer to Him. It’s my fault that I never looked to the heavens first when I was trying to battle depression on my own. I never acknowledged God or even that He had a plan for me.

I’ve spent a good portion of my life searching for my purpose. I have wasted precious time focused on the things I have failed to accomplish. I failed at marriage. I failed at motherhood. I have failed at finding love. I have wasted time on the wrong people, those who loved me for what I could do for them, and when I failed at that, I failed their expectations of me. The bottom line is that I have felt like a failure and that I had no purpose in life.  Boy, was I wrong! The only place where I have truly failed was in not seeking God first in my life.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

By putting God first these past two weeks, I have seen a change in my heart. It doesn’t matter to me if others have seen it; for some people, visualizing change takes time. I’m on God’s time and I refuse to fail Him. I know I will disappoint the people in my life but this time, it does not matter. I am learning to not be so caught up in what others think of me. Over the last two weeks, I have still been searching for a purpose for my life in God’s plan for me. As I walk faithfully towards Him, I know that He will use me to His benefit.

As I take my baby steps, my faith grows. Trust is still a struggle though. I wish I could say that it is difficult to trust in something that I cannot see but I see God every day, in every thing. God isn’t just in the things that we find beautiful; He is in the sunsets and sunrises and bouquets of flowers.  He is also in the thunderstorms and the floods and things that many people find to be ugly. The situation doesn’t matter; God is there!

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21

At one point in my life, I had plans and goals for myself. Each of those plans fell through. Now, my only plan is to look to God for my purpose in this life.  There’s a joke that goes something like this:  If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plansI know there have been a few occasions where I’ve made Him laugh. I’ve tried to plan my life but God has thwarted those plans. He has His reasons. I’ve seen some of those reasons in hindsight. I’ve been protected during those moments.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” – Jeremiah 29:11

God has protected me in so many ways. He has provided me with a direction that may have seem detrimental to my life but everything I have done has had a purpose. The good, the bad, and the ugly has all been orchestrated by the hands of God. While I have felt like I have failed in the things I had wished to accomplish, the reality is that I’ve only failed God by not looking to Him for guidance. I’m at the point to where I refuse to fail God for the remainder of my days. I do not know my purpose, but I am asking Him to use me however He wants. I’ve turned my life over to God and He will give me a purpose that has prosperity beyond measure.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

I can make all the plans I want. BUT are they the plans God has made for me? My will is not my own. My plans are not my own. My life is not my own.

“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” – Proverbs 54:4

Traveling a Narrow Path

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

The Road Less Taken – Robert Frost

When I chose to walk the narrow path, I knew it would not be easy. As I was standing at my crossroads, I knew I could not follow Jesus and follow the world.  The world with its wicked pleasures and false sense of security! Every little indulgence that promises happiness is a fake, phoney, disruption of the truth. It is only in truth that a genuine happiness can be found.

One thought that has been running through my head this past week (and it’s popped up quite frequently – I’d say at least once a day) is…

Why am I trying to fit in when I was born to stand out?

I always wanted to be popular in high school. Hang out with the “A” crowd, be a cheerleader who dated a football player, the one girl that was invited to all the hot parties, etc. I wanted to be liked by everyone. I wanted people to know my name. Sadly, it was a blow to my self-esteem that I had never fit in. I still don’t fit in as an adult. I am learning to live with that and to accept that.  The reality is, the only person who has to accept me on this earth, is me.

God accepts me as I am. I am HIS daughter. I am loved, cherished, and valued by God.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

I’ve spent the last 47 years of my life searching for acceptance on earth. I’ve been disappointed every time. People are flawed; I’m flawed. Imperfectly perfect as Heidi Powell would say. Over the last week, I’ve spent a lot of time with God. I’ve spent time on my knees praying. I’ve shed enough tears to fill an ocean. I’ve been waking up early every morning to start my day with God.

Now, I do not particularly care if the people on this planet like me, love me, or accept me. It is not my place to seek solace in mankind. My value and worth comes from God. He is my judge and the only Being that can deem me to be worthy to inherit richly treasures that exceed my comprehension.

“Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living.” – Job 28:13

“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”  – 1 Corinthians 15:50

Imagine you are standing on a platform. There is no way to get down from this pillar. You are hungry and the only source of food is on another platform, across the way. There is a rope connected to between your platform and the other; the rope isn’t very wide or thick. The platform with the food has a ladder leading down to the ground. When you look down, you see that the people look like ants milling about and you feel faint from the height. You can smell the delicious food, but are looking down at the people on the ground. It’s a long ways down! You tremble with trepidation and fear begins to consume you. The food is beckoning you, calling you to come satisfy your hunger. Although you are afraid, you take that first step. Unsure, unsecure, a bit wobbly, but your foot is on the rope. You take another step. Then another, becoming more balanced than the first step. You have your eyes on the prize: the delicious food. You pause, listening to the grumbling of your stomach, and try to regain your balance on the narrow rope. You reach your arms out, not only for balance but also to possibly reach what is ahead. Step by step, you grow closer and closer to the food. Your fear begins to dissipate and you focus in on what is in front of you. A quick glance behind you shows how far you’ve come. Don’t look down though; you aren’t a part of the crowd and they are not a part of your journey.  Keep your eyes ahead, you zone in on the platform and keep walking. Finally, with one last step, you have reached your reward.

“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” – Matthew 7:14

God is on that other platform but in order for us to reach Him, we have to take the first step and walk the narrow path that He has placed us on. He is our food!  Our life-sustaining food! That narrow path He has set before us has no room for the treasures of earth.

I will admit that I have some fears about the ever-narrowing path I’m on. At the same time, I also know I’m finally on solid ground.  My relationship with God is growing and I am tasting the food He is providing.

“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

Jesus is our food, people.  I hunger for God and His Son more than anything. Only God can take care of my hunger, my thirst, and the void in my heart. Are you hungry enough to walk the narrow path? If you are, then it’s time to set aside your fears. I will warn you though, you will stumble. It’s because we are human and therefore imperfect and prone to sin.

I’m not walking my path alone. I find great comfort in that. I can feel God’s presence and it fills me. I am walking alongside Him and when I grow too weary to walk, I know that God is carrying me. I will have to step outside of the path on occasion; there may be several reasons for this. Whatever those reasons are, it will be to help me grow and go further in my walk with Christ. I did step out of my comfort zone today and I shared the life-changes I have been making this past week. I shared them with my doctor. She didn’t think it was weird, although, I did preface my statement with “You’ll think this is weird”. I don’t know what she believes or what her faith is or even if she is a follower of Jesus but I planted a seed by proclaiming my walk.

I can only hope and pray that my walk will inspire someone else to seek the narrow path and obtain the right food to fill their bodies.

“Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble.” – Proverbs 3:23

Finding Forgiveness

It is so easy to simplify forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive? How do we do it?

Several years ago, my second husband was having multiple affairs. As a result of those affairs, I found myself placing blame solely on him. It wasn’t my decision to cheat after all, was it?  No, but I also was not being the Godly wife I could have been. After the affairs were over and our marriage had ended, I was still placing blame on him. I had failed to recognize my actions in the situation. I wasn’t blameless. I’m pretty certain that I had a hand in his decision to commit adultery. Now, I accept responsibility for my contributions to a failed marriage.

I forgave him, yet I still blamed myself. As a woman, I find it easier to take on the burden of blame and shame for others’ actions. Notoriously, the statement “it’s all my fault, you did nothing wrong” removes the accountability for the actions that others commit.  To my knowledge, my second husband never accepted responsibility for the things that were detrimental to our marriage. That’s okay though. I don’t have to face God’s judgment for anyone’s actions but my own. I’m working on accepting responsibility for the things I have done wrong. It’s not perfect but it’s progressing.

After the marriage ended, I was in counseling. It was there that I learned how to forgive Jay for the things I blamed him for and to take responsibility for my actions. I came to understand how I was holding on to unrighteous anger and hatred by not forgiving him.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32

Forgiving someone else is easy but to forgive myself was another story. During my time in counseling, I was required to read two books – After the Affair and The Miracle of Forgiveness. The former was about moving on in a relationship after the exposure of an affair; the latter, by the late Mormon prophet Spencer W. Kimball, was about learning to forgive oneself. The Bible itself doesn’t talk about how I need to forgive myself – it speaks on forgiving others for whatever they may have done. Unfortunately, I was still in the mindset that I had done nothing wrong to contribute to Jay’s decision to have an affair.

The struggle to forgive myself is real, folks.  It is a constant, daily battle.  Never-ending. I sin on a daily basis. Some of the sins I commit, I’m not even aware that I’m doing them. That’s how human nature works and it can be deceptively ingrained. The best part of these instances is that God will forgive me.

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14

God forgives us because He has an incomprehensible amount of love for us. He wants us to come back and live in paradise with Him. Paradise! That is a place that can be difficult to describe as God has placed some things as beyond our comprehension! It is a place of perfection. I strive for perfection on a daily basis. I also fail on a daily basis. I’m not perfect as I work on the Christ-like qualities that God has requested of me to exhibit. I was given gifts that are found in Christ. One of those gifts has to be cultivated. It was the gift of forgiveness. I still struggle with forgiving myself but I also believe that if God has forgiven me, I need to be able to forgive myself. Forgiving others comes easily now as I practice that gift constantly and I pray that I forget as well.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”  – 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Replace the word “love” with forgiveness. Forgiveness is patient and kind. Forgiveness does not envy or boast or is arrogant or rude. Forgiveness is an underlying attribute to genuine love. Let me also add that forgiveness does not hold on to the actions that were committed in the first place. Once I forgive, I pray that God will allow me to forget. Not forget the lesson that was taught during the wrongdoing, but to see how the actions can consume and define a person.

God forgave me. He forgives me even when I don’t ask for it. That being said, I do my best to ask for His forgiveness and the forgiveness of others. I want to be held accountable for my actions and correct those actions in this life, not wait until I am on the seat of judgment. Once I’ve asked for forgiveness, I know God wipes my record clean. If I have wronged you, will you please forgive me? Let us go forth in peace and love. Please do not ever hesitate to call me out on something I’ve done. This isn’t easy and I may not always see how my actions and activities are not in alignment with God.

Practice forgiveness. It will be difficult at first, but it will get easier. Start by forgiving yourself for being imperfect and human.

Dear Father,

Please forgive me for the sinful nature I was born with. I know I’m not perfect and I struggle every day. I want to forgive myself for the hurt I’ve caused others and I pray that they will forgive me. Thank you for Your Son, who died on the cross for me. It is through Him that I am able to forgive as You have forgiven me. I love you, Father, and thank You for being my ultimate Provider.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

NaNoWriMo

Okay, folks!  It’s that time of year again where I indulge in self-torment, high quantities of caffeine, demonstrate my ability to not forage for food, and agonize over all the crap that has to be done before I can even sit down to write.

This is your warning.  Your only warning.

I may or may not be blogging at all for the wonderful month of November.  I’m pretty sure my stress levels will be determined by how I have failed to do laundry or dishes or clean the house.  Hopefully my boyfriend will get the hint.  Or not.  I can anticipate him providing me with provisions though, as Adele (or Queen) mourn their tales of woe through my iPhone while the clacking of the keyboard mounts a tempestuous tale of its own. Maybe I’ll include some BlackBriar, Sara Barielles, Ellie Goulding, or Eminem to proffer as the muse for my novel.

Sylvia Plath and Hemingway simply will not do as an audible.  But, by the end of November, I may find myself at the end of a rope.  Not to hang myself with but more as a cliffhanger in anticipation of my next novel.  The line is dangling and the fish are already biting.  I’ve had a few read the first few rough drafts of my current novel.  They are begging for more.  One of them even slapped me on the arm, wanting to know where the rest of it is.  I simply tapped my temple and said, “In here. Locked safely away until next time”.  She was mad at me.  Until I promised her the first signed copy.

She will be getting the very first signed copy.

I’m on the hunt for an editor.  Someone majoring in English Lit at a local college will suffice as long as there is the understanding that I can only pay in coffee or use of my culinary skills.

Yes, I have skills.  Guys like girls with skills.