Breath of Life

There’s a song that’s sung at my church. The refrain says,

It’s your breath in our lungs/So we pour out our praise/We pour out our praise to You only

Another says,

These hearts will cry and these dry bones will sing

That line resonated with me as I thought about all the dry bones in my life. The dreams, the desires, the needs. The relationships, the opportunities. 

What are the dead bones in your life?

The same life-giving breath that flows through your lungs now can resurrect the dead places, the dry places in your life. 

Hear this:

This is just a little reminder: nothing – no thing – is beyond the resurrecting power of Christ. 

That business you want to start. Your marriage. Your kids. That promotion. 

God is able. And you are worthy by virtue of you being God’s kid. 

Cry out to God. Be vulnerable and offer Him your heart. And He will cause your dry bones to live again. 

Just a #TuesdayThought. 

#bepetty for Jesus

Last week I had the privilege of preaching for the first time.

Now, anyone who knows me personally or who has followed this blog for a while may be saying, “You’ve been preaching for years.”  But last week was the first time I’d been invited to speak…in a church…from a pulpit…with the express purpose of bringing the Word.

I was nervous and exhilarated and humbled that God would choose me for such an awesome and important task.  But the word He gave me for this young adult audience was unique and on-time…just as He is and just as our relationship is.

Gratefully, my dear friend Penny videoed the entire 13-minute sermon.  Take a few minutes, check it out,  and commit to #bepetty for Jesus.

And I have to give credit to the amazing Awesomely Luvvie who is the genius behind all the “petty” names at the end. Pick up her petty T-shirt here!  *And no, she didn’t ask me to endorse this and I’m not being compensated.  Just giving a shout out to something/someone who inspired  me.

Blessings to you!  I hope it inspires you and speaks to your situation.

Final Leap of Faith Prayer Call 

  Last night marked the fifth and final installment in my five-week, Leap of Faith Prayer Call for women. It has been an absolute honor and privilege to be able to pray for and with women as they believe God for more in their lives. I can only hope that this prayer line was a blessing and/or encouragement to those who dialed in or listened to the recordings. I know I definitely saw God move in my life in this time with you all. 

I shared an excerpt from Pastor Rick Warren’s “God’s Dream For Your Life,” 19-day devotional as the devotion last night. You may read it in its entirety below, or listen to it and our prayer by using the credentials below:

Playback Number: (641) 715-3589
Access Code: 859-866
Reference Number: 5

Here is the transcript of the devotional I shared:

From Dream to Deliverance

If you want your faith to grow so you can claim God’s promise in Mark 9:23 — “Everything is possible for the person who has faith” (GNT) — then you must first understand that God takes you through six phases of faith.

Phase 1: Dream What is the dream God has given you? If you don’t have a dream you’re working toward, you just exist. You need to start praying, “God, give me your dream.” You’re here on Earth for a purpose. When you discover that purpose, you’ll discover the dream God wants you to go after.

“God … is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (Ephesians 3:20b TLB).

Phase 2: Decision Maybe you have a dream from God, but you’ve not yet made a decision to go after it. God’s word for you in phase 2 is, “Go for it!” You may need to make the decision to give your life to Christ or be baptized or join a church or get involved in ministry.

“If you are like that, unable to make up your mind and undecided in all you do, you must not think that you will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:7-8 GNT).

Phase 3: Delay When things don’t happen on our timetable, we tend to run ahead of God and create detours to make it happen. Do not detour! You may end up making the wrong decision. You’re in God’s waiting room. Wait for God to work his hand.

God says in Habakkuk 2:3, “But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled” (TLB).

Phase 4: Difficulty What difficulties have you faced waiting for your dream to be fulfilled? You’ll go through many tests in life, but God knows what you’re going through. He’s watching, and he hasn’t forgotten you.

“Even though you are temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials and temptations. This is no accident — it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold” (1 Peter 1:6-7 Phillips).

Phase 5: Dead End Some of you are at your dead end, and you’re ready to give up. But you’re right where God wants you! He is preparing you for deliverance. God’s word for you is, “Hang on! Don’t give up!”

“At that time we were completely overwhelmed, the burden was more than we could bear, in fact we told ourselves that this was the end. Yet we now believe that we had this experience of coming to the end of our tether that we might learn to trust, not in ourselves, but in God who can raise the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

Phase 6: Deliverance Do you expect and trust God to deliver you? He will. But it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to go through all six stages before God brings you to deliverance.

Leap of Faith Prayer Call June 2

Many thanks all of the women who joined the inaugural Leap of Faith Prayer Call for women last night.  I pray it was an encouraging, empowering, and inspiring time, and that everyone who called in got what they needed from God.

If you missed the call yesterday, want to hear it again, or want to share it with folks you know, you can listen to the recording by using the number and codes below:

Playback Number: (641) 715-3589
Access Code: 859-866
Reference Number: 1

Here’s an excerpt of the devotional I shared:

How often have we heard in our lifetimes Psalm 118:24? “This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

I would venture to guess that we’ve heard it countless times, and probably recited it as well.

But what God really wants me to impress on each of you, my Sisters in Christ, is that we’re thinking too small when it comes to what God has predestined for us and what He wants to do for us.

In fact, if we really want to give God space to move, we have to know and confess that this is the YEAR that the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it.

I believe with everything in me that this is the year for women to to take Leaps of Faith in their lives, careers, ministries, relationships, and even in their dreams.

It’s why the Holy Spirit led me to establish a luncheon series to cultivate networking and empowerment for women.  And it’s why I’ve prayed that you’d all join me on this call this evening.  Just so I can agree with, intercede for, and pray with each of you for the breakthroughs you’re expecting God to deliver for you this year.

As I prayed about what God would have me to say to you all tonight to encourage you, He told me to tell you that you, women, we are strong.  We are not weak.  We aren’t shrinking violets.  No we were made from strength.  And as we prepare to go and possess all that God has for us this year, we need to know that we know that we know that we are strong in and because of Christ.

The evidence of our strength can be found right in the first book of the Bible.  In the first chapters of Genesis, God walks us through the creation of, well, everything.  Light and dark.  Day and night.  Earth and heavens.  Water and land.  Animals.  Everything.  Then He creates man and woman in His image to rule over His creation.

And that’s where it got interesting.

The Bible says in Genesis 2:7 that God formed Adam, the first man, from the dust of the earth and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils.  But when we get down to verse 22 of the same chapter we see that God then forms woman, Adam’s helper, from his rib.  So we’re actually made in God’s likeness from bone.

So I did a little research on bones.  And here are the two most compelling facts I found:

– Our bones, inch-for-inch, are stronger than the steel used in the construction of skyscrapers; and

– Our strongest and longest bone is our femur, or thigh bone.

These two points alone underscore the fact that we, women, are literally made to withstand.  We were created from the stuff that supports, protects and strengthens others.  And literally what we are made of makes it possible for us to take on, shoulder, carry, and face every weight life attempts to heap on us.

Women were made from bone.  Not men.  Women.  We were made to be strong.

Now, I certainly am not saying that women are stronger or higher or better than men.  We were created to be their helpers and we are called, once married, to submit to our husbands who are submitted to the guidance of our Lord.  That hierarchy is not debatable.  It is the right order of things.

But you need to know that you’re made of stuff that doesn’t break easily.  It doesn’t back back down from a challenge nor does it yield in the face adversity.  You need to know that you’re made from some of the toughest stuff in the entire human body and that’s not by accident.

It’s not by accident because you and I are also created to do something that men are physically incapable of: give birth. To deliver new life.  And I declare that it is time for you and me to give birth to the ideas and desires God’s planted in us, according to the Word of God.

That idea for a new business or nonprofit?  God wants to deliver it and deliver you to the larger territory it holds.

That dream of a promotion or new job?  God wants to deliver it.

That heart for service and love?  It’s time to deliver.

Those prayers for guidance and wisdom?  It’s time to deliver.

Those prayers for loved ones?  God’s about to deliver.

Prayers for relationships? Delivered.

Prayers for finances?  Delivered!

I confess according to Matt 6:33 that all these things are added to you in the name of Jesus.  All God asks is that you shift your focus from your problems, and even from His promise, to seek Him first.  And then, He will deliver you!

And I pray you’re ready to give birth!

Obsessed

appleofmyeyeFor the past day or so, I’ve been listening to The Walls Group album “Fast Forward” almost non-stop. (if you haven’t heard it, you should!  It’s awesome!)  And one song has been on repeat in my Spirit — I woke up singing it: “God on My Mind (feat. Brandy).”

Now, I’ll admit, a minuscule part of the reason why the song resonates for me is because it samples Brandy’s “Always on My Mind,” and hers was the first CD I ever owned back in middle school.

But this morning, when I woke up singing the song’s chorus, God gave me a revelation about its lyrics.  They go:

From the mountains to the seas, from the day that we believed to the beginning of time.
I can’t get you off my mind.
From the stars in space, to that empty grave, no matter how hard I try I can’t get God off my mind.
Always on my mind, your always on my mind. Thoughts of you all the time, your always on my mind.

I’ve listened to the song so many times and found myself inspired by the aspirational quality of these words.  I aspire to have God on my mind ALL the time.  In fact, the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV to “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  And what more is prayer than thinking of and talking to God?

But this morning, the Holy Spirit gave me this epiphany: “You’re always on God’s mind.  He never stops thinking of you.  He’s obsessed.”

And suddenly, the lyrics had even greater meaning.

“From the mountains to the seas…”– No matter where we are or end up physically, nothing can separate us from the love of God.  He loves us so big and so wide and so deeply, that even when we stray from Him – physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, whatever – He’s still thinking of us.

“…from the day that we believed to the beginning of time..” — The Bible tells us in Jeremiah that before we were even in our mothers’ wombs, God knew us.  Even then, He was thinking of us.  And as we grew up, even before we chose Him, He was thinking about us enough to send his Son to die in our place.  From before our lives started and every moment since, we’ve been on God’s mind.

I can’t get you off my mind.” — The Psalmist tells us in chapter 139 that God’s thoughts on us are so numerous that they outnumber the grains of sand.

From the stars in space, to that empty grave…” — Everything that God has ever done for us, from stringing the stars in the sky to sending His only son to die, has been for us as an act of love because He was thinking about us.

“…no matter how hard I try…” — He keeps track of our sorrows.  He captures our tears in a bottle.  Our names are written on His hand.  He couldn’t get away from thinking of us if He tried or wanted to (don’t worry, He doesn’t try and doesn’t want to!).

Always on my mind, your always on my mind. Thoughts of you all the time, your always on my mind.” — And His obsession with us is consistent.  It’s constant.  He is always thinking about us.  It, like Him, is unchanging.

Isn’t that overwhelming?  To consider that God is always thinking about me.  About you.  Your situation.  Your hardships and trials.  Your joys and successes.  What’s important to you.  What you’re worried about.  What you fear.  What you need.

Every moment of your life, God is thinking of you.  Nothing surprises Him.  No circumstance sneaks up on Him.  He knew.  He knows.  He’s thinking of you.

I don’t know what you’re facing today, but I hope you’ll know this: God is absolutely obsessed with you.  You’re the apple of His eye and, because you’re so important to Him, He’s made you more than a conqueror; He’s defeated your every foe; and He is always working things out to benefit you.  He’s thought about all you’ll ever need and want, and has created a plan to give you hope and a future.  To bless you.

God can’t get you off His mind.

So walk through today in godly confidence that the Creator of the world, the King of all nations, the Alpha and Omega is thinking about you.  Right.  Now.


*YouTube courtesy of Stênio Nóbrega

Dealing With Disappointment

Some of you may remember that last Thursday I finally brought to fruition a God idea nearly a year in the making.

But what no one knows (save my husband and my Mama) is that the day before my big event was bookmarked with disappointment.

The day started with me receiving word that I had not won a Chase Mission Main Street small business grant for my small business.

Disappointed is an understatement for how I felt. I felt abandoned, alone, angry, sad and overwhelmed all at once.

Just like that, the way I thought God was going to move in my life had changed. And I was left with the overwhelming heaviness of the reality of my situation. My goals for my business, the debt my family had amassed supporting my business, they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I cried a lot that morning. I couldn’t sleep I was so grief-stricken. And when I got into the shower, I broke down. The tears and the anger and the hurt all flowed freely. I was overcome.

But somehow, mid-rant, I found myself humming this song: “Lord You are good and your mercy endureth forever. Lord You are good and your mercy endureth forever!…I worship you! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Even now, a week later, I remember clearly the puzzled look that crept across my face when I realized the dichotomy of the moment: here I am sobbing into the shower stream on the outside, but my Spirit was praising God.

The reality is that nowhere does God say we won’t be disappointed. Similarly, nowhere does He say we aren’t allowed to feel, to have emotional, human responses to the changes in our lives.

So even as our flesh mourns, if we stay prayed up, our Spirit will minister to us…even without out participation.

In fact, as I reflect now, I smile at the thought of a scripture that the Lord brought me to in my devotion.  It was Job talking, chapter 13, verse 15a: “God may kill me, but I will trust Him…”  That’s how I felt in that shower, ranting about how sad and disappointed I was.  Reminding God of His word and His promises.  (He’d later – much more politely, I might add – remind me that HOW He plans to fulfill the promises of His word is none of my business.  My only responsibility is to believe and expect that He will.)

The corresponding disappointment bookmark came later that Thursday evening. My day ended with my best subcontractor giving me 30 days notice. She’d gotten a job offer for a job that was perfect for her and where she wanted to go. For months, I’d been praying that God would enable me to hire her full-time. But, it wasn’t to be.

But I didn’t take this second spate of news as hard as I’d taken the morning news. And the reason why is because in between the two events I stumbled across the Feels Like Home blog; specifically this entry on 13 Bible Verses and 6 Steps to Deal with Disappointment.

Here’s the part that pulled me out of my pity party and put my day in perspective, directly from the blog:

13 Bible Verses & 6 Steps to Overcome Disappointment

Believe in God’s plan. Our God is a miracle worker. He can part waters, move boulders, heal the dead (not just the sick, remember, the dead), save, destroy, bless, and curse. He can do anything, everything, things beyond our comprehension.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

When I say you have to believe, I mean you have to believe that God has got this thing in His hands. He is looking out for you. He is working out a plan that is bigger than you, and you are going to be better for it in the end.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Sometimes, it takes a painful disappointment to teach us a skill or strengthen our faith or to put us in the right place at the right time. We don’t know His ways or His thoughts. We just have to believe in His promise.

Grieve. Things have not gone the way you wanted. Your hopes and expectations have been defeated. You need to spend some quiet time being sad, mourning the way you thought things would be.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Cry. Exercise. Read. Do whatever it is that releases the sadness, the disappointment, the defeat.

And then, eventually, you have to stop grieving and move on.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

Disappointment is not meant to define you, my friend. It is not meant to hold you hostage or weigh you down into the mire of depression. Don’t give it that power.

Pray. You had to know this was coming, right? Spend some time talking to your Heavenly Father. Tell Him your heartache. Tell Him about the plans you had and ask Him to show you why He’s taken them away. I promise you that He has good in this for you, and it’s okay to ask Him what that good is.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

Talk to Him like you’d talk to your best friend. Your prayer doesn’t have to be pretty or sound like one at your church. It just has to be honest and come from your heart.

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22

You, my friend, are the godly. You are chasing after God, trying to do the right thing, seeking a better understanding of Him. Aren’t you? He’s talking about you.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Listen and wait. Big things happen when we pray. Sometimes, they are blessings beyond our expectations.

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

Sometimes they happen right away, but usually they happen later when we least expect them. Keep waiting. You’ll know when your prayer has been answered.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalms 27:14

Search for the good. This is a miserable time to try to be thankful. I don’t know about you, but all I want to do is wallow in self pity of my dreams deferred (or dreams lost). This is the time when it’s hardest – and most important – to find the good, grab onto it with both hands, and celebrate it. You need to.

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

In beginning this post in the middle of the night, I came to understand that it wouldn’t have happened if my plans had worked out. I wouldn’t have been sleeping fitfully. I wouldn’t have jumped out of bed to write these words. It was God’s plan for me to write these words. (It has been an incredibly soothing and cathartic process). It is also His plan for you to be reading them right now. I am thankful that He chose me.

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19b-20

Believe in yourself. You too are part of God’s great plan. He is preparing you to do His work right now, even in this time of disappointment. No matter what burden comes, know that He will help you stand underneath it, carry it up the hill, and triumph over it in the end.*

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

God believes in you. You may not feel equipped to handle this on your own, but He’ll give you what you need to get through it.

For I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

*The triumph doesn’t always happen when we think it should. Sometimes, we only triumph over our struggles as we leave this broken world. A conversation I had with my pastor illustrates this point:

“Tara, God will heal her.”

“I just don’t know that He will. She is so sick. She hardly gets out of bed.”

“He is going to heal her. He might heal her body now, or He might heal her soul in heaven, but you can trust Him to heal her.”

Wow. The simplicity and immensity of that statement left me with many tears but complete peace. We can trust Him to defeat our disappointment, no matter what it is.

Look, I don’t know where your disappointment lies.

Maybe it’s in a relationship that ended, or never took off. A professional opportunity that passed you by. Or a personal dream that has yet to come to fruition.

Whatever it is, I hope these passages encourage you. No matter how disappointed we feel, nothing has changed with God: He’s still just as in love with us; just as dedicated to our success and peace and joy; just as committed to giving us “hope and a future.”

Sometimes, just sometimes, we have to go through the disappointment to get closer to our destiny.

Because sometimes the thing we really wanted wasn’t God’s best for us. And what is yet to come is infinitely better.

Sufficiency

Last year, God gave me an idea. It was a way for me to use what I have to bless others.

Well, tomorrow that GOD idea (way better than good) comes to fruition, but not without some work on my part in the days leading up.

Last Wednesday was my big go day to make this thing happen. I was working on my event, managing my employees’ progress on separate accounts, and doing research for two clients. All while trying to be present with my husband as we worked out at the gym, and with my children as I took them to and from swim lessons.

It was a lot. To say the least. And there were moments throughout the day when I clearly remembered thinking, “I’m doing too much.” I combatted those thoughts and fought back feelings of being overwhelmed by making myself acknowledge how blessed I was to have such freedom, and by reciting that my God is not a God of confusion.

But as I pondered how crazy the day felt later in the evening, I was led to 2 Corinthians 12:

Of course, I am now referring to the wonderful things I saw. One of Satan’s angels was sent to make me suffer terribly, so that I would not feel too proud. Three times I begged the Lord to make this suffering go away. But he replied, “My gift of undeserved grace is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am. Yes, I am glad to be weak or insulted or mistreated or to have troubles and sufferings, if it is for Christ. Because when I am weak, I am strong. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12‬:‭7-10‬ CEV)

The passage immediately made me smile and say “Yessss!” It was an instantaneous response to my unspoken query of how I’d managed to get everything done.

I know you’ve been there. Ripping and running with a to-do list as long as your arm. And at random times along the trajectory of your day you think or say or feel like you’re one new email notification from losing it all.

But this passage is an encouragement to each of us every time we experience one of those chaotic days. God’s grace is sufficient.

There is one very well-know definition of grace that we likely all know: God’s unmerited favor. It’s receiving blessings and favor from God that you and I could never earn, don’t deserve, and can never repay.

But in my quiet time I stumbled upon this new definition that is so aptly described here in 2 Corinthians: the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Yessss!

It is when it seems all hell is breaking loose around us that God’s grace is sufficient. Not only is the knowledge of a love so deep that it gives without ceasing enough to put things in perspective and give one peace, but then the inner dwelling of God’s divine strength pushing us through the chaos when our own ability is long gone also gives us peace.

It’s like, no matter which definition you use, God’s grace is enough to get you through your hard time.

No matter what you’re feeling, His grace is enough.

No matter what you’ve done, His grace is enough.

No matter where you’ve been or who you are, God’s grace is enough and all you need.

I reflect now on how crazy last Wednesday felt for me and am grateful not just that I made it, but more specifically for God’s grace that pulled me through.

When the children were alternately bickering, crying, and whining…

When my wi-if failed just after I hit send on a critical email…

When I was 15 minutes late leaving the house…

When our car began to act a fool mid-commute…

Each time, having the knowledge of God’s unmerited favor and love in my life kept things in perspective and kept me from losing it.

And each time, His spirit operating in me gave me just a little patience more…a little faith more…a little strength more to accomplish everything He needed me to that day.

And now I’m on the eve of my big GOD event. No, every ticket isn’t sold. And no, I’m not certain that everything will go as I’ve planned. But I know that I’m operating in His will, and as long as I work as in service to Him, His will will be done and His grace will be enough to make it the success HE needs it to be — not me.

I’m so grateful for His grace. I’m so grateful for Jesus. I’m so in awe of God. And truly, His grace is sufficient for every situation I face in life.

What are you facing right now? Have you told yourself that His grace is sufficient?

Unbowed

As time does, today finds us acknowledging that time has swiftly passed.

It seems as though it was just summer…just autumn…just Christmas. And now, we’re embarking on a brand new year.

For a lot of folks, the New Year is filled with the hope of what’s to come. There’s so much possibility in the coming days, weeks and months. I’m excited, too.

But what I feel in addition to excitement is a renewed confidence. A belief that no matter what comes or what the future holds, God brought me this far. I know He won’t leave me.

Much like the line from “Invictus,” we’ve made it “bloodied but unbowed.”

Last year was hard for so many. Folks lost loved ones and jobs. They fought physical, spiritual and mental illnesses. They sacrificed, nearly succumbing to hell all around them.

So while many are facing this new year with excitement and optimism, there are a great many still who are simply relieved. Those who are glad to be done with a year that tested and tried us — our patience, our faith, our fortitude.

We were bent to near breaking last year. We often felt as though we cried more than we smiled. Worried more than we hoped. Fought more than we simply lived.

We struggled and scratched and clawed through layoffs and loss, debt and depression, sadness and sacrifice. We prayed and pursued. We protested and proclaimed. We worked and waited.

Many of us made it to 2015 only by the grace of God. And we’re relieved just to have made it.

If this is you. If all you feel about 2015 so far is relief that 2014 is over, know this: you made it.

The storms that the enemy thought would take you out only made you stronger. The traps the devil meant to harm you only catapulted you forward with more focus and greater determination. What would have literally caused someone else to lose their mind motivated you to keep going, to not give up.

And you’re here, standing at the dawn of a new year. Bloodied, but unbowed. Bent, but unbroken. A little weary, but still a battle-ready warrior.

To you I say own your stripes. There’s a courage, a confidence, and a determination that comes with overcoming. Yours is a testimony no one else can give because they haven’t walked in your shoes, haven’t fought the battles you’ve won.

To you I say stand tall and proud. Because while others were too busy wishing away their todays hoping for tomorrows, you lived and breathed every moment — the good, the bad and the unbearable.

To you I say don’t shrink back. Don’t be so overcome with relief that you forget the strength, the faith, and the resilience your trials earned you. Yes, you may be bloodied, but you remain unbowed.

To you I say this is a new day. A day ordained for your victory; predestined for your triumph.

This day. This week. This year is a year of restoration for you.

God saw every test, every trial, and every tear. He heard every prayer and every plea. And for you He has worked in the background to bless you in the open.

Time will not slow down. It won’t ease because we’re tired or overwhelmed or overcome. But it is the knowledge of what we’ve already been through – and beat! – that spurs us on in our weakest moments.

My prayer for you is that even as you make resolutions, that you’ll also make it a point to count your blessings and your wins. In all of your forward thinking, look back long enough to claim your hard-earned strength and faith and fight.

Own your stripes, your bruises. And honor the important parts of the “old” you in this new year.

Bloodied, but unbowed. Bruised, but unbroken. And blessed in spite of it all.

*A version of this post appeared on The Huffington Post yesterday.  You can check it out here.

Huffington Post Blog: On Bedside Baptist

I can’t remember how many times I’ve learned – and relearned! – the lesson about the pitfalls of busyness. (Check out one of those times here.)

But a few days ago I found myself in that space again: suddenly realizing the toll overcommitting was having; this time not just on me, but my family as well.

Head on over to the Huffington Post to check out my latest post on my membership-in-good-standing at Bedside Baptist and, most importantly, the liberty I found there.