What do you have on?

Sometime last week, I went to the gym for a while before spending time with my fiancé. I did my workout, hit the showers and started getting ready to meet Jonas. I put on the outfit I planned to wear and stood in front of a mirror. I was not feeling it. The way the sweater fell was not flattering and I didn’t look my best. Luckily, I had packed another outfit just in case a scenario like this should arise. Problem solved.

Now, not too long before that, I went through the process of buying my wedding gown. Eeeeek!!!!!! A few of my best friends and myself went together and it was a magical day. The experience was everything I could have hoped for. Although I found a few dresses that I thought were nice, when it was “the one,” I definitely knew. Standing in front of the full-length mirror I felt like the most gorgeous woman on the planet. The dress hugged me in all the right places and I became so excited, anticipating the day that my soon to be husband would get to see me in all my bridal glory.

Reflecting on both of these scenarios, God has highlighted something to me. So much of how we look and feel has to do with put we put on. There are some outfits that do me no justice and there are others that accentuate my God given beauty. There are things I have no business wearing and things that feel like the designer made it with me in mind.

Spiritually, there is a similar principle at work. So much of how we feel about ourselves and how others perceive us has to do with what we put on. Check out the following words from Colossians 3:12-14:

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”

Simply put there are some mindsets and attitudes that just don’t look good on you. You were never meant to wear bitterness, envy, insecurity, worry, doubt, fear, etc. Those things do nothing to reflect the unique beauty that you were created with. When you put on love (including love for yourself!), humility, faith, confidence in God and his promises, security and trust, it’s a whole different ballgame. Strut your stuff. These things allow for your true identity and beauty to shine forth. They allow us to see ourselves the way God sees us and makes a place for joy to bubble up in us and spill out into all areas of our lives.

The wedding dress…is not unique to me. We were all made for a wedding gown. In Isaiah 62:5, it says, “For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” All throughout scripture, we as believers are referred to as the bride of Christ. In Ephesians 5:25, it says that Christ “loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

Precious daughters of God, this is how he sees you. Holy. Clean. Glorious. Flawless. And He rejoices over you. Put aside the clothes that are ill-fitting and put on the bridal attire that you were designed and created for.

Reach.

2018 is in full swing and I am so excited about this year and all the possibilities it brings. Last year was quite the whirlwind for me. There were ups and downs and plot twists, but much growth, progress and joy along the way. I started 2017 dreaming. It didn’t seem like I had much to look forward to at the time. I had hit a slump and lost so much that was so important to me. However, I made a decision early on in the year to stand in faith believing and trusting God for the exceedingly and abundantly more He promised me (Eph. 3:20-21).

My pastor had encouraged us to write dream journals. At first, it was difficult for me to dream at all, as I battled through feelings of hopelessness and depression. But I pressed through, dreaming and praying, until I really started to believe in my heart that my faith declarations would come to pass. The first page of that journal was marked “Get married in 2018,” my biggest life-long dream. Other pages in the journal were marked with things like get a laptop and get a car. Some of them were less tangible. See the beauty for ashes in my life. See restoration. To be reset mind, body and soul. I got the car, the laptop and in June of 2018, I’ll marry my best friend. I totally got to see the beauty for ashes in what was a desperately broken time of my life. I have seen restoration in so many areas and I feel the reset. I don’t walk into 2018 in the same condition that I walked into 2017. Although I saw hardships last year, especially with the death of my brother, and even though there are many dreams I am still praying into, God has taught me the valuable lesson of dreaming with Him and praying in faith no matter what the circumstances might look like.

Today in my devotional time, I read Philippians 3:13: “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” This verse might be my anthem for 2018. Paul starts off the verse by putting it out there that no…he has not yet achieved “it.” We all have a different “it.” We all have things we are striving and working towards. We all have suffered at times from weaknesses, failures and limitations that have held us back. We all have regrets and things we wish we would have accomplished by now. But I love the next words of this verse, “But I focus on this one thing.” Our achievements, our failures, and what we have and have not accomplished should not be our focus. According to Paul, there is something far worthier of our attention.

So, what is the one thing? “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Leave the past behind you. And for the record, the past includes everything up to one second ago. Don’t look back anymore. Don’t live your life swallowed up with regrets and reminders of the times you missed the mark. Don’t let what’s behind you hinder you from moving ahead.

Look forward. The Amplified Bible would say “Reach forward.” Look up ahead. And let God tell you what’s ahead. The promises He has written in His word are a good place to start. Despite anything that’s lies behind you, the future ahead of you is bright. Keep reaching forward in hope. Reach in confidence. Reach in trust and reach in faith. Do you hear God whispering to you? “Child, you have a lot to look forward to.”

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I said yes.

This past week, my best friend popped the question and I said yes. And let me tell you, I am a happy happy girl. I could write many blog posts and preach many messages about the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord based solely on my experiences in this relationship. Someday I’ll share the stories and the miracles that took place that led to his heart joining with mine. But for today, I’ll keep my musings simple and encourage you with the words found in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of His heart.”

I read these words standing in a Barnes and Nobles minutes before my boyfriend proposed to me. After a lovely evening at one of my favorite restaurants, we took a walk in downtown West Hartford surrounded by beautiful Christmas lights. On a whim, we went inside a Barnes and Noble (the first place he ever took me for that first cup of coffee) and while I was in the bathroom he purchased the bear pictured above. While I was making my way back from the lady’s room, I took a quick stroll through the Christian book section. I picked up a devotional and opened it to the page already marked. I read about the goodness of God and of how when we delight ourselves in Him, He gives us our hearts desires.

Over the past year, I have had to lay my dreams on the altar of surrender many times to pursue a deeper relationship and intimacy with Christ. I have had to put my trust in my heavenly daddy to provide for my every need at times when it felt like all Hell was breaking loose in my life. Day by day the Lord has pushed me to greater levels of faith as I have chosen to believe for the impossible and to hope for restoration in every area of my life.

Just shy of a year ago, I laid this relationship on the altar. In an act of surrender and obedience, I walked away from something I greatly desired to delight myself in God first and to allow Him to do some work in my heart that needed to be done. I gave up my natural fight and chose instead to take the battle to my prayer closet. In that place of prayer, God healed and transformed my heart. At the same time, God was healing and bringing heart transformation to the man that will now be my husband. Although I couldn’t know the outcome at the time, my faith, obedience and willingness to delight myself in God first prepared me for this season, in which God is giving me my utmost desires. Only God can take something broken and make it more beautiful than it was before. I reflected on all of this standing in that book aisle. I thanked God for His love and all His many blessings and in an attitude of joy and thanksgiving, I left the store.

Minutes later my boyfriend handed me that bear. I reached my hand inside it and pulled out a gorgeous diamond ring. The ring represents a promise. Not only from my fiancé, but from my heavenly daddy. When you delight yourself in God, even if it means letting go of all else, He truly gives you what your heart really desires.

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be perfect.

I’m a little bit of a perfectionist. I like paying attention to the details and getting everything just right. This can work to my advantage at times, as someone who carries out many administrative duties, but it can also get in the way of living in the moment, taking things as they come and being content right where I’m at. Lately, God has been teaching me that not everything has to be perfect to be perfect.

Allow me to explain. My birthday fell on Thanksgiving this year. I’m usually not the type to make a huge deal out of my birthday (although I always love gifts!), but this year I really looked forward to it. I planned to celebrate on the weekend with a special friend of mine. Saturday came and I put on a pretty dress, painted my nails and started curling my hair. The plans ended up needing to be switched around, so that we would celebrate on Sunday instead. Being the (overly) emotional girl that I can be at times, I got real pouty. Not sure why exactly, but I had a vision in my head of how the day would go and this didn’t line up with the perfect day I had envisioned. Despite the fact that my friend had been caught up actually doing something else for me, I still (selfishly, I know) allowed myself to become upset at the minor adjustment to our plans.

Sunday came and I had the best day. I busted out the dress, as well as the curling iron again. I had an amazing time. I received a perfect gift, well thought out and chosen with the utmost care. We ended up getting a bite to eat and meeting another friend to play a game (something I really enjoy doing). It felt like it had been the perfect day. When we made our way back to the house and I said goodbye for the evening, I looked down at my feet only to realize that I had forgotten to change my shoes. The whole night I was sporting my dingy gym sneakers with my pretty pink lace dress. We both had a good laugh at that.

The lesson God was teaching me in that is this. Things don’t always have to be perfect to be perfect. Sometimes getting too caught up in the details can cause you to lose sight of the biggest blessings right in front of you. Things don’t always have to be just right to be amazing. Incredible moments and memories are often birthed in the middle of less than perfect situations. And honestly, perfection is an unrealistic and unfair expectation to set for others, ourselves or our circumstances. And sometimes you can wear the pink dress and sneakers and still be in for a magical night.

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. (Ps. 18:32)

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With Thanksgiving

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)

With Thanksgiving…how important it is that what we do, we do with an attitude of gratitude. I remember a couple of years back, the year got started on a really rough note. Someone had suggested how thankfulness would be the key to propel me forward during that tough time. I remember opening up a sticky note on my laptop and each day I would make a small list of things I was thankful for. Somedays it would be the little things, the warm cup of coffee on a cold morning, my comfy pajamas or a kind word from a friend. Other days it was for bigger things like my family, my close friends and God’s provision. Either way, keeping my blessings in perspective helped to shield me from the bitterness of disappointment.

The verse referenced above tells us that “with thanksgiving” we should present our requests to God. Why? Depending on what the request is and in what area you find a need, you may not feel like thankfulness is an appropriate response. But it is! Thankfulness is one of the prerequisites for allowing God’s peace in to guard our heart and our mind.

Thankfulness helps us to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. It reminds us how trustworthy He is. Thankfulness helps us to remember all that He has brought us out of, so that we can have faith for all that He is bringing us into. Thankfulness reminds us that no matter how hard it seems, God’s grace is sufficient for us. No matter how dark the situation, His light shines brightly in the midst of it.

Thankfulness makes a way for faith to rise up. We remember if He has done it before, He will do it again. What are you asking God for today? What is your request? Pave the way to your breakthrough with thankfulness and let God’s peace settle over your heart and mind. He is working. You don’t need to see the outcome before you start thanking Him for your victory!
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Be Thankful…Always

Be Thankful…Always

Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  (1 Thess. 5:16-18)

With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, it feels like an appropriate time to talk about gratitude.  I love the verse from 1 Thessalonians referenced above.  Always be joyful…be thankful in all.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  But how do we put this into practice?  Sometimes it’s easy to be thankful, but other times we struggle with it.

For me, this will be the first year my family will spend without my brother at the Thanksgiving table.  However, I still find I have so much to be thankful for this holiday season.  We can let our circumstances drive us to the place of fear and despair, or we can allow them to push us towards faith and hope.  The bleaker things look the more aggressive we should be in our pursuit of hope and our stance of faith.  John 10:10 tells us, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.  My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” The more the enemy steals from us the more we need to press into the promise of the abundant life God has offered us. Gratitude plays a huge role in this.

The loss of my brother has made me even more grateful for the family members and friends I will have around me this holiday.  Sometimes experiencing loss makes us realize how much we take for granted all the other blessings in our lives.  I am excited for new starts and fresh beginnings.  I am excited to see the stronger Theresa that will come through on the other side of this.  I love that I can know that though weeping may last through the night, joy comes with the morning (Ps. 30:5).

I can be joyful no matter the circumstances, because I know God is good.  I can be thankful through tears and hard days, because I know the one who is holding me.  I receive so much love and blessings from the amazing people He has given me to walk this journey besides me, but nothing beats crawling in the lap of poppa God and allowing His heart to comfort mine.  I’ll never be alone and that is something to be oh so grateful for.

So for anyone out there who might be struggling this holiday season, allow Him to show you His love.  Allow Him to show you His goodness.  Allow Him to show you that no matter what you may be going through, if you set your gaze on Him, you will always have something to be thankful for.

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In Loving Memory of Anthony Flood

On Monday, October 23rd, I lost my brother and one of my closest friends.  His death was tragic and sudden. My brother was only 36 years old and left behind three beautiful and amazing daughters. The news of his passing hit everyone like a freight train, leaving us heart broken.

Never before have I experienced such a devastating loss. To be honest, this was one of my biggest fears come true. However, what I want to share today in this simple blog post is that I never would have thought it possible that during such a time of sadness and loss that I would be able to simultaneously experience such joy, confidence, and peace.

My confidence comes from the fact that my brother had a relationship with Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior. Although he had many struggles (don’t we all?), he desired to give his whole heart to God, to live the abundant life God offers and break free from a destructive bondage to brokenness and emptiness. Despite the fact that he will be sorely missed here on earth, I know that even as I type these words, he is standing in the presence of our heavenly daddy. My brother would often call me to share any Christian book, movie, or message he had recently viewed and wanted me to tune into.  “Theresa, you have got to see this movie!” “Theresa, you need to check out this book.”   Sunday morning as I worshipped with my church family, a tear rolled down my cheek as I envisioned my brother standing in heaven saying to himself, “Theresa has got to see this!!!!

Peace floods my heart as I look into the eyes of my parents and other family members. My mother was closer to my brother than anyone else and has invested her whole life into trying to make sure he was safe and taken care of. Of course, she has cried many tears over his death. But I have watched my mother radiate such joy over these past couple of weeks.  Through the tears, there has been so many times of laughter.  She still has that mischievous gleam in her eye and even the death of her son won’t keep her from telling a joke, pulling off a prank, or showing off her goofy side.  When I see my mom smile and laugh, I am convinced she is one of the strongest woman I know.  Her laughter has brought peace into our family.  And I know that life doesn’t end with this tragedy.

My joy comes from the fact that God has made me feel so loved as His daughter.  God has chosen the time in my life when I am suffering my greatest loss to bless me in ways far greater than I could have ever imagined.  Although my brother has died, I am seeing many dreams birthed.  I am seeing beauty from the ashes and new life springing forth.  Saturday, at my brother’s memorial service, 8 family members and friends of my brother chose to surrender their hearts to the Lord.  I met with a beautiful, bright young woman yesterday who told me that with my brother’s passing she has been awakened to the importance of living her life for God.  In a Facebook post yesterday, she wrote, “All for you Father.  Take my hand and guide me.  I am a daughter!”  With God nothing is wasted, even death.  I am fully convinced that my brother’s influence here in this world continues and that many more will follow his example and give their hearts to Jesus.

Tony, thanks for always being there for me.  I will miss you greatly and I will do my best to use every opportunity I’m presented with to honor your memory by pointing others to Jesus.  Can’t wait to see you again!  We have a lot to catch up on.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.  He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.  To all who mourn in Israel he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.  (Isa. 61:1-3)

Don’t Give Up. Just Give it Over.

“But those who wait for the LORD [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] Will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired.”
‭‭ISAIAH‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭AMP‬‬

Last week, I wrote about possessing the promise. We talked about how sometimes you gotta keep circling your walls in prayer until those suckers come crashing down. Today, our subject will be rest. There’s a time for making moves, having a courageous conversations, taking steps, implementing strategies and going forward. But there also comes a time when God just asks us to rest. In both cases, we need huge amounts of faith. It takes faith to make a move but it also takes a lot of faith to know that you’ve made all the moves you can and done all that God has required of you. It takes faith to sit on your hands and wait for God to do what only God can do. And to trust Him that He will do it!

I read an article recently about dating. It was one of those “calm down ladies and let the man pursue you” type articles. There was one point made that really stood out. The author pointed out that at the end of the day, we aren’t waiting on a man (good news, right?). We are waiting on God and God is trustworthy and faithful. Knowing that we are waiting on God makes waiting a little easier to swallow. Men might drag their feet but God? He is always on time.

While we wait, God wants us to be well-rested. Our times of waiting would be totally fruitless if we spent them anxious and worried. And honestly, that type of doubt and fear is a symptom of the fact that we probably don’t have much trust and faith.

We exhibit faith when we are able to wait and rest. Wait and be content. Wait and be happy. Wait and live your life. Never put your life on hold while you wait for your “only ifs”. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So what do you do when you’ve done all you can? Do you give up? Nope. Not at all. You give it over. You remain in the place of faith and hope but you put whatever “it” is in Gods hands. Here’s the thing. Just because we rest, doesn’t mean God does. He’s working on it. But while you rest, He’s also working on you, if you sit still enough and allow Him to do it.

Go ahead. Sit back, put up your feet and relax. God’s got it.

Facing your walls

“When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.”
‭‭Joshua‬ ‭6:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Recently, I was listening to a sermon given by Christine Caine titled “Possessing the Promise.” The subject material pointed to the walls of Jericho in Joshua chapter 6. Christine talks about how when the Israelites entered the promised land, they encountered the last thing they would expect…looming, formidable walls…seemingly insurmountable walls.

Some times we experience victory, we triumph, only to realize that there are still battles to be fought, even though we have entered the territory that God promised us. Even though we are doing the right things. Even though we have seen so much answered prayer. Sometimes we enter the promises of God and we hit a wall. Things get hard. Transitions get messy. And we could be left to wonder, if God really led me here shouldn’t everything go smoothly? Not necessarily.

So what do you do? You keep marching. In the case of the Israelites, they had to march around those city walls for seven days. For us that means that we continue to move forward in prayer, faith, hope and obedience. Christine says in her sermon that we keep making laps around God’s promises until we see those walls fall down.

This message really resonated with me. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned this year (and there have been plenty) is the importance of standing in faith and keeping your hope alive, regardless of how things might look. This year God really challenged me to put my nose to the plow and begin to contend in faith for things I couldn’t see (at all!) in the natural and not to stop no matter how desperate my circumstances became. This put me in a position of needing to put my faith and the words God had spoken to me above the opinion of others. It forced me to dry my eyes and look ahead with confident expectation toward a hopeful future.

I am still in that place of contending today and while I may not yet be fully where I would like to be, I have already seen God bring so much restoration to my life and bring beauty from the ashes of my brokenness. More than anything I’ve learned that He is oh so faithful.

What walls are you facing today? Keep on marching. Sooner or later those bad boys will come tumbling down.

Behind and Before

You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. (Ps. 139:5)

Life is full of transitions.  Transitions can be scary, but they are a whole lot less scary when we put our firm trust and confidence, in our navigator Jesus Christ.  In the above-referenced verse, we are told that God “hems us in behind and before.”

God covers our past and leads the way into our future.  He redeems past mistakes, hurts, wounds and trials.  He weaves our history into a story of redemption that makes way for a legacy that will continue long after we have passed on from this life.  He is the God of beauty from ashes and grace from shame.  He is the voice behind us whispering in our ear, “This is the way to go.  Step here my child.”

He is also the God that takes us by the hand and leads us forward into our destiny.  In Proverbs 16:9, we are told, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”  God is our faithful and trustworthy guide.  As we set our gaze on Him, He is sure to show us the right path to take.  With each step, we can rest in full confidence and reliance on Him.

Today, whatever change or transition you might be facing, be assured that God has already made the way.  The past is behind us.  The future lies before us.  Can you hear His voice?  Take a step today.