I will fix my eyes on what’s unchanging.

Recently I started reading the Bible cover to cover, but I still tend to play besties when I read The Word. In 2017 and 2018, it was Paul. For a minute at the end of 2018, I was a total Jonah. Turning into 2019, it became Noah. Now it’s 1st Samuel. There are bits and pieces from the sermons on the white spaces in my Bible. Here are some key take-aways I learned over and over this year:

  • “God is bigger than my decisions.” SAY IT AGAIN.
  • “When Samuel made himself available, the Word of God became abundant.”
  • “Sometimes we run to the thing we’re used to, we run to our plan even though God is the One calling.” You call us out of our comfort zones.
  • “The enemy attacks at the places of transition.” But You fight my battles!
  • “Faith is being able to move on a maybe. It might not work, but God is always.” Yasss!
  • “The enemy can’t destroy you, so he’ll try to distract you.” Not Today Satan.
  • “Will you stay with the goats when there is a party going on?” Blessss.
  • “Jesus still washed Judas’ feet.” I cannot even.

I spent of a lot of time this summer in the Marked series from Transformation Church, that’s where most of what I’ve studied this year came from. The steps to I am Marked are:

  1. You’re gonna be anointed in private.
  2. You’re gonna be anointed before you’re positioned.
  3. Your opportunity is gonna be wrapped in obedience.
  4. You are elevated by obstacles. (You have to learn how to walk like a child. You can’t wait for authority to come and remove the obstacles.)
  5. You must be you. The armor might not fit yet.
  6. You have to have the audacity to honor.

And then I continued re-reading my notes and this next thing leapt right off the page…wait for it… “subject yourself to the authority God placed in your life even when they are wrong, it creates actual change.” Uh-oh. That hit me a little deep. I did not do that yesterday.

Then I flip over a few more pages and written real big in the middle of my Bible is: “what did you do with the child I gave you?” And that right there is why I’m marked. Because again, “being marked is not about us, it’s about others.”

Today, I am going to pray Richard Lovelace’s words: “We should make a deliberate effort at the outset of every day to recognize the person of the Holy Spirit, to move into the light concerning his presence in our consciousness and to open our minds and to share all our thoughts and plans as we gaze by faith into the face of God. We should continue to walk throughout the day in a relationship of communication and communion with the Spirit mediated through our knowledge of the Word, relying upon every office of the Holy Spirit’s role as counselor mentioned in Scripture. We should acknowledge him as the illuminator of truth and of the glory of Christ. We should look to him as teacher, guide, sanctifier, giver of assurance concerning our sonship and standing before God, helper in prayer, and as one who directs and empowers our witness. We should particularly recognize that growth in holiness is not simply a matter of the lonely individual making claims of faith on the basis of Romans 6:1-14. It involves moving about in all areas of our life in dependent fellowship with a person: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians. 5:16). When this practice of the presence of God is maintained over a period of time, our experience of the Holy Spirit becomes less subjective and more clearly identifiable, as gradually we learn to distinguish the strivings of the Spirit from the motions of our flesh.” Abba Father, I am coming to you today with a conflicted heart. I pray that I get out of my flesh and emotions and back into your word and rely on your spirit. I pray for discernment and courage. I pray that every breath I breathe is done only for you in obedience. Lord, you designed me to love everyone you placed in my life, help me to do that. I pray that I make myself available to you. Thank you for working even when I fail, even when it’s silent, even when the storm is raging inside of me and around me. Thank you. Thank you for washing my feet when I am the one that turns against you. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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I sing because I’m free.

I was telling my Jesus friend, I did not like driving in traffic yesterday. Wait, lemme be honest, I was totes complaining. And true Jesus friend capacity, she pointed me right back to You. She told me to put on a sermon when I’m traffic, that it’s just extra time with You. I got up this morning and pulled up the Podcasts app, looked up Transformation Church and clicked play.

Ya girl cried through half the drive, got to work 10 minutes early, and started my day is much better place. It was one of those gooddd, praise cries too. Thank you for reminding me how good You are this morning.

Ok, so let me break down the sermon and apply to my life like usual.

How to have your life not suck:

1. The decisions you make today determine your tomorrow.

2. You might be one step from stepping into God’s abundant blessing.

3. Your end just might be your beginning.

4. Don’t just think about your legacy, build your legacy.”

Bianca Olthoff was the one preaching and she brought the Word. Straight from the book of Ruth. She continually taught that if I am not dead, You are not done. If it has not been redeemed, You are not done. She told us to do the work, spiritually and emotionally. Day by day, decision by decision.

The most important takeaway I got was when Naomi changed her name from Naomi which means sweet and pleasant to Mara which means bitter. Naomi/Mara went back to Bethlehem. She went back to her Life Group, to her community, to her Church, to her house of God. TobyMac posted the other day: “when you are hanging on by a thread, make sure it is the hem of His garment.”

The final point she made was “your purpose is proven when you give your life away.” It wasn’t ours to begin with. Genesis tells us You breathed life into us. You gave us our very lives. Bianca preached: “it’s not what happens to you, or dealt to you. It’s what you do with what you have.” Woah buddy…I immediately saw the connection there to the message I heard from Lysa Terkheurst. About how asking why is the wrong question. We should be asking, what am I going to do with what I have left? I have carried that question for a hot minute.

Lord, only You can do that, take a sermon I heard in 2014 after I lost my best friend and my grandma and build on it in 2019. You changed my whole perspective on life with one sermon and here You are continually adding to it and taking that message and growing it in my life. It was a little seed planted in a time when I thought I wouldn’t be able to grow anything. Now its a flourishing garden with so many flowers growing out of it, all I can see is Your handiwork running wild through my life.

That is your specialty though. Bianca showed us how You took a barren, homeless, trauma filled woman and somehow through her lineage King David is born, and through that Jesus is born. You take what everyone else would have written off and write a life full of love.

That is where freedom is found. When we give our lives away. I read in a devotion my sister sent me that He brings people into our lives we are designed to love. Nothing is random. Nothing is without purpose or meaning. Nothing happens by chance. I did not hear that message in 2014 by accident, nor did I hear the message today by accident. On Wednesday at Church, I heard a message on faith, which is literally my middle name so I was all for it. He taught us that “faith is believing that You can see what I can’t.”

In 2014, I couldn’t see past my grief. In 2016, I couldn’t see past my plans. Now it’s 2019 and I just want to see You, Father.

So, this is my prayer. I pray that I give my life away. I pray I love those you bring to my life. I pray I use what I have, where I am, and listen for your instruction. I pray I utilize these quiet moments to seek you. I pray that my legacy is built in your name. I pray I do the work needed. I pray I keep making those connections and keep growing in your word. Abba, I know you are for my good and your glory. Abba, I know you are watching me, I know your eyes are on me. I know you have never left me. I know you are working even when I cannot see. Thank you for reminding me to just simply praise you today. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

All my fears and doubts, they can all come too because they can’t stay long.

I got hooked on Pastor Mike Todd’s messages last year when I heard the first Marked sermon on Elevation Church’s youtube page. Then I might have low key stalked Pastor Mike Todd. Like followed on all social media and followed his wife. So, when he turned the Marked message into a series, I WASN’T READY!

As I’ve been watching these sermons, I was finishing up the foster parenting classes. When I finished those classes I took the Family Life: Art of Parenting online course. I thought I was ready to be a foster parent and all that entailed. I had the training I needed, I was in the Word, I was praying and seeking counsel from other believers. But I hit some snags in the road. Some called them stop signs. Some tried to encourage me to keep going. Some were dumbfounded. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, but I knew I was Marked.

In this last sermon, Pastor Mike said: “being marked it not about us, it’s about others.” I could have screamed that and jumped up and down! Like YASSS Lord. This week’s message was about honor. And You already know, it hit the nail on the head for me. I was struggling recently. I got carried away and let things get ahead of me so things slipped past my control. Then, I thought I had to chose one or the other. I could honor my future family that I am working so hard to build or I could honor the family that worked so hard to build me. I was getting ready to leave one family in order to build one of my own, which is a normal next step in life, I’m just doing it a little different. And let’s face it, I’ve always been a little different. I realized that I don’t have to chose one or the other, I can honor both, differently. And I learned another lesson about boundaries (the hard way, I might add).

I know that nothing happens without a purpose. I know not to ask why, I know to ask what am I going to do with what I have left. That’s another lesson I learned the hard way. The previous message in the Marked series was: I’m Armed and Dangerous. In this sermon, Pastor Mike gave us a little fill-in-the-blank that goes like this: “Then Alyssa, armed only with her Bible and her perspective started writing.” I got all kinds of excited because ya girl’s love language is words. So I continued! Then Alyssa, armed with her Bible and her writing started working in group homes. Then Alyssa, armed with her Bible and her work and started foster parenting classes. With no house and now no job, I might add, I sure do everything the hard way. I could list all the things I didn’t have and how unprepared I was or still am. Which I’ve been doing a lot of lately, ya know stressing.

But Lord have mercy, You had a Word for me with this Marked series. Like in the You Are Enough sermon, I learned “ridiculous is required.” And ridiculous is trying to be a parent with no home. I also learned in another message “perspective needs to move above the obstacle.” So, I got no home, but I am Heaven bound, so I need to start acting like it. In another sermon, Pastor Mike taught that “obedience doesn’t require details.”

So, here is my prayer today. I pray I let Pastor Mike’s teaching seep right into my soul and my heart and my mind. I pray I learn how to honor all people. I pray I learn how to love my brotherhood. I pray I learn to fear you. I pray I learn to honor the king. I pray that I walk in faith. I pray that when I lose myself, I find you. I pray I remember where my anointing comes from. Jesus, you are the way when there is no way. You are the light when all I see is darkness. You are the truth when all I hear is lies. Father, keep teaching me. Father, I need you. Father, I love you. Father, I thank you. I put my eyes on you. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

You feel that fire you been missin’.

It’s no secret that it’s been pretty dark recently. I’m coming out of the other side of it now and things are looking a little brighter. So, let me tell You about my day, Father, even though You already knew what happened and You were there, I know You like to hear from me. I’m trying to do a better job of talking to You more because it’s just plain nice to hear from people you love.

This week is teacher appreciation week at work, so I got spoiled yesterday. And this morning when I regretted skipping breakfast, what comes around the corner? Panera bagels for the teachers. And we both know Panera bagels are my fave.

I also had a doctor’s appointment for my physical for foster parenting classes. I was just going to come back after, but they said I could have the rest of the afternoon. So ya girl was very gracious and went wild with errands.

I usually have this little bitty issue seeing doctors and mechanics because both of them tell you something needs fixin and it’s gonna cost an arm and a leg. Not today Satan. When I go to the after hours clinic, I have to get my blood pressure checked three times because I get that pesky little “white coat” syndrome where I get all nervous. (Part of this anxiety comes from having to tell a stranger why I’m on an anxiety/depression med in the first place and having to retell my story). But not when I go to my regular doctor! They congratulate me on how good my blood pressure is. Like yass home girl is not stressed today, thank you! Then Dr. Nice Man comes in saying heyyy friend. Like yasss this is why I come here. No stress. I give updates on my life and any stress I’m facing, which recently has been a lot. But when it’s all said and done, Dr. Nice Man goes: how’d you get such a good life? Yasss fam. My answer: I am blessed. It ain’t me.

Here I am thinking of stress and Dr. Nice Man saw a good life. And it is, such a good life. I have had some dark days lately, but it’s such a good life. Thank you Father so much for that reminder. I am so blessed. So let’s continue this list of blessings today. I didn’t have to pay for the physical for some reason unbeknownst to me. I got my tag renewed and my driver’s license renewed. With. No. Line. I got my finger printing done. With. No. Line. I got my oil changed and tires rotated. And it’s Lady’s Day so I got a $5 discount. And I found my gift certificate for a free oil change (it wasn’t expired like I thought!). Thank you Express Oil Change. I got dinner with the fam. I’m half-way through book 3 of the series I’m reading. My car insurance got discounted another $5 a month today.

Did I forget to mention that Dr. Nice Man wrote at the bottom of my physical that he recommends me to become a foster parent “without reservation”? like thank You Jesus I needed that today.

And instead of moping around the house this weekend because I’m not a mom yet, I am going to be sitting beside the pool (probably finishing my You’re Going to Be Okay book that my Jesus friend sent me-she is always pointing me back to You). Things are not happening on my timeline and things are not going according to my plan, but God, You are so much better.

So, here is my prayer today. I am going to be a mom, one day, maybe not this weekend, but some day. But even if I never make it, even if I’m never a mom, You are still good. It’s still a good life. Thank you for good days and for the bad ones. Thank you for little blessings and big miracles. Thank you for being near. Thank you for creating such a beautiful world. Thank you for hugs and I love yous. Thank you for phone calls and texts checking in on me. Thank you for errands and thank you for the time to run them. Thank you for bluer skies and music on the radio to sing along to. Thank you for your word. Thank you for reminders of your love. Most importantly thank you for listening and loving me. Thank you for wanting a relationship with me. Thank you for building trust and for pursing me. Thank you for being patient with me and holding me together. Thank you for being you. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Even in the madness there is peace.

So, today I watched that Transformation Church sermon I meant to watch yesterday. And obviously You meant it for today and not yesterday. Obviously, Your timing is always good.

The sermon was titled: Are you having a heart attack? Like yes, sir. It feels like my heart is out of my body and walking around in the world around me, but I can’t get to it. Like my gut is being continually ripped out. It’s physical pain. When I’m not crying or throwing up, I’m numb. When I’m numb, I’m angry and short. It feels like I’m stuck behind a glass watching everything happen. I’m tapping on the glass, trying to get back, telling myself: hey, hey you, yes you, this is not who you are, stop this.

But somehow, I know You can use even this. Somehow there’s moments of peace that surpass all understanding.

On paper, I look defeated. I have too many mountains to climb. I’ll never make it. I should just quit now. Just count me out now. But somehow, joy comes in the morning. Whether I took one tiny step today or I got my whole 10,000 steps in. Joy still comes in the morning. Regardless of my situation. Regardless of my circumstances. Regardless of how I feel. Because joy comes from You and You alone.

The opening of the message was a reminder of the previous message titled: Ducks in a row. The message included an assessment between having your ducks in a row and digging a hole. Having your ducks in a row included: faith for the future, acknowledgement for You, and using what we have now. The digging a hole portion included: fear of failure, assuming of You, and excuses for what I have now.

Now, Incredibles 2 taught me the other day that if I want to stop digging a hole, I have to first put down the shovel. Lord, have mercy, I was floored. You mean I had the power to get out this hole, the whole time? Yes I did, because You gave me that power and I didn’t use it.

Pastor Mike Todd taught in the message that we have to first deal with our selfish heart. Yes, ya girl needs to do that. The second thing is to deal with a grieving heart. Well, yes, check that for me too. He said that thing we’re missing that we’re grasping on to, wasn’t even ours to begin with. You gave that very thing. The third thing is to develop a generous heart. He talked about his little toddler in the bathtub with her rubber ducky. She said mine when her daddy asked her to share. The pastor asked: when are we gonna grow up and be like the Father? Blessed be the day. Ok. Ok. Then the fourth thing is to develop a grateful heart. He asked: Do you remember what I brought you from? Alright. Alright. Alright.

So, this is my prayer today. I pray that I deal with my selfish heart. I pray that I deal with my grieving heart. I pray I develop a generous heart. I pray I develop a grateful heart. Lord, let them see you in me. I pray I pursue you. I pray that I put down my shovel. I pray I get my ducks in a row. I pray that I spend more time in the word. I pray that I create healthy habits, and in order to do that I needed this heart check. I pray that wake up and do a heart check every morning. I pray that I look towards you always. I pray that I listen for that still, small voice. I pray that I see your hand in my life. I pray that I realize where all of these blessings come from. Lord, guide my life. I pray I put my heart back into your hands. Because it is my choice. Just like Pastor Mike said, it’s not love if it’s not a choice. This is my choice Father, I want to give my life solely to you. I want to give you my treasure, my heart, my past, my present, my future, everything I am and everything I have. Because it’s always been yours and yours alone. I know where my joy comes from. I know who my joy is. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jesus loves me for the Bible tells me so.

I watched some sermons on YouTube again this morning and I meant to click another one from Transformation Church. Somehow it loaded a Priscilla Shirer message instead. I paused. My first thought was uh-oh. The next thought was ok, Father, I see what You did here, I’m listening.

And let’s be real for a second, Priscilla is my fave so I was not bothered when the intended video was changed. Her message was titled: God will use your abandoned boat. Like ok, I get it. I abandoned my boat.

Priscilla talked about how You don’t shame the men for getting out the boat because they were frustrated. She pointed out the men were cleaning the nets, so their intention was to use them again. They weren’t giving up, just taking a time out. Then Priscilla says when this is over, there is an assigned that’s still been assigned to you. Like ok, ok.

She said in verse 2 of Luke 5, Simon got out of the boat. In verse 3, You stepped in. You step on the very thing causing me pain and used it as a platform. She continued with the place where I didn’t have what it takes, is exactly where You will plant Your feet. The emptiness I feel is what she called a God-margin, the place between what I can do and what You can do. Priscilla said if there is emptiness, You intend to fill it. You have something planned for this little ole fishing trip. In the huge crowd of people trying to get Your attention, You saw the little ole fishermen who had a rough night fishing. She said, You see us too. You are always near. We serve a God who isn’t waiting on Heaven to have a relationship with us.

Priscilla also pointed out that Simon was not alone, there were others there in the frustration with him, helping him clean his nets. We are built for connection and relationship. Isolating myself will not get me back in that boat faster. In fact, I cannot do it at all on my own.

I also watched a message from Steven Furtick. In the message he told a story of swimming in the water with his kids, how they got carried away by the waves and got too far out without realizing it. His feet couldn’t touch the bottom and what he used to know felt more stable. I felt that. Steven talked about before Jesus’ ministry, there was the wilderness where temptation is.

Ya girl been in the wilderness. Ya girl stayed there too long too. Because like Steven said, it’s easier to reject yourself in advance instead of opening yourself up to rejection again. To really be loved requires vulnerability. Ya girl took herself out of the boat. Steven said sometimes we’ve been writing a story so long, we become a slave to it. He said self-pity is comfortable. I felt that too. He said the devil uses the word to twist the truth, to trade truths. I was stuck between two truths, like Steven preached, the one is the situation and the other is the revelation. Ya girl is leaning into the revelation today.

Priscilla talked about the wilderness too, she said the wilderness will either kill me or make me stronger. She said don’t let the wilderness in you.

So, this is my prayer today. Thank you for the lessons in the wilderness. Thank you for loving me too much to leave me there. Thank you for being near me in the wilderness. Thank you for encouragement and relationships and people to help clean up the messes. Thank you for not abandoning me when I abandon my assignment. Thank you for letting me participate in the miracles. Thank you for not giving my assignment to someone else every time I fail. Thank you for using me. Thank you for giving me opportunities to learn and grow. Thank you for filling my God-margins. Thank you for filling my emptiness. Thank you for stepping into my pain and frustration and using it for your glory. Thank you for allowing little ole me to come and worship good and holy you. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Open my ears, I wanna hear You speak.

I want to curl up in my bed with my Bible until I can process this. I want to shut out all the noise and distractions and opinions. I just want You, God. I am starting to lose my mind. Wait, back up, that process has most definitely already started. I want my mind back…on You, God.

Before Church this morning, I wanted to hear some preaching before the preaching. I pulled up Steven Furtick again. This time he was talking about Joseph’s dreams again. He’s preached on the importance of telling your dreams to the right people before and how to protect your God-given dreams. This message picked up right there and carried on.

Steven said: “a dream will make you bold.” Well check. I got bold alright. I started doing my best to move mountains and shake up the Heavens. Then he talked about the dream we see in one part of our life will show up later in a different dimension. His second point was that: “a dream makes you different.” Check. Check. The last point was that: “a dream can become a distraction.” Well that is exactly where I am now. I am not sure if this is a test to see if I have what it takes to keep going or if You are giving me an out because this isn’t what You wanted or if this is where I learn how to handle things going forward.

Joseph had the courage to wear his father’s coat, knowing his brothers hated him. He shared his dream with them, knowing them would hate him even more. Maybe it was immature to share his dream with his brothers, knowing how they feel about him. Maybe it put too much pressure on the dream by telling people that hated him. Maybe the dream changed because of our own agendas. Maybe we lose all sight of the dream and make it all about us. But You can use even this mess for Your plan.

I don’t want to leave my coat hanging up in the closet. I want to follow You and when I do, dreams will follow. Steven preached the dreams followed Joseph into slavery, into prison, into the pit, into all of it. Then Steven said: “you’ve got the right dream, you just need to see it differently. What if your dream was just the first draft? Are you open to a revision?”

Then the preaching took the message home for me. Steven taught God develops dreams in the dark room. Your dream is developed by a professional. Do I have the patience to let it develop? Do I have the courage to hand You the negatives? Even in the darkest places of my disappointment.

Then today at Church of the Highlands, Pastor Chris got me all riled up for Easter. He preached on Freedom and how each of the things Jesus went through were promises fulfilled for us. The whip was freedom in my body. The crown of thorns was freedom in my mind. The nails were freedom in my hands, for everything I’ve ever done and every time I’ve gone too far. The last point he made was the spear was freedom in my heart. That’s when I started weeping. Because when they stabbed Jesus with the spear, He was already dead. His blood was mixed with water because of heart failure. It wasn’t the 39 stripes that killed Him. It wasn’t the crown of thorns pierced into Head. It wasn’t the nails stabbed into Him. It wasn’t the suffocation. It wasn’t even the spear in His side. It was heart failure. His heart was crushed.

And He did all of this while holding onto His peace. Through it all he went like a lamb headed to the slaughter. He went willingly and without persecuting His enemies. He could have stopped the whole thing at any time, but He didn’t. He was loyal to You, Your plan, and my salvation.

Even in my darkest places of disappointment. Even when I am heartbroken. I can still carry peace. I can still follow You. I can still extend grace. I can still find You. Steven preached: I’m in the center, but not for status, for service. The greatest thing You are going to do for my life is use it to contribute to others. He said: I don’t have to be the one singing the song, I just have to be a part of it. The dream isn’t about me. The end of 2 Chronicles 20:15 says: the battle is not yours, but God’s.

So, this is my prayer. I pray for peace. I pray I hold onto that peace. I pray I hold onto you. I pray I remember that I am not God. I pray I remember who you are. I pray I remember the whole point of the story. I am not the whole story, Father, you are. I pray you develop my dream. I pray I leave it to the professional. I pray I trust you with the negatives. Thank you for freedom in my body. Thank you for freedom in my mind. Thank you for freedom in my hands. Thank you for freedom in my heart. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for taking what was meant for me. Thank you for taking it while holding onto peace. Thank you for taking it like a lamb. Thank you for reminding me the whole purpose is service. Thank you for reminding I am not alone. The dream is not about me and what I want. I am sorry I try to make it about me. I am sorry I rush things. I am sorry I put my agenda before your plan. I am sorry I put pressure on the dream. I am sorry I let the dream become a distraction. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.