Stronger than its ever been.

I was talking to a friend on Sunday. We were discussing how our relationship with You, God, evolves and changes. We think we have it all figured out and we think we love You. Then we realize You are just getting started.

When I was a little bitty second grader, asking to be baptized, I thought I loved You then. When I was in summer camp, rededicating my life, I thought I loved You then. When I finally made it to youth group as a teenager, praisin up a storm, I thought I loved You then. When I was in college, cryin out Your name in grief, I thought I loved You then. When I graduated, serving You, I thought I loved You then. When I went to counseling, seeing Your hand in all of it-the trauma and the blessings, I thought I loved You then. When I became a foster parent, after a year of seeking Your will-instead of my own, I thought I loved You then. But now You’re my whole life. Now You’re my whole world.

My life is living proof that You changed me. I am not the same girl who walked down the aisle all those years ago. That girl was in the middle of trauma that she wouldn’t be able to voice for years to come. That girl didn’t know grief yet. The only thing that little girl knew is that You were the Savior. You died on the cross for that little girl.

One thing is for sure, You didn’t change, no matter how much I did. You are the same God that stands in front of my trauma in my nightmares. You are the same God who held me as I grieved. You are the same God that called my name when I was acting out and hurting. You are the same God that chose Noah and Jonah and Moses and Paul and me.

I am the one changing. I am becoming more like You, the more time I spend with You. I am growing in love, in fellowship, in wisdom, in truth, in grace. I have the exact same amount of Jesus in me that I did in the second grade when I invited You in. The difference now is that I am trying to walk with You. I am done running from You. I am done trying to hide. I am done with childish games. I only want You, God.

So, here is my prayer. I pray that my faith moves mountains. I pray my roots grow deeper still. I pray my praises reach the Heavens. I pray I only sing your name. I pray I fall to my knees in worship of you. I pray I go the extra mile. I pray I serve more. I pray I look for the opportunities to do your work. I pray I love my neighbor more. I pray I go where you send and stay where you need. I pray read your word more. I pray I seek your will and not my own. Father, I am in awe of you. I pray I grow stronger for you. I pray I grow closer to 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.

The power of sin is overcome.

Sometimes, lessons come in the strangest packages. We saw Star Wars 9 for Christmas, they were getting ready to go to battle and said: “They win by making you think you’re alone.” Woah, that’ll preach. It is an illusion and a trick to make us think we are alone. We are never alone. Not even in the darkest of places. Not even in the thickest of fogs. Not even in the worst of moments.

I am reminded here lately on more than one occasion how important community is. We need each other. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.

This is why I love the Star Wars movies so much. Kylo Ren was the resident bad guy for the newest movies. He was struggling between light and darkness. All appearances stated he made his choice and his fate was sealed. I knew better. When he was having a moment, struggling, he told Rey he couldn’t go home because of what he had done. I was internally screaming, just come home. That message that has been preached to me a million times. Just come home. No matter what you’ve done. Just come.

Light always wins. Kylo Ren came back to the light, right in the nick of time. When he came back, standing with Rey, the Big Bad found out they were better together. Again reinforcing the importance of fellowship.

A while back I saw Creed 2. Rocky was running around complaining about this light that went out. “What good is a light that don’t light?”

We are not free to sin. We are free from sin. It is an internal battle in all of us, to turn the light on, to come home. There’s forgiveness and grace and kindness. There’s mercy and healing. There’s peace and joy. We don’t have a get out of jail free card, we have another alternative. We have a way out. We have a light guiding us out of the darkness. Father, You are the light. You are the way. You are the truth. You are the life. All we have to do is turn to You.

“I would be hopeless without Your goodness
I would be desperate without Your love
Slave to the darkness if it wasn’t for the cross
You have won me with Your kindness”

So, here is my prayer today. I pray we come home. I pray we turn the light on. I pray we turn to you. I pray we open our eyes and see you. I pray we hear you. I pray we seek your face. Thank you for giving me another option. Thank you for giving me a home. Thank you for Heaven. Thank you for giving me the freedom to choose you. Thank you strength. Thank you for peace and joy. Thank you for mercy and kindness. Thank you for your goodness. I praise you Father. I worship you. I turn to you. I follow you and you alone. Let me speak only your name. I will never know the debts you paid and how much it cost to save me. Hallelujah for the cross. 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.

Cause You came, oh, I knew that You would come.

Father, You know why we need the church. I didn’t understand it at first, but You always knew. You knew we needed each other. You knew we were better together. I didn’t understand it. I get it now.

When I needed to wait, they told me so. Then they waited with me. When I needed a table, but didn’t even say it, one was given with such a gracious heart. When I needed beds to foster kids, I got three that fit each bedroom so so perfectly. When I wanted curtains, every window was covered. When I needed food, it was given in abundance. When I was devastated and utterly broken at the alter, there was an arm around me, holding me together. When I couldn’t find air to breathe, there was a text checking on me. When I felt completely lost, there was guidance back to You. When I needed advice, there was a Titus 2 woman waiting.

When I am naive, they give me wisdom. When I brought cookies to the Christmas parade and I thought: “man, I should have brought a sign”; there was a sign. Without asking for it. When I brought games to the Christmas party last night, but didn’t think to bring prizes; there were prizes and favors galore. And when my grandma went to meet You in Heaven, yes, there were casseroles. And they were such a blessing. Then when I couldn’t hold it in at the funeral and ran to the bathroom crying, there were precious hugs. When I was in counseling and needed to tell someone about being sexually abused, there was a heart to hear safely.

When I’m wrong, they correct me in a way that heals instead of hurts. When I needed words of encouragement, they’re always there, they know my love language. When I wanted to serve and give, there were opportunities to return the love I was so freely given. When I couldn’t process and needed to sit quietly, there was a hand holding mine, speechless. When I needed forgiveness, it was given extraordinarily. When I felt shame, there was acceptance and grace. When I couldn’t udder the words of the loss, there was a card for me filled with the truth I couldn’t say. When I needed to walk down that aisle to give my life to You, there was someone to walk with and someone to walk to at the alter. I was never alone. Not for a minute.

The church, those members, that body of believers. They make me better. They draw me closer to You. They fill needs without even a second thought. They offer support and comfort, no matter what is going on in their own lives. They hold me together and bring me back to You. They challenge me and help me grow. They call me out on my sin and remind me of who I am and who You are. They give me so so so much unimaginable joy. Joy I know comes from You, Father.

So, here is my prayer today. Thank you for coming to my rescue time and time again. Thank you for sending superheroes to swoop in and save the day. Thank you for the church and my precious life group. Thank you for allowing me to do life with them. Thank you for their love as you have loved me. Thank you for their gracious spirits leading me where you would have me go. Thank you for their reminders of the Father loving, Spirit leading, and Son saving me. 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 speak to the storm and the waves die down.

I help teach the youth and kids at The Lighthouse, and we have been giving the kids a challenge each week. As we learn more about who You are, God, we are encouraging them to be like You too. The more into this study we get, the more I realize I need these challenges too.

This week’s challenge was to bring the peace with you. And my devotion this morning, guess what the topic is? You got it. Peace. John 16:33 says: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

The devotion said: “Today’s Truth: Jesus Came to Bring Peace to Your Storm.” I know so many of those around me are struggling, today especially. But I also know that You, my beautiful Savior can bring peace to their storm.

Only You can bring light to the darkest depths. Only You can bring truth to the most confused unhealthy lies. Only You can bring healing to the worst kind of hurt. Only You can bring joy to the unimaginable sorrow. Only You can calm the greatest fears. Only You can move the mountains. Only You can tell dead bones to rise. Only You can calm the seas. Only You can give the blind their sight. Only You can turn water into wine. Only You can speak to their hearts. And only You can save a wretched soul like mine. Only You can fill the Jesus sized hole in our lives.

So, this is my prayer today. I pray for the storms raging in those around me. I pray for comfort. I pray for peace. I pray for truth. I pray for mercy. I pray for grace. I pray for healing. I pray for light. I pray for joy. I pray for kindness. I pray for strength. I pray for justice. I pray for compassion. I pray for understanding. I pray for ears that hear you. I pray for eyes that see you. I pray for hearts that feel your presence. Lord, your arms are reaching for my dear, sweet friends. I pray they know that. I pray they come to you, just as they are, in all of their lost, brokenness. I pray I point them to you, because you are peace. 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.

I don’t wanna abuse Your grace.

I have been asked a couple of times recently how I got into fostering and why I foster. I worked in a group home so that’s what got me into it, but my God, You planted seeds long before that. I took my classes with the same organization and they were super great. My rental house is older, but the home study was really easy. I stressed over it at first, but it was so easy when it actually came down to it. They just kinda looked over the house and asked some questions. It was like when your dad comes over to check for hot water and fire extinguisher, smoke detectors and safety stuff.

There’s a little bit of a honeymoon period when the kids are behaving real good and that’s your relationship building time. Then when they get settled and the behaviors come out, you’ve got some foundation started to teach them with. You just kinda have to over explain why you’re doing things so they’ll warm up to you and trust you.

They’ll do weird things like hide food in their rooms because they’re storing it because they’ve had times of going hungry. Or they won’t eat leftovers because they’ve gotten sick off them because their food wasn’t taken care of. They will be real protective of things being fair because it wasn’t before. They won’t have the same value for your stuff as you do because they weren’t even valued as people so why should stuff be valued. They’ll yell that you can’t tell them what to do because you’re not their mom. And it will hurt. They’ll say whatever when you make a good decision and take care of them. Or sometimes, they will thank you for it and leave you speechless. They’ll leave shoes all over the house. They’ve got mood swings for days especially with the holidays. One minute they’ll love Christmas music, then the next it’ll trigger some memory, they’ll get mad and you won’t know why, just that your car was keyed. But then you’ll have this heart to heart and the kid will explain they haven’t had a real Christmas in years because mom was on drugs so they bought presents but there was no love for Christmas. They’ll test you to see if you’ll stay around and to test how you’ll react. One kid would like pretend to cry to see what I’d do. Another kid on her first time meeting me spilled her drink all over the floor and monopoly to see what I’d do. One girl with PTSD, would watch me cook dinner and literally verbalize “Miss Alyssa loves me and takes care of me. Miss Alyssa would not poison me.” One girl with RAD, built a relationship for over a year then in an instant broke it off. Sometimes, they’ll fun away and it’ll scare the living daylight out of you and they’ll make decisions they can’t take back, that will change their life. And there won’t be a thing you can do about it. You’ll feel completely powerless. Sometimes, you will want to tell them to just get over it, but they won’t know how. Sometimes, what seems insignificant to you will feel like the world ending to them. Sometimes, you’ll have to pick your battles and tell yourself to get over it. They’ll push every boundary and you’ll have to hold strong.

Then these beautiful moments will come along where the kid tells the whole youth group that she was praying for a safe place and she thinks she finally found it. There’ll be redemption after the dark moments and you’ll be able to come back around after and show them about grace and You, Jesus and it’ll warm your heart.

It’s hard sometimes and doing it alone is harder than I thought but my family has been so helpful. And it is soooo worth it. When you remember their favorite food or some random fact about them and their faces light up. Or they flat out thank you for teaching them. Or they roll their eyes and say something about knowing you’re just doing this because you’re protecting them. Then you’ll build this relationship with one kid who literally stared at the ceiling when she came because her fear came out as anger. And that kid will open up as the most beautiful bubbly smiling happy girl and she’ll go off to college and come back to visit and tell your new kid about how great you are and how much you love them.

There will be bio families and social workers, that will literally make you want to scream. And others that you will want to help in any way you can. Every time I have to supervise a visit, I remember how easy the tables could be turned. I am not above anyone else. I make mistakes, every day. We’re all just a decision away from rock bottom or salvation. I’m just trying to choose salvation today. Father, help me to keep choosing You.

And my sweet Abba Father, I was reminded this weekend, no matter how much I love these kids, You love them more. You feel their hurts. You know the wounds, they can’t even speak. And as I hold them, I know You are holding me too. You love us all. The kids. The bio families. The social workers. The foster parents. Even the ones that need a bop on the head every now and again, which is all of us.

So, here is my prayer. Thank you for unending grace. Thank you for unconditional love. Thank you for patient mercy. Thank you for silent sobbing and loud laughing. Thank you for the moments filled with joy and for the moments of peace beyond all understanding. I pray that I don’t abuse your grace. I pray that I know how much it costs. I pray I have faith like in kindergarten when I wanted to be a missionary. I pray that I have faith like in second grade when I couldn’t wait to come to the altar. I pray that I have faith like in college and I knew prayer would change the world. I pray that I have faith like when I was an AFT, who couldn’t get enough of your word. I pray I keep maturing and learning. I pray I look for your guidance and teaching. I pray I keep talking to you and with you. I pray I keep listening above all. I pray I remember how it felt to rise out that holy water, forgiven and set free. 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.

Oh, be patient with my love.

Father, sometimes I want to pop these people I love on the forehead and say: “you need Jesus.” Ya know, like those old V8 Splash commercials. I think I’m funny, but like I’m not. At all. The truth is, we all need You.

I started asking my friends and family this week for their prayer requests and I want to print it, to keep with my Bible. I want to spend more time with You, but I don’t want to just pray for me and whatever I have going on. Abba, expand my world from beyond just me. I know there are so many hurting around me and in need of Your comfort. I know there are some around me running from You, instead of towards You.

  • I am praying for You help and peace during the holidays for friends and family. I am also praying for Safety as others travel and prepare.
  • I am praying for Your miraculous hand to cover my dear friend in need of healing in her life and family’s.
  • I am praying for Your guidance and strength for those in school and interviews and job searches.
  • I am praying for finances for those around me, that they know You are the provider of all their needs.
  • I am praying for Your leadership for others, that they find their identity in You.
  • I am praying for Your consistent pursuit of a relationship with those around me.
  • I am praying for Your guidance in relationships, that they create healthy boundaries.
  • I am praying for perseverance and resistance from temptation, that You protect them.
  • I am praying for those deploying and their families, that You cover them and hold them extra close to You.
  • I am praying for blended families, that what You joined together, nothing and no one can separate.
  • I am praying for those that need a home, a hope, and a future; that only You can provide.

I know there are people around me in need of Your grace, mercy, love, patience, righteousness, deliverance, instruction, correction, and so much more I don’t even know about yet. There are so many silent battles, we face each and every day. Until we bring things to You and to the Light, we won’t be able to change them.

So, here is my prayer today. Thank you for not being so harsh or unkind like me. And thanks for teaching me to be more like you. Father, thank you for opening my eyes to those around me. Father, I am praying for those around me today and every day. I pray I keep depending on you. I pray I keep leaving my loved ones in your hand. Abba, show up and show off your power. You love my people better than I can. You save them. You cherish them. You created every hair on their head. You gave them breath and purpose. You gave them life. I pray they turn to you and follow you. I pray they grow in their relationships with you. I pray they shine your light. I pray they lead others to you. I pray you turn their struggles into your victories. I pray you turn their losses into your gains. I pray you turn their tragedies into your testimonies. I pray you hold them extra tight. I pray you hold them extra close. 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.