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.

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.

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.

‘Cause this is not about what you’ve done, But what’s been done for you.

Yesterday morning I was handed a Bible study on John 21. I was so ready. Maybe because I already had my coffee. Maybe because it was handed to me with such generosity. I immediately knew You were speaking, Father. And I was ready to listen.

During Jesus’ appearance at the Sea of Tiberius, the disciples were given an instruction. The Bible study notes said: “go to the place God told you to be, do the last thing God told you to do, use your gifts and talents you have been given, wait for further instructions, follow the instructions-even if they don’t seem logical, and experience blessings-God honors work and obedience.” BLESSSSSSS. Thank You, Lord. I am all about that obedience word this year. Lord, when You’re speaking, I’m learning to listen to the instruction and follow through. I tend to get my cart before my horse, a lot. I get so excited about doing kingdom work that I miss the preparation and the wait. But my God, You are teaching me.

This Bible study was like right on point with Pastor Michael Todd’s Marked sermon about obedience. Pastor Michael Todd used David’s anointment in 1 Samuel 16 to illustrate the need to “do the last thing God told you to do and spend time in His presence.” Lord, I love Your timing, when You build upon things I didn’t even realize were connected. Exactly how when diving deeper into John 21 where Peter experiences “complete restoration.” Peter previously denied Jesus three times, now he is questioned three times and he is able to say “Yes, Lord.” 

“You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.”

So, this is my prayer. I pray that I know to whom I belong. I pray that I stop hiding my shame. I pray that stop being crippled by fear. Lord, I have been given new life. I am made new. Abba, Father, I know who I am, I know whose I am. Thank you for where my brokenness brought me to. Thank you for loving me when I didn’t even know what love was. Thank you for loving me when I hated myself. Thank you for doing all you did even before all I had done. Thank you for teaching me to serve in the waiting. Thank you for preparing me. Lord, I pray that I take you up on the opportunity you have given me to spend time in your presence. Thank you for wanting me that much. 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 gave it up and told the Lord that He can have it now.

Hannah Brencher, who I might stalk on social media and have seen her talks on more than one occasion, posted: “steal this prayer: Lord, place me where I’ll grow the most. Teach me to love the dirt that transforms me. Give me eyes that see the golden threads in my pain. Let me be a lighthouse in this valley. Let it be so.”

I read that and I was like all ready. Like Ok, God, yes, place me where I’ll grow the most. Then, wait. Just a doggone minute. Home girl, say what? Teach me to LOVE the dirt that transforms me. Nope. Not happening. Shut ya mouth. Excuse me. What now? Blesssssss. Ok, God, I hear You. For real this time. I hear You. Love the dirt. Man, sometimes, my human little brain cannot fathom the love You want for us or through us.

Then I have days like today, where Lord, You are knocking on my heart and say: but that’s my child too. That person that abused me. That person that hurt me. That person that cut me off in traffic. That person that shortchanged me at the store. That person that wanted to argue with me just for the sake of arguing. That person backseat driving. That person that makes my blood just boil. That person with trust issues for dayssss and walls so high they can’t even see anymore. That’s my child too. 

Then I realize I am all of those things too. I hurt people. I cut them off in traffic. I make mistakes. I interrupt. I wince when others drive. And best believe I got trust issues and walls. Lord, I am no better than anyone else, and yet, You forgave me. Even as I typed this, I want to defend that one time I cut someone off in traffic and explain it away. Lord, forgive my defensive heart. I forget sometimes that I am a Kingdom Woman. I heard this sermon, called Marked, from Pastor Michael Todd. Lord have mercy. I am marked. I am Yours. I am forgiven and I have the power to forgive others as You forgave me. I do not have to live this way. I have been given freedom. My pastor has been in Romans lately and it just keeps applying to my life, over and over. Romans 8:15 says: You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear: instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, Abba, Father!

So, here is my prayer today. I am changed. I am marked. I am a Kingdom woman. I pray that I remember that. I pray that I remember who I belong to. I pray that I remember I have a spirit of adoption, not fear. I pray that I continue to forgive and grow every single day. I pray that I learn to mature in my walk with you every single day. I pray that I remember those even the dirt transforms me. I pray that I learn to love the dirt. Thank you for allowing me to come to you with all my walls, baggage, and dirt. Thank you for loving me too much to let me stay that way. Thank you for knocking down my walls gently and gracefully. Thank you for unpacking my baggage and carrying it for me. Thank you for letting me pick up the cross. Thank you cleaning the dirt off me and letting it transform me. Lord, heal this defensive heart of mine that pushes others away. I pray that my heart is welcoming to others and does not become hard-heartened. I pray that I show your love with those around me. I pray that I am always pointing right back to you. I pray that I apply what I’ve learned from the pastor in Romans. I pray for what I learned in Pastor Michael Todd’s sermon. I pray that I continue to obey your commands. I pray that I continue to trust you. I pray that I depend on you, not my own understanding. Thank you for working miracles in my life. I pray that I become an answer to a problem. I pray that I continue to serve. I pray that I torment what torments my leaders. I pray that you keep working on my heart. I pray that I hear your commands. I pray that I spend more time, quiet and still, listening for your commands. I pray for humility. I pray that I give you my heart. I pray that I stop giving power to satan’s lies. I pray that I fill my life with your word. 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.