You’re making a way out of no way, My provider.

I get these daily teen/youth devotions emailed to me. I signed up for them when I was working with youth. Now they just sit in my inbox. Today, I made a new folder and was going to move them into it, to save them. But since I’m fasting and praying, in preparation for the move, I decided to read them as I transfer them over.

The one that caught me was one I’ve heard 100 times, but the Holy Spirit has me good today, so I realllllyyyy learned what it meant today. Thank you Lord, for teaching me. So 1 John 4:19 says: We love each other because he loved us first. I always knew it meant to love others, but I didn’t realize the power in the verse until today.

The devotion said: “so when you have those moments when you struggle loving someone who is less than lovable, realize that you’ve got the power to do it because God loved you first.” As I am moving closer and closer to becoming a foster parent, I am learning sooo much. I’m learning that kids do some pretty unlovable stuff sometimes. It’s different recognizing that as someone who is about to be parenting versus being the kid yourself.

Kids are so smart and so capable. Sometimes, they get themselves into situations much bigger than they can handle though. Then they react in fear and insecurity and from places of pride. Been there, stayed too long. I get it from the kid point, I remember those days. From a parenting point, I just want to put a protective bubble around the kid and keep all the bad stuff away. Then I remember bad will still get into the bubble because there’s a flawed human being in that bubble. We live in a fallen world. We’re all sinners. We can sit around hiding from the bad like Adam and Eve in the bushes. Even still, God, You see past the shame and any bush we hide behind. You call out to us, You call us home. We are strangers to this world. We’re just traveling here. And I am one tacky tourist, Jesus freak, foster mom here. You love us too much to leave us where we are. Just like You loved me too much to leave me in all my mess. You loved me when I was moreeee than a little bit unlovable.

You taught me to respond, instead of react. You taught me that I don’t control anyone else, only me. I tried to pass that on and teach that to the kids I’ve worked with. Sometimes, they learn from what I’ve taught, sometimes they learn the hard way through experience like I did, sometimes they push any teaching away. All I can do is love them. I am not You. I cannot be You. I would be absolutely terrible and self-serving if I had Your job and Your power. I do have the power to make choices to be like You and let others see You in me. You left the 99 to rescue me, now I’m trying to follow You.

Loving the kid is the easy part. It’s the worrying and wanting to protect them from everything, including themselves, that is the hard part. But You didn’t call me to act in fear, anymore than You called that kid to react in insecurity. “You’re still healing.”

So, here is my prayer. Father, thank you for stepping into the gaps and protecting me, even from myself. Thank you for filling the gaps with love and grace. Thank you for showing me the way out of the darkness and into the light. Thank you for teaching me and allowing me to teach others. Thank you for earlier lessons that expand and grow. Thank you for rescuing me over and over and over. Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for calling me home, every single time I run away. Thank you for giving me the hope of Heaven. Thank you for providing everything for me. Thank you for preparing a way for me. Thank you for bringing things to the light so that help can be given. 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 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.

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.

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.