Monday, July 30, 2012

Take A Closer Look

Ladies, this post is for you. I love how God orchestrates those divine appointments when there’s no denying that He’s at work. Last year, during the planning stages of the W.O.W. Ladies Retreat, the Lord laid something on my heart and I shared it with Monica Sweeney, the director of W.O.W. at the time. I told her I felt that it was a subject that needed to be addressed as it went along with the theme for the retreat. She quickly replied and said, “I felt that I needed to ask you to speak and that was my confirmation.” So she asked me to speak at the retreat. The thought of speaking in public normally does not scare me, but in this case I was terrified. I knew God had given me a word and I felt a huge responsibility to deliver this message of Love and Unity.

I immediately got on my knees and surrendered this opportunity to Him. I did not want one second of this to be about me. I did not want one word out of my mouth to be about me or anything else but what God wanted to say. I submitted myself to him as a humble servant so willing to be his mouthpiece in this instance. When you do that, you better just hold on. When you ask God to use you, you better be ready for the ride of your life. Ask and you shall receive… right? His words and ideas began to flow from my pen to the paper. The title He gave me was “Crisis in Comparing…”

Everyone at one time or another plays the comparison game, but this is for us girls. Both consciously and subconsciously we compare ourselves to each other. It’s just what we do! It’s been said that we compare the worst of ourselves to the best of others. Why in the world would we do that?

Example, you arrive at a friend’s house; her house is clean and very well decorated. She is dressed to impress and looking beautiful. Her kids are playing quietly upstairs and her husband is tending to her every need. What’s your first instinct? To compare?

"My house could never look like this, I don't have any style."
"Wish I could look like that in that dress."
"Maybe she can teach my kids to manners."
“Her husband is so sweet; my husband never opens the door for me, and he would NEVER do the dishes!"

Then pride jumps in and needs to be justified:
"Well she just thinks she's better than me."
"Look at everything she's trying to throw in my face."
"Must be nice to not have any problems."
"He must be hiding something if he's treating her that well."

Insert wedge in friendship here; resentment and bitterness begin to creep in and you find yourself disconnecting and shutting down. The enemy puts the blame back on us so he can isolate us, get us in a vulnerable state and then begin to fill our minds with all kinds of lies. There’s something powerful about women united and the enemy knows that and that’s why he’s out to distort and destroy true Godly friendship. He's going to try to convince you that you are alone and the last thing you need to do is get close to anyone. He will tell you that everyone else has it all together and if you reach out you will only be judged. Romans 8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." We are better together and NO ONE has it all together. We need to realize we are NEVER alone. There is so much FREEDOM and POWER in that! I can't tell you how many times I've been so afraid to open up to my closest friends about something because I felt like I was alone and that no one else could possibly understand and then God in his gentle way will send someone to me and show me that I'm never alone. And even if there's no one physically in this life that "understands" or has gone through the same thing as you, HE HAS! Hebrews 2:18, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” He loves you and He understands! He’s been there! God created us deficient by design. He created us for relationship; for friendship. But Satan knows how hard we are on ourselves and He knows that if he can get us to turn on each other, then we'll never fulfill our true God given purpose. COMPARING IS A TOOL SATAN USES TO DIVIDE US! Once we start comparing ourselves and our lives to others; we begin making assumptions based on what we perceive. How crazy is that?! We think we have them all figured out based on what their wearing; who their setting with; how their house looks; or how their kids behave.
So how do we fight this crisis of comparing? First, you must live your life with awareness, not fear. We want the enemy to see us and go running in the opposite direction. Be aware that we do have an enemy who is out to steal, kill and destroy us. Second, when those thoughts and attacks start to creep in use your mouth! Speak out the truth. Recognize those lies and audibly replace them with words of truth. Proverbs 18:21 "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" Lastly, use the tools God has given you to wage war on the enemy. Ephesians 6:10-18; Put on the full armor of God.

John 13:34; “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

I’ve read this in a couple different settings and it makes me cry every time. Ladies, this is how God sees you. I pray that as you read this you will see yourself through HIS eyes.

Dear Women,

When I created the heavens and the earth, I spoke them into being. When I created man, I formed him and breathed life into his nostrils. But you woman, I fashioned after I breathed the breath of life into man because your nostrils are too delicate. I allowed a deep sleep to come over him so I could patiently and perfectly fashion you. Man was put to sleep so that he could not interfere with the creativity. From one bone I fashioned you. I chose the bone that protects his heart and his lungs and supports him, as you are meant to do. Around this one bone I shaped you. I modeled you. I created you perfectly and beautifully.
Your characteristics are as the rib, strong yet delicate and fragile. You provide protection for the most delicate organ in man, his heart. His heart is the center of his being; his lungs hold the breath of life. The rib cage will allow itself to be broken before it will allow damage to the heart.
Support the man as the rib cage supports the body. You were not taken from his feet, to be under him, nor were you taken from his head, to be above him. You were taken from his side, to stand beside him and be held close to his side.
You are My perfect angel. You are My beautiful little girl. You have grown to be a splendid woman of excellence, and My eyes fill when I see the virtues in your heart. Your eyes - don't change them. Your lips - how lovely when they part in prayer. Your nose, so perfect in form, your hands so gentle in touch. I've caressed your face in your deepest sleep; I've held your heart close to mine.
Of all that lives and breathes, you are the most like Me. Adam walked with Me in the cool of the day and yet he was lonely. He could not see Me or touch Me. He could only feel Me.
So everything I wanted Adam to share and experience with Me,I fashioned in you: My holiness, My strength, My purity, My love, My protection and support. You are special because you are the extension of Me.
Man represents My image, woman My emotions. Together you represent the totality of God. So man - treat woman well. Love her, respect her, for she is fragile. In hurting her, you hurt Me. What you do to her, you do to Me. In crushing her, you only damage your own heart, the heart of your Father, and the heart of her Father.
Woman, support man. In humility, show him the power of emotion I have given you. In gentle quietness show your strength. In love, show him that you are the rib that protects his inner self.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Close The Door

The doctor had just finished telling us that Averie had passed away and I couldn’t even form words. I ran to the bathroom because I thought I was going to be sick. When I joined the others back in the consultation room my dad saw exactly what needed to be done and I believe with all my heart it set the tone for what was to come. He said, “Let’s take a moment and praise God.” So that’s just what we did. Everyone in that room began to pray and praise God; thanking Him for Who He is. You see, our circumstances at that moment did not change God. He was and always is worthy of our praise regardless of what’s going on in our lives. By going to the feet of our Savior at that very moment we closed the door to Satan and all his plans he was devising to destroy us.

James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” I’m not saying there weren’t bad days. There were days that were unbearable, but we made the choice in the very beginning to cover our grief with praise to our King and He honored that. Any bitterness, anger, or blame that tried to creep in was quickly extinguished by His love and protection. We submitted ourselves to Him; put God in his rightful place and he took care of us.

We are ALL children of the Most High King and He should always be the first place we go. For all you parents out there, is there a better feeling than your little one crawling up in your lap just to set and allow you to love on them? No, there’s not. What’s your reaction when they are hurt and run to you for comfort? I’m assuming you quickly scoop them up, kiss the boo-boo and reassure them with your love. Think about that and realize that’s exactly how our heavenly Father is. He longs for us to crawl up into His lap and allow Him to love us. When we go to Him with our hurts, we release Him to heal us and restore what’s been stolen.

As stated earlier, this also closes the door to the evil plans of the enemy. John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Satan wants nothing more than to use the tragedies of life to destroy us, but when we run to Jesus and seek His face the enemy has no choice but to flee. Those negative thoughts you battle in your mind, they aren’t from God. Take them captive and replace them with TRUTH; the absolute Truth that’s found in God’s Word. 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

As so beautifully put by Casting Crowns, PRAISE HIM IN THE STORM! He will lift you up, guide you and see you through…ALWAYS!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Good Stuff

“In sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse….” I’m speaking from experience when I say, until you live through these words you really don’t understand the magnitude of the words you are saying. Too many people turn around and walk away before they get to the other side of these words; the other side of 'for worse’ or ‘in sickness’ or ‘for poorer.’ As my mom has said, “So many people give up before they get to the good stuff.”

You might be thinking, “What does she know about marriage and hardships, she’s too young.” You are right; I like to think I’m still young.

I have been married for almost 8 years, and I had no idea what would lie ahead for Casey and I when I repeated my vows. I meant every word I said, but I was naive and thought we would just ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Reality smacked us upside the head really quick. We were two completely different people, now living together and expected to stay together forever. WHOA! The first couple years were difficult. I’m not proud to say it, but we had a lot of screaming fights; a lot that ended in me crying and Casey leaving, but he always came back. We would apologize and move one, but the roots of our problems were never discussed or solved.

Now fast forward three years and we have a premature baby and I’m living in Little Rock almost full time. For four months we pretty much lived apart. Not only were we miles apart physically, but also as husband and wife. Bringing Averie home united us as a family. We worked very well together, but our lives were dedicated to this little miracle and once again we let things in our relationship slide.

Then just a little over a month later there we were thrown into this thing called grief and who knows how to do that?! He grieved his way and I grieved mine and let me tell you it looked completely different for each of us. On the outside, Casey remained calm, steady and seemed to move on so quickly. Me on the other hand, I was a basket case. It seemed he was always having to pick me up. After awhile that made me angry. “Why don’t you ever cry?!” “Do you not miss her?!” “I’m tired of being the one who’s always falling apart!” For a time we went to grief counseling, but we were just going through the motions. I don’t think we ever really allowed ourselves to dig in. I guess at the time we weren’t ready.

So we stopped talking about it and decided to have another baby. Having another baby was all I could think about. I had this hole in my heart and I needed to fill it. I felt so broken and empty. I was robbed of being a mother to my daughter and at the time the only thing I thought would remedy it was another child. This is bold I know, but that’s what our marriage began to revolve around. Another baby was all I wanted, nothing else mattered. I didn’t care about the other areas of our marriage that were suffering. I figured if we could just have another baby that would fix everything.

Six months go by and still no baby. Looking back now and seeing how everything unfolded I think, “Tressa you were so stupid!” God is so perfect in everything He does. As you read in the “Moving Forward By Moving Back” blog, I found out I was pregnant a few weeks after we moved back into our home and a week after what would have been Averie’s first birthday.

I know it’s hard to believe but having another baby did not fix our marital problems. Hmmm…

Asher did bring the joy back into our family. The three of us together, we were great! Casey was and still is the BEST father. Everything I ever wanted in a father for my children, Casey is and so much more, but the gap between Casey and I only became wider and wider. We were on this vicious cycle of fighting, apologizing, making up, and enjoying the calmness for awhile. Then our issues would rear their ugly heads and the cycle would begin again. I felt like I was suffocating!

I did not like who I had become to him and to myself. I felt that I had become everything I despised. The baggage we had accumulated was too heavy and too much to carry so I was ready to leave. I wanted to start over; have a clean slate. Had I done that, I would have carried that baggage right into the next relationship. This was an inside job! I was part of the problem! Casey and I both had deep rooted issues that we had ignored for years. My expectations for him had become so unrealistic. I created this mold that I wanted him to fit into and he was resisting and beginning to resent me.

We knew if we did not do something we would not make it.

The first thing we did was decide that we were in this. We were dedicated to doing the work and not only saving our marriage but making it all it should be.

We began seeing a Christian marriage counselor. One of the first things he identified was that our own personal relationships with Christ were lacking. We were missing that intimate and abiding relationship with Him. Over the next eight months a lot was revealed and there were times when I didn't see how it could ever get better but we stayed faithful. There were days of crying, days of talking it out, days of silence. Slowly, we began to see a difference in each other and our relationship. We began to see as we put God in His rightful place, He took care of everything else. I started to see Casey differently and he began to see a new me. We were falling in love all over again.

We remembered what it was like to be together. No longer did we struggle to find things to talk about. No longer was it awkward to kiss. No longer were we just roommates coexisting and raising a son. We were a husband and wife functioning the way God intended. (Ephesians 5:22-33) I looked at this man I had married and I had a new respect and love for him because he was loving and cherishing me as Christ commanded. We had an awakening. The blinders had been removed.

God without a doubt transformed our marriage. He healed and restored parts of us that had been so badly wounded.

This transformation roots from an abiding relationship with Christ. When we turned ourselves over to him, He immediately began to work and as we've continued to walk in this new relationship we have seen His hand on our lives like never before.

I love Casey Wayne Booth with every ounce of my being. I am so happy I get to share my life with him. Because of these storms we have endured our love and bond is only stronger. We can overcome anything with Christ and so can you.

Don't give up, get on your knees and surrender your life to Him. Allow your marriage to grow and get to the good stuff.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Who Needs Friends?

I've been going over and over this in my head and it's only become more difficult to put into words what friendship means to me. Honestly, in our society the word friendship has lost its meaning. To the world a friend is here today gone tomorrow; they'll love you today and then stab you in the back. Unfortunately, I have experienced this to a degree a couple of times as have most of us.

As said by Pastor Nate many times, "God created us deficient by design." He did not intend for us to go through life alone. God created such a thing as Godly friendship. There are people that He will bring into your life to serve that very purpose.

There are so many examples I could give you of how God has blessed me with true Godly friends but we would be here all day. These friends don't just tell me what I want to hear. They speak truth in love into my life. They believe and see the best in me when I can't see it for myself. They refuse to jump on the gossip train and choose to rise above. They encourage and challenge me as a wife and mother. Above all they pray for me and always point me right back to the truth of God's Word. These kind of friendships aren't born overnight. They take time, effort and a huge amount of trust.

The situations that alot of friends would turn and run from, my friends ran towards them. When Averie was born, my friends were there. When I held her in the hospital, they were there. When we brought her home, they were there. The night she died, they were there. When I needed to fall apart, they were there. When I needed "girl time," they were there. When I needed to hear the truth, they were there. They understood the unspoken word, they knew what I needed most of the time before I did. Those are things I don't take lightly and are forever engraved on my heart because I know these people were sent to me straight from my God who loves ME so much. They truly are an extension of Christ; His hands and feet.

There was a time when I believed all friendships would end; they would run their course and be over. God proved me wrong yet again and through my tragedy HE showed me that friendships that are designed and ordained by HIM can never end. Different seasons come and go but just like a marriage, if your friendship is rooted in Christ, there can be no end.

I've always loved this passage and refer to it alot when speaking of my BESTIES.

But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16 NIVUK)

This is what I've experience these last five years. My definition of "Friend" has completely changed!

"Ive been burned too many times."

"Friends only cause drama"

"I don't need friends."

Ive heard these and many more so many times. My question is, have you allowed yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit when choosing who you invest your time in?

Open yourself up to this kind of friendship, first and most importantly, with Jesus Christ. Then ask him to bring those individuals into your life who He wishes you to build a friendship centered around Him.

When we abandon ourselves and put absolute trust in HIM, he will blow our minds and our old way of thinking will no longer hold weight. Remember, His plans for you are ONLY good! Get to know Him today; Trust Him.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Moving Forward By Moving Back

Moving forward by moving back. You might be saying..."huh? That doesn't make much sense." Well allow me to explain...

After Averie died I told myself I would never go back into that house. After all she did die in our bedroom. At that point in time, a house that once represented life, dreams and a bright future, now only represented sadness and shattered dreams.

We had decided to put our house up for sale and move in with my parents. Knowing I would have to go back to get the necessities, my hero, Casey went out to the house and put everything of Averie's in her room and shut the door. His concern with me and my feelings still overwhelms me. He was and still is such a rock!

The house had to be cleaned and prepared to be put on the market so our friends cleaned and packed up Averie's room with such care and love. Our friends, oh my goodness, they are unbelievable, but that's another blog all together!

We were very aggressive with trying to sell and even lowered the price once, but no one was biting. We barely had anyone looking. Our realtor worked so hard but nothing was happening. I didn't understand! I just wanted to be freed from this house and I wanted to move on! I was certain that God couldn't possibly want us to live in this house again. This house held nothing but loss and just the thought of going back made it hard to breathe.

Once again, my life was on pause. The fog of grief was so thick it was crippling me. The anxiety that came with the status of my life became too much. I suffered from several panic attacks and they were only getting worse. Mother's Day 2008 was approaching and as the day grew closer I grew more anxious.

I remember talking to my mom one day saying, "I can't do this. I can't be here anymore, I'm suffocating!" I knew people meant well, I knew they loved us and was helping a great deal but I needed a change of scenery. I wanted to go somewhere where I wasn't known as Tressa, the girl who's daughter just died.

So what did I do? I went on a cruise of course! Casey and I had some extra money and after talking it over together we decided that my mom and I should get away over Mother's Day.

She and I enjoyed a seven day Royal Caribbean cruise and it was amazing! For the first time in six months I felt normal. I believe the Lord refreshed my soul on that trip. We had tons of fun but also had time to talk about anything and everything. It was spiritually and literally a breath of fresh air!

When we returned I felt different; better. The following Sunday I was standing enjoying a wonderful worship service not really thinking about the uncertainty of my life when clear as day and the closest I've ever gotten to hearing an audible voice of God, I heard the Holy Spirit speak right to me. He said,"You can do this, it's time to go back." I knew exactly what he was talking about. It was time for Casey and I to move back into our home. For the first time I felt like I could actually do it. I told myself I would NEVER go back, but God had other plans. When I told Casey what the Holy Spirit had spoken to me this was his response, "I've been ready for awhile, I was just waiting for you to be ready too."

So that's exactly what we did. We took the house off the market, painted and changed things up a bit. When we moved back in it felt fresh and new.

God will not ask you to do something and then abandon you. He will be there all the way, leading and guiding you, comforting you and carrying you when it gets too hard. We bought our home with big dreams in mind. Our plan was to stay and build our family. The enemy tried to steal that from us and even succeeded for awhile but our God is the restorer of all things that have been stolen or lost. We refused to let Satan steal from us anymore!

I didn't have to have a new house to have the new start I desired. The new start took place inside of me, not in what I had or didn't have.

When Averie died our "home" ceased to was just a house and represented nothing but broken dreams. Reclaiming our house and the dreams it represented was the beginning of God putting our lives back together. Just like a beautiful mosaic piece, God took the broken pieces of our shattered life and made something beautiful! Oh yeah, and just five short weeks later, a week after what would have been Averie's first birthday, I found out I was pregnant with Asher Kayne! Wow! Isn't God amazing?! His timing is perfect!

Be led by the Holy Spirit! When He speaks, you move! Nothing but good can come from being obedient.