Refreshing Joy

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“The last time I doubted my calling was … just this past Monday.”

I shared this with the ladies in our Bible Study group. It is a safe place filled with grace, love and encouragement.

I explained that I was in the dumps, exhausted and overwhelmed. I was simply tired.

Tired of waiting.
Tired of hurting.
Tired of hoping.

When I feel worn out, the enemy is not too far away with that mean question ringing loud in my head:

“Who do you think you are?”

Then the dominoes of doubt start to fall onto each other:

“God’s not going to use you.”
“What you have to say is already being said.”
“No one wants to hear it.”
“If it is this hard, why bother?”
“Did God really say….?????”

“Again, who do you think you are?”

When these doubts swirl around me in the pit, I sink.

But, just this morning as I approached my office, there was a gift wrapped in tissue paper by my door. I picked it up and opened it to see a lovely smelling candle. There was no note so I sat it on my desk and went to make coffee.

When I made it back to my desk, I looked up and saw the word JOY in gold on candle.

JOY CANDLE
Your love has impacted me and brings me great joy and encouragement, for the hearts of the believers have been greatly refreshed through you. Philemon 1:7 TPT

My eyes were a little misty. JOY is my word for 2018, and this was such a sweet and timely reminder.

Who in the world left this at my door?

I texted a few friends and they all said it wasn’t them.
So I texted some more. No luck.

As I started to review the scripture verses for our lesson, one the of the ladies shared the song, “Reckless Love” in our group chat.

As I played the song and read the verses, the tears washed away the lies that were suffocating me.

Verses like:

“Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you” Acts 18:9-10

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Acts 20:24

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” Acts 23:11

Oh, to be like Paul. He had plenty of opposition, but he kept running the race. He was able to say, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” Acts 23:1

The struggle is real, but God is bigger than the struggle.

I shared with my sisters in Christ how God refreshed my heart with a surprise candle, the timing of a song, and the truth of His Word.

I was still dying to know who gave me that candle so I could at least thank them! My sweet sisters encouraged me to just receive His love, and ask Him to bless the giver.

The next morning, I found out the candle was a gift from a friend who lives all the way in Indiana.

My heart was FULL.

God delivered true meaning to the song Reckless Love in real time.

He reached down and drew me
from the deep, dark hole where I was stranded, mired in the muck and clay.
With a gentle hand, He pulled me out
To set me down safely on a warm rock;
He held me until I was steady enough to continue the journey again.
Psalm 40:2

Click below to listen to the powerful song Reckless Love by Cory Asbury – where he shares the story behind the song.  As you listen,

  • Think of all the ways He has pursued you.
  • Remember those He sent to encourage you just when you needed it most.
  • Reflect on the times He used you to strengthen and refresh others.
  • Who can you encourage today?

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Fullness of JOY

adobe-spark-postYou will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11

They say healing from childhood sexual abuse comes in layers.

A new layer has peeled back for me.  My word for 2018 is JOY, and what keeps rolling around in my mind is “fullness of joy.”

In your presence is fullness of Joy.

How do you truly experience the fullness of joy when you have spent much of your life avoiding, ignoring and hiding emotions?

I stuffed the pain away deep inside so that I would no longer feel it.
I glossed over it, excused it, and tried to find the silver lining in the trash heap.
It was hard for me to cry sometimes when I should, and other times the tears rolled off my cheeks when I tried to lock them in.
Smiling was like a habit.  It was normal to pretend like everything was fine.
I slowly constructed walls a mile high to protect heart from any intrusion.

When the ache started to rumble, I would use food or anything I could to stuff the pain deep inside so I would no longer feel.

A way of numbing.
A way of coping.
A way of hiding.
A way of surviving.

And then, I met Jesus in my pain.

As each wall crumbled, He helped me to peel back the layers.

Layers and layers of memories poured out like a fire hydrant.

I thought when I sat in my counselors office and cried every Thursday for three years, I had let it all out.

And then, there was “fullness of joy” and a whole new layer has peeled back.

Those three words, “fullness of joy”… made me think of three other words – “fullness of pain.”

A memory still pops up out of nowhere.
Something seemingly simple can trigger me.
That will likely never stop.

In this fullness of joy season with Jesus… I am sitting with Him and “feeling” the fullness of that pain.

Stuffing is no longer an option.
Donuts are not the solution.
I cry and I don’t have to explain it away, even when it is awkward.

In it all, I sense His presence.

It’s as if He is whispering to the little girl inside of me,

“I’m here and it is okay to cry.
It is okay to grieve all that was lost.
I want you to let it out, safely in my arms.
I am showing you how to feel with me.
Feel it for what it truly was, and let it go.

It’s time.

Emotions are a gift from me.
We will untangle yours, together.
You don’t have to hide anymore.
You don’t have to stuff anymore.
No barriers, no walls.

You are safe.

This fullness of pain is emptying out the deep recesses in your heart.
I will not leave you empty… I am replenishing you with the fullness of joy.

Joy in my presence. Joy with me.”

If I am not able to truly feel the fullness of the pain, how will I ever truly feel the fullness of His joy?

The pain may never completely go away, but there will always be HOPE.

Hope doesn’t require a carb overload.
Hope is not denial or minimizing the reality of the horrific experiences and the aftermath.
Hope is not pretending it wasn’t that bad, and maybe the good outweighed the awful.
Hope is not isolation.
Hope is not forgetting about it and moving on.

Hope is when the light shines in the darkest places.

Those places can be incredibly painful, but there is always hope. Hope is when His light shines in the darkness. His hope brings the light, and with the light comes the fullness of joy.

Psalm 30:10-12 VOICE

Hear me, Eternal Lord—please help me,
    Eternal One—be merciful!

You did it: You turned my deepest pains into joyful dancing;
    You stripped off my dark clothing
    and covered me with joyful light.
You have restored my honor. My heart is ready to explode, erupt in new songs!
    It’s impossible to keep quiet!
    Eternal One, my God, my Life-Giver, I will thank You forever.

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The Path to Joy

We were looking forward to a fun evening together as a family. We were going to get to see a sloth! There was popcorn, face-painting and even the red carpet.

We went to the movie premiere for Amazon Arising – Joy in the Jungle. The movie took us on a journey with Jungle Jen as she traveled to remote areas in the Amazon to share the love of Christ.

Things didn’t always go as planned, and her days could be quite complicated. The weather didn’t always cooperate, and yet with each complication or delay, she persevered.  She kept her eye on the prize. She trusted God to provide and protect. It was an incredible testimony of faith and passion.

After the movie, Jungle Jen spoke and she encouraged us to do whatever God is calling us to do.  She told us to stand out and follow our passion. Many people came forward for prayer.  As the prayers were lifted, the musicians sang their three songs from the movie.

That was over a month ago, and I am still amazed at how much that experience has impacted me.  I have listened to those three songs on repeat. I’ve thought about how Jen kept going, in spite of all of the bumps in the road. Her journey was not easy, and yet her joy was contagious. She was living her passion and she loved it.

She found joy in the jungle of the Amazon. Where do you find joy?

Where is my joy and do I relentlessly to pursue it? When I experience pushback or an inconvenience what is my response? What if it is risky? Am I willing to stand out and be uncomfortable for Christ? Do I get off track when things get complicated? Are my eyes on the prize and do I trust Him to provide and protect?

My One Word for 2018 is JOY and my verse is Psalm 16:11 NIV:

You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

As I was listening to the three songs, and thinking about all that was stirring in my heart – the lyrics came together and echoed this verse for me.

Papa’s Song by Susan Valles:  “Go and tell for me my child”

Rain Down by Laura Stavlas:  “Soak me in the wonder of your presence”

Anthem by Melanie Sykes:   “Joy is rising up now”

The Path to Joy is to follow Jesus.  

Instead, You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life. As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment. Psalm 16:11 VOICE

Where is your Joy? 

If you get the chance to see “Amazon Arising – Joy in the Jungle” don’t miss it! You will be inspired! The next screening is on February 11th in Wilmington, NC at Myrtle Grove Baptist Church at 6pm.

For more information visit Jen’s website:  https://www.standoutministries.com

Movie Trailer:

The Songs:

Anthem by Melanie Sykes 
Rain Down by Laura Stavlas
Papa’s Song by Susan Valles

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Joy – My One Word for 2018

I love having My One Word to focus on for the year. My word for 2017 was Expect. In 2016 my word was Know, in 2015 it was New, and in 2014 it was The Word. Having a word and a verse to focus on and study each year has helped me to grow closer to the Lord.

As I was praying about my one word for 2018, one word kept popping up and coming to mind.

It was not a word I would have chosen.

A few weeks ago I told the ladies at our Wednesday Night bible study that I thought I knew my word for 2018 but I wasn’t ready to share it, yet. I wanted make sure it was “the word”, and I was thinking (and hoping) it may change.

Reluctantly, I shared the word and the verse with them.  I told them about how often I was seeing, hearing and thinking about the word Joy. They thought Joy was a wonderful word!  One even said, “Michelle, next year when the chaos comes, you can cling to that word! Joy is a good word!”

I said, “Yes! But that first part – the chaos! I don’t want that! Why this word? Besides, I wanted a more challenging word!”

As soon as those words left my mouth I knew.  It was JOY.

Psalm 16:11 (NIV)
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

On my drive home, I realized “Joy” is truly a very ambitious word for me in so many ways.

There were several moments in 2017 where I was filled with JOY, and my Mom happened to capture a photo of this one:

I was facing the ocean and humming the words from the song Gracefully Broken by Tasha Cobbs:  “Here I am God, arms wide open. Pouring out my life, gracefully broken.”

I was so incredibly thankful that God had opened doors for me to share my story at the Hope Restored Conference. I knew with arms wide open that there was no greater JOY than following His path and being obedient. He alone can take our worst pain and turn it into purpose and passion.

It was a mountaintop moment. Pure JOY.

My passion is to inspire women who have been sexually abused or violated to find couragehope, and freedom in Jesus Christ!

And while it brings me great joy, it can also at times be very painful and triggering. It can take me back to dark places and it can feel incredibly overwhelming, especially when I feel powerless. I longed for others to share their #metoo and yet I found myself at times wishing there were a safer and easier way to come out of such a raw and lonely place.

But God.

He makes known to me the path of life;
He fills me with joy in His presence.

He is faithful to remind me that true Joy comes from Him. I have to seek Him and cling to Him. My emotions can no longer be the boss of me. Jesus longs to fill me with Joy in His presence. The key to Joy is to be in His presence.

My word for 2018 is JOY and may it be a reminder for me to seek Him and to be still in His presence because the Joy of the Lord is my strength! I look forward to seeing the paths He sets before me and the Joy He will provide along the way.

Lord, I have chosen you alone as my inheritance.
You are my prize, my pleasure, and my portion.
I leave my destiny and its timing in your hands.
Your pleasant path leads me to pleasant places.
I’m overwhelmed by the privileges
that come with following you,
for you have given me the best!
The way you counsel and correct me makes me praise you more,
for your whispers in the night give me wisdom,
showing me what to do next.
Because you are close to me and always available,
my confidence will never be shaken,
for I experience your wrap-around presence every moment.
My heart and soul explode with joy—full of glory!
Even my body will rest confident and secure.
For you will not abandon me to the realm of death,
nor will you allow your Holy One to experience corruption.
For you bring me a continual revelation of resurrection life,
the path to the bliss that brings me face-to-face with you.
Psalm 16:5-11 TPT

Do you have One Word for 2018?  I’d love to hear it.  Please share it in the comments!  Happy New Year!!

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