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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Praying (and Waiting) for a Miracle

I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am.  John 13:19 NIV

I wrote down my ‘miracle’ prayer requests on the orange index card and took a quick picture with my phone. I brought it to the altar and put it in the basket filled with prayers for miracles. That was in September of 2015. Part of my prayer request was answered just a few weeks later. I was ecstatic and praising God. It filled me with hope and I believed that He was going to answer the rest of my prayer on that card.

He hasn’t answered the other part of my prayer, yet.

I have been weary of even praying for it at times so I simply stop thinking about it. Why bother when it is so tender, painful and heartbreaking?  I’ve also found myself full of doubt thinking, “It is impossible. It will never happen.”

Other times, I have stood in the shower praying as the water washed away my tears. With every word, I was believing with everything in me that HE WILL DO IT. It is going to happen. I just know it!

And then, He still doesn’t answer that prayer.

I know it lines up with His Word.
I know it is the desire of His heart.
I know He put that desire in me to pray for it.
He has proven time and time again that He is faithful and He will do it.
Nothing is too big for Him.

Oh me of little faith and even less patience.

Not too long ago, I decided that maybe God could use my help. I decided I was just going to push a few buttons to get the ball rolling and take matters into my own hands.

Luckily, just before I pushed the first button, I stopped.

I sensed in my spirit to let go (again) and trust. He didn’t ask me to even move much less push any buttons. My flesh wanted “now”.

The One who put the stars in the sky doesn’t need me to set anything in motion.

He needs me to trust Him, and to obey.
He needs me to believe Him, and to pray.
He needs me to give it to Him, and let Him work it out.
He needs me to wait, and watch Him once again move mountains.
He has shown me before that He will do it, and He was faithful.

Miracle after miracle, I have seen Him work. I know He is I Am.

I believe.

And yet, my flesh makes me forget that His miracles are way bigger than me. In fact, they are not about me at all. He is working on more that I can ever comprehend or imagine. Other hearts are involved besides mine. Hearts matter to Him.

My heart will wait.
My heart will trust.
My heart will believe.
My heart will have faith.

He is a heart changing, miracle-working, mountain mover.

Psalm 27:14  The Passion Translation (TPT)

Here’s what I’ve learned through it all:
Don’t give up; don’t be impatient;
be entwined as one with the Lord.
Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope.
Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint you!

Are you praying for a miracle?

Maybe you have been praying for it for a while now. Maybe it is a prodigal child, or your marriage. Maybe it is your job, your health or even your finances. Maybe it is for healing, salvation, or forgiveness.  Perhaps you have grown weary and tired in the waiting. Everything about your circumstances screams it will never happen! It is impossible.

But with God, all things are possible.

He will do it, in His way, in His timing, and for His glory.

Write it down, and date it.

As you are waiting, if you find yourself full of doubt, fill yourself with His Word. Recall His faithfulness and cling to His promises. Thank him in advance for His answer to your prayer. Praise Him. Rejoice with every glimmer of hope as you wait for your miracle.

He is faithful.

Psalm 40:5 The Passion Translation (TPT)

O Lord, our God, no one can compare with you.
Such wonderful works and miracles are all found with you!
And you think of us all the time
with your countless expressions of love—
far exceeding our expectations!

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Overcoming Fear by Trusting in Jesus

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3 NIV

Fear has always been my constant companion. It doesn’t take much to trigger fear in me. I’m often afraid of something. In fact when I’m not afraid, I worry about what will happen next and the cycle of fear continues.

When I finally realized why I was so scared and that I didn’t have to live afraid anymore, then fear lost its grip on me.

Fear still visits me more than I’d like to admit, but when it shows up now, I’m armed and ready.

Are you ready to say, #ByeByeFear?

Click below to watch as I share my story of “Overcoming Fear by Trusting in Jesus” at the Hope Restored Women’s Conference.

Additional Resources:

Fight F. E. A. R. by…

F – Fixing your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2-3)
E – Engaging with safe community (Hebrews 10:23-25)
A – Admitting you’re struggling with fear (Psalm 34:17-18)
R – Releasing it, and replacing it with God’s promises (Psalm 56:3)

Questions for Personal Reflection:  

  1. What fears are holding you back?
  2. What lies were whispered to you that make you feel unworthy, unloved and insecure?
  3. Have you given Him full access to your story?

Key Verses:  

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