Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blessings In Disguise

Good Morning, Friends.  How has your week been so far? It's Wednesday, and for most a long weekend ahead! Yay! It's been a long week so far here, but nothing I can't handle. I'm certainly praying my man is able to be off on Saturday and Monday this week. We all need the rest and quality time together.

I finally picked my study Living Above Worry and Stress back up and did Chapter 5: "Blessings In Disguise" this morning. Before we discuss it, I'm going to be transparent with you. Let's have a cup of coffee together and chat, shall we? I have some heart-baring to do, and I hope that getting it out helps me to cope, and that maybe, just maybe, someone out there who is going through the same thing will benefit from this. My only goal in writing these posts is to bring Glory to God through my words. So here we go.

I'm struggling. The insecurity that I battle so intensely just never seems to let up. I still love God with all of my heart, but I find myself questioning Him so much lately. This move, 325 miles away from those I hold dear, as I was just finding my way out of my shell and allowing myself to form relationships, has been REALLY hard on me. My  marriage isn't perfect. We've had a few rounds lately, and once recently I was actually in the van, with my bags packed, headed home. His difficult work schedule has put a strain on our marriage. Not because we don't love one another, and not because we aren't both trying to meet one another's needs, but because 1. Satan is fighting for our souls and for our family, and 2. We weren't speaking one another's love language. I recently read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, and wish I had read it years ago. I learned that my love language is quality time, and PJ's is both words of affirmation and physical touch. I am not a touchy feely person unless I'm in the mood, so I haven't been TRYING to meet that need for him. I do make it a point to build him up with my words, but I'm also bad about unintentionally tearing him down with them, also. And, well, with mine being quality time, and PJ working so much, I have felt SEVERELY neglected by him. I've been feeling that his job is more important to him than I am. Don't worry, I can talk of all of this openly because we're both very aware of what's going on and are working together to change it.

Along with feeling neglected and having it affect my marriage, I have been dealing with severe depression. This is one of those things Satan uses to separate me from God. I'm fighting it head on with prayer and authority in Christ Jesus, but the battle is quite tiring. Along with the depression comes insecurity, doubt, and fear. I'm quite an introvert. I have self esteem issues that go deep, and make it difficult for me to reach out and make friends. Most of my attempts since moving to Florida have been met with inadvertent rejection, so I tend to withdraw a little more each time that happens. Because of feeling rejected, I've begun to build up walls again that took God years to bring down, and have hardened my heart to certain people in my life, both from my new life and my life before Florida. To top it off, my diabetes is also under attack since I've had to change my medications up and am trying to find the correct dose, in the process experiencing the roller coaster of highs and lows that comes with it. My sugar has kept me out of church for 2 weeks in a row now, and that just gives Satan more of an opening. It really IS important to get actively involved in a church. Not to prove status or worth, but to stay connected to other believers. We draw strength from fellowship with those who are fighting the same battles we are. Because of all of the uncertainty and doubt and depression, I have been missing my mother, who went to be with our Lord 3 years ago at the age of 53, intensely. I miss having her to talk to, to just have someone who would listen without trying to solve my problems and understood everything I was going through, because she had lived most of it.  So, all that said, needless to say, I'm dealing with a lot of "baggage" right now. Because of the weariness from the battles I've been enduring, I lost my temper recently with a "friend" of my husband's (actually a co-worker from back home) and let my tongue flap like a flag blowing in March winds. I said things I KNEW I shouldn't say, and allowed the OLD Brooke to resurface. I knew then that I was slipping too quickly, and needed to get a grip on myself. I was still in the Word every night, but my prayer time has dwindled, and I have not been spending that time each day just praising God for being God. Will you pray for me?

Now, about this lesson on Blessings in Disguse: Yep, you guessed it. God used it to speak straight to my soul concerning all of the things I just spilled out to you. The major theme of this lesson was building a strong foundation. We know that if we build our foundations FIRMLY in Christ, our faith will withstand all of these attacks from the enemy. But if we build our foundations in our own knowledge and strength, it will eventually give way under the pressure of the storms that come at us. I was certainly convicted to spend some more time working on strengthening my foundations. What does your foundation look like? Is it built on the solid rock? Or is it on shifting sand?

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 NLT
10 Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.
 12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Good morning friends! I pray the week and weekend have been good to you, and you're ready to face this Monday with optimism and strength! The weekend was super refreshing for us, for once! My sweet man had Saturday off this week, so we took a spontaneous trip to the beach. We went to a different beach than usual, and found we had a MUCH more enjoyable time at this one. I usually am miserable the whole time fighting the crowd, the terrain of the beach, and the sand, but after finding a good umbrella and some beach chairs, and a beach with a much flatter and larger terrain, we had a great time! Yay! We didn't make it to church yesterday because both my hubby and myself were dealing with migraines. I get them frequently, and have become accustomed to dealing with them and even functioning with them, but they're not so common for him, so he ended up in bed a large portion of the day. I assume it was a residual from the glaring Florida sun! But, all of the rest we both received was well deserved and much needed!

I went to my first "Soul Sisters" event for the church we are attending on Friday night. I had a great time, made a couple of new friends, and felt truly blessed to be a part of not only the fellowship that was going on, but the growth as well. Something that was briefly discussed near the end of the meeting was transparency. There's that word again. If you've known me for any length of time, you've heard it in abundance! But, I haven't really touched on it here. So, guess what today's post is about? Yep. Listen up, ladies ;)

Transparency. What is it? Merriam-Webster defines the adjective form, transparent, as "free from pretense or deceit", "easily detected or seen through", "readily understood", and "characterized by visibility or accessibility of information".

So, how does that apply to us, as Christians? Should we be transparent? Should we allow the world access to US? We should certainly be free from pretense or deceit, no? Should we be readily understood?

I live by the motto that we should ALWAYS be transparent. No matter who we are, what walk of life we are in, or where we are in our walk with Christ. In real life, on Facebook/Twitter, in our blogs, face to face, in our homes in view of our children, EVERYWHERE. Why do I believe this? Let me paint you a picture.

A year ago, I was not a very compliant person. I certainly didn't keep my thoughts to myself. In the past year, my family has undergone serious trauma in one of my siblings walking away from God after having a very real and personal relationship with his Savior. Somehow, he came to believe the lies of the enemy and has done things that hurt not only those around him, but himself as well. I never stopped loving him through all of this (we're still somewhat estranged-but God's working on my heart in reaching out to him even now as I type this out), but he chose to withdraw from communications with me because I refused to "accept" his actions. Was I Christian in my attitude towards him? Not all the time. I even made some posts on Facebook that hurt him. Am I proud of that? Of course not. Did I delete them? Not right away. Why? Because the same people who saw the old Brooke, the one who was critical and condemning and judgmental, has also come to see that through God's chiseling, has seen the changes that have come over me since. All along the way, they've seen God at work in my life. They've seen how God has taken the anger resentment, hurt, and condemnation away and replaced it with love and compassion and forgiveness. Are you following along? Through my weaknesses (anger, resentment, condemnation), both those who know God and those who do not have seem God replace those qualities with more Christlike qualities. They have seen the power of God at work in my life. Had I chosen to keep my angry thoughts and pain to myself, then they would have never known what was really going on in my heart, and would have never noticed the difference that fully seeking God makes. Am I perfect? Of course not! None of us are, but I am a whole lot closer to that goal than I was a year ago. And, with God's grace, I hope to be even closer in another year.

Another example of where transparency is important. Both my husband and myself are divorcees. I have been married twice and I am my husband's 3rd marriage. None of this we are proud of, but we also don't hide it. There are other things in our lives we don't hide. Because God has changed them. But for now, we'll concentrate on marital issues. My husband began seeing a counselor last year in an attempt to regain a relationship with his daughter (another post for another day). Through this series of counseling sessions, he came to realize that while his parents have a strong marriage, 40 years and growing, he never saw them fight. Ever. He cannot remember a single time in his life that he saw his parents disagree. Does that mean that they NEVER disagreed? I highly doubt it. They simply chose not to do it in front of their children. I know that's a popular philosophy among child-rearing "experts", but one I completely disagree with. What did my husband learn from it? That healthy couples don't fight. Ever. That if you're arguing or disagreeing, your marriage is doomed. It's a failure. He never learned how to RESOLVE issues with his spouse. Am I calling my in-loves bad parents? NO! They just didn't recognize what their decision to not allow the children to witness their arguments cost their eldest son. Like us, they're not perfect. They've done well in life. They still love each other very much, and it's very evident in the way they treat one another. But in the process, my husband got the impression that if his relationship didn't look like what his parents allowed him to see, he was a failure. He gave up on his first marriage, and then dove straight into a marriage of lust on the 2nd one. I saw my parents fight plenty. Was my childhood riddled with pain and sorrow because my parents hated one another? Nope. At the time of my mother's death, they were about to celebrate their 37th anniversary, and this past July would have celebrated their 40th. The early years of their marriage was rough. Neither of them really knew God then, and my father was rebellious and selfish. But, through years of working at it, they had a happy and healthy marriage. The difference between my parents' marriage and my husband's parents' marriage is that my parents taught us, by example, how to resolve conflict. All of me and my siblings are divorcees now, but it wasn't through any fault of my parents as examples. It was simply poor, selfish choices on ours and our spouses' parts. And I'm not saying that my hubby's divorces are my in-loves fault. I'm just saying that if my husband had been able to learn from the first and most important married couple in his life how to handle and resolve conflict effectively, his first marriage might have ended very differently, or not at all.

So you see? What I'm trying to say is that when we, as Christians, are transparent, we allow others to see what God is capable of. When they see just how sorry, selfish, and ignorant we really are, they see how compassionate, loyal, and AMAZING He really is! Don't hide what God is doing in your life. Don't be ashamed of your weaknesses, rather celebrate His strengths!

2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Slow Down and Smell the Pot Roast

Hello my wonderful (and neglected) friends! I am sorry I've not been posting regularly! Been busy caring for my precious little family and running neglected errands :) I pray that you are all doing well, and that you're still walking on your journey to joy, peace, strength, and dignity! I had a BAD time last week with the dignity. I was doing great, embracing the gifts that God has given me, but then I had an incident that crushed what little dignity I had found. But, slowly and STEADILY God is rebuilding it. He's reminding me that to Him I am beautiful, and wonderfully made :) I know more than one of my precious friends and readers are going through a very difficult time right now, and I just want you to know that my heart and prayers are with you in these storms!

I'm having a good week so far ;) Bills are caught up, a little money is tucked back for emergencies (not much, but more than I had!), there's food in the pantry, I had a DATE (for the first time in a year!) with my awesome man this past weekend, we have been informed there will be a raise come this next paycheck,  and my cup is just overflowing ;) God really is so much better to us than we deserve! This morning I fed my hot hubby and sent him on his merry way to work another 12+ hour day, got a beef roast in the crock pot with an insanely aromatic au jus sauce, laundry going, coffee, study, and now I'm spending some time with you :) Then I'll get my shower and fix myself up for my friend who's coming over in a bit to hang out. What did I do to earn so much favor from God? I am so blessed!

I read the next devotion in the "Living Above Worry and Stress" study today. This week's lesson was entitled "Stressed Out!". It's funny that I read it today, when God has eased my tension. Maybe it's because had I read it before He calmed my fears, then I probably wouldn't have taken a bit of it in! But what was specifically talked about in this lesson is that stress in our lives typically comes from putting too much on our plate. She used the example of a mother telling a child "Your eyes were bigger than your stomach" when bringing a plate still half full to the kitchen sink. I believe this week's lesson is very relevant to today's women. Whether you're married without children, a new mom or a seasoned mom, a widow, or someone who has spent your life without a husband and children, it is so important not to overfill our days with "things", even ministry work. I know more than one woman, most of them older with their children grown, who tend to pour themselves completely out into multiple ministries within the church, until they reach the point that there is no room left for family or rest. God WANTS us to receive rest. Do I really need to quote you scripture on that? I mean, He created an ENTIRE DAY of rest for us. Most of us don't utilize it. We're too busy running to this church function and that small group study etc. All of those things are important, yes, but not critical to how close we walk with our Father. What things in your life are unnecessarily causing you great stress simply because you think you need to do it in order to prove how much you love God, or feel like it's your responsibility to do it, even though it causes you to stress out over getting it done?

God has promised us that His mercies are new every.single.morning (Lamentations 3:23) and that He will give us rest (Matthew 11:28-30). He also tells us in Psalm 39:6 that all of our busy rushing ends in nothing. The old saying of "it's about quality, not quantity" really applies here. It's not about how many things you can get accomplished in one day, but about the affect that things you do has on others. Are you running around carelessly stressing over getting things done, and in the process putting off those who need you most? Does your husband know, without a doubt, that next to God, he is first in your life? Or are you too busy baking for the ladies group, organizing events for the church, or getting to your "responsibilities" outside your home to make him feel like the important figure he is in your home? Do your children know that they are your most important ministry? Or are you too busy organizing Awana schedules and nursery schedules, and youth events to make them the priority that God has commanded of you? As a wife and mother, your NUMBER ONE MINISTRY is within the walls of your own home. Even if your children are grown, your children and grandchildren should take priority over every other ministry.

Slow down... smell the roast cooking in the crockpot. Enjoy the things you're doing for others. If you're not doing them with a cheerful heart, then you're completely missing the mark on ministry. Ministry is about LOVING others. Not doing it out of responsibility.

I love this quote from this week's lesson:

Don't let your life speed out of control. Live intentionally. Do something today that will last beyond your lifetime.

~Barbara Johnson

Is your life spinning out of control? If so, then you need to get out your comb. The author used the example of how when she was a little girl, she had short hair, because when she had long hair, her mother grew tired of the tears and stress that came from combing out the "rat's nests" and tangles. She now allows her daughter to have long hair, but promises her daughter that although the tangles are painful, the end result of the combing and brushing will be beautiful. We need to take a comb to our lives. We need to straighten out the tangles and messes that we have created by filling our time with too many things. Slow down. Be still, and know the love that God has for you. 

Psalm 107:30 NLT
What a blessing was that stillness
as he brought them safely into harbor!

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Rainbow

Good morning my beautiful friends! I pray you had a restful and enjoyable weekend with your lovies! And I pray that this Monday is setting the precedent for a NEW type of Monday ;) One full of promise, love, hope, happiness, joy, and renewed faith.

Wait... that's MY Monday. But, I do pray for you all to share this new Monday with me! God is at work in our lives in such a huge way. Let me explain.

You know we've been in a bad place financially lately. We've been desperate. We've been begging God for a miracle. What we weren't doing was WATCHING that miracle unfold. He didn't drop $x.xx in our laps, like we WANTED Him to. Instead, little by little, He provided over time and helped us to sell some things that has helped us to be almost completely caught up. We still need to pay the rent, which is due today, but He blessed us with Godly and understanding landlords, and we'll pay it a couple of days late with a nice large check with tons of OT on it. As of this Thursday, unless God decides to intervene with our pay check and stop it short (and if He does, that's ok-we'll trust Him) then we will be completely caught up. Not ahead, nothing in savings yet, but we'll be caught up. At this point, we should be homeless, without electricity, water, phone, etc. But we're not. We're without NOTHING.

My husband and I have not had a date in probably close to a year now. We didn't even get to go out for our anniversary last year because my husband was working out of town. Our 5th anniversary is coming up on Oct 5. But, since we moved to Florida, we've drawn closer to one another, and have been DESPERATE for a date night. We NEED time alone, sans kids, to TALK, and laugh, and flirt, and  enjoy the one we've chosen to spend forever with. But, we have only been able to pour everything coming in into bills and groceries. Nothing extra. We don't have anyone to keep the kids, so we will need to find someone, and will have to PAY them. Just last night, I kid you not, we were trying to carry a conversation at the dinner table and kept getting interrupted by kids. I looked at him and said "I REALLY need a date. I need to have a conversation with my husband that doesn't stop and start 5 million times before I complete one sentence". He concurred. This morning, I received a call from a friend. She asked for my Paypal address, and said that God wanted her to send some money to us, and to use it to somehow bless our marriage. THAT, my friends, is God hearing the cry of my heart even though I didn't speak it to Him from my lips. Now, you keep in mind that this friend is certainly not wealthy. Like us, they survive paycheck to paycheck, and have even undergone an INSANE amount of unexpected expenses lately. But she wants to follow God's lead. I'm so humbled by her generosity, and God's provision. We have enough to go on a nice date now :) I'm so happy I could burst!

Why? Because all along God has been working miracles. We just couldn't see them through the torrential downpour. Now, here we stand, staring in awe at the rainbow. God's promise that He was with us all along, and that He will be with us always. That He will love us and provide for us no matter how bad it seems. The rainbow that is simply God's message to us: "I love you with an everlasting love". THAT invokes peace that is indescribable. He loves us :)

I just needed to share this with you today. God's building my faith like never before. Not because everything is perfect and He's giving me things. Even before this morning's phone call, I was staring at the rainbow and realizing that He *IS* giving us the miracle we're praying for. Just not in the earthquake, or the fire. He is giving it to us in the gentle whisper. And I'm so thankful for that gentle whisper.

1 Kings 19:1-12 NLT

1 When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. 2 So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”
 3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
 5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.
 7 Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”
 8 So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.9 There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.
   But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
 10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
 11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 
13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
   And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Please take time to listen for His gentle whisper. You have to listen closely or you will miss it.

Jeremiah 31:3 NLT
 I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.
With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.