In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
Genesis 1:27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
As I gaze out my desk window, I see trees with no leaves, brown grass, rain soaked ground and a dull blue sky. To most, this is not beauty. But as I continue to gaze I’m reminded of the One who created it all. He is the creator of beauty. He created the different seasons for a reason. In the winter season, everything is taking a rest. Replenishing it’s roots so when the spring season arises beauty in it’s purest form will emerge. Each season has it’s own beauty.
The same goes for me. When I was young I had the beauty of a child and as I age my beauty simply gets more distinct. I’ve had to grasp the realization that my outer beauty is not what My God is most interested in. Obviously, if the outer skin was something that He put great importance on, then we would all be the same on the outside. But it’s our inner beauty that He holds to the highest standards. If I was honest, and I will be, my inner beauty hasn’t always been that of His standard. I was filled will anger, judgement, shame, guilt, pride and resentment. Sometimes our experiences in this world can bring out all types of inner ugly. I’m grateful that He was patient with me. He has been full of mercy, grace and forgiving me of all my inner ugly. I rejoice and now I call myself “beauty”.
We all have that same inner beauty that He created, we just need to seek Him to find it. I’ve come across many who have allowed the experiences of this world to rob them of the beauty that they possess. I have learned that the beauty that God placed in me can be used to help others find theirs. By having mercy, grace and sharing God’s forgiveness with them, they are able to realize their inner beauty that God filled them with.
So we need to STOP looking at the outer beauty of things and people and remember the inner beauty God placed there. Love and experience the beauty of this world, filled with mercy, grace and forgiveness, sharing His beauty.
Lord I thank You for your patience with me. I thank You for keeping me from wondering too far off the path. I thank You for your Son who sacrificed so that I would have an opportunity to show others who You are. I’m Grateful! Amen!
Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate Christ in us?
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
I don’t know about you but I wasn’t really taught about the Holy Spirit in my early Christian walk. I knew that God was a great and mighty God. Creator of all things, my provider and my protector. I knew that He gave up His only Son for my salvation and to lay out a path of examples for me to follow. But then what? The Holy Spirit was this uncharted territory that no one really knew how to explain or even wanted to. So here I went trying to live my Christian life still by my own understanding. Let me tell you, that didn’t always turn out so well. My understanding is limited and as I age, I find that it’s even more limited than yesterday. My decision making was based on what I thought and I didn’t understand that God had also given me a help, the Holy Spirit, to guide me if I would let him. I’m still a little foggy on how to do that but I’m learning that if my eagerness to do is not been lead by a period of prayer, waiting, prayer, waiting, listening and a heaping full of gut (inward guidance), then most likely I’m not waiting on the Holy Spirit to help me with my walk.
I definitely don’t have the Holy Spirit thing all figured out. I definitely don’t always do enough praying and waiting. I definitely don’t always allow my gut to lead me instead of my head & heart. But I’m learning. I’m listening. And I’m eagerly awaiting His guidance.
So I encourage you to seek out the Holy Spirit that you’ve been given for your guidance. Allow Him to help you through your days.
Lord, I thank you! You have left nothing to chance. You gave me a beautiful life, you gave me your son for my forgiveness so that I would have hope for a beautiful eternity and you’ve given me the Holy Spirit to walk with me through my beautiful days. I’m grateful! Lord I pray that others, those I love and those I do not know, will seek you as they live here on earth so that they will be with me in heaven. Amen!
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
James 1:5-6 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
We tend to ask “Why?” when things don’t go the way we wanted them to go. We ask “Why?” when bad things happen to the innocent. We ask “Why?” when we can’t seem to change our own sin. Why do we ask why?
Do we lack the faith to know that God is in control even if we don’t understand the outcomes? Do we lack the hope to give to others who are in the midst of a trial? Do we lack the trust to leave it up to God teach us what we need to know and give us the strength and power to make the necessary changes?
If our faith, hope and trust is based on our own sight then it definitely can lack but if it’s based on the unseen Christ we will lack in nothing.
We will not ask Why when we suffer or see suffering of this world because we understand it is of the fallen world but we will rejoice, being filled with hope, courage, strength and endurance because of our knowledge of Christ.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Crystal Nickell: As I sit and tear up while sitting in a board meeting with Crystal, I know that her story will touch your heart too. To be around her today, one would think that she has had the posh life. But as you will hear, it’s hasn’t always been that way. We all know what is showing on the outside is not always what is happening in reality. I’m so thankful that I have been able to be apart of her sharing her story. I’m so grateful that she was willing to stand up for her child when possibly no one else was. To know her is to love her.
Recently a question was posed to a small group of women, in which I was a part, “Can you say you are 100% prolife with no reservations?” My mind drifted back 12 years earlier. I was sitting alone in a very small, cold office. I waited for a doctor I had never met to walk in and discuss this life I was currently carrying. I would have rather been a million different places as to where I was that day. I was seated on a leather, green couch that made terrible noises if I moved the least bit. There was a table in front of me and a seat to my right. The door had only enough room to open. I’m not sure why I remember these miniscule details. Maybe I was trying to keep my mind off why I was even there.
My husband and I were married in October 1997. In June 2000 we had our first bundle of joy. Our beautiful daughter came into this world and turned ours upside down. We never knew how much love you could possibly have for a child you just met. We worried over every single detail like stuffy noses, whimpers in the middle of the night and falls that didn’t really amount to anything. We were definitely the typical first time parents. And despite our every effort to keep her little forever, she started her senior year of high school just this week as I’m writing this.
In 2004, we found out we were going to have another child. My husband was self-employed which meant if he didn’t work, he didn’t get paid. So because we knew the drill, or so we thought, the day of my scheduled ultrasound I decided to go alone. I promised to call him and reveal the gender as soon as I could. He had never said the words aloud, but I knew he was hoping for a baby boy. And I have to say so was I.
I arrived at my appointment and once called back, the radiologist went to work. I heard the heartbeat and looked at the fuzzy image on the screen. She told me very soon the gender was male and I couldn’t wait to call my husband and give him the exciting news. She then asked me to have a seat in the waiting room. I can remember sitting there looking at the pictures of my precious baby boy anticipating his delivery. It wasn’t long until my name was called again. This time my ob-gyn was waiting for me in the room I had just been in minutes earlier. He told me the radiologist had spotted something on my baby and he had confirmed it was a cyst on his brain. He went on to say a lot of doctor terms hard for me to understand, but it all came down to my son had a possibility of being born with a birth defect. The joy I had felt vanished and replaced with fear of the unknown. I had opted against, just like I had with my daughter’s pregnancy, to have an amniocentesis testing early in the pregnancy. I now wondered if the results from that would’ve warned me for this type of news. Before I left, he made me an appointment with another office that could take more in-depth pictures and be able to describe fully our situation.
I remember getting in the car and just crying out to God. This was not the news I wanted to call and discuss with my husband over the phone. My mind just couldn’t embrace everything I had been told, but it was getting late and I knew he would just end up calling me soon. I dialed his number and began to weep. Heaving between fragmented sentences, I finally shared the news.
The appointment my ob-gyn had made for me was only a week later, but the days before dragged on what seemed like forever. This time my husband wasn’t going to let me go without him. For as much as I can remember about this time in our lives, there is much I forget and probably for good reasons. We arrived at this new office and got into a huge argument as we were parking. I have no idea today what it was over, but I assume all the fears and apprehension we both had felt over the past week had surfaced and I wouldn’t allow him to go back with me when my name was called. Being stubborn and proud are two things the Lord continues to work on in me and I despise I would allow such qualities to show at such a vulnerable time.
Just as a week earlier, I was alone, but now with a new radiologist performing an ultrasound. She moved the cold device all around my stomach staring at the monitor where we both viewed a little life moving. Once she finished, I was lead to the small office I described earlier to wait for the doctor. I was so angry at myself for arguing with my husband and not allowing him to go with me and in general ashamed for acting so foolishly. I needed and wanted him to hear every detail alongside me. Finally, a tall, slender man entered the room and immediately began talking. His words were swift and very precise, “The ultrasound shows a cyst on your baby’s brain. Under Kentucky law if you want an abortion we have to move fast because of where you are in your pregnancy.” I sensed the room becoming even smaller than it already was. Did I really hear him say “abortion and move fast”? Since I was the only other person in the room I had to answer so I softly replied, “Abortion is not an option for me.” His eyes never looked away from my chart as he explained I would come back each month to discuss the cyst’s progression. I walked back to the waiting room to find my husband. I was able to hold back the tears until we were in our vehicle and I began to tell him every detail. Month after month we went back to this dreadful place together and would hear there was no change. In a way this was encouraging because it wasn’t getting bigger, but it wasn’t getting smaller either. We continued to pray and called on many family and friends to do the same.
The last ultrasound performed was very close to my due date. I watched the radiologist for any type of different expression, just as I had done at previous visits. She stepped out of the room not long into our visit and returned with the doctor who then began to stare at the screen with us. “There’s nothing there”, he said. I remember wondering if I had been dreaming because he couldn’t have possibly said what I thought I heard. But the cyst was completely gone. The feeling that came over me is hard to describe in words. I felt lighter than a feather, even though my belly was bulging in every direction. The burden of worrying and wondering had vanished. God had heard our pleas and completely healed our baby boy just in time for his arrival and I imagine He chuckled at my response of unbelief since for months we had fervently prayed for this very outcome.
Kyle, my second child, was born in May 2005 healthy and weighing close to 10 lbs. Since then, I often find myself asking the same questions. What if I had never attended church; What if I had never gone to Sunday school as a small girl and memorized the words to Jesus Loves Me; What if my husband and I had never asked Jesus to live in our hearts years before all these events took place? Since my life began, God was preparing me for an exact moment where I would choose life for another.
Things tend to come fairly easy for Kyle. He can walk into a room and instantly create a friendship, good grades and athletic ability come naturally. His zeal for life is quite evident. Numerous people have told me, “There’s something special about that kid” and silently, I agree with them. I know the enemy fought hard by trying to cause doubt, discouragement and bringing up the word “abort” so nonchalantly. God’s plan for Kyle’s future must be nothing short of amazing. Just as it is for every life He creates. I am beyond blessed He chose me to be a mother to both my children. They have made my life truly amazing.
I thank You Lord for giving us Grace. I thank You for providing us with truth that will guide us in our walk daily. I ask You to be with those who are struggling with a pregnancy crisis, whether it is a possible illness, as Crystal’a was or a family crisis. You love those little ones before they are even formed. I ask You to protect them. Amen!
I didn’t always have that! I don’t know that I even really understood there was such a thing. I found courage in myself and held high expectations on others. Early in my life I recognized that my expectations only lead me to discouragement and pain. People have failed me in my life. As I’m sure that some could say of me.
The last 10 or so years I have studied long on the subject of boundaries. Boundaries are a necessary part of our lives. If we don’t hold strong to our boundaries, others will surely walk all over us or we could walk all over others. I have learned so much about myself through this journey of study. I have learned that the word boundary was not even in my vocabulary. I learned early in my years that my God given boundaries could be violated without any consideration. I learned that allowing those violations to direct my decisions would lead to even more fractured boundaries in my life. But this journey into a life with boundaries has strengthened my Hope, Courage and still working on the Expectations.
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Boundaries are internal and Expectations are external. Since my boundaries were non-existent and my internal radar was turned off, I was guided only by the direction of others. My thought process was determined by how I felt the people around me felt about me. I was missing the internal guide (Holy Spirit John 16:12-15). This process set me up for living with expectations of others. Expectations in the world of boundaries can be a slippery slop of disappointment. Many in my life have failed in my expectations. From childhood traumas to adulthood sin, the expectations of others has dug a pit in my life. But NO MORE!
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
God is still working on me! It will be a never ending process until the day I die. But what I have learned through my boundary setting process is that I’m the only one in control of how I move through life. I am the only one in control of how I love people. I am the only one in control of whether I allow the Spirit to guide me or others. I have also learned that regardless of the childhood traumas or the adulthood sins, I can not let the failed expectations of others keep me in a pit of hell. They are in control of them not me. I became free when I removed my expectations of others.
This journey that God has had me on, has been rocky. My hope has been hanging on by a thread at times, my courage has been weak and my expectations of what God could do through me has been shallow. He has taught me much. Without hope, I have no need for courage and without courage, I will never take the steps needed to fulfill my expectations of what God can do through me. Change is a necessary evil. It’s not easy, in fact it’s painful, but it’s needed.
There are a couple areas in my life that have been life long struggles (Romans 7:15-16 ) I share with you a testimony of great expectations in my life. Now the Hope that I know is truth and the Courage that I know He gives me comes with the Expectation that He can also change me. I am grateful for those God has placed in my life who hold me up, encourage me and walk my days.
I know Lord that you have great plans for me. I know that you fully understand my weakness and you will give me the strength needed to conquer them. I pray Lord that I will allow the Holy Spirit to guide me. Amen!
Am I privileged? That is determined by the vantage point that I’m seeing from. Am I perched up high on a mountain high and looking down at others or am I fallen on my face and struggling to just see above the blades of the grass. If I’m being honest I would say that I’ve been in both places over my span of life. Thankfully, I have now come to a place of equality, I am neither high on the mountain top or just barely seeing above the grass blades.
I find my privilege in Christ. I serve out of that privilege. I breathe out of that privilege. I survive out of that privilege. I love out of that privilege.
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able,and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.
v16 : Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
All my life I have never felt like I measured up. I’m not exactly sure why that is. Until a few years back when I realized that I will not ever measure up and that’s okay. At least not on my own!
I stopped looking to others for my worth. I stopped measuring myself by the yard stick I measured others by. Truthfully, if everyone was honest, my measurement of them was most likely greater than their measurement of themselves.
I will never arrive but I continue to move forward to Christ. He measures me great and worthy. He measures me with overflowing love and grace. He measures me with hope in eternity.
I will mess up again and again but He will forgive again and again.
Lord, I thank you for loving me. I thank you for helping me see truth. I thank you for forgiving me when I stumble. I ask you to help me be brave. I want to speak your truth to those who waver. I pray that you will protect those I love and walk with them closely. Amen!
In today’s world it seems that loving someone is directly linked to agreeing with them. If we can’t agree then we can’t love. But that is not how God intended. God welcomes us, me and you, and we are to not pass judgement, for we will all individually stand before the One God on our own, as it says in Romans 14:1-23.
We must have our own faith with our own seeking learn what He is teaching us. We are not to take the word of another human but find the truth for ourselves.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
With Social media and news streams coming at us from every direction, it can be difficult to decipher what is truth. That is because with today’s social media and news streams truth is skewed by humanity. There is only one real truth and that is from God.
I can love my neighbor, I can love my family, I can love my coworkers and I can love my church family but we may not always AGREE on every detail. God works on us all individually and we are all in different places in our faith walk, so to expect everyone to AGREE with me is impossible and unrealistic. But we can All Agree to Love.