No Longer Alone

 

We’re taking a brief break from our For the Love series to center ourselves in Christ.

I’ve heard it said one doesn’t truly understand that Christ is enough until He is all that they have. When Jenna Victoria’s world came undone, God showed up. Read on to see how, and may her story encourage you to hold tighter to the God who never leaves nor forsakes.

Going It Alone ~ Not Quite
by Jenna Victoria

When our world gets crazy busy with interruptions or requests, we might envy the many species God created that choose being solo over one-of-a-crowd. From red cross-1448946_640panda to platypus, sloth to skunk or eagle to armadillo—these creatures revel in their solitude.

Frustration with crowds aside, there’s a lot to say in support of seclusion. Especially Christian solitude, as this partial verse in John’s Gospel attests.  For when we are alone, we are not actually alone. Our Savior, our Father in heaven, is with us. How magnificent it is to grasp this truth.

In 2012, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal breast cancer. After a long road of prayers, chemo, a right mastectomy, and radiation, my family, friends, coworkers and I celebrated my being cancer-free in early 2013. Five weeks later, that was no longer true. The cancer spread to the scar tissue of my mastectomy site, and to the left side breast and lymph nodes. Re-radiation, a lumpectomy and more chemo followed. In 2014 and 2015, as treatment continued, friends and family started to draw back. Close relatives and friends who had formerly been by my side, returned to their own lives and commitments – and rightly so. My rock, my one special knight-in-shining-armor then decided at the end of 2015 they had enough and essentially walked away. I was alone, I thought.

As the days and weeks of early 2016 drew out, I clung even more tightly to the One who book-1209805_640never leaves us or forsakes us. I downloaded more than 1000 Christian podcasts from preachers all over the world, and listened to the Word being taught every night. I soaked every drop of wisdom into my brain. I listened to praise & worship songs, studied the Bible and let God’s thoughts fill my thoughts.

In time, that head knowledge became heart knowledge. In my loneliness, I heard the whispered words of my Savior, “I am enough.”  As the cancer is now staged as metastatic, I will always be on some type of IV chemotherapy, but I don’t sit in the infusion suite alone. God is with me. I have contentment and, unbelievably, unshakeable joy in the midst of my circumstances and my solitude. The words “I am enough” wield great power. This sense of peace is not of my strength and ability; it is 100% from God and it did not happen overnight. I chose to embrace God as being enough, and He has become my portion.

It is comforting to know that John, our “companion in tribulation,” was given the words of the book of Revelation to write down, while he was alone, in exile on the island of Patmos.

I’d like to believe he, too, heard those same words from our Lord.  “I am enough.”

It is my prayer that those of us in desert places and filled with loneliness also receive grace to hear them too.

***

war-of-the-heart-2

When a vintage snow globe sends Boston dress designer Louise Martin & British B&B owner George Walker back in time to London, December 1940, they race against the clock to reconcile a feud between their families and solve a 75-year-old mystery. As Louise relies on God; and on George for guidance, friendship then love, will the future George envisions strangle her own dreams? Will their love survive generations of mistrust, the Blitz and being stranded in wartime 1940, possibly never to return to their former lives?

***

jennavictoriaEver since her grandfather co-created Twinkies, Snowballs & Hostess cupcakes for Intercontinental Baking Company, circa 1959, Jenna’s yet to taste a cake she hasn’t liked.
Jenna is the author of  “fiction that feeds your faith” – Happily-Ever-After romance & romantic suspense stories with a Christian world view. She also writes clean, wholesome romances. Her stories emulate those she enjoys reading…with a heroine who is in grave danger & a hero who is smart enough to get out of her way as she kicks butt & takes down names… and those that feature the sweetest of fairy-tale-ending love stories.

She writes romances that glorify God and His sacrificial love through His Son, Jesus Christ and show how He gives us hope & peace amidst unbearable situations. After her first breast cancer diagnosis in 2012, several reoccurrences and metastasis, Jenna continues to praise God and trust His oversight in her life; and continues to write more books.

Connect with Jenna on her website and Facebook.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! First, do you have any words of encouragement you can give Jenna? I cannot imagine going through what she is, and to turn such heartache into an opportunity to proclaim God’s goodness–wow.

Can you share a time when you discovered, in a deeper way than ever before, that God was enough? Share your thoughts, questions, and examples here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace, because we can all encourage and learn from one another!

A Body of Jewels by Edwina Cowgill

This is Edwina’s second devo to make it to my top 20 of 2010. You all loved her first one, and I am certain you will be equally refreshed by today’s. She has a lovely way with words and a tender heart for God.

Edwina’s devo reminds us where our true value and beauty lie. We are valuable because God says we are. He formed us in love, and continues to form us every day. If you are in Christ–if you have confessed your sins and turned from them, believing Jesus is God’s sinless Son who died and rose from the dead–for you, and have committed yourself to following Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life–then you are a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.

I’ve heard it said, the closer you grow to Christ, the more you realize your need for Him. This is certainly true in my life. I know rationally that I have grown and changed in positive ways, but my sin is ever before me. Not a day goes by that I don’t do something, think something, say something, that sends me running to my Savior asking for forgiveness. Yet even then, there is a deep peace and comfort knowing He loves me deeply and has washed me clean. That is the profound mystery of the gospel–in Christ, a sinner such as me has been made clean, righteous, fit to stand before a holy God. Not because of anything I’ve done, but because of what Jesus Christ did for me. And because of the blood that was shed for me, when God the Father looks at me, He sees Christ. Thank you, Lord Jesus, and happy birthday!

*            *            *

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matt. 13:45-46 NIV)

Some time ago, I dreamt about a chest, similar to a pirate’s chest, which was sitting on a table.  The chest was stunning, made of rich mahogany wood and the hinges were shining, pure gold.  Upon opening the chest, I discovered jewels of every kind and color imaginable.  Deep red rubies, sky-blue aquamarines, sparkling diamonds, purple amethysts.  Multi-colored opals, tigers’ eyes, onyx.  Citrines, garnets, pearls and emeralds.  There were rings, necklaces, brooches, earrings, bracelets and loose gems.  The chest was so full that when I opened it, the jewels spilled out, cascading onto the table.  Rays of sunlight splashed onto the jewels, making their colors even richer and sending fragments of rainbow hues over the table. 

I believe this is how God looks at us – as a vessel, a chest, if you will – full of jewels.  He looks at our heart and sees a sparkling blood-red ruby.  Other than the diamond, the ruby is the hardest gem known to man.  Natural rubies have imperfections in them, just like our hearts do.  But when God looks at our heart, He doesn’t see the hardness or imperfections.  He sees the strength of the heart, the power of the beat, both of which come from Him.  He pours His love for us into our ruby hearts. 

God looks at our lungs and because He breathes His life into us, he sees sparkling diamonds that are clear and pure.  When diamonds are moved in the light, they become “alive” as the clarity – the clearness – refracts into multi-facets.  As we breathe and move in Him who is alive within us, our lives should be clear and transparent so others can see Jesus in us. 

When our Father looks into our eyes, He sees jewels of different colors – golden amber, brilliant aquamarine, emerald green, deep dark onyx.  If the eyes are truly the window to our souls, as some say, just imagine the beauty God sees as He looks at our souls through our eyes.

When God looks at you, He sees who He created you to be – not the person you see when you look into the mirror.  He doesn’t see the flaws you see – He sees your ruby heart of gentleness and kindness.  He doesn’t see the lackluster of your diamond lungs – He sees you sharing Him when you gave that homeless man money for a meal.  He doesn’t see the weaknesses in your soul – He sees His strength working in and through you.  He doesn’t remember that sin you confessed because He cast it into the depths of the sea, never to be remembered again.

God sees each of us as a jewel – we are jewels in His eyes.  And He considers us to be the Pearl of Great Price.(see Matt. 13:45-46 KJV)  God gave away His most precious possession, His Son, to purchase us – the Pearls of Great Price. He has placed a high price on you and on me because we are so valuable to Him.  Pearls shine with a luster and glow and our lives, even our countenance shines because of Who lives within us.

So when our Abba Father looks at us, He sees beauty, value and worth. He sees rubies, diamonds, emeralds and onyx.  He sees jewels and the Pearls of Great Price.   Because that is who we are to Him.

*                         *                                  *

Edwina has written numerous articles. Many have been published on various websites including the Houston Examiner and the Midsouth Diocese of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. Her short story, “Katie’s Story: A Story of Redemption and Love” was published in 2009. A second short story, “The Front Porc” has just been published in Skinned Knees and Skate Keys. Edwina updates her blog three times a week.

She is a member of American Christian FictionWriters, Writers of Remarkable Design, and member of the Southside W.O.R.D. She is also a member of Christian Writers United, a writing group within her community.  Visit Monarch Ministries to find out more about Edwina and her heart for God and women.

To repeat my normal, too-oft repeated reminder, if you like this devotion fb share it, “like” it, tweet it or leave a comment. Come the end of the month, I’ll tally everything up and reveal our top three of 2010!

Can I Exchange This Please? by Robin Prater

Today’s post first appeared on the Robin’s Nest on November 18th. How different our lives might look if we were given the pen to write them, but how different we would look as well. That perseverance developed during that valley we thought would never end, would not be there, impatience taking its place instead. And that heartfelt compassion that allows us to cry deeply with a wounded friend, would have been replaced with callus. Those hole-infested sweaters are rather cumbersome, aren’t they? But the end result is priceless, a radiant work of God.

*                               *                                       *
Oh, what a pretty sweater! It is a must have in my bag. So, I go up to the counter with my gorgeous purchase and leave with a smile. I get home and begin looking at my find just a little better and do you know it has a hole in it? What I thought was perfect is not. What I thought I would love to have no longer makes me smile. How many times have we stood in that exchange line? Sometimes we have a receipt to make an exchange, but many times we do not and what happens then? We are stuck with a sweater with a hole in it. But, let’s really think about this. Is it really as bad as it seems?
Hey, we are women, right? We can sew! Put a needle and thread in my hand and I can fix that hole. It might not look perfect. It might have a ripple or two in the seam, but I can patch that hole. Who needs a new one, I can make this one work just fine! But what happens after we wash it? Yep, that hole is no longer tiny, but now stretched and tattered. Really, haven’t you been there too? You love the color, the fit and style. You don’t want to throw it away. Look what you paid for it. It can be fixed right? Okay, maybe we just wear it around the house. Maybe we just where it to play outside in the snow with the kids. Put a jacket on over it, who will notice? Probably the only one who will notice is me. I know the hole is there. I know it’s no longer perfect.
Isn’t that like our lives? We didn’t sign up to stand in the exchange line. We don’t have a receipt. We want to fix what is broken, but can we really? The more we try the bigger the hole gets and now, does anyone really want us around? We want perfection and what do we get? A big hole under our arm! No one else can see the pain, but we can. We walk with it. We try to hide it. We learn to cover it up well. Just don’t raise your arm! Just don’t let anyone hug me or touch me and I will be okay. Please, don’t let anyone ask me how I am. I am praying no one looks close enough to see the hole in my heart. I want to stand in that exchange line and fight until something or someone will help me!!
Jesus, please help me!! Can you hear me screaming? Can you hear me crying out to You? I DON’T WANT THIS AND I WANT TO EXCHANGE IT!! Have you been there to my friend? We think we know what we want. We are sure of what is perfect for us, but after we have worn it a while we now know we picked out the wrong sweater. Why do I go shopping anyway? Why is what I have still not good enough? Why am I always searching for something different? Something more? Am I not content?
Many times we can receive a gift that wasn’t on our wish list. Many times we open it in total surprise. What do I do with this now? Oh my, this is not my color? This is not going to fit me! But do we exchange a gift? Do we wear it with a smile? Do we dare give it to another? Most of the time we wouldn’t want anyone else to wear it either. We know it’s scratchy. It’s uncomfortable. It’s just downright ugly!

Matthew 5:3-12 ” Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed area those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Life is choice. In our choices it is our attitude that matters most. Sometimes the “gifts” we receive are consequences of our actions. Sometimes we just need to wear those until they wear completely out. That way we remember not to go back in that store again. Sometimes, life sends a package we didn’t expect and we find ourselves wondering why someone would send something so ugly. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Many times we don’t understand how much time grandma put into knitting that sweater. We don’t see Aunt Sally saving every dime to purchase the sweater she can while she does without. Once we take our eyes off our own sorry selves and begin to see the sweater we soon see the story behind each and every stitch. We see the love in the gift even it’s something unexpected, something unwanted. Those unexpected and unwanted gifts are still gifts, they just carry different meanings. Sometimes you just have to put on the sweater and wear it for a bit to understand it really is the perfect fit.

We can go to the Lord with our sweater in hand. We can exchange our sorrow for joy. We can exchange our pain for laughter. We can exchange our bitterness for  forgiveness. Our anger for peace. Our meanness for kindness. Our complacency for zeal. Our gossip for love. Our rebellion for obedience. Our selfishness to selflessness. Neglect for faithfulness. Our unbelief for trust. Our failure into hope. Do you see the pattern here my friends?  We can exchang our brokenness for healing. We can exchange fear for faith. When we are dealt something we do not want, we can go to God and exchange it for His will. Might all our exchanges be for His will and not our own. We suffer so much in the sweaters we wear. We wear them with such anger and hate. We wear them with jealousy and envy. We can exchange our worldly desires for God’s will. We can exchange our selfish attitudes for attitudes reflecting Christ. May we make that exchange line about Christ and not ourselves. Might we see those standing next to us and see the sweater within their hand too. What we want is not necessarily what we need. Our wants and needs are two totally different things. Sometimes we need to wear what we don’t want so we can see what it is we do need.
Jesus Christ paid the price for our red sweater. He stood there in line so that we didnt’ have to. See, He has already made the exchange. His life for ours. May we begin to look at our sweater with a new hope, a new faith, and a new trust. Might we love the sweater we are wearing. Don’t be so quick to trade it in. It might seem a little tight, a little lose, or maybe just something you would never pick out for yourself, but lets remember that God is the perfect shopper.

*                          *                                         *

As always, if you loved, loved, loved Robin’s devo and think it should make our top three of 2010, tweet it, fb share it, or leave a comment and at the end of the month, I’ll tally every tweet, share and comment and will reveal your all-time favs!