Beauty for Ashes

          maxresdefault (1)                             

 

On Friday, September 29th, I was asked to speak for the women at our church for their Fall Celebration Dinner. I was asked to share how I exchanged Beauty for Ashes.

So, I wanted to now share with each of you my message from that evening. Yes, I have shared of what it means to be a survivor and how to not play the “victim” card; however, after that evening, I felt God move so much deeper in so many ladies lives that night because of my obedience and transparency.

So here is my message. May God speak to each of you as He continually speaks to me.

At around the age of 8 my mother allowed a male family member to live in our house that sexually abused me over a period of time.  The instability in my young life allowed for me to “neatly” package these experiences away. It wasn’t until the age of 37, 17 years into my marriage, did I finally realize that in order to heal I had to acknowledge my abuse. Even though I never admitted the abuse, it permeated into the intimacy of my marriage and the ability to deeply know the fullness of my Savior Christ!

Let me explain the “Trigger Point” that brought me to the beginning of my healing. Joe was officiating a wedding and as he spoke to the couple about how important transparency was in a marriage it hit me that I wasn’t being transparent to Joe, not myself. I knew my hurt was like a wound that was festering. It was gaping and severely infected at the time. I truly believed that if I never looked at it, acknowledged it, that it somehow didn’t exist. So very silly to think that way; however, I truly believe that we all do that with so many things in our lives.

I had to speak it, bring it to life, acknowledge it before I could begin the healing process.

During my healing process I realized God was there. He never left my side. It is difficult to think about God being there, but I believe God saw the crown on my head-He saw the ending before it even began.  He protected me physically and mentally when my young mind couldn’t process what was happening. Christ–as fully man and fully God–knew the feeling of shame and embarrassment. Anything I was feeling or thinking, if it was anger or sadness, I could give it to Him.

The healing process took a couple of years, many a bit longer. I would truly think I dealt with it all, then a memory would come up and the process would start all over again. I now truly see God speaking to me during those times, “OK, you are owning this part, now let me give you this piece to add to the overall picture.”  It also took Joe time for him to process and heal as well. For the first couple of months he was ready to get on a plane, find him, punish him and even possibly place him in a place no one would ever find him. Joe’s anger and rage was only tempered by God’s grace and the men of God who surrounded him. We all needed and took “baby steps” in this healing process.

My abuser has since passed away and I really do pray that that before he passed away he surrendered his life to Christ and sought forgiveness.

During this healing process and every day since, Isaiah 61:3 comes alive in my soul!

I want to share with everyone on how His words spoke directly to my pain and abuse.

“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give you a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, a festive praise instead of despair.  In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory.”    Isaiah 61:3

 

When I gave Him my past, He let the hurts completely burn and all that was left was ashes.

“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give you a crown of beauty for ashes,”

719481F3-8E02-4790-B75C-D37FB2653F8A-352-0000013985D23EA2

The definition of ash is the solid residue left when material is thoroughly burned.  Think about it, these hurts can no longer be a fire again that can dictate my fears or thoughts. To get those ashes burning I must add something to them to create the activation energy needed.  This is why I must not use my past as a reason to think or behave in a negative way. When I fully gave Him my hurts — they became ashes. And the beautiful thing is that He took my ashes and gave me a beautiful crown.

95DFE6E0-4776-4DDA-BCB0-F4A8C3877592-352-0000013B66D476F9

The definition of a crown is a reward of victory or a mark of honor. Something that imparts splendor, honor, or a finish, a culmination. I love that last part- a culmination- an attained objective. God not only was with me during my abuse, but was walking with me, healing me, turning my hurt to ruins, and then in turn He took my ashes and in turn, gave me a Crown!  A Crown He places on my head! WOW. He has always seen that Crown on my head, always.

 

a joyous blessing instead of mourning,”

I have an option here. Will I choose blessing or mourning? I choose blessings. The blessing of forgiveness that He shows to me for holding on to the past and letting it infect my marriage relationship. And to the forgiveness that I can offer my offenders: my mother and my abuser.

My mother and I never had an intimate relationship. I probably spoke to her once a year. When I found out she had cancer, I made a trip to see her in August of 2016. When I was there I asked her if she had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She replied, “Yes Kerry.” That was closure for me. When she passed away this past June, I took comfort in the fact that we will both be together in Heaven and will have a whole new and restored relationship together.

Because He forgave me I can forgive others.

The blessing of hope of the future that offers peace. The blessing of His truth and not the poison of the world that tell me to live out my past as anger. The blessing of being able to share with others the healing. I love what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. This is what it says from the Message:

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 

All circumstances can lead to His Glory. That is the reason I am standing here right now.

 

“a festive praise instead of despair.”

Again, I have an option. Because of that, I choose to praise Him.

Have you ever gotten ashes on your hands? They come off on everything you touch. To me this is a picture of despair. I will not take the ashes of my past hurt and spread them on myself or to others as a sign of “poor me.”

Praise shakes up the enemy and empowers us to be bigger than our circumstance. Praise is being active in the healing process. Praise is showing that the Lord is great and powerful. Praise requires intentional thoughts and actions and I want to be intentional in my walk.

 

“In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory.”

When I choose joyous blessings, when I choose festive praise, I then stand in righteousness.

E290EC14-D628-4FBA-8FDD-FCB46D1DBF9F-851-000001499C321066

Remember this: A great oak tree stands for strength, but it starts off as a seed.

Oak sapling sprouted from an acorn.

Let me show you something amazing about our creator God. Look at this other definition of a crown. The region of a seed plant at which the stem and root merge. He makes us like great oaks but it starts off as a crown. And in order to grow we need to stay in Him.

CF80E795-E711-4E5A-9D58-DB4965C590CE-352-0000013855659325

When we are submerged in Him we grow deep roots and become stronger in Him. The outcome is we grow like a great oak that He planted for His glory

95DFE6E0-4776-4DDA-BCB0-F4A8C3877592-352-0000013B66D476F9

When we give Him our hurts and truly let Him in our lives we see His grace and love. We see that those hurts are now ashes. We give Him our ashes and He gives us a crown of beauty. A reward for our victories in Him that marks the splendor of His love!

 

Thank you for taking time to read about my journey: Beauty from Ashes.

May you look for those hurts that are in your life and replace them with a Crown of Beauty!

-Kerry

 

Content or Disillusioned

“How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”     Philippians 4:10-13

content-marketing-question-ss-1920

I wanted to take time to share with you how much these verses mean to me. Throughout our 27 years of marriage, and 3 years of dating prior, Kerry and I have seen our fair share of seasons. There have been times of long winters, some beautiful and fulfilling summers, and many transitions of fall and spring in our lives. With that said, I hold dear the words spoken by Paul in his letter to the Philippian church. This is a letter of joy in the crucible of trials. To focus on the blessings instead of the darkness. Yes, for some, you believe that the darkness will never leave your heart. Trust me, I fully sympathize with you. I was there nine years ago. It was a time that I felt all alone and so out of control. Yet, through the encouragement of friends and from Kerry, they lifted me up and guided me back towards what Christ was doing in my life to wrought my heart closer to Him.

So let’s see what Paul is sharing. He first learned this attitude, this focus. He had to continually practice this mind set. It was not one and done, it was a continual process that occurred daily. Next, he understood what it meant to be content. To be content is to satisfy the mind and to make quiet in your spirit. It’s to stop your complaining and/or opposition to the situation at hand. This leads to the final observation I now own as my own. Through Christ. Paul reflects on the ups and downs he has encountered, but the learning of being content is nothing without Jesus Christ. He is the One who gives the peace in our hearts. He is the One who we must rest in daily. And it is not a passing emotion or conversation, it is Through Him. We must dwell in Him, daily.

So as Kerry and I begin our journey with you, I want you to know that we would not be where we are today in our marriage, our friendship, our family, if it were not for the strength and love of Jesus Christ in our lives. So this begs the question, are you choosing  daily to be content in where Christ has you today?

 

Joe

Victim or Survivor?

Victim: Something destroyed; something completely sacrificed in the pursuit of an object or situation.

Survivor: One who outlives another or a situation of conflict.

rear-view-mirror

In this world, it seems that we begin to classify ourselves as either a “Victim” or a “Survivor” of our past or current circumstances.

It’s become easy to play the victim card and stay a prisoner of the past. Not allowing ourselves to look forward, but to be perpetually stuck looking in the rear-view mirror.  We use the pain of past or the trials of the current to set the tone for our life. We become “Hand-Wringers” and use that victim card to remain hopeless and broken. It is the excuse we carry so we no longer have to take responsibility for our own actions but instead we place blame on the past.

Or, we take a new ownership and call ourselves Survivors! We have overcome the past. We no longer place blame on the past, but instead we know where the pain came/comes from and we conquer it. We take either responsibility for our actions or we choose to forgive the one who caused us the pain and terror. We no longer live in the grip on its guilt. We point back to our past and declare we are a survivor.

However, I am asking that you notice something from both those classifications: Victim or Survivor. They both still point to the past. While one is victorious and the other is brokenness, they both rely on the past as their “Badge.”

In the next couple of weeks, I will share with you all some very personal and raw emotions and events from my past. I will also take time to share with you where I was a Victim, where I became a Survivor, but most of all, when I chose to become a New Creation in Christ. The past is gone, a new life has begun.

Hear me please, I truly know that there are many circumstances out in the world that are so overwhelming that you cannot fully understand how to even begin to survive. I will not be trivial nor contrite in the upcoming weeks. I give you my word that I will be honest, true and very transparent. I will share with you my journey and where my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has brought me. So please, let me share with each of you my heart.  Thank you. We will continue this discussion next Monday.

Kerry

Are You Married in Public?

“He has brought me to his banquet hall, And his banner over me is love.”  Song of Solomon 2:4

Banner-of-Love

Here’s a question for you married folks…Is your love for one another evident to those around you? Better question, “Do strangers know you two are married?”

Ok, before you quit reading and move on with life, seriously take time and reflect on those answers.  Too often, we as married couples, fall into a rut or routine.  We take for granted the relationship God has ordained for us as a husband and wife. Instead of purposely pursuing intimacy in our marriages daily, we begin to assume that each of us is ok and content with the amount of physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy we are currently displaying to one another. So, no need to try any harder, it’s just fine where we are. To that attitude, I cry foul! That’s just plain lazy as a spouse.

Look what the Shulamite Woman writes in SofS 2:4. Solomon, the King of Israel, displays a love for her for all to witness. It is evident that there is a genuine love he has for her and she in return, reflects that love for all to see. It is clear that they are in love. This is probably the first Biblical account of a PDA: Public Display of Affection. There is no need for them to be locked in a passionate kiss, nor are they all handsy with one another. No, it’s probably the way they look at one another, set aside and focus on one another, probably the way they hold hands and speak to one another in public is the beginning of telling those they encounter that they love one another.

Jesus spoke it clearly, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”   John 13:34-35

Stop what you are doing when your spouse enters a room or is in eye shot and make eye contact with them. Smile and give them a wink. Acknowledge that you see them and know they are near. Hold hands and smile when you are together. Be walking side by side, not in a military line showing “who is in charge.”  Speak words of encouragement and tenderness to one another. To be sarcastic and rude to one another in public, or even in front of friends or children, is rude and toxic to your marriage. Even a soft kiss on the cheeks or lips, save the passionate kissing for private, is a beautiful way to display the precious gift of marriage that Christ has given to each of you.

Again, when you are in public with your spouse do those around you see a “banner of love” between you two? Start today to display the love you have for each other and in turn you will display a Christ-Centered love that will reflect the Gospel for all to witness.

Begin today with a new banner for your spouse!

Joe and Kerry

5 Questions That Should Be Asked….

Kerry and I spent this past Saturday on a date night. Anyone that knows us well knows how much we advocate “Date Nights” for husbands and wives. This is a time to focus on one another and continue the pursuit of both romance and well as intimacy in your growing marriage. Yet, last week I came across an article that opened my perspective on “Date Nights.”
The article came from Intimate Marriage. They talked about two types of Date Nights. The first one was the one that I always think of, the “Fun Date Nite.” This is the one that is reminiscent of those dates you had when you were courting each other. Very light hearted and a getting to know each other in a fun and creative way. You both took time to enjoy one another’s company and create memories from that date. They introduced another “Date Night” that I feel should be a vital and necessary date time with your spouse: The Working Date.
A “Working Date ” is a regular hour block each week when a husband and wife come together to work on their marriage. In contrast to a “Fun Date Night” where no business is allowed, the working date is set
aside to do the business of marriage. This is the time to ask the 5 questions to one another and instead of justifying your answers or manipulating the conversation, stop and listen to your spouse and ask God to guide you to fulfill the answers shared by your spouse.
This is not an easy task at hand. The questions require prayer, thought, and transparency. Fulfilling those answers requires humility, obedience to God’s will, and a willingness to grow closer to your spouse; the one God ordained for you.

Here are the 5 questions:
1. How did you feel loved this past week? How did you feel hurt this past week?
2. What does your upcoming week look like?
3. How would you feel most loved & encouraged in the days ahead?
4. How would you best feel pursued in sex / intimacy this week?
5. How can I pray for you this week?

Kerry and I spent the entire night asking and answering those 5 questions. Yes, some of the answers were hard to hear and there were times we felt we both needed to justify the “why’s,” however, we knew that this was the time to capture our thoughts, make them obedient to Christ, and serve one another by fulfilling those answers. It turned out to be one of the best “Date Nights” we have had in many years.

So are there any other questions you may add?  What are your thoughts?

Paying Attention to Detail

“Be careful to obey all My commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the Lord your God.”  Deut 12:28


So I am still in the book of Deuteronomy. For those of you that know me well know that I have been in this book for the past 6 months and I am now finishing up chapter 12! Just have 22 chapters to go…

In the past two chapters, 11 & 12, I noticed that the phrase “Be careful to obey…” is stated 11 times.  The Holy Spirit had me to reflect and meditate deeper on that word-“Careful.” As I began to ponder the personal application He had for me, I also took time to look up the definition of careful. 

Careful: To pay close attention to detail. It implies attentiveness and cautiousness in avoiding mistakes. Making sure to avoid potential danger, mishap or harm. 

This took me back to my time as a Hot Air Balloon pilot. Before every flight, starting with the initial weather briefing through the process of flight to landing, I was to be careful in every step of my checklist. I was cautious and meticulous each and every flight. The responsibility as the pilot was to be taken seriously, regardless of the hours of flight I had. Each flight I was to make sure that the potential for danger, mishap, or harm was addressed and the decision to fly or not was taken seriously. I was careful every time.  

So now I looked at these past two chapters in Deuteronomy. “Be careful to obey…”   I had to be clear and transparent with myself, God already knows my heart, to see if i approached His Word as carefully as I did as a pilot. 

Am I cautious to really apply what He speaks to me through His Word? Do I pay close attention to detail or do I just try to pick out the “easy” stuff to obey? Do I approach His teaching as one that will keep me from danger or harm? Or do I read, think good thoughts, maybe even post an image verse but never allow the obedience through application to take root? 

Look at the second part of verse 28: “Be careful to obey all My commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the Lord your God.”

When I take time to truly apply God’s word into my life, life will be joyful, God’s attribute. I will be doing what God deems holy and righteous. And considering who God is, that’s a great place to be.

So how careful are you to obey God’s Word?

Joe