Steps To Healing

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Today I went to a local park to think and pray about the message topic my friend will be sharing at Simonka House tonight: loving others, along with the other “one another” verses in the Bible.

I was also ruminating about this morning’s sermon, the Parable of the Sower: seeds that represent the Gospel message (the Good News of what Jesus did for us), and the types of spiritual soil in people’s lives to accept it. There’s the path (just surface), rocky soil (accepting, only to fall away quickly), thorny, weed-filled soil (good choked out by sin and the cares of this world), and good soil (acceptance and steady growth). What stuck with me was the idea that weeds are native to the soil and so easily grow with no effort on our part. How true is that?!

Strolling around the rose garden, I noticed a lot of stray pieces of wood chips and branches that had ended up in the grass pathways. As I began absentmindedly tossing or kicking them back into the rose beds, I had to admit that lately I’d let my spiritual garden get messy in my desire to sequester myself and just “be” for a bit. Instead of tending to it, I’ve simply distracted myself, letting the weeds do what the enemy intends them to do… choke out the good that God has planned.

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and He knows I’ve needed the rest. On top of adjusting after the divorce, I’ve had ongoing car troubles over this past month. Resting is okay and even expected, to a point, but the Lord gently reminded me that I must continue tending to my spiritual garden and stay closer to Him.

Yet God had something more to tell me this afternoon. Finding a bench in the shade, I was about to sit down when I saw a flash of red on the ground underneath it.
It was a painted rock in the shape of a half heart. On the back were instructions on how to find the other half. I chose a direction and then carefully took the required number of steps, finding the other half on the first try!
Finally sitting down, holding these painted rocks in my hands, the Lord gave me this thought: at some point you have to take steps to put your heart back together and heal. Tears filled my eyes as I let that simple truth move from my head into my heart.

On my own, this is impossible. But through Christ I will have the strength to take the necessary steps to healing (Philippians 4:13). One way is to serve others. For even as I heal, there is joy to be found as I continue stepping out in faith to “love one another” and “bear with one another” as He commands us to do (John 15:9-12).

As Christ followers, we must all take the time, with the help of the Master Gardener, to repent of and deal with the thorns, brambles and stick-tights of life. Everyone’s weeds look different, but Christ died so that we can be weed free! Each day His mercies are new, and as we open ourselves to be tilled and fertilized by the Spirit, He helps us dislodge the weeds. Then the seeds of truth He flings into our lives will grow, yielding a bounty of love, hope and light that we can then share with the world.

Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Glass Half Full?

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Since the dust has settled from the divorce and changing my name, I’ve been taking a breather, praying and working through this odd season of life that has me examining my life and reevaluating what it is that I want in it. I was on my own while separated for two and a half years, but everything changed once the papers were signed. Now it truly feels like I’m starting over and moving on. Unfortunately, my feelings morphed from simply considering what sort of hobbies and “stuff” I really feel is worthwhile in my life – reorganizing and consolidating – to looking at my whole life, wondering what the heck I’m doing with it! Overwhelmed, I kind of folded up into myself, a lot like the rose in my photo, even taking a step back from writing, as well, to just “be” for a while.

God Sighting
Yesterday I made a quick stop for groceries and got back in my car only to find that it wouldn’t start. Each time I tried, the engine turned over but apparently it lacked either spark or fuel to fire up and take me anywhere.

My first thought, as a generally glass half full person, was how glad I was that perishable items were not among my purchases in the store.

Over the next 20 minutes or so I contacted a few friends, and thankfully one couple who live nearby came to my rescue. When they arrived, the husband asked me to go ahead and try starting it again, so he could hear how it sounded, and wouldn’t you know it, my car started right up!

After turning off the engine and restarting it again, my car seemed okay. The husband had an errand to run, but his wife and I ended up going out for lunch and had a great visit. Turns out that they were preparing to travel soon , so if I had called even a day later, I likely would not have caught them at all. It was perfect timing.

God knew I needed to reach outside of myself and talk with someone, so He used car troubles to prompt me to do just that! He truly does work in mysterious ways.

New Poem
Tonight I joined my friends to lead chapel time at the Simonka Place women’s shelter. The theme this evening was “Glass Half Full or Half Empty?” This afternoon, after a bit of prayer and once again surrendering my self-doubt to the Lord, He inspired me with a new poem to share:

“The Glass”

At times when the glass of life
feels half empty instead of half full;
At my wit’s end, amidst the strife,
yet good out of evil You pull.
Greater than all I could ask or think,
larger than my hopes and dreams;
Though some days are harder to drink,
still You’re working behind the scenes.
So I will keep looking to You,
my sparkling hope in this transition;
Smiling, knowing You’re not through,
for even now, You give inspiration!
Yes, thank You, Lord, that I have a glass
and that there’s something inside;
Yet beyond that, this moment can’t pass
without praising You, for You abide
in the future, the past and right now.
You hold my heart, Your love will prevail.
I trust that some way, somehow
Your perfect plan will never fail.
So I pour out my glass to You:
in surrender, I’m refilled each day,
peace and joy brimming anew
as by Your grace I get out of the way.
Daily closer to You I’m growing,
lacking nothing I need, in Your care;
Instead, filled to overflowing,
I forget the glass as Your love I share!

6-17-2018
©Ladeena Ashley

My life is different now than I ever thought it might be, but my attitude has remained focused on the bright side, seeing the glass as half full. Many times though, I’ve just been glad I have a glass and that there’s something in it. Contentment is great, yet as I wrote in the poem, we should take it a step further. Instead of focusing on the glass and how we view its contents, we should pour it all out to the Lord, so He can fill us to overflowing with His love, power, grace, strength, joy and peace. When we’re filled with Him and flowing out to those around us, we’ll forget that there’s even a glass!

I believe that is what Jesus meant when He said, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39) It’s not about us, our limitations or our circumstances, and it’s not about what we have or don’t have. We follow and serve the God of the universe! Through Christ we have been given access to greater things than all we can imagine!

The enemy will tell you that you aren’t good enough or smart enough. Resist him and he must flee (James 4:7). Instead, pour out your glass to the Lord so He can fill it with Himself, transforming and equipping you to perfectly fulfill His purposes. Through Christ you are more than enough!

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog Content and Photos)

Masterpiece

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We had another awesome time at Simonka this evening. The theme was “Celebrating You”, about what God thinks of the women at the shelter, through Jesus (hint: good things!).

Once again, the subject was perfect timing, as I needed to refocus and take a breather for myself after the divorce, changing my name everywhere (I hadn’t realized just how many places and accounts it would affect!), and the emotional impact of all that’s happened this past month.

None of my existing poems quite fit the theme, however, I was feeling tired and not at all sure about writing an uplifting poem when I myself felt so depleted. So I prayed and left it up to God to speak through me or not.

Before attempting to write, I first had to remind myself who I am in God’s eyes and then hopefully pour out my thanks to Him on paper. Reviewing an organized list of Bible verses that my counselor friends gave me a long time ago that’s simply entitled “Who You Are In Christ”, I chose a few that jumped out at me, and as usual, references to a few other scriptures also found their way into my writing. Not surprisingly, by the time the last line was typed, I was feeling more centered and re-energized! Here’s the poem:

“Masterpiece”

Even when I feel depleted,
God, I find myself in You.
In all, Your will is completed,
Your strength always pulls me through.
For I am Your child, joint heir,
loved daughter, saint, Your friend.
Joyfully, my all to You I bare,
though You know me beginning to end.
In my every coming and going
You anticipate each thought!
Grand mystery, how, all-knowing,
You bring good and rework the plot.
Masterpiece in the making,
unfinished and carried by love
to shine so there’s no mistaking
that my worth comes from above.
For all that I am and will be
is from You and for Your glory;
In You I’m forgiven and free,
so I’ll keep sharing my story.
For You call me Your own,
by Your sufficient grace I stand.
You empower this flesh and bone
to carry out what You’ve planned.
May I always see myself as You do:
A warrior clothed in victory.
Walking boldly ahead as You
celebrate and sing over me.

5-27-18
© Ladeena Ashley

After I shared my poem at Simonka, my friend began his message by commenting that my poem really set him up well. He was right! I chuckled to myself several times as he cited most of the same verses and points. I hadn’t seen his notes, but the Lord had, and lined things up nicely!

Here are some of the highlights:

We are joint heirs with Christ – by grace we are made righteous and will have eternal life in heaven! Romans 5:17

We are children of God – we are loved, guided, and disciplined. John 1:12

We are called to shine like stars in the sky – we’re empowered to share the joy of salvation. Philippians 5:15

We are God’s friend – we can talk to Him about anything. His Spirit works with us and gives us wisdom. John 15:15

We are His workmanship – God created you on purpose! Ephesians 2:10

We are clothed in victory – we have victory over sin and death! 1 Corinthians 15:57

God delights in us and sings over us – God thinks we’re pretty great! Zephaniah 3:17

It’s important to know our standing with God, through faith in Christ. It’s entirely different than how the world sees us, but ultimately, God’s opinion is the only one that matters. God loves us so much that He actually rejoices and sings over us! It is vital to keep that in mind during difficult seasons, to keep hope and joy alive. On the flip side, however, when things are going well, we must also remember from Whom those blessings come!

I hope this helps you remember how God sees you through Christ, and that you’re living like you believe it!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Peace in the Pain

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I’ve written about waiting, of showing God’s love and caring for others by His grace. For over two and a half years, with heart fully committed to the Lord’s leading, I’ve done all I could to work toward reconciliation with my husband: from tough love, setting healthy boundaries, to counseling, offering help when appropriate, along with encouraging and of course, praying. Friends have said that I’ve been faithful and shown more patience and grace than anyone else they’ve met.

Late in March, however, despite my best efforts and prayer, the frustration and pain were so great that I began to realize that this could not be how the Lord intended us to live. Things just couldn’t keep going the way they were, and I sensed from the Lord that the time for waiting was coming to an end.

Sharing my struggles with a close friend, she suggested putting out a “fleece”, similar to what Gideon did (Judges 6:33-40), to confirm what seemed like the right choice. I decided to try it, and the Lord answered.

First I found a shiny penny while on my way home from church. Not knowing the year on it, once at home I prayed, “If it is from this year, then I’ll know it’s okay to divorce [him].” Since it was still only March, it seemed highly unlikely that it would be a 2018 coin, yet it was.

The second answer was after a heavy-duty time of prayer one evening several days later. I left everything on the altar, finally just asking for reassurance that divorce was okay in this case. As I walked into the next room after praying, I heard His still, small voice tell me, “It’s okay. I love you.” Those phrases repeated 3 times.

The third answer was even more profound: I awoke the next morning with an intense headache, mentally wringing my hands over the increasingly awkward and complicated situation with my husband. I desperately wanted to write in my blog, but felt emotionally and physically useless. My heart was broken and without reservation I simply thought this prayer: “If it’s okay to divorce [him], please just take away this headache, and I’ll sit right down and write the blog.” No sooner had I thought those words when my headache evaporated! The unopened bottle of ibuprofen, now unnecessary, still sat on the table. So, true to my word, I promptly grabbed my laptop and posted the April 7th blog entry.

Honestly, divorce was never an option in the past. Many times during arguments the subject would arise, but I immediately dismissed it. Even once I was ready to consider it, the Lord had to tell me three times that it was okay for me to walk away. The decision was not taken lightly, and only came after countless hours of tearful prayer. I’ve gone through several boxes of tissues!

I know God hates divorce, but He allows it because we are imperfect people who live in a fallen world. Yes, we’d made a commitment before God and with each other, but eventually we had to face the fact that it was not ultimately healthy nor honoring to God to remain married. For one thing, as I’ve mentioned in the past, the dysfunctional nature of the relationship and the ongoing stress it caused definitely took its toll on my body – my digestion and anxiety levels in particular have been out of whack for a long time.

What this all came down to is that my relationship with God is important and should be protected above all else. Jesus said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26. Not that I should actually hate them, but instead I must love the Lord more. My love for God takes precedence over any human loyalties. We are called to love Him with ALL of our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37). To do that, in this case I needed to walk away.

The divorce was final the day before I wrote my last post. I feel sad and relieved. It was the most difficult decision of my life, but under the pain, there is peace. Here is a poem I wrote about it:

“Peace in the Pain”

There is peace in the pain, calm even in my sorrows;
A rainbow in the rain, hope for our tomorrows.
A new chapter of life because another ends:
I’m no longer a wife, we’re now simply friends.
A decision so daunting, but the Lord walked me through.
So focused, only wanting His will in all I do.
There’s a time to mourn for the good that’s gone,
but joy will be reborn as with courage, we move on.
Missing a piece of my heart, yet my soul is in God’s hand;
I’m making a new start, stepping toward what He’s planned.
Into a future unknown, taking one day at a time;
By grace I don’t walk alone, even as I compose this rhyme!
What was meant for harm, the Lord turns all around,
As I resist the devil’s charm, I’m set on solid ground.
God makes beauty from ashes, bringing comfort in distress;
Rebuilding what Satan trashes, making a message of my mess.
God is working for my best, even through this painful story,
Overall, I’m still so blessed, and all to the Father’s glory!

5-6-18
©Ladeena Ashley

If you’re still reading this, thank you for caring and sticking with me. The negative stigma of divorce, especially in Christian circles, has lessened but there still is an element of judgment. I can’t help that. The Lord knows all about the situation, and by His grace I’ve done my best to walk in His love and according to His wisdom. Now I’m taking the next step into a new chapter of life. God will keep working on us, just not together, and it is healthier for both of us this way.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

Side Note: As you likely noticed, my last name is changed. I went back to my maiden name, which ironically has a better “ring” to it than “Bell”, I think.

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)