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)

30 Years of Faith

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Flowers and faith (see the cross?) – March 5, 2018

 

Easter is almost here! Yet today I’m thinking of an Easter several years ago.
Why? Because recently I hit a milestone: 30 years old in the Lord.
Happy re-birthday to me!

I’d like to share my story with you. You could say this is my testimony.

It was the first day of spring, 1988, and I was 13. I had attended church from a young age, at my grandma’s invitation, but hadn’t made a personal decision to believe and follow the Lord. Partly because I didn’t feel the need, but mostly because I was shy and terrified that I’d end up exclaiming “praise the Lord!” all the time, and handing out gospel tracts to strangers on a street corner somewhere!

For a month or two prior, I developed a bad habit that got out of control. looking back now, I could chalk it up to my own insecurity and coping with my mom’s illness (she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease), yet really there was no excuse. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but could not stop myself. Then the Holy Spirit nudged me and I realized that only God could help me stop and make things right. I needed forgiveness. I needed Jesus. Which would mean I’d have to trust and follow Him no matter what He asked me to do. I’d been taught that God loved me and had good plans for me, through stories of faith from the Bible and from folks at church. So on March 20th, while alone in my room, I prayed to the Lord for the first time, confessing what I’d done and asking Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. Then I poured my heart out to Him, saying, “I can’t do this myself, Jesus, help me…take over my life”. Immediately I felt a deep sense of peace, assurance, and incredible joy.

That day I grabbed a pencil and paper to write my first poem – an acrostic – as a new believer in Christ:

“Praise the Lord!”

Praise the Lord Jesus, who died and
Rose from the dead to bring us
All salvation.
I thank Him for
Saving me and giving me
Eternal life.

To seal my soul for
Heaven above, so I can
Enjoy His presence and love.

Life looks new,
Of course I will treasure this day, for He
Rendered His life for us and
Delivered me from my sins, because I accepted Him into my life today.

Next time you get the urge,
or the Holy Spirit you can feel through you surge…
Praise the Lord!

March 20, 1988
©Ladeena Ashley

At church, while the invitational hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” played, I went forward. I hadn’t said anything to my grandma, so she was as stunned but thrilled as everyone else. On Easter morning, April 3rd, I was baptized . There was the added blessing of my mom also being baptized that Sunday, as she hadn’t done so before.

Jesus set me free from sin’s power over me. By His strength I was able to stop, turn around and make amends as a teenager, and He has continued to transform me over the years. Through struggles and blessings, sometimes growing in fits and starts, ups and downs, it’s been a challenging but joyful journey overall. Yet each step of the way the Lord has proven over and over to be faithful. He is my sustaining source of strength, hope, peace wisdom, and…every good thing!

Remember why I was afraid to commit my life to Christ? Well, you probably caught the irony while reading the title and theme of the poem I wrote: “Praise the Lord!” Thankfully I haven’t been called to hand out tracts, as that method of evangelism seems to have gone by the wayside, at least in my circles. However, I have publicly declared my faith in many other ways, most notably in a couple of fun “March For Jesus” events in the Seattle area, and also, of course, in this blog. I’ve never regretted my decision to follow Christ. He works in my life, helping me to be more bold every day. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7). “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

I’ve also written hundreds of poems since that spring day so long ago. I believe my poetry is a spiritual gift, and words flow most often and freely the more time I spend with Jesus. Like everything else in life, there have been times when energy and inspiration have ebbed and flowed. Much of what I write is full of thankfulness and awe from the first line to the last. Other times I’ve begun writing about things that weigh me down, but the Spirit never fails to provide an updraft of faith, so by God’s unfailing grace my sadness turns to joy and my anxiety turns to praise. Like a bird on the wing, once more I’m sent soaring both in heart and in verse.

It’s such a blessing to share my story with you. I’m continually surprised at the growing number of souls who follow my humble little blog. Thank you!

I hope you also have experienced the forgiveness and hope that only comes by grace through faith in Christ, and that you are living for Him.

If not, please don’t let another Easter pass by without knowing what it’s really all about. (Hint: It’s not about bunnies, eggs or candy!) Find a Bible-believing church and seek out the truth. God says in His Word, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

For me it’s been 30 years of walking by faith. The Lord has carried me this far, and will continue for the rest of my days until He carries me home.

Praise the Lord!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

A Plethora Of Promises

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For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 1:20

We all make promises. We try to keep them, but sometimes we fail miserably. Thankfully, as a follower of Christ, I have witnessed over and over that we serve a God who is faithful, just and good, and we can count on His promises.

These past few years, I’ve leaned especially heavily on the Lord in prayer and in meditating on His Word; in particular, several promises have been an important part of my walk with Christ. Without the love of my Savior and the support of family and friends, I would have crumbled long ago, but God is faithful!

God’s promises offer hope, and hope is a powerful thing! It was such a blessing to share the hope I have in Christ, helping to lead chapel time at Simonka Place women’s and children’s shelter yesterday evening. Once again, the Lord inspired me to write a new poem only the day before! Here it is:

“The Promise Maker”

The promises of God forever stand;
He is faithful, His Word is true.
Clinging to Him as I walk this land,
I trust His love will see me through.
Yet some promises have a condition:
We must first ask, seek and knock.
A give-and-take of holy volition
with full surrender and daily walk.
If we believe, if we confess,
if we commit our ways and plans,
He will save, forgive our mess
and guide our lives with His hands.
God will never leave or forsake us,
He’ll finish the good work He’s begun.
The enemy seeks only to break us,
but in Jesus, the war is won.
God’s promises offer victory and power,
and all are “yes” in Christ our King,
on Whom we can rely every hour
to carry us through anything.
Claiming God’s promises, hearts overflowing
with thankful awe and peace, we pray
for wisdom and strength, seeking and growing
closer to the Promise Maker each day.

1-20-18
©Ladeena Ashley

As my teammate shared during chapel time, some are general promises, like God’s love for us. Other promises were directed at certain people or groups, but to all believers, as well. Many promises require action on our part before God will act, such as 1 John 1:9, which I referenced in my poem: “If we confess ours sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

According to one count, there are 3,573 promises in the Bible… a plethora of promises, you might say! The great news is, in His perfect timing and wisdom, God will fulfill every one!

No matter who else has broken promises to you, or let you down, God is good and He’s got your back! He loves you so much! If you seek Him with all of your heart, you will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13), and He will faithfully direct your paths as you trust in Him (Proverbs 3:5-6). Give your hurts to God, claim His promises, and watch Him move!

Here are a few of my favorite promises:

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:4-6

“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.” James 1:5

“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you…” Psalm 55:22

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

 

 

Faithful Through the Flood

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Reflection on life – October 14, 2017

 

My heart is heavy today. Someone close to me is going through multiple struggles, and on the brink of giving up completely. Though I trust that God has a plan, and this dear one is just a step or two away from deliverance and victory, I also know that I cannot make decisions for them. So I wait and continue to pray that the powerful love of the Lord will become undeniably real, thwarting the enemy and exposing his lies.

Today I decided to distract myself by finally taking the time to type up some of my earliest poems. Most are handwritten in pencil, on pages pulled from an old three-subject spiral notebook that I had long since pulled apart to consolidate my keepsakes. It has been an interesting afternoon, glimpsing back into the thoughts and hopes of my younger self.

One poem I wrote as a teenager actually echoes some of how I feel today. While I don’t recall what exactly had been troubling me at the time (life at home was definitely no picnic, for one thing), I thank the Lord that just as He was faithful in the midst of an overwhelming flood of cares back then, He is still my source of strength, hope and peace in the midst of uncertainty today.

“The Flood”

A great many things
have been flooding my brain;
Each time nearly swept away
by the hard downpour of rain.
The residue that’s left behind
are my exposed feelings and fears
that I’ve buried deep beneath the dirt
only sunken deeper with my tears.
Too many things have happened
– I keep getting lost in a dream
Forgetting that it’s reality,
but knowing things aren’t how they seem.
I’m just so scared of the future,
though I know it’s all in God’s hands;
I keep wondering, “What if…?” too often,
for I know not God’s plans.
But I do know I can’t recall a time
when God wasn’t there for me.
So I’ll get through it all with Him,
no matter how bad things seem to be.

10-22-91
©Ladeena Ashley

When you feel like you’re drowning and there are just no more words, cry out to God. Look to the heavens and simply pray “help me, Lord!”. He loves you and He is listening! In fact, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, expressing the deepest cries of our hearts (Romans 8:26). When we are at the end of ourselves, it may be the beginning of something miraculous through Him!

No matter how big or small the flood, lean fully on God – as He has carried me, He will carry you! You are NOT alone!

Faith Notes
We can trust God in the Eye of the Storm! This is a great song by Ryan Stevenson.
(Note: Link will open in a new window.)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

God Is Good All the Time!

20170914_182822Cyclamen – September 14, 2017

 

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I’ve been thinking about this verse lately. Specifically, about how hard it can be sometimes to give thanks and worship God in all circumstances, especially with all that’s going on in the world these days. Sadly, less people seem to seek God, let alone worship Him. It’s become more difficult to rejoice and be thankful.

Why does the Lord ask us to do something that sounds nearly impossible at times? It’s a part of God’s command to love Him (Matthew 22:37), not just because He deserves it, but because He loves us so much, He knows what’s best for us, and by His grace He makes it possible. For me, maintaining a thankful heart keeps my mind from dwelling on any present hardship and instead focuses it on His indescribable love and grace. Hope lingers and grows as I recall how He has brought me through similar circumstances in the past. I don’t always know what I’m doing, God does, and by His grace He’ll continue carrying me into the future. So I rejoice and worship!

There’s really nothing else on earth quite like the deep peace and overwhelming love I experience in worshipful prayer: the eyes of my heart looking heavenward and my soul laid bare before my creator, with full trust in God’s care for me. His Spirit removes each thorn of sin as I confess it, replacing every ache with an inner strength and a sense of wholeness that is hard to explain. I am filled with gratitude for all He has done for me, in me and through me!

Here’s a little poem I wrote after a particularly uplifting time of prayer led to praise:

“A Peace of Praise”

Praise the Lord Jesus Christ forever!
The earth and everything in it are His.
I am His child
I am His unfinished masterpiece
I am His gem
I praise my Lord, my King, my Savior.
Peace comes like a wave;
All doubts, fears, anger, pain
disappear.
I can truly say
there’s nothing on my mind,
there’s nothing wrong,
because my Lord Jesus is on the throne
Peace will ever be my song
Forever!

7-6-94
©Ladeena Ashley

A Thankful Heart
Worship truly is the natural out-flowing of a thankful heart. The more I praise Him for what I have, the more I realize just how good He is to me, and in turn how good He is overall. Yet worship in its purest form is praising God for Who He is, not just what He does. Only out of full surrender and the deepest trust can I say “God is good” even when my circumstances are not.

Made For Worship
God thoughtfully created us to glorify and to worship Him (Psalm 8:4-6; Isaiah 43:7). We are made in His image, meaning that we each have emotions, thoughts and a will. As a result, sometimes we suffer when people exercise their free will by inflicting harm on others, or because we live in a fallen world and on a planet that is constantly shifting. Yet, the hurt, doubt and fear we feel do not make God any less worthy of worship. No, He is perfect in all of His ways, and His love for us never fails (Psalm 136:1).

How easily we’re able to rejoice and worship the Lord, particularly in difficult situations, reveals how deeply we know and trust the God we say we believe and follow. Only by daily acknowledging our need for Him in prayer and trusting that He truly is who He says He is, can we avoid living like mere “fair weather Christians”. My prayer for you and believers around the world is that you will trust Christ with your whole heart, and keep praying and praising every day, even if He doesn’t take away your burden or rescue you from every trouble.

My relationship with Jesus Christ is the firm foundation of my life. He lightens the load and lifts my spirits as I surrender my cares to Him (Psalm 55:22). He will do that for you, too, if you let Him!

Faith Notes
Even If – by Mercy Me is a powerful song that speaks of praising God in all situations, and being able to say (or sing!) “it is well with my soul” even in the midst of struggles.
(Note: Link will open up in new window.)

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Do Not Lose Heart!

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“A Dandy Sunset” – September 25, 2017

 

I’ve been ruminating over what to write about next. There’s been so much animosity, sorrow and distress in the world lately: Hurricanes and flooding in the Gulf Coast. Raging wildfires here in the Northwest and elsewhere. Puerto Rico demolished by Hurricane Maria. Ongoing political dissension. Earthquakes in Mexico. The looming threat of nuclear war. The list goes on… there’s so much to pray about! With all that in addition to dealing with my own stress and physical issues, I really needed to slow down a bit and try to relax. Like millions of others, I’ve been experiencing what one might call “drama fatigue”, and just want to hear some good news for a change.

Then, just when I think we all might be able to take a (short) collective breath, another tragedy unfolds, this time in Las Vegas. When I overheard there was a mass shooting, at first I avoided the news. Later as I took in the full scale of what happened, my mind shifted to the big picture, thinking of the countless souls who don’t know the Lord, many of whom are reaching a tipping point in their lives. Just one more calamity, and they could suddenly tumble off of the mental and emotional cliff into despair, potentially becoming the next headline themselves. At each painful turn, the world’s need for the Lord becomes more apparent. They say evil wins when good people do nothing. It also wins for lack of hope.

This past week I’ve been torn between wanting to escape, trying not to think about anything, and yet at the same time, wanting so badly to go out and evangelize the world that so desperately needs to experience the love, HOPE, peace, joy and forgiveness that is only found in Jesus Christ!

So, what have I been doing? Praying A LOT, taking sanity breaks, and writing as I feel led; trusting that God uses my blog to help others lean in a positive direction, and perhaps put their trust in Him. As I go about my day, I still look for little ways to shine God’s love into my corner of the world. Though I’m not an expert in the field of psychology, and I’m not a certified counselor or a particularly gifted public speaker (which is okay, because after all, I have two ears and only one mouth!), what I can do is be quick to listen to others, slow to speak and slow to get angry (James 1:19-21). To rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), and offer hope.

As we pray for those going through hardships and pain, we can take comfort knowing that God cares for us and grieves with us. Yet He is still on His throne. He knew these things would happen, and somehow He will bring good from the bloodshed in Las Vegas.

Indeed, just as other events before it, humanity came together in extraordinary ways to help others in their time of crisis. In the days following the shooting, reports surfaced about several off-duty police officers, firefighters, and nurses who happened to be at or near the outdoor concert, and ended up tending to wounds and pulling the injured to safety. I believe it is no coincidence that those public servants were there. As horrific as it was, the death toll surely would have been higher had they not been there and willing to stay or put themselves in harm’s way when the bullets began flying. God is merciful (Isaiah 30:18).

As servants of Christ, in the midst of evil and loss, we must not become weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9), but keep fighting the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:12); merely resting when necessary so God can fill us back up. Heaven forbid that I myself should become too bone-weary or “drama fatigued” to write something positive for this blog! I’m learning to view and engage the folly and evil of this world only enough to know how to best pray and show others the way out of the dark. For our struggle isn’t against what we can see, but the enemy who is at work behind the scenes, in the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:12). But our Lord is stronger! Our best weapon is prayer, our sword is God’s Word, and our motivation is love. And if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

As I’ve written before, the birth pains (disasters both natural and man-made) will continue until Jesus comes back, and no matter what happens, we know Who wins at the end of the story! Instead of fretting about what’s going wrong in the world, I am trusting that in some small way He is helping me to be a part of what’s going right.

As I stay focused on Jesus, leaning fully on Him, I’m filled with a contagious hope as the Spirit reminds me that He is with me, that God will work things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)!

Do you have a contagious hope?

Pray, listen, accept His love, and fall on His grace.
Then share that grace and love with others.
Hold onto your hope, for God is faithful (Hebrews 10:23)!
Don’t give up the fight!

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 & 16

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

My True Home

DSCN9075Yellow Rose (Thinking of Texas, Louisiana & Florida) – September 10, 2017

 

Last week I discovered that the house my husband and I had most recently rented was torn down. Driving over to the old neighborhood to check it out, my nostalgia turned to disbelief as I neared the corner where a house, huge willow tree, fence, ash tree and shop once stood. My eyes filled with tears, staring at the vacant lot which was now only dirt, gravel and a few stakes surrounded by a chain link fence. A large sign announced the townhouses to come.

It’s amazing how attached we all get to places and things. There’s a keen sense of loss when the familiar disappears, either by wrecking ball, fire, storm, or simply relocating. It feels like small pieces of ourselves and our memories go with it.

Yet, as a follower of Christ, I know this world is not my home. As the old song goes, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…”*. I am in fact an alien in this world (Philippians 3:20), because by His Spirit, the Lord has made His home in me (Ephesians 3:17)! Feeling a little wistful about things is okay, but my ultimate happiness and security do not hinge on where I live or what I have.

Wiped Clean
In a way, it is a blessing that the house we called home for seven years is gone. There were good and bad memories, and now the slate as well as the lot are wiped clean. It’s time to build something else. Something better.

Similarly, reconciliation is a long process that starts with a demolition of sorts. You have to break things down and get back to basics before you can begin to build again. The same is true for ending relationships and starting over, however I’m still praying and working toward healing and restoration. My life is continually under construction as the Master Builder works out His will in and through me!

True Home
I’m looking forward to what God has in store, both in life here on earth, and my true home in heaven that will never be demolished! Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you….” (John 14:1-4). In the King James Version of the Bible, it’s described as a mansion, but I’d be happy with a quaint country cottage, log cabin in the woods, or a cozy beach bungalow! Really, though, no matter what form it takes, just to be with Him in heaven will feel more like home than anywhere on earth!

Here is a poem I wrote about my true home:

“My Home”

At home with my Savior,
heart’s door open wide;
No fears or worries there,
for love and peace abide.
His will, my goal,
His love, my only need,
His guidance through all things,
my willing soul to lead.
I’m in God’s holy family,
trusting in His perfect plan;
Committing all to His control,
though I don’t understand.
But wisdom comes with patience;
Through the Spirit, with my sword,
I simply pray for contentment,
for my home is with the Lord.

6-6-93
©Ladeena Ashley

Where is your home? Where do you turn when what’s familiar goes away? As followers of Christ, we have hope for today as well as the glorious promise of heaven: eternal life with the Lord, where tears, loss and pain are no more. The hope of heaven that I carry in my heart lightens my spirit and gives me strength during the uncertainties and losses of life. Remembering how far I’ve come, I have joy knowing His plans for me are perfect and good (Psalm 18:30). Every step taken and every word written leads me closer to heaven, trusting that as I bear witness of His grace, by His power others may also experience that reassurance. I hope and pray that you have the hope of heaven that comes through personal belief in Jesus Christ.

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all of the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

Faith Notes
I love this song about our true home: Where I Belong – Building 429
Note: Link opens up in new window.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

 

*Credit: Albert E. Brumley ©Copyright 1938

Declaration of Dependence

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Nature’s fireworks! May 17, 2017

 

I have mixed feelings about Independence Day. Two years ago, on a sweltering July day, it became obvious that I needed to make a change by stepping away from an increasingly emotionally and mentally abusive relationship. It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. Thankfully, the Lord had been preparing me for it, helping me steadily rebuild my faith and reclaim my identity in Him, so when the moment came I was strong enough to take action.

This poem is a declaration of dependence, of sorts. Written only weeks before that pivotal day, it is a prayer of joyful trust and commitment to follow the Lord wherever He led.

“Uncharted Faith, Grateful Hope”

As far as I can go,
I come, my all to bare;
Hands open, ready to receive
any guidance that You share.
Beyond my understanding,
to uncharted faith so wild.
Boldly trusting You’ll lead me
when I ask, for I’m Your child.
Beloved because of mercy,
going forth only by grace;
Filled anew with grateful hope
each day as I seek Your face.
For indeed, when I come humbly
to offer this meager frame,
My heart is light and free –
You love me and know me by name!
I could not flee from Your presence,
though I’ve fallen short of Your will.
Forgiveness covers shortcomings
– Jesus fully paid my bill.
So I reach out in trust and awe,
setting aside my every fear;
Strengthened, knowing through it all,
when I come, You meet me here.
Thank You, Lord, for loving me
– I pray my life honors You.
So that others can’t help but see
Your goodness in all I do.

6-14-15
©Ladeena Ashley

There is still no clear resolution in my situation, but the Lord has brought me this far, so I continue to follow His direction each step of the way. Meanwhile, He helps me keep growing, serving and sharing His love any way I can.

My faith is strong because God has an impeccable track record. Since deciding to trust the Lord and give Him my life at the age of 13, He has never let me down. I may suffer consequences from bad decisions, but through Christ my sins are forgiven, and His strength and peace have carried me through more tough times than I can count. I’ve learned that I can always depend on Him, and good things come to those who fully trust Him and obey His Word.

So, today I pray that you claim the true life and liberty that is found in trusting Christ! (John 17:3; John 8:36)

Daily declare your dependence on God; then He can fill up your heart so it bursts with shining hope and joy, like fireworks in the darkness of this world!

“Be strong, and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24

If you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship, don’t be ashamed to seek wise, godly counsel and support to either attempt to improve the situation or get out of it. Each circumstance is different. For confidential advice and resources, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).



Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

You Can Be Healed!

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We all need healing at many points in our lives. For some it is physical, for others it is emotional, mental or spiritual. When we cry out to God to alleviate the hurt, pain and struggles, we must come with faith and expectant hope that He is listening and will answer us (James 1:6). We also need to confess any sins and forgive others (and ourselves!) before we can ask for healing (Mark 11:24-25).

Sometimes we are miraculously healed the moment we place our request at the Lord’s feet, but because He knows us fully and responds to the deepest cries of our hearts, restoration may not be in the manner we expect. Other times we must participate daily in the healing process. A prayer of surrender may merely be the first step toward a long journey of slow but steady healing as He walks us through the necessary changes, often bringing caring people into our lives to help keep us accountable.

Prayer and Poem
Last night at Simonka House, we held a special healing service for the homeless women. Knowing that I’d likely be called upon to pray with them (I’m uncomfortable praying out loud with others, but working on it), I had prayed beforehand that He would “get me out of the way” and use this imperfect vessel as He saw fit. The Lord answered my prayer, in part, by giving me a new poem, which I shared. Here’s what I wrote:

“Current Of Grace”

God’s calling from the other side,
across the river of belief,
where healing waters flow swift and wide,
washing away the hurt and grief.
Not to worry if you can’t swim
– just let your fears go under;
Safest place is to be with Him,
immersed in hope and wonder.
Surrender to the current of grace;
Only His love can make you whole.
Arms open – lift up your face
and let the flood restore your soul.
Until finally you float ashore
and joyfully meet His gaze.
Complete in Christ, you’ll want no more
than to overflow with praise!
So take the first step to healing
God will meet you where you are;
The joy the enemy’s been stealing
will come to you, near or far.
Take the plunge, no hesitation!
Be renewed by the deep river
that flows without reservation
from the Great Physician and Life Giver.

6-9-17
©Ladeena Ashley

God Showed Up
Joining the team in the front of the chapel room was not easy for me, but while anointing and praying one-on-one with the women, the Spirit moved powerfully! It was especially meaningful when a couple of the women asked for deliverance from depression and anxiety. Having experience with that myself, I related on a deeper level and prayed with more passion and authority in public than I ever had before! One more way God uses the negatives in our lives for good! (Romans 8:28)

My Journey
Looking back over these past two years, I’ve experienced almost overnight spiritual healing, and others have noticed the amazing personal transformation in my life. Emotional healing takes longer, but the Lord has been faithful and will continue walking with me every day as I lean fully into Him.

Victory!
Another area of steady healing for me has been financial. In fact this week, after languishing under a dismal cloud of debt for most of my adult life, I can now say that I am debt free! I praise the Lord every day for the wisdom, faith and resourceful strength to endure those hard times and emerge victorious!

In Closing
God loves you so much, and longs to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18). Whatever you may need healing for, take the plunge into His Living Water! Don’t simply stick a toe in the current of grace, or you won’t experience all that God has for you! Surrender fully to His love today and your fears and hurt will be swept away! (Ha! That rhymes!)

Faith Notes
This song by one of my favorite artists fits well with today’s theme:
Jordan Feliz – “The River” (Note: Link will open in new window.)

“Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to His anointed. He answers him from His heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of His right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:6-7

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Go With God!

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Magnolia – April 10, 2017

 

In my last post, I spoke of how the Lord paved the way for me to follow Him, and how grateful I am for His providential care in my life. Of course, as with everyone, the choice was mine to make, but I am living proof of what the power of God can do when we decide to follow Christ. I haven’t regretted it.

For long-time believers such as myself, it’s easy to forget what it was like before we accepted the gift of salvation, but I was quickly reminded by participating in a group exercise several weeks ago that got me thinking about the “big picture” of my faith. On each side of 3×5 cards, we were asked to write down what life looks like with God, and without God, and how things could have been much worse had He not been pursuing us.

This is what I wrote:

Without God

GOOD isn’t enough – Lame
BAD gets worse – Hopeless
UGLY leads to – Death

With God

GOOD feels great! – Joy!
BAD prepares for ugly – Strength!
UGLY can be overcome – Victory!

Here’s what I mean…

Without God

GOOD things in my life, though enjoyable, were ultimately empty. Dissatisfaction leads to a never ending quest for more. Joy is shallow and fleeting, if this life is all there is.
Likewise, the good things I did for others apart from God, while nice, have only a temporary effect with no eternal worth. I can do nothing truly “good” (in the highest sense of the word) on my own.

BAD circumstances are a part of life, whether you are a follower of Christ or not. However, without God, they can easily devolve into even worse predicaments. We can grit our teeth and bravely move forward (like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti western), but without God we all eventually become run down, discouraged and even despondent. We make fear-based decisions or use the limited wisdom of the world. Either way, sooner or later the wheels fall off, leaving us in worse shape than before.
God often uses bad circumstances to get our attention, but some of us take quite a few hard knocks before we turn to Him. Yet He never stops pursuing us.

UGLY events, such as accidents, unexpected death or other tragedies bring us face to face with our own mortality. Recently an extended family member suddenly passed away, so lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about eternity.
Without God, even the ugly parts of life that don’t “do us in” will break our spirit at the very least, and can indeed prove to be fatal, for relationships, for our mental health and for our physical bodies. Without God and faith in Jesus, I would still be lost in my sin, and my eternal future would look very bleak.

Now for a poetic intermission…

“Without Him”

Without the Lord, I’m nothing
– a face without a smile;
A drone with little emotion,
yet quite easily riled.
Without the Lord in control,
I’m just an empty shell.
No thoughts of the future,
It’s too far off to tell.
But Jesus is the same today
as He was yesterday;
The future’s already known to Him,
and He faithfully shows the way.
My joy restored, I sing out loud
Praising the Lord Most High;
For without Jesus, I go empty,
but with Him, I never run dry.
With Him is perfect love
which casts away my fear;
He comes close to me
when I humbly draw near.
For with Him is life
without Him is sin;
But with Him there’s forgiveness,
and I can begin again!

3-7-94
©Ladeena Ashley

Okay, now for the best part…

With God
GOOD feels great! I gratefully acknowledge that all I have is from God; life and priorities are focused on things of eternal worth. Each day as I look to God, spending time with Him in prayer and reading His Word, He transforms me. Spirit renewed, I’m more keenly aware of both the beauty and pain in the world. In response to the needs I see around me, deep satisfaction is found in serving others, as He leads. Relationships bring a thousand times more meaning and fulfillment into my life, because I’m part of a larger family, sharing the same hope, faith and struggles with others.
As I learn and grow ever closer in relationship with God, there is an indescribable peace, deep joy and strong love not found anywhere else but in full surrender to a loving Savior. I know because I’ve experienced it in my own life and witnessed it in the lives of many believers around me.

BAD situations force me to rely on and draw courage from God. Though life isn’t perfect and not every problem is solved instantly, there is an incredible comfort and strength simply knowing that God loves me, He walks with me, and He knows me inside and out. I am known by the God of the universe!
Like most people, I do still occasionally whine about what’s going wrong in my life, but once I shift my focus off of myself and my circumstances and back onto Him, a powerful sense of hope and peace floods in. He reminds me of His promises, and I claim them boldly in prayer, often personalizing them to my situation. Just the other day I prayed, “Lord, I will not be anxious about anything, but I pray with thankfulness as I present my needs to You, knowing Your peace – a peace that passes all human understanding – will calm my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

UGLY trials and disasters are possible to overcome because I’ve learned to trust God through lesser calamities. When under pressure, as I lean fully on the Lord, He gives me wisdom to make good decisions. With every step taken in faith, confidence, contentment and joy builds, carrying me onward. “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalms 43:5)
My faith gives me hope, but also an eternal perspective on my troubles. Specifically, I don’t fear death! For to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). When my earthly life is through, I’ll transition to an eternal life filled with indescribable love and peace, because of what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection. In trusting and following Him, victory and joy can be ours here on earth and forever in heaven!

I shudder to think how my life would be without God. Exhausted, hopeless and empty, to say the least. But thanks be to God for His infinite grace and love, for by it I have been redeemed and continually transformed from the inside out!

Go With God!

My prayer is that you are also “with God”, and trusting Him no matter what life throws at you, whether good, bad or ugly. Jesus didn’t promise that life with Him would be easy, in fact He said in this world we will have problems, but He has overcome the world, and so shall we!

When life is good, bad or ugly, we can have joy, strength and victory with God, through Jesus!

Note: This post is much longer than I’d intended, but it’s what I felt led to share. I never know what God will lead me to write, but it’s always a fun and rewarding adventure! Thanks for coming along with me on it!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)