The Greatest Designer

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The message theme at Simonka last night was “Allowing God to Run Your Life”. I looked in my poems for a piece that would fit, and ended up doing what seems to have become the norm for me: writing a new one instead. Once again I finished it a mere half hour before sharing it with the ladies at the shelter! It is about how the Lord renovates our life, if we let Him…

“The Greatest Designer”

God won’t barge into your heart, He gently knocks,
then waits for us to answer the door of our soul,
look through the peephole and unlatch the locks,
to invite Him inside, and grant Him control.
I can tell how God works in myself and others:
Turning each shack into a cozy home,
working closely with sisters and brothers
who no longer call their lives their own.
We joyfully share about each renovation:
He brings hope to every room and closet:
Exposing our flaws with truth’s illumination,
sins He already knew, but still paid the deposit!
God redecorates lives in the brightest hues,
knowing best how our heart, Christ’s home
can function fully, as daily we choose
to let it truly become His throne.
So that’s the choice you have this day:
To back away from the threshold in pride,
or open your heart’s door and humbly pray
for the greatest Designer to step inside.
You won’t regret it, though change is pain,
great peace and love fills each space,
as He restores every tile and window pane
we’ll change the neighborhood by His grace!

5-20-18
©Ladeena Ashley

While writing that poem, in my mind was playing an older Christian song by Shaun Groves entitled “Welcome Home”. In it, he sings about opening up the door of his heart so that God, by His Spirit, can help him make changes in his life. Our bodies are but the outside packaging, but our heart and souls are where we “live” and where, from the abundance within, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). We must guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). If we don’t have our inner lives in order, everything outside will be thrown into chaos.

Over the last few weeks since the divorce, I’ve been praying about how to move on, and what is really important enough for me to have in my life. In complete surrender to the Lord, I’ve asked for wisdom, and am trusting that He will help me make healthy changes so that how I spend my time and resources will be more honoring to Him.

When invited, the Lord helps to organize and protect the good, while giving us strength to toss things that aren’t necessary. The hard part is, He needs full access to every nook and cranny, every dark and dusty corner, in order for us to have the full measure of joy that He promises as we submit to Him (John 15:1-11). It’s not easy, but we must allow God to show us where and how to make changes, even painful ones, in order to follow Him more closely.

Of course, daily prayer and time in the Word is essential to keeping ourselves open to the Lord and His perfect designs for our life. I often pray this verse: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

My prayer for you as well as for myself, is that we keep the doors, windows and closets of our hearts open to the moving of the Spirit and the light of the Son, so He can transform us inside and out!

The greatest Designer, the God who created the universe, loves you so much! You can trust in His design for your life, because He is good and what He has planned is infinitely more fulfilling than anything you can ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21, 1 Corinthians 2:9). I know from experience that the more I fellowship with Him, allowing Him to “have the run of the place” in my life, the stronger, more hopeful, joyful and more at peace I am.

Is your heart’s door open?

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20 (NKJV)

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Joyful Journey

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God is awesome! This past Sunday evening, in preparation for chapel time at Simonka Place, I studied the chosen scripture passage (James 1:2-8) and began pulling out poems to share. Reading and rereading those Bible verses about joy in trials, persevering and seeking God’s wisdom, my own journey came into focus and I thought, “I sure have a lot of practice with that!” After a quick prayer, I was inspired with a new praise-filled poem, finishing it just in time to leave for the shelter. Barely half an hour later, after sharing a bit of my story, I read the new poem aloud. Here it is:

“Joyful Journey”

It’s been a tough, but joyful journey
from the moment I said “okay”.
I’m “all in”, in full surrender –
peace flows as I humbly pray.
Lord, You’ve stayed with me through this trial,
Giving me strength to persevere;
Holy wisdom each time I ask,
and faith to follow without fear.
Blessing upon blessing have come,
for You give as I give my all:
With support from my family and friends,
Your love has broken down every wall.
My pack is filled with Your promises,
expecting that one of these tomorrows
they will be fulfilled in Your timing –
leaving mere memories of past sorrows.
But today, I continue trusting –
no doubt of Your plans for me;
Walking daily with You, Jesus,
I’m thankful, loved, and free!

1-28-18
©Ladeena Ashley

One way I’ve had joy in my trials is by sharing my struggles and faith with others. In particular, to be a witness of God’s faithfulness to the women at Simonka Place, most of whom are way out of their comfort zone, hurting and in desperate need of hope. Having been in a similar situation myself, I can speak from a place of experience and a depth of compassion, with greater empathy for each soul I encounter. God is in the business of transforming lives and using bad circumstances for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28). My mess, placed in God’s loving hands, becomes a powerful conduit for His message.

And it never ceases to amaze me how He does it! The inspiration to write about my journey is already an incredible blessing, but then I get to read it aloud and have people respond with hugs and teary eyes, saying God spoke to them through my humble offering! As His servant, my prayer is always that folks see and hear Him, not me. I’m just along for the ride, but what a joyful ride it is!

I’m humbled and thankful to be used to encourage others, even as I continue trusting and waiting for His plan to come to fruition in my own life. For sure, the trials of life are not easy, but by God’s grace, I am persevering, one day at a time!

James 1:2-8:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

We can have joy today and hope for tomorrow, as we daily surrender our ways for His by seeking His wisdom above our own, and relying on His strength to persevere and grow.

Is your journey joyful, or are you simply trudging along the trail?

How can you help brighten the path for others along their journey?

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Patience or Indifference?

20170406_125109Periwinkle – April 6, 2017

This evening, before eating dinner, it was a challenge for me to focus and pray. For some reason I’ve been in a bit of a funk. (I partially blame the dismal, drizzly weather, though it does make for some gorgeous raindrop-accented photos.) Not depressed, just not sensing God’s presence quite as much as I had been.

For one thing, all this waiting is taking its toll on me. One minute I’m full of faith and hope for reconciliation, and then in the next, I’m tired and ready to throw in the towel. When I last inquired of the Lord about continuing to wait, I sensed that I should indeed stay the course. It was a simple answer, and there’s a reassuring peace in knowing, but it is brutal just the same.

So tonight I thanked the Lord for my job and what I’d accomplished today, and for the meal. Then, out of my mild malaise, I asked Him to show me if there’s something I need to be doing differently, because I don’t want anything holding me back from His will in my life. Sensing that I should let my dinner cool just a few moments more, I opened my devotional book, “My Utmost For His Highest”, and read today’s entry.

God answered using the words of Oswald Chambers, who pointed out that there’s a difference between patience and indifference, and the key is to keep focused on the Lord as our source of inspiration and strength. That there will be seasons when we don’t hear anything (or very little) from the Lord, and we must endure like Jesus did when He was tempted in the wilderness. Thankfully I’m not in a “dry season”, but it does happen.

While waiting, there have been times that I’ve slipped from patience to indifference. Waiting is painful, and I’d rather not think about it! Yet I have all the fortitude I need, and more, in Jesus. Furthermore, there’s actually great value in struggling, for when all is well and I cease striving, it’s all too easy to become complacent in my faith. In fact, faith seems less necessary when life is good. Yes, we should be content with what we have, but there should also be a “holy discontent” that keeps nudging us from the good we enjoy and do, toward the even greater things He has waiting for us in the wings!

Here’s a prose poem about striving for God’s best:

“Greater Blooms”

Dancing in dandelions
Oblivious to roses of promise
Content with what we have.
Yet in the fields, God is calling
to reject the blithe comforts
– to long for greater blooms.
We cannot see for all the ochre
Happily we exist in present blessings.
Beyond the field is danger
Extending our hearts to break
or soar, enfolded in love’s wings
to land amidst magenta petals
yet now out of imagination’s eyes.
But God sees all and waits
to bless us once we’re ready
to take the risk to dream.

12-17-98
©Ladeena Ashley

I don’t know how things will play out, but God does, and therefore I will continue to wait. Not with indifference, but with a joyful expectation that grows as I humbly keep my eyes focused on Him! (Hebrews 12:1-2)

In Closing…
If life is going well for you, thank the Lord but don’t stop striving.

If you’re waiting on God for something, I pray you can wait with joy for His will to work out in His perfect timing.

Whatever you may be going through now, count your blessings you already have, and stay focused on Christ, because your answer is right around the corner!

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Dispel The Shadow Of Doubt!

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Doubt is sneaky. It’s like the first shadow of what could turn into a long dismal winter of fear. From the first suspicion that something or someone isn’t what or who we thought they were, to the nagging lack of confidence in ourselves, doubt can be a powerful thing.

I’ve been experiencing a bit of doubt lately. Both in pondering our future as a nation under a new president, and personally as I’ve accepted a more proactive role within the leadership of my church. Tonight was my first official meeting after a long break from significant responsibilities. I hardly spoke a word. I’m praying a lot for help getting back into the swing of things, with no shortage of consternation on my part.

Power In Purpose
Isn’t it all too easy to look at at that’s wrong in the world and in ourselves? Look at the problems instead of His power? We have all been placed in our respective stations in life for a grander purpose. That purpose is to glorify and serve the One Who has given each of us what – all in all – is a beautiful life, and the hope of an infinitely better one. We have this light, this treasure in jars of clay to show that the God of the universe faithfully gives us the power to work out His perfect plan and purposes through us we continue submitting to Him (Philippians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 4:7)!

One Step Away…
One of the enemy’s main tactics, besides apathy and anger, is fear. And, as I said in my opening lines, doubt is usually the beginning of fear! We may doubt simple everyday things like whether or not we will make it to work or school at a certain time, but if we ever question God’s faithfulness, sovereignty, or power to change lives, it is the devil’s way of trying to get a foothold. Becoming doubt-full is to be full of nothing productive; instead it’s the beginning stages of becoming faithless and even hopeless.

On the contrary, when we are tempted to lose heart, to stand down from the battle and even collapse in a heap into the nearest chair, it’s then that we must cry out to the Lord, “help my unbelief!” and “I need Your strength!”. Casting our cares upon Him means not only putting forth our daily concerns and needs, but also voicing our fears, failures and yes, doubts. Doubts will come; just don’t let them take root and become an even bigger problem. Instead, let the light of Christ so shine in and through you that doubt has no place in your life (2 Corinthians 4:6)! Blast away the shadow of doubt with the light of faith!

Here’s a poem I wrote many years ago about doubt and how to dispel it:

“In the Shadow Of A Doubt”

In the shadow of a doubt
the enemy lies in wait
for us to hear the Lord’s commands
and have the urge to hesitate.
Waiting to devour us like a lion,
but appearing meek as a lamb;
We need to keep our eyes focused
on the Light, the great “I AM”.
For Jesus is the Light of the world,
the One whose light is true;
The One who’ll never forsake us
but Who loves us and sees us through.
In the pain of our toughest trials,
when we’re not sure what’s to be,
at those most difficult times
is when we’re more fully free.
He loves us, He’ll take the burden
– He took on all of the blame;
He wants to love all your cares away
– love’s the reason why He came.
As soon as we commit our ways
to the Lord and His loving laws,
the enemy in the shadow of doubt
has no place to sink his claws.

7-5-92
©Ladeena Ashley

Pray!
Please join me in praying for our nation as we prepare to welcome a new commander-in-chief to the White House. Doubts and fears about the future, as well as anger and discontentment have been expressed by many individuals and groups, and may continue long into the weeks (or months) ahead.

Pray for a peaceful transition, and for the new leadership on all levels. Regardless of your personal views, if leadership fails, we all lose, so PRAY for their success as we move forward into this new chapter of government and world history as a whole. Overall, let us all be beacons of Christ’s light of hope in the darkness, wherever we may find it!

God’s Word
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” James 1:5-7

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:19

“But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3

“Do all things without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe…” Philippians 2:14-15

Faith Notes
Keep on Pushing Back the Dark – a great song by Josh Wilson
(Note: Link opens in a new window.)

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Moving Forward While Waiting

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Happy New Year!
The new year has arrived, and with it a clean slate and the hope that this year we’ll all  finally “get it right”. Or at least be happier, healthier, prosperous….you fill in the rest.

This day is bittersweet for me because an important relationship remains in a state of limbo. In that part of my life, I am poised to…well…continue waiting.

Some seasons of waiting are of longer duration than others; it’s easy to grow discouraged when changes aren’t happening at the speed or in the manner we’d like. We must always remember that God’s ways are higher than ours; He will not be rushed! However, He will be with us, loving us through every second as we trust in Him. My own faith, strength, and courage were certainly tested in 2016, but many joys also lightened the load. I never stop growing and learning.

Here’s a poem I wrote about where my heart and head are at right now:

“Heavenly Lenses”

Pulled up once more by my bootstraps
–the Lord seems slow, but He’s never late.
Uneasy with unresolved issues,
nothing more to do but pray and wait.
Moving forward feels like standing still,
must make better use of my days:
Proactively pursuing God’s will
–surrendered more fully to His ways.
In moments like these, He is my strength,
when discouragement dulls my senses;
I cling to Jesus, reading His Word
to see through heavenly lenses.
For God’s wisdom surpasses all
that my human brain can comprehend.
Not knowing is the hardest part
–when it’s time for this season to end.
Til that day comes, I trust His plan,
lifting my hands in thankful prayer,
for though the future is unclear now,
I know that God is already there!

12-30-16
©Ladeena Ashley

Waiting Wisely and Well
Waiting is never easy. We’ve all been through periods when we’ve done all we can do, and now the ball is in someone else’s court. To keep my faith strong and my sanity (relatively) intact, the Lord has helped me use the time wisely. Proactive waiting, you might say.

Here’s a short list of what I’ve learned, and questions to ask:

  1. God knew this would happen
    (He loves you and you can trust His plan)
  2. It’s okay not knowing what will happen
    (it’s not like you’d predict any other time, either)
  3. What is the Lord teaching you through this?
    (about His character, yourself, and life)
  4. How can you improve yourself while waiting?
  5. How are you preparing for the possible outcomes?
    (pray — this does NOT mean worrying or obsessing)

Waiting doesn’t have to be full of stress, anxiety and discouragement. Use the time to reflect, regroup and, yes, rejoice! Praise God in advance for what He will do. Before you know it, the answer will come, the situation will change or the problem will work out. When the time comes, you can be more ready because you knew how best to wait!

God’s Word About Waiting…

“Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!” Isaiah 30:18, NIV

“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May Your unfailing love, rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.” Psalm 33:20-22, NIV

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9, NIV

“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31, ESV

Faith Notes
Here’s an awesome song that my heart sings every day!
Trust In You – Lauren Daigle
(Note: Link will open in new window.)

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