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)

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)

 

 

Redone and Transformed

20180113_215338 A little tag I found (shown larger than actual size).

 

Many years ago, I randomly found this small round tag on the ground. The red and white plastic tag has just one word engraved into it: “redone”. The concept which immediately struck me was that when I decided to live for Christ, I was redone – fundamentally changed – on the inside, as the Bible promises: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As I continue following the Lord, I am constantly being redone – transformed – with the help of His Spirit. Over the years, that little tag has become a unique symbol of my life in Christ.

Whoever commits to being a Christ follower is “redone” at the moment of salvation. We are new creations in Him. However, we are also called to daily work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12) and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). We are all works in progress, and though God sees us as perfected through Christ, we are not perfect, and fail every day. I know I do.

God lovingly created each of us, with our unique personalities, likes and dislikes, and tendencies. When the Spirit enters our life, He begins to change us, in ways both small and significant. From the way we assert our personality, to why and how we use what we’ve been given; materially and in gifts and talents. The same God who created each of us helps me to be the best “me” possible, as I let Him, while living in this fallen world. My good traits are enhanced and the less desirable habits are replaced with more fulfilling ones that benefit not only myself but can positively influence the community around me.

Many folks have experienced dramatic changes almost instantly, such as the desire for cigarettes, alcohol or drugs being taken away. Those kind of miracles at conversion are great, but with many other entrenched habits or shortcomings, it may take months, years, or even a lifetime to “get it right”. Every day is a spiritual battle to conquer our imperfections and sin nature. As I’ve written before, we fight that battle by walking daily with Jesus through prayer and reading His Word, and sharing our faith journey with other believers through fellowship – all in full submission to His leading. None of us is perfect, and there are ups and downs. At times we’ve all experienced dry moments, or made decisions we wish we could take back. Yet God is ever faithful, always ready to forgive us and set us back on the right path! (1 John 1:9)

I wrote this poem exactly 22 years ago (!), after a short dry spell in my life:

“Commitment”

This broken vessel I give to You –
My offering, knowing You’ll see me through.
Surrendering all to follow Your lead;
For though I’m imperfect, You plant a seed.
Shortcomings don’t limit what thru me You can do,
with my eyes set toward heaven, my heart toward You.
What little I have expands in the grace
You give me to serve You, wherever the place.
I’m not perfect, I’ll never meet
these high expectations I lay at Your feet.
Disappointments arise from unfinished plans;
as You take over, I free my own hands.
It’s been some time, but Lord, now I pray
with faith that You’ll guide me on from this day.

1-14-96
©Ladeena Ashley

Have you been redone? Are you in the process of being redone? Is there anything you’re holding onto, thinking you can overcome it using your own wisdom and by your own strength? Jesus is just waiting for us to admit defeat – that we can’t do it alone – and once we do that, then He can do His work and we can claim the victory! Besides, the blessings He has waiting for us are so much better than the mediocre things we often pursue or settle for.

If you don’t know what it’s like to be redone, trust that God the Father loves you more than you love yourself, and has your best interests at heart! Believe in His Son Jesus and accept the gift of forgiveness and new life in Him! Through the Spirit, He will walk with you and help you to be the best redone and transformed “you” that you can be. Surrender your imperfections to the One who alone is perfect and has a perfect and loving will for your life.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

A Life Overflowing

DSCN7529Drift Creek Falls – November 4, 2016

The love of God is amazing! It lasts forever, and it is deeper and stronger than any human can fully experience on this earth. Growing up in the faith, I learned that God’s love for all of us is so complete that He sent His Son Jesus here to live, teach and then die on the cross to take the punishment for our sins (Romans 5:8). Then He rose again so that we could have new life – a life overflowing with the love of God.

When I was 13 years old, I believed that for myself and began to follow Christ. However, with so much of my emotions muted or trapped behind an inner wall, my experience of God’s love was also limited. There were faint glimpses, often only during the safety of quiet times with Him. Thankfully, that has changed.

Here’s a poem I wrote about the love of God:

“God Is Love”

In all my failings
God is patient
In all my fears
God is faithful
In all my desires
God is complete
In all my calm memories
God is consistent
In everything I receive
God’s fingerprints are on it
In all my accomplishments
God gets the glory
In all my hasty actions
God still moves slow.
In my impatience
God reminds me
Life is short
Eternity is long.
In my selfishness
I forgot
God is love
and others don’t know
God loves them
just as much.

5-29-95
©Ladeena Ashley

Bearing Fruit

I’ve been slowly reading through a devotional book entitled “Abiding In Christ”. The latest segment speaks about bearing fruit, and how the purpose of each Christian is to bear fruit in serving others, by God’s power and to His glory. The main driving force is always faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6), living to joyfully serve Him in all we do.

I got to thinking: In my own life and walk, have I been more than a “clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1), just doing what is right or what is expected, but not from a place of deep love? Being kind, colorblind and non-judgmental is great, but it is a shallow substitute for the selfless love that God calls us to share. Thankfully, by His grace God works with me, as He does with everyone who humbly looks to Him. The Lord uses us right where we are, if we let Him. In all my weaknesses, God is truly my strength (2 Corinthians 12:9), and He helps me grow and improve every day. As I’ve experienced God’s love more powerfully in my own life, His love overflows more freely to bless others.

God Sighting

Recently I stopped at a yard sale. It was nearing five o’clock, so as I browsed, the homeowners chatted with me, asking if I could use this or that for cheap. A few minutes later, as I began pawing through some clothing, they said I might as well just take whatever clothes I wanted because it was all headed to Goodwill. Without a second thought, I told them that I volunteer at Simonka House women and children’s shelter, and they could definitely use the clothes. Intrigued and excited, the family asked about the shelter, and then began asking what else the shelter could use. Before long, the family had eagerly helped me fill my entire car with clothes, luggage sets, bedding and children’s items. They said their kids would be especially happy knowing that their unwanted things would be a blessing to other kids! The ladies at Simonka House were very happy to receive such a generous donation, and it was also an incredible feeling for me!

If I hadn’t spoken up, those blessings would not have been passed along in such a meaningful way. As the Spirit works behind the scenes, it is becoming more natural for me to reach out of myself to care more deeply, to be more empathetic, and to be more engaged with others. As long as I remain pliable to the Lord’s direction, He faithfully leads me step by step, in preparation for whatever He’s got planned next. I have to say, it’s been awesome so far!

How about you?

If you know the love of Christ, pray for opportunities to share His love, and stay open to His leading.
If you used to know His love, it’s not too late! Turn back to God with an honest heart. He will forgive and transform you!

Faith Notes

One of my favorite songs is Your Love by Brandon Heath
(Note: Link opens up in a new window.)
God’s love meets us where we are and fills our deepest need! Once we’ve experienced His love, we can’t help but share it with others!

“… God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:8b-11

Extra Credit

Colossians 1:3-14

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Word Games and Wisdom

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I recently began playing a new word game on my phone. It’s like a word find and Tetris® combined. As each string of letter tiles is selected, forming one of the mystery words below, those tiles disappear and the others drop down. One level of the game was especially frustrating. I had easily found the first couple of words, and thought for sure that the last word must be “ocean”. Yet no matter how hard I tried, after selecting the other words in several different ways, I couldn’t get the remaining tiles to drop in the right places and spell that word. It drove me nuts wondering what else it could be. Finally, in desperation, I begrudgingly used a hint and discovered the first letter wasn’t even “O”! I adjusted my strategy and solved the puzzle. The word was canoe.

I’ve learned that sometimes life is like that. We get ahead of God, thinking we know what the next step is, but don’t consult Him first. Or we hastily pray, yet move forward with what we believe or what we want to be the next step. Sometimes it’s out of comfort, but often we pridefully think we know what’s right. Sooner or later, we notice that things just aren’t falling into place the way we thought they would. No matter what we do, it doesn’t quite match up. We realize we’ve missed something somewhere and only succeeded in stressing ourselves out, or worse, hurt others in the process.

Great News!
We all stray occasionally, and to one degree or another. The great news is: regardless of how long the rabbit trail goes, while we are still on this earth, it’s never too late to redirect when we’ve veered off track. God is quick to forgive and His wisdom is always available to all who ask (James 1:5).

Muscle Memory
Decisions and struggles are all opportunities to trust God and to build our relationship with the Creator of the stars and universe. We can either choose to let our experiences strengthen our faith or to break us down. Trusting God develops the muscle memory of our faith. Each time we seek His will, then see Him work in and through us, it becomes easier and more natural to trust His wisdom instead of ours the next time. And the next time. That’s one reason why God’s Word tells us to pray continually and in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Many of my decisions for the past several years have actually sprung out of a survival instinct and limited thinking, not pride. However, now that things have improved on that front, it could be tempting to “rest on my laurels”, assuming that I can coast along on my own, or that “I’m good” now. Wrong! They are HIS laurels! I’ve made it this far only by holding on to Him, surrendering myself and seeking His will in all things, not just in the midst of problems. I’ve worked my faith muscles so well that I’m actually afraid of what might happen if I took matters in my own hands!

One of my favorite scripture verses sums up what our daily faith walk should look like: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

It’s Not About Me
Overall, personally I have to keep reminding myself that life really isn’t about me. Once I decided to follow Jesus, every aspect of my life is to be under His lordship. If I let my own selfish wants and desires take control, I’m ignoring His power in my life and won’t get the full blessings that are available. And I really want those blessings! That’s not to say we can’t enjoy good things in life, and not every decision is that crucial; it’s simply that nothing else and no one but God should have ultimate sway in our lives. It’s about the condition of our heart and our overall focus.

Here’s a poem I wrote that expresses the child-like faith and softness of heart that God delights in:

“Trust”

You fill my soul with healing,
You commence my heart to sing;
All to You I am revealing,
though You already know everything.
I give You, this day, my heart of clay
Each hour, my life to mold;
For when You have complete control
the most glorious things unfold.
So I lay down my all at Your feet,
not knowing on my own what is best;
But as I pull my hands free, I’m reassured
that with You, I’ll always be blessed.

6-10-94
©Ladeena Ashley

Let’s pursue God’s best for our lives by staying in His Word and praying before making decisions, especially important ones. Learn to recognize when we foolishly start getting ahead of His will, then get out of His way and let Him lead. Only then can the great things He has planned out for us be brought to fruition.

Extra Credit
Proverbs 16:3-9
Commit your way to the Lord, whatever you do, and your plans will succeed (v. 3).

©Ladeena Ashley
2016 All Rights Reserved (content & blog photos)