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I have always LOVED Christmas! Yes … I know it’s Easter and I LOVE Easter too! But the truth is I can’t separate the two. I Love to celebrate when He was born, when He died, and, when He conquered the grave (as pertains to me and this humble little life)! My friend Mary Beth once wrote, “I can’t look at the manger without seeing the cross!” I totally get that, how all history was interrupted at the birth of “God with us.” Like I said I have always loved Christmas, and now I love Easter. But it has not always been that way.

When I was growing up we were “Sunday Christians.” I would dread Easter morning when we would have to dress up, go to church, and hear the same ol’ Easter story about how Jesus died for us (in my cute ruffled socks and paten leather shoes). I would listen to the preacher teach how I should accept Jesus if I didn’t want to go to hell. Seriously when you are offered heaven or hell, it’s kind of a no brainer, Umm heaven please. It wasn’t until after I graduated high school I had a true salvation experience in which I surrendered my heart and life to the lordship of Jesus that I understood what really happened at the cross. This time instead of choosing heaven or hell, it was about choosing Jesus. All my other salvation experiences were always motivated by the fear of hell. I would say the prayer … again … hoping it would erase every bad thing I had done between then and the last time I had said the prayer, yet not really willing to make any lasting changes.

Well, this weekend is Easter and I’m back in a my reflective mode. I’ve bought all my children’s Easter baskets and my heart is full of wanting them to really get it … why we celebrate Easter. That in the beginning on the sixth day, God created humanity, He could have made some perfect being that was programmed to love without the ability to choose love. Instead He created us with choice and personality. Then sin came into the picture and daily it was like humanity’s heart grew further and further away from its creator. I often wonder if sometimes God didn’t fully understand us even though He created us. Humans die … God will never die. To put it plainly God and humans are different. Men have unsuccessfully tried to be God and failed, yet God successful became man. It’s crazy that all the pain we experience in our humanity he experienced to understand us, to ultimately redeem us from death (albeit for eternity but, I would venture to say even in our everyday life). My good friend and I were talking and she showed me that Jesus didn’t go around telling people with words “I love you” (He has never been quoted telling the disciples the phrase “I love you”) but, he showed love through His actions and obviously His greatest action of laying down His life for us. 
I now think of heaven as a bonus instead of an alternate to hell. I think about how it will feel to see Jesus face to face, and worship with the multitudes before God’s throne. Finally my heart is looking forward to it.

Right now, after 16 years of choosing Him daily, what I’ve come to understand is that because of what Jesus did, I’m made right with God. I’m hidden in Jesus, God doesn’t see me anymore (in all my imperfections) He just sees Jesus. His Holy Spirit gives me the strength to be the best me I can be. I know that I love to hear His voice everyday. At this point in the journey, I don’t think I could live without His voice. I KNOW who I was without Him and I am ever aware that without Jesus I would have nothing I have. First of all, life and friendship with God’s precious Holy Spirit with all the benefits of His divine instruction and guidance, grace, wisdom, mercy … seriously this could go on and on. Second my husband (whose love for me always rocks my world) and my four sons who are such gifts to our lives. I totally get this is an easy revelation for an ex-drug addict but He also died for the “good” people that haven’t struggled with outwardly bad actions. But, in our hearts we ALL have a sin nature we struggle with and freedom and salvation are equal to those who have sinned much and those who sin little. Death was an inevitable consequence to all levels of sin. I truly believe that repentance and the receiving of forgiveness have the same impact for both.

So, I love Easter because He died for me, even in my worst sin His actions have always said to me I LOVE YOU!

I’m not in my worst sin now, but sometimes I have a really bad day home schooling. I have become frustrated with my kids and I want to beat myself up for it. I have times when I get defensive with my husband and inside I feel like I fail who I want to be. In every bad day Easter represents HE LOVES ME!!! He talks to me and helps me become the person I want to be even when I fail and that’s HUGE! I’m okay with people knowing that I’m not perfect. It’s way too much pressure and well, He never asked me to be perfect. He just asked me to rest in Him, the only ONE who truly IS perfect. In that place of rest no matter which direction I look, it all looks like freedom. I’m grateful and in awe of His mercy. It’s at the foot of the cross I’ve fallen in love with Jesus and all that He is to me!  It has made me LOVE Easter and come to know what it truly means to celebrate the cross!

Lord,

We all have amazing stories of ALL you have done for us … all starting with the cross you bore. We are so grateful you were born into humanity and that you really know us … like really know us. You have felt all the feelings that we have felt to identify with us and yet You didn’t stop there, You lived this life out without sin so you could ransom us from ours. That kind of selfless love blows my mind, how could we not be totally humbled by it. Give us greater revelation this Easter of all that Your love has accomplished for us and what it wants to continue to accomplish in us. We gratefully thank you and revel in All you’ve done for us this Easter! We love you!

Amen!

With the Greatest Love!,

~ Ris

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Control Freak. Those words either resonate with you or they don’t. And of course there are various levels to the madness in which control can manifest in a person’s life.  It’s a sneaky little fella that’s for sure. Dressed up and disguised as just wanting to do the right thing … kind of trying to make others do it too ;) Sometimes disguised as good goals until they feel like they are going to kill you. Other times being driven and not driving this life we live. Some people want to control their weight, for some their environment (everything being perfectly in order to feel in order), others controlling situations so others can’t hurt them. For me it was wrapped up in love … I could even put a pretty bow on it and call it passion, probably even convince you of it.

When the Lord began shining the beacon light of His truth on this little culprit at work in my heart, exposing the places it had tainted with it’s lies, he used this memory to show me something about myself and reveal His truth.

A couple weeks after I gave my life to Jesus while living with my Aunt and Uncle I got a kitten. Oh my goodness the cutest little black and white kitten I’ve ever seen. I went with my Aunt and cousins to pick a kitten out of litter of kittens born on a nearby farm. I told my Aunt I wanted a cow-cat (a cat that is black and white like a cow), she knew I needed something to love and went and found them for me. I spotted the one I wanted right away and crawled under this old tracter and pulled the little guy out by his tail. I was at a place in my life where I felt all alone and somehow that loneliness disappeared in the companionship of that adorable kitten. I loved that kitten and he loved me. I named that cute little cow-cat “Dude”. I would walk into the room and say, “What up Dude?” and he would strut his stuff right over to me. I loved that kitten so much that I would start petting him and holding him so tight that he would start yelping in high pitch sounds. I loved him so much that I would literally hurt him with all my love. I couldn’t help it, I would just squeeze his little body so tight. If I could tuck him inside me I would. I just couldn’t get him close enough to me.

A few years later while in Bible College, my boyfriend (husband to be) and I broke up after dating for a year and a half. I was devastated. It was my first real Christian relationship and I put so much pressure on it to be perfect. I would get so hurt when it wasn’t. Just like that kitten I would squeeze so tight, I loved too hard that I was actually pushing the one I loved away. I tried controlling our relationship so I wouldn’t get hurt. I served the fear of being hurt until the very thing I feared the most came upon me. When we broke up we both walked away with very little hope we would ever get back together. I was crushed, having thought I heard God and holding broken dreams of the future in my hands.

I remember laying flat on the floor in my apartment crying mascara stains into the carpet, crying out to God to heal my broken heart. He showed me my heart and it had three thorns in it. He said if I would let Him pull the thorns, they would bleed and hurt initially (we had to go back to some hurtful memories growing up) but then they would fully heal. I would face the fear head on with God and on purpose feel pain instead of devising plans and controlling people so I would never have to control situations again. One by one God and I revisited memories, dealt with pain and the fears that hindered me from giving and receiving love in freedom.  The Lord sent me to India, Argentina, and New Orleans on missions’ trips to serve Him with my whole heart and to share with others the same love I had received from Him. Six months after our break up Yuri and I got back to together and were married within six months. My husband told me how the Lord had told him the old had to die, so the new could live.  Eleven years later, I’m still thankful for the work that God did in our hearts during that time.

This year our church started off the year with a 21-day devotional called, “Let’s Go!,”  I started to read it and the Holy Spirit began speaking to my heart and His words shined like a beacon light again exposing where that little culprit of control had set up camp. He said, “For others this may be “Let’s Go!,” but for you this year is about, “Letting Go!”

We have four boys ranging from eight to three years old. I’ve home schooled the oldest two and kept all my boys really close to me, desiring with the entirety of my heart that they know and serve God their whole lives without having to experience things I went through.  So here’s this picture of me squeezing that poor little kitten again until it’s yelping for relief, except this time the Holy Spirit shows me it’s my children. The fear is that they won’t turn out to love God, they’ll make the same mistakes I made, they’ll hurt and I’ll have been the one that hurt them (that’s as real as it gets from this Mama’s heart.) I began to cry and repent asking the Lord to reveal His truth. Under all that I did well, hidden was a motivation of fear. I realized if I kept squeezing I was eventually going to produce the very thing I feared. I love that the Lord is faithful to put us right back on His track fueled with His truth when we are quick to repent.

The Holy Spirit began to talk to me about the hand posture of letting go, how it is the same open palm posture of giving, receiving, surrendering, praising, and worshiping. The hand posture of closed fists is associated with squeezing, clinching, fighting, striving …  all expressions of lack of trust. Even holding, as when I pull in one of my boys and hold them my hand runs flat across their back, we in openness give and receive love. Everything is open and nothing is closed. In my heart I wrote my children’s names on my hands and lifted them to the Lord.

I prayed, “Lord, I let go of my children and surrender them to you. I let go of trying to make them love you and know you in all my own strength. I let go of the false control I thought I had. I repent of serving fear and making it an idol in my heart making provision for it by not trusting you with them. I give them to you and receive your grace to steward these gifts that are yours. I praise you with them written on my hands in my heart worshipping You because in every way You are good! I partner with You to parent them, lead me by your wisdom for You know them better than I do. Teach me how to gain their hearts. You have always been faithful. Lord, I will trust You!” Amen!

For me it was my children, what area in your heart is the Lord shining His beacon light and exposing where control and fear have camped out? Sometimes it’s really scary to step out and trust the Lord especially because we like that feeling of “being in control.” But the truth is: if He is not in control, we were never really “in control.” Whatever it is I encourage you to let go! Shake those hands out, loosen up the grip, open up your hands and give all your pain as well as fear to the Lord and receive all the freedom he desires you to walk in.

I’ve decided to live my life hands wide open, I encourage you live like that with me!

With hands wide open and Great Love!

~ Ris

Quote from ~ NEMO (Disney/Pixar)

Crush: ‘Let us see what Squirt does flying solo.’

Crush: ‘The little dudes are just eggs. We leave ‘em on a beach to hatch… and then, coo-coo-cachoo, they find their way back to the big ol’ blue.’

Marlin: ‘All by themselves?’

Crush: ‘Yeah.’

Marlin: ‘But, dude, how do you know when they’re ready?’

Crush: ‘Well, you never really know. But when they know, you’ll know, you know?’

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I’ll admit it! I’m sporadic in my love for journaling. I have a sacred place where I store a plethora of half filled personal journals I’ve collected over time. Every year I get a new one (I usually search till I find just the right one that expresses me) in high hopes that “this’ll be the year” that I become more consistent. So when I say the Lord lead me back to an old journal entry, know this mother of four didn’t have to dig through too much to find the dangerously powerful prayer that served as a catalyst to the greatest adventure of freedom and friendship I’ve ever known.

When I look back over the entry below I see truth, but nestled right in the midst of truth through new eyes … I see a lie. My heart was for God and for change but I was still striving in my own strength. Look back with me and see if you can see the lie too.

7/22/05   Written to God

Do I intend to be a good Mom or am I?

When I take inventory of my heart I’m full of good intentions. I intend to be a better wife, mother, friend, and spiritual person. It’s my heart to be this person but Lord it’s not always the person that manifests.

My question is: How do I get past good intentions and being/doing that which my heart desires?

I can say the power of the Holy Spirit. But I know it’s my choice, my responsibility to make changes, to challenge myself … with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (His voice/His direction.)

He doesn’t just miraculously change me without the work. I have to surrender to the process.

Lord,

I surrender to the process … expose the yuckies in my heart that keep me a prisoner from my destiny … revisit all the dreams in my heart that have been buried because confidence has succumbed to pain. Let all my good intentions be the reality I desire … for Your glory … for the destiny of Caleb, Colsen, Hudson, and my marriage. Reveal ME to me beyond my deception and denial. Thank you Holy Spirit that it is only by your Spirit at work in my heart that I desire to be more set free and alive in you. I give all of me to you, the good and the not so good, to be transformed for your glory.

I love you Daddy! ~Your Ris

I love when I look back at this rendering of my heart to the Lord that it shows He  honors the sincere cries of our hearts regardless if our doctrines off.

The lie: “He doesn’t just miraculously change me without the work.” I kind of set myself up for loads of condemnation right there. I knew the following scripture but my heart didn’t know it to be true.

And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.” Romans 11:6 (NLT)

The Truths: Yes I need the Holy Spirit and His empowerment. Yes I need to surrender to “the process”, which is truly the school of the Holy Spirit because it’s the Holy Spirit that makes me holy, not me.

“I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God,made holy by the Holy Spirit.” Rom. 15:16 (NLT)

It’s NOT what I can DO … it’s what HE has DONE that makes change possible and there is grace for all the folly on the way to the change we desire called grace. And grace comes by and through the Holy Spirit’s deep heart revelation of what Christ did at the cross.

When this was written in 2005 I was a mom of three young boys all about 18 months apart (3yrs., 2yrs., and 3mo.). We planned it on purpose and knew what television was, despite popular belief :) .  Becoming a Mom was a dream come true to me. With my dream I also had a lot of ideas of how I was going to do things differently then how I grew up. How my kids would be so well behaved because I would follow all the biblical principles to a tee. You see where this is going fast, don’t you? It didn’t take long after my first son was born that I saw that little gleam in his eyes with a mischievous grin as he threw his toy off his highchair after I said no. I swatted his little hands and went on to swat more little hands as we added each year a new addition to our family. My life had been full of years of pregnancy, breast feeding, sleepless nights, potty training, child training, disciplining and all this with little heart knowledge of grace. I would hear about grace and think that sounds fabulous, give me some of that, but didn’t know how to receive it. I knew all the rules and thought I was a failure as a Mom if I couldn’t keep them. I was convinced my children would turn out a wreck if I couldn’t getthem to keep them.  Needless to say, I had little grace for myself, my husband, and my children because I hadn’t received grace, I couldn’t give it.

And then

In 2006 I went to a ladies life group through my church and my leader began teaching on the Holy Spirit. I was holding back tears as something was jumping up and down on the inside saying, “This is it! This is the answer to all my questions!” I listened like my life depended on it and looking back it really did. The life in God full of power to do right, to be all that was in my heart was being unwrapped like a present before me. It was a free gift and an invitation to walk in intimate friendship with God.

I had received the Holy Spirit at the same time I received Jesus as my savior alone in my Uncle and Aunt’s bathroom. After confessing my sin and receiving his forgiveness I felt something on the inside, I had prior knowledge and I knew it was the gift of speaking in tongues. I prayed to the Lord to make me not afraid of it and in faith I began speaking in tongues. So I knew about the Holy Spirit and had amazing testimonies of His power and leading in my life at Bible College and during mission trips. I started having children and started relying on my head knowledge instead of being led by the Spirit. Somewhere along the way I tucked Him away in that same sacred place full of half filled journals. Because by all means I had been trained for this, I had memorized all the parenting scriptures, attended every parenting workshop and life group, and even positioned myself around great parents from whom I could glean parental wisdom. None of that in itself was bad, it’s just that I made law of it in my heart and I couldn’t keep it. The enemy was having a hay day condemning me that I couldn’t be innately who I wanted to be without the“trying” so hard.  I loved God and to the best of my ability was living for Him but at the same time I was drowning and losing a little piece of me in every struggle to be a “good wife,” and a “good mom”.

I was beat down by lies that day at life group when the leader began sharing about the Holy Spirit. How the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Grace and by grace and fellowship with the Holy Spirit we walk in grace. I remember leaving group that day and while driving away in my car saying to the Holy Spirit, “I’ve missed you, please come back in my life and with power. I love you and I need you. I can’t do this anymore without You and I don’t want to.”

Shortly after I started going to a Spirit led prayer group and began praying in the Spirit at home making a place for God in my life instead of trying to follow all His rules without Him. I would pray in tongues in the car on the way to Walmart, yes with my kids listening. I would tell them Mommy doesn’t know what to pray but the Spirit of God knows what to pray and He prays the best prayers for all of us (Rom. 8:27-29).  It’s never freaked them out and they have never thought twice about it.

I began hearing the Holy Spirit speak to me daily during our prayer times. These are some of the things He would say to me as grace took hold of my heart:

  • You don’t have to strive, because you never arrive, you always become and are becoming who I’ve called you to be.
  • You don’t have to be perfect … that’s my job … aren’t you relieved.
  • I count your shame as my treasure, don’t be afraid to give it to me … I died for it.
  • I will make every ugly place beautiful in it’s time
  • So you fell, get up and shake it off and follow me.
  • Your destiny will always be greater than the opinions of those around you. Stop listening to them … listen to me.
  • Give yourself permission to be who you want to be in Me … I have.

That’s just a few. The Holy Spirit has been so incredibly gracious to me to love me in spite of me. That love overflows in tangible grace to others. My husband will tell you I’m a different person because CHANGE started happening on the inside of me and I couldn’t contain it. As I saw to the Holy Spirit, making place for Him in my life, listening to His voice and obeying, He began to see to everything that concerned me. He gave me great favor with my husband and children. I’ll never be perfect, my house may never be perfectly clean, I’ll blow it, my kids will blow it (maybe even in front of you :) ), but I’m ok with that because His grace covers me and teaches me to be more like Him everyday. I don’t have to arrive … I just have to become.

So maybe your like me who felt like Little Red Riding hood on her way to Grandma’s house with a basket full of good intentions and when the wolf came to deceive you, your good intentions only went so far and you were left feeling condemned.

It’s time to fill our baskets with His power and overcome the enemy’s deception. His power reveals truth and exposes lies, like the lie I believed and wrote in my journal years ago. What lies have snuck their way into your heart and kept you from the fullness of life God has for you? Ask God to reveal them. Do you feel like your drowning in a whirlpool of condemnation? Let the heart revelation of His grace rescue you.

The Holy Spirit comes to offer His friendship where daily He exposes lies as you open your heart before Him. He replaces lies with the truth that brings freedom.  Change that seemed so hard begins to become a natural byproduct that flows from this friendship, the kind of change you couldn’t produce if you tried.  I know. I’ve lived it.

Does this kind of life sound too good to be true … It’s NOT! It’s as simple as asking for it.

Holy Spirit,

I invite you into my heart. Get all up in my heart Holy Spirit and make yourself comfortable … make it your home. Let the width of your arms hug and cover any pain or lack and fill it with yourself. Do what your good at … expose lies and set free every lame way in me with your truth. I have believed that You are good and now I choose to believe You are good to me! Lead me to all truth and everything you have for me. Fill every empty place with a heart revelation of your love for me that I may know the tangibility of your grace and may grace anchor me to see your faithfulness in every area of my life.

With ALL my heart and in JESUS name … AMEN!!!

If you know the Holy Spirit like this already, share Him with others. This kind of Spirit led life and freedom is contagious. There is nothing like good intentions being swallowed up by grace.

I think a red carpet just got laid out and a new you gets to walk down it! Here’s to kicking good intentions to the curb and Holy Spirit life makeovers!

Written with you in mind and GREAT love,

~ Ris

This blog is dedicated to my best friend the Holy Spirit, my son Colsen who always extends me great grace, and to my friend H who recently received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, who’s faith to step out from what she has known gave me the courage to write this piece.

If you’ve never been taught about the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit you can use the link below to learn more.

RESOURCES:

A free study guide on The Holy Spirit by Jack Hayford

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