Can You Feel God’s Love in the Hard Places?

But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in my weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9a

Have you ever felt like you’ve had the wind sucked right out of your lungs? Or that you’re suffocating under the weight of your heart breaking?

It all happened so fast I didn’t have time to think or prepare in any way.

Jag was a working dog. He was a handful as we started training. He was full of tension and didn’t always deal with it in the most appropriate ways. I struggled to figure out ways to help him.

But, his heart was so big and he had so much try I just couldn’t give up trying myself.

I discovered through Jag it can include animals as well. We had been through the fire together and the bond formed through it was amazing!

A wonderful bond develops when a person weather’s a storm with someone else. I discovered through Jag it can include animals as well. We had been through the fire together and the bond formed through it was amazing!

Border Collies are a stoic breed by nature. So looking back it doesn’t surprise me that he never let on he was in trouble. We were moving sheep for several hours and I noticed he started to favor a hind leg. Yet he still didn’t want to quit. When he was still favoring it the next day I raced him over to the vet.

It’s amazing how fast things can go downhill. I wasn’t prepared. My heart wasn’t ready for what happened next. I’m not sure it ever is. We discovered he had a tumor strangling the main blood vessel into his heart. He was bleeding out internally and despite my vets best efforts we were unable to save him.

So many people tried to tell me he was “just a dog”. I suppose if you’ve never felt the loyalty of countless hours spent together it would seem that way.

So many people tried to tell me he was “just a dog”.

I suppose if you’ve never felt the loyalty of countless hours spent together it would seem that way. My heart felt like it had been ripped out and stomped all over. I had been cheated and on top of the hurt, anger soon followed suit.

Yet in the middle of it all, God met me. As I was crying out to God in anguish I could almost audibly hear a scripture reference whispered to me. I raced to look it up and sobbed tears of release as words I’d read many times took on new meaning.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Only God! He’s there for us even when it feels like our world is falling apart. He loves us in the hard places when we have doubts. He holds us up when we’re struggling to move forward.

There were still valleys of heartache to travel but I was grateful to feel God’s presence with me in those valleys. He wants to strengthen and hold us up in this life. Let’s allow Him in to do just that!

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

It has been several years since Jag went on ahead and every now and then I still shed a few tears. More often than not though I smile over the memories and am reminded of how faithful our God is in the hard places!

I want to share a poem with you I have always loved. It sums up the love and loyalty God gifted a dog with so beautifully.

Loyalty

God summoned a beast from the field and He said, “Behold people created in my image, therefore, adore them. You shall protect them in the wilderness, shepherd their flocks, watch over their children, accompany them wherever they may go – even into civilization. You shall be a companion, an ally, a slave.

“To do these things,” God said, “I endow you with instincts uncommon to other beasts:  faithfulness, devotion and understanding surpassing that of people. Lest it impair your courage, you shall never foresee your death.

Lest it impair your loyalty, you shall be blind to the faults of people. Lest it impair your understanding, you are denied the power of words. Let no fault of language leave an accord beyond that of people with any other beast – or even people with other people. Speak to your people only with your mind and through your honest eyes.

“Walk by their sides; sleep in their doorways; forage for them; ward off their enemies; carry their burdens; share their afflictions; love them and comfort them. And in return for this, people will fulfill your needs and wants which shall be only food, shelter and affection.

“So be silent, and be a friend to people. Guide them along the way to this land that I have promised them. This shall be your destiny and your immortality.” So spoke the Lord.

And the dog heard and was content.

Author unknown

I’m sharing this post with several other blogger’s at these Faith Linkups. I encourage you to check them out. If this post resonates with you and feel it would help others please feel free to share. Easy to share buttons below. ~Laura~

How to Fight the Storm of Fear

“Hurry, load ‘em up!” I hollered over the wind as my young niece and nephew brought their horses to the trailer.

The temperature had dropped as the wind seemed to come up instantaneously. Everyone at the rodeo was desperately trying to get horses and kids rounded up and to safety.

I was just out of high school and was going to the town an hour north of us each week for the women’s and kids’ rodeo. It was a fun evening to look forward to each week. It also gave me an excuse to have my niece and nephew come stay with me for the weekends. It was also a way of getting them out of the situation they were in even if was just temporary.

I had always been a completely fearless person. Often not even exercising enough self caution to prevent way to many injuries to count. Then that storm rolled in and changed everything.

“Grab your ropes and get in the pickup,” I said hurriedly, “I think we can get ahead of this storm and outrun it.”

The sirens were going off in town and I knew there must have been a tornado warning issued. It was so dark the only way to see any of the sky was as the lightning sparked and illuminated it all. As far as I could tell there was nothing on the horizon so plenty of time to get out of there before it got worse.

My niece was concerned but had spent her whole young life with me and snuggled up beside me trusting my decision. It was short lived!

As we rounded the corner out of town the rain started coming down in sheets followed by hail pelting us in full force. Visibility was almost nonexistent at that point.

My poor niece was terrified. I was fighting my own fear welling up in me to calm her down. I was just trying to stay on the road as we inched along.

It came up so fast I didn’t have any time to react. I never saw it coming just the wind hitting us with such ferocity that fear completely overtook me.

The next thing I knew we were being picked up off the road and moved like a little matchbox car to the opposite ditch.

Something died inside of me that night. That fearless girl who believed she was completely invincible realized her own mortality. Fear had set in and the devil was trying to destroy me in new ways since his old ones had failed.

If there was so much as a cloud in the sky while I was outside, my heart would race uncontrollably. I would make every excuse in the world to those around me on why we needed to immediately go in the house. As rancher’s we work outside for a living and this presented a huge problem over the years.

It was especially bad if we were in a vehicle and crippling if I was the one driving.

It may sound like a logical fear but unfortunately it was a foothold for satan to gain ground in other areas of my life. New fears started growing and morphed into daily worries. I became the epitome of a worry wart.

One day, many years later, I was driving home by myself pulling a camper when a storm rolled in fast. My heart felt like it was going to explode it was racing so fast. Rationale was fleeing. Then I remembered a verse I’d chosen to repeat while I was in labor with my first son.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

I started repeating it to myself as a way to calm my heart. Also to help turn my focus back on Jesus who had always wanted to heal me of this fear.

The fear started to subside. I was fighting back finally and the devil knew he was in trouble. Through the power of the Holy Spirit I was taking ground back that had been stolen all those years earlier.

You know what, the storm didn’t subside. The wind blew hard and it rained and hailed on me for a good part of the way home. It was dark and scary on the outside but my heart had found firm footing inside and there was no way I was going back!

I love what Kelly Balarie reminds us in her book Fear Fighting – “What didn’t kill you yesterday has no real power to kill you today.”

Unfortunately, I had let fear rob me of the power Jesus had made available to me all those years. So, I exhaled all the fear and inhaled life back into those dry bones.

Does that mean fear never tries to rear it’s ugly head in my life? Of course not, but now I know that where the Spirit is – there is freedom!

~I would love it if you’d visit Fear Fighting Writers Contest and vote for me if this post has encouraged you. Go to the bottom of the page and enter 32 in the comments. Thank you!

If you want to learn more about Kelly Balarie you can visit www.purposefulfaith.com or to order the book go to www.fearfightingbook.com.

I’m sharing this post with several other blogger’s at these Faith Linkups. I encourage you to check them out. If this post resonates with you and feel it would help others please feel free to share. Easy to share buttons below. ~Laura~

Purpose in our Pain

God uses all for His purpose

Have you ever thought you had to bandage up the broken pieces of your life before you could be presentable to God?

As I read through my early copy of Ann Voskamp’s book “The Broken Way – a daring path into the abundant life” my heart soared with hope. She shows how our brokenness can lead to abundance.

As I read through the chapters it made me pause and dig into my own brokenness and the abundance God is bringing from it.

So much of my youth was nearly swallowed up by brokenness. Numbness had taken over as I tried desperately to escape my own broken pieces as well as the broken ways of those around me.

One particular day we were vaccinating horses in a run down setup. One young horse I was holding went over the top of me and got caught up in a panel. He and the panel came down hard on my leg. I jumped up and dusted myself off and said I was fine as we went back to work.  Continue reading “Purpose in our Pain”

Are old sins creeping back into your life?

I got pulled over today! Oh how I wish I could tell you I was the model citizen and did nothing wrong. Unfortunately, I did. I was speeding. Then to top it all off when the officer asked me why I was speeding I couldn’t even think of a good answer right away so what did I say?

“Because I was in a hurry.”

Yep, that was my brilliant answer! I wish you could have seen the look on his face. Poor kid must have thought I had lost my mind. I’m sure he was thinking, “Here you go ma’am, a chance to explain yourself and give some lofty answer of a crisis that needs your attention NOW! But, no, you just spit out the ugly truth.”

You see, I have prayed for deliverance from the sins that tripped me up for so many years. Not only has God delivered me He has made me extra sensitive to them now.  Continue reading “Are old sins creeping back into your life?”

What if we chose the abundant life?

My teeth wouldn’t quit chattering as the cold seeped into every ounce of my being. I longed for some kind of warmth to take over.

I was no stranger to cold but this deep kind of cold seemed to completely overtake me.

I cranked up the water’s heat knowing it would relieve the pain I was feeling.

As I slipped in under the running water and the heat ran over my head the pain intensified. Sharp pins and needles pricked me everywhere the water’s heat touched me. The feeling in my body was coming back.

Waves of warmth started to flow over me and crack open the frozen places. The pain was starting to subside.

The quivering mess that had stepped into the shower was now basking in the warmth. Soaking it all in as the iciness retreated.

Have you ever felt that kind of deep cold? The kind you can’t seem to shake. Not just the physical cold, but frozen places of our soul. Places we have lost feeling to long ago. Continue reading “What if we chose the abundant life?”

Empty Nest Part 1

That time God asked me to …
                                               Put down the idol of motherhood.
 

Maybe I missed all the discussions about empty nest before I headed into this new territory. Or could it be we simply don’t discuss it very much?

Since venturing into these new waters I’ve asked for advice but most people either just tell me to be happy about it or keep busy so I don’t have to deal with it.


Can I be real honest for a minute? I did NOT handle it real well in the beginning. My life had been filled with so many of my kids’ sports and events I felt completely isolated when it all came to end. Continue reading “Empty Nest Part 1”

But if You say so…

Have you ever known God is telling you to move but not sure what that means? Or even if you know where He’s calling you but it just doesn’t make any sense? I’ve been there a time or two as well.


We’d had a special speaker at church and I’d been hearing God whispering to me during the whole service, “Come”. It didn’t make sense. Come where? Do what?


“Lord, I NEED some details. Okay, maybe need isn’t the right word but I would LIKE some details.”


No details were given. Simply a chance to follow Him.


As we neared the end of the service I knew God was inviting me to be obedient and get baptized.


Why would God ask me to do something that made no sense and honestly felt really strange?


You see, I’d been baptized when I was young. I wrestled with God about it in my heart for quite some time. I even left the service right after and sat in my car for a bit.


As I sat there I tried to explain to God how this didn’t make sense. Why would I need to do this again? I was 41 years old, the pastor’s daughter and led the youth ministry. What would my “kids” all think of me?


I’m not proud to say those thoughts went through my head but am so grateful God never stops loving me. Despite my weaknesses.


No big bolt of revelation came. No profound understanding. Only a choice to come with Him or not. As He had shown me time and time again, the choice was mine. Would I say yes?


A little side note here, we’re what you’d call a “cowboy church”. Our baptism’s most often happen in a livestock watering tank. We’re not talking heated and comfortable by any means.


I bet you’re praying this is where I walked back in with my head held high and said, “Whatever it may be, bring it on!”


Nope. It was more of a quiet, “But if you say so God”. Not a resentful, apprehensive yes but a calm, expectant yes. A yes full of trust.


I let my need to see before I believed slip away as 
I followed God into the unknown.


He’s faithful and I’ve met Him in the unknown many times before. Each time I’ve answered, “But if You say so” He’s been right there to meet me.


Faith works when we use it.


When Jesus asked Simon Peter to drop his nets again it didn’t make sense either. Peter’s day of fishing had already proven unsuccessful. He could have tried to reason with Jesus why it wasn’t the best idea. But I love his answer!


“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” Luke 5:5


Now I know we can read on after and see what a glorious night of fishing it ended up being. But…Simon Peter had NO idea what the outcome would be when he said YES.


I love how we’re given such a great example to step out in faith even if we don’t understand. I find it so reassuring how Peter doesn’t come back with some lofty type of answer. He’s honest and real.
As I broke the plane of the cold baptism water I still didn’t understand. I simply made the choice to follow. Coming up out of the iciness I felt a huge wave of blessing wash over me.


Lord, if you say so…

I’m sharing this post with several other blogger’s at these Faith Linkups. I encourage you to check them out. If this post resonates with you and feel it would help others please feel free to share. Easy to share buttons below. ~Laura~

How I Learned to Love my Scars

“Argh, these darn stretch marks itch so bad I’m going to scratch right through my belly!” I hollered across the bed to my husband. He tried to reassure me, “I really don’t think that’s a possibility.”

So I came up with a grand plan…

I found the container of Bag Balm I had in my cupboard of animal medicine. It’s kind of like Vaseline for udders on cows that are getting dry and chapped while nursing calves.

I hustled into the kitchen and dug out a roll of saran wrap and hurriedly put my plan into action. Quickly, I smeared this wonderful cow product all over my 7 month pregnant belly. A deep sigh slipped out of me as the itching eased a little.


Now, if I would have just stopped there, I think the outcome would have been different. But, I’ve never been one to say whoa in a horse race! I decided to hold as much moisture in as possible by wrapping my whole midsection in saran wrap before crawling back into bed.


Oh, the horror the next morning!


I ripped the saran wrap off my belly as fast as possible as it burned with a thousand hot needles. Every inch of my not so little baby bump was covered in a heat rash. Sweet Jesus come now!


I still have all those wonderful tiger stripes to this day. The scars left from a belly that literally grew overnight.


I wish I could tell you that I always loved these scars left behind but there were many days I struggled with them. But…they are a constant reminder of God’s goodness and mercy towards me.


You see, I was told early on in my marriage by a specialist the chance of me ever having a child of my own was slim to none. Unfortunately my insides were so full of scar tissue from prior abuse that it would take a lot of medical help and even then there was no guarantee.


So what do you do with that information as a young wife? I cried. I hollered at God. When would it be enough? Was life just going to be one big heartache after another?


God is faithful however and sent strong women of faith to stand in the gap for me when I couldn’t face it alone. They laid hands on me and prayed over me.


I flopped on my bed that night and cried tears of release. I died to my plans right there. I’ll never forget crying out to God, “I give up, whatever your plans are for me I will trust you. If it’s your will that I have a child Lord I trust You alone to do it. Either way, I will praise you.”


Does that mean it was easy every morning to wake up and trust Him? Maybe for others it is but it hasn’t ever come naturally to me. Every time my own will tried to creep in and take over I had to to call out to Jesus to help me bring it back in line with Him.


Now every time I look at the scars left on my stomach I’m reminded of God’s miracles in my life.


His mercy and grace are beyond compare!

My two wonderful sons from their younger days

I’m sharing this post with several other blogger’s at these
Faith Linkups
I encourage you to check them out.

If this post resonates with you and feel it would help others please feel free to share. Easy to share buttons below.
~Laura~

Walking Through the Fire: Immanuel – God with Us

When you pass through the waters,
   I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
   they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
   you will not be burned;
   the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
   the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
   Cush and Seba in your stead.
Isaiah 43:2-3 (NIV)


Have you ever been so overtaken by the Holy Spirit you felt completely swept away? Smack in the middle of a crowd of women, a long ways from my safe, little home, the Holy Spirit grabbed hold of me in a powerful way.


While at She Speaks 2015, I sat listening intently as Wendy Blight shared her message of the paralyzing fear that gripped her for years after being sexually assaulted. My mind swirled with memories of my own encounter that I had stuffed down for so long. Everything in me wanted to get up and run.


Run from the past.
Run from the shame.
Run from the pain.
Why would God put me here for this specific message? He knows the dark spaces within my heart. I know He loves me so why in the world would He bring me to such a hard place. I had the secret scars neatly tucked into the deep recesses of my heart. I just wanted to leave them there.


The Holy Spirit wasn’t willing to let me stay in that stagnant pool of shame anymore. He walked me through those hard places. There wasn’t anything pleasant about it in the moment. I physically shook as He dug deep to redeem what had been taken from me.


Yet the Lord reminds us in Isaiah, “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.”  The flames sure felt hot in that place but God walked through it with me and I wasn’t burned. The chains were being loosened and I was set free from the captivity of trying to hide my shame.


Free from the past.
Free from the shame.
Free from the pain.
Being present in the hard places leads to redemption.


All the stuffing down, covering up and pretending it never happened can ever come close to the freedom found in Christ’s redeeming power.


Only through Him can we put down our heavy burdens.


God wants to remove the chains we desperately try to loosen on our own. Some try to get rid of them in their own strength while others try to pretend they aren’t really there anymore. Some of us try both in a futile attempt at freedom.


Chains can ONLY be removed by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Honestly, looking back I see how God had been orchestrating my life for just a moment as this. I am redeemed and I want to share the good news that God can set you free too!


Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story – those He redeemed from the hand of the foe. Psalm 107:2 (NIV)


Do you have some hard places in your heart you try to hide from the world, as well as from yourself? Call out to the One who redeems. His unfailing love will help you rise up and walk through those hard places to the redemption waiting for YOU.


If you want to know God, I invite you to check out Wendy Blight’s new bible study I Know His Name.


I Know His Name is a Bible study for any woman who wants to move beyond simply knowing about God to really knowing God in a very personal way.


In this five-chapter Bible study book, Wendy implements her practical and approachable style to equip readers to study the Word of God and then apply it to their own lives in practical ways.


I’m so blessed to be a part of the launch team for I Know His Name! For More information please visit Wendy’s page:




Brave the Anxiety for the Adventure

“I am brave, I am brave, I am brave!” I just kept repeating it to myself so the anxious thoughts might not move back in and set up camp.


When I was younger I lived life fearlessly, probably to a fault if I’m honest. I was ten foot tall and bulletproof, or so I thought. If there was an adventure of any kind out there, I was first in line to jump in. I have the scars and broken bones to show for it too unfortunately.


Over the years, my adventurous spirit was starting to be drowned out by pops and creaks of the pains of a wild youth. I knew how hard a person could fall as I’d taken that trip down way too many times in the past.


God had placed this new adventure right in my lap and I knew He wanted me to move forward. The truth is though, it was WAY outside of my current comfort zone.


It wasn’t scary to write and follow the Lord’s call from the safety of my little home way out in the middle of the sticks. I mean come on, I’m the Hicks from the Sticks! Doesn’t that mean I should STAY in the sticks. That’s where I’m comfortable. This is my sweet spot. “Lord, I am happy to sit right here in my comfy office chair and type the words You want me to share with the world. Just don’t ask me to go out into it!”


Don’t take this wrong, I genuinely love people and have no issues driving the 30 miles it takes me to get to our little town of 1200 people. I love one on one conversations, small study groups or even our “big” events in town.


On the other hand, large crowds truly overwhelm me. So, when God said to jump on a plane, by myself nonetheless, and fly across the country to a conference with 800 or so people, I was slightly freaked out.


I prayed repeatedly to see if God was sure this is what He wanted me to do. I knew the truth, there was really no fighting it. So, I committed. That should have been the end of any anxious thoughts, right? Nope! I came so close to wimping out over and over again.


I crammed it to the back of my mind when there were still a lot of calendar days before my flight would leave. So typical of me. Just don’t deal with it until I absolutely have to.
As the days grew warmer and the time got closer, I felt a sense of fear starting to sneak in little by little. I tried to think of it as a great adventure but my anxious thoughts just kept fogging up my mind.


Then God whispered some reassuring words in my ear. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV)


I was still trying to follow God’s plan for my life under my own power. Ugh, SO frustrating. I felt a good spiritual kick to the pants. I cried out to God, humbled myself and asked for His forgiveness. I wish I could tell you that meant it was easy sailing from there on out. There were still moments of doubt. I’m human!


But…I would literally picture myself casting my anxious thoughts at the foot of the cross any time they popped into my head. It really did get easier each time. Not easy but easier.


I’m learning to do the work God asks ME to do and then just show up and trust Him to take care of the rest. He is faithful.


God is so awesome and what an adventure it is when we follow Him!