All Things Work for the Good

Romans 8.28

Romans 8:28 has been my favorite verse since I was a pre-teen. My mom actually gave it to me when I had to face consequences for something I did wrong. I actually made a “few” (eh-hmm) wrong choices growing up. This is a great example of how knowing and memorizing scripture can be so powerful. Being able to pull up a verse at just the right time can be life changing. A great challenge to us all.

I have gone back to this verse countless times. In times of death. Divorce. Depression. Heartache.

It has brought me comfort and peace. Understanding and challenge.

But what does it mean? To say that ALL things in life are “good” would be absolutely untrue! Cancer is NOT good. The death of a child or spouse is NOT good. Addiction is NOT good. A tragic accident is NOT good. A broken family is NOT good. Life is full of HARD. But, I think this verse has shown me that God can take HARD — really tough things, and within His love and provision for our lives – work things together for good.

Romans 8:28 shows us that we may have all sorts of “circumstances” in our lives that are difficult, hurtful, heart wrenching, and tragic – yet; He is with us in the midst of it all.

I love that the very first part of the verse says “we KNOW”. The word KNOW shows us there is a CERTAINTY in the statement. We don’t HOPE He will work things for the good. Having the assurance that God’s got this, gives us strength to power through our circumstances. Although we may be struggling with something He will provide His comfort and peace. He will draw us near to Him IF we allow Him to. Even when it looks like a tangled, ugly mess.

Picture the backside of a beautiful tapestry. You see all the ends of threads, and you cannot see the beautiful picture of the design. But from the front it looks stunning. I oftentimes think that we are looking at the backside of the tapestry, and someday, in His timing we will see that beautiful pattern and design. It is there! Maybe it will be in Heaven. But we WILL see it.

In the second part of verse 28, it says – “For those who are called according to His purpose.” What is our calling? Our calling isn’t just to be happy and healthy. Our ultimate calling is to conform to His image. To be like Jesus. To pursue holiness. To BE Holy. 1 Peter 1:16 – for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

It doesn’t matter what our current circumstances are. Our circumstances in our lives are fleeting and temporary. But our God is unchanging. He remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is who He says He is. You have a calling on your life – and that is to be like Jesus. To reflect His image at home, at work, at play, in line at the new Starbucks at Target! 😉 We are CALLED to live as HIS. Daily.

I can honestly say; there are many things I would NOT want to go through again in my past. Broken marriage vows, and divorce being one of the biggies. But, today; I can honestly say that I am thankful for those painful times. I have grown, and been stretched beyond anything I could’ve imagined. No I would NEVER want to go back and relive divorce, or the tragic death of a dear friend… but I am thankful and resting in His goodness, and His faithfulness to me. The GOOD that has come out of several tough situations in my own life has been that they have drawn me closer to the heart of Jesus. God has become exponentially more real to me.

The dark times have shown me that God is merciful, and gracious. Still working through some very painful consequences such as guilt and shame for past choices. But my faith so much stronger and mature than it was before. My relationship with God is much different than it was 20 years ago.

So, have I seen some good come through pain or hardship? Absolutely.

And for that…

I am so very thankful.

 

Think through some of the things you’ve gone through in your life. Can you apply this verse to your life?

Have you seen God work things together for the good in your life? How?

Has it increased your trust in Him?

What is your take away from this verse?

Be blessed today. Love BIG!!

Daily His,

Allison

Forgetting…


Philippians 3:13-14 (TLB) – No, dear {Sisters}, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.
Forgetting the past… 3 very simple words. Yet; so very hard to do.
 Life is so full of experiences. I get a kick out of 4 year old’s who say – ‘back when I was little…’. Even at 4, we have a past. We have memories. We have experiences that shape and mold us into who we are today. Some of our experiences bring great joy, and some bring great sorrow. Some experiences we are proud of, and some not so much.

My experience as a twice divorced woman who ‘knew better’ has brought great struggle deep within my heart. I was raised in the church and by two very Godly parents. Jesus was real to me and I developed a personal relationship with Him at a very young age. I was blessed with a voice and musical ability, paired with my passion for Jesus which led to traveling and being used to lead others to Him in ministry. I desired to serve Him with all my heart.

 And then… 

The bottom of the world fell out from under my feet. I came home from being out ‘on the road’ in full time ministry for a year, which was a very surreal environment. To be surrounded by 6 other passionate Jesus lovers focused on the same goals 24/7/365 is just not real life. To be focused on my relationship with Him, and sharing that with others on a daily basis IN ministry is not real life to most. When I came home, it was tough to assimilate to ‘secular life’ again. I had been so insulated for a year. So safe. Isn’t it amazing how quickly we can go back to living life ‘comfortably’ and lose the passion and focus of our faith?

Here’s the Readers Digest version of the next 20+ years: I married at 21. Major red-flags. Did it anyway. Abused and miserable. Divorced at 26. Scared and alone. Shamed and guilt ridden. Ran away from him, and my home. Got pregnant and remarried at 27. 11 years later and with 3 precious children. Deep depression. Deep DENIAL. Curled up in the fetal position, I needed and wanted OUT. I was just so tired of pretending. Divorced at 38. Got into an extremely dysfunctional and emotionally abusive relationship with a man who isolated me from my family, my friends, my support system, and God. I call that time in my life my: temporary insanity. It truly was. When I share my story with people now, I refer to myself during that time as “unrecognizable.” It was like an out of body experience. I was utterly LOST.

Pretty ugly stuff. But…

Here’s the GOOD news friends: I am a new creation today because of one reason only: The grace and love of JESUS. Pure and simple. No other reason. I am happily married, healing, restoring relationships lost, and filled with joy and peace.

 And it’s ALL because of JESUS.

These verses in Philippians speak to me because, it is SO hard to let go of the past. It may be a recurring theme in my writings, as I continue to struggle to this day with it. So many regrets. So many hurts. So much pain for those around me. So much guilt and shame.

But here’s the deal. Every experience we go through, every action we take, every sorrow and regret we bear goes into the very substance of who we are. We are changed by every single event in our life. We can never go back to the way it was before. The past is part of us. And the memories of our past remain like scars. They may not be open wounds anymore, but they remain as reminders of where we have come from and who we are today, because of them.

Forgiving is one thing. But forgetting is another. “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” is so important with dealing with our past. Honestly, I don’t think we ever totally forget our past, nor should we. But if we learn to focus on what lies ahead – the past dims. Remember, we’ve been changed by our past, but if we focus on our future, it allows our past to be used to glorify God. By focusing on the second phase, the first is somehow weakened and doesn’t hold the same power over us as it did before. It fades. Never completely gone. But it’s no longer the focal point. But possibly – the launching point.

 The question is: will we allow our past to be used in our future to bring Glory to Him?

God challenges us to move on from the past. Because if we don’t – we will not fully move forward with Him. Our past will weigh us down like a ball and chain. It makes us grow weary, and sucks the energy right out of us. It robs us of our confidence we have in Him, and the joy we have in His mercy, grace and forgiveness. It binds us in a prison of guilt and shame. And weighs us down to the point of paralysis. I’ve learned that if I am too consumed by my past, I am absolutely no good for His Kingdom.

Which – as I wrote about in another post, is right where the enemy wants us. He wants nothing more than for us to be stuck in our past mistakes. He loves to remind us that we are not good enough, that we have failed beyond repair, that we have no right to share our faith because we’ve messed up so much. That Jesus cannot possibly forgive “that” sin.

We cannot make progress in our faith without pushing beyond the mistakes of our past. No progress for His Kingdom can be made by a mind and heart burdened and heavy because of our past failures. It is hard. I get it. I’ve lived it.
 I love this quote: “If we remember our mistakes at all, let it only be to retrieve them, and organize fresh victory out of them.”

 Victory… I love that.

Is the race easy? Absolutely not. I will tell you, as happy and peaceful as I am today – it is still a daily struggle to not be weighed down by my past. It is so hard. It’s a constant battle to accept that Jesus loves me no matter what I’ve chosen. That He never stopped loving me. That He can make beauty out of disgusting ugliness. That He is not a grudge holder. He loves to wipe the slate clean. It’s a constant battle to replace the negative self-talk with who I know I am in Jesus. Redeemed and chosen.

I think, as Christians, it’s especially difficult to accept all of this, when we should “know better.” Before my life literally fell apart for many years, I was living so closely to the heart of Jesus. I only wanted to love and serve Him. It has taught me to never let my guard down. Because when I got ‘comfortable’, I felt the need for Him become less. And the less I felt that I needed Him, the more I made decisions and choices in my own will, and not His. It’s a very slippery slope and can happen in the blink of an eye. Be on guard and watchful. Satan is a very sneaky opportunist. He’s looking for the tiniest of cracks in our armor. I guarantee you – he will try to get in.

Do you want to live in victory? Have you ever felt stuck in your past like I have? We’re in a race ladies! Lace up those shoes, grab your comfiest workout clothes, and jump in. You’ve got THIS! Nothing is too big or too ugly for Him. Lay it at His feet today. Allow the scar to remain, and strengthen you to be bold in sharing YOUR story. In thanking God for YOUR story. In owning it, and using it for His glory. We all have a story – no two are alike. Allow Him to be the author and perfector of it.

 Dear Jesus: Today, I’m asking that YOU grant us grace and perseverance in this journey. May we be filled with YOUR presence and constant protection from our thoughts that can wear us down. May we be empowered to move on and embrace the NEW day with You. May we not forget the past, but not allow it to paralyze us. May we build on our experiences, in order to bring glory to You alone. May we not dwell in the darkness of guilt and shame. May we be bold with those around us who need to hear this same message of restoration and forgiveness. Thank You for transforming our lives. Thank you for the life redeeming blood You shed for each and every one of us. Be the author of our stories. Give us courage to share it. To not be ashamed and to live in victory every single day. We love You. Amen

Daily His,

Ally

Introductions!

I thought introductions may be the best way to start out our journey together! So here are some ‘fun’ FACTS about me!

1. I grew up in New London, MN
2. I tried to move away a few times, but always came back. I currently own a children’s boutique in downtown New London.
3. I am happily married to Dave. He is my perfect match. The love of my life.
4. I have 3 children: Micah, 18. Jordan, 17. Jenna, 16. These children literally saved my life. (More on that to come…). Beyond in- love with them.
5. I gave my life to Jesus at a very young age, but my faith became my own in junior high.
6. I was adopted from Seoul, Korea when I was 5 1/2 months old. in 1971. You can do the math… 😉
7. I sing and play keyboard/piano. I traveled for a year across the US and Indonesia and Thailand with Carpenter’s Tools International. I turned 16 in South Africa on a separate mission trip!
8. I love to knit and spin yarn.
9. I enjoy running, and working out.
10. I would love to write a book.
11. We have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named, “Finn.” He’s my shop dog and comes to work with me every day.
12. I don’t like bugs.
13. I am not a super outdoorsy person… I wish I was. I don’t like to camp.
14. I am addicted to chips and salsa. Morning. Noon. And Night.
15. I have have been divorced twice. (More on that too)…
16. I have depression. I take “happy pills” and they have made all the difference in the world. God created good doctors and medication to help us. It’s ok.
17. I am an open book. I love to share. (And then…I think about IF I should’ve shared or not… 😉
18. Something REALLY BIG may be happening in my life very soon. I promise I will share it soon!
19. My favorite books to read are memoirs.
20. My son has Aspberger’s. He has overcome a lot and is attending Ridgewater as a freshman this year!
21. COFFEE. ‘Nuf said.
22. I lied on my license picture. I’m not 5’2″.
23. Sometimes when it’s slow at work, I knit and watch Netflix. I’m the boss… I like that.
24. Go to candy: Gummy Bears (has to be the “Haribo” brand).
25. I was Miss New London in high school. So when my husband says, “oh go put on your tiara!” when I ask too much of him… he actually means it! Too funny.
26. My nickname is Ally.
27.Most importantly: I love Jesus. With all my heart. I tried to push God away during some dark times in my life. But He has redeemed my life from the PIT. And THAT is why I feel led to be part of a group like this. Life is HARD. Sometimes, it is a daily battle to find the strength to go on. But HE is faithful. HE is with us. HE redeems us, forgives us, and loves us beyond all human understanding. Thank you God!

~Allison

New Year’s Resolutions…

Proverbs 10.9

Proverbs 10:9 – She who walks with integrity walks securely.

Question: do you make New Year’s Resolutions? I never do. Except this year – I made more of a declaration than a resolution. For me, I have declared that 2017 is the Year of INTEGRITY: I am committing to doing my best at being the SAME person in private, as I am in public. Who I am at home, is who you will encounter at Target. And who I am at Target is who I am at church. And who I am at church is who I am at work. You get the picture.

Years ago, I read a book by Bill Hybels (Pastor at Willow Creek Church in Chicago) called “Who You Are When No One’s Looking”.

Here’s a description of the book “We are all at our best when it counts. But what are we like when no one’s looking? That’s where character comes in–being consistent even when it doesn’t seem to matter. Courage. Discipline. Vision. Endurance. Love. These character qualities are quickly becoming endangered. All too often we hear of marriages falling apart, governments lying, businesses cheating and scandals rocking the church. But with God’s guidance and strength, we can maintain character that lasts despite temptations and troubles.”

COURAGE: I know without a doubt that there are subtle differences in how I act and react at home, versus in public. Quicker to be frustrated, disappointed, or irritated. Quicker to respond in a harsh tone, or hold a grudge. However; It takes courage to recognize the need to change. It’s hard to look honestly in the mirror sometimes. It takes courage to live by God’s standard and not the world’s standard.

DISCIPLINE: Having the self-discipline to change something takes energy and focus. It means looking straight ahead at that goal, without looking to the left or right. Laser focus. Saying “no” to your will, instead of “yes” to God’s will is tough! It’s being self-less instead of selfish.

VISION: There are “visionaries” in this world who see the BIG picture. Visionaries are on the front end of every great mission. Visionaries can “see” the future. And then, they describe it to the rest of us so we can see it to. They’re the “idea” people. It is my prayer, that God would allow me to see my world through His lens. Not through my own tiny, limited lens. Ladies, I just got progressive lens bi-focals. I’m that old. The bi-focals help me focus on the things right in front of me. But they get blurry when I look through them to see something in the distance. If I want to see distance I have to gaze up beyond the bi-focal part. Look UP to see the BIG picture. To see where God is calling you, and what He’s calling you to do!

ENDURANCE: Let’s just be honest – consistency can be exhausting sometimes! Am I right? It takes endurance to continually focus on the goal. I enjoy running. I never thought I was a runner, until I just decided one day – I’m going to run. Running takes all of these character traits I’ve just mentioned: courage, discipline, vision and endurance! It takes endurance to run the race and focus our gaze on the finish line. But with His help – we can run it confidently, without growing weary and finish well.

LOVE: Having integrity takes a huge amount of love. My first and most important love has to be my love for Christ, and what He has done for me. Out of that love that I have for Him, grows the desire to be more like Him. Why does He have to be FIRST? Because if He isn’t first in my life, there is no way I can truly love others as I am called to love them. Unselfishly, and unconditionally. Am I perfect at loving? Absolutely not. My past makes it pretty clear that I’m not. But in the grand scheme of God’s vision He has laid before me – I know that LOVING BIG like He loves is my ultimate goal and prize. There’s huge blessing in loving BIG.

Since the day I opened my shop, I truly desired to create a shop where people could walk in and feel welcomed, and appreciated. I ask for His Holy Spirit to dwell here every day. I see my little shop as a place where I can freely share the love of Christ with every person who walks through the door. To show them that they MATTER. That I SEE them, and He sees them.

So, why have there been days where I’ve treated my customers better than my family? Good question.

God has clearly shown me that integrity starts at home. When my husband and kids walk in the door – I want them to know that they matter, that they are noticed and appreciated and loved. I don’t want to give them my emotional ‘left overs.’ And I’m guessing you don’t either. Yep, sometimes I’m just plain old tired…

That’s where: courage, discipline, vision, endurance and love come in.

I’ll close with this: Who do you want to be when no one’s looking? How will you become that person?

Bless you today! Love BIG!
Be – Daily His…

~Ally