This past year has been a doozy for us. Our first year of marriage includes buying and renovating a home, that home flooding 2 weeks after renovation with 5.5ft of water and no flood insurance, nearly dying during my rescue, discovering I was being slowly poisoned by breast implants-thus resulting in an explant surgery, infertility, retiring from my 12 year career in photography, starting a new job, and dealing with a never ending lawsuit.
It seems almost impossible for one person to handle it all in a 12 month span. People ask me “How are you smiling through all this?”.
Simple answer; Jesus.
Random fact about me; I hate being rushed. So much so that I wake up at 5am every morning to allow myself an hour to read a chapter from 4 different books, a half hour to putter around, and a 45 minutes to get ready for work. I would rather wake up at the crack of dawn than feel rushed in the morning.
Another part of my morning routine is while I am putting on makeup, I play a random sermon on YouTube- usually from Hope City. And ALWAYS my God knows exactly what I need to hear. This morning was no different. By the end of the sermon I was on my knees in my closet (where I do a lot of praying) tears streaming down my face-ruining the makeup I had just meticulously put on, with hands lifted high in praise.
In this sermon Pastor Jeremy talks about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. But the most beautiful part he pointed out was this; Do you know what causes a shadow?
In order to find our way through darkness, through trials, through hard times, we have to draw close to the light and let it lead us through that pit of despair. If for nothing else I am so thankful for all these seemingly impossible trials because it has forced me to cling to Jesus. He is in the valley with me, my own beautiful flashlight.
It seems almost crazy to smile when someone from your past files a temporary restraining order against you for your blog posts. A scary monster leaping out from the shadows. But I smile, not because I think I’ll win, but because I don’t care. I shine my flashlight on the threat to reveal it for what it is; fear. I have Jesus, and that’s all I need.
If I never have doors, walls, or floors again, I have the shelter of His perfect love. If I lose in trial, He still waves His banner of victory over my heart. If I never get well, I will still rest knowing I will be transfigured to glory in heaven. If I never conceive a child, I have conceived love for my enemies. If I never achieve worldly success again, I have reprioritized life according to His perfect design.
So many times I have prayed for Him to take these trials away from me, to remove my enemies. But through the fire and refining my prayers have changed. Now instead of praying for the pain to cease, I pray as He did in the garden, for the strength to endure, to see it through.
It is BECAUSE of the trials, the sorrow, the pain, that I now comprehend and appreciate such blessings, joy, and hope.
What happened with the restraining order? It was thrown out. The trial? Still ongoing. I remember the days when I used to live in such fear. Being forced to walk away from everything I knew, everything I built, and everything I put before God. Walking away from a multi-million dollar business and lifestyle and leaving with basically nothing, turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. I used to let other people use fear to control me, and now I have no fear.
2 Timothy 1:7 (TPT)
For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control.
God removed the barrier between us, prying it from my frightened hands, to show me a better way, to show me true love. Looking back I don’t recognize the person I used to be, frankly I’m disgusted. No amount of money, success, or fame, can ever tempt me to go back to that lifestyle. I would rather live an insignificant, modest life with Christ, than a millionaire, famous life without Him.
Even now, as contempt motions fly, deception is revealed, and it seems the trial will never end, I pray for my enemies and I smile. Because my God is good, and He uses all things for His plan for my life. I pray for peace, I pray that He uses this situation to deliver them, and I pray for the strength to endure.
I have never been happier, never felt more peace, and never had so much hope for the future. I shine my flashlight straight in front of me. It cuts through the dark, lights my path. My future is bright and it is yours Jesus.
Psalm 23 The Passion Translation (TPT)
The Good Shepherd
23 David’s poetic praise to God[a]
1 The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd.[b]
I always have more than enough.
2 He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love.[c]
His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.
3 That’s where he restores and revives my life.[d]
He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure
and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness[e]
so that I can bring honor to his name.
4 Lord, even when your path takes me through
the valley of deepest darkness,
fear will never conquer me, for you already have!
You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way.
Your authority is my strength and my peace.[f]
The comfort of your love takes away my fear.
I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.
5 You become my delicious feast
even when my enemies dare to fight.
You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit;[g]
you give me all I can drink of you until my heart overflows.
6 So why would I fear the future?
For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life.
Then afterward, when my life is through,
I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!