Falling Into Pits

Memorial Day Weekend means the start of summer with family and the celebration of my Daddy’s birthday. This year wasn’t any different except my Daddy was turning 60, so the celebration was amplified with camping, boating, fishing, and a lesson on how Papa rescues us from any pit. 

True story. The sunset was upon us, a misty breeze, the smell of smores in the campfire.   
And all of a sudden, uncontrollable yelps and the site of my 3 year old daughter laying in the fire pit surrounded by blazing flames. Overwhelming fear and desperation was in the air. My husband Fernando stood firm and reacted with a ninja move that pulled her out of the flames and threw her onto her back with a supernatural power that suppressed the flames on her shirt and hair.  Say what!?!? And an hour later, Marisol is sitting back on a lawn chair enjoying the smore that was placed on hold during her episode of playing with fire. Say what?!?  Neighbors in the camp ground stopped by to give praises to our Lord. Chills down my spine as I write this and my mind becomes flooded with a montage of images from that experience. And he put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God (Psalm 40:3).

Isn’t that all of us? Sometimes we are in pits of the unknown or pits with a vicious lion. Admittedly, that is me often. In deep desperation as I get in and out of the pits. And the Bible gives us a great example of David's experience found in Psalm 40. David leads us through six stages of his experience that depicts how God snatches us out of the flames we stumble into as his children.  1) David is in a muddy pit; 2) he cries to God for help; 3) he waits for the Lord; 4) God draws him out of the pit to safety; 5) God gives David a new song to sing; 6) many others come to trust God. Say what? In a matter of seconds, I experienced a sense of desperation to a sense of security and such a strong feeling of God's nearness and help.  Now the test - can I make David’s pattern and my recent experience part of my daily life?  

Hopelessness, helplessness, desperation, rock bottom, overworked, frustration as the mother of four needy children, the impossible expectations of work or school, suffering of an illness, or like my daughter in a physical pit and an attack from the enemy. What is your pit? It can be anything that threatens to ruin the purposeful life that our King has designed for you.  Your pit wants to take your purpose away. But like my little girl who trips into the fire pit and yells out to her daddy.  We must remember that when life takes us to the pit, we must cry out immediately, "Daddy! Papa! Heavenly Father" because God loves to answer childlike prayers. And He does it again and again! He saves us from our misery. May we not slip back in the world and take our blessing in life for granted. But because of our fallen nature, we fail. And one of the ways God keeps us awake is by letting us hit the pits, leaving us there a while and then bringing us out into the freshness of His grace and mercy again. When you are in the pits, remember Psalm 40: cry out to the Lord like a helpless child; then humbly and hopefully wait patiently for the Lord; and when He comes in His own time and makes you secure, then sing a new song to His grace so people can see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. The Lord took me to Psalms 40 because He knew the healing it would give me. Papa knew it would happen and prepared the way of escape.  My lovely husband (Fernando) that I often challenge in more ways that I like to admit and especially for doing his martial arts, was chosen with his exact skills!  He was where he was supposed to be. Thank you Jesus! 

Psalm 40 was just ALL so healing for me.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
and he inclined to me, and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction,
out of the miry clay;
And he set my feet upon a rock,
making my footsteps firm.
And he put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.
How blessed is the man who has made
the Lord his trust,
And has not turned to the proud,
nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
Many, O Lord my God,
are the wonders which thou hast done,
And thy thoughts toward us;
There is none to compare with thee;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.
Sacrifice and meal offering thou hast not desired;
My ears thou has opened;
Burnt offering and sin offering
thou hast not required.
Then I said, "Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me;
I delight to do thy will, O my God;
Thy law is within my heart."
I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness
in the great congregation;
Behold, I will not restrain my lips,
O, Lord thou knowest.
I have not hidden thy righteousness
within my heart;
I have spoken of thy faithfulness
and thy salvation;
I have not concealed thy lovingkindness
and thy truth from the great congregation.
Thou, O Lord, wilt not withhold
thy compassion from me;
Thy lovingkindness and thy truth
will continually preserve me.
For evils beyond number have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me,
so that I am not able to see;
They are more numerous
than the hairs of my head;
And my heart has failed me.
Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
Make haste, O Lord, to help me!
Let those be ashamed and humiliated together
Who seek my life to destroy it;
Let those be turned back and dishonored
Who delight in my hurt.
Let those be appalled because of their shame
Who say to me, "Aha, aha!"
Let all who seek thee rejoice
and be glad in thee;
Let those who love thy salvation say continually,
"The Lord be magnified!"
Since I am afflicted and needy,
Let the Lord be mindful of me;
Thou art my help and my deliverer;
Do not delay, O my God.

Erika Andrade

Bridge to Thrive, Co-founder

 

The Source of All Goodness

Fear of not performing. Story of my life. I am a DO-er, and I can accomplish ANYTHING that I put my mind to. This translates into my desire to feel wanted and needed in every area of my life – my marriage, my job, my church, and motherhood which is the area that I attempt the most to be the HERO.   

A few months ago, my 2 month old child (at the time) had been suffering from an odd skin condition causing irresistible itchiness, leading to severe bleeding. In the following months, we had many doctors, many test, a ton of creams, some avoidance of foods, and many prayers BUT still no healing. The leading culprit was serve allergies. The food I was eating might have been the cause, so I quickly took personal responsibility and believed my change in diet and hard work at nursing could earn her healing. Months passed and things got harder. Less sleep, going back to work, spouse traveling, 3 other kids, blah, blah, blah. Then couples camp weekend came along and by then I had hundreds of ounces of breast milk to get her through the weekend, but for the first time felt a nudge to try the alimentum formula for kids with severe allergies and milk protein sensitivities. I put my pride aside and she had the formula over the weekend, but upon my return my desire to nurse was a perfect match to the need and want I saw from my baby girl to happily come to my breast for pure comfort. As I stared into my beautiful girls eyes who attentively stared at me, I cried as I saw her blistered cheeks with crusts of blood. I thanked the Lord for the abundance He had given me with my milk supply and the opportunity to be the source of ALL goodness for my daughter. I lied her in her crib for the first time in months (she had been sleeping with me) and got on my knees and prayed. In a puddle of tears, I prayed for healing for a miracle, for answers.  

A few nights later, I woke-up a few minutes before her 3am feeding and felt a nudge to pick-up a physical bible that I hadn’t touched in years. The book mark there took me to 2 Kings 5:1-19.  Weird. I had just heard that random, intense verse, but didn’t understand it.  Naaman.  Things started to make more sense - the healing of Naaman, the Leper is not just a story of healing but of obedience.  I discovered that my leprosy (sin) was my desire to be the source of ALL goodness for my daughter via my breast milk.  Wow, how can something so good like, breast milk, have me so enslaved to my fear of not performing. I was in prison in so many other areas of my life and stuck in my “doing”, and God was not punishing me with my daughter’s condition but forcing me to face the deeper problem. How could I have missed it? My doing was not “doing” anything.    The character of Jesus was not very interested in my doing, but way more interested in my being.  

So my act of obedience was to surrender breastfeeding.  As silly as this sounds, I cried and I sobbed. I had breastfed all my other children for over one year and how could I give-up my only source of pride as a mother.  Not only that, but I started to think of all the people that I had hurt along the way from my entitlement in this area.  And my fear of not performing had come to the light.  I needed to submit humbly to the wise plan of God. My hope was in the wrong place, I needed to repent and look to the one TRUE hope.  I needed to go to the source of all goodness, and that is Jesus.  He exceeds our expectation, provides our needs,  and fulfills our desires.  Will my sweet baby girl be healed?  Not sure.  But one thing is for sure, there was healing that came from my apologies to other women and deliverance from my fear of not performing.  And He is a good, good Father.

Erika Andrade

Bridge To Thrive, Co-founder

 

Waiting For Your 'Yes'

Have you ever thought about the disciples throughout the gospel? They were ordinary men. Some, doubting. Some, unsure of what Jesus was teaching. Some, competing with each other or feeling the need to assert their knowledge on how they think things should be done. BUT THEN...the empty tomb and the resurrection...everything changes. The ordinary men become extraordinary apostles who preach and teach with power and conviction. 

Everything changes when you have seen the risen Christ. What is there to fear, when our God has conquered death itself?  The Easter season has one simple conclusion - an invitation to hear His whispers of...."follow me". We have seen our risen Savior and now like the disciples before; HE is waiting for us to say "Yes, Lord! We will follow You!"

But in the busyness of my life I often over-complicate what that really means. In my messy life I have learned that becoming a disciple of Jesus is a step-by step process. It’s learning through faith to trust and follow Him one step and one event at a time. For me it has been a thrilling roller coaster ride of very high 'highs' and very low 'lows'.  And somehow, this all makes sense because there is no life more adventuresome than a life completely given to God. When Jesus Christ takes over, things get exciting! Being a true follower of Jesus Christ is the height of an extreme life.

I have to admit that, for me, it is difficult to comprehend that it has nothing to do with what I have to offer. In my human flesh, I want to believe that there is something good I can offer and that I can set my own trajectory.  Since a little girl I was told to “believe in myself” and that I could do anything and everything I put my mind to. This has lead to my greatest problem when it comes to following Jesus – relying on my own strength and skill. Like Peter and his skill as a fisherman, I find myself required to forsake those areas of my life that I find myself good at, in order to follow Christ.  Jesus wanted Peter, James, and John to say 'YES' to following Him and 'NO' to life as usual. Their boats, nets, lines, and hooks were familiar to them and made them feel successful, safe, and secure. Jesus would show them that HE alone would be their All-Sufficient One. The Bible says that they left everything (even fortune in fish) and followed Jesus.  

Matthew 4:18-22 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

What do you find yourself good at?  How are you obeying Jesus in that area?  What may He be asking you to forsake in order to follow Christ?

Erika Andrade

Bridge To Thrive, Co-founder

 

The Perfect Friend

I have been blessed to have some of the most amazing friendships over the course of my life. Honestly, it feels like a complete and total gift to have had lasting relationships with women who know the depths of me-the good, the not so good, and all the in between. When I took time to sit down and think about the women in my life who have stood by me, I was overwhelmed by one major thing...they all accepted me as I was.

I am someone who loves people, but I'm communicatively challenged when it comes to staying in touch with those I really care about. I mean, it’s a hot mess, to put it lightly. I have literally gone months without returning a call, days without responding to a text, and I won’t even mention what happens to my emails. I need to insert many emojis here! After reading all of this, I’m sure some of you might be wondering how I still even have friends... don’t worry I’m not offended, sometimes I think that too! And, that’s when I am reminded of just how blessed I am. God has given me direct access to a greater understanding of my identity as His friend. He does it through the people He has placed in my life who have loved me well beyond what I ever deserved or imagine.


As I spent some time reflecting on this, I was even more humbled at the thought of how the Lord loves and cares for us as His friends. In John 15:13 we see His great love described when He says “greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” This is obviously Jesus speaking, but these are not just words, as we all know, this love was put on full display when Jesus chose to go to the cross in complete and totally humility, with such sacrificial grace, to lay down His life for us, His friends. 

To think of all that Jesus went through in those last days is both overwhelming and astonishing. He chose to spend time fellowshipping and breaking bread with His friends before his darkest hour. Even while sharing a meal with those He loved, He knew that betrayal was near, and yet His concern was for those around Him, the disciples, His friends.

One of the most significant moments for me is detailed in John 13:1-17 where Jesus washes the feet of His disciples. What really stands out to me is when Peter questioned Jesus and said to Him “you shall never wash my feet.” My estimation is that Peter was responding out of a genuine desire to not have Jesus do something that Peter might have presumed was beneath Him, as Jesus was the person to be served. When Jesus pushed back stating “unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Peter then accepted and received this beautiful act of service from the Lord. 

What struck me about the scripture this time is that I realized how many times I have pushed away the service of my friends. When I thought I was too “messy” to be around, or not deserving of love, or not capable of giving back what I received from my friends, I was being like Peter. I was rejecting what was offered, and what I was worthy of because I thought I was too messed up. And then, I realized that I often do this with Jesus. He literally died for me to have life, it was the greatest act of service, yet there are many days that I live as though I have no knowledge of that. When I speak negatively about myself, believe lies, live as though I am unforgiven. I am saying, no to the one who calls me friend. Wow. That hit me like a ton of bricks. So, what do I do with that? Well, I know I won’t do it perfectly, but I can tell you that I am now more aware and want to start living like I am the friend He says I am. The friend that He chose to sacrifice everything for. Just like the friends that He has put in my life. I need to live with the full understanding that no matter what I do, no matter how much I mess up, He accepts this friend as she is. What a gift. My encouragement to you is to remember that this week. You are more than enough. You were worthy of the sacrifice. Receive and accept that you are His friend.

Courtney Walton

Bridge To Thrive, Spiritual Director

 

Realizing I Was The Problem

A few weeks ago, my husband Brian and I were going through a rough patch. In a way that hadn't been for a long time. It was the kind of rough patch that makes you feel like theres this dark cloud following you everywhere. I felt lost. I was spinning my wheels to no avail...until I looked in the mirror. I saw a wife who had lost touch with the foundations of respect, grace and judgment free aspects of her marriage. Things she and her hubby fought so hard to establish.

Honestly, it started with me passing judgment on Brian for the way 'I' felt he wasn't following the Lord the way 'I' thought he should. I lost sight of the way Our Father knit him together. I started pushing him to do things I thought would be "best", but they were actually driving a wedge between us. Allowing the enemy to sneak in. Brian stated resenting me for things he once encouraged. Which led to me comparing him to other husbands who I perceived as "so encouraging". And then me resenting him feeling lost or as if he wasn't seeing 'me'... I started pushing more feeling like I had to fix this. (As if I had the power) 


My human is ashamed to admit that through fighting with both Brian and God, God revealed three things my imperfect self needed to do in order to love my imperfect husband.

1) Pray For Your Husband: It was my job to continue to pray fiercely for my husband in his strengths and weaknesses as a husband, father and child of God. To invite Jesus to dwell in the mists of it all and no longer focus on what 'I' though was the problem, but on The One who could solve it. 
2) Encourage Your Husband: I had no right to judge him...I was not perfect and there were things I was doing to put him down that were flat out wrong. I was called to speak words that build up and give grace (Ephesians 4:29). I could still speak truths to him, but lead with encouragement. 
3) And most important! Die To Self: In my saddest darkest point of fighting with God (yes, fighting with God because up until this point I still felt Brian was the problem) dying to self is what God revealed through scripture as most important. I could never truly do the first two things the way God called me to, until I surrendered it all, until I got out-of-the-way and let the Holy Spirit move. 


Brian wasn't problem and by no means is he perfect, we are both imperfect humans falling short of the glory of God every day. But I was the problem! I thought 'I' could fix it and push Brian to be who 'I' thought he should be, doing things 'I' thought would be best (even though I knew they were not the way he is wired). I needed to get out of the way, die to my desires and let God go to work in Me, Brian and our marriage.

 
By no means are we perfect or in a perfect place, but God is working in each of us as individuals, in our conversations and connections with each other.

God is good! He is faithful! And out of such darkness and tears, an understanding, respect, trust, love and deeper devotion is born. Hallelujah!

2 Corinthians 4:17 For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. (This verse got me through and led me to more scripture that shed light onto my own brokenness)

Elizabeth Soloria

Bridge To Thrive                                                                                                                                                Marketing Director

 

When you realize God uses you...

This week marked a new beginning in my life.  It marked the return to work in corporate america after baby Andrade #4.  The days leading up to my first day,  I felt excited to go back to an environment where I could contribute something tangibly, but combined with anxiousness that what I wanted to accomplish during my maternity remained incomplete. I felt prompted to pray.  I prayed over and over, that the Lord would use me. I prayed that He would bring ministry to the work place and that my 'yes' to return to work reflected the calling He had for me in this season of life.

When it got time for my first pumping session, I sat back and my mind flooded with images of what the last six months of maternity leave had been like. Wow, it might have been the first time in my life that I felt like God had used me and that it wasn't me accomplishing the next milestone in my own strength. The mommy’s room in the office was a beautiful encounter with the holy spirit and arealization that GOD REALLY DOES USE ME.  Of course, if I am out on maternity leave than chances are I was used by the Lord to deliver a baby as a starting point.  Next came, the Be Your Story conference that all came together with an amazing team that the Lord provided and His provision for that weekend.  He had called me by name to lead in Cincinnati and used me to set the vision. Then the scary helicopter ride to the ICU which had me caring for Mom over the holidays, but through His mercy saw miraculous healing.  My mother is not from Cincinnati, but used me as her primary care giver and so much more during that season.  And just a couple weeks ago He used my YES along with a scary financial risk at the time to gather over 500 women from 100 different churches in the city to gather and listen to a message of hope and worship in His name.  And not to forget about the big moments that seems so little while living them of answering the little voices calling mommy, of rocking my baby girl to sleep during the middle of the night, of countless loads of laundry and cooked meals to husband and children.   

Sometimes in life’s mundane moments, it can be difficult to see that, can’t it?  But it is true.  God uses you.  God created you in His image on purpose for a purpose.  All He wants from you is to trust Him with your life.  For many years of my life I would step on His toes and ask Him to move away because I knew better.  Only in the last 6 months that I have come before him like never before.  My sole desire has been to get to know Him better and experience the Holy Spirit.  And one thing I know, God usually moves most through those who know they are not qualified. So here on this first week of work after baby #4, I declare that I will do my best but wholeheartedly trust that HE will do immeasurably more.   Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 

And so today, right where you are, I want you to pray and ask God to show you how He is using you. That He reveals to you how to draw closer to Him so that you can encounter immeasurably more of Him.   Because, if you are like me on good days,  youlike proving to others that you have this thing called life figured out.  Or if you are like me on a bad day, you don’t think of God using you when you are wiping snotty nose, sitting in front of a computer screen, or trying to get dinner done after working all day.  But He is. He uses you.  Enjoy the story below from a beautiful sister that experienced the same. 

I was blessed with the opportunity to attend and asked to help with this event. The story boggles my mind when I think about it. For years I have thought I needed to get my bachelor's degree to be qualified to work in ministry, because I kept getting no where applying for ministry positions. I eventually realized I wasn't striving after the right thing and while I am glad I got my degree, from a Christian college, I don't currently serve full time in ministry. I have always felt like I needed to prove myself to others, that just being me wasn't enough. A few weeks ago, ironically on days when I was physically at my worst, I had no energy left to pretend to be someone or something I wasn't. I showed up at an event and just "was" and sought to soak up everything I could knowing I was at a weak point in my life due to my health. That weekend a handful of women noticed me and somehow, no doubt, a divine plan, our stories became entwined through a few conversations and interactions. 

This weekend was about being able to use my gifts, not because I have a degree or a filled out resume, but because other women saw the potential in me and encouraged me to use it and invited me along on their adventure. I am incredibly grateful for their openness and willingness to do so and for loving me in spite of all my flaws or physical limitations. They truly made me feel like I had nothing to prove. Thank you so much!  #bridgetothrive #ntptour

Our goal at Bridge to Thrive is to Engage, Encourage, and Empower women to turn to the promises that come when you say YES to Jesus and ask the question, "What does it look like to serve our city and love Jesus?"  How is God using you today? Let’s encourage one another.

erika.jpg

Erika Andrade

Bridge To Thrive, Co-founder and Visionary 

A Simple Question

Recently I started journaling again, something I was in the habit of doing for a little while and really enjoyed, but in the busyness of life, journaling got away from me. However, a few weeks ago I was presented with a question that sparked my need to journal again. The question was simple, "where are you in this moment?". Simple, yes, but as I wrote my heart spilled with joy, gratitude and excitement for the future. Little did I know, the Lord already had plans and answers for the questions and excitement I wrote in that journal entry. 

I answered the question, "where are you in this moment?". I wrote this: Currently I am a mother, watching her three-year-old eat her lunch, play innocently with her toys and insisting on me answering every single question she has and asking me "where are my glasses?" (which she does not wear) and making an enormous mess looking for them. I love this part of my life, a mother, and I am very clear now that this is where the Lord wants my focus. To raise my children to be Christ followers, disciples to change the world and grow His kingdom. Some days I feel like a success and others I know and feel the Lord telling me to do more and guide their little hearts in more fruitful ways. I always knew I wanted to be a mother, but never understood or could fathom that "that" (being a mom) could be a purpose or bring glory to God. But God made it very clear to me that being a mother who fiercely raises her children to be disciples for Christ is exactly why I became a mother, even if I was only 19 when I became a mother. More importantly, that each of my children were born with a purpose. (Jeremiah 1:5) And that it was my job to raise them to know that God created them to do great things for Him. To guide them on that purpose, support them, help them find themselves, and constantly remind them that not only are they loved by me and my husband, but are loved and belong to God. This I am clear on. I now take pride in it and am so grateful that the Lord made it so clear at a time when I felt so lost. But, I also know that this purpose of being a mother and guiding my children on a righteous path will last a lifetime. I will always be your mother, even when my children are grown and finding or living their own purpose. I will still be their mother, helping guide them, praying for them, asking God to lead them and watch over them. So, in parallel with being a mother, I feel God guiding me to another purpose/calling. I don't know what it is yet and I don't know when it will be clear to me or when the Lord wants me to pursue it, but I know it's there. It excites me and I have peace knowing that the Lord is faithful in revealing it. (keep this in mind as you continue to read) My prayer and anxiousness comes in asking the Lord to help me keep my eyes on him. I'm human and I get distracted. I'm human and I get impatient. I'm human and I get weary and let the world and the enemy get in my head. But, the Lord has told me over and over that I have to fix my eyes on Him. Listening to Him on the big stuff and the little stuff. The profound and the mundane. The things I don't want to do and the things that excite me. I have to fill my life, time, heart, house, car, laundry, cleaning, joy, everything with Him so that I can be His light. All of this so that my children see Him in all that I do, so that my husband sees Him in all that I do, so that strangers see Him in all that I do. 

My journal entry ended there, but God never stops writing His story. I wrote about having peace in knowing that the Lord would be faithful in revealing His next call for my life. I didn't realize it was literally in front of my face or that it would happen so soon. But God's timing is perfect and my heart was ready. It's no coincidence that just a week after this journal entry, I attended a women's conference focused on teaching and encougung discipleship. I left the conference excited and with conviction that I was to step out and disciple those around me. I had a name in mind, a young girl with a story similar to mine. But God is funny, he also had a name in mind. 
The Monday after the conference, His plan was clear. Like, in your face clear! A girl, who I had met at the doctors office and just started to build a friendship with, reached out. She asked me about Bridge To Thrive and how she could get involved. She said how she was feeling lost and battling depression. (OK God, I'm picking up what you're throwing down)  I told her about the Bridge To Thrive mission and ways for her to connect and engage. Then, I asked if I could pray with her. I've been in contact with her since and am excited about the relationship God is cultivating. 

As I wrote in that journal I had no idea what God's plan was, but He knew. He had planned my days and directed my path. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) He was preparing my heart with a simple question, "where are you in this moment?" I simply answered exactly and quite literally where I was (talking to my three-year-old) but it prompted me to think about the future and ask God to guide me on HIS path, the path He called me to.  God is sometimes funny like that, he places seemingly simple things right in front of us to reveal His master plan. 

So, I encourage you to ask yourself the same simple question, "where are you in this moment?"
Heck, start a journal! ;) See what it reveals.

Liz Soloria

Bridge To Thrive, Marketing Director

 

Doubts

Doubts. We all have them. I know for me as a single, almost 36 year old woman, that word is one that often lingers in my mind. I am in a season of genuine contentment, paralleled by sincere longing. I love being able to live my life in such a carefree way. Cereal for dinner? Yes please. Sleep in on the weekends? Done. Spontaneous girls’ trips? Absolutely! I live in an amazing house of other 30-something single women and it is one of the sweetest seasons in my life. And, yet, if you asked each of us for our honest responses, I’m almost certain that you would get the same answer. We are ready for the next season to begin. And so, I’m sure you can imagine why that doubt word keeps popping up...a lot. On good days I wonder, “when will IT happen.” And on the not-so-good days I wonder “If IT will ever happen.” As I read through the scripture this week, I gained newfound insight into the areas of doubt, questioning and wondering, and it has provided me with a new, fresh and welcomed perspective.

In reading through the first chapter of Luke I was struck by something I had not thought about before. At first glance, my attention was focused on the difference in responses from Zechariah and Mary. Zechariah questioned the validity of the angel’s word about his elderly wife, Elizabeth, being pregnant, stating in Luke 1:18 “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Mary, on the other hand, was also given a word from an angel, revealing to her that she would become pregnant with Jesus, the son of God, and she responded with acceptance and honor, stating in Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

After digging deeper into the text, however, I was surprised to find a few similarities in their responses. In Luke 1:12 we see that “Zechariah was troubled when he saw him (the angel),” and in Luke 1:29 we read that Mary “was greatly troubled at the saying (from the angel).” And though, as stated above, Mary had a response of great faith, what the scripture reveals is that her response was preceded by questioning, just like Zechariah.

If at this point, you are confused, I’ll admit, so was I. Let me see if I can explain this more clearly.

Let’s start with Zechariah. First, when he sees the angel, the word states that “he was troubled” AND “that fear fell upon him.” Then, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, he encouraged him to not be afraid, and that his specific prayer had been heard and would be answered. That was a very personal message that Gabriel delivered Zechariah because he was essentially telling him that God would respond to his request. So, to break this down further, we have Zechariah crippled by fear, forgetfulness and unbelief.

Now, let’s move on to Mary. Though Mary absolutely had a heart of faith, she too had her questions. When Gabriel appeared to her, Mary was also “troubled” and “tries to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” And Gabriel also encouraged her to not be afraid.

And, so we see, they were both troubled, and they both questioned. So, why was the response to Zechariah and Mary so different, when beneath the surface, their responses to Gabriel were so similar.

Let’s keep digging.

Zechariah had actually prayed about the very word that Gabriel was presenting to him, yet in that moment, he was so overcome with fear that it seemed as though he had forgotten that it was even a request he had previously asked of the Lord. In Luke 1:18, Zechariah boldly asks “how can I be sure of this.” He wanted certainty and proof before he could accept what Gabriel was saying. Then, Zechariah began to focus on the fact that he and Elizabeth were elderly, and in his mind, not capable of having children, so his unbelief took over and he just couldn’t receive what Gabriel was saying as true-it didn’t make sense in the natural. His question was coming from a place of doubt and fear.

Mary questioned as well. But, her questioning came out of a genuine place of confusion, and so Gabriel responded to her by providing more clarity. She honestly was unsure of how she would conceive a baby as a virgin, but if you look back at the text, not once did she question whether, or not, it could happen. And once Gabriel provided more details, she responded by basically saying “oh okay, got it! Sign me up-I’m in.”

And so, what are we to take away from these two similar, but different responses? I encourage you to ask the Lord what He is saying to you through this first section of the book of Luke, as I know it’s not always a “one size fits all” revelation. Our God is both big, and personal. I believe He has a personal word just for you.

I can tell you that for myself, the Lord has brought to mind the many times I have prayed for something, watched Him respond (perhaps years later) then I start to doubt, because it just doesn’t look like I thought. I have often mirrored Zechariah much more than Mary in my life, and yet, the beautiful thing is that God continues to show up, and many times, He even provides the answer that I have been waiting on despite my doubt, my fear, and my unbelief. I wonder what would happen if I tried to have more of a Mary response. God doesn’t have to provide us with clarity, but if I had a posture of asking for that instead of trying to figure things out on my own all the time, maybe that shift in thinking would result in less doubt, less fear, less unbelief. What if I let go of the need for certainty and humbly asked the Lord for clarity? I find myself often asking others around me for clarity on things that I don’t understand, and I think most of the time that’s actually okay if they are wise counsel. But, how often do I start and stop with God? Not very often. So, that’s what I felt the Lord leading me to do. My takeaway from this scripture is to go to God, and only God, for clarity. And, my prayer is that my response will also be “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

courtney.jpg

Courtney Walton

Bridge To Thrive
Spiritual Director
 

 

More Than We Can Handle

As I look back on 2016, I see a year full of many surprises.  The first major surprise was the news that we were expecting our fourth child!! The excitement of this pregnancy was hidden under fears of doubt.  Would I physically and emotionally be able to handle a 4th kid?!  You see, I was already doing a juggling act- balancing a full time job, being a mom of 3, trying to be a good wife, and starting a women's ministry.  I remember someone mentioning to me, "God won't give us any more than we can handle." Really?!

Little did I know at the time, that pregnancy was preparing me for so much more. The next big surprise came a few weeks after the birth of our sweet baby girl, Bianca.  Both of my grandmothers were diagnosed with cancer within the same month.  Lord, how can this be?  I asked and prayed this often.  My family and I watched both of them struggle through the horrific disease.  One of them survived and is doing wonderfully but my other amazing grandma did not win the battle.  It was a lot to handle grieving for one and being happy for the other. My heart was breaking-  Lord, how can this be?

Then, the day after Thanksgiving, my mother sat at my kitchen counter when a sudden headache sent her to the emergency room. It led to the diagnosis of a ruptured aneurysm in her brain and a fight for her life. This was so much in such a short time that all I could do was sit in that waiting room and weep with the rest of my family.  Her mother, my 83 year old grandmother wept and cried out, “I’d do anything to give my life for her." This was the same life she just fought so hard to keep.  

"God won't give us any more than we can handle." Really?!

The truth is, God never said He wouldn’t give you more than you can handle. The words that are meant for encouragement can actually tempt us to ignore our suffering and pretend it’s not there. It can lead us to believe the lie that we can do it ourselves; that we can handle it. Which can raise the question, “If we can handle anything that comes our way, then why do we need God at all?” We need to realize that sometimes we can’t make it on our own. Rather than stand and proclaim that we can handle it, we should imitate Jesus.  The night before Jesus was executed, He cried out in the garden, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Jesus told His father, “This is too much for me!”  I believe this verse is telling us that it is okay to feel like we can’t handle it, and cry out like Jesus did. It is in this place and posture that we find God.  Jesus suffered for us out of love and mercy so that we can find a way to the Lord. Jesus shows us how our sacrifice won’t end in death, but life. Mercy was the blessing given through Jesus out of compassion from our Father. God is not against us, His compassion for us moves His heart to always work things out for good and according to His purpose for us. 

There was a moment in the hospital waiting room where my family and I experienced His mercy through a stranger. The Lord sent a man who offered prayer for my grandmother who was in a state of anguish.  I jumped off my seat and exclaimed, YES, please pray for all of us who so desperately needed Jesus. All 9 of us held hands and wept like babies as this stranger prayed the most beautiful prayer; a prayer that became a turning point for our family.  Today, I look at that moment and most of 2016 as a reflection of one of the greatest gifts from the character of God and the mission of Jesus, MERCY.  And the most beautiful part is that to receive mercy from God, we must just admit we need it. 

With amazing grace, my mother survived the surgery to fix the aneurysm and is doing great, better than her doctors can believe.  I have had the privilege of caring for my mother and sometimes grandmother, on top of what I already thought was a full plate with my family of six. This has provided me with another important lesson for the year: asking for help.

As I'm sure most women can relate, we struggle with asking and receiving help from others.  2016 has made me realize the importance of asking for help in many different ways. First, by admitting to God that I can't do it on my own and that NEED Him. Second, by admitting that i need help from my community and allowing them to step in where needed. And lastly, by helping others, and seeing it as a privilege rather than an inconvenience.  Sometimes it takes oneself to ask for help first, so that our community of people will feel safe enough to ask as well. We are the family of God and the primary way that God’s faithfulness and goodness get into the world. He blesses us and we bless others.  

And I cannot end the year without acknowledging all the help and love poured out to me and my family by this community. The wonderful women behind the scenes are the heart of this ministry and I am so thankful God wove us together. We need each other and we have learned to race to Jesus together. 

So, as you race into the new year wondering what adventures lay ahead, remember that God has a plan. In whatever life throws your way, maybe feeling like it's just too much to handle, remember that God has you. He wants you to always turn to Him. So whether you're overwhelmed by: your teenagers choices, or your baby's fever at three in the morning, or the fear of losing a loved one...know that you need Him and that He is always there to embrace you with mercy. 

erika.jpg

Erika Andrade

Bridge To Thrive
Co-founder and Visionary
 

 

Let HIM Prepare

A quiet moment exhausted, staring without seeing the beauty of the tree covered in precious gifts and memories.  Then, a twinkle catches my eye, a light from the string bouncing off a glass ornament.  I become present, aware of how the lights are illuminating the ornaments.  I search up at the top of the tree to find the glass ornament from our first year of marriage, one that has survived 30 years. Then I spot my favorite ones with pictures of my children in the handmade stars, my eyes bounce around like the lights running across the special memories each ornament represents.  Then I glance downward to behold our nativity (in our home my husband carries on his family tradition of the nativity placed beneath the tree).  I take a deep breath, pause and ponder about that young couple, Mary and Joseph, and their preparation for a journey that changed everything...

In the preparation for Christmas celebrations I try to pause often to remember the Christmas story.  Amidst all of the lists, the shopping, the concerts and events, the lights and tinsel – I force myself to pause, take a deep breath and remember the baby.  I remember and it fills my heart with gratitude for the reconciliation of a coming Savior, it leads me to whisper prayers for family, health, friends and relationships.  Then it’s back to the Christmas preparations.  The lists, and the errands, and the cooking, and the cleaning, and the kids…oh my!  Their excitement, and too much sugar, and routines disrupted, their anticipation and hope.  And in an exhausted moment during gift wrapping, I remember another gift, an unbelievable gift from God, the birth of a baby.  I take a deep breath and remember in gratitude how He prepared.

God planned a big picture, everyone included, a way of redeeming our sin from death to a life of eternity with Him through the birth of a baby. It’s easy for us to recall the story of Jesus’ birth in a child’s sized version - a miraculous conception, a donkey ride, a baby born in a stable, the bright star and 3 wise men.  That nativity set under my tree has most of the players.  But look closer, read the first couple chapters of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.   You will find that God not only planned for the big picture, He prepared His people through intimate, supernatural interactions.  God himself was preparing them for their part in the story of the coming King!  He sent messengers and signs.  He knew their hearts.  They paused, then trusted Him.  God prepared them for their purpose, their part of His story.

God understands preparation. He gets it. Probably what motivated God, love for His people, is also why many of us will succumb to running on empty in preparation for our celebrations as well.  So as we prepare for our loved ones this Christmas season, let’s rely on Him and His preparations.  Focus on the JOY of the story that was and is still the best gift of all.  It’s because of the birth of our Savior and King, we can take a breath and pause to remember that God is, has, and will continue to interact with His people. The Lord of All has already made the preparations and purpose for you in His story.  Just as He did with those parents in the nativity scene, He is taking each of us one step at a time on the journey of faith, belief, and purpose.   

Together, with grateful hearts, let’s take a deep breath and pause because He has prepared.

DSC_0684-Edit copy.jpg

Gina Ellis

Bridge To Thrive
Communications and Social Media
 

 

The cupcakes. Oh the cupcakes, I remember them very well.

A few years ago, I worked for a non-profit ministry where part of my job was to visit local schools that housed our tutoring and mentoring program. I loved spending time with dedicated volunteers who would spend week after week encouraging and building into students. Their hearts for the kids was genuine and pure. 

Of course, what I loved the most though, were those sweet, sweet kids. Seeing the joy in their eyes when their tutors showed up was literally like watching them open a gift each week. And watching their confidence grow from week to week as their reading improved and as their grades jumped higher, was so inspiring.

And then there was the crawling under the table, running around in circles, and the “can I use the bathroom” question that was asked about every five minutes. Because, these were kids. In addition to the great academic progress that was made, these precious little people had an endless supply of energy, joy and carefree-ness. That too was inspiring.

What I didn’t anticipate though was the courage, the fearlessness and on one particular day, the bold expectancy that can exist within a child.

This boldness was put on full display at a holiday party. There was a fairly large table with an array of desserts galore, beautifully arranged. Child after child approached the table to get the designated number of desserts allowed. After everyone had picked their choice sweet treats, it was obvious that there was enough for another round for each child. Brownies. Cookies. Candy. And, then the cupcakes. At that point, there were about four left. 

Most of the children would walk up and look at every inch of the table, gaze at the cupcakes, and then move on. Then, one little girl stopped and commented on how she would like a cupcake, then she simply asked if she could take said cupcake. I replied with “absolutely.” A child behind her came up then inquired “hey, why didn’t I get a cupcake.” My quick response was “oh buddy all you had to do was ask,” then I gave him one of the remaining cupcakes. 

I know what you are thinking. That is mind blowing. What courage and boldness it took to ask for an extra cupcake. Astounding. I know right!? Okay, so not the most amazingly courageous act, however, it is what God began to reveal to me in that moment that screamed of courage. You see, most of the children that were a part of that program were in need, many of them in great need. For some, meals at school were the only meals they would have all day. And for many, asking for more of something could often fall on deaf ears. Not because parents didn’t want to give them more, but most often it was because they couldn’t. That little girl saw something that she really desired, and she simply asked for it, then received it. 

In reading the content of Week 4 of Linda Lesniewski’s, His Story, My Story study, we see a similar display of bold expectancy in the response of five daughters following the loss of their father. Zelophehad was a man who had no sons, and so when it came to passing on his inheritance, there was a bit of confusion as to what to do with it. Well, his daughters Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah were not confused. His daughters went to Moses and confidently asked "'Why should the name of our father be withdrawn from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession among our father's brothers'" (Num. 27:4, NASB). 

These daughters were asking for what they desired because it is what they deserved. It most likely was not an easy ask since it was not standard for daughters to receive the inheritance, but they stepped up to the “table” saw what appeared to be their’s and asked for it. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “The daughters of Zelophehad are right in their statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them (Num. 27:6-7 NASB).

Like Linda exclaimed in her study, I too LOVE the Lord’s response to the daughters’ request. He was not offended at their ask, or at their bold expectancy to receive. No, He was literally moved by their ask, and thus moved on their behalf.

So, how does this connect to the cupcake? Perhaps the young girl wasn’t used to receiving more than what was given. Maybe she did not often get to choose treats, or even have a choice of which meal she would eat for the day. But, in that moment, none of that mattered. She saw something she innocently desired, asked, and received.

I know for myself, I identify with the young boy who stood behind the young girl. How often do I step up to the table feeling sad that I didn’t get something I innocently desired? How many times have I deeply desired something but didn’t feel that I could, should, or perhaps just didn’t even think to ask for? What if I acted like that young girl more often? What if I lived with bold expectancy like Zelophehad’s daughters? What if God has a table laid out of something(s) He has already prepared for me, and my job now, is just to ask?

Not an ask out of greed because Jesus is not a genie in a bottle (thank God for that). But, an ask out of faith because He is a trustworthy, loving Father that I believe welcomes us with open arms when we bring our requests to Him. His response to us might not always be what we expect, but I truly believe that there are “cupcakes” that have been prepared for us in advance, and perhaps it’s just time that we start asking for them. Cupcake inheritance? Yes please!

So, what “cupcakes” have been left on your table? What are the things you have been afraid to ask God for? What are the things that you have felt unworthy to ask God for? How can you engage in relationship with Him this week to seek His face, and receive what He has pre-pared for you in advance?  Take some time to think about that this week.

Courtney Walton

Bridge To Thrive
Spiritual Director

 

There Will Always Be Light in the Darkness

On Nov. 10, I had the immense pain but privilege to kiss a woman I adore during her last breaths. My beautiful grandma, mi abuelita hermosa, was so very special to me.  She loved us unconditionally and her smile and laughter was contagious. After a week with my family grieving and celebrating abuelita's life, it was time to return home and all of a sudden I dreaded the 4 hour drive home. Part of me wanted to stay another week and not go back to the rhythms of life. And between a series of events with my children and living the emotional roller coaster of losing a loved one, I ended the week feeling defeated.

Off we went and half way through the drive, I looked up into the night sky and noticed the moon to be much bigger and much brighter than usual. Well, hello there my dear moon so that’s what you look like when you are the "supermoon" that everyone is talking about, I said that out loud. And suddenly, I felt the glory of God through every vein of my body.  The moon was so big in the sky; could I almost reach up and grab it?  I no longer felt defeated, but instead felt victorious. Just-like-that!  I was reminded by the Lord that when you lose, you suffer defeat, but when you win, you defeat your enemy.   And suddenly, many thoughts rushed to my mind with a spell of peace over my soul.  I thought how I will miss my grandmother without a doubt, but the victory of eternal life is defeating the enemy! And if that wasn't enough, she also left behind a legacy with imprints in my life that are to be admired and appreciated. And just like the closeness of the “supermoon”, the magnitude of our God would transcend all understanding! Big,sigh!  Thank you Jesus for using the extremely rare event of the “supermoon” to whisper to me such deep truths.  Philippians 4:7 "Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."

As I continued on my drive, I felt protection and a deeper peace come upon me.  

I looked up again, and this time, I also noticed a brightly shining star on the right side of the moon. Sigh, again and tears down my cheeks.  My very first reminder that abuelita's love will always shine brightly and what a privilege I had to call her my grandmother.  The truth is that I don't know if this giant “supermoon” holds any special significance and why it happened 5 days after abuelita's passing. However, the Lord used this phenomenon to speak to me and remind me of what the Bible has to say. We are told that God intended the moon to serve as a sign from the very beginning. Genesis 1:14 says,"And God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be signs to indicate seasons, and days, and years.'" As I reflect on this season of thanksgiving, I pray that I direct my heart to make gratefulness my immediate reaction to any circumstances. As I continue to mourn about the passing of my grandmother that I first and foremost thank the Lord for the privilege of all the beautiful memories and our time together. Even in the midst of great loss, gratitude can be the right stance to help us remember God’s goodness and faithfulness.  And for me, the Lord used the moon to nudge me and what evidence we have in moonlight that there will always be light in darkness.

Erika Andrade

Bridge To Thrive
Co-Founder and Visionary
 

His Handprint

'God’s handprint is all over your life.' Lisa Lesnieweski wrote this in the His Story, My Story study. It’s a very simple sentence, but one that has been easy to forget, or to even accept at different points in my life.

On the surface, this sounds amazing right? We all know how intentional God is with everything. With what He creates, when He creates, how He creates and who He creates. When I sit back and really think about the wonder and awe of the verse “He formed me in my mother’s womb,” it can be overwhelming. Imagining Jesus forming the shape of my eyes, the color of my hair, my fingers, toes, and also the way I laugh, my craving for salty instead of sweet, my deepest passions, my story. He literally formed every single inch of me intentionally and with purpose. His handprint was all over me before I even took a breath. Wow! I don’t know if you have ever given yourself space to really, really think about the magnitude of that. The God of the entire universe thought about one thread on your head as much as He did about creating the sun and the moon. That is mind-blowing, and just so sweet.

When I think about that, I am honored, I truly feel chosen and beloved, and just grateful.

And then there’s this question: If God’s handprint has been, and continues to be on my life, where was His hand placed the day that I became fatherless? I did not expect to have that be a part of my design, my story, at least not at the age of 25. It’s a painful question, but here is what I know about God; he invites our questions, despite their tone, always. And, what I also found out is that as I begin to continue to ask God questions, I didn’t always get the answers that I wanted, but I did begin to understand more of His heart. Here is what I discovered:

God’s handprint on my life does not mean He created me to be free from pain. As much as I hate pain and as much as I know God weeps when we are in pain, during my time of questioning, I came to understand that God designed me to withstand and bounce back from pain.

Another thing that I was struck with is the fact that, God blessed me with amazing parents. Though my dad is no longer here, I am so grateful for the way God’s handprint was etched into his form. I had a Daddy who was protective, loving, nurturing, strong, honest, funny. I realize nobody's perfect :) but God’s handiwork was on display big time when He created my father.

And lastly, I learned that from the very beginning, God had a very different plan. His original design for us was for us to experience the fullness of life, bold in our natural state, no cares, no worries, no new identity of fatherless. Then things changed. However, He changed us. Jesus created us in a way where we could survive the pain of this world. He gave each of us skills, and created even our physical form on purpose. Even if we were born disabled, as an orphan, with a deformity, we were created so perfectly on purpose, and every perceived imperfection is a part of our story. That we have withstood loss of a love one, ridicule for how we look, attacks on our mind in the form of depression, or anxiety, whatever it is for you. God built you in such an on-purpose way that you are able to survive and even thrive. What beautiful handiwork. His fingerprint is displayed on you. Wow! How crazy and amazing is that!!??

And so my encouragement to you is:

  1. Ask God those tough questions you have deep down inside. He wants you to. And, there is a lot more to learn about Him through the process.
  2. Really take time to sit and think about His handprint on your life. How He made you, what your story is, and start to just sit in awe and wonder at the glory of His creation: you.

Give thanks to God for his handprint. 

courtney.jpg

Courtney Walton

Bridge To Thrive
Spiritual Director
 

When the whisper of leaves in the wind becomes God's voice.

There is something special in storytelling. It is especially true when your story fits into God's perfect plan. What if you saw your story as God's way of sharing His love to draw you and others closer to Him.  What would happen if you took the time to sit in a posture that would allow you to hear what He has in the next chapters of your story. What if these supernatural encounters were gentle whispers from the things that you least expect, but would reveal His power in your life. 

For me, last week started with anxiousness as I prepared for the adventure of Crossroads' Woman Camp. Going camping without my lovely husband and leaving behind my precious 8 week old baby girl would require some serious strength. Ha! The week continued and I found myself feeling grateful for Fernando and his support to care for the family and encouragement to experience nature. Unfortunately, my gratitude shifted to desperation when I found myself on Thursday night fighting a 103 fever with Mastitis, wondering and questioning God's plan for the anticipated weekend. I began to pray for intercession and healing as I felt attacked by the enemy. But, the other side of my brain questioned whether the Lord allowed this sickness to happen as protection to keep me home. How can this be? 'I DID' everything to prepare and now this? I asked my husband to join me in discernment and he immediately responded with acceptance and by saying, "we will not let the enemy take over your fear, so get some rest and I will take care of the rest." A 3 hour nap, some medicines, and a community of women praying for healing that Ied to a moment of truth - I opened my eyes with the word 'SPLENDID' in my head and better yet the fever was gone.  

As I made it to camp and soaked-up my surroundings, worship began with the song 'Full Attention'. Tears poured! May Your voice be louder! May Your words be sweeter than all the others, than all the others in my life! Wow. I yearned for that. Thank you Jesus. You got me here, you healed me, and used the authority of my husband to make it clear of your presence in this situation. I started to chat with Him...But I am exhausted! So very exhausted, Jesus! Following you is hard work. I am doing your work. I just ask for this time to finally draft my 'to do' list for the month ahead. This time of solitude is perfect for my reflection of what 'I DID' and what I have yet to do for you.

I walked back and forth confused as where to sit. The pond seemed too packed, the fire pit too hot, the big tent too noisy, so I ended in a pile of leaves. I sat for 30 whole minutes with empty thoughts. Idle for 30 minutes, felt weird but good!  Now I can write my 'to do list' and as I opened my eyes, a leaf flew to my feet. I opened my notebook and remained distracted by the leaf. Wow! So many leaves I thought. And that is when the Lord revealed His power in my life and how I had been limiting His work in my story. 

The following words flowed so quickly and faster than I could keep up with my ink pen: Enjoy the season's in life my daughter. Allow me to lift you, to blow you away. I will not allow you to fall in a place you don't belong. And when you fall, I will pick you up and blow you away to where I need you (just like the wind to the leaf). And that wind, it can come with turbulence, but fear not as I have created you with resistance. Resistance that will take you to far places, but only if you resist controlling it. Instead, fully trust me in the moment. Trust me, my sweet daughter and glorify my name in every situation. The next season will be SPLENDID! But, only sometimes with what you DID for me, but more often with you just lying on my shoulder and remember what I DID for you and let it be.

Humbling! He gave me the word 'SPLENDID' in bed when I was discerning if women camp was the right thing for me. And me surrendering my 'to do list' that got my heart ready for the next whisper He had in store.  The whisper of leaves in the wind became God's voice. His story of a leaf revealed my story.

Is God showing you something that you are too busy to notice?

Have you taken a moment to listen to the whispers He may want you to hear? 

Stay connected and follow us on Facebook for more of His story as My story. 
 

erika.jpg

Erika Andrade

Bridge To Thrive
Co-Founder and Visionary
 

 

Reflecting the Past

I recently came across some old notes in my phone that I had no recollection of writing. Have you ever had one of those experiences when you find something you wrote years ago and try to remember what was happening around that time, and what motivated you to collect and record those specific thoughts in that moment? It was like uncovering a time capsule (a modern day time capsule that exists in my phone).

What I found was a list of 37 things that I titled “New Life Freedom Rules.” I’ll spare you some time by not listing all 37 of those things, but there were a few that surprised me because, 1) I didn’t remember writing them, and 2) I was shocked that if I had actually followed the rules when I wrote them, I could have avoided a few things! Here are a few of the rules:

  • Walk in obedience and discipline even when you have difficulty envisioning the outcome of your actions. 
  • Don’t react out of urgency and emotion. Give yourself time to pause, process then proceed with a response.
  • Don’t lose your joy in the process of maturing.
  • Consider all criticism humbly, hand it all over to the Lord and keep only what He gives you back.
  • You get to choose whether or not you will be offended, so choose against offense.

I don’t think any of these are earth shattering nuggets of wisdom that have never been thought of before, but I did feel like it was sound advice that would have been nice to take. But what struck me, more than what I wrote, is how quickly I forgot. To be honest, I don’t even remember putting one of these “new rules” into practice the day after I declared them in writing. This got me to thinking about how often that happens in life. Whether it’s having an amazing “mountain top” experience that leaves the kind of imprint on your heart that makes it virtually impossible to forget what you’ve received, intimate, quiet time with the Lord that just feels soothing and healing, or sitting in a church service feeling like the pastor is reading an excerpt from your journal (that “oh my gosh, he’s talking directly to me feeling), these moments impact us in ways that feel unforgettable. But, we do forget.

I can’t say I know the formula to make us remember all the things God has told us and how to put them into action in a way that is lasting. In fact, I don’t know if there is such a formula (actually if you have one, please feel free to share it lol). Though, I think the greater point here is about recognizing that God is always speaking to us. There are questions we currently have that He might have already answered, or at least given clues about, months or even years ago. 

So, my challenge for you today is to look back. Take out old journals, look at the note section of your phone, listen to an old voice recorder (I actually tried voice notes once-it didn’t last long). Reflect on experiences of the past, and pay close attention to what God was speaking to you, saying about you, or drawing your attention to. Think about some questions you have now. Did God have answers for you back then? Don’t feel any guilt or condemnation about what you might have forgotten. Instead, view this as somewhat of an adventure, and let your only expectation be to know that God will continue to speak. That one is easy to remember.

Courtney Walton

Bridge To Thrive
Spiritual Director
 

Perception Paralysis

In any given moment our perception can get the best of us. Maybe that should read “in many given moments” because that seems to happen to me often. And, it happened again recently. 

This time it wasn’t the mirror but the camera that was playing tricks on me. It totally felt like one of those pictures you take at a fair. You know the ones where you put your head through a hole and it creates this “illusion” that you are a farmer, a football player, a shark, and it’s hilarious because your head looks so incredibly disproportionate to your body...well not, your body, but the cartoon image that is on the board posing as your body. Once you get the picture back, you have a good laugh because you know the picture is totally off, on purpose. It’s an easy, albeit sometimes cornball, of a laugh that we have at ourselves. Why? Because we know that the image that we are looking at is not real, it’s not at all what we look like, it’s a farce-not us. 

Okay I digress, back to the photograph I saw today. Let me just say this, I like to think that I have mastered the way to take a mostly flattering photo. Give me the right angle, lighting, body slant, chin tilt and light make-up coverage, and I’m golden. At least that’s my perception. You see, I have a long (too long for this post) journey with poor self-image, negative self-perception, weight battles, eating disorders and disordered thinking. I was not ever really able to see myself the way God saw me and that was beyond frustrating. When you come into relationship with God, there is often this belief that comes along with that relationship. The belief that things would be a little easier, better, a bit lighter. And, I must admit that there definitely was a part of me that believed a part of that. 

It didn’t take me long, however, to fully understand that pain and suffering would follow me as I followed Him. And though I also knew the joy that would return after the calming of the storms, there was still some part of me that felt like that suffering, that pain, would be more bearable because I had special Christian superhero weapons that I didn’t have access to before. I know that sounds a little crazy, but it’s so true. I thought that I would naturally feel more confident, that I would feel stronger, that I would be able to see through His lenses and view things in the way that He viewed them. But, the reality is, my perception felt perpetually blurred. I would have moments of clarity, and then in an instant, there I was, feeling as though I was looking through a smudged window-cloudy and unclear. But, it was the view that I had and it was the lens that I just got used to looking through.

So, back to today. That moment. We’re getting ready for final conference materials to go to print. I see a full body picture, wait no, three full body pictures and my knee jerk reaction was “Oh heck no!” and “Do I really look like that?” These reactions were followed by a quick email to a friend asking (but begging internally) “Can you make that a head shot?” I just felt unexplainably “blah”. I woke up that day actually feeling good. Pleasantly surprised that I felt so pleased with how I looked. I liked my hair, just a touch of makeup felt like just enough, and though the additional pounds were no longer subtly exposed in the mirror, I was surprisingly okay with those as well. But, that picture looked like a magnifying glass had zeroed in on every lump, bump and hump seemingly singling out what I perceived to be the drastic contrast of my form to the other women’s photographs. And, quickly there it was again, all of it: comparison, insecurity, and disappointment, not just in how I looked, but in how I was thinking, again. Everything that I thought I was okay with, felt like it was on display, and I had this overwhelming feeling of defeat. I thought I changed my lenses, I thought I was walking in freedom and acceptance, I thought I was able to see myself the way the Lord saw me, and then I realized, my thoughts were so far from that.

Though confidence had been gained, I was masking non-acceptance of myself with temporary positive perceptions. I still wasn’t fully approving of the image of me, but I was tolerating it, and tolerating seemed good enough for a long time. 

But, I don’t believe that God wants us to tolerate ourselves. So, where does that come from, and how do we stop doing it? I feel like anything I say will fall under the category of “easier said than done” but I’ll keep going and let’s see where we land!

Again, I don’t believe that God is about toleration, but about adoration. He did not create me, or you to simply be tolerated. He created us because He so adored us. To be adored is a beautiful thing. But, it is something that I think is easy to forget. And so, I think the answer for me, and for us, is to simply remember that we are adored. Why is that important? Because we truly are fearfully and wonderfully made. If we took the time to clean the smudged glass we often look through, we would begin to see more clearly, and perhaps, begin to see the way He does.

We were created in His image-to be like Him and to see like Him. When we stand in awe of Him, when we choose to fix our gaze on The one that was created to be adored, our focus will turn from the perceived perceptions that plague us, and we will be able to stand in remembrance of what we mean to Him, who He is and all that He has done for us. What would it look like tointentionally adore Jesus daily? What would it feel like to remember that you are adored by Jesus daily? Daily adoration of Him silences the taunts of toleration we often offer ourselves. Remember, we are not floating heads on top of bodies that are not our own, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. The verse puts this in context better: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 We first adore, then remember that we are adored. Lord, help that to be not just be what we perceive to be true, but what we believe to the core of our being.

What perceptions have paralyzed you recently? 

Adoration:

  • Think about how you can show adoration towards Jesus this week and spend some time journaling about that. 
  • Reflect on how you have felt adored by the Lord recently, and journal about that.

Courtney Walton
Bridge To Thrive
Spiritual Director

 

Embrace HIS Grace

Like most of us, my story has many chapters some that I am proud of and some that I am not so proud of. But today I want to take you to October of 2015, a season that had me overwhelmed by the many hats I wear. The burdens and busyness of life distracted me from the many blessing.  My husband, Fernando, reserved a weekend for re-energizing in one of his passions, Capoeira, Brazilian martial arts.  We packed the family , but I went annoyed to be serving him that weekend. 

On the car ride to Indianapolis, I was too drained to fully engage with my husband and instead hid in social media. The very first thing on my newsfeed was Lysa TerKeurst, one of my favorite Christian authors announcing her keynote speaker engagement at the Thrive conference in Minnesota.  Immediately, my head started racing trying to figure out the scheme on how to get there. We get to our destination safely and Fernando and the kids enjoy their time there while my head is still occupied with how I can get to the conference.   And of course on the way home, I start explaining my plans and how it was my turn to have a weekend to re-energize. Five minutes into the conversation, my husband looks at me and says, tu estas loca (you are crazy). And that's when my flesh took my feelings inside into outward words of resentment, bitterness, and defense.  I attacked him with accusations and awful words he didn't deserve, and all the frustration I had buried deep within my heart came-out aggressively.  

We got home and I found myself lost as to what had just happened.  All I could do was go to bed and try to sleep in my puddle of tears, and with no courage and strength to apologize.   In the middle of the night, he comes to bed, wraps his arms around me and tells me that I will be mad at him.  He proceeds to tell me that he had been wrestling with the Lord and had bought the tickets to the conference and flights to Minnesota for me to attend the conference.  I would leave from Cincinnati and he would care for our 3 children on his own because I am so worth it.

Wow! I had just experienced the gift of grace. I had witnessed grace in other chapters of my story, but this time deep in my heart I understood that it had nothing to do with my works, but instead that our mighty God clearly continues to pursue my heart. He used my husband’s act of grace to show me that I am His daughter, that I am enough. 

Erika Andrade

Bridge To Thrive
Co-founder and Visionary