Preparing for Lent

Many function under the assumption that Lent is just for Catholics. Even I once thought this. Now, I find that to be untrue. Lent is observed mainly by Catholics but there are others who do also including but not limited to Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Non-denominationals and even some Baptists. Ironically, I’ve also heard that some non believers observe Lent as well! Funny huh? What I do know is, Lent is a period of about 40 days leading up to Easter. A time to reflect on Renewal since Spring/Easter is that time of new life and new beginnings, you re making room for New Life. Much like a 40 day Spiritual “Spring Cleaning” session.

The whole “40 days” thing is symbolic:

Jesus’ 40 day wilderness experience, 

40 days Moses was on Mount Sinai,

40 years of wandering in the desert and

40 days given to Ninevah city to repent.

This year, Ash Wednesday falls next week, February 10, 2016. For some, this will be used as a second chance for all the things one has gotten wrong with New Years Resolutions. Those that are constantly focused on “I have to be a better person, so I am more lovable/likable/worthy/etc.” (I’ve been there, no judgement!) For some, it will be an opportunity to snap out of a slump and focus on what it means to walk with Christ and for some, it’s the first time in their life they learn the deep history of what we celebrate every year. Lent is powerful if approached with an honest and sincere heart. No need to put on aires and pretend like you have it all together, because frankly NONE OF US DO! Lent is a journey through Grief, Repentance, Forgiveness, Fasting and Sacrifice. It can be a tool that leads to some of the most profound revelations we have ever received from God.

Grief – Grief is good! It’s cathartic. It’s human. It’s anything but weakness. Lent may be a good time to dig deep into your heart about things you have lost. It can be anything, from a job or dream to an actual person. Instead of continuing through another year carrying the weight and baggage of something lost, why not take this opportunity to put it right where healing and forgiveness begins, IN the wounds of Jesus. The very point of the story was that he took those wounds for US. Put it there and leave it there. Whatever it is that you’ve lost, even if it’s not a person, write it a letter. Put into words how you feel about it and what you miss about it. Name hurts and pain as a result of that loss and then when you are done, throw it away. Symbolic of moving on and releasing the grip on that weight.

Repentance – Say “I’m Sorry” and mean it. We all have “that thing” hanging in the back of the closet of our minds. Why not purge the closet so to speak? Some of us do this in our physical house, so why would we neglect the spiritual house? Be brave. You can do it!

Forgiveness – On the flip side of repentance, often we have someone we need to forgive as well. Holding on to something and refusing to forgive it only provokes bitterness and any bitterness you hold in your heart for that person hurts no one but yourself. Let it Go, leave it behind you. Give it to Jesus every single day if you have to, it can be hard and even seem impossible, but it will most certainly be worth it.

Fasting and Sacrifice – Fasting is tough. It it meant to be something personal. Whatever you indulge in that distracts you from Jesus in any way can be used as “the thing” you give up. In the past I have known people who give up Coffee, Meat, Electronics, Facebook, Coke, even Lights! It can be simple, or it can be drastic. If you have never “done” Lent before, don’t let that disqualify you. You can take on something as simple as a gratitude journal. Write something you are thankful and grateful for every day for 40 days. Whatever you choose, let it be sincere. This is between you and God. Even Religions that differ on the creation of the world or various morality issues often times agree that sacrifice is good for the human spirit. It stretches you somehow. Why? You get to operate out of something bigger that’s on the inside, while your overthinking mind can take a rest.

In John 10:10 Jesus told his disciples that he came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. This gives every one of us an opportunity to experience the life that God desires us to have when we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. This is all because of Grace. Jesus, the giver of Grace. No matter how sin-ridden or shameful our past has been, when we accept Jesus into our hearts, he gives us his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads us, and guides us into a thriving and abundant life.

Ephesians 2:4-10 says “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Jesus = An Abundant, Thriving, and Victorious Life.

What can you do this week to prepare for Lent? I encourage you to come alongside many believers on this Journey leading up to Easter. I am excited about this year and what the Lord can do in this season of healing and stretching and transformation. I am looking forward to hearing what he has for me as I focus on removing what stands in the way of that abundant life he has promised. I crave a deeper relationship and am ready to embrace something new and fresh. Join me!

Have a wonderful day, may it be productive and full of Holy Spirit direction.

xoxo – Candace

 

P.S. There is also this 2 minute explanation that is for those of us who like the bullet points. 😊 Ash Wednesday and Lent in two minutes.

 

 

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A Fresh Breath

It has been quite awhile since I have sat down to put anything into words. So many things have transpired, yet some remain the same. I am in good spirits and finally carving out the time to write. I’ve been on a journey and looking back over the past several months, I really wish that I had taken the time to write about this stuff all along the way, because I have had a metamorphic experience that has been life changing for the best. On both the inside and outside of me. I struggle with allowing myself to be vulnerable, so this post while lengthy is an opportunity not only to be vulnerable but to be unfiltered and genuine.

You see, what many do not know about me is that for the majority of my life I have struggled greatly with housekeeping. I grew up in an environment where we only cleaned/decluttered/etc if we got a phone call that family was coming to town. Our environment was always a disaster. I only had friends spend the night all of TWO times in my entire childhood, once for my 10th Birthday, and once with just my best friend when we were around 12 or 13. I wasn’t able to have that freedom, and so I always spent the night at their houses. Fast forward to my early adult life where combined with being a Mom to a toddler who was more like a tornado and a lack of any sense of housekeeping and running a household at all. You find a cluttered, messy prison. That was my life! Fast forward several more years and I continued to struggle, the prison got more and more overwhelming, more disheartening, more confining and I really had no idea where to start, where to turn, how to get out. I was absolutely and completely STUCK. Misery probably would have felt better than how I felt. Every. Single. Day. I cried about it all the time. It was my dirty little secret, and it was mine alone. I would open up about it a little to my closest confidants, but never ever did they see with their own eyes how bad it was. I hid in shame. Desperate, deeply longing for the freedom that seemed impossible. Helpless. Hopeless. Defeated. Guilty. The list goes on…

Then about a year ago, I came across the blog and podcast, A Slob Comes Clean (http://www.aslobcomesclean.com), and I started listening. Dana was so relatable and down to earth. She wasn’t putting on airs and talking like she had it all together. I immediately started to feel like there was a sliver of hope that I could begin to conquer this mountain in front of me. Although I failed miserably more times than I can count over the next year, I held on to that sliver of hope. I started truly praying for God to make the way, for him to give me exactly what I needed to get out of this pit of despair, bondage, shame and pity. I knew ONLY he could give me the strength and resources I needed. I also knew that it had a connection with some much needed emotional healing too. I’ve always heard that your surroundings are a representation of what is going on inside. I believe this to be true.

Around the time I started putting this whole situation in my prayer life, I started to hear chatter about this book called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Marie Kondo) I did not immediately read it. I started hearing people’s stories about applying the book and I completely got scared away by the thought of getting rid of EVERYTHING and throwing so much stuff away. Throw useful (for someone I’m sure) things away? What???? Are you crazy? Well!! “I was NOT going to read that book!” Then, I stumbled across a blog that was doing a 40 bags in 40 days declutter challenge, and it immediately sparked inspiration. Only one bag of clutter a day? I could totally do that! I found myself bitten by the bug. It felt freeing to release those bags and drop them off at Goodwill and lessen my responsibilities to keeping those things stored. That’s when I decided to dive in. I gave in and read the book I swore I wouldn’t read (actually I *listened* to the book on audible). The things she was saying made me crave the kinds of changes she was describing. That’s when the alarming statement first made contact with my ears, brain, heart, and soul. She said, “Keep only what sparks joy!” WHOA! That eradicates A WHOLE LOT OF STUFF in my world. You know what? Turns out, that was exactly the key to freedom I had been searching for. I started to put that ideal into practice and purged SO. MUCH. STUFF. It was so absolutely, positively freeing! I feel I must also mention that there were other parts of her dialog in the book that I skipped over simply because it was too “out there” for me. I just can’t bring myself to talk to my things. LOL. Really. But, The result of that simple ideal I did use was that it created a snowball of inspiration and motivation. I was able to get rid things that I didn’t even realize I had, I got rid of things that I was holding onto “in case we needed it”, and I got rid of things that even though they were useful, I didn’t actually like them and I didn’t like the feelings they stirred in me when I was constantly moving them around from place to place out of a feeling of obligation to keep them.

Once a great deal of clutter was removed and gotten rid of, I was inspired to actually do something with my now empty looking house. I have always had empty walls for the most part. I never really decorated. A cluttered place was no inspiration to do anything with, so it stayed lifeless. I needed this too to change. I decided it would start with a new couch. We had been sitting on broken furniture that had busted back-bars and sinking seats (more like craters) and it was just straight up depressing to attempt to sit on, not to mention embarrassing. Our 3 kids are rough on furniture, and we had possessed this stuff for quite some time. I found that I was always avoiding being in there because it wasn’t comfortable and it was not pleasant to look at. It was time for a “life lift” and I was officially on a mission!

IKEA’s Ektorp has been my favorite for quite some time. It fit my taste, it fit my micro budget and every single piece of fabric can be removed and machine washed. **Cue the Angels singing** Then one of my most favorite people in the world alluded to the discovery of throw pillow covers on Amazon for under $5 each and I ordered some. I was getting excited but it didn’t end there. I really needed a rug to cover up some pretty bad stains in the carpet. They were all SO. VERY. EXPENSIVE. I just didn’t have $700-$1200 to spend on a Rug. Even the amazing 70% off deals at RugsUSA weren’t fitting what price point I needed. I had almost given up when I found one for just under 100 bucks, (exactly the amount of Christmas money I had) and a steal of a deal from AT HOME and I was full on doing the Happy Dance! I won’t be including that picture. haha. 😊 I will however show you my sofa…

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This obviously began to spark not only joy, but a LOT of inspiration to start creating. I waited to find blank canvases on sale at the Craft Store, and then bought a large one on which I was determined to paint an abstract of the Ocean. (Obviously!) It was the foundation of what was to become my gallery wall. I had always seen them, admired them, sometimes even coveted them, and then dismissed them. I decided the time had come to finally HAVE one of my very own. So, the collection began and thanks to 50% off everything home decor at Hobby Lobby, it once again fit my micro budget. I also found some free printables while searching through Pinterest. (Less Money Spent = Happiness)

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The gallery wall is something that I have come to realize will NEVER be complete. It’s like a gift that keeps on giving. One day though, I will run out of wall space and no longer have the ability to add to it, but for now I am putting as much joy as I can fit on the wall. In true form, inspiration begat inspiration and next I found myself hanging curtains for the first time ever in my life. Curtain wire kit from IKEA and a few 8ft cuts of Burlap and I had curtains in as little as 15 minutes, SERIOUSLY! I didn’t even have to sew them! I just fold back the top, pinch and clip and then on the wire they went. Downright magical I tell ya! Combine that with 50% off coupons from JoAnn and they came in at less than $5 each.

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Last but not least, I added things from around the house to the mantle so it felt more “done” but it’s still a work in progress. Maybe someone will show me love and send me an enormous haul of sea shells. (Echhem! Say, someone who’s going to the beach next week….) 😉

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So far, what I have accomplished, has been for less than what people typically spend on just a couch. I really like the results so far and it feels so light and restful in this room.

It’s true, I gained freedom from all that clutter, but what I really gained was a HOME where I actually want to be. A HOME not an environment, where I feel peace and calm but most of all, where I feel INSPIRED. This journey provided healing and shifts in my perspective that are priceless. I was able to let go of so much more than just the physical stuff I was purging, but also the feelings of entrapment that accompanied them. I was able to feel a fresh breath! As the many things began to clear out of our living spaces, so did many sources of anxiety. Many burdens that formed the very prison bars that I resented. Ironically, my word for 2015 was RELEASE (pinpointing specifically my clutter, pain, hurt, and weight) and my word for 2016 is INSPIRE. These two simple words completely capture the end of December and the beginning of January for me. It may have been ignored for much for 2015, but before it was over I still succeeded in letting go of things that held me in bondage. The Lord was both merciful and faithful in this opportunity of growth. He was there providing me with resources even when I didn’t believe in my capabilities. He gave me the strength, the security and the motivation that I required for this. I am also beyond blessed with an amazing husband who has been nothing but patient with me in all my times of faults. He has stood by me and supported me even when I failed at new attempts. He offered words of encouragement, and even in times when what he said felt only discouraging and hurtful, I was able to find that at the heart of the matter he meant well. He helped, encouraged and cheered me on along the process. I would never want anyone else on my team.

No matter what the situation, it is never completely without hope. Even in the lowest most desolate and despairing times, we are never left to rot. Help is always just a prayer away.

Too many times we can feel helpless and out of control. But we can turn to the One who is fully in control and perfectly able to help in our times of need.

  • Psalm 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
  • Matthew 7:7 – “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
  • Hebrews 4: 15-16 – “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

This life can beat us down with trials, sorrows and debilitating worries. When it seems hopeless, God’s messages about our future hope can deeply encourage us.

May you go in peace, knowing that the war has already been won. We just have to walk the battle at hand. With Christ, we are more than conquerors. Be encouraged.

xo- Candace

A visit to the shore

It was a last minute blessing to be able to visit the beach. My husband and I had been itching to go for quite some time and on Easter Sunday, after lunch we made the drive to the coast. It was every bit of dreamy it could be! The Aqua, Turquoise and Emerald shades of bliss stretching as far as my eye could see!

The milky white sands that were so powdery soft and the unmistakable melody of the waves crashing on the shore. This is the one place on earth where my whole being finds peace. I feel God’s presence in abundance here and I did not want to ever leave.

My 3 kids laughed, squealed in delight and played the entire time. The water was FREEZING COLD but it couldn’t deter their joy. I watched my youngest do cartwheels up and down the sand and her face lit up from ear to ear with so much happiness. The ocean always holds a special place for me but this trip was something different. I felt a new degree of worship stirring within me and being on the beach on Easter Sunday of all times was something altogether special. I cherish this trip.

Remembering

 

 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (‭Romans‬ ‭5‬:‭7-11‬ ESV)

Dear Lord, I thank you for the ultimate sacrifice and love story. I am so humbled by your love for me. I praise you for you are truly holy. I ask that you would hold me in your arms on the dark days and always remind me that I am not alone when those days come that I feel I am isolated from the world. I pray for peace strength and endurance on the days when I am weak. I pray for joy that overflows into the lives all around me. I pray you use little ole me to touch someone’s life in your name. I thank you for all of your abundant blessings. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Have a wonderful Easter weekend! 

Xoxo Candace

Sea Glass

Hurt, Grief, Despair, and Brokenness all look the same from the inside. We see them as ugly and shameful and many times we feel like we are invisible or we are not cared about. This is one downright absurd lie that the enemy is so desperate for us to believe! The truth is we are NOT ever truly alone. We all have experienced pain in some form. It’s all a part of the human journey here on earth. Why is it one of the biggest obstacles to deeper friendships or relationships? I believe it starts with our willingness to be vulnerable. There is a big risk for more hurt when one opens themselves up. So, in fear or reluctance to be vulnerable, we often isolate ourselves because we feel these broken or messy pieces of us will be off-putting to those around us. We put up walls and hide behind them in fear of our mess causing someone to walk away from us or abandon us. We allow shame to become bigger than the actual emotions we are dealing with and allow it to become the voice we listen to rather than the voice of truth spoken by our loving God.

David cried out in Psalms “I am forgotten as though I were a dead man: I am like broken pottery. Psalm 31:12

There have been many times in my life that I have felt broken. As I attended a worship night this past week, God gave me a vision of Sea Glass. I immediately knew he was speaking to me about restoration.

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You see, Sea Glass has always been intriguing to me, each and every piece has a story and each and every piece is completely different. It finds its way to the shore after a season of being broken, unwanted, and discarded. Then, over time journeys through its very own transformation in the sea. It is something rare, yet represents an item once forgotten that has been resurrected. It is vintage, timeless, reminiscent, and historic. But who can really comprehend the details of such a journey? And who can say how long it has taken to complete?  Some call it “Trash Glass” which is actually kind of offensive to me. I find it to be absolutely enchanting, and I think that maybe it has humble beginnings of being “broken” just to set the scene for something old and thrown away to be redeemed into something twice as beautiful. Generally speaking, when something is broken, it is useless unless it can be repaired. Isn’t this a perfect analogy of our sins? When we step away from the will of God and go out alone and make a mess of things, we are left broken and shattered. Forgiveness comes in like the tide and sweeps them all away and over time they are refined by the hardships or challenges and made into something beautiful that will point Glory to our heavenly father, and something we once viewed as trash or junk that we are ashamed of, he tumbles around and makes it part of our beautiful testimony.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

God is very capable of rebuilding broken people, it is in fact one of his specialties. He can heal your brokenness and transform it into a work of art, no longer a hazard like that of something with a sharp or jagged edge.

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“Brokenness does not have to be a permanent affliction, brokenness can become a blessing.” unknown

You are not damaged goods! You are not trash, nor are you worthless. If you are in a season of being broken or feeling very discouraged, know that you are not alone. He sees your tears, and knows your heart. He hasn’t given up on you and he will never abandon you.

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry. Psalm 10:17

He is merely waiting on you. Make your move.

Lord, I thank you that you see me as something beautiful, that you do not look upon me as something to be discarded. That your healing is able to refine my broken pieces into something mesmerizing and beautiful, with a story that is rare and unique. I pray that your strength will be shown most evident through my weaknesses, and I surrender each of them to you. I pray that you would reveal your redeeming purposes through my brokenness, and that you would give me that peace that passes all understanding. I thank you for claiming me as redeemed and removing the labels that the enemy tries to defeat me with. I pray for your protection over my heart as you mend it back to wholeness. Help me to fix my eyes on you always, and to trust in only you and your will for my life. I thank you for all of your abundant blessings and ask that you not withhold them from my life. With all my love and adoration, I praise you most gracious father. Amen

I pray that he will reveal beauty to you this week and that you are able to see broken pieces that are being transformed into a story of redemption. May you go in peace.

xoxo Candace

Scars Happen

Scars run deep. Scars change us forever. Scars can make us dwell on what might have been, or what could have been or the “what if’s” of life. Sometimes we are very aware of these scars and other times we go through life pushing them so far back into the corners of our minds that we forget they are there until something triggers a reaction. Sometimes it is the deepest scars that are hidden the best. Unfortunately, Scars tend to linger for a lifetime. They can dictate our unwillingness to trust. They can destroy our capabilities to admit limitations or vulnerabilities. They often times even destroy our intimacy, whether it be with God, our Spouse, or even friendships. The good news is that where there is deep hurt, there is an opportunity for deep healing. (Praise God for that!!!)

“Don’t try to hide your scars, they’re stories for a hurting world of wounds that ONLY JESUS can heal.” ~ Louis Giglio

Our Loving Heavenly Father offers healing to us so freely. The hardest part is swallowing our fear and taking that step forward and truly being willing to accept it. Trust is the number one thing that is destroyed when we experience hurt, yet Trust is the very first thing we need when we want to heal.

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book. Psalm 56:8 (MSG)

He SEES it, He KNOWS it, He FEELS it and He is ready to HEAL it! 
El Roi gave Hagar hope of a brighter future! It did not matter what scars she carried. Her hurts were not invisible to God. She was a nobody to the world, but a somebody to God! El Roi can see you now, right where you are. But even better, He can look way beyond now, into the future, and see what you are going to become!

Pray again today for strength and courage to step forward and begin the journey of healing. Ask El Roi to comfort the sting of the wounds and scars you carry. Open your heart to the sweet comfort that his loving arms are open and waiting to give to you.

Lord, I praise You for you see, know, and feel the whole story. Every detail, You see it all. Give me the strength and courage to overcome my limitations and shortcomings. For I carry many hurts and scars from the past and it skews my perspective. You were there even when my eyes could not see You there, my vision of the present is often short-sighted, but I thank You that You see me healed and You know all that lies before me in the future. Help me fix my eyes on You, to fully trust You in the present and not to worry about the past or the future. Help me to surrender my fear about what I must acknowledge, what I must relive or journey through in order to reach healing. Give me peace and serenity so I am able to trust in Your will for my life and in Your all-knowing, perfect protection.  Let me be a witness of Your deep healing, and the miraculous transformation that only You can give. Restore, Redeem and Renew me. I give You each and every scar and I ask that You would turn them into a testimony that brings Glory to Your name. Amen

I pray that you find peace today that calms the fears. You have much courage already. Press forward. I offer you a hug my friend, as we journey together.

xoxo Candace

The Journey Begins

How can something so beautiful be so messy? Mending brokenness is the hardest journey I could’ve ever imagined for myself. In the midst of growth there is often more pain. In the midst of pain there can be anger and resentment. In the midst of anger we sometimes find peace. Peace that only comes from our Heavenly Father. Peace that passes all understanding. Sometimes it just takes a friend sending an encouraging reminder that El Roi (He is God that sees) has our back and he SEES our hurt, he SEES our pain, the betrayals that cut us to our bones, our loss of strength, or maybe even our loss of hope, HE SEES IT ALL!

So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered. (‭Genesis‬ ‭16‬:‭13-14‬ ESV)

We are not insignificant to him at all, no matter how invisible we may feel.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (‭Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭29-31‬ ESV)

Ask El Roi, the God who sees you, to open your heart to what he has for you and what his will is for your situation.  Ask him to increase your faith even when what he promised seems impossible.

Lord, I praise you for you know the whole story. From beginning to end, You see it all. Give me the humility to admit my limitations. For I don’t always see the past accurately, my vision of the present is often blurred, and I am blind when it comes to the future. Help me fix my eyes on You, trusting in Your will for my life and in Your all-knowing, perfect protection. Amen

I pray that you will find peace in knowing that He sees it all. May your journey be one of restoration, redemption and ultimately lead you to feeling the freedom that his grace and forgiveness has to offer us.

Xoxo Candace