I Still Remember…

It’s been 21 years today but I still remember.

I still remember that day like it had happened this morning. I still remember holding my son’s little hand as they placed the needle in his swollen lymph node – not once but twice. I still remember going back out to the lobby to wait for the doctor to come out with preliminary results. I still remember the nurse taking us into a small conference room and told us the doctor would be right with us. And I will always remember the words that were spoken that punched me in the gut and flipped my world upside down. It’s the words that would make it hard to breathe and my head spiral in many directions. It was the words “The cells are cancerous.”

I remember every hospital stay and every doctor appointment. I remember the 54 months of treatment and all the side effects that came with it. And I remember the words that came 2 1/2 years later, “He is cancer free!” (Which by the way was in 2002 and he is now a husband, daddy and pastor!)

I also remember during that time period, I learned the very breath that had been sucked out of me, was replaced with the breath of my Lord and Savior. I remember having a sense of peace when wave after wave was crashing over us. I remember knowing without a shadow of a doubt my boy was going to be okay. I remember being given a note written by my older son with a prayer request where he was praying for his little brother. I remember the love we were shown from family, friends, our church and community. I remember my 7th grade students sending hand made cards to the hospital. I remember baskets of food showing up on our door step when we needed it the most. I remember a light bill being paid without ever telling anyone I was worried about it. And I remember so many other countless acts of kindness that was shown to us as we were served with the hands and feet of Jesus.

Yes the events of that day are engraved in my mind and probably will be as long as I am living. But the transformation that occurred in my heart during our journey will be there for all eternity. It was during this time that I learned how true God’s Word is and how much He loves His children. I will always remember God’s faithfulness, His provisions and His loving kindness.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need. He lets me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; he leads me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff — they comfort me.” Psalms 23:1-4

If you want to read the entire journey, it can be found here. —- http://jordansjourney1999.blogspot.com/ (This was written in close to real-time as events were transpiring.)

Light of the World

Several years ago we took our youth group to Bryson City, NC for summer camp. We had some amazing times up there and I have memories from those trips that will last a lifetime. The first year we went up there, the camp owner (Bill) took us on two different adventures to teach an important spiritual lesson. One of the adventures was a hike over a creek, up a mountain and down into a deep cave. While the other adventure was on the “Road to Nowhere” which involved a long bus ride on a winding mountain road at night (with no moon) then a ½ mile walk through a tunnel. Both of these journeys were designed to demonstrate how a small amount of light can dissipate darkness (by the way, the darkness in the cave and the tunnel was nothing like I had ever experienced before – as in so dark you could not even see your hand in front of your face dark!) Of course, the real lesson was that the brighter the light (he had several different flashlights with different brightness levels) the more the darkness went away. One of  the other things we noticed was that even when Mr. Bill would shine the light only on his face, it still had the effect of illuminating others. He honed in on how we are to be the light in this dark world (Matthew 5:16) and how  our light impacts all those around us.

So how do we do this? How do we become the light of the world?

*Be in the Word – John 1:1-5  – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The Word is God; therefore the Word is Light and where there is light, there is no darkness. The more we are in the Word, the more we illuminate the light of Jesus. His Word changes us.

*Know Truth: 1 John 1:6-7 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light. 

The more we are in The Word, the more truth we know which helps us to more easily recognize the lies of the enemy. 

*Walk as Jesus Walks: 1 John 2: 5-6 By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

How did Christ walk? His every word and deed reflected His love for the Father and His love for others

Is the Light of His Word reflecting on your life? Are you quick to recognize truth from the lies of the enemy? Are you demonstrating your love for the Father and for others with your words and actions?  In a world that feels heavy and dark right now, it is so very important for us to remember God is our light and this world needs to see His light in us. Since He can never be dimmed, neither can we as long as we are walking in step with Him. 

Consider It A Great Joy

Anyone else experiencing some hard times right now? Anyone else had one of those days where you thought, “if one more thing happens I’m going to lose it” then all of a sudden, one more thing has happened?  On top of all the ‘regular’ struggles – finances, broken relationships, health crisis, raising children  (no matter what age they are)  we now have a pandemic to deal with!  We are all currently in a time when every single one of us is facing uncertainties and trials in some way.  Our days are hard right now and during times like this, it is easy to get overwhelmed, anxious, worried and possibly even begin to feel hopeless.  BUT GOD has a different answer for us!  

Joy is not a fleeting feel good moment – it’s not happiness – it’s a deep in the soul feeling of calmness  – of knowing everything is going to be okay and it can only come from the Holy Spirit. 

James 1:1-6

James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: To the 12 tribes in the Dispersion. Greetings.

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

James is preaching during a time when the first Christians were being persecuted and many were feeling overwhelmed, anxious, worried, afraid — some of the same feelings we are having now and some were even ready to abandon their faith. God gives James a clear message for the church and this message is exactly what we need to hold tight to today.

To begin with “consider it a great joy” – not just joy but GREAT JOY –  when we experience trials – these hard times we are in right now! Joy is not a fleeting feel good moment – it’s not happiness – it’s a deep in the soul feeling of calmness  – of knowing everything is going to be okay and it can only come from the Holy Spirit.  

Trials are not normally what the world rejoices over!  But we see right here in this passage that is exactly what God expects us to do –  be joyous when we experience trials.This does not mean we are to be all excited because we are facing such heartache. Instead, we can have joy when we look at these trials we are currently in, knowing even though our faith may be tested, we will endure. 

Right now, there are decisions being made that impact all of us – from what schools look like, to workplaces, our churches, even whether or not it’s safe to visit loved ones. I know that it is impossible to make decisions that everyone is going to agree with.  But I do know that no matter what decision is made  —  go to school, digital instruction, come back to church, keep watching online, have children’s ministry, open businesses back up, close businesses back down  –  no matter what  – we can seek God and ask Him for wisdom in making these decisions and as long as we are persistently seeking His guidance, He will give us the wisdom we need  –  generously and without criticizing! This wisdom will turn our fears and anxiousness to a deep soul level calmness because we can trust in the faithfulness of our BIG GOD knowing He WILL carry us through these very hard days. As we persevere and endure, God will give us the wisdom to navigate this crazy storm we are all facing and we can do so with joy deep in our hearts!

Barely Hanging On or Holding Fast?

Holding Fast
Are you overwhelmed? Feeling like you just can’t take anymore? Are you hanging on for dear life to a rope that is raveled and frayed? As a follower of Christ, we do not have to barely hang on, we can hold fast to Him.

Do you ever feel like you are just barely hanging on? I think right now many of us can relate to the main character in an action movie who is clinging to the side of a mountain, knuckles white, fear in their eyes, knowing that unless someone comes along and reaches out, they are a goner. And they are doing everything in their own might to hang on! Now I know that none of us are literally hanging off a cliff waiting to be rescued, but figuratively there are times that I feel as if I only have one finger left on that edge and a big spider is heading towards it.

We all have our own reasons for being on this edge – insufficient resources, cancer diagnosis, loss of a loved one, relationships that are falling apart, families destroyed because of addictions, and this list could go on and on.  And for many of us – it’s several of these happening all at one time and every time something else seems to hit us, another finger comes off the edge. 

But friend, we have a rescuer on the scene. As a follower of Christ, I don’t have to barely hang on because my Jesus has my hand and He will never let go! I don’t have to fear falling off the cliff. 

I can hold fast to His promises that remind me He will be there for me. Even in the face of so much uncertainty, I can be strong and courageous because God has promised to go with me; He will never leave me nor abandon me. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Not only do I have the reassurance that God will never leave me behind, I also know that He has promised to give me rest. This rest I am referring to is not the extra 30 minutes or an hour of sleep we get on Saturdays, or the occasional nap we can sneak in on Sunday afternoons. This rest is not even the quiet weekend getaway by the beach that my husband and I got to do a couple of weeks ago. Now don’t get me wrong – that kind of rest is welcomed and needed for our physical bodies and our minds. But the rest that Jesus brings is a refreshing soul rest. It is a rest from a weary heart, a rest from a worried mind, a rest from fear and doubts. 

Think of it this way – picture a very tired, irritable 2 year old. One that has been over-stimulated, eaten too much sugar, and hasn’t had a nap. She is so tired she can’t even function yet at the same time, her body cannot relax. Anyone feeling this way about now? Now picture Mommy swooping in, taking that child in her loving arms, gets in a quiet place, begins rocking her and singing sweet lullabies in her ear. At first, there might be a fight, but Mommy knows what her child needs — she knows her child needs rest. Eventually, the child begins to relax, finds her favorite spot close to Mommy’s neck and settles in. Soon she is sleeping and Mommy just sits and continues holding her precious baby. She knows if she tries to move her too soon, she will wake up. So instead, she sits, rocks and holds her child. She provides exactly what her child so desperately needs! 

That is what JESUS does for us.  He gives us rest for our souls! He holds us close and lets us rest in His lap!

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭

One more promise I want to share with you is from Psalm 91. We can be assured that when we are holding fast to our Savior we can trust that God will deliver us and protect us as we cling to Him in love. In this chapter, we are see this deliverance and protection in a variety of ways:

  • He is our refuge and protection (v. 2), 
  • He will deliver us from the enemy (v. 3), 
  • He will hide us under His wing (v.4), 
  • His angels will guard us (v. 12), 
  • He will be with us in our troubles (v. 15)
  • He will rescue us (v. 15), and 
  • He will honor us (v. 15).  

My friend, I know it is hard. I struggle daily. I am so thankful that we have the promises of God’s Word to remind us we do not have to barely hang on. We do not have to fear all the uncertainty that seems to be hitting us everyday. We do not have to be irritable and overwhelmed. But we must CHOOSE to hold fast to our Savior. He never let’s go, but He wants us to make the choice to grasp His hand and lock in! And yes sometimes that means we have to make that choice multiple times a day but He is right there waiting for you to faithfully and carefully keep hold of Him – it’s our way of telling Him “Yes I need you”. 

Lord, I am so thankful that I do not have to barely hang on because I can hold fast to You and Your Word. Oh Holy Spirit, call my name when I start to let go and remind me of the promises God has given to me —- promises to never leave me, promises to give me rest, and promises to deliver and protect me. In this time of so much uncertainty and heartache, it is easy to be distracted by all the things being thrown at me from every angle. Help me to remember that when I reach out and grasp Your hand, You pull me close and I am protected in Your shadow and I have nothing to fear or be anxious about. In Your shadow, I find the rest my weary soul needs! In Jesus Name, Amen

I would love to hear from you. Leave me a comment with your favorite promise you are holding on to in this season of life.

Jesus Is Enough

Jesus is Enough!

In these times of uncertainty when we feel like we have lost all control we must ask ourselves is Jesus enough?

Over the past few days I have felt overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious, and if I’m honest, even angry. Then this morning we were participating in church online and the Holy Spirit spoke so strongly to me through the music and the message. Our pastor’s message was about being in the wilderness. I believe we can all agree that right now we are all in the middle of a wilderness. The following is what I started writing as The Holy Spirit stirred my heart.

**When we can’t see our family members – is Jesus enough?

**When we can’t attend church like we are used to – is Jesus enough?

**When we can’t fellowship with our friends – is Jesus enough?

**When the illness we are facing keeps us down and it seems like there is no healing in sight – is Jesus enough?

**When the bank balance is at zero but there’s still bills to pay, groceries to get, and clothes to buy for our kids – is Jesus enough?

**When it feels like the walls are crashing down around you – is Jesus enough?

**When it feels as if you have been wandering in the wilderness and you were parched, tired and ready to give up – is Jesus enough?

If we cannot answer yes to every single question above then we must refocus. Regardless of how bad our circumstances are, how desperate, frustrated and anxious we feel, how overwhelmed we are, or even how angry we have been – Jesus is enough!!!!

And as our pastor put it this morning we must be willing for God to change our hearts. We must allow Him to prune and chisel us, so that our eyes turn towards Him. It is also important for us to remember that we must take the time to be still and behold who He is! He is our God, our Lord, our creator, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Protector, our Shepherd, our Abba Daddy!

He is worthy to be praised! He is in control! He has us in His hands! He is good and He is our stronghold!

#Jesusisenough #Heisworthy #Heismystronghold #Heisgood

I immediately thought of Nahum 1:7 (one of my favorite verses) and decided to use it as a place for some Bible Art. I also wrote out the above message as a reminder and added it to the page as well – that’s what is on the folded right paper.

#bibleart #illustratedfaith

Still Called

As I was scrolling through Facebook this morning and looking at memories I came across one from 10 years ago of a blog post I had written. When I clicked on it, I realized it was my very first attempt at writing a ‘real’ devotional post. Then as I was looking through the blog posts I had at that time, I noticed this statement from May 17, 2010:

***I have felt God leading me to write some devotions and I believe that God has laid this on my heart to share. My prayer is that someone is blessed by this in some way. Thanks for stopping by and reading.***

As I was sitting here with these memories, I realized it has been 10 years since I first shared God’s call for me to be His mouthpiece. I wish I could say I have been 100% committed to this call but unfortunately I can’t. Over the last year, God has been loudly calling me to be more consistent and I have recommitted to be His mouthpiece – hence this blog and my Facebook page that I started late last summer.

In a way only God can time, my pastor’s wife, friend and mentor (Miranda Sharp) shared the following quote which she also originally shared 10 years ago today:

“I’m taken by this, because there is nothing I want more than for my life to matter. I want to be used profoundly by God, to be seized by His great and mighty hand and thrust onto the stage of history in order to do something significant. With as pure of a heart as I can muster, this isn’t about fame or prestige. It’s about wanting my life to count where it is needed most. There is a great movement of God that has been set loose in this world, and I want to be on the front lines. And I have felt this way for a long time.” -James Emory White

When I read this, I was taken aback by how precisely this describes how I feel when I think about the call I believe God has placed on my life. More than anything I want to be used by my God for His Kingdom, to do something significant, and to make the time He graciously gives me to count for His glory – in the everyday ordinary moments, in the God ordained extraordinary moments and every moment in between!

Here is the unedited blog post I wrote 10 years ago today.

Do I Make God Sick?

Have you ever been so hurt by someone that you felt like you had been punched so hard in the stomach that you couldn’t catch your breath? Or been so disappointed in someone that it made you feel absolutely horrible – -even nauseated? Well I have! I know this may seem silly to some of you, but I wanted to share this story.

I was thinking the other day about a time a few years back when one of our boys was having a hard time in middle school behaving. His behavior wasn’t terrible, but it just always seemed to be right there on that line. I think it made it worse because as an educator I could literally recall times when certain students behaved that way and now it was my son acting like that. Anyways, I remember one day having to go in for a parent conference and I was so sick the whole day just thinking about how he was behaving in class. After all, I raised him better than that, and all we did for that boy – how dare he act like this! Well thankfully, after some pretty stiff consequences, he straightened up and grew out of that stage – thank God!!!!

What brought this to my mind were the words in Rev 3: 15 – 16 “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Basically, God is telling us here that when we are lukewarm, complacent, riding the fence, right on the line — He wants to vomit (spue out of His mouth.) We make Him sick. I felt that feeling in the pit of my stomach again when I realized that I often times make my Lord and Savior feel like He has been punched in the gut and my actions make Him want to vomit just like I felt that day of the parent conference!

How many times do I stay right there on the line in my dedication to Him? Yes, I go to church on Sundays and Wednesdays, I read a quick devotion on most mornings, and sometimes I even do a little Bible study a few times a week. But does that classify as being on fire, sold out and completely surrendered to the one who gave His life for me? How does that compare to the suffering and ridicule He faced for my sins? It doesn’t!

What about all the times I know I should witness and I don’t? Or what about all the wasted hours I spend on the computer or watching TV? How about the times when I know the Lord is convicting me to serve Him in a certain way or worship Him by lifting my hands in praise and I don’t? What about the bitterness I hold onto over cross words or wrongdoings (Eph 4:31 tells us to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger)? What about the times I simply don’t read my Bible everyday? And what about all the times I just feel satisfied with my life – never striving to grow closer to Him or to do more for Him? I know that some of these things may seem minor but in God’s eyes a sin is a sin! He doesn’t classify them on a scale of how big or small the sin is — regardless of what it is, when we are not in line with what His word tells us, we are sinning! I know that we are human and we are going to sin but if I’m His child, then I need to be more obedient, more dedicated and less complacent. I need to be on fire for my Savior — I don’t want to make my God feel nauseous when He looks at me. I don’t ever want Him to have to spue me out of His mouth!

Dear Lord, I pray that I will be more aware of my actions and behaviors. Lord, please forgive me for the times I have made You sick! I don’t want You to ever feel like I have punched you in the gut. *O Lord, I pray that I will pay careful attention to how I walk—not as an unwise person but as wise— making the most of my time, I don’t want to be foolish, but I pray for the discernment to understand what Your will is. Lord, I pray for the strength to be completely sold out and surrendered to You in all that I do and to be an example of one walking side by side on fire for You – my Lord, my Rock, my Redeemer, my Savior, my God! In Jesus Name I Pray – Amen

*Ephesians 5: 15-16

With a renewed hope and desire, I am still answering His call……

Rest is Not Easy or Is It?

Hi friends! I hope you are all doing well and staying safe. What a strange time we are living in. It’s hard to believe tomorrow is the first day of May. On one hand it feels like the last 6 weeks have crawled by, but then on the other, how can we already be 1/3 of the way through 2020!

I have noticed over the last week or so, I have been struggling more than normal. I am one that is, for the most part, fairly grounded but I have been feeling very burdened and heavy lately. (And I don’t mean heavy because of all the snacks I have been eating.) I described this feeling to a couple of my friends as the same feeling I had during the 6 months or so before my dad passed away. We knew we were in our last days with him, so we tried to treasure as many moments as we could, but at the same time we were always waiting for something else to happen. It was as if we were stuck in constant anticipation of the dreaded phone call. I remember feeling numb during those days and earlier this week, I realized that was exactly how I was beginning to feel again. And to top it off, I have not been sleeping – well I should say, I am not resting.

Then last night I was reading in Psalm and came across the following verses:

And immediately the Holy Spirit surrounded me with His presence.

I felt God whisper to my heart, “Tonya why are you so restless? Why are you not turning to me? Don’t you know that I am all you need? Remember, I am your Rock, your fortress, your salvation!”

Wow – talk about a ‘come to Jesus’ moment! I am so thankful for these beautiful words that spoke such truth to my heart last night and reminded me of who God is and who I am not!

God is my salvation. He is my rock – and when I think of Him as being my rock, I think of the biggest boulder ever – like those out west – one that is solid, constant and immovable! And not only is He my rock but He is also my stronghold. A stronghold is a place of retreat or refuge, a place one run to for protection and rest when it feels as if everything else is against them. And that is exactly how I have been feeling – like all that is going on around me has overtaken my mind and I can’t escape from it. I am in desperate need of a place of refuge – and I am so thankful I know exactly where I can find the perfect stronghold – in my God and Him alone! When I run to Him, I can know for certain that I will find rest in Him and He will take care of my every need!

Friend, let me encourage you tonight by reminding you that we are not in this alone. We do not have to be consumed by the heaviness of all that we are enduring right now. We have a God who loves us, protects us and gives us rest! All we have to do is call out to Him.

If you need to talk, please know I am here. If you need prayer, I am here. And most of all, if you are not sure how God can be your salvation, your rock, and your stronghold, please contact me as I would love to show you how!

Sorrow into Joy

I posted this video on my Facebook page on Thursday. I am praying it is an encouragement to you.

John 16: 16-21

1“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 

Good Fruit and A Clean Temple

Am I the only one who can relate to the following scenario?

It’s been a long week but you have planned for a gathering in your home on Saturday. It’s now Friday evening and you still need to go to the store to get all the food for the meal as well as get home and clean. So you quickly go through the store picking up all the ingredients you need and then rush home to start cleaning. But as soon as you walk in the door, chaos hits (you can imagine your own chaos) and unfortunately the cleaning never happens.  So you decide to get up a little earlier on Saturday morning to do the ‘cheat’ cleaning – you know running the vacuum so you have the vacuum marks, cram whatever you can in drawers and closets,hang clean towels in the bathroom, turn your diffuser on with a fresh clean smelling essential oil or turn on your wax warmer, then close all the doors. You look around with some satisfaction because it appears clean and no one will ever know the difference. But…you know behind all the closed doors there is a different story.  Being clean on the surface does not mean it’s clean all the way through!

On the Monday of Holy Week (the week leading up to the death,  burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ) we see Jesus in two different scenes that are similar to the one I described above. 

Mark 11: 12  – 17

12 On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 13 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.

15 Then they *came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16 and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. 17 And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den.” 

The  next day refers to the day after Palm Sunday, the day after Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey while the people cried out Hosanna. As he approached Jerusalem again on Monday morning, Jesus saw a fig tree with leaves in the distance. If a fig tree has leaves then it should have fruit ready to eat. But in this case it didn’t – it appeared to be ready but upon further inspection it was not! On the surface, it looked like a perfectly good fig tree, but it had no fruit – it was useless.

Then this passage goes right into describing what happens when Jesus enters the temple. Keep in mind, the temple was to be a sacred place of worship and it was during the season of Passover when the people would be preparing for the priest to make a sacrificial offering on their behalf. This was supposed to be a special time for the people and of all places, the temple  should have been a holy place and a clean place. But that is not what Jesus found upon entering the temple. He found money changers – people who were cheating those coming to purchase animals for their offerings. They had made the place that was to be a house of prayer dirty! 

What does this have to do with us? In 1 Corinthians 6, we read about how the Holy Spirit dwells in us – we are His temple. (19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.) And in John 15, Jesus tells us we bear fruit when we are abiding in Him (5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up;) 

Are you starting to see the connection? As His temple we are to be clean and bear sweet fruit. The temple of our hearts is to be full of prayer, love, and His Word which will yield the fruit of worship, obedience, kindness, and joy – just to name a few.  However, an unclean temple will always produce dry, worthless and shriveled fruit. 

Therefore, we need to ask ourselves, is our temple truly clean – not just a surface level clean, but clean all the way to the core. When Jesus looks in on His temple and opens every door is He pleased? Or does He need to come in and throw out the dirt? 

How clean is your temple? What fruit are you bearing?

In the Middle

Life brings many different journeys. Some are fun and easy while others are difficult, overwhelming and painful! The latter is what we refer to as trials. Because we live in a fallen world and we are sinful people, we are going to face trials. I have often heard people say we are all either coming out of a trial, about to go into one or right smack dab in the middle of one. Can you relate? I know I can! I think we all can right now!!!!!

I have had my fair share of them throughout my life. As a matter of fact, I would classify the last three years as a journey of many trials. But I can look back on them now and see how God was always faithful in bringing me through each and every one of them.

But what about when I was in the middle of the trial – in the middle of the storm. Did I always trust God’s faithfulness? Was I able to see His hand? Unfortunately if I am honest, I have to say no.

Let’s look at Joseph. (Genesis 37, 39-50) Yes Joseph was the ‘favored’ son of his father Jacob. And I am sure he antagonized his older brothers with that obvious fact. After all he did tattle on a couple of them when they were in the field together. But what younger sibling hasn’t done that?!?!

But as the favored son, the other brothers grew to hate him. And this hatred lead to many years of trails for Joseph. He was sold into slavery – not once but twice. Then when it seems he finally catches a break, he is wrongly accused and thrown into prison where he is forgotten.

Because we have the full narrative of Joseph’s life we know how God was with him and how God used all of his trials for good. But have you ever stopped to think about the fact that Joseph didn’t have that narrative- he didn’t have a book of Scripture to read about how the faithfulness of God was going to be shown in a major way in his own life.

All Joseph had to rely on was what he knew right there in that moment. And he had to make a conscious choice daily to trust the God of his father, Jacob and his grandfather, Abraham. He has been told the stories and he chose to believe God would be with him. From the time he was little to being betrayed by his brothers, wrongly accused and sitting in a musty cold prison – God was with Joseph.

“But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper.” Genesis 39:21-23

In the middle of all of Joseph’s trials, God was present and He was working. Joseph may not have been able to see it or feel it – but he chose to believe it. How do we know this? Because when Joseph comes through each trial, he doesn’t hesitate to give credit to God for every bit of what has happened to him.

“Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God…” Genesis 45:8a

Friend I want to encourage you in this time of uncertainty, a time like none of our generations have ever seen. I know there are many things out of our control and with that comes worry, panic, anxiety, frustration, anger and a myriad of other emotions.

BUT GOD is the same God today as He was before the COVID-19 virus and all of its effects. And He is the same exact God who was with Joseph in every trial he faced.

While we are right in the middle of this Coronavirus time and uncertainty, instead of worry, panic, anxiety and anger setting in, let us instead choose to trust in the one thing that is constant – the steadfastness and faithfulness of our El-Roi – our God who sees. God sees each and every one of us and He sees exactly what is taking place. Just like Joseph, we don’t know the rest of this narrative. We don’t know what tomorrow or next week or next month is going to look like. We don’t know how this is going to impact our schools, our families, our economy, nor our future. But also like Joseph, we have the choice to trust God and remain in Him even when we can’t see Him working.

Today I choose to trust the One who I know is making a way and is going to remain in control because that is who He is and nothing can change that. My God knows no other way to be!!!! I choose to place my faith in my LORD and I am refusing to give into a spirit of fear. Where there is faith, fear cannot be!

NOTE – Please know I am here if you need to talk and would like for me to pray for you. If you are in need, please reach out! I know the One who can give peace that passes all understanding!

Walking Through the Right Door

I lam loving the sermon series our pastor is doing right now. Our theme for this year is “We Serve a BIG GOD” and we have been studying from the book of Revelations. Today Pastor Jason’s message was about the church of Philadelphia (Rev. 3: 7 -13). This church received praise from God for their endurance and obedience even in the face of major hardships. They were a very meager church, didn’t have much to offer God other than their presence and obedience and received much pressure from the outside to give up. Another important note is that this church received no criticism from God!

This spoke volumes to me this morning. Recently I have been going through stuff and decluttering. In doing this, I found several of my prayer journals from the last several years and what I realized is there are three areas (finances, time management, and health) that I struggled with five, six, seven years ago and these same areas are still some of my biggest struggles today. The enemy wants to make me feel like a failure because I still allow these areas to remain unchanged and in some sense out of control in my life.

But I heard God whisper to me this morning, “Tonya it doesn’t matter how long this has been going on, what matters is my grace is bigger than this sin and all I am asking you to do is be in My presence and be obedient!”

When Pastor Jason was talking about God’s divine will and God’s permissive will, I realized that for the last several years I have been walking through an unlocked closed door and stepping into His permissive will. Unfortunately as long as I stay there, He cannot offer me the provisions, protection and blessings He wants to pour on me, for He can only do that when I walk through His open doors into His divine will.

I am done listening to the lies of the enemy and telling me these things don’t matter to God when indeed they do. Every area of my life matters and as long as I am keeping parts of my life in a ‘Tonya’s got this under control‘ box, then I am NOT being fully obedient to my Lord. And the smallest amount of disobedience is still disobedience and it is sin!

So today, I am choosing to walk in His way and through His open door. I have nothing to offer Him other than my obedience and my whole being. And you know what? That’s all He wants from me! I know this is not going to be easy but I am choosing to endure and trust in His strength. I can’t wait to see how He is going to bless and provide.

Yes indeed we do serve a BIG GOD!!!

Victory Belongs to Jesus

WOW! What a beautiful message and reminder of how God always answers our prayers and we owe everything to Him. 

Lois Evans, the founder of Pastors’ Wives Ministry and wife of famed pastor and author Tony Evans, died on Dec. 30, 2019. She is also the mother of Priscilla Shirer, one of my favorite Bible teachers. On Jan. 6, 2020, her family held a celebration of her life and legacy, at which her son Jonathan delivered a sermon eulogizing his mother and expressing how he “wrestled with God” over her death. A clip of this part of his sermon has gone viral. Below is what he said. 

The words of Jonathan Evans, son of Tony & Lois Evans at his mother’s celebration of life:

I was wrestling with God because I said, “If we have victory in Your name, didn’t You hear us when we were praying? Didn’t You see the cancer? … Didn’t You hear us? Why didn’t You do what we were asking of You? Because your Word says, ‘If we abide in You and Your Word abides in us we can ask whatever we will and it will be given to us’? Your Word tells us that if we ask according to Your will that You hear us. Your Word is telling us in Mark 11 that ‘if you pray believing you will receive.’ ‘To be anxious for nothing, but through prayer and supplication make your request known.’ Where are You?”

I was wrestling with God the last few days because “this was a great opportunity that we can tangibly see Your glory.”

“Everybody was praying, not only in Dallas, but around the country and around the world. People were watching. Where are You? This was an opportunity to see Your glory.”

And as I was wrestling with God, He answered. And He said, 

“Number 1, You don’t understand the nature of My victory because just because I didn’t answer your prayer your way doesn’t mean that I haven’t already answered your prayer anyway. Because victory was already given to your mom. You don’t understand because of the victory that I have given you.

There was always only two answers to your prayers—

Either she was going to be healed or she was going to be healed.

Either she was going to live or she was going to live. 

Either she was going to be with family or she was going to be with family.

Either she was going to be well taken care of or she was going to be well taken care of. 

Victory belongs to Me because of what I’ve already done for you. 

The two answers to your prayer are yes and yes. Because victory belongs to Jesus.”

Then He said to me, 

“You need to understand that I am God and I am sovereign. And My game plan is bigger than any one player on the field.

“So you need to trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on you, but lean on Me because I have the ability to make this crooked situation straight. I am the sovereign God. That’s why they say that I am that I am.

“As higher as the heavens are above the earth are My ways from your ways and My thoughts from your thoughts. We don’t think the same. P.S. Don’t tell me how to get my glory.”

And finally He just let me know, ‘I appreciate your prayers and your trust in Me, but the way that you are coming to Me now is a sense of entitlement like I owe you something.

“You can’t tell me what I’m supposed to do. I’m God. You can’t say, ‘Well it should’ve been this way.’

“You can’t tell me, ‘Well as much as she served you, You should’ve done it this way. As much as my dad has done in ministry and as much as we’ve done in ministry and how faithful this family is, it should be this way.’

“Don’t come to me with that entitlement. Because without My victory and what I have done all of You would be on the doorsteps of hell.

“I don’t owe you anything. You owe me everything.

“And I know that it was hard for you to sit there and watch your mom die, but don’t let that belittle the fact of how hard it was for Me to watch my Son die so she could live. So back up off me with your entitlement.

“There were always two answers to your question—yes and yes—because of My grace being sufficient.”

Thank You Lord.


The video of the celebration of Lois Evans’ life and legacy is below, with Jonathan’s eulogy beginning around the 3:40 mark:

Waiting and Watching

Have you ever been on vacation and spot someone you think you know? It takes you a few seconds then you realize you definitely know this person. This past week my husband and I have been on vacation in the mountains. One of our boys and his family were also on vacation in the same area with his wife’s family. My daughter-in-love and I had already talked about how we were going to be at the Dillard House Restaurant on Sunday but weren’t sure if the times would match up.

It ended up working out that we were all going to be there around the same time. They had already been seated and were eating but of course Gigi & Big Daddy wanted some hugs from three of our grands (and to see our son and daughter-in-love!) Tenley had her back to us so we got to surprise her but Jase was facing us. When he first spotted us, the look on his face was like – ‘Wait I know her – that looks like my Gigi, but how can she be here’. Keep in mind he is 6 so it took him a few seconds to comprehend that this was really his Gigi and Big Daddy. And of course as soon as he did, his face lit up!

This made me think of Anna the prophetess and how she recognized the Messiah even when he was less than three months old.

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2: 36-38

These are the only three verses in the Bible about Anna but we have much to learn from her.

First of all, we learn that she is of the tribe of Asher. Asher was considered to be one of the lost tribes of the Northern kingdom of Israel during the exile to Babylon. However, God had not lost track of this tribe and He makes a point of us knowing that Anna was a somebody! Next we learn that she is advanced in age – she is old and had been a widow for most of her life. She had only been married for seven years then lived in the temple since then (for at least 60 years). She dedicated her life to sharing her faith with people in the temple – she told them about the promised Messiah. We also see that she was committed to her faith – she fasted, worshipped and prayed – daily! Even in the midst of hardships (being a widow in this time was not easy) she remained faithful.

Then one day – one ordinary day like so many of the other days for the last sixty plus years – something spectacular takes place! We read in the verses just prior to the ones about Anna, that Joseph and Mary took the infant Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice for him as custom required. Simeon had just blessed the Christ child and at that very hour Anna comes up and recognizes immediately what is taking place. And what does she do? She gives thanks to God and continues to tell the others about the Messiah – the redemption they had been waiting for,

Okay so now back to Jase. It took a few seconds for Jase’s little mind to connect that it was really me that was there in a different city, hours from home, in the same restaurant he was in. He wasn’t looking for me. He wasn’t expecting me to just show up at his table.

But Anna was waiting for the day to see the Messiah. She had no idea she would actually get to but she must have wondered if today would indeed be the day. And then one day it happened and when it did – she did not even hesitate – not even for a few seconds. Why? Because she was prepared to see Him. She was waiting, watching and expecting to see Him.

Oh how I want to be like Anna. I want to be so committed to Jesus that I am always alert and watching to see where He is. I never want to miss Him in any form in my life or in the lives of other believers around me.

This is my prayer for 2020 – to be so sure of His presence in my life that I never have to hesitate or wonder if it’s Him, even if for only a second.

Immanuel: God With Us

Have you ever read something for the hundredth time and all of a sudden it had all new meaning to you? Well that is exactly what happened to me last week as I was reading through Matthew 1. 

I was reading where the angel was having a conversation with Joseph – telling him to not be afraid to take Mary to be his wife.  (Okay this is not what struck me but can I just side track for a moment and talk about Joseph. I mean come on, his fiancée just told him she was going to have a child and he knew he had not been with her in that way. I cannot even begin to imagine what all thoughts were flying through his head. And then an angel comes to him and gives him specific instructions and Joseph is obedient! WOW what a man of faith! )

Now back to my ‘hit me upside the head’ moment.  This happened when I read verses 22 and 23:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Immanuel, God with us. Four words. I was completely undone by four words! Immanuel, God with us. 

You see this is not a conditional statement.  It doesn’t say, ‘If you are having a bad day, then God will be with you.’ It doesn’t say, “If you follow the law, then God will be with you.’ It doesn’t say, ‘If you read your Bible everyday, then God will be with you,’ It simply says, God with us. This means that no matter what — on the worst of days and the best of days, God is with us. 

It is easy for us to say and even believe this when life seems to be falling apart — when we receive a diagnosis we don’t want to hear, when a marriage seems to be falling apart, when a wayward child causes more heartache, when a loved one passes away, when the bills are more than what’s in the bank. During these times, we cry out to God and we long for His presence and His comfort. As His child I can rest in knowing that even though the waves are crashing in on me, He is with me and I know I will not be overtaken. 

But I don’t have to wait for life to fall apart because it also means, on the most ordinary, mundane day, Immanuel is with me. 

It means our God is a real, personable, intimate God that is with us twenty-four / seven. It means that even when I am sitting at my desk in my office going through paperwork, He is with me. It means that when I am cooking, doing the dishes, folding laundry  or even sitting on the couch scrolling through social media – God is with me! On the most boring day of simply going through the motions of life, GOD IS WITH ME!!!!

Immanuel is not a God who is only with us at certain times or on certain occasions. He is not some far away God who only shows up when we are in need.  No my friend, Immanuel is with you right now in this very moment as you are reading these words. 

How different would our lives be if we truly comprehended the truth and magnitude of these words: Immanuel, God with us? 

Father, may I never forget that You are with me – in the worst of moments, the best of moments and every single moment in between.

What Is So Special About Today?

‘Today is proving ground of what I believe and whom I worship.” – Tish Harrison Warren (Liturgy of the Ordinary)

When Jesus died for His people – for me – He knew each and every one of us by name. Christ didn’t offer redemption for a life that we dream of or the perfect life we post all over social media. His crucifixion was not abstract or some scientific theory – it was and is a reality! And it was for the reality we live in – everyday – day in and day out.  When He died, He knew what today would look like for me – for you. He knew all the exciting moments and all the dull moments. He knew every extraordinary moment we would have today and each one of the ordinary ones. And in His death He demonstrated His love for for each and every one of us in the very moment we are in at any given time! 

God has whispering to my soul lately to slow down and be still. The only way I can do that is to begin to understand the impact of the time He has given me. I want to see each day as a gift from my God, not just a box on the calendar filled with appointments, meetings and an ever growing to-do list. I want to embrace today as the day He made for me to rejoice and worship Him in joy and gladness. 

This day – not tomorrow – not yesterday – but today! God, in His infinite wisdom and delight, has made, named and blessed this average, ordinary day. But to God this is the day He made for us – for you and for me. 

And it is in this day that we embrace life! The life we are living right now. This very one with dirty dishes, laundry to be folded, bills to pay, parties to attend, diapers to change, Christmas decorations to be put out, and gifts to buy. This very day with broken relationships that need to be mended, a cancer diagnosis to deal with, a job that makes you crazy, and a hole in our heart from deep grief. A day where you may be feeling weary, anxious or possibly a bit overwhelmed and chaotic.  

But no matter what this day looks like for you, for me – it is the day where Jesus knows us, embraces us and loves us. In the midst of all of our ‘stuff’ today, we must remember He is working, seeking the lost, redeeming His world, drawing us to Him, calling us to worship Him, and pursuing us into a real, intimate relationship with Him. 

At the end of today, what will our actions reflect about what we believe and whom we worship?

Weeping and Laughter

The holidays are here. For many of us we look forward to this time of year with much excitement. But for many these days come with dread and anxiousness. And for others, it comes with both – excitement and dread. Holidays are a time for family and friends to gather and with that brings empty chairs and missed faces! I know at least ten families that are facing their first holiday season without a loved one this year – a dad, a mom, a brother, a son, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I also know of some families that will have some empty seats because of other reasons – deployment, illness, broken families, severed relationships, rebellious children, divorce… Whether it is the first holiday season with those empty places or the second or third or twentieth it is still hard! And it doesn’t matter the reason they are empty -the fact is someone is missing and our hearts have a hole in them.

But God reminds us in His Word that even in the midst of deep sorrow and grief, there can also be joy and thanksgiving.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalm 30:11-12

This week I listened to the She Reads Truth podcast about this same topic – Mourning and Dancing. So much of what was said resonated deep in my soul. The other day I was talking to my husband about making dressing for Thanksgiving and immediately started missing Daddy – I think it was his favorite part of the holiday (even over seeing us sometimes – LOL!) But at the same time we have so much to be joyful for – I look at Eloise Dale and am not only reminded of him because of her name but I also see his crystal blue eyes every time I look at her.

I think about Mom and how last Thanksgiving we were at the hospital with her not knowing if were going to loose her just a few months months after we lost Dad. But I am rejoicing in the fact she is here and doing so much better this year. We are thankful for how far God has brought her both physically and emotionally.

Mom & Eloise Dale

Yes we are going to weep; we are going to mourn; we are going to lament. But our God is bigger than our heartache and our grief. His love is deeper and more powerful than our deepest pain. I am not saying this makes everything easy but what I am saying is we can rest on the truth of who HE is and the truth of knowing He will turn our sorrow into joy. And this truth will sustain us in the meantime.

So yes during this holiday season don’t try to hold the tears back – weep and mourn but don’t forget to laugh and dance as well! And it’s okay to do both at the very same time!!!

Yes there will be some empty places around our table this year, but there are also many seats that are filled and in that we can be thankful!

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; Ecclesiastes 3:4

I am Sealed

A seal is used to properly signify the uniqueness of a document as well as to identify the owner of property in order to give it protection from being stolen. A seal is also used in government as the official emblem of that governmental entity.

In Ephesians, we read that when we believe the Gospel for our salvation, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. So what does this mean exactly?

It means that from the very moment that we believe Jesus for all He did for us and we choose to follow Him, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are identified as His to never be taken away. We are marked as genuine followers of Him and validated as members of the family of God.

We also see in this verse that this seal guarantees our inheritance. So what is our inheritance? Eternity with Jesus!!!!

So even when I mess up (and I do on the daily) – no matter how big or how small, whether it’s out in the public or kept in private, I am still sealed. My sins do not break this seal. The enemy cannot remove this seal.

I am sealed from the moment I said, “Yes Lord, I need You and I am choosing to follow You. I am asking You to be Lord of my life. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for my sins and thank you for conquering death three days later,” until I acquire eternity with my Lord. I may not always live in a manner that is deserving of this seal, but thankfully the seal of the Holy Spirit is not based on my righteousness but instead it is a mark of the righteousness of Jesus in my life!

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians‬ ‭1:13-14‬ ‭ESV‬

Daddy’s Girl

Note: I know this is going to be a touchy subject for some of you because there will probably be someone who reads this who has no idea what having a good relationship with a father is like. I can only imagine what a deep hurt that must be. But I promise you, if you will hang in here with me to the end, I believe God has a word for you just like He has a word for those with a good relationship with their dads.

First of all, I realize how very blessed I am. Not only did I have an amazing relationship with my Daddy (I was a Daddy’s little girl) but my husband is a unbelievably wonderful Dad to our kids. And on top all of that, my grand babies have awesome daddies!

When I look through these pictures, I see love, pride, protection, rest and fun! But there are many things I don’t have pictures of. For example, the way our son Jake has a special way of calming his 5 year old boy, Jase, down when he is about to have a melt down.  Or how our son Jordan has a special way of holding his baby girl, Ellie, when she is fighting her sleep – something she desperately needs and he knows it. I don’t have a picture of Kendall when she is hurting how all she wants is her Daddy, Justin. And it would be impossible to capture a picture of how when one of the guys walks in a room their children light up with excitement at the simple sound of their Daddy’s voice.

But my friend, I want to share with you how each of us has a Father – an ABBA Father who is infinitely more awesome, more wonderful, more loving, more anything than my Daddy, my husband or our guys can ever even think about being.

Mark 14: 35-36 –  And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 

Abba – The Holman Concise Bible Commentary – “Abba is the transliteration of the Aramaic term for father, implying great familiarity and intimacy.” Easton’s Bible Dictionary says it is “a term expressing warm affection and devoted confidence.” A respectful but intimate way of addressing one’s father. It is similar to the term we use as ‘Daddy’.

When Jesus calls God “Abba Father” in the garden of Gethsemane in Mark 14:36, He says it as an expression of humble admiration for His Father, as well as an intimate request asked of God, for God’s will to be shown in this “cup” of sacrifice, that Jesus wouldn’t ask of anyone but God.

Paul uses this same term ‘Abba’ in Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” and in Galatians 4:6  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Paul refers to God as Abba Father when he talks about being adopted and becoming God’s children — this means that the God of the universe – the Creator of everything  – the one who has always been and always will be – the One who is all knowing, all powerful, all present – this very same God invites each of us to call Him Abba Father! He is inviting us into a personal and intimate relationship.

But why is it important for us to see God as our Abba Father?

1. He gives you life and knows you intimately.

Gen. 1: 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Psalm 139: 13 -14 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

He breathed His very breath into you to give you life — every time you breath –  that is the breath of God in you. And not only did He breathe life into you, He personally and intimately and lovingly formed you with His own hands. He even knows your thoughts before you think them, your words before you say them, and your actions before you carry them out. And with all that intimate knowledge of you, He continues to love you like the perfect Father. 

2. You will never have to earn his love.

You may have felt that you had to earn your father’s love and respect by accomplishing great things to make him proud of you. God is not a father like that. Romans 5:8 tells us that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were still sinners. While we were still blowing it. While we were not measuring up. While we were oblivious to Him and His love, He sent His Son to die for us. That is unconditional, sacrificial love and it is unlike anything you can experience on this earth. God is a Father who chose to love you and you didn’t do a thing to earn it. 

3. His patience and kindness never runs out.

If you’ve ever felt you used up whatever patience or kindness your dad once had, you don’t have to worry about overextending your Heavenly Father. Psalm 103:17 says, “from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.” Psalm 106:1 says, “for he is good; his love endures forever.”  Lamentations 3:22-23 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;  his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

4. He is always available, waiting and watching.

God never has a bad day, is never in a bad mood, and is never too busy or distracted for His child. When you are in relationship with His Son, Christ Jesus, you have complete access to your Heavenly Father’s ear, His heart, His focused attention. Hebrews 4:16 tells us we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  And He never sleeps which means He is on call 24/7 — Psalm 121:3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

And when we do mess up He always welcomes us back. We all mess up, but our true Father is constantly on the watch for our return, running to us with joy when we turn back to Him. The father in the story of the prodigal son is a beautiful picture of our Abba Father — He is waiting and watching and as soon as He sees us take one step in His direction, He runs full force to embrace us, hold us and whisper in our ear – I am here and its going to be ok, Welcome home! (Luke 15:11-32).

5. You will never blow it enough to lose his love.

Since there was nothing you could do to earn your Heavenly Father’s love, there is nothing you can do to lose it. Romans 8:38-39 tells us, “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In other words, no circumstance, seen or unseen power, person, action, or inaction on your part can separate you from God’s love. That is powerful. And that is a promise that only your Heavenly Father has the power to fulfill.  

I remember one day riding to the store with my daddy when I was about 4 years old.  This was before car seats and seat belts – yes I am that old – and I remember standing in the seat right beside Daddy – leaning against him. We were only going to a little store right down from where we lived. When we got to the store, my daddy told me to stay in the truck; he would be right back.  (It was a time when this was safe.) But I wanted to be with my daddy. I tried opening the door to get out so I could go in the store with him. But I couldn’t open the door. It was just about the time my daddy came back out so I decided to stay by the door – I had been disobedient and moved away from him. As we were driving home, the door came open and I fell out of the truck! Before you panic – we were not going very fast and I didn’t get hurt.  But this is what I remember more than anything — even though this was my fault – my Daddy quickly stopped the truck, ran around to pick me up and made sure I was okay! Then he put me in the truck right next to me and kept his arm around me the rest of the way back home. I don’t remember if I ever got in trouble for disobeying but I will always remember the concern on my Daddy’s face and how he took care of me and held me close until we were safe at home!  

Our Abba Father loves us, provides for us, gives us life, is patient and kind, is always present and available in a way that is greater and more personal than any earthly father ever could.  The term “Abba Father” is not one that is just to exclaim praise or recognition, such as with heavenly Father or Father God. Abba Father reflects the knowledge of knowing that God knows us better than we know ourselves and that He established paths for us before we took our first steps as humans. It confirms that we can trust and believe He knows our greatest strengths, our greatest weaknesses, as well as knows our beginning and end. But instead of forcing His will on us, He allows us to meet Him in our own way, with intimacy which can only be felt between Abba and His child!

The Great I Am is inviting you to step towards Him, so He can run to you, pick you up and place you right in His lap – safe in the crook of His arm – just like a Daddy would do. He wants desperately for you to become His child and call Him Abba, Daddy. I am so incredibly thankful for being a Daddy’s girl – not just to my earthly Daddy, but more importantly to my Abba Daddy! I am an Abba Girl!!!!!

Seeing God’s Faithfulness Firsthand

Twenty years ago on September 21, 1999, I heard words no parent is ever prepared to hear – ‘your son has cancer. We will call you this afternoon with the exact type and our next steps.’

There are many details to this story but the details are not what is important. What I want to share now is how God was part of this story.

Our youngest son, Jordan, was 4 and had been battling a nasty cough for about two months. His pediatrician had been treating him for an upper respiratory infection and had done blood work. His blood work was fine and the antibiotics would clear the cough up but as soon as it got out of his system, it would come right back. His doctor wanted us to see a specialist at Nemours in Jacksonville. This was the same time Hurricane Floyd decided to freak all of North Florida out and due to mandatory evacuations we couldn’t get an appointment for about two weeks.

But because of the delay, the biopsy was scheduled for the SAME week our church was having a revival. God’s timing! On the night before the biopsy, we went to church and had Jordan anointed with oil and prayed over. There were at least 50 pastors, deacons and other brothers & sisters in Christ crying out to Jehovah Rapha for Jordan’s healing.

We go for the biopsy and very shortly afterwards is when we hear those words. We head home and wait for the call. Finally, the call comes – yes it is definitely cancerous but it ends up being a very treatable and curable type – Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. Yes we prayed for healing and I believe with every fiber of my body, healing happened during that time of prayer. Jordan had symptoms of lymphoma not leukemia. And in 1999, lymphoma was not as treatable or curable for little boys as this type of leukemia.

This was a journey I could not bear. This was a trial I could not handle. I have had some people tell me they have no idea how I walked through those years (during this same time we were facing other major trials as well) and my response is I didn’t. It was not my strength – it was God’s! It was GOD that carried us through and gave us strength, courage, and peace. God is so very faithful — throughout the two and half years of treatment, God provided everything we needed and more. God was so very faithful to us throughout every single step of those years.

My friend, I know what you might be thinking ‘you have no idea what I’m going through.’ And yes I understand that some of you are facing so much more than we ever did. But regardless of what your trial is, my God is faithful. My God loves you and promises us He will always be there for us. He has never broken a promise and He is not going to start now. He will be with you and He will never leave your side!

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

I asked Jordan yesterday what the biggest blessing he remembers from this journey and his response was simple — “Being alive is a blessing.” And for those of you who may not know — Jordan is healthy, has a wife, a daughter, and is a pastor of a church in Gainesville, FL. God is just as faithful today as He was twenty years ago and He will continue to be so forevermore!

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8

NOTE: If you want to read the details of this journey, you can do so here — http://jordansjourney1999.blogspot.com/.

Freely Walking in the Fire

I have always loved the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It is probably the first Bible story I remember learning because I wanted to tell it to everyone. However, if you know my testimony, then you know this was just a cool story for me to tell – it had no meaning to me. But as a believer and the more I study, the more it comes to life for me. I learn something new about my God and what He does for me every single time! Something new always jumps out! 

Today as I was reading Daniel 3:19-30, I noticed the word ‘fell‘ in verse 23. Earlier in chapter three we read where King Nebuchadnezzar ordered for them to be cast into the fire because they refused to bow to his statue. But guess what? God was already on the scene BEFORE He was seen in the fire with them. 

The word ‘cast’ in the Hebrew language means ‘to throw’. In order for three men who had been ‘bound in their cloaks, their hats and their other garments‘ (v. 21) to be thrown into a fiery furnace, it would take some major force. And without them being able to brace for the impact, most likely they would break some bones. But God had other plans. 

Out of King Neb’s own fury, he ordered for the furnace to be heated up seven times hotter than normal. The furnace was so hot that the fire and heat consumed the men who were ordered to throw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into it. It killed them from outside of the furnace! So what about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? We see two things happen. First, notice that they were not consumed with the heat & fire like the other men just were and second, they were not forcefully thrown into the furnace. They fell into it themselves – on their own!!!! 

When they refused to bow, they told King Neb their God was going to take care of them and just as they said, God was already protecting them before they ever hit the flames. 

After they fell into the fire, God makes His presence visibly known. It is not three men that are seen but instead four and all four are seen walking in the fire. Do you see that? Only three were seen falling in and they were tied up (I don’t think tied up people can just get up and walk around). But what does King Neb and the others see — four men up walking around, not being consumed with the fire!!!! When they fell into the fire, Jesus went right with them, took them out of their bondage, walked with them in the midst of that fire and delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from being burned up!!! 

And the glory of God was seen by all. 

Approximately 600 years or so later, another man – JESUS – willing went to a wooden cross meant for pain and death so that God’s glory could be seen and a plan of deliverance was set in place for all! 

Today I can trust that no matter what I face, I do not have to be afraid. The enemy will try to bind me up and he definitely stokes the fire to make the flames hotter. But because of Jesus, I can freely walk in the midst of the fire without fear of being consumed. I know I will not be harmed in anyway and as long as I am trusting the One who freely gave His life for me, then I don’t have to worry about even smelling like the fire. 

You Can’t Keep Me Quiet

Have you ever been so excited or amazed about something that you couldn’t wait to share all about it with someone else? Maybe it’s a great vacation or an adventure with your best friends. Perhaps it’s a date night or a win for your favorite sports team. How about the joys of parenthood or even more exciting – the joys of being a grandparent! If we are honest, we share about almost everything in our life. (Of course, we all know that one who shares TOO MUCH!!) When was the last time you scrolled through social media?

This past week, our youth pastor brought a message from Acts about Peter’s first sermon and how people were changed by what they heard about Jesus – including a lame man who was healed! I have read this passage several times before but as he was preaching I had some new insights jump out at me. So this morning I wanted to dig a little more into this passage and let me just say, God is moving in my heart big time! 

So before I explain how God is moving all over me, let me give you a brief recap of what is taking place in this passage.

Here’s the scene: 

It’s been 40 days since Jesus was resurrected after being crucified for our sins and being in the tomb for 3 days. Jesus spent these last 40 days with the apostles so they would be prepared to do His work.  He knew what was about to take place and in Acts 1, He reminds them He will not always be with them but they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit in just a short time (Acts 1:5) and tells them, “..you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) At that moment, Jesus ascends into heaven. 

Then 10 days later, on Pentecost, something amazing happens! When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4) The Holy Spirit is now on the scene!!! After that, as you can imagine, people started talking – some were amazed and astonished while others made accusations that the apostles were drunk.

“But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them..(Acts2:14a). Peter stood up and started preaching!!! (This is the same Peter that just 54 days before had denied Jesus – not once but three times. I’ll have to write about that later!) This is Peter’s first sermon of many and the results of his message was one that can be explained with ONLY GOD! “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41) Yes, you read that right – 3,000 people were saved! Now that’s what I’m talking about!!! 

Later that same day, Peter and John encounter a lame man.  They are simply heading to the temple – going about their regular routine and see a lame man. Now this lame man has been crippled from birth which means he has never taken a step. There is no indication in Scripture where he has ever met Jesus or knew of Him in anyway. But he sees Peter and John and begs them for some money. But Peter and John recognize him as having a much greater need than money – they recognize his need for JESUS. Read Acts 3:6-10 below to see what happens:

“But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”

Do you see that? A man who had never walked a day in his life is completely healed physically. He has never taken a step and BAM – now he is walking and LEAPING! BUT there is something even more spectacular that has taken place. A man who has never done anything to earn this healing not only receives physical restoration but he also receives SPIRITUAL RESTORATION! And what does he do in return? He starts praising God, whom he didn’t even know just moments before!!! Now that’s something worth sharing about!

Can you imagine being a witness to that? I am sure that this excitement would be all over our social media feeds. And this is pretty much what was happening – it was the talk of the town and more people were wanting to know about this Jesus. Unfortunately the religious leaders didn’t like what was happening and soon Peter and John were arrested. (Acts 4:1-4) The next day Peter and John stand before the high priest (the same ones that were part of sending Jesus to the cross) explaining what had happened — “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12)

Ok, so now to the part where God is moving all in my heart! As some of you know, a few weeks ago I created this blog as well as a public – yes a public – Facebook page to share my faith. God has been telling me I have been quiet for too long! 

The next verse in Acts 4 jumped off the page at me last Wednesday night — “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) 

‘They recognized that they had been with Jesus’ – y’all this is what I want! I want people to say “Hey you know that lady Tonya – she has been with Jesus!” The high priest ordered Peter and John to not speak of this – to keep quiet – but you know what happens when you have been with Jesus? “…we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) 

I have seen Jesus do so much in my life that I cannot help but to speak about Him. I refuse to be silent any longer! I was no different than the lame man – I had done nothing to deserve the love, mercy, grace and forgiveness I received from Jesus on the day I accepted Him. I was unworthy. I may not have been physically lame but I can promise you I was as spiritually lame as anyone can be. But God didn’t see that – God saw me and rescued me anyway. And over the last 27 years, I have seen and heard of so much He has done I could never tell it all even if I started writing now and continued until the day I die. 

Friend, this is why you cannot keep me quiet! I cannot help but speak of Him! You see, my Jesus transformed me and I know He can transform you too! If you hear me speaking about my Jesus, you will not be able to shut me up. And if you see me leaping and praising Jesus, don’t you dare try to stop me. Instead, let me introduce you to Him so you can join in on the celebration too!

He Will Provide a Way

Have you ever been lost in a wilderness? Or stranded in a desert with nothing to drink? I can’t say that I have ever been in those situations but simply thinking about either one of them causes some panic to rise in me. But what about a life circumstance where you felt you had no way out and was hoping for a shimmer of light or a trial that you were caught in for so long that you begged for even a simple drop of relief.

I can definitely relate to that – actually both of those scenarios and I am sure you can as well! And for some, you very possibly could be experiencing this right now. Maybe it’s a financial crisis, a broken relationship, a health scare, a child leaving for college, a death, a wayward child, or any other number of trials that life throws at us. Whatever the situation is, when we are in the midst of them, we often feel lost, unsure, hopeless, parched, scared and alone. I know because I have been there…on more than one occasion.

But my friend, we do NOT have to feel this way…ever!

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters.....,Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

God is reminding His people of HIS faithfulness and this word is for you & I today!

He’s telling us to stop looking back – stop looking at the situation. If we are looking back, then we are going to miss what He is about to do. Our God is about to do something new . He is about to make a way right in the middle of your wilderness and a river in your desert.

Do you see that? He does not say “I am going to take you to a path that is already there so you can get out or to a river that’s already in the desert (then it wouldn’t be a desert).” NO! He says He is going to MAKE a way and MAKE a river. That means there is NOT one there and He has to make it. HE is about to do something NEW! He makes a way where there is no way. He provides water where there is none.

He wants to do something so out of the ordinary in our lives, that the only explanation that can be said, is “Only God!”

I don’t know what you are going through or what you are facing right now but I know One who does. I have wandered in the wilderness and searched for relief in the desert. And you know what? My God, my Jesus, my Abba Daddy – rescued and provided for me EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. He provided a way out and gave me a refreshing river exactly when I needed it the most! And He will do it again and again and again.

Let Him provide the way for you.

In HIS Love, Tonya

Being Obedient

Several years ago I had a blog that I used for posting about my love of scrapbooking, my family and my faith. However, over the last 3 or 4 years I haven’t really done anything with it since I only scrapbook about once or twice a year now. During that same time, I began feeling a call to write and speak about my faith so I created a private Facebook page called “Wrapped in Mercy & Grace” where I would do live video devotions and messages as well as other posts regarding my faith.

But during the last year I have only posted a few times on that page and every time I would think about doing a new video, I would hear God whisper to me, “Why are you trying to keep your faith private?” and then I would go blank and not have anything to post. (I was also writing my first full Bible-study at that time – more about that in another post!)

Then a couple of weekends ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a online live streaming of the She Speaks Conference hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries. This is a conference specifically for women who have a desire to write, teach and speak about their faith in Jesus. I began praying hard for God to give me confirmation about this so called desire I had. I wanted to know this desire was from Him and not just something Tonya wanted to do. Well let me just tell you….God showed up and spoke loudly to me. He reassured me that this desire is from HIM. He has given me this desire and I have not been faithful in following it. But no longer!!!!

So I surrendered it all to Him on July 27 and committed to share publicly what He puts on my heart. I prayed “Give me the words Lord and I will give you my voice.” This voice is both spoken and written words which leads to this new blog! This will be one of the places I share what God puts on my heart. Some of my posts will be written and some will be video. I am hoping to have some guest bloggers who have the same call on their lives as I do as well. In addition, I will be creating a public Facebook page where this blog will be connected for those who would rather use social media.

I ask that you please be in prayer for me and share this blog with your friends. We live in a world with hurting people and their only solution is JESUS! My prayer is that God will use my voice for His glory and honor so that the broken, hurting and lost can see Jesus. I am also praying for each person that visits this blog and am praying it will help you become more Rooted in Jesus!

With Much Love, Tonya