Waiting on the Lord…

“Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like Eagles. They shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint. Teach me Lord to wait.” Isaiah 40:31

As a mother, we want the very best for our children, especially their “yes” in receiving our Lord and Savior into their hearts. My youngest child was certainly not wanting anything to do with following Christ. She was driven by past trauma to stay away from anything Jesus.

In July 2019, she had something happen to her that caused her to sink further into a state of depression that medicine couldn’t help. Only Jesus could be the answer for her devastated heart. She was searching and involved in everything but Him. It was reeking havoc in our home.

I had been praying for her salvation for several years. But now, I was praying for her life. See, she wanted to die. This situation, for me, gave a whole new meaning to waiting on the Lord.

One night in particular, I felt I was in the middle of a nightmare and couldn’t wake up. I went into my “shecave” and was crying like a baby, a ocean of tears were pouring out. I cried out to God saying, “Where are you? I have nothing left to pray. Please give me a scripture, something, anything to give me hope.” All I could say was His name, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” I heard Him say, “Psalms 46.” I scrambled for His Word in desperation, hungry for what He had to tell me concerning this situation.

Psalms 46:1 states, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” I was sure knee deep in trouble and needed strength only He can give. I continued to read and there it was verse 10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” He was telling me, “Wait on Me, I am God. I will deliver.”

Have you been waiting on the Lord to answer you concerning something you specifically want from Him? In our fast pace culture we want everything handed to us right now. We do not like to wait. I know I don’t! Patience is not a virtue I tend to have. We get impatient and forge ahead of God like we are in a race. By the time we have done all we can do and not seeing an answer, we become exasperated, as I was.

When we feel He isn’t answering us quick enough, we start out by fussing to our Heavenly Father, which eventually turns into us having a full blown toddler fit! I know I was having a tantrum that day. I felt I was kicking and screaming to get His attention.

He listens so patiently, then lovingly says, “Wait on Me; Be of good courage, I will strengthen your heart; Wait, I say wait on Me!” Psalm 27:14. In this particular verse, He tells us three times to wait. In the last sentence, He reiterated twice, He knows something we don’t. He most definitely can handle it on His own and so much better than we can. I tend to get in His way.

So instead of getting all bent out of shape, frustrated, beside ourselves with worry, anxiety, and anger, what lesson can be learned? I learned to trust Him and believe His word. I had staked a claim over my family. “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15b. I had to trust that He would bring this to pass.

I drew closer in the waiting. I prayed harder than I believe I ever have for someone or something. All I needed to do was rest in the bosom of Jesus, clinging to Him in the waiting. I decided (even though I could still get in worry mom mode) to rest in His loving arms.

We know He works things to our good, so why fret. I was doing my best to not get in God’s way or be fretful. I know He is faithful and trustworthy, so I laid her at His feet, waiting on Him. (So very hard to do for this control freak).

In July, 2020, my precious daughter gave her “Yes” to Jesus. Now this momma was shouting Hallelujah from the mountain tops. Her life changed that day. My dear friends let me tell you she is on fire for God. She has been at YWAM, a discipleship training school for the last 3 months. She will be going to Tanzania in July of this year for 6 weeks on a missions trip.

See God knew something I didn’t. He knew just how to draw her to Him and He did just that. Of course it wasn’t on my time frame, but His. His timing is perfect. So be encouraged in the waiting…..

Lord Jesus, help us, while in the waiting, to trust You, to draw closer to you, knowing you are in control. Teach us Lord to wait on You because Your timing is perfect. Amen

The Tattoo My Daughter Wants

And through Him (Jesus), He reconciled all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” Colossians 1:20

Dry heat engulfed us as we walked the streets of our vacation destination. Around every corner the word “TATTOO” jumped off the buildings, catching the eye of my teenage daughter. A conversation was sparked with our family as to what tattoo we would get if we ever ventured into one of those obscure shops. Mostly the talk was light as we fluttered around different ideas, tossing them into the air and went on our way forgetting the thoughts nearly as quickly as they were muttered. Until my daughter said hers. Her idea wasn’t a whim. This one had been formulating in her mind and simmering there for some time. Her idea arrested me as soon as the words were uttered.

My daughter simply said, “The tattoo I want is the word ‘Sister’ surrounded by a heart.”

To the random person overhearing this conversation, this would seem perhaps odd, but then it would be brushed off and reasoned away that she is a sister of two brothers wanting to proclaim her sisterhood to the world. For me, however, this was no mystery, the reason for this tattoo was clear and heart stopping.

Thankfully no one asked why and everyone went on with other conversations, going to the next topic. But this comment lingered in the air, not easily forgotten like the others. This one hovered and is likely not going anywhere until it perhaps lands on her arm or ankle one day.

Today is the anniversary date of when I had my abortion, or more accurately, when I choose to end the life of my first child. Harsh perhaps, but true. It was twenty-eight years ago. Many who have had an abortion suffer when thinking of the anniversary date, but the Lord has redeemed this date for me in so many ways. I actually rarely think of it but knowing it was coming gave me reason to want to write this post.

For years I have written about how abortion impacts lives and hearts, but the sibling component isn’t discussed much in post-abortive or pro-life circles.

Abortion impacts the siblings of the child lost. Being very open about my abortion, I knew it was important for my children to hear about it from me. All three of my children know. Also, I didn’t want to hide my past from them. Secrets are never free.

My teenage daughter, who has a very tender and sensitive heart, has commented on her sister in heaven many times and even has a stuffed bear in memory of her. She loves her sister and like me, looks forward to meeting her one day. My heart breaks a little every time I hear her say something about how she wishes she had her sister here. But she must grieve, as we all must, those we love and lost. It is healthy to grieve and recognize the loss.

I have had much emotional healing in regard to my abortion, so much in fact that it can be possible for me to forget that part of my past and story. It feels like a lifetime ago and I am a different person now, made new by the blood of Jesus. But events like this one are good for me and it is good that I feel a slight twinge when I hear my teenage daughter’s covert pain. To not feel anything would be more concerning and dishonoring to my daughter in heaven. She is a real person. Sometimes it is easier to forget, but I am thankful for the times of remembrance. Her memory is worth more than being tossed out into the wind, forgotten as a careless word on a hot day.

The promise of eternity and of meeting her one day fills my heart with joy and lifts me to a place of peace, resting in the ever present assurance that our God is big and amazing and nothing is too much for Him. No sin is too beyond His forgiveness and no breach of relationship is beyond His repair. We are reconciled to Him and the glorious hope of reconciliation with our lost ones safe in His care.

My teenage daughter may or may not get a tattoo that says “Sister” on it (I’ve asked her to wait until she is at least eighteen) but regardless of an external mark, her name, Kori Danielle, is tattooed on our hearts forever. We love you Kori and look forward to the day we can meet you. We honor you.

Father, we thank you for the glorious hope of eternity. We thank you that while we were still sinners, you loved us and sent Jesus, our Savior for us, and Christ died for us, so we could live forever with you. Thank you that no sin is too big and no breach is too wide. Thank you that the cross and blood of Jesus made a way for us. Lord, we pray for all those who have lost a child to abortion, that they would find hope and healing in you. And we pray for those who have lost siblings to abortion, that you would comfort their hearts and give them reassurance of the hope in you. For those reading this today who haven’t thought of this component before, we ask for your grace to cover and healing balm to soothe hurting hearts. Take us deeper in our healing, knowing you in deeper ways. We love you Lord. Thank you for loving us so well. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

In Case You Missed It!

In 2013, I attended the Deeper Still Fundraising Banquet for the first time. My friend, Emily, invited me. When I received the invitation, I didn’t need to think or even pray about it, I had been waiting for her invitation. I was an immediate yes, I’m in! Every year since for the past eight years there has been a night I join in getting all gussied up, put on my best, and gather with others in a full room to hear testimonies of God’s goodness, redemption, and healing at the Deeper Still Fundraising Banquet. It is a night I personally look forward to every year. This year it looked a bit different.

There were no linen tablecloths, no flower arrangements, no stage or podium. This year it was in the comfort of our living rooms. Instead of evening gowns, we adorned night gowns, and instead of suits, cozied in jammies. The testimonies were as powerful as ever! I watched in the comfort of my living room with my family, which consists of 3 teenagers, my husband and a goldfish named Squishy. Not sure what Squishy thought of it, but my family loved it!

Our oldest son, Joe, who is 18 years old had this to say, “It was very moving to hear a man talking about the bears, his vulnerability was so brave.” What a powerful example of the strength of vulnerability. I was so thankful my teenage sons could hear this man’s story. All three of my kids were moved by what they heard.

We know life is busy and you may have missed it Tuesday night! But another bonus to a virtual event is it can happen over and over again with just the click of a mouse!

My life changed in 2013. I was never again the same. I said yes to a banquet, attended a retreat, and 8 years later, I still love how the Lord moves and works in this ministry. Since that night, I have served on countless retreat teams, traveled to other countries, and the Lord continues to blow me away with His heart to see His beloved free, healed, and whole.

My hope is that I’ve peeked your curiosity! My prayer is that there is a yes in your heart to this invitation! You are invited!

To watch, just go to www.DeeperStillBanquet.org

If you feel led to give to the ministry of Deeper Still, we’d love to have you partner with us!

Three ways to make a donation towards our 2021 Banquet:

Scan the QR code below with your smartphone camera and open the link that pops up at the top

OR you can click here https://secure.egsnetwork.com/donate/D54D27AF4AAA4B9

OR by visiting  www.DeeperStillBanquet.org  to Give Online

Your donations allow us to do our retreats free of charge and support the staff of the Deeper Still Home Office in Knoxville, TN as the Lord continues to expand this ministry across the nation and the world. Our God so longs to heal the broken hearted and set the captives free. It’s why He came! Thank you for investing in the Kingdom!

Surely, You are Good to Me, O God- A Wisdom Psalm

Scripture reference: Psalm 73

How can I not believe after everything I have seen? Even on my darkest days, I can look back and see how you protected and provided. Surely, O God, you are good to me.

Before I knew You, I longed for love and belonging. My feet took me faster than I was prepared, and my heart didn’t object; my heart said it was safe, but it is deceitful above all things. I scratched and scavenged the surface of every relationship for care and devotion, but came up with nothing. I gave up so much and got nothing in return. All of me was gone, but the others- they thrived. Like a white-washed tomb, I was prepared for burial. Empty. Why God?

Why was I the one wondered? The hateful and deceitful prosper. They are loved and cared for by many, their children are successful and popular, their wealth climbs. Their mouths are full of lies, but still power follows them. Are you really there, God? If you can hear me, do you love me? How can you love me, and love them? The ones who boast and brag. Why can’t I find love and belonging? It’s not because I haven’t searched, because I have. But every time I came up with more of the same. Every person I have ever loved has failed me…why should you be different?

Incredibly sad and empty, I couldn’t recognize myself. I tried to pretend I was fine with a fake smile; an achievement; a distraction. God was ignoring me, I knew it. Even if he existed and saw other people, I was invisible to him. Just like I had truly been in all of my other relationships: invisible; disposable; detestable. I couldn’t look at me, so how could you?

Then I turned to you, God. In a seemingly ordinary moment, I heard your voice and turned. This was the first time I felt your voice from a place indescribable. I was wearing blue; fake pearls for good measure at the banquet, when I heard “I forgive you”. I shuttered and goosebumps covered my trembling arms. In that moment I was crushed under a lifetime of regret, and you forgave me. What was I doing at this banquet? How am I sitting in the presence of people who, if they knew what I did to my baby, would banish me. Jesus’ face hung on a painting on the stage, and his voice hung in my heart. “I forgive you”. I didn’t know it then, but I needed to forgive myself. God had done the heavy lifting, the rest was up to me.

Overwhelmed, hope consumed my darkened heart. Maybe things can be different…

But you, God, were always there. Weeping over my messes. Feeling the pain of my losses. In the moments that I dared say “if there is a God, then kill me!”, you stayed. Waiting. Knowing a day would come when I would stop talking and listen. It is by your grace that I am here. Held together because you haven’t let go; you haven’t dumped me from the palm of your hand. I was always loved; always wanted; and chosen by you. I couldn’t see it from the depths of my sin and shame. I was blind, but now I see.

You are for me, O God. I have a home in heaven where all the striving will finally stop. I have everything in the saving blood of Jesus. If nothing else goes my way in this life, I will still have all I need in you; still more than I deserve.

When it all looks bleak and dim, Your presence warms. I can feel the warmth of eternity and can rest in the promise that there is more than this. More than any eye has seen, or eye has heard. More than any man can fully know.

“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds”.

Prayer for those at the Deeper Still retreats this weekend: Lord, meet them in their lowest point of pain. Father, show them more of who you are and who Jesus is. May they hear you whisper in your unfailing love, “I forgive you”, and may they forgive themselves. We thank you that you promise to comfort those who mourn and heal the brokenhearted. Meet each person on the retreat in a personal and powerful way. We ask for freedom and healing for each of your daughters and sons attending. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lori’s Story {Chapter Leader Spotlight}

Today’s post is written by Lori Nzvrodtzke, Deeper Still Chapter Leader for Southern AZ.

Lori Navrodtzke lives in Tucson. She received a MS in Professional Counseling and MS in Addictions Counseling from Grand Canyon University in 2013. She has been the Chapter Coordinator for Deeper Still of Southern AZ since 2016, has worked at Hands of Hope since 2006 where she currently serves as Recovery Services Manager. Lori has a passion to see women and men healed from abortion as well as other traumatic experiences. 

Thank you Lori for sharing part of your story with us today!

1984 was 37 years ago. When you think back that far can you remember specific details of what a particular day was like? For example, can you remember exactly what was going on throughout your day 37 years ago today? I can.

I was picked up in the morning. We drove to the bank for me to withdraw $250 in cash. Then we drove to the clinic. The whole time I was in the car I looked out the passenger window. Crying silently. Feeling sick. Wanting to be doing anything but this. In my head begging him to say I didn’t have to do it.

We arrived. On the outside it didn’t even look like a clinic. It could have been any business along that stretch of road. I wondered if the people across the street in the park knew what was happening through those doors.

We entered the building and went to the counter. No ID was needed. They took my money. I signed a piece of paper without reading it. We went to the waiting room. There were others there–some alone, some not. No one talked. There were no TV’s, no magazines. My name was called. I went back and he left. I changed into a hospital gown and put my clothes in a locker. I was brought to the room and prepped. The doctor didn’t even tell me his name. He just sat down and started. It was painful. I started to cry but forced myself to stop.

It was over in about 15 minutes. The doctor left and I was brought back to the locker and told to get dressed. I was brought to a room with several cots lining the walls. There were several of us in there, but no one was talking. Some were lying on their cot, some were crying. About 20 minutes later we were all given a bottle of antibiotics and escorted to the back door so we could leave. I waited outside for a while before he picked me up. This is where some things start to get blurry–because I had become emotionally numb. Something horrible had just happened and I couldn’t, or didn’t want to, deal with it.

I will always regret that day 37 years ago, but I can share this part of my life openly because God healed me. There’s no more guilt, no more shame, no more anger. Do the memories make me sad? Yeah. Do I still cry? Sometimes. But I know without a shadow of a doubt that God has forgiven me, the baby I lost to abortion in that clinic is in heaven, and I’ll see him again someday. And I’m so very grateful God has used my story to help so many women and men who have been impacted by abortion.

If you haven’t been involved in an abortion, I can pretty much guarantee you know someone who has, but they may have never told you about it. Until healing occurs this is usually a closely guarded secret.  Not because someone else says we should be ashamed, but because many women make this choice because they feel they have no other choice. Not talking about it is a way to avoid dealing with it. I am so blessed to work for an organization (Hands of Hope Tucson) that offers Deeper Still retreats for women and men to have a safe place to talk, process, grieve and heal from a past abortion. If you or someone you know is struggling with a past abortion, I’d love to talk with you.

Deeper Still is a ministry that offers free weekend retreats for women who have had abortions and the men who fathered children lost to abortion. If you have had an abortion and would like more information about our retreats, please go to www.GoDeeperStill.org to find a retreat close to you.

Fig Leaves and Temple Thieves

Today’s post was written Tara Archibald. Tara is team member on the Central Illinois Deeper Still Team.

Thank you Tara for sharing your heart with us today!

I said “no.” Not a no to my girls. Not a no to my husband. Not another no to the dog. Not even a no to one more thing on my to-do list. I said “no” to God, a blatant no. The Holy Spirit “tapped” me on the shoulder and reminded me of what He taught me just the day before. Pleaded with me to put off the old flesh and yield to Him. I refused. In that moment, I rejected Jesus.

Headed into Jerusalem early Monday morning, Jesus and his disciples stopped along the side of the road to eat. Hungry from their travels, they recognized a fig tree in the distance by its abundant foliage. An unusual sight for the time of year since fig season was a month away. The leaves and figs grow together in late spring. This tree, already in bloom ahead of the others around it, had been planted in good soil. However, when they arrived at the tree it lacked fruit. What held the promise of something good was barren, void of the purpose for which it was created. Jesus cursed it. No longer would it bear fruit or leaves of any kind. No longer would it deceive or lead the passerby astray.

The nation of Israel had often been likened to a fig tree in the Old Testament (Hosea 9:10; Joel 1:7). Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree symbolized the judgement of God upon a people who had the outward appearance of life but failed to bear fruit. A judgement due to Israel’s spiritual fruitlessness and hypocrisy. They had rejected Jesus.

Jesus had already cleansed the temple once before, at the beginning of His ministry. That one, a warning. This second cleansing, a statement of judgement against the leadership of Israel. He cleansed His house of thieves and robbers. Of those who took advantage of the poor. Of those who took advantage of His worshippers and His chosen people. Of His chosen people who took advantage of His chosen people.

The chief priests and scribes from the tribe of Levi, were the chosen spiritual leaders of Israel. Chosen to receive and give offerings, to mediate between God and man, to lead in worship and prayer. Chosen by God. Their hearts now hard and power hungry.

Planted in the good soil of His law, from afar the temple held the promise of something good, something sweet, but inside it the hearts of God’s chosen were barren, their lives fruitless. The purpose for which they were chosen, distorted. They refused to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the Promised One, whom they waited centuries for. Longed for. Eagerly anticipated.

Instead, greed, power, and pride blinded them from the Messiah. Their rejection of Jesus was complete.

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3 ESV).

This temple made of brick and stone will be destroyed, but not before God has something to say (and do) about its replacement. God commanded the Israelites, just as He commands us, to live fruitful lives. But what does a fruit filled life look like?

What I wore. How I looked. How I behaved. How I performed in school. Emphasis on outward appearance was ingrained in me at a very young age. And it is still a struggle to this day, a lifelong battle. It goes deeper than a striving for popularity, it demands perfection to avoid ridicule and obtain favor. But only Jesus lived a perfect life. And He is more concerned with my insides, with my heart. Daily, I must remind myself to surrender all of me to Jesus. To cast all my cares on Him. To “put off the old self with its practices and…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9-10).

Anger, pride, greed, bitterness, unforgiveness, deceit, covetousness are all practices of the old self; fruitless endeavors that come easily because we are sinners (Romans 3). Sin comes naturally. What we want to do, we do not do. What we do not want to do, we do (Romans 7). The intentions of our hearts are evil all the time (Jeremiah 17:9).

When we choose to focus on our outward appearance rather than work on our hearts, we are choosing disobedience. And that is sin. Sin is saying “no” to God. Sin is a rejection of Jesus. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) take work. Righteousness does not come naturally. It takes work to be renewed in knowledge after the image of our Creator, to live like Christ. But we are not left to our own devices, to our own efforts. There is hope.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5 ESV).

Apart from God we cannot bear fruit. Apart from God we cannot overcome sin. We need His strength. We need His power.

When we, in His strength and power, yield to the Holy Spirit, when we give Him our yes, we choose life. A life overflowing with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. A life that trusts and obeys the only One worthy of our trust and obedience. We choose Jesus.

Are we fulfilling the purpose for which He created us? Are we trusting and obeying Him? Are we surrendering our plans to His? Are we falling on His overwhelming grace when we mess up? Because we will mess up, again and again. Are we holding fast to His promises? Are we thanking Him even in the midst of our storms, offering our praises on the altar of humility? Do our lives overflow with the fruit of the Spirit to others?

Like the events with the fig tree and the temple demonstrated, God is more concerned about our fruit because that is evidence of the true intentions of our hearts. It shows what we are believing and in Whom we are believing.

God promises to give us the strength, power and courage we need to remove the heavy burdensome cloak of the old self and in its place, to be filled with the sweet fruit of the new self. What fills our hearts and minds has the power to bring us joy and to bring glory and honor to the only One worthy enough, Jesus.

Friday is necessary.

But Sunday’s coming

Born and raised in California, Tara Archibald now lives in central Illinois with her husband and two daughters.  She has a background in labor and delivery nursing but is now a full time homemaker.  She is a nurse volunteer for Living Alternative Pregnancy Resource Center, Bloomington and an active team member of Deeper Still Central Illinois, serving on post-abortion retreats as often as possible.  She loves spending time with her giggling girls, her amazing husband, and her crazy German shepherd dog (not necessarily in that order).  A mountain girl at heart, she enjoys all things outdoors but is just as content to sit on a porch swing, blanket over her lap, reading a good book, with a cup of good coffee in her hand.  Most of all, she loves her precious Savior, Jesus, because it is only by His overwhelming grace, ceaseless mercy, lavish love, and persistent pursuit of her that she has found healing and can point any one to Him.  She feels called to inspire and encourage others through words and pixels.  She has only recently embraced God’s call on her life to write, still discovering her voice, but confident in God’s unfailing faithfulness to be used of Him for her good, the good of others, and His glory.

On IG: @tarajen29 & @joyfullymade139




Don’t Let Me Wither, O God- A Psalm

Scripture references: Psalm 1; Matthew 10:29-31; Proverbs 3:5-6

Below is a Psalm, a prayer written from a heart full of longing for more of our dear Savior and Lord. Whatever you are facing, it is our prayer that this will bless you and encourage you in your walk with the Lord. As you read and pray through these words, may transformation take place.

My eyes brim with tears as I ponder Your goodness, Lord. You provide me sanctuary and rest under your leaves. You see me, hear me, and care for me as I find shelter under your branches. Living water flows to me, freely and full of grace. As I drink your water, I am refreshed and renewed. I’m made stronger; your water gives me life. My fruit blooms and draws the hungry near. The hunger and thirst that only you can satisfy, God, surpass all understanding. Your love for me overwhelms my soul. I don’t deserve your love; I’ll never be able to repay it.

I am not the tree described in your Word. I am not watered and manicured. I look at my fruit and wonder if it’s any good to eat. Is it spoiled? Does it have beautiful skin, but sour flesh? Is it like the poison fruit of fairy tales? Coaxing unsuspecting knights into deep, haunting sleeps. I don’t want that to be true. I want to be her; the tree that never withers and always prospers. The tree that draws all kinds of living things to its hearty, twisted branches for refuge. Rather than all my roots being submerged in your streams, I feel like the tree planted along the steep bank. Half grounded in the rough, dry soil of the world. Tipping far enough that a gust of wind could pull it right up. Admittedly, there are some days I’m okay with that. Your Holy Spirit is always moving and convicting me along the dry bank; “You don’t want to be here. God has more from you in the Water”. I waiver and fail daily. I’m not the tree in Your Word, but I want to be.

God, give me deep roots in You. Help me to be successful and prosperous in all that I do in Your name; a tree growing in rich, fertile soil tilled with hope and freedom; planted in the stream; never withering and always fruitful. Protect me from a spirit of jealousy, from the lure of scoffers, and from the ways of the wicked. Keep my heart pure and my ways straight. I pray this and wait expectantly, believing that you hear my cries. Don’t let me wither and blow away with the chaff. Don’t let my legacy be meaningless and futile. Instead, watch me develop strong branches and full leaves. Please don’t leave me the way that I am; you love me too much to leave me here.

Thank you for saving me from the fires that threaten to set me ablaze. Thank you for your promises of goodness and mercy, and for your abundance. Thank you for not giving me over to the flames, stamping them out every time they threaten my trunk. I can feel them close, but you don’t let them consume me. Thank you for your protection and for providing everything I need. If you know every sparrow that falls from its nest, how much more do you know and love me? I will not worry about where the water or nutrients will come from because you are taking care of every detail of my life. You are the Gardener and I am the tree. Prune me and shape me until there is less of me, and more of you.

~Ashley Gregory

Today’s post was written by Ashley Gregory, who is a contributor to the Deeper Still Devotional Blog. Ashley lives in Mt. Sterling, Illinois and is married to Mark. They have 3 children and she serves on the Central Illinois Deeper Still team.

Deeper Still is a ministry that offers free weekend retreats for women who have had abortions and the men who fathered children lost to abortion. If you have had an abortion and would like more information about our retreats, please go to www.GoDeeperStill.org to find a retreat close to you.

The Beginning of Knowledge

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Towards the end of 2020, like most I’m sure, I felt a lot of weariness, and a lot of exhaustion. I grew very apathetic, to the point where not much seemed to bring me excitement or passion. I felt numb. This was not like me as God has placed a deep longing to learn, grow, and adventure within my heart. But the problem was, my heart wasn’t aligned… in HIM. My only resolution began to be to seek Him. He led me to read through the Bible in a year. If you have never done this before, I highly recommend it. God will grow you in ways you would never think possible. Just trust Him and He will see you through it.

There was a gentle leading to begin with Proverbs. It wasn’t audible, just a sense that the words in this book were exactly the prayers needed. I opened to chapter 1, asked the Lord to speak to me. After reading only five verses, I wrote in the margin, “Lord, help me to listen better and increase my learning of You!” which was inspired by verse 5 where it reads, “let a wise person listen and increase learning, and let a discerning person obtain guidance.” It was as if God was highlighting everything I was reading. What an amazing feeling when you intentionally go to the feet of Jesus EXPECANT to hear from Him and everything you read feels like a fountain of information and truth gushing out at you. You can’t get enough.

As I waded into Proverbs, I felt the nudge to sit and soak a while at Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” The word BEGINNING begged me to stop everything and dive deeper to get a closer look. I began praying, “Lord, teach me how to truly fear you, …what does that even mean really mean?” The Holy Spirit answered as new revelation came into view. The fear of the Lord is only the BEGINNING of knowledge!

My apathy began to drift away as a renewed passion washed over me like a gentle and cleansing wave. Suddenly, the desire to hear from God and explore new territory filled me with expectation in finding new treasures the Lord has hidden in the depths.

If fearing the Lord is only the beginning to knowledge, can we imagine the treasures we will find as we seek Him?

This thought of fearing the Lord consumed me. I continued to press in and ask what it actually meant to “fear the Lord”. And just as I had suspected in early January, if I wanted to hear Him speak, I had to ask the Author Himself in His word… and He spoke. Plain as day, in Proverbs 8:13 CSB, there it was; an answer to an unresolved question that had been stirring for so long in my heart. “To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate arrogant pride, evil conduct, and perverse speech.” My heart soared as I soaked in this truth.

When we seek, He promises we will find.

So with this new knowledge revealed, I feel called to examine my own heart, my own fear of the Lord, and press into His word now more than ever.

Would you join me? This is only the beginning.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for stirring up questions in our hearts so that we would come humbly before you for answers. Thank you for revealing your treasures to us and allowing us to join you in this adventure you’ve created. I pray that we would fear you, that we would hate evil, and pursue You. I pray for hearts that would yearn to grow closer to you and to know you deeper. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Taking Off My Armor

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11

In 1 Samuel 17:38-39, we find a story of David about to face Goliath. It says this:

“Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. ‘I cannot go in these,’ he said to Saul, ‘because I am not used to them.’ So he took them off.”

In the story of David and Goliath, David chose to take off the armor that Saul insisted would protect him. If David would have left on the armor that didn’t suit him, it would have hindered his ability to throw and he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the mission God assigned him to do. Wearing armor we were not meant to wear will hinder who God created us to be.

David chose to take off the armor and trust that His God would protect him as he had faithfully done in the past. This choice of trusting God to protect rather than choosing self-protection led not only David to triumph, but also blessed all the Kingdom.

We were never meant to wear such heavy armor. We were meant to wear God’s armor of protection, not of our own making.

There have been times I have tried to protect myself with an armor that was unsuitable for me. Only this armor isn’t made of metal or steel and it isn’t visible with the naked eye, but it is heavy, nonetheless. Out of fear, there have been times, I have chosen to create a fortified wall that is hard to penetrate, but also heavy to carry around.

I doubt I’m the only one. If you are breathing air, you most likely have been hurt by another human being. These hurts when continuous over time can cause us to decide God must not be protecting us and so I must protect myself. What we don’t realize is the lie this is and the sin it invokes—sin of esteeming ourselves higher than others. Ouch. Yes, I realize that is a hard claim, but I am putting myself in there as well and I have done this and it is wrong and damaging to not only ourselves, but to the body of Christ.

The issue is that not only do these walls of armor protect, they also unwittingly keep us bound. This armor also keeps us from giving the gift of our true self to others, who desperately need what God has put inside of us–we all need the gifts God has entrusted in each other.

Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” It is hard to wear two suits of armor, and only one really protects, the other is only hindering our ability to walk.

Friends, I am taking my armor off and I’m asking if you would be willing to do the same. We need each other and we need the gifts in you. We need to know you and we need your loving beautiful heart fully out there pumping in full blown capacity, not suited up and hindered by cumbersome metal.

Perhaps you want so badly to take off your armor, but fear clinches and it seems too risky. Today, we want to pray with you and together, let’s ask the Lord to help take off the armor and for the walls to come tumbling down. Maybe you need to forgive someone or many. Not everyone is trustworthy, but I promise you there are people God will bring into your life who are safe. God will protect you. Even when it seemed like He missed it, He never has left you and He will protect you.

Will you take a breath with me and then take off one piece of armor at a time, casting it all away as David did, trusting the Lord to go with Him. When you do, not only will you be victorious, but so will the Kingdom as you are free to be who God made you to be.

Your heart is too beautiful to be hidden by metal and surrounded by armor. The world needs your beautiful heart unhindered, beating and loving.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for protecting me. Thank you that I have your armor, the armor of God, so I do not need to make my own armor or try to wear things that will only hinder my walk with you and others in the body of Christ. Lord, I forgive those who have hurt me and trust you to protect. Lord, I thank you that in you I live fully free, loving others, and trusting you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I No Longer Hate My Story

A few years ago I wrote a post entitled, I Hate My Story. I encourage you to read it. I read it again before I wrote this and it brought good tears to my eyes. It is about “forgiving God”.

For years I hated my story. Recently, a friend sent me a link to a new book called, When You Don’t Like Your Story by Sharon Jaynes. I haven’t read it, but it does sound good. When she sent it, I thought, “You know what, I don’t like my story and I doubt I ever will, but I don’t hate my story any longer.” I was so thankful for this prompt that revealed this new truth to me.

Earlier that same day I had sat with two people at different times as they shared very hard personal things happening in their lives. I was so thankful to be able to sit with these precious women and love on them.  As I contemplated this, I became thankful for my story. I am not glad about the decisions I made and if I had a do over, I would happily change a few scenes. But I no longer hate it.  Because of my story I have the capacity to sit in messy complicated places with others fully in grace—without judgement. It is a beautiful thing to be able to sit with someone and pour out grace after they have been rejected and shamed by others.

Our hard messy stories expand our capacity to walk in grace.

I now trust the Lord more than I ever have before. I have my abortion story, which I have told countless times now (I remember when God called me to tell it and how fearful I was). But that is only a part of my story. A lot of life has happened since I was in college—27 years of life (yikes, I just kind of told my age). Our life is made up of more than a single event. There is so much I could share and perhaps one day I will. But what I do know through it all is that my God continues to show up again and again and He is faithful. And the things the enemy may have meant for evil or to cause harm, the Lord continues to turn around and say, “No, this isn’t meant for harm, but it is meant for good and to take you into deeper relationship and deeper trust in Me.”

I still hate the sin. I hate that I won’t see my daughter lost to abortion until I get to heaven. I hate that I caused pain to people I love. I hate that others caused pain. Just like Jesus, I hate the sin, but I don’t hate the story. He is in the story.

Jesus hates sin and sin was the catalyst to the greatest story—the story of redemption. It is because of His story, that we can be ok with our story. He’s ok with our story—after all He approved the final edit.

He never approves of sin but we have free will and we have choices. What He does approve of is what He will turn around from it if we give Him the story and let Him finish it. It takes courage to turn our story over to Him for the final edits. We often think we can write a better story.

Will you listen to the Lord today? If you were like me and hate your story, He has something He wants to say:

My beloved daughter/son, will you give it to me? Will you give me your heartache, your pain, your suffering? Will you trust me with the final edits? Will you trust me to finish the story? Will you let go and surrender trusting in my goodness? I am trustworthy. Do you believe me? I know how hard this has been and the road you are walking seems too difficult, steep, and treacherous for you. I won’t let you fall. Hold my hand. I’m holding onto you. I always have been. I see you. I know you hate your story, but that is only because you haven’t seen the ending. Let me write the ending for you. Let me lead you. The things on this path will lead you to a beautiful place full of joy and acceptance and glory. You already see the fruit of the steps you’ve taken with me. Keep walking with me as I weave a beautiful story of redemption, grace, and mercy. The final edit will be worth it.

Dear Heavenly Father, we place all the beauty, pain, heartache, wrong choices, every part of our story in your hands. We trust your ever faithful fingers to hold on tightly as we let go and let you write the rest of the story. Lord, may none of it be wasted. Use it all for your glory, every page, every word. We trust every stroke of your heavenly pen dipped in the blood of Jesus Christ to turn our mess into a beautiful story of redemption and grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.