Picture a Lamb

All morning I have been thinking and praying about what to write about today. Since Wednesday is usually the day I post testimonies, I was hoping to find one in my e-mail this morning. But there were none. I thought about posting one of my personal testimonies or a portion of one of my past Bible Studies, or even a chapter from one of my books, but to tell you the truth, I am not thinking in words today, as much as in pictures—one specific picture to be exact. The picture of a little lamb.

It all started last night when I received a message in answer to a question I had asked someone. I had been reading Ephesians 4 and verse 2 stuck in my mind. Always be humble and gentle. Instantly, the wheels began to turn as I thought about how my past definitions of humility and gentleness had caused me heart ache and robbed me of my identity. I immediately thanked the Lord that I was no longer wearing the counterfeit slave garments of false humility and niceness.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to hear other’s insight concerning the Word of God, so I sent out a message to someone I barely knew and asked for their insight. I was preparing for an enlightening discussion and sharing of some testimonies, but what I got back left me speechless. “Picture a lamb…”

After reading the rest of the description, I sat back in my chair and blankly stared at my computer screen. I wondered why tears were forming in the corners of my eyes. I closed my eyes trying to picture a gentle little lamb, but the lamb I saw had fangs and was roaring like a lion. It troubled me that I was having difficulty picturing a gentle creature, so I got up and went about my normal business, deciding I would try to picture the lamb later on that night.

Before bedtime, I closed my eyes and tried again. This time the little lamb was far in the distance. I asked the Lord why I was having such a difficult time with the gentle little lamb. There was no answer.

As I was studying the Word and writing notes this morning, I had pretty much convinced myself that I didn’t picture the lamb because I am a teacher and I learn differently. But then God reminded me of all of the times He speaks to me through visions. Why was I having so much trouble with this picture?

Believe it or not, as I write this I am getting my answer. Part of me still views gentleness as weakness. Because of his wounds, my ex-husband was nether kind nor gentle. And because of my wounds, my definitions of both kindness and gentleness caused me to have low self-worth and be subservient.

Since I now have been walking in the freedom of knowing who I am in Christ for quite a few years, I have a totally new understanding of who God is, who I am, and about how relationships should look. But I am also fully aware that because of His love and care for me, God is continuously healing and restoring the broken pieces of my life. Apparently, there is something deep in me that He is bringing to the surface for me to examine, to receive revelation about, and to release to Him.

I am not sure what wound He is beginning to reveal to heal because of this little lamb, but until I receive the full revelation, I will picture the lamb I can always easily picture. The Lamb that was slain for me before the foundations of the world. The lamb that holds me, His little lamb, close to His heart—my precious, beloved Savior and closest friend Jesus Christ.

 

May you and I always keep our eyes on the Lamb of God!

Be abundantly blessed,

Jeannie

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NKJV).

“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

 

Scars into Stars

The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy, but God gives life abundantly. Today’s post is a powerful testimony by my friend Cilinda. Thankfully, we serve a mighty God who brings beauty out of ashes and as Cilinda so beautifully says, “turns our scars into stars.”

I started out thinking I was going to write a very short rendition of my “autobiography” (which I have promised both myself and God, but have yet to do), but God has laid it on my heart to write my testimony in a much different fashion/form.

To cover my background and help it to make sense of where I am today, I will say my life has not been “the American Dream” in any manner. At the ages of seven and nine years old I was molested. My parents never knew because I was not capable of understanding what had happened to me, being so young at those times. It probably behooves anyone reading this, to think how something like that could’ve happened to a child and the parents not ever know. Fear and folly, I would dare to say, is what allowed me to keep it a secret for so many years.

My mother was forty-three years of age when she gave birth to me (my father was fifty-two years old). My precious mother had too many medical problems to mention, and needless to say, after having three daughters many years earlier in her life, was not “expecting” the birth of the fourth daughter (me)! But she and my father welcomed me into this world with love and their faith in the Lord knowing that my birth was His will and all would be right with the universe!

You may have heard the old sayings such as “ignorance is bliss,” or “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”… well, unbeknownst to me, as a child, I took those old adages and lived by them for several years. I kept the ‘secrets’ of what those two men did to me hidden as deep within me as I could possibly bury them. My life played out as I would consider “normal”, but as the years rolled by, I would find out that buried bones sometimes get dug up or uncovered.

As my high school graduation approached, I was more than excited over the life I saw before me! I was engaged to a military guy five years older than me. Our wedding was two weeks after my graduation, and I couldn’t wait to be married to the man of my dreams, have our own home and one day have children of our own! The “American Dream”, right? Well, all that soon changed and my vision of the “American Dream” was shattered into a million pieces and scattered to the uttermost parts of the earth, or so it seemed.

My fiancé and I were involved in a most tragic automobile accident May 2nd, 1978. A semi-truck ran the traffic light as we were crossing through our green light. The big rig hit our car on my fiance’s side, sending us spinning, striking another vehicle in our path, and leaving a mass of destruction in a matter of seconds! Four days later, I came out of a coma, to find out about my fiance’s tragic demise. The driver of the truck didn’t survive this horrendous accident either.

My future was ripped right out from under me; a feeling much worse, I felt, than literally having my heart torn from inside my human body! The one person I was about to vow to spend the rest of my life with… to have and to hold, from this day forward, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, was gone. Death… such a sudden end to a lifelong future ~ one that never began!

I sank into the darkness of depression, not wanting to be in any social gathering with family or friends. I didn’t have a reason to go on, nothing to live for! I just wanted to die! Twice I tried to commit suicide – once by taking an overdose of my prescription. The second time I had to battle thoughts in my head of jumping into my mother’s car and driving off a bridge! But God had other plans, none of which I was aware of yet!

I went through counseling with a psychiatrist, and then more with a psychologist. The pastor of our church also generously counseled me through the word of God (which was, by far, the most valuable and rewarding counsel of all!)

Four months after tragically losing my fiance, a relative passed away, and my parents needed to go to the funeral. They knew I would not be attending with them, as I was not capable of holding up through a memorial service. One of my sisters and her three children lived just down the road from my parents and me, so they arranged for me to stay with her until they returned after the weekend. Little did they, or any of us, know that weekend would be cut short…

My sister was divorced and was enjoying the activities of what single life entailed – going out to the nightclubs on weekends to dance and listen to some good old-fashioned music! Well, her three children had made plans to stay with friends of theirs that weekend, and an old friend of hers happened to come for a visit and ask her to go out on the town. Not wanting to leave me alone, she said I would have to come along. Much to my negative response of not wanting to go, she continued insisting and I finally, begrudgingly gave in.

We went to a nightclub that we had often frequented in the past and stayed for awhile until she and her male counterpart decided they wanted to check out another place. I refused to go and spotted a former friend I hadn’t seen in a while and engaged in conversation with him. She spoke to him briefly and said they would just go for a little while and would be back to pick me up. I took it that she thought my friend would hang out with me until they returned!

An hour or so passed and my friend said he needed to leave, as he had to get up very early the next morning. I sat at the little round table in the corner alone, listening to the band until the bartender announced, “Last call for alcohol”. Next thing I knew, the bouncer walked up and told me I had to leave, “…time to vacate the premises & lock up shop!” I tried to explain that I was waiting for my sister to come back to pick me up, but he simply stated that I needed to “wait outside.”

I exited the building, not knowing what else to do. I looked around, hoping to see my sister and her friend pull up to pick me up. But not a sight of them anywhere! I noticed an army guy that worked with my friend I had talked to earlier and asked him if he could give me a ride to my friend’s so I could have him take me home. He said he was with other guys, but he would see if I could get a ride with them.

Without dragging this story out too long with daunting details, I’ll skip to where this “ride” lead. The car pulled up, and I got in with the “friend of my friend, the driver of the car and the passenger in the back seat. They took me to the dorms where “my friend” should have been, but after I checked his room, knocked desperately on the door (to no avail), I returned to the parking lot to see the three army guys standing by the car. I approached, telling them he didn’t answer and asked if they could take me to the police station so I could get a ride to my sister’s house. Their plans had already been decided. My night on the town soon turned into a night of terror.

During the next few hours, I was repeatedly raped and abused. Then I was taken back to the car. Instead of releasing me, one of the men then took me to another location. Fear enveloped me as questions ran through my mind. “Where was he taking me? God, why is this happening to me? Is this going to end? “How” is this going to end??? ”

Once again, I was raped. My captor then opened the car door, got out of the driver’s side, walked around to the passenger’s side, told me to slide behind the wheel, threw the keys at me as he slid into the car and said I could drive to my sister’s! My mind was not in a state of rationalization, nor did I remember the actions taken in driving myself to my sister’s house. All I can possibly accredit my safe arrival to is only the sheer grace of God!! As I pulled up in my sister’s driveway and grabbed the door handle to get out, he threatened me, “Don’t tell anyone what happened tonight, because the big guy WILL come find you!”

I broke down and told my sister and her male friend what had happened! Her male friend took me to the infirmary and the doctors called the military police. I was tended to & cleaned up, then taken to the crime scenes to verify my story. I had to return the next day for a lineup where I identified both guys.

Two years later I received a certified letter while I was living on a military base in Germany. I was married and we were expecting our first child. The letter was from the U.S. Dept of Criminal Justice, stating that the trial had taken place, and both militants had been tried and found guilty and were dishonorably discharged from the Army! But no sentence or jail time for either! I remember thinking, “Justice… is that what you call it?”

I continued to live my life, and raise two sons.  My first marriage lasted sixteen years. Thirteen years later I remarried. That one lasted four years. Although both of my marriages ended in divorce, I watched my two wonderful, blessed sons grow up and get married. One of my sons has given me two of the most treasured blessings I claim – my grandson & granddaughter!!

My family are my treasures and this life is where I am meant to be…The past? It’s dead & gone… buried! Those buried bones I spoke of earlier did get dug up… but not in the way you would imagine. Again, God’s mercy and grace prevailed!

I was approached at a random meeting by someone in the Criminal Justice Department in Texas (where I lived after I married & raised my children). I told my story and of how God brought me through everything with His protecting angels all around me. I shared how I could have died in these instances, but by God’s grace, I’m alive today and healthy and well, with bountiful blessings the Lord has bestowed upon me through His love for me – HIS child! His child… ‘that’ I am! I told him that God watched in pain as these things happened to me throughout my life, but He did NOT allow any of it to destroy me or take my life! He had guarded, guided, and protected me and brought me to a ‘safe’ place!’

After hearing my story, this official asked me if I would be willing to share my story with others and tell them about how it impacted my past AND my current life! I accepted, not knowing what I was getting into or the difference it would make in my life!

I spoke to parole officers in training, as well as “parolees” who were in prison for committing the same crimes that had been committed against me!  How powerful our God is!! This was another chapter of my life – the one I call “the forgiving chapter”! This is where I came ‘face-to-face’ with those who have hurt and caused pain and suffering to others like myself… THIS was GOD reaching out (through me and my life’s story) to these criminals (sinners) to let them know that HE is all-powerful, yet He is a forgiving God! He allowed me to witness to these men about how HE brought me through all of my past! And through this came “forgiveness”.I realized I no longer had the hate and anger ‘buried’ inside of me toward those men from my past for what they had done to me! In a sense, you could say “God brought me ‘to’ prison to free me ‘from’ my own prison!”

God had allowed me to be a part of a family who knew Him, served Him, and loved Him. My parents taught me how to believe in God. Through attending church regularly, I was taught about how we, our world, and everything in it and beyond was created. I learned about the hardships of people throughout the Bible and about how God delivered those who believed through it all! I learned about Jesus’ birth, His life, and all the torture, pain, and suffering He went through before dying on the cross for the sins of the world. And I learned about how Jesus resurrected back to life so that I/we could live beyond all the tribulations we have here on earth!

At the age of thirteen, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I realized then that I was not alone on my journey and that He had been by my side in my “innocence of life!” Although I did encounter terrible tragedies later in my life, I now know that God was, is, and ‘always’ will be by my side no matter what my future unfolds!

Today, through my past, both good and bad, I reflect on where God was in my life. He was by my side, holding my hand, and carrying me through the parts of my life that I would not have survived – without HIM! I am blessed to attend a wonderful church who loves and serves God “wholeheartedly”. I too, serve in this church through ministries God has placed before me to show how awesome He is and how HE provides for each and every one of His children, through any and all circumstances throughout our lives!

Besides working in our church bookstore, I am a leader of a wonderful Life Group called “Challengers”. I also am a part of an amazing God-given ministry called God Behind Bars, which allows me to attend ‘our’ church’s service in the very same prison God took me to when He opened the door for my healing to begin, as well as my “purpose” to be revealed! God is so  awesome, and amazing beyond our comprehension, but totally within our acceptance!

There are precious memories I hold on to of years gone by – that I will forever reminisce and thank God for as I smile with much appreciation and gratitude…Thank You, God, for always staying by me, for preserving my life, for showing me there are greater pains than all I have ever been through, and for my life eternal – my salvation!

One day I shall see my parents who are in Heaven… along with my sister and other loved ones who have long since passed. But as long as I am on this earth, I daily thank God that I can minister through my testimony and I am grateful that He has molded me into a vessel that He so carefully and lovingly guards, guides and protects, yet employs for His services to others.

Forgiveness is the key to a faulty lock that you thought could never be opened! How did I get through all of my past, you ask? Not ‘just’ by the Grace of God, but by His genuine love, His purpose, and His plan for me…And now, today…I look forward to my future, watching my children and grandchildren as their lives change, grow, and unfold the way God plans… watching and living the rest of my life, as it, too, turns page-by-page, as my book is being written by the hand of our Almighty God, who turns our scars into STARS!

 

Looking Forward

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who is single about the qualities she wanted in a future husband. She immediately piped up, “I want a man who works. My ex-husband was lazy and would not keep a job.”

Even though that was a good expectation, something didn’t sit right in my spirit. As I continued to talk to her I could hear myself. “I want _______ or I don’t want _______ because I don’t want someone like my ex.”

Sometimes when I am talking to people, God gives me little downloads. This was one of those times. I heard coming out of my mouth, “Instead of  making your decisions based upon what your ex didn’t do, focus on what God wants to do for you.” ” I immediately thought to myself, “That’s really good!”

One is about judgment; the other is about jubilee.

One is about problems; the other is about promises

One is about who hurt me then; the other is about who God has for me now.

Whether it stem from a family member, friend or ex, I have yet to meet anyone who has not been hurt from a past relationship. We often think if we keep our focus on the flaws of the people who have hurt us, we will be safe in our new relationships. However, I have learned that while it is true that we need to be aware of wrong patterns and wrong thinking, in order to move forward, we must also look forward. Instead of our plumb lines being based on what someone did to us in the past, they should be based on what God will do for us in the future.

The key to moving forward is to live in the now and trust God with the plans He has for us. If you and I continue to seek the Lord in the present and let Him heal us and bring us truth in His presence, then we will be ready to receive His presents (the best relationships He has for us.)

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise”  (Philippians 4:8 NLT).

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 34:7 NLT).

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,” (Philippians 3:13 NLT).

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”( Jeremiah 29:11).

 

I Didn’t Choose This!

Yesterday I talked to a woman whose life has been turned upside down because of her husband’s recent choices. It’s easy to get discouraged or even feel hopeless when another person’s choices change the course of what you and I thought our futures (or our loved one’s futures) would look like. For many years, I thought the harmful or hurtful decisions of others determined my destiny. This messed up thinking gave unhealthy people way too much control in my life. It also kept me from trusting God with my future.

A few years ago I was upset and discouraged over some choices a loved one had made that affected me. As I was praying for comfort and wisdom the following came to mind:

What do we do when other’s choices change our lives?

Be Real-Sometimes we think being godly means we can’t have negative emotions. I have learned the hard way that not acknowledging anger keeps us from working through issues and healing. Tell God all about your anger, hurts, and disappointments. Be real with Him. He can take it! He knows what is in your heart.  He wants to talk with you, walk with you through the storm, and heal your wounds.

Believe-You and I need to always be aware that God loves us and has our best interests in mind. Believing in God’s unconditional love will open us up to hear His heart and to receive all He has for us.

Recognize-You and I need to know that although someone else’s choices might have caused a shift, and things might not look the way we thought they would, the plans and purposes (destinies) God has for us as individuals have not changed.

Shift our eyes-Instead of staring at the messes, you and I need to set our sights on the Lord, the maker of Heaven and earth. Keeping our eyes on Him will keep the enemy from tormenting our minds.

Remember-When we are hurting, it’s easy to feel as if we are victims. Although circumstances resulting from another’s choices might bring suffering, those choices are also an opportunity for growth. In the midst of suffering, you and I must always remember that through Christ we are “more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37).

Forgive-Holding onto unforgiveness will only hinder us. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). You and I must not allow him to steal from us more than he already has. We all sin, but some choices have greater consequences and cause more pain than others. Most wrong choices are often a result of deeper heart issues. When we are hurting, it’s hard for us to see someone else’s pain. As we give the ones who have hurt us to God and pray for the healing of their hearts, our hearts will receive healing as well.

Take responsibility-Sometimes we might have been part of the problem that resulted in choices others have made that have hurt us. While it is important to own up to our behaviours so we can continue to grow, it is equally important not to take responsibility for another’s choices.

Align-When you and I have been hurt by someone’s choices it’s easy to make agreement with lies—lies about God, ourselves, and others. Praying, studying the Word, and receiving wise counsel from other believers, displaces the lies and aligns us with truth.

Grieve-When choices bring loss, we have to grieve the loss so we can go on. Some losses take longer to work through. God understands. You and I mustn’t be hard on ourselves for grieving. Denial can keep the door open for the enemy to continue to rob from us. The Lord draws close to the broken-hearted. Let Him comfort you.

Release-Although it might not feel like it, God is in control. Release your burdens to Him and stand on the promises in His Word. He will bring good out of what the enemy has intended for evil.

Give-When our worlds feel as though they are falling apart it’s easy to make everything about us. Giving of ourselves helps us to be thankful, see more clearly, and reminds us that we have purpose.

Walk in peace-When you and I feel controlled or helpless it is easy to say or do things that we will later regret. Continuous fellowship with God quiets our spirits and gives us peace that passes understanding.

Life can be hard, but God is good. If you are walking through the valley of betrayal, abandonment, or loss because of another’s choices, remember that the Lord is with you. If you put your faith and trust in Him, He will restore what has been stolen from you. Others may hurt you, but they do not have power over you. Always keep in mind that the only person who can keep you from fulfilling the call of God on your life is you!

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie Boatright

Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (NLT).

Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.’ ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you’, says the Lord. ‘I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes'” (NLT).

Revelation 3:8 “I know all things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close….” (NLT).

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us” (Romans 8:37).