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Opened Eyes; Truth is Here

Opened Eyes; Truth is Here

Mercedes Benz stadium filled with 65,000 decreeing and declaring the goodness of God “There’s nothing our God can’t do.” This is the start of the roaring ’20s. May the Glory of God be shown in the land of the living. Passion 2020.

Months later……

Good evening America, today. The Coronavirus is now a global health emergency. Stay at home orders filled the cities, loved ones dying alone, schools shut down, workers laid off, small businesses closed, Grocery shelves empty, Death toll approximately 375,000.

Asian Americans experiencing hate and blame. Lives took in the hands of law enforcement. Protest across the nations, screaming black lives matter. Blackout Tuesday Squares bursting Instagram timelines. Rage swept the hearts of the unheard and marginalized. Buildings were burning. Political upheaval, chants that filled the US Make America Great Again, protest against mask-wearing, Pages of Social Media demanding “We must Cancel you. Exposure to unfaithful preachers and teachers, pulpits speechless, members leaving the church, and division is now to the light where all can see. 2020, will you choose aside?

2020

What do you do when you hear those numbers? Do you hide and wish it never happened? Do you grieve the tragedies that took place? Do you mourn the loss of loved ones? Do you become denial hoping 2020 was just a dream? Do you choose sides? Do you become angry at so much loss? Do you feel the wave of depression seeping into your attention? Do you panic and make partnership with fear? Do you see the flashback of hardship? Do you hear the cries of the hurting? Or do you scroll past it, becoming desensitized to the global experience of 2020?

The truth is this list of questions can go on and on. In transparency, 2020, for me, was a world of things from covid crises, uprise in the exposure of injustice, 2020 experienced two pandemics that shook the core, the heart, and the eyes of the world. Have the eyes of the people been shut? I believe there was a shaking that required us to look at what we believe to be true about God, those around us, and ourselves.

In transparency, the truth is, all I could hear and see were the lost lives because of racial tension and police brutality. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and it continues. Regardless of where you stand, lives were lost. The black community alongside others was crushed and yet a continuation of grieving a never-ending cycle of “Who’s next, could it be me?” Names that hit the headlines filled the streets with protest and demand for equality, equity, human rights. All I could do was think of my parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends.

I was overwhelmed with anger, sadness, exhaustion, and grief. I wanted to give up. I wanted to quit my relationships with my friends who didn’t look like me, exempt myself from majority-white spaces, and call the shots myself.  I wanted to choose a side because you know that is a lot easier. I hit a wall; either I was going to stay and build a wall of self-protection, or I could allow the Lord to come close and rewrite the narrative, not erasing the reality but seeing through the reality with his eyes. This wall, for sure, is the “I AM FINE”; this wall holds the banner of blame and shame. When the sun shined, it gave a blinding shade of desensitization. Side effects that penetrated the soul with numbness, confusion, emptiness, hatred, and loneliness. In his kindness and compassion, I had this vision; in the vision, it was Jesus and me; in the distance was the chaos of the world of 2020 on role-play. I saw him display a rage of emotions, and he asked me this question that speared the wall to crumble.

“Let me restore your soul and give you the mind of Christ,” and with my yes to him, speared the wall into crumbles. I received his heart; my language started to shift, the way I viewed others, the way I dealt with hardship, I never thought I could begin to love others who have mistreated me or those who do not care for racial Reconciliation. It all shifted when I said yes to receiving the restoration. The Lord gives us full permission to feel and offers an alternative (known as the instead.) I am learning to live in the beautiful tension that God sent his son Jesus for the oppressed and the oppressors. There I saw the promise of deep joy in trials, and I saw a miracle happen for myself; the healing of the heart produces a sound mind.

Things come to life when we say yes to the mind of Christ. June 25, 2020, was the day I received the message that changed my life. Sadie and Team Live Original reached out with an opportunity to partner with them. To serve and bring Christ-centered content to social media and Live Original Sister. I was surprised that a ministry would reach out to black voices during such a chaotic time in our country. The Lord opened my eyes to see that this is what the work of unity looks like fighting for change, to bring different perspectives and history with God. I commend Live Original for taking the steps that brought diversity and inclusion. Live Original made it clear that their heart is to carry the spirit of the Lord. His heart is for us all to take hand and hand, all image bearers, together in unity, bringing the Peace of God.

Announcing joining Live Original, I received a few messages over the months I decided to put together. “Seeing you with Live Original gave me hope again before I wanted to call it quits. To see you doing the work of unity, I, too, no longer want to give up. I am grateful for this.”

Opening to the truth, I saw it takes the mind of Christ to heal and reconcile. To know the truth that where there is unity, there is strength. The Lord poured out his oil on the pain and fear that gave us the courage to reveal oppression. He wanted us to experience being fought for in a community. Partnering with Live Original, the Lord rebuilt trust by forming new bridges of connection and love. It has been an honor to serve with this team, and I cannot wait to see what the Lord does through the unification as the body of Christ. I believe this can happen for each of us when we begin to seek the mind of Christ; it is powerful, it brings life, and it heals. God’s mind brings restoration to the land and hearts of all people, groups, and nations.

We must continue in the work of representation, partnership, and unification; it matters.

There is beauty in learning a new way, the Lord’s way. May we offer others love instead of rage. Unity is worth fighting for—experiencing the peace of God.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15 NIV

Victoria Dynasty James is a friend of God. You can always find her giving encouraging words on Instagram @victoria.dynasty and in person. Her prayer is that others will come to know the value of friendship with Jesus. 

Walking Away From Shame

Walking Away From Shame

After being raised in the South by women who dared not leave the house without lipstick, then subsequently working as an actress and model in my early twenties, my relationship to beauty and satisfaction with my body feel complex at best. That complexity exponentially multiplied after I suffered a massive brain stem stroke at age 26, just a few months after giving birth to my first child.

In the blink of an eye, I could no longer walk, talk, swallow, drive, or care for my son. The soft postpartum tummy and bags under my sleep-deprived eyes suddenly paled in comparison to the reality of drooping facial muscles and limbs that no longer responded to neurological commands. My body had become distinctly different after pregnancy. Now, after a catastrophic stroke, it was altogether foreign.

Over years spent in physical rehabilitation, I learned new ways of navigating the world in my modified state. But, even in the healing and adapting, my body remained alien to me. To this day, my face is partially paralyzed, I require a wheelchair to get around, I have severe double-vision, and my fine motor control is mostly gone. I struggled to love my body when it was “normal.” How was I expected to love it now?

So many of us have internalized messages that we must meet certain metrics to be accepted. You’ve gotta look good while you do good. You’ve gotta pull it all together and not let anything unappealing hang out. You’ve gotta be enough but also not too much. In other words, to be loved by others requires that we put in a lot of effort and put on a lot of makeup.

Beneath our pursuit of external beauty and eternal youth is both a deep fear—to escape death—and a deep longing—to be loved without having to earn it. Our pain-avoidant and death-phobic culture tries to calm our fears of aging with every manner of creams, injections, and workout classes. Buy this. Eat that. Be young and beautiful forever.

While my stroke stole much of my independence and traditional “beauty,” it also disabused me of the illusion that death can be outrun. I met death when I was 26. The sweeping magnitude of that experience means I no longer participate in the fruitless charade of covering up my flaws or concealing my brokenness—both physical and emotional— because I now know that life is simply too tenuous to carry the burden of shame.

Being satisfied in our skin isn’t so much about looking the right way. It’s about surrendering the shame surrounding our deficits. When our eyes move past our own navels and onto the panoramic view of the goodness of existence, shame no longer has a place in us. Spending our time picking apart imperfections and shelling out resources to fix flaws will prove to be a tragic waste in the end. Shame is a costly habit with a paltry return on investment.

The body positivity movement, which rejects a narrow beauty standard and celebrates a wide spectrum of bodies, has brought healing to so many people by challenging the baseless status quo of how a body is supposed to look, and I applaud that. Lately, however, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of body neutrality, which focuses on what our bodies can do rather than how our bodies look. As a woman with physical disabilities, even body neutrality is a complex practice to engage because my body no longer does so many of the things it used to. So how can I befriend my body when it doesn’t always measure up to standards of beauty or utility?

While my hands don’t always cooperate and my gait is wobbly, this body of mine tirelessly serves as my only available interface with existence itself. My broken brain, eyes with double vision, and paralyzed vocal cords continue to ping signals of beauty from the outside world, from inside my mind, and from the heart of God. I’ve come to appreciate that the interplay of my inner being and outer form are the very embodiment of the cruciform life: Christ’s perfect power playing out through imperfect flesh-and-blood means.

We can be grateful for each facet of our inner and outer selves because God blends the beautiful stuff and the broken stuff to create the lives, families, passions and purposes we have today. We can train ourselves to celebrate the cellulite because it’s sprinkled on the body that allows us to engage that existence. And by walking away from the shame of what I should look like and how I should function, I’m robbing the fear of death of its power. I’m choosing to use my one precious body to fully engage my one precious life, while believing the best comes after the death of this body. The wrinkling and softening of age feel less scary when I reframe them as mile markers along the rich journey to eternity with God.

I’m training myself to not merely tolerate but celebrate my broken brain and body because they didn’t ruin my perfect life. Rather, they gave me the gift of a good/hard life. Because my outer body has suffered, my inner life has flourished. I have reframed my deficits as grounding truths that remind me my worth was never tied to my facial symmetry or fitness level. I am freed from the crippling burden of chasing youth or the perfect figure because my gaze is fixed on the grace gift of existing rather than the shame of imperfection.

When I look at my paralyzed face, I see a woman in the process of transformation. When I see stretch marks from pregnancy, I see the beautiful children who came from my body. When I see stretch marks that aren’t from pregnancy, I see bountiful feasts I’ve enjoyed. When I see bags under my tired eyes, I see a hard-won second chance at life. When my standard of beauty is redemption, not weight; when it’s sacrifice, not self-absorption; when it’s new life, not chasing youth gone by, I can see how my body embodies the grace gift of a second chance at simply existing.

This excerpt is taken from The Powerful Workshop inside the LO sister app and written by the amazing Katherine Wolf! LO sister is all about championing women to live out their purpose. We believe that happens with prayer, support and encouragement. If you’re searching for a safe place to be heard, share, and encourage others in their lives, too, this is the community for you, friend! Join here!

Katherine is a communicator and advocate. She leverages her redemptive story to encourage those with broken bodies, broken brains, and broken hearts. Engaging both faith-based and secular communities, she seeks to bridge the gap between those disabled on the outside and those disabled on the inside with the hope that Jesus brings healing to the deepest pains we all carry. She currently reside in Atlanta Ga with her husband Jay and two sons, James and John. To connect, visit hopeheals.com or @hopeheals

Faithful Friends

Faithful Friends

You know those people you can’t live without? The ones who push you toward Jesus daily. Who pick you up when you fall down. Maybe you’re still searching for those people. If that’s the case, then trust me when I say I was right there with you for years.

I struggled in the friend department. No, I didn’t do the sorority thing. I was never the kid with a bunch of neighborhood friends and I never took dance lessons where everyone seemed to meet their best friends. I grew up with two brothers, okay. There weren’t exactly any “sisterly bonds” in my household. No mani-pedi dates or late night talks. More like swinging open my bedroom door on a Saturday morning with the speaker blaring to wake me up and annoy me. While I love my brothers, I always had slight envy toward my friends with sisters. I mean, a built-in best friend? Heck yeah, I would have taken that when I seemed to have no close friends or was so wrapped up in drama with the friends I did have. But what I found is that I was looking for true friendship in all the wrong places.

I’ll put it the way scripture does..

“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

And quite frankly, my view of true friendship was a little off. I thought in order to have true friends I had to act “cool”, show up to parties, spill the latest gossip, just be the girl everyone likes. The friendships I had were surface level and stagnant, but the type of friendship I was yearning for dove far deeper than the surface. I prayed for Godly friends. Literally begged God for them. Which is quite ironic considering I wasn’t even living like the type of friend I wanted. I found myself crying while writing in my journal over and over these words: “I just want someone to really see me.” “If only someone could understand me.” Looking back, that sounds so dramatic. But I remember how real it felt in the moment. The loneliness. The hopelessness. Maybe you’re in that place today. Maybe you feel alone or completely hidden. Like you have no one to turn to and no one to listen. Well I have some good news for you, friend. You are not alone and you are not hidden. And you always have a friend. Scripture says so, and God’s Word doesn’t lie.

“The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.(Psalm 34:15)

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)

The character of Jesus is steadfast and His presence is not dependent on our obedience. Thank you, Lord. Because if that were the case, He would have left my world a long time ago. I once heard a pastor say he believes when we get to Heaven we’ll look back and be shocked to realize Jesus was there in the mundane moments just as He was in the life altering ones. It’s easy to acknowledge Him when we need Him most. When we’re desperate for Him. But what about the drive to work or the walk to class? When we’re pumping gas or in a coffee shop. Even in the little argument with your boyfriend. Each mundane moment connects to another and leads to the life altering ones. And Jesus is a part of it all.

“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3)

So, if God assures us that He’s in every moment, we just have to learn to prioritize His presence.

I used to take walks with Jesus. Just Him and me down my street. I’d take the time to tell Him about my day and He’d take the time to listen. Even if I tried, I couldn’t put into words how much the fruits from those walks meant to me. Joy, peace, love, gentleness. It was as if Jesus took every worry away for those moments in time and allowed me to fully experience what truly matters in life: Him. But somehow I let myself get out of that habit and sucked into the busyness of life and I’ll be the first to say it took a toll on my relationships. And while I’m still slowly getting back into the habit, man I see such a shift in my thoughts and perspective when I take them. There’s just something about understanding that God knows everything we plan on telling Him, but He’d walk with us all day just to hear it from His children. If you’ve never taken a walk with Jesus, I highly recommend it. You can thank me later 😉

Friends are great and mine are some of my greatest treasures, but we will never know a friend like Jesus. One who can flood us with peace and make sense of our mess, even when we often press our own self-destruct button.

Once I stopped searching for fulfillment at every dead end and wrong relationship, my world changed. My perspective changed. Everything changed.

My pastor always used to say, “If you want to see God work in your life, go do the last thing He told you to do.”

Before I completely surrendered to God, I remember hearing His voice so clearly that I would write it all down in my notes so I wouldn’t miss a thing. The Lord was so patient with me and I’ll never forget the peace that came over me when I finally said yes to Him. Along with that peace came fear and heartache. Thankfully, the other two came and went, but the peace never left.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when I started truly living for Jesus and was obedient to do the last thing He asked me to do, it was only 2 weeks later that I met my best friend, Summer Otwell, who is like a sister to me. An answered prayer. And not too long after that, my two other best friends, Olivia Telano and Lydia Dozier, stepped into my life. It was during that time I learned the beauty of Godly friendships. The ones that are rooted far deeper than the surface. Here’s some scripture to sum up what I’ve found this kind of friendship to be:

“If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10)

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

When we get our relationship right with the Lord, then we can experience our relationships here on Earth the way Jesus intended them to be. True friends tell you who you are instead of who you’re not. But at the same time, they’re not afraid to hold you accountable to be the person they know God created you to be. They’ll laugh with you on your good days and love you on your worst. They’re compassionate and forgiving. And they don’t let you forget what God says is true about you. Friends like these are hard to find and irreplaceable once you do. If you’re in the process of searching for Godly friendships, my advice to you is to be the friend you want to have and ask God to send them your way. Then be obedient to follow wherever He leads in your life.

Finally, when God gives you those people, don’t let them go. And thank Him for them every day. You are so loved and God has not forgotten about you, friend. I’ll bet He’s preparing those friendships for you even in this moment!

Elizabeth is a writer for Team LO and is crazy about Jesus! She attends Louisiana Tech University and in her free time she loves spending time with friends, drinking coffee, and leading worship at her church in West Monroe, Louisiana.

Follow Elizabeth on Instagram @elizabethamercer 

How Did I Get Here?

How Did I Get Here?

“Nothing is never nothing. It’s always something.” 

—Cecelia Ahern, The Book of Tomorrow

“Chris, drop anchor,” Nick shouted to me from the stern of our little boat in the Aegean Sea. We were vacationing for a few days in Santorini, Greece—my favorite place on earth. (Yes, the same place where I’ve daydreamed about opening a little café.) It was fun to be out on the water and to reminisce about our honeymoon more than two decades before in this same paradise. Just like back then, Nick had rented a boat so we could explore the island and its coves.

Both Nick and I love boating. I especially love the beauty of gliding across the water, watching the sunset, and feeling the salt air on my face. Nick likes more high-octane adventure, and he never minds getting so far out that we encounter shipping lanes where our boat feels like the size of a life raft next to massive cargo ships. (Of course, those kinds of trips just cause me to pray more.)

Today, he just wanted to fish, which meant I could relax. As we left the marina, we headed in search of our favorite small cay and its secluded little lagoon. It was the perfect place to drop anchor.

Whenever we go boating, Nick often fishes while I close my eyes and soak up the sun. Don’t get me wrong; I love to fish too . . . as long as I don’t have to touch the fish. The truth is, I like the thought of fishing more than actually fishing, so I suppose you can say sunbathing is my preferred sport.

As Nick set up his gear and cast his line, I went to the bow of the boat and dropped the anchor. Then I stretched out to rest and nap. It was the perfect kind of day. Just the two of us and lots of sun and sea.

I must have dozed off longer than I thought, because when I awoke, the mild breeze had turned into a biting wind. The heat of the sun on my skin had turned into a damp chill, and the boat was rocking way too much for our shallow cove. As I opened my eyes and sat up, I looked around to find us far from where I’d fallen asleep.

How did we get here?

Nick was stowing his gear. “Chris, did you drop the anchor like I told you?”

“Yes, of course,” I answered him. (I always do my best to be a great first mate!)

“But did you set it? The current has taken us really far out.”

“Did I what? What are you talking about? You asked me to drop the anchor, and I did. You didn’t say to do anything else,” I said in defense of my expert seamanship.

“Chris, if you don’t ensure the anchor is attached to the ocean floor, then we aren’t really anchored.”

Well, no one told me that part of the equation.

Holding on to the side of the boat, with the waves looming larger and larger, I estimated that we’d drifted more than a mile out to sea—right into the shipping lanes, and this time it wasn’t for adventure. Apparently, Nick had taken a break from fishing to nap as well—and neither of us had noticed that we were drifting into dangerous waters, far away from the security of our calm little cove. I looked beyond the nearby ominous ships and saw a storm brewing in the distance, working its way toward us. We’d have to outrun it for sure. None of this was what I had imagined for our day.

As I held on, Nick began to navigate our little boat back in the direction of land. Fighting the current and the waves, he tacked back and forth through the choppy seas and against the fierce wind. I grew nauseated as the boat ran straight up a wave only to fall on top of the next—one right after the other. My knuckles grew white as I gripped the rail tighter and tighter trying to stay put on the seat.

Nick stayed with it. He’s always been an expert captain, so I knew we’d make it back somehow, but the journey was nothing less than arduous. It took us so long to reach port that when we idled into the marina, the sun had set and the docks were almost deserted. As we secured the boat in a slip and climbed out, it seemed every muscle in my body that had tensed for hours was letting go all at once. Wobbling toward the car with just a few streetlights and the moon to guide us, I reflected on all we’d just been through—and what had caused it.

Nick had positioned us correctly, facing into the breeze, when he asked me to drop anchor—something he usually managed that I never paid much attention to. If I had just dropped it, held on to the rope, and then given it a good tug as we floated away from it, we would have been secured. The water was so clear, I probably could have seen it take hold if I’d been watching it, but I didn’t fully understand the connection between dropping the anchor and anchoring: a dropped anchor gives the appearance of stability, while a set anchor actually grants stability. Only the latter keeps you safe. The other lets you drift into danger, wherever the current is flowing. It will lead you somewhere, anywhere—most likely where you do not want to go. What I learned on the water that day was even more critical than I realized. More relevant than I had ever understood.

It is so easy to drift.

All you have to do is nothing.

Taken from How Did I Get Here: Finding Your Way Back to God When Everything is Pulling You Away by Christine Caine Copyright ©2021 by Christine Caine Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.

Christine Caine is an activist, speaker, and author living in Southern California. Along with her husband, Nick, she is the founder of A21, a global anti-human trafficking organization, and Propel Women, an organization dedicated to celebrating every woman’s passion, purpose, and potential. She regularly speaks in conferences, churches, colleges, and international gatherings. She is the author of several books, including her latest book, “How Did I Get Here? Finding Your Way Back to God When Everything is Pulling You Away.” A frequent guest on television programs and podcasts, she also hosts her own television program as well as a podcast, both titled Equip & Empower with Christine Caine. When she’s not traveling, speaking, or writing, she can be found hiking mountain trails, running on the beach, or laughing with her daughters, Catherine and Sophia.

Survivor

Survivor

Finding out you survived an abortion is not something you dream up or plan. It’s the kind of news that comes crashing into your life. Nothing can prepare your heart for realizing you were “that” unwanted, unplanned, and rejected.

Imagine surviving a “medical procedure” meant to end your life—on purpose. There’s no questioning the intent of the procedure and yet, somehow, you miraculously survive when 100% of the odds were against you. Imagine coming to the realization that you live in a society that doesn’t want you to exist, because your mere existence defeats their harmful narrative, and so they ignore you and write you off as crazy and self-serving. Unjustly, you are silenced for something you didn’t ask for. Imagine living this new reality and trying to navigate it in a culture that not only denies your existence and humanity, but also has zero resources for you and the injustice that happened to you.

Unfortunately, that’s the reality I live in every day. In those early years, no one asked if I was okay. Though I had survived, abortion had irrevocably scarred my life not only by taking the life of my twin but also by forever altering my very identity. Still, there was no support group for someone like me, an abortion survivor. I was navigating my new reality and the consequences of the injustice that happened to me all while sharing my life story in the spotlight and on stages across the country.

While navigating my new life as an abortion survivor, I met my (now) husband, and we became pregnant before we were married. We shared the news with our families and our closest friends. I remember thinking, This must be what my birth mother felt like—embarrassed and unsure of what to do. It didn’t take long to realize that what I had was what she had so desperately been searching for and needing in the moment she found out she was pregnant with me. When I shared the news of my pregnancy with my parents and close friends, I was met with reassurance and support, while my birth mother had been met with anger and told she had one choice: abortion.

While I heard the words, “God’s not done writing your story,” “Your pregnancy is not a sin but a blessing,” and “Be proud of the life inside you that God has planned uniquely and wonderfully,” my birth mother had heard, “You are not old enough or ready to be a mother,” “You are having this abortion whether you like it or not,” and “You are going to shut up about this and no one will ever know.”

In a woman’s moment of desperation, she looks to the people in her life. How they respond will determine how she responds. The reassurance from the closest people in my life as I faced my “unplanned pregnancy” is the reason I never thought of my daughter as an unplanned pregnancy. Instead, she was a blessing, even if it felt unexpected. I knew she was not unplanned by God.

During my pregnancy, I had two people on my mind often: my mom and my birth mom. Pregnancy had been a complicated thing for the women in my family and now it was complicated for me, too. Was this a new avenue God had given me that would help me relate to women like my mom and my birth mom?

I thought of the moments in which my mom had cried out to God, asking Him for a child. She didn’t know it then, but God was going to bless her with a miracle child. I empathized with her longing to have a child as I experienced the growth of my daughter in my womb. I tried to include her in my pregnancy so that she could experience some of what her heart had longed for: the ultrasounds, kicks, joys, and surprises that come with having children naturally. I wanted those things for her even though I knew she wouldn’t trade our family or our adoption for the world. It was a special season as we shared in all the moments of my pregnancy, and it made me appreciate her even more. She was the mother God knew I needed, and she made me the most wanted child imaginable without even knowing I had begun my life as an unwanted child. When God hand-picked me from my birth mother’s womb after I escaped death’s grip through the abortion instruments intended to end my life, He hand-picked her for me. Her longing would subside, but He was only beginning to write our incredible story.

My experience also led me to think about the ways my birth mother had been neglected during her pregnancy. She hadn’t been supported, given a choice, or even accompanied by her parents when she delivered me. The choice for abortion and then adoption had been made on her behalf, and her heart struggled to take it all in. I appreciated the support I had from the closest people in my life and recognized the gift I had in my parents as I navigated my pregnancy. My heart broke for Tonya a little more as I realized that I was experiencing  a pregnancy and a support system my birth mother hadn’t even had  a chance to consider.

As I empathized with and related to the experiences of my mother and my birth mother, my eyes were opened to the incredible miracle and gift that was in my womb. I didn’t deserve it, but God had given me another paragraph in the story he was writing—the birth and the life of my precious daughter Sadie-June. My world changed the day she was born and I held her for the first time. Her life is a testament that God will make himself known in unexpected and miraculous ways. He saved my life so that Sadie-June could be born and so that the hope we have in Him could become  abundantly clear: He wants to bring good out of our mess. The birth of my daughter empowered me to trust that I can follow wherever He leads in my life and on this journey of sharing the truth about abortion—no matter how scary, unexpected, or uncertain it may feel.

Claire Culwell is an author, host of the “Called To Be Bold” podcast, and international speaker, represented by the Ambassador Speakers Bureau. She has been featured on Fox News, Focus on the Family, and in many other news outlets. She lives with her husband and their four children in Austin, Texas, where she serves on the communications and public policy committee for the Texas Alliance For Life.

You can read her book, Survivor, here!

To the Girl in a Season of Change

To the Girl in a Season of Change

As we spend time this month speaking and reflecting on sisterhood, I have been really trying hard to reflect on what sisterhood truly is and looks like. Sisterhood is purely about intentionality, vulnerability, and selflessness.

I grew up in a large family with three brothers and two sisters, making me the middle sister. While there are pros and cons to growing up with both an older and younger sister, one thing I have loved more than anything is the form of discipleship that we get to experience. For me I have loved getting to have an older sister who has walked a road ahead of me to counsel me and that I can learn from. I have also loved getting to have a younger sister who is looking up to me to see how I live my life, not putting pressure on me, but keeping me accountable for the way I live my life because I see that I am setting an example. I just want to take a second to be an older sister for the girl who feels lost in transition and needs to know she is not alone…

Transition can be hard. Hard to explain, hard to process. I graduated college this May, but finished my last semester online when moving to work for Live Original. I transitioned way earlier than I had ever planned. A mixture of unexpected goodbyes, but also the overwhelming excitement for working a dream job. I have loved getting to be a part of this community with such encouraging girls who lead me to Christ. While I truly have enjoyed my time the last few months on this new adventure, it has not been easy. I went from being the president of a social club surrounded by a great community, to feeling like a freshman again having to rebuild a community from the ground up. I was new and I REALLY don’t like being new. I moved away from my hometown where all my family live and missed out on many family moments not being home. On top of it all I was working on finishing school and balancing being mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. BUT I can confidently say that despite everything I felt in the beginning, it has been good and the Lord is such a faithful, steadfast, Father through all the changing and growing.

I realize how I spent 3 full years of college setting up my perfect plan for my perfect life only for the Lord to drastically change my heart and open up doors that called me to a life that is almost unrecognizable. MY plan was not to say yes to a job & then move to Louisiana. MY plan was not to work for a ministry, and MY plan was for sure not to leave campus early to finish school online.

Looking back it wasn’t until I stepped outside of MY plan and looked at where the Lord was leading me that I recognized HIS plan was met with nothing but peace, love, growth, and yes uncomfortable moments, but also moments that I have been able to recognize His faithfulness like never before.

So instead of resenting the time and plan that was “taken from me,” I get to rejoice about the most influential season that was college. I thank Jesus for the conversations had, memories made, tears shed, and hard decisions made.

When I am doubting where the Lord has me I have learned to dive into scripture to flood my heart and mind with truth. These are only a few scriptures that I have written on my heart these last few months that allow me to put this season into perspective.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6: 30-34)

“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love the Lord your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-38)

I’m thankful and in awe of a God who answers prayers, changes hearts (specifically mine), and doesn’t waiver or flee in confusing times. And while, yes, the current goodbyes are hard; the renewing and healing of my heart is all because of Jesus.

To the girl who is in a season of change: you are not alone, embrace the in between, run to the Father, and find confidence in the Gospel because there is so much beauty to be found.

Rachel Walle is a part of Team LO and just graduated from Harding University with a Bachelors in Integrated Marketing Communication. She is originally from Dallas TX, but recently moved to Louisiana to work for Team LO and lead the media team out at camp Ch-Yo-Ca! She loves sitting and having intentional conversations (preferably with coffee in hand), spontaneous road trip & adventures with close friends, and capturing memories with her camera through video or photography.
Follow Rachel on Instagram @rachel_reneah

About Sadie & Live Original

Sadie Robertson Huff is well known for her engaging smile and energetic personality, but there is a lot more to the 25-year-old star of A&E’s Duck Dynasty and runner up on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars season 19

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Sadie Robertson Huff is well known for her engaging smile and energetic personality, but there is a lot more to the 25-year-old star of A&E’s Duck Dynasty and runner up on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars season 19

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