What really matters?

I’ve had the opportunity to go to Guatemala on a mission trip as a chaperone for my church’s youth group two different times and both trips impacted me in different ways. The first trip we spent our time in Guatemala City, where there is a clear division between the “haves and have nots.” As we drove from the airport to where we were staying, we passed McDonald’s, Starbucks and a shopping mall. But as we continued driving, I was shocked to see the condition of how some people lived.

552On the side of a mountain there were corregated metal lean-tos and tents. No plumbing, no electricity. It was on this side of the mountain where we learned that people cooked over open fires and breathed in the dangerous fumes. Our group had raised money for months prior to pay for and build stoves for these people during our trip.

We spent a lot of our time at a church in a poor part of town where gangs are prevalent. At this church we hosted a Vacation Bible School for families to bring their children to. The children ranged in age from toddlers to teens and we were treated like royalty. We played games, ate a hot meal together and prayed with the families. It was at this church where many of the families saw a free doctor and received clothing and supplies.

O427n the days we built the stoves, we loaded our truck with the supplies and headed to the side of the mountain that I had seen on our drive from the airport. My heart sunk as I recognized some of the kids from the church and realized that this was where they lived. Each time we built a stove, we asked if we could pray with the family and asked God to bless them. We prayed for the kids and hoped that they would be able to avoid getting involved in the gang life. That first trip was a very humbling experience and as I returned home I had a big culture shock as I stood in my own closet and wept.

 

Why do I have so much and they have so little?

Slowly the shock wore off and I returned to my normal life. I tried to remind myself of what I had experienced and how I had felt, but it wasn’t until we went for our second trip that I really remembered.

608The second time we went to an rural area outside of the city at the base of a volcano called Pacaya. Our bunkhouse was separated from the locals by a chain link fence. As we emerged each morning, the children were waiting for us on the other side of the fence. They welcomed us with hugs and a game of soccer. As we got acclimated, it was apparent that the people who lived here were a lot worse off than those in the city.  Each morning we made trips to see locals and deliver food baskets. The locals made money by going to town and selling eggs, coffee beans, or doing manual labor. No one had a car, so each morning a bus came and the men piled on and were gone for the day. Each afternoon we hosted a program for the children. We helped build a cinderblock building that is now used as a school and painted a building that is now a medical building. As we visited with the locals, we saw that many were cooking over open flames. We made note of the situations that were the worst and returned to build a stove.419

One day as we were delivering food baskets, I took in the despair in front of us. A women with three young kids in a one room “house” made of corrugated metal siding and a tarp for the roof. As the translator explained that we were there to give her food and some dry goods, she began to weep. The translator explained that the gift was not from us, but from God. The kids came forward and started digging into see what we had brought and my heart broke. The translator asked if we could pray with her and the woman agreed. We asked if there was anything specific that we could pray for. I was prepared for her to ask that we pray that she and her family would be able to leave and find a better life, but what she said took me aback.

In sob-filled Spanish, she asked the translator to thank us. She said that she knew we were angels from God because just that morning she had run out of food and didn’t know how she was going to feed her family. She had prayed and then we came. She was crying tears of joy!

I will never forget those trips and the lasting impact the children and families had on me. The size of your house, the amount of things we have, none of them matter.

What really matters is our faith.

Leave Your Past Behind (guest blog)

I am so happy when I hear about others who share their story to help others. Lisa and I met in the blogging world and immediately connected. Her message of God’s grace is a wonderful reminder of His love for all of us, even when we’re not perfect.

Leave Your Past Behind by Lisa Roberts Bell

As I looked at my mom’s beautiful face, she drew her last breath and was immediately with Jesus in Heaven. Wait! What? MY mother, who I loved so very much, was now not with me any longer. She was with her Savior and out of severe pain.

I managed to hold myself together for a few days after her death. After those few calm days, here came hurricane Lisa. I went into self-destruction mode. I drank wine and other liquor until I became numb as to not feel the deep pain from losing my mom to colon cancer. I slept in my own vomit, I hurt all of the people I loved, I lied, I cheated, and found myself in places and situations in which I should have never been.

Yes I was a Christian. I had been a Christian for 20 years at that time. I moved away from God because if I prayed and asked Him for help, my mom’s death would become real. I couldn’t bear it; especially without God. So I continued in my own way to handle the pain.

This lasted for a year and a half. My life was a hot mess and I even knew I needed help. I went to my doctor for help, but there was nothing wrong with me physically. I needed psychological help. IMMEDIATELY!

Fortunately, God led me to a Christian counseling program. In this program I discovered my issues went much deeper than I thought. I didn’t learn good core values as a child so I didn’t love myself enough to make good decisions in my life; thus the poor self-image and self-destruction.

Don’t misunderstand, I had great parents. They, however, were dealing with their own poor self-esteem issues. My mom was sexually abused by a family member and dad was physically abused by his dad. My parents loved me and took care of my every need, but they were tormented by their past while trying to raise three children.
After therapy I gained a new a refreshing self-image. Life will always be full of troubles, especially for Christians, but I was able to leave my unwanted childhood memories behind and discover how much my Lord loved me. And guess what? I learned that I needed to love myself. And I started making good decisions.

This journey opened my eyes to others that were hurting. And in speaking with them found that they too didn’t receive the validation or core values they needed as a child.
God gave me a loving heart for people and to share my story with them. To make them see I am living proof that you can leave your past behind you and begin a fresh, new life. God used me as a vessel to write a book that would prayerfully help others to avoid the obstacles I encountered. To discover their worth in God and learn to love themselves properly. I began writing, blogging, mentoring, and speaking to groups that desperately needed a new start.

I’m so thankful that God is using imperfect me to help and love people and show them how I became a better person on the other side of my storm. And most importantly how I grew closer to God.

My desire for myself and everyone is to be better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today. TO BECOME OUR BEST SELVES. Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 (NLT.)

LisaRoberts-1234Lisa has been a Christian for 25 years. She has a background in human resources and career development. She has spent most of her life teaching others to look inside themselves and find their worth. Having felt the hand of God on her since childhood, she has recently began ministering by writing and public speaking. Lisa currently mentors ladies who have been victims of human trafficking and are looking to begin a new life. She does public speaking engagements in churches and other places as well. With her down to earth personality as well as the transparency about her own psychotic episode, she is able to touch hearts as people are made aware of Jesus’s love for them.

Lisa blogs at http://www.becomingourbestselfblog.wordpress.com, http://www.inspirationfortoday.wordpress.com

She guest blogs at http://www.doctormariomagnonelife.com.

You can also connect with her at:
http://www.twitter.com/bellrlisa
http://www.linkedin.com/in/lisarobertsbell
http://www.pinterest.com/lisaroberts1804
http://www.instagram.com/lisa.bell
http://www.lisarobertsbell.tumblr.com
http://www.facebook.com/lisa.robertsbell
http://www.plus.google.com
http://www.goodreads.com

Lisa has two books available:

A Time to Keep and a Time to Throw Away – it is an eBook and can be purchased at http://www.lulu.com, http://www.barnesandnoble.com, http://www.amazon.com.

9781682704080medLeave Your Past Behind; Uncover the Secret of a New Beginning – you can purchase it in paperback or download an eBook at http://www.tatepublishing.com, http://www.barnesandnoble.com, http://www.amazon.com .

 

Fear of the Unknown

I remember the first time I went to a bible study group. I was a new Christian and was very nervous. I hardly knew any of the books of the Bible and had no idea which of them was in the Old Testament or New. But my friend pressed me to go and I wanted to make her happy. When I arrived, I immediately became nervous, fearing that someone might ask me a question and I wouldn’t know the answer. Everyone welcomed me and although I didn’t speak much during our time together, by the end of the evening I knew that I would return. I have been with that same group for almost five years now and the women are some of my closest friends. What if I had let fear prevent me from going that first night?

Sometimes doing something new or unfamiliar can be scary. We like to be comfortable, so the idea of switching things up or trying something different can lead to fear. We don’t like to feel unprepared for fear of being judged.

But what if we never tried anything new?

What if we didn’t take that first step towards a new goal?

How many times have you allowed your fears to get in the way of your dreams?
In Isaiah 41:10, we can find the comfort that only God can provide when we are full of fear.

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Imagine a life where you fully trusted God and turned all your fears and worries to Him.

What would that look like?

Imagine Mary’s pain

My family attended a Good Friday service last night and before it started my youngest son asked me, “Why is it called Good Friday when it was such a sad day?”

It was a sad day and as we listened to the accounts of Jesus’ last day, I found myself thinking of Mary. Trying to empathize with her as a mother is heartbreaking. She had given birth to Jesus, nursed him, taken care of him as a child and watched him grow into the man that she had been told by angels that he would become.

Imagine the fear and helplessness that Mary felt as she watched the horror of her son’s death unfold. The overwhelming desire to want to protect him from the emotional and physical pain that he endured.

The disciple John was at the cross and recorded the scene as Jesus commits Mary into the disciple’s care: “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (John 19:26-27).

This tender moment between mother and son is painful and beautiful at the same time. I had the opportunity to see Michaelangelos Pieta in Rome and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the sculpture.

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In the statue, Mary is holding Jesus in her lap as she had done so many times when he was younger. She was no longer able to protect him, but must have been full of pride.

I imagine the darkness that consumed Mary for the next two days as she tried to make sense of what had happened….guilt, sadness, anger, loss. I imagine the conversations that she had with God.

And then there was joy on that third day. As Mary realized that Jesus’ sacrifice, her sacrifice, was for all of us. The day when everything made sense- the reason we call it Good Friday.

The beauty in and around us

It’s Spring! I’m sitting outside (without a big coat on) listening to the birds, noticing the flowers and blooming trees around me.  If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting for months for this. Hoping that it was truly the last snow, and excited to plant flowers and spread mulch. The waiting process is part of what makes it so special when it arrives.

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Sometimes we find ourselves waiting for things in our life. During these times, we can find strength from our endurance. While we are waiting for the snow in our lives to melt, we need to concentrate on our inner beauty and the word of God. It’s during these times that God wants us to develop inner beauty; a gentle and kind spirit that reflects His love for us.

It reminds me of the stages of a butterfly. We are born from an egg and start out as a small creature, inching along in life trying to figure out why we are here.

We might find relationships, jobs, or financial peace but nothing that truly satisfies us. We may stay in this stage (our chrysalis) for a while, but it isn’t until we find and understand the love of God that we can truly emerge and be the creature that we were designed to be!   butterfly-bush

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 

Me too!

Isn’t it reassuring when you find out that someone else has a similar situation or problem as you? When we are filled with doubt or concern, the words ME TOO, can make us feel less alone. Perhaps it’s a situation at work or difficulty in a relationship. Maybe it’s something from the past that we’ve been nervous to share. We begin to wonder if it’s just us and when we make that connection it is a relief! Finding others who have a similar past or current situation is comforting. This is why it’s important that we share our journey with others.

When a counselor who I had been seeing suggested that I share my story, my initial reaction was to laugh. I had kept my past, my secret, for all these years, why would I share it?

NO WAY.

But something kept nudging me and her words kept replaying in my head, “What if you could help someone who is suffering like you did for so long?”

I remember the sick, scared feeling I had in my stomach the first time I shared my story of being sexual abused with others. I feared being judged and feelings of shame and guilt from the past flooded my thoughts. When I finished, I was surprised to find that audience members were coming up to thank me for sharing. And then something that I hadn’t expected happened. The guests, people I didn’t know, starting telling me that they had a similar past…..what? Women told me that they too had never told anyone. As much as it comforted me, I also felt angry and sad.

How is it that in a culture of tell-all, reality TV, there are so many suffering in silence? We donate money and time to help others in foreign countries, but aren’t addressing the serious issues that are in our own churches, neighborhoods and schools.

We need to come forward, get past the shame and guilt and help each other heal. The more we do, the more we can bring attention to this all too common issue and prevent it from happening to others.

This is why I share my story.

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I recently had the opportunity to appear on Real Life and Real Life 360 on Cornerstone TV in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I shared my story with the hope of helping others realize that they aren’t alone. God loves us…messy past and all!

An unexpected guest

My husband and I have four sons, a big dog and 2 cats. In other words, my house is usually a bit messy. At any given time there are at least two pairs of shoes left at the front door, a backpack lying in the kitchen, dog toys under the dining room table, and laundry waiting to be folded. I’m usually ok with it and don’t freak out unless I know that someone is coming over. Even then, there are degrees of the freakout. If it’s good friend from across the street, I may pick up the shoes and ignore the rest. But if it’s not a close friend, I may go into a tailspin and start nagging my kids to pick up their stuff. Ocassionally, I look around our house and think, “what if someone came to the door right now?”

It’s sort of like our relationship with God. We know we need God in our life, but we often invite Him to join us when it’s convenient (when our life is nice and tidy). Imagine if He was there when you didn’t “invite” him…..when you were rude to the waiter, told an inappropriate joke, or cheated on a test. We invite him when we need help or when things aren’t going well and ocassionally remember to thank him, but what if we really went “all in” and lived our life so that He was present at all times? Imagine living life in such a way that Jesus could come alongside for an entire day. A week? A month?

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” Mark 12:30 (NLT)

I challenge you to think about what area of your life would you need to “tidy up” if you knew that Jesus was going to be with you even when you didn’t invite him. Are you willing to let God take control of all the areas of your life?

You are good enough!

I have a friend who is a wonderfully talented singer. She leads worship at our church and every time she opens her mouth, it is amazing. I often find myself wishing that I could sing as well as she can. I have another friend who has a high powered job and is very successful in the business world and travels a lot. I think about how great it would be to have a job like her.

Isn’t that typical? We compare ourselves to others wishing that we had their job, voice, hair, skin, or talents. Our culture encourages us to do this and it leads to us feeling inadequate. We are left wanting more….COMPARISON-590x295

Who you are and what you do already pleases God!

He has given each of us a unique gift and wants us to use these gifts to show our love for Him. How can we do this?

“If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly” Romans 12:7-9.

The best way that we can show our love to God is to use the special gifts that He has given us. Remember that we are all designed to have different talents and that is what makes us unique. So the next time you find yourself feeling less than adequate, remind yourself that we each have our own special gifts. Not sure what yours is? Ask a friend!

Do what you do best and do it without comparison, for it brings Him much joy!

Lead Me

It must be you God,

leading me down this path.

l-301503Sometimes slowly,

other times at a lightning pace.

It must be you God,

leading me to be a voice for others.
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Years ago I couldn’t have,

but now I feel your grace and love.

It must be you God,

encouraging me to to push ahead.

I feel your presence now,

guiding me when it gets tough.

It must be you God,

trusting me with this task.

You’ve shown me how to forgive,

to leave my hurt in the past.

It must be you God,

giving me this courage.

I’ll do my best to make you proud;

you’ve given me so much.

It must be you God,

Filling me with this joy.

I feel a sense of urgency,

a new found purpose.

It must be you God,

leading me down this path.

My story is not just mine.

When people read my book, I often hear, “Wow, you’re brave.” Telling a personal story that involves pain is scary and makes you vulnerable, but I feel strongly that it is important in order to help others. I kept my secret until I was 43 years old. Scared of being judged, I was full of guilt and shame. Today I am able to tell my story as a testimony to God’s grace. I will continue to share in order to help other women understand that they are not alone. My story may shock some, but it is one of many….

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN):

Victims of sexual assault are:

3 times more likely to suffer from depression.

6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.

26 times more likely to abuse drugs.

4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

I am one of the lucky ones. Thanks to God’s grace and my ability to forgive my abusers, I am able to live a life full of love. As you can see from the statistics above, many aren’t as lucky.

My goal is to help others find freedom and healing through God’s grace. This is why I chose to share my story.

My story is about much more than just me. l-298041