Faith, Hope

Happy Birthday to Me!!

Today is my 36th birthday!!

If you are doing the math, you might find that a little difficult to believe. After all, I’ve been divorced for four years (anniversary this week) and I was married for nearly 17 years. That means I got married around the age of 15.

Let’s add another interesting thought: I remember the day of my birthday as if it were yesterday. Yes. I remember the moment I came into this world, a wonderful new creation. I remember the arms of my dad wrapped around me. I remember working in the garden with my family that very day. It was an amazing day—the most significant day of my life!

Today is my spiritual birthday. Today marks the 36th anniversary of the day I gave my heart to Jesus Christ. Today is the day that I was born of the Spirit. Today is the day I confessed Jesus as Lord and followed Him in believers’ baptism. Today is the day of my second birth. Today is the day I was born again.

Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

“But how can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked Him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?”

 Jesus answered, “I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. John 3:3-7

These last 36 years have been an adventure, and the adventure just keeps getting better. The longer I walk with my Savior, the more I realize how much I need Him. Life hasn’t been perfect—especially the last five years—but it has been blessed. As I reflect today on my journey with my Savior, three words come to mind to describe my life.

Faithfulness. I have always been able to see God’s hand faithfully surrounding me. I have been blessed to experience answered prayers from the time I was very young. When I was going through the pain of adultery and divorce, I actually felt abandoned. But, as I look back and take a new perspective, I actually see His hands faithfully surrounding me through the most difficult days of my life. You see, He knew that my husband would betray me and that I would find my perfect life crumbling. But, how many ways did He prepare me? How many doors did He faithfully guide me through? While I was oblivious to the coming storm, He was not. And, He was faithfully preparing me.

Why did I start nursing school when I did—so that I would graduate just two short months after the divorce was final and have a job to step into immediately? How did my measly $600/month paycheck stretch to pay a mortgage until I could get on my feet financially? Why did I have a car accident that ironically ended in a settlement that gave me a financial cushion when I needed it? Why did I have visions of a new ministry long before I thought I would need it? Why—years before—did God put us on staff with a pastor who had an affair, showing us what could become if we weren’t faithful to follow Him? Why did my precious 98-year-old grandfather insist on buying a brand-new house next door to my parents shortly before he passed away?

I could truly go on and on about God’s faithful hand preparing the way for me to walk through the darkness. At the time, I was blinded to His faithfulness. Today, however, I look back in amazement at the way He faithfully walked before me, preparing me and providing for me on the most painful and unexpected journey of my life.

Peace. Last night, I attended an overcomers group at our church. Many of the people in the group have struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. They all talk about the lack of peace that drove them to seek relief—using anything that would placate the pain and fear in their lives. I’ve had glimpses of what life is like without peace—primarily during those early days of divorce. But, I’ve been blessed to have a solid walk with my Savior that has provided tremendous peace even in the midst of the storms. Sure, there have been—and continue to be—moments of fear and anxiety, but I can truly say that peace is the pervading emotion of my life.

As I reflected on why I have peace, I can only venture to say that it’s because I have spent 36 years attempting to live in relationship with my Savior. Two of my favorite verses clearly tell us how we can have peace.

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

I love that Paul describes God’s peace as surpassing our understanding! It makes no sense how we can be caught in the greatest storm of our lives and yet experience peace. That is the peace that comes from our Savior! And, He tells us how to find it: through prayer.

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.
Isaiah 26:3

Here, God’s peace is described as perfect—without flaw. Again, we are told that we can gain this peace through being dependent on Him. In other versions, we read that if we keep our mind focused on Him, He will give us peace.

It really is that simple: Focus on the Savior. Surrender to His plan. Throw up your hands and tell Him, “I can’t do this!” After all, He doesn’t want us to handle it; He wants to take that burden and carry it for us.

Hope. In my darkest days, I found hope: Hope for better days ahead. Hope that He would do a great work in me and through me. Hope that my life would be better than ever, richer and more abundant (John 10:10).

Scripture is full of verses that offer hope. Look at Jeremiah 29:11. 1 Peter 5:10 was a foundation for me. Psalm 37:4-7 reminded me that He knew my heart’s desires and wanted to bless me. James 1:1-5 reminded me to count my trials as joy because He is working great things in me through the trials. As I read in Isaiah, I found promises that He was doing new things—to put the old behind me (43:18-19). Joel reminded me that He would repay the years the locusts had eaten. Over and over, as I scoured the scriptures I found promises of brighter days ahead. There were days—even months—when I couldn’t even open the Word because I was so angry with God. It was then that the Holy Spirit reminded me of scriptures I had hidden in my heart from the time I was a small child.

Perhaps you weren’t blessed with the amazing childhood I was. I wish that everyone had the opportunity to grow up in a home where God was the center, where the emphasis was on developing that relationship with our Savior. But, it doesn’t always happen that way. However, start where you are! Some of the most amazing children of God have come through horrible abuse and dysfunction. They have leveraged those awful experiences for God’s glory.

And, perhaps you are reading this post and still trying to understand how I can say that today is my birthday. Perhaps you don’t understand the terms born again or spiritual birthday. If I could sum it up, I would possibly use part of the 12-step program. 1. Admit that you are powerless over your circumstances. 2. Admit that there is a God who wants to carry your burden. 3. Surrender to Him.

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation….  For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:9-10, 13

It’s really that simple. Admit that your life is messed up and you can’t handle the pain and the burden any more. Ask Him to step in and carry that burden, to fix the mess that you’ve made—or someone else has caused. Believe that He wants to give you an abundant life. Through faith, take a step toward the Savior—the One who came to this earth and gave His life as a sacrifice for you. He loves you more than you could ever possibly imagine!

Scripture clearly says that if you call on Him, you will be saved. And, you will be made new.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Today, my friend, is a great day to give it all to Him!!

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to Me!!”

  1. Hello Dena,

    Thanks for your encouraging words. This little neat piece of writing is really uplifting. I have noticed right from the beginning that you have a gift with words. I am nourished by what I’ve read and I do look forward to your posting. It might interest you to know that I am a single woman of 45, never been married and have never even been in a serious relationship. Nevertheless I find your stories interesting. Your struggles and faith allow me to make light of my own struggles which is actually quite challenging at times if I don’t put them in perspective. Yeah, I’m a sufferer of clinical depression and things to do with the mental health suffice it to say. I actually led a very robust life when I recovered from the first onset of my illness some 25 years ago….but had a relapse about three years ago. Yeah I watched my life crumble, and for the longest time I even almost couldn’t sense god’s light. I felt that life was somewhat unfair though not being overly bitter. Still my life changed drastically…work becomes more challenging and life somehow seems bleak at times. It was a slow and uphill climb for me but I dare say god has provided throughout my ordeal and I can’t tell you enough how much tears I’ve shed but I know also first hand that having faith and hope in god means everything. I am glad that your writing adds colour to my reading and at the same time allows me into your world to see how brave and gallant that you counter your situation and gives me a stepping stone to follow the trail that would make me a little braver, a little happier and a little stronger in faith. God bless you Dena and I look forward to reading your next post.

    Love,
    Kim

    1. You brought tears to my eyes! I must say that I actually started this little blog because of … depression and loneliness. A very important person had stepped out of my life, and I decided that I needed to fill my time. As the tears streamed down my face, I began to tell my journey–a painful and yet extremely rewarding journey. I now see that God had to pull this person out of my life (for a time) so that I would begin the work He has for me. Never did I imagine what He was doing in my loneliness and depression.

      Throughout the last year and a half, God has strengthened my faith. Recently, the phrase running through my mind repeatedly has been “When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.” I’m learning that the hardest, most painful times of our lives are the training ground for the amazing work God has for us.

      Hang in there, my friend! Praying for God to touch your heart and life as only He can!

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