This Cup

Life can be tough. There have been things in my life that I’ve gone through that if I had the power to choose them, I wouldn’t have. I’m sure you can relate. Jesus felt the same way when faced with the daunting task of the cross. While in the garden in Matthew 26:39, he prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”. Although he loved God and knew it had to be done, he had moment of reluctance concerning the suffering that he was about to endure. He felt the weight of what lied before him. He knew the contents of the cup of suffering that he was about partake. We’ve all been there at some point or the other. Was it having to bury a loved one? Was it receiving a scary diagnosis from the doctor? Divorce? Lay off? Dealing with a rebellious child? Being betrayed by someone you trusted? Financial Difficulty? Regardless of the circumstance, the fact that life can be overwhelming still remains.

What is our perspective on suffering? It would be insane to want it or look forward to. Right? Let’s revisit Matthew 26:39. Jesus ended by saying,” Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” He stepped back into the role of Savior. He was willing to put his own feelings and fear aside to honor the will of the Father for His life. This is the response that God requires of us.

Hebrews 5:8-9 states, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,“. If Jesus, the blameless son of God had to suffer, then we cannot expect any less. There are areas within us that God can only build through suffering. If our true heart’s desire is to become Christlike, then we must drink the cup because trying to pass the cup only hinders the process of God in our lives.

Let us not don’t despise the suffering that God is allowing in our lives to mature us.

God will provide the grace we need to bear and drink the cup. His grace is sufficient.

Passages for Difficult Times:

James 1:2-3 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Job 23:10
But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

© FREE 2020 All Right Reserved.

4 Questions with Artist Dawn Waters Baker

What was your main inspiration for the painting, New Life?

In 2017, I had the privilege of being the Artist in Residence at Gettysburg National Military Park. I got to stay on one of the farms that were there during the battle. It was eerie and also a very spiritual time as I reflected on the conflict of war, loss, family, and so much death. It made me think about how we are still walking these same tensions today even as a major election is looming in a few days. I think about how this could cause more hurt and pain (and pray it doesn’t).

During the evenings when all the tourist cars were gone from the battlefield, I liked to walk out in these fields where almost 40,000 men lay dead after the three-day battle (the largest battle ever fought in the western hemisphere). I would walk and pray, walk, and pray. My favorite time was when the light was fading over the fields and the light was moving over the landscape. Fireflies would come out around that time and it looked like a moving field of stars.

I felt so strongly that I should make this painting recently as we moved into such divisiveness with politics. It’s a battlefield of old. One with so much loss and sorrow. The world would tell us there are only two ways to think, to be in this country. I believe, there is always a third way. The way of the spirit, the way of beauty, and love. In a way, it remakes the battlefield. Not to forget its lessons but to reimagine a new landscape together with God.

If you could describe the painting in 4 words, what would those 4 words be? Why?

Look with Spiritual Eyes.

Because when we see with the Spirit we no longer see with anger or despair. We see what God is doing “undercover.” In fact, He always has a plan and it is a beautiful one. I think if we choose to see that way we will have an easier time loving our neighbor (no matter what they say or think). Please know I don’t mean that we should just passively let people bully us or not take a stand for things we believe in. Not at all. But it does mean I don’t see this world as Us vs. Them. I see “WE THE PEOPLE” who are under a God who loves and is reshaping us. God is always up to good.
Let’s have eyes to see it and hearts that are humble enough to be changed.

How has this experience changed you?

I don’t paint anything I’m not also wrestling with. I don’t ever want to make art from a place of “I know better than you…” But instead, sit in this place of tension (whatever that might be) and just let the Lord speak in my heart. So many of us hate tension. I know I do. However, without it, no change is good for us. I think 2020 has shown me that I really can’t control anything. Not my kids, my health, those I love.

Shoot, I can’t even guarantee that there will be toilet paper in the grocery store! Remember that? But I can say that it is through pain that we really see what we believe. Not just head knowledge stuff. But WHOM I really love. Everything is God’s. May my life be like these tiny fireflies…a little light on ground zero. A way of saying, “I love you, Lord! You have my heart’s attention.”

What is your hope/prayer for those who see your work?

I pray for many neighbors I don’t even know that they might be loved WHERE THEY ARE. That they might see the beauty God covers them with even in their loss, grief, fear, hurt. I pray that they see Love is real and it’s worth living for. I hope that we have a better place to leave our children, all children. Not just ones that look like me.

I suppose if there was hope for what others would see in my work it would be a glimpse of something more…more than nature, more than a tree or a field. But a tiny snapshot of LIFE even in this place of death. I only know of one that brings life from death and it’s not me. 🙂 It’s a good God who is for us and has never left us.

Artist Dawn Waters Baker

For more information about Dawn Waters Baker and to view more of her amazing work, please visit her website: http://www.dawnsartsite.com.

From Tragedy to Triumph

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Perspective is defined as – a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something, a point of view. One of the things that others say they admire about me the most is how I can deal with so many of the personal challenges that I have faced in my life with a positive outlook. I do not take full credit for that; however, it is truly only by the grace of God. In Romans 8:28, the scripture says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”. This scripture has encouraged me through some of the hardest times in my life. One of those times was after the death of my seventeen-year-old son Dominque.
Dominique was my second oldest son. Since the day he was born, he was a character. Dominique had a very charming and charismatic attitude. He loved music, art, dance, and poetry. These were things that we had in common as these are some of the very things that I hold near and dear to my heart. He also was quite the comedian and loved playing practical jokes on both me and his brothers. He had a way of lighting up the entire room with his presence. His love for life and light-hearted spirit would be tested as the trials of life rolled around. One such trial was when my children were taken from my custody.
For two years, I lost custody of my children and they were placed in the foster care system. This was truly my worst nightmare because I too had been grown up in the foster care system. I knew about the horrors that I had faced in the system. I was working two and sometimes three jobs to try to support my children. I spent more time at work than I did with them. Eventually, they became part of the court system and I was charged with custodial neglect. At first, I was so angry. I felt so betrayed. I’d been trying to support my children but was being charged with being neglectful towards them. It all seemed so unfair and ridiculous to me. There was absolutely no way that I was going to allow my children to stay in the system as I did. I attended parenting classes, budgeting classes, and all sorts of training to meet the requirements and get my boys back. Although I did not realize it at the time, all these training and classes were a blessing to me. I learned valuable information on how to be a better parent to my children. I was a great provider for them, but I was not a great parent. When the boys returned home, there was a period of adjustment that had to take place. They felt resentment and hurt from being separated. It took a lot of prayer and patience to get our relationships back on track.
I had given my life to Christ which changed my life as well as the way I parented. The boys loved church and started their relationships with Christ. However, Dominique was having a really difficult time with the new rules of the household and eventually went to live with his father in Michigan. I wanted the best for Dominique and prayed constantly for God to help our relationship. Dominique was living with his father for two weeks before I heard from him. Dominque called me. We stayed on the phone for over an hour discussing our hopes and expectations for our relationship. Dominique had professed his faith in Christ and given his life to God. He spoke about all the positive changes that he was making in his life and expressed his desire to leave a legacy behind on earth. What a profound conversation we had. It was also our last conversation. Two days later, I got a call from his father stating that Dominique had gotten shot in the head while doing laundry at a friend’s house.
The world seemed to stop at that moment. I cried out to God and asked Him to help me make sense of it all. How could this be? What was I going to do? I felt like I had lost all my strength. However, 2 Corinthians 12:9 states, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me”.
Ultimately, it was the power of God that rested upon me. I was able to sit with my four boys and tell them about the loss of their brother. It was by the power of God that I was able to prepare for son’s funeral. God’s power brought my children together and into agreement about donating Dominique’s organs. It allowed us to heal as a family and learn the value of life. It taught us the power of forgiveness because we had to forgive and pray for the young man that took Dominique’s life. The power of God is what got us through it all.
We were able to move from a place of tragedy to a place of triumph because we trusted in the power of God. Dominique said he wanted to leave a legacy in this world, and that is just what he did. His organ donations saved five families. I never got to meet the families but we did exchange letters. One of them was from a man who was a Christian. He and his wife had both been diagnosed with cancer. His daughter began to lose her faith in God due to what was happening with her parents. Eventually, her faith was restored because her father received Dominique’s liver and lived. I remember the letter that I wrote to the donor who got Dominique’s heart. I told him not to be surprised if he woke up one-morning singing. If he heard a song and just began to dance, it was alright. If suddenly, he began to think poetically and look at the world around him through a colorful lens, I would know why. He had received the heart of a champion. His heart was from someone who knew how to turn tragedy into triumph.

4 Questions with Author Shaniqua Rischer

What was your main inspiration for writing the book, The Boy Who Would Be King: 7 Lessons from the Life of David?

I didn’t have a primary inspiration. Honestly, I just could not avoid writing the book. One of the book’s chapters/lessons was focused on a lesson God was teaching me as I started writing the book. The lesson was focused on understanding the dynamics of King Saul and David’s relationship as well as submitting to authority which I did not necessarily agree with. However, the way God speaks to me through my writing, I literally must write it down when I receive a lesson, sermon, or devotional. As a jumble of thoughts in my mind, the words come so quickly they must be written and released. Otherwise, I do not have peace. So, I did not have inspiration outside of the need to tell the story. The more I read about David, the more I learned and saw life lessons for all of us.

If you could describe the book in 4 words, what would those four words be? Why?

Faith Lessons and Life Lessons are my four words (actually three since “lessons: is repeated – lol). I think these words speak to the book’s central core. It teaches life lessons and lessons about faith, a sustaining and enduring faith.

How has this experience changed you?

This is my third book. So, I felt a sense of accomplishment, just like the ones before. However, the change within me has been more subtle. I have become more settled into who I am as a minister. I wouldn’t call it confidence, but more of an acceptance in who I am. I am also looking forward to seeing what God puts in me to write next. That is a feeling I have never felt before.

What is your hope/prayer for those who read your book?

Funny. My prayer partner and I have prayed one prayer repeatedly about the book since I finished. My prayer/hope for this book is that it will be a commercial success (for me) but a private revelation (for the readers). That is my sole prayer.

For more information about Shaniqua Rischer and to purchase her books:

Website: http://www.shaniquarischer.com

Get Your Hope Up!

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Happy Monday! Be encouraged today. These are uncertain times. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Our sense of normalcy has become a thing of the past. There is a new norm that evolves each day and challenges us on every level. However, there is one constant. Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, is described in Hebrews 13:8 as being “the same yesterday, today, and forever”. That alone brings me so much peace and comfort. My heart steadies when I think about Him being the one I can count on when nothing else is. His promises are “Yes and Amen”. There is nothing that can happen in this world that will alter or change His word. While praying, I found myself praising God for who He is. Then, I began to praise Him for the hope of one day seeing Him face to face.
When we go home with Him, the things of this world that seem to shake us will be no more. There will be no more hatred, division, pandemics, suffering, sickness, disease, or violence. There will no longer be aching in our hearts for what only He can give. Every single one of His promises shall be fulfilled and brought to fruition. Our hearts will become filled with wonder as we behold Him, the living word. Oh, what a blessed day.
Where does your hope lie? Is your hope in politics or man? If so, that will diminish. Get your Hope Up! Fix your eyes on the prize and the crown. Look to the day that every nation and tongue will bow before the King of Glory. There will be an exchange of our crosses for crowns and worship forever.

Get Your Hope Up! Get Your Hope Up! Get Your Hope Up!

Revelation 21:2-5 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’

Isaiah 65:17-19 “ For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,
And her people a joy.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
And joy in My people;
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her,
Nor the voice of crying.”

4 Questions with Artist LaShonda Cooks

What was your main inspiration for your exhibit, Hair Story: The Myths, Magic, & Methods of Black Hair?

My primary inspiration for Hair Story was a poem by the late great Rage Almighty, a renowned poet based in Dallas. I was at an event and heard him perform that poem. It echoed in my soul. In particular, a part about remembering the women behind the chair spoke to me. It reminded me of my first beautician, my grandmother, and my marvelous beauticians throughout the years, the solace I found in their chairs, in their hands, and the wear and tear this pivotal work does to their bodies.

If you could describe the exhibit in 4 words, what would those four words be? Why?

Black Hair Immersive Experience. My goal is two-fold: for Black women to see themselves and their hair celebrated; and for those of different experiences and hair types to leave understanding a bit more of the world of Black hair and why it matters.

Piece by LaShonda Cooks from the Hair Story Exhibit

How has this experience changed you?

It has made me realize the power of faith and the power of an idea. Initially, I pitched this concept, but it did not get funded. I decided to move forward and self-fund it. Then, COVID-19 usurped my plans. All during quarantine and the pandemic, I kept creating my pieces while holding out hope that eventually the show would come to be. Last month, I received a call from a curator at the African American Museum to telling me the date and timeline for the show. Then, I also applied for a microgrant from the Office of Arts and Culture in Dallas, which was approved. I’m grateful and living proof that with faith and adherence to the vision that God gifts you, all things are possible in His timing.

What is your hope/prayer for those who see your work?

My prayer is that the show will be a well-deserved celebration of the beauty of the women selected as muses and showcase the diversity of Black hair. And that everyone who comes is blessed and encouraged to honor the temples they were given.

When: Opening: Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 12 PM CST – 5 PM CST and will be available Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays after Nov 14 through February Where: African American Museum of Dallas Hosted by Shonda’s Art

Explore the myths, magic and methods of Black hair through the lenses of 7 artists: Art-Fro Kreationz, Ciara Elle Bryant, Danielle Demetria, Feniiix Raiii, LaShonda Cooks, Loosemedium and Youveline Joseph, with special help from writer Linda Jones and Glimmer 411. Exhibit is open noon to 5 pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays starting Nov 14. Sponsored by the Office of Arts and Culture and Shonda’s Art.

To find our more about LaShonda Cooks:

Website: shondasart.com Blog: lcooks.wordpress.com

Know Your Enemy

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Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against a spiritual wickedness in high places.

During this season, there has been so much going on around us. In times like these, it is easy to become distracted. However, we have to be very intentional about focusing on the things of God. Satan’s greatest tactic is to keep us distracted. If he can get us enthralled in what is going on in front of us, then he can gain ground in the spiritual realm against us. 

Many of us have been captivated by all of the turmoil happening in the world. We must remember that we are spiritual beings who are having a natural experience. We are in this world but not of this world. Our spiritual well-being determines our eternity. Therefore, we have to be careful not to lose sight of what is most important. The most important thing is that we must prepare to see the King. We cannot afford to spend our time and energy on carnal matters. In 2 Corinthians 4-6, we are told that our weapons are not carnal. We can’t fight spiritual battles with fleshly weapons. We can’t use our physical strength or words to fight an unseen enemy. We are not each other’s enemy. We all have the same adversary and his goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. When we allow him to engage us in fleshly battles, we give him the green light to do just that: steal, kill, and destroy. How does he do that? When our eyes are fixed on each other, then he can sneak in and do his work. When we use our words to argue or verbally attack one another, we are wasting the opportunity to speak life and the word of God over each other. If I am fighting with you, I can’t be praying for you. He knows that there is power in our tongues and that we have been given the authority to speak over all things. In warfare, armed forces create diversions. This allows them to advance onto the territory of their adversary. In the same manner, Satan advances on us. 

Every time I think about the fact that many are oblivious to the concept of spiritual warfare, it is very unsettling. There is a whole battle that is occurring in the spiritual realm. There are forces of darkness actively working and orchestrating the schemes of the enemy against us. Yes, these forces are playing puppet master and working behind the scenes to take us out. We are not each others’ enemies.  Due to us not being able to naturally see these forces, we tend to see each other as the executors of sinful acts and wrongdoing. However, there is a spirit behind every action. We have to train our spiritual eyes to see this way. We have to learn the word of God and hide it in our hearts, so we will not sin against God and one another. We are soldiers in the Army of the Lord. How can we be soldiers if we don’t know what or who we are fighting? How can we know the tactics of our opponent if we aren’t aware of his existence? How can we prepare if we don’t study the battle plan the Lord has laid out for us in His word? How can we be victorious if we aren’t aware of the weapons our God has provided?

There is only one enemy and his name is Satan; not Mary, John, Jill, Kelly, Joe, Donald but Satan. My friends, we CANNOT win spiritual battles in our flesh. Satan is a spirit and the only way we can defeat him is in the Spirit. 

Know your Enemy! Win the Battle!

Let us pray: 

Dear Father,  We thank you that we have an advocate in you. We thank you that you are the one who causes us to triumph. Lord, help us to know that we all belong to you which makes us all your children. Teach us that we are mighty in you for the pulling down of strongholds and destroying the traps the enemy may set in our lives. Help us to keep our eyes and minds fixed on your principles. Help us to remember in times of disagreement that you created us to walk in unity and that we are not each other’s enemy. Give us the wisdom to recognize the ploys of the enemy and how to walk in the Spirit, so we may have the victory that comes from only you. In the Mighty Name of Jesus. Amen.

Be the Light

One of my favorite quotes by Mahatma Gandhi is, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” I love this quote because it causes us to pause and see how we, individually, are contributing to the world in which we live. It is so easy to cast blame upon each other for the state of the world. However, how are we helping to change it? What are we doing to make positive changes and instill hope? We know that the challenges exist. What are we doing to make things better?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

In this scripture, Jesus is telling us, His believers, that we are the light of the world. He is telling us that we can create influence and change by our actions because He references that our good works would bring glory to our Father in heaven. It is also important to note that the scripture speaks about not hiding our light. When we choose to remain silent or complacent to the injustices that we see or experience in the world, we are hiding our light. When we refuse to share the Good News of the gospel and its message of hope, we hide our lights. When we make a conscious decision “not get involved in those types of things”, we are hiding our lights. We serve a God who is looking for His people to stand up in this world of darkness and represent Him well by being the light that He called us to be.

2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

We must gain insight into the influences we have as the ambassadors for Christ. Ambassadors are the highest-ranking representatives of their governments abroad, and their primary responsibility is to represent and work towards the best interests of their government or head of state. They are not elected but selected by the government or head of state. It is a great honor to be chosen as an ambassador. We, too, were bestowed with an enormous honor when God called and chose us to follow Him.

According to Ephesians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In
love.” As believers, we’re chosen for such a time as this. We know that the love of Christ brings unity and peace. We understand that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. In Matthew 22:36-40, the disciples asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus responded to them, “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”.  The second commandment states, “Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In a world full of division and hate, we are called to bring unity and peace. In a world filled with hopelessness and despair, we are called to bring hope and healing. There is no doubt that we are living in perilous times. Still, the Lord has given us everything we need to “Be the change that we wish to see in the world”, and the way that we do it is simple.

Just remember to: Be the Light.

Why?

Why do people grab their purses when they see me walking by? Little do they know I’ve never stolen anything in my whole life.

Why is my natural hair considered so unprofessional? Yet, other ethnicities can work with colored hair and tatted skulls.

Why am I deemed unworthy of a seat at the table? Yet, whenever I show my passion or speak up for myself I am labeled.

Why is it so hard for me to level up or own? It’s no secret that on the backs of my ancestors this land was built upon.

Why do I have to prove that I am just like you? We both know the same God who created you, created me too.

If you believe in His word, then you should see me in His image and know that we are same. Isn’t it true that we both were saved by that one name?

Is it because every ploy to end us has always brought us back? Is it because the tenacity within us is what others seem to lack?

Is it because we’re unique, strong, and full of pride? Is it because many of us have died but yet STILL… WE… RISE?

Why am I the one that others love to hate? Why am I the one always with the sealed fate?

Why can’t I just live? Truth is. I want to same things as you. I want peace, love, and the pursuit of happiness for my seed too.

If you have an issue with me simply because I am black? What will you tell the Father on the day when He comes back?

How will explain that you’ve loved a God that you can’t even see? Yet, you’ve lived your entire life inherently hating me.

Why?

© FREE 2020 All Rights Reserved.

Exchanging Ashes for Beauty

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I grew up in the foster care system in Michigan. My mother had been sexually assaulted at the age of fourteen and conceived me. As a result, the sum of her childhood traumas led her to turn to drugs and prostitution. She had six children by the time she was twenty years old. My siblings and I were separated. We were all placed in different foster care homes when I was six years old. We faced mental, physical, and sexual abuse at the hands of those that the state had entrusted to care for us. I had lived in over twenty-two different placements by the time I aged out of foster care at the age of nineteen. To say that I was bitter and broken would really be putting it quite mildly. I questioned the rationale of a God who would allow such a devastating plight to befall me. What did I do to deserve this? Why didn’t I have love and stability like everyone else? How could God love me and allow these things to happen to me?

This anger and frustration found its outlet in all the wrong places. I was involved in abusive relationships because that is all that I believed that I deserved. I started using alcohol and eventually drugs to help me escape the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness in my life. The question that always came to mind was, “Lord, where are you? Don’t you care about me?”

When I was at one of my lowest points, I remember watching the 700 Club on television. The hope and the inspiration that was expressed in this Christian program drew me in. I wanted to have this peace and forgiveness that the host was talking about. I heard the testimony of a woman who had an experience similar to mines. She spoke about Isaiah 63:1, “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified”.

I cried out to God and wept for what seemed like forever. I asked Him to please come into my life and make me new. I wanted to exchange all my hurt and disappointment. I wanted to know His unfailing love. I wanted Him to heal me from my brokenness. I wanted to be made whole. God not only came into my life and healed me, but he also restored my relationship with my mother. We were reunited after over twenty-six years. She had also given her life to Christ.

We were able to share a beautiful journey together for five years. My mother passed away in the spring of 2013. My siblings and I decided to have her cremated. The agreement was that each of us would get a portion of her ashes. Somehow, the funeral home sealed the urn. I wanted to contact them to have them open it. After praying about it, I was moved to keep it sealed. God reminded me of all the beauty I had to remember my mother by. I had her journal (she also loved to write), her pictures cards, jewelry, and her favorite pillow. All these things reminded me of the beauty of her life. It also reminded me of the glory of God and how He had restored us.

God so often wants to do this in the lives of His children. He wants to take away the despair, mourning, and replace it with His hope, peace, and joy. The scripture says He wants to give us a garment of praise in exchange for the spirit of heaviness. And as glorious as this is, it is dependent upon us casting our cares upon Him and allowing Him to do it. In order to exchange, we must be willing to give something up in order to receive something else. So the real question becomes, “Are you willing to give God your ashes in exchange for all of His beauty?”

Trust me. It’s worth it.

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