DAILY DEVOS RETURN…

As you all know, the #ATLdevo began back in September of 2014, and ran until about August 2015. Every single day, I made it a discipline to write what I was learning with Jesus, and posted it ONLINE, and not only that, but delivered every morning to the inboxes of 80+ people. NO PRESSURE!

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The feedback was incredible. Just incredible. Let me quote some of the emails/texts/messages I’ve gotten throughout this year of writing…

“We, your devo followers, are so thankful you said yes. I know you’re growing from it and it’s a big encouragement.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for your obedience in doing this devotional. This devotional continues to raise me out of so many heart-heavy situations.”

“I look forward to these devotions every day! Thank you for your heart! It is making a difference in my life! Thank you for your obedience!”

“Oh my goodness, you don’t know how your messages speak to me. The last couple of ones I find myself crying and asking God for more of Him!”

“Very thankful for your ministry here. It’s been too long since I journaled about the goodness of the Father and too long since I’ve been still and quiet early in the day. Love the prompts as well! Keep serving faithfully as you are!”

“Thank you for your inspiration and interaction with daily verses and uplifting words. Your obedience to God is one of the many gifts He’s given. You are a treasure to those of us receiving them.”

“Thank you for your daily devotionals. Really great stuff and God inspired.”

“I have been going back and reading the Phylla House devos: SO GOOD! I might use them next year for my class :D”

“Thank you Helena, for allowing God to use you in our lives! Today’s devo… it was exactly what I needed.”

“Your devos are amazing and I can hear your voice as I read them! So great! Thank you for blessing me and so many others with them already!!!”

These are quotes in reaction to the devos I wrote in 2014 to 2015. I picked 100 of those devotionals and published them in a book! You can buy that book here!

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Why am I charging for this book? Well… I have 80+ people who got it for free, one page at a time, via email and reading the Phylla House blog where the devos were originally hosted. The subscribers actually got more than that, because some of the devotionals didn’t make it into the book. After that, I prayed hard and pulled the devos from the blog, edited them fiercely, and published them in tangible form.

The cool announcement is that I’M DOING IT AGAIN!!! Fresh devos, page by page, delivered to your inbox, free as birds, imperfect  probably, full of late-night/early-morning Love.  You can subscribe to the Phylla House blog and see it unveil one page at a time, as God teaches me over the next year. How does that sound?

And then, God willing, at the end of 2016, I’ll revise the devos and publish them in book form once more, in time for you to gift them to your friends and family, having “already read it” if you know what I mean 😉

I hope you’ll come along with me.

The journey starts again on January 6th, 2016.

Much love,

Helena

The Altar Call to the Saved

Come to Jesus for salvation, new life, forgiveness. Check!
After this most important decision, we have Christ.

We have Him. We have access to His righteousness, His power, authority, grace, and favor.
His ear is bent to hear us. His eyes are ever on us.
He is our Defender. He declares us restored and healed.
I see a generation rising up and extending their hands for the next step.

What is next now, Jesus? What do we do with this precious gift? What is next after dying to sin, being raised to walk in the newness of life?

To diffuse the Christian lingo out of my words, what is next?
You’re saved, you have your ticket to heaven, so what do you do?
Go to church once a week? Okay.

What about reading the Bible? You read a little bit here and there. Maybe you’ve arrived at the point where you feel you should read every day. Good. Have you got it? Is that the breakthrough? Is that the fullness of life?

What about opting to listen to Christian music in the car? Family-friendly, deciding against pop and country, even! Is that the pinnacle of holy living?

Oh I know. A Bible study. Surely, that will be the thing that we do that sets us apart? Bring a dish, let us gather around a meal, because that’s unheard of.

Maybe tithing is it. Writing that check for 10%, yes. Generosity. Walking in that. Check. Let me make sure to deduct it from my taxes though, so I see it again. Isn’t it convenient?

Where’s the power of Jesus?
Where’s the authority of Jesus?
Where’s the life of Jesus?
Where’s the fullness He died to secure for us?
Is it waiting only in heaven?

Jesus, we are extending our hands to you, asking You to see this on earth. We want to experience fullness of life!
I am praying for a generation that isn’t simply following that checklist: church, Bible, music, fellowship, giving.

A generation like that is merely sitting on their hands, serving a convenient religion of a God who may as well be dead because His followers don’t acknowledge Him but for 5-10 hours a week.

Anybody can be a ‘Christian’ by those standards. It isn’t at all painful. It’s actually quite pleasant and remarkably convenient. It makes for great barbeques, nice friendships, and it leaves lots of time for doing whatever else you may want to do! You can still do everything you did before. Your schedule never has to change, or your priorities, or your heart, or your mind. You’ll be told constantly that you are loved by God, and you are, just as you are! You’ll sing about loving Him back. He hears those songs, He loves your praises, and He reaches into your heart to break it. He wants to change your life completely! He wants you to drop what you’re doing and follow Him, whatever that looks like! It’s a radical switch that looks nothing like before. What if He wants to send you to another place? What if He needs you to do a different job? What if you’re not asking? What if you’re not listening?

Your spirit responds, “more, Jesus, MORE” but are your actions denying your spirit of the abundance of Christ?

The unfortunate reality of living the way you always have, is that you will continue to have exactly what you have.

Do you want more?
What will it take?
This is an altar call for the saved.

Jesus wants you, and all of you, right now.

 Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [Romans 12:2]

I want it NOW

I do this thing with Jesus sometimes… I basically demand things from Him.

I stomp and pout and yell and get all nasty about it.

NOW! NOW NOW NOW NOW!

It’s a little bit pathetic, really, when you see it from the top.

I’m 5ft and not much else, 125lbs, and if you can imagine all that just really worked up, with my tiny little fists all clenched and my tiny tears just streaming down, face all splotchy, stomping my whopping size 7 feet. It’s gotta be kinda cute to God, looking down like “aww she’s so adorably demanding, my sweet baby girl is on her little struggle bus today, beep beep bop boop, honk honk.

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And finally, finally, when I climb on down from my ridiculous soap box, I hear sweet revelation. He does not hold back on me. I get honest, and He gets honest. Well, He’s always honest, it’s just a matter of me listening. Apparently, I listen better when everything is off my chest. Go figure.

So here’s a revelation…

It’s not a question of whether you’ll receive your portion…
Your portion is YOUR portion.
But when it’s given to you, will you bury it?
Will you kill it with fear?
Or will you invest it and be bold with it?
Will you risk to see it grow?
Are you ready to receive your portion?

Hahaha… I got schooled.

Have fun with that, fellow stompers.

{{read Matthew 25:14:30}}

On the Bright Side of Brokenhearted

Throwback writing from the past… enjoy the words, you just might relate.
Sharing it now from a full heart, with a note of encouragement at the bottom.
Chin up, darlings.

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Unrequited love is the most unreasonable of loves.
It embraces danger with no guarantee. It’s a reckless pioneer, wagering the precious matters of the heart. It loves first, ready or not. It’s a love that Jesus tastes, the love He displayed on the cross, choosing to love us while we were yet His enemies. He said I love you and heard nothing in return.

I’ve had my taste of this bittersweet love, this one-sided transaction that left me hungry yet with no appetite, full of things to say yet unsure of what to write.

And writing with a broken heart is a persnickety thing. My words spin out on the page, the momentum catching me by surprise. I look up from a haze and see that I’ve written 1500 words on a topic I didn’t even know was on my heart. My voice is a little different, as it rushes and slows, not quite finding its regular pace.

Music is all of a sudden sweeter. Have melodies ever been this alive? Have the lyrics ever resonated with my spirit like this? My hands shoot up unabashedly in worship, declaring that God is my Shield.

Even my laughter is deeper, maybe because I’m raw, maybe because I feel so alive. I second guess if I’m faking laughter or if I really feel it. I second-guess most things, and it’s in that process that I find the truth.

I remember what was before and what still is. I rummage through life after what feels like a storm passed through. I look at photographs and wonder if I’m still the same. The beautiful and scary thing is that I’m not. God changed me in the process, and now I get to find out all over again who I am, and what I like, and what I want. The hardship brought out something beautiful along with the pain, something that needed to stir again. I feel more human, more vulnerable. I guess this is what it feels like to start again.

If you had asked me, I would have said I had no need for a new start. I was all set, thank you very much. But God {thankfully} chuckled and shook His head. It was time for a big change, for a big start. And now I trust His hand because I know His heart.

While some things are foreign, some remain. I have fallen in love all over again with my First Love. And oh the loyalty of my friends, the ones who are like blood to me. My brokenness brought my tribe closer together. They surprise me and text me, and take me for adventures. I’ve received pages of letters and long hugs. I’ve been taken on dates and finally gone dancing, because my goodness, I love to dance and they know that!

It makes my heart skip a beat to hear my grandmother’s raspy voice sharing wise words and encouraging the very core of me. Even when she’s not feeling her best, she still can manage to find the sunshine and point me to it. I am pursued fiercely and have been all along, I just had been waiting for it to come from that one person. I allowed my heart to look one way, and now as it spins around, I see love everywhere.

Jesus whispers to me in the early morning that I’m lovelier than the sunrise. He says things that make me blush, things that I never knew I wanted to hear because He makes sure He’s the one for me. He’s the most romantic, the most thoughtful, the most affectionate and affirming love. He surrounds me. I am enveloped in grace, like a letter sent to free a debtor. I owe nothing. I’m stamped by His blood. I am on my way to my proper destination, not lost, not delayed. I am expected and long-awaited. I am an answered prayer on its way. I am love and freedom and family and safety. I’m a city of refuge.

His comfort fills me like the deep, quiet breaths of peace after a long cry.

“It’ll be okay,” He whispers, “I am healing you.”

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There’s a song called “Farther Along” by Josh Garrels, and it goes like this…

Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand this, all by and by…

I can vouch that this is true. In the moment, it makes no sense. You’re stuck in the whirlwind and the chaos, but time and Jesus… they’re sweet. They bring healing. You will understand why things didn’t work. You will see what the Lord had in mind instead. Trust that it’s much more beautiful. It’s real. It’s wholesome. It’s simple. Powerful, sweeping, like a tidal wave.

It can come right out of nowhere or have been there all along.
Sometimes both.

You will love again… not only that, but you’ll find that love is reinvented, recreated in a way that you didn’t understand before. I pray for healing and for trust if you’re going through a heartbreak.

Jesus loves you with an unfailing love.
Sometimes it takes a failing love for us to take that into consideration.
Rest in the truth of His goodness, and trust that all else will be added unto you.
Shake the heavens with your prayers for your portion.
He will release what is yours, baby.
He will open your eyes to see it.
He will add.

Best Date Ever

It had been raining nonstop in Gainesville for 52 years. Or at least that’s what it felt like to me. The peaches were drowning.

The radio weatherman sounded sarcastic as he read the forecast yesterday, as rain and then more rain, with a chance of drizzle and a heavy rain. It was funny and frustrating. I started making jokes about having a vampire boyfriend watching me sleep. I wish.

As I was driving home in the afternoon, I saw some slivers of blue sky. I got so excited, yall. I mean, I made a huge deal in the car, by myself. And that’s when I heard the sweet invitation to go watch the sunset with Jesus…

YES!

I started driving to the park, thinking the sunset was gonna look something like this…

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Or maybe even like this…

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Ya know, just average stunning sunset, no big deal. That’s what I’ve seen at that park. Jesus really turned it up, and having had that invite, I expected some fun colors, yeah?

As I pulled up and looked, it was pretty gray.

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Cold.

Rainy.

Dark.

My place of wonder and beauty just yucky and damp.

He asked me to get out of the car, and walk to the end of the dock in the misty cold.

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Ew.

I walked carefully all the way to the end, taking pictures because I knew I wanted to remember this.

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As I stood on the edge, He said:
“Look, how beautiful!”

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I was so confused. It didn’t feel or look beautiful. It was yucktastic at best. Clouds suffocating any color, the water dark, the wind was freezing.

Again, He said:

“It’s beautiful.”

I asked “What? I don’t see it! What do you see that’s so beautiful?”

And Jesus answered

Your obedience.”

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I found myself giggling like a schoolgirl, giddy that the Almighty God had just given me something sweeter than a colorful sky, warmer than a sunny day. He affirmed me. He trusts me.

I walked to my car with a skip to my step, knowing that sometimes the Lord brings me to places I don’t understand. He leads my feet to familiar edges, removes any other distraction to His voice, and He affirms my heart. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, right in the center of His will.

It rained. It was ugly. It was cold.
But Jesus was there with me.

Best date ever.

Thanksgiving 2014

Somehow, I’ve arrived here.

I can’t explain the goodness, the method.

God has blessed me in ways I didn’t think possible.

Just last year, I was crying. I was broken. I was feeling empty, unhappy that I was unsatisfied, angry with myself for not being satisfied, and asking God why I craved something aside from Him, why He wasn’t filling my heart, healing my heart. I was stuck on all my shortcomings, focused only on the things I had failed to do, on what I could have done differently. My soul simply cried out ‘why’ and no longer said ‘yes’ to the Most High King. But He didn’t leave me there. He gave me a new spirit.

All is well now. I can say with a confident peace that I walk in His healing. My heart has been mercifully filled to the brim with a love that is bold and deep and real. I’m in love, and not just with an idea, but with the fullness of what God intended. And I’m not afraid to receive it. I’m not afraid it will be taken away.

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As for ministry, it’s been tough but rewarding. God has grown Phylla House beyond my imagination. We now have 3 campuses, reaching over 50 women. We have an internship program. We have more overseas partners, who now actually benefit from our partnership. I’m much closer to becoming a women’s pastor, what was once a goal I didn’t think myself deserving to set.

I’d like to say I no longer struggle with discipline, but it hasn’t gotten that much easier. I crave intimacy with the Father, but sometimes it doesn’t carry over into my body desiring to get up in the morning when it’s not well-rested. It’s a battle worth fighting, and I will keep fighting out of love, and freely receiving His grace in the times that I fail.

 

Thanksgiving 2014 has me with a full heart. I know God did more than I dared to ask.

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As you can tell, we’re still in 2013. I wrote this projecting forward, prophesying over next year.

I grieved this year. It was beautiful, but also really painful. But Jesus is making new things. I can trust Him in that, and I will focus on what is ahead, because it sure is lovely.

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.
Psalm 71:20

The Weight of Our Choices

Sometimes I wish the Lord was a grand puppeteer, a real tyrant up there, dictating my every move with one of those huge robot all-in-one remote controls that I can never figure out. You know? The kind with the colorful buttons with arrows everywhere and SAT words abbreviated in different languages, possibly also a calculator? Those.

But the thing about the Lord is that He gives us choices.
He trusts us to make choices!

Looking back, I’ve made some stupid choices. I mean, wow. I still am a little bit stunned at how I rationalized some choices and was able to twist them into looking halfway logical.

Really, if you’re stubborn enough, you’re gonna find an excuse to do what it is you actually want to do. You can find a loophole. You can direct your thoughts to the 2% that sounds good and convenient, while ignoring the 98% that’s screaming mistake, hasty, lesser.

I can blame my support systems and heart wounds, and say things like “I didn’t know better” and “I did my best at the time” but it boils down to the truth: my mind was set on rebellion. I did as I pleased, I did what was right in my own eyes. I refused wise counsel. I shut my ears and lalala’d my way through poor choices. I made a recent poor choice, so let me tell you…

A few days ago, I had an off day. Nothing really seemed quite right. I was hungry and went into the kitchen, opened the cabinet, and looked at my groceries. I had just gone to the store, and I had a pretty delish setup going on, no lie. I had bowtie pasta, sauce, potatoes, different soups, I had avocados and tomatoes, cheese… yet I grabbed a can of pork and beans. Kid you not. I heated it up, and I ate freakin pork and beans, yall.

No offense to beans, because beans rock, but seriously???

That’s the kind of thing you heat up as a side dish for a barbecue, not what you would eat as a main meal by itself, all emo and weird.

Then you know what happens after you eat a lot of beans? Yeah. That was fun. I was farting all day, couldn’t stand myself. (yes, yes, I went there, don’t care). I was home alone, so I was in my own little prison, holding myself hostage with freakin tear gas, so help me God.

How often do we do that to ourselves?
(no, not fart ourselves to tears, I mean make poor choices on purpose)

Then we wonder how and why we got ourselves to where we are?

LET’S GO TO THE ROOTS? OKAY!

Finish this sentence:

Sometimes I choose to deprive myself of peace and goodness because… 

…I don’t feel innately deserving, only on special occasions.
…I want to punish myself out of guilt for something that happened in the past.
…I want a challenge to prove something about my worth, because of somebody who has made me feel unworthy.
…I am subconsciously angry at myself, someone else, and/or God. 
…I like to suffer through and control the drama, because it impedes me from dealing with a reality I’m unready to face.

Dear dear darling reader, whoever you are, I can relate with you, but this has to stop.

You were meant for more than being your own worst enemy. 

The weight of your choices is a direct consequence of these behaviors, which are hinging on lies.

WANT TRUTH?

…I don’t feel innately deserving, only on special occasions.
You are deserving. You are deserving because your worth was given to you by God, and it can’t be taken away. Do not deprive yourself. Find accountability in the ways you are struggling with this.

…I want to punish myself out of guilt for something that happened in the past.
You are acquitted. You are free from the guilt, the shame, and the past because of Jesus, and He wants you to have freedom. You are as free as the prodigal son, who came home after having spent all of his inheritance and found himself embraced by his dad and welcomed home. Take a deep breath. Treat yourself kindly. Find accountability in the ways you deal with punishing yourself. You are covered in grace. You need not live like the past is still weighing you down.

…I want a challenge to prove something about my worth, because of somebody who has made me feel unworthy.
If you’re struggling with this, odds are, you aren’t feeling very loved. The thing with challenges is that they are difficult and elusive during the chase, and then they are empty once you have them. You trick yourself into thinking that the challenge itself is your motivation, when really you’re feeding off of the process and the hardship.
Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to recognize it. You have to heal from this. Somebody rocked you to the core and made you feel like less than you are. Face that. Heal. Be. Forgive. Release. Do what you need to do to dispel that wound and not let it affect your choices.
Also, your value does not increase based on someone’s affection for you.
Your value has been set, and it’s high.
God is not ashamed to point to you and say “that one, that incredible one, is made in my image.”
Let the Lord bring you His goodness. Don’t go looking for a person or a challenge to validate you. Let Him love you well.

…I am subconsciously angry at myself, someone else, and/or God. 
It’s okay to be angry. Let it out. Tell the Lord what’s on your mind. He can handle it. Letting anger fester is toxic to you. It can creep into everything you do and poison it. Vent to God and forgive the situation, all parties involved, and yourself. Forgive yourself for not understanding it all yet. Someday you will know fully. Someday you’ll have all the answers, promise.

…I like to suffer through and control the drama, because it impedes me from dealing with a reality I’m unready to face.
This last one is a killer coping mechanism that can wreck a whole lifetime… co-dependence, choosing abusive relationships, choosing one-sided relationships, choosing toxic friendships, and inviting confusion into your life. Yikes. What would a whole day be like without drama? Without communication with that person? Please please confront the anxiety of the thought of not communicating, the anxiety of the thought of silence and stillness. I promise that the real “drama” is the quivering panicking thought of not having attention, or not having tension. Face it. Face that fear. Scream in its face about how awesome God says you are, about how you’re not alone. About how you need to be loved well. About how you know how to love well.  Scream in its face. Tell it to go to hell. Once that fear is gone, you have so much thought space, so much peace. It’s no longer about who is giving you attention. There’s a comfort in stillness. There’s a knowledge of God’s goodness from the depth of your heart, where once that fear was embedded.

Jesus, I pray you bring healing and peace. Teach your sweet ones what goodness is, all over again. Take away the anxiety, the anger, the confusion. Take away the desire to let their hearts wander, to seek attention or affirmation from people or projects. Then they will make good decisions, no longer bound up in rebellion. Then they will choose well for themselves, not the bumpy back roads but the highways you have for them. Show them how well-loved they are by a Savior who is not a puppeteer but who TRUSTS THEM and enables them to make good decisions without fear or lies. In your name I pray. Amen.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
{Psalm 51:10-12}