Are You Experiencing a Spiritual Attack?

fullsizeoutput_44d0

Trapped in a barn stall I couldn’t see it, but I felt it’s hot breath on my skin. It snarled and loomed over me. I spun around feeling for the door to escape, but there was none. I flailed my arms to push it away from me but felt air as it darted out of the way reappearing behind me.  I woke up screaming.

That same morning around 5 am, I found my husband, Jay, sitting on the sofa, staring into his coffee cup. He’d asked why I was up so early, and when I told him, his eyes widened.

He’d had the same dream, only in his version he was in a small garage.

Days later, a misunderstanding arose at my husband’s employment, gossip and backbiting ensued, and Jay experienced so much fear over our financial future and doubt in what God had told him to do, it landed him on the kitchen floor dry heaving in the middle of the night. There he surrendered his financial future to his Heavenly Father. Afterwards, he resigned from his position, and God quickly paved the path for him to open his own business. For what Satan uses to kill us, God uses to resurrect us.

fullsizeoutput_44d8

I’d lost my sister the year before, and we’d used much of our savings to build a farmhouse, after a season of prayer and confirmation it was what God wanted. As soon as the farmhouse sat completely furnished the enemy struck. Many times, the enemy attacks after an act of obedience, especially if it is one that makes you step out of your comfort zone. So, I knew in the middle of our adversity it was more than a physical attack.

This was spiritual.

What I didn’t realize at the time was God allowed it to strengthen our faith in His provision.

There are ways to recognize when you are in the middle of spiritual warfare. The following are signs or symptoms you may be under a spiritual attack.

fullsizeoutput_44d5

 

  1. Indecisive Behavior:

Like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz who can’t seem to make up his mind on which direction to go, this could be you. You pray but can’t seem to hear the Father on a major decision you’re making for your life. You’re told conflicting advice by your friends and loved ones which only makes you more confused. If you find yourself in this dilemma, recognize the enemy is the creator of confusion. He loves to muddy the waters.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” I Corinthians 14:33 (English Standard Version.)

If you can’t make a clear-cut, God-guided decision then do nothing. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10a. (ESV)

In our culture, indecision or waiting is looked upon as a weakness, but God is clear He calls us at times to be still. Don’t snatch the reins or run ahead; but allow God time to reveal an answer. It’s in the waiting faith germinates.

 

  1. Fear and Anxiety:

If you feel chronic fear or anxiety you could be experiencing a spiritual attack. The enemy uses fear to stop us from moving forward. When I set out to design the farmhouse, I wanted a quaint little place, but Jay knew God wanted us to build a larger home. I became riddled with fear and anxiety over spending our cash in building what I began calling the “ark.” Jay insisted God told him to build a house that future generations could use as a safe haven in case of a financial collapse. I set out praying for confirmation and peace. One Sunday after our house’s foundation had been laid, I went to church while Jay stayed behind with our sick daughter. I prayed in the pew that if it wasn’t God’s will for the ark to be built He would cause something to happen to stop it.  Pastor Chuck Carter at First Baptist Windermere took the podium, opened his Bible, and read, “By faith Noah being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.” Hebrews 11:7 ESV. God spoke directly into my fear and anxiety and gave me the peace of mind to move forward.

I underlined that verse and wrote in my Bible “Farmhouse confirmation.” God has a word to calm any fear and settle any anxiety. Don’t know where to start? You can find many of the calming verses right in the middle of your Bible in the book of Psalms. Just let it fall open.

We may never see our farmhouse used for the reason it was built, but we have seen it used for His purposes in the interim as a place to minister to others.

 

  1. Loss:

Are you in a season of loss? Loss of health, a death of a loved one, depleted finances, a straying spouse, loss of peace in your home, loss of hope. All of these and more could be indicative of a spiritual attack. If you find yourself in a season of loss as I have, cling to God’s promises.

“He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3 (ESV)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

 

  1. Insecurity:

If you’re experiencing a painful season of feeling inadequate in your appearance, talents, skill set, employment, or relationships, you could be listening to the enemy. Satan loves to make us feel as if we don’t belong, we don’t have what it takes, or we don’t look like we should because that will keep us from progressing in whatever God has called us to do. While God amplifies our potential, Satan magnifies our deficit. Tune out the enemy by keeping your mind and heart focused on the Father. Abide in Him.  “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forevermore, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26: 3- 4 (ESV)

 

  1. Guilt:

The enemy uses our past to enslave us. Do you find yourself constantly digging up past mistakes and wallowing in them? This is another way the enemy stops us from living the life of freedom God intended. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

If you find yourself rehashing past mistakes that you’ve already asked forgiveness for, you’re not believing what Christ did on the cross was enough. I have a friend who rebelled for a period of time when she asked God for forgiveness for all she’d done, she stated immediately she felt light and freedom from the heavy burdens she’d been carrying. Upon her return to church, some in the church felt she didn’t look guilty enough, but she refused to walk with a hung head. God forgave her. She stood firm on His promises.

If our sin hurts someone else we need to ask forgiveness from all the persons affected by our mistakes, but the enemy will use others who were not affected to peel back the scabs of old wounds. Stand firm in the promise of His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9 (ESV)

fullsizeoutput_44e0

 

These are just some of the signs the enemy is meddling in your life. As with all things, an attack has to first slip through the fingers of God to reach us. If you are experiencing one, remember God has allowed it. There are many reasons God uses spiritual warfare in our lives some are to strengthen us, shape our Christ-like character, help us learn to rely on Him, build our discernment between good and evil, and learn how to overcome the enemy. Remember, without facing an opponent we will never fully utilize God’s power within us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bike With Fat Tires

DSC_0353

Something happens to me when I hop on my bike and head out for a ride; in my mind, I become a 10 year old. It’s as if I have no fear, and I’m transformed into that dirty, stringy, tow-headed girl who wanted desperately to keep up with the country boys. I probably smell like her too. This morning, I flew through our neighborhood gate right before it closed, jumped a few curbs, and twisted through traffic. Afterwards, as I’m parking my bike I have a conversation in my brain that goes something like this… “that was really stupid, you could’ve hit the gate. Praise God, that driver saw you! Tammy, if you wipe out jumping that curb you’re not going to jump up and yell, “That was radical!” You’re going to lie there crying, “Dial 911!” 

But, then… it’ll happen all over again tomorrow.

I have a hybrid. I love my bike. It has the wider wheels that can get me through packed sand, turf, or city traffic. Last weekend at the farm, I was eyeing my friend Ed Kobel’s bike in his garage. It had extremely wide wheels. I’d never seen a bike like it. 

“That’s the wheels it takes to get down these sandy roads?” I said nodding at the bike. “I’ve been wondering if my bike could handle it.”

“Oh yeah,” Becky, his wife said. “A normal tire can’t make it here. You have to have thick wheels to get through thick sand.” 

Thick wheels to get through thick sand… 

DSC_0164
Appian Way, outside Rome: That cat has no fear.

This morning on my ride I was thinking about fear versus faith. How Satan loves to throw the stick of fear into our spokes knocking us off the course God’s cleared for us. God never leads us to a place of fear. He may ask us to do something that gives us fear, but the feeling of fear and trepidation is never manifested by God. It is propagated by the enemy.  It is the enemy’s way of getting you to doubt the Father. So, if you are feeling fear about something God is leading you to do, don’t let the enemy win. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 English Standard Version.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” How is it God tells us in His Word be anxious for nothing, yet anxiety is now the most common mental illness in the US?

As Christians we are equipped to deal with anxiety and fear. The anxiety or fear I’m referring to is not birthed biologically or traumatically, it is the fear produced by insecurity in who God is, and who you were created to be. If you truly believe God and His word, you won’t let fear rule your life. 

Thick wheels can cut through thick sand. The most important tools we have to combat fear is God’s word and the Holy Spirit. If the word of God is your foundation throughout your life, you will have the ability to glide through whatever season or calling your are in. When the sands of life get thick and you feel fearful of the trail ahead, you have God’s power inside of you to break that debilitating stronghold and pedal forward.

Remember, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 ESV.

DSC_0010

I was a witness to the enemy’s fear tactics when my sister, Tricia was dying of breast cancer. It was around two months before she passed, and I found her sitting up in bed one morning. 

“I know you’re not going to believe me,” she said, “but Satan was whispering to me all night.”

“What were you hearing?” I said, a bit skeptical.

“Sinister laughing. Then he told me that God could’ve healed me, but He didn’t love me enough. He told me the work I did for God won’t matter once I’m gone. He told me my life with cancer was a waste, and never made a difference like I wanted it to. He was constantly repeating, you’re going to die and laughing.” 

She grabbed my hand, her palm was clammy.

“Tammy, I know where I am going. I don’t fear dying because I know I’m going to heaven, but do I have to be terrified in the process? It was so real, I looked over at Thomas to see if he was hearing it too, but he was asleep.” 

The passage in Psalms popped in my head, so I recited it to her. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, as You are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. ” (Psalms 23:4 ESV) For the first time in my life, that passage came alive between us. I fully understood God was warning us that Satan was not done with her. It wasn’t enough her body was riddled with pain. He wanted to discourage Tricia even on her death bed. We prayed that God would intercede on her behalf and He would give her peace. The Bible reminded Tricia that God is there with her in that valley, she just needed to grab on to Him. 

Tricia destroyed the bondage of fear with her faith. The next night, Tricia slept with no problem. 

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (II Corinthians 10:4 ESV)

DSC_0012
Jay giving me his evil expression. That would be my purse he was holding. (felt I needed to clarify)

 

Looking back now, I think about what the enemy was telling my sister. Her cancer didn’t matter… Her life didn’t make a difference to anyone. If you’ve been following this blog, you know her cancer made a difference in the life of my friend Vanessa who died one month ago from brain cancer. Vanessa Raghubir’s decision to follow Christ started by reading Tricia Baines’s story, yet Tricia died not knowing the impact her life and death had on others.

We, as Christians are God’s army. We are all a threat to the enemy. He would love to keep our journey’s stagnant our lives meaningless because we are ill- equipped with skinny tires in thick sand or paralyzed in fear of what’s ahead. Are you going to let him derail you from God’s plan for you? Or are you going to place the thick Word of Truth as your foundation and utilize the Holy Spirit’s power in the pedals?

Is God calling you to speak? Just do it.

Is God calling you to write that book or article? Do it.

Is God calling you to forgive someone? Do it.

Is God calling you to try out that Bible study? Do it.

Whatever God is calling you to do, don’t let fear win. And believe this, whatever God is calling you to do, it will be a success if you get on that bike and pedal. Ride your faith like you’re 10 years old. You’re life will be powerful!

See you on the trails! Until next week…

Perfection Obsession

I threw the broken seashells behind me and placed the perfect into my pail. My toddler, Bella followed behind selecting her own shells. The water swirled around our legs. I kept glancing back to insure she wasn’t swept away by the undertow. Later that evening, I returned to the beach to clean up, and peered into our pails. My bucket was a quarter-filled with the perfect shells, hers overflowed with all the broken I’d discarded. Immediately, I felt the familiar nudge when God wants me to see beyond what is physically there.

DSC_0126

            I have a tendency to wade in the waters of perfection-obsession. Perfectionism can be debilitating to a writer… an artist… an older Momma, filling me to the brim with the “not enough” syndrome. My writing doesn’t grab the attention enough, my paintings aren’t riveting enough, as a mother of a toddler I’m not young enough. Perfectionism’s return is always void, always costing me an empty bucket of unfulfilled hopes.

            That night on the beach, I dumped my shells and slipped a couple of Bella’s shards into my jean pocket.

            Bella is a lover of the broken, the imperfect. I am thankful.

            When we snuggle in the chair at night, she raises her brows, and tells me to do the same. She traces the lines on my forehead with her little finger and tells me she has lines too. For now, rooted in innocence, she sees my lines as beautiful, and I am grateful.

            I’ve worried about my Bella, thought about the unfairness of it all, being stuck with the older version of Momma. The one bearing sags of four pregnancies, diminished eyesight, and with three other children- an over-filled calendar. The Momma with lines around her eyes left from a life of laughter, sprinkled on occasion by the heaviest of clouds.

IMG_3334

            Bella watches me put on makeup. “Mommy you’re pretty,” she says. I smile, the lines appear in the mirror, trying to taunt me, but I remind myself they are evidence of a life well lived. I am living proof a bucket filled with broken pieces produce blessings in a lifetime. The crooked legs I was born with, still want to dance.  A creative mind that daydreamed in school, now creates paintings and characters.  A once naive and trusting spirit brings laughter to the joyless.  A broken heart that feared commitment, still leaps at the sight of my husband.  A memory that couldn’t retain history dates, remembers life’s tiniest details. A weak faith has endured testing and strengthened. A girl who wanted to take on the injustices of the world now shows mercy to those around her. A twenty-something’s unwise choices has produced wisdom. It is the broken pieces about us that can produce full buckets of God’s glory.

IMG_0732

            Occasionally, we need reminding, God loves us no matter. Just like Bella, walking along the shoreline picking up the pieces I’d discarded, Jesus walked this earth and picked up the broken, washed up, and rejected. His final act of love for a broken world was to break Himself on the cross and rise from the tomb, leading me to my ultimate blessing… I have a Savior who’s perfect, so I don’t have to be.

IMG_2785

            Are you chasing perfection? Chasing the lie? Do you spend more time worrying over the sags, bags, cracks, and lacks? Do you work harder to impress the world or to please God? Do you compare yourselves to others on social media? Don’t sap the joy out of your life with perfection-obsession.God loves those broken, tired, wrinkled, and baggy parts, my friend. Nestle into His grace, and while you’re at it, spend a little time this summer picking up the broken seashells.

 

When Fear Wipes You Out.

 

fullsizeoutput_3e0b
Gearing up!

 

On top of the Montana mountain attired in a heavy BMX helmet and pads, I found clarity on why the rental bike clerk responded with an “Ohhh…” When I told him we didn’t have any mountain biking experience. An awkward silence ensued, so I felt the need to elaborate, “We’re from Orlando Florida. The land’s flat there.”

            “Well, in that case I think I should warn you we don’t have any beginner trails. At the top of the mountain there’s only intermediate and expert trails, I’d recommend starting with the intermediate. There’s a good chance you’ll wipe out at least once… probably more. The trails only a foot wide and you’ll feel pretty vulnerable biking on a cliff. The rocks will wiggle your tires a bit. You have to trust your bike to follow through, don’t fight it. But if you don’t like the first mile, bike back up because it’ll be that way for over seven more.”

            At the peak, my boys took off without looking back (it’s a male pride thing) and Peyton rode off after them, but I’m at an age where I no longer think of myself as invisible like I did throughout my twenties. I took a steadying breath and prayed God would not let us fall off the edge before pushing off. Right away there was a ramp and a curve on a cliff that made my stomach flip-flop.  “Are they crazy? This can’t be the intermediate trail!” I screamed. Once the trail leveled a bit, I saw the kids ahead waiting for me.

            Peyton, my niece glanced back. “I already fell!” She said. She seemed a bit shaken.

            We all rode together, at the next curb Peyton wiped out again and rolled a bit off the edge. I jumped off my bike. “Peyton!” I screamed. “That’s it, we are going back. It’s not worth it.”

            “I can’t do it!” she said, rubbing her scraped up arm. I recognized the look of exasperation that crossed her face. It was the look of hopeless defeat. I remembered her Momma giving me that look when she was scared to climb the tree I’d been climbing for a while. Being only seventeen months younger, she was no longer content to stand at the bottom and watch. Tricia wanted to know what it felt like to wrap her arms and legs around the pinnacle and ride in the wind.

            “One limb at a time Tricia, I’ll go with you.” Limb by limb we climbed together until we reached the weakest branches at the top and held on tight. Tricia smiled until she looked down.  “Don’t look down,” I said. “Always, keep your eyes straight out.”

 IMG_1108

            Peyton is so much like her Momma and I. We’re all rooted in the southern soil of determination.

            “Boys, go. Leave us.”

            “Are you sure Mom?” Nick said. What if you get hurt?”

            “She’s going to get hurt if you stay. Ride ahead, we’ll be fine.”

            They got on their bikes and rode off.

            I turned to Peyton, “Do you want to do this?”
“Yes, but I can’t.” Her arms shook.

            “Look, the way I see it, is this, you were trying to keep up and that’s why you are falling on the curbs. Walk the curbs until you get used to them. And we’re not competing here. Take it slow and steady and enjoy the ride. This is not a race. We are challenging ourselves to finish something that is ridiculously scary, so we can say we did. Okay? We got this!”

 

DSC_0174
Peyton rooted in Southern determination.

 

            She nodded, climbed on her bike and rode. At the next curb, she climbed off her bike as did I, and we walked our bikes around the edge of the cliff. A few miles down, she gained the courage to bike the remaining curbs, and I biked them too. One curb at a time.

            We completed the eight plus miles downhill, and met the boys at the bottom, standing with my daughter Bella and my husband, Jay. Over lunch, my son Christian bragged about how fast he was going and how he had to wait thirty minutes for Mom to arrive.

            I leaned across the table, snatching one of his fries. “Pretty sad you need to compete with a mother of four who’s nearing 50. Just saying.” I popped the fry in my mouth, shutting his up.

20180621_144718
After the ride, Christian already giving Momma a hard time.

 

            The times I’ve compared myself to others or tried to keep up, I’ve always wiped out defeated. I’ve always lost hope. After Jay and I married, one of our close friends had the perfect home. She enjoyed cleaning and she was a great cook too. Her home was spotless every day, I tried to keep up and soon found I did nothing but keep a clean house. I didn’t play with my children, I didn’t see girlfriends, I didn’t write, I didn’t paint. I neglected to use the talents God gave me that bring me joy and Him glory. My life felt flat all because I thought that was what a stay-at- home Mom was supposed to be. It didn’t take long to realize Jay preferred a happy, well-rounded wife to a housekeeper.

             Recently, I’ve seen friends become published authors, I’m thrilled for them, but cannot help but fill that angst that I’ll never finish my book. Just like Peyton trying to keep up with her cousins, my book will wipe out if I write slop in haste.

IMG_1077
Easier part of the trail.

 

            I admit I’m pretty proud of myself for conquering that Rocky mountain, I know Jay’s tired of hearing about it, but that mountain taught me a valuable lesson. We all have our own trail our own race to complete in this life. A narrow trail God’s already cleared for us alone. It will be filled with hills, cliffs, curbs, and rocks that shake you to the core. I can guarantee you will have the occasional falls and  it will seem to fly by; but if our focus is on  the ones we perceive are doing it better, we will fall off our own trail and miss the blessings and opportunities surrounding us. Think about that the next time you compare yourself to someone else. Til next time take it slow and steady and above all enjoy the ride!

God Uses Bathrooms

God likes small spaces. Recently, I spoke to a MOPS group of about sixty women about relying on God in the midst of a sorrowful season. I was so nervous I took a barf bag up to the podium with me (more as a joke, but I did feel like barfing). I wasn’t nervous about speaking, but because of the intimate subject- my sister’s suffering and her dependence on God through it.
At her funeral, I delivered one of her eulogies and although the number of attendees was much greater, so was the space. The space of the auditorium actually eased my nerves, because it wasn’t as intimate as this MOPS group.
Here, was a group of ladies whom may have met Tricia or read her blog, but did not really know her, and it was up to me to describe her journey with cancer. I didn’t come through it a champ, I teared up in those dark shadowy parts, but in one of those choked-up times, I looked up and breathed. When I glanced back across the room I saw all of them crying. They got it! If there is one feeling that’s universal in this world it’s sadness.
Suddenly, I knew I wasn’t alone, they could feel the heavy and the light memories with me, and relate it to their own experiences. Words are powerful!
I stepped off that stage and by nightfall berated myself for all the things I didn’t include.You see, I set my notes aside and spoke from my heart. Since then, God has assured me I said everything He wanted me to, and has nudged me to write a book about her story.
Today, I wanted to share a statement I had written in my notes for my speech that day.
Where you place your hope, will be the source of your joys.
Some of us put our hopes in our children. Our joy will be gone the moment we become empty nesters or they enter into rebellion. We will look at the young moms with toddlers and be filled with envy.
Some of us put our hopes in our achievements, and when we loose our job, our health, or our mental capacity, our joys are lost with it.
Some stack their hopes on their husband’s shoulders, and when it becomes too heavy for them, they toss it aside. Where will your joy be when his eyes behold another?
Some place their hopes on their wealth and their name brands, only to find themselves in debt or without a job.
God forbid, some of us place our hopes in our government. For those, watch out!
The only place that’s a safe shelter for our hopes is Jesus Christ. He is the source of pure joy. Our joy is our light in a dark world.

I taught Sunday School one Sunday to a group of girls. They sat in a circle on the floor and I turned out the lights. I handed each one a candle and placed large candle in the center of us. It probably appeared I was leading a seance.
“What do you notice about the room?” I said.
“It’s dark,” They said.
I lit the large candle in the center of us. “Jesus came to the world, died on the cross, and rose again, so we can have the Holy Spirit inside of us.” I leaned my taper’s wick into the flame. “Then, on October 12, 1975, Ms. Tammy gave her life to Christ. I placed my life and my hopes in Jesus Christ.”
“Years later, Miss Tammy becomes a Sunday School teacher and she leads Jenny to Christ. I lit Jenny’s candle. Then, Jenny tells Lauren on the playground at school, and Jenny asks Jesus into her heart…” Jenny lit Lauren’s candle. Around the circle it went until each of their candles were lit.
“What do you notice about the room now?”
“The room is no longer dark,” they said.
“Exactly!” I said. “When we place our hopes in Jesus Christ, we become the light in a dark world. Imagine if there was standing room only in here, and everyone had accepted Christ. There would be no dark corners.”

Lately, I’ve forgotten that. I’ve been in a stupor about the transgender bathroom thing at Target. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you must’ve been stuck under a large piece of furniture for a couple of weeks.
I posted on my Facebook “Target doesn’t need my business.” It wasn’t as much the transgenders I worried about, as much as it was any sexual deviant could walk in the ladies room, and no-one would look sideways at him. How will I protect my daughter the day she wants to go to the bathroom alone? The announcement put me as a mother of a daughter, in fear.
You see, I forgot who I belonged to. I belong to the King and Creator of this universe, and I have nothing to fear in this world!
When I take my hopes off Christ and place them on others, fear runs rampant.

Did you know Jesus lived in an extremely dark, immoral world, just as we do today, but Jesus didn’t allow social norms to dictate his relationship with people. He sought the social outcasts of His day and offered them hope through redemption. In fact, the religious leaders became angry to find him dining with them….I imagine in a small, intimate space.
Today, I recant my former position. I’m going to be the happiest door holder and towel hander- outer Target has ever seen. Perhaps, the only place a transgender will have contact with Jesus is through me in the ladies room. God is tearing down these large comfortable walls we build around ourselves, and putting us in small places, face to face with people we may not agree with, but we are commanded by Him to love. Funny, how God can use small spaces like that.
Think about it.

John 14:6-7: “Jesus told him. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come unto the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”