May 13, 2016

Gerica Lilly : She’s Not Sorry

There were times after cancer was behind me I would find myself thinking: Man, I had a key to the high school elevator… so why did I torture myself by still climbing up the stairs to my 5th-period class? (Which resulted in a 5-minute coughing fit). Or, why did I insist on wearing a stupid wig the days I went to school? They were so uncomfortable, and it only masked my bald head, not all the other indicators that flashed ‘cancer patient.’ And also, Maybe I should have let my classmates do something special for me like they wanted to do. I hope they didn’t think I was a horrible person.

I often reflected back on moments from my senior year in high school and at times felt apologetic for how I chose to handle what at the time was my biggest obstacle. I would beat myself up for seeming not to care about people, along with caring too much about their opinions.

Maybe I should not have been so focused on me and let more people in. Maybe I should have let them do more for me so they could see I did cherish their support. Or reached out to the umpteenth people who said they would be there for me if I needed something, and mustered through an awkward “heyyy” on the phone followed by a long weird silence.

But then I remember my initial reaction to finding out I had cancer. I asked the doctor, “Okay, so what’s next? What do I have to do to get better?”  THAT defined me more than cancer ever would. I had made a decision in my mind to make cancer an experience and not let it claim who I was.

I wasn’t willing for it to be all my life would ever have to offer. So the times I didn’t use the elevator key, or the times I would force myself to go to school or wanted to be treated as “normal” as possible, it was because deep down inside I knew there had to be more!

I didn’t want to be identified by a season of my life. There was more for me and if I became okay with identifying with cancer as who I was, then “survivor” wouldn’t be just a label- it would force me to settle for less than what I knew I was meant to be.

The same was true when tragedy struck in 2012 and I gained a new label titled “widow.”  The word seemed to be just as terminal and limited as “survivor.”  Although the new label could have been synonymous with THE END, I wasn’t convinced it was the end.

I remember that first night I laid in my bed alone I said, “Okay God, there has to be meaning to this. You wouldn’t bring me here just to torture me.”  I don’t believe God placed these two life-altering experiences in my hands so that when I walk through those pearly gates I can say I survived His obstacle course. No, I believe God brought me through painful places to show me who I am. Our painful places of life are moments in time; they do not define us but merely help us discover who we are. They are not meant to hold on to but to be transformed into a beautiful story that points back to Him!

Survivor and widow are two words that describe what I’ve been through but do not tell a full story of who I am. I don’t want to simply be a survivor or a widow I want to live a life that thrives! James 1:3-4 says,

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

I don’t want people to know my story and feel sorry for me. I want people to know my story, see my faith was tested and say, “God has to be real!”

As a new season of my life is starting and I’ve opened up to a new relationship there are days when doubt creeps in and fear tries to grip me but I remember who I am and who’s I am. My identity is in Christ and not the labels my experiences have put on me. I was called for His purpose so all things will work together for my good  (Romans 8:28).

God is restoring everything He promised me, and I am so grateful I claimed my experiences and didn’t let them claim me.

 

-Gerica Lilly.


FullSizeRenderGerica Lilly is a mother to  7-year-old,  Avaah. She is currently on staff at Journey Church as a part-time employee. She spends time volunteering within the student’s ministry at Journey Church and is looking to use her story to show people just how good God is. Be on the look out for her upcoming Blog launching: Summer 2016 !

Gerica can be contacted via email at:  gdevonlilly@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

May 6, 2016

Stephanie Williams: I’m Broken

IMG_6232I am a new mom that has no clue what’s she is doing, I am a wife that yells at her husband and I am a friend who is horrible at texting back. And although my Instagram does a great job of making people think that I have together, the truth is, I am broken. Unapologetically broken that is.

I wish I could tell you that there will be a time when we feel perfect and perfectly whole, but there isn’t. Now, if I just ended this here that would be pretty depressing and leaving you with no hope. But I’m not. See, this is where it all begins. It begins with knowing that we don’t belong under the category of perfection, rather in the category of broken.

Paul paints the picture perfectly for us in 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 when he wrote, “Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Brokenness will look different with every season you encounter, but the fear of brokenness remains the same. We often do whatever we can to avoid being broken. I believe this is for two reason:

  1. Brokeness is messy and we’re afraid it might appear as weakness.
  2. Brokenness requires vulnerability and causes us to look deeper

Remaining in a place of brokenness isn’t weak. On the contrary, you’re stronger for your vulnerability with Christ. Allowing yourself to be broken causes Christ to be in control.

‘I began to praise Him for my brokenness because I realized it was the very thing keeping me close to Him.’ When I confront my broken areas it provides a need for Him to fulfill.

Our desire to appear as if nothing is going on is an insult to God’s grace working within us. We have convinced ourselves as women that our brokenness or the thing that broke us, defines us.

I am reminded about a time in my life where I struggled with sexual impurity to the point where I would give myself to anyone who wanted me or anyone who would give me attention. I wrote in my journal, “I am a beautiful woman who has baggage that will repel any Godly man. I am a warning sign. I am disgusting.” I allowed the thing that broke me, to define me. Where I should have allowed my brokenness to excuse me. Not from the responsibly of sin, but from the weight of it.

“He is near to the broken hearted and rescues those who’s spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18

Brokenness does not define your character, but it will test the durability of your vulnerability.

xoxo,

Stephanie W.


10632861_10204445570600081_7048537149461194064_nStephanie Williams has been married to her husband Joshua since May 2014. Together they live in Gainesville, FL with their newborn son Brody. They currently serve as the Student Ministries Directors at Destiny Community Church. Stephanie has a B.A in Church Leadership from Lee University and is a licensed minister through the Church of God in Cleveland, TN. She has a passion for young people to feel wanted, loved and accepted by Christ and to learn more about his Grace. To get in contact with Stephanie, be sure to visit her blog : www.stephanieannwilliams.com 

April 29, 2016

Laura Roddenberry: Why I’ve Never Been Single

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My left ring finger remains blank, unbound, unmarked.

My dating history is relatively small, littered with a couple messy past attempts at relational romance and little treasures of lessons learned. But am I single? Have I ever truly been single? No.  I haven’t.  And am not still.  I have come close, but have not succeeded in being single.  I am married to my ideas of romance. They are multiple.  They are complicated…multifaceted, divided, doubled, and two-sided. If perhaps I spent more time and anguish over what a single-minded individual can accomplish than the wrestling and tears spent over not having a romance of my own, then I would be more prepared for the ever-exciting “one can put a thousand to flight and two, ten-thousand to flight.”

Single-mindedness; an awareness of one goal; an all-encompassed mass of energy used for a specific purpose. So often, my mind is made up of many ideas—ideas like little rooms down the never-ending Hall of Dreams. Each room has its own furnishings, laid out so perfect, so welcoming. And I spend time in each of these rooms.  I live in one and then move on to another one.  Never single; always scattered, always searching.  I am talented, I will say, for my dreams are so powerful, and sometimes so right. And I am their author. And they are epic. People should be envious of my dreams…except that people cannot see them…because they exist in my mind. I may look single, but I am taken—taken up with myself…and my ideas.

I may look like I’m waiting for the right one, but on the inside I am dreaming him up…and not “him” necessarily, for each room holds a different idea of “the one.” Why do I like it? Why do I divide my mind into so many places? Why do I make each room so comfortable?

[Read more…]

April 22, 2016

Vanessa Philbert: When HOPE deferred, HEALS!

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 10.48.49 PMBy definition a “false-positive” is a test result which incorrectly indicates that a particular condition or attribute is present. In regards to medical diagnosis a false-positive is good news.  In the fall of 2013 I experienced two false positives; one was for Lupus and the other was regarding a dense mass found during a routine mammogram; after several visits to specialists and intensive testing both were determined to be a false-positive diagnosis.

However in March of 2014, I woke up severely sick with a stomach virus, after hours of unpleasant trips to the bathroom my husband took me to the ER.  I was sent home with anti-nausea medicine and instructions to stay hydrated and rest…in essence a false-positive.  

After 12 hours of increased and intense pain my husband took me back to the ER, knowing at this point this could not be a common stomach virus.  The doctors quickly informed us that my appendix had ruptured and that I would need emergency surgery. The diagnosis was real and dangerous…it would take a quick surgical response and ongoing treatment to remove the toxins that were quickly spreading through my body.

I spent about a week in the hospital hooked to IV’s with antibiotics and on a liquid diet (no one should have to eat Jell-O for every meal), however I did finally lose a few pounds (little silver lining).  I was to be on medical leave for the next 8 weeks to recover, I was sure I was on the road to recovery.

However, God had other plans…the real healing and surgery was only beginning.

There is a scripture in Proverbs 13:12 states “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” While I was recovering from surgery, there was a sickness in my heart that had begun to seep out of me and it was becoming difficult to mask. Some of the symptoms of my sick heart were: [Read more…]

April 15, 2016

Becky Morales: She’s Not Sorry

I was at the pinnacle of a promising professional career as an Educator, a professional Children’s Ministry volunteer, I was a part of a beautiful family, and as well as an awesome church body. In the midst of all of this, the Lord’s voice interrupted all He’d given me.

His new assignment? To home school our children.

What!? I didn’t even know the term “homeschool,” and that such a thing existed.

“Are you kidding me Lord?” I asked.

“Could this truly be You, asking me to give up the very things you blessed me with, and that I truly love doing?”

I found an easy escape in my husband, and became very “spiritual” with the Lord and “divine order.”

“Lord, you’ll have to speak to my husband, he’s the head of our home. I mean, I learned that from your Word and I want to be obedient.”

Funny how we think we can outwit the Lord. Yet, because of His love for us, He allows us to be “human.”

This was a big decision for us both, (for the sake of this article I am going to concentrate on God’s dealings with me specifically, using “we” and “us” only when necessary).

This decision would require changing my lifestyle. I would have to make drastic changes. Learn to live with a limited amount of “things.” Frugality would have to become my best friend, and I hated that word. My upbringing was in total contrast to a frugal lifestyle. I would even lose “status” in life. As a public school educator, I had a voice. Both of our families would not understand because logically, and by human reasoning, it was a step backwards, at a time in my life where my family needed financial stability.

[Read more…]

April 8, 2016

Landy Perez : When Disappointment Knocks on the Door

 

Have you ever been so excited about something to then have it fall through the cracks? Moments where you finally think that things will get better, but instead they get worse. There may have been times where you thought you’d see the light at the end of a dark and lonely tunnel, only to find it wasn’t a light. Disappointments; we’ve all experienced disappointments in one-way or another. So, the question is this, how can we avoid disappointments in our lives? The truth is: we simply can’t. You see, disappointments are part of life. Although, we may not have control over what disappointments we will encounter; we do have control over how we will react to them.

I love what Jesus says in John 16:33:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Isn’t this an amazing Word? Jesus isn’t promising a life free of trouble, pain and disappointment. In fact; He is assuring us that we will encounter these things, but to not worry because He has overcome the world. And if He has overcome the world, that means that we too can overcome any obstacles that may present itself in our way.

[Read more…]

April 1, 2016

Aaren Gutierrez: Bleeding But Still Believing

Sorry changed it’s meaning in my life on April 18th, 2014…

However, it all started the morning of April 17th while going through my second pregnancy with my son Benjamin.  I remember waking up heading to the bathroom to start my day. My very first thought was Benjamin should be up soon. I got to work by 4:30 AM and started my day like no other. Around 10:00 AM it seemed like my whole world came to a stop and the last 2 days were replaying in my mind in slow motion. Fighting to find the memory of when I last felt Benjamin move, kick, push on my Blatter- ANYTHING, I struggled to find it. I text my mom right away she gave me peace explaining that this happened to her with my oldest brother, she didn’t feel him for 3 whole days but he was safe sleeping. I decided to try and wake him up. During my pregnancy with my oldest son Elijah, I quickly learned he LOVED spicy foods, Benjamin wasn’t a fan. I decided to try something spicy to see if he would react to it, nothing. I moved and pushed him around in my tummy, nothing. I ate candy and soda to see if he needed a little energy, nothing. I finally got the courage to text my husband Joseph about what I was experiencing the last few hours. He prayed with me to comfort me as I tried to gather myself at work. He advised me to call my doctor to see if there was anything I could do to change what I was feeling.   I’m a very protective mother so I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t overreacting.  When I reached my doctor the sound in his voice was nervous, he advised me to get to the nearest hospital and he was going to meet me there. When hanging up the phone I broke down right then and there at work. I pulled myself together and headed to the hospital.  When I got there I had hope and thought, “Watch when I get there he’s going to start moving.” I felt a peace that everything was going to be okay. We got into the room and they searched for a heart beat- nothing. They quickly moved to an Ultrasound to get a for-sure answer on what they believed, had happened. They broke the news to my mother who and I . . . Benjamin’s heart had stopped beating. [Read more…]

March 29, 2016

SNS: BLAST OFF

I cannot believe it was just four months ago that I embarked on a new journey and decided to call it: She’s Not Sorry.

While I fight to make time to post at lease once a month- I am constantly reminded of the reason I started blogging and the reason I plan to continue. This past month I was so blessed and overwhelmingly reminded of my “why.”

On my blogging journey with She’s Not Sorry  I wanted other women to truly take a look within themselves-  find the daring valor to pull on every gift, every story, every perspective, every fear, every risk, every dream, and fill It entirely with Faith, Hope, and Love.

Little did I know I would be stretched to be daring, undaunted, and courageous in ways I haven’t been before ( it wouldn’t be right if I wasn’t).

My  She’s Not Sorry journey has been nothing short of moving, believing and living. I MEAN LIVING.

I decided it’s too late to look back, therefore, fear can’t stand while I pursue faith. [Read more…]

February 23, 2016

Why I Love Sundays !

why i love sundays

I’ll never forget being 16 years old, crying in the church closet because it was time. It was time to get out there and sing— not only sing but attempt to lead people into worship.

My stomach would turn and I would instantly feel nauseous. My hands were sweaty and my knees became weak. I know – dramatic- but fear would consume my entire being. My youth pastor would coach me through the week and remind me, “You are called, you are favored and anointed. It’s always good to have a little fear because it’s a reminder you cannot do it without Him.”  As he would say these words, all I could think about was the fact that I did not like my voice- I was called, favored and anointed- but did not feel gifted or adequate!

It was to the point where every Sunday night I would begin the countdown for my anticipated anxious breakdown. “I lead today, so that means I’m back to another 7 days until I have to do it again.”

This fear I let get the best of me every week was tiring. And as much as I would love to say that this emotion I experienced when I was 16 was resolved shortly after, I can’t.

Fast forward 2 years, I remember being 18 years old and having to sing a song I wrote for a production my ministry school was prepping for. My director had asked that I sing it to the team and my first reaction was to ask everyone to turn away from me, or close their eyes so they would not see me while I trembled with fear, while I sang this song from the pits of my heart. [Read more…]

January 2, 2016

Top 3 Reflections in 2015 to Live Out in 2016

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Here we are again. Another year has passed so quickly and a new one has already started. All of us have read our timelines on our twitter, IG and FB accounts- we all get a glimpse of new hopes that are being declared for 2016. Some want more money, healthier bodies ( I include myself in this one), closer relationships, and overall : a life changing year.

I too hope for a life changing year however, within these last few weeks, I have come to find that all of my hopes for 2016 are buried within the ups and downs of 2015. I sat down and started to write out a list of resolutions and goals I wanted to be intentional about in 2016- then I had to stop and think about 2015. I had to reflect on what 2015 consisted of- and how I embraced the good AND the bad ( if I even attempted to embrace the bad).  What I realized is: I don’t want to achieve a new goal this new year-  I want to successfully embrace a new perspective on life, myself and God. If my perspective changes, my actions will change. If my actions change, then I change. If I change, everything around me will look different and I will ultimately handle situations differently.

My “New Year’s Resolutions” have changed to “Last Year’s Reflections.”

Here are just 3 Reflections I had that could be stated as lessons I learned that have better shaped my perspective for a better 2016. [Read more…]