The Realities of Depression and Anxiety, Part 2

This blog has not been easy for either of us. Disclosing our hearts and experiences wasn’t something we ever though about or had a desire to do, but what we did want to do was touch God’s people. What we did want to do was see change in our world and in our Church and if that meant disrobing our pride and revealing our own struggles, then here we are!

We hope this series on the realities of anxiety and depression will touch someone to say, “Hey, I feel that way too,” and just know that you are not alone. If 1 in 4 women struggle with anxiety and depression, chances are you struggle with it or know someone who does. We are not psychologists or pastors, just real people with real stories and we hope that our transparency will inspire you to speak up, get help and share your story.

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(Michelle) I have been battling with God about how much I want to share with you, how transparent I could handle being, but He said, give it all, so I will.

I visited my family Doctor a couple weeks ago with severe abdominal pain. This wasn’t anything new to me. I have literally been going to the Doctor for abdominal pain for at least 20 years. I had had every test in the book ran on me and never has any Doctor found anything wrong with me, but I continue to feel severe pain and that pain is very real…. At this last appointment, though my Doctor asked me several times how my emotional state was and of course thinking I’m at a Doctors Appointment to discuss my physical heath, I just said my emotional state is fine! I said I’m a Christian and I trust God and so I am good. That’s the right answer, right?

He diagnosed me with IBS and when I asked how that was discovered, he basically said there is no real evidence, but with the symptoms I am having and no other real issues, then that’s what they diagnose it…

Upon working on our Show, “Heart to Heart,” my sister of course was doing some research and came across an article on the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America)… It listed IBS as a diagnosis of people who live with depression and anxiety. In fact, when she sent me the list of symptoms for people with depression, I had been diagnosed with 90% of them; lack of sleep, Social Anxiety Disorder, OCD, eating disorders, the list goes on… I started to bawl and just felt my heart leap out of my chest. It was refreshing to know I wasn’t alone and everything I had been going through my whole life was written right there and there was an answer for it!!! But at the same time, I fell to a ball and cried because I saw that I live with depression. I knew it all my life but never accepted it or told anyone.

I know God wants to use my sister and I to reach a people who live with this and are afraid to talk about it, Christians who are afraid to tell anyone. But if 1 in 4 women struggle with depression and we are in Church with more than 4 people, there are a lot of us struggling and keeping quiet. I know I was one of them.

 Girl_HidingI go to the alter; I have hands laid on me. I pray and fast and fight in the spirit and meditate on scripture… But you feel like if you keep going to the alter or you keep asking for prayer, people are going to think something is wrong with you that you aren’t healed yet, or that you just aren’t in faith and that’s not true.

I think of it like people with a physical illness. We are called to pray and believe for their healing until it manifests, whether in heaven or here. But we keep going to the hospitals and praying over them. When my son was sick, he got worse before he got better, but I prayed over him believing for his healing for years before I saw any sign of it. But why when it’s mental illness like depression or anxiety do we grow weary and walk away from people like that?

Sharing this has been the hardest thing for me. I know people look at me as happy and social and I am! I don’t lay in bed all day and cry or stop life…I have a husband and 3 kids.

I get up every morning, read my Word and spend time with God.

I get my kids bathed, dressed, fed and ready for school. I clean my house, run errands, and hang out with my sister. I serve in my Church and am active in Ministry and if anything, this has brought me closer to God. I see God and hear from Him more now than I ever have. I truly believe I hear and see things different than anyone else.

I want to share my story so if anyone out there is dealing with this, it’s time to bring it out and heal. It’s time to recognize it and get help.

I tend to identify with victims of suicide, not because I am suicidal, but because I understand their minds. I believe I am alive to speak on their behalf because it could have been me. I often hear people talk of suicide victims of being selfish and how could they leave their spouse, kids or family? But in THEIR minds, they truly believe they are putting their loved ones first and making their lives easier by them being gone.

Depression does isolate you from ever feeling like you belong. You can smile and participate, but you always feel like you just don’t quite fit in or are wanted. You always feel like a burden and cant quite grasp the normalcy everyone around you experiences.

For me, I remember as little as 6 feeling depressed. I didn’t know what that was yet, but I knew I saw life differently than other people. As I got older, I started to feel like I was in this bubble that no matter how hard I tried, I saw the world through a lens and as happy as it looked all around me, I couldn’t pop this bubble and truly be a part of it.

As a teenager, I was diagnosed with Anorexia/Bulimia and was down to 80 pounds. Another misconception is that people with depression have experienced some sort of trauma or abuse. I grew up in a healthy Christian home with 2 loving parents and siblings. I was never in need or want for anything and was surrounded by love. I was never abused in any way and yet still developed this. Although I was healed of anorexia, I still meditate on scriptures of who God says I am and have to know that my body is His temple and that I was beautifully and wonderfully made.

A few years after, I noticed I couldn’t go to parties. If friends were having birthday parties or baby showers or any type of social gatherings, I would always make an excuse to get out. I actually still do. I don’t do well in groups, but tend to thrive with the one on one. After my struggles with eating disorders, my parents took me to a therapist and from there I was diagnosed with OCD and Social Anxiety Disorder. I was put on 2 heavy anti-depressants and over time, I just started feeling worse. Doctors said I had to wean myself off with medical supervision, but in my case, I knew God had called me to come off and I can truly say the Lord has taken me off. I do believe that meds are important and if you are prescribed them, take them. Ask God. For me, I knew God had another path for me and I trusted that and have not been on any medications since.

My life and how I see things are quite differently…

My daily:

Before I even wake up in the morning, I go through a routine where I have to literally tell myself everything is going to be ok. I have to fight fears and insecurities literally from the moment I wake up. I go straight to my quiet room for prayer and time with the Lord…I have had trouble sleeping for decades and can probably count the number of times I have actually slept all night…As I go through my day, if anything changes in my routine, I have a very hard time adjusting. If plans change or people are not true to their word, I literally have to fight breaking down. Things that seem normal and that other people might not think twice about, I dwell on and have to train my mind to be ok…

If there is even a family party or gathering, as soon as I know about it, I literally spend the next few weeks or however long it is stressing about all that could go wrong and how it will be my fault. I get insecure and literally cry days before.

When people talk to me, I don’t hear things the way they are saying them and it often results in disagreements and I have a hard time communicating because others don’t see the way I interpret their words. It’s hard to keep people in your life because once they recognize that you’re weird or too much, they walk away…

So having my sister here has been life changing and allowed me to not only be safe to talk about it but to know someone cares and is walking with me through it.

 

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A lot of the healing comes with having someone close that is unrelenting in walking away or giving up and my sister has literally held my hand through hell and I can’t imagine going through this without her.

Do I feel like I am completely healed? No. But I cling to the hope that God is my healer and has never forsaken me. Daily, I have to cast my cares on Him, hourly… The scripture that has become my very breath is Phil. 4:6-7,

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

 (Vanessa) Our next blog will discuss how this has affected me as Michelle’s sister, how it’s been going through this process with her and touching on what we as the loved ones can do for them and for ourselves. This road has been hard for my sister, but it hasn’t been easy for me. There are lessons I learned along the way and am eager to share with you. We are barely scratching the surface on such a powerful topic and as time goes on, we hope to address as many concerns and struggles as we can with anxiety, depression and suicide. I too, am affected in ways I am preparing to share, as well. We hope that God will speak to you through this and please feel free to comment, share or message us if you need help and we can direct you.

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The Realities of Depression and Anxiety, Part 1

When you think of someone who is depressed, you may think of someone that stays in bed, cries a lot and isolates themselves from any type of social communication…

What if I told you there are people who struggle with anxiety and depression who laugh, fully function in society and actually feel better around a couple close people; People in your inner circle that you may have never guessed dealt with depression.

Depression does not discriminate – it affects all people, including Christians. Depression isn’t just a spirit, but is also physiological.

Just a few numbers according to the Anxiety Depression Association of America (ADAA):

  1. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S.
  2. Women are twice as likely to suffer with depression and anxiety than men, affecting 1 in 4 women
  3. Research shows that anxiety and depression are almost always linked together
  4. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide

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There are so many reasons why we decided to start a series discussing depression, anxiety and suicide. These hard topics affect both of us very closely and we live in a generation where suicide rates have tripled in the last 2 decades among adults and doubled among children. Just this year, a local Pastor committed suicide during a series he was preaching on called “Hot Mess,” where he disclosed his own struggles with depression and anxiety.

One in four Pastors struggle with depression and the number of pastors diagnosed with clinical depression was double the national average. If statistics are so high with mental illness, why isn’t the Church properly addressing this very real issue? An article in Charisma Magazine reads that, “…spiritual warfare is real. But too many churches are so focused on spiritual warfare when they should be loving people more than they are binding and rebuking the devil. And that includes loving your pastors who are just like you. And other Christian churches will be careless and try to bring “discipline and correction” into situations like these. But their attacks and jabs will only push people further away from God…” The article goes on to enforce that “…people will try to over-spiritualize this blaming principalities and powers. Trying to come up with lists of demons possibly responsible, stating pastors have targets on their backs. But the statistics are nearly the same with those not in ministry.”

I pose the question again, why aren’t we as a Church doing more to address this epidemic before it leads to suicide?

Why don’t we have support groups for people who struggle with depression and anxiety, mental illness? In this series, we hope to address some of these questions and open up our world to you and how this personally affects us.

And why this hits so close to home for us is that I (Michelle) have struggled with depression/anxiety my whole life. Although I had an idea of some of the things I was diagnosed with growing up, I thought that because I was a Christian, I couldn’t talk about it. But I believe that’s even more reason to bring it to light. If mental illness is the most common illness in the US, then chances are you struggle with anxiety/depression or are close to someone that does. Not only do you need help and resources, but so do those close to you that are trying to be there.

As we stated earlier, depression is more than isolating yourself and crying all the time. It manifests in different ways in different people and depression can be something someone struggles with once or twice in life for a season or something that a person can deal with long term. It can be from traumatic experiences or chemical imbalances…. Whatever the cause, it can definitely be debilitating in so many ways and is not easy to live with.

In this series, we will give you scriptures and stories in the Bible where even God’s people dealt with depression. We’d also love to hear your stories and hope that this series will help you too.

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Spirit Vs. Natural; OUR STORY, Part 2

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(Michelle) – When I was a little girl, as far back as I can remember, I had an ache in my heart for a twin sister. Not just a desire or a want, but a void, if you will. I knew in my heart I was meant to be a twin. I was not born a twin, but somehow I knew I was one. Now, to the Natural World, this doesn’t make sense. I was not born a twin and there was no possible way I could ever be one. I had twin beds in my bedroom as a child and at night or when I was afraid, I’d talk to the other bed as though it were my twin. Some might say it was an imaginary friend, but I never did this in front of people. Somehow, it was in my spirit. As I grew older, that ache for tor a twin grew. In Elementary School, I even wrote a poem about my twin sister that didn’t exist and maybe that was prophetic for what was to come. In the natural, this was IMPOSSIBLE!!!! By the time I was in College, 9 of my friends were twins! That means I was surrounded with 18 people that didn’t just look alike, but had a bond I can’t explain. They really did finish each other’s sentences, share clothes, shoes and secrets. When you are around twins, there is a connection and bond no one in the outside world understands. I knew I was designed for that, but again I live in a natural world where you can’t just “get a twin!” Or so I thought…

In my late 30’s, I met her. The minute my sister and I met, it was like a movie. Our spirits already knew each other. We never had to take the time to get to know each other or trust each other-somehow it was already there. The moment we met face to face, our spirits were already familiar. Don’t ask me how and you can call me crazy, but I KNEW she was my twin!!!

(Vanessa) – I grew up the middle child of two brothers. I tried to get my younger brother to do all the things I wanted to do with a sister, but obviously it wasn’t the same. I longed for a sister. I longed for someone to share secrets with, have tea parties, and play dress-up, watch me dance and listen to my secrets. I grew up with this longing, but knowing in this natural world, it was impossible. My mom was beyond the age of having more kids and I just didn’t get a sister. When I was pregnant with my 3rd child and found out it was a girl, the first thing I told my husband was, “Well, I didn’t get a sister, but now I will get to watch my girls grow up together and have what I didn’t get to enjoy.” Little did I know at the time, God was bigger! God was the God of my impossible dream and that dream was about to come true for ME!!

In my late 30’s, I met her. I met my sister face to face while our spirits joined in a very familiar embrace. Our souls were knitted. Our hearts were bonded. In an instant, I received the gift I never thought possible. I got my sister. I not only got a sister, I got a twin sister. We share clothes, shoes, and secrets. We run and laugh and like to dress up and act silly.

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1 Corinthians 2:10-16 – (The Message)

“No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it— What God has arranged for those who love him.

But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you.

The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Who ever knows what you’re thinking and planning except you yourself? The same with God—except that he not only knows what he’s thinking, but he lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us. We don’t have to rely on the world’s guesses and opinions. We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.

The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit—God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics. Isaiah’s question, “Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?” has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit.”

NO ONE HAS EVER SEEN OR HEARD ANYTHING LIKE THIS, NOT AS MUCH AS IMAGINED ANYTHING QUITE LIKE IT!!! Who could fathom the impossible? But isn’t our God the God of the impossible? Sure we can pray for the impossible, which usually is money, a house, that dream job! Yes, those things are amazing and we NEED God to accomplish ALL things and while those things seem impossible, they are tangible. But receiving the gift of a TWIN SISTER late into our 30’s??? How does that happen? Because we live in a Spirit Realm and God desires to bless us with the desires of our hearts.

Yes, my sister and I are inseparable. We do everything together, and there are some that don’t understand or criticize. There are some who can’t see us as real sisters because the unspiritual self sees anything spiritual as silliness. This has never deterred us, but pushed us further. If my sister and I were born biological sisters by standards of the world, would anyone have a problem with it? No. But, what is of the spirit is more real than that of the natural. I wouldn’t be me without my sister. We truly know and understand each other like only a twin can. God didn’t just stop at knitting our souls together, He gave us all the little things we desired in our hearts too – to share clothes and dance and truly learn how to enjoy everything we may have missed out on in our early years. Yes, He could have very well had us birthed in the natural world as twins, but would we have this miracle to share or the story we have? I truly don’t think we’d be as grateful and in constant awe if we had been born natural twins.

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(John 1:12-13) – But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the right [the authority, the privilege] to become children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name— who were born, not of blood [natural conception], nor of the will of the flesh [physical impulse], nor of the will of man [that of a natural father], but of God [that is, a divine and supernatural birth—they are born of God—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified].

We were not born twins of a natural conception, nor of the will of the flesh or by that of a natural father. We are born of God, twins in the spirit who grabbed that inheritance by faith and brought it here into the natural world! Can everyone see that we are twins? No! But those in the spirit can. Most of all, WE CAN! Some will ask, “Are you really sisters?” That’s like asking, “Are you really saved? We didn’t see it.” Or, “Is God really your Father? We can’t see him with our natural eyes.” What is born of flesh is flesh. What is born of Spirit is Spirit. We thank God for this every day and remain in awe at what we have. My twin is my other half and my very best friend!

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My sister is my best friend and my best friend is my sister…

Spirit Vs. Natural; OUR STORY, Part 1

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This story has been a long time coming and it’s just the beginning. My sister and I have shared this story on our latest HSBN Show and hope it is a blessing to you. We have always known we were sisters – not just sisters in Christ as we all are as children of God, but actual sisters, twins in fact. Now, if you know us, you’re probably thinking we are crazy right now and we are not real sisters! But what defines what is real and what isn’t? Did you know that the things birthed in the spirit are more real than the things in this natural world that we can see, taste, touch and hear? In this first part of a two-part blog, we will introduce you to the difference between the spirit realm and the natural realm. There is so much to say, we could do 5 parts to this, but for purposes of time, here is a brief introduction. Continue on to Part 2 for our personal story…

We have heard the verse,” We are in this world, but not of it.” Although we live in a natural, carnal world, we were designed as spirit beings programmed to live and operate in spirit. The struggle for Christians is operating in a realm contrary to what our flesh is seeing and feeling – the natural world. Because we can’t see the Spirit realm, we tend to feed into the natural world more because it’s visible, however it is the invisible that created the visible.

There are two Kingdoms operating here and although our flesh lives in one, our spirit dwells and responds to the other. The spiritual realm is more real than the natural and in fact, determines what happens in the natural realm.

We are all born spiritual beings. We all have a spirit. But until we are born again, we can’t see the things of the spirit. Those who are not saved, or born again are blinded to the things of the spirit, and therefore walk in the flesh, never fully attaining all they were created to be and do. Once we are born again and receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, Jesus comes to live in our hearts and heaven becomes our home, meaning we now have full access to the heavenly realm through Jesus. The heavenly realm is where God’s provision is and to receive from the heavenly realm we need to reach out in faith and take it.

Like our founding Pastor Deborah says, faith is what moves goods and services from heaven to earth. Like salvation, we received salvation through faith.

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Reaching out in faith is not believing for something that does not exist, but rather receiving something that God has already made available in the Spiritual realm and bringing it into our natural realm. Reaching out in faith for salvation is invisible to the natural eye, however more real than anything in the natural realm. “The spiritual realm is a real world, invisible to the natural eye but visible to the eye of faith,” wordlibrary.co.uk

“What the eyes of the body are for physical objects, faith is for the hidden eyes of the soul,” Olivier L. Clement who wrote The Roots of Christian Mysticism…

We are able to be sure of what we hope for when we realize it already exists with God in the spiritual realm. The promises of God make us aware of what God has provided for us. We need to study the Bible in order to increase our faith and have a better understanding of what God has made available for us in the spiritual realm.

The natural realm, or Earth’s Kingdom is run by satan, while the spiritual realm, or Kingdom of heaven is operated by God. As children of God, we have all access to the Kingdom of heaven and the closer we get to God’s heart and understand what His desires are for us, we will know what it is He has for us. It wasn’t until I got that deep intimacy with God that I discovered what He had for me was what I thought impossible my entire life – a twin sister! Read on to Part 2 to hear our story!

A Father to the Fatherless

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Children in homes without a father are 4 times more likely to live in poverty, more likely to have behavioral problems, more likely to go to prison, commit crimes, 7 times more likely to become pregnant as a teen, more likely to face abuse and neglect, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, twice as much at a higher risk to become obese, and twice as much at risk to drop out of high school. These statistics are just staggering and we ALL know people in our circle who have dealt some of these, if not we ourselves.

Although this can apply to absent mothers, parents that ARE in the home, but neglectful – we are solely discussing the effects this has on women because we are women and we have first-hand experience with this as daughters.

Women who grow up without fathers tend to deal and struggle with self-esteem issues and worthlessness. Women/young girls without fathers are at a higher rate of committing suicide, engaging in drug use, promiscuity, etc. These statistics are getting higher every day as we see the demise of our society and our teenagers running rampant with sin. But where does this begin? Where does this feeling of inadequacy start?

Most girls who don’t have a father suffer with the question “what’s wrong with me?” “Am I not good enough?” “Am I beautiful?” If our Fathers aren’t answering our questions, then who is? Unfortunately instead of taking our hearts to God, we take them to man, which deepens our wounds since man cannot fill what only God can. Our relationship, or lack thereof with our fathers is directly related to how we view and see God as Father. In the book Captivating, Stasi Elderedge says that, “what we first believe about God, the Father, directly comes from what we know of and have experienced from our earthly dads.”

At a young age, both my sister and I dealt with the effects of not having our fathers.

Vanessa – I lost my father at a young age. I came home from school to discover that he had committed suicide. I was 8 years old. Despite the depression, overwhelming sadness and confusion that comes with a tragedy like that, I also had a sense of shame. This shame was a feeling of worthlessness – feeling unworthy that I was not good enough for my father to choose life, to choose me. As I grew up and the embarrassment of how he passed began to fade a little, the unworthiness I felt as a daughter grew. There are plenty of statistics I could have become – strung out on drugs, promiscuous, the list goes on. I did none of those things and thank God for having His hand on me. On the contrary – I was more withdrawn from men, not wanting to get close and be hurt like that again.

Michelle – My story is quite different from my sister’s. My father is still alive. When I was very young, my parents divorced and my father re-married. He and his wife had 4 children and his wife did not want me tainting their family and they therefore disowned me. I grew up, like my sister, feeling unworthy. Since my dad was such a great father to his other children, I felt like I was never good enough for him or anyone else. I grew up very insecure and clung to most relationships in my life in fear of being abandoned again.

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Now what do we do with these hurts, these pains that have haunted us most of our lives? Healing is a process, a journey, and the first step is to be willing to surrender to God and invite Him into that place of our hurt. He won’t force Himself in. It isn’t easy to expose that wound again, however without going back to the place we were first hurt, we can’t begin to heal. I believe that is why so many people stay stuck is because it hurts too much to go back there.

Jesus came not to just save us, but to liberate, heal and restore. He is our healer. In Stasi Elderedge’s book Captivating, she rephrases Isaiah 61:1-3 so beautifully:

Isaiah 61:1-3God has sent me on a mission. I have some great news for you. God has sent me to restore and release something and that something is you. I am here to give you back your heart and set you free. I am furious at the Enemy who did this to you, and I will fight against him. Let me comfort you. For dear one I will bestow beauty upon you where you have known only devastation. Joy, in the places of your deep sorrow and will robe your heart in thankful praise in exchange for your resignation and despair.” 

Another step in the journey of healing is to release. We can’t suppress our feelings. Many people carry anger, resentment and shame. We need to allow ourselves to cry and let the tears of healing flow. We need to get alone with God – vent and let it all out! It’s like opening that wound and letting it bleed. Don’t be afraid to bleed all over Him!

We also need to forgive. We must forgive those who have hurt us. A hard one is forgiving ourselves. Holding onto unforgiveness keeps us prisoners. We have to remember forgiveness is a choice not a feeling. We will not feel like forgiving. If we wait till we feel like it, we will never forgive. Forgiving is not excusing what happened to us, but releasing ourselves.

  1. Romans 12:19 – Do not take revenge,my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.
  2. Psalm 68:5 – “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”

Vanessa – As an adult, I took a class at Church called “Captivating.” Yes, it was based on the book and it examined our relationships with each part of the Godhead, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I began to realize I had held back from God the Father because I felt that He had abandoned me as a child without a Father. But through a lot of prayer and crying out. God took me back spiritually to where it all started and I saw His hand holding mine the entire time. It hurt to go back and see some of the things that God showed me, but it healed a wound I never thought would heal.

Michelle – I never had reconciliation with my biological father, but I did receive restoration and healing. Restoration and healing does not have to equal reconciliation. God restored me in different ways by showing me my worth and value whether a man approved or not. God did! He told me, “You will be healed in the place you were hurt.” I was hurt in my heart with the absence of a father, but God restored that with His presence. Remember, forgiveness and Restoration does not mean reconciliation

John 14:18 – “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you”

Satan and his demons constantly confront Jesus for domination of our souls. Evil wants us to be prisoners of our past. Receiving our healing comes from forgiving and venting and crying out to God, but maintaining that freedom requires a lot more maintenance. Below are some scriptures and points to meditate on as you walk your testimony of restoration!

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  1. Discard False Identities – We need to See Ourselves God Sees Us

As we grow in God, we begin to develop a new self-image over time. As we truly surrender ourselves to God, self-destructive behaviors like addictions, eating disorders, promiscuity, negative attitudes and habits and threats of suicide fade away.

A. 1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

B. John 1:12 – Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

2. Cast aside every thought that threatens to remind you of your past hurt

A. 2 Corinthians 10:5 – We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

3. Meditate on the healing in God’s Word Daily

A. Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

B. Psalm 63:6 – On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.

C. Joshua 1:8 – Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

  1. Forgive who hurt you, including yourself (Pray for your enemies
    A. Ephesians 4:31 -32 – Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
    B. Colossians 3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
    C. Matthew 5:44 – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
  1. Reach out to help others through their process
    A. Matthew 5:16 –In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
    B. Exodus 17:12 –When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
    C. Matthew 10:8 – Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

We hope this helped you and we pray that God restores and heals every area in your life so that you are able to walk free and abundantly!

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Dear World…

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We live in such a critical world. Everyone has an opinion or idea of us based off what they deem right in their eyes. Most of the criticism comes from those closest to us – family and “friends.” Why? I believe it’s because they think they know us. They may know us for who we are based off where we come from, our upbringings, our careers/jobs or what they think is best for us, but often times, it’s just a superficial knowledge without any real depth. Jesus himself endured this. Jesus wasn’t even welcomed in His own hometown. In Mark 6:1, it tells us “He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished saying “Where did this man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? So they were offended at Him.” In Jesus’ hometown the people missed who He truly was. They saw him as just a carpenter, the son of Mary. They couldn’t see through spiritual eyes, so they rejected His message. As followers of Christ we will be misunderstood, criticized, and judged. If Jesus had to endure it, so will we. But we don’t have to worry or be afraid because the Bible tells us, “don’t grow weary while doing good.” If you think about it, we will be criticized no matter what, for doing wrong or right! 1Peter 3:13 says, “Now who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid…Remember it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong.” I would rather suffer for doing right, for doing what God would have me to do than doing wrong!

To get personal, I (Vanessa) have not been free to post on social media from time to time. The struggle came when I allowed the thoughts, judgments and opinions of others to critique what I’d post when people only saw a small picture of a much bigger one. This is an issue that I need to grab a hold of and be free from. I have always struggled with people-pleasing and the fear of others opinions and thoughts toward me. God has been working on me and I am receiving my freedom! I have come to the realization that most people would rather see posts of me, my kids and husband, but when it comes to me “Vanessa” personally and what I’m doing in my calling, being a sister and best friend – people don’t really care. I have only been known as a wife and a mom for many years and it is who I am, however God had more for me. I think as women, we think that being a mom and wife is all we are to do, but I began to ask God the question “what do you have for me, Vanessa? What is it you have for me outside of being a wife and a mom? I also have dreams and desires, we all do. God has placed dreams inside all of us, but how many of us actually fulfill them? Now don’t get me wrong- being a wife and mom is one of life’s greatest gifts! It’s s a joy and blessing. It is an honor and privilege I don’t take lightly, but I knew at a point in my life that God had more for me. I knew in my heart and soul I had a calling outside of being a wife and mom. I remember when I begin to ask God the question “what is it you have for me?” He replied “I will show you – just not now. Stay where your put. Keep doing what you’re doing as a mom and wife and do it with your whole heart.” I’m reminded of the scripture “You have been faithful over a few things I will make you ruler over many things.” I told God “Ok – I will do that. I will be the wife and mom you called me to be!” But I still knew there was more. I left it in God’s hands and did just what He asked me to do and knew that in time, He would reveal to me the more!

Finally, the time came where my divine connection came! My best friend and sister Michelle entered my life and my destiny and calling were entangled in her. It wasn’t until her, that the answer to my question of “what is it you have for me outside being a wife and mom” came. What God had for me was not to be just a best friend as the world knows it, but how Jesus calls us to be. I now have a best friend, a sister that far surpasses what I could have hoped or imagined for! How God had given it to us was beyond our understanding, but our hearts and souls knew this was a gift from Him! Now I understand that to others it is new, and people may not be used to seeing me being anything other than a wife and mom, however God had more for me! Despite the misunderstandings of others I will not stop or quit doing what I know God has called me too. I will run my race with my sister, hand in hand, with eyes fixed on Jesus! We will not look to the left or right! We will not be distracted by others opinions, criticism or judgments! All that matters is what God, our Father thinks and I will answer to Him and no one else!

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Fear; and its assignment on relationships!

2Timothy1_7One of the biggest issues facing the body of Christ today is FEAR! We always try to discuss topics the Lord is directly working with us on, and fear happened to be one that we have recently had to face together and work through. Fear is probably one of the most detrimental attacks on the body of Christ and the Church because it is the one tactic the enemy knows will hinder us from being effective for the Kingdom of God. So many people walk under an umbrella of fear and don’t even realize it. It’s deceptive, manipulative and completely debilitating. It’s outright paralyzing and in no time at all, can hinder and even ruin your marriage, your relationships, business, dreams and the plan of God on your life.

Because our blog reflects friendship, we feel that God is asking us to relate these topics to friendship since that is our personal experience, however fear also manifests itself in many other walks of life, as well. Fear is the root of so many issues we all deal with or know someone closely who may struggle with including depression, anxiety, abandonment, rejection, isolation, people-pleasing, enabling –the list goes on, but each stronghold derives from a root of fear.

Now try analyzing your close relationships-your marriage, your best friend…Truly look at the last argument you had and ask God to show you if there was a root of fear in either or both of you that if handled properly might have changed the outcome. Look at each argument or disagreement and see if you notice a pattern. That’s exactly what happened with my sister and I. We were going along fine, had our disagreements here and there, but thought overall we were good. We are very close and both always wanted to just make the other happy, but didn’t realize it was not only at our own expense, but also at the expense of the one we were trying to protect – each other.

I (Michelle) grew up very insecure. My real father walked out on me as a child and I struggled with abandonment issues most of my life leading up to eating disorders and antidepressants in my early adult life. I struggled in relationships and often isolated myself. When my sister came into my life, I held on for dear life in fear I would lose her, too. This all rooted from a fear of abandonment and rejection. On the flip side, my sister who dealt with the same root fear of rejection handled it much differently. She became a people-pleaser and always made sure to answer with whatever the other person wanted to hear, even if it meant sacrificing her own wants and needs time after time. Are you beginning to see the inevitable struggle we were so blind to? Our fear, though rooted the same, manifested in ways that completely fed each other. I clung to her for fear she’d leave. She pleased me for fear I’d leave her. Our fears were so disguised in manipulation that we didn’t even realize how unhealthy it was until God brought it to light! We also realized this wasn’t just happening in our friendship, but we had been experiencing this in our marriages and our families, as well. God wanted to free us from a bondage we were so oblivious to because He has a plan to change the world through us, just like He has a plan to change the world through YOU!! But if you are walking in fear, you are handing that plan right over to the enemy! So, what are you going to do about it?

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My sister and I immediately made the decision to put the work in. James 4:7 says Faith without works is dead! We may have lost and hindered other relationships in our lives due to our fears, but we made vows and a commitment long ago that we were sticking our life out through hell or high water and we knew were treading that hell, but we were doing it together! This is where covenant manifests so much stronger than fear! WE NEED COVENANT RELATIONSHIPS!! We KNEW that our biggest fear of losing each other was actually a counterfeit from the enemy-it was a lie! Once we realized his lies and knew we were in this together for the long haul, we were able to face these fears hand in hand and create that safe place for the other to grow and even to mess up! We prayed like we never prayed before, we had the hard talks that left us both in tears, we screamed, we fought, you name it! BUT we held onto our God and we never let go of each other and we are walking out of those fears and into the FREE destiny the Lord has called us to! Decades of pain and loss have resulted in finally becoming free, thanks to this loyal covenant sister and the heart of God dwelling in us. This brought us closer than we’ve ever been and free to finally be us! But not only that, we are now free to truly live the lives God has called us to and that right now is expanding our blog, strengthening our Show and delving into the next adventure God has for my sister and I. We may have had to walk through the fire, but we came out not smelling of smoke!

The opposite of fear is faith and the two can’t dwell together, so you must operate in one or the other. Hebrews 11:1 says, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And how do we practice faith? “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, Romans 10:17. Sharpen yourself in your Word DAILY!!Fear_is_a_liarA few things to do when dealing with fear:

  1. Worship!! It’s as simple as that! Most times, when you don’t feel like it and all hell is coming your way-you will find your strength, peace and even joy though worship! Like David the Psalmist says in:
    A. Psalm 118:4-6, “Let those now who reverently and worshipfully fear the Lord say that His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever. 5) Out of my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free and in a large place.” David worshipped BEFORE He called upon the Lord! That definitely takes self-sacrifice!
  2. Ask God to reveal the fear to you and call it out! Speak to it! YOU Have authority over that fear!
    A . Romans 8:37 – We are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus
  3. Develop a strategy to combat it! If you don’t face it, it will grow branches in every other area of your life! You have to put the work in. Write down scriptures pertaining to your fear and hang them on your mirror, refrigerator, everywhere you go!
    A. Habakkuk 2:2 – And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.”
  4. Be Vigilant! Don’t become too comfortable that you killed that fear that you become laxed in your faith walk. Remember there will always be giants! God never promised us an easy life, BUT He promised us that He would never leave us nor forsake us.
    A. 1 Peter 5:8 says “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:” Notice it does say the enemy seeks whom he MAY devour! That means he does not have the power to overtake you unless you give it to him. He is seeking because he can’t claim full control – we don’t belong to him!
  5. Shift your focus and Walk Free! Our fear of rejection is constantly worrying what others might think. We need to shift our focus from our own imperfections and focus on helping others. Loving others and their imperfections will help us to overcome our own.
    1. Mark 12:30-31 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.””

We are not saying fear won’t come back or it will go away completely. BUT, if you are focusing more on what God thinks about you and sharpening yourselves in His Word daily, although the fear might not change, YOU WILL! Don’t be too hard on yourself! Take it one step at a time and find that covenant friend to walk this out with you! Ask God to bring you someone who will not only hold you accountable, but also walk through the trials with you! It made all the difference for us!

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Happy New Year – 2018!

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Friendship is costly! We have said this from the beginning and 2017 was our year to practice what we preached! Literally through blood, sweat and tears we PUSHED through trials most friendships couldn’t sustain! Our love for each other has always been bigger than any storm we faced and through it all, we held Daddy’s hand and each other’s! In 2017, we embarked on new journeys, expanded our blog, started our own show and did things we never saw ourselves doing! From Sister Days, Disneyland, double date nights, concerts, birthdays, car accidents, family days, Tuesday’s, creating traditions, beach trips, church, filming a show to spending holidays together, we never missed a moment together. And we’ve barely scratched the surface! This is our life and we wouldn’t have it any other way! Stay tuned as we announce new endeavors this year, discuss controversial topics and open our lives up to share what God has taught us on faith, family, love and friendship! We welcome new adventures and surprises in 2018 and we thank you for your love, support and encouragement!

With Love,

Vanessa and Michelle

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Sunflower and Sunshine Celebrate One Year Today!

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Today marks one year that we took one of our biggest risks and responded to God’s call for us to display a relationship, a sisterhood, and a friendship that surpassed the world’s norms.  Was it safe or comfortable? No! We knew the criticism and backlash we’d probably receive, but we also knew God’s voice was bigger. Although we are just two ordinary sisters, God wanted to reveal an extraordinary plan through us – not because we were anything special, but because we would simply say yes! Yes to Him and yes to each other!

In the past year, we have grown and been stretched in ways we never expected. We have seen the Word of God illuminate like never before and witnessed well known verses literally come to life! This journey of our friendship hasn’t always been easy. People on the outside may look and think we just have it all, and while we feel we do, it came with a cost. The only difference between the world and us is that the cost has always been worth it to us. The more we have fought for our friendship, the more valuable and deep it expands.

My sister and I place a high value on our Covenant. We nurture, protect and guard it. We make time for each other and put in the work any committed relationship entails. And through trials and valleys, we have only grown stronger, wiser and able to reflect what God has asked us to.

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Sissy and I share every holiday, birthday and in between time with each other. We enjoy double date nights with our husbands and family time with our families, and of course, our sister days! From Anjelah Johnson comedy shows to Jazz festivals in the summer, Disneyland trips and Worship Conferences, even Dr.’s appointments. We definitely remain in awe at what God has blessed us with and cherish each moment.  

Not too long ago, Sissy and I caught a story on the morning news about two Christian guys who share a very similar covenant friendship. Both married men have children of their own, but share a friendship bond unlike any other. Justin, who suffers with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy is confined to a wheelchair and paralyzed throughout most of his body. His best friend, Patrick, who they were born in the same hospital just hours apart committed to pushing Justin over 500 miles through the El Camino de Santiago in Spain. Their story inspired us and we even got to go see their documentary, which was beautiful to say the least.

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This year, we have attended several conferences, including Evangelist Cheryl Salem’s “We Who Worship” and her newest Women’s Conference “Rise!” We have been blessed to be a part of her Women of the Nation Organization and glean from her wisdom and prophesy. We also attended “Hearts Ablaze” at our home church that was life changing. My sister and I are committed to our home Church, but have visited other churches just to experience the love of God, His hands and arms in action with other worshippers. We never take a moment for granted and seem to experience a new depth and height with each passing day. Most recently, we were asked to join the HSBN-TV Christian Network and host our own Show, “Heart to Heart.” This was something we never saw coming, never thought we’d be doing, but we also never thought we’d have a blog or be doing all of the amazing things we are now, too! And all this in just 1 year! We are thrilled to greet each new sunrise with the anticipation of another day in our journey and the paths before us, knowing that this next year will take us even further! We thank you for being a part of our story and pray for relationships to be renewed, healed and restored in your lives.

What my sister, Vanessa has taught me in one year: Me_kiss

She has taught me the value of time, that no matter how insignificant I may feel I am, I am worth her time. My sister has taught me that I can be me, be free, even in my untouched chaos because no matter how ugly, insecure and fearful I can be, she still loves me deep. I learned from my sister that perfect love isn’t without faults, but encompasses a grace and committed loyalty that surpasses our shortcomings, and thus thrives in a vast ocean unexplored and beautiful. I learned from my sister that I don’t have to do, just be. I don’t have to impress or entertain, just breathe. I learned from my sister who God created me to be just by looking in her eyes. I learned how to skip rocks at the beach and I learned that I actually won’t die of boredom shopping. I learned that silence can be filled with more emotion than words. But most of all, I learned that it’s ok to let your guard down and risk everything for that one friend who will stick closer than a sister, because at the end of the day, she is your mirror image reflecting every possibility and dream you never thought was yours!

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What my sister Michelle has taught me in one year:

There is so much she has taught me. I don’t even know where to begin. From the beginning, she has taught me that I was worthy to be fought for. Friendship is costly! She taught me what fierce devotion looks like. When I didn’t believe or thought I was capable of writing, she taught me that I was. My sister has taught me that it’s the little things that matter most; letters, notes, phone calls. I have learned that it’s about quality not quantity. She has taught me that I have a voice and to not be afraid to use it. I’ve learned that I don’t always have to be strong, to admit when I can’t and lean on her. We weren’t meant to do life alone. She has taught me what vulnerability looks like and how to express my feelings, and not discredit them. I’ve learned that Disneyland isn’t that bad after all! My sister has taught me to be bold and not fear others opinions. There will always be those who judge. The most important thing to me is to take risks. No risk, no reward and she has been the reward worth the risk!!!

What friendship is this committed, this loyal, this protective? Hell or high water, thick or thin, good or bad, we protect, cover and defend each other with an incomparable fierceness.  We have never experienced a friendship like this, but see that this is what God intended relationships to be. We are excited for where our story is going. Each chapter brings a new enthusiasm and joy! This is our story and it’s the grandest of loves! Here’s to another year of laughter, tears, joy and covenant!

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Image Bearers

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“Don’t be concerned with your outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious to God.”

1 Peter 3:3-4

This verse lends itself to women. We know that because it speaks of fancy hairstyles, jewelry and clothes, the essence of what we assume women to be. But what is beauty? Is it not these things? According to the verse above, beauty is inward. It’s the position of our heart and soul. Beauty is a soul that is “gentle and quiet,” or a soul that is at peace, not striving. Quiet doesn’t mean a woman has no voice, but rather that she exercises restrain on when to use it. She knows who she is and WHOSE she is! She is confident and comfortable in her skin. Beauty flows from the inside out and exudes the Glory of God. I’m sure we can all say we know or have met a woman like this. Her presence draws you in; you want to be around her. Unfortunately, these types of woman are few and far between. I imagine Eve before the fall, radiating in all her beauty, stripped down, completely bare physically, spiritually and emotionally! That leads me to a thought. Beauty is not a putting “on”, but rather a taking “off “. It’s not the putting on of make-up, clothing, or jewelry that make us beautiful, but baring our true self, being vulnerable. Don’t get me wrong! There is nothing wrong with makeup and wanting to look good. We enjoy that as women! But somehow along the way, we as a society have put so much emphasis on our outer appearance, that it is beginning to strip our souls of who we were truly created to be, and it’s affecting our daughters and the generations to come that are looking to the media and the world to define who they are suppose to be.

We struggle with our self-worth. We ask ourselves “Am I beautiful?” The world has devalued beauty, sexualized and perverted it. We have traded what God created beauty to be for some counterfeit illusion handed down to us from the world. If everything in the natural realm speaks of the spiritual realm, then look at nature. Nature is Beautiful! I for one, love sunsets. To me they are breathtakingly beautiful. What about snow covered mountains in winter or fresh blooming flowers at the onset of spring? God put all of that here for us to enjoy, to take in and breathe the beauty all around. Nature just is! It functions as it was created. We as woman bear the feminine heart of God. Woman is beauty, yet we are striving to bear an image of a beauty we have allowed the world to define; a perfect figure, the right clothing, make up, etc. But if we can just BE, not striving, but truly be at peace, then we can be breathed in like nature. We as woman would draw others to the God in us. We would be pleasant, enjoyable and desirable to be around.

Now what does this have to do with Covenant Friendship? Let me get personal and vulnerable with you . I, Vanessa, struggle from time to time with my skin. I have always disliked my skin. A few years ago, I started to develop hyper pigmentation, dark spots on my skin. I became insecure and felt the need to always wear make-up, and most times did not want to show my face. I opened up to my sister about my struggle and she immediately took it on as her own. She began to write out scriptures for me and told me to speak them over myself and she spoke them with me, as well. One of the scriptures is from Song of Solomon 4:7, “You are all together beautiful, my darling, there is no flaw in you.” The crazy thing is, God put that scripture on both of our hearts earlier this year. We would recite this scripture to each other almost daily, as if we knew He had a bigger reason because let’s face it, He usually does! It’s truly amazing how God began taking us first through helping each other with inward struggles, then to the outward. We felt God telling us to remind each other how beautiful we were. It is still hard for us to accept for ourselves, although we both truly know how beautiful the other is. So, we began reminding and confessing to the other how beautiful and stunning our sister is. Little did we know what God was doing through us for the other. This is why we need each other! This is what Covenant Friendship does – it goes above and beyond casual friendship. Covenant is loyal and committed in the big and little. Covenant covers, protects and it carries the burdens of our sister.

My sister chose to do what most wouldn’t. She decided to not wear make up until I was comfortable without wearing any, no matter how long it took! She didn’t just pray for me, give me scriptures and send me on my way. She got in this with me. I have never had anyone do for me what she has done and continues to do. It has been about a month since she decided to do this, and everyday it becomes easier for me. It took me a few weeks for me to finally go without make up in front of her. I still struggled. I could still see the flaws and blemishes, but she continues to remind me that she doesn’t see what I do. One particular day that I decided not to wear make-up, I got up to use the restroom and as I washed my hands, I looked up and the first thing I noticed were the flaws. I came out of the restroom and my sister could tell something was wrong. I opened up and told her I was struggling. Time and time again she speaks the truth to me in love, encourages me and gets me right back to how I should see myself. Today, I can say that I am definitely becoming more and more comfortable with my skin. I remind myself that my outward appearance doesn’t define my beauty, but that my inward reflects on the outside, however I AM beautiful on the outside and that’s how our Father wants us to feel!!

We began with the question, what is beauty? When beauty flows from the inside, it reflects on the outside. We often reverse that and rely on looking beautiful on the outside first and forget to nurture the inward root. Beauty is not merely outward appearances, but a confidence and sureness of oneself that protrudes radiance, joy, peace, love and invitation. When you have covenant, you are covered and loved enough to face your fears and know you are not in them alone. I hope and pray that by my being vulnerable, it will encourage anyone who struggles with this problem to step back and look at what our Father says about us. Remember, “You are all together beautiful, my darling, there is no flaw in you.”

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Helpful Scriptures:

Genesis 12:11 – “As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to (INSERT YOUR NAME), “I know what a beautiful woman you are.”

Genesis 24:16 – “The women, (INSERT YOUR NAME) was very beautiful.”

Esther 1:11 – “In order to display (ONSERT YOUR NAME) beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at.”

Job 42:15 – “Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as (INSERT YOUR NAME)”

Psalm 45:11 – “Let the King be enthralled by your beauty, (INSERT YOUR NAME), honor him, for He is your lord.”

Psalm 50:2 – “From Zion, (INSERT YOUR NAME), is perfect in beauty, God shines forth.”

 Song of Solomon 1:8 – “If you do not know, O most beautiful (INSERT YOUR NAME)

Song of Solomon 1:15 – “How beautiful you are my darling (INSERT YOUR NAME), Oh how beautiful! Your eyes are like doves”

Song of Solomon 2:10 – “Arise my darling, my beautiful (INSERT YOUR NAME) and come with me.”

 Song of Solomon 4:1 – “How beautiful you are my darling (INSERT YOUR NAME), Oh how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves”

Song of Solomon 5:9 – “How is your beloved better than others, most beautiful (INSERT YOUR NAME)”

Song of Solomon 6:4 – “You are beautiful my darling, as (INSERT YOUR NAME), lovely as Jerusalem. Majestic as troops with banners, turn your eyes from me. They overwhelm me.”

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