What Are You Wearing?

by Karen DeArmond Gardner @kgardnerwrites

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.                                                                                                                                    Colossians 3:12-14 NASB

I love clothes. And not just clothes, but everything that completes my entire look: shoes, jewelry, and other accessories! I am purposeful in what I put on when I go out. Do I want to be comfortable or dress to impress?

Let’s face it−we women don’t dress for the attention of men, but dress in hopes of impressing or gaining approval of other women. Have you been the recipient of the once over from another woman? Their look either says, I like what you are wearing or, did you really walk out of the house in that outfit? Have you ever found yourself just staring at another woman’s outfit? My husband has caught me staring or doing the once over a few times and indicated so with a tiny nudge.

Like it or not, we are judged by what we wear. Have you ever been under-dressed or over-dressed for an event? Awkward! Like it or not, what we wear matters.

There’s another way we can dress for success. In Ephesians 4, Paul tells us to throw off our old nature and instead be renewed by the Spirit in our thoughts and attitudes, conforming what we wear with our new nature. We are to take off our old ratty clothes and don the new.

In Colossians 3, Paul gets specific about what to put on. Our clothing is to be tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and above all, love. And let’s not forget about forgiveness!

Expressing my new nature by my behavior is something I determine, just as I choose what clothes I wear. By not choosing mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and love, we are choosing meanness, violence, pride, agitation, blame, punishment and hatred. That is not the wardrobe fit for a daughter of the King!

Tenderhearted mercy is soft-hearted compassion towards someone who has hurt or offended me. Kindness is the act of being considerate towards others. Showing humility happens when I put others above myself. I wear gentleness by not being severe, rough, or violent. Patience keeps me steady and even-tempered.

Paul takes it one step further and tells us to make allowance for others’ faults and forgive. I refrain from showing my annoyance, choosing to love the one who has offended or hurt me. And just in case I think this is more than I can do, Paul reminds me that Jesus did all this and more for me.

If I am not purposeful in how I dress each day, I am like the Emperor in Hans Christian Anderson’s story The Emperor’s New Clothes, who thought he was dressed in all his finery, but was really parading around in his boxers. I am only fooling myself. Everyone around me will clearly see where my priorities lie and whom I am living for.

What are you wearing today?

TWEETABLE
What Are You Wearing? – encouragement from @KGardnerWrites on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Karen DeArmond Gardner is a 30-year survivor of domestic violence. She has spent 15 years on her own healing journey and nearly that long helping others find freedom, restoration, and redemption.

Karen is a facilitator in Freedom Ministry/Sozo and directs the Women’s Ministry at Catch the Fire DFW Church. She also facilitates Mending the Soul, a group that leads women through the trauma of their past into healing and wholeness. She serves on the Board of Directors for Arukah House, a transitional home for women coming out of sex trafficking and abuse.

Karen blogs at Crack the Silence and can be found at her Crack the Silence Facebook page. She continues to be a helpful contact and resource for abused women in her church and community.

Join the conversation: Which of Paul’s “garments” seem to you the most important to wear?

If Only I Can Touch Him

by Karen DeArmond Gardner @kgardnerwrites

Jesus said, “Daughter, you took a risk trusting me, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed!” Luke 8:48 MSG

She wove her way through the crowd, her only thought was reaching Jesus. If the crowd knew the truth they would turn on her, yet she was determined to encounter the One who could heal her.

The crowd stopped moving when a man approached Him, obviously full of sorrow as he told Jesus of his dying daughter. He begged the Teacher to come and heal her. Jesus agreed and began to accompany him to his home.

The woman slipped in behind the Teacher, and in desperation, reached out, managing to touch a tassel hanging from His prayer shawl. The moment she made contact, she felt power course through her body. Stunned, her only thought was, “I am healed!”

Fear gripped her when He suddenly stopped. Scanning the crowd, he demanded to know, “Who touched Me?”

The men with Him answered, “With so many in this crowd, Rabbi, it is hard to tell who touched you.”

Terror set in as His eyes fell on her, “Who touched me?” He knew! His eyes locked on hers and she fell at His feet to tell her story.

With a trembling voice, she blurted out, “It was me, I touched you. For twelve years I’ve been bleeding.” She knew she as spoke the words that the crowd could turn on her; the Torah was clear: everyone she touched became unclean, and to touch a man in public was forbidden. “I am alone, with no one, as I am untouchable. I have seen every doctor and spent all my money. My hope was gone until I heard about the people you healed. My only thought was if I could touch you, just maybe I, too, could be healed.”

The crowd looked on, waiting to see what the Teacher would do. In amazement, they watched Him reach down to lift her chin. He looked into her eyes with such love and said, “Daughter, you took a risk trusting me, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well! Live blessed!” Tears streamed down her face as she was enveloped in His love and acceptance.

As she made her way back through the crowd, she held her head high, the word “daughter” ringing in her ears.

The question that runs through my mind is this: why did Jesus bother asking who touched Him? He had to know. And although He knew how the crowd could react to her story, He asked anyway.

She was unclean, physically and spiritually. A woman who could not participate in worship and had not been touched by anyone in 12 years. She was broken in so many ways; she had nothing to lose so in spite of the fear, she blurted out her story for all to hear.

This is what Jesus wanted—for all to hear her story. It’s what He wants from all of us.

“Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others He has redeemed you…” Psalms 107:2.

For too many years I hesitated to tell my story. Like the woman with the ‘issue of blood’, I expected rejection and judgment. Telling our story is not about what happened to us but what God did with what happened to us, “… to show the faithful love of the Lord.” Psalms 107:43.

It is about Him, about what He has done with our messiness of our life. Our focus is not on how bad we were or the horror that was done to us. The goal in the telling is to bring Him glory.

Be-Loved, tell your story. Show the faithful love of the Lord and how He redeemed you. He deserves that glory.

TWEETABLE
If Only I Can Touch Him – insight from @kgardnerwrites on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

karen dearmond gardnerAbout the author: Karen DeArmond Gardner is a 30-year survivor of domestic violence. She has spent 15 years on her own healing journey and nearly that long helping others find freedom, restoration, and redemption.

Karen is a facilitator in Freedom Ministry/Sozo and directs the Women’s Ministry at Catch the Fire DFW Church. She also facilitates Mending the Soul, a group that leads women through the trauma of their past into healing and wholeness. She serves on the Board of Directors for Arukah House, a transitional home for women coming out of sex trafficking and abuse.

Karen blogs at Crack the Silence and can be found at her Crack the Silence Facebook page. She continues to be a helpful contact and resource for abused women in her church and community.

Join the conversation: Tell your story: what has God done for you?

The Mystery of Christmas

by Karen DeArmond Gardner

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  Colossians 1:15 ESV

It was a night like any other night. Or was it?

The evening sky glittered with specks of light except for one beautiful star, a guide for those who knew would follow. Nighttime sounds were heard along with the baying of animals. Suddenly, the darkness filled with the sound of screams, first of a woman, then of a baby.

Tucked away in a small corner of the world, a child was born. To the observer, the birth wasn’t significant. The town’s citizens unaware who had arrived in their midst. A baby in a barn was not what they expected.

No one knew that God had just broken 400 years of silence, first with the cry of a baby, then with a host of angels announcing to a few shepherds that the long-awaited Messiah was born. On this night, God could now be seen and touched in the form of a babe.

On this night there was a shift in the heavens. Everything changed. The promise of the Messiah had been fulfilled.

Heaven came to earth.

Did the great deceiver feel it? As the babe cried, did he also cry in agony? Did he sense his impending doom? Did he get a headache, feeling as though his skull was being crushed? Did he remember the curse placed upon him thousands of years before? Did he hear the sound of angels singing? I imagine he was frantic, trying to figure out what had just happened. This humble beginning was not what he expected.

The great mystery began with the cry of an infant. One day this babe would sacrifice himself for me, for you. This babe would conquer death and give us the power of the resurrection through the Holy Spirit. The creator of the universe could inhabit us. We could become the dwelling place of the Most High.

All because of a babe wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger. All the authority, power, and glory of God wrapped into a sweet bundle of joy who needed to be fed, changed and cuddled.

Mary had carried the glory of God for nine months, and now she held him in her arms. She watched and listened when the shepherds came to tell of their encounter with heaven. She hid every word in her heart.

I’m in awe of all that Jesus endured bringing heaven to earth. Before the foundations of the world He, the creator of all, chose to become an infant so the invisible God could be seen.

The glitz and glitter of Christmas decorations are a reminder that the invisible God became visible. We remember how extravagant God’s love is and the lengths He went to show us how much He loves us.

Take a few moments this Christmas season and consider the mystery of heaven coming to earth. How the unseen became seen. How the powerful Son of God became a helpless baby. How the glory of God would be held in a young girl’s arms and be laid in a manger among the animals. How the world changed with the single cry of a babe.

TWEETABLE
The Mystery of Christmas – insight from Karen DeArmond Gardner on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

karen dearmond gardnerAbout the author: Karen DeArmond Gardner is a 30-year survivor of domestic violence. She has spent 15 years on her own healing journey and nearly that long helping others find freedom, restoration, and redemption.

Karen is a facilitator in Freedom Ministry/Sozo and directs the Women’s Ministry at Catch the Fire DFW Church. She also facilitates Mending the Soul, a group that leads women through the trauma of their past into healing and wholeness. She serves on the Board of Directors for Arukah House, a transitional home for women coming out of sex trafficking and abuse.

Karen blogs at Crack the Silence and can be found at her Crack the Silence Facebook page. She continues to be a helpful contact and resource for abused women in her church and community.

Join the conversation: What part of Christmas seems the most mysterious to you?

How to Find Courage in the Face of Danger

by Karen DeArmond Gardner

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.                                                                                                                          2 Timothy 1:7 NASB

God rarely answers why questions, especially when we are in pain. But every once in a while, when we’re not even asking, He answers one of our why questions when we least expect it.

This was one of those moments. I was sitting with hundreds of women at my church listening to Pastor Debbie teach on 2 Timothy 1:7. On the outside, I may have appeared cool, calm, and collected, but on the inside, I was stunned. God had just shown me why I’d stayed in an abusive marriage for 30 years.

I’d spent years beating myself up for staying as long as I did. The NLT version of Jeremiah 31:19 expressed how I often felt: “I kicked myself for my stupidity!”

Now, I suddenly realized being stupid wasn’t my problem. Instead, I’d been conditioned to live in fear… of my husband, of his retribution, of not pleasing him. The brainwashing was so gradual, I didn’t realize that fear had changed me into a timid mouse.

It turns out fear and love are opposites; you can have one or the other, but not both at the same time. In my situation, fear had permeated every part of my spirit. There was no room for love.

Fear had such a hold on me, I couldn’t leave. I believed my marriage was my lot in life, since I had chosen to marry him. My understanding of Scripture had gotten all twisted around: I thought God wanted me to suffer for Jesus and would one day reward me with a crown for enduring it. I was responding to another kind of fear: I was afraid that leaving my marriage would displease God.

So I looked into the meaning of the words in 2 Timothy 1:7.

  • Power is the capability to act or do something dangerous.
  • Love describes the commitment God has for us, always wanting our good.
  • Discipline is the ability to think in a sound or sane manner.

The enemy had tricked me into giving up my power, love, and ability to think soundly. I wrote out what I had learned from 2 Timothy 1:7: God has breathed courage into my spirit and has given me the ability to act in the face of fear and danger, to experience His extravagant love, and to walk in His wisdom, so I can be the woman He called me to be.

I’m so grateful that God answered why that night and set me free from the lies of fear.

Are you trapped in your circumstances? Is fear preventing you from making healthy decisions? Are you ready for the secret to being able to kick fear to the curb?

Look up all the ways God’s love is described in Scripture. Immerse yourself in His pure, powerful, and glorious love; soak in it, embrace it, then share His love with everyone you encounter. Living in God’s love will give you the courage to confront whatever difficulty you’re stuck in, as well as provide wisdom and understanding to know what action He would have you take.

Are you ready to exchange fear for love? “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear…the one who fears is not complete in love” (1 John 4:12 CSB).

TWEETABLE
How to Find Courage in the Face of Danger – encouragement from Daren DeArmond Gardner on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

karen dearmond gardnerAbout the author: Karen DeArmond Gardner is a 30-year survivor of domestic violence. She has spent 15 years on her own healing journey and nearly that long helping others find freedom, restoration, and redemption.

Karen is a facilitator in Freedom Ministry/Sozo and directs the Women’s Ministry at Catch the Fire DFW Church. She also facilitates Mending the Soul, a group that leads women through the trauma of their past into healing and wholeness. She serves on the Board of Directors for Arukah House, a transitional home for women coming out of sex trafficking and abuse.

Karen blogs at Crack the Silence and can be found at her Crack the Silence Facebook page. She continues to be a helpful contact and resource for abused women in her church and community.

Join the conversation: In what ways has fear trapped you?

 

All We Need is Love

by Karen DeArmond Gardner

The moment revelation hits you. You didn’t see it coming, which makes the impact more powerful.

I’d been doing life with bits of whining and complaining, wondering why others were moving into some great destiny while I wasn’t. Then my pastor’s words stunned me: “Millions of people die every day without ever reaching their destiny.” How can that be? And, oh my word, that’s so true.

He continued, “We were designed to be satisfied in God’s love, not anything else.”

I knew he was right. Only God can give me lasting satisfaction. With Him I can be content where I am, even if my circumstances never change. As his words continued, I came to the realization that I’d made an idol of my hopes and dreams.

God created me to be satisfied in Him alone, not my calling or accomplishments. It’s not about things, circumstances, or age. Just because I am now 65 (did I just say that?) doesn’t mean I will realize every goal that I have.

Hard words. True words. Words to bring me to my knees.

The only thing that truly matters is that I am a beloved daughter. He loves me just as I am. And just where I am. He loves me naked, wrinkled and gray, even the gray hidden beneath the red. He likes and delights in me. I have no need to prove myself to Him. He has already forgiven all my past and future mistakes. He thinks I m completely adorable.

Just as I am.

Just as you are.

He doesn’t care that I’m not perfect. Why? He knows me inside and out. All the striving I’ve done in my life to present a perfect image was for naught.

Whoa.

A few weeks after this message I am purposefully dwelling in the presence of God before church begins. The Holy Spirit says, “Whatever Pastor Nancy asks you to do, do it. Without hesitation. Just do it.”

“Have you given your whole self to God?” I knew this was the question as soon as I heard it. And I knew the answer was no. I hadn’t. I’ve held back parts of myself from everyone around me, including God. The next question was obvious, “Will you give your whole self to Him now?”

Just as I am.

Naked, wrinkles, gray and all I think I’m not. Laid bare and open for all to see. Here you go. All of me.

Just as I am.

Maybe you have lived your life watching others get what you want? If only I could be like her. If only I was a better writer, speaker, or artist. If only I had thought of her idea.

Never enough.

Do you remember pulling the petals off a flower while chanting, “He loves me, He loves me not”? But God isn’t playing that game with us. Though I thought He did. I thought He was keeping score.

He loves us. He loves us. He loves. Us. You. Me.

No check marks. Just love. Let that sink in.

Paul reminds us: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 ESV

Nothing. Absolutely nothing can separate us from His love. His love is our source of contentment.

Grasp the truth of His unrelenting love for you even if your circumstances aren’t what you’d hoped. And know you are completely loved and adored by your Heavenly Father.

TWEETABLE
All We Need is Love – insight from Karen DeArmond Gardner on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

karen dearmond gardnerAbout the author: Karen DeArmond Gardner is a 30-year survivor of domestic violence. She has spent 15 years on her own healing journey and nearly that long helping others find freedom, restoration, and redemption.

Karen is a facilitator in Freedom Ministry/Sozo and directs the Women’s Ministry at Catch the Fire DFW Church. She also facilitates Mending the Soul, a group that leads women through the trauma of their past into healing and wholeness. She serves on the Board of Directors for Arukah House, a transitional home for women coming out of sex trafficking and abuse.

Karen blogs at Crack the Silence and can be found at her Crack the Silence Facebook page. She continues to be a helpful contact and resource for abused women in her church and community.

Join the conversation: What causes you to be discontent? How can God meet that need?