Favor of Inner Beauty

What little girl doesn’t dream of being a princess; a queen, one day? We all have within us the desire to be favored, to be chosen, and to be significant! I don’t know what Esther dreamed as a little girl, but God’s dreams set her on an incredible journey that included all of these! Esther’s journey had many twists and turns that took her out of her comfort zone, challenged her faith, and even threatened her life, but it taught her that she was favored, chosen, and significant; that her life had meaning and great purpose!

Esther was born into a Jewish family that had been exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon. When she was young her parents died and her older cousin,  Mordecai, adopted her and raised her as his own daughter.

“This man (Mordecai) had a very beautiful and lovely young cousin, Hadassah, who was also called Esther. When her father and mother died, Mordecai adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter.” Esther 2:7

Esther “happened” to be of the right age when the king of Babylon was in search of a new queen. She was one of the many young virgins who were brought into the palace to receive beauty treatments in preparation to be chosen by the king.

When Esther was taken into the king’s palace the eunuch, Hegai, who was placed in charge of her, was greatly impressed with Esther. He was kind to her and gave her extra special treatment. When it came time for Esther to go to the king, Esther accepted only Hegai’s advice. He instructed her in ways that would be pleasing to the king.

“When it was Esther’s turn to go to the king, she accepted the advice of Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem. She asked for nothing except what he suggested, and she was admired by everyone who saw her.” Esther 2:15

“And the king loved Esther more than any of the other young women. He was so delighted with her that he set the royal crown on her head and declared her queen” Esther 2:17

Esther was a beautiful, lovely young woman, who was admired by everyone.

Esther was a delightful young woman who won the heart of the king, and he chose her as Queen of Babylon.

Esther was a woman of God who had His favor upon her and was specifically placed to fulfill His purposes for her life and for the salvation of many.

The favor of God brings the favor of man.

Besides her outward beauty…

Esther had an inner beauty that radiated from her. 

Tucked within these verses I see some clues of Esther’s inner beauty…

“Esther had not told anyone of her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had directed her not to do so.”  Esther 2:10

“Esther continued to keep her family background and nationality a secret. She was still following Mordecai’s directions, just as she did when she lived in his home.” Esther 2:20

“she accepted the advice of Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem. She asked for nothing except what he suggested,”

Respect, trust, and obedience radiant inner beauty!

Though she went through the trauma of losing her parents, though she was taken from the comfort of her home and family, and though she was highly favored and given special treatment, she remained humble and submissive to those God placed over her.

She followed their directions, and she accepted their advice.

So often life situations can bring about fears, independence, or pride that keep us from respecting those God places over us. We can allow our past situations to give us permission fear, and not trust. We can allow our “outward appearance” to make us proud; keeping us independent of the advice of others.

Fear and pride don’t bring the favor of man or of God.

Respect, trust, and obedience are game changers!

What happened next in the story of Esther gives us an example of why it was important that she respected her cousin, Mordecai, and followed his instruction. This seemingly small incident holds great significance and becomes a game changer as the story unfolds.

“One day as Mordecai was on duty at the king’s gate, two of the king’s eunuchs, Bigthana and Teresh—who were guards at the door of the king’s private quarters—became angry at King Xerxes and plotted to assassinate him. But Mordecai heard about the plot and gave the information to Queen Esther. She then told the king about it and gave Mordecai credit for the report. When an investigation was made and Mordecai’s story was found to be true, the two men were impaled on a sharpened pole. This was all recorded in The Book of the History of King Xerxes’ Reign.” Esther 2:21-23

It is only when we know we are fully loved by God that we can respect, trust, and obey those in authority over us. It gives us a confidence… not in ourselves, and not from others, but from knowing God loves us, is for us, and holds the whole story of our lives in His hands.

God’s perfect love casts out all fear so that we can respect, trust, and obey others, knowing that God ultimately has our back.

Trust in God, lived out by trusting others, is what gives us an inner beauty that radiates from us through our words and actions.

A heart that loves and trusts God…

is humble, respectful, and obedient to those in authority over them…

radiates beauty…

and experiences God’s favor!

Picture of the “inner beauty” of Paterson, NJ. God’s beauty in the midst of chaos!

It’s Time to Dream Again!

It has been twenty-five years since I answered my sister’s question with those three desires; “I would like to home school the boys, be in ministry, and adopt a little girl.”

Throughout these years I have learned that God is very intentional in the dreams and desires He gives His people. While I once thought that receiving my desire was most important, I have discovered that it is the journey, from the time a desire is first put within my heart, until it is fulfilled, that God works in me to change me and prepare me for the fulfillment. For without the experiences along the journey I would not be walking in the good works that God created me for.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

The good works that God prepared for each one of us are wrapped up in the dreams and desires He puts within our hearts. 

God dreams are intended to take us to places we could never go on our own.

God desires give us courage to climb out of our boat among the wind and waves so that we learn to keep our eyes on Jesus.

God desires require we take off our shoes and leave our ways and our insecurities so that God can equip and empower us to do what we considered impossible.

God desires are intended to refine and purify our hearts to take the “us” out of our desire so that others see God’s power, love, and glory!

God desires lived out in the lives of His people create stories that tell of the ways God took a once ordinary person and made them extraordinary!

As I think back to the woman I was when I first spoke the desires into the atmosphere I realize that because of those dreams I am a very different woman than I was. What I thought, at the time, were just three desires…

homeschooling, youth ministry, and adoption, were actually the journeys of life that changed me from the inside out.

They have changed me from a quiet, insecure woman who looked to things and people to fulfill, satisfy, and validate me… into a passionate, fairly confident woman who finds my fulfillment, satisfaction, and validation in doing what God created me to do.

I have been stretched way out of my comfort zone to find that what I thought was “comfortable” is nothing compared to the joy and enthusiasm I get when the Holy Spirit enables me to do things I never thought I could.

They have provided opportunities for my sin to be exposed, like when I got so frustrated at the boys when they didn’t do their school work, or when I allowed what others said to bring doubt so that I wanted to give up on my dream, or when I was jealous of other leaders…

My heart was convicted, like when God showed me the lies I believed about myself, when He revealed my shame and pride, and how subtly I had made Kayla an idol. I needed to confess believing the lies, repent of my shame and pride, and cast down my idolatry, and replace the lies with truth, and put God alone on the throne of my heart.

And I was humbled many times when I chose to trust in my own understanding and took things into my own hands, trying to fulfill my own desires in my way and in my time, only to be disappointed and frustrated.

But as difficult as those were they were the things God worked together for my good, they brought me to the end of self, because ultimately God wanted me to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to trust in Him alone!

Twenty-five years ago we had just moved to “the country.” The eleven years prior were bitter sweet for me. Mark and I enjoyed the birth of our three sons, the printing business Mark and his father began was providing well for us, we were surrounded by family and friends from our church… but my insecurities… they had produced some bitter fruit in my life. So the move to “the country” came with hopes of a “new beginning.” It also happened to be the first year the boys were all in school so I had several hours a day alone… with peace and quiet. In those hours I found myself diving into the word of God. I couldn’t get enough. The bitter fruit my life had produced left me dry and thirsty.

But God’s word was so refreshing!

His love, His hope, His promises began to fill up my dry, thirsty heart.

A heart filled with God’s word is ready to receive God desires!

God looked down on this young mother who desperately needed to learn how to love her sons and train them up in the way they should go,

on this young woman who had been insecure and afraid of speaking her convictions all through school,

and on this daughter who had never had a close relationship with her mother,

and He placed within me three desires that He used to fulfill the purposes I was created for!

Now twenty-five years later…

it is with great joy to see that our sons love the Lord and are living their own journeys of faith as they fulfill the dreams and desires God gives them,

it is with great joy to confidently share the word of God  with teens in Community Bible Study with an awesome team of leaders.

and it is with great joy to have an awesome relationship with my daughter (God’s “Joy”) and to see her growing into a beautiful young lady.

These verses have proved true…

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” Romans 8:28-29

Writing these blogs about my three desires has taken me down memory lane and God has reminded me of how He worked all things together for my good. I have been reminded that it was when I allowed Him to have His way, when I surrendered my will for His, and when I chose to trust Him and not my own understanding, that I saw Him do amazing things within me and within the situations I faced. I realize it was when I chose to love Him above myself and my own ways that His ways were so much better. I’ve learned that the desires He gives are not about promoting me or bringing me glory, they are given so that God is seen in my life, so that His purposes are fulfilled here on earth,  and so that He receives the glory! I am thankful that I am not the same woman I was twenty-five years ago. I would ‘t have changed anything along those journeys because they have formed me more and more into the image of Christ and have given me a story that gives God glory.

Thank you for coming along and I hope that in some way they have been an encouragement to you and most of all a tribute to God’s faithfulness and goodness!

P.S. I just heard another gentle whisper from God….

 

“It’s time to dream again!”

How about you?

Is it time for you to dream again?

God’s Joy!

On March 5, 2004, God returned His joy! Kayla was brought to our home by her case worker and her foster mom. My arms were finally filled with our 18 month old bundle of joy! Baby Kayla was home! Her Dad and her crib were waiting!

But it was there in the joy of the moment that the case worker told me there was a grandmother that was interested in having Kayla.

Lord, not again!

Life is filled with tests of faith.

Kayla is 15 now and she has been taking her driver’s written practice test over and over to prepare for the real thing coming up in a couple weeks. The more she takes the practice tests the more familiar she is with the information she needs to know. The more she takes them the better she scores; with the hope that she will pass the real test.

The journey that eventually led to Kayla’s adoption was filled with many tests, but I realize now that faith needs to be tested in order for it to grow.

The case worker’s words about Kayla’s grandmother were another opportunity to test my faith. What would I do with those words?

My faith was getting stronger!

Rather than burst into tears or become discouraged I was able to pray…

“God, You love baby Kayla more than I ever could and You know what is best for her. You know my heart’s desire and how we have longed for her to be our little girl, but I hold her in an open hand and I trust that You are able to place her in the family that You want her to be with.”

Though I prayed that prayer and thought I trusted in God’s will I was really hoping for a short, straight road right to adoption. Some trips in life are like that. There is a starting point and an ending point, and between the two there is very little to see or to experience. Many of us prefer that kind of trip. We have our sights on the destination and want to arrive as soon as possible. We don’t like obstacles, detours, or roadblocks of any kind.

But sometimes God chooses a long, and winding journey for us to travel, filled with sights and experiences that are intended to work together for our good and to form and shape us more and more into the image of Christ.  (Romans 8:28-29)

The final decision for Kayla’s future was in the power of the judge, based on all the information he received about Kayla’s situation.

Yet, though the judge had the earthly, legal power to determine her future, I knew that ultimately God was the One who would determine where she was to go.

My faith needed to be in God alone…the One who formed and knit together baby Kayla and laid out every moment of her precious life!

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex. Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!” Psalm 139:12-18

The days of Kayla’s life written in God’s book became evident as the judge ruled that Kayla be placed into our home and be adopted into our family!

 

 

On February 10, 2006, baby Kayla became…

 

 

Kayla Joy Cordes!

 

 

 

 

This Friday, October 27, is the 16th anniversary of receiving that “word” from the woman at the conference. The “word” from God that I held on to through every doubt and impossible situation we faced along that journey.

But as I have been writing this story and sharing it with you I have been convicted. When I reread that “word” I noticed something that caught my attention; God said…

“I am returning my joy to you…”

I know I have written this line twice before, but isn’t that the way sometimes…

We can be so use to seeing something a certain way and it takes awhile to hear what God has to say to us.

I have realized just this weekend that sometimes the very gifts of God, the fulfillment of our desires, can become the object of our worship.

I glanced over the word “my,” and somehow forgot that Kayla was God’s joy that He was returning to me.

When it was out of my hands and not within my own power to decide where Kayla would be placed I needed to trust God for His will to be done. I had kept her in an open hand. But once she was in our family something happened.

The gift from the Lord, became the object of worship.

I don’t have the words to describe how or when this worship began, but when I reread that “word,” as I was writing this blog, and noticed God said He was returning His joy, I heard a voice within remind me that I had been considering Kayla as my joy.

I was convicted of seeing her as fulfilling me, of bringing me satisfaction, of bringing meaning to my life. Seeing her as my joy caused me to serve her and I made it my purpose to make her happy. For when she was happy it brought significance to my mothering.

I know God was at work to reveal this to me because He led me to listen to a Tim Keller sermon, Counterfeit gods, that addressed this very thing. (Take the time to listen on You-Tube – worth every minute!)

And at the same time what Tim spoke about; “your idol will always break your heart,” was happening to me.

How ironic, yet so obviously God, that I should be writing a blog about the incredible journey we traveled towards adoption, towards the fulfillment of our dream, only to be convicted of worshiping that very desire, that great gift of  joy!

It speaks to the very theme of this blog, what the enemy means for my harm, God intends for my good.

This morning I spent a long time in the presence of my loving Lord and Savior as I confessed my sin of idolatry. I broke off the soul-tie of idol worship and applied it to the cross where Jesus proclaimed, “it is finished.” I thanked Jesus for His shed blood that washed and cleansed me of all my sin; believing Kayla is “my” joy, for looking to her to fulfill me, satisfy me, and to bring meaning to my life, for serving her so that she will be happy believing that was what would bring significance to my mothering.

I placed Kayla on the cross and embraced the truth that she is God’s joy, she belongs to Him alone.

 

 

 

A Greater Story

The story of Lazarus was still going through my mind as I placed baby Kayla into the car that day, not knowing if I would ever see her again.

As I pondered the events of that story I thought of what Jesus said to Martha when she was mourning her loss…

“Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” John 11:40

How powerful is our faith?

“For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.” Mark 11:23

Faith moves mountains!

There was nothing I could do or say that would bring Kayla back.

The only thing I could do was to “believe.”

What does my faith do in the spirit realm?

Jesus calls believing the work of God…

“Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” John 6:29

My faith needed to be in Christ alone, and that belief would accomplish the will of God.

In the physical realm it was a time of silence; we heard no news or updates about baby Kayla.

Our arms and her crib remained empty.

It was then that God reminded me of the “word” I received from the woman at the Joyce Meyer conference.

I went to my Bible and took out the written copy from between the pages in the book of Daniel. It had been a long time since I read it, and now almost two years later, that “word” had new meaning.

“God is saying I have taken you through these trials in the past two years…”

Two years ago that didn’t really make sense, but now these past two years were filled with trials, they were “very trying times.”

And now the last line also took on great significance…

“I am returning my joy to you because of your faithfulness to me.”

“God, when this “word” came to me  two years ago I didn’t understand this promise. I wasn’t sure what “my joy” was. Now, the only thing I can think of is the joy of baby Kayla. Is this “word” a promise to hold onto as I believe for Kayla’s return?”

And then I looked at the date…

10/27/01

That “word” came to me in October. God had said “in the past 2 years”

It was incredible how specifically it lined up with the circumstances I was in. So incredible that despite the silence and the emptiness, I chose to believe every word God had written to me and I trusted in His perfect timing.

I held firmly to the “word” that said He would return His joy to me and that it would come in October of that year, 2003.

Yes, I still had doubts.

But I pushed away those doubts with the word of God.

I meditated on these three verses through the entire journey…

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,” Ephesians 3:20

These verses were constant reminders that as I seek God, spend time delighting in Him, and put my faith in Christ alone, God’s desires will become my desires. But, those desires will be challenged with trials that are intended to purify and refine me so that I am prepared and equipped to receive the desires God has for me. And as I persevere through the trials, as I choose to believe no matter what I see or don’t see in the physical realm, I am encouraged that God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above and beyond anything I could think or imagine!

Yes, there were others who told me to let her go, perhaps they were attempting to protect my heart from more pain.

But, I couldn’t let go.

And I’m so glad I didn’t…

When I think back I realize I could have “bowed down” to the way things looked in the physical realm and allowed doubt and unbelief to bring me to hopelessness.

Hopelessness doesn’t move mountains!

Bringing those verses to mind when I began to doubt was a matter of my will. I could have allowed my thoughts to become overwhelmed with hopelessness and blamed God for being too late.

The “word” from the woman at the conference could have been received with unbelief, since it really didn’t make sense at the time. It could have been thrown away, or lost and forgotten.

I could have been so upset and offended with God when the speaker came in and talked about giving birth to your dreams that I didn’t wait for her to come back around and pray another prayer over me to hear what God had to say.

I could have been so hurt and angry about the message from Kayla’s foster mom that I couldn’t hear God’s gentle whisper when He whispered the verse that brought peace. My hurt and anger could have sent me back to the store, returning the unopened crib.

Unbelief hinders God’s will.

“Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Matthew 13:58

“So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Believing was hard work!

October couldn’t come soon enough!

September 4th I received a phone call from the state asking if I would take a foster baby. Since we had opened our home for foster care in hopes to adopt we were on the list to take in foster children. The case worker said there was a 7 month old baby girl who needed to be placed, would we be willing to take her? “Yes,” how could I say, “No”? But, then she told me that the baby actually had many siblings and they are hoping to keep the baby with her three year old sister. By now I was caught up in the conversation, wanting to help in any way I could. So, when I hung up the phone I had said “Yes” to two little girls. I hadn’t even considered the fact that October was just one month away and I was believing baby Kayla would be returned. Where would she sleep? My house would be full with those two girls.

Even years later I don’t understand the big picture as to why God brought those little girls into our home for five months, but they brought so much joy to our whole family! I believe it was all part of preparing us, equipping us, and filling our home and our hearts with joy!

But, in spite of the busyness and joy of having those two girls, I held onto the “word” and never stopped praying and believing for baby Kayla to be returned.

October 2, the month had just begun! I received a phone call from Kayla’s foster mom…

The state had finally been able to go and check on Kayla. While they were there they found reason to immediately remove her from the home where she had been placed. She would be back in her foster home that afternoon!! I scooped up the two girls and went to see baby Kayla!!

God’s joy had been returned!

Again, God gently whispered, Wilma, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 

Baby Kayla was back! She wasn’t home, but she was back!!

God always has a greater story for a greater glory!

 

The Desires of your heart are intended for God’s Glory!

Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, was sick. Their desire was for their brother to be healed so he wouldn’t die.

By faith Mary and Martha called Jesus to come and heal their brother.

What happened to their faith when Jesus didn’t show up?

When Lazarus got worse and worse?

When Lazarus breathed his last breath?

When their desire wasn’t fulfilled?

This is a way too heavy topic to address here, but one thing the Lord is impressing upon me that gives me some understanding is to consider…

What is the object of my faith?

What am I looking at, what am I focusing on, what am I worshipping?

Is my faith fully rooted in God; trusting in His sovereignty, in His purposes that will bring Him glory?

Or is my faith attached to my desire; looking to and trusting in the fulfillment that will make me happy?

Am I worshipping my desire more than the One who gives me my desires?

Am I looking for my answer to prove the sovereignty, power, and love of God, instead of looking to the sovereign, powerful, loving God for His answer.

When I worship my desire the answer I receive, whether it is a “yes,” or a “no,” will affect me. My thoughts, responses, even my beliefs will be swayed by how my prayer is answered.

This is a test to see if I worship my desires more than God…

“How do I respond when my prayers aren’t answered the way I want?”

There is another way to view my desires…

I can choose to keep God as the focus of my worship. I can choose to put all my trust, hope, and faith in Him and in His sovereignty, His power, and in His love.

When I choose to keep God as the object of my worship, my desire is no longer on the throne, no longer does the answer to my desire determine how I feel, how I think, how I believe. I am free to live in the faith that my God knows what is best. I am free to rejoice in the truth that God is for me, that He sees the big picture, and that no matter whether I receive my desire or not He is still God, He never changes, He is on His throne!

Lazarus was in the tomb four days.

Family and friends were mourning for four days.

Then, Jesus came.

Mary and Martha had just one thing to say, “Jesus, if You had been here our brother would not have died.”

“Jesus, if You had been here…”

How many times have you found yourself accusing Jesus for not being there for you, or for being too late? How often have you blamed Him for not doing what you asked Him to do?

When we find ourselves blaming God it is a sure sign that we are worshipping our desire more than worshipping Him.

Jesus had a plan from the very moment He was called to go to Lazarus…

“When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” John 11:4

Jesus told His disciples that this sickness wasn’t “onto death,” but for the “glory of God.” There was a greater purpose in this sickness.

Mary and Martha’s faith believed for healing. Their desire was for Jesus to come, to make their brother well, so that he wouldn’t die.

Jesus saw this situation differently. It wasn’t that He didn’t love Mary and Martha. It wasn’t that He ignored their call or their faith.

Actually, it was for the very reason that He loved Mary and Martha that He had a greater purpose, a greater story!

A greater purpose that didn’t line up with their desire.

A greater purpose for the glory of God.

When we call out to God with a desire, when we attach our faith to something that we believe God can do, we must not put our ideas of what the answer will look like above what God wills to do.

When Jesus saw the people weeping He groaned in His spirit. When He went to the tomb He wept.

I don’t know why Jesus expressed these emotions…what was behind them? Some have shared their thoughts.

Sometimes I think that He is grieved by the way we grieve over things that are meant to bring Him glory.

When Jesus spoke with Martha, He didn’t condemn her for blaming Him for not being there, or for not answering her desire in the way she wanted. He didn’t condemn her for mourning her brother’s death. But Jesus did change her focus. He took her eyes from the physical realm and into the spiritual realm, and onto the greater purposes of God.

It is these greater purposes of God that we don’t often take the time to see. It’s these greater purposes of God that get overlooked when we are blaming God and mourning our loss. We actually hinder the greater purposes of God when we choose to give in to doubt and unbelief.

“And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” John 11:37

These responses are what I believe may have been why Jesus was groaning.

So, what is the proper way to respond when our desires aren’t answered in the way and time we want?

I’m sure there are many ways God intends good for His children in these times, but one thing…I believe it provides an opportunity to draw near to God so that you live through your circumstance in a way that will create the story God intends; a story that will show us and those around us how awesome God is.

You can allow for disappointment to bring you to the place where you choose to trust in His sovereignty over your life. You can choose to take your desire off the throne, to stop worshipping it, and to and put God back on the throne of your heart. When He alone is Lord in your life it removes the confusion, the disappointment, and the hurt that comes from unfulfilled desires. It allows for your heart to become one with God and aligns your desires with His.

This oneness of heart is what Jesus had with His Father, and it is what He prayed that we too will have…

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.  I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” John 17:20-23

When your heart is one with God’s heart your desires will create an incredible story that is filled with evidences of God’s amazing love and incredible power to those around you who need to know Him.