Wandering In The Valley

img_1696

Today, I am going to try very hard not to make this post a “poor me” blog!  However, I’ll admit, today is a “poor me” kind of a day!  Therefore, I am taking a moment to focus on God and write about my feelings, fears, and deepest questions.  I turned my heart to God many moons ago, 23 years ago to be exact!  I have seen his hand in and amongst many areas of my life!  I have seen him perform miracles, I have heard his voice speaking to the innermost places within my soul, and I can honestly say “My God is real and true!”

This is where my honesty and “poor me” feelings kick in…

Today, I have struggled with feeling like God has forgotten me!  Today I’ve struggled with feeling God has forgotten the path he’s called me to follow.  I followed the path and have found that path lonely, aimless, and empty.  Today, I am struggling with my own thoughts and feelings.  I have asked myself, “Why would he leave me alone on a path he alone paved?”  I have waited patiently (at least I have tried), I have prayed from the deepest places within my spirit, I have read scriptures reminding me of his faithfulness, and the path remains lonely, empty, and aimless.

I have struggled with feeling the very gift he has placed within me, will just explode if not allowed a venue for use.  I am an extremely observant individual.  I look around and I see God using people’s unique gifts within the church and in the community.  I am happy for them and love seeing the joy upon their faces as they serve God’s call upon their life!  Sadly, this leads to the aching within my soul!  I wonder, “Why has God failed to use me? Why does he fail to show me a place where I can be used?  Why did he call me, to have me sit useless, aimless, and wandering?” These inner questions lead to my doubting, questioning, and faithless wandering!  I chastise myself, because I know my  own lack of faith and doubting is at the core of my personal pain.  I have been a Christian for more than half of my life and I should be able to trust God in the visionless places of my life.  Yet, I admit, I struggle!  I struggle something awful!  I find myself angry with myself, other’s, and even God!  I told you, this is an honest blog!  This my friends, is my heart!  The down right ugly, raw, and vulnerable places within the depths of my spirit!

What is the answer?  What is the conclusion of this raw and painful blog post?

To be honest, I am not sure!

I know for sure, it is my heart that God uses my pain, trials, joys, and everyday struggles to speak into the lives of his children who are suffering!

I wish I had some great conclusion to end this post, but sadly everything stands the same…  I still feel lonely, I still feel I’m wandering on an empty path, I still feel a longing in my heart to be used by God, and I still have no particular venue to use the very gifts God has placed within my spirit!

What has changed?

Me!

I was reminded as I pour out my heart in honesty to myself, God, and you “my friends”… That God has {never} forsaken me!  He has allowed me to wander in the dark at times, yet, history reminds me that he’s always had a plan for my life and my gifts.  His plan is usually revealed when I reach the end of myself!  He makes himself known the most, in the valleys, because it’s in the valley’s I grow!

To be honest, I am not certain when this valley will come to an end… I am not sure if I will ever reach the {perfect} place, I desire … I am not even sure God will provide some mighty path for me to use the gifts he’s given me…

I am certain of one thing, He has {never} forsaken me!  He loves me!  He guides my path!  He has blessed me tremendously!  And… He will not abandon me!

I am certain…

“Whatever God brought you to, he will bring you through!”

For this reason…

I will trust him in this valley!  I will take my doubts, fears, and questions to the foot of the cross!  I will work overtime to trust him, when my faith is shaken and my questions unanswered!  I will continue to follow him… all the days of my life!  One thing I’ve learned on this journey of following God is, “There’s no other way!!!

Your friend and fellow sojourner,

Crystal Ridlon

 

Ephesians 1: 4-5 “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”

{Dear Lord, I bring my honest feelings, my very heart to the foot of your cross!  I admit my human weakness, my doubts, fears, and pain!  I admit my lack of faith and ask for forgiveness!  I pray you continue to teach me, even if it requires painful valley’s to achieve the growth within me you desire!  I am reminded that you fully understand my heart, my weaknesses, my questioning, and my doubting!  I am truly thankful to have a God, who loves me unconditionally, and has a specific plan for each and every one of your children!  I pray you continue to speak to the very core of my spirit and guide my path!  Lord, I desire to do your work and I truly have a heart to serve you!  It’s possible, my idea of serving you, is different than the path you have planned out for me!  Lord, if this is the case, please reveal your path and plan for my life, as my heart yearns to be used to serve your Holy cause!  Lord, I thank you, for being the kind of God, who is unconditionally loving, understanding, and forgiving!  Lord, I pray you pave the path before me!   I acknowledge, that I know you are moving mountains, that I can’t even see!  Lord, even in the waiting, I will be patient!  I will rest in you!  I will use this time to learn, grow, and prepare for how you choose to use me! I love you, Lord!  I continue to surrender myself to you and your plans!

Your daughter, Crystal}

High School: The Next Leg of the Journey

13557865_10155115842652195_5483353633553672435_n

My oldest son, Robby,  is entering high school this year.  How is it my little “cowboy”, with his larger than life imagination, is now old enough to enter into the 9th grade?  Looking back 13 years ago, my first born child was a rambunctious and imaginative toddler.  As a new mother, trying to figure out this “mothering” thing, I recall being overwhelmed with love, joy, fear, and frustration.  I’m not going to lie, there were times during those hectic and sleepless years, I longed for this little boy to grow up.  Despite, how I truly attempted to cherish every moment, as I heeded the instruction from dear mentor mom’s who’d gone before. I admit there were tough days and difficult moments, as I learned this dubious position as “mother”.  I recall my innermost prayers during those first years as a mother, as I raised one of the strongest-willed children I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing;  “Lord, this child is one tough boy, please, please…. Help me raise a Godly teenager.  This is my longing for this child… That he would love and know you intimately!”

God is good… I can proudly say with confidence today… “My Robby, is one amazing and God-fearing teenager!  I couldn’t have imagined a more respectful, hard-working, determined, and most importantly “God-serving” teenage boy!  I am one proud mamma!” You can’t tell, can you?   As I prepare to send this amazing young man off to high school in a few days, I continue the journey of “letting go”, according to God’s plan.  Realizing that God has always walked alongside my “wild” and “adventurous” young man, I place Him in God’s care.  Knowing that he will {always} be with Robby, wherever he goes, and has a special plan for His son.

My prayer this year for my high schooler,

{ Dear Lord, Thank you for your amazing love and guidance!  For the Holy Spirit, the marvelous counselor leading and guiding each of your children in the most intimate and profound ways.  You have proven faithful and have answered the deepest prayer of my heart, to draw Robby to yourself!  As he continues this journey of growing into a man, I entrust him into your care!  I promise to work hard on appropriately “letting go” when it is in his best interest.  Yet, I promise to remain steadfast and present when he needs the gentle love, touch, and direction of his mamma.  Lord, as he soars into the “big” and “scary” walls of high school, I know you will be walking with him every step!  I ask that you go before him and pave the way for him!  I pray his devout desire to serve and please you remains with him throughout the next 4 years of high school, college, and all the days of his life!  Thank you, Lord Jesus!  Thank you, for allowing me to be his mother!!!  Continue to be with me on this journey of motherhood, as I too will encounter “new” challenges, experiences, and unknowns.  Lord, help me to continue looking to you for guidance, as we raise this wonderful and special young man {together}!!!  Love, Your Servant, Crystal }

The “Present” Father

image

Everyone loves a present!
Presents come in all shapes and sizes.
Big… Medium… Small.
Expensive… Inexpensive… Even Free.
Presents exhibit one very important thing…
“Someone was thinking of you!”
Someone loves you and wants to see you smile!

Yet, presents, aren’t the only kind of gift.
Actually, their not even the most important kind of gift.

The most important gift one can give to another is…
Their presence.
Being truly available in the present.
Truly present in the moment.
To be present and spending quality time with your loved ones, is the ultimate way to say… “I love you! I care about you! I cherish you!”

The act of being present with the people you love, is the most priceless gift one can give to another individual.
My husband, Robert W. Ridlon III, pus this into practice everyday, the art of being present with the People he loves.
As I browsed through years of photographs, years of wonderful memories, it became clear to me… the manner my husband is truly present in our lives.
My husband, the daddy to our 4 children, has made it’s is life’s goal, to be truly “present” in our lives. His smiling, silly, and sometimes serious face, appears innumerous times throughout 16 years of marriage and so many photos taken of our family.

He is always, present, engaged, and involved in the day to day moments of our marriage and in the lives of our children.
As I pondered his presence in our lives, the numerous clicks etching forever images in our family albums, I was simply amazed.

Yet, in the recesses of my mind, I began to ponder all the unclicked moments, the daily activities, and talks in which he’s been truly present in all our lives. It lead me to one final conclusion and I’d like to say…

“Thank you Robert! Thank you for the gift of your unconditional presence in my life! For remaining present daily in the lives of our children! Thank you for the greatest “present” in the world, your time! We love you! We value you! We admire you! We are proud of you! Most importantly, we thank you for leading our family spiritually, and reminding us daily of the unconditional love of the Heavenly Father in our lives! Happy Father’s Day!”

 

 

Motherhood

IMG_6831

Motherhood has certainly been an unexpected journey, a wonderful, amazing, and often turbulent ride! Everyday is somehow different than the day before, yet seemingly mundane all the same. Each day filled with surprises, experiences, challenges, joys, and trials.

Most days motherhood leaves my heart pumping with joy and singing sweet “I love you’s” deep within my chest. Occasionally, the “rough and rugged” days hit and my patience is painfully tested. In the midst of the difficult moments, the hard days seem like they may endure forever. During these challenging moments, I unfortunately fail in my ability to maintain my frustration level and greatly lose my patience.

Most days my heart rejoices over the priceless aspects of motherhood; first steps, family prayer, little childhood achievements, and watching them grow, fills my heart with abounding joy. Yet, there are those days, when these little one’s continuously whine, succumb to illness, back talk escapes their blessed little mouths, dishes get broken, milk is spilt, siblings squabble, and my patience reaches a desperate low point. In addition, motherhood has brought me to tears on many occasions; at times tears of joy and overwhelming love; other times tears of exhaustion, shame, fear, frustration, and weariness.

Motherhood has left me feeling a profound exuberance and joy for the future. At times I fear my children may not be prepared, when the time comes, to fly away from the comfort of the nest I’ve so carefully built. Motherhood is complete with a wide array of emotions.

This journey of motherhood has taught me invaluable life lessons. Motherhood has motivated me to continually work to become a better woman! The calling of being a mother, has encouraged me to step back and ask myself the hard questions in life.  Questions I would have never asked of myself, had I not had these little people looking up to me.  Motherhood has forced me to consistently be honest with myself, especially when my behavior lacks the Godly characteristics, I desire to display to my children.

Since becoming a mother, I’m continuously made aware of the sinful areas that reside within my heart. I’ve come to see how my past continually triggers present circumstances. How incredibly inept I am on my own power to successfully raise my four children.  Most importantly, motherhood has taught me; in my own power I fail miserably! I need God to guide, provide, and reveal to me my human frailties. Throughout this journey, motherhood has brought me to the end of my self, and I’ve grown from each and every experience. Each of my four children, have brought me overwhelming tears of frustration, fear, love, and joy! Mothering my children has challenged me in every way and somehow new challenges occur almost daily!

Mothering my children has revealed a whole new level of emotion within my soul. A love so deep and committed, it brings about feelings of overwhelming joy, and a new determination to be the best mother possible. This thing called motherhood has stretched me in ways I never thought possible! Stretched my previously thin and toned body, my ability to love another human being, and my selfish tendencies.

Being a mother has changed me from the inside out. The most significant change in my life, since becoming a mother…. Is my absolute need for God’s forgiveness, guidance, wisdom, grace, patience, and love! I certainly would never claim to be a perfect mother. What I can claim with assurance, is that I’ve always given my best! Sought God in my weakness. Ask for forgiveness, when I’ve failed my children! I have always tried to become better than the day before!

Most importantly, I can state with absolute certainty that there is no other human being, who could possibly love my children to the depths my love reaches! My love for my children, is deeply rooted and more than anything I could possibly fathom. My children are my motivation to succeed in this life! I am honored to be a mother! I wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything this world offers! I love you whole-heartedly and completely Robby, Christopher, Daniel, and Caroline!!! Thanks for loving, forgiving, and counting on me! Most importantly… Thanks for calling me mom!

The link below will take you to a song written by Natalie Grant.  The words in this song, are like they came out of my own heart!

Your Blessedly Frantic & Amazingly Fickle Life

image

A single soul walking through this great big world.

A fist sized heart pumping wildly with emotion.

One day your a little child, seemingly never to become an adult.

The next day, a teenager who falls madly in love.

All of a sudden,an adult feeling the deepened pangs of utter loneliness.

When you least expect it, your better half meets you at the alter.

Babies come, the tiniest and most fragile humans, who have an innate ability to steal the love from the deepest places within your soul.

Each day this world is full of chaos and frantic adventures, in a fast-paced frenzy we fail to see the gift of life we’ve been given.

Out of the blue, random events occur;  Relationships end, a car accident on the way home, locking yourself outside,  financial struggles, bickering kids; the lists goes on.

You see, this thing called life, is blessedly and amazingly fickle.

The only thing certain in this world, is that absolutely nothing is certain.

Life is frantic, overwhelming, chaotic, filled with love, surprising, and complete with overwhelming circumstances.

The  only sure thing encompassing this world we live in, is that circumstances mutate rapidly.

A crying and needy baby, suddenly yearns to be independent.

Simply turn your head, to see a maturing teenager, trying to prove he no longer needs parental guidance.

Blink your eyes, I dare you!

Experience the speed of life.

You see, life is a gift, a one time gift.

We are never offered the option of a redo, life has no return policy!

Take time to notice life happening all around you, enjoy the blessed moments.

Pay attention to the gift of life surrounding you.

Life is…

Uncontrollable laughter, quality time with the one’s you love, daily little annoyances, heart-wrenching hurts, sunsets observed, gentle breeze blowing across your face, passionate kisses from the one you love, kissing boo boos on a crying toddler, and dreams coming true.

Take time to capture life’s purest moments.

Remember the past, cherish the present, and look forward to tomorrow.

This is your life, your once in a lifetime… Life.

Fully live.

Allow life to fully captivate your senses, your emotions, and make the most of the opportunities surrounding you.

Celebrate this once in a lifetime gift.

Celebrate!

Celebrate the “Blessedly Frantic and and Amazingly Fickle” moments …

That make up your unique life!

Celebrate life!

Who would Jesus Vote For?

12647245_10153770849055240_4337585105377094423_n (1)

The upcoming presidential election is splashed all over the media and seems to be the #1 topic all across America.  All this presidential “hoopla” has triggered many emotions, thoughts, and fears within my soul.  I began thinking “If I am worried, perhaps, I’m not the only one?”  Perhaps, all Americans are concerned and fearful of what is to become of America.  Are you?

We, the American people, have sat back for many years and watched our nation slowly crumble.  We have endured multiple wars, observed terrorists attack our nation, and suffered financially.  We supposedly fought “The War On Terrorism”, yet… terrorists continue to kill and threaten the American people and people all around the world.  We have lived through an economic downfall that many Americans are still struggling to overcome.  Taxes continue to rise and yet the nation’s debt continues to increase.  We have observed this great nation, in an effort to care for those in need, enable able-body workers to live off of the government, and yet people truly in need often continue to suffer without help.  I get it. We’re fed up!  We’re frightened!  We want change!  Am I right?

I get it!  Trust me, I am 100 % with you!  America needs a drastic change!

In our desperation for change, we must be careful not to jump at the loudest, most popular candidate, promising drastic change.  We MUST pray, read God’s word, and listen to the Holy Spirit, as we decide where to place our vote.  We must hold each candidate against God’s word and vote for the man who best meets the criteria outlined in God’s word for leaders.

Here are a few Bible verses to ponder, as you prayerfully decide who you will vote for…

Ephesians 4:2 “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.”

Philippians 2:5-8 “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.”

James 3:13 “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.”

Ecclesiastes 2:26 “To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Philippians 2:13 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”

I have a very serious question for you…

 

“Who would Jesus vote for?”

Let this question sit  with you for a moment… Truly think about the candidates.  Think about…

Who they serve.

What they live for.

Who they live for.

What are their passions.

Are they self-seeking?

Are they focused on doing God’s work?

Are they outward focused and compassionate?

Most importantly…

Which presidential candidate(s) takes a Biblical stance on present day issues; abortion, the nation’s debt, terrorism, war, etc…

Friends, these are the questions we need to ask ourselves as we ponder who should become the next president of the United States.

Which candidates will take a stand for Biblical principles?  Which candidate will listen to God and the Holy Spirit to guide our nation back to greatness?

 

Personally, I have decided to prayerfully consider the candidates under the umbrella of God’s word and to listen to the Holy Spirit’s still small voice, as I decide which candidate to vote for.

I encourage you to fervently pray and search the scriptures, as you decide what presidential candidate will get your vote.

Blessings, Crystal

 

 

The Armor of God

12662025_10154704520797195_1337530959071813149_n (1)

I have been attending a Wednesday night Bible study this semester at my church.  The name of the study is “The Armor of God”, by Priscilla Shirer.  This Bible study has changed my understanding of the spiritual forces in the unseen world.  Everyday since the study began, I have been spiritually challenged, encouraged, and convicted!  I have a fresh internal desire to deepen my personal relationship with Christ.  A new desire to study His word, develop a daily prayer strategy, and strengthen my daily attire ~ the armor of God.

Ephesians 6: 10-17 says ~ “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powersof this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  

     In the study Priscilla has us literally dissect this verse; this passage is full unlimited depth and meaning.  In the first week’s homework, she asked us to write in a circle the names of people with whom we have significant relationship difficulties.  In the next paragraph we were asked to read the scripture above. ~  She reminds us that our struggle is not agains the individual’s we wrote in the circle, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Wow!!!  What a powerful message!  We continue to fight against people -Rather than the evil force pushing the contentions and tensions in our relationships.  No wonder our relationships continue to struggle!  

God has used this study to challenge my heart…  Now let He’s challenging you!

Let’s face it… there are spiritual forces brooding all around us.  The battle is real:  It surrounds our husbands/wives. children, families, friends, work-environment, and the community.  Too long the Christian community has ignored the battle … Ignoring the battle IS NOT WORKING!  Our families, churches, spouses, children, co-workers, government leaders, friends, and family members are facing a daily battle for their soul.  A daily battle is raging all around each one of us… the only way to come out victoriously is to fight the battle the right way ~ God’s way!

2 Corinthian’s 10:4 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

The only way to win the battle is to utilize the weapons God provides – divine power to break-down strongholds.  It all starts with fervent prayer, daily studying of God’s word, praying together, surrounding ourselves with God’s people, and surrendering our worldly desires.  The first step is acknowledging the seriousness of the unseen battle… And determining to set our heart on the things above!!!

I don’t know about you ~  But I am tired of seeing Satan steal marriages, churches, friendships, children, media, government officials, schools, families, and businesses. What about you?  Are you tired?  Together we can make a difference… We can fight the right way… God’s way!  Let’s get into prayer and into God’s word ~  Let’s begin sharpening our spiritual weapons and begin to fight back the demonic forces trying to overtake our world.  Let’s Go!!!!

Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Ecclesiastes 10:10 “If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.”  

Finally…

Ephesians 1:3-10  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he[d]made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

Blessings, Crystal