Wind Chimes

Today is December 27th, the 2nd day after Christmas and a few days before the New Year. This can mean 2 things; you may be caught in the hustle and bustle of post Christmas shopping and pre-new year prepping and planning… or you may be trying your best to squeeze in as much rest and family time as possible before walking into all that is about to come forth! Whichever category you may find yourself in, I just want to take a moment to remind you that you are loved, and share something that my heart was reminded of on this peaceful Thursday afternoon.

As I sit here in my aunt’s kitchen, having a cup of coffee with reminiscent thoughts of the many laughs and even tears of this week, I am reminded of God’s consistent nearness. Earlier this morning, I honestly woke up in a bit of a slump. Thoughts of comparison began to parade my mind of all the things that did not happen as planned in 2018. It also did not help to scroll on Facebook/Instagram and see posts that could easily feed into the lies of comparison. I immediately sat my phone down, went into the kitchen, heated up a plate of sausage balls, made a cup of coffee, and sat at the table. No phone, no iPad… just me and Abba.

Too often we get distracted by all of the “noise” that surrounds us. The noise of social media, outside opinions, and even our own thoughts can easily distract us from what the Voice of God is saying to us through His Holy Spirit. I have found this to be true quite often as someone who has struggled with identity, insecurity, and low self-esteem. The voice you listen to is the voice that will rule. So in this moment with me and Abba, I decided to just listen. To turn off the other noises and choose to take some time and tune in the God’s loving voice; and boy was I in for a treat!

My aunt has these wind chimes that hang outside on their balcony. They are simple, black chimes that have been there for years, since I was a little girl. I’ve noticed them before, but today they meant so much more. As I sat in my silence, I ask Abba, “what are you saying Lord? There are so many things that are seeking to pull my attention away from you… but what are You saying?” As I sat there for a few minutes, I began to hear the soft, sweet sound of chimes playing in the wind. A sound that was so soft, it could easily be missed amongst all of the other sounds of daily movement and duty. But in the stillness of that moment, the chimes began to play softly, then louder with the picking up of the wind. I could feel the rest of the Holy Spirit wash over me as He ministered to my heart.

Zephaniah 3:17 says:

“The Lord your God is in your midst; The Mighty On, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

I truly believe that in my moment of searching for Him, He revealed His nearness through His song over me in the wind, through the wind chimes. We are His children, and He rejoices over us with gladness! He sings over us! What gladness it brings to think that the Savior of the world, our Heavenly Father celebrates us with joy and endless love and affection. We are special in His sight!

So even in those moments where the noise seems so loud, and those intruder thoughts come knocking, remember the song of Abba; a song of joy, love, and peace. Steal away for a moment, breathe, and just listen to His heart. He loves you, and values you more than you could ever imagine.

May the love and peace of Christ wash over you, God bless!

Richarra Hardaway

“Scroll Counts”

Social Media is a powerful tool. It can be used to connect, encourage, and share wonderful memories and happenings with others… but if not careful, it could also be very dangerous. This is definitely a broad subject, and one could veer down multiple paths on this topic, but what the Holy Spirit brought to my attention was the amount of time spent “scrolling” verses the amount of time spent with Him. This one brought some much needed conviction to my heart about social media habits that I “thought” I had under control… my “scroll count”.

What is a scroll count? A scroll count (definitely a made up phrase) is what I call the amount of daily time spent on social media/phone usage. A close friend of mine inspired me to download a mobile app called “Moment”. This app is a screen time tracker that tracks how much time your phone/tablet is used each day! Uh ohhh, get ready to see some shocking initial numbers if you choose to download this app! I remember the first evening that I checked in resulted at around “5h 31mins” of screen time… that’s a problem! The sad part is, most of it was subconsciously. A habit of muscle memory where you tap on Facebook or IG without even realizing it or meaning to.

There are so many times that I’ve gone to unlock my phone with intentions to texting someone, or sending an email, or checking the status of something online, and before I know it, I’m scrolling down my timeline; checking to see what I missed in the past 10 minutes. When I look at my generation as I sit around a dinner table, an outing, or at a family gathering, I see more phones than I hear conversations. I see more scrolling than I see eye-contact being made. I’m guilty of this too, but what truly pricked my heart was the thought of how this makes God feel.

How often do we instead of waking up with a prayerful heart of thanksgiving, check our phones “real quick” to see what notifications we have received while we were asleep. Or after coming home from a long day, curling up on the couch to check and see the latest news we missed, when God wants to be the first to hear about our day, even though He already knows it all… companionship. I can only speak for myself, but so often God is placed on the back burner as I waste time on things that are fleeting with each moment/post. Oh how this this time could be better put to use! The truth is, I feel closer to Him when the social media word is silenced. I hear Him clearer, and my mind is untainted by opinions, comparison, and garbage.

Drawing near to Christ brings forth revelation; about ourselves, as well as our relationship with Him. He’ll reveal those areas that need more work; and unlike man, He walks through the refining process with us, guiding us each step of the way. There have been so many times that I’ve wanted to post a memory, or post a photo, but felt the Holy Spirit nudging me not to. Not because it was bad, but because there was simply no need to. Wisdom says, “everything that happens in our lives does not have to be shared and posted.”

So let’s evaluate our scroll counts. My heart’s plan is to be more intentional about putting the phone down and digging into what’s most important; God’s Word. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more the things and priorities of the world will fade. The demands of the world can wait, but our Heavenly Father should never have to.

God Bless, ❤

No More “Cookie-Cutters”

The need to fit in. The need for acceptance. The need to succeed according to man’s standards. The need to be like everyone except who God actually created you to be… ever been there? I sure have, and I must say, it is quite stressful, and VERY unnecessary! However, I found myself occupying that residence for almost 14 years.

Dating back to my childhood, I could always find a reason(s) to believe that I was not good enough. Whether rejection at school from friend groups and “cliques” that I so desperately wanted to be a part of, or being rated with low numbers on those silly “How Would You Rate Me? 1-10” notes that were passed around in middle school for the popular boys to judge. With every low rating (3’s and 4’s each time), my self-esteem began to plummet more and more, causing me to love myself less and less. Had I given the opinion of man too much power? Most Definitely!! But blinded by the desire for acceptance, attention, and validation at such an early age, it was hard to see the downward spiral that my identity and self-worth was actually taking.

Although still battling with self-acceptance at the time, it wasn’t until 2008, my 10th grade year in high school that I began to truly see what individuality looked like. This was the year that I switched schools to attend a well-known Performing Arts school in Chattanooga, TN. I can recall being very shocked at all of the brightly-colored rainbow pixie cuts, facial piercings, and interesting stylistic expressions. I was also taken aback to see what felt like a scene out of the movie “FAME” during lunch, when people would randomly breakout in rap-battles, cafeteria-wide sing-a-longs, and impromptu guitar/vocal jam sessions. While at first I felt like a fish out of water, knowing only 4 people at the school, I quickly began to appreciate what seemed to constantly ring through every hallway, classroom, and school assembly… Uniqueness.

Whether for the right or wrong reasons, there was a sense of confidence that filled the air of CCA. My peers knew they were gifted, and worked hard to perfect what they knew God had put in them. Even those who were not believers had a sense of appreciation to know that what was in them was far too great to waste on the opinions of others. They were not afraid to embrace their differences and could honestly give less of 2 measly cares about what anyone had to say about it. I can truly say that during my high school years, I learned a lot about embracing who God created me to be… but even still, it had not fully sunk in.

Fast-forward to college, I still sought validity through joining organizations, pledging a sorority, and seeking many different ways to find my identity. The truth is, no organization, person, place, or thing could point me in the right direction, because there is only ONE with that ability, and He is The One who created me, and has “every hair on my head numbered” (Luke 12:7). Although born and raised in the church, what I failed to grasped during this low point in my life was that Jesus Christ was The ONLY answer to my identity crisis, and until I found out what He says about me in His Holy Word, I’d never truly know who I was, or who I was created to be.

So my dear sister, while society wants us to look like them, and the world points us to so many “trends” and “enhancements” to achieve “The Look” that is currently in, let’s choose the exact opposite! Lets’s choose to be the unique individuals that God created us to be; from that witty laugh, to those fly-away hairs that won’t seem to lay down, no matter how much edge control or gel you slap on them! Sis, we are Beautiful, “Fearfully and Wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and daughters of our Abba Father, The Most High God!

Let’s choose to wear a Daughter’s Crown and take on Abba’s perception of us, as we dig into His Word to find out The Truth of our identity in Jesus Christ!

God Bless ❤

A Feast of Thanksgiving

While the turkey and dressing is in the oven, and as we enjoy those delectable slices of pumpkin pie, we must always remember who our utmost gratitude belongs to… our Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Thanksgiving is such a beautiful time to spend together with our families over some of our favorite meals; a time to reminisce, laugh, and fellowship; but this year, my heart also goes out to those who may be experiencing grief over the loss of their loved ones, or those who may not even have family to celebrate with.  If that is you, I want to encourage you that Jesus is always there, and has promised to always there. Psalm 46:1 tells us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”, and Deuteronomy 31:6 promises us that “…He will never leave, nor forsake us.” Jesus Loves You.

So my friend, despite what your Thanksgiving may look like this year in the natural, I want to encourage you to feast upon God’s Word spiritually! His Word is a well that never runs dry, and it is unchanging no matter what we face; both good and bad! No matter what, we will ALWAYS have something to be thankful for… Life! It is the Breath of God that flows through our lungs, so that alone is a reason to sing, dance, and jump for joy! With that being said, I want you to do something. Right now, as you are reading this, I want you to take a couple of minutes to stop and think about all God has done for you, both big and small, and simply tell the Lord, “Thank You”. As we think back on the things He has done for us, both past and present, our hearts should swell with gratitude as we are reminded that our circumstances do not dictate whether God deserves our praise or not… He is ALWAYS WORTHY OF EVERY PRAISE! When the turkey runs out, and the pie doesn’t turn out as planned, God is Still the Same!

So here just a few of the many scriptures in God’s Holy Word that we can hold on to and endlessly feast on this season. Enjoy!! As granny used to say,  “Baby, there’s plenty more where that came from!” Happy Thanksgiving!! God Bless ❤

1 Chronicles 16:34 – “Give thanks to the Lord. for he is good, and His love endures forever.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Collossians 3:15 – “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you are called to peace. And be thankful.”

Ephesians 2:8 – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-“

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Psalm 28:7 – The LORD is my strength and shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.

Philippians 4:6 -” Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Psalm 100:4 – “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.”

Jesus Loves You!! ❤

A Father’s Wisdom

Anyone who knows me, knows that I truly love my dad SO much! I am probably the epitome of a “Daddy’s Girl”. Its has been that way since I was a little girl. Even at the age of 5, I can vividly recall sitting cramped up beside him in his recliner as we watched TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) for hours; praising, praying, and watching sermons. My dad is truly a daughter’s blessing.

However, once I hit my teenage years, this “Daddy’s Girl” started to change. I started “smelling myself” as the older church mothers would say, and grew into a bad, rebellious attitude, accompanied by a sassy mouth. During this time, I saw my dad as my enemy because of all the things “I wasn’t allowed to do”. While friends were going buck-wild on the weekends in high school, I was at the annual Friday Night church shut-in, followed by choir rehearsal the next morning. While the other kids could spend the night and hang with whomever they pleased, I had a select few that were “approved” by my parents. Looking back, I was pretty angry and frustrated with such strictness; but now that I am older, that anger has turned into deep, sincere gratitude from a heart that is appreciative beyond words!

The 24 year old Richarra understands now, what the 13 – 16 year old Richarra failed to understand… my dad’s purpose and heart behind his strict rules and teachings were to protect me from the mess, filth, and unnecessary trouble of this world. While I could have rebelled and messed up big time if I really wanted to, I didn’t because deep down that “daddy’s girl” still respected him enough to fear the consequences. His fatherly intentions for me were to lay out a wise foundation that when I grow old I would not depart from (as instructed in Proverbs 22:6). While going through it, I thought he was just being a “mean ol’ dad”, but now, I can testify that the wisdom he and my mom sought to instill in me through the Holy Spirit, has never left my side… In fact, I often still hear his wise teachings play over in my head during testing situations or times of decision making. While very hard to hear at the time, I know that it was in love and protection of my future.

Much like my earthly father seeks to protect me, so does our Heavenly Father seek to do so on a much grander scale! Sisters, our Abba Father God LOVES you and I so much that saw fit to send His ONLY son, Jesus Christ to die for our sin; a price that He did not owe! And through His death, burial, and resurrection, we are alive and redeemed through His gift of salvation! But we must understand that through salvation, and on this Christian walk, we must follow the guidelines and choose to do what is clearly outlined in His Holy Word (The Holy Bible). Our Father wants us to live our best life in Him, but in order to do so, we must obey His Word; knowing that His restrictions and Commandments are there for our best interest, and to ensure that we live in-step and in-tuned with the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” So in all things, it is His wisdom that will guide us on this journey, and as His daughters, it is His Will that we should seek. Our Abba Father God knows all, and in the counsel of His wisdom, we are safe.

God Bless! ❤

Identity Declaration

This is a Declaration of Worth and Identity in Jesus Christ!! I want to challenge you to speak it out loud daily over yourself in Authority, Declare it, and BELIEVE IT!!

I am a Daughter of THE KING!

I am Chosen!

I am a Ruby (Precious and Rare)!

I am a child of God!

I am the Head and not the tail!

I am MORE than a conqueror!

I am a Mother!

I am a Sister!

I am a Wife!

I am a strong woman of God!

I am HEALED of ALL sickness and infirmities, in Jesus’ Name!

I am a Lender and not a borrower

I am the righteousness of God!

I am Blessed to be a blessing!

I am VICTORIOUS!

I am BOLD in Jesus Christ!

I am SET APART!

I am Protected by the Blood of Jesus Christ!

I am under Jehovah Jireh’s supernatural Provision!

I am at PEACE in Jesus Christ!

I am BEAUTIFUL!

I am a Temple of the Holy Spirit!

I am ALL that GOD says I am!!!!

But most of ALL… I am Nothing without JESUS CHRIST!!!!

Jesus loves us, and we must love ourselves! We must believe who God created us to be!

You Are Loved

God bless!

 

 

“One tall glass of REST, Please!”

As I sat in my comfy chair yesterday, resting after a beautiful Sunday of worship, I was bombarded with many thoughts of things that need to be done. “The first load of laundry needs to be removed from the dryer so that the next load can be added… my closet needs to be cleaned and organized… what is on this week’s agenda?… remember that amazing idea you had last week??… you need to contact him/her, oh and don’t forget to send that email to confirm x,y, and z!” Tasks, decisions, upcoming events, “to-do” and “to-now” lists… ummmm relaxationnnn… where did you go??

There are so many things clamoring for our immediate attention; whether tasks, obligations, planning, decisions, there’s always something “needing to be done”. However, what happened to that moment of rest that you originally intended on having? I know personally, if I sit too long (normally not long enough), feelings of guilt try to creep in. “Girl, you need to be working!” “You know x,y,z needs to get done… rest another time!!” But, is that really healthy? Now of course productivity is important, as time is precious, but how productive can one truly be on an empty tank? Eventually, the car will stop, and have to be pushed or towed to a gas station. I don’t know about you, but I would definitely rather take the time and fill up my tank to have what I need, instead of running out and having to be forced to get what I should have stopped to get in the beginning…

Rest is essential, especially resting in the Lord. If we are not careful, we will work, bleed, and tire ourselves out because of the world’s definition of success. We’ll work 5 jobs, while participating in 6 organizations in order to gain money and prestige; but in reality, our families, and essentially God, are left with the crumbs of our time. There comes a point where we simply need to sit down and rest.

I am reminded of a time in my life when I was on the go at all times! During my first three years of college, I was the definition of “busy”. I held three executive board positions in 3 organizations, was in 3 music ensembles, doing hair on the side, and had an extremely demanding major. Not to mention I had the nerve to want a job on top of it all! My friends tell me now that looking back, they wouldn’t even bother to text or call me much because they knew I was too busy to hang, or would have to end it early in order to be on time for my next org meeting. While at the time, I looked important and thought I was achieving success, I was actually stressed and burned out from living an extremely hectic life. But this did not really dawn on me until a friend of mine bluntly asked me, “Are you really achieving anything?… or are you just always busy?”…That was my wake-up call.

I share this to say  that we have to make sure that our ambitions and schedules are actually in alignment with what is of true importance, our purpose. Having an extremely full plate may sound or look good, but if we aren’t careful, it could all be a huge distraction; deterring our focus from where God originally intended it to be. It is only in the moments of solitude and intimacy with God that we truly find out what our assignment is. God may be speaking to us, but have we stopped or slowed down enough to hear Him? Are we in-tune with the Holy Spirit to know what doors to walk through, which ones to avoid, and when to sit down somewhere and listen. This was and (still is sometimes) a VERY hard lesson for me to learn because of pressure to be great, and to make those I love proud. But in the end, God had to show me that if He wasn’t proud… none of it even mattered.

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” 

So beloved, take the time you need to sit the tasks to the side, silence the phone for a little while, and rest in quite time with your Heavenly Father. We have to spend time with Him in order properly operate in the day that He has given us. In order for us to properly pour out, we must be filled. Take that extra time to sit at His feet, pray, read His Word, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your heart and thoughts. We must take time to fill up spiritually in order to pour out supernaturally! Jesus loves you, and awaits to refresh and fill you with all you need, for the purpose He has for you to accomplish.