Have you ever experienced living life but not feeling alive? Ever felt like a zombie: detached, unaware, not present in the moment, being unappreciative of your season of life, and feeling like your life isn’t actual living at all?
I lived through some serious deadness and can attest that it was a surreal experience.
I was a sex addict and an alcoholic. I struggled with overeating and compulsive shopping. I was drifting, not living. And that’s why I felt so dead.
This daily devotional is focused on this truth: you are alive, according to 1 John 5:12, Ephesians 2:4-5, and John 11:25-26.
The format of this devotional for women is “self-examination” so I’ll be sharing my personal story of how I went from deadness and drifting to living my life fully alive and experiencing joy.
The reason why I chose the self-examination format for my devotionals is because whenever people share with me how I should think, I feel preached to, but whenever people share about their faith journey, their own internal struggle, their heartbreaks and breakthroughs, I feel touched by their story, encouraged, and empowered.The power of vulnerability is huge, so I trust that sharing my struggles with drifting and deadness, as well as presenting my spiritual breakthroughs in this Biblical devotional will encourage and empower you.
Daily Devotional for Women: “I am alive”
I was raised in Russia by a very abusive family of drunks. I was taught that the way to deal with life was to drink and party, that sex was love and love was sex, also that my goal in life was to serve men with my body, and that my body was the most important thing about me.
1 John 5:12 says this: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
I had no life.
The Living Dead
Growing up, I drank heavily, partied, slept around, and tried to commit suicide twice. I was once locked up in jail for being drunk and physically violent with a security guard at a local hospital.
I grew up and moved to America. I began attending Buckhead Church in 2011 and in 2014, I gave my life to Jesus.
In 2015, I was pursued by a Christian man. He persuaded me that he was a Bible-believing Christian and a seminary graduate. He courted me for marriage intentionally and eloquently.
We were married on May 14th, 2016 in front of family and friends.
[our wedding picture]
I remember Michel’s aunt and uncle bringing me and my bridesmaids to the wedding venue, a Russian restaurant VERDI in Norcross, GA, in their beautiful large white auto.
Apparently, we were a few minutes late but I didn’t know the time as everyone wanted me to be relaxed, so they took all devices indicating time away from me.
I remember seeing a relief on people’s faces when I arrived because they were worried that I got cold feet all of a sudden.
Nope, I didn’t. Actually, I had nothing but joy when my mentor walked me down the aisle and gave me away to Michel.
As I walked closely, I saw Michel standing there in tears. I was confident that those were the tears of joy about our unity, togetherness, and future. Not actually.
He shared with me that those were the tears about him finally having his first wedding and feeling accomplished. I found that out the morning after our wedding and cold blood was running through my veins. It appeared as if I were a trophy to Michel …
After Michel and I got to our newlyweds suite at the Buckhead Intercontinental hotel, he got on the phone and became distant.
As I stood there, in front of my beloved husband, in my wedding dress, waiting for his attention, Michel was busy texting with friends sitting in a chair alone in the right corner of our newlyweds suite.
It was the strangest scenery I had ever encountered.
I waited and waited as Michel had told me that his dream was to have a wedding he never had and to help his bride take the wedding dress off.
I didn’t want to take the dress off by myself and rob him of the experience he considered special, yet Michel was busy texting in his corner chair.
That night turned into a painful and dramatic experience which caused some trauma and my OBGYN has to place me on antibiotics for a while.
At the breakfast with my bridesmaid, Michel informed me that now that the wedding was checked off his list, life was going to be about his IronMan priorities.
Michel started disappearing every evening and weekend saying that he wanted to be an IronMan and complete in Kona.
He called his IronMan bicycle “My other wife I cheat on you with” and rejected me sexually saying that he needs to save himself for his IronMan training.
Prior to our wedding, Michel asked me to honor him by taking his last name. That’s how I became Anna Szabo.
[Anna Stevens vs Anna Szabo video]
Michel also asked me to deposit my paychecks into our joint checking account he created with USAA.
Now, my paychecks were spent and I was left with a balance of below zero dollars three times. I remember being at work and walking to get lunch… only to discover no money was left in our checking account.
I confronted Michel about his lifestyle. He filed for a divorce.
Four months after our wedding, a private server Jerry served me with Michel’s divorce papers at a Christian conference “Harvest.”
Suffering from Narcissistic Abuse, I became severely depressed and suicidal.
[suicide poem video here]
I was walking around in high heels and wearing makeup, but I was dead on the inside. I had prioritized Michel over Jesus and gave away my identity to Michel instead of Jesus.
The Journey of Awakening
Every day was a struggle. Life with Michel was miserable and painful, and that was exactly what I focused on, unfortunately. The focus of my life was Michel and not Jesus. I drew my worth from Michel and not Jesus.
My depression worsened.
[depression video here]
After the September divorce filing, Michel asked me to reconcile in November of 2016, and I said yes. In December, his first divorce was dismissed.
In January of 2017, five weeks later, I was served with Michel’s second divorce summons. He filed for his second divorce in our first year of marriage.
I almost lost my mind. My life was incomprehensible. The pain I was going though seemed unbearable.
[tell me how you really feel video here]
I was angry at Michel, I was using alcohol to help me cope, and I raged at Michel in pain… until I realized that instead of casting my anxiety on Michel, I needed to cast them on the only one who cares – Jesus Christ.
After that, many times I cried myself to sleep in prayer on the floor. The practice of bringing my pain to Jesus was the key to my awakening and becoming alive.
Learning What Life is About
Then, a few weeks later, Michel got very sick with the flu. And that’s when I discovered the little grey book by pastor Greg Laurie in my purse. That purse was with me at the Christian conference HARVEST on September 24th, 2016, the day before Michel served me with the divorce summons. I got the book for him but forgot all about it the next day.
“Tell Someone” is a strange name for a book. I wasn’t interested in reading it anyway. I got it for Michel. Remember?
So, I grabbed the little book and shared it with Michel. Well, I placed the book in the bedroom where Michel lived. And I hoped he’d read it.
Days went by, the book was covered in dust. Michel never opened it.
I took it back into the bedroom where I lived. And just out of curiosity, I began to read it. I couldn’t stop and finished it within an hour.
The little grey book had a big and bright message: it is our responsibility, calling, and anointing to share the Gospel with the world.
Becoming Alive and Being Able to See
As I took care of sick Michel, we were preparing for our divorce jury trial in Forsyth county with judge Dickinson.
Michel got better and his attorney scheduled our divorce mediation.
I was going through the same pain, the same heartbreak, the same mental cruelty, only now I had the breakthrough understanding of the purpose of life and trials.
The day before our divorce mediation on March 6th, 2017 God gave me an unexpected gift. At the time, I already began tuning in and listening to God. My eyes were opened to the things unseen. My heart was finally focused on Jesus. My mind was receptive to God’s voice.
I woke up feeling a holy dwelling on the inside. It was 4 am. I got my phone and started writing what was flowing through me. It was a spoken word poem addressed to God I’m a form of a prayer declaration… Having written poetry NEVER before, I was stunned
“I am your Princess” 3/6/2017
My heart is broken,My soul is aching,But I have hope,Because you are still reigning.
Your mercy gifts forgiveness.Your grace gifts blessings.We don’t deserve your goodness:Our lives are always messy.
But you don’t rate performance – Our heart is one that matters.So when we fail all over,You raise us from the deadness.
Your strength is sufficient.Your love is enough.I am your daughter -A perfect princess in the fallen world.
In the next four days, I had written four poems and they kept coming and coming.
I saw God’s purpose. I realized that He wanted me to focus on my identity in Christ and not Michel. I understood that He wanted me to share the Gospel through my story.
The Story of Learning to Live Alive
After a long divorce mediation with Michel, our premarital counseling mentors drove me here to where I now live, to look for apartments. Together we chose this new home for me. We liked that it was hidden away because I needed peace in order to heal. We loved that it was on the river so I could do some soothing activities on the water. And we thought it was a good place to install video cameras because Michel told people that he wanted to divorce me to date me again, which was a clear threat of stalking.
That day, after finding a new home for me and my lunch with our premarital counseling mentors, this poem was given to me when I returned to our marital residence.
“I Trust You With The Troubles In This World” 3/6/17
You said we will have troubles in this world.I would have sure preferred to avoid all my trials…But you also promised to defeat every sword,And with no battles to fight, how could I ever feel the perfect love as your special child?
You promised protection, you promised peace.You asked to not lean on my own comprehension.So, as I’m standing here, crying on my knees,I trust you still and your perfect plan for my eternal salvation.
I had to learn to not only rely on Christ for my identity but also for my future. I was devastated by all the haze and adversity of this terrifying marriage. I fought my suicidal thoughts with the hope rooted in my faith in God’s plan for my life.
The day after the divorce mediation, this poem was given to me as I worked with God to refocus my thoughts from the painful past and confusing present to the exciting future.
“Focusing on the future” 3/7/17
A broken spirit, a broken heart,What you joined together, no man can unone…
But you’re a healer, you restore hearts.And I am crying, running into your arms.
You’re a loving Daddy, Abba, Father -Strong in my weakness, drawing me away from flesh further and further,Closer to you, deeper in the Spirit,Helping me endure this season that’s so wicked.
I’m suffering from pain and loss and trauma…But I’m reaching for your perfect love and turn my mind away from this earthly drama.
Remembering that this world is fallenAnd everything is temporary and unstable,Till your exciting coming when we will be together forever, And I will be redeemed for eternity, sitting with you at the celebration table.
And then there will be joy, glorification, and perfection,And I will be never hurt again, resting forever in your loving kindness and soothing affection.
The next day was International Women’s Day. It’s a huge holiday in Russia. Women receive flowers and gifts from their men. It’s typically a day when every woman is acknowledged and celebrated.
I was dwelling on the fact that before I married Michel, my dream was to become a Proverbs 31:1 kind of wife to him.
Two things you need to know before I share my next poem and a breakthrough with you. At the time, I was working at Emory Healthcare. The focus of my daily work was EMORY Reproductive Center where gay couples, transgender couples, and other people were trying to get pregnant. All that new to me and I was studying the typical issues faced by transgender people and gay people.
Also, you need to know before I share the next poem that Michel labeled me constantly. The labels he assigned to me were communicated to be verbally and in writing.
The “Woman of GRADE” phrase in my poem because Michel GRADED me in his divorce statements.
The “I’d prefer being a woman anyway” – that idea was in my head as at the time I was working on Emory Reproductive Center’s web content, where we offered to freeze sperm of teen boys who wanted to take hormone treatments to become girls and vise versa, and I was fascinated with how people thought of their gender.
Here’s the poem from the International Women’s Day that took place two days after our divorce mediation.
“Being a proverbs 31 woman” 3/8/17
Being a proverbs 31 woman is my goal But trying has not yet made me perfect at all.
Yet you love me, God, just as I am,And your endless grace is my hope in this earthly mayhem.
Celebrating all women, a woman, me,I think about our commitment to humanity.
Women are warriors ready to stand upTo fight for what’s rightAnd will never give up.
Thank you for mothers, daughters, colleagues, and friends,Sisters, grandmothers, godmothers, and all women of all grades.
Thank you for teachers and our politicians Who fight for women’s rightsFrom powerful positions under pressured conditions.
Thank you for peace and vulnerability Women always bring with them, Thanks to our God-gifted ability.
Thank you for love we all spread in the worldAnd thanks for making me a woman,Which is what I would have anyway preferred.
I was becoming more aware of myself in God’s kingdom, my identity as His child, and my role in sharing the Gospel, aka “telling someone.”
The pain of living there in Adair Park in Cumming with Michel was so tough to endure… I stayed in our marital residence with him until April 1st, 2017. The entire March in that miserable house was really really painful… I felt even more devastated as I was becoming more aware and alive. I wasn’t raging. I wasn’t angry. I reached out for Christ to be humble and kind. It was a struggling battle between the flesh and the Spirit in me.
It was not an easy yoke at all. Yet, I had daily conversations with God and was able to arrive to the place of surrender on March 10th, 2017.
“I’m Surrendered to Thee” 3/10/17
I am fearfully and wonderfully madeBy the God Almighty, the Great I Am.
Old things all past away at once,And I am a new creation in Christ.
I die in my flesh and walk in the Spirit,I choose kindness and humbleness.The harder the journey, the more I grow from it.
You offer to me no condemnation And you provide an escapeFrom every temptation.
I choose to lose so I can win,I’m prudent, not simple, following your written will.
I go through trials and learn my lessons daily but often stumble.I know you prune me to be more fruitful, but my life I often shamble.
Please lift this heavy burden off of me,You say your yoke is easy, I’m surrendered to Thee.
Also, on March 10th, 2017 I realized that God doesn’t waste any pain and He makes all things together work for good. From feeling like a failure in that marriage and life overall, I refocused on my future, God’s plan, and finally was able to feel like I was only failing forward. So, that same day, this other poem was birthed.
“Failing forward” 3/10/17
You give or allow adversity.”Why?” – I ask myself often.To develop our character diversity – You love us too much & this faith makes my heart soften.
To ensure we are more Christ-like,To prepare us for eternity,Though the journey can be quite a hike,It helps to have support of our Christian fraternity.
We suffer, struggle, and hustleBut there’s no failing.We develop our faith muscle.Though often we appear ailing.
When we stumble upon a road block,We must remember your promises in the word.Even if we just stand there and gawk,We are truly failing forward as long as we become a dedicated Bible nerd.
On our journey to sanctification We must believe that you’re always good.You sent your only son to pay for our salvation.I wouldn’t want to take His place even if I could.
Remembering what happened on the cross,I’m in awe from your perfect love:You endured such an unimaginable loss,To promote me in this life beyond and above.
And in the light of your selfless sacrifice,I’m leaving the earthly chaotic mayhem sea walking shoreward,My failures have been redeemed at a bloody price,So as your special, chosen, beloved daughter, I am only failing forward.
Before, I was thinking WHY. And also I was wondering WHY ME? But after I read read Greg Laurie’s little book “TELL SOMEONE,” I realized what actually happened to me.
By March 11th, 2017 I had a full understanding of what happened, so I started “telling.”
I openly and vulnerably shared what I was going through and God’s role in carrying me every step of the way…
How did I do it? Here’s one example.
When on February 13th, 2017 Michel got the flu, he was very sick. I took care of him every hour of every day and served him because Jesus asked me to. That was one month into his second divorce with me. Had I not been on the journey of becoming aware and alive, I would have never submitted myself to Christ and served Michel.
On February14th, 2017 a Georgia State University professor invited me to teach a leadership class from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm at the GSU Downtown campus.
She told me that her students typically fall asleep one hour into the class. She said they don’t want to know each other’s names or share anything about themselves. She wanted me to help.
Prior to that, she sent a student to our marital residence in Cumming, GA to interview me for a series of blogs they wanted to publish about me. There in the house, the student witnessed my messy depression.
I prayed to God on Valentine’s Day 2017 before I started driving to GSU. I asked to help me deliver exactly what the students needed to hear.
I came to the leadership class and spoke about my career, productivity, divorces, depression, sexuality, my two suicide attempts at 11 and 12, how I’ve been raped twice in Russia, how my mother abused me daily, how I succeeded in my career, how I wrote and published an award-winning book, and my relationship with Jesus.
They asked me tough questions like where my good father now is while I’m suffering from abuse and the constant divorces with Michel.
They shared about their lives with me and the entire class. It was engaging. It was a blessing. We all got to know each other and they still reach out to me regularly.
The students stayed wide awake and refused to even take a restroom break or go home. They kept me there till 8:45 pm!!! Not even one of them fell asleep.
I chose to go in with an open mind and a vulnerable heart. I chose to “tell someone” like Greg Laurie suggested. I shared the Gospel. That was what God wanted me to do. That was the meaning of my story. I was finally seeing how I was not just randomly here. I was realizing how I was a part of God’s greater story!
The are now staying in touch with me. They recently shared how they also openly talk about their depression and faith in Jesus now.
The professor said after my class that GSU has so many depressed students, there aren’t enough resources at all. Well, that’s where the Gospel helps!
From that class and students reaching out now regularly asking for mentorship, this poem was born on March 11th, 2017
“Going into the world and telling” 3/11/17
You asked me to go into all the worldAnd tell everyone about you.I didn’t know how and I felt hurled,But only till seeing how people drewCloser to you, hearing my story -Not of perfection, but of your glory.
They asked me to share about everything-My feelings, and dreams, and pain, and divorce,And where I thought actually was that King,Not rescuing me from this devastating chaos.
I openly talked with everyone listening:About my broken heart, shattered dreams, and paralyzing depression…But also with my tearly cheeks glistening,I told them about your mercy and grace with vulnerable confession.
I just shared everything about you, Who you were, And your perfect will,But also I shared what I knew About the fall of the world And our own free will.
That being a good good Father,You love us and want us to choose to love you.But when we wonder away further and further,You let us, Because you want us to get the clue…
That without you, we can’t do itBut with you all things are attainable,So that once we ourselves blew it,We can run back to you and be more trainable.
Because ultimately you’re graduating us from every seasonWith a better and more Christ-like character quality,And for every adversity there’s a reason -To develop each of the 9 fruits of the Spirit in us in equality.
Love, joy, peace, and patience, Kindness, goodness, and devotion, Gentleness and self-control for every nation,Must leave flesh and choose Spirit -Then we get your promotion.
Anyway… on this journey of sharing,Here’s my most recent discovery -I can effectively tell someone about you with caring,Just by walking them through my own life of Spirit-recovery.
Where I run to the cross and pray: “God, rid me of my flesh.”Where I refocus from my flaws and obey,And you make me new and fresh.
So, telling someone takes a masterAnd takes going into the world, yes,But I don’t need to be a pastor,Just need to be vulnerable and confess.
And share what I’ve learned about God, why and how,Why I love Him so much and He loves me,And how from His mercy and grace I’m in awe,And how He redeemed my sins for eternity.
I was becoming more aware of the battle of flesh and Spirit in me. I was less intimidated by sharing the Gospel because prior to the GSU leadership class, I was always comparing myself to Michel who was a trained pastor and quoted Bible verses left and right. I was becoming more aware of the purpose of my life and my role in God’s bigger story of redemption.
Nearly the entire duration of that marriage with Michel, I was in trauma counseling with a therapist focused on helping victims of Narcissistic Abuse.
People asked me: “Did she give you pills?” I don’t take pills. That’s just my choice. My decision was to not numb my pain and drift even deeper but to feel the pain and experience awareness of Christ and His healing power.
Now, I don’t know anything about clinical depression and chemical brain imbalances but for a situational depression like mine I found that praying on my knees and casting my anxieties on God was the best way to get through.
I was watching a Netflix movie on March 12th, 2017 about a boy who was depressed and suicidal.
He wanted to study the Bible but his lawyer father rejected such a desire and insisted on taking pills.
When the boy went to commit a suicide and the girl started praying for him and saved him, the lawyer father allowed the boy to not only attend Church but even lead the Bible club.
I was touched by the film because I was going through a severely suicidal depression myself and I relied on the Bible, not the pills, for healing.
This poem arrived addressed to the boy in the movie and to to myself.
“Prayer vs Prozac” 3/12/17
This world is unpredictable.This world is full of crap!The culture’s contradictable,And with every sad thought you’re instantly prescribed Prozac.
You’re suffering from depression,Which is a human mind’s normal response to stress.But why don’t you try a humble confession?Just speak to God on your knees and confess.
Depression is just another kind of spiritual warfare.We are targeted by Satan every day.And often we feel attacked in ways that are not fare…So what? Just get on your knees and pray!
Prozac causes a chemical brain reactionThat gets you only addicted to more crap!Prayer is your strong faith in actionThat helps you escape the deadly trap.
Prozac makes you indifferent, not happier.Prayer gives you hope and helps you believe.Prozac makes your depression only crappier.Prayer offers long-lasting, eternal relieve.
So, just stop running to that luring pill bottle.Just get quiet and get on you knees.Even if your feelings and thoughts at first scatter,Just commit to your prayer time and you’ll be receiving cleansing peace.
The Holy Spirit will move into your body,He will guard your mind and heart,Offering the peace to everybody Who’s willing to work in prayer hard.
That peace will pass all understanding.It will be available to you for free!No more doctor appointments or pill demanding!Throw away that addictive Prozac -It’s messing you up, just flee!
Run to your Heavenly Father, your Daddy,Ask Him for healing comfort and soothing embrace.Enjoy the sanity that’s long-lasting and steady,Reach out to your good God through prayer for His loving grace.
Since Michel’s first divorce in September of 2016 , I was working with a Biblical counselor Tammy who focused me on spiritual warfare and how to glorify God in the midst of my devastating life trials.
The more I learned about spiritual warfare, the clearer I saw how I was targeted. I saw also how I min managed my mind. I didn’t take every thought captive and didn’t submit my every thought to the truth of Christ as He told me to do. I allowed Satan to Target, capture, and torture me.
I learned about the Armor of God and how to fight the spiritual warfare I was in with God’s tools. I was becoming less dead and more alive as God continued opening my eyes to the things previously unseen.
On March 26th, 2017 I gave birth to the poem that came to me as a conversation between myself in 2017, my past self before the wedding in 2016, and my future self as I was aware of God’s calling to ministry.
“When Satan Comes at You Looking Saint” 3/26/17
Following Jesus, go where He’s going.He always moved toward a mess,Never without knowing.
Being His disciple isn’t easy, We, too, know where the mess isBut are we going there for real or just teasing?
If you’re going to serve Christ wholeheartedly, Make sure you’re aware of Spiritual Warfare,And I won’t talk about it guardedly.
Let me share with you vulnerably What I’ve learned about it so far unexpectedly, traumatically but very clearly and undoubtedly.
As a Christian, you are aimed at.Satan wants you compromised, disoriented, confused…Trust me, because only from my personal experience can I claim that.
Paul says: “Wage the war against sin inside yourself”Knowing that, expect Satan to dig deep into your mind like a delf.
Jesus was attacked by Devil through temptation.Jesus was God, in our human case of earthly flesh expect escalation.
Satan often comes at you looking Saint.Like a dream come true you never even hoped to see attained.
He deceives you with PREMEDITATED DECEPTION, not accidentally.You’ll never even guess it’s him at first,He is a pro, he deceives you so eloquently.
But the Holy Spirit will speak to you quietly,He will issue a plenty of warning to protect you, Not out loud, no, but through your gut-feeling, silently.
You’ll say in your next video:”I had so much anxiety”What do you think God does through our feelings? He warns us.He gave me in my spiritual warfare warnings variety.
But God won’t impose Himself on us, ever.He gave us our free will forever.
So as I was experiencing anxiety and not listening,Satan looking Saint attacked me, with fake Christ-likeness bristling.
He lured me into his magnificent presence,He trapped me in it with his sweet fake pleasance.
So, I was mind-blinded and my discernment was clouded initially,When the Satan looked totally Saint and I was tricked into his PREMEDITATED DECEPTION so officially.
But once everything was set and done and the deceptive scheme was revealed,My faith in our good good Father God was almost killed.
I felt devastated, disoriented, deceived, and confused,I felt in doubt, in despair, traumatized and abused.
But the Bible already has for us all the answers. There’s a Godly solution even when attacked by Satan’s aces.
Paul orders us to go into the war with an Armor of God:the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the “shoes” of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.These and also remember your Spiritual Warfare squad -Your community of disciples, fellow believers,Who can help you take a stand against Satan himself or his deceivers.
And at the end yes, you were warned and you weren’t listening, But God still wins because He uses all things together for your good, So no need for your spiritual stiffening.
Stay humble and kind, be loving,And practice forgiveness.Trust God, only listen next time, And on your tough journey just be His witness.
Go tell everyone about His sufficient goodness and timely protection,How much love you’ve received on your journey and His clear direction.
And the lessons you’ve learned from the Spiritual Warfare don’t ever forget.And use the Armor of God again and again every chance you get.
Remember that in the midst of a Satan’s attack, The Holy Spirit will talk, so pay attention.No need yet to prepare your memorial plaque,Have hope – God will give you discernment for consideration.
Run to His Holy Word, pray and read,And do it on your knees, Even if it’s a new thing to you, just commit.You’ll feel so much peace.
Continue being a faithful follower of Christ,Move toward the world’s mess and be a church to His people, Your discipleship might come at a high price, But Satan can’t disarm you, so don’t cripple.
Rebuke Satan in the precious name of Jesus. Flee from sin.Christ is our lord and savior. Amen.
[Satan comes Saint YouTube video here]
On April 1st, 2017 I finally moved out of our marital residence into my own home where I was able to have peace.
When the movers and friends all left, I remember crushing on the floor in the kitchen and weeping. I grieved my innocence and what was done to it. I grieved being lured into a masquerade as a trophy, deceived l, and abused. I grieved not becoming a Proverbs 31 kind of wife and raging in anger when I could have chosen to still suffer but focus on Christ and be loving.
The next day after my move, I was given this poem. My heart was aching, everything felt surreal, and I was just crying non-stop that day feeling so grieved. I felt that had I chosen to focus on Christ and not Michel, I could have loved Michel even in the suffering.
“Unconditional Love” 4/2/2017
Unconditional love is not easy.Unconditional love is hard work.Unconditional love is soul-cleansing.Unconditional love is responsibility, not a perk.
Unconditional love is the opposite of ego,Unconditional love is a selfless gift,Unconditional love is exciting and intriguing,I’m always curious to see what else God enables me to give.
To love unconditionally, we must practice,We must remember Christ, and Cross, and His blood,We must choose kindness when ego attacks us,We must give without expectations, pouring every day into the unconditional love flood.
And when we fail at it often or seldom,We must reach out for God’s grace,And start all over, being intentional and not random,And remember how we got on the journey of unconditional love in the first place.
[unconditional love poem video here]
That was my reflection on my deep love for Michel. The Michel I married whom I never saw again after our wedding.
I had no poems for a few weeks as I entered a pretty intense divorce recovery program to help me cope and as we were preparing for our divorce jury trial.
I was journaling a lot while taking a DivorceCare class at Roswell United Methodist Church near my home.
I realized that even when Michel betrayed and abused me, I didn’t have to deal with him using anger. I focused on looking into my own heart to find forgiveness and kindness there, so I dedicated my time to working on myself.
Michel first met me on November 13th, 2015. On November 17, 2016 he emailed me “The Right Man” PDF. It’s a document Michel said he created to help me understand the kind of man I needed to marry.
[download The Right Man PDF]
The PDF followed all biblical principles. Michel made me believe he was that man.
In our wedding video, Michel claimed that his goal was to lead me closer to Jesus. He stated that he will be the leader focused on Christ and reach out for Jesus to help our marriage be God-glorifying.
[wedding video here]
As I was processing Michel’s deception and realizing the role my anger played in the story of our marriage, on April 30th, 2017 I gave birth to this poem.
“To Michel Szabo” 4/30/17
I lived my good life until I met you,I loved everything about it. But when from first sight I fell in love with you,I felt that the love multiplied in my heart would that initial love even exceed.
God gave me time, and His mercy and grace,And I was for long a Jesus’ bride.But when He gave me you to love and embrace,I felt unequipped and unprepared to love you right.
You said we were two imperfect peopleAnd that God would guide our walk.You asked for my hand in marriage and said if we cripple,You’ll lead us closer to Christ and commit to the hard work.
I said “Yes” and “I do” and I entered the covenant,And I wanted to love you, respect you, and honor you.But when I saw that the world and not God in your life became dominant,Confused, devastated, angry, and resentful toward you I grew.
Being still unequipped to love you perfectly,Unable to practice unconditional love,Without that promised leadership from you, I hurtfullyBlamed you, condemned you, raged at you – all of the above.
Falling in love with you was easy.You were the only man to always have my heart.But when your bicycle and obsessions with medals got you busy,That’s where our marriage covenant was tested hard.
We abandoned each other and our vows,We betrayed, deceived, and abused each another every day.But through that pain I’ve learned what kind of growth God allowsWhen browsing inside myself seeking how to God obey.
And on my journey I’ve learned that you’re imperfect and broken,Your faults are many but so are mine.And the love I feel for you in my heart, even though unspoken,Grew to now be unconditional, compassionate, and divine.
I’ve learned that my expectations were too many,Though came from your own PDF called “The Right Man,”They were unrealistic, burdening, and excluded anyIdea that a husband is just another fallen fellow human.
You waited 11 months to even meet me, And only four months to file for a divorce.You chose an IronMan medal over your covenant commitment.But I forgive you because I understand my own imperfections of course.
I pray every day about your journey,For God to draw you closer to Him,To guide you to seek the truth from Jesus and not your attorney,To heal your heart and to put in there a Godly, not worldly hymn.
And though I’ve been away from you for a month now,I confess that my love for you only grew.And surely it’s been an exhausting emotional rodeo.Yet, I have been remembering only the good in you.
As God is healing my heart now, He’s reveling my own imperfections to me,The impatience with the IronMan addiction – our initial emotional rodeo.The fear, the anger, and the lack of compassion toward your bicycle obsession in me.
While I couldn’t see those things in the mirror,Your faults at the time were obvious to me,But the more I praise Jesus as my hero,The less I focus on your sin and so He heals the sin in me.
So, after all, I can confidently say I’m so grateful:For you, for your love, for our marriage, and even the pain.For God’s gift of breaking my heart and making me even more faithful,For ridding me of myself, my expectations, and making my heart pure again.
You said your goal was to lead me closer to Jesus.I’m not sure about leading, but pushing – yes.So as our divorce trial is approaching in June to free us,You surely succeeded in that one goal, I confess.
My relationship with you did not work out,But my relationship with Christ only grew.And as I’ve learned to forgive and accept you, without a doubt, He drew me closer to Him, as if you just always knew.
So, thank you for this devastating experience.Thank you for pushing me into God’s loving arms.Thank you for the feelings of love and loss that are both serious,Thank you for revealing to me your painful bullshit, so I don’t just love you for your awesome charms.
Through that I learned what unconditional love is,And I how I did not give it to you, And how now I’m able to feel the love for you beyond and above this,And through all of that my appreciation for God’s endless grace also grew.
I was reflecting on God’s grace and becoming more aware and alive. I was thinking about the afternoon before my talk at the Environmental Protection Agency on July 28th, 2016. Michel told me that he was shocked how he went to the divinity school to study the Bible but I get to talk about Jesus at the EPA.
I was thinking about the difference between knowing the Bible and knowing God.
For over a week, I had no poems and then as a reflection on the whole divinity school deception, I gave birth to a new poem.
It was a reflection on Michel’s words as opposed to his behaviors. It was a reflection on his pastoral degree and always quoting the Bible. It was a reflection on the Bible study I hosted in our marital residence early 2017. It was a reflection on Michel’s confession that he was passionate about IronMan because he wanted more medals and recognition. It was a reflection on Laura Story’s quote: “You can’t follow Jesus by audition. You must follow Him by submission.”
Here’s that poem.
“Knowing the Bible vs knowing God” 5/6/17
Bible is a God-breathed document,The foundation of God’s Holy Word to us.As we acquire at school Business Acumen,The Spiritual Acumen we acquire in the Bible class.
The class can be a formal community study,Or just your quite quality time with God.Or invite to meet up about The Bible your best buddy,Or organize your own weekly Bible-study, home-based spiritual squad.
Reading it with all your eye focus is good for information.You learn a lot about the history of the world and our good God.But reading it with all your heart focus is great for deep transformation.You become more Christ-like as you apply all the Bible has got.
The Bible teaches us that people are either simple or prudent,Their behaviors are divided into fool and wise.You can examine your own self as you become a Bible student.You can choose to walk in the Spirit and apply or reject the learned advice.
As you learn more about who God is, who you are, and how to live life,You will feel tremendous regrets and even shame.You may even feel stubbed by a self-condemnation and self-contempt knife.But that’s why Jesus died for us, to set us free He on earth came.
So, studying the Bible you can gain great knowledge.You can cite the verses and demonstrate that you’ve worked hard.You can even graduate from a popular Bible college,But to be transformed, you’ll need to allow God to give you a new heart.
A heart of flesh for the future to prepare you for sanctification
Instead of a heart of stone from the past
that was always holding you back.Now, to have a new heart, you don’t need from a Divinity School graduation,But you do need to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and you’ll be on the right track.
You can know every page and every verse in the Bible,Yet never know your Heavenly Father God.You can even get yourself in the Bible memorizing spiral…But instead, why don’t you get yourself out of the ego mud?
Focus on the Gospel, the Good News, and how it’s applicable to you.Ask God on your knees to permanently rid you of yourself,Reach out for His endless grace, His mercy, and get the clueThat the Bible won’t help you sitting on your bookshelf.
You need to accept the Biblical truth with your whole heart,Confess your sins, ask for forgiveness, and repent.Now, repentance is where the Bible knowledge gets really hard,Because repentance as an intentional, permanent change is meant.
You repent not out of shame and obligation.You repent out of gratitude to God.You repent because you received humbly your expensive salvation.You repent because living in sin is unacceptable and too hard.
So, reading and knowing the Bible, after all, might be an interesting quest.But learning to be in a relationship with God and to know Him personally is a better goal.Of course, it will take you a lifetime to become Christ-like and fulfill His request,But in the meantime, you’ll be healed by God as you’re becoming more whole.
In 2016, Michel and I took premarital counseling class at Perimeter Church where he attended Metro Atlanta Seminary. At the same time, we also took membership classes there.
In 2017, I was accepted to become a member at Perimeter Church. Many times, our lead pastor Randy Pope mentioned his little tiny book called “The Answer” and I had a few copies at home.
And then, I finally actually read Randy’s book… The “Answer” has a story of Randy’s daughter’s depression. I was touched so deeply because I had never imagined a pastor talking about depression or suicidal thoughts. He also shared openly how he prayed through every single day of life.
I started praying this one prayer he recommended in that book: “God, grant me today to seek authentic glory by means of grace alone according to the truth of your Word.”
Ask and you shall receive! So, God started doing just that and most of my poems changed. My attitude toward life changed. My outlook on my story changed. My focus changed. And my understanding of who I am also changed.
I grew more awake and alive. I began noticing blessings everywhere. My awareness of God’s beautiful creation increased. I bought a kayak and started going on soothing water trips with my dog Bruno. My closeness with Jesus was compounded as I continued spending time with Him and being quiet.
[kayaking video or picture here]
On July 15th, 2017 my neighbors invited me to a sunflower farm where this new poem was born.
“The sunflower day” 7/15/17
God, thanks to you for life of beauty.Thanks to you for blue, clear sky.Thanks for gifting us with dutyTo honor you, follow, obey, and glorify.
Thanks for healthy air we’re breathing,Thanks for all the gorgeous trees,Thanks for the flowers we can be admiring or seizing.Thanks for the hard-working and all-important bees.
Thanks for kayaks, thanks for rivers,Thanks for trails and for mountain hikes,Thanks for all the joy that sun gives us,Thanks for running and even for bikes.
Thanks for healthy ears and visionThanks for moving arms and legs,Thanks for your gracious and abundant provision,Thanks for promoting us beyond just plebs.
Thanks for making us your special children,Thanks for giving us your gorgeous world,Thanks for gifting us blessings a million,Thanks for every sunflower that today danced and whirled.
Thanks for happiness and for pleasure,Thanks for purpose and for a good cheer,Thanks for your love that I so treasure,And every smile it brings and even every tear.
Thanks for people, friendships, mentors,Thanks for guiding us with your Word,For every person who into my life enters,Brings wisdom and with kindness enriches my world.
After that, I continued preparing for our divorce trial and Randy Pope preached a sermon on common grace vs special grace. Special grace was for people who were set apart by God for a special purpose to suffer a lot, experience His grace, grow in faith, and share the Gospel.
I wept. I got out of the main auditorium at church after the service ended, went to the atrium where have cozy couches and tables, and I gave birth to this poem.
“I’m grateful for your special grace” 7/30/17
We often ask in desperation If you are actually always good:Some Bible verses cause frustration,Their meaning is misunderstood.
We wonder if a good, good FatherWho promised numbering our hair,Protecting us, promoting further…Can actually cause us such despair.
These days, I’m studying you closely,By trials I now am refined.On grace my mind is focused mostly -Your common grace and special kind.
You give your common grace to many,No matter lifestyle or belief,By meeting basic needs of anyPoliceman, president, or thief.
But there’s also special blessingYou give to some with special grace – Divorce, or cancer, or depressingBrain tumor, or a stalking case.
The loss of child to a shooting,Or jumping off a building top,Or drugs addiction, prosecuting,Or taking pills at school workshop.
Or being pregnant with dead baby,Or being homeless for a while,Enduring violence, rape, or maybeSurviving workplace that’s hostile.
Can really be that, God, your kindnessAnd goodness, mercifulness, and grace Are all our own naive and blindness,And other view we must embrace?
But asking this, I look back closelyOn one example of my life:Domestic violence, despair mostly,Enduring beatings, threats, and strife.
It wasn’t pretty at the time,But looking back, I see your purpose – You drew me to you through that crime,To my eternity that was a service.
Another instance is divorceWith man who lured me into marriage -Not anything you would endorseStill… you work it to my advantage.
You grew me, pruned me, rid me ofMy flesh, my anger and resentment,Replacing them with skills to love,With joy, with peace, and with contentment.
So, God, can actually I agreeThat you are good and your will’s perfect?I know my trials you decree,But from the pain I always profit.
I gain awareness, I get giftsOf faith, and hope, and perseverance,On you rely I as life shiftsFrom good to bad, I trust your interference.
I trust your plan. I trust your word.I trust your truth and your commitment To my eternal life of blessings unheard,Unimagined blessings and a royal treatment.
And celebration party in my name,A feast with Jesus in His glory,Saluting reasons why I came -My messed up life and troubled story.
In mess, you drew me close to you,Revealing purposefully your goodness,You made me like a baby – new,You gave me heaven and fresh pureness.
You’ve taught me grace, you’ve taught me love,Acceptance, mercy, and forgiveness,About you I’ve learned enoughTo be adversity-resilient and fearless.
I claim you’re good. I claim you’re myProtective, loving, caring Father.I hurt from pain, I can’t deny,But through tough times, you’ve grown me further.
I thank you for your special grace,I thank you for each gift and blessing, I thank you for my life’s imperfect user interface,I thank you for this faith I’m now openly expressing.
As I prayed for acceptance of my circumstances and as the divorce trial progressed, I was able to accept Michel’s free will of trading me in for an IronMan bicycle and abandoning our marriage.
I was able to let go of my goals for this marriage. I was able to release myself from trying hard to be a Proverbs 31 woman. I learned to rest in God’s peace and trust His plan.
By August 6th, 2017 I was finally focused in my thoughts on my future where Michel finally wasn’t present. I accepted my story and gave birth to this prayer declaration.
“You’re always good” 8/6/2017
I’ve chased many dreams turned into goals,I’ve pursued many things that were labeled as secular,Those paths led away from you into worldly roles,Where anxiety and fears were expected as regular.
You’ve consistently blessed me with your special graceAnd this time I’ve received your special lesson:There’s nothing on earth I ever need to chase,There’s no place I need to ever be to progressing.
Right where I’m at, here in your presenceI can tap into peace that can’t be understoodAnd enjoy your affection, protection, and pleasance,And declare with confidence that you’re always good.
The more God worked in my heart, the more aware and alive I became. I understood the purpose of my life. I was not willing to drift anymore. I was excited to recover from depression and serve God.
The more rooted I became in my identity in Christ, the stronger was my desire to share the Gospel. I realized also my deep love for God, that’s when I really felt awaken and alive. It was as if I finally had not just sight but actual vision for my life. I felt alive and grateful.
And this poem was born.
“I love you, God” 8/6/17
I always knew you loved me, God.I never felt by you abandoned.I felt a range of feelings broad -Excited, grateful, and enchanted.
Just now though I’m feeling loveFor you, that’s deep, and wide, and pressing.The more in gratitude I dove,The more I saw my life as blessing.
I love you back. I love you much.I love your peace and even trouble.I love your word, I love your touch.I love your blessing and your struggle.
I love your perfect plan for me.I love your love that’s grace and fairness.With you I don’t always agree,But thanks for giving me awareness…
That on your hand you hold me closeAnd won’t let go, you’ve never failed me.That as your special daughter me you chose,Your precious handiwork you’ve made me.
You love me more, I know it, God,But love for you is my new pleasure.Your passion for me I never forgot.It’s my passion for you that I now so treasure!
As our divorce jury trial continued into its fourth day, on August 16th, 2017 I wrote this poem after another day in Forsyth County court.
“Your plan is always perfect” 8/16/17
You said your plan is perfect.Can I believe it, God?Sometimes I feel in conflict,With scope of trials so broad.
But then I look around,I pay attention close,And see your grace aboundIn sorrow and in loss.
I trust your every vow,Your Holy Word I trust!Sometimes I wonder howYour beauty comes from dust.
Your plan for me to prosper,Have future and the hopeWholeheartedly I trust inAnd never will I stop!
I was completely alive after that. When I got on the witness stand on Thursday in our divorce jury trial and was asked what I wanted from the divorce, I said: “I have peace.”
We were divorced in August of 2017, and I moved on into my beautiful future with God being grateful for my full awareness of my identity, purpose in life, my small role in God’s big story of redemption, and my need for managing my thought life by taking every thought captive and submitting it to the truth of Christ.
[mind over matter future IG video]
How to Live a Joyful Life Fully Alive
To live a joyful life fully alive, as I discovered from my experience and suffering, you have to take charge of your focus. Do you focus on people or Jesus?
Recognize the importance of inner transformation on the journey to experiencing more joy every day.
Consider the relationship between emotional experience and physical health: emotion is created by motion, in order to change your psychology, you must change your physiology. To pull myself out of the pit of deadness, I started doing 100 squats, 100 arms, 100 abs, and 10000 steps a day. Physical changes in my body helped the mental fog lift and God’s clarity to take over my mind and brain.
Set daily priorities to cultivate more joy from the sources that matter the most, including Christ’s unconditional love and passion for you, as well as encouraging others to pursue joy through self-care.
Focus on the inner process of rooting out ANTs (automatic negative thoughts, including self-contempt, self-loathing, and self-condemnation) and replacing them with PMA (positive mental attitude, including self-love, self-compassion, and self-appreciation).
[wonder woman video here]
Express gratitude out loud throughout the day every day, use only positive verbal expressions to talk about yourself, others, and life in general.
Gratitude is key to joy. Before I talk about what gratitude is, let’s talk about joy.
Joy is a feeling different than the feeling of happiness.Happiness is temporary and is driven by external circumstances.Joy is internal and is not defined by either power or helplessness.Joy does not depend on our luck, health, career, love, or finances.
Joy is a mental and emotional state of complete contentment.It’s a consistent acceptance of what is and what is to come.Joy exists in the heart and mind that are free of resentment.Joy brings our whole being back to life from being dead or numb.
If you’re fully alive, you’re free from anything that is not of God and you’re completely surrendered to His plan because you trust Him. That’s only possible if you practice gratitude, the key to all physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental blessings.
Life is an incredible journey of growth and learning.Having realized it, I begin with gratitude every morning.
Giving thanks for all my blessings is very healing.This one habit changed completely the way I’m feeling.
The fear I used to experience was replaced with calmness.The anger I used to feel was replaced with warmness.
The depression I was suffering from was replaced with joyAs my mind to its full capacity I’ve learned to deploy.
When my mind is filled with gratitude, I can’t feel fear.Thoughts of gratitude prevent anxiety and keep my mind clear.
Dwelling on my blessings leads me to experiencing genuine joy.Practicing gratitude every day, I can finally my life enjoy.
[instagram gratitude video here]
The Ultimate Source of Life and Aliveness
There is the ultimate source of life I need to share with you. Nothing else can bring satisfaction, peace, and joy, but that one ultimate source.
If you accepted Christ as your lord and savior, He lives in you and through you. Jesus is the one and only source of life and aliveness.
Ephesians 2:4-5 says this:
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.”
I was sinful and dead in my transgressions. I was living life like a walking dead. When I intentionally placed all my focus on Jesus Christ, He made me aware, alert, and alive. He gave me life.
And this aliveness is beyond here and now. This kind of aliveness is eternal.
We don’t have to buffer: we don’t have to binge Netflix, Facebook, texting, drinking, drugs, shopping – none of that.
We don’t have to be perfectionists or experience anger. Our lives have a gift of aliveness to enjoy! It comes with peace and joy from Christ.
Here’s what John 11:25-26 says about it referring to the conversation Jesus had with Martha:
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
I want to ask YOU: do you believe this?
Think about the behaviors that cause some deadness in your life. Make a list and begin eliminating those. You are alive, and the Holy Spirit dwells in you. You have the gift of life. You are alive, alert, and aware if you belong to Jesus.
If you believe what Jesus said, memorize the Biblical affirmation below and practice it often to remember that you are alive in Christ.
I am alive
When I was dead in sin and blind,God through Jesus made me alive.He gave me new eyes to see.He empowered me from sin to flee.
How does it make you feel to know that you are alive in Christ and are able to live a life of joy? Share with me in the comments below so I can cheer you on.
If this devotional was helpful, download all #52Devotionals now.
Dear #TruePrincesses! I’m Anna Szabo, the founder of Online Discipleship For Women.
On this Christian blog for women, I write about the six pillars of joyful living: Faith, Food, Fitness, Finances, Felicity, and Fortitude.
Please post your comments and questions for me. Your opinions, thoughts, life stories, and experiences matter. Why? Because every story is for God’s glory. I share with you my life experiences and believe that God has each of us on a very special journey. He wants to uniquely equip and qualify us for special ministry in His kingdom. The purpose of adversity is for us to persevere, grow in faith, and share hope with others. So, share freely here!
May this ministry be a blessing to you!