Love for God’s Word

Reading my bible today confirmed some affirming truth that God is looking out for His people, His remnant, those whose hearts long to live right before Him and the world. I started with just one verse that led me on an incredible journey of seeing the truth laid out before me. It was as if knowledge was being revealed to me like the rolling back of the curtains of my mind to see yet again the faithful love of my God, whose hand is at work not only in my life, speaking to situations where I’m desperate for Him to act, but I see as well how His words are relevant to the events happening in the world around me, both near and far.

This was my journey today…

…I first read an admonishing word about Martha, how she was easily bothered and distracted by details-I am often caught up in these, yet they all seem trivial and unimportant to me in light of how God’s love reached my heart as I quieted myself before Him and His word.

I set aside my phone, ringer turned off. Check.

I left it in another room. Check.

Face down, so that if I happened to walk by I wouldn’t be able to see the screen light up. Check, check.

“Where do You want me to start, Lord?”

Psalms. Read Psalm 23.

I read it out and by verse four I’m tearing up. So I start again, this time personalizing it like this:

“You Lord are my Shepherd, to feed, guide and shield me. I shall not lack.”

“You make me lie down in fresh, tender green pastures; You lead me beside the still and restful waters.”

Here’s where the reference of Revelation 7:17 caught my eye. I think to myself curiously “What does this verse have to do with restful waters?”

For the Lamb Who is in the midst of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to the springs of the waters of life; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

The entire chapter here details how God gathered His people, those who declared Him their Savior, and marked then with His seal of protection, redeemed their persecution, set them apart and gave them new clothes. They were sheltered with His presence, completely satisfied and restored. It reminds me of a scene from Lord of the Rings when the Hobbits had traversed much calamity and awoke to a place of welcomed renewal in the kingdom of the Elves (if you’re a die-hard LOTR fan and I didn’t name this accurately, please educate me…gently though).

What a beautiful picture! I can see it playing out. They’re all laughing and celebrating the simple fact that Frodo is alive and they overcame many difficulties in their journey to protect their friend. Such joy in that moment! I long for that to be the constant place within my soul, no matter what is in front of me. Everyday there is more of this peacefulness in my heart. And it’s so wonderful to know that I can have more; it will never cease to be available to me. Thank You Father God!

So this verse in Revelation had several verses referenced. I went to Isaiah 25:8 and this is what stood out to me “the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces (I was crying by this time); and the reproached of His people He will take away from all the earth.”

Such beautiful, tender words. Truth that tends to my brokenness, like a cleansing balm on wounds where pain is felt in deep places, particularly after days of emotions running rampant. It’s in a quiet moment like this, in the stillness of the day that I am reminded of the tenderness of my Rescuer, the One who guards me and keeps me in that place of perfect me when my mind remains fixated only on Him (Isaiah 26:3).

You’ve been calling me to this secret place
To hide myself in You
To rest my head upon Your chest
To hear You speak the truth.

That You alone can satisfy
The deepest longings of my heart
For I am Your beloved
You say “we’ll never be apart,

Even when you turn your gaze
To things that tarnish and fade
My voice will call you tenderly
Close to you I’ll always remain.”

You’ve been calling me to this secret place
To hide myself in You
To rest my head upon Your chest
To hear You speak the truth.

I ended my time by reading another verse referenced from Ezekiel 34:23 and while this verse spoke to Jesus being the Good Shepherd, those surrounding it reiterated truth that

God is for us
He is on our side
Every promise He has spoken
We cannot be denied

In every situation of my life
Wherever I happen to be
I know I am never alone
He is always there for me.

This rings true for Israel and for Christians throughout the world. Even when we find ourselves in that place of thinking He has forgotten us. He hasn’t.

He is fighting for us
He is on our side
His truth remains steadfast
We can not be denied.

A Great Adventure

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Last weekend I hung out with some friends hiking up Mt. Rainier. I hadn’t been on a hike since last summer and I really wasn’t ready for the adventure that came with this one. It was probably the most difficult hike I’ve ever been on, climbing much higher than a thousand feet, but it was totally worth it. With hiking boots in hand, I joined my friends, catching up on life during our car ride towards the mountain.

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What a treat for me to be encouraged by our conversation, meeting new friends from their church and enjoying the beauty of the day. The mountain flowers were such a beautiful sight to see.

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For me, going up isn’t as difficult as coming down, but I was ready to embrace this adventure.

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The climb eventually had me beat. At one point I sat down because I kept thinking to myself

“How would I make it down over rocks and snow?”

This was definitely not what I had in mind when I had decided to come on the hike. I struggled a lot with whether to keep going and even attempted to try to climb up some rocks on my own, but by myself, I couldn’t. I didn’t have it in me. The belief that I could keep going was fading fast. It wasn’t until someone came back for me and encouraged me to try once more that I decided to keep going.

I was able to continue hiking up the mountain, through snow and over rocks. Someone else in the group offered their poles, a tremendous support going up and then coming down as well. Not only did I have the help of friends, but I was equipped with the right gear.

Life can be the same you know. I often think that my culture has influenced me to live independently for the sole purpose of not becoming a burden to anyone. But part of the adventure is living in dependence, not only on God, a loving Father who cares for us, His kids, who wants to help us journey through all parts of life, but with each other as well. Had I not chosen to trust that my friend’s heart towards me was for my good, I would have missed out on the glory of these beautiful sights:

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Here I am near the highest point we went, maybe a mile and a half from the trail head. I was tired and worn, but able to keep going.

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I can’t tell you how painful it was to hike down. At times it was so steep and I felt like my feet were going to fall off or that my knees would give out from under me. Sometimes life presents itself like this.

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The path is steep and full of turns. We don’t always see what’s coming at us. And then we get distracted following others instead of walking together, doing life in the company of those who see us as we are, treasures.

I keep thinking about these words from an old Steven Curtis Chapman song:

Saddle up your horses
We’ve got a trail to blaze
Through the wild, blue yonder
Of God’s amazing grace
Let’s follow our Leader
Into the glorious unknown
This is a life like no other
This is the great adventure

I think there are many souls in our world who are overwhelmed at living in this place, at this time in history. They don’t know how important they are right now, acting out their role in the universe around them. The thought of taking one more step when the pain feels so incredibly unbearable just stops them, dead in their tracks.

Yet when someone comes along to take their hand, hold them up, carry their burden, the ability to keep going grows deeper inside us weary pilgrims.

Sometimes I find myself there, helping encourage the ones who can’t see how they’re gonna make. I don’t know that my words are as helpful as just being present for them. Sometimes I’m the one who wonders how I will take the next step. And I am definitely guilt of giving in and giving up on myself when it seems so difficult to keep going.

But how grateful I am for those who encouraged and won’t let me do life alone.

Proverbs 18:24
...but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Who are those people you call friend?
Who are those who need to be reminded that they matter to the world around them?

I may not know all of these people well, but I do know that they cared about me, about my well-being. They took time to learn about me this weekend, offering acceptance towards me. And I, them.

These folks aren’t the only ones who make my heart so thankful that we don’t have to do life alone. There is always someone available to help. Sometimes it comes in unexpected and even in ways that are not easy to receive, but there is ALWAYS someone. My hope for you is the same for myself, that our eyes will be opened to see who those people are and then embrace relationship with them.

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Spring Has Come

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Yesterday, four years ago, you left us and went to be with Jesus, to dance on streets of gold, free of pain. Today is the first day of spring. I’m not sure I ever recognized the timing of these two days before this year, but I’m so grateful for the revelation that with death comes the birth of something new.

So many beautiful and wonderful things are happening. I wish you were here to celebrate life with us, but I know some of the struggles you faced and there are times that I too want to lay down my weapons because the battle can be just too intense.

If you were still here I would want you to watch Frozen with me and hear the words in the song “Let It Go.” Such a great song! Every kid in the world is singing it.

I’d send you a link for the music video by Pharrell Williams singing his song “Happy.” Another great song!

I would want to tell you that we can keep going and embrace all that God has for us in this life even when it’s difficult to face the toughest battles.

I never imagined how much my life would change after you died, but so many seeds have blossomed with incredible fruit in me since then, so much more than I ever dreamed possible. God in all of His glory has used this for my good, for His glory to be seen in me. Everyday I know His love for me more deeply. A love that compels me to keep going, to not give up because He chases after me passionately to remind me that I am cherished and treasured.

I miss you Mom, but I’m so blessed to know that you are not gone forever, that I will see you again because of the hope that is being cultivated inside of me more and more each day.

A Smile From God

This morning’s devotional read:

“Let your heart be encouraged by the way God smiles at you every day—in a beautiful sunset…a bird in flight…a star-filled sky…something that makes your heart feel truly thankful.”

I happened to glance at it briefly as I was getting ready to leave to return a movie rental. I had been up for awhile already, trying to leave so I could avoid the pre-football game traffic, but I was moving slow. Plus, the weather was pretty crazy. There was a lot of wind and at one point it was raining really hard. I certainly did not want to get caught in that, but I also didn’t want to wait too much longer.

Soon enough I was able to venture out into the stormy weather. I walked to the store, returned the movie and as I turned around there was one of my beautiful friends who was so thrilled to see me. I truly felt the smile of God on His precious daughters as we reunited.

She gave me the biggest hug and I knew just how much I so loved. You know what that’s like when someone is excited to see you? It leads me to consider that is the same way God feels when we come to Him, excited to see His face, to meet with Him and hear His voice speak to our heart.

She encouraged me and prayed for me before we said goodbye. I reflected back to my devotional, trying to recall each word I had read and knew the blessing of God’s smile on me in that moment.

I felt:

Blessed that I had not left any earlier.

Blessed that my friend was there at just the right moment.

Blessed that God was reminding me how He delights in me.

Father God, thank You for reminding me today that You delight in me, for the way You smiled at me, the way You hugged my heart. I’m so thankful for how You have called to me, chased after me, embraced me with Your infinite love even when I was not deserving of it. I’m grateful that Your love is NOT dependent upon my love for You. It is not determined by how good I was. Your love for me will never change. You will always delight in me because I was made to be Yours.

Lessons Learned In 2013

Well, 2013 is coming to an end and 2014 is well on its way. For some of us, the new year is a welcomed change. I’m one of those hopeful folks ready for a fresh start. This morning I was reflecting on some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past year:

Listen to your body. It speaks volumes. When you feel tired, rest. When you feel stressed out, ask why or what is causing the stress and then address it. If what’s causing the stress is beyond your control, the very best thing is to let it go and put it in the hands of God because He is the ONLY One who can take care of the details.

My tastes, my cravings are changing a lot! I can actually talk myself out of running to grab a drink from Starbucks with the common sense that says “I don’t need that right now.” I still enjoy meeting up with friends or going to use wi-fi, but it’s definitely not about the drinks being a regular thing for me any longer.

Make lots of candy, sweet treats and goodies to share with loved ones. It’s what your mom used to do and it always brings such joy. Besides, you have a plethora of recipes pinned to your Pinterest boards. I love cooking! Oh how I’ve missed it and I’m done making excuses for why I can’t. I have new toys to use in the kitchen and I’m taking advantage of their usefulness. I’ve spent the past twenty-four hours making a half dozen yummy treats that are gluten-free and have healthier ingredients. And they all taste great!

Use what you know to help heal your body. I love eating raw foods and will continue to make healthier choices when it comes to food because I feel so much better when I do. When I don’t I hate how my body feels. I’m really getting this message. It’s coming through loud and clear. I can’t afford to keep buying and eating things that used to satisfy me. I would buy too much of it and eat too much of it at one time. And then I hated myself for making those choices. This cycle is coming to an end! That gap is closing moment by moment. Glory Hallelujah!!!

Don’t stop doing what you were made to do just because its difficult or you find yourself facing opposition. There will always be opposition in some capacity. But with courage you can face anything: fear, doubt, worry, hurt, sorrow, discontent and discouragement. God is for us, so who or what can be against us.

Speak the truth whenever possible and do it in love, but don’t be afraid to speak the truth when it truly matters, even if it seems like all of the ugly feelings are going to come out when you do. You can apologize. It’s much better to not keep it in, stuffed deep inside where it could torture you and hurt you even more. The people who love you will accept you and your apologies and will appreciate your willingness to not allow them to stay in that place and they will try to make changes because they care about their relationship with you.

Put up the Christmas tree the night before Thanksgiving-don’t put it off again. You need this to help usher in the season of celebrating the birth of Christ.

Make time for the people who matter most. Enough said!

Rest, rest, rest. Two weeks off from school does not mean to play catch up at home. It means to sleep, play, sleep, play and do what brings you joy.

Go Christmas caroling! You know you love it.

Take long breaks from social media. Your brain can only process so many things at once.

Make time to talk with God every morning when you wake up and at night when you go to sleep. Don’t ignore Him when He is calling to you. When He is singing you a love song, respond by singing it back to Him. Receive His mercy and grace with open arms and His discipline with a humble heart. He is the One, the ONLY One who loves you without condition and will never fail you. Even when you find yourself disappointed by things that are happening, know that He is still working for your best. He doesn’t mind your honesty when you cry out to Him. Sometimes that is the best way to release your hurt and pain before Him. And the allow Him to heal the deep places where your heart is broken. He wants to restore you completely. He will hold nothing back that He has for you. The question is will you receive His gift of life and hope and healing and restoration?

Yet I Will Praise You

Sometimes I read the devotional Jesus Today by Sarah Young (she is the author of Jesus Calling). Today I was reading about receiving whatever we face in life with joy and making it a practice to give back to God all that He has given us.
She also spoke to looking for those same blessings in the midst of grief. She writes “The Holy Spirit empowered Paul to find Joy in the midst of adversity, and He can do the same for you.”

2 Corinthians 6:4, 10
“But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God…as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

I know of many who are grieving so much at this moment. They’ve lost a parent or friend. Others are searching for a job or asking themselves “what is my purpose here?” Some of us have waited many years to have family of our own, to find a husband or wife, to receive the blessing of a child or their family is broken and the hope for reconciliation is not in site.

For me it is the ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the midst of stressful relationships and situations where so many things seem out of my control and cause me to feel helpless and hopeless. I am exhausted and feel the deep pain of my brokenness in so many ways physically, mentally, emotionally. It’s a challenge to hold fast to my faith, to believe that God is still with me, that He hasn’t left me to face these things on my own.

So I intentionally look at how God has made good out of my loss. After my mom died, I became more serious about addressing the state often health. I began changing things in my life so that I could have more energy, respond to and manage stress in a healthful way. I decided that I wanted to live a full life because I began to believe that God had greater things for me than I believed for myself. I’m still in the process of this transformation, but because I have a greater confidence that He is with me, it doesn’t matter what happens to me because I don’t have to face it alone anymore.

When I am overwhelmed with stress and its affecting how I think, I remind myself that I have the mind of Christ.
When I don’t know that I can continue or even want to face the adversity and hardship that comes in this life sometimes, I tell myself that I can do ALL things through Christ because He gives me the strength I need.
When the battle is way too intense and I cannot fight it alone, I call on my prayer warriors to intercede for me, trusting that God will use them to bring about His glory at work in me.

The words of this song resonate deep within my heart as I write this blog:

Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise and when the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say “Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be Your glorious name.”

Lord, I will praise You no matter what I have to face. I thank You that I don’t have to walk through this life alone because You are with me, every step of the way. If I walk away from You, You still call my name and welcome me with arms open wide, full of mercy. You know my situation and all that I will face this day. You go before me and prepare the way. Even when I am staring down the enemies of my soul in the fierceness of what I have to battle tomorrow I hear You say “Come, receive My rest, My provision, My help for you.”

So I choose to rejoice and be hopeful that You are working ALL these things out for me, for my good because of Your crazy and compassionate love towards me, because I am child, I am Your beloved and You have wonderful plans for me.

Joshua 1:7-9 The Amplified Bible
Only you be strong and very courageous, that you may do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you. Turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success. Have not I commanded you? Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Overcome with Joy

Last night I went to a worship service and discovered a new found freedom in worship. I was overcome with joy and the presence of God because of His love in that place. The words we sang and declared were full of truth, truth about what God says in the bible, His promises for me, what He thinks about me. I felt so much breakthrough come. I’m still in awe of what took place there and that I had the opportunity go, to receive His goodness and mercy towards me.

Over the summer I had experienced the same intimacy in worship at different times and felt that God was giving me permission to express my love and adoration to Him dancing and jumping for joy because of the great things He has done for me. I wanted to respond with that heart full of love directed back to Him, but I was very concerned about my body and how I would feel afterwards. Over the past couple of years I have experienced more physical pain due not only to injuries I sustained in high school and college, but I also believe there were foods I was eating that have affected me physically, causing inflammation and discomfort.

In those moments when He said “Go for it! Just dance and be free!” it was as if He was asking me to trust Him even in the pain, believing that He would work a miracle in me, heal and set me free, but I wasn’t willing to trust Him just then. I was struggling to let go of my discontent over what hadn’t happened, over the things I hadn’t received and trust that my God was working it all out for my good.

But last night, I let go. Finally. It was time to jump around and dance and be like a child in the presence of my Father, a great king, safe and content in all things. I was still thinking about what might happen to my body and how I would feel today yet I was completely overcome and compelled with unspeakable joy and I moved in worship like I haven’t done in a very long time. I didn’t care about what might come of all the movement and physical activity. I just wanted to express my joy and my love for God my king. I jumped and danced and sang! It was incredible and truly exhilarating for me to have found break through, to have stepped into a new found freedom.

The joy came when I knew that whatever I needed from that point on, it was mine. I recognized that I have all that I need even before I ask for it. Everything. You see, I have access to the One who owns it all.

What do I lack? What is missing from my life?

Nothing is missing because everything I have need of is available to me, exactly what I need for each moment. If I don’t see it, I can ask my Father, the king where to find it or how to obtain it. Sometimes I might have to wait for it, but as my trust with God goes deeper in our relationship I have a greater confidence that He is working out the details. Each day I recognize more and more that He knows best about what I need and the timing to receive it. So I’m growing in my contentment that things are coming at just the right time OR that God has something better for me, that He will open my eyes to see and my heart to receive it.

Today I’m sore but not in pain like I might have been a few months ago. As I am reflecting on what changes are happening inside of me, I consider that there are foods I am not eating now because they were doing damage to me physically, emotionally and mentally. In a sense they were also hindering my relationship and walk with God. It has not become so much about what I need to avoid or not eat, but rather what do I eat as part of creating a healthier lifestyle, filling myself with the very best that God has for me.

It’s becoming about giving Him my best in all things, in my response towards what happens each moment of this life. It’s a process and takes time, but I remain committed to these wonderful things that God is asking me to do. And reaping the benefits of holding fast to whatever He has for me.

Maybe you are in that place where He is asking you to let go or to step out and have faith. You can’t have faith and still be afraid. You have to decide which way you’re going to walk. I want faith to be the one I choose.

Father, help us to choose to let go and continue to run hard after You, pursuing all that You have for us in this moment.

I choose to trust You, to believe in Your truth.

That You are for me, not against me.

Your mercies are new everyday.

Your love is deeper than the ocean and wider than the sea.

You made me not so that I could serve You, but to know You and be known, to be loved.

Your love does not fail; it dispels the fear. It will not end.

I know that You are faithful to continue teaching me Your ways and showing me Your truth. I believe in Your word, that what You say is true for me today. Thank You for never letting go of me, for not giving up on me. Thank You for reminding me that I am one of the King’s kids and I have access to all that I need and desire. Everything. You are good and freely give me so much more than I ever deserve. I love You Jesus!