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.

Don’t Worry

I can’t sleep.

The rain is keeping me up when it should be soothing me with the rhythms of its down pour and I’ve already been to that place where I could have fallen asleep, but it came and went all too soon. So now I’m awake. Ugh.

This can’t be good because I have to be up early in the morning to attend Day One of a two day training. I think I’m stressed about heading back to school. What do you think?

Yeah, I think you’re right-I’m not ready to go back. Not yet at least. And honestly the thought of heading back into my classroom is a bit daunting. Not for any reason other than I’m fearful that all the great things that have happened this summer will be a memory rather than fulfillment of the answer to my heart’s cry that shouts “Take me deeper Lord Jesus!”

This summer has been one full of adventure with hopes renewed and my heart stirred for an even greater year ahead. There are changes coming in the next year, new teaching opportunities, a different set of routines and habits to support me as I walk the road to better health, and how easily I forget the things I’ve heard a lot in the past month or so:

The kingdom of God is in you. So whatever you need, it’s already there for you whenever you need it.

The enemy of your soul, your adversary, has already been destroyed.

God is for you so who can be against you.

Yet, I have allowed lies to crowd themselves into my mind:

There’s not enough time to do all of the things that need to get done.

The process to get where you want to be is taking too long. It’s slow and drawn out.

Most people don’t understand what you go through.

Sometimes it’s not lies, but the truth of my reality that I’m slammed with:

You are going to revert back to old habits and poor thinking because you haven’t spent the time necessary to get yourself organized. You will feel so overwhelmed when school starts because you didn’t do much when you had the time.

Ever wish you could find the OFF switch? Yeah, me too.

And this so ridiculous because I have no business thinking like this.

Philippians 4:6-8 says
“Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.
“And God’s peace shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
“For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things fix your minds on them.”

As difficult as it is at times, I know that this is where the battle in my mind is allowed to rage because I don’t do anything. I don’t respond, sometimes because I’m exhausted from lack of sleep-it’s an ugly cycle to get caught up in and I’m here again. “Why?” (she says with a fist in the air) Other times it’s because I’m lazy and don’t want to exert the energy it takes to remain vigilant-vigilant so that not I’m taken out by the enemy of my soul.

But it always comes back to this truth:

I have a choice to act. Whatever I do reveals what’s inside of me, the things I hold near and dear.

Right now this level of stress is telling me that I need more of the truth that God speaks about me in my heart. It’s obviously apparent that the well has run dry. So time for a fill-up.

I must remember and keep this close in my peripheral: the way that God thinks about me is good. It’s pure. It’s beautiful and kind and compassionate. And no matter what my actions are, He won’t ever change His mind about me.

How am I going to remember this and know it deeply inside of me?

By filling up with His truth.

By letting His words wash over me.

The peace that comes from knowing He is for me and on my side.

He is everyday working everything for good in my life.

And I’m not where I’m at by mistake. He’s placed me there for His purpose.

So I choose to stand in faith, believing He is greater in me than the one in the world whose only goal is to take me out. You see, I’m pretty powerful when I know and believe that I belong to the God of the universe. And I lack nothing. Absolutely. Nothing. At. All.

This has been a life verse for me over the past six months:

Psalm 23:1-6
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of The Lord forever.

Spring Has Come

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 Heart of Thanksgiving

Tonight as I was driving home from a busy day at church I was crying my eyeballs out to the Lord, quite literally. I was finally alone and able to pour out my heart frustrated over a situation that continued to leave me in a place of discontent (well, not just one, but several and they seem to all come at the same time-go figure).

I knew I didn’t want to feel this way, much less stay where my emotions were swirling around me like a tornado. My body was telling me how much it didn’t like this and my heart was in full agreement (ain’t nobody got time for that!).

So it occurred to me that I needed to begin thanking God for what He was doing for me now and for when I found myself here again. On Facebook I keep coming across posts that speak to responding with a thankful heart, from a place of gratitude. Honestly that takes a lot of effort at times, especially when it’s easier to wallow in self-pity. But I was desperate to win this battle!

I knew it was the heart of God speaking to me, so I thanked Him.

“I thank You Jesus for speaking the truth to me, that You are on my side. When I feel something or someone is working against me, trying to keep me from getting to You, I can remind myself that those things have no power on me whatsoever.

“I thank You Holy Spirit for teaching me Your ways, for reminding me to thank You, to praise You in the midst of my emotions that seem to whirl me out of control. You don’t want me to stay stuck here where my enemies can have their way with me. Thank You for showing me that when I’m under attack to rebuke the enemy. When he lies to me, when I feel terrible because my stomach is bound up by knots of stress to put him in his place, right back in the pit of hell!

“Thank You Father God for speaking to the honest place inside of me that knows my heart and my motives. Thank You for the assurance that You are leading and guiding me, that Your intentions are for my best. I’m so very grateful for Your care, Your love and for drawing me closer to Your heart.”

It was so simple and brought such relief that I still marvel at why I struggle to respond this way when the battle rages in my heart. But I know this to be true:

The enemies of my soul don’t want me to know and recognize that I have already won this fight. They assail me with lies and fear. Their attempts to overwhelm me with doubt succeed at times to throw me into a pit of despair, but today I didn’t stay stuck there, praise God!

Micah 7:8
Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise.Though I sit in darkness,the Lord will be my light.

I reached out and took the strong arm of my merciful Father who showed His heart, full of compassion and patience towards me by lifting me up out of the muck and mire, reassuring me of the truth.

“You are loved and cared for deeply dear one. I am on your side and won’t let you go through this battle alone.
I am for you, so who or what can be against you? Nothing. No one can stop what I have planned for you. And it’s so good, so very good. He says

Luke 10:41-42
Elaina, Elaina, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Choose what is better, and it will not be taken away from you.”

Sovereign Lord, thank You for helping me fight this battle, for reminding me that I am not fighting it alone and have the victory even now. Thank You for teaching me to lay hold of who You say that I am: Your daughter, child of the Most High God, the King over all the earth and that I am loved more deeply than I will ever know.

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?

The Faithfulness of God

I was encouraged to reflect on the things God has proven Himself faithful in towards me, but I will be transparent with you that for the past few days I have battled discontent and disappointment. And though they are working hard to overtake me, I choose to stand and fight because I know the truth:

God is for me. He is on my team.

Your hand guides me as I work with students or lead my team drawing our congregation closer to Your heart. You grace me to extend Your love and mercy to those I cross paths with each day. You are teaching me how to speak the truth in humility and gentleness.

He reminds me of His truth, daily.

I read it in His word. I hear it through so many wonderful songs with phrases like “All My love will remain.” Lord, You put together some amazing playlists for me. Sometimes it’s on the radio and other times it’s the way You put lead me to put together a set for worship. Those are often the songs that I need to hear and sing over myself just to get through my week. I love how You wake me up in the mornings at times with precious truth sung over me, about me and who I am to You, reminding me that You are fighting for me always, that You chase after me when I start to walk away. I know those words are from Your heart and meant for me because You know what I need, when I need it.

He provides at just the right time.

And the way that You do is so much better than I could make happen on my own. The home where I live, the car that I drive, the job You have positioned me in, all of these things came about because You knew what I needed and when I would need it. Even when I need encouragement like today, You brought me to a place of hope in Your word that I so desperately needed to read.

God didn’t leave me to live life on my own.

God has placed me in several families so I’m not alone in this world. I know there are many people who love me, cherish me and will pray for me whenever I am in need. They even pray when I don’t reach out to ask and those times are the most incredible because they didn’t know I was in the midst of a hurricane, but they responded to the voice of the Lord when I had need. Lord, You heard me at a low point in my life when I considered what I had to live for and answered my prayer for friendship. I have had some amazing people in my life over the years and still do. Thank You Lord for responding.

His love holds no conditions upon my behavior, what I do or don’t do, how good I am.

Your love is never ending. Nothing separates me from Your love. It extends the far reaching corners of my mind. At times I have no understanding or comprehension of how deep and wide and high and long it really is, not just for me, but for the entire world. It’s unfathomable!

Your unfailing love is perfect and dispels any fear that I am unworthy or inadequate to be called Yours.

I don’t have to earn Your love or affection. I don’t have to perform for You or persuade You to pay attention to me because You already do that intentionally. I may fall down. My enemies may laugh at me, mock me, taunt me when I fall, but I have great confidence to trust that with Your help I will stand up again and move forward because You won’t let me stay stuck.

You have given me a new lease on life.

I don’t have to stay in a place where I am stuck in habits and unhealthy thinking because You have given me second and third and fourth and oh so many chances to get up and keep going. Your grace is sufficient for me. It’s greater than I know. Each day I discover victory more and more in conquering unhealthy habits and wrong thinking. I thank You Jesus that the desire to care for my body, my mind, my heart is growing all the time. This change from the inside is helping me to become the woman You’ve called me to be.

He hears me when I cry out to Him.

And You respond in a powerful way to provide support in the places where I serve, to bring relationships that pour into me those things I need in order to be the woman You destined for me to become. You are intentionally working in me for Your glory, for Your kingdom.

He is always with me. He won’t ever leave my side.

You are always calling my name, asking me to sit with You in the quiet of the morning and the stillness of the night. The picture someone gave me almost a year ago of God right alongside, helping me as I serve in ministry has helped me tremendously and I have applied it to my job, working with challenging people, accepting myself right where I’m at. Whatever I’m going through I have a greater confidence that I can do the things He has called me to do, to receive all that He wants for me.

God opens doors that no one can shut.

There are countless times when I didn’t know how I would get through a difficult situation or I wondered if I was really in the place You wanted me to be in and every time You confirmed it to me, again and again. AND You always provided the strength, the endurance, the courage to keep going when I wanted to throw my hands up and run out the door. You also close doors that no one can open, for reasons like You’re protecting me or You have something better in mind. Thank You Jesus for looking out for me.

With Jesus I have complete acceptance.

Lord, You don’t leave me ever because my pain and brokenness don’t offend You. Instead You show me great compassion and kindness. You long to lavish Your love on me. You ask me to give You all of the things that weigh heavy on me in this life so that You can carry them.

So why should I be discouraged when things are different from what I had hoped for? I will put my hope in God and believe that He has good for me and that whatever it is I’m facing, whether it feels good or not, it is for His glory, not mine. It is because He has good things for me and wants me to be blessed. Thank You Father for Your faithfulness towards me.

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.