Be A Valentine

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

John 13:34

Happy Valentine’s Day Friends! ♥️

I absolutely adore Valentine’s Day- I always have.

Which to many is strange. Because in the traditional sense, I’ve always been single on Valentine’s Day.

I know, I know… but stick with me.

This is not a post to promote singleness or girl power- this is a post to tell you about one of my favorite love stories.

In other words- there’s this movie…

You may have watched it… though maybe not. My sisters and I checked it out of our church library about elementary age… on VHS.

The First Valentine – produced in 1989… viewed in our household circa 1997. (oh the nineties).

And yes, the movie reflects its age (and has my younger sister would tell you, some historical liberties as technically it is possible that two, if not three men named Valentinus were all executed on February 14th by the Roman Emperor). But the story it shares is life changing and the lesson timeless.

The story of Saint Valentine (at least one of them): A man who believed so much in the purpose and power and importance of love- he defied the ruling imperial power of the time, illegally marrying couples in the Roman Empire… not in the outskirts… but literally in and near Rome itself.

However, The First Valentine shows that this belief in love was not solely occupied by couples, but to humanity- regardless of age, ethnicity and disability- as our celebrated Saint gives the First Valentine to a young girl who is blind and therefore a societal outcast.

Like I said- possible historical liberties- but then again… anything is possible, and the legend prevails (check out the link below from History.com). 👩🏻‍💻

Summary, if nothing else I find the heart of the movie matches the hearts of the Saint(s) we celebrate today.

Saints martyred for their commitment to Love, sharing the Good News of Love revealed and to loving as Love loved.

Saints martyred for embracing and imparting Jesus.

Several years ago, I had a revelation, possibly from a seed which was planted by this 1990s, thirty minute-ish, movie (possibly available on Youtube).

Every Saint Valentine… every Saint Valentine we celebrate… was single…

… which means that the definition of a Valentine as I had understood it growing up- was not big enough.

Yes, you can be asked to be a Valentine- but you can also be a Valentine, voluntarily.

So today I want to ask you friends, to be a Valentine.

Love those around you. Babysit for the couple, send cards to your single friends letting them know you love them and tell the littles in your life how great they are. Smile at a stranger, hold the door open for a neighbor, pay for the car behind you in the fast food line and shower this world in every good thing- with every heartbeat. ♥️

I pray your day is filled with the knowledge and presence of a love that is ever present, uncompromising and completely encompassing. I pray that each of you recognize your value, which is priceless, and the importance of your existence which is celebrated in the heavens.

Your Father, Your Savior and Your Helper rejoice seeing you, no matter where you’re coming from. Their love for you is complete times eternity.

With all of those very important truths said- on a side note  History.com which I mentioned above- provides a great, concise, history of Valentines Day which I encourage anyone who is curious to check out.

And after watching The First Valentine I highly recommend rewatching Kate and Leopold on Netflix- because what couple is more charming than young Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman? 💁🏻‍♀️

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Status Reckless

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:5 (NIV) 

It gets me every time.

I am always taken by surprise.

Six months later and I do not see the trend ending any time soon.

What do I do?

I hold hands and cups of coffee.

I run between healthcare staff and family and sit in the waiting room with children who are too young to witness the adults in their lives fall apart emotionally.

I speak prayers and I sit silently, tears being the only expression close to, though not quite, capable of communicating the storm of grief taking hold.

I witness the strength and heart of the staff with awe and their tears with reverence for what they voluntarily experience out of their love for the person, for each beautiful and individual life.

And I hope.

I know the expectations, I know the probable outcome, I understand that if I have been called in, whatever chance there may be is small, and not promised.

And I expect the unexpected.

It’s not a half hope. It is not a “but God could” hope. It is not a last ditch hope.

It is complete, all in, God can hope. It is reckless hope.

And I am always taken by surprise. Because that kind of hope, against every odd, never considers the other outcome, until it arrives.

My heart always stutters in shock, surprise crashing down like a tidal wave. As I reach up for protection, He is reaching out is assurance. And I can stand and be still on the inside while walking through it on the outside.

I can get tissues and chairs. I can speak with family and safeguard sacred moments. I can remain out of the way (at least attempt to) and be readily available. I can give hugs and provide space. I can listen to stories and honor a need for silence.

I can make it home after helping family and friends head to homes that are somehow emptier in a world that makes a little, or a lot, less sense.

And then the wave comes. It has to you know. I’m not in it alone. But it still has to come down.

And I let it all wash out. Every shard of hope on trial.

Of course the defense is prepared and truth reigns.

He heard my prayers. He began answering them immediately. And yes, He was victorious.

In His way and in His time. His ways and His thoughts both higher than mine. His love incomprehensibly complete.

No matter how it feels, His truth reigns.

Not that He is unfeeling. He understands, He knows and He’s holding on. He hasn’t let go- and He’s not going to.

I knew He could do it, I know He can still do it- whatever the situation may be. I believed and believe. I hoped and I hope.

And when the tears come and the hope feels it has turned into shards of broken glass that still small voice whispers,

Child, you are not wrong. 

as He wipes the tears away.

Because there is nothing impossible for our God. Nothing too hard. Nothing too big. Nothing too much. Or too little.

In a fallen world, horrible things happen that were not apart of God’s original plan. And with all of my schooling and study I cannot say for certain why God chooses to move and to stay His hand.

I hope in and I trust a Sovereign, Holy, Loving and Just God who did not create us to destroy us, but to give us a hope and a future, an eternal home.

A last thought.

I was wondering one evening, if this reckless hope would one day dissipate all together? I mean you hear stories of burnout. Of the last straw.

What would the consequences be of recklessly putting all of your heart in, all of the time?

Certainly, there was pain. I wondered, worried, if that chipping was slowly picking away at my hope filled heart. That one day a puncture would go too deep, that my hope would become less than “complete.”

Ironically, I worried that one day I would be less “taken by surprise.”

I had been in that black pit once, I have no desire or intention of going back. Not even the tiniest bit. I could sit down and rest, but there would be no back tracking. That, my heart couldn’t take.

My personal reflection was clearly not getting me anywhere so I took a minute and passed it on to the One whose thoughts are higher than my own. And I got a picture (further proof He understands me- and my appreciation for visual learning aids!)

I pictured my heart, the way I had been “imagining” it before- a chipping from the outside. But then it changed.

Duh. The chipping was not on the outside. It was on the inside.

The chipping may hurt, but growth usually does. Long story short, it was making my heart deeper- not smaller. Capable of holding more, not less.

Child, you are not wrong. 

His picture of immediate victory may vary from mine- but my hope has never been misplaced. He is working, and He is winning. Actually, He has already won.

I cannot see the big picture from down here. But I trust Him. Meanwhile, I pray friends that you will not fear recklessly hoping, always. Because you are not wrong.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13 (NIV)

 

Just One

 “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Luke 15:7 

Fires, earthquakes, Presidential impeachments, Royal runaways and an election year…

Needless to say, our world is in need of prayer. Always. Like, the entire world. All the time.

So the other day I sat in prayer… attempting to simply and concisely convey the enormity of all of the situations and their urgency (you know- as if God was not already aware…), hoping I wouldn’t forget anything (praying actually I wouldn’t forget anything- or one).

My heart had a list.

As I sat there naming the various disasters and tensions currently being experienced around the world- I was also naming loved ones, acquaintances and faces that seemed to be lingering.

All the while a silent question forming.

And sometime after I had laid down- I woke up, the question having fully formed itself and apparently not willing to be put off until a decent daytime hour.

In my mind or heart or both- the question was whispered- which was most important, my prayers for the world or my prayers for the one?

The whole world, or one person? Don’t ask me why this question mattered, why something in me needed an answer.

I suppose it may have been because behind this question was the wonder, did God like some of my prayers better than others? Did He pay more attention to the “more important” ones verses the “Brittany is rattling on” ones?

Was there a “Top 5” and then He would put the others on a “waiting” or “consideration” list?

Because I mean honestly, I do that sometimes. Not with my prayers. But with my homework assignments. Books to read. Tasks to do.

There is a “Top 5” list and then there is the “if/ when I have time” list.

Laying there, one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s quotes came to mind, “Even the Smallest person can change the course of the future” and then the Parable of the Lost Sheep.

And just like that it seemed, in an instant, I understood.

The world needs our prayers.

But those prayers will be answered and carried out through human beings, individuals, coming together.

The world is not complete without the one.

Personally, I must say it seems a little less daunting, though no less urgent to pray for the one. Praying for the world is important. However, when we paint our big picture of the world with faces and names and heartbeats- well its not quite so difficult to put into words every urgent feeling-

A loving and overflowing plea. One word.

Move.

God, Move. Hold, Tell, Comfort, Encourage. I love them. You love them. Go and move.

As I read the Parable of the Lost sheep I realized that there is a reason Heaven rejoices over the one.

Through one the world fell into sin.

Through one the world was delivered and redeemed.

One has always had a major, world changing impact.

So no, some prayers are not more important than others. God does not listen to some more and others less. Do not limit your number of prayers out of worry that you may end up with “one to many” to make the cut.

Pray for the world and the one. And then the other one, and another one and every one. I quoted J.R.R. Tolkien above, a man who understood and played a major role in the life of one. A comrade he met through writing. A lifelong unbeliever, a proclaimed atheist- and from his own work he’d share proudly so. This one was to become one of his greatest friends. And one of, if not, the greatest Christian author of his time- C.S. Lewis.

And my friends, as you pray for the one, remember you are one. Your presence here is unique, your purpose unrivaled. No one can replace you. You have been purposefully and specifically created and sent for such a time as this. Heaven dances to see you awake every morning. They lean in close to hear what you have to say. And without you, our world is not complete.

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Be With You

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Psalm 139:13-14

We just want to be with You.

These words struck my heart during worship this past Sunday with their truth… and immediately I envisioned a fire.

No worries, it was the controlled type of fire- you know the type that you gather and curl up around with family and friends.

The kind of fire that instantly echos sounds of laughter and compatible, understanding silence amid the crackling of wood and dancing flames.

The kind that feels like being held… or like holding the hand of someone who completely understands.

A fire that beckons to you in the most welcoming way, as if it is so happy you could make it, whispering that the fire would be a little less complete without you there, just as you are.

Because its January my initial vision was that of a fireplace, though upon further reflection, a campfire would be equally relatable.

And as these lyrics continued to resound in my head, my Pastor began his message and in his lesson he made a profound remark in relation to the passage above.

“Did you know God only has good thoughts about you?”

… wait… what?

You mean to tell me all those times throughout the day when I am counting or recounting every weakness and wondering how God, even with his divine patience, could put up with me… He’s never wondered the same thing?

Even once?

He’s never thought of me as anything other than wholly redeemed, deeply loved, highly favored, graced with glory…

Because… unfortunately… I have given Him ample opportunity to understandably do so…

Further more, you mean to tell me He’s never shaken His head in irritation, rolled his eyes in annoyance or “facepalmed” in exasperation… as He is rebuilding and cleaning up whatever it is I have destroyed or made a mess of?

Are you saying He’s never questioned whether I was too far out to make it worth it to bring me back, again? He’s never considered throwing in the towel?

… Can you imagine, my Pastor began to share, if we lived our lives with such a thought process about ourselves.

A thought process full of only good thoughts about ourselves.

At the end of the day I took an inventory of what thoughts I felt circled through my mind the most in terms of myself. And sadly, I realized, that if I were compiling a “Top 10” sort of list or most commonly used words- a fair portion of the time my thoughts toward myself were not very… good.

The old thoughts arose, you know sentences that begin with; “Am I… I should… I’m not… I’ll never…” then ending with something you should stop, start, do more, do less… or you’ve concluded that you’re not enough, too much, mediocre…

And I sat up as the Father beckoned me to sit with Him by the fire.

We sat there for a bit… it took a minute to unload. And toss every doubt, trace of guilt, piece of shame, shred of comparison and critical fear into the flame.

All the while His Word sharing what He sees, and all the wonderful parts He knows is inside of me. Because He put them there.

Many parts are revealed in time. His time. And He is so excited for the day I’ll discover them.

But meanwhile, he bids me not to devalue those wonderful pieces He has already revealed.

Also to remember not to call myself by my sin, but by my name, for that is how He calls me, and who He has created me to be. He sees past the exterior, into the heart and beyond.

Beneath the dust of this world, wonders have been purposefully placed in each one of us.

That’s what He sees. His vision. His dream. His creation. His daughter.

That “controlled” fire I suppose is also sort of an engulfing fire, a refining fire… a flame residing in each one of us.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And my Creator’s works are wonderful.

All of them.

Including me.

And I know that.

And in knowing that, confidence is restored. An ability to marvel and love and rejoice with others whole heartedly is renewed.

We are all called to the fire. Be it a winter day inside or a summer’s evening outside. Come warm your hands. Loose your burden of all you were never meant to carry. Share. Laugh. And know.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

And as my personal favorite snowman, Olaf, would say, God only says “all good things, all good things,” for He is good.

God, we just want to be with You. Father You know us perfectly. You love us unconditionally. And You only think good thoughts about us. You call us by our name, not our sin. You see beyond the exterior, past the heart and into our innermost beings. You see the dream we have always been to You. Purposefully and wonderfully made. Thank you Father. We love you. Help us to love and see ourselves a little better, gaining a Heavenly Father’s perspective and tossing into the flames the lies of the enemy, in the beautiful name of Jesus. Amen. 

Friends if you have any prayer requests or praise reports please feel free to share them here in the comments, the comments on the prayer requests page or email them to declarehopeministries@gmail.com if you wish for them to be kept private. As always my prayers and thoughts are with each of you.

Exciting News!! This coming week we will be announcing this month’s giveaway! Stay tuned for details. Be blessed.

 

 

Fear of the Lord

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.”

Psalm 111:10 

The fear of the Lord.

This statement was so hard for me to grasp, and even now in some moments my mind immediately recoils from the word fear.

I fought fear for years. Oftentimes I still find fear lurking behind the door. Thankfully I have over three-hundred scriptures to remind me (and it) that it has no place in my vocabulary.

But then… explain to me the phrase the “fear of the Lord.”

Recently I was faced with an interesting question- you know one of those questions that may be in the back of your head but its not important enough for you to disturb because you cringe at what unpacking and sorting it out may entail.

The discussion- who God is, or more specifically what God is;

Answer: Good, kind and love.

Anything else?

As I weighed these answers in my mind, other verses flickered through my mind.

God is good, God is kind and God is loving. He is steadfast and certain.

God is also just, holy and jealous.

He wants to be our number one, because we are His number one. No good thing comes to us apart from Him and yet- we are so prone to giving the credit to someone or something else.

The education, the title, the position, the clothes, the timing…

We think we know what’s best, all the while He’s trying to bring us towards His better.

The world pulls at us, offering gods with various faces. It calls us to pursue happiness and fulfillment through greed and self-satisfaction.

And just as we begin to realize that “god” is really not all that good… it throws another one in our face that just might be the missing link to what we’re looking for.

Of course God’s love which is complete and unflinching is jealous as He watches us get used and abused by the false gods of this world.

That is why he sent His only begotten son. Because He is holy. He is just. And he cannot compromise such perfect justice, for He cannot lie or change all that He is. But He is also love.

And love found a way.

Jesus posted the bail, became our lawyer and cleared all charges. All we have to do is accept His invitation. Tragically, many of us chose to stay in the cell.

Fear of the Lord.

A good, kind and loving God. A just, holy and jealous God.

“So,” my friend asked, “you fear being punished by God? Being judged?” in reference to my personal positions, actions or lack there of.

No.

The word slipped truthfully as I shook my head.

As I sat there and thought about sin; what I’ve done, what I didn’t do and what I would or would not do ever again… as I thought about repentance and the way my heart was convicted whenever I erred in one direction or another… as I thought about my loving Triune God… as the name Jesus echoed throughout my being- my heart swelling with joy at the thought of his name…

No, I don’t fear being punished or being judged by God.

No, I don’t fear being hurt by God.

I fear hurting God.

As you read through the dozens of verses that speak of the fear of the Lord you will notice that the attributes of the fear of the Lord lead to wisdom, protection and joy.

Every single one.

Overall I was a pretty good kid, if I can say so myself.

Was it because I hadn’t had the opportunity to misbehave? No.

Was it because I am absolutely perfect in every way? Lord knows, no, not at all. (Pretty sure I just heard a heavenly chuckle and an angel almost spit out their coffee sort of reaction.)

It was because I loved my parents, I still love my parents, and few things would have been more painful for me than to disappoint them, few things would have caused me more fear or dread. I love(d) them so much.

I love my Heavenly Father. I love my Savior. I love the Holy Spirit who indwells in me, knowing that I am not always the most hospitable vessel.

I do not try and follow the statues and read the verses because I am afraid of punishment.

I do it from a love so deep it cuts my heart to see the hurt in Their eyes when I betray their trust.

Every sin driving the nail in further.

The nail scarred hands helping me back up and carrying me whenever I’ve slipped so far.

Nail scarred hands reaching out and embracing me.

No, I do not fear what God would do. God is holy, just, good, kind, jealous and love.

No, I fear what I might do, what pain I might cause.

I wouldn’t purposefully hurt a loved one. Many of you probably agree.

So the question then is- why would we purposefully hurt the God who loves us so perfectly? Why does He seem to end up on just the other side of the line?

The fear of the Lord to me is grounded in our love for the Lord- rooted in His love for us. For our Lord is one “who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

So, take heart friends and live free of fear, remembering, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Email us at declarehopeministries@gmail.com or comment prayer requests and praise reports below. You are forever in our thoughts and prayers.

Stay tuned for some exciting 2020 news including a continuation of defining our “whys” and upcoming monthly giveaways to the credit of some of my very talented friends!! Also an inside look into what I have been up to this past Christmas break.

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

 

Words Worth Treasuring

“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Luke 2:17-20

2020. In a handful of hours it will have officially arrived.

I love New Years, I really do.

While I am a staunch believer in the fact that any goal can start anywhere at anytime, month and date aside, there is something about New Years.

You can feel the expectation in the air.

It is the one time of year where we as a society really sit down and think about who we want to be and what we want to do.

For most adults, its the one time of year where we really let ourselves dream, as we imagine and envision the futures we wish to seek.

Think about it.

Impossible goals suddenly become possibly possible and a determination runs through our veins.

Those things our past selves could “never” achieve, our coming selves just might be able to accomplish.

And it is a beautiful thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I am queen of setting goals which are usually not fully met. (However, I run on a strong foundation of shoot for the moon and land among the stars, sort of mentality.)

And I think that is okay. The idea is to move forward. If you happen to take over the world at the same time, great. Meanwhile, keep moving.

Unfortunately many of us once realizing that we might not make the finish line in the time or shape we felt we should have made it in- are prone to stop moving.

We start to let words of doubt and a harsh “reality” shout above the calm, steady and passionate voice of hope.

It happens to all of us somewhere at some point. And it may knock you down for a week, a month, a year…

But- I pray that eventually the calm, steady, excited voice of hope will call to your heart again.

As we move into this New Year, I pray that you dare to dream impossible dreams.

I pray that you would dare to answer the call which the Lord has placed on your life.

I pray that you would realize that no goal or dream is too small nor too big. If it weighs on your heart, I pray that you embrace it.

Most importantly, I pray you step into this New Year like Mary.

Like Mary, I pray that you carefully choose the words you treasure and ponder in your heart. Let the ones which tell you to sit back down fall away, and take the hand of those which call you to step forward.

Like Mary, I pray that you seek God in the center of your plans, dreams and goals and when God calls you to a path that takes an unexpected turn, I pray that you have the courage to bravely take that step- turning to His Word continuously.

It’s a good Word to treasure.

I cannot wait to see you all in 2020! We are going to be doing  exciting things in 2020 and I cannot wait to share them with you! As always, please share any prayer requests and praise reports! We will pray and praise the Lord alongside you as we enter this New Year and you prepare to take on those mountains which you are anointed and intended to conquer!

Shout out to the Christian Planner family and The Hero’s Journal for providing these amazing tools for journaling and tracking types, as myself! 🙏 ⚔️🙌

https://christianplanner.com

https://theherosjournal.co

God’s Gift

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel.”

Isaiah 7:14

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace; and with his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:4-5

I love Christmas cards. I always have.

I have held onto every single one I’ve ever received, ever.

Including this one pictured above. This is a new card believe it or not. I received it from my Bible study leader a few weeks ago.

Of course, it looked a bit different when I first received it. It was perfect, actually.

Then one night the piece of tape displaying it failed me and in the time between it’s falling and my discovery- Reyna found it. (For those who do not know Reyna, she is a just turned 1, 86 pound, fluff ball/ puppy.)

And my beautiful card was crafted into a mess of confetti.

But as I disappointedly picked up the shredded pieces of my lovely card, I came across this final bit.

And I kid you not, I almost threw it away. To be honest I threw it away.

But as I turned away, I reached back and I picked it up, wanting to read the words one more time.

The whole time my world driven vision told me it was a piece of trash. Tarnished. Embarrassing. It would be absurd to hold on to it. Let alone put it back up. Forget the fact I had just grabbed it from my trash can, Lord help me if anyone ever found out.

But… that still small whisper. You know the Christmas story is a lot of things. And if we are honest, those things are tarnished and embarrassing.

Mary was pregnant before she was married- let’s talk about that reputation.

And then she gave birth in a barn. I’ve noticed that never caught on as a trend.

Yet… that story, that beloved and holy Christmas story, is beyond the definition of perfect.

There’s not a single word to fully express the magnitude and the glory of that tarnished and embarrassing story.

In fact, you could string a thousand words together, and just of clipped the iceburg.

We are a couple days past Christmas Day, and I hope yours was perfect. However, if it wasn’t perfect according to Hallmark standards (and I get it- I love Hallmark), I hope you can see that gifts, time and life aside- the victory of that day is never failing.

On a side note, I know many returned to work today, some worked Christmas Day, and those who are off are probably counting down the days subconsciously before they have to return.

Some may have balanced the checkbook today, did school work or cleaned the house.

My point is, as we move past Christmas Day, I pray we will remember to carry it with us.

It’s so hard when it feels as if so little has changed. The world acts as if all is as it has always been.

The angel spoke to Mary. Joseph had a dream. The shepherds heard the angels sing. The wise men saw the star. And the world… the world acted as if all was as it had always been.

As I was in town yesterday running some errands I felt I could see the world acting as if nothing had changed. The store lights, in contrast to Wednesday, were back on. (Never mind some stores did not bother to turn them off at all).

And it dawned on me. We try so hard to bind Christmas to one day. We make it a box, hand it over and say “get in,” forgetting that the reality of Christmas is beyond our comprehension, let alone our box making skills.

Christmas is the time we celebrate when Jesus stepped out of the box, and into the manger. And that celebration continues all year long. It’s a priceless gift freely given, and no sale price can cheapen or negate it. No deal can sweeten it. No amount of time can tarnish or lessen it.

It’s already everything, and then more than we can imagine. As we live in a world that acts as as if nothing is changed; we hear the angels sing, we see the star and we know- that everything has changed. We see it in the pile of dishes, the chaotic filling of email inboxes and in our chewed and torn Christmas cards.

❤️ Merry Christmas friends! My prayers and thoughts are with you all as we finish one year, one decade, and head into the next.