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

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

Here!!

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.

Psalm 32:8 (NLT) 

Happy Weekend Friends!

I just wanted to drop in after being absent for a week- and what a week it was!

I made a great deal of progress on my book- that’s right- I am writing a book!

And I’ve made some impressive headway- more on that as I come closer to completion!

Meanwhile I also had the honor of marrying two close family friends today, Saturday October 19th! To you both- I hope you know how much it meant to me (and my family) to be apart of your day!

As I sit here, not everything is perfect, in truth almost everything is far from what I had personally planned or expected… yet I sit here astounded by God’s great grace and love. In so many ways, so many things are wrong and then again in so many ways so many things are better than I could have ever dreamed.

Blessings and Prayers as always 🙏♥️🙌

The Roman Imperial Rule v. Paul

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV) 

As many of you who have read through a blog or two probably know… I should be doing homework. Especially this week- as I have a huge paper due today at midnight. HOWEVER…

My mind needs a recess and I thought what better semi-productive activity than to share with all of you some of the fun facts I have taken away from my current classes!

Primarily that the Early Church was the most peaceful, loving, absolutely insubordinate organization ever to be documented. And luckily for us- it is a rebellion with no end as to be a follow of Christ automatically marks you as one in complete opposition to the powers of this world (John 17:13-21).

Now don’t misunderstand me- in no way was the Early Church seeking to overtake the Roman government, but continuously advised believers to honor authority figures, from paying taxes to praying for them.

However the Early Church did directly challenge the Roman Imperial Rule of the day… in a way that is most impressive. Not until I dove into the historical context in which our Early Church Teachers were writing and living, did I fully understand that I may never fully comprehend the courage they had.

Bear with me, remembering that the Romans were literally on a track for “taking over the world” of their day, no-one was placing bets on their downfall just yet. While they allowed certain religions to remain intact (i.e. Judaism) they were also known for punishments such as feeding people to animals, whippings within an inch of their life, various forms of torture I would rather not think on and of course- crucifixion.

The Early Church was not risking persecution from just anyone- but from the one who had proven if given a choice between maintaining power and moral conduct- power was the moral of the day.

I have spent a lot of time with Paul the last several weeks. And I, who does not generally use foul language, would have to say Paul was an absolute tough and uncompromising individual, aka he was pretty BA.

While there are several arguments that could be made to back this statement up, I am going to focus on ten ways that Paul directly contradicted the Roman Imperial Rule’s beliefs of the day. And I mean EVERYONE followed these rules and thought processes… reference reason why above…

Reminder that these are statements Paul was not shy about sharing anywhere… Including in Rome itself. In fact he specifically appealed to Caesar and in a sense sent himself to Rome. Without hesitation. Pretty sure that is under the definition of “Holy Spirit Driven.”

1.) Roman Imperial Rule – Heralded Augustus as “son of God,” as he considered the “son” of the Caesar who claimed to be God. (Augustus was actually adopted by Great Uncle Julius Caesar… so have fun tracking that family tree… I did not.)

Paul – Jesus, who is the messianic seed of David, actually the True Son of God.

2.) Roman Imperial Rule – The Roman Emperor = Savior of the World…

Paul – Jesus Christ is the one and only Savior of the World.

3.) Roman Imperial Rule – Emperor is a deity i.e. God

Paul – Only one true God, and He is only known through Son, Jesus Christ.

4.) Roman Imperial Rule – Worship Emperor.

Paul –  Do not worship emperor, that is idolatry. There is only one God, see #3.

5.) Roman Imperial Rule – Rome is highly favored by gods and deemed worthy of ruling world.

Paul – Our citizenship is in heaven, and everything is ultimately under the rule of Jesus Christ.

6.) Roman Imperial Rule – Proclaim the “good news” that the “son of God” Augustus will usher in new era.

Paul – Proclaim the good news of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which has ushered in a new covenant and era.

7.) Roman Imperial Rule – We will unite all nations under Roman Empire.

Paul – There is unity of nations within the body of Christ, all are equal in Christ.

8.) Roman Imperial Rule – Roman Empire has established peace and security throughout the world.

Paul – God alone is able to establish true peace and comfort.

9.) Roman Imperial Rule – “Miscreants” are expendable through crucifixion and other punishments.

Paul – Jesus was crucified through Roman rule and overturned the verdict.

10.) Roman Imperial Rule – Rome’s Empire is sovereign and overseen by gods.

Paul – Only God of Israel is sovereign and has eternal reign established in Jesus Christ.

Yup.

Paul’s letters oftentimes receive a lot of pushback, especially pertaining to household codes and societal issues. However, when one digs deeper they will find that when approached in their historical context, they do not always carry the initial meanings our twenty-first century minds conclude.

For example: Paul’s stance on slavery.

Yes he encourages slaves to respect and work for their masters with integrity.

However, to conclude that Paul supports slavery would be completely unfounded. Why?

Paul writes that masters should look on their slaves as equals, treating them well in return, remembering that they too have a master in heaven. In Roman society that was completely unheard of… In the book of Philemon Paul goes as far as to ask that the slave, Onesimus, be welcomed back as a dear brother. This is followed by an appeal for his release so he could come and teach alongside Paul.

Paul lived in a society where 60% of the population were slaves. Meanwhile they, the followers of Jesus Christ, were a small persecuted minority. Paul wasn’t going to change the law. But he planted the seeds for change to occur in the hearts of men, trusting one day they would lead to a cultural change independent from government rule.

Paul’s other writings and teaching on the “household codes” were equally outlandish in the context of Roman society at the time. We could go more into that (and I probably will the next time I have a huge paper looming) but I have 1 more fun fact that I want to share before I sign off.

God watered Paul’s seeds, and while there are countless examples of His work throughout the centuries, lets go back to approximately A.D. 361 – 363. We are under Emperor Julian’s rule, the title/ term “Christian” has been coined and persecution persists.

Regardless of extreme opposition, Emperor Julian is nervous, he is nervous that somehow “Christian’s will take over the whole world through the stealth of their good deeds.” Don’t believe me? Luckily I screenshot it out of the text book, and yes I have the incredible book all this wonderful information came from cited below- which I highly recommend as it covers a vast amount of information, exceedingly more than I have fit in this post, and with a great deal more eloquence.

EmperorJulian&Christianity

Bruce W Longenecker (2019). (p. 367). Thinking through Paul: A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology. 

Well, friends, my homework calls and I have just over 14 hours to hit the submit button. I hope you enjoyed meeting Paul as much as I did!

My prayers and thoughts are with you all, as well as hopes for a great weekend!

Growing Pains

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 

1 Timothy 4:12

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. 

Proverbs 12:15

 

  1. Know that I should be doing homework.
  2. Know that as a grad student I should always be doing homework.

But this blog post has been waiting in my drafts long enough. Early August in fact, 3/4 of the way through my internship, facing an upcoming season of uncertainties and uncharted territories.

Nearing what I believe is the end of that period and entering a new, yet to be charted season, I can feel the inner conflict beginning to stir.

Turmoil that, when left unchecked, is known to make my battle ready self hesitate.

It is not that I fear God failing. No, I believe in him 100% of the time.

But I have struggled with believing in myself.

I have struggled to believe that I can communicate, discern and complete those tasks in front of me. Oftentimes I am self-convinced that I am getting the message wrong and surely God has called someone much more… much?

In today’s world this struggle is a genuine one. The world we live in is hardly encouraging most of the time. And if we are not tuned into what God is saying and what he has said, then who are we listening to?

No matter where you are in life or what career field you are working in, there will always be “the voices” in “the moments.”

While I hope you are not familiar with the voices or the moments, living in this world is an unfortunate guarantee that you are more familiar with them than most of us would like to admit.

You know the ones where you are “too young,” “too old,” “too conservative,” “too liberal,” “too educated,” “too naive”… and all the other “toos” that make you unable to understand. Your answer is wrong. It’s not your fault, you are just “too much” or “too little” and that is too bad.

And in these moments, in early August, amid all the voices, I found I really missed my mom.

In these moments a part of me wishes I would have grown up faster. That I would have grown up more gracefully, gliding past the obstacles and never missing a step.

Unfortunately I was one often caught between hard places, getting back up with scrapped knees and bloody knuckles. Generally walking away with a hard earned and learned lesson accompanied with a loving, motherly, “keep going.”

Mom was a great director on walking the line between “do not let them undermine you” yet “listen to wise counsel.”

So here I am, walking the line, and it is getting slimmer. Its one of those moments where the enemy has gotten a hold of one of the ends of the line, turning it into a tightrope and has begun shaking it. You’re not sure if you’ll be able to remain upright, let alone move forward without losing your balance.

And so I spent some time laying my case out to one who has all the time in the world- eternity in fact. My fragile and fear disposed heart repeating that I believed in Him, but… but… me, the me part of the plan was questionable.

God haven’t you heard? I am not ready. I am not qualified. I am too much this and not enough that.

And in those moments that still small voice whispered- but I believe in you.

I believe in you.

I created you. Who knows better what you are capable of? And remember- you are not going in alone. I will be there. And you said yourself, you believe in Me.

True.

So repeat the problem?

And the tightrope stopped shaking. Because in that moment I handed the end back to God- and stopped jumping up and down on it as I was placed back on solid ground.

I remembered that He is before and behind me. Above and Below me. Even should I fall, He is already there. My own worst enemy had been myself, and the enemy’s doubts I had adopted as my own.

And in that space, on that grounded line, I found it.

Humble Confidence.

A graceful clumsiness. Somedays you will fall. Others you will dance. But everyday you will be fearless.

Because should all else fall away you know your Strong Tower is always before, behind, above and below you. There’s no direction you can fall that he won’t be there to catch you.

As if He wasn’t enough, He has also provided family and friends along the way to encourage us and be lights in an otherwise darkened world.

People who are always behind you, some of who you will meet going forward and others who are watching the ground below you from above.

I know beliefs differ, and I do not have the ultimate answer (I am still in Bible college and God has not granted me a vision or revelation that has been withheld from others until now- not that I haven’t asked), however I highly suspect that loved ones can see us from above. At least to an extent. (I generally reference the story Jesus shares in Luke 16:19-31 of Lazarus and the Rich Man and personal experience).

With that said I also fully believe that our loved ones who have passed into Jesus’ presence are in a place with no sorrow, no tears or hurting and pain of any kind. They are in the best of places, praising our savior and rejoicing.

As much as I miss my mom, my best friend, my grandfather, my aunt and several others; I wouldn’t want them to be in that perfect place missing being here. And I know if my mom (or any of them) recalled the pain our temporary separation caused this side of Heaven, her heart would break.

So I have this hope that should my belief be correct and that they are able to look down at times, there is what I have coined as an “eternity filter.”

A filter that when my mom looks down its through the light of eternity, a light that erases the darkness of this world. While she sees us in the good and bad, she knows that the bad will not endure and the good is not even remotely close to the best. And that we have all the time in world, for one day- there will be no more goodbyes and no more ends.

On this side we see through a “world filter,” its dark and broken. Things are hard and you never fully feel like you have made the mark. There are days when the time inches by and others where it feels as if it flew in the blink of an eye.

Further evidence we are just journeying through this world. Our hearts can never fully fit into this world’s concept of “time,” for He has placed eternity in our hearts.

So lesson learned this season:

Growing up is never a task fully accomplished on this side of heaven. Growing pains mark growth, not completion.

In the moments where the growth is hard come by remember you have a Creator, His host of angels and His saints, who count it a hard earned and won Victory.

So fellow Saints, put on your Armor and remember no victory is too small and certainly no matter how beat up and bruised you may emerge, every one is worth celebrating. Moses didn’t think he could lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Peter was uneducated. David and Mary were teenagers. Abraham and Elizabeth were old.

The reality is that you don’t have this. But God does and He’s called you.

And as the prophets and the early church leaders prayed, so we pray, to continue to grow in the knowledge of God, bearing fruit of every good work. No longer seeing this world through it’s broken and twisted filter, but through the filter of eternity to which we have been called.

*Comment here or on the Prayer Requests/ Praise Reports page any prayer needs or celebrations.

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Thank James Pond on Unsplash for photo.

Tried & Trying

“Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

Psalm 37:24 

 I once had a mentor tell me that it took an average of 22 attempts for a person to quit smoking.

22 tries at briefly achieving and then falling off the wagon. 21 falls and 22 rises. And that is an average, which means some took less attempts… while others took more.

What strength is that to fall and fail and fall again, yet at some point reaching a period where you dust yourself off and you continue to try?

This fun fact was shared with me on Tuesday.

And then on Wednesday I received a “Last Day to Sign Up” email from a motivational group I follow- 90 Day Workout challenge.

I am not sure if I have reached or surpassed 22 attempts at regularly exercising, but I can tell you I feel I am definitely in the ballpark. And the sad thing is I love feeling healthy and having energy. I enjoy running, at the very least I enjoy hiking and doing things that generally require strength to a certain degree.

And it was just last week I was explaining to my sister that I did not like the gym. And I didn’t want to go to a gym.

But I do want to get into better shape. And with the MS, my doctor highly suggests that regular, healthy, daily exercise is beneficial and at times essential.

So the email arrives. 90 Day Challenge. At home workouts. Last Day to Sign Up.

Oh and Level 1…

Free.

So in a split decision on my lunch break- I signed up. Fully committed? I wanted to be. Think about it later and change my mind? Hopefully not.

The more I thought about it I could feel an outside thought whispering I was too busy, that it wasn’t fair to put this pressure on myself, why couldn’t I be happy with all I was already doing… However, the more I thought about it, the more I also remembered all the reasons I knew it was worth another try.

And through all the naysaying I could feel the small still voice that had encouraged me to sign up continue to get excited. Because what is better than reaching a goal?

Making a goal.

And what solidifies this goal today? What makes me want to write a post and share it on my online journal space, to let all who read know I am starting a 90 Day Workout Challenge?

Thursday morning when I was getting up and getting ready for work I wandered onto Facebook (I know, I know) – and the first thing I saw on my newsfeed- Run for the Soul, September 28th at the Columbus Zoo.

The same race I attempted to run in 2017, following my August diagnosis of MS.

The same race which encouraged me to take to the sidelines.

The same race that almost broke me.

Now the race’s victory was short lived and I made a fairly quick come back, running a race that October. And I have committed to fearlessly doing all the things, as well as I can, regardless, since. However…

I cannot help but draw a parallel between the timing of the challenge and the timing of the race. Call it coincidence. Call it me being unnecessarily dramatic or imaginative. Call it me having really loved my last t-shirt from that race (because I did and still do)…

But Attempt #22, here we come.

And my friends, I do not know what you have attempted time after time with temporary success, but please remember failure is only permanent when we fail to try- and to try again.