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 in 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

 

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.

In the Silences

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephesians 6:13-17

I have officially passed the halfway mark for this summer.

In the middle of my internship and my classes, trying to stay ahead no on… trying to stay above the sea of a schedule, I have searched for the boundaries. Walking on water yet drowning in what ifs, how cans and papers… lots of papers.

And then this week- there was a reckoning.

My personal beliefs, foundational truths and heart of all I know was called into question. Challenged. Attacked.

Do you really… think? believe? Defend… why? how?

You stand alone. Against a world of opposition. A world tells you all the reasons you must be wrong.

Crumble. Cave. Call it.

Back out gracefully. If you must believe, believe quietly. And secretly think that maybe you are no longer certain.

My soul hurt and was exhausted. It was a brutal exercise, pushing me to my limits.

But like most physical workouts that push you to your limits- the time comes shortly afterwards where you look back on what you just survived. What you just accomplished. And there is a joy. An exhausted and often times sore joy, but joy.

And as I drove in the silence between location A and B, as hard as the battle was, as harsh the beating… I realized as the dust settled that my foundation was unshaken.

My absolute truths stood. My deep personal beliefs had come out tender yet unscathed.

And I realized the power in that discovery.

I had carefully weighed the opposition. I had reflected and fully taken in the thoughts set before me.

I recognized the parts that were true and I proposed they weren’t wrong but perhaps I was still right. The ends connected.

Knowing what you believe at your deepest core…

there is a hope there.

And hope is a power this world does not know how to completely defeat.

This week it was reaffirmed that I do not have all the answers.

Yet I have all the answers that I need. In a world that tries its hardest to keep you from believing, I believe. In the face of standing alone, I still stand.

I have never known myself more deeply than now. Not only knowing what I believe- but knowing I believe my beliefs when challenged, pushed and questioned.

As I drove in the silence I could feel the dust settling, my head rising and the tears falling. Not in defeat or lack of faith but in thankfulness.

To have a faith that is rooted and grounded in the love of God. A faith that did not fail.

And I know that this is only the beginning of a career. As Christians, we will continuously be called out into the arena and onto the battlefield.

And I know that I will answer that call. Because as painful as it was, I found something there and now I know- that I can.

Here’s to the silences and to the end of the silences here on this page! (I am working on those “time boundaries” and believe I have finally discovered my balance) 💁🏻‍♀️

Also that 90 day physical challenge is still going strong! 🙌

Take in the silences after the fire.

Refining is a difficult and painful process.

Refining is also a beautiful and encouraging process.

—— Writing In the Silences —–

It is here.

In the silences…

After the battle…

…that the disciple on their knees takes their first deep breath.

And than notices their tears.

For they have survived…

Every belief, thought and foundational truth attacked, challenged and covered in dust.

But as the dust settles they see…

They see the Sovereign God who incomprehensibly loves them, though they continuously fall short of glory.

They see the God who fought the fight beside them and in them.

And as the dust settles they see the evidence of the defeated enemies that have fallen.

The horizon clears and they lift their head and see the piles of useless weapons that came against them.

Covered in dust and sweat and blood and tears it is in the silences they see.

The spiritual battle they have fought.

And their weapons.

The sword of the spirit. The shield of faith.

Battle worn, but unchanged.

In the silences they decide they will fight again.

In the deep breath they decide they will continue the race.

Sword in one hand. Shield in the other.

In the silences…

They rise.

 

*Photo Credit and thanks to Austin Ban on Unsplash

 

But Can He?

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.”

2 Timothy 2:13

I shouldn’t have, I should have.

I know that, I feel this.

The sky’s falling versus the pieces are falling into place.

Those moments when it seems as if the “to be done” list is always longer than the “done” list and it feels as if time is flying yet it is taking its time to heal. Every day you wake and look forward but cannot help and catch a reflection of yesterday. Remembering some of the wins, recounting all of the losses.

Filled with faith but yet… not always convinced.

Not that I doubt God’s faithfulness of course, but my own.

At the end of the day when I recall those moments when I know I could have said something better or done something more. Those moments of weakness when I broke the promise to myself to wake up at this time or to not do that. Simple tasks such as eating better or sticking to my budget or to a schedule of any sort (such as writing this blog post).

And those are just the “small” things.

How can I profess to be faith filled when I struggle daily with being faithful? If I can’t make it through an overall mild Tuesday, what would make me believe I could survive the earth shattering and heart crushing days when more than my daily resources and time allotments are on the line?

Laying down at the end of the day and wondering can a God that good really love a person like me?

All of the doubts.

All of the fears.

All of the sticky situations.

When I knew better and when I didn’t.

When the tears come and despair knocks and the waves rise and the wind howls.

And I am thanking God again and again for every blessing, although… all the while knowing I have more to say. The reality being that He also knows I have more to say.

In this world it feels as if we are continually encouraged and tempted to hide whatever faults we have, whatever troubles we are carrying. Grin and bear it, if you will.

Don’t tell anyone that you struggle with that. Don’t suggest you’ve messed up. And don’t you dare admit you’re scared. Just leave it, it’s fine. Meanwhile, whatever it is grows bigger and eventually its darkness starts to envelop your life, primarily internally and eventually externally.

I didn’t see this coming. How did this happen? Who would have guessed?

God. God knew. God saw it coming. And?

He’s not surprised.  He saw the storm coming before it was on the horizon.

He reached out to catch me before I began to fall.

And He is kneeling beside me as I get up the courage to look up.

Because the beautiful, outrageous truth is – even when I am faithless, He is faithful.

You see, the problem is a part of me at times forgets that God- the Creator of the Universe and everything in it- is able to handle my honesty. From the little bits to the boulders.

He can handle the fact that at times my heart hurts, that sometimes I struggle and still sometimes I fall.

He can handle the fact that even though I know who He is and believe in all of His promises and rely solely on His truths, I do not always act accordingly.

He can handle the tantrums and the scars and that I am not perfect.

Because He is.

And so long as I am willing to bring it all to Him, every messy piece I’d rather hide, I can handle it too.

There is a song and one of the lines in the chorus reads, Show me that You can handle my honesty. The whole song is wonderful, but that line sealed it for me the day I heard it.

Those words, that question, at first hit me and opened a prayer. Words I wanted to scream at the top of lungs in the moment and at the same time hesitated to whisper. I wasn’t sure I could handle my own honesty most days.

However, as quickly as that prayer opened so did several recollections of the times God in fact did show that He could handle my honesty. He who is always faithful had never turned His back on me, not even once, no matter how reluctant I was to let Him in and let Him see just how messy it was.

Those words reminded me that not only can God handle my honesty, but He embraces it.

And I hope this post serves as a Public Service Announcement because He can handle your honesty too. Every hard question and unspoken horror and hidden sorrow.

You will find that when you let go and spill everything to God – you can handle it too.

She spent time with God and that is what made her lovely.

It wasn’t that she was perfect, always made the right choices and never had a single doubt or fear.

The secret has always been that she spent time with God… and unloaded every hurting and ruined bit. She gave Him the ashes and in turn He built them into something more beautiful than could ever be imagined.

The take aways from all this:

He created me.

He loves me.

And He can handle me.

In response to the question posed by Mikeschair- Grace was made for people like me.

** Song by Mikeschair, Title: People Like Me

The Impossible Dream

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

Thank God, because I am a lot of things but in most endeavors I am not qualified.

And qualifications aside, they never stop us from dreaming. At least I do not believe they should.

I cannot recount the amount of times my dreams, goals or plans were outside the realm of “possible”… well I could but that would require more words than usually associated with blog posts, mine of which already run long.

In all honesty, according to someone’s scale somewhere, I am probably not qualified to write blog posts.

Unfortunately for them, I have always dreamt big. Always wanting to reach a little further than recommended. I can’t give you the exact date, but for as long as I can remember two quotes have continuously shaped me. They are not incredibly profound, at least not at first glance. They are not necessarily compromised of many words. They’re short and simple really.

“We walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Norman V. Peale

Three sentences, twenty words and in my head they might as well be direct orders. With the faith they depict in the God I know, there is simply no additional conversation needed aside from which direction. Point the way, I am all in all the way.

Granted that doesn’t mean I always get my way.

You can ask my father, I have never been exceptionally talented at directions. So it’s no surprise that more often than not I think I’ve got the final destination all figured out – putting it in cruise control, full speed ahead – and then there happens to be a curve I didn’t quite see coming. Or curves. Much like the Appalachian Mountains really.

One of those curves hit this past week. Last Wednesday actually. I must say, God had been preparing me for it, but Lord knows it was still sharper than I had calculated. My heart tensed, momentary confusion and disorientation set in and a crashing reality flashed before my eyes.

And then Jesus took the wheel, He slowed it down and we took a moment to pull over. Because this wasn’t just one of those slight curves. You know the ones on back roads you mildly underestimate but still can manage to glide through with really no incident aside from the two extra heartbeats a minute.

No, this one changed our whole direction, it turned us onto a road I had known existed but wasn’t on my map as the way I had pictured us taking. No, this wasn’t my way at all. And we needed to take a minute, Jesus and I. Mainly because I needed to be still a moment and reassess what absolute truths I knew in contrast to what I no longer knew. Three truths emerged:

  1. God is good and He loves me and He has a plan.
  2. His plans are better than our best. Period.
  3. I still believe and have full faith in all of the above.

Quite frankly, I have a lot of plans. And a lot of different ways to get there. But ultimately it’s not my plan, it’s His. He is the way, the truth and the light.

He is the way.

So we are on a path which I hadn’t planned and which He had prepared. I am still all in, all the way. And I am still reaching further than “possible” allows, because with God anything is possible and I still dream one day to do the impossible.

**Thank You Sam Beasley on Unsplash for Photo

Fast(ing) Forward

Back in the beginning of December 2018 I made a decision to participate in the Daniel Fast at the start of 2019. This would be my fourth year undertaking the fast, and to be quite honest, I was really looking forward to it.

By the end of 2018 I had amassed an impressive assortment of questions pertaining to every area of my life; personal, professional, relationships, financial, physical, spiritual. And while I have full faith in God coming through according to His timing, a part of me seems to continuously search for that fast forward button. From my past experience I knew it was time for the fast because nothing slows me down more than fasting.

Fasting is a period of time where you temporarily give up something to make space for God. I realize that sounds strange, as in what could making space for God possibly have to do with food? Nothing really.

Except that going on the Daniel Fast helps my heart to remember what or who is my first priority. It seems so small, does God really care about whether or not I eat a piece of that cake or if I have one slice of pizza on Saturday night? No, He doesn’t. Remember Jesus’s words in Matthew,

What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” v.15:11

What God does care about though is that above having a slice of pizza or a piece of my favorite dessert, I desire to honor my commitment to Him most. It’s not to say I do not feel the temptation to cheat or bend the rules a bit, but that above those temptations He comes first.

Being on the fast reminds my heart of who my hope is in, who I turn to when nothing feels right or who I cry to when I am not sure where the journey leads. By continuously having to remember what I cannot eat on the fast and preparing meals, I am continuously reminded of a God who would cherish such a seemingly small sacrifice. Everything He has ever done and I struggle giving up tea, chocolate and coffee for 21 days.

Actually back at the beginning of December last year I decided I would extend my fast past the 21 day period (reflective of Daniel’s fast which was 3 weeks long) and go until noon on February 4th. This date may seem random but for me it is a date which will set all of 2019, and my future, unto one path or another. I knew I would need the extra weeks to ensure my heart remained focused and my eyes stayed fixed as Jesus led me across the water, reminding me that He is the one who ultimately sets my path.

And that is why I fast, and love it when I do.

It’s not a diet, there is no way I would still have Christmas candy if this was just a diet where I was answerable to only myself. Not to say the health benefits are not great, because the doctor’s will tell you they are, but they are an added bonus.

It’s not a way to earn “bonus points” and get on God’s “really” good side so He will answer all my prayers accordingly. The reality is that God answers all prayer in His time and according to His purpose. No, fasting doesn’t change God’s mind but instead it changes our hearts.

All those questions I had accumulated over 2018 I have been able to lay at His feet, and leave them there. I have handed over every burden. I don’t have answers because I don’t need them. All I need to know is that He is in control and therefore there is nothing to fear. Despite the storms and the waves my eyes are fixed on HIm and He who is always faithful will bring me through.

There are several different fasts. Different time frames, from hours to days to weeks to months. And it’s not always food related, maybe a social media fast or tv fast or just a caffeine fast would be best. The key is to choose one thing you will miss throughout your allotted time without it and then when you do miss it be reminded of your ultimate why. You made a commitment. Be reminded of who you made that commitment to, a commitment which in reality seems so small compared to all He has committed to and accomplished for us.

If you are like me you will be surprised to find that fasting isn’t really something we do that “benefits” God. No, it is actually something which we benefit from in ways we never fathomed before we begun.

One more thing, after every fast in the Bible there was a celebration. I can already feel the joy bubbling up not because I have received any answers but because I am the daughter of a King who loves me uncompromisingly and who hears all my cries. What have I to fear knowing that ultimately that whatever I face is not a permanent state and that something better than I could ever imagine is on the horizon.

Cheers!

**Thank you Kate Remmer on Unsplash for the photo!