Springtime Poem: A Celebration of Victory

My personal spring is here.  The clouds of my storm are departing and the Son is shining through.  Like a flower, I will open my petals and let the light warm my face… taking in the beauty of the rainbow and the sweet aroma of the One Who Loves Me Most.  My soul will leap for joy in Your Presence.  My heart will sing songs of love and praise.  I will dance in the spacious place You’ve given me with happiness and gratitude on my lips.  Today I will fall in love with You again, like I did yesterday and like I will tomorrow.

God is talking…

but is your book open?  He speaks a lot and often.  Even when He is silent, He is speaking.  It’s something you come to know as you grow with Him.  But, to be 100% real with you, if you are praying and contending but keeping your bible closed, you are missing stuff.

blog meme bible

He speaks to us in all sorts of ways.  I’ve come to enjoy the creativity He uses in getting a word or an answer to me, but I would have been blind to a lot of it had I not been in my bible.  I try to read it every day.  I am at the point where if I miss a day, I feel a bit off – not condemned or guilt stricken or anything like that, just off.

I have the YouVersion Bible app on my tablet and my favorite devotional is The Bible in One Year.  It’s very insightful.  You really see how the bible is one cohesive book.  And when I read, I study.  I highlight, make notes, write down things that stand out and I re-read – and not just the passage, I re-read my bible.  Something that was relevant awhile ago will take on a new or deeper meaning the next time around.  And read it all – even the Old Testament… even Leviticus and Numbers (lol).  Those are my hard ones, but they are relevant and have meaning.  They show why Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary and such an amazing, gracious and merciful blessing!  We could never perfectly keep all those laws!  And those Old Testament books have plenty of “right now” information.  Read it all.

I said all of that to say this, one of the primary languages and ways you will actually converse with the Lord (as in a two way convo) is through your bible.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a verse that spoke to my current situation or something I have been praying over.  Sometimes a verse just sticks out and I know it’s a “pay attention” word that I need to just note and keep in the back of my head because it will come into play later.  As you continue in this pursuit you get a fuller realization of God and His love and desires for us and you’ll find yourself (if you really go for it with your everything ) with an amazing relationship with the Lord.  You’ll see His hand in everything around you and will start picking up on the subtle and varied ways He speaks.  And, you’ll also be able to discern that you are hearing from Him because it will match up to His Word.

I really felt the need to post this because a couple of days ago, something caught my eye that reminded me of a story involving Elijah – something I might have passed up by not really being in the Word.  I like to think I’m the sort of girl who will notice the burning bush and will go take a deeper look, but I’m pretty sure in my lost days, I missed a whole lot of stuff, a whole lot of much needed guidance due to blindness of my own making by not having a relationship with Him, by not listening to what He has to say.  Anyway, that thing caught my eye and I asked Him to confirm what I gleaned from it’s meaning and I got a very quick answer.  I can’t help but think, “Wow, I totally would have missed that one had I not read that, had I not heard that story.”  I wouldn’t have the hope I have today.

Open your book.  Bless yourself.  Pursue the Word and above all else, pursue Him.  “Seek ye first the Kingdom…”

 

A moment of gratitude

Sometimes, God answers a prayer so quickly He leaves my head spinning.

This morning, I was having my time with the Lord and pouring out everything in me.  I’m an emotional person.  And, as per usual, as I seem to be hitting an apex, one of my little twins wanders in and sits in my lap. Normally, I repeat my rules to them so they don’t interrupt or I walk them out of the room.  Today, I just held her and rocked her and continued to pray.  I had one of those bittersweet moments that parents know – the one where you realize they aren’t so small anymore.  Tears begin to flow and my mom guilt washes over me.

In the last two or three days, I have spent more time cleaning up after them, than I have been holding them.  This often results in super clingy children – which creates a cycle of frustration because things have to get done if for no other reason than comfort’s sake.  I just poured that out to Him, too.  And this verse came forth…

Isaiah 49:21 Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who bore me these? I was bereaved and barren; I was exiled and rejected. Who brought these up? I was left all alone, but these–where have they come from?'”

For the last year, I have desperately needed to press into Him so much so that I would often let someone watch them so He and I could talk, so I could pray, cry out and read His Word hoping for an answer, comfort, direction…  I often feel like I have gone through this year not really seeing them and loving them the way I had envisioned when I was told I was carrying them.  These beautiful little gifts given to me after a such a bitter struggle with infertility and I feel so very far away.  But, I know He will restore that lost time, too.  It wasn’t in vain.  He’s done it before for me and He WILL do it again.  But, that verse.  It is so bold in these moments.  “Who brought these up?”   It’s not only His gentle reminder, but it’s also one that causes awe.  I feel so far away, but they are doing beautifully.  HE has cared for them while I’ve pressed in.  HE helps me when things get hard.  

So, after I finished up, I went into the next room to start getting my home in order only to look up and see that same one gathering up toys.  When I asked what she was doing, she said she was putting them in her backpack to help me put them away.  I looked up, smiled and whispered a soft “Thank you”.  Moments later, her sister started helping me as well.  So, now I’m this teary eyed mess because it gets me every time… even in the little things… those tears from feeling guilty and overwhelmed meant something to Him.  How can I not be grateful, humbled and in awe?

 

Just a taste…

While I was reading Psalm 34, I came across a verse that struck me:

Taste and see that the LORD is good.  (Psalm 34:8)

And, I felt the Spirit say, “What a good thing to pray for your enemies!”  And, yes, yes it REALLY is!  Coming from the following premise, this is the Lord’s genius at work:

  • They are His children, too, just as we are.  He cares for them as He does us.  It is not His will that anyone should perish, but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

The way I understood it is if they had a taste of His goodness, they would want more of Him.  Makes sense, right?  You’ve been in the kitchen and someone offered you a taste of something that whet your appetite.  You couldn’t wait to sit down and enjoy a whole plate of it.  And, once you get that plate, when something is really good, you want seconds, maybe even thirds.  God’s goodness makes you want to pull your chair up directly to the buffet!  And, as stewards of the faith, you should want them to become part of the Kingdom!  And when they are part of the Kingdom, they can’t keep on treating you the way they do.

So, pray that they get a taste.  It’s not that they are being rewarded for their treatment of you.  No, instead, it’s like positive reinforcement for doing good things.  You pray for a taste in another area of their life that will entice them away from the wickedness.  So that they can

depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)

Love thy neighbor.  Pray for your enemies and be blessed.  And if you will read the entire Psalm like it is my hope and prayer that you do, dear reader; you will see that He has got you covered.

SIDE NOTE:  Thank you to all of those who have begun following me on Instagram (faithFULL31blog).

Windy City

Well, town in my case.  It is crazy windy today.  It is sunny, a little cold, but crazy windy.  In the last two days are so, I’ve seen a couple of prophets mention the “winds of change”.  I told you I feel something imminent in the air.  I don’t know how long before this happens, but I wanted someone to be aware.  I have a word of encouragement.  I often get interrupted praying – I have toddlers.  Enough said.  I tend to get frustrated because just when it seems I’m in the Spirit… “Mommmmmmmmmy…”  Argh!  But, today, the break was good.  I got a word!

I told you it was time to pray big, bold prayers and put some faith behind them.  Since I released that, I’ve had images of me in armor ready to absolutely SLAY!  Demons, giants, whatever.  Just this beautiful gold armor, helmet, shield up and sword at the ready!  I’ve got that Deborah spirit on me!  Please read Ephesians 6:10-20!  Keeping that in mind, I was thinking of the situation I have been praying over.  I have used strong phrases like “storm the gates” and “hostile takeover”.   These sound violent, right?   One prophet I follow regularly mentioned having a dream of a tornado.  That is a violent wind storm.  So, I typed in “tornado bible verses” and came across one that was kind of in the vein I was praying over some prodigals in my life.

“Behold, the storm of the LORD has gone forth in wrath, Even a whirling tempest; It will swirl down on the head of the wicked.”  (Jeremiah 23:19)

Now, I’m not praying bad things over the prodigals.  I’m praying it and calling this wrath down on their captor – the enemy – who led them astray.  I want the Lord to storm the gates and do a hostile takeover of these beloved lost souls.  I remember saying, “hostile takeover” and thinking “Is that right?”  When foreign words or phrases to my everyday vernacular pop up, I’m pretty sure it’s the Holy Spirit at work.  And, this really is the closest I’ve come to speaking in tongues.  (lol)  So, I looked up “hostile takeover”.

The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart.  (Jeremiah 23:20)  
I keep thinking of those lost sheep – hey, I’ve been one – and the following verses:
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me.  And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For it is My Father’s will that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  (John 6:38-40)
It’s not His will to lose sheep.  Thank God He sent the Shepherd after me.  So, here I am wanting to spread the Word, to encourage, to be a vessel, trying to point other sheep towards the Shepherd so he can bring them home.
Now pray and slay away!

Some weather we’re having…

According to a lot of prophets right now, 2017 is going to be a big year.  A lot of R’s – reformation, restoration, revival – a lot of V’s (victories) and currently, a season of acceleration.  You can research all that and take it before the Lord and get His say on it, especially for your life.  I am here for all of that after 2016.  I can’t say I was sad to close the chapter on that year.  So, claim it, declare it and speak it over your life if that’s for you.

I, personally, feel a change in the air or a shift towards something good, if not downright amazing lately.  I’m practically giddy.  It’s changed the way I pray.  I’m praying big and bold.  I’m praying over what looks like from a wordly standpoint to be impossible because I know ALL things are possible for those who believe (Mark 9:23) and nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).  So, why not?  Why not pray big?  Show Him your faith in Him and what He can do.  I’m praying over my friends with big mountains to climb and just big stuff I want to see changed in our world.  I’m up at fourth watch this morning praying boldly over changes and prayers I want to see come to pass.  Ephesians 3:20 says he can do exceedingly and abundantly more than I can think or ask so… let’s do it!  Blow my mind, Lord!

I think a video that really kind of drove this idea home for me that He can do ANYthing was from Francis Chan’s Crazy Love bible study on the YouVersion app. – a great app, by the way.  I recommend it.  It’s full of all sorts of devotionals.  A friend and fellow church member recommended it to me.  (I am not getting paid for this. I just think it’s a cool, portable way to read the Word.)  It’s entitled The Awe Factor of God.  It’s short; so watch.  Then, please continue reading.

Amazing, right?  He created all of that and yet He still thinks we’re worth it.  Jesus thought it was worth getting on the cross for teeny, tiny beings that are pretty much invisible from only so many light years away.  And, we question what God can do in our lives?

So, what does this have to do with the weather?  For me, a lot.  I’ve been in this sort of weird waiting/transitional season in my life.  I feel like and am claiming and declaring some big R’s and V’s over my life and they feel crazy close.  One question that I try not to ask but on occasion seems to pop into my head is:  how long?  I’m human.  I’m trying to stay focused on my personal growth with the Lord, His promises to me…  I’m trying to thrive where I am.  But, I can’t help it.  Now, to be fair and perfectly honest, I miss stuff when He’s talking to me.  Thank God He repeats!  I often say, “Hit me over the head with it.  Highlight it.  I miss stuff!”  And, He does.  The weather has been crazy where I am and as I was thinking about these prophetic words and some verses that have been jumping out at me and, then, the pattern spoke to me.  This past week and this current week go like this:  cold, warm, rainy, snow, warm…  In the bible (and life), the weather is a language God uses to speak to His people.  It speaks to the times and the seasons.  This accelerated season is being confirmed in this weather.  It’s a growth regimen.  A seed (prayer) needs fertile soil (faith, a softened heart, strong belief, etc.), light (sun or The Son), and water (rain, dew, snow often used to symbolize blessings).  I have planted some, hopefully, good, big, bold seeds during my sowing season that I’ve been waiting to harvest or, at least, bloom and blossom.  I’ve actually prayed accelerated “Jesus strength Miracle Grow” over them.  Those exact words, no joke.  And, it looks like it’s happening.  Thank You, Lord!

If you’re in this same season, I say now is the time to go big and bold in your prayer life, get strong in your faith and belief, stand FIRM on those promises and get your harvesting gear ready.  This is going to be a blessed year!  In Jesus’ matchless name, Amen!

Prayer Tip: Praying for your enemies

While I’m waiting on the next thing the Spirit puts on my heart to write, I decided as part of this blog, I will post tips along the way.  This past Sunday my pastor was preaching about loving thy enemy and praying for them.  I heard one of my fellow church members saying, “It’s hard.  I can’t do it.”  And, it IS hard.  It’s really hard when someone is being cruel to you, stealing from you or worse, to like them, pray for them and let alone love them.  I think loving them comes from going deeper in your relationship with the Lord.  But, I think I have found a place to  break through and pray sincerely for our enemies.

Admittedly, I used to pray through gritted teeth.  And, honestly, if that’s the only way you can right now, I say do it.  Be obedient to the Lord.  Then, ask him to help you pray more intentionally for whomever it is you are at odds with at the time; but, your goal should be to get from obedient to a place of sincerity.  Why?  It’s powerful.   James 5:16 (NIV) says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  You want something to change in your situation?  Get intentional.

First, let’s look at the first part of that verse.  It’s the key to making your prayers impactful.  Notice it says “righteous”.  Obviously, you, yourself, need to be aligned and in good standing with the Lord.  But, you also need a sincere mindset.  The way I can get there in that sincere place with that aligned mindset is finding some common ground – so to speak – with the Lord.  My common ground, my place of understanding, is as a parent.  He is our Father, which means… He is their Father, too.  I’m a mother.  I learn a lot about His nature through being a parent.  So, I try to think about it from that standpoint.  This enemy of mine is now a wayward child.  Maybe you, too, have a wayward child.  Pray what you want prayed over yours.  Become in your mind their parent.  Let it move you.  Maybe you don’t and you are just trying to raise yours up well.  What help do you want from the Lord to keep them on the straight and narrow?  Pray that.  Not a parent?  What are you?  Are you person with a friend who makes bad decisions?  Pray to that.  Got a wayward sibling or relative?  Yes, actually, we ALL do.  We are all, again,  His children – even them – pray for your enemy  a.k.a. your wayward sibling in Christ.  You see what I’m saying?  Change your position from an enemy to one of compassion and/or sympathy.  It changes your heart.  If you really allow yourself to go there, to sit in that new position,  you can be moved and emotionally/spiritually burdened to pray for them out of compassion.  Bottom line:  get to a place of hating the sin not the sinner.

Wanna double down?  Put yourself in their shoes.

whoa-memeLet it overheat.  Go there.

What hurt is driving their behavior towards you?  ‘Cause, you know, hurting people hurt people.  There is some pain in their lives that is the root for a lot of their undesirable behavior.  In fact, if you really listen to what they say to you, they’ve probably given you either overt or subtle clues as to their issue with you.   And, just to be really real here, if you think about it, you probably have some deeply rooted pain that spurns a lot of your not-so-great behavior.  What healing do you need?  Maybe they need that as well.

Let me pause here and say that there are some situations where you just are a convenient target.  As someone who has survived and thrived after abusive situations, let me say this loud and clear:  IT’S ALL ON THEM.  YOU DO NOT DESERVE ABUSE… EVER… PERIOD!  Take care of yourself.  Get away.  Get help.  Get healed.  I can say at this point in my life, I have no animosity towards those people in my life.  I see their brokenness.  I have pity for them.  I pray for their healing and wholeness and wish them well.  I forgive them, but I take no ownership in their treatment of me.  Everyone is called to exercise self-control.  God did NOT put me on earth to be a physical, verbal or emotional punching bag for someone else.

Now, for the final part… what you pray must be righteous and in line with His Will.  You can’t pray bad stuff over people.  Imagine a titanium ceiling above your head.  Those prayers won’t break through that sucker.  And, in some cases, that stuff finds its way back to you.  Yikes!  Do you still want to pray that?  He won’t hear those types of prayers or if He does, that answer is going to be either a very resounding “NO!” or it’s going to be an obvious silence – you know the one.  The one that comes with side eye.  Or… the mom face… the one I give my kid or pretty much anyone who asks me something they already know the answer to.  Let me see if I can give you a visual…

mom-side-eye2Yeah… this one.  You know better than that.  Really?!?

I should probably stop and tell you, there will be a forthcoming post about my “quirks” and my sense of humor and the general random weirdness or silliness that might find its way here and what the Lord said to me about it.  It actually was very loving and validating and empowering.  You’ll get a feel for my voice and what I want to do on this blog… laugh for instance… and maybe it will help other members of my “square peg in a round hole” tribe.  Shout out to you folks, by the way.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and loved.

Getting back to my message…  pray righteously… pray generously.  Wait… what?  Yes, pray generously as in “Father God, I pray Your best for ___ in Jesus’ name, Amen.”  Why would you want to do that? Because once that Jesus sized hole in their lives is filled with His best – Jesus – they’re not going to want to keep on with you.  When you are really filled with love, joy and with that peace that surpasses understanding, you take away the hold some offenses have over you.  They seem not to be so important.  Pray that they have a hunger for the Lord.  And, do you seriously think His best is to let them get away with hurting you or to give them more ammo to come at you.  NO!  God wants them healed and doing His Will and busy working and living for His Kingdom.  He wants them to be good stewards which means loving THEIR enemies – you.  But, then again, maybe you won’t be enemies anymore by then… I’m going to leave that right there and let you ponder it.

Now… one little caveat…  praying like this does things.  You’re wanting it to right a wrong, but don’t be surprised if you aren’t righted yourself.  (Proverbs 3:12)  I’m speaking from experience here. I’ve never really been able to escape praying over my complaint list without Jesus saying “Well, what about you?”  Well, um… what had happened was… See, there’s two sides to the story and the truth is somewhere in the middle.  Each person has their own view of the conflict and Jesus knows all the details!

Speaking of conflict… You are not only dealing with an issue on an earthly level, you are daily dealing with very real spiritual warfare.  There is one who LOVES to stir up strife, confusion and discontent while trying to stay hidden to carry out his daily mission to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10a).  While you’re on your knees praying for your earthly enemy, remember to rebuke that spiritual one!.

Praying like this deepens your faith, strengthens your walk and releases blessings.  Praying for your enemies is a little radical.  It’s a little crazy.  It’s a little unexpected, but it’s a lot like Jesus and isn’t that sort of our aim?  To be more like him?

Well, that’s my tip… or maybe this IS that thing I was waiting on.  I’m not sure.  One can never tell with these things.  Still getting the hang of this. If it is, I like what you did there, Lord.  I hope this was helpful, reader.

May God bless you and keep you.

Don’t Be Afraid to Go Deep with the Lord

You’ll notice there is a considerable gap in postings here.  It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write.  I’ve desperately wanted to.  I’ve kept notes or ideas stored up in the back of my head for awhile.  Only, I felt the Lord was telling me to wait.  It wasn’t the content, it was the timing.  Just in the last days have I been given the go ahead.  I trust Him and His plans and so, this is pretty much how this is going to go.  I will post at what He tells me to and when.

Today’s post has been brewing for about a week.  It came from me preparing for a conversation with a friend on a personal matter.  And, as per usual, as the thoughts began flowing, so began the words from my mouth.  This is the new weird normal for my kids hearing mom mumbling to herself.  I’m blessed that it just is with them and they leave me to it.  Usually this “quirk”, these utterances end up being a blessing to me.  I’ve breathed life into myself – like a pep talk – over situations or sometimes, I end up saying something I really needed to hear.  When these things happen, I am smart enough to know that they aren’t from me.  And, I know this sounds crazy, but this really is sort of the new normal since really pursuing a relationship with the Lord.  We talk… often… everyday… even when I think I’m just talking out loud to myself.  Beautiful things come from these conversations.  And, lately, I feel like they are tied to my Purpose.  I’m excited to see how this unfolds.  What a humbling privilege!

Anyway, back to the topic!  The conversation was about me wanting to somehow tell my friend to take all opinions about her situation and place them before the Lord for direction and confirmation, to intentionally pursue Him and His direction because my “gut”, my inner Jiminy Cricket (aka the Holy Spirit) was telling me the opposite of what she was hearing.  So, why not place it before Him to remove all confusion?  With this flow of thought I heard myself say “Don’t be afraid to go deep with the Lord.  He won’t let you drown.”  That’s good and while I’m witty, I know that was the Lord speaking.  And, it is so true.  There is scripture to back it up.  He has shown me a few examples since that day and I would love to share them with you with the hopes of encouraging you into pursuing a relationship with Him, one He desires to have with you whether you are on the fence, a baby Christian or a long time walker.  We can always continue to deepen our relationship with Him.

So, our first example is in Exodus 14 starting with verse 15.  I’m intentionally not going to put all the scripture here because I really want you to read it for yourself.  And don’t just read a verse.  Read the chapter.  Read the book.  If you’ve read it before, read it again.  Get the full picture.  Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt with Pharaoh and his army in hot pursuit.  We all know the story, but we are going to look at it through the lens of faith.  Can you imagine that?  Being chased at an army with no discernible way to go and then being asked to walk through the middle of the sea?  Sure, self-preservation would having you hauling through, but wouldn’t it be a little scary looking up seeing just walls water on either side not entirely sure how long that would last or what would be waiting for you on the other side?  But they stepped through on faith.  This is what they’d been praying for – for their God to come and save them from the oppressive life they had been living.  I’m guessing it probably wasn’t what they pictured and it hardly ever is – His ways are not our ways – but, He saw them safely through.  THEY weren’t swept away.  No, they were strengthened through that experience.  That instance bolstered them, put praise on their lips and had them singing.  There have a been quite a few times He has come through for me in an unexpected way (when I could see no way at all) that had me singing and dancing when it was all said and done.

Our next example is Jonah.  Now, this is an interesting (and kind of funny) example.  Jonah is running from God.  He knows His plans, has a pretty good idea what He’s going to do and wants no part of it.  God said “Go to Ninevah.”  Jonah went the opposite direction.  I’m seriously giggling about this only because I can sympathize with poor Jonah.  The Ninevites don’t have a good reputation for good reason.  I’ve been asked a time or two to do what I would consider the unthinkable or at least, the unpalatable and I, too, in my life have run from God – which is just plain silly because where are you gonna go?  All you are going to do is run right straight into Him – which Jonah ultimately did.  So Jonah is fleeing on a ship to Tarshish.  God is simply not having it and causes a violent storm to come upon the sea that is threatening to destroy the ship.  Jonah is sleeping soundly while chaos is breaking loose.  The crew has tried praying to their gods, throwing off cargo and in an attempt to figure out what is going on, casts lots to figure out who is the cause of this.  Guess who it was.  You can’t run and you can’t hide. So after being approached, he relents.  He is at fault and tells them to toss him overboard to remedy the situation.  Perhaps he resolved himself to the fact that this was a just punishment… but God (one of my favorite sayings)… in His infinite mercy, God sends a great fish to swallow him.  He doesn’t even let us drown when we make mistakes or try to run because we are scared!  Granted the process for repentance feels probably about as good as sitting in a stinky fish belly, but it gets results.  Jonah was grateful for being saved and offered up praise.  Now, I know, Jonah ends with him being a little salty about the Ninevites and their forgiveness, but I still believe Jonah’s faith grew from that situation.  He certainly learned Who has the final say and a little something about His nature.  But, I’d like to also believe that he came to understand, with time, what God was doing – showing the Ninevites the same mercy He showed Jonah (and us).

I could make this a really long post with other examples, but I’ll leave that to you and end with Jesus.  I could tell you about the storm that arose while he was sleeping down in the boat that frightened his disciples and how he calmed the storm with simple, but powerful words – how mighty is our Lord! – definitely not drowning on that boat!  (Mark 4:35-41); but, instead, we’ll talk about Peter.  You know the story (Matthew 14:22-33).  You’ve seen the bumper sticker:

ff31-blog

This one is still so amazing to me.  Peter and the other disciples have been sent across the lake while Jesus remains behind to pray.  They are being obedient to the Lord.  They soon find themselves in trouble as a strong wind has stirred up the waves.  They look up to see Jesus walking on the water towards them.  Thinking they’d seen a ghost, Peter asked the Lord if it’s really him to tell him to come out to him on the water.  Jesus obliges.  And Peter, with great faith, steps out of the boat and walks towards Jesus.  In what was probably a test of faith and maybe an attack (sometimes these things happen simultaneously and why wouldn’t the devil want to shake Peter up and keep him down and doubtful in what he could do in Christ?), Peter lost sight of the Lord and got distracted by the problems and found himself going under (as we all do at times).  He cries out to the Lord and Jesus pulls him out.  So many beautiful things happened here.  Peter got a glimpse of what could be done.  Peter learned about the strength of faith.  How can you not recognize and be in awe of your Lord in that moment? And, he learned that when he needed the Lord, he need only to call and he would answer.  This is a truth I’m just so grateful for.  Every. Single. Time.

So, we see the continuous symbol and use of deep water.  Why?  I think it’s because it so intimidating and beautiful and scary and mysterious.  And isn’t that such a perfect vehicle to describe faith and at times, God’s love for us?  It’s scary to step out on it.  We’re afraid of the unknown whether we like to admit it or not.  But, He loves us.  He cares deeply for us.  He knows everything that’s going to happen to us and since the very beginning, He has left nothing to chance.  He has plans to prosper us, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).  Sometimes, we don’t get to know every detail.  Sometimes, we’re not even sure what the plan is.  Sometimes, we only get to see a few feet at a time.  But He wants us to be obedient and to trust Him.  It’s scary.  It’s a process.  But it is for our own good.  We’re meant to do more than just survive each day until He calls us home.  There is a purpose for your being here.

My faith has grown because I prayed and asked Him to help me with it.  And it was situations like these (stepping out of faith, doing the unthinkable, believing He could do the impossible) that did just that.  I was not initially a hopeful person.  Life had burned me in the trust department a time or two… misplaced trust to be fair, but burned, nonetheless.  And I considered myself to be very logical, so asking me to see, believe or do the impossible was a tall order without His help.  But, He did.  And I have grown and my relationship and faith and hope and love and trust and a slew of other things have only deepened because of it.  And I am so grateful for every mercy He has shown me, every ounce of patience, forgiveness, love and it makes me want to sing and praise and be this willing vessel for His messages.  It makes me want to spread His love and it has me here wanting to tell you about it and encourage you to take that step out of the boat.  Why?  Because He never lets me drown and He won’t let you either.  He crazy loves us that much!  Pursue a relationship with Him and deepen it.  It’s worth it.  I hope this blessed you.  Until next time…

 

Year End Reflections

joyblog1

This time last year, I was running as fast as possible from 2015 and wishing people an abundance of this on my Instagram page.  To state the obvious, this is the bubbly, doggedly optimistic little character from  Disney Pixar’s Inside Out.  Now… I don’t know about any of you, but of the top ten words or phrases I would use to describe this current year, “joy” or “joyful” would not be on the list.  My 2016 was rough.

The funny thing is I didn’t know what joy was.  I’ve been happy, smitten, gleeful, giddy, but I had no clue what joy really was.  A quick online search defines joy as (n) a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.  Yeah, I’ve felt that before but why does it seem so elusive?  Happiness is defined as (n) a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.  The two seem interchangeable and even yet another search of the difference between the two ranges from “You’re splitting hairs” to overindulgent contemplation.  To me, it felt like happiness seemed to be a temporary thing.  Joy seemed like something more permanent, ethereal even.  Why was that?

And then I saw how it:  the pursuit of happiness.  Aha!  What was I pursuing?  What was my idea of happiness?  Turns out whatever it was (I’ll keep that between me and the Lord) was a feeble attempt to fill the void.  That’s why I always had that “that shoe is going to drop any minute now” feeling that kept me from feeling completely and truly happy.  It wasn’t doing the job.  It was too dependent on changeable, unstable factors.  In order for me to have joy – this mysterious thing I kept reading about in the bible, I was going to have to pursue something, someone different.  And so, I did.

It was a long hard road.  And when you take off on these journeys, they never look like the map in your head.  When you start pursuing and following the Lord, it’s never a straight line; it’s never the route you would take.  First, it usually starts with you getting real and raw about who you are.  Then, there’s a remodeling process until you look like who He thinks you are – life changing.  I really recommend it.  Ask Him.  It’ll blow your mind.  Along the way, there are valleys, tests, fiery furnaces – it ain’t for the faint of heart… but don’t you kind of know that going into it?  And after awhile, you start looking like this:

joyblog2

Okay… that was for comic relief, but people who have traveled this road know that face and that feeling.  And then one day, when you’re not struggling so much, you’ve learned to yield and roll with it, to trust him… this happens:

You wake up and realize you have joy.  And what is joy?  Joy, to me, is knowing that no matter how much of a bummer your day might be, you can still be happy.  For me, that is simply saying, “Jesus, I’m weak and the only way I’m going to get through this moment is with you and right now, I could really use…”  And, he (stable, faithful and unchanging), so awesomely and steadfastly helps me through – every single time.  And, that’s really all that is.  It’s saying, “Thank you God for another day.  I want to be and am determined to be happy or at least, hold my peace today.  And I can do that with Your help.”  Well, that’s part of it (knowing how much He loves me leaves me downright elated) and that’s what works for me anyway.

So, as I am now newly into 2017, I realized I finished strong.  I have joy (and faith and hope) and I am taking her into the new year with me.

And with that, dear reader, I leave you with the following:

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)

Happy New Year!