The story is this… I thought I wanted to be a writer. I think I may still want to be a writer. But some days I can’t figure out what my story is, I can’t figure out why I want to share it, how, where, and when I want to share it. I can’t even figure out who needs to hear it.
When we tell our stories—humbly, authentically, with the intent to glorify God—it can encourage others. I always want my story to have a happy ending, I like it when it wraps up neatly with a bow. But tonight, I’m smack dab in the middle of messiness. And that’s not usually the best time to share. But here is what I do know.
Always, I want my story to remind myself, my kids, my circle of influence, that God is good, God is love, and God is in control . I know that when I have a breakdown, I can respond like David and go to the loving arms of my Father. Sometimes I ask Him, “How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever?” Or “why do the heathen prosper?” Or “why is my soul cast down?”
And I ask these questions until He reminds me, that … “He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul” and I can experience peace because “You LORD, make me dwell in safety” and “He rescued me because He delights in me.”
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5-6
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
What story are you telling? How do you combat the questions and doubts with truth? What encouraging truth in your story can you share with us today?
We all have a voice. We’ve been given a circle of influence, our family, our community, our social media following, our church or neighborhood. How are we using our voice in that circle of influence? Are we speaking life into those with whom we come in contact? Are we using our voice for good or for evil? To build up or tear down? To encourage or cause harm?
I don’t think many would say they are intentional in being harsh and critical, in causing heaviness or anxiety to those around them, but out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. What do your words, your actions, your social media posts promote?
Sometimes I go silent on my blog and social media because I don’t know what to say, I’m too busy to sort out thoughts, or I just need a break. But sometimes, it gets quiet because I’ve been taught—“if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Often it’s my heart that needs a readjustment, some hope, the truth of God’s Word, a good dose of Jesus.
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Proverbs 12:25 ESV
The grass grows where it’s watered, the plants that are fed are the ones that prosper, and the thoughts you rehearse in your head are the ones that take root and grow and repeat. So when I feel the negativity taking over, when I find myself easily irritated by the little things, when I can’t seem to find the beauty in my everyday, I go back to the Psalms, I go back to the words of Jesus, I write the words of encouragement that I need to hear and I share it with others in hopes that I’m not the only one.
I plant my feet in the grass. I look at God’s creation. I beg Him to show me His daily presence. I give thanks for the wildflowers, I find beauty in the sunrises and sunsets, I marvel at the cardinals and bluebirds in my yard. I immerse myself in the Psalms and Proverbs, processing my emotions like David and seeking wisdom like Solomon. And then I use my voice to praise my Creator. I give thanks for the way He carries me. I believe and shout like Peter… “where else would I go? You, Jesus, have the words of Life.”
Speak truth, speak life, speak hope, speak Jesus.
How does being grounded in truth help you find your voice?
What does it take for one to perceive the love of God? How do we truly understand the magnitude of His love for us, that He laid down his life for us? What is it about the faith of a mustard seed—so tiny, so strong? Do you live your life aware of God’s never-ending, unconditional, love? Maybe you have never seen His love or been told about His gift for you.
I grew up in church and although I heard the message regularly, it didn’t sink in until I was a teenager. Even now, I’m prone to wander, prone to forget. Some days I am more aware of it than others. My focus isn’t always on Things Above, and in my finite mind it’s easy to forget the loving kindness of the Lord. But then I am reminded once again of His sacrifice for me, for you. He laid down his life for us.
He laid down His life for us.
When I think of my tendencies toward sin, selfishness, anger, impatience, it’s hurtful. It hurts God, it hurts those around me. My sin and your sin is ugly. It’s easy for me to see what my kids are doing wrong, or the sins scattered in the news of those in the spotlight. But sometimes I need to be reminded that it was MY sin that He died for. He paid the penalty for MY sin.
And when I perceive this, am made truly aware of this and understand the unfathomable gift of His sacrifice, it should draw me to live devoted to the kingdom of God. We should be ready and willing to lay down our lives for others, to love one another, to serve one another. This can only be done as we walk in the Spirit.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
As I think on Christ’s sacrifice and God’s love, I understand that I must walk in step with the Spirit. How can I love my neighbor this week? How can I reach out in my community to show the love of Christ to strangers? How can I live for Jesus while at work? How can I serve my church family? How can I exemplify the fruit of the Spirit in my interactions with my children this week? How can I live in such a way that others see Jesus?
Multiple times over that last few months I have told friends that I would like to hibernate until May. January and February were kinda hard. The never ending snow caused me much anxiety, because even though I grew up in Buffalo, driving in snow is never something I look forward to. I felt cooped up and claustrophobic, even though home is where I most wanted to be. I dreaded everything but work (it’s nice to have a job you enjoy).
Because my hand is still tender from the break I gave it in the fall, there was no interest in walking outside, getting in my once-a-year-sledding, or even helping with the shoveling. Even if I could have met a friend for coffee, I couldn’t motivate myself to leave the house once I was home from work. I dreaded phone calls and zoom meetings more than usual. Even if I had wanted to bake sugary treats and comfort foods, my broken oven prevented that joy. I was basically going through the motions, picking up my feet for just the next step.
But guess what? The sun still shines, the snow has begun to melt. I wrote EVERY SINGLE DAY in February. There is already hope of spring. And God didn’t make us to hibernate. This year with the pandemic has been hard, because we are meant to live in community, to be active, to be outside in creation, to hug people, to share smiles and have conversation. Hibernation is not what we were created for.
It’s something I have to tell myself every single day. I was made for relationship. It’s not always easy. It takes effort. It takes sacrifice. It takes dying to self, because self would be fine to hibernate. It takes trusting Jesus and listening to his prompting. It takes looking for opportunity to connect with others.
Introvert or Extrovert? Do you love winter or hate it? Prefer crowds or one-on-one? Indoors or Outdoors? We are all different, but we need each other. So hibernate for a day if you need to, but then reach out and connect with someone. You were made for community.
I had a Mondayish Friday today. And I don’t like to say that because Mondays are a day that the Lord hath made and we should rejoice in it, just like any other day. What I mean to say is that I was/am in a slump. I am dragging, craving all the junk food, having the hardest time focusing on the tasks at work, and quickly losing my cool with my kids’ sassiness and selfishness. And experiencing a low-grade headache that is just persistent enough to let me know it’s there without completely knocking me out of commission. I was being short-tempered, sassy, and selfish myself.
But I made a choice. I knew that spending the evening slumped in front of the tv was not going to help my mood. Even if it was Friday family movie night. We ate dinner together, watched an episode of Wanda Vision, and then I excused myself to refocus and readjust my attitude. And through devotional and bible reading, I was quickly reminded that the devil wants me stuck in the dark, focused on the negative, believing the lies.
But God has enabled me to be free from sin, and that includes my own temper and selfish desires. The power of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is living inside of me and has enabled me to raise from the pit of despair I sometimes let myself wallow in. Yes, I have divine power.
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Peter 1:3-4 KJV
I don’t get it right every day, and I will probably snap at my kids again before bedtime, and I will have to apologize for being self-focused at least 3 more times this weekend. But I know that time spent in God’s Word and an intentional effort to be thankful will change my negative thought patterns.
“For all the promises of God in him are “Yes”, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
Yes, He has promised eternal life and he has promised abundant life, and he has blessed us with all spiritual blessings. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. So I run to Jesus and ask him again for the wisdom and grace to face the refiner’s fire. And I give Him all the thanks and all the glory.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:1-5
This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is Enable. Stop by and encourage a few more writers.
Sometimes I have a hard time waiting on God. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I need the reminder that God works outside of time. He is never late. When I look at life situations that don’t look like I think they should, or when I am asking God for answers or change or rescue or victory, I am always in a rush. I want to see progress, results, clear direction.
I keep wondering if there is something more I should be doing, something different. I struggle between the line of “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” and “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” How can it be both/and?
I struggle between the line of “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” and “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” How can it be both/and? (#patience)
I have seen him be faithful. I have seen the benefit of His timing. I know that He has not forgotten me (or my friends and family) and the struggles we face. I just have a hard time waiting… patiently, without anxiety.
God doesn’t want me and you to be lazy. He’s not asking me to do nothing. But He does ask us to trust Him. Patience doesn’t mean doing nothing. It is facing the wait without complaint, being steadfast despite adversity. It is trusting His guidance as to when to move forward and when to stand still. It is praying and seeking counsel on how to support others without enabling sin. It is being content where I am but also looking for future opportunities God has prepared for me. It is waiting in faith for God’s miracle in the lives of those I cannot change. How can I remain strong when it feels like things are crumbling around me?
In the New Testament, patience is often listed or linked closely with hope and love. Living out an example of patience means holding on to hope, walking in love, trusting Jesus. And the only way I know how to do that is to return to the truths of His word whenever I am tempted to think that we’ve reached the end of the line and there is no hope.
“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalm 27:14
“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him:” Psalm 37:7
“I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1
“The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.” Lamentations 3:25
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-23, 25
“I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1 (#patience #write28days)
“And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” Matthew 15:22-28
This story of the Canaanite women has often intrigued me. I question why Jesus did not answer her at first, and I’m amazed at her courage to be so persistent and loud that the disciples wanted to send her away. The Canaanite woman came to Jesus with her needs. She cried for mercy, she worshipped him, and she listened to his response.
And then she said, “Truth, LORD.”
Where can you say, “Truth, Lord.” Are you listening to the direction He is giving you? Can you see His hand at work? Do you take Him at His word?
I often panic when things are uncertain or overwhelming. I sometimes give up hope when I don’t see the good in a situation or I can’t see how God is going to use it for His glory. I want to hibernate when things aren’t going my way. I complain when God’s timing is not my timing. But this woman came boldly before Christ. She stated her need. And she responded full of faith. “Truth, Lord.” She believed in the goodness of the Lord.
Is there a situation in your life where you are asking the Lord for mercy, for direction, for rescue and it seems like he is not answering a single word? Are you persistent in prayer? Do you believe that God hears and answers prayer? Are you worshipping? Can you see the truth the Lord has for you?
Don’t give up hope. Pray in faith, believing that God is working all things together for good to them who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Remember the faith of the Canaanite woman, and may Jesus say of you, too, “Great is your faith, be it done for you as you desire.”
Perception: the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. Use your senses to be aware of your surroundings, your feelings, your community. God gave us senses to help us live this life to the fullest. They help us prepare for our next right thing. They remind us of moments, days, experiences.
When we take time to use our senses, it gives perspective to the situation around us. It gives us insight and understanding as we process where we are coming from and where we want to go. As we pay attention to our life, to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, our perception is what directs our next steps.
If I perceive I am not good enough to be a published author, I may be unwilling to put in the work to write daily and clarify my voice. However, if I hear to the words of encouragement from others, if I view comments and messages from readers, if I pay attention to the feelings I experience when I’ve completed my writing for the night, when I taste the satisfaction of a well-crafted sentence, this motivates me to keep going, to pick up the pen and work through another essay.
What is your perception of the life God has given you? Do you find joy and contentment in your job, your family, your church community? Do you perceive struggles as punishment or a gift from God to refine you to be more like Him? Gratitude fuels joy and contentment.
There are days that I feel very unthankful, my perception of the world around me is self-focused and negative. I’m running and rushing, and irritated when there is a wrinkle in MY plan. But when I take a deep breath and look up and out, then my perception of my circumstances change. In the chaos of Tuesdays when I run from work to dance and home and to dance again, and I eat dinner in the car (not every Tuesday… sometimes #myhusbandrocks and he does a taxi-run), I pause and see the gifts around me.
The magic of being a mom and finding missing items in random places. The beauty of street lights, deer in snow covered fields, drive thru pick up of prescriptions, the taste of soup for dinner in a travel mug, good conversations with the teenagers, the smell of fresh coffee (in yet another travel mug), a few minutes to type out some words, and to read a chapter of a book, the gift of groceries.
And always I return to the glory of giving thanks in all things. Changing my focus and perception of this gift of life I have been given and remembering that the world doesn’t revolve around me.
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed by Thy Name Thy Kingdom come Thy Will be done on earth, as it is in heaven Give us this day our daily bread And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, AMEN.
What does the Kingdom of God resemble? What would it look like for His Kingdom to come, His will be done here on earth? Are you praying for this?
I am beginning to see that my idea of God’s kingdom was narrow. It was easy for me to live in my little bubble, my tiny world, and my way of worship. But lately, I have begun to see the beauty of the whole kingdom of God, the variety of the body of Christ, full of different cultures and nationalities, worship styles and music, voices carrying a wealth of experiences.
The kingdom of God resembles a mustard seed, the tiniest of seeds which grows into a great tree. The kingdom of God resembles leaven, it only takes a tiny amount and some time to do the work and the bread grows. (Luke 13) The kingdom of God grows through the fervent prayer of the righteous. The kingdom of God grows through the willing participation of His people. The kingdom of God grows through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who trust in the completed work of Jesus Christ.