Prunin’ Ain’t Easy

A few years ago, my husband and I moved out of our charming little 700 square foot house with a petite yard in the middle of town to a house three times its size on four acres out in the country. I would tell you this was a huge adjustment, but that probably goes without saying. There were a lot of aspects of the house and the land that simply needed some TLC, and slowly but surely, our home is getting the care it deserves. We are learning how to take care of this place we love so dearly.

With the coming of spring, nature bounces back to life. Grass grows, flowers bloom, leaves return to the trees. Can you just smell the honeysuckles in your mind when you picture it? It is beautiful and vibrant! …aaaaaand exhausting! Goodness, where can we find the time to keep up with all this yard work in the hustle and bustle of life, work, parenting and so on?

On a recent weekend, we were carving out time to catch up on overdue yard work. On our property, there is a row of trees. We noticed that one of the trees didn’t even look like a tree anymore. There was so much growth around it that it was difficult to identify which branches belonged to the actual, intended tree. Once we identified the original tree, we began to cut away the unwanted limbs.

When we started this undertaking of uncovering the actual tree, we didn’t know what kind of job we signed ourselves up for. Cutting away the excess and unnecessary branches turned out to be a pretty major undertaking. The hedge trimmer wasn’t enough; we needed the chain saw and several other tools, too. Some of the limbs were weighty and it took both of us to move them. We ran into briars and sharp pieces of wood.

When we finally finished unearthing the sweet little pear tree, we were exhausted. Sweating. Hungry. Thirsty. Scratched up and bleeding. Maybe a little cranky. And the poor little tree looked worse for the wear as well. Wow, we should have given our attention to this problem a long time ago. The tree was skinny, with leaves only at the highest points. There were no signs of bearing fruit. Clearly it was just trying to survive since all of these other plants began and continued growing up around it. 

What happened here? Over time, weeds began to grow up around this tree. Gradually the weeds grew into thick trees that became more difficult to remove as time passed. But regardless, if the tree was going to survive and accomplish its intended purpose to bear fruit, the unwelcomed growth needed to be cut away.

At times, isn’t this tree an illustration of our lives and our walk with God? What things in our lives are growing up around us, stunting our growth? Keeping us from thriving? Detaining us in survival mode? Preventing us from accomplishing the purpose we were created for?

Jesus said the following: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2). Jesus used a real world example to explain how he removes suffocating things from our lives that keep us from fulfilling our purpose and bearing fruit. This applicable example allows us to understand what is going on when we are walking through a season of pruning. Pruning is not easy. It is not fun. Living things are being cut away. It is painful and exhausting, but it is necessary and valuable. 

We pruned the branches around the pear tree about 6 weeks ago. I looked at it yesterday and noticed that new branches are springing up down its once bare trunk. Growing these branches will not happen overnight for the pear tree and the same is true in our lives, but be encouraged. New life will break through the barren areas. Growth will come, and it will be beautiful. Every branch that is cut off is not a loss. It will be replaced by joy, glory, righteousness and satisfaction.


To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Isaiah 61:3


The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise him!

His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.

Isaiah 61:11


Lord Jesus, we thank you that you take away all parts of us that keep us from living the abundant life you have designed us to live. With willingness, gratitude and expectation, we ask you to reveal to us the parts of our lives that do not bear fruit. Please give us the wisdom to understand what’s happening and the strength to praise you through the struggle of cutting away these parts of us. We trust you and we love you. In Your name, Amen.

Love, Lacey

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The Fuller Life

John 10:10 (NIV) states that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Have you ever wondered what it means to have life to the full? I know I have. At surface level, it almost seems that Jesus is setting up a paradox between two different outcomes in life.  There’s the way of the enemy, who kills, steals and destroys life and then there is Jesus’ way, which is a life full of, well, life. It seems as though Jesus’ way would be an easy life and a life of no problems.  But we know that, even as followers of Jesus, that just isn’t the case, that isn’t the reality of a believer. After all, later, in John 16:33 Jesus also said “…In this world you will have trouble.

So then, what is this fuller life amidst the struggles of the world?  The NLT version of John 10:10 says it this way, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”  Do you think it is possible do be rich and satisfied during the struggles of life? The old me who really struggle with panic, anxiety and fear would have said no…but more adamantly, like NOOOO! (Picture someone here who was actually afraid to leave the house at one point in their life!…yep, that was me!)

Over the past couple of years though, God has really worked with me in so many ways.  He has very patiently, and lovingly established a firm foundation that is my identity in Christ.  To put it another way, as I slowly surrendered my fears and struggles, and I developed a relationship with Christ.  This relationship is built on my trust that God is always with me (ALWAYS!), He loves me (proven by Jesus’ death), and He wants good things for me. What a Father!!!

Now, when struggles hit, I know that I am no longer a slave to my flesh.  I have a choice. And I choose to trust in my Heavenly Father. I think the fuller life that Jesus was talking about is just that.  It is the freedom to choose life or death. It is the freedom to surrender our struggles, because they will still come, to God. It is the freedom to pick up and put on our true identity, and the love of God anytime we want to.  The fuller life, is the freer life!

What greater proof of this do we need than the death of Jesus?  Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians 7:23 “You have been bought and paid for by Christ, so you belong to Him- be free now from all these earthly prides and fears.”  When our life is not filled with fear, anxiety, stress, doubt, pride, anger, etc. it is a freer life. I know this isn’t easy. I really do! For me it has been a process of daily choices (sometimes hourly, and sometimes minutely).  But each time we choose to trust God, we exercise that muscle, we get better and better at choosing the freer and fuller life. Each time we choose to live the fuller life, we validate what Jesus came for and what He died for…what a way to honor Him, just by choosing to love and trust Him!

I truly, truly feel like a different person.  I now understand what Paul meant when he wrote “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) And I can now look back on all my struggles and see the blessings in them, and how they have made me into the person I am today.  I actually see the moments God carried me through them, encouraged me and blessed me. In the midst of my struggles, my life was actually fuller because God was right there with me the whole time. And He is with you too!

Whatever you are facing, I’d love to take this time of this blog to encourage you.  God is with you! God loves you! God wants good things for you! Despite what you are facing, He is right there loving you.  As you open your heart to Him, He will do a wonderful work in you. Your life will become fuller, just as Jesus had intended!

Love,

Olivia

Change of Heart

It was Christmastime 2013…I was so “over it.” The months (and years) leading up to this moment were extremely exhausting…

When we first got married, I knew my husband had some old bitterness and resentment stored up in his heart, but I was SO in love with him. I was willing to overlook these things because love wins, right? I loved him and knew that we could tackle anything together. But what I didn’t realize is that the roots of bitterness run deep and get extremely tangled and can eventually wrap themselves so tightly around one’s heart to the point that it completely takes over the soul.

I prayed and prayed for God to make my husband want to go to church.  He would humor me every now and then but he was miserable and I would get so frustrated that he was not becoming the man that I thought he should be. Full of pride, I thought I had it all figured out and felt like my plan for our life was perfect and everyone else needed to fit into that perfect plan…or else!  And quite frankly, I became angry and bitter that my husband was not adhering to the plan. Bitterness took root in my own heart.

So, there we were, two bitter people trying to raise our children the way we knew we were “supposed to.” We were faking a lot of things. We were just going through the motions. Looking back, I can see how we both turned to different things to try to cope. For me, it was control. I wanted to control everything—especially our finances…and our future.  For him, he was kind of opposite. He didn’t want any limits and he certainly didn’t want a wife who treated him like a kid. (*Raise your hand if you have snipped this at your husband, “well, if you’d stop acting like a child, then I wouldn’t have to treat you like one?! …ouch.) So there we were: I was desperate to lay down the law and he was desperate to break it. Not a good mix.

The only thing that was consistent through those 10 years of wandering was my prayer. “Please God, intervene. Make him turn to you. Light a fire in his heart. Show him your glory. Make him want to go to church.” Even in my prayers, I had very specific things in mind. I wanted my husband to wear suits and neck ties and uncomfortable shoes and show up every week at church and be a deacon and an elder and, well, you know…look the part. But you know what I was missing all those years? Perspective.

How selfish was my prayer all those years? In reality, I wanted my husband to make me look better. (If I’m totally honest, this deeply hurts my heart to actually type that out for the world to see.) I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it forever: Pride is sneaky! He wasn’t living up to my expectation and therefore, I was desperate to control my husband and dare I say it…even tell God what He needed to do.

After a few events where I felt completely mortified by my husband’s actions, anger was festering in my heart. I’ve only recently admitted this to him, but I even took his income out of the budget sheet and tried to figure out if I could take care of our three kids on my own. I was mad. Bitter. And very selfish.

That’s when God used a dear friend to “drop me down a notch” that Christmas. As I was venting and complaining about how awful my husband was and how I couldn’t take it anymore, she asked me a very pointed question. “Have you ever thought about praying for God to change your heart towards him instead of praying for God to change him?”

Y’all. I was SO offended!  My first thought was, “did you not just hear me tell you all of this horrible stuff he’s done?! Obviously I am not the one with the problem here!”  I mean, clearly, I was not the one needing any changes. {Praise God I can laugh about this now!}

As offensive as it was, it was also very convicting. Divorce was not really on the table—I knew this. We had made a covenant before God. There was no abuse, no cheating, just two stubborn people who loved each other deeply but could not see eye to eye. For better or worse. Well, this was definitely on the “worse” spectrum.  And I mean, what did I have to lose by praying for God to change the way I see my husband? So I began praying a different kind of prayer: “Oh God, please change my heart towards my husband. Help me to see him the way you see him. Soften my heart to see his needs and give me the wisdom to react and help him instead of attack him.”

I’d love to say it was an instant miracle! But it wasn’t. It was slow. It took me a very long time to truly see my husband as a precious child of God—broken, hurting, lost, and afraid. But I kept praying the prayer.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

8 months later, on a Sunday morning, my husband shocked me when he said, “Hey, why don’t we try that church your sister-in-law told us about?” See—this was a different kind of church than what I had in mind. I had been praying for my husband to go to MY church. But, God had been working on my heart during those eight months as well. I was finally to the point where I was not praying for him to go to the church of my choice, but simply…church. So, reluctantly, I agreed that we should give it a try, even though it was very different than what I was used to. We went that day and nothing has been the same since. Our entire lives have been flipped upside down—in the absolute best way. God has proven to me time and time again during these last 4 years that HIS ways are higher and better than ANYTHING I could ever think of asking for on my own.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:9

God finally answered my prayers. BUT—not in the way I was expecting. My husband is now on fire for God. On. Fire.  The bitterness is gone. No more resentments. He’s the spiritual leader of our home. He is now fully aware of his spiritual gifts and he’s surrendered and living in God’s will for his life! He’s leading small groups and he’s on the altar prayer team. {That one still blows my mind!} He’s a leader in our church—highly respected and influential.

I begged God for years to make him want to go to church, then finally changed my prayer from “change him” to “change me.” And just look at God! I can now recognize when my pride gets in the way. I’m submitted to God and to my husband. And I’m loving it! My husband doesn’t just want to go to church…he hates to miss church.  He wants to change the world, one soul at a time. We are closer to each other now more than ever because we are both seeking God together.

Thank you, Lord!!!!!

~Jamie

Father God, thank you so much for the way you pursue us. You chase us down and you never give up on us. Forgive us when we think we know better than you and go our own way. Your ways are always better and we trust you, God! I pray that everyone reading this will turn to you and ask you to change their own hearts to see others the way you see them. Give us compassion and use our changed hearts to change souls. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen!

Fighting For Peace

I recently went on an eight day vacation upon a large cruise ship for Spring Break.  Let me tell you, it was a much needed nice get away. I truly realize how blessed my family and I were to be able to do this.  We had a wonderful time. The only worry was where to eat on-board the ship depending on our changing food mood. My children had a lovely time and I reveled in spending so much quality time with them and my husband.  

Now, here’s the interesting thing for me…I couldn’t believe how at peace I felt through the entire vacation.  Normally, travel is a huge anxiety trigger for me. With the packing and feeling like I, personally, am responsible for remembering everything (think passports, sunscreen, swimsuits, children’s medicine, goggles, etc.)…doesn’t that strike you as stressful?  And then there’s driving to the airport four hours away and making sure we get there on time, and let’s not mention airport security, and being in an airport and on a plane with a three year old and a five year old!  Dealing with luggage, and then having to figure out how to get to the ship once we land and feeling absolutely exhausted from the journey just to get there…okay, I better stop there before I cause myself anxiety now!

But this trip was so different.  Knowing travel causes me anxiety, I had prayed beforehand for God to help me go with the flow and surrender my worries to Him.  I prayed that He would help me settle into vacation mode right away, rather than the normal process of me needing a few days to settle into it.  And praise be to my Dad in heaven, He did.  It was the strangest thing.  I truly felt the peace that surpassed understanding (Philippians 4:7), and I was absolutely certain it wasn’t coming from any source that involved myself.  It was as though an invisible force kept moving any anxious thoughts or feelings that might arise out from my mind and heart, as though the trash was being taken out minutely.  I could definitely tell this was from Him.  

Fast forward a bit, and it’s now time to come home.  After having such a wonderful time and truly feeling the blessing of the Lord upon this trip, I really felt dread over coming back into our normal grind routine of getting kids to school, work, picking kids up, figuring out dinner, baths, bed, exhaustion, and then waking up and doing it all again the next day.  It didn’t take long for an issue to arise at work that caused me to ruminate with disdain and anger towards another person and particular situation that I really could do nothing about. It was upon this juxtaposed back-drop of peace and relaxation versus anger and frustration that I realized that the below verse is so true…

Turn away from evil and do good.  Search for peace, and work to maintain it.     

1 Peter 3:11 (NLT)

I’ve read other versions that actually say to fight for peace.  I realized in order for me to fight for my own personal peace that I had felt on vacation, I would have to CHOOSE to surrender my frustrations and the situation to the Lord.  By doing this I was able to focus on the things that had brought me so much joy the week before…my family. The amazing part of this particular situation is that after I surrendered it, I had an apology email in my inbox awaiting me the next morning.  I was so thankful that I had chosen to trust God in this situation and not ruined the evening He had blessed me with to be with my family, rather than stewing on how I felt wronged.

Another verse I love about peace is…

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 

Matthew 5:9

I learned that by fighting for peace within myself, I was able to be at peace with those around me.  I’ve never really felt like a peacemaker before, but in this situation, I did. And, we can all be peacemakers when we choose to surrender situations to God, who will work them out far better than we ever could…then we will be called children of God…who are forever on vacation mode!  Sign me up please!

Father, thank you for your provisions and teaching, even in the smallest examples, for we know that is how we grow, and continue to learn and be made into your image.  Help us to surrender our struggles and frustrations to you, so that we can be peacemakers, and become closer to you. We love you and pray through your Son’s mighty name!  Amen.

Love,

Olivia

Easter Moments – Redemption

I have a fresh new perspective about Easter this week. Our pastor talked about Easter being an experience or a moment, not just an event or a day every year. We can have Easter moments all throughout the year. So that got me thinking about my moments.

Redemption. Resurrection. Victory. These are Easter words, but they can happen anytime.

Redemption. It’s hard to understand what that means until you feel it. Until you experience that moment when you truly have that encounter with Jesus, it’s just a word. Or maybe it’s just a theory or an idea. (Or maybe a song for you Bob Marley fans… haha)

Three years ago this week, a man at work prayed over me. (You can read that story by clicking here.) It was such a wild experience, but now I realize it was a critical Easter moment for me. It was like a Last Supper moment. It was as if Jesus knew what was coming for me and was preparing my heart. That moment of vulnerability—crying in my cubicle—was the beginning of my redemption story. Within two weeks, as I studied Lysa TerKeurst’s book about walking in faith, I was confronted by the first phase of faith: the leaving phase. As part of the study, we were to determine what we needed to leave behind in order to walk forward in faith.  After a full week of really wanting to leave behind my job (but not feeling any assurance whatsoever that God agreed with that idea), I wrestled with the conviction of leaving my shame behind.  To this day, I’m not completely sure how “shame” came to mind. But, I’m certain it was from the Holy Spirit. Shame…hmm…

I have made some dumb decisions throughout my life. And because I grew up in church, with parents who certainly taught me right from wrong, those decisions weighed heavily on me. I knew better. Why didn’t I do better? I could just hear the words of the enemy over and over in my head, “you ought to be ashamed of yourself!” Because of those soul-crushing thoughts, I began to feel dirty, useless, not good enough, or smart enough, or nice enough, etc.  I didn’t even realize the damage that was taking place in my life. I was believing those lies! I stopped going to church. I looked to money, status, and image to try to redefine myself. But none of that worked.

As I sat in church that Sunday after the revelation of the effects of my shame and self-degrading thoughts, I had another Easter moment. This time, it was a Good Friday moment. The message happened to touch on Adam and Eve in the garden…and I even wrote in my notes: “When you choose the worldly view (tree of knowledge of good and evil), it produces a loss of innocence and shame.”  And I also wrote, “If you have felt shame, choose to live in the tree of life. Fall in love with Jesus. Don’t allow condemnation. Make the choice every day. Come into a relationship with Jesus. God, please transform me from the inside.”  The presence of the Lord was so overwhelming. I shook. I cried. I raised my hand and said, “count me in!” I prayed the salvation prayer and checked the box on the card. It was as though there was a physical release of the shame that I’d been harboring all those years. Not only was I leaving that shame behind, my old self died that day. The old was gone forever. Finished. 


“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” 

~ Galatians 2:20


Redemption

Hallelujah! I’m not sure I can even describe that feeling with words. Peace and joy are the words that come to mind first. For the first time in my life, I truly felt saved from sin and shame—saved from the striving to be perfect and failing continuously. I am redeemed.

My resurrection story has begun and my victory is assured in Christ Jesus. This Easter, my heart is overflowing with gratitude. I’ve literally watched my life transform before my very eyes. The old is gone and the new is just beginning. It’s a process, for sure, and I’m still learning and adjusting. But, oh, what joy I have in my heart now. The peace that surpasses all human understanding is for real, y’all. Don’t wait to feel it. Decide that you want it. Choose to take the steps to walk in faith and you, too, will have your own redemption story!

Father God, you never cease to amaze me! You are so merciful and loving—even to those of us who have gone our own way and have believed lies that we are not worthy of your love. Oh, what a lie that is! Thank you for intervening for us. Thank you for sending your son Jesus to redeem us! Please forgive us for striving to do this life without you. Set our feet on solid ground again and lead us toward the resurrection of the new life you have for us. Please continue to make us aware of our redemption moments so that we will acknowledge you and accept the love, grace, peace, and joy that you so desperately want to give to us.  In your son, Jesus’ name we pray, amen!

~Jamie

Good is Good Enough

Earlier this week I had a friend ask me, “how are you?” I want to add that this was a close friend, not just an acquaintance. I always try to be truthful with my close friends about how things are going because I do not want to fall into the trap of pretending things are okay when they are not and wearing masks around safe people who love me. After she asked, I took a minute to ponder her question, and I realized… things are good! And that is what I told her, “Things are good. Things are not perfect, but they are good.” I have been living in a season of wilderness, struggle, and “things are not good” for a while now, so a realization that things are good warmed my heart. I had a moment of much needed gratitude for all the mountains God has moved in my life recently. The saying goes, “I still remember the days I prayed for the things I have now.”

Our conversation progressed, and my friend and fellow Truth and Transformation writer, Olivia (you can check out her latest blog post here), made a statement that resonated with me. When God created the heavens and the earth, he saw that “it was good” (Genesis 1). He didn’t see that it was PERFECT. He saw that it was GOOD. If “good” is good enough for God, it should be good enough for us too.

Life in this world will never be perfect no matter how hard we try. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, the effects of their free will choice were more widespread than they could have imagined. Their decision created a continuous ripple effect that impacts each one of us every day of our lives. The truth that life in this world will never be without trouble is a difficult lesson to learn and actually accept. If we are expecting perfection, we will be sorely disappointed.

So how can we appreciate the good in life, even when it is not perfect?

  1. Practice gratitude. Focus on what is good rather than camping out in the not-so-good parts. What blessings and answered prayers can you take a moment to meditate on and thank God for today?
  2. Celebrate the small victories. Often times the huge wins that we see in the lives of others come from a culmination of little wins. Appreciating these positive events along the way makes the journey more enjoyable.
  3. Offer grace. I have serious problems with placing unrealistic expectations on myself, my loved ones, my job, my home, and so on. Remember that no one can be faultless, not even you (and DEFINITELY not me!). Letting go of unrealistic expectations and offering grace removes undue burdens from you and your loved ones.  

Now, I have fabulous news, fellow perfectionists! One day, things will be perfect. If you want to read more about this, check out Revelation 21. There will be a new, fully restored heaven and earth. God will make His home among his people. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain. No evil will be allowed to enter. He will make all things new! So in the meantime, enjoy the good days, and look forward to the perfect future that lies ahead for all who love Jesus.

Father, thank you for your faithful companionship through the ups and downs of life. We rely on you to make it through the difficult times, and we give thanks for the good times. Teach us to see your hand in our lives. Thank you that one day you will make all things new. We put all of our faith and trust in you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Love, Lacey

Let’s Go Relationing!

Here lately I’ve been feeling a little blue, melancholy, detached…you might even say depressed.  My thoughts have been scattered like a fart in the wind.  Confusion and doubt continue to strike at my heart and grab on like a five pound weight pulling it down deeper into my chest.  And honestly, I’ve really felt a lot of anxiety at the thought that the rest of my life is going to include these mood swings.  I feel like I have whiplash some days…happy, sad, excited, bummed, stresses, relaxed…whewww!

In the midst of all these emotions, I decided to sit out on my back porch to enjoy a bit of sunshine and also to have a little conversation with Dad!  I went on a relationing.  It’s kind of like vacationing, but instead of packing your bags, you just simply spend time relating with God.  In this specific conversation I was trying to relate to Jesus.  I point blank asked if Jesus ever felt depressed?  I know Jesus felt anger (Matthew 21:12-13), I know He felt anxious (Luke 22:44), and I know he felt sorrow (John 11:35).  But did He ever have a lingering sadness?  Did He ever have a little black cloud follow Him around?  I received my answer the very next morning at church in one of our key verses!


14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)


Did you know that temptation can mean trial, calamity, or affliction?  So the answer is YES!  Jesus likely did experience some type of depression.  I can’t tell you how comforting this was to me.  Jesus has felt all the things I have felt.  He’s walked in my shoes.  What better intercessor can we have than someone who knows exactly how we feel?

Amazingly, it was through Jesus’ emotions and sufferings that He developed obedience. Just imagine, a young boy Jesus could not fulfill what a 33 year old Jesus did.  A teenager Jesus couldn’t have fulfilled what a 33 year old Jesus did. And a 21 year old Jesus couldn’t have done it. It took a maturing through the temptations and struggles of little things to prepare Him to face the biggest thing- the Cross!  So, if Jesus came to be like us and we are being made like Him through sanctification, then it stands to reason that our temptations also offer us opportunities to exercise obedience.  So, my blueness actually presents an opportunity for me to grow in my faith and exercise trust in God, to be obedient to His word despite how much I want to find a form of release.

And, the best part of the temptations we face is, we don’t face them alone.  God is right there with us, Jesus is interceding for us and the Holy Spirit is strength us.  All we have to do is turn to Him, seek Him…basically, go relationing with Him!

Father, we thank you for our many blessings, especially your Son Jesus.  We thank you for our perfect intercessor who knows our struggles and continues to work all for our good.  Help us to remember to go “relationing” with you more.  For when we seek you, you seek us.  Amen!

Love,

Olivia

The Secret to Contentment

The opposite of content is malcontent. That word means “one who bears a grudge from a sense of grievance or thwarted ambition,” or “one who is in active opposition to an established order or government…a rebel. Essentially, if someone is malcontent, they are dissatisfied.

“…a sense of grievance.”

Suffering…distress…complaint…resistance. These are all words associated with “grievance.” Are you dissatisfied today? Are you suffering? In distress about something? Complaining? Resisting something? Are you holding a grudge? Are you in opposition to something? A little rebellious? I am. Or at least I was until God convicted me this morning!

The word content as an adjective means, “in a state of peaceful happiness.” As a noun, it means “a state of satisfaction.” So how do we get from suffering to satisfaction? From resistance to resting?

Paul tells us what it is in Philippians 4:12-13:


I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ,who gives me strength. (NLT)


What’s the secret? Jesus. How can we do all things? Jesus. But notice Paul does NOT say “I can have everything through Christ.”  He says “do.”  Contentment doesn’t come from having more or better things. Or receiving blessings. The secret to contentment is using the power of Jesus Christ to DO God’s work. That is when you become peaceful and satisfied.

The past few weeks have been a struggle for me at work. I’ve been questioning why God has me there. I’ve been complaining and whining about the meaningless work I’m being assigned. I’ve been rebellious and resistant. I’ve been selfish and full of pride. I’ve been malcontent.

But God showed me this Word today and convicted me (again) about my perspective, my priorities, and my source of power. To BE content, I must access the power of Jesus Christ and DO God’s work–no matter where He has me at the moment. I need His perspective to see the people in need around me. He gives me opportunities to minister to people here in this place where people are suffering. I’m not here to receive something. I’m not here to gain earthly satisfaction. I must shift my earthly perspective of pride, greed, selfishness and the “need” to feel important to an eternal perspective where I can see who is hurting around me and share God’s love.

Are you feeling malcontent, too?  God is challenging us to adjust our priorities and stop waiting around for God to give us a new job, more important responsibilities, a better house, a better spouse, more money, a better car, etc.  We can’t wait around for contentment! We are content when we choose to tap into the the power of Jesus and DO what He needs us to do. We are content when we make His work a priority and see His people as more important that our wants. If we can stay in alignment with God’s assignment for our lives and focus on eternal desires and not earthly desires, then that, my friends, is where we will find contentment.

Thank you, Lord, for your Word. Thank you for continuing to guide us with your Holy Spirit. Please forgive me for falling back into malcontent. Help me, oh God, to stay in alignment with your assignment for my life. I want to focus more on you and your people and less on my own selfish desires and make a difference eternally. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

~Jamie

Encouragement in the Waiting: The Key to Effective Prayer

When you have been praying for something for a long period of time that hasn’t come to fruition yet, it can be discouraging. Crushing. Disheartening. It can make you feel hopeless. Proverbs put it this way: hope deferred makes the heart sick. I completely understand that heart-sickness. The weight that feels like a bag of stones, sinking into your stomach when the hurtful thing you prayed would never happen again, happens yet again. The despair that sets in when the changes you asked God to set in motion have not appeared. This period of time between when you inquire of God to move on your behalf and when you actually see the result is so very difficult.

While reading Matthew 7 in the New Living Translation, one of the section titles caught my eye. The header mentioned above Matthew 7:7-11 is titled “effective prayer”. When I read this, I perked up. If Jesus is telling me how to have effective prayer, I probably want to pay close attention. After all, I have been pleading with God over a handful of things for years, and that doesn’t feel too effective. I am here to learn! What he says next is a super simple key that is necessary to having prayers answered.


Jesus says, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7 NLT)


Jesus tells us to keep on. He tells us not to give up or give up in our petitions to our Heavenly Father. Are those instructions a little disappointing? Anti-climactic? Too simple? Too time consuming? I mean really… keep on praying for how long exactly, Jesus? Because that’s not exactly the quick fix I was hoping for.  Can you relate?

If you are someone who has been praying specific prayers for long periods of time, you may go look for resources about having prayers answered. Those resources are readily available. Books, devotionals, blogs and sermons are all over the place that give various formulas for a prayer that will be answered. I am not saying those resources are bad or wrong. I have utilized many of them myself. But Jesus’s command was simpler: DO NOT STOP PRAYING! KEEP ON! DON’T GIVE UP!

So as your sister in Christ who has struggled and is still struggling to find the faith and endurance to keep praying for the things I have been asking for over the span of time, I want to encourage you not to give up. Keep on asking, seeking and knocking. Paul puts it this way: So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Jesus tells us that everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. He reminds us that even though we are sinful, we know how to give our children good gifts, so how much more does our loving heavenly father know how to give good gifts? So if you are reading this, cling to God’s promises that if you ask you will receive. And most importantly, cling to the unshakeable truth of God’s character as a good father. Take heart and keep on praying!

Abba, thank you that our prayers never fall on deaf ears. Thank you that Jesus lives to intercede for us, and that Holy Spirit prays for us too. Fill us with a fresh dose of endurance, and give us the strength to have hope and faith again. Do not let disappointment rob us of fellowship with you. Remind us of your goodness so we can trust your promises and provision. In Jesus name, amen.

Love, Lacey

Check Your Power Source

Recently, I received some shocking news that, essentially, boils down to the rest of my life not looking the way I had pictured it.  Here I have been, rolling through life, finally feeling like I was in a good place, and Whammm!  Everything is about to change!  The uncertainty and fear that goes along with all of the unknowns has caused me to really doubt my abilities.  In the midst of all my fears and worries, a reoccurring theme has been “What am I going to do? How can I do this? What if I fail?” 

Admittedly, I have allowed today’s exhaustion to cause overwhelming fears about future events.  I have allowed my thoughts and emotions to drive a perceived truth that is not in line with God’s truths.  I have forgotten that God will supply all my needs, if I just seek Him.  I have forgotten that He will give me manna for each day, and I have been using today’s manna worrying about not having enough manna for tomorrow.  Jesus warns against this in Matthew 6:34:

Worry not for tomorrow, for tomorrow has worries of its own.  Sufficient is each day’s troubles.

Basically, my recent shock caused me to turn inward and rely on my own abilities, or my own batteries, rather than plugging into God.  Just like a battery, eventually, my own internal abilities will falter in providing all that I need….I will, and have, run out of myself!  But, if I plug into God, and I draw upon His source of power, bringing it into myself, then the power never stops.  After all, God is not subject to blackouts!


For God has said “I will never leave you I will never forsake you” Heb 13:5


I know God is working with me through this though.  I’ve felt Him nudging me to continue on, despite my fears.  I’ve seen His encouragement come through in the most unlikely places, like that perfectly timed text that says “I’m praying for you.”  He’s growing me and developing me for something else…to be reliant on Him rather than being self-reliant.  It isn’t until my batteries are fully drained and removed that His true power and ability shines bright.  It isn’t until I am empty and realize that I cannot do this of my own power that He changes something inside of me.  The switch clicks and I go into exterior power mode.


Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  2 Cor 12:9


It doesn’t make the future less uncertain, but it does make it less scary knowing that God’s outlet is always there and available to me and all I have to do is just turn and seek Him. 

Having faith in His future gives me power in the present!

Father, thank you for all of our blessings, especially your Son Jesus, by whom we are allowed to tap into your power source any time we need to.  Help us continue to seek your in those difficult times and continue to give glory to you through our struggles, so that your purpose in them might be fulfilled.  Amen.

Love,

Olivia