Delight in the Lord

Since I gave birth to my precious son in April, I have been struggling with feeling “spiritually dry”. I have read my Bible, but I have not had a true hunger for the Word. I pray to God, but I am distracted. My previously fulfilling conversations with the Father have dwindled from intimate communication to a halfhearted prayer along the lines of, “Lord, help my husband in ‘such and such’ area. Bless my son, and help me be the mom he needs. Thank you for never giving up on me.”

 I have been basically just going through the motions, knowing I need God but feeling distant from him. I have thought back on the closeness I have experienced with God and the past and wondered to myself, what on earth happened to that familiarity? Can any of you friends relate to these feelings I have been experiencing?

After searching scriptures and talking with mature, Godly women in the faith about my struggles, God gave me the answer I needed. I have not been seeking God because of who He is; I have been seeking God because of what I know He can do for me and for my family. Rather than seeking His face, I have only been seeking His hand. 

I placed answered prayers as an idol in my heart, and because I have been waiting for so many prayers to be answered, I became jaded and on a fast track to hopelessness. Here is what I have learned: when my desire for answers is greater than my desire for God himself, I will never be fulfilled or at peace. Lord, forgive me and bring me back into a place of intimacy with you!

I am not saying it is wrong to tell God the desires of your heart and ask Him to move on your behalf or on the behalf of your loved ones. It’s not! He cares for you deeply and wants you to share all of your desires with Him, but that is not enough to feed the type of relationship with God you were created to have. He wants your whole heart.

Think about this from the perspective of a parent. What if your child only came to you to ask for things? If your child never wanted to tell you about his or her day, never wanted to laugh with you, never wanted to take a walk or just simply share life. You would never have a close relationship with that child. God is our father, and of course it affects our ability to sense His presence or access His power when we only seek answers and neglect spending time with Him.

Here is the Biblical model that helps us understand prayer and relationship with the Lord: 

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.   Psalm 37:4

Take delight in the Lord. What a beautiful command! This is the first step and the greatest command, to love the Lord with all of your heart. When you spend time with God, you will discover there are so many delightful things about Him to enjoy. Then, the next statement indicates that He will give you the desires of your heart. That is a promise you can count on.

Lord, thank you that you want an intimate relationship with each of us. Thank you that you want to be involved with every part of all of our days. Reveal yourself to us so we can be in Your presence and delight in you. Thank You for Your promise that you will give us the desires of our hearts. Holy Spirit, be active in our lives, in Jesus name.

Come, Heavenly Dove

Just like most mornings, I was sitting on my couch in the quiet stillness of dawn, before the alarm clocks sounded and the hustle began. In my First5 devotion for the day, we were wrapping up the story of Esther. Leah DiPascal wrote, “Maybe on some days, your life appears smooth and predictable. Other days, things seem to be dismantling around you. Remember, even when everything feels out of control, God is always in control.”  I wrote that part down in my journal. Such powerful words. Right about that time, I heard a loud thud on the window! I whipped around just in time to see a bird fly from the window and land on the porch railing. A dove.

This happened one other time in my life. One hit my windshield as I was driving when I was 18. That week, I learned that my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. I don’t know why I’ve always correlated those two events (the bird and the diagnosis), but nonetheless, this dove triggered that memory. Suddenly, while thinking back to my senior year of high school, I felt my heart flutter while looking at the dove. “What does this mean? Does it even mean anything? What if it’s more bad news? Jamie, stop being superstitious!” I took a picture of the dove just so I could tell my husband about my exciting morning and prayed for health and safety for all of my family and friends…and tried to forget about it.

The next day, I got a call from my precious friend Ali. We became instant friends in college from the day we met. I’m not sure I’ve ever known anyone so genuinely sweet and kind. I’ve always felt so protective of her—like a little sister, even though she’s only a few months younger than me. We don’t get to talk very often anymore because we both work full time and have small kids. So I love when I see her name on my phone screen!  It’s always a gift to be able to squeeze in a few minutes on the phone. We exchanged our silly hellos and then it came. “Jamie, I’m just going to blurt this out because I don’t know how else to say it. I have cancer.”

There it was. The dreaded news. I fought back tears and tried to get as much information as possible. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. WHY?! That’s all I could think. Why her? Why so young? Why does she have to go through this? Whyyyyyyyyyy?!?!?!?!

In God’s divine timing, we started our study of Job this week (you can find it here). This morning, as I read Job’s words of suffering in Job 3, Wendy Blight’s words really struck a chord, “God does not owe us answers. But in His Word He gives us truths.”

It’s so difficult to understand why God allows things to happen to good people. It will never be OK that my Ali has cancer. It just does not make any sense that it has to be her. It’s not OK! I think back to the words I recorded on the day of the dove, “…remember … God is always in control.”  It’s impossible to understand why this is happening, however, I know God has a plan for each of us and that suffering can either destroy or strengthen our faith—He IS in control. It all depends on how we react to the trials, which is the lesson of Job.

As I read through Job 3 and Wendy’s correlating devotional for today, God reminded me of the dove; the harbinger in the Bible—announcing or signaling peace, hope, and even the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2; Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). Although there is great suffering and even confusion, we have hope because of Jesus.

I realized this morning that the dove is not a warning that bad news is coming. The dove is a reminder that the Holy Spirit is with us—in spite of the bad news. His peace is with us. God never changes. He was and is and always will be the source of hope, peace, and truth—no matter what trials we face or how many times we ask Him, “why?”

And the dove reminds me that it’s ok to ask God why. His Spirit is always with us and knows our thoughts and feelings and fears. God can take our whys. Several people in the Bible cried out to Him and asked why they had to suffer—even Jesus (Matthew 27:46). And, just as Wendy said in the First5 devotional, God doesn’t have to answer us. But, we can still find answers if we go to His word. It may not be the answer I want (a cure or a miracle), but He is always our source for truth. I want to be an example for Ali and her family by keeping my focus on the promises instead of the whys.

 


Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,

  With all thy quickening powers:

Come shed abroad a Savior’s love,

  And that shall kindle ours.

~ Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748)


Oh God, life is not fair. Cancer is not fair. I don’t understand why my friend has to go through this. But I trust you. I know you are sovereign and good. Your Word is true and your love is mighty. I pray that Ali will find her peace and hope in you alone. I pray that her family will see her strength and know that it’s from you. I pray that her testimony will transform the lives of everyone around her.  Please miraculously cure her body from this cancer! You have the power to take it away. But I trust that even if you don’t, you will still live up to all of your promises. We will cling to you and seek your truths so that our faith will strengthen. Thank you, Lord, for your Holy Spirit who comforts us and helps us to pray when we don’t even know what to say. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN!

I Can’t Adult Today

Okay, so I have to admit that my inner dialog tends to vary from day to day between a terrible two year old and an obstinate teenager.  As a child, many of us were encouraged by parents and those that we look up to, when they would say things like “You can do it!”, “Just do your best!”, “Just give it a try!”  And usually when we did try, our supporter was proved right, we could do it!

It seems as I have gotten older, I’ve forgotten those experiences though.  I tend to doubt myself a lot; I worry about failing or messing things up. The child’s voice in me screams “Thanks, but I’m not adulting today.”  My child’s voice is constantly in protest of all that I see and all that I know to be truth.  God’s word tells us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), but my two year old voice says “but I’m still scared.”  God’s word tells us to serve Him with all of our heart and soul (Deuteronomy 10:12), but my inner teenager says “I don’t feel like it.”

I am sure I’m in good company with many of you, and I know we are in good company with one of the Bible’s greatest men of God: Moses.  Did you know Moses was about 80 years old when he experienced God talking to him at the burning bush?  Moses had spent his first 40 years in Egypt and the next 40 years as a shepherd in the Midianite wilderness.  Now, when God first told Moses that he was going to free the Israelites from being Egyptian slaves, Moses wasn’t exactly thrilled or too sure of himself.  Moses, like many of us, also reverted to his inner child requiring a little bit of “You can do it!” encouragement.  Let’s take a closer look:

In Exodus Chapter 3 starting in verse 10, God tells Moses that He wants Moses to go lead His people out of Egypt. Moses replies “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” (vs. 11)  Do you sense a bit of a confidence issue?  You would think that by 80 a person would be over that! But our loving Father reassures Moses “I will be with you” (vs. 12).  Isn’t this gentle love a bit of a reminder of times when your parents or loved ones would encourage you and say “you can do it, I’ll catch you!”  Did you ever have them miss and not catch you?  Guess what, if God tells you He will be with you, He ain’t gonna miss!

This precious encouragement isn’t enough for Moses though.  In verse 13 Moses protests, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”  So first Moses questions his own ability by asking ‘Who am I?’ then Moses questions God’s ability by asking ‘Who are you?’  Now, it seems a little risky to me for Moses to questions God this way, but don’t we kind of do it too, even today?  For example, a common prayer I have prayed might go a little something like this: God, I surrender and trust you with this issue, but I’m going to go ahead and take care of it.  It’s my way of saying ‘Who are you?’  This is where I would expect God to strike Moses with lightening or something, but no, God gently reassures Moses to tell the people of Israel “I Am Who I Am” (vs. 14)  God elaborates with “Yahweh, the God of your ancestors-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob- has sent me to you.  This is my eternal name, my name for all generations.” (vs. 15)  So essentially, the same God who fulfilled His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was assuring Moses and the Israelites of His eternal and good nature.  God is for the first time, revealing His name to His people, through His actions.  His name is good, His name is eternal, and His name is with us always.

So, here’s Moses in front of this burning bush that is not being consumed by fire, and he questions who he is, he questions who God is, and next he questions the people of Israel.  In chapter 4, he asks God, “what if they don’t believe me?” And God graciously gives Moses a little more reassurance…He tells Moses that if they don’t believe him, then God will allow Moses to perform a sign by throwing his staff down and turning it into a snake and then picking it up by the tail and turning it back into a staff.  Moses even performs this sign, along with a hand in the cloak turning white sign!  Um, wow!  Wouldn’t you feel very encouraged at that point and feel like the one true God was with you and you could do anything!!! Well…not Moses!

In verse 10 Moses pleads with God about not being a good speaker and getting tongue-tied and mixing words up.  Boy, that Moses is really trying to get out of this mission!  But God gently reassured Moses that it is the Lord that allows one to speak or to be quiet and that the Lord would be with Moses and give him the words to say.  What a patient and good Father we have! So, what did Moses do?

“But Moses again pleaded, ‘Lord, please! Send anyone else’” (vs.13).  Okay, here’s that moment…it’s been building…”Then the Lord became angry with Moses” (vs. 14) Basically Moses, expressed his inner child, and God lovingly encouraged him, but when Moses got to the obstinate teenager self…God said enough! You are going to do this Moses, and I’ll let you take your brother Aaron along to speak for you.  So at this point Moses gets the message and obeys.  (Thank goodness, or this story might have ended with a Bar-B-Q Moses from that lightning bolt!)

Sadly, I probably would have kept going with questions and worries that I “need” to know before obeying God.  I would “need” to know where am I going to stay, what am I going to eat, what if this happens, what if that happens…you know the problem with what if’s?  They never end!  The hardest part of adulting for me is just trusting.  And that’s why I still struggle to this very day!

I am comforted though by knowing that God is okay what our what-ifs, just as He was okay with Moses what-ifs. (Interestingly, the Bible does not say that the Israelite elders ever even asked Moses who sent him, the name of God, or to perform miraculous signs. This leads me to assume Moses performed the signs of his own accord [Exodus 4:29-31]). God is good and gentle and loving; He will be with us on any journey He sends us on.  He is patient with our fears and what-ifs, but like most earthly parents, He will become angry when that obstinate teenager comes out and just refuses to go.  He still loves us though, just as we continue to love our teenagers, but His love is far more vast, pure and perfect.  So perfect, in fact, that He sent His only, very obedient Son to die for our sins! Now that’s real adulting!

Love,

Olivia

Father, please continue to strengthen us for the journeys you direct for us.  Comfort our fears and worries and help us grow closer to you as we walk those journeys out.  Forgive our unwilling hearts and disobedience.  Fill us with your peace and joy when our journeys take us through a valley.  We love you Father.  Through Jesus we pray. Amen

Beyond the Fog

Hi friends! It is so good to be back to be able to share with everyone again. I have been on a break from the blog after giving birth to our first baby – sweet Elijah! He has been a blessing and a joy every day of the last three months. Here is a picture of him because you know how proud Mamas are of their babies:

eli

Having Eli has been the best and craziest experience of my life (already!). About four days after I gave birth to him via C-Section, the “baby blues” set in. I struggled with long, uncontrollable and intense crying (sobbing) bouts on and off all day on top of heavy anxiety… while also somehow being so happy and full of love I thought I might EXPLODE! I later found out this is pretty normal during the first 2 weeks after child birth for about 80% of women. However, my sadness and anxiety continued beyond the 2 week mark, and I decided to go see my doctor. My suspicions were correct: I was battling true Post-Partum Depression and Anxiety. My doctor prescribed a breastfeeding safe depression and anxiety medication, and with time I slowly began feel the fog lift.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix about PPD/PPA/PPP called “When the Bough Breaks”. Especially after watching this, I can say that the struggles I have faced are not nearly as severe as what many moms deal with, but for me, the battle was still difficult. I felt so guilty for not being well. Of course I am biased, but I had been given the sweetest, most adorable baby E-V-E-R. How could I feel anything but joy? Why am I constantly crying my eyes out with this little angel looking up at me?

After talking with other moms who have battled PPD, it seems most of them also felt guilty for feeling anything other than elation after the birth of their child. So many moms on the other side of this struggle reminded me of this: that guilt is NOT of God! It is the enemy undermining your identity as a child of God and mother. Easier said than applied, especially in the middle of hard times, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Don’t forget it.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about medication that can help you, even if you only take it for a period of time. Make a list of everything you are grateful for; thank God for the blessings in your life such as clean drinking water, food, shelter, your sweet baby, your salvation, friends, family, fuzzy blankets, coffee and so on. Listen to worship music and engage in praise. Listen to sermons that encourage you in your faith. Read the Bible and make time to talk to God and let him know how you are struggling. Let people help you; if someone offers to bring you food or clean your house, let them do it! Try to get a shower every day if possible. Go outside and get some fresh air. Don’t isolate yourself, and don’t be afraid to speak up about what you are going through. You are not alone. God chose you to be the mother to this child, and He will equip you to do the job, even on the hard days.


Here are a couple of scriptures that help keep me calm, centered and focused on the bigger picture in the chaos of new mom life and the fog of crazy hormones:

Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 2 Corinthians 3:4-5

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as a reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court. Psalm 127:3-5


Now I am 13 weeks post-partum. I feel so much more stable and happy. I am not consumed by anxiety, fear and sadness every day, though those emotions do still threaten me at times. I am still so new to this mom life. I am trying to adjust to all of the changes that have come after giving birth – changes in my mentality, my time, my body and so on. I do not claim to be an expert, but this is my story. These are the things that helped me step out of the fog.

Are any of our readers currently struggling with PPD or any type of depression or mental illness? Has anyone overcome any of these disorders? If so, please share your struggles or explain what helps you on hard days.

Abba Father, thank You for the gift of motherhood! I ask you to bring comfort and support to all the beautiful new moms that may be struggling with adjusting to their new role as mommy. Allow them to see the blessing of caring for the next generation of warriors in the army of God. Bring them Godly women that can help them cope with all of the changes and emotions that can seem overwhelming at times. In Jesus name. 

Love,

Lacey

What Are You Afraid to Lose?

Those crazy Christians! Have you ever wondered why some Christians seem to be a little…over the top? Their Facebook posts are always Bible verses or Christian blogs or some quote that makes you roll your eyes a little bit? Well, if so, I used to think like you. But now I am that other person! A “crazy Christian.” What happened?! I hit a point in my life when I finally had nothing else to lose–or so I thought. But I ended up losing more than I imagined while gaining more than I ever hoped for. Let me explain:

After a series of events, I found myself in a strange place.  (I’ve blogged about most of these events on this site–just search “Jamie” if you’re curious to read more about my journey.) My life was changing in a huge way and I was losing control!

I lost the “it” neighborhood. I lost the big house on the cul-de-sac. I lost status. I lost control of a lot of things that I’d been clinging to for most of my adult life.  I lost the country club membership.  I lost the nights of partying and living it up until the wee hours of the morning. I lost lazy Sunday mornings of lying around and not having to go anywhere. I lost my life as I knew it.


“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21


To live is Christ? To die is gain? I have finally discovered the meaning of this verse. To live is Christ: My life is so different–in the best way possible–since I discovered the importance of a real, two-way relationship with Jesus. He loved me all along and I was too afraid to lose my old self to follow Him. I was afraid to go all-in because I wanted to control everything. I could not even fathom how much freedom there could be by surrendering it all.

To die is gain: The old me is officially dead. (Hallelujah!) I never would have believed how awesome a new life could be!  It’s hard to imagine that someone could be happier than ever after losing so much, right?

Let It Go
There are people in my life who I really care about that are afraid to lose those their current life. I mean, it’s scary to surrender control and let go when you don’t know what God has in store. But I lost even more while seeking a closer relationship with the God of the universe:

I lost credit card debt. I lost the mortgage I couldn’t afford. I lost the morning after hangovers. I lost negative influences in my life. I lost the thoughts that my life had no purpose. I lost feelings of hopelessness and fear of the future. I lost the desire to conform to the world around me.

What are you afraid to lose? Friends? Freedom? Your identity? Control? I know someone who is afraid that if she surrenders her life fully to God, she’ll “have to” give up drinking. Or “have to” stop smoking.  She is afraid she’ll lose her reputation as the fun girl. I know a guy who thinks that his foul mouth is just “who he is” and is afraid the church people will try to “make him” stop. He is also afraid that he’ll “have to” give his money to the church. I have another friend who is so afraid to lose control of her plans for her future, that she won’t allow God to come close enough to alter them. Can you relate?

Are you holding back from experiencing the life God intended for you? Maybe you attend church, but you won’t join a group. Maybe you joined a group, but you won’t open up about your struggles. Maybe you are fine with checking the boxes of Christianity but you think those people who raise their hands in worship are crazy and showing off. (Maybe they are. But maybe they love Jesus like some people love their sports team or favorite band? Who knows–but why not give it a try? What will you lose?) What exactly is it that is keeping you from going all-in?

Sweet friends, please believe that when you choose to let go of your pride (among other things), you will gain amazing joy, purpose, freedom, friendships, and so much more! God is just waiting for you to decide that you want it. It’s yours for the taking! God designed you to live abundantly–with purpose. Not just to survive this life feeling insignificant. If you are struggling to find happiness, maybe you are just looking in all the wrong places?

How “Have To” Becomes “Want To”

What are your desires? Sometimes we feel like God must not love us because He never gives us what we want.  However, here’s the other thing I learned through this journey: Maybe God knows what’s best for you–and your current desires may actually be bad for you.


“Take delight in the Lord,
    and (then) he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37:4 (“then” added)


So how do we change our desires? Let Him do it! But first, take delight in Him. But how, you ask? Start by seeking God. Look for His presence. He’s all around you–even in the little details. Thank Him for every good thing in your life. Seek Him by reading the Bible. Talk to Him–He hears everything you say. You don’t have to get all prim and proper with Him. Prayers can be like conversations–He loves to hear us acknowledge Him.  All of these things are delightful to the Lord. The more you seek Him, the more your desires will begin to change into the things that actually bring you joy. Pure joy. You won’t “have to” give up anything.  Christianity isn’t about rules–it’s about relationship.  What wouldn’t you do for the one you love with all your heart? God will give you the desires of your heart when you transform your heart first.


“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:33-34


Oh God, may I continue to seek you first each and every day of my life. Thank you for your mercy and grace that I so desperately needed to get past my past. Thank you for sending your son, Jesus, to rescue us from the struggles of this life. May your presence be evident to everyone who reads this. Please Lord, ignite a fire in their hearts to seek you and take delight in you. Transform their hearts to want what you want and to experience the abundant life that you planned for them! In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen!

~Jamie

Change Starts at the Top

Are you like me, and of the mindset that change must start from the top?  Guess what…we are right (that never gets old!), and I can prove it.  It’s actually Biblical!

In my recent study of the book of Exodus, I saw the biblical principle of top down transformation.  I really liked the beginning when God instructs Moses, via a burning bush, to return to Egypt to rescue His people, then God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, there are some plagues, the Red Sea parts, the people of Israel wander around and build idols while Moses is meeting with God, we get the Ten Commandments, and the Tabernacle is constructed. Whewww… a lot happens in Exodus!

Exodus begins with the gloom of an enslaved nation of Israelites, and ends with the glory of a freed people, now following God’s presence in the wilderness.  Do you know how the people knew when God was dwelling in the Tabernacle?  A cloud came down and settled over it!  (Exodus 40:34-38, Numbers 9:15-23)  Some translations read that a pillar of smoke came down upon the Tabernacle.  That word down is very important…it reveals that the event was driven by God.  We all know smoke rises, so, if the cloud of smoke had started at the bottom and carried up, then people would probably have doubted that it was truly God.  There would have been conspiracies that man created the smoke within the Tabernacle.  But, praise be to God, the cloud/smoke came down!

That’s not the only time God came down to be with us.  Remember when God came down to walk and talk with Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 3?  How about when God sent his most perfect Son Jesus down to be with us?  Change was afoot, and it was coming from the top down!  Jesus came down to teach us of God’s love for us and to be the perfect atonement for our sins.  How’s this for change?  When Jesus died on the cross, God tore the curtain in the sanctuary of the temple…wait for it…from the top down!!! (Mark 15:38)  Now this was a heavy, 70 foot long curtain.  Only God could have done that!  It also occurred on Passover, so there were plenty of witnesses to attest to the fact that man had nothing to do with that curtain being torn. It was Jesus’ blood that created a change, His blood was shed to create a gateway for us to have a relationship with God.  Now, because of Jesus, we can all enter into the presence of God, as our own representatives and not just on the Day of Atonement.  (See Hebrews Chapter 9 and 10 for more info on this!)

Are you currently in need of some kind of change in your life?  Start at the top!


“….The Lord will stay with you as long as you stay with Him!  Whenever you seek Him, you will find Him.  But if you abandon Him, He will abandon you.” 2 Chronicles 15:2

“Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:6

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33


So how do we apply this to our everyday issues?  Yep…start at the top!  I can’t tell you how many times my co-blogger Jamie has told me “emotions follow choices!”  I can’t tell her how many times (it was a lot!) I wanted to smack her for her always cheerful, sound advice…but, even though it took me a while, I must say she is right!  Let me give you a personal example:

I recently had a thought one day that ‘there has to be more to life, there has be more that I am supposed to be doing.’  With this thought, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of emptiness and fear in my heart.  I chose to believe a lie and I felt like a failure as a result.  I realized, however, this was an attack by the enemy.  He was attacking my contentment.  He was causing me to focus on all that I don’t have or haven’t done, rather than all that I do have and have accomplished.  I needed to change the way I was thinking and I knew I needed to start at the top!  As soon as I realized this, I sought God.  I asked Him to forgive me for my ungratefulness and to strengthen me in repenting and fighting future attacks like this from the enemy.  I had to choose to focus my thoughts on being grateful to God.  I had to choose to see my situations, my family, my home, everything I have and everything I am as a blessing from God. I had to choose to change, with help from the top (God), at the location of the top (mind/thoughts), to drive change at a lower level (heart/feelings/emotions).  Guess what…so far, the change has stuck!  The enemy has not tempted me with this again.  BUT, that doesn’t mean he won’t…I will have to choose again and again to sustain the change from the top!

This can be applied to other issues as well…if you are struggling with pride, seek God and choose humility; if you are struggling to forgive, seek God and choose to remember you have been forgiven for far more; if you are struggling with fear, seek God and chose faith; etc.  Emotions follow choices and you need the power from “up top” to guide and change your choices to align with His will.

Father, we seek you above all else.  We ask that you help us change into the new creation you would have us to be by allowing our soul to receive your life giving change from the top down.  Remind us of your loving presence in the midst of our storms, so that we will develop the endurance and perseverance to await your top down driven change in our lives.  Through your Son we pray.  Amen.

Love,

Olivia

Transformed: Glory to Glory

Somewhere around 2002, I heard a Third Day song called “Show Me Your Glory.” Over the years, the lyrics of that song have streamed in and out of my thoughts like a fond memory. “I know I’ll never be the same… Show me your glory, send down your presence, I want to see your face.” Something would stir inside me every time it would come on the radio in my car. I longed to know what that meant. What would that look like? What did it mean for God to show me His glory? What exactly was “glory” anyway?


The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away.  Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life?
2 Corinthians 3: 7-8 (NLT)


The old way? Laws etched in stone? Death? Greater glory? I spent a really long time wanting to know about His glory, but I was basically living like the Israelites. My heart was more like stone—hard and bitter. About 12 years went by from when I first heard that song until I truly began to understand what it meant.  But during those years, at some point, I pretty much just gave up on ever seeing God’s glory. I tried to earn it for a couple of years. But the harder I worked at being a good Christian, the more I struggled. I couldn’t get out of my own way. I so desperately wanted to see God’s glory and have this mind-blowing, life-altering transformation, but I still just couldn’t comprehend exactly what that meant.

Apparently, a lot of people desire transformation but don’t really know how to get their desired results. Right before I began this amazing journey of spiritual transformation, I was chosen to lead a Supply Chain Transformation Team at work.  I was really hopeful at first. My team had big plans to change our processes and systems. We were going to alter the business models and make big changes in order to improve the way we operated. But over time, my hope began to fade. None of the changes were catching on. People didn’t seem interested in transforming anything at all. I started to realize that very little of my hard work would actually come to fruition. It took me a while to figure out why, but in the end, I wasn’t all that surprised by the answer: people.  People, in general, really don’t like change—and if you want them to change the way they operate, you need to get them to change their attitude.

Trying to encourage others to transform their attitude is one of the hardest jobs ever! I can’t help but wonder how frustrated God can be when His people so desperately want their circumstances to change, yet, they are not willing to change their attitudes first.


We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.     2 Corinthians 3:13-15 (NLT)


In the Old Testament, we learn about Moses and the Israelites working hard to see the glory of the Lord. In Leviticus 9:6, Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded you to do, so that the glory of the Lord may appear to you.”  There were so many rules and sacrifices; do this and that and then you might catch a glimpse of His glory. But even if you got to see it—it was overwhelming. Moses even had to cover his face with a veil because it was just too much for the people to take in even though they desired it. Wow! I had an Old Testament attitude about how to see (earn) God’s glory. Not only did I have a hard heart, but my mind was hardened too, just like the Israelites. Thankfully, God knew we would be desperate for His glory and so lovingly gave us another way…

Jesus! Jesus came and transformed the way we should think about glory. The veil that Moses needed to cover his face—to hide the glory—has been removed forever. Jesus took it away! I always believed that Jesus lived and died and rose again. I mean, I grew up in church and knew all the Bible stories. I sang Hallelujah every year at Easter, lit advent candles and could recite the Christmas Story. But I needed a transformation in my heart (and a shift in my attitude) to fully understand that Jesus was not just a person in history, but His Spirit lives in me. I can actually have a relationship with Him and His power can actually live inside me!

I just love God’s sense of humor. While I was the leader of a “transformation team,” I received the best transformation of all. After a co-worker randomly prayed over me (read about that here), I began to seek God everywhere and in everything. I drew close to Him—and he drew close to me. I started a devotional called, “What Happens When Women Walk in Faith,” by Lysa TerKeurst and slowly began to change my attitude as I learned what faith looked like and how I could live it out in my own life. “Transformation” was no longer about my job (*and not about how hard I worked), it was about my attitude and my willingness to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.


But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.  2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)


Praise God for giving us the most incredible gift: Glory that lives inside me! I no longer have to seek it—I can reflect it!

Oh, my loving Heavenly Father, you are so kind and patient with us. Forgive me for my bad attitude and my desire to earn a glimpse of your glory by trying to do things on my own. Thank you so much for your precious son, Jesus! Because of His blood, we are no longer behind a veil and we can see your glory. Help us to shift our attitudes and open our hearts to receive your loving kindness. May our transformations be evident for all to see—as we not only catch a glimpse of your glory, but we reflect it for others to see as well. Amen.

~Jamie

When God Says, “None of the Above”

Today’s Guest Post is written by our dear friend, Rebecca Hill.  Rebecca is a dedicated wife and loving mother who has been on an incredible journey of Freedom over the last couple of years. We love to hear her transformation stories and thankfully, she agreed to share her most recent one with all of us. Please welcome her to Truth and  Transformation!


Between a rock and hard place.  Ever been there?  Nothing gets my over-analytical, OCD, control freak mind racing like having to make a decision between two seemingly terrible choices.  So I’ll give you one guess where I tend to find myself most of the time……. Yep.  Between a rock and a hard place.

Have you ever read Proverbs 3:5?  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”  What does that even mean???  Do you know how many times I’ve read that verse and wracked my brain trying to figure out how one merely “trusts in the Lord with all their heart?”  What does that look like?  How do you do that?  And what about those situations where choice (A) and choice (B) both seem terrible?

I was recently in one of these situations.  To give you some background, I am a wife, a mother of four, and an attorney.  I practiced law for nine years until the day my fourth child was born.  For those nine grueling years, I begged God – BEGGED – to be able to stay home with my children.  But no matter how hard I tried to make that happen, it never did.  That is, until baby #4 arrived.  Because of some family circumstances, daycare for our newborn was completely not an option, and I found myself in my dream-come-true.  I was able to stay home with my babies for the first time ever.  Oh how I loved it!

But… (There’s always a “but,” isn’t there?)  Anytime you cut an entire income out of a two income family, it is hard.  That was definitely the case for us.  Although we’ve been able to make it work for the last two years, my husband and I recently started kicking around the idea of me returning to the workforce.  Within days of that discussion, I had three different job opportunities.  Problem was, none of them were the right fit for our family.  So there I was, between a rock and hard place.  Do we: (A) stick it out and deal with the stress and frustration of an overly tight budget, or (B) suck it up and take on a job that would mean I’d go from seeing my kids 12 hours a day to 2 hours a day.  Is that even a choice??

So what did I do?  Well, in typical Rebecca fashion, I pitched a fit to God.  Believe me when I say I am NOT proud of this.  But it’s the truth.  And the sad thing is, that tends to be my normal reaction.  I get super frustrated and cry out to God asking “WHY?”  I tell Him all the great ways He can “fix” this (because, you know, He obviously needs my help), and then cry and beg and cry and beg.  It’s pathetic, honestly.  This time, however, I did something I had never really done before – I got honest with God.  In times past, although I would cry out to God, I still bottled up my true emotions.  For one reason or another, I’d always felt like it was disrespectful, or rude, or ungrateful to tell God how I really feel.  But over the last year, I’ve been on a spiritual journey in which I’ve grown closer to God than I’ve ever been in my 35 years of living.  So this time, I decided to treat Him like the Father that He consistently tells me in Scripture that He is.

On Day 2 of this royal hissy fit of mine, I just opened up and said, “God, I am really, REALLY disappointed.  I wanted to stay home for SO long, and you allowed me to do that, and now it feels like you’re ripping that away again.  And I really just don’t understand.”  I kid you not, the second the words came out of my mouth, I became acutely aware of the Bible cartoon movie that my kids were watching in the room next to me.  Immediately, I heard them talking about the story of Abraham being called to sacrifice his son Isaac, and the very next words were “God didn’t really want Abraham’s son.  He just wanted to know that Abraham was willing to give up anything for God.”………………………………………………………………………………….……………………………………………………………………………………………………… (Consider this my stunned silence as I realized I just got schooled by a cartoon.)

This is the part of the story where I dried my eyes, put on my big girl panties, and decided to stop throwing a fit.  As if the cartoon being more mature than me weren’t enough, I also still had to prepare my small group lesson for the week on the topic of . . . wait for it . . . SURRENDER.  Fun times.  As I sat down to begin, our theme verse jumped right out at me:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding

Oh good grief, are you kidding??  This is no time to throw the hard verses at me, God.  But this time, I noticed the next verse:

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

That’s when it hit me.  Acknowledge.  The key to trusting God with all my heart, is simply acknowledging Him.  Acknowledge that He knows far more than I could ever know.  Acknowledge that He sees the big picture when I can barely even see the pieces.  Acknowledge that He is my heavenly Father and wants only good for me, the same way my earthly father does.  And acknowledge that in all things, His will is better than mine.

So that’s what I did.  From that point forward, every time I prayed about those job opportunities, I acknowledged that God knew best and I surrendered what I thought I wanted to whatever He wanted in this situation.  After about a month of praying, all 3 job opportunities had passed, which brought relief on one hand, but still left us with the super tight budget.  Then this very week (as in two days ago), one of those job opportunities reappeared.  One of the companies I had spoken to previously now had a part time position, only two days a week, just for me and were willing to pay me exactly what I had made as an attorney.  Ummm, WHAT?!?!?

And you know what I learned through all that?  Our God, is a God of “None of the Above.”  Abraham was faced with a choice of sacrificing his own son or disobeying the Lord.  But when he surrendered his will to God’s, God provided a ram in the bushes to be sacrificed instead.  I faced a choice between a super tight budget or never seeing my kids.  But when I surrendered my plans to God, God provided the perfect employment opportunity instead.   When we see only choice (A) or (B), God can come in and offer: “(C) None of the above”.  God can make something from nothing, and He is always working even when we are unaware.  When we can’t see a good answer, God can.  When we see no way out, God is making a way out.  If we are willing to trust Him, willing to acknowledge Him, and willing to surrender our will to His, then He most definitely WILL make our paths straight.

Blessings,

Rebecca

God Can Take It!

How much of what you say do you really mean?  Most days I manage to talk a good talk, but I wonder, how much do I truly mean?  Let me give you some personal examples:

I say: “Sure, I’d love to be there, can’t wait!”
I think: “Ugh! How can I get out of this?”

I say: “That sounds awesome, y’all have fun!”
I think: “Why didn’t I get invited? I thought we were friends.”

(Yes, I do realize these two example are in direct juxtaposition to each other, but they have both been realities of my life…many, many times!)

Surely men can relate, right? For example:

You say: “Yes honey, you look amazing!”
You think: “You look okay, now hurry up we need to go!”

Sad to say, but I know I tend to do this with God too!

I say: “I trust you…”
I think: “…but I’ll go ahead and handle it my way.”

I say: “Thy will be done.”
I think: “Except if it’s something bad because I don’t want that!”

I say: “Thank you for the struggles that force me to look to you, and to depend on you.”
I think: “Okay, can you make them stop now??? (Pretty please with a cherry on top!)”

I know this tends to be human nature and we all do this.  I think when it’s with people, we are trying to spare hurt feelings.  With God we try to hold on to our perceived sense of control.  You know what though? God desires such a close relationship with us that He can handle our brutal honesty.  He wants it even!  It’s a lot like earthly parents and children…as tough as it might be to hear and process, we want our children to be honest with us.  After all, how are we to help them learn and grow and keep them safe if they don’t tell us exactly how they are feeling?

When I think about brutal honesty with God, I’m reminded of the psalmist David:

How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing?                                                          Rescue me from their fierce attacks.                                                                                      Protect my life from these lions!
Then I will thank you in front of the great assembly. (Psalm 35: 17-18a)

Does it seem to anyone else like David is testing God?  It’s like David is saying, “Hey, wake up God and get down here and save me! THEN, I will praise you.”  Talk about honesty…it seems David feels that God is distant and not in control of the situation (haha, right!), and that God needs to march Himself down to earth and rescue David, pronto! Then David will praise Him.  That’s pretty brazen if you ask me!  But guess what, I am so guilty of the exact same thing! For me it usually goes a little like this: “Father, why this? Why me? If you… then I…”  Can you relate?

How about Psalm 38 for honesty?! David admits that he has sinned greatly, but also states that God’s “arrows have struck deep, and your blows are crushing me.  Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins.” (vs. 2-3) Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like David is blaming God for his own choice to sin, and the subsequent results.  In verse 8, David continues his honesty, admitting that “I am exhausted and completely crushed.  My groans come from an anguished heart.”  (Hey, I think I’ve felt that too!) In verses 21-22 David writes, “Do not abandon me, O Lord.  Do not stand at a distance, my God.  Come quickly to help me, O Lord my savior.” I think I’ve also prayed something along these lines.  Through David’s heartfelt honesty, I find comfort. I can relate to his pain, and after all, David was a man after God’s own heart, so maybe I can be a woman after God’s heart!  Wow, how amazing is that?!!!

I’ll do one even better.  How about when Jesus was hanging on the cross and He said “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)  In that moment, Jesus shows us how we can be brutally honest with God.  Jesus shows us it is okay to question God’s presence in the midst of our suffering. Boy, have I done this lately!  How about you?  What is that thing you are struggling with? That thing perhaps you feel you cannot be honest with God about.  Is it a hurt? Anger? Worry? Fear?  Sickness? Loss of job?

Could I challenge you with this thought?…God already knows.  He knows the pain you are in, He knows every tear, every ounce of anger…all of it!  Maybe He’s just waiting for you to be truly honest with Him so that He can rescue you.

Father, help us to remember you are the great creator of all.  You are the alpha and the omega.  There’s not a thing that happens on this earth that you do not already know about. There’s not a feeling or thought we have that you do not already know.  Help us remember we can come to you with our brutal honesty in the midst of our storms.  May knowing that you are in control of all, bring us great comfort and peace as we rest in your loving care.  Amen.

Love,
Olivia

In Due Time

It’s so hard for me to wait on things that I’m really excited about. There have been some things in my life that I desire so deeply that I feel like I just can’t wait another moment or I may explode! I’m pretty sure we’ve all experienced these times of waiting on a dream to come to fruition. No matter how big or small it may seem on someone else’s scale, it’s huge for us when we’re in the middle of it. But how do we wait patiently on the Lord when He obviously is not on our same schedule?

“…and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.” 1 Samuel 1:20 (NLT)

The most prevalent story in the Bible that covers this topic is the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel. I read this recently with fresh eyes. I remember learning about how desperately she prayed and how she prayed so hard that Eli thought she was drunk. (Now that is some serious praying!) But what stood out to me this time was one tiny little phrase. “In due time…” I hadn’t paid attention to those key words before. After previous readings, I just assumed she desperately prayed and then she got pregnant and God blessed her with a baby.

HOWEVER! We cannot overlook those three key words. IN DUE TIME. She didn’t just lay it all out there in prayer and immediately get her dream-come-true. She still had to wait. And pray. And press in continuously—believing in her mighty God and His power to control her life and her future—even if her future did not actually include a baby. What faith! Have you experienced waiting like this? What kind of waiter are you?  

In our society, we wait for all kinds of things. I mean, it feels like half our lives are wasted waiting in some kind of line: in traffic, in the grocery store, in the post office, school drop off and pick up, restaurants, etc. We just line up and wait. But, in these cases, we typically know that the wait ends and at the end of the line, we will inevitably get whatever we got in line for and go on about our day. So what makes this “Hannah” waiting so much more difficult?

When we’re waiting for an outcome that we can’t control and that we can’t fully anticipate, we have two choices. 1) Frantically fight and strive to control every aspect of the situation, clinging desperately to anything that we can analyze or manipulate in order to fit events into our desired timeline, or 2) Pray so intensely and continuously that others may actually think we’re crazy…and let God do His thing in HIS TIME. Which will you choose?

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)

As easy as it sounds to just choose #2, it is HARD! But here’s what I’ve learned just in the past couple of years on this journey of discovering how precious the waiting can be if I wait and rest in the timing of my heavenly father and not my own:

Wave the white flag! Surrender…everything. We cling so fiercely to our desires that we end up running the risk of veering off God’s course for our lives. Selfish ambition will always lead us down a path of destruction. We must succumb to the fact that God’s plan for our lives is and will always be so much better than anything we could ever conjure up on our own.

Pray without ceasing! The Bible gives us the story of Hannah as an example of faith and follow-through. Trusting God for the outcome is the ultimate key to successful waiting. We must trust Him and His ways. When we can’t comprehend the events taking place, we must be willing to accept His outcome even if it ultimately looks different than what we had in mind. Don’t stop praying for God’s will to be done!

Reflect and Remember! If you get caught up in the “why me’s” or the “why not me’s,” then you need to stop and reflect back on your life thus far. Record all the times when God was faithful. (Because there have been many, many times—I promise!) Write it down and allow yourself to remember how amazing it felt to see God’s goodness come to fruition. Write down what you thought you wanted, what happened during the waiting, and how God surpassed your expectations with His outcome. If we don’t take the time to do this, we can easily forget our most amazing blessings and misplace them in our memories as our own accomplishments. Thinking that we actually performed in some way that created our own outcome will surely lead to our continued striving to control the future. But if we actively reflect and remember how all of our blessings are from the Lord, we can build our trust and faith for future answered prayers on top of the foundation that He has been providing all along.

“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 (NLT)

Father God, thank you so much for your plans and provisions for my life. Thank you for making me wait on your perfect timing. Help me to rest during the waiting and recognize that the best you have for me will take place in due time. Forgive me for trying to manipulate my life to fit my very narrow scope of what I think is best. I trust you, God. May I be more like Hannah and press in with sincere prayer for your will to be done. Search my heart and show me where I need to surrender fully to you. Holy Spirit, help me recall all the times where God’s plans surpassed my wildest dreams and let me not misplace those memories as my own accomplishments. May my life and my story be an example of your glory! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love,

Jamie