Sugar Cookies and Lemonade: Exuding Praise For All Things

Have you ever been struck by something—that seems so simple to those around you—but truly awakens something deep within your core? This has been the case for me over the past few months. We have had one trial and/or trying circumstance after another over the past year and a half of living overseas. We had prayed about where to accept work next, and this was it. Thus, as each trial and hardship hit, as a family we tried to hold fast to the truth that we were brought here for a purpose—and we could breathe easy knowing that God would bring us through—even though we had no clue of the details. That is, until these past few months.

For anyone who has lived abroad, be it for school or work, you know that there are times when being “away on an adventure” cannot replace the fact that major milestones of life are being missed with those you love back in your homeland. For me, this happened when my sister and her husband welcomed their first baby into the world. We were overjoyed for them, but unable to share in the celebration first hand. I was nearly beside myself. I only have one sister. So, to be so far away from her as she transitioned into motherhood was brutal for me. What was I to do in response to the growing feelings of sadness that were welling up inside of me? One word; lemonade.

 

“16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)

 

Although I could not physically be there to celebrate the birth of my new niece, we were determined to mark this day with something special and fun—from the heart of the Middle East. With decided joy and determined gratefulness for where the Lord had placed us at this time in our family’s journey, my children and I began to squeeze lemon after lemon into a large bowl at our kitchen table. We were going to bring the celebration of new life to the unsuspecting gardeners of our neighborhood—and they were blown away! With our mason jar filled with homemade lemonade, both Ruth (3 ½ yrs) and Daniel (2 yrs), hopped into the wagon. It was go time! With lavender cups and a dipper for the sweet and sour beverage, we rolled up to gardener after unsuspecting gardener—as a way to thank the Lord for the new life He had blessed our family with. They were thrilled and grateful for the cool drink on that hot day. Not only did the men enjoy a surprise in their day, but the kids and I had a ball delivering it!

I began to think of how this related to our command to thank the Lord in all things. As we are willing to walk out what we know to be true (e.g. praising God even when it doesn’t make logical sense), we honor God (2 Corinthians 5:7). When we choose obedience over selfish motives, we honor God (Hebrews 11:1). And when we choose to walk in the victory of His plan of hope and purpose for our lives, we choose to hush the voices and influences that try to bring our attention off of God (2 Corinthians 4:18).

 

“Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, “Let God be magnified.” Psalm 70:4 (NASB)

 

In a similar way, as I was making sugar cookies over this past week, I had to smile as I recalled a beautiful family memory. I still remember as a young girl, arriving to my great grandma’s house to the smell of freshly baked sugar cookies inviting us through the living room and directly into the kitchen. There, atop a glass platter and crocheted tablecloth, you would find a warm plate of hospitality waiting. I don’t recall much about my great grandma, but I do recall her genuine smile, her love for the Lord, her devotion to family and her ability to make all feel welcome and valued.

Ladies, whether we realize it or not, each of us has the ability to leave a lasting impression on those around us, too. What will people remember you for? What one word would describe you in the eyes of others? For me, I would say that my great grandma was a woman marked by Biblical contentment. She had made the willful decision to be joyful in all things and serve the Lord with a happy heart. She has long since been with the Lord, but I still think of her to this day and smile as I make sugar cookies.

How awesome to remind ourselves that a simple interaction (e.g. a smile, a sincere greeting, a shared treat, etc.) with another can be used by God to advance His work of redeeming this world—through our daily acts of obedience to the teachings of the Holy Bible (Galatians 6:9 & 2 Thessalonians 3:13).

 

“Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let those who love Your salvation say continually, “The LORD be magnified!” Psalm 40:16 (NASB)

 

Whatever your circumstance, God sees you and is ready to rescue you! You are not forgotten. God allows things to happen in our lives that are used to draw us closer to Himself (Psalm 121:1-2). If we are willing to focus on the lavish love of our Lord towards us, rather than our let downs, we will discover a joy that truly surpasses all understanding (Psalm 30:5 & Psalm 126:5). Regardless of the difficulties that you may be juggling at present, take heart. God is not done with your story! Pray for His perspective in the situation and the ability to faithfully walk out Biblical obedience to His teachings. The next time you need a “pick me up” in perspective, grab your Bible, a glass of lemonade and a sugar cookie. Remember that the Lord uses all things, even lemons; to bring about His perfect will in our lives. Ladies, dig deep into the truths of the Holy Bible—they are beautiful truths to encourage us through each and every season of our lives. And for this, I raise my glass of lemonade and offer a toast to the reality that, with God, all things will indeed get better in His perfect time (John 16:33). Cheers.

1Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. 2But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. 3They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT)

Advertisements

The Fire of Forgiveness

 

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5 (NASB)

 

Have you ever experienced something that left undeniable scares on your heart? I have been astounded anew as I have recently heard the story of the missionaries who were killed in Ecuador sixty years ago. These men’s testimonies of love for both Jesus Christ and the unreached Auca/Waodani people have forever impacted global missions. After being killed, some of the families chose to live among the tribe. Not only that, as the daughter of Jim Elliot grew up and desired to get baptized, her mother, Elizabeth Elliott, told her to pick one of the men whom had most impacted her life to baptize her. She chose the man who had killed her father. Incredible, right?! Well, there is more. The ladies who had chosen to live among these people also asked to see the place where their loved ones had earlier been killed. And as the tribe took them to that specific river, not just the daughter of John Elliott, but also the son of Nate Saint, Steve, then decided to be baptized by those who had murdered their fathers—in the very same river.

 

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

 

Now, most of these details—and others of this compelling story—seem unbelievable and inapplicable to the “common man”, but this could not be further from the truth. Ladies, these five couples were passionate about reaching the world with the love and saving grace offered through Jesus Christ. These individuals were passionate about making His name known to all people, so that all who choose may receive eternal life. When the five men did not fight back as they were murdered at the end of a spear, it started a spark within the tribe. It was later concluded that these men were truly not out to harm them. When the families of these men decided to forgive those who murdered their loved ones, the spark was fanned a bit larger among the people. When two of the families chose to move to the jungle of Ecuador and live among these very people who had taken the ones they had loved, God set a curiosity for truth within the hearts of these people. As time passed and weeks turned into years, this fire of forgiveness had been set ablaze within this tribal people.

 

“He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles.” Job 5:9 (NLT)

 

This people had never experienced forgiveness nor been accountable to a greater power than themselves up until that very point. To state that one would not retaliate, in their culture, was simply opening oneself up to future attack. Yet, to see these foreign women and children live out lives marked by willful forgiveness, the hearts of these tribal people were forever changed. In fact it is still impacting the people of not only Ecuador, but people from all around the world, to this very day.

 

“Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.” 1 Chronicles 16:24 (NASB)

 

Forgiveness is like a fire. And what can appear as a small spark can soon turn into a blazing mountain of fire. When we are willing to forgive—and forgive—and forgive again, we are fanning the flames of the kingdom of God. In our forgiveness and release of bitterness, spiritual strongholds that have hindered our testimonies for the Lord, are caught ablaze and burnt to the ground. In that moment, the walls around our hearts are burned away, by the purifying power of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

 

Forgiveness is not natural, but rather a choice of the will. It is so much easier, and at times even more satisfying, to hang onto the hatred, the malicious thoughts and justifications for our actions. Yet, is this what we, as followers of Jesus Christ are instructed to do? Jesus Christ put it this way He while teaching:

 

14“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)

 

Ladies, my heart has been set ablaze anew in the faith to press further into the Lord from these testimonies of love! It is not just in the areas that come naturally for us—this also includes areas where excuses tend to creep into our logic. I have been blown away by the vast degrees, not to mention literal decades, of forgiveness that were exhibited within the lives of these five families. They knew where their loved ones had gone—home to be with the Lord in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8 & Colossians 2:5). They were so convinced, so passionate to share this saving grace and anchoring assurance of salvation found in Jesus Christ with these people, that fear could not hold them back (Romans 6:23 & Romans 8:37-39). How amazing to reflect on and apply to our own lives!

 

8“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NASB)

 

May you be encouraged this day, regardless of what hellish experience you may have gone through, know that Jesus Christ can give you the power to forgive the “unthinkable” and be freed from the prison of hatred and bitterness (Matthew 6:14, Mark 11:25, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13 & 1 Peter 3:8). Allow yourself the freedom of heart that is freely offered to you through Jesus Christ. Forgive whatever degree of pain and/or violation that is residing within your heart and experience the freedom of God in your personal life.

Allow forgiveness to burn away the bitterness and resentment that may still be residing within the deepest depths of your heart—and experience a freedom unlike any other. Ladies, you were made for greatness. You were put on this planet to play a part in an eternal story of God’s glory (Jeremiah 29:11-13). May each one reading take the time, today, to release the pain from yesterday and embrace the peace and purpose of God for your life that is offered to each of us through Jesus Christ. Why? Because you are worth it to an infinitely loving God (1 John 4:9).

 

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLT)

A Lasting Fragrance

Have you ever stopped to think just how powerful the sense of smell is? It has been stated that scent is one of the strongest ties to memory. Think about some of the most meaningful memories from your own life. What may be among the list that bring a smile to your face—perfectly baked chocolate chip cookies, the ocean at sunset, or a favorite sweatshirt from a boyfriend that still holds his scent? For me, I am a sucker for the great outdoors. I have always loved the smell of nature during a good rain. Dirt roads, tree bark and even dry fields exude a beautiful aroma that is held secret apart from the times of rain. It is in that time that the birds begin to sing and the animals bed down to seek shelter to wait out the wet weather. It is peaceful scene to me. One that causes me to breathe deep and thank God for all that He has made. A smell can remind us of many things—good or bad—and each scent serves a purpose.

 

This morning I awoke to the voice of our sweet daughter, Ruth. She crawled into our bed and a strange and horribly pungent odor came to my attention as she drew near. We have nearly conquered the obstacle course, which is potty training. So, I was not sure what else the smell could be. Although she was indeed dry, I asked twice if she knew where the smell was coming from. She innocently stated that she did not know. I was puzzled.

 

The smell was growing stronger—and I asked again—as it truly could not be ignored. She again said she did not know what was causing the smell. I hopped out of bed to investigate where the foul odor was coming from. I was only half awake, but as I entered her room, my eyes grew wide in shock. Her wooden closet door had been resting up against the rolling heater as she had changed into her outfit for the day. I ran to it to make sure that it was not going to catch fire—the smell was overwhelming the closer I got to the wall outlet. As I felt the door, it was warm, but nothing had burned or even singed. What in the world was making that offensive smell? I unplugged the heater before continuing my search—and then I saw it. The outlet was catching fire and the adaptor had melted into the outlet! As I removed the adaptor (we live abroad and there are multiple adaptors for things), only two of the three prongs came out of the wall—the third was now MELTED INTO THE ELECTRICAL SOCKET! I turned off the power to the outlet and we quickly left the room. God had saved our family from the approaching fire by the scent on Ruthie’s clothes!

 

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (HCSB)

 

Have you ever been in a situation that others see as dangerous, yet you yourself think they are crazy for coming up with such odd comments to the things you are engaged in? This was like my sweet daughter this morning. She had awakened to a funny smell, but seeing as it had all come on so slowly, she herself could not smell it. It was not until it reached my nose—across the hall, as she came into my room—that I was quickly alerted that something was not right. She had brought the fragrance of the burning outlet adaptor with her.

 

The Bible speaks to this very thing regarding our lives. Just like the fragrance that we choose to put on before rushing out of the door each day, the Bible tells us that all who choose to follow Jesus, carry His scent with them. Like body sprays, as Christians our lives carry the fragrances of a changed life that are attractive and noticed by others. These fruity aromas of the Holy Spirit include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

Will we, as Christian women, choose to wear the fragrances of Jesus Christ—and prayerfully respond to each situation that unfolds in our lives? Or, will we adorn ourselves with the fragrances of “Self” and make sure that everything that we need comes first? Each morning, as we open our eyes, we are presented with another opportunity to choose our signature scent for the day. Which will you choose?

 

“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.” 2 Corinthians 2:15 (NLT)

 

Ladies, we live in a time where people need to be encouraged by people doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13). As we live each day, conscious of our impact on the world around us, we have the opportunity to be used by God. May we live out what we profess to be true about Jesus Christ and live as He lived (Hebrews 4:15-16). May we be a generation of women who will rise up and offer a hand of forgiveness to those in need (Acts 13:38). May we be willing to provide love and genuine concern for the well being of the marginalized and downcast (Psalm 12:5). May we be quick to listen and pray, but slow to gossip and cut others down (Colossians 4:5-6).

 

Ladies, when we are willing to let Jesus lead our day, we will be presented with prayerful opportunities to bless others in His name. May we look for opportunities to speak encouragement and offer blessing to others—in order that a fragrance of Jesus Christ may remain on their clothing after they share an interaction with us. Much like the powerful smell that I experienced this morning that drove me out of bed to investigate, a life that is obedient to Jesus Christ will also have a similar affect on those around you. There will be “something different” about you that will be noted by others—and it is our privilege to state, with absolute love, that the difference is Jesus Christ.

 

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NASB)

The Secret to Contentment

6But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.”       1 Timothy 6:6-8 (NASB)

This morning, I have been reflecting on my own search for true and lasting contentment throughout the years (I am only twenty-nine, but there is still much to look back on! Haha). I recall the progression of focus as I tried to find contentment through the eyes of achievement and success in junior high. I recall striving to find contentment in the eyes of my coaches and family in high school. And in college, I remember trying to find it in the eyes of men—boyfriends, to be specific. And although my heart knew where I would really find joy and lasting worth, my eyes kept believing that there just had to be more to the equation—it couldn’t be as simple as a single shift in my focus—could it?

 

In the days of junior high and high school, for many many young ladies, the focus is on improving the individual: be it through academics, sports, the arts, etc. Looking one’s best is a constant interest—as one never knows when the next group photo or cute guy will appear. One has to be ready, right?! J I sure thought so! College prep was also a major focus for many in high school— and I was definitely one of them. I knew the Lord Jesus Christ, and attended the school Christian campus groups—and even participated on the leadership team. The thing was, I did not have a boyfriend. I did not have any known interests—and I wondered what must be wrong with me. Has anyone else ever felt this way?

 

Although I knew the Lord Jesus Christ, and could sing pretty much any modern worship song, deep down, I wondered if I just had a boyfriend—would I feel happier? I recall multiple friends beginning to date and even embark on long-term relationships. I never understood it. I simply did not want to have to put my heart out there—even though I had convinced myself that this surely would be the fix to my need of “more”. My parents had divorced in my high school days and I was certain that relationships did not last—I mean, I had just watched my own family crumble before my own eyes. I was not about to sign up for that anytime soon. Yet, a desire for relationship was still rooted deep within my heart. I wanted a secure love, a lasting love, a real love. I decided to press further into God during my time of greatest heartache and loss—and I am forever grateful for this decision.

 

In the midst of my questions, in the midst of my pain, God was there—24/7. He was my closest friend and truest companion. Not only that, He showed me that He is the eternal lover of my soul—the One who is most intimately concerned for my own well being—and for this, I grew more deeply in love with the Lord. He was (and remains) my constant.

 

As a result of asking the Lord for a “clear-cut answer” as to where to attend college, while on summer vacation in Los Angeles, CA, I received my answer—straight through the bone. The Lord does not lack an amazing sense of humor! I had not wanted to stay in my hometown for lack of desire to forgive all that had happened to now shape my current reality of being a statistic. I had been looking at two different schools—both far away—in order to avoid the area of forgiveness that I had been holding deep within my soul. I was growing more callused towards others as a result of unforgiveness. I had my first boyfriend during my sophomore year of undergrad. Although he was not what my heart was looking for, in my desperate attempt to escape the “me” phase of life and enter into the “we”, I continued to call the guy back—after breaking it off—seven times in three months. His family told him to let me go—and it was wise advice. I had much forgiveness to do, much trust to learn and much love to accept from the Lord—before I would ever be able to accept words such as “I love you” and “You’re the one I want to marry” from another. Unfortunately, I did this same thing to other boyfriends that followed, seeing as I did not trust the unknown. God had much to teach me before I would meet my husband in the literal desert of California four years later.

 

I went through a time where I pursued and craved every “creature comfort” that this world could offer—thinking that these things could satisfy the deep longing within. Being the right weight, having the right friends, pursuing the right major, wearing the right perfume and name brands, owning the right jewelry, driving the right car, being involved with the right volunteer opportunities, having the right boyfriend…nothing satisfied the deep longings of my heart. I “had it all”…yet, why was I not satisfied?

 

As I grew older, I had begun to believe the message that is shouted in every culture around the globe: no matter who you are—you need improvement. Without this product or this fragrance or this association to a specific person…you are missing real happiness. Yet, is this what I had been taught while growing up in the church? Absolutely not. I had begun to think that Jesus was great…but that I needed to ADD something to my heart’s equation in order to truly be “complete”. What a foolish thing I put myself through! Perhaps you have been there, too.

 

It wasn’t made fully clear to me, until I would step away from these blaring messages in my first world nation, and see the simplicity and genuine gratitude in the faces of so many with next to nothing in other parts of the world. The gratitude of these individuals, regardless of circumstance, struck me at my core. They praised God for His goodness whether they were able to eat that night or not (Matthew 6:33-34). Something about this fundamental truth of God’s nature resounded with my own soul. I knew this to be absolutely and undeniably accurate of the God I loved and served. I had seen it ring true within my own life, time and time again. God was always faithful—even when the rain fell and my address continued to change amidst my parents’ divorce. God was always there. He was my secure refuge while the chaos raged on. And as I traveled to these foreign lands—a continued theme of contentment ran through each story. These individuals, from countries all across the globe, had placed their hope, future—and present realities—into the ever-loving hands of Almighty God. And as they walked out each day, prayerfully aligning their actions to the will of God, they were able to smile—regardless of what their surroundings looked like.

 

As I finished my undergrad and headed off to a foreign land again, the Lord began to work on my heart in a profound way. I was being brought to a place I had run from for years. I had tried to explain it away within my own heart, yet I could never fully convince myself. I was being brought to a place of forgiving myself for the stupid things I had done in the past that hurt and devastated others as well as forgiving others for the stupid things they had done that had rocked my world. I did not want to forgive—I was comfortable in my anger—it was familiar amidst continually changing surroundings. Yet, I was not happy. The nice clothes, the fragrant perfumes, the amazing friends and even the incredible travel could not cover my need for forgiveness. The time had come to release others and myself. It was time to live out what I claimed to be true—Jesus Christ is the answer to the questions of life. And, as I released others and myself in forgiveness through the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, a deep peace swept over me (Acts 13:38, 1 Corinthians 6:11 & John 14:27).

 

In the times that I would get away from the craziness of life and just “rest” or “cease striving” (Psalm 46:10) before the Lord—either before my roommates were up or sitting on a mountainside with an open journal and Bible—God has always been faithful to speak truth into the specific situations of my life. And, praise God, this is the same promise available to you through Jesus Christ (John 16:33)!

 

Something forever clicked for me while sitting at an upstairs Starbucks in Asia one a freezing afternoon. I realized that when I am willing to let go of the pursuit of “me”, I am more able to focus on the things I actually care about; the Lord and serving others in His name. When I am willing to let go of the false notion that every deep longing of my heart will be satisfied within a relational “we” (marriage in my case), I release the man I love to be human and put the Lord back on the throne of my heart.

 

33“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 (NASB)

 

Everything I do should be birthed out of a desire to glorify the Lord more today than I did the day before (Colossians 3:17). The point is, regardless of the task at hand, it is recognition at the heart level that I must make God my first priority each and every day to find true contentment in each day. When I am willing to tune out the neon signs and flashing lights of the world’s advertisements – and return to the beauty found in the night’s sky – painted by Infinite hands of love – I am brought to smile. In this time, I return to true contentment as I recall that my life is in the Lord’s hands. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I can say with absolute certainty, nothing has entered into my story that God did not first allow. Thus, I can rest in His leading, even when it is hard to navigate by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). And, I can trust in His faithfulness that I have seen play out in my own life—for nearly three decades (Psalm 59:16, Psalm 36:5 & Isaiah 25:1).

 

9“For 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 (NASB)

 

True contentment is not something that can be purchased online or even borrowed. Rather, true contentment must be received at the heart level. Regardless of who Jesus spoke to, He was interested in the heart motives behind any given action. Be them tithing (Luke 21:1-4), serving (Luke 10:38-42), obedience (Matthew 19:16-22), faith (Mark 10:14), etc. Jesus was interested in the heart—not how things looked or even sounded from the “outside” (Psalm 19:12).

“But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10 (NLT)

 

Ladies, as we continue to walk in this new year of 2016, may we be women dedicated to seeing the Lord’s finger prints in our “every day” lives. May we claim the promises of the Holy Bible that state that God is with us (John 14:16, Romans 8:31 & 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). Contentment is found in Jesus Christ alone. I encourage you to meet Him this very day, if your heart does not personally know Him. If you do, I encourage you to wait upon the Lord in your circumstances. Rest assured that He sees you. He loves you. And He desires only the absolute best for the beautiful story of your life. Why? Because your beautiful self is infinitely worth it to Almighty God. Rest in His truth, girlfriend. He’s got it covered. And for this truth, may your heart smile.

 

“Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14 (NLT)

“Hello, Beautiful”

As all the parties and celebrations are now behind us, do you feel a little “blah”? The amount of preparation, planning and parties—all came to their shining moments—and now all are over. If you are anything like me, your Christmas décor is still up—needing to come down—and memories of cherished celebrations will soon be packed away for another year. Time to return to the every day. Yet, I find myself struggling a bit that I was not able to share my special celebrations with those we most love. Maybe you, too, can relate.

 

Perhaps you are away at college and trying to figure out what you want to “do” with your life. Perhaps you are a nanny for a family in a different part of the country than those you hold most dear. Perhaps you have just had to say good-bye to a significant person in your life. Perhaps you are in a new career and all of your friends have married and moved away. Perhaps you are trying to juggle the tasks of life while your husband travels on business. Or, perhaps everything is “perfect” from the outside looking in, but deep inside there is still a nagging in your heart that something is missing. I hope to encourage ladies in each of these situations today!

 

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:7 (NLT)

 

First off, allow me to assure you—the feelings you are experiencing are real. And, praise God, they will pass. It hurts to have to walk through personal heartache. But, through the mercy of God, we do not ever have to endure difficult times and hard circumstances alone. Allow me to share a bit of my own story.

 

Through the years of marriage to the man of my dreams, I have become well acquainted with the reality of living away from our extended family, continually needing to say hello and good-bye to new friends as well as trying to “keep it all together” with our home and children while my husband is away for work. Is it easy? You may wonder—no it is not. But, I have to confess that it is in these times of sheer discomfort and coming to the absolute end of myself—that I meet the Lord in a new way (Psalm 31:19, Ephesians 3:12 & Hebrews 3:1). It is as if I can hear the Lord more clearly as I have to rely on Him more fully (Psalm 73:28). In these seasons of sincere prayers and petitions for guidance and strength, it is as if I can hear the Lord whisper warmly to my soul, “Hello, Beautiful.”

 

7Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. 8The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life.” Psalm 42:7-8 (NASB)

 

Ladies, let’s be honest with ourselves. How often is a crummy day turned around by a compliment from a loved one or even a complete stranger? How often can a sour mood be shifted to a smile and the ability to continue on when we know that others around us see our potential? I know it has an effect on me! Well, take this to heart—the God of all Creation—holds these truths of worth, beauty and purpose and declares them relevant of you, too! His words of truth and encouragement are like those of rolling ocean waves—they are continuous to the hearts that trust in Jesus Christ (John 10:9, John 14:6 & 1 Corinthians 6:11). How comforting to be able to declare, for all who hope in the Jesus Christ, that you have been washed, sanctified and justified by His atoning work on the cross of Calvary and resurrection from the grave. It is due to this ultimate act of love that we are seen as beautiful before God. God is on your side (Psalm 9:9, Psalm 12:5, Psalm 32:7, Psalm 146:9, Luke 1:69 & Hebrews 3:6). The question is, do you see His rescue and encouragements playing out in your personal trial today? If yes, turn up the praise and tell those around you how God is at work. You may be surprised by how your situation begins to feel lighter. If not, take this before the Lord. The Holy Bible assures us that He is ready to rescue in our distress.

 

17LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts. You will listen carefully,18doing justice for the fatherless and the oppressed so that men of the earth may terrify them no more.” Psalm 10:17-18 (HCSB)

 

Despite the inconvenience of the hardships, I sincerely thank God for each season in retrospect. Although I cannot see the benefit for the pain at the given time, I know that the Lord’s plan is perfect in love and mercy. He knows all the details of each and every situation that comes into our lives. I encourage you to take each situation of chaos or fear to the Lord today in prayer. I can speak from experience, the moment I am willing to look above the clouds of my own chaos and walk in God’s promises for my life, my strength is renewed (Psalm 103:5). The writer David puts it this way, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5 (NASB)

 

As this New Year has begun, may we take this opportunity to refresh or revise the mission statement of our lives to Jesus Christ. Nothing apart from the Lord will satisfy our hearts and bring the inner peace that we all have searched for—believe me: been there, done that, tried it. Save yourself unnecessary heartache; Christ is the answer. Allow the Lover of your soul to comfort you in your distress. Call out to Him and experience His loving presence and unwavering encouragements.

 

11Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” Psalm 42:11 (NASB)