As The Wind Blows

A while back, in the midst of cleaning the house and preparing meals, our toddler son brought in a beautiful bouquet of little yellow flowers from our backyard. He proudly walked up and held them out to me with a broad smile and his chest puffed out. He had picked these just for me and he was overflowing with anticipation for me to take his gift. I had been so busy and tired that day… as had pretty much been the case for every day previous that year as my husband was traveling much for business. But, something about the way he approached me caused me to pause. I knelt down and smiled warmly as my heart was reminded of a dream the Lord had given me years prior.

 

In this dream, I saw streetlights at night along a beautiful park. These stately lights then turned into burnt matchsticks that were bent over and smoldering. And from there, I could see dandelion seeds taking flight from the smoldering matchstick as the wind blew. At the time of the dream, I was preparing for the missions field and a foreign culture. Yet all the while, I had a strong sense that this dream would apply to a later time, but had no idea what it could mean. Then, after marrying my husband and moving to the Middle East with our precious ten-month-old son and our precious toddler daughter in toe, something struck a cord within my soul.

 

I was burnt out, feeling overwhelmed and utterly out of ideas of what to do with our littles in the day. I needed a break—so I thought. I needed to just get away and recharge—so I kept telling myself. Yet, as I would meet with a wise, older Christian woman about once a month, I was blessed to glean from her insights on life. And among them, she kept pointing out how much the Lord uses us mothers to forward the kingdom of God here on earth. And it is not simply on our “refreshed days”, but often times through our heartache and times of great need for intervention of His divine nature, that we are able to see and experience His presence all the more profoundly.

 

After another wonderful time with this precious older woman of the faith while still in the Middle East, I headed back to our home to my husband and our now sleeping children. I could not shake the feeling that I was missing out on something. That somehow I was focusing on the wrong things during our time abroad. And then, the dream of the dandelion seeds in the wind came back to mind as I thought of our children.

 

Because of Your adversaries, You have established a stronghold from the mouths of children and nursing infants to silence the enemy and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2 (HCSB)

 

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was that burnt out instrument and complaining rather than seeking the Lord’s guidance and continual renewal. I was that smoldering match. But, what encouraged my heart—and what was affirmed through prayer in that moment—was the reality that raising Christ loving and Christ following children is vital in combatting the enemies of God. Stay with me here….It is in such seasons of prolonged fatigue and sleepless nights that God was able to show Himself all the more glorious in my own story. It was when I was willing to cry out with my need for Him and claim the truths of His Living Word, contained within the Holy Bible, that I would find a renewed sense of focus, meaning and willful hope. Perhaps you too can relate. It is when I have been willing to say, “this one is so far beyond me, Lord…I just cannot go another step. Please take the lead. I just want to honor You”

It is there, in that very moment that the Lord intervenes in truly miraculous ways that astound the mind and baffle the senses.

 

“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” Psalm 40:2 (NLT)

 

All these memories came rushing back to me as I hugged my son and thanked him for his flowers before he ran back outside to play with our daughter who was already on the rope swing. And as I walked into my husband and I’s master bathroom to place my new bouquet next to the very same type of flower bouquet my daughter had given me just the day previous, my eyes saw something that affirmed it all. Where the delicate little flowers had rested the day previous, now white little puffballs were bloomed in their place.

 

It was such a profound and meaningful encouragement to my heart from the Lord. Although I was indeed exhausted and trying to take care of two extremely active children, the fact remained—these children are my seeds.

 

As mothers, and women in general, we have the awesome privilege to not only physically, but also spiritually invest into the lives of our children. And whether it’s a “good day” or “bad day”, they watch us to see how we choose to respond to the circumstances the Lord allows into our day.

 

He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.” Psalm 18:33 (NLT)

 

Ladies, I encourage you this every moment, to ask the Lord above to breathe afresh upon you. He can take any situation and breathe life, hope and direction into it (Ezekiel 37). Acknowledge your need for His guidance, favor and continual mercy amidst the chaos (Psalm 71:20). Ask the Lord to breathe anew upon your soul to refresh you in this time of need—right where you are—so that you may glorify Him even in your fatigue and responsibility (Psalm 138:7). Ladies, please take this to heart, the care and guardianship of the next generation is of highest importance to the Lord (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 113:9, Psalm 127:3, Mark 10:14).

 

Thus, may we not only be in prayer for this next generation daily, but may we pray for the Lord to equip us to minister, mold and model lives that are sold out to the cause of Jesus Christ. May we be willing to follow the Lord in obedience and speak of His eternal glories to the little ones of this upcoming generation.

 

In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.” Psalm 18:29 (NLT)

Through the power of His holy name, we have been given not only the victory over hell, but over all forms of confusion, fatigue, inferiority, comparing and all other forms of evil that the devil would love to use to discourage us as mamas, and women in general. Take back what is yours, as a daughter of the Most High; take back the victory that was handed to you personally as Jesus Christ victoriously defeated evil and it’s many forms as He bore our sins upon the cross and gave us His healing (Isaiah 53:3).

 

“For Your faithful love is higher than the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. God, be exalted above the heavens, and let Your glory be over the whole earth.” Psalm 108:4-5 (HCSB)

 

Walk in it. Own it. Ask the Lord to blow upon the current situations in your own life and take His message of hope, restoration, peace and healing to all people groups who are in critical need of encouragement (Ezekiel 19:10).

 

May the LORD cause you to flourish, both you and your children.” Psalm 115:14 (NIV)

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Then What?

What do you think of when you hear Cartier? Bentley? Personal staff? Private yachts? Multi-million dollar estates? What about, organic living and sustainable stewardship? Filling the pages of your passport? Dating the “hot” guy? Being the center of the social universe? Getting the job? And still, what do you think of in regards to the pursuit of positive thinking? Being a good person? How about the words, nipping, cutting, numbing or altogether altering yourself? If you answered “happiness”, “contentment” or “the life” to any of these, may you be encouraged by the Word of God this very day.

 

Although there is a myriad of ways to “better” ourselves or “make it” in the eyes of the world, if we are looking for fulfillment to embrace us behind any one of these—we will be sadly mistaken—each and every time. Why would this be?

 

Our society trains us to chase “big dreams” as are defined by the world. But, what does one do when such dreams are conquered? When the Cartier is now a few fashion seasons old? Or the evening is finally over and it’s time to go home? Or the passport book has indeed been filled? Or the medication begins to wear off? Then what? We have been trained to want things and passionately pursue them; yet continually come up frustrated when the sensation of pleasure fades away at the end of each conquest. At that time, many return for another hit—whatever that may mean for the individual. And if the same level of ecstasy cannot be reached as before, often times ways of supplementing the pleasure are then implemented within future pursuits. This vicious cycle of yearning for more is nothing new. In fact, King Solomon in all his splendor wrote many wise sayings regarding the human condition within the Holy Bible.

 

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 (HCSB)

 

When we realize that our pursuits apart from God were never meant to bring us contentment or lasting happiness, we need to return to the Lord with apologetic hearts. It is when we are willing to acknowledge our love for the things of this world over the things of the Lord, and sincerely repent of this idol worship within our own lives and hearts, that God is then able to redirect our gaze and do something truly new and exciting within our spirits. Listen to these encouraging words offered to those who place their hope in Jesus Christ.

 

“Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 (HCSB)

 

How faithful is the Lord to take us back each and every time—in order to fill us with the very things we most desire—love that won’t go away, peace that will last beyond the storm, and comfort that will be our companion through all things. Praise God for His mercy and grace within each of our stories!

 

You see, whether you “live big” as defined by the world (as was the case for King Solomon (1 Kings 10:14-22) or Queen Esther (Esther 1-2) or “modestly” as was the case for John the Baptist (Matthew 3:3-4) or the women with only a tiny offering to bring to the temple (Mark 12:41-44)—God can use each of our stories for His glory—right where we are! You see, it is up to each of us to separate our eyes from the world’s idea of “success” and come to grips with the reality that contentment is found in Jesus Christ alone.

 

The Bible teaches that each and every life is valued to God (John 3:16-18). Thus, whether the world would define one as rich or poor, popular or an outcast, the eternal status of each soul is the same. We all are in need of Jesus Christ’s redemptive work (Romans 3:23-26). Regardless of where we are on this spinning rock today, may we fall to our knees and ask the Lord to use our lives to bring Him glory. May we use the gifts, talents and resources allotted to each of us to share of God’s hope, God’s redemption and God’s unabashed love story for each heart from each culture around the world! Ladies, the time is now—and it is time for the Bride of Jesus Christ, the Church, to unite under His banner of grace, forgiveness and new life (Ephesians 2:8, 1 John 1:9 & Romans 6:4). May we breath deep and embrace a fresh dose of peace that does not come from the world, but from our Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:27). May we thank Him anew for placing us in this time in history and ask to be used to speak of His mercy (Isaiah 6:1-8).

 

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: Who should I send? Who will go for Us? I said: Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8 (HCSB)

Saturated Fats of the Heart

Have you ever looked in the mirror while trying on new clothes and wondered, “Did that nasty comment make me look fat?” Or as swimsuit season is approaching, “Do these excuses make me look bloated?” Sound crazy? Allow me to explain. Excuses, grudges, nasty words and blame shifting could be described as high saturated fats of the heart. “Oh wow, can you even believe how ridiculous…” or “I wouldn’t have had to act that way, if…” or “I cannot be blamed in this because…”

 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)

 

Whether we realize it or not, excuses for not obeying God’s word is much like carrying extra weight. When we are unwilling to follow God’s lead, and rather, hold onto an excuse, grudge or shift the blame to justify our own actions—we gain weight, spiritually speaking.

 

Walk with me here. If we are unwilling to “pick up our cross” (Luke 9:23) and follow Christ, we will experience the same atrophy spiritually, as we do physically from not treating our body right. Our body is called the “temple of God” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). In the same way, the most sacred part of us would be our heart—the very essence of who we are. Thus, if we are not willing to obey God in the inner most parts of ourselves, it will show in every other part of our lives. From our spoken and written words to the friends we hang with to even include the kind of guys we are willing to date. It all comes back to obedience to the Lord.

 

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

 

If we are willing to be obedient to the calling of God on our lives, even when it is inconvenient, or even down right annoying, we are honoring God—and keeping in good spiritual health (Acts 17:28)!

 

When we encounter stressful and unexpected circumstances, rather than grabbing a less than healthy snack option or calling a friend to vent, may we be women whom are willing to take our issues to the Lord and lay bare the ugliness of the circumstance before Him (Psalm 37:4-5, Psalm 62:8, Proverbs 3:5 & 1 Peter 5:7). May we be a generation of Christ followers who are willing to pray things out with the Lord on long walks or runs, even before we turn to others for advise. As we are more exposed to the world that the Lord created, we will be reminded that He works all things out in His creation for good (Job 12:10). Thus, we can be assured, simply by observing the natural world, that He will in fact do the same thing in our own stories; no matter how complicated the details may be (Romans 8:28).

 

Sometimes we all just need to hit “pause” on the world for a little while and regain our focus on what really matters. When I am stressed, I need to get alone with the Lord and hash things out. Through long drives or mountainside journaling sessions, I feel free to lay all things bare before the Lord; the good, the bad and the ugly. Sometimes I am balling in anguish. Other times I am screaming in frustration. And sometimes still, I am worshipping and laughing so loud, I think creation itself may be joining along in celebration!

 

The point is, regardless of how you do it, make time to get honest before the Lord—just the two of you. When you do, you will experience a great weight lifted off of your shoulders as you give your circumstances to the Lord through honest communication (Psalm 68:19 & Isaiah 46:4). It is in those private moments with the Lord, that we can then realign our will to His. In doing this, we can lay our excuses down and shatter the blame shifting that may be holding us back from experiencing the spiritual fitness that God has for us. By letting go of the excuses that have been used to justify our behaviors and thought patterns, we are then able to experience life in abundance (Jon 3:17).

 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 (NASB)

 

Jesus Christ promises us that He did not just want us to experience life—but to experience it in abundance (John 10:10)! So, when we find ourselves and others we love focusing on excuses or grumbling, let us check ourselves in love. Why? Simply put, our focus should not merely be on the physical world and outward beauty; but on keeping our whole body (e.g. body, mind and spirit) in good health (Deuteronomy 6:5). How do we do this? By keeping close to God through prayer, reading God’s Word and plugging into a Bible study where real life can be shared with other like minded followers of Jesus Christ. With Christian sisters at your side, you all can cheer one another on to memorize encouraging scriptures to recall in hard times (Psalm 23:4, Jeremiah 29:11-13, Jeremiah 33:3, Philippians 4:13, 2 Corinthians 12:9, 1 John 4:9 & Revelation 12:11), work out together, go on missions projects together that bless the hearts of others and just share life together in the name of Jesus Christ.

 

Summer is just around the corner and we all begin to look in the mirror to see if we need to shed a few pounds. In the same way, may we consider if we also need to loose a few excuses, drop a few grudges, and detox our hearts and spirits from blame shifting and nasty words. In its place, may we then pick up a little extra compassion, tenderness and responsiveness of heart! Let’s enjoy this approaching summer with a newfound spiritual fitness that is found in Jesus Christ alone (Psalm 27:14, Psalm 33:20, Psalm 62:1, Psalm 62:5 & Psalm 130:5)!

 

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

Picture Perfect: Adjusting The Focus

In the fast paced world we live in-where one can instantly share a photo, thought or live stream-when is one supposed to step off center-stage?

 

While scrolling through a social media site today, I smiled as I saw many of those I love having a great time on Christmas day. Yet, today is the 26th and all boxes have been opened and enjoyed. Today, the clean up is in full swing in our home and it got me to thinking.

 

How often are we, as young adults and possibly young parents, able to hit “stop” on the chaotic spin of chores, engagements and obligations in order to just “be still” or “rest” before the Lord? I can speak from experience; this is not my strong suit! As a type-A personality, I want every always perfect. I want my house clean, my kids well dressed and laughter to always be heard from our home. Perhaps you can relate!

 

With more and more of “social” interactions needing less and less of actual face-time with real-life individuals, people begin to crave depth and sincere relationship. Have you ever wondered why there is a hint of dissatisfaction when you upload a photo and the ones you really wanted to see it, miss the update all together? Let’s be real, how many time have you felt social pressure to “look good” in a photo? Who else has actually changed clothing when talks of pictures came up? I know I have been there! Ladies, simply put, we were made for real relationships. So, what’s the fix? Where can we, as women, find true relationship that will edify and refresh our souls—regardless of our relationship status?

 

Regardless of one’s situation, there is a sound and refreshing truth that is applicable to all. Before the days of carrying our phones with us to the restroom or updating a group of “friends” on our dinner menu, there was One who was unabashedly interested in you and your life—and wanting to spent time with you—just the two of you. Who is this die hard romantic that tells each willing heart come as you are and I will give you rest?

 

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

 

With my hair in a mess and no make-up today, my “scheduled sick day” is in full swing. I do not want to upload a single picture from today. Why? Because I feel completely and utterly unpresentable. Yet, is this what the Lord would say about me—even today? With crazy hair and piles of things my family and I needed to accomplish today, what would be His response amidst the chaos?

 

“Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.” Mark 6:31 (NLT)

 

Regardless of the plates you may be juggling in your life, regardless of how many things are staring back at you from your to-do lists, I encourage you to make it a point to rest with the Lord. What does it mean to rest? It is a beautiful word—that grows more precious with each year we inherit more responsibilities. But, does rest simply mean that we are to curl up for a nap? Or, perhaps there is more to it.

 

Just before Jesus Christ was to be crucified—part of His to-do list for saving all of mankind—He went away to pray in a garden called Gethsemane. In that time, He laid His heart bare before Father God. He knew the incredible task that lay before Him and He addressed this matter, openly and honestly. He was so stressed and filled with the weight of what lie ahead of Him that He actually sweat blood (Luke 22:44). Due to the extreme pathological circumstances that awaited Him just moments to come, Jesus surrendered His will to Father God in order to carry out His perfect will. (Matthew 26:36-46)

 

As Christians we are to be still before the Lord. To effectively do this, we are to separate ourselves from our obligations for a time and simply realign our hearts with His. The Lord has spoken such beautiful truths to my heart at just the right time as I have made a point to get alone with Him. In those times I can vent my frustrations, share my chaos and be completely bare before the Lord. Nothing is hidden from the Lord. How grateful I am that God does not just want to see my status update, but desires to share not only this life, but eternity also, with me. He desires the same for you as well.

 

In times of busyness it can be so incredibly easy to forget the importance of spending time alone with God. As 2016 prepares to make its debut, may we choose to take the time and make the effort to align our hearts to the Lord through times of deliberate rest with Him. Why? Because you are worth it to an infinitely loving God.

 

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10 (NLT)