Lemonade or Lemons? - Depends on What You Actually Need...

It’s been almost 3 years since I started this whole author-blog-writer-thing and I’m astounded at the words God has put on my heart to share with you all. Looking through some of my first posts I can see the threads God began weaving in my life through this ministry in so many of the posts. I thought it might be a fun thing to update some of the more popular ones and give my new subscribers an opportunity to read the roots of how this blog started.

Today I’m starting with my very very very first blog ever written. It’s so cool to see how what I learned is still so true for me today (read the original post too if you like!)

2016- It was opening day for Term 2 at Camp Barnabas and I’d been the medical director for this camp for special needs for a hot-second. Intake at the WellHouse for the nurses was in full force and I had just been called over by one of my nurses asking if camp had lemon juice. A camper apparently needed some so therefore the medical center needed some available. We needed... no let me rephrase, a very <thorough> camper mom was telling us that we medically required lemon juice. It was literally a medical necessity. Ummm, okay, that's a new one I thought to myself (#helicoptermom much?).... lemon juice....

Let me give you a bit of background, Camp Barnabas is a Christian camp for children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. As you can imagine the types and kind of campers we serve can run the gamut of medical needs. From MACE procedures, a bazillion medications, G-tubes, bowel programs, and ventilators- I see all sorts of medical equipment and we serve a huge array of medical 'stuff'. So at first, the request for lemon juice was not <totally> weird... sure... absolutely we have lemon juice. I'd check with our cook and see but it'd be no biggie to steal some from the kitchen; and worst case scenario, we'd grab the lemonade available and use that. But then this particular request got strange... mom was informing us that her child couldn't use just any kind of lemon juice, she needed freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Not lemonade, not fake lemon juice... As in, out of a real lemon, freshly squeezed lemon juice. Unsweetened, undiluted- straight up out of the lemon.

Pause.

Gross.

The little-squirters in the back of my mouth (total medical term there...) were working overdrive just thinking about the tart-factor of that swig. I'd definitely had some bizarre requests, especially dietary... but this one was rapidly accelerating (not unlike my saliva volume) up to the top of my "Most unusual medical needs" list. My medical incredulity alarm went off and internally I was thinking this lady is cray-cray.  Never in my medical career (which is not a particularly short or sheltered one I might add) could I think of a time or an instance that I could even fathom the absolute medical necessity of straight-up lemon juice for anything. Let alone making this poor camper suffer through drinking such a nasty thing! I mean, seriously... who does that? I was just about ready to very politely but firmly tell above mother that this was a summer camp, in the middle of nowhere, and the chances of us having fresh lemons was less than nill, when she told us that the reason for the fresh lemon juice had everything to do with the undiluted acid content in the juice, and nothing to do with the taste.

Okay, now I'm a bit more intrigued. Maybe she's not totally 'that mom'...

So long story, short, according to this kiddo's doctor, the fresh lemon juice was a necessity to help break down the medications properly, and for her stomach to digest more easily all her food. Which, as noted before, was fine... I now got it- but still didn't actually fix our immediate issue. I was on board with the why, now to address the how. Because, again, think summer camp in the middle of Nowheresville, Missouri; freshly squeezed lemon juice was not exactly readily accessible. Okay mom, okay... I'll just have to check.

We had lemonade but we really needed lemons. Not fake lemon juice, good old off the tree lemons to squeeze good old lemon juice out of. We need real deal, tart, unsweeted, undiluted, acidic, make-your-salivary-glands-go-crazy lemons.

Has life ever given you lemonade but you really just needed a lemon?

It occurred to me throughout that week, with every med pass that nurse made to her camper, that there must be times when God gives us lemons and He expects and needs us to just deal with the juice. The tart, unsweetened, undiluted lemon juice. He doesn't want us to make lemonade out of it. He doesn't want us to sweeten it up. He doesn't want us to dilute it. He wants us to swig it down and let it do it's work. His work. The acidic, often uncomfortable, make-your-spirit-squirm Spirit work that needs to be done within us.

The properties of acid, especially in this case, work to wear away and break down chemical structures in order to either completely do away with a substance or make it more malleable to change.

Anyone picking up where I'm going with this yet?

God uses His own lemon juice in our lives daily. Yet too often we shy away from the bitterness of the taste and miss the spiritual acid He's using to do His work in us. We avoid taking it, like little children squirming to avoid their brussel sprouts. We spit it out. We try to sweeten it up- "making lemonade out of lemons."

I think there is something to be said for the amazing lemonade that God allows by His grace in our lives. Those sweet times with family, the seasons of tremendous fruit spiritually, the happy days of our lives that we yearn for and reminisce about for years. These are good times. These are those deep, refreshing drinks of iced cold lemonade. They are wonderful and needed.

There are also needs for just plain old generic lemon juice. After all, juice out of a bottle is still juice. It still is acidic, and for many things it can serve the same purpose as the real deal. But it will always be diluted, it will always be pasteurized and ever-so-slightly chemically altered. Self-help books, spiritual books, blogs (uh huh, even this one... but keep reading!), counseling, meditation, etc. You get the idea. These are not bad things. they can be immensely beneficial to us... but dear ones, don't be deceived or lazy. The real work of our souls is GodStuff. It is His spiritual acid, His lemon juice in our lives that refine and make us more into His servants. Bottled stuff will never perfectly match the composition of the real stuff.

For the word of the Lord is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

Hebrew 4:12 ESV

Sound a bit acidic? Hard to squirm away from that... though we may try! God's Word is the real deal. It will always be undiluted, sometimes hard to swallow, and refining to our souls. Always. So don't avoid it.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4 (emphasis mine)

Trials, tribulations, testing.... all lemons. God allows and sometimes even causes such things- for the good and perfection of His people. We must see the bigger picture, so let those lemons do their thing. Let that juice work it's way around and in and throughout. It's uncomfortable, it tastes bad and can be seemingly so very hard to digest.  But it's cleansing, detoxing and refining to us. He will cleanse, detox, and refine. So let Him.

So the question remains- I imagine we all have a few lemons in our life right now. Take a moment to refect on what they are. Does God want you to let His Spirit do some much needed acid-work? Or perhaps He needs you to make some lemonade? What or where are the lemons in your life right now? Are you struggling to sweeten the situation? Post below and share your lemon juice experiences- I ‘d love to hear about them!

The Joshua Series- GREAT EXPECTATIONS

I'm excited to start a new series with lessons found in the book of Joshua. The Lord has been walking with me through the early books of the Old Testament for the last year and I'm finally at a place that I can share all the insights God's been showing me. Join us weekly for some real, raw, open and honest this-is-where-I'm-at-right-now GodStuff. I pray it blesses you as it has me. ~Bethany

Recently my husband and I took in two new foster children. The Lord led us to fostering, quite unexpectedly, last year and for many months we've had just an infant with us. Last month though He asked us to take in two more, one with special needs. We prayed over them, we talked at length about the pros and cons, we took as much time as we could to decide. Because in this case, taking in these two would give us a total of six children, three of which have special needs, all of which are under 7. Yikes. I'm sure you can appreciate our trepidation at such a prospect.

Yet, God made it abundantly clear to us that we needed to take in these young boys. So we agreed with great expectations and not a few hesitations.

We're a month into our new season with these kiddos and let me just say in all honesty and that its been hard. I mean capitol H A R D hard. I've found myself stretched to the max daily, hourly, minute by minute at times. Going to bed so many nights questioning if we've done the right thing. Waking up exhausted every morning not knowing how I'm going to make it through the day. I've found myself questioning if we made the right call, questioning our sanity, questioning my ability to continue on. I've grieved the loss of time with my own kids and time with my husband. I've missed meetings, missed church, and had to pull out of other ministries that I adored. Yes, it's been a radical life change to say the least.

I don't like it.

I don't enjoy it.

I don't even 'want' it at times.

And yet, even in the midst of the chaos I know that I'm sitting (or more realistically, splayed out) right where I'm supposed to be. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I'm being obedient.

In all honesty, I'm not that foster mom that's dreamed of doing this all her life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad and there are definitely glimpses of awesomesness here and there. I for sure don’t hate this season. But I'm not that foster parent that has the proverbial huge heart for these kids. I foster because it's a ministry that God called us into and one that is worthy to be doing. I do it because it's Biblical and the right thing to do. I do it because I can't say no to my almighty Father- even when I want to- even when the ministry is not only not 'right down my alley' but quite frankly at times is not even in the same city!

This obedience-thing is not for the faint of heart! And it’s H A R D work.

Yet, my Father is good, even moreso in my vast weaknesses. He has me in Joshua right now and the encouragement I've found even within the first chapter has brought me more than once to tears. (It's like He knew!)

"Do not let this book of the Law depart from your mouths. Meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it, then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:8-9 NIV

So where I am at with all this you may ask?

What I'm learning is that when God told Joshua over and over to be strong and courageous, He wasn't at all referring to taking the Promised Land. Jehovah was telling him to be strong and courageous in his obedience to Him. He was instructing Israel to be resolute, obstinate even, in their obedience.

Regardless of the outcome. Regardless of the scenery on the other side of that leap of faith.

Regardless of whether it makes my own life more pleasant or easy.

I'm learning slowly but surely that oftentimes 'ministry' that God calls us to doesn't necessarily come with the assumed great expectations of obedience that we all want. We assume that our obedience to Him will result in happier times, contentment, provision, or greener pastures.

Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Our saying yes to God and these boys certainly hasn't made our highways and byways clearer. In fact it's significantly impacted all of them. And yet, I'd venture to say that it's made their little pathways more manageable.

I'm learning is that my obedience is the only thing I can control. The rest is up to God: the provision for each day, the strength to continue on, the sanity to push forward, and even the wherewithal to choose to obey again...

and again... and again.

What I'm learning is that despite the seemingly extreme 'inconvenience' of this ministry God has placed on us, the idea of being outside His will and His way is far more terrifying. This season may not be one we would have chosen, it has not been ideal by any stretch, we can only hope and pray that it gets easier... but my expectations of my 'yes' are secondary to the work God has for me.

And suddenly the tables are turned. What great expectations I had placed on Him, are now turned and seen through His eyes upon me. His expectations for me must be quite grand to entrust some of His precious children to us for a time.

It turns out, I've learned I had this entire thing backward the whole time.

Dear ones, view whatever ministries God has called you to- easy, hard, good, bad, or ugly- as opportunities to step up in obedience and meet our Father's great expectations of you. It is no small thing to place you where He did with the treasured people and work He's entrusted you with.

You have your Father's great expectations upon you this day- be strong and courageous, be not discouraged!


You Are Loved

I wanted to pause with you for just a moment today to tell you that I love you.
We may have never met. We probably will never get the chance. For many, oceans separate us and miles of land stretch between our hearts.

And yet you need to know today that you sister are precious. Your life has meaning and purpose. Your soul is priceless. You were not a mistake. You were fearfully and wonderfully made before the testament of time could start recordings it’s annuals.

You are beautiful!

You, dear one, are loved. By me. By others. By so many. But mostly importantly by our Great Father. You are remembered in the heavenlies hourly. The steps of your life, both easy and rough, are numbered by God Himself.

Today take a moment to relish in the fact that you are cherished, adored, lifted up, wooed, and worried over. Yes- you! All of us! The daughters of the Most High are keenly beheld and fiercely protected. Believe this. Close your eyes and inhale the goodness of the Father. Listen for nature’s worship of our King. Feel the warmth of His enduring and faithful love wash over you and inside you.

Have hope in the goodness of your Father, find resolution in the sacrifice of your Brother and Bridegroom, be at peace with the Spirit residing and whispering within you. You are not alone. You are a precious jewel in the treasury of the Most High and He does not take your existence lightly. Be entranced by the favor you’ve found. Lift your head high, walk with authority, kneel humbly, and know you are loved.

For Those Who Ache

For Those Who Ache

I imagine you feel like damaged goods. Like what little was there to start with is now irrevocably tarnished. So much so that you're not worthy of love or any goodness in life. People have started treating you differently- like your pain and wounds are just too much... too ugly... to big for them to handle. Right?
The pain goes too deep to root out the cause, the treatment to heal too scary to consider seriously. The worry and anxiety of such a burden that you carry is overwhelming and yet you are unwilling to put it down or even share the load.

You run. You hide. You numb. Picking your poison to flee from the pain and ache of all that has gone wrong.

And by now you’re convinced none of it matters anymore. You’re beyond help. Beyond attention. Beyond redemption.

Dear one- you need to hear that you are loved, treasured, precious, and accepted by so so many people. Your life, your sins, your wounds, all are worthy of notice, love, and healing. You are worthy of redemption. You are worth it. Even minute of struggle, every moment of regret, every bad memory, every hurt whether visible or invisible- is known by your Father in heaven and He longs to heal you.

You need to stop running from the pain and listening to the lies. You need to know that you have plans and a purpose in this life and this season of tremendous hurting will be redeemed by your Savior. The crazy thing is that He has already done it... but you need to accept the gift.

No longer numb- take your pain and agony, worries and anxieties to God. He is trustworthy and a safe shelter.

I am reminded as I write of a lyric from Oh Holy Night.

'The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.'

Sister, dear sister- hear me clearly- your night need not go on forever. Today is a new day, another morning to start anew. Take time now to make some choices- you need to put down the drugs, the drinks, the anger, whatever you're numbing the pain with- they're doing you no good and not stopping any pain in the end. You know this. They are the easy way out... until they're not. Rather take a step towards your Father and onto a road of supernatural and TOTAL healing. Healing that is complete and eternal. Healing that cannot be mimicked by anything or anyone this world will ever offer you.

“When you sit enthroned under the shadow of Shaddai, you are hidden in the strength of God Most High. He’s the hope that holds me and the Stronghold to shelter me, the only God for me, and my great confidence. He will rescue you from every hidden trap of the enemy, and he will protect you from false accusation and any deadly curse. His massive arms are wrapped around you, protecting you. You can run under his covering of majesty and hide. His arms of faithfulness are a shield keeping you from harm. You will never worry about an attack of demonic forces at night nor have to fear a spirit of darkness coming against you. Don’t fear a thing! Whether by night or by day, demonic danger will not trouble you, nor will the powers of evil launched against you. Even in a time of disaster, with thousands and thousands being killed, you will remain unscathed and unharmed. you will be a spectator as the wicked perish in judgment, for they will be paid back for what they have done! When we live our lives within the shadow of God Most High, our secret hiding place, we will always be shielded from harm. How then could evil prevail against us or disease infect us?
God sends angels with special orders to protect you wherever you go, defending you from all harm. If you walk into a trap, they’ll be there for you and keep you from stumbling. You’ll even walk unharmed among the fiercest powers of darkness, trampling every one of them beneath your feet! For here is what the Lord has spoken to me: “Because you have delighted in me as my great lover, I will greatly protect you. I will set you in a high place, safe and secure before my face. I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and feel my presence even in your time of pressure and trouble. I will be your glorious hero and give you a feast. You will be satisfied with a full life and with all that I do for you. For you will enjoy the fullness of my salvation!””
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭91 TPT

Find those God has placed in your life who know these dark paths well and who don't fear the monsters in the shadows. There are multitudes who have fought these fights and won glorious victories in Christ. Our testimonies should be a map of the roads we’ve walked. We will walk alongside you. You have many ready to fight with you. You are worth it!


Pause and Ponder

I wanted to catch a moment with just you, me, and a newborn baby this day. Just us. Together in a moment of time.

There are probably children playing in the background, wrapping paper bits scattered about, smells of Christmas dinner wafting here and there.

Or perhaps none of those- perhaps today is quiet or full of worry or sadness. Maybe an empty chair whispers of a loved one missing from it, maybe food is scarce, money short, or relationships strained.

It’s okay. We three can still be together for a bit.

Dear one, take a moment with me, whether happy or sad, whole or hurting- and let us pause life for just a minute or two. Like Clarence in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, I want to look back with you and ponder this day we call Christmas.

In this movie our somewhat hapless guardian angel is trying to earn his wings by helping a suicidal, broken, and stressed out man to see the good in his life- the impact his presence has made for others. Clarence does this by walking him back through a time that doesn’t include him- a time that has no knowledge or imprint of his existence.

Today I would ask you to meditate on something similar with me- but instead of yourself being the center of life, let us put the newborn babe there instead.

Can we for even a moment comprehend a life without the existence or imprint of this baby King?

Imagine a world without the Christ child- it surely looks different does it not? Suddenly all those lovely Christmas carols hold meaningless words, unmet promises, and heavenly lies hanging over an empty manger. A darkened world lays under a silent night that is just like any other. The thrill of hope remains a void in the world’s heart. The new and glorious morn harkens nothing of renewal or glory at all. In fact the morning after testifies to the same sin, death, destruction of it’s sister the day before. The world lays in sin and error pining... still. Forever.

Yes, surely without this tiny baby the world would be eternally lost. Pain and suffering would have no purpose. Loss and grief would find foothold in our hearts without any hope of the bitterness being healed. Sin running rampant and without answer. The hope of peace, the promise of heaven, Emmanuel incarnate... just... not there.

Ponder with me the impact the void of this Child would have in your own life. What paths of destruction might you still be on? What relationships still broken? What losses still deeply unhealed? What brokenness still manifest? What hopelessness for an eternity separated from our Creator!

Yes, truly without this baby we would have pasts with no redemption, presents without purpose, futures with no hope. Dear one, the significance of this occasion we celebrate and cherish cannot be overstated. Mary’s screams in childbirth still echo in eternity. The chasm that was bridged between heaven and earth as his little head breeched between her legs, in one instant, mended both time and space between God and man. The great fall now had a great Savior to soften the blow and ultimately catch the fallen.

So today, as our moment together draws to a close, let the words of Isaiah wash over you and bring you unabashed joy in the birth of our Savior.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭9:2-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Unlike the movie, this Christmas story is not a fairy-tale, it’s not a fantastic novel, it’s not a fable passed down through the centuries. This is Jehovah deigning to be Emmanuel. This is a new chapter in the history of creation that started the beginning of the end of the story... a story that we are characters in so many years later. A story that we are both saved in and get to aid in. A story of a world that was completely lost that found it’s Savior in the form of a tiny baby boy. And in that moment, the cosmos past, present, and future shifted forever. What a marvelous thing!

Living Intentionally Fearlessly Truthfully
Merry Christmas my friends!
~Bethany

#HolyBeautiful #BeHolyBeautiful #HolyBeautifulLife

And the Soul Felt It's Worth

Sitting in church this last Sunday we were singing the usual and expected Christmas carols. Having grown up in church I must admit that the majority of these beautiful classics I know well... most by heart even. However this last Sunday something struck me as we were singing Oh Holy Night. I confess though I know the words to this song, like so many other carols, I don’t KNOW the words like I ought.

Long lay the world
In sin and error pining 
til he appeared 
and the soul felt it’s worth.

This verse fell on my spirit like a rock. The idea of the hopelessness of the world’s sinful state before this Child, and the absolute reversal of humanity’s future fortunes with His arrival. Up to this point, the history of the world since the fall of Man had done nothing if not long for and desire... sin... destruction... its own doom. The world ached for it. As the carol laments, it pined for it.

And yet- He appeared! And the soul felt it’s worth!

What a line- that last piece. The soul of the world finally feeling it’s worth. Meditate on the meaning of these words- like Mary, heavy with expectation and promise, the soul of humanity which had known nothing but sin and error, death and decay- now beheld a glimpse of the promise of forever. The promised Messiah- come to give meaning, worth, and resolution to the aching world. That divine inspiration, supernaturally valued spirit, and treasured eternal spark within mankind was suddenly ignited into fire with this baby. What a marvelous thing!

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
‭‭Zephaniah‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Today dear ones take a minute to thank God for the hope that came with His Son. Christ came to give your soul worth- better yet, to give you meaning, to tell you that you matter, and to have you know that you are worth it. Jesus was born and was killed so that you may know how much you are loved and treasured. No matter what you’ve done. No matter who you are.

May this season awaken your soul to its worth under heaven and in eternity. Live as such dear ones! Walk as such! Love and be loved as such!

Living Intentionally Fearlessly Truthfully!
LIFT! and walk in your worth today!
~Bethany

(Oh Holy Night - lyrics Placide Cappeau ‘Minuit, Chretiens’ - music Adolphe Adam c. 1847)

Restless

What costly grace
That my life should be so transformed
Beyond that which is called comfortable!
My heart is so charged 
With a restlessness to serve You
And feel that rest
Which only laboring with You can give.
What consternation
That my life should be so full
And pressed about with demanding crowds!
My head is so challenged
With a restlessness to serve people
But not yet feeling that peace
Which comes from serving God and not man.
What confusion
That my life should be so harried
By priorities claiming my attention!
My heart is so consumed
By a restless passion for the needy
In conflict with the rest
That only the familiar bed can bring. What conflicting calls
That my life should be so circumscribed
By expectations exceeding any carnal capacities!
My compassion is so conscripted
By a multitude of hurting hearts
That restless distress wars with my weariness
Until I hear Your call to come away and rest.
What confounded chaos
That my life should so cease to be my own
In the household hubbub of castle values.
My heat of passion becomes constrained
By identifying with daily demands
Of restless childish things,
Until arrested by Your love.
What cacophony
That my puny life should be placed
So near the site of so much spiritual carnage!
My helmet still rings
From resistance to Darkness,
The Enemy of men's souls, When leading the weary to Your rest.
What cursed conformity
That my life should be so weak-willed
As to concede to the cowardly crowd!
My heart is so convoluted
In its denial and deceit, 
That restless pursuit of popular praise
Leaves me restless still.
What confident conquest
That my life should be so covenanted
As to be recaptured by Your power!
My holy hands become wholly Yours
As Sabbath rest and sacred yoke
Return me to the less traveled road,
The path of the Shepherd's rest.
What disquieting concentration
That my life should be suborned
By tortuous nostalgic caverns! My mind and heart restlessly cavort
In forests and fields of illusion
Until breathless they become captive
To the jealous Spirit of Truth.
What consummate conformity
That my life should be confronted
With "Babbler, Blasphemer, Beelzebub."
Such honor so fully Christ-like
Strikes me with mixed pleasure and peril
Until fruitful, flowing spiritual words
Attest to the Truth and rest His case.
What quiet counsel 
That my life should be thus counted
As discarded dung yet precious pearl!
My heavy heart is hardly cracked
From deep-set seeds of chapter and verse,
But, still, from it thrives the restless role
Of the servant, sinner, and saint.

Poem by my spiritual dad and mentor, David Heikkila ca. 1986

Ritual or Relational

Ugh, ugh, UGH! People can I just say that after what feels like a bazillion years of being a Christian and I still cannot seem to get this ‘daily devotional’ thing down. It’s not you, Lord… it’s me. There… I said it. I’m terrible at doing this particular part of the Christian walk well.

Now, don’t get me wrong- I do have my devo time, but I also have 4 littles (all under 6!). I do read my Word, but I also have <several> part-time jobs. It gets done, but geez! it never looks like I want it to.

I want my daily devotions to be different. I imagine everyone else on the planet has this lovely picturesque spot on a back porch, by a serene lake, watching the sun rise over the mountains in the background, sipping their perfectly temp’ed coffee, reading a well-worn Bible and journaling endlessly to God. Pinterest and Instagram make this seem attainable right? I long for those quiet moments… I want them so badly.

But reality is different from pictures- and while everyone else on the planet is sipping their lattes'- I’m getting in a chapter here and a paragraph there (dictated wholly by feeding and napping times), coffee (if I have time to brew any at all!) is cold (with no milk because I probably forgot to get some), I’m still in my pajamas (so maybe I have that in common with the above scenario), and there is no less that at least two children who need my attention. Later that night as I tumble into bed at God-knows-what-time I try to finish up my devos, do a bit of journaling (if I’m really lucky!). My Bible is well-worn… but mostly from crayon pictures and coffee stains, its taped on three sides with medical tape… filled between the pages with an inordinate amount of my kids’s church drawings and doodles. My scenery consists of my bed usually, exhausted (sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not), and I may or may not be still in my pajamas (the truth hurts people.) Though I try for better, more often than not, this is what my Jesus-time looks like.

I want more. I want better. I want to spend better time with Him- better interaction, better conversation. But more often than not, it just isn’t there.

Later in the night, it’s a guarantee that one or more of the kids comes upstairs and nestles in next to me. I asked my oldest one night why he was coming up and in his sleepy voice he said, “Because I just want to be with you Mommy.”

And just like that… I got it.

I don’t care that he’s sweaty and (usually) stinky (as boy’s tend to perpetually be!), I don’t care that he’s sleepy, I don’t care that it’s the middle of the night, I don’t care that we aren’t talking.

I just love that he’s come to be with me. The time doesn’t matter, nor does the place, or even how long he stays (often he’ll make his little way back down to his own bed). No, it only matters that we were together for a bit, that he chose and wanted to be with me for awhile.

Ugh. I just love that.

I guess God’s the same. He doesn’t care when I spend time with Him- only that I do. He doesn’t care what I’m wearing or if I’ve showered. He won’t notice if my coffee is cold (or even if I have coffee). He’s not looking at the scenery that I am- He’s too busy looking at me. Just like I will take any time alone with my kids that I can get, He craves whatever time I can give Him. No questions asked. He’s just happy to be with me.

I’m not a hassle to God, my presence is heartwarming to Him. Conversely He is never a hassle to me, and I need to stop looking at it like that. He’s no more hassle to me than I am to Him.

And that, my friends, is a very heartwarming thing. Maybe I’m doing this daily-devo thing just right. It may not be what the pictures look like, but it certainly is mine and I’m offering what I can. Thank you Lord for meeting me where I am, how I am, and loving me for who I am.

Counting Joy

Joy is an odd thing. It’s hard to get my head around this feeling at times because, as we all know, feelings are fickle. As humans are feelings are almost wholly dictated by circumstances- by what is happening to or around us. We are happy when things go well, proud of accomplishments, sad with loss, frustrated with adversity, angry with injustice. Our feelings, for better or worse, usually depend on our surroundings.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And yet, in this passage, Janes tells us to take joy in trials. It’s an odd encouragement, and not a little contrary to our natural instincts.

“Count it joy”.... choose joy, find joy; our brother is telling us to determine our feelings through resolution in our minds.... not BECAUSE of our circumstances but in SPITE of them. We have to look around, take in the atmosphere and decide how we’re going to feel about it. We can stop feeling recklessly and start choosing how we feel. We don’t need to be victims of uncontrolled emotions.

Yes, we can count hard trials as unfair, be offended, angry, frustrated- that’s certainly the natural tendency of our flesh. God has set us apart for something better however; we can count it joy that God has chosen to place us within a situation where He has plans to grow us.

Dear ones, every situation that is less than ideal is an opportunity to choose joy. To determine in our minds, intentionally, to FEEL joyful- regardless of what is happening. Better yet... BECAUSE of the trial. If we are to believe in the truth that in our weakness He is made strong, then we must also acknowledge that during these hardships His purposes are to magnify Himself through us.

We can’t do that mad. We can’t do that upset. We can’t do that bitter or resentful. We can’t do that with unforgiveness.

We can’t do that if we’re not counting these trials as joy.

The best part about this is that our Heavenly Father meets us within the storm. “...do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah‬ ‭8:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And just like that, we have supernatural strength in the midst of the mess. Joy of our Lord glorifies Him and strengthens us as well. We only need to determine in our hearts to feel it- to know it. And by knowing Him, we can always know joy... no matter what.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Dear ones may I leave you today with the dictionary’s definition of joy. Meditate on its wonderful implications when viewed through the lens of the Joy of the Lord.

1a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight. b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety. 
2 : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss. 
3 : a source or cause of delight. joy.

A Prayer for Fear

Lord, I fear so many things- pain, losing my children, the unknown, my future, the depravity and violence of this world. Money problems, marital fights, a sick friend... you name it, Father; in dark days, during hard times, I find myself fretting too much.

God I know you tell me in your Word not to fear. In fact You actually say “do not be afraid” 70 times. Over and over again You’ve laid out what not to be afraid of, who not to be afraid of.

And yet I do. I fear so much... too much.

Forgive me Father.

You have hedged me in, You lead me to quiet waters, You restore me. You know my comings and goings. You have the best plans laid out for me. I will remember Your faithfulness in my life better, the safety and security You give me. Help me to call to memory Your good works towards me. Help me to not fear the storms around me nor the arrows that fly at me.

Lord You have taught me a better way- a way of fearing that leads to righteousness. You have instructed me how to fear BETTER. You know I am prone to worry, anxiety, and trepidation so You’ve given me a safe place to put that fear in- in You. You desire me to fear You. How marvelous a thing! God You are so good to me, you don’t demand I not fear at all, rather you demand I learn to fear rightly, wisely, and You only. You give my fear a safe outlet. Teach me in this way Lord!

May I fear better! May I fear not the things or situations or people of this world. May I stand in awestruck wonder and amazement at Your Self- on my knees, hands open in surrender, eyes fixed on Your glory, and heart filled to the brim with reverent fear.

Amen

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Proverbs 1:7 ESV