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!


Mind Your Soil

Reading through Luke 8 today and the parable of the Sower I was struck anew by the visual of all the different kinds of ground that the seeds were scattered on.

“A farmer went out to sow seeds for a harvest. As he scattered his seed, some of it fell on the hard pathway and was quickly trampled down and unable to grow and became nothing but bird seed. Some fell on the gravel, and though it sprouted it couldn’t take root; it withered for lack of moisture. Other seed fell where there was nothing but weeds. It too was unable to grow to full maturity, for it was choked out by the weeds. Yet some of the seed fell into good, fertile soil, and it grew and flourished until it produced more than a hundredfold harvest, a bumper crop.” Then Jesus added, shouting out to all who would hear, “Listen with your heart and you will understand!”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭8:5-8‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Notice here that the seeds are good- always. They’re healthy, fruitful, and ready to multiply. It’s the soil conditions that vary and thereby dictate if and what quality of fruit is produced.

As a <very> amateur gardener I know that the kind of soil I plant in greatly affects the kind of crop I produce and the overall health of the plants over time. Gravel, rocks, weeds, the wrong pH, the incorrect pesticide, not enough or too much sun, not enough or too much water- all these things determine whether or not the plants not only grow... but thrive.

This passage today reminded me that the maintenance of our own spiritual soil is no less important. Though Christ was speaking specifically to the spread of the Gospel here, I think the metaphor can be carried well into our spiritual lives.

We need to intentionally and diligently keep our soul-soil healthy. The Word of God will always be sowed with healthy seeds, but we need to be making the proper adjustments in our soul-soil to ensure that as far as it is with us, the conditions for the Seed to thrive are present.

Is there enough sun (Son) in your life? Or is the shade of darkness hindering full exposure? Are there spots in your life that the Light doesn’t have access to? Those places will eventually die from lack of Sonlight. There are very few plants that thrive in darkness. So also there are NO souls that can.

What about making sure those seeds are getting regular and untainted (Living) water to drink? Without adequate watering, all plants eventually die. Watering them once a month doesn’t cut it. So also our souls need regular and filling drinks from the the Word of God, communication with the Holy One.

What about rock that needs removed? Unconfessed sin or addiction, idolatry and unrepentant hearts can lay like rocks in our gardens. Some are huge- too big to move ourselves. Others are small, tiny even- like gravel- but have worked their way into every corner of our soul-soil. Even small, the sheer amount of rocks to clear out can have the same effect as a huge boulder. Both kinds we need God to help remove. Seeds cannot grow and thrive when they’re competing for nutrients, sun, water, soil with other stuff. Our walk with the Lord can certainly grow to a certain extant with these rocks in our soil, but God demands more. He deserves more. He requires an undivided heart and a garden that testifies to allegiance to Him only.

And then there’s the weeding that all gardeners know is a necessary chore. Dear ones, daily spiritual weeding needs to become a habit for us. For just as the seeds of truth and Christ are being scattered over our soil, the evil one is scattering his own on the same land. In us. We need to be daily walking through the paths of our soul-soil and pulling out roots of bitterness, vines of envy and jealousy, ivy of laziness, weeds of discord, disunity, anxiety, worry... you name it. As we all know, certain weeds thrive in certain soil conditions. Likewise certain sins thrive in certain people. We all know what temptations we are prone to- and we should be especially on the lookout to uproot their beginnings within our soul-soil.

Daily, diligent upkeep results in bountiful and beautiful gardens. The same is true of our spiritual gardens. With regular maintenance, Sonshine, Living water, and help from the Master Gardener we too will thrive; overflowing our boundaries, feeding multitudes, showing beauty to anyone who walks by.

Dear ones I challenge you all today to mind your soil- today, tomorrow, and always. Be intentional in keeping your ground healthy and ready to receive His word. Start habits that promote healthy and abundant growth. May your garden testify to the Master gardener in your life. Amen and amen.

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.