A Change of Scenery

I’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately and my poor front bed has been begging for attention. It’s got several bushes that, although beautiful, were just planted helter-skelter thoughout the location; neither blossoming well nor growing as abundantly as they should. Don’t get me wrong, none of them are dying, none are not NOT blooming, none are really doing poorly.

They’re just not thriving.

And they’re not in a place where they can truly showcase their blossoms for the world to see.

I mean, I want traffic from a block away to notice them. The potential is there, but their location is not ideal.

So the other day, I did what all gardeners just luuuurrvvve to do- actually more accurately, I had my dear husband do it- I transplanted three of them to three different spots.

And all of a sudden they were NOTICED. Their blooms seemed more vibrant. They complemented the beds we put them in like they’d been there all along. And I swear two of them have doubled in size. I even had a few neighbors comment on them- asking where we’d gotten the ‘new’ bushes.

Funny how that works. Plants we’ve had since we bought the house, that no one has ever noticed, are now thriving.

And all because of a location change.

It was a good call in the gardening department for sure. But it was not without some effort. I’m sure if those bushes had voices, none of them would have been too thrilled about the transplanting process. Getting dug up, uprooted, pruned back, transplanted to a whole new location I’m sure is not the plants idea of a good time.

I can certainly empathize. Changes in scenery aren't always fun.

Last year God took something very dear to me. Rather He forcibly moved me out of something dear to me. Cutting my roots, digging up my heartstrings, transplanting me to a new place. To put it bluntly, it sucked. It hurt. It was unexpected. And I’m still working on re-establishing my new root system.

My change of scenery was not welcome and I certainly didn't like the new view.

These last few days even as I was marveling at how much better my bushes were doing, God has been gently letting me see the parallels.

I wasn’t doing poorly at my other location. I was blooming and growing. But the Master Gardener saw a need to put me in a new spot. A BETTER spot. One where I would grow better, blossom more, and glorify Him from blocks away more brightly.

And just as my bushes didn’t get a ‘say’ in their move, neither did I. Furthermore, they didn’t complain or question me as their gardener, so neither should I question or complain about where my Gardener plants and prunes me.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:4-6 ESV

Today I encourage you to know that God’s got this. He’s got you, your circumstances, your soil, your sun, your rain, your flower bed, your pruning schedule- all of it- He’s got a master plan for. It may not make sense. It may hurt or feel super uncomfortable. It may involve new locations, new people, new ministries, or new calling. He may prune away even good growth in order for you to more fully thrive. But it’ll be more than worth it.

So please don’t be discouraged. Please don’t question. Please don’t complain. Don’t wriggle or argue. My bushes didn’t do that to me so we shouldn’t either. Rather simply enjoy your new view and the wonderful, God-given change of scenery.

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!

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