Everything

“seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

My first Lifegroup leader in my church had us memorize verse 3 in this passage several years ago. I am so thankful that these words from the Lord are embedded into my mind, as He brings them to my memory often.

As a mom and wife in a world full of advice and opinions and books and blogs and podcasts and all the stuff that can fill the news feed in my head, it is so grounding to hear the Lord say “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” There is just so much packed into that sentence so I want to study and chew on each word. God has given us everything we need spiritually to live our life in a way that brings Him glory. He gives us that. He provides that. He enables us through the power of the Holy Spirit. He has called us into His family by HIS great works and virtue, not ours. Yet I can get caught up sometimes thinking I need to listen to all the things, and read all the things, and watch all the things to help me be a better mom /  wife / Christian / friend who does all the things. But in this verse my Savior Jesus shows, He has done it, and He has given me everything I need to live it and rest in it. I love what Matthew Henry says about this verse..

“The fountain of all spiritual blessing is the divine power of Jesus Christ. All things that have any relation to, and influence upon, the true spiritual life, the life and power of godliness, are from Jesus Christ; in him all fullness dwells, and it is from him that we receive, even all that is necessary for the preserving, improving, and perfecting of godliness and life.”

We receive from Jesus ALL that is necessary to sustain us, grow us, and sanctify us in our life to glorify Him and make Him known. We have received that through the “true knowledge of Him”. We received that at salvation. We have been introduced to the Savior of the world! We have been invited into the presence of God! Our eyes have been opened to the things that are no longer a mystery.  This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”  John 17:3. Because of this knowing, because He has made Himself known to us, we have everything we need. The knowing He gives us isn’t just a knowledge of facts and the timeline of His life and death on this Earth but we know Him through the experience of Him that He gives us in our transformed lives. We have experienced the knowing. We have the knowledge of His Word as we read it but we experience it because it is alive and active and teaches, corrects, convicts, and trains us in righteousness. Our faith in Jesus says, YES I believe you, YES I am grabbing hold and acknowledge you as Lord and Savior of my life. Our faith in Him brings the knowledge and the comfort that the world can never offer. That is why we can have JOY no matter what, because knowing and experiencing Jesus is all we need for life and godliness. He is everything. He is enough.

This season I am called to declutter. Not just my home, although that is happening as well. Our home was hit with a tornado in 2017 and we lived in a hotel and then an apartment with few belongings for three months. When we moved back into our house I was overwhelmed with the amount of stuff we had after living with a small percentage of what we owned. I have been slowly working on that decluttering. Now that some of the physical decluttering is underway I am seeing the decluttering of my mind that needs some attention. I don’t need to complicate things. God’s Word so simply speaks deep soul-altering truths better than any #hashtag or truth bomb or “mic drop” moment another human may say. We can be encouraged by others for sure, we can be spurred on by insights of others as I often am, but when my mind gets cluttered and I’m not sure what parenting advice to heed, and I question if this sacrifice is too great, or I have a decision to make, God’s Word, Jesus Christ in me, will always point the way clearly and simply when I get still and pray.  As I grow in my knowledge of Him and His love for me, and my love and affection for Him grows out of that, my life will reflect that in my decisions, priorities, prayers and obedience. My brain needs some decluttering to make room for THE true knowledge of Him who called me by His own glory and excellence so I can live out the calling He has given me through the gifts He has provided.

I’m so thankful for the confident hope that produces. I’m so thankful that He says He will continue to perfect and complete the work He began in me. I’m so thankful He has introduced Himself to me. Y’all. We don’t need anything else. Marie Kondo is telling us to declutter our closets, and to only hang on to those things in our home that “spark joy”.  I am preaching to myself and asking you to hang on to the only One who brings true joy. Hold on to Him. Draw near to Him daily.  Gaze upon Him hourly. Give Him your first consistently. Remember the gospel with every breath. Look at what you have. No matter what your circumstances are, if you are in Christ, if you have been raised to new life through the blood of Jesus, You. Have. EVERYTHING. I looked it up, everything means…everything. All things. Each thing. Every thing. The whole thing. That’s what you have. Everything you need. Oh friends, may that spark some joy and fill us with hope in our day to day calling. May we feast on God’s Word first before we fill our minds with anything else. May we humbly submit to Him in prayer before we seek advice. (A wise friend reminded me of that last week). May we truly see ALL that we possess that enables us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling He has placed on our lives and BELIEVE He provides and sustains us until He has accomplished it. May we thank Him daily that we KNOW Him, could there be anything greater than that?!

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” Philippians 3:8a

 

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Surrender

I’m doing a study in Genesis and am digging in to Genesis 4, Cain and Abel this week. I was brought to some supporting verses that opened my heart up wide to see the meta-narrative, the gospel, in a way that filled me with gratitude. I can be so filled with pride, I need to be reminded that God is always the one who provides. He created it, He gave it, He produces it, He is the reason I have any good thing and can do any good work. He wants my heart to be clean of pride so that it will produce worship and surrender to Him.

As I was reading Deuteronomy 26:1-11 God asks for the first fruits of the harvest, not because He needed anything but because He wanted their hearts. They were given the new land as an inheritance of their freedom, they were to settle there, possess it, and work the land. The harvest that was produced was a reminder of what they had been given and where they had come from. No longer slaves in Egypt, but free in the land of milk and honey. The Lord gave them their freedom, and this land. Their heart response should be gratitude, giving back of those first fruits was an act of gratitude and praise. He didn’t want the harvest, He wanted their hearts. If He had their hearts then their response would be thanksgiving and offering up what God had given them. They would not have thought He was taking something from them, or keeping the good for himself (as was Adam’s and Eve’s response when they ate of the first fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and wanted it for themselves, and as we sometimes behave when we are faced with the choice of obedience).

When reading Exodus 13:2-12, God asks for the same first offspring of the livestock as well, as they also belong to the Lord. They were to consecrate it, prepare it, dedicate it, set it apart to be treated holy, it was to be pure and clean. Just as Christ was given as the holy and clean sacrifice for our sins.  What beautiful pictures of all that God does for us!

He provides the sacrifice and offerings, because we cannot do that for ourselves. If our heart posture is right then we see this and will willingly give up ANYTHING the Lord asks us to. Just as Abraham did. God is gracious and loving. He is our provider and sanctifier. He knows what we need to cleanse our hearts of any idols other than Him and He gives us all that we need to be sanctified, purified, set apart, clean and holy. He gave us Jesus. The first fruit. The first born Son. The perfect unblemished fruit of the womb. The ram in the thicket. The innocent lamb. The one who died on the altar of Grace for our sins. The only one who could fulfill what all the other sacrifices and offerings of the law could not. He was freely given to us so that we could offer back to God our hearts filled with the love of the Savior. Our lives set apart as we have died to self, and now live in Christ. Our desires transformed to not just giving something to God but giving back to Him what He has already given to us; holy and righteous love and adoration, praise and thanksgiving, and the first of our everything. The first of our time, our thoughts, our desires, our love and our life. These verses so clearly showed me there is no sacrifice He wants or needs from me. He just wants my heart, and my life, whole-heartedly living in obedience to Him.  A life surrendered, not just a life sacrificed.

I love the Holy Spirit’s work to illuminate Jesus in all of this. The more I read the Bible, the more I see Jesus. To see the meta-narrative played out. To read these verses and have my heart sing out, “Jesus”!

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

That is why I NEED to be in His Word. A podcast doesn’t do this. A guided meditation doesn’t do this. A song doesn’t do this. A sermon doesn’t do this. On their own these other mediums don’t pour into my soul like the Bible as a whole does. I love listening to sermons and great teachings. I love lifting up my voice in praise with a good worship song. I love reading a book on Christian living that explains parts of the the Bible. I love hearing a podcast and conversations that others are having about the Christian life, but if I’m not careful, I can let those voices be louder than the Word of God. I can let those voices occupy my time more than the words that were breathed into the Holy scriptures. That has to be what I consume daily so that just like today, I can see Jesus. I can learn the goodness of the Lord over and over again, because we are little Israelites who forget! When I am in God’s Word, and read of His great love that is on EVERY page, and let my eyes read to and fro as the pages come to life with the redemptive plan that saved my life, and I get to read it first hand, over and over again, it just transforms me in a way that a podcast cannot.

So as Lent is upon us, I want to remember it’s not about my will power, MY sacrifice, or the thing I am giving up if I choose to participate in the Lenten practice. It is about what HE provided, what He gave me, and my need to remember that and desire more of Him. I am not giving up anything. I am only giving back what is His, my time and attention and surrender and what I get in return is a heightened awareness of all that is His that He has given me so I can desire and seek more and more of Him.

We are only asked to give what He has given, His best, for our good. We aren’t giving up or missing out, we are participating in the best that God has for us. Obedience. That is always for our good!

 

 

 

Construction

Our tradition the past several years is to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday at the beach in November. It’s a great time, good rates, not crowded, and usually warm enough still to enjoy. We stay at a place right on the beach with an indoor water park so if the weather isn’t the best we still have plenty to do. There is a Starbucks in the lobby for mama (insert praise hands here!) It has become a fun tradition we really enjoy as a family. Last year we were able to have a most extraordinary time because a horseback riding fundraiser on the beach was happening right in front of our condo. The finish line to a 20 mile ride was right in front of us so we got to see hundreds and hundreds of horses and riders finish their ride and even got to meet some of them and MK (our horse lover) got to sit on one. We had no idea that would be happening while we were there, it was such a wonderful surprise and gift from the Lord!

This year was a little different…. this was our view when we got there.

This is what is called a Beach Renourishment Project. A large barge out in the ocean sucks up sand from the ocean floor and pumps it into pipes that run on the beach and then down the length of the beach, building the beach back up. They move the pipes slowly down the beach, extending and reconnecting and pumping sand in one spot for about three days then move down a little further and so on.

When we arrived they were almost to our condo,  which caused our beach entrance to be closed the second day we were there.  Oh those first thoughts that popped into my head. “This is so ugly. This is not the view we payed for. Why didn’t someone tell us from management? The whole point of staying on the beach is to be able to walk out to the beach. The construction noise at night will keep us all up. This will ruin Sophie’s birthday.”  Man, typing this out sure is hard. Because I see how selfish and spoiled it sounds and now you all do too. I didn’t speak all of these words but I thought them. And my daughter could gauge the temperature I was giving off. She cried when she saw the bulldozers and huge rusty pipes. So I knew my attitude had to change so that hers would change as well. So I decided to make the best of the situation and stay positive. My husband is so good at this. I am so thankful that he can turn any frown upside down 🙂

Isn’t it sweet how the Lord can so quickly give us a little nudge in that right direction as well, instead of leaving us in a place of discontent. My thoughts changed to gratitude. Many people can’t even afford a vacation at all, so I am thankful we were there. We have a nice 4 bedroom condo, with a view of the ocean, albeit construction filled beach, but we still have the sights and sounds of the ocean. We were not one of the families devastated by the recent hurricanes. We have much to be thankful for. We are celebrating another year of life for my precious gift of a daughter. My husband is able to get off work for this trip, which means he has a job. That is something to be thankful for. Some family and friends came with us so we have family and friends, that is something to be grateful for! We can walk the extra bit down the street to get to a beach entry point, which means we have legs and are healthy, that is something to be grateful for! Every single thing I could think of to complain about can be replaced with something instead to be thankful for. And those are just the temporal things. God didn’t stop there!!

He began to show me this work, this construction, as what He was doing in my heart. Not to be too symbolic here but glory be, wasn’t this such a picture of His sanctifying work in our lives?!?! This seemingly ugly construction site had a purpose. To restore and renourish what the storms had taken away. Can I get an amen??!! The construction site of my heart so many times doesn’t feel pretty, it’s not something I want to look at. I can focus on the yuck that is being stirred up, but there is a purpose. Any time I sin, there is loss. There is something missing that should be there. Many times it takes a storm or trial to show me that. But then there is the restoration once I turn towards repentance and away from the sin.

Not all trials are the result of God wanting to show us our sin. Trials teach us perseverance which leads to hope! There are times that trials give me perspective I need because it points me to that hope and draws me closer to that hope and that hope does not disappoint. (Romans 5:3-5) If I would have just looked a few feet above the mess I was focusing on, this is what I would have seen…

IMG_4147Above those rusty pipes, there is still the majesty and splendor and glory of God. He is always there, never changing, and THAT is the perspective I need. Look up!! Too many times I can focus on my yuck, instead of focusing on Him. I am learning that so deeply in this season. Jesus has covered my sin and given me His righteousness. Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account. Romans 4:7-8. I don’t think I will ever stop being amazed and just overwhelmed by that. I can look to Him, follow Him, and trust Him as He cleans out my heart by showing me His. But I must keep looking to Him; His example, His love, His pattern of ministry, His work, His Word, His righteousness and His glory. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:7.

Can I tell you that by the end of the trip we were kind of enjoying the construction site on the beach. It’s not every day you get to see something like that. The pipes were huge and they made little sand bridges over them once they opened up our part of the beach again so we had to walk over them to get to the water. One night we went down to the beach and had a dance party in the dark, under the moon, beside a big rusty pipe with sand and sea shells and water pumping through it. It was one of my favorite memories of the trip. Dancing with my girls, not caring who saw us and feeling the freedom of a life lived with a purpose beyond the earthly concerns of this world. (Dancing in the Dark from the movie Home and Jordan Feliz’s River were two great beach dance party songs by the way) Here we are dancing in the dark…

When we pray Psalm 139:23-24 we better mean it, because God will do it surely. Search me O God and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.

After my initial bad attitude and wanting to change the construction I can look back on that trip now as an extraordinary time, just like last year, because the goodness of the Lord was all over it. “Here Holly, let me deliver to you a larger than life metaphor of the sanctifying work I am doing in your heart by giving you a construction site you are going to want to complain about, thus needing the sanctifying work I am doing in your heart.” Ouch. He is so kind. He is so patient. And sometimes He is just smack dab right in front of my face with something so I’ll “get” it.

Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore me to the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12. 

The 2018 Myrtle Beach Renourishment Project didn’t just happen on the Grand Strand, it happened in my heart as well. Thank you Lord for the surpassing riches of your grace in kindness toward me in Christ Jesus!

Vessel

I’m broken y’all. We’ve been through a lot these past few weeks. I was home with the girls when a tornado hit the house, trees fell in, and fear gripped me. Meanwhile my husband was driving in it and got stuck on the road when a tree fell in front of him and behind him. Since then we’ve lived in a hotel and now an apartment. Our house was broken into during this and I discovered it when I was by myself getting some items I needed from the house. It has rained so parts of ceilings are starting to get soggy and fall in. My husband is having surgery on his foot today which was scheduled before all of this happened. My oldest is struggling with all the change that is happening around her with the moves and lack of routine. I’m a few days away from my last trimester of pregnancy. But these are all just circumstances. These circumstances aren’t what makes me broken. It’s my sinful nature, it’s my idols I put before the Lord, it’s my pride and my tongue. We are ALL broken compared to our perfect, Holy, righteous, Father. But the good news?! Jesus Christ made a way!! And because of that I have a redeemer who uses all of this for my good. He is with me, carries me through it, strengthens me, never leaves me, draws me in when I push away, uses the body of Christ to minister to me and love me well, and most importantly (because there were too many “me’s” in that sentence) He points others to HIM during crisis, HIS glory shines, HIS power is on display, HIS love abounds, and HIS attributes are magnified.

On October 9th a dear friend sent me an email. She said she couldn’t sleep and had me on her mind along with several verses about fear. I told her I don’t have any noticeable fear issues that I was aware of but that the Lord must know something I don’t, so I will hold those verses close. On Monday the 23rd, I met that fear. Once the tree fell on the house and partly through the hallway bathroom and door (the hallway we were sitting in) I experienced an adrenaline and fear like never before. I grabbed the girls and ran downstairs to the crawl space under the stairs and prayed. Sophie and I took turns praying and crying. In that dark small space I met that fear. Not knowing where my husband was I met that fear. A few nights later, paralyzed with realizing how little I could protect my children and the outcome of their lives I met that fear. The first time I went back to the house I was triggered by the smell of pine which was the overpowering smell when the tree fell in. Smelling it again as I pulled up to the house, I met that fear. The Lord knew this would bring out a fear in me I didn’t know I had. He knew I would wrestle with control and anxiety and lack of trust. Can you see His love???

“’Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Two weeks prior to the storm He sent me the antidote, His perfect Word that renews my mind and comforts and washes fear away and replaces it with truth. He sent me specific verses that would bring much comfort, and would be something to cling to when I couldn’t think clearly or see beyond the fear. He used a friend to deliver it that He knew would be faithful to obey and send the email.  Do you see His love??

“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭NASB‬‬

That amount of love He has for me is greater than any storm. That amount of love is greater than any fear. That amount of love He showed me through a dear friend foreshadowed how His love and grace and mercy would carry us through this as He uses the hands and feet (and backs!) of others. I am a broken vessel, He is a magnificent light that shines through the trials, shines through the fears, shines through the brokenness, and shines through my sinful, pride filled heart as he prunes me and refines me, and upholds me during these moments that seem “hard” to the world but bring MUCH glory to Him.

My husband and I have checked in with each other often to remind each other of the positives throughout this. I’m so thankful for his positive attitude that compliments the truth I know. Some of those positives are….

We are all safe! No damage to his truck. Our insurance has been phenomenal. We were able to get into a hotel the first night and had power when so many didn’t for several days. Our clothes and most items in our home weren’t damaged, just the structure itself and items in the bathrooms. When its all said and done we will have a nicer home than before. We are in a first floor apartment which will make it easier for Boone while he recoveres from foot surgery, no stairs! We are closer to his work which will make it easier for me to drive him to work. We are in a convenient part of town. When we were robbed we weren’t there. We were still able to go on a trip for Sophie’s birthday which we had planned before this happened and it was perfect timing, we needed the break. I have a church family who has loved us so well. We have neighbors and friends that have helped and my parents being here and retired has made such a difference as they have helped with the girls so much. It has made us realize how much less we can live with and how much “stuff” we have that we don’t need. We have a big enough space that even if the baby comes before we get back in the house, we have plenty of room where we are now. I know there are many more positives that I am forgetting, but it just illustrates that even through logistics of life change that accompany a trial, good and positive circumstances can be orchestrated that make life a little easier. I’m so thankful my husband has been on board with pointing those out and reminding me of them.

It brings tears to my eyes thinking of the people that have surrounded us with love, tangible love. His hands and feet have babysat for us while we packed up the house to get things in the hotel and then again to the apartment. His hands and feet on several occasions have brought people to our cold, dark house to pack boxes, move furniture, load trucks, and just be there in a place I didn’t want to be alone in. His hands and feet have brought us hot, healthy meals, delivered groceries to our apartment, sent us gift cards, made us yummy healthy snacks while in the hotel, given us boxes and other essentials, and I’m sure many more things I am forgetting.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”” Galatians‬ ‭5:13-14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

His hands and feet have loved my children well and made sure Sophie got to celebrate her birthday several different times and get her mind off what is happening around her. We have been called, texted, emailed, checked on, and prayed for by many. People who are going through their own trials, people who have their own burdens have brought our family before the Lord and petitioned on our behalf. His love is never ending. I am humbled by it and can say that it helps me believe and proclaim “It is well with my soul”. His love is what saved my soul and His love is what heals my soul.

The peace I have, the peace He gives, isn’t a warm and fuzzy feeling of perfection in the world. It isn’t blinders that shield us from pain and trial. It’s not a peace that can be replicated through any other means. It is a reconciling, of who we were and who we now are! It is a peace that mediates and brings us to our Creator whole and clean. It is a peace that gives us a firm, never changing, solid foundation to stand on when the world is crumbling and cracking around us. It is a peace that anchors us deep when the waves are over our head and the trials are overwhelming, yet we KNOW we are not going anywhere because we are His!!!! I pray you know that peace. I pray that word is more than a flashback to the 70’s and a logo on a yoga mat. I pray you truly know the Prince of Peace who brings the greatest love you will ever know!

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”Colossians‬ ‭1:15-20‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Nourishment

A friend sent me an email about the 8 Days of God Speaking event from godspeaking.com and asked if I wanted to do it. I didn’t sign up when she sent it but I remembered today, the first day of it, and signed up. Which resulted in an email I got around dinner time with the first passages. It is designed to be broken up into a morning reading and an evening reading but since I signed up late I listened to the whole 60 minute reading of Genesis 1-15. The timing was perfect. I decided I would listen as I started to make dinner for SG and I, since Boone was working late. We had a gathering at our house yesterday and have lots of leftover hamburgers so that was the plan for dinner (along with cheese dip and leftover cupcakes…). As I’m listening to the reading of God’s Word, I heard seven words that took me to my knees in repentance.  The seven words are “The serpent deceived me and I ate”  Genesis 3:13. Tears filled my eyes and those seven words kept playing over and over in my head.

Earlier this morning, after feeling the affects of my health, and weight, and tiredness I prayed for God to take this burden. I cannot do this in my own strength but the power of Christ lives in me and I knew God could give me the perspective I need and the willingness to obey and the discipline to do it. None of these things I can achieve on my own. I have tried and strived but this morning I needed to give this 100% over to God. He has been bringing me to this place for a while, I make a good effort and then something trips me up. A few days missed of exercise turns into a few weeks. One splurge meal turns into a sugar addiction gone wild. This morning I prayed those words that Paul understood as well about our sin nature. Our flesh. “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” Romans‬ ‭7:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬. And more importantly Christ understood this and warned his disciples and gave them these words of great wisdom “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”Matthew‬ ‭26:41‬ ‭NASB‬‬. The key in this verse to me is the praying. There is so much that happens in consistent, humble, fervent prayer. Praise, thankfulness, answers, and fellowship with God is what happens. I have not been putting on the full armor of God and it is affecting me in this area of my food idol.

So all that to say, when I heard the words “the serpent deceived me and I ate”, it just reached my core and was an answer to my prayer.  Satan, the enemy, wants to deceive me and my flesh wants to listen. The enemy wants me overweight, he wants me tired, he wants me cranky, he wants me moody, he wants me weighed down, he wants my body run down,  which are all things that eating incorrectly and not exercising makes me feel. After a good couple of years of running consistently, eating well and feeling GREAT, I have come to a place where I am in the worst health I’ve ever been. The enemy wants me to give up and give in and say “I can’t stop, I can’t put it down, I can’t resist, it’s in my house, I am too weak.” God’s truth repels all those lies. Satan wants me to be in the world, he wants me to indulge my eyes, my wallet and my mouth in the things of this world. The sugary indulgences that make me sick, the fatted idol that I carry in my gut, the poison that tastes good for a moment. He wants this so I will doubt, so I will be ineffective, so I will not be energized to use the gifts God has given me. He wants this as a foothold to get to me. What does God want? “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

“If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans‬ ‭8:10-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.”1 Timothy‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NASB.‬‬
I AM a new creature, in Christ. God HAS raised me from my death in sin, to life in His righteousness. I CAN be nourished on His Words and the faith of the truth of the gospel and that IS enough. I was deceived and I ate, but God heard my prayer and prepared my heart to hear His Word. That reminded me that He knew back when Eve first sinned and ate the forbidden fruit that she was going to do it and He already had a plan in place that led to Christ, redemption, and salvation. He knows my struggles and He made a way. He is knocking my idols down one by one. Food is up to bat. He wants me to be free from striving and to believe that what He has for me, what Christ accomplished in His death and resurrection is enough. When I compare that to a donut, it is just insane!! But He knows and there is no condemnation, there is only a hand reaching down to me, there is only love, there is only a way that leads to Him as I put on my armor that I already have and put on the strength that I already have in Him.

I love how God delivered this to me, through an email and an invitation from a friend to listen to 8 days of God’s Word being read. I know she didn’t know about my prayer this morning what it would lead me to on the very first day but God’s Word and the Holy Spirit has no limits, no boundaries, and reaches us exactly when and exactly how we need it. And she does know that. My God is more powerful than Satan, His truth is more powerful than the enemy’s lies. Christ overcame. It has already happened. The Holy Spirit brings that power to overcome in us. Praise God!

Lord Jesus, I pray in Your powerful name that the spirit of striving would be broken off every one of us. We declare we are free of all striving, set free by the blood of Jesus, and made and kept free by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Holy Spirit, we give You permission to overwhelm us with Your presence and remind us anytime we begin to strive that we have nothing to prove or gain as we already have everything in our identity and inheritance in Jesus Christ. Thank You, Abba Father, that we belong to You. That we are in Christ and He is in You. In the name of Jesus, amen! -Dineen Miller. (spirituallyunequalmarriage.com).

A friend prayed this prayer on her blog last week and I read it today for the first time. It was so fitting, because I don’t want this to be about striving. I just want it to be about yielding to what I already have in Christ and who I am because of Him. Nothing to prove or gain. Oh what an amazing Father we have! Thank you God for your goodness and message of mercy and grace and truth you rain down on me as I look into your Word and cry out your name.

-FYI, I had a salad for dinner 🙂

 

Perspective

I have been struggling with SG. Big time. It has been ugly. I have been ugly, she has dug in her heels. I have grown weary, overwhelmed, and have sobbed heavily two nights this past week. Crying to my husband, crying out to God, I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. Well as I was seeing my sin in this and asking God to change me, to show me how to love her like He does, being honest that I CANNOT love her like Christ without having the strength of Christ in me. All of this led to some amazing answers from God. I was reading Psalms 105 last night and wrote down some things I CAN do when I feel like I don’t know what to do. I CAN…

Give thanks
Call upon Him
Make known His deeds
Sing praises
Speak of His wonders
Seek His face
Remember His wonders and His words

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:16-18‬ ‭

I realized I was getting caught into the trap of speaking about it a lot (to my husband and a friend on the phone, and at a play date) instead of trusting God in the middle of this. I was presenting a defeated attitude. I was wanting concrete examples of exactly what to do in the middle of a tantrum or testing or battle of wills. I realized every child is different, what one parent says may not work for mine and every parent has their own sin issues in the middle of their parenting. So a specific example from another parent may not take into account my sin in the situation. Psalms 73 is a good example of what God says I can do. He has been bringing me back to this word so often this year; PERSPECTIVE.

“If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.”Psalms‬ ‭73:15-17‬.

This speaks of how the wicked seem to be winning and prospering, until the godly man goes into the temple and remembers the end God has for wicked ways. The flaming arrows of doubt thrown at me, the hopeless feeling the enemy wants me to have, the idea that this will NEVER end, the thought that I will always be losing this battle of parenting are all rooted in the wrong perspective; it seemed to me a wearisome task, UNTIL I went to God, THEN I discerned. I was “speaking thus” more than I was going “into the sanctuary”. I can focus too much on the evil and wicked of the situation which produces worry and fear. He has already overcome evil, it is finished! By renewing my faith, by going into the temple, praying, seeking God and repenting of my sin in the situation, then my perspective is changed and corrected by God’s promises. PERSPECTIVE.

I realized also when I was speaking to her, instructing her, disciplining her, I was preaching back to myself. Every time I would say “it’s not obedience if you don’t do it the first time.” “Your heart is being selfish right now, let’s pray for God to change that.” “My job is to keep you safe and teach you what the best choice is”. Those things were haunting my head and I was feeling the weight of them, as God wants those things for me as well. I was not being obedient in two areas.I kept making excuses and going back to them.

The main one being Facebook. It is so silly but it was causing me to sin. Staying off of Facebook always resulted in an abundance of positive things but then I would get sucked back in, being deceived that is was good and I had good reasons for being on it. Since the word obedience comes out of my mouth daily to my daughter I felt the weight of my disobedience and decided the next right thing to do was to hear what God was showing me, over and over and over again. Ah so stubborn (ME not her). So this morning I deactivated my account. Can I just tell you when that thought first entered my mind I was fearful. Anxious. No, not that! What about all my pictures and memories? What about my blog, how will I share it? What about people on there that I only communicate with through Facebook? What about information I will miss out on? Quickly, God replaced those fears with the truth. What about your obedience to Me? What about your children and your role as mom? What about getting back to sending people cards and calling them and really connecting? What about you trusting me with your writing and how I want to use it? What about your sanctification?

So this morning I am free.

“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.”Mark‬ ‭9:43

I‬ ‭cut off that hand that consumed me. It feels good. God is connecting some dots for me. Yesterday was an amazing day with SG. We only had one little incident when leaving a play date where she ran away and disobeyed. That’s okay. I don’t want her to feel pressured to be perfect. I want her to be His! I don’t want her have all the answers about her behavior, I want her to know the One who does. I don’t want her to get “better and better” at doing and being good, I want her to know that apart from Christ she can do nothing. I don’t want her to hear the word obedience more than she sees the word love in action.   HIS love. That is my job, to show her and tell her about Christ’s love for us. Today I know will be another great day. Not because it will be perfect, but because God is in control, He always has been and He always will be and He has lifted my eyes to where my help comes from! He has reminded me of His grace and that SG will learn that as well through her mistakes, not through her perfection. I have written about this before, and I will probably write about it again, as God continues to confront me and HELP me as He is glorified in it all.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:58‬ ‭

The next mom you come across that has kids still in the home, give her a big hug and a sweet whisper that her labor is not in vain, she needs it.

(Feel free to share. My name isn’t on FB anymore but I am fine with the blog being shared there).

Enough

The title of my blog is Grace Rains Down. God knew I would title it that. He also knew that I would really have no idea what grace means when I chose that title. I thought I knew. I thought I understood. God knew that He would truly shower me with His grace in the showing me of His grace so I could better understand the title of my very own blog. Isn’t He just so loving, so amazing, to do what we need, when we need it?! To give us the right perspective in His right and perfect timing. His timing had my lesson in grace to be AFTER I used grace in the title. His timing was to tell me, “sweet daughter, if you only knew…let me show you.”

Grace is the free and benevolent influence of a holy God operating sovereignly in the lives of undeserving sinners. (John MacArthur).

I felt like I understood God’s grace that saved me 6 years ago. I felt like I understood God’s grace that turned my marriage around and allows for my spiritually unequal marriage to thrive. I felt like I understood God’s grace that redeemed my PAST sins, my PAST mistakes, (the “before I was saved” sins). and can even use them for His good. So all of these things that I can now look back on and see the good He is using them for, my life He has redeemed for His good pleasure, so I can share my testimony with others, these were the things I felt I was being showered with. This grace that turns my past “bad” into His present “good”. What I have realized now BY GOD’S GRACE is that I wasn’t letting my day to day life be showered by grace. I was self-condemning, I was judging myself and others, I was bordering on and fighting with a works based thinking. I have written about current struggles, current lessons, current ways God was growing my faith but then after those events expecting to be “better”. And when something would come back up I would think “You hypocrite!” You just wrote about this great lesson God gave you in patience and then today you were impatient, how could you??”

I was confusing repentance with penance. I was confusing sanctification with perfection. Oh BUT GOD!!! He has opened my eyes to what I was covering up. Because I wanted to show only my guarded weakness, meaning “I’ll show you my weak areas that I don’t think you will judge that much. I’ll share with my Lifegroup and my friends the watered down version of my sin so it doesn’t seem so bad.” I was justifying. I was exalting. On occasions I would show the “real” me but in general, I was so scared to seem “less than”, a mess, not worthy to minister to others, a bad mom, a bad wife, a “not good enough Christian”. This is the opposite of the gospel. These are all true apart from Christ. But I am IN Christ and Christ IN me. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John‬ ‭15:3-5‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

There is no need to hide, but I did. Guess where that hiding started? In the garden. The fall of man, the history of Adam and Eve, shows our human tendency to cover, to hide. We try to hide from others all the things that we can never hide from God. When I am trying to cover up my weakness I am covering up my need for Christ. When I put on a fig leaf of self-righteousness I am covering up the very thing God can use to bring glory to Himself, to reach another lost sinner, and to make disciples for His kingdom.

The gospel. It all comes down to believing the gospel. Not just knowing the gospel, not just being able to share the gospel, not just being moved by the gospel, but BELIEVING the gospel. If I believe the gospel then I am free! I don’t have to try to set myself free by trying and striving and then failing and condemning. If I believe the gospel I can tell you anything about my past without my heart racing and shame creeping in. If I believe the gospel then I can confess to you that just yesterday I yelled at my daughter (where I normally would say “I lost my patience with her”, doesn’t that sound nicer?) If I believe the gospel then I can believe He loves me. That is the hard one. HOW CAN HE LOVE ME?? How can he love me THAT much?? “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” Romans‬ ‭5:8-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The gospel says I am saved from the wrath of God so who am I to try to pour a false wrath back on myself by self-condemning.

The gospel says I have been reconciled with God so who am I to try to show Jesus ways He should try to turn His back on me by living in shame.

The gospel says I have been set free so who am I to try to climb back into the chains and shackle myself to sin again by hiding and covering and not being transparent ALL the time.

God has shown me this month that my trust in the gospel has room to grow. “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”2 Peter‬ ‭3:17-18‬ ‭NASB‬‬. God has shown me that I only believed a glimpse of the gospel. He has shown me so much more.

I see my sin yet more and more. As it should be. Instead of being bogged down by it God can bring me to repentance quickly, and show me the gospel again. The more I look at Christ and stop looking at the flesh that is “I”, the more I can see and believe what God sees and why He loves me. His grace! It saves but it also SUSTAINS! His grace isn’t a one time event. It is a million times a day influence on my life. His grace isn’t just to cover the “big” sins, it is what transforms us into Christ’s likeness by rooting out the hidden sins of fear and pride and anger and impatience. His grace brings me to the cross every day as I lay it down for Christ to pick up.

I don’t know if I can ever stop talking about the gospel and talking about God’s endless grace. I feel like it will be a part of everything I write. I know He has only shown me a portion of what He has waiting. I couldn’t possibly take it all in at once. It is already overwhelming. I believe it should overwhelm us everyday.
CHRIST IS ALL WE NEED AT ALL TIMES FOR ALL THINGS. The cross is enough. How could it not be enough? Lord I pray that I would never treat the cross as not enough again by condemning, shaming, and working to achieve what you did, by GRACE! “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Waves

T-minus 2 days until our beach trip! Since beach is on my mind I am posting what I wrote last year at the beach. Looking forward to another beautiful message from the Lord this year.

Oh how I love trips to the beach. I always see God’s goodness and beauty. Last year it was in the moon’s reflection on the water going straight to my feet, reminding me of God being omnipresent but at the same time so near and personal. This year it was the waves. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” Psalms‬ ‭19:1‬ ‭NASB‬‬
My sin is swallowed up in the ocean of God’s loving kindness. The waves of grace keep coming; wave upon wave, never-ending grace upon grace.

I write my sin in the sand, confession of pride, laying it at the foot of Christ, repentance that comes from knowing God’s righteousness and love. The waves wash it away, waves of grace cover my sin, God’s mercy on me washes it away.

Christ’s perfect life and substitutionary death started this tidal wave of mercy that results in wave upon never-ending wave, grace upon never-ending grace.

The deeper I get the more rooted I am in this ocean of goodness, God’s love, believing it, trusting it. Going deeper into it the calmer I am; a quiet confidence of faith, knowing that the waves are all around me, the more I wade into His love, the calmer the waves get, not having to crash as hard against my sin to get me to believe, that YES, they will cover even THAT sin. I trust not being able to touch the bottom because I have a solid rock my faith is built on. I don’t need the shifting sand.

Wave upon wave, grace upon grace. All my sin swallowed up and carried away, erased, clean. A righteous, perfect, Holy God loving me. Never ending love everywhere I turn all around me; nothing else I see but His love. Know it, believe it, trust it and respond. Lord I want to love you with all my heart. I have come through a time of doubt and confusion, of judgement and law being on my mind. Forgive me Lord. Forgive me for daring to forget wave upon wave of your grace in my life. Thank you for reminding me of your grace that saved me and your grace that continues to sustain me. Your creation revealing your glory, thank you!!!
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:7-8‬ ‭NASB‬‬

 

 

Fallow Ground

Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.” Hosea‬ ‭10:12‬ .

After a season of struggling with new routines, new parenting obstacles, and just longing for more intimacy with God, I came to this verse and started to study it and received such a beautiful step forward in the desires of my heart.

Land was allowed to remain “fallow”, unsown for a period of time in order to restore its fertility. During that time it was fallow it was prone to become overgrown with weeds and thorns. So a farmer must break up his fallow ground to prevent the weeds from taking over before he could sow seed that would then bear fruit. Wow. I get it! What is in my heart? What could be creeping in that could prevent God’s seeds of righteousness to bear fruit in my life? How am I contributing to any hardness of my soil?

After examination of my life there are two main areas, that can more quickly than any other, contribute to an unproductive life for God’s kingdom.

1. Not being in His Word.

2. Not communicating with Him in prayer.

There are many other things we can neglect that could harden us; not fellowshipping with other believers, not being a part of a church body, not sharing our testimony or witnessing to others, not using our spiritual gifts, being convicted but disobeying or ignoring,  not prioritizing our life God’s way (God, husband, children). For me, being in His Word and communicating with Him in a true repentant-driven, praise-giving, humble in stature prayer posture, can quickly break up any fallow ground.

“For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem, “Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns.” Jeremiah‬ ‭4:3‬ .

This looks like TOTAL commitment to God and an openness to His ways. I often tell my daughter I need to see that “yes ma’am” attitude. I want to have that same attitude to my Father in heaven.  A “yes Lord!” attitude of obedience and submission. Just as my daughter struggles with her obedience, and needs to be reminded, isn’t our God so loving that He sent Christ, as our perfect example to look to, as our reminder of the righteousness we have in Him.

  “So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.”Hosea‬ ‭6:3‬.

I love this. The certainty of knowing this. The solid foundation of our faith in Christ. How did I live life without having this before I was saved?! I wasn’t living, I was dying. I am so thankful God shows us how to break up our hard soil, prepares us for the seeds of righteousness He is sowing in our lives, and then… brings the rain. God pours down and lavishes us with the rain!

Are you one of those that loves the brilliance of what “after the rain” means? That smell. The smell after a rain shower. Manufacturers try to bottle that smell in our body washes and soaps and candles. That sweet smell is like the sweet aroma of our lives as we walk and follow Christ. It is pleasing to the Lord. Also the world looks different after a rain storm. The brightness, the clarity, the brilliance of color as our life is washed clean of any dull, lukewarm, stale practices and is replaced with a  fulfilling and satisfying relationship with Christ!

“Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it.”Isaiah‬ ‭45:8‬.

Lord break up the fallow ground of my heart that harbors any bitterness or unrepentant sin. Break up the fallow ground so weeds of impurity, immorality, and idolatry won’t take root. As I go to you Lord, in your Word and on my knees, I praise you knowing you will pour down and lavish me with the rain of your righteousness, you will shower me with your mercy and your grace,  as I follow Christ and bear fruit for your Kingdom! Rain down Lord, rain down!

Now I See

I remember vividly what it was like to be blind. When life threw a curveball, when there was a decision to be made, when a devastating event happened, and in just the day to day life happenings, I turned to my feelings to guide me. Like a blind man using his cane to feel the world around him, I put my feelings out there, like a stick poking around, trying to determine my next step. If I FEEL this way or that, then surely that is enough to guide me into the right direction and decision. If I FEEL this anger, hurt, rage, temptation, lust, that must validate the actions I can take towards the person or event that caused it. These blind assumptions led me to no good. Being led by my feelings, for 15 of my adult years, resulted in abuse of alcohol and drugs, allowing horrible relationships to manifest and continue, misery at work, a marriage almost ruined, an arrest record, and a torn apart heart and soul because I just didn’t know which way to turn. When I finally stopped kicking and screaming against it, and yielded to what I was made for, the reason I even exist, and confessed that Jesus is Lord and put my belief and faith in HIM, my eyes were opened! Around six years ago, God removed the diseased vision I was looking through and replaced it with a whole, clean, clear view of His creation, including myself. “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.”Isaiah‬ ‭35:5‬.‬‬

I knew about God before this, I at one point even called myself a Christian but I DID NOT COMPREHEND. “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”John‬ ‭1:4-5‬‬. I grew further and further away from the idea of God because I didn’t understand it. If I couldn’t understand it, rationalize it or make it fit into the world I wanted to live, then it must not be true or real. I remember trying to read the Old Testament at one point and just truly didn’t see the point. This boring stuff has no merit or value in my life. It just shows a mean God who punished people. Oh what a glorious gift God gave me when He opened my eyes to the revelation of His truths. The Old Testament now MAKES SENSE and is a beautiful picture of our Savior coming. I have grown more in my faith while studying the Old Testament than any other part of the Bible. When you see THE WHOLE STORY and not just snippets of it, when you see this glorious book that uses foreshadowing, and prophecy, stories of God’s endless patience and faithfulness, and beautiful language and images that point to Christ, when you “get it” it is just magnificent. I love reading a passage and now knowing it is showing God’s love to us not His vengeance and wrath against us. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel.”Luke‬ ‭2:30-32‬.

The Bible gives me wisdom in making decisions. Timeless wisdom from a true and perfect God who has never made a mistake. THAT is who I want to learn from, not my own feelings and advice from magazines or emotionally driven sources.  The Bible gives me peace in all circumstances. Difficult times, confusing times, sad times, in all of it I am comforted by the peace and hope I find in God’s Word. It is in me, in my mind, in my heart and soul, so that there is not a circumstance I face now that will result in me feeling “hopeless”.

Although my eyes are opened, I am no longer blinded, and I see the great light that now over powers the darkness, I can still be tempted to put on sunglasses. My flesh, the part of me that isn’t wholly glorified yet in Christ-likeness, can still want to cover up the light. To dim it, by going back to my worldly view. This manifests itself by my temptation to go back to being led by feelings. Why would I want to to cover up the clear vision, the bright light of love and wisdom that shines from knowing Christ and His redemptive work in my life?! It is because I can so easily forget what being blind was like. I forget and want to drag myself back to the dark empty room, feeling my way around, poking my feelings around, trying to justify my actions. Let me never forget!!! Let me never put on sunglasses again that dim what has dawned! I am so grateful for God’s Word and the power it has. I recently was tempted to draw on feelings and you know what happened? God’s Word flooded my mind. Scriptures came to mind that I said out loud, and that cleansed my mind, restored my sight, and God was glorified for the power of His Word!

Can you image what it was like for the blind man who was healed? When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?’” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened.Matthew‬ ‭9:28-29a‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬. We don’t have to imagine, if we are a Christian, we know! May we never forget that miraculous truth and may we always remember the stark difference from darkness to having our eyes opened and walking in the brilliant light of Jesus Christ. ‬