God Still Loves Us Even When…

Winning is nice, isn’t it? People say nice things about us when we win something whether it is an individual achievement or some kind of team effort. What about when we go to a sporting event? It’s much nicer when the team we’re pulling for wins their game. Doesn’t it make the drive home better when we can talk about all the things that happened during the game which led to the win? Everyone in the car is in a good mood, and things just feel positive.

That was my experience last night. My son’s baseball team won their second tournament game. It hasn’t been the best season. In fact, we came into the tournament as the number eight seed. But, the team won their first game on Sunday, and they won last night! The boys were so excited! So were the coaches. In fact, there could have been a contest as to who was more excited–my husband, who is one of the coaches, or our son. It might have ended up being a tie. 🙂 It was neat to see them so excited, and it certainly made the journey home more pleasant. Hearing them talk about the experiences from this game and the possibilities when they play the next game more than made up for everything that has happened this season.

I wouldn’t have traded last night for anything–seeing my people excited and happy was great! But, I feel the need now to pull this into today’s devotion topic. First, let me finish today’s post title. God still loves us even when we fail. Yes, it’s true. He still loves us. It’s taken me awhile to realize this. Having parents who pushed me to do my best, but feeling like a nobody when I inevitably failed was not a good path to knowing God loved me no matter what. I know better now especially from today’s Bible verse. 1 John 3:1 says this, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.”

We are loved, amazingly and completely, by our Father. Knowing it for a fact though doesn’t make those losing conversations any less unpleasant. It’s the tension for us believers of living in the world and also looking forward to our forever home in heaven. In fact, thinking of winning and losing in these terms helps me to understand the tension between the now and not yet of our faith that my pastor talks about often. I guess I am actually learning something from his teaching. 🙂

This is also what makes the words of the author valuable to me. “Failing doesn’t make you a failure. Trying something new makes you brave.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) And then, there are these words which are even more valuable. “Brave people have courage because they know God loves them no matter what.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) I started this blog series because I wanted to learn and cement this in my head as well as my heart. I suspect many of you do too. We are not failures even if we fail at something. God’s love is with us still. It is always with us even when others withhold their love. Praying that we all can remember this (me included) in the tension of the now and the not yet of our faith and that we can learn to have a heart like His as we share this love with others!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

The Messiness of Life

As I said a few days ago, life is hard. I’m sure all of you have figured that out by now. I would say I have too, but I’m still surprised when the bad times come. I shouldn’t be, right? Jesus said we would have trouble in this world, but many of us who are believers still think our existence in this world will or should be trouble-free. There have probably been a number of thoughts spoken on this, but I’m going to add my two cents on the topic today. You didn’t expect any less, right? 🙂

John 16:33 says it best, I think. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!

So, it says it right there. In clear and plain language. Why don’t we expect trouble to come then? I believe there are three reasons why we are surprised when trouble comes.

We haven’t read or understood enough what Scripture actually says. There are many people who say they are Christians who either don’t read the Bible or read it rarely. So, it’s understandable they don’t know, but I think it’s sad too. They miss out on a lot of what God wants to give us through not reading their Bibles.

Then, there’s the teaching they receive. I guess I could understand not wanting to tell a new believer right away that all their problems aren’t going to be solved by becoming a Christian. It might make them run away in fear. 🙂 But, to teach that God will always give us physical well-being and financial prosperity for believing in Him (Yes, prosperity gospel proponents, I am talking about you.) when it’s clearly not true, well, I consider that reprehensible. When people don’t see their Christian leaders grieving and hear that it’s okay to grieve the bad things that happen in life, they won’t know that God feels their pain too.

Along with this, some Christians consider themselves better than the ones who have suffered because they haven’t suffered or they’re able to hide their suffering better. God doesn’t want us to do this either. We are to carry each other’s burdens, not walk away and say good luck to the person who is suffering.

Lastly, we just don’t think bad times will come our way. We think that everything will keep going the way it usually does until…it doesn’t. That’s when we’ll truly understand what it means to have the peace of God.

This is my 60th post on the devotions from the book 100 Days to Brave, and what I’ve enjoyed the most about this devotional is that the author is real. So very real! Even with this topic. It’s given me permission to be real with my own feelings in return. I especially liked what she said today about life being hard. “You can be sad. You can be angry. You can be confused. But you don’t ever have reason to despair.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) God knows. God knows when we hurt, and God knows when we feel shame. It’s okay with Him, and we’re not going to be thrown out of our faith just for having bad feelings. We are still in the palm of His Hand when we’re sick, when we have a financial setback, when we lose someone we love, and when we’re just sad. Thank you, God, for giving us peace in all situations whether they are good or bad!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Positive Change and Negative Change

My post today will have some beginnings and some endings. Before I type up my post and publish it, I usually hand-write it in my journal. I can be old-fashioned in that way. I like seeing the pages of written words and knowing that I’m the one who wrote them down. One of today’s endings will be completing the last page of this journal. This is a positive change for me. I take a picture of all the journals I’ve completed (over 20 now, I think) and a picture of the next journal I’ll start tomorrow. It helps me to mark how much time has passed and to remember how far I’ve come. Being able to write down how I’m feeling has been a game changer for me. I still might not be able to verbalize my feelings well, but writing them down…writing them down, I can do.

This post will also be published at the end of the month. The ending of a month is usually a positive change for me. I like tearing off the calendar page at the end of the day and seeing all the possibilities of the brand new month coming–the passage of the seasons, so to speak. The ending of this month though will represent something negative for me. No, I don’t mean negative like I don’t want my son to graduate from high school. It just means that I will have less than three weeks of homeschooling left. Twelve years of doing something is a long time, and in a way, it can be negative because I’m not sure of what I’ll be doing next. Let me be honest. Right now, it does hurt because it is an ending, and because I like to know what I’m doing each day. I don’t like to not have the control I usually think I have over my days.

Change can hurt, as it says in today’s devotion. Sometimes, the change is out of our control, and sometimes, it is something we might want, but can still hurt because it represents an ending. I needed to be reminded of what God says about how He works in our lives through today’s Bible verse. From Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God works for our good–in the positive and in the negative. I don’t have a problem with positive change as I’m sure most of us don’t. Who wouldn’t want a better job, a promotion, a new place to live, etc., etc. though these positive changes can come with their own kinds of stress? No, it’s the negative changes that can hurt…losing a job, finding out about an illness, or losing a friendship. The author says this about how brave people react to change which confuses me. “Brave people are okay with change because they remember that change is for our good.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) I equate this with pretending that nothing is wrong so I wasn’t sure what to do with it.

But then, she said that God knows. God knows our pain, and He knows our joy. We’re allowed to acknowledge both parts of our lives with Him which is one of my biggest struggles. We don’t have to have it all together to live bravely in His presence. We might not know the good that is planned through the hurt, but we do know He is working for our good through this verse. May we all acknowledge the truth of Romans 8:28 as we go through the joyous times and the hurting times of our lives!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

 

 

Apologies to My Subscriber List

It has been a little over a month since I moved my blog to a new website, but I’ve just now realized that my subscriber list didn’t move with it. I’d like to offer apologies to all of you. I think I’ve fixed it now so you should be able to enjoy my posts again. Please let me know either by a comment or a like that you can see this now. Also, if you have this page bookmarked, please change it so you can continue seeing my posts. Thanks so much!

Brave Enough to Let Go

Facebook memories can be a funny thing. They can remind you of what you posted on a particular day at a particular time. They can also take you back in time like they’ve done for me today. Seven years ago today, my younger son took his last gymnastics lesson. His coach and the owner of the facility was planning to move back to his home state. He had been one of the ones God had used to bless us over the months previous as he had allowed me to work for him in exchange for my son’s tuition. Both of my sons also took karate, and I was grateful to the instructor there as well that my sons’ lives could be kept normal while their father was out of work. As we headed home from the gym that day, I knew we were about to get some rough weather, but I had no idea of the magnitude of it or that God would send us to one of the hardest hit states only four months later.

I wasn’t thinking about letting go then though. We had been living in our home state again and in the city where we had met and married for almost two years. I was anticipating that we would be there through my sons’ high school years. My husband just had to find another job. A few more months passed, and we realized it wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t know it at the time, but God knew I needed to find Him again in a more personal way, and He had to refine my character in order to make that happen. I didn’t want to let go of our home state. In fact, I fought it hard because I didn’t want to let go of the familiar. Jumping into the unknown was and still is a scary thing, but it proved necessary.

Letting go was also hard because I equated it with giving up, and if you read yesterday’s post, http://thrivingingrace.com/brave-enough-to-hold-on/, you know it is a dangerous thing for me. But, they’re not the same, and I understand them both in a better way now. Giving up means quitting and never wanting to try again. Like I said, a dangerous thing because giving up can be taken to the extreme like with everything else in life. Letting go though, while it is an ending, means something better is on the other side. The Bible verses in this morning’s devotion say the same thing. From Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

I can look back now and see that letting go of our home state was a good thing. It has brought so much joy to our lives and so many new relationships including a closer relationships with God. We have had sorrows too since we moved here, and I have wanted to give up many times. In fact, if I’m being honest, I’m in one of those periods now. Life is hard, y’all, and it’s even harder for someone with depression. The feelings, the hurts, the aches, gnaw at the edge of my brain, and make the urges to give up even stronger.

But, when I remember how my new state was still recovering from the generational outbreak of tornadoes that happened seven years ago today when we moved here in September of that year, when I remember what God has done in our lives since we moved here and the relationships I have formed, and when I remember a four-year old girl, I can’t give up. I can only remember this quote from the author and know that God is leading me to my next best thing. “I have seen over and over again, that to simply let go is a powerful catalyst God will use to move me toward the next best thing.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) May we all be brave enough to let go at the right time and let God lead us to our next best thing!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Brave Enough to Hold On

This morning’s devotion was interesting. It had three things the author was encouraging us not to give up on as we considered whether holding on was worth it. I guess I’ve been braver in my life than I thought because I’ve never given up on more than two of them at a time. What are they? This is what she says. “Don’t give up on life. Don’t give up on God. Don’t give up on yourself.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

At times, I’ve given up on each of these things, but never all at once. I don’t think I’d be here anymore if I’d given up on all of them at the same time. 🙂 It’s like God has been building my bravery one block at a time. When I’ve given up on myself, He has brought people into my life who I’ve loved more than I’ve wanted to give up.  When I’ve given up on God, He has sent people to show His love. When I’ve given up on life, well, I haven’t done that yet though I’ve come awfully close. As we all know, life is hard, harder than we want it to be sometimes. Everyone else seems to be doing well except for us, and it can be frustrating. Those same people seem to be willing to tell the rest of us what we should be doing in our faith not realizing we are hurting ourselves.

But, I look at today’s Scripture and realize it gives me the reason, more than anything else, about why I shouldn’t give up on life. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” The troubles we have here are temporary though they can be overwhelming. What’s more important is what’s eternal. This is encouraging to me when nothing else is. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus and forget about the rest of it.

It’s hard though, isn’t it? And right now, for me, it’s the hardest it’s been for a while. I’ve been listening to my Christian playlist on Spotify while I’ve been writing this, and a song played that has been sticking on the edge of my conscience for a while. It’s the song Thy Will by Hilary Scott. She wrote it after she had a miscarriage, but I think it helps anyone who is hurting. Here are the words, and I hope it helps you as much as it’s helped me.

Thy Will by Hilary Scott

I’m so confused

I know I heard you loud and clear

So, I followed through

Somehow I ended up here

I don’t wanna think

I may never understand

That my broken heart is a part of your plan

When I try to pray

All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

 

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

 

I know you’re good

But this don’t feel good right now

And I know you think

Of things I could never think about

It’s hard to count it all joy

Distracted by the noise

Just trying to make sense

Of all your promises

Sometimes I gotta stop

Remember that you’re God

And I am not

So

 

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will

 

I know you see me

I know you hear me, Lord

Your plans are for me

Goodness you have in store

I know you hear me

I know you see me, Lord

Your plans are for me

Good news you have in store

 

So, thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

I know you see me

I know you hear me, Lord

 

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

The Waiting Season

I don’t think any of us likes to wait at least not from the people I’ve seen speeding through the open gate where I live or the horns I hear on the main thoroughfare in my area. We are all in a hurry–to go to work or school, to come home from work or school, to go on vacation. It seems like nothing is done at a slow pace in our society. We especially don’t like having to wait on the phone and trying to figure out when someone will be available to speak to us. It could happen in five minutes or it could happen in thirty minutes. We just don’t know, and I think that’s what gets most of us–the unknown. We would rather be in control of every situation that comes our way.

But, for those of us who are believers, isn’t God supposed to be in control? Aren’t we supposed to trust Him for the next steps in our lives? Scripture says so. The Bible verse included in today’s devotion is one of those verses. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” There are many more verses I could quote, but I’m only going to feature a few. Psalm 130:5 says, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I get my hope.” The next one is from Psalm 33:20. “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.”

I especially like this passage from Lamentations 3:22-26. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

The quotes all reflect that God wants us to learn how to wait and how to be patient while we’re waiting. Then, why is it so hard? Or maybe it’s just hard for me. 🙁  I’m going through a waiting season right now, and it’s tough. It has played havoc with my brain chemistry, and it’s hard to talk about, even with God. Not only am I waiting in regards to a second car; we’re also waiting for our older son to hear about some things for the summer which are necessary for him to graduate from college next year. There are other areas of waiting too, and all of them have been tough. Coping when my heart has been this low is not something I do easily.

This is where being brave comes in. I hadn’t thought of being brave in relation to waiting, but it makes sense to me. If we have our bravery in tow, we can be patient and express patience with others. The part of the devotion that really got to me though was the part when the author said how patient the Lord is with us. Wow! Reality check! We should be able to wait if we remember that God has been incredibly patient with us. God’s will, not ours, even if our hearts have to be broken in the process. A broken heart can’t be wished away or prayed away. It has to be walked through like I’m walking through one right now.

So thankful I have a Lord and Savior who lets me lean on Him when I have a broken heart!

May God bless you all today!

Saying No

It might be obvious by now, but I like to write. 🙂 The words gather at the edge of my brain waiting to be poured onto paper. If I wait too long to write them down, I feel like I’m about to explode. I guess that’s why God wants us to use our gifts on a regular basis–so we won’t explode.

When I write fiction stories, I like to put my characters into situations that show their courage and their expertise–two things I don’t do well with in real life. I’ve heard it said that people escape into the world of a book as they read it. It’s also true of the people who write their stories down. At least it is for me.

I wrote a story the other week. I plan on entering it in a contest so I’m not going to publish it here yet. But, I’m going to give you some teasers because they are related to today’s devotion topic of saying no. My main character has a choice, and it has to do with her faith. If she makes the choice to defend her faith, she will die. There is no choice of having a lawsuit being filed against her because she “took a stand” for her faith. There is no rallying of other Christians to stand beside her. There are no Christians where she is. There is just death for speaking her beliefs. I won’t spoil the rest of the story. I’ll just say there are some western believers who are not cognizant of what a real challenge to their faith is.

There are times when God says no. There are times when we’re supposed to say no. It happened in the book of Daniel with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were told if they didn’t bow down and worship the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar, they would be thrown into a furnace. I know a lot of courage was involved. They didn’t know what God was going to do. They only knew what they had to do. I like what Daniel 3:18 has to say. “But even if he does not [rescue us], we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” That took courage, courage I’m not sure I would have had until the moment it was required. Know what I mean?

This Scripture also reminds me of the song “Even If” by Mercy Me. God wants our hope to be in Him alone when He says yes and when He says no. It is the same when He is asking us to say yes or no. Like it says in the chorus of the song–“I know You’re able and I know You can. Save through the fire with Your mighty hand. But even if You don’t. My hope is You alone. I know the sorrow. I know the hurt. Would all go away if You’d just say the word. But even if You don’t. My hope is You alone.”

I read these words and realize God wants me to say them even if He doesn’t heal my depression. I’ve talked about this recently–how I feel isolated, alone and forgotten because of a lack of transportation. It’s done ugly things to my brain chemistry, and I’ve cried a lot–a reality of life for someone with depression. It was bad this past weekend. I realized a choice I had made was going to prevent us from getting another car until next year. A choice I had made, a choice I thought God had asked me to make was going to lead me into the deepest well of loneliness I had ever known, and it hurt more than I could imagine. I didn’t feel like I could even share the specifics of the hurt with anyone including God though I knew He knew anyway.

But, I look back at the words “even if You don’t”, and they bring me clarity. God wants me to say them even when I’m at the bottom of the well. So, here goes.

I know God can provide a second car, but even if He doesn’t, my hope is Him alone.

I know God can provide a ride to an activity I really want to go to, but even if He doesn’t, my hope is Him alone.

I know God can provide a way to a retreat, but even if He doesn’t, my hope is  Him alone.

I know God can provide friends, but even if He doesn’t, my hope is Him alone.

I know God can take the loneliness and isolation away, but even if He doesn’t, my hope is Him alone.

I know God can heal my depression, but even if He doesn’t, my hope is  Him alone.

And He is enough!

May God bless you all today!

Saying Yes

It’s finally come to the point where I’ve looked at the devotion from 100 Days to Brave, and I’ve not been sure I could pull even a small thread from it to write about. Saying yes has been scary for me of late. I have a hard time walking into somewhere by myself and feeling like no one wants me there–that I’m not pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, or just enough to be with that particular group. I feel like I have nothing to contribute especially to a group of women who are all friends with me being the outsider.

But, this is when the author says it’s good to say yes. “Even when it’s scary or costly or unknown.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) There are more things I can add to this though that make me wonder. Do I say yes to doing something when I disagree with how it’s been handled in the past, and I haven’t had the courage to confront? Do I say yes when I’ve had the courage to confront and nothing’s changed? And what about that courage to confront? Confronting in a Christian way is something I haven’t figured out how to do yet, so, most of the time, when I disagree with something, I’ll keep my mouth shut and internalize all of my bad feelings. I know that’s not good for me either, but what do I do? I don’t know how Jesus wants me to handle it.

Sorry about that. I went off-topic. 🙂 Back to the subject of saying yes. Every yes I’ve said lately has been scary. God has been leading me to some places that are unfamiliar, and unfamiliar equals scary in my book. I’ve submitted one story to a contest and will be submitting another one shortly. I’ve agreed to go on a missions trip this summer. I know I’m in God’s will for both of these things, and I know I’m in the palm of His hand, but I’m still scared.

I also know God gives comfort in the midst of fear, and I think that might be the point of what the author has to say about saying yes in today’s devotion. “Say yes to the situations that stretch you and scare you and ask you to be a better you than you think you can be.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) God wants us to be better people so I’m pretty sure that’s why these fear-inspiring situations keep coming up. And if we’re believers, shouldn’t we want what God wants for us?

It’s hard for me to ask that question because the answer is obvious and because there are a lot of times I can’t or don’t want to say yes. It makes me feel ashamed. Fear does a number on us all. I will talk more about God giving us grace in these situations in the next post, but, for now, I believe God gives us the courage and the bravery to say yes to the things He wants us to do if we keep our minds and hearts continually seeking after Him. Praying for us to have courage and bravery as we seek our Lord and Savior and praying we can receive His grace when we can’t reach through our fear!

May God bless you all today!

Small Steps to Becoming Brave

I had been doing so well with my journey to becoming brave that yesterday surprised me. I didn’t think I could be knocked down that far again. But, I was wrong. With this journey though, I have found that getting back up again is crucial even when you don’t want to. That was true for me yesterday and is still true for me today. I didn’t want to get up. All I felt like I could do was languish in the pit. Nothing had changed, and nothing was probably going to change for a long time. I still felt isolated.

This was where making a small decision and taking a small step became important. I could not change the big problem or the isolation that came from it. I could not change the shame I felt because I was struggling mentally and emotionally instead of physically and the feeling that I would be ignored if I shared it. That was where the small step came in. I ended up going to church last night with a heavy heart. I didn’t want to, but I did. Once I got there, I wanted to be brave, sit within the crowd of people, and share my pain. I ended up sitting on the last row though. I couldn’t go any further. My state of mind wouldn’t let me. But, I did do something from the back row. I asked for people to pray for me and said why. Saying why was a big step. I had never been able to do that out loud before. It reminded me of what Galatians 6:7 says in the Message. “What a person plants, he will harvest.” I planted a tiny sprig of bravery in my heart last night. It might not have meant a lot to people. I only ended up speaking to a few people last night who offered encouragement. But, like the author of this morning’s devotion says, “A little yes can be a step in the right direction, even if it isn’t a leap.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

So, with God’s help, I’m going to keep taking the small steps, the ones that will fuel the flickering candle of bravery in my heart to a steady, constant light. I’m going to keep reading God’s Word, praying, and talking about bravery until God wants me to stop. Praying for all of us to be able to take the small steps!

May God bless you all today!