The Quiet Within

Once in a while, I come to a passage or a verse in scripture that, frankly, I just don’t like.

The verses in 1 Peter chapter 3 are some of those very ones.  “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.  You should clothe yourselves, instead, with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”  The concept here is not that we should be plain, or not care AT ALL about our appearance.  Rather, the idea is that we should not ONLY care about our appearance.  That we should prioritize the beauty that comes from within.  When my children were growing up, I always told them “It’s more important to be pretty on the inside than the outside”. 

Ok, inner beauty over outer beauty.  Check.  Got it.  That seems simple enough.  But that’s not the part I struggle with.  It’s the next part.

“…the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.”  Boom.  Drop the mic.  That’s where I have to stop every time and say “Well, I guess I’ll never get that one right.”  Gentle and quiet (especially quiet) is not me.  It’s almost the exact opposite of me.  I wonder if maybe I will never truly live up to what I think God expects of me. 

Growing up, my report cards in school were fairly consistent, especially in elementary school.  “Shelli is a good student, a pleasure to have in class, but she talks to much.”  Ask my mom, this was on more than just a few report cards!  One teacher explained to my mom at parent conferences, that she wanted to help me learn better in class.  Since my constant talking was a problem and often a distraction, the teacher decided to move me away from my friends.  She seated me with the boys in class, thinking that would quiet me down.  Nope!  I talked to them too.  Then she had the bright idea that if I were seated right next to her desk, that I would certainly have to be quieter.  That was also a no go.  I just talked to HER!  She eventually gave up and simply moved me back with my friends and shushed me more often.  (In 5th grade I also got kicked out of choir at school for, you guessed it, too much talking, but that’s a story for another day…)

So, you can see why a passage of scripture that says I should be quiet, is a struggle for me.  If you know me, you know that “quiet” is not in my DNA.  No one I know would use that word in describing me! They will usually throw terms like “sassy” and “funny” out there.  But never quiet. You can usually tell when I am in the room.  I am not a wallflower, fading into the background.  I often have something to say, and I will typically say it.  So, when I thought that scripture was telling me to be quiet in volume, or with my words, I wrestled with that.  The enemy was using my perception of what I THOUGHT the scripture was saying, against me.  What I heard in my lack of knowledge about the truth scripture here was, “you need to change, you can’t be YOU anymore, God can’t use you the way you are…” and so on.  I was uneasy.

I decided to do the only smart thing I could think of, to dig into the study notes in my bible as well as other sources and teachings on the subject.  When it comes to scriptures that we do not understand, there are so many other study tools to help. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds me that when I don’t understand, that He will direct me.  Some passages simply require further study and resources.

What I found when I looked further, was a huge relief to my heart!  I discovered that, in this passage, God is not asking me to just be a quiet person with my words.  He isn’t telling me not to talk, or to talk less, or even to talk quieter.  The phrase used here is a quiet SPIRIT. 

The “quiet spirit” the apostle Peter is referring to here is actually about one being peaceful, or a peaceable person.  It suggests a tranquil quality of life.  The woman who is quiet in spirit does not spend her time “freaking out” about life!  She understands and trusts that God is in control of all things.  This is the kind of peace that we display on the outside, even when life is tumultuous all around us.  It means that when situations in life happen to cause us stress, and concern, we intentionally recall God’s faithfulness in the past.  Our spirit is quiet because we recognize that “God’s got this” essentially.  This kind of spirit makes each of us a joy for others to be around.  This quiet spirit draws others, with less peace in their own lives, toward us like a magnet.  Therefore, giving us an opportunity to share the hope we have in Jesus!

When our spirit is quiet, our life is able to declare loudly that we trust God.  Peace is not the absence of struggle, rather it is absolute confidence in The One who brings an end to the struggle.

Imagine that you are walking out in nature, and you come upon a flowing stream.  This peaceful stream invites and calls to you to come and sit on its shore and rest in the calmness of the sound of the water flowing gently by.  While you are resting there, you can hear birds chirping, leaves rustling in the breeze, and the soft sound of the water pouring over the tops of the rocks in the stream.  You can feel yourself being refreshed, like in Psalm 23.  Your desire is to sit and rest here as long as possible! 

Now imagine that you are out walking in nature, but you come upon the same stream in a place where the water is crashing loudly over the rocks.  The force of the water is powerful and strong. You can see the white caps that seem to be declaring “danger” with their noise.  You can’t hear the birds chirping or the leaves rustling.  All you can hear is the tremendous sound of the water demanding your attention as it rushes powerfully downstream.  This is not a place where you’ll want to sit and rest or take a break.  It is a stressful scene. 

In both scenarios, there is power being displayed within the water. 

At the part of the stream where the water is furiously crashing and moving, there is great commotion on the surface.  There is visible turmoil and sometimes deafening noise.  All the fury of the water is seen and demands attention.  You cannot rest here, and you are compelled to move away to a quieter place!

At the peaceful place in the stream, the surface of the water is calm, and seems to be barely moving.  But underneath there is a great strength forcing the water downstream.  You are able to relax peacefully here.  You can enjoy the beauty of the softly flowing water, not fully realizing the strong current underneath the surface that keeps that water flowing.  There is rest and peace here!

It is the same when the spirit of God is at work under the surface in me.  His power in us is displayed on our surface, in what others see reflected in us.   Am I “freaking out” on the outside, causing white caps in my own life?  Or am I trusting Him and allowing Him to do His work underneath while displaying calm on the surface?  God is not asking me to be quiet with my mouth, but to be quiet in my spirit. 

There are plenty of times when God asks His people to speak up, to boldly proclaim His truth and to spread peace.  I am best able to do this when I have a quiet (or strengthened) sprit within me.  Having a gentle and quiet spirit comes when we, in faith, obey God’s word.  That obedience builds trust, and trust promotes peace and faith.  The lessons we learn through obedience to His word result in our becoming more like Christ.  And after all, that is the goal, isn’t it?  Becoming more like Jesus? 

This quiet, or peaceful spirit, will give us the voice to speak.  To declare the goodness of God.  Having a gentle and “quiet” spirit will speak “louder” than any other rationale or “argument” that we could ever have for our faith!

There will be times when I do need to be quiet before Him.  I may need to be quiet instead of offering my opinion in every conversation.  I will always need the Holy Spirit to guide my words, and keep my mouth closed at times.  But I do not ALWAYS need to be a quiet person, it’s okay to speak out and speak up.  It’s okay to make a joyful noise!  What a relief for my soul!  I can now, in confidence, carry on being ME.  I can be myself, and let God use me the way He made me.  The change I need to make is within myself, and in my spirit.  God can use my outgoing, “sassy”, slightly less than quiet personality. 

Dear Lord, remind me of the water in the stream.  Remind me that your spirit can continually move and work underneath, while there is a calm presence on the surface.  Help me to trust you always and to display that trust through my quiet spirit in this life.  Let my quiet spirit be of great value in Your sight.

Sedona AZ
Sedona AZ

Purposefully,

Shelli

Faith in action

As a warm weather girl, I always look forward to the spring and summer months.  Like many things in nature, I really “come alive” when the weather turns warmer.  And when it does, it’s time to get outdoors again!

On a recent hiking venture, I came to a bridge.  This bridge was not long, but it was a bit high, and it did cross some water.  The bridge seemed stable enough, and I was certain that many people, even that very day, had probably gone across it before me.  But what if?  What if the bridge wasn’t able to hold me?  What if it was trustworthy for all the others but not for me? 

I held back and observed a while.   

Where I was hoping to go was on the other side of the expanse that the bridge crossed.  I had to cross that bridge to get there.  There was really no other way, but the what ifs had me trapped in doubt.

Sedon Az.

Faith can be a lot like that. 

Hebrews 11:1 tells us this, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”.

Hebrews 11 is affectionately known as the “Hero’s of the faith” chapter.  Here we see a list of some of the big-name heroes of old, whose names we easily recognize and associate with faith.

By faith, Moses’ parents hid him for three months…

By faith…Noah built an ark…

By faith, Abraham went to a new place, even though he did not know where he was going…

By faith, the Israelites passed through the Red Sea on dry land…

And on and on. 

So, what makes the difference between big faith, and not so big faith?  How do we measure faith?  When you consider the faith life of those you know with “big faith”, what is it that makes them different?  Why is their faith bigger?  I’ve got one word for you.  Obedience.

Sedona Az.

What if we trade the word faith for the word obedience in the hero chapter?  “In obedience Moses’ parents hid him.  In obedience Noah built an ark.  In obedience Abraham went to a new place.”  The correlation between faith and obedience is striking. 

It’s easy for me, and probably you too, to talk about faith.  We have faith in God about many things.  We have faith that God will care for us and for our family.  Faith that He will meet our physical, financial and emotional needs.  Faith that He will help us in our trials and difficulties.  And faith that He will lead us clearly in the decisions we need to make.  But sometimes it is easy to toss the word faith around as if it were a supernatural power, too lofty to grasp.  But what if…. what if we switched the word faith for obedience? 

Let’s consider it this way.  Great faith is faith in action.  Each of us knows someone to whom we attribute great faith to.  I’m willing to bet that the reason you feel that way about them, is because of the way they ACT on their faith.  The confidence and ability they have to really trust God with their hurts, struggles, decisions, and the changes in their life.

Often, we say “I want more faith!”  We want greater faith in the One who loves us.  We desire the faith to move mountains as in Matthew 17:20-21.  I suggest to you today that what you really want is more obedience! 

Faith transitions to obedience, and obedience deepens into trust.

When we act on our faith with obedience, our faith deepens.  When we put “feet on our faith” and step out in trust, we allow God to work.  From the examples given in Hebrews 11, what we see is faith in action.  God did not supernaturally build the ark for Noah, or hide Moses Himself, or even pick up Abraham and move him while he slept.  Those faithful followers of God obeyed.  They believed God would do what He said He would do, but they first had to act.  Their faith meant nothing until they acted on it.  Their story in scripture would not be listed in the “Faith Hall of Fame” if they had not actually stepped out and acted! 

Obedience can be scary. 

Very recently I was wrestling with faith and trust.  I had been feeling like God wanted me to act on my faith, and for a while I was excited and ready.  But then…I got scared.  I began to back peddle a little bit.  I was trying to “be really sure” that I was hearing God correctly.  I was fairly certain that I had heard Him clearly a few months back, but now that it was time to actually obey, I put the brakes on.  Through my doubt and apprehension, when I thought I was “making sure” of Gods will, what I was really doing was holding back.  What I lacked was obedience.

After some study of scripture, and much more prayer, I heard God again, loud and clear.  So loudly and clearly, in fact, that it left me full of joy and faith!  I can’t explain to you the amount of peace and fulfillment it brought me to truly arrive a place of perfect peace with God and His plan for me!  I was ready to step out on that bridge, so to speak.  Ready to trust His ability to keep me safe as I headed to the other side.

Is there a situation in your life where you feel God calling you to action, but you are fearful?  Are you holding back right now because you are scared about the outcome?  Is there a phone call you need to make?  A relationship that needs healing? A friendship that needs to end? A move you need to make?  A ministry you need to step into?  A job you need to change?

If the Israelites had not obeyed God and stepped into the wind tunnel of the Red Sea, they would have been overtaken by Pharaoh’s army.  If Abraham had stayed in Ur, God would not have fulfilled His promise to him that he would inherit the land.  And if Noah had been too scared to obey God and build that ark, then sister, you and I would not even be here today!

I’ll remind you now, that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”.  Can you trust God where you do not see?  Can you trust Him with your heart?  With your finances?  With your relationships?  The answer is yes!  A very loud and confident yes!

Pastor and Author Larry Osborn says this; “Faith looks at God and says, “I know your character.  I can trust you.”  And then it steps out onto the bridge.”

God honors our obedience! If I truly trust God, then I will display faith in action.  I will step out onto the bridge, and I will be blessed! 

Father God, I know I can trust you.  I know that you are always working for my good.  Please forgive me for not stepping out in faith and obeying you when I clearly hear you leading me.  Give me the faith to believe.  Speak to my heart and remind me of the heroes of faith and their obedience to you.  Remind me of the fabulous life of faith and blessing they led because they fully obeyed and trusted you.  Thank you for not giving up on me while I deepen my trust in your plan.  Amen.

Purposefully,

Shelli

Near Prescott Az.
My oldest daughter and I, in Sedona!

Even if…

Time is a funny thing, isn’t it?

One minute can seem so short, or so very long depending on what’s occurring within that minute.  If I am hugging my friend goodbye and she will be returning to her home far away, that one minute of hugs can pass so quickly.  But if I am anxiously standing by my coffee maker at 5 a.m. waiting for it to finish my wake-up juice, that same minute is LONG.  Watching my grandchildren play at the park for one minute seems far shorter than the one minute I spend jogging around that same park.  Uncomfortable and painful situations take longer to change than happy ones, or at least so it seems.

2019 was a very difficult year for me.  My heart, my faith and my strength were tested in a powerful way.  That year seemed like the longest year of my life.  (even after all the trials of 2020, 2019 was longer for me by far).  It was a year of difficulty and heart break.  It was a year of struggle and hurt.  And when it was over, the new year emerged almost as a breath of fresh air. 

I learned so very much that year.  I learned to truly trust the process, the way that God works.  Like you, I want God to work faster, more on my timetable.  Because when I hurt, I want it to end quickly.  But I learned that year, that some things can’t be rushed.  That, in order for there to be beauty from ashes, something must first burn.  I learned that refining fire is a real thing, and that impurities rise to the top first when heat is applied.  When the “heat” was applied in my life during this time, I became more aware of some of my own weaknesses.  I came face to face with trusting God in a solid and fresh way.  The rubber met the road, metaphorically speaking.

During that time, I was encouraged by a friend with this scripture from a Psalm by King David.  It is Psalm 27:13-14 “I remain confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; take heart and wait for the Lord.”   I was especially encouraged by this because David was trusting God for His help in a circumstance, and he was counting on seeing God’s goodness here on earth. 

Near Bell Rock, Sedona Ariaona

King David had many trials and many foes.  It seems like someone was almost always going after him.  He cried out to God often for His help and guidance.  In the beginning of Psalm 27, we find David in a struggle of some kind.  Here, David seems to be reminding himself that he need not fear his enemies. In verse one he says, “The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?”.  And again, in verse three, “though war break out against me, even then I will be confident”.  He is remembering where his strength comes from.  This is a definite strength of David’s.  He understood well that God alone could rescue and save him.  And that his enemies were greater than him and his men could handle without God’s divine intervention.  It’s possible that David was in exile here.

But whatever the case, it’s clear that something was causing him great anguish.  I understand that feeling wholeheartedly.  Over the course of this Psalm, David developed a kind of “Even If” mentality.  “God, even if my enemies surround me, God is my helper.  Even if my family forsakes me, God will receive me.  Even if trouble finds me, God will keep me safe in His dwelling.”  

For me, in 2019, I embraced some “even if’s” as well.  For me it looked like, even if things don’t turn around with this situation, God is with me.  Even if things are never good again (regarding this issue), I can still trust God because He isn’t finished yet.  Even if I continue to hurt and my heart continues breaking, it is because of evil in the world and not because this is God’s plan.  Those even ifs were tough to swallow, I can promise you that.  They did not slide down easily; they choked and scratched their way into my soul.  But the Lord kept bringing many scriptures to mind, and Psalm 27;13-14 was among them.

I held on to the promise that God was not done writing that story, and that someday (and most days, someday felt very far off) I would see His goodness here, in this life.  The Psalmist remained confident of that, and I chose to do the same.  There were times that I struggled to believe it, but I clung to that verse like a life raft.  Verse 14 told me to “wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart, and wait……”  So, I waited.

And prayed.

And sought His face (vs. 8)

And waited some more.

And one day it happened.

I looked up and realized I was seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  And day after day, I kept looking for it, and it kept coming!  And before I had stopped to realize it, two years had passed, far more quickly than I ever thought they could.  It had felt, for a while, like time stood still.  Like nothing was happening.  Like things were not getting any better.  But when God is at work, things are changing behind the scenes, even though we may not see it from our point of view.   John 5:17 “But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”” 

Bell Rock, Sedona Arizona

He never stops working.

Maybe you are in a difficult season.  Maybe you find yourself doubting that things will ever turn around.  Maybe you feel trapped and discouraged, but you are never without hope. Charles Spurgeon said that “Hope is heavens balm for present sorrow.”  I can always put my hope in the Lord and His ability to right wrongs, and to mend hearts.

We serve a God who is not intimidated by situations that seem impossible!  The Israelites crossed The Red Sea, David won against Goliath, the walls of Jericho collapsed with just a shout, and Jesus Christ came back to life after death on a Roman cross!  There is still hope when all seems hopeless. 

Be strong and take heart sister.  While you are waiting, God is working.  Seek the Lord, keep trusting Him when it’s the hardest, and someday you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. You can remain confident of that!

Purposefully,

Shelli

Maybe it’s time

This weekend I had the privilege of attending a local event called the IF Gathering.  Presenters and speakers included Jenny Allen (founder and organizer), Lysa Terkeurst, Jackie Hill Perry, Francis Chan, and David Platt, just to name a few of my favorites!  It was truly a wonderful weekend that challenged me spiritually, encouraged my heart, and provided some much-needed connection to women in a group setting, with a focus on the word of God. I’d go again next weekend if I could!

It was a refreshing time after such a long, dry, desert year of isolation, disconnect, distancing, and struggle.  Let’s be honest, 2020 took more from us than we realize.  And for me, a few of the things that I lost are only becoming clear now that some things are returning to normal.  Connecting corporately with my sisters in Christ is one of them.  There was power and encouragement this weekend in the large group setting, as we sang worship to God, we prayed together, and we all sat under the same teaching and were inspired toward spiritual growth.    

Because I was able to experience that kind of setting again, I realized then how much I had missed it!  And it got me to thinking about how much all of us have missed it too. 

Except for a brief time when my church stopped meeting in person, I didn’t stop going to church weekly during the pandemic.  But I know some of you did, and let me say, I understand.  I get it.  There was a lot of uncertainty about the safety of gathering, and there were procedures put into place that made church attendance a less positive experience. But it was difficult not being together.  Thankfully, there was the convenience of being able to have church at home through, online streaming. Online church is surely better than no church at all!

But can I dig deep, go low, and be super honest with you?  It’s not the same.

It is a temporary fix to a short-term problem. Church at home was never intended to be the “norm” for the long term.  I want to encourage you right now, to go back to church!  Staying only online is staying disconnected in many ways. Maybe for you, it’s just time to go back for the first time in a long time. Maybe the reason you’re not in church has nothing to do with Covid or 2020. But perhaps you have felt the call of God on your heart during the pandemic, to dig into His word again. If you’ve done that, you are probably feeling closer to God and ready for more.  God has always been about relationship and He will use His word to draw us to Himself in that way.  He will also draw us to other believers in that same way. There is strength in numbers, we need to be together.

What does scripture have to say about church attendance and fellowship with believers?  A great deal actually.

In the book of Acts, we see the Gentile believers gathering for teaching and encouragement.  There is a clear example for us there of the believer’s strength in being together with one focus and intent.  They gathered to support each other in tough times, and they gathered to hear the word taught to them.  In Hebrews 10:25, Paul gives us some instructions.  He says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”  What God is telling us through the Apostle Paul, is that we need to be together as followers of Jesus. He’s telling us that it is important!

Now I can read your thoughts already….” Shelli, I still read my bible!” or “I watch church online…” or even “I worship when I’m in nature.”  But I want to tell you that as good as those things are (and they are good things), they simply aren’t enough.  I know, I know. I’m up in your business now……hang in there with me!

Several things happen when we gather for worship and teaching. 

The first thing is that we are able to encourage each other.  Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”  This verse immediately proceeds verse 25 which talks about about continuing to meet together.  I think the reason is because being together is encouraging.  When we are together, it is natural that we will encourage each other toward love and good works. And when we are not together, that becomes harder.  I don’t know about you, but left alone, I am selfish.  I become “me focused” instead of “others focused”.  I typically can’t see past my own issues, and I begin to feel like I am alone in my struggles.  When I am active in church (which is a family) I realize that others struggle too, that I am not alone in my brokenness.  And that I have a support system around me when things get tough.  They encourage me!

Another thing that happens when we gather is that the Holy Spirit shows up.  We see this in the early days of the church.  Jesus gives some important teaching in Matthew chapter 18. In that teaching He reminds us in verse 20, that, “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  He is referring to the Holy Spirit!  Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come after He was crucified. The Holy Spirit shows up when we are together!  I have been in church during a time of powerful worship and truly felt the Spirit in the room.  I treasure those times. Knowing that He is with you and me now, 2000 years later, is tremendously encouraging!

When we gather, we build community.  Together we can accomplish more for His kingdom.  Together we are unified and empowered.  When we grow together, we become the Body of Christ.  Romans 12:4-8 says this, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”  The idea here is that we need each other, living in community, to be complete.  You and I have a purpose in church, and it isn’t only to sit and take notes.  It is to connect and encourage.  It is to be a part of The Body and to be there for each other.  When you aren’t there, something is missing.  It’s missing from your life, and it is missing from the life of the person you are not connecting with, in your absence.

We are less vulnerable to the enemy when we gather.  1 Peter 5:8 is a powerful image. It Reminds us that the enemy is real and determined.  “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”  When we gather to connect, worship, and learn, we are harder for the enemy to harass, because we are not on our own. 

I imagine that you’ve seen enough nature shows in your life to understand this next concept.  Try to envision a pack of Hyena’s scavenging along, searching for food. Those ugly, vicious, scraggly looking predators!  Now insert a herd of zebras.  Those hyena’s, like the enemy, are surveying that herd, looking for the one zebra that will be easy prey.  Typically, that’s the one at the back of the group, traveling slower, and alone.  The hyenas will swoop in and attack when that lone zebra is far from the group, when the group is unable to come to its rescue.  He becomes easy prey.

Sister, you and I are more easily overtaken by the enemy when we are not connected.

Many of us have gotten away from our habit of going to church in the last year.  Many of us have “wandered from the herd” in 2020.  Now it’s 2021, and we’re still wandering. Sister, I understand, and I see the valid reasons why it happened. I don’t fault you for those decisions. But my plea to you is this. 

Go back.

It’s time for the church to rise up.  It’s time for us to be united in our faith.  It’s time for us to be connected again, and to grow together.  It’s time for us to sing together, to pray together, to study the word together.  It’s time for us to rejoin the body and encourage one another in the faith, and it’s time to gather again. Let’s be together in church, in God’s house, as a group.

I felt it this weekend, I felt that connection I was missing.  I hadn’t realized just how badly I was missing it until I had it again.  So, if you’re reading this now and you’re thinking “Yeah, but I’m ok.  I haven’t been to church in a while, but I feel ok.  I still read my bible, I still pray, I still sing…”  my encouragement to you is, to just do it.  Just go.  Make a commitment right now to get in your car next Sunday morning and go back to church!  Your soul needs it, and the body of believers in your home church need you there!

Do what you need to do to get there but get there!  You will be both encouraged AND an encouragement to others!

Purposefully,

Shelli

Grab your shovel

I bet you’re like me sometimes.  

I wish things in my life were different.  I wish I was different.  I wish change was easier.  I wish situations improved quicker. 

Matthew 17:20 says “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, “move from here to there,” and it would be done.  Nothing would be impossible.” 

Do you have a “mountain” in your life?  I think we all do.  My mountain is likely very different than yours, but I imagine that we each have a mountain of some kind. 

Granite Mountain, near home

This past summer, my daughter and her hubby wanted to change the landscape of their back yard.  They had moved into their new home a couple of years before, and the backyard did not come landscaped.  Having two small children, a dog, and yard full of goat heads was not a great combination.  As time went by, they pulled together some money and ordered rock (rock is just what you do in Arizona!).  They ordered a lot of rock.  20 tons to be exact. 

I wish you could have seen this giant pile of rock!  It was delivered and unloaded into a colossal pile in the street in front of their home.  This pile of rock needed to be moved into the back yard, through a narrow side gate.  There were some tools to help, like a small tractor with a small trailer, and shovels.  But that giant pile of rock had to be moved from the mountain of rock, into the small trailer, one shovelful at a time.  It was hot, strenuous work.  (not that I helped…. yard work is a spectator sport for me!)  

It took several adults, two full days to move the rock, and spread it out evenly in the back yard.   

Now their yard is a wonderful place where the kids and the dog can play and run!  The feeling of relief and accomplishment when the last shovelful of rock went into the yard was tremendous!  Finally, they could all rest. 

Often, there is no other way to move a mountain, but one shovelful at a time.  The blessings are not only enjoyed when the work is finished, but they are realized in the process too. 

The mountain in Matthew 17:20 is a proverbial illustration.  It is not a literal possibility, if it were, people of faith would be reconstructing the landscape of this earth on a regular basis.  Furthermore, if you and I had the ability to boss mountains around, that “power” could easily and quickly be used for our own devices, and not as a display of God’s ultimate power and glory. 

Rather, it is in scripture to teach us a lesson.  Faith is most often developed one “shovelful” at a time. 

Exer-walking with my tribe this summer!

When you and I allow God to work on our hearts and lives through change, we “exercise” our faith.  Exercising our muscles makes our muscles strong, and exercising our faith makes our faith strong.   

Let’s pretend for a moment that we asked God to move a mountain, to change something in our life.  And He did it in a flash, a blink.  (Think Star Trek “beam me up, Scotty”).  We could arrive on the other side of our trial instantly and without struggle! (This is something that we spend a lot of time in life wishing were the case).  But, if that really did happen, we would miss so much.  We would miss the opportunity to grow our faith muscle.  We would miss the process of diligently, shovel by shovel, building trust as we watched the mountain be moved.   

Because God is almighty, He could choose to move our mountain anyway He chooses.  But there is a lesson for us when He chooses not to move it instantly.  God certainly does not need our help to move any mountain, but because He is always at work for our best, He often hands us the shovel.  Therefore, giving you and I the opportunity to grow! 

So, what’s your mountain?  What situation in your life seems insurmountable?  What situation seems so big that you can’t believe that it even could change?    Maybe it’s so big that you don’t really pray about it, you have just accepted it as fact.  But we serve a big God!  Our God can move mountains!  Both figuratively and literally.   

Maybe it’s time to talk to Him about it, whatever it is.  Maybe it’s time to pick up the shovel, and bit by bit, one shovelful at a time, allow Him to work.  Do you feel a call on your heart toward change?  Maybe it’s a personal change (like a goal).  Maybe it’s a relational change (like improving or starting one).  Maybe it’s a ministry change (are you feeling pulled to join one?). Or even a job or location change. 

There are also mountains in the lives of those we care about.  Situations in our loved ones’ lives that are not right, that cause us worry and heartache.  These mountains can often feel even larger than our own personal mountains, because there is so little we can do ourselves to change them.  But trust me when I say that I have seen the biggest mountains EVER, be completely thrown into the sea.   

Whatever your mountain is, Proverbs 3:5-6 speaks directly to it.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. (NLT) 

He will move the mountain when the time is right. We must reject the thought that He isn’t working when He doesn’t change everything quickly. He will almost always hand us a shovel, and give us a chance to grow.   

~~These Cana Lilies grow in my back yard~~My hubby is the gardener~~I just watch!

All wrapped up

Its that time of year again!  It’s Christmastime!

There are so many special things about Christmas that I look forward to each year!  Things that truly only happen at Christmas.  Things like attending the courthouse lighting in Prescott.  Driving through light displays, and neighborhoods to see Christmas decorations, having a Baking Day with my adult daughters, and wearing fancy clothes to church on Christmas eve. 

I love the glow coming from the lights on my Christmas tree early in the morning.  And I love Christmas music!

But mostly I love how Christmastime is special and different from every other month of the year!

And though the world does not always recognize the true meaning of Christmas, those of us that know Jesus do, and it is a beautiful time to reflect and celebrate The Savior!

This year though, this year is certainly different than all the years prior.  This year we could easily get lost in how different things are for us.  We could dwell on the fact that the usual celebrations we enjoy may not be happening.  We could focus on how even our family gatherings are different.  Or we may become lost in the hustle and bustle of preparations.  But the choice is ours.

How we celebrate this Christmas may look and even feel different, but “different” is how Christmas got started in the first place isn’t it?

Mary and Joseph certainly did not plan for the circumstances that God chose for them.  Their lives were vastly different than what they had imagined. 

An angel announced to Mary that she would bear a child as a virgin.  Different.

The shepherds saw a host of angels fill the sky and proclaim to them that the Savior, the One they had been waiting for, had been born in Bethlehem.  Different.

The Kings from the East followed a star on a journey that led them to the Christ child.  Different.

When things are different and new, it awakens our senses and even our souls, to a fresh perspective.  Otherwise we may just go through the motions of life without fresh joy and excitement!

So, while Christmas 2020 looks and feels quite different, we can rest in the fact that God never changes.  His plans and purposes cannot be upset.  He is still at work and He will never leave us.  In fact, it is when things are different, that God comes to meet us.  He uses times of “different” to challenge us and make us more aware of His presence.

Just like with Mary and Joseph. 

After the baby was born, and the shepherds came in from the fields, scripture says in Luke 2:19 says that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  That sounds like the wonder of Christmas to me.

Maybe this year we let “different” be a catalyst of change for us. Maybe we revisit what Christmas is truly about in the first place.  Maybe this shift in our normal practices at Christmas can turn out to be a beautiful time of remembering why we do what we do.

We need to remember that different brings change for us, and change brought Jesus, and Jesus is the true reason for Christmas! And different can be beautiful too!

And because that first Christmas was so different, you and I can have a relationship with Jesus, the savior of the world. 

The Wonderful Counselor.

The Mighty God.

The Prince of Peace.

The Everlasting One.

Emmanuel.

Mary wrapped her newborn baby in swaddling cloths because of the gift He was.  We wrap up the items we purchase at Christmas in pretty paper because they too are gifts.  And as we wrap up 2020, and consider all the different and challenging things the year held, maybe it has been a gift too.

Gifts under the tree are fun, as they are given and received from a place of love.  But the best gift isn’t the one under your tree.  It’s the one right under your nose.

 It’s Jesus!

Ephesians 2:8  “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God!”

Hard things that were, and good things that are

Sometimes life is good.  Sometimes it’s easier than it is at other times. But I think it becomes easier to recognize the good times because we have gone through the rough times.  I am currently in a season of relatively good health, mentally, physically, and spiritually.  But as we all know, that can change without warning. 

In some recent emails with a friend, we have exchanged thoughts about good things for that day.  We have practiced being thankful for things like hot cups of tea, smiling grandchildren, unplanned coffee dates with friends and so on.  I have really been enjoying this practice, because it has forced me to think intentionally every day about the good things of life.

Because of this practice, I have been reminded about the recent times in my life that have been extremely difficult.  Times when my faith felt a bit fragile and trusting in God’s good plan was something I had to work at.  I felt trapped on a merry go round of events that would not stop spinning, and I was literally growing ill from the constant motion of it all. 

In Romans 8:28 we read “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.”  That’s you and I, sister!  If we know Jesus as our redeemer, then this scripture is for us.  This verse is a feel-good verse, at least it is for me.  It is all wrapped up in hope.  Because, when I read this verse, I know that God sees the whole picture, and that He is working through my difficulty with an end result in mind.  That result is my good, my best interest.

But when we slow it down, and only look at the first half of the verse, it changes just a little bit.  “In all things, God works.”  This implies that there are “things”, difficulties, and hardships in this life.  And I see there that being a Christ Follower does not make me immune to challenges and struggles in life.  I will experience “things” that will cause me to pause and know that, on my own, I am unable to understand it all.  But that God is working.

In the book of Acts, in chapter 9, we read an account of a woman named Dorcas.

Dorcas lived in Joppa, near Jerusalem.  Her brief but powerful life story, is told in just 11 verses.

Joppa was a seacoast town, and the women who lived there were typically married to seafaring men who made their living from the sea.  They were often fisherman.  The sea took the lives of many men in accidents out on the waters. Consequently, Joppa had many widows.  But the women there had a friend in Dorcas.  She was a Christ Follower, as well as the first (and only) woman in the New Testament, to be called a disciple. She loved and cared for the women there, when their husbands (and their support system) were no longer there to do it for them.  She sewed the women garments and undoubtedly put her arms around them in comfort as they mourned their losses.  She put her faith into action.

And then, scripture says, that she got sick and died.  Just like that, with no warning, their situation changed, and Dorcas is gone.

How the women in Joppa must have wept and mourned the loss of their friend.  She had done so much, loved so fiercely, and given so generously.  They were in a difficult time.  The widows of Joppa surely would have doubted God’s good plan for them. Perhaps they struggled to trust God, and maybe felt they were trapped on a merry go round of emotions.  Hard things.

But the apostle Peter was called to come, and God gave him the power to raise Dorcas back to life!  Imagine the great joy and praise happening in Joppa! The women felt joy and hope once again!  God had certainly seen into their difficult situation and chosen to revive Dorcas to prove that He was able to care for them.  Good things.

When the situation changed for the women, they reflected, and realize that there had been hard times before, but that they were experiencing good times right now.  They experienced a time of relief and relative peace in their still somewhat difficult existence as a widow in Joppa.  And many came to know God because of all that happened there.

That can be you and I, too.

The hard things that were, become the good things that are, in time. 

“In all things God works.” 

If you are in a heartbreaking time, I want to encourage you to exercise your faith and not get stuck where you are.  I’ve been there, and I will most likely be there again at some point.  That’s just how life is.  But God is always working.  And He’s working for my good.

He’s working for your good too. 

If right now, you are in a time of hard things, hold tight.  Nothing lasts forever.  We are not without hope when we purpose to let God work.  He will always bring about good in our lives. 

But remember, Dorcas’ story doesn’t end with her death, Paul didn’t stay shipwrecked, Ruth didn’t remain a widow, and Jesus didn’t stay on the cross.

In time, with God’s good plan for you, this too shall pass.  He will work it into something good. 

One day, your hard thing will be in the past, and you will be rejoicing in the good things that are. 

Trust in Him to take you there. Only He can make sense of the spinning, and turn your doubt into trust. God always has a plan, a good plan, and when we trust Him even when we can’t see it, we understand better what Jesus meant when He said “you do not understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” John 13:7.

Father, when I am in a rough time, and life is hard, draw me to yourself.  Show me in your word where those who love you are comforted and learn to trust you again because you are always good.  When my faith is fragile, wrap your love around my heart and remind me that your presence is always with me.  I want to choose to trust you even when I am still in the darkness.

Thrive!

This past Friday I had the joy and absolute privilege of witnessing the fulfillment of a dream!

You’ll recall that life changed drastically for most of us in the early spring of this year. Covid took the world by storm, and not at all in a good way. Most of what we consider “normal life” came to a screeching halt.

I work at a school, and since that was shut down like so many things, I found myself with more free time and quiet than I normally like. At first I enjoyed being in my beautiful craft room as much as I wanted, walking and hiking every day, and painting furniture! But after a while, I started to wonder if I spent my time, (even before covid) in a lasting and meaningful way. Basically, was my life good the way it was, or was there something else I should be doing?

I remember waking up one morning with a heaviness in my heart. Not sadness, or stress, but unrest. I started to really feel that God was calling me to something important.

The trouble was, I had no idea what that important thing was!

I spent months talking with my hubby, my closest and dearest friends, my pastor, and the Lord. And in time, I understood what I was feeling to be a calling from Him to host a faith based event for women, filled with connections, worship and a message.

Now, that may seem pretty basic to you, but I knew that that message was to come from my own lips! And I was honored and terrified at the same time!

I had never given so much as a “talk” at a church event, let alone prepared a message. Microphones don’t scare me, being in front of a group doesn’t scare me, but sharing my heart and a message that I felt was from the Lord? That was completely different!

But honestly, once I had some clear direction, the support of my husband, the encouragement of my closest friends in life, and the backing of my pastor, there was no stopping me!

A team came together, filled with the most wonderful women to help fulfill this dream, this event. And I could not have chosen a better group to work with! We planned a night full of worship, gorgeous decorations, a beautiful dessert bar, a coffee bar, wonderful gifts to take home, and a thousand other details!

And when that Friday came, and we saw all those women start to arrive for the first ever Thrive event, there was strong emotion flowing through our veins! The night we had been preparing for, for months, had finally arrived!

And what a night it was! It was so fun and so exciting to see God move!

One thing I do know; I cannot do justice to the pride and joy I feel over Thrive in this blog post. God used me, a sometimes mess of a woman, searching for meaning and purpose in her life, to bring together women and encourage them in the Lord!

That face!

The key verse from Thrive is John 10:10b “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” We talked about relationship and connection to the women in our lives who God uses to encourage and support us. And we talked about being connected in relationship to God. How these two relationships are vital to enjoying a full life.

Naturally, the enemy of our souls tried to steal the day. During all the months of preparing for Thrive, I had relied heavily on the counsel and encouragement of my husband. He’s always been a solid steady voice in my head and heart. And I took for granted that he would be there to cheer me on, to run the sound board and lights, and basically to fix anything and everything that went wrong that night. So when he (very unexpectedly) had to leave the church early in the day on Friday, and couldn’t return, I felt my foundation shake.

He would not be there to finish the day with me, would not be there to witness the event that we both been praying over and working toward for so many months. And I felt my stomach drop, like when you lean to far back in a chair…..

But in that time of struggle, God had already provided a “Titus” for me! 2 Corinthians 7:6 says “God who comforts the down cast, comforted is by the coming of Titus.” My Titus that day was the friend that I had asked to stand by me through Thrive. For some time, neither of us was exactly sure what her true purpose was for the event, but we pressed on knowing the Lord would show us. And He certainly did!

When my ground became uneven and shaky, she came along side of me, held up my arms, prayed with and for me, and together we purposed not to let the enemy win that day! She reminded me that God was all that we needed, and we pressed forward. And you know what, God showed up at Thrive big time! He was there ensuring that the lights and sound and details all came together. It was nearly flawless!

Thrive was a dream come true! I am blessed down to my socks, that God used me for something long lasting! That He allowed me to be part of something meaningful for His kingdom!

Today I have a full heart, and a more full life because of Thrive. The purpose of Thrive is to deepen the connections between women with each other, and to deepen the connection between those women and the Lord.

My own connections with the women who partnered with me for Thrive grew deeper than I anticipated. And as I relied on God to fulfill what I felt was His purpose for me through Thrive, I experienced a full life! A deeper connection to Him.

Now, prepare to be photo blasted!

Spring Thrive is on the calendar for April 30, 2021❤ I already can’t wait to see what He’ll do!