A Thanksgiving Story of Fleas, Nazi Germany and JOY

‘”Fleas!’ I cried. ‘Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’

“We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle and hedged our way to a patch of light.

“‘Here! And here another one!’ I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place!’

“‘Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

“‘Corrie!’ she said excitedly. ‘He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’

“I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen.

“In the feeble light I turned the pages. ‘Here it is:  “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…’” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.

“‘Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’

“‘Oh yes:’… ‘”Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.’”

“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“‘Such as?’ I said.

“‘Such as being assigned here together.’

“I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’

“‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’ I looked down at the Bible.

“‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’

“‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’ She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.

“‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.’

“‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–‘

“The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.

“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”

-The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom

images-2Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch woman from Holland who suffered and survived the atrocities of a Nazi concentration camp.  Her story is one of amazing faith, and if you haven’t read The Hiding Place, I highly recommend it.

From this excerpt, Corrie tells of the wretched living conditions of the barracks, and her sister’s insistence that they give thanks in all circumstances.  I can’t imagine a more unfair, more horrific situation than what the Ten Boom sisters endured.

Yet her sister Betsie gave thanks for the fleas.

Who does that??

Ravensbruck was a Nazi concentration camp for women, a place where the inmates suffered greatly, many were gassed, shot or worked to death.  Here, Corrie and Betsie spent their nights in cram-packed barrack and their days working painfully miserable tasks at a nearby factory.  

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Despite their desperate circumstances, they secretly and timidly began to hold evening meetings where they would read from their smuggled Bible.  Night after night they would meet, and women would press in to be there.  So many would come that they had to have a second meeting.  

Corrie and Betsie continued these meetings because for some reason, they had little to no supervision in their area of the barracks, known as the dormitory.  Guards and police were everywhere but they rarely, if ever, came back to the dormitory.  They could not understand why.   

Until one afternoon.  There was a request for a guard to come back to the dormitory to settle some confusion.  The guard refused.  He said he wouldn’t go back there because “that place is crawling with fleas!”  

Corrie remembered.  

“My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.” 

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.’”

Stories of women like Corrie and Betsie, their incredible faith and love for the Lord, encourage and challenge me to my core.  My life is no where near the intensity of theirs, yet they found strength in the truth of God’s Word, clinging to His instructions to give thanks in everything.

The Ten Boom sisters learned the joy of giving thanks.  

I read a quote recently that completely grabbed my attention:

“It’s not happy people who are thankful.  It’s thankful people who are happy.”

Is that true?  Does being thankful really impact a life like that?  What if I tried that?  What if I became (so much more) intentional about being thankful in every single thing?

Thankful.  In the beautiful and messy of it all.

Thankful, for the mound of laundry, and the clothes I have and the water available for use.

Thankful, for the appointments and the schedule, and every opportunity at each one.

Thankful, for the toys around my house, and the children that play with them.

Thankful, for the smudges on the windows and the people whose hands put them there.

Thankful, for the dishes to be put away, and the food that made them dirty.

Thankful, for the “fleas” in my life, those areas that seem to have nothing good in them, knowing that God will use every last one of them for His good and His glory.

Because giving thanks ushers in His JOY.   

Giving thanks changes us from the inside out.

Giving thanks realigns everything.

THANKSGIVING ushers in His JOY.  

“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…the Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.  My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song…O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.”  Ephesians 5:20, Psalm 28:7, Psalm 30:12

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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Aware of His Presence…What If We Lived Here?

This summer I read a book that has easily become one of my top five.

Soul Keeping, by John Ortberg, has stirred up stuff in me like few books ever have.  Its premise is that I’ve been given only one soul, Jesus said it’s worth more than the whole world and I MUST watch over and care for it with great intentionality.

I’ve underlined almost the entire book, but there’s one quote that’s really stuck with me:

“How many moments of my life today can I fill with conscious awareness of and surrender to God’s presence?”

How many times in my day am I aware of His presence?

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Because truthfully, God’s invitation is everywhere.  He invites us to be with Him.  He urges us to abide with Him.  To walk in the light and stay near Him, right beside Him, covered and surrounded by His presence.  

Because He knows that when we are with Him, we experience a really simple and beautiful outcome: JOY.

“In Your presence there is fullness of joy.”  Psalm 16:11

Who doesn’t want more joy?  

So often, though, we give our joy away.  We give it away when our world spins.  When to-do lists get bigger.  When everyone wants something.  When circumstances flip upside down.

We give away our joy and we hang on to what our eyes can see and respond in a way our hearts have come to know – responses of fear and impatience and anger, because they just seem to feel better in the moment.  Fear, impatience and anger become our soothing blankets as we stay stuck in the awful (yet known) problems of life.  

Because if we’re honest, known problems are easier than trying to reclaim joy.  

It’s easier to keep complaining about it all than to seek His face.  It’s easier to just keep reacting the same way, responding the same way, to stay stuck in the cycle of screwup, shame and repentance, than to open up a heart and allow God to truly change it from the inside out.

But what if we decided that known and same aren’t working anymore?

What if we decided we want to do this whole thing differently?

What if we took Jesus up on His relentless invitation to be with Him, be in His presence, and actually experienced His joy?

Oh, that sounds so great in theory.  How in the world do I make that a reality?

Because habits are hard to break, aren’t they?  The way we respond so often becomes a pattern, and when that pattern is negative, full of worry or frustration, that becomes our habit.

I hate that.  

Attitudes will take hold or words will pour out of me, exposing that I’m not at all aware of His presence in that moment.  

Today, however, what if I lived differently?

What if I lived aware of His presence?

Today, as your day builds…or circumstances move…or you’re tempted to fear, or complain…

…what if today you decided to stand up to some of those known and same responses and instead, whispered some of these…then said them louder:

God, YOU are with me.

Holy Spirit, I completely trust that You are working in this.

Lord, I set my eyes directly on You.

Holy Spirit, you are welcome here.

God, in Your presence there is fullness of joy.

In Your presence is fullness of JOY.  

Above all else, God wants you with Him.  So much good comes right in that place of being with Him in the middle of the beautiful mess of your every day life.  God relentlessly pursues you, offering you an invitation to return to Him and be with Him.  

Take Him up on it.  

Let us become more aware of Your Presence, let us experience the glory of Your goodness…

Extra time?  Here’s that amazing song “Holy Spirit”, by Kari Jobe 

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Why We Must Remember and How It Impacts our JOY

Last summer our family took an amazing vacation to the Pacific Northwest.  

I’d never spent a significant amount of time up there, I’d been through Seattle’s airport but never north of there – OH MY WORD.  It’s like everything amazing all rolled into one place ~ ocean, farms, towns, mountains, lakes.  And I think everybody up there just tells us it rains all the time because they don’t want everyone to move there, because it was beautiful every single day.  No rain, just amazingness.  I never wanted to leave.

The other morning I asked my kids what they remembered most about our trip, and they went crazy with stories, everyone talking over one another, about all they’d remembered.  

One of my favorite memories was an evening we had in a small town on the Puget Sound.  It was right as the sun was going down and we’d ran (literally) down to a pier so we could take in a front row seat to watch the sunset.  We sat on the dock of this bay, and just took it in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeriously, so pretty.  Such a happy spot.

What do you think about when you remember some of your vacations or great adventures? If we were to sit across from one another at a coffee shop, what would you tell me about?  What life events have brought you immense joy?  Wedding days, births, adventures…what would you tell me?  Chances are your face would light up as you would recount the details, the beauty, the laughter and the deep emotion you felt inside by just being in that moment.

We are in the middle of our November JOY Series, and God has been stirring so much in me this month, and He brought home an incredible truth for me this past weekend.

Our family is in the middle of a huge transition, as my husband gets ready to be the Campus Pastor at one of our church’s new sites.  As the Women’s Director, I spend a lot of time thinking about how this new endeavor will impact our ladies, but Friday night I was in full mama-mode, and the mama bear in me began to come out and have a meltdown.  Why?  Because I love my church.  I love the pastors, I love the children’s ministry, I love the student ministry and what in the world are we thinking pulling our kids up out of that steady environment and dropping them into an arena that’s unknown, unsure and actually not the most ideal spot to do church.  What if nobody comes, or nobody cares, or what if my kids don’t like it or even worse, what if my kids don’t care?

What if it all doesn’t go right?!

I went to sleep that night and woke up the next morning, filled with questions and worry.  I opened my eyes and saw my Bible next to my bed, and I reached for it almost like a life preserver and asked Jesus, “what do you have to say about all of this?”.

Oh, Jesus took me to church.  He brought me to Mark 8.  In Mark 8, we see the story of Jesus as He feeds the 4,000.  He has so much compassion on the masses that He performs a miracle of multiplication, over and over again, with the few available bread and fish.  Everybody – every single person – was fed until they were full, with baskets of leftovers.  Later that day Jesus and His disciples go out on a boat, and it says a discussion arose about some of them getting hungry but nobody had remembered to bring any bread, and what were they going to do.  Here’s the story, starting in verse 16:

They began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? Having eyesdo you not seeand having earsdo you not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.”  “When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they said* to Him, “Seven.”  And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

Picture the scene.  The disciples in the boat, with Jesus standing right there, talking about being hungry.  I imagine Jesus letting the conversation go on for a little bit until He just had to step in and bring some divine clarity to it all.  And then He starts asking questions.  Really great questions, like why are you even discussing this?  Do you not see what’s happening here?  DO YOU NOT REMEMBER WHAT I JUST DID?  

Then He gives them a rhetorical quiz, asking them to recount how many baskets of food they’d picked up from both of the massive miracles He’d performed.  And finally, He bottom lines it for them all, “Do you not yet understand?”

As I sat there in the quietness of the early morning, I felt as if Jesus was asking me some really great questions.  Not with condemnation.  Not at all.  But with very direct intentionality.

“My girl, do you not yet understand? I am the One who multiplies.  I will bring and save and redeem those that need to be at this church.  I see you.  I see your children.  Do I not know the people and the friends your children will need as they enter into this next season of their lives?  Do you not trust that I will bring them exactly who and what they need to be the men and women of God I’ve created them to be?  Do you not remember all I have done in the past for you and your family?  And will I not be with you, even now?  Do you not yet understand?”

As I closed my Bible, and as I began to think through all these questions, all my humbled heart could say was, “oh, Lord, I remember.”

I remember when You brought me that new life.

I remember when You brought me through that loss.

I remember when You established us in a new city.

I remember when You brought salvation to my family.

I remember when You poured out your amazing love and forgiveness.

I remember when You provided for that need.  And that one.  And that one.

As I sat there, I was flooded with all the times in my life when the Lord has shown Himself to me, and loved me, and provided for me, time and time again.

Over and over again, I remembered.  And my heart was filled with incredible joy.

When we look back on His goodness, and we remember His workings in our lives, we cannot help but be filled with JOY.

What do you remember?

So often, we forget, don’t we?  We forget what God has done and we become short-sighted.  We grow disillusioned.  We become cynical.  We wonder if He’s there at all.

When we remember, however, we see how the Lord has been there and provided.  Again and again.  Our whole countenance changes as we recount the details, the beauty, the laughter and the deep emotion we felt inside by just being in that moment. 

Remembering ushers in JOY.

Take some time today to remember.  Remember how the Lord has been there for you, for your family.  Remember how He has performed miracles.  How He has been there in the loud crazy moments of your past, and in the quiet times of solitude.

Remembering ushers in His JOY.

I recall all you have done, O Lord;
    I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
They are constantly in my thoughts.
    I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.  Psalm 77:11-12

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Do I Trust Him Beyond What My Eyes Can See?

I know you all aren’t here for a weather report, but in case you were wondering, it’s snowing like crazy in Colorado.  

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We are in the middle of what the Weather Channel is calling an “Arctic Outbreak” and our final fall colors are all but gone and replaced with bitter cold and low gray skies.  Booo.  I recently heard from a beautiful sister who has joined us for our November Joy Series who lives in South Africa.  

It’s probably not snowing in South Africa. 

I so need that reminder that the world is always bigger than what I can see right outside my window.

That my God is so much bigger than what I can see right outside my window.

God moves in ways that I cannot see.  Isn’t that hard to grasp?  God does things that are out of my control, which is even harder to wrap my brain around.  And daily I am faced with His question to me, “Do you trust Me beyond what you can see?”

Earlier this fall when I felt (completely) compelled to re-visit our November Joy Series, I was truly entangled.  My heart was gray, filled up with a lot of worry and fear, and I was mostly irritated by my inability to just make life work and get everyone else on board.  I knew I needed a reboot, a real shift in my thoughts.  I desperately wanted back my joy.

But I knew it had to be bigger than just a fresh catchphrase like “I choose joy”.  Because I can say “I choose joy” until springtime, but unless I deal with the fact that my thoughts are fully overshadowing God’s authority and power in my life, real joy has nowhere to land.

Do I trust Him beyond what I can see?

Last time we were here we looked at Psalm 28:7, “The LORD is my strength and my shield, I trust Him with all my heart.  He helps me and my heart is filled with joy.  I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”

I’ve been sitting in that phrase… “I trust Him with all my heart”.

Because here’s what I’m seeing in my own life: when my focus is so intent on being able to see and understand and manipulate the future, I am not trusting Him.

When I stay focused on my doubts and fears, I am not trusting Him.

When I’m so easily irritated by another person’s actions, I am not trusting Him.

And when my trust in Him goes missing, so does my joy.

Trust and joy.  They are inseparable.

Our joy in God is bound up with our trust in God. The two cannot be separated — not ever. Trust is the backbone of joy. And joy is the outflow of trust in one who is fully Trustworthy…Disillusionment and disappointment will always strike where genuine trust in God grows thin. And that’s why when trust is missing, joy will also go missing. There can be no joy in God where there is no firm trust in God, and no confidence in his all-sufficiency. And this is why we all feel the inner battle for joy, because we face a daily battle for faith. Our hearts are prone to trust in self, in money, in occupations, in a spouse, or in any other worldly security or circumstance. And when our faith wanes and we no longer trust God, we are set up for a disastrous fall into spiritual dehydration.Tony Reinke, Pastor

Trust is the backbone of joy.

When I begin to recognize my thoughts patterns, I have to be honest and ask myself a few questions ~

  • Do I trust Him on that one?
  • Is He wiser?
  • Can He see beyond what my eyes cannot see?
  • Is my future really dependent on that event, or that person, or that circumstance, or is my future dependent on God?

How I answer those questions will bottom line my faith real quick.

How do you answer those questions?  Today, whatever the weather looks like outside your window, with all the thoughts and worries stirring around inside your heart, take a moment to (honestly) ask yourself this question:

“God, do I trust You beyond what I can see?”

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Lies, Truth and Holding Onto our JOY

The other morning one of my boys was completely gripped with fear.  

He was convinced of certain bugs and large living things in our basement.  I tried the super compassionate response of “Seriously, son?”, but messing with him wasn’t going to help.  We talked for a while, trying to figure out the why’s of it all, but it really came down to one thing:  choosing to believe a lie over the truth.  

I do that.  

My thoughts might not be about bugs, but they might be about future fears.  I might not be worried about what’s in my basement, but I can be consumed by the “what if’s”.  The lies, they work themselves in, and they begin to appear as truth, don’t they?  And the longer I sit in them, the more real they become.  I believe them.  I believe them over the truth and the lies slowly steal away my joy.

Earlier this week, I challenged us to examine our thought patterns, to really think about what we think about.  What spills out when we’re shaken?  What are you finding?  

  • Do you go negative quickly?
  • Are you overwhelmed with fear?
  • Does uncertainty cover you like a blanket?
  • Do frustrations easily arise?
  • Do you complain a lot?

Wouldn’t JOY be so much better?

What if we really believed God?  What would happen if we replaced the lies with the Truth of His Word?  

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This month for our November Joy Series, I want to take in verses on JOY.  I’m grabbing notecards and writing them out.  There’s something about writing out a verse that absorbs it into my soul.  I want God’s Word to transform me from the inside out.

Read this verse from Psalm 28.  Read it slowly, with intentionality.  Soak in it for a minute.

The LORD is my strength and shield.  I trust Him with all my heart.  He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.  I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.  Psalm 28:7

Then re-read those seven words right in the middle: I trust Him with all my heart.  Those words bottom line everything.  I trust Him.  The rest of the verse spills over with the results…help, joy, song, thanksgiving…when I trust Him.

Lord, when I trust You, my fears settle.  

When I trust You, my uncertainties begin to ease. 

When I trust You, my heart becomes thankful.

When I trust You, the lies are replaced with Truth.

When I trust You, my heart is filled with joy.

JOY.

O Lord, let me live there.

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November Joy: What Spills Out When You’re Shaken?

Our two older boys are adopted from Haiti, and the story of how God orchestrated that whole thing is incredible.  

My amazing sons were two and three when they came home, full of wonder and questions and boatloads of energy.  My daughter was almost two at the time, making us a family of five overnight.  Three to five in an instant, and because they’re all so close in age, it was like having toddler triplets.  I’ve heard stories from moms who’ve had multiples, twins or triplets, and they usually compare that first six months to being in a fog….Oh, yes.  On so many levels.  Crazy.Train. There are chunks of time that I can’t even remember because there was so much happening all at once.

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One thing I do remember, however, is mornings.  Because I’m like every other mom on the planet, all I wanted was more sleep.  Just.ten.more.minutes…”please God, let them sleep!”  As I would lay there, cowering in my bed, hoping, listening for any movement or sign that the end was near, most mornings would begin in a way that would completely disarm me.

My little boy would wake up singing.

In the wee hours of the morning, my little two year old would sit in his bed singing whatever song had landed in his mind.  There were a few times I would just stand outside his door and peek in, taking in his sweet contentment as he started his morning, singing.  Absolutely no concerns, just childlike joy.  Interestingly enough, he’s still the same.  Even now, eight years later, he is my boy that sings in the mornings.  Oh, to bottle that sound.

As I think about the word JOY, as I try to describe it, that’s the kind of image that comes to mind – childlike innocence, absence of worry.  Fully trusting.  Singing out of the overflow of the heart.

What spills out of my heart?  

I love this quote from Ann Voskamp, no matter the jarring, a jar of fresh water can’t spill filthy water.”

What spills out when I’m shaken?  When I take time to (honestly) ask that question, what do I find?

When I retrace my thoughts, what are the patterns?  Do I see threads of confidence or worry?  Do I mentally chase down answers in fear or do I rest in Him?

When I hear my words, what do they say?  Are they filled with contentment or are they sharp, cutting? Do I voice a shred of trust in God?

What spills out when I’m shaken?

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What If We Really Believed God On This?

I’m grabbing onto some verses this month and writing them out.  How would my life change if I actually believed God on this one?  

What would happen if we all did? 

What you say flows from what is in your heart.  Luke 6:46

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 

Take an honest look at what’s currently taking up space.  

Are you waking up in the wee hours of the morning singing? (it would be kinda awesome if you did.) 

You’re probably not, but what I’m really asking here is what are the patterns of thoughts and words that follow when you do wake up?  As your day progresses, what takes over?  

In the next few days and weeks here, we will look at some “hows” on bringing joy back. But for today, I just want us to take some time to think about what we’re thinking about.

“I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11

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November Joy: New Series Coming Next Week

Life moves, doesn’t it?

My sweet girl moves into double digits this weekend.  She has been anticipating turning 10 for years because when she was little, I made up this completely arbitrary number that she had to wait til 10 to get her ears pierced.  Because when your only daughter is all the sweetness of 4 she will NEVER turn 10 because that is FOREVER away.

But it is in fact here, and the girl is about ready to burst with glee at the thought of all the amazingness that will come with her big trip to the mall, the friends, the big chair, and the no less than 150 times asking “Mom, will it hurt?”.

Life moves, doesn’t it?

The Thomas home is no different than yours I’m guessing, life is happening and coming at you from every single side.  But if you are like me, oh my word, the pace and intensity can suck any sort of preciousness out of our attitudes, right?  From frustration at how much needs to get done, to how much isn’t getting done, to feeling less than able to walk through the dailyness of life with any type of grace, much less a hint of joy. 

Walking into November though, I want a reboot.

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Two years ago I did a series called November Joy, and in it I asked this question: what would my life look like if I actually believed God’s Word when it says “the joy of the Lord is my strength”.  How would I go through life if I really got that to my core?  A few weeks ago I remembered that series.  Then I took a moment to honestly look at my current patterns of thoughts and attitude.  …..Hmm.

I want a reboot.

I want a new confession.  New words coming out of my mouth.  A fresh wonder from the Lord on what it means to walk and to trust Him with this whole thing. 

Anyone?

In the middle of this crazy world and crazy life don’t we need a fresh infusion of His JOY?  Not an attempt to throw up an easy answer for a difficult situation, not a glib “don’t worry be happy”.  No, the reboot I’m talking about is one that meets me at my soul, one that asks me if I believe this stuff or not?  A Truth that re-engages my heart to breathe and remember.  To remember that no matter what…He is.  He is my joy.  He is my strength.  He is my wisdom.  He is my God. 

Life is moving, seasons are changing, kids are getting their ears pierced.  Meals have to be made, work needs to get done, deadlines have to be met.  Maybe you’re in the middle of a season of life where there are disagreements, pain, and possibly more news than you can even bear.

What if we walked into this next month with an anticipation that Jesus might actually want to bring us back our joy?  

God Himself, right there in the middle of the messy and beautiful.

November Joy.

See you next week… 

What If I Really Believed I Was a Princess?

Today is my anniversary. Fourteen years with my amazing man and we are celebrating our anniversary with leftover soup, football practice, reading logs and homework. And I wouldn’t trade it for the whole wide world. Except the reading logs. Totally trade them.

My wedding day was perfection, but the best part (other than the husband) was my dress. I really loved my dress. It was the whole feeling like a princess thing and I wanted to just float around in it forever.

We don’t often feel like princesses during our regular-every-day days, do we?

Earlier today at lunch I stood behind a grandmother, mom and her little girl, who was probably about three and completely dressed up like a princess. Her dress was bright and fuscia pink and she floated around her mother and grandma without a care in the world. Nothing weighed her down. Her sweet face completely trusted those she stood with.

I stood behind them and asked myself, how would my day be different if I actually believed that I was a princess?

Yes, that sounds soooooo cheesy. But go with me for a second.

How would my problems look, how would my schedule look, how would my anxieties feel, if I took one step back and reminded myself of this one thing:
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What would that do for my insecurities? What would that do for my fears? How would that impact my worry?

What if we walked through today in the reality that we are heirs and daughters of the most high King? (check out Galatians 4:4-7) Wouldn’t that make us … a princess?  

There’s not a lot of space to be a princess in the middle of every day life, is there?  Poofy pink dresses don’t go well at business lunches or teacher meetings.  Funny, yes.  Appropriate?  hmmm.

As I got ready to order my lunch, this sweet family turned around to walk away and I told the grandmother, “She is precious.” She just smiled and said, “She is precious.”

Maybe I’m all sentimental cuz it’s my anniversary, but the way she said that just made me tear up right there in Panera.  She spoke it with such love and conviction.  She absolutely believed in and adored her granddaughter.

So often we picture God as disappointed or angry and mad at us.  What if instead of imagining Him frustrated at us, we imagined Him saying to someone, “She is precious.”

Today I challenge you, in the quietness of that moment, whether it’s in the carpool line, the grocery store, the quiet walk around the block…remind yourself of who you truly are. You are a princess. And your Father thinks you are precious.

When You Want Your Heart to Stay Aware ~ Our Final Weekend Walk

We have made it!  

We’ve made it to the end of our fourth and final week in our summer series. I am so thankful for each of you that has been here with us, so many women from all around the world, taking time this summer to soak in His amazing Gift of Grace.

I am forever wishing that I could sit across from you and hear what God’s been doing in your life.  There’s a coffee shop near downtown Denver that’s one of my favorites, it’s in this great brick building that sits right on the river and overlooks the city.  There’s couches to sit on right outside… wouldn’t it be great if we could all plant ourselves there for a while and share what God has been stirring in us?

But since we can’t, let me just take a moment to say to you wherever you are today, thank you.  Thank you for being here with us, for making space in your busy world to spend time looking more deeply into this topic of GRACE.  I realize there are tons of studies, blogs, and places to study God’s Word, so please hear me when I say that I am so grateful that you’ve spent part of your summer here with me.

How’s the rest of your summer looking?

The remainder of this month is packed for us, two weddings, out of town guests, commitments for church on Sunday, and prepping for vacation.  Yesterday I was on the run with VBS, shuffling kids to the neighbors while I took one to a doctor appointment, running errands, grabbing fast-food dinners and picking up groceries.

Last night as kids got jammies on, groceries got put away, and teeth got brushed, I finally made my way into my youngest’s room and sat at the edge of his bed.  I bent over to hug him, (him and some extra legos under his pillow), and I sat back up and looked at his sweet eyes and felt like I was really seeing him for the first time that day.  Although we’d been together all day, in our attempt to get it all done, I hadn’t stopped to really see him.  I sat there and said,  “I missed you today,” and then just stayed and listened as he recapped all that had filled his summer day.

As we wrap up our series on The Gift of Grace, and take our final Weekend Walk, I want us to go away with this one simple thought:

Even on days when life gets busy and you can barely remember what you did, always remember His grace.

Always remember His grace.

Some days, this is easy, right?  There are days when you are so aware of God’s presence, days when you sense Him everywhere you go.  Every verse you read seems to speak directly to you and your situation, and you feel like life is just about you breathing in His grace.

Then there are days you find yourself flying with your hair on fire in twelve different directions.  Life is full of every single thing and the only thing trending is your to-do lists and deadlines.  

Can I just say this…neither day is wrong.  There are days I have the luxury of a slow and simple pace, easy decisions and intentional talks.  But there are some days when it is ON, and I have got to go and move and get it done.

But I don’t want to miss His grace.  I don’t want to get to the end of my day and realize that even though we’d spent the whole day together, I never really saw Him or was aware of His presence.  

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So as we wrap up our series, this has become my prayer, a prayer of openness and holy desperation.  This is too important to miss…oh Lord, let me get this:  

Whatever my day looks like, Lord, let me be aware of Your presence and Your grace.  Every single moment of my day.  Whether I’m kneeling or whether I’m driving.  In the grocery line or in my kitchen.  At my computer or at my favorite coffee shop.  Lord, cause my heart to be so aware…of Your presence and Your grace.

Grace.

It’s so amazing, isn’t it?

And so this summer, as you do life on whatever kind of day finds you, continue to walk in Him.  Walk…around your home, around your parks and neighborhoods.  And BREATHE IT IN.

Be AWAKENED to His grace.

Open yourself up to RECEIVE it personally.

EXTEND His grace freely to those around you.

And GUARD it with all that you are, knowing that of all the gifts you’ve been given in this life, His great grace is the most precious one you will ever receive.

And as Paul closes out Ephesians, and we close out our study, I pray you will know this grace to the depths of your soul…and in Paul’s words, I offer up this same doxology for you…

Peace my sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

Grace Guarded, Week 4 ~ When We Decide to Take a Stand

So, recently a friend of mine was at home with her children playing in the front yard, when an unexpected visitor arrived.

A salesman pulled into the driveway wanting to sell her family some meat.  He began talking with her kids, and then approached her front door, where she immediately greeted him with a “No, thank you” to what he was offering.  He was unfazed by her words, not taking no for an answer.  He just continued to talk over her, unconcerned with what she was saying.  Her tone became focused and forceful as he kept standing there, letting him know in no uncertain terms that she was NOT going to buy what he was selling.  When he finally realized he wasn’t making any progress, his attitude turned, he became upset and headed back to his truck.  But instead of driving away, he sat in his truck and continued talking with her children.  The kids immediately left the lawn and poured into the house, realizing something was completely off, this whole scene wasn’t right and they needed to get to where their mama was.

Here’s what I see about this.  One, my friend was immediately present and speaking with intentionality on behalf of herself and her children.  Two, this guy didn’t care.  And three, because of that she stood up with authority and intentionality, ready to defend all she had, all that was precious to her.  

Because when you realize that what you have is precious, you’ll do whatever it takes to protect it.

Ladies, in these past three weeks, I’ve become so aware of the precious gift of His grace, haven’t you?   

His grace is so amazing and grand and poured out.  It has caused me to live more alive and in the moment, realizing He is always present with me.  That His grace is always available.  That I am free to receive it, to fall into it, and take in His forgiveness and sufficiency. 

As I’ve realized my own desperate need for His grace, it has softened the way I see those around me, opening me up to extend more grace to them.  This grace is changing me from the inside out as I begin to live and breathe and move in ways I never have before.  

It’s incredible, isn’t it?

And so as we open ourselves up for this last week of study, I am compelled by this one thought: 

A gift this generous requires that I guard it with all that I am.

As Paul begins to pen the last half of Ephesians 6, he got this.  Paul has just spent the last five and a half chapters laying it out there, writing and explaining all that is good, and right, and generous about our God.  Paul, as he’s imprisoned, took great pains in describing the depth of His love and all that’s ours for the taking.  

So as he enters into verse 10, Paul’s basically saying this:

“You have been given everything…God’s grace has been completely poured out to you.  Understand this!  GUARD IT!  Protect it!  Stand your ground against anyone and everything that comes against it, because it will.  And don’t just stand because you’re obligated, but because you understand that the stakes of this life are eternal and they demand you to be fully engaged, committed, and ready to go.” 

My friend got this in spades in that one moment.  When that unwelcomed guest arrived on her front porch, no one had to prompt her to take a stand.  She wasn’t sitting on the couch waiting for the next commercial before getting up to see what was happening.  Nobody was coaching her to be protective of her kids.  

No, the mama bear instinctively raged.  The boundaries of her property and her children had been jacked with and she stood up and stood strong.

Ephesians 6 is exactly that: standing up and guarding all that has been so graciously and sacrificially poured out to you, and doing so with every fiber of your being.  Not because you have to, but because you recognize that what you’ve been given is costly and precious and great, and His grace is no longer a trite word or song, but it is everything deep and wide, and has actually saved your very soul.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

Girls, we have got to stand.

If this doesn’t matter, nothing else does.  We have got to guard this gift of salvation, this gift of grace with all that we are because it is everything.

This Week {Week 4} ~ Grace Guarded

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This week we have to answer one question:  Do I really believe that this whole message of grace matters to my every day life?  And if it does, then it’s time to draw a line in the sand and stand up.  We’ve got to shore up the areas of our life that are filled with lies, recognize where we need His strengthening and begin to say YES to the Truth of God’s Word.

1.  Read.  Read Ephesians 6:10-24, looking specifically at vs.10-20.  It’s a blueprint of standing strong against our very real enemy who is looking to steal, kill and destroy everything.  This is not a game to him, it is very real and he is looking for any avenue possible to work his way into your life to take you out of the game.

2.  Identify areas that may be exposed.  Take an honest look at your life right now and ask what are the areas where the enemy has an “in”?  Consider these areas:

    • Your thought life
    • Areas that crowd out God’s voice or authority
    • Situations that bring on worry or anxiety
    • The words you use, towards yourself
    • The words spoken to others
    • What you look at online
    • Your finances

The enemy is looking for a way in, guaranteed.  Walk in wisdom, sweet friend.  Identify that open door, then close it and stand in the power and strength of your God.

3.  Recommit yourself to being in God’s Word.  Notice in verse 17, the one offensive (as opposed to defensive) piece of armor in this whole list is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  Girls, we live in a world that is fill with blogs, tweets, posts, pins, headlines and feeds.  We take in so much information every moment of our day.  But we have got to guard against developing a theology based on the voices of social media rather than our own personal study of God’s word.  God’s Word alone is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).  Let the rhythm of your life be kept by God alone, not anyone else.

Oh ladies, in this last week of our study, let this settle into you.  

Decide.

Decide to receive this grace for yourself.

Open your life and allow God to do a work in you, transforming you from the inside out. Decide this week to stop putting bandaids on everything and instead open yourself with outstretched arms and say Yes to whatever it is that He might be speaking to your heart.  

Take a stand.  Because the enemy is not going to care if you just keep mulling and considering the idea of taking a stand.  He’ll just keep talking over you to work his way in.  Decide.  Decide in no uncertain terms that you are no longer buying what he’s selling.

Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power, and stand firm against all the lies, all the patterns, and all the ways you’ve tried to make it all just work out.

Believe that this grace is worth fighting for. 

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See you back here Friday, as we take a “Weekend Walk”, an intentional exercise to enter His presence and experience His grace.

For additional encouragement and community throughout the week, find us on Facebook at facebook.com/womenwhobelieve.

Invite your friends to join us, from across the street or across the world.  Let’s live and breathe His grace together!

Tell us how God is stirring in your heart…there is something powerful that happens when we hear the testimony of others.  Tell us how you are waking up to God’s grace in your life!