‘Tis the season.
I believe most of us are ready to get out the Christmas decorations. Am I right? We could all use that extra joy a little earlier this year. But looking ahead to this holiday season, we know it will not look like those before it.
Recently, I’ve been diving into the book of Philippians and have had these verses cling to me like a two year old who does not want to let go of his mom:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.
I felt God showing me the value of loving others more than myself. Not the first time this happens but always a timely reminder. Loving others well means being a student of them, and this holiday season I’m taking that to heart. It’s not all about me, not about my wants, but about appreciating those nearest to me who had to put up with me during all the ups and downs this year.
Specifically the words in verse 5 “In your relationships”, brings pictures of my loved ones to mind; those that are my circle, my tribe. To phrase that appropriately for this year, the people I don’t have to wear a mask around because we are together.
I think it’s safe to say that those who are near to us are ‘our people.’ What does it look like for you to be a student of your people? -To learn what they like and what their love language might be.
What would it look like to:
- Buy someone you see every day their favorite candy bar.
- Bake someone their favorite cake for no reason.
- Plan a “girls afternoon” or “date night” in your home for someone.
- Maybe send some cookies or a card to someone who has a birthday this holiday season that you won’t see.
Doing the little things to love someone goes a long way. This year is going to look different, but I think the social distancing challenges don’t have to hold us back from loving one another intentionally. God has called us to love each other with the same love He has for us.
Have you ever noticed how intentional God is? Does He place a beautiful sunset in front of you? Does that song you really needed to hear come on the radio, at just the right time?
Friend, as Jesus calls us to love him and love others, (Matt 22:38-39) let us do it fiercely as we end this year! Take note of those closest to you: surprise them, encourage them, pray life-giving words over them, and above all, love them well.
Have you ever forgotten something? Maybe you forgot an event on the calendar, a present for a party, or even things as simple as your keys and phone. If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’ve had days where you feel like if something isn’t currently in sight, it’s completely out of mind.
Life gets busy. Many times we find ourselves trying our hardest to hold it all together. With our minds fully occupied on the next task, it can be easy to let things slip. Too many times I’ve walked into a room, fully intending on doing something, and forgotten why I was there. For the most part, the simple act of forgetting isn’t necessarily dangerous, but what if I told you that spiritual forgetfulness could be the most dangerous thing of all?
Growing up, I had the opportunity to attend a private Christian school for most of my education. We studied all of the normal subjects like Math and Science, but a big and intertwining subject was Bible class. Each month, we would focus on a different book of the Bible or a chapter. I always felt like I learned something new and for the most part, appreciated the closer look. However, never had a series of stories upset me so deeply than the adventures of the Israelites, (God’s chosen people), in the Old Testament. God showed up for them time after time. He did the miraculous: He healed, He parted waters, He provided food when they had none. He came through over and over again. Still, when the heat would get turned up and things around them would go haywire, it seemed that all God had done, big and small, had been forgotten in an instant. The Israelites would whine and complain, and sometimes even begin worshipping idols.
It frustrated me to no end. How could they do this? How could they turn away from God? The same God who loved them and cared for them and was always there. It didn’t make sense to me at all- that is, until I started to see a bit of them in myself. If you really think about it, perhaps you can say the same.
Much like the Israelites, we often find ourselves in situations where things aren’t going so great. In those moments it can be so easy to allow ourselves to have tunnel vision and focus only on the situation at hand. I find that in those seasons God whispers “I am with you. I have always been with you and will remain with you. Don’t forget the adventures we’ve been on together. Don’t forget my promises to you.”
God is and has always been faithful. Have you taken a moment recently to think about how good He has been? It’s been a really difficult year, filled with pain and loss on all fronts. But ladies, He is still good. In my life and yours, He has an immaculate track record of faithfulness. Let us not be a people who forget who He is and what He can do in the midst of trial. Instead, let us reflect on what He has already done for us and those around us with immense gratefulness.
We can look to the future with the confidence that only comes from knowing Him!
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
One of the most important things I have learned in my life is who I am in Christ. I also know that this is a lesson that I will need to continually study and think about.
God cares so much about this, because He states clearly in His Word what He thinks of you, and of me. We are not created to believe what the world says about us. Our mistakes do not define us. What we look like does not define us either. What defines us is the identities and purposes that we have been given in Jesus. When we are born again, our faith defines us.
Things change when we let ourselves swim in the flow of the Holy Spirit and the mindset of Christ.
When we remember who we are in Christ:
- Insecurities fade away
- We find joy in every circumstance
- We see things more clearly
- We are more able to use our God-given gifts
- We can repel doubts and fears
- Trust grows
- We fulfill our purpose
When we forget who we are in Christ:
- Negativity rises
- Relationships fade
- We don’t like ourselves
- We don’t trust God or others
- We make choices that are destructive
- We waste time and purpose
Isaiah 43 stands out as a chapter with much truth about our identities. Reading through this chapter, I realized how many verses speak to this very thing!
Verse 1 says that we are created, formed, and redeemed by God, and that we are called by name and that we are His.
Verses 2 and 5 say that we are not alone.
Verse 4 says that we are precious in His eyes, honored and loved.
Verse 6 says that we are sons and daughters of God.
Verse 7 says that we are called by God’s name, and we are created for His glory.
Verse 20 says that we are chosen.
I want to encourage you to read Isaiah 43 and let God speak to you. Think about these verses and how they apply to your life. Do your own study, and search for scriptures about who you are in Christ.
And then keep these scriptures in your pocket, beautiful lady, and know that you are loved and valued in Christ.
I haven’t had many words lately, and if you know me, that’s saying a lot!
– It may be the pandemic, or it might be our own personal struggles and pain as a family.
– It also could be the political strife and division, or the discomfort of learning about injustice and leaning into the acknowledgment that hundreds of thousands of children who are horrifically exploited and abused through trafficking.
– It may be the grief and loss that my friends are experiencing or just the emotional, mental, and spiritual fatigue this year has brought.
I don’t know about you, but our world seems so very loud – opinions, statistics, right and wrong, policies – and it’s left me with a lot to process and with very few words.
Each time as I sat down to write (I have at least five different blogs that I’ve started and remain unfinished) over the last few weeks, I felt God saying, “Jessica, the world doesn’t need another voice right now, it needs Me. It needs My voice. My truth. My reassurance. My Presence. The world needs My voice to be louder than the rest and so you share My Word and lead your hearts to worship.”
And so, as I write here today (finally in obedience, Ok God, I get it!), I won’t have any fancy sentences or quirky stories, I’m simply and most powerfully going to guide our hearts to God’s truth – His voice – and lead our hearts to worship through prayer. As we praise God for who He is and remains to be, even in the midst of the most challenging and chaotic season we have probably ever experienced, I believe that the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6,7). So let’s adore Him for who He is today and always will be – let’s choose to magnify His voice and rest in His presence.
For in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
Psalm 125:2 Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord’s wrap-around presence surrounds His people, protecting them now and forever (TPT).
*God, I thank You that there is no part of me that is not surrounded by Your love, protection, and presence.
*Thank You for seeing where I am going and being mindful of what I have just walked through.
Psalm 94:19 When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul (NASB).
*God, thank You that I do not have to live in a state of anxiety, worry, or stress.
*God, bring Your truths to my mind, and may they overwhelm all the lies from the enemy.
Psalm 145:14 The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads (NLT).
*God, I worship You for being compassionate and sympathetic towards the pain I am experiencing.
*Thank You for being near and championing me in my weakness.
*Open my eyes to see the practical ways You are helping me up and lifting my burdens.
Psalm 145:18 You draw near to those who call out to You, listening closely, especially when their hearts are true (TPT).
*God I adore You for being present and near in the finest details of my life.
*I worship You for being so vast and extraordinary, yet are present and listening closely anytime I speak Your name.
*Help me to call out to You first with any question or concern I may have.
Psalm 126:5-6 Those who sow their tears as seeds will reap a harvest with joyful shouts of glee. They may weep as they go out carrying their seed to sow, but they will return with joyful laughter and shouting with gladness as they bring back armloads of blessing and a harvest overflowing (TPT)!
*God I worship You for being a redeemer and restorer.
*Help me to trust that my story is not finished yet and in faith, believe You have armloads of blessing and an overflowing harvest awaiting me.
*Give me the perseverance to sow seeds of obedience even in the midst of this season.
By common definition perseverance is known as; “persistence is doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”
Perseverance: a twelve-letter word with a simple definition that can have such a deep and powerful meaning to so many people, for so many different reasons.
I know that in my life, it never really feels as easy as just “doing something” despite difficulty. It has always been about “praying” despite difficulty – “overcoming” despite difficulty – “worshipping” despite difficulty – “reading” despite difficulty and “believing” despite difficulty. This is difficult at times, but it seems so appropriate for a time such as this!
As I reflect on major changes and seasons in my life, some welcomed and some not wanted, I think what helped me the most was having very real, raw, and vulnerable conversations with God.
No matter the situation, I am always sure of two things:
1. I know good will come from every situation. God’s Word makes this very promise. Whether I see the good outcomes in my lifetime or not, I know this to be true: ”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.” Romans 8:28
2. I will learn something from this difficult season. My struggle will not be in vain. What is God trying to teach me through this? What can I learn from this? John 14:23 says, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” The all-powerful God never fails to deliver! Whether you are going into, coming out of, or are currently in the midst of a difficult season, the greatest strength of perseverance and its greatest power, is Jesus Christ Himself! He has given us everything we need to persevere.
The Holy Spirit who was purposefully given to us for direction, guidance, instruction, discipline, and comfort will lead and teach us all in all things. We can only persevere because Christ is within us. John 14:26 says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
If you have ever been in a difficult season before, or are currently in one, my hope for you is to grow stronger in your faith and become wiser through this experience before you. May all of the molding, growing, and learning be preparation to overcome and walk through the coming seasons with greater strength and wisdom.
You are not alone.
Read God’s Word as much as possible. Pray, worship, journal, meditate on God’s Word. Do these things with the faith and understanding that God will honor those who are faithful to Him. Even when you don’t feel like it…do it anyway.
So ladies, let’s put on the full Armor of God, run this race God has planned for us, and PERSEVERE!
“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Proverbs 11:25 ESV
I stumbled across this verse as I was doing some morning reading, trying to get it in before the house awoke pulling me to all my “duties” for the day.
This verse stuck with me and has for weeks now.
Water for Water…
Throughout scripture, Christ himself is referred to as “living water” – the one thing our frail human bodies need so desperately. And the promise here is utterly special if you stop to think about it.
As I water – He promises to water me back.
>> I make time to phone a friend who is struggling :: He waters me.
>> I extend grace and forgiveness to someone who has hurt me :: He waters me.
>> I follow His voice and step out of my comfort zone :: He waters me.
>> I serve my community by being on the front lines :: He waters me.
>> I make time to play with my kids :: He waters me.
>> I walk with a friend who is mourning :: He waters me.
I could go on and on!
Here is the truth. The God of all, who owes me nothing, desires to keep me nourished and whole as I serve Him. His goal for us is not to just survive, it’s to thrive in His special care. And that, my friends, is a brilliant promise worth holding onto today.