Archive for the ‘Testimonies’ Category

Stripped Away

June 10th, 2016

It’s no secret that the majority of my inner struggles in my life have stemmed from insecurity. Even in my earliest experiences with being judged and criticized for my stature and appearance in middle school, it was plain to me that I had a poor self-image. So it’s no surprise that, when I began submitting […]

 

It’s no secret that the majority of my inner struggles in my life have stemmed from insecurity. Even in my earliest experiences with being judged and criticized for my stature and appearance in middle school, it was plain to me that I had a poor self-image.

So it’s no surprise that, when I began submitting my life to Christ’s authority near the end of my high school season, I brought to Him my brokenness and asked for freedom, redemption, and the ability to see myself the way He sees me. To find my whole identity in Him. I was on a positive self-image mission…which has been a beneficial process! But there is this one thing.

This path I’ve taken to seek Christ’s truth in how I view myself does not end where I thought it would. And it’s probably not over yet. It actually has far less to do with my “self” than I ever thought.

I still have complete awareness of my imperfections and I still see all that I’m not…and I do have more gratitude for all that I am, peace about it in light of my confidence in who Christ is, and who God says I am. BUT. I am also learning that having a positive self image is not God’s end goal. The end goal is about reflecting Christ’s image. Not mine.

Lately I have found myself facing one test after another, and I have a mental picture that has been stuck in my mind to help me see what is happening. Up to this point, I have chosen the narrow way. The way through the narrow gate  of following Christ. And, right now, it is as if I’ve been entering a series of tight narrow tunnels along this narrow way, and I cannot bring with me all that I intended to bring. And so the choice is mine each time I am presented with a new narrow tunnel along the way.

Whose image do I want to push through? Both will not fit. Whose image do I want to Protect? Proclaim? Profess? Proceed with? Flesh or spirit? My image, my reputation, my my my? Or His? God’s Word says we cannot do both.

Galatians 5:16-17 (ESV) Keep in Step with the Spirit  

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Part of this in my case of various forms of insecurity has been learning to confront the hesitation of  “why in the world would I want to serve in ministry in a public way where people will see every mistake I make?” Perhaps it’s to remind me that it’s not about preserving my image, but about promoting the truth and hope of Christ, working His image and character into my heart through serving, and growing through experiences both successful and challenging to shape my heart like His and show others what a work-in-progress for Christ looks like so that they might be bold enough to step out too.

And part of this has been learning to ask myself – “when someone offends me personally, does it matter?” My normal response would be to defend myself, my character, what is “fair”, and my cause…but would my normal response burn a bridge for them to see the love and truth of Christ in me? If it is not kingdom essential (meaning if it is just me alone they are insulting, belittling, criticizing, undermining, or disrespecting only and not involving injustice to another or an attack on God’s truth) , it is not worth taking up my cause at the expense of the cause of the kingdom. I am learning it is best to respond in love and kindness despite my offenses so that maybe the love and truth of Christ may still shine through and be exalted and made known to my offender. There is a right and wrong time to turn the other cheek and pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:29), to “tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecc. 3:7) The Bible talks about being ready to give an answer to what you believe  and standing up for the oppressed and needy, but time and time again it tells us to seek peace, pursue what builds up others, and leave vengeance to God when it comes to personal offenses. Boy this is new to me. And so challenging. Why is it this way? Perhaps to keep us focussed on what is most important. Perhaps it is because we can win a battle in defending our names and lose the war in participating in the great commission of winning souls for God’s Kingdom.

I don’t know if you’ve been in this place, where you constantly have to choose “self or Christ?” And answer “Who are you seeking to magnify in your actions?”…but I feel like it’s been a peeling process. Stripping off the old self, and walking in the new. Because there is only room for one if we are to walk along narrow way to which we’ve been called.

Old and new self

This reflection I’ve been having brings me to Ephesians 4, which is worth reading and proclaiming to ourselves over and over! Each day, possibly multiple times a day, we must choose – who are we ambassadors for? For whose cause are we filtering everything else through today? If we are filtering everything through a self-preservation lens, our responses will be quite often very different from a Christ-and-Kingdom-centered lens. And our response determines our reach (Lysa TerKeurst). So may we choose well today,tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…and walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1)…because things done to the glory of God for the kingdom have an eternal weight and glory!

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And My Shame is Undone.

January 13th, 2016

I started this week off fully aware of my weaknesses in the current roles God has placed me in and determined to fix.them.once.and.for.ALL. They all boil down to getting my act(s) together. Ever feel like you need to do that? I am totally aware of the fact that many women have a lot more on […]

 

I started this week off fully aware of my weaknesses in the current roles God has placed me in and determined to fix.them.once.and.for.ALL. They all boil down to getting my act(s) together. Ever feel like you need to do that? I am totally aware of the fact that many women have a lot more on their plate than I do, but nevertheless the perfectionist in me is still more than unpleased with being less than excellent in my roles and responsibilities.

  • As a wife, I want to know what I am making for meals ahead of time rather than repeating meals out of lack of time to get creative and standing at my fridge with last minute grocery needs. I want the meals to be delicious and healthy. I want my house cleaning to find a consistent medium rather than spic-and-span to it-looks-like-we-threw-a-party. I want to be amazing at serving my husband since he works so hard selflessly serving me.
  • As a serving hand, I want to be helpful and reliable in any roles I have in ministry and in my role as an FRG co-leader.
  • As a friend I want to do my part to love and connect and fill gaps in communication that are my fault.
  • As a photographer, I want to get back  to focussing on and enjoying my passion photography and serving and blessing my clients.
  • And generally, I want to be ahead of my schedule rather than feeling like I am always running to try and catch up. I need time-management and organizational improvement. That should do it for my 2016 goals if I had any! 😉

I have begun reading about realistic organizing and scheduling for women with important but fluid and flexible and ever changing time blocks of availability. I am beginning this journey to improve these things and was feeling accomplished the night before last when I had succeeded in making meals ahead for much of our busy week. Bryan had liked them, was impressed with the change in my norm, and told me he felt like a king. THAT is how I want to treat my husband and I was so encouraged to love and serve him better like that! But it never fails that, because I am still a work in progress, I will always inevitably rest my head at the end of a busy day seeing things that fell through the cracks. I didn’t message her back. I should have prepared more for this. I should have made time to be there for that. I totally forgot about this…how could I forget?!?!

Yesterday, for just a tiny example, I woke up early to spend time with the Lord and prep everything for my day according to my new to-do list. Bags for lunches, ministry items, items to bring over to friends, ingredients for food for our FRG meeting and a photo collage to show-off our troop activities to encourage family involvement, my purse to pay for things, and makeup to put on on-the-go. I made a trek to our post with everything I had noted I needed to bring so that I wouldn’t have to drive an extra hour home and back for anything. I ushered in all of the items I needed to bring to our chapel’s women’s ministry for the day…and soon realized I totally forgot something essential. One of the roles I volunteered recently for was to photograph events for this ministry, and with another separate responsibility in mind, I completely forgot my camera. Like it didn’t even make it onto that list I was so sure was going to make me fool-proof. I swallowed a healthy dose of humility when I informed our ministry leader and received her sweet extension of grace and understanding for my mishap. Inside though I hated feeling like no matter what I tried, I couldn’t seem to avoid screwing something up. I slapped a smile on my face – which stayed there once surrounded by so many fun witty and loving girls in our community. But I couldn’t shake feeling discouraged, disappointed in myself and just aggravated.

It wasn’t until being in the middle of worship at the end of this program that God would prick my heart. Singing a beautiful song, we got to a verse that says:

Where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone
[in] Your presence, Lord

Y’all. I felt tears just roll on down and struggled to sing the words. The Lord was revealing to me something in my heart I needed to bring to Him. My Shame. I new somewhere along the lines I was believing lies that were resulting into inward shame, and I knew that was not what I as a believer in Christ should be continuing in. But I felt stuck.

There wasn’t a moment of time to myself the rest of the day, so this morning it was still on my heart. I began to search for Biblical wisdom and insight and found a really really well-written extensive article on shame in the heart of people. It defines Shame as:

SHAME: the painful emotion caused by a consciousness of guilt or shortcoming or impropriety.

The part that resonated most with me was that there is well-placed shame (or I like to think of it as conviction and a lack of peace) which is the result of doing something or saying something or believing something that dishonors God, and  there is a shame that is misplaced. I knew nothing in my heart sought to intentionally dishonor God in my current actions, and that none of the things that actually made me ashamed were in themselves dishonoring to God. Thus I was dealing with what I had already presumed that morning prior in worship – that I was believing a lie and experiencing misplaced shame. Shame that I had no business feeling, but that brought about conviction on some things that I did in fact need revealed to me so that I could confess and seek God’s grace and forgiveness and redemption for (so my misplaced shame exposed a root of well-placed shame…something I was not living according to God’s truth thus not honoring Him). The article, along with scripture, hit the nail on the head for me –

“much of what makes us feel shame is not that we have brought dishonor to God by our actions, but that we have failed to give the appearance that other people admire….Much of our shame is not God-centered but self-centered. Until we get a handle on this, we will not be able to battle the problem of shame at its root….So in the very act of wanting to avoid shame as the world sees it, they (talking about the people of Corinth but I might as well replace they with I) fell into the very behavior that God counts shameful.”

With so much of this in mind and a clear identification of where my thinking and heart have ventured off the path of God’s truth, I knew what I needed to bring before the throne. If you are experiencing shame of any kind, I highly recommend reading scripture, checking out this article, and praying about it. This is my prayer (below)…and I share it in case it can be one we pray together if you find yourself in a similar situation!

     Lord, I have bought my accuser – the enemy’s – lies. I have shamed myself wrongly and in doing so I did not see the root of my sin which is the vanity of wanting to please or be acceptable to others, the pride of wanting to be perfect (which is a pointless pursuit), and the selfishness of wanting others to think I have it all together. But what glory does it bring You, Father, if I lose sight of my need for You and my depravity apart from You and without Your grace, strength, and ability to be exalted in my weaknesses? 

     Culture says to cover your weaknesses and put up the best front. To seek success, recognition, comfort and/or power. Your Word says to rather boast about our weaknesses and not in our abilities but in You alone. 

     Thank You Lord for not letting my efforts to appear perfect prevail. Thank You for reminding me of my weaknesses (daily) and need of Your sufficient grace and strength and power, that I may not continue to buy lies or pat myself on the back, but instead look up to You, smile, and Praise Your Sweet, Tender, Mighty, Name. 

     Forgive me, Father, for getting this wrong lately. Lord, redeem me back to where my heart needs to be and help me guard my heart and mind from this continually. Thank You for Your Truth, for revealing it to me in the midst of my struggling with lies and for bringing me back to the path walking in Your Truth. I know my weak areas well Lord. You have allowed me to recognize them plainly and publicly that I might not cover (despite my best efforts) or ignore my need for You to work in me and through them. 

     Help me submit and be obedient to You to work in them each step of the way, and may I keep a humble heart having godly humility, selflessly only looking to You, and seeking to honor and glorify You King Jesus!

In Your Name, Amen. 

“God is the giver, and we are the receivers. His richest gifts are bestowed not upon those who do the greatest things, but upon those who accept His abundance and His grace.”

– Hannah Whitall Smith

 

I believe this needs to be a constant reminder in our lives, and I pray we never settle for living in shame! He has come to redeem us, to bring us abundant life and the richest form of freedom. May we not miss out on what He offers us!

shame undone

 

 

 

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Tightening the Belt of Truth and Breaking out the Sword of the Spirit when destructive thoughts run Rampant.

December 16th, 2015

These past three years have been paramount to my personal walk with Christ in discovering that “Lies reign in the absence of truth (Lysa TerKurst)” but that “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.(2 Cor. 3:17)” Yet sometimes, daily circumstances accompanied with my default mindset and limited perspective can creep in. I am […]

 

These past three years have been paramount to my personal walk with Christ in discovering that “Lies reign in the absence of truth (Lysa TerKurst)” but that “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.(2 Cor. 3:17)”

Yet sometimes, daily circumstances accompanied with my default mindset and limited perspective can creep in. I am learning to recognize that, when I feel robbed of my joy, peace, patience, self-control, or my ability to love, be kind, or to persevere, this is a sure sign that I am forgetting to arm myself with the what the Bible refers to as the Belt of Truth and I am not consistently combating lies with the Sword of the Spirit which is God’s Word and our only offensive tool in what scripture calls the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:14). Looking back through my journal, I’ve been most encouraged when I have recognize this lack of peace, joy, etc. as an attack going on in my heart and mind and choose to combat it with God’s Word and/or truth. Here are a few things I have declared to myself when this happens that have been an effective spiritual, mental, and emotional reset for my heart and mind :

  • When I am overwhelmed, God’s Word redirects my focus. (Philipians 4:8, Romans 12:1-2, Philipians 4:6-7, Ephesians 4:23, Colossians 3:2, etc.)
  • When I don’t know where to turn, God is near, present and available. (Psalm 145:18, Psalm 16:8, James 4:8, Isaiah 43:2, Zephaniah 3:17, Hebrews 4:14-16)
  • When I don’t know the way, HE is the way (John 14:6), He desires to, He can, and He will direct my path if I trust and follow (Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 16:9), and He will make my steps firm (Psalm 37:23)
  • When I am weak, He gives me strength, I can do all things through Him, and to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Philippians 4:13)
  • When I have been broken and when I have failed, His Love has restored me. (Psalm 23:3, Micah 7:7-10) When I stumble or fall, I will not be hurled headlong (or in my mental picture – I will not fall on my face) because He holds my hand (Psalm 37:23-24)
  • When I feel defeated, I know that victory is in the Lord (Proverbs 21:31), that in Christ I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37), I know that The Lord will fight for me (Exodus 14:13-14) when He sees fit, that He delivers me from all my afflictions (Psalms 34:19), and that we may be “hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:8-9)
  • When I struggle or am in need, God will provide (Philippians 4:19)
  • When I have asked why, I believe Him when He says His ways are higher (Isaiah 55:8-9), that His Promises work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) and for the ultimate purposes He has (Ephesians 1:11) and I remember His faithfulness in my life thus far (Let’s just raise an Ebenezer 1 Samuel 7).
  • When I bring it all before Him, choose to trust Him, and exercise an obedient heart, He delights in me (Zephaniah 3:17Psalm 147:11) and is faithful to guard what I entrust to Him (2 Tim 1:12)
When I feel unvalued or devalued by people –
  • I do not serve for recognition.
  • We were not saved by good works but for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10) . Good works are not the root but the fruit of our salvation (quote from a devotional somewhere).
  • I am not consumed by the need to please man, but God alone. (Galatians 1:101 Thessalonians 2:4Colossians 3:23).
  • Perception is not reality. Reality is reality. And perception is often wrong. But it is not my job to manage the perception others have of me. My job is to be obedient to my God, and to honor Him. I cannot control the perceptions or judgements of others about me and it is a lie to think that I can or to think that it is important. It is an utter waste of time and a trap from the Devil to get my mind off of glorifying Christ instead trying to glorify the perception of myself in the eyes of others. However, it does matter,  and it only matters, “whether Christ is honored by the way people think of us. Does Christ look great because of the way we live? It matters to us whether he does” (full wonderfully expounded sermon on this dichotomy of what matters in what others perceive about us by John Piper).
  • I am not perfect, but I am NOT the labels I give myself or the judgements or labels given to me by other people. Things that are actually true: I have been bought for a price (1 Cor. 6:20), I am precious in God’s sight (Isaiah 43:3), wonderfully made in His image (Psalm 139:14), set apart (2 Timothy 2:21), protected, defended, loved, valued, understood and I know that He is with me using all things to shape my heart.

 

If you sense a lack of joy, peace, patience, love, self-control, hope, faith, etc., I pray that it be an indicator of an area in which God’s Word and Truth can identify a chink in your armor  in which you may be vulnerable to the lies of the enemy. I pray we continually dive in to His Word and Truth so that His power can combat our enemy,  renew our minds and hearts, and boldly claim freedom and victory in our hearts and minds today.

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Like Apples of Gold…

December 9th, 2015

Recently I’ve been learning a lot  about how to better love and honor people, and I find myself eager to look for and find praiseworthy things in people among me to build them up or compliment them. I know how it is to be a woman (or just a human being in general), and sometimes […]

 

Recently I’ve been learning a lot  about how to better love and honor people, and I find myself eager to look for and find praiseworthy things in people among me to build them up or compliment them. I know how it is to be a woman (or just a human being in general), and sometimes it means everything to hear some one say a kind word about how you look, the efforts you are making in things in your life, and simply acknowledging and praising the good in who you are. My goal has become to genuinely see the beauty and good in people and, when I look for it, it is always possible to find something to sincerely appreciate and share in an encouraging compliment to brighten their day. Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced what it’s like to be down, and my heart doesn’t want that for anyone.

torn down

I know I am probably not the only one, but sometimes it seems that this life choice to be an encourager can be a lonely one way street.

What God’s been teaching me through it is to find my encouragement in Him alone, and yet to be grateful when He does use someone to brighten my day with a kind word.  Recently I walked into a gathering and was surprised to have multiple people compliment me. I will be the first to tell you that – for me – THIS IS NOT NORMAL. But looking back I will say that I never knew how much I would have needed it. After this gathering, I would soon experience the opposite end of the spectrum and find myself at the end of the day feeling defeated and like a failure. It wasn’t until I talked to my Mom that I burst into tears. But it wasn’t what you would think.

I was indeed sad and discouraged and feeling less than loved or valued, but I didn’t break down to tears until I remembered the unusual and beautifully kind encouragement God had sent my way just before He knew I would face temptation to feel worthless. How extra loving it was to send this gift of encouragement my way, and I was reminded He is always working to teach and shape my heart in the good and the hard. I  am so thankful that, when I need it, His Word never fails to overflow with the lasting encouragement I need. It is my help in filtering out negative or destructive thoughts or assumptions I may make and editing my thoughts to only the truth in His Word about who I am, who He is, and what really matters.

When I worry about what others might criticize about me, I know He knows my heart and I have peace and choose to accept that that is enough. And I am also thankful for those people who loved on me with their thoughts and words when they easily could have kept their thoughts to themselves or chose to pick me apart and identify all my flaws instead of praising the good. My new and true hope in reflecting on my own experiences is that we never hold back a kind word…because we may never know how much that word means or how God may just use it to send some extra love and encouragement to somebody when they need it most.

Unfortunately encouraging words aren’t always received when we can use them, but this is how we learn to go to a faithful and overflowing source of encouragement – God’s Word. When I need a word of lasting encouragement, I am never disappointed to find it in scripture.

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And being the pinterest quote saver I am, here are a few quotes and scriptures about the power of kind words and looking for the good and praiseworthy in others!

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And this brought to mind this song written for people to encourage each other in the Lord. What a favorite!

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Ebenezer: So that’s what that means…

December 2nd, 2015

One of my devotionals today cracked me up…It was titled Raising an Ebenezer. Having just sang the song Come Thou Fount (of Every Blessing) recently, I smiled. Sometimes you dig deep into understanding the lyrics of songs – especially songs about and to the Lord. And sometimes, when they are Hymns from the 18th century, you sing […]

 

One of my devotionals today cracked me up…It was titled Raising an Ebenezer. Having just sang the song Come Thou Fount (of Every Blessing) recently, I smiled. Sometimes you dig deep into understanding the lyrics of songs – especially songs about and to the Lord. And sometimes, when they are Hymns from the 18th century, you sing words like “thy”, and “thou” and “ebenezer” and tell yourself it is old English and don’t think much past that. But really, what is the verse in Come Thou Fount talking about when it says “Here I raise my Ebenezer, here by Thy great help I’ve come..”? I can rule out Ebenezer Scrooge. 😉 But really though…

This scripture and devotion on it WOWed me. In 1 Samuel chapter 7, Israel comes under attack by the Philistines. As the devotional says :

“They begged Samuel to pray, and God acted: the Philistines were thrown into confusion and defeated, driven far away.”

Then Samuel took a stone and set it upright… He named it Ebenezer, explaining,

‘THE LORD HAS HELPED US TO THIS POINT.'”

Not completely dissimilar, in Joshua chapters 3 and 4, Joshua and Israel went through a similar experience earlier in history. When needing to cross the Jordan River with the Ark of the Covenant, the Jordan River, which was at flood stage, stopped flowing upstream miraculously allowing them to cross. Afterwards the LORD asked Joshua to have twelve men collect stones of remembrance to place in their camp.

It seems the Lord is quite aware of our tendencies, and He knows the impact visual reminders can have in our lives when we face obstacles. In the middle of trying circumstances, I wonder if we might also benefit from a visual reminder of God’s faithful hand in our lives? Remembering that He indeed has helped us to this point and counting and recalling the ways He has been faithful can fuel gratitude, a proper perspective, and faith rather than our tendency to worry or doubt. Whether it be one big stone or a stone for each time we have experienced God significantly make a way in our trials, it just might do us good to become rock collectors. 😉

Speaking of stones…this fellow military spouse and photographer chick’s blog on When Rejection Stings was spot on and she hilariously talks about these stones of remembrance being vital in handling life as well as some other tips! :)

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Responding to Failure in Relationships

November 23rd, 2015

“When Jesus told the disciples they would soon abandon Him, He was not attacking them or challenging their loyalty. He knew them. He saw the limits of their faith. In compassion, He loved them even in their weaknesses. -(Journey Magazine article October 26, 2014) Even Jesus, with a perfect record of love, joy, peace, patience, […]

 

“When Jesus told the disciples they would soon abandon Him, He was not attacking them or challenging their loyalty. He knew them. He saw the limits of their faith. In compassion, He loved them even in their weaknesses. -(Journey Magazine article October 26, 2014)

Even Jesus, with a perfect record of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control…with a life chock-full of miracles and example of faithfulness and loyalty, even He did not receive 100% loyalty or faithfulness in return by those closest to Him. Was it because He was not worthy of their loyalty or faithfulness? Not at all. No one was, is or will ever be more worthy. But this was not about whether He’d proven Himself worthy. It was about the imperfect wavering hearts of even the most faithful of mankind. Even when we have the best intentions as people, there are always fleshly limits we are facing in need of God’s transforming work.

Jesus knew his beloved disciples and He saw their limitations. And His love did not waver.

Reading this devotion, I think about the standards, the impossible standards, I tend to hold for my husband and even others very close to me. Today, while reading this, I saw my husband and my loved ones through the heart of Peter. Now, before you think Ha! She thinks she is Jesus in this story… believe me – I saw just how short I fall of the description Christ-like when comparing my usual response and perspective to that of Jesus here. Zealous and passionate, Peter fiercely rebutted Christ’s prediction that he would deny Him. Like Peter, one of the virtues I love most about my husband in particular is that he has a very strong sense of loyalty. He would never think himself capable of anything else in his relationships – our marriage in particular. He has stood up in awkward situations time and again chosen strategic personal guidelines guard himself and protect our marriage. But the truth is, like Peter, we are all capable of failure. While Bryan has never detrimentally failed me, I realized that anything less than perfection from him tends to really disappoint me. It seems, at least for me, those closest to us in life will always be those we depend on most, but it will also sting the most when they let you down – even in the tiniest of ways.

In this case I saw how very much I could learn from Jesus in the responder role when in this situation. My A-ha! moment was studying His response after Peter denied Him…and also the outcome of the events. Peter was in this case devastated when he realized he’d failed Jesus. Because he already recognized his failure, Jesus, after the resurrection, chose to approach Peter – not with I told you so’s or How could you!?’s but with a humble and loving presence. I noticed two things here:

  1. Jesus knew his accusations were not needed to fix the situation…or to even the score of the offended. Isn’t it amazing how, when we can see through the eyes of Christ in this passage, we see the frivolousness of our tendencies? When we are denied in a sense or disappointed, what if instead of focussing on making someone understand  just how much we’re hurt or disappointed …we instead recognize that the root of the issue is something entirely different? What if we seek Christ to show us what is really needed rather than honing in on making sure our offended heart is understood or justified? When someone disappoints us, the way we feel is only a symptom, and we need to pray that, instead of our feelings blinding us to only our perspective, that God opens our hearts and eyes to His – the Great Physician’s – perspective so that we can discern how to be obedient let God can treat the root of the problem in the hearts involved rather than us slapping some salve on the symptoms that affect us individually.
  2. When we do our part, we are a more effective vessel for God’s purposes remaining out of the way for God to do His part. We can only do our part. Our job is not God’s job. God’s job is not our job. When we are obedient and stick to our part, God can do His part and those moments and change everything. That dark moment of failure changed Peter.

Peter knew he’d failed. No hurt-filled or harsh words from Jesus were needed. They might have felt good to vent, but they weren’t necessary or productive. In fact, in Peter’s story, accusations or harsh words might have drowned out that dark quiet silence that followed his failure that were so key to transforming Peter deep within his heart. It is through this sting of failure that Peter began to change within from the man whose original name Simon meant “like grass or a like a reed which is flimsy and wavers and is tossed by the wind” to Peter whose name means “Rock” to which Jesus told him “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matt 16:18)

I think again about the sometimes impossible standards I hold for my family – my sweet husband in particular. Today I see a perfect picture of how Jesus – though being the standard of perfection – holds us to a standard of grace. He even told the disciples about their weaknesses and loved them with compassion through their weak points which proved key to changing them from the inside out. I often want my husband in particular to be to me what only Jesus could ever be – unfailing and perfect. Ever been there before? And when he falls short, I either blame myself or blame him viewing it from my limited perspective. This passage is key in refocusing to a better perspective. I am not Jesus. I am imperfect. And I am beyond blessed to have a husband with the godly character, loyalty, love and devotion that he has. But he.is.not.Jesus. And he.is.not.perfect. And when I expect that, he will miss the mark every time. But like Jesus knew his disciples, I need to know my husband and loved ones and pray that God would help me discern my their current limits that I may also receive and heed godly instruction on how to best love them compassionately even in their weaknesses…that they too, like Peter, might develop strength in areas they were once weak in through the love grace and power of Christ. When we are obedient and do our part, instead of attacking or challenging our loved one’s loyalty, we have a powerful opportunity to be a vessel for Christ’s truth, love and grace while trusting God to do His part in His way in His time. And we’d be blessed to have our loved ones hold us to the same standard of grace in return…because – really – we are all like Peter. And we are all capable to let Christ chisel His character into our hearts like never before when we seek Him through our failures.

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The RED CUP UPROAR and My Two Cents on The Heart of the Problem

November 11th, 2015

I don’t always blog about controversial Facebook Bandwagons, but felt like this blog post I have been sitting on and modified this morning may make a point right about now… I sat in my seat ready for a great message at my church in Alaska. Pastor Rod began “How many of us jump on boycott bandwagons […]

 

Mind Your Speech

I don’t always blog about controversial Facebook Bandwagons, but felt like this blog post I have been sitting on and modified this morning may make a point right about now…

I sat in my seat ready for a great message at my church in Alaska. Pastor Rod began “How many of us jump on boycott bandwagons as Christians?” he asked. I immediately thought of a particular store chain I refused to give business to. He continued “We are always boycotting something…stores that say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas, companies that support spiritually opposing or political views we despise. But all we are doing is missing the point. If we as followers of Christ could recognize that it is not a behavior problem – it’s a heart problem – and be more concerned that people come to know Jesus rather than behave as if they did…lives could really be changed, hearts could be changed, and behavior would follow.”

People’s choices (the Starbucks leadership and ours included) simply reflect what is in our hearts. We cannot expect others to behave in a way that contradicts with where their hearts are. When it comes to homosexuals, pro-choice advocates and – dare I say – the oh so offensive Happy Holiday people…it reminds me of the woman at the well caught in a quite appalling act.  If Jesus himself appeared face to face with these people as He did with the woman at the well, I hate to say that many of us soapbox boycotters would be shocked to find that Jesus – like His experience with this woman – would not handle it the way we tend to respond. With this woman, for example, He did not refuse her to be in his presence because of her opposing choices, he did not give those people disgusted or appalled at her behavior a thumbs up for their intent to penalize her severely…nor did He Himself condemn her for her choices. You see, Jesus knew the heart of the problem wasn’t a behavior problem at all. It is a heart problem. As mentioned in a previous post, His response to her was beautifully free of condemnation, filled with love and grace that would begin to transform this woman from the inside out, and a specific truth and call to leave her former chosen behavior not just because he despised it but because He knew a better more abundant life was possible through the way He calls us to live as believers. Sometimes we are so loving that we lose truth and honesty, and other times we are so honest it can hinder someone from receiving the truth when love is replaced with judgement, ridicule, anger or hate. Jesus was and is equally a picture and living example of truth and love. To divide our approach is to divide all that Jesus stands for and will render ineffectiveness for sharing Him with others. As a new friend in my life recently shared with me – when we expect or demand people to change or behave a certain way we are asking them to perform rather than allowing God to transform their hearts as only He can.

My hope is that we become heart focussed people like Jesus. If a spouse, friend, relative, child, etc. is having a behavior issue, I pray that we remember that it is their heart that first needs help from Jesus and that we help shine a light on Jesus who calls Himself The Way and prayerfully ask God to transform them from the inside out while supporting them through it. If a company or political party or politician or whoever fails to act as if they follow Christ, I pray we would respond like Jesus and begin praying for heart changes and finding ways to respond in truth and love equally…it is ultimately up to the person themself what they choose, but our demands to behave or perform in a way that contradicts their heart will never produce authentic or lasting outcomes.

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The Birds of the Air

October 19th, 2015

I hurried home from German language class to prep my home for a portrait session, prep my gear, finish some editing, make dinner, and cook breakfast for the next few 4:00AM mornings my husband’s been keeping, etc. I scrambled into our master bedroom to find that one of the little baby Collared Doves from the […]

 

I hurried home from German language class to prep my home for a portrait session, prep my gear, finish some editing, make dinner, and cook breakfast for the next few 4:00AM mornings my husband’s been keeping, etc. I scrambled into our master bedroom to find that one of the little baby Collared Doves from the nest in the very highest window of my house has taken quite a fall and was in shock and helpless on my deck.
What was supposed to be time spent cleaning soon became a struggle to get him back to his nest. 3 ladders and a solo trip trying to climb my roof in the rain left me feeling out of ideas and frustrated. I asked a German lady who works on our bottom floor to help me, but she apologetically told me she thought the baby bird might have a broken wing and would die or needed to be put out of its misery. After that, I tried for about 3 seconds to keep it together but I burst into tears.
I was afraid to take him anywhere because he was crying and his parents flew down to listen. I watched him cry while his parents were near but I knew they were probably feeling concerned and helpless. As I watched, little finches also came to look at the mess this little guy had got himself into. Isn’t that just like life? It seems like when we get ourselves in a deep situation that the most people show up or come around to “care”…or just get the latest dirt on your dramatic life saga. I knew the chances of this little bird making it were slimmer if I took him to try and help than if his parents just might still help him. However, I had trouble going to sleep knowing he was most likely not going to make it through the freezing wet rainy night.
But to my complete surprise, I checked to find him still awake in the morning…in the freezing rain. I had had it with not helping more at this point, so before my 8:30AM photo session I decided to get him some shelter at the very least. I used some napkins and moved him to a dry spot under an overhang where he could dry off and get warmer. But I had this photo session right? So I couldn’t worry about him until lunchtime. That was a challenge!

But all this while I was praying LORD, WHY do you want me to see this little innocent creature suffer? Why should this little bird die? And all of a sudden it became clear as day to me. I so loved and felt compassion for this little bird whom I had just met (so to speak). If it tore my spirit up within me this much, how much more did God’s heart break when His innocent Son suffered and when His children suffer?

Further still, while I was asking Him my why’s, I could see the bird’s parents watching quite diligently  even though they couldn’t get him back to the nest. I thought – this must be how God feels (like these parent birds) when His dearly loved people get themselves in a mess. It must completely break His heart to watch them self-destruct. And right then it was literally as if God answered my “Why this bird?” that I felt a resounding answer in my heart…“Now you are beginning to understand why My Word says I bear patiently with you, that I desire NONE to perish (2 Peter 3:9).” This is how I feel about little birds, critters and people…that I wish none would perish and cringe when people tell me about “survival of the fittest” while a little critter is vulnerable…but I have never thought about how much more God must feel it because it just crushes His spirit to watch His creation since He loves unconditionally and His compassion for us is endless. I knew the Sunday school answer – that God wants all to choose Him but the choice is ours – but only now was I getting a glimpse at how deeply it affects the heart of the one hoping, wanting, waiting and watching.
Later that day and through the week I got to witness the incredible. His mom and dad flew in…and his mom brought this little baby a whole bunch of food. I couldn’t believe it. I was hoping he had a fighting chance while knowing he had an uphill battle. But this was his best chance.
Back to spiritually reflecting, I couldn’t help but think of this little bird as us. US. Drowning in downward spirals of raw reactions to  life’s hard knocks and making mistakes. If only we could cry out with all our might like this little bird did, how our Father is waiting to come to nourish us, heal and restore us. His biggest hope is truly that none should perish, and that any suffering we endure in this life might be used to chisel strength, perseverance, character and hope into our lives and the lives of others.
I think God knew this little guy was a fighter and that I could really use a sign of hope for him. His parents not giving up on him was an amazing thing to witness. Watching the Mom swoop in every few hours and feed him was the sweetest…that is until baby bird #2 flew the coop, landed on my deck perfectly, and when he finally found his sibling who was (hobbling his way) he flew to him and they snuggled together on my deck all night.

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Over this past week, I have been so tickled to admire the wonderful care of the two parent birds, the reuniting of this cute little family, and the vast improvement of baby bird #1 stemming strictly from care from his family and his determination to spread his wings despite his limp.
The Best MOM and DAD Doves ever :)

^The Best MOM and DAD Doves ever :)!

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Early in this whole thing, a friend reminded me that God’s “eye is on the sparrow”; despite my doubting this situation might end well, I feel blessed to be so reminded that God does care for the birds of the air (Matt 6:26) (even more than an animal lover like me), and He cares for His creation – that none should perish but find eternal and abundant life in what He has for us of only we will chirp the word, ask and receive the grace that He wishes to pour out on us.
And watching this bird and this bird family this week, I am reminded that not only is His eye on the sparrow, but that “not one of them falls apart from the Father’s care” (Matt 10:29).
Though I am sure this little guy would have it easier if he hadn’t fallen so hard, God knew this would be a way He could reveal truth to me. He knew that my home would be a place where a tiny helpless dove could find rest and safety. He knew someone with a heart tender toward God’s creatures was here who would have compassion to unobtrusively care for and pray for him, and build him a dry and warm shelter, and to give him somewhere safe where his family could reconnect while remaining uninterrupted instead of being in a place where people are more concerned with shewing them to avoid cleaning a little (a lot actually) bird poop on the deck. I am not attempting to claim that I understand why God allows suffering in our world, but I do believe His Word when it says that suffering “produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-5). Who’s to say that the purpose and calling – the biggest thing we were born for – is not on the other side of our biggest challenge, struggle, hardship or devastation? Maybe, just maybe, it is because of what a person has endured that he/she develops the necessary strength and character and compassion to accomplish much and reach and impact many. Oddly enough, studying this species of bird I learned this is common for the little fledglings to end up on the ground (ideally not injured) for a few days. This must be frightening because they are unable to fly and are in new and scary territory hoping Mom and Dad will find and care for them and that no predators will take advantage of their vulnerability. It must feel like a huge challenge to this young animal. God knows that through this they will learn to find food and water, learn to evade dangers and predators, and learn to take flight. He knows that willpower and determination are born out of facing adversity, and even for this little guy with his injury, this situation has helped him become quite the overcomer, not because he’s had an easy life, but because he is fighting to make it and succeed over his obstacles. And I bet that even if this little bird does limp a little for the rest of his life, when he flies he will be even better because of the challenges he has overcome. I could not have been more proud to watch him flutter and fight until he successfully perched after flying – hurt foot and all – onto the chair with his sibling!

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I am thankful for the tiniest peek at my Father’s heart even if it took emotional turmoil over “just a bird” to get me there. Like me desiring all creatures to make it, He desires that none should perish. I am thankful for a God who cares for His creation big and small, and for a God who so so deeply cares for us. He cares for them. He cares for us. He cares.
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When I feel Ignorant

July 29th, 2015

Acts 4:13-14 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and had perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled. They recognized that they had been with Jesus. Seeing the man who is healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” Lord Jesus, Though I continue to study and […]

 


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Acts 4:13-14

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and had perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled. They recognized that they had been with Jesus. Seeing the man who is healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.”

Lord Jesus,
Though I continue to study and learn so that I may be prepared to give answers and reasons for the hope that I have in You when asked,  I often am aware of the fact that I am not considered to be the smartest one in a conversation…and how often I fear doing Your Name more harm than good because of areas I’ve not thought heavily about…or because of personal ignorance or naivety. But how much more powerful of a testimony Peter and John had in that, while it was plainly observed that they were unlearned and ignorant, the people could not deny the miraculous power and evidence that “they had been with Jesus,” and could say nothing against it. Wow! Lord I pray that – where I am lacking – You make Your power and presence known even more and Your Name greater…not because I have any ability of my own, but because You are strong when I am weak in Your power is made perfect in my surrendered weaknesses.

Thank You Lord for the reminder today that all things-even our shortcomings-can bring glory to You and testimony to the name of Jesus Christ. I ask that you keep me mindful of what Your Spirit can do rather than lose perspective and focus on what I think “holds me back.” May this give me boldness and also make it undeniable to people that I too have “been with Jesus“.

Acts 4:31

“And when they prayed the place in which they gather together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”

 

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All in a Day’s Work for the Gardener

May 20th, 2015

Don’t you just love how God teaches us about Himself in the simplest but often more-complex-than-they-seem-on-the-surface type of ways? He chose to teach us so many things about His character through the simple picture of a Shepherd tending his flock of sheep. Jesus also tells us that He is the true Vine (in whom we […]

 

Don’t you just love how God teaches us about Himself in the simplest but often more-complex-than-they-seem-on-the-surface type of ways? He chose to teach us so many things about His character through the simple picture of a Shepherd tending his flock of sheep. Jesus also tells us that He is the true Vine (in whom we are to remain) and we are the branches…and that His Father is the gardener. (**sigh**) I am going to deviate for a second – but I have a point!

Since this is the first time in over a year that we are going to be living in one place for more than 18 months, I was excited to grow an herb garden to save a little money on groceries and add an extra punch of fresh nutritious flavor to our meals. So far, all I invested in was this basil plant. Obviously, it is looking a little gangly since I have not yet developed or fine-tuned my green thumb.

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When learning about my own “gardening needs” according to scripture recently, I was drawn to search for tips on helping my sad basil plant. As it turns out, harvesting basil is the key to keeping it healthy. When harvesting it, you have to cut the leaves off just above the second set from the ground. According to this article I was amazed to find that “the single stalk will now end here, and two new branches will now bud and grow from the set of leaves you left behind.” What seemed like it might kill off my plant actually doubles its productivity – wow! Unfortunately, as you can see in my loved but naively neglected little plant, I did not prune it, but only plucked some bottom leaves in efforts to not hinder it from growing…WRONG! And  – it sprouted flowers. Instead of taking action like a knowledgeable experienced gardener, I thought “good for it!” Boy was I wrong again! Apparently as I sat down to research and write this post this very morning, I learned that once the Basil plant produces buds, you are to nip it in the bud if you want your Basil plant to stay healthy…otherwise it will die as they are annual plants meaning they grow only one season before dying. ;( As I read that my mouth dropped open and I ran and snatched those stupid flowers off my plant…I will let you know I guess if I was too late. Darn.

Where in the world am I going with this? I know I know… I am getting to the point. 😉 According to the Bible, God our Father is the gardener in our hearts and minds when we follow Him, and He desires His followers to bear [much] good fruit! (John 15:8) He says that His disciples are recognized by their fruit. What is this fruit? Obedience, the spread of the Good News and addition of new believers, love, and/or Christian character most commonly known as the Fruit of the Spirit. Likewise, false prophets and those who profess to believe but do not will also be known by their fruit, or lack there of.  We can only bear good fruit or bad fruit, and in order to bear good fruit we must seek, endure correction, and be willing to be pruned of any potential bad fruit caused by sin. Like my basil plant, when we are properly pruned all potential death-causing flowers are kept from blooming. 😉

SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO ALLOW GOD TO PRUNE AWAY OUR BAD FRUIT AND NIP IT IN THE BUD IN ORDER FOR US TO PRODUCE THE GOOD FRUIT AND BE EVEN MORE FRUITFUL. AND SOMETIMES HE MUST UPROOT IT ENTIRELY.

Recently I was in need of some uprooting. Occasionally, I tend to get a decorating idea in my head and it all too quickly becomes an obsession that clouds any financially responsible, logical or reasonable judgement. Before long I was obsessed and googling some items for a perfect summer table-scape. Sounds innocent right? Yea I thought so too. I told my self all kinds of innocent reasoning to justify why I must have it and have it completed now. But as He often does, God in His loving kindness was bound to reveal some heart issues deep down so that he could begin His gardening work. Sometimes I am stubborn. After an hour of online shopping, planning, and asking for early Birthday presents from Mom and Dad (no purchases made yet), I began my quiet time studying God’s Word. It is hilarious to me that I glanced right over anything suggesting I needed to look at God’s Word regarding my heart and its temptations in this particular situation, but at one point it was so obvious I chuckled. I had decided to begin reading through the Bible on a 1 year plan, and God hilariously brought me on Day 1 (I should’ve known) to the very first woman and her fall to temptation. I have read, studied and even taught on this story in the Bible multiple times, but today it applied in a particular way. Matthew Henry’s Commentary noted

         “The place fixed for Adam to dwell was not a palace but a garden. The better we take up with plain things, and the less we seek things to gratify pride and luxury, the nearer we approach innocency. Nature is content with a little…but lust craves everything and is content with nothing.”

Okay Lord, I am listening, I wrote in my journal. Multiple and separate books I picked up kept addressing the compulsive tendency for people to crave stockpiling things. I am not usually this way, but I knew I was fitting in perfectly at this point in my mission to decorate my table. The commentary boldy went on to say that Adam when he participated in the first sin “plainly showed contempt of what God bestowed on him and a desire for what God did not see fit to give him. He would have what he pleased and do what he pleased. His sin was, in one word, disobedience.” Ouch. I realized something in my heart was off…in the wrong place…wanting something that wasn’t innately wrong, but wanting it for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately I knew I had deceived myself (since all sin involves believing a lie) somewhere along the way and that I needed God’s help to show me where my wrong thinking was rooted so we could uproot it. I prayed that through the continuance of reading He would unmask the deception in my heart.

So what is the good news in the commentary when we find ourselves walking down this path with Adam and Eve (as I sure did)? “Sooner or later, it (sin) will bring shame, either shame of true repentance which ends in glory (best case scenario), or that shame and everlasting contempt, to which the wicked shall rise at the great day (I think we can agree this is the worst case scenario). See here what is commonly the folly of those that have sinned. They have more care to save their credit before men that to obtain their pardon from God.” Wow. I realized an ugly sin struggle from my past was manifesting itself in a new way here. Immediately I believe God showed me the root of my problem. Actually he showed me the seed and the whole blasted plant so that maybe I could share it with you, share a laugh, and help us remember that all bad fruit begins deep in our hearts with a seed and whole elaborate but sneaky process before sprouting into sin. I introduce to you from my own journal – my “Sin-flower“. You love the name at least – right? 😉

Sin-Flower

1.) The Seed  of my Sin- Unbelief

I am humbled and convicted to begin more-actively exercising belief in all areas after being reminded by this article that the root of all sin is unbelief. I know this article calls it the root of all sin…but for my post and illustration – it is the seed. The very beginning. Unbelief that God is enough. In my case, it was – as the article author said – “refusal to believe in the rich provisional resources that are already ours in Christ–we’re not believing that, by virtue of our Spirit-wrought union with Christ, everything we need and long for, we already possess.” If He provides something as insignificant as table decor for me – whoopty-do. Who actually cares? What difference does it make in the grand scheme of things? I know this may be such a ridiculous example, but I believe God knew it was a teachable moment for this child and that I would share it with you! :)

2.) The Root: Pride + Insecurity

I hate this one. All of my life I have struggled with insecurity entangled with pride. I want to impress people (pride) and, when I think others will be unimpressed or that I will be embarrased, I am insecure. This struggle mainly used to manifest in how I valued myself based on my self-image and performance as a photographer and I spent a good portion last year seeking God to help free me from that wrong-thinking with the truth of who I am in Him. So having already battled this, I was less than excited to see this lack of confidence in who God says I am popping up in how I feel about my household. After 5 moves in 5 years our furniture is looking less than snazzy. Chunks of certain furniture pieces are actually missing after this last move. I knew it made no sense logically to toss our furniture and replace it since this will not be the last of our moves and life will continue to wear on any furniture, so I wanted to try and do the next best thing to try and prevent myself from feeling insecure when having visitors. In my silly little way, apparenty table decorations would save the day. Gee.

3.) The Leaves

Matthew Henry notes on this story of Adam and Eve that “The excuses men make to cover and lessen their sin, are vain and frivolous; like the aprons of fig leaves (like Adam and Eve made), they make the matter never the better: yet we are all apt to cover our transgressions as Adam.”  The leaves of my own sin-flower were so appropriately compared to the leaves of Adam and Eve. They were my excuses or reasons I needed these innocent decorations. They were my attempts to justify, or cover, my wrong-thinking. And I did such a good job at this it is scary. I mean, it took taking a long time and a deep look to see the wrong in my heart after repeating things like “I just want a pretty table setting for when my family is here,” (why I must get it NOW), and “I am not asking for new furniture, so this is minor,” and manipulating the financial responsibility of purchasing something outside our decided budget by asking for an “early birthday present.”

4.) The Stem : Discontentment + Ungratefulness

When we focus on what we don’t have rather than all God has blessed us with, how discontent we become! How ungrateful we become for what God has so graciously and generously bestowed upon us as He sees fit for our best interest. Like holding the reins of a run away horse with white knuckles, before I knew it I was in a place of discontentment, a place I did not intend to be. Once I realized where I was, I had ask God to help me to skid to a stop.

5.) The Bud : Lust for things

I know it looks like a flower in my photo. Maybe it is. But I would like to say the bud of my sin-flower, or the progression of my bad fruit bearing, was the beginning of the actual obsession – my lust for things. Funny it was the last thing produced but the first thing I became aware of – and God had to work His way backwards from there. Lusting for things has not been a frequent routine for me as much as other things, so I am praying God keeps this from becoming a pattern in my life. While I believe He could nip this thing in the bud, I pray that He help me uproot every ugly destructive part of this weed so that I can only bear good fruit to His glory (John 15:8).

Perhaps the most beautiful thing in this messy experience for me was having lies revealed and holding my situation up to the light of the truth. As true as John 8:32 says, as soon as I was reminded of the truth and I allowed it to become a lens through which to view my desires, it was freeing. I was finally able to let my obsession go. Does this mean I wasn’t curious when an Ebay seller wrote me back or that I will never get a tablescape? Probably not. But it does mean I realized that when I do make any purchases or develop a desire things, it will not be a polite demand for things my way and in my timing. I want it to be in a healthy way and purchased with a pure heart and circumstances not manipulated by me. As you might imagine, I wrote my Mom (she and Bryan always get a laugh at my painstakingly humbling struggles) and shared this whole process with her concluding with “I do not want any decorations for my birthday anymore…but I do need a prayer journal since mine is filling up faster than expected.” 😀 Oh my life – tell me I am not the only one.

John 15:2, in light of the Greek translation broken down here, can be paraphrased as “…moreover for those in Him bearing fruit He will cleanse or purge of any undesirable elements so they can bear even more fruit of higher value”  Doesn’t that sound worth it?! I think if it could, even my basil plant would agree. 😉

Do you have a similar story? I would love to hear from you! Email me! :)