Maybe you’re feeling out of sorts like you don’t fit in, like a penguin on a hot sandy beach looking for cooler waters. Or maybe you feel like you’re the only one doing what you’re doing, and you wonder if the world is looking at you like you’re nuts.
You are not alone, my friend! Check out the rest of my blog post here.
Oh my. I’m sitting in my basement office in my pj’s and when I prayed and asked God for guidance for this post, those words came to me. I suppose God wants me to write about the elephant here in my room.
I’ve been struggling with a physical issue for a few weeks, and I haven’t been able to write a blog post because it felt draining to me. Just being honest. Writing a blog post like this, well, it’s been hard because I open up here in the hopes of helping someone out there.
Being honest about what we’re going through can be hard. Letting others see us without our game faces (or makeup!) can be so revealing, so cringe-worthy. We want to appear to be strong and sleek and on top of things. Not weak, pudgy, and falling asleep on the couch before it gets dark.
And yet when we’re not feeling our best or we’re battling something attacking our bodies, we are not able to perform at our best.
I remember when I used to run a long time ago when my knees would allow it. If I ate a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream the night before, my morning run suffered.
Now if I don’t exercise, I struggle with brain fog and my entire body suffers. (I suppose I’ve been in denial thinking I can eat the way I used to when I was in my twenties and NOT exercise and nothing is going to change. Hello, reality!)
So it seems, if we don’t take care of ourselves, our ministry, our service to God and others suffer.
Your ministry might be spending time with your child and showing them God’s love through nature walks, volunteering at a food pantry, working long hours to put food on the table for your family, encouraging a friend, visiting someone who can’t venture out, writing stories of faith and hope, singing of God’s glory..the list can go on and on.
So, taking care of ourselves would not be a selfish act, but a way to honor God and to love others. And to be ready.
That’s right. When God calls us to expand our ministry or begin a new one, we’ll be excited and full of overall tingling anticipation—not drained at the very thought of doing ONE MORE THING.
You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?
Today, I’m taking the plunge into better health so my ministry won’t suffer and I can be ready. I’ve been here before and wandered off to My Own Way Lane where chocolate chips, potato chips, and bowls of frosting abound. But God is drawing me back. (Thank You, Lord!)
So what does this involve for me? Eating better (cue my grumpy toddler face), exercising (face contorted in pain), and a doctor’s visit (using wisdom here).
What about you? Are you willing to take care of yourself so your ministry can flourish and you can be ready when God calls?
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
I think we’ve all been on the verge of tears before—that moment when you sense the tears are on their way, but they haven’t formed just yet.
But what about being on the verge of discouragement, when you sense that it’s close?
Let me explain what I’m learning:
I woke up feeling “off” today. My mind wandered to the things that upset me yesterday. And I started remembering the past and the times I’d been manipulated by others. Then some of the toxic relationships God has removed from my life came to mind. Throw in a lot of waiting, and BAM! I was on the verge of discouragement.
It’s like teetering. Which way will I go? Fall over into the muck of discouragement, or lean into God who is waiting to catch me?
The choice is mine. No one can make it for me.
I’ve fallen into discouragement before, and I can tell you it’s no fun. It can take days or even weeks to get “unstuck.” Thankfully, God picked me up and wiped the mud from my face every time.
But God doesn’t leave me (or you!) to deal with this teetering all on our own. His Holy Spirit nudges us to focus on Him. A friend may call to encourage us. We may “stumble” on a video about trusting God. We may even get a message from a co-worker about something good coming our way.
Here’s what I think: Satan roams through the earth, looking for someone to devour. One way he can devour is by filling our minds with consuming, discouraging thoughts, rendering us useless for God’s calling in our lives.
The enemy reminds us of our failures and past hurts, and he lies to us by telling us it’s going to happen again. So we build walls around our hearts to keep people out AND to stop ourselves from stepping out and making more mistakes.
These walls bring isolation. Now we’re dealing with discouragement and loneliness. It’s a double whammy.
Satan wants us to “roam” through our minds, SEARCHING for all the trash, so we’ll pick it up. When it’s right there in our hands, we’ll focus on it.
God, on the other hand, tells us in His Word to think about what’s lovely, pure, noble etc. (see Scripture below). He wants us to think about what’s praiseworthy. All of those things point to God! God wants our focus to be on Him and what He’s doing.
A cherished, intimate memory we have with God can keep us from falling into discouragement by keeping our minds fixed on Him.
So when we’re on the verge of discouragement and our minds are swaying, we have a choice to make:
We can either focus on Satan’s trash, all the littering in our minds, and call it a day. Later, crying ourselves to sleep.
We can cry out to God and say, “Yes, Lord. Pull me in closer to You! Help me to focus on You and all the good You’re doing in my life.”
Which will you choose, my friend?
No more teetering in the middle of this teeter-totter with one foot down and one foot up. I’m getting off of this thing.
I’m leaning into God, grabbing onto His hand, and giggling with anticipation for whatever He has in store for this day.
And I’m expecting JOY. Lots and lots of joy in His presence.
“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’”
Job 1:7 NIV.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5:8 NIV.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Philippians 4:8 NIV.
“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.”
God has a specific calling, a path for each of us to walk. But what happens when you step off of that path for just a minute?
Let me give you an example:
My path is writing, and I recently had an opportunity to write a short story for publication. So I prayed. (I’m FINALLY learning this is the first and most important step!) I had such wonderful peace and clarity. The words for the beginning of the story started even before I finished praying. I couldn’t wait to get to the keyboard.
And so I began typing, the story unfolding in crisp, detailed images. And I was enjoying the fellowship with the Holy Spirit as I was, once again, in awe of the delicate way He vividly paints pictures in my mind.
But then a tiny thought like a dandelion seed blew into my mind: I need to send a quick email.
Instead of staying on track and staying close to God in the moment, I stepped off the path just to send a quick email.
When I returned to the story, I tried to pick up where I left off. But text messages started coming in. Then someone stopped by. Then another visitor. The distractions became a whirlwind of dandelion seeds so thick I couldn’t focus on God’s voice or the painting He’d used the tips of my fingers to brush.
It all began when I let my mind wander. Just a quick email.
It was my own fault. If I would have stayed on track, I believe the story would have been finished before the first text came. God knew what my day was going to be like. (And I wouldn’t have been so grumpy with everyone the rest of the day!)
God narrows our path for His perfect reasons. We have divine moments of opportunity, blessings from Him. The timing becomes very specific. He knows the pitfalls to the left and the distractions to the right.
God wants us to keep moving forward with Him. He wants us to stay on track. Stay focused on the very touch of His hand in ours, the gentle guidance of His Holy Spirit, and our path of purpose. We don’t need to know the outcome. We just need to walk it.
Life is FULL of distractions, my friend. Don’t let your mind turn so quickly to see what all the noise is about. Don’t let the tickle of a dandelion seed pull you out of God’s presence.
Stay focused on God and the ever-narrowing path He’s leading you on. It only leads you closer to Him.
“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.” (Proverbs 4:25 NIV.)
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2a NIV.)
With things still spinning outside my window (pandemic, politics etc.), I’ve been calling out to God and asking Him what I should do.
I mean, really. We all have a part. We all have a purpose. (Are you asking Him what you should do?)
For me, it all goes back to the word He gave me for this year: Believe.
At first I thought the word was just for the Christmas story I wrote last month. But the more I travel into January, I know it’s for this year. (He gave me another word, but I believe that’s something He’s going to do and is already doing. But that’s for another post.)
But the believing, well, that’s up to you and me.
We believe God parted the Red Sea, and Jesus calmed the storm. We believe Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. We believe the countless times when Jesus showed up people were healed, changed, challenged, and redeemed.
Don’t let the storms, the cresting waves of this world threaten you, scare you, or send you running for cover, my friends.
Believe in God. Believe in His power and His promises. Believe in His faithfulness and His love. Believe that He never leaves you. Believe that He has good plans for your life. Believe that in all things He is working things out for the good of those who love Him. Believe that Jesus rose from the grave and is seated at the right hand of the Father right now, interceding for us. Believe the Holy Spirit is on planet Earth, inhabiting the spirits of the willing vessels who surrender and call out to Him, inviting Him to guide, counsel, comfort, and direct. We don’t have to wander around aimlessly and hopeless.
We don’t have to lower our heads as discouragement tries to weigh us down.
We lift our eyes to the hills, where our help comes from, and we praise our God because we KNOW He is faithful! He always has been and always will be. And nothing is impossible for Him or too hard for Him.
When we believe in God, we are turning our eyes (see, that’s our part) to focus on God instead of the noisy waves crashing all around.
Do you remember what happened when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus while he, Peter, was walking on water?
Peter began to sink. He cried out to Jesus, and immediately Jesus saved him.
Wherever you are today, my friends, don’t take your eyes off of Jesus. Stay focused on Him. And if you give into your flesh and you look away, don’t give into the sinking. Don’t give up. Call out to Jesus. Immediately, He will be there to lift you up.
Don’t doubt. Believe.
“‘But if you [Jesus] can do anything, take pity on us and help us. ‘If you can’? said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:22b-24 NIV.)
I remember standing in the cemetery at Grandpa’s funeral on a cold December day. The wind was bitter and my soul hurt beyond words. How could I possibly be joyful days later? My grandpa, the one who took me fishing, bike riding, and introduced me to church, was gone from my world.
Sometimes Christmas hurts. It seems like the whole world is celebrating while we feel completely removed. Alone.
There are times when relationships in our lives have been strained, even cease to exist, and we are reminded of it at Christmas when we reflect on the year that’s gone by.
Loneliness can strike harder than usual. It seems families and friends are gathering, and you’re alone in the corner while the whole world is celebrating.
It seems this way. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Christmas is personal. It’s between you and Jesus Christ. If you want to bring others into it, to love and share with them, that’s fine.
But my friend, don’t let the struggles of failed or strained relationships, the loss of someone you love, or even the looming darkness of loneliness steal the joy that is yours.
Joy is waiting for you because Jesus Christ is waiting for you to spend time with Him.
Remember when Jesus was visiting Martha and her sister Mary? (Luke 10:38-42.) Martha was distracted, worried, and upset about so many things that she failed to see her sister was fulfilling a greater need and desire of her heart.
Mary was spending time with Jesus. Sitting at His feet. Listening to Him.
It’s no wonder the enemy tries to distract and discourage so many during the Christmas season (sometimes with all the preparations just like Martha) as we reflect on Jesus. Satan will distract you with past hurts, current struggles, pain and loss. He will magnify it like holding a magnifying glass in the sunlight to destroy a bunch of ants.
Let God be magnified in your heart. Let Him swell and fill those hurting places. Give Him the room to stretch through every part of your life. And allow yourself the time to sit at the feet of your Savior. Allow moments of stillness and prayer to draw you closer to Him.
Perhaps you could step outside after your corner of the world has gone to sleep. Gaze upon the stars. Remember the mighty One who knows each one of those stars by name knows you. He knows everything about you. He knows why you’re struggling, who hurt you, who you’re missing. Remember, He sees every tear you cry.
There are painful times in all of our lives—we live in a fallen world. But don’t let them become the focus during this miraculous season.
Don’t give the enemy control of your focus. Don’t give him the magnifying glass so he can destroy this moment in your life.
Turn away from the enemy’s lies. Rebuke Satan out loud in the name of Jesus Christ. Use your voice and take authority over the enemy.
And let Jesus Christ be your focus.
Think about the light piercing the dark night when the angel appeared, when the heavenly multitude showed up praising God (Read Luke 2:8-20). Imagine how the earth must have trembled with joy at the appearance of the One who came to save. Can you feel the shaking in your own spirit? Can you imagine rushing as a shepherd, your heart pounding, your legs feeling numb as if you’re flying, to find the baby just like the angels proclaimed? What joy your heart would feel! To be a part of this. To be included in this moment in history.
You can have a moment like this right now. Reflect and think about it. Focus and pray and put yourself in the Scripture. Let that night encompass your heart in the miracle that is Jesus Christ. Let the light of that night break through the darkness of your suffering.
It is very personal.
Jesus left all of His majestic glory behind for you. He suffered greatly for you. He is coming back for you.
If you’re hurting and the burden is too heavy, sit with Jesus in prayer and give it to Him. Listen for the sweet voice of our Lord. Wait for the Comforter to bring you peace that makes no sense to your human reasoning but is exactly what your fragile heart needs.
He will be there for you. Cry out to Him. Whisper His name.
Jesus Christ. Savior. The One we celebrate at Christmas.
You can celebrate. Deeply. In your heart. With Jesus. Just the two of you.
What a special Christmas this can be for you.
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 NIV.)
God hasn’t forgotten you. In the middle of the storms raging in the world today, God still hears the quiet prayers of those calling out to Him. He still hears the tiniest of whispers calling out His name.
I believe He is listening for your voice. Today. Right now.
The enemy is going to try to magnify the darkness of the world, making it seem so large that you, your concerns, get swallowed up—like you’re whispering into hurricane winds and your voice is too weak, small. You can shout, but no one will hear.
Satan wants you to lose all hope. He wants you to give up. Stop praying. Stop trying. Just give in. It’s useless. The world is one big mess, and you’re just one person. You can’t do anything to fix your own problems let alone the massive struggles of the world. Besides, God isn’t really listening to you and your little voice.
Rubbish. All of it.
God hears His children. Always. He never sleeps, so on those nights you can’t sleep, He calls you to curl up next to Him in the living room. When you’re in a meeting or in the middle of a conversation and you are in desperate need of guidance, God hears the silent prayers of your heart.
And when you are on your knees, sobbing into the carpet or standing during a church service and the tears are reaching clear down your neck, God stands beside you.
He sees the walls you’re trying to build again. He knows why you built them before. He wants you to trust Him. Hand Him the bricks.
My dear friend, God is coming for you. He is going to rescue you. He is still the God of godly surprises and mighty rescues. Don’t think for even a minute that He doesn’t know how to reach you or how to get through to you. He created you. He knows you better than you know you.
He may come for you through the words of someone you haven’t seen in a long time—words that leave you standing in awe with more tears coming because you’ll see God has not forgotten you.
He may come for you through the mighty power of His Holy Spirit—speaking to you through your own mouth and the words He gives you. He may reach out to you from the pages of His Word—helping you to hear His voice clearer than before with eternal hope staring at you from words so profound and true they leave you trembling.
Or perhaps He will come for you, to love you and remind you He’s never going to leave you, through this very blog—so you will know His children are still out there in the world, in the storm, battling the darkness.
They are fighting for truth, for light, and for you. And more importantly:
God is fighting for you.
You are not alone. God is coming for you. Hold on.
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14 NIV.)
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay.’” (Hebrews 10:35-37 NIV.)
I’ve finally emerged from the “hole” I’ve been in. I’m not talking about the claustrophobia-inducing crawl space I recently descended into to kill mold where I had to belly crawl and turn my head around backward (it felt like it!) to paint over those menacing monsters that were invading our helpless floorboards.
I’m talking about the hole of distraction. Actually, distractions are more like a swamp with all the slow-me-down squishes underfoot.
I know I’m not alone, hanging out in the quagmire of distraction. We’ve certainly got a lot of things tugging on us for our attention: Covid-19, politics, masks vs. no masks, violence, shut-downs/cancellations, quarantining, fear, rioting, and wildfires. Just to name a few.
Throw in your own “stay-cation,” unusual family get-togethers (if any), summer DIY attempts, financial woes (lack of employment or decreased pay), and school worries (back in session or maybe it’s not or maybe it is but only online or partly online), and it’s enough to make your eyes jump around in your head wondering what to look at next.
It’s easy to get sidetracked or pulled in different directions with so much going on. It’s like you’re the only piece of candy left sitting in the street during the parade and a swarm of kids has spotted you.
But what about God? What happens to your relationship with Him when you’re so distracted by all that’s going on around you?
God speaks to you, to all of us, through His Word and His Holy Spirit. But when we’re distracted, we’re like a bunch of rubber-necking drivers so busy gawking out the window that we miss what He’s saying, and we wind up missing our turn.
We lose our way and before long, we run out of gas and start walking.
It doesn’t take long for this murky place to zap us of our strength, peace, and joy—no one laughs when they’re knee-deep in the muck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing. And there is no peace when you feel far away from God.
But one of the great things about God is that it’s never too late to call out to Him and ask Him to help you get back on track. You don’t even have to belly crawl to get there. 🙂 If you humble yourself and ask Him for help, He will lift you up.
And you don’t have to have all of the answers, logically mapping out how to get from here to there. You don’t have to be “perfect” either. You don’t even need to have hiking boots to get out of the swamp and back to your relationship with Him. God will give you exactly what you need, and He will meet you right where you are.
You simply need to pull your life back from the greedy, candy-sticky fingers of Distraction, and give God your focus.
And while you’re at it, give Him all of you and watch and see what He does.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV.)
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6:6a emphasis my own, NIV.)
“Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” (James 4:10 MSG.)
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6 NIV.)
“What am I supposed to do with my life? What is God calling me to do?”
I’ve heard others ask those questions, even asked them myself a zillion times or so. It all reminds me of picking blackberries.
Let me explain.
When I was a little girl, my brother and I would follow the trail behind our house and into the woods as we searched for blackberries. Not the green or red ones, of course, but the dark, fat ones.
Usually, I could stay on the path and pick enough to contribute to Mom’s cobbler. But sometimes I’d spot a ginormous berry in the middle of the blackberry bush, so I’d work my way through those pesky briars as they tugged at my clothing and scratched my skin.
When I’d finally reach for the prize, that one blackberry I knew would be worth the bloody scratches on my arms and legs, my slightest touch to a nearby branch would send the thing plummeting to the ground.
So without my top berry, I would maneuver my way out, carefully backing up as I tried to avoid more snags and cuts. After feeling defeated and a little beaten up, I’d realize there was a whole mess of blackberries on the outside of the bush hiding under the canopy of leaves. I’d missed them because I’d had my eyes fixed on that berry in the middle. The one that looked the best. The one that would be the most difficult to pick.
What looked the best and what I knew would be the hardest to reach seemed to be the one I needed. Or so I thought.
And isn’t that what we do sometimes when we’re searching for our purpose, God’s will for our lives?
We use our eyes or our logic and we dive into something we have no business diving into—all because we think it’s the real “prize.” It makes sense to us. We know it’s going to be a lot of hard work, but we rush right in there after it, believing it to be “God’s best” for our lives without stopping first to check with Him.
We get banged up, scratched up, left feeling defeated because when we finally reach “it,” the thing falls away and we’re left standing there looking at the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. We wonder if it’s too late to turn around and ask God to show us His plan. (Hint: As long as you’re still walking around on planet earth, it’s not too late.)
If we would just stay on the trail God has us on, He will show us. If we stay close to Him and keep talking to Him even when we don’t feel like it, even when the answers are SO slow in coming, even when we don’t feel Him, and even in the midst of a pandemic when things seem to be out of control, God will show up and teach us through His Holy Spirit what we’re supposed to do with our lives.
My friend, your life’s purpose may be closer than you think, easier to recognize than you realize, and simply not at all what others believe you should do with your life.
Go to God. He’s the One growing the berries, after all. And He’s the One who has the best recipe for your life.
“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” (Psalm 57:2. ESV.)
“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” (Proverbs 19:21 NLT.)
I’m a word girl. I know, big shocker there to discover a writer that likes words. What can I say? Words are the tools of my trade. Without them, I would be scribbling stick figures with awkward, uneven eyes and jagged lips doing all sorts of acrobatics to indicate their internal turmoil. It just wouldn’t make much sense.
Similarly, God’s Word is the tool of the Christian’s trade. That would explain how, when the world seems to be falling apart and is in total chaos, we can read God’s Word to find wisdom, understanding, direction, and peace when the world offers us none.
Instead of looking through our own eyes at what’s happening in the world today, we can look through eyes of faith and see things more clearly the way God intended through His Word:
“If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15 NIV, emphasis my own.)
The word that stood out to me was “devour.” I remembered reading that here:
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV, emphasis my own.)
Can you see how “devour” in both of these cases consumes in order to destroy?
There’s another word. Destroy.
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10a NLT, emphasis my own.)
So our enemy, the devil, is out to destroy us, wanting to devour us. That’s his purpose. Can people actually be used by the enemy to destroy each other? If they’re not filled with the Holy Spirit and staying alert to the enemy’s schemes, sadly, yes.
What does God’s Word say about how we should treat each other?
“This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:17 NIV.)
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8 NIV.)
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” (Romans 12:9-10 NLT.)
There’s a powerful word. Love.
“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT.)
So when we look through our eyes at a world that seems to be crumbling all around us, we have the opportunity to look through God’s Word and see. Really see. We can see through eyes of faith that the enemy is behind the killing, stealing, and destroying.
As we know, the thief comes to cause harm, but Jesus Christ has come to give us life to the full (John 10:10) and peace. True peace which the world can never give us.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV.)
We are not to be troubled or afraid, my friends. We are to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12 NIV.)
And when the world looks back and sees God’s children joyful in their hope as they seek their Father’s face, patiently awaiting His direction during times of disorder, and faithfully praying to God for each and every need and person the Holy Spirit guides them to pray for, then the world may very well get a glimpse of peace in the midst of chaos.
What a beautiful sight that would be for all eyes to see.