CHAPTERS

C H A P T E R S
We so often describe different times in our lives as chapters or seasons. Sometimes we can’t see the beginning and ends of chapters clearly until we look back. However, this trip right here, has been a marker I’ve been looking towards that is acting as a page break into the next chapter of our lives.

When we left for this trip, Joy and I still lived in Waco. As we leave this trip, we’re heading back to move out of our house in Waco and head on to Tulsa!

Endings and beginnings of new chapters in our lives are full of jumbled emotions, and I am not a pro at handling it. BUT, I am so thankful to head into each and every chapter with these people.

I keep remembering that God’s plans are much better than mine, and just because they may look a little different that doesn’t mean they aren’t EXACTLY what God has always intended. We’ve got to trust Him in every single chapter of our lives, simply because HE IS TRUSTWORTHY.

Grateful to be walking out of one chapter and into another after this refreshing and memorable vacay with my favorite people in the world. ❤️

When It’s Pruning Season…Not Blooming Season

When It’s Pruning Season…Not Blooming Season

As I scrolled through my insta-stories this evening I came across an inspirational post that said: “Bloom where you’re planted.” 

If I had seen this post a few weeks ago, I would have said, “Amen! Ditto that! So true!” That’s what people say when they’re in a season of “blooming.” But, this week I find myself annoyed by this post. I understand the sentiment, and like I said at many other times in my life I would say, “That’s right! Bloom, girl, bloom.” But, it’s hard to get behind a phrase like that when you really feel like you’re being pruned, and the thought of blooming doesn’t even seem possible right now. Anyone else out there know what I’m talking about?

We’re in the midst of a lot of life changes right now, and although I know they’re good, and they’re in God’s will, and they’re a part of His plan, and all those things…I also know that this new season of life change will be full of challenges. I know this season will be full of times of loneliness. I know this season will be full of weariness. I’m not saying these things to be a “Debbie Downer”…I’m just preparing for reality. And, because I know that this is the reality of change, I understand that I am about to endure a time of pruning.

I’m dreading it a little bit, not because I’ve never been pruned, but because I have endured seasons of pruning, and they’re just not fun. They’re exhausting. They’re difficult. But, they are also very rich seasons full of dependance on God, lots of learning, and lots of trusting.

Lots of “rooting” takes place in my faith during these seasons of pruning, but I would much rather be “blooming.”

This past February, I spoke at a women’s retreat on the topic: “How to Live as Women of Joy” — when I was given this theme, I decided to make a huge part of my message on trials because I know that’s the most difficult place to find true joy, but it’s also the place where we desperately need the joy of the Lord. As I prepared these messages on joy, I found myself in John 15…

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more fruit…Abide in me, and I will abide in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me.” (John 15:2,4)

I explained to the ladies that the only way our joy can be made complete, the only way we can live truly fruitful lives is to abide in Christ…even (no, especially) in the midst of “pruning” (those times of trial, testing, and difficulties).

I brought a visual for them to see as I explained this truth. Before the retreat, I called a local vineyard to ask them if I could borrow one of their grapevines to illustrate staying connected to the vine, Jesus. The owner of the vineyard was happy to let me borrow one of her potted grapevines, but she explained that this vine was in dormant season. She said that it looked like it was dead and rotting, but it was only dormant and would bloom in the spring. I was a little bummed, but as I began thinking about this dormant grapevine plant, I realized that this is the way many of us feel. Even when we, as the branches, are connected to the vine, we can feel fruitless at times. We can feel like we’re outside of the “blooming” season, and we’re stuck in this dormant, “pruning” season. But, I learned something very meaningful, that has become even more meaningful to me today, as I learned more about this dormant season for the grapevine…

It is in the midst of this dormant season that the roots of the vine become more established, so that the branches will produce even more luscious, vibrant fruit in the future. 

Are you like me right now? Are you in the midst of a pruning season? Does it feel fairly dormant? Let me share three truths I’m holding onto during this time of pruning:

  1. Your roots are being established in strength, resilience, and endurance during this time of pruning.
  2. This time of pruning is only temporary, and the fruitfulness you’ll experience in the future is well worth the wait. You will not always be in this season.
  3. Staying closely connected to Jesus during this time of pruning, even when you don’t feel like it, will sustain you in the midst of this “dormant” season. 

Hold on to Jesus, because His promise is true:

“You have been pruned for greater fruitfulness…” (John 15:3)

And maybe instead of the phrase “Bloom where you’re planted,” we can proclaim:

“Being pruned where I’m planted!”

 

Can God Be Trusted? The Problem of Suffering, Evil, and Pain

Can God Be Trusted?

If God is all-powerful, all-good, and all-loving, then why is there so much pain, suffering, and evil?

 

“Our Victor”

Tonight was our last night of From Empty to Full – we talked about the victory we have through Christ!

Are you feeling weak? Are you feeling at your end? Turn to the Lord for your strength and for your victory.

Thanks in All Circumstances

Naturally, as Thanksgiving approaches, we begin to think more intentionally about the things that we are thankful for in life. It is a very healthy exercise to ponder over the things in life that we are to thank God for – Scripture actually says that thankfulness is God’s will for our lives.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

When we live with a constant heart of thankfulness our entire attitude and perspective will change. Although, life may be difficult at times, we know that our hope is found in our unshakable, good, and loving God – the God who has given us salvation and true life – the One who deserves all of our thankfulness and praise.

Ephesians 5:20 tells us to “give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Because of Jesus Christ, we can clothe everything, even the difficult things in life with hearts of thankfulness. We can have true, genuine thankfulness for everything because we know that it all can be used to build our faith and draw us nearer to our Loving Father. We know that the Orchestrator of our lives has His hand on everything that we’re experiencing.

Let’s give thanks to the Lord in all circumstances, for everything, remembering that our hope, our joy, our faith are grounded and found in Christ Jesus our Lord, whose love is from everlasting to everlasting.

A Challenge to Trust, Delight, and Commit

Today, I turned to Psalm 37 and was completely blessed by the outpouring of God’s Word. I feel as if He was speaking directly to me. Isn’t it neat when the Lord speaks to us in new and refreshing ways? We might be reading a verse we’ve read many times before, but He often gives new light to His Living Word. I am so thankful for that!

Let me share some of the verses that spoke to me personally today, and I pray that they might speak personally and powerfully to you, as well.

Psalm 37:3-5 “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.”

Psalm 37:23-24 “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”

Psalm 37:34,39-40 “Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act! Travel steadily along His path. He will honor you, giving you the land. You will see the wicked destroyed…The Lord saves the godly; He is their fortress in times of trouble. The Lord helps them rescuing them from the wicked. He saves them, and they find shelter in Him.”

Lord, thank you for your Word. Thank you for the Truth that we can cling to for life.

I want to point out parts of these verses that spoke particularly to me. Again and again, the Word reminds us to “Trust Him.” I don’t know about you, but truly trusting Him and surrendering everything in my life to Him is a struggle for me. I have to be honest – it is a daily decision for me to trust and surrender to Him. I know when I do surrender and trust in Him, I will reap the benefits and the blessings that come from living a life for Him, but I just have to make the daily choice to trust and surrender to His leading.

Additionally, the verses challenge us to “delight” in the Lord and to “commit” ourselves to Him. To “delight” means to experience great pleasure and joy in the presence of someone. If we are to delight in the Lord, we must spend time in His presence by dwelling in His Word and by dwelling in prayer. When we truly delight in the Lord, often times our “heart’s desires” are realigned to His desires. Are you truly delighting in Him? It’s a challenge to me, as well!

To “commit” means to entrust everything to His control and guidance. As I already mentioned, this is sometimes difficult for me. I’m not sure why – I just like being in control, I guess! Surely I’m not alone! J When we do these things, we can have confidence that He will sustain and help us.

I love the picture given in verses 23 and 24 – the Lord directs every single step of the godly person, and He delights in every detail of their lives. I pray that I will live a godly life that the Lord delights in. I am so thankful that I can trust Him to guide and direct every detail of my life. That’s a reminder I needed today! And, how precious is the picture that “the Lord holds [us] by the hand.” The Lord will not let us fall. Hallelujah!

And those last verses are such a powerful reminder to us of the great benefits of trusting in Him because He “saves” us, He “helps” us, He “rescues” us, and He is our “fortress” and our “shelter.” Praise Him, praise Him! May we “travel steadily along Him path” as we trust Him with our lives!

In Need of Perfect Peace

I began writing a different devotional, and then I felt the Lord telling me to erase all of it and start over. He placed the topic of peace on my heart. I’m not sure why, but I can’t help but think that many of you are in need of the peace that only God can bring.

The Lord brought me to the following passage – recently I have gone to this passage continually as I ask God for His perfect peace in the midst of the trials of this imperfect world:

Isaiah 26:3-4 “You will keep in perfect peace Him whose mind is steadfast, because He trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.”

Who will the Lord keep in perfect peace? Him whose mind is steadfast. Steadfast means “unwavering in purpose and firmly fixed.” Is your mind steadfast? Is your mind firmly fixed on God and on His purpose for your life? He has chosen us as His children to bring glory to Himself and to use us as instruments for His eternal purpose.

I challenge you to keep your mind fixed steadfastly on the Truth of His Word, and He will keep you in perfect peace.

Do you trust fully in the Lord? Or, are you trusting in the things of this world? Throw aside the things of this world; fix your mind on Jesus; and trust in Him fully. His Holy and Living Word promises that His perfect peace will engulf you fully.

Why should we trust in the Lord? Why should we rely on Him? Is He worthy of that kind of full commitment and trust? Without a doubt! Why? “For the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.”

I’m confident in placing my trust in the Lord, because He is my Rock – He will never fail, He will never end. He is unchanging, unwavering, and unmovable. He is the only one who is able. Able to keep us in perfect peace. Able to rescue us from the darkness of this world. Yes, HE IS ABLE, MORE THAN ABLE.