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Encountering The King In The Courtyard

The last week I have been sweetly reminded how God often uses His people to manifest his presence. Three times, to be exact, I have been swaddled by His embrace through encounters or conversations with a friend. Sometimes these unexpected blessings play out in a way that it is undeniable whose pen strokes scripted the story.

I am resharing this for anyone struggling today. Whether it be fear, physical or emotional pain, anxiety, depression or anything else that renders you feeling alone, this is for you. Sometimes God sends His children, and sometimes His creatures to articulate and authenticate His affections.

May you feel the security of the shady shelter of His wing today! You are loved.

Does your faith need a cool drink of refreshing water?  Read along.

I see our Lord everywhere; in people, in children, in my dog, (yes, my dog), and especially in nature.  Some people raise their eyebrows at this concept, but when Jesus Christ saturates your life you cannot help but view life shaded in a reflection of Him.

I will never forget last Thursday when one of my more memorable encounters with My King happened in a courtyard at Covenant Counseling Center.  I had finished a session with my counselor, but earlier in our time together I was describing a story a friend told me about when she was a little girl.  She explained that her daddy would kneel every night and pray before she and her sister went to bed.  The two sisters would fight to be the one who got to get under him as he was kneeling in prayer.  The story was so precious and touched me so much that the imagery I formulated will forever be imprinted in my mind and on my heart.  It was a story that reminded me of a verse that is very special to me. Psalm 91:4 ~ He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings.  His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

I was telling my counselor how this verse has been layered over me time and again the last couple years.  Little did I know that just a short time later, that very verse would come to life right before my eyes.

I finished my session and walked out to a crisp, sunny, beautiful day.  I had an urge to be outside, so I drove home, got my reading materials and came back to the same location to sit in the peaceful and inviting small courtyard in front of the building.  One thing I love about that courtyard is it appears like an umbrella of trees, so it feels secluded and safe. While I was sitting on the bench, I was praying and again reflecting on many verses in addition to Psalm 91:4.

I was there about an hour when my peace was interrupted by an onslaught of noise in one of the trees just to my left.  A majestic, red tail hawk landed on a sturdy branch, and he had an army of crows, after him.  Crows are loud, and they are relentless predators.

I suddenly froze and was unable to think or react quickly because I could not believe what was evolving.  In that quiet place Psalm 91:4 was beautifully played out in the nature that surrounded me.  I was in awe of my faithful and loving Father, who goes to creative lengths to express His presence and love.  Let me explain.

After studying the battalion of crows charging at the hawk for several minutes, I noticed the hawk was using his wings as a deflector and shield of protection.  I eventually maneuvered myself into a location that I could see the hawk was protecting something under his wing.  Time and time again crow after crow would dive at the hawk, and the hawk would bat his wing to deflect the attack.  I watched this go on for over 15 minutes. The hawk was protecting a baby and was doing so with such commanding diligence, strength, and care.  The crows were not giving up easily, but neither was the hawk.  He was resolute.  Despite the continuous assaults, the hawk shielded that vulnerable baby.

The other thing that impacted me was the stability of the hawk; as he was hit over and over again using his wing for defense.  Some of the attacks were aggressive enough that he would bobble or slightly lose his balance.  Every single time, however, he would regain his footing, readjust and return to an anchored stance on the branch.  He never moved from the same spot the entire time even though he would stumble at times.  He never flew away in an attempt to flea from fear.  He never gave up, and he was the lone one standing in the end!

When we are under the shelter of our Lord Jesus, we are a lot like that hawk. Attacks come, fear assaults us and enemies persecute us.  We may lose our balance; we may have to readjust, and we may be shaken, but we are never shattered because our anchor is under the wings of a King, who is our armor and protection.  He will not be moved.  When our foundation is solid in Him, we may falter, and need adjustments at times, but we can withstand life’s storms still returning to a stable stance.

I was also reminded of Revelation 5:6 that day. ~ Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders.

Jesus suffered throughout his life.  Many attacks were forged against him and He was eventually crucified.  Sometimes life can leave us feeling battered, bruised, betrayed and cut up as if we, too have been slain.  The key to the verse in Revelation is the Lamb, though he looked as if he had been slaughtered, He was still standing.

Life is hard, but when His feathers are our garments and His wings our refuge, there will be times we are disturbed, but never defeated because the Promiser keeper says He is our sure foundation.

 

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Louies, Leggings, Leopard Prints and Lamenting Stints

Lamenting has been the tone of my heart in lately.  I do not know if I recall a time when I have felt enslaved to such oppressive spiritual warfare.  I have been stepping on dark, enemy lines lately with a project I am working on and the closer I get to completition, the more aggressive the attacks become.  I have been crying out to The Lord for relief, but He has appeared silent in the midst of my struggle. I do know this about my Father, though; His seeming silence does not equal stagnation.

I woke up today with that familiar tightness in my chest that has been my frequent companion in recent days.  Anxiety is like a skilled, thief, masterful at surprise attacks.  I never know when he will show up, and he renders me largely powerless to his presence except for the provision of prayer.

Getting ready for Sunday School and Church felt laborious because I was tired before I started. That slightly strangled feeling that is indigenous to anxiety was an unwelcome reminder of the storm swirling in my soul.

On days that I am out of sync, my motto is, if you don’t feel well, at least dress well; so I put on some of my favorite things and headed out the door masking on the outside the incongruence dwelling inside. I long for my inward appearance to parallel my outward one, but some days it is not plausible.

We are studying the Psalms in Sunday School right now. This morning as I listened to the lesson, slightly frazzled because we were late, I was reminded how the Psalms reflect my life. I am a mixture of grief and gratitude, flawed and favored, stitched together by an ever-welcoming Savior.

We all endure seasons of strife, friends. Louis’, leggings, leopard prints, (some of my favorite things), and lamenting stints go hand and hand this side of Heaven.☺️ My desire to be congruent is so real, but rarely realistic, and that is entirely ok.

Thank you, Jesus, for the precedent of your word that reminds me that I am not an anomaly, and neither are you, friend!

You are loved!♥️

Outfit details:

Cardigan:  joseph-a-leopard-print-double-knit-cardigan

Leggings:  3828364

Boots:  4615297

Bag:  www.louisvuitton.com

 

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The Good News

You may have a prodigal child, be in the middle of a messy divorce, enduring anxiety or suffering from a deep depression because life is just not going as planned.  The good news is, it is still possible to hear your Father say; job well done daughter/son.  He loves you that much!

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Tomorrow is Only a Possibility, Not a Promise

imagesFriend, you have only been given enough for right now.  Every moment you are being given just enough to get you to the next step.  Looking from today towards tomorrow will only offer you anxiety and worry.

This second, tomorrow is only a possibility, not a promise.

Stay focused on your now, not your later.  Life is supposed to be lived in the present tense, but that is so hard for our minds that are prone to work so feverishly in the future.    Looking back while trying to walk will likely cause us to stumble while looking forward leads our life to stall.

Don’t lose the fascinating presents of today worrying about the fallible probabilities of tomorrow.  Embrace the treasures of today.  No matter how much we try and figure tomorrow out, it is in the capable hands of our Creator not in the clingy hands of our control.

You are loved.

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Good news

There are many things that I do, feel or say that shock me when I honestly look at my heart.  Self-examination would be defeating, were it not for the good news of the Gospel.  The Bible discusses every one of my flaws as a struggle for someone within its chapters.  I am so thankful those things are there!  Without God’s word I would either have to live a shallow life of pretend and denial; or under so much condemnation that anxiety, fear, shame and depression would likely be my best friends.  The gospel is good news!

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You Were God’s Idea

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Are you feeling condemned?  Maybe your awareness of you inadequacies has you keeping company with shame, anxiety, and depression.  Some days you are on the mountaintop and the next in the valley.  That is what our expectations do to us, friends.

Expectations are the executioners of embattled hearts.

They will always spotlight our shortcomings.  I have been a prisoner of that camp far too many times.  My heart is prone to forget what my head knows.  Romans 8:1 ~, therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  

I am at a place that I know it is my brokenness, not my goodness that is my badge of honor and that has made all the difference.

However, do I forget this at times?  Yes!  Do I have to remember this and reapply it when The Lord is excavating yet another lump of coal out of my heart?  Absolutely!  C.S. Lewis captured a brilliant truth when he said, “people need reminding a lot more than they need instructing.”  I am forgetful, especially when it comes to myself.  

Grace isn’t just for the shiny people who occasionally make mistakes because the truth is, inside there are no shiny people.  Grace is for me, and it is for you; the sinful and struggling but always seeking.  

God recently reminded me that my self-condemnation is an insult to Him.  It is equal to me saying to Him; You got it wrong.  You made a mistake.  Let us not be deceived; The Lord makes no mistakes, and He works with imperfect, not impeccable people.  May your heart find a glimpse of freedom here this Friday, friend.  You were God’s idea; He makes no errors, and He says you are enough!

 

 

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Who or What Are You Trusting

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Right now it seems all the world has to offer is unrest, uncertainty, division, fear and anger, but God gives us His word.  It is the balm and the pacifier for all things.  Last night I was reading in the Psalms before I went to bed.  Psalm 112:7-8 says, they do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.  They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.  As I meditated on that, I immediately felt lighter.  I cannot just read God’s word.  That does me no good.  I must believe His word.  Perception without practice is unbelief that only leads us down dirt roads disillusioned by fear.  The degree to which we trust the Lord at His word is directly proportional to our level of peace. We are all trusting in something.  When I find myself anxious, afraid or mingling with any of their cohorts, I know I am trusting in something or someone other than my Savior.  May you find freedom and rest in the Word, not the world today, friends.

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Give Us This Day

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…and give us THIS DAY our daily bread… Most of us learned the Lord’s Prayer as children.  But like many things I learned as a child, it was something I memorized and did not necessarily internalize.  The words were in my head, but the meaning was not in my heart.

It became apparent to me the last half decade of my life that I cannot be looking for “tomorrow’s bread” to sustain me today.

When I am searching for provision past the present, I am likely keeping company with anxiety, fear, and worry who are all known to avert me from the presence of today to the planning of tomorrow.

Tomorrow was never promised, so it is frivolous for me to waste my day, my energy or my mood trying to manage tomorrow.

This all sounds wise, but it is not always straightforward.  The Apostle Paul said he LEARNED to be content in all circumstances.  (Philippians 4:11). For me, learning is a life-long process of remembering, forgetting and remembering again.

 Every day I have to recommit to staying in the details of today and not staring at the destination of tomorrow.

Present living is challenging when I have concerning things on the horizon, but to be honest, I have learned anytime I am out of today and into tomorrow it is about me trying to control, and not letting God command.  Control is such a false imposture.  I was not in control yesterday, or today and if today should materialize into tomorrow I will still not be in control.  Fixing my eyes on tomorrow only holds me, hostage, today and robs me of the freedom found in the here and now.  May we all find rest today, and let God take care of everything beyond that should it be granted.

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A Gentle and Quiet Heart

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When I am neglectful of my quiet time, the first place it shows up is in my negligence with others.  Luke 6:26~Her mouth speaks from that which fills her heart.  It is so important for me to evaluate the contents of my heart daily.  When I fail to do this, I am susceptible to an unsettled and unkind heart.  Just a few things that prevent a gentle and quiet heart for me are fear, anxiety, worry, control (which are all unbelief), anger, unforgiveness, unconfessed sin, fatigue, and lastly a need for people to understand me.  These are all explanations but must never be excuses.

Father, my heart is susceptible to clutter. When I fail to recognize it and bring it all to you; I inexcusably give it to others. Actualize in me a keen awareness of what is taking refuge in my heart so I may rest in your strength to transform the unholy into holy. Remind me that many of these things that unsettle my heart are about me elevating myself and excluding you. It is so easy in my the makings of my days to forget to call on you as my director instead of my default. May your name be the song of my lips so that I readily enact you in times of praise and pandemonium. Thank you for loving me in all my messiness. Amen.

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Less of Me, More of You, Lord

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What am I going to do?  How am I going to handle this?  Several times over the last two weeks I have caught myself asking these questions.  I didn’t realize there is a niche of narcissism hidden in my heart until exposed by my thought pattern.

Every time my mind defaulted to one of those questions, I received a question back.  Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness!  The responses to my questions were a unified theme-ME.  “What are YOU going to do?”  “How are YOU going to handle this?”

Do you see my problem here?  I was exalting myself and excluding God.  

Also, in those moments of fear, my first line of defense was panic instead of prayer.  When I am under pressure, I easily forget the Source of my security. Control, micromanagement, and self-reliance are such insidious impostures that lead me down a path planned by my flesh instead of a passage paved by my Father.

I am grateful for the reminder that it was time for a self-demotion in exchange for a Savior promotion.  

Life is so much lighter when I settle into my designed role as a child of a Father, who knows and controls all things.  My planning hands rarely prosper, and life becomes futile; it is when I leave room for God to mold my purpose that living becomes fruitful.

Father, remind all your children who need to remember when we are prone to fighting for ourselves that Jesus’ victory belongs to us.  In all the ways, we deceive ourselves into believing we are in control, whisper that peaceful word that is too elusive in our hearts and minds-rest.  May we lay down all our plans, schemes and weapons intended to forge our plans for life and remember that You have already written our entire story with Your Sovereign Hands.  Father, I confess, I get overwhelmed by demanding days; tempting me to maximize myself and minimize you.  When I do this, chaos becomes my company, fear becomes my friend and anxiety becomes my advisor.  Quickly convict my heart and direct me back to Your promises, the only resivor of rest for riddled ragamuffins like me.  Amen.