Waiting with Expectant Hope

Recently, my mom took several flights traveling throughout the south-east and mid-western United States. There were many delays due to weather, airport shutdowns, and various other factors. Needless to say, she experienced plenty of waiting and ample displays of humanity in distress. Waiting well is hard. Stress and fear have a way of crashing over us in the blink of an eye, especially if we aren’t paying attention and mindful. We lose our marbles! Guilty!

Waiting is part of life. I don’t know a single person who isn’t waiting for something. We’re waiting for our flight to take off, waiting for a phone call, healing, to finish school, retirement, or the next step – Whatever that looks like. Maybe we’re just waiting for lunch time! It can be tempting to look at waiting as a waste of time. Waiting can present time for anger and fear to grow in our minds, occasionally spilling out and on to others.

If waiting were viewed through the lens of God’s providence, our waiting goes much deeper. What if the practice of waiting became an opportunity for us to trust God more and grow in relationship with Him? Rather than grow impatience, we grew expectancy and trust?

Waiting well. Tony Evans talks a bit about waiting well in his book, Detours. (It’s an encouraging, easy read. And personally, very timely.) Take a look at his list on waiting well, and being patient with detours.

“With anticipation.

With hope.

With longing.

With expectation.

With desire.

With faith and obedience.

These things, and more, dissipate doubt. It dissolves despair.”[i]

I appreciate how Dr. Evans presents us with the fact that waiting well dissipates doubt and dissolves fear. Waiting with faith puts our focus on to eternal things, rather than the earthly and temporal things. That being said, our waiting is almost always with the earthly and the unknown. Though mysterious, God’s character is known and revealed through His Word – His goodness surpasses all. That is what we can put our hope, longing, desire, and expectations in.

“I wait for the LORD; I wait and put my hope in his word.

I wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning –

more than watchmen for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the LORD.

For there is faithful love with the LORD,

and with him is redemption in abundance.”

Psalm 130:5-7 (CSB)

As watchmen on the wall of a city, I can imagine that it would be easy to let our imagination run rampant during the wait for dawn. Those wee hours before daylight, darkness doesn’t seem to have an end. It’s always coldest just before dawn. We grow desperate for light. If you’ve ever waited in the wee hours of the morning after a long night with a sick child, you know the feeling. Desperation and exhaustion.

Will today be the day for __________ ?

Let’s be expectant for God to show up in the unexpected, and in unexpected ways.

What are you waiting for, with God? What promise are you faithfully standing on? Would you join me with hope and expectancy, trusting in His providence and sovereignty as we wait?

He is our God of faithful love, and with Him is redemption in abundance!

Love you so much, siblings in Christ.

With Gratitude,

Amy

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[i] Evans, Tony. (2017) Detours, The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny (pg. 169). Nashville, TN, B&H Publishing.

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Led Into the Wilderness

When we hear the word wilderness, I’m guessing that we are transported to one of two places. We go to a remote area and experience the beauty and majesty of creation with awed expressions, or we shrivel with thirst and loneliness in parched and deserted places.

Wilderness. Where do you go when you hear that word?

I’ve been in Exodus for my personal quiet time lately, so I’ve been seeing the second of our two options. The reality is that at some point in our life we will find ourselves in a wilderness-season of life where we feel lost and parched, perhaps even wrestling with the enemy, ourselves, or God. In the wilderness, we’re more vulnerable to attacks and the worry for lack of provision is always at hand.

As the Israelites were being led by God in the exodus from their slavery in Egypt, they were not taken by way of the road nearby, rather they were led into the wilderness. He led them around, taking the road pocked with detours. God knew the hearts of his people, how they would react and what they needed. The road nearby would have led the Israelites straight to the Philistines, and he knew the Israelites would have changed their minds and chosen to go back to bondage if faced with war. They weren’t ready.

What seems to be the right, easy, and more direct route is not always the best.

Rather, God led his people into the wilderness where they would learn to trust him for provisions and guidance. They would learn to be His people, and that He would never leave or forsake them. And in all of this, God would be glorified.

God is all about his glory and not in a selfish and narcissistic manor. It’s God’s glory being revealed in such a way that brings us, and others, into closer relationship with Him. It’s about giving God credit for who he is and what he is doing. When God leads us by way of the wilderness, it’s an opportunity for an upgrade into a deeper relationship with Him. Through this, we come into contact with His glory and reflect it back to Him.

I spent a few brief and glorious days in Chinle, AZ this fall. The landscape is one of wilderness, far removed and not on the main road. You have to be on-purpose in your travels. But in that dry and desolate, starving for Light, corner of our beautiful land – I see an opportunity for the glory of God to burn so brightly that it would be undeniably His. I am expectant!

No doubt we will have trials and tribulations in our life, we are guaranteed it. What if we came to a place on our quest with the Lord where we could rejoice when our travels take a jolting detour into the wilderness? Where we are expectant for God to show up in wondrous ways and give Him the glory. What if we came to a place of spiritual maturity that in our ‘wilderness’ season, we choose to experience the unique beauty and majesty with awed expressions?

Two questions for you : Would you be willing to join me in prayer for the Native American men and women of our nation? Pray for their salvation, restoration, healing, and wholeness.

Whether you are walking the wilderness road right now or not, where are you seeing the glory of God shine? How might you reflect that back so others can see His light?

I’m seeing Him shine through in glimpses of answered prayers, small bread crumbs on the trail. Therefore, I will stay the course; little by little as he is lighting the path. Praise Him!

I encourage you to read Exodus 13:17-14:4 sometimes this week as you give Him glory.

With gratitude,

Amy

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Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

 

Constant Companion

Do you ever feel completely alone and lost? Whether physically or mentally, feelings of being alone or away from God’s presence can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s easy to get stuck in that rut of thinking when our earthly plans, or even plans that we believe with 100% certainty that God is ordaining, go totally awry with a dramatic life detour.

Don’t you just love when God begins to speak something over you in not one but two places. Presently, I’ve been reading Genesis in during my quiet time, and for fun it’s been Tony Evan’s book, Detours. (It’s an easy and relevant read. Go for it.) The story of Joseph came up simultaneously over the past week, in both locations.

While in Genesis 39 the phrase, “The LORD was with Joseph” stuck out to me like a bruised thumb. In fact, it’s used three times in that particular chapter. This covenant making, covenant keeping LORD proclaims through scripture that he was continually with Joseph in times where most would feel lost and alone.

As Joseph was being sold as a slave to Potiphar, an officer to Pharaoh in Egypt, “The LORD was with Joseph”. (Genesis 39:2)

As Joseph was being accused, stripped of his responsibilities in Pharaoh’s house, and thrown into prison, “The LORD was with Joseph”. (Genesis 39:21)

As he served in prison, “The LORD was with Joseph”. (Genesis 39:23)

Throughout these detours into slavery and prison, Joseph’s respect and desire to serve God is revealed. Out of his fortitude and desire to not sin against God, Joseph stands for what he believes to be true – no matter the cost. I believe we see a maturity taking place as God provides opportunities for growth in his faith and character.

Joseph’s big mouth and haughty attitude got him into trouble in the first place (Gen. 37), but God never left his side. We are all a work in progress, and we serve a God of completion – even if it takes some drastic detours to get our attention. I have more questions than answers through these chapters in Genesis, but one thing is for sure. God does not leave His children.

Generations of our spiritual brothers and sisters are told countless times by the LORD that he would never leave them or forsake them, promise. I believe that promise is carried on to us too. Jesus tells the disciples in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always,” I believe that’s a promise we too can hold on to.

No matter where you find yourself in this present moment, God is with you. I believe that with every fiber of my being. Our Great I AM is always with us, and will never leave or forsake us.

Put your name in the space provided, it’s taken from Genesis 39:21.

But the LORD was with ___________ and extended kindness to him/her.

How might you be able to open your heart and mind to knowing you are not alone, but securely in the LORD’s presence? Could you be willing to patiently extend your hand with me in receiving His kindness today?

Comment below if you’d like, and I’ll be joining you in prayer over these things.

With Gratitude,

Amy

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Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

Trusting Promises

Living as if God’s promises are true, that takes some faith. It’s hard in a world full of promises that aren’t taken seriously or broken, and easy to become cynical. God’s Word is full of promises, some are specific to individuals while others are for a family line, there are even promises made to all of humanity for those who would call upon God’s name and believe.

When was the last time you took God at His word? Trusting what He says to be true, and acted on it?

Since starting our berry farm, we have experienced one summer of record drought and one with record heat and accompanying drought. Several times during those two summers, excitement filled my heart when we saw rain clouds. But nothing. After weeks, a hopeful heart turned to one of doubt. I knew it would rain at some point, I just didn’t believe it to be any time soon.

1 Kings 18 opens with the land of Samaria experiencing a deep drought and the prophet Elijah receiving a promise from God that there would be rain. A lot happens in the in forty-four verses of 1 Kings 18 between when God promises Elisha rain and a small cloud brings rain to parched land. Elisha trusted God and acted on his faith, knowing that God’s promise would come to fruition.

Abram lived a lifetime, some of which was in the same land God promised him. He lived as if God’s promise to him were just that, a promise.

Joshua was promised success and prosperity upon staying on track with God’s law and ways. And lived like it.

None of these men were without mistake in their trusting God and living according to those promises, they were in every way human. But they trusted and followed the one who made those promises.

We are called to faith, which requires trust; trusting when God says go, and when he says no. That trusting kind of faith requires action even if that action is seen or felt in no other place than our heart or mind.

We are promised His Holy Spirit. (John 14:15-17) Am I activating a relationship with His Holy Spirit and trusting that I have that connection?

We are promised wisdom, if asked in faith and without doubting. (James 1:5-6) Am I asking for wisdom and believing with open hands and without doubt, that I will receive it?

We are promised peace in response to seeking the Lord through prayer and petition with thanksgiving in our hearts. That peace is one which surpasses our understanding. (Philippians 4:6-7) When my heart is troubled and peace is nowhere to be found, am I seeking Yahweh-shalom, the Peace Giver?

God is a trust-worthy Father. We have a choice each and every day to choose to trust Him or not. Will today be in our strength, or according to His? With Elisha, a lot took place between the promise and the reality of that promise. Faith and trust go hand-in-hand, it takes faith to keep choosing to believe.

We have so many promises in scripture, but let us be sure to take them in context. As we faithfully trust Him, what promise can you choose to live by today?

With gratitude,

Amy

“Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness.” 2 Corinthians 3:12 (CSB)

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Photo by Skye Studios on Unsplash

Growth and Vulnerability

January and winter, I think it could be a gardener’s favorite and least favorite time of the year. The seed catalogs are eagerly awaited surprises in the mailbox, then drooled over with pen in hand as we dream of the coming season. Then, a longing for dirt under our finger nails grows to near desperate levels as we countdown the days and watch temperatures like a hawk. Spring seems to be so close, yet so far away as a longing for fresh growth increases.

My word for this year (2019) seems to be ‘growing’ – it’s fitting, given I was a plant science major in college. But this year it’s more than just growing plants, it’s growing a trusting faith and vulnerably surrendering to a process that I can’t always see. Growing children who are happy and maturing, growing a farm that started from a dream, growing relationships that are more valuable than gold. Growing a deep relationship with my Creator, rooted in love and trust. It’s embracing growth that happens little by little, in places often unseen.

As plants grow they are vulnerable to the elements, easily broken or bruised, and tender. I wonder how this might be reflective of our growth? Newness is always exciting, but it’s just that – new and tender. If a seedling is separated from its soil and transplanted into a larger container too soon, it becomes a set back. More fertilizer causes cells to grow too fast, resulting in weak branches. Too much water, and roots suffocate. Too much sunlight can burn tender leaves.

Good, quality growth takes time, patience, attention, and hopeful trust. The investment can be risky. What if I plant a seed or nurture a dream, and it fails to grow? What if I step way out of my comfort zone only to be met with nothing in return? Is growth worth being vulnerable? I believe it is. Without that risk, life is boring and flat – stagnant. When I think about growth, its full of life, wonder, and mystery.

God is a gardener. Within the first two chapters of God’s Word we’re told, “The LORD God planted a garden in Eden…” (Genesis 2:8) In John 15:1 Jesus tells us, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” In that same chapter of John 15, Jesus goes on to tell us that we are to bear fruit. We are called to growth and cultivation. We are called to love one another; that sounds pretty vulnerable to me. Yet in that space of tender growth, we are called to a place where we can trust the Gardener. Entrusting ourselves into His capable hands and process.

Last week on the blog it was all about growing in 2019, and asked the question about where God might be growing you this year. Today – What does being vulnerable to growth look like for you right now? What step can you take? It doesn’t have to be this huge life changing decision, just a small step. Marathons are completed one step (or stride) at a time.

This list of scriptures on growth from Propel Women may inspire you in this season.

With Gratitude,

Amy

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“So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” Colossians 2:6-7 (CSB)  {Photo Credit}  

Light On Your Path

Last week we talked about being Light Focused, asking for eyes to see and then walking in the light so that we can see. Today I wanted to share an insight I learned while participating in our final session of The Quest, Beth Moore’s latest study. (It’s great!) During that last teaching session Ms. Beth spoke about Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It’s one of those verses everyone seems to know and shake their heads in agreement when it’s mentioned. But what Ms. Beth said made me stop and think. She utilized the idea of holding a lamp in front of you, and that with a lamp you’re only able to see what is arms-length away. We don’t get the entire view of the path ahead, just what the lamp in your hand is able to illuminate.

According to this verse in Psalm 119 God’s word is a lamp, not a city illuminating stadium light. As someone who has made several trips around the sun, by now you’ve figured out that even though you may want to know what the path ahead looks like, it’s not likely to happen. We only get to see the path as we’re walking it. We get one lamp’s length at a time.

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We don’t know who penned Psalm 119, but I wonder what lamp they may have used.  My curious mind and a quick search came up with what archaeologists have discovered. Simple clay bowls with a pinched spout to support a wick, which was generally made with twisted flax.[i] They probably used olive oil, a common lamp fuel and precious resource. The psalmist’s lamp, and the light it cast, would have been dramatically different from our versions today.

Could you imagine carrying this lamp, having it’s dim light to guide your steps? This lamp had to be held intentionally, and so close that it’s warmth could be felt from the flame. I imagine the psalmists relationship with God and His Word to have been an intimate one, present and intentional.

God’s word illuminates each step, not the entire path like we may want. I love the CSB version of Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (emphasis mine) God’s word can be on the path with you, leading the way and showing where to place your foot next. We get just enough light to know where to step, and perhaps what we’re putting our foot on. It sets us up for relationship with the Father and His Word, and to be present with the Holy Spirit and others.

I’m curious, how do you use God’s word as a precious resource guiding the way? And, how does this idea effect your walk with the Lord and your relationship with His Word?

I’m so grateful for you.

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“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path” Psalm 119:105 CSB (Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash)

[i] R. Dennis Cole. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, pg. 1009; Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Courageous Faith

It occurred to me that I never announced the arrival of my “book baby”…over a month ago! September 1st to be exact. I guess thats what happens when you’re taking care of a new born.

The outpouring of love and support have been amazing. I’m so grateful and honored to have been on this journey with the Lord in writing Courageous Faith. The process continually stretched my thoughts and beliefs, yet with each challenging step I was met with God’s grace and loving kindness. Countless times I experienced His perfect timing and guidance.

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Get your copy here! And if you would be so kind to leave a review, I would be ever so grateful. XO – Amy

This study continues to challenge me. You may know the Bible story of the walls of Jericho tumbling down, but Joshua’s journey with the Israelites is so much deeper. Faith is an action word, and Joshua’s life is filled with deep faith and courageous obedience as he lived out the promises of God. Each step of this journey has allowed my faith to take root deep into my heart, resulting in a close walk with the Lord and claimed ground. I’m praying that result for all who participate in this study.

Courageous Faith is now available on Amazon. So – grab a girlfriend, your women’s Bible study group, or challenge yourself to dig in to God’s Word with Courageous Faith. May God be glorified in your deeper relationship with Him.

 

 

Let’s Bake Cookies!

We sat in a booth at Panera, catching up, sharing life and what our kids were up to. My sweet friend had been to an amazing workshop, both of us a women’s event. Conversation circled around what we had been learning and what God was up to in our lives. As we talked about the excitement of studying God’s Word, my friend made a statement in reference to her time with God being like, “Let’s bake cookies!” That statement struck me. It spoke to the anticipation and inclusion we have getting to help mom or dad in the kitchen. We’re given the opportunity to get in to the ingredients, see what they do, how they fit together, and discover how they taste and feel. She spoke about digging into God’s Word being an event to look forward to, “God, let’s bake cookies!” .

It’s not often I stop to watch videos on social media but recently one particular video caught my eye. (Watch it here) I was intrigued with this sweet two-year-old girl’s cooking show as she baked a cake with her momma. I watched this video in context of that conversation with my friend and her comment, “God, let’s bake cookies!”  Two things came to mind. One, her mother has the patience of a saint. Two, what a joy it must be for the Father, our Creator, to bake and create “cookies” (or cake) with His children.

The little baker’s sweet disposition was evident in her kind words and gestures as she dumped ingredients together. She was excited and took pride in her work. She wasn’t concerned with perfection but rather in being present, engaged and giving her all to the task at hand. This young lady wasn’t afraid to ask for help, or make a mess. Her attitude and heart were so precious.

It’s all in the journey, the experience, the relationship – not the product or end result. As a teacher, I get to ‘bake cookies with God’ and then share the batch, a Sunday school lesson, with my class. It’s never perfect, and much like my cooking, lessons rarely ‘taste’ the same. I’ve made some messes too.

One of the sweetest parts of this young bakers’ video came when she enjoyed it. She took a bite of that cake, piled with sprinkles, and truly marveled at the end result. It wasn’t perfect by some standards, but she thought it was. Some days we may not “bake cookies with God,” but rather sit and enjoy them. Soak in His goodness and revel in His complexities, savoring every bite of His word.

How do you approach your day with God? Your quiet time? Is it a box to be checked, something you have to do? Or is it based on relationship with God, something you get to do? Are you holding back in regards to what He may be asking of you for fear of making messes or coming short of perfection?

What would it be like to approach Him with a willing heart, faith like a child, and step into the “kitchen” each morning and expectantly request, “God, let’s bake cookies!” I have a feeling He would look at our floured faces, vanilla dripping forearms, globs of batter strewn about, and with a smile say, “It’s perfect.”

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Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

Rooted In Faith

There are several trees in our yard, some we planted and some inherited with the house. One particular tree was inherited  – a scraggly little oak. It was pitiful. The deer had used it as a buck rub for multiple seasons, several branches mangled and torn. It wouldn’t seem to grow, staying the same size for six or seven years. At one point, I seriously considered taking my little hand saw to it; put it out of its misery.

Then one year, it started to grow.

This little, scraggly oak tree has grown to become one of the nicest trees in our yard. It’s gotten rather large, and now holds a lovely shape. Gabe and I frequently stand in awe of its growth and maturity, in what seems like such a short period of time. Grateful that I never took that saw to its trunk, it serves as a reminder of possibility and the importance of a sure foundation.

For years, I didn’t see any growth; but it was there. Hidden deep in the earth, this awkward little oak had been growing what was necessary to sustain outward fruit and vegetation. The fruit is pretty great, and well worth the wait. We don’t get juicy peaches from its branches but acorns for critters, strong limbs for climbing kiddos, and cool shade for picnics. Now, this oak easily withstands heavy winds and rain because it is deeply rooted with a sure foundation.

For me, this tree has displayed what is necessary for each of us – to grow first in the secret. Our roots in faith are there to anchor and hold, creating that firm foundation so that we aren’t driven and tossed about by the wind. Those faith roots are vital for taking up the necessary nutrients for spiritual growth, maturity, and fruit production.

It is known that for most trees, what you can visually see in size and mass above ground is mimicked below ground in the root system. In our fast-paced and immediacy driven society, we often want to produce fruit immediately. That can easily be a desire of our flesh. The sweetest fruit often takes time, God’s time. God’s timing is not our own; His can happen in the blink of an eye or take decades in our human understanding. We desire that fruit of the Spirit, which is a good and noble desire. In that desire, we must first also desire and be willing to allow our roots to go deep in Christ, taking the necessary time.

It’s easy to accept Jesus in faith, and stop there. But I firmly believe our Creator is one of growth and expansion. We are not meant to sit stagnant and unchanged, like the homely oak tree in our backyard seemed to have done for so many years.

Take a look at Paul’s words in Colossians. “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” Colossians 2:6-7 (CSB)

Those deep roots are developed in the secret with Christ through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. It’s imperative that we not settle for stagnant. Even when I don’t feel closeness and growth with the Lord, I can know He is near and always active. And that knowing only comes from spending time in the secret with my Creator, in His Word. It’s where we grow our roots down deep in the truth of Jesus. For that, I am grateful.

How are you continuing to be rooted and built up in the faith of Christ Jesus? Fruit will come – that’s a promise.

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“So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” Colossians 2:6-7 (CSB)

 

 

 

 

Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition is not just a position. In fact, it’s like having multiple positions all at one time but in their polarity, everything fits together.

Merriam-Webster defines juxtaposition asthe act or an instance of placing two or more things side by side often to compare or contrast or to create an interesting effect[i]

During my Jesus time one morning, I read Acts 9:31 where two opposite emotions of comfort and fear were held together – creating the effect of growth in the church. “And walking in the fear of the Lord and comfort of the Holy Spirit, it (the church) multiplied.” (Acts 9:31b, ESV, emphasis mine)

Fear of the Lord and comfort from the Holy Spirit, two emotions held together, allowed the church to grow and multiply. The contrast between the two is quite possibly where stretching and growth occur, and probably not without a bit of discomfort. I’m certain the early churches’ fear of the Lord was a healthy fear, established from experiencing God’s overwhelming authority in love.

Just like that early church, we can hold a healthy fear in the Lord and comfort from the Holy Spirit in the same open hand. In that juxtaposed and safe space, our faith can experience a healthy growth in the Lord. Our Creator is about growth and expansion; we are a reflection of Him, thus meant for growth and expansion. Based on Matthew 17:14-21 with Jesus’ words of “faith like a grain of mustard seed” – I’m convinced that faith is meant to grow!

I’ve often found my faith grows most when I’m stretched between the comfort of standing on the promises and steadfast character of God, and stepping out into the unknown. How about you?

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“And walking in the fear of the Lord and comfort of the Holy Spirit, it (the church) multiplied.” (Acts 9:31b, ESV, emphasis mine)  Photo by Luis Tosta on Unsplash

[i] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/juxtaposition