Adversity

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.”

Ecclesiastes 7:14

Adversity: a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune.

As a Christian, adversity is a pretty familiar word to me. Life is hard and has many curves, and at times it’s so easy to just give up or give in.

That’s the point where you learn to take a stand and face adversity straight up. In order to do this, here are some things to help:

1. Maintain a good attitude:

When trouble arises, it’s so easy to give in. It can take over our physical, emotional, and spiritual strength. Rely on God and resist the temptation to give into trials so that you can overcome all obstacles. This will give the best positive outcome.

2. Trust God:

Often when we face adversity, our self esteem can take a major hit. Remember that with God ALL things are possible, and nothing you face is greater than him. Adversity is an experience – not your identity. Don’t let it define you.

3. Rely on your support system:

Everyone gets down at times, but that’s where your support system comes in to cheer you on! Never be afraid to ask for help or prayer. You can’t always rely on your own strength, but good thing we have an Almighty God that can carry all of our weight.

4. Don’t criticize yourself:

You aren’t perfect!! Don’t allow mistakes to set you back. Learn from them and push forward.

5. Don’t neglect self care:

Your spiritual, mental, and physical health are very important. Stay focused on God and spend quality time with him, for your strength comes from him and not your own doing.

Today, I challenge you to face whatever adversity comes your way. Rely on God and trust him to help you get through whatever it is. Remember, and never forget, that you’re loved, and God is never far.

Without ceasing

Do you ever feel like there is never enough time in the day? 

Most days, I start the day with my to-do list and end with too many unchecked boxes thinking, “Hopefully I will have time tomorrow to get it all done”.  

Life gets so busy that when I stumble upon verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing”, I feel the pressure of it instead of seeing the freedom in it.

At first glance, I wonder…How in the world am I supposed to fit continual, constant, unceasing prayer into my already packed schedule? It seems like such an unattainable goal! I begin to feel like my prayer life is not what it should be, but then the Holy Spirit within me does what He does best….reminds me of the truth. 

God doesn’t call us to stop living our lives so that we can give all our time to prayer. He calls us to pray in the midst of our busy schedules. 

We should not view prayer as just another item on our to-do list. Instead, we should seek to live in a way that we are constantly connected with God as we stumble our way through our daily routines and busy schedules. In the midst of our busyness God wants us to pause and during that pause we can…

• Praise Him

• Thank Him

• Worship

• Cry out to Him

• Just talk to Him

“pray without ceasing” is God’s way of calling us into connecting with Him each and every day.

This quote was in a bible study I have been doing this week:

“The only person who dares wake up a king at 3am for a glass of water is a child. We have that kind of access.” -Tim Keller

We have access to our King, 24 hours a day. Seek him continually. He wants to hear from His kids.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It is well

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

There’s this weird dichotomy in my life right now. My kids are grown-ish, 28, 24, and 20. So they need me less, but my mom and dad, who are 86-87, need me more. We are empty-nesters, technically, but my parents live on the same property as us by choice so that we can help them as needed. They say when you’re raising kids that the days are long but the years are short, and while that is definitely true, it’s also true when you’re helping “raise” your parents in their elderly years.

I often say that my particular set of old people are like toddlers with money and driver’s licenses. Y’all, I feel this in my bones! They are fiercely independent, yet many times physically unable to complete the chosen task. Their reasoning skills and reflexes are slowing. Is it scary? Oh my gosh, yes. It’s scary and humbling to watch your parents grow old before your very eyes. My world-traveler parents now have many, many days where they don’t leave their house. Church, which was always a constant, now becomes more vital than ever as it serves not only for worship and spiritual connection but also for some much-needed socialization (that after-church lunch with friends is the highlight of the week!). You can see the changes coming, you see them fighting those changes with all their might, but to no avail. Their world is shrinking and that’s a hard pill to swallow for all involved.

And then there are my kiddos. Y’all, watching your kids grow up to be who they are meant to be is the MOST REWARDING thing I’ve ever experienced. They’ve found their “people” – the ones they lean on, who they go to when the going gets tough. They have friends, loved ones, extended families and church families to help guide them along the way. So they need me less. Don’t get me wrong, they still need Brad and I. We still have lots of conversations, some of them tough, many others hopeful for the future. They seek us when they navigate the world, but we are not their only source now, and to be honest, I love that.

So here’s where the dichotomy lies. My children’s worlds are opening up, expanding as they explore new freedoms and adventures. My parent’s world is growing smaller seemingly by the minute. Brad and I are somewhere in the middle of all of this. Yet what I notice is a common thread running through it all – peace.

Peace as my newlyweds work as one to craft their shared vision of their life together.

Peace as my middle finds his “person” and genuinely smiles at all the future holds.

Peace as my youngest discovers her inner strength and footing all on her own.

Peace as my parents look back on a life well-lived and well-loved.

Peace as my husband and I navigate this new phase in our lives.

Peace.

In all ways.

Do we have struggles? Sure. Do we have hard times? Absolutely, just like everyone else. I find myself close to tears many times throughout my daily tasks. Happy tears because I’m so dang proud of my family and who they are, but also sad, nostalgic tears because my parents’ world is quickly shrinking. But I’ve noticed this “calm” throughout them that I often wasn’t sure I’d ever experience. If you know me then you know that I can be somewhat of a control freak, so when things don’t go the way I think they should go I tend to struggle a bit (okay, maybe a lot). But, even when days are hard and there are happy/sad tears and sometimes rude awakenings, there is calm. It took me a long time to get here, but I realize now that the peace I feel is faith. Faith that things will work out EXACTLY as they are meant to, because God is in control. He’s got this, I just need to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul.” – Bob Kauffman & Sovereign Grace

Indeed, it is well with my soul.

The darkest day

Good Friday – the darkest day in history.

“Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sin! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” – Isaiah 53:4-5 NLT

“Christ overcame all darkness after walking out of the grave.” Amen.

I kicked off a lesson in Isaiah 53 to students once with all the lights off in the room. Perhaps this is one of my favorite illustrations to deliver because it’s real. It’s relatable and truly, it’s dark. 

It was hard to see my sermon notes, to read scripture, and to connect with the students barely being able to see them. There was nothing beautiful or breathtaking about the set up, and that was the point. It’s hard to do anything in the dark. How many things do we attempt in our everyday life not realizing we’re trying to accomplish a task in a dark world not allowing the light and mercy of God to step in?  We need to realize the amount of darkness our sorrows, our weaknesses, and our troubles bring to our life. When we are surrounded by darkness, it’s hard to perform the task set before us.

As the lesson continued students slowly break a glow stick they had been given prior to the service, and the room slowly lit up. What a visual reminder of what Jesus did for us on the cross! Bringing us from death to life. From darkness to light. Before we knew it, the room was full of light once again. It was a situation where we once couldn’t see. We couldn’t manage to find the simplicity or good. Yet, light was provided to recognize the good as we worked our way through scripture that night and discussed the power of the crucifiction and resurrection. May we realize by his wounds we are healed. The punishment that brought us peace was laid on him. That is the God we serve. 

Good Friday is known as the darkest day in history. Over 2,000 years ago this was the worst day ever. Our Savior was beaten, mocked, and betrayed. May you be reminded this Good Friday how dark of a day this was. Not only today, but many times we need the reminder of how dark our life is without Christ to know how much light he supplies to our life and daily path. (Psalm 119:105)

We leave the path Christ has for us to follow our own. It’s dark with no sense of direction. It’s not a matter of if we will get lost, it’s the simple matter of when we will get lost. We are weak. We produce much sorrow on our own, and we face troubles and rebellion daily. The God that took things that can harm us, took everything we do not understand and solved it all on the cross. Jesus, thank you for providing light into a world full of darkness.

Yet, knowing we would commit such acts, the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. (Isaiah 53:6) This is the day he chose us. This is the day he knew none of us would be able to walk a perfect life, so he willingly gave his own. Following Christ is having a relationship with the one that truly gave it all for you. By His grace we now know the ending. By His grace we are forgiven. 

It is finished, it is done. Death has overcome.  

“He is not here, He is risen.” (Matthew 28:6)

It’s not about me

I have sat many times pondering the dreaded “what.” What if I do this, but it ends up like that? What should I do next? What if this happens? What is the next thing?” And of course, “what should I say?” It can be an agonizing process that can lead to feeling stuck, irritated, frustrated, dismayed, hardened, weak and/or bitter. The “what” questions are ones to ponder, as I focus on God’s purpose in my life. But what is more agonizing is when I pause to measure my “what” against my “why.”

Why do I want or hope for this? Why do I want to respond or say that? Why do I want to go? Is it for my glory and/or to meet a desire that “I” want?

You see, the “what” can often look noble, honoring, even impressive to myself or others. However, it all comes back to Jesus and the Glory of God’s kingdom. So, if my why does not line up with God’s Word, my what can have me moving in the wrong direction.

The truth is that Jesus cares more about the why than He does the what. The why can change your what to a how, instead. How can I reflect the gospel of Christ in all my ways? How am I being obedient, according to His word in the “right now?” How can I show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control in my workplace, home, community and church body? Those are questions to put my why and motivation in check. They become priority over the struggle of what to do.

At the end of the day, at the end of my life, it is about leading others to Him and representing the Gospel so that all may come to know him. As that becomes our focus, our purpose becomes clear.

Invite Others

We need to break free from the pride of doing life all on our own. The communal God has created communal creatures. Let’s step out of our comfort zones and live the way we were designed. 

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25. 

Our lives on earth are too short to hold back from vulnerability that can produce sincere connections. Say what you’re afraid to say out loud. This takes humility, boldness, and making time for others. If you are excited, tell someone. If you are struggling, tell someone. Living in community is a sweet blessing from our Lord. Invite others into your life and seek out relationships; you won’t regret it!

And Grace.

Y’all, I don’t know what’s going to happen today. To you or to me. But I do want to say something – don’t let today get your goat.

The day may have some bad moments – but our God is a good, good God. That’s the truth, and I’m preaching that truth to myself.

It’s hard. Trust me – I know. Those bad moments sometimes make me feel like the target in a game of whack-a-mole.

But God.

And grace.

When things get tough, hang on to that.

8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Validate

Validation.

Validate.

Invalidate.

I’m not trying to be crass – I’m just being real – sister, if you need anything validated jump into the word. It’s all right there. God will love on you from there. He will speak to you from there. He will counsel and father you and point you in the right direction.

You don’t need this world to validate you.

You don’t need another human to validate you.

You need God.

That’s it and that’s honest.

God gave us emotions. There’s nothing wrong with them. But sometimes those emotions skew the truth that is within God’s word.

If you’re seeking the truth today – seek God. His word is truly all the validation that you’ll ever need.

“For wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.” Proverbs 8:11-12

Identity

Before I learned that my true identity was in Jesus Christ, I looked to other people to fill a hurtful void inside of me that only God could fill.

I turned to people, places, and things for help and for answers that I could only get from God. But at that time in my life, that’s all I knew to do.

In 2014, God did a work in me and what He told me would change my perspective forever. He told me that in order to get to know Him better and better every single day, I would have to choose to know Him better. That I would have to die to self, so that I could live for Him and in Him through it all day by day, He would reveal to me that my identity had nothing to do with anyone or anything in this world and had everything to do with Him. ❤

He told me that I was looking for love in all the wrong places. Building this relationship with Him day by day, He began to show me my identity, my DNA, and that my most important relationship is in The One that created me. ❤⚓ My first love, my ABBA Father, my Prince of peace and my Creator of everything….

Jesus Christ is my identity ❤

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Knowing your identity in Christ, changes everything. ❤⚓

Grafting

What about the ones that feel like they simply don’t fit? The ones that feel like for whatever reason they just can’t find their people? The loan wolves? What about those people?

I have heard many things when it comes to these feelings. I have heard, “You aren’t meant to fit in here,” or “Why would you want to?” One of my favorites, “It’s their loss.” I honestly have struggled with this feeling since I can remember – the feeling that all of these relationships exist all the time around me, and no matter how hard I try I will never find a place in them.

I had never been that person that just found my people and had them for life. I honestly never had a “group” in school. I just kind of bounced around. I have always felt like maybe it was something to do with me and my personality as a person that really, REALLY likes her alone time.

I had always just been kind of ok with it, but I did always wonder why it was that way. Now as an adult I have made some life long friendships that I cherish so dearly. This may be because I stopped trying to fit where I thought I should, and instead started trusting the doors I saw open for me. I think this all started because I found something so profound in Romans one day that stood out so boldly to me. The bible talks often about olives – olive trees, olive oil, olive branches etc.

Well, in Romans 10 Paul is talking about who will “fit” in God’s kingdom. Fast forward to Romans 11 and Paul paints this picture of one wild olive shoot – that though it didn’t fit with the planted tree – God was still able to graft it in among the planted tree branches and make it bear fruit.

Now I know there is so much more to this chapter about feeling superior to others and all the things, but the picture of being able to be grafted in just spoke so clearly to me because I fall so short ALL THE TIME.

I truly do not feel worthy of lasting love and friendships, but this picture He is painting of grace reminds me that I don’t need to worry about fitting anywhere. Instead, I need to have the FAITH to know that in the right time God will graft me in exactly where He intended for me to fit all along!!

This is for sure exciting news for us that don’t seem to fit where the world makes us feel like we should!!! God has the ability to break us off from our current branch, then graft us right back into the new place that He has in store for us. This is all dependent on how much we trust God with knowing exactly where that is.

I truly believe God intended for us to have relationships in this world. If He hadn’t, I don’t think He would have felt the need to create one for Adam in the beginning. Don’t hear that we were meant to fit in this world because we for sure were not… BUT we absolutely were meant to fit among other believers, and to find joy, fellowship, and love in his people.

So many people try to travel through life alone, and that just wasn’t the picture God had in mind for us. We were meant to find the ones that He had in store for us and be grafted in among them sharing our differences and talents to further the kingdom.

The body of Christ has so many moving parts and so many jobs that so desperately need the gift you have to share. Trust God in his choice to graft you exactly where you are meant to be, and go boldly into this journey with a purpose driven by faith. We are all in this together and IT IS GOING TO BE SO GREAT!!!

If some branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root.

~Romans 11:17

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

~Ecclesiastes 4:9-12