Abiding Hope.

 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

In church recently we discussed how there is no other source of abiding hope outside of God. As I sat in church intently listening, I felt a small pull at my heart and I knew exactly what it was. The Lord was asking me, ‘Where do you place your hope? Where do you surrender your anxiety and your future plans?’

The Lord was prompting me to examine my heart . I was not too excited to oblige, I knew it was going to be quite the process.  As I continued to listen to the sermon, the Lord reminded me of how sovereign and gracious He is- because all too well and all too often, I forget. I started to think of all those other gods that so easily take God’s place in my heart and in my life.

For those of you who don’t know me, I can tend to be a very anxious person. Peace was not something I experienced often for most of my life.  For years, I had no idea how to even have God’s peace.

What did it look life?

What did it feel like?

Would my life look much different?

I definitely thought I was trusting Him, but the fruit of my life, my thoughts, motives, words, and actions showed an entirely different story. I finally began to understand that loving and trusting God is about completely yielding control of every area of my life, no matter what! (sounds scary, I know).

 Our God is sovereign, gracious, good, and just! And as we see God’s goodness and as we continue to grow in our trust of Him, eventually we realize that trusting God wholeheartedly is the best place in the world to be.  “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of our Jesus our Lord”. (2 Peter 1:2)

At times I can quickly start to feel overwhelmed. When I feel that way, most often it’s because I’m not putting my faith and my hope where it belongs. I can find myself idolizing the opinion of others and putting my will above His. When I first realized this, it felt like I was about to jump off of a big spiritual cliff. But the more I studied who God was, understood His character, and got to know Him more intimately- I realized that God was so much bigger than I could ever comprehend.  And the more I realized that, the more I saw the importance of being able to face my fears. I may not know what my future looks like, but I trust His heart for me.

And that is enough.

As you draw close to Him and allow Him to transform your heart and mind to be like His, you will begin to understand that if you have Him, you have EVERYTHING that really matters. But, if you don’t have Him, you have nothing!

It’s an amazing feeling to know that we can trust God and rest in His peace even when we don’t know what our future looks like. (especially to an anxious person like myself).

God will allow trials to come into our lives and the enemy will try to derail us into fear and paralyze us in our spiritual walk. But we can face our deepest fears and we can lay down our greatest dreams. 

God gives us times of uncertainty because those times build our faith as we learn to turn to Him. If we will receive His love, His healing, His truth, and His goodness, He can set me free from all doubt, fear, worry, and anxiety. I love that!

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Finding the Friendships You Deserve.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:17b-18)
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Last month, I was feeling so insecure and discouraged about friendships. I ended up calling one of my best friends in tears, feeling so vulnerable and in need of advice.

I had been feeling like as soon as I would get close to a friend, we would grow apart. Or that they would find other, cooler, more fun friends and suddenly vibes were weird.  I honestly couldn’t figure out if something was wrong with me or if I did something to screw up friendships. I’d look online and see pictures of cliques and feel even more isolated. I would hang out with friends and watch groups of girls taking selfies, but usually would be the one taking the photo. It would hurt, it would make me feel insecure, and discouraged.

There have been times in my life that I would try to bend and contort myself in whatever way I could just to fit into a group. But no matter how many times I tried to bend and contort, it never really seemed to work.

Friends, if you are struggling to feel like you belong or if you’re having trouble with friendships, I just want to encourage you.  God did not design you the way He did just for you to bend and contort His design to fit into some group or clique it wasn’t designed to be a part of. And you’re not weird or strange and there’s nothing wrong with you if you grow apart from women you have cared about for awhile.

Because you know what? All things are redeemable. And at the end of the day, God delivers who you need, right when you need them, to stand by your side. Some of the girls I honestly thought would be life-long friends (maybe even in my wedding one day) have been some of the friendships that drifted apart. Some of the girls I thought I would grow apart from years ago are the same girls that have invited me to be a part of their special wedding day. And often, those  friendships that continue to build and last throughout the years are not friendships you can fake. They’re disorganized and crazy and a little bit messy — but they’re real. They take time to build.

I think, sometimes, we avoid friendships that require much of us because we are afraid of the risk. When we’ve been hurt or walked all over, we begin to close up and control our environments. I mean, who wants to be hurt again? Trust me, there’s wisdom in guarding our hearts, but that doesn’t mean we have to live in isolation. Though isolating can be tempting to do when friendships haven’t gone our way in the past, there’s a problem with that logic. The truth is, the greatest satisfaction comes from the greatest sacrifice.

Although I haven’t solved the friendship puzzle, I do know that REAL friendships can empower us and bring out the best of who we are.  Real friends won’t judge you for your messy hair days, they encourage you, challenge you, make you better, push you closer to Jesus, support your dreams, they love you through the hard times, and they pray for you. Life is so much better, and easier, and certainly more fun when we walk through it together. I am so grateful for authentic friendships. For raw, real, tough but gentle love.

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F R I E N D S H I P .

“AS IRON SHARPENS IRON, SO ONE SHARPENS ANOTHER” (Proverbs 27:17)

Growing up, my best friend knew everything about me. She knew which boy I liked, my favorite song, all my dreams. She even knew my secrets. I have learned as I get older that those type of friendships are rare, and these days I find myself longing for a friend like that.

Making good friends in our constant, fast moving society feels like it’s getting harder and harder. It’s not that we don’t want close relationships, but people come and go so fast it’s difficult to establish those long-lasting friendships. But I think it’s more than that. Some of us have been hurt and betrayed so often by those we love and whose friendships we valued that we keep others at arm’s length. Whatever hurt lies in our past, we suffer from that hurt, and we allow unforgiveness and distrust to find a home in our hearts.

I often times find myself praying for solid, godly friendships and while it’s tempting to wish God would just bring me a good friend, more often than not, He asks me to be a good friend to someone else first. That’s when I find that I need to go to Scripture for a reminder of what true friendship looks like- because I have been hurt in the past, so trusting and being vulnerable with others is definitely not comfortable or easy.

The truth is, God knows the agony of broken relationships. We see those stories throughout His Word. But then those are those stories about friendship that give our hearts hope.  One immediately comes to mind- I absolutely  L O V E  the friendship between David and Jonathan.  It’s awesome that we’re allowed to look into their lives and their friendship. That we can see a glimpse of two biblical characters who succeeded at a long, intimate friendship- despite all the tragedy, hurdles, and pain that life threw their way.

Jonathan was the son of King Saul and was David’s closest friend. You may know David from the story of ‘David and Goliath’. Goliath was the giant that David defeated with just a sling shot when everyone else from King Saul’s army was too afraid to fight him. It was actually because of Davids rise to fame that King Saul grew to despise David. David was growing in popularity and God had anointed David to be king — instead of Saul’s own son. Apparently, King Saul did not like that ONE BIT. These things enraged King Saul, and he commanded his aids AND Jonathan to assassinate David. Whenever I read that story- my heart just breaks. Imagine being Jonathan and being commanded by your father to kill your best friend. I CANNOT EVEN IMAGINE! Jonathan knew that David did nothing wrong and had so much love for his friend that he refused his father’s command to betray David.

Yay for Jonathan!!!

And love isn’t the only fruit of true friendship. It consists of sacrifice too.

Jonathan is a picture of sacrifice. In 1 Samuel 18:4, we see that he removed his robe and gave it to David, along with his armor, sword, bow and belt. Jonathan was the potential heir to his father’s throne, but this gift showed that Jonathan recognized that David would one day be king of Israel. Rather than being jealous of David, Jonathan submitted to God’s will and sacrificed his own right to the throne. His actions teach us that true friendship means having a willingness to sacrifice for one another. It is the choice to put ones needs, desires, and wishes above our own.

Loyalty is also a mark of true friendship.

We’re told that Jonathan went to his father and spoke well of David. He reminded the king that David had done nothing wrong. In fact, David had been loyal to King Saul. It can definitely be tough to do the right thing and stand up for what is right. We learn by Jonathan’s actions that a true friend will protect and defend one another. True friends are committed to being loyal and will stick up for each other. Yes- even in the hard times, and even when they’re not around.

And finally, true friends trust each other enough to be themselves.

When Jonathan told David that his father was out to kill him, the two were forced to say goodbye in order to keep David safe. After Jonathan told David it was not safe and to flee, we see in 1 Samuel 20:41 that they wept together”.  They were deeply saddened  to have to say goodbye. I love that.  It shows the genuineness of their friendship and how they were able to be completely vulnerable in their friendship.

When our hearts are broken, we can fall apart and a true friend understands. They won’t try to correct you in your misery or tell you to straighten up. True friends will let each other hurt. They weep together, laugh together. They listen to fears and insecurities. They don’t bail- they stay, especially in the hard times. They allow each other to be themselves.

I am always so challenged by this story of Jonathan and David’s friendship to be a better friend. To check my heart to see if I’m a loyal, loving, selfless and trustworthy friend. To encourage and love on those God has placed in my life. Then I ask the Lord to help me; to help me to become that kind of friend and to bless me with those types of friends.

A good friendship takes time. If things get rocky, it doesn’t mean you just walk away. Friendships take work and you have to be willing to work it out. Give your relationship time to grow- because a true friend is a rare and precious gift.

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Is a Less Hectic Life Possible?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  John 10:10

For the past couple years, I took pride in being overly busy. Between the needs of  work, friends, home and church my days were filled to overflowing. Although my schedule felt chaotic and I felt like I was going crazy, I preferred to think of myself as a “highly productive person.”

Friends and coworkers would ask, “How do you manage all you do?” And I’d respond “I guess I’m just wired that way.” I know, it’s a humble brag- not something I am proud of. But I honestly thought it to be true. Maybe I was wired differently. Maybe I could handle more than others. Sadly, my heart enjoyed the recognition of all the work I was able to accomplish and I hungered for that type of response; it fueled me to keep pressing on.

But, at the end of the day when it was time to relax, my to-do list whispered another truth. The truth that I haven’t done it all, that there was more to do. My friends don’t see that side of me. They have the advantage of seeing all the things that I am able to accomplish; not all the things left undone. But I do. Its there staring me in the face.

Perhaps I’m not alone in this feeling. Perhaps you feel it too? That no matter how much you accomplish, what bothers you most is that you weren’t able to finish all the tasks. That long to-do list keeps you up at night. You sit there thinking of all the things yet to accomplish and mark off the to-do list.

It’s not all the undone work, but those everyday tasks like cleaning the house, laundry, making a menu for the week, and paying bills. But there’s even more. There are the dreams that seem too far out of reach. Like taking a vacation. Or making the time we want to be intentional with those we love, including God, but can’t seem to manage.

Recently my ulcers started to act up more often than usual, and I slipped back into losing large amounts of sleep each night. A couple weeks ago, as I was sitting on the couch, I found it hard to breathe and anxiety arose, but there was no apparent threat- just a lot of stress. The looming deadlines, the demanding work load, and mounting emails beckoned. My life felt completely out-of-control. I was burned out from having too much to do, and always feeling behind.

The fear of disappointing someone chased me constantly. I was busy, but simply didn’t know how to stop the endless cycle. Turns out I didn’t have an anxiety problem. I had an over-commitment problem. I committed to almost everyone and everything.

In order to start making changes, I had to honestly face some hard things about myself. My hunger for significance drove me to take on more than I could handle.  Before I could live the less hectic life that I desperately longed for, I had to address the root issue of my heart’s need. And part of that was identifying the lie that drove me to overwork myself.

Jesus promised an abundant life, but also told us there is an enemy plotting our downfall. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Our enemy, “the thief,” is also a liar, always twisting the truth. So while Jesus promised an abundant life, Satan spins it so we think that life is found in an abundance of activity and commitments. And before we realize it, life has stolen from us what’s best…room to breathe, time to focus, and space in our schedules to fulfill our God-given priorities. The abundant life Jesus offers isn’t filled with to-do’s (even though I believed that to be the case for far too long). Tasks and commitments only satisfy us from the outside in, never reaching the core of who we are. However, Jesus’ satisfies us from the inside out, as we experience the depth of His love, His purpose and His peace.

This is no easy change- and I know it won’t just happen overnight. But each day I am learning to trim my responsibilities so I can experience the abundant life that Jesus promised. Jesus promises a less hectic life, and it’s a promise He can fulfill when we look to Him to fill our days, instead of an endless to-do list.

  “May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!”   Psalm 29:11

GLYNNIS WHITWER

My Future Is In God’s Hands.

It can be so hard to trust God with my future because I have no idea what’s going to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely trust God in so many OTHER areas, but when it comes to my future- I struggle. I don’t think I am alone in this. Anyway, the other day I was thinking about the fact that I would be turning 31 soon and was really struggling to trust God with my future, but more specifically my love life.

I decided to set out on a ‘Trusting God’ Mission. I wanted to trust God MORE and I wanted to completely surrender to Him my future (and my love life). I had no idea what this journey would look like, where it would take me, or the emotional roller coaster I was about to embark on, but I was excited. Excited to see what truths He would reveal to me. While trusting God with my future was one of the hardest things for me to do, I was tired. Tired of trying to do it all. Tired of thinking that my plan for my future was somehow better than God’s plan for my future.

When I began to think about my future, and why it was so hard for me to completely entrust it to God, my mind immediately started listing off all my “what if’s”.

“What if I never get married?”

“What if my best friend moves away?” 

“What if God calls me to do something I’m not good at?”

“What if…?”

“What if…?”

“What if…?”

Worrying about the “what if’s” can be the biggest enemy to our peace and our joy. I know this first hand and it’s definitely no fun. In fact, I have several “what if’s” in my life right now. Life is full of unknowns and unfortunately I don’t think that will ever change. But instead of fretting and worrying over my future, I’ve come to understand some amazing truths that have given me the confidence to totally trust God. (yes, even with my love life).

God brought me to the book of Genesis, and it was there that He encouraged my spirit. It was from an unlikely place in the Bible and from an unlikely man.  I came across a familiar story of a man who was facing a lot of “what if” questions, just like me. And you know what? This man was also struggling to trust God with His future. (God certainly has a sense of humor).

The story about about Abraham. At the age of 75 God told Abraham to pack up his stuff, move away from his family and friends, and live in a completely foreign land. Crazy, I know! But what is even more crazy to me than God asking him to do this, is that Abraham actually did a pretty good job at trusting God and obeying Him. The Bible says, “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him…” (Gen. 12:4a).

I think at this point it was easy for Abraham to trust God. Life seemed to be going exactly as planned. Plus, he was probably super excited about God’s promise: “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great…” (Gen. 12:2). So off he went.

Not bad if you ask me!

Lets fast forward a little- it’s now that we begin to see Abraham struggling to trust God and His promise. He starts asking some “what if” questions about his future. Abraham is getting older and so is his wife. She’ s getting to the age where having children might be physically impossible for her. (this is not looking too good).

So what does Abraham do, he starts to question God. In Genesis 15, Abraham starts reminding God that he is still childless. (as if He didn’t know). I’m sure Abraham was like “Hello, God? Did you forget about me? Did you forget about Your promise? I kind of need a son if I’m going to have all those descendants you mentioned…”He was worried about his future. Let’s be real, I think most of us would have been. Abraham started losing faith in God. At this point, Abraham’s wife also began to lose faith in God. So they decide to take matters into their own hands. You know the story (Ishmael, lots of drama, etc.).

Now lets fast forward even more, at this point it’s been 24 years since God’s initial promise with Abraham, and guess what? Abraham still does not have his son. He is 99 years old- and I am sure he’s about to have a panic attack thinking about being a father at the age of 99. He is worried. He is old. His wife is old. But God sees the worry in Abraham’s heart and reminds him of the promise. Genesis 17:6 “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you”.

Abraham was struggling to see the big picture. He couldn’t see down the road of his life and that worried him. He couldn’t imagine that nations and kings would come from him, considering the circumstances! He struggled with trust. Just like me and you often times do. Abraham had no idea how his future would pan out. The amazing thing is, God did.

What Abraham forgot – and what we too often forget – is that God sees the bigger picture. That He holds our future in His hands. God knew that nations and kings would come from Abraham. He just needed Abraham to trust Him. Just like He desires us to trust Him.

I love this story. It’s an amazing reminder to me to trust God with my future, no matter the circumstances. Life will be confusing, my circumstances will seem impossible at times, my future may continue to be unknown to me. But God is in complete control and regardless of how “uncertain” your future may seem, God is faithful.

We all have those “Abraham moments” in our lives, when we lose sight of God’s faithfulness. However, we can learn from Abraham’s life. We can learn the importance of trusting God with our future and yes, that even includes my love life.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

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Plug Into Your Joy.

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“…Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Sometimes I think I’m Superwoman. I try to do it all. I tend to just keep moving until I pretty much just keel over. Well last week wasn’t much different. It was a long week, so walking into church Sunday just felt like another thing to mark off my to-do list. I had been running on caffeine and no sleep. My mind felt overly exhausted, and I had no expectations to be able to take away from the sermon what I am sure the Lord wanted me to. I was running on fumes. And unfortunately when I’m running on empty, I’m a complete mess!

I was feeling exhausted, irritable, I was probably insensitive and stubborn, frustrated. Not at all characteristics of Christ or the woman I strive to be each day. I have fallen into trying to be Superwoman for years, it almost just feels like second nature to attempt to do it all. I’ve learned over the years that more often than not the reason I end up feeling so exhausted and empty is because I stop plugging into my Power Source. It shows me that I didn’t make time to spend time in the Word, that I didn’t set aside quiet time with God, and that I didn’t get refilled spiritually. And when I don’t plug into God, I’m bound to start running on fumes (which isn’t good for anyone).

It is so essential to spend daily time in God’s presence if we’re going to live with the joy of the Lord. The more intimate our personal relationship with Him becomes, the better our fruit will be. Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”.  Those are definitely all fruits that I want to be growing; not exhaustion, irritability, stubbornness, or insensitivity. 

God wants us to stay joyful even in the midst of the difficulties we face in life, because His joy is our strength. It’s the fruit of joy that strengthens us to go through whatever we have to deal with and make it to the end result. Plugging into His strength is so important, it allows the fruits of the Spirit to grow within us and our lives.

So what happens when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed (because we all have those mornings). The mornings when we feel low, irritated, discouraged or frustrated. That’s when we need to plug into God. If we aren’t living with the joy of the Lord, we need to examine the root of our fruit. We need to be spending more time with God, studying the Word, doing what He tells us to do by His grace, and soon our joy and strength will return.

The key is to lean on Jesus. He has the ability and strength you need.