Tastefully Trendy

A life and fashion blog by Sarah Beth

Tag: inspiration

Anchor for the Soul

When I first started studying hope, I thought God was encouraging me to be hopeful about a certain situation, and I was pumped. I couldn’t wait for how I thought things would work out, and I was excited to prove the naysayers wrong. But, as my friend had predicted, that situation did not work out how I’d “hoped” at all. Like, not only did the door close, but it was slammed in my face, locked, and the key thrown away – that’s how much it did not work out.

So, then I had to decide if I was going to practice what I preached. It wasn’t hard to be hopeful when it looked like things were going my way; it’s much harder when it actually went opposite of what I wanted, and there was no evidence in sight that things might improve in the future.

But, as we discussed yesterday, we do have evidence of better things in the future because God is good and His promises are that He gives good gifts to His children. His plans are to give us a future and a hope, and He has never let His people be forsaken.

Hope is a choice.

That is the conclusion I’ve come to. Like almost everything else in our lives, we can choose to be hopeful. We can choose to believe that God’s Word is true, that He loves us, that He’s working things out for our benefit, and that “this too shall pass.”

OR

We can choose to stay stuck in self-pity and fear and worry and doubt and all the other things that tend to creep in when we’ve lost our hope.

Since beginning this study, I’ve learned that Romans is a book chock full of hope. The book I’ve always viewed as very theology-heavy and cumbersome to read is actually full of inspirational verses about this confident expectation. Two of those verses are in chapter 5 (verses 3 and 4): “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Hope is a result of strong character.

We’ve all heard cliches about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, or, as my best friend in college used to say, “it builds character.” But, cliche or not, that’s what struggles do – they make us stronger, and out of that strength, we can have hope. Hope is not a passive, Pollyanna outlook on the world that ignores real life pain. It’s a choice that looks at pain and decides to take God at His word and remain hopeful, knowing that He is working all things together for good (also in Romans – 8:28).

Continuing in chapter 5, the very next verse says that this hope – the one that rises out of strong character, the one founded on a decision to persevere while maintaining hopefulness – does not disappoint. Why? Because of God’s love. Even if the circumstances are disappointing, our hope was not for nothing.

Hope is an anchor for the soul.

This same hope that buoys us also grounds us. When the peaks and valleys of life threaten to throw off our equilibrium and toss around the proverbial ship of our lives, hope keeps us steady. It keeps our emotions from going all over the map. The highs and lows of unmet expectations do not shake us as much because our hope is grounded in the One who is unshakeable.

And when we choose to have hope, when we choose to be grounded, we can also find true joy. Because knowing that this hope does not disappoint, we can, as Romans 12 says, be patient in troubles and joyful in hope!

I want to have hope.

I want to walk in joy. And, I want to live an exciting life that’s buoyed by the happy expectation of what God’s going to do in me and through me, and grounded in the knowledge that no matter what comes my way, God is working it for my good.

And yes, I want a happy ending “in the land of the living.” But, as Gigi from my favorite movie, He’s Just Not That Into You, says, maybe the happy ending is learning to live in hope, no matter what. Then, can we recognize and enjoy the happy ending that God had in mind all along.

I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait and HOPE for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord. – Psalm 27: 13-14 (AMPC, AMP)

(Part 3 of a 3-part series)

Hope Deferred

There are a lot of really great reasons to have hope.
  • By focusing on the possible positive outcomes, you take your mind off the negative possibilities, relieving yourself of that worry and anxiety.
  • The expression “hope floats” demonstrates hope’s ability to keep us “buoyed” – our spirits are high when we are looking forward to something good.
  • Hope motivates us to action. When you’re believing in a positive outcome, you take steps toward making that happen. Just like a pregnant woman prepares her nursery in happy anticipation of her child’s arrival, hope enables us to take measures to prepare ourselves for the good things coming down the pike.

I think the main reason most of us don’t actively hope is fear. When you have been hurt or disappointed so many times, you want to “guard your heart”, as the Bible says. Only, I don’t think “guarding your heart” means exactly what we’ve often interpreted it to mean. I don’t think it means do whatever you can to keep pain out. Rather, it means surrounding yourself with those things that give life to your spirit, with people who encourage you, with Scripture that speaks truth, and with faith, hope, and love. In doing so, you will protect your heart – not from pain ever getting to it, but from being crushed under the weight of that pain.

But, I get that fear.

I have been very disappointed in one particular area over and over again, and that’s the area where I struggle to have hope. When I go shopping, I have no trouble hoping that I will find some cute clothes; my experience has taught me that is likely to happen. I also find it easy to hope that when I go out in downtown Nashville, I will hear good music and talk to interesting people. I’ve learned to have a confident expectation of that result.

But, what about those areas where I haven’t had good results? Where I have been rejected or overlooked or turned away time and again? Those areas that actually really matter to me, deep down? What about those hopes for each of us of getting married, or having a child, or being matched for an adoption, or getting a promotion, or passing the licensure exam, or fill in the blank… How do I have hope when everything seems to indicate I really should keep my expectations low?

Those are the times when hope is absolutely the hardest. But, those are also the times when we must have hope. We must fight for it, for all the reasons mentioned above, and so many more.

If a situation is certain, there is no reason to have hope. At that point, you’re essentially just stating a fact. Yes, I have hope every night that when I go to sleep, my bed won’t collapse; however, that’s never happened, and I know the wood in my bed is sturdy and assembled well. So, I’m really just assured of fact at that point.

I mentioned yesterday that there was one more definition of hope according to Merriam-Webster. Technically, I guess it’s a definition for the expression, “hope against hope”, but it says, “to hope without any basis for expecting fulfillment”. Similarly, Romans 8:24-25 says, “…[H]ope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

We can’t wait until things look like they’re going in our favor to have hope. We must have hope now and confidently expect God to move on our behalf.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

Many of you are probably familiar with this proverb. I’ve heard it a million times and always thought it meant that hope unfulfilled makes the heart sick. And, I think it does. But, I also think that it refers to putting off hope. By trying to protect ourselves from pain by delaying having hope, we’re doing the exact opposite. We’re depriving ourselves of the peace and joy that comes from anticipating that God will move in our lives. We’re giving room to anxiety and worry and becoming pessimistic. And we are limiting the joy we can experience when something good does happen as a culmination of our hopes and dreams.

I think putting off hope also can create self-fulfilling prophecies. Earlier I mentioned how hope motivates us to action. The converse, though, is that if we don’t have hope, we are motivated to inaction. How many great things never happen because we’re too afraid they might not work out? By failing to act, we create the very scenario we were afraid of in the first place. You’re afraid the boss might find you too forward if you mention taking on more responsibility, so you stay silent; he assumes you aren’t interested in a promotion, and you get passed over. You’re afraid you might not be successful in that career, so you don’t pursue licensure and stay in a dead end job you don’t love. You think long-distance relationships seldom work, so you break up before you have a chance to try.

However, hope actually minimizes disappointments.

To use my earlier scenarios, I don’t lose hope if I shop and find nothing. I’m bummed, of course, because I like new clothes. But, I have the confident and happy expectation that the next time I shop, I’ll find something. If I go downtown and the band sounds terrible and no one talks to me, I might wish I’d stayed home and watched a movie instead, but I don’t assume I’ll never hear good music or meet interesting people again. And I certainly don’t think something is wrong with me. I just assume it was an off night and have hope that the next time I go, it will be better.

Disappointments always come. It’s a part of life, especially since while we know that God’s plans are best, we don’t always know what those best plans are. But, if we have hope, we can bounce back quicker from that disappointment. We can take things in stride, knowing that something else good is around the corner. God’s Word promises that since even human fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, our Heavenly Father does even more. It also says that the righteous have never been forsaken or God’s children had to beg for bread (Ps. 37:25).

So, while we may not have, as M-W says, “any basis for expecting fulfillment” in our particular situation, we do have basis to expect God to do good things in our lives because that’s who He is, and He has before. Just like David knew God could equip him to kill Goliath because he’d killed the lion and the bear, so we can look back on our experiences and see the many ways God has worked in our lives, even in ways we didn’t anticipate or in circumstances that seemed, well, hopeless. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so if He came through before, He will come through again – sometimes in the exact ways we’re hoping, sometimes in ways that exceed what we hoped for, and sometimes in ways that are completely different than what we imagined. But, He always comes through.

Where have you been deferring hope in your life? Have you put it off because you’re afraid of the disappointment? Think through the worst case scenario, and imagine what it will be like if you do have hope versus if you don’t. If the end result is going to be the same, won’t it be better to go into it hopeful, and then emerge still hopeful? And maybe, in the process, we will find what we were hoping for all along. But, as the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace said, EVEN IF we do not, we are able to still praise God because He is good, and so are His ways in our lives.

(Thank you to Joyce Meyer and her book, Get Your Hopes Up!, for inspiration on several of these points.)

(Part 2 of a 3-part series)

Get Your Hopes Up!

These three things remain: faith, hope, and love.

A couple months ago, a friend mentioned to me that she didn’t want me to get my hopes up about a particular situation. I knew what she meant – she didn’t want me to be disappointed, and theoretically, if you keep your expectations low, if/when something doesn’t work out, you’re less disappointed because you weren’t expecting much, anyway.

But, at the time, it made me really mad. For one thing, I thought it assumed that things weren’t going to work out. But, regardless, what’s wrong with being hopeful, I thought? Even if I were disappointed, was it better to go through life not hoping? If it didn’t work out, I was going to be disappointed, anyway. Wouldn’t it be better to make the waiting period pleasant by being optimistic?

Thus began my study of hope.

As I started thinking about it, I couldn’t remember having ever heard a sermon preached on hope. Sure, it’s often used as a synonym for faith or trust or belief. But, if the Bible lists it with faith and love as being one of the three most important things, I thought it deserved its own exploration.

Well, what would a Bible study be without a definition of the word? So, according to Merriam-Webster, hope is to cherish a desire with anticipation. It is to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment; to expect with confidence. (There’s one other definition, but I’ll come back to it later.)

These dictionary definitions coincide with an article by J. Hampton Keathley III on Bible.org (I don’t know who he is, but I believe in giving proper credit). According to this article, hope in Scripture is “a strong and confident expectation.” Joyce Meyer calls it the “happy and confident anticipation of good” (from her book, Get Your Hopes Up!).

Bible studies also include statistics. Like, in the King James Version, the word “hope” appears 130 times. That’s a lot for a word that is generally treated as slightly above wishful thinking.

But, what exactly am I supposed to hope for? Or in? Does the Bible only mean we are to hope in Jesus and for salvation and eternal life in heaven?

I don’t think so.

Of course, we are to hope in God; He is the source of all that is good, and the reason we can hope. But, I don’t think God only wants us to have an other-worldly hope. I think hope is very relevant to our daily, earthly lives, and as I began to study, I became more convinced of this.

Throughout the Bible, there are many examples of people who hoped for things on earth – many in the face of impossible odds. Joseph in the Old Testament surely hoped he would get out of prison, even though his best opportunity, when the cupbearer was released, came and went and he was seemingly forgotten. Hannah hoped for a child, despite years of being barren, and her hope led her to beg God so passionately, the priest thought she was drunk. In the New Testament, Simeon hoped that God’s promise that he would see the Messiah before he died would actually happen.

My favorite example of hoping for God’s intervention on earth is Shaddrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace. Their hope was that God would spare their lives and rescue them – against all odds. But, they go on to say, EVEN IF He does not, we will still praise Him (my paraphrase).

While all of these people based their hope in God, they were also hoping for their current circumstances to turn out in a certain way. Their hope was that they would, as Psalm 27:13 says, see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

So, what are you hoping for in the land of the living? Over the next couple of days, I’m going to talk more about what I’ve learned about hope, but I want to encourage you now to keep your hopes up, after all. Believe that God is working on your behalf. He loves you, He wants the best for you, and He is faithful. Name those things that you are hoping for – those things that you might be afraid to even mention because they are so dear to your heart (I mean, name them to yourself, although I certainly welcome anything you’d like to share). And let’s work together to find hope in our circumstances, because of God’s goodness.

(Part 1 of a 3-part series)

New Cities

Hey guys! This may be the only post I have time to write this week (and by may, I really mean 100% certainly will), but I wanted to say hi! The past two weeks have been so crazy with Labor Day travels, leaving a job, starting a new one, etc., but everything is going well. I feel very much back in my element in my new position, and I’m continually so grateful that God placed me in Nashville, the perfect city.

A friend of mine recently moved to another city, after giving Nashville a go for about 2 years. Why in the WORLD she didn’t absolutely love it here is beyond me, but she spent the past two years being miserable, much like I did in Georgia. Now that she’s been in her new home for all of about 3 days, she’s already making friends, taking in beautiful sunsets, exploring, and generally loving life. The dramatic shift in her circumstances and outlook is so similar to what I experienced when I moved to Nashville last October, that I can’t help but be excited for her to have finally found “home”. Sometimes, you’ve just got to find where you belong, even if that means taking a scary step in faith into the great unknown.

The point of my story is two-fold: one, it’s so important to not let fear hold you back from stepping out into something new. You just don’t know what will be on the other side, and it might be the very thing you’ve been hoping and praying for.

And two, joy really does come in the morning. I’m so grateful that God moves us in and out of seasons. Yes, the hard ones are important – for character building, if nothing else. But, there are also good ones on the horizon. So, if you’re in your own version of Georgia, don’t give up. Keeping moving forward, keep stepping out in faith, and one day soon, you’ll suddenly wake up and realize you’re in a new, beautiful, wonderful place that even 10 months later, still feels like a surreal vacation sometimes.

This outfit has nothing to do with any of that – or with much of anything else, for that matter. But, I like it, and my makeup game was on point that morning.

So, have a great rest of your week, everyone, and keep pressing on to the good!
1-black-and-white-and-turquoise

Even So, It is Well

I’ve been reflecting lately on entitlement in our spiritual lives. In recent sermons and readings, I’ve been impressed with the idea that we’re not guaranteed a perfect life – even as Americans, something pretty hard for my western, Millennial mind to grasp. Suffering is a part of life, and those verses that say, “in this world, you will have trouble”, actually  mean it.

I don’t mean this to be a depressing post, but maybe because I’m in my 30s now, I’ve just realized that life isn’t perfect. A lot of people go through a lot of hard things. And that doesn’t mean God isn’t good. It also doesn’t mean that I’m immune.

I’ve always imagined that I would fall in love; have a good marriage with well-behaved, smart children; and live the proverbial happily ever after. And maybe I will. But, God doesn’t owe me that. He doesn’t owe me anything. He gave me life and salvation, and if that’s all He ever did, it would still be an astounding grace.

Of course, that’s not all He’s done for me (see Wednesday’s somewhat silly post about jewelry and clothing). But, He doesn’t owe me anything. Just because I was born in America instead of an Indian slum, I have special privileges. But, they aren’t owed to me. Just because I was born middle-class white, I have a lot of opportunities. But, they aren’t owed to me. Just because I was born a woman who would like to be married and have children, I have a hope that one day, I’ll get what I’ve always wanted. But, it isn’t owed to me.

So, while I work on my attitude and expectations that a Holy God cater to my whims, I continue to pray that He will give me “the desires of my heart.” But, in case that’s not what that verse actually means…or, in case that desire remains unfulfilled until I’m 82, I’m also working on making the words of the old hymn true for me, as well:

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, EVEN SO, it is well with my soul.

Maybe you can relate to a hope deferred. Maybe you can relate to feeling entitled. Maybe you can’t, but you understand what it’s like to go through challenges and still see that God is good. Regardless, I hope that everyone will be able to come to a place where they too can say, “even so, it is well.”

And, I hope that you will wear sequins. Because as my shirt (which, ironically, has no sequins on it) says – life is short. And no matter what our circumstances, we all can look for a reason to celebrate. 1 - sequins and leopard

6 Month Anniversary

I’d like to tell you a story…

About three years ago, I started praying about leaving Virginia Beach for a position at an anti-trafficking non-profit. I really wanted to go to Nashville then – in part because of all the non-profits headquartered there, in part because I’d enjoyed visiting the two times I’d been there previously, in part because I was obsessed with the show of the same name, and in part for reasons I probably can’t really even identify. It was just on my heart.

A couple months later, God answered my prayer to leave VB and work for a non-profit, but He sent me to Georgia instead of Nashville. And as I’ve been not shy about saying, I was MISERABLE. I do not exaggerate when I say that the two years I lived in Georgia were the worst two years of my life, and I was on the verge of real depression. From about 4 months in, I prayed every day that I would get to leave, but every job application I sent out was ignored.

And then my  job was eliminated, and I was rather unceremoniously kicked out the door, with only two weeks of severance and no warning.

If that’s where the story ended, it would be a rather depressing one. But this is a good story. A great one, in fact.

With no leads anywhere and no connections to Georgia, I had the perfect opportunity to strike out on my own where I really wanted to be – Nashville. I’ve shared before about the timing of my job elimination with my lease, etc.; God opened the doors for everything about my move. I had no money, but my dad had some to loan me. I had no job leads, but I found one perfectly suited for my interests, and started just over two months after moving. I even found a great hair stylist on the first shot, nothing short of a small miracle.

And God kept taking care of me. I was swimming in debt, but the part-time teaching job I’ve had for years asked me to teach two courses at once. They’ve never before asked me to teach two at once. Since then, they’ve also asked me to teach three more. I got another part-time job, and for a couple months, I was working full-time, part-time, and teaching two courses online. It was hard work, but it was what I needed to get by.

Also, my tax refund was double what I was expecting, something I’ll never be able to explain.

So now, here I am just a few months after being downsized, and I have paid off not only my debts from unemployment, but  the remainder of my student loans. I went from a significant amount of debt to debt-free in three months, because God took care of me.

One of the things that was very hard for me in Georgia was not having a church. I tried, not exaggerating, over 30 churches and could never find one I liked. I ended up going to the mega church in town with some frequency but didn’t mind if weeks went by without me darkening the door.

But here in Nashville, I’ve found the perfect church for me. It’s a more traditional format, complete with a robed choir, mixed with Pentecostal theology. Seemingly half the church went to my college, and it’s nice to be around people familiar with things I’m familiar with. I’ve joined said robed choir, and they’ve adopted me as part of the family, giving me church friendships I so missed for two years.

The other night we got to sing with Sandi Patty, my childhood musical idol, on her farewell tour. I never could have even dreamed that I would accompany Sandi Patty sometime – it would not have occurred to me that such a thing could be possible. And yet, God knew how special that would be to me, and He really did provide “above and beyond all I could ask or imagine.”

I realized something a few days ago that made this all the more sweet. My church is nowhere near my house, and even if I had stumbled upon it physically, the name of the church and size of the building would have deterred me from trying it. But, a week before I lost my job, I was in Nashville for work and met a new friend. We had mutual friends and a lot in common, and I knew it was a divine appointment. When I moved, I visited her church a few times, but it wasn’t quite the right fit for me. It did, however, meet in the building of a big church with a beautiful choir loft, and I thought, maybe I should just check it out. I went one Sunday morning just after Christmas, and I haven’t stopped going since.

God went before me in my move, opening doors to friendships that led to my church that led to singing with a childhood favorite. He moved on my department chair to offer me more courses than I’ve ever been offered. He provided the finances for me to pay back my dad, buy flights and bridesmaid dresses for my friends’ weddings, pay off my student loans, and have enough left over to start rebuilding a savings. To paraphrase Joel 2:25, He completely restored the years the locusts had eaten.

And, I get to live in Nashville which is the absolute most perfect city, and I am even more happy here than I was miserable in Georgia.

So, today, on the 6th month anniversary of my moving to Tennessee, I want to encourage you that God’s Word is true that He will never leave you or forsake you. I still don’t know why I had to live in Georgia to get to Nashville. I did make a few friends, and met my best friend there. And since living here, I’ve certainly had more perspective on God’s faithfulness and kindness because of my experiences the past two years. Maybe those two things are purpose enough.

Regardless, no matter what you’re going through, please know that God is still going before you, making your paths straight, and opening doors that no man can shut. If you’re in a hard season, don’t give up and keep pressing forward, because your Nashville Promised Land is waiting for you on the other side, and it will be even more sweet because of the pain to get there.

If my story encouraged you, or if you’d like to share a similar story of God’s faithfulness, or even if you’d just like prayer for the strength to persevere, I’d love to hear from you! Comment below or send me an email, and let’s talk.

Love,

Sarah Beth

New Year’s Resolutions

Even though January is nearly over (does that make anyone else feel super old??), I’ve been feeling for some time that I needed to do a year-end reflection and commentary on 2016.  I suppose being only 1/12 of the way through the year when I do so is not too bad…

2015 started off very rough for me. I was living in a town that I hated, working a job that was a poor fit for me, I had almost no friends, and there was no sign of change in sight. I actually went to a counselor a few times in December 2014 because I could feel genuine depression beginning to set in and my personality starting to change and it scared me. I cried pretty much every day and was generally miserable – but, I didn’t want to stay that way.

A friend sent me a book called the Happiness Advantage for Christmas, and starved for happiness as I was, I devoured it.  None of it was revelatory new information; most of it was quite practical, and while written as a secular book, reflected principles I’d long heard in Christian circles.  But, it was the little boost of hope that I needed to believe that happiness was possible again and that there was something I could actively do to obtain it.

So, armed with several of the book’s mantras – the most significant being to write down each day things that you’re grateful for/make you happy (specific to that day), as well as positive expectations for the day ahead – I began an attempt to retrain my brain to look for the good, instead of only seeing the negative that was very obviously in front of me.

To that end, I declared January, “Joyful January”, and made an effort to post a picture on Instagram every day of something (even if it was just a memory) that made me happy.  That effort, combined with writing down things I was thankful for (combined with a wonderful birthday weekend in Nashville), got me out of the dangerous slump I was in. I believe that hope builds on hope – I had enough hope by the end of January that I could look for the light at the end of the tunnel and keep walking towards it, rather than despair in the darkness around me.

Fast forward to September, and I began another Instagram challenge – this one world-wide – of 100 Happy Days. In this challenge, participants are to post a picture every day of something happy about that day (so memories would not be included).  It was hard, but I think I made it for about 85 of my 100 days, even if most of those pictures weren’t that aesthetically pleasing…

I’ve never been a huge proponent of pop psychology, but honestly, knowing that I “had” to post something happy each day, I really did begin to look for the good, and my perspective changed in both instances.

Every year, I like to choose a word to serve as theme for the year. This seems to be a lot more beneficial to me than New Year’s resolutions, as I’m much better at focusing on one word than a bunch of goals I might not keep. My word for 2015 was “joy” because I needed it so badly, and I’m grateful to say that I found joy, even in the midst of hard times (i.e., being miserable, losing my job, moving, etc.).

I realize that my circumstances changed quite a bit at the end of 2015, and I’m beginning 2016 filled with optimism as a result.  But, I can’t help but wonder if my experience here in Nashville would still be quite as positive, had I not already begun the process of learning to look for the happy.

I don’t have a word for 2016 really.  The only word that came to me as I was thinking about it was “success”, which sounds stupid, but maybe I’ll go with it anyway.  Of course, I don’t mean success like making money, because Lord knows my job is not making me rich, as much as I love it.  But, more like life success: growing in my relationship with the Lord; getting rooted in a church and friend community here in Nashville; taking care of myself and my home better… No specific goals, because then I can’t beat myself up about falling short some days, but long-term plans for success in personal growth.

Have you taken time to reflect on 2015? If you chose a word/resolutions, how did they go?  Can you see a theme for the year, or have you picked one for 2016? I’m so hopeful about this year, and if you’re discouraged in any way, I wish so much that you’d join with me in renewing your hope. I’d encourage you to find ways like I did to retrain your brain to begin to look for and see the good, as well as to expect positive things each day, and throughout the whole year. Let’s all join together in making the year ahead a wonderful, joyful, successful one.

Much Love,

SB

The Upside of Downsize

I don’t know if any of you have ever been downsized at work, but it’s not the most fun thing in the world. In fact, the emotions and thought processes are very similar to a breakup: you envision the perfect argument (after the fact, of course), wonder how long they knew, what you could have done differently, why you didn’t get to do the dumping first. Rejection. Even when they say “it’s not you, it’s me”, and you know it’s for the best, at the end of the day, it still hurts your feelings.
Schmidt gifBut after you spend a few days wallowing in New Girl and Double Stuf Oreos, you get yourself together and start reflecting on the positives. In my case, it is so obvious to me how God has been working on my behalf even in these less than ideal circumstances, that I can’t help but be encouraged and excited about what’s next (also, moving to the perfect city helps).  Here are a few of those things:

  1. I actually had a dream a week before my position was eliminated that it happened. There have been at least 4 times in my life where God has warned me about something through a dream. Of course, I don’t recognize it and assume my subconscious is just in overdrive. But, when my dream actually happens, I find encouragement in knowing that God knew all along. It’s like a hind-sight way for Him to remind me that He’s got it under control.
  2. My leasing office worked with me. This is a miracle, as anyone who’s ever rented an apartment knows. Those agreements are ironclad, and when they say 60 day notice, they mean 60 day notice. And the penalties for breaking the lease are hefty. But, my lease was already set to expire October 14 – nothing to break, and they even waived my 60 day requirement, bringing it down to 30, which released me of further financial obligation while giving me enough time to pack and get everything in order.
  3. Maybe the most significant of these points (which are obviously in no particular order) is that I’d been praying about moving, anyway. Georgia and I have never been a good fit, and I was considering not renewing my lease. But, I didn’t want to “run away from my problems”, and I wasn’t sure if this was my idea or God’s. So, I just prayed, and as the days got closer to my lease renewal date, got a little nervous about when God was going to answer (and what He was going to say…)  Well, per usual, He answered right on time, and even gave me the answer I wanted, if not in the way I was expecting.

I could go on, but that’s enough for now. Bottom line, God is faithful. He gave me a verse once: Isaiah 60:22 – “In its time, I will do this swiftly.”  While there was a specific application of that at the moment, He’s reminded me of it a couple more times since – now, being one of them. I’d say 27 days from downsizing to Nashville is pretty swift, especially when it came completely out of the blue.  While I don’t ever know when “its time” is going to be, it’s kind of exciting to watch things unfold so quickly before my eyes.

What are you praying and believing God for?  Has He given you promises about it?  Have you ever seen God just “swiftly” take care of things for you – were they in the way you expected?  I’d love to hear your stories, too.  I hope mine encourages you, but if nothing else, writing it all out re-encouraged me.  So, thank you. 🙂

Wednesday’s Woman: the one who doesn’t exist

There are a billion (slight hyperbole) examples of women in the Bible that we can study and learn from.  I love that, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve spent the last few months looking at them on Wednesdays.  The women in Scripture have a lot to teach us.

But you know who’s not in the Bible that I really wish were?  Someone exactly like me.  Someone who grew up in the church, became a Christian at a young age, wrestled with some things and came back to the Lord, still wrestles with some things…

We get a lot of snippets of women in the Bible, but there’s not really any character that we get to follow throughout her whole life; certainly none that we see on a daily basis.  Other than Jesus, there aren’t even any male characters we get to see the whole way through – some of the kings, maybe, and Moses.

Perhaps, David is the best example – we see him as a shepherd boy, then killing Goliath, then as fugitive, then as king, then as father.  But other than the glaring sin of adultery with Bathsheba, David kinda seems to have it all together.  Sure, he laments his fate in the Psalms, but ultimately, he stays pretty tight with God throughout his whole life.

I want to see the Bible character who really struggles through his (or preferably her) faith.  Who isn’t necessarily committing the big, notorious, make-it-into-the-Bible sins, but who agonizes over wondering why, if God really loves her, she doesn’t quite feel that way.  Or who trudges through the questions of why she isn’t married or doesn’t have children or has lost a loved one.  Someone who questions what it actually means to live “in” the world, but not “of” it, and maybe sometimes (often) fails at that.  Someone who legitimately “works out her salvation with fear and trembling”, and in the end, comes out victorious.

That’s a person I could really relate to.  I take encouragement from the snippets of stories we read in the Bible, and glean the appropriate applications.  But, really, there’s no one just like me.   So, sometimes, I feel a little alone in my struggles – like I’m completely dropping the ball, while all the other good Christians out there are winning gold stars on their heavenly report cards.

Of course I know that’s not the case. I realize that no one is perfect, and that even David committed more than just the one sin recorded in Scripture. But wouldn’t it be nice to really see an example of the struggle?  To have someone to look to that did have doubts and questions and difficulties, and yet overcame?  Someone whose spiritual journey wasn’t just rainbows and butterflies and unwavering faith?

While that person may not exist in the Bible, God does still manage to find ways to encourage me when I’m, well, discouraged.

If you haven’t read the devotional, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, I highly recommend it.  Each day’s reading is short and sweet, but always so uplifting.  Here are some excerpts from yesterday’s (July 14) entry:

Keep walking with Me along the path I have chosen for you.  Your desire to live close to Me is a delight to My heart. I could instantly grant you the spiritual riches you desire, but that is not My way for you. Together we will forge a pathway…the journey is arduous at times, and you are weak. Someday you will dance light-footed on the high peaks; but for now your walk is often plodding and heavy. All I require of you is to take the next step, clinging to My hand for strength and direction…

What I most appreciated about this devotion was the acknowledgement and validation that it’s okay for me to struggle.  God knows my walk is hard; He knows that I want to be close to Him and don’t feel like I am sometimes.  But, He’s not about instant gratification, and, to paraphrase my favorite verse, He knows I will reap a harvest if I will not give up (Galatians 6:9).

So, while we may not have a true Biblical example of a real-life journey, I hope perhaps the lessons I’m learning will be encouraging to you.  Or, if not mine specifically, that you can find your own Jesus Calling – a devotional that speaks to your heart – and some examples of other people who have been there, done that, lived imperfect lives, and still managed to keep going, reaping a harvest all along the way.

Who inspires you in your walk?  Have you found a Biblical example you can really relate to, or do you more closely look to other mentors and leaders as examples?  What are some of the ways you keep yourself motivated when the going gets tough?  I’d love to hear from you!

My Grace is Sufficient

While I have been single almost all of my life (I heard once about a woman who was married like 13 times or something – that amazes me, as I can hardly find someone to go out with me twice), I did manage to fall in love once.  I don’t really talk about it here because there’s not much to say – I was in love, we didn’t work out, it’s still a sensitive subject.  You know, the stuff Taylor Swift songs are made of.

I mention it now because I’ve been having a hard time the past few weeks – rehashing things in my mind and otherwise torturing myself.  I blame it on Rascal Flatts. I saw them at the country music festival a few weeks ago, and while those guys have beautiful harmony, their sad songs know how to pull on your heart strings!

The point of all this, though, is that God is faithful.  Duh, but listen: over the last 2-3 weeks, I could feel my emotions building and whenever that happens, I tend to make a bad life decision as a way of dealing.  But, God knows that, and as I prayed that He would help me, He encouraged me in 4 different ways over a period of two days.  Between unexpected notes and emails, to an entire group of inmate admirers (a story for another day), God reminded me that a lot of people really care about me. There were so many random things in such a short period, I would have been foolish not to recognize God at work behind the scenes to encourage me, and that confidence boost was enough to get me through the weekend without doing something I’d regret.

Of course, I know that the high from a few compliments and out-of-the-blue assurances won’t last forever, but it was enough to help me over the current hump.  And, perhaps more significantly, to remember that God’s grace is always sufficient.  So, when the next hump comes – because, of course, it will come – His grace will again be available to me.  Circumstances and feelings do not need to dictate my actions.  I truly can do all things (even the really hard, emotional ones) through Christ who strengthens me.

If you’re going through something hard, I challenge you to look for the ways God is encouraging you. I know He is, but sometimes, we have to look for it.  And sometimes, we have to ask Him to help us look for it because we forget or are hurting too much to really pay attention.  But He will show you, if you ask.  Otherwise, what’s the point of His offering the help?  So, begin looking for the graces He gives us in every day life.  The struggles may not end, but the peace and strength to endure them gracefully and emerge stronger and more mature are always readily available to us.

Have a lovely, victorious, joyful weekend everyone!  <3

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