9 Ways to Take Hold of Hope

sunrays blog picMy friend Amy and I caught up on our progress over dealing with our husbands’ depressions. Smiles lit our faces as we related with one anothers’ feelings of relief–our husbands’ depressions were lifting! We praised God together. We both agreed it felt like sunshine was coming back in our lives. As I have dealt with my husband Jeff’s depression and my own subsequent depression over his depression, I realized a lot. I understand depression is a very complex issue, but here are some ways I learned to take hold of hope when my husband was in his valley of depression and I felt helpless to do anything.

1. Reach for Real Comfort-A cookie fresh from the oven can bring comfort for a moment. So can two or three. But I know from experience after munching down a few too many comforting cookies, my waistband begins to pinch on those pants which used to fit so nicely. The real comfort of God’s life-giving Word makes even the most delicious cookie crumble in comparison.

Take Hold of Hope: Find a book study with lots of Bible application questions. Or try a Bible study on a favorite book of the Bible (Philippians for example). As you study, ask questions. “What does this say?” “What can I learn?” “What can I apply to my life and circumstance right now?” Write these questions down along with the answers. Keep a prayer journal where you write out your prayers like letters to God. Just be yourself, and tell God every single thing on your heart.

2. Reach for Real Friends-For a time, when Jeff’s depression was worst and it rocked my soul to the very foundations of my faith, I and several friends took part in a book study by Stormie Omartian called “Power of a Praying Wife”. I felt their support. We grew together as we studied. It helped so much to have Christians emotionally close and in tune with my struggles. It helped to pray for one another.

Take Hold of Hope: Pick up the phone and call or message one or several real Christian friends today. Schedule that time on your calendar when you can get together. Join an area Bible study. Bible Study Fellowship International offers a great support mechanism. Find a class near you at https://www.bsfinternational.org/

3. Reach for Real Discipline-It will seem counter-intuitive to fight depression with self-discipline but, from experience, God has taught me it’s important. 2 Timothy 1:7 in the NIV says “For the Spirit God gave us… gives us… self-discipline”. The KJV uses “sound mind” in place of “self-discipline”. I’ve found there is a real connection between these two. I know depression is a complex issue, but discipline does help. It helps to take my vitamin D and B12, limit sugar, and get up at the right time. Exercise also stimulates the serotonin levels in the brain. Another area of self-discipline is upkeep. This may be as simple as doing a spa day from time to time—condition your hair and wrap it in a warm towel. Do a pedicure or better yet, have your friends over for a spa night. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You can use things like brown sugar, for a revitalizing facial scrub or mayonnaise to condition your hair. Drinking enough water is also an important discipline. About 48 ounces is my goal, although I feel good to get in my 32 ounces with my morning treadmill workout. And one of the important areas I don’t want to neglect is disciplining the thought life and the mouth. Philippians 4:8 says, “… whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]” (AMP). What we think flows from our mouths. But it can also work the other way around. When we say something negative, we cement it further into our minds and magnify the negative thought in the other person’s mind. Thinking faith filled thoughts takes effort. But Matthew 9:29 seems to indicate that God rewards faith when he says “according to your faith let it be done to you”.

Take Hold of Hope: Select one area discussed in this section and take action today.

4. Reach for Your Real Potential-What are your gifts? Are you using them? No? No wonder you’re depressed! I know the feeling of un-fulfillment and dis-satisfaction. Not using our gifts stems from several issues. For one thing, many don’t know what they are. If that’s you, I urge you to find and take a spiritual gifts survey. This will help you identify your gifts and boost your faith that God has indeed gifted you. Everybody has gifts. Some are behind the scenes. Some take center stage. Once you know your gifts you can start developing them.

Take Hold of Hope: Ask your pastor to administer a spiritual gifts survey to you. Then from the results, ask him where you can use your gifts in the church and beyond.

5. Reach for Real Mentors-With giftedness comes development. You may know how to sing but need to build your stage presence. You may have a lot of talents for songwriting but you may have a lot to learn and you need a better understanding of the process and discipline involved. Someone very wise once said, “When the student is ready, the teacher shows up”. Pray for mentors, not people who you admire from afar, but people who will get into the nit-grit of your life and guide you over the rough spots where they’ve already been. In my case I felt God’s strong leading into music, songwriting, and writing for publications. I had already written a drawer-full of songs and self-published CDs. I had a decent sized clip-file of published ministry materials, yet there was still much I didn’t know. As I turned my worries into prayers and asked God specifically for mentors, mentors came into my life. Talk about bright rays of sunlight! They saw my hurt, my pain of underachievement and underdeveloped gifts. Taking my hand, they led me to needful resources and organizations. My writing mentor Arlene urged me to develop my public speaking skills through joining Toastmasters International. She also supported my leading an area writers’ support group, she helped me learn new skills, she provided emotional help along the way, as well as prayer. My music mentor Laura helped me get to my first songwriting conference and this led to meeting people in the field and learning under their wise counsel and godly leadership. I actually attended my second songwriting conference, bringing CDs to sell in order to pay back Laura for hotel bills and gas. I sold a lot of CDs at the conference. I gave many away and just offered them for a donation. A leader in the music world actually bought a copy of each of my CDs. I wept as I told him my story of trying to pursue my gifts when my husband had lost his job and was uber depressed. It was so humbling to have this great leader in the Christian music holding my songs in his hands. I can’t even describe the feeling in words.

Take Hold of Hope: Pray for God to send mentors into your life.

6. Reach for Reality-Row-row-rowing your boat through life without stepping out on faith hurts. That kind of life is not a dream. It’s closer to a nightmare. Your life-span, if you’re blessed, may be ninety years. When you get halfway to that point, mid-life may seem daunting if you haven’t started to live and really started to give of your life and talents to help others. Why is realizing the brevity of life so important? Because with this understanding comes courage. You and I aren’t guaranteed one more breath, one more heartbeat, or one more welcome-home kiss for our spouse.

Take Hold of Hope: Ask yourself what’s the scariest aspect of using your gifts? Now ask yourself, “how would I want to live if this were my last opportunity?” This always gives me courage to take the stage and sing my heart out for Jesus! It can give you courage to use your gifts too.

7. Reach for a “Life’s Really not About me” Attitude-Ouch! This hurts. I knew this in my head, but my heart didn’t understand “it” wasn’t about me until later in life. Often society teaches us to be “me” centered and to look out for number one. That’s not reality. My life is not about me. My gifts aren’t about me. My words aren’t about me. They are about others, and God. When I began to learn this, the magnifying glass shifted from my needs to others’ needs. I could be happy with the blessings God had given me.

Take Hold of Hope: Find someone in need and meet that need for them by using your God-given gifts.

8. Reach for the Real God Who Loves You with an Everlasting Love-One of my favorite verses is “…We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Depression has helped me see how fragile I can be—an “earthen vessel”. How humbling yet how beautiful to know that God’s all-surpassing power is available to me, through every moment of life, for better or for worse, God is mine and I am His!

Take Hold of Hope: I challenge you to flip to the topical index in the back of your Bible, locate several verses about God’s everlasting love. Write them out and place them on your mirror. Start memorizing them today.

9. Reach for real Hope from God, not Circumstances-Expectations are like a balloon. If you lose hold, expectations fly away, leaving you empty. Hoping in God, our Rock is solid hope. Sometimes doubts come to our faith because we expect certain things from God. We expect him to check the yes box. When he says no it can feel like he’s betrayed us. But God goes deeper than our unmet expectations. I remember praying to receive certain things that I never got. However, later down the path, I saw that when God said no, it was the best thing ever.

Take Hold of Hope: Sometimes in order to take hold of hope you need to release your expectations. Ask God for strength to let go.

10. Reach for Heaven in our Real World-The word heaven gets tossed around. I know the title promised “9 ways to take hold of hope”. Ten is a number symbolizing perfection. The world has never perfect since Eve bit the apple in the Garden of Eden. Yet fairytales seem to live in our hearts. Why? Our hearts were not made for this sin-tainted existence. We were not made for this broken world… we were made for heaven. When we feel disappointed from unmet expectations, we can choose to reach our hearts toward heaven. As we, by faith, take hold of the hope of the perfection only heaven will bring, we can let the broken pieces of our life fall into God’s hands. And the wonderful thing is, as God comforts us, he can use the most painful trials to help others find hope. This is a little bit of heaven in our real world.

Take Hold of Hope: Place scripture around the home. Hope verses are taped on my calendar, written on chalk boards in my kitchen and laundry room, even inside my bathroom cupboard. Here’s one for this one this week: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy (pity and mercy) and the God [Who is the Source] of every comfort (consolation and encouragement), Who comforts (consoles and encourages) us in every trouble (calamity and affliction), so that we may also be able to comfort (console and encourage) those who are in any kind of trouble or distress, with the comfort (consolation and encouragement) with which we ourselves are comforted (consoled and encouraged) by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, AMP).

If you reach for real hope, and take hold of it, you’ll find real hope has a name. His name, Jesus.

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Letting Go…What to Do When Your Expectations POP!

Revised Version of "Congrats bqt" by Photographer: Warren Denning. Creative Director: Stan Weir. Marketing Director: Tim Vlamis - Pioneer Balloon Company. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://bit.ly/1xq3jTw
Revised Version of “Congrats bqt” by Photographer: Warren Denning. Creative Director: Stan Weir. Marketing Director: Tim Vlamis – Pioneer Balloon Company. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://bit.ly/1xq3jTw

There’s something so cheery about clutching colorful balloons… that is, until they deflate or pop. Four years into marriage, Jeff, my charming husband lost his 12 year career position. I tried to hang on to all those high floating dreams I had attached to my marriage. Doing so just tangled my life in knots.
Slowly, as I’ve learned how to let go of my expectations, God has set me free more and more. Here are some things I learned that have helped me let go.
L – Let go. Letting go. It sounds simple. But sometimes it’s really hard to release your grip on the things you have assumed you would have. In my book I go into more details of how to let go if you’re struggling hard like I was. One of the most important lessons is to recognize your expectations for what they are, deflated, done, yesterday. I had to ask myself, “Don’t you want to live?” Life is too short to hold on to all the strings of those old deflated dreams. What I began to realize as I let go, was that I could place all of it in God’s hands. He knew what was best and he knew how to untangle the mess I was in.
I – Identify what’s behind those expectations. I had to ask some personal and scary questions as I let go. Questions like, “why is this so important to me?” When I brought these to God he helped me identify issues like, fear, needing the approval of others, lack of a good firm identity in God, lack of trust that God knew what’s best for me, and even believing lies of entitlement that I somehow deserved all my dreams to come true.
F – Fight through flighty feelings. Our own Feelings will victimize us if we let them. Mine had me so tangled in a mess that I was despairing of my life. Myopia set in and I lost sight of my purpose in life. But hadn’t God’s Word said somewhere that I could take captive every thought? What I learned as I spent tearful moments in prayer and honesty with God who the Bible describes as “wonderful in counsel”, “magnificent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28-29) –was that it was in fact possible to fight my own feelings. As I identified why I was feeling the way I was, I realized it didn’t line up with my life as a daughter of the King. As a child of the King, I was in fact a real life princess, heir to all God desired for my life! As I got up out of the tangles and understood how to attach my hope to God, he gave me new dreams. As I gave him my hurts and confusion, God helped me write about them and reach out to others with the comfort he gave to me. Do you know what pure joy feels like? It’s when God transforms your deepest hurts to help others heal (See 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
T – Thankful – Gratitude is a choice. It might feel like a stretch, but right now, before you do anything else, I want you to think of 1 thing you can feel thankful for… one for every finger on your hands. If you can, hold up your fingers and put them down when you speak aloud each “thank you God for _____”. Do you feel a lift? Not yet. Do this again, making lists on your fingers until you begin to sense the lift.
Focusing on fragile temporal expectations, it is a little like depending on a bunch of balloons to sustain our happiness. When we learn to place our hope in God, more and more, our life becomes secure. Here’s a great verse to memorize. “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” Lamentations 3:24 NLT.

Blossoms of Love

spring blossoms 2Jeff took my hand and led me through the woods where he used to walk when he was just a child. “This land belonged to Grandpa, or Dr. Bovee, as they called Grandpa throughout Port Huron”.

Several months into our relationship, the sensation of Jeff touching my hand was still new. He wanted to hold my hand! It sent ripples of joy through my heart. He led me across a little dock under which a brook flowed. Over there to the side of the dock, and a little behind, where we had just walked, lay the pond, edged by weeping willows whose boughs brushed the water’s surface like feathers, and reflected so softly, their branches seemed to float on the mirrored water.

“Watch your step” Jeff said, as he led me across a tipsy board that gave us dry footing. We stepped on to the path now which led into the woods. The air felt cooler beneath the tree cover. Birds chirped, winging from treetop to treetop. Lacey sunshine filtered through the canopy above us.

We passed an open meadow and walked through a blackberry thicket. We picked a few juicy berries, cherishing our small meal together. Then we walked for what seemed miles. “Do you hear that?” I said. We stood still for a moment listening to shimmer of the summer wind breathing through the leaves. “That is a sound I remember from my childhood. We grew up in woods much like this”.

We continued walking. I stumbled for a moment on a stump as a branch snapped back and smarted on my leg. “Sorry about that”. Jeff looked back at me a little embarrassed. “It flew out of my hand.”

I smiled at him “you’re forgiven”.

Around the next bend and off the path a way back amongst some ferns and brush, stood a dilapidated old structure. “This is what they call ‘Stubie’, Jeff said. “A hermit used to live here.”

I had heard Jeff’s family talking about this place. I bent down and looked through splintered wood at what was once a wall. A remnant of a window stood as testimony of someone’s spending time there.

I had also heard Jeff’s family mention Johnny Appleseed may have tromped through these parts at one time. Could this have been a place Johnny Appleseed stopped along his way?

Jeff stopped to catch his breath. I followed his lead and stood very still as he came closer. “Are you enjoying yourself?” he said, looking at me with those eyes so blue they looked as if dipped from the depths of Lake Huron. He drew close to me, wrapping his arms properly around me, he looked in my eyes. My heart raced. I felt his breath on my cheek and the softness of his kiss. He held my head in his hands and laid his lips on mine. When I opened my eyes, the air seemed aflutter with pink butterflies. How had I not seen it before? We were standing in the middle of an ancient apple orchard in full bloom! God was in that romantic moment, drawing close to a young prince and his princess as love blossomed. I think God knew that years later, as we came through financial reversal and Jeff’s job-loss-related depression, we would need to remember when our love blossomed. God has since brought springtime back into our relationship, after a winter, flowers once again fill the air. He can do that for you too. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NIV).

 

Just For Tonight

just for tonight pic 3A marriage is not some nebulous entity. It is a union between two very human beings. And as humans we have needs. Often one of the needs is to just simply get away from all the stress; the pressure of an info/tech savvy saturated environment, the stress of having to keep all those plates spinning in the air at once, feelings you have to do instead of be. We are human beings after all.

My song “Just for Tonight” came from reflecting on sacred moments of fun with my husband and a desire to recapture again and again and again, the joy of just being together. Oftentimes these moments give us opportunities to begin breathing deep again. They help us enjoy and appreciate one another’s personalities, and to even revisit our emotional scrap book of humor and keepsakes~

Here are the lyrics and a link to the song:

Just for Tonight Tammy Bovee © 2012

Click To Listen

Verse 1: Just for tonight, let’s walk in twilight’s stillness
Just for tonight
Just for tonight let the stars sing to us
Just for tonight Let’s stroll starlit fields of splendor
Let the moment breathe
Dance with me in splashing moonlight over by the trees

Chorus: `Cause sometimes life’s greatest stories fit between the lines
Sometimes silence speaks when words are hard to find
Wounded hearts heal during walks in the night
So hold me / hold me/ Let me know it will be all right /
Just for tonight

Verse 2: Just for tonight, forget all of our struggles
Just for tonight
Just for tonight watch our gold rings sparkle
Just for tonight Let’s dance like we just fell in love
`Tasted our first kiss
Dream of happy times of laughter as we reminisce

Chorus:

Bridge:
Let’s remember why we fell in love all those years ago
Let’s take our shoes off and run like children
Let the heartaches go/ Let the heartaches go

Chorus:
Tag: Just for tonight / Just for tonight / Just for tonight rest of our lives.

Fireworks

fireworks picI love to put words and deep emotions to music. One night leading up to the Fourth of July, as I was getting ready for bed, something stirred deep in my soul as I thought about the reason we celebrate. Fireworks is our way of lighting the sky with remembrances of our sacred heritage of freedom. Closely tied to love of country is my first love, Jesus Christ. Like soldiers who bravely and selflessly died to purchase our freedom, long ago Jesus Christ fought the greatest battle for us on the cross of Calvary. Jesus died to purchase our freedom. His death on the cross and his resurrection assure us that all who receive him will have eternal life.

In a scene from a movie about the beautiful sacrifice of one life of a soldier, before he falls to the ground in death, he cries out to the buddy he’s dying for, “Make it worth it!”

I think of what Jesus did for us. I think of what he might say to you and me today. “Accept my death on the cross personally. I died to set you free. Are you free? Or are you living with a sin-debt still strapped to your shoulders? Have you really accepted my love and my free gift of grace? Live like it! No more slumped-shoulders sulking. No more wallowing, groveling in false guilt. The debt is paid. I paid it with my blood. Let the old-man fade, and let your life come alive in living colors of glorious resurrection!”

Fireworks words and music Tammy Bovee © 2009

Fireworks Oh how they sparkle
Fireworks dazzling my eyes
Fireworks brilliant colors dancing
Fireworks lighting the night sky

They celebrate a moment-in- history
Our Fathers founded liberty
And when through the dust of battle
Soldiers waved Old Glory!

Fireworks Oh how they sparkle
Fireworks dazzling my eyes
Fireworks brilliant colors dancing
Fireworks lighting the night sky

They honor heroes fallen
Sacrifices made for me
Paid the highest price for freedom
All to keep our country at peace

Down through history’s hall of honor
March brave soldiers of peace
Selflessly died for love and country
They gave their lives so that we could live free!

Fireworks Oh how they sparkle
Fireworks dazzling my eyes
Fireworks brilliant colors dancing
Fireworks lighting the night sky

They remind me of the moment in history
When Jesus set this captive free
Broke the bars of sin’s dark prison
And led me in sweet liberty

Down through history’s hall of honor
Marches our Soldier of peace
Selflessly died for a world of lost sinners
He gave his life so that we could live free

Fireworks Oh how they sparkle
Fireworks dazzling my eyes
Fireworks brilliant colors dancing
Jesus love lighting my life!

Lopsided

lopsided pic 2For the past six months my life felt like a V-8 commercial (where the person walks sideways). My hair was about 2 inches shorter in places on the right side and 6 inches longer on the left side. I actually developed a habit of tilting my head to the right. Now I sat in a salon waiting for a haircut. My hair had grown out so the short part was long enough I could get it evened-out without cutting it way up to my ears.  I’d looked at the hairstyle books and found a picture of a chin-length bob to show my stylist.

Not many people noticed my hair problem but I sure did. In those months growing it out I noticed how much a connection I had with how I felt about myself and how this impacted my outlook. For a while it seemed I had reverted back to teenage years when I had felt so insecure (because I subscribed to the lie that who I was was what I looked like). I remember agonizing over my appearance, spending hours over clothes, makeup, and hair.

Now my lopsided hair made me focus on the outward appearance again. When I focused my self-worth on the shaky foundation of outward appearance, I felt miserable and well, lopsided. I resolved to change my thinking. I viewed every day as a new opportunity to decide my identity would be determined by who I was in the inner woman, not by my lopsided view of myself.

In the wake of my hair issue, Dove soap released a new ad campaign. It reminded me of my struggle. Dove asked women to describe themselves to an artist; without looking at the women, the artist created likenesses then they asked the women’s friends to describe the women. Again sketches were created. The sketches made from the women’s own perceptions differed from that of the friends (for example, one woman described her chin as wide whereas the friend said it looked normal), indicating women didn’t feel very good about themselves. The end of the commercial showed a woman crying in her husband’s embrace. At first I didn’t get it. Then I think I understood. He had been telling her how beautiful she was and she hadn’t accepted it until then. This makes me ask, what impact does the way we women view ourselves have on our marriages? I’m guessing it has a bigger impact then we realize.

American women want to feel beautiful, so much so that as one source said, combined, we spend about 6 billion dollars on beauty per year. Due to some financial reversals, I couldn’t spend the money I used to spend on beauty products. Even if the L’Oreal commercial said, “You’re worth it” I couldn’t afford it. At one point, I remember looking in the mirror and wanting to cry. Yet my husband kept telling me how beautiful I was. Once when I had all my makeup off he looked at me and said, “I don’t know if it’s just that I’m falling in love with you more, but you seem to be growing more and more beautiful with each passing year.” I admit, at times the way I felt about myself hindered my ability to receive his word gifts. I wonder how he felt when I threw them back in his face.

Getting beyond negative self-image feels a little like trying to peel off a sticky label. Here are some questions to probe deeper. Can our identity really be contained in such things as hairstyle, facial features, skin clarity, or the size or shape of our body? How much time do we spend developing inner beauty? Do we need to start looking away from the wall mirror and into the mirror of God’s Word? What would happen if we took this to heart “Your beauty should …be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (From 1 Peter 3:3-4).

As I sat down in the salon chair for my haircut, I confided in my hairstylist (also a Christian), “Why do we care so much about our appearance?” I told her about meeting a woman who had some genetic issue which impacted her facial features. Her left eye was near her nose, her right eye dissimilar. I told how I felt God prompted me to tell this woman how beautiful he thought she was in his eyes.

God doesn’t view us through our lopsided perceptions of ourselves. He sees the woman beneath the makeup; he looks past even the worst hair day. He doesn’t look at us through the insults which adhere to our self-image like sticky labels. The Bible says God doesn’t look at us as people do. He looks at the inner woman. He knows us and loves us (Read Psalm 139). He looks beyond that blemish on our nose, or the worst hair day. He sees us through eyes of his unconditional love.  Maybe we should too.

 

Perfect Love Drives Out Fear

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfraid of the Dark~ As a little girl in ponytails, I felt sure monsters glowered at me through the dark with gaping mouths and goony eyes! As I lay in my bed, one thought surged through me. What if the monsters get me? I tugged the covers over my head allowing a small opening for my mouth and nose. Sometimes I peeked into the dark with my big brown eyes staring at the corners of my room. Where my clothes once lay, a fat monster glared at me. Monsters lurked under my bed. They reached up their claws searching for little me (of all the boys and girls in the world, why they found such interest in me I’ll never know). One night as I lay hiding beneath my covers, I heard my older sister Wendy singing a Christian song. The monsters in my room disappeared for the moment. I recalled Wendy’s Sunday school memory verse, the one on the little white card. As she had repeated it I had memorized it too “When I am afraid I will trust in you” (God) (Psalm 56:3, NIV). I also knew the truth from John 3:16 about how much God loved me. However, I had not let this truth settle into my heart.
Fear Not~ In fifth grade swimming class I trembled when it came my turn to jump into the deep end for the first time. In junior high, when it came my turn to climb the rope to the gym ceiling, I felt so afraid I fled aimlessly. Only when I stopped running did I realize I had entered the boy’s locker room (Talk about scary places for a teenage girl!) I also remember feeling all the blood rush to my face when my ninth grade algebra teacher called on me for my answer. As an adult, I remember when a bear visited Jeff’s and my honeymoon cabin. I was popping some popcorn at the time. I ended up burning most of it, which the bear noisily ate from our garbage around midnight. Like popcorn, fear inflates the “what if’s” inside the heart. If not countered, it soon overcrowds faith. Someone has added up how many times the Bible said not to fear. They came up with 365 times-one for every day of the year. It’s almost as if God knew how quick the human heart could fill with fear. God also knew the stifling, paralyzing nature of fear.
Faith is~ I used to think the Bible characters never struggled with fear. Yet as I study, I realize this simply isn’t true. Hebrews 11:34 says of the great faith warriors that their weakness was turned to strength. On their own, they felt fearful like you and me. With faith in God, people like Abraham, Joseph, Joshua, and Gideon overcame. Faith is singing a song to God in the dark. Faith is taking steps into the unknown when he asks us to follow him. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. We cannot see God. That is why fear sometimes feels bigger than God. When we let fear take over, we magnify the object of our fear through the lens of imagination. On the other hand, when we think about God, we remember his attributes, his character, and the real life miracles he has already done. We realize how big he is. Fear no longer dominates. Philippians 4:6 says not to be anxious but to pray. Among other things, verse 8 of that same chapter says to think about what is … lovely. Instead of hiding beneath covers, when we choose to think about our lovely God, each fear becomes a new opportunity to gain a firmer grasp of “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18, NIV). I cannot fully grasp God’s love but I continue to strive to take hold of that perfect love which drives out fear (1 John 4:18a). Somehow, as I do, the monsters disappear.

A Cure For the Winter Blahs

 

snow pic 2Today I woke to a gray sky. Most of the leaves had long since blown off the trees exposing dark limbs. Snow covered the lifeless ground. Depression knocked on my wreathless door. Uninspiring and unmoving, this winter day felt bleak. I wondered why unlike bears that hibernate or caterpillars that cocoon, God made humans so we continued cognizant through the long winter. I reached for the old reliable cure that has worked through the ages. Even King David, in the book of 1 Samuel 30:6 is said to have “strengthened himself in the Lord.” I wonder if his personal quiet time looked a little bit like mine today.

Prayer journaling~ This morning my faith felt weak. I needed strength. As I took up my prayer journal, I confessed this weakness to God. I sat in my blue recliner, pouring out my heart to God on the page. I wrote, “I feel like a wilted brown leaf blowing in the winter winds. I need your touch. I need your sunlight. I need your love and comfort.” Somehow the physical process of writing, seeing the ink fill the empty void and watching the pen move across the page felt so validating. There were some things I needed to tell God and get off my chest. I shared them honestly. I then wrote praises to God and some things for which I felt thankful.

Bible studying~ I paused for a moment and tried to figure out what passage of the Bible to study. This morning, I felt so uninspired. Nothing seemed to jump out at me. My husband said he studied from 1 Kings. I flipped to 1 Kings then paged over to chapter 18 starting at verse 16. In my mind’s eye, I was up on Mt. Carmel and watched as Elijah set up a contest between the true God and the false gods the people were worshiping. There was an altar and a sacrifice. “The god who answers by fire-he is God” (v. 24). It was almost 1,000 false prophets against Elijah. As all the people from the nation looked on, I watched the prophets of Baal dance and wail and even cut themselves. This went on all day. No answer. Elijah’s turn came. He called the people near. He drenched the altar with water three times. Then he prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God…” I then watched God answer with fire so hot it devoured the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil, and the water. God spoke to my heart about having the quality of faith that places God on a stage to let him work. On my journal page, I scrawled a prayer for God to let my testimony cause people to shout as they did on Mt. Carmel, “The Lord- he is God! The Lord- he is God!” (v. 39).

Singing~ As I moved into intercession for others, I took up my guitar and sang, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. I thought of how faithful God was, through every season. Even winter.

Praying for others~ I took out my prayer list and started praying. It helped focus my eyes on others needs. I emerged from my quiet time refreshed.

If you have the winter blahs take time to write a prayer to God. Study a favorite story from the Bible. Sing a song to God. Pray for others. This time-tested cure has worked for centuries. Likely, it will work for you.

Time to Mend

Sewing NeedleI sat on my white embroidered bedspread and opened my sewing kit. It was so easy to put off mending. It took time out of my busy schedule to sit and piece something back together. But I wanted to wear this particular piece of clothing so there I sat. Stringing thread from the spool, I cut off the length I needed. I squinted with one eye, threading the thin white strand through the eye of the needle. As I began sewing, my mind lingered on Mary and Joseph’s relationship. I pushed and pulled my sharp needle through the fabric pondering the tumultuous start to their lives together.

How did Mary feel when she found out about her betrothal to Joseph? Did her eyes sparkle beneath her veil? Out of all the young women in the village, Joseph was chosen for her! I imagined her as she hummed wedding tunes, walking with a spring in her step as she went to the village well. Perhaps she helped her mother make bread. Maybe she assisted her Mother in altering an heirloom bridal gown and veil for the wedding. As was the custom, the family of the bride anticipated the moment of surprise when the bridegroom, Joseph, would show up at their house, wedding party in tow, to make Mary fully his own. Betrothal was much more binding than our modern engagement. Mary and Joseph were considered husband and wife in practically every sense except the physical act of marriage. But before Joseph came with the wedding party to make Mary fully his (to have and to hold) Mary was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit. I imagined the quiet whispers and lies spread around the village like fire on a match stick. “Did you hear the news? Shame on Joseph! What a disgrace— both of them are from such good families—”

I imagined Joseph’s reaction when he heard. He knew it was not his child. Was it his fellow carpenter? How about that farmer’s son? To quietly release Mary from their betrothal was the only option; he was planning a divorce.

As I pulled the needle through the fabric, the needle poked my thumb. I thought about the humble elation Mary felt when the angel Gabriel told her she was to carry the Son of God. She wrote a song “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices—” (Luke 1:46-47). Now everywhere she went did she see that disappointed look in Joseph’s eyes. I’m quite sure it haunted her. Did Mary toss and turn on her bed, weeping in quiet anguish before her Lord— “I am a virgin! Yet how can I convince Joseph? You said nothing was impossible for You. God I need your help.”

As I finished my mending, I remembered an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. The Bible doesn’t record the time of mending between Joseph and Mary, but between the lines I could see them taking long walks in the starlight, perhaps learning to hold one another’s hand again. I think it took time for Mary to forgive Joseph for misjudging her character. I’m quite sure Joseph had to get over his shock and accept the situation.

Our minds often take time to unlearn misunderstandings, even though the evidence is clear as a wedding Saturday in June. Sometimes in our marriages, we can think we know something yet misunderstanding clouds our eyes. If this sounds all too familiar, maybe it’s time to take time— to mend.

Listen To My Song “Just For Tonight” 

Letting go of expectations to hold on to happily ever after.