Seasons

autumn

The foliage of an oak tree is an ordinary sight in springtime. But a searing summer afternoon is what turn its shade into rare relief. In the winter months, cold air is shunned and cursed as people bundle up. But in the summer, that same arctic chill is hunted and chased by the same people who wished for its end.  Seasons are like that. They enable you to appreciate what was formerly overlooked and make you grateful for what you wouldn’t have otherwise.

I’m in what I would call a tetherball season.  Imagine a ball made of anxiety and doubt, with some teaspoons of fear thrown in for good measure.  Anxiety about our leaders and the world. Doubt about my professional life. Fear about the future. The ball is floating and bouncing on a rocky midnight blue sea. But the size of the ball is dwarfed by the magnitude of the chain attached to it. The thick metal links are fused to a pole in the center of the body of water. So, though the sea tosses and turns the ball over and over, it can never drift away from the anchor.

“God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

-Hebrews 6:18-20

I already knew that God is mighty and securely holds us in His hands. But lately, His daily assurance has been powering my days.  And the security of His word keeps my heart at peace. Only by being in this particular season can I say that I am truly grateful for His strength.

Maybe in a season of loneliness, you cherish His love. Or in a period of doubt, His faithfulness soothes you. Sometimes, going through something will allow you to completely treasure, enjoy, and be thankful for all of who God is.

In your season of life, what about God are you grateful for?

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Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-).

In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin.

I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well.

I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!

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November Challenge: Gratitude

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They say one of the simplest things that you can do to ward off depression is to take a daily account of all the things in your life that you have to be grateful for.  To me, that is yet another example that following the Bible (which urges us to give thanks to God every day) is not just good for our soul, but our physical selves as well!

A couple weeks ago, I told you how I was feeling drained emotionally and physically.  I didn’t really want to do anything than sit on the couch and binge watch Project Runway.  While I still love watching PR, I truly believe that last month’s challenge of being more in the Word helped get me halfway out of my funk.  This month, I am going to purposefully pursue an attitude of daily gratitude and I know it is going to pay dividends.

There are any number of ways that you can incorporate gratitude in your lives.  A common recommendation is to use a gratitude journal where you write down five things every day that you are grateful for.  It’s not only good for you that day, but in low moments you can read back over all the days and remember all the great things you have going for you.

For me, I like using social media to post a daily gratitude post on Facebook.  My hope is that it not only acts like a mini gratitude journal for myself, but it also spreads positive thinking to everyone who reads it. It is a witness to others and hopefully gets them thinking too about the good in their lives.

It is so easy with all that is going on in this world to be negative; in fact, sometimes I feel bad just trying to BE positive when everyone on my feed is posting about social injustice and tragedy.  Look, we need to acknowledge all the ills of this world – it’s a fallen world, people!  It is good for us to remember that this is not our permanent home and that Satan runs free here.  But darkness NEEDS light to counteract it.

So I truly and strongly encourage you to start today – whether you’re reading this the same day I am posting it or months from now – to count your blessings each day.  Make it a habit.  Share it with someone – even better, tell someone that you are thankful for THEM.  It will lift not only your own, but others’ spirits too!

Happy Gratitude Month!

October Challenge Finish!

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Today we both finish out the October challenge and it is the day that those of us in the US celebrate Halloween!

To me, it is very fitting that we end a month of trying to be more in the word with the night of costumes and masks.  So much of what we learn in the Word is about unmasking our true selves.  We can look on the outside like the worst ghoul or goblin, but on the inside, we are very much human, very much a soul just in need of saving as anyone else.  Or the opposite – we look like a superhero with the power to save the world, but underneath that get-up, we’re just a little boy or girl searching for our Daddy.

I must confess – I have never been one for Halloween.  I don’t particularly like dressing up and I get scared pretty easily.  No haunted houses for me, nosireebob!  But it is a good reminder that even when all around us looks terrifying, it all changes when the lights come on and the illusion is revealed for what it is – just paper and paint and trick mirrors.

Does your world look scary right now?  Does it feel like a funhouse where you don’t know where you’re going or what’s around the next bend?  The metaphorical lights can be turned on.  It just takes opening the Word of God.  Through Scripture, the illusion of the world around us is revealed for what it is – fake.

The MRP writers this month have done a great job giving you tips to better explore the Word, but I will give you one more – do it with a group of committed Christians who can help dive into it with you.  Reading on your own is always good, but make sure that you also read it with someone else there (even if it’s just in the footnotes!) who is giving you direction and explaining it.  We have enough confusion in our daily lives – don’t let Scripture be one more, when God intends for it to be mind-opening and world-revealing.

This month, I can say with no false pride that I was truly in the Word more than my usual.  I participated in a biweekly study with friends and a weekly study at my church.  I also started a short program at a women’s prison to encourage the women there to do a deep-dive into the Word through creative writing.  We just started, but I am really looking forward to it and the women are terrific.

Tonight I will pass out candy with my husband (assuming the weather isn’t terrible) and I will enjoy seeing all the kids in their costumes, having the joy of playacting at characters and people that they aren’t.  But after the excitement is over, each one of them will go home, take off the costume, and get into bed, restored to their true selves.  I hope that you too can take off your own figurative costume and find yourself sweetly cradled in your own truth, facilitated by the reassuring Word of God.

Happy Halloween!

 

From the Dating Files

files

Let’s call him Mr. Bitter, because that’s how I referred to him after the date.

Mr. Bitter was one of my many online dates – although I can’t remember now which.  From his profile, he was exactly what I was looking for.  He was a devoted Christian, dedicating his life to serving the poor.  He had started a very successful nonprofit that worked to end sex trafficking in an Eastern European nation.  He had starred in a Christian TV series that had documented his missionary work in his younger years.  He was cute, he was smart, he was funny – I was sure that this was going to be a match made in heaven.

What’s more, I had planned the perfect date.  He was only in my state because he had briefly decided to leave his jet-setting life to come back to Ohio to live with his parents for a period of time.  So since he wasn’t from here, I would do my best to show him my neighborhood.  I lived in a cute suburb with a darling downtown filled with shops, restaurants – the perfect place to walk around on a Friday night.

The perfect date that I set up started with a stroll through the local art center, followed by a visit to the local make-your-own-candles shop, followed by dinner at one of the nearby restaurants, and capped off with a visit to the ice cream shop.  Absolutely delightful, no?  There were so many fun and interesting things to do, I was sure that I had set up the perfect balance between giving space for conversation with enough distraction if it dropped off.  This was going to be an amazing evening!

Only my perfect date didn’t take into account my less than perfect date.  From the time Mr. Bitter arrived to the time the date ended, the conversation mostly revolved around him and how unhappy he was – the issues with his parents, how disconnected he felt, how backwards were the people he was working with abroad – basically everything in his life that had seemed so good in his profile, he was discontented by.  I tried to veer the conversation in a different direction – look, a candle! – but it always came back to that main theme, and with a surprising amount of detail for someone he had just met.

By the time we hit dinner, it was less a date and more a therapy session.  He wanted to hang out longer, but I (thankfully) had to hit the road to drive to see my own parents late that night, so I bid him goodbye.

And yet, even though the date hadn’t gone the way I had planned, I still weaved romantic dreams about him on my way home.  After all, hadn’t he wanted to hang out more?  After all, didn’t I demonstrate what a caring and empathetic listener I was?  Okay, sure, he was a downer, but I could make him happy.

Only I didn’t get the chance.  Because he never contacted me again.  Despite the perfectly-planned date, despite the listening and sympathetic ear, despite his seeming interest in spending more time together – just silence.  When a couple days had passed and I slowly realized that I would never hear from him again, the pang of rejection was replaced by the feeling that I had dodged a bullet.

I had planned the perfect date to a T, but I couldn’t plan the perfect person to go on it with me.  On to the next…

Strength in Scripture

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In the past 3 months, I have undergone too many life transitions to even list here. Certain situations in life felt hopeless.  I was unsure if they would ever change; there seemed to be no change to the patterns.

In the midst of my uncertainties and mind battles, the Lord is planting certain Scriptures on my heart. These Scriptures are giving me strength to press on. When I felt hopeless and as if those aspects of my life wouldn’t change, Psalm 118:17 sprang into my heart: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.”

I began to recite the verse to myself often, especially when the difficulties reared their head. No matter how difficult life seemed, I will live through it. Even greater, I will live to testify to God’s great works! Someday, I will be able to tell how God’s mighty hand turned my circumstances around.

This is just one example of God’s Word being strength to me. There are other verses that have been given to me during other difficult situations. God’s Word is “alive and active.” (Hebrews 4:12)  The Word is becoming nourishment for my mind and heart in each circumstance of my life.

I am coming to a greater appreciation of Scripture, especially for life’s difficult situations. If we are rooted in Scripture, we can dig deep and find power in God’s Word when trials come.  It is working for our good and can provide whatever we need. But like any superfood, it can’t take effect unless we have taken it into our body!

At all times, we need to make Scripture reading a priority. In the times when life is great and we believe we’re super successful…To God be the glory! Praise and thank Him, and make sure you’re reading His love letters to you. When difficulties inevitably come, you’ll be able to dig deep into those times of reading Scripture. By God’s grace, you will have a store of spiritual “vitamin C” to keep you strong. Your remembrance and continued reading of Scripture will sustain you.

It’s easy to put off reading the Bible, or to only listen to it at church once a week. But it is strength to our lives. It is a big aspect of what roots us in the Lord. We keep our focus on Christ when we are reading the Word, in both good and bad times. When troubles come, we will find great strength in being rooted. The Word teaches us God’s goodness and faithfulness to us. Make learning and loving Scripture a priority. You won’t regret it.

What passage or verse has helped you in a time of difficulty?

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am a Master’s student studying to become a counselor.  My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.