Bethany's BlogWords of Encouragement

The Bars

 

 

 

 

 

A few years ago a young woman was sexually assaulted on the Stanford campus. She was unconscious at the time of her assault. Two men on their bikes were riding by and noticed that something unusual was happening, they dropped their bikes and ran to her, stopping the assailant. She was rushed to the hospital and did not wake up until the next morning. Her life, of course, was never the same. She couldn't remember what happened that night, but her body had the physical evidence that someone had used her body without her consent.  This young woman has written a memoir about her experience. She was catapulted into a completly different life, one of lawyers, investigators, recovery, and courtrooms. She was taken to the brink of her identity, and she had to choose to overcome! She was given an anonymous name for her own protection, and now that she has released her memoir, she has also released her true name. Chanel Miller.

Chanel has become an advocate for women. Through her experience she quickly came to understand that women are not treated with the respect that God intended for them. When women experience abuse they are often blamed for the crime that happened to them. Careless words are thrown at them, lies that become internalized and challenge the core of who they were created to be. Questions of blame swirl around them such as "Why didn't you run?" "Were you drinking?" "What were you wearing?" This was her experience.

Now, years later, the man that assaulted her served 90 days in jail, and is now free. Yet, she has served years within the prison of her mind.

Her process, the long journey back to herself, reminded me of all of us. His crime also reminded me of the incredible forgiveness each of us have been offered and given. Many people were outraged that this man only served 90 days for a crime that was violent, invasive, and wrong. How could this be fair?

As I've considered this God continues to remind me of His Gift. In my own life I've struggled with the actions of others towards me, and also my own actions towards them. Why didn't I walk away? What was I thinking? How could my trust have been so betrayed? Who am I? 

Walking through the pages of our lives isn't always easy. It requires some difficult turns and choices. Sometimes it demands a fight, other times complete surrender. Acceptance of where we are pokes at our existance, and others times acceptance is not an option. Truth can hang out just around the corner as lies wedge themselves deep within us. Nothing is easy! Yet, we still get to choose the direction of our hearts and minds. This has been my fountain of refreshment.

As children of God there is a blanket of forgiveness that covers us. The blood of Jesus, bright and crimson, wrote "Forgiven" on His elect. "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." Romans 8:33-34. Wow! this is hope.  

Not everyone chooses to be God's elect, but when they do, this also applies to them. Not everyone knows of the gift offered to them. I haven't always known. I haven't always believed that He created me as strong, worthy, loved, chosen. His royal child, forgiven.   Many are walking around without this information, living lies that fold into crime, pain, death. We choose to serve a sentence, rather then reach out for freedom.

The prison we live in inside our minds is far more confining than any real place. The punishing words we tell ourselves, the lack of belief in the blood of freedom, the diminshed hope of eternal life. We sometimes treat ourselves like a crimanal, locking ourselves away for years. Then, when we are released we feel the punishment was not long enough, failing to see that what Jesus did opened the prison door from the beginning, we just chose not to walk out. Believe me, I've sat inside the door, refusing to live in freedom.

It feels like this post is rambly, and maybe not even getting my point fully across. But, I leave you with the question, are you living within the bars of your own mind? Does guilt, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, lies, etc hold you in there? What choice can you make today to begin your walk towards freedom?

 

 

 

Goodbye Sugar!

 

 

So we fasted and prayed about these concerns. And he listened.

Ezra 8:23 (MSG)

So, I've said goodbye to sugar, for a time. It's my sugar fast. My church is doing a 21 day fasting challenge, so that worked out well for me, even though I started my sugar fast before I knew about the 21 day challenge. Still, it feels like I'm participating in a community challenge. I didn't have any big spiritual reasons for dropping sugar out of my daily life, really, I just wanted to feel better. I've had two colds in the last few months which is more than I've had in the last three years. Maybe the sugar has no bearing on those colds, but just in case, I have decided to give it a try.

Now that i'm over two weeks in, I've started to ask God what He would like me to look at or meditate on during this goodbye sugar season. How can I go deeper with Him? Has sugar given me brain fog? Don't misinterpret, please. I've never been a big sugar person, so my goodbye sugar fast isn't much of a hardship. But, you know, every now and then i like a good scoop of ice cream. As I've prayed about it the word that comes to mind is surrender. Hmmm, there must be a connection. I haven't just given sugar a break, but I've been monitaring my eating habits, mindful eating as some would say.  I've given up scarfing my food down because i'm out of time, or just grabbing some chips as I sway out the door.  No more, I say! No more! With all this surrendering going on within me, I have realized that God truely is more prevalent in some ways. I'm forcing myself to think about ways God wants my surrender that goes beyond eating. 

Earlier in the year I asked God if He had a specific word for me to think upon for 2020. Two words came to mind. Stand and Purpose. So, as I've been mulling these words over and over in my mind, my thoughts have also come back to surrender. Sometimes, I'll respond with something simple like, "I surrendered sugar!" but what I believe God is trying to communicate to me is the need to surrender my stand and my purpose. Goodbye sugar is just a side kick. I believe it's a good side kick, but not the message He is trying to get across.

Stand. I've been known to take a stand on a lot of different things, so if I were to surrender that stand, what would change? I mean, I want to take a stand for Jesus, but is He asking me to stand differently? And, when I surrender my stand, will that change the purpose I believe He has for me? Will it bring Him into an even sharper focus? Or, maybe it will bring me into sharper focus through Him? I believe yes. 

These are some of the thoughts that have popped in and out over the last few weeks, and now today I am seeing that it is not MY stand that matters. It is not even the quest for purpose that fulfills me. It is surrender. Wherever surrender takes me it will bring me deeper into the purpose He has designed for me, and in that purpose I will stand for Who Jesus is.  The book I'm working on filters in and out of these thoughts, and the closer I get to an edited manuscript, the more I realize that I am in the process of surrender. This book leads me to a stand of following Him and surrendering my fears of exposer. It forces me to take a stand for the truth of my life story, and it reveals to me that God has always had a purpose for me.  So, as I say goodbye to sugar, I am also saying goodbye to control. I am saying that my life can run to deeper roots as i stand in His life and His promises for me. Each day as i believe in a healthier lifestyle without sugar, I too will believe in a deeper stand in the purposes of God.

What does surrender mean to you? In what ways is God calling you to say goodbye?

 

Welcome 2020

 

 

 

 

"And they overcame and conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, for they did not love their life and renounce their faith even when faced with death."

Revelation 12:11

 

Welcome to 2020! How was your 2019? On New Years Eve I spent a little time thinking back on the past year. One of my highlights last January was a large photo that our children gifted us. It was our whole family standing on the beach at sunset. The photo was a surprise and a testimony of the gift of family that God has blessed us with. We had all gone on vacation together to the coast, and that in itself was an immense blessing to our family. We made connections, we had fun, and God moved the entire time.

Another hightlight for me was watching our two youngest children work together in the business of selling cars. They bought old cars, worked to fix them up and then resold them. It was not just good for their friendship, but it helped our son get in touch with a passion.

God really uplifted me through months of severe pain on my left shoulder. Even after surgery, my shoulder began to freeze. It was debilitating and discouraging. But, God provided a procedure that brought great healing, even through the pain.

After several years of financial challenges, God blessed us with a pay day ever single month in 2019. The challenge of trusting Him through our hardship was not easy for me, yet He continued to whisper to me that He would provide and I would come to a place of abundance in more ways than one.  He has provided in beautiful ways, and I can testify that He has kept His Word to us.

2019 brought chaotic, fun, joyful connections with our grandchildren. I loved spending regular time with them, and putting little gifts in a mailbox for them each time they would come to visit.

My husband and I took a couple trips together, and I knew that it was God's way of showing us His love. I was also excited to have other trips with friends and family that filled my heart to overflowing. With each trip I built connections with people I love, and I felt loved. My team and I went on a trip to the coast that was enriching, restful, fun, and strengthening.  I also got to go to a women's conference with three friends, each of us dove deeper into trusting each other. But, mostly, I again saw how God continued to work in me to build relationship with His people and to give love as well as receive love. 

With every single moment I know God was working and moving me towards the more He has always promised. More of His love, more truth, more peace.

I have felt called to write a book, and 2019 I sent off a rough draft to be edited. This has been a big step of faith for me. My life hasn't always felt as blessed as 2019, but I have believed that God would use every experience  to not only grow my heart, but to prosper others as well. There have been many failures, yet God has turned them into journies I would never trade. 

God also blessed me with the opportunity to be published in Community of Christian Creatives magazine. This process has not only been fun but challenging. I have to dig a little deeper in trusting His Words to me, and focus again on the promise of Who He is and who He says I am.

There's so much more that I could mention. 365 days of seeking my God and Him pursuing me. It's not always as visible in the moment, yet it's still there, still real.

I don't know what 2020 holds, but I do know God is in charge of it all. He has already scoped out the path before me and He has covered me in His righteousness. He has promised me that through His eyes, even with the failures, I am still fabulous. And, so are you!

Take some time this New Year's Day and thank God for the journey. Thank God for leading, loving, and being faithful to you, every. where.  you. go! Whatever you encounter, He will bring blessing from it.

Welcome, 2020. The vision of walking with God will guide your steps every day of this year, and there will be unexplainable joy, hope, peace, and love that will shine brightly to all of those around you!

 

 

Even Though

 

 

 

 

Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive fails and the fields produce no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls, yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord; I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation! The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet and makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].

Habakkuk 3:17-19

God promises over and over in His Word that He will strengthen those that trust in Him. He promises to give us confidence that is as sure-footed as a deer, when we live in faith.

I will be the first to admit that I have worked through and still work through some serious doubts when it comes to God’s promises. The beauty of this process is that God is right there beside me as I question, wonder, doubt, and sometimes run around in circles. So far in life, He has brought me to a place of stronger faith and boldness, even though I can wallow in doubt. I’ve told myself numerous times that it would be much easier for me, and probably those around me, if I skipped the doubt, the questions, and sometimes fear and simply believe. Yet, it isn’t always that easy, is it? 

The days that I feel like the fruitless vine, or the fig tree without any blossoms, or a failure like the olive tree, I have discovered that if I voice it and still praise His name anyway, I truly am strengthened. Sometimes I am strengthened a lot, other times just a little, but every time, He is there.

When my courage falters, and I turn to praise Him, He lifts me up to walk in a sure-footed path. It can be slow, but it does happen.

We live in a world that bombards us with negative thoughts and bad news. We are surrounded with lies from the enemy every day. It can suck the strength right out of our hearts if we are not diligent in our focus on who God is and what He promises us. 

If I am not willing to get up from under the fruitless vine, or the withered fig tree and praise Him for all that He has said; it will be very challenging to see beyond the circumstances I am sitting in. When I choose to move, I will lead a movement. When I choose to trust, I will believe. When I choose to stand, I will lead in boldness. When I choose to rejoice, I will be victorious.

If discouragement covers your heart today, take heart! God sees and hears you and He will lift you out. He will bring you to places of great strength and faith when you are able to place your trust in His promises. Talk to Him about it and don’t be afraid to be real with Him. He listens. He knows. And, as you confide in Him, He certainly will make you walk forward with spiritual confidence. 

Share your story today of how God continues to walk alongside you, even though.

 

 

(Also published in Community of Christian Creatives magazing)

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