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Hard Seasons of Life and How to Navigate Them

Hard Seasons of Life and How to Navigate Them

Hard Seasons

 

In hard seasons, do you ever feel like negative thoughts spiral downward and it feels impossible to make your way back up again? Sometimes it seems like things are going great and then they take a hundred-eighty degree turn sideways and you’re left with whiplash. I understand. There are days where I’ve battle thoughts that left me feeling sad and irritated, which made me not so fun to be around.

 

There are three things you can do in hard seasons.

 

Remember God’s goodness

 

Remind yourself that God is good. He has good in mind for you and good thoughts toward you and about you. The Lord calls the stars by name and knows every hair on your head. You are important to him.

“How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence, you hide them from the instrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues” (Psalm 31:19-20).

 

Reach out to Others in Hard Seasons

 

Reach out to others. Not for them to fill you up, but so that you get out of your heard. Ask them what you can pray for and then pray for them. It’s amazing how when we focus on someone else’s life, our thoughts get reoriented.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

 

Hold onto Faith

 

Be faithful. It’s in those moments when it feels like God is unfaithful that we need to remind ourselves to hold steady and stand firm on the truth we know, not on what we feel. God does not leave or forsake us.

“I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not cancel your love and your truth from the great assembly. Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord; may your love and your truth always protect me” (Psalms 40:10-11).

 

Navigate the Hard Seasons with Faith

 

Summer is in full swing and you might be busy with running kids to activities or preparing for your high school graduate to leave the nest. Maybe loneliness is loud in your heart or maybe there’s too much togetherness making you crazy. It’s okay to flip-flop between all the emotions. God is steady and true. He holds onto us when life whips us around and around.

 

A Prayer

 

Holy God,
You are steady and true, a steadfast and faithful God who holds us up when we want to fall, who strengthens our steps when we want to quit our hard seasons, who provides rest when we need to rest. We can trust you with the crazy thoughts that fill our minds. Because of your power within us, we remember your everlasting faithfulness that holds us steady. Move in our hard seasons today. Let your presence be known in our realities, and let us fix our eyes on you–the keeper of the stars, the counter of our hairs, and the savior of the world.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

A Final Thought

 

This blog post is a sample of what I send out to the readers of Grace Notes–a twice a month shot of encouragement from my heart to yours. If you’re interested in signing up to receive these notes, you’ll also receive a free ebook called Kicking Perfect. Sign up here. Thank you for reading and I pray that you God touches your life in a powerful way.

 

Do Scars Have Purpose

Do Scars Have Purpose

Scars have purpose. . .

They really do.
Scars remind us of where we’ve been and of God’s faithfulness. 
They are gifts of proof that God redeems our struggles, despair, and pain.

We are in the week after the greatest miracle that ever happened–Jesus’ resurrection. He conquered death, defeated the grave, and triumphed over the Enemy. It is finished. And yet, there’s more to come. Isn’t that a lovely thought?

The Hope for our Scars

After dawn on Easter, Jesus walked, talked, and broke bread with his disciples. He was whole–no longer the beaten and crucified Savior covered in blood and anguish. Radiant. Splendid. His disciples didn’t recognize him. He spoke to Mary and she knew. He broke bread with the two disciples and they knew. And then, he appeared to a group of disciples and they thought he was a ghost, until he showed them his scars. And then, they knew.

His scars. He still had his scars on his hands and feet. Isn’t it remarkable that Jesus, who rose from the dead with a body broken and beaten, kept his scars. These (along with eating fish) proved to the disciples that he was in fact standing before them, real and true. He kept his scars.

The Word of God

“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. If is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have'” (Luke 24:36-39).

Sometimes I don’t want the ragged scars that criss-crosse my life. I don’t want the reminders of the pain, sorrow, agony, and doubt. But if Jesus left his scars for a purpose, then my scars have purpose too. And so do yours.

Your scars are a map of how faithful God has been to redeem your circumstances. They can remind you that you found refuge in God. He was your rock when the ground gave way. He fought your battles when you couldn’t fight another day. He enabled you to stand firm when you didn’t think you could.

You grew and matured. You learned things about yourself and God. These are some of the purposes of your scars. But there’s another reason too. They serve as a testimony to others for encouragement and comfort and as a reminder that if God can bring you through, then he can bring them through too.

The Prayer

Lord Jesus,
Thank you for my journey. These scars tell a story of your work in my life. And I am grateful. I am grateful I didn’t walk alone. I am grateful that these scars prove that you were near and guided me through. I give you glory for all that you have done. You redeemed my life from the pit. You turned my mourning into dancing. You gave me new mercies every morning. And when the night lasted a long time, you were there, in the dark, comforting me. I praise you Jesus!
In your name,
Amen

 


A Blessing

May the Lord show you his purpose in your pain.

 

Further Reading

Luke 24

 

When Resolve Feels Weak

When Resolve Feels Weak

New Beginnings and Falling Resolve

It’s hard to think about new beginnings when winter grips my world. It is cold. The trees, bushes, and flowers lie dormant. It doesn’t look “new”. Things look old, drab, brown. The weather is not friendly. The sun hides. I hide from the air that freezes nose hairs and eye lashes. January 1 may come with a flip of the calendar and the rising of the sun, but things don’t feel new when I’m in the middle of enduring winter. Winter is an actual season, but sometimes our lives feel like perpetual winters no matter what season we’re in. Enduring and newness seem like they can’t coexist together, but what if they can?

I’m not a fan of resolutions. Probably because I can’t keep one longer than two or three days and my failure to make it to day four makes me feel ashamed. But enduring…that’s something I can do. It’s something we all can do. We can last, stay steadfast, and exercise faithfulness.

Regrets follow us. Shame mocks us. Those baby resolutions that didn’t grow past day 3 scream at us from the back of the room. We shut the door. Give up. Quit. I’ve done it. But think about it this way—rather than waiting for January 1 to start “new”, what if we treated each day like a “new” start?

Scripture

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV).

Each day that lies before us is a new day. Yesterday holds regrets over promises not kept, tasks unfinished, and habits unbroken. Will we let those regrets prevent us from seeing the new thing God wants to do in our lives?

Remember not is a lovely way to phrase: “Forget it.” But what it’s really telling us to do is not to reminisce on what was before. We don’t have to chew on our regrets like a cow chewing its cud. Those regrets don’t have to speak negatively into our present day and bully us into giving up the new that God is doing in our lives.

God Brings New

God wants to do “new” in your life. He wants to bring you to new pastures, new spaces, and new moments with him. He wants to transform you into his likeness. This newness happens bit by bit with each yes you say to God.  Did he help you pay attention to your words, and you chose kind ones over harsh? Celebrate. But maybe you chose the harsh ones and didn’t want to. Admit it and receive forgiveness. Then move on. Regrets bully, but God restores.

God is making a way in the wilderness. He is making springs in the desert. He is helping you every step of the way with every new day. Look for him. Focus on him and his miraculous redemption and watch him make a way when the new year is hard.

Prayer for Your Heart

Lord God,
You are holy, righteous, and almighty. Your mercies are new every morning and I praise you for your faithfulness. Will you reveal what newness you’re working out in my heart and life? I don’t want to be caught up with my regrets and mistakes. I want to let them go and focus on you. You restore broken people. The power of regrets in my life interferes with focusing on the new that you’re doing. Restore me. May a way. Let streams flow even in my desert places. I love you and look to you.
In Jesus’ name, Amen

I am grateful for you and your desire to grow in Christ, whether its baby steps or by leaps and bounds. Remember to take each day as a new day and trust the Lord to enable you to see the new growth he’s bringing about in your life.
Book Update: My book is getting closer and closer to publication. Thank you to each one who has supported the project financially and prayerfully. If you’d like to partner with me to get the message on Reframing Rejection to a world weary of ghosting and canceling, please go here.

When You Feel Defeated

When You Feel Defeated

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost before you’ve even begun?

Sometimes we feel defeated before the battle has even begun because the challenge is too great; the heartache is too unbearable; and the personal cost is too much. Courage feels thin. Hearts quake and knees shake. And yet, there’s one way forward and that’s through the fire. The three Hebrew young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego faced a literal fire when they refused to worship a manmade image. How could they survive? Fire consumes everything in its wake–oxygen, land, and people. Defeat looked probable. But look at their faith:

They replied…“we do not need to defend ourselves in this matter. If we are thrown into this blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it….but even if he does not, we want you to know King Nebuchadnezzar, we will not serve your gods or the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18 ESV).

They remind us of two things: One, God is able. Two, their faith is not dependent on whether or not God acts on his ability.

God is able.

In our own lives we can remember that God is able and capable of anything. He can change our circumstances or he can make a way through. He can heal this side of heaven or the other side. He can protect us from the flames or carry us through the pain of the flames. God is able.

It’s one thing to know this about God and another thing entirely to keep our faith intact whether God wills to do a miracle the way we think it should be. The three Hebrew boys had no idea what the outcome of this battle would be. They only knew that they could not bow down to that image of gold. We have the benefit of knowing how the story ends, but they did not. We whoop and holler over their victory, but when they faced the fire, they had to know that it looked like an impossible victory.

We’ve been in situations like that before. We’ve wished we knew the end of the story and could just flip through those pages in our lives. But life doesn’t work that way. We need to live through our joys and sorrows; our knowns and unknowns with a faith that reminds us that God is able and even if he does not save us from the fire, we can still choose to worship and serve him. He gets the glory because he is able and through our steady faith shining as an example to a faithless world.

A Prayer for Victory

Holy God,
We need you to intervene in our circumstance. It seems as though defeat is the probable outcome, but even if not, we will serve you with our whole hearts. We will take up courage like a mantle and trust that you will make a way when there is no way. We won’t let the outcome of our circumstances dictate our faith in you, but we will stand firm in the promised victory–whether it’s in our actual situation or in our heart. You are mighty to save and we choose to stand firm in you so that others around us may see your glory in us. Thank you for leading, guiding, and directing us through the ups and downs of life. We rejoice in your victory.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

For the Kingdom

As you go about your lives, remember that God is able and that he wants your faith to be dependent on him. He is “I Am” and is with you always. Take up your courage and stand firm in your faith. I’ll be joining you with the battle cry, “For the Kingdom!” Let’s raise our voices together so that the world might see.

Do You Need to Hear Good News?

Do You Need to Hear Good News?

Trust Building Verses:

 

Overcome Anxiety by Hearing the Word of God

 

When I hear the news, I’ve noticed my mind runs in anxious circles over what’s happening in our world. But God pulls me into a hard stop and says, “Listen.” So, I have been and this what I’ve learned:

 

  • Worry and fretting don’t bring peace, but standing in wonder of God does.
  • Letting my thoughts run wild creates an avalanche of anxiety, but capturing my thoughts brings assurance that God is in control.
  • Allowing my faith to grow by hearing God’s word brings strength for the day to day.

 

Romans 10:17 states: “So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of God.”

 

 

I’ve begun the practice of reading the Bible out loud to myself during devotions. It might be a verse or two or a whole chapter or even half a chapter. But what I’ve discovered is how much it helps me pay attention to what I’m reading and how it’s building my faith.

 

I wanted to take it a step further and focus on trust building verses, so, I made a short six minute recording of some passages. The power of listening is amazing and has the power to change our thoughts, which changes our lives.

 

It’s my prayer that as you let God’s word soak into your heart that your faith grows so that you can face your personal struggles with the power of God.

 

He loves you with an everlasting love and enables you to stand firm on him, the Everlasting Rock and sure foundation for your feet.

 

Holy God, 

We need you more than ever. Thank you for giving us your Word as a guide and comfort. May it pierce our hearts and may we draw ever closer to you. We ask that you do a mighty work in our lives and in our world. You are worthy of all praise and honor and glory.

In Jesus’s name, 

Amen.

Trusting in the Name of the Lord

The Lord is our hiding place and he is our strength in times of trouble. But how do we move from struggle to rest? How do we move from anxiety to peace? How does our trust grow when we can’t seem to see God in our circumstances?  I came across Psalm 9:9-10 and knew I needed to explore it a bit more.

           “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Do you ever wonder if this life’s unknowns feel like they are going to crush you? Or if you can handle one more day of your burden?

The answer is found in this phrase: “those who know your name will trust in you.” God’s name reveals his character, attributes, and heart towards us. When my understanding of who God is grows, my trust grows too.

Seven Names of God

If you need provision, he is your portion.
Yahweh Jireh: “The Lord will provide.” Genesis 22:14

If you need victory, He is the point around which we rally.
Yahweh Nissi: “The Lord is my Banner.” Exodus 17:15

If you need peace, his peace can flood your heart.
Yahweh Shalom: “The Lord is Peace.” Jud. 6:24

If you need shepherding:
Yahweh Ro’i: “The Lord my Shepherd.” Psalm 23:1
Look to him for guidance and protection.

If you need help living right, He makes us righteousness, not our own effort.
Yahweh Tsidkenu: “The Lord our Righteousness.”

If you need a father, he loves you better than you can imagine.
Abba: “Father, Daddy” Romans 8:15

If you feel unseen, God sees you and your heart.
El Ro’i: “The God who Sees.” Genesis 16

Prayer for your heart

Lord God, I want to know you more and more. You are my king and my God; my Banner and my Righteousness. As you reveal yourself more and more to me, grow my trust in you. I trust you Lord. I trust you with my past, my present, and my future. I surrender my need to control the outcome and rest in you. It’s in letting go and putting my needs in your capable hands that I find rest and when I rest, trust can grow. Lord, you are my peace and my victory. I give my heart, my life, my hopes, and my dreams to you. I know you are with me through it all and I trust you.
In Jesus’ name, Amen

Final thoughts

When we get to know God’s character and his heart, our trust will grow. I’m praying that he reveals himself to you this week. If you’d like to read more about my book, Reframing Rejection, I’d love it if you would do so. It’s my mission trip to hearts who long to be set free from fear of rejection and seeking people’s approval.

Here are a couple of articles for you to read to grow your understanding of God’s word.

What Did Jesus Mean by “A House Divided Cannot Stand”?

What is the Meaning behind Parables?

 

A Prayer for Praise

A Prayer for Praise

Sometimes our Christian growth gets marked by starts and stops; wet seasons and dry seasons; valleys and deserts; gentle rains and torrential down pours. Some years we grow by leaps and bounds and other years we take a couple or three steps backward. But God is faithful. He doesn’t give up on us, but continues to direct our steps asking us to trust him.

The one thing that this life with Christ has taught me is that all I need to do is trust. Trust his heart when the way seems too good to be true and trust his heart when the way ahead seems too awful to be real. He is for us friend, even when we struggle against our circumstances. What can we do to trust him? We can praise him.

The Scripture:

“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” Psalm 34:1-3

“Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.” Psalm 118:19-20

The Reflection

Affliction follows us because we live in a world influenced by sin. Weeds grow where we don’t want them to. Attitudes form that war against what the Holy Spirit tries to accomplish in us. We deal with offenses against ourselves and others and struggle to reach for forgiveness. But God uses it all to bring us ever nearer his heart. If we let him.

We can let him when we remember. We remember his benefit and that his mercies are new every morning. We remember his kindness to bring us to repentance. We remember that in him there is no turning of shadow, but that he is light in our darkness. And praise helps us remember.

A Prayer for Praise

Holy God, You are the Almighty One, forever exalted, the Beginning and the End. You know my ways and you lead and guide me in your paths of righteousness. I rejoice in who you are. You are Bread of Life, Living Water, Holy One, Friend, Savior, Lord, Good in all your ways, and my Eternal Father. I praise you that you give me mercies every morning and that your grace is available to me when I need it. Your peace is my peace, and in you is my reward. I look to you for satisfaction because you satisfy my every need. You are my portion. You write me on your hand and hold me close to your heart. I cry, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord and worthy to be praised. In Jesus’ name, Amen

How to Be Strong When You Feel Weak

How to Be Strong When You Feel Weak

Falling Up?

 

I fell up the stairs the other day (again). I promise I’ve walked those stairs numerous times and haven’t fallen down them (yet). But going up them? That’s another story. Falling forward is something I’m pretty familiar with. My toe hits the step first, then my knee and shin take the brunt of my weight, and I’m left limping the rest of the way.

Sometimes it feels like we go through life limping. We can’t seem to shake the regret that haunts us. Or we struggle with doubting God’s goodness. Or maybe there’s a habit that we can’t seem to shake. We try harder, but we’re left feeling weaker. When I’m feeling this way, I remember Paul the Apostle.

Reflect

 

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 NIV

Even Paul had an issue that he struggled with. We don’t know what it was, just that he called it a thorn. Have you ever had a sliver you can’t seem to see well enough to pull it out? It aggravates and distracts. It throbs and pulsates.

But what did the Lord say to him?

  • That God’s grace is sufficient.
  • That God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

 

Respond

 

We can’t be strong in our own strength, but we can receive grace and strength from the One who made us and calls us his beloved children. Our weakness provides the ideal opportunity for God to display his divine power in our lives

Our weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties provide us opportunities to delight in God as he perfects his power in us. When we let him navigate us through our weaknesses, our glory and thanksgiving comes from a place of, “Only you, God. Not me, not my genius, not my strategy, but you.”

Prayer

Holy God,
You are strong and I am weak. The burdens I bear feel too heavy and I’m not sure I can carry them any longer. So I lay them down at your feet and I lay me down on your mercy and grace. Will you work in me to strengthen me to follow you? Will you fill me with your grace and power so that I can run the race you have me on? You word says that I might be hard-pressed but I won’t be crushed. So, Lord, I look to you. You are my source of strength and power. I bring you my weaknesses and hidden hurts and say, “Help me. I cannot do this on my own.” Be my strength and show me your ways.
In Jesus’ name, Amen

Remember

I believe that God has good in store for you and that he’s holding you as you walk through the hills and valleys, mountains and meadows, and along cliffs and through deep ravines. Keep your eyes fixed on him, steady your heart, and hold onto him.

Sometimes joy is hard to find when we feel weak. Here’s an article to help: How to Count it All Joy

Trusting God gets easier the more we know his heart: What I learned about God in the book of Isaiah

Read about how I’m reframing my understanding of rejection here.

Blessings,
Jessica of Welcome Grace

The Hidden Strength of Stillness

The Hidden Strength of Stillness

Have you ever felt that your weakness holds you back?

 

Maybe you feel like your soul limps through life and you experience the same difficulty over and over again and that somehow you failed because you can’t quite seem to move past it.

I shared a post on Instagram a few weeks ago about exchanging our weaknesses for God’s strength and how it’s in our weaknesses that God demonstrates his strength. His strength isn’t dependent on me overcoming, but it’s because of him I overcome.

What do you need to overcome today?

 

What “middle” are you in? Marriage? Career? Parenting? Health crisis? The middle parts of our journey refine our faith because we’re far from the beginning and the end is not yet in sight. I’ve found comfort in a passage from Psalms 27:13-14:

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

A Hidden Strength to Remember

 

Next to this verse written in blue ink is the date 8/28/98 and nothing else. Nothing to indicate what was going on in my life, but I remember that season. That was the season in the middle of recovering from a miscarriage and praying for a child. The months passed and the middle grew ever longer. Despair fought a war with hope. I didn’t know what the end would look like, but I chose to stand on the declaration of these verses.

It takes courage to stand on a truth when you can’t see it for yourself.

It takes faith to wait believing God is still good when the voices around you tell you he’s not.

It takes strength to hold your heart steady when the storm rages.

Strength in Stillness

We read in Joshua 1:6 to “be strong and courageous”. It’s a battle stance. Face the winds that blow. Hold your ground against the enemy. And so we do. But we grow tired and weary. Our shoulders sag and we lose our balance.

Then we read in Psalm 46:10 to “be still and know that I am God.” So we rest. We cease striving and fall forward into him. Maybe we face plant in the muck of our life. Maybe we hide behind a closed door. We retreat so we can rest. And in that time we remind ourselves about what we know about God:

  • He is good.
  • He is faithful.
  • He is victorious.
  • He is our bread of life.
  • He is our living water.
  • He is with us.
  • He is light.
  • He is.

And in the stillness our courage grows and we stand strong and courageous once again. We square our shoulders knowing he has our back. We plant our feet knowing that he is our solid rock. We lift our hands knowing that praise is our most powerful weapon. We wait for the Lord and take heart because he is faithful to his promises.

Today’s Prayer for Hidden Strength

Lord God,
You are mighty to save, ever-faithful, and always true. I am confident that I will see you move in the middle of my middle. You are my rest and peace and I trust in you. Guide my hands, my steps, my thoughts, and my ways. Let me know your strength in me as I rest in you.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen

Final Thoughts

If you’re a parent of adult children, myself and a few friends put together a compilation of devotions to help you navigate parenting adult children with grace. You can get it completely free by clicking the link: Navigating Life with Adult Children

Here’s the post from instagram about exchanging our weaknesses for God’s strength.

If you’d like to learn more about my book, you can click here. I would so love and appreciate your prayers and support. It’s a scary/exciting adventure writing a book. (and slow)

As always, Blessings and prayers from my heart to yours,
Jessica of Welcome Grace

The Lord is My Portion, My Hope, and Yours

The Lord is My Portion, My Hope, and Yours

The Lord is enough and our portion, but sometimes the suffering in life takes our eyes off of this truth. Listen in on one of my letters of grace to readers who subscribe to Welcome Grace. I’d love to send you these Grace Notes to you too! Sign up using the banner at the top of the page.

 

 

Because of God’s love. . . our fears and doubts don’t have to consume us.

Because of his compassions. . .we can trust him for the next step.

Because of long, dark, nights. . .we know the kind of joy that comes in the morning that fills us with peace.

May your hearts and lives grow in love for the Lord as you wait on him. His mercies are new every morning. He is your portion. Great is his faithfulness.

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