How To Be Brave When You Are Not

This life is not for the weak. Okay, maybe it is.

Because whether we feel powerful or wimpy, life will at some point knock us to our knees. You can count on it.

And the ones who can admit their weakness tend to be the bravest in the end. 

Bravest at our weakest in His strength

 

Knocked Down

I entered adulthood confidently. I had extensive family support from both sides. I had attended church all my life. I was healthy and strong. I had plans, good plans.

Yet a few years later, when I heard the words, “I can’t find a heartbeat,” no amount of personal strength or extended support could keep my knees from buckling. I retreated in heartache, confusion, anger, and disbelief as my baby and my dreams slipped away from me.

When the unimagined happened, my courage and confidence quickly disappeared, to be replaced by fear, anger, and emptiness.

baby-due-not-pin

Your World Will Be Rocked

Most of us begin adulthood with stars in our eyes, thinking we can tackle the world. Yet almost without exception, at some point we all get knocked to our knees.

It may be the death of a loved one or a health crisis or a messy relationship. Or perhaps it’s a financial hardship or addiction. It may even be that the daily has become too mundane.

Whatever it may be, live long enough and your world will be rocked.

Deep down we’re all desperate—desperately in need a source of courage that can withstand the strongest, most unexpected assault.

Courage that will allow us to stand our ground when we feel like retreating.

Courage that is not dependent on the direction or speed of the winds.

And we have it. We have a well-spring of strength and courage in our Lord.

He’s promised to provide (and has provided) all we need to stand against the fiercest storms.
The problem is we often use Him as a last resort to bolster our sagging courage.

We allow ourselves to be buffeted and knocked near senseless before we are willing to admit our need. And we call that courage?

Only after we are knocked to our knees do we think of turning to Him.

Finding Brave

It’s tempting (exceedingly so for some of us) to try to manage our circumstances on our own. Our culture screams for us to do just that. But there are several reasons such behavior is foolish:

  1. We don’t know what’s coming so we’re often caught off-guard. God never is.
  2. We weren’t created to be living apart from God. That’s one reason the Fall was so devastating.
  3. We can’t control all of our circumstances. But God created the world and everything in it. With a word or a nod, He can add or take away from our situation.

The pain in this life can be searing. Often to the outside world, things look grand, but inside we are shriveling up in hurt, fear, and isolation. We try to be strong. We search to find the courage to continue to battle.

But to find the strength to fight well requires we first willingly go to our knees.

True bravery is found in the recognition of our vulnerability and the acknowledgment of God’s love, sovereignty,and omniscience. It’s found in humility and surrendering.

We find ourselves the bravest when we are at our weakest, because it’s then we reach for the Lord’s strength and quit trusting in our own.

What a paradox! But isn’t that just like the workings of the Lord. Who can understand His ways?

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! Romans 11:33-34

Lasting Courage

Many years ago before I heard those devastating words that shattered my world, I thought I was brave—a fallacy I so badly wanted to believe.

What I discovered was that apart from God, courage is fleeting. Lasting courage to handle all this world has to throw at you is found by dipping into His well.

It is only when we realize and admit our vulnerabilities, that we can find bravery that circumvents circumstances.

So don’t wait until you are knocked to your knees to go there. Surrender willingly.

Exchange your limited strength for God’s infinite power. Let your days be filled with Him.

Only then can you truly be brave.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

Reflections: In what circumstance are you needing to be brave? Have you surrendered your little strength for His infinite?

I’m thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefree Thursday and this week’s prompt, “brave.” I love these special linkups. They provide an abundance of great inspiration and encouragement all in one place. Click on the images below to check them out.

If this post encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your family and friends. And don't miss a single post, click here to subscribe to receive each one in your inbox (or complete the form in the sidebar). It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Brokenness, Courage, Struggles, trust

Expect More! God’s Abundance Far Exceeds Our Expectations

He expected coins. Just a few measly coins. He received something far greater. 

Gods-abundance-far-exceeds-expectations

A man lame from birth lay every day next to the temple gate Beautiful, begging for whatever he could get. One day, Peter and John passed the man, who asked for help. He expected a few coins.

Unwilling to let him remain in his misery, Peter does offer a gift, but it’s far more than the man expects. Instead of coins, Peter blesses him with sound legs and ankles through the healing power of Jesus Christ. 

Whoa, wait a minute! A man who has never walked before asks for money and instead receives the ability to not only walk, but run and jump? Yep, that’s what scripture says.

“So [the man] jumped up, stood, and started to walk, and he entered the temple complex with them—walking, leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8).

Now that’s a gift! 

But isn’t that just like our Lord?

We ask for the possible, and He delivers the impossible.

We beg for just the logical, and He provides the supernatural. 

God doesn’t give as we expect. He gives far more and in a profoundly different way than makes sense to us. 

We read God’s promises. We say we believe them. Yet we repeatedly underestimate what that may look like in our daily lives. 

Part of that is because our minds cannot fully comprehend the depth and breadth of His love for us. And out of His abundant love comes abundant gifts, which means an abundant life. 

I’ve read and heard this passage in Acts read  many times, yet last Sunday, my pastor made this connection I hadn’t thought of before. Thank you Pastor Weber for reminding us that God’s abundance far exceeds our expectations. 

And that indeed is a glorious message that doesn’t change! 

“By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” Acts 3:16

 Reflections: Is it difficult for you to expect big things from God? Why or why not? 

I’m excited to continue recording blessings this year. Since beginning over 3 years ago, I’ve counted more than 3,500 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! So here we go in 2015: #3807–3827, read my entire list by clicking here.

  • *Picking up nightcrawlers with Hubby; *Helping a family who came to the door needing directions; *Now it’s time to sleep
  • Newborn kittens; Appreciating how Joey looks out for Rach, like helping her navigate hilly terrain–so sweet; Our first outdoor meal of the year
  • Family meals; My girl’s delight at seeing me come home; A friend’s unsolicited help
  • Roaming the woods with Joey and finding a raccoon den with mama and little ones; Magnolias–a favorite bloom; Watching the sun set with Rach on our deck swing
  • Beginning my office-nook rearranging; Spring breezes; Being still with my clan in the twilight as it deepens into nighttwilight-deepening-into-night
  • Nighttime rain drumming on the roof; Placing a tiny seed in spring dirt with the expectancy of the fruit to come; Half the garden planted
  • Sermon extolling the abundance of Christ; Yard-light reflections in the rain; Ripples from raindrops

If this post encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your family and friends. And don't miss a single post, click here to subscribe to receive each one in your inbox (or complete the form in the sidebar). It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Abundance, Grace, One Thousand (or more) Gifts

The One Thing You Need to Know to Flourish Right Where You Are

It is readily apparent that near-endless numbers of plants exist, and they all have slightly different requirements for optimum growth.

  • Cantaloupe produces the best fruit when sowed in sandy soil.
  • Woodland wildflowers thrive in the shade.
  • Apple trees need well-drained soil.
  • Cattails flourish in moist environments.

It would be silly to plant a sedge in a desert. And putting tomato plants in the middle of a forest is asking for reduced yields.

Proper Conditions

For plant life, proper growing conditions produce abundant fruit.

Your bountiful God will provide all you need to bloom where you are planted.

In our human logic, we tend to think the same is true for us. We believe we need certain conditions to blossom and bear fruit and hesitate to trust we can grow without them. 

We  think if we find just the right guy or land just the right job or make just the right amount of money, then we can thrive. 

We feel we need the ideal conditions to bloom.

So we wait and plan and scheme and orchestrate and arrange. How much sweat equity do we put in in our attempts to get things just so?

Well I have a hard truth to share:

There will never be the perfect guy,

the dream job,

enough money,

or the ideal conditions.

I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but it’s true. I know because I’ve been the schemer and the planner. I’ve tried pursuing these things. It hasn’t allowed me to thrive.

If anything, the pursuit of the perfect conditions has stunted my growth.

Because unlike plants, flourishing for us has little to do with our circumstances. What matters is if we believe in God to make our less-than-ideal conditions ideal for our growth.  

How To Flourish Right Where You Are

We blossom when we are willing to embrace the growing conditions we find ourselves in and trust God to provide everything else we need.

Like Corrie ten Boom in the squalid, horror-filled environment of Ravensbrück concentration camp, who risked her life to share the hope of Jesus Christ with the other prisoners. 

Or Rev. Richard Wurmbrand who formed an underground ministry during Christian persecution in communist Romania and kept on ministering during his 8-1/2-year incarceration and torture by communist authorities.

Or the Apostle Paul who continued to preach the hope of the Gospel while threatened, imprisoned, beaten, ridiculed, and near-death. 

These individuals found themselves in deplorable, terrifying situations, yet they refused to sit back and simply wait for their circumstances to improve. They embraced the little they had and trusted God to provide whatever else they needed to bear fruit.  

God will always provide what is needed.

No More Excuses

So why do we hold back? Why do we keep coming up with excuses?

When I have more time. When my marriage is stronger. When my health is better. When our finances are stable. 

Everything may not be perfect, but right now is the perfect timing for God. Step out in faith and watch Him respond with just the right nourishment for optimum growth.

We flourish not when we are where we want to be; we flourish when we trust that our bountiful God is with us wherever we are.

And as we begin to bloom where we are planted, we will give evidence to the majesty of the God we serve.

What greater blessing is there than that!

But I am like an olive tree
    flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
    for ever and ever. 
For what you have done I will always praise you
    in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
    for your name is good. Psalm 52:8-9

Reflections: What is preventing you from trusting God to provide all you need to bloom right now, right where you are? What’s a first step you can make in faith? 

I’m thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefree Thursday and this week’s prompt, “bloom.” I love these special linkups. They provide an abundance of great inspiration and encouragement all in one place. Click on the images below to check them out.

If this post encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your family and friends. And don't miss a single post, click here to subscribe to receive each one in your inbox (or complete the form in the sidebar). It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Abundance, Christian walk, Daily Living, Faith, trust, Witnessing

What Does It Mean To Live a Life of Abundance?

“I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10).

If we’re honest, we’re all searching for the abundant life. A life filled with purpose, worth, standing, love, joy.

Who doesn’t want every one of those?

But where is that kind of life? How do you get it?

Abundant-life-series-

 My Story

Long ago, I thought I knew.

I believed abundance rested with the way my days played out in this dance of life. A “good” life—as defined by an enjoyable job, adorable family, comfortable home, relative health—was an abundant life.

Yet it didn’t take long for that definition to be shattered and for me to be left grasping for something that made sense.

Because as a young wife, my dance through life was interrupted when my husband and I experienced the first of five miscarriages. Pain and grief engulfed my heart.

And any pretense of an abundant life quickly disappeared.

Life became a roller coaster of emotions. Gratitude at the birth of each live child; bitterness at the loss of each unborn.

Then our third child and only daughter was diagnosed with significant lifetime disabilities.

The music quit. The dance ended.

That is until God used Rachel, my little blessing in disguise, to point me to the source of all true abundance.

It was then I started letting the God of grace take the lead in my life’s dance and become the well-spring of my joy and peace.

An abundant life began to make sense in a new and exciting way.

Your Story

Your story likely looks much different than mine. But since you’re reading this, you likely struggle with stepping into the abundant life as well.

Because even when we know what it looks like, it is difficult to live it out.

It seems our day’s blessings too easily get lost in its happenings.

But through the years I’ve discovered that God’s “mercies never end” (Lamentations 3:22) and His “grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 10:9). He is enough for anything we face.

You see, a life of joy and peace and meaning really does exist.

It’s just not found where we often focus. A bountiful life of meaning is not found in what we have or do or what we are walking through.

Having life and having it in its fullness is only found in the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Your Life-Dance

No, life in this broken world is not always easy. But God will be faithful to you as He has been to me.

As you welcome His love and truth, the Lord will lead you through your life-dance in the power of His grace.

I know: typing that line is easy; living it out is anything but that.

That’s why over the next few Mondays we will be exploring this idea of an abundant life: myths of an abundant life, what a truly abundant life looks like, barriers to living out a life of abundance. 

I pray that as we delve into this Abundant Life series together, you begin to waltz in closer step with our Lord; discovering and savoring a life full of peace and purpose in Jesus Christ. 

Reflection: What do you see as the abundant life? What are your struggles as you desire to walk in a life of true abundance? What would you like to see me explore in this series? Let me know your needs in the comments. I’d love to offer you encouragement. 

I’m excited to continue recording blessings this year. Since beginning over 3 years ago, I’ve counted more than 3,500 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! So here we go in 2015: #3786–3806, read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Predawn quiet before anyone else stirs awake; Buds promising to open soon; Rachel’s wonder at, and delight in, the rain, and all the little blessings of life, inspires gratitude in my heart
  • The Hope we can have, even in the hopeless, because of Jesus Christ—sometimes we have nothing else left—He’s enough; An afternoon meeting with faith-filled women; Spring thunderstorm, hail and all
  • Little pleasures often taken for granted: *Daily access to a warm bath or shower; *Variety of footwear to choose from to keep my feet dry, warm, cool, fashionable, or comfortable; *Light at the flick of a switch
  • Night’s rest to refresh after a long day; Financial aid applications done for the year; The simple mama pleasure of bathing my sweet girl–I have to admit, after 16 years of bathing her, I don’t always appreciate that blessing.
  • Camp Courageous: a place Rach can have fun & be safe; Hot catnip tea on a bad cold day; My guys, who’ll they let be alone to write and dream
  • Sharing worship, fellowship, and a bit of business with sisters-in-faith at our women’s rally; Sharing my special outdoor “hideaway” with a friend; Getting to “attend” Zach’s Glee Club concert via livestream from Wheaton College (love their mix of worship songs)
  • Looking over old family photos with parents and some cousins; Spring peepers calling: you know it’s spring when you hear them; Rachel’s fabulous counselors at Camp Courageous

If this post encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your family and friends. And don't miss a single post, click here to subscribe to receive each one in your inbox (or complete the form in the sidebar). It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Abundance, Abundant Life Series, Christian walk, Daily Living, One Thousand (or more) Gifts

The Thing To Do When Life Spins Too Fast

Through the years I’ve been blessed with some wonderful times with family.

One of my most precious memories is swing dancing with my oldest son at one of his college functions. In general, dancing is not something our family does—except at an occasional wedding and for Daniel at college.

Among his college friends, swing dancing is the thing to do on many Friday nights. So he learned, and I was intrigued. I saw pictures across the miles, and it looked like a lot of fun.

So that particular parent-visitation night, I begged him to teach me. Finally, he obliged.

And it was ugly (thanks to my lack of dancing prowess) and beautiful; hard yet at the same time freeing!

Swing dancing is extremely fast paced, with lots of spinning. As Danny swung me around, I tripped and slid, laughed and gasped for breath.

I had a difficult time keeping up but didn’t want to be anywhere else.

I wanted to hide my ineptness yet wanted to savor the moment. The dance seemed to never end, but in the end, ended too soon.

My dance with Danny was flawed in many ways, but it was far more glorious because of who was leading me through it.

grace & glory upright- (1)

I could have watched from the audience as he twirled someone else. It would have been easy and comfortable.

But then I would have missed the treasure of being swung around the dance floor by my son. 

As I reflected on my swing-dancing experience, I noticed some similarities in our journey through life.

The Dance of Life

Life, too, can be ugly,

yet it can be even more glorious. 

We can stumble through one day

and then slide through the next  with ease.

We can be gasping for breath one moment

only to be laughing joyously the next. 

We try to hide our perceived shortcomings

yet long to step from behind our mask to savor the gift of this life.

Life can sometimes seem to drag on endlessly

but it really is gone in nearly the blink of an eye. 

Glorious Life-Dance

Like my dance with Danny, our lives on this earth are also flawed in many ways.

Difficult circumstances bring heartache and frustration. Health and financial concerns can rock our world as can messy relationships. Things happen to trip us up. 

Yet it, too, is far more glorious because of who is leading us through it. 

God blesses us with many gifts as we whirl in His arms:

The birth of a baby. Watching children grow into capable adults. Laughter and love. Brilliant sunrises and magnificent sunsets. Birds singing outside the window as a light breeze gently billows the curtains on a warm spring day.  Sitting alongside a gurgling stream or a crashing ocean. Laying on the dank grass enjoying the peace of  a deep blue sky with fluffy white clouds skirting by. 

We have a choice. We could pull away from God and not allow Him to lead.

We could sit in the audience and watch life play out, stay within familiar boundaries and refuse to step out in faith.

It would be easier and more comfortable.

But then we would be missing the riches found in this breath-taking dance in the arms of our Father.

The grace drops of beauty and laughter. The wonder and anticipation of the next step with Him. 

No, we’re far better off stepping into the dance with the One who knows all the moves. 

So when life seems to be spinning too fast and it becomes hard to stay on your feet, step into God’s arms. Let Him hold you.

You can trust Him. He will lead you through each step of this dance.

And with Him leading, it promises to be a glorious one. 

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
” Psalm 84:11

Reflections: I love imagining God, strong arms wrapped around me, twirling me through this life. In your hardest moments, what image of God brings you the most comfort? 

I’m thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “family.” I love these special linkups. They provide an abundance of great inspiration and encouragement all in one place. Click on the images below to check them out.

        

If this post encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your family and friends. And don't miss a single post, click here to subscribe to receive each one in your inbox (or complete the form in the sidebar). It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Faith, trust

Why Do I Feel Unfulfilled? (Living an Abundant Life)

I have plentiful work I can do from home that pays well. But that doesn’t bring an abundant life. 

I live in a state park. But that doesn’t bring an abundant life.

I am blessed with a husband devoted to his family. But that doesn’t bring an abundant life.

I have four children who are generally kind and mostly choose to do what is right. But that doesn’t bring an abundant life. 

I am healthy and have a loving, large, extended family. But that doesn’t bring an abundant life. 

I live in the world’s richest country and have a roof over my head, a heater and air conditioner, a pantry filled with food, and closets and drawers bursting with clothes. But that doesn’t bring an abundant life. 

I possess nearly everything the culture says brings a life of abundance, yet I still have moments and days where I am dissatisfied.

I suspect you do too. 

life-in-abundance-

Why do I feel unfulfilled?  

Do I just need more, one more thing, that final touch, to bring fulfillment?

For years, I thought having everything I wanted would bring fulfillment. That if God just granted me all the details of my plan, it would be enough. 

But the only way our plan is enough is if that plan is surrendering to God. Surrendering all we possess. Surrendering our desires. Surrendering even our good things for His best. 

Having plenty in this life does not bring fulfillment, because the things of this world do not bring Life. Not a life that really matters. Not a life that lasts for eternity. 

We can drink our fill from this world’s wells and still be thirsty. We can have all the bread of this world and still be hungry. 

An abundant life can never be found in this world. Abundance is only found in Jesus Christ. 

Holding too tightly to the wrong thing

When I begin to feel that all-too-familiar feeling of dissatisfaction, I know I’m holding too tightly to something of this world. 

That’s my cue to loosen my grip on the food and drink of this life and let the Lord fill my life with His thirst-quenching water and bread.

Because whether you have plenty or little in this world, in Jesus Christ, you can have a life of abundance. 

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.” John 6:35

Reflections: In what areas of your life are you feeling unfulfilled? Are you holding too tightly to a certain promise of this world instead of the life-giving promise found in Jesus Christ? 

I’m excited to continue recording blessings this year. Since beginning over 3 years ago, I’ve counted more than 3,500 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! So here we go in 2015: #3765–3785, read my entire list by clicking here.

  • *Seeing a brilliant shooting star on a dull 1a.m. drive home–helping to keep me awake; *Hubby letting me sleep in this morning; *Boys arriving safely at their destinations
  • My ACL-repaired knee is strong enough to play basketball with my son; A bit of time tonight to write; Seeing new growth everyday
  • *Little-girl tickles; *Sweet giggles; *Creating our Grace Garden
  • *Generous ladies offering to squeeze me into their space for a few nights; *Connecting with a soon-to-be new friend who I will meet at a conference in a few months; *Experiencing the meaning of “the word of God is living and active”
  • *Breaking of His Body; shedding of His Blood, for me; *Easter egg dying, even for the big boys; *Being with this guy and his smile for another weekend
  • *An owl hooting match in the pine trees near our house; *Boys enjoying time kayaking; *”Sprouting” grace garden*The Risen Lord!; *Daniel spending Easter with his cousin Betsy so he didn’t have to be alone; *Fabulous weather for a day celebrating with family

If this post encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your family and friends. And don't miss a single post, click here to subscribe to receive each one in your inbox (or complete the form in the sidebar). It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Christian walk, Inspirational, Jesus Christ, Life, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, surrender

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Hello, I'm Julie, an imperfect wife and mother of four. Life in this broken world is not always easy. Yet, joy can be found in each day through the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I find it's easy for our day's BLESSINGS to get lost in its HAPPENINGS. But God's "mercies never end" (Lamentations 3:22) and His "grace is sufficient" (2 Corinthians 10:9).

May the posts and pages on this site offer you a measure of peace and encouragement.

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