A few nights ago, while I sat rocking my lil guy to sleep, I was reflecting on some challenges that had arisen in the preceding days. Nothing major, but they triggered memories of another season, a wilderness season. A season that if I'm really honest, while grateful for the lessons learned there, I would rather not repeat. For a moment I was terrified - terrified that this call to be 'all in' with what He has asked of us in this season, might take us back there. The part of me that likes to be comfortable, likes things to be predictable and safe, wondered if there might be a way we could reach a compromise on how we approach this season.
But instead I heard His whisper:
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
These were God's words to Joshua as he assumed the leadership of Israel after Moses; as he gathered the people to ready them to cross the Jordan river and enter the promised land. In the natural, Joshua had every reason to be afraid.
He had big shoes to fill.
The last time the Israelites had set out for the promised land they'd wound up in the wilderness for forty years
The land they were about to enter was enemy territory
But God kept speaking courage and strength into Joshua - three times in three verses, God exhorted him to be strong and courageous. And each command to be brave was accompanied with reminders of what God had promised them in the past; with the assurance of God's presence for the now; with the hope of victory for the future.
God was reminding Joshua that this new chapter did not have to look like the last one. And the same is true for us.
Often when we are transitioning into new things, past fears and experiences can resurface to try and dissuade us from what God has for us. But God doesn't want our past to contain us - He wants His presence and His promises to propel us forward.
As I sat in that rocking chair, as Dave and I prayed together later that night, we had to remind ourselves of all that God has spoken to us. We had to determine to let His Word be bigger than our fears.
"Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."
Transitional seasons require us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the One who goes before us; to keep our ears attuned to His voice, His Word. Transition by its very definition is not an event but a process - a process that requires us to let go of what has been, or even might have been, and to embrace what God is saying will be. It asks us to be brave - to be strong and courageous. That bravery is not based on our own merits - but on the promises and presence of the ever-faithful One - the One who will never leave us or forsake us.
What has God spoken over your life that fear, that disappointment, that comfort would like to contain? Will you join me in being brave - in taking Him at His Word and believing that He is able to lead us into something new?
Live today with purpose,
P.S. I had so much that I wanted to share with you about change that couldn't fit in this post - so here's a free download, 'Reflections on Change' based in the closing chapters of Deuteronomy and the opening chapters of Joshua.
A girlfriend texted me earlier this week, wondering how I was going with this new season - this new season of letting go, of laying down titles and roles and being at home. She knows me well, and she had an inkling that perhaps not having so much responsibility, not being so busy might be hard for how I'm wired. And in part it is. If I haven't said it before, I'll share it with you now - I am a type A, highly driven, tick-the-list, be productive kinda-girl. Navigating a season with no expectations on me, no plan, is new territory.
As I was processing this with God, I felt Him whisper - you've been really good at being Martha for a really long time. Busy involved with all the preparations. But now I need you to learn from Mary so you can bring the two together.
Mary and Martha - two well-known sisters found in Luke's gospel. We typically praise Mary for being willing to sit at Jesus' feet and Martha gets the bad rap for being distracted by the preparations. But in truth, we can learn from them both. Martha was the one who opened her home, who made sure that things were ready - she was hospitable and practical, a hand-to-the plough, get-stuck-in kinda girl (I suspect that her and I would have got on well!). Her failing was that she was so busy doing what the culture expected of her, that she forgot to consider what God might be asking of her. That was Mary's strength - leaning in to the voice of her Saviour.
...Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what He said.
While everyone else hurried around her, Mary was to be found sitting at the feet of Jesus, attentive to His voice.
It was a posture of rest.
It was a position of learning.
It was completely counter-cultural.
It was customary at that time for disciples to sit at the feet of their teacher, their rabbi, in order to learn. This was a privilege typically only afforded to men - but Jesus doesn't condemn Mary for sitting at His feet.with His disciples, instead He commends her saying:
Mary has discovered the one thing most important by choosing the most beautiful place of sitting at my feet. She is undistracted and I won't take this privilege from her.
Mary pushed back against the demands of her day; against the demands of her culture and recognised who she had with her. She was mindful of the presence of Jesus with her and she honoured it by the posture that she chose. In contrast, Martha allowed the tasks before her to distract her from being with Jesus. It was not that she was wrong to be about the preparations - Luke tells us that they had to be done (v.40) - but she allowed them to take precedence over connecting with Jesus. And in doing so she lost her sense of rest and entered into striving.
I love what Bonnie Gray writes in her book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace:
Sometimes, we carry preconceived notions about connecting with Jesus. Trying to figure out how to spend time with God may be the last thing on our minds when we are stressed. But Jesus can enter into whatever space we find ourselves. As is.
Jesus wants to share all our moments with us - He wants to be a part of our preparations and of our rest; of our highlights and of our trainwrecks. In any and all situations, Jesus wants us to have an internal posture of sitting at His feet, of connecting with Him and leaning into what He is saying; of being teachable in the moment.
We don't always get to be in a season like the one that God has positioned me in - times where we get to literally stop and cease all our activity to be with Him - but wherever we find ourselves, we can adopt the posture of Mary, honouring His presence with us as we learn to sit at His feet.
What would it look like for you to sit at the feet of Jesus today?
Live today with purpose,
This week we've been having fun celebrating our lil guy turning one! When we were trying to decide on a name, Dave and I had very different ideas on what he should be called - but Dave won out and I'm so glad that he did! Lucas means carrier of light or light bringer and he honestly just radiates joy. We call him our cheer-germ and he has been like a healing balm for my heart.
He is the baby that I surrendered having when God asked us to foster our nephew for several years.
He is the baby that I trusted God for after the pain of miscarriage.
He is the baby that God blessed me with when I thought that door had been closed.
Sometimes our greatest blessings arise from our places of pain and disappointment. Time and time again, God has met me in these places of brokenness and revealed Himself as my Redeemer. The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines a redeemer beautifully as one who brings goodness or honour to someone or something again. This is the heart-beat of our God - to take the things that we have done; to take the things that have been done to us - to take our pain and entwine it with His beauty; to restore honour back to our lives.
In Isaiah 61, God declares just exactly what His redemption looks like - that He wants to bring healing to, to bind up, our wounded hearts; that He wants to see us set free from the things that keep us captive; that He wants to open our eyes so that we can truly see; that He wants to comfort us in our mourning - to build us up so that where there has been grief, we now know His joy; where we have despaired, we now sing praise. He wants to take our ashes - the rubble that we have been left with - and instead crown us with beauty. He wants to help us grow stable and strong - to be oaks of righteousness - so that when the world looks at us they see the imprint of His splendour, His glory on our lives.
Yes, He wants us to know Him as Our Redeemer. But this requires us to be willing to receive Him.
At the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus went back to his home-town and taught in the Synagogue. Luke 4 tells us that He quoted Isaiah 61, declaring:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.
He was speaking to a people under Roman occupation; a people who had been crying out for a deliverer, a redeemer. And He was telling them - all that you have been hoping for, all that you have been praying for, I am here to fulfill. But Luke tells us that they would not receive Him.
They treated Him with familiarity - isn't this Joseph's son?
They were angry with Him - furious in fact.
They drove Him away.
How often do we too do this? How often do we allow our disappointment and pain to drive us away from the very one who can bring about redemption.
We fail to recognise the power of who we have on our side.
We get mad at God for our circumstances - for what we think He should and shouldn't be doing.
We drive Him away and shut Him out instead of embracing Him.
The Israelites did not receive Him because redemption did not look the way that they had expected. They were looking for a military ruler to rise up and deliver them. They wanted to be set free from external circumstances, but God knew they needed a greater freedom - they needed to be set free on the inside. And He knows just what we need to redeem our stories.
God meets us in unexpected ways and redemption does not always come to us in the form that we may have anticipated - He most likely won't show up in the way we think He should, but He will show up! And while redemption doesn't erase the path we've walked, it can change the light we see it in. But for God's blessing to be able to be entwined in our disappointments, we must receive Him, we must receive Jesus. Knowing that as we choose surrender, as we choose to trust in His heart for us - no matter how painful the road behind or before us is - that He will give us beauty for ashes.
Where is He asking you to trust Him to bring redemption in this season? Don't lose sight of His heart to mark your life with His goodness.
Live today with purpose,
We have some spring bulbs planted in our front garden and honestly, for a significant part of the year, it looks like nothing is there - that it is just empty, barren ground (with the exception of the weeds or course!). But as Spring approaches, new growth begins to appear as shoots pop out of the ground bringing with them their cheerful spring blooms. Because the truth is, that while the bulb has been hidden, it is still active.
Sometimes we can feel like my garden before the new growth breaks through - like the things that we have dug, the things that we have planted are not only hidden, they are inactive and barren. But I believe that God wants to remind us that what we have planted is not lost - His Spirit is at work and we need to have a fresh expectation that what we have laboured with Him for, will be revealed.
Earlier on this year, I shared a post about how God had taken me back to some places of disappointment and given me fresh eyes to see them as He did. At the time He had led me to this verse in Genesis 26:
He [Isaac] reopened the wells his father had dug, which the Philistines had filled in after Abraham’s death. Isaac also restored the names Abraham had given them.
As I have continued to ponder this verse, I want to share with you three key truths that God has encouraged me with.
The first is this - don't despise the digging.
To make a well, Abraham would have had to have dug at least 8 feet deep, and from the plural wells in our verse, we know that he dug more than one! He had none of our modern tools, so it would have been hard labour for him and his servants. But without his willingness to use his time, his resources and his servants to dig, there would have been no water.
Isaac not only uncovered the wells that his father had established, but Genesis 26 tells us that he also had to dig some new wells. At some point in time, God calls us all to dig. Like Abraham and Isaac, we must be prepared to lay down time; to give; to serve; to pray - to dig in whatever manner God has called us to, so that His purposes, His living water can flow both in us and through us to those who need it.
What and where is God asking you to dig in this season? Don’t despise it - though it might feel hard and tiring and dirty; though it might feel unimportant and overlooked. Your digging, your perseverance matters.
Every time the herdsman of Gerar came and took one of Isaacs wells he just dug a new one, until he finally dug in a place that no one quarrelled with him over. Genesis tells us that he named that well Rehoboth saying:
Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.
Don't give up in the seasons and places where God is asking you to dig - keep going until you hit water; keep persevering so that you and those around you can flourish.
And don’t despair when the enemy tries to cover over what you’ve dug.
Like his father, the blessing of God was upon Isaac's life - so much so that Genesis 26 tells us that the Philistines envied him. They were threatened by the evidence of God at work in his life, so they stopped up the wells his father had dug. Water was both a necessary and precious commodity, and they wanted to rob him of it - to take away what his father had laboured to establish and provide. As we've seen, Isaac too faced opposition as he reopened and dug new wells, and likewise the enemy will try to rob us by trying to fill in or cover over what we’ve dug to establish. But that doesn’t mean it’s lost. Just like Abraham's wells were still there for Isaac to uncover; just like those spring bulbs in my garden are active when they are unseen, God's Spirit is at work, hovering over what we have dug, what we have planted and He delights to reveal it at the proper time.
Which is why we must expect disappointment to give way to delight.
It encourages me so much that when Isaac reopened his father's wells, that he also remembered and restored the names that Abraham had given them. God restores specifically - it is not always instant, or even in our own generation, because God has all of eternity to work within - but we can be confident that He has and continues to prepare things for us.
God knows all the details of the things in your life that have been shut down by disappointment; covered in and dug over - so expect Him to pay attention to those details as He reopens the wells and brings healing. What you've planted will be realised.
Live today with purpose,
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from the blogging team encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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