Open Your Hands

open hands

We all have desires, right? Hopes and dreams for our life. We make plans. We work toward something we want. We pursue a certain job or establish a certain ministry. We form relationships. We pray for good things we feel that God might want as a part of our life.

I believe that God gives us desires, passions, and goals. I believe He fashions into our souls the drive to pursue things such as:

  • a job that we love & are good at
  • a ministry that we have a gift for & are energized through
  • a godly marriage
  • a healthy family
  • a friend group that spurs us on toward Christ
  • etc.

Maybe, this year of 2019, you feel it’s time.

Time to …

find that godly spouse to partner with

move out of your parent’s house

become intimately part of a godly church

get that great, fulfilling job

have a baby

pursue your passion by starting college

start that small group for women

move overseas & begin your work as a missionary

publish a book

adopt a child

propose or be proposed to ūüėČ

find physical healing

make a best friend

move to a different state where you feel there is more potential for growth

Whatever it might be. Maybe you’re ready for it. You feel 2019 is the year. And, my dear friend, maybe this is the year for your breakthrough. And that is exciting! Praise the Lord!

But I want to encourage you to keep perspective. Recently, I wrote a post called To Live is Christ. And that is the perspective we must always keep, whether we are pursuing a passion, moving out, getting married, starting a ministry, or getting a new job.

Our Lord says to seek first the kingdom of God …

Matthew 6:33

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

…and even if you feel this desire of yours is part of seeking God’s kingdom (and it may very well be!) remember that our King can see the whole picture, while you can’t. And His plans will prevail. And it is good! You can trust Him.

Proverbs 16:9

9 A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

Psalm 37:23

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him with His hand.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Psalm 119:105

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.

Proverbs 16:1-3

The preparations of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the spirits.

3 Commit your works to the Lord,
And your thoughts will be established.

Psalm 32:8

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye.

So open your hands, sweet soul.

Hold life with open hands.

So if God plans to give you what you are desiring and pursuing, you will be ready to receive it with the right heart of humility and joy.

So if God turns your plans upside down, your open hands will be able to receive the grace & strength you need to seek His face and rest in His peace.

Open your hands, so He can give you blessings that you never thought to ask for. Maybe blessings you never imagined you’d want.

So He can take things from your life that are actually not good for you (even if you thought they were, at first!)

Hold life with open hands so that you may flee from idols.

1 John 5:21

21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

Marriage, a job, a ministry, college, a friend group, a new place, etc., these can all become idols if we grip them with desperate hands.

There weren’t meant to be idols. They were meant to be gifts! But we so easily forget God and try to heft other things into His place. And this is painful.

Our lives are for God’s glory! Not ours. We are to love Him with our soul – our whole being.

When we grip something, with desperate hands, we are keeping that aspect of our life from Him. We are not trusting Him with it. We are creating distance between us and God. Straining our relationship, and elevating a gift above the Giver.

We have become idolatrous.

And believe me, dear friend, having idols is painful. It hurts because it is not what we are designed for. It is not God’s good design – it is not how things are supposed to work. Having idols causes invalid and irrational anxiety, fear, suspicion, and anger. It turns our heart against God.

We need our heart’s desire to draw us to God, not away from Him. To draw us to glorify Him, not fill our heart with suspicion that He is not good.

And perhaps it’s not your desire that is the problem, but your heart.

Me desiring a husband and children is not a problem. But if this desire turns in bitterness, passivity, and resentment because I don’t have it, then my heart has wandered from God and His goodness, and strayed down Satan’s dark path.

A woman having a husband and children is not a problem. But if she clings to them so tightly that she is riddled with anxiety & fear, and is filled with suspicion toward God … What if He takes one of them from me? then she has moved out of God’s perfect love and given into Satan’s age-old tactic.

I struggle with anxiety. Probably both of the medical variety, and just a form that is practiced and becomes part of life if one doesn’t reject it.

I’ve often worried, through the years of my life, that if I were in a relationship I’d be anxious … what if this isn’t God’s desired path for me?

If I were engaged and planning a wedding … what if God takes this away from me, for some reason, right when I almost have it?

Married with children … what if one of them dies? How could I bear it?

This anxiety … this doubt … this fear … this questioning of God’s goodness … this sin … this idolatry … It has lessened as I’ve experienced God’s goodness and learned that I can and should abide in Christ. It’s still something that I struggle with. That aspect of my humanity that I wrestle through. That “old man” that I fight.

It is hard, my friends, I know! Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just press into God. Repent. Surrender. Ask Him to reveal, more deeply, His infinite love and grace to you, that you may not live with a legalistic, fearful heart, but a joyful, peace-filled, trusting, knowing one.

I have had some thoughts that have helped me. They go something like this:

***

If the opportunity to enter a romantic relationship comes my way, I will pray about it and get godly counsel from spiritual mentors … and I will entrust it into God’s hands. I will hold it lightly and pay attention to the words of the wise, the opinions of my family, and the peace – or lack of it – that I feel inside. God has shown me that He is at work in the details of my life before, so I know He will be directing my every step in this also. I won’t refuse to feel pain. If this is of Him, hallelujah! If it’s not, then He has better plans in store.

***

If God is so gracious to me as to bless me with a husband and children, I will strive to hold each of them … precious gifts that they are … with open hands. Because they belong to God before they are ever mine. I don’t get to call the shots. But rather, live in daily thankfulness and entrust them, and myself, into my Father’s loving and powerful Hands.

***

I think if you try this method of trust, humble surrender, and gratefulness, you will find it much preferable to your method of white-knuckled, anxiety-ridden, painful, peace-less, fake control.

Because, sweet friend, you are not in control. And you pretending that you are is not helping anything. In fact, it’s destroying your peace and your ability to live life more abundantly.

It’s Satan’s attempt to steal from you what the Almighty God has give you.

John 10:10

10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

This post is not to say to just expect not to receive what you desire from the Father, but to rest in His peace through the process!

Let go.

Open your hands.

Rejoice in your loving Father above. ‚̧

Psalm 31:3, 14-15, 19-22 & 24

3 For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name’s sake,
Lead me and guide me.

14 But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;
I say, ‚ÄúYou¬†are¬†my God.‚ÄĚ
15 My times are in Your hand;

19 Oh, how great is Your goodness,
Which You have laid up for those who fear You,
Which You have prepared for those who trust in You
In the presence of the sons of men!
20 You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence
From the plots of man;
You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion

21 Blessed be the Lord,
For He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city!
22 For I said in my haste,
‚ÄúI am cut off from before Your eyes‚ÄĚ;
Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications
When I cried out to You.

24 Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord.

Hollyn – ISAAC

Aaron Cole (feat. Tobymac) – RIGHT ON TIME

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Book Review: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

one thousand gifts

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

My Personal Review ~ 5 stars ~

Truly a worthwhile read! This book surprised me and moved me. I am in love with Ann Voskamp’s writing style … it is poetic, deep, and rich. It reaches in and takes a hold of me at a soul-deep level. Oh, it was beautiful – pulling at deep, deep parts of me. Making me strive to understand, and also feel like maybe I could just let go and rest in God’s goodness and love.

Could it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God? ~ Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are is bittersweet, and triumphant, and marvelously revealing. My heart wept for the tragedy endured, yet exulted for the glory, and freedom, and love discovered! Ann Voskamp is very honest and vulnerable, sharing openly from her heart. I get a glimpse into this life of a farmer’s wife and a mother of six. This woman who has faced raw heartbreak and hardship, and struggles against anxiety and listlessness.

In the messy, Jesus whispers, “What do you want?” and in the ugly, I cry, “I want to see – see You in these faces.” He speaks soft, “Seek My face.” ~ Ann Voskamp

I loved reading about the day-to-day experiences and getting a look at Ann’s relationship with God as she cries out, grows, wrestles, surrenders, and rests in the security of Christ. I loved the triumph, the bittersweet, the struggle, the hope, and the glorious beauty.

When I choose – and it is a choice – to crush joy with bitterness, am I not purposefully choosing to take the way of the Prince of Darkness? ~ Ann Voskamp

This is a thought-provoking book that changed me. And I pray that I live in this change. I am so thankful to my God, and to Ann Voskamp for sharing her testimony.

What a book. I just really loved it and highly recommend. Such deep content. If you struggle with fear … depression … ingratitude …¬†One-Thousand Gifts¬†will challenge you and lift your heart.

I am a child in His arms and His breath falls warm upon my face and what I feel for this daughter He feels for me, and the gifts, all these gifts I keep counting, they are His love gifts and they’re slowly waking me up to the tenderest, fiercest Love of all. ~ Ann Voskamp

My Quiet Time

Good morning, readers and friends! I hope this second Saturday of the new year finds you well. ^_^ Today I wanted to take a little bit of time to share with you what my quiet time looks like.

It is so vitally important to be reading the Word and talking to your Heavenly Father. And just literally having quiet time. Where your mind is at rest and you quiet your heart. When the stress eases away and you can sort through your thoughts or simply be still.

So, make a goal for 2019! Make time for God, and for rest.

***

First thing I do when I wake up to a new day … PRAY. The more I discover prayer, the more passionate I am about it. Prayer is a heart-changer, a life-changer, a world-changer. It strengthens your soul, calms your heart, and shows you the sweetness of communion with God like few other things can.

I want to pray more. So this year I took the leap. I’m getting up at least a half an hour earlier than the rest of my family so that I have quiet time to pray. Now, I do not like getting up early. I am not a morning person. But I knew this day would come. So here I am, getting up before I “have” to … and loving it.

So, talk to God for a half hour or so.

Then I get up, get ready for the day, and usually do my Bible-reading while eating breakfast. I started my second read-through of the Bible in October of last year. So I’m currently in Deuteronomy and Mark. (*whispers* … a little behind, but I’ll catch up!)

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I highlight, underline, and write things on sticky notes. Yep, I’m that kind of person. And it’s helpful for me!

Also, I read the NKJV as of now. What translations do you all like to read?

I started a little gratitude journal. So usually jot down some things in there each day.

I’m currently not working outside the home, so after breakfast I clean up the kitchen and do other chores … whatever needs to be done. Many times I put in my earbuds and either listen to music or sermons/inspirational talks/whatever while cleaning.

J.D. Greear, John Piper, Matt Chandler, Dale & Veronica,¬†Priscilla Shirer, Daily Disciple, FarAwayDistance, Paul & Morgan, Girl Defined, Joseph Solomon, Emily Wilson, Coffee Girls … there is a surprising amount of godly brothers and sisters on Youtube who have some amazing wisdom to share.

Of course, I love to read! My goal this year is to read a Christian Living nonfiction for every novel I read. (I go a little more into this on my other blog.) So perhaps during lunch I’ll pull out my nonfiction or novel and do a little reading. Now with nonfiction, I like to highlight and underline. That way I can go back through my books and re-read those bits of wisdom that I had gleaned.

Right now I’m working through One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp (which has been amazing), and Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. I’m not sure why I hadn’t discovered this little Christian allegory before! It’s been quite lovely.

A glowing sun-orb fills an August sky the day this story begins, the day I am born, the day I  begin to live. ~ Ann Voskamp

This is the story of how Much-Afraid escaped from her Fearing relatives and went with the Shepherd to the High Places where “perfect love casteth out fear”. ~ Hannah Hurnard

I’m also going through Max Lucado’s Grace For The Moment. It takes so little time to read each day’s devotional, but if I feel like it gets to be just one thing too many, I may put this book aside.

I know a lot of people say they don’t have time to read, but I would encourage you to make time. Not only is reading a chapter or two a day said to greatly help to reduce stress, but you can glean so much helpful & amazing wisdom and information from books! Connect with your brothers & sisters in Christ from all over the world by reading their books, and let them show you what God has been teaching them!

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I would like to journal more regularly this year. It’s a way sort through and process things, reduce stress, and record what God is doing in my life & heart! I also enjoy writing letters to my future husband on occasion in a journal. ūüôā

These are ways for me to slow down and refocus.

And listening to music! Listening to great songs, worshiping, dancing around the house, lifting up my hands and soul to the Lover of my soul! That’s some time well-spent, I believe. There’s something about good music that can definitely relieve tension and stress. And good lyrics that put my focus back on Christ & glorifying Him. Right where it needs to be.

Well, there it is. That pretty much sums up my quiet time and restful, stress-relieving activities. I’m trying to live my days intentionally, to the glory of God, and these things help so much.

Now, to become intimately part of the local Body of Christ! ‚̧

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR QUIET TIME!

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Choosing Joy

What does it look like to choose joy each day? To see through the eyes of gratitude? To embrace every gift He gives?

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What does it look like?

To choose joy even when I don’t have what my heart desires.

To choose joy even when I’m not sure what my purpose is.

To choose joy even when I feel like time is ticking in my ear and I’m not certain what I should do with it.

To choose joy even when my imperfections – be they physical, emotional, or spiritual – are trying to reach up and wrap themselves around my lungs and suffocate me.

To choose joy even in the struggle, the messy, the pain, the questions, the overwhelming, and the unknown.

How to choose joy?

It seems like an insurmountable mountain at times. How can I climb to the top of that sheer cliff and grab hold of joy when I already feel overcome by weariness?

Maybe it looks a little differently than sheer willpower.

Maybe it’s about choosing Jesus.

Like, going straight to your Bible and sitting in His presence when you feel depression creeping in.

Seeing His hand in everything.

Like, noticing every little, sweet thing in each day.

Trusting His truth.

Like, remembering the verse in His Word that tells us not to worry about tomorrow. Trusting that He will take care of you because He said He would.

CHOOSING JOY is living fully immersed in the moment – whether talking to your friend, laughing with your little siblings, making supper, or going to that fall gathering. Stop constantly living in your mind, thinking: when am I going to get a chance to pour out everything that I want to say? Maybe I should get back to my social media/texting/project. How long is this meal going to take so I can eat? Will I finally make some girl friends or meet a special guy here? Live that moment, and in doing so, it is perhaps like thanking God for giving it to you.

CHOOSING JOY is making the most of the day you’re in – even if you sense that you’ve wandered and God will be calling you somewhere else in the days of tomorrow – just living this day as faithfully as you can. Spend quiet time with the Lord. Glean wisdom. Love on whoever may be around you (siblings and parents?). Serve people, even in just little ways, that you know will bless them.

CHOOSING JOY means reading Scripture. Let the words of God wash over you, heart and soul. Read those verses on joy, and thankfulness, and peace, and hope as many times as you need. Whenever bitterness, depression, or listlessness start welling up … Read Scripture verses on joy. Meditate on them. Memorize them. Write them on sticky notes and post it around your house.

Psalm 100

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
3 Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5 For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-12

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

12¬†I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, 13¬†and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor‚ÄĒit is the gift of God.

Psalm 103:1-5

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
3 Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
4 Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 94:19

19 In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.

Philippians 4:4 & 6-7

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Colossians 3:15-17

15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

CHOOSING JOY looks like writing a list of everything you see as beautiful and blessed. (See One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp) Take time to notice and appreciate every gift God puts in your day. Sunshine. Rain. Fall colors. Insects chirping. Laughter. Little brother playing with your hair. A child’s innocence. Inspiration. Warm socks. Good books. Family around the table. Savory food. Don’t just glance over the everyday-life things. Praise God for each simple gift and special moment.

CHOOSING JOY is found being out amidst nature. I don’t know about you, but being outside in the forest and warm rays of sun makes everything look up for me. There’s a stillness. A peace. A feeling of closeness to Creator God. So put aside some time to get outside. Walk through the woods. Go hiking. Drive around and enjoy scenic views. Visit the mountains. Go camping. Dance through an open field. See God’s handiwork. Feel His goodness. Worship Him in all of His majesty and love.

CHOOSING JOY is an empty house, worship music turned up, and dancing. Even with your broken heart, your wounded soul, your present struggles, gripping pain, heavy burdens, and twisting fear … turn up that music and dance before your God and Father. Lift up your hands to Him. Surrender it all. Cry freely over that unresolved issue in your life. Give everything back. And simply rejoice in being His. Rejoice in Him making you feel whole in that moment, even though you know nothing about your outward circumstances has changed. (See Isaac by Hollyn)

CHOOSING JOY is giving someone a genuine smile.

CHOOSING JOY is always coming into His presence with thanksgiving in our heart. Pray, friends. Pray often! And even if you’re coming before Him with a heavy burden or hurting heart, choose to praise Him. Praise Him for being your God, your Father, your Savior, Redeemer, and Friend. Praise Him for being your Creator, your Lord, your Guide, and your Provider. Praise Him for being your Healer and your Hope. Praise Him for being the true and eternal Lover of your soul.

How do you choose joy, my friend?

Or are you stuck in a cycle of joy-lessness, ingratitude, depression, or bitterness?

I would encourage you today, at the start of this new month, to find a notebook or journal and just start jotting down each good thing you see. Big or small. Enormous or minuscule. Even if it seems silly, such as: soft carpet under my feet.

Just write it down.

Just choose joy.

Psalm 95:1-7

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
3 For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
4 In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
5 The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.

6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.