Today is thanksgiving and we’re all taking stock of our lives and thinking of all the things we have to be thankful for. Ya know, table full of food, family, friends… We say thanks for those things and we think that’s what it’s all about.
I have to wonder though… what about those of us who feel like we’ve lost more this year than we’ve gained? What about those who have lost loved ones and still mourn for them? What about the ones who feel like every single plan in the book went wrong this year? What about the kid living under the bridge whose parents were killed in a car crash? What about the old granny whose children pay no attention to her? What about the mom whose heart is breaking because her baby won’t come home? What about the thousands who feel the heavy black cloud of depression sinking in? What about the ones who are pressed so low they want to take their own life?
If thanksgiving is all about being thankful for the blessings in our lives, where does that leave the people who feel that they’ve ended the year with a whole lot less than they started?
Is thanksgiving just for the farmers who have brought in a full harvest? Or is it also for the farmers whose crops have been utterly destroyed and who don’t know where their next meal is coming from?
We thank God when He gives. But what about when He takes?
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be given a gift and then asked to give it back. What about all the thankfulness that came because of the gift? Does that go back too? And how are we supposed to be content when God takes our treasures away?
How do we really live and give thanks when it seems like God is asking us to give more back than He is sending our way?
I think back to quiet walks through the orchard up on the hill at sunset as summer died away. I remember the throbbing ache of my heart… How can You ask so much? How can You take so much? Are you really only giving me Yourself? What am I supposed to do now?
I’ve always said that I wanted to live with just Jesus. Believe it or not, I often use to dream about being privileged enough to be sent to jail for my faith one day and taste the experience of literally having only Jesus. I was the girl who was sure I knew He was enough, and had told Him a thousand times that I wanted to experience that.
Funny how my prayers changed to desperate ones when He gave me a tiny taste of it. Apparently it is easier to pray about just having Jesus than it is to experience.
I felt it again as I slipped away into the dark of the silent parking lot a week ago. My prayer was a mere whisper as I walked… How am I supposed to be content to have nothing but You?
The stars twinkled overhead. I sat and looked at them long. I knew the truth. I knew He was enough. But in all honesty, at that moment it sure didn’t feel like it. I wanted more. I told Him I needed more.
And I have to wonder how we as a generation have gotten to the point where we really think we need more than God. Sure, we don’t think that intellectually. But let Him strip us of everything and we find ourselves murmuring that we don’t have what we need and He is robbing us of something.
Why can I not picture Paul and Silas sitting in jail and telling God they needed more than the chains that cut their wrists and made His presence more palpable? Why have we never heard of the Waldenses complaining that they had been stripped of their homes and comfort as they hid in mountain caves? Why did we not hear Huss howling to the throne room that he had been robbed of the life he deserved as flames licked away at his feet?
It’s preposterous to even think of these forerunners saying such things. But if we’re honest, it’s not so preposterous to think of our generation saying them if we were in their place.
Why are we not content with God? Has He changed?
Or have we?
Maybe we’ve been dazzled by a world of consumerism. Maybe we have been influenced by the masses who haven’t made heaven their home and thus live as though this is the only one they have. Maybe we have lost the perspective of our forefathers.
And maybe that’s why we think thanksgiving is just about celebrating the three F’s— family, friends, and food.
Yeah, so some of us come to thanksgiving with hands full of broken pieces. Some of us come with hands full of gifts that He seems to be asking us to give back. And we wonder what we’re supposed to be thankful for.
Thank God that He’s counted you dear enough to rescue from the pit of bounty and satisfy with His own heart. Thank God that He has given you a chance to taste something of substance— Jesus and Jesus only.
Because really, I wonder if we are no longer content with just God because we don’t even know who God really is anymore. And if we don’t really know who He is, it would make sense that we feel He isn’t enough for us.
Because He never promised that half of His heart would be enough to satisfy ours.
He promised all of Himself.
If you’ve been broken this year… if you come to thanksgiving feeling like you don’t have anything to be thankful for… if you feel like you have been left alone to battle through the dark of life… if you think you’ll end up sitting quietly in the shadows and celebrating thanksgiving with a moan to God to just see the light of one smile…
Maybe you have just been blessed a little deeper. There may be a whole legion of angels watching from heaven because God is in the process of showing you what it really means to be content with just Him.
Because He’s making you a hero. And heaven can’t help smiling.
Maybe He’s trying to teach this whole generation to know all of Himself. And maybe when we we learn, we’ll realize that we don’t need all the things the world has to be thankful.
Maybe we’ll realize that our emptiness was just the tool He used to give us more than we ever could have dreamed before.
*Joint post that my friend Evan Bates and I wrote recently. To read more check out www.bedrockblog.com
Evan: What if we thought of modesty as a license to be unique, instead of a dress code of holiness? What if we lived by principles of representation, instead of limits on our self expression? Any discussion of purity or modesty is a sticky undertaking, more so this year than before. With the Brock Turner case bringing up issues of responsibility and temptation in attire, a Kardashian opting for decidedly sheer clothing, and James Charles representing CoverGirl as the first CoverBoy, it's not exactly a good time to speak on living modestly. But just because something isn't popular doesn't mean it shouldn't be said. Maybe it's time we put a new face on modesty.
Hannah: Perhaps we need to redefine what modesty really means to us as a generation. Is it all about how tight our pants are or the length of our skirts? Maybe modesty is not about a list of do’s and don’ts but rather about a desire to rightly represent Jesus burning so deeply in our hearts that it takes expression in everything we do—including what we wear.
What if we defined modesty as simply that… A passion to be like Jesus in every area of our lives.
I wonder if we would find ourselves trying to get as close to the line as possible without falling off the edge. I wonder if we would spend so much time trying to be like the world but not of the world. Maybe instead, we would evaluate how we can take modesty and real beauty to the next level so that we are a generation that is so attractive in attitude and appearance that the world can’t help but be struck that we have been with Jesus.
Evan: Sisters, the first principle I think important is this: whatever you wear, or say, or identify yourself as, let that be a result of who YOU are inside, and your experience with Jesus. Whether it's a homespun jean skirt stitched on a 1897 pedal-powered sewing machine or Hollister's fall collection, your clothing should reflect your relationship with Christ, not anyone else's. It's easy to dress, or use speech patterns, or carry accessories which classify you in a definitive category on the spectrum of Christianity. But when you allow the identity of a group to dictate your choices instead of God's word, you no longer represent Christ, but that group.
Hannah: Another principle that plays in here is simply— why do you wear what you wear? Is it to get the guy’s attention? To look like the latest Hollywood star? To make you feel valuable? To fit in with a certain crowd or be viewed as belonging to a certain group? Or is it to be the most attractive representative of your God possible? Far too often we look around us and criticize our fellow sisters for wearing either too much or too little while we have not gone before God and honestly examined our own motives. Do we have a clear conscience before God when we look in our wardrobe? Would we want Jesus to sit next to us when we wear that one outfit?
We make the whole topic of modesty a huge and confusing issue but I’m convinced that if we would take our eyes off of what everyone else is doing and ask God what He wants for us, we would find it is quite simple. We make it complicated because we aren’t willing to lay down our own ideas and say yes to whatever He asks. And really, saying yes to Him is principle that goes far beyond modesty. When the continual chorus of our hearts is, “yes Jesus—anything for you” we will be safe.
Evan: And brothers. Modesty is not just a mandate for Christian women. After all, by our clarified definition, modesty is merely the representation of Christ in every area of our lives. Are man buns of the devil? I can't answer that question. Believe it or not, there isn't a single text in the Bible which says, "Thou shalt not wear a bun upon thy head, for in so doing thou _______________ (insert your reasoning here)." Sometimes the questions we really need to be asking hit closer to home. Why am I buying the iPhone 7? Is the amount of time I spend getting ready for the day irresponsible? Do I use language which reflects those around me (albeit pure language) more than what God has put on my heart? Word. Brothers, I beg you, spend less time worrying about what your sisters are wearing, or even your brothers, and worry about what remains in your hearts, because that's where reflecting Christ begins.
Hannah: Far too often modesty is thought of as a girl’s topic because there seem to be far more variables in our wardrobes as compared to yours, but I have to pause a minute and wonder if simply discussing wardrobes really takes us deep enough. What about modesty of deportment? What about carrying that attitude of honor into your conversation with the girl down the street that you like? What about being the one to stand up and keep wholesome boundaries in your friendship instead of waiting for her to do it? What about treating everyone you meet with respect and a caring heart instead of flirting with the ones with a pretty face?
And sisters, maybe it’s time for us to go deeper than the clothes we wear too. Maybe modesty is just as much about where we allow our mind to go as about what we wear. Do we daydream about interactions with guys that we would never dream to have in real life? Do we read a million romantic intentions into their simple acts of being a gentlemen? Do we misconstrue their genuine kindness and friendship to be something more because we aren’t content with only having God as our lover?
Maybe modesty is no more for one gender than another. Maybe it is caring about each other enough that we keep our hearts in the hands of God and let every part of our lives follow suit.
Evan: Let's stop talking about the dress code. Let's stop making lists and hem measurements, and look at hearts. Let's look in the mirror and ask ourselves, "How am I glorifying God with every corner of my life?"
I've always known in the core of my being that there is something exceedingly beautiful in the hard days. I think back to countless seasons of my life when I was driven to my knees by my desperate need for God and can't help but admit that they were some of the best days I lived.
Life is a rotation of seasons with no weather patterns to determine when it's time for another. Instead our seasons are gently guided by the hand of One who knows when we need snow or sunshine.
We all love the times of spring in our life. We love the new buds-- signs of life springing forth again. We love the sunshine and grass greening the hills. There's something fresh and happy about the world awakening again-- about the days when our own heart feels like it is bursting with new life.
Next comes summer and we revel in the harvest of dreams planted in the spring. Light lasts long and evening air is filled with laughter and family. We smile because life smiles on us. We realize how blessed we are and songs erupt to the Giver.
But what about when the leaves begin to fall and the cold blasts blow? What about when the freezing rain falls and abandons the world to be an icy wilderness? What about when grass dies and forests are skeletons of what once was?
All the world rejoices over the beauty of spring and the harvest of summer. It takes no eye of faith to see the glory.
Most of the world, though, sinks into despair in the lonely blasts of winter. When hopes and dreams become frozen corpses, songs are silenced.
I think back to a man who had lived in perpetual summer. His life had been a harvest of all the love he had poured into the people around him. He was blessed with family, health, wealth, and happiness.
Until one dark day. A messenger burst into his house to inform him that much of his treasure was gone. Before he had chance to compute, another messenger came with a similar message. And another. And another.
Winter had descended fast.
He'd been stripped of everything-- like a tree bare of it's leaves-- standing alone in a snowstorm.
He didn't give up though. Somehow he had eyes to see beauty in the winter. His simple prayer sinks into me... The Lord hath given and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
There were no conditions to this man's love for his Friend. It didn't have to be spring for him to sing praises. He could trust in the depths of winter.
Sometimes though, we act as if our love is dependent on whether or not the sun is shining. I have to wonder… is that really love? Maybe real love is a loyalty that will praise loudest when the sky is darkest.
We give God praise when He gives us what we want... But if not, what then?
I whisper prayers under dark skies and I am struck by the fact that the stars shine brightest on the darkest night.
I realize it all over again-- the hard days really are the good days. The times that God says no are sometimes even more precious than the times He says yes.
Winter does indeed have it's own beauty. The cold that freezes all life may actually be the very force needed to strip the earth of aging beauty so that new life can grow.
The times that God says no may be the very seasons we need so that our hearts can be stripped and made beautiful by new growth.
We promise God that we will love Him if He gives us everlasting summer but today I let the question sink in...
And if not?
What then? Will I sing praise in the cold of winter? Will my love burn brighter because of the darkness around me?
He may grant that winter fades into spring.
And if not, He is still good.
Sometimes I wake to the blackness that has crept into every corner of my little room and linger a moment and let the question rise to my consciousness. Why am I here? What purpose is there for me today? Where is home really? The quiet nagging of it brings an ache but somehow it is freeing to let the question come instead of always jumping out of bed to turn on my little lights that chase away the darkness. Sometimes it’s does the soul good to appreciate the darkness instead of running from it.
I’ve never been one to love moving around though I seldom realize that until after it has happened. I’ve had a lot of chances to see the world despite having barely been alive for two decades. I’ve lived in eight different places and currently am split between two.
I think it started to sink in the most when my family and I moved again four years ago. I was excited for the change (as I always was after initially fighting the idea inwardly). I couldn’t wait for all the exciting new things I knew I would experience… to see who I would become in the years in this new and quiet place. Somehow I have always loved new beginnings. After the first few weeks though, it started to sink in. Everything was different. Maybe I wasn’t so fond of this whole idea after all. It was a little late now though. I knew it deep down— I would either fight the adjustment and harbor self-pity or surrender and grow through it. I chose the latter and I’m glad I did.
I spent hours walking the dry meadows of the southwestern hills. After the initial excitement of new scenery, they seemed drier than ever. But slowly I came to love them. Maybe because parts of me were all tied up in the little overgrown trails and shady meadows. I’d changed there. I’d found a Love I hadn’t known existed and it had wrought miracles in the deepest parts of my heart. We’d walked and talked until the lonely plains stretching out in front of me no longer seemed lonely, but alive with His presence. I was home.
And then came His gentle calling to move on to new heights. I was thrilled for the opportunity to go out and serve. It was something I had anticipated all my growing up years, and now He was actually offering it to me. Of course I would say yes!
I remember the last morning we walked meadows together— me, eager with the same enthusiasm I had four years ago when we moved to this little spot. I tried to look back on all the memories in this place but my mind was so consumed with the new beginning that I could hardly focus on the ending. I knew it was significant though because this wasn’t just the closing of a chapter because of my moving but because while I was away my family would box up a hundred memories and hall them across the country to the same valley we had left four years earlier.
Excitement ran high as I unpacked boxes and set up home in my little dorm room. I walked the halls, marveling that in just one short week they would be filled with sweet faces and beautiful hearts that needed my love and attention. For now though, I could hardly think that far ahead. I kept looking around my own little room trying to grasp that I actually lived here. That this little square was my new home. I walked trails and sat on benches, awed that Jesus would ask me to step into the great unknown with nothing but Him. What an adventure! I knew it wouldn’t always seem quite so bright, but right now the sun shone and I smiled.
Days passed and the rooms filled with high-spirited girls and the halls rang with laughter. Often I would slip away into the quiet, though, and watch the stream trickle past or the sun set silently, and wonder if I was content to observe it alone. Was this really an adventure I had set out on with Jesus? Was I really up for all this change? I’d only learned to feel at home in the expansive meadows of the southwest after two years. I may not have that long this time. Could I let myself love knowing I didn’t have forever?
I don’t have the answers to those questions even now but when I wake up and hear “Miss Hannah, I’m so happy to see you!” ringing through the hallway, feel the soft heads on my shoulders on quiet evenings, listen to the quiet stories of lives I’m only scratching the surface of knowing, and am given hugs all throughout the day, I know that I certainly can’t help loving this adventure even if I’m not sure what turns it will take.
My phone lock screen brightens showing another message in the group I dubbed “the family” and I type in my password and swipe through pictures of the beautiful place they now call home. I zoom in and out trying to grasp every detail and wonder how many days until I’m on a plane headed there myself. I stop and look around me though and the mystery of it sinks deeper every time. Where actually is home? This place with smiling girlish faces and so many unique personalities to get to know to keep me busy for a lifetime? The log cabin, so warm and appealing in every photo that appears in our chat? The expansive meadows where so many quiet words were shared between me and the One I love most?
Stars twinkle above me as I walk back to my room with Him and I stop in the middle of the road just to look up and wonder. The Milky Way stretches above me, clearer than I have seen it in months and something in me starts to feel a little more in focus too. Maybe we’ll always be torn between states, countries, and homes down here. Sure, sometimes we may learn to know a spot on this little planet like the back of our hand, but it’s unlikely He’ll leave us there forever. Or even if He does, some parts of it will change and we’ll wonder again where home is. Maybe we always will.
I wonder if any place on earth can ever make us feel entirely at home. Is there actually a spot so sheltered from the effects of sin that it never actually tastes change?
I smile and it dawns on me slow. There is indeed. No, not the meadow I thought was so peaceful. Not the house I spent a good portion of my childhood days in. Not my little dorm room. Not the warm cabin that keeps appearing in picture form on my phone. None of those.
This Home can go anywhere and yet remain unchanged. It can pass through every season of life with me and still be perfectly capable of meeting all of my changing needs. It will follow me everywhere I go if I let it. Or maybe I should say, I can follow Him everywhere He goes if I choose to.
Because in the end, He is Home. I knew it when I left the crisp air of our northern home and headed to the southwest years before. I felt it sink deeper into my bones as I walked dusty roads and grassy meadows. But now I’m learning it all over again in new and more personal ways.
Home is not a building. It’s not even a place I come back to every night. While family and friends do provide a certain feeling of belonging, Home cannot be entirely dependent on the people around me… on whether or not I have friends or family to share the ups and downs of life. Those things may change. They may come and go and sometimes I will be left looking out at the sunset with nothing but silence and the lengthening shadows.
But if I choose it, I can still be at Home.
Home, because while in one sense everything in my life is changing, in another way, nothing is different. He still looks down with eyes brimming with love when I wake in the morning and gently whispers for me to spend the day with Him. He pushes through the walls of my heart to ask how I’m doing as I run between dorm and cafe. He still soothes all my worries away when I dare to bring them to Him instead of trying to find some antidote through my own ideas. I still feel the sweetest peace and joy in the world when journaled conversations with him clock up thousands of words. Some things never change. And that’s what makes them home.
I gaze at the sky and I wonder if I’m closest to home when I’m closest to Him. Maybe that’s why He always whispers “Welcome home!” when I come stumbling back into His arms after trying to navigate the waters alone. Maybe somewhere deep inside His big heart He knows that only when I am with Him will I really be home. And somehow as I rest in His arms, I feel it too.
Home for me is where He is.
Then the realization comes slowly— like something I’ve known all my life but has just taken root in a deeper way— maybe He doesn’t feel at home either. Maybe He walks the golden streets up there with the same lost look that’s in my eyes when I try and walk at sunset without Him. Maybe He sits alone and feels it in the depth of His heart too, this loneliness and aching for home. Maybe my ache to be at home is simply a little mirror of His own…
Why? Because to him, I am home. It sinks in slow and I’m forced to wonder how long I have made the God of the universe a homeless man by my searching for some place to fill what was always His.
Maybe it’s time to go Home and stay there.
And maybe the angels will sing, not just for me, but about how their King who had nowhere to lay His head finally got to have a home too.
Far too often we try to carry the whole world on our shoulders and think that somehow we’re responsible to be more than His little kiddo.
You know those nights, though, when every star in the heavens seems to be twinkling just for us? I was walking through inky blackness the other night and looked up and something inside of me clicked. As I gazed it hit me all over again… I’m not responsible for the whole world. I don’t carry the universe. That’s His job. I’m just here to be His friend who follows His leading and runs wherever He sends. That’s all.
We run around complaining that we just can’t do it all and hold up under the weight of life and He smiles slow and nods His head. “You can’t kiddo. But I can. You were never meant to. It was always my burden.”
And He’s right. We aren’t strong enough to carry the world because our shoulders were never made wide enough. That is and always has been His job.
Maybe the way we can make His load lightest is to simply love Him and be His friend and leave the heavy lifting up to Him. Something makes me think that the load wouldn’t even seem as heavy to Him if He could look down and see our smiling face lifted to heaven so that we could catch just one more glimpse of His face. Maybe for a moment the weight of the world would feel light to Him and our love would lift the burden from His shoulders. #dailysoulmoments #hisburdenislight
Sometimes I think we get this idea that living in forever friendship with God means that we never fall or make mistakes. Almost as if a friendship with the most High is an instant hop into perfection.
Well, yeah. You know as well as I do that that doesn't actually work in real life and is practically a recipe for discouragement.
My fingers typed fast as I asked Him about it in my journal today... Because how can I invest my everything into a friendship that is meant to be forever when I know I'm just going to get confused and fall flat on my face sometime down the road?
His answer was simple but profound. Forever friendship isn't just about the times when we live happily ever after. It's about the times we're flat on our face in the mud. It doesn't stop when we fall. It doesn't end when we loose perspective. My Jesus doesn't give up that easy.
In fact, maybe there is a depth and beauty that is only found when we're lying on our face in the mud, disgusted at ourselves and our frequent mistakes. What if friendship could actually go a level deeper there? What if Love can only reach certain parts of our hearts when we are at our lowest?
So yeah, maybe it's not about walking perfectly but simply holding on to His hand even when we are beaten down and confused. Maybe then we'll find a depth we didn't know existed on the mountaintop.
He whispers it gentle (for the thousandth time) /!: I'm finally starting to believe it...
"We are forever even if you mess up. Even if you loose perspective. I don't give up on my kids that easy..."
Oh am I ever glad You don't... This is love. #dailysoulmoments #lovethatneverletsgo #meaningofforever
Sometimes I think we hang onto things in our lives too tightly. We grasp and we strain and we struggle because we think that letting go will mean the deepest darkness. But sometimes letting go is exactly what He is asking us to do.
Life was never meant to be lived with hands tightly shut and grasping onto what feels like the last threads we have. We were meant to live with our heart and hands wide open to the love of a God who knows best how to make us happy. Sometimes that means He takes away. Sometimes that means He gently takes the broken dreams and treasures out of our hands. And yeah, we might sit and cry for a bit because that's all we thought we ever had. But He's not done. He takes away and then He gives even more richly than we could have imagined before... and sometimes that gift is simply the peace that we experience in the breaking.
The life of true beauty is not the life that never sees pain. It's the life that opens up and feels the deepest of joy and the deepest of hurt because it knows that all pass through the same gentle hands. That soul can throw their arms wide open to the sky because there is nothing that will come that has not already been planned for good.
So yeah. When God comes and asks for your treasures... don't fight Him. Let Him take them. Either He will give them back in ways you never imagined or He will give you even brighter ones. Or just maybe He will give you the best gift of all... A deeper oneness with Himself which is only found in the depths of pain and surrender.
Maybe the freest, sweetest life is the life that tastes the most sacrifice-- willingly.
Sometimes we let the devil treat us like we are this flimsy little toy he can throw around at will. He whispers doubt and fear into our mind and we flat out panic just like he was hoping for. He whispers that we're never going to learn and we believe him as if it was straight truth.
Sure, we don't do it all of the time. But we do it way too much of the time.
In all honesty, the devil is a bully and he will push us around if we give him half a chance. But the beautiful thing is that we don't have to. Ever.
We aren't left to the deviousness of this bully because we have the strongest Friend the universe has ever known and He's not about to watch His kids get bullied by His enemy.
In the end it's up to us though. Because He won't force the devil away if we're perfectly content to let him bully us. He can only rescue us when we ask for it.
Don't let the devil pull you down tonight. Don't let him steal your peace. Stand tall and shout to the heavens that you are eternally safe because you have the strongest Protector the world has ever known.
Because you do. #dailysoulmoments #standupandbestrong
I've been thinking a lot about trust lately... about how adamantly we say we trust God, yet how slow we actually are to trust Him in the deepest and daily aspects of our lives.
Because the thing is... it's not just about how much we trust God. It's about who we trust most.
I was talking to Him just this afternoon and He said it gentle... "You still trust yourself more than you trust me." And I knew right away He was right. I wonder if I'm not the only one.
Yeah, sure, we trust God. But when it comes down to it, do we really trust His advice above our own ideas? Do we really act like He knows better than us? Do we really believe what He thinks about us more than what we think of ourselves?
I don't know about you but I find that my default is still to turn to my own powers of reasoning instead of His... to plan my own day instead of letting Him do it for me.
And really, how can we say we trust Him with our lives if we can't put His reasoning above our own? In every situation?
High calling, I know. At least for me. But isn't He trustworthy? A million times more than we are?
Maybe it's not just about if we trust God or not, but about who we trust most.
Us? Or Him? #dailysoulmoments #whodoittrustmost
20. Lover of Jesus. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Servant. Fan of the kitchen. Graduate of Masters of Biblical Counseling.
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