Archive | faith

The Gift of Waiting

My next guest is a girl I’ve known since I was ten years old. God has wound our journeys inextricably together and revealed His character to me through her life of obedience. He has taught me so much through our friendship. Today, Julie shares with us all God is teaching her about waiting. I love the gentle way Julie encourages us not to resent the wait but to accept it as a gift straight from the God who calls us His beloved.

(If you’ve missed the other posts in this series, get caught up by starting here.)

Contenders of the Faith Part 3

The Gift of Waiting by Julie Cassol

The kitchen was a mess.  Between my husband and I we had managed to use just about every dish, pan, pot, and cooking utensil we owned.  In the midst of the mess, as we waited on various dishes to cook, I decided to whip up a posset.  Pinterest had just recently introduced me to the posset, a simple, three ingredient, tangy English dessert whose roots run centuries back and I was excited to try it. I followed the simple directions and within fifteen minutes I was pouring the sweet, creamy mixture into little glass dessert dishes so they could cool and set in the refrigerator.  I was already licking my lips thinking about enjoying this lemony treat after dinner.  That’s when I noticed the directions said to, “chill in the refrigeration for at least three hours or overnight.”  What?!  Three hours?!  Overnight?!  How could anything take that long?  Surely this posset would be ready before then.  But with each anxious check into the refrigerator I grew more and more dismayed.  The hands on the clock were telling me it was bedtime and the stubborn posset still wasn’t set.  I felt cheated.  I didn’t want to enjoy it tomorrow, I wanted to enjoy it tonight.  My heart was set on it now.  In the middle of this childish rant of disappointment it all clicked. I’m always trying to avoid the wait.

My mind flooded with memories from my past: all the Christmases I stealthily peeked under shiny wrapping paper before December 25th; the time I did a little joy ride in my sister’s car before I was legally allowed to operate it; giving my heart away before I could fully understand the consequences; and all the seasons of my life I spent trying to rush into the next one before fully experiencing being right where I was.

I’m currently in the middle of a season of waiting.  I don’t like it.  It’s uncomfortable.  It feels unproductive.  I feel exposed and small.  Sadly, I’ve spent most of this season praying for God to make it be over.  That posset helped me see I’m living for the finish line and trying to skip all the work that it takes to get there.  I’m rushing to get to the end to simply check this off my list, and I’m missing the point of why God ever put me in the race to begin with.  Isn’t the whole point of this for me to know Him and be changed by Him into something new?  Recently I’ve changed the focus of my prayers.  I’m asking God to teach me contentment and joy in the middle of the wait.

As I’ve shifted my focus from the finish line to Jesus, I’ve noticed how frequently God uses the wait to teach us. Isaac and his wife Rebekah waited twenty years for Rebekah to finally conceive.  Joseph saw two dreams at the age of seventeen and he waited over twenty years before he saw them fulfilled.  David was anointed by Samuel to be king as a young man and waited until he was thirty years old before he finally sat on the throne.  Esther and Ruth both waited until exactly the right moment to present a life-altering request to a man for help. Paul was blind for three days after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus before Ananias showed up to heal him.  Every account in the bible has waiting woven through it.  The waiting is where the truth of our hearts is exposed. The wait is a gift, an invitation to know God in new and deeper ways.

You can do more in my waiting than in my doing I could do.

As I’ve asked God for more understanding and wisdom in waiting He lead me to Psalm 40:1, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.”  In the lonely, dark space of the wait we are able to see the truth of our faith.  The ugly truth was my heart was in no way waiting patiently.  I had been rushing around in vain, anxiously trying to make things happen on my own instead of resting in the promises of God and trusting Him to do what He has said. I kept believing the lie that the wait was because I wasn’t doing enough.  Now I’m seeing that the wait is the place where God does the most work in me. The wait is where I learn to surrender.  To let God transform the ugly parts of my heart into His beauty.

In the waiting I can embrace that I am weak and learn to live, move, and breathe in God’s strength.  The wait allows me to find Jesus as my hope and joy.  My trust is deepened and my faith grows as I learn to patiently wait.  Waiting is a gift worth receiving.  When God offers you the gift of the wait, how will you respond?

About Julie

About Julie

After living a life pursuing perfection while being stuck in empty religion, finding a real relationship with Jesus wrecked my life.  I’m a normal girl, living a normal life pursuing Jesus. Some days that’s easier than others.

I’m thankful for the people God has in my life that encourage and challenge me to keep chasing Truth and sharing my gifts.  I live with my husband of fourteen years and am learning how to spot the beauty of Jesus in all areas of life, especially the mundane.

You can share this journey with Julie at SpeakingBeauty.blog.

 

Final thoughts…

Whether you’re in a waiting season or not, we all wait for Jesus. May we shrug off doubt and the pressure to perform and simply surrender today. May we trust the transformative power of God’s love and allow gratitude to change our entire perspective this week.

There is still time to enter my giveaway to win a copy of Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. To enter, subscribe to carried by love and leave a comment on any of the posts written by my guest bloggers. I’ll announce the winner at the end of the series.

Download your print of Jude1:20-21 here.

Follow me on Facebook and tune in for live videos every Wednesday at noon.  Let’s meet midday/midweek to talk more about how we can contend for the faith. Click here to watch the first three videos:

INTRO: FAITH

Part I: IDENTITY

Part II: SPIRIT

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Love and the Power of Prayer

I hope God is speaking to you in powerful ways through this collection of voices; I know He’s speaking to me. Today Leigha Balchus is leading us into Part II of the Contenders of the Faith series: Jude’s instructions to pray in the Spirit. Leigha is fluent in the language of prayer, because prayer has been foundational in her personal story. Her words invite us to notice this hidden yet significant element of our faith.

If you missed any of the previous posts, you can read from the beginning of the series, right here.

Part 2

Love and the Power of Prayer by Leigha Balchus

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:20)

As I sat in the prayer circle waiting my turn, I could feel my heart racing, my palms getting sweaty. I desperately tried to gather my thoughts.  What would I say? Everyone else’s prayers sounded so eloquent, so perfect.  I didn’t know any scripture to quote.  What if I froze and couldn’t find any words at all?  I’d look like a fool.  I felt like a total fraud.  Everything in me wanted to run away and hide.  I loved Jesus with all my heart, but what kind of Christian was I if I didn’t know how to pray out loud?  I felt ashamed and embarrassed. Have you ever been there?  If so, you are not alone.

We are often intimidated by prayer, both corporate and private, because it requires vulnerability and the world tells us that to be vulnerable is to be weak.  However, author and researcher, Brené Brown, has discovered through her research that the opposite is true.  Being vulnerable actually takes great courage, and with great risk comes great reward.  In her book Daring Greatly, she shares that “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.  It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.  If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

If we want to grow spiritually and strengthen our prayer life, we must be willing to be vulnerable, not just with our peers but with God, and even ourselves.  When we are vulnerable before God, it makes our hearts open to receive his love, and when we receive his love, our faith grows.  There are no magic words and no script to follow when we pray. He simply wants us to come to him, hearts wide open.

He already knows our burdens, but the free will he offers us means that he allows us the choice of whether to bring them to him or not.  God isn’t so much interested in our words TO him as he is in our hearts TOWARD him.  I love how R.K. Hughes puts it in Ephesians: the mystery of the body of Christ, “Prayer is not so much the articulation of words as the posture of heart.”

Praying in the Spirit

When we are filled up with the love of God, when we are rooted and grounded in his love and when we believe that we are indeed the apple of his eye (Zechariah 2:8), the power of the Holy Spirit is unleashed in us.  In fact, in the book of Ephesians, just a few chapters before Paul talks about putting on the full armor of God, he prays these words over the Ephesians.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

Paul prayed these words because he understood that when we grasp how much God loves us, our eyes are opened to the power that dwells within us as believers in Christ, thus enabling us to pray in the Holy Spirit.  It was important for the Ephesians to know this because it is through the power of the Holy Spirit in prayer that we unlock the power of all the other pieces of our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-17).

In her bible study, The Armor of God, Priscilla Shirer says this about it, “Prayer is the mechanism that brings down the power of heaven into your experience.  It is the divinely authorized method that activates your spiritual armor and makes it effective.” Therefore, it is prayer that is our most effective weapon on the spiritual battlefield, so we must never believe the lie that our prayers are not good enough or that they won’t make a difference.  They make a huge difference!

We all go through times in our lives when we struggle to have faith and to believe in God’s love for us, but it’s in those times that, just as Paul prayed for the Ephesians, we too, can ask God to open our eyes to the power of the Holy Spirit within us and give us the strength to grasp the depth of his love for us.

If prayer is an area in which you’d like to grow stronger in your spiritual walk, I encourage you to begin each day praying Ephesians 3:16-19 over yourself and your loved ones, and watch God move in mighty ways!  The more we practice the discipline of prayer and the more we fill ourselves with God’s Word, the more comfortable praying becomes.  Yes, even when it’s our turn in the prayer circle!

Here’s an example of the verses from Ephesians turned into a personal prayer:

Dear God, I pray that out of your glorious riches you may strengthen me with power through your Spirit in my inner being, so that Christ may dwell in my heart through faith.  And I pray that I may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19) In Jesus’ name, Amen.

May you go forth and be blessed and always remember that “greater is HE who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

About Leigha

About LeighaLeigha Balchus is a wife of 18 years and mom to two amazing kids.  She is head-over-heels for Jesus and, for the past decade, has followed Him on a great adventure filled with many joys and much sorrow.  It is through this journey, when so many times God was all she had to cling to, that she has become so passionate about prayer and the power of His Word.

Leigha is a teacher turned stay-at-home mom who recently decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an entrepreneur as a Distributor for SeneGence International.

In her spare time, she loves to cook, read and, most recently, play with make-up because, in the words of C. S. Lewis, “You’re never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”

Final thoughts…

What is God confirming or clearing up for you in regards to prayer? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. This Wednesday (over on my Facebook page), I want to talk about how understanding the Spirit’s role in our lives can recharge our prayer lives as we contend of the faith.

When you subscribe to carried by love and leave a comment on any of the posts written by my guest bloggers, you’ll automatically be entered to win a copy of Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. I’ll announce the winner of the giveaway at the end of the series.

Grab your free download of Jude1:20-21 here.

If you missed any of the videos from this series, you can tune in here:

[New Series] Intro: FAITH

Part I: IDENTITY

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Jesus Friends

I cannot wait to introduce you to Jackie Hooks, the girl with a Texas-sized heart for God. She makes me laugh but she also invites me to think deeply about what it really means to follow Jesus. Most of all, she inspires me to trust Him for big, bold things. Today, Jackie is talking about what happens when some ordinary women decide to follow Jesus together.

(If you’ve missed the other posts in this series, get caught up by starting here.)

Contenders of the Faith Part 1

Jesus Friends by Jackie Hooks

“The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others.  These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” Luke 8:1-3

We are “Some Women”…
Following Jesus Together.

I walked into the Women’s Bible Study at the age of 30.  I had smoked almost an entire pack of cigarettes on the way…it was such a long drive and I got lost like 8 times.  I was angry and annoyed and cussing up a storm as I drove my Honda civic to some girl’s house.  The Sunday School teacher had “encouraged” me to go.  She said the girls were nice.  She said it was a great way to “plug in”.  And I was just lonely enough to give it a shot. Just desperate enough to make the drive with printed out directions (no iPhone y’all).  Just daring enough to give it one shot.  And forever I will have an enormous place in my heart for girls who drive alone to Bible Studies in women’s homes they have never met before.  It is overwhelming to say the very very least.

And I walked into a room with a circle of women in it.  They all knew each other.  They were all so cute. They were all girls from our Sunday School class (the Nearly/Newly Married Class…Except we weren’t nearly or newly anything…my husband and I were two super sinners climbing out of a ditch).  And I may have instantly hated them all.  And I may have wanted to set myself on fire.  And I may have tried to smile a time or two through gritted teeth.  And I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying over the pounding of my heart and the panic attack I was certain I was having.

And Jesus Just Showed Up.
Like He Does.
When Folks Get Together for Him.

And they listened when I told them I didn’t really want to be there.  And they listened when I had a million and four questions.  And they listened as I fell apart again and again in their living rooms over the next several years.  Y’all.  These girls became my Jesus Friends.  I looked up from my messy life, and to the right and left of me were some girls following Jesus.  And so, we became friends.  Because Jesus placed us right next to each other. We became Jesus Friends.

Jesus Friends are the friendships only Jesus could place in your life.  They are the friendships only Jesus could orchestrate.  They may have no rhyme and no reason at all.  But they are pictures of what Jesus can accomplish when we trust Him with our friendships.

And that y’all, is really the beginning and end of it for me. It was the beginning of Jesus creating my community. It was the end of me searching high and low for the perfect “bestie”.  It was unbelievably freeing knowing Jesus is BIG enough to pick the right gals at the right time to walk right next to you. Because He loves us y’all. He really really does.

Jesus Friends

So, this verse…this obscure little Luke 8:1-3…It is everything to me.  It is some women who were not necessarily best friends…not necessarily anything like each other…not necessarily having one dang thing in common…except the following Jesus part.  And really, y’all, it’s all we need.  When we look to the right and left of us and see another Christ Follower or two or ten getting dusty in the footsteps of Jesus…these are our Jesus Friends.  We love them because they are all following Jesus next to us.  And that is the BIG part.  That is the part that makes us Jesus Friends.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  The love of Jesus lived out in our lives.  No matching t-shirts necessary.  Just Jesus. It’s that simple. You love them because Jesus placed them in your life, and hold on tight y’all, you let them love you too.

And really, this is my prayer for all of us…I pray we are willing to stop hoping for matching personalities or perfect age/kid/spouse/pet dynamics.  Maybe we could quit looking for the person who completely gets us, and we start noticing the gal who completely gets Him.  And y’all, this is when life gets good.  When the folks Jesus placed next to us become the folks we make a place for…We meet our handpicked travelling buddies.  And the road sure gets a lot less lonely.  I promise.  He does too.

About Jackie

I am an everyday ordinary gal who started following Jesus just a little over a decade ago, and has fallen madly in love with the Carpenter King who saved my life and my marriage.  Corey and I are raising four holy moly messes (Jake 13, Jude 12, Grace 10 and Joshua 4).  I am technically a stay at home mom, but rarely do I find myself at home, and the soap opera and bon bon life hasn’t found its way into my living room just yet.  I do occasionally allow for a small celebration when all the laundry is clean AND folded at the SAME TIME on the SAME  DAY…and that is typically twice a decade.

And I write. And I speak.  Words have been the tool Jesus gave me from the very beginning of my life to navigate every road I have walked.  My hope is that my words inspire and encourage you to see Jesus in your everyday too.  He is right here waiting for each of us, in the daily mess, hoping we see He wants so much more from us and for us than we could ever imagine.  I pray my words will lead you to Him.

Connect with Jackie on Facebook, Instagram or subscribe to her blog at jackiehooks.com.

About Jackie

Final thoughts…

Who has God handpicked for your journey? Which ordinary women has He placed in your path for this season?  May Jackie’s words encourage us all to link arms with those sisters and love them well as we walk the narrow road together. And may the visible community we share draw our hearts to the unshakable, unseen kingdom of God, the kingdom in our midst.

Be sure and enter my giveaway to win a copy of Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. To enter, subscribe to carried by love and leave a comment on any of the posts written by my guest bloggers. I’ll announce the winner at the end of the series.

Grab your free download of Jude1:20-21 here.

Follow me on Facebook and tune in for live videos every Wednesday at noon.  Let’s meet midday/midweek to talk more about how we can contend for the faith. If you missed any of the videos from this series, you can tune in here:

[New Series] Intro: FAITH

Part I: IDENTITY

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A Faith That Grows

A contender gains strength when he or she understands the power of the weapon in his or her hand. My next guest in the Contenders of the Faith series possesses a bold and vibrant faith because she clings to the Word of God as her source of strength.  Join me as Misty Keith shares what it means to build ourselves up in our most holy faith.

You can read from the beginning of the series, right here.

Contenders of the Faith Part 1

A Faith That Grows by Misty Keith

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21(ESV)

Every living and healthy thing is expected to grow and at some point, reach maturity. If it becomes stagnant, it’s either dead, dull or slack. Healthy living things need nutrients to grow and develop. Without a constant supply of nutrients, there is no sustainability. A person’s faith is known to be synonymous with their spiritual health and maturity. In Jude 1:20-21, we see in that he is addressing Christ followers to essentially have a faith that grows and matures, so that when Jesus Christ returns for His Church, the believer will be ready to spend eternity with Him in heaven.

When we think of the word maturity, we think of something that is growing or becoming fully developed. For example, the sunflower is a healthy, vibrant and beautiful flower. It is recognized worldwide for its color, nutrients, sustainability, strength and most of all, it is valued for its growth. We see that some types of sunflowers grow thick in size and can reach between eight and twelve feet tall. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but sunflowers are known to be a symbol of faith. They are one of the fastest growing plants and rumor has it that sunflowers like to face and follow the sun throughout the day as it rises and sets. They are named “sunflower” because they are a flower that resembles the sun in appearance. You can especially see the resemblance in the larger, healthier plants.

Our personal faith in Jesus is a lot like the sunflower.

A Faith That Grows

In order to be healthy, vibrant, and beautiful, we need our faith to mature and grow. As we face Jesus (the Son) each new day and let His Word build us up, our faith becomes most holy (sacred and consecrated), growing and maturing into a strong belief which is ultimately geared and used to sustain us until Jesus returns for His church.

How does one build up their faith? There are three steps we can take as believers to grow our faith.

Step One: Read the Word.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 (NKJV)

If I never picked up the Bible and read God’s Word for myself, I would be clueless about my faith and the need to have my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Reading or hearing God’s Word is like planting flowers. If you want to grow a bushel of sunflowers, you must first plant the sunflower seeds. God’s Word is the “seed” that grows our faith. Personally knowing Jesus, His promises, what He and the Father says about you, about your life, and Their plan for your eternal life won’t be known to you if you don’t take the time to read what they have already said. Get comfortable with the Bible, it will give you the basis for growing and increasing your faith.

***Christians are tempted to read what everyone else says about the Bible rather than going directly to the Bible itself. Which then brings up the argument for primary verses secondary sources. If you had an opportunity to meet the person who created something or the one who copied the original and duplicated it, who would you rather meet? Chances are, you would rather meet the author or original creator over the one who was the impersonator. This argument applies to reading God’s Word. Read what He says, over what others say about what He already said.***

Step Two: Attend the Word.

But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves for if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was… James 1:22-24 (NKJV)

Not only do we have to read God’s Word but we have to attend to His Word by doing what it says. Going back to the example of our sunflower, there is no possible way that the flower is going to grow if it does not receive personal attention and care. It has to receive water regularly and be rooted in nutrient rich soil in order grow. As the gardener plants, waters and attends to the sunflower, it matures and grows into a healthy bushel. It doesn’t forget to grow or all of a sudden stop maturing if it is being properly attended to. If we fail to heed what the Bible says and ignore what God is telling us, then our faith grows stagnant, dead, dull or slack. It took faith in Jesus Christ to become a child of God in the first place. Therefore, in order to grow and increase in faith, we need to use and attend to the “measure” of faith God gives to everyone in order to build it up.

Step Three: Test the Word.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

As we read and follow the Word, we are called to be critical and see the Bible through the lens of exegesis. Exegesis is the discipline of having textual criticism. We are not being “critical or judgmental” of God and what His Word says, but we are thinking in terms of dissecting, examining, picking apart, analyzing, interpreting and explaining the merits and faults of the scriptures. This critical approach is needed in order to comprehend and define the meaning of what the scriptures say. You see, taking an exegesis approach to the Word helps build our faith. It truly does mature us. We become complete and ready to do exactly what the LORD has called us to do.

Going back to our example of the sunflower, how does the gardener know that he has a beautiful bushel of flowers before him? He sees a fully grown, bright and vibrant stalk of sunflowers and he knows full well that they have been planted, watered, and have reached maturity. They are ready to shine in all their glory. The same goes for our faith. How does our faith become a built up and holy faith? By reading the Bible, doing what it says and allowing it to mature us so that we are equipped and ready for the return of our Savior. In the meantime, we who have faith get to shine like the sunflower at noonday. The sunflower is glorious! Those who see it, know full well that it is beautiful. It is a testament to the Creator and Sustainer of all life. The sunflower makes the gardener proud of the story behind growing it, especially when it reaches maturity.

About Misty

Misty KeithHello, my name is Misty. I am a daughter of the King of all Kings, wife to Richard, mom to Reagan (13 years), Kylee (10 years), and Karis Delaney (8 years).  I am a teacher by trade, an encourager and up-lifter by calling and a writer by practice. I enjoy being a friend to those who will have me. I currently live out in the country in Salado, Texas. My husband and I have the privilege of homeschooling all three of our children. I also teach Reading for a private college in the Master’s/Credentialing program. I like to stay busy and enjoy the hobbies of Reading, Writing, Scrap-booking and Running. As a family, we attend First Baptist Church in Georgetown, Texas. We enjoy traveling and taking “family fieldtrips” often. All of life is an adventure and we are thankful for every life lesson that the Lord teaches us in the process.

I would love for you to join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, goodreads and my personal blog.

Final thoughts…

Read the Word, attend the Word, and test the Word. A great place to start applying these steps on your own or with a group is Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. Be sure and enter my giveaway for a chance to win a copy. To enter, subscribe to carried by love and leave a comment on any of the posts written by my guest bloggers. I’ll announce the winner at the end of the series.

Join me on Facebook for live videos every Wednesday at noon.  Let’s meet midday/midweek to talk more about how we can contend for the faith. Don’t forget to download your free print of Jude1:20-21 here.

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Lost & Found: A Story of Identity

We are kicking off this Contenders of the Faith series by talking about our identity in Christ. God’s love is the source of our identity, which is why God calls His children by the name Beloved. My first guest, Bethany, is sharing with us her journey to discover this amazing truth.

If you missed the very first post in this series, you can catch up right here.

Contenders of the Faith (new series)

Lost & Found: A Story of Identity by Bethany Dufilho

I was one of those kids who never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I liked singing so I was always in a choir at church or school. It was something I never really worked at but I experienced some success and enjoyed the sense of identity and belonging it gave me. I was a big-ish fish in a few small-ish ponds.  As I got older, the ponds got bigger.  I played into a comparison game full of my own perfectionism and pride and eventually, my tender ego was deflated.  Add to that a neurological issue diagnosed in my 30s causing tremors in my voice and I gave up singing for a while. It was a painful stripping of an identity I hadn’t realized I had clung to so fiercely.

After I was married, still not really knowing what I wanted to do, I enrolled in graduate school. Holding some identity also in “being smart,” I had always known higher education would be in my future. I was training to become a school psychologist. I also very much wanted to become a mother. I knew these two could coexist, but seeing things as very “all or nothing,” I struggled with the pieces of understanding how I could be good; rather, perfect at both. My identity felt at odds with itself.

When I had our first child, my outward achieving stopped for a while. I developed the slower pace of stay at home motherhood. Here I threw my perfectionist tendencies into overdrive, pouring my anxieties onto my tiny babe.  Was I doing this the “right” way?  If not, oh God, I’m screwing him up!  The struggle to identify myself as what I thought a mother should be was frightening and real.

After emerging from the fog of new parenthood, I then developed a hobby for pure enjoyment: painting and rearranging my house.  Friends and family took notice and I prized the recognition of a new identity forming: decorator. I ran with it, eventually creating a small business.  Was this now my identity? I decided to go all in: taking classes, ordering business cards, even making a website. I took comfort, dare I say, pride, in finding my thing.

After a while, I took on too much.  The work, impinging on my introverted self, also became a burden on my desire to still be a stay at home mother to my now three children. I felt resentful when I couldn’t be my version of perfect for both my family and my clients. The stress was hard on both my home and marriage. I was disappointed in myself but also relieved in admitting my need to pull back.

So here I am now. I still decorate, though in a smaller way than I once imagined. I’m still a wife and mother of course.  I’m even singing again- every Sunday morning along with my husband, for a group of eager and antsy first and second graders.  I have no labels or job descriptions to succinctly tell you who I am or what I can do.  Looking back though I can now see the thread running through every turn in my life.  It’s always been the same, because it has always been me.  I still bear the same sin struggles, the same personality, the same weaknesses and strengths.  I am the same soul.  Whether I have been singing, mothering, in school, decorating, it has always been me.  And at times I found myself wondering… is it enough?  Am I enough?

I’ve been studying the enneagram lately.  I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it, but it’s really just a tool, similar to anything else that can help you know yourself better, like seeing a therapist or reading a book on personal growth.  It teaches the importance of knowing yourself fully– the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It’s an uncomfortable act of faith- to bring into light the sins you bear, but also (at times equally uncomfortable) to develop compassion and grace for yourself, seeing and loving yourself as God does.

So how would my life change if I could fully and daily embrace that truth- that God loves me entirely, imperfect as I am?  So much so that Christ died for me while I was (am) still a sinner (Romans 5:8)? How much more would I be able to love others when, freed from the trap of perfectionism, I could set aside my own needs for approval and acknowledgement?  I could lay down comparisons, defensiveness, and pride.  How healing this is- this embracing of the gospel message in my own identity: as a beloved child of God.

This very struggle is what I think it means to contend for my faith; to work out my salvation with both fear and trembling (Phillippians 2:12).  Sometimes I want contending to look more like a sword fight- a big battle fought and won, once and for all.  But I think it is more quiet and small, done in hidden and daily stillness before the Lord.  Seeking His wisdom; His love.

I cannot do this on my own, because truthfully many days I find myself unable, un-remembering to even cry out from the very outset of the morning. I start to again believe the lie that it would be easier to have a job title or task to hide behind:  “I’ll serve you in this way, Lord!”

And this is why I need Him. Oh, I need Him.  Every hour I need Him.  He has entrusted to us the gospel, this good news of love and redemption through Christ.  This message is not only to be received once and then shared, but also to be remembered over and over in our own lives- we are loved. May we seek Him and may we cry out to Him, for our healing and for His glory.

Lost & Found: A Story of Identity

About Bethany

Bethany Dufilho has been married to Paul for 13 years and they have three children ages 9, 7, and 4. They live in Katy, TX where she is a stay at home mom and part time interior decorator. She is a lover of beauty and a seeker of Truth and occasionally blogs over at thehouseoffigs.com. There you can read about her adventures in decorating and hear the heart behind her beauty with a purpose philosophy.

About Bethany

Final thoughts…

We’ve been given gospel identities, rooted deeply in perfect Love. May Bethany’s story remind us all that Love is greater than our doubts, fears, and insecurities. I love how she describes contending as a quiet, hidden wrestling of soul. As God transforms us into the image of His Son, may we remember that our faith is a precious gift to nurture, protect, and defend.

Be sure and enter my giveaway to win a copy of Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. To enter, subscribe to carried by love and leave a comment on any of the posts written by my guest bloggers. I’ll announce the winner at the end of the series.

Grab your free download of Jude1:20-21 right here.

Follow me on Facebook and tune in for live videos every Wednesday at noon (Central Time).  Let’s meet midday/midweek to talk more about how we can contend for the faith. You can watch this week’s video here.

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Contenders of the Faith [New Series]

I don’t consider myself a fighter. I prefer a slow pace and quiet surroundings, but every time my bible fell open to Jude’s letter this summer, my pulse quickened and God’s word echoed strong in my ears.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude 1:3

Contend for the faith.

Jude’s letter is short, yet weighty. It’s a battle cry, a call to arms, a plea to all believers to contend for the faith.

A contender is well acquainted with difficulties and danger yet shows up ready to fight day after day after day. Contend is an intensified form of the word agonize. Jude summons us to battle and grapple, to resist and stand firm, to struggle and affirm. His word choice reminds us that our struggle is ongoing.

Jude points out all that draws us away from the love of Christ. He labels these people, ideas, and idols, false. The opposite of truth, they are unable to hold us, carry us, or sustain us. We may expect Jude to tell us how to deal with them. We might brace ourselves for his solution or take notes on how to shoot holes in every argument. Maybe we should listen for loud voices to make a big scene. Instead, Jude surprises us with this:

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21

Remember the God of love. Find Him in the hidden moments of a creation groaning in wait.

I’ve invited some amazing contenders of the faith to unpack these two verses for us this month. In Part I, we’ll discuss building up our faith; in Part II, we’ll explore Spirit-led prayer; and in Part III, we’ll consider our role in waiting for Christ. As you join me for this series, I hope you notice the common chord audible throughout this harmony of voices.

Keep yourselves in the love of God.

More than ever before, we need to anchor ourselves in the love of God, the very center and heartbeat of our Christian faith. My prayer for this series is that we would discover together how to earnestly contend for the faith and keep love our aim. Love is our what and our why. Above all, Love is our who.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

A few more things about this series…

Contenders of the Faith series: Follow me on Facebook and tune in for live videos every Wednesday at 12 p.m. (Central Time) for the month of October.  Let’s meet midday/midweek to talk more about how we can contend for the faith.

Giveaway: I’m giving away a copy of one of my absolute favorite books, Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin, during this month-long series. To enter, simply subscribe to Carried by Love and leave a comment on any of the posts written by my guest bloggers in October. The winner will be announced in my final post at the end of the month. You can find the entry guidelines for my Giveaway here.

Free download: Finally, I’m so thankful that you continue to show up here again and again, so I have a little something for you. Click the image to download this print of the verses from Jude that will guide this series. Place it somewhere special, so you can be reminded of our sacred call to contend for the faith.

Jude 1:20-21 free download

Click to download print {Jude 1:20-21}

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What Can Outweigh All the Suffering in the World?

A quick trip to Colorado this summer uncovered a beautiful aspect of God’s creation. Stunned by layers on top of layers of solid, unmoving rock, I began to wonder how my understanding of God as my Rock would become crucial in the next season of change.

I really had no idea what was ahead. In mid-August, I braced myself for a million minor changes like a new school for the kids and other small beginnings; by the end of the month, Harvey had changed my community forever.

Every attempt to capture on camera what moved my heart in those Colorado mountains only led to frustration. Even when I tried to express on paper what had inspired awe in me, I couldn’t come up with the words. I found my struggle to articulate the beauty before me extremely uncomfortable.

God gave me a phrase to sink into: Rock of Ages.

Rock of Ages seemed too massive and weighty when I tried to grasp its deepest meaning. The further I prodded, the less sure of myself I became. Maybe that’s right where God wanted me.

Rock of Ages

Months later, now surrounded by images of devastation and the very opposite of beauty, I recognize that same frustration and discomfort. During the last few weeks, when I scroll through my social media newsfeed, the most common caption is this: “No words.” And there aren’t any that can describe, explain, alleviate what remains after disaster. Words cannot possibly convey the heavy, heavy heartbreak of extensive homelessness and upheaval.

Devastation has crept up to my doorstep forcing me to notice, yet suffering lies in every nook and cranny of this groaning world. Fires, floods, earthquakes, persecution, hatred, violence… all hover beneath that banner of indescribable suffering.

In the absence of adequate words, we face our own vulnerability.

Vulnerability not only feels uncomfortable, it well acquaints us with frustration and confusion. We can’t control suffering or catalogue it; we can’t box it in or fix it. No formula or bulleted list will help.

Moses led a people more comfortable with another rock. Though I wish this idea was foreign, I completely get it. Humanity craves clarity, definition, control. We’ll take a tidy checklist over an inconceivable glory just to avoid facing our own vulnerability. We don’t naturally move towards discomfort or dependence.

But when we take this collective picture of indescribable suffering—whether death or divorce or disaster—and hold it up to the Rock who has remained constant throughout all of time, the need for understanding is washed away by mercy. And rich, rich love. The most grace-filled words in all of Jesus’ ministry were these: “Come to me.”

Our indescribable Rock is the only One who knows just what to do with indescribable pain.

I’m tempted to boil it down to a simple equation: unfathomable pain meets inconceivable glory, as if they are two equal and opposite poles. This is entirely false. If we wanted to compare, to sort out the difference, we’d have to examine the extent of each.

In every layer of rock, I saw the depth of God’s character. His love, mercy, goodness, faithfulness like bands of strength, visible and solid, trusted and true.

Hold up suffering to the Rock Eternal, and we find a vast difference in weight.

When Paul wrote about suffering and glory, he used a word to examine this difference. He assigned our seen suffering and God’s unseen glory with the terms, transient and eternal.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV)

Nothing about the suffering here on earth feels light, but Paul was making a case for comparison here. The word that translates in English as “beyond all comparison” is the Greek word hyperbolḗ. We use hyperbole to illustrate extravagance; we rarely take these figures of speech literally. They amplify, enhance, and exaggerate the truth.

Hyperbolḗ means beyond all measure.

Most hyperboles sound incredible, but they just aren’t true. This weight of glory beyond all comparison is every bit true as it is awesome.

Suffering has a definite beginning and a definite end. Pain and loss entered the world at the fall; we find every detail recorded on the pages of Genesis. In Revelation, we read that all suffering will come to an end when Jesus returns. He is the beginning and the end, the One who was and is and is to come.

We don’t need formulas, descriptions, or human attempts to alleviate suffering. We need faith in Jesus and constant, daily reminders that we will one day see Him face to face.  And on that day, our only response will be indescribable praise.

When we embrace our own vulnerability, we find ourselves embraced by Christ, the living Stone.

Scripture References

You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. Deuteronomy 32:18 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:4 (NIV)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 (NIV)

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Consider Him Faithful

In the stillness, God whispers promise: I am making all things new. It can sound too good, too true. Incomprehensible even. The sacred words don’t always match what we believe is possible, yet every one of God’s promises finds its roots in reckless, radical love.

God’s promises reach the very center of our heartbreak.

Some of us are in the season of wait that follows rescue. We wait for restoration, for full recovery. We wait for normalcy to show its face once again. Whatever you’re waiting for, the sensation is universal. It feels long and unending some days. It’s the easiest place to lose hope.

As the waiting sets in, doubt rises. We flounder our way through impatience and wrestle clarity to the ground. Then we wait some more. We wonder if we heard incorrectly or if God just forgot. It’s an endless, exhausting cycle.

Sarah knew waiting, and Sarah knew doubt. I’m sure she imagined the culmination of the beautiful dream God planted in her heart over and over until she had perfected it. I imagine she grew weary of waiting, of wondering why God paused the way He did. “I will give you a son,” He had said.

How would she navigate that space between the promise spoken and the promise fulfilled?

An ellipsis, a series of dots used to indicate a pause or silence, is used when a sentence is left incomplete. Sarah lived much of her life within that empty pause and hollow silence. I wonder how many times she tried to fill that space or what she tried to fill it with.

ellipsis

Eventually she gave in, gave up, and did what every one of us have done in desperation: she tried to make it happen on her own. Her path led to heartbreak, disappointment, deep wounds, and multiplied pain. Our own roads always take us there.

God knew a better way.

He took Sarah to the very end of her child-bearing years just like He takes every one of us to the absolute end of ourselves. Sarah was the object of God’s love and blessing, and so are we. God is the active pursuer, the generous giver, the promise-maker and promise-keeper.

Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised. Genesis 21:1

The two verbs in this verse connect the heart of God with the hand of God. He took note of Sarah and kept His promise to her. This promise was wrapped up in a bigger, more far-reaching promise. Sarah’s precious son pointed to the perfect, spotless Son of God who would fulfill every promise ever spoken.

Jesus completes every sentence and fills every gap.

The writer of Hebrews used a powerful phrase to sum up Sarah’s life. Despite all her doubts and failures and struggles and questions, “she considered Him faithful.” (Hebrews 11:11)

Do we consider Him faithful? Do we consider that He wants to not only rescue but re-create us? That He notices us, pays attention to our needs and desires, our hopes and dreams? That He moves toward us even as we doubt and wander and fear?

Do we consider that it’s not up to us to make it happen? That all God requires is we come to the end of ourselves and trust Him with everything? Do we consider surrender our path to freedom? It sounds so good and right and true.

I am making all things new. Revelation 21:5

God invites us to believe Him, to take Him at His word. Evidence of His faithfulness surrounds us on the pages of scripture, in early morning sunrises, in everyday stories, and in the dot-dot-dot of life here on earth. Consider Him faithful.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

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What I’m Learning: Summer 2017

What I'm Learning: Summer Edition

I like the quiet habit of sitting down each season and looking back to remember. It remedies my rushed soul and invites me to recognize the lessons I tend to unintentionally discard.

I scribble out this causal list, determined to make it to number ten. At seven, I put down my pen. I’m learning that God’s ways are perfect, and since seven is synonymous with completion, I choose to accept that this list of seven things I’m learning is also complete… for now. For this season.

I’ll end with three tiny dots, a sure sign I’m still learning. The walk continues, the pursuit continues, growth continues, and love continues to carry me on into the next season ahead.

Seven things I’m learning this summer…

  1. Gratitude can turn any threat into encouragement.

My only defense against comparison for so many years was striving. Try harder, do better, be someone else. Striving only left me wounded. But then a friend’s precious wisdom helped me see a more effective defense when tempted to compare.

She challenged me to redirect my focus back onto God by thanking Him for the beauty I see in others. I’ve practiced this summer, (and when I say practice, I do mean it’s a work in progress) but I’ve noticed a faint trace of peace in my heart. I love the notion of imperfect progress, and this is where God has me.

  1. You’re never too old to try something new.

My picky eater tried ice cream for the first time this year. He’s seven. (I know.) Our family outings to the ice cream shop end with cups of ice cream for all but one. He’s always been content with his bowl full of toppings. Until he tried the delicious stuff at school towards the end of his Kindergarten year.

This summer my girl suggested we grab some ice cream cones on a weekly grocery run. That night after dinner, we all piled heaps of ice cream onto perfectly shaped sugar waffle cones—Homemade Vanilla for the boys and Southern Blackberry Cobbler for the girls, thank you very much Blue Bell!

You're never too old to try something new.

Watching my boy at age seven attack an ice cream cone for the very first time was a little bit like witnessing pure joy. When I start to tell myself I’m too old to try new things, I want to remember the grin on my boy’s face!

  1. The recipe for righteousness has always been and will always just Jesus.

Words like faith and abide fill my Christian vernacular, yet so often my understanding of their true meaning is lacking at best. I’m learning how to embrace the simple side of faith and how to let go of striving in my own strength.

Who knew an anniversary trip to Napa Valley with my man could have such drastic effects on my relationship with Christ? I’m thankful for the travel time, but even more thankful for the way Jesus is never ever finished with me.

  1.  God’s story cannot be silenced.

Our enemy is power hungry, but since He cannot steal the power of God within us, He comes after something else: our voices. I’m learning that God’s story cannot be silenced. Since my story tells His story, I cannot be silenced either.  

The stunning book of Daniel has captivated my heart this summer. God is teaching me that He is sovereign, unchangeable, and the ultimate pursuer of hearts.

  1. Only God can turn shame into beauty.

I don’t see my friend Julie very often, but when she visited a few months ago, I had the precious privilege of hearing her storyThough we grew up together, so much of what she shared was new to my ears. Her story gave me new eyes to view my own story.

I’m learning that my wounds and scars and battle stories reveal that I’ve been redeemed. The cross, the utmost symbol of shame, is a beacon of beauty and a representation of perfect love for all who trust in Jesus.

  1. One of the hardest, most costly aspects of discipleship is a willingness to let our hearts break.

I have struggled my heart out over this one this summer. Jesus washed the feet of His own betrayer and willingly gave Himself though many would never choose Him. My heart does not have the capacity to love like this, but Christ in me does.

This summer Love is leading me through rejection, hurt, and loss. I’m learning that love is always worth it in the end.

  1. Water balloons and sunshine are overrated. Bring on the rain!

We had big plans for our first day of summer with our box of 350+ water balloons and plastic water guns. When the rain came and stayed for a while, we exchanged our water war plans for puddle jumping instead.

When we finally got our day of water fun, the big kids and I raced to fill water balloons before their baby sister launched them into the grass, making a neon mess. The fun lasted minutes; the cleanup, however, lingered on and on.

The next day, as we wiped away the Texas sweat, the kids begged to pull on their rain boots and twirl their umbrellas. The impromptu shade made a hot summer day a little more beautiful!

Water balloons and sunshine are overrated.

I pray your summer was sweet and refreshing and full of learning adventures! I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Sharing what we’re learning connects our hearts in such a simple yet beautiful way.

Until next season…

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The Simple Side of Faith

My man and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary back in May by taking a kid-free trip to Napa Valley. The gorgeous scenery and fine wine were just the backdrop. The quiet was everything I knew it would be and more. Getting away reminded me just how much I love hanging out with this guy.

Napa Valley

At each vineyard we visited, I caught myself considering Jesus’ words from John 15:1, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” I don’t often think of farming when I pour a glass of cabernet, but I learned that wine-making is a complex process.

The intricate relationship between the vine and the branches drew my heart to the sovereignty of the One who oversees the growth in my own heart.

The care with which the vine is tended, the way the fruit matures, and the process that manifests itself in a beautiful bottle of wine is anything but simple. Such extensive labor and creativity goes into making wine that we heard it called art.

We are the Father’s work of art, ever changing and growing, becoming more beautiful with time.

Later in the week, I grabbed my bible and read more of Jesus’ words in John 15, certain that He wanted to speak to me though this intriguing illustration. In just ten verses, He repeats the word remain eleven times. Abide, another interchangeable term, means to continue to be present, to be held or kept.

In my everyday moments, this looks like resting in God’s thoughts about me; it looks like claiming my identity in Christ, the true vine. When I take every thought captive and line it up with the truth in God’s word, I realize my part really is breathtakingly simple.

Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) The times I’m most defeated, discouraged, and doubtful are the times I’m trying so hard to bear fruit on my own. Jesus says it’s not possible.

Apart from His love, nothing will grow.

I am the vine; you are the branches.

His love is the only love that’s pure and perfect and able to produce good in us.

Jesus continues, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love…  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:9, 16-17)

After Jesus describes His own extravagant love, He gives the command, Love one another.

It’s beautifully straightforward yet I wrestle with the simplicity of it.

It’s beautifully straightforward, yet I wrestle with the simplicity of it.

Jordan Feliz has a song called Simple. These lyrics resonate particularly well with my soul: “In my dirt you call me worth it…” Sometimes, it’s so hard to receive perfect, unconditional love.

This occasional struggle in my soul plays out when I look to another love to sustain and carry me, when I’m anything but present to the whisper of the Spirit, or when I all-out reject my God-given identity, because accepting God’s love means I have nothing to prove and my selfish ambition becomes just a hair skeptical of this lavish love Jesus offers.

Receiving God’s love doesn’t have to be complex.

God does all the work. All we do is trust Him, believe Him, and let His love carry us. Then we watch how it changes the way we love others.

God is responsible for planting, tending, pruning, and plucking. This part is hard, complex. The produce at the end of harvest holds endless possibilities and combinations. Every minute detail gets adjusted to achieve the desired outcome.

The farmer—that’s God—is responsible for planting, tending, pruning, and plucking.

Harsh frost, direct sunlight, and changing seasons pose all kinds of threats to the fruit growing on the vine. Farmers use windmills to move cool mountain air along down the valley so frost cannot damage the grapes. They even consider the angle of the sunlight onto the fruit in the planting process.

The branches are not responsible for these challenges; they are the Vinedresser’s responsibility, and He knows exactly what He’s doing. The fruit He produces lasts for eternity.

Jesus, the true vine and true way back to the Father’s love, took care of the complicated part for us.

The vine produces fruit; the branches bear the fruit. This part is natural and straightforward and overwhelmingly… simple. But our part also requires a response: obey. “Do what He tells you,” wise words straight from the mother of the One who changed water into wine.

Abide in my love and my love pours out of you.

Fruit takes time. Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit we can count on when we’re united with Christ: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

This isn’t a list of rules, but a list of character traits, evidence of how deeply our character is altered when we put on the righteousness of Christ. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t a remedy for our sin; it’s evidence of Christ in us.

Christ is the only remedy we need.

Abide in my love and my love pours out of you.

Simple yet so complex. Profound in every way. Let’s leave the complicated part to Him and rest in the simplicity of reckless love.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

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