comfort on the hard days

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Maybe you are here with me, with a heart that is broken and a soul that has been worn down. Maybe you are in the midst of a storm, the waves of grief drowning you as they hit you one by one. Maybe all these battles have worn you down, fight after fight draining you until you are no longer sure you can take one more step. Maybe there are no more words to describe all this — the loss, the broken dreams, the frozen hopes, the sorrow, the anger, the despair.

There are these questions, that linger around in the folds of our souls, that take up space more than we ever like to admit — “How long, Lord? How much more of this pain, this sorrow, this hardship?”

“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)

These feelings, they remind me of those moments wondering through grounds unknown, deeper and deeper — until the moment you realize you are lost and alone. That dawning realization, the weight settling on top of your soul and stealing your breath — the moment when you realize that you do not know which way to go now.

There are moments, I find, when the hardest thing to face is that all words echo empty — in our minds, in our hearts, in our souls. We can fill our minds with the right words, and yet the empty echoes hurt the walls of our hearts.

Emptiness has a way of hurting us.

Yet we know that the pain ringing through, the doubts drowning us, the confusion and hurt, God is still here. Even on those days when the emptiness of it all hurts us the most, we remind our hearts of our Savior, God with us — in the hurt, in the confusion, in the doubts, in the storm. The Word become flesh, He is always with us right here as we open up the pages in our Bible and let His Word pour out on our hearts.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.” (Psalm 34:17-19,22)

In the midst of the deep pain, in the midst of vast darkness, in the midst of the valley: the Lord is our Shepherd and He will hear our hearts. In the moments of pain gripping our hearts, of sorrow surrounding our souls — we stand in the promise of redemption and grace to come. In our suffering, we can rest in the promise of our Savior coming near, knowing that He has walked this broken road before us.

These questions take space, and in the emptiness of words there might be no answers; but we have the promise of a presence of our great God, who is near and will never leave us. These feelings, these questions — we can bring them to the One who created us, knowing that He already knows our hearts. Not one part of this is a surprise to Him. He will carry you.

Linking up: Good Morning MondaysMonday’s MusingsGlimpses Link UpModest MondayTeaching What Is GoodAn Ornament of Grace Link UpChristian Blogger LinkupCoffee and ConversationWord Filled WednesdayWise Woman Linkup#HeartEncouragement Thursday#GraceMoments Link Up#DanceWithJesus LinkupFaith Filled FridayGrace & Truth

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tips for establishing a quiet time

quiet time

My friend, if there is something so very essential to our walks with the Lord — it is having a quiet time every day, letting go of the things of the world and just be still before Him, to read His Word and to hear His voice. This is how we grow spiritually. But this is also the very grounds where we fight some of the hardest spiritual warfare, where the enemy comes in to discourage us and pull us away from spending time with our Lord.

1. Plan a time for your quiet time

Honestly? Responsibilities weigh heavy on our shoulders, and life has a tendency to get busy very fast. The quiet time will not happen, unless we make the time. So do just that: schedule a time to spend with the Lord. Plan the time, and stick with it no matter what. Make it short in the beginning, as it is easier to commit this way. Even 15 minutes is enough — although soon you might just find yourself wanting more time with the Lord.

When is the best time to have a quiet time? I believe it is in the morning, as we have examples in the Scriptures of the Psalmist seeking the Lord early or of Jesus going up the mountain to pray before the day. For me, the routine of it helps me to have a quiet time every morning. For some, though, mornings might just be plain difficult. So pray about this; ask the Lord for His guidance. He will certainly provide a time every day for you to spend time with Him.

“O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.” (Psalm 63:1-2)

2. Decide on a book of the Bible to study

If you are new in the faith, the Gospel of John is a great book to read. If you are new to having a quiet time with the Lord, the Gospel of Mark is good for it is the shortest of the Gospels, yet contains so much. I love reading through the Psalms, reading one Psalm every morning for great encouragement. The Epistles of Paul contain so much wisdom, hope, and encouragement. The book of James is great for putting our faith into action.

3. Study the book of the Bible

First, pray for the Holy Spirit to teach you and to reveal more of Jesus to you during your daily quiet time.

Depending on the book you have chosen, the time you have, and even your motivation, choose whether you are going to read a verse, a passage, or a chapter every day. Then, reading the Scripture for the day, seek answers to what you can learn about:

  1. God the Father
  2. Jesus
  3. the Holy Spirit
  4. yourself as a believer in Christ
  5. sins to avoid
  6. commandments to obey
  7. love and Christian living

4. Keep a journal

I am not much for keeping a diary on a daily basis, but I do keep a spiritual journal. In the journal, I write the things I learn while studying the Scriptures and reading His Word. I write the things I hear from the Lord, and also the things I am saying to Him. I write down prayers and wishes, and I record answers to prayers — although I need to get better at keeping a prayer journal. I also write down the worries and concerns I have, pour out the hurt from my heart, put my anxiety into words, and dot down the meltdowns I have. I keep a gratitude list, as well.

The reason I love keeping a journal is that it allows me to look back and see God’s faithfulness in every season of my life. Prayers are always answered, which means the Lord hears even the quiet cries of my heart. He blesses me so greatly with so much more than I ever have dared to ask for. When I have been faithless, He has remained faithful.

5. Share what you have learned, in words and in action

I have found that the best way I learn, is to share what I have learned — whether it is in words or in action. Our love for God changes the way we love others, and applying these things to our lives will be a great blessing — especially to us. I have also been inspired so many times when a friend has shared about what they have been reading during their devotions and how they have seen God in the midst of the everyday life.

Another benefit of sharing what we have learned, especially by telling others, is that we process the same thing over and over again. This, I have found, might just enable us to apply what we have learned even deeper as we think of it in different places and in different context.

What has helped you to establish a daily quiet time with the Lord? Share in the comments below!

Linking up: Good Morning MondaysMonday’s Musings

what hinders our thanksgiving

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There has been this tugging on my heart to spend more time around this space, to blog more intentionally and write out my heart and my mind. To pause more, to share more, to wonder more, to connect more, to open up more. To write about the important things, knowing that my heart will be changed in the process.

Thanksgiving is around the corner, although it is not celebrated in these parts of the world. But it is quite hard to miss the switch in the topics discussed, that circle around the idea of gratitude and giving thanks — and this time around, it has been hard on my soul. The stress of life right now is heavy. Some days it is a struggle for me to want to take on the perspective of thanksgiving, gratitude seemingly far away from me. This, in all honesty, is a hard place to be in — because I know my heart, that was meant for looking for those glimpses of grace and raising thanks to the One who gives to us so abundantly.

“Thanksgiving is a spiritual exercise, necessary to the building of a healthy soul.” (Elisabeth Elliot)

I have been reminded lately that thanksgiving and a grateful attitude are essentials in the walk of life for us Christ followers. I was making pancakes for dinner one evening and I was reading Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot, these words striking a cord in my heart — that the spirit of greed stifles thanksgiving, whether it is the greed of doing, being, or having.

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18)

This, I know, is the trap we so often fall into in our society of more. Some days, it is the need to be frantically doing more — whether it is finding more ministry opportunities, exercising more, spending more time with people, helping or volunteering, making our homes and building our relationships. There is the greed of doing more, always lurking in the background and stealing from us the still moments before our Lord.

My heart is most captured by the greed of being more, the lies of the enemy constantly reminding me of how I am not enough yet, how I should be more already now. There is this restlessness that settles into our souls, always writing down more goals on our “to be” list and forgetting to be in the here, in the now. We see this in the pulling in our souls, the demand for our current circumstances to be something else, something more because we are already now more than this season of life. There is that discontentment with our current positions, giftings, place, people, capacities — because we should, well, be more.

Yet, the most obvious one for us is the greed of having, woven into our societies these days. We have been given plenty, yet we are dissatisfied because there should be variety or more fulfilling experiences or less broken hearts. We carry around the pain of comparison, seeing others with lives so much more perfect than ours and our hearts cry out for the same. There is the lingering feeling, that there should be more to life than this, and the hurt turns into bitterness bit by bit.

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)

Yet I keep coming around to the same end point, that giving thanks will always be only good for us. It costs us, that is a sure thing — it costs us our hearts, lost as the Lord transforms them into something more beautiful. It costs us our comfort, as we need to lift our eyes from ourselves into the things of God. It will be painful, too, knowing our sinful hearts and praising our God, the One who gives and takes away.

It might just be the hardest thing in this season, giving thanks when everything reminds us of just how much we are missing. The elections, this pain, these broken relationships, the lost job, the house lost, these never-changing circumstances — it is painful to find gratitude in us. Yet, in our brokenness, we find our meaning as we find our Lord in every moment and in every place.

Linking up: Good Morning MondaysMonday’s MusingsModest Monday LinkupCoffee and ConversationWise Woman LinkupChristian Blogger LinkupCoffee For Your HeartWord Filled WednesdayAn Ornament of Grace

learning to journal & journaling ideas

cloudy days

I sit there right next to her, this aging woman turned gray and insecure, when her question stills me to the core.

“You think I am stupid, do you not?”

— and suddenly, there are not enough words to tell her no, to tell her that never should anyone be thought stupid for something like this. Because losing your memory means just that: you are losing your memory, those parts that were gathered over the years and it is losing pieces of yourself, forever lost now.

But then I realize, that this is the reaction of my soul as well — because how often do I remember that I have forgotten, these majestic words of God that touched my heart and shook my soul, only to forget their meaning, their purpose a little while later. How often do my eyes open, to see glory of God shine bright through His work amongst His creation and yet, a moment later all I see is darkness descending. Soul amnesia, these moments quickly forgotten and my soul suffers, the habit of forgetting seeming to spread.

“Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel... Then it shall be, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify against them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten in the mouths of their descendants, for I know the inclination of their behavior today, even before I have brought them to the land of which I swore to give them.” (Deuteronomy 31:19,21)

Yet, I am always reminded — that even the skies tell the story of God, His forgiving grace painted in the pastel colors and His glory brilliant like the rays of sunlight reflecting on top of snow. It is always I who need my eyes opened, the love of our God encompassing His creation all around me and I need His Song written down for myself, the echo of my soul spelled there for my eyes to see, for my heart to brave believe.

Brave is never the motto of my heart, never the simple echo but rather the hard choice, this sacrifice of praise taking all that I have — because murmuring grows right there in my core, a branch needing constant pruning and sometimes pruning these branches, is like cutting off strings of my soul.

But there is always an answer, for the stubborn soul and for the hurting — a way for us all to face the future brave-hearted, to hold our hands open and wait for the good we know is coming. “Write down,” is the answer of our Lord, to us blind and doubting, to us tired and struggling. So this year, this day — a heart plays brave and responds, writes down and records the miracles and the mistakes, the moments of grace and gratitude. Because the way we leave a legacy, make our way into a history of sorts. Is by changing our hearts first, lining up with what we know is true and right. These moments jotted down one after another, we witness a great miracle right there: the changing of a mess into ministry, of pain into purpose.

Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.” (Habakkuk 2:2)

Daily journaling ideas:

  1. Three things you are grateful for.
  2. What has God spoken to your heart today?
  3. What Scripture has He given you today?
  4. Prayer requests of your heart or given to you — and the answer when it comes.
  5. Precious memories of the day.

Weekly journaling ideas:

  1. Is there anything you wish you would have done differently this week? How would you do it different?
  2. What was your biggest fear this week?
  3. What worries are you carrying?
  4. Where did you see God’s love / God working this week?
  5. Describe the happiest moment of the week.
  6. How did you grow in your relationship with the Lord this week?

Linking up: Titus 2 TuesdayMonday’s Musings

how to face the new year brave

New year, new blessings.

Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.

Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” (Genesis 16:3-4, 7-8)

Hagar, she had no part in the conversation that happened between Sarah and Abraham; no part in the decision that Sarah made to give her maid to Abraham so that she might bear them children when Sarah could not. Rather, Hagar served where she was placed and as a result, she conceived a child. Hagar served and as a result, because of Sarah’s own decision, she became despised in Sarah’s eyes.

I think you have been there, too, my friend — serving faithfully where God has placed you and yet, the results have only broken your heart as you have faced gossip, slander, even hatred. And you know that you have only served the Lord to the best of your abilities, trying your hardest to do everything right and still, there is always someone who does not agree, someone who tells you in every possible way just how much they disapprove.

I think our hearts are allowed to break over even smaller things and this here, to face despise that is completely undeserved. Might just be the one thing that dismantles our soul. So Hagar flees — like the rest of us always want to, and sometimes do.

What I love most about this story, however, is that it is not an angel who comes seeking Hagar. It is the Angel, the Lord Himself.

The Lord Himself comes seeking after us who flee in the presence of fear, us who are ready to flee at the first sighting of trouble ahead of us. Whether it is impossible situations or impossible people that we are escaping from, God comes seeking after us Himself and we can trust that He will always find us, no matter where we come from this time. Here, we face only grace and redemption as we look to the eyes of Love Himself.

Many times we wonder, if the acts of bravery are only done by those great heroes of our time, those who have the courage to do great things while we barely manage to fight the instinct of fleeing when the thunderstorms arise in our lives.

But our gracious God tells us a different message, the one that changes our new year into something completely different — that the brave people are the ones who stay put when the storms rise, who show up in spite of the crippling fear, who brave fall on their knees and confess their failures.

Brave are the ones who know they are not brave at all. For when we are weak, then we are strong.

“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Linking up: Tell His StoryCoffee For Your HeartGrowing in GraceFrom House to HomeMonday’s MusingsGood Morning MondaysTitus 2 TuesdayTell It To Me Tuesdays