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Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. –Psalm 27:14

When we first started this blog, I was a single woman still grieving a breakup that had happened a couple years prior. I struggled to move on from that relationship even though I knew it wasn’t God’s will for me. Every year that went by became more distressing as I saw my chances at motherhood waning.

There were times during this period that I was blissfully aware of God’s presence and provision. I was content to wait for His best for me. I recognized that my singlehood brought unique opportunities to serve Him. Yet, there were painful stretches of time where I failed to see Him through my loneliness and despair. There were many difficult days. The years of being alone weighed on me. I constantly felt guilty because I knew that He was everything that I needed, and yet I still desired human companionship.

Today I am a married woman with three beautiful step-children. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for these precious gifts in my life! My husband is so loving and caring. He is very attentive to my needs and treats me far better than I deserve. He treats me so well that I have trouble accepting it. I never quite believed that anyone could care about me enough to treat me the way he does.

My step-children are sweet and respectful. They accepted me into the family almost immediately. Growing closer to them has probably been the most fulfilling aspect of my life to date. It was the day I met them that I knew my relationship with their father could work. I would not allow myself to fall for him until I knew I could love his children too. Really love them. It would not have been fair to the children or their dad if I could not.

I wish I could go back and tell my single self that she will be okay. I would tell her that the years of singlehood will be worth the wait. That God is setting everything up and not to lament the period of preparation. I would tell her that I couldn’t have met my husband sooner because neither of us were in the place we needed to be yet, but that it would make our meeting that much sweeter when the time came. People tried to tell me this, but I struggled to believe them.

That’s not to say that marriage and step-parenting is all sunshine and rainbows. It’s hard work. It’s draining. But it’s so rewarding. It is so beautiful. It is everything I hoped it would be.

God has been by my side through all of it. Through the lonely days that came before and the sometimes all-consuming days I experience now. God truly has our best in mind. He sincerely takes care of our every need. He loves us more than anyone else ever has or ever can. He is all in all. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

If you are single (or in some other period of waiting), please believe me, God is working things out for your good. He sees your struggle. He knows your tears. He’s allowing this trial in your life because He knows you are growing through it. Lean into Him and give Him all your cares. Put your trust in Him. His timing is impeccable.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

 

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Becoming a Tree

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. ~ Psalm 1

This Psalm is on my heart this week, thanks largely to a podcast I was listening to by Patricia King (listen here if you so desire), about becoming a tree. If we root ourselves in Him, and drink of the Living Water that is Him, we will always bear fruit. Always. And our leaves will never wither. What an amazing life that looks like!

Sometimes, of course, this seems like a tall order. I don’t know about you but I tend to have a “hindsight is 20/20” viewpoint sometimes. I get caught up in my daily existence in NY. I get bogged down in dodging bikers, double and triple parked vans, errant pedestrians, and don’t even get me started on the taxis. I want to pour out on all of these people. At least, here at home while sitting at my computer, of course I want to pour out on all these people. In the moment though, when you’re speeding past me, my main thought is jumping out of the way of the puddle you’re splashing all over me. Some days I’m more successful at keeping a Christ-like perspective. But not every day, not all the time.

This is why this Psalm ministers to my heart so much. Patricia King touches on it too in that podcast – not every tree is huge and strong with these big rigid trunks.  Some trees are small.  They’re tender. Their trunks are flexible and their leaves flutter.  Some trees bend a bit in the breeze.  Does this mean they can’t be feeding from the living water? Of course not. They are still beautiful, still rooted – and still fruitful. Some days I’m the kind of tree that every kid wants to hang a tire swing from or build a treehouse on.  I’m so full of Jesus that I have no problem praying for that person on the subway. I have no problem stopping to love on a homeless person (and no that does not mean dropping some spare change into their palm and walking off!). Other days….I’m more like a ficus. One stiff breeze and I feel like I’m blowing over. Forget standing with Him for miracles – on these days I barely get prayer time in and dishes cleaned! On these less productive days, I sometimes feel like a waste of Christianity (ok I’m being dramatic. I probably don’t feel THAT badly about myself, but I certainly don’t feel fruitful either). But I can take heart in this fact: if I’m in Him, I am still bearing fruit.   It doesn’t always look the same every day, and it’s nice to know it doesn’t have to. I’m still ‘rooted’. 

Also, being rooted in Him means your leaves never wither. Do you know what that means? It means you can go through a transition period. You can have changes in your life – times of trial don’t affect your God-given destiny or keep you from blossoming. How cool is that?

The flip side, of course, is to be like the chaff. The Psalm basically say that if you’re not a tree, you’re the chaff. Chaff, for you non-farmer types, is basically a husk. It’s a dry scaly casing that goes around grains. It’s largely useless, it’s indigestible to humans (I think they do chop it up in certain animal feed though), and it has to be removed before the grains can be used. This is done by ‘threshing’ (read: milling, or pounding, the grain to loosen the chaff). Once you do this, the loose chaff can be removed by ‘winnowing’ – this means repeatedly tossing grains into a light wind so the loose chaff can blow away. Now you know the exact analogy the Psalm is making when they talk about the chaff blowing away. And here you thought you wouldn’t learn anything today!

Why is this important? Well, because it shows just how stubborn the chaff is – how stubborn wickedness can be. It can encase itself around us pretty quickly. And once it’s there, getting rid of it isn’t always easy. I mean the chaff has to literally get beaten off the nutritious grain. Now, I can think of several things I’d like to do today – going through a spiritual beating isn’t one of them. Best to just find a way to be in Him every day, be it pouring out onto others or taking care of my home. It’s also encouraging though – because we are sometimes called to shed things within us that aren’t of God, and it’s usually done by bringing us through a time of trial (sometimes a spiritual “threshing” is unavoidable!). In the end, when we’ve cried our tears and submitted our burdens and allowed God in to heal, the bad stuff He threshed off of us? It doesn’t cling to us anymore. It’s not part of us. It’s so loose that a light wind can carry it away. If that’s not encouraging I don’t know what is!

I leave you all with an encouragement to be in Him today. Find a way to drink of the Living Water, today and every day. Some days you might be a mighty oak. Some days you might be a shrub. But find a way to be rooted in Him, to drink of Him anyway. Even if it’s just to repent how UN-Christlike you’ve been that day! Allow Him in and He will ensure your endeavors bear fruit.

God bless! And, a BIG thanks to Rebekah L who helped me with a few technical issues regarding the format of this post – if you think it’s a long one now you should’ve seen the original version!

~Rebekah A

Battleground

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” ~ Ephesians 6:12 (KJV)

As Christians, we stand with Jesus to usher in His plan of love for the world. We stand with Him as His very name inspires a bend in our knees and awe in our hearts. We stand with Him as vessels to be used to heal, to love, to spread peace. We stand with Him simply to rejoice in His presence. We do all this and so much more. And sometimes, we stand with Him in battle.

As Christians, we do have a constant enemy. We don’t need to fear him necessarily (though he’d like us to!) because in the end Jesus is stronger. But we do need to fight him. His name is Satan and his sole aim is to kill, steal and destroy God’s plan. As stewards of this plan, we are automatically at odds with him. And he will use deception, distraction, literally any means he can come up with to keep us from fully doing our Father’s work.

Now, there are 7 main principalities that we fight, with a powerful demon at the head of each one (keep in mind though, they are not as powerful as Jesus and you can defeat them). These principalities are:

1) Spirit of Witchcraft

2) Spirit of Antichrist

3) Spirit of Infirmity

4) Spirit of Death

5) Spirit of Lying

6) Spirit of Mammon (wealth, provisions, socio-economic status, etc)

7) Spirit of Perversion

Right. Well, now that we have identified these principalities of the enemy, fighting them can seem like a daunting task. But luckily, God gives us examples throughout the Bible and a blueprint of what we need to do do defeat Satan and his minions.

Once such example, and it’s a fabulous one, is the book of Esther (which you can read here). Esther’s story at first seems nice enough, with a brave Jewish girl defeating the odds to save her people. But the more you delve into the book, the more you realize: Esther was a spiritual warrior, tried and true, who defeated the enemy and walked in victory to save her people. Here’s the thing: of those 7 principalities I mentioned above, Esther had to battle 6 of them. Six! All at once, too! Here’s the breakdown of what she was up against:

1) Spirit of Witchcraft: witchcraft was a common part of Persian culture in Esther’s time – spells, healers, divination, the works. King Xerxes himself is widely thought to have been a zoroastrian, a religion that used fire and water in its worship. To be fair, zoroastrianism forbade demon worship and consequently witchcraft, but given the use of the elements in its practice, it was a pretty short jump to make and a lot of sects practiced witchcraft anyway. One of King Xerxes’ advisers, Ostanes, was a magi and considered powerful in occult practice.

2) Spirit of Antichrist: In the book of Esther, Haman (favored by the king) makes all bow down to him to show respect. We bow as a form of worship, making this requirement full-blown idolatry. This, we can surmise, is why Mordecai refused to do so.

3) Spirit of Death: In retaliation against Mordecai, Haman’s wife and then Haman himself wanted to impale him. This escalated until Haman convinced the king to issue a decree to wipe out the entire Jewish population of Persia.

4) Spirit of Lying: This one is subtle. Still, we see a general attitude of mistrust and deception occurring in Persia: for starters, Esther did have to hide her identity, for her safety. We see false loyalties among the palace guards and a plot to overthrow King Xerxes. We see Xerxes’ notorious and borderline paranoid rage, and we see Haman overreacting to Mordecai’s slight.

5) Spirit of Mammon: Hamon wanted to not just kill the Jews, but plunder them. Take all their wealth so that no Jew anywhere would be able to recover it and recirculate it within their faith. Conversely, when the Jews retaliated they (for various reasons) refused to plunder.

6) Spirit of Perversion: This one was all over the place in the book of Esther. Queen Vashti was initially deposed due to not wanting to parade herself unveiled in front of a bunch of drunk men – 7 days drunk, to be exact. At a time when men and women were dining separately at separate banquets, the king’s request that she do this was nothing short of degrading. I applaud her for refusing, but ultimately it cost her the throne. Esther was chosen to be the new queen because of her beauty and virginity – a sort of ‘virgin pageant’. During her preparation for this she lived in a harem with the other maidens. After a night with the king they would then return but live in a different part of the harem – a part for concubines. Read between the lines here: the king of Persia, Esther’s eventual husband, had a different virgin every night. Once Esther was chosen, the king was unfaithful as a husband and even held a second ‘virgin pageant.’ So yes, I think it’s safe to say the spirit of perversion was alive and well in Persia during Esther’s time.

Knowing what she was up against, with 6 major principalities swirling around her, let’s look at what happened for her to fight them:

-First of all, Esther’s title of queen gave her no true power. Remember how easily Queen Vashti was deposed in the beginning. Esther was only chosen for the position because of her beauty – which is a superficial trait, but it’s also one that’s god-given – she was created for such a time as this, and if that meant she needed to be made pretty, well, that’s how God made her.

-Second, Esther was a non-practicing Jew. Think about that. She was hiding her identity from her husband – hiding in her own home. So she wasn’t partaking in the festivals, prayers, and was probably not following any of the dietary restrictions that the Jewish people normally follow. In short, she was doing nothing special to earn God’s favor – that just shows how merciful and faithful He is to those who petition in and stand for His will!

-What she did do, when she heard about Haman’s plot to wipe out her entire population, was to pray and fast for 3 days. She called for all the Jews in Persia to do the same thing. Now at first glance, she was fasting to prepare herself for the task at hand. And she was doing that. But if it was a matter of getting her heart right, maybe after a time of being distant from Him due to hiding who she really was, if that was all it was her time of prayer would have been between her and God. But it wasn’t. She called every Jew in Persia to fast and pray. We know that she had 6 principalities to fight. We know that the fate of her people was at stake. And we know that in Mark 9, Jesus heals someone possessed by demons. When His disciples ask why they couldn’t heal him in that, Jesus answered “that kind only comes out by prayer and fasting”. One more time: prayer and fasting casts out demons. It’s a big, big weapon we use. What was Esther doing? Praying and fasting. What were all the Jews in Persia doing? Praying and fasting. This wasn’t just a time of getting Esther’s focus together – this was a battleground. She was clearing the way, casting out these demons and making a way for God’s will to be done. She may have been in hiding up to this point, but He created her for such a time as this, and when push came to shove, she stood with Him strongly to bring His plan – the saving of the Jewish people – to fruition.

-Ultimately, God prevailed – He is stronger than these principalities and always will be! And we see His victory in the way that Xerxes extended favor to her both times that she approached him – even though her entrance to the throne room could have easily meant her death. We see His victory in how Xerxes not only agreed to listen to her but to dine with her, twice. Finally, we see His victory in Xerxes’ issuing a second decree which allowed the Jews to defend themselves and ultimately saved them. Everything Esther did after her time of prayer and fasting was met with favor – there was no more hiding, no more enemies in the way of God’s will. What a powerful God we serve!

My apologies for the super-long post. But it’s an important topic. And an important message: we were created for such a time as this. As this. You might be feeling on top of the world today – God has a destiny, a plan, and a task for you. You might be feeling like you’re under attack at this very moment – God has a destiny, a plan and a task for you. Stand with Him and you will prevail – “for if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

I invite you today to be intentional in seeking out Jesus’ plan for you. Join Him in intercession and ushering in His plan. Step onto the battleground with Him. Victory awaits – so claim it!

God bless!

Rebekah A

Unrelenting

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Hi everyone! It has been a long time since I’ve last posted. The reasons are varied, but not too profound, so I’ll spare you the details.

Basically I just took some time to seek Him and grow in Him. I’ve increased my study of His word. I’ve increased my worship in both my heart and my home. I’ve started stepping out of my comfort zone in prayer – with intercession, with strangers and friends alike. I’ve been playing piano as a form of worship, rather than just playing. I’ve been getting more discernment on my visions and words for people. I’ve been working on going deeper – the depths of His heart call to mine and I have been trying to respond. This has involved Him revealing things in the depths of my heart that are so ingrained I just chalked them up to personality traits. But they’re not. They’re learned behaviors that get in the way of true intimacy with Him. Most recently, I (along with Rebekah L) have been involved in a book study with a group of Marshallese ladies – it is amazing to see God’s heart for this tiny island nation unfold.

Suffice to say it’s been a process – a beautiful exercise of being stretched in love and faith. Much has happened – about a squillion blog posts worth. And I’ve learned some things. I’ve learned it’s ok to be lost – He’ll always, always find me. I’ve learned that faith isn’t always pretty, but He’s captivated by the sight of it anyway. I’ve learned His grace is beautiful and will wash over me even when I least deserve it. But the bottom line is, what I’ve learned the most, is that Jesus loves me as I am just as much as He would love me if I were perfect. But even though His love for me is at this moment fiercer and stronger than anything I have ever felt, He will not give up on the girl He initially created – on the one He created me to be. The fullness of the identity He has for me. His mercy is literally unending, but He will never give up shaping me and refining the shape of my heart until I am fully, wholly His. Until no part of me belongs to the past I left behind.

The same is true for us all. No matter where we’ve been lately. No matter how far we fall, no matter where our starting point is. No matter if we’re at the peak of success or at rock bottom. His love is unrelenting, and He will love us right to the person He created in the first place.

To that end, I give you a song of the day. There is beauty in His love, just as there is beauty in your heart. Where your hangups and imperfections start, so does His grace. His yoke is easy, His peace is abundant and I pray you are washed in it today.

God bless!

Rebekah A

Well played, Jesus.

Sometimes Jesus does really cool things. Ok, all the time. But sometimes there’s a moment, or a series of them, where He is especially awesome. His math, His timing, the way He just works things out….it’s mindblowing. And I love it.

It’s one such story, a series of moments when Love stirred the hearts of 3 different people in 3 vastly different places, that I want to share with you all. I have a friend doing a missions trip in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is a country of unrest. In fact many parts  are active war zones, UN Redzones – as in, United Nations staff are advised not to go into those areas under any circumstances. All in all it’s a desperate, pain-filled place. Its violence is so pronounced that many of the children in the redzone often suffer from epileptic seizures due to prolonged exposure to trauma. Also, it’s beautiful. Its people are beautiful with beautiful hearts.

For her, it’s been a journey of loving deeper, of opening herself up more, of going lower and inviting Heaven to come and interrupt life in this place. There has been laughter. Tears. Healing. Soldiers coming to Jesus. Prostitutes and orphans coming to Jesus. Strongholds being torn down. Love has reigned, and hearts and spirits have been changed forever.

In the midst of this trip, my friend’s constant refrain has been that love is action. It looks like something. We love God by loving the one in front of us, the one overlooked and forgotten and abandoned by the world – for in that one, Jesus Himself resides.

Her words and experiences inspired me, here in NYC, to write the blog post, His True Face. It got a massive response – peoples’ spirits must have stirred as much as mine did at this message from Jesus.

The most ESPECIALLY COOLEST THING EVER is that the blog post, or more accurately the Bible verses I posted to preface it, then inspired one of our readers and fellow bloggers (the awesome blessedwiththunderthighs.com, and some minor internet stalking tells me she is based in California). She was inspired to write a song, which she posted in a comment. She even got to play it at a worship service at her church.

I, in turn, was inspired to turn around and share the song back with my lovely friend in the Congo. I am super excited to say that she loved the song and played it for her missions team, still doing their labor of Love in the Congo. Love inspired love that week, and Jesus used all three of us to spread His message around the world.

None of us knew we were being used that way. It wasn’t on purpose. It wasn’t part of any plan we had. It was part of a plan that Jesus had, one that He executed perfectly and one that will consequently give me Spirit-filled warm fuzzies for probably the rest of my life.

I told you He was cool, did I not??

God bless!

~Rebekah A

No Place For That Here

Recently, I was talking to a friend who said she needed prayer – the “spirit of discouragement” was trying to latch onto her. I went into prayer for her, ready to do battle against this “spirit”, to cast it away from her, whatever I needed to do. She is at a really intense time in her life and certainly didn’t need  a spirit of discouragement standing in her way!

As I began getting into the heart of my prayer time though, God gave me the revelation that in this case there was no such spirit of discouragement. There was simply a girl, a child of God, doing her best to walk out the calling on her life but currently falling short. She wasn’t out of His will, she was following His call, she was just falling short of the fullness of what her life was meant to be at this time.

Why was this happening? It was because she knew what God had called her to do. She had heard His voice…..but then she used her earthly ideas to fill it in. For example, say somebody really likes flowers. And so, really liking flowers, was expecting them from a loved one for their birthday. All day at work waiting for that bouquet to arrive, expecting it at home. Instead, the loved one didn’t send a bouquet at all but took them to a picnic in a field of wildflowers. The wish was fulfilled but not in the way our flower-loving person expected. The present didn’t meet expectations per se, but does that mean it was bad?

In the case of my friend, it is Jesus’ will that she is doing. She is just walking with a certain (earthly) expectation of what that should look like. A certain expectation of how people will respond to her along the way, because it is God’s will. And as it happens, it isn’t turning out like she expected. The breakthroughs are happening between her and Jesus, not between her and those around her. And so she is finding herself discouraged.

But as I prayed for her, God revealed that this is an issue of our own hearts, not some outward spirit attacking us. And it’s an issue we face a bit too frequently. So often we walk in expectation of what God can and should do. And yes, of course we should be expectant. But sometimes we end up seeking the things we expect of Him, rather than seeking God Himself. And that’s a problem.

Readers, our first and really only desire should be Jesus. To serve Him. To seek Him, To be with Him. There are numerous – numerous – Bible verses about how we should seek God with our whole heart. That doesn’t mean “seek Him with half our heart and keep the other half of our heart waiting to witness His miracle”. That doesn’t mean “seek with most of our heart and keep a teeny bit waiting to rejoice at a breakthrough”. It means our whole heart longs for Him and Him alone. If He is healing the masses as we walk among them, great. Awesome. Amazing. I had a friend in Africa recently who was feeding a village and God literally repeated the miracle of the loaves and fish. I was crying at His glory and power with this miracle. BUT. If He happens to just be merely standing before us, that is fine. Amazing in fact. Why? Because He’s Jesus. And He’s enough. And if our whole heart is truly desiring Him and Him alone, if we keep all our own thoughts and expectations out of it and instead seek only His face and heart, His mere presence is enough. If we desire Jesus, our desires are fulfilled. Because we have Jesus.

There’s no place for discouragement when our heart’s desire is being fulfilled. At the end of the day, maybe we didn’t see a miracle we expected. Maybe we didn’t see what we thought we would. But it’s not our plan. It’s His. It’s not our expectation that matters. It’s His. We’re merely the vessels for it. If our hearts are truly in the right place, and God is our true desire, we’ve got Him. Our desire has been fulfilled. It’s being fulfilled constantly, as an inherent part of our relationship with Him. Us + Jesus = perfect satisfaction for our hearts and spirits. The Bible makes this equation clear, and there is simply no room for discouragement in it. Where would it even go?

Where does that leave us? Well. We all feel discouraged at times. It’s normal. It’s natural. For every verse in the Bible that says to desire and seek God above all else, there are probably just as many examples of someone discouraged. It happens. But it’s still a problem.

So, if you are in that place of discouragement, as we’ve all been, I invite you to seek Him a bit further today. Really, really press in to Him and let Him show you if maybe something else has entered your equation. Let Him reassure you and give you peace to know that these other variables don’t really matter because He is bigger than them and He is able. Give your heart over to Him to be reshaped. Give Him your very thoughts to be brought into obedience under Him.

And then rest assured. He’s got this.

God bless!

~Rebekah A

His True Face

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” ~ 1 John 4:11-12

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…..The King will reply, ‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these you did for me.” ~ Matthew 25:35-36; 40

When we move in love, especially when such a walk is new to us, one question reigns supreme. How do we love a God we cannot see? How do we love a God we have never seen, and will never see until our time on earth is done? Sure, we worship. We praise. Hopefully our hearts and spirits are stirred by such things. But to actively love on a God we can’t see? I mean it isn’t like we can go up to the guy and just give Him a big hug, you know?

But there is an answer. See, even if we have a God we can’t see, we have a person standing in front of us who we can see, and see clearly. Love on them. When we do, God’s love is made complete in us.

Note how this verse doesn’t say ‘made complete in you.‘ No. This act takes two. When we love one  another His love is made complete in us. When you love another, your spirit stirs. But His is awoken and made complete in both you and the person you’re loving. And since God Himself is love…well there’s your answer, isn’t it?

How do you love a perfect God you can’t see? By loving the broken one in front of you that you can see. Look closely into their eyes, let yourself see them, really see them. The eyes of Jesus Himself are staring back at you. He is truly residing in the least of these – don’t miss His presence just because it’s cloaked in shabby clothes. Don’t miss His beauty because it’s masked by a not-so-beautiful smell.

The face of Jesus is young. It is old and weathered. It has a gaze of brokenness, bearing years of pain and loneliness and abandonment. It is sometimes hidden behind a mask of hostility because at its core it is a vulnerable face. It is a face that remains hopeful despite all circumstances; or it is a face that reached its breaking point long ago. It’s a face you pass every day without a thought; it’s a face you’ve never seen before.

It’s the face in front of you.

God bless!

~Rebekah A