God Is My Refuge

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

Psalm 34:8 (ESV)

I’ve always found such comfort in God being my refuge to run to during times of uncertainty. In every trial, He is there. In every storm, He is there. After each of my failures, He is there with arms wide open. Lately I’ve been dwelling on this verse and the fact that God has always been and will always be there, that His past faithfulness demands my present trust, that He’ll always come in and surprise me with His goodness if I lean on His strength rather than attempt to live on my own.

Then the foundation of this verse struck me. How can I be so blessed by this unconditionally loving Father, if there is nothing to take refuge from?

I reached a point where I was tired of the trials. Tired of having to forgive, tired of asking forgiveness for the same thing again & again, tired of collapsing at Jesus’ feet and feeling like the trials would never stop.

God would be an absolutely useless refuge if we had no trials, no fears, no challenges to take refuge from. I believe He ordains these things in our lives to draw us even closer to Him, to show us how desperately we need Him.

Now when the trials come, it’s not the same sinking feeling of having to run to Jesus and be protected, it’s an opportunity to run to Him, glorify Him, and be blessed by Him. Don’t get me wrong, trials are still difficult. But when you see purpose in them, they take a much smaller toll.

What are some trials you’re facing right now? Let yourself vent to Jesus, run to Him and be blessed within the refuge. How is this trial an opportunity for you to glorify Him and grow in the process? Thank Him for this trial and for the time it allowed you to have a deeper level of intimacy with Him.

6.30.2019

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Bloom Where You Are Planted // Taking Root

“Bloom where you are planted.”

I’ve always struggled with this phrase.  As much as I like analogies and the image of us humans like delicate flowers or flourishing trees that sprout, grow, bloom or bear fruit, I didn’t want to picture myself stuck in one garden forever; living a life with one gift, working in one ministry, restricted to one career. It seemed too “new age” for me to justify with reality, too much like a fence and I hated feeling trapped by it.

But now God has shown me a correlation with His Word & made this over-instagram-captioned phrase a sequel to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  

He has been reminding me of the word “season” in my life and for a long while I wasn’t sure why.  It seems to be such a common word in Christian communities, but now I think He’s revealing the type of season He wants me in and how much more depth this analogy carries.

Each plant goes through seasons, but the identity of the plant remains the same. A sunflower is always a sunflower, a lily is always a lily, a gardenia is always a gardenia no matter where it’s planted, and each bloom will be unique according to its design. Different plants also require different saturation to see growth.

But the most important thing I’m learning about blooming where I’m planted is the first step; taking root.  Taking root is the challenging part to an adventurous heart.  It makes it more difficult to wander, but once rooted, it makes it easier to abide in Jesus (John 15), and to connect yourself with the community you are planted in, your root system intertwined with that of other believers.

If I don’t take root, I won’t grow in this garden, and if I don’t go through an entire season of growing in this garden, I won’t be strong enough to move to the next one when that time comes.  Community & accountability are essential to growth.

“Bind my wandering heart to thee”

Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing – Robert Robinson

For those who (like me) feel lost in all the different branches of this metaphor (pun absolutely intended), I decided to study some literal plants to help clarify. Here are some of their characteristics that helped me understand my own growing process.

In different seasons, plants direct their resources where it’s most necessary.  Depending on the time of year, they’re either directing all their energy to deepening their roots or using their roots to create the stunning blooms we get to appreciate in the spring.

It’s also critical that plants are moved only during a certain break between these seasons.  Moving a plant involves breaking some of the roots. Once it is moved, it has to take hold of the new soil all over again. The deeper its roots go the better the plant is going to bloom, but the more it will hurt to be moved if it is moved out of season.

“Plants in flower or about to flower hate being moved. It’s a big no-no in their world. All their resources are going in to producing a flower so they can create seed, not new roots.”

Alys Fowler

“Moving a plant means breaking roots – usually the fine root hairs that do the job of exploring the soil to find moisture.”

Alys Fowler

I think I’ve been disappointed that I’m not blooming, that I’m awaiting my next spiritual spring and I’ve been looking to other gardens longing for that to come.  God is teaching me to be content in this season, with a hope & joy for the future that doesn’t distract from enjoying where He has me now.

With this reminder, throwing yet another pile of my cares on the Lord, I kept digging….

Not only has God designed plants to be stationary as they take root and grow, but He’s designed them to REST in order to grow!  Plants don’t ‘sleep’, but they do require the atmosphere of dark in order to perform work within their roots.

“When your plants aren’t performing efficiently due to the lack of true night hours, no equipment in the world can cure what ails them. So, make sure they have the required break from light and the right amount of hours for each stage of growth.”

Tammy Clayton – Garden Culture Magazine

“Be still” doesn’t mean, ‘do nothing.’  To be still requires work underneath the surface that often requires the dark, silence, & stillness of the night.  This is why the second half of this verse is so important, “know that I am God.”  Our part of the work is to know God is in control and sovereign over our circumstances.  We grow in the season He’s placed us in when we grow in Him; in love for Him, trust in Him, & joy in Him.

In this season, God is doing more to grow me then I could ever dream to do for myself hopping around from one garden to another. He’s plowing, turning over the layers of soil in my heart, removing weeds, bringing fresh nutrients, and burying me so deep in His love & His presence that I can grow where He has me now and bloom where I’ve been planted.

Now I know, even when I do move from one garden to another, one season to another, I have to be still by continuously trusting Him, seeking Him & filling myself with His Word.  HE is my gardener, HIS hands will move me.  He’s teaching me that we will change gardens when the time is right, not while he has us rooted for growth, and if we’ve just moved, we have to take the time to grow new roots.  Be still. 

“Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.
For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth.
He shall judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with His truth.”

Psalm 96:11-12 NKJV

I’d like to encourage you reading this, if you’re feeling unstable, unrooted, or not in the garden of your choice; spend time in prayer. God will make it clear whether or not you’re in His will. If He keeps you where you’re at, take root; plug into your church, sign up for that class, grow your community, start a Bible study, join a Bible study, set up an accountability relationship, or whatever step God is asking you to take in order to plant yourself deeper into Him. Read scripture, journal your thoughts, write songs of worship, record the songs you’ve written, & be still by knowing that HE is GOD.

5.30.2019

One Year Later // Hand-in-Hand

It’s still sinking in that in April we passed the first year mark of our marriage! In some ways it feels as though the year flew by like the wind on these south Florida spring days. In other moments, it feels like together is so precisely how we were supposed to be that it’s difficult to believe we haven’t been in this rhythm of life even longer. It’s hard to remember a life without ‘us’.

Marriage is challenging. It has brought me face to face with my sin & reminded me that I married a sinner Every. Single. Day. But it’s also been such a blessing! It brings a new depth of joy to life & reminds me of how unconditionally my Heavenly Father loves me, despite my sin,
Every! Single! Day!

This year we have learned a LOT.

We experienced a lot of the typical newly-wed trials; navigating making two lives one, communication, skewed & unmet expectations, communication, budgeting together, & did I mention navigating communication?

But we also faced some unexpected challenges, from a job change, to a totaled car & an ER visit, to other medical challenges; we faced a lot of things that were external of our relationship, but required us to be united.

One of the strongest lessons I took away from our first year was to always face challenges hand-in-hand. If we are truly one as man & wife, this is where it gets practical; we have to act in unity.

This reminded me of one of my favorite sermons on marriage I head about four years ago. Pastor Fidel Gomez of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale taught, though he may have been quoting someone else,

“You don’t have to see eye-to-eye to walk hand-in-hand.”

This applies to most of our relationships in life, but I’ve found it to be critical to the intimacy & unity of marriage. No matter what we face, the trials of life or the challenges of making our two lives one; we can disagree, we can have different expectations, & we can have differing opinions, but we have to hold hands as we step.

For me as the wife, this can occasionally lead to the practice of submitting; trusting that my husband is seeking God & allowing him to lead & make a decision I may not entirely agree with. This doesn’t mean I walk behind Him when we disagree on something. It means that we still move forward, because I trust him enough to do so hand-in-hand.

Today I discovered a beautiful parallel in my devotional reading

“We are married to God… just as a wife will often take her husband’s name, God gives us the name of Jesus, which is ‘the name which is above every name’. (Phil. 2:9)”

“the only way to enjoy the privileges that come with Jesus’ name is to move beyond a casual relationship and become fully committed.”

James | Biblical Commentary – Joyce Meyer

Just as we brides take the name of our husband when we marry, as Christians we take on the name of Christ when we commit our hearts to Him, just as we vow our lives to our husbands on our wedding day. What a beautiful reminder of our identity change, not just in marriage, but in Christ as our Savior. Both examples of unity come with joyful privileges.

A lot of great things happened to us this year too! We traveled quite a bit, welcomed another niece (who is also our God-daughter!) into the world, bought a new-to-us car, adopted a kitten, & laughed more together than I ever remember laughing when we were apart.

It’s been a blessing of a year, & we’re ecstatic to be tackling year two, hand-in-hand!

4.30.2019

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inspired by Acts 17:24-28

It refreshes my soul
It restores my joy
It causes my heart to beat

The breath of my Creator.

It leads me out of stagnance
It humbles me to my knees
It gives me hope in hopelessness

The breath of my Savior

It brings me to reach for God when I can not see
It protects me from life’s heat
It moves my cold heart to action

The breath of my Father

It drips down a wooden cross
It cleanses my impurities
It defines me

The love of my God