The Week of Provision

For the past couple of months, I have been reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.  It has been an enjoyable yet challenging read.  It has pushed me to try new things, helped me discover some areas that still need attention, and encouraged me to be more accepting and open about my artwork and writing.  I’ve been doing a lot more journaling, as well, which enables deeper soul searching.  It is very freeing.

The first week of March was the chapter entitled “Recovering a Sense of Abundance”.  I dubbed it the Week of Provision and set a goal to watch for and make a mental note of all of the things God did for me during that week.  I was filled with anticipation entering the week as He has always been faithful and His idea of blessings are always better than mine.  It just so happened that this was also the week my family was going on vacation.  For the record, I don’t believe in coincidence.  The timing of our vacation and this chapter was divine.  

My anxiety always heightens before a trip especially when flying.  There were already news reports circulating of coronavirus extending out of China and across Europe.  People were asking us if we would cancel our trip.  I prayed for the trip to go on as scheduled.  Originally, we were supposed to take this vacation 9 or so years ago when we had to cancel two days before leaving due to a family emergency.  My daughter’s heart was broken though she handled her emotions gracefully.  It would have been awful to have to cancel at the last minute again not to mention losing the money already spent on the trip for a second time.  

As it turned out, we were able to go, and it was a beautiful time of family, fun and relaxation.  We were blessed in so many ways:  some of our tickets from the first attempt were still good, free luggage on the plane because we are veterans, no crowds, perfect weather, and safety just to mention a few.  And the rest was so needed – sandwiched between an always stressful first quarter and returning home to the beginning of the implications of the coronavirus.  (It would have been tough to sustain that high level of stress.)  All of these things were reminders of God at work in my life.  My dear friend says He was putting deposits in my trust bank.

God used my intentional awareness to show me His deep love for me and just how faithful He is – even in the things that seem to have little kingdom value, like a vacation.  He knows what we need and loves to pour out blessings on us.  If you are struggling to see His blessings on your own life, ask Him to show you.  Then keep your eyes open!

“Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!” 

Psalm 144:15b ESV

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Matthew 7:7-11 ESV

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Matthew 6:25-33 ESV

How are you dealing with isolation? Update

Today, I was thinking about a time when I was full of fear and a deep sense of loneliness.  There was no doubt that there was something seriously missing in my life.  Something that went way beyond my situation in life.  As we are all dealing with the coronavirus, I can’t help but wonder how many people are having the same experience right now – full of fear and loneliness.  Considering the scope and isolation of this pandemic, it must be a lot of people.  Some may recognize that these feelings have been with them long before the virus. Maybe the feelings are just magnified by the chaos in our world.

I vividly remember my days of, well, emptiness.  With every part of my being, I never want to go back to living like that.  Sure, I have moments of fear and loneliness, but it is only because my heart misaligns and I need to refocus.  Refocus?  Have you ever heard the phrase “filled with the Spirit”?  You may know exactly what this means.  Others may think this sounds like nonsense.  Stick with me on this for a moment.  Some things seem like nonsense until we experience them ourselves.  Remember being a child and not listening to advice from your parents.  Later, you discover that they were right, and you think “how did they know?!?”  Experience.

God knows that life on this planet can be hard, and He doesn’t want us to walk through this alone.  He wants a relationship with us.  To have this relationship, He gives us His Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is my constant companion.  He helps me go back to sleep when I wake up overwhelmed.  He helps me calm down when I get stressed at work.  The times I need to refocus are when I forget that the Holy Spirit is with me – when I try to live on my own strength.  I can tell you doing things on my own is not good.  The Holy Spirit fills me with peace, love, self-control and more.  There are still hard days – on my own, I would dig myself deeper into a the hole.  He carries me through.

I get it.  This is hard to believe or understand without experiencing it yourself.  I encourage you to do some investigating.  Here are some suggestions on how you can do this.  I recommend that you try each of these.

  1. Go directly to the source.

Ask Him.  Ask Jesus if He is real and if there is a Holy Spirit.  He loves to talk with us.  Jesus is all about relationship.  Though, it is important to address Him by name.  He wants you to talk to Him directly and not some vague higher power.  

“The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.”
Psalm 145:18 ESV

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Acts 2:21 ESV

  1. Go to the book.

One of the best ways to learn about God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is by reading the Bible.  It explains history, what God is doing, why we need Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and even your purpose in life.  Now, some of it might be confusing at first. Give it time.  I highly recommend starting with a Bible reading plan.  Using the YouVersion app, a great option is Nicky Gumbel’s “Bible in One Year”.  (It is also available as a book).  Nicky Gumbel does an excellent job of introducing each day’s reading and bringing it to life.

  1. Go to Alpha.

The Alpha Course is a series of videos and discussions that give you an opportunity to learn about Jesus and to ask your tough questions.  There is no need to hold back or to hide your skepticism.  In these days of coronavirus, we cannot literally go anywhere.  Fortunately, there are Alpha courses available online.  Nicky Gumbel actually developed this course and his church, HTB, offers an online Alpha class.  It consists of eleven sessions.  Each session includes a video and a discussion area.  To learn more go to http://www.htb.org/alpha.

You might not believe what I am sharing; however, I can tell you my life has been blessed by my faith in Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  But don’t just take my word for it.  Check it out for yourself.  And truly, you can expect great things – like nothing before in your life.

Edit:  A friend of mine shared this video of HTB’s Easter message which discusses our situation with the Coronavirus, the hope of Jesus, Alpha and even touches on His Holy Spirit.  It seemed like a perfect addition to this post.  I hope you take the time to watch.

Thank you for reading my post.  May you stay healthy and find hope & peace.  Essie

Trapped

Today begins my third week of isolation due to COVID-19.  My work took early precautions and asked all of our office staff to work from home.  By the end of the first week, our governor was asking everyone to do the same thing.  It is strange being so isolated from other people.  Even us introverts long for some level of interaction with other people – just in small, controlled quantities.  Though, I am very fortunate that I can keep working, for now, unlike so many other people who are unable to work.  State after state is beginning to mandate their residents to stay home.  For most of us, this is not a terrible situation.  We can video chat with our friends and families.  And for those of us with children and/or pets, we are finding more quality time with them.  My concern is for the people who are now trapped in a horrible situation with no safe place for escape.

When my family moved to West Virginia when I was a child, we were extremely isolated.  We were so far back into the woods that there was barely a road.  The only time we left our land was for work, school, and grocery shopping.  These were usually bundled together since it was a trip to go anywhere.  Very rarely, we would visit a neighbor (the closest neighbor was probably about a half mile away).  School was my only escape from the loneliness and quarreling.  Then my parents decided I should be homeschooled.  This is following the spring that the sexual abuse began, again.  Without school, I had no place to escape – I was trapped.  My mom was working at the hospital and volunteering as an EMT so she wasn’t home very much.  It was horrible.

My only saving grace in the situation was that I was very good at math.  You might be wondering how being good at math would have anything to do with this or even be helpful.  Well, the homeschooling fell to my father (and what a joke that was).  He dropped out of school early.  As a seventh grader, I already knew more math than he did.  I was able to use that to end the homeschooling and return to school after the Christmas break.  My time of complete isolation lasted for seven months.

If you are currently isolated in a horrible situation, please know that it will not last forever.  The voices in your head saying “it will always be like this” are from an evil place.  Don’t believe them!  On this earth, forever is not real.  Everything has a beginning and an end.  Please don’t give up on yourself.  You may be in a terrible place now, yet cling to the hope of what is beyond it.  Focus on your future.  The church is an excellent place to find hope.  In today’s isolation, so many churches have started offering online services.  This makes it easy for you to try out many different churches.  You don’t need a ride there.  You don’t have to worry about talking to people you don’t know.  You don’t have to worry about fitting in.  And many of the services are recorded too so you can decide when to watch the service.  You don’t have to try to make Sunday morning work.  All church congregations are a little different.  Keep trying different ones until you find one that suits you.  

The point of this is to encourage you to find a source of hope.  Jesus became my hope and my Savior.  He wants to save everyone and give us a better life.  May He become your hope and Savior too.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  John 3:16-17 ESV

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

 

https://www.bible.com/59/jhn.3.16-17.esv
https://www.bible.com/59/jer.29.11.esv

Rescue

As a child, I felt isolated and alone.  To me, there were no visible signs of hope – no one to rescue me from my situation and my distress.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized I was never alone – not really.  I was just blind to my help.  And my natural state and free will (which, as a child, I wasn’t even aware of) kept me separated from my one source of hope.  Who was there to open my eyes so I could see?  Who was sent to help me?  Who came forward with a message of hope?  Hidden away in the deep woods of Appalachia, there weren’t many who could come or would be able to find me.

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!””
Romans 10:15 ESV

There were arguments between my parents that brought up the name, Jesus.  By my father’s attempt to drive Jesus out of my mother’s life, he introduced Jesus to mine.  And every year, like clock work, my great grandmother would send me a birthday card with a track.  “What is this?” I remember asking my mother.  It was another introduction, and my eyes were slowly opening to the presence of another – unseen – the one who could truly save me. The one who could save me not just from my situation but also walk me through the healing of the scars I would carry.  The one who would save me from a life of shame and give me a life of blessing and purpose.  The one who would show me grace and teach me to love as He loves. 

He was always there even in my darkest days.  And because of His great love for me, He sent messages to me through people and highlighted the work of His great hands in the world around me so that I could find Him.  What messages is He sending you?  Do you hear?  Can you see?

His great army fights all around us, in the heavenly realms, to save us.  And He uses people – those who love us and sometimes even those who don’t – to reach out to us.  

He hears our cries to Him!  Do you need rescued?  Cry out to the only One that saves.  He is waiting for you with open arms.

Precious

There have been many dark days in my life.  I understand the pain of betrayal.  I have lived where no child should have to live without some basic needs.  I know the fear of being on the wrong end of a gun.  I have been verbally, emotionally and physically beaten down.  

Yet, I now know I was never alone.  I could have been brought to an utter end but was not.  And this was before I knew Jesus.  Now that I know Him, He shows me his love for me over and over again.  And I have a new perspective looking back on those dark days.  Jesus has proven Himself faithful to me over and over again.  He has blessed my life.  Each day, He helps me to move closer to wholeness through Him.  There are no words to express my love and gratitude to Jesus for the peace and hope He has lavished on me.  

Why would He do this for me?  Because He loves me, and I am His.  I am precious in His eyes.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you”        

Isaiah 43:1-4 ESV

Say No to Fear

God does not call us to live in fear.  As a dear friend of mine said, “fear is not from God.”  God frees us.  Fear enslaves us.  I have been a slave to fear all of my life.  That fear has deprived me of relationships with family, friends, opportunities, hopes and dreams.  No more!  My chains are breaking free.

God made me a warrior.  God has proven to me over and over again that He is there for me – no matter how rough the road gets.

Is fear holding you captive?  Reach out to Jesus.  Share your fears with Him and ask Him to help you let go.  It me be a long journey, but the destination is worth taking those first steps.

“fear not, for I am with you;

be not dismayed, for I am your God; 

I will strengthen you, I will help you, 

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 ESV

Faithful Love

“Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found…”

Have you ever runaway or hidden from someone just to see if they would follow or search for you? It reminds me of the childhood game we would play at recess. We would run and others would try to catch us. I remember screaming in fear of being caught; and yet, there was also the sense of pleasure in the fact that someone would want to catch me.

As a teenager angry with God, I didn’t want caught. I just wanted to curl up somewhere and fade out of existence – to be no more. I was convinced being nothing was the only way I would be able to stop the pain. (Thankfully, I was wrong about that.) I also thought
I could distance myself from God. But He never stopped trying to reach me. Frequently, He would use people to try to speak love and truth to me. Some of their words made a mark on me. Yet, I kept pushing them away. Additionally, He would use songs to connect with me. He still does this as with the song Reckless Love that I have been discussing in my last few articles. The thing I really want to highlight is He never gave up on me. No matter what I did, how many times I pushed away, ran away, shut myself down – He kept pursuing me, chasing me.

He did fight to get my attention, to get me to listen, and to get me to see His love for me. And He didn’t just do this so I could know Him or believe in Him. He loves me so much that He wants me to be whole and healthy. He wants me to know the joy of being in a relationship with Him. He wants me to experience joy in the life He has given me. He was desperate to pull me out of my deep despair and into his loving, healing embrace. Only, this could not happen until I accepted His help. I am so grateful that He fought so hard for me (for over thirty years). I am grateful for his unfailing, faithful love.

Unconditional Love

“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”

We have all heard the phrase “unconditional love.” Have you ever experienced it, or does it feel more like something from a fairytale? From a personal perspective, I believe my closest experience of receiving unconditional love would have been from my childhood dog. He loved me no matter what and was always over-the-moon happy to see me. Some of my cats got close; however, cats always seem to have a personal agenda. Things have to be their way. People are more on this line – tending to be more self-centered. And people are easily hurt or offended and will hold on to grudges for a life-time. And being a person, I frequently do things that offend or hurt others. Sometimes I even do them on purpose but mostly unintentionally.

God, on the other hand, looks passed all of this. He knows we are broken and messed up, and He loves us anyway. And here is the reckless part, He even loves us when we hate Him.

“When I was your foe, still your love fought for me.”

Even though I had hatred towards God – being angry with Him for the pain in my life, He did not abandon me. He walked the painful road with me; and when the time was right, He rescued me. And even while I knew He was my rescuer, still I harbored anger against Him. And He never left my side. No one else has ever loved me like this – or could. I am forever grateful to my loving Lord and Savior.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:3

Reckless Love

Reckless Love, the song by Cory Asbury, is so impactful to me. It is the spiritual equivalent, for me, of the song Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack. What?!? If you were around in the 70s you will recognize the song (though I believe there has been a recent remake). Really it is just the phrase “Singing my life with his words” nothing else really relates other than the feeling of my deepest, inner being being exposed to the world.  But I have digressed way too far here. This is not the song I want to share with you. Let’s switch back to Reckless Love.

Reckless Love basically sums up my entire testimony – that is, how God saved me and gave me a new life. The reminders in the words renew my gratitude and give me hope for the days ahead as I rest in His promises that He has already fulfilled. “The Lord is my refuge and my fortress.” Psalm 91:2.

I hope you take a moment to read through the words and listen to the song. Maybe you will find your story there as well. Or maybe you will see hope that this could be your story someday. If you want that hope, just ask Him. After all, it is true that “those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10.


“Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah”

There is so much here that this brief article would turn into more of a book.  So, for today, I will leave you with the song.  Later, I will post again with a deeper dive into my take on these powerful words.

 

 

The Most Important Lesson

Through all of my lessons from life, the most important is that I can always trust my Lord and Savior. People will always eventually let you down and break your heart.  But my God will always be there.  And I can trust Him to comfort me when no one else will or can.  And because He is trustworthy, I can continue to love others fully – even knowing that someday there will be tears.