Living in the Valley

It has been a few weeks since I wrote a faith post. My husband and I went on a vacation to visit places and people in Wisconsin. It was an enjoyable trip, but I didn't have much time to write. While it is fun and important to get away, the reality is that we live in the ordinary moments of life much more often than in the extraordinary moments. Who doesn't want to live on the mountaintop, but most of us spend the majority of our time trudging through the valley bottom. 

Devil's Lake State Park

Let me say, the valley bottom is not the pristine, green grass, river filled valley. No, it is the valley that runs between two rugged, rocky cliffs and there is no water in sight for miles. Overhead the vultures are constantly circling, waiting for the valley dwellers to stumble and fall so they can begin to feed off their soon to be dead bodies. Not a pretty picture.

When you have no vision from God, no enthusiasm left in your life, and no one watching and encouraging you, it requires the grace of Almighty God to take the next step in your devotion to Him, in the reading and studying of His Word, in your family life, or in your duty to Him. It takes much more of the grace of God, and a much greater awareness of drawing upon Him, to take that next step, than it does to preach the gospel.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - March 6th

I love this thought from Oswald Chambers. He says it takes more grace and a more concentrated effort to draw on Him to take the next step in living the ordinary, mundane life, than to preach the gospel. What do you think? Do you agree? 

I have been finding life more and more challenging lately. My energy level is lower, I have physical issues that I never had to deal with before and I am continually reminded, not only of all the things I need to do, but also of all the things I have absolutely no control over. These factors all become part of life in the valley. Living here in the valley becomes a matter of trudging, not running, or skipping or even walking. Every once in a while, it becomes a crawl, a begging on hands and knees with the Master of this land to come and either let it end or bring about some sort of change. It was from this prostrate place that Oswald realized the thoughts he shared in the quote above. It truly does take the grace of the Almighty to take the next step.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I know, without a doubt, that some of you are in this place. Just like me, you go to bed so exhausted, that you pray God will take you in your sleep, so that you don't have to get up in the morning. Some of you, don't sleep. He doesn't even give you that. But, you do get up in the morning and you start all over again...the walk, the stumble, the crawl. You feel like you could use time away, a retreat, but there is no retreat. You feel like you could use a good, long cry, but you know the tears won't change anything, besides you are too busy, too tired. You feel like you want to run away, to leave everyone and everything behind, just go somewhere and become someone different, but you know that is not the right thing to do and you are just too tired. Day after day, drudgery after drudgery. This is life in our valley.

BUT GOD!

No enthusiasm?

BUT GOD!

No one noticing?

BUT GOD!

No encouragement?

BUT GOD!

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
— 2 Corinthians 6:4 (NIV)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
— Psalm 121 (NASB)
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
— Galatians 6:9 (NASB)

I know life can be overwhelming, but God is not overwhelmed by it. We've heard it before, but I need to hear it again. Peter walked on water, though the stormy waves raged all around, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. If you are down and out by life, look up. Jesus will always meet you exactly where you are at. 

Remember, we are all together in this valley. 

 

Beauty from Ash

There it was. A single, dark green leaf, beginning to unfurl. It had been conceived in darkness. A tiny seed that lay dormant, not dead, merely asleep in the cozy warmth of the dark earth. While it was sleeping the dragon had done his damage. He had ravaged the landscape, burning every tree and every living thing until all was nothing but ash. He thought he had destroyed life, but what he had meant for death, the One had meant for life. 

The ash lay heavy on the earth. It became, not a grave blanket of death, but a rich, comforting layer of warmth and nutrients. Gradually, over time, the rains came and the ash cooled and lingering life seeped into the black earth below. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

The seed drank the death life and began to swell. Swollen and full, it opened, releasing a shoot into the fertile soil above. Pushing, struggling, reaching, it climbed upward. It knew, above the darkness there was light and the light was what it wanted. The light was what it needed. The shoot didn't know how it knew, but it knew it had to reach for the light. It knew the light would help it grow. It knew the light would give it life.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Soon the pushing, struggling and reaching paid off. At the very tip of it's furthest point the shoot felt an odd sensation, warmth. It had only ever known the coolness of the earth in which it lay. It had only ever known the darkness, but now...now it reached. With one last ambitious push it poked through the earth and ash and found the light.  

*          *          *          *           *

Are we not like the seed? Were we not conceived in darkness? Did we not, when we were full with the nutrients of our mother's womb, the womb that would die after our life, death life, did we not move toward the light? We knew when it was time, as our mother's womb knew when it was time to help us, push, and reach and struggle, that we must find the light. We needed the light. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Why then, when we know the light is good, do we stop seeking it? Why, when we know the light gives us life and helps us grow, do we we hide from it? Why do we prefer to cover ourselves back up with the dragon's ash, trying to hide rather than growing to the potential that the One had meant for us? 

It is because we are afraid. 

Do not fear the light, or the One from which the light has its source. Rather, push, struggle, reach for Him. He will tend you like a tender shoot and raise you up into a mighty tree.

He alone can bring beauty from ash. 

(Written by Amy D. Christensen)

 

A Look Back at 2017 - My Favorite Faith Posts

I did this on my fashion page so I thought it would be good to do on my faith page as well. Since we are into a new year, I thought it would be fun to look back at my favorite posts from 2017. I picked one from each month. If you haven't read them and are interested, just click on the link below the picture. 

It is good to look back at where we have been, so we can get a better feel for where we need to go. As far as my faith posts are concerned, I want to keep writing and posting things that I hope will be an encouragement to you. We, as older women, are such a valuable part of society. We are capable, strong and worn, and that is just where God wants us to be. 

Here are my favorite faith posts from my blog from 2017.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

I hope you enjoyed this look back at my favorite blog posts from 2017. As we move forward into 2018, I hope to grow my blog in various ways, while still being true to my belief and faith in Jesus Christ. 

If you have any suggestions or things you would like to see me talk about on the blog, please leave me a comment in the comments section or you can send me a message on Facebook. I appreciate all your input and support. I am looking forward to what this year will bring and hope you will join me on the blog! 

Deep Waters

Summer weather always makes me long for the beach, or at least somewhere near the water. What is it about water that fascinates us so? I know for me, some of it may be the lovely pictures I come across in magazines of quaint sea side cottages decorated with lovely reminders of the vast ocean just outside the door. Water has a therapeutic effect. I love to sit near it, watching the waves rolling in or listening to the rush of foam hitting the shore. 

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Water can also be frightening. It can cause catastrophic flooding and overwhelm the largest ocean going vessels. We all desire safe harbor, but sometimes God has something very different in mind. Once in a while He will cut the lines that tether us to the shore and set us on a sea that would scare the bravest and most seasoned sailor. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Oswald Chambers states it perfectly:

If you yourself do not cut the lines that tie you to the dock, God will have to use a storm to sever them and send you out to sea...If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters, just inside the harbor, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get out past the harbor and into the great depths of God, and begin to know things for yourself—-begin to have spiritual discernment.”
— My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

I love word pictures. This picture struck me right between the eyes. I love being in safe harbor. I love to feel at peace and know that life is running smoothly. I like organization, and like many women, I want to feel like I am in control, at least of some aspect of life. For me that is safe. What isn't safe is not knowing where your kids are at three or four in the morning, having pain or illness that can't be diagnosed, losing your job or getting old. These things are all reminders that we have very little in our control. 

I believe that we can become dependent and even prideful of our place in that peaceful harbor. We become fixated on the ropes that are tethering us to the dock believing that it is the ropes that keep our boat safe and secure. That is when the storms come and sever our ties, ripping the very ropes we took pride in and depended upon, from the dock and setting us adrift on an angry,  sea.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Why would God do that? Why would He take us from that safe place and send us out on a stormy ocean? Doesn't He care about us? Doesn't He know that we are afraid?

Of course He does, but He also knows that you will never grow if you are forever in the safe harbor. He knows every hair on your head, every cell in your body and He knows just exactly what you need. Our journey in this life is about our relationship with Him. It is about letting go of everything we hold dear and clinging to Christ alone. 

I know this is hard. I have experienced the storm and I have felt my strongest ropes (the things I thought were right) torn away from that peaceful dock. I have cowered, terrified, in the bottom of the boat wondering when that monster wave would finally take me under. But always at that darkest and most chaotic moment, I would lift my eyes just a bit over the edge of the boat and I would see Him coming to me on the waves. He would come, climb into my boat and we would ride those stormy seas like a surfer hanging ten! 

Oh yes, my stomach has roiled, just like the sea. My mind has crashed just like those tumultuous waves, but gradually the storm would move away, the waves would soften and the wind would calm. He would take my hand and say,

"Peace, dear lamb. Be still."

He alone can overcome our pride. He alone can ride the storm out with us. He alone can speak peace into our troubled hearts.

Dear ones, don't cling to tightly to those plans you have made, nor those ropes that tether you to the dock. He may be calling you out into deep waters.

The Tower

I lived there once, the Tower. More accurately, I was held captive there. Maybe you are familiar with my story. I was young and curious and that curiosity would often lead me off the beaten path. One particularly beautiful day, when it wasn't quite spring yet, but the sky shone so blue and the sun so bright that I couldn't help but wander, I came upon the castle...his castle. It was beautiful in the sun light, covered with green ivy. The stone walls were built with some ingredient that sparkled, and I loved bling. Before I knew it, I was touching the warm walls with my fingertips. I wasn't afraid. I had no reason to be, or at least I didn't know of one.I walked along the wall until I came to a heavy wooden door and there he was.

 Arundel Castel - Arundel, West Essex, England - Photo by Amy Christensen

Arundel Castel - Arundel, West Essex, England - Photo by Amy Christensen

He was tall and very handsome. His light brown hair fell in waves to his broad shoulders. He smiled at me and held out his hand. I took it.

I don't know why! What was I thinking? He was nice to me for a while, giving me presents and telling me I was special, but then he took me to the tower. It became my prison. It wasn't until after he had locked the door that I realized I had made a mistake. Fear grabbed my stomach like a claw then scrabbled its way up into my throat. What had I done? How could I have been so naive, so foolish? The tower became not only my prison, but my torture chamber. The first time he pulled me close I realized his flesh smelled like the breath of hell and rotting meat. He never took me, but would hold me close, until I nearly suffocated from the stench, then he would push me away, mocking me, telling me I was ugly and stupid. Then he would leave locking the door behind him, laughing as he walked down the hall. Over and over, day after day. I had no idea what he would do when he came in. I was terrified. It was always the same. He would hold me, his putrid scent filling my nostrils, until I no longer noticed it. Then he would push me away, railing me with insults. One day, he took the key to the door and threw it out the window. 

 Tower steps - Raglan Castle - Raglan, Wales - Photo by Amy Christensen

Tower steps - Raglan Castle - Raglan, Wales - Photo by Amy Christensen

Turning to me he grinned, "You will never be enough!" He walked out the door, laughing down the hall until I could no longer hear him.

I fell into a heap and cried. I didn't even care if I was rescued. I just wanted to die. I was worthless. No one would come for me. No one would ever love me, especially now that I reeked of his lair, his stench. Everyone would know that I was not enough. 

That was years ago now. The Prince saved me. He rescued me. He came and defeated the master of that castle who held me captive. On that day He stood in the door of my tower, I will never forget the eyes that shown like that bluest sky I remembered so well from when I was captured. I cowered at the other side of the small room with a ragged blanket wrapped around my shoulders. He came and knelt down in front of me. 

Holding out His hand he said gently, "Why are you here? You are free. Come, beloved!"

I winced. Shaking my head I tried to back even further into the stone of the walls that had imprisoned me. 

He smiled, "Come, beloved!"

"No!" My voice came out like a squawk. 

He moved to touch me, but I scooted back. He persisted. "You are my beloved. Come, take my hand."

This time, I stood up. "No! I....am...not. I...am...not...enough!"

The prince stood and in one step gathered me into his arms. The first thing I noticed was that he smelled of earth and pine, flowers and fields. He took my face into his hands and said, "Beloved, I am!"

There are still times, I hear that other voice, "You will never be enough!" It comes as a whisper at the end of the day when the sun is waning and the sky darkens.Those words that once held so much power over me were real and cut deep. But the Prince brought healing. His voice has become a balm to my injured soul. He is enough. And I am His. 

“...I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
— Jeremiah 31:3 (NASB)
I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me
— Song of Songs 7:10 (NASB)

Dear Lamb

I wish you were here, so that I could hold you and reassure you that everything will be okay, but you are not. You were always a curious little one, spending your time close to the edges of the fields looking into the tall grasses for that which was sweeter and more tender. 

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