Seasons Come and Seasons Go

We go through seasons in life, just like the earth goes through seasons as it travels around the sun. Spring, summer, fall and winter, all have their presence on the earth, even though they can look quite different depending on where you live. I follow a few fashion bloggers who are based in Australia and it is winter there. It seems odd to see them talk about enjoying their sweaters and heavier weight outfits, even though their pictures still show sunshine and no snow!

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Seasons in our lives can manifest themselves differently for each person. When you are a young adult, you might be going to college, checking out the party scene and figuring out what you want to do with your life. I wasn't a partier. I was studious, but I also liked to go out to eat with my friends and walk the streets of Chicago down to Lake Short Boulevard and the beach or State Street and the Gold Coast. That season of my life, helped shape who I am. I met my husband during that season and discovered I was more interested in getting married than in becoming a missionary overseas.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NASB)

After college, my husband and I got married and it wasn't long until we started a family. I wish when I had been in the throes of that season of life, I would have had an older woman come along side of me and tell me, "This is just a season. Before you know it, in the blink of an eye, your children will be grown and gone. Enjoy it while you can." So often when we are in a particular season of life, we think, "When will this be over? When will it get easier?" The problem with that mind set is that we miss so much. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

The writer of Ecclesiastes was Solomon, considered the wisest king of all time. I think he pretty much summed up the complexity and simplicity of life in those first eight verses of chapter 3. He knew that every season would come to an end and be replaced by another season, which would then be replaced by another season, and so on, and so on.

What season of life do you find yourself in right now? Is is a time of planting or a time of uprooting? Is it a time of laughter or a time of weeping? Or is is a time of being silent or a time of speaking boldly? The inevitability is, the season you now find yourself in will change. How do we handle the seasons we are in and the busyness and difficulties that come with each of those. 

1. Recognize that it is God who changes the seasons.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;
— Genesis 1:14 (NASB)

God, the Creator, is the One who designed the seasons to change. We often think that fall and winter must be a result of the fall, but it says in the above verse that God's intention from the beginning was an earth that changed on a regular basis. So many of us don't like change, but change is a part of God's plan. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

2. Don't be afraid of the changing seasons.

There is plenty to fear in the world we live in. Watch the news on a regular basis and you'll get a boat load of fodder for an anxiety storm. 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

I grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible. I decided to use the New King James Version as it is the one most true to the version I memorized. Many versions use the word timidity instead of fear. I am not a Bible scholar so I am not here to argue which version is closer to a word for word translation. I prefer the word fear, because I feel it is closest to what we feel on a regular basis. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I am preaching to the choir here, friends. I regularly have to combat my fears. I don't think that fear is wrong, but I do believe that dwelling there or as Timothy put it, having a "...spirit of fear..." is not what God wants for us. I am sure the numbers of people in our country who are taking anti-anxiety meds is staggering. Yet, what is anxiety but a fear - fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of death, fear of illness, fear of any and everything you can imagine. 

It is normal to face fear, when the seasons of our lives are changing. It is scary to face an illness like cancer or the death of a spouse or child. It is terrifying to lose your long time job and have to suddenly be out there looking for a new position in a sea of people in their 20's. Yet, God knows these seasons are changing and as the Psalmist realized, we are precious to Him. 

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
Hide me in the shadow of Your wings
— Psalm 17:8 (NASB)

3. Look for beauty in each season.

Every season that comes and goes has something about it that I love. Spring ushers in new growth, returning birds and an explosion of green. Summer abounds with laughing, playing children, a chorus of lawn mowers and the clinking sounds of glasses filled with iced tea and lemonade. Fall, which is perhaps my favorite, throws an amazing party of color and smells during which the trees undress themselves as they prepare for winters' long sleep. Winter, in areas of snow becomes a white backdrop for red sleds and even redder noses and cheeks. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Yes, every season has its difficulties. Spring can be full of torrential rains and often the temps don't climb as high as we would like. Summer can be a time of drought and the ebb and flow of crowds vacationing and squeezing in to fairs and summer festivals. Fall brings early darkness and winter seems akin to the time of the dead, especially for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

However, just as any transition in life brings change we need to focus on all that is lovely and beautiful, even in the sterility of a hospital room or the stifling sadness of a funeral home. Where else in the world can we get 24 hour quality care? The sadness of loss also brings with it the memories of lives journeyed together and moments of love and laughter. A diagnosis of long term illness allows us the opportunity to stand before our Creator and claim the promises He gave us in His word, that He would never leave us or forsake us and that He would give us peace and strength. 

Beauty exists in the form of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and He never changes, no matter what season we are in.

4. Have patience.

Remember what Solomon pointed out in those verses? The seasons change. Our lives are in constant flux. Knowing that God is orchestrating our circumstances allows us to lean back on His strong arms and wait for Him to do what He is going to do. The sooner we realize the reality of this next  two verses, the better. 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
— Romans 8:28 (NASB)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

God is at work and will never give up on us! Isn't that amazing? It drives me to my knees to realize that the Almighty God who created us from dust, loves that same said dust to the point of sacrificing His only Son, Jesus, so we might be able to have a relationship with Him.

I don't know what season you are in. I hope it is a season of reaping and praising and planting, but if it is a season of tearing apart, war and great weeping, don't forget He is with you. Always and forever. 

The Real Romance

My regular devotional book is My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. If you have never heard of him, he is one of those men of the past that, like David, seemed to be a man after God's own heart. The wisdom he had as a young man and his passion for Christ drove him to eventually start the Bible Training College in London. I have used this devotional book for years and it never grows old. 

Oswald Chambers devotional book

Over the years, I started writing in the margin at the top of the page what various events had occurred on that particular date. It has become a way to keep track of life. I always write the year and the event that took place. For instance on September 15, 2010 it says, "Quintin Arthur Vern Christensen born." That is my grandson. On May 31st 2014 it says, "Rebecca Christensen marries Daniel Trumbull." That is when I gained a son-in-law. There are pages filled with vacation travels, birthdays and family gatherings. It is also filled with broken engagements, hospital stays, unwed pregnancies and deaths. 

Oswald Chambers - devotional

It seems apropos that a devotional book that reminds us over and over to draw closer to Christ, hold a record of the very events that have caused that closeness to take place. The good events caused me to pour out my heart in thanksgiving and praise for blessing. The bad events caused me to pour out my heart in despair and grief. This correlation brings me to today's reading from the devotional and one quote in particular. 

Without the sovereign hand of God Himself, nothing touches our lives. Do we discern His hand at work, or do we see things as mere occurrences? Get into the habit of saying, ‘Speak, Lord,’ and life will become a romance.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - January 30th

There are several truths we can pull from this quote.

1. God is Sovereign.

The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.
— Psalm 103:19 (NASB)

God is all. ALL powerful. ALL present. ALL good. ALL loving. ALL knowing. How can a being like that not be sovereign. The word itself means, one who holds supreme power. I have a feeling that this word that was first noted to be used in the 13th century, does not begin to describe the sovereignty of God. 

2. Nothing touches our lives that doesn't pass through Him. 

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.
The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’
Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.’
The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.’
Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.’
Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.’
So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.
— Job 1:6-12 (NASB)

This passage from Job is the perfect example of God's sovereignty and how He filters the events that touch our lives. 

What exactly does that mean? It means that no matter what is going on in your life, He is aware of it and He allowed it. That may seem a bit overwhelming and bring questions to your mind like, "If He's all good and all loving, why are all these bad things happening?" Quite simply, God knows you and your circumstances even better than you do. He knows what will push you towards Him or away from Him. 

If we allow ourselves the freedom of trusting Him, then we know that He's got us, no matter what is happening. If we bend to His will and sovereignty in our lives we will enter into an amazing relationship with Him. More on that in a minute. 

3. We have choices. 

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
— Joshua 24:15 (NASB)

I've said this before and I will say it again. We have choices. We can decide to trust His sovereignty or not. We can accept His truth or reject it. Each of those choices we make will have an affect on how we think and how we maneuver through life. 

If you read the Old Testament at all you know that the Israelites were constantly changing their choices. One day they chose God, the next day they chose idols. On and on, over and over. When they chose God, they prospered. When they chose idols, they floundered. Our choice to believe God's sovereignty will make life more stable and peaceful. It doesn't mean life will be smooth sailing, but it does mean we will always have someone to rely on and who will give us supernatural means to deal with the hard things in life. 

If we look back at Joshua, who lead the children of Israel into the promised land, we know he had to conquer cities, and battle for every inch of land, but God was with Him and as long as they put God first and worshipped and trusted Him they were victorious. That didn't mean people didn't die, or get sick or have marital conflict or....fill in the blank. But God was there through it all. In all honesty, if I have the choice to have an all loving and all powerful being, walking with me through those dark and treacherous valleys, I'll take it. 

4. Life with Him can be a romance.

that the Lord called Samuel; and he said, “Here I am.
— I Samuel 3:4 (NASB)

Who doesn't love romance? Even the most jaded person, if they do a little soul searching will admit, they want to be pursued and loved. Romance has to be nurtured. When you are in a romantic relationship it isn't about getting what you want, it is a beautiful dance of giving, receiving, listening and talking. We can have that with our Lord. Isn't that amazing? The all powerful, supreme being who created the universe from nothing wants to woo us and have a romance with us. 

With February starting tomorrow and Valentine's Day right around the corner, wouldn't this be a good time to reevaluate our romance with Jesus? Are we spending time with Him? Are we pursuing Him, just as He daily pursues us? Are we taking the time to converse with Him and quietly listening for His sweet whispers to our souls? Are we looking for Him in the simple and mundane things of life as well as the big and beautiful things? 

O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
— Psalm 34:8 (NASB)

Thanksgiving Thoughts - Thinking About the Receiver

Today is Thanksgiving Day, a day filled with good food, family and friends, football and for many of us the beginning of our Christmas holidays. It was Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, who declared this fourth Thursday of November to be a day of giving thanks. Considering the Civil War was in full swing at that point, I find it intriguing that our 16th president felt compelled to put in place a regular day of giving thanks to God, for initially that is what it was. Perhaps in the midst of the carnage of one of our history's greatest internal wars, Lincoln realized how very lost we were without God and that a day of giving thanks would bring us back to center.

We have heard much on what being grateful does for the giver of thanks, but what about what it does for the receiver. I'd like to offer several possible thoughts.

I did include a few pics of some of the food I'll be serving today....for which I am thankful. Ha, ha. Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Thanksgiving food

1. Giving thanks blesses the receiver. Think about how you feel when someone takes the time to say thank you. Doesn't it make you feel good? Doesn't make you feel noticed? Doesn't it make you feel like all that work you did was worth it? I know for me when someone takes time to thank me, I feel up lifted. 

Wouldn't the same be true for God? Granted God does not have to be consoled or motivated like we as humans so often do, but the Bible, especially the Psalms talk about blessing the Lord. 

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
— Psalm 34:1 (NASB)
I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
— Psalm 145:1 (NASB)

I would include passages that talk about praising God, as those which bless Him as well. Just as we can be blessed by being thanked, God is lifted up when we give thanks to Him. 

Thanksgiving food

2. Giving thanks creates a connection with the receiver. When you give thanks to someone you are acknowledging their existence. You are telling them they are worth your time and your effort. You are connecting with them as a real, and important individual. Isn't that one of the reasons we labor to teach our kids to say thank you? We want them to acknowledge there is another person in the world besides themselves, whether it be their teacher, the fast food worker at McDonalds, the clerk at a store or their grandparents. 

When we give thanks to God we are creating a connection with Him. I know I have days where I feel disconnected from Him. It might be sin, it might be that I am not feeling well, it might be things that are bothering me, or it might just be the weather, but regardless of what caused the disconnect, as soon as I go to Him with thanksgiving and praise that connection is restored. This is the result of our choice to acknowledge, He exists and without Him we are nothing. 

for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children
— Acts 17:28 (NASB)
thanksgiving food

3. Giving thanks creates meaning and purpose. When I receive thanks from another it makes me feel good. It reminds me that I am important and that what I am doing has meaning and purpose. Many of us work jobs that we do not feel make a real difference in the world, but we must never underestimate the power of a life planted exactly where God wants it to be. I try to remember that working in retail. At times customers can be less than grateful, but I always feel my job is worthwhile when I hear a thank you, either from a customer, my boss or a fellow employee. 

Obviously we cannot give meaning or purpose to a holy, omniscient God, but when we thank Him we are acknowledging the meaning and purpose He has given to us. Every time I approach God with a humble attitude of gratitude I am reminded of the great love He has for us. 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)

Today as you gather with people you care about,  remember not only to be thankful, but that your giving of thanks has an effect on the ones you give it too. 

Have a blessed day!

How Can I Encourage You Today?

Sometimes when I start writing these posts I have no idea where they will take me. This is my third try today. I ask God, what do you want me to write about? Many times, when I think I have this great idea, it turns out that I can't finish it. It sort of dies on the vine, so to speak. Sometimes, the ideas are very clear and without distraction I can write as though the idea is already formed in my head. It is just that easy. Most of the time, however, I write hesitantly, wondering if anything I put on this Faith page makes a difference in anyone's life. But, that is not for me to know or to worry about. My goal is to be obedient to what God wants me to do. So what exactly does that look like?

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

When I started this blog, I knew I wanted to write and with my writing to encourage people, more specifically women. I know many women, my age who are struggling to figure out who they are and what their purpose is. For many of us, we are no longer raising children. In fact, many of us are now faced with having very little control in our adult children's lives or in the lives of their children. Our precious grand babies! Many of us work jobs, some that bring us great satisfaction and others out of necessity. Believe me I would much rather be a full time writer earning an income than working retail. But this is where I am at and this is the path God has put me on.

I know many women who are going through really hard stuff. Things like divorce, children with addictions, spouses with mental disorders, parents with extra needs and financial burdens, and illness. These are just a few on a long list of concerns that women are dealing with. As women we are expected to work, take care of our homes, our families and maintain some semblance of emotional control. I don't know about you, but once in a while, this just gets hard! 

For me, I know when life gets hard, what I really want, is to be encouraged. I want someone to give me a hug. I want a friend to call me and listen when I rant and then say, "Can I pray with you?" I would like my spouse to listen to me as I struggle with life without interjecting advice on how to fix it. And just so you know, my husband is much better at this than he used to be. Ha, ha. Once in a while I would like someone to rescue me! Unfortunately, everyone is busy. Everyone has their own issues that they are dealing with. Everyone needs to be encouraged.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

So today, right here, in this little blog, that is what I want to do. I want to tell you some things that are true about you and I want you to believe them with all your heart. 

1. You are beautiful! I don't care what color your skin is, how old your are or how much you weigh. I don't care how you dress or what visible scars or deformities you have. You are beautiful. You know how I know this, because God said so!

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.
— Genesis 1:26-31 (NASB)

What I want you to pay attention to is that very last line, "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good." God's word doesn't say, "...it was okay," or "...it needed to be tweaked," but that it was very good. 

2. You are intelligent! We can refer back to the same passage for confirmation on this one. "Let us make man in Our likeness..." How awesome is that? We are made in the image of a holy, awesome being. A being who created us out of dust. 

3. You are strong! Once again I must refer to scripture here. 

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13

Because you are intelligent you can figure this one out. You are strong because He is strong, the He being Jesus. I have found in my life, when I strive in my own strength I get awfully tired. When I rely on Him to get me out of bed in the morning, do the tasks I need to do, even when I am overwhelmed, He is my strength. He keeps me going. 

4. You are valuable! 

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
— Matthew 6:26 (NASB)

I love this! I love to watch birds. My mother always had a bird feeder hanging from a pine tree next to our house when I was growing up. We loved to see the birds flitting back and forth as they enjoyed nuts and seeds from the feeder. My mom and I liked to see how many different types of birds  we could see throughout the year. My 90 year old mom outlived the pine tree so she had to get a different type of feeder, but she still enjoys her birds. The point being, if a great God can care for those little tiny birds, providing food for them in the winter, giving them instincts to fly south for those that do, blessing them with feathers and down, how much more valuable are we to Him? We are the crown of creation.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

5. You are loved! Don't let circumstances or people make you feel unloved. 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)
Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.
— John 15:9 (NASB)
for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.
— John 16:27 (NASB)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
— Romans 5:8 (NASB)

The list could go on. God the Father loves you. Jesus the Son loves you. His Spirit loves you. 

I hope that you will hold these thoughts close to your heart today. Maybe you are struggling. Maybe you just needed to be reminded. I hope this helped.