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. 

 

Walking with the Psalmist

Psalm 13 is a song of David, and a prayer for help in trouble. What I love about the psalms of David are the parallels to my own emotional ups and downs. Let's dive in.

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

Do you ever feel like David? Do you ever wonder where God is? Does it seem as though He has forgotten you or is hiding His face from you? Have you ever felt like you are the only person you can trust? Do you ever have days where all you can feel is sorrow, or maybe you feel nothing at all, simply numb? Have you felt as though a very real, but unseen enemy is out to get you? Or maybe your enemy is something or someone real, like cancer, a hard nosed boss or a bully. 

I have felt this way. The truth is, I think most of us have felt pretty much alone at some point or other in our lives. Sometimes, we carry burdens that we cannot share, which make us feel very alone and like the psalmist we cry out to God, "Where are you?"

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
— Psalm 13:3-4 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

The psalmist asks God to consider his situation. David spent a good portion of his adult life running and hiding from his enemies. I'm pretty sure this song was born out of the frustration and exhaustion of not being able to live a normal life. 

You are probably familiar with the phrase, the new normal. Most often this phrase is used by someone who has encountered a major life change, either a job loss, loss of a loved one, physical limitation or other difficulty that makes life different than it used to be. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I can't do that anymore. Now life is made up of looking at food labels, cutting my food in half so I don't eat too much and cutting out things I used to enjoy like donuts and ice cream. This is the new normal. 

I do not see anything wrong with asking God to consider us. We are His creation. Consider these verses:

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!
— Luke 12:24 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
— Luke 12:27 (NASB)
Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

The one who has every hair on our heads numbered can most certainly be bothered to consider us, when we cry out to Him. 

I think the psalmist was also praying for wisdom, or maybe he was just asking God to help him stay awake and keep vigilant watch for his enemies, lest they overcome him and he sleep the sleep of death. Either way we can ask God for help, whether it be for wisdom, or for physical strength. 

1 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.
— Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him
— James 1:5 (NASB)

The last section of Psalm 13 is the upward swing.

5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
— Psalm 13:5-6
Pixabay

Pixabay

There are four actions the psalmist does at the end of this song.

1. He remembers. He is speaking in the past tense, remembering other times the Lord has been faithful.

2. He trusts. He trusted in the Lord's lovingkindness in the past, and no doubt, will do so again. 

3. He rejoices. His heart rejoices in the Lord's salvation. We can derive from this statement, the psalmist has seen the Lord's salvation before. 

4. He sings. What a beautiful ending to a song that starts out at a rather low point. He can sing, because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him. 

What does this mean for you and I? First, I believe it is okay to ask God the tough questions. Where are you, God? How long will you keep quiet and not answer me? How long am I going to have to suffer? When will your deliverance come? God knows our frame. He also knows we don't see the whole picture, so I truly believe He understands and has compassion when we come to Him with our ceaseless questioning. Think about the many times your children or grandchildren come to you asking, why or when? Do you yell at them and tell them to be quiet? (Well, maybe once in a while, ha, ha). More often we answer with kindness and love. 

Secondly, I believe it is also alright to let God know we are at the end of ourselves. Consider and answer me, Lord, is a cry for help and reassurance, not a fist raised in defiance. God knows we hurt, sometimes in the deepest places of our being. There are people who suffer physically with pain we can't even imagine. There are people who hurt mentally or emotionally because of what others have done to them or to their family members. God knows our innermost hurts and struggles. 

Finally, I think the key is to follow the psalmist's example and not stay in that mindset of discouragement. Like him we need to choose to remember what God has done for us. We need to trust in the God whose lovingkindness is everlasting. We can rejoice in His salvation. Not only has He saved us from sin through His son Jesus Christ, but He has saved us from difficulties we cannot begin to imagine. Lastly, sing! Sing like no one is listening. Sing to bring the house down. If it is an age old hymn sing it with gusto. If it is singing along to your favorite Christian band, turn up the volume. 

Following David in his pattern of questioning, admitting and rejoicing we will be able to overcome. 

Introvert? Yup!

Hi! My name is Amy and I am an introvert! Are you surprised? Maybe you are an introvert as well. You might be wondering how and why an introvert would have a fashion and faith blog. The faith part of it is a little easier to swallow, at least no one is looking at you. Fashion, however? How do I manage to stand in front of a camera, posing and smiling and not feel like a fake? Believe me, I often do feel that way. 

Hiking - Mohican State Park

I have been an introvert for as long as I can remember. Here is how Webster's online dictionary defines the word:

...one whose personality is characterized by introversion; especially : a reserved or shy person who enjoys spending time alone
Pixabay

Pixabay

I can remember as a child often hiding behind my mother when people would talk to me. My mother would often push me from out behind her to make me visible to whomever was addressing me. I didn't like people to notice me or talk about me. It is unknown to me why some of us are introverts and some of us are extroverts, though I am confident it is due to God making us one way or the other. I'm sure there have been all sorts of studies and articles on the differences between introverts and extroverts. Here are a few to look at: 

23 Signs You're Secretly an Introvert

What is an Introvert?

While the truth is, one personality type is not better than the other, as an introvert I have often felt the scorn of others because of my shyness. I have been called stuck up, aloof, a prude and other descriptive words that were not kind. I have also skulked away from a conversation or a social situation because my voiced opinions were laughed at, cut down or ignored. I have felt the icy coldness of what I call being invisible

Pixabay - invisible

As an introvert I struggle with the dichotomy of wanting to crawl under a rock and wanting to be noticed and remembered. It is an odd place to stand, as though I am permanently on a tight rope walking between two cliffs. On one side are roaring lions and on the other side are stomping dinosaurs. 

The reality is, I am not stuck up. I struggle socially. It is hard for me to make small talk, especially with people I don't know. When I go to a gathering, even with family, I am often overwhelmed. I am most comfortable in my home with a good book or an escapist type movie. That doesn't mean I don't want friends. It doesn't mean that I don't want to be with other people. It just means that I need more time to think, and refuel. 

Being an introvert who also struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder is a further conundrum. Not only do I have the normal need for alone time, I also struggle with feeling alone, especially when it is dark and cold. Not only do I need more time to process, I have a harder time with the processing...and cravings for chocolate cake! 

By now you might be wondering what the point of this little post is. My goal is three-fold:

1. To make you aware.

Introverted people are not cold, aloof or mean, they are simply different. They have emotions and feelings that run just as deep as extroverts. They love deeply, worry deeply and might just make fantastic friends. Instead of judging a person to be this or that, try getting to know them. If you see that person standing alone at a party, go introduce yourself and ask lots of questions. Usually, an introvert is just as pleased to talk about themselves and give their opinions as the next person, they just need a little help. Also be understanding if they just want to stay home and read a book rather than go to that concert or other outing with a bunch of friends. Most of us introverts are more one on one or small group types of people. 

2. To remind you.

God created you. He meant for you to be just exactly who you are. I have found that being an introvert often pushes me towards God as i struggle to find my place in a very social world. It has also helped me to be more in tune to His voice when I have alone time. No matter if you are an introvert, an extrovert or somewhere in between, God made you exactly as He wants you to be. I can praise the Creator because:

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.
— Psalm 139:14 (NASB)

 

3. To encourage you.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)

We all have our struggles, but with Christ we are able to do anything. Christ has been my strength when I don't want to go to that social gathering, or start that conversation with my fellow employee, or network with those people at the coffee shop, or put myself out there, when I really would rather find a warm hole to crawl into. He is always there, ready and willing, to help me step out and up.

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.