Peace in Uncertainty

One phrase, spoken by my husband, tossed my world upside down.

I was a young mom who spent my days caring for our daughter and managing our home while my husband went to work. Were our roles to reverse, there was no way I could ever earn enough to support us.

In other words, my daughter and I were completely dependent on my husband.

Or so I thought.

It took a major shift for me to realize, Who was really holding us, and to rest in Him.

But back then, all I could see was what lay before me. My husband’s income came a certain way. We paid our bills, and everything went according to plan.

Until he shook things up.

One evening, Steve came home late and tired. Between his long commute, crazy hours, and ever-increasing stress, he lived perpetually exhausted. “I’m quitting my job,” he said.

I stared at him. “Where will you work?”

“I don’t know. Home Depot?”

Before I could ask the frantic questions pinging through my brain, he said, “And we’re moving.”

By this time, I started to wonder if he’d lost his mind. I feared my hard working, persevering, provider husband was crumbling.

I probably would’ve started crying or screaming if I hadn’t been so stunned. Or perhaps God held my tongue because, well, He knew what lay ahead.

All I could see was the crisis in front of me.

Over the next few weeks, God and I had some highly-emotional conversations, most of which involved me begging Him to intervene.

Fast forward a few months; we prepared to put our home on the market. By now, my husband had begun to talk with career headhunters, so I had a little hope. But we were. Selling. Our. House. With nowhere to go. And Steve was determined to quit his job.

One afternoon, I was outside working in our yard, praying, when I sensed God saying to me, “Submit.”

Ouch. Um, did I hear you God? Because I’m pretty sure my husband’s lost it.

“Submit.”

God must’ve done something mighty powerful in me that day, because I did. And two months later, we packed up our van, handed our house keys to our realtor, and headed to Louisiana, where we thought and hoped a job was waiting.

Steve got the call that afternoon. The job was his. Our house sold the very next day, for full asking price. And because I surrendered to God, even when everything I saw told me to do otherwise, my husband and I grew closer.

God had a plan all along—a solution we couldn’t see. And He wanted me to trust not in my husband or his job, but instead, in Him.

I remember this time whenever I think of the Israelites as they were fleeing Egypt. Trapped by soldiers on one side and the sea on the other, they thought they were doomed. But “[God’s] road led through the sea, [His] pathway through the mighty waters—a pathway no one knew was there” (Ps. 77:19 NLT).

When I face a crisis, I can get so stuck in how I think things should go, but God’s aid can, and often does, come unexpectedly. His method of providing may change, but His character as the Provider never will. He’s calling each of us to trust in Him, not our job, or our spouse, or our savings account or friends.

What are you facing right now? How might focusing on who God is, the promises He’s made in Scripture, and His never-failing love for you bring you peace as you weather life’s uncertainties?

Weedy Thoughts

Thoughts can be fruitful like flowers or destructive like weeds; it all depends on what you allow to grow.

Spring is here and each day it seems I receive a new seed catalogue in my mail. Oh the possibilities! Pictures of the luscious fruit and hardy vegetables are almost too much for my husband. Every year he plans on planting less than the one before, but ends up planting as much, if not more.

I’m no better when it comes to flowers. My husband tills up areas for me, and I buy enough seeds for a whole meadow. I can’t help myself!  

A few years ago my husband prepared a fresh spot in our pasture for my garden. I knew it was going to be work to keep the grass and weeds out since it had never been used for a garden before, but I was excited to have such a large spot.

I decided I would plant wide swatches instead of taking time to measure out and make straight lines. It was a fabulous year weather-wise, and my buds quickly grew to fill up this space. I worked diligently at keeping it clean to give my plants a chance to grow.

I was quite proud of how spotless I kept my flower garden…until my husband and I went on a week-long vacation.  

A week without tending my beautiful garden.

By the time we returned, the garden was overgrown with weeds. They had actually surpassed my flowers in this short period of time. And because the plants were still growing, pulling the weeds could’ve meant taking out some of the blooms. Since I’d planted such a wide area instead of rows, I was going to be doing a lot of bending and reaching to clean it out.

It took me twice as long to get those errant sprouts out of my garden since they’d been allowed to grow freely. It would’ve been better to take a few minutes each day to be sure they didn’t take root at all.

I was not thinking happy thoughts as I pulled every single one of those weeds.

And that reminded me of how negative thoughts and sinful ideas can overcome my mind. They start out small, like someone pulling out in front of me, almost causing an accident. These thoughts grow until I am in a bad mood at home and snap at my family. It’s not long before negativity springs up across the garden of my mind and chokes out the fruitful thoughts.

2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV says we are to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  Although Paul spoke specifically about arguments that kept people from knowing God, I think we can also use this for any thoughts that are not from God.

When allowed to grow in our minds, these thoughts take root and often times grow faster than the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy things from Philippians 4:8 that we are told to think on. Then we have to spend double the time getting those weedy thoughts yanked out by their roots.

I’ve learned to plant in areas small enough to handle the creepers that inevitably try to take over. I have also learned to take my thoughts captive before they begin to overtake my mind.

Does anyone else have issues with weedy thoughts? What are some ways you’ve tried to rein your thoughts and center them on truth?

Some of our most destructive weedy thoughts have to do with those things we tell ourselves. God says we're cherished, deeply loved, created to be glorious masterpieces that shine for Him, and yet, so often, when we think about ourselves, we feed those nasty inner lies that hold us back and keep us in bondage. Lies like "I'm not good enough," or "I'm a failure" or "I'm lovable." 

It's time we rejected faulty, self-defeating thinking and centered our thoughts on truth! We want to help you do just that! Join us for our next Wholly Loved conference where you'll gain the tools to rest in who you are in Christ: wholly loved, wholly purposed, and wholly and intentionally unique. 

Find out more HERE or email us at contact@whollyloved.com to book us for your next women's event. 

This Jesus Freed Me

This Jesus Freed Me

by Jessica Rose Thorberg

"Free at last, Free at last,
Thank God almighty we are free at last." ( Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)
Free to dream, free to dare,
Free to love, free to share,
Free- no bars,

Free- no chains,
Freed by my King’s

All loving, most forgiving, supreme reign.
Free- Restored,

Free- Adored,
Undying, unbroken life chord.
It’s Jesus,

 who gave his life to save,

To reach down,

And reach in,

And rescue my life from the grave.

Jessica Thorberg is a seeker of the heart of Jesus. She loves to explore his word, especially the Psalms, Prophets, and Gospels. She and her husband, Kyle, have three God-given leaders- all boys, who are learning how every facet of life can be lived for their creator and Lord. She seeks to bring glory to God through her camera lens, the fine arts, writing, and communicating the word of God with her favorite Bible study ladies at West Hills Church and the Metro Women’s Faith Network.

Two of her current projects include a storytelling piece to take a stand against human trafficking, and the completion of a large mural for a center that serves individuals with disabilities. Jessica has worked as a group facilitator for people with mental illness, which helped prepare her to serve people in a variety of life struggles. She sees the amazing gifts that God has bestowed in others, listens for his leading in her life, and anticipates how God will move in our communities to his glory. If you want to see more of her work, visit her portfolio at Eliah Storybooks & Art

***

Happy Easter from all of us at Wholly Loved! May  you reflect on and rest in God's deep and unchanging love for you, and may He teach you how to, daily, live in the freedom He offers. 

When Our Role Shifts

When we place our value and fulfillment on what we do, we’re only one life-change from heartache and confusion. Today’s guest shares how God used a major change in roles to center her in something much more enduring. And fulfilling. For all those facing a time of transition, may Eileen’s story bring you peace and encouragement.

When Our Role Shifts: Could the Best Be Yet to Come?

By Eileen Rife

(Edited and Revised by the Wholly Loved Editorial Team)

Could the best be yet to come?

I didn’t think so eleven years ago when I entered the empty nest. My active mothering had ended. On top of that, my mother died.

These events threw me. I pondered my twenty-five year journey of training my children to be God-honoring, well-balanced, responsible adults, and realized in some ways I was still a child myself. With my mother gone and my father close behind her, I felt a free fall into maturity I didn’t fully want to take.

I was it—the next generation carrying the baton and pass it off.

The message God kept bringing to my mind: Enjoy Me. In this new season of life, enjoy Me! The best is yet to come. But in my written plans (yes, I charted out goals) to enjoy Him, I struggled to wrap up in His love.

Reviewing journal entries from that time, I retrieved a letter my husband, Chuck, wrote to me. He expressed his joy at the gift God had given him in me. He wrote: “We’re on the ride of our lives, and I’m excited! I know the best is still ahead!”

Back then, I didn’t share his enthusiasm. I entered the second half of life drained and vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. After two weddings, two graduations, caring for aging parents, losing my mother, turning 50, and entering menopause, I needed good old-fashioned rest. Instead, my typical reaction to grief kicked in—get busy! That hindered me from God’s admonition: Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10a NIV).   

I wanted to enjoy God, Chuck, and my new life. But most of my planned “enjoyment” required work! I needed to give myself permission to rest in order to regain my emotional equilibrium. For me that means reading a good book, sleeping in, taking long prayer walks, or visiting with a friend over coffee.

I realize now that the passage to the empty nest requires celebration. While I helped my children celebrate their milestones, I forgot to plan a party for me!

During this transition, I focused too much on the deficits and not the pluses like my three sons-in-law, eight grandchildren, developing my talents and ministry potential, and dancing with my hubby.

More than that, no matter what season I found myself in, I would always have my Savior. When we make the journey with Him, the best is always yet to come.

***

Eileen Rife, author of Second Chance, enjoys dancing with her hubby through the second half of life. www.eileenrife.com, www.eileen-rife.blogspot.com.   

God has a plan and purpose for us at each stage in our lives. Our value is immutable, and our purpose is not dependent on our ever-shifting roles. To find out more and how to rest in the incredible freedom and peace of knowing who and Whose you are, join us for our next Wholly Loved Conference (c). Visit our Event Page to find out more.

Second Chance:

Mave wants the life back in her marriage. Dareece just wants a life. Could they be the answer to each other's dream? Mave Robertson, a recent empty nester, wants the fire back in her marriage, but her husband, Jerry, remains aloof. Is he having an affair? A midlife crisis? When a neighbor suggests she 'get a life' Mave accepts the challenge and volunteers at an inner-city teen ministry where she is thrown into a culture of drugs, gangs, and unwed teen moms. She soon discovers someone she can help, but might he also be the cure for both her stale marriage and her crumbling relationship with her father? Dareece Jackson, a teen from the projects, wants something in Mave's purse...and he'll stop at nothing to get it.

Buy it HERE. 

Be Joyful Always

By Chaka Heinze

When fastened securely to emotions and the ups and downs of life, joy is at best a dim reflection of the life-giving force God means for it to be. We’ll never experience the freedom of true joy so long as it’s anchored to our ever-shifting circumstances and emotions.

There are days that I feel helpless. Shackled to a brain that refuses to function correctly. Interacting with other people and my environment is at best difficult and at worst painful.  Days when the act of living is truly an act of faith.

And then there are mornings when I open my eyes and no unseen force is acting against my body making it difficult to get out of bed. I can brush my teeth without talking myself through it. My thinking clears and my mind feels sharp, alert. At these times, I feel I’ve arrived at that destination called normal. Unfortunately, I often wear a different set of shackles. I sit in a holding pattern, not trusting that the good feeling will last. Afraid to breathe, I wait for the other shoe to drop.

Already anticipating the future struggles, I’m frozen by fear. And joy seems an elusive victory.

Some of you are familiar with the place I’m writing about. Perhaps you can even picture yourself there carefully balancing a shoe. You understand the challenge of processing life, accomplishing ordinary, everyday tasks through a brain fogged with depression, grief, or the hardships of life.

You too have moments when the fog clears, but you take tentative steps forward, because you don’t know if you’ll have the strength to pick yourself up after another disappointment. In fear and self-protectiveness, you freeze, lest you lose your grip on that shoe.

The truth is the other shoe will drop sometime. The hard will come again. Such is the nature of life. As long as we journey through this side of Heaven, life will seesaw up and down. There’s just no getting around that fact. But, as I remained waiting for some unexpected circumstance to rattle my susceptible psyche, I also remained outside of the will of God.

"Rejoice always, Pray continually, Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV).

As surely as Thessalonians applies in the midst of our struggles, it applies when we’re in a place of peace and hope.

I always thought I was being sensible when I told myself, “It won't last, so don't get too comfortable here."  In doing so, I missed the point that true joy is never tied to my circumstances; it’s found in trusting God in all life’s twists and turns. And God’s will is for me is to be joyful, thankful, prayerful.

Joy is not found only in the absence of troubled times. In Christ, the victory of joy is not claimed only when the suffering has passed.

Victory in hardship is found every time we remember to thank God for the things he’s doing behind the scenes that we just can’t see. It’s found every time we choose to rejoice in who God is instead of mourning that we aren’t enough, it’s found every moment we choose to trust and obey God rather than rely on our feelings.

And on the good days, in the moments of rest, the days when living comes easier, we must throw off the shackles of fear and claim that same victory. That same joy.

It’s time to stop waiting on that shoe, focusing on the next impending doom. It’s time to start living in the freedom of God’s ever-present joy. In every moment. In every circumstance. God gives us the power to choose faith over fear, joy over hopelessness, freedom over chains.

Join us for one of our upcoming conferences to learn how to rest in God’s deep love, embracing joy, and living authentically as you were created. Because when we live wholly loved, everything changes!

Visit our Events page to find out more, or email us at whollyloved.com to book us for your next women's event. 

Have Faith Like A Child

By Brooke Williams, Wholly Loved Blogger, Editor, and Social Media Assistant

Matthew 18:3 “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Really? Hey God, have you met my children?! Do you remember when my oldest threw a white board across the room because she was one letter off on her spelling quiz? Is that what I’m to be like? Oh, and what about when my three-year-old crossed her arms, narrowed her eyes, and then slammed a door in my face because I refused to give her a cookie. I guess I get the point. Act like that, right?

Children can be so frustrating. Anyone who has them knows exactly what I mean! I used to think I was the most patient person in the world…and then I had kids. In the world of radio, where I used to work full time, I dealt with irate sales people with a shrug. I handled last minute deadlines with a smile. And I smoothed over conflicts between others with a joke.

But with kids? It’s all different. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep. Maybe it’s the constant demands and little to no thanks. Maybe it’s the fact that there are no breaks. Ever. Patience grows thinner by the day!

So Matthew 18:3 is hard to understand at times. Be like a child? You mean whine every time I don’t get my way? Or do you mean demand more, cry more, and complain more?

After a particular trying day in our household where all I wanted to do was get the kids to bed and collapse onto the couch, my oldest, who was 5 at the time, turned it all around for me.

“Sometimes I get scared at night,” she said. I, being exhausted and ready for an end to the day, probably said something like, “Mm hm.”

“When I hear thunder or I get scared,” she went on, “I ask God to wrap His arms around me. And then I can feel Him hugging me and I know I’m safe.”

Jaw drops. Tears roll. Time stops.

And that is why we are to be like children. Because only a child would think of something so profoundly simple. When was the last time I was scared and relied solely on God to wrap His arms around me and get me to the other side of a crisis? My five-year-old got it.

So while God doesn’t necessarily want us to whine and cry like children (even though we do plenty of that if we’re honest, right?), He does want us to open our hearts like a child. Sometimes it’s hard to believe what we can’t see. I struggle with that, I’ll admit. But a child? Never! A child embraces the unknown, imagines what they cannot see, and asks God to hug them when they’re scared. And what do they get in return?

They feel Him. His presence. His Grace. His mercy. They get it all. Everything we’ve ever wanted.

I took a page from my daughter’s book the night she told me God was hugging her. When I laid down to go to sleep, I remembered to tell God about my day, including all the struggles I had with my daughters and the everyday life of being a busy mom. I asked for Him to wrap His arms around me then, and any time He noticed that I was feeling frazzled because I don’t always think to stop and ask. And you know what? I could feel Him. Just like my daughter said.

Sometimes it takes the words of a child to put a stop to our adult ways. But if we take the time to act more like a child, see life for its beauty and appreciate God for who He is, then and only then will we have access to something truly wonderful.

Find out more about Brooke HERE, and check out her books HERE. 

Grow Up

By Julie Opperman

       The goal is to grow, to mature, but sometimes we only think we’re mature. In reality, we miss out on the blessings of just simply being obedient. Childlike faith and “obedience will not always be easy, but it will always be worth it. Obedience to God always brings reward”. (Priscilla Shirer, He speaks to Me, p.11)

       We started a new Bible Study recently by Priscilla Shirer.  It’s one of her earlier studies and as the first video played, I felt a little let down. It seemed too simple, not “deep” enough for the ladies who meet weekly. I started my first day of homework a few days late, because I didn’t feel eager to jump in.  The first lesson was about obedience.  “Yes, yes everyone knows that, the obedience of a child.”

       Just an hour after I read how obedience doesn’t always come easily, I went to the movie with some friends. I hadn’t had a girl’s night out in a very long time. I was excited when they passed out our tickets to see that I would get to sit next to my friend and neighbor.

As we made our way to our seats, I noticed a couple sitting and talking. The gentleman got up from his seat and walked to the back of the theater. Our group filled that entire row except for one seat. The seat the gentleman had left was not his seat at all … it was mine.

“Excuse me, Ma’am, was that your husband?” I asked, but I already knew the answer.

       Here it was, my moment to be obedient.  My husband and I have the privilege of leading our marriage ministry team at our church. We teach classes on marriage and talk about the importance of spending time with your spouse.

Did I believe what we taught?

I walked past my friends and followed the gentleman to the back of the theater.

      “Excuse me, Sir, would you trade seats with me so you can sit with your wife?” I asked.

      “Are you sure?”

Was I? I came to be with my friends, but the words of the study came to mind, “Obedience can require sacrifice.”

 “Yes, it’s more important for you to spend time with your wife than it is for me to sit with friends.”

That was it; we switched seats. There wasn’t any grand fanfare. It was a small gesture, but I knew it was a decision to be obedient in that moment.

       Four days later my family was on our way to volunteer at a school event.  We drove through Starbuck’s and ordered three drinks. When we got to the window I heard the manager say, “Give them their card back, this is on me.”

My husband thanked him and said it wasn’t necessary. Then the manager leaned down and looked directly at me as I sat in the passenger seat and said, “I saw what you did at the movies.”

      “What did you say?” I asked dumbfounded. He repeated it, “I saw you.” We thanked him and drove away.

I was almost in tears. I never saw anyone else in that moment at the theater, just the gentleman and his wife. I couldn’t tell you where anyone else was, how he saw me, or why something that seemed so insignificant had caught his attention. The free drinks were great, but the real treat that morning was in knowing that it wasn’t just the manager who saw me, God saw me.

       I’m excited to see how God is going to use the simple things in my life to dumbfound me. May I never feel too mature or too grown up to have the faith and obedience of a child.

Devoted wife, mother, Christian Leader and Teacher, Julie serves as a Lay Marriage Minister at LifeSpring Church in Bellevue, Nebraska, has a BS in Elementary Education with a Specialization in Early Childhood Development, a former public school teacher and homeschool educator, an Active Duty Army spouse for 20 year and recipient of; The Honorable Order of Ann Morrow Lindbergh, The Honorable Order of Our Lady of Loreto, Presidential Service Awards Gold, Silver, and Bronze, and three Commander’s Awards.

The Power of Thanksgiving

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~Melody Beattie

It was one of those phone calls that makes your stomach literally drop, stirring up a nausea that won’t abate until you learn, will this person you love live or die. And then came the word no one wants to hear—cancer.

It felt like a cruel twist—A year ago in November, while millions prepared for a holiday designed to celebrate gratitude, my mother-in-law learned she’d be facing an intense battle for life. One that resulted in two-hour car rides to Houston, overnights, followed by long days at MD Anderson, a cancer treatment facility so large, one feels as if they’re training for a marathon getting from one end to the other. And all this while fatigue-inducing medicine pumped through her veins.

It would have been easy, and perhaps even expected, and certainly justified, for my mother-in-law to slip into despair. To camp out on the question that has plagued so many, when life hurls a devastating blow: Why me?

And though I imagine that question arose throughout her diagnosis and treatment, she deliberately chose not to stay there.

She deliberately chose life, and by life, I mean much more than her fight against cancer. Through the incredible power of thankfulness, she chose to embrace every moment and blessing God sent her way.

When she felt tired, I heard, “I’m blessed to have such a supportive family.”

When in pain, I heard, “I’m blessed to have such caring doctors.”

When forced to make the long trek from one elevator into another, down one hall after another, she looked around, made eye contact, and offered a kind word to the other patients, many of whom looked as if they’d shriveled inside themselves, saying to me once they left, “I’m so grateful I am doing as well as I am.”

We tend to notice, with increased prominence, those things we focus on most. When we focus on the hard, it only gets harder, until it paralyzes us in darkness and despair. But when we focus—or fix our thoughts, as Philippians four puts it—on the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and those things that are excellent or worthy of praise, we experience a peace and underlying—fortifying!—joy that surpasses our circumstances.

I think often, we expect gratitude to come easily. When the sun is shining and our children are home and well, when we ourselves feel healthy and strong or are surrounded by blessings, praise often comes unbidden.

But what about when life hits us hard? It is then that we have a beautiful and precious opportunity to “Make thankfulness [our] sacrifice to God” (Ps. 50:14a).

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul tells us to “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ.”

For this is God’s will for us.

Perhaps, in part, because He knows the hope that comes from shifting our focus off of our struggles and onto the mercies He showers upon us each and every day. If you’re having a difficult time seeing those mercies, I encourage you to consider my mother-in-law’s story and consider how you might follow her example. Doing so likely won’t alleviate the struggle, but I guarantee it will increase your strength to fight it.