Bethany's BlogWords of Encouragement

Deciding Faith

For the year 2020 i have a goal to read at least 50 books. I'm on my fourth book now. I like a lot of different types of books, and I enjoy talking about them. Most of the time, I like the books I read, other times, not so much. I want to tell you about a book I read last week; it is based on a true story, and even though I finished it, I can't say I really liked it.  If You Tell is the true story of a woman that abused her three daughters, killed her neqhew, and killed two friends. Her crimes lasted for years, until finally her daughter told. Not only were the methods of abuse highly disturbing, but the manipulation this mother used on her children and on others, kept them quiet for over 18 years! The girls went to school everyday, they interacted with friends, teachers, relatives, yet still they did not tell. They felt the need to protect their mother instead. When the entire story is laid out in a book; it's astonishing. The level of shame inflicted on their lives was it's own form of torture. This woman did go to prison, surprisingly her sentence was only for 17 years, which means she will be released in just a couple of years.

Now that the book is finished, I've had questions. What if the girls had told sooner?  They were afraid that no one would believe them, or they would bring more damage upon themselves. Whatever the case, they couldn't do it. But, still I wonder how their lives would've been different had they told. 

Then, yesterday as I was reading in Acts17 in the Message, this one phrase stood out to me: "He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near."  I thought of this family, the girls growing up, the mother.  I had to ask, "What was God doing?"

As I've said before, the fact that I get to ask God this question is something I love about Him. He allows me to process, think, and question. He doesn't always give the answer to me, but He does listen to me. I did come to somewhat of a conclusion. All the pain the girls endured changed them forever, but it didn't break them. They grew up, went to school, got jobs, had families. They treated their children with love and respect. They learned that truth sets us free. Free from shame, secrets, and fear.  Still, I'm battling with the "why" and I suppose I always will in some form. There is evil, and that evil makes a stain on our lives. But, still....it feels like God was hiding from them. It feels like He was remote. It feels like He just turned a blind eye.

And so there we sit with the decision, again. Faith. Throughout all of scripture God tells me that He is near. He tells me that He loves all of us, that He will not leave us. I've wrestled with those realities in my own life many times. When I wrestle with these realities for others, I again am challenged with faith. For me, I keep praying that God will bring supernatural intervention in not only the lives of these now grown girls, but a flood of love, hope, and peace. I want them to be able to pass on the reward of truth telling to those around them, and live much better lives. I want their story to strengthen my faith in Who God is. The God of intervention, break through, and new beginnings. I want their story to catapult others into bravery, courage, and strength. I choose to believe that God's hand is in it all. The preservation of hearts is His business, the release of truth in each of us stamps out the shame of evil and pain. The sustaining power of joy in all circumstances yields fruit.  This is the answer for me today. 

What are you wrestling with today? 

 

 

Finding Beauty

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I went to a luncheon where a couple women spoke about their lives and our identity. One woman shared how her willingness to speak about the molestation she experienced as a child brought healing between her and her family, The other woman shared the deep trauma they went through when their son was incarcerated for several years, and how God has sustained them. I saw both of these women as brave, for it can be very difficult to share one's story in such a way that shows the beauty. I'm learning more with each passing year that this is who God is, He is the beauty in every story. When we are open to hearing the beauty, or even believing that it does exist, we are then able to move forward.  Maybe that is the essence of real faith? So many times there can be helplessness, despair, destruction, pain. When we are in the depths of all that stuff, what does faith look like?  Is it a tiny little glimpse of beauty somewhere on our timeline? Or, if I cannot see the glimpse, is faith hoping that there will be one?

Noah had faith that God would float the boat, He would get them through to a washed world, life would go on.

Abraham had faith that he would be a father to nations, he believed it so strongly he was willing to sacrifice the only son he had. 

Joshua had faith to do exactly what he heard God say and then watched the walls that kept them out fall down.

Every single one of them found beauty!

I wrestle with this still. 

Where's the beauty in great loss? How do we walk through it and still believe that the Hand of God is upon us? You know, stuff like the loss of a child, the loss of a dream, the loss of relationship....It goes on and everybody has to walk through.  Noah had to walk through years of mocking, hard work, discouragement to find the beauty in being saved. Abraham walked through the pages of surrender and obedience before he even saw a son.

Joshua marched and marched before he saw victory.

Where is the beauty in your story? The women I referred to earlier that told of her son being incarcerated. It would be difficult to find the beauty in that experience. She's still waiting. To me, that is the beauty, she is waiting with the hope that God will show her beauty.

I've asked God many times to show me the beauty on my timeline. Sometimes, I just can't see it, others times my eyes look in great wonder at how God stepped into my despair and poured hope over me. God prepared a path of beauty for me to follow while I questioned, cried, and despaired over the pain. He gave and still gives hope.

Whatever you may experiencing today ask God "Where is the beauty? "

The Bars

 

 

 

 

 

A few years ago a young woman was sexually assaulted on the Stanford campus. She was unconscious at the time of her assault. Two men on their bikes were riding by and noticed that something unusual was happening, they dropped their bikes and ran to her, stopping the assailant. She was rushed to the hospital and did not wake up until the next morning. Her life, of course, was never the same. She couldn't remember what happened that night, but her body had the physical evidence that someone had used her body without her consent.  This young woman has written a memoir about her experience. She was catapulted into a completly different life, one of lawyers, investigators, recovery, and courtrooms. She was taken to the brink of her identity, and she had to choose to overcome! She was given an anonymous name for her own protection, and now that she has released her memoir, she has also released her true name. Chanel Miller.

Chanel has become an advocate for women. Through her experience she quickly came to understand that women are not treated with the respect that God intended for them. When women experience abuse they are often blamed for the crime that happened to them. Careless words are thrown at them, lies that become internalized and challenge the core of who they were created to be. Questions of blame swirl around them such as "Why didn't you run?" "Were you drinking?" "What were you wearing?" This was her experience.

Now, years later, the man that assaulted her served 90 days in jail, and is now free. Yet, she has served years within the prison of her mind.

Her process, the long journey back to herself, reminded me of all of us. His crime also reminded me of the incredible forgiveness each of us have been offered and given. Many people were outraged that this man only served 90 days for a crime that was violent, invasive, and wrong. How could this be fair?

As I've considered this God continues to remind me of His Gift. In my own life I've struggled with the actions of others towards me, and also my own actions towards them. Why didn't I walk away? What was I thinking? How could my trust have been so betrayed? Who am I? 

Walking through the pages of our lives isn't always easy. It requires some difficult turns and choices. Sometimes it demands a fight, other times complete surrender. Acceptance of where we are pokes at our existance, and others times acceptance is not an option. Truth can hang out just around the corner as lies wedge themselves deep within us. Nothing is easy! Yet, we still get to choose the direction of our hearts and minds. This has been my fountain of refreshment.

As children of God there is a blanket of forgiveness that covers us. The blood of Jesus, bright and crimson, wrote "Forgiven" on His elect. "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." Romans 8:33-34. Wow! this is hope.  

Not everyone chooses to be God's elect, but when they do, this also applies to them. Not everyone knows of the gift offered to them. I haven't always known. I haven't always believed that He created me as strong, worthy, loved, chosen. His royal child, forgiven.   Many are walking around without this information, living lies that fold into crime, pain, death. We choose to serve a sentence, rather then reach out for freedom.

The prison we live in inside our minds is far more confining than any real place. The punishing words we tell ourselves, the lack of belief in the blood of freedom, the diminshed hope of eternal life. We sometimes treat ourselves like a crimanal, locking ourselves away for years. Then, when we are released we feel the punishment was not long enough, failing to see that what Jesus did opened the prison door from the beginning, we just chose not to walk out. Believe me, I've sat inside the door, refusing to live in freedom.

It feels like this post is rambly, and maybe not even getting my point fully across. But, I leave you with the question, are you living within the bars of your own mind? Does guilt, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, lies, etc hold you in there? What choice can you make today to begin your walk towards freedom?

 

 

 

Goodbye Sugar!

 

 

So we fasted and prayed about these concerns. And he listened.

Ezra 8:23 (MSG)

So, I've said goodbye to sugar, for a time. It's my sugar fast. My church is doing a 21 day fasting challenge, so that worked out well for me, even though I started my sugar fast before I knew about the 21 day challenge. Still, it feels like I'm participating in a community challenge. I didn't have any big spiritual reasons for dropping sugar out of my daily life, really, I just wanted to feel better. I've had two colds in the last few months which is more than I've had in the last three years. Maybe the sugar has no bearing on those colds, but just in case, I have decided to give it a try.

Now that i'm over two weeks in, I've started to ask God what He would like me to look at or meditate on during this goodbye sugar season. How can I go deeper with Him? Has sugar given me brain fog? Don't misinterpret, please. I've never been a big sugar person, so my goodbye sugar fast isn't much of a hardship. But, you know, every now and then i like a good scoop of ice cream. As I've prayed about it the word that comes to mind is surrender. Hmmm, there must be a connection. I haven't just given sugar a break, but I've been monitaring my eating habits, mindful eating as some would say.  I've given up scarfing my food down because i'm out of time, or just grabbing some chips as I sway out the door.  No more, I say! No more! With all this surrendering going on within me, I have realized that God truely is more prevalent in some ways. I'm forcing myself to think about ways God wants my surrender that goes beyond eating. 

Earlier in the year I asked God if He had a specific word for me to think upon for 2020. Two words came to mind. Stand and Purpose. So, as I've been mulling these words over and over in my mind, my thoughts have also come back to surrender. Sometimes, I'll respond with something simple like, "I surrendered sugar!" but what I believe God is trying to communicate to me is the need to surrender my stand and my purpose. Goodbye sugar is just a side kick. I believe it's a good side kick, but not the message He is trying to get across.

Stand. I've been known to take a stand on a lot of different things, so if I were to surrender that stand, what would change? I mean, I want to take a stand for Jesus, but is He asking me to stand differently? And, when I surrender my stand, will that change the purpose I believe He has for me? Will it bring Him into an even sharper focus? Or, maybe it will bring me into sharper focus through Him? I believe yes. 

These are some of the thoughts that have popped in and out over the last few weeks, and now today I am seeing that it is not MY stand that matters. It is not even the quest for purpose that fulfills me. It is surrender. Wherever surrender takes me it will bring me deeper into the purpose He has designed for me, and in that purpose I will stand for Who Jesus is.  The book I'm working on filters in and out of these thoughts, and the closer I get to an edited manuscript, the more I realize that I am in the process of surrender. This book leads me to a stand of following Him and surrendering my fears of exposer. It forces me to take a stand for the truth of my life story, and it reveals to me that God has always had a purpose for me.  So, as I say goodbye to sugar, I am also saying goodbye to control. I am saying that my life can run to deeper roots as i stand in His life and His promises for me. Each day as i believe in a healthier lifestyle without sugar, I too will believe in a deeper stand in the purposes of God.

What does surrender mean to you? In what ways is God calling you to say goodbye?

 

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