Walking in the Light

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17

I don’t know about anyone else, but for myself I’ve needed the reminder of that promising verse many times.

Because, frequently, Satan longs to infuse the negative over me—there are times when he holds me back mentally, taunting me with my past…times when he tries to drag me down and I allow him to. Moments where I focus more on the world’s ways rather than Christ’ truth. Days where I feel like all I see is a mess rather than a message—where I only hear the disappointment rather than encouragement.

It’s in those doubting episodes that I have to glean insight from God’s steadfast promises, holding onto the hope that I am absolutely not defined by my past; and as a believer I’m made new in Christ just like the above verse states.

When Satan deems the lie over me that I’m worthless, I want to turn to scripture and hold tight to the costly value of my worth to God. Isaiah 43:1b says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

The times when Satan whispers that I’m a disgrace, I want to hold on to God’s tender claim in Psalm 34:5, “Those who look to Him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed.”

The devil is out with a mission to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) He is the father of lies (John 8:44) and he wants us weak and hopeless.

If we’re walking with Christ or not, those are ALL truths that don’t discriminate; however I want to live and thrive from the positive words of God, not dwindle in the negative ones of Satan.

This world is filled with sin, no doubt the undesirable will come, whether it’s through emotions or physical ailments — but keeping God’s promising words of reassurance over our thoughts or feelings will help us to endure those hardships.

So how do we stay on track without hesitation or distraction?

…In order to keep our focus fixed toward the favorable we have to ground ourselves in God’s word — daily!!…so that we’re continually being fed and led by Him, spiritually speaking.

That doesn’t mean we need to exhaust ourselves reading chapters or pages upon pages of scripture — at times that can begin to feel overwhelming. It simply means that if we can make time to study even just one verse a day that tugs and speaks to our heart, then that alone is enough to make a difference. When we do this, the impact is so powerful that it gives us a desire to keep moving closer to God. It leaves us wanting more and more of Him and His word…Yes the heated moments still come, but suddenly we find that we’re now equipped with God’s words of truth to counteract Satan’s attempt.

Living our lives out of His light truly means we’re out of the darkness of any of our past. It’s Satan that craves to cast the shadow of doubt upon us, but it’s Christ alone who boldly overpowers by His light.

Ephesians 4:22-24 says, “You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

May we hang on to every word of His truth, and allow Christ to work in and through us — allowing Him to give hope to our thoughts, and trusting that He desires to have us walk in the brilliance of our new lives, directed straight toward Him. Our lives in Christ have the power to pour light to others and unerringly God is right in the spotlight of glorification when that happens!

Applicable Scripture:

Ephesians 5:8-10 For you were once darkness, but now you are a light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consist in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

Matthew 4:16 The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Drive It Like You Own It

This isn’t the post I intended on writing this week…but when God prompts I’ve learned to respond so here we go…

I’ve been driving my husband’s ginormous truck for the past week now, my grocery getter is out of commission for the time being.

Before I get to the point of this post let me tell you a few of the issues I have with this truck: first off, Nate has it all jacked up, so for a mama who never quite made it to five foot it’s not really ideal. Secondly the other day when I subbed for P.E. class I had driven the truck to work and it just so happens there’s a sticker placed perfectly in the center of the back glass of an AR rifle. My husband is an avid hunter, sorry PETA….anyway when I pulled up to the school I thought about how this sticker may be offensive, therefore I was slightly paranoid for the next few hours that the school principal might show up in the gym and interrogate me, thankfully nothing ever came of it.

…Now this next part I’m dishing out for free, for your entertainment and pleasure…on Wednesday I stopped at the bank and decided it’d be best for me to run inside rather than attempt the drive-thru for fear of wiping out the building (or the truck). As I was getting ready to leave the lobby, our banker greeted me and casually asked, “Can I watch you get back into that truck?” ….ummm great grief, are you kidding me?!! Thanks for making it even more awkward lady!!…

The other thing is that I’ve been trying to be very respectful of my husband’s property by leaving the seat controls alone, the steering wheel set in the place where he keeps it, and also working on self-control by avoiding fidgeting with his stereo…

But all of that changed yesterday…when I took a turn a little too wide into the opposite lane causing the oncoming driver to swerve just a bit.😬

“That’s it Mc, I’ve had it, I’m gonna drive this thing like I own it!” I said out-loud to myself and my daughter who was sitting in the passenger’s seat.

And with that, I proceeded to move the seat forward (so I no longer have to sit on the edge of it while getting choked out by the seatbelt), the steering wheel came down (so I can somewhat see over the top of it now), the mirrors got a dramatic adjustment, and the auxiliary cord was quickly plugged in and we were blaring Lauren Daigle in no time!! ***By the way Nate, your speakers sound much better than the Jeep’s…😉

Drive it like I own it!….

Those words drove through my mind as I traveled down the highway and considered how true this needs to be of our faith.

If we’re gonna be real about our faith, we need to be all in….there’s no in between. It’s called sold-out-for-Jesus kind of faith. Radical faith, some call it. And when we witness it or choose it for ourselves it’s a beautiful thing.

Drive it like you own it!

It’s the idea that when you’re in a church service during worship time and you feel led to lift your hands while singing praises to the Lord, you do it joyfully and without reservation, not anxious about what those behind you may think. (Psalm 63:4)

When you’re on lunch break and you pray for the blessing of your food, you’re not fearful what your co-workers might say, you do it anyway and with genuine thankfulness. (Acts 27:35)

…Owning our faith means we’re choosing Bible verses to memorize because we see the important need to do so…we memorize them for the sake of how they speak to our soul and resonate within us, not because our Pastor has told us to — but simply because we know how much scripture impacts us for the benefit of His divine glory. (Psalm 119:11)

Our faith has to be our own. We aren’t saved under our parent’s faith, nor our spouse’s…not even because we believe in the words of a powerful devotion or sermon. Good deeds can’t pave our way to salvation either…We’re saved by the grace, mercy, and our belief in a loving Jesus who paid the ultimate price for our sins when He went to the cross and was resurrected for God’s purpose.

The world’s ways of the flesh show an incredible difference to the way of the radical Christian; therefore someone who doesn’t believe in Christ or sits on the fence of what they believe, won’t value or respect the importance of radical faith, but rather they may mock it.

Those who truly follow Christ, on the other hand, understand that faith will be tested, trials will always be a part of life this side of Heaven, and yet trust in God is the only option — we choose it obediently and without hinderance, it may not look perfect but it involves a conscious effort.

The more we dig deep into our faith, the more we “drive it like we own it!”

Christianity is fueled by faith in an amazing Jesus — and the best part is, it certainly doesn’t take a big, jacked-up truck to drive it like we own it!

Lauren Daigle (You Say):

A Solid Foundation

Last Saturday my husband and I ventured out to his great grandparent’s retired farmstead to cut firewood. Since I’m no Paul Bunyan I let Nate do the wood cutting and in the meantime I went and explored, (no worries I helped carry and load the wood later). This is probably my third time throughout the past ten years nosing around this particular property…but for me it never gets old. I feel like there’s always some new little nook or cranny just waiting to be stumbled upon or observed. And safety precautions….well out there you just have to enter at your own risk…

Seeing all the antiqued equipment and many dilapidated structures is proof enough that the work in those days was no doubt extensive yet the idea of it creates such a desirable nostalgic feeling deep within me.

As I light-footedly stepped throughout the worn out abandoned house I began thinking about how back in the eighties it was still being occupied.

Walking through each room I paid close to attention to the dingy furniture still perfectly placed in the rooms in which they belonged. Boxes filled with dusty magazines lined the walls and light from the sun pierced through openings in the roof and crumbled ceilings.

Once I made my way back outside I wandered through tall grasses and faltered over broken tree branches.

While crouching under cratered beams in the chicken coop and weathered barn I imagined the numerous chickens and calves that surely occupied the area at one point.

It’s crazy how quickly a house, building, property, etc can become so run down once neglected; it takes just a very short amount of time.

I’m reminded of how this can be so symbolic of the heart and soul as well. I’ve noticed that when I’m not making it a priority to attentively focus and get into God’s word daily then the healthy spiritual condition of myself starts to slip and I mentally begin falling to pieces, similar to the family’s old farmstead.

I love these practical verses below (from Proverbs 4) to help keep on track:

‘My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.

Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.’ -Proverbs 4:20-27

As I keep my mind focused on God I do better mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The same is true of anyone who refers to themselves as a Christian.

At the end of Luke 6 (I’ll paraphrase) Jesus says through a parable that those who hear His words and put them into practice are like a man building a house, who digs down deep and lays the foundation on a rock, and when the flood comes the house cannot be shaken by the torrent because it was well built. Verse 49 follows with this: “But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Goodness the imagery of those verses compared to venturing through a barren farmstead speaks boldly (and with warning) through sunken floors and cracked foundations…

As interesting as it is roaming the premises, it also serves as a stark encouragement that my faith can’t endure through negligence and never wants to be represented like a house built without a solid foundation.

Making time to get closer to Jesus helps me maintain a healthier me—and then my heart is truly grounded on a solid foundation that doesn’t settle on a chance of coming apart haphazardly. This type of committed growing-faith requires care and dedication from deep within in order to stand firmly against all odds.

Keeping the Christmas Spirit Going

It seems like once the New Year arrives people have often times moved beyond the Christmas spirit or season and are now fixated on new beginnings, keeping trendy resolutions, and sometimes creating outlandish goals for the upcoming year.

It’s almost as if the New Year pours in and Christmas is drowned out, right?

I’m seriously as guilty as they come with quickly moving on to my New Year resolutions.

In fact, a few weeks ago my husband commented that he wanted to start running to help get in shape. But then nothing came of it. Oddly enough some of our good friends contacted us the other day asking if we’d like to participate in a half marathon happening at the beginning of May. With the idea of motivation to spur us along in our new goal of running this year, we reluctantly committed…so now we’re signed up to compete in this half marathon that we’re absolutely (equally) unprepared for and clueless about.😂

In entertaining the process of training I honestly don’t want to get too hung up on this new adventure of ours. Yes I will train by coming up with a workout plan that fits my lifestyle, and I’ll watch my food intake and how my body reacts, etc. My overall strategy will be to focus on those physical elements rather than the mental-side of things. Because I know that if I concentrate on how crazy it seems (for me) to run thirteen miles on a Sunday morning in a few more months (when I’m currently out of shape), then that could seriously mess with my mindset — leading me to pre-self-elimination from the race, rather than a finish line destination.

OK so going back to that Christmas spirit thing…several times during the month of December I made it a point to read through Luke chapter 2 (Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth) and verse 20 caught my attention every single time. It says this: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Goodness I just love those words!! These shepherds had just witnessed the very first Christmas, firsthand, as they visited a Baby Jesus born in Bethlehem. We see by the words in verse 20 that afterwards the shepherds returned back to their regular business — but not unchanged!!! They were glorifying and praising God because of what they had experienced. The shepherds were, no doubt, sharing this unique adrenaline-rushing, exciting birth announcement with others.

What’s more, is that if we back up a few verses we know that the shepherds had had an encounter with angels before they went to see Baby Jesus. I’m going to paraphrase to shorten and explain the setting…while the shepherds saw Baby Jesus they spread the words of what they had been told by the angels; they shared with those around them that the angels had referred to Jesus as their “Savior” and “Messiah.” And then verse 18 says, “All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”

Don’t miss the beauty in these words…ALL who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Whew!! I gotta take a minute to soak that up. I love it.

We, as Christians, are given the same opportunity to share the Christmas spirit with others just like the shepherds chose to do, so long ago. All it takes is for us to be mindful of the Christmas story and be willing to pass that story on (regardless of the technical Christmas-calendar-date) …or even share with someone how Jesus is working in our lives. For the shepherds, spreading the word made a huge “Christmas spirit” impact, not only for them, but in the lives of those around them.

The thing is, making New Year’s resolutions, healthy changes, and fun goals are all fine…BUT we must remember how important it is to keep the Christmas spirit active and alive all year.

If I get too hung up on my goals then I get distracted or side-tracked and risk limiting the Christmas season to really just the month of December. I believe the purpose of the Christmas spirit isn’t meant to be set to just a particular season, but rather a powerful reason to make Christ known anytime of the year.

It’s a bold, true, and shareable story that can change lives if we’re willing to feel it in our hearts and live it out — even in the midst of New Year’s resolutions beckoning our attention.

Patience Required

I was introduced to someone this past year and as necessary have needed to maintain communication and a relationship (with this person) due to responsibility.

This relationship has absolutely tore me to pieces as we haven’t connected too well.

There have been times I feel like I’m walking on egg shells—not knowing if the next thing I say is going to offend or build positive character…wondering if my quirky demeanor was understood or rejected…if the quietness of this person is caused by something I’ve done or if it’s just a normal characteristic of theirs.

It’s interesting because I had plenty of time to prepare for our meeting one another. I can literally remember beforehand praying the words “God help us to show (said person) an amazing Jesus. Help us to not miss the opportunity for *** to see you through our family, for your glory…” and now here we are months in and goodness as my patience has been tested, stretched, and grown I’m the one experiencing Jesus in a whole new way. I’m praying with 100% reliance on God to work through me and in this.

In the past I’ve probably been guilty of praying yet doubting God’s capability or His timing, and not fully trusting God with my request…but this has been such an incredible game changer. Yes this experience has caused me more mental battles than I could’ve ever imagined possible, more tears of frustration, or worry of failure…BUT, with that, I’ve been challenged to press into God on a deeper level and hold onto His word as I study scripture to live out peaceful hope.

This morning as I was reading a devotion I came across Matthew 7; verses 1-5 say this, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, let me take the speck out of your eye, and all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite? First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Ouch…conviction time.

Although I have many times felt confused or irritated by this relationship, and have had to pray repeatedly for more grace, these verses grab my heart with conviction and remind me that God is in this and it’s not for me to judge or try to figure out all the details.

As I mentioned this deal has tore me to pieces but the beautiful thing is when something important to God gets torn up, purposeful rebuilding happens. I’ve seen it in my marriage, through people who have overcome addiction and given their life to Christ. There’s evidence all throughout the Bible—look at the hardships and later success of Joseph (Genesis 37-50), or the devotion of Daniel regardless of the adversity he faced (book of Daniel), and even the sins of David yet the remorse and heart for God he had (Psalm 51).

…all torn apart (emotionally) and nevertheless beautifully rebuilt.

There is definitely something for me to learn through this, especially in the area of patience. And recently, as time has passed, I’ve seen positive changes on both sides, surely God is at work…I can actually feel this relationship gradually twisting from acquaintance to friendship and God alone is to be glorified for answering prayer.

Sharing this post causes me to feel a little guilty…but I’ve noticed that when I put my thoughts to the blogging world I’m then held accountable on a different level and honestly that’s what I need right now.

Thanks for reading. Happy New Year if I don’t post again soon!!❤️

-Alicia

A Lasting Season of Joy

This past month, in my fourth and fifth grade Sunday school class, I’ve been working through a lesson on the topic of joy with the kids. They’ve shared about circumstances that seem unfair and yet they can pinpoint how joy can be found in that situation nevertheless.

For example when a friend breaks a promise, doesn’t keep their word, and let’s us down we can choose to find joy in the fact that God always keeps His promises. He’s the author of the Living Word. And He will never let us down; Psalm 54:4 reminds us that ‘God is our helper and the upholder of our lives.’ People are imperfect and fallible, but when we consider our relationships we can find joy in the truth that God is always trustworthy and capable with us.

Joy, simply put, is finding a way to be happy even when things don’t go your way. As a Christian that type of joy is found through our faith and relationship in Christ.

*Lindsey Van Stelton photography*

This time of year we see the word joy displayed on ornaments and Christmas decor, we hear it belting from department store speakers as we shop, or we sing it out during worship time in our churches. If Christmas were labeled with an emotion, joy would be of the top choices. It’s a word people often times associate with, or even accentuate on, during the Christmas season; however our soul can feel disconnected from the feeling of joy if our lives aren’t instep with God’s will — and honestly, the bottom line is that joy should surround our lives year-round.

Worldly desires and material possessions such as Christmas gifts provide us with temporary pleasure and can cause us to feel happy for a short amount of time. But maintaining a healthy relationship with Jesus each day brings about a lasting rush of inner calmness that settles over us with a blessing of pure certainty and peace and is ultimately defined as true JOY.

Months after the tree is down, joy is the only gift that shouldn’t have lost its luster; it’s the one gift that keeps on giving. The best part is we can take it anywhere and everywhere and when people question us about the joy we wear, not only across our faces, but the joy they notice within our hearts, we get the opportunity to open up and share the Christmas story and the gospel.

Beautiful right?

If joy feels absent, foreign, or far from your feelings dig into God’s word, study scripture on the topic of joy, and humbly ask God for a fresh start at a life filled with unending joy.

…and take it from my wise fourth and fifth grade Sunday school class, ‘just because you may be going through a hard time doesn’t mean joy has to elude you, God can use that trial to produce perseverance and maturity in Him and that is definitely something to celebrate joyfully about.’

Applicable verses:

Always be joyful because you belong to the Lord. I will say it again. Be joyful. -Philippians 4:4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -James 1:2-4

Quiet Time Necessity

Sometimes when I substitute teach, my job assignment stretches beyond the classroom.

Recently I ended up in the school’s lunchroom to supervise bubbly elementary students. An extended squirming hand raised high let’s the adults know when attention is needed—usually indicating milk cartons are being stubborn and extra help is needed in opening them, maybe a kiddo wants permission to pass on their veggies, or he or she is ready to dump their tray once they’ve finished eating.

While I helped a few weeks ago, a hand went up and I walked over.

A little girl, probably second grade, looked up at me with sad eyes and I knew we weren’t dealing with regular lunch issues. I knelt down beside her and asked what was wrong. With tears welled in the corners of her eyes she spoke through pouty lips, “I want to sit alone right now.”

“Well why? What’s going on?” I asked with concern.

The tiny voice responded, “I’m just sad, it’s too loud in here, and I want to be alone.”

“If you sit alone though, then you’ll be lonely.” I stated with matter of fact reasoning.

“But that’s what I want! I want to be lonely,” she persistently replied.

In my unprofessional opinion I’m not sure anyone chooses to want to be ‘lonely’…Determined to get down to the core problem I asked the light-pink shirted cutie if there was something causing her sadness and she revealed that her great grandpa had passed away and she was missing him. Together we decided she could stay seated where she was and didn’t need to visit with anyone around her, she could just sit quietly—reflecting on the good-time memories she had with him.

Seeing someone hurt is hard. I want to be able to fix the worry, the trouble, the pain—and bring it all to an end. But at times, a little alone time is honestly the best option. It’s there that we can take a deep breath, quietly sort thoughts, and recollect a positive mindset.

As a Christian I thoroughly look forward to my own “quiet time”. I’m addicted to it in a healthy sense and when I don’t get it I’m kind of a mess. Having quiet time (or me time) means I can spend time, not technically alone, but with Jesus—studying His word and embracing scripture that deals with my matters. It’s then that I find soul-quenching refreshment and the most beautiful thing about it is…I’m left satisfied. Every. Single. Time.

Jesus set the perfect example for us as He purposefully spent quiet time with the Lord in prayer and then reconnected with his followers shortly after, surely feeling a deep sense of fulfillment after doing so.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” -Matthew 26:36

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. -Mark 1:35

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. -Luke 5:16

When we follow Jesus’ footsteps and mimic his character (spending time before the Lord) we too can find ourselves feeling refreshed—replacing disappointment with contentment, and sorrow with gladness.

…Later that afternoon when I ended up back in the classroom, I heard some giggling coming from the hallway. Turning my attention toward the laughter I saw a once teary-eyed girl from the lunchroom now walking beside a friend…with a large grin spread across her sweet face.

This time when her hand went up she gave an excited, big wave and quickly I returned one—thankful to see her in such a delighted, cheerful spirit.

Sometimes just a bit of quiet time followed with a mixture of friendship and laughter can make all the difference in creating a positive outcome…but the best kind of “alone time” is no doubt when we invite God to be a part of it.