Chaos Doesn’t Win

Jenny Smith, GFC Lutz

A few months ago my son was really sick and no medications were providing relief. He had to undergo all sorts of tests and kept getting a fever, breaking out in hives and swelling, and remained sick. We had to change his diet, and still, he was sick.

In a season of no answers, I was grasping for control in any way I could. (Anyone else ever cleaned the house like a crazy person because you could control it? Yep, that’s been me). But, I didn’t have control and it was hard not to feel like I was drowning.

But then God reminded me how He is the calm in my storm and even though things may seem out of control, HE is in control and even the waves must submit to Him. The waves are under His rule and if they come against us He uses them to serve His purposes. He showed me that I get to be the calm in my son’s chaos to show him who God is and how He is calm in our chaos.

Chaos doesn’t win. God wins. Every time. Even when our circumstances don’t feel like it. When the waves raged as the disciples were in the boat, Jesus wasn’t confused. He wasn’t oblivious or apathetic to the surrounding storm. HE was CALM, He was in control, and He was there WITH them.

“He got up and ordered the wind to stop. He said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down. And it was completely calm.” Mark 4:39

So, what was I to do when He wasn’t ordering my waves to be still? What was I supposed to do when my son was so sick? I had the opportunity to be my son’s calm. I got to show him and my family a little glimpse of Jesus and how He brings us peace when things are hard.

I use these verses as a weapon whenever fear and anxiety try to creep in.

“God gave us his Spirit. And the Spirit doesn’t make us weak and fearful. Instead, the Spirit gives us power and love. He helps us control ourselves.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.” Psalms 89:9

Even when our circumstances are not changing, we can still have peace. Because chaos doesn’t win, Jesus does. How great is it that we can show our friends and family how Jesus is the calm in our storm. How great that we get the privilege of being His vessel to bring peace to those around us!

Don’t underestimate the power of being the calm in someone else’s storm. It may feel like you can’t do anything, you’re stuck, you don’t have answers or solutions. But, if you are calm in the chaos, you are showing Jesus and that is powerful.

 

Pruning

Pam Otto, GFC Lutz 

I opened the mail and found a “FRIENDLY REMINDER OF A VIOLATION NOTICE” from our neighborhood HOA. Yikes. It appeared our tree by the front sidewalk was overgrown and had ‘low lying branches that were not enhancing our community’. Whoops. I certainly am not a rule breaker and felt slightly embarrassed by the reprimand. So, I quickly got my hubby on board with the trimming task at hand.

Last weekend my husband grabbed the ladder, threw a handsaw on his shoulder, climbed the tree like a pro and began cutting the unwanted branches. My job was to stand at a distance and point out the areas that needed attention…(Ha! We are good at that, aren’t we?!)

One trimmed branch turned into two, three, four, five, etc. Once the pruning started, it was hard to stop saying “Just one more!” There were large branches, small ones, new growth, and old. After lots of cutting, sweat, and hard work, the once overgrown tree that violated our sidewalk was now trimmed, lean, spacious, and so much prettier.

This whole process reminded me of the random pruning that goes on in my life, and yours too.
John 15:2 says “He cuts every branch of mine that does not produce fruit. He also trims every branch that produces fruit to prepare it to produce even more.”

When pruning our tree, I read that regular trimming of branches keeps trees strong, creates a healthier structure, and reduces the need for future corrective pruning. Interesting…Isn’t this similar to what happens in our lives?

The regular trimming or pruning done by our loving Father is for our correction, for good fruit to be produced, and for a better harvest in the long run. Do you recall a time when you have been pruned? When God has cut or taken away something that you knew had to be removed? Maybe some bad habits or sinful patterns that needed to be cut away? I have a long list of unnecessary branches that have been cut off in certain seasons of my life, some of which include negativity, harsh words, selfishness, judgment, and enduring hardships with others in my life.

I’m so glad that God doesn’t leave us on our own but chooses to use every opportunity to shape us into the likeness of Jesus. One of my favorite verses is Philippians 1:6 which says, “I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
So, next time you notice an overgrown tree with low lying branches or feel like you are in a pruning season yourself, know that God has much purpose in it all and has a future harvest of good fruit in store for you!

It’s Happening FOR You

Alexis Patterson, GFC Lutz

“Why? Why now? Why this? Oh no Lord, not this way.” Circumstances in life can bring us to the place of saying these phrases. Under our breath, we whisper these phrases in a sigh of discomfort or writhe in dismay.  I recently came out of a season where I felt like this was a constant conversation between me and God. It just seemed like no matter what I did or even attempted to do, there was a huge and nearly impossible hurdle that I was going to have to get around. It was a mountain of opposition or a giant standing before me. I just couldn’t take any more of it. “God, the currents are too strong; I’m drowning Lord!” I would cry out. But, He seemed so silent, I would pray all throughout the day and night but He seemed so distant. Then, one day, something changed.

I remember vividly, the Holy Spirit showed me in a devotional that I don’t need to know WHY, I need to know WHO God is. Who is He? Who is He to me? My friends, that was the ultimate game changer. It shifted my perspective as I continued to persevere through the storms of life that once had me rattled.

My journey of suffering catapulted from just surviving to thriving. I was no longer hanging on by the shortest, thinnest string of thread. I began moving more confidently and a little lighter because I realized that my burden carrier was truly with me. So, let me answer the first question. Who Is God? To try and define that question would actually put limits around Him. But, I will tell you what the Bible says in Exodus when Moses asks who he should tell the people of Israel sent him to speak to them.

God tells Moses to tell the Israelites that “I AM” sent him (Exodus 3:13-14). The concept of that is so profoundly beautiful because it illustrates that God exists within Himself outside of space and time (yesterday, today and forever). He has covered all points of time while still being a very present God. He is a God of great authority and sovereignty. He will be what He will be.

To add to that, who is God to me? I had to sit and think about this question because I came to realize that I was missing the revelation of God in my life because I was so distracted by it’s circumstances. Everything derailed me because I lost focus of God, the great I AM. Once the Holy Spirit reminded me not to focus on the “why” but focus on the “who”, I saw God bigger than any mountain or giant. He revealed himself as my Strong Tower, my Refuge, my Shield, my Abba Father, my Healer, my Redeemer, my Friend, my Provider, my Source, my Strength, my Creator, and on and on. God became so vibrant in my life!

God’s sovereignty is woven so gracefully in one of my favorite verses, Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

God takes all things and works them out for us and for His glory. His purpose is His glory. My circumstances were no longer happening to me, they were happening for me. I believe God is omnibenevolent (a big word for a big God) meaning He is ALL GOOD, ALL THE TIME. God can’t compromise His good character, it’s absolutely impossible. With that fresh perspective, my view of my challenges changed. Mountains weren’t that impossible to move and giants weren’t too big to slay. If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of life, shout out to God that you know who He is! He is all of that and more. He’s working it out for you, because He loves you and you’re a part of His glory.

Keep Showing Up

Chrissy Mayer, GFC Temple Terrace

Hebrews 10:23;25

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching.”

Ya’ll! Why are relationships so hard? The truth is, the older you get the harder it gets.

Working with teens and young adults for nearly two decades, I’ve observed that the “best of” friendships developed in high school. You know, the ones where we wrote KIT (keep in touch) and BFFL (best friends for life) in the back of one another’s yearbook. Well, they were so much easier to come by simply because we were in regular proximity to those people. But once we graduated … What happened?! Some of us went to college. Some of us went to work. We moved away from that block. We grew busier and more separated – more independent.

One day, in my mid 20’s, I looked around and started to  wonder…

“Did I miss something? Am I boring?

Maybe I’m a bad friend?

What happened to all my friendships?

Why did meeting someone new, now, sometimes feel like an awkward first date? Where you were both trying to figure out if you would take things to the next level – haha – “Does she want to be my friend?”

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my life, but, man, it was missing something! I had grown stagnant in my relationship with God and I was lonely – craving real authentic connection – a place to show up and be accepted. Fully me. But encouraged to become the best version of myself.

So what did I do? I prayed. It felt weird and kind of sad but I prayed, “God please bring godly women in to my life. Women that I can encourage but that will be an encouragement to me as well. Women that are in similar seasons and women who also have the desire to love you and live on mission.”

I recently learned that 80% of the verses found in the New Testament using the phrase “one another” refer to supporting and affirming people. The phrase “one another” is derived from the Greek word allelon which means “one another, each other; mutually, reciprocally.” It occurs 100 times in the New Testament alone and approximately 59 of those occurrences are specific commands teaching us how (and how not) to relate to one another. There is no doubt – God never intended for us to do this life alone. The command to love “one another” is found second only to the Great Commandment which is to love God with our whole selves!

Jesus, Paul, James, Luke, all note the importance and the responsibility of caring for the broken, burdened, rejected, discouraged, sick, and hopeless. From the beginning, since the establishment of the earliest churches, WE, the Church, have  been equipped by God to care for “one another”  by way of DISCIPLESHIP and ENCOURAGEMENT. The broken, burdened, rejected, discouraged, sick, and hopeless – that’s me, ya’ll – And, that’s you. God has gifted us with “one another” to bring hope and healing, grace and growth, rest and restoration.

So then why is it so hard?

I truly believe that the distractions and distance – the lack of interdependence and lean towards independence is such a spiritual battle for no other reason but to keep.us.isolated. Because the enemy knows in isolation and busyness the lies grow loud and we grow weary and more vulnerable to attack.

So back to my prayer…

It was not answered overnight. It wasn’t even a few months. But God was faithful and has brought women into my life who have become a safe place to unpack all the ugly and exhale deeply. But I also want to say – it – still – is – not – easy. We have to fight for intentionality and consistency everyday. We have to forgive. But we keep – showing – up!

Where the struggle is real – the cost is great!

Find your people. Pray for your people. Fight for your people.

Keep. Showing. Up! It’s worth it.

Next Step:

Do you need to admit “I don’t got this! I need people!”?

What kind of people do you need?

Who are the people in your life that need you?

Who do you need to start being more intentional with?

What does that look like practically?

Get in a group!

Be Satisfied

Kyndel Kelly, GFC Carrollwood

I truly believe finding satisfaction in the Lord is a lifelong pursuit. Different seasons of life bring different jobs, responsibilities, family dynamics, and the list goes on. It can be hard when you feel like you’re following God, doing all the right things, but still feel unsatisfied in the day-to-day.

After getting married, finishing school, getting my dream job, and living the life I dreamt up, I felt sad. Empty. My journey to uncover these unexpected feelings led me on a path I’m still on. A journey to truly be satisfied in the Lord.

When my life was moving along, productive, and I felt successful … I was satisfied. But, when I felt it stand still, the future unknown, in tension, or even during a time when I was waiting on God, I felt unsatisfied. I felt worthless. Like I had failed in a way.

I had a fresh revelation during that time. You see, I was trying to satisfy my soul with everything but the Lord. All the things I accomplished and all the blessings were great, but the high I felt was only temporary.

Maybe you’ve done the same thing.

In John 4:14 Jesus says, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up into eternal life.”

This visual is so beautiful to me. I imagine the Holy Spirit creating a home in me so deep that it is like a well. I have access to it 24/7. This well will never run dry. Not only can it quench my thirst for more in life, but it actually gives me eternal life. Eternal life with my Father in heaven.

Satisfaction in Jesus isn’t found when we check off all the boxes and do all the “right” Christian things. Satisfaction in Him comes when we know Him. When we spend time in His presence. When we obey His commands and find that His ways really are higher and better.

It’s found when we eliminate distractions and behold Him. Behold His creation. Treasure His people. Serve the way He calls us to serve. Fall in love with His word.

While I know there is no special formula to being satisfied in the Lord, I do want to share a few practical things that have helped me grow in this area.

1. Take a chance on God: Test Him and watch your faith grow as He shows up in unimaginable ways.

2. Sit in the tension: When you don’t know what’s next, don’t force something to happen. Allow God to lead you and don’t move until He tells you to.

3. Eliminate distraction: Put down the phone for some time. Enough said.

4. Worship and give thanks no matter the circumstance: When we fix our eyes on His goodness and seek Him everyday, we WILL find Him. Praise changes our perspective.

5. Stop comparing: When we look to the left and right, we miss what God is doing in us, through us, and for us. Let’s all run our OWN race and cheer each other on in the process.

My prayer is that as women of God, we would rise and pursue the living water. As we find that nothing can satisfy our souls like Jesus, we are strengthened when the wind blows and the ground shakes beneath us. We remember that He is eternal and this life is temporary. At the same time, we know that what we do in this life is not insignificant. So we run towards Jesus until we, one day, run into His arms and are made whole; being satisfied forever.