Tantrums and Grace

Have you ever thrown a fit when talking to the Lord? I mean, mine was more like a tantrum, but who’s comparing, right?! Anyway, the few brief moments and months leading up to my toddler outburst had been hard – and often hurtful. My emotions were being driven by my feelings and my feelings by my focus (which was on myself.) As I sat in my car, I listed all the ways I had been slighted, the lack of understanding shown, what injury injustice had done to my heart, and how exhausting it was to have to always take the narrow path on the high road. See what I mean about my focus? I was Elijah in the cave, except I was in a car. Still yet, the Lord allowed me to cry, complain, question, and yes, He even allowed me to be angry and self-centered – He just didn’t let me stay there. I knew what was coming, but I was fighting it. His Words of life and truth hidden in my heart bubbled up, one at a time, until I knew what was to come.

Repentance through an act of service, forgiveness, because the love of Jesus compels us to see others, to view our circumstances, through Holy Sprit colored glasses.

As I turned the keys in the ignition and began to drive to my destination, I had calmed down; but, I was still resisting what my spirit was directing me to do – the kind and godly thing, that thing which goes beyond oneself. I remember my words as if I spoke them yesterday. “I just want to know I am loved, and you hear me.” As I cried out to my Father, He just listened, then I felt Him lean in and love on me with His heart. I heard Him whisper, “You are mine, and I am yours; I am your Maker and Husband. I am your rewarder when you diligently seek me. I love you with an everlasting love; and the same love that covers a multitude of your sins, is the same love which compels you to love others.”

His tender correction toppled my tantrum, His faithful hand of love subdued my fit.

I could go on to tell of the divine happening in the grocery store, but let it be said, some miracle moments are just between a father and his daughter. Just trust me when I say this, His love is big.

His love is bigger than our hurt, bigger than our selfishness, bigger than our complaints, bigger than our fear, bigger than our brokenness – so big it blows my mind!

I am certainly thankful He doesn’t only whisper into caves to prophets, and that His love covers my tantrums with grace.

Well Able

My pastor brought a word to us a couple weeks ago which has been a source of challenge and comfort. I have read my notes over and over again to, as David did, encourage myself in the Lord! I long to be like Caleb and Joshua who were positive and ready to face the battle to get to the promise. Sometimes though, it is so easy to identify with the negative Neds who only saw the hurdles ahead – and embellished them with catastrophic thinking.

The land we have gone through is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw are of great height…and we seemed ourselves like grasshoppers to them…(Numbers 13:32-33)

The land which they passed through to spy out (was) an exceedingly good land. Yet, while all twelve spies saw that the land was good, not all of them had faith and confidence in God. And, as is still true today, misery loves company – and negativity battles to win the debate.

“Caleb quieted the congregation and said, Let us go up at once and occupy (the land,) for we are well able to overcome it…then the men who had gone up with him said, “we are not able to go up against the people for they are stronger than we are…” (Numbers 13:30-31)

Our focus affects our attitude and our attitude affects our actions. They go hand-in-hand.

Ten men saw the enemy as giants and themselves as grasshoppers. They chose to focus on the potential problem and not the promise of their powerful God. Therefore they expected a sure defeat. Their miserable attitude had them angry against the two whose faith-filled stance had their vantage point fixed on whole of God’s promise. Both sets of spies encountered the exact same scene yet their focus was vastly different.

The way we interpret the facts dictates what we see to be true. We are responsible for how we get over the hurdles in life…we are good at seeing problems but not coming up with solutions…we are so ready to give up and forget all He has done for us…for every problem there is a solution if God is in the equation…let God do His thing!” -Pastor Bill Muller

This world hasn’t changed much since the days of Moses, it is still set and ready to suck the joy out of our journeys. But the Lord is still keeping His promises. And, at the close of the day, how we have chosen to see our circumstances will affect our ability to have peace and strength to navigate the obstacles and enjoy the sweetness God has already promised us.

It is a milk-and-honey kind of sweet to know the Lord walks with His own, and delights to give us His best – a land flowing with goodness!

So, let’s go up at once and occupy it, for in the power of the almighty we are well able to overcome it!

A Mother’s Day Song

The enemy loves to keep us burdened. He is constantly reminding us of all that we don’t have.

Ahhh, but God.

God strives against the enemy of our souls, and as Jesus makes intercession for us, we can trust the plans of a good God to bring us through – and adjust our focus.

Last year, the Lord graciously placed a few words in my heart as I thought about Mother’s Day. It had always been a tough Holiday for me, and even still, a slight twinge of sadness snuck up on me. So, I know He gave me those words last Mother’s Day to “adjust my focus” – for a reminder to rejoice in those things that are true!

This year, in His perfect grace, He went a little farther to remind me (because I’m often forgetful) I was not given a Mother’s heart in vain.

On Friday an early Mother’s Day gift arrived. I received a text from a student’s Mom thanking me for pouring love into her daughter’s life, and for showing her the love of Jesus. Mrs. Sweet Parent shared with me that in January her little girl sought her out to come talk with her. This precious student of mine laid on her bed, and with tears flowing, told her mother she wanted to always have Jesus in her heart and live for him.

I read the rest of the text through tears.

My gift had not been wrapped in a box, or been delicately arranged in a pretty bag filled with confetti. But, oh my happy soul, it had been divinely wrapped in the love of a Father who adores me. It was perfectly timed and purposefully given. You see, this precious mom could have told me in January – but God.

He knew the plans He had for me.

He knew I was going to be leaving my teaching career this summer. He knew this would be an emotional time. He also knows around Mother’s Day the enemy taunts me with lonesomeness.

My sweet Father is such a precious friend.

When I read Isaiah 54 over ten years ago, I could have never imagined the reason it would grow to be such a precious exhortation from the Lord. He has caused my barren womb to no longer be a place of sadness but of joy. He has filled my childless arms with a quiver full of children.

I love them with love from the mother’s heart my Creator has given me.

My heart could not be anymore full than it is this Mother’s Day. I will sing – for my Father has truly blessed me with children – more than I could have ever expected!

A Reminder

I had to read this passage a few times this morning. It is full of powerful truth.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. 2 Corinthians 10:3‭-‬8‭, ‬13‭, ‬18

Think about it…

Through Jesus, we can destroy arguments and high opinions contrary to the knowledge of God. We can take every thought captive into the obedience of Christ – to not do so is disobedience.

I have read that many times, nevertheless, it rocked me –

To not be the prison guard of my thoughts, to allow the the unruly inmates to control me and not bring them before the Master, is a direct act of disobedience. Whoa!

We are not waging a physical war. No matter what our circumstances may seem to reveal, there is a battle raging in an unseen realm which requires divine weapons of warfare. We have those weapons in Christ Jesus!

But, let me remind myself …

We have access to divine Holy Spirit power to destroy the strongholds in our lives.

Paul tells me to look and see what is before my eyes, to have confidence in the One who saved me, the One who gives me strength, wisdom and skill – all so as to build others up and to glorify His name.

I can boast in Jesus and not be ashamed!

If we can grab the gravitas of this truth Paul boasted so surely in, what a difference it would make in not only our own lives, but in the world!

Abigail’s Appellant Faith

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“Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God.” Tozer’s words echoed within me as I sat down to listen as my Father introduced me to His precious daughter, Abigail. This woman and her faith, what a powerful display of humility, grace, and wisdom. Aside from the fact she is one among only three women in the Holy Scriptures to be singled out and noted for their outward beauty, she is a woman noted for her inward magnificence as well.

The Lord says of his daughter that she was “a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance…”

Her life had certainly not been a fairy tale while living as wife to Nabal. No two people could have been more antonymous than they. The Lord described Nabal using the Hebrew words qâsheh and râ‛âh, meaning he was cruel, grievous, hard-hearted, obstinate, rough, stubborn and troubled, evil and wretched. A deeper word study reveals Nabal was most certainly a beastly and cruel man.  Abigail was described with Hebraic words such as, ṭôb, śêkel, yâpheh and tô’ar which are the exact opposites (and then some) to Nabal. In detail, Abagail was noted to be beautiful on the outside and one who had a favourable countenance. She was bountiful, cheerful, joyful, kind and most pleasant. This sister of grace was known for her intelligence (by implication of success;) discretion, wisdom and her pleasant ways were her testimony.

Now can you picture her life?

Her home?

She walked in a path directly opposite from her spouse, yet aligned perfectly to Her Creator’s will. She sought hard after the ways of her God, and as one commentator states, “manifested a love stronger than death.” 

As I continued to read from the pages of history, it was becoming increasingly clear Abigail was a sweet peacemaker whose life modeled the ways of her Lord. Her words were gracious and seasoned with salt, and she looked well to the ways of her household – she was trusted. The events that unfolded around her were not of her making, she could not control how her husband behaved. Yet when her servants came to her with the grim news of Nabal’s insolence toward King David, Abigail was quick to respond. All the King had asked was for a show of kindness and Nabal, in his churlish and evil way, refused David and his men kindness, respect and decency. Needless to say, the King was furious. Nabal had provoked the wrath of King David and, had it not been for Abigail’s prepared and appellant faith, Nabal and all of his household would have been destroyed. Her discernment in withholding her thoughts and actions from Nabal until the next day show wisdom in placing her trust in God alone.

As she quickly loaded the donkey with more than enough food and drink for the King and his men, take note of how humble, appealing and encouraging she was when finally reaching the King.

“She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him….Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the LORD your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling.”

-I Samuel 25:24-31

In the history lesson taken from the book of I Samuel, chapter 25, it is revealed Abigail is a woman of patience who cloaked herself in the love of God. She “put on kindness, mercy, humility, gentleness and patience,” and pre-dated Paul’s exhortation to “put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” What an amazing moment in history, where faith in God from the Old Testament marries the sweet teachings of the New Testament.

One need only read of the events that could have cost Nabal’s household their lives to see the actions of this sweet daughter of God were clothed in love and humilty. Abigail, fearfully and wonderfully made was a woman of beauty, prudence and grace.

Abigail must have known a little something about storing up treasures where moth and dust do not corrupt, about those eternal jewels thieves cannot steal – and, about the faithfulness of God to be a rewarder of those who have the faith to diligently seek Him.

Her convictions and meditations in the ways of the Lord must have been her most valued inheritance, for she walked in them and lived in a manner pleasing to Him. And, in the end, He brought her to the palace of the King. Abigail was a woman after God’s own heart, it is only fitting she ended up the wife of a King described this way too. 

Eugenia Price said this of gracious Abigail, “Only God can give a woman poise like Abigail, and God can only do this when a woman is willing to cooperate as [she] did with Him on every point.” 

Abigail’s life and witness have challenged, rather, beckoned me, to walk closer to my Maker, for He is my true love. She has encouraged me to take a look inward and sit before the Lord, asking this question, “How do I actively treat those who are unkind?” And, on an even more personal level, her life begs the question, “How do I respond to my spouse when I don’t like him very much?”  I most certainly do not live with a man such as Nabal, and for this I am increasingly grateful. However, do I clothe myself as Abigail did, with love and mercy when he behaves in an unkind way? Or, do I feel vindicated when I behave in an unloving manner toward him? Is it possible to muster an appellant faith, and am I willing to intercede on his behalf to the King? When I go to my closet, do I find a wardrobe of love, humility, forgiveness, kindness and wisdom or selfsihsness, envy, impatience and self-righteousness? I am most certain the later can be found hanging there ready, but oh that my King would remind me to outfit myself with the first instead. 

There will be many times in our lives when we are faced with the nastiness of human selfishness, anger and frustration. I am not, by any stretch, suggesting God says we are to be abused by another person’s behavior, I am simply saying He calls us to be kind in the we handle them in return. When we choose to turn away from hurtful situations (and nabalish (my word) type of people,) we should pray to walk in a manner worthy and pleasing to the Lord. This speaks volumes to the world around us of the love of Christ which compels us to regard one another with a heart fixed on the One who gave His life for us all. 

In encountering Abigail on the pages of HiStory, I am finding myself inspired to pray for my spouse more earnestly, and to yield to my Savior more readily. One woman’s faith marked the pages of Scripture with a fragrant grace and purposeful poise, and is changing my life for the better. 

 

Choices

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.                    (Deut. 30:19)

Today I have been reminded how fortunate I am – and how powerful choice is.

Life, marriage, relationships – all require a choice.
…a choice to love (even when it’s hard,)
…a choice to serve another (and not yourself,)
…a choice to respect the process (especially when it’s a slow one,)
…a choice to share the bad along with the good (we all have both in us,)
… and a choice to see the good around you (it’s a matter of perspective,)
…a choice to walk by faith (and not by sight.)
…a choice to live in gratitude (even while walking through a valley.)

There are people around the world who have had the privilege to live life in freedom stripped from them. They are not allowed the opportunity to marry whom they choose, or work where they want to. Many folks cannot speak freely without fear of imprisonment or death, yet they choose to rise above it and courageously live in joy and not bitterness.

Choice. A tiny, but life-altering, word.

I pray to be reminded swiftly if I should begin to see this game-changer as anything less than a blessed gift.

May my choices have the purpose of Christ behind them,

be infused with surrender to His will,

and sparked by servant-hearted motives.

Oh, that I would always choose life, as the Scripture encourages me to do.

You Know It’s Coming


Our walk was nothing out of the ordinary. At dusk, we bundled up in coats and ‘boggins, slipped our gloves on to stay warm and off we went. We chatted about the day, what curtains to buy, what happened at school, how work was, all while our feet made the rhythmic swish-swap, swish-swap sound on the pavement. As we rounded the familiar corner, the menacing bark echoed through the fence and startled me. I jumped, and my pace quickened sending me sideways. My husband let out an inquisitive sort of laugh and said, “Babe, you know that dog is there, he barks every time we pass this way. Why did you jump?” But, the next few words my partner sent my way were what got me to thinking. He chided, “You know It’s coming.” 

You.

Know.

It’s.

Coming.

He was right, I did know the dog was there. Yet, it startled me because I was focused on the rhythm of my walk and had forgotten he would be hiding behind the fence. The entire event took place in under 60 seconds, but it took my heart almost triple that to calm down to a steady beat. Now, you may be asking, “Yea, ok, we get it Tonya – the dog scared you. So what does that have to do with anything?” Here it is…

I.

Know.

It’s.

Coming.

I know my enemy is a hunter chasing to kill my faith. He is a thief in pursuit of my peace. And he is certainly the warrior seeking to destroy my walk with God. Yet even though I know all of this, I forget. I neglect to be vigilant and sober, realizing in every ordinary moment, the enemy of my soul is consistently lurking behind the old familiar fences.

His gritty bark is sinister enough to make me fear his bite more than I trust my Protector. My heart trembles and I go stumbling sideways into fear, panic, doubt, and sin.

Thankfully, because our loving Creator is gracious, and divinely knows the whole sum of His creation, He is quick to remind me His hedge of unbroken vigilance around me is stronger than the enemy’s bark and bite.

No weapon formed against me shall prosper.

He that is within me is greater than he that is within the world. 

In his powerful book, The Red Sea Rules, author Robert Morgan admonishes every believer to acknowledge the enemy but keep their eyes on the Lord. Even though it often takes me more than a few minutes to be still and return to what my soul knows well, the truths are the same nevertheless.

My Savior is always steady and true. He is the Captain of my peace. My Father is ever faithful and strong. He is the Keeper of my soul. The Holy Spirit is wisdom and truth. He is the Counselor of my heart.

The Holy Sprit fervently challenges us to believe, to trust, the Lord’s providential hand is for our good. He knows what subtle evil skulks about – nothing catches Him off-guard.  Being confident that His mighty arms will keep us intact as the foe wages war is to welcome the presence of God’s power into our lives. I know it’s coming.

 

Snowroom

Can a sunroom be a snowroom?

In jest, I asked my friends this question earlier today. It was a simple and silly question, however, it left me to ponder a few things in my heart.

As the snow fell softly to the ground outside my window, the white against the gray sky was a bright light of calm. Yet, it is normal for us to think of winter months as drab and depressing. We often feel as if the only light which can bring us warmth and peace comes to us wrapped up in a sunny day.

This Is not so.

Snowy days may seem cold and dull, but wow, the cardinal never looks more beautiful than when he is perched on a snowy white branch, and the light from the hidden sun makes the crystals glisten around his crimson wings.

Just as nothing is as brilliantly luminescent as a woman who has found the warmth of her Savior’s embrace during those winter days of struggle. His robe of righteous grace and love blinds the enemy and shines a sweet light of victory for others to see.

Beauty
Humility
Strength
Resolve
Wisdom

…all come when we weather the winter seasons of life, when we learn to live in their kind of light.

Today’s snowroom moments reminded me of this.

Day 3 on Day 1

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Last month, I opened my life up to a circle friends and asked them to hold me accountable in my study of God’s Word. I beseeched them to inquire how my Purpose Driven Life Bible study was going, and to pray for me along the way. So, last night when one such friend inquired as to how my study was going, I had to be honest – “I am on Day 3…” I relented. He chuckled, “That was two weeks ago.” Ugh, he was almost correct. I actually started two and a half weeks ago – hmmph – I am supposed to be on Day 18. <insert embarrassed emoji here>

But, is that not that reality of life? We have hurdles, we have victories, and we do our best to survive all the in-between. To stay stuck in the embarrassed-emoji mindset is to let the enemy win. Move on.

So, I opened the book, and read the long-awaited Day 3’s question – “What drives your life?”

It would have been nice if I could have told you guys Jesus alone was my motivation in 2019. Honestly, I wanted that to be the case, but I let so much of life’s circumstance distract me into forgetting. Thankfully, He is ready to remind me as often as my memory lapses. Even when I skipped the study, He was faithful to bring me to the right path, all I needed to do was sit surrendered and waiting at His feet.

On the day of Christmas Eve, my Father gave me the gift of Psalm 16. His words have consumed my thoughts ever since underlining their truth through my tears.

The Lord Himself is my inheritance.

What an astounding truth – He is my “ḥel·qî ” – my portion, my share, my reward. This divine, holy, perfect, merciful, forgiving, almighty God – this, this is my legacy, my truth. See why Psalm 16 is such an incredible gift?! Even the Psalmist himself said, “What a wonderful inheritance…no wonder I rejoice!!” And, I do rejoice, especially since I recognize I have such a tendency to fall short.

Truth is, my heart and flesh are going to fail; however, Christ Jesus is my portion, my strength, my hope – forever. Forever is hard to grasp for my finite human mind, but it is no less true simply because I do not understand it. Honestly, understanding doesn’t need to accompany trust – just surrender.

What drives your life, Tonya? I believe it is no accident I just made it to Day 3 on Day 1 of the new year. My heart echos Psalm 16:11. The Lord will surely show me the way of life, granting me the joy of His presence and the pleasures of living with Him forever. This is the gift He has given me – the manna of His perfect counsel, the provision of His steadfast love and a share of His enduring grace.

Kindergarten Science

For this teacher, Kindergarten Science is often a beautiful lesson in life. Just this week, we discussed how sometimes, with temperature variations, substances can undergo reversible changes (such as with water being frozen and then thawed.) But that also, with many other substances, modifications happen which can never be reversed- as with these little pumpkins.

Prior to being cooked, they were hard and could not be molded (or squished) by our hands. Yet after being heated (from the inside out) they became all-too-easy to squash, and at this point, the change was irreversible – they would never be raw pumpkins again.

We squished the pumpkins into pieces, and chatted about our actions and words, and how once we act or speak it cannot be undone. But, my thoughts couldn’t help but wander over to the truth of God’s irreversible love, and to how we can fully trust in the good news of the Gospel. When Christ sheds His love abroad in our hearts, He makes an irreversible mark on our souls that can never be erased or undone – we are His forever!

Nothing we do can alter His great love for us! What an amazing truth this is!

Nevertheless, the lesson did not stop there. While the truth of His unchangeable love resonated in the deepest part of my spirit, I began to also think of how His love reshapes us through the tests and trials of life. These are all a part of the intricate “heating up” process as we walk with Him. And once He changes us with the warmth of that kind of love and grace, we are truly never the same.

He sometimes puts us in the fire so as to help us become more “squishable” – usable for His glory. And, while this may not always be welcomed by our hard-shelled, inflexible, decorative-only selves, it is necessary if we want to become more like Jesus.

What began as lesson for my Kindergarteners, ended up a lesson for their teacher. I am thankful for Kindergarten Science – and the little pumpkins God uses to change me.