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.

48 Seconds

Philippians 4_8A few years ago I read a book written by Tommy Newberry entitled, 40 Days to a Joy-filled Life. The Lord used Mr. Newberry to challenge me to take inquisitive notice of my thought life and begin filtering it through the Word of God. Newberry aptly asserts, “No area of your life is untouched by your thoughts,” and I would have to agree. I see it in my own life, as well as in the lives of my students. A single thought can change the course of an entire day or switch emotional tracks from one to the other.

For a couple of years now I have had a timer set on my phone to remind me to stop and “think on good things” for at least 48 seconds (Phil. 4:8, get it?) And it always makes me smile and feel a little lighter. But on the wearisome days when I ignore my reminder (yep, unfortunately, I do) before I know it, I am traveling down a back road to falsehood, where anxiety, worry, doubt, fear, and lies reside.

This week was a series of those wearisome days; so, I am thankful God knows me well and handed me the gift of a Kindergartener’s insight. This amazing kid said, “Mrs. Brown, I don’t like painting. I can’t’ do it!” I confidently reminded him he could do all things because Christ would help him. With genuine belief, he said, “I don’t need to listen to the Devil, he’s trying to trick me, right Mrs. Brown?” Without a moment’s hesitation, I agreed, “You are so right J, he is tricky!” Of course, I was convicted immediately.  The simple truth of his innocent wisdom shocked me silly! By ignoring the simple, yet powerful truths of God’s Word, I often allow myself to be outwitted. I suppose this is why I am consistently in need of grace-filled reminders from the Author of my faith.

Thankfully, there is a way to combat the enemy’s assault on our minds – put in to practice what Jesus taught us. When we view this life (and circumstances) from a Biblical worldview, it changes us – it redirects our focus back to the truths of God.

Mr. Newberry and the Apostle Paul found the gold in this veracity – think on whatever is right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy!

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Praising God for who He is, what He has done, and all He has yet to accomplish has the power to change the course of our thought life if we would only let it! Maybe we could all challenge ourselves to think about the goodness of God, I am quite certain He will change us – 48 seconds at a time!

He Rejoices

Getting to know my Father is a precious adventure. The journey is one I find both overwhelming and comforting all at the same time. His love is so perfect it is hard to grasp how deep it truly is. Nevertheless, what a privilege it is to get to know Him!!

He is a faithful Father and loving Friend, the Prince of peace and perfecting Potter, and He most certainly is sure Salvation and the sweetest song.

Because He is a relational and almighty God, His word is alive and powerful – and perfectly personal! Zephaniah 3 reminds me of this! So each time one of my chats with my Father takes me to the stirring words of Zephaniah, my heart lingers a little while longer on verse 17 of chapter 3.

The beautiful imagery of God spinning around in delight, shouting proclamations of gladness and joy over me, leaves me dumbfounded – every single time.

To be able to rest in the arms of an almighty God, knowing He will always save me, is incredible! His boundless love for me causes Him to be merciful when I fail Him, and inspires Him to sing over me with an everlasting joy!

My friend, should you need encouragement, read Zephaniah 3:17, close your eyes and picture this – the Creator of all things, the One who created the endless Heavens and the beauty of Earth rejoices over you with shouts of gladness, joy and truth! I have no doubt it will become one of your favorite verses too.

A Must Read

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Women of all ages are not exempt from the struggles of finding out who they are and where they belong in this great big world. All nationalities, all races, all social classes -we all have the same inner battles – admittedly, some of us more than others. However, many of our youth today lack the guidance of godly mentors. This is why when I read Scarlet Hiltibidal’s book, He Numbered the Pores on My Face, I was blessed beyond measure. The following is the review I have written for it.

From the cover to the very last page, author Scarlet Hiltibidal pairs humor, honesty and the truth of who we are in Christ in such a pleasant and wonderfully witty way. She is unabashedly transparent, which is needed when addressing the all-too-real issues girls (and for that matter, women of all ages) deal with. Mrs. Hiltibidal writes with an easily readable style infused with solidity of Biblical truth. I have highlighted, giggled, cried and taken notes in the margin and been blessed in my journey through this book. I am walking away a little taller, on my knees, because of her reminder of who I am in Jesus Christ. He Numbered the Pores on My Face would be a valuable treasure to have on any bookshelf, especially if it is in the home of a young girl. BH-HeNumberedThePoresOnMyFace-SS

If we are fortunate, we have the opportunity to read a book that challenges and inspires us. Mrs. Scarlet Hilitbidel is now among my favorite writers because of her fantastic work, He Numbered the Pores on My Face. It would be a treasure for any woman to read and keep in her collection to pass along. And, it is my privilege to showcase such a treasure here on my blog. Happy Reading to all – Moms, daughters, sisters and girls of all ages (even Dads can experience the blessing too.)