When Winter Comes

When Winter Comes

“When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who watch over my way.” // Psalm 142:3

This weekend, in the midst of last minute shopping, holiday get-togethers, and baking cookies, we welcomed in the First Day of Winter. The day, also known as the winter solstice, is the shortest day of the year in North America. For some, the First Day of Winter is welcome–it brings with it snow, cold, and the holiday season. For others, the First Day of Winter is equivalent to the season of the shortest days, the darkest nights, and the coldest temperatures.

What’s interesting is we often equate winter to seasons in our own life that consist of darkness, pain, and suffering. Seasons where we find ourselves alone, surrounded by pain, and where there is no relief from suffering in sight.

If you look back on your life, do you remember a day that ushered in a season of winter? Is there something you would’ve done to change that “First Day of your Winter”. If you’d only known to avoid that person, steer clear of that place, hold on to that loved one a little tighter, maybe winter wouldn’t have come. Or at least wouldn’t last this long.

As we wind down 2019, I want to encourage you, whether you find yourselves in the middle of winter, the start of winter, of are just longing to avoid winter: God sees you. He has a plan. And He knows exactly what He’s doing. When your world starts freezing over, the snow starts falling, and you haven’t seen the sun in days, here are 3 things you can do to not only survive, but thrive in winter, based on Micah 7:7, which says, “But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”

  1. Watch in Hope. I’ve learned through the past year and a half that HOPE is a powerful thing. The Bible talks a lot about hope, and I think it’s because without it, we have nothing to keep us going. When you’re in winter, ask God to give you hope. Set a goal, try to make a new dream, and serve others–being a source of hope to them. Making small changes in the winter season to be a source of hope and give yourself hope can change a lot of things and make this season a better one.
  2. Wait for God. This is easier said than done, but I’ve also learned that it is vital to wait for God–in every season of your life, but especially in the dry, desert seasons. We so often want to jump ahead, get out of our current season, but God wants to do something in your life in this season. Wait for Him to move and reveal to you what is next, and wait on Him to heal your heart and move you forward.
  3. Pray–God will hear you. This is one of the very most important things you can do if you find yourself in the cold, harsh winter. Prayer connects you with God. It keeps your heart warm in the fire of His presence. It reminds your heart that He is still present, that He still cares, that He still loves. He will hear you. Not only may prayer change the situation, but it will most definitely change you.

The winter season is a tough one–real winter and the seasons of life we consider winter. But it can also be one of the most beautiful ones. Seeing snowcaped mountains, Christmas lights lining small towns, seeing a glorious sunrise or sunset ahead of a field of snow. Though it’s cold, though it’s difficult, God creates beauty, even in the winter. And not only does He create beauty in winter, but when it’s time, spring comes.

The same will be true in your life. Winter can be tough, but if you let God have His way, He’ll use it for something beautiful.

And soon enough, spring will come.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas as you celebrate the Savior’s birth–our ultimate hope–this Christmas season. To read some Christmas blogs, check out some of the ones I’ve written here.

Until Next Time,

Stephanie

@stephjayewriter

P.S. Check out this song from Hillsong, It’s off their Christmas album, but it fits perfectly with today’s topic (& Christmas! Win-win!).

The Effects of Being Fatherless

The Effects of Being Fatherless

“A  father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.” // Psalm 68:5

Happy Sunday! I hope you all are enjoying the Christmas season as we draw nearer to Christmas Day! This year has absolutely flown by, and before we know it, 2020 will be here.

If you’ve been reading my blogs or following my social media updates these past couple months, you’ll know that I’ve been on the struggle bus. In the aftermath of an unfolding of events, it seems like I have been wading in waters so deep, and they just keep getting deeper. It didn’t dawn on me what my problem was until last night, and that’s what I want to share with you today.

If you don’t know, I’ve never had a father in my life. My dad lives with his family in South Carolina (I’m in Wisco), and I was raised by my mom, with the help of my grandma from time to time. This never bothered me. Ever. I loved being raised by my mom — I didn’t even know what I’d do if I had a dad in my life. The concept was so foreign to me that the older I got, the thought of having a dad was basically eradicated from my mind. You mean to tell me that people live with a mom … and a dad?

I’ve often said that I would’ve had my upbringing any other way. That my father not being in my life was God’s way of protecting me (and in a lot of ways, due to the circumstance, it was). God has always been enough for me — the only Father I needed.

Until the raging waters of the ocean seemed to all sweep in against me recently.

Do you know the statistics of children who are raised without fathers? Children in fatherless homes are twice as likely to drop out of high school, more are likely to commit a crime, go to prison, face childhood obesity, and use drugs and alcohol. And in teen girls raised in fatherless homes, they are 7 times more likely to get pregnant than those who do have fathers in the home.

Think about that. If these are the statistics, it makes me think that God has ordained fathers to play a particular role in a child’s life. One of a protector, of a provider, and to give their children a sense of approval, worth and direction.

I don’t know what your childhood looked like or what your relationship with your father is, but something tells me if your relationship with your father is fractured, broken, or absent, there is something deep in your heart — if you know it or not — that’s empty.

I didn’t know that I was missing male affection until I recently received it from someone. It wasn’t overly done, and it wasn’t inappropriate, but it was enough to make me realize that I was missing a male figure in my life to comfort me, to hold me when I cry, to tell me I look beautiful, and to make me feel safe. Accepted. Okay.

And I think this is the very reason that those in fatherless homes find themselves at a higher rate of damaging behavior. We’re all looking for something. We all feel a void left by our fathers. Something that God made the human heart to need. Because of the broken world we live in, our relationships with our fathers are broken, too. Know, if you find yourself here today, it’s not supposed to be this way.

But here’s the good news — God is described in Scripture over and over and over again as our Father. As what? Our Father. Isn’t it interesting that of all the things God could be described as, He is described so frequently as this? Jesus referred to God as His Father time and time again. So if Jesus’ relationship with God was like one with a Father, and if Israel’s relationship with God was like a Father, and if we are called sons and daughters of God, then maybe God is trying to make a point here. Maybe He’s trying to get our attention and say: I am your ultimate Father. Your Heavenly Father.

God created us in the womb before we even knew Him (Psalm 139:13-14). He knit us together perfectly to reflect His image — to carry His Name. Just like we look like our earthly father and carry his name. He gathers up every tear we shed and stores them in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). He is present when we need a shoulder to cry on. His arms are open wide when we’re lost and running home (Luke 15:11-31). Psalm 68:5 tells us He’s the Father to the Fatherless. He’s the defender of those who don’t have one (Psalm 10:14). He’s the provider when our earthly provider falls short (Matthew 6:26). He tells us that we’re precious, and that we are enough in Him (Isaiah 43:4, Deuteronomy 7:6, 1 Peter 2:9).

No matter where you find yourself today–if you have the best relationship with your dad, or if you’re feeling the void today, know that you have an unbroken, perfect relationship with your Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).

Let your confidence come from your relationship with God, your Father, today. Seek Him, and you’ll be found by Him (Jeremiah 29:13). Run to Him, and be held in His arms. He is a good, good Father. And He’s waiting you to come home today.

Lord, thank You for being my heavenly Father. Thank You when this world leaves me broken and empty, You are there, and You are enough. Heal the void in my heart caused by the lack of an earthly Father. Fill it up so that it overflows with You and Your perfect love. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Until next time,

Stephanie Jaye ❤

@stephjayewriter

P.S. — If you want more on this topic, check out Louie Giglio’s book Not Forsaken. He also has a sermon serious on Youtube by the same title.

Statistics provided are from https://www.fatherhood.org/fatherhood-data-statistics

The Classroom of Pain

The Classroom of Pain

“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

Happy Sunday! (+ Thanksgiving Week!)

Last week we talked about seasons of hurt, and how God is not only present in our hurt, but can relate to our situation. This week, let’s talk about reasons God sometimes allows seasons of pain and hurt, and maybe we can get a good perspective change on how to handle and go through life’s trials.

  1. God uses trials to make us more like Him. This is by far the number one reason God often sends trials. We see from our opening verse that we should count it joy when we face trials. I don’t know about you, but when I encounter a trial, joy is not the first thing I think of. But let’s dig deeper. The reason why we should count it joy when we find ourselves in the midst of a trial is because we can recognize that God is doing something within the trial to make us more like Him. Trials often teach us and exposes a weakness that maybe we weren’t aware of before. Once we become children of God through accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God doesn’t leave us where He found us. The end goal of this life is to become more like Him. More like Him in things like character, conduct, and speech (1 Corinthians 1:11, Philippians 1:6, 1 John 2:6). If you ask most Christians about a time in their life that God used to change them, more than not, they will tell you of a time when they endured a hardship, and not only saw God through it, but became more like Him because of it. Count it joy, friends. God is always up to something greater and of eternal value in trials. Our job is to allow Him to do that within us.
  2. God uses trials to change our course. Sometimes we get a little … what’s the word … self-dependent in this life. We starting thinking we’re capable enough to make our own decisions, choose our own path, walk our own way. Take this from me, friends, this is not a good path. We were designed to listen to God, to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit within us, and to obey God in this life. We know that obedience brings blessing, peace, and closeness with our Lord. It also produces maximum effectiveness in our life and our ministry. When we get too self-dependent or wander a tad too far, God will use trials to get our attention, to get our hearts and minds to turn back to Him. He doesn’t do this because He’s cruel or demanding, but because He knows your best life will always be one that is lead by Him and in His way (Psalm 18:30, Proverbs 3:5-6). Trials remind us that we are never in control to begin with. Count it joy, friends, because God’s way is best, and I’m so thankful He’s stops me from wandering too far. There’s no better place than to be than in His will.
  3. God uses trials to test us. Back to our opening verses. James also tells us that trials test our faith, and in turn give us perseverance, which then mature us so we don’t lack anything. It’s trials that are defining moments in our lives — they show us if what we believe about our God is real enough, deep enough, and pure enough. A lot of times people follow God to avoid hardship. Or they just want to follow Him for what He has to offer (see Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). Hardship will expose these motivations. On the contrary, they will also expose if our hearts are genuine, and if we will choose to praise God even when trials come. Trials test what we know about God, but if we seek Him with our whole heart, they will strengthen what we know about Him, and in turn increase our faith and trust in Him even more. This is one of the most beautiful things about trials. Our intimacy with the Lord grows, and He teaches us new things about Himself that affirm our faith even more. This then produces in us a testimony we can use to tell others about our faith and what God has done for and in us. 1 Peter 1:6-7 tells us it like this, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Count it all joy, friends. God is who He says He is, and He often shows that powerfully in the midst of trials.

Know this — if you’re going through a trial today, God is not mad at you. He has not forgotten you, He has not forsaken you. He knows the pain, He’s there to comfort you in it, but He’s also looking to accomplish something of eternal value in you through this season. And that is worth it.

Take a moment today to reflect on seasons of hardship and hurt in your life. How have you seen God work in those seasons? If you’re going through one right now, ask God to show you what He wants to, and ask Him to open your heart for all He wants to do in you through this season.

Until Next Time ❤

Stephanie Jaye

@stephjayewriter

He Knows How It Hurts

He Knows How It Hurts

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet He did not sin.” // Hebrews 4:15

Happy Sunday!

Well, *lets a out a long, deep breath*. If you can’t tell from the title of this blog, I’ve been through a rather trying and painful season these last couple weeks, and honestly they have been some of the most emotionally painful days of my life thus far. Emotions and pain I didn’t know I could feel, wrestling I didn’t know I could handle, and tears I didn’t think would stop.

But as I was going through days of tears, anguish, and hurt, I was constantly reminded of Hebrews 4:15, along with other verses I will share below. And while I was reminded of these verses, I was also reminded of a discussion I had with a couple family members a few months back when another relative was going through a painful period. In the midst of our discussion, these words were spoken, and it changed everything:

He knows how it hurts.

It’s amazing to me that no matter the situation we’re going through in life, Jesus has been through it. We don’t have a God who is distant, far off, or unable to relate. Maybe it’s a breakup, and you think that Jesus couldn’t know what it feels like to have His heart broken. He does. We break His heart every time we choose sin instead of Him, and when people turn away from His love and His gift of eternal life. Maybe it’s a loss of a child, God knows how that feels, too. He gave His one and only Son to be crucified for us, so that we could know Him. He watched as Jesus died, as the nails went through His hands. He knows what that feels like. We could keep going on, but the point is this: God knows how you’re hurting, and He’s right there with you.

God knows how you’re hurting, and He’s right there with you.

In the midst of my situation this past week, Psalm 139:16-18 became my refuge. It says this:

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with You.”

Through my tears, I was reminded that before I even was born, before I could breath my first breathe, God had all my days written out. None of them come as a surprise, none of them throw Him off His throne, and there is no situation He is not prepared for. I remember saying to myself, “God knew this was coming.”

I said those words, not in an angry way, but to remind myself that God was still there, and since He knew this was coming, He knew how to be there for me, how to help me cope, and how to lead me along.

Since He knew this was coming, He knew how to be there for me, how to help me cope, and how to lead me along.

Maybe you’re in a season of disappointment, discouragement, loss, or pain. Hear me when I say this: God loves you. God sees you. God is still in control. You will be okay.

He’s not angry, He’s not fed up with your pain, He’s not sick of your tears. He’s close, He loves you, and He knows how it hurts.

Do I still feel the pain? Yes. But I know that God is still in control and that His Word promises me His presence and His comfort. Psalm 34:18 tells us, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” God is close, friend. He is closer than ever, and He’s ready to save. He’s not angry, He’s not fed up with your pain, He’s not sick of your tears. He’s close, He loves you, and He knows how it hurts. Come to Him, rest in His arms, and choose to take His hand and trust Him today.

Prayer: Lord, help me to feel You close to me. Remind me that You’re thinking about me — thoughts that are so many I couldn’t even count — and all of them are good, just like Psalm 139:17 says. Thank You for loving me. Thank You for being here for me. Please lead me through as I surrender my hurting heart to You. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Until Next Time,

Stephanie Jaye

@stephjayewriter

P.S. — Can I pray for you? If you’re hurting today, feel free to reach out via Twitter or Instagram with the handle above, or in the comments below. I’d love to pray for you.

P.P.S. — Stick around, next week we’re going to talk about finding purpose in the hurt and pain. See you then!

A Lesson from my Favorite Flower

A Lesson from my Favorite Flower

“I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” // Psalm 16:8

Hey all! Happy Sunday (and October…where is this year going!?). I hope fall is settling in wherever you are. I know our poor friends in the south are still sweating the summer heat out, while our friends in the PNW are digging out from a massive snowstorm. Where I live, it’s just been cold and rainy. And I mean rainy. Like, send me all your pictures and memes of the SUN you can find because I haven’t see it in DAYS.

It’s no secret that I love sunshine, but what you may not have known about me is I love sunflowers. They’re yellow (my favorite color), and they’re just happy. Cheery. Fun! There was something I didn’t know about these lovely flowers though, and that was how they got their name. They’re actually called sunflowers because they have special motor cells at their base that change size as they absorb water. This causes the sunflower to move their faces towards the sun throughout the day.

This activity is actually known as solar tracking. The sunflower actually shifts directions as it follows the sun in the sky all day long. How cool is that!

Maybe you knew this, or maybe you didn’t. But either way, I think we can learn a lesson from the sunflower. As Christians, there is a Son we follow. Scripture talks repeatedly about keeping our eyes on the Lord, about fixing our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2), and turning to Him at all times. What if we were just like these sunflowers? No matter what time of day, we’re facing towards the Son. No matter what is going on around us, we’re facing towards the Son. No matter where we are, we’re facing towards the Son.

I believe that this is not only a Biblical posture, but an amazing one. We all know the world we’re living in is quite chaotic, but that doesn’t have to impact our joy, our strength, or our ability to stand and follow Christ. But the key to living in a chaotic world unhindered in the ability to remain in a posture of always look towards–or facing–the Son.

I’m convinced that now more than ever, Jesus is the answer. He’s our only hope.

I’m convinced that now more than ever, Jesus is the answer. He’s our only hope. The only One we can put our full faith in. The One who walked on water in the storm is the same one calling out to you today (Matthew 14:22-33). Jesus hasn’t changed since His time on earth (Hebrews 13:8). He hasn’t forgotten, His plans haven’t been delayed, and His purpose in coming is as important and life changing as it always has been.

We influence this world as much as we allow Jesus to lead us.

We influence this world as much as we allow Jesus to lead us. We were never meant to do this life on our own. We were never meant to follow our own way. We were never meant to face something else, following it as it shifts. Just Jesus. Just Jesus.

This week, take some time to think about what impacts your perspective and position in life. Are you turning towards Jesus always, or are you looking towards something or someone else to lead and guide you. It’s never too late to become like our pretty yellow sunflower. I believe that when we spend time in God’s Word and in prayer, He will help us stay focused on following Him always. And when we do, someday we might just change the world.

Until Next Time,

Stephanie Jaye ❤

@stephjayewriter

I Joined a Dating Site – And Why I Think It’s Okay

I Joined a Dating Site – And Why I Think It’s Okay

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” // 2 Corinthians 6:14

Happy Sunday!

So, I have kind of a different blog coming at you guys today. One that I’m not sure I’d ever be writing. But this is what’s been going on in my life very recently, and I thought it’d be beneficial to share with you and hopefully to aid in a healthy discussion of this topic.

About a month ago, I started looking into online dating sites after my mom half-way was joking but half-way was serious about me trying online dating. Never thinking I’d actually do it, I did some research, read some reviews, and ultimtely tried a free trial on one. That was that. For a bit.

After a while and a sequence of events that I’ll spare you from, I really started getting this overwhelming urge to return to the dating site and actually DO THE THING. I had this anxious, but peaceful, confirmation from God about it after much prayer and doing research on what other Godly people had to say on the topic. At the end of the day, I did it.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, for one, I want to have a discussion about the implications of online dating and how a Christian should view it, just in case someone out there is thinking about trying it and is looking for a Godly perspective on it like I was.

As long as you’re seeking God and following His lead through the process, you’re not manipulating anything.

One of the biggest drawbacks most Christians have with online dating is that it seems to indicate a possible lack of trust in God’s timing and faithfulness to provide a spouse. I thought this one through pretty well because I certainly am not one to overstep God on His timing (though I’ve been tempted–as we all probably have). However, I came to the conclusion that me doing this was not an indication of that at all. I felt like God was actually nudging me in that direction. If you have prayed about online dating and feel God’s peace about it…do it! After all, He is the one who has to get you and your future spouse both on the SAME dating site at the SAME time. As long as you’re seeking God and following His lead through the process, you’re not manipulating anything. If it’s not God’s will for you to find your spouse at the time, you won’t. It’s up to you to follow and listen to His guidance so you don’t settle and make the wrong decision about a spouse, though. That’s something to consider as you contemplate your decision.

Another thing to consider regarding online dating is if you’re confident in knowing what you want in a spouse. Have you been praying for your future spouse? Are you in a good spot in life where you’re reading for a real, intentional dating relationship with another Godly person? If the answer to these questions is YES, then maybe you should try it out!

At the end of the day, I don’t think God frowns upon online dating. After all, it’s just a place to meet other people in our modern day. Just like going to a football game, a church group, or a party, it’s just another place to meet people who you might not have otherwise. What God IS concerned about is the person you’re to marry and the qualities that person should have. (That’s a totally different blog, one that maybe I’ll do someday!)

What God IS concerned about is the person you’re to marry and the qualities that person should have.

While I was in the process of making my decision, I watched the videos below to help me think things through. Above all, I prayed and followed where I felt God leading. Hopefully between this article and the resources below, you can form your own opinion of the topic.

When we chase Jesus and follow wherever He leads, you never know, someday we might just change the world. ❤

Until next time,

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@stephjayewriter

VIDEOS:

Follow the Leader

Follow the Leader

“Come, follow me.” // Matthew 4:19

Hey all! Happy Sunday! Well, summer is in full swing and I’m enjoying all things sunshine, sweet tea, and summer festivities. While it’s insane to think summer is almost halfway over (for us, anyways. Our summers are so short), I’m savoring and enjoying every moment of this amazing season.

One summery thing I did recently was attend Lifest, which is the largest Christian music festival in the country — and it’s less than two hours from my house! I’ve never been, but always wanted to attend. So last week I made a last minute decision to go with a friend, and I am so glad I did! One of my favorite bands was playing, and I knew I couldn’t miss it.

An interesting thing happened while I was there, though. I found myself in a place I’ve never been, and I had absolutely no idea how anything worked, where anything was, and was completely helpless to help myself. Usually circumstances like this freak me out, but not this one. The friend I was attending the festival with was a pro. She attends the festival every day of the three day event, and she’s been going for years. She knew where everything was, down to where she parked her car (which was a complete maze and almost a half mile walk from the main stage). But I found that in this situation where I was completely helpless, I was calm because I was being guided by someone who knew the ins and outs of what they were doing, where they were, and where they were going.

Life is a lot like this. We can get freaked out over circumstances where we can’t see the way ahead – and understandably so. But it’s in these moments that we have to remember Who we go with, and Who goes before us. God knows eternity past to eternity future. Nothing surprises Him, and He is always on His throne. He existed, taking care of His people and planet, before we were born. He is still being faithful now.

We can get freaked out over circumstances where we can’t see the way ahead – and understandably so. But it’s in these moments that we have to remember Who we go with, and Who goes before us.

Jesus gives us a simple invitation to follow Him. This has to be one of the simplest commands in all of Scripture, yet it’s one we have the hardest time doing. We like control, we like to know all the answers. But the truth is, there is no safer place we can be than to just release that control and follow Jesus who not only knows the way, but IS the way.

There is no safer place we can be than to just release that control and follow Jesus who not only knows the way, but IS the way.

Following Jesus takes childlike faith. The older I get, the more I realize why Jesus wants us to be like little children (Matthew 18:3). Little children can chase life with wonder, their hearts are carefree. And even though life often tries to steal these things from us, when we follow our heavenly Father, we are free to be like a little child. When our heart trusts Him and submits to following Him, peace, joy, and childlike wonder will develop. And nothing is better than following the God who has the best in mind for us and finding things we’ve lost along the way.

Nothing is better than following the God who has the best in mind for us and finding things we’ve lost along the way.

The way to true life is to lose it (Matthew 16:24-26). A faith worth having is worth a life worth losing. It’s then we can follow Jesus wholeheartedly. And it’s there we’ll find everything we’ve been made for.

This week, try loosening the grips on your life and instead follow where Jesus leads, and see what happens to your heart, emotions, and life. And if we do, someday we might just change the world. ❤

Until next time,

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@stephjayewriter