The Darkest Valley

The Darkest Valley

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” // Psalm 23:4

Hi Everyone!

I don’t think it goes without saying how we are truly in one of the most, if not the most, difficult season our country and our world has faced in a very, very long time. I’ve been just like the rest of you these past few weeks: Glued to the news and social media feeds, left shocked and heartbroken by the things going on around us. People have lost their jobs. Small business owners have lost their dreams. Many of lost access to health insurance, and many have lost access to their own health.

COVID-19 has gone through quite the transition, at least here in America. We all kind of went from joking about it with memes, to finding the toilet paper aisles empty, to now staying inside and hearing the death toll could reach up to 240 million people in America alone. As I’ve sat and thought the past few days, so many possibilities have crossed my mind. We truly don’t know what the next few days, weeks, or months bring. We are truly in uncharted territory. And as much as I’d love to comfort us all by saying God knew this was coming and that He is in control (because both of those things are true), I think God is giving us a little more substance to anchor our souls in today–because you know as much as I do, we need an anchor for our soul now more than ever.

Today is Palm Sunday and marks the start of Holy Week. Easter is my favorite holiday, even over Christmas. The emotions of Good Friday and the joy of Resurrection Sunday are days I look forward to all year. I can’t help but notice the timing of the Easter season this year, and how it collides directly with what could possibly be the worst week America has seen thus far in the amount of lives that will be lost, and the amount of cases that will be reported. It seems so interesting to me that one week in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago started off just like many of our weeks did before this whole thing happened: celebratory, joyous, excited for the future. But every day that Jerusalem moved closer to Passover, the more tense the air got, the more fuel that was added to the fire against Jesus, and finally it all accumulated in the darkest day of humankind: the day Jesus died.

The last month has felt somewhat like an elongated Holy Week. Most of us started off March pretty great. Then it got darker. And darker. And darker.

At the time I’m writing this, we have lost more than 8,000 lives in America due to the Coronavirus. And by the end of this week–by the time we are observing Good Friday–we could–and probably will–lose thousands more.

Isn’t it something that the week we will be observing the One death that paid our sins once and for all will be happening simultaneously along the world’s worst pandemic in nearly 100 years? Every day that we get closer to remembering Jesus’ death, we will be watching people die all around us. And how many people will we lose that very Friday as we reflect on Jesus’ death?

All this to say this: We are in the darkest valley right now. I’ve read Psalm 23 over and over and over again since this year started, and today I read verses 4-6 in a little bit of a different light, and I wanted to share that with you. The verses are as follows, bolded words are mine:

"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

We will walk through dark valleys–that’s guaranteed, and everyone in the Bible did. David did, and as he details this in the above verses, there are some things we can take away from it. As we walk through the darkest valley right now, here’s what God is doing, and here’s what we can hold on to:

  • I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me: In the darkest valley, God is with us. His Presence and His protection comfort us. In the darkest valley.
  • You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: In the darkest valley, when we are surrounded by enemies, job loss, uncertainty, fear, and even death, God provides for us. He prepares a table right in the middle of the darkest valley. He gives us what we need, and He gives it to us abundantly. Right in the middle of the darkest valley.
  • Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever: In the middle of the darkest valley, God’s goodness and love is right here with us. It’s following us. It’s comforting us. It is with us. Right here in the darkest valley. And right here in the darkest valley, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Right here in the darkest valley, we need not fear. Lean into these verses. Lean into God’s promises. Dig into God’s word. There is hope available. There is peace available. There is life available.

What happened on the worst day in history didn’t stay that way. Jesus died, but He didn’t stay dead. Sunday did come. Resurrection did come. Eternal life did come. We may be in the darkest valley now, but this won’t last forever. Because bad days never have the final say. Death never has the final says. Valleys never have the final say.

Resurrection has the final say. God has the final say. So let’s hang on. Sunday is coming.

But for those who might not make it to Easter Sunday this year, can we pray for them? The reality is so many people are questioning their own mortality in these times, and there’s never been a more opportune time to tell others about the hope and the life that Jesus freely offers to anyone who calls on His name (Romans 10:9-10). Pray for your friends and family. For healthcare workers, and our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. For those who’s eternities are hanging in the balance as they await the next week. God is still doing miracles. And we need salvation to flood this country. That will be my prayer this week: That the blood poured out on Calvary’s tree 2,000 years ago would flood America anew this Holy Week and Easter season. It’s not too late for anyone. Let’s do all we can to bring this message to those who need it, before it does become too late.

Thank you for being here during these trying times. If you ever need someone to talk to or pray for you, please feel free to reach out. Comments below are always welcome, as are DM’s on my socials (@stephjayewriter). Remember, we are all in this together, and I’m loving and praying for you all. Please stay home, stay safe, and be wise.

Until Next Time,

Stephanie ❤

Real Hope for Real Hurt, pt.1: Where Is Your Faith?

Real Hope for Real Hurt, pt.1: Where Is Your Faith?

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” // Psalm 73:26

Hey guys! I hope you’ve been having a great start to 2020! It’s been a minute since I’ve released a blog, but I’m going to try and be back with new blogs every week again!

If you read any of the blogs I put out towards the end of last year, especially this one and this one, you know that I experienced a lot of hurt and disappointment in 2019. I didn’t realize this at the time, but the hurt and reality of all my disappointments had really taken it’s toll on me. I started to question God, and I just plain didn’t understand why nothing that I wanted or had been praying for was happening. I could feel my heart starting to harden, and I knew I was in trouble.

I saw all that to say this: out of my own experience, and the experiences of others around me, I know that hurt and pain and suffering is real. So many people wrestling with God–let alone His goodness–when times of trials come. But here’s the thing–sometimes the advice we get or the comfort others give (that is well intentioned, no doubt) isn’t what we need in those moments. What we need is REAL HOPE for REAL HURT. That’s what I want to talk about the next couple weeks.

We’re not talking about Romans 8:28–though that’s a great verse, and is certainly true.

We’re not talking about– “Everything happens for a reason”, though I believe that’s also true.

We’re not talking about– “It’ll happen, just have to wait”.

We’re talking about:

Who is God when my world falls apart and what can I hang my hope on to get through this? Because it doesn’t feel like anything is going to help me right now.

Who is God when my world falls apart and what can I hang my hope on to get through this? Because it doesn’t feel like anything is going to help me right now.

That’s where I was, and that is where so many of you are right now. So we’ll start here.

Recently I was reading Luke 8 in my Bible, and was reading the story of when the disciples were in a boat with Jesus and a really bad storm kicked up. These guys were in danger. The Bible goes so far as to say they were in “great danger”. Panicked, they rushed to Jesus, scared for their lives (literally), and they say, ““Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” (vs. 24).

So Jesus gets up and literally commands the winds and the waves to calm. And they do. When the storm subsided and all was calm, Jesus turned to His panicked disciples and says this: “Where is your faith?”

This hit me so hard when I read this. As almost Jesus Himself was saying these words directly to me. “Where is your faith?”

This got me thinking about where my faith actually was. I could say it was in God. But was it?

I think that’s where so many of us are right now. The winds are roaring and the waves are swamping our lives and we are drowning–just like the disciples. They knew where to turn, but I don’t know if they fully grasped Who they were turning to. If they had, would their reaction have been the same? Would panic have overtaken them? Or would they have remained calmly confident?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Fear is a human emotion, and if we were in a boat about to go under, I would surely be panicked. But in the midst of that panic, I have to wonder if there would there be an underlying peace because we knew Who is in our boat.

So I want to leave us with that question today. “Where is your faith?” Could it be that your faith is actually in yourself? Have you been putting everything all on your shoulders? Or maybe your faith is in someone else. Or something else. Honestly take a look at what you’re putting your faith in.

Next week, we’re going to talk about the components of the One we put our faith in. What makes Him trustworthy? Why can I choose to put my faith in Him? If you can’t wait for next week, you can always find me on social (IG and Twitter). Let’s talk about it. I want you to experience the real hope of Jesus. Because that’s where healing and real hope comes from.

Until Next Time,

Stephanie

@stephjayewriter

Top 10 Lessons I Learned from the Past Decade

Top 10 Lessons I Learned from the Past Decade

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” // Psalm 90:12

Happy Last Monday of the DECADE!! This is the second blog that I put out this week, because not only is it the last few days of the year, but also of the decade. And if you know me at all, you know I love to reflect on what I’ve learned and am fascinated by how time defines things.

The 2010’s decade has been an interesting one for me. I spent more years out of school than I did in, (which didn’t occur to me until I thought about writing this blog. Seems like I spent more time in school than not!), and a lot happened this decade.

When I think about a span of ten years, I think about how much happens in that time. How much our lives change. The next ten years have the possibility to bring us the most unbelievable joys, the best surprises, and discovering more of our Creator. But before we jump into 2020, I want to take a look back at the 2010’s. Without further ado, here are the top 10 lessons I learned from the past 10 years.

  1. Your obedience to God, no matter what you’re losing now, will always be worth it in the end. This has by far been one of the biggest lessons to span this decade. Obedience is so, so, SO important. And it’s always worth it.
  2. Anxiety is scary, but it’ll pass. I struggled with anxiety like I never have before this past decade. But instead of trying to fight it like I have been, I wish I would’ve known that the body naturally clams itself down–so I don’t have to try obsessively to. Also, to know God as a loving Father instead of a God who expected perfection is a lesson well learned.
  3. Make a difference when and where you can. God gives us seasons–at jobs, with people, in certain areas. Don’t waste that time blending in, trying to hang with the cool crowd, or letting the world bog you down. Make a difference for Jesus in those places and in those moments while you have them (Matt. 5:16). One day it’ll be too late.
  4. Just because the answer is “no” now does not mean it will always be. If you read my blog that came out yesterday, you’ll read that this year was a big one for the two letter word “no”. And honestly, these past few years I’ve seen what I thought were the desires of my heart go left unfulfilled. But in the past decade, I’ve also seen things that I thought were gone for good come back and bring me the most joy I’ve ever had, because they were God’s thing and in God’s timing. No is not always not forever. You can trust God with your hearts desires (Psalm 37:4).
  5. Take time to get alone with Jesus–often and whenever else necessary. There was a period of time during my senior year of high school when I went through a period of losing all of my best friends. (Yeah, you read that right. All.) It was extremely tough, but that’s when I started reading the Bible when I had breaks in between classes and started seeking Him more, and that changed e v e r y t h i n g for me. Even now, I’ve learned that getting alone with Jesus–especially to start my day–is critically important. Seeking His face, His Word, and being with Him in prayer will allow you to grow in your relationship with Him and make space for Him to reveal all He has for you. Do it!
  6. Talking about relationships–don’t romanticize. I didn’t know the damage this could cause until recently. Stay present, keep your head out of the clouds, and seek God in all your romantic endeavors. Trust me, it’ll save you a boatload of heartache.
  7. Ask God to show you His best. This was a h u g e lesson for me a couple years ago. Sometimes our vision can get clouded by doubt, worry, confusion, or impatience that we are tempted to settle for what’s easy, or what’s available now, or simply put, less than God’s best. Do not do this! Ask God to show you His best. But when you do, be prepared to have Him show you what is not His best. That may be hard, but that too will be worth it.
  8. Guard your heart. There’s a reason we’re instructed–above all else–to guard our heart (Proverbs 4:23). Whether it be against bitterness, lust, jealousy, comparison, or something else, it is vital for us to ask God to help us guard our hearts. As the Scripture says, everything we do flows from our heart. If everything flows from it–we better make sure we’re guarding what we allow in it.
  9. You are set free in Christ–start acting like it. This decade, I learned that I am truly loved by the God of the universe. I am set free in Him. He is glorified when I embrace my freedom as a Child of God, when I am who He’s created me to be in ways that honor Him (Psalm 139:1-18). And above all else–He loves me! This was a huge revelation I experienced, and look forward to continuing to learn and walk that out in the new decade.
  10. Enjoy life. Goodness, just enjoy life! I can be so uptight and worried about everything, and yet God gives us all good things to enjoy (John 10:10, 1 Timothy 6:17)! Food, adventure, family, friends, work, whatever! It’s okay to have fun, to enjoy things! So glorify Him and feel free to enjoy life.

Well friends, that’s about it! There are so many more lessons I learned, but these are ones that were big and had lasting impacts from the last ten years. I cannot wait to see what the next ten years brings, and I pray that it’s full of blessing, abundance, and love for all of you.

Until Next Time,

Stephanie Jaye ❤

@stephjayewriter

P.S. — Remember to check out my year-end blog from yesterday, too!

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 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

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

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

God’s Love Casts Out Fear

God’s Love Casts Out Fear

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” // 1 John 4:18

Happy Sunday! This week we’re continuing our series on God’s love in celebration of February, Valentine’s Day, love. You know, all that good stuff.

Something that is crippling in our day and age is fear. Fear, anxiety, depression … all the things. I’ve struggled with this myself, but I’ve learned a lot through it. And one of the things I’ve learned is that if we truly believe God, if we truly take Him at His word, there is nothing to fear.

Now, before I continue, I understand that there are serious conditions that make this subject rather complicated. Please know that this post is not insensitive to that, and this is certainly not medical advice. However, I believe (as an anxiety sufferer myself) that there is nothing more powerful, more healing, and more freeing than believing and standing in the power of God’s promises.

We’re told in 1 John 4:18 that “perfect love drives out fear”. When I read this, I wondered why, if this were true, fear was still penetrating my heart. But when I read on, the verse tells us why. “Fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

When we fear, it’s usually because we aren’t trusting God for who He says He is in some aspect. Here’s a list of reasons, based in who God is, we have no reason to fear:

  1. God is who He says He is. God has given us promise after promise that He is with us, He is for us, and that if we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are sealed for eternity. We are no longer under wrath but under grace (Heb. 13:5, Rom. 8:31, 6:14).
  2. There’s nothing we can do to make God stop loving us. God doesn’t love us based on what we do, He loves us based on who He is. Because of this, there’s nowhere we can go, and nothing we can do that will make Him stop loving us (Jer. 31:3, Matt. 28:20).
  3. He’s promised to be with us. Because God is over all, through all, and in all, there’s nowhere we can be that He is not (Ps. 139:7-10). Plus, if we know Jesus as our Savior, He’s given us His Holy Spirit that lives in us, and we can never be separated from Him (John 10:28, Rom. 8:38-39).
  4. He already knows every day of our life before we do. Psalm 139:16 tells us, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be”. Nothing is a surprise to Him. Nothing takes Him off guard. We can run to Him, secure in His love, because He is unshaken by our storms.
  5. The Bible tells us we haven’t been given a spirit of fear, but of love, power and self-discipline. Literally, as new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), fear isn’t apart of our DNA. It’s not who we are, and we don’t have to bow to it anymore (2 Tim. 1:7).
  6. There’s resurrection power in us. Romans 8:11 tells us that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. Think about that. That same Spirit that raised the King of Kings from the grave is in us. Think about how powerful that Spirit is. If that Spirit can–and did–raise Jesus from the dead, He is certainly powerful enough to break the spirit of fear in us and set our feet on the path of trusting in God, His love, and lead us in the path of freedom and peace (John 8:36, Luke 1:37, Isa. 26:3).
  7. Because He loves us. This is what 1 John 4:18 talks about. We don’t have to fear God … we don’t have to fear anything! God loves you. You are His child. He sees you as you are and wants you anyways. He knows that you’ve messed up. He knows you’ll mess up before you even do. But that doesn’t change the fact that He loves you. That He sent His Son for you. He is your father, and you are His child. Where there used to be fear, God now offers mercy, grace, and His unending love for you, His child. There is no place for fear in that.

Love is the opposite of fear. And because of Jesus, there is never a reason to fear. Fear is everything opposite of what the Scriptures tell us, everything opposite of who God is, the way He loves. This week, mediate on some of these promises. What is causing you fear in your own life? Is it because you’re not trusting God in some area? What promise of Scripture can you apply to that. Even when you don’t think you can go another moment under the weight of fear, remember His promises and proclaim them. This is where your freedom … and His love … is found.

Because of God’s love, we don’t have to fear. And if we believe that and live like it’s true, someday we might just change the world ❤

Until Next Time,

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@stephanie_jacqu

P.S.! The topic of fear is HUGE, and so I’ve decided to dedicate the whole month of March to this topic. Stay tune for that series in just a couple weeks and let’s experience freedom together!

The Beauty of Bravery

The Beauty of Bravery

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left,that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” // Joshua 1:5b-9

When you hear the word brave, what do you think of? Or who do you think of? Maybe you think of a personal hero, or maybe a historical leader, or maybe something simple like a superhero. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is on Monday, and as I’ve been going about my week, bravery has been something that’s been prevalent. And when I stop to think on the life of Martin Luther King Jr., I see that bravery was something prevalent in his.

It takes guts to be brave. To stand up when everyone sits down. To speak when everyone wants to stay quiet. But it also takes bravery to do small things, sometimes the things God wants you to do. And depending on your personality, even the smallest things in life can demand every brave bone in your body.

A lot of people view being scared as a weakness. We want to be viewed as strong, put together. I know I do. But the truth is none of us are going to be strong all the time. And it’s in our areas of weakness that God comes in and makes us strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

In today’s Scripture passage, we see Joshua receiving something like a pep talk from God. Moses had just died on the edge of the Promised Land and God was putting Joshua in charge. It was going to be his job to lead the people in, to fight the wars with the residents already residing in the land, and to follow God’s commandments just as He laid out. And here’s the cool thing about the Bible — the Bible doesn’t hide or ignore the fact that some of our favorite heroes — the ones did great things — were scared at times. In Joshua 1 alone, God tells Joshua not to be afraid 4 times. God knew this wasn’t going to be easy for him, and He didn’t ignore the fact that Joshua needed a courage booster. And that same God doesn’t ignore that fact in our lives today.

God knows what scares us. He knows what gets our heart racing, our brow sweating. But He also knows that His presence is sufficient for those things. He knows what’s on the other side of the those things is worth your racing heart and your sweating brow. He knows that you’ll never experience Him sitting around, comfortable in your pajamas all day like you would out in the wilderness of life with Him being your strength and comfort every step of the way.

So this week, think about what scares you. Has God asked you to do something that you don’t feel adequate enough for? Maybe you don’t think you can do it. Moses felt that way, too. But God gave Him the promise, the simple phrase of, “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). And He whispers that same promise into your scary places. This week, be brave. Call on God as many times as you need. Run to His arms for refuge. And let Him walk with you every step of the way. He is faithful and your bravery is beautiful. Because there’s nothing more beautiful than a child of God taking hold of her Father’s hand and trusting Him every step of the way.

So be brave … and someday we might just change the world ❤

Until next time,

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@stephanie_jacqu

P.S.! I have a challenge for you! Try reading Joshua 1:1-9 every day this week, preferably in the morning. This will encourage your spirit and empower you to be brave as you walk through your day with the Lord. I’ve done it in the past, and it really does help!

P.P.S!! If you do this challenge, let me know! Was it helpful? What was your favorite verse? Comment below or tweet me @stephanie_jacqu.

The Promise of Christmas

The Promise of Christmas

“The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.'” // Luke 1:35-37

Hey all! We’re almost halfway through the month of December and we’re already knee deep into the Christmas season. I’ve noticed the lines at the stores are getting longer, Christmas parades are underway, and before you know it, it’ll be Christmas Day.

Today, I want to continue our series on Christmas. I want to talk about the promise of Christmas. Out of the many things I love about Christmas, this is toward the top of my list. When we talk about Christmas, we’re talking about Jesus being born as a baby in a manger to save the world from their sin. The thing about the baby in the manger is that … this is no ordinary baby born on a whim one night. Instead, this is a miracle child … born of a virgin … in a town his parents didn’t even live in. Everything surrounding the birth of Jesus fulfilled all the prophesies given about Him. And God didn’t overlook one detail in this miracle story. Here are just a few:

  1. Jesus was to be born of the line of David. Jesus’ earthly father (though not conceived by him) was from the line of David. (2 Samuel 7:12-13, Matthew 1:1, Luke 1:32-33)
  2. Jesus was to be born of a virgin. Mary was a virgin, therefore Jesus was conceived without sin and by the Holy Spirit. (Isaiah 7:14, Luke 1:31-25)
  3. Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem. While Joseph and Mary actually lived in Nazareth, they ended up having to travel to Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem due to a census being called … just in time for them to arrive in Bethlehem where Mary would give birth to Jesus, just as the prophecy foretold. (Micah 5:2, Luke 2:1-7)

The night Jesus was born, every promise God made … He kept.

What all this means is this: God made promise after promise after promise to His people. A promise that’d He would send a Savior to save His people. And He told them the signs to look for, how He was going to fulfill this promise. And the night Jesus was born, every promise God made … He kept.

A couple weeks ago we talked about how there was a 400 year silent period from God before Jesus came onto the scene. There were 400 years without a prophecy, without a word from God. It might’ve been tempting to think God forgot about His promise of a Savior. But He didn’t. In fact, the whole time He was setting the scene so at the right time Jesus would be born and the world would have a Savior at the best possible time.

What Christmas tells us today is that God doesn’t forget. That not only does He make promises, but that He keeps them. This is great news for us today! Not only did He promise to provide a Savior, He did. Not only did He promise to save us, but through this Savior, He made a way for us to do just that. And it’s through this same Savior that we have many, many more promises that are alive and well today. The promise that God is with us (Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 1:23) is alive and well today. The promise of peace in abundance is ours today (Isaiah 26:3, John 14:27). The promise that God is quick to forgive when we repent is ours today (1 John 1:9). The promise that He will reward our faithfulness is alive and well today (Galatians 6:7-9). The promise that He’ll provide for us is ours today (Matthew 6:25-34). The promise that one day Jesus will come back is our hope today (Revelation 1:7).

Take heart today, friends. God sees you, just like He saw His people over 400 years of silence. God is not slow in keeping His promises, even though that’s what it may look like (2 Peter 3:9). It just means that He’s setting the stage for the most amazing thing ever. Be it a baby born in Bethlehem or the very thing He knows you need. If you have a need, God has a promise for you this Christmas. He gave and delivered the best promise that very first Christmas. And because of that, we know that every single promise He’s made to us in His word will be kept, too.

The promise of Christmas means that not only do we have a Promise Maker, but we have a Promise Keeper.

The promise of Christmas means that not only do we have a Promise Maker, but we have a Promise Keeper. And because of that, someday we might just change the world. ❤

Until next time,

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@stephanie_jacqu

P.S.! I’m going to a Christmas concert tonight with some great Christians artists (maybe I’ll post some pictures in a couple days if you guys are interested). What fun things are you doing or have done this year to celebrate the season? Tweet me or leave a comment below letting me know!

P.P.S.!! I will be a posting a special mid-week post on TUESDAY (Dec. 11). Make sure you check back for that or sign up for email notifications here on my site to get that delivered right to your inbox so you don’t miss it! Also, keep an eye on my Twitter for the announcement it’s posted also!