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!

2019: What I Learned From My Year of “Almosts”

2019: What I Learned From My Year of “Almosts”

“Yet I will wait patiently … Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights.” // Habakkuk 3:16b, 17-19

2019. Can you believe it’s the end of the year–*ahem*–decade already? I feel like I say this every year, but it’s worth saying again, this year flew! And while I had hopes and aspirations for this year, when I look back, it looked way–and I mean WAY–different than I thought it would.

And if I’m being honest, not in the bestest ways.

Until God gave me a different persective.

When I started to reflect on 2019, I wondered how I would remember this year. When I thought about it, one thing came to mind.

This was my year of “almosts”.

I ALMOST made the move across the country I had been hoping and praying for. But didn’t.

I ALMOST went on vacation to California. Until that got canceled.

I ALMOST instead went on vacation to North Carolina. Until our car didn’t want to cooperate.

I ALMOST accepted an offer of publication on my book. Until I realized it wasn’t the right publisher for me.

I ALMOST met a guy and started a relationship I so longed to be in. Until I got my heart broken before it even started due to circumstances out of my control.

Do you seem the theme here? When I looked back on 2019, this is what I saw. I saw a year of false starts, false hopes, and unfuliflled dreams.

I saw “ALMOST”.

If you’re like most people, almost isn’t good enough. It falls just short of expectation. No one ever achieved or celebrated anything that ALMOST happened. Because simply put, it just didn’t.

I didn’t move across the country. I didn’t go on any vacations–anywhere. I didn’t publish my book. I didn’t get to date that guy.

It seemed like in 2019 … I didn’t almost do … anything.

This isn’t going to be some blog about how we should shift our perspective. That we should cheeringly looking at what DID happen, and what DID make 2019 awesome. I’m not going there at all.

Where I am going is this: Even when dreams are left unfulfilled and the heart aches more than it can bear, God is still faithful. God is still in control. And God has better.

What’s interesting is my word for 2019 was “faithful”. The idea that because God is faithful to me, I will be faithful to Him. And because of His faithfulness, He can be trusted. So, while I ALMOST did a lot this year, here’s one thing I know for sure: God was faithful through it all. And I learned a heck of a lot through it.

I didn’t move across the country because God’s timing wasn’t right.

I didn’t go on vacation, because God was protecting me.

I didn’t get my book published because there’s a better home for it out there I can’t see yet.

I didn’t date that guy because simply put:

GOD. HAS. BETTER.

That was the lesson I learned this year. It’s funny because 2018 was all about pursuing God’s best. 2019 was all about trusting and seeking His better. What hard about “better” is that we often get so blinded by the here and now, that we can’t see what could possible BE better than what’s in front of us. And because of that, we question God when things don’t go the way we want them to. We kick and scream when He takes things away from us because we can’t see what’s just around the bend. But I have learned time and time again that God always has better. A L W A Y S.

I love the book of Habakkuk (some of y’all are trying to figure out where that is, so lemme help you — Old Testament, almost to the New 🙂 ). I’m not sure if I’ve ever read the whole book (all 3 chapters!), until recently, but I always knew of it’s concluding verses. But when I read the whole book of Habakkuk recently, it amazed me. Simply amazed me.

The book starts out by Habakkuk complaining to God, frustrated that He is not seeking justice against those who have wronged Israel. He doesn’t understand why God is allowing Israel to be pursued and destroyed by these foreign countries. It opens like this in Habakkuk 1:2-3:

“How long, Lord, must I call for help,
    but You do not listen?
Or cry out to You, “Violence!”
    but You do not save?
Why do You make me look at injustice?
    Why do You tolerate wrongdoing?”

You hear the frustration in Habakkuk’s voice while He cries out to God? That’s real. That’s relatable. The book then continues, recording God’s response in 1:5:

“Look at the nations and watch—
    and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
    that you would not believe,
    even if you were told.”

This conversation between Habakkuk and God spills into chapter two. But this time, God’s response silences Habakkuk’s frustration. In 2:3, God says this:

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay. “

That’s a word for someone today — your time will come. It may linger … but WAIT for it. It WILL come. It may not be in our timing, but it’ll be in God’s perfect timing. By the end of the book, we see a different Habakkuk. In the closing chapter, we see Habakkuk trusting in God’s timing, trusting He is powerful and will indeed do what He’s said, and concluding that he will wait for God patiently. The concluding verses show us that God has become Habakkuk’s strength, and therefore can endure–not only anything including famine and hardship–but do it joyfully. We read this in Habakkuk 3:17-19:

“Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.”

So, what is my point in all this? Though 2019 seemed to be a year of disappointments, a year of “almosts”, a year of getting my hopes up to get them let down–God walked me through something similar to what He did Habakkuk thousands of years ago. He’s showed me that He hasn’t forgotten. He is still working. He is still faithful. And He is up to something better.

So while my year may have been a year of “almosts” and false starts, this is how I will remember 2019:

The year God taught me He has better.

And I hope that if you had a disappointing year, or if disappointments meet you in the future, you can remember Habakkuk. That you can trust God, even when the promise lingers. You can wait patiently because you know He’s always working to fulfill His purpose in you. And You can rejoice always in God your Savior because He is enough for you.

Until next time,

Stephanie Jaye ❤

@stephjayewriter

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,

Image (5) - Edited (3)

@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

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

How To Respond When There’s Moral Unrest

How To Respond When There’s Moral Unrest

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.” // John 17:20-23

Hey guys! Sorry it’s been a minute since I’ve posted. These past couple months have been crazy. Good, but crazy! But I felt compelled to write today in regards to what’s been happening the past week in our country. I haven’t been able to go on Facebook, Twitter, or even turn on the news without hearing about the abortion debate going on. I’m not going to talk specifically about that issue today, as I don’t want to argue or start any arguments. However, I do have thoughts on how we as followers of Jesus can aid in the situation, and any other circumstances where we find ourselves morally at odds with others.

I can’t help but to think of present-day America as Israel in the Old Testament. I’m knee deep in reading the Prophetic books of the Old Testament right now, and as I read, I see America written all over the pages, and it saddens me. It saddens me to see the peace Jesus offers traded for temporary pleasures. Good boundaries- set for our benefit- encroached on because we seem to think we know better. But the Word of God is timeless. What was true when it was written is still true today. And for those who think it’s outdated, I say we’re more like the nation God was speaking to in the day of the Bible now more than ever.

The Word of God is timeless. What was true when it was written is still true today.

So what can we do in response to outrage, rebellion, and the protests going on challenging the good morals God has set in place, both now and in the future? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Love instead of hate. There are always going to be people with whom we disagree. That fact is as old as the hills. But the difference between followers of Jesus and everyone else is going to be how we love each other when we disagree (John 15:12). If we don’t love like Jesus, how are people going to know how Jesus loves them? Both unconditionally and intentionally? Let’s be committed to loving one another above the shouting and disagreement.
  2. Listen instead of argue. One thing that has been bothering me the past week is how everyone is seemingly yelling, but no one is listening. If we’re out to prove a point and are insistent we’re the ones who are right, we are doing nothing to bring other people to Jesus who already disagree with us. Instead, try listening to the other person and meet them where they’re at. Arguing – let alone over social media – will not solve our moral differences. Whenever you listen, listen in love and listen like Jesus does. He listened and then offered His wisdom in love (Mark 10:46-52). This is the only way we’re going to get people to listen and understand the truth of God’s wisdom and ways.
  3. Help instead of hurt. Instead of arguing or distancing ourselves from others we disagree with, offer a helping hand where there is disagreement. If you know someone looking at an abortion as their only option, pray for them. Offer to help them find alternative resources, letting them know abortion is definitely not their only option. Jesus didn’t just condemn us in our sin and leave us. Jesus stepped into our mess and rescued us from it. He got His hands dirty and gave up His very life to rescue and redeem us from sin, the law, and death (John 3:16, Colossians 2:13-15). Let us offer others the same.

Our world is full of examples where hearts are growing father and farther from the Truth (Romans 1:18-32). But I am convinced that if we are committed to being the hands and feet of Jesus, we can see revival. We can see healing. And we can see a turn in the tides more so than ever before. But it’s up to us. God wants to work through us. Through our prayers, through our love, and through our words. Let’s pray for one another – for those we agree with and those we don’t. Let’s love like Jesus. Let’s get into His Word and know what it says. Let’s get alone with Him and hear His voice. And let’s go out and influence this world for Him. The harvest is ripe. And I believe that when we do these things, someday we might just change the world.

“If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” // 2 Chronicles 7:14

Until Next Time,

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@stephjayewriter

P.S. If you feel compelled to leave a comment, please be respectful. This post is not intended to spark controversy or anger. Know it’s written in love and genuine desire to see the world changed for the better because of Jesus Christ.

God’s Love Helps Us Finish Well

God’s Love Helps Us Finish Well

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” // 2 Timothy 4:7

It seems as of late, more and more people are failing to finish well. Paul, imprisoned and close to death, wrote the words above to Timothy, his young prodigy, with full confidence. He, in essence, was saying, “I’ve done all I’ve been called to do, I’ve reached the finish line, and I’ve kept my faith.” And I think at the end of the day, when we’re close to death, we’re going to want to echo these words in regards to our own life.

So many people start out strong in their faith, but how come so many people fail to finish well? God has given us everything we need in order to do just that. 1 Corinthians 1:8 tells us, “He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I think the disconnect comes in when we fail to remember God’s love for us, His promise to strengthen us, and our selfish desires overtake our vision and desire to finish strong.

I think the disconnect comes in when we fail to remember God’s love for us, His promise to strengthen us, and our selfish desires overtake our vision and desire to finish strong. There are many reasons we as Christians get sidetracked as we travel through life, but the one I want to talk about today is how God’s love can keep us on the path of righteousness and cheer us on to finish life strong when it’s all said and done.

Sometimes, we fail to actually remember God loves us. I mean, we all know He loves us. We all recognize that Jesus died for us, that the Holy Spirit is within us, and we hear that God loves us. But I think we sometimes forget that God actually, for real loves us. He sings over us (Zech. 3:17). He provides for us (Matt. 6:25-34, Phil. 4:19). He considers us His child (1 John 3:1). When we start living every day like we actually believe God loves us, that love is going to capture our hearts and set our souls on fire. We’re going to want to stay close to Jesus, be obedient to what He says, and finish strong where He’s called us to.

Our relationship with God isn’t about doing more. Our relationship with God is a love-relationship. Love is always the motivating factor, in both God and ourselves.

Our relationship with God isn’t about doing more. Our relationship with God is a love-relationship. Love is always the motivating factor, in both God and ourselves. It was in love that God created you. It was in love that He sent Jesus to die for your redemption (John 3:16). It was in love that He called you and set you apart for Himself (Eph. 1:4-6, Ps. 4:3). And it’s in love that He calls you to whatever His purpose is in life (Eph. 2:10). It’s also in love that we read God’s Word, because we want to know Him better (Ps. 119:17). It’s in love that we do what He says, because we want to honor Him (John 14:15). It’s in love that tells others about the good news we have in Jesus (Matt. 28:19-20, 2 Peter 3:9). Everything we do or don’t do in our relationship with God should be because He loves us and we love Him.

If you’re feeling tempted to give up today, maybe you need a moment to remember and reflect on God’s great love for you. When worldly desires start encroaching on the corners of your heart, run back to your Savior. Remember the cross. And remember His love. Remembering His love will always get you back on the right track.

Because with a world that’s watching so close, it’s not enough to run your race now and flunk out later.

Because with a world that’s watching so close, it’s not enough to run your race now and flunk out later. We have to live intentionally now – loving others, serving God, and sharing the good news. But we also have to finish intentionally, knowing we’ve done everything God has called us to do and bring as many people with us into His Kingdom as we can.

So today, let’s remember our relationship with God is all ran off of love, and let’s run – and finish – this race well. And if we do, someday we might just change the world ❤

Until Next Time,

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@stephanie_jacqu