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 ❤

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!).