When Set Backs Hit

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For some, dreams come easy. Most of us want to feel significant, to know we’re called to something miraculous and eternal.

But others have long since lost that childlike expectancy and have traded thoughts of what could be to settle for what is. Maybe an opportunity came that felt so right, so us, our hearts leapt with joy. And we immediately began envisioning where God might take us and that thing. But then opposition hit, and though we persevered for a while, eventually our passion and strength waned until both felt nonexistent.

So we quit.

We stopped trying. Stopped hoping, stopped longing for more or better.

Maybe after years of rejections and setbacks, we came to believe God could never use that gift in that way. Or maybe not at all. Perhaps after years of marital silence and what felt like unanswered prayers, we relinquished our hopes of happily ever after and slowly, quietly, our hearts hardened. We ceased praying for that family member, quit believing that wayward child would return. Quit trusting God would one day give us victory over that sin.

And so, over time, we joined the disillusioned and discouraged, convinced Christ’s promise of abundant life was nothing more than hyperbole.

But at each moment, God gives us a precious gift: the chance to begin again. To send one more letter, offer one more prayer, make one more phone call, or type one more line. Because He’s fully engaged in our journeys, not just our beginnings and ends. As the saying goes, the God who calls us to it, whatever it may be, is the same God who will bring us through it.

All He asks is that we lean on Him and keep stepping. We tend to see difficulties as text pulled from post with background image of mountains and a valley between them.dead ends and detours, but in Scripture, again and again, we see those things that appear to be obstacles are simply opportunities for God’s power and grace to shine.

Imagine being part of the rebuilding crew King Cyrus sent back to Jerusalem. If you’ve been following this blog series, you’ll remember, after a long period of captivity, God stirred the hearts of His people’s captors to send them home—with abundance. He was calling them to rebuild their Temple, the place where He said He’d dwell. I imagine, in this, they would also be rebuilding their faith after having spent decades in a foreign, pagan land where all their desperate pleas for aid appeared to go unanswered for so long.

But then, just when all seemed hopeless, God came through and sent them off with absolutely everything they’d need to fulfill the task He’d assigned. Can you imagine the celebration they felt, upon leaving Babylon? The images and memories that filled their heads as they traveled closer and closer to their homeland?

You can sense their excitement in Psalm 126, written to celebrate their return:

“When the Lord brought back His exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’ Yes, the Lords has done amazing things for us! What joy!” (vs. 1-2, NLT).

Scripture tells us the people joined together “with a unified purpose” (Ez. 3:1) and, though frightened of the locals, began building with courage (Ez. 3:3, NLT). Everyone, including the priests and Levites, who’d returned from exile, worked together. Then, once they laid the foundation, they praised God with trumpets, cymbals, and songs of thanks.

Oh, what a glorious beginning! What joy to be called and commissioned by the King. But then came the opposition. The locals first tried to deceive them, then frightened and discouraged them until, eventually, the building stopped.

They shifted their focus off of the things of God and onto themselves, off of the glorious and miraculous and onto the mundane. They settled for “what was”—a life of ordinary houses occupied by ordinary lives—instead of what could be.

At least for a time—until God once again revived their hearts. Just as He does with us, when we begin to feel tired and discouraged. If that’s where you’re at now, hear this truth: God’s with you. He has a plan for you, and He is, at this moment, walking beside you. He will turn every struggle and setback you encounter to good. Trust Him in this, lean on Him, and keep stepping.

Let’s talk about this! Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below, and join Wholly Loved’s discussion in our Facebook group!

Our online community is a safe place where women can share their struggles, insights, and celebrations. This is a “closed” group where only members can see posts shared and where confidentiality is practiced. We share prayer requests, hurts and insecurities, and ways God is meeting us in our struggles each day. And you’re invited to heal and grow and learn with us!

And make sure to check out our daily devotions on Crosswalk. You can find them HERE.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Encouragement for the Fatigued and Discouraged

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Discouragement, fatigue, and feelings of defeat are perhaps the most powerful vision destroyers and faith derailers. These emotions, often fed through negative thinking, paralyze God’s people. I know, because I’ve allowed momentary setbacks, lack of results or response from others to hinder my productivity—my obedience—on numerous occasions.

This morning, I made a list of my greatest challenges to obedience:

  1. Focusing on results rather than obedience. If I dig to the root of this obstacle, I discover I’ve likely forgotten that God’s wisdom is greater than mine, that He’s always present, is always working out His plans, and, in His sovereignty, will ensure that everything plays out precisely as He desires. And since He knows best, the results, whether deemed “successful” by human standards or not, will be good because He is good.
  2.  Allowing my identity to get tied up in that “thing.” It’s interesting, or perhaps sad would be more accurate, how often I entangle who I am with what I do or don’t do. When I look to accolades, roles, or outcomes to define me, my security becomes unstable and my confidence subjective.
  3. Focusing on others—what they are or aren’t doing—rather than God’s leading. When God calls me to something, especially if that something is hard or requires perseverance and sacrifice, my eyes can begin to roam. I can begin to compare my assignment or results with others.
  4. Fatigue. Sometimes I simply need to rest—in God’s presence.
  5. Fear of failure. This fear tangles challenge one with challenge two. To overcome this fear, I must shift my focus from results to obedience and remember, regardless of the results, that role or achievement doesn’t define me. I belong to God, am chosen by Him for an eternal purpose, and He will perfect all that concerns me.

God addresses each of these faith-hindrances in Daniel chapter 10. Daniel, a prophet living in a foreign land during a time of oppression, was devastated by his circumstances. He’d cried out to God, acknowledging the sins of his people and asking for forgiveness and restoration. (Daniel 9). God had responded by telling him further destruction would come. And Daniel fell into a three-week depression. (Daniel 10:2).

God responded not by changing his circumstances but instead by centering him in His love.In the middle of Daniel’s despair, a man dressed in white whom some believe was Jesus Himself, appeared and said, “Daniel, you are very precious to God” (v. 11). “‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, ‘for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!’” (v. 19).

I love that this man affirmed Daniel twice: “You are precious to God. You are precious to God.”

How often do we need to hear those words? When we’re doing all we can to raise responsible, Christ-loving children, but they rebel against us. Or when we’re faithfully performing our work responsibilities each day, but coworkers or perhaps a hostile boss continually stands against us. Or perhaps when we’re following all the doctors tell us to do, praying daily for healing, and yet the tumor grows.

In those moments, it’s easy to feel discouraged and deflated. Completely alone. But God says to each of us, “You are precious to God. Don’t be afraid. Be encouraged! Be strong!”

What are you facing today? Don’t fight that battle alone. Press into Jesus and Text from post with mint backgroundremember, you are precious to Him. He’s standing beside you and going before you. He hears you and sees you and promises to never leave.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

If you’re going through a particularly discouraging time, perhaps this video, from week five of the Becoming His Princess Bible study, will encourage and inspire you to stand firm and wait well.

For those wanting to follow my Bible reading (largely following chronologically with Ezra, though Daniel 9, which should fall on day five, is presented first to correlate with today’s post):

Day one: Daniel 9

Day two: Haggai 1

Day three: Haggai 2

Day four: Zechariah 1, 4

Day five: Ezra 5

Day six: Spend a day reviewing, journaling on, and praying over what God showed you during your day one-five Bible reading time.

You can use these questions, pulled from Wholly Loved’ Becoming His Princess Bible study, as a guide each day.

Who are the main characters in this passage?

What does this passage reveal about the human condition, such as:

  • Mankind’s rebellion against/obedience toward God?
  • Mankind’s attempts to fill their needs apart from Him or relying on Him for their needs?
  • Mankind’s attempts to reach Him on their own terms?

What does this passage reveal regarding God’s nature?

What does/might this passage reveal about God’s plans?

How might this passage reveal mankind’s need for the gospel?

In what ways are you/have you been similar to one or more of the characters in this passage?

What might God want you to know through this section of Scripture?

What might He be asking you to do?

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Update on Keep Your Eyes on the Call Post

Hey, y’all,

Sorry for the double post this morning, but I updated the previous (find it HERE) to include a Bible reading plan and didn’t want those of you who receive my posts in your inbox to miss it (as I don’t believe you receive posts a second time when they’re revised).

As I almost always write out of whatever God is showing me during my prayer or Bible reading times, and I will likely be camped out in the time when Ezra and others are rebuilding God’s Temple …

For those wanting to follow along with my Bible reading (as I have a feeling many of my preceding posts will stem from that), here’s a daily reading list. (I’m reading out of a chronological Bible so am simultaneously in Ezra, Haggai, Daniel, and Psalms.) I’ll share some questions you can use each day to help you process what God might be telling you below. They’re pulled from Day One Option One of Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study.

Day one: 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-11

Day two: Ezra 2

Day three: Psalm 126, 147

Day four: Ezra 3

Day five: Ezra 4

Day six: Spend a day reviewing, journaling on, and praying over what God showed you during your day one-five Bible reading time.

Questions you can work through as you read your daily Bible passages:

Who are the main characters in this passage?

What does this passage reveal about the human condition, such as:

  • Mankind’s rebellion against/obedience toward God?
  • Mankind’s attempts to fill their needs apart from Him or relying on Him for their needs?
  • Mankind’s attempts to reach Him on their own terms?

What does this passage reveal regarding God’s nature?

What does/might this passage reveal about God’s plans?

How might this passage reveal mankind’s need for the gospel?

In what ways are you/have you been similar to one or more of the characters in this passage?

What might God want you to know through this section of Scripture?

What might He be asking you to do?

End your reading in prayer, asking God to help you apply the biblical truths discovered and live out whatever you sense Him impressing on your heart.

Keeping Our Eyes on the Call and the God Who Calls

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Image by Priscilla Du Preeze on Unsplash

Sometimes I feel bombarded by a world of takers and, when my eyes land on them instead of my Savior, I begin to feel discouraged. Frustrated. Taken advantage of. I know God calls me to serve Him above all else and to follow His will. In other words, to concern myself with obedience and nothing else. But so often my vision drifts off the path He’s laid out for me and onto others. Like the apostle Peter in John 21:21, I ask my Savior, “But what about him, Lord?”

To which God responds, “You must follow Me” (NIV).

I’ve heard others say they want to be leaders, but I wonder if they realize what this means. Leading means giving all of yourself without expecting anything in return. It means elevating others while you slip quietly into the background. It’s giving others the credit for wins and taking full responsibility for each loss.

In short, it’s doing all you can to act like Jesus, the One who gave His life so that we might live.

Honestly, that’s every Christian’s call, and we’re all leaders in some capacity. Whether we’re guiding little ones each day, speaking life into our coworkers, or demonstrating to our neighbors what it looks like to follow God.

We all have a sphere of influence, precious hearts God has entrusted to our care, and He asks us to lead them well. With passion, strength, courage, perseverance, and self-sacrifice.

In order to do so, our eyes must be locked on our Savior and whatever task He’s assigned.

He reminded me of this truth this morning as I was reading about Ezra’s commission to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. This call came while the Jews were in captivity, living in a foreign nation. I imagine many felt stuck. As if their situation was too bleak for hope. But then God “stirred the heart of Cyrus” the King of Persia to proclaim in writing, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are the Lord’s people may go there for this task. And may the Lord God be with you!” (NLT).

God is sovereign. No matter what is going on around us, regardless of our challenges or circumstances, we can rest in this truth. Our ministries, that assignment we can’t afford to botch—He reigns over those as well.

And notice, it is God who calls His people to action—those who chose to respond. In other words, when God gives us a task, not everyone will contribute. But those whom God calls will, as Ezra 1:5 demonstrates. “Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and the Levites and leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord” (NLT).

We’re not alone in this walk of obedience. God is always with us, and though some may leave, betray us, or take advantage of us, others won’t. Others will help and encourage and support. And God will provide everything else. All we need and more.

This is precisely what He did for those rebuilding His Temple. Ezra 1:6 says, “And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings” (NLT).

God amply supplied.

He’ll do the same for us. When I’m focused on God and resting in His sovereignty, I’m freed to move forward in peace Woman walking down road with text pulled from post.and faith. I’m not defeated or frustrated by other people’s actions, because I know God’s in control and will guide me toward His very best. If I’ve spent hours working on an important topic someone else gets credit for, I’m not phased because I know God’s bigger. If others don’t come through or leave in the middle of a job, I won’t feel defeated because I know God will supply what I need when I need it to complete precisely what He has planned.

Let’s talk about this! Do you ever have the wandering, “What about him, Lord?” When are you most prone to do so? How does (or might) remembering God’s sovereignty–over you, your situation or ministry, and those in your sphere–help you remain focused and encouraged? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

For those wanting to follow along with my Bible reading (as I have a feeling many of my preceding posts will stem from that), here’s a daily reading list. (I’m reading out of a chronological Bible so am simultaneously in Ezra, Haggai, Daniel, and Psalms.) I’ll share some questions you can use each day to help you process what God might be telling you below. They’re pulled from Day One Option One of Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study.

Day one: 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-11

Day two: Ezra 2

Day three: Psalm 126, 147

Day four: Ezra 3

Day five: Ezra 4

Day six: Spend a day reviewing, journaling on, and praying over what God showed you during your day one-five Bible reading time.

Questions you can work through as you read your daily Bible passages:

Who are the main characters in this passage?

What does this passage reveal about the human condition, such as:

  • Mankind’s rebellion against/obedience toward God?
  • Mankind’s attempts to fill their needs apart from Him or relying on Him for their needs?
  • Mankind’s attempts to reach Him on their own terms?

What does this passage reveal regarding God’s nature?

What does/might this passage reveal about God’s plans?

How might this passage reveal mankind’s need for the gospel?

In what ways are you/have you been similar to one or more of the characters in this passage?

What might God want you to know through this section of Scripture?

What might He be asking you to do?

End your reading in prayer, asking God to help you apply the biblical truths discovered and live out whatever you sense Him impressing on your heart.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Building Redemptive Relationships

Flower with text: No matter the conflict or challenge problems are temporary but people are eternal

I’m forty-four and I’m still learning how to create and maintain healthy relationships, really to be an instrument of love and grace. In this, God recently sparked a major mind-shift, one that arose smack in the middle of tension, confusion, and heartache.

But resulted in incredible hope and peace.

I’ve learned and grown the most through my marriage and interaction with my daughter. Those are my two most important relationships—the ones I most want to hold tight to. Therefore, I have a great deal of motivation to love well, in a way that deepens emotional intimacy, creates wholeness, and builds trust. I’ve discovered, fighting for those things has such greater impact in the long term than any “solution” my mind might latch on to or contend for.

As the saying goes, we can win the battle and lose the heart.

Last month, my daughter dealt with some hard stuff. Long-term life impacting hard stuff, and it’s been crazy difficult to watch her struggle. Whenever I see her hurt, regardless of the reason, a fierce desire to protect rises up. I want to immediately “fix” the situation. Whenever I land in that place, however, not only am I getting in God’s way, but I miss out on amazing, transformational teaching opportunities.

When I seek His heart and will, not just for the situation or problem but for the person I’m interacting with as well, my vision becomes clearer. More Christ-like. And I’m reminded that God is much more concerned with what is going on within an individual than any decision they may or may not make.

I think we probably know this intellectually, but our natural inclination is to focus on the now. On finding solutions and alleviating the pain of today. It’s easy to forget how often God uses our struggles to bring about His greatest and deepest work. By following His lead, we have an opportunity to play a part in that.

In every conflict and difficulty, He’s inviting us to bring life and light into other people’s lives.

Let me explain, using my recent interaction with my daughter. From the surface, one might say she’s facing decisions related to her future marriage and everything that comes with merging two families from different cultures. Focusing on that—advising her on what steps to take or not to take—keeps us centered on one immediate situation. And initially, that was what I did.

But in the middle of vacuuming, it was like God whispered in my ear: This is a good thing. You have an opportunity to show her what healthy dialogue looks like and how to communicate with others who may not share her perspective.

So, setting aside my “fix-it” tool belt, I chose a mentorship role and planned a picnic for her, her future fiancé, and my husband. Together, we simply talked. We addressed tough issues, shared thoughts and feelings, and honestly, solved nothing.

But I built bridges of trust that will lay the groundwork for a lifetime of communication. We also, I hope, demonstrated what healthy dialogue looks like. Those things—how to persevere through relational tension and initiate and hold hard conversations with equal parts love and truth—will have a much greater impact on her future marriage than any decision she and her boyfriend make today.

This was my mind shift—to focus on growth rather than behavior. In short, to reach and protect and equip the heart.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” To the ancient Jew, the heartFlower with dark background and text from Prov. 4:23 involved much more than a person’s emotions. It was the core of their being and encompassed their will and intellect as well. In other words, it’s the place where decisions are made.

It’s easy to focus on the “everything else.” To believe the current problem is the problem. But God’s vision goes so much deeper. Scripture says He uses all things for our good (Rom. 8:38)—to mold us into the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:39).

God’s goal is never behavior modification. He initiates transformation.

As my husband and I prayerfully evaluated the afternoon later, I realized God offers me the same opportunity He presented with my daughter in every encounter, whomever I engage. With every conflict or challenge, He’s inviting me to look past the present situation to the health and growth and healing He longs to bring through it.

This is what it means to create redemptive relationships. To help others experience the same mind-shift which God granted me.

My role isn’t to fix or convince or save but to demonstrate, by example, how we, God’s children, can bring life and light wherever we are. This takes courage and trust, not in the person I’m mentoring but in God. I have to believe He has a plan, is at this moment working out that plan, and that He’ll guide me and the one I love step-by-step toward His perfect and hope-filled will. Resting in who He is frees me to love well and without fear and to focus on the long-term growth, of myself and others, rather than whatever is going on today.

You Get to See it First–Cover Reveal!

Hello, lovely blog subscribers. Some of you have been with me for over ten years now, long before I received my first book contract. Some of you (SandyT, waving!) have prayed with and for me as I’ve sought to follow God’s lead on this crazy, fun, hard, and sometimes confusing journey. So, it only seemed right that y’all got to see the cover for my September release first!

Ready?

If I add enough enters here, will that create a “delay” affect? No? Okay, here it is. 🙂 What do you think?

Want to read the back cover copy?

She’s home again, but not for long…
Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart

Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?

You can preorder a discounted copy HERE.

Life Change on the Other Side of a Storm — Guest Post

No one enjoys hard lessons, and yet, they seem to be my most certain routes to growth. In fact, my greatest healing, steps toward freedom, and perspective shifts have occurred during my most challenging and uncertain periods. I suspect most of us could say the same. When the false securities we cling to turn shaky, we’re invited to plant my feet in the only One who’s steady and sure. As my guest today shares in the post below, sometimes destructive storms can have beautiful results.

The 2am Wake Up Call

By Meredith Kendall

It took a major storm for God to rightly shift my focus and priorities. It’d been raining all day and wasn’t supposed to let up anytime soon. The news reports indicated that the worst of the storm, including the threat of tornadoes, would hit around 2am. We knew a good night’s sleep wasn’t in our future primarily because we  had a little stream in our backyard. That night, that creekbed turned into a raging sea. 

The water remained inside its banks, but was rushing so rapidly that nothing in its way had a chance of survival. Once satisfied it would be okay, we set the alarm for 2am. But I felt unsettled, so I went upstairs, grabbed all three girls, put their sleeping bags on the floor in the family room, and kissed them goodnight.

I woke with a startle. The light on the alarm clock was flashing. The power had gone out. My cell phone read 2am. rain seen through the window on a dark, stormy nightWanting to check on things, I rolled over, put my feet on the floor. “Squish.” My toes hit soaked carpet. All I thought of was my girls laying in a pool of water. Yelling at my husband to wake up, I rushed to the family room to get to the girls. They were safe. The water reached just to the edge of their sleeping bags.

I’m not sure where my sense came from, but I didn’t attempt to open the door. Instead I went upstairs to the landing. Knowing water inside meant the creek had crested, I grabbed the keys to our vehicles and bolted outside.  As I backed the last automobile to safety, the water let loose and soon stood three feet against the back of the house.

Standing in the rain, I started to calculate all the damage we’d accrue. When the storm was done, I’d be left picking up the pieces.

Yes, you read this right. I made this mess all about me. My loss. My inconvenience. My inability to comprehend why God had allowed this to happen to me. Then I remembered a verse I’d memorized recently during a financial class.

Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (ESV).

This forced me to ask, who and what was I serving? I may have told you God, but my lifestyle and actions indicated otherwise.

What if you were to honestly answer the same question?

If God took everything away from you, would you still serve Him? What can you do today to

center your heart more deeply in Him?

Get to Know Meredith! 

Meredith Kendall is a change agent, driven by her God-given passion to equip struggling families to achieve their unique God-given potential.

As a nationally recognized sales leader, Meredith Kendall learned how to build bridges and make connections with the heart of what people need. God called her to co-found Advancing the Gospel which serves those who are often forgotten. Today she uses her gifting’s to help people understand the root causes of their struggles and find freedom through Christ.

Her upcoming book My GiGi’s House: Finding Hope will be released October 2019. Visit her online at www.the180program.org and her personal website www.meredithsagekendall.com