Monday, August 15, 2016

A Few Thoughts on Signifcance // A Devotional



“Becky, maybe God just doesn’t want to use me?” She asked. We were at the pool, getting interrupted a few dozen times by a screaming toddler needing the ball and big kids arguing over who’s turn it was to get the boogie board. Even through all of the interruptions, I could tell her heart was heavy with a burning desire to get uncomfortable for the sake of Christ.

I was dangling my feet in the pool, listening to one of my oldest and dearest friends share her heart about desiring discomfort and just flat-out more Jesus. She feels ready to say yes to scary things, but frustrated there aren’t any coming her way.

Have you felt that way? Have you felt a desire to be used but have whispers in the back of your head that you aren’t ready, aren’t good enough or not worthy?

I just got back from a writing + speaking conference, which was awesome and overwhelming all at the same time, and ever since then it has been easy to feel that my story is insignificant. When I brought my little book proposal into meeting with publishers - my heart written out on paper - they asked the same questions & said the same things ::

What makes you unique?

You really need to work on your “platform”.

Whoooooooooosh.

The air had just been sucked out of my sails.

I walked out of one meeting feeling encouraged and the next feeling like I was as insignificant as one ant on an ant hill. And I’m guessing that if you’re still reading this, you’ve felt same way a time or two in your life.

You’re desperately trying to keep your hands open on your life. At the same time you are wondering why God hasn’t moved in anything significant with all your blatant willingness to serve Him. You find yourself - like me with my book proposal - with your heart raw and open but with no takers.

My frustration boils down to this one word :: Significance.

Let’s put it into context though. When I find my thoughts lingering on that word, it often turns out to mean “self-importance”. I find myself thinking that my role, my job, my kids, my call is less important than that of someone else - or, sometimes, visa versa. (Being real.)

Significant actually has no value in God’s Kingdom, however. He uses everything - big, small and in between - for His purposes. I actually wanted to write “if we let Him” right there, but that’s not really the case, is it? He really uses it whether or not we let Him.

I’m sick and tired of telling myself that I need to get more followers, grow my readership and "market" myself. Does a bigger platform reach more people for His name? Sure. But do I need that to reach people for His name? Absolutely not.

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

Whatever you do. In other words, anything we find ourselves doing is significant when we do it in the name of Jesus.

I don’t need to be a sought after speaker, a for-profit blogger or a making-millions sign shop to be worthy of sharing the story. And neither do you. If there is one thing I’ve learned in studying the old testament, it’s that God cares about the ONE person. Jesus cares about the one. Why do you think He listed all of those tribe names and all of those people by name? Son of____ son of ___ son of ____? Because He sees them. He knows them. Each and every one of them. wrote a story for each of them, and He wove it into the story of Jesus.

And that’s what He does for us. He has given each of us a story. He has given YOU a story. Do you need a platform to share it? No. Do you need followers to share it? No. Do you need an audience to share it? No. All you need is open hands and a “send me” attitude.

My goal has changed from growing my platform to growing my walk. Instead of trying to spread joy over my social media feeds, I will try to spread joy in my home, in my neighborhood and on my weekly (daily) target run.

My job isn’t to build a platform. My job is to seek Him and tell His story. Period.

After much reflection over the past few weeks, I’m now convinced that our service doesn’t need to start with a platform, an audience or a calling. It starts with a daily surrender, letting God take us where He wants us that day. It has nothing to do with significant service, but everything to do with contented presence wherever we are at any given moment.

As much as I have to fight this thought - my value doesn’t come from how many likes I get on Instagram, how many signs I sell every week or how many comments I get on a blog post. It comes directly from being a daughter of the King of Kings and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide every word, every step, every moment.

So today, let’s stop thinking of how significant we are - or aren’t - and instead, start praying to the One Who has plans higher than we could ever think or imagine. Instead of getting down because we haven’t been taken anywhere yet, we can start being present where we are - because tomorrow just might turn out to be a crazy day.

Lord, thank you for creating me with specific bents and talents that are uniquely mine. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to use them for Your glory today. Forgive me when I covet someone else’s talents or when I disregard my own blessings. I believe that You have placed me here for today - and I want to live it to it’s fullest.  Stay close to me today and let me press into You with every step I take. I love You and am so grateful to be Your daughter. Help me to find my significance in that. Amen.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Lessons from the Wilderness :: The Final Chapter



Welcome back to my wilderness story. If you are just joining us, you can catch part one here, and part two here. If you're in the middle of the valley - in the wilderness - I pray that the story He is building in me gives you hope for today!

Let's do a quick recap - we've discussed what a wilderness season might look like in your life. We've seen how the Isrealites (like myself) tend to turn back to Egypt while walking through the dry seasons. Today we are going to end with the HOPE that comes from deciding to stop turning around when it gets hard, but keep going!

Today we are going to pick up in Isaiah right after God tells the people He will break them like a potter's jar where not one shard will be recognizable. (Isaiah 30:12-14)

"For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said: 
In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.”
But you were not willing,
And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses,”
Therefore you shall flee!" (Isaiah 30:15, 16)

Did you catch that???? Repentance and rest will be our saving grace. Our strength will come from quietness and trusting in Him. I had not been willing! So often I am not willing, y'all.

This has me thinking, why is rest and quiet so hard? Perhaps it's because I idolize busy. People who are busy seem to be important or at least have a lot to offer. I tend to think I need to say yes to everything because that might make me a “good Christian”, anybody there with me? I don’t trust Him to choose the best for us, so I choose all of the good things, hoping one might be the best thing. But then when the BEST thing finally comes along, I don’t have time - or I can’t even hear the call because my mind is cluttered and chaotic.

Verse 18.

“Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound o four cry; when he hears it, He will answer you. Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, our Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left. And you will defile your graven images overlaid with silver and your molten images plated with gold. You will scatter them as an impure things and say to them, “Be gone!”

Reading this passage is like taking a deep exhale, right? If you find yourself in this wilderness season of life, looking back toward Egypt - please feel this message of hope today.

This has become my promised land, y’all. I want so badly to hear a voice behind me saying, “this is the way, walk in it.” This is my ultimate goal.This is purpose.

But what is required from me to accomplish that? Repentance. Rest. Quietness & Trust.

God wants my compassion, my obedience, my trust… not just my sacrifice. He wants my heart, not my check in the box. He desires me to, like Mary, choose the better part - Him.

He doesn’t need our service. He simply wants us.

The wilderness is our opportunity - welcomed or not - to be still before Him. It’s our chance to press into Him, to depend on Him ALONE. It is the place He brings us to so we have no other choice. Think about all of the miracles that the Israelites saw because of the wilderness:

The parting of the Red Sea which included walking on DRY LAND and the drowning of all of Pharoah’s chariots, horses and men.

Being led by a pillar of fire and a cloud.

Bread raining from heaven. (Can we stop right there and talk about this? Eventually they begin complaining about the bread and begging for quail. Who, in their right mind, would ever complain about eating bread every single day???? I WISH I could eat bread that rained from heaven every day, y’all. They’re crazy!!!)

Sweet water from a rock.

The supernatural writing of the ten commandments.

And that's just a few.

Miracles, y’all. Because of the wilderness, not just in spite of the wilderness.

Did you know that most scholars suggest that the journey from Egypt to Canaan was 30 days - at most?!

Exodus 13: 17 says “Now when Pharaoh had led the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, ‘The people might change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’ Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea”. (Emphasis mine).

God saw that they might change their minds when they see war! So he took them through the wilderness to protect them both mentally and physically. His desire wasn't to slow them down, but to build up their faith, preparing them for the war that was definitely coming, but in His timing which, unfortunately, is often not ours. 

In other words, He taught them things in the wilderness that He wouldn’t have been able to if they had simply gone from point A to point B. If we went straight from mountaintop to mountaintop there wouldn’t be much time for reflection, gratitude or refinement. But for some reason, I still find myself fighting the valley between instead of embracing it. Do you?

I have found that it takes a lot of discipline to be still and yield to the unwanted seasons of life. It takes a lot of faith to hang on and believe that God will do what He says He will. We are not alone in that struggle. Even after building up the Israelites' faith in the wilderness, only 2 out of 12 leaders ended up believing that God would do what He said that He would. Only two, y’all.

We have to remember that the wilderness wasn't the consequence. WANDERING in the wilderness was the consequence. The wilderness was the way taken out of protection, provision and preparation - all in Gods sovereignty.

We fight the wilderness like it is somewhere we shouldn't be. But God takes us that way to show us miracles that we otherwise wouldn't see. To still our hearts and provide for us the BEST parts of Himself. To prepare us to trust Him when we get to the banks of the Jordan when we can't see any way through, around or across.

The Israelites could have avoided 40 YEARS wandering around if they would have just trusted God to come through on His promises. If they would have simply remembered all that he had done for them and promised to do for them, they might have avoided it all. They gave up forty years in a land of milk and honey because they put God in a box and said that this fight was too big for Him.

So what is up ahead for you? What do you need to believe Him for today? What thing seems impossible for Him - the thing that you wonder if He even remembers you are waiting on?

Turn back to that page between the Old Testament and the New Testament and grab hold of it tightly.

Do you feel forgotten? Do you feel lonely? Do you seek God but feel silence? Think about those 400 years of silence and what that must have felt like. How dark and deserted it must have been. Perhaps that is how you're feeling now. Let the weight of that sink in for just a moment.

Now turn the page to Matthew 1:1.

“Now here is the genealogy  of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.”

Not only did He show up, He gave them JESUS.

He always shows up.

He showed up for the Israelites time and time again. Even in the wilderness, even in their disobedience, even in their complaining. He showed up. Even after 400 years of silence, when they felt like they had been completely abandoned and forgotten. He showed up and He sent the Messiah! That was a wait worth having!

“For the Lord your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord you God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.Deuteronomy 2:7 (emphasis mine)

We have not lacked one thing.

Even in the wilderness.

If you are in the wilderness with me today, let us all take time to look for the Manna that is raining from Heaven. We can decide to keep our focus on the promises, not just the Promised Land. Let's intentionally remember what He has done and is doing in the waiting.

It won’t be easy, but God never promises easy, does He? Or quick timing.

"Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
“Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert. " (Isaiah 43:18,19)

Will you not BE AWARE OF IT?

I guarantee He’s showing up if you just look for His faithfulness. Trust Him to do it. To walk with you. To guide you. To be that sometimes still and small voice behind you saying THIS is the WAY.  

But we must be aware of it. 

What is your wilderness story? What is He doing for you in the deserted and dry places of your life? I pray that if you find yourself covered with the dust of the wilderness journey, that you'll find hope in His words today. Praying that we each walk well... baby step by baby step today. Thank you for allowing me to share with you!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lessons from the Wilderness :: Part II



Welcome to the Wilderness Series. You can catch up with Part I here.

Welcome back! So, yesterday we talked about what a wilderness season is and what it looks like. Just to review, by definition, a wilderness season is “a wild and natural area in which few people live. This could come in the form of a transition period, a waiting season or a tragedy, amongst many other scenarios in your life. 

We ended by pointing out that wilderness seasons tend to follow mountaintop experiences. Today, I want to share my personal story with you.  

My wilderness story goes a bit like this:

Several years ago, Jeff + I felt a calling on our life to run for office. It was crazy and we knew it but God was nonetheless calling BOTH of us on this journey. It was insane y’all. The way we saw God show up was just crazy miracle after crazy miracle. Nothing short of awesome. We had NEVER experienced Him so clearly before.

Coming off of the election year, we headed into session which was miraculous and hard all at the same time. Enormous battles were fought throughout that season - some we won, but I'd say more were lost. There were loads of tears but God’s strength and sovereignty provided for both Jeff and our little family during those 8 months that he was away.

That same year, we bought a house, God gave me the dream for Little Branches and took it to places I could never have imagined. The Lord then took me all the way to Africa and gave me a heart for leadership and women - which I couldn’t have made up if I tried. In fact, if you had told me five years ago that I would be sharing my story in front of any group of women, I would have run the other way. He is so good, y’all.

It was a truly an amazing season of our lives. We felt so full and blessed and ridiculously on fire for the Lord.

Unfortunately, we ended that year with a roller coaster of a miscarriage. It was a two month process of doctor appointments that would say, wait and see. The news would go from, “it doesn’t look normal” to “well, your levels look stronger”. Finally, a few days before Christmas, it was over. Satan knew that the climate of hormones, vulnerability and lack of time to process and heal would lead to a perfect storm for an attack on my faith.

We got pregnant almost immediately, which brings a new season all in and of itself and then right on the heels of Landry being born, Jeff entered into another session down in Austin. My closest friends tried extremely hard to walk with me through all of it, but there was only so much they could do. There was nothing that anyone could say that would make it feel better. And the feeling has lingered for years.

But the worst part was that I feared God had forgotten me. I was in the wilderness.

I started to go back and forth between two reasons I was here. Perhaps I did something to get to this place, but then again, maybe God was just done with my purpose. Maybe I had peaked at 33 and He was done. Maybe I had some huge sin in my life that I couldn’t place and this hard season was a punishment of some kind. I would be on my knees begging God to show me any unresolved sin that I needed to clear up with someone and then in the next moment I would be so angry with Him that I didn't even want to hear someone talk about Him.

For the last two years I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster of bitterness, forgiveness, seeking God and not getting direction but moving forward in things just because I feel like it’s what I’m supposed to do. That is key - moving forward just because I felt like it is what I was expected to do. For goodness sakes, I couldn't just be still for two years.... could I?

But a few weeks ago, when I finally determined to sit still before the Lord and actually LISTEN, He rocked my wilderness journey like a freight train coming through in the middle of the night.

“Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the Lord,
“Who execute a plan, but not Mine,
And make an alliance, but not of My Spirit,
In order to add sin to sin;
Who proceed down to Egypt
Without consulting Me,
To take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh
And to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! (Isaiah 30:1-2)
Do you see what He’s saying here? The Israelites who have been SAVED and brought into the promised land, keep turning back to Egypt for protection. They keep thinking that Pharaoh can protect them better than God can. They take their eyes of God and look around for something tangible to hold on to.

And does anyone else identify with this stuff about executing a plan that isn't His? Anybody?

When I started to let this sink in, I thought.... whoa, God. Keep talking.

I keep going back to what WAS working, hoping to MAKE. IT. WORK again. I proceed back to Egypt without even consulting Him. Why? Because it is hard to wait on His answer, y’all! And, if I’m being honest, because I want the comforts that the Egypt in my life promises to provide.

It sure seems like Egypt would have looked more promising than a wilderness journey where they had to set up and take down camp for years on end. They knew what was in Egypt, but didn’t know what was up ahead. 

Don’t you see? They weren’t trusting Him to provide for their needs AND their dreams. We do that too.

Going back to what we know can become an idol in our life, amen? What might this look like in your life? What do you keep running back to in order to avoid your wilderness? Is it a relationship that you shouldn’t be pursuing, but is easy? Maybe it’s television shows or movies that you shouldn’t be watching, but have become an escape for you? Maybe it’s an addiction to food or alcohol? Maybe it’s social media? Maybe it’s even service?

There are so many things that aren’t inherently bad, but become forms of oppression when we use them as a means of escape instead of pressing into the present that we find ourselves in. Instead of trusting God to carry us through all of the hard feelings and scary decisions we might have to make, we do an about face and take ourselves out of the race all together.

In all of my humanness - when I put myself in their shoes - I completely understand why they might trust in Pharaoh. The horrid conditions in their memories had worn off - perhaps with the previous generation. They’re thinking “was it so bad there?” And in all honesty, they can physically see the ways in which Pharaoh would be protecting them, right? Chariots, horses, kings men, cities that were built of more than tents.  

But do you see what ISN’T happening when they turn around and look to Egypt? Not only are they remembering the past better than it actually was, they are also forgetting all of the miraculous things that God did in order to deliver them out of the hand of Pharaoh and into the promised land aren't they?

We do the same thing!

I happen to do this all the time. I turn around and look to our life before politics entered the scene and it becomes very easy for me to covet that. I romanticize the comfortable life we had been living before God jumped in and started to provide for us what we couldn't have possibly known we needed in the first place. 

But God will soon tell us in this passage that He HAS to break us in order for us to experience Him more!

So, the question today is, what is your Egypt? Mine is comfort that He has called me out of and success that He has specifically told me not to chase after.  Not even bad things, but things that had become a life of bondage for me. Your Egypt doesn't necessarily have to be a life of slavery or even sin, but it could simply represent a season of your life that God has determined is over for you. He has called you forward, but you keep looking back and longing for it anyway. 

What I didn't see throughout my time in the wilderness is that God has so much more that He wants to give me, show me and teach me. But I was prohibiting Him from doing that because instead of longing for Him, I longed for comfort. What comforts does He need to break you of today? I pray that He specifically shows you today, like He has for me, all that is in need of breaking so we can pursue hard after Him alone.

Because after all of this, that is the whole point of the wilderness... to see Him more clearly and depend on Him fully. But we can't do that if we keep running backward! Onward, we go!

Stay tuned - because tomorrow we get to the really good part, y'all!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Lessons from the Wilderness :: Part I



I've alluded to it before here on the blog along with my instagram account, but the Lord has very clearly pressed me to share more in depth about this wilderness season I've been walking through and all He's been teaching me. I don't want to say that He's brought me OUT of this season, but He's definitely started moving me through this season - now that I'm being obedient to His voice. 

But before I get into my wilderness story, could you do something for me?

Sometime today, in your bible, would you turn to that page between the Old Testament and the New Testament? The page that may simply say New Testament. I want you to hold on to that page for a second and just stare at it.

Now, think about this :: this page represents 400 years of silence. This page, in the story of God, is where the Israelites did not hear ONE WORD from God. They didn’t see a miracle, they didn’t hear His voice they didn’t hear anyone prophesy. There was nothing. They were waiting for the Messiah.
And when I think about it, I so often we find myself on this page of scripture. Wanting so bad to turn to the good stuff - the better, more active stuff - but God has me right here on this page for His plan and His purpose. Making a way even when I cannot see it.

Do you find yourself here with me today? Do you find yourself waiting to hear from God or feeling forgotten or maybe even a bit fed up?

Last year around this time, God brought a passage from Isaiah 30, along with Jeremiah 19 into my life through multiple sources - so much so that I couldn't chalk it up to coincidence. Both of these scriptures had to do with breaking pottery, which was interesting to say the least, but a little hard to figure out what it had to do with me. So instead of waiting to hear what He was trying to tell me, I decided to move on and forget that it happened.

Do you do that? Keep walking even when you know He has said “stop and wait?” All. The. Time.

Let's be honest - not that I'm ever not - but the last year has been hard. Not hard physically or even circumstantially, but mentally just hard. There has been transition but also lots of stillness. I have felt stagnant and dry. Honestly for really the last two years, but in the last year I’ve been earnestly seeking Him and feeling like He wasn’t hearing me.

A month or so ago, these scriptures started to pop up again. I’d wake up thinking about this Anthropologie mug… about breaking it just to put it back together. It’s a story I read about last year in Angie Smith’s book, Mended. It stuck with me, but I continued to tell myself I wasn't broken. (It sounds ridiculous event to me - of course I was broken.) She needed healing after tragically losing a daughter. It was meant to be therapeutic... her story was one of healing and I didn't feel that I necessarily needed to be healed, so how could this ever help me?

But, let’s be real, y’all. Even though there wasn’t ONE THING that I felt needed fixing, I was still finding myself deep in need of Him. And as women we just simply feel deeply. And I really feel deeply. (MY husband would be shouting an amen if he was reading this).

So this time I resolved to figure out what IT was. Something was going to have to change to get me out of this emotional black hole I felt like I was in. Battling the feelings of not enough, less than and so on. All things I’m sure most women identify with.

So I broke my mug. This beautiful mug that Jeff had bought me for Christmas.  There were no angels singing, no a-ha moment, no trumpets blowing from heaven. I was - in all honesty - a bit disapointed. I thought - here we go again, God not showing up.

But then as I began to read through the scripture passages over and over again, putting the mug back together, I determined to still myself until I heard a word from Him. (And then of course, my daughter walked in and said "mommy, can I help?! Let meeeeeeee help!)

Then God did something miraculous… He began to teach me through the Old Testament, y’all. It wasn't right then - like instantaneous or anything - but over the course of several days that turned into a couple of weeks. I’ve often wondered how the abstract Old Testament stories of genealogy and sacrifices could ever be applicable to my daily life. But as I began to read + pray, He began to show me how similar this season of life has been to the season the Israelites walked through immediately after they got rescued from Egypt.

A wilderness.

Do you feel like those Israelites who didn’t hear from God for 400 years? Or the ones that are wandering out in the middle of the desert with one option - to follow God for every step they were taking?

I found hope through there story - and there is hope for you today.

What is a wilderness season, you might ask. I’m a word person, so I love definitions and the Webster’s dictionary definition of wilderness is this: “a wild and natural area in which few people live”.

So think about it.

Have you ever walked through a season of life that no one - or very few people - could walk with you through? No friend could understand completely and no spouse could make you feel better? No one seemed to have the right words and no one could feel the same way except for you.

It could be a season of transition. I know there are a lot of y’all out there who are new moms and struggling with what that means for you as a women. Maybe you just married off your last child or maybe you’re an empty-nester. Maybe the roles have reversed and you are now taking care of your parents? A season of transition can feel very lonely and maybe a bit confusing.

What about a season of waiting? Are you waiting for a job change or direction in your marriage? Maybe you feel like you’re waiting for the right one to come along? Are you waiting for your kids to grow up and be more independent? Are you waiting for a man? Seasons of waiting can feel long and extremely unfruitful, can’t they?

Maybe you’re coming off of a tragedy in your life and you don’t even know where to start the healing process. Healing is often a road that we must walk alone. Even with great friends next to us to encourage, seasons of wilderness are times that we end up having to put one foot in front of another all by ourselves. With only God there to experience it with us and guide us through it.

In my experience, and from what I’ve read in scriputre, wilderness seasons tend to come right after spiritual highs. Even with the Israelites, who I’ll get to in a bit, they had just experienced a MASS Exodus from the bondage they had experienced for 400+ years in Egypt under Pharoah’s leadership. They had seen the 7 plagues take place and then miraculously, when all hope seemed lost, Pharaoh came to his senses and let God’s people go.

Paul experienced dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus and then retreated for a few years to get to know God before beginning his world-altering ministry. Even Jesus, right after he was baptized, retreated to the wilderness and was tempted for 40 days before returning and beginning his three years of radical ministry.

So let me ask one last time today - are you walking in a season of wilderness? I'll share more of my story throughout the rest of the week - but today, reflect on your season and all of the ways that God has shown up. If you're like me, your instant thought might be - "Becky, let me tell you all the ways He hasn't shown up." But if there is ONE lesson I've learned the past few weeks, it's that He has been feeding me manna DAILY that I wasn't seeing because I chose not to. 

Look for your manna today. Reflect on how He has shown up throughout this season and then let's chat again tomorrow. I'd love to hear your wilderness story below if you'd be willing to share.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Chosen People // A Devotional



Do you ever feel like you sound like a broken record? Gosh, I sure do.

I say “Landry, give me the remote” 100 times a day. No lie. Or “Stop touching each other” or “Be kind! Why can’t you just be freakin’ kind?” over and over again. Or how about, “do you not see the dishwasher right next to the sink?”

It’s enough to drive a woman crazy and I know you’ve probably been right there with me.

I’ve recently been feeling like a broken record in my spiritual life. I come to God with the same struggles over and over again. The same things I’ve been battling with for years. Unbelief, fear, bitterness, unworthiness, loneliness and so on. And I have found that I have no room for grace for myself. NONE.

I’ve come to realize that I don’t completely grasp the entirety and vastness of His love for me. That’s the bottom line. His love for me is so much greater than I could ever understand.

But because I don’t understand, I struggle. I go around and around with Him asking for forgiveness and then turning right back around and doing the same thing a week or two later.

I asked a mentor recently “when will I get it?” I’m so tired of not getting it, aren’t you? I’m so tired of living in a place of no mercy, and not only feeling badly for what it is I struggle with, but also feeling badly THAT I struggle! It’s a never ending cycle!

That’s when my “aha!” moment happened.

I will always struggle. I will never get it all the way. And as frustrating is that is, God has shown me, in His beautiful mercy, that the struggle is not only real, but normal - and maybe, even, expected!

I have found myself studying the Old Testament this year. First in Exodus, then Habakkuk (don’t ask) and now I’m in Numbers. I’ve often wondered how it’s all relevant to me. How are these stories applicable to my life right now?


Then I realized, I am Israel.

His beloved Israel did the same thing that I do over and over again. I read about them and wonder how they can forget the faithfulness of God who rescued them from slavery? Or how they question His ways after they saw an entire sea part for them? And why would they wonder where God is when He showed up for them tangibly every single day in the form of manna and a pillar of dust or of fire? It seems ridiculous.

But that’s who I am. I all too often forget what He’s promised me. I forget His faithfulness yesterday, last week and last year. I question His ways. I question the waiting. His purposes. And then I feel guilty for doing so, repent and then come back.

It’s the same cycle.

Israel disobeyed, there would be judgement and then they would cry out for Him. He would rescue them. They would love + praise Him. Then they would turn around (seemingly quickly) and disobey again. The cycle begins again.

In His beautiful grace, He has whispered through these old testament stories to me :: “Becky, don’t you get it? They are my chosen people and I continue to rescue them over and over and over again. Yes there might be consequences, but I will never expect them to be perfect and guess what… I still LOVE them! Don’t you see how I love YOU in the same way? You are chosen too!

We are chosen, my friends, but often we live like we are forgotten. We have freedom under the shadow of His wings, but we grieve our struggles as if they are a surprise to Him. He loves us - no matter WHAT - but we walk as if we are un-loveable. We treat ourselves worse that we treat anyone else but God wants us to rest IN Him, not from Him.
We don’t deserve His grace, but He has given it to us because He loves us that much. Why don’t we set out to act chosen today instead of forgotten... free instead of guilty? I think that might affect my day way more than I give it credit for, don’t you?




Action Steps for Today //


1. Reflect on His faithfulness instead of your unworthiness. There is a time for repentance, but today choose to rest in His grace instead of rehashing your guilt.

2. Pray to feel His love today. Christianity is rarely about feelings or how we feel, right? Mostly, it's a choice to live a certain way, to tune into Him and to trust when it seems hopeless. But when we feel loved, it's so much easier to make choices that follow after Him! Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you today into His love and into the feeling of being loved by the Almighty! The difference that will make in your day is insurmountable!









For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of the Light.” Ephesians 5:8

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own posession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tales + Fails of an Accidental Gardener // The Plan


Last week, I posted an update of our little backyard garden. Since then, I started to receive even more questions about what is planted, where and how I have it all laid out. I've been getting the whole, "I wish I could have a garden like that" comments, and here is my response to them - and to you. "You can!!!" If I can do it, you can too! If you have any sort of outdoor space that gets sun, you CAN grow something. And that's the point... just grow SOMEthing!

So, when I first started to "garden" at this house, I had a tall box planter that Jeff bought me for Christmas similar to this one. That was three years ago. Since then, I've moved that stinkin' planter around our yard a few times and eventually we built the raised garden in our existing beds last spring.

As I've talked about before, the bunnies ate so much of my plants last year in our raised bed. I had virtually no fruit and nothing, yes NOTHING, thrived. It was a frustrating gardening season, to say the least.

I was ready to throw in the towel and just say I can't grow anything in the yard... it's the yard's fault, not mine, of course! But then I had this raised bed in my yard. I couldn't just give up. (Or Jeff might shoot me!)

 

So in the off-season, I began to plot, research and plan for this year. I tried almost all of the same things I tried last year but I spread everything out a bit more and put the plants in different places. I learned that I should put my tomatoes and peppers in the hottest hot sun. The leafy things don't need as MUCH hot sun. So I started there.


The main raised bed sits in an existing flower bed that we had when we moved in. We took out a rose bush (which was diseased anyway) and a few Indian Hawthornes to put this baby in. It was super easy to build and you can find so many ideas on pinterest. I'll try to put a plan together for how to build it. My hubby was super handy and did it all in one Saturday!

I have a few pots of flowers sitting right outside, hoping to encourage bees to visit. Yup, you heard me right - you need bees!  We have grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes this year - since that is what we eat the most of. I did two bush bean plants from seeds (I had four, but pulled two up to make room). My pickling cucumbers are growing up my fence nicely and I'm training them to go into that empty space you can see here. (That is where I planted rows of spinach, baby greens and butterhead. EPIC FAIL.)

The straightneck squash is becoming monsterous - maybe due to fertilizing and the fact that I have two. They like it here, I guess, and we eat a lot of squash so I will let them grow as big as they want.

The chile + poblano are blooming but not growing really well. When I had my first "garden" years and years ago I planted cilantro and peppers. That's it. Basically what I needed to make a good fajita. The peppers were low-maintenance and grew so big. But I haven't had luck with them since we've moved into this house. They might just need more sun than we've been having lately!


Like I mentioned last week, my tomatoes were overtaking my peppers, so I moved them to another place in the yard. Straight into a large (and relatively inexpensive) whiskey barrel I purchased from Home Depot. I was worried they might go into shock, but they seem to be doing just fine. I added basil because my other little basil plant by the tall planter isn't doing well. I have no idea why, but it just doesn't seem to be growing. Again, I am no expert but learn the best way I know how :: Trial + Error!


My tall planter is truly about to fall apart. When we cleaned it out this year it was COVERED with fire ants! We had to treat it, wash it down and nail some boards back down before we filled it back up. This is Charlotte's bed. She planted the radshes, carrots and strawberries. I added the orange tree (that I've somehow kept alive for two years) in a big tin pepsi bucket next to it. I've tied a huge stake to the tree so that it can take the Texas wind. My thyme is in it's own pot as is my cilantro. I've never had luck with cilantro... it's always bolted (i.e., started to flower) before I've gotten to use it. This year I'm still doing okay with it. I also have oregano, purple basil and basil over here.

The key with herbs is to keep cutting them!! Even if you aren't using them, the more you prune back the more they'll grow. Now, don't cut them to the bottom, but maybe once a week trim them down a little bit. Put the cut pieces in a vase on your counter and you can smell that freshness for DAYS!


There are so many resources I have used over the years in my planning process.

First, going to my local nursery (Calloway's is honestly my favorite) and talking with them about the issues I had last year. For example, my squash would bloom but then there would be no squash. Same thing with my tomatoes.

The solution they gave me was twofold. First, fertilize. Second, try planting two of the exact plant to increase my yield (a new-to-me planting term for the amount of fruit I get!)

And just those changes have increased my success tenfold, y'all! I am not lying!!

Instagram is an awesome + quick resource too.

I follow Lesley and although her garden is HUGE, she posts a lot about what she's planting and how it's doing (and what she makes to eat!). Natalie is also a great resource.

I also love this book and this book book. I devour them each season. I have to have illustrations so I'm sure there are tons of gardening books that aren't as pretty, but that wouldn't work for me!

And, of course, google! Google is your friend, y'all! Just today I googled why my squash blossoms keep falling off the plant. Turns out, there are male + female blossoms and only the female blossoms end up with fruit. So you'll have blossoms falling off all season - and that's normal!!! 

There is so much information out there and so many possibilities! I hope you feel encouraged + inspired to get to planting today!! Digging in the dirt is beyond therapeutic for me and has become my ultimate happy place! I hope it's yours too!

Here's to green thumbs for everyone! Happy Wednesday!
 



Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Choosing Trust // A Devotional


Apparently, I am a bit of what you might call a control freak. Which is hilarious to me, because I’ve always thought of myself as fun-loving and laid back. I might be easy going in social situations and even in big, life-altering situations, but in the nitty gritty daily things of my life, I apparently have trouble letting go.

God has slowly shown me how much control I truly desire in life. He’s shown me the white-knuckled grip that I like to have. It has shocked me. 

I trust that He’s got the big things, y'all. The ones that I so obviously don’t have control over. The decisions that we know He’s called us to? That stuff is easy, and honestly it comes more natural to me. It has become a joy to trust Him in those things. I’ve watched Him come through time and time again. I’ve watched the ugly turn into an avenue for His glory. I’ve watched eternal conversations come out of dark situations.

It’s easier to trust in the hard, honestly, because I don’t have another choice.

But what about those things that think we can have control over? Those things that become frustrating when they don’t work the way that we’ve planned? As a mom, my mind immediately goes to my kids. We think we have control over their actions. That is, until we are in the grocery store and they reach for a bag of oreos (bless) and when we say no they’re all of a sudden on the ground sprawled out like they’ve never gotten anything their heart desires their entire life. (Not that this has happened to me, y’all).

If someone is sick and it doesn’t make sense, I have to trust. I have no choice but to trust. But if my Etsy shop does poorly? All of a sudden I question everything. I question my calling, I question my talent, His leading, my motives. Everything. I try to wiggle around and make a new way. I scramble and wrestle and fight and what's so hard for me to realize is that I don’t need to.

God tells us that HE is that way. He makes a way where there seems to be no way. Scripture doesn’t say, “Becky makes a way.” It says HE does. And the sad thing is that I’ve allowed myself to live in this struggle for the past several months, instead of simply choosing trust!

“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”
Is 43:18-19

Did you catch that? He will make a roadway in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. That isn’t anything that Becky Leach can do, y'all. I mean, maybe you can, but I can’t. When my mind begins to get all squirrley and starts going a million miles an hour with all of the “what about ____” stuff, I feel a gentle whisper come into my spirit, “Becky, trust Me.”

What are you having to trust Him with today?

If I am being super vulnerable here, which I feel like is the whole point, these dumb instagram changes have me all up in arms about business. It’s so stupid, y’all. I mean, I keep thinking that I will never be successful again. Maybe that's slightly dramatic, but in all seriousness, I had just figured out how to work Instagram for my shop and how to gain a steady flow of sales through that avenue.

And then it changed. Dumb Instagram.

All of a sudden I’m back in that position of questioning everything. “Is this even what You want me to do? Are you punishing me for something? Are You taking me in a new direction? Are You telling me to work harder?” and as my mind starts to spin, I turn into this awful ball of stress.

Painting signs makes me happy. He’s gifted me with the ability to do so, and it fills me up. It’s also a lot of work, and that is okay. Just because it isn’t easy, doesn’t mean He’s calling me away from it. I mean, if that were the case we’d all be changing jobs every five days.

Then God began to press something into me, y’all, and it’s this :: God can do way for me and Little Branches than Instagram ever could. He’s showing me that His timing is best and He has it ALL in His hand. This Instagram change is not out of His control. I know it seems so silly and insignificant, but it is still not a surprise to Him. He knew when I created LB three and a half years ago, that this was coming down the pipe. He knew that there would need to be a reevaluation of marketing, design, networking and so on at this point.

It’s way easier for me to think that He doesn’t get off of His throne when unexplainable things happen, like my miscarriage. But when things that I think should be in my control happen, for me, it’s HARD to rest in Him and not get into a tizzy about it.

Do you know what it does though when I lose control? It pushes me to the Father.

When I choose trust over fear, I give God a chance to come through for me. I give Him the opportunity to meet my needs instead of trying to meet them myself. And that increases my faith. That is what deepens my knowledge of Him and is when I dig into the scripture to discover His promises as they come alive in my life.


So I think I’ll take that loss of control today. If it sends me to the point of anxiety and worry, I will choose to recall that He is doing a NEW thing. That He has promised peace for those who trust in Him. That God and only God is the one that can make streams in the desert.

Won’t you make that choice with me?  Is it an easy choice or is it difficult to let go? Let Him take it today and see what He does with it. It’s not a feeling, but a choice, and the choice, my friend, is in our control.






"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you." Isaiah 26:3


"The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still." Exodus 14:14


"For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11-13
 

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