Is Your Joy Safe?

I have my joy back! It feels like cool water after a long drought. See, I thought I lost it awhile back. It felt stolen. But now my joy is safe, and I want you to lock yours up too.

One of the fruit we receive from God’s Holy Spirit is JOY (Galatians 5:22). I wanted joy, but it seemed foreign. I had gone through seasons of infertility, miscarriages, traumatic loss, and life changes on my own and I was so stinkin’ tired. (I see you. I know you’ve been there too.) I wasn’t a very loving mom or wife. And I was probably a fun sucker of a friend.

Truth is, My joy had been tucked into my hopes, dreams, plans, people, family, my life…all the temporary and fickle things of this world. The things that can be taken. So when some of them WERE taken, my joy left for good with them.

Is that ringing a bell with you? I wonder where you’ve placed the majority of your joy– a husband, a child, a job, a plan — and then poof, it’s gone. And you’re left empty and lost. That’s where I was.

Then Jesus came for me.

I felt urgency to lean on Him. To get to know Him through the Bible and talk to Him in prayer. I learned of His constant love, grace, and PRESENCE in the hard through His Holy Spirit. I started believing in my heart  the truth I’d known in my head for so long. That in Him I am not alone, I’m loved, completely forgiven, and empowered. I have what I need for any situation because I have God’s Spirit within me and His Spirit is complete.

I have what I need for any situation because I have God’s Spirit within me.

We read proof of the power of God’s joy when apostle Paul, chained up for his faith, wrote “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.” Philippians 4:4 ESV

What we lose in our English translation, though, is that the word “rejoice” is directly tied to the Greek word for “grace”. Rejoice literally means to experience, delight, or be conscious of God’s grace. It’s mind-blowing and completely counter-cultural. It means, we can only truly rejoice if we are conscious and delighting in all the ways God is pouring out undeserved, unrelenting grace.

Joy is all about knowing God’s grace!

That’s why Paul could sing praises in a jail cell. Because no amount of bars could keep God’s grace and love away from him! Do you feel that?? Do you believe the same is true for you and I? No amount of problems, failures, addictions, bad days, — nothing– can keep God’s grace from you. I woke up today and praised God for loving me and forgiving me — for being my dad who will never leave no matter how much I stink at life. God will never leave us, so neither will our joy! That’s why we can rejoice everyday, even in the hard. Because no matter the crap storm we’re in, WE’VE GOT an IMMOVABLE GOD.

God will never leave us, so neither will our joy!

Where we hide our joy determines how easily it can be taken. People and situations threaten to steal our heart’s joy, but God keeps it forever safe. Take some quiet moments today to reflect on God’s grace towards you. That’s where your joy has been waiting for you.

 

**Join the afruitfulwoman.com community this year and receive free devotionals and messages from Andrea when you sign up for her Email Friends list.  And Find your voice in the conversation on FaceBook.

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Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him.Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.

Find Andrea also at WhollyLoved Ministries and her devotionals on crosswalk.com

Why We Avoid Jesus

I didn’t think I needed Jesus. So it took me 26 years to truly believe in Him. Every day since a battle has warred in my mind. Will I entrust my past, present and future to Jesus? Or try to make it on my own? We’ve all avoided God, perhaps because of one major faith question. If I surrender my life to Christ, what will He do with it? Is He for my good or against my desires?

I had a plan for my life. Finish school. Get married. Have babies. Have fun. I made most of what I wanted happen until I couldn’t. Our first baby almost died in childbirth–he’s a straight up miracle–but it left me traumatized and depressed. I climbed partially out of that pit only to slide back in from multiple miscarriages.

My plan was NOT working out. My ideas about life were shattered. I didn’t know how to deal with emotional pain. So I tried to patch up the holes myself. Shopping? Wine? Work? Ovulation kits? But nothing brought back joy. Nothing healed my hurts. Only numbed and distracted.

…nothing brought back joy. Nothing healed my hurts. Only numbed and distracted.

I read stories in the Bible about people coming to Jesus. Those who were exhausted, hurt, sick, mourning. I read how He took them in, validated their humanity and spoke tenderly into their pain. He healed the whole person, inside and out. I needed that. Maybe you do, too. (see Matthew 8-9)

I believe those are the questions we must ask ourselves. Do we need Jesus? Do we need forgiveness for our wrongs? Validation of our hurts? And wise counsel for today? Is life with Jesus better than life alone in this world?

The Bible passage below answers that question.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-20 ESV)

Some of my dreams and treasures on earth have been stolen, trampled on, or thwarted. Perhaps yours too. When nothing else could fill my void, bring me back to life, listen to my needs at midnight, understand my hurt, Jesus became my best friend. I needed Him and He showed up and became a lasting treasure to me. One that will never leave or disappoint me.

So the answer to my biggest faith question? Life has proven to be better than I ever imagined as I journey with Jesus.

Things, dreams, people, careers, houses, nor earthly desires, are guaranteed or imperishable.  Jesus is the only treasure that doesn’t wear out. He holds our comfort, healing, forgiveness, rest, joy, peace, love, and eternity secure for us as we do life leaning in close to Him through prayer and trusting His leadership.

Jesus is the only treasure that doesn’t wear out.

His devotion will not fade. His friendship will not get boring. His forgiveness will not run out. A life with Jesus is not about giving up, it’s about getting a new love and purpose. Becoming part of something bigger than yourself. Becoming a new you that you can’t even dream up.

Unfortunately there are also stories in the Bible of people turning away from Jesus out of fear–worried about their schedule, their money, their status. They didn’t think they needed Jesus. So they walked away unhappy. (see Matthew 19:16-22)

Take a moment and inventory what keeps you from coming near to Jesus. Can it offer you the same security, love, grace, acceptance, and joy that knowing Christ can? How would it change your life to let go of what’s keeping you weighted down? I pray you and I have the courage to let go of the temporary things of this world we think are important and grab ahold of God’s powerful love and friendship.

 

**Join the afruitfulwoman.com community this year and receive free devotionals and messages from Andrea when you sign up for her Email Friends list.  And Find your voice in the conversation on FaceBook.

AndreaWeb47

Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him.Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.

Find Andrea also at WhollyLoved Ministries and her devotionals on crosswalk.com

How to Change for Good

What is it that you really want this New Year? Social media will be lit up with all sorts of changes to be a new you. How you can have a rockin’ body or 4 steps to a more successful you. Looking back, there’s only one decision that transformed my life. And it’s the one we tend to avoid. Get to know Jesus.

Look. I know it sounds more logical that if we alter our bodies or eating habits we will feel better about life. But I’ve tried all sorts of diets and none can repair the things that really matter…my marriage, my family, my sinful heart. Only Jesus.

I’ve tried all sorts of diets and none can repair the things that really matter…my marriage, my family, my sinful heart. Only Jesus.

Of course, take care of yourself. Make healthy choices and enjoy the life He gave you. But let’s be honest, a beautiful body doesn’t mean as much if the soul is still unhealthy. So if you’re like me, wrestling with wanting to live bigger and better, wanting to see extraordinary things happen in your ordinary life, there’s only one way. You have to tap into God’s supernatural power, and it’s easier than you think.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV emphasis mine).

If you’ve been laboring for a better version of you, stop. Come to Jesus and take a break.

That’s what I’m going to do this New Year. I’m trusting Him to transform me from the inside out as I spend time with Him in prayer, learning by reading bits of my Bible each day, and following where He leads my days and life. It’s not an overnight fix, it’s a new way to live that gives energy instead of taking.

It’s not an overnight fix, it’s a new way to live that gives energy instead of taking.

Jesus doesn’t require anything but you. You don’t have to be awesome. You don’t have to try to be anything, because you are already His. You are loved and valued by the Savior of the world and that is enough. He has a purpose for you if you put down your striving and dare to follow.

So yes, I will probably do some yoga this year and eat more veggies, but that’s not what will change me. Be bold with me this New Year as this group of believers decides to take Jesus at His word. That when we come to Him we will find rest for our burdens and that He truly wants us to learn His ways because His ways fight for real transformation.

So the question is, do you want more from Jesus? He’s ready when you are.

 

 

**Join the afruitfulwoman.com community this year and receive free devotionals and messages from Andrea when you sign up for her Email Friends list.  And watch Andrea’s Jesus and Jammies devotional videos and find your voice in the conversation on FaceBook.

AndreaWeb47

Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him. Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.

Find Andrea also at WhollyLoved Ministries and her devotionals on crosswalk.com

 

 

 

Jesus Works in the Waiting

It’s impossible. At least it feels that way. That thing that you can’t budge or change sits like a 10 ton boulder in your way. We tend to try to move it anyway, pushing with all our strength, not moving an inch. When we’re tired, Jesus gently gives us another option.

Wait patiently.

Let’s be honest, that’s hard and it’s also not what we like to do. We like to DO, GO, Get ‘er done! in the Midwest. So waiting often seems lazy instead of the right choice.

Here’s what we find in Scripture. God’s people are faced with some real enemies, they are scared, and probably feeling a bit lost, but Habakkuk prays…

“I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently... Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LordI will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength...” (Habakkuk 3: 16-19 NIV) emphasis mine.

 

I have friends who are up against some hard things right now. Friends who are in the waiting period of lots of things.  I also am trying to navigate the future by faith. What if we declared the same as Habakkuk over our insecurities, health problems, lost dreams, immovable problems? Today let’s do that together, praying truth over our uncertainties…

Jesus, Even when I’m scared. I will wait patiently because I know You are working behind the scene. Though I don’t see any evidence of what I want happening, I will trust that You are doing something about the situation when it’s out of my control. In the meantime, I am going to keep my joy and be thankful that my God is working it out for me — You, Lord are my only strength. I’ve got faith You can move this mountain and Your plan for me is good.

Though I don’t see any evidence of what I want happening, I will trust that You are doing something about the situation when it’s out of my control.

Trust that waiting may be what God is asking of you. That He may want to make something beautiful in the time you spend trusting in His power instead of your own.

 

**Get more free encouraging messages and devotionals from Andrea when you sign up for her Email Friends list.

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Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him. Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.

 

 

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Hope in the Deepest Pit

I always thought the story of Jonah was about a fish, but it’s really about a pit. Life is full of pits, ones we dig for ourselves, some that others shove us into– the question is how do we get out when the walls are slippery and we simply can’t. Jonah found the answer.

“To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But You brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple” (Jonah 2:6-7 NIV).

Do you ever feel like you are hopelessly sinking? Going down into debt? Anger? Addiction? Negativity? We all sink down into something at some point and it’s why we need a God who is stronger than our situation.

When Jonah was being swallowed up by the sea, there was NOTHING he could do to save himself…except… remember the Lord. That was his action. He didn’t remember a skill he had or muster the strength to overcome by himself. Jonah REMEMBERED the Lord and prayed for help. And the Lord delivered Jonah from the biggest problem of his life for Jonah’s good and so he could be used for God’s glory in the town of Nineveh.

When Jonah was being swallowed up by the sea, there was NOTHING he could do to save himself…except… remember the Lord.

So some things the story of Jonah is more than a big fish swallowing a dude, although that is rather interesting. This true Scripture is about a man in need of help and direction being saved by The Living God from a situation he couldn’t save himself from.

You and I are Jonah. Every time we throw our hands up and say, “God I can’t! But I know you can! Show up here in this mess because I can’t clean it up myself.” And our God is still the same God from Jonah’s time. He is still willing and able to pull us out of our deepest pit if we call on His name and follow Him out.

In this season of hope, let’s remember who is our hope. Jesus. And let’s ask Him to show up big where we need Him knowing He hears and cares for His people.

 

**Get more free encouraging messages and devotionals from Andrea when you sign up for her Email Friends list.

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Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him. Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.

 

 

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

 

Thanksgiving prayer for you

I want to take a moment and wrap us up in prayer today as we travel, gather, or stay put because Thanksgiving can be filled with both joy and sorrow…

Jesus thank you for each one of my readers. Thank you for all that you are doing in our lives that you are in control and working things out that we can’t even fathom. Father would you be so near today and comfort those who are hurting and missing their loved ones. Wrap them up in your love and comfort. Jesus glue families back together again today in your peace if they are struggling. And fill us with your never-ending joy. Help us to remain thankful after Thanksgiving. That we would recognize your blessings and praise you for them all year long. And no matter where we are in faith, just starting out or well seasoned, help us trust in you more each day and know you more so we can experience the life you came to give us. Thank you Jesus for loving us when we feel unlovable and help us really grasp that love so we can move it forward to others in our lives. In Jesus name. Amen!

With love,

Andrea Chatelain

A Christmas interview with Alexandra Kuykendall

Let’s face it, our actual Christmas doesn’t always mimic a Hallmark movie. Expectations, finances, hope, joy, sorrow, and where Jesus meets us in it all. Alexandra Kuykendall shared some practical and soulful insights during a video interview centered on her book, “Loving my Actual Christmas”.

I hope this Christmas interview blesses you as it did me as we prepare our hearts for the season…knowing that no matter our circumstances, Jesus is with us and is our source of all we need at Christmas and all year long.

 

*Visit Alex online for more Christmas insights

 

Fragile yet Unbreakable

Distressed. Confused. Wronged. Beat down. These are the affects we feel from this messed up world. Yet when we are the  most fragile, in the deepest of despair, God’s people are unbreakable. YOU are unbreakable.

Read this chunk of truth and let it set in…

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, ESV).

The other day I got a package in the mail. A fragile item surrounded by three layers of bubble wrap and tucked in a taped up box. Because of the protection and guarding of the layers built up around it, it survived a cross country journey of bumpy terrain.

You and I, and the people we love, we are all fragile jars of clay rolling about as life swerves and jostles. But we are wrapped up in Christ. Maybe we are a little dizzy, but not broken. Perhaps a bit shaken, but not shattered. Not just for our comfort, but it is for His glory that His people survive the hard. Your life points others to Christ so they too can be wrapped up in his love.

You and I, and the people we love, we are all fragile jars of clay rolling about as life swerves and jostles. But we are wrapped up in Christ.

If we believe in Jesus, every hurt we encounter in this life can have purpose as we persevere leaning into Him. The Scripture above says our survival in incredible hardship is a testimony to God’s power working in us. That although alone we would be crushed, with Jesus we unbreakable.

I don’t know your story, but I’m sure you’ve had some curveballs along the way. You’ve experienced loss, you’ve been betrayed, you’ve been rejected, maybe forgotten about. You’ve wondered about the future, will it all turn out or come crashing down.

Yet as everything around us tells us to give up, give in, and lay down in defeat, Jesus steps up in our souls and helps us get up. Because with Jesus hope is alive and overcomes.

Yet as everything around us tells us to give up, give in, and lay down in defeat, Jesus steps up in our souls and helps us get up.

I pray you and I feel the comfort of Christ’s power and love wrapping us up today as life tries it’s best to make us crack. And I pray that when we get through our hard time with Jesus, that we look around for others and remind them they may feel fragile, but they are unbreakable in Christ.

 

water-3211175_1920Let’s be real:

What people or situations are or have tried to break you? How can you let Jesus into those hard spaces? Write a prayer asking Jesus to be your strength in your breaking points. Write and post in your house: With Jesus I am UNBREAKABLE!

 

Phones vs. Farmer Wave

One arm is out the window basking in sunshine, the other on the wheel. There’s cornfields to my left and a pickup about to pass. I look him in the face as I go by and my pointer finger lifts from the wheel. His does too. Just being seen makes me smile.

My whole life I’ve known that interaction as “the farmer wave”. It’s simple, but there’s something so sweet about it. I’m proud to come from a place where we still acknowledge the presence of another person with a smile, a door held open, or even a farmer wave.

Still, I find the art of seeing people fading even in my town.

If I were the enemy I would think it’s pretty awesome that I can stop an entire generation from looking at each other — from really seeing each other.

I see kids get off the bus-stop with their heads in their phones instead of laughing with friends. Waiting rooms filled with parents staring at screens instead of comforting their child. Whole families at restaurants with devices instead of building memories.

Phones aren’t the devil. The devil is the devil. But if I were the enemy I would think it’s pretty awesome that I can stop an entire generation from looking at each other — from really seeing each other. Just by putting a phone in their hand.

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Because if the enemy can stop us from seeing each other, he can stop us from caring about each other. 

And I can write this because I am so guilty. It hurts my heart that my kids have heard, “Just a second…” while I finish a text instead of looking at their sweet faces as they talk to me. Or the fact that sometimes it’s just easier to sit on the couch with my phone than engage in conversation with my husband at the end of a long day.

What makes me want to change is knowing that Jesus’ love for us begins with the fact that He SEES us and He loves us. In fact, scripture is peppered with Jesus seeing and moving in love, compassion, healing, forgiveness, or acceptance.

“Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well” (Matthew 9:22 ESV).

Matthew 9:20-22 shows us one example of how Jesus acts when He sees us…

“And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment,21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well” (Matthew 9:20-22).

I looked up the original Greek for “seeing her” in verse 22 in Strong’s Concordance at Biblehub.com. It means not only to see with the eyes, but that Jesus saw her on a deeper level with his Spirit.

He really saw her.

Jesus understood her. He immediately knew the aching of her spirit. He shared in her pain. You know that feeling when you hurt in your heart for someone you love because they are hurting? He felt that for her because He saw her in her suffering.

He sees us that way too, down to the core of our being. And as his people, we can’t stop truly seeing others. We have to keep our eyes up so our hearts can see people and love them deeply like Jesus.

book-bindings-3176776_1920Journal reflections:

Who needs you to really see them today?

Who is God putting on your heart to reach out to no matter how crazy it may be? See them and make a move to love them today.

Enduring Motherhood

It’s 5:45AM and I’m wiping puke off the toilet. He didn’t quite get there. Two hours before his sister was up scared needing a 5th tuck in. Two hours after puke, his little brother wants to watch Lion Guard. And I am defeated before the day begins. I’m not sure I have the endurance for this day, but I have a choice to make.

Will I grumble through the day? Or will I endure with grace and love following Jesus through the landmines.

And a verse comes to my mind.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young,” (Isaiah 40:11 NIV).

I stood in my bathroom, one of the only places I can lock the door for a moment and pray those words back to him. Jesus you say you gently lead mothers and I need you to do that today. I need you because I can’t do this day well without you. 

There is something so sacred and precious about the fact that our God sees us mothers and carries us close to his heart. He knows the humble and sometimes exhausting job we have to do. He sees our day and He honors it in his Word saying that He will gently lead us.

Gently. There’s no shove into perfection. No jab when we get it wrong. No guilt-trip that we’re not enough. No. Jesus is an opposite dose of everything the world around us is handing out. He gathers us to himself, carries us close, and gently leads when we surrender our day to him.

Jesus is an opposite dose of everything the world around us is handing out.

I think of you, friend, and what battles you face today. Whether it’s a whole bunch of little moments needing your attention, or a seemingly impossible giant ahead of you. At some point we all will have a day when we stretch ourselves to meet the needs of the people we care for. I pray that you remember Isaiah 40:11 on that day.

That God cares about all the little and big battles. He sees you and is with you especially when it’s hard. He tucks us in close and helps us endure.

 

book-bindings-3176776_1920Journal reflections:

When have you felt God carrying you in the past?

In what circumstances do you need God to gently lead you today?

Read Isaiah 40:11 again. What hits you? What soothes you? What is God saying to you?

 

 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™