Heart Issues

The Gift You’ve Been Overlooking

The aspen tree leaves popped like golden flames against the evergreen forest. As we weaved through the mountains, the sharp contrast between light and dark leaves enabled my husband, who is colorblind, to notice the fall colors. For the remainder of our mountain trip, he was keenly aware of the golden aspen trees everywhere. Upon returning home to the Midwest, he was awake to the golden fall trees everywhere. The golden fall colors aren’t new, but his awareness of them was.

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If we want a more joyful and happy life, what if we don’t have to add anything in? What if we simply need to notice something already there? What if God is busy making our lives beautiful, but we've been overlooking it? Click To Tweet

That might seem impossible when nothing in life feels right. There was a time when everything felt dark and lonely. According to social media, everyone appeared to have what I desired. My critical attitude further confirmed that no one, nor anything, was good enough. I strove for achievements to keep me happy and muscled my way through relationships to feel accepted. I thought adding things would create joy, but they fell short. The harder I hustled for happiness, the further joy eluded me.

A friend shared an idea that kickstarted a happiness revolution, “God is not the author of chaos.” She directed me to seek and fix my thoughts on true, lovely, and admirable things, saying, by doing so, I could receive the peace of God (Phil 4:6-9 NIV). It was a mindset shift to intentionally seek God’s goodness, and my world brightened as I witnessed color I’d overlooked for decades.

In fact, brain science calls this frequency illusion. When we become aware of something new, we suddenly see it everywhere. Our brain maintains a heightened focus on this new thing or idea. Then we switch to confirmation bias, which reassures us that each time we see our novel item, it must truly be everywhere. 

I learned I don't have to physically see God to know He is always in my space. Click To TweetKnowing His brand of light helps me find Him when it isn’t so obvious. Chaos subsided, not because God changed my circumstances, but because He helped me look for His truth, “I have nothing, and yet, possess everything” (2 Cor 6:10b NIV). 

Like the blazing aspen leaves, will I intentionally seek light? Or, will I draw in darkness by giving my energy to material things I think will fulfill me? What about you? Like Jacob, choose to awaken to the evidence of God’s presence we’ve been missing. When we overlook His everyday blessings, we deny ourselves the very gift we seek--joy. Click To Tweet

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Practical Spirit/Reflection Questions:

When has a change of focus allowed you to recognize God’s presence during a particularly difficult time?

How would your life change if you noticed God’s presence already around you?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or engage with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!  

Hardships and Trials

God’s Favor–The Gift of Presence

If God’s favor meant great health, I’d missed it. If it meant worldly success, happiness, prestige and an expanding ministry, God had abandoned me. But if favor—if grace—meant a vivid revelation of my Father’s heart and a deepening intimacy with Him, then even as I lay in bed sick and fatigued, I rested squarely in my Daddy’s hands. Right where He wanted me to be.

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It just took me a while to see it, cherish it. In fact, it wasn’t until my body started to recover that I saw the precious gift God had given all those mornings months before.

Sometimes it takes a crisis—an illness, a tragedy, having one’s life tilted upside down—to grab hold of what really matters. In 2011, after a lifetime of great health and athleticism, after nearly two decades of walking closely with Jesus and two years of surrendering to His call, colitis knocked me flat. Shifted my identity and for a while, left me grasping for answers.

If I could no longer run, who was I?

If I couldn’t push through this physical obstacle, was I still a woman of strength? An overcomer?

Why would God allow this? I’d been serving Him, writing for Him, speaking for Him, but now I was reduced to a tired, thin woman who often couldn’t make it to the bathroom on time let alone serve outside the home. Wasn’t I more effective when well?

I was failing. I wasn’t using the gifts God had given me. I wasn’t tending to my family as I felt called to do. I hadn’t touched my keyboard in months and wasn’t sure I ever would again.

I wasn’t any good for the body of Christ. I wasn’t any good for my family.

This was an incredibly painful time. A period of refining and stripping. A year I will always remember. The time when, as I read my Bible each morning and I clung to God’s Word lovingly preserved through the ages, He drew me to Himself and held me close to His heart. Those moments between us, when all the rest of the world faded from view, are precious beyond what I can express.

… there’s nothing so precious, nothing that can soothe the heart, quite like being held by the One who knows and loves you most.

There’s nothing so precious, nothing that can soothe the heart, quite like being held by the One who knows and loves you most.

verse image of James 1:2 with a sunrise in the backgroundPerhaps this is, in part, what James meant when he said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds …” (James 1:2, NIV). Though in context, he’s referring to the joy of knowing God has a purpose in our pain. But this points to an even bigger truth–God loves us always. In our times of health and pain.

I’ve known joy. Not the momentary elation our world teaches us to chase after, but the deep, unyielding, persevering joy of knowing God, truly knowing Him, and being known by Him.

If favor is found in what I can do or the wealth I attain, if it’s found in prestige and accolades, I failed. And I’ll gladly fail again–to gain something much more enduring and fulfilling.

Time with Christ. To be held and to know His hands are strong and firm and ever-present, that’s joy. And that’s the greatest gift Christ died to give us—unhindered access to Himself. He’s always there, always reaching, always loving. But sometimes He needs to help us see that, rest in that. Sometimes that help comes through pain; a pain with the sweetest of dividends.

Let’s talk about this! When has God turned a difficult time into an enduring blessing? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

When life hits hard and we feel used up, it’s easy to think we’re somehow less valuable or perhaps overlooked by God. But our value is immutable, and we can live out our purpose in every season, if we choose. Join us for our next Wholly Loved Conference on January 20th hosted by Beautiful Savior in LaVista, NE to learn how to discover and live out your purpose.

Then, join us in February for our Bold and Brave Conference, hosted by St. Paul’s United Methodist in Papillion. You can check out all our conference dates and register HERE.

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Photo of Sarah Conaway speaking
Experiencing Christ, Video Devotion

When God Feels Distant — Video Devotion

VLOG #3 Due Are you there God_12-20-17 from Wholly Loved Ministry on Vimeo.

Do you ever feel like God’s checked out for the day or taken a much-needed vacation? Do you earnestly desire His presence and relentlessly search for it and feel nothing? What do you do in those situations?

Almost two years ago, I had a stroke that left me with dulled sensation in the right half of my body. Some parts are completely numb. My nerves react to my inability to feel by misfiring. My body knows something is wrong and tries to fix it. It’s trying to feel. It won’t give up trying to regain sensation. Because of this, I take a nerve blocking medication to stop the prickly and tingling sensation that are more than I can handle.

And just like my body, sometimes I can’t feel God. Sometimes I can feel Him a little. Sometimes I can feel Him a lot. I want to feel Him a lot, all the time. But how? How do I go from feeling nothing some days to being engulfed in His divine presence everyday?

In Hebrews 13:5 God says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

In other words, God is always with us and will never leave us. Even if we can’t feel Him, He is there. He doesn’t leave. He doesn’t take a vacation. So if you want to feel His steadfast presence, ask Him to reveal Himself to you in ways you’ll see and understand. To show you ways that you can feel Him even when you are “numb”, and be diligent in daily attempts to connect with Him through prayer and scripture as you learn to live Wholly Loved.