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Mountains and Valleys

Many of us have read or heard of the very popular Bible passage Psalm 23, where David talks about God being his Shepherd, how he leads him beside still waters and restores his soul.  One part of this verse stirs something deep within my heart in verse 4.

Psalm 23:4 ESV

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]  I will fear no evil, for you are with me;  your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Have you ever had a season in your life you didn’t want to be in, where you asked God, “Why am I here?”  “What am I doing in this place?”  With fists clenched, heels digging in the ground, telling God, “I don’t want to be here!”  Sounds like the valley of the shadow of death is one of those places.  Other versions of this verse also read valley of darkness or death.

What do you think David saw when he walked through the valley of darkness?

The valley David refers to in this verse is a valley in the desert of Judah.  Anyone who walks through this valley is putting themselves at risk of encountering anything lurking in the darkness, wildlife, bandits, even a random flash flood.

What strikes me, David is walking through the valley where there is a shadow of death.  Where there was a lot of unknowns surrounding him.  Anything could attack or happen to him at any moment.  Yet, he didn’t run away from the darkness, he didn’t take a different route, he walks right through it.

Do you think David knew he was going to walk through a valley of death?

I think many of us would have turned around if we knew what lied ahead.  We always wonder why God doesn’t share details with us.  If we really knew, we wouldn’t go where God was asking us to go.  David then says in response to walking in the valley, “I will fear no evil, you’re rod and staff comfort me.”  David knew even if he was in the valley he was safe and protected because God was with him every step of the way.

In Everybody Always, Bob Goff talks about fighter pilots who train in the valleys in between the mountains.  When asked why do they train at lower elevations where winds can get them, their response was, ‘so we can get better.’

God isn't always going to lead us to the safest route forward but to the one where we will grow the most. God knows without risk we wouldn't grow #quote @BobGoff #EverybodyAlwaysClick To Tweet

David knew walking through the valley would be hard.  But he also knew in the valley is where he learned to depend on and trust in God the most.  Walking through the valley will be dark and seem like God is far away.  When we trust in what God is able to do and not in what we see, He walks us safely to the other side every time.

It is so easy to praise God when we’re standing on the mountain but not always so easy when we’re deep in the valleys.

Imagine what would happen if we took the same approach as David?  If we faced our fears, our darkness and walked through them, depending on God for our guidance and comfort when we’re afraid?

In the valley is where we grow the most and receive the sweetest most unexpected victories when we trust God to walk us to the other side of our darkness.

Psalm 23:5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

God goes and prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.  God doesn’t promise we won’t have to walk through our valleys in the absence of our enemies, but in their presence.  As our enemies surround us God our Shepherd, the master of provision provides for us everything we need in the midst of our battles.

The enemies in our lives are powerless over us when we praise him in our darkness–when we push through holding onto God’s hand, when we trust and don’t know how everything will turn out.  God’s generosity of mercy and grace then overflows in us, all the days of our lives and we will dwell in his house forever (Psalm 23:6).  In God’s house lies a sanctuary of peace and love like none other that sets us free from the fears of any darkness.

The next time fear gets the best of you, allow God to be your Shepherd leading you through your dark valleys.  Pray Psalm 23 over your situation.  Close your eyes and follow the voice of the Shepherd.  Trust in Him, take His hand, He knows the way.

A voice cries:[a]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 40:3-5

What season are you in?

How do you allow God to lead you through your valley?

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Chicken Soup for the Soul: Military Edition {Giveaway}

“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.  I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him” quote Abraham Lincoln.

I am so excited to announce the story I submitted last year to Chicken Soup for the Soul has been accepted and published in the Military Edition!  I am humbled and honored to have our story alongside other men and women who have served and been the force behind the forces.  And I’m thankful to have another opportunity to be published in the Chicken Soup Series!

I can’t believe how completely different our lives look now.

Never in my life did I think I’d be in this place I am today.  Never in a million years did I think I would be living in Alaska, living on a military base with my husband serving in the United States Air Force.  Never did I imagine all that we would see and learn just by taking a step of faith out of our comfort zone.  Only God.

You just never know what God has planned.

Even though we left everything we knew–family, friends, kid’s school, our home, jobs, etc.  We wouldn’t trade the military or Alaska for anything.  Coming up here we have become a closer knit family.  Moving to a place where you know no one, makes a family depend on each other in ways you never had before.  We also get to meet amazing military families who sacrifice their lives and serve just so we can be safe.

There is so much more to our story than what is published.  God has been writing our story for quite some time and is always full of surprises!

Life wouldn’t be life if there weren’t curve balls, sharp turns or detours would it?

As I am writing these words, we are getting ready to embark on our new journey to Colorado!  In fact we could really use your prayers.  There are a lot of unknowns of where we will live and what school our kids will attend.   We are trusting in God’s provision and leaving it in His hands.  Even though we don’t know how all the details are going to work, we know God has it already worked out for us.

There is something powerful in doing something bigger than yourself.

Alaska has taught us many things especially the art of camping and how to be prepared in all kinds of situations (wild life, negative degree weather).  We will be driving with our two kids and dog in our RV through Canada this summer, stopping by national parks along the way.  It is bittersweet for us to leave all the wonderful friends who have been our new military family to embark on our new adventure.  But we are excited for our new adventure that awaits.

Sometimes I question if we have to move every 3 to 4 years how are we able to grow roots?  I believe God uses us wherever we are.  He allows us to bloom wherever we are planted growing our roots deeper in every step of faith and act of obedience.  I will cherish the relationships and friendships we have made along the way and carry them in my heart wherever I go.  Each journey we go on grows us and prepares us for what God has in store (hence why we named our dog Journey ; ).

Our Journey Girl

Want a chance to win a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul:  Military Edition for your self?  Before it is available in stores?

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Chicken Soup for the Soul:  Military Edition is available for pre-order purchase on www.amazon.com for only $10.37!  It’s a perfect gift to give to that special someone who serves for Memorial Day!

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Finding Victory in Our Messes

I have a confession to make.  There are certain areas of my life that are in a state of continual mess.  My desk is one of them.  I probably shouldn’t admit this, but there is something very comforting about my messy desk.  Maybe because it doesn’t demand me to keep a certain appearance of having it all together all the time.  Or maybe because it doesn’t nag me to clean it up?

Do you have an area of your life that is in a continual messy state?  

I struggle to keep my messy desk organized.  One piece of paper out of place leads to a pile, which leads to a mountain of open books, to a point I don’t know where anything is!  My messiness impedes progress to move forward in completing projects.  I get to the point where my desk is so messy I am forced to organize it.  Even though there is a place for everything, somehow in my busyness and distractions my desk becomes messy again.  The time I need to organize and put away things is easily replaced by other activities or commitments.  I have good intentions to keep my desk clean, but somehow the piles seem to always appear!

My desk is a reminder of how my one decision to not put something away, leads to a big mess!

Can you relate?

There lies a constant struggle within all of us, to keep our lives without messes.  Is this a realistic achievement to have a life without messes?  I don’t think so. I think messes are apart of our lives, whether they are physical or spiritual.  I think our messes are apart of our stories in which God has written.

My mess makes me think of Joseph in the Bible when his brothers sold him into slavery.  His brothers did not like Joseph because their father showed favoritism towards him.  Their jealousy took a turn for the worse when they plotted an evil plan to kill him.  Thank goodness one of their brothers had the sense to spare his life.  Instead, they plotted to throw him in a well and sold him to the Ishmaelites traveling to Egypt.  The brothers then decided to deceive their father, making him believe his beloved son was killed and devoured by a wild beast.  They even killed a goat and dipped Joseph’s coat in blood to show their father, to make their whole story seem more believable (Genesis 37:12-36).

What a mess!  Their evil plot to kill turned into a lie, which turned into a conspiracy of deception–selling their brother into slavery!  I can’t imagine how their father felt, thinking his son died, but was really deceived by his own sons and didn’t even know it!

Oh, what God can do with our messes.  

Little did Joseph’s brothers know, what they intended for harm, God intended for good to accomplish His greater plan (Genesis 50:20).   What the brothers thought would be the downfall of Joseph, God used to equip Joseph all for His glory.

Joseph had been a slave in Egypt for about 13 years.  In that time he learned much because he was a servant of Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh.  He gained favor with Pharaoh when he was able to interpret one of Pharaoh’s dreams (Genesis 41).  Joseph’s dream saved Egypt from a great famine that devastated many lands around them.  Unknowingly, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt looking for food, not knowing their brother Joseph was there, in a place of power.

In Genesis 45, Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, letting them know he indeed was still alive and had power in the land of Egypt.  He was able to spare his family from the famine by supplying them with much food, and land for their flocks and herds.

What an amazing surprise for Joseph’s father Jacob, to discover his son Joseph was still alive!  Joseph could have repaid his brother’s with revenge, but instead, he chose to love them despite selling him into slavery.  Even though Joseph’s brother’s intended to harm him, God was at work the whole time.  He turned the brothers’ horrible decision into one of the most glorious plans ever!  

There is Victory in Our Messes!

Can you relate to Joseph’s story?

Have you been in a mess and felt like there was no way out?

I promise you can trust that God is at work in your life.  If God can deliver Joseph from slavery making him a powerful ruler over Egypt he can deliver you from your circumstances.  Stay faithful in prayer, I promise God is listening!  We may not always see what God’s plans hold, but can trust he has something better for us just ahead!  (Jer. 29:11).

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