Lessons Learned on the Mountain

A few weeks ago here on the blog I wrote about lessons I had learned in the valley. When thinking of what to write for this weeks post, the idea came to me that there are also lessons to be learned on the mountain top and its perhaps just as vital to share those. I would hazard to guess that while indeed we are a very blessed people, most of us do not build our home and camp out on the mountains of our life. We live our everyday moments on fertile soil between the mountains and valleys and this place too of course has lessons we learn, but for this mini two-post series I am only going to focus on the mountains and valleys of our life.

The mountain is where we all want to live. While no one readily signs up for time spent in the valley, people clamor for more time on the mountain. It is where we feel whole and believe that everything in our life is right. While in the valley small bumps seem to become potholes, in the mountain seasons of our lives they are merely small pebbles. These two places form the stark contrasts of our lives – one up, the other down, one easy, the other hard, one where we desire to be the other we do our best to avoid. But reader, both of them teach us invaluable lessons and God uses both of them to form us into the person He created us to be.

As a recap the gems we picked up in the valley were: that God is Holy and All Knowing, there is still joy to be found, God is not finished with any of us and that through these times God gives us a love for Him we would not otherwise have known. We can say the same about time spent on the mountain; God is Holy and All Knowing and there is joy to be found no matter where He currently has us in this life (because we are truly always in the palm of His hand and what better place to be?). The mountain is not the end-all be-all of life. We will eventually trek back down (God continues to work on us) and it is through all of these experiences in our lives that our love for God is grown. God is truly the God of the hills and valleys.

Before we dive into the lessons I have learned, I wanted to share an observation I have made. People are all different and so this isn’t going to be the case for everyone. However, many are prone to forget God in the good times of life. As if we had something to do with making the good happen, we don’t cling to God as we would in a valley. This should not be so. Let us purpose to live every moment – mountain, valley or in between – for the glory of God, never forsaking Him.
November 11 051I have learned a lot in the mountainous times of my life. One of the most important lessons is to stay grounded. We are (most likely) not going to be on the mountain to stay. It is important to keep a view of the ground below. This isn’t to sound pessimistic; please rejoice mightily in Gods blessings! He wants to bless us. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing”. God wants good for us. But I believe He also wants us to be grounded and practical about our mountain top experiences, so that when He changes the terrain in our lives we are still steadfast followers of Him. Praise God for the mountain tops in your life, for sure! But don’t become so blinded by the mountain you forget the fertile soil below.

I have learned to pray differently because of the mountains in my life. Everyone prays for blessings to come to them – that is not wrong. What is wrong is seeing the mountains as the only blessings God gives. He blesses us in the everyday mundane moments of our lives as well as in the valleys. Blessings are hidden all along our life path, not only on the peaks. Count your blessings! There are beautiful surroundings on the mountain and just as beautiful in the valley. Be open to what God wants to accomplish through you and how He chooses to grow you. Remember, you are His creation and the clay in His hands. Isaiah 64:8 “But not oh Lord, thou art our father, we are the clay, and thou art our potter and we all are the work of they hand”.
I have learned to share what God is doing in my life. Truly this is a lesson that could fall under both the valley and the mountain. I feel that often times this is the only time we share Gods work with others; when we like what He is doing and we are happy. Not everyone journeys to the mountain at the same time, so while these moments in our life can encourage others, let us remember to be careful how we share them. Do so in love. And please, also take time to share what God is doing in your life through the valleys. Fellowship and the ability to learn and grow with and from others is such an important aspect of our Christian walk.

Well readers, I hope that through these two posts you were able to understand that God really is Holy and all Knowing. His timing is perfect and He so intimately cares for each one of us. He had our life journey planned out before He hung the stars in place. Bloom where you are planted – rejoice in the moment and truly live abundantly there because its only then that we are able to find all the gems God so richly blesses us with.

Your Fellow Traveler,
Amber

Father’s Day

I remember when I was about seven or eight years old, finding a card that was blue and green and talked about grilling and other such fatherly things. I believe this was a fathers day card chosen for one of my grandfathers, however growing up without much memory of a dad Father’s day was a foreign concept to me. You see, my dad died of a rare form of blood cancer when I was three years old. I had (and still do have) both my grandfathers but the closest was an eight hour car drive away. I do not have concept of fatherhood in my life that I can remember. My mom remarried when I was already raised and a year away from moving out for college. I know that my daddy was a very nice Christian man that loved God first and his family second, I know that he worked hard to support us and that he loved being a dad. I have been told stories of how he would play with my older brother and I or how on Sunday mornings my mom would get me in my dress for church and he would tell me how pretty I was, but outside stories and shared relics from others I do not remember my daddy. With Father’s day approaching this weekend I wanted to speak on this and how my walk with the Lord has been affected.

 

We are taught the concept of God being our Father from the time we first come to Him. The Bible uses the term and/or idea of Fatherhood all throughout both testaments. We are taught to pray our Father who art in heaven and told that we become children of God when we come to Him. As a Christian this aspect of our relationship with God is not something that we can ignore. So how does a lady with a very limited concept of what it means to have a father, relate to God as her father? I believe there are many people who struggle to relate to God as a Father because their relationship with their earthly father was broken. This simply is not the case for me, I was blessed with a good and loving daddy. For me the problem has been just not understanding this role in my life. It is important for us all to realize that our earthly dads are not the definition of true Fatherhood. Yes, I believe that they have been given similarities to God (if they are living for Him) but the one who defines Fatherhood is the one who created it, God Himself.

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So how does God define Fatherhood? Doing a word study on the Fatherhood of God I discovered that while Jesus was on earth more than any other term for God, He used Father. In fact in the Gospels alone Father is used for God more than a hundred times. In the trinity we know God as the Father (1 Corinthians 8:6) – Father God, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. We see that Jesus had a very close relationship with His (our) “Abba Father” (Romans 8:15) He often withdrew Himself to commune with God, He cried out to God in the garden of Gethsemane and then gave His spirit up to God on the cross. We see in the scriptures that God is our provider (Genesis 22:13-14, Psalm 145:16) and protector. (Deuteronomy 31:6, 2 Thessalonians 3:3) We know that God loves us (Zephaniah 3:17, John 3:16) and disciplines us (Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:6). We are brought into covenant with God (Genesis 9:15). God directs our lives (Jeremiah 29:11). God created us (Psalm 139:14-16). God forgives us (Isaiah 43:25-26, Acts 3:19)

The Bible tells us in Psalm 68:5 that God is a Father to the Fatherless. This aspect of God’s character is such a blessing to me. I have never truly been Fatherless, my Father is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. And my earthly daddy has gone fishing with Jesus as his tombstone reads. I can relate to God as many things, but probably my most treasured way of knowing Him is as my Father. I may have grown up without my daddy, but I have never for a moment been Fatherless. And can I encourage you, if you are where I am and your daddy is in heaven or if your father is still on this earth but your relationship with him is broken take heart that God is our Father. God defines Fatherhood because He created it. Don’t let your broken earthly dad define your relationship with Father God.

If you do have a broken relationship with your father or your father is in heaven with mine, can I encourage you to press into our Heavenly Father this Fathers day? Let us remember that our earthly fathers are only human and will never be perfect – they were not meant to be. I encourage you to pray for that man, and then turn to Christ your heavenly Father who loves you with a love stronger than anything we will ever know. God is waiting for you to come to Him. Lay your dreams of a good relationship down at His feet and worship Him. He will restore what the locusts have eaten, I know this to be true.

My husband and I had our first baby 20 months ago and thankfully it has been in that time that I have begun to understand what Fatherhood looks like on a daily basis. Fathers have such an important role in their children’s lives. It is a different role from that a mother can provide and that difference is real. We live in a world that would like you to believe men can be feminine and women masculine but that simply is not the truth. We need both true representations in our lives. There are ways of relating that Lance has that I simply do not and therefore Matthew’s relationship with his daddy is different from what Matthew and I share. Matthew gets so excited when his daddy walks through the door at night. He loves to wrestle with his daddy and to go exploring with daddy. Matthew loves playing ball with Lance. Their relationship is a beautiful thing to behold.

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So friends, how does a girl without an earthly dad celebrates Fathers day? I celebrate Fathers day and every day knowing that I have the God of all the Universe as my Father. I celebrate Fathers day because God restored what the locusts had eaten in my life and has allowed me to be married to a guy who loves his son fiercely. I celebrate Fathers day knowing that one day I will see both my earthly daddy and my heavenly Father – and that is reason to rejoice!

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Happy Fathers day friends!

God bless you!
Amber

Lessons Learned in the Valley

When I imagine a valley I see lush green meadows, fertile soil, babbling brooks, grass blowing in the breeze and mountain views. I think of the beauty God created and am in awe. Not only did He create majestic mountains but also peaceful valleys and they come together to form this earth we know as home. Though very different, both are beautiful and needed for our world to thrive. God created both for our enjoyment. Similarly, life has it’s high and low spots, and we’re intended to experience both. We can easily get the notion that joy is only experienced when life is lived on the mountain top with no view of the valley. All of us want a life journey free of pain; no one prays for hard times. However, if we are+ not wise with our time spent in the valleys we might wonder why they even exist. God is intimately involved in all of our lives and cares very much about the paths He leads us down. There is a purpose behind painful moments; He uses the trials in our live to refine us and if we are receptive, we’ll gain wisdom through our time spent in the valley.

 

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I am not much different from you, dear reader. I did not ask for the times of trial in my life, but like all of us I find myself in them from time to time. Sometimes we know hardship will come; other times it sneaks up on us and we are suddenly thrust into the middle of them. Regardless of our awareness, God uses it. It’s up to us how we will respond during adversity. God has graciously used such instances in my life to grant me wisdom I would otherwise never have gleaned. I am someone who feels and thinks deeply. I do my best to not let life lessons go unrecognized. God gives us wisdom, if only we will be prudent enough to ask for it. I don’t want to squander moments in the valley where there are lessons to be learned; there may be opportunities that have no other way of presenting themselves.

Our Christian walk is built on lessons God teaches us. We have heard it said that if we are not learning we are not living. I believe this is true no matter what spiritual terrain we walk (mountain or valley). 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” One of the ways we can live this command out is by being open to the lessons God chooses to bring into our life. I believe there is benefit in sharing these lessons, so today I have chosen a few of the lessons God has taught me through the valleys in my life to share with you.

The most important thing we need to remember during adversity is that God is Holy and All Knowing. He doesn’t just throw us into the fire to watch us burn. I really cannot say this enough, there is a purpose for the pain. Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things together for those who love God, and to those who are called according to His purpose. All things, not just the mountain but also the valley. I have learned to not question God when walking through these times. The “why” question didn’t used to be far from my lips but I now through the grace of God have turned my complaining into praise – not because I enjoy hardship – who does? – but because I know God is accomplishing His purposes through me. Also, on this side of heaven, we’re not going to understand because we’re not meant to. It is easy to question God because we only see a piece of the puzzle; we have to remember that God has the whole puzzle in His hands and He lovingly puts into our life whatever piece fits best.

I have learned there is a certain type of joy even in the valleys. A common trap we can fall into is walking through a hard season and losing sight of the joy and beauty that are omnipresent. I think of when David wrote the 23rd Psalm. He was facing death (verse 4- “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”) and yet this psalm shouts God praises. That very same verse goes on to tell us that God was with David in this time. Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts is quoted as saying “the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.” God will never abandon us and therefore there is always joy. While the thing that is causing you pain hurts and is not joyful, God knows that and grieves with you. There are joyful moments in the midst of our pain and when we block out the pain we end up blocking out the beauty. I have learned that all my days are beautiful, blessed days. Not because my life is perfect -trust me reader, I have been broken – but because I choose to see Gods fingerprints.

I have learned that God is not finished with me, or any of us. How often do we experience something painful and pray that our feet will never touch the valley floor again? We forget that the soil is often most fertile here, that God is cultivating our hearts. We will not be ‘finished’ until we are in heaven and knowing that, there is the guarantee that life will present us with more time in the valley. We praise, because we trust God. We know that He is preparing a place for us so that when we are finished with this life, “the God of all grace who has called you into His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10).

Finally, I have learned a love for God I would have not otherwise known if I had not endured the refining fire. He has broken me to fill me with His glory. We are sinful creatures who cannot stand before a Holy God. I can only turn around and offer praise that God would bring me through the fire to draw me to His side.

So dear reader, can I encourage you, next time God places your feet on the valley floor. Stop and look around a little. Take time to breathe in God’s glory and know that He is there with you, and that there is wisdom He has for you to collect even there.

Rejoicing Always,

Amber

Joy in Hospitality

Hello again readers! If you were following my previous blog you know that I finished it out with a series on how to cultivate joy in our homes and lives. A dear friend Rebekah of Hargraves Home and Hearth had guest posted during that series. I wanted to include her post here as well because she really does share some great insight on how to find joy in hospitality.

I know for some of you sweet ladies the title of this post may seem like a complete oxymoron. Perhaps the thought of gaining joy from practicing hospitality seems impossible for you. Even as someone who loves hospitality, believes it to be important, and thrives on having lots of people into her home, I understand! I really do. Hospitality is not always easy for me. It’s not always something I feel comfortable with doing. Sometimes it can feel very awkward.

I do believe, however, that everyone – no matter your personality, background, experiences or condition of your home – can find joy in practicing hospitality. I believe this to be true  because: living a life of hospitality is something the Lord expects of us (Romans 12:13, 1 Peter 4:9, Hebrews 13:2), He faithfully equips us for what we are called to do (Hebrews 13:20-21), and He blesses us when we obey (James 1:25, John 13:17, Luke 11:28, 1 Peter 3:9).

Where to Start

How, though, practically speaking, do we gain joy from practicing hospitality? I believe the place to start, as in all other areas of our lives, as well, is with time in God’s Word. After all, we know the following to be true about the Word of God:

 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” ~Hebrews 4:12

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” ~2 Timothy 3:16-17

It is through time in God’s Word that we will be able to gain the perspective and insight required to willingly go about practicing hospitality in a way that will honor the Lord, do others good, and bring us joy. Spend time in prayer, as well! Seek wisdom from the Lord (James 1:5) as to how to go about practicing hospitality, seek His direction for the best way to make this a regular part of your life, and ask Him for a right heart when it comes to how you view hospitality and the people you will have into your home.

What to Do

After you have spent time in communion with the Lord and sought His direction and help, experiencing joy in hospitality will then come from having a right perspective. If we want to be able to begin to view hospitality as an enjoyable thing, we will need to make a shift in our thinking and viewpoint in the following ways:

  • Understand that true hospitality has nothing to do with the condition of your home and everything to do with the condition of your heart. Save yourself a lot of grief, dismay, and discouragement by no longer feeling like your home has to be Pinterest-perfect before you can have folks over. People don’t truly care about how “perfect” your house looks. They care far more about the condition of your heart towards them – how are you making them feel when they step into your home? A loving heart will instantly transform an otherwise drab home into a welcoming haven.
  • Believe that hospitality is about your guests, not about you. If we are all wrapped up in what our guests will think of us and whether or not they will believe us to be the most amazing hostesses ever, we will instantly be zapped of any joy we could have otherwise experienced through practicing hospitality. Pursuing a mirage of perfection only ever produces discouragement, pride, and frustration. And it does nothing to serve your guests. Folks coming into your home want a warm haven of encouragement and friendship. They don’t want perfection in you. Otherwise, they will leave feeling like they’re failures in their own pursuit of “perfection”. View hospitality as a way to serve and bless others and to focus on them rather than on yourself. Be a shoulder to cry on, an encourager for when the going-gets-tough in the lives of others. Have this be your focus and you will find yourself experiencing more joy in your hospitality!
  • View hospitality as something fun to do, not as a burden to bear! No one ever said hospitality had to be one-size-fits-all, boring, or rote! Who would want to ever be on the receiving end or the giving end, either one, of hospitality if it were? The Lord has issued forth the command to us to practice hospitality, but He never gave us a checklist as to how that has to look. So, take the concept of practicing hospitality and make it your own according to your own unique family culture, interests, and personality! Do you love Mexican food? Throw a Mexican dinner party! Put up some fun streamers in loud, vibrant colors around your kitchen and serve a help-yourself taco/taco salad buffet! Do you love playing board games? Order pizza, pop popcorn, use paper plates, and host a game night where each guest brings their favorite game! With hospitality, the sky is the limit. Do what is fun for you and your guests!

Pursue Joy! 

I hope those tips serve to inspire you in your own pursuit of incorporating hospitality into your everyday life. Remember the popular little acronym for the word “joy” and you will find yourself experiencing so much more joy in hospitality:

J – Jesus First

       O – Others Second

    Y – Yourself Last

Start out with the Lord – get in His Word, seek His face, gain His wisdom and perspective, and, after you do this, you will be far better able to then bless others from a heart of service. Do these things and you will find yourself gaining so much more glorious joy each and every time you heed God’s call to practice hospitality!

 

Rebekah Hargraves is a wife, mama of two littles, home business owner, podcaster, and blogger residing in TN. Her passion is to bless fellow Christian women through her writings on her website, Hargraves Home and Hearth, which exists to “edify, equip, and encourage women in their journey of Biblical womanhood”.

Husband of the Blogger Link Up – May

Hello Again!

Something I want to be sure to do on this blog is to include Lance and his ideas more. One way of doing so is a monthly post I will write, joining a few blogging friends in what we call Husband of the Blogger Link Up. We started this last month, if you want to see Lance’s answers to those questions please click here.

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This month the questions all revolved around “What do you wish your wife knew about…”. The 5 questions that Lance answered are

What do you wish your wife knew about…

– What Household Chores are most important to you
– Sexual intimacy and why its so important to you
– Your own space, when and why do you need it
–  What refreshes you and speaks your love language
– Your childhood home

Lance, what household chores are most important to you?
“It is very important to me that we keep our home looking like a home and not a pig sty. I believe this is a command from God for the wife, but that also when the time or season permits I can be of help in this area. It is most important to me to have clean clothes, because I have to be presentable in society every day, and I want you and Matthew to look your best as well. So laundry would be number one for sure. The other things that are important to me are dishes, vacuuming and cutting up vegetables when we have heads of broccoli or cauliflower that need to be cut up.”

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Lance, why is sexual intimacy an important part of our relationship?
Okay reader, you really don’t have to stop reading and go wash you eyes and ears out. This is not that type of question. Sexual intimacy is an important part of any marital relationship and this is only asking why he thinks its an important aspect of any given marriage, not directly related to us. 

“It’s important but its only one aspect of the kind of love that God envisions for a marriage. It is necessary to have children of course, but it’s also given to us as a command (in Genesis 2:24)that  two people will become one. It is the most intimate (personal, private) emotional and physical thing that you can do with another human being. Its also the closest you can get to your spouse. It should be joyous for both the husband and the wife.”

Lance what do you wish I knew about your own space when and why do you need it?

I enjoy tinkering in the garage or outside where I don’t necessarily need your help. I want to do these things on my own because they are masculine responsibilities and when I complete them they help me to feel fulfilled. I also enjoy my hobby of watching sports (though it is fun when you watch them with me -especially football as I know you understand and enjoy that one the most).
– These two (other than work) are things I enjoy being by myself. I am away from you enough at work that I enjoy spending time with you when I am home. There are  obligations of keeping the home on my end that I actually enjoy and need to do alone. I like being useful and enjoy doing these things at home. I can get restless if I am not working with my hands at times”.

Lance what refreshes you and speaks your love language?
My love language is physical touch and your presence. I am refreshed by spending time with you. If I have had a hard day I need your presence and you to love me by being near me when I get home. I am big on cuddling and I know that physical touch is not your top love language and so when you go out of your way to make sure I get this type of love it is very important and precious to me.”

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Lance, what is it you wish I knew about your childhood home?
It was loving, supportive, nurturing but at the same time there was discipline and expectations, I had chores. It was fair. I am forever blessed by my childhood because I realize not everyone had the same upbringing that I had. I never really wanted for anything, all my needs were taken care of. Not to say I was given everything I ever wanted, that is not true for any of us. I was very well loved and taken care of.

I grew up on a ranch in Montana in gorgeous mountain country so the whole outdoors was at my fingertips. Its a upbringing and childhood that a very small percentage of people are blessed by. It is my dream to one day live here with our family.”

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There are 6 others participating in this months link up if you would like to see their posts follow the links below!

Kayla (Accidental Nomad Life)

Rebekah (Hargraves Home and Hearth)

Caitlin (Flannelgraphs)

Sarah (Liberty Grace Love)

Crystal (Pennies and Playdough)

Hailey (This Life We Love)

Pages

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Life is but a vapor. That is what the Lord seems to be pressing into my heart as of late. I see the very old and the very young and I wonder. One has seen many days come to pass, like the pages turning in a book, while the other has seen only light and has yet to have words penned to their page. Life, its a beautiful journey. No one on this earth has a life that is exactly like the other, and yet we can relate with another because of the similar things we all walk through. We know the warmth of birthday candles, the majestic colors of the sunrise, the smell of a fresh fallen rain, we see ocean waves and hear the thunder.

There is a purpose to all of this, all of these blessed days on this earth. We know the lush green of Spring and the still coolness of Winter. Seasons come and seasons go and in between the pages, we live. The choice of how we will live is in our hands. These days, these pages in our book – the Master Author has handed us the pen and given us the authority to choose how these pages will read. In His infinite wisdom, He does not force us to choose the path that will lead to Him, He does not twist the plot so that our story shouts His praise, but instead that is left to us. How will we live this life and will we fill our pages with the beauty of living a life for God? Will we choose to see His hand in every word, every sentence and in every page we turn? He knows, but He leaves the choice of how we will live to us.


We can take this life and make it beautiful. We can rejoice in the seemingly small, because one day, when we are turning the last pages of our book we will look back and realize the small, was really always the big. We must make a deliberate decision, here on this page of our lives. If we are going to start rejoicing in the small, we must strip away all of our preconceived notions of how this life should be and start living as God intended us to. Searching, desiring and being open to His blessings, all around us. You see, not far into our books we meet the villain of the story, the one who is hungry to destroy. He starts whispering his lies and soon if we are not careful in how we use our pen, we fall for his trickery. We begin to fail to see the beauty in life and the blessings God has so intimately placed in our days.

If you have done so dear sweet reader, can I encourage you to change the pen you are writing with? Turn the page and craft new words. Words that speak life and wholeness, words that inspire. Choose to see the reminders of Gods love that He places all around us.

There has to be passion in this life if it is to be a life well lived. We cannot simply go through our days to get through them. Every day, offers us a chance to rejoice and to live. Everyday gives us a blank page and it is up to us what we will choose to write on them. I am not here to tell you there wont be pain on these pages, that is simply not the truth, we are promised seasons in this life. But what I can tell you is that the Master Author already knew those pages existed and after you live them you and your story will be stronger because of them. Don’t be afraid to feel these pages in your hands, don’t be afraid to cry out to the Lord, He after all is our strength and shield in times of need.

As you write your story you will break, you will build and you will if you choose to, rejoice. Because this life we are living really is a beautiful thing.