He Would Have Loved You If.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips, when I remember you…- Psalm 63:5,6a

Stillness without rest.

This is the way I would describe the last week of my life.

If our souls were present on the external, you would have seen mine restless and all kinds of worked up.

Yesterday morning, when I finally felt like I was able to be ‘mom’ a little more, I found myself breathe a sigh of relief; and, simultaneously, I found myself feeling a bit charred inside.

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the roads and look; ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, then walk in it and you will find rest for your souls.”- Jeremiah 6:16

I think it has been in the works for a while.

God doesn’t miss anything; yet, He patiently waits for the right moment to open our eyes to what’s really going on around and inside of us.

 

What is rest?

Google defines it as this:

to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.

This sounds good and well- but how do any of us find rest if that is the true definition?

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the roads and look, ask for ancient paths, where the good way is; then you will find rest for your souls.” – Jeremiah 6:16

Soul rest.

Could it be that this is not only what we need but something that’s attainable?

For the first four years or so of the girls’ lives, I can honestly tell you that my soul felt at rest.

It’s unexplainable really.

With Hugh working 80 plus hours a week in residency, myself in the midst of no family in town and- at the time- no nursing care, I literally found myself feeling at peace on more days than not. God’s grace, for sure.

For the past few months, Hugh now working “normal” hours, all of us now getting (usually)  more sleep than before and having (somewhat) less of constant chaos- my soul has been restless. I have pushed through, assuming it was a test or trial of faith to deepen it all the more; and then, last week happened.

In the midst of not being able to do anything for my family for a few days, I heard the Lord whisper a simple yet profound truth that has changed everything.

“I would have loved you if”.

This phrase played and replayed in my head for quite some time, and then the answers came flooding in.

I will spare you the details of all my, “if’s”, but there’s a question I want to pose to you today.

Christ-follower: do you know at the depths of your soul- with every ounce of your being- that God would have loved you- does love you- will continue to love you- solely on the basis of who He is and whose you are?

He would love you if you didn’t write that book.

He would love you if you hadn’t gone to that seminary.

He would love you if you weren’t involved at that church or in that ministry.

He would love you if that struggle never goes away.

Beloved: God loves you.

 

Don’t misunderstand me: Jesus changes people. His love produces change in people.

His love.

And, if we find ourselves in a season where our work seems more important than His unconditional love, it’s time to take a step back and let the Lord remind us.

It’s time to let our souls find rest in His love again.

I stood over Ally as I watched her have a seizure last night- five minutes after having the pulse ox on Bailey Grace as she seized as well. I felt weary.

“The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances”- Elisabeth Elliot

I know this to be true. I have seen God make this true in our lives time and time again. But right now? My soul is tired. And so, to love the people in front of me well- I’m going to need to take a step back for a bit.

For a season that only God can determine the length of, I will not be posting weekly Facebook live videos.

I might be sharing a little bit less of what God is doing in my heart (but do not fear- God is God and He will continue to do His great work!)

I plan on continuing to share as He leads.

This season may only last a few months, weeks, days.

Only He knows.

Yet, the posture of my heart is shifting to be one that says, yet again, as it should have always, ‘Lord, I need you to be my rest’.

I am breathing deeper this morning as I look forward expectantly to finding my rest in Him again.

There is so much beauty around us- there is so much God around us- and I plan on savoring and seeking and seeing all that he places in front of me.

Friends, the subtitle of His Hands, His Feet, His Heart is, “Learning to See God in All Things and Longing For You to Do the Same”- and oh, how I long for this for all of us.

How lavish His love for us.

How true are His promises.

How perfect His ways.

He would have love you if.

To Him be the glory forever.

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The Part of Adoption No One Talks About.

View More: http://trishiaralstonphotography.pass.us/cheek-family-session

“Is the adoption thing still happening? “

This is a question I have gotten several times in the past few months; and it kind of makes my stomach churn.

The question itself is totally intentional and reasonable; my response is what stings.

“Yes, it’s still happening. Just waiting on the Lord’s timing”, I usually spit out.

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Seven.

That’s the number of times we have said, “Yes” to a child– only to be told, “No” by the birth mother.

Seven days, weeks, months of praying for and envisioning what it would look like to have that baby in our home- only to find out that wasn’t our baby after all.

The most recent one happened on Wednesday, and I would be lying if I said that I was feeling anything but wearied in the process.

Adoption is not for the faint of heart; domestic adoption is a whole other beast.

Yep, I said it. The process we are in that will ultimately be the means to add to our family is in fact, a beast. A beast because, ultimately, in a not-so-fallen world, it would not exist to begin with.

Adoption is messy.

Adoption is broken.

Adoption is each of our stories.

“Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”- John 1:12-13

This is adoption in its greatest magnitude.

When we began this process (it will be two years in January), we knew that waiting would be involved- and we were great with that. We had been learning how to wait- waiting on answers, waiting on a diagnosis, waiting on God to change and transform our hearts to see the life He had given our family through His eyes- waiting was normal for us. What I don’t think we realized was how hard each and every, “No” would be.

I have never had a miscarriage.

I do not know the pain of biological loss.

But, as a future adoptive mama, I do know the grief of imagining life with a child only to be told this life was not going to ever make it to my hands.

Like we all do, so many have desired for us to take matters into our own hands–to  try different agencies, to attempt to have another biological child, to change to international adoption. None of these wrong within themselves; yet none of them settling well within our spirits. At this time, God’s plan for the Cheek family is just to wait- and it’s just not easy.

View More: http://trishiaralstonphotography.pass.us/cheek-family-session

“He does not grow weary.”- Isaiah 40:28

A simple phrase with profound meaning that has caused me to fall more in love with the Lord as I have meditated on it.

I am weary.

I am run down in the wait. I am burnt out, spent, drained- reluctant to experience any more of the path of obedience the Lord has us on. I am ready to take matters into my own hands or, at the very least, shake my fist at God and ask Him why we seem to continue to get these thorny paths. But God?

He never grows weary.

His strength is not dependent on mine. His plans cannot be thwarted by anything my flesh falls into or my mind concocts. What He says, He shall do (Isaiah 34:17)- and this I know (regardless of how things may seem or how I can sometimes feel):

God is for me (Psalm 56:9).

God is for me- so we wait.

God is for me- so we rest.

God is for me- so we trust in His grace to carry us to Himself- come what may.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”- Romans 8:31-32

Friends, I don’t know how long it will be. I don’t know why God is making this path that we call our life so full of twists and turns. But what I do know trumps that which I do not know.

He is working.

At all times.

In all things.

And He is not weary.

To Him be the glory forever and ever Amen.

View More: http://trishiaralstonphotography.pass.us/cheek-family-session

(continued thanks to Trisha Ralston photography for these special pictures)

 

 

 

 

When We Feel Like We Just Can’t Adult.

Literally seconds before we heard the retching, we were laying in bed, lights off, talking about finances.

“Babe, you have a well-paying job, and your practice continues to grow—“

was just coming out of my mouth when something else came out of hers.

Hugh and I both ran upstairs, quick enough to get the bulk of it but not fast enough to not have her scared (from not being able to sit up on her own but needing to) and bath-worthy.
The finance conversation would have to continue another night.

“And calling to him (Jesus) a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. “- Matthew 18:2

Do you ever feel like a child trying to live in an adult’s body?

I don’t care how old you are- sometimes, our responsibilities feel too heavy for us to carry.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”- Matthew 11:28

I hear You, Lord.

I read Your promise. But there are physical loads (for me, two precious, getting heavier girls) and tangible bills and needs that-point blank- feel like our burden.

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The last time we were in the hospital, I remember looking around the room.

The wheelchair(s).

The feeding tube(s).

The breathing machine.

The seizures.

The medical record(s) with more diagnoses than I could count, casually strewn throughout the paper.

I know it seems like we are used to this whole, “twins with a super rare genetic disorder” thing; but the truth is, sometimes I see my reflection pushing the girls in a grocery store and I shake my head in disbelief.

Isn’t that all of us?

Those of us who have lived enough life to carry the title of spouse, parent, teacher or whatever job the Lord has you in- don’t you have moments where it just feels like too much? Where it feels- point blank- ridiculous that you are doing the things you are?

“And calling to him (Jesus) a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.“- Matthew 18:2-4, emphasis mine

The second part.

Whoever humbles himself like this child.

What did “this child”- that child- do?

He came when Jesus called.

Easy yet as profound as that.

Friends, God doesn’t want us to be like infants that require spiritual milk when it comes to faith. He desires us to be mature and grounded in the Word and in His promises. When we think about Christ and His desires for us, we must combine both 1 Corinthians 3:2 with 1 Peter 2:2. God desires us to long for pure spiritual milk- so much so that He is not going to feed us meat until we are ready for it.

Am I making sense to anyone?

I am not sure how we got from left to right.

The people on right have a lot more wrinkles, a lot more fatigue, and a lot more “adult” in them if you will. But you know what?

Along with that- God has taught us to be like infants in His arms.

He has shown us the sweetness of drinking pure spiritual milk- getting our nourishment from Him and Him alone.

And, when I feel like I just can’t “adult” anymore- He doesn’t ask me to.

Like a child, He simply asks me to come to Him in faith and trust that He will provide.

All He asks is that I do the next thing- resting safely in the comfort of who He is instead of fixating on the discomforts of the world around me.

Today, for me, that looks like washing sheets and folding clothes.

It fleshes out as lifting the girls one more time, and then another, and keeping them clean, fed, and cared for.

It will be seen in the moments that I’m tempted to wonder, “Is illness on its way?”- for those will be the times in which I must jump back into the Perfectly-Able Arms of the Father.

It will appear, as  I read in Ecclesiastes this morning, in the moments which I, “don’t remember much the days of my life” because God is, “keeping me occupied with joy in my heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:20).

What will it look like for you?

Friends, my prayer for me- for you- today is that we don’t feel like we have to be adults. Whether we are 15 or 105, may we take all our fears, worries, tasks, and doubts to the throne and ask the Lord to do “all the things” through us. And, when we find it all feeling too much, may we have the humility to drop a few tasks at hand and simply do the next thing He puts in front us.

He loves us fiercely.

At all times.

In all things.

To Him be the glory.

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The Greater Honor.

I remember the first time I took the girls out of the house in their wheelchairs. We went to Target, and as we navigated getting past the masses, the stares began.

Looks of pity.

Glances toward then quickly away.

Mommas pulling their littles close, hoping their childlike state wouldn’t let their supposed awkward questions out unannounced.

Anticipating these reactions, I had done what my flesh always does- fixed their hair as best as wheelchair head would allow. Put them in cute little dresses with matching shoes to boot. I had done everything I could to speak to a watching (okay, staring) world one thing:

Don’t feel sorry for us.

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“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ- provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”- Romans 8:16-17

Happy and healthy.

It’s a phrase most just let slip off their tongue when talking about a baby yet to be born.

Once the child is here, if nothing unexpected occurs, often times a text, email, or social media post cries out gleefully, “He/she is here! Both momma and baby are happy and healthy!”

It’s as if everyone is breathing a sigh of relief in saying, “Everything went as planned. Life can continue as we thought it would”.

You want to know a reality?

I sent the same text the day the twins were born.

This week at Hope Heals camp, I met several families who could have spread that message the day their loved one entered this earth- only to experience its brokenness years later.

The truth is, whether at birth or days, months, years later- at some point- we are all going to come face to face with the reality that this world is not our home.

At some point, dreams are going to shatter and we are going to have to decide what to do with all the shattered pieces- or rather, who can put them back together.

Thanks be to God, over time, our family has realized that maybe the pieces were never meant to be put back together in the first place. Maybe- just maybe- they were meant to be shattered in order to be given to the One whose Plan A was this life from before the beginning of time.

 

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“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ…the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable bestow the greatest honor“.- 1 Corinthians 12:12, 21-23, emphasis mine

On the last night of HH camp, at a beautiful banquet put on by so many members of this diverse, gorgeous Body, these truths were displayed in such an intricate and intentional way- and I would be amiss to not attempt to pay them forward to you.

Instead of receiving the typical stares of pity, our girls received beaming smiles of admiration and love.

Instead of glances of, “I’m sorry”, or, “Bless your hearts”- Hugh and I were given hugs and nods that reminded us yet again what a holy privilege it is to be equipped and entrusted to be Ally and Bailey Grace’s earthly parents.

Because of Christ, the way it was meant to be all along.

Friends, God wants so much more for us than happy and healthy on this side of heaven- He desires eternal wholeness for our souls and sometimes-rather, most of the time- this comes through suffering.

…provided that we share in His sufferings in order that we may share in His glory (Romans 8:17)

The good news?

When experienced in community- when shared with the Body- suffering can be a beautifully intimate thing.

Because of Christ, we no longer have to fear suffering for in all things, God is working.

Because of Christ, we do not have to lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Because of Christ, we are free to live not for, “Me, me, me” but for, “Thee, thee, thee”.

Because of Christ, we can rejoice in sufferings and trials and unexpected circumstances because we know that ultimately, He is making all things new.

This world is not our home.

This world is not our home.

This world is not our home and one day-if you are in Christ- all our empty places and unmet longings and restless hearts will be met and satisfied face to face with God Himself.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”- 1 Corinthians 13:12

Thanks be to God, in Jesus, our Hope does not disappoint.

My prayer for each of you today is that God would expand your heart to want more than merely health and happiness in this life. That your flesh would not cheat you of the joy that is offered in temporal discomfort and pain in this life in order to free you up for more of Him and less of yourself. I pray you would look at this word, “disability” and instead of thinking about Ally or Bailey Grace or someone else whose body displays the truth about us all- I pray you would seek to see the disability of the soul within each of us and that this would spur you on to cry out to the God who loves each of us in the midst of our own frail humanity. His love will never fail you. He is working.

At all times.

In all things.

No matter what.

To Him be the glory.

 

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”- 1 Peter 5:10

Only Human.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.”- 2 Corinthians 10:3

“It’s only human to feel that way”.

Through the years, I have said this to many people. It always seemed like the best way to validate whatever they were talking about- an encouragement even. Even from the perspective of Christian to Christian, saying, “That’s normal” somehow made me think I was offering some kind of balm for a hurt, frustration, or shame for the person in front of me.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another…walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”- Galatians 5:13,16-17

A couple months apart, I sat in the same position at Children’s, waiting to be told what the current EEG results would say for each of my children. The thing about epilepsy is that these results can change on any given day. If I didn’t believe that there was a God sovereign over each and every brain wave of each and every human, I would say that epilepsy is ruthless and unpredictable- changing its pattern whenever it feels like it.

But God.

Always but God.  

After sitting with Bailey Grace and hearing the news that at this time, her seizures were not only severe, but pretty constant, I had to wonder if we were going to be told the same thing about Ally. I prayed thy will, I said that I wanted what God wanted- yet, did I mean it?

“…this nation approaches me only with their words, and honors me only with their lip service.”- Isaiah 29:13

Lip service.

Is this what I was offering God?

Saying, “Thy will” while really thinking that a certain result was better than the next. It’s only human, right?

Of course it is. You know what else is human?

Lust. Selfishness. Materialism. Deception. Gossip.

As I sat there waiting to be told what felt like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ news, I realized that I was viewing the whole thing wrong. You see, when we place our determination on circumstance or season, our joy, hope, and peace lie in that particular thing staying the same. Yet, when we place our joy, hope and peace on God Himself- the Never-changing One- our roller coaster of emotions and thoughts becomes much more solid and steadfast.

Friends, we can think ,act, believe, feel, LIVE differently because of Christ. The same power that resurrected Jesus is the power that lives within each and every follower of Christ- and it is greater, bigger, more powerful than our flesh could ever attempt to be. Saying, ‘thy will’ but praising God more for what the world considers good might be human but it doesn’t come from a heart posture of belief in a God who is good in all things.

The truth, we can’t just say, ‘Thy will’ with our lips- we have to be transformed by its truth in the depths of who we truly are!

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(The Light has already overcome the darkness!)

When they came in to discuss Ally’s overnight results, they were in fact different than Bailey Grace’s. Human nature would’ve told me there was more to celebrate- that a bigger victory was gained. But God. I believe all the days of Bailey Grace and Ally’s lives were written before yet one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). I believe His best is planned for each of them- for each of us. I also know that in any given moment, passing, fleeting, ever-changing seizure patterns can change. It might have been human to say, “Praise God!” a little bit louder; but praise God my Lord overcame my frail humanity at the cross.

Friends, I want to honor God with my heart. I want to trust that His Spirit is greater. I want to believe at the core of who I am that all His ways are good and perfect and true- and to do this, it’s going to take a lot more than just telling myself, “It’s only human”.

“This God- His way is perfect.”- 2 Samuel 22:31

At all times.

In all things.

No matter what.

“The Lord is faithful in all His words and kind in all His works. The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His works.”- Psalm 145:13, 17

Done in Love.

“Let all that you do be done in love.”- 1 Corinthians 16:14

I’m tired.

I’m emotionally and physically exhausted.

We are on Day 5 of being up day and night with coughing, wheezing, breathing treatments, seizures, vomiting, crying, suctioning, pulse ox checking, wondering if we should be at home or at the hospital.

I was hoping to wake up with a different scenario and felt the irritation set in when I realized we were still down for the count.

As I was cleaning the girls’ feeding pumps, I looked up and saw this sign:

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Let all that I do be done in love? Today, Lord? Really?

God, I can’t.

These were the thoughts that ran through my head. Watching our girls suffer during what would be a simple illness for most takes a toil on my heart. It brings out frustration in me that makes me want to hang my head in shame. The Enemy of my soul shrieks out despair-

“You call yourself a Christ-follower and you can’t even find it in yourself to be kind to other people when your kids are sick for a few days?”

“Why can’t you just get it together?”

“Are you ever going to be able to trust God with your fears?”

Over and over and over again, I hear these things- lack of sleep making it worse.

But God.

You see, this morning, when I whispered I can’t to God, He inaudibly responded back to me, “I know. But I can.”

Today, I want to speak two simple yet profound things to each of you for when you find yourself feeling as if you are unable to do all things in love:

  1. It is never you that is able to do anything in love.

What I mean by this is that only God can assist us in loving those around us in the midst of a broken and imperfect and disappointing world. We cannot muster it up within ourselves-ever- and when He says He’s strong in our weakness, He means it. If you are feeling like you can’t do all things in love- you might just be in a really good place. Only God’s Spirit within can cause us to choose love over hate, to respond in kindness versus irritation, to serve selflessly instead of throwing a pity party. Only He can make this happen- yet don’t miss this- He is fully able to do it!

2.  If you are relying on His Spirit to love through you and you still feel like you can’t do it- re-think your list.

I am learning that my expectations for what my “all things” are is a little (sometimes a lot) out of reach. God doesn’t say, “Do all the things”- He simply says, “Let all that you do be done in love”. So for me, today, that looks like making sure my girls get as much fluid as they can handle through their feeding tubes. It means I don’t worry about what we are going to eat for dinner and instead, feel at peace with throwing some food together from our half-full pantry. It means sitting Ally and Bailey Grace up when they cough and helping them clear secretions when they need it. It means feeding myself and enjoying this beautiful bowl of oatmeal while I share some encouragement with each of you.

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(Peanut butter oats and fruit? Yes, please.)

You see, if I ask the Spirit to lead me in all the above, I can take a deep breath and realize that through Him, I can do those in love. The house won’t get cleaned today. I might not get a shower. Dinner might not be the healthiest. We will probably spend a lot of time watching Disney movies and simply laying around- and that’s okay. I think God would much rather us make our lists shorter than attempt to do more in our own strength- only to find ourselves more and more frustrated.

Friends, my hope for YOU today is that you ask God to help you do all things in love- whether that list has ten things or two. And, if you find yourself anxious or irritated- give yourself the freedom to shrink that list.

He alone is able.

At all times.

In all things.

No matter what.

To Him be the glory.

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Background Noise.

“And the Light shines in the darkness.”- John 1:5

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It is 5 in the morning, and we have been up for hours. Both girls are sick and our house has gone into full infirmary mode. Currently, I’m watching Hugh love on and soothe and sit up Bailey Grace so that I can have some time in the Word and share some thoughts with each of you. I love that man so very much.

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From February til now, we have been walking through a new season with the girls’ seizures. I knew that at some point, the Lord would stir my heart to share with you what exactly has been going on- and it seems as if now is that time. About a month ago, as many of you know, we went in for an EEG to determine how to help Bailey Grace’s new seizure activity. Less than 24 hours after being there, we were sent home. After having her hooked up to the machine that measures her brain activity for less than a day, we received the news that no parent of a child with epilepsy wants to hear: Bailey Grace is now considered status, which means she is basically constantly seizing. This new label is considered subclinical, which means a lot of the activity is not visible but rather background noise. This is a significant increase from her previous EEG’s, for reasons that no one knows.

But God. Always but God.

In light of this, we have started Bailey Grace on another seizure medication. Although the background noise is not treatable, the clinical stuff is, and the hope is that we will be able to calm her brain down if even a bit in order to improve her quality of life as much as we are humanly able.

“As for God, His way is perfect.”- Psalm 18:30

Ally’s clinical seizure activity has been practically non-existent for about a year. A little over a week ago, this changed. We have now set up an EEG for her as well, and our neurology team anticipates that we will see similar results for our other precious girl. When the girls both got sick a couple days ago, their seizure activity picked up like never before. Yesterday, I watched both my daughters have more seizures than I could count. With as much as I was visibly seeing, there was no telling what was going on in the background.

“Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds.”- Romans 12:2a

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What is the background noise of your life?

I am not talking about the things that you cannot control- daily distractions, illness, other people’s behavior. I’m talking about the thoughts and attitudes you allow to creep into your mind, sinking into your heart. If you took a current tally on how often you ask the Spirit to control your thought life versus how often you simply let your flesh and mind wander to carnal things, where would you be? What would that look like?

Friends, I don’t know about you but so often, I get so bogged down with what’s in front of me that I forget to pause and be intentional in what I allow in and out of my mind and heart. God’s Word is clear that there is an Enemy of our souls and that our flesh is weak. If we don’t hide His Word in our hearts and make a conscious effort to seek His leading in our thoughts, the likelihood that we will fall into crowding our beings with things of this world is not just high- it’s inevitable.

The truth is, I can’t control the background noise that exists in my daughters’ brains-I can’t control what a seemingly simple illness does to their bodies- but I can control what I allow to be the background noise of my life. Today, would we choose praise as our default. Might we be a people who refuse to have an open door policy to worry, anxiety, fear, negativity, and cynicism. I cannot control circumstances- yet I know the One who is above all things and this changes everything. All glory and honor to the One who has the power to transform our minds and hearts- so much so that rejoicing in Who He is becomes the forefront of who we are. He is worthy.

In all things.

At all times.

No matter what.