Journal Journeys Excerpt #1 – Greatly Helped

Each of us is on a journey.

Most of the time we don’t know exactly where we’re headed and even if we do, we’re often unsure of how to get there. We often feel lost, lonely, and labeled. Discouraged, disqualified, and disappointed. Worried, weary, and winey. We suffer sadness, setbacks, and sabotage. 

Yet we keep going despite uncertainty. Falling forward. Learning and leaning in, hurting and healing. Holding steady through storms. Yanking back the clouds to eagerly absorb the sun-soaked, brilliant moments. 

Our lives, our journeys, are composed of both the breathtaking and the breaking.

Since becoming a Christ-follower at age 18, I have kept a prayer journal to scribe such travels. The pages have provided me with a secondary outlet to pour out prayers alongside my spoken utterances.

As the years have unfolded, the journal pages provide proof of God’s handiwork, documentation of God’s faithfulness in my life, and in the lives of others, and provide a tangible way to see the countless occasions God has answered prayers.

Even when circumstances seemed utterly hopeless, and when his seeming silence was bewildering, God was still there. Scanning the pages, I see that the no’s were merely delayed yes’s—a hold-out for his best when I would have happily settled for good. 

My current prayer journal

The written wrestlings within these pages—sometimes through tears, often amid doubts and questions as I struggled to know God and understand his ways—don’t declare me faithless or damaged. Rather, they offer assurance that I am a beloved child of God attempting to understand her Father’s ways, to grow closer to him, and to trust and love him more deeply. Thanksgiving prayers soak the pages too, recording the times I’ve been surprised and delighted with the extravagant love of God.

For the next few weeks, I’ve decided to share some entries from my prayer journal in hopes the sentiments may offer solidarity, reverberate inside your own heart, provide a way to express some of your own pleas and desires, and kindle hope. I’m calling this series, The Journal Journeys, and I hope you will enjoy traveling through the pages with me.

I’m certain that reading these prayers aloud will be a vulnerable, intimate, and emotional experience. But I’m hoping they will offer a measure of comfort and encouragement if you are grappling as hard as I am to lay hold of hope and process faith in your journey with God.

The first excerpt I have chosen refers to a season of struggle in our life but seems appropriate to begin with as it speaks to our current situation with COVID-19. You can watch the video or read the entry below. At the bottom of this page, I have included a song for you to meditate on. So looking forward to journeying with you!

Click here to watch The Journal Journal – Excerpt #1

January 5, 2016

Dear Lord,

We have been greatly helped by you. You have not forgotten us. You have made the impossible possible, and have brought us through the hardship of this very difficult time. 

We have not been privy to an explanation as to why. No understanding as to what to do next. No future knowledge except to live each day at a time, one foot in front of the other, moment by moment. 

“You have also given me the shield of your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great. You enlarged my path under me, so my feet did not slip.” Psalm 18:35-36

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My prayer journal – today’s excerpt

I like the verse above because not only have you saved me, but it shows your continued help in my life. Through great disappointment and disillusionment, your right hand has held me up. You dealt gently with me.

When the way was dangerous, like a precipitous path, you enlarged the path under me so my feet did not slip. You kept me safe. You didn’t whisk me off the path. No, I still had to pass through, but you made a way—you made it possible to pass through. 

And maybe we have passed through now. Maybe we are just coming out on the other side. I can’t pretend to have much of a clue what you are doing, but I feel as though a change may come. 

So now, because you tell us to ask (Matthew 7:7), I ask you to help us—as you have continued to do—to find our way. Help us to be wise, to know what to do, to make wise choices. 

Your will be done,

Amen.

Listen to song: Goodness of God

journal pic

 

You’re Building a Life Right Now

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Right now, at this very moment, you are building a life. Even during this pandemic. Even though everything seems to have come to a screeching halt. Even though it may not look anything like the life you expected to be living right now, or the one you were living a few short weeks ago.

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Celebrating my birthday back in February with my Mystery Club girlfriends when you didn’t need to stand six feet apart.

You may think that your life is composed of the things that have happened to you, but that’s not completely accurate. Your life is composed of how you respond to the things that happen to you.

Stuff happens. Sometimes A LOT. All at once. Hard stuff like sickness, loss, grief, disappointment, physical and emotional pain, and even pandemics. But our lives are more accurately the sum of the ways in which we choose to face and scale that stuff; the ways we tackle both the good and the bad count toward the lives we are building.

Every morning this week, I walked to the beaver dam on our property for The Beaver Dam Chats where I read aloud a selection from my devotional Soul Focus. You can find them on my Instagram account @melaniestevensonauthor.

Some people disregard the fact that they are building something of great value here on earth: their very life and the legacy they leave behind. Instead, they view life as a series of events of which they have no control. Almost as a victim, they traverse through the years, never stopping to take control of their thinking and how they are responding to what is being entrusted to them. It doesn’t occur to them to purposefully use their gifts, time, talents, resources, and even their hardships and triumphs for good.

Here’s a paradox. The tough stuff we’re given is a gift. The good stuff we’re entrusted with is easy to receive. It’s even easier to take for granted, and even easier still to forget to be thankful for. The COVID-19 virus has been especially good at highlighting this to us. What does it look like to unwrap this gift?

ralph and I
I’m thankful for this guy who manages to be hopeful & positive in all situations.

Throughout our lives, we’re entrusted with lovely and unlovely things. With either, you can choose to learn, grow, do good, and extend the hidden blessings from each. But it takes extra fortitude to grow out of the difficulties. To fight for joy in the midst of trials. To seek out peace in turmoil. To embrace love in the midst of hurt, rejection, and pain. And especially to overcome.

With the COVID-19 virus, I’m reminded of what it looks like to choose to live well despite difficulties. I’m reminded that we are building a life that matters in the midst of this stretching experience. Life hasn’t stopped. This is life right now while sheltering in place. Like any hardship, how we respond to it, traverse through it, and how we grow from it will have an impact not only on our lives but on the lives of those around us, and on the lives of generations to come.

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Opa Ralph enjoying precious time with our grandson.

I always tell my kids, nothing’s wasted. And that includes hardships. But I should add that nothing’s wasted unless we chose to ignore what it had to teach us. It is my hope that we will come out of this collective crisis stronger, kinder, and more resilient than when we went into it. That we would embrace its lessons and grow more patient, less entitled, and less distracted than before. That we would more fully recognize the value of close connection with family and friends than before we went in. That this time wouldn’t be wasted on us.

Our 11-year-old daughter is not wasting a moment of the precious time she has with her new nephew.

And I hope for one more thing. That we would look to Jesus and in doing so we would find our hope in him. That we would hand over our fear, frustration, disappointment, pain, hurt, and our very lives to the only One who can be trusted with it. In the giving over we find the very life we’ve been desperately searching for. As we move through this pandemic or anything else that comes our way, we can rest knowing God is our anchor, our comfort, and our hope.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful and poetic verse. It’s notable that the meaning of Baka in Hebrew is “to weep”. As we pass through this valley of weeping, or any other one we face, we can grow stronger and choose to keep our eyes fixed on Christ—our hope. Indeed, the life you are building profoundly matters, both now, and in eternity.

As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
 They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.

Psalm 84:6-7

Click here to purchase a copy of Soul Focus – Trials

 

25 Benefits of Trials

It’s easy to grow fearful in times of uncertainty. It’s easy to lose hope as we suffer through lengthy hardships. Events such as the COVID-19 pandemic remind us how fragile our lives really are.

Like any trial, we often cannot see an end in sight and this one is no exception. When we are staying at home, social-distancing, viewing reports of daily escalating numbers, suffering through mandatory business closures and potential loss of livelihood, we worry we won’t manage.

My mum used to say of trials, “This too shall pass.” And it will. When it does, things won’t be the same. We will have a new framework out of which to operate. I imagine we will have a more thankful mindset, a greater appreciation for others as we joyfully reconnect and fully embrace our renewed freedom. Trials arrive unexpectedly and loom large, but we can move through them with grace, peace, and even joy.

Monty at the cottage
Cuddling my grandson – one of the ways I’m savoring this slowed pace.

Continue reading “25 Benefits of Trials”

Becoming Clean

I no longer recognize myself. I’ve succumbed to wall washing.

wall washing

About two weeks ago, I bought a two-pack of Magic Erasers. I thought I’d simply touch up a couple of high-traffic areas in our home, but once I began I soon realized two sponges would in no way suffice. Since Ralph was going on a Costco run for his quarantined mom and stepfather who had recently returned from Spain, I asked him to source some Magic Erasers. He valiantly returned home with two jumbo packs. I was in business!

Allow me a moment to explain how I came to this precipitous place.

For years, I prided myself by saying such things as, “An impeccable home is a sign of a wasted life.” If you’re one of those people, I’m afraid we cannot be besties. During the years we homeschooled, I sometimes bemoaned my girlfriends’ perfect homes. There wasn’t going to be that level of perfection around here. What with a Science project on the kitchen counter, an entire paper village dominating the kitchen floor, a homemade board game under construction (and its assorted pieces) littering the schoolroom floor, a tray of sand on the schoolroom table for letter formation practice, and books covering multiple surfaces (to mention a few examples), I was lucky to find an open area to dust.

Don’t worry, we didn’t exist in total squalor, but I did cling to the sentiment that had I spent my time cleaning ’til it was gleaming, I would have missed the point. We did clean as a family, all pitching in for regular maintenance such as vacuuming, mopping, dusting, and bathrooms, but I can assure you that I was not disposed to washing walls—or any manner of spring cleaning—until now. Continue reading “Becoming Clean”

What a Difference a Week Can Make

It’s staggering how much change can occur in one week.

Just over a week ago we were still meeting in-person—albeit cautiously. We stared incredulously at the empty grocery store shelves formerly housing untold brands of toilet paper, antiseptic wipes, and fresh meat. We began to pay closer attention to what the COVID-19 pandemic was going to mean for Canada.

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Grocery store shelves void of all toilet paper.

Conversely, this week, when it should have been non-stop hangouts with friends due to March Break, we were diligently social-distancing. Our extroverted nineteen-year-old daughter, Elanna, came home from Toronto to hunker down at our place. Our equally extroverted 11-year-old, Keira, couldn’t fathom why I was mandating a no playdate policy. In an extraordinary act of self-control, I kept myself away from our two-month-old grandson the entire week. Continue reading “What a Difference a Week Can Make”

Prayer for Today

Today has been declared a National Day of Prayer in the USA. Prayer is powerful. Imagine a whole country—a whole world—collectively praying. I have witnessed the power of prayer in my own life and in the lives of others. Though I’m Canadian, I join our neighbors in the US and share my offering below. Won’t you join me in praying in the midst of this health crisis?

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Lord our God,

We come into your presence with thankful hearts for your tender mercies and lavish kindness. We are grateful for your unfailing care and love. We are thankful that you never leave us or forsake us, and will never do so, especially in our time of great need. 

Despite the chaos we see and hear and experience in the natural world, we also understand and are reminded that you are still in control and haven’t left us or forsaken us. 

We confess our fear and worry and release it to you. In its place, we take your peace and find our comfort and rest in you. Please fill our troubled hearts and minds with your presence. 

We are grateful that you are our provider and have given us all we need. We confess that we have so often taken your provision for granted, behaving self-sufficiently as though we are the ones in control. Please forgive us and have mercy on us. Teach us greater trust in you. Continue reading “Prayer for Today”