17 December 2014

Who deserves kindness?

One more week until Christmas and it's filled with last minute shopping, wrapping paper strewn all about and finishing up the last few details for the family get-togethers (at least that's what it's like around here). I don't know about you but I feel like I'm in slow motion watching everyone rushing through the stores. It can definitely make you forget to slow down and show some kindness and I'm raising both my hands up high calling myself out on this. I found the saying below and was so in love with the idea behind it's meaning that I wanted to share it with you.
I'll be the first to say it's hard to show kindness to those who "don't seem to deserve it" and when I write that it sounds so silly. Who am I to pick and choose who I'm going to show kindness to today? If that's what God would've done when He sent His son to be born in a manger I would've been last on the list to receive the love and sacrifice He gave.  He didn't choose to do what He did because of my good days. He gave it all in spite of who I am.

No matter how wrong I believe a situation is or how rude I think someone may be, I have to remember what I'm on this earth for. It's not to decide on who gets to experience God's love and kindness through me but, it's to share the love, the compassion, the story of Him. It's to share the same grace and forgiveness I receive over a thousand times a day. Take a moment to read the selfless story of the birth of Jesus below and don't forget to show someone the same kindness you receive daily.

Luke 2:1-20 KJV
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.


11 December 2014

Thankful Thursdays: Peace

I'm very excited to share with you the first week of Thankful Thursdays! As a busy nursing student planning a wedding I felt like I was losing out on the simple blessings of every day. In busy schedules you forget to pause and be thankful and see the beauty around you. So every thursday I'm going to share something I am thankful for; something that I may have realized, something that got me through the week, something I've been encouraged by. Take this moment with me to reflect on life, decisions, failures, accomplishments, etc. I hope you find joy through this, too! 

Peace. I've never been more thankful for peace than I have been this week. It's one of those weeks where your flesh is just exhausted but somehow your faith is still holding on by a thread saying, "Just hang in there. I've got you. You're gonna make it through this." But in my head I'm thinking, "When is this gonna end!?" Have you ever had one of those days, or weeks, or months? You're just trying to hold your head above the water but the waves keep on crashing. Jesus never said we wouldn't get weary on this journey but, He did say we can have peace in Him to overcome. 

John 16:26
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. but take heart; I have overcome the world.

Philippians 4:7
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Are you weary? Are your waves in life encompassing you? Have you ever truly experienced that "peace that passes all understanding"? Be thankful today: Your faith extends to where your flesh ends



I'm really looking forward to this! Do you want to join in on Thankful Thursdays with me? Grab the code below and share it on your blog with your post. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at: wildgrapesblog@gmail.com
Refining the Wild Grapes




08 December 2014

You're Worth It

December is here once again! This is my favorite time of year. Through all the decorations & lights & presents, it's a reminder that Jesus was born to save me & you. 

Not everybody feels this is the most wonderful time of the year though. There may be some out there who are lonely, who are struggling with the loss of someone close to them, or some who may not be able to find that peace & joy that is so appropriately advertised throughout this season. Since I've started Nursing school (8 months til graduation!), I've met so many wonderful people. I've met people who made my day better, people who just wanted to talk about life and families, people who just wanted someone to laugh with them, cry with them, or just sit with them, and people who didn't feel like living another day. I learned through experience that this time of year isn't always wonderful for some.

I want to share with someone that YOU ARE WORTH IT. No matter what season/situation you find yourself in, whether good or bad, you are worth it and God is still God. He'll never leave & He'll never change. Allow your faith to run wild & know Him in a deeper way. 
I'm reminded of one of my absolute favorite stories of faith & redemption in the Bible, found in Joshua 2. It's the short story of Rahab who took in the two spies to protect them. She was considered a harlot, someone who was "living in sin" yet, God sent the spies to her house. He chose her. The moment she opened her door, her faith would be forever changed. The beauty of this story is seeing how Rahab's past had been redeemed in order for God's plan to be fulfilled in her future. He saw that she was worth so much more than she believed herself. 

Hebrews 11:31
By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

Where are you at right now? Are you lonely this season? Are you filled with an abundance of family and love? Are you fighting the same battle that's already been won? 
Are you low on faith and deep in sin?
Hebrews 6:19
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.


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






Don't let this season pass you by again. You are worth it!





03 October 2014

Open Your Bible

Conviction. Yes, those three little words bring conviction to my table. Because there are days I put this at the end of my busy schedule and even then I become "too tired" to do anything but climb into bed. It has to be intentional. That word, "intentional", has been stuck in my head lately. What's the point of doing something halfheartedly anyway? Where would I be if Jesus didn't love me unconditionally? That's why I'm sharing this with you - just as it was shared with me this past year. Be intentional with your walk with Jesus.

Here are some quick tips I learned this past year through Kristin Schmucker on how to study the Bible through the SOAP method:

S - Scripture. First, read the passage. It could be a few verses or sometimes a whole chapter.Don't read to just check off your list but eat until you're full. Make it intentional. Then write out in a journal a verse or two that really tugged at your heart, some verses that stuck out to you. Click here to view some journals from Tiny Prints to start out with.

O - Observation. Think on what you read. Find the purpose behind it. What is the author saying? Write down how it reflects on your life, who the verses are speaking to, what is happening, etc. Try to be specific.

A - Application. Meditate on what your read and how it applies to your life.Write a paragraph or two of what you learned. How does the Scripture challenge you? Live what you read.

P - Prayer. This is a way to combat the million thoughts swirling in your head. Write out your prayer or even a shortened version of it at the bottom of the page to help you focus. I find it helpful to say a quick prayer before I ever start reading to remove any confusion and that I would have an understanding of what I read.

You may question why this should be a daily thing? For me, it's my daily strength, even on my strongest days. It's my daily bread. It's for our learning, our encouragement, our devotion. It brings patience, comfort and hope. It has a purpose!

Romans 15:4
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Joshua 1:8
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Need a place to start? Download this free printable workbook at She Reads Truth.






08 August 2014

Knowing the Pruner





I was given the opportunity this week to really reflect on the inspiration behind my blog. Sometimes, it's good to just remember your roots, to get back to the place it all began, and that's exactly what I did.

This time I found myself at the beginning of John chapter 15 where it talks about Jesus as the true vine. Verse 2 is what caught my attention. "Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit."  I'm not perfect. I bear fruits that aren't Christ-like. Fruits that may not be exactly appealing to others. Fruits that are being hindered in their growth by my choices.

But Jesus is a refiner of the things my flesh gives into. 

If we allow Him, He replaces our smelly, dead fruits with ones that are ripe and fulfilling to His kingdom. What was once dead, becomes alive in Christ.

In order for me to be pruned, I have to know the Pruner. This means spending time in His word. Seeking a deeper relationship with Him. Taking the time to talk to Him. Longing to be more like Him. In Galatians 5, we are given the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Why are some days these so hard to live? Because our branches haven't been pruned of all the "things" we let into our lives. The process is never easy but, from experience, it's truly rewarding.

What are your branches yielding? Will you allow Him to take away those branches that keep you from your blessing?





30 July 2014

Just Be Still

via
Two very short & simple words that force us into an uncomfortable place within our being. Has God ever whispered these words to you? Have you ever felt His overwhelming peace and just knew this is what He was desiring of you? It's not easy to be still in the midst of sadness or anger.It's not easy to be still when all we want to do is give up.  It's not easy to be still when the doctor gives you the dreaded news.

That was the beauty in Psalm 46.
In the midst of the chaos: Be still, and know that I am God
Even though the earth be removed and the mountains are carried into the sea (v 2): Be still, and know that I am God
Even when the waters roar and the mountains shake (v 3): Be still, and know that I am God

That's what He's asking of you. Although easier said than done, He'll take care of the rest. What are you struggling with today? What are you holding onto?

Be still, and know that HE is God.




24 June 2014

What kind of house will you build?

This month Ive learned something: it is SO easy to get your mind cluttered with "priorities." I've been making deadlines, studying, taking exams and getting everything on my schedule crossed off for this semester. I had to quickly make a choice that these next 14 (busy!) months would not take away from me spending time with Jesus on a daily basis. 

Isaiah 66:1-2
Thus says the Lord: Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

I felt the familiar tug on my heart as I realized my morning devotions were becoming rushed and not the way I wanted to start my morning. I could tell my patience was low, my heart was heavy, discontentment had found a place of it's own. I wasn't giving Him the time that we both desired of each other. I had to create a place, a home that He would feel welcome in. I read this Scripture in Isaiah and was reminded that everything I have, is not of my own doing. My mind, my heart, my body is all His (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). What kind of place was I creating for Him to dwell in?

He's asking it of you as well: What kind of house will you build for me? Is it a place that is pretty on the outside but filthy on the inside? One that crumbles when the storms come or one that stands faithful? The great thing is, He never stops pursuing us for just a few minutes of our time. Even if you can only make it a 5 min prayer or a chapter in your YouVersion app, make it a priority to create a place for Him to dwell and spend some time with Jesus today.



31 May 2014

Turning Worry into Worship

It's the last day for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge. It was such an encouraging experience to see everyone's devotion who participated with #lampandlight. For me, I learned so much more using the SOAP method then I did when I used to just read the Bible. Now, I have a deep desire for Scripture. They came alive to me this past month. 

I've learned so much studying Proverbs and just the same, Proverbs 31 left me inspired and hopeful. Verses 25-26 read:
"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."

Verse 25 always felt overused to me, I never really understood the "big deal" about it. That was until I studied the Scripture. My favorite part is when it says, "She laughs without fear of the future." It isn't a careless attitude but it is a confidence given by Jesus. I realized all the things that I once worried about turned out to be blessings. All the things I tried to hold onto meant nothing compared to following His will.

This verse applies to me now in this season more than ever. I just finished my first week of Nursing School (in an accelerated program) and I've never had so much joy, laughter, and peace. I've only experienced the beginning of long-lasting friendships and I never would've had this opportunity if I decided to follow my own plans instead of His. Yes, I'm going to experience hard times and probably even some tears through this journey but I can always come back to this verse and be reminded that my worries can be subdued with some worship. I trust that He didn't bring me to this journey to just leave me behind. He will give me strength through the tears and the laughter. I am turning my worry into worship.

I hope you enjoyed this scripture challenge with Kristin Schmucker as much as I did. Don't let it end here! Make studying scripture something you desire and not just something you can check off your list.
It will change you!

via



22 May 2014

Eyes Marked by Generosity

If you're just now joining in the 31 Day Scripture Challenge, click here to read more, it's not too late!

Proverbs 22:9
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.



I loved this verse! There are so many opportunities to meet needs all around us. Maybe it's a stranger in front of you at the check-out line or maybe it's your best friend. You can be used in His plan to meet a simple need. What may be insignificant to me, God sees as a key part in His plan. 

Bountiful eyes see in the peripheral. With the help of wisdom, they see a broken heart. A spirit heavied by depression. Tears of a wounded friendship. Hurt from a divided home life. It is seeing that there is a need and working to meet that need with the help of God. A bountiful eye isn't selfish. Our motives behind our generosity should bring glory to God, not ourselves. Building strong foundations starts with compassion and compassion starts with caring for the needs of others. You never know whose life you may touch. 

Matthew 25:34-40
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Be available and sincere to the needs of others and see the blessings of your generosity.

I desire to have eyes of Jesus, bountiful eyes, for those around me. Lord, give me discernment for those hurting and speak through me. I want to be a vessel that you can work through.

Hebrews 13:2
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 


This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge.

19 May 2014

The beauty of God wrecking my plans

It's Day 19 of the 31 Day Scripture Challenge but it is NOT too late to join in! If you're new to this, click here to read more about this challenge.

Proverbs 19:21
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

I cannot tell you how many times in my life this verse has applied to me. It's pretty much a daily thing. I'm a very schedule-oriented gal so I normally have a list of things to do. Let me tell you, God definitely likes to throw my schedule out the window and keep my life interesting. I want to share a story with you:

I had the same plan throughout high school. I was going to go to the community college, get accepted into their nursing program and graduate as an RN. Those were my plans that quickly got turned down. It may not seem like a big deal but that was HUGE to me. That was my life. I was being forced into an uncomfortable place of not knowing where I was going or what I was going to do. Did I stop to ask God to lead me in my decisions and give me wisdom over it? Honestly, not as much as I should have. Instead I ended up with a lot of stress and heartache over where I was heading in life because my plans didn't work out like I thought they should have. In my desperation, I prayed...and I prayed...and I prayed. Funny how it sometimes has to come to us being at our lowest point to desperately pursue God.



I quickly found out that the Lord's plans will always stand. Instead, I graduated with my Associates and He led me to a better university, got me accepted into the BSN Accelerated Nursing Program, and is starting this journey with me at the end of the month. 

When I look back over the past couple of years I can understand why some of the doors I wanted to be opened, were closed. I can understand why the plans I had weren't nearly as good as the ones He had planned. 

You may have many plans (like I did!) and it may be hard for you to walk into the unknown for a season (like it was for me!) but I'm here to tell you that through all that, He never left me. I may have been scared, stressed, and in tears but through prayer I was given a peace that surpassed my understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Seek the Lord during decisions - big and small - and pray for wisdom and discernment. Give your dreams over to God and He will make them better than your mind could ever comprehend. He wants to share in the desires of your heart!


This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge.


16 May 2014

Arising beyond the Imperfection

Proverbs 16:2-3
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

I was reading through 1 Samuel 16 today and the beginnings of David chosen to be king. I love when I read Bible stories and the people that God used show their "human side". It reminds me that what I see as worthless, God sees as a treasure for His glory. Sometimes we think the ones God used in His Kingdom were perfect, but that's far from true.

In chapter 16, the Lord told Samuel to stop mourning for Saul because there was going to be a new king in place of Saul. The Lord sent him to Jesse's house to see which one of his sons was chosen to be king. What I loved about this story was that Samuel only saw through his own human eyes at the physical appearance of the brothers and he thought obviously the anointed one was in front of him (v 6). God had bigger plans for David. The shepherd of sheep was about to become a shepherd of people. 

As all of the brothers were before him, the Lord said to Samuel, "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (v 7).

After asking Jesse if that was all of his sons, David was brought to him. He was the youngest of all the brothers yet the Lord said, "Arise, anoint him: for this is he." I love that! God literally chose David out of EVERYONE for this. Was there someone better? Probably. Someone wiser? Maybe. But nobody could do it like David. So Samuel anointed David in the midst of all his brothers and the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day on (v 12-13).

David was never perfect. In fact, through his time as king, he committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel chapters 10-20). He was still anointed by God. We make mistakes and see our faults so magnified that we believe God would never use us for His kingdom. The truth is, those are the exact people He wants to use. He wants the sinners saved by grace, the bruised, the afflicted, the broken, the mistake makers with a repentant heart. What we see as filth, He sees broken vessels made beautiful. He wants you to come as you are!



What kind of story would a perfect person have anyway? Perfect people wouldn't need to experience forgiveness, or the love from a Savior after a broken heart, or the mercy God gives after a mistake, or feel the happiness after a repentant prayer. How would that feel? To never know extreme love because you never felt the pain of rejection. To never feel true happiness because you never experienced a time of sadness. Life would feel pretty empty to me. That's why there's beauty in a testimony. The Lord sees what's in our heart and knows what we can be compared to what man sees.

Our testimony is formed through those moments. Let the words spoken about David be encouragement for you -- Arise...for this is he -- He uses imperfect people to do big things.


This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge.


12 May 2014

The Cares of my Heart are Many

It's Day 12 of the 31 Day Scripture Challenge and I can't even begin to describe the encouragement I received from this scripture today!

Proverbs 12:25
Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: But a good word maketh it glad.



There are moments I struggle with doubt. Moments of discouragement. Moments of stress. Moments of an overwhelming, anxious heart. Sometimes I lack confidence in my decisions. There have been many times I wanted to give up.

In the midst of all the things I feel that I lack, He reminds me that I am complete in Him. 

When I can't muster up enough strength to lift my head, He strengthens me. When I'm overcome by stress, He lifts my heavy burdens. He supplies me with comfort and peace. He showers me in love and forgiveness. His Word encourages me with hope.


Psalm 94:19
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

There is so much joy in that verse! He makes my heart glad and cheers my soul. If you begin to struggle with something that tries to drown out the truth, chase after God and pursue His word! He will carry you. If someone you know is struggling, give them an encouraging word, life them up in prayer, and let them know they are not alone. 

When the cares of your heart are many, find rest in its Maker.


This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge.


07 May 2014

Bound by Cords of Love

Day 7 of the 31 Day Scripture Challenge has surpassed all of my expectations. Proverbs continually convicts, changes, and refreshes me. If you're new to this, click here to read more about this challenge.



Reading through Proverbs 7, the chapter was headlined (in ESV) as a "Warning Against the Adulteress." I sat there and wondered how this could relate to me. What was I going to gain from this? Then I came toward the end to verse 23.

Proverbs 7:23
"...as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life."

I was drawn to that verse. I know it was for the purposes of referencing the man and the adulteress here but I began to visit other verses, other chapters like this that ultimately convicted me. A snare is defined as "a trap for catching birds or animals, typically one having a noose of wire or cord." The cord catches the bird unawares. It comes out of nowhere. Isn't that much like sin and temptation for us?

Proverbs 1:17-18
"For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives."

Proverbs 5:22
"The iniquities [sins] of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin."

When we give in to sin, we fall, we become trapped. Your trap may not be murder or adultery, maybe it's bad thoughts, lying, bitterness, jealousy, feet that are swift to run to evil (Day 6 in Proverbs 6:16-19), and so on. It could be things we do without even knowing it or things that are hidden in our hearts. That's one reason Proverbs has been drilling into our heads to seek after wisdom and discernment so we have the strength and knowledge to steer away from these sins. When we don't, we create a trap for ourselves that can "cost us our lives." I don't want to be caught unaware by things that could've been prevented, hurts that I didn't have to experience, stress I didn't need to go through had I sought for the knowledge of God.

But wait, the best part is that we have a greater alternative from our cords of sin! Hosea 11:4 discusses God's compassion towards Israel and their journey from Egypt. "I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them." Our alternative is God's cords of love!

Even if you know that right now you are bound by sin, don't give up! His cords of love never run out! Here is a quick prayer for temptation that my Youth Pastor gave us awhile back: Jesus, this thought/action didn't come from You. I put it in subjection to You. I put it under Your blood. I turn it over to You. Amen. Whenever you feel that sin begin to entrap you again or that temptation begins to rise up, turn it over to Him!

God's forgiveness is endless. Be bound by His cords of love.


This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge.

04 May 2014

When My Gaze Falls

Day 4 of the 31 Day Scripture Challenge has given me quite the heart check. If you're new to this, click here to read more about this challenge.

Proverbs 4:25-27
25 Let thine eyes look right on, And let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
26 Ponder the path of thy feet, And let all thy ways be established.
27 Turn not the right hand nor to the left: Remove thy foot from evil.

Verse 25 says "let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee" which basically means set your gaze forward. I'm reminded of the Israelites journeying out of Egypt and into the place God called them to. All he asked was that they loved Him, served Him, followed Him, and set their gaze forward to the land that was more perfect than they could've imagined. He wanted greater things for them!

Why was that so hard for them to do?

The Israelites lost sight of what was ahead of them. All they could see was their surroundings. They complained about having to walk through that wilderness, they complained about a lack of water and manna, they worshiped idols, and the list goes on. It was a never-ending cycle of complaints! When they should've been killed from their sin, unfaithfulness, and no ounce of wisdom in their body, God showed them mercy through the pleas of Moses and His relentless love.


We do the same. We get caught up in our surroundings. We wonder how our provision has become so scarce. We wonder how we went from a beautiful city to wandering through this awful wilderness day after day. We lose sight of our prize and the one who is leading us through those living and dry places in our life.



Deuteronomy 5:32-33 says "You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess." When we follow God and seek wisdom and discernment, we gain a better understanding of situations so it's easier to set our gaze forward, not on what's behind us or what's around us.

This journey through Proverbs has given me a whole new realization on the things I'm missing out on and situations that could've been made easier had I sought after wisdom with an undying desire. Day 3's post on Instagram said these words from Proverbs 3:15, "She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her." Nothing can compare to having wisdom, knowledge from the Lord.


Psalm 119:34 

Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; Yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Isaiah 26:7 
The way of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous.

Lord, help me to set my gaze on the things of You and your Kingdom. I pray I have more faith than the Israelites when my surroundings are scarce. I don't want to get caught up in the chaos, but allow my gaze to be set on where you've called me. 


It's never too late to receive the consuming forgiveness Jesus gives. He is for us, not against us. He never stops chasing after His children. Repent (sincerely tell Jesus you are sorry for all your sins) and ask for forgiveness, He's always listening.



This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge.

01 May 2014

Beginning of Knowledge

Day One of the 31 Day Scripture Challenge for me begins in Proverbs. I was hesitant to choose this book at first. I thought, "Is this too easy?" "Are there more in-depth books in the Bible?" "Shouldn't I do something more profound?" I prayed for direction and I kept coming back to Proverbs. I read through a few chapters and realized this would be more for me than anyone else who may join this challenge. Those negative thoughts were a way to rob me of the journey I was about to embark on. 

I've always heard that it's good to read through Proverbs every month, one chapter a day, because it holds such great reminders that seem to fade under our schedules. So for the next 31 days days I will be posting (either on the blog or instagram) scripture that stuck out to me, a lesson learned or re-learned, a highlight in a chapter, etc. Today begins in Proverbs chapter 1.
This verse is the main theme for the book of Proverbs. Fear of the Lord is a loving reverence for God that involves submission to Him and His word. An even simpler version I was taught was just being in awe of Him. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. What we're going to learn throughout Proverbs is that getting wisdom involves a great measure of humility.

On the other hand the scripture describes those who despise wisdom and instruction as fools. Seems kind of harsh when you hear that word but it's pretty accurate: "fools" are those who hate knowledge (v. 22) and correction of any kind, who are fast to argue (20:3) and make no effort to abstain from arguments (29:11) , those who are complacent (v. 32), who trust in themselves (28:26) rather than God.
Lord I desire:
Wisdom for decisions
Wisdom for understanding
Wisdom for discretion

I want to make it my top priority to pray for wisdom on a daily basis. All wisdom and knowledge comes from Him (Ecclesiastes 2:26) and He knows what's best for me. He will not leave me empty-handed for fear of the Lord comes with a great reward! I pray that I always trust in the Lord, never become complacent, abstain from arguments and anger, seek knowledge, and receive instruction and correction with a humble heart.

Proverbs is going to be a wonderful journey! Sometimes it's the easiest things to understand that we have a hard time living and demonstrating with our actions. I crave to not only read these verses but I want to live them and apply them to my life. 


This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge. To read more about this challenge, click here.

28 April 2014

31 Day Scripture Challenge

Only 3 more days! I've been anxiously awaiting the start of the 31 Day Scripture Challenge created by Kristin Schmucker from www.kristinnicoleblog.com

Beginning in May, the challenge is to read scripture every day for 31 days and share what you read by posting a photo using the hashtag #lampandlight or writing a blog post to encourage each other on this fun journey! It's a way to get involved and make scripture a priority by sharing our thoughts and inspiring others through these next 31 days.

Starting Thursday, I will be sharing what I chose to dedicate these 31 days to. I will alternate between Instagram posts and blog posts (so there won't be 31 blog posts). Feel free to follow along and comment with your favorite scriptures, something you learned, or an encouraging word! I truly believe this is going to be a light in the darkness for someone.

For more details about this challenge, click here. I also used Kristin's image from her blog to create the button below for others to share during this link-up month so feel free to add it to your blog. Can't wait to start on this journey with you all!


Refining the Wild Grapes

24 April 2014

Two Thieves



This past month has went by in such a blur for me. I've been finishing up the last few weeks of college, preparing for Nursing school (one month till I begin, yikes!), attended a Youth Convention with my church and celebrated Easter this past Sunday with friends and family. The blur has come with many blessings.

During Easter Sunday I listened as our Associate Pastor taught on the cross - the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus. He didn't just tell the story but he began to indulge in the surroundings and the people in that day. Specifically, the two thieves who were hung on crosses on either side of Jesus. Those two thieves held a deeper meaning for me that morning.

In Luke 23 we see the story in its entirety. My focus is mainly in Luke 23:32-43 - take a moment to pull out your Bible or your Bible app and read through those verses. I never focused on the two criminals. I always knew they were crucified with Jesus but that's where their story ended for me. Read verses 39-43 again.
"39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, 'Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!' 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, 'Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.' 42 And he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' 43 And he said to him, 'Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'" (ESV)

Here, we see two different responses. The one criminal is rebuking Jesus just like the crowd saying that if He is who He says He is then save them. But the other criminal is repentant. His words show that He realized just who Jesus was in that moment. He realized there was no fault in Him. He realized that He was their Savior, the one who was preached about, the one who healed, mended, and saved. Instead of following the crowds and mocking Jesus, he feared God. He was in awe of Him. His repentant heart cried out to Jesus asking Him to remember him when He reached His kingdom.

The best part about it all was that Jesus answered him! Jesus was hanging, nailed to a cross, in deep agony and physical pain (I believe it was also deep emotional and spiritual pain as well), but He still listened to the cries of this thief.

Through the suffering of the cross, Jesus still expressed his divine love for man.

He showed compassion as He listened to the plea of one who cried out for forgiveness. Through His own pain, He answered the needs of a sinner. That was His undying love expressed that day. As if the cross wasn't enough, He still saved a wretched sinner who didn't deserve the mercy he was shown.

Doesn't that sound familiar?

In our sinful nature, our human flesh, we don't deserve the mercies of God. But He gives it to us anyway. We don't deserve His love. But He shows it to us anyway. He's there right in time. Don't give place to thoughts that say you aren't good enough for forgiveness or that you are too much of a sinner to repent. Although we may not face the punishment of being crucified, that criminal was no worse than any of us, but God listened to his cry, remembered him and saved him. The cross was never the end, it was only just the beginning. Jesus still loves, mends, heals, listens and wants you to come to Him with a repentant heart.

He still saves.


07 April 2014

Audience of One



I wanted to share a thought with you today that comes from 1 Chronicles 16 and Psalm 100. This was something I heard spoken in a sermon at my church and I was reminded of it today.

No matter how lonely, afraid, nervous, or weak you feel, you will always have an audience of ONE. Someone who loves spending time with you, someone who cares about every single one of your emotions, someone who cries tears of pain/joy with you, someone you can call a friend for the rest of your life, as well as someone who calls you friend,  someone who will love you in the midst of your greatest dreams and greatest failures.

His name is Jesus.

1 Chronicles 16:8-12, 29
Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon His name, Make known his deeds among the people.
Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, Talk you of all his wondrous works.
10 Glory ye in his holy name: Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.
11 Seek the Lord and his strength, Seek his face continually.
12 Remember his marvelous works that he hath done, His wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;

29 Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: Bring an offering, and come before him: Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: Come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, And into his courts with praise: Be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; And his truth endureth to all generations.

He is always listening and pursuing you. He dwells in the praises of His people. Take a moment to give thanks today. You will always have an audience of one.

28 March 2014

Loving Sinners like Me: Jonah 3 & 4


These are my two favorite chapters of the four in Jonah. In chapters 1 & 2 we discovered extraordinary mercy and now we are seeing this on a deeper level in chapters 3 & 4.

In chapter 3, Jonah heeded the call and journeyed to Ninevah to warn the people of God's plans if they didn't change their ways and turn to God. Instantly, we see the compassion of our loving Savior as he chooses to spare the people who have lived a lifetime of sin. So why was Jonah so angry? Didn't he do exactly what God asked Him to do - warn the people so they could be saved?

Jonah was angry at God for having compassion on such sinners. Not just sinners, mind you, but they were his enemies. I don't think I ever really payed attention to why Jonah got so angry with God until I reflected on it this time. I suddenly saw this characteristic of Jonah in myself and I, too, became angry...with myself.

I think we've all experienced Jonah's anger (I know I have). It is easy to see the sin around us. And it is easy to see the faults in others. We wonder how all these "sinners" keep getting blessing after blessing when we come up empty-handed? We become bitter, disappointed, frustrated, angry. Then, we begin to question our motives. We start our rant: we sit ourselves down, cross our arms and let out a big sigh, feeling sorry for ourselves. And then we wait for God to give us the "right" answer.

I have been a Jonah...and sometimes, I still am.

Just like God showed Jonah, I shouldn't be praying doom on my enemies and sinners who are just like me. I should be interceding on their behalf. Loving them when they don't love themselves. Carrying them when they don't have the strength to crawl. I should be thanking God for His compassion, His love for His people, His forgiveness. Because when it's all said and done, these chapters were about saving people from a lifetime of pain and agony, these chapters were about second chances, and God chose Jonah for this journey.
I'm thankful for a God of second chances and who sees what I can be and not what I am.

Ezekiel 33:11
"Say to them, As I live, declares the LORD GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; ..."



This post is a link up with She Reads Truth.

27 March 2014

Extraordinary Mercy: Jonah 1 & 2


The story of Jonah is so familiar to me. Sometimes so familiar that I don't pay much attention to little details after reading and hearing it so many times, which is one reason I decided to embark on the She Shares Truth journey. There's so much more to this story. This is a story of grace and mercy.

I easily see myself in Jonah. It all happens so fast in the first chapter and by verse 3, Jonah has already up and fled from the presence of God. The words "But Jonah rose up" caught my attention. The word "but" is used in reaction to fear, uncertainty, doubt or sometimes exclaiming a point. There are so many times God has spoke to me or called me to do something and my first reaction is to say "BUT God..." and what follows is countless excuses, fears, and reasons why I'm incapable. I could easily replace Jonah's name with my name in that verse.

When God called Jonah, fear got ahold of his heart. (When I become bound by fear, I can talk to God about them and He'll grace me with strength to carry on). Worries began to take control. The funny thing is that Jonah thought he could run and hide from God. Eventually he became tired of running. He was running in the wrong direction for so long that he became exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually.

Jonah was in the valley between his comfort and God's will. Real trouble comes in the valley in between.

Psalm 139:7, 9-10 says:
"Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me."

Wherever you're running to is not where God wants you.

In Chapter 2, we read Jonah's prayer. As Jonah is sitting in the belly of a fish, he finally realizes that he deserved death but God had shown him extraordinary mercy. Extraordinary mercy. Isn't that just like God to show us grace, mercy and countless second chances when we deserve death?

That same extraordinary mercy is chasing after you. Let God pursue your heart.


This post is a link up with She Reads Truth.

18 March 2014

I Have Forgotten

I began reading Restless last Sunday. I sat in my room, in my sofa chair covered with mismatched pillows, anticipating what this book would bring me. I opened the book and knew instantly that I was in for the journey of a lifetime. 

This is not a review of the book because I highly recommend you each go and grab yourself a copy, sit down in a quiet place and run head on into the questions, thoughts, and battles that we all face at one time or another. Jennie Allen created this intimate place to share in each other's disappointments and dreams and to collide with the surrender that comes in finding God's will for ourselves.

I poured through each chapter with an open heart. I prayed that my flesh wouldn't hold anything back as I took notes. This was my personal time, right? This is the time where I should be the most revealing with my deepest, darkest sins but, in reality, it is my hardest time because that is when I'm easily and constantly reminded of where I messed up, chose the wrong path and had to make my way back again and start over. It is one thing to believe in the relentless forgiving heart of God but it is another when it comes to actually forgiving yourself.

I read Chapter 3: Die to Live and I was shocked. In awe. I thought to myself, I've had all these same thoughts that Jennie is talking about. I've had a divided heart. I've felt like God had forgotten His promises to me. I felt like He forgot how hard it was down here. I felt that He had given up on me in my struggle and sin. The following is an excerpt from Jennie's book, sharing a personal story from her life as she sat next to a hospital bed to one of her dearest friends. She, too, asked those same questions of feeling like somehow he had forgotten and messed up in all of this:

(Page 22)
"Or is it us who's forgetting? Maybe we forget that we see days and you see eras... 
You get to be God whether we like it or not. You get to decide how this goes, and we can only beg at your feet. And when you seem forgetful to me....I walk past the statue and you yell to me from your cross: 
I have forgotten nothing. And I am not passive about my approach to this problem. 
I deal. I deal with this sickness and pain and death. 
I do not forget. I bleed out for this. 
So as you walk past me on that cross, Jennie, into a room that feels out of control and full of suffering, don't see a weak, distant, forgetful God. 
You see a God who tells oceans where to stop and a God who tells evil where to stop. 
You see a God who bleeds out for those you hurt for. 
You see a God who suffered first. I AM with you. 
And I have a plan here."

I sat in my little sofa chair with a heart full of pain and agony and tears that wanted to pour from my eyes. I began to wonder how I could ever think He had forgotten when He died for me in the first place. He knew every moment I'd have to turn around and start over yet, He loved me anyway. When we think He has forgotten, it is really us who have forgotten. He feels the pain we feel but we can live with the understanding that His view from up there is much more beautiful than what we see down here. 

Take heart, my dear friend, He has not forgotten. I'm learning this along with you. 
He is only just beginning in fulfilling your calling. 





                                            

JENNIE ALLEN
"My passion is to inspire a new generation of women to encounter the invisible God. I love words and I believe God uses them to heal souls and to reveal Himself to people."

You can learn more about Jennie Allen here

Want to join in on the #restlessproject? You can purchase her book, Restlesshere.

14 March 2014

A refuge for us

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;                  
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.

Psalm 62:5-8 ESV

I needed this today. This was one of those moments where God stopped me and was like, "Hey! Slow down and take a breath, I'm right here." He reminded me of who is in control of my chaotic life.

Lately, I have been constantly maintaining deadlines. Deadlines for papers, assignments, scholarships, nursing, work and getting all the beginnings of a bible study lesson prepared to start with one (or a few) of our youth's young women. I'm in this mode of schedules, decisions, and things I "have" to get done. It's such a sweet refresher when I can come across scripture, in perfect timing, to remind me I can pour everything on Him and He'll gladly take care of me.

When I'm all about needing God to step in right now with a step-by-step list of what I need to do and where I need to go, His word says to trust in Him at all times. When I'm overwhelmed by all the decisions life throws at me, His word says pour out your heart before him, because even while you're waiting in the silence, He listens. He understands. He shares in our feelings. He knows.
He is a refuge for you.

When you read these verses, and I mean really absorb their meaning, I hope you are encouraged as much as I am.
God is a refuge for us... and that's all the hope I need.



07 March 2014

Committing to the Call

Conviction. I read these scriptures and conviction overwhelms me. I ask myself the questions in Romans and realize what a pitiful job I've done of spreading the Gospel. Simply sharing His love, His Word. So selfishly have I kept the good news to myself in opportunities I should have been outspoken. Sure, there have been times where I have shared the Good News to others.

But the job is never done. I could never do enough. I should never be content with what I've done.

You ask, "Why would you never want to be content?" My answer?  Because there is always so much more when it comes to serving the Lord. You can always be drawn closer. You can always mature deeper in your relationship with Him. There is always a place for you to grow. And like I said before, the job is never done and that's a good thing.

There are so many individuals, adults and children, who will never know the the unfailing love of God. How are they to believe, how are they to know, if they have never heard? The past week I've been reading of Paul's ministry and his commitment to the call is so compelling. We were given that same call in Mark 16:15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation." We are to proclaim/preach the Gospel. Who am I to ignore that call? 

I have made it my goal (now and forever) to somehow spread that good news in every encounter and not just when it's convenient for me. I can do this by living a life of that is Christ-centered in all I do (first impressions sometimes say enough), sharing an encouraging word, giving a Bible study, lending a hand or a listening ear, putting my schedule aside for the sake of others, sharing the trials that God has brought me through as well as the blessings He's brought me to, and [re]introducing someone to their Savior. "Beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news" Romans 10:14-15.

Have you had encounters where you may not have answered the call completely? Start fresh. Live out the call.
What are some of the things you have done or want to do to proclaim the Good News?


Romans 10:14-15 ESV



25 February 2014

Guest Post: Comfort in an Uncomfortable Place



“saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 
Luke 22:42

I had always heard this verse and was taught by my dad about praying this but what does it really mean? I went and read the chapter, praying God would give me an understanding of what this verse truly means and how can it be applied to my life. 

If you haven’t read it here is my quick summary: Jesus just had the last supper with his disciples and is telling them what is to come. He knows the betrayal is happening, He knows the soldiers are coming and He knows He is about to do something His flesh will hate him for. He kneels down and prays “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” He prays this so earnestly that His sweat was like blood drops!

When I was young my dad taught me to pray “not thine will but yours”. He also taught me this was a very serious thing to pray and to really mean it, not just let it be ‘fill in’ words! I prayed this often growing up and God has always amazed me with how His ways truly are higher than our ways!! As my life has changed, I have walked the different paths and curves of my journey. I had found myself just living life, going through the motions and I was guilty of having the joy, the love, the truth hidden in my heart, hidden deep in my heart. I became convicted! 

I wondered is this God’s will? What am I doing? What am I called to do? 
What does God want and need me to do?

I dedicated this year to making time to read the Bible, to praying each morning on my drive to work, praying, worshiping and singing while I stay late at work cleaning, searching out God’s will for my life. As I did this something strange happened, something I didn't expect. I became uncomfortable!didn't find that light, that huge blinking sign that said “THIS WAY”. I didn't hear a booming voice saying what to do. Instead I became agitated, uncomfortable and….intrigued with what was happening. 

I could have given up, said I was better off not trying to seek out God’s will, I was comfortable living my day to day life, at least I knew what was happening (in my mind, my plan, my will). But I decided to press on, see what God was trying to teach me. You see, God doesn't give us battles, situations, strange paths just to make things interesting. We go through things to learn, to be molded, and to change. He is the potter and we are the clay, sometimes we have to go through fire to work out imperfections. Is it fun? NO! Can it be confusing and lonely? YES!

“Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

Remember, God's ways are higher. He knew the plan for you before you were born. He knows you, your thoughts, sees your tears, your frustrations. God knows YOU!

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

God’s will isn't always a calling to luxury and comfort, it isn't always what you imagined in your mind. But God’s will is the best life we can live! We will never be alone, we will never be blind on our journey, and we will never be lost or forsaken. 

As much as I write this to you, it is also written to me. I journey the uncomfortable road as God molds me and I have found peace in knowing He isn't finished with me, He has a plan and that plan is better than any daydream I can have!

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11







Hello Fellow Readers!
My name is Aleisha. I am a 20 something old, a wife to my best friend, a mom of the cutest little man, a lover of music, piano and singing whatever comes to mind, a youth pastor’s (my husband) side kick, a receptionist and a dedicated reader of Refining the Wild Grapes.

You can find Aleisha on Instagram or Facebook.