My sweet little boys love to bring me surprises like wildflowers or other treasures. Today they just brought me these leaves they found outside because they were in the shape of a heart and they thought I would like them. As my youngest one handed me his leaf he picked for me, he said with a big grin “It’s a heart!”, but then his grin dimmed a little and he said, but it does have a few thorns on the back, but that’s ok.”
Life is just like that sometimes…It can be great at times, then other times we are pierced by an unexpected thorn. We can be “all good” one minute and the next minute encounter weather that may knock us to the ground. We might be broken, plucked or trampled upon in our season of fall, but the good news is the Lord has ALWAYS been faithful to bring spring and with spring comes new growth and beauty where ashes once were.
The KEY to withstanding the harshness of our trials is OUR response in the midst of the trials.
This morning I was studying in my Bible the story of Job and how the Lord allowed the bad things to happen to him. It struck me that the Lord didn’t love Job any less because these catastrophes came into his life (quite the contrary), but He did allow it. Why the Lord allows things to happen we may never know this side of heaven, but Job’s response to the trials was one to be noticed. Instead of focusing on all the terrible things that had happened in his life (losing his children, his health and his possessions), he chose to instead Dwell on the Lovely and praise the Lord. In Job 1:21 Job says “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
The Lord then brought Job out on the other side of his dark valley and blessed him tenfold because of his faithfulness. Let’s learn from Job and bless the name of the Lord in the midst of the storms and Dwell on the Lovely….
The Lord has been teaching me these lessons not only this year, but in years past that have been hard. I’d like to share a little bit of my story with you…
This NEW scripture print that I made with my friend Nancy, came from a lesson the Lord has been teaching me. You can purchase your own copy of this print and all of my other scripture prints on my ETSY shop here as well as my new scripture note cards!
I made this Dwell on the Lovely print as a reminder to myself and others to choose to dwell on the lovely. Let me explain…
I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying “You are what you eat”. What if the same could be said of what we think? Would it be a good thing if we became what we thought or if what we thought about others became the (their) reality?
Bitterness, pain, annoyance, heartache…these are all very real things that we encounter at some point in our lives. The key to withstanding the aforementioned is not only the one who dwells in us, but also our response when these things are thrown at us.
Last year the Lord led me down an unlikely path to rejuvenate my soul. I named that year “The Year of Fun” and you can read all about that journey and see tons of pictures on THIS post.
The Lord has led me down a very different path this year…a path that has been anything but fun. My husband and I joke that this is the year of trying to have fun, but our plans were thwarted.
This year we have faced some terrible physical health circumstances. So far, this year my father in law has suffered from several debilitating strokes that have caused him to not be able to walk, talk, eat properly or use the right side of his body. We are praying for a miracle in that situation. My husband also was recently in the hospital for emergency surgery for acute appendicitis and he was in bed over a week recovering from that.
Earlier in the summer, we found out that we were expecting a sweet new baby, but soon after I began bleeding and had to go through a lot of testing at the hospital and at the doctor to determine if the baby was ok or if I was miscarrying or if something else was going on. Thankfully, the bleeding turned out to be caused by a urinary tract infection and the baby was fine, but we had to wait an entire week for test results to know if everything was ok.
The most ironic of the health catastrophes from this year involve travel for our family. For Christmas, we gave the kids a ski trip to Colorado. We went on the trip in January and it went downhill from there. We all contracted the flu and took turns being in bed with fever and/or vomiting for the entire week. Not once did I get to ski with the kids. On top of that, one of our kids that was able to go skiing with some friends who came to Colorado to ski with us one day ended up passing out multiple times and an ambulance had to be called because his oxygen saturation was low and they thought that he may have had a seizure. He turned out to be just fine, but it was scary. We also got stuck multiple times on the icy roads and had to be pulled out by a helpful passer-by. We ended our trip early because we were all feeling so crummy.
As a sort of “make-up” trip for our failed attempt at a ski trip, I got an amazing deal for a condo on the lake for us for a week. The first couple of days were great, but then several of the kids contracted a stomach bug and were throwing up constantly for days. I gave the kids so many baths that week it was laughable! Of course, our condo didn’t have a washer and dryer, so every time someone would vomit I would trek down to the laundry building on site to do loads and loads of laundry.
My husband and I decided that since the last two trips did not go as planned we would try one more time at a vacation for the family (third times the charm, right?!), so we booked a house at the beach in Florida. I spent three days packing and preparing and the day before we were supposed to leave is when my husband had his emergency appendectomy and was told he shouldn’t travel for at least a week. I called the man, from whom we had already pre-paid for our vacation home at the beach, and told him of the unexpected situation and asked for mercy to see if he might be able to refund us any of our money. He was kind enough to refund us about 2/3rds of what we had paid.
Then last month I was invited to go with a few girlfriends to a local beach for a weekend trip. I was so excited for the break and fellowship since I rarely get away by myself, but instead, I found myself sick in bed when it was time to leave for the trip, so I had to miss all the fun.
Next was a health scare with my husbands’ sister and mother and more hospital trips and surgery. FIVE people in our family have been in the same hospital in the last 5 months! Some have fared better than others.
Lest you think I responded properly to all of the aforementioned, you would be sadly mistaken. I’m human and fret and mess up just like anyone else, but I’m working on it and that is why I made this Dwell on the Lovely scripture print to remind me what the Lord wants my response to be.
You see…life doesn’t always go as planned. In Proverbs 16:9 it says “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”
Needless to say, this year was NOT the “Year of Fun”, but a different theme has been laid on my heart in the midst of life’s ups and downs. This is not a new idea, but one that came to me after seeing a pillow at a shop that had the words “Dwell on the Possibilities”. It was a pretty pillow trimmed in green velvet ribbon and it had a great message, but to me, it was still lacking a little because it was focusing on what could be instead of what is. Sometimes our reality is not pleasant, but what I have found is that in the midst of the storm there has ALWAYS been something that I could think about that was positive in my life and most of the time there are many things for which I can be grateful.
Elizabeth Elliot gave a wonderful illustration of this once. She described a bright white shirt with a small black ink blot on it. When the shirt was worn, everyone that encountered the shirt was drawn to the black spot. However, they weren’t focusing on the majority of the shirt that was sparklingly clean and white! Isn’t that just so true to our human nature!? Yes, the black ink spot was indeed black and bad, but why do we not choose to fix our eyes on the one who can wash away all. How easy it is to hone in on the “bad” things in our life when in reality, that makes up only a small fraction of the rest of our life.
It hit me that instead of dwelling on the possibilities, I should be dwelling on the lovely!
What exactly does it mean to dwell? Romans 8:11 says “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” If we are a Christian then it means that we have the Holy Spirit dwelling (living) in us. Because of that, we have the POWER of the Holy Spirit to choose how we respond to our circumstances.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
The Holy Spirit dwells in us and Christ is our dwelling place.
I’d like to take this a step further. I want to challenge you to join me to not only to think (dwell) on things that are lovely, but to verbalize those positive things.
Most of us have witnessed what bitterness and unforgiveness can do in a person’s life. I have witnessed this very close to home. A person very close to me constantly focused on the negative and made sure to tell us the faults of another person (as well as telling the same things to anyone outside our family that would listen). This person thought about these things constantly and then VERBALIZED these things over and over and over until this person made it a reality in their mind. I think this person genuinely believed the things that they said because they chose to dwell on them so much. But, like the ink blot on the white shirt, this person fully missed the good in the person (and the other amazing blessings in their life) with whom they had the conflict and it ate away at their heart and life until no one in the family recognized this person anymore. It was like they had given themselves over to the flesh.
The sad thing is, the story could have ended so differently. What if this person had chosen to focus on the positive and verbalized that instead of the constant spewing of negativity?
What if we determined to do the opposite and verbalize the positive in our life and the lives of those around us? Toby Mac has a song called “Speak Life” and it is a great reminder of this! Listen to his song HERE!
The Lord convicted me of this, so I have been trying to make a concerted effort to recognize things about the people in my life that I can praise instead of speaking negatively towards them. Not only has this exercise helped me to be happier, but it has made those around me feel more loved and appreciated.
Another analogy that I really liked came from the book “The Love Dare”. One chapter told a story about our minds and it described our mind as having different rooms. (This is a book on marriage, so it was speaking specifically about a spouse, but this could apply to any other person or situation.). In one room we store all of the good memories and things we like/love about our spouse. In the second room is where we store the not so great things about them and our hurts and disappointments. We can CHOOSE to dwell in the room with the positive and good things and close the door to the not so great room. It is akin to us choosing to hang out in a dark pantry all the time instead of enjoying the bright sunroom. It is our choice where we “go” with our minds and it WILL affect our lives. Our mind is a powerful thing… If our mind is elsewhere it is difficult for our body to respond properly. The neat thing is that we have the POWER of the Holy Spirit to choose where we allow our thoughts to dwell. I’ve never forgotten that analogy and it continues to be a great reminder to me when I encounter conflict with anyone. Dwell on the lovely…or in the case of the rooms Dwell IN the lovely!
Lastly, the Lord is our dwelling place. That is why there are houses painted on the scripture print. It is a visual reminder of our very own dwelling place, which is the Lord. Inside the houses are rooms that we can choose to spend our time. Where will you choose to spend your time?
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Proverbs 23:7 “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”
In Philippians 4:8 the Lord says “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
He also says in Psalms 103:2-4
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, And FORGET NOT all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,”
I love that God commands us NOT TO FORGET all He does for us. The word forget means “ignore, cease to care, wither”. If we focus on and remember the truly good things the Lord has done and is doing in our lives, not only will we have more joy, but those around us will happier because we will not be fretting and full of negativity.
Dwell on the Lovely….