SHE HEARD is the first for-purchase devotional published by Deliberate Women. Over the past eight weeks, we have been reading reflections written by our readers of the eight Biblical women featured in SHE HEARD. Up today: ESTHER
There it was. I could see it hiding underneath the couch. From my laid out position on the living room floor, I stretched my arm as far as it would fit wedged beneath the couch’s frame, but either it was too far or my arm was too thick. (We’ll go with the first.) The screaming child behind me seemed to raise every hair on the back of my neck as I tried again. Still no use. The binky had been kicked too far this time. So while my daughter continued her wailing, I went in search of a broom handle. With every sweep, what should have come closer, was hidden farther from view. The tired little frame creating the ruckus continued to raise my blood pressure and make time of the essence. Yet, with every frantic swipe, the motion was more careless than the last. Why is this the only binky we can locate, again?!
Do you ever feel like you’re insignificant? Like your day-to-day means nothing in the grand scheme of life? When I look at pictures of the earth from space and try to imagine myself a mere speck on that globe somewhere, let’s just say I’m not encouraged. I wonder if that’s how Esther felt. Not only was she a woman in Bible times, when women were considered property, but she was also an orphan, being raised by her male cousin.
Though there is no mention of God on the pages of Esther’s story, His workings are evident. Here we have a girl, who most of society probably considered not worth mentioning. Yet, whose talents and bravery would one day save an entire nation. She probably walked those streets and scuffed up her already-worn sandals with the same dirt those around her would one day kneel in as they called her their queen. People who wouldn’t even glance her way while she wore her rags, would one day call her majesty in the finest of robes.
Oh, Esther. Ripped from her home without an ear to even listen to her opinion. There she was in this strange new environment; a sea of beautiful women all fighting for their one chance at the crown. Comparison is prevalent today. I can’t imagine the ugly face it must have adopted in a setting like this. Here’s our Esther, one face in a kingdom full of women all deemed the same in the only aspect they were considered of worth. I don’t know about you, but I’d have felt pretty insignificant right about then. And maybe she did. Maybe, she was terrified of what her life would become. Maybe she felt wronged in every way possible. And quite honestly, I would agree with that statement. Yet we know from history’s perspective, she was never more perfectly placed. God’s perfect timing and orchestration of events shone through every bend in the road of Esther’s life.
I’ve always wondered if Esther could see God’s pen writing her story as the pieces fell into place. Did she recognize God’s hand at work? Or maybe, in the moment, she was all too much like us: Human. See, our perspective is so limited. We can only see the here and now, not the future in the making. Yet all the while, it’s today that prepares us for all our tomorrows. Like Esther, maybe we see the dirt covered streets and the people walking past us without notice. Maybe all we see is a sea of beauty and feel we don’t measure up against it. Insignificance sets in like a plague gripping our very worth to its core until our day-to-day starts to feel more mundane than meaningful.
I don’t know about you, but more often than not, I miss God’s subtle movements; the aligning of the pieces; the orchestrating of events. I get so focused on my daily dealings, on being busy, that I don’t realize the magnitude of the moments in which I’m living. Today is certainly preparing us for tomorrow, but the fact remains: Today is given, tomorrow’s not promised. If we will seek the God of Esther, Who positions people, times and places, and ask for His sight in the midst of today, we’ll catch glimpses of the work He’s doing, right here, right now. One day when we look back over these days, we’ll see how they aligned so Divinely to shape us into the women we needed to be for that time and that place. And if we’re willing to hold His hand wherever He leads, even in the uncomfortable, you and I could be the Esther of our day. Our God-given talents, skills and gifts could change history. We have a higher calling.
I don’t know what life has handed you lately. Maybe it’s been pretty rough territory. This past year a number of circumstances have sent me on this emotional roller coaster. It’s as if I’ve been backed against a ledge with my heels barely gripping the rough surface as I frantically swing my arms in an attempt not to fall over the embankment. The pebbles beneath my feet are one-by-one losing the battle and tumbling over the edge threatening to take me with them.
Yet, you and I have never been more perfectly placed. Sure, things may seem like they are spiraling out of control. Yet, for such a time as this, we’ve been called; placed. Maybe these days are the preparation phase for whatever is coming next, or just maybe it’s your turn to see the king. Whatever it is, wherever you are, God is in it. He hasn’t left you for a moment. Are you willing to stand up? Are you willing to take the leap? Instead of slipping on the cliff’s edge avoiding a fall, maybe you and I need to take a leap of faith. Maybe it’s time we turn and jump head first into the calling we’ve been handed. No matter where the emotional roller coaster winds in the process.
Most days I find myself crawling around the floor wiping up splattered milk from a thrown sippy cup. I sweep up enough crumbs that reassembled could feed a small animal for a week. And I’m a master at disassembling a child’s car seat cover to be scrubbed. (It’s the reassembly that always gets me.) At least twice a week, my husband comes home to find at least one body throwing a fit on the floor - and it’s not always the children. Sometimes, insignificance slashes right to the heart of this woman. Yet, even when my hair is more greasy than the meat I’m draining, my arm won’t fit beneath the couch and the child I treasure so dearly won’t stop her incessant wailing, insignificance couldn’t be further from the truth. These are just the pieces He’s lined up. He’s equipped me for this. Right here, right now. And in this, He’s equipping me for what lies ahead. The background noise may be decibels louder, but if I’m purposeful, I’ll hear it. So will you.
Close your eyes; just listen.
There! There, the echo of that still small Voice. Can you hear it bouncing off the ridges? It’s your name. He’s calling you, dear one by name. Just stop resisting.
Will you trust enough to take the leap?
Will you answer?
Jamie Joy is a pajama-wearin’ stay-at-home mama, wife of the only man she ever dated and a closet writer at the nap time hour. The days of dirty diapers, developing attitudes and wet kisses aren’t always peachy, but she’s on a mission: To perceive everyday life as beautiful, and chase after the adventures that write the story. She’s giving herself permission to laugh at the unpredictable, pursue authenticity in a world that endorses the counterfeit and to enjoy the chaos that make up life’s everyday adventures. She’s giving you that same permission. Check out the stories she’s chalking up to “adventure” these days at Life's Everyday Adventures. Also find her on Facebook.
SHE HEARD is the first for-purchase devotional published by Deliberate Women. Over the next eight weeks, we'll be reading reflections written by our readers of the eight Biblical women featured in SHE HEARD. Up today: ELIZABETH
When Delay Feels Like Denial
I stared at the underlined verse in astonishment. One simple sentence can pack a punch.
For nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)
Nothing. That covers pretty much everything, I thought.
I couldn’t remember when I had underlined it. The squiggly black line was faded, but was there just the same. It occurred to me that it was just one prompting of the Spirit years before. One thread in my tapestry, one line in my story. Yet, He knew…He knew that I would look back with new eyes and clearly see how He had been preparing me for what was coming.
The story of Elizabeth, I have to admit, had never quite captivated me. In my days as a young woman without children, I dismissed it as the puzzling side story to Mary’s headliner. In the days when I struggled myself to conceive, I bristled at Elizabeth’s joy in receiving an answer to prayer that I hadn’t. But having recently walked some deep valleys with the Lord, I see how the warmth in Elizabeth’s heart must have become a full blaze as she watched her God bless her more abundantly than she could have imagined.
I see how warmth toward God is kindled in the intentional ways that He works in our daily life. I have come to know Him this way – through a lone purple tulip (one of my favorites) on my path on a particularly difficult day. In a word of life spoken to me when there wasn’t much life in me left. When the intense love I feel as a mom reminds me of how deeply He loves me too. I feel a kinship to Elizabeth when I think of Him knitting the frayed edges of her heart, expanding it a bit, making room for what was to come. They say that once you come to know and love an artist, you begin to recognize their work. I bet she saw Him everywhere. I know I do.
Elizabeth’s calling was a high one – to be a vessel for the one who would usher in the Savior – and to experience the Holy Spirit itself – after years of anguish, social disdain, and I'm sure, a nagging uncertainty about His goodness. When delay disguises itself as a denial, doubt swirls and faith can waver. Yet, by grace, Elizabeth persevered and was faithful (v. 6).
Something beautiful takes place when we take our doubt to the Lord – a holy exchange - where He takes our wondering and replaces it with Truth. How tenderly He must have ministered to her. I imagine her heart throbbing at the sight of a busy mother brushing her child aside in the hustle and bustle of the day. She must have relied on His strength as she celebrated the newborns in her community, or helped those around her give birth, as was custom for women of her time. I imagine Him close to her in the marketplace, providing her an extra measure of grace to endure the judgment, spoken and unspoken, due to her barrenness. I cringe when I think of the searing pain she must have felt when she watched men work and play with their children. Yet, considering her faithfulness, I wonder what bits of truth comforted her most. How did she manage the desires that continued long after they were even reasonable?
I have personally experienced delay in my life the past two years. When the husband that I loved left, refusing to reconsider, I was left with crippling debt, the need to move, a deeply hurting little girl, pressure to start a career after being home 6 years and the very real possibility that I would never have more children. Doubt didn’t just swirl, it blew at hurricane force. The family and business I had dreamed of now seemed impossible. Survival mode set in. I began to make God small so He would fit into what I could see. Thankfully, He loved me (and still does!) enough to show me that His plans for me had not changed when my marriage fell apart –that no delay is a surprise to Him - and that my dreams are much safer in His hands than in mine.
You see, God knew. The whole time. He knew Elizabeth’s future just as surely as He knows yours or mine. He spent decades shaping her will and her thoughts, digging up the soil of her heart, weeding and planting and tending. Testing and strengthening. He needed her to know, before He fulfilled her calling, that He was enough.
Imagine the JOY that He felt as He watched her experience His Spirit – His very breath – for the first time. His gift, her son, leapt inside her in response to an unborn Christ. Do you have chills? He loves doing the impossible! He goes above and beyond! And – don’t miss this – He lets us in on it. It's not “enough” for Him to see a need and fill it. He has no need for good enough. His “enough” is bigger than we can imagine. It is lavish. It is unexpected.
I don’t know where you are on your walk, dear sister. I don’t know if you are struggling to hold it all together or struggling to let it all fall into His capable hands. I don’t know if you are aching with Him or aching for Him. I don’t know if you are in a season of delay, or one of seemingly indefinite denial. What I do know - what He reminded me today with a squiggly black line - is that nothing is impossible with God. And that in that nothing is where we find our everything.
Jenny Leigh is a work-from-home single mom who balances two jobs and a passion, loves to write, and stands in complete awe of how lavishly God loves us. She loves bright colors, good pens, great food, deep conversation and watching beauty pop up in all circumstances.
SHE HEARD is the first for-purchase devotional published by Deliberate Women. Over the next eight weeks, we'll be reading reflections written by our readers of the eight Biblical women featured in SHE HEARD. Up today: RAHAB.
The Hope of the Scarlet
The Hebrew word for ‘cord’ in Joshua 2:18 and 21 is “tikvah” or “tiqvah” (Strong’s Concordance, 8615). This is the first time this word is found in the Old Testament. Its meaning is to bind together, as in a cord, to tarry or wait for, to look forward to a particular outcome. It implies expectation and anticipation. There is a sense of certainty that something will happen, and we are waiting for it.
This same word is used in Jeremiah 29:11. “I know the plans that I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with HOPE” (Common English Bible). Other versions translate the word “hope” to “an expected outcome”. It's different than hoping that your favorite sports team will win. It has more to do with the fulfillment of what has been promised.
In Joshua, the scarlet cord (tikvat ha-shani) can be translated literally as “the hope of the scarlet”. With her confidence in the God of Israel and the word of the spies, Rahab trusts in the “hope of the scarlet” as her lifeline.
Isn’t that beautiful? You can see all of these beautiful metaphors and parallels opening up in Scripture.
Promise. Hope. Rescue. Blood. Salvation.
I love that that “tikvah” isn’t only an idea but something concrete that we can literally grab a hold of. And we can be certain that our hope will not be disappointed (Romans 5:5).
When I was reading through the definitions listed in Strong’s, one of them caught me completely by surprise- “things hoped for”. Does that phrase sound familiar? Hebrews 11, the “Faith Hall of Fame” where Rahab is mentioned, begins with those words. “Now faith is the substance of THINGS HOPED FOR”.
If you have studied the Bible, you know that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek. The Greek word there is “elpizomenon” (Strong’s Concordance, 1679). It is the only time this word appears in the New Testament.
I wonder if the writer was transliterating [writing words or letters in the characters of another alphabet] the word, “tiqvah” here. I wonder if as they began to pen this passage, they were choosing to remind us of “the hope of the scarlet”. For now, after the death of Christ, they were able to understand what it was that God had been working and weaving over the generations. What had been mysterious and obscure in the time of Joshua, was unveiled in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Amanda Klaiber is a mother to a darling 5 year old daughter. She has been a paramedic/registered nurse at the Drug & Poison Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital for over 13 years and currently teaches music at a local Christian school. Her husband, Nels, is a full time Lt. Firefighter-Paramedic in West Chester, Ohio. A few years ago. God called them to step into pastoring a small congregation, Christians Beyond Church, in Portsmouth, Ohio. After living in a camper for a few months, they bought a home just a few miles west of Portsmouth to become a part of the community there. God has been faithful in His calling and the congregation has seen tremendous growth- both spiritually and numerically. She enjoys bringing people together over coffee and conversation, has recently begun blogging to share the stories of people in the community, and has a general dislike for all things carrots (and wearing shoes). She is a bit of an over-thinker and quite competitive in nearly every way. Her passion is learning to love people like Jesus and improving her deadlift. You can follow her blog Rambles and Rest, find her on Facebook or at the local coffee shop.
SHE HEARD is the first for-purchase devotional published by Deliberate Women. Over the next eight weeks, we'll be reading reflections written by our readers of the eight Biblical women featured in SHE HEARD. Up today: MARY MAGDALENE
There is something about Mary Magdalene that is to be admired and sought after. Her complete and utter devotion to Jesus is unparallelled. She is the perfect example of someone who had been delivered by Christ from great anguish and let that serve as a foundation for her relationship with Him.
I examine my life and know that I have a long way to go in the devotion area. I love the Lord with all of my heart. God, in most ways, has been and is all I have. He has been the only constant and consistent force in my life. I pretty much grew up like an only child, an orphan in many regards.
That has been hard but necessary. I honestly don't know that I would want it any other way. My experiences have shown me how to fully depend on God for love, healing, provision, purpose, hope and my very life. I suspect Mary Magdalene viewed Him in the same way.
[In answering the Digging Deeper Questions found at the end of Mary Magdalene's chapter:]
1) Mary Magdalene had the same call that all of us do...to love God and make Him known. To follow Him is by no means easy, but it is simple. He is never the one who complicates this faith walk.
2) I became a Christian in my Sophomore year of college. I threw myself into my pursuit of Jesus. I joined numerous Christian ministries on campus. I started going to a local church and college Bible studies. I began leading youth and going on mission trips. This year, I will have been a believer for 17 years. That blows my mind! I have learned and grown. I have failed in my attempts to be like Christ, but He is more faithful than I could ever hope to be. I can say that almost 20 years in, I am more in love with Him than I have ever been. He has been so good to me to have placed me in strong and godly community that never let me stray to far from the truth of God's word and love for me.
3) Following Jesus is rarely glamorous. It is filled with a ton of seemingly inconsequential, mundane moments. The valleys can outweigh the mountaintops. Even so, He is worth it. His will, His way can often be small. But know that in eternity, it's the small things that have a lasting impact.
4) Recently, the subject of spiritual gifts has been surfacing at every turn. We all want to know how God has wired us and what we have been created for. I believe that faith is one of mine. I surprisingly don't struggle with the abstract areas of Christianity. I'm pretty good at standing strong in my convictions. That's the joy of being 35. The thought of persecution, in any form, almost strengthens my convictions. Again, having solely God to fulfill my every need has created this white hot devotion for Him. More and more, I come to acknowledge the non-negotiables of following Him. It makes dying to myself and taking up my cross a delight.
5) I hope that I know His voice well enough to recognize His voice. I have been in situations with people where I have given them a word of encouragement or challenge. Time after time, they tell me that they know it was a word from God and that I shared it at just the right time. Those are the moments when I know that I have poured myself out in order for Him to fill and flow through.
6) I believe that I have and continue to follow godly direction in my life that will lead me to the places God has for me. I'm not one for making snap decisions. I tend to be methodical and a planner. I'm not a risk taker. I move with extreme caution. The Lord has faithfully been revealing His purpose for me and faithfully surrounding me with community to encourage me and support me in it. I don't want to rush this process. I want to wait for His best plans and His best timing.
May we all be like Mary Magdalene...
This is the life that has been forgiven, healed, saved, delivered and responds with nothing but a life of worship.
Karina Allen is devoted to helping women live out their unique calling and building authentic community through practical application of Scripture in an approachable, winsome manner. You can connect with Karina through her blog, For His Name and Renown, monthly at incourage.me and purposefulfaith.com or on Twitter. She is featured in Dawn Camp's most recent release, 'The Gift of Friendship'.