Posted by: bellissimanh | January 5, 2016

Legacy

Noah’s life must have been such a trip. First… to hear the voice of God so clearly. Hello? Wild. But he didn’t just hear it – he listened to it. He obeyed. “Yeah… so I’m going to cover the whole earth with water, and I want you to build a big floating house so you and your family will be saved, mmm’kay?” Right.

Noah didn’t just obey part way… he committed. Genesis 7:5 says that he “did everything that the Lord commanded him.” Everything. He didn’t short-cut the construction process, substituting materials that were easier to get his hands on than what God had prescribed. He didn’t neglect to take a skunk on the boat with him because it would make his journey more comfortable. He didn’t rush ahead of God and force his way onto the ark before the time God had appointed. He did everything, just as the Lord had said, even though his mind must have been reeling at the things the Lord had been telling him. That’s some serious obedience right there.

I love this quote from #shereadstruth today: “Obedience to God was the gift Noah gave to the next generation. When we obey God, we are storing away treasure for those who will come behind us.”

We all will leave some kind of legacy. What that legacy will be hinges on how we respond to God, and whether we are willing to obey, even in – especially in – the tough moments. My word for this year is “cultivate” – what could grow if I became intentional about the testament I am creating for those who follow? For my children?

How would your life be different if you were focused on leaving a positive legacy? Would your priorities and your sensitivity to people’s needs change? Would your life exhibit more love and forgiveness?

I love these words from Steve Green:

May all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe,
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.

I can say anything I want… it’s what I DO that will echo throughout eternity. I want to leave a legacy. How about you? If you could be remembered for one thing, what would you want it to be?

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Posted by: bellissimanh | January 4, 2016

Of Wretchedness and Rainbows

We love to romanticize the story of Noah’s ark, don’t we? Animals… a big boat… a lovely rainbow – no wonder it’s the stuff of children’s books and nursery murals. It’s so easy for us to forget that the tale is full of wretchedness and grief, death and judgment, and before the rainbow came the darkest of skies. Mankind was wicked, and “every intention in the thoughts of his heart was evil continually”. Dark, indeed.

floodAnd then, in the midst of sweeping destruction, enters grace.

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord…” Genesis 6:8

Although not the first time grace is exhibited in Scripture (remember Adam and Eve?), it is the first time it’s referenced as “grace”. The story that should have ended with man’s extermination, instead has become regeneration.

Although we’re not told specifically in Scripture that Noah was mocked, we can imagine that he didn’t find much favor with men… but ultimately, what he did find was much greater – favor with God. Grace.

In this life, we are called to take a stand. Most often, what God calls us to do will not make sense to the world around us. We may even be mocked and persecuted. Will we maintain integrity in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation? Will we seek to win the favor of God, rather than men? I pray that we will.

I’m heading into this new week conscious of the fact that I have a choice. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice (which is foreshadowed by the ark, isn’t it?), I do not HAVE to give in to the temptation to choose my way over God’s. I can opt for the right thing over the easy thing.  I can operate in the power of the Spirit and let my behavior be governed by the truth, instead of a flood of emotions – all because of grace. That’s a boatload of blessing right there.

Posted by: bellissimanh | January 3, 2016

One Little Word – 2016 {Cultivate}

For several years now, I’ve chosen a word at the beginning of the year to focus on. It helps to ground me and give me direction as I turn the page of the calendar. I try to use a word that captures the essence of my goals through the coming twelve months. Perhaps most exciting for me is that it gives me a specific focus as I go deeper with the Lord – a specific action or characteristic that I can research in Scripture and then apply what I’ve learned to my life.

After praying, the word I have felt the Lord impress on my heart for 2016 is “cultivate.” I want this to be a season – a year – of nurturing and growing things that He would have me invest in, and letting go of things that deserve to die.

I’m sure more will come to the surface as I journey through the year, but for a start, I want to cultivate…

Gratitude – I will once again be counting to 1,000 gifts, joyfully.

Humility – I want the Lord to strip away anything in me that seeks to build ME, instead of Him, or others.

Relationships – I want to deepen my relationships… with my church family, with my biological family, with my colleagues at work.

Forgiveness – I don’t want to hang on to grudges and harbor resentment in my heart. I want to learn to let things go.

Knowledge – I want to grow in wisdom, first and foremost, as respects God and His Word. Secondly, I will continue working toward my degree. In addition, I will be pursuing education specifically related to my insurance background. But that’s not all… I want to keep learning, in every aspect of life… from my hobbies to the really important stuff.

Healthy Habits – I come into this new year less fit (physically) than I have ever been. This is keeping me from enjoying the life God has from me fully. I want to be here for my family, and able to serve them as they deserve – and if that’s the case, something needs to change. I need to change.

Romance – I want to create an environment in which my husband knows beyond the shadow of a doubt how loved and appreciated he is. I want to be a better wife and help mate for him. I want to make our home a sanctuary that he loves to be in.

Motherhood – time is slipping away, so quickly. Days become months, which rapidly turn to years. Before I know it, all of my children will be away from me and on their own. I pray that I will make the most of the moments I have with them… that I will find ways to lead without lecturing, to love in every circumstance, to live a life worth emulating, and to have true, honest discussions – even about the hard stuff – and to use those conversations as a place of grace, an opportunity to show my children the love of Christ.

My Walk – I want to thrive in my relationship with the Lord. I want to grow closer to Him… to know Him more, to love Him better.

In keeping with my one little word, I have chosen a theme verse for the year:

“Sow righteousness for yourselves
and reap faithful love;
break up your unplowed ground.
It is time to seek the Lord
until He comes and sends righteousness
on you like the rain.” Hosea 10:12

Do you have a word for 2016? I’d love to hear what it is. ❤

cultivate

Posted by: bellissimanh | December 28, 2015

I wanna see you be brave.

It’s 5:30am and I’m sitting with my Bible on my lap and a cup of coffee warming my hands. The wind is howling outside the window… it’s an eerie whine, rising and falling like waves of the ocean – low and lulling one moment and fierce and frothy the next. It’s chilling, really, and a little bit scary… but also kind of suits my mood this morning.

Today we head south to share in a celebration of life for my aunt, and then to Shriner’s Hospital tomorrow for another surgery for my girl. So much is on my mind. My cousins who are grieving and facing an incredible and unexpected loss. A long drive on roads that may be icy. The uncertainty of what is in store for Jasmine when the doctors assess her leg and craft a plan. The worry of leaving work for two days in an already short week when there is much to do and one colleague is on vacation. So.Much.Stuff.

And that doesn’t even touch the broader sphere of things – a local family burned out of their home. Another who suffered a barn fire just last night that left one person in a local hospital because weather prohibited a life-flight to Maine Med. And then there’s the news. Yeah. Let’s not even go there.

windSometimes life is just plain overwhelming. Fear can paralyze and leave us wanting to just throw in the towel. But then there’s this…

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

And this…

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Although it may feel like it sometimes (more often than we’d like), we are not alone. Ever. And when we believe that – really believe it – we can know peace in the midst of howling winds and crazy circumstances. If we are willing to put our trust in God, we can rest knowing that there is nothing outside of His control. That He has a purpose in our pain, and that there is a promise for those who persevere.

“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-5

Let the winds howl. Let the storms rage. Let the sky fall. The One who walks on water and says to the waves, “Peace, be still” has you in the palm of His hand – and He will never let you go. Be brave. I’m praying for you – for us.

Posted by: bellissimanh | December 5, 2015

Once Upon a Time…

cradlecrossOnce upon a time, the God of eternity stepped into time and space… Immanuel. God with us.

On the surface, it makes no sense – the way He came. He is the King of glory, yet He chose to visit us as a tiny baby in a stable.

We’re not given much detail, so our imaginations are left to wonder at the possibilities.

Was this a separate structure, open to the elements… or was it the bottom floor of the family’s home, where it was typical for animals to be sheltered?

Was it cold, or warm?

Did the scent of moldy hay mingle with that of animal dung?

Did the bleating and braying of the animals muffle the sounds of a young mother giving birth?

Was Mary, probably no more than thirteen or fourteen-years-old, crying out for her mother?

As that little life came out into the arms of his father, was Joseph overwhelmed by it all? Did tears stream down his face as he took in the sight of his son for the first time? Did it take his breath away?

There are some things we just can’t know… but we do know this much:

“…though He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Jesus, the Prince of peace and King of kings, left the splendor of heaven to become like us, that we might become like Him. He took on human flesh and chose to enter into our broken world, our messy lives, so that we might be healed and have life abundant.

That poverty wasn’t just in Bethlehem. He knew it all of His earthly days.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)

That poverty followed Him all the way to Calvary, where He gave up His life – the earthly one – to offer mankind the gift of eternal salvation.

For me. For you. So we can live happily – joyfully – ever after. Now that’s a story worth telling.

Posted by: bellissimanh | December 2, 2015

Beauty from Ashes

fireNew beginnings. Life is full of them – mine has been anyway. Sometimes the fresh start is a turning back to the Lord after I’ve been so full of myself (and sin) that I couldn’t stand it anymore. Other times, God has allowed things to come into my life that I never would have chosen for myself… painful experiences that left me desperate and crying out to Him. Although these situations left me wounded and broken, He used them to draw me closer, to teach me to lean in to His heart, and to grow something in me that could never have lived before. After these trials, it’s almost as if a fire has ripped through my life, burning up everything in its path. Although it was hard and searing, the Father knew what He was doing.

Here’s the thing about a controlled burn… it always serves a purpose. It can be used to reduce the invasion of unwanted plants and diseases. Native Americans used prescribed burns to maintain clearings and encourage the growth of plants for later harvest. Wildfires are destructive, but a carefully maintained fire – that has the power to bring forth unspeakable beauty.

Because nothing can touch me that hasn’t first passed through the hands of my Father, there have been no wildfires in my life. Every second of those flames licking up at me has been carefully tended by the One who knows me best and loves me most. Even if it wasn’t easy to see at the time, what I considered to be devastation was truly preparing the way for a new beginning.

Abraham understood better than anyone what it’s like to be called from everything that’s familiar into the unknown. “We live by faith, not by sight.” It’s a familiar and often quoted phrase… but living it? That’s another thing entirely. Will we walk forward in obedience, even as we are surrounded by soot and ash? I pray that we will, like Abraham… like Christ… have the courage to set one foot in front of the other on a charred path, knowing that He will bring beauty from the ashes. Know this today… even if you can’t trace God’s hand, you can trust His heart. You are not abandoned. Grab hold of your Father’s hand and your fresh start. He makes all things new.

“But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Posted by: bellissimanh | November 26, 2015

My Thanksgiving Psalm – 2015

apic

He has rescued my wayward heart and bound it to Himself…
His love endures forever.

He has supplied all of my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus…
His love endures forever.

He has given me grace sufficient to carry me through anything…
His love endures forever.

He has promised me a way out when I’m faced with temptation to sin…
His love endures forever.

He has given me victory over death though His resurrection…
His love endures forever.

He has used every bump, bruise and mistake in my life for my good and His glory…
His love endures forever.

He has taken my heart of stone and replaced it with a new one, tender and tuned to sing His praise…
His love endures forever.

He has broken the chains of sin in my life and granted sweet freedom…
His love endures forever.

He has promised never to leave me or forsake me…
His love endures forever.

He healed my marriage when I feared the damage was irreparable…
His love endures forever.

He has given me an incredible man who loves me for me, and loves God…
His love endures forever.

He saved the life of my daughter when she suffered third degree burns over 90% of her body…
His love endures forever.

He has grown my daughters into women of faith – steadfast and strong…
His love endures forever.

He has given me the privilege of raising an incredibly intelligent and compassionate son…
His love endures forever.

He placed me in a home with parents who consistently modeled what it means to follow hard after Jesus…
His love endures forever.

He has blessed me with a job that I love…
His love endures forever.

He has been faithful and held me in his arms when friends betrayed me…
His love endures forever.

He has surrounded me now with women who seek His face…
His love endures forever.

He has given me an incredible shepherd in my pastor…
His love endures forever.

He has given me an insatiable craving for His Word…
His love endures forever.

He redeemed my life from the pit…
His love endures forever.

He has taken my trash and replaced it with treasure…
His love endures forever.

When I place my burdens on His shoulders and learn from His example, He gives rest…
His love endures forever.

He has given me His Spirit with the power to turn the world upside down…
His love endures forever.

He has promised to complete the work He’s begun in me…
His love endures forever.

He has given me the protection of His peace if I will but leave my worries with Him…
His love endures forever.

He has prepared a place for me where I will worship Him for all my days…
His love endures forever.

 

 

 

Posted by: bellissimanh | November 25, 2015

Who is your everything?

disappointedI’m incredibly foolish sometimes. Although I know that God has promised to care for me, I still get caught up in trying to handle things on my own. I look to an abundance of other sources to meet my needs. At the top of the list is my amazing husband.

I put way too much pressure on him when I live as though he is responsible for my happiness. It’s not his job to make me feel secure and fulfilled. God didn’t intend for him to be everything for me. If Joel were able to meet every need I have, I would have no need of God. See, there are longings in my heart that only God Himself can satisfy, and if I look to my husband to fill those desires, I will end up disappointed and disillusioned… not because my husband isn’t an incredible gift from God to me (he is), but because even a great husband makes a very poor God.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in nobles. (Psalm 118:8-9)

Maybe you know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t have to be your husband, either. It could be a parent. A child. A friend. A pastor. Listen to me – nobody can handle the pressure of meeting needs in your life that God alone is meant to fill. If you’re feeling let down by someone who you thought was going to take care of things for you, maybe this reminder is for you too. Look to the One who has promised to be your everything. He will never fail you. And give those other guys a break… 🙂

Posted by: bellissimanh | November 24, 2015

Psalm 103:3-5

crownOne of the things I love the most about God’s Word is that it’s so personal. It is living and active and sharp enough to get right to the heart of the matter. Like a surgeon, sometimes it cuts in order to heal – but our God is masterful with that blade. He uses it to expose sin like a surgeon’s scalpel exposes disease.  A surgeon uses the sharpest scalpel to get to the center of disease to expose, cut it, and remove it entirely from the body. There is some cancerous junk in me, and I’m thankful that He uses the Sword of the Spirit to get rid of it. Meditating on Psalm 103 today, verses 3-5…

He forgives all your sin – from the greatest grievance to the least little thing, He has cast our sin away, as far as the east is from the west, and there is no getting it back. It’s done. Forgiven. GONE.

He heals all your diseases – sin makes us sick, but God has provided a way for us to be made whole again through the death and resurrection of His Son – Hallelujah!

He redeems your life from the Pit – I have seen some deep pits in my life. Wells that I thought I might never climb out of… and I didn’t. But He lifted me out with His sovereign hand. What’s more, He doesn’t just bring me out of the pit, He redeems the garbage that put me there. He wastes nothing. I love that! But it goes even deeper than the mud and the muck of this life. There is an even greater pit – the pit of the grave – and being rescued from that? It means everything.

He crowns you with faithful love and compassion – But God doesn’t stop at forgiveness, healing and redemption. He goes on to give us a crown, “studded with gems of grace and lined with the velvet of lovingkindness; it is decked with the jewels of mercy, but made soft for the head to wear by a lining of tenderness.” (Spurgeon) Our God is so extravagant in His love and mercy!

He satisfies you with goodness – Soul satisfaction calls loudly for heart praise.

Your youth is renewed like the eagle – He has made us new. Glory!

#shereadstruth

Posted by: bellissimanh | November 18, 2015

When Your World is Falling Apart

Parched earth

Environmental concept. Some images in montage provided by NASA (http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/)

Psalm 34 is one of my favorites. It’s filled with gems that I have often come back to again and again… so many blessings described, so many declarations of trust and faith. Those things alone are enough to make it amazing, but then there’s the backdrop. David wrote this Psalm during one of the darkest times of his life. He was chased out of his own country by Saul, and sought refuge in the very city where he had killed Goliath (great move, huh?) As soon as they discovered who he was, he was brought before the king and in desperation, acted like a mad-man so they would let him go. It worked, and they sent him away. From the dark recesses of a cave in Adullam, he penned Psalm 34 and gave us some of the most loved Scripture verses of all time, including these…

I will praise the Lord at all times;
His praise will always be on my lips….

I sought the Lord, and He answered me
and delivered me from all my fears….

Those who look to Him are radiant with joy;
their faces will never be ashamed….

The Angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear Him, and rescues them…

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and His ears are open to their cry for help…

The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
He saves those crushed in spirit…

The Lord redeems the life of His servants,
and all who take refuge in Him will not be punished…

I want to be like David. I want to be able to focus on the goodness of my God when the world around me feels like it’s falling apart. Paris. Lebanon. Nigeria. And even closer to home… streets in North Conway shut down as police chase after armed suspects. It’s craziness. But the Creator of the universe is not blind to the tragedy… to the brokenness.

Maybe you’re feeling it too, and maybe the desperation isn’t just from world events, but from something much more personal. A marriage that’s so fragile you fear it could be wrecked by a breath. Debt that threatens to suffocate you. A prodigal who hasn’t found the path home yet. A health issue that wears you down to the point of not even having the energy to lift your head, let alone fight for something better.

You guys, whatever has driven you into your Cave of Adullam, know this… the Lord is GOOD. He is near. He sees you. He knows you. He is FOR you.

And if you need a little help reaching out? Shoot me a message. I’d love to pray with you.

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