Saturday, September 23, 2017

There Ain't Nothin' Gonna Steal My Joy

Hey Friend,

Any of you who read my blog regularly know that this has been a long season of "What next, Lord?"

I was getting ready to go to an appointment with my OB-GYN to discuss recent ultrasounds and the next steps depending on whether what was being seen was benign or cancerous.  Some polyps and abnormalities had turned up in my endometrial lining. I know....TMI, but you know me; I'm real here.

While I was getting dressed, I tuned into a Facebook Live event that Liz Curtis Higgs had announced.  If you don't know Liz, she's one of my favorite writers and speakers. She also has the absolute best sense of humor.  I needed a little humor right then, so I tuned in for a little levity.

Liz looked perky and smiling as usual and was sporting a sassy new hairdo. "Boy, she looks great," I thought.  As her post progressed she revealed that her new "do" was actually a wig.  She had no hair because she has been going through chemo and radiation treatments for...endometrial cancer...(gut punch)!

She had undergone a full hysterectomy and had recently come from a seven hour chemo session.  But, by the grace of God, she looked joyful....radiant even.  She calmly and matter-of-factly shared what she'd been through and shared some verses that had reminded her (us) not to make too many plans because it's the Lord who numbers our days.

Was Liz "happy" that she was going through all of this?  No, I don't think so, but she exuded a certain joy because she was alive and her joy was not in her circumstances. It was firmly set on God's goodness and love.  She talked about not taking a single day for granted and that each moment is a gift.

The Biblical definition of "joy" is: Extreme happiness with which the believer contemplates salvation and the bliss of the afterlife.  A joyous mood as we encounter God and His steadfast love.  A response to God's Word.

Nowhere does it say that joy comes from circumstances.  The enemy will use circumstances to take our eyes off the Lord and focus us on fear, and defeat, and failure.  

But, God....commended my anxious heart and skyrocketing blood pressure into the hands of my compassionate doctor.  Her voice was reassuring that I'd be getting the best possible care.  She understood my worry.  She talked me step by step through what she would be doing in the outpatient procedure.  And, if the cells proved to be cancerous, what the next steps would be.  She'd be there to see me through.  

With tears in my eyes, I listened and nodded along with what she was saying. Her last words were, "Either way, you're going to be okay."

With having OCD, my mind always wants to rush to the worst case and ruminate on that, but as I was driving home from my appointment, a certain peace came over me. A peace mixed with lingering anxiety.  No matter what though, I knew that God's got me.  He's got this.  None of this is catching Him off guard. God is good and I can trust Love's heart.

I also thanked God for my amazing husband who has been at my side through so much.  He's never wavered or blinked....steadfast as they come.  Even though he had to return to work after the appointment, I knew his heart was firmly with me.  What a blessing.

I believe it is possible to experience pain and joy at the same time.  Yes, I was fearful and painfully aware of what I might be facing, BUT GOD....I was encountering His presence, at that moment, and His steadfast love...joy.  

He drew my gaze upward toward Him and soothed me with the knowledge that He has always been with me and has never forsaken me.  Even if....my life ceased....there was joy in contemplating my salvation.  It shifted me toward an eternal perspective.

About that time, this song came on the radio....yes another "But, God" moment. I really hope you'll listen to it.  I cranked up the volume and sang along as loud and passionately as I could.  My hands were raised.  Tears were flowing and the joy of the Lord was present in my SUV sanctuary.  The guy behind me, in his Ford F-150 truck, was clearly getting a charge out of my gospel style revival worship...but you know, I didn't care.  

I was singing to an audience of One!  The joy of the Lord was mine in that moment!


Because I have God, there ain't nothin' gonna steal my joy!!!

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy (delight in the Lord) to my soul.  (Psalm 94:19)

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13)

"Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10b)

The joy that I experience is not something I can muster up on my own.  It is truly a gift of the Holy Spirit.  If you are not a believer, oh how I pray you'll accept Christ into your heart so you can experience His gift of joy.  

If you are a believer, here is my prayer for you:

May the God of hope fill you with ALL joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Be blessed....and, if you will, keep me in your prayers.  Surgery on Monday the 25th.  Please share in the comments how God has given YOU joy amidst the trials so that we all might be encouraged.  Thanks.

ps.  LAST WEEK TO PRE-ORDER  "A MOMENT TO BREATHE" and get the FREE DaySpring mug with the book!!  (I have written two devotions in this book.)



Click HERE to pre- order before Oct. 3rd....

Enter the drawing to win one of two FREE devotionals.  Either SUBSCRIBE above to my blog.  Or if you already subscribe, leave a COMMENT below...drawing will be on OCT 3rd.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Whose Hand Can I Hold?

Hey Friend,

Just when I think there can't be anything more, the onslaught continues.  I have been bumping and stumbling my way through this last surgery recovery for over four months now.  There have been small incremental improvements, but there's still a long way to go.

With regard to some other things going on in our lives, it's been a waiting game. Hurry up and wait.  Enter hurricane Irma and waiting on her arrival and scary passing through the night - wondering if my mom and family would be safe. More waiting and wondering.  There was much physical damage to property, but lives were spared. Praise!!

Then, enter having to go for tests to rule in or rule out endometrial or uterine cancer.  More scary tests followed by more waiting.  

As I headed off to have the tests done I grabbed onto an index card that had two scriptures on it.  While I waited anxiously for my name to be called at the radiologist, I read them over and over again.  I repeated them slowly in my mind so that they might resonate with my weary and frightened soul at that moment.  

I desperately needed something or someone to hold onto...

My heart was crying out, "Not this Lord...not now."

These are the scriptures I clung to that day and have continued to cling to:

I keep the Lord in mind always.  Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  (Psalm 16:8)

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, "Fear not, I am the one who helps you."  (Isaiah 41:13)

Two scriptures that talked about God taking hold of my right hand....holding me...comforting me....calming me...slowing my racing heart.

I began to wonder, what is it about the "right hand" that is so significant?  In my research several interesting things came to mind about this "right hand" that brought me strength and comfort.  

The right hand signifies strength.  Most people are right-handed and that is the hand that normally has the greatest strength.  (Even though my husband is a lefty and he is one of the strongest men of faith I know).  

In the Bible the religious leaders were always trying to trap and trick Jesus with questions and so he once told them:

"The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'"  (Luke 20:42-42)

Being at the right hand, is the place of authority to whoever sits on the throne, and in this case, it was about God the Father and Jesus being the One who was to be and is currently seated at the right hand of the Father.  

The right hand is the hand of AUTHORITY

The ancient patriarchs usually blessed their children and grandchildren with their right hand. When Jacob (then called Israel) blessed Ephraim, he stretched out his right hand to do it.

The right hand is the hand of BLESSING

In Revelation when John saw Jesus he "fell at his feet as though dead.  But he (Jesus) laid his right hand on me, saying "Fear not, I am the first and the last" (Rev. 1:17) so by His right hand He strengthened him.  

Isaiah provides further evidence of this by writing, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  (Isaiah 41:10)

The right hand is the hand of STRENGTH AND RIGHTEOUSNESS

When Aaron and his sons performed animal sacrifices, God instructed them "You shall kill the ram and take part of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tips of the right ears of his sons...." (Exodus 29:20)

When you were anointed with oil, it was done on the right side.  When the side of Jesus was pierced on the cross, it was his right side that was pierced.

The right side is the side of SACRIFICIAL SIGNIFICANCE

In the book of Revelation we see Jesus using His right hand throughout like "in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals" (Rev 5:1), and having taken "the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne..." (Rev 5:7)

The right hand is the HAND OF SOVEREIGNTY

In the story of Jesus separating the sheep from the goats in the book of Matthew, we see that Jesus said, "Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right and the goats on the left."  Being on the "right" side is critical to our eternal destiny.

The right side is the CHOICE SIDE IN JUDGMENT

So back to the question, Whose hand can I hold?  I felt that day and I continue to know this week, that God is upholding me with His righteous right hand. When God extends His strong right hand of blessing and takes hold of my right hand of surrender and weakness, it is like we are shaking hands.  

The shaking of hands is the first step before pulling one into an embrace.  I envision Jesus saying to me, "Bev, we're in this together.  I have hold of your right hand with my righteous right hand.  You are mine and I will not let you be shaken.  So do not fear and do not be dismayed for I am your God."

In times of trial, this is the hand that I know I can count on.  What a blessing.

What about you?  What are you facing that you need to grab hold of that right hand of authority, blessing, and strength?  Do you believe that God will uphold you and He will not let you fall or be shaken?  Ask Him right now for what you need....He's listening and will answer!

Be blessed.....and know that I am praying for you!

DON'T FORGET:  Subscribe to my blog to be entered to win one of two FREE books or if you already subscribe, leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing to win.  (Drawing on Oct. 3rd)

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS GREAT DEAL before Oct. 3rd.  



Thank you for all your love and support.  It means the world to me!!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Breathe

Hey Friend,

Readers have described my writing as "real", "honest", "raw" even.  Let's just say I don't shy away from getting a little gritty.  What you see is pretty much what you get.

I wasn't always this way.  In fact, I was just the opposite.  For a large part of my life I spent a lot of my time trying to be perfect and to "earn" God's favor - as if that's even possible.  I wore a mask that said to the world, "I'm doing just fine and I've got my act together."  Do you know how much energy it takes to keep up this masquerade?  I was afraid of being found out as a phony....a fake...a desperately insecure young woman who really didn't know her true worth in God's eyes.  

Let's just say, that through the trials and struggles I've been through, God has taught me a few things.  I have grown tremendously in my faith and more importantly, in my relationship with God.  I can't imagine doing life without Him and together we laugh at my silly and vain attempts to try to maintain "control" of my life.

God has definitely called me to be vulnerable with my doubts, my struggles, my fears, my trials, and my disappointments, in my writing. Why?  

Because we are ALL going through something.  Behind every door there is a story and chances are it's not a fairytale.  

We NEED each other and we NEED each other to be real....so we know we're not alone and we're in this thing called "Life" together.

We all need friends who have been there.  Friends who'll lean in close and say, "Me too!"

That's why I was thrilled and humbled to be asked to join the company of some amazing writers to put together a devotional that will truly meet you in your everyday mess!

We wanted to provide a place where you can come as you are and find yourself among friends and people who "get" it.  In this devotional, you'll find real women writing about real life. 

It's a place to take off your mask, kick off your shoes, come in your yoga pants and find a safe place where you can be real with God. You can take a moment to breathe, and find peace and encouragement for your soul.

The devotional, put out by LifeWay and (in)courage.me - two awesome ministries, is due to release on October 3rd.  I am offering you the opportunity to pre-order "A Moment to Breathe", and get a FREE DaySpring mug with the book.  This offer is only good through LifeWay.  You must pre-order before Oct. 3rd. 
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With 365 readings, each day begins with a passage of Scripture and tells a story of everyday faith.  In the rush of regular life that leaves you breathless, it invites you to take a moment to breathe.

If you'd like to see what you'll be getting, I invite you to go to the link below and you will receive a FREE 10 day sampler...just enough to get you through till my next post :)

                                                     

GO TO THIS LINK TO GET YOUR FREE 10 DAY SAMPLER: 
Click HERE to get the FREE 10 day sampler....

**Also, I have 2 copies of the book that I'm going to GIVE AWAY.  Here's what you can do to enter the drawing which will be held OCT. 3rd.:

1.  Subscribe to my blog (just go to the "Subscribe" tab to sign up).  Be sure
     to check your email for a link to confirm your subscription.  This is for YOUR
     privacy.  You will only receive my weekly blog....I never share my email list.

2.  If you're already a loyal subscriber just leave a comment below on what
     you think of the book or the sample devotions.

WINNERS WILL BE NOTIFIED AND ANNOUNCED AFTER THE OCT. 3RD DRAWING.  

"A Moment to Breathe" and the free mug make a wonderful gift to yourself and don't you deserve it?  Or, get some Christmas shopping done early...this would be a lovely gift to receive.

More than anything, I would like to thank you for supporting me in my writing endeavors.  My prayer is that my writing would point people in the direction of where true hope can be found and to glorify my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Be blessed....



Friday, September 1, 2017

When The Ocean Speaks

Hey Friend,

It's been a few very trying months, to say the least.  My husband and I have been looking forward to this week at the beach (The NC Outer Banks) all summer.  After hearing everyone's tales of summer adventures, we were anxious to embark upon ours, which had been delayed by my surgery recuperation.  

My husband and I are both early risers and so one of our favorite times has been to sit on the deck and watch the sun rise over the ocean.  This, to me, is one of the grandest displays there is.  I delight in watching the sun rise and spread its glorious tendrils as if in a heavenly morning stretch.  Glorious rays of light seem to stretch on to infinity.  

Even the waters seem to wake up and applaud with joy that a new morning has come.  The sun glistens like sparkling diamonds as they dance among the breakers.  The whole morning is aglow with God's new mercy, goodness and love.

                                                       
                                       
"Weeping may endure for a night - but joy will come in the morning. His anger endures for a moment - but in His favor is light."  (Psalm 30:5)

All through the day the waves continue to crash upon the shore.  The crash, crash, crash continues day and night.  To me it is like the steady thrum, thrum, thrum of a whooshing heartbeat.  It's God's heartbeat.  Steady.  Constant. Strong. Never ceasing. Filled with love.  I close my eyes and listen to the rhythm.

Even at night, we sleep with the sliding door cracked open and in the middle of the night, when all is blackness, I still hear the crashing waves reminding me that God's heart of love is beating and watching over me through the night. He never slumbers nor sleeps.  His eye is always upon me.  His ear is bent ever close....listening to my prayers. Even if I have bad dreams, His song gently lulls me back to sleep.

Every morning we watch Kayla (the big, friendly, black lab) and her master, Charlie, go for walks along the beach.  To Kayla, the ocean is her playground. She delights in the sand and the surf and the ability to run ahead and fetch the ball that Charlie lobs with his David-like sling shot.  

Hers is pure, unfettered joy and fun.  She loves the place to which Charlie brings her every day.  Because she knows he's nearby, she feels safe.  She gallops ahead full throttle and then gently returns the ball to Charlie when he calls her name. She walks close beside her master's side, looking up at him....waiting for his next command. She is grateful for his love and attention. This is her happy place - at Charlie's side.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand” John 10:27-28

                               

As Dave and I walk along the beach with Topper, our beagle, I am drawn to the shells at the tide's edge.  The tides, I observe, act as though they are in a military cadence directed by God.  They ebb and flow at His command.  They remind me of God's vigilant protection.  Nothing in this world startles God or catches Him off guard. Nothing happens that is outside His sovereignty.  

I notice that many of the shells, because of the rough seas at the Outer Banks, are turned into "sea pebbles".  Their rough, pointy, and jagged exteriors have been tumbled like raw gem stones in a jeweler's tumbler.  The longer they endure this tumbling, their edges are smoothed down and their surface becomes like glass - smooth and shiny.  As the water coats them they glisten and shimmer in the sunlight and they catch my eye.  

Sometimes I have felt like those shells, being tumbled in the harsh trials of life. God knows, however, what He is doing.  He is smoothing off the rough edges and making me into something beautiful that will reflect His glory. It's not pleasant but it molds my character and fashions me to be more like his Son. This is my calling.



One day the weather channel warned us that a storm was on it's way.  Though the sun was still shining and warming our faces, we could see in the far off, distant horizon that a storm was brewing.  The dark clouds were quickly closing in.  

I kept watching the sun as it dodged in and out of the encroaching clouds. Finally, the sun shot forth its last rays as if to say, "Don't worry.  Don't fear. Though the clouds and darkness may roll in and the rain will come, I will ALWAYS be right here behind them. Even though you won't be able to see me, it doesn't mean that I'm not right here, always watching over you.  Eventually the storm will pass and you will feel my warm rays on your face once again."....and then the sun disappeared.  

As it promised, twenty four hours later, the sun reappeared. Sometimes storms last for an hour....sometimes for much longer, but the sun always faithfully reappears. 

                         
                                                                         
These are just some of the words the ocean has been speaking to me this week....

What about you?  What has God's creation been speaking to your heart lately? Are there any lessons you learned or wisdom you gained this summer?  Would you share in the comments?  I'd love to hear....

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for the beauty of Your creation.  I thank you that you have designed all of this for my good pleasure.  Help me not to take anything for granted or overlook any gift too small.  I praise You for the glory and majesty of Your creation and the lessons through which you continuously teach me.  Help me to be a student of You, my Lord.  Let me always walk close by Your side so that I may hear you call my name and I may know your precepts.  I thank you that, even though the storms and trials may come in life....You are always there.  You will never leave me nor forsake me and You will bring me through so that I may better resemble Your Son and reflect His love. Continue to speak Lord, Your servant is listening.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed.....

Friday, August 25, 2017

"Deeper Waters" (A+ Review)

Hey Friend,

I don't often write book reviews, but I have had the distinct pleasure and the transforming experience of reading "Deeper Waters - Immersed in the Life-Changing Truth of God's Word" written by Denise Hughes.

I have done several of the "Word Writer" Bible studies that Denise has written and have found them to be easy to follow, insightful, and they have each taken me to a deeper level of understanding and love of God's Word.  That's why I was anxious to be part of the launch team for her latest book, which is being released on September 1, 2017.

So many times we come to God's Word tainted by our life experiences, our doubts, and struggles.  Maybe, like me, you've had preconceived notions that the Bible is nothing more than dry theology and history.  I once had many of these same preconceived notions and when I became a Christian I really didn't know where to start or how to start reading God's Word.  

In her book, Denise shares her very personal and deeply touching story that brought her to God's Word.  She longed to hear God's voice and He whispered to her that in order to hear Him, she needed to read and be in His Word.  She describes her journey of how she came to meet the living and loving God through the pages of His Word and gives you tangible ways that, you too, can come to know the same saving grace, transforming power, and redeeming love.

Denise's zeal and enthusiasm for wanting to help you make connections in scripture that will transform your life, oozes out of every paragraph in her book. She wants you to discover a joy that you never thought possible.

Even for someone, like me, who has been in God's Word for a long time, I discovered new ways to take it to a deeper level.  For example:  Read it, write it, pray it.  I was pretty good at steps one and three, but didn't appreciate how much better I would truly "get" and "absorb" scripture until I began writing it out.  Not just favorite verses here and there, but writing out full sections, even a book, of scripture.  

So, no matter whether you have never cracked open the Bible, or have been in God's Word for a long time, there is something here for everyone.  Denise sets your heart at ease that you don't have to be a theologian or a seminary student to dive in and be refreshed by the joy and personal love story for you, that you will find waiting there.

I discovered so many good takeaways from her book and found Denise's style comfortable and easy to relate to.  I hope you will do yourself a great favor and dive into "Deeper Waters".  


What are you waiting for?  Pick up a copy today....
If you hurry and preorder before 9/1, you can get the "Word Writers" book of James Bible study for free :)  Just go to the web address provided.


Be blessed.....


ps.  I may take a brief week off for a little down time with my husband.  I invite you to sift through the archives until I am back in the saddle again.  Thank you for all who have been praying for my recovery from foot surgery.  Progress is very, very slow and I've been told to give it at least six months to be able to be walking free of pain.  I still welcome your prayers for healing and patience.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?

Hey Friend,

Ever since I was little, I've been dreaming about things I wanted to be when I grew up. Of course, as a very little girl in ballet class, I wanted to be the ballerina center stage in Swan Lake.  Then, there was the phase of loving Dorothy Hamill, and wanting to be a professional ice skater.  Deep down, I knew I wanted to be a wife and have a family.

Throw in the phase of wanting to be a flight attendant, beach lifeguard, and various other professions; there finally came the day of picking a college major. I hated math, so that eliminated some careers right there.  I always loved writing and words, so kind of half blindfolded, I picked English and Communications. (With my Father's suggestion of, "Be sure to take a good typing class," thrown in for good measure).

The emphasis has always been on "Being" something.  The typing class did get me into a temp job that led to being a Relocation Specialist and then a Relocation Director for a large firm.  So I "directed and managed".  

Then came motherhood.  I admit sometimes I struggled with "just being a mom".  It didn't sound impressive until God impressed it upon my heart what a crucial and important profession Motherhood is.  So, I took pride in the fact that I was "molding and shaping" young lives for the Lord.

Then I taught for a period, so I was a "teacher".  I also taught Bible studies and Sunday school so "teaching" was my profession for some years.  That was until the succession of surgeries sidelined me.

Ready to climb the walls during recuperation, I felt called to return to my first love of writing and started a blog (which you are now reading).  I remember the day I proudly held business cards in my hand that said Beverly Duncan (my name at the time) and next to it was the word "Writer".  A writer....after all, this was what I was destined to be.  I had a college degree to prove it.

My blog then led me to start a Christian school in the Middle East (long but interesting story).  So now I was "President and Founder".  Impressive, huh?? You'd think by now, I would have satisfied that question of "What do I want to be when I grow up?"

While recuperating from surgery #4 and being laid up, yet again, I had A LOT of time to spend in God's Word (partially because I couldn't "Do" much of anything else).  I have to tell you that this time spent reading, meditating on, writing down, and praying God's Word began to speak volumes into my heart.  

There was a closeness and presence with the Lord that I have never really felt before.  

Each morning I couldn't wait to dive into His Word to see what He had for me that day.

I could relate to the deer panting for the living water....the more I drank, the more I craved.  

The verse in 1 Samuel 3:9 kind of summarizes what I was experiencing.  Much like Samuel, who heard the Lord's voice in his sleep, I responded:

"Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."

That was it...I knew what I was called to be and what I wanted to be when I grew up....a professional listener.

Think about it...wouldn't it be great - the next dinner party or back yard BBQ you attend and someone asks you, "So, what do you do?"  And, you respond, "I'm a professional listener."  Wait for it....dead silence.  

Crazy as it sounds, that's what I want to say.  

Every other "profession" I've named is a passing profession.  Even mothering is a profession designed for eventually letting go.

But, what stays?  What remains?  What is something I can do and never grow out of or get tired of?  Sitting at the feet of Jesus and letting His words speak directly into my heart so that I may bask in His presence, be in relationship with Him, and know, without a doubt, that I was made and designed to be fully loved by Him.  There is truly nothing in the world that can beat this.

Wow, it kind of makes my desire to someday write a book, pale in comparison. There's no title I could put behind my name on a business card that could ever compare with "listener". 

Admittedly, most titles are somehow wrapped up in "pride" and "self".  Listening is the only profession I can think of that is truly selfless. 

God's Word gives life.  When I read it, meditate on it, pray it, write it down, and share it....I am bringing forth life.  Life for me and life for others.  

But, before I "Do" something with it, I first have to be willing to listen.

Before I write it for others, I have to listen to it for me.

I know what I want to be when I grow up....a professional listener.  

Beverly Rihtarchik, Professional Listener, LPL  (licensed professional listener)....you have to have a designation acronym.

"Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening....."

I'll let you know how it goes when I share that at the next gathering I attend and I'm asked, "So, what do you do?"

What about you...what do you want to be when you grow up?  What is it that gets your juices flowing?  Have you been searching to "be" something when what God wants you to be is right under your nose?  I invite you to take a moment and ask God what He wants of you....what is He saying?

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your patience with me as I seek and search and strive to "Be" something impressive.  Help me to understand that the best thing I can be is your disciple - to sit at your feet and listen to your words that speak directly to my heart.  Let this be my greatest desire.  Enable me to set aside my prideful desires and seek what you would have me to do for the glory of your Kingdom. Thank you for loving me so much that you simply want to be in relationship with me and spend time with me.  Give me the desire to never want to stop listening.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed....
                                                                Beverly Rihtarchik, Professional Listener, LPL

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Ode To Bat Wings, Chin Hairs, & Wrinkles


Hey Friend,

It's hard to believe that it's been a week already since I returned from the "She Speaks" conference sponsored by Proverbs 31 Ministries in Charlotte, NC.  It was truly a "mountaintop experience" and now I'm back, trying to live out what I learned in the valley.

I HIGHLY recommend this conference to anyone who loves to journal, write, speak, or has a book rumbling around in their cranium that wants to get out.  I have been blogging/writing for five years and I wish I had attended this conference years ago!  

There was so much to enjoy...the keynote speakers (who doesn't love Liz Curtis Higgs) were wonderful and the breakout sessions were so on target for the challenges and obstacles writers and speakers face.  There was also so much inspiration (breakout session by Jennifer Dukes Lee) on hope for the small time blogger in getting a book published...truly inspiring.

My favorite time of all had to be the Spirit moving as 800 women, who loved the Lord, and were sold out on spreading the Good News, joined their voices together in praise and worship.  I imagined that this was how heaven will sound with all the angels singing in harmony.

I do have to share one funny story....I apologize if this is too much information for some of you:

For this 56 year old gal, it's been two, almost three, years since I have had a period. I have officially declared myself through menopause (can I get an Amen?).  I've weathered the hot flashes, the mood swings, the going six months without a period and being on the verge of celebrating only for "my friend" to return :(.

Even my doctor confirmed that after 2-3 years it was safe to say I'd crossed the finish line.  That was until I went to She Speaks.  I don't know if it was the keynote sessions where all 800 women were joined together in one estrogen-infused room?  Or maybe it was the two pregnant women I sat between in a writers' break out session?  

No matter which way you slice it, the Monday morning after the conference "my friend" was back for what I hope will be one last hurrah!  You've got to be kidding I told myself.  I am guessing my body absorbed all those hormones through osmosis and had to say one last time, "I am woman, hear me roar!"

I think it's just a fluke and my body will get back in sync with the gray hairs, bat wings, chin hairs, and multiple wrinkles that tell my age.  

But you know what amazed me at the conference was just how beautiful all the women were!  And, it wasn't because they were young, slender, toned, and had flawless skin and uncolored hair.  

No, it was because they glowed with a beauty that could ONLY come from loving the Lord and being loved by Him. 

There were women there of all ages, shapes, colors, and sizes and they were ALL beautiful!!  I mean it...these women glowed!!  

I admit I used to be all hung up on outer beauty.  I even battled bulimia for awhile in my teens in order to be the mirror image of the models I saw in magazines.  As I've aged, however, I have come to a place of peace with my aging body and I am convinced that a woman who embraces 1 Peter 3: 3-4 is truly a woman of beauty in God's eyes....and after all, whose eyes are we after?

Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments[a] or fine clothes.Instead, it should consist of what is inside[b] the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. (1 Peter 3: 3-4)

I have been having to make peace with each new addition to my "maturing" body...thigh dimples, gray hair, bat wings, chin hairs, varicose veins, jowl formation, turkey neck, and my own personal "inner tube" around my abdomen....have I covered it all?

Each new addition reminds me that I am not the pretty young thing I used to be when I was twenty, but I firmly believe we develop an inner beauty as we age (if we allow God to work on our heart as much as we work on our abs).  

It's a beauty that replaces pride with humility, hurriedness with patience, brashness with gentleness and kindness - it's a beauty that can only be born out of care, compassion, and love for others over love of self.

My identity has shifted from what the world thinks of me to what God thinks.  I am better able and suited to live my life for an audience of One and how relieving that is. Do I still get caught up in the world's idea of beauty - you bet, but God has been continually renewing my mind.

"Search my heart, Lord", is a dangerous prayer to pray, but God is so gracious that in addition to showing me what needs changing on the inside, He encourages me about what is good in me - the good that has come from praying , "Make me more like Jesus, God."

So, as I pluck my chin hairs and see new gray hairs popping up daily, I try to look at them as badges of living.  My eye wrinkles tell tales of much laughter and many tears. They show that I have lived.  If this is how I look having been loved well by the Lord, then so be it.

So instead of singing my ode to bat wings, chin hairs, and wrinkles, let my song be one of praise for the inner beauty God brings out as I continue to grow in likeness to His Son.  

This beauty never fades....in fact it becomes more radiant the more we give our heart over to Jesus.  

What about you?  Would you say you are aglow with the inner beauty of knowing the love of the Lord for you?  What keeps you hung up on outward appearances?  Whose approval are you seeking?  The world's?  God's?  How might God be calling you to let go of old ways of thinking?

Dear Heavenly Father,  I praise you and thank you that, unlike the world that looks upon outward appearances, You look at the heart. Thank you for loving me with a love that surpasses all understanding. Enable me to be brave enough to pray, "Search my heart Oh Lord", and if there is anything that is not of you, remove it and give me a heart of flesh like Jesus.  Let my beauty be defined by how I love you and how I love and care for others.  Less of me, more of You....let that be my beauty secret. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...
ps.  This post also inspired by a recent post by Sarah Mae at (in)courage.me.