The Thistlebend study In the Garden is a prayer study. It is designed to help the reader journey to a deeper place of prayer. Each day of the four week study is different but based on a similar format. Each day, we read and meditate on one of the Ten Commandments.

Many people think the Ten Commandments are an old set of rules. Even Christians may overlook their importance. It is true that Jesus fulfilled the Law wholly and perfectly, that His sacrificial death and resurrection and our faith in Him as our Lord and Savior are what make us right with God. (Praise God!) However, the Ten Commandments served to govern God’s people in the Old Testament and protect them. They remain amazingly applicable to modern day life.

Yesterday in my quiet time, the commandment that Laurie included was the Fourth Commandment: “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God” (Deut 5:12-14a). The commandment goes on to more specifically outline how the day is to be a day of rest.

Laurie then went on to say that God no longer requires His people to take a particular day of rest. We read in Colossians: “So don’t let anyone criticize you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating Jewish holidays and feasts or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these were only temporary rules that ended when Christ came. They were only shadows of the real thing—of Christ himself (Col 2:16-17, TLB).   Laurie wrote that the Sabbath is no longer about resting on a particular day, but resting IN a particular person – Jesus Christ. At that moment, God opened my eyes to a question I have long struggled with: what does it really mean to rest in Jesus?

I sat on my back porch, listening to the sweet song of the cardinals, and, with Laurie’s writing to guide me, I began to break down what rest really means. When I am at rest physically, I think my body is inactive, comfortable, and relaxed. When my mind is at rest, I am at ease; my thoughts are free from anxiety or worry or fear. If I take this a step further, when I am at rest spiritually, my trust is in the Lord and I am dependent upon Him. I am at peace.

I confess: all of these places of rest are hard for me to get to. It is hard for me to rest physically – I always think of something that needs to be done. It is harder to quiet my mind. I feel like I am easily distracted. My thoughts often wander to my “to do” list or my schedule, and I grow anxious or worried. Spiritual rest is even harder. I struggle with control and want to do things my way. I try to fix things myself instead of turning to the Lord.

Meditating on all of this and thinking through how hard rest is for me was very illuminating. Why can I not rest? Do I feel I need to work to earn God’s love, to justify myself? Do I really believe that God will provide — that He, not anything I do, is the sole Source of all that I have? Do I trust Jesus to care for me so completely that I can allow my mind and spirit to truly be still? After all, Jesus himself said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28, NIV).

The Lord showed me that I do not fully rest because I do not fully trust. I am so grateful for this revelation! I pray for the faith to let go of the things to which I cling. I will slow down. I will prioritize my time with the Lord by being in His Word and in prayer. I will unburden my cluttered mind and lay my worries and fears at His feet. I will envision my Good Shepherd leading me to a place where the water is still, the grass is soft and fragrant, and the air is refreshing but quiet. I will remember His promises. Rest will come.

Growing in Grace


Family conflict is horrible. When the strain and awkwardness runs on for years you began to pray, “Is this ever going to end, Lord? I try and follow you, and it just seems no reconciliation is happening. I thought you would answer my prayers by now?” But He doesn’t. He hasn’t allowed me to see these prayers answered just yet. I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t grow weary, or lose a bit of hope. I have even asked, “God, are you even listening to my cry!?” It is crazy to think about but I even thought about physically moving away. Like to a different state. All so I wouldn’t have to deal with the added pressure of feeling like a complete outcast in my family for following the Lord in the direction He was calling me.

I was going to have to be surrounded by family and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I thought everything was going great in my family for the first time in a long time, but something changed. There was weird tension, and I was being treated oddly. Again.

Though I’m still not sure how it happened, I had felt like we were finally in a good place, a place where I could go to a family function and not feel as though I was walking on egg shells. I thought we were finally to a point where I could show up and be myself. When this weekend was approaching I grew more and more anxious. I had to truly ask myself, “Are you allowing the devil to trick you into thinking something is wrong here?” I feel like he knows exactly what to do to stir the pot in my family. Alternatively I prayed, “Lord, are you growing me? Are you disciplining my heart? Is that why you want me to be so uncomfortable?” I was a wreck.

While I was struggling with this, I was reminded of these verses from Hebrews:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet was without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16)

And then I realized that Christ came to earth, in the flesh, and experienced a human existence. He felt everything from being tempted, betrayed, and forsaken, to experiencing sadness, loss, and the unimaginable weight of the world on His shoulders. I would never compare my burdens to those of Christ. But I am only human, and I feel as though sometimes my shoulders aren’t that big. This time, I couldn’t allow Satan to take my joy.

During a lecture one night Laurie was speaking on Psalm 22 when David was crying out to the Lord because he was at a breaking point. He was in a place where his feelings were about to override his faith. He couldn’t allow that to happen. On my notes that night I wrote, “How many times have you been here?” When the morning came for the family gathering, I woke up thinking and telling my husband, “I can’t allow this anymore. I won’t! I can’t live like this. This is a horrible way to feel around family. I want to have joy and rejoice in these moments.”

A lot of times when we are facing a situation the last thing we think about is Christ in that moment. For me, that is how it has always been. Survive this now, and pray later. Now I do my best to direct everything to Him. When I woke up that morning I couldn’t believe that I had gone so long without asking Jesus to intercede on my behalf. I couldn’t believe it. He hears me; He intercedes for me. I may not be able to see it right now, right in the very second I need Him to show up. But I need to believe, I have to believe that He is for me. No matter who I feel is against me. It may be family, friends, or co-workers. But God Almighty is there.

I got on my knees and prayed. After that, I picked up my phone and messaged my sweet friend. I asked her if she could specifically pray for the events to come. She quickly replied. We got in the car and I praised His name the entire way there. I worshipped at the top of my lungs. My husband didn’t mind at all. Ladies, the God you serve is so much stronger than the stress, anxiety, and pain that plagues you. What you get stressed and intimated by may not be like my situation. But there is one thing that applies to all Christians: the power that raised Christ from the grave dwells inside of you.

While at the gathering I spoke truth to my heart, just like David had to. I kept repeating David’s prayer, “Be not far from me…” (Psa. 22:11). For the first time in a long time I felt like I could breathe in the midst of it all. There will always be something trying to pull my focus from Christ, trying to make me focus instead on my circumstances. But, after a while of being there I saw that I had done all I could do. I put it in the Lord’s hands, and there was no need for me to run back to the emotions that had ruled me. I didn’t have to impress them anymore, and there is a freedom you finally feel when you realize that who you are in Christ is enough. As we got in the car to leave, I looked at my husband and realized there was no overflow of emotion to talk about. There was no anger to sort through from something someone said or did to us. So, I went right back to worshiping His name. That’s really all I wanted to do; I didn’t want to talk or even speak. I just wanted to sing to my King and thank Him for His faithfulness and for protecting our hearts.

Sometimes people will get upset with you when you place Him above their earthly ways. Sometimes people can’t see that there is a much bigger picture than the hold of their traditions passed down from generation to generation. I trust that God led me on a path. I knew back then that I needed to obey Him. I knew it would cause strain and discomfort for me. But fearing God and not wanting to feel like a Jonah was more important to me. I couldn’t see it then, but oh how I see it now! I can truly say that loving Him more and being obedient to Him above all is more important to me than any stress any one can cause in my life for doing what He told me to do.

I love this verse, Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

All for His Glory


Recently, I found myself filling out an employment application – the first one I had filled out in many years. I’ve worked inside my home for many years. In fact, the life I lived before my husband and children is a life I don’t think about very often. It feels like a different person lived those years – for many reasons.

When completing employment applications, we are asked to provide information about the past. Our work history. Previous accomplishments. Other names we might have been known by. These questions can stir up memories of a past we have worked to put behind us.

I did not come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ until I was in my late 20’s. By then, I’d had nearly 3 decades of living according to the only way I knew how: for me. I believed in God, but I had a very warped concept of who He was. I thought He was a distant judge. Or I told myself, “God wants me to be happy,” which basically gave me permission to act according to my own wants and needs. Everyone else (including God) was an afterthought. I alone ruled on the throne of my life.

During this time, I was married and divorced. I married young and did not know how to be a good wife – certainly not a godly wife. These years were not happy years. My marriage was not healthy. I was in a very dark place emotionally. The divorce was acrimonious.

When I became a Christian (and by that, I mean, I acknowledged before God that I was a sinner and placed my trust in His Son, Jesus Christ, as my Lord and Savior), I had been studying the Bible for a few months. I began to store up verses in my heart that gave me hope and encouragement:

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten… (Joel 2:25)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:17)

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. (Psa. 40:2)

I believed I was a new creation. Over time, God changed my heart, and by His grace He did indeed restore the years the locusts had eaten.

But here I was, 20+ years later, staring at the employment forms, knowing I needed to put my “old” name on a piece of paper and cringing at the idea that I might have to explain myself or my past. I began to feel shame creeping into my heart.

I tried to contact a trusted friend. She was unavailable. It was just God and me. He spoke tenderly to me through His Word:

Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. (Psa. 100:3)

I was reminded, once again, that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that I can do to earn God’s love. Christ is my Good Shepherd. He paid the penalty for my sin — my past, present, and future sin. God sees Christ when He sees me. As I took to heart how powerful that truth is, I knew the enemy was trying to use shame to keep me from seeing the unfailing love of my perfect Father.

There is freedom, such freedom, in knowing your sin is forgiven. I have nothing to be afraid of! My Father in heaven has adopted me into His family!

I did reach my trusted friend. She told me to place my employment forms in the hands of the One who died for me. I did. And He took away all my uncertainty, doubt, and shame. I am His.

Growing in Grace