Sweet Things by Gretchen Miller

It’s not my story; It’s your story, Father, so help me tell it well…
Hello blog world. I hope you all are doing well. I am writing to you from Bloomington, Minnesota—the place I have called home now for 11 years. Abigail approached me about 3 months ago to write a post, and I have had several ideas swirling around in my head, but nothing was making its way in coherent form on paper. This weekend, God solidified in me what I hope will be an encouragement to you.

My husband, Jamie, and I work with college students at Normandale Community College, and this weekend was the winter retreat. In the first session together my friend Ben shared his testimony. Ben came to follow Jesus as a teenager, and at least from my perspective, he was given a very special gift. Ben shared with us that while he didn’t have full understanding of who or what he was deciding to follow, he did feel a deep conviction that God was good, God was real, and God loved him. These convictions have stayed with him as he has followed Jesus, and they have been the guide as he wrestles and works through all the ramifications of his salvation, and what that means for life on planet earth. Wow! What a gift!
I hope you share in Ben’s experience. I hope when you are confronted with struggles and questions in this life the truth of God’s existence, His goodness, and His love for you have always been resolved. This conviction would eliminate any contrary thinking, and allow you to work on top of that foundation. That is amazing. If by chance, and I feel like there are a lot of us, you are anything like me these truths have not always been so easily resolved.

I am pretty sure I can say I have always believed God to be real. Growing up in the faith, it is all I have ever known, so that one has not been as difficult. But I have most assuredly doubted God’s goodness, and I have definitely questioned His love for me over the years. Praise be to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- the most patient of teachers, who’s full of grace and truth! He has walked, and taught, and encouraged, and displayed, and walked, and re-taught, and encouraged, and displayed, and walked, and re-taught, and encouraged, and displayed until these truths have been resolved deep down in my bones: God is real, God is good, and God sure does love me a lot.
If you lived close, I would take the time to share how God has done this over the years. It would take many, many chats in front of the fireplace of my home, or sitting on my favorite red Adirondack chairs out front, or sharing a sweet cinnamon roll treat at my favorite place in Minneapolis (seriously, so delicious). And the truth is, even then, I probably couldn’t scratch the surface with how faithful God has been to teach me in my journey. So today I choose to share one thing He gave me about 10 years ago. It still serves as my reminder how God is so very, very good and He loves me so very, very much. I like to call them “Sweet Things”.

Sweet Things came to me in a season of great doubt in my life. Jamie and I had just moved from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, to Minnesota, believing God had called us to a new ministry here. The time leading up to the move was difficult, but exhilarating! We were taking a big leap of faith and that was HUGE for me. I did not take risks. I liked to have control, but in this season, God’s hand was clear, so we stepped out. I remember getting a letter from my sister-in-law recounting to me the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River. She encouraged me by pointing out God was faithful to his people in parting the waters AFTER the priests had led the people with that all-important, sometimes-terrifying first step into the rushing water. I left Pennsylvania ready to see God part the waters and lead us to our promised land. Something probably happened in the heavenly realms, but it felt more like the waters picked up momentum, and I was drowning. Great.
Shortly after we moved, I joined a women’s Bible study. I was one of the younger ladies in the group and we were going to work through the study Jesus the One and Only by Beth Moore. Not too far into the study, we were asked to think about how God’s sovereignty and his sweetness worked together. I had to pause before I answered that question. I had heard a lot about God being sovereign. God has ultimate control of all that is, He is supreme. But I had never considered, or even contemplated him, as sweet. If you think about it, sovereignty without sweetness (or goodness) is kind of scary. I lived in that place for a long time with God. He was sovereign, and I was scared. But seeing his sovereignty WITH goodness is tender, is perfect, is trustworthy…is a perfect Heavenly Father.

God began to teach me He is good, and He loves me through Sweet Things. I define Sweet Things as the little (and big) blessings God gives to us that speak right to our unique hearts. They undeniably make Him known in ways that are so personal, so intimate, and so tender to us that only the one “who formed us in our mother’s womb” could know. They remind me He is present. He is near. I am heard. I am seen. He is good, and I am loved. Sweet Things are perfectly timed phone calls, text messages, letters, or cards. Sweet Things show up in a sunrise or a song on the radio. Sweet Things are gifts at just the moment you need them. Maybe just as you were beginning to doubt. They all scream God is real, God is good, God is love.
During that time just after we moved, God did so many Sweet Things, and He often used so many sweet people to do it. Each time He would show up in that way the truth became more and more resolved in me. Each time I faced a season of doubt it seemed to grow shorter, as I had begun to accumulate a long record of God’s faithfulness through Sweet Things.

My next great challenge following the Minnesota move was my sister-in-law’s battle with cancer, and her eventual passing. Certain lies that had not surfaced in a while came zooming back to the forefront, but again, God appeared in Sweet Things. And again, He reminded me He is good and He loves me. The night I had to say my final earthly goodbye to my sweet sister-in-law was easily the most difficult thing I have EVER done in my entire life. He brought one of my very dear friends to the hospital to stand beside me (distract me). The beautiful thing was, there was a lot of family around so I wasn't thinking about needing anyone else, but God knew more than I did. I needed a good friend. She gave me strength just by her sheer presence. Sweet Thing! I can’t tell you how sweet it was to have her there. God knew I needed her. He is sovereign and sweet.
As with any of God’s gifts to us, they are never meant for us to hoard or keep to ourselves. We are to hold onto them with open hands, willing to share them with others who may need them. I feel that way about Sweet Things. Sharing Sweet Things with people, and them sharing theirs with me only adds to my conviction. God is real, and good, and loves- not just me, but you. He hears you and He sees you. If you are willing, He will show you His sovereignty and His sweetness, and He will teach you that He is real, and He is so good, and He loves you so much.

I wrote that short prayer in the beginning of this post to testify: It is not my story, it is God’s, and I so want to tell it well. I stand today on promises and truth I never, ever, ever could have or would have resolved in my life without His patient love to teach me. Do not lose hope in your doubt, take it to Jesus. He is the “author and perfector of our faith”, and He will complete what He has started in you. And that is the sweetest of things.
Much love,

***Gretchen is also the author of "Wide Eyed: A Journal and Guide". You can order your own copy here. Or enter for a chance to win a FREE copy!

To WIN the book, please share this post on your preferred social media outlet, and comment below:

What is one Sweet Thing Jesus has done for you recently? (Or even a really special Sweet Thing He has done for you in the past!)

The winner will be announced next Monday, February 1. So excited to hear about your amazing Sweet Things!


Meet Gretchen!

Gretchen is in the white sweater across the table from me!

My dear friend, Gretchen, will be the guest writer for tomorrow. I've been anticipating her post for several months, and couldn't be more honored to share her thoughts on here. Gretchen is a woman who loves Jesus with a loyal passion, loves her family with unrivaled dedication, and loves her community with open arms and a serious commitment. I should know. I was part of her church family for over three years in my Minnesota days. And much longer than that if you go back to our days living in Pennsylvania together when she and her husband, Jamie, were my leaders in the college student program at our church.

Gretchen has walked with me during the darkest years of my life. And she has cheered me on from afar during the most prosperous years. She has invested in me, and helped shape the Truth I believe about Jesus today. Fun fact: My Mom got to be at the hospital the night Gretchen's second daughter was born, and I got to bring her two older girls to the hospital the night her third daughter was born! Love that family.

Thank you for writing for us, Gretchen. I'm thrilled to share your words with the blog world tomorrow!

Happy 1st Birthday, Basye!

My precious sweetheart. My baby girl. Happy FIRST birthday to you. This past weekend I did my usual Walmart run, very well aware I didn't need to buy you formula anymore. I was so excited to be able to save money by switching to milk I didn't stop to think about it too much. But as I was walking the baby aisle, it occurred to me how there is a sadness in my heart at you moving on from formula.

You are leaving infancy and heading into the toddler world. You are already loving life as a toddler. You started walking at ten months old. Our adventure girl! Climbing on any furniture you can reach, crawling behind any furniture you can fit behind, and standing on any arm of a couch you can get yourself onto sets your Mama's heart racing. You are fearless, child.

When I think of how to describe you, "pure sweetness" is what always comes to mind. You are absolute sugar. Your laugh sends joy to my soul. Your smile melts my heart into a thousand pieces. You've been through an awful lot in your first year of life- most of it much harder on your Mama than you. You are resilient. You are strong. You are beautiful! I admire you greatly. I learn from you daily. You inspire me, sweet girl of mine.

I praise Jesus for bringing you into this world. I praise Jesus He honored your Papa and I with the gift of raising you. Jesus put you on my heart several years before you were even conceived. I knew you were coming. We knew your name. "Daughter of Yahweh (The Lord), gift of grace". You are His. Jesus loves you more than you will ever know, but I pray you will get a glimpse of it early in life. Once you taste His love, there will be no turning back!

Jesus is captivating. Jesus is thrilling. Jesus is exciting. Jesus is peace. He is hope. He is pure love. He is safe. He is good. Jesus is life. May He cover you with His unending life forever more.

I love you, precious daughter. Your cheeks beckon a thousand kisses a day. Your belly beckons endless tickles. Your giggles bring joy to my ears. I love you so much I can hardly breathe at the thought of trying to convey it. I want you to know my love for you, and I want you to know Jesus' love for you. He's the very best. The bestest bestest best friend you will ever know. He adores you even more than I do.

I love you, Basye Jane. Blessings upon blessings upon blessings all over you. Happy Birthday, Pwesho. xoxo

War Room

If you haven’t yet seen War Room, I won’t spoil the plot for you. You can get it at Red Box right now, and it’s definitely worth the $1 + tax. =) I do highly recommend it. The message of the movie has sunk into my heart in a powerful way. As a visual learner, I was greatly moved to see how a Battle Plan for prayer is always effective. That’s the thing about prayer. It doesn’t just sometimes work, or once in a while work, it ALWAYS works.

Chuck and I stayed up late watching the movie, “Interstellar” during our holiday vacation. The movie wasn’t supposed to be a scary one, but it had me on edge by the time it was over. It messed with my mind, and that caused me to be anxious.

Afterwards we went to change the baby’s diapers, but Basye had already soaked through. By the time we got her helmet off, took off her wet clothes, got her a dry diaper and fresh PJ’s, she was totally out of sorts and wailing. I began rocking her while Chuck prepared a bottle. As she finally began to relax, I thought to myself, “I wish I could feel this safe and comforted.” Immediately God spoke to my heart and mind in His still, soft, but very clear voice, “You can feel this safe and comforted. I’m holding you just like you’re holding your daughter.” I wanted to believe it, but that hasn’t seemed to be real very often in my life.

After praying over Basye for awhile, I put her down in her crib and she fell peacefully asleep. But I wasn’t at peace. God was prompting my heart to go into Jase’s room and PRAY.

You see, earlier in the evening when we had put him to bed, he kept telling us he was “scared”. He made his little two-year-old body shake, and said, “noise” while pointing to the window. Seeing him scared at such a young age rocked me. I am someone who has been fearful going all the way back to about age 7. It unnerved me to see Jase scared, and I didn’t know how to help him.

So when God prompted my heart at 1 in the morning to battle in prayer over my son, I put that armor on and began to fight in prayer. I put my hand on his little legs and began claiming the victory of Jesus over my son. My body was covered in chills from head to toe because I knew I was fighting in the supernatural realm. I also knew Jesus was fighting for me. Over and over again I prayed against the enemy’s schemes, and claimed the victory of Christ on his life. “Jesus, Jase’s fear was paid for at the cross! I nail his fear to the cross and proclaim your peace over Jase.” God brought several different things to mind that I claimed over Jase. I believe God has a powerful, and unique purpose for my son for His Kingdom.

I ended the time with this, “Jesus, YOU reign supreme over this house, over this family. You sit on the throne of our home, and the enemy is not welcome here!” Praise Jesus. Praise His Holy name!
I went down stairs and immediately told Chuck, “Things are going to be different around here!” And they have been already. I went to sleep that night at peace. If you know me, then you know that is no small miracle after having watched a movie that made me so anxious.  

I fell asleep smiling, feeling genuinely wrapped in the arms of God. Safe and comforted.

Birthday Give Away Winner!

Hi All! Thank you SO MUCH for your comments! Every comment I read brings great joy- it's like a little gift each time. It was wonderful reading about the ways God has crafted each and every one of your hearts in such unique ways. Keep those comments coming- there are more give aways to come soon! Also, thank you for the kind birthday greetings! What a fun week it has been.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for!

CONGRATULATIONS to Rachel Chevalley! Your box will be on it's way very soon! =)

Birthday GIVE AWAY!

I've been SO excited for this post ever since the launch of the new direction Jesus has given me for Full or Joy! Jesus is a giver. He loves to give, and give abundantly. If you've ever heard of "The Five Love Languages", Gifts, hands down, mean the absolute most to me.

For example, right before I moved away from MN about eight years ago, a friend gave me a soft, fitted T-shirt. It was such a sweet gift from someone I had just started to get to know. I still wear that T-shirt to this day.

At this moment I am drinking out of a coffee mug with a cool silicone lid that a teen gave me when I was her small group leader well over five years ago. The hot coffee doesn't just warm my hands, the mug warms my heart far greater.

Recently, a baby-sitter of Jase's watched him for a whole morning. They baked cookies, made crafts, and played together. For Christmas, she gave Chuck and I the best gift in the world. A hand-print of Jase's made into an ornament of baby Jesus' manger! He also colored us a Christmas tree, and his sitter wrote, "Love, Jase". I cried when I opened it.

I have a vivid memory of my older brother's friend giving me a New Kids On The Block coloring book when I was about ten. For some reason my parents didn't want me to have it, and I was crushed. I don't think I even knew who NKOTB were, and I certainly didn't care about coloring, it had just meant a whole lot to me that Josh had given me a gift!

Gifts have always spoken love to me! All growing up, there were many occasions I'd get home from school to find a bag of fun stuff on my bed from my Mom. Often she'd get me tops, pants, jewelry, socks, or anything she knew I would like. I LOVED that so much because I felt incredibly loved by my Mom. I know I will do the same thing for Basye someday, and I can't wait!

Jesus made me this way, and I actually see every gift received as a gift from Him. Every unexpected gorgeous sunset, every bouquet of flowers, every treat at Starbucks, every pair of earrings, every sweater, every candle, every book...it's all from Jesus. He created my heart so He knows.

Since my 34th birthday is coming up on Saturday, today it is my complete JOY to give a gift in Jesus' Name. Whoever receives the package, I hope you feel loved by Jesus and feel His presence in a fresh way. And I hope you feel loved by me, as well! I am so thankful for you readers!

The gift will include, but not be limited to (surprise, surprise!), my favorite book of 2015, and maybe of all time, AUDACIOUS by Beth Moore. (If you did not read my review of Audacious yet, check it out here.) I have also really been into these darling pencil cases lately, so couldn't resist adding this to the package.

***To enter to win, please share the love of this post on Facebook or Twitter, then comment right here on the blog: How do YOU feel loved by Jesus and those close to you the most?

I can not wait to share who the receiver is right here on the blog next Monday, January 11! Jesus and I love you all so much!