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Blog – 8-14-20 I read an interesting commentary by Eugene Peterson in my Message bible today. It reads, “Instead is a word of exchange. Rather than one thing, there is another. Instead is a gospel word. In place of what we have or expect to have, there is something else.” This commentary was written in response to the following verse in Isaiah 61:3 (MSG): “To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses INSTEAD of ashes, messages of joy INSTEAD of news of doom, a praising heart INSTEAD of a languid spirit.” 2020 has been a year of exchange. We have exchanged what we thought this year would look like for something completely different. Dreams and goals and plans have been delayed or destroyed completely. Our expectations and our reality feel miles apart. It’s kind of like what the Israelites faced when they finally made it out of the wilderness back to Jerusalem. Nothing was as they remembered. Solomon’s temple was destroyed, and their fields and vineyards were overrun with weeds. Their beautiful memories of home had been replaced by destruction. It must have been a hard reality to face. But they didn’t give up. They lived out this powerful little word, instead. They exchanged their disappointment for resolve to rebuild. They chose to come to life instead of giving up. They choose to believe all God had in store for them was good instead of mourning over all that was lost. I believe we need to follow their example and make that same decision today. Just like the Israelites chose to lean into the “instead” in their lives, we can make that same choice today. If we want to have any chance at peace and joy in these crazy times, we simply have to. We can sit and look at all we’ve lost, or we can choose to focus instead on all we still have. As someone who has spent a great deal of my life reaching for the next “big” thing, I realize that this is super hard to do. However, this season of downtime has been a huge lesson every single day to appreciate the small things, the beauty and provision around me that so often goes unnoticed.  I challenge you to join me on a quest to dive into the “instead” with me! Let’s choose to exchange our fear and uncertainty for the hope we have in Christ.  Let’s choose to rebuild our lives INSTEAD of giving up. Let’s choose to praise God in all things INSTEAD of complaining and grumbling. Let’s choose love INSTEAD of hate. Let’s choose to trust that God is working for our good INSTEAD of believing the lie the enemy tries to put in our heads that He is working against us. The beautiful words of encouragement above were written by Isaiah thousands of years ago, but they are just as true for us today as way back then. God’s desire is to give us beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of sorrow, and a heart that praises instead of one that mourns for all we’ve lost. Are you willing to receive that gift, my friend? Instead, it’s a powerful word. Let’s choose to live in the “instead!” Hugs and love, Jill

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