Blessed and Highly Favored | Luke 1:28

breath of life handmade tyler texas tx one word blessed and highly favored luke 1:28

Blessed and highly favored.

What do we, as followers of Christ, expect that to look like in our lives?

Do we expect it to mean a life void of suffering and trouble? A life where we get the spouse, the house, the career, the notoriety, and the relationships we believe we deserve? A life where we’re supernaturally protected from every wile of this world? A life where every dream and every desire we’ve ever imagined comes true?

In the Gospel of Luke, we meet a young girl who is greeted by an Angel of the Lord as “highly favored by God”. (1:28) “The Lord is with you!” he exclaims to Mary, before telling her she’s been chosen to mother the Savior of all mankind.

So what did Mary’s life look like?

Pregnant as an unwed teenage girl in a culture that already despised women. Shamed. Shunned. Labeled liar and adulteress far before she knew a man. Scorned. Misunderstood. Somewhere along the way, a single mother. And eventually, a mother who was forced to watch as her precious and perfect Son was brutally mocked, beaten, and murdered for the salvation of a callous people who begged for His death.

Call me idealistic… But none of that is included in my dream of what the abundant life looks like. None of it mirrors what so many of us strive for as we seek the comfort and contentment of living our best lives now.

And yet, her life isn’t far removed from the challenges the apostles faced as well. In fact, upon studying the lives of those who walked most closely with Jesus in the flesh, we learn it was not that they didn’t suffer…

It was that they did suffer, but they suffered well.

I don’t know what you’re going through today as you read this sentiment. You may be on top of the world at the moment, in a refreshing season of harvest and of basking in the beauty of life.

Or you may know that you know that you know you’re a son or a daughter of the One True King, yet “blessed and highly favored” for you right now might look like all hell is breaking loose around you.

As I write this, I sit in a precious season of catching my breath. My fight over the past five years has been one of seven two- week hospitalizations to treat complications surrounding the chronic lung disease Cystic Fibrosis, the autoimmune condition Pernicious Anemia, and a uterine cyst the size of a six month pregnancy. Physical ailments aside, it’s also been a season of tremendous grief while losing homes, churches, friends, and family after leaving multiple facets of abuse behind. To say that there have been more days than not of forcing myself to get out of bed would be an understatement. And if I’m being really real, for a long time “God is good!” was an adage my lips often uttered, but I don’t know I truly believed until I finally began to summit this mountain and gaze behind me.

But now… Now I can say with full confidence that my God is good. My God is faithful. My God is patient and kind and unwavering in His carrying of me, even when I’ve least deserved it (and still do). And while I realize I’m young, and it’s unlikely I’ll never see deep travail again, I know there is a day awaiting me, and all who bear the name of Jesus Christ, when I’ll know of nothing but His life, His love, and His light, untainted and indestructible, for all of eternity’s time.

Whatever our present portion, may we be of good cheer. Because if there is one thing I’ve learned in over forty years of affliction, it’s that His favor is rarely the avoidance of the fire…

It’s “The Lord is with you!” within it.

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    Chayil | Proverbs 31

    Chayil. (Khah’yil.)

    The first time I heard this beautiful Hebrew word in April of 2014, something about it resonated deep within me. As a baby conceived with Cystic Fibrosis – a life-threatening genetic illness that pegged my life expectancy at around 8 years old – I was, quite literally, born a fighter. However, CF was only the first of many fires awaiting me in this lifetime, and as a result, I spent the better part of ten years self-destructing in every way imaginable, determined that if I was going to die young, I was going to have a heck of a time doing it.

    So when I was introduced to the marrow of chayil while deep in the trenches of my rock bottom… And I learned the black and white of it to be “excellence” and “valor”… My shame and unbelief found it easy to shrug off.

    What I failed to understand then was that chayil isn’t something we muster up on our own. It knows no separation from, and is entirely dependent upon, our relationship with our Abba. And in time, we learn that to be a woman of chayil is to be a woman of innately-driven excellence. Strength. Beauty. And honor.

    It is quiet courage and confidence that knows it doesn’t have to roar to make a difference, or shove its way into the spotlight to be heralded.

    It is borne in the hard and holy and hidden places of our hearts. Places that are steeped in the value of being before doing, and that understand why Jesus promised that Mary held the better portion.

    It is fully recognizing that we hold both the sword and its victory in our hands, yet still kneeling before Him and asking Him how to wield it.

    It is a war cry, a desperate reminder of who and whose we are when the fight in front of us feels too big… Because most of the time, it is. And we should never be ashamed to admit we don’t have what it takes without Him.

    It’s bold. It’s counter-cultural. It’s often mistaken for weakness, and almost always viewed as insane.

    But that’s OK. So was our Jesus.

    The essence of chayil is most often depicted as a fierce warrior woman. If I’m honest, that’s what I had in mind myself when I sat down to render this image. But as it began to come more and more alive, I realized He was driving home the heart of where our excellence, courage, and strength truly come from: Our union with Him.

    Daughter of God, if this all seems intimidating to you, take heart, because you were made for this. The walk of a godly woman isn’t easy… It goes against every societal norm we’re taught, it draws mockers and critics, it costs us close friendships, and it consistently forces us to shed our comfort zones and step into the unknown, where tensions can be high but our Greatest Prize is higher. And by His grace, we come to realize we have nothing to fear. Because we’ve been bought with a price and adopted into His army to overcome lies with Truth, fear with faith, hatred with hospitality, and bitter with forgive. We weren’t made to give the world a piece of our minds, but a piece of His heart. And we were created to help heal, and leave this world that we’re in, but not of, in better shape than we found it.

    Expect difficulties. Expect attacks. Expect setbacks, to be sure.

    But more importantly, expect victory. Expect freedom. And expect to know the love and companionship of the God of the universe… Who is somehow also our personal Lord and Savior… Who is somehow also our Father who bends low to hear His children cry… So deeply that we shine His radiance from the inside out.

    It will feel impossible at times, but that’s why He made us warriors.

    That’s why He made us women of chayil.

    © Farrel DeBaltzo | January 3, 2023

    Love > Fear

    There are two diametrically opposed choices we’re faced with every day, multiple times a day, as human beings: Life and Death.

    They are driven by two diametrically opposed forces: Love and Fear.

    And of them are borne two diametrically opposed realities: Light and Darkness.

    They can not co-exist. We live from one or the other.

    The Greek word for “casts out” here is “ballō”, and it does not convey fear as a worthy adversary that love gently tells to bugger off. It is much more fierce, painting fear out to be worthless and a waste of time and energy. Other Scripture where this context is used is Matthew 5, when Jesus says salt that has lost its saltiness has no other fate than to tread underfoot and be thrown out; Matthew 13 when it describes fishermen sifting through their catch and throwing away the foul ones; and John 15 when Jesus invites His followers to abide in Him continuously, warning that those who refuse to will be like branches that wither and are thrown into the fire — Not as a threat, but a very real picture of what happens when we choose to cut ourselves off from Life Himself.

    Fear appears daunting to us, but it doesn’t have to be. And notice it doesn’t say “authority” casts out fear, but “perfect love”. When we fix our eyes on the beauty of all Jesus is, all He has done, and all the love that drove Him to do so, there is no other logical result than for fear to disintegrate before our very hearts and eyes. He always does the heavy lifting.

    There are certainly times in our human frailty when we will stumble. But at the end of the day, and the end of all days, the core of our beliefs and allegiance belongs to one or the other.

    May we all who bear His name today choose Love, choose Light, and choose LIFE ♥♥♥

    © Farrel DeBaltzo | April 4, 2024

    Home

    I grew up right outside of Lindale, Texas in blink-and-you-miss-it Garden Valley. When Dad had to leave, Mom and I relocated to a rent house her father owned in Tyler, where I spent years 10 through 20.

    At age 21, I hightailed it as fast as I could out of East Texas and to Dallas, then across the country to Washington State, then back to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, then across the country in the other direction to Florida, before finally ending up back in Tyler in 2017 — A place I swore to my love, my friends, my family, and even my God I would never, ever, under any circumstances return to.

    I imagine that gave Him a pretty good chuckle, considering He knew what sovereign plan He had in store for me. In His perfect grace, He let me run for a long time — 13 years, to be exact — because only He knew exactly when I would be ready to tackle my past, piece by piece, and heal from it.

    And now… Just about the time I’d finally gotten used to being back in Tyler… Here Zack and I are, plunked back down in Lindale, in a home where our route in and out of civilization takes us directly through downtown. Past the old post office I reference in Love You More Than Life: A Memoir. The post office where I used to go with Dad every couple of days to check his business box. The post office that, if I had words for it, I could still describe exactly how it smelled inside. Past the brick corner store, now a guitar and gun shop, that once housed Rexall Drugs and filled my Cystic Fibrosis prescriptions as a baby. Past First Baptist Church, where I was dedicated as a newborn. Past all of the places and memories and emotions still sailor-knot-tied to a ranch and a home where another family lives and whose kiddos now play.

    There is no such thing as coincidence.

    Especially when it comes to redemption.

    Coming home — really, truly coming home in every sense of the word — is both comforting and uncomfortable. Familiar in the best and the worst ways. Messy. Confrontational. And, in the end, utterly freeing.

    Because nothing, nowhere, and No One knows you like home ♥

    © Farrel DeBaltzo | February 19, 2024