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Faith, God, Redemption, Spiritual Life

I am Praying for You

April 22, 2015

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If you’ve ever left a comment on the Community Board, emailed us, or reached out in any other way, we’ve probably told you that the writers of AGLM are praying for you. And if you’ve never been told that, I’m telling you right now: we are praying for you! We believe prayer is a necessary and powerful time with God. Since we are mostly an online community, we don’t get the opportunity to sit next to you, hold hands with you, and reach out to God with you in prayer in person.

So we say that we are praying for you- which we are- but I wanted to use this post to write it out for you. I am excited to get to know each of you more, and I know this post isn’t about me, but it’s about my heart for you.

Has anyone prayed over you before? Maybe your answer is no. Maybe you’ve been prayed over 1,000 times. Either way, put your name in this prayer and know that we are for you because Jesus is for you. Read this prayer over a friend too!

Let this prayer be a battle cry for when you feel anything less than absolutely loved.

Read this as if we were sitting next to each other.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

Heavenly Father,

You are the joy of heaven and earth. You are far more beautiful than we can know. You are set apart and high above any other love of ours. You are the light in us.

We fix our eyes on You as You hold us in the palm of Your hand, God- how could we be afraid?

We see You clearly as loving and merciful and just. We know You are for us.

How glorious You are to consider my prayer for these ladies. I rely on You to teach me about Your grace and mercy every single day. Only You can know my entire heart and how to restore it.

God, I pray for the hearts of our readers. Thank You for the community of A Girl Like Me, Jesus. You have connected us all over the world as a sisterhood to learn more about You. May they be encouraged by the words of this blog and realize that they are not alone both in their hardship and in their joys. May the women of this ministry feel Your presence in the reading and writing of these posts, the community board, and every other conversation.

We seek Your presence, God. We want to learn from the community of the Trinity and how to live in community with each other. Jesus, You have been above our every mountaintop and below our every valley. You know us and You don’t leave us to defend ourselves. God, we realize that we need You- in our hurt, in our depravity, we call You sovereign.

 

Father, I lift my friend {                     } to You.

You created her and You know her.

I pray that as she walks through the joys and trials of this life that You would make Yourself known to her.

God, in her work and in her rest, let her feel satisfied just with knowing You.

Thank You for the unique gifts that You have given her. They matter.

Thank You for the heart you’ve put inside her. It will change the world.

Thank You for guiding her. Give her patience to wait and realize what You are up to.

Thank You for her family and friends that challenge her and point her to You.

Build up her mind, Father, to be ready to stand up against the attack of the enemy. Don’t let her believe the lies that she isn’t good enough, smart enough, old enough, anything less than enough. Guard her heart from anything that is not of You.

 

When I am worried, You reassure me with your love.

When I am anxious, You calm my heart.

When I am weary, You invite me to rest in You.

When I am alone, You come near.

When I am afraid, You tear away the lies.

 

Lead us into the light of your Word and let us consider only You, God. We stand on Your gospel as the ultimate truth. Thank You for loving us so that we can know how to love each other.

 

Amen.

Faith, God, Identity, Spiritual Life

I Am Average

April 8, 2015

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As I was preparing what to write for our “Who Am I” series, to be really honest with you (which my goal is to always be honest with you), I really struggled to tell you who I am. I know that I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, a student, a chocolate lover, a social butterfly, a coffee drinker,

But as I looked at my life I thought, I have nothing to catch people’s attention.

It seemed easier for me to write what I’m not than what I am. I am not the girl who gets asked to model or be in their fashion blog. I am not the girl to ask for cooking tips. I haven’t started a creative or successful business. I am not a great writer. I don’t have fancy handwriting (and the calligraphy classes won’t help me). I am not athletic. I wasn’t popular in high school. I have nothing “spectacular” to put on my resume. And I definitely don’t have any secret or hidden talents.

I am what the world would say is “average.”

And again, as I am really honest with you, I can tell you that I have always struggled with being okay with this.

Growing up to this day, I am always quick to admire a skill, talent, or job and I immediately start racking my brain on how I can get there too. When I was little and went to the ballet, I immediately thought, I can be that some day. When I heard a beautiful female vocalist at church, I immediately thought, I can do that and be like her! When I see a successful business, my first thoughts are, “What do I have to do to get there?!”

These hopeful and aspiring thoughts can last up to a good 24 hours and then they vanish when my brain starts kicking in and brings me back to reality.

As I was asking God to help me write this post, I asked him to give me transparency and his truth to encourage whoever reads this, but at the same time, I asked him to encourage me and help me to look past my “average”-ness and see who he wants me to be.

He said, “Be Faithful.”

I want to do BIG things. I want to change the world. I dream. I see opportunity, but right now, I have no idea what to do or who to be in this world. I ask myself, “How can I do BIG things when the world sees me as average and when I feel like right now I have nothing to offer?”

I just pray and wait. I am almost finished with 20 years of school and will have a master’s degree. The world tells me to run after success, gain status, and accumulate more and more money. But that doesn’t make my heart jump. That doesn’t seem satisfying. To say, “I am a successful woman,” may be what the world sees as above average, but that’s not who I want to be. I am not living for this world.

As I spend more time with the Lord, my heart changes.

I want to be faithful to my God.

When I read the Bible more, I learn that the women who God chose to use in big ways were by the world’s standards average, or maybe even below average.

  • Look at Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was a very ordinary girl like us! Nothing special by the world’s standards, but God chose her to be the mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ. (Luke 1)
  • Look at Esther, who also was just a very average girl, nothing special about her family except that her parents weren’t around, no successful career or path, but God chose to use her to save an entire nation! (Esther 2)
  • Look at Ruth, who lost her family, had no one to provide for her, no career path, yet God used her in a scandalous, remarkable way to be a part of the his plan for salvation, in the lineage of Jesus. (Ruth 1)
  • Look at Sarah, who doubted God when he told her his plan. She actually laughed at God because she thought, who am I that God could and would want to use, and God still used her despite her initial response to be the mother of the lineage of Jesus! (Genesis 18)

Do you see that these women who God chose to put in the Bible and to use as a part of his plan for salvation were just average, ordinary women?

They weren’t the popular, successful, talented-blogger type.

They sinned, doubted, feared, and questioned God. But they also listened to God and then were faithful to what God was calling them to do out of their ordinary lives. And God used them in His for story for eternity.

Whatever you think would make you “above-average”, whether it be a better body, more money, a popular blog or business, being accepted into a certain school, having a boyfriend or husband… all those things are very temporary and will never satisfy you, but being faithful to the task God has for you, wherever you are, is an eternal investment.

I am praying for you and myself that we can confidently say to the Lord while embracing our average-ness and during our ordinary days,

“I am faithful.”

Faith, God, Identity, Spiritual Life

I Am A Navigator

April 1, 2015

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I’m a terrible driver. I know it’s a total cliche to say that, but seriously, I suck. I can’t parallel park, back up, or drive a stick shift. I drive way too fast, and I get distracted way too easily. (More often than not it’s by my phone which is a massive no, no I know) I’m the girl that could potentially be so lost in my own world that I’ll get home and have no idea how I even drove myself there. Let’s just say, I’m not going to be winning any awards in this category for, well, like ever. However, in the world of driving there is one thing I am excellent at: navigation.

I am on point when it comes to directions. I can usually use directions once to get to a place, and from then on I’ll remember how to get there. I can read a map, and very rarely do I ever get lost. I am not one of those girls (cough, like my mom, cough) who somehow can only find her way by the landmarks around her. You know, like, turn left at the Burger King and then it’ll be just past the rock that looks like an elephant type of directions. I actually know where north, south, east and west are thank you very much.  I think in another life, I could have totally been some awesome sailor, getting my ship across the seas by only looking at the stars. Ahhhhhh…wouldn’t that be nice?!?

If I’m being totally honest with you though, sometimes my arrogance of being so good with directions turns me into a bit of nagging brat. I can’t tell you how many times Jeff and I have been driving somewhere and we’ll get into a tiff because I keep trying to tell him where to go.

“You need to get over.”

“You’re going to miss our exit.”

“Why are you going so slow?”

“You know, this way would be a lot faster.” 

I kind of get in this know-it-all mode- almost as though there is no other way to reach our ending point than the one I’ve laid out. So often, I find myself stressing about the path to our destination that I fail to enjoy the ride.

Isn’t this just like our journeys with Christ? It’s funny…I feel like I’m letting God be in control. I’ve given him the car keys, put him in the drivers seat, and even let Him start to drive the car. But as soon as we get on the road, my controlling navigator ways takes over and I begin barking orders.

“No, that’s not the way to my happy ending.” 

“Hey, you’re going way too slow. You really need to speed things up.”

“Umm…why are you going that way?”

“You know, this way would really make me a lot happier.” 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to navigate my journey. Grabbing the map of my life and redirecting it’s course. Funny thing is, much like in real life, I end up being more stressed and worried about the process that I simply am not able to sit and enjoy my life as it’s happening.

Maybe the path and life you have envisioned for yourself isn’t the road you find God taking you down. Maybe, like me, you find yourself looking at your GPS and trying to reroute and navigate yourself a shortcut. Maybe God is driving you away from that job or boy or college or friendship and you just cant help but think He’s got it all wrong. That his way is too long, too slow, and way too hard for you to go down. So we grip our maps tighter, scream a little louder into His ear and begin to demand that we are the navigator, so listen to us!

Friends, put down your maps. Turn off the GPS, shut off the google maps, and in the words of Elsa… LET.IT.GO. Yeah, His way may be longer. His way may not look as easy or pretty or full of all the things we think will make us happy and fulfilled. His way may be none of those things, but you know what it is? His way is better.

His way is the way to true life. You can’t just let God drive your car, you have to also let Him captain it.

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve tried to steer things in my own course. Sure, there were happy moments. Moments I thought were some of the greatest I’d ever have. But they weren’t life-giving moments. The paths I navigated may have left me happy, but they never left me feeling alive. And when push comes to shove, I’d rather feel alive.

So let’s agree, shall we, to unclench our death grip to the outline we’ve made for our lives. Let’s instead, roll down the windows, put our feet up on the dash and enjoy the ride. Let’s get a little wild and embrace the excitement that can (trust me, it can) come from not knowing where the next turn will be. Because who knows, what’s waiting around that unknown corner might just be the best thing that’s happened to you. All you have to do is go.

Faith, God, Identity, Spiritual Life

I Am A Dreamer

March 4, 2015

 

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I guess you could say that I’ve always been a dreamer. When I was seven I pretended that one of the canopy bed posts on my bed was Tom Cruise. We were dancing at some fancy gala, of course, and as the entire place had their eyes on the two of us, he dipped me real low and gave me the most glorious and life-altering kiss my young heart could conjure. In reality, when I leaned back for said mega dip and kiss, the post on my bed (AKA Tom Cruise) snapped and my entire canopy bed broke.

Through most of elementary and middle school I would sing as I walked to and from school so that if some famous movie director or talent agent was out mowing their lawn or getting their mail they would hear me and make me famous. I even went so far as to write a fan letter to a boy I saw in a movie, convincing myself that we’d become pen-pals and then eventually fall in love and get married and have famous actor babies. Side note: said actor only did the one movie and never acted again, so bullet dodge. 😉

As I grew older my dreams became less outrageous and a bit more grounded. It went from celebrity fairytale love stories and fame and fortune to just mild success with an epic everyday-type romance thrown in. Every relationship became THE relationship-every job opportunity became THE job I was supposed to do. My dreams may have moved out of the clouds a bit, but they were still very far from reality.

Life moved on as did many of my dreams. I began to see that so many of the things I had dreamed for myself weren’t coming true. Jobs weren’t working out, relationships were ending, success preceded failure and my desire to dream started to fade.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

For most of my life my dreams were set around me. How could I be happy? What would make MY life great? Although my dreams may have been praiseworthy, heck, even Jesus focused- they were missing one key element, Christ himself.

A dreamer can never reach the end of their rainbow if they first can’t acknowledge the Dream Giver. 

Look at the creativity of the Father. The way He paints the sky in oranges and reds during a sunset. The way a tiny seed can bring forth trees that provide food and nourishment. Humans who can think and feel and create just like God. He IS the original dreamer and He is also the giver of dreams.

We are constantly in a hurry to get to our dream-fulfilled that we forget to stop and look at where our dream began. 

Who gave you that love for music? Who put in you a fiery passion for missions or business? Who gave you the ache for a husband and family? The Dream Giver!

God is not out to destroy your desires. He’s the one who put them there! The place we tend to get so lost in is that He puts those desires there not so that we seek out their fulfillment but rather that we seek Him and allow our fulfillment in Him to bring about those desires.

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way” Psalm 37:23

Friends, let’s be women who dream big with God.

Women who live in huts in Africa.

Women who preach and teach to the masses.

Women who fight for injustice and poverty.

Women who act, write or sing words of truth and hope and freedom.

Women who are faithful to their husbands and loving to their children.

Women who take risks and don’t live in the safe.

Women who aren’t afraid of the impossible because we know that with God, ANYTHING is possible.

We have been granted the greatest of gifts my friends. We have been allowed to dream alongside the One who hung the stars and soothed the seas. All He asks is that we delight in Him, handing over our finite earthly dreams and allow the immense mind-blowing plans HE has for us become our dreams. Because whatever His best is far outweighs anything we could ever hope for. So will you give your him your dreams?

I may not understand a lot, but I do know this:

Who am I? I am a dreamer.

Faith, Fear, God, Identity, Redemption, Relationships, Spiritual Life

Remain

February 25, 2015

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“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17

On January 31st, as those words covered the gathering, my heart grew and my life changed. Brendon and I stood at the altar, surrounded by the dense tropical forest of south Florida and more love than I have ever felt in my life.

Everything is new. My last name. My official state of residence. My college degree. 2014 was a year of discovery in my life and God began clarifying my dreams for His purpose. Since we all rang in the New Year with sparkly dresses and noisemakers, or for me, my parents and their friends eating chocolate cake and playing ping pong, life has been a flash mob of wedding planning, marriage, settling our home, and living on a tour bus.

So much change. GOOD change! And in all of this movin’ and shakin’ I realize that there is one single thing in life that is constant. And that is the truth of the gospel of Jesus.

God remains. That’s it. He is steady. He is faithful.

 

“…as surely as the sun rises, He will appear…” hosea 6.3

 

To the ladies of A Girl Like Me,

The six of us writers are for you. We are for you because God is for you.

We want to challenge you and walk with you in life.

He cares about you deeply—deeper than what we can possibly know.

In times of distress and in times of joy, admit it!

Let your community bear burdens alongside you and celebrate with you.

God remains in every instant of our lives,

in every country of our world,

in every cry of our souls,

in every promise that He has said.

Rest in His faithfulness today.

 

Choose to speak life.

Choose to be encouraging in a society of criticism.

Choose to reject hate and replace it with compassion.

 

May we be a group of women- quick to run to Jesus, ready to obey God, sensitive to the Spirit working in this ministry, confessing our dirt and sharing our joys, embracing the growing pains and always armed with the Truth of the gospel of Christ.

Whatever changes you are facing, whether it be moving to a new place, switching schools, stepping into a new season of any kind, may you face that new season of life with such grace. Grace that Jesus laid down His life for.

So here I sit, in the back of a tour bus somewhere in north Florida, feeling like a baby calf that was just born- covered in goo and awkwardly wobbling around on my new blogging-legs. Honestly, I just want to write something that will stick with you.

And all I can think of is a Snowy Owl. Snowy Owl parents fiercely protect their young. They know their babies weaknesses and defend their nest. They perch on the highest branch of the tree to look out over the community seeking to provide adequate food. Instinctually, they adapt to change in the climate. They know when their babies are ready to fledge… to fly out of the nest for the first time. To courageously start the next part of their story.

Isn’t that like God?

To protect us and love us in our weaknesses.

To provide for us and prepare us for change.

To be ever-present and all-knowing.

To be our guardian as we face new beginnings.

And remain with us through all time.

 

“…the Lord will fight for you. you need only to be still…” exodus 14.14

 

May we all be fledglings.

Ready for what is to come.

Consumed by His love.

With faith to fly.

 

 Here are a few lyrics to the song “I Will Follow” by Vertical Church Band:

When the sea is calm and all is right // When I feel Your favor flood my life

Even in the good, I’ll follow You

When the boat is tossed upon the waves // When I wonder if You’ll keep me safe

Even in the storms, I’ll follow You

I believe everything that You say You are // I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart

In the good things and in the hardest part // I believe and I will follow You

Faith, Fear, God, Identity, Spiritual Life

Out With the Safe

February 18, 2015

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Oh dear daughter, why do you think you must choose to shrink back, take the safe road, and hide behind your insecurity? Why are you so afraid of what others may think of you IF you fail? And why do you think of them as failures at all, isn’t that just the term the world has conjured up to beat you down, the word Satan has whispered in your ear to cause you to think less of yourself, resulting in comparison to those who seem to succeed and have it all together? Especially when those “failures” came from a heart so beautifully wanting to honor and serve your Father. Do you think I would nudge you to move if I thought you could not walk?

Did I not call you a child of Mine?

Did I not call you by name to rise up and be life and light in this world? Just as I was with Esther in her chambers as she prepared to risk her life for her people, just as I blessed and honored Ruth as she courageously chose the path of integrity and compassion despite the risks that came with breaking culture, just as I was with Mary as she humbly accepted her role to carry the greatest gift of all…when she could have said “Oh no God, you’ve got the wrong girl”….I too am with you as I ask you to step out and move. I am the same God today as I was then. You are no less a daughter of mine than they were. My dreams for you are not any smaller.

The dreams you dream are beautiful….but just imagine those ten fold, as my creativity stretches far beyond what your sweet little dreaming mind can fathom. All I ask of you is to step. Step towards the unknown, the less “safe” route, the risk that goes against the grain. Dare to believe that great things can happen with your obedience. Dare to believe that every “failure” as the world labels it is just a perfectly created opportunity for growth, gained wisdom and motivation to keep jumping to the next stepping-stone in preparation for the miracle because there is no end point. Finishing the book is not the neat and tidy end, getting the degree is not the last chapter, starting the orphanage, serving the mom, winning the gold is not what finishes and leaves you with a “success” badge. Choosing the adventure is the success. Choosing to get back up is success.

 You get to choose.

You can choose the safety of decisions that can be wrapped in your control, tied up neatly with a bow and leaving you with a small content little life or you can chose the great adventure of throwing your hands up and leaping into the unknown, listening to my still small voice urging you ahead, resulting in dreams and victories only possible when you give me your tiny fist of control and let me breathe life into dreams unimaginable.

Daughter, dare to believe that I will weep when you weep and I will hurt when you, my child, hurt…but I will hold you through it if you let me, so that your heart, that has now experienced the pain, hurt, fear, and joys can be prepared to serve and live and dream without limit in the great story I am writing for you. So you can then use the strength gained to walk alongside and shoulder the burden of others in those pains and hurts.

You get to choose to step up and be part of a generation of change. To no longer shrink back and let others take your dreams. YOU get to choose to be a woman of boldness and courage, to face the insecurities, tear through the walls of fear and feelings of unworthiness and grasp hold with all your might the miracles God wants to do with you and use as the vision and example to others.   Your choosing to jump gets to be an open testimony to those around you and in the moments when you “fail” you get to decide what those around you see you do as a result….get up and keep leaping? Or stay defeated on the ground and miss out on what was waiting just beyond the next bend.

I am not calling you to live in the safety and comfort of the fluff that settles in a cloud over your culture, I am not calling you to just get by and do the minimum so you can check off a list the little things you accomplished in your own strength. NO.

I am calling you to a recklessly abandoned, relentlessly passionate, overwhelmingly out of your control adventure that will blow your mind.

I am challenging you to act on those small nudges you feel from me without hesitation, taking the risk of failure and defeat….knowing without a doubt that no matter what the world may say, you are walking in victory, because you are Mine. You are moving. You are living. And you are choosing to not just live safe, but to live free and alive.   Daughter, you get to begin new. You get to choose today to start a new way of living. A new way of shining my light…no longer from the cracks in your fists holding tight to the safety and comfort of control, but instead bursting from every inch of your body and soul.

 

 

 

“Let’s be women unafraid to step into our role as His children, let’s own that role and carry the responsibility of what comes with it….being living examples, modern day Esthers, Marys, Lydias, Sarahs, Ruths….Let’s continue the legacy they began.”

Faith, God, Spiritual Life, Suffering

Get Over Yourself

February 4, 2015

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We’ve been friends a while, haven’t we? We’ve walked through life together, sharing our secrets, our hurts and our joys. So, because we are friends, friends who love each other, it’s time to start getting real with one another. You ready friends?

It’s February. By now you’ve had enough time to make resolutions and not keep them. You’ve had time to set goals and miss them. Time to seek freedom from sin only to be lured back into its tempting grip. I can imagine that for those of you who are in this place, you’re probably telling yourself things like this:

“How can God ever forgive me?”

“Why can’t I get better?”

“I’ll always be stuck like this.”

“I should just give up. God has totally abandoned me.” 

I get it. You’re in a dark place. You feel like you’re at the bottom of a deep well with no possible way out. You want hope. You want a way out of this place and into a better life. For those of you who might be feeling this way, as your friend, I have something to tell you.

Get. Over. Yourself.

I know that sounds harsh. I know that it’s not the flowery, grace-filled, sunshine and roses affirmation you want to hear. But listen my sweet friend, it’s the truth.

In order to move forward, move past and move on from whatever it is that is keeping us from freedom and a closeness to Christ, we first have to learn to get over ourselves. We have to realize that we are not the exception to the rule. When Christ said that he died for ALL mankind, you are included in the all. When he said that His death has granted us freedom from the stronghold of death and sin, again, YOU are included in that. Stop thinking like you aren’t.

When we begin to tell ourselves that our sins are too great or too big or too bad for God to ever forgive, we minimize Him and make much of ourselves. We are saying that God can’t overcome our strongholds, because we are just too messed up for the almighty Savior of the world to redeem. It’s not in humility that we say that God could never forgive us, but rather our pride.

Listen closely, you’re not at war with God. The moment He took His last breath on the cross and broke the chains of hell and death was the exact moment that the chasm caused by sin was filled and your battle with Jesus finally found peace. Live in that peace. Stop telling yourself that your chance for freedom is too far gone. Stop looking to yourself and focus on Jesus.

Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:1 that “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Did you hear that? You are FREE. So as Paul says, stand firm in that freedom and don’t make yourself a slave anymore.

Ladies, let’s make this the year we finally learn to get over ourselves. The year we stop glorifying our guilt and not Jesus. Let’s be women who stop making much of our our sin and instead live in how much we are loved by the Father. Let’s not just say we want to be free, but instead live as the free people we are.

Remember how I said we’re friends? Well friend, get over yourself and I’ll do the same. And together, as friends, we can make this new year one of hope and peace.

Faith, God, Spiritual Life

Out With The Old

January 28, 2015

 

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There’s something about a new year and all the “new” it brings… New is exciting. New is terrifying. New is…pretty much everything this time of year. January 1st is just another day, really. As are the other 364. But that one digit change at the end of the date from a 4 to a 5 tells us that we made it another 365 days. We can’t wait to finally close the book that was 2014 and dive into the crisp, clean pages of 2015. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in new new new that we forget the importance of the old.

Now don’t get me wrong – new beginnings are a good thing. There are times in each of our lives when we just need a fresh start. But too often we take that to mean that we need to start over completely from scratch…wiping our slates clean, forgetting the past year, and resolving to focus only on the year ahead.

Again, the intentions are great, but here is where we need a shift in perspective.

Whoever said we have to be completely out with the old to welcome in and embrace the new?

Sure, maybe you had just a downright crappy year. But how much did God teach you and mold you in that time? How many intense, yet valuable lessons did you learn when your world was upside-down? How much growth came from the most unfortunate circumstances?

…And how much beauty was birthed from the pain, frustration, anger and confusion? How many tears did God turn from sorrow to joy? How many screams did He transform into laughter? How many headaches faded to make way for smiles?

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

ALL things. Not just the fun times, but the miserable ones, too. Not just your highs, but your lows. God works all of these things together for our good! Sometimes that can be hard to see, of course. But when we stop dwelling in the negatives, we beginto see all the positive things the Lord has done and the light He has brought from our darkest moments.

Now let’s turn the tables a little bit. Maybe you’re like me and your year wasn’t all that bad. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, of course, but for the most part…you can’t complain. Or maybe it was great! So you don’t need me telling you not to chuck your memories out the window. But it’s actually just as easy when you have a good year to fall into this “out with the old, in with the new” mentality!

This is exactly where I found myself recently. I approached the new year expecting big, exciting, radical lessons. I learned a lot about myself and about the Lord over the past year, and I appreciate every single lesson. But I’m ready to go deeper. I’m ready for more. I’m ready for new.

So right off the bat I was looking for it. That first big experience of many sure to come this year that would open my eyes and stretch my faith. I was ready. Watching. Waiting…

…And here we are, just about at the end of January. And all that’s come my way is just the same old, same old.

I let that discourage me for days, thinking maybe I was doing something wrong. It felt like I just wasn’t growing the way I thought I would, and I thought maybe my heart wasn’t in the right place. Maybe I wasn’t seeking the Lord enough. Maybe I wasn’t spending enough time reading my Bible to be learning anything in the first place.

But it didn’t take long for God to clear the lies and redirect my focus.

You see, while I was searching for big, new challenges, I was ignoring other equally important lessons He was trying to teach me…lessons I have already learned, but constantly need refreshed on. It’s easy to think since I’ve already “been there, done that,” I don’t need to reevaluate basic things like pride, patience, forgiveness, grace, etc. So when I feel the Lord reminding me to check my bitter heart at the door and find joy in all circumstances, I feel the need to remind Him that I already checked that one off the list a while ago. Or when He starts loosening my grasp on my wallet, I grip tighter and kindly inform Him that I know what I’m doing.

Somehow in setting our sights on all the new that we know God has in store for us this year, we tend to forget that we never mastered the old (and never will!). By tossing out the old to find the new, we assume that past lessons have nothing more to offer us and we have nothing more to learn from them.

So whether your year was fantastic or much less than perfect, let’s not forget 2014. Instead, build upon it. Take those old lessons and put them into practice this year. Let experiences in your past drive you towards hope and surrender. Let memories of God’s goodness, in the good times and the bad, bring motivation and confidence to say…

2015…bring it on.

Faith, Fear, Spiritual Life

Sorrow for the Soul

January 21, 2015

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New.

Yes the pains are old, still healing; the trials still need to be faced. But there is new. New chances. New beginnings. New dreams.

 

It has been a year (or 8) of trial after trial. It has been one painful moment after another, feeling like I’m treading water, barely keeping my head up. I’ve often felt like I am screaming for those around me to see that I’m hurt and drowning and instead of reaching out a helping hand I’ve had insults and lies thrown in my face… “You’re being dramatic”, “You need to just move on”, “You are just fine.”

 

I don’t say this to play a victim or seek pity. And it has not been lacking in its little life raft moments and blessings. I look at every step of my story and even the hard times and painful moments brought growth and opened doors to the next step. We’ve had some very key characters play a role in our story.

 

Last year our word of the year was closure. It was one that, at the beginning of the year I was not too excited about. I knew with closure there is often facing pain. Shutting doors that are hard to shut and walking through necessary trials in order to get to the next chapter. When we were given that word I had no idea just how huge it would be throughout the year. I had no idea I would face saying goodbye to our house, saying goodbye to my mom, weeding out unhealthy friendships, living in a foreign country, saying goodbye to my career of 14 year and so much more I cannot even touch on here.

Most nights in 2014 I went to bed crying to my husband feeling like I was alone and crazy. I’ve fought to feel. Fought to process the situations we are in. Knowing in my heart that there are blessings and joys to come, but these moments of pain and sorrow must be faced…wondering why it is so hard for others to step into it. I’ve had dear people in my life base our relationship on our interaction (or lack of) on social media, instead of picking up the phone. I’ve had my relationships weighed out in the number of “likes” I’ve given them, and people tell me that despite my drowning status it was all my responsibility to hold all the responsibility of the relationship.   All I wanted was for those people to acknowledge the pain. Step into the story. And yet on the other hand I have this hope and excitement because of that pain, because of the sorrow we faced.

 

I opened my Streams in the Desert app this morning, praying about how and what I would write today. Feeling the tornado of mixed emotions. Joy and sorrow. Hope and grief.   As I read, it felt as if my whole last year was written on the page (but much more poetic, beautifully worded):

 

“When sorrow comes under the power of Divine grace, it works out a manifold ministry in our lives. Sorrow reveals unknown depths in the soul. And unknown capabilities of experience and service…..Sorrow is God’s plowshare that turns up and subsoils the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests. If we had never fallen, or were in a glorified state, then the strong torrents of Divine joy would be the normal force up all our souls’ capacities; but in a fallen world, sorrow, with despair taken out of it, is the chosen power to reveal ourselves to ourselves. Hence it is sorrow that makes us think deeply, long, and soberly.” ~Streams in the Desert 1/20

 

 

It was definitely a year of soul plowing. We closed the chapter on last year and I took a deep breath. Now that the doors were closed we could only move forward.   We now stand in a year that has promised to be our year of Jubilee. A year we have fought for and pursued for a good 8 years.

A year that without the sorrows of the previous year, would be only another year of blessing taken for granted.

 

Had we not faced the trials, sat in the emotion and pain. The miracles today, the blessings that overwhelm us would not seem like the miracles they are. There would be nothing to contrast them; the deep sigh of relief walking into this year would not have been so great.

Without this last year, my feelings of complete humility and extreme gratitude at what God is placing in front of us would be only a slight fraction of what they are. I would have no victory story, no miracle.

 

We are being promised Jubilee.

 

A promise that sadly, I find myself scared to believe. Scared to believe God would actually fulfill a promise. To think that the dreams we dared to even whisper into the dark last year, the dreams we felt would remain forever just that…dreams. Could be coming true beyond what we could imagine. The big dreams that we put the limits on, the dreams we said “we dream THIS, but we would be perfectly ok with just this fraction of the dream.” Seem to be in the works being fully filled and more. I more naturally want to prepare myself for the next battle. It’s what I have become good at. But I am reminded of the promise long ago that the time is coming. It may take 8 or even more years…but it is coming.

I am here to tell you that God’s promises prevail. It may not be the instant gratification we are so used to in our culture, it may take walking in obedience when things don’t make sense, it may mean facing excruciating pain, we may not understand it all, but if we don’t give up…the promise will come. Throughout the waiting and fighting process He was still fulfilling His promises, He promised to never leave us and He didn’t, He gave us fair warning before every season that something was coming…we had to chose to be aware of the heads-up, we had to chose to cling to that promise.

 

Don’t get so used to the trial, that you are afraid of the blessing. I have to fight the fear so often…when a possible miracle is ahead, a blessing is here…I often become afraid that I’m getting my hopes up only to have them crushed. I love “new”, yet I shy away in fear of being hopeful.

So this year we are stepping into “New”. Stepping into Jubilee. Daring to Dream. Daring to voice those dreams.

They may not turn out how we thought…they may turn out beyond what we thought…

 

If you wait patiently, you may be able to look back and see just how intricately all those pieces had to be put into place first in order for God to go beyond your wildest dreams and make it your reality.

Keep your eyes open, your ears aware, and your hope intact.

 

 

 

Faith, God, Spiritual Life

New That Lasts

January 14, 2015

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New doesn’t intimidate me.
Or scare me or cause me to question.

I love New Year.
I love clean lines and fresh beginnings.
Blank calendar pages holding promises of opportunity.
Empty “to do” lists meaning anything can happen
and I’m not bound to commitments.

But what happens when I “add new event” on iCal-
Or, as I inevitably will, break a new year’s resolution?
What happens when old habits win out against new attempts?
When the new doesn’t feel very new anymore….

I went on an amazing adventure in 2013.
An eleven month, eleven country mission trip.
New was easy to find.
New was easy to dream with
and set goals with…
and try to do better with…

Then, I came home to the very opposite of new. I came home to the town I went to high school in, I moved into a bedroom with furniture from my childhood. I drive the same way to work every day.

I started the new year with every intention of greatness,
every hope of being different and the energy to fulfill every new resolution…

It’s been two weeks-
and new has been replaced with normal. Radical with rhythm.
And the promises of a new season and all the potential for new habits are forgotten.

Because the feeling of newness doesn’t last.
Did you catch that?
the feeling of new doesn’t last.

In Second Corinthians Saint Paul writes,

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed
away. Behold, all things have become new. – 2 Corinthinans 5:17

If I have a single greatest struggle in my relationship with Christ it is this.
I don’t always feel like a new creation.
I don’t always, in my flesh, act in accordance with my belief that The Cross was enough.
I would rather earn my newness.

Like a child in a proverbial bathtub
I constantly scrub and question and scrub and question
and jump in the mud just to watch the stains swirl around the drain
scrub and question.
and repeat.
Am I shiny and new enough yet?

Paul isn’t writing about personalities, or lists, or hair colors or even our habits.
Yes, there is continual sanctification going on-
and Yes! we desire to look more Christlike each day.

Spiritual disciplines are good and right.
But disciplines and doctrine are not what make us new creations.

Sweet girls, Paul writes of the eternal things.
The things that are unseen.
Our souls and our spirits-
the very things that were paid for once on the cross.
Our most true selves.
We have become new because we are in Christ.
The kind of new that lasts.

Let us not pursue the feeling of newness this year.
Let us not become distracted by imitations of new.

But rather, let this new year-
with all of it’s excitement and potential and symbolic newness-
remind us of the full restoration of all things to come and the sure fulfillment of God’s promises for his daughters. Promises not bound by our understandings of new, or our feelings, or our timeframes or lists. As the calendar fills up, and the rhythm sets in, and the excitement fades may we rest in this truth…

Your newness is full, complete, lacking in nothing, because of Christ.