Establishing Steps

taking-steps-copyThere were worry marks across her face. I could see her thoughts consuming her, so I asked my youngest daughter, “What’s wrong?”  Not uncommon to hear this time of year within our house, she voiced the worry of a lot of returning students, “I am worried about who my teacher will be…and I also can’t stop worrying that my best friend and I will be separated.” I knew her first worry was pretty standard because all of my children have always had a worry that they would be just the right fit for their teacher, and vice versa, but I knew the second worry was even a bigger deal for her, because last year we had specifically prayed that God would send her a best friend that loved her for who she was, and God more than answered that prayer through this sweet friend in so many ways. And, because I remember being 10, specifically a 10 year old girl, I remembered that our friendships were everything to us at that age, I suggested we’d pray about both things troubling her. I challenged her to pray everyday leading up to the day we would go meet her teacher, and even if God answered differently that we would ask Him to give us peace. Seems reasonable, right?

This week I saw a smile bigger than any I’d ever seen on the face of that 10 year old when she read the name on the paper, the name she had specifically prayed would be her teacher. What a really cool thing to see God answer prayer, no matter how old we are! As fast as I saw that big ole smile, I could see she was ready to see if He had answered her second prayer that she would be in class with her best friend.  After meeting her sweet new teacher, her teacher offered to let her see if she knew any friends on her class roll. As we scanned the list we knew almost immediately that her prayer for her friend to be with her had not been answered like she had hoped. Can I tell you that I would rather my own prayers not be answered like I want, than watch the sheer disappointment that clouded over my sweet girl’s face.  She waited until we got inside her classroom, where no one else was present, to allow her lip to tremble and her eyes to fill with tears, and while she never cried, she voiced her sadness of going through a year of being separated from her friend.

As parents, I often get a truer sense of how God must ache when we hurt, yet He often allows us to hurt so we can know Him to the fullest. My husband said this statement to our staff at church yesterday, “Pain is your friend.” I can attest to many times in my life I have found this to be so true, as walking through it brought me closer to God than had I resisted going through it with Him. As a 43 year old women, I get it. To convey it to your children is often much harder. While their pain is often only scratching the surface of what pain we experience the older we get, it is still a shaping of who they are, and who they become in Christ. I wanted to manipulate the situation that she would not have to go all year without her friend. I wanted to rescue her. I probably could have, but our goal as parents must be to help guide their character and lead them to depend on God for themselves, so we chose to not rescue her. Is it a big deal in the grand scheme of life that she is not with her friend? Probably not, because their friendship doesn’t just exist inside the walls of a school, but is it a big deal to take even these moments of not always getting what we asked for and make them a moment to challenge them that they can still trust God… even when He doesn’t always answer their prayers like they want? It is absolutely a big deal! As I read these words a day after watching her little heart break, I know that the lessons I can allow her to learn with God, and about God, are shaping a woman of God that I hope will change the lives of others one day…

“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

While I may have a goal to develop character in my children that we are not entitled to anything, the world is rapidly telling them they are entitled to whatever their heart desires. It would be the easy thing to do to hand them whatever they desire on a silver platter, but if our ultimate goal is that they know Christ to the fullest, then we as parents have to determine to foster their trust in Him to establish their steps…to declare He has a plan for their lives. I want each of my girls to understand the reward for trusting God to steer the course of their lives, whether it be in the big or little things of life.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy: at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

What an awesome heritage we give to our children when we show them that a life on the path that God sets before them is ALWAYS leading them more and more into the fullness of joy! Parents, we are living in a day where the days are filled with busyness that is ultimately temporary, but the priorities that are set in place today are the priorities our kids will establish for their tomorrow. Are you placing the path of the Lord as your top priority? Are your children seeing that the things of God and the ministry He’s given each of us to share the Gospel are the MOST important things, or are you pushing other things to the top of your life that are not leading to the fullness of joy? Our children are watching for us to lead them. Before they were ever born, you were already a family…just you and your husband, or even you as a single parent. Your children were born into your lives, and not the other way around. God has given you responsibility to guide them, to teach them how to love, to trust God all the days of their lives. They don’t learn this if you are not leading them to learn to hear God’s voice in every single thing they face in life. New seasons always bring new opportunity! Let this new season of a new school year bring you greater opportunity to show Jesus to your children unlike ever before!

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Crisis?

IMG_0270If you heard me speak at my church recently, you heard me say that I found myself in a counselor’s office a couple of years ago. What led me there was basically being sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was at the end of myself and living pretty much in a constant state of anxiety. As I shared with the counselor how I was feeling, she said these words to me regarding different situations in my life…”Is it a crisis, or does it make you uncomfortable?” She directed me to these words as a tool to evaluate and gauge if what was going on in my life was really all major, life-altering obstacles to living my best life or really just pauses to overcome. Truth is, I’d allowed many, many petty things to become crises in my life.

I find living in crisis mode is almost “a thing” these days. Our permanent setting seems to be up in arms about literally everything and taking ten seconds to get a deep breath is nonexistent. Crisis most always mimics hopelessness. Crisis is generally ugly and hurtful. I’ve seen it everywhere I turn and obviously exemplified it as I sat in my counselor’s office that day. As I sat there sure of the woman I desired to be – one who chases hard after God, a motivator to others to do the same, a woman who encourages and knows where her answers are found – I realized I’d become a woman living in crisis mode instead of grasping hard onto the hope I’d been given. As God’s child, my hope is in Him, yet my living was caught up in my trials, failures and dependent on others to fulfill in me. His word says He is “an ever present help in trouble”. I had forgotten that. I had forgotten that 1 Corinthians 10:13 promised me that God was faithful to keep me from being tempted beyond my ability to walk through it. His promises were, and are, that He is always with me. In a world that seems to hinge its behavior on being against everything AND each other, my resolve to be deeply rooted in who He is – FOR me and ENOUGH- has to become my constant. Life feel like one crisis after another for you? Truth is, sometimes it actually is a crisis, but whether life has us uncomfortable or in crisis, know today hope can remain the same because HE IS THE SAME.

Who You Are Created to Be

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For the past three weeks, I have spent every Wednesday with 50 or so ladies studying how we can tackle rejection, loneliness, hurts and losing our way. I stand up before them each week hoping in some small way to encourage them, point them to God’s word and build a relationship with them. Instead, I walk away each week more humbled by the gift they are giving me, a gift they may be completely unaware they are giving.
Ever feel like you’ve lost your way? In the midst of even goodness in our lives, life often sucks us in and we just get lost in the day to day. We have words spoken over us and they change the way we see ourselves. We have assumptions made about us and we begin to make our own assumptions in return. Relationships change. Circumstances change. Work environment changes. Chaos even happens at home. It is really all of the makings for losing ourselves. It is where I’ve found myself for quite a long time now. To admit relationships have become toxic and I have played a part in not bringing grace and Christ into them have characterized my life. I can rest in a waiting pattern for someone else to bring those things to my life, to wait for someone to find value in me, so much so that my waiting turns into solely finding significance in the people around me. It’s then the words come rushing at me, “People will be people”. Yes, it’s true. They are. I am. Buried under layers of the loud voices in my head I begin to hear the quiet whisper, “Who do I say you are?” I know the voice. I know it because it even in the quietness of it, the power of peace comes with it. I have forgotten who I am. I’ve waited on everyone else, but Him, to remind me. But being the God He is, full of love and mercy, full of grace to never leave us as we are, He reminds us even through yes, people.

So, I stand before a group of women each week, and I hear the words spoken I have so longed to hear. They are not words directed toward me, but they are words that reposition my gaze on Him. I have lived a life that has taught me right answers about what I am supposed to do to overcome, but now, surrounded by women pursuing after Him, I am hearing and seeing them take actual steps to do just that. They are Christ lived out in front of me. In my search to find me again – better version of me – God has given me this gift to pour my heart into these lives, to visibly show me that purpose again that PEOPLE are the ministry. Overflowing my life into a life gives LIFE! How sweet is is to pursue God with another! To walk away from an hour and a half of cheering each other on will change a heart. It has changed mine. It has reminded me that when we chase our passion – for me, to see women’s lives changed – we truly do find who it is God created us, and is creating us, to be. I wish I could bottle up the love I feel in that room, one for another, but instead I will pass it on…to the one lost, the one who feels rejected today, to the lonely…I see you. I am you. I know One who will never speak those things over you. I need change in my life…richer friendships where Jesus is our talk, love is our mission, where getting to minister to people is the passion of our hearts because I know when this heartbeat drives us all, it lights a world on fire. As I told my class recently, “Together let’s grasp the absolute power of who Christ is and what He can do, and TOGETHER move forward to be women who can change the world.”
Which times in your life have you been reminded of who it is God is creating, and has created you, to be?

When Our Passions Are Disappointing

imageI’ve had a multitude of people offer the advice, “The older you get, do things you are passionate about.” Good advice. Even as a young adult, I didn’t go with the crowd on my choice of career, but instead went with a calling I believed I had on my life – to stay home with my children. I fulfilled my dream of getting a college degree, but what I sensed God was calling me to do always rang louder in my ear. For years I’ve heard the criticism that I should have gone out and gotten a “real” job. Trust me. There has never been a more “real” job to me than my children. I wouldn’t change it for the world because I have truly seen God’s hand of provision for our family from day one of our decision to trust God for our well being on a $19,000 a year salary. We never missed a bill, even regularly had date nights, ate out, never stopped tithing and giving offerings, and we were even able to support others financially.

My life has taught me that going with the status quo isn’t always what’s right for me. 

As I’ve gotten older, I would certainly echo the advice given to me. There comes a time that fulfilling our passions is so much more fulfilling than wondering what could have been, or even receiving a hefty paycheck. Had Jeff and I turned our backs on God’s prompting for years to plant a church, I would be sitting at home today wondering what life would be like, but today I sit in an office at that church plant thanking God and praising Him for all of the circumstances it took to bring us here. I also sit here today, though, with somewhat a heart of disappointment because following our passions doesn’t come without difficulty, pain and confusion. Sometimes, truth be told, you just want to do something else. Life feels like you are beating a dead horse. Ministry feels somewhat like this…I’m making a difference, am I making a difference, I hope I’m making a difference, does it even matter what God’s word says? I saw 2016 as a year of Christians attacking Christians, hate running rampant everywhere, not just in the political arena, but neighbor to neighbor…love took center stage in our rhetoric, but often it came alone without truth as it’s companion. Let me just chase the rabbit on this for a second:

Love is not some trend, but it sits at the core of who we are, is not something we just say, but should NOT be easy to say, do or simply be. It should challenge us to the core that we can, and will, put our stake in the ground that “God is love,” and from THAT place is the overflow.

Opinions are not the foundation. They simply represent me, me, me. Seeing love take on this definition that doesn’t feel right at all has shaken me. It’s taken on the form of you live any way you want, and I will love you through it. Friend, love is not easy. It is call to be tough sometimes when the truth is at stake. So, being in a calling to speak truth, show love, guide in God’s word feels like it falls on deaf ears. I wake up everyday wondering if I even care anymore. I want to quit. I watch marriages end and it’s celebrated. I see people living with someone who is not their spouse and it’s as if God looks favorably upon that…“God just wants me to be happy” is said so much that somehow it’s justified living contrary to His word. I watch friends jump from church to church, just shy of ever truly committing anywhere. I see friendships fall all because our pride steps in, forgets to forgive, refuses to make amends as if Matthew 18 is just a suggestion. Hear me when I say, I do not write from a place of judgement. I grew up watching my church culture judge person after person for every. single. thing they ever did to sin. It sickened me so. I write from a  place of grief. I write from a place of what will it take for the truth of God’s word, HIS love and walking the narrow way to stage itself front and center? It won’t take me quitting, but I want to. I don’t want to live in a society that considers God’s way a suggestion, His moral absolutes interpretive. I just don’t want to, nor do I believe I should.

So, passions sometimes disappoint us. We find ourselves wondering, “God, why did you bring me so far to feel like I take ten steps back a day?” We would just rather do something else less disappointing, but God says, “Come to me all you are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28) Life will feel weary, sometimes even lasting for seasons, but God will give rest for the weary and  while “Weeping may spend the night,
but there is joy in the morning.” The thing is, friends, sin should grieve us. We often mistake the weight of it for something we cannot change, so we delve further into it, because we might as well, right? No, see for yourself what God says about it, rid yourself of it, and believe that He alone will bring rest and freedom to your heart. For me, my desire to speak truth should never stop, either,  just because it’s not always followed.

Don’t stop dreaming. I’m telling myself that today. I don’t even know what the dreams He has for me may look like, but I want to dream with Him, not without Him, and then hoping he will agree and bless me. His plans for us are so much bigger. So much stronger. Today, I need to remember that He’s not done with me yet.

When We Waver

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“It’s our wavering between gods that has us sinking. It’s the wavering between the gods of things and the God of everything – that’s what has us flailing and drowning soundless in it all.” Ann Voskamp, “The Greatest Gift”

I don’t even think we know we’re making the choice, but in fact we are making “it”. The tearing down of myself over the exclaim, “Someone else can do it better.” The forsaking of the “assembling of ourselves” because we just can’t make ourselves wake up in time. Our marriages, which have indeed become “conveniences,”no longer understood under the beauty of covenant. The cheering of that which is outside the will of God. All hard pills to swallow, yet it is the wavering between “just enough,” to no God, to all God that has us sinking, many drowning. We wonder why we feel suffocated, so we search for a way, a quick fix, to get a breath, to make us feel better. Maybe our marriage, that one we thanked God for in the beginning, has become the easiest thing to just stop fighting for…so, we turn to the god of happiness instead because, “Wouldn’t the God I serve want me to be happy.” Careless words, catastrophic consequences. Is He only enough God when things are going well? Is He really the God of ENOUGH?
That co-worker that seems to outshine us in every way, sending us to our car each day for a long drive home, blaring “You are WORTHLESS” all the way. Is He only God enough when we succeed? Is He really God ENOUGH…period?

Life’s blows, its choices, the valleys that are so very hard, how easy to waver to “He doesn’t care”. “And if you don’t choose God, you’ll bow down before something else…” (Ann Voskamp). Surely I won’t bow to another, yet I do. I bow to the “I have to get myself out of this mess,” or the “just enough God” to get me through my junk.

Advent is still the gift of the “slowing down”. The gift that truly does keep on giving, for it’s within the slowing of life that we may just see Him more clearly. It’s in the slowing down that we find new resolve to fight for that which is worth it. Can we see the worth? You, my friend, are it…the worth…the one He came for – died for. No wavering is too late to change. Choosing Him always wins in the end. The gift of Christmas this year may just have been staring you in the face all along.

The Moment

It’s been probably three years. Words often penetrate my heart. They cut to the core of the painful places, yet often restore the same wounded nooks of my heart. I’m always listening, always looking for ones to which I can cling. Those three years ago, the words were “Present Over Perfect”. Ever have those moments when the words ring loudly, you know you need them, even when you don’t fully understand them? That day was the day of peace for me, words I’d been longing to hear, to just unload the burden off of my shoulders.

Today those words are part of the ‘intentional’ to me. The striving for, the hope-to-be of their promise sticks with me, and most times grounds me to truly live in the moment. Sometimes, though, the moment I’m striving to live is not the right moment at all. All of the good, the face to face living, the seizing of the day moments just might not be the right moment to be living ALL of the time. How can that which is good be bad? When the longing for more outweighs the greatest gift of all. When we walk into the room searching and cannot remember what for, maybe it’s staring us right in the face all along. Maybe it’s more of Him we seek, the More than Enough that is always a cry away.

open-handThe weight on me has been heavy lately, no sense to be made of it at all. Life is good, smiles are the norm, but the weight of living is suffocating. Wheels spinning, little progress made even in the best moments, chasing myself round and round. Some call it a ‘funk’. I call it stuck. The magnifying glass isn’t even helping me see. The present over perfect moments are the desire always. The right moments have become a tiny dot I cannot see. It is Him I seek. In the season of Advent, it really is more of Him I want…not the Him that is hidden within the lights, sounds and cheer of the season, but the raw, quiet moments when He whispers, “I am your Present.” Not the one adorned with a bow, but He is the Present that makes all perfect. Maybe the right moment is the moment found away from the crowd, gazing into the eyes of the babe in a tiny manger, the promise of hope in His crooked grin. I want my right moment to be a moment with Him. Don’t you? Release the breath you’ve been holding, the one that has suffocated you for so long. Let go of the relationship where no God hope can be found. Release your grasp on more stuff. Replace it with the MORE THAN ENOUGH!