Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust

I don’t want to be one of those people who write out a list of impossible resolutions that never happen. I don’t want to be one of those people who make a list of generic things they want to change at some point in the next span of 365 days which they have never changed before. I don’t want to be one of those people who write a blog about all they are going to change and then find themselves in the same place a month later. But guess what… I’m going to be one of those people for a moment.

My parents were visiting for Christmas and New Years, and they left this morning.  I love them dearly and wish they could have stayed longer, but it was good and necessary to find some quiet space in our tiny apartment again this morning.  There have been lots of changes God has made in my life in the last few months.  He has begun speaking a new destiny and purpose over me, and He has helped me to eat healthy and get healthy.  As we rode out the 2016 landing pattern, I began to think about how I want to make these a part of my every day life and what other changes I should make. So in the quiet of the morning, I wrote a few goals into my journal that need to become routine and habitual.

  1. Start my day with God not Facebook: I have a tendency to “wake up” by scrolling through Facebook.  I don’t want my day to start there.  I want it to start in the Word of God with an ear tuned to Holy Spirit.
  2. Make time for Holy Spirit Listening and Learning Time: There are things I feel God instructing me to do that take time and sacrifice, and I need to stop pushing it aside saying “I just don’t have time,” and simply obey.  I must make time.
  3. Spend time with Stephen (my husband) and not with my iPhone: I also have a tendency to neglect my husband, especially when we watch TV, to play games and scroll Facebook some more. This is the key to an unhealthy marriage, and I need to break that habit.  I want my husband to know I love him because I cherish my time with him, not just because I say the words.
  4. Make time for Daily Cardio and Strength Training: I discovered Christian Zumba on YouTube, and I need to utilize it for my health.  God already began the transformation by giving me the strength and desire to go (mostly) paleo, but I want to kick it up a notch and pursue a full healthy lifestyle.  The gym is hard to get to, but I need to try to commit to strength training at least three times a day.
  5. Spend my “free time” constructively: Instead of wasting the day away playing games, scrolling Facebook, and binge watching Netflix, I need to transfer my inflow to podcasts, sermons, books, writing, song writing, piano practice, etc.

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As you look at making goals and resolutions for the new year, and as you ask God what those changes should be, I want to leave you with a nugget that God recently highlighted for me.

Yesterday, during church, the pastor was reading the story of Abraham being tested. God had promised Abraham a biological son through Sarah.  It was so beyond impossible by worldly medical standards.  They were old!  But God in his miraculous power made a way, and they conceived and bore a son named Isaac.  God wanted to test Abraham’s faith, and He told Abraham to sacrifice his son.  When they reached the mountain where they would climb and make the sacrifice, Abraham turns to his servants and says, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:5)

Did you see it? Did you catch the nuance of faith in what he said?

We (Abraham and Isaac) will worship and then we will come back to you.

Abraham didn’t say that they would go worship and he would return.  He said we, a pronoun that implies himself and at least one other in the party (Isaac).  Although God is telling Abraham to kill his son on an altar, Abraham had the faith, while walking in obedience, that God would either spare his son or resurrect his son and that no matter what Isaac would return with him. That. Is incredible. Faith. And if we take it a step further, Abraham had to put his son on the altar and raise the knife before the salvation appeared. He never swayed from obedience.  He never delayed in obedience hoping God would relent. He stepped out in complete faith that God’s promise would still come to pass.

As you meditate on this verse and story, and as you begin to think about the changes you want to make in 2017, this is what I want to leave you with:  Your obedient sacrifice will never negate God’s promises.

What is God asking you to place on the altar? Do you have the faith to trust God through the sacrifice? Sometimes the dreams He places in you are put on the altar and are seemingly dead, but if that dream was a promise from God, He is faithful to resurrect and make it happen.  Obey and seek God first, and let your heart be filled with faith in Him.

God’s Thoughts: How Vast and Powerful

I can’t tell you what Pastor was preaching on when he read Jeremiah 29:11, for at the moment I heard the New King James translation of this verse, I was flooded with questions, wonder, and curiosity. God has been taking me on a journey to discover his thoughts toward me.  This translation of Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I began to see this verse in a different light than just “God has eternal purposes for our lives.”

Although this verse was originally written to God’s children, Israel, in exile, it still has eternal truth in our lives today.  Being grafted into the promises of Israel, we too can cling to this promise about God’s plans, purposes, and thoughts toward us. Though we may experience spiritual bondage and exiled separation from God, He has a plan of deliverance! As Paul puts it in Romans 8, “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.” So, no matter where you are at, no matter how difficult and lost you may feel, you are not out of God’s deliverance! He has a firmly established plan and purpose that only He could think up for you, and for me!

This word “thought” in Jeremiah 29 has also been translated as purpose and plan. It is a device or invention of God’s mind that He has resolved to accomplish.  It is something He has set in motion and firmly established for His children. In Psalm 139, David compares God’s thoughts to grains of sand, “How precious to me are your thoughts, Oh God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.” So, God thinks billions of billions of thoughts toward us every day. In fact, a conservative estimate of all the sand on earth would put God’s thoughts at close to a trillion per second for every second of your life! And each thought is not just a whimsical thought, but it is all part of His plan for our lives, which He has firmly established and resolved to accomplish in us.

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A paraphrased sketch of this powerful verse taken from my journal

Now Jeremiah describes these thoughts with a very powerful Hebrew word: shalom. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace (thoughts of Shalom) and not of evil…” We often hear shalom and think of the Hebrew greeting and peace.  It is so much more than that.  Shalom is the wholeness of God.  Shalom speaks to being whole and healed in the physical body.  Shalom speaks of being whole in the mind, which is where we get the idea of peace.  Shalom is being at peace in our covenant relationship with God.  Shalom is being content in God. Shalom is being safe and secure.

So if we were to put all of that into this verse, it would say, “For I know the plans, purposes, decrees, and thoughts that I think and speak and firmly establish over you, declares the Lord. And these thoughts will bring you to a place of peace and rest in me, to a place of healing, prosperity, and wholeness, to a place of peace and contentment, to a place where everything I have designed for you in your body, mind, and soul can actually happen. These thoughts are not going to destroy you; they are not going to bring wickedness, pain, hurt, anxiety, or stress upon you. These thoughts are instead going to give you a future and a hope, something to look forward to with expectation.”

The promise doesn’t end there, though.  God goes on to say that when we begin to see his shalom invading our lives, we will turn toward Him and seek after Him. The more we seek Him, the more we will find Him.

When God starts speaking His thoughts toward you, it is powerful.  He is speaking to the whole of what He created you to be.  Just as He spoke at creation and it became, when God begins to speak out His thoughts toward you, it will be a firmly established promise for you. Write it down and declare it, and see that thought begin to become your identity because these billions of thoughts that He thinks per second are designed to bring you into the fullness of who God created you to be.

Don’t believe me? Ask God to speak out His thoughts toward you and see how it brings you into the fullness of Shalom in your body, mind, soul, and identity.  I’ve only begun this journey with Him.

Seeds of Identity

As I drove into work today, I was captivated by the red mountains as they shined in the glow of morning light.  They were as red as Mars.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  I find nature in all of its seasons and forms breathtaking as they point to my Creator God.  Each season has a purpose and is full of beauty.  Summer is a season of life, a season of preparing for harvest. Autumn is a season of harvest and transition.  Winter is a season of rest while getting ready for planting, often times starting the seed at home to be planted in the ground in the spring.  Spring is the season of planting and blossoming new life.

Although we are still in the autumn season, my life would seem to be in winter.  God brought me to a place of complete surrender where I chose to let go of my dreams.  Everything I ever thought I wanted had to go completely dormant for new life to grow according to God’s destiny and purpose for my life.  The moment I laid down every dream and hope I had for myself, I made room for God to plant in me His dreams, hopes, plans, and destiny. And when I went to a conference last week, that is exactly what He did (and continues to do).

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Although I feel like new life is coming forth, I am not completely out of the winter.  If you live in a four season climate with heavy snowfall, you know that in order to have a summer garden, you will often plant some things in the middle of winter in your homes.  That is the best way to describe where I am.  The snow and ice are melting as I continue to surrender my hopes and dreams, and God is planting new seeds into the home of my heart and mind. He has given me the picture of the garden to see what the fruit He will bring will look like, but without the seeds He is planting now, I won’t be able to reap the harvest he has destined for me to reap.

He began planting seeds of identity: warrior seeds, child of God seeds, powerful seeds, alive in Christ seeds, beloved seeds, fearless seeds, mouthpiece of God seeds, Shalom wholeness seeds, kindness seeds.  It continues as every day He speaks to who He says that I am.  He calls things as the way they will be not always the way they are.  I may not feel kind, loved, or fearless, but I declare that I am because that is what my God is saying about me. I may not feel like a warrior, but I declare that I am because that is what my God says about me. Every day God is showing me His thoughts about me, and each one is so timely in speaking to something specific that is happening in my life.

As God plants these seeds into my mind, and as they take root and grow, they will open up into a beautiful garden.  There will come a day in a spring season when God will move these seeds to a garden where people will be able to see it.  There will come a day when I will get to share each and every plant with my neighbors and help them plant their own gardens of identity. And that is the new destiny and new dream that God has given me.  Without the seeds He is planting and teaching me about now, I wouldn’t be able to plant those seeds in others and help them grow into powerful men and women with identity and purpose. He is transforming me so that I can one day help transform others. And with that dream, new life and hope sprouts in the dead of winter.

When Waiting Sucks

Seasons of waiting suck. It feels like you are stuck in a desert as you run toward the ever elusive destiny God is calling you to do.

I recently applied for a job thinking it was a door God had opened for me.  There were still 26 applicants, and although I did get an interview, I didn’t get the job. In the past two days leading up to the devastating news, the devil had a megaphone to my ear with all sorts of lies.  He was trying to attach himself through rejection.  It almost worked.

Yesterday morning, before I even got a call about the job, I called on some of my amazing prayer warrior friends to help me overcome the mental battle.  We broke off all his lies and schemes, and we severed any ties to the spirit of rejection. I immediately started feeling the peace of God again.  I knew that whatever happened it would be okay. I began declaring who God says that I am just to seal the truth over the lies.

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I have destiny.
I have purpose.
So, shut up, you Ancient Liar!

I am a daughter of the King;
In Him, I have found favor.
So, back it on up, you Crusty Accuser!

I belong.
I am welcomed in by God’s grace.
So, run and flee, you Dragon of Lies!

–excerpt from my journal

So, when I finally got the call from the job and found out I didn’t get it, I was devastated, but I didn’t feel rejected.  I was upset and disappointed, yet I was at peace.  Yet, my heart was heavy still. It was this confusing range of emotions where I wasn’t mad at God, but I didn’t understand what he was doing. At one point I told Him, “How long must I wait? How long must I continue to show you that I will always trust you, no matter what? How do I know a door is you if your peace isn’t a guide?”

I think the most disappointing part was that I had so much peace about it, and it wasn’t the open door I thought it was. And because I had so much peace about this job, I dared to let myself dream again. I dared to imagine having a routine and a schedule.  I dared to imagine having influence and voice into young minds.  I imagined seeing kids I love every day.  I imagined having purpose in my job. But with not getting the job, it felt like another piece of the dream faded into the dark until it disappeared. And the saddest part of all, I honestly don’t know what to dream anymore, which is why this became my prayer:

“Help me to dream again.  With every interview, I dare to let myself hope, and it is as if a small piece of my dream fades into the dark.  I can’t do it anymore.  Take every dream that isn’t yours, Lord.  Shattered they may be, but they are yours.  Take every shattered dream and replace them with your dreams.  Shut every door that isn’t lit by your presence.  Give me eyes to see the right door, the God door.

In all of this, I said I would trust you.  I said I would praise you no matter what.  And I choose to even now.  Like a watchman waits for the morning, I will wait for you.  You are my song.  I will keep my eyes on you as I wait for your healing, for your job, and for your promises.  Even if it is 12 years, I will trust and serve you still.

Thank you for the job I do have.
Thank you for providing abundantly.
Thank you for your promises.
Thank you for your peace.
Thank you for the dreams you are placing inside of me, even if I don’t see them yet.
Thank you for healing, for Samuel.
Thank you for being my light on the path of darkness.
Thank you for family.
Thank you for being good.
Thank you for truth.
Thank you for being a God who is found when I seek you.
Thank you for your favor and delight.
Thank you for being mine. I am yours.  Take all of me.”

I don’t know how long I will have to wait, and it sucks, but my prayer is that God would help me to flourish where I am planted.  Which for whatever painful reason, it is being a substitute teacher. It isn’t what I want with my life.  I know I am meant for more, meant to speak into people’s lives every day. I pray God helps me to see and do that even now. I pray God helps me find routine because apparently this roller coaster schedule isn’t going anywhere. He is the only thing that sustains me, and in Him I must find my satisfaction.

When Satan Attacks Your Identity

We’ve all heard the sermons about Jesus’s temptation, how it was the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. What if there is a simpler truth to extract from this passage. (Matthew 4 or Luke 4)  I find it interesting that of all the temptation Jesus faced in the desert, it is only these three situations that are recorded in scripture.  He was fasting and being tempted for 40 days, I’m willing to bet the devil said a lot more than just these three things. There are some profound parallels to how Jesus was tempted and how we are tempted.

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Jesus, full fo the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.  He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.  The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” – Luke 4:1-3
In all three situations, the Greek word used for the devil is diabolos, which means prone to slander, slanderous, and accusing falsely.  It is used 37 times to describe Satan as the devil, false accuser, slanderer, twice to describe someone who sides with Satan as in a slanderous person, and once to describe Judas Iscariot. Satan is identified in a number of ways in scripture, angel of the abyss, devil (diabolos), father of lies, tempter, thief, murderer, accuser, just to name a few. Maybe it is just me (I doubt it), but the number one way Satan gets involved in my life seems to be when he accuses me and lies to me.

He lies to me, slanders my identity, accuses me of wrong, and condemns me. That is exactly what Jesus dealt with when he was tempted. Twice the devil slandered and challenged the core identity of Christ.  “If you are the Son of God…” then do this. The devil wasn’t only testing Jesus’s ability to resist the lust of his flesh (stones to bread) and pride of life (jumping off the temple).  He was attacking Jesus’ root relationship with the Father!

How many times does the enemy do the same thing to us? How many times does the enemy try to convince you that you are not a child of God because of something you did or didn’t do? How many times does the devil lie to your mind and convince you that you are no longer able to fulfill your calling, that you messed up too much? How many times does the enemy attack your identity with lies about your beauty, qualifications, abilities, calling, talents, or passions? How many times does the liar that roams the Earth tell you that you are not an overcomer, that you can’t get through this, that you can’t break free, that you can’t find freedom?  In all of this, he is attacking your identity; he is attacking what God says about you in scripture. You are not alone, even Jesus’ identity was attacked.

Jesus never even entertained the “prove yourself” attack of the enemy.  He was so secure in the Father to know he was the Son of God that He didn’t have to prove to anybody that He was the Son of God. He immediately saw through it, and he spoke truth. The same is true for you.  We need to be so close to the Father that we know we are His children because then we don’t have to prove to the liar that we are children of God. We have a relationship with the Father.  Jesus is our defender, and He will prove it for us by His blood that was shed. You only have to shut the devil up with the truth. When the devil tries to tell you who you are, you remind yourself, and thus the devil, who Abba Father says you are.

You might be thinking, “What about the third instance?” Here, the devil didn’t attack Jesus’s identity.  He attacked God’s position in Jesus’s life.  Sometimes the devil is obvious in his attempt to knock God out of our driver seat and take control, and sometimes he is subtle.  The devil will always offer an appealing option.  You can have this power I give to you as long as you worship me.  You can find entertainment in Facebook or Candy Crush as long as you don’t listen to that other voice saying to read the Bible first.  You are strong and independent enough to take care of your home and family on your own, you don’t need that hour of prayer every morning. God will take care of your family; you don’t need to pray for them. Lie after lie that attempts to push God out of the place of your worship, trust, and adoration.

In this he isn’t slandering you, he is slandering God.  He is telling you that God isn’t worthy of the position you have given Him.  In Matthew 4, we see Jesus wouldn’t have anything to do with that.  He flat-out told Satan to leave. Our response should be likewise.  In that moment, submit to God, and the accuser will flee. (James 4:7) In these instances, how do you submit to God? You do the opposite of what the devil is whispering.  If he says to bow and worship him, you bow and worship God.  If he says to turn to Facebook instead of reading, you shut down the computer and open your Bible.  If he says you don’t need to pray, you pray.  In doing that, you realign with God and give God control again.

When Satan attacks your identity, remember that you do not have to defend yourself to the devil.  Jesus is your defense.  Declare what Abba Father says, and then submit to God’s truth in worship.

 

 

The Path Shrouded by Night I Walk

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to stay with a dear friend in Texas while on vacation.  It was such a  treasure to be with her and to watch her live life a little.  I was beyond amazed at how she was able to do so much in her day. Her house was so wonderfully clean.  It felt amazing to be able to relax and spend time with Jesus in her home, and I realized I needed to have that kind of cleanliness and organization in my life.  She completely inspired me!

So much so, that I reached out to her tonight.  I reached out to a friend I looked up to, and I was vulnerable with her because as I spoke with her, I realized my emotions felt very broken, and I didn’t even fully realize it.

Today started like a wonderful Sabbath Saturday.  I watched 9-10 glorious hours of Anne of Green Gables.  From 13 year-old Miss Shirley all the way to 20-something Mrs. Blythe. I loved just about every minute of it.  I laughed.  I cried.  I yelled at the TV a little, even when I knew what was going to happen in the end.  I engrossed myself into a fancy story for a day, and I indulged into one of my weaknesses.  Movies.

My husband arrived home as I was finishing the last movie, and as we try to plan dinner, he makes a comment.  It was no harsh or untrue comment.  It was spoken with respect, and it was just a matter-of-fact statement, but its truth struck deep.  It was like I had been standing in front of a mirror that was poorly lit, and he had flashed a bright light at it and exposed what I knew was true about myself. He simply said, “You were home all day.”

I wanted to defend myself with things like, “Yeah, but you knew I was going to do this movie marathon today…” However, that didn’t seem justified.  The fact is this: I spent the first week after getting back from Texas cleaning the house like crazy.  I was excited.  I was on track.  I was feeling accomplished.  I got a lot of work done, and I was able to leisurely chip away at things and spend time with Jesus for hours at a time. Then work started again.

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So, as I was cooking Stephen’s meatballs tonight for his meatball sub and doing the dishes, I began to cry.  I let it the house and all my plans fall apart again, and I reached out and asked my friend how she does it. And then Holy Spirit said, “Just do 30 minutes every day.”  You are right, God.  Clean for 30 minutes every day, and I will learn to maintain the house.  Just 30 minutes. At the moment, I didn’t really know why I was crying.  Then I started to reflect on my first week at work when everything fell apart.

When I get home from work, I have no desire to keep up the house.  I have no desire to do dishes just to turn around and mess it up again.  I have no desire to go to the gym.  And worse of all, if I do find the strength to do it all, It eats away at my time, and I feel like I am living with my husband, but we aren’t actually getting any quality time together. We are River and The Doctor with opposite time streams that cross for a brief hour or thirty minutes before I start shutting down for the night. I wish he knew both how much I wish I could stay awake and be with him and how much I need my break-of-dawn time with Jesus in the morning.  There are times I feel guilty to go to bed early enough to wake up early with Jesus because I want to spend time with my husband. My husband is a night owl.  I am an early bird.

And it is like a snowball that went out of control as I reflected on work and realized just how draining it felt for me.  Perhaps I would feel more able to do the work I need to at home if I didn’t come home feeling emotionally drained. Why does it do that to me now?  Is it because I have been doing it for two and a half years and yielded no fruit?  Is it because I put my heart and soul into teaching most of last year at one school and they didn’t even have the decency to interview me?  Is it because I am no longer sure about teaching?  I feel like I am walking down a path shrouded by night, and I can’t even see the stars.

As I talked with my friend, I said, “I want to find the strength to do what needs to be done for my body, mind, and soul, but it seems… impossible.”  And as I typed that word in my text, I felt God drawing me to His presence saying, “Rely on me.  I make all things possible.  Come drink in my love.” He instantly reminded me of what He was doing and how He was removing that faith-crippling word.  God has been showing me areas where the world, the devil, or myself have spoken that dreadful word and where I have allowed its unbelieving seed to plant in the depths of my heart and soul.

With God, I will be healed.  He is the creative God who is creating a new womb inside me. It is not impossible.

With God, I will get a job I feel satisfied in.  I must daily rely on Him for strength to trust again. It is not impossible

With God, I will learn to care for my home, my body, and my mind.  I will learn to care for my whole self.  It is not impossible.

With God, I will learn to better tell Stephen how I love and adore him, even when we are passers in the night. It is not impossible.

God, remove that faith-crippling word from my vocabulary and forgive my unbelief. All things are possible!

My Mismatched Identity

When asked in the book, Without Rival, by Lisa Bevere, “Do you find it difficult to describe yourself outside of what you do? If so, why?” I decided to journal my answer. It started out with a resounding yes, but why? I wrote this, and it describes why too well:

I’ve defined myself by what God has called me to instead of what He calls me.

He doesn’t call me missionary and teacher. He has called me to teach and to spread His love. My whole life has been working toward that goal, and as I’ve been stuck in transition for 3 years, it has become all too obvious that my identity has been wrapped up in what I thought I was called to do.

No, my identity is what God says that I am. He calls me His little warrior. He calls me His perfectly made daughter. He calls me beautifully precious to Him. He says I am chosen. He says I am a conqueror with Christ Jesus. He says I am whole and forgiven. He says that I am His, and He is mine.

I write. I blog. I teach. I love. Those don’t define me, they only help shape me.