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.

Is My Boat Driver Lost?

It’s been too long, Lord! You say you are proud of me, but I don’t know how.  I have needed time with you, but I have been so busy and stressed that I coulldn’t seem to find the time to get into your presence and seek your face. And the worst part is that it builds habits in me that say it is ok to avoid my time with you.  I don’t want that.  I want to daily be aware of my need for you.  I don’t want to build habits that think I can do it on my own.  I can’t, Lord.  I need you.  I depend on you.  Forgive my dependence on myself the last few week.

Speak to me and through me, Lord! I need your wisdom about our nation.  I need your wisdom about my life.  I need your wisdom in every area of my life. After working with NISE as a group coordinator, I am questioning everything.  As the driver of my boat, I need you to direct me where to dive and where to wait.  I feel like my pursuit of teaching has left me in standing water ankle deep.  I’m going nowhere fast, and I feel myself losing my sense of purpose.  I don’t know what you are doing. Did you tell me to jump and I miss the spot?  Or have you been leading me beside still waters and moving slowly so I don’t get my boat scraped on the beautiful and dangerous rocks?  What is happening?  Give me a little of your perspective.  Am I supposed to pursue a job in group coordinating? Do I go back to school?  If so, how are you paying for it because loans are not an option?  How are we getting to China?  

It feels like I have a thousand questions, and with each question it feels like a storm wells up in my seas, and I am searching for your hand. Help me to see you, Lord.  I need to see you because even though my life feels like it is losing meaning, your hand still gives me purpose.  Knowing I am in your will and that I am where you want me to be helps me to trust and be at peace with the many things that are not what I would have had for myself.  My heart feels heavy.  Lighten the load, Lord. I don’t even know why it feels so heavy. 

Then I hear you say, “I’m here.  I’m not lost.  Trust me.”  And as you hold me through the tears, I find a glimpse of trust again. 

The Gossiping Church

Last year, about this time, I went on another, “I’m fat.  I really need to get healthy” kick, and it was at this time that I first joined the purple-tastic Planet Fitness.  I immediately signed up for classes and met with a trainer.  She was nice and strongly encouraged me to push my limits of time and energy, but when things got hectic, everything fell through.  I stopped going to the gym for months.  With this new Love Myself Enough Challenge through July (and hopefully beyond), I have started back up at the gym.  I met with the trainer, but I was surprised when it was not the lady I met with a year ago.  He is a gentleman who has been so understanding and encouraging!  I have loved learning to workout, and I love that I am already seeing small results!

Today, as I was leaving the gym for Day 10 of the Love Myself Enough Challenge, I saw the old trainer from a year ago.  We recognized each other and said hello, but I continued to leave.  On my way home, I thought, “I should ask my trainer what happened with her.”  But then Holy Spirit butted in and said, “What? Why do you need to know that?”  I responded, “Because I care.”  And Holy Spirit said, “Do you? Or are you just curious?” And thus began the following thought:  How many times within the church do we mask gossip under the blanket of compassion and prayer? 

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“Be sure you pray for Miss Susie Q.  She is going through a really hard time in her marriage.  She…”

“Be sure you pray for Miss Janey B.  She is still struggling from her alcohol and drug addictions from college 20 years ago! She…”

“Hey, did you see what Mister Frankie D said on Facebook?  What do you think it means?  Do you think he did… I’m really concerned for him!”

“I’ve been seeing stuff on Facebook about Betty, and I am concerned for her.  Do you know what is going on?”

I know I am 100% guilty of asking these kind of questions.  I mask it as I am concerned and want to pray for them, but let’s be real.  I ain’t going to say more than probably a 30 second prayer.  I care only because I am curious, and at the root of it all is pride that says, “I want to know they are struggling so my struggles are more justified.  I want to feel better about myself.”

The Word is clear about gossip and how we should guard our tongue.  “A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence” (Prov. 11:13 NLT). “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends” (Prov. 16:28 NLT). Gossip is listed as wickedness in Romans 1:29.  And James is very clear about the power of the tongue, comparing it to the rudder of a boat, a bit in a horses mouth, and a tiny spark that lights a fire.  We urged to learn to control our tongue, which is obviously bigger than just gossip, but gossip is still a part of that instruction.

The truth is, fellow followers of Christ, if I truly care, if you truly care, you can pray without knowing the details.  I can pray for my old trainer.  I can allow the Holy Spirit to help guide my prayers.  And if someone asks you about someone else whom you know exactly what to pray for, be discrete.  Tell that gossip, “She is going through some stuff and could use your prayers.  Pray for strength” (or comfort, peace, etc.  Something generally generic that the person could use).  Or tell them, “I don’t know,” if that is true, “but perhaps we should pray for him.”  We are not obligated to know the details in order to pray, so if you really are concerned and you really are compassionate, nothing is stopping you from doing the most powerful thing you can do. Pray.

God, help me remove the blanket of gossip in my heart, and instead to truly pray and care enough about people to not pry.