God

Let the children come.

Short on volunteers for the summer, I ended up taking a shift in the nursery this morning at my church. This morning, one of the little girls wanted nothing to do with leaving her mom. I knelt down beside her, looked in her worried eyes, and felt compelled to say, we’re going to have a lot of fun this morning! But tears are okay here, too.” I saw her mom visibly relax, reassured that her daughter’s distress was not a burden to me or the rest of the nursery staff. All emotions were welcome here. And though the child didn’t have words to convey a response, I could tell her little heart was comforted by kindness for she let me pick her up and hold her as she cried when her momma left to go to the service upstairs, and she held me tight as she buried her tiny face into my shoulder.

Sometimes the kingdom of God looks like holding the little ones and telling them that their tears are okay. As I reflected on those words I spoke over her, the Holy Spirit whispered how incredibly true they were. Not just in that moment with the babies, but with God. How in my own tears, the Father pulls me close and let’s me rest my weary head on His shoulder. That he whispers, “I’ll hold you as long as you need and as long as you’ll let me.” When the world is scary and moving and shifting and changing, He delights when we see that His arms are a place of safety and security.

I ended up holding the same little girl for the entirety of the hour—each time I even knelt down to see if she wanted to play she would cling to my arm and tears would begin to form in her sweet little eyes again. So I held her and swayed with her and spoke words over her she may be too young to understand but that I know will plant seeds of truth in her heart as she grows. “You are so brave.”

And isn’t that what God does? He speaks the language of love into our identities, and he patiently speaks the truths we desperately need until they settle in our souls as the truth about who we are.

In all honesty, I didn’t really want to volunteer this week. It was my second to last Sunday before moving across the country for grad school. But the moment someone reached out and asked if I would be willing to serve with the babies, I felt in my spirit God had a desire to meet me there. So eagerly, I said yes. And He met me there so, so sweetly. So tenderly. He reminded me that the kingdom of God belongs to those who come to him like little children. As I prepare to move and head into a new season where familiarity and earthly comforts will be stripped, I will need to remember the arms of the One who brings comfort and whose words pour forth the identity I so long to hear: daughter, highly favored, called. Who scoops me up in His arms when my vantage point is too close to the ground to feel safe. And I hope you see yourself in this story, too. How God who loves you is patient with you. He is not burdened by your feelings of sadness, of being overwhelmed, of loneliness, of fear. No He kneels down beside you and whispers, ” your tears are okay here. I will hold you as long as you need and as long as you’ll let me.” Rest easy today, friends.

The promise is in the process

As I think back on the last couple days, the word lavish keeps rising up in my heart.  I looked up the definition for better understanding; one of its meanings is to bestow something generously and extravagantly.

Wow lavishing me was exactly what God did this weekend.  In all honesty, I have been overwhelmed lately with feeling stuck, and disconnected, and exhausted.  Though my faith grounds me in each hard moment, in this season my heart has lacked the fullness of joy that is promised in Him.  This week I hit a place of crying out, telling God I needed to see that I was not forgotten, that He was still working on my behalf.  He is a good Father.  I had full faith He would show up because a good Father is a comforter. And He did.

On Saturday, I got to attend the Live Salted conference in Seattle.  Being in a room with hundreds of other young adult women who were there to worship and learn, I felt a wave of expectancy and strength surrounded by a multitude of Christ centered women.  Spaces of community and praise have been largely lacking in my life, so being in an environment like this was a true gift, but God had so much more to give me on this day.

I must preface this by telling you I love the holy spirit.  We talk about everything, he and I.  I left my house the morning of the conference telling him that while I love to speak with and spend time with him, I have been feeling so lonely in a human sense.  This year has been a strange one.  Lots of transition, lots of sanctification, not a lot of like minded people around me to share the burdens and the triumphs of life with.  So I told God it would mean a ton for him to speak to me through other people that day, if nothing more than for a moment of meaningful human interaction with other people who wholeheartedly love the Lord.  That was my hopeful prayer answered one hundred times over.  While the conference itself was amazing, it is the personal ways in which God met me that I will never forget.

While the Salt conference is not a particularly charismatic gathering,  they certainly leave space for the spirit to move.  I absolutely loved the boldness and the openness and the faith with which one girl got onstage and shared a few words of knowledge as we transitioned from a preaching lesson into a time of worship and prayer.  One word in particular nailed itself to my heart and I knew without hesitation it was for me.  Though the exact words are lost in that powerful moment, I do remember parts that stood out.  She said, “someone here has been going through a season of transition for eight months.  And you feel frustrated… I’m here to tell you not to doubt God but to doubt your doubts.” The specificity of eight months caught my attention.  How the holy spirit hit me with those words like a heavy weight solidified the thought that this word was mine from Him.  In a season of feeling particularly anonymous, God sees me. My heart was racing and I was burning up hot in a way that can only be described as a supernatural exchange between heaven and my heart.

During worship, I went to the front of the sanctuary for prayer and though I can’t explain why, I found myself weeping as the prayer of a lady I did not know covered me.  Sometimes, we all need someone to stand in the gap with us and God, to fill the cracks in our foundation with intercession and comfort.  A few of her prayers were especially seared into me and I wrote them down later. She spoke of the promise being in the process, and the process as part of the plan on the way to the promise.  The last eight months have felt something like the Israelites wandering the desert, and all the while the holy land is in their sights.  The promise is visible, but unreachable.  But in this time of prayer it occurred to me that the provision I need for the journey toward my own personal promises from God are being provided in the process of waiting and walking blindly by faith.

She spoke also of the oil of the spirit, of the promise, and how it is pressed out by holy pressure.  I am all too familiar with the pressure.  As she prayed, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I felt the weights of fear and of doubt and of insignificance lift and the peace of God rest on me in their place.  I felt myself being prayed straight into his heart.  Her words were powerful, full of wisdom, and most importantly they were personal: they were God’s words to me.  And I felt a renewed sense of strength as my heart grappled with the truth that every part of me is tethered to the goodness and the plans he has for me and that he won’t let me miss it.

After the lunch break, they raffled off the three prizes.  One amazing thing Live Salted does at their conferences is a feminine hygiene drive to donate to local organizations that help women experiencing homelessness.  Any person who brought products got raffle tickets for different giveaways.  At any rate, I got some tickets and put a few into each of the different raffles (hoping especially that I might win an incredibly cute jean jacket!)  You guys, no joke.  At the time of the live raffle, I won every. single. one. It was slightly embarrassing and quite shocking.  I made my friend go up to the stage to get some stuff.  (Later, I did have a divine opportunity to give some of the won items away and to speak encouragement to another girl in attendance which was amazing).  As the raffle finished and the conference continued, I asked God why I had just won ALL THREE raffles when there were lots of deserving girls in the room.  His words were like honey to my soul when I felt him telling me that He wanted to show me that not only did he love me, he loves me lavishly. That not only does he see me, He singles me out from a crowd.  Let me speak truth to you today; He has that very same love and those very same intentions toward you too.

I am overwhelmed by all the ways God tangibly reminded me of his extravagant love this weekend.  I pray that each and every person who reads this begins to know the love of God not just intellectually or theologically, but experientially.  For anyone who is also in a season of waiting, or wandering, or wilderness, God is so for you and the promises are coming. They are coming.

What Jury Duty Taught me

Earlier this month I served on jury duty for the first time.  Although many people dread being summoned, I have always been mildly intrigued with the judicial system and thought it would be a cool experience to engage in.  So it was a mini celebration for me when the blue jury card showed up in the mail at the end of last year.

Going into the courthouse, I had very little idea what to expect.  I waited in line with hundreds of other sleepy eyed people early on a Monday morning to go through security, orientation, and then to receive our court assignments.  In the afternoon, a court official lead sixty other selected jurors and I to a courtroom for our assigned case.  As we walked in, I immediately saw the convicted person in the room too.  He was sitting next to his lawyer in handcuffs.  They accompanied by a couple of armed guards.  It was somewhat uncomfortable, actually, even unsettling as we sat facing the man who some of us would determine his fate.  It was hard to look at him; it was hard to look away.

Without disclosing the details, the case I was on was a criminal case.  Listening to the judge read off the crimes, it felt a bit like sitting in a real life scene from a trial in Law and Order.  I found my eyes drifting often to the defendant to see if I could glean any sense of who he is outside of the charges brought against him.  I pray that whether imprisoned or let go at the end of his trial, he finds true freedom for his soul in the transforming love of Jesus who has already died to cover any transgressions he may have committed.

As the day moved forward, we learned that the case was expected to last close to a month between all of the arguments, witness testimonies, and deliberations.  I could tangibly feel tension in the pews where we jurors sat.  For a lot of us, that meant almost an entire month of unpaid time off from working (save for the $10 a day paid by the county for serving).  For me, like may others, the thought of losing an entire month of income brought up a lot of anxiety.

During the “voir dire” process, the judge, the prosecuting lawyer, and the defending lawyer asked us potential jurors lots of questions to slowly whittle down the panel from sixty people to fifteen.  The fifteen jurors chosen at the end would then serve on the case until a verdict has been determined.

As person after person gave various excuses for dismissal, I started to feel nervous.  Now only forty or so people were left in the selection pool after many had been released on the premise of scheduling conflicts, financial hardship, or bias due to personal experiences related to the charges… and this was all before the lawyers even began the further in depth questioning process.

Sitting in my seat, I felt internal pressure rising as I calculated the money I would lose taking all those days off of work.  So I, too, raised my number card and stated that I could not pull off the finances to participate in the trial.  I have a feeling the judge pitied me… I was by far the youngest juror in the room, and I’m preparing financially to move across the country soon.  I could see something like sympathy in her eyes when I asked for dismissal.  And the court released me from the case.

I was relieved, but there was a stirring in my heart that felt… unsettled.  On my drive home I talked to God from the privacy of my car and asked why I was doubting my decision to request dismissal.  During the thirty minute drive home the answer came to me: at least for those moments in the courtroom, I did not trust God.  I did not trust Him to remove me from a situation I perceived I needed to escape.  I did not give God an opportunity to be God, to handle the situation His way.  Instead, I jumped ahead of His leading without asking Him first if He wanted me to get off the case in the first place.  It seems like a little thing, but the implications are huge.  How can I faithfully pursue his leading in the big things if I refuse to wait on His voice in these small moments?  It was a wake up call to say the least.

And I felt his Spirit ministering to mine, reminding me that if I had been picked to serve on that case, He would have taken care of anything I needed financially and otherwise.  I have always been a fiercely independent child.  It has taken some pretty sizable trials for God to begin rewiring the parts of me that fear surrendering to His perfect provision and loving intentions toward me.  Cliche as it may be, I am learning to “let go and let God”.  However that day in court, instead of resting in the truth of His character— provider and good Father—- I allowed myself to be filled with anxiety; I took matters into my own hands in order to get released from the case.  Instead, I should have prayerfully waited and trusted God’s will to play out in the choices of the lawyers to either keep or dismiss me.  While I was relieved at my dismissal, that feeling of relief was not accompanied by peace because I acted on my own anxiety and not from the will of God which is to trust him in all things.  

Driving home, it occurred to me that in hastily trying to get removed from the case, I may have missed something God wanted to teach me in that courtroom, even if it meant being out of work for another day or another month.  But in His goodness, God still taught me a lot through the experience of jury duty.  He revealed yet another layer in my soul that clings to the security of things other than to Him.  In this case, money.  Slowly, very slowly, and gently, He is teaching me another way to live.  One that sometimes feels financially riskier, but it is so much more secure in the safety of His love.  In the spirit of practicing this new way, I even took a purposeful day off of work last week to spend quality time with my dad rock climbing 🙂

Remaining in the fold of the Father’s provision is the most secure place I can ever reside.  He can provide for me better than I could ever provide for myself.

God, 

Show me how to trust you fully.  How to take matters out of my own hands and place them into yours.  You say you work all things for the good of those who love you, and I trust you with the outcomes of my life as I surrender the pieces to you.  You are the safest place.  May I never stifle your work by taking things into my own hands and running ahead of your leading.  I love you and I’m sorry  for all the times I choose not to believe in the goodness of your character.  Thank your for your forgiveness that never runs out and for your grace which covers over the places where I lack.  Lead me today into a greater dependence on you as I learn to walk into all you have for me. 

Eyes to See.

As the old year fades into the new year, I find myself filled with eager expectation.  But  in the anticipation for things to come in 2019 there are also many questions.  This year I am working in a new and unexpected job with kids, and even more unexpected is the growing space in my heart for the someday possibility of motherhood.  Sometime before September, I will be moving across the country to a place where I know no one.  I will be starting grad school; I will be stepping into a deeper layer of the passion I believe God gave me to give back to the world.

In light of so many recent and upcoming transitions, I find phrases such as, “who?”, “where?”, “how?”, and “how long?” peppered throughout my conversations with God.  As I listen in silence, I get the sense that He is preparing the very chapter of my life that I am praying into.  And pretty soon, it will all begin unfolding before my very eyes, an epic story that I get the privilege of being a part of.  And I am enveloped in peace knowing that though I do not know the answers, there is no striving.  I must simply watch and wait with a prayerful heart and ready feet for the whispered “go” I am waiting for from the Lord.

“Then the disciples of John reported to him concerning these things.  And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent the to Jesus, saying, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has send us to You, saying, ‘Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?'”

And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 

“And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”  Luke 7:18-23

In Luke 7:18-23,  John the Baptist sent out two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?”  Jesus did not immediately reply to the questions of the disciples.  Instead he began to heal people, to cleanse lepers, to cast out demons from the oppressed.  He then told the messengers sent by John, “Report back what you have seen…”

I want to focus on this word seen for a moment.  God is alwaymoving.  It is not a matter of if, but how.  Oftentimes in our hurried disposition, we are praying and asking God all these questions about what He is doing without stopping to look around and see that the very answers we are waiting for are already in motion around us.  I think sometimes God is silent because He wants us to be too. To be silent, and to watch with eyes wide open.  “Be still and know…” (ps. 46:10).  God might not seem to be talking, but he is moving.  So in times when his voice simply seems silent, let’s resolve ourselves to turning not only our ears toward God’s directions but our eyes as well.  Chances are, something that is stirring in the immediate world around you is a glimpse into what He is currently working together for your good.  Be patient, dear one, for what God is knitting together in secret will soon be birthed into a beautiful fulfillment of the promises he has spoken over your life.

And so in 2019, I am letting all of this shape my prayers.  I am learning that listening for answers isn’t the only way they come.  So I am watching for them too.  May we keep our ears open, but also our eyes peeled, for all the miraculous ways He shows up to meet us in our questions this year.

putting doubt and fear to rest

We have been given an identity of intrinsic beauty, far more captivating than even the nature that enthralls us.  Creation displays the glory of God, but only WE bear His image.  How cool is that!?  And this spring break, sitting atop Angels Landing overlooking the canyon in Zion, I was absolutely humbled by the thought that God sees infinitely more in me than in the amazing views that I stared out at.  However, this idea extends far beyond the internal implications of its message.  To embrace this abiding truth is to realize the power and the potential you have for kingdom work.  Security in your identity through Christ allows you to be used that much more fully by God and for His purpose.  What are you passionate about?  What ideas make you feel alive?  Chances are, God has already long ago planted seeds in your heart for the work He wants to accomplish through you.  You were made for a unique purpose, and there is work to be done here on earth that He specifically chose you for.  You are chosen. Singled out. Set apart. YOU play an irreplaceable role in changing lives, and hearts, and places, and the weight of your influence is amplified through the power of Christ in you.  Lately, I’ve been tossing around the ideas of doubt and fear in my mind.  The invaluable pattern that has come to light is that in times of heightened spiritual awakeness is also when I experience the most acute concentration of fear in my life.  And doubt in my identity.  But through scripture, conversation, and experience, I am beginning to recognize this back and forth battle of fear and doubt as a tool the devil uses in attempts to overpower God’s whispers of love with accusations of inadequacy.  The louder I allow God’s voice to become, the louder the Enemy’s becomes as well.  So in those moments when that broken record of self-condemnation plays in your mind, or when it seems as if your outsides circumstances affirm those lies at every turn, I encourage you to open your eyes and see that those lies are Satan’s desperate attempts to thwart the incredible things that he knows you have the ability to accomplish.  Because he is INTIMIDATED by you and all you can do!  So that doubt and fear you’re facing?  This is a reminder that you were created with a spirit of courage, and that God has paved His path for you with victory.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
There is glory waiting on the horizon, even if you can’t yet see it; the sky cycles through periods of darkness, but the sun never fails to rise again.  And how much more constant is God’s faithfulness than the sun!  You are capable, you are powerful, and you are hand picked for a purpose that has eternal significance. My prayer today is that you would rebuke any lies that you are believing about who you are or what you can do through Christ, for He has immeasurably more in store for you than you could ever imagine.

Right where you are.

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“You don’t know what the story is about when you’re in the middle of it.  All you can do is keep walking.” -Shauna Niequist in Savor.

In my own experience, the most draining part of the journey is never the things that hurt, but rather, the why behind what God is allowing to permeate the protection of His loving arms.  How we don’t often know or understand His reasoning, so we just have to follow His lead, remembering His holiness.  That He is undoubtedly worthy of our wholehearted trust.  He proved that worthiness two thousand years ago by putting Jesus on the cross.

I spent last weekend camping out in Joshua Tree.  And just like the desert lacks water, my soul felt the thirst of sitting stagnant for too long in a spiritually desolate place.  It was in the desert that I was able to reflect on this place that I am in.  See, I have felt the Lord deeply, and I have felt the ache of His presence drawn away.  This season is one of those times when I can’t quite seem to find Him.  In the early morning sunrises that used to fill me with joy at His creation, or in the late night prayers that used to blanket me with peace as I drifted to sleep.  It’s restless nights and wake-less mornings, the ones that leave me asking God why, why this heart of mine is so unsettled with discontent and unsettlement.

However, it is the depth of that unsettlement that led me in Joshua Tree to sit down and pray as the sun rose and spread its golden warmth on creation.  On the dusty sand, in the shade of a dried up bush, I dove back into the Word.  And I didn’t even realize the extent of my hunger until I started feeding myself with scripture.  I did one of those things where you don’t know where to start.  Where you simply flip open your bible, hoping some spiritual revelation will jump off the page.  And this brought me to 2 Thessalonians 1:11, where Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church.  “So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call.  May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things you faith prompts you to do,” as well as 3:5 “May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.”

Although I underlined these verses in my bible, in all honesty they didn’t feel like anything remarkable, like God was talking directly to me in that moment in the desert.  However, through the next week and me beginning to bring my faith back into the forefront of my attention, God has slowly revealed what 2 Thessalonians is supposed to look like in my own life during this season.

A few days ago, I sat in the Starbucks on campus with a senior girl from my school, someone whose insight on faith and navigating this college life I deeply admire.  And for the first time, I had a name for all of the bitter discontent I have been feeling lately.  Lack of purpose.  I admitted to her how it’s hard sometimes to carry this faith in a place where God is not celebrated.  How I don’t for a second doubt my calling to come to this school, but that not knowing what my specific calling here is has left me struggling to find any sense of fulfillment.  And how even though I’ve made some amazing friends and was blessed with roommates I can trust and count on for anything, something inside of me still leaves my heart yearning for community as if I haven’t quite found where I truly belong.  And with knowing eyes, she told me that nothing, not people and not even clarity in my calling, will fill the hole only Jesus was meant to fill.  I know that in my mind, but those words from her mouth spoke to my heart that morning.

She told me not to look too far ahead, or I’d miss what God has for me right here and right now.  It may not be the college experience of a Christian school–  a what-if that sometimes fills my head with doubt– but it’s the experience the Lord has called me to.  May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do… May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.

Patient endurance.  That is what this season is about.  It’s a ballroom dance with God, Him leading the steps with a gentle guiding arm and me following suit.  However, it’s when I stop paying attention to His rhythm and time that I begin to trip up and fall behind His footwork.  My faith nudges me to step out and do radical things, but there is also an element of patience that I don’t like to adhere to.  It’s like bolting out in a race before the gates have been opened and the starting shots fired.  All of this contained passion is a beautiful thing, even if it brings with it an air of apprehensiveness.  God is preparing my heart to accomplish His work, but He is also teaching me to wait on His timing.

In my bible, I underlined one last thing. 3:13.  it simply states, “never get tired of doing good.”  Of course I would love to know exactly what God’s purpose is for me here, but that does not negate the fact that He asks us to hold tight to His teachings and commands in the meantime.  There is still so much I can do to glorify Him while waiting for His voice and for His direction.  My campus is not the most inviting place, but I can be the one to make others feel welcome.  There is simply so much darkness here.  But I can still reflect the light of the Son.  God has a purpose for us, but He also calls us to be His hands and feet right where we’re at.  I’m going to make it my resolution to focus on that, letting the satisfaction of serving daily overcome the uncertainty and the apprehension of wondering what the big picture is here for me.  God is here for me.  And I don’t want to waste this precious time wondering and waiting for what’s in store ahead, when God has abundance for me right as I am.

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the rebuilders and the renovators

You have been renovated to be a renovator.

These words struck me as so beautiful when they left the tongue of the pastor on stage tonight.  And it got me to thinking.  We sometimes get so caught up in trying to be holy that we miss the heart of Jesus entirely.

Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes. -Isaiah 58:12

God has done a lot of tearing down and building up inside of me since I really really chose to let Him.  My heart could honestly be featured on one of those HTV home renovation shows, one where the ugliness of the original is all but unrecognizable when compared to the end result.  And it’s hard to believe that they are the same home.  It is much the same with my heart.  God has replaced depression with joy.  Self-hatred with purpose.  Darkness and selfish ambition with His light and humility.  I sometimes stand amazed at the transformation within me, the peace of God’s presence a deep assurance that He will never let me go back to who I used to be.  Because He knocked down those rotting walls and He replaced the unstable foundation.  I am not built more for eternity, my structure more malleable to His promptings.  Don’t get me wrong; I am still a work in progress.  But finally truly believe that I am God’s workmanship, and that truth has allowed me to find my security in becoming clay in the potter’s hands.

Why does God handle me with such care?  Me, just one fragile being amongst millions of more qualified candidates.  I believe God treats us like His masterpieces so that we can translate the love He shows us onto His other works of art.  He clears the clutter from our hearts so that we can in turn help others sweep up the overwhelming debris that is settling over everything in their own lives.

Here is what I know: We were meant to be picture of peace in a world that is so obviously ridden in chaos.  We were meant to fix what was broken by the flawed nature of the human condition, rebuilding walls that have long since crumbled and restoring homes, building them on a rock that will sustain.

See, when people ask where God is amidst the tragedies of the world, they should be able to look at His people.  When people wonder where He is when they’re drowning in their personal storms, they shouldn’t have to look farther than our hand extended out to help pull their head above the water.

God didn’t change us for our own personal gain, He changed us for His.  He was shaping us for kingdom work, not a light calling in an age where the idea of God is so rejected.  But the beautiful thing is that He equips you with everything you need to do as He asks of you, and His son leads by example, Jesus’ life a living testament that surely God is with you where ever you go.  God tends to us, His flock, but then He also appoints us to the role of the Shepard to gather and to care for His sheep who do not yet know His voice.  He renovates you,

So that you can be a renovator.