The gains of 2015

holding hands

I don’t know how to get into a summary of this year.  You see, “she” said it couldn’t be done.  Let’s just jump right into that thought.  I had connected with someone years ago on Twitter who was a writer.  I told her that I just wanted to discover God in my life and then write about it.  She said, “Everyone wants to do that!”  When she gave me that response, I assumed that “my name wasn’t on that assignment list”.  If everyone was already doing that there “would be no reason for me to attempt to even try.”  If I was successful in a similar venture, “then why would it matter, no one would read it anyway.”

Today, I know that these were all lies to get me to not believe in the way God has built me to operate.  At last, I’ve come to the conclusion I must accept this journey for what it looks like and what God has given me to make of it.  Many of you know that I have a dream of becoming a published author.  Now, I know that this idea falls in line with God and what He has placed on the inside of me.

I have come to accept that.  Now I’m learning not to criticize my own work.  Many of you have said my dream will come true, but up to this year, I couldn’t accept that it would actually would become my reality.  Therefore by not seeing the talent that God has placed inside of me I suffered from what is called “hope deferred.”  Admittingly, by my own denial of God’s handiwork.  I can see now that I wasn’t ready to accept it.

Accepting gifts is one thing, using them is another.  It has taken several stabs at this blogging thing to realize a lot of what I am built to do and what ideas are NOT mine not to do.

All I can say is “me too”.  I sense I am not the only person out there searching for God’s plan in this troubled world we live in.  I have gained a lot of wisdom about a lot of things but things about the Internet, relationships, and loving people where they are, basically  are hard things to tackle on a daily basis, and I, like you, don’t have all the answers.

Once I realized that I was in denial and forgotten what I was capable of, I simply asked God what I was made of and why this the tendency to write was so strong within me?  Just imagine yourself asking the Lord that power-packed question!  All I got back is “Do you trust Me?” from God.  What I got from other people are these phrases about their own doubt.  “No one reads blogs anymore.” “Everyone wants to write about God.”  “What do you have to say that hasn’t already been written?”  I’ll let you figure those statements out.

Can you see how doubt is one of the biggest enemy’s of a writer?  I started looking at the people I was hanging out with and then changed my set of friends.  So before I go on and on about what I am not, I accepted this year that I am an honest writer that seeks to write about my faith, my faith process, and where God is in the middle of it all.

When looking back at my year, I see lots of gains and a lot of confidence.  I see a lot of growing and stirring.  Perhaps the biggest measure or gain that happened is found in the fact that I finally wrote my first book in four weeks time before going to Africa in October.  Now yes, there is a major amont of editing that needs to be done.  I also realize there will be changes to the orginial manuscript.  But I got it out of me and that was a process for sure.

A process worth waiting for (said with tongue in cheek) but by doing it showed me a lot of personal growth.  Just knowing that I can is HUGE to a writer.  You don’t know how many days I wondered if I ever could.  I’ve sent it to an editor who messaged me back to say “Congratulations, you have done what only 10% of people do.”  I said back to him, “What’s that?”  He replied, “90% only talk about what you have already accomplished.”

I was pleased momentarily.  There was a tinge of regret that it took so long.  By writing the book God reconciled my past issues with food and rejection.  I cast off a lot of shame, guilt, and self-blame in those pages.  Because of going through the struggles, I am more free than ever before and have a stronger voice for what I have been through.

Losing weight requires hard-work and focused dedication to a goal.  Writing about it requires the same kind of hard-work and focused dedication.  It’s one thing to only apply this to the physical side but a whole new realm to pursuing reconcilation with God about your past.

When I see what helps me, I want to keep on saying, “me too.”

I don’t have to share my struggles but its in our weakest places can we discover God in them.  My wrestling may be same as yours or completely different, as you don’t know the doubt and denial I live with.  But it does help to share in those times, where we can all say “I feel you.”

Life is full of those opportunities to quit and say “that’s not for me”.  Or we can choose to come alongside another and say “me too”.  It’s just that, a journey and any time we can connect with others and say “I feel you”, it opens the door for God to work His reconciliation power in us and through us.

That’s a good place to be and something I’ve been dreaming for.  What would you say your biggest gain of 2015 is?

 

 

 

 

 

Just around the corner

around the corner

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manager.”  Luke 2:8-12

Imagine the shepherds with their look of surprise!  It was a night like no other when the angelic announcement came out of the dark night.  I sense they were afraid, because the first words heard from the night sky were “Fear Not.”

I know that in shocking situations, fear rises quickly. Think about how many times we’ve heard “don’t be afraid,” “this isn’t as scary as it looks” or “it’s not what you think”. In those situations, our mind tends to escalate quickly to the worst possible scenario. The nurse says…”this is just a routine test, it’s not the big ‘C’ or anything like that.”

She was wrong, it was cancer.  It’s true that fears are part of our normal life.   It’s a big, dark, and scary world!  Just put yourself on that hillside for a moment, now put a staff in your hand, and plunk your mind in the dark.  Imagine your reaction!

Now think about how God spoke His peace in the dark.  He sent the angels to sing over caretakers of the dumbest and smelliest of animals, in a remote area and to a people who were known for taking care of those who couldn’t think for themselves.  These shepherds had to been the most alert and prepared to fight for all kinds of things that go bump in the night.

I find it interesting that Mary heard the same peace-driven introduction “Fear Not!”.  After considering that it was a pre-cursor to such important messages, I found the comfort I was searching for.  Each announcement brought in a heavenly presence and perspective.  Each fear gives way for an opportunity to let heavenly presence come into a place of darkness or change of perspective with God’s comfort.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18

I’ve cast out some fears to move forward in my life and whenever I realize a fear of something, I want to give every opportunity for God to perfect His love in it over me running away from it.

We come away from the hillside with the gift of peace to men and God’s presence, Jesus – Immanuel, which means “God is with us.”  That’s nothing to fear for sure.  In fact, it comforts me beyond belief to know He is active and sent Jesus to comfort me.  Knowing that calms me down from those fears that needs some heavenly light!  His presence is everything that fear isn’t and when I remain steadfast in that comfort, my fears are cast out.

We all remember where we were when we received some fearful news or a life-changing phone call.  Those moments are milestones that we never forget.  Isn’t it comforting to know that Jesus is with us at all times!  That His comfort is just a cry away when fears come suffocating into the darkness?  That we can rise above those things that bump in the night?   God knows what is around the corner and has already been there casting out the fear for you!

His peace and presence comfort us in ways that are for sure sent from Heaven.  As He chases fear out of your life and brings His comfort, there is a joy and strength to overflowing.  He cares enough to watch over those things that bump in the night and His love perfects them all!

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

So when fear hits your mind with an all-of-a-sudden feeling remember that fear is one of Satan’s primary schemes for crippling God’s children.  That’s why God’s presence is so important to remember because it gives us what we need to push past making friends with it.  Fear is the opposite of faith, and faith helps you step over the threshold of opportunity.

What will you choose today, your fears or a fearless God?  God is fearless, so we can be fearless too.

As we wait

advent wreath

We know that advent means prepare. It’s challenging to prepare for something when you don’t know what the future holds. We tend to run every thinkable scenario through our minds to equip ourselves with everything just in case. There’s constant wondering planning, stewing, hoping, and dreaming. And there’s waiting.

When I first found out that I was carrying my daughter, I started dreaming of our family’s future right away. I planned and planned for our tomorrows. To think Mary was going to carry Jesus, the Savior of the world, does that make her planning more significant? Her wait less intense than a normal pregnancy? I think about how Mary was preparing not just for a new baby but a new husband. Imagine her busyness!

So why do we need to prepare for Christmas? How do we wait well to really prepare? Why do we need this time to get ready? After all, we are familiar with all that Christmas means right?

In the recent years, I found in my own Christmas celebrations, that traditions were becoming too familiar and routine. I felt I was missing moments to behold the manger, the Savior’s birth and I was just going through the Christmas tradition on auto pilot. Its funny (not really) how habits become just things we do. Soon habits, without reason, become the “way we do things because we’ve always done it this way” ideas.

How does that leave room for hope and anticipation?

It didn’t for me so I decided to make some changes. I stopped being so busy at Christmas and started making room for more Jesus in my mind and heart. Something wonderful happened. After the holiday rush settled, I was able to keep Jesus close all year round. By letting go of a few unimportant things, there is more room in my mind and heart to treasure the important things.

Is it really possible to wait well with joy and hope filled anticipation? How does one prepare to mother the Savior of the world? We all wonder what our children will become, so how do we anticipate those unspoken dreams?

As a momma, all ideas you hold regarding dreams and babies, need words of life spoken over them. They also need words to the Father who knows how to give life to everything. He is Hope, so when praying hope into our lives, be it for our children, dreams, or otherwise, we pray in faith.

Praying in faith includes God’s perfect timing. It may surprise you that God stands outside of time. Do you know He chose you and planned for our salvation before the foundations of the world, before time began? Do you know that He holds the entire world, the universe as we know it, and all life in His hands?

When I think about those hands of His…I treasure being held by them.

Isaiah 29:16“See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” Our names are carved into His hands, and with Jesus every name was carved upon His heart. Mary held his baby hand that would later hold hers. With those hands, we can treasure that kind of eternal hold.

And speaking of plans, this verse is often missed at Christmas but it speaks of who has made some hope-filled future forward plans for each of us.

Jeremiah 29:11  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I treasure that image of Him planning for me.

I learned to wait well, knowing my life, my plans and my dreams are held by God’s hands. That makes Him my most personal kind of God who knows what my dreams are, how long I have waited, how long I have trusted in His plan, and how I have focused on Him to speak life over the things He has given.

I treasure and hold those moments close and leave the plans in His hands. To watch His plans unfold and know that He cared enough to give me what I needed and not a moment too late are breathtaking. I treasure those moments when I could do nothing but cry and yearn for Him to move in my life. I hold close those times of comfort during adversity, when He planned something different than I expected and prospered my faith through it. I dance and smile at the joy in His surprises. And my heart leaps for joy in those “aha” moments as I realize something new about Him.

When I think about how He thinks about me, I treasure that constant attention. I treasure those moments when I can feel His presence through the storms of life. I treasure the waiting times because He’s always been there for me, and to know God is to love Him. I love how He loves us in the wait.

I treasure how God prepares me in the wait. Faith prepares us all, but God’s great love burns and purifies our lives. A purified faith prepares us and gifts us with His holy anticipation. Take Heart and wait well, whatever life may bring, no matter the clouds, they will lift sooner or later, but we can take heart and wait! And treasure God in the wait!

When you are fearful

forest path

“Suddenly she understood. She was beholding a wondrous and glorious truth; a great multitude whom no man could number brought like herself by the King to the Kingdom of Love and to the High Places so that they could now pour out their lives in gladdest abandonment, leaping down with him to sorrowful places below, to share with others the life which they had received.” from Hinds Feet High Places by Hannah Hunard.  (the book I am reading right now).

I don’t know if you’ve ever read this book.  It’s about a character called Much Afraid, that is given a new “heart” and is asked to do something really hard.  She is crippled and The Great Shepherd (Jesus) asks her to follow Him to the High Place.  This is super hard for her and we often face the same hard thing everyday.  What in the world could this be?

Fears vs. Surrender.

When God asks us to do what looks like a hard thing to us, what’s the first emotion that comes to your mind?  Is it control?  Or freedom?  Is it total surrender?

Nope, for me it’s fear.

When we react with fears we are called normal.  But the other day, I just sensed that the Lord wanted me to press into what was at the root of some fearing emotions.  Once the Holy Spirit pulled back a couple of layers, there was something that I wasn’t exercising.

My trust.

I immediately asked the Lord for more more faith and assurance to obey.  What does this have to do with Much Afraid’s story?  Her initial emotion was fear when the Great Shepherd asked her to follow Him.  He even promised help to get her there.

Ever think about subtle fear can be in your life?  Ever try to moving forward on a God-sized project on your own strength and confidence?  Do you think Mary, the mother of Jesus, was fearful when she received the grand angelic conception announcement?

I’ve been a mom twice and each time there was a little fear of the unknown.

Trust is an anchor that connects you with God’s character.  My hard thing was a personal fear, and it was time to face off with it!  Fear is always a liar.  A month before I left for Africa, I typed out 13 chapters, to complete my first book.  There was a day I thought I would never finish it. I was focused, driven, and determined to get out as much of my weight loss story as I possibly could.

I have a wonderful confidence in the accomplishment of the book itself.  The writing of it has brought healing to my life.  Now I get to trust the process. Just like Much Afraid,  and as she takes it one step at a time, I am also keeping pace with God’s timing.

To pray in faith includes God’s perfect timing.

I sometimes need a reminder.  Much Afraid realizes that she is not alone and has some helpers, that come alongside as she discovers her own hinds feet.  She follows the Great Shepherd from her heart of love and obedience.  There is no fear that can stand up to Perfect Love.

Why does this encourage us?  To know that we are God’s sons and daughters, that He is with us, and I choose to trust in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not my own faltering fears, well, that means everything in my book.  I am not a slave to fear.

But now, this is what the LORD says– “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” ~ Isaiah 43:1

God shows us the strength of His character in times of fear because He has already seen the valleys that we will go through. And He knows what we need to get THROUGH those vallys to the High Place. In fact, He has already been into our tomorrows to anticipate our needs.  We all need encouragement from time to time, so be encouraged by this one fact:  God loves you, you are not alone, you don’t have to do today by yourself, just look up and see God loving down upon you. 

Through the valleys we meet Him to rise above our circumstances, look past our fears, and trust Him for the results, which are way bigger than we can ever produce.

What hard thing are you looking at today?