A Lot Can Happen in Three Years

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Three years ago when I stepped out of the radio studio I had no real clear goals other than the fact that I wanted to reach the lost with the Gospel, be involved in connecting with people, and help to build God’s Church all over the world. At the time, I knew what He had laid on my heart to do concerning the nations, and I’ve held Africa in the deepest recesses of my heart.

I didn’t know what the next step would involve, but God simply asked if I would trust Him in my next move.  Yes, I said move.  When that word first came to my awareness, I was a bit shocked.  I had been asking God to use me in a bigger way but was thinking (although very limited in my finite mind), I imagined a new plan would come to fruition someday.

I also believed that I would write books someday and several would be published for many to read. I never knew HOW or WHEN these dreams and trips would come to pass, but currently, as I sit here typing this, I see things unfold that I once could not even articulate.

Today on the fresh heels of Thanksgiving and returning from Africa, I am even more grateful and in awe of what has occurred in the past three years.  I have no magic formula, but over the years here is what I have learned:

Give yourself the space to dream again.

Get involved in your local church.

Do wholeheartedly whatever is before you.

Don’t have any agenda, but serve willingly.

Wait for God to open doors.

Submit to leadership.

Trust God because He is always in control when we are not.

There is no wasted experience; God uses everything.

God makes a way where there seems to be no way.

Have faith.

Be courageous.

Stay the course.

Be faithful.

Always remain part of something bigger than you.

Stay teachable.

Surround yourself with wise advisors.

Do nothing from selfish ambition.

Keep stretching and growing.

Continue gratitude.

Rally others to journey with you.

Bloom where God plants you.

Believe God for who He says He is.

Bonus: Obey God, He will not lead you astray.

Now I assume you are thinking, this makes a fancy pants list and all, but why should this work for you?  Or perhaps you have different goals than I.  Both could be true.  When you consider the infinite plans that God has for all of us, it’s easy to think small about what God can do through us.

The biggest truth I have realized over time is we rarely know the details of the journey when we start; like Abraham, we often go forth not knowing where we are going. But when you keep your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and the covenant promises, He will always take you to your destination.  Whether you come kickin’ and screamin’ or run willingly to Him, either way, God always knows what journey is best for each of us.  He is the only One who knows us better than we know ourselves and has gifted each person the uniqueness that makes us who we are.

He is good at being our Judge, our Father, and but also our Friend.  Some additional thoughts about following God are (and it’s important to remember these things too!)

God’s plans will…

Take longer than you think,

Cost more than you think,

Hurt more than you think,

BUT GOD AND you are…

Braver than you know,

Stronger than you seem,

Smarter than you think,

And loved more than you know.

Recently I was shopping with my husband and he purchased the above saying on a wooden sign. I asked him why he wanted to buy that for me and he said, “I will not always be with you, but I want you to remember these things.” The Lord also encourages believers in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  As if you are the only one, God steps into time, to author your story, and to develop you with a unique plan all your own but He loves it when you partner with Him in the grander scheme of His plans.

When you don’t know what to do, take the next step and trust God. Sometimes it looks like you are going in a different direction than you thought, but obedience is worth it. And when you grab ahold of the Father’s heart for you, then you will realize you are loved more than you know.  His heart will lead you no other way but the right way.  Follow, trust, and take heart.  Oh and hang on, it’s wild out here!

 

When you feel stuck

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My head hit the pillow with an extra dose of weariness that day.  There was a part of my mind that just wanted to stop altogether.  “If I could just give myself a break,” I thought.  But yet in the very next breathe I uttered, “Are you sure about that God?”  My mind vacillated between doubt and confusion, weighing the past and present, and was super injected by fear.

This all happened on my search for a focused word for 2016.  God kept speaking the word “remain” over and over to me.  Instead of feeling peace about it and receiving it as an exciting leg of this joy filled journey, I took in the fear of remaining stuck where I currently grew past, which was fueled by insecurity and doubt.  I didn’t want to stay there, in the land of confusion!

Our talks (between me and the Holy Spirit) quickly turned to arguments, or rather, like whining and complaining.  Never a good idea to start your conversation with God by wearing the captain’s hat in the complaint department!  We worked on it for days.  God suggested, I rejected.

“Are you sure about that word for me God?  I’ve changed so much from who I was.”  I said.

God said, “Remain.”

Every time I thought about all the changes from my past, I was worried about the remaining, thinking I would get stuck there.  And then fear came in and I didn’t want to stay stuck in that either.  (Now saying this back to you, I realize this is all irrational thinking!)  The changes that have come due to the wonderful work of the Holy Spirit have brought such healing and freedom in my life.  I can’t imagine being stuck in my own personal prison again.

I didn’t want to remain in that place – bound, burdened, and full of doubt.  I couldn’t stay there…I wouldn’t stay there…I was determined to change God’s mind.  And then something beautiful happened.

As I was talking to my missionary friend Mitch, God sent some encouragement through him.  Next, I cried on the phone to my friend Lori, and she prayed with me and then I went for a run.  While running down the county road, I saw a ditch full of mud and immediately felt the “stuck” feeling creep back into my soul.  But God reminded me to keep my eyes on the end of the road, and I whizzed right past it.  God was, without a shadow of a doubt, in all those conversations, as He helped dry my tears, and gave comfort my mind.  Immediately, the confusion was gone and I had a peace in the receiving of God’s word.

I hit the pillow hard that night with exhaustion from wrestling my will with God’s plan.

Fast forward to 3 a.m. the next day and I’m wide awake, and the Lord visits my bedside and asked, “Are you ready to learn how to remain in Me?”  I went in for my last ditch effort with God.  (Please don’t judge me, but learn from this story!)  I simply said, “If you give me an acronym for the word Remain, I’ll accept it.”  He said, “Go get your pen and pad of paper.” (He meant business!)

With blurry eyes through tears….I started writing immediately.  It came in an instant and the words were just what I needed to hear.  I didn’t stumble over them nor pretend like I was hard of hearing at this point.  God is patient in the ways He deals with us.  We could all learn a lesson from Him about his slowness of anger!  I wrote….

Remain

Remember

Eternity

Matters (so)

Abide

Intentionally

Now.

And there it was….full understanding of why this word was so important to know this year.  As I abide in Him, I will remain in my identity and purpose for my life.  As I abide, remain connected, and am intentionally faithful, and obedient in what He has asked, I will remain in intimate fellowship with the Great Shepherd.

I thought back to the time in the summer of last year where I practically memorized John 15, and couldn’t get past that section of teaching for two months.  I kept reading it over and over and over.  Finally God moved me on to learn more about love, and how to give it without condition. (Those lessons are for a whole another coffee date…or two!)

Ps 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.”  We often think about how God supplies our needs and have that promise in Philippians 4:19 for His supply that He has already provided in Christ Jesus.  That is a good promise to stand on.  The Lord won’t call you anything where His grace won’t sustain you.  I sense the writing of David in this Psalm however was in a time of searching for direction.  He had a vision of peace and contentment and I sense he was writing about what he saw regarding his relationship with God.

The Lord not only takes care of your needs before you know them, but He also makes provisions for your wants and desires.  When your desires line up with His desires, it’s for sure those are supplied.  If you are looking to grow in your relationship with God, please accept this journey however it looks.  We all need to grow in our faith, and it’s not a good idea to remain stuck in a place of stubbornness, pleasing self-will and fear coupled with doubt.

Take my word for it, gratitude paves the way to those green pastures of peace that we all want.  And as we enter His rest, we have everything we can ask for or imagine if we just remain in relationship with God and by living intentionally through trusting by faith.  As we are remain anchored by His love, we abide in His grace and mercy.

The journey for today and this year is to have joy in this and to walk in intimate fellowship with Jesus every minute of the day.  Why is this so important to know now?  This is only a foretaste because the best is yet to come!

What a kid’s movie taught me

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I was getting some coffee before going into church last week, and a friend that I hadn’t seen in a while asked me this question, “Do you have clarity?” I didn’t stop to think about my answer, nor did I need to give it much thought. My quickness in responding kind of surprised him.

Yes, I have clarity. I can remember a time when I didn’t. Those weren’t fun days. Those were days filled with worry, anxiety, and no peace.  When taking steps of faith, one of the problems is that confidence can be hidden behind a mask of fear. We can say we know what we are doing all we want, but our inner selves are actually running as far away from courage as fast as we can.

I don’t know if you have seen the popular kid’s movie “Home”. It’s where a certain race of beings spend their whole lives running away from things that scare them. The hero in the movie runs towards danger and in the end….ooops! I almost gave you the best part.

What I learned from that movie is:
1. That we always need a refuge to go home to.
2. We spend most of our lives running from things that scare us.
3. We hide behind the lies that we can’t, aren’t able, or enough.
4. We can do more than we think we can, we just need to try.

The other day in my leadership class my pastor asked challenged us to make a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” for the week. Mine was to run three miles consecutively, I had worked my way up to two miles over time. I had never run three. Did I tell you that I am not a runner? I’ve been embracing the fun of the run but still haven’t found much fun in it just yet.

I set my mind to running three miles the other day and did it! I was successful and didn’t have to stop to walk and catch my breath at all. I took my pace a little slower and just went for it. I was so proud of my accomplishment. The next time I went for a run, I set the same goal ahead of me, and I went twice as far running seven miles. Wow!

I never thought I could do it until I challenged myself. I was a little afraid of trying, and I don’t know why. It was wonderful to be able to say I did it. It was down right liberating!

“Insecurity is a destructive force. It can destroy your relationships, hinder your progress and steal your peace and joy. Security brings freedom.” ~ Christine Caine.

Yes, I have clarity in knowing who I am in Christ and I’m learning more about Him everyday. I have freedom to make goals that challenge me to go the extra mile. I don’t have to hide behind the lie of not enough anymore. And when you are a faith leaper the only refuge that is “home” for me is the place that draws me closer and closer to Jesus.

Do movies teach you too?

Why watching the nightly news keeps my dreams in check

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” ~ Proverbs 16:9

The look on my husbands face was priceless.  It was a look of confusion as if what I had just proclaimed had been said in another language.  In an effort to make sense of my thoughts, I often run the one million ideas by him to bring some sanity to what feels insane in my membrane.

“I’m so frustrated today.”  I blurted out loud and proudly.

As if my own frustration would bring justice to my fuming past him as he rested in his recliner.  I had an agenda for today that wasn’t checking off my “to-do” list fast enough.  Honestly, the lists are long and unending.

When I declared my frustration in my non-accomplishments, I realized I spend a lot of time talking about the things I want to do but then get distracted in the “not-actually-doing” them or I run away from the work in the completing of projects.

Until today, I watched the nightly news.

I don’t have one of those empty “boxes” in my mind like you guys do.  Think of the brain divided in about 10 (at least) compartments.  Now multiply that times 1000.  That’s me, my brain, my thought processes, my to-do lists and the way I am wired mentally.  Now add 100 emoticons to each box for all of the above.  I have a lot of spinning plates in the air like one of those spinner-guys who travel with the circus.

There are no empty spins here people, there are no empty boxes, there isn’t a list that doesn’t have at least five things on it.  This isn’t a multiple choice question where I can just focus on one answer.  It’s “all of the above.”  Can I get a witness ladies?

So back to today, I was frustrated in that I wanted to accomplish so much today.  All I could see were messes in my writing room, on my desk, in my kitchen, in my closet, in my journal, in my prayers, in my emotions, in my “to-do” list, in my personal planner planning the “Best Year Ever”.  So far, today didn’t have the look of being successful or completely accomplishing one thing.

So I declared it a pajama day.  Then I changed clothes to painfully do some Pilates.  Then I washed my sheets on my bed.  One task done.

Next, I started to write something today.  Jeff Goins writes every day with ease, Jon Acuff posted about fears today, I need to be posting everyday to call myself a full time writer.  Oh yeah about that book project?  I had a messy pile of papers on the corner of my desk that were calling for some much needed sorting and organizing too.  And then there is that chapter three that’s weighing heavy on my heart.  I can’t eeek out those words just yet.

Next, I started hanging clothes and folding underwear.  Then I put them away.  It was time for a snack.  Ever think about how many calories you burn while just thinking about exercise?  Not as many as you would like…

Next, I made an SOS phone call to my mentor friend and writer-encourager buddy to catch up.  She helps me get over my self-imposed separation anxiety.  I needed to connect with someone who “gets me” and my way of thinking.  I also needed someone to validate my frustration of all those plates I was trying to keep up on my billion tiny spinning dowel sticks.  (Those really exist!)

Next, it’s time to make the bed, I just heard the dryer buzz telling me so.  Then I get hungry.  Broccoli time!  (Turns out steamed broccoli is kind of delicious!) and I still have piles of mess everywhere.  Then my phone starts blowing up with texts over something happened last week.  Then I open another emotional box to put more lists into.  Oh and did I tell you this morning I spent an entire hour taking a test online about what my emotional IQ was?

Yeah, I spent an hour doing nothing but finding out that I have emotions.

Guess what?  I have emotions!  The results don’t lie because I scored high!  Now the trick is to use them properly.  Which leads me to talking about how I have been praying through Galatians 5:22-23 to learn the fruit of the Spirit, today was a lesson on self-control.  Then my friend suggested another prayer idea.

“Let God order your day.”  Oh yeah, I learned that once while running.  So when did I drop the baton on that reminder?  Seriously.

Then I watched the nightly news and saw the heartbreaking news about Christians being martyred for their faith.  I thought about how we are all one breath away from meeting Jesus, if you know Him as Savior, and then I thought about all my spinning plates.  All of a sudden, I heard the sound of crashing.

The sound of the Spirit’s voice came in like a swoosh and cleared my agenda.  Lists for the busy things we tend to focus on only distract us.  Cancer steals our joy and steals our hope.  Chronic illnesses suck the life right out of our sails.  Smiles are erased with the pain and suffering of others.  Happiness becomes harder and harder to achieve.

But yet I have hope when I watch the nightly news.  God never promised easy, but He promised His presence, His goodness, and He promised to never leave us alone.  So when I see the messes, the messiness, the merciless acts of others, it’s all I can do to bend a knee to plead for those who are hurting in SO many ways that I may never know.

My dreams don’t even make the agenda now at this point.  I’m not sure but some days I tend to take on the world and it’s entire wealth of heavy problems.  Surely I’m not the only one who has a 1000 mental boxes that are overflowing and overwhelmed with tasks that need to be accomplished.  What I know and believe though is that God’s power comes to earth to shape our faith in the days like this and weeks we all have had.  It’s my calling to beg the mercy of Heaven, if just for one more day so that someone might know God more and more today.

If you need to get a reality check on what’s important or maybe just one glorious thing you need to accomplish today to make yourself feel good about your day, just turn on the nightly news and look outside yourself to see how the world around us is a hurting world, and how hurt people are still hurting people.

That did it for me.  Dreams box?  It’s been checked.  There’s no tidiness there.  That’s okay to let one day slip by when feeling a little underwhelmed.  Give yourself permission to just eek out a frustration or two.  When it comes to accomplishments, it’s God’s will at work that conforms with my agenda as my heart transforms to His spoken Word.

How to dream like a child

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Any dreamer knows that dreaming is important. It’s like giving your heart a permission slip to explore the “what if’s”. For me dreaming has become an important tool in letting go of the small.

Maybe you have found yourself in a similar situation, you dream, you keep your eyes on the prize or the goal. You become obsessed in thinking about the end results but you compare the process of making your dream a reality according to someone else’s dream.

Your dream isn’t yours until you own your dream.

Let me explain it like this. I’m spending some time with my little four-year-old grandson Avery. He likes firetrucks. He has lots of books about firetrucks and has many toy firetrucks to play with. He wants to be a fireman when he grows up. He has a dream of being a helper in the community. He even took a tour of his local fire station for a birthday excursion.

It was so cute, he and his little friends exploring a big shiny red truck with it’s super loud alarm horns. The firemen there were kind and explained the process of training and rigorous upkeep to maintain their job as a fireman. You have to be able to lift and carry 100 lbs. That seems a little daunting to me, but it didn’t phase Avery.

After he visited the Fire Station #29 he was even more enthralled with becoming a fireman. Now, he’s only four and didn’t have the adult comprehension of what that occupational goal has in store for him. He has still no idea of the process of getting to his life time achievement. Right now he’s a dreamer with a goal to be a helper and wants to drive a large red vechicle.

It’s completely understandable that our dreams quickly escalate beyond us. Life overwhelms us into thinking it’s hard to grasp a hold of how big a dream really is. Last year I found myself in a situation that I almost gave up on writing full time because I grappled with fear and doubt about how I would ever achieve such a lofty calling.

Lofty indeed, but only in my mind. That was before I owned my dream. Since that day, I realized my cure was in the process and then it was all made simple in my mind. That’s the way dreams work. They lure us in with our creative imagination and then like to help us wander about. We love to explore the what if’s and why nots. I am sometimes not practicle in my dreams, and that’s by my own admission.

I know this about dreaming. The cure for our souls is often found in dreaming. And once you own your dream you can wrap your heart around something that seems bigger than yourself.

A dream worth having has to be owned and aligned with the way you are programmed on the inside. Your dream can’t be compared to others, and the process of getting there will look different. For me, it’s probably not going to look all shiny, red and flashy like a fire truck. But my dream is going to help people.

God has given vision to my dream of writing a book about losing 132 lbs. Now it’s imperative, now more than ever, to own my story. My part in this is to tell of His glory through my cure, in how this larger than life dream is shaping up.

I’ll be honest with you. There are many days that it seems daunting. All the more reason to that I must own the importance of why I am doing this in the first place. To encourage you, to inspire you, to motivate you, to lead you to a place where you can accomplish your dreams too and because God told me to do this.

We are a continuing story of God’s grace that is becoming us as believers in Christ. My heart loves to explore the boundaries with God by my side. And when I do that I revert to dreaming like a four-year-old. Dreaming Avery’s way seems a bit more simple and less worrisome.

The picture you see above is Avery owning his dream. He knows that firetrucks are red, black, gray, and white with silver fixtures. He knows what it’s supposed to look like. But he dreams of his own dream one day that maybe perhaps he would like to drive a yellow firetruck. What would be wrong with that?

Own your dream little one. Own it and see where God leads you in that process. So what are you dreaming for this year?

Nothing is wrong with dreaming. It’s a like a breath of fresh air to the soul. By not putting boundaries around your dreams it expands the border around what God can do in your dreams.

I like that kind of expansion. I like holding hands with God’s limitless possibilities. I like hanging my heart on the work of the Holy Spirit to bring this book to life with peace and order. I like walking the long sandy beaches in my dreams and wondering while letting my heart wander.

It’s not that I am setting my self up for a disappointment, I’m just paying attention to the One who goes before me and helping in this curing process of dreaming.

I’m letting God own my dreams too and simply trusting like a child.

I would love to believe in your dreams too! Tell me…what you are you are dreaming for? Let God speak some life into them by sharing.

What mountain climbers do

I talk about dreaming a lot.  If you were honest with yourself, you would admit that you do it too. We like to escape to those places where we can escape from our current thinking. We all need a place for our hearts to wander.

Something I’ve put towards my dreams are the words in prayer about dreams. I activate those prayers about dreams by putting energy into them. Any dream worth doing takes work. Any dream worth having takes prayer. Every dream takes action.

All dreams deserve a start. We need to pray more don’t we? We need to activate our desires of our heart with more prayer.

The price of a dream can be costly and it will cost you something. The vision of a goal requires work. To become something in life you have to have an idea, a drive, with an end result to focus on, plus a willing spirit to put the work into accomplishing your goals.

No one loses 132 lbs of weight overnight. Nor do you gain big successes by dreaming.

Goals should be set to improve yourself, and dreams play a big part in improving your quality of life. We can’t escape ourselves unless we are willing to change ourselves to get to the next dream, the next goal, the next place in life.

Dreaming can connect the dots of your past with a hope-filled future.

What do dreamers do? We start. We start dancing to the inner design that we know and love about ourselves. We change to put in the work, we move to the beat of our creative selves. We set our goals to progress towards a dream. We roll up our sleeves.

What do mountain climbers do?  They plan, they train, they climb, they practice, they practice climbing.

Dreaming and mountain climbers have a lot in common.  We sweat.

It’s a growing cycle, hard and sometimes arduous, a lot of energy goes into climbing in your dreams.  There is a great gain in the efforts put towards the dirve that lies inside. Dreaming requires a discovery of what you are made of.  I love digging into and finding out how things work, what makes things tick.

Climbing is moving forward in confidence by what you determined your mind to achieve.

I love to dream. It keeps my heart gullible. Not in the sense that I believe everything that I read or hear, but resulting in a teachable spirit, a washable will, a willing drive, and giving a flexible hope.

It keeps me pliable and trainable, like an Olympic gymnast. It keeps me growing and searching, it keeps me humble and reverent, it keeps me looking for the sunrise and the sunsets. It keeps me sane.

It keeps me in wandering and in wonder and awe of my Creator.

Don’t we all want to just live out our days in peace?  There’s great worth in living in peace instead of conflict. To gain more love instead of starting more wars. There is a great price to learning, gaining, and giving.

Dreamers know they will never arrive, but oh the fun is in the trying.  There will always be the next summit to overcome.  We do accomplish goals. There is a lot of teaching that comes with dreaming and a lot of dreaming needs teaching. I often call this a trying process, but it’s really a refining process. We are created to do many things but when it comes to dreaming we have to set our eyes on the one prize that makes our hearts sing.

So what is your dream today?

As you look to your goals for the new year, what can you do to make 2015 different? Perhaps you need to change directions. Maybe you need to start again. Maybe you need to give yourself permission to dream.

Perhaps you need to pray more. Perhaps you need to activate a dream.

Perhaps you just need to tweak your dream to feed it life and love, helping it alive and active. Maybe you need to put faith to your dream and leap. I activated my dreams, fueled them with more more prayer and laid them before God who turned them around for me. His permission to dream has given activation to my dreams.

Maybe you need to gear up and start.  Find out what I have in common with a giraffe.

I’m learning to give my dreams to God who put them there. As one who creates, I want to ask my Creator what it is that He wants me to do. You know what He said?  “Follow Me.”

To do what God wants you to do in this life, you have to ask God where He wants you to go.

Notice I said God with a capital “g”. There are so many little “g” or godlike dreams that only fool you into following them.  I don’t have any time to follow the god of pride or false, shallow hopes that will lead me astray.

It’s not about what you are leaving behind but about Who you are following.

A prayer I’ve always found that God answers “yes” to is the one where I need directions on.

This will soon be a site of memories. God has birthed a new stirring in me that has been a long time coming. It’s not that I want to leave you behind though, I want to take you with me. It would mean a lot to have company in this new free place that God has uncovered. I’ll explain as we go, but since time is short just follow this blog.  It will indeed be a journey worth gearing up for.

And then you need to challenge yourself to dream.

Oh…how our hearts love to discover, and how we seek to learn more about what makes us tick, what pricks our hearts and what sticks to our insides. It’s not always about the end result but about the journey. There’s a process in-between, changes that dreaming brings, and the new horizons we see when we are led by love and joy.  There’s always a summit to reach with our Good Shepherd as our Guide.

Gear up!  Gather your patience, stamina, drive, mental fortitude and strong will-power into your dream lexicon and let’s go!

I’m fed up with the world’s buffet. I’m ready to scoot myself up to the table of God’s blessings and feast. Feast with me…you’re invited to the grown up table too!

Happy New Year blessings! What are you dreaming for?