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!

 

The Promise That Parted a Chocolate Sea

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I gasped when I saw it.  I didn’t remember that much chocolate could exist in one single buffet line.  I was mesmerized by the shiny and sweet-looking goodness.  The lines to scoop up plates and platters of the decatant desserts were endless and filled with eager chocolate connoissuers.  I wanted to be in those lines twice over.  I wanted it all.

Worse yet, I was willing to hide that I wanted it.  Who would know if I actually jumped in head first?  Consumption of every square inch of all that light and fluffy cake? No problem.  There was such a desire to take a dive right in front of that guy who looked like he need to wait at least five minutes to let his food settle.

Ever want something that bad?

Y’all don’t know what it’s like.  You don’t know the depth of food temptations that reaches the soul.  You couldn’t know or realize the intensity of it, unless you have been there and are fighting to stay free of it.

My grade school principal didn’t get it either.

The day that Mister announced my weight to the entire 20-student class of my private school was the most humiliating and demeaning set of numbers a chubby girl could endure.  I’m sure China heard his voice that day.  I SO wanted to jump ship and drown in a sea of pity.

Again, here was another demeaning amount of desserts set before me.

The nerve of people making chocolate into a flowing sea in a place where to get away from it I had to jump ship…literally.  I just stood there all numb like and such.  The powerlessness I felt in that moment was transcribed as a chocolate trance to find the end of the line and jump on board.  My heart was on hold and my desires were captivated.  I.wanted.every.lick.of.it.

I remember that fateful day when Mister boomed my weight to the world and my desire was then immediately anchored to my dark chocolate history.  OOOH the milky sooth coos from a chocolate milk carton of comfort was overflowing with each imagined dip of satiny goodness.  So I just….dove into my shame and swam in a sea of guilt and blame.

I almost choked back the tears of how wonderful it all tasted as a third grader.  That memory came back to me as I stood in line on that floating chocolate boat.  For a second I wanted more and more comfort and then something shifted inside that made me quickly drop the idea of just a skewered pineappley dipped chocolate treat.

I saw myself (in my mind) at 244 lbs, (my weight at the beginning of my weight loss journey) and I realized that I didn’t want to go back.  Even knowing that one treat would not add over 100 pounds back onto my body, I put the plate down.  I remembered where I used to be, I remembered how I got to where I am today, and I remembered all the work and tears it has taken me to get to where I am.  And I thought of how God wants more for me over my selfish desires.

I remembered why I started this journey in the first place, plus my promise to invite freedom into my life over lusting desires.

I remembered Mister.  That day, in the third grade, I traded my self-esteem for a lie that returned in a failed way of comfort for my hurting inner being.  What I didn’t know then (because I was a child), was that I believed a lie as truth.  It was in the third grade that I chose to let food have it’s way in me.

Once I stood there and saw the endless chocolate river I remembered my “why” and that I became a power-filled overcomer.  I thought of all the lust that has been cut out of my life.  I also remembered a promise that was made between myself and God.  I vowed that I would stay pure in the area of my desires for unnessary calorie choices.

I haven’t always kept my end of the bargain but He has.

The self-esteem that I lost as a third grader rose up strong, renewed and wouldn’t be sabotaged again.  You see, I could have eaten as much as I wanted to and gotten away with it but I am the one who has to live with me after I put the empty plate down.  I have to answer to God about that action, since He is my accountability partner.

Remembering this convenant action with my Rescuer helps me keep this promise true:

Hebrews 8:10 “This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Isreal after that time, declares the Lord.  I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

When I saw the brown river, all I could think of was my convenant with God that was written on my mind and heart.  Afterall, I am His “people”.  I remembered that obeying God was giving Him permission to control my desires in every area and having self-control in my choices.  I also remembered that I didn’t have to hand over my permission to a chocolate power anymore. Suddenly or not so quickly, I lost my desire to give my tongue to a lie once again.

Even chocolate with all it’s alluring power that flows in a river can’t break a promise between you and God.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about breaking a food rule, life is too short to keep my own list of wrongs when it comes to food rules and food was put on this earth to enjoy.  I’m relying on my relationship with my Deliverer that gives me strength and shows me out of every temptation known to man, even the ones dipped in chocolate.  Nope, I ain’t got time for that!

When you need a new beginning

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My pastor says “Sometimes you have to give up the things you love for the things you love more.”  This truth has stuck hard in my life.  It actually set my heart to dreaming with God, after I first heard it on that one Sunday morning over three years ago.

On this New Year’s Day, God brought it back to my mind.  “Now, there’s been a change in plans.”  God said again this morning and I responded in my heart’s silence.

“As change is God’s love language, my trust in Him is the language of my heart.” – Janelle Keith.

Little did I know that three years of holding to God’s vision would grow me in such an immense and intense way.  I expect that this is a part of the wonder of God.  It was on this day, three years ago, that God planted His new beginning in my heart to bring my love of missions and my love of writing together.

Since that day, it’s been bouncing around in my mind.   I’ve been stuck in a few of those “how” corners but now finally see the light of the vision set before me.  It’s simple really, but complex.

The prophetic vision I had was that God was going to bring my two heart passions together which in this simple dream actually blew my socks off.  When I told my friend Julie the story of it all, she laughed and said, “See those socks over there?  Those are yours!!”  To comprehend what all this means is still beyond me.  That’s why I’ve been praying for the Holy Spirit to what I can’t do.

I’m still unpacking the dreams that God has laid on my life but it feels like I am years closer than I have ever been.  Today’s beginning is different in that I sense bigger opportunities that are very, very near.  Most of you know that I have traveled to Africa several times, and am now planning my fifth trip back.  There is a reason I keep remaining with this vision in my life.

The journey to discover your purpose is life-long and sometimes full of detours.  It’s worth pursuing though and worth dedicating yourself to it, if it’s from God.  There will be many things that don’t make sense along the way and that’s okay, you aren’t supposed to figure out all the turns or twists, that’s God’s job.

Your job is to follow AFTER Him in the journey.  You can trust that His will never lead you where His grace can’t sustain you.  When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.  When God says “no” a better “yes” is coming.  When I set out to pursue God with all intention, I had to reset my attention and affection on Him.  To do that I had to let go of what this journey would look like and knew that it’s not about what I’m leaving behind but about Who I am following.  I look to the Author and Perfecter of my faith for every step.

“When you don’t know what to do next, just do the next thing.” Elizabeth Elliott.

I have continued to blog, write, and serve in missions and most importantly trust my obedience to God.  I also trust in the wisdom I receive from Him as His plans unfold.  There are days I don’t know what’s around the corner but I believe that He has already been there.  My faith is always challenged to live under God’s goodness.

“Faith brings answers, but enduring faith brings answers with character.”  – Bill Johnson.

The real truth is that I started to believe in the ability that God has lovingly placed on the inside of me.  I am not confident in my own ability but I am confident in my availability.  There are places that He has yet to take me not only physically but spiritually.  This might just hit you all hyper -spiritual and all but it’s the journey that I am on.  God’s ways are higher, deeper, and still a mystery.  Miracles are often on the other side of our comfort zone.  His Voice is heard in my life and because of that I respond by releasing the love I have FOR Him and letting my heart response eclipse everything else.

There is a purpose in the waiting and His Presence is sustaining.  It’s all for that reason, that I move forward, onward and upward with hope.  My word for 2016 is Remain.  This year God is having me focus on what remains – His fruit of the Spirit – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.”  (Galatians 5:22-23)

There is nothing that can come against the things of God, the Spirit of the Living God, nor the plans of the Lord.  No enemy can thwart His love for us.  No earthly disaster can detour His care and protection.  No fears can come against the refuge of Perfect Love.  The grave can’t contain it, His power is mighty and strong, and the remaining Hope of Christmas is dwelling among us.

As a believer, I have all that I need to do what He has asked of me, living inside of me.  And it’s not too late to step into the plans that God has for you!  This is the year to release the “remaining” and “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”  (Galatians 5:24-25).

What is your word for 2016?  Please comment!