How to Grow In Grace

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Last year was a hard year but a good year.  And by the great grace of God, I have come out a better person because of it.  “Better?”, you ask?  Yes, not just better as a survivor of some horrible event, but thriving as a “growing in grace” kind of person and better because of what I experienced.  Here are few lessons I’ve gained:

1.  Acceptance:  Often we think that we are in control of our lives.  I’ve found that we can certainly own our lives to an extent but then there are some things, events, or occurrences like death, cancer, or accidents that you wrestle with but in the end have to accept.  No one likes to submit to what can’t be controlled.  However, one of the hard truths about life and death is that every person alive needs to accept what life hands them.  For instance, death has a place in everyday living.   Get used to it because death insinuates itself at the most inconvenient moment.

2.  Trust:  Since we are talking about death, along with dying comes the mourning and grieving process.  My friend once texted me (after I made a “faith” move) with a three-worded message:  “Trust the process”.  These words are sound advice.  The process of trusting is hard in itself and requires a deep faith but to accept what you can’t control and use self-control for what you can’t accept is truly the essence of living by faith.

There’s a process to learn faith in the deeper parts of life, like trying to understand life and death itself.  I believe death is one of life processes where understanding only comes in the grieving and you have to give space for mourning.

3.  Agreement:  One of my close missionary associates once said to our team, “How about we just agree with the Lord!”  My eyes met another team members’ confirmation to understand that the Lord was definitely opening our eyes and unstopping our ears in one accord (agreement) in a power-filled lunch.  Whoa, what an impartation!

Jesus actually said to do this, to agree with his teaching in John 8:31-32  “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Agreeing with the Lord means holding to the teaching of Jesus for the purpose of true freedom.  There’s no going your own way AND the way of culture.  You can own your life by being accountable for your actions but you have to trust the leadership of spiritual mentors in your life to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  It’s when you hold to righteous teaching then you will make progress and experience freedom on a whole new level.

4.  Leadership:  To grow in the knowledge of God by faith you have to live within the teachings of Jesus.  He started with a small group of willing people who were seeking some direction in their lives.  At the end of his ministry, Jesus had a band of brothers who were well-versed in the disciplines of learning, teaching and evangelizing.  Believers often skip the fact that this training was difficult, or intense, or challenging.  In all actuality, they were with Jesus as He walked, taught, and touched lives.  We have been given the same opportunity to be among those who are looking for a relationship with Jesus and we can easily lead them by the way we live our lives.  We can lead with what we know about Jesus and how He has touched our life.  Share that…it will take you far in leadership.

5.  Influence:  To be under the influence doesn’t mean the same anymore.  I’m not talking about drinking alcohol or smoking pot.  I’m speaking of the spiritual influence of total submission to the Holy Spirit.  The fact is once you examine the life Jesus lived he was led by the same Holy Spirit that we have access to.  He was all man and all divine.  You might say, “A perfect life was easy for Jesus!”  Yes, He lived a perfect life.  He butted up against sin many times but never did; was tempted by Satan himself, and He was tormented as He took a confident stand for all mankind!  For the entire time Jesus walked the earth, he was walking in his own humanity but totally submitted to the influence of the Holy Spirit.  We, as believers weren’t given a junior version of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit that empowered Jesus is the same Helper that believers submit to.  Want to live a sinless life?  Go ALL IN unto the power of the Holy Spirit and be a person of influence under the Influencer.

What I’ve learned has been gained by applying the Biblical teaching into my everyday life.  Life is a good teacher and we have the choice to respond to every occurrence or situation.  But when it comes down to the end of the day, we all have to reconcile our responses and experiences under the lens of faith.  This is living the Christian life as a disciple of Christ.  It’s full of power, disciplines, and experiences that will help you Home.  There’s nothing like an encounter with God that will meet you where your history has left you.  There’s more beyond what we know, I am grateful and am all in the growing in grace.

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!

 

Living a life of stillness in this busy world

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Friends, let’s be honest on this day, today.  My  heart is heavy with stuff.  Yeah, I try to put it all together out there for others to see, flawless and whole.  But that’s not me.  I’ve been honest with myself and have taken a long look at what my life what it is about.  In this busy life we call ours, it’s really becoming a management of one urgent crisis or another.

My shoulders are heavy and tired and weak.

“Lord, I lift my burdens to You alone and I lay them down at your feet.  Will you give me some simplicity today?”  I prayed those words the other day.  I simply put it all out there for God to hear.  Liberation came in just in the confessing and I realized that I was trying to do things on my own.

Immediately, I was convicted of some false insecurities that continue to rise up (in my soul and spirit) and drag, weigh, and bear down upon my mind.  My problems, my cares, my duties, my hopes, my dreams were anchored in my own efforts.  “Wait…I thought to myself…I have freedom in those areas.”  Or at least I thought I did.

In the confessing, I realized I was trying to create a comfortable life for myself and my feelings.  On top of that, I also realized that I was covering my life with right “to-do’s” or tasks and such but I was forgetting about the one important thing needed.  Can we just be honest today?  Aren’t there those days we all face, where it takes this kind of realization to see where you need to grow in your simplicity of managing life?

What I heard back from God, (yes, I know it was His voice) was “Will you just walk with Me?”.  

There were a lot of tears involved in the process.  Then I remembered a season in my life that I used to cry often everyday and all day.  My life was full of regret of a list of things that I never accomplished.  My next thought became one of rejoicing because of a major shift and many changes that have occured in the recent years of  my life.  I don’t live a life of regret-filled days anymore.

I rejoiced in the fact that those days of regret are over and now I can choose to adopt the pace of God, my Father, in the life of my today.  If I could let you into my brain for a moment, there’s a stillness that needs to happen inside of your thoughts that causes you to choose your best life in considerations of what you have around you, the blessings in life instead of the regrets of life.  (I am realizing this lifestyle goes deeper than your task list or the things you think about any morning like…”I’m behind on so many things!” kind of thinking.)

Now I’m getting stuck in the multiple list of thoughts that come rising up in a woman’s mind especially when she feels behind, unfulfilled and a list of unmet needs are left open in her life.  Okay, now back to the choosing.

There has to be season that as you are emptying your life of what it isn’t, and there is a choice to rejoice in what it is.  In the choosing to accept the rejoicing, the living, the owning your life, the doing of life, you must celebrate with what you have, and begin believing that anything is possible with God in the middle of it all.

There I said it, not simply said, because life isn’t like that.  At all.  It’s complicated, full of tensions, stresses, and problems.  But when we confess that we can’t do life without God, then that’s when the miracles start happening.  In that way of thinking, you have to admit there is more than what God has intended FOR you and designed you for and you MUST surrender the controls over to HIM.  He knows what is best and right and good FOR you.  He knows how big your tiny shoulders are.  He knows your capacity for loads and He hasn’t forgotten your to-do list.  He put the passions inside of you to accomplish what He has designed you for.

He hasn’t forgotten where He has put those things.  Have you forgotten where your strength comes from?  I did.  I honestly thought…”okay God, I can do this (believing that I had to do what He has called me to do on my own.)  That’s not right honestly, because I need God to accomplish what HE has put inside of me to do and what HE wants to purpose in my life.

Simply said, I need Jesus every hour of the day to live.  Honestly, this IS the life I am in (and I don’t know how it is with you).  I need Him to carry me, to help me choose what I need to be doing, to carry out what He wants me to do, and most days I am overwhelmed simply by His goodness in my life.  I am complicated, full of tensions, and stresses just like you.  Challenges come and go, but I can’t live or exist as His much loved child without Him.

These are the things that are on my mind today.  What’s on yours?

 

When you need rest

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I wasn’t sure what to expect in this season.  I received an open invitation to a season of rest and was, quite honestly, afraid of it.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.”

Why would a person be afraid of resting?  Could it be that there was something to learn in this season too?  Most people crave a break from the normal routine, but an odd feeling of unrest was rising up within me.  It was a battle to open my mind to the idea of resting.  But God has proved a worthy point in this season too!  The very thing I was afraid of was the very thing I needed to realize.

Rest is a gift from heaven.  The Holy Spirit whispered…”what if I could show you an easier way…”  My mind immediately spiraled into a “oh no, (regretful sigh) I’ve been doing this wrong!”.  Ever found yourself in a proving season that you are pointing inward instead of outward?  I have and that’s NOT a fun place to dwell.

Let’s talk in analogies here.  Imagine you are making a pizza with all the wonderful toppings on it and then baking it to perfection with the cheese all melting perfectly golden.  You slice it up to individual slices and then serve it.  You watch the taster just sigh with delight, and know you have hit their cheese nerve of delicious-ness!  It’s so wonderful, you know how to replicate this delicious delight plus how to serve a wonderful pizza product.

Rest in God is like that perfect sigh of delight that you want to replicate in your life.

But how do you get to this kind of rest?  Think of the pizza and it’s many slices.  The gifts inside of you are like those pizza toppings.  The crust and the sauce are like a foundation of faith in God.  The Holy Spirit adds the cheese, to help with those divinely placed gifts to grow and give the delight to you and back to God when you are doing what He has designed you to do.

God has placed His design upon your life a long time ago.  Maybe you are in tune with those gifts or not.  Fact remains there is divine “something” inside of you and you long for that to show in your life.  I’ve had those same longings to know and show God’s working in my life too.

Is what I write here the cheese?  Is this what God has called me to do?  Or is there more?  Yes, and yes.  I believe there is MORE of God to discover and how it’s proven in my life is something only HE can do.  So when I was faced with the thought that I might of missed or messed this design up, well, then I recognized I needed to rest my heart on His.

I needed another dose of holy confidence and assurance that this season was the place of rest for my pride and to go gently unto Him again with all my stuff and lay it down.  Rest assured that entering His rest is nothing to be afraid of nor reject.  It’s His perfect design inside of you, a longing to align with His heart FOR you.  You can’t mess up His work because He is more than that.

God’s work is bigger than your human efforts.  He works in the supernatural realm, which means outside of your human effort, or outside of your way of thinking, or outside of your realm of human influence.  God is at work in your life in all and every one of your life seasons.  No matter what you need, even when you don’t know what you need, you can have rest and He wastes NOTHING!

When looking for the work of God it’s often left at the bridge of faith and put in the doorway of our minds.  We have a choice to believe it and receive it, thus believing that God has gifted you with His divine “sweet spots” of grace over your life too!  Faith is a gift in itself and has to be received supernaturally to believe God for who He says He is.

Now, I don’t know where you are in all of “resting” idea.  Having faith is a good thing, believing God for who He says he is a great thing!  The Supernatural way is the “more” things of God.  To have confidence in your faith will get you there, and will keep you where God wants to work in you and through you.  So don’t question His invitation when the seasons change for you, or look different than you expected.  Even in seasons of rest He is operating from His heart FOR you.

Rest in His confidence is a sweet place.

Resting on Him is a great pleace of trust, is good FOR us, and often missed as needed healing in our lives.  Rest is a choice that even God made on the seventh day of creation.  When I think about how intentional He was in setting aside an entire day to rest on what He had done in the previous six days of creativity, I realize that rest is needed to remain in a creative place plus the fact that rest is a HUGE part of His design for our lives.

Resting, assurance and confidence are sweet places to dwell on and in.  I think, no…I believe, I don’t have to be afraid of resting when it aligns with His creative design in me and around me.  Thank you God that you give us rest.  Yes I will come to You to receive the lighter burdens you have assigned for me.

 

 

When it feels like life is passing you by

writingdownHabakkuk 2:2-4 “Then the Lord replied:  ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald my run with it.  For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.  Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.  ….but the righteous will live by his faith'”(faithfulness as it says in the footnotes of my Bible.)

Ever feel like life is passing you by? Have you ever prayed for God to give you that “burning bush” to help you to know what direction to go in life? Five years ago I took part in class at church that changed my purpose and vision for my life. It is called Chazown and it helped me discover the spiritual gifts that God has entrusted on the inside of me.  Once I discovered what my gifts were, I was not sure what or how to work within them.

Finding your life’s purpose is a noble cause, and everyone is talking about it.  You have to know this about you before you discover what your life is all about, and it’s really more of a recovery versus a discovery.  In this life’s journey we are on, this process takes time and it’s important to delve deep into what your purpose is.

Once you realize the value of doing so, it’s also important to let your gifts develop within you.  Years ago after the class, I wrote this mission statement about what I wanted to do in life.  “To compassionately communicate truth in a real and honest way that impacts and serves others.  To be a voice and a catalyst for service, purpose, acceptance, redemption and freedom in Christ”.

It takes time to let God develop the gifts He puts inside of you.  We all learn differently and I learn with my heart first then my weakest part, my mind. 

How about you?  What’s rewarding for me personally is that I feel like my mission statement is finally being fulfilled in my own life.  Walking in your purpose comes over time.  I haven’t always been here though but God has given me some freedom to do what it is that He has put as deposit long ago.

My recent mission trip to Africa God unlocked something inside of me that I didn’t know where was lying deep.  It’s like the story of the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant across the Jordan River in the days of Joshua.  They encountered some really high water at the shores.  They didn’t understand how they were going to cross the river with its tide raging, waters higher than they could cross.  Joshua told them to put their feet into the water and they would be able to cross.  They had to step out to find out.  But once their feet hit the waves, they parted miraculously.  They stood in the middle until everyone crossed with no fear of the water swallowing them.

That is the purpose of this post today, is that we have to let God develop our gifts with no fear of where He wants to take them.  Your journey will look different that others and that’s okay.  Your journey could be longer than others that is also good.  We are slow learners and that is the best way to see the hand of God in your life.  You might wonder if you have gifts to even be developed.

You do.  Believe today that you are reading this for a purpose and God has plans for you too.  It will look simply different than others.  The place we get caught is comparing our gifts with those of others but friends, that only results in detours and roadblocks.  Celebrate the gifts that God has lovingly put inside of you. 

Are there are things that only you sense from the Lord?  That’s a good, and an awesome thing! He is telling you these things because HE ALONE knows what you are capable of.  And it’s okay that it doesn’t look the same or like the next person’s.  Envy of others only brings disunity but celebrating God’s handiwork brings unity.  We are all the body of Christ when it comes to the kingdom of God.  Take a step of faith and see what is in your inner being.  You will be surprised at what your gift looks like.  What’s the next step?   We will walk by faith and not by sight and will not be intimidated by the wall of water that looms on the shores.

So I challenge you to find out what your purpose is and once you discover it, let God develop it. If you go to this website, you will get step by step free instructions, including a spiritual gifts tests to help you determine your gifts and empower you to be all that you can be for God. Go ahead, I dare you. Check out this website and find out for yourself.

My next step is to keep close to the Giver, and keep trusting in His process. Keep to what He has faithfully shown as I look forward.

Do you love Me more than these?

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Recently God tapped me on the shoulder and asked a simple question, similar to the same one Jesus asked Peter on that one morning on the beach recorded in John 14. The disciples had just feasted on some fish and swapped stories about their latest catch. Jesus was among them, not fully known just yet.  He asked Peter if he was ready to move from a waiting season to a season of purpose.

“Do you love me more than these?” Oh those words must have fallen with surprise on Peter’s heart, like it did mine. “Of course, Lord, I do love you”, I said the appropriate answer. He asked it again, “No, do you love ME more than the things of Mine.”

I too paused before responding.  Was I willing to wait for the purpose of what God Himself has put inside of me? Was I willing to wait even if the understood promise never came?

Ps. 119:123-124, “My eyes strain to see your deliverance, to see the truth of your promise fulfilled. I am your servant; deal with me in unfailing love, and teach me your principles.”

“Deal with me in your unfailing love Lord.” That was my response…eventually.

Now I know that kind of unfailing love of God and know that He also knows my purpose.  Often though God takes us to one place and has His purpose poised in another place.  First we have to go there so that we can move to hereFirst we have to get to the end of ourselves before we can go to where God wants to send us, the place of our true purpose.

How often we want to know God’s plan before we obey God’s plan? How often God catches us unaware when we look to the gift instead of the gift Giver.  God wants our obedience in love towards Him first and foremost, and contentment in the fact that there could or could not be an explanation to the purpose or His plans for us.   Furthermore, we have to go through situations to discover His purpose.

For years I thought doubt was the enemy of my faith but here recently I now know that it’s the doorway to a stronger faith.  Often doubt comes dressed as a test to increase your faith.  Many verses are challenging when praying and encourage us to “test” the Lord.

When praying those prayers know that tests will come.  What I know about teachers when they give a test, if you pass, teachers hand out affirmations and promotions.  Those positive statements affirm your confidence.  So it is with God, if you test Him in the ways of faith, you will be promoted to a place where more faith is needed.

There’s something about the Lord testing His love that is also challenging.  In this disposable world we live in, to find a love that lasts through tests is unique and rare.  God’s unfailing love is certainly a kind of love that has been tested and approved.  And His unfailing love affirms my faith and confidence.  It never, ever fails!

Sometimes we need a refresher course about confidence, tests, and putting doubts to rest.  So that when our unfailing God says to go there and then go here, you know that it’s His love that is leading you to a deeper faith.  And His love never fails!  It’s endless and ever leading!

When you need a little more confidence

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“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E.L. Doctorow

For most writers, what our hands produce is an expression for what we feel in our hearts.  Sometimes though it gets a little mixed up in there I’ll admit.  For the most part, if you let a thought simmer long enough it will produce something that can be moving or thought provoking.  For me areas around me have to just about right to get my mind to settle on what to express on any given day. Such as it is all artists, we need things like we like them, handy accessible or within reach at least.

This weekend I spent some quality time in a room where I formulate thoughts and articulate them in a blog.  I was surprised by what I found on my dusty shelf.  A full, actually overloaded basked of blog thoughts, ideas of thought provoking posts and many unfinished blog concepts.  Most of them were only half started and looked like a scribbly mess.  I remember those days when I was a firestorm of ideas.

I still have a lot of ideas for blogs but lately God has been focusing a lot of my efforts on writing a book.  I am making great momentum in that project.  The point of my mentioning a lot of half-scribbled notes about blogs is two ideas:  1.  What did people use before the invention of Post-it’s?  2.  Do you think Paul had a stack of half scribbled notes surrounding him while writing from prison?

When I found the overload of the scraps of paper I had to wonder why I didn’t take time to write some of them out.  I recognized that I have a great ability to start a lot of great and awesome projects around here and my kitchen table is paralyzed right now with about 10 craft projects that I want to pin to a board someday.  I realized “someday” needed to become a bigger priority to actually finish any of the projects.  Was my need to accumulate a lot of stuff by crafting or was I just wanting to cover my table to make it literally unusable for the purpose it was intended for?

I think it’s because we tend to find value in what our hands produce and receive our worth from the false sense of productivity to gain value in our lives.  I’m pretty sure Paul, the writer of over half of the New Testament, didn’t have a craft table or 10 projects laid out on it.  I am pretty sure he didn’t have a basket overloaded with chapter ideas either.  I pretty sure that Paul had a lot of time to articulate his thoughts.  Take a read some of his latest releases called the New Testament Bible.

I am pretty sure that Paul didn’t always have the cleanest of areas to work in.  I’m pretty sure there were days when Paul didn’t see the light of day or get out into nature to inspire him to put pen to paper.  I’m pretty sure that Paul didn’t over analyze his work nor have doubt about what his calling in life was.

Do you think he was disappointed with how his life turned out?  He wrote about contentment a lot.  He wrote about praying a lot.  He wrote a lot and remained focused on truth.  He kept his mind in check and could have let it stray to dark places but he didn’t.  What did Paul have in his life that other writers didn’t?

I think in his “knower” that he knew.  Paul wrote to churches that needed encouragement, teaching and preaching the truth, and showed how to love first and foremost.  Paul wrote about some “hot” topics too.  Paul was known as a passionate person who had been radically changed by an encounter with God along a dusty road.  Paul didn’t question his ability to write, he just knew that it was God who was empowering him to share the Gospel that still inspires us today.

He just knew.  And there was no doubt that was what he was supposed to do.  If there was any lack of faith it didn’t show.  Am I the only one or do you get stuck in the “how” of God’s ways and try to figure things out before we let Him have His way in us?

I have gotten stuck in the “how” details were going to happen, or if my dream would ever happen.  I stacked my little notes on a shelf thinking if I’m better I’ll write that, or if I have time I make that a great post, or if there is no one else out there that will tackle this subject, then I will.  How often I think I have nothing to say about something?

This stack of unwritten blog ideas has changed me a little to think I only need a little more confidence to focus on if I should write it at all.  Focused confidence was what Paul knew as his purpose and it came from the Author Himself.  I often find myself reminding God what I don’t have to do what He has asked me to do.  He has confidence in me, so why can’t I have confidence in me?

All that changed this weekend.  No, I don’t think I can write all those scraps into a post, because it’s not about the quantity number of posts that I write but the confident quantification that I write from.  If God is in your unfinished pile of projects then don’t give up before He has had a chance to add a little confidence to your mind and heart.  It will do you a world of good to throw away a bad idea.  It’s okay, no one knows about those silly ideas anyway.  Focusing and letting God sort your ideas will help you become confident and know which ideas to put effort towards.  Who knows you could be the next Paul creating something for a generation that hasn’t even been born yet!

If whatever creative stroke is consistent in your life then seek God in the middle of it and ask Him to be your confidence.  He will bolster your faith in a way that won’t make you over-productive but will help you produce what He has put inside of you.  God cares about those details too!

Where do you need more confidence in your life?

Oh How He Loves!

fathers love

As many times as I have been to summer camps as a camper, counselor, and dishwasher, I know enough about camping with teenagers to know some things.  And it’s inevitable that every time I go, God speaks.  Little did I know that I needed to really be the learning camper girl over the adulting camper girl.

At summer camp, when with a bunch of preteens or teenagers for a week coupled with multiple showers, random underwear and emotions are all flowing, it’s in those times you really lean in to hear.

Imagine God bending down right now and asking you “What can I do for you?”  That’s the way He comes with a willingness to hear from you.  My response to God surprised me a little after His initial opening.  We simply chatted though one of those summer afternoons in a really quiet spot.  I asked if He could show me what He liked about me, my body, and the image that was made in His likeness.  I was astounded.  I didn’t get the answer I was expecting and it came through my friend Kat who is losing weight too.

“I don’t like the way you are treating my friend Janelle.”  I teared up a little.  She was right I’ve not been kind to me.  I might have been a little too hard on myself, quite honestly I have been a little strict on my regime. It’s because I know the cost of a gain.  And I don’t want to go back to where I was…ever.  No seriously ever, never, never.

The constant battle in our minds with those of us who have a lot of weight to lose is this:  “Do we have what it takes to stay at or around our goal?”  Personally this has been a HUGE fear that God has revealed.  You just don’t know the thought processes of a chubby girl’s mind unless you have been there yourself.  Fear comes dressed in all kinds of sizes and the Enemy knows exactly which button to push to get you to think about food, eat something with a lot of regret later, and worse yet push you to binge for a week on absolutely everything that is not healthy or green.

Kat reassured me that I could let up on myself a little.  She was right again.  How could I possibly love me like He loves me knowing what I had eaten or crammed down out of stress or guilt or flat out pleasure?  God really hit it home when I asked my question of Him.  There is something that we tend to believe about God is that He doesn’t really care about how we treat our bodies says my new blogger friend Laura, she was right too!  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Our bodies are a house in which His Spirit dwells, moves and has a life inside of us.  There is something about the lie of false humility that leads us on a path of self-depreciation but leaves us feeling super spiritual to think less of ourselves.

There is also something about growing up without the verbal affirmations of a father that somehow and ironically transfers to our Heavenly Daddy to make us think that God feels the same about us as we attach to those “loser” feelings of value and self-worth.  I am writing a book and dedicating a whole chapter on the emotions that come with gaining weight and losing weight and everything in between.

Back to my summer chat with God.  He gently reminded me to show His full love to others, I had to receive His full love for my body including all my wrinkles, crinkles, and unmentionable parts too.  His house that is on the inside of me and you.  To experience His fullness, I had to grip the reality that His love is the kind of love that dwells from within is enough to cover my years and years of mistreatment and abuse by food to my own personal piece of property.

I am His and He is mine.  We have ownership rights.  From that day forward I vowed to appreciate myself in a new ways that helped me see God’s bigger picture of who I really am.  This is a process friends and doesn’t come overnight, but I am being kinder to me, once God lined it all out for me and took time to explain it in a way that really helped me.  And it all happened in the middle of overloaded hormones and sweaty pre-teens pits.  Appropriate homework at my adult age that I missed from my summer camp lessons.

God thinks more about me and you in ways that you can’t imagine.  We can’t comprehend the deep love He has for us how He shines His glorious light when we let His love engulf us.  When the rigid walls come down from the inside out, it was like a soft gentle, healing rain upon my scarred over heart.  God even showed His sense of humor, as I was stationed in the snack bar all week.  I never touched so many sweaty palms and was met with so much indecision as I was this summer.  I was surrounded with all kinds of temptations and treats that could send me into a sugar coma that would last all the way next year and God gave me a way out of each and every temptation.

To know God’s love for others, you  have to fully realize His love for you and inside of you. If you are alive right now and breathing you have so much to be grateful for and still have plenty of chances to make some smart changes that will get you back on the right track.  The truth is God does care about you, each and every detail of you.  You are fearfully and wonderfully woven by His design to have the body you have.  So love you and stop beating yourself to a prison that keeps you comparing to others.  It’s a liberating way of experiencing true and unmeasurable freedom, and I promise you will never be the same.

For extra encouragement, read Psalm 139.

When I didn’t know I needed rest

finding joy

It was a season that I was unprepared for and didn’t know what it would look like, though it was exactly what I needed.  I had just given my all at a job for 13.5 years and had resigned my position to pursue full-time writing.  My new season wasn’t exactly what I had signed up for.

Honestly I didn’t know what it would look like except it felt good to sleep in past 3:45 am.  I did have some expectations going into this new thing that God was doing in me.  I was ready for a change.  I thought it would be easy.  I thought it be great and grand.  I thought I was already prepared.  I thought a lot of things.

I didn’t think it would look lonely, or leave me with a feeling of insignificance or make me feel marginal in anyway.  I didn’t realize I needed any rest and thought I could transition to one season to the next.  I wanted to know results to feel productive.  I didn’t think I had to dig so deep to discover my purpose.

This new place I was in was the exact opposite of my previous work environment.  May I be bit transparent here?  I felt a bit weak in this type of rest.  I thought I knew what this was about, but God showed me His more important things to accomplish as I prepared for the coming season.

Have I told you that I have a hard time being still?  It’s difficult for me to rest.  I didn’t realize how worn out I really was.  Emotionally I didn’t realize how spent I was on the inside.  The transition from a very public personality to a full-time writer was challenging for me.  As a people person, I used to talk to people for my job and the moment I left that position, intense isolation and loneliness set in.

I remember feeling so unproductive in my new found reason for rest.  I couldn’t hardly wait for God to launch the next step of His grand plan for me.  I believed it was around the corner, but at the same time, I missed people in painful way.

So I asked God where was His joy in this resting?  Where’s the joy in my feeling isolated?  Where was His joy in my new found freedom?

Because I was dealing with doubt, I re-evaluated my decision again and again.

Because I was looking for the fruits of my labor eveywhere, I lost my motivation to share my weight loss story in book form.

Because I didn’t see His value in my purpose, I couldn’t find joy in my writing.

It was a couple of months in, when I realized that God was working on His time frame not mine.  I slowly began to regain a right trust for His timetable with His plans for me.  My preparation season was my stilling my heart’s desire before the Lord.  Only He knew I needed that kind of rest first to project me into the next phase of this writing journey.

He knew that I need to build strength as a writer, He knew I needed a new dose of courage and He knew that I my confidence needed some encouragement.  He knew what I needed even though I kept telling Him what I wanted.

I often think about how we try to jump ahead of God or try to produce our own little spin on His great purpose for our lives.  There are days that I wonder what God is up to, but I know I can trust Him to meet my needs more than I can supply the words to wrap His ways.

I am mostly left in wonder that my Father, who has no needs, can anticipate all of mine no matter the season.

Once I realized I could trust Him in my new found season of rest, I felt His release to my new phase of ministry.

Once I realized that I was stepping into my calling, I received the joy that He had waiting for me.

Once I realized that I was never alone on any day, whether it was a public setting or not, I sensed His presence in a ways that I can’t describe.

Once I found joy in my freedom, I felt His peace that passes my understanding.

As I draw on His strength,  I am assured of His faithfulness each day.

Once I dropped my expectations of what my life should look like, healing came like rain from heaven.  I saw the fruits of my labor and I stepped into my purpose as His daughter.  I took my place in the kingdom and never my doubted decision again.

It is well with my soul and I’m breathing deep in His grace.  That’s true joy friends, not happiness as the world teaches us, but true and abiding joy that lasts.

Finding His joy in the freedom of your calling is a beautiful thing and helps define your identity in so many ways.  Finding purpose for your life is joyful, finding rest in due seasons is healing, and finding a deep trust that empowers your faith is life-changing.

How do you look for joy?