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Known

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“Savior, You, You have known me as I am. Oh, Healer, You have known me as I was, as I will be in the morning, in the evening; You have known.” –Audrey Assad “Known”

On the plane from Miami to Denver I watched a movie that really captured my attention. I have no idea what it was called, and though I can’t say that I agree with all the morals presented, the general message touched me deeply. The movie featured a top music star and how her interrupted suicide attempt changed the course of her life. As she jumped off a balcony, the hand of a caring police officer grabbed hers. She was about to let go of his hand and plummet to her death when he yelled the words to her, “I see you!” She reached for him to pull her up and spent the rest of the movie trying to figure out what it meant to truly be “seen” by someone.

How many years had she lived, being everyone’s puppet and being valued for the records she produced and the image she portrayed? Even her own mother was simply her manager and showed no genuine love for her at all. As I continued watching, I realized that so many of us find ourselves in similar places. Our greatest desire in life is to be truly known for who we are and loved for being that person – the reason why we desire so deeply to be in relationships – but often we work so hard at presenting a beautiful image of ourselves that other people would like. Selfie culture, so to speak. At the end of the day, we have so much pain in our hearts because people bought the “image”, but how could they ever love us for who we truly are? How could anyone love me with all my faults, failures, and weaknesses? We believe the lie that we are “too much”. So we give others the concise and easy version of ourselves.

I spent years hating myself and wishing that my life would end. I had a plan to commit suicide, because I believed that the world would be much better off without me in it. I was a problem; a bother. I was too much. In that place of endless darkness, God found me. Change didn’t happen overnight, but He began the process of showing me His powerful love, and it has forever changed the course of my life. He took my hand on that balcony and screamed, “I see you!” And I have spent these years of my life trying to figure out what it means to be truly “seen”.

1 John 4:18 says, “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love.” I think back over my life and the greatest struggle has been fear. True story. I have been afraid of everything, and most of all I have been afraid of relationship. There is something inside of me that assumes rejection, but a sliver of hope that I might be wrong.

But you know what? That is not at all what it should be like when we are truly in relationship with God. If we take a moment to read Psalm 139, we will realize that every single corner of our lives is intimately known by God. He put us together! He created all the intricacies of our bodies, emotions, etc…He is not overwhelmed by our flight or our hiding. Verses 11-12a say, “I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night – but even in darkness I cannot hide from You.” As hard as it might be for us to grasp, God knows every single detail of our lives, sees our confusion and struggle, and still loves us extravagantly. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).” He did that for you! And not only did He die on that cross and rise again to give you life, but He continues to pursue you every day – He won’t let you go! He transformed this stubborn heart of mine; He is truly the God of miracles! No matter the good reasons you have to say, “He could never truly love ME,” I assure you that you are wrong.

In this movie, the musician’s life was totally turned upside down when she realized that someone knew everything about her and accepted her as she was, baggage and all. She was free – free to be honest; free to smile, dance and sing. That has been the key in my life as well! I am free to be blatantly honest; I am free to smile, dance and sing with all my heart because I am truly KNOWN by my Creator and loved by Him. He believes in me! All those things that I used to be so afraid of? When I am in perfect relationship with Him, that fear can’t touch me. He can ask whatever of me, and I will do it – because what overwhelms me now is not my fear, but His love.

People tell me that I have an absolutely amazing life, and I totally agree. My Lover has been writing my story, taking me to places I never dreamed, and giving me opportunities to share His love and hope with others everywhere I go. The possibilities are endless because He is the God of the impossible! I know that whatever I could dream is small in comparison to how He dreams over me, and the fact that I get to talk to Him every single day, I GET TO enjoy being with Him constantly, and live out HIS dreams for me – it sends me over the moon and my spirit dances in the stars. How could I NOT be filled with joy? It’s the ultimate adventure! Everywhere I go! Everything I do! Holy duck farm…it’s amazing.

What would happen if you truly came to life? What would happen if you explored the love that is available to you RIGHT NOW??? As Dr. Seuss says, “Oh the places you’ll go”! Just like we desire to be KNOWN and LOVED for who we truly are (masks aside), so does God! He wants you to know Him! He is all but spilling over with desire for you to come to Him and see Him for who He truly is and experience Him for all He truly is. Turn off the clock; shut down the internet; and shut the door. Make space for Him – go ALL IN. And you will enter the greatest adventure – far more amazing than you could imagine. It’s available to you right now! Do it!

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Make My Heart Bigger

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“Nothing is a sacrifice when you’re in love.” –Heidi Baker

Today, as I laid myself before God, preparing to board a plane to the United States – He moved my heart once again. I’m not exactly sure what this message might mean for me today, but I feel led to declare it. I pray that you would read it with an open heart and mind.

I am a planner. Generally when I get up in the morning, I have my day already planned out in my head. My expectations are in place for each event on the schedule, and I have mentally prepared myself for each challenge that I can anticipate. I don’t naturally enjoy surprises, especially the kinds that require more energy than I was planning on spending on a certain situation. This is who I am naturally, in my humanity and personality.

However, God has been working on me. He has been working on me a lot.

I was listening to a clip from a sermon this morning by Heidi Baker, and she was telling the story of a day that went all wrong. Her husband was sick – had literally lost his mind due to cerebral malaria. That day they were going to do outreach in a remote village and their boat sank, leaving them stranded. In the process her husband had dropped their camera and his glasses into the ocean. The villagers did not understand the difficulty of that situation, and simply surrounded them with joy and invited Heidi to preach.

So what did Heidi do? She preached.

After what I’m sure was a late night, Heidi went to bed and was awakened at four in the morning to the sound of the entire village surrounding her hut, singing praises to God. Before the rooster had even crowed, the village was filled with such joy that they began to worship God in the middle of the night.

So what did Heidi do? She worshipped.

I’m trying to imagine what I would have done in that situation. Although I have not been in a circumstance that extreme, having been a missionary, there have been moments where I’ve been tempted to squelch Holy Spirit joy because my boundaries had been breached and stomped on. I needed rest; I needed alone time; I needed space; I needed a BLESSED MOMENT to get myself together. In times like this, the humanity in me rises in frustration and it’s hard to find joy when I feel so depleted in other areas.

Heidi said, “How we respond in the storm MATTERS, because there are people watching us to see how we will respond.”

What does it look like to be filled with Holy Spirit, in every moment of every day? The longer I follow Jesus, the more I realize that it means being open to interruptions, surprises, and being willing to immediately respond to the nudging of His voice at all times. That kind of throws my little planner personality out the window. Why? Because we can’t anticipate the ways that God will move each day. We can’t know that at exactly 4:30pm we will sit next to a Muslim on an airplane who needs to hear about Jesus (and that has happened to me). We can’t know when the lady with the twisted ankle will come across our path and we need to pray over her for healing (happened to my friend yesterday).

We don’t have before us God’s calendar of Divine appointments, but we do have access to His presence, and the call to live constantly in that presence means that we must stay constantly connected. Why? Because God using me to be a blessing to someone else is just as much of a blessing to me as it is to that person. I have never walked away from a Divine appointment frustrated; rather, I have walked away thanking God that He allowed me to be a part of it.

As much as I would like to stick my headphones in all day today, stare out the window, and enter my imaginary world where everything is perfect and beautiful, I can’t deny that I am still present in a world that is not perfect and beautiful. There are people surrounding me TODAY that are broken and in need of a Savior. There are people surrounding me TODAY that are hurting others because they have not yet experienced God’s healing in their own lives. And I am sure that there are people that God can influence through me TODAY if I am willing and available to Him.

Only God can look into a crowd of people and see and love each person profoundly. That is His heart, and I want it.

My time is not my own. My life is not my own. Everything I have is surrendered to Christ; that has already been decided. So how will I live that out?

Although in my humanity I might be drained of my energy today, I am reminded of David Livingstone’s famous quote: “If a commission by an earthy king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?” If my energy and love is truly flowing from God and not from myself, then it is flowing from an endless resource. I am praying that in whatever inconvenience that I experience today, I might see it through the eyes of Christ and not my own.

What do you do when your boat sinks? You keep on preaching. Why? Because there are people who need to hear about Jesus. What do you do when a village surrounds your hut at 4:00 in the morning? You worship. Why? Because God is doing something AMAZING and we can’t afford to miss it…because we are so madly and crazily in love with Him that our heart can have no other response.

Lord, may You give me eyes to see what You are doing in every situation and to unhesitatingly jump into Your flow. Would You continue to break down my humanity until all that I am is surrendered to Your will and heart? Lord, make my heart bigger, so that I might have the capacity to see the world around me through Your eyes and love each person that I see today as extravagantly as You love them. Help me to respond to each situation today in a way that truly honors You and draws others close to You. You are my JOY. Lord, I am excited to experience all the surprises and amazing stories of redemption that You will bring across my path today. Would my heart be in the right place to be used by You as You see fit today? I trust You. I love You. Totally. Absolutely. Here’s my life. Let’s go!

It’s the Little Things

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“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” –Arthur Conan Doyle

The greatest frustration of my life the past five months has been a problem in my big toes. We are packing up our things and moving internationally, we said goodbye to close friendships, put on a wedding and hosted a filming crew, and are beginning a new chapter filled with big challenges to overcome. Every one of those things has had emotions associated with them, but the most frustrating things that I have been facing personally are my crazy toes. Yep, you read that right. TOES.

It seems that no one can figure out what is wrong with them…but everyone agrees that there is definitely something wrong. We filed for insurance a couple days ago and we have spent nearly a thousand dollars on doctors’ bills and medication. I hate going to doctors. I refuse to go unless it is absolutely necessary, but for some reason in my life, whether it is Satan or just a faulty body, I have had to deal with doctors a lot. And I am done. I am SO DONE with all of this.

I shared with my prayer team this morning about a new development in my toes and I literally cried from frustration. “I just want to get on with my life,” I declared with all honesty and every emotion in my heart. My friend encouraged me to ask God what He would have to teach me through this, so I did. The only thing I heard from Him was, “It’s the little things.” Then He moved me to write.

There may not be a more true statement than this: “It’s the little things.” In life, it’s never the big things that break us or cause us to fall in love; it’s the little things. Most of us are more prepared to handle big developments because we’ve thought them through. It’s when the little frustrations come – the sarcastic comment, the ringing in the ear, or the constant dripping of the faucet that we lose our minds. I am more and more convinced that Satan rarely attacks with a battalion of demons; but rather he breaks us down slowly, little frustration by little frustration. We don’t even realize what is happening to us.

Many times we don’t feel ourselves slipping. Put a frog in a pot of boiling water, and he’ll hop out immediately. Set him in cold water and slowly warm it up, and that poor frog is toast. In the same way, it may seem like missing one day of prayer time isn’t that big of a deal. Having that one artist that isn’t the best on your iPod doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Having that one flirty conversation with that coworker isn’t that big of a deal. That little look; the small gesture…it’s nothing. We are quick to explain those things away. However, there is no such thing as an isolated big event; no such thing as a big fall out of nowhere. Every big thing is comprised of little things – small decisions that lead to big ones.

God very clearly told me at the beginning of this year that this is the year we are going to conquer fibromyalgia. 12 years of having a defeated attitude is enough. We’re going to beat this thing. That’s big, right? However, big things are filled with little things. I started an exercise program, but days afterwards what the doctors had said were pulled tendons turned into a green and yellow pussing mess. One doctor says it’s a fungal infection; another doctor says it’s gout. Now who knows? Out of all the things I expected to deal with in my life, I never expected THIS. So I went to pray, because God has to have a purpose in this. As my friend told me this morning, “It’s never JUST what is happening.” Big wars are won in the myriad of small battles. If I truly believe that God is the Redeemer that He says He is, then He can turn around what Satan has meant for evil into something good. If I believe that this truly is the year that God says we are going to beat fibromyalgia – the Goliath of my life – then I know two things to be true: 1. It’s going to happen and, 2. It’s not going to be easy and it will require faithfulness on my part as well. I can’t tell God that I will follow Him to the ends of the earth and give up in the toe infection. God, what would you have for me even in this?

The Bible says that when we are faithful with little, then God can entrust us with much. We don’t get to decide what that “little” is. “Hey, God, I can be faithful with small group leadership; but don’t give me health problems. Just give me the small leadership job and I will blow You away!” Sorry, kid. Not quite what I had in mind.

What is it that builds our character? Just like the little things can break us down, God can use the little things to grow us. James says in his book (chapter 1:2-4), “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” If I was serious when I told God to form His character in me, then I should welcome things like this. Bill Johnson said once in a sermon, “If your first reaction to a problem isn’t joy, then your perspective is off.” What a challenging statement! I want to have the mind of Christ in every circumstance. I want to believe Him for every challenge, that He ultimately is forming in me something beautiful.

So I will thank Him for this little thing – because God is going to use this little thing to do a big thing in me.

Glorious Contradiction

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Everybody has a story. The greatest mistake that we can make is to look at someone and think we know how their story might go or end. In June 2012 I interviewed for a position as a 40/40 missionary with Extreme Nazarene Missions, and I have heard several people tell me recently about their initial perceptions of me, of how I was shy and insecure and weak. Honestly, not a surprise. I was all of those things.

Truth be told, if I would have been interviewing myself, I would probably not have approved myself to be a 40/40. However, when God chooses someone for something, somehow they get through. I was the unlikely candidate – I wasn’t charismatic, I was terrified of people, and my perfectionism in Spanish kept me from speaking lest I, God forbid, make a grammatical error and embarrass myself forever. I was not the type of person you would pick out of a crowd of people to plant a church in South America. But I had a call.

God is the God of glorious contradictions. He chose a shepherd boy to be a king, a prostitute to give a nation victory, and a peasant girl and a carpenter to raise His Son. He turned the greatest enemy of the Church into its greatest advocate, and handpicked fishermen, tax collectors, and despised zealots to change the world. If He can do all that, surely He can use you – and He WILL beyond your wildest imagination if you say, “yes” to His invitation.

Two and a half years ago when I boarded that plane to Arequipa, Peru, I couldn’t imagine a life filled with constant joy, peace, and fulfillment. I was held down by many chains; chains of insecurity, fear, depression, self-hatred, oppression, and addiction. Step by step and painful tinkering after painful tinkering, God worked at freeing me from all that held me captive. Today I can say that I am totally free; that although I have seen amazing healings and provision in these past two and a half years, the greatest miracle I have ever seen is how God has totally transformed my heart and life. Now, in rain or sunshine, I literally enjoy every day and every opportunity I have to delight in His presence and I thank Him for the hope that He has brought into my life. We came to South America to preach about salvation, but in the midst of it all I truly experienced that salvation and learned that the freedom that Christ offers is so much more than freedom from sin; it is total freedom to love, trust, and BE everything that He made me to be.

In a day and a half, I will board a plane to the United States to begin a new chapter. However, I am starting this chapter in a totally different way than the last one. I am in love with this man named Jesus and He fills me with His passion every day. I have found an all-consuming purpose in seeking His will and living it out, and I rest in and depend on His promises for my life. He has made of my life a glorious contradiction…who would have thought? And it could only be grace…

If you think you would be the last person God could ever choose to be a part of His great dream for the world, you are in great company. The Bible and all the years afterward are filled with people the world would never expect being called by God and used by God for great things in His Kingdom. If you hand God the pen of your life, I guarantee He will write a better story than you ever could. And it won’t look anything like you thought. It’s the ultimate of plot twists – and it will leave the world wondering what happened. Do you believe that God could make a glorious contradiction out of you? Hand Him the pen today. You won’t regret it.

What God’s Not Doing

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“But what about MY feet?”

I am thankful that God has not answered every prayer I have prayed. I had lunch with my friend Sarah today, and we shared about how we have both prayed, “God, I want this, but I need You to save me from myself.” So often we pray for things, but only our Heavenly Father knows what is truly best for us. Rolland Baker talks about how our Heavenly Father has an eternal perspective and knows much better than we do what will satisfy and delight us. He alone knows the chains that hold us captive and the things that keep us from truly experiencing freedom.

Many times I have noticed that what has been holding me captive is my own selfish self; my own self-important self. God will be doing absolutely incredible things all around me, but I can’t see the forest for the trees. God heals ten people in a church service and I’m thinking, “I’ve suffered for 12 years with pain. Why them and not me? They met You yesterday and I have served You faithfully for years. What about MY pain?” Service after service and event after event I have gone home and cried; I have literally cried because God had “forgotten” about me.

Or I have been in many situations where everyone around me is falling in love with amazing godly people. I have seen the desires of many peoples’ hearts come to fruition, and I go home at night alone, poetically singing to the moon in my sadness. “God, why?” I cry. “What am I doing wrong?”

It’s the older brother syndrome, right? Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. What an amazing story, wouldn’t you agree? This kid walks away from a beautiful inheritance, squanders all that his Father gave him, and yet his Father still welcomes him back. Total second chance. This lost son is now found. Happily ever after, right? This is true for all but one person – the older son, who was more focused on what his Father was not doing for him rather than rejoicing at all that his Father WAS doing.

We grow up so focused on fairness. “Why does he get two pieces of gum and I only get one?” It’s like we are metal detectors of injustice, just looking for an opportunity to complain. And when one comes along, (because they always do), we feel a sense of twisted joy, like we won the lottery. Finally, we are justified – our reasons stand the test. “It’s not fair!” we cry. “It’s an atrocity!” we yell. Suddenly generosity is turned into a crime; grace becomes an insult.

We forget that our God is a just God. “But how can it be fair that the lady next to me gets healed and I don’t?” “What is fair about having to wait so many years for the desire of my heart to come to pass when I have friends who haven’t even left home yet and they find the love of their life?” I can hear Jesus’ words echoing from the parable of the vineyard workers in Matthew 20: “Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?” I am convinced that one of the most dangerous poisons of a relationship with God is jealousy. We compare and we compare, but at the end of the day we discover that God makes no comparisons.

We all have our own race to run. We all have our own calling to fulfill. How can we do all that God has planned for us if we are constantly looking at those around us and not at Him? How can we obey Him fully if we are focused on what He is NOT doing rather than on what He IS doing?

I was challenged today as I listened to Heidi Baker talk about her son Aselmo, who has club feet. One day she took him with her to a village in Mozambique to do outreach ministry. Her son, who could barely walk, said with authority, “God is healing someone’s feet!” It didn’t take them long to locate the little boy he was talking about – a young child of about three years old. Aselmo stretched out his hand and helped this little boy to his feet and God instantly healed the three-year-old’s ailments. Great rejoicing broke out, more in Aselmo than anyone. God had truly worked a miracle! What a thing to rejoice about!

And yet…Aselmo hobbled away from that experience with club feet. God had used him that day to heal another little boy with the same condition, but he remained the same. What if Aselmo had heard from God that He wanted to heal someone’s feet and Aselmo had responded, “But what about MY feet?” It is highly possible that there would have been two crippled little boys at the end of the day where now there is only one. Aselmo didn’t get in the way of the miracle that God wanted to do, and because of his humility and simple obedience, God used him to totally heal that three-year-old boy’s feet.

I read in a later account that God brought together people from around the world to raise funds for Aselmo to see a surgeon in South Africa, and although it was a long and painful process, his feet are now healed. God could have touched Aselmo in a moment and healed him; but instead the race that He had for Aselmo to run brought many more people into the story and now his testimony is told world-wide and has encouraged thousands of people. How cool is that?

I have no idea how many nights Aselmo cried out to God to heal his legs. I don’t know the tears that were shed behind closed doors; only God knows that. What I do know is that God was able to use him to bring healing to another little boy because Aselmo was not focused on what God was NOT doing, but rather was open to what God WAS doing. And because Aselmo was free from his own expectations of how God works, He was able to celebrate with freedom the healing of another life that is so precious to God.

I WANT THAT! Don’t you? I want to be free from myself so that God might use me to touch others. The race that God has called me to run is entirely unique; it can’t be compared to those around me. I have all the riches I need available to me every day in the presence of God! He is doing so many AMAZING things right now and I don’t want to miss it because my focus is off. I don’t want to miss the miracles that God is doing all around me because I have a jaded attitude and unmet expectations. I challenge you to lay your pride on the altar of sacrifice today and truly surrender your SELF to God. Freedom can only come through surrender, and God can do so much more through someone with a pure heart.

What does it say in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:8? “God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.” I don’t want to waste another moment. I want to see God today! Stop complaining about all that God is NOT doing, and delight with the heart of a child in all that God IS doing…because He is truly doing incredible things.

In This Moment

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Tonight is one of those nights where literally all I want to do is cry. I know what you’re thinking: what a girly thing to say. Yep.

Today we ended our contract as 40/40 missionaries with Extreme. Today is the day we have been counting down to for the past two and a half years; the day we have both been dreading and looking forward to. This is the day that I thought I knew what to expect. Sort of. Actually, not really. However, whatever I thought it would be, today was just plain weird.

What did I do today? I spent the day in Quito at the hospital peeing in a cup, talking to a doctor about my foot problems, and picking up prescription meds. Then I rode in the backseat of a private taxi trying to breathe in the heat, and distracting myself with the sweet voice of Evan Craft while squashed between two big sweaty men. When I got home, I quickly took a shower and helped Nancy zip a suitcase closed that has WAY too much inside. That thing is going to explode in the middle of the night and cause us both permanent psychological trauma, I am positive. Tonight, while everyone else was busy with their respective people, I went to the mall food court and stared out the window.

Then it hit me: the mall was the first place we came to when we arrived in Ambato. Looking around the food court, I could remember it like it was yesterday…all the emotions I felt as I looked at all the fast food restaurants. I was excited. Everything was new and fresh; the possibilities were endless! God had brought us here in this moment in time for a reason; He was going to do powerful things through us.

About two years later I am in the same mall and I am overwhelmed. In many ways these past two years were exactly what we expected; in others nothing like we expected. We knew that God would plant a church here, that we would raise up passionate and capable leaders, that we would be changed, and that we would end our contract on this date. That all happened. However, we didn’t expect to go through some of the painful things we faced. Sounds like life, right? Sometimes life makes you want to say, “I didn’t sign up for this!” However, the truth is that when we say, “Yes” to God, we are saying, “Come what may, I will be faithful.” Well, what may come, came, and we survived. Now because of it, we are stronger and more prepared for what God might throw at us next.

I think that I have changed in many ways. I used to live in and for the future – of what could be. When I arrived in Ambato, there was no “this moment”; there was only “the next moment”. I didn’t know how to treasure the present because I was busy planning the next 5-10 years of my life. However, these past two years have completely transformed the way I see life. In these past two years, I have lived so many BEAUTIFUL moments that even just the thought of them sends tears streaming down my face. I have both loved and been loved more deeply than I can remember in my entire life. I have experienced fulfillment more than I ever have. I have grown closer to the heart of God than I ever thought possible. I have lived with and grown immensely close to the absolute most amazing people I have ever known – the best there are. I have had the opportunity to disciple men and women who are literally going to change the course of history. Forget about the future and all that will happen tomorrow and next week, next month, and next year. In this moment I am struggling to believe that this could ever have happened; but it did. In this moment, I am struggling to imagine ever walking away. In this moment I just wish that dang suitcase would explode so that Nancy might never leave and that we could just continue to spend every night giggling and laughing and crying together (not necessarily in that order). Why must things come to an end? It is in these moments when I wonder how changes like this could ever be natural; how they could ever be ok.

Then I remember that life is full of moments – rich and full of grace. Did I enjoy to the full all the ice cream dates and house scream fests? Did I enjoy the laughter and the games and the victories? Did I grow all that I could through the challenges and handle each difficulty the best I knew how, leaning on God’s wisdom and listening for His voice? I can say with 100% certainty – YES – that I lived every moment of this contract to the full – the best I could with what I knew at the time. Was it perfect? No. Was I perfect? Not at all. However what it all was – every experience, every relationship, every opportunity – was grace. And it was amazing. I wouldn’t take any of it back; not one single moment.

Grace brought me here to Ambato for this moment in time. Grace called me to be these people’s leader for this moment in time. Grace called me to know these amazing missionaries for this moment in time. I relish in this moment and I treasure this moment because it is beautiful.

You know what else is beautiful? Today – this super weird day – this day that our contract ended – I was sitting in the hospital, drinking a massive cup of hot chocolate while I poured out my heart to God. In an instant – literally a flash of a moment in time – He reached out and calmed my fears about the future and gave me a hunger for His presence. He assured me that as He has been with me through all these moments in Ambato, that He will be with me in all the moments in the future. He won’t let me go. A few hours later, I arrived home and opened my IPad to see a message from my mom that someone had donated several pieces of furniture for my apartment in Idaho. In case there was any doubt, God’s got this. He’s got all of this. I don’t have to worry about a bit of it because He’s got this. So I’m free; I’m free to be in this moment with Him, thanking Him, loving Him and loving those around me who have become such an important part of my life.

So right now, even though my heart is breaking, it is full. In this moment I am at peace. In this moment I choose to rest in Him and thank Him – thank Him OH SO MUCH – for the most incredible two and a half years I could ever imagine experiencing. It has been the greatest adventure that God could have invited me into for this moment in my life. How precious is this moment. Thank You, Lord. Thank You.

Shiny Elephants

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“O Lord, You have examined my heart, and You know everything about me.” –Psalm 139:1

Yesterday was a big day. We had our last service at the church we planted over a year and a half ago, and it was the big climax to two and a half years of missionary work in South America. This week I leave Ambato, and next week I leave Ecuador. As things come to a close, all of our emotions are out of whack. Our church gave us an amazing goodbye service yesterday. On top of it all, I had the privilege of preaching, and God proved to me once again that He will never leave me or forsake me.

The most impactful thing for me yesterday wasn’t in the videos or the dances or the beautiful letters. It wasn’t in the eyes of the children or the tears of my friends. All these things meant the world to me, and I will carry those memories with me forever. However, yesterday God reached out to me in the most unexpected and beautiful way through one of my disciples.

The service was just beginning, and Juan Carlos came up to me and handed me a little jewelry box. “This is from our Bible Study to you,” he said and quietly waited for me to open it. As I slowly opened the box, I saw it: a beautiful shiny elephant necklace. “Thank you!” I said with tears in my eyes. He smiled at me, gave me a hug, and walked away.

What he didn’t know was that this was the exact same necklace I had spotted over a year ago in a store and I fell in love with it. It was kind of a strange desire for me; I’m not really a huge fan of elephants, but for some reason this necklace caught my eye, and every time I walked by it over this past year and a half, something inside of me always thought, “That is so pretty.” NO ONE knew how much I loved that necklace; it was simply something that I kept inside.

But you know what God showed me yesterday? He showed me that He knows me and He cares about the things that I like. Like a true lover, he notices the things that draw my attention and make my eyes sparkle. There are some promises that I have been waiting to receive for a long time; things that are difficult to wait for and not become anxious about or lose hope in their fulfillment. Time and time again, God has said to me, “Not yet,” and I know that it is for a reason. Lest my heart become bitter, the lover of my soul gave me something yesterday that I believed too petty to ask for, but He proved to me that He knows exactly what I need and that He cares about what I want. It makes me smile to think that He can use shiny elephants to remind me, “I have not forgotten. Keep trusting.”

Thank you, Jesus, for surprising me once again. I know that I am just beginning to understand Your love for me. Thank you for the beautiful reminder.

Honesty

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“The man who articulates the movements of his inner life, who can give names to his varied experiences, need no longer be a victim of himself, but is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the Spirit from entering. He is able to create space for Him whose heart is greater than his, whose eyes see more than his, and whose hands can heal more than his.” –Henry J. M. Nouwen

Yesterday morning I responded to God’s prompting to allow Him to begin spiritual surgery on certain areas of my life. I want more than anything that the Holy Spirit would flow freely through me everywhere I go and that I would have sufficient courage and anointing to follow through on His calling for these next few months, and ultimately the rest of my life. He wasted no time in beginning the process. Last night and this morning, God allowed a certain level of enemy attack on my life to bring to the surface some things that had been tucked away inside. As I struggled through the ugly feelings and thoughts in my mind, I realized that this was all a part of the process.

However, knowing what is happening and knowing how exactly to respond are two different things. I can identify old lies I used to believe about myself for what they are: lies; but how do I face a lie in a way that honors God when every emotion inside of me just wants to crumble and wave the white flag of surrender?

Be honest with God. It doesn’t matter how ugly your feelings are or how ridiculous your thought processes; be honest with God. One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that God’s not offended by us. He already knows that I’m angry, confused, and weak, but sometimes it’s me that needs to admit it to Him for the process of real change to be able to take place. I have often come into God’s presence wailing because of the agony in my heart, yelling because of my anger toward Him, and complaining because of my impatience for His promises to come to pass. Sometimes we’re afraid of dishonoring Him by truly letting go, when in all actuality, He is big enough to handle any emotion or response that we might have. It is our raw and painful honesty before Him that creates the greatest molding clay. It’s almost like I can hear Him say, “Now I can do something with this!”

I listened to a sermon today on Job. Talk about a man who had a reason to complain!  His friends came to “console” him, when in all actuality they were judging him. At first Job tried to defend himself, but then turned his complaint to God. He cursed the day he was born and spoke in nostalgic longing about years past of blessing and peace. Then comes the famous confrontation in chapter 38, when God steps in and says something to the effect of, “My turn. Let me set things straight.” Some might take this as God shutting Job up, but right after the Lord’s amazing speech, He honors and restores Job to a greater place. I believe that God’s intent in speaking to Job was to honor Job for taking his case before Him and to set the record straight on some crooked thinking that suffering often causes. It’s like God was saying, “Since you sought me in your affliction, I will be glorified in you.”

I challenge you today: whatever you are going through, be brutally honest with God. Bring your heart before Him. I guarantee He’s got this; and He’s got you…right where He wants you. Don’t despise the process, because the result is a life that is prepared and ready to be a pure conduit for the Holy Spirit’s power in this world. Don’t settle for good enough; don’t be content with a touch from the Lord when you could have His full and complete presence dwelling inside and spilling out. It’s worth every moment. Don’t despise the process.  See it through.

The Problem with Self

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“I wish thy way.
And when in me myself should rise,
and long for something otherwise,
Then Lord, take sword and spear
And slay.”

-Amy Carmichael

This morning in our corporate prayer time, God brought a conviction to my heart about the role that others’ opinions and my personal pride play in so many areas of my life. As scary is it might sound, I began praying for Divine surgery to take place, because I realized how these things can be a HUGE obstacle to Holy Spirit’s ability to work powerfully in and through me. I have learned that God’s power and presence are always available to us; however, we can often put barriers or limits on its manifestation in our lives. All in all, I was thankful that God showed me the problem area.

It won’t be an easy cut, however, and I think so many of us can probably identify. Here are some key questions to ask:

How do I measure success? Often we look to numbers. My blog was more successful today than yesterday because I had more page views. Our outreach event was successful because 100 people came and 15 people raised their hands to accept Christ. Often we measure the success of a sermon or speech we give based on how many people came up to us afterward to tell us that we did a good job. Often we measure success based on how we feel afterward. “I feel really good about it!” or “I don’t feel good about it at all.”

We measure success by all those things because what we truly desire in our lives is fruit. We want to see the results of our efforts; we want to feel significant. However, according to the Bible, our significance (righteousness) is purely a grace issue and true success (as far as it depends on us) is based solely on the level of our obedience. Was I faithful to write what God put on my heart yesterday? Yes. Therefore, I am successful. Did I preach what God put on my heart? Yes. Then I was successful. Did I hold back what the Spirit was urging me to say because I didn’t want to offend someone listening? Yes. Then, I need to re-evaluate the intention of my heart.

How do I measure my value? This is where I get in trouble with the comparison game. There have been many situations where I have been the last one picked; the last one noticed; the last one to receive something. Often, I have let this define who I am by saying, “I am the rejected one. I am the least deserving. There must be something fundamentally wrong with me.” The truth of what I believe about myself is often derived directly from the comparison of what others have and what I have or do not have. There have been times when everyone on my team was chosen for certain jobs in an event and I was overlooked. I felt a pain in my heart, when it was truly an honest mistake and nothing personal was intended. Once again I overthink a situation and pick up a jaded spirit. Ever been there?

This attitude has no place in the life of a child of God. Absolutely no place. Here’s another way of asking the question: What keeps me from rejoicing with those around me in their victories? Am I so focused on my own pity party that I can’t truly be happy for the victory that my teammate is experiencing? It’s so true…so painfully and humiliatingly true that this kind of reaction or attitude is often so woven into our being. Our brains are programmed to notice patterns and judge fairness. And it makes us livid…it angers us when those basic things are violated. The problem is, we don’t see enough of the big picture to truly understand what those things are. I am becoming more and more convinced that these things are part of the sin nature that must be entirely cut off for the Holy Spirit to truly be released in our lives.

When God brings these things up in our lives, it is not bad news, but rather a good sign that He is preparing to release something in and through us. However, the problem with self is that it is in the way. I am praying, and I encourage you to examine your life and pray this as well: that God would take away any tendency that is inside to glorify ourselves or to pity ourselves based on circumstances that we can’t fully understand.

How is your imagination?  Do you constantly imagine yourself in situations where you have the perfect answer, are the perfect friend, or the most celebrated in your field of work?  When you imagine yourself doing ministry for Christ, do you hope for the accolades of others in the process?  The Bible says that God is a jealous God and that He will not share His glory with another.  We cannot purely partner with God and still desire some of the credit.  The truth is:  He is WORTHY OF IT ALL.  I am praying that God would give me a simple and focused heart that would desire His fame and my ultimate humility.

Another truth is, we can’t compare two peoples’ journeys. Every person and situation is far too unique. I can’t look at my friend and say, “She is further down the road than me,” because her path has been filled with challenges that were totally different than mine. Therefore her victories will look different than mine. The real question I must ask is, “Am I being fully obedient in receiving and walking out all that God has brought to me today?” Often we can be so distracted by those around that God isn’t able to work with us in all the ways He wants to. Perhaps we would be “further down our own road” if our focus would have been where it should have been. Anybody feeling a little sting right now? I know I am.

In this season, God is calling for my 100% attention. Whatever that needs to look like, I must be willing to put it into practice. It is HIS voice and HIS truth that defines me, and HIS Spirit that desires to occupy my life and use me to further His Kingdom. Time for that Divine surgery. There probably won’t be any anesthesia, but I don’t care. I want the result: a life that is totally yielded and completely ready to be used by God. I don’t want to settle for anything less than a powerful life led by Holy Spirit. What better life could there be?

CHOSEN

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CHOSEN – the word seems to be everywhere I look today. I open up my Bible, and it is there; my email and it is there; my Facebook even, and it is there. I feel like I am walking through an extended burning bush experience, and all I want is MORE – more of His presence, more of His power, more of His anointing. I want more of Holy Spirit flowing through my life. If God really has all of this planned for my life that He has shown me, I want to say YES, a thousand times YES. Fear aside, I am running forward. No need to send anyone else in my place; I will go! Send me!

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” –Philippians 3:12-14

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