Sunday, July 16, 2017

Come On In

"Not today, Satan. Dear God, help me."

I just kept saying it. Over and over. "Not today, Satan. Dear God help me."

When that didn't feel like it was bringing me to the peace I needed, I thought about the power of worship and praise, so above the din of my bickering children, I started singing.

(singing) "Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder..."
(turmoil) "Why do we have to listen to what YOU want all the time?!"
(singing a little louder) "Consider all the worlds thy hands have made." 
(more turmoil) "Yeah, well One Direction is dumb." 
(singing louder still) "I see the stars I hear the rolling thunder," 
(It's like WWE up in here, apparently) "Ouch, you pushed me! You're a jerk!!" 
"Hands off and no name calling!" (singing ever louder) "Thy power throughout, the universe displayed."

It felt ridiculous, trying to sing over their outrageous behavior, but it brought a smile to my face, even if out of nothing more than sheer defiance.

Honestly, I am not a very patient mom. I wish I could say the above scenario was just how I handled things...with grace and worship and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

But then I'd be a liar. Plus, let's face it, if that was really how I normally handled things, this wouldn't have felt so foreign, and we wouldn't be having this little conversation.

But on this particular day, despite my children's best effort's at making me a nut job, the Holy Spirit rose up...and let me tell you, it was sweet.

I finally had to separate them because things were getting out of hand, but when I did, I didn't raise my voice. Even when they argued about going to their rooms, I didn't raise my voice (if you know how loud I am naturally, you know what a gin WIN this is.)

God is GOOD, ya'll. What this led to was pretty amazing.

It led to a conversation with Ryan about how we can be a household of people who build each other up or tear one another down, and I asked him to consider how we accomplish each of those things and where he really wants to live.

It allowed me to have a separate conversation with Emily about something that had really been bothering her that had NOTHING to do with anyone in our house, but was something she really needed to get off her chest.

And it allowed me to do all this without having to make it about me because, when I lose my mind, that's what happens. We lose a lot of time making it about me because I have to go back and apologize for my ungodly behavior.

I never realized what I was missing.

I've been doing a devotion called "Overwhelmed by My Blessings: Encouragement for Moms." It's written by Robin Meadows, a mom who raised seven children, and I love it because it is REAL.

In today's devotion she said:

What if we began to rename these challenging daily "opportunities"? What if we began to see that these disappointing situations are actually the hand of God in our life , and in the lives of our children?

WOW. Challenging right? What if every time my kids are acting all cray cray I thanked God for the opportunity to teach them about Him, His grace, and His love?

But then she went on (and this part REALLY got me).

He is giving us opportunities to make hard, right choices of love, patience, and self-control; to choose Him. He is present us with teachable moments for our children, and for our own hearts. He is giving us occasions to become more like Him. He is giving us special moments to teach our children that anxiety can be controlled by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, and it begins with us controlling ourselves.

Did you feel that? Like the wind being knocked out of you by a supernatural punch to the gut?

I sure did.

Consider this:

A man who does not control his temper
is like a city whose wall is broken down.
Proverbs 25:28

The breaching of the wall of Helm's Deep from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

None of us is perfect, but by allowing my children's behavior to influence my behavior, I have been showing them that it's acceptable to lose your temper and forego self-control. I mean, sure, I've taught them a lot about humility and going back to apologize, too, but you need a lot less of the latter when you're able to do the former.

In church, we often talk about breaking walls down and demolishing strongholds. But by losing my temper, I've been breaking down all the wrong walls - like walls of protection I pray over my family. I'm making a way for the enemy to come into my home and relationships.

Every moment of every day, we stand at the door of our hearts and decide who we're going to invite in. When you pray and praise, you intentionally invite God into that moment.

However, when you allow your anger to take control, you've taken your eyes off what's important and left the door wide open to the enemy. 

The next time you feel overwhelmed, invite God into that moment. Ask Him to take it over. Thank Him for the opportunity for growth and teaching. Lean into Him.

And goodness knows, sing His praises. Go a little praizy crazy. Worship will help you conquer any enemy you face - the enemy within, or the enemy without. (It also makes you look pretty crazy, and that's always a good time).

The Fresh Prince getting a little praizy crazy.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Lidl Humiliation

Obviously, my trip looked nothing like this, but man, it feels like it sometimes. 

I didn't really expect to learn a lesson about myself in the grocery store yesterday, but like most lessons I've learned, the timing wasn't really up to me.

My kids wanted to go to the new Lidl store around the corner. It's an interesting store, full to the brim with natural light and an eclectic assortment of goods. And I swear they pipe the smell of fresh, hot cookies baking throughout the store because you CANNOT escape it.

The thing about Lidl stores, though, is that you have to bag your own groceries. Fine! I knew that, and I was prepared.

We had two carts, with a little sibling in the front of each. Ryan was in charge of one cart over to the side and holding Phinehas's hand, while Emily and I sorted out the bagging of the groceries in the other cart.

When we had the groceries arranged appropriately, I looked up, and Ryan had wandered off about 10-15 feet. He and Phinehas were playing some sort of "ride the cart and swing it around game," and it really irritated me.

I scolded him, and asked him to think through the reasons why he should NOT be doing what he was doing. He was able to come up with "Phinehas might get hurt," and I was more than happy to add on a couple more reasons.

I was pretty happy with my parenting solution. Score one for mom for helping with that frontal lobe development!

But Emily was NOT happy, and because she's related to me AND a teenager, it was remarkably obvious. I asked her what was wrong, and after a little prodding, she said something like this:

That was really loud mom, and really embarrassing. You really embarrassed him.
Two things happened in that moment. First, I realized I had just disrespected my son in public. I'm trying to build this kid's self-esteem, not decimate it. I may have just influenced his ability to think through consequences, but I also hurt him unnecessarily.

Second, and more importantly, I realized I had been so loud, not just because I naturally AM (and I REALLY AM), but because I wanted to be seen parenting his misbehavior well.

I wanted to be seen parenting well.

That really hurts to write. It hurts to put out there. But there it is because it's honest.

I had this moment where the Holy Spirit held a mirror to my face and said, "You need to see this as it really is. You need to see what your intentions were."

I apologized to Ryan right away. I told him I was sorry for disrespecting him in front of all those people. He needed to be corrected, but his heart also needs to be protected, and I had wounded him for the sake of my own pride.

After we got settled in the car, I also had to thank Emily for correcting me. That, too, was humbling, but necessary. Sometimes, my kids will try to correct my parenting, and they get a "talk to the hand" response. They'll understand when they're parents.

But this was very different. She expressed herself respectfully, and she was RIGHT. If it hadn't been for her, I wouldn't have been able to see the error of my ways, and she needed to know that was appreciated.

The more I thought about it, though, that behavior has a tendency to be my modus operandi: I consistently struggle between my desire to give my best to God, and my desire to be SEEN giving my best to God.

In my parenting...
In my marriage...
In my friendships...
In my worship...
In my writing...
On my facebook wall...

I've often commented that God gave me "showy" gifts. Singing, writing, speaking. Teaching and exhortation. The expression of most of my gifts involves me being seen, but with them come a constant struggle with my own pride.

I read an article this morning about Francis Chan, and why he left the church he was pastoring. He said about the period after his book Crazy Love was published:

I freaked out during that point in my life....The pride...[going to] a conference and seeing my face on a magazine...and hearing whispers...and walking into a room and actually liking it.
Man...that resonates with me. I haven't written a book yet, and my face certainly hasn't adorned any magazine covers, but I can still see me in that statement.

Jesus was pretty clear about where he stood on this behavior:

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people,
to be seen by them.
Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven.
So whenever you give to the poor,
don't sound the trumpets before you,
like the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets,
to be applauded by people.
I assure you: They've got their reward.
Matthew 6:1-3 (HCSB, emphasis added)

My flesh desires greatly to be seen. What's left for me, then? Do I stop sharing those gifts? Maybe, for a time, if it gets out of hand, but generally, His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

So when I worship, sometimes, I vacillate between a genuine outpouring of praise and worrying about what people are thinking about me, and then I smile and think to myself, "forgive me, thank your grace is sufficient."

When I write, I vacillate between genuinely wanting to share hope and healing and wondering how many people will read the post and how I can boost my numbers. When that happens, I smile and pray and ask for forgiveness, and praise God that His grace is sufficient to cover that, too.

I'm telling all this for two reasons. First, because sharing it keeps me in check. If I have made the world aware that I desire to be seen, it's a little easier to remember to be humble; I've admitted my weakness to the world, and the world has a way of reminding you of those weaknesses.

But also, because I know I'm not alone. There are an abundance of Bible verses about pride because, as fallible humans, it's one of our greatest faults.

Your struggle may not look exactly the same, but I would fairly confidently assert that it's roots are in pride and selfishness: a need to be right, a need to know, a need to feel desired, a need for control. They all come from the same place.

No matter what your particular brand of pride looks like, know that His grace is sufficient for you, too. He loves you anyway, in a way that is deeper and wider than your comprehension, and it began before He laid the foundations of the earth.

Whether your lessons come in the hazy morning light after a night of mistakes, the computer lit glare of an internet faux pas, or (like me) the front of a remarkably sun-lit grocery store, the pure, dazzling light of your Savior covers it all.

He holds His light to our blemishes, not so we can be ashamed of them, but so we can see them in contrast with his perfection and make appropriate corrections. The only way to be MORE like Him, is to see the ways in which we are NOTHING like Him, and to be more like Him is, daily, my goal.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Being a Moana Mama

I'm on a Disney kick lately. I don't own this, obviously. It's a Disney thing.

If you're a Disney lover (or just a parent of a young child), you're probably familiar with one of Disney's newest animated feature films: Moana.

If you're not, you should acquaint yourself. The soundtrack is epic, the story line is inspirational, and let's face it, who doesn't appreciate Dwayne Johnson singing and dancing around...even if it is in animated form.

Now that it's on Netflix, we watch it at least once a day...sometimes twice.

Moana is torn between being the person she's told her island needs her to be - the leader of her people, the new chief - and being the person she feels called to be - a voyager on the open sea.

She strives to convince herself that the island will give her all she needs (and no on leaves), but she's drawn to the water, to the line where the sky meets the sea. It calls to her.

I'm a mom...of 6, with another sweet blessing on the way. When you're a mom of almost 7, there just isn't much time to do anything else BUT be a mother of almost 7.

I'm virtually on an island (that must be made of unfolded laundry), and my people need me.

But the horizon calls me. And a lot of times, that makes me feel really guilty. I feel like taking care of my husband, children, and household should be enough, it should fulfill me, but I LONG to go, do, and be other things.

But there's hope. Here are a few things God revealed to me through countless viewings of Moana:

1. To Everything There Is A Season

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under heaven
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NKJV)

As Moana grows, she learns to take care of her people. She gets well-acquainted with their needs and how to fill them. When she tries to run off to the ocean, her father redirects her attention to where it needs to be...until it's finally time to venture out on her quest.

There is a season where she is learning to lead her people, which will eventually make her into the person she needs to be in order to persevere through the next part of her journey.

The season I'm currently in is important because of the calling I've received to shepherd these beautiful little people, but ALSO because it's preparing me for the next season.

God is not wasteful. He is calling me to something else, but in His time, and when I'm ready. I have to accept that and enjoy it. Taking care of my children is all-consuming right now, but it won't be forever. As they say, the days are long, but the years are short.

2. My "Other" Calling Has An Appointed Time

For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end - it will not lie.
If it seems slow,
wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.
Habakkuk 2:3

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
"This is the way, walk in it,"
whether you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
Isaiah 30:21 (ESV)

I sometimes have this feeling that I'm missing out on my calling by being a parent. Go ahead. Judge me. It's the truth.

I'm fully aware that being a parent is a high calling. I know the stewardship of young minds and hearts is a great responsibility. That hasn't kept my eye from wandering over to the horizon and wondering what adventures might be just beyond my reach.

However, time and again, I have tried to run off toward what I thought was my calling, and each time, with immense love and incredible patience, my heavenly Father has redirected my attention.

Unfortunately, Moana had to sneak away for her adventure (earthly parents don't always get it right), but I know, when it's time, my Father will not only let me go on my quest, He will lead me.

He's not going to let me miss my purpose. I just have to be patient.

3. Bring Them Along

shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,
not under compulsion, but willingly,
as God would have you;
not for shameful gain, but eagerly;
not domineering over those in your charge,
but being an example to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd appears,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
1 Peter 5:2-4 (ESV)

In order for Moana to complete her quest, Maui has to teach her to sail. Once she has succeeded and restored the heart of Te Fiti, she returns to her people to teach them as she has been taught. She becomes a voyager, and then teaches them to be voyagers, as well.

Slowly, but surely, as my children grow, all of us will have more time to spread our wings and learn new things. It's my job to be here for them, but also to continue learning and growing (as is appropriate for my season), so I can teach them.

As I'm able, I need to learn, grow, and adventure, so I can return and teach my children to do the same. My kids need to know they can go great things for the Kingdom of God, and they can learn that from my example. 

Thus ends my lessons from Moana. Seasons come and seasons go, but the love of my eternal Father remains steadfast and unchanging. He will teach me, guide me, and eventually, lead me to adventures beyond the horizon. Until then, it's my job to patiently wait, and be content to enjoy the season I'm in.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Identity Crisis

Well...this is awkward.

It's been so long since I've written, I barely feel I know how. Pardon me while I limp along.

For the past couple years, my identity has been a central theme. I look back on posts like this one from last year and laugh a little.

In it, I said I was "Almost Alissa." God had spoken to me, shown me who He wanted me to be, and somehow, I ascertained that I was ALMOST there. Just a little more tweaking, I thought, and then...then I'll be who God wants me to be in order to achieve the purposes He has for me.

I am both amused and shocked by my own naivete. My identity is much more "in flux" than I realized.

I've struggled some recently because I was feeling like I don't "fit in" at our new church. It's been difficult for me to form relationships, and often, I feel awkward and uncomfortable.

However, last week, at a vision meeting for the worship team, I realized the real crux of the issue.

During an ice breaker we were supposed to take selfies with the people around us. Some ran around enthusiastically taking pictures with one another, while others of us took selfies with the people around us, but beyond that, were comfortable sitting back and watching the others.

One of the younger team members came over to take a selfie with us, and she said, "I don't know if ya'll are introverts or what, but I love y'all, too! Let's take a selfie!"

I was totally okay with the selfie, but I REELED at the thought that I was being perceived as an introvert, not because I don't like introverts (I happen to LOVE them), but because that statement challenged everything I know about my identity.

I have known one thing from a VERY young age...I am an extrovert. I am a chatty, upbeat people-person.

I thought about it for the rest of the meeting and I came to a realization: the reason I'm not connecting with other people right now is because I'm not even connecting with myself. It reminded me of this conversation from the Lion King:

Adult Simba: Creepy little monkey. Would you stop following me! Who are you?
Rafiki: The question is, who... are you?
Adult Simba: [sighs] I thought I knew, but now I'm not so sure.
Rafiki: Well, I know who you are! Shh. Come here, it's a secret. [Whispers, then grows louder]
Rafiki: Asante sana Squash banana, Wiwi nugu Mi mi apana!
Adult Simba: Enough already! What's that supposed to mean, anyway?
Rafiki: It means you're a baboon... and I'm not.
Adult Simba: I think you're a little confused.
Rafiki: Wrong! I'm not the one who's confused. You don't even know who you are!
Adult Simba: Oh, and I suppose you know?
Rafiki: Sure do. You're Mufasa's boy! 

Obviously, I don't own this image. This is all Disney. :)

I thought I knew who I was, or at least, I thought I was close, but now I see it in a different light.

I'm not confused because I lost sight of who I am. I'm confused because I somehow lost sight of WHOSE I am. I am God's girl.

What I'm starting to realize, is that my personality will be in transition my entire life. Some elements will probably stay: joy, bubbliness, a degree of silliness, and I'll always be an extrovert at heart. However, other aspects of my personality may look different in different seasons or different situations. 

No matter what, though, I can never be who God wants me to be if I lose sight of the fact that I'm HIS, and anything I go through, whether tragedy or transition, is according to His purpose for my life: to teach me and to train me. 

All things work together for the good of those who love God:
those who are called according to HIS purpose.
Romans 8:28 (HCSB, emphasis added)

All things are not good. All feelings are not good. All seasons are not good.

But all things WORK TOGETHER for the good of those who love God, and who can recognize that what they "want" is not God's purpose. Sometimes we have to let go of what we want in order to receive what is truly best: God's purpose.

I've always felt a pressure to perform as the "Alissa" everyone expected me to be: positive, outgoing, talkative, etc. If I wasn't in character, then I was a disappointment. I felt the need to apologize for "not being myself."

However, I now understand that no one's expectations of who I am or how I behave can define me, and in reality, those expectations are for more internal than external. If I have a deep, abiding connection with God, "me" at any given moment will reflect HIM, and that's really all that matters.

Ironically, giving myself that freedom has actually made me feel more like "me" than I have in a REALLY long time. I feel settled, less like a performer and more genuine.

Many times in the Bible, we are told to take off our old way of life and clothes ourselves in Christ. As the sanctification process takes place, and we become ever more a reflection of Him, that outer garment changes to reflect the process.

There are times I have a message to share that I feel will deeply impact someone, and there are times I just feel it necessary to explain what's going on with me. This post is by far the latter.

Nevertheless, friend, if you feel "not yourself" lately - if you're not even sure who "yourself" is anymore - please know you are not alone, and that the only thing that really matters is that you know WHOSE you are.

Embrace that. Find yourself in Jesus, the one who is same, yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8).

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Life and Legacy of a Sinful Past and a Scarlet Rope

Unlikely as it may be, one of my favorite people in the Bible is Rahab. She was spunky, discerning, and brave...and a prostitute.

Let's recap her story briefly.

Rahab was a prostitute in the outskirts of a city called Jericho. It was a strong, fortified city, but she'd heard the Hebrews were coming - whose God had saved them from slavery in Egypt, parted the Red Sea for them, and sustained them in the desert - and she knew they were destined to conquer.

She helped the Hebrew spies sent to scout out the city hide and escape capture, but in return, asked them to save her and her family - her mother, father, sisters, and brothers - when they took the city. The spies agreed, and the same scarlet rope by which they escaped would serve as a signal to allow THAT home to remain unharmed.

A scarlet rope was the sign of her deliverance, much like the scarlet lambs' blood that marked the doorways of the Hebrews when the plague of the first born swept through Egypt...or the blood of Jesus that covers believers and marks them as His own.

Before they took the city, each day for six days, the horns would blow, and the Israelite army would march around that wall in silence...and each day for six days, they would see the scarlet rope...and the spies and Joshua would remember Rahab.

But on the seventh day...the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times, and the horns blew, and the men raised up a triumphant shout, and the walls of Jericho fell! And Joshua sent the two spies in to take Rahab and all who belonged to her to safety...and here's where it gets interesting:

However, Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute,
her father's household, and all who belonged to her,
because she hid the men Joshua had sent to spy on Jericho,
and she lives in Israel to this day.
Joshua 6:25

And this could have been where the story ended: "And Rahab and her family stayed with the Israelites, and they lived happily ever after." But our God...

Our God doesn't just save, He REDEEMS.

When He saved Rahab, she had an encounter with God, and it forever changed her life and her legacy.

How do I know?

Because in a little book of the Bible called Ruth, we read about every godly woman's dream: Boaz. An honorable and righteous, man, full of kindness and integrity. Ruth was a widow and a foreigner in their land, and he redeemed her and married her. He was her knight and shining armor.

And this godly man, Boaz, was the son of Rahab, the prostitute and her husband, Salmon.

And then, Salmon fathered Obed, and Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David: the young shepherd boy who would become king and a man after God's own heart.

David's grandmother was a widow and a foreigner, and his great-grandmother was a courageous prostitute. And from these women, through the line of David, an unlikely shepherd boy, would come the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Savior of the world.

And oh the tears that flow when I think about this because, I don't know about you, but I have a past, and some of it is dirty and ugly and makes me feel unworthy of the calling I've received.

But like Rahab and Ruth before me, my God has redeemed the broken places, and called me His own, and I am grateful because He says I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and has placed me in exactly the place I am to do exactly what I'm doing. And I am grateful.

This morning, the Bible app's verse of the day was Psalm 145:18:

The Lord is near to all who call on Him,
to all who call on Him in truth.

It's an unlikely verse to make me think of Rahab, for sure. But this is her story and mine.

God calls me to draw near to Him with complete honesty and sincerity. He knows every sin I've ever committed and all those coming down the pike, and yet He calls me chosen, He calls me beloved, He draws near to me.

Praise be to God!

What holds you hostage in shame? What part of your past keeps you from moving forward?

Come close and I'll whisper a secret...*it doesn't matter*

It's all paid for. If you believe Jesus loves you, died for your sins, and give Him the reins of your life, there is nothing in the world that condemns you.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation
because the law of life in Christ Jesus
has set us free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:1-2.

Like the scarlet rope that signified Rahab's deliverance, the blood of Jesus marks you as FREE, but your life is worth more than just to be saved from the fire.

Because Jesus didn't just die. He was raised from the dead, and like Him, from the ashes of your former life, God can create a NEW life for you, and a legacy of redemption for generations to come!

Draw near to Him in truth, and He will draw near to you, and He will do infinitely more in your life than you could ever ask or imagine. That's Rahab's story. It's my story. And it can be your story, too.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Mental Instability: When Your Thoughts Aren't Structurally Sound

"Why do you think you're so angry lately?"

The words sent me reeling, but there was undeniable truth in them.

"I don't know," I spat out defiantly. "Why do YOU think I'm so angry?"

"I don't know, either," Josiah said, "but it feels like you've just grabbed on to anger and discontentment recently, in every area of your life, and you don't even want to let it go. It's like you're holding on to it.

Our beautiful, Sunday morning walk in the sunshine took a sharp turn into stormy weather.

I balked for a bit, and argued for a bit, but somewhere, deep back in my brain, there was a tug.

After he took the babies in, I sought the solitude in the haven of my new van (man, I love that thing).

And to be completely transparent, at first, I started coming up with all the ways he was wrong. Instead of self-examination, I was coming up with the next part of my battle plan...but I was fighting the wrong enemy.

For our battle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers,
against the authorities,
against the world powers of this darkness,
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.
Ephesians 6:12

I was strategizing on how to beat Josiah, when I should have been trying to defeat the darkness that had so easily snaked its way into my soul.

However, just that morning, one of my devotions was based on the following scripture, and because I'm focusing right now on scripture memorization, the answer to my dilemma was plain:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the everlasting way.
Psalm 139:23-24

I think this is one of those things we pray over ourselves not really expecting God to show up...but He does, and He is always on time.

I asked God to search my heart, find my anxious thoughts, and expose what He found offensive: He did not disappoint.

Lately, God has been using me and teaching me, and I've loved it, but it's also given me a deep hunger for MORE. More time with Him, more solitude, more messages, more connections.

Instead, though, I have lots and lots of kids...which often means LESS. Less time with Him, less solitude (SO MUCH LESS), less messages, and less connections.

So, while I've been a conduit of God's word for others, here in my household, I'm hanging on by a thread. I have a short fuse. I'm easily offended. A good day can become awful...quickly.

After a while, I got the gumption to come in and apologize to Josiah for my actions and words and tell him I knew there was truth to what he was saying.

Tears, a drive, and a long talk led us to part of the reason yesterday; I'm experiencing mommy burnout.

Here's a fun fact: a person cannot be "on" all the time. Plus, frankly, toddlers are not my gift. I LOVE my precious babies, but for example, if you put me in the toddler room at church, my anxiety level shoots through the roof.

What I've been telling myself is that "I'm just not good at this...this momming many people thing." I've also been saying, "I'm not meant to do this."

Consciously, I know God doesn't make mistakes, and He gave me these precious babies for a reason, but my head has not done a good job of keeping my feelings in check.

Because I'm burnt out...and it's going to take more than just Starbucks for a couple hours to fix this...and that's okay.

We came up with somewhat of a plan to get me a full day alone, along with a full day for US alone...because time with one another has been pretty lacking lately, too.

Our relationship is running on fumes, low on oil, and that's just not good for the engine.

But this morning, God revealed something else that was going on: my intellectual framework was faulty.

Once again, during my devotions, he brought me scripture:

You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3

I've always looked at this passage and thought, "We'll have peace if we trust God. Great! I know that already." But this morning, something about the word "steadfast" made me want to look up the original Hebrew, and it broke this verse open for me.

Basically, without nerding out on you guys too much with the details, it says:
God will guard, watch over, and preserve complete peace in the hearts of the people whose intellectual framework is resting squarely upon Him.
There are a couple key words there that I think are really important. First, "perfect peace" there is shalom shalom. The word is so nice, he said it twice.

Seriously though, often in Hebrew, repetition was used for emphasis. Shalom means peace. Saying it twice indicates complete peace, a peace that is in no way lacking.

Second, looking at the Hebrew gave me a picture of our thoughts not as individual roads or pathways, but instead a the structure of a building. Each and every load-bearing board must rest squarely on a strong foundation.

Small weaknesses in structure can make or break a building when storms come.

And let's face it: if I'm venturing into ministry, I'm calling down the thunder.

So, God, in His infinite wisdom, chose to show me the areas where my framework needed repair.

I am quite literally leading myself down a path of mental instability, and God is turning me around and leading me to the way everlasting.

He showed me the errors in my thinking, but also, He exposed how important it will be, as He uses me more, that I take time to rest in Him more...and that means more than just waking up super early to spend time with Him.

It means spending an occasional day in solitude.
It means taking the time to write.
It means spending time in nature praying and appreciating His creation.
It means remembering that my family is my first ministry.

If I reach thousands for Christ, but fail to adequately respect my husband and love and nurture my own children, I will have been a very poor steward of these precious gifts He's put in my care. They have to be my first priority, and sometimes, the best thing you can do for others is make sure you're taking care of yourself.

I pray this has blessed you today. How is God speaking to you right now?

  • Are holding on to anger or resentment?
  • Have you been battling the wrong enemy?
  • Are a couple unsteady boards in your mental framework compromising the stability of your peace?
  • Have you neglected taking care of yourself because you're too busy taking care of others?
  • What is keeping you from perfect peace?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dream big - live bigger!

I know I'm where God wants me for the time being, but feel there's a dissatisfaction in order to drive me towards my next step.

I'm hungry for more.

I want more.

I want my faith to be deeper. (You can start singing “Oceans” if you catch my drift... pun intended)

I want to dream big, and live bigger.

So right now, I'm looking for my promised land.

I don't know what it is, or where it is, and I'm okay with it.

I would much rather wander in the desert for 40 years, than to stay in a place where God doesn't want me to be.

I know that God is using where I am in order to grow me and deepen my faith. I have seen it deepen the more I depend on God and wait on Him.

When I can be still and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10)

I know that I am happiest in life when I have no other explanation for anything that's happened, but God.

The more I think about David... A man who won a fight with a man close to twice his size, with no armor, and by most considerations, inferior weaponry. The man who shouldn't have won by almost all counts... But for God. (1 Samuel 17)

The more I think about Gideon... A man who sent home a high portion of his troops before he went into a battle that would've looked hopeless, but for God. (Judges 7)

The more I think about Peter, who as a fisherman, went from everything he knew about water to do what Jesus told him he could, but stepping out in faith on a surface far less than trustworthy. He would've sank immediately to the bottom of a stormy sea, but for God. (Matthew 14)

What was taught to me was this:

The voice of God often doesn't sound like the voice of reason.

Alissa sent me a page out of her devotion earlier about the church of Philadelphia who was promised to be a gateway for many people, that God was going to do mighty things through them when the time was right.

I feel like in many ways that is my promise.

I own it.

God will use me in a way that He chooses when the time is right., and when God unlocks the door using His wisdom, with His guidance, and in His power, then He will bless me in my journey, and every step along the way is a blessing, whether or not it looks like it.

I want to live in faith and out of my faith, and in expectation of beyond what I'm capable of thinking.

I'm learning that in order to exercise my faith in any situation, sometimes I have to exorcise myself from it... and rely on God.

In everything.

I am going to do what I can to be a good steward of what I have, and I am going to use the gifts that God has given me in order to try to reach out and bless others.

God has something in store for me when I look for Him, and when I continue looking for Him in every situation, in every instance.

That is what He wants for all of us! To gain the spiritual discipline of "never stop looking... never stop knocking... never stop seeking."

The more that I look for God in everything, the more I see Him.

After all, He shows up in every little thing, and in every big thing, and I am more than content to spend my time searching for Him.