New exciting things

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure. ” -Eric Liddell

I have always loved this quote, for as long as I can remember. I loved what it represents, this possibility that when you are fully in your life, connected to the purposes for which God has created you, that you experience Him in a far greater and more tangible way this side of heaven. Maybe you have caught a glimpse of this in your own life, when you have tasted a nibble of something that sparks your passion or perhaps, for you more adventurous types, have dove in head-first into what you believed to be God’s calling on your life.

I used to describe this feeling, for lack of a better word, when I would talk about times I feel inspired to write. It was like I was experiencing a sweet, sweet intimacy with the Holy Spirit that I didn’t often experience in that same way anywhere else. It is personal. It is humbling. It is so fulfilling. And it makes me thirsty for more.

I haven’t really heard anyone else describe it this way before, outside of the above quote, until I ran across Ann Swindell’s post today, where she penned these words:

And I found, the further I went into words and story and the grinding turn of revision, that I met God in the process of writing in deep, deep ways. I loved that when I wrote, I felt his nearness; I felt, more than anything, at home.

At home. Yes. For my often wandering pilgrim’s heart, this perfectly describes my experience. A place where things just seem to settle into place and magnify a sense of clarity and focus for my life, even if for just a few fleeting moments. And joy! Abundant joy and a sense of fulfillment.

So what’s so exciting about this, you may say? Well, besides the fact that it’s always nice to feel like you run across someone that can paint your experience with words, this comes as a very swift and personal response to a prayer that my husband and I prayed together recently. The prayer was prompted from a place of dryness and stagnation, where I’ve found myself feeling weary and somewhat discouraged from the monotony of the day-to-day of being a Stay-At-Home-Mama.

“Lord, I’m struggling. I know You have me here, but I feel detached from vibrant life. I believe You have more for me than this. Help me to find something that will revive, rejuvinate, and be life-giving to me.”

Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful that God has so graciously chosen this place for me. And I wouldn’t choose anything else now. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy, or that I wake up excited and ready to attack my day most days. My attention-to-detail approach to life makes it hard for me to maintain a vision of the overall, sweeping purposes and meaningfulness of the monotony, and so I have to continually draw myself away to Jesus’ feet for Him to renew my perspective and infuse once again the sense of purpose in the “wash, rinse, repeat” of my day.

So, back to the prayer. I didn’t really have an expectation (that I’m aware of) of how the Lord would respond, but I trusted that He would. Somehow, even in the middle of desertland, the Lord graced me with Hope. Maybe a new hobby? A new ministry to serve in? A good book? (joking…kind of. I was at a point where I would accept whatever.)
And in His grace, He has responded. And quickly, thank You, Jesus.

First, with this article. Please go read this. Like right now. It’s that good.

The habit we practice without realizing it is one of denying our own personhood….And it’s keeping us from becoming most fully ourselves.”

When we are able to embrace fully how God has created us – interests, tendencies (good and bad), skills, giftings, experiences, limitations, struggles, – and live in that identify, we glorify Him to our fullest potential, because we are revealing His true design. The goal isn’t to just know myself better, but that this whole process of embracing who He has made me and pursuing His design allows me to know Him better, and better make Him known.

When I tell myself -whether consciously or subconsciously – that while I would enjoy doing ______, that is just really not for me, that I’m not enough (talented enough, popular enough, rich enough, fill in your own lack), then I am limiting the extent to which I can experience God and that I can reveal Him to others around me. And I will add, I’m probably not recognizing that one huge factor in all of this is the expectation or picture of how the above would look (and which automatically disqualifies me in my own mind). When I don’t recognize this and choose to not pursue whatever my _____ is, I’m trusting my own understanding instead of trusting God’s design and ultimate purpose.

For example, I feel called to write. (And I confess that I feel quite vulnerable admitting this publicly for the first time) And for a long time, this calling has intimated me and I have procrastinated and avoided the implications.

One of the reasons of that is because I thought I knew what the end goal would be and saw the cavernous gap between here and there (enter obstacle one: my expectation of what God had planned).
Some other obstacles have been the usual suspects – comparison, insecurity, fear, laziness, the fact that it looks a whole lot like work (just keeping it real).

And so I haven’t pursued what I felt God was calling me to, not wholeheartedly. And it’s not even until I type out these words that I realize the disobedience in that. Lord, please forgive me.

While deep down I know that I would enjoy writing and being a writer, I have allowed these obstacles to tell me that it wasn’t for me. It was for those more talented, more educated, more creative people out there, and so I better just leave it to them. They’ll do a good job.

All the while, denying the sadness and even jealousy and resentment that others got to do what I wanted to do. (What a tangled, complicated cycle.)

But like Emily Freeman says in the article, there is a space for me. And there is a space for you. And if we don’t step into our space, we’re missing out on a greater intimacy with God, on greater joy and fulfillment during this lifetime, and on ultimately bringing Him the most glory that we can through this short life.

The space I’m called to may look really different than most. And so part of my process in acknowledging my calling is also letting go of the expectation of what it will turn out to be (which sounds a whole lot like surrender).

And most importantly, acknowledging that it is His space that He has carved out for me.
His portion for my life.
It is His place for me, as His child, to sing and dance and live freely, learning more about Him as I function as He created me to, and ultimately allowing Him to use my life, my work, my writing, my whatever however He wants to.
Because it is His.
I’m not trying to create my own version of it, but it is surrendered to Him.

And because it’s His space for me, there is freedom!

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

And free people can set other people free! The cost isn’t just what you will miss out on, but what others may miss out on because you’re not there. I SO need people living freely in front of me to show me that it’s possibility to be free, too.

So let’s be in our space, fully in our lives, grappling with it (as Martha Kilpatrick would say), and He will make Himself know to us and to others, for our good and His glory!

“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” – Psalm 16:5-6

So what has God placed within your space? What is the composition of all of your personality and skill set and dreams look like for you? I’d love to hear! I’ve love for this to be a place where you can acknowledge God’s design, maybe even for the first time, and claim that you do have a space to step into, to fulfill, to reveal more of our Creator.

He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. – Ephesians 2:10 (MSG)

It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others. – Ephesians 2:10 (TLB)

For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. – Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)

Some of the other really cool resources that I’ve been lead to recently are below. I could go on and on about those as well, but I want to get them out here sooner than it would take to wrap them in words.

The Influence Network

A Well-Watered Woman (and the whole Life Lived Beautifully website)

Ann Swindell’s post on Pursuing Your Passion In The Margins (I’m currently taking her 6-week online writing course, which has been SO good. More to come on that later.)

Enjoy!

A New Word for A New Year


I love these types of posts.

These are the posts where I get to share what the Lord has been pouring into me,

to proclaim His Presence that has so faithfully been here the whole time (even when my eyes can’t see and my ears can’t hear),

to acknowledge what He has been doing in my life,

to really press in and know Him and His ways more and more,

to recognize how He is fulfilling His promises to me (and all of creation).

Last year,  I heard the Lord whisper the word “fulfill” to my heart. And He was so faithful to continue to speak along these lines. It was amazing to see how He would tie in different circumstances, sermons, worship experiences, devotions, and conversations to continue to layer on His truth and to reveal His movement. It was humbling to watch, and I’m so thankful for the experience. He fulfilled a lot of personal words to me – promises of what He has done and will continue to do in my life and the lives of the ones I love. And He continued to fulfill His promises that He made at the beginning of creation – drawing His children to Himself, showcasing His power and majesty and might, accomplishing His redemptive work for all humanity.

My husband and I have really enjoyed the tradition of praying for a word from the Lord for the upcoming year, but it’s also a nerve-wracking experience for me. Each year around the middle of December, as I start to pray for a new word, I get a little anxious. I start to question if I will really hear from the Lord, if I will really be able to distinguish His voice and personal word for me from my own thoughts and all the noise in my head. But each year the Lord comes through, and He responds.

And I’m reminded again that He always does! Not always in my timing, but He does respond when I call on Him. (Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness and love for me.)

This year He surprised me by speaking early on – two words that were very closely connected. So I started praying and one word seemed more significant. (I’ll get to the second one in a minute.)

So this year, I’m excited to share that my word is Proclaim!

Eep! The Lord’s Presence has been so apparently surrounding this word and I have such a sense of expectancy about what He is going to do that I can’t help but share it!

According to good ‘ole Webster’s dictionary, it means
– to say or state (something) in a public, official, or definite way : to declare or announce (something)
– to show (something) clearly
– to praise or glorify openly or publicly

I personally felt the Lord defining proclaim for me as
– speaking truth – to myself, over my kids, to others
– to acknowledge by word and deed what He is doing in my life and Who He is
– to speak truth boldly with humility (a combination I believe is only possible through the Holy Spirit)
– to speak life and vision
– to claim by faith, in words and actions, what God has to offer me

One verse that He’s given me so far is Psalm 107:2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so” (ESV)
I also really liked the following two translations:
“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story – those He redeemed from the hand of the foe,” (NIV)
“Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others He has redeemed you from your enemies.” (NLT)

Also, as I was reviewing my journal from last fall, I came across a scripture I had written down one Sunday at church:

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. – 1 Corinthians 11:26

I love how this represents that my actions – not just my words – declare what I believe and in Whom I believe (or also reveal my doubts and disbelief).

And then of course, this passage for me captures the heart of what the Lord is drawing my eyes and heart to this season:

Psalm 145: 1-8,
I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
    and praise Your Name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and His greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall commend Your works to another,
    and shall declare Your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of Your majesty,
    and on Your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of Your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare Your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of Your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and His mercy is over all that He has made.

 

What is interesting about this word so far is that it came in a season where I was really struggling. Things had gotten hard with being home with the kids full-time, it felt like school and just life in general was a struggle and fight every day, and I felt very dry and dead -spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. And so I confessed to the Lord, honestly and in confusion, that I didn’t understand. I was in a season where I needed someone to proclaim the Lord’s faithfulness and truth to me. How was I supposed to muster up the faith and strength to proclaim truth to others when I was having a hard time believing it myself?

But the Lord wasn’t telling me to proclaim to someone else. He knew I needed to be proclaiming the truth to myself.  I needed some moments, like David, where I asked myself,
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:5-6a

As I shared a little here, the Lord recently revealed that I need to incorporate a time of praise and worship into my time with Him each morning. This step has helped to still my heart and mind in such a way that allows my heart to really engage with the Lord, to acknowledge His Presence here with me, to receive His truth through His Word, and tunes my ears to hear from the Lord in a way that  I don’t know I’ve ever experienced before. It has led to a very sweet season with Him and I am so grateful for it. Before, without this ‘stilling process,’ I would usually read over a passage here, a devotional there, and then go on with my day, barely pausing in prayer and definitely not recognizing my current state of need.

And so I’ve found that as my mouth is declaring His truths during praise and worship, it is strengthening my spirit and my faith and it’s helping me to walk in freedom in areas where I’ve struggled in the past with defeat.

I’m not claiming that if you start every day with a praise and worship song that life is going to be peachy-keen and perfect, but I will say that I have experienced the Lord in amazing ways and it feels like victory and freedom for me.

So I’m excited to see what all the Lord wants to show me about proclaiming Who He is in truth, in word and action, in prayer and worship – to my own heart and then to whoever else crosses my path. Because He has been so faithful and I need to tell. If He has done this for me, then He will do it for you.

The second word that I received initially was actually a word that the Lord has for my family this year! This is the first year that it has even occurred to me to ask for a family word, and so I appreciate the Lord’s inspiration in leading me to ask for that.

So our family word for 2016 is Acknowledge (from Webster’s Dictionary):
– to recognize the rights, authority, or status of
– to express gratitude or obligation for
– to take notice of
– to recognize as genuine or valid

This word holds special meaning for me, as it’s something the Lord spoke to me about in college as I was claiming Proverbs 3:5-6 as my life verses:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

The term acknowledge here refers to a personal, experiential knowledge. Oh man, I love that. It’s such a full picture of what the Lord wants with us – for us to experience Him first-hand, in an intimate relationship that reflects Who He is in truth and grace.  And then the natural overflow of this encounter with God is to share it with others, to proclaim.

So for my family, I believe this means that the Lord is calling us
– to press in to know Him more intimately, to abide and stay in step with His Spirit
– to recognize His Presence in our lives and to help others recognize Him as well
– to allow God and His truth to be our curriculum (for homeschool) and all that we learn flow out of our pursuit of Him

One verse He’s given so far is Ezekiel 11:19-20,
“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my ways. They will be my people and I will be there God.”

So I’ll leave you with one of my current worship jams, and I invite to join me in proclaiming God’s truth over your life! Join me in worshiping the One that created everything, and is here with us now!

You Never Change – Austin Stone Worship

Oh may I run to no other refuge
No other rest for my soul
Oh may I drink from no other fountain
Where living waters will flow

Jesus, You’re all I need

You are my life, may You be lifted high
There is no other like Jesus Christ
You are my story, You’re my everything
You are my glory, my God, and my King
You are my rock, and You never change

No other power can break the darkness
No other hand that can save
Forever faithful, Your love is stronger
I trust in no other name

My strength to stand, all of my days are in Your hand
My light to see, Your glory goes before me
My King, You reign
My rock, and You never change
No, You never change

 

Do you need to go to time-out?

I had this thought today, as my daughter is whining about sitting down for her devotional & school time. Shouts of “I’m going to be so bored” (her newest phrase , thank you, Sofia the First) and “But I’m going to be exhausted after this and not be able to play with my shopkins” where heard throughout the land, demands that the unjust and not fun rulership be overthrown and for the young citizens to have their way!


Despite the compelling arguments, we still proceeded with a time-out for an attitude adjustment and started again. In the authority that God has given me as her mother, I stood my ground and let her know that she’s not going to determine the agenda and that she needs to go sit in time out until she can have a better attitude and to pray for God to help her in this.

But this was such a great picture of my flesh often does when it’s presented with anything opposed to its nature (meaning anything of the Holy Spirit, that is actually good for me).  It whines and throws tantrums, balking at the idea of anything remotely constructive and life-giving -getting into the Word, exercising, praying, serving others, saying no to myself (gasp!). But the Holy Spirit inside of me, like I did with my daughter, tries to encourage and lead me to what is really good for me.

And that is exactly the authority that I’ve been given in Christ, to now say no to my flesh, that it doesn’t have the authority to tell me what I am or am not going to do anymore.

But how often do I let the screaming child inside of me win? How often have I wanted to avoid the battle or struggle or pain, and just do what feels good or easy in the moment?

The Holy Spirit nudges me, suggesting that I get up early to get into the Word before my day starts.
“Nah – I would rather sleep in. I mean, I need to rest to take care of the kids, right?”

He nudges again – ‘You need to start an exercise routine so you’ll have more energy and be healthy, and to be a good example for your kids in this.’
“Nope, I think I’ll rest while they do. I mean, I need whatever energy I would use for exercising for the rest of the day, right?” (enter the enemy’s scarcity tactic, the lie that there is limited amounts of _____ and I better conserve and hold on to and control instead of surrender and release and trust)

I could go on. This is the usual dialogue that I’ve struggled with for a while in my head, easy rationalizations in response to life-giving suggestions in order to stay in the same stuck routines and rhythms.

BUT, as I’ve shared, the Lord is doing a new thing with me. He’s not leaving me alone on this anymore. And He’s revealing more and more truth  to reveal where I once fell into traps that have kept me stuck.

See, if you notice above, all my responses above were still questions. I still had a choice to agree with myself – my own logic and understanding and preference (my flesh) – or, by the power of the Holy Spirit, choose differently.

Do you believe that? Do you believe that you have a choice? That even in the deepest, most dark struggle and ingrained habit that you may have, that you still have a choice?

Because you do, if you’re a follower of Christ. As a believer, you have the Holy Spirit inside of you, and scripture says that we can now say “No!” to sin and to ourselves and to our old nature.

Romans 8:1-17,

“1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”

If I believe that the Gospel is true, and I do!, then part of that amazing truth is that I am now freed to live a life by the Spirit, no longer held captive to sin and my old way of thinking and living. I can trust that the Holy Spirit will reveal what are life-giving choices for me, and I now have the ability to choose them over the old ways.

A new way exists! Where I used to succumb to laziness and selfishness, I can ask God for a picture of what a different response looks like. And He will give it. He will!

He gives us vision and inspiration and encouragement. I have seen it and experienced it first-hand. And it is personal and will cut you to the core, as it should. But it needs to be personal, so that you’ll know that He is personal and knows You intimately.

That’s usually the first step for me, asking the Lord what it looks like. Because I don’t know where to go if I haven’t seen it before. And this is why sharing your stories of victory with the Lord is SO important! It shows people that there is another way, that progress and freedom and change are possible,  and gives them a jumping off point.

And  a first step may just be as simple (but not easy) as admitting there is a problem. That you are stuck. That there is a bad habit. A sin. A struggle. A hurt that you can’t seem to get over by yourself.

Admitting this to yourself, to God and to someone else is a very powerful first step! It may not seem like much compared to where you want to be, but it’s necessary and it is the first step to freedom.

And so back to my responses. I had a choice – to agree with myself and stay stuck. Or to say No.

“No, I need to get up and get into God’s Word and connect with God personally MORE than I need sleep. Because I need to know what He has written in my day today. I want to be in step with His Spirit and to receive all that He has for me and my family and others I will interact with today. Because this isn’t just about me. I want to be able to abide in His Spirit so that I choose patience when my temper wants to flare, or I can have discernment through His Spirit when I have a run-in with my child, to see the heart of the matter instead of just addressing the behavior. I need His sight and His empowerment to live differently than I have in the past, and therefore I must get up and get into His Word.”

“No, I will choose to start to exercise, as much as my body resists and hurts and I don’t enjoy it at first. Because I know, that even though it seems counter-intuitive, that it will eventually give me more energy and You have designed my body to need this type of activity, and it will function better if I am using it how You designed it to be used. And so I’m going to choose to start to take better care of myself so that I can honor You and take better care of my family. And I’m going to trust that what energy I do expend in pursuit of obedience to You that You will cover with Your grace and will provide for that as well.” (take that, scarcity tactic. My God will provide for all my needs in Christ Jesus.)

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

Freedom means we have a choice, and we have the ability to choose well! Not perfectly, but to make imperfect progress.

So, back to this morning. Once Natalie and I got into things, she actually enjoyed herself. Once she submitted to the authority in front of her, she was able to receive all that this morning’s activities had to offer – the routine, the discipline, and the fun. We had a great conversation and she was able to see that what she predicted this morning was going to look like wasn’t the case at all. Instead, it was time connecting with her mother, talking about God’s love, and writing a little bit. And she loves connection. And she loves writing (once she pushes past the whining). She didn’t realize that I had tailored this morning to fit her personally, things I know she enjoys to do.

Isn’t that so how our loving God works, too? That once we push past the whining and submit to receive what He has to offer us, we discover that He actually shaped what He is handing us to be exactly what we need, and if we really offer Him our hearts, He’ll even give us a desire for it, too. It’s really unfathomable goodness that He offers us.

Every single time I choose surrender over selfishness, the Holy Spirit reveals to me more of Who God is, more of His love and compassion and extravagant grace, and I get a closer glimpse of what this whole life is really supposed to be about.

So, is your inner child screaming today? Do you need to send yourself to time-out to consider your choices, your attitude, and to pray for God to help you? I know that I need that prescription A LOT.

And don’t forget that last part. It’s essential. Ask God to help. Because it’s really not about us trying our best to be good or pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. It’s about acknowledging our dependence on Him to help us to make any good and lasting changes in our life. By confessing that I have a sinful heart and faulty vision, and that I need Him to give me a new heart and His perspective, so that I can really see.

Oh, how humbly and incredibly exposing parenting can be. I’m thankful that as I’m walking through this years of training my kids through time-outs and other various things, that it’s also a reminder to me of how I need the same exact training, and He’s offering it, if I will surrender and receive it.

Proverbs 3:11-13 (AMP)
“My son, do not reject or take lightly the discipline of the Lord [learn from your mistakes and the testing that comes from His correction through discipline];Nor despise His rebuke,
for those whom the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.”

Or a better word picture for my whiny heart:
Proverbs 3:11-12 (MSG)
“But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline; don’t sulk under his loving correction.
It’s the child he loves that God corrects;a father’s delight is behind all this.”

Hebrews 12:5-6
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,and chastises every son whom he receives.””

And the promise:
Hebrews 12:11
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”