It started six years ago as a small whisper in the quietest
spaces and most protected places of my heart. A call into a deeper ministry for
Jesus and in service to others, to grow in love for, learn more about, and to
be equipped to teach the Word of God by pursuing a seminary education. I
thought over what I believed I had heard from God and considered what it would
mean for my life, our life as a family already busy in ministry.
I wish I could say I was like Mary who answered the Lord’s call with “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled,” Yet, I was more like other less confident, less qualified, less-everything characters, and rattled back a lot of questions and concerns, “Me God? How God? When God? Really, God? I am not so sure, God.” And then I would silence the whisper with wonderful other things and noisy distractions. Yet, the whisper persisted.
Over the next four years, I was prodded by a continuous
nudge and pondered the call that was growing louder. I wasn’t able to shake it
off as easily as I had before. Everything I thought about and worked on led me
back to this passion for Jesus, for women, for families, for the Word of God.
Fear kept me from sharing things aloud, but God kept sharing with me in
personal, quiet ways. He gave me many signs, opportunities and encouragement to
be stretched and challenged. I received each of these things as individual, separate
blessings, but now looking back I see them as a cumulation of stepping stones
in a path of trust and faith.
I cannot remember what happened first- the dream I had of
jumping into unknown, murky waters- or blurting out what was on my heart at a
MOPS Training event. But after that dream and sharing my deepest thoughts and now
a true desire, I felt like the doors of my heart were flung opened and sunlight
flooded in. Each time I shared with someone, I felt a fresh breeze of
confidence and excitement fill my heart. I had no details or any idea how all
of it was going to work, I was a bit apprehensive about stepping into this new
thing, but I trusted that if it was from the Lord, He would provide the way and
His will would be done. I sought wise counsel and asked others to pray for
discernment as deciding what the next steps would be.
The next steps came in the forms of essays, recommendation letters, transcripts that translated into an application to Gordon-Conwell Seminary. Pressing the final send button on the application after so many years of praying, conversations and counsel, tears and “wrestling” with what exactly was I was being called to do, was both scary and exhilarating. I gave it all a rest, handed it over to the Lord confident in the fact that I had done everything I possibly could do. A few months later, ten days before my birthday, I found out I was accepted. God and my supportive family worked out all the details and I started classes this semester, six years (or more) since I first heard the whisper.
It’s only been a few months, and already seminary has been an incredible, humbling experience. Seminary is helping me develop better listening skills- listening to the Spirit and to others. I’ve been discovering treasures that have been right in front of me, but with new background and contextual information I’ve been able to find them. I’ve been working through preconceived thoughts and ideas that I’ve previously accepted as truth, only to find there are other thoughts and ideas that might line up better with God’s word and His ways. I am dwelling in the incredible redemption story of the Bible, soaking up grace to new levels, reveling in the steadfast love and patience of Creator God, and trying to take in as much as I can.
So, if it’s quiet here in this space and on my blog, know I am still here. I’m just taking time to listen and study, feeling so incredibly grateful for the way God speaks and the way He waits. It’s often in the quiet places that He speaks the loudest. It’s often the least confident and least qualified that He calls. The wrestling, the suffering, the questions are often an invitation to trust and follow Him to places and things that are greater and far better than you might ever have imagined.
Twenty eighteen went out with a bang. An actual, literal bang.
I was having a great hair day. I had just left my hair stylist and needed to pick up a few things at the store before going home. The traffic was heavy, but I knew a shortcut. I zipped right by the line of cars and laughed at my good fortune of avoiding the long wait. When I arrived at the market, I was even happier and pleasantly surprised to find an open parking space right in the front of the store. Everything seemed to be in my favor!
About one minute later, my positive mood and character were challenged. Pulling into the parking space, I took the turn a little wide. An awful metal scrunching, fiberglass crunching noise accompanied the turn. It took me a minute to figure out what had happened. Did I really just bang into and swipe the PARKED car next to me? I hoped I had imagined the noise, but from the looks of the people passing by, I knew it really happened. I put my van in park, slowly stepped out and shamefully walked around the back. Silver streaks from the front of my van beamed and highlighted the dark gray fender of the other car. Ugh!
The driver of the car was not there. For a split second, I dabbled in the thought of what it would be like not to have a conscience and enjoyed a scandalous moment of how easy it would be to leave the scene. Conviction quickly crushed the faintest of wrong thoughts to a complete close. My conscience and the Holy Spirit gave me forceful push forward into the market on a journey to find the owner of the struck vehicle.
How do you find a stranger in a whole store of strangers?
Embarrassed and annoyed at myself for getting into this situation, I mulled over
the next steps. I called my husband for support. I walked in and out of the store
several times. I talked to myself- possibly aloud. I most likely looked crazed.
I needed help.
It seemed best to start at the market’s little café. I walked up to the hostess and explained my situation. She smiled a gracious smile and told me without criticism that everything was all going to be okay. She tried to encourage me with the fact that most people would have just left (yep! But, no, not an option.) She said she would do what she could to help me find the car’s owner.
Within seconds, the hostess had a team of people in action- she mobilized the servers. She sent word to the employees in the back room and at the serving counters. The open layout of the store provided me a full view of the word being spread. With each person told, I waited to see if they would stand up and move forward to me in annoyance and irritation. It took less than ten minutes to ask everyone and no one stepped forward. I thanked the hostess for her help and walked back out of the door disappointed the situation was not resolved.
Back at the van, I scribbled a note of apology, with my
contact information, on a ripped piece of scrap paper. I tucked it under the
other car’s windshield with a prayer. About thirty minutes later, I received a
phone call from a very nice man explaining he was the owner. “Accidents happen,”
he said. He even thanked me for being an outstanding person for taking responsibility.
The hardest part was over, an insurance claim was made, it was all very easy, and
we all went on with the rest of the day.
This small little blip in my day had not destroyed my peace or happiness. It did not wreck my good day nor did it cast a gray shadow over it. This tiny accidental bang gave me one more intentional opportunity to test out some things I had been working on all year.
Growth- my chosen word of the year. Growth in my responses versus my reactions. Growth in my resilience. Growth in the knowledge of what’s important and what’s not. Growth in the ability to ask for help, to let things go, and to be able to accept my mistakes with grace and understanding. These things and more.
If this small incident happened at the beginning of 2018, at a time when I was stretched too thin by over commitments, running around with my priorities out of sort, and in a place of depriving myself grace, this little incident would not have been so little. It would have taken up way more emotional space than it deserved and would have skewed my perceptions of my abilities. It would have left a negative mark on my day.
“All growth depends on activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort. And effort means work.” Calvin Coolidge
In many ways, this was one of the most flourishing years of growth that I’ve experienced since becoming a mother ten years ago. It was also a continual season of hard work provided by challenging situations that were taxing physically, emotionally and spiritually. I experienced both the pain and beauty of growing. And it often came in unexpected ways at unexpected times.
The most important thing for me, was to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18.) With this as the foundation (or soil,) everything else I wanted to grow in would flow from it- the way I think, act, respond and love. When we are rooted in a place of truth, secure in our identity of Christ, and nourished by the grace and love of Jesus, the perfect atmosphere of growth is created. The more I meditated on things of God, the more I felt a greater inclination to change and an intentional shift to focus more on life’s important things.
When we are rooted in a place of truth, secure in our identity of Christ, and nourished by the grace and love of Jesus, the perfect atmosphere of growth is created .
My priorities needed to be rearranged. I reevaluated my schedule and our families activities. What once seemed pressing and demanding, seemed like things that could wait. I worked hard to create a balance of work and rest. I wasn’t perfect. Many times things went off-kilter. There were times I felt overwhelmed. But instead of staying in the rushed craze, I used those times of induced stress, hurrying, and irritation to remind myself why the balance was important. I breathed more slowly, lingered with my children longer, asked for forgiveness A LOT, and prayed constantly.
By the work of the Holy Spirit, grace
and love for others grew in ways greater than ever before. My eyes were open
wider to seeing people for who God created them to be and seeing their need to
feel loved and valued in different ways. I tried to take time to sit and listen
to people, give them my attention. I felt (and feel) compelled to hear their
stories, give them a chance to use their voice. I pray my words and actions in
those conversations and interactions, left streaks of grace and love beaming
and highlighting their lives.
The hardest part of growth is the pruning part. The part when things are cut away,and weeded out to make room for healthy growth. This year brought about a lot of change and pruning. I had to say goodbye to expectations, to some people and a role I loved. I had to keep reminding myself that it was all for the good. That it would work out the way it was suppose to, all in the right time. I tried hard not to let the “goodbyes” be a distraction, but allowed myself some time to grieve. I kept moving forward in the direction I felt God calling me too. And I’m still moving. Moving and growing.
The hardest part of growth is the pruning part.
Growth doesn’t halt at 2019. It doesn’t change because a yearly focus word changes. It doesn’t stop, even when we wish it would. It is always a continual process in all our lives. The important thing is what we do with the opportunities and how will we respond to the situations that will grow our character. We will be embrace them? Or with the opportunities make us wither back in fear, anxiety and selfishness?
Growing is not easy. It’s messy, and effort is needed. But the end result is beautiful and good. For many of us, we do not have to grow alone. When we actively seek to grow as a person, desire to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord, and rely on dependence of Jesus, the courage and strength to do this type of character growing is available to us. There are people who want to help us too. They want to cheer us on, tell us that we are outstanding people (even when we feel unable, messy and foolish) and maybe mobilize a team of other people to help us find the things we need. Let them.
I think all of us should start 2019 with a bang! Hopefully, not an actual, literal bang like an accident. But a bang of growth. It’s a new year to take responsibility. A chance to reevaluate priorities. A time to embrace challenge. And an opportunity to ask for and accept help more often. Be on the lookout for the beauty that comes out of all of it. You may be surprised where you find it. I’m cheering you on. Happy New Year!
Last week, I was rereading Mary’s story in the Gospel of Luke. Mary, a young virgin, engaged to Joseph, a man of good lineage. Her engagement was part of socially acceptable plans, plans that would provide her security in life. She might have thought of her future often, preparing herself to be a wife, dreaming of what it might be like to be married. Every day that went by was one day closer to those plans coming to fruition. Then something happened that would change everything. God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary with an incredible message that would challenge her plans and replace them with a new calling from God.
I can only imagine the thoughts and questions racing through
her mind as she tried to process the impossible things the angel was saying- “You
will conceive. You will give birth. You will name him Jesus. He will be the Son
of the Most High.” Although, the Gospel of Luke does not tell us her exact
thoughts, it does records one of her questions. A question I think we can all
relate to, “How can this be?”
Mary’s first response to this overwhelming information was a
question. And her response is similar to many other people in the Bible who also
had their days, their plans, their lives interrupted with what seemed like unimaginable
missions and impossible callings from God. Callings that would be difficult, go
against social standards, and change the trajectory of their lives in order to fulfill
the plans of God. In many of their stories, their immediate response to overwhelming
information was a “Who am I?” “How can I?” “I am only a….”
I think many of us have similar first responses to when God calls us to Himself or to His work. While, our circumstances and our callings might be different, the heart of our responsive question is the same- doubt.
“How can this be, since I am a sinner?
“How can this be, since I am unqualified?”
“How can this be, since I do not have the resources?
God’s answer has been, is, and always will be the same. The
answer is- “I am with you.” (Exo.3:12; Joshua 1:5, Luke 1:28) We can do the
things God calls us to do because of Emmanuel, God is with us. Often, God’s
callings come at times that interrupt our carefully crafted plans. They ask us
to replace our doubts and fears with faith. He knows your past and your future.
He knows where you are lacking and wants to equip and use you in those places for
His glory. He knows you don’t have all the resources because He wants to be the
One to provide them and He wants you to trust and obey in faith that He will.
God fully knows, and has no doubt,
that you are the right person for the mission, the job, the good work that He
is calling you to do.
Mary didn’t have all the answers or all the details. She
didn’t have a spreadsheet, a timeline or a budget. But she did have faith and was
told the Holy Spirit would come over her to make this impossible, miraculous
thing happen. And because Jesus, we also have the Holy Spirit to encourage us, empower
us and remind us- God is with us.Nothing is
impossible with God. Anchoring ourselves in those truths and answering God
out of a place of faith, our second response can be one of trust and action. We
can respond in the same as Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you
said about me come true.”(Luke 1:38)
The cool, salty spray was fresh with hope. Freedom danced in the air and adventure whipped in the wind. The ferry plowed confidently through the rolling waves, moving steadily closer toward to the small island- my new home. Things had happened very quickly in the last few days. It felt like a dream but this was very real. I looked back at the mainland, straining to see the only life I had ever known. A life of safety and security in family and home; and more recently a life marked with deep regret, painful shame, and shattered dreams. My heart was broken in so many ways. I was lost wanting to be found.
This was the beginning of a season in my life etched by indescribable grace, raw and challenging growth, and sincere gratitude. The slow tempo of the Island offered me a sanctuary for reflection. It was a place where freedom bore new dreams upon windy, high bluffs. Grains of inspiration were discovered on long stretches of sandy beaches. Revelation was abundant and overflowing in every bit of natural beauty.
I spent hours and hours walking. Every step seemed to beat out the pain of the past and moved me forward in a journey of healing. Jesus was undeniably close, patiently waiting for me to acknowledge Him again. And when I did, He met me right where I was- no judgment or condemnation. He quietly listened to my questions, stood by me as I let loose my anger and grief, and didn’t turn away when I bared my shame and surrendered my guilt. He comforted me with love and made me feel like I was the only one who had His attention. From the deepest places of my clouded heart came drops of appreciation that turned into storms of praise.
For the first time in a long time, I was able to hear the Holy Spirit’s quiet voice over the clanging lies, taunts, and distractions that I had given my attention to for so long. The Holy Spirit burned away unwanted things and brightened a flicker back into a flame. He gently guided me through acceptance, helped me turn back to God in repentance, and gave me help, power and protection in the process. I was wanted. I was found. And my response was gratitude and praise! The more I praised, the more I moved forward. The more I moved forward, the more my heart healed. The more I healed, the more I realized who I was and what that meant.
There is a story in the Bible about a battle in which the Lord helped the Israelites to win. In the place where their enemy had been routed, the prophet Samuel set up a “stone of help,” an Ebenezer, saying “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12) The “stone of help” would be a reminder of God’s promise, power and protection, always serving as a prompt to praise.
Sometimes through the battles, discouragement, and troubled times it can be hard to be grateful, yet I believe, it’s during these times that our practice of praise and gratitude brings about the richest, most genuine, most powerful praise. Powerful praise that God turns into hope, freedom, and renewal.
Gratitude doesn’t need to be perfect- it’s a process. It doesn’t have to be elegant words- messy emotions from a sincere heart work too. With each step of the journey, wherever God may take you- to windswept islands or a third-floor apartment in an inner city- set up your “stones of help” and use them as a prompts of praise. For the more we praise, the more we realize what we have and the more we have we realize what that truly means.
Although, every day, in every season, in all circumstances, is a time to be thankful, November is a special month of reflecting on what it means to thankful. I like to take this month to think about how I can better cultivate a heart of gratitude, not only in my life but in our family’s life as well. This month, I am looking back at the Ebenezers I’ve set up in my life. I’m using them as prompts of praise, to tell my story of where the Lord’s help and protection have covered me and where His power is taking me next. Join me!
I knew the Church long before I knew Jesus. It’s where we were first introduced. His name whispered humbly and reverently in the prayers of His people. His name boldly proclaimed in petitions and healings, and shouted with enthusiasm in worship and song. Yet, I did not know what it meant to call Him mine until many years later. I didn’t know what joy and love would be found by calling Him my friend. The peace and gratefulness I would own by proclaiming Him as my Savior. Nor did I know the hope and boldness that would come with obedience to my King. I know and treasure all these things now, largely because of influence of the Church and the faithfulness and struggle of a bunch of imperfect people who love and strive to follow Jesus with their lives.
For forty years, the local church has been woven into the very fabric of my life. Less about a building and more about the people, it’s been a special place that has brought me warmth and familiarity, irritation and conviction, and firm grounding with love as I have grown in my faith and as a follower of Jesus.
Just as with any relationship, the Church and I have had a long, rich, complex one. I’ve experienced seasons and degrees of willingness, activeness and involvement. I’ve been stubborn and ungrateful, a complainer and a critic . . . a consumer. At times, I’ve gone to church for the wrong reasons with wrong heart intentions and sat through many services with wrong thoughts. And if you know my story, you know that I never wanted to be a pastor’s wife.
Often the things you never wanted are the very things you are to embrace. And you might just find that the very thing you never wanted to do is the very thing you love and are called to do – as you allow the Holy Spirit space to work. All those years, all those church services, the influence of so many faithful people, so many Bible studies, camp devotions, rededications, worship songs and hymns, forty years of prayers prayed over me, for me and by me have cumulated and forged in my heart (and life) a great love for Jesus, His people, and for the local church. I love the local church.
The local church with all its faults, imperfections, and humanity is a very unique place. It is a place where I have found the importance and value of being connected in a community with believers who are also working out their lives of faith and learning to love God and love others. It’s a place where I have been encouraged, equipped and challenged to figure out exactly what I believe, why I believe it, and what to do with this transformational truth I carry. It’s given me space to grow in my faith, helped me learn patience and practice extending grace. The church is not perfect because people are not perfect, but I see a desire in the local church to do better, to figure these things out. To change the perspective of what church is.
But most importantly, I love the church because it is where I met, fell in love with, and surrendered my life to Jesus. And the more deeply I fall in love with Jesus, the more I love what He loves. Jesus loves people. He loves His church. In Acts 20:28, the Bible tells us that Jesus loves the church so much He bought it with his own blood.
This motivates me to want to be the best shepherd I can, and advocate for my local church. With so many options, worship styles, changing culture surrounding how we “do” church, it is important to continually remember that God has placed us here together in this time as his local family of believers. We gather together to worship and proclaim Jesus, encourage each other in his mission, and bear witness to his forgiveness, reconciliation, and the transformational power of hope, love, and joy found in Him.
He was all she had left. Death had stolen her husband and now had taken her only son. It had robbed her of her family and her future, and left her in this hopeless, desperate position. What would she do? What could she do? A woman of her time had no ownership of anything, no control over decisions, and now she was alone. With a deeply troubled heart, she took a deep breath and continued walking along the dusty, crowded funeral procession, her cheeks stained by streams of tears.
At the city gates, the funeral procession was met by another large crowd. This crowd following and traveling with a great teacher and healer called Jesus. The crowd yielded to let the procession go by and one among the crowd waited and watched with loving eyes. He saw the grieving widow and knew. He knew every detail of her situation. Jesus always sees what others can’t and always knows what others don’t.
Deeply moved by compassion, Jesus went to the woman. Gracious and compassionate eyes met sorrowful and distressed ones. With care and gentleness, he spoke to her, “Don’t weep,” he said. Then he went to the open coffin, gently touched the side, and with the power and authority in all of heaven and earth, Jesus commanded the dead men to “Arise!” At the command of his words, the dead man sat up and began to speak. The crowd was stunned by awe and wonder, they glorified God as Jesus reunited the boy and his mother. Jesus miraculously restored a life, a family and futures at those city gates.
This is the Jesus I love and serve. My Jesus is full of compassion and power. He is watching, willing and wanting to bring restoration to our lives, relationships, and our futures too. His heart breaks for the hopeless, the mistreated, and the sorrowful. Jesus meets us right where we are, in the messiness of our situations, our pain, and our despair. Nothing surprises Him and no situation is too big or too hopeless for His touch. He has the power to turn weeping into wonder. Turn pain into praise. And turn fear into a faith. But we need to meet him and His gaze. Though it may be difficult and situations challenging, we need to keep stepping forward in faith, keep trusting Him as a Great Teacher, Great Healer, and Powerful Savior. A Savior that has the compassion to say “Don’t Weep” and the authority to say “Arise!” to bring life back to our most desperate and dead circumstances. So be encouraged, for nothing is impossible with God.
A Widow’s Son Raised to Life found in The Gospel of Luke 7:11-17
Today is the National Day of Prayer! A call to unite together in prayer for our country and for all those who live in it. This annual spring observance was established by President Truman in 1952 and in 1988, set as the first Thursday in May. For sixty-seven years, Americans have gathered together to bow their heads and ask God to guide, protect, heal, and bless our country. In his 1983 prayer declaration, President Ronald Reagan said, “From General Washington’s struggle at Valley Forge to the present, this Nation has fervently sought and received divine guidance as it pursued the course of history. This occasion provides our Nation with an opportunity to further recognize the source of our blessings, and to seek His help for the challenges we face today and in the future.”
Four reasons why we should we pray today (and everyday)…
Prayer connects us to God. Being a follower of Christ means being in relationship with Him. Relationships require communication and prayer creates communication pathways. It is a great privilege to pray. Our prayers do not need be perfect, wordy or beautiful. God loves when we come to him as messy, imperfect, broken people whose desire is to truly seek Him and His heart. When we come to Him with our praise, thanksgiving, hopes, dreams, requests, and needs, our relationship with God grows stronger.
Prayer is an act of obedience. God’s word calls us to pray and we must respond. Prayer is an act of obedience. And wholehearted obedience is done joyfully, with enthusiasm. The Bible says, “Obey him gladly” (Psalm 100:2a TLB).2
“This, then, is how you should pray …” –Matthew 6:9
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” –Romans 12:12
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” –Ephesians 6:18
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” –Philippians 4:6
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” –Colossians 4:2
“Pray continually” -1 Thessalonians 5:17
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone …” -1 Timothy 2:1 1
Prayer equips us and empowers us through the Holy Spirit. Prayer gives us the courage to take the next steps of faith. As we seek the Lord’s guidance in our lives, callings and passions, the Holy Spirit will reveal, teach and illuminate the Truth. In a noisy world filled with loud voices, the voice of the Holy Spirit is a quiet whisper. Prayer helps us to slow down and listen. When we hear His voice, we can confidently embrace the Truth and walk in the power and freedom He gives.
Prayer Unites. Prayer builds community and brings us together for a common purpose or action. It joins us in the Lord’s presence and helps us opens our eyes and hearts to the needs of others. Praying together focuses our eyes on the Lord and helps us to put our faith, hopes and dreams in His hands. Prayer helps us make unified steps toward where the Lord is leading us. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
So on this National Day of Prayer, I challenge you to find some time to dedicate to prayer. Maybe it’s 15 minutes, maybe it’s an hour. Maybe it’s praying on your own, maybe it’s praying with a friend or co-worker, maybe it’s praying with your kids. However long, whoever it’s with, wherever you choose to pray, connecting with God’s heart is most important. I believe the time you spend with God in prayer will be both powerful and beautiful.
If have a desire to pray and are unsure where to start, use the file I created (link below in green) or send me a message. I would love to mentor you in how to start a prayer life with our God.
NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER -WAYS TO PRAY FOR AN HOUR PDF (link below)
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