Part 3: So Fresh and So Clean

With one day left of the 21 days of prayer and fasting, I am more re(fresh)ed and eager about what 2016 will entail than ever before. If you missed part 1 or part 2, you can click the links to go back and read about all the miraculous and encouraging moments leading into week 3! God’s love moves mountains.

Day 14: Answered Prayers

“O Lord, God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God of Israel and that I am your servant” (1 Kings 18:36).

Sunday morning’s devotional really reassured a passion that God has placed on my heart. Over the past few months, I have really felt God emphasizing the importance of each and every today. In the mornings while I drive to my 3 hour chemistry lecture, I pray for God to equip me for the day, making me aware of each need. I also pray that God would fill me with His peace and joy. It’s in these mindful moments that I can escape my anxious personality, and find peace and confidence. The more loved I feel by God, the more I am able to trust in Him.

Now, as Day 14 kick off, I began to reflect on all the prayers God has answered just over these past few weeks. Each morning I write in my prayer journal, and then at night I under line the prayers that have been answered. When we are intentional to pray and seek answers, it’s amazing how reliable God is. So often, I begin to doubt God’s reliability when one of my frequent, largely desired, prayers does not get answered. If things don’t align with my timing, I get impatient and uncertain. But just because we don’t see an immediate answer to one prayer, doesn’t mean God isn’t answering our other prayers. The more aware I am of what prayers are being answered, the more my heart’s desires begin to align with His calling for my life.

On Sunday night we had a guest pastor from Hillsong NYC come and preach on when seasons change, God doesn’t. During Diego’s powerful message, I felt God reminding me to expect change, but not to change my expectation. God’s promises do not change so we can expect Him to answer those prayers. For 2016, I have big, mountain-moving, expectations that God is going to use me to accomplish some world changing things.

Day 15: God’s Goodness

God’s goodness has been undeniable in my life. Only 4 or so months ago, I was battling my most severe relapse into my eating disorder. I was exhausted, very unhealthy physically, and in many ways hopeless; however, because of God’s love for ME, I am experiencing freedom and healing from the illness like never before. I’m actually excited about my future. As successful as I have been, I begin to wonder what had made this attempt at recovery so different. As I reflected and praised God for His healing, I felt Him speak something very heavy on my heart. He reminded me that in my past attempts at recovery, I had always been motivated by guilt and shame. I felt bad for putting my family through so much pain, so I would convince myself that recovery was the necessary solution. I knew the eating disorder was wrong, so my transformation was built on a foundation of guilt. It was in that realization that I felt God place this phrase on my heart:

When you seek transformation that’s rooted in guilt and shame, it will chain you. But when you seek transformation that’s rooted in God’s personal love, it will change you. 

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I used to find myself feeling guilty after reading this verse. My new life didn’t look all to different when compared to my life before I was saved. My old life is suppose to be gone, and yet I’m struggling with the same battles. But, guilt and shame come straight from the enemy. The more we feel unworthy of God’s love, the more unworthy we feel to be used by God. Guilt and shame is an attack on our identity and calling. When I read this verse now, the phrase “belongs to Christ” stamps boldly into my heart. I am a child of God. It was only when I began to allow God to love me with His personal love, that I was able to see how vital of a role my life has in His story. I began to crave this new life God promises. God’s love will change you.

Day 16: Provision

With only a few days left of the fast, I began praying specifically for a word or a group of words that would guide me in 2016. I am confident that God will provide; however, I am not always confident that I will be aware enough to let Him. I know the doubt comes from the enemy, but it’s still a struggle I have. So, as I prayed I was looking for some clarity. Three words/phrases that I felt God emphasizing in my heart were: for your glory, servant, and last. After receiving these words I decided to go back to God to see if this was his final answer.  Initially, I had kind of been hoping to hear words like: straight A’s, success, new relationships, and maybe something that would affirm my direction in school/career planning. Servant and last aren’t really the most desirable or glamorous words. So, I thought I would just double check with God that he didn’t think I was Morgan, one of my identical triplets sisters, because people mix us up all the time and servant seemed much more fitting to Morgan’s needs (I’m kidding…I’m kidding). Either way, God had locked down his answer in my heart. 

“‘But if you come back to me and do what I tell you, I’ll gather up all these scattered people from wherever they ended up and put them back in the place I chose to mark with my Name.'” (Nehemiah 1:9).

I’m realizing that being a servant of God means living in His home where you are protected and cared for while building up His family. I don’t want 2016 to be another year of seeking my own heart’s selfish desires, just to end up empty handed. As a college student, I tend to worry about how I will provide for myself as I transition into starting my own life and career. There is a lot of unknown. God has been reminding me that when I commit to serving Him and allow Him to lead me by His love, He will always provide. I cannot fail when I pursue my future that is planned and protected by God.

Day 17: Blessings    

A few weeks (or months??) ago, Pastor Kyle said, “There are always blessings after the battle,” during one of his sermons. I reflect on the encouragement of this statement daily. I think it’s important to expect God to bring His calming presence into every storm. God doesn’t intend for us to live miserable, exhausting lives. At the same time, He doesn’t intend for our lives to always be easy and without pain. It’s in the contrast of blessings over battle, calm over storm, and victory over defeat, that God is elevated.

In 2016, I am expecting some non external blessings from God. I am expecting to feel peace like never before, even during finals week. I am expecting to feel God’s love in deeper ways, even when I feel hurt by friends or family. I am expecting to feel victorious, even when I am losing according to the world’s standards. Sure, I will have moments of pain, sadness, heart-break, anger, and frustration; however, because of God’s promises I can always declare His blessing over my life. I want to walk with praise for the miracles that are yet to come, and to truly live like God is not finished with me yet. I want to walk into scary, uncharted territory towards the blessings I cannot see. I want to be inconvenienced and brought into battle, so that God’s victory can shine through my spirit.

Day 18: Guidance    

“‘I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest-everything will be fine for you.’ Then Moses said, ‘If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me-on me and your people-if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the Earth.’ The Lord replied to Moses, ‘I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorable on you, and I know you by name.'” (Exodus 33: 14-17).

Transition is a scary season in life. I hate change, even little change. I always joke that I am still stuck on Microsoft 2004, so switching to Google Docs has not been an easy adjustment for me. In order to avoid falling into a severe mental break down as I pursue this new life during and after college, I have learned to take life one day at a time. I find peace in knowing that God has a secure path set for me as I walk towards knew things, but it’s still overwhelming at times. God’s guidance is much more manageable when I isolate it to smaller moments each day. I don’t need to know my whole life’s map, I just need to know when to turn next. Every morning as I drive to school or work, I pray for God’s guidance to use me in each location/moment. So, Day 18 my prayer was simply, ‘Use me’.

At school that day, my lab partner in Chemistry began to reveal to me how tired she was of “the church”. She had encountered too many broken churches (ex: a pastor who had an affair), to try again. During class time I was able to share a bit of my journey in how I found The Cause. It took two years after leaving the church I had grown up in for almost 13 years, and trying multiple churches for different periods of time to finally find a church that felt like home. It was frustrating at times; however, it really allowed me to take authority over my own faith. Talking with this girl reminded me of how twisted God’s name and love can get in this broken world. I believe God is using me to plant seeds of refreshment and new interest in this student’s life because that’s how much He loves and cares for HER.

Then, as I entered work, I noticed we had a new employee helping out just for that day. I felt God giving me His nudge of guidance to speak with her too. Pretty quickly, she revealed to me that she really wanted to find a church to get connected in. Thankfully, I have close to a million The Cause pens hoarded in my purse, so I gave her one so she could remember the name and look more into it, and invited her to church. Cause pens make great little “business” cards.

Both conversations started without me explicating saying anything to urge them to talk about God or church. I believe God had planted seeds in their heart long before our conversations, and I was just one person who could help water that seed. Sometimes God just guides us to encourage and love on the hurting, and sometimes He guides us to have bold conversations about faith, God, and church. God knows his children by name, so my relationship and walk with God will look different than everyone else’s. God calls us to be set apart by His presence. My heart is not one of always trying to say and do the right thing; it is one of being willing to respond to God’s desire to love the world through me. I want to be so rooted in my identity as a child of God that God’s guidance begins to feel like a natural part of my day. I don’t want to feel pressure to look and act like a child of God, but I just want it to be who I am. When I pray, I want to let God guide me to His answer instead of trying to convince and guide God to mine. I want to strive to be set apart, instead of always striving to fit in.

Day 19: Promotion

 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so that I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 15:20).

When I began the 21 days of prayer and fasting, it seemed like the common thing to fast was social media; however, I felt like God wasn’t calling me to fast my social media. I began my recovery in October, and I also started a recovery Instagram at the same time to document my journey. I feel like God is continually calling me to encourage others with my story. When it comes to mental illness, there are so many myths and misconceptions about healing. I felt like God was calling me to bring hope. I post about God’s impact in my life and recovery, while also attempting to not glamorize the process. Recovery is not easy or painless, no matter how motivated you are.

Over the course of the last three weeks, I have been amazed at how God has been able to use me to love others. I receive messages almost daily from girls and guys who need hope and advice. In these conversations, I am able to share and plant seeds of God’s amazing and personal love. I’ve even been privileged enough to have people message me simply about who God is. It’s been amazing to watch God use me and my story to help bring hope and healing to others. Having thousands of people follow along on my recovery and life journey has been humbling, and it has been an incredible platform to share God’s love for each and every one of his children.

It’s been in the success of this account, that I have felt God really call me to write a book. I have an overflowing passion to share the message of identity in an image based society. In image is something that involves tirelessly striving to do more, while identity involves just simply being who God created you to be. There is so much power and rest in learning to let God love you with an intimate love.

The last three weeks have been incredible, and I am eager to allow God to stretch me in 2016. I have gained more insight and clarity about my calling for 2016 than ever before. God’s goodness will never cease to take my breathe away. 2016 is going to be a world changing year!

Part 2: So Fresh and So Clean

Another great week of prayer and fasting my snooze button is completed! To read about all the answered prayers from week one, click here. This second week presented a few new challenges since school started Monday. I no longer have as much time in the mornings to adjust to my needs for the day. When I have to leave the house by 8:40, I have to wake up in time to do my devotionals as well as get ready for the day! Thankfully, I only have class on Tuesdays and Thursdays so it is manageable!

Day 7 and 8: Help and Protection 

I’ve decided to combine day 7 and 8 because the words go hand and hand. My current daily declaration is, “I am a child of God”. In fact, it’s been my daily declaration over my life for the last few months. I’ve written about it a few times on this blog. It’s the core of my definition, and it’s the identity I have to actively put on each morning. Part of being a child, is embracing the fact that I am weak and dependent on God. In fact, I believe admitting my need for God’s help and protection is essential to keeping a healthy father-daughter relationship. This is tough for me. I love being in control, and am always the last to ask for help.  When I went to treatment for my eating disorder in 2012, I remember hearing God urging me to bring my sickness to Him, but I couldn’t do it. I knew God didn’t expect perfect, but I felt pretty confident He didn’t want me to bring my disaster of a life to Him. So, once I had gotten control over my eating disorder, then I went to God ready to be used and transformed. It’s like rinsing off the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher to be cleaned. I had other areas in my life that needed cleaning up; however, I felt the need to clean up the eating disorder before going to God because that mess was just too big. By not allowing God to truly help me, I was limiting my understanding of God’s definition of help. He doesn’t have an “I told you so” kind of help. Nothing is too big for God.

On Sunday, Liz shared the verse John 10:14-15 which says,

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.”

This verse is rich. First, I think it’s important to realize that God compares himself to a shepherd. Out off all the people in the entire world, God chose to compare himself to the unclean, rejects of society. The juxtaposition is humbling. It gives me even more awe at the thought that we were created in God’s image. God knows His people. He knows we are messy. He knows we have dirt, but that doesn’t stop him from taking ownership of His children. He’s willing to identify as the shepherd we relate to, so that we can identify with Him. Whoooo God is too good! I read this and I hear God saying, “I am all the good in you. I am the best parts of what you think are your worst. I don’t see the dirt, I see the DNA that I knit into your being.”

I am reminded that God deeply desires our relationship. He loves because HE loves to love. He doesn’t love because He wants to be loved by everyone. He came into this world as a baby, not a king. Jesus himself had to be dependent and protected. God is reminding me that I am weaker than I think. I am a child of God. Dependence on Him is in the essence of my identity.

Do you ever stop and think about how powerful a baby actually is? The minute you bring a baby into a room, everyone stops and notices. Babies captivate and command attention just by being. They don’t actually have to do anything to entertain a room of adults for hours.  And almost no one is insulting the baby. Even when a baby cries for the entirety of a three hour flight, people tend to blame the parents. There is protection in allowing ourselves to be the child. In a world that is constantly pushing us to be leaders and to be independent while not making mistakes or failing (which is an impossible balance), God says just be. He calls us to find rest in His arms, and to influence others not by what we do but by who we are.  

Another critical dynamic to the child-parent relationship is obedience. (This is the part where you click away since I wrote the word obedience). Personally, I used to have this idea that obedience was God’s way of making me more “perfect”. He was telling me what to do so that I wouldn’t be bad. Therefore, whenever I disobeyed, I felt bad. I am realizing that obedience isn’t about perfection, but obedience is about protection. God doesn’t want us to pray, read our Bibles, tithe, serve, etc because He’s trying to perfect us. God wants us to do all of these things because He’s trying to protect us. The enemy is waiting for us to disobey so that He can convince us that we are bad children. He’s waiting to plant the seed that we are not worthy of God’s love. But, like the prodigal son, our Father is running with open arms thankful for moments that we are near enough to receive His love. He refuses to listen to why we don’t think we are worthy to be His children, because a parent loves their child simply because they wanted a child to love!

I’m not a parent, but I do have a 17 month old puppy, August Grey, so it’s basically the same thing. One of the things that Gus Gus loves to do is dig through the kitchen trash. No matter how many times we try and redirect his behavior or show him his shiny cool toys, he’s consistently more interested in the trash can. Now, his frequent poor behavior doesn’t make me love him any less. We bought the dog knowing they love to chew on shoes and dig through yesterdays thrown away dinner scraps. It’s expected, and never a real surprise. I think God views me with a similar perspective. He expects disobedient behavior to some extent simply because I am a human and that’s what humans do; however, that will never stop Him from trying to redirect me from digging through yesterday’s trash. Sometimes we wonder why our lives are such a mess, but don’t take time to realize that we have been searching through the garbage. God’s calling us away from our trash so that we can see the wonderful resources only He can provide. The enemy is crouching, ready to leap on any opportunity to smash our calling. We have to be children that protect our calling by allowing God to protect and help us.

Day 9: Comfort

Day 9, Tuesday, was proof of God’s perfect timing. Tuesday was my first day back in classes which meant I had to endure a three hour chemistry lecture. I was in need of some comfort. As I went through my devotional that morning, I felt like my understanding of God’s comfort was too limited. As I read comfort, I heard comfortable…and knew that I wasn’t right. So, I decided to do some more research in The Word. I wasn’t sure where to look, but I felt God telling me to read 2 Corinthians. As I opened my bible to flip there, I was surprised that I had opened up to the exact spot. Now, I don’t think God is always  going to direct us to specific passages when we toss our bibles in the air and catch it by a page. But, God knew what I needed and helped me get there. Chapter 1 of 2 Corinthians is titled, “Praise to the God of all comfort”. I was ready to hear God speak.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same suffering we suffer” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

Man, God revealed to me that comfort is truly about being uncomfortable. It says He comforts us in ALL our troubles, meaning even when our troubles come from being sinful, he’s still there. Personally, I find it easier to go to God for comfort when my trail is caused from something outside of me. I can ask God to comfort me in school or work, because these are necessary evils of life; however, when I am struggling with sin I tend to go to God for forgiveness wayyy before I go to Him for comfort. Why would I ask God to comfort me in my disobedience? God has been reminding me daily that I have forgiveness. I can’t spend my prayer life asking for forgiveness, when it was and is a gift! I’m learning to let God love me in my messiness because that’s what HE desires! He loves broken people.

Also, while reading these verses, the phrase patient endurance really stuck out to me. I think when we go through trails, we tend to expect God to comfort us by immediately calming the storm. We want circumstantial comfort. But God’s comfort isn’t circumstantial. He’s the God of ALL comfort! Patient endurance means that we expect God to provide resolution in His own timing. We can expect God to calm the storms, but we have to learn to be patient. Learning to rely on God’s presence in the midst of the storm is the true test of comfort.

As I reflected on this idea, God placed a vision in my heart. It was me walking out of the boat and onto the water towards God. I felt him telling me that He doesn’t just want me to walk towards Him, but He wants me to walk toward him so He can lead me in a dance. And as I closed my eyes in prayer, I envisioned myself dancing with God on the raging waters. My comfort wasn’t in the chaotic waves surrounding me, but my comfort was in God’s arms.

When I think about Peter’s journey towards Jesus on the water, I wonder what would have happened once He arrived at Jesus’ feet. Peter had asked Jesus to call him to walk on the water, but then what? Personally, I don’t want to live my life constantly asking God to assure me of His presence by drawing me near. I want to do more than just walk on the water. I want to be so sure of His constant presence that I allow him to lead me in a dance. Even when the world around me is crashing, I want to dance.

Day 10: Peace

When I read the intention of the day, I was excited. In early October of 2015, I began to pray daily for peace and joy. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression, I was tired of living life suffocated by my emotions. As I prayed each morning for uncircumstantial peace and joy, God provided! I have never felt this full of peace and joy so consistently in my life. God has worked miracles!

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” (Philippians 4:6-7).

We live in a world that loves to worry, and truthfully there is a lot to worry about. More often than not, our worry is planted in future-thinking. But as humans, we are not capable or blessed with the gift of foreknowledge. You know who does have that capability? God. And, God says not to worry! He knows YOUR future, and He loves YOU. It’s in that feeling of personal love, that we find peace. For those who struggle with severe anxiety and/or depression like myself, my advice is to communicate with God. Accept His personal love, and discover what the reassurance of His voice sounds like in your life. It’s hard to trust God, if you don’t know for sure that He loves YOU. He says cast your cares on me because I care for YOU. Until we feel God’s intimate love, it’s hard to trust that He has our back. Put God’s love for you at the center of your life, and watch him displace the worry.

Day 11: Wisdom   

Wisdom. I hear people tell me that I am “wise beyond my years” way too often for how unwise I actually am. What some see as wisdom, I see as over-thinking everything to death. The reason I love to blog is because I can reflect and think and think and think and think. My brain spins at three-million miles a second, and it’s exhausting at times. In many ways I find it to inhibit my ability to enjoy the little things. I don’t always know how to simply go from point A to point B in a clean, straight line. Instead, I find myself running circles from point A to point B until I have tired out the route. And, more times than not, I find myself in situations where I’m taking the same round peg trying to get it to fit through the same square hole. I am not that wise.

Now that I’v established how I am the village idiot in most situations, I am thankful that God has a way of using the unusable parts in us. It’s in my moments of circular, unrelenting thinking that I hear God speak to me His wisdom. God doesn’t speak to the wise. God speaks wisdom to those who are willing to listen. I think the world pushes us to want to be original and ground-breaking. Even I find myself reading scriptures, hoping that God will speak unshared wisdom into my life so that I can inspire others. But the truths and promises of God are not saved for one person to hear. God’s wisdom is not suppose to be original. It’s all centered around God’s love for bad people, and should be repeated until everyone knows how loved they are by God. God doesn’t keep secretes, so when we hear God speak something to us, we often hear it repeated to others. God has been really pushing me to stop seeking validation from the world, but instead to seek validation from the holy spirit! God’s validation is MUCH more gratifying because He doesn’t validate our image, but He validates our calling.

Day 12: CONFIDENCE 

Oh boy. Confident is not the first word you would use to describe me. I am full of insecurities; however, God has been making some major changes in my life. I think the enemy loves to manipulate our insecurities to cause all kind of trouble. Insecurity and sin go hand and hand.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Genesis 3:6-7).

I think sometimes it’s hard to feel confident in God’s promises when the world’s promises look so good from the outside. But, when we finally attain what the world promises, it leaves us feeling empty and ashamed. We think, “man, everyone looks so happy…something must be wrong with me that (enter world’s idea of happiness) isn’t making me happy.” So, we sew our fig leaves together and put on a smile. God doesn’t call us to be confident in ourselves. He calls us to be confident in Him, knowing that He loves us for EXACTLY who we are. Losing weight, wearing make-up, having xxx amount of twitter followers, or wearing Pinterest worthy outfits won’t make you confident. Confidence comes from feeling loved, and the only one who will love you unconditionally is God. I think learning to let God love you is the first step to not only being confident, but in changing the world! God’s love has a way of bringing security to our insecurity.

 

 

 

 

Part 1: So Fresh and So Clean

img_7202 To kick off the new year, my church is participating in 21 days of prayer and fasting that we call “So Fresh and So Clean”. The idea is that by turning down the noise of the world, we would all hear God speak. As someone who has just recently found success in my recovery from an eating disorder (praise God!) the word “fasting” sounds all to familiar to my vulnerable ears. I knew that fasting any type of food was a bad idea, and would defeat the purpose of starting off my new year growing closer to God. After some thought and prayer, I decided to fast my snooze button. I have always loved long, slow mornings. It is the time in my day when I find the most peace, and the energy of my morning is capable of setting the pace for the day. Chaotic mornings tend to lead to chaotic days. With that being said, I don’t always feel that way when my erupting alarm disrupts my peaceful sleep. I tend to overuse my snooze button in response to the weariness I feel each morning. Before I know it, the clock reads 10:00. So, fasting my snooze button seemed perfect for me. It was a sacrifice I could make (even when it’s really hard!!) to allow God to set my pace for the day, and God has shown up big time! I’m up between 5:00-7:00 am, and I immediately read my devotionals/Bible, listen to worship music, and then pray. The point of waking up early is to use that time to focus more on God. As the first week of So Fresh and So Clean comes to an end, I feel overflowing with God’s goodness. When God speaks to the heart, it demands to be repeated.

Day 1: Forgiveness

I have never participated in a fast, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I woke up, slightly motivated by the adrenaline of starting a new habit, eager to spend time with God. The intention of the day’s prayer was forgiveness. Each morning, I write in my prayer journal, expecting God to answer them throughout the day. Before starting the fast, the idea of living life one day at a time had been pressing heavily on my heart. In the Lord’s Prayer it prays, “Give us today our daily bread”. God is a moment-by-moment God. He equips us for each day, and He answers our prayers every single day. He may not answer every prayer, but He answers the prayers for today. On the first day of the fast, God reminded me of this.

One of my best friends (we’ll call her J), really struggles with the idea of accepting God’s forgiveness. Knowing that God has forgiven the world of sin, and truly feeling His personal forgiveness don’t come in the same package. As I went about my day, J called me with guilt in her voice. She explained to me that she was worried about losing a relationship over a mistake that she had made, and wasn’t sure what she should do. I listened as she explained a thousand reasons why she didn’t deserve forgiveness. She waffled between the idea of pushing the conflict under the rug, or admitting her wrong and asking for forgiveness. The tricky thing was that the only solution that could bring healing, also risked the complete opposite reaction: the destruction of a friendship. As I listened, I continued to reflect on the time I spent in the morning focused on God’s forgiveness. I had no doubt that He had equipped me for this exact moment; He had given me my daily bread. I was able to encourage because God had encouraged my heart earlier that morning.

After spending hours on the phone, J finally found the courage to confront the issue. By the end of the night, J had received full and loving forgiveness from the friend she had hurt. Not only did her friend forgive her, but her friend responded in a way that was rooted in the forgiveness God has for his children. God’s forgiveness is unconditional and doesn’t keep score of our wrongs. He forgives because He values our relationship more than anything else. God is not a father that responds with, “I’m not mad…I’m just disappointed” (because we all know we would rather see our parents angry than to let them down). His forgiveness celebrates with open arms when we walk into the truth.

Through this messy moment, God revealed so much to me about the purpose of this fast. First, I was reminded that sacrifice isn’t about what I can get out of it. I’m not denying myself of the luxury to sleep in for 21 days so God will bless my life. It’s not about me. God is equipping me to encourage and bring life to others. Through these moments, my heart is filled and my spirit refreshed. I went to bed feeling humbled by God’s perfect timing. I was also reminded that we don’t serve a “big-finale” kind of God. We don’t have to endure 21 days of sacrifice for Him to answer a prayer. God’s love and eternal invitation to be adopted into His family is a gift. He answers prayers every single day. Every day there are miracles. (Did I say every day?). We serve a moment-by-moment God.

Day 2: Salvation

After feeling so humbled by God’s goodness after day one, I woke up nearly dancing feeling eager to be apart of God’s plan for day two. The intention of my day: salvation. Truthfully, once I read what the focus for the day was, I felt a little uneasy. Salvation is a heavy word.

“anyone who wants to approach God must believe that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Do you ever read a verse and think, “Has that always been in there? How have I missed this!?” Because same.

Hebrews 11 recalls times in history that people showed faith. It lists Cain and Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. One thing that all of these people had in common, was that their faith was represented through action. Faith is action. They didn’t just believe in God, but they believed that God believed in them. Wow. One of my biggest struggles is believing that I am usable. I believe that God can do the impossible around me, but struggle to believe that God can do the impossible through me. That morning, I prayed to have the same passion that my 7th grade self had after I was saved. Two names were placed on my heart that morning, and by the end of day I had extended encouragement to both. There weren’t tears or major revelations; however, seeds were planted and I was able to feel God’s unwavering belief in my imperfect ability a little deeper. I am learning to squash my self-doubt with the belief that despite how small my gifts and talents are, I am capable of achieving the impossible by the power of God who lives in me.

Day 3: Mercy

Maybe it’s the fogginess of waking up at 5am, but again I woke up unclear on what to think about the day’s focus. What does mercy even mean?

“but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself” (Luke 18:14).

I find so much relief in this promise. I spent years of my life so NOT content with who I was. I thought I was the exception to God’s perfection… he had created me full of mistakes. One of the clearest messages I have felt God place on my heart is the idea of wrecking my image. I feel so obsessed and passionate with this idea: Wrecking my Image to Embrace my Identity. God has planted a message on my heart and called me to encourage by sharing my story. Day three was a reminder of this.

That  Wednesday night I had bible study at my church. As my sisters, best friend, and I left, the weather had become quite icky. I pulled out of my parking space to leave, and totally (and I mean TOTALLY) ran over the curb that separated the parking spot from the street. It was hard to see outside, and I forgot how close the curb was. The car was completely fine, and the only thing damaged was my pride. Immediately, I felt the need to defend myself. My sisters and friend had just witnessed me make an embarrassing mistake, so I quickly reminded them of my “flawless” driving record. I have never been in an accident or received a ticket. (Truthfully, that should read, “I have gotten lucky on numerous occasions and have never been caught speeding.”.) That day God gave me a deeper understand of His mercy. Mercy is accepting that despite my mistakes as a driver, God still trusts me to drive. When I follow my own path and ability, I tend to run into a lot of curbs; however, when I let God be my guide and I give him control of the direction of my life, I find myself on a beautiful journey. Mercy is accepting His embrace even when I fall. It’s living in constant awe that God chose me, and He can use my imperfect self.

I think there is this misconception that when we become Christians we let “Jesus take the wheel” (cue music). I disagree. Being a Christian is very active. We still have free will, and can choose what path we take each day. If Jesus was at the wheel, life would be MUCH easier and a lot less bumpy. He’s a perfect driver. Instead, being a Christian is about letting the Holy Spirit be your GPS (sorry for the cheesy comparison but analogies and metaphors are kind of my guilty pleasure). Being a Christian sounds a lot like this:

GPS (aka Jesus): Turn left in 800 ft.

Driver (aka Abbey): I don’t know. I’m pretty sure that’s the wrong way. I’m not suppose to turn this soon. That can’t be right.

GPS: Turn left in 400ft….100 ft….50 ft…turn le-

Driver: Do you even know where we are? Maybe this is outdated. You probably didn’t see that they recently added a round-about. I’m going straight.

GPS: Recalculating…

No matter how many times the GPS has to recalculate because I choose to go the wrong direction, I am reassured by God’s mercy that despite my many mistakes God’s destination for me never changes. He always recalculates. I don’t have to know where I am going because God’s guidance is enough. The destination is set.

Day 4: Faith

“‘How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this?… You’re not taking God seriously,’ said Jesus. ‘The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle'” (Matthew 17: 17,20).

Ouch. I can feel the annoyed eye roll as Jesus speaks. The crazy thing is that Jesus isn’t annoyed that people are coming to him for miracles. He’s annoyed because his disciples don’t understand that they have the authority to preform the same miracles through the Holy Spirit. I felt God convicting me about my prayer life…again (my prayer life clearly needs some work and that’s okay). First off, I need to believe that God can do the impossible through me! Not only can God move mountains, but God can use ME to move mountains. I think sometimes I fall into this category I like to call “prayticipating” when I should be participating. “Prayticipating” is when we like to solve problems and pains by responding with, “I’ll pray for you/the situation/etc”…and then waiting for God to do the real healing without our active participation. We wait for God. Participating is when we take authority over our individual part to move mountains. Prayer is a great gift, and we should always bring our troubles and triumphs to God; however, when it comes to the promises of God, we have the authority to declare them over our mountains.

For example, I would never have found freedom from my eating disorder if I just prayed for freedom and waited (I know this because I tried it many times). I wasn’t going to wake up one day suddenly feeling free because I prayed for it. Freedom is already a guaranteed gift and promise from God (John 8:36). It wasn’t until I declared my God-given freedom over my life that the mountain moved. I had to take authority over my part in moving the mountain, because God had already done his part.

Day 5: Temptation

Every morning when my alarm goes off, I am tempted to go back to sleep. In the moment, my thoughts are centered around the weight of my eye lids and the comfort of my pillows. I don’t push myself to get out of bed by telling myself I’m not sleepy. I roll out of bed each morning because 1) it’s my “fast” for the 21 days of prayer and fasting and 2) I am genuinely excited to spend time in God’s presence. Somehow, He knows how to turn my painful crawl out of bed into an energetic dance in the matter of minutes. Even when I wake up doubting that I’ll have the energy to read my devotionals without turning my book into a pillow, within 20 minutes I am surprised by my wide-eyed worship at 6am.

Day 5 reminded me that attacks from the enemy are not a matter of if but a matter of when. The enemy is crouched waiting for us to be vulnerable; however, we don’t defeat temptation by preparing for the battle. We overcome the enemy by declaring and preparing for victory. God is not sin-focused. So, it’s silly to try and defeat your temptations by putting your focus on the problem. Instead, our eyes must be fixed on God’s power over sin. When I’m tempted to hit snooze, I don’t focus on not falling asleep….I focus on waking up. Overcoming temptation is about running towards the promise and plans of God. As I enter into 2016, I’m equipping myself with the word and truth of God. I’m focusing on my inherited victory as a child of God.

Day 6: Fear 

Day 6 is today! (The day I am writing this blog post). I wasn’t sure if I should include this day in part 1 just for the sake of trying to avoid writing too much; however, when God answers specific prayers…I cannot help but share His goodness!

This morning in my prayer journal I wrote, “God I pray for your spirit to speak through me this morning as I blog and write”. I had planned on going to Post Coffee to blog all week. I love coffee. I love blogging. Why not mix the two? As I was putting on my shoes to leave I felt God speak to my heart this message, “You don’t always have to be the bold initiator, but you are equipped to respond boldly.” I am not an initiator, and boldness is definitely not one of my strengths; however, God has given me a desire to build up my boldness. So my daily prayer is to be boldly confident and confidently bold. I feel a desire to lead and encourage others by sharing my story. Either way, I am a work in process. This morning God reminded me that He is with me through the process. He created me perfectly for TODAY. So, even though I desire to be someone who can boldly initiate conversations of encouragement…today I didn’t feel quite there. Now, I truly believe God can transform us in the moment, and loves when we step far out of our comfort zone; however, he also knows our heart and our spiritual gifts. God created me. He’s not surprised when I tell him boldness is not my strength.

Today at Post coffee while working on this blog (it has taken me three locations and a couple of hours to complete this), a girl slightly younger than me approached me just to appreciate and acknowledge the fact that we were both reading our Bibles. We should celebrate and feel united when we encounter other believers. We began talking and sharing a bit of our stories. We both found encouragement in hearing each other’s hearts, and exchanged numbers to stay in contact. Wow. The movement of God was undeniable. The reassurance He placed on my heart earlier that day was equipping me for this exact moment. When we go to God everyday for our daily bread, He’s there waiting to answer our prayers.

“I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown” (Isaiah 43:1).

We are not called to live fearless lives just because God is big, strong, and can win every battle. We are called to live fearless lives because God is personally equipping us for our specific battles. Jesus did not die on the cross just so He could have victory over the enemy. Jesus died on the cross for YOU!  His love is personal. He equips us for each day specifically! His strategy is personalized to YOU! The enemy cannot create. He can only kill, steal, and destroy. His strategy never changes. Today I was reminded that God created me and knows more about me than I know about myself. He is personal, loving, caring, and protective. I live fearlessly not just because I know my God is strong, but I live fearlessly because I know my God is strong for and in ME!

The coolest thing about God is that his love is limitless. His goodness is limitless. It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey, or how “mature” of a Christian you think you are (or are not)…You can always go deeper. I don’t know anything about what tomorrow brings, or if I will even be lucky enough to get a tomorrow. But I do know that God doesn’t hold back or save his best for our “best”. He’s a moment-by-moment God, eager to bring the best out of each and every moment.

 

 

 

If God

There are many things that can poison your prayer life. Doubt is one of the most common and inevitable feelings to face when spending time in prayer. Even the people who walked with Jesus struggled with doubt. It’s human. While we may not all go as far as Judas, it’s human nature to doubt God when logic is challenged.

“Now Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand in his side, I will not believe it.'” (John 20:24-25).

It wasn’t until a week later that God showed up. He allowed Thomas to place his hand in His side, and then commanded “Stop doubting and believe.”

What I love about this verse is that God didn’t show up right when Thomas began to doubt. We don’t serve a God that has to work to prove who He is; however, we also don’t serve a God that gives up on His children. The first type of if doubt that I think we tend to use in prayer is the “if you really love me” kind of if. It’s common to want to challenge God’s character or will for our life, in hopes that intimidation will get your prayer answered. But again, we don’t serve a God that has to work to prove his love.

The second kind of if  condition that limits our prayer life is the “if it’s in your will” statement. God makes his will for our life very clear in the Bible, so when we doubt his goodness it shows a lack of faith. Recently I read through Matthew and found it interesting how Jesus prayed in the garden before His death. He prayed two different prayers, and I think the change from his first prayer to the second is quite significant.

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” … He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it’s not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26: 39,42)

In the first prayer Jesus knows that God is capable of saving Him from Crucifixion; however, he seems to question God in that moment out of fear. When Jesus goes back to pray, His prayer shifts the if . His prayer now places the if on himself, basically saying, “if this is what I have to do, so be it”.

In the slight shift in prayer, I see a prayer answered. I see God changing and preparing Jesus’ heart. God’s plan, his ETERNAL PLAN FOR MANKIND, rested on Jesus being willing to die for our sins. If we solely looked at Jesus’ life, God would look hateful or absent. But the bigger picture reveals how merciful, loving, and consistent God is. Jesus knew who God was, so he was able to step our of fear and into God’s will.

I think it is important, as children of God, to not let the world condition our prayer life. We need to pray confidently the will of God, without letting selfish desire, fear, or doubt limit our conversation with God. It’s okay to pray expecting for God to provide the things He promises.

“Yet he did not wave through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised”   (Romans 4: 20-21).

I believe that when we show true faith in our prayer life, weeding out the ifs, ands, and buts of this world, God shows up with miracles. How can we be confident children willing to act on God’s calling for our life, when we don’t feel fully persuaded to expect what God promises. If we are hesitant in our prayer life, then we can expect to be continually hesitant in our actions. Recently, my prayer for myself has been to be more bold. I want to be a child of God that is quick to answer when I feel God’s nudge on my heart. I’m realizing that a bold life starts with a bold prayer life. I am thankful that we don’t serve an “If” God, and that I can be confident in choosing to pursue Him. God promises a future of hope and prosperity, not harm (Jeremiah 29:11). His Word is good, and must be the foundation of our faith!