Faith without Limits

In the final week of my 21 days of prayer and fasting, God validated and confirmed what He spoke in the beginning. I began to understand quiet confidence in a deeper way, and developed a deeper trust in God’s timing. When we press in, God moves. 

Day 15: Constant + Unconditional  

“‘Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 3:7). 

When I began the 21 day of prayer and fasting, I was worried that my relationship with God would feel different. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to move past the feeling that I had disappointed my heavenly father. I was worried that my faith would no longer feel personal since I struggled to trust myself; however, the very nature of God is that He is unchanging. There is something so healing and personal about experiencing the consistent and unconditional love of Christ in our variable and changing seasons. God’s love does not change. God’s pursuit for my heart does not change. God’s plan for my life does not change.  

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays” (Malachi 4:2). 

Day 16 and 17: Faith without Limits  

To end the last few days of prayer and fasting, I decided to read through the book of John. When I was first saved, I was encouraged to read through John to kick start my personal walk with Jesus. Sometimes we must reconnect with the joy of our salvation. Later that Tuesday night, I had clinicals on a labor and delivery unit. While assisting a post C-section mom in the PACU, she began to exhibit signs of severe complications. I was the only one present at her bedside, and was forced to respond quickly despite feeling extremely overwhelmed and over my head. Thankfully, both mother and baby are now healthy. As I left clinical that morning, I felt a little annoyed at God to be honest. I had been praying for an easy and smooth clinical experience. I declared peace and joy over the night despite how much I struggled to enjoy this clinical rotation. Unfortunately, I also made the mistake of praying that God would use me (what was I thinking…lol). As I left, I felt God saying He was proud of me. I realized how tame my anxiety was during the crisis. I grew in confidence and developed important skills for the nursing field. Despite my lack of training, I was able to respond in a way that possibly saved this mother’s life. And then I felt God challenging me in my faith. 

How often do I want God to use me to build His kingdom, but then place limits on what I think I am capable of being used to do. I limit my faith to my current level of confidence. I limit my faith to the labels I have received from others. I limit my faith to how I am feeling. When we limit our faith to what we can do, we never experience the full extent of the miracles and wonders that God can do through us. I want to live a life of faith without limits.  

“For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limits” (John 4:34). 

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). 

Day 18: The Door Looks Different 

Day 18, March 5, 2020, is a day that will remain very significant in my spiritual journey. It was a day that God validated and spoke a very clear message to my heart. As mentioned in my previous blog, I wrote that I felt like God had prophesied Haggai 2:9 over my year. Fast Forward to the next Thursday night, I got a call from my work saying they were overstaffed and didn’t need me to come in. I quickly decided to attend the Young Adult service at my church since I now had an open evening. We had a guest speaker, and I was excited to attend after weeks of being unable to due to work. The guest speaker opened his message by revealing that he felt like God had asked him to change his message that morning. He felt that someone attending needed to hear this new message. He then asked us to open up our Bibles to John 7. My bookmark was literally already on that page, as that was exactly where my 21 days of prayer and fasting reading had taken me. I immediately felt God’s nudge in my heart. He then shared the verse Haggai 1:9 which says, 

“‘You expect much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin while each of you is busy with your own house.’” (Haggai 1:9). 

Sometimes, the areas in our life where we feel that we blew it were really blown away by God. Doors don’t shut on their own. Sometimes God calls us away from opportunities that are outside of our purpose. We do not have to prove our potential. We have a God given purpose that will come to fruition in its God given time. This message validated exactly what God had already been speaking to my heart. 2020 will be a year of slow growth on good soil, and the new house God is building will be more glorious than the former. 

Day 19:  Fragrance of Sacrifice + Surrender

“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3). 

As I continued my journey through the book of John, I was captivated by the imagery in this verse. I love the idea that our spirit of sacrifice and surrender can fill the space around us. Generosity and servitude can be contagious. It creates a beautiful aroma that is refreshing in a world filled with selfish ambition and greed. I am reminded to never doubt that power of putting yourself second. I pray that I can have a spirit saturated in the fresh fragrance of sacrifice and holy surrender.

Day 20-21: Jump into the Water   

“Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ As soon as Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him and jumped into the water” (John 21:7). 

As I read this verse I was reminded of the story of when Jesus walked on water. Peter demonstrates an eagerness and confidence in John 21 that wasn’t present in his previous encounter with Jesus on the stormy waters described in Matthew 14. . 

“‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus” (Matthew 14:28-29). 

While the contexts of the situations and the conditions of the waters are very different, the most important factor is consistent: Jesus. In Matthew 14, Jesus appears to the disciples on dangerous, rocky waves. The conditions were dangerous, and they were a considerable distance from land. Also, Jesus appears…WALKING  on the water. Based on all human logic and understanding, it can’t be Jesus because that is impossible. Peter requires reassurance before he will walk towards Jesus. I imagine he slowly and cautiously exited the boat. As the story continues, we learn that Peter began to sink as the fear of the wind and waves began to overwhelm him. Jesus reaches out and catches Peter from sinking in the water, and He asks him: “You of little faith…why did you doubt?”. 

Fast forward to where we find Peter in John 21. He is about 100 yards from shore in his fishing boat. The water is tame and the fishing is slow…until Jesus shows up. When Peter discovered Jesus standing on the shore, he didn’t ask for reassurance. In fact, it says in John 21 that none of the disciples asked who Jesus was…they just knew. Peter jumped into the water and ran towards Jesus. It’s important to remember that this encounter occurred after Jesus was crucified and resurrected. It was the third occasion that Jesus had appeared to the disciples. Despite Jesus’ presence on the shore defying logic and reason, Peter jumped into the water and ran. Talk about a demonstration of faith. 

I love seeing Peter’s growth. It reminds me that God is not finished with me yet. My confidence and trust in Christ will continue to grow. My hesitation and fear will not always hold me back. I pray that my Spirit will have an eagerness and confidence to always take a leap of faith (without hesitation) towards wherever Jesus calls me. 

 

God Remembers

As week 2 of my 21 days of prayer and fasting began, I couldn’t help but to thank God for all that He has already done. I have experienced deep healing and answered prayers. I am so grateful to have a God that loves me in such deep, personal ways. Daily, I am amazed by the grace and love of God. 

Day 8: Iron and Clay

I started week two by diving into the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel is filled with beautifully written depictions of visions and the interpretations of these visions.  

“Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron-for iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united any more than iron mixes with clay” (Daniel 2:40-43). 

Over the course of the 7 months that I have been in Colorado, Godly community has been a consistent prayer in my life. In July of 2019, I felt God speak a response: it will be slow but it will be lasting. 

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he scattered the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seeds fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop-a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:3-8). 

After walking through a season of painful rejection from people I considered spiritual mentors and friends, I found this promise to be reassuring. I crave true, Christ-like community. Unlike the past, I don’t want an abundance of quick-springing, surface-level relationships. I want something more deeply rooted. The vision described in Daniel 2 perfectly explains the community I once had. There were people of iron and some people of clay. I had people who made me better and illustrated God’s love so gracefully; however, I also had people who only valued me for what I could do. I want friends who make me more like Jesus, not more like them. 

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). 

As I expand my community, I am searching for friends of iron. Within my connect group, I have found people who encourage me and draw me closer to Jesus. I am seeing the fruit of healthy community, and enjoying the process of slow growth on good soil. In my time of worship and prayer, God placed a vision on my heart. I saw a heart-shaped, iron vase filled with an abundance of colorful, flourishing flowers. Praise God for friends of iron who encourage and promote healthy growth within our life. 

“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). 

Day 9 + 10: Trust

On day 9 and 10 of prayer and fasting, I had my second week of clinicals. During week one of my labor and delivery clinicals, I got to assist during a rather stressful delivery. This left me feeling overwhelmed at what was to come. Throughout Monday, I felt anxiety poisoning my spirit just knowing that clinicals were quickly approaching. I felt God asking me, “How much do you really trust me?” Sitting in worry + anxiety pointed out the areas in which I lacked trust. For years I have struggled with anxiety. In 2020, I’m declaring in faith that anxiety will no longer be a driving force in my life. I am declaring peace and making Joshua 1:9 my mantra. I am reminded by Daniel 6 that even in the lion’s den, I can trust that God will protect me. He may not change my situation, but he will provide protection in ways that bring glory to God’s great love. 

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). 

I truly felt the peace and confidence of Christ show up during my clinical rotation. I spent my first night caring for babies in the NICU (talk about an illustration of strength + courage), and had many opportunities to try (and succeed at) new skills on night two.God is with me, I cannot fail. I will fully trust in God.

I Will Trust by Red Rocks Worship has been especially encouraging this week. I will link it below so maybe it can encourage you as well. 

I Will Trust- Red Rocks Worship

Day 11: On Call 

On day 11, I was supposed to work a night shift; however, I got a call that they were over staffed and putting me on call for the night. This allowed my 15 minutes of prayer and worship to be extended which is exactly what my soul needed. As I drank coffee and spent time in God’s presence, I felt him challenging me on how I was positioning myself for His call in my life. See, because I knew I may get called into work, I stayed in my scrubs, drank coffee to energize, and kept my phone nearby in anticipation. I had to stay alert and ready just in case I got called in. I felt God challenging me with this idea in my spiritual life. How can I prepare to be ready + alert for God’s call? How can I prepare my spirit? I was reminded of this verse: 

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:13-17). 

In order to be “on-call” spiritually, I have to be equipping my mind with God’s truth daily. I have to mindfully live with an empowering awareness that God’s spirit lives in me. I have to be intentional to walk towards things that provide a spirit of peace, and question the things that disrupt God’s peace in my life. I have to make time in the word a priority in my routine, and I have to place my faith in God’s ability rather than my own. God is always calling us to love our neighbors, help those in need, and to encourage those around us. I pray that I can be quick to respond, and that I can carry a culture of the cross with me wherever I go. 

Day 12: Highly Esteemed 

“While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, ‘I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. How can I, your servant, talk with you, my Lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.’ Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. ‘Do not be afraid, you are highly esteemed,’ he said. ‘Peace! Be strong now; be strong.’ When we spoke to me, I was strengthened…”  (Daniel 10:16-19). 

Who else can relate to Daniel? I know I can relate to feeling tired, worn out, anxious, discouraged, unable to find the words to pray, and unworthy. But, God does not look down on us when we are burnt out and struggling to keep our head above the water. In contrast, His response is that of encouragement and love. We are highly esteemed by heaven. I love the order in which encouragement is spoken. Courage precedes peace. Peace precedes strength. Some days, it takes all the courage I have to trust God; however, when I place my life in His hands, I receive supernatural peace in return. Heavenly strength is required to declare peace and reject anxiety. Heavenly strength is found in God’s word.   

Day 13: Rebuilding 

For day 13 of my 21 days of prayer and fasting, I felt compelled to read the book of Haggai. I felt thoroughly blessed by this story of restoration and rebuilding.

“‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (Haggai 2:9). 

As I read this verse, I felt that it was a prophesy over my life. I had put so much of my own ambition and strength into building the life that I was previously living. I was pursuing a degree that I thought would give me peace. I was striving to be the “perfect Christian” through my own works. God had to tear that old house down in order to restructure my foundation. I had to learn what building a house looked like on His terms and in His grace. In the past few months, I have felt genuine supernatural peace like never before. I have become disciplined in patience. I am learning to say yes to the God things, and I am setting my own agenda to the side. 

Day 14: God Remembers 

On the final day of my second week of prayer and fasting, I am reminded of this simple truth: God remembers. I decided to read the book of Zechariah. Zechariah means “Yahweh remembers”. When I lack trust or find myself becoming impatient, I find assurance in knowing that God knows the desires of my heart. He crafted them. He knows my deepest hurts and how to heal them. He knows my deepest prayers and when to answer them. He knows my greatest struggles and how to grace me through them. He knows my potential and how to nurture my growth. God remembers. God knows. I will trust.   

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalms 37:4).

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous-how well I know it…. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalms 139:13-14,16). 

 

 

Moving Up

This past year has been filled with the most challenging, exciting, and uncertain times of my entire life. Everything I had built my life and future plans around began to crumble in August of last year. I lost my church and a large part of my community. I also changed my major in college after feeling inspired to switch my career goal from PA to NP. During this season, it felt like everything was falling apart around me. I felt extremely out of control which is not a feeling I tend to cope well with; however, I am grateful for the opportunities that forced me to lean deeper into God’s grace and love. He is always faithful. God was stripping unhealthy things from my life which allowed me to move in the direction of my calling. He rekindled the deepest desires of my heart, and turned my dormant dreams into reality. 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church  in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! (Ephesians 3:20)

In December of 2018, I had the crazy idea to attend nursing school in Colorado. I have dreamed of living in Colorado and working in pediatric mental health since I was admitted to the EDU at the Colorado Children’s Hospital in 2012. I witnessed firsthand the impact these professionals can have on an individual’s life because I lived it. It was in my biggest struggle that God planted a seed of passion for my calling. After months of feeling burnt out, drained, depressed, and crippled with anxiety…I finally felt hope. Taking the risk to only apply to one nursing school required me to recklessly trust God. I started speaking it before I saw it. God was helping me to develop courageous trust and a bold faith. In May, I recieved my acceptance letter and began making plans to move. Throughout this process, I anticipated running into an impossible obstacle. I feared being unable to find a place to live or running into financial struggles. To my surprise (and despite my faithless doubt), God opened every door necessary and made a way. Every trial I had faced in the previous months began to make sense as God’s bigger purpose became clear.  

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) 

Since moving to Colorado, I have experienced so much spiritual growth. Surrounded by mountains, God has been teaching me that not every mountain is meant to be moved (Mark 11:22) but some are meant to be climbed. It’s uncomfortable and painful at times; however, it’s the only way to take higher ground. In this season, I’m still acclimating to the elevation both physically and spiritually, but I find comfort in knowing that God is faithful. 

Months before moving, I expressed to a friend that God speaks to me through rainbows. Many significant moments in my life have been marked by a rainbow. I told her that if I saw a rainbow on the day I moved to Colorado then I would know that this is where God had called me to go. Because of God’s personal love, I saw a rainbow (on a rather clear day might I add) the day I moved to Colorado. It was the exact sign I had been praying for to feel affirmed by God that this was the right move for me. 

Within two weeks of being in Colorado, I have found a job that pays more than I dreamed, I have found a church that truly feels like home, and I have experienced overwhelming, supernatural peace. God has answered so many prayers. He has healed parts of my heart that had been damaged over the last year. God is faithful. He is a loving father. I am excited for this new season of growth as I continue to move up into all that God is calling me to be.  

Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already-you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there. (Isaiah 43:18-19). 

 

The Pain of Change

As I stepped into my junior year of college, I knew there was going to be a lot of changes. I started a new school, a new job, and moved into a new apartment. At the beginning of 2017, I felt God whisper that it was going to be a year of stretching into new territory. Little did I know,  it was going to be some painful stretching. As 2017 came to a close and 2018 began, I felt like God declared the word brave over my year. God was calling me to be courageous in the chaos, and I had to learn to humble out daily and trust God. Every comfortable area of my life was completely transformed, and I had to rely on God in deeper ways. God taught me many lessons through this process of transformation, and I have finally found the words to articulate what God has been doing in my heart. Because let’s be real, radical life change is painful and messy. But, God is faithful and the creator of all things good!

1) Redefining My Identity

“He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30)

I have always excelled in school. I love learning, and I love the feeling of accomplishing challenging things; however, this past year of school has made me feel anything but smart and accomplished. For the first time in my life, I began to struggle academically. As my A’s turned to B’s (and sometimes C’s), I found myself questioning my identity. How could I consider myself “smart” if I was struggling so much in school? I didn’t realize how much I allowed my grades to define my value until I was placed in the fire. And instead of pressing into who God says I am, I started working harder and harder to prove my value. It was exhausting. Fortunately, God never stopped whispering my worth over my sleepless nights studying and striving. He never left me. He never stopped declaring His promises over my life.

It wasn’t until I surrendered my worry in worship, that I found security and assurance. I had to stop allowing things of this world to measure my value, and embrace my identity as a child of God. I had to stop worrying about whether or not my grades would be competitive enough to get accepted in Physician Assistant school, and trust that if God called me to it, he would grace my path for it! This season of struggle was really a season of strengthening. I had to strengthen my faith to truly trust in the hope of Christ. I had to take ownership of the promises of God in my life, and surrender control at a painful level. It was painful and at times embarrassing, but without a heart of humility we will never experience the fullness of God’s greatness. I don’t know about you, but I would rather live a life that highlights how faithful and good God has been than a life that illustrates how “great” I am. It is only God’s work in and through me that will have an eternal impact.

2) Doing Church vs. Being the Church

Another huge transition in my life, was being forced to step back from serving in the church as frequently. I went from serving on 3 to 4 teams and serving every Sunday, to serving on 2 teams and having weeks where I wasn’t technically rostered to serve. After starting a new job, I had to step back from serving as often and honestly it was hard. I felt misplaced guilt from the enemy about not being as good of a “christian”, and I felt like I was letting people down; however, I knew that God was calling me into this new season. As I began to dive into these feelings of shame and guilt that I knew were from the enemy, I felt God reveal to me some areas in my heart that needed correction. I realized, I had gotten really good at doing church. I loved busying myself with tasks like setting up and tearing down pipe and drape at our mobile campus, making coffee, and bringing donuts to city group because it was in my comfort zone. I felt good about myself and was happy to contribute to a greater cause; however, recently I felt God challenge my perspective on serving. While there was nothing wrong with serving on these teams, and they were important in making church happen every Sunday, they were also largely in my comfort zone. It’s easier to bring donuts to our college connect group every week than it is to bring a new person. But, we all know that donuts are already getting into heaven. I had gotten really good at doing church within the context of church, but I was failing to be the church within my everyday environments.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:45).

Everyday as I drive to school and to run errands, I always see homeless people on street corners asking for help. Most days, I drive past them thinking, “I wish I had something to give, but I don’t have anything with me…maybe next time”. But the things is, I know I am going to pass by them again, and each time I fail to equip my car with water and snacks to pass out. Honestly, this is inexcusable. We are the hands and feet of Christ, and we need to take ownership of our role in helping those in need. I refuse to ignore the need that God has placed before me. I refuse to live a life of doing church on Sunday, and then living a normal, unintentional life on Monday. I am the church. I have a bigger part to play, and God has intentionally placed me at my school and my workplace to be a carrier of his culture. God never called me to serve at church, he called me to be the church.  

3) Dealing with Church Burnout

Okay, so this next part is gonna get a little raw and honest. It has taken months of humbling out and seeking God to find heart transformation. But, I think church burnout is something that Christians don’t talk about enough. We all have times where we will question leadership decisions, feel overlooked, or feel critical of certain decisions made in the church. This is in part because the enemy loves to manipulate our thoughts and feelings by planting lies about the authority in our life.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 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. (Genesis 3:1-6).

In the garden of Eden, Eve was deceived into sin because the enemy planted seeds of doubt and questioning. If Eve would have just gone to God with these questions, so much pain and suffering could have been avoided. The same thing still happens today. Our doubts and concerns can be scary and hard to talk about because we don’t want to appear faithless. Also, doubts and concerns are often met with defensive language that creates a larger gap and prevents healthy conversation. How do we confront these feelings in an open and honest dialogue without feeling judged or creating gossip?

For me, I learned to always talk up. I expressed my frustrations with people above me so that I could hear truth and not just what I wanted to hear (even though sometimes it feels so good to have our feelings validated). I also had to learn to let go of my pride, and trust God. Naturally, we have a very selfish perspective because everything is filtered through our personal experiences. Therefore, it’s easy to feel justified or feel like we could do better. But, it’s not about me. (some days I have to make this my mantra). I refuse to have a faith limited to pursuing and obeying only the things that I agree with or that feel right to me in that moment. Our feelings can be very wrong sometimes, and as long as I only pursue things that are fruitful and in line with God’s word, I cannot go wrong. God has been reminding me to think bigger. I have had to step out of my selfish box of thinking, and grasp onto an eternal perspective.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).

“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

There is nothing more exciting than seeing individuals say yes to Jesus for the first time. I want to be someone that continually seeks the joy of salvation. No matter the path I am on, salvation for others is the goal. Church burnout happens when I place my joy in the wrong things. Church burnout happens when I begin serving people and not God. Church burnout happens when my pride gets in the way of God’s promise. I refuse to allow myself to limit what God can do because I am unwilling to fully commit to the leadership above me. I refuse to be anything but all in for God’s kingdom.

For Those Days When You Just Don’t Feel Like Enough

Today, I am writing to myself. Do you ever have those days/weeks/months where everything you do seems to fall a little short? Because same. Lately, I have felt inadequate, and no matter how much harder I work or how much farther I push myself…I continue to fall short. Why? Because you cannot improve yourself out of insecurity. Feelings are not facts. When we attempt to work our way into worthiness, we will always come up short.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24 NIV).

So, if you too have been feeling a little unworthy, inadequate, or incapable…Let’s all just take a big sigh of relief together…ready? Breath in. Breath out. Ahhhhhhh. We can stop hustling and grinding to prove that we are enough, because we have been made whole by God’s unwavering, unconditional love for us! The greatest gift we have ever been given is the grace of God. Why then do we try to outrun grace? I don’t know about you, but my legs are tired. It’s okay to rest and receive God’s personal and empowering grace.

“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

 You can walk confidently in your calling, equipped with God’s grace and unfailing love. You have nothing to prove. You are loved. You are valued. You are more than a conqueror. You have a God-planned and God-protected calling on your life, and you cannot fail. You are capable. You are seen. You are enough! 

 

Walking Through The Fire

Recently, God has been doing some major correction in my heart. For the sake of fully processing all that God is doing, I’ve decided to take some time and make some connections via blogging. I hope it’s okay if I get a bit transparent for a moment.

Lately I have been living out of this place of insecurity. One of my biggest fears in life is failure. My perfectionism and type-A personality crave control. Unfortunately, things have been going far from perfect. In March I started my first CNA job, and was genuinely excited to take the next step towards my long-term goal of becoming a physician assistant. Well…things did not go as planned. Long story short, I quit. After experiencing extreme anxiety and panic attacks, I decided that I needed immediate change. While I am the biggest advocate for prioritizing mental health and pursuing peace, it’s not always easy to make big life changes. The relief of leaving a job that was producing severe anxiety and stress in my life was quickly followed by the panic of being unemployed. It doesn’t help that over the past few weeks I have been searching for an apartment to move into at the end of this summer which has made the financial burden of adulthood more confronting.

Prior to my resignation, my short car rides to work ALWAYS consisted of worship and prayer because I genuinely needed God’s strength to help me through my shifts. One day while driving to work, I was praying for God’s presence to provide me with peace and confidence. Suddenly, my soul leaned into a specific line from the song When The Fight Calls by Hillsong Young & Free. The lyric says, “I’ll walk through the fire and not be burned, Pray in the fight and watch it turn”. In that moment, I felt God say, “Abbey, stop being afraid of getting burned.” Wow…suddenly, the chaos in my life clicked. I have been living with this fear of taking one wrong turn and getting burned. Oh how I have been limiting my faith.

You see, I find that it’s easier for me to believe that God has secured and protected my future than it is for me to trust God with my tomorrow. My future is x amount of days/weeks/years away while tomorrow is much more confronting. It’s easier to believe that the best is yet to come, and harder to have faith bold enough to make immediate steps forward into the unknown. Currently, my life is full of transition. I am transferring schools, moving out of the safety of my childhood home, and growing increasingly closer to fully committing to a career path. While I feel confident about certain steps to take in life, I am also constantly battling self-doubt and insecurity. What if I end up hating the career path I chose? What if I’m not smart enough? Even at the young age of (almost) 21, I feel like I am running out of time to meet the expectations of others. What if everyone discovers how imperfect I am?

*Cue God’s healing truth. I recently started reading the book Grace not Perfection by Emily Ley, and this statement has quickly become my mantra for 2017. It’s so simple, and yet it can be so hard to fully embrace. Grace gives me permission to feel complete in my brokenness. Grace gives me permission to present my messiness to the world and still confidently declare that I am enough. God is with me. God is for me. I can handle this. I will not get burned.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2 NLT).

The reality of living with a fear of getting burned is that it roots from a pride issue. Why am I so afraid of admitting that I don’t have it all together? God has really been calling me to humble out and trust Him. Walking a faith-filled life means walking through the fire with my head held high. I refuse to question my path when I feel the heat. I refuse to be so afraid of getting burned that I prevent God from refining my heart in the fire.

“Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.” (1 Peter 1:7 MSG).

Today, I am declaring that I can handle the heat. I am refusing to let the enemy posion my path with fear or doubt. I will not be burned.

 

30 Days, No Makeup 

I remember when I started wearing makeup. I was in seventh grade, and my mom took me to CVS to buy some cheap powder foundation, blush, and mascara. Over the years, my makeup collection has grown, and with it a dependence on makeup to feel confident and presentable. At the beginning of each year, my church participates in 21 days of prayer and fasting. As I considered what to fast, the idea of fasting makeup crossed my mind. I was immediately intimidated by this thought; however, I knew I had to challenge myself to find confidence without makeup. One of my main 2017 goals is to learn how to see myself through God’s eyes. When I continually use makeup to enhance my image-based confidence, I am failing to fully embrace my identity as a daughter of God. The confidence of Christ is so much greater than personal confidence, so it’s important that I challenge any areas in my life where I am holding onto a desire for external validation. 

First, not wearing makeup forced me to confront the condition of my skin. I have always had a rather good complexion; however, I have never taken good care of it. I am guilty of falling asleep with a full face of makeup on, and I rarely moisturized my skin. Going makeup free made me confront and reavulate my skin care routine (which was previously non-existent). I established a morning and night routine. While my skin became a lot healthier, the greatest impact this had was that it provided a designated time each day for self-care. By spending at least 5 minutes each morning and night to focus on myself, the tone of each day became more relaxed and balanced. I tend to go through each day with high stress and anxiety, so scheduling a time to pause and relax was amazing.

Mentally, not wearing makeup allowed a lot of my insecurities to surface. Leaving the house without covering my breakouts or putting on some mascara made me feel very vulnerable. I was surprised at how limited I felt while not wearing makeup. I realized I literally felt less worthy to talk to someone which is SO illogical. In reality, no one treated me any different (duhhhh!). No one made the comment, “I really liked you until you stopped wearing makeup. You’ve changed”. Obviously, makeup doesn’t make you a better friend. Sometimes, it takes confronting our irrational thoughts that fuel insecurity to overcome them.  

As I journeyed through 30 days without makeup, I began to wonder what fuels a women’s desire to wear makeup. Personally, I think it’s fun to try out new techniques, colors, and products. I enjoy investing time in making myself feel good; however, I also use makeup as a mask to hide my exhausted eyes and fickle insecurities. As I began to ask the girls in my life why they wear makeup, I was surprised how similar their thoughts were to mine. While makeup can be a confident boost, it also requires a lot of time, energy, and money. There is empowerment in going bare-faced when society promotes fleek eye brows and Kim K contour. We were never meant to be flawless. 

Overall, ditching makeup for a month allowed me to explore the motivations behind why I wore it. I was able to confront the irrational thoughts that my self-worth is connected with my appearance. We are not MORE beautiful when we wear makeup and dress in the latest trends. Beauty is not conditional. We should not be afraid to expose our imperfections. We are masterpieces created by God! I want to feel like a masterpiece even when I’m not wearing makeup and my skin is breaking out. 

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago”(Ephesians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬).

At the end of the day, we are created in God’s image! It is no surprise that the enemy would want us to hate our reflection. The enemy hates everything created by God. In 2017, I want to see my reflection as an avenue for God’s glory to be revealed. In 2017, I aspire to embrace real. I want to be unashamed and authentic. I want to focus more on building God’s kingdom than building up my own confidence. In order to turn my eyes toward heaven, I have to turn my eyes away from the mirror. 

My Life is Not Aestheticly Pleasing 

A little over a year ago, God whispered to my heart destiny-declaring words that inspired my first blog post, Wrecking My Image. I wrote about how the story of the Virgin Mary had inspired me to live a fearless life that refused to protect my image over my calling. As the Christmas season quickens pace, I am reminded of these truths God spoke to me. 

This past semester of college has challenged my need to appear in control. I was taking 19 credit hours and working towards my CNA certification. Honestly, the busier I get, the more I want to appear balanced and uneffected by the chaos. I strive to be “perfect”. Social media creates a culture of competive comparison that can leave me feeling inadequate and unworthy. Tonight as I restlessly reflect on the last few months, I am reminded that God loves messy. God CHOSE messy. 

So here is my confession: My life is not aesthetically pleasing. 

1) Rarely does the atmosphere of my life look like a cute and cozy coffee shop. In other words, I’m more of a “half-spilled Quik Trip coffee while exhaustedly driving to an undesired location” than a “warm Goat Hill coffee while reading a good book on a rainy day” kind of girl. I’m always in a hurry even though I’m ALWAYS 20 minutes early to everything. I’m alarmingly punctual. It’s actually a problem. Relaxing is not easy for me. I find comfort in worry and planning and preparing and stressing. I’m thankful I serve a God who challenges me to pause and proclaim His peace. My heart finds rest in His presence. 

2) I once bought La Croix at Target because I thought it would make my seem trendy…not because I genuinely wanted it. I mean, La Croix is tolerable and definitely Instagrams better than a Diet Dr. Pepper, but I bought it for all the wrong reasons. This is just one trivial example to illustrate how hard I strive to fit in. Everyone wants to belong; however, we will only satisfy that craving when we allow our AUTHENTIC selves to receive God’s love-sealed invitation into His family. Living an image based life is empty. We have to claim our genuine, God-crafted identities to find fulfillment. 

3) No matter how many Youtube videos I watch, my eyebrows will never be on fleek. I have always struggled to accept my appearance. I have spent the majority of my life struggling to fix my body. Recently, I have found myself channeling so much time and effort into image based self-improvement. But, this is wasted energy. God hand-crafted me into a masterpiece. There is a difference between cherishing yourself and changing yourself. When I cherish my body, I focus on improving the quality of my health, happiness, and heart. When I change myself, I manipulate the pieces of me that God created in order to fit into society’s strict standard. In 2017, I plan to channel more energy into my calling than into my outfits. 

4) I have never been able to perfect the messy bun; however, I’m a master at creating a mess. I don’t wake up flawless, but I do wake up with God’s fresh mercy and grace. This past year has been filled with memories I wish I never created. Sometimes, I choose insecurity over quiet confidence. Sometimes, I choose selfishness over sacrificial love. I’m far from perfect; however, I am always near to a perfect God. 2016 has also been filled with more moments of abundant and lavishing love than I could have ever imagined! I am speechless as I reflect on how many miracles God performed in my life and through me this past year. It’s a good thing God loves and uses messy people. 

5) My relationship with Jesus is not a 5a.m, photogenic devotional. In many ways my life is more like a photo album filled with forced family photos than an aesthetically pleasing editorial. Some days, I have to force myself to spend time with Jesus despite my tired, stressed, and anxious soul (and some days I choose sleep or work over Jesus). While I absolutely love sitting in the quiet, calming presence of my perfect father, sometimes I convince myself it can wait. It’s not always easy making God my number 1 priority when I have timelines and deadlines to follow in school and work. This past year, I have learned to be flexible and frequent with my faith. I began to live in worship, believing that God was wanting to use me in every moment. As my faith became a willing walk of worship each day, I found that The Holy Spirit came alive in ways I never could have imagined. I abandoned the idea that God-encounters had to take place in quiet moments, and began to proclaim His presence and promise into every moment (no matter how chaotic). 

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭1:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In 2017, I plan to recklessly abandon my desire to belong. I already belong to the family of God! I can delclare my acceptance into the face of insecurity. •Authenticity > Aesthetic• 

Hit the Ground Running 

This blog post is way over due, yet perfectly timed. It’s been a message on my heart for almost a month now; however, God is still revealing new meaning to the phrase He placed on my heart in a moment of flooding anxiety. But, the full story starts in January during a time of prayer and fasting. During my churches 21 days of prayer and fasting, God challenged me with an image that stems from Matthew 14 when He called Peter to walk on water. 

“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭14:29-33‬ ‭NLT‬‬).

I felt God challenging me with the questions, “what would have happened if Peter had made it to my arms? What would have happened if Peter didn’t sink?” With that challenge came the image of me dancing on top of crashing waves with my loving, Heavenly Father. So, I made a commitment to dance this year. I made a commitment to trust God over trusting my physical feelings of fear or doubt and my logical explanations of why I can’t possibly walk on water. 

In May, I decided to leave my job so that I could open up my schedule to serve more in my church. I had been praying for months (and chatting my family’s ears off) about this decision, because I knew logically it didn’t make sense. I had a good job, loved my coworkers, and keeping my job would have been better financially; however, I couldn’t ignore the feeling that God was calling me to step out of my boat. I quit my job, believing that God would provide opportunities to serve in my church that I could not see yet, and that He would provide financially. The crazy thing is…He did provide! I had short term, flexible job opportunities that perfectly complimented my desire to serve in my church! Also, in the beginning of July, I was given an opportunity to serve on a creative team in my church that I NEVER could have predicted…an opportunity that I would not have had if I was still working at my past job. I’m constantly amazed at what doors open in my life when I follow the whisper of God! 

With new opportunity came new resistance. For the first time in months, I began to experience suffocating anxiety. One night, as my head spun with critical, anxious thoughts, I decided I needed to distract. Anxiety is just what the enemy wanted, and I refused to entertain his lies. So, I put my music on shuffle and the first song that played was It is Well by Bethel! Message received, God. In that moment, I paused to praise and pray! I felt God reminding me to hit the ground running. I may not be the most experienced or qualified to serve on this specific creative team; however, I knew without a doubt God was already there calling me to step outside of my boat and into His arms….and I refused to settle for anything less than dancing! I refused to doubt myself. I had been asked for a reason, and with God on my side I could not fail! 

One of the most relieving things about serving God is that it isn’t about personal ability. It’s about obedience and willingness. So instead of looking at what I lacked, I boldly offered what I had (willingness) knowing that God would provide the rest (ability). 

Fast forward a month and I’ve found myself in a season of transition. I’m transitioning into a new season of greater responsibility and greater independence. I’m creating myself in ways that I haven’t had to do before. And so, with that comes the need to be more intentional, brave, and patient. Growing up is an imperfect process, and I never want to get to a point where I think I have everything under control. I just want to find peace in knowing that God is in control (which hasn’t always been easy for me….heck, it’s still really hard some days!). As a part of this new season, I’ve decided to train for a half marathon in April! Running allows you to embrace the uncomfortable, escape the logical, and live intentionally. I want to spiritually and physically hit the ground running as I go towards where God is calling me next! Tonight, God gently reminded me of His empowering love and constant desire to run the race with me!  

“And He gives you faith, 

So you can lift your head, 

And you can run real fast, 

And you can feel His joy”

https://youtu.be/zEL4Oqfcgn8

The Dream Center

It’s been almost a month since I had the privileged of visiting The Dream Center for a five day mission trip. As I have continued to process and reflect on all that God did in such a short span of time, He is still revealing new things to me. It truly was a life changing experience. I’m not sure I can adequately compress all the individual stories and miraculous moments into one coherent and concise blog post (which may be why I’ve been holding it off), but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try…so bear with me.

Day 1

Our journey to The Dream Center began bright and early. Actually, make that just early. We beat the sun to the airport at 5:30 am so that we would be ready to board our 6:10 flight. Within minutes of getting “comfortable” on our flight, the pilot came over the speaker and announced that this plane was in fact staying in Kansas City due to mechanical issues. Honestly, I immediately felt God’s blessing on this trip. Over the last 7 years, I’ve gone on 3 mission trips and a handful of retreats….there has LITERALLY never been a trip that didn’t involve some sort of car engine/car battery issue. My very first mission trip in 2009 involved a death trap bus that imploded, but 20(+) people were also saved that week. I’m a firm believer that resistance and hiccups are just signs of the enemy’s attacks…and the enemy loves to attack when God is doing big things. So with a refreshed sense of expectation and empowerment, I switched over to the new plane that would be (safely) transporting our KC crew to LA! When we arrived in LA, we had time to explore and bond as a team. In the early afternoon we visited Manhattan Beach before getting settled in at The Dream Center. In the evening, we hiked near The Observatory. Throughout the day, God was creating an atmosphere of comfort and love within our group of 22 unique individuals. As we bonded over good food, beaches, and somewhat unsafe hiking trails…God was creating a spirit of peace and safety that would prepare us for the challenges that we would face in the following days. I knew that I had support from everyone on the trip, which encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone. Despite not doing any mission work on day 1, the atmosphere and bonds created were crucial in preparing us for the uncomfortable and challenging circumstances we would face.

“So let’s do it-full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on” (Hebrews 10:22-25 MSG).

beach

 

Day 2

Woohoo..Day 2! I was excited to finally dive into serving the community, and I was also eager to feel God’s strength in moments that required more than I had. The first service project I helped with was The Dream Center’s clothing drive. Our Cause group had been assigned three different tasks for the morning, so I joined 6 others to help sort through donated clothes. We divided clothes into bags based on whether they were good to keep or were too damaged. We worked for a couple hours, and lined the walls with clothes. Once sorted, the clothes were taken to be cleaned before going into the thrift store/clothing drive. Even though we accomplished a lot, there was still quite a bit to be done before the clothes ever entered into the hands of the person in need. Sorting clothes was such a cool illustration of how God works. Each step had been planned by God from the moment they left the donors hands to when they entered into whomever would receive the clothes. And, although we did not get to witness a life being changed…our part was still significant and vital to God’s plan. Planting seeds can feel discouraging when we don’t see the fruit that is produced, but a Kingdom perspective trusts that each step is crucial to God’s plan.

IMG_0217

After lunch, our entire group got to pass out hot dogs and flowers on Venice Beach. It was such a simple yet impactful way to bless the people there. One girl I met, who received flowers, shared that it would have been her mom’s 65th birthday. She sent the flowers she received out into the ocean as a gift for her mother. God’s timing is perfect and personal, and I love that He used a team from Kansas City to deliver a simple gift to this woman. The smiles, laughter, and songs shared on Venice Beach refreshed my spirit and reminded me how powerful simple acts of kindness are.

A few days before the trip, we received an email from our team leader asking for five volunteers to help watch kids on Wednesday (day 2) evening. In January, I decided that 2016 was going to be a year of “yes’s”, so I volunteered without much hesitation. The five of us who volunteered got to watch kids at Angelus Temple while their parents went to the Celebrate Recovery group. While waiting on the kiddos to arrive, we listened to a testimony from a man who struggled with addiction for 40 years before finding healing and freedom. He spoke of his transformation through Christ, which really inspired and resonated with me. Having recovered from an eating disorder, it was amazing to hear him speak of God’s healing love in the same way I have experienced it. Truly, “recovery” is just a behavior modification while true transformation is a heart/identity change that comes from receiving God’s personal love. Hearing his story provided clarity into my own journey, which I never expected to receive when I volunteered to watch kids that Wednesday night. Again, God’s timing is perfect and personal.

Day 3

“Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove” (James 2: 18).

Thursday morning, a handful of us walked to a cute coffee shop before starting our day. There is something about the Holy Spirit mixed with caffeine that makes one unstoppable! By 9:00 a.m, our team was loading food trucks with fresh produce to be distributed throughout the community. Once at the designated sites, we then bagged the food so it would be ready to hand out. Loading the trucks, driving to the sites, and bagging the food was physically taxing and took a couple hours, while handing it out took only about 30 minutes. Once again, God was highlighting the importance of preparation in the process. As we passed out the bags of fruits and veggies, we also offered to pray with each person. Reaching outside of my comfort zone and relying on God’s bold love, I asked a woman by the name of Georgie Anne if there was anything I could pray with her about. With surprise and gratitude, she expressed that no one ever asked to pray with her. So often we get distracted by the homeless’ physical needs and circumstances, that we forget how powerful and life changing prayer is. As she shared her story with me, I was reminded that her need was far greater than just needing food. Her needs were outside of what I could provide, but I could join her in bringing them to God. I could remind her of the hope we have as children of God, and provide reassurance of God’s plan for her life. Georgie Anne was already a believer, and hearing her passion for the power of prayer was a humbling moment for me. Faith and good deeds must work together to have lasting, world-changing impact.

food truck

In the afternoon, our team visited a local neighborhood to host a Kidz Jam. Kidz Jam is basically a sidewalk Sunday school where volunteers play with kids before leading a short bible lesson. Pouring into these kids emphasized the importance of planting seeds in the next generation. Many of these kids come from rough backgrounds where they don’t have accurate representations of God’s love in their life. Loving on these kids has the potential to stop generational sin cycles. On the mission trip, I was most surprised by how much my heart stirred for these children. I’ve grown up working in children’s ministry; however, years of constant exposure had made me unaware of how passionately I desired to see these kids feel noticed and cherished. I believe God is refreshing my spirit and stirring something new in me.

La Kids

In the evening, we went to a church service at Angelus Temple. During worship, they played the song No Longer Slaves by Bethel. Over the last 8 months this song has been my anthem. When I committed to recovery, I decided to set some mantras so that I could reset my thought patterns. My main mantra was “I am a child of God”, which was partly inspired by this song. Learning to embrace my identity has empowered me to pursue the promises of God in ways that I never could have imagined. Allowing God to redefine me with His love provided healing and breakthrough that I never believed was possible. So, when this song began to play, I felt reminded of how personal our relationship with God is. Throughout the trip, we all experienced very individualized encounters that were specific to our journey. It’s amazing how grand yet personal God’s plan is! I’m overwhelmed and humbled by moments that remind me that God does notice and love ME!

Day 4

Day four can be best summed up as Skid Row day. Our team visited skid row three separate times; however, we were divided up the first two times so not everyone went three times. While the morning group did out reach on Skid Row, I was a part of a team that helped to clean the kids building at Angelus Temple. The kids zone building was INCREDIBLE! The number of kids they serve weekly is outstanding, and the resources they have are surprising (in a good way)! The majority of the toys and furniture in the building were donated, and then each week different volunteers help to maintain and clean the rooms. God provides! It’s amazing how much The Dream Center does, while never sacrificing the integrity or excellence of what they do! It’s absolutely inspiring and mind-blowing!

In the afternoon, I joined half of our Cause crew to pass out hot dogs on Skid Row. Once there, they asked a few of us to stay back in the veteran’s center to watch our things. I volunteered since it is the year of “yes’s”, despite being bummed that I wouldn’t get to do outreach on the streets. In all honesty, I was worried that I was going to miss out and felt limited by the walls of the veteran’s center. In hindsight, it’s no surprise that God was able to use me and speak to me through the people in these walls. Not only did I get to pray with and encourage quite a few people, but I also met a handful of people who inspired me. A man named Dallas shared his personal story and praised how good God is. His joy and hope despite his current circumstance spoke encouragement and clarity into my heart. I’ve said it twice before, and I’ll say it again…God’s timing is perfect and personal!

Now, after the majority of our group had visited Skid Row and witnessed the pain and extreme poverty, we decided we all needed to process before heading back in the evening. We were emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally drained. As our team debriefed, it became very evident that we were not equipped in our own ability to serve the people on Skid Row; however, God SO loves every person on those streets and He was calling us back to serve there. It was in our honest moment of doubt/insecurity that God began to empower our spirits. As we pressed deeper into God’s strength and love, our fears began to fade. That night, I witnessed the most beautiful moment I’ve ever seen.

We walked in small groups (4-5 people), and passed out popcorn and water to the people. I was in a group with our mission trip leaders. Earlier in the day, they had expressed their hesitations in returning while acknowledging their need for God’s help. That night, I witnessed these two individuals come alive with God’s bold love in conversation and prayer with the people we encountered. It was a beautiful illustration of how God was equipping them to effortlessly impact lives. Witnessing this spirit of transformation will stay with me forever. It was overwhelmingly beautiful to see these individuals flourish in ways that contrasted how they felt just hours before. Honestly, as I witnessed this, I had a moment of feeling inadequate. I began to wonder if I needed to talk more or pray more or do more, and my insecurities and perfectionism started to convince me that I was failing. And then, I felt God asking me to shift my focus. I felt God asking me to stop worrying about everything I was doing, and to take notice of all that He was doing. The enemy wants us to keep our eyes on ourselves, but God asks us to keep our eyes on Him. It was when I shifted my focus that I felt free from insecurity. God was using me to amplify His love, joy, peace, and victory. He was moving mountains that night on Skid Row, and thankfully it wasn’t only through me. One of the greatest things about pursuing the mission of Jesus, is that it requires a team. Each person’s role is equally significant. It’s not a competition to see who can change the most lives; it’s a celebration that lives are being changed for the kingdom of God!

Day 5

On the last day, there was only one service project planned. On Saturdays, The Dream Center visits around 15 different locations to host an adopt-a-block. They pass out food, play with kids, and love on the people. Throughout our five days at The Dream Center, the consistency of their outreaches really inspired me. It’s through the relationships they are building by visiting each site multiple times a week that they are able to bring transformation in their city. And after five incredible days at The Dream Center, it’s easy to say that my life has been changed. But how? Change isn’t a feeling…it’s an action. So, I decided to create practical ways that I can allow this experience to truly change me.

  1. Be consistent in my prayer life + relationships. Consistency is hard. Honestly, I planned to workout for the 6 weeks that led up to the mission trip and made it 10 days before busyness became a distraction. Busyness will kill dreams, so I’ve decided to be more intentional about keeping consistent in my life. Consistency is what produced lasting transformation, not just temporary change.
  2. Be more conversational. Conversations are hard for me. I tend to fear that I’m going to be a burden or annoying, and so I unintentionally create space. However, we were created for community! It’s who we are. So, whether it’s a more authentic conversation with a friend or a small but meaningful conversation with a waiter, it always feels good to be heard and noticed.
  3. Keep planting. I’m so quick to quit planting seeds in my life if I don’t see immediate results, and our part in God’s plan doesn’t always involve reaping the fruit. But, living with a kingdom calling requires me to do my part at the best of my ability knowing that God is at work.
  4. Small and Significant. Often, I feel discouraged that I’m not doing enough. I focus on the things I’m not doing to convince myself that I am a bad “Christian”. I hold myself to these high expectations that I’m realizing I can never achieve. Satan loves to convince us that we are inadequate, so that we will feel unworthy of our calling. But, God doesn’t expect perfection. God doesn’t expect for us all to be missionaries in high risk countries. I can’t allow the enemy to minimize the impact a smile or positive attitude can have. Living with impact means believing that everything I do has an impact. It’s with that bold belief that I will feel empowered to live out my God-given calling.
  5. Embrace how God created me. Growing up, I’ve always believed that my lack of a loud, bold personality would inhibit me from being used by God. I was convinced that my soft and quiet personality was a bad thing. BUT HELLO… GOD CREATED ME THIS WAY!!! I don’t have to change my personality or force myself to be louder to be used by God. God has given me specific qualities that are perfect for my calling. I can love boldly and live with a quiet confidence that encourages others to seek God’s love!