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. 

 

21

Every January, my church does 21 days of prayer + fasting. It’s the perfect way to kick off the new year by turning down the often suffocating noise of the world, and leaning into the loving whisper of God. It’s a way to cast vision over the coming year, and increase your expectation for all that God wants to do! Every year, I reflect on my time of prayer and fasting by writing a blog on all that I feel God spoke to me. It’s the perfect way for me to set my focus and direction for the year. It also allows me to look back and see God’s faithfulness to fulfill his promises in my life each year. Every year, I am amazed and humbled to see how significant the words whispered in January are to the direction of my life. (2016: week 1 week 2 week 3 ; 2017 )

“Then the Lord answered me and said, ‘Write the vision and engrave it plainly on clay tablets so that the one who reads it will run. For the vision is yet for the appointed future time. It hurries toward the goal of fulfillment; it will not fail. Even though it delays, wait patiently for it, because it will certainly come; it will not delay’” (Habakkuk 2:2-3).

This year, I felt God challenge my heart in new, bigger ways. Here we go!

1) Cultivate Community.

Let’s just be real with ourselves for a second. How many of us waste weeks/months/years praying for different and “better” community/relationships than the ones we have. If you are anything like me, then maybe you have scrolled through social media thinking, “Why can’t I have THAT?” or “I wish I had friends that did xyz.” Maybe you’re single (AND SUFFICIENT….), and crave to be in a relationship. Maybe you feel lonely and like you don’t have anyone to lean on in rough seasons. I hear you…I’ve been there. Don’t get me wrong, I have wonderful friends who love me and that I value immeasurably, but the problem is….they are all human beings (myself included…shocking I know). And as we all have come to discover, human beings are imperfect. Consequently, relationships are imperfect and messy.

But, God wired us for community. Because of that, we can be confident in His promise to put the right people in our life in each season. The people in your community are not there by accident. The new and awkward friendships you are building are not an accident. The people in your circle today are not an accident. Maybe if we spent less time craving different relationships and spent more time intentionally cultivating the ones we already have, we would see God’s divine purpose behind each encounter and relationship come to fruition. The enemy loves to kill, steal, and destroy God’s promises in our life. He loves to attack our community because he knows that our community points us to our destiny. Over the past three weeks, I have had God-encounters with individuals that I have known for months or even years. There is nothing more exciting and fulfilling than seeing God’s plan come alive in the lives of others. And honestly, these are not the people I would have expected God to use. But, when I turned my focus away from what I could get from relationships and attempting to fulfill voids in my heart (that only God can fill anyway), and instead focused on investing in the people around me, my heart felt abundantly full. We were created for relationships…relationships were not created just for us. In 2018, I am placing my attention on the people around me. I am choosing to cultivate my community, and I am leaning into all that God has planned.

“He who watches the wind waiting for all conditions to be perfect will not sow seed, and he who looks at the clouds will not reap a harvest” (Ecclesiastes 11:4).

2)Busyness Steals The Banquet

One of the best parts about starting out the year with a time of prayer and fasting, is that it forces me to prioritize my time with God. As someone who has passionately pursued God for almost a decade now, one would think that prioritizing God’s word would be easy for me…right? (wrong) Honestly, in this current season of life, I have struggled more than ever to find consistent routine in my devotional time with God. Between working overnights as a CNA twice a week and having a full load of college classes Monday through Friday, my time is limited. Not to mention, the list of other commitments that fill my schedule. While these are all important and necessary investments of my time, they are not more important than spending intentional and mindful time with God.

I am reminded of The Story of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22. Everyday, God is inviting me to join him at heaven’s table to be celebrated. And like the invited guests in the parable, some days I shrug my shoulders and go off to school, work, or even commitments within the church. Unfortunately, when we decline God’s daily invitation to receive his banquet, we become drained by the things stealing our time. *Cue burnout*. I can only give my best when I take time to receive God’s best for me. In 2018, I want to live each day feeling celebrated and loved by God for who I am, not for what I do. I want to prioritize God’s banquet even when I have a thousand other things calling for my attention. In a world that celebrates progress, I want to learn to celebrate the pause. One practical way I intend to do this is by blogging at least once a month. God speaks to me as I write. It’s the way I untangle and tame the chaos of my overthinking, and uncover all that God is speaking into my life. But most importantly, I want to accept my daily invitation to just be before I instantly create my list of everything I need to do. I’m taking ownership of my seat at the God’s banquet.

3) BRAVE

Every year, I ask God to give me a word of intention for the year. This year, I felt God whisper the word brave. Does anybody want to trade….maybe somebody who got the word sacrificial giving…anybody? Totally kidding. But seriously, just the word brave puts butterflies in my stomach. I’m the type of person that loves to go second. I don’t want to take the first step into the unknown waters or be the person that breaks the ice, but once I see someone else navigate an intimidating situation (and by intimidating situation I mean things like talking in a connect group, praying out loud, ordering a pizza over the phone…you know) mentally I feel empowered to do the same. But, I know that I will never fully be used to address the desires of God’s heart in this world if I don’t learn how to move past fear. Fear is a feeling. Brave is an action. This year, I want to go first into the unknown. I want to be the first to welcome home individuals who come to church for the first time. I want to be quick to act obediently to God’s nudge no matter how nervous I may feel. First off, fear is a liar! The things we are most afraid to do are often the most important things for furthering God’s kingdom. Mountains move and miracles happen when we choose faith over fear. Courage is contagious. When we step out in faith and break the mirage of fear, others feel inspired to follow. It just takes one yes to create a movement of God.

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13).

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!

 

 

When God Doesn’t

“At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:45-46).

Good Friday and Easter Sunday are great reminders of the love God has for His children. God values a relationship with YOU so much that he sent His one and only son to die an unimaginable death. It’s overwhelming, humbling, heartbreaking, and empowering to think about the significance of this sacrificial love. And yet, it’s not uncommon to feel at times disconnected or abandoned by God. It’s hard to understand/explain why faithful believers are not always healed of sickness or why tragedies occur. We believe and pray for God to answer our prayers, and can feel discouraged/confused when God doesn’t. While I’m young and don’t have all the answers, I can share what helps me through these seasons.

1. God already did. 

A few years ago during a church conference, I knelt to my knees and prayed that God would free me from the chains of my eating disorder. I had been stuck in this continual cycle of struggle, and desperately prayed to be set free. I knew God had the authority to defeat the enemy’s control in my life, and waited in prayer for God to heal me of my disorder. In many ways, I was waiting for this physical, tangible sensation of being made new. As I waited on my knees, crying out to God, I felt nothing. I began to question my own faith, and thought maybe I wasn’t praying hard enough. As I struggled in this moment, I felt God nudging me to be still. I felt God reminding me of the cross.

“By his wounds, we are healed” ( Isaiah 53:5).

I think sometimes we forget what God has already done for us.The enemy has already been defeated; death was conquered. When we decide to follow Jesus, we have the same victory over the enemy that Jesus won. In moments where I am overwhelmed by anxiety, depression, guilt, etc… I have to choose to take authority over God’s power inside of me. I can declare joy even when I feel depressed. I can declare peace even when I feel anxious. I can’t lose a battle that God has already won.

2. Sleep or Swim.  

As I entered 2016, I felt God challenging me to develop an uncircumstantial faith. It’s easy to believe that God is good when life is good…but bad things happen. The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. He wants to do everything in his power to prevent us from achieving our God-crafted calling. Storms are a part of the journey.

“But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, ‘Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?’ When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the winds and said to the waves, ‘Silence! Be Still!’ Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?'” (Mark 4: 37-40).

I think sometimes as believers we expect that walking in line with God’s plan gives us immunity from being affected by storms. When bad things happen, we begin to question the sturdiness of our faith. Maybe if I had been praying more consistently or reading my bible more, this wouldn’t have happened.  Sometimes a tragedy or trial makes us question God’s goodness (or at least as it relates to our personal life). If God really loves me, why would He allow this to happen to me? 

Here’s the hard thing about faith for me: it involves giving up control. I love to be in control. So, when I enter into a storm…the last thing I want to do is sleep like Jesus does in Mark 4. Typically, I begin to do everything I can to ensure that I won’t sink. I struggle and strive and over exhaust myself. I look at the chaos around me, and become distracted by everything that seems to be going wrong. Jesus is in my boat, and I’m worried about the storm. Why? Because logically, that’s what feels like the right reaction. But faith involves surrendering some of my logic.

My challenge for 2016 has been to find God’s presence in all seasons. Even when my boat is rocking, my faith and pursuit toward my calling will not be shaken. I want to struggle less, and trust more. If Jesus is sleeping, why would I get ready to swim?

There is peace and hope in pursuing your God-planned and God-protected calling. Your boat cannot sink…so why waste time in worry? God will make everything work out for good.

3. God will. 

Following Jesus will not only change your life, but it will change your eternity. Because of the cross, we have eternal life.

“The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life-and life abundantly” (John 10:10).

One of my many mantras is, never settle for less than a John 10:10 life. I believe that God wants his children to experience an abundant life that fulfills the god-given desires of their heart. He desires for us to feel complete, valuable, and whole. That is why it can be hard for me to understand why God hasn’t healed my sister of her eye disease, or why people being prayed over daily still die from cancer. It can be confusing; however, God’s character is not defined by an outcome. God is love. That will never change.

Again, I don’t have the perfect answer. But, I do know that God loves with an abundant, lavishing love. We have a future of hope and prosperity because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He endured the worst, so that we could have His best. Whether healing/relief comes today, tomorrow, or in heaven…it will happen. Don’t define God by your circumstance, but define your circumstance by God. Nothing can hinder you from achieving your God-given calling except for yourself. Seek God with an expectant heart always. Expect and know that God will provide for you and will equip you for anything you face.

The enemy wants you to believe that God didn’t overcome death and darkness. He wants you to doubt, question, and worry. He wants to distract you of God’s presence by provoking storms. Protect your calling. Declare peace, joy, hope, love, and victory no matter the circumstance.

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!