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!

 

 

Crossing Over: Hello, Promise Land!

One week ago, I was in California for a five day mission trip at the LA Dream Center. I had no idea what to except, and was unaware of just how much my heart would change. The Dream Center is incredible!

Dream Center

In preparation for the mission trip, I spent a lot of time in prayer. Despite not knowing exactly what I would be doing, I knew one thing for sure: I needed God’s help. I’ve always had a very anxious and introverted personality, so praying with the homeless and doing outreach on Skid Row is way outside of my comfort zone. One evening while praying, God gave me a vision of my heart being opened. It was like His light was bursting through my heart. Immediately, my prayer became that the walls of my heart would be torn down. I find myself getting frustrated because I tend to close myself off to others due to my own fears of rejection; however, my walls for safety tend to unintentionally push people away. When God gave me that image of His light shining through my heart, I knew that He was reminding me of where I was headed. So, I began praying intentionally and consistently that the walls of my heart would be torn down.

Fast forward to the second night on the mission trip. I had downloaded some random songs to listen to on the three hour flight from KC to LA; however, I didn’t listen to any of them prior to the trip. While going to sleep, I plugged in my head phones and began playing one of those random songs. The song was called “Explode my Soul” by Melissa Helser.

This song describes the EXACT image I had been praying for in preparation for this trip! As this song played, I felt consumed by God’s perfect and personal love. The bridge declares:

Hello, Promise Land! We’ve waited for so long. To see what we’ve believed in. To sing this promise land song. Explode my soul. Explode with praise. What He promised, is what He gave. 

Prior to the trip, my church had just finished a sermon series titled Crossing Over. We read through Joshua and talked about crossing over into our individual promise lands. God’s timing is scarily perfect sometimes. In this moment, I knew that I would not return to KC with the same walls of insecurity that had hindered my relationships in the past. I would no longer hold back for fear of rejection.

One of our very last evenings in LA, we had the opportunity to walk down Skid Row passing out popcorn and water. We talked with the people, and prayed with whoever invited us to do so. It was an extremely humbling and eye opening experience. As I walked, my heart craved conversation. I wanted to hear these people’s stories. I felt the words, “Just keep walking” being whispered on my heart. It was not an encouragement to  walk past the people, but an encouragement to continue to walk around the walls of my heart.

“On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, ‘Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!…When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city” (Joshua 6:15-16, 20).

Walking through Skid Row without fear and eager to meet people is a complete 180 degrees from my typical personality. I felt compassion and love like never before. The walls around my heart began to collapse.

The LA Mission Trip was my catalyst for crossing over. The insecurities, doubts, and fears that trapped me in an isolated bubble for years and convinced me that I was unworthy of relationships and dreams will no longer limit my calling. I am crossing over into a more authentic, vulnerable, and powerful season. My soul is exploding with the love God has for His children.

 

The Hands that Created Heaven

The hands that created heaven created me. Carefully crafted to complete your collection, I was called and chosen by name. With your eye for beauty, righteousness, and love, every inch of my being was intentionally molded to fit into your family. Heaven’s atmosphere rests in my heart, each beat an echo of grace’s rhythm. You painted my life with the pure color palette of heaven’s color wheel. I’m stitched together with ribbons of your hope, victory, peace, joy, and favor.

The hands that created heaven hold mine. Your hand’s steady ability to design with precise detail, steadies the tremble of my hand’s anxious tremor. You lead my steps with strength and courage. You firmly hold my childlike fingers that struggle to fully grasp the power of your protective grip on my life. You guide my movements like a paintbrush glides on a canvas, unaware of the art being created.

The hands that created heaven hug me tightly. An intimate connection with my creator mends my chipped and broken edges. Heaven’s piece completes the gaps in my portrait; its light reflects off the surface of my mirrored image. I was created to be used by the hands that created heaven.

A Year in Review

It’s hard to believe my freshman year of college is complete. It’s even harder to believe just how much has changed in the last 12 months. If I had to choose three words that sum up the past year, I would choose destruction, restoration, and growth. I have experienced joy and peace in the most genuine yet illogical ways. I have seen mountains move in my life, and have witnessed God’s personal love like never before. This past year has been simultaneously the hardest and happiest year I have ever experienced, and I am humbly reminded of God’s grace and goodness as I reflect on all that has occurred.

Rewind to one year ago (May 2015), I had just graduated high school and was intimidated by the opportunity that stood before me. I had learned to define myself by my own success, and feared that I would fail in this new season of life. I was overwhelmed, stressed, and fearful of what the future would hold. I wasn’t sure if I was capable of being more independent. Fear and doubt poisoned my spirit, convincing me to retreat into pursuing the one thing I knew I could control: food. My life began to revolve around counting calories, losing weight, and focusing on food. My eating disorder became a distraction from life’s stress. Physically, I was weak, exhausted, and dying. I was convinced that dying from the success of an eating disorder was better than failing at “life”.

In July of 2015 I began working part time as a bank teller, and in August I became a full time student. Working 30 hours a week, taking 15 credit hours in school, and attempting to manage an eating disorder were becoming too much to handle. I wanted to succeed in school and work, and being malnourished was inhibiting me from achieving my potential. My heart was yearning for change, but the thought of giving up control and gaining weight prevented me from fully committing to recovery. Logically, I knew I needed to change; however, my heart was far from being motivated to recover. Finally, I decided to step out on a limb and write my prayer request on a connect card at church. I wrote out my situation/prayer need, and kept the connect card in my purse for a few weeks before finding the courage to turn it in on a Sunday. Not only was it hard being so vulnerable and risking judgement, but I also wasn’t convinced I could get better. In some ways, it felt pointless asking for prayer. A few weeks later, I got a call from a woman in my church who offered to pray for and encourage me. Her simple texts of encouragement throughout the week reminded me to refocus my thoughts on God’s truth.

I can’t fully explain the chain of events that occurred over the next month. But, I can say that prayer is powerful. Healing starts in the heart, and I truly believe that the prayers I received over my connect card were the catalyst to my recovery. It definitely was not in my own ability or desire to see myself achieve my full potential. My heart just started to transform  and my perspective on the world changed. In October, God started nudging on my heart. I felt Him reminding me that I am not a victim to my circumstances. For years, my eating disorder had been my escape from undesirable/stressful situations. But, I felt God heavily weighing the words peace and joy on my heart. I felt challenged to seek for the miracles in EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I was no longer content with barely surviving. I desired to see God move in my mundane moments. The more I seeked God’s peace, joy, and victory, the more peace, joy, and victory I felt. 

Also, it was in October that I was confronted by the unglamorous and embarrassing reality of what years of malnutrition and purging will do to your body. After avoiding the dentist for months, I finally had to get a decaying tooth checked out. I was hoping that a simple filling would fix the problem. Unfortunately, when they went to do the operation they discovered that the damage was too close to the root of the tooth, and they decided that a root canal was the best option. I remember feeling slightly betrayed by God. When my dentist started operating, he mentioned that if this was unsuccessful, a root canal would be necessary. In that moment I prayed wholeheartedly for restoration and healing. Part of me was praying out of embarrassment. I didn’t want a root canal to taint my image. If my tooth would just magically heal, I wouldn’t have to face the reality of how sick I was…but that didn’t happen. Within minutes of working on the filing, my dentist stopped and declared that the damage was too deep. I needed a root canal.

I defeatedly got in my car to drive home. I was ashamed. I felt judged by my dentist, and was nervous to reveal the news to my mom. No one ever verbally said that the purging had caused this; however, the connection was unquestionably understood. In a moment where I began to question God’s goodness, He showed up. While driving home, a song began to play on the radio. The song was “Restore” by Chris August. Even though the song is about restoring a marriage, the chorus spoke exactly to how I was feeling. The chorus sings about God’s healing love and his ability to bring restoration. I had literally been praying for restoration as I sat in the dentist’s office, so when I heard these lyrics I knew God was speaking to my heart.

In that moment, I felt God reminding me that His healing isn’t some temporary filling. His healing love is a root canal. In order to find restoration in our life, we have to dig deep into the parts of our life that have suffered decay and remove the toxic roots. The root canal was the restoration my tooth needed, even if involved taking a hit to my image. See, I thought that if I whitened my teeth and used enamel strengthening toothpaste then I could fool my dentist. As long as my teeth looked clean and shiny on the outside, then the inner damage would go unnoticed. Clearly that wasn’t the case. After the root canal, I had to schedule another appointment to get a crown that would take the place of the old tooth. The crown looks like the tooth that once occupied the space in the back corner of my mouth; however, it is much stronger than the old, decaying molar. From the outside, the change is unnoticeable; however, the strength of the crown is much more reliable and usable.

God wants to place his heavenly crown on us. He never asks us to remove the dying parts of our self without replacing it with new life! In fact, usually he starts to root his love in us before we even begin to remove the decay. It was in late October/early November of 2015 that I found a new passion for my calling. I finally believed I was “usable” by God because of who HE is. When I started recovery, I created an Instagram account to track my journey. I wanted to be a light of encouragement to those who felt hopeless, lost, and beyond repair. I wanted to be an example of God’s powerful healing and personal love. Over the last 8 months of this account, I have been humbled by God’s ability to use me to encourage others. I feel privileged to receive daily messages from people all over the world asking me about who God is, and how my faith has helped my recovery. I get to spread God’s love to others, and be a voice of empowerment in declaring victory over the enemy.

2015 was a year of destroying who I thought I needed to be, and allowing God to restore my damaged parts. I embraced my image as a child of God, and allowed His love to transform my life. 2016 began with 21 days of prayer and fasting my snooze button. God spoke so much clarity and truth into my life over those three weeks, and that has set the pace for my growth thus far. My main prayer for this year has been that I would get more rooted at my church. Over the last several months, I have witnessed God answer the deepest desires of my heart. I have joined amazing teams that allow me to serve each week, I have gained so many valuable relationships with the kindest people in Kansas City, and I have been blessed with an opportunity to go on a Mission Trip to the LA Dream Center in three weeks.

Honestly, 12 months ago I had began to subtly say my goodbyes. The instability of my declining health made me uncertain of my future. BUT PRAISE GOD THAT THE TRUTH OF HIS PROMISE IS THAT WE HAVE A FUTURE OF HOPE AND PROSPERITY. I cannot adequately express how thankful and humbled I am by God’s kindness and love. As God transformed my heart and equipped my spirit, I found confidence and courage to pursue my calling. I have experienced abundant peace and joy despite my circumstances, and have found freedom in declaring the promises of God into my life. This last year has made me very certain of a few things:

  1. God’s plan is (wayyyyyy) better than my plan.
  2. I am a child of God.
  3. I have a God-planned and God-protected calling.
  4. There is power in community.
  5. Pray intentionally and boldly for God’s promises.          

“I will turn my hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities. I will restore your leaders as in days of old, your rulers as at the beginning. Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.””‭‭ (Isaiah‬ ‭1:25-26‬ ‭NIV‬)

God reclaims and renames the city with its true identity, despite the contrast of an unfaithful and unrighteous past. This is what I love about God! He doesn’t look at our past/present and call us unfaithful, broken, and flawed. He only calls us by our identity. I am a child of God! I am complete, whole, worthy, valuable, and loved always! 

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.

Lavished by Love

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!…” (1 John 3:1).

When I read this verse a few weeks ago, the word “lavished” weighed heavily on my heart and mind. It left me wondering if I truly feel, believe, and live like God has LAVISHED his love on me. As I’ve marinated on this question, I’ve realized that I’ve been limiting God’s love for me partly because that is what I’ve been conditioned to do.

“Lavished” is defined by bestowing something in generous or extravagant quantities. It is love in abundance. This contrasts the world’s version of love. The world says to be cautious in giving and receiving. We have to protect what we have, and never ask for too much. The world’s love is restricted. In many ways, we live in a love deficit.

Personally, I have always struggled to understand God’s fatherly love for me. My dad left my family when I was three years old. I don’t remember much about my parent’s divorce, and growing up with a single mom has always been my normal. I’ve grown up accepting of the deprivation; however, when we feel deprived of something…we will always look for a replacement. Despite years of denial/uncertainty, I am learning that one role my eating disorder had was to fill the void my dad created when he left. I created a relationship with food to replace the relationship I lacked.

The enemy wants us to be deprived of love, because He can more easily sell us sin when we feel like we are lacking something.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

At times, I think Christianity can feel like depriving ourselves of the world to pursue Jesus. But I think a perspective like that is dangerous. God doesn’t want us to feel deprived. Living life feeling restricted will inevitably lead to “binging” on what ever you have been avoiding.

For me, I have a hard time building relationships because I never want to be a burden to someone else. Because of this fear of asking for too much,  I can have a hard time receiving God’s abundant love. The crazy and illogical thing about God’s love for us, is that it is abundant and UNCONDITIONAL. Society says we must earn love. It’s a process of proving our worth to others, so they are willing to “spend” the love they have on us. We have to prove our value. So, I find myself at times needing to prove my value to God before I am willing to receive and embrace the love He has for me. I don’t feel worthy of limitless, lavishing love.

Over the last few months, I’ve began to explore what my life would look like if I embraced my identity as God’s child and allowed him to love me HIS way. It’s been a process, but when I allowed God to call me by my name even when I was in the midst of recurrent sin cycles, I found more freedom and healing than ever before. Living in a state of God’s abundant love fulfills any desire to seek out love in sinful places. It allows me to be content with what I have each day, without comparing my life to others. I feel grateful and humbled that God values me. I don’t have to fear abandonment because God promises abundance. God’s love doesn’t deprive…it provides.