Shadow Monsters

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Do you remember waking up from a bad dream as a child?

In the first few seconds after waking up, my room always seemed darker. And suddenly I was aware of every single shadow being cast on my walls. They towered over me like some child-eating monster out of a storybook. If you were like me, your first reaction was to cover yourself with your impenetrable shield of protection…your bedspread. Absolutely nothing could infiltrate it. The only flaw in your bedspread-defense is that the air starts to run out. First it gets hot, then it gets heavy, and then runs out completely. So you had better figure out your next strategic move before you pass out and get eaten up by a shadow monster.

As I took shelter under my sheets, I strategized an escape plan. But just the idea of letting my toes dangle over the edge of my mattress sent shivers to my completely rational, undramatic core, much less actually making a break for it. Ask any child and they’ll tell you that the moment your feet hit the floor, you have exactly .264 seconds to start running to the door, because something will grab your foot from under the bed. It’s just a fact.

The fear would grow and grow until there was only one thing left to do. I would work up enough courage to pull the covers down, just low enough to expose my mouth, then shout into the horrible blackness…

“MOMMYYYYYYYYYYYY!”

I needed her. I needed the comfort and peace that presence brought. And we all know that a mommy’s presence vanquishes any fear from bad dreams or shadow monsters.

I truly wonder how my mom got through my terror stage of the “Half Man, Half Monkey” (Thank you Sci-Fi commercial, thank you.) It didn’t matter if I was awake or asleep. If it was dark, I was scared. She had her presence requested (that’s a nice way to say I screamed bloody murder for her) countless times. To make things worse, I also discovered the movie, “Harry and The Hendersons.” AWESOME. I went to the kitchen one night for some water and as I sat at the dining room table, the realization hit me. Bigfoot was under the table. I should have just stayed parched in my bed…under my bedspread. I thought to myself, “So this is the end. What a way to go. So long, world. It’s been a great seven years.” To this day, I’m thankful that I was brave enough to look under the table. I’m convinced I would have had a heart attack if I had just sat there an longer.

Well, now I’m the mom.

My sweet toddler is in a stage where everything is “scary”. She’ll run up to the door where there is some chipped paint and theatrically scream, “Ahhhh! A big bug!”. Or she’ll run up to her daddy and then yell, “Ahhhh! Daddy scared me!” So yes, everything is pretend scary right now.

But an airplane flew right over our house yesterday. I must admit, it was pretty loud and startled me too. She ran out of her room yelling, “Mommy! It scared me!”

I took her by the hand, starting walking towards her room and said, “It’s okay, sweet girl. It was just an airplane. Mommy will go with you.”

She tenderly looked up at me as she took my hand. Once her hand was locked in mine, she had an instant boldness; a courage that comes along with simply having her mommy with her. The thing that scared her before, wasn’t so scary anymore. I was with her.

I feel that’s how our God is with us. We can run up to Him and tell Him that we’re scared; scared of the situation we’re in, scared of the unknown, scared of the future, scared we aren’t enough.

And His heart…His wonderful daddy heart whispers to us,

“It’s alright, sweet child. I’ll go with you.”

When we hear His voice, when we feel His hand wrapped around ours, we can move forward with boldness and peace.

It may not always be easy to walk into unknown territory, and let’s be honest, it’s usually scary most of the time. But we do not have to walk in fear because we are not alone. His presence allows us freedom to breathe, freedom to keep putting one foot in front of the other, freedom to find courage where otherwise there would be none.

What a beautiful thing.

So today, lock hands with Him. Find your courage in His presence. Walk in His presence. Keep moving forward in His presence.

Shadow monsters are scary, but they all disappear in the presence of Light.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

The Freedom Trap

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There’s been this “thing” that’s really been bother me for a few years. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason I was feeling the way I was, but recently was I able to put my finger on it. I desperately want to be clear on this subject & make sure I’m coming across the way I mean it. I don’t have judgment for any one person or group. There isn’t one thing that I’m focused on or trying to rant about.

But this “thing” is real & we as believers are allowing it to happen. And we must stop. We are being called to a deeper level in our faith. I truly believe the Lord is preparing His children right now. And we must cut away things that are hindering us, harming us or simply just not beneficial to us.

So here is what this “thing” is.

I think we sometimes focus on the “liberties” we think we’re entitled to, more than the One who has freed us.

We think if we show restraint in something that we’re “allowed” to do, that it means we’re thinking legalistically or needlessly missing out on something enjoyable. But I’ve watched many believers, including myself, become imprisoned by something because our definition of “freedom in Christ” is wrong. Too often our cling to a “freedom” that is completely self-centered. And most of us, don’t even realize this has happened.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.                                1 Corinthians 10:23

I think we can all agree that each of us is constantly sending out messages to the world about who we are. The way we dress, the way we talk, what we eat, what we drink, how we love, how we serve, how we treat one another. It’s all a part of our message.

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Titus 2:6-8

I think it’s an utter tragedy when the way we act & represent God’s name differs depending on what environment we’re in or who we’re with. Oh how wrong that is!

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 6:1

They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. Titus 1:16

 

I want to be genuine no matter where I’m at or who I’m with. But if I represent myself one way when I’m within the four walls of my church & very differently when I’m not, which one is the genuine me? What is my heart truly focused on if my actions & words waver so easily? We gravitate towards what we love. So what is it that we love? Most importantly, who is it that we love? Ourselves? Or Jesus?

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16

As we focus on Jesus & seek Him daily – wholeheartedly seek His heart- we become more like Him. That truth leaves me speechless. We don’t have to use behavior modification on ourselves & just try to make habits of the things we know are “right” or “holy”. No. He will transform us from the inside out! His likes will become our likes. His words will become our words. His heart will become our heart! Wow!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37

Is there something in our lives that we cringe at the thought of giving up? Do we get angry or defensive at the the idea of showing restraint from something? This quote from Tim Keller says it perfectly I think: “The sin that is most destructive in your life right now is the one you are most defensive about.”

We’re only deceiving ourselves if we desperately hold onto something but are convinced it isn’t effecting our hearts. Or others.

So today, I ask God for clarity in our minds & hearts. I pray that His children would become more desperate for Him. And that what we desire to eat, drink, say & do will pale in comparison to our desire to love & glorify Him. May we be sensitive to His voice as He shows us things in our lives that we have placed above Him. And may we have the courage to abandon everything that hinders us from running after Jesus with all that we are. Because HE is all that matters.

I declare our God as faithful!

A Voice in the Silence

I wonder if the Lord chooses to whisper sometimes so we will listen for His voice with more intention & with greater desperation.

I know that’s how it has been for me. When I feel like the Lord isn’t speaking as loudly or as clearly as He usually does, it makes me pause & listen a lot closer. The interesting part is, the silence I feel has usually come to me during times in my life that are “good”. And I think the “silence” has a lot more to do with me than Him. I allow my situations & emotions to be the things satisfying me, instead of staying in a constant state of hunger for Jesus.

But listening for Him in the silence can be just as sweet as hearing His words. Because even in the silence, He is there & He is working.

 

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. Psalm 62:1

 

I love that about Him. He is constantly guiding me, like a Father. Constantly correcting, instructing & teaching. I envision a little lamb walking with her Sheppard. He is always nudging & directing her along the winding & sometimes dangerous terrain. He keeps her safe & guides her.

 

My sheep hear my voice, & I know them, & they follow me. John 10:27

 

I have to remind myself that just because I don’t feel emotionally passionate or energized, doesn’t mean He’s not speaking. If I am reading His Word, I am hearing His voice. And just because I’m not experiencing life-changing revelations every day, doesn’t mean He isn’t working & transforming my life. If I am meditating on His Word & spending time with Him, I am becoming more like Him.

 

So faith comes from hearing, & hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

 

The voice of the Lord is so sweet. His whispers can bring alive even the driest of bones. How precious is His Word. We never have to question if He is speaking to us. All we must do is consume the words He’s given us & continue to listen. He promises to answer.

He will always answer.

 

Call to me & I will answer you, & will tell you great & hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3

 

My beautiful friend Amber, recently wrote this on her Facebook status:

It’s okay to be in the quiet place. To be still & learn & soak & sit & wait. And not think about your own worries but to think on who Jesus is & ponder this, & soak in the amazing reality of who He is that He desires to live inside of us and do everything to enliven us supernaturally. And not only that but that He wants us to have our very nature be transformed by His grace alone; to have His desires; to have our heart beat as His. That we would be driven by what drives Him! Amazed. Simply amazed. In awe. And thankful.

So as you sit in the silence, my dear friend, know His presence; feel His heartbeat. And may your heart be totally sensitive to every breath & word that comes out of His mouth. He will answer. And when He does, may His life pour into that place in your life that you desperately need it to.

I declare my God as faithful!

Honestly

I have to honest with you.

I’ve been working on a happy post for you. But the more I wrote the heavier my fingers felt. They got so heavy that they finally stopped typing. I couldn’t force it. I didn’t want to. You are too important to me.

The reason that this post changed isn’t a dramatic one. But here’s the truth. For the past few weeks I’ve been in this place of emotional & spiritual…sluggishness. I’ve felt less passionate & more worn, less motivated & more distracted. I’ve been here before. And the moment I realize where I’m at, I want out.

I love when my feet are moving steadily in life. I love when passion moves me so greatly that it causes me to start running. There are also times in life when something will happen & I have to crawl for while. But at least there’s forward motion.

That’s why I dislike this place so much. I feel like I’m trying to walk while I’m knee deep in mud. Does that make sense?

I haven’t been consistent submerging myself in God’s word. And that’s what I need – to be consistently submerged. Not sprinkled to feel good but drenched! But when I’m not consistent in this, it causes my heart to start drying out. I know what the result will be if I put my guard down, but I allow myself to passively slide down into this ditch. And the thirst grows greater.

My focus then becomes fixed on what is wrong, instead of the One who renews & refreshes us daily, the God that changes hearts & the Savior that transforms lives.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5

Yep. That cycle.

But He is here. He is always where I’m at. And He continues to demonstrate the endlessness of His grace. When my feet become bogged down, it causes me to look up more intensely. When I’m having trouble moving on my own, it truly makes me rely on Him more fully.

He is showing me that it is ok to be still & to even feel stuck. Even if my feet don’t feel like they’re going anywhere, I can stay focused on Him. That is what matters. That is what He wants.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Proverbs 4:25

What a beautiful, merciful & gracious God.

What love.

Have you been in this place I’m describing? Maybe you’re there now. We might be sitting next to each other.

Well, we are not alone. Our God remains faithful & is with us. And this is my prayer for us – for you, dear friend.

Lord Jesus,
We come to You right now feeling empty, stuck & even frustrated. You are acquainted with our hearts & see into the depths of our souls. There is no hiding from You. So we honestly express the weariness we are feeling & we desperately cry out to you for the freedom that only You can give. Please come into these places in our lives & hearts that feel so dry & motionless. We know that if we keep our eyes focused on You, You will guide us out of every ditch, over every mountain & through every valley. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I declare my God as faithful!

Movement in the Silence

One song can change a moment, one idea can change a world, one step can start a journey, but a prayer can change the impossible. -Unknown

I was recently reminded that the God that holds the universe together, is also working in the smallest of details in our lives.

After meeting a girl years ago, she & I were recently reconnected. I step back & look at all the details & elements that caused our paths to cross again & the fingerprints of God are obvious. She & I had no idea that we would ultimately become so close after only spending a couple hours together many years ago. I know God is doing this in every situation of our lives whether we’re aware of it or not; whether we can see it or not.

There are prayers that I have prayed for months- even years, but have not yet seen anything change. After a while I begin to feel discouraged when I don’t see all the loose ends tied up. I know that the Lord hears me, but if I’m completely honest, I get frustrated sometimes when I can’t physically see Him working. I want everything to come together perfectly, in my timing. Put it in a box, tie a pretty little bow around it & call it answered.

But I’ve realized something. If I have faith that God hears me & is working, then the silence I feel just means He is patiently orchestrating details behind the scenes where I cannot see. I could try to force random pieces of a puzzle together, but it would not look anything like it was meant to. It takes time, patience & knowing what that puzzle was created to look like. Only God himself knows that about our lives.

May we never confuse silence for idleness. We can be confident in the fact that God is moving, even in the silence.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for & assurance about what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

Casually crossing someone’s path today could bring about a strong friendship years from now. A decision we made months ago could lead to an extraordinary opportunity today. A loving word spoken to someone could eternally impact that person’s heart. These things happen because He is in our every situation, every detail & every breath.

He is arranging every moment of our day to complete a beautiful masterpiece of our lives. It would seem to me that a perfect God would not want to dirty His hands in the messy details of our imperfect lives. But He does. And the reason He does is almost too great to comprehend.

He LOVES us.

He loves YOU.

He is in the midst of your situation & He is working.

He isn’t blindly grabbing at unpredictable details to put them together & attempt to make some sort of sense of them. No, His fingerprint & sovereign grasp is on every element & He is lovingly holding & using them to bring you good. He is bringing you closer to His heart & directing your feet to step into the greatness of your destiny.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Precious friend, even though you cannot see or understand everything that is going on, be confident in knowing that your God does. He has strategically placed you where you are. He has set you among the people you know for a reason. He is walking with you through this situation & He is working it for your good.

He sees you. He is right there with you. He delights in you. And He is tying it all together to wrap His goodness & love oh-so-tightly around you.

I declare my God as faithful.

Noise & Distraction

I’ve realized something.
I feel like I’m asking God to speak to me while yelling over the chaos in my life. When He speaks, His words are sometimes really hard to decipher through all the loud noise & distraction.
I ask Him to clearly speak to me without making sure that I’m clearly listening.
This really struck me after I saw after I saw 1 Corinthians 10:23 taped on a friends refrigerator.
You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is beneficial.
I’m not even talking about things that are obviously wrong or unhealthy. I’m talking about the things that aren’t really good or bad…they’re just there.
That show. That event. That music. That project. 
I am discovering the refreshment that stepping back gives my soul. And as I continue to reassess where I’m sacrificing my time & to whom I’m surrendering my heart, I encourage you to also be intentional about what you’re listening to, watching, or investing your time in. 
There’s no time better spent then talking with & listening to the One who created you.
I declare my God as faithful.

Right Now

I am on my knees. Lifting my eyes up to the One who created me. Desperately in need of & overwhelming thankful for the grace & love He is pouring over me. Like the refreshment that cool water brings to a weary traveler, I too am looking upwards as heaven rains on me. Wounds are being cleaned out & starting to heal. It’s a healing I have never known. The truth of God’s word is finding new places in my heart to consume… parts of my heart that were previously closed off.
Are you in a place right now that feels deathly dry? Or maybe you feel a thousand miles away from anyone even when you’re standing in a crowd of people. Maybe the messiness in your life has caused you to step away from loving, growing or accepting yourself & others. Don’t wait until you feel like you have cleaned up your heart & life enough to approach the throne of God. That time will never come. Don’t wait until you can muster up the energy on your own to be able to “handle” the things you know need attention. It won’t happen. He wants you exactly as you are, at this exact moment. Healing & renewal can come from no one else except Jesus. It can come from nothing else except for His endless love.
Endless love. It does not run out. Ever. No matter what you say or do. It does not stop. He is just as passionate about you on your good days as He is for you on the days you feel less-than. Your mess, your desires, your baggage, your pain, your anger, your anxiety, your imperfections, your regrets; they are grains of sand compared to the ocean of love & grace Jesus has for you.
 

“Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” Deuteronomy 7:9

No matter what you’re facing this week, Jesus is there. He is already there. He is the there with you in the pain. And is there in the healing. He is there in your unknowns. They are not unknowns to Him. He is there, my beautiful sister.
 
You are worth it. You are beautiful. I declare my God as faithful.

Is Jesus Enough

Something inside my heart has been awoken for the first time. Something in me that I was unaware of. Recently, our pastor presented the question, “Is Jesus enough?” Of course that question is rhetorical. And I know the answer is yes.  My brain answered immediately.
But I was surprised at the sting my heart felt from that question. Very surprised. During the next couple of weeks, my husband & I realized that the same question has repeatedly shown up from different sources. It is now a theme. And we got the hint.
I know that Jesus is enough. But can I be completely transparent with you? I don’t know if I live like I do. In some areas of my life I do. Usually the areas that are easier to give up control in, if I’m honest with myself. But when I press deeply into that question, in it’s very core & rawness, I don’t know if I have believed it.
Is Jesus enough …as long as my husband has a good job?
Is Jesus enough …as long as I have a big house?
Is Jesus enough …as long as I can lose the baby weight I put on?
Is Jesus enough …as long as I can be in control?
Is Jesus enough …as long as I don’t hurt in life?
Is Jesus enough …as long as my emotions feel it?
Is Jesus enough …as long as life goes the way I plan it?
Or is Jesus enough …PERIOD.
Oh I desperately want Him to be. I want Him to be all that I crave, love & know. He IS enough whether I believe it or not. But how would my life change if I really believed it & lived it? How would my relationships, words, life, heart & world be transformed? What would it look like if I stopped dancing in the gray area & just jumped into what I know to be right, true, honest, pure? What if.
No more what ifs.
Jesus, You are enough. Your sufficiency is not dictated by circumstance, emotion or what I can understand. Despite what I face. Despite when I hurt. You are enough. I believe that You will walk with me on this journey of chasing after Your heart. You do not ask me to be perfectly clean & have my life all put together nicely before I approach You. You are just asking me to trust You right now, with my mess & all. You love me unconditionally. You ask me to give You control. You are good. You know me better than I will ever know myself. So I trust You. And although there will be days where I feel weak, overwhelmed & hesitant, I know those emotions do not separate me from You. You are there & You remain enough.
 
“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory & strength” ~Psalm 89:15-17~
JESUS, YOU ARE ENOUGH.
I love you, friends. I declare my God as faithful…& enough

A Wounded Heart

Hello wonderful friend.

I’m afraid I’ve caught myself going through the motions of life again. It’s so frustrating when I break out of something then have re-“ah-ha” moment & realize that the mediocrity I’ve tried to avoid has once again emerged. How frustrating.

I started this blog because I was tired of wearing a mask. Whether or not anyone read it, I was still putting my heart into writing and acknowledging that even though I am a mess, Jesus has saved me & He remains faithful in my life. I needed to put myself out there in order to heal. If you just put a band-aid on a wound that requires more than that, it doesn’t heal & can even become infected. The Lord told me to be vulnerable with you; to be bold in my proclamation of His promises & to not be afraid of my imperfections & weaknesses.

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

He has spoken gently to me, assuring me that my heart is safe with Him. He has shown me His faithfulness over & over again & has used situations in the past year, situations of both rejoicing and mourning, to show me He does not change. I know He has is growing me. And as He does, He has opened my eyes to different parts of my life that need to change.

The word “wholeheartedly” has been popping up everywhere. Does that ever happen to you? A word or verse or concept that keeps showing up everywhere you look? After seeing it a few times, I realized that Jesus was telling me He wants access to EVERY part of my heart so that I can love & serve Him WHOLEHEARTEDLY. I immediately responded with “You do have my whole heart.” But I began to realize that I have had parts of my heart closed so tightly that I haven’t even let Jesus into them. By trying to keep them isolated, I have unintentionally kept Jesus out as well. They are areas that are so dark & overwhelming that I have sealed them up, thinking that if I just closed that chapter & moved on as the new person I have become, it would be all right. But it is not all right. I put a band-aid on wounds that needed more than that.

So, sweet friend, if you think about me, would you please pray for me during this process? Some wounds need to be re-opened to be properly cleaned out so that they can heal properly, which will undoubtedly be painful. But I am excited to give Jesus access into every part of my heart & life. I am tired of wincing at the very idea that my beautiful Savior would see how unclean I truly am. I know I can’t hide things from Him, yet I’ve acted like I could. He knows. I know He knows. I think I’ve just been scared of the pain that addressing all of this would bring. But I’m more afraid of not giving Jesus everything I am. That is why I am thankful for the loving guidance He has been giving me on this beautiful & messy journey. I know my heart is safe with Him. I know that He will lead me safely through this.

He has always known about these parts of my heart, yet He still loves me! Nothing is hidden from Him, yet He loves me! He is patient & kind. So I am inviting Him to mold my heart to look more like His. It’s time for FREEDOM.

 
Please let me know if I can talk with you or pray for you about anything specific as well.

I declare my God as faithful!

Full of Thanks

I think it’s so great when we all come together & discuss the same thing. I’ve been really enjoying everyone’s Facebook statuses & Tweets about what they are thankful for. I’ve read everything from, “I’m so thankful for my family” to “I’m thankful for our soldiers”, all the way to “I’m thankful for chocolate…of any kind”. I’m thankful for all of the above! And sure, that last one may have been mine, but I am. No really.

I have so much to be thankful for. This year has been amazing. Not without it’s challenges, but amazing. As I write this, my sweet little 3 month old is cooing away in her little swing, just telling me all sorts of stories. Her face lights up when our dog walks by or she hears something familiar. Oh Jesus, thank you for her. She is my heart.

Every thanksgiving season I always see Philippians 4:6 at some point. Whether it’s in an email, on Facebook or in a card. I love it. It always reminds me of how my husband & I began learning what true thankfulness looks like during the first year we were married. What an awesome verse. And what a gift it’s been to learn this with my best friend.

Philippians 4:6&7 says,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We went from being thankful for the good days, to being thankful for the good in every day. And there sure is a very big difference between the two! Even in times of pain, uncertainty or confusion, there is always something greater & good to be thankful for. This is not always easy to do & the Lord knows it doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’m thankful that my God is patient with me as I continue to learn & practice this truth. I’m in awe of how He continues to show me what this looks like on a grander scale. There are those of you in my life that have had major tragedy happen and remain thankful for God’s goodness & faithfulness. You bless me & everyone around you. And I’m thankful for the examples you are! I’m thankful for the women who have & continued to pour into my life!

I’m also so very grateful for the sweet, peaceful seasons of rest & renewal too! Our God is a good God. He is just as present & in control on our sad days as He is on our happy ones.

Above all, I am thankful that God loves us! And I am thankful that His love for us is so great that He offers us the gift of salvation. Freely. No strings attached. Ours forever. All we have to do is accept it! That’s a pretty good deal, right?

My God is good. He is my Salvation. And I declare my God as faithful!