The 8 of 2018

I’ve been putting off this blog post for a while now, mostly because it feels so much more real and vulnerable than some of the others I have written lately. Even though this whole fall has been incredibly intense and personal in general, I have purposefully written my blogs in a way that creates enough space for anyone reading it to connect it to themselves.

This blog post is just me, it is my story.

Every year, our pastor chooses a word or theme, and challenges us to do the same for the coming year. A couple of years ago, my theme was Never Dull, which you can read about here and was very much re-teaching me how beautiful and full life was in all moments. Life is Never Dull.

Last year, I had TEN words; It was ridiculous… Actually, in all honesty, I forgot about them a couple of months into the year. The chaos of the year overtook me, and it wasn’t until a friend mentioned them in a conversation sometime in October or so that I went back to my prayer journals to look them up again. – I was blown away to see that every single one of those words is what God was working on in me throughout 2017… Whether I remembered them or not didn’t actually change the fact that God worked on them in me despite what the year threw at me… The year was anything but peaceful, calm, tranquil, still etc…

I began praying about 2018 in October.

I started praying about it because I was feeling overwhelmed, fear-filled, and realizing that my heart didn’t trust God in a pretty substantial area.
I knew I needed to press in even more and let God work in and through me.
I knew that God had been speaking to me to “Hold Steadfast, Persevere, be Obedient.” But, I didn’t quite feel like these were the words or theme for 2018. And then November 2nd (a day when I was fasting), I felt like God clearly spoke to me “Love is patient“. And that has been rolling around in my head and heart since. The last six months has been one thing to the next that God is working on in me to rebuild and restore the trust that He didn’t damage. – But, even still, these are not the words or themes for 2018.

So, without even intending to, the word “Change” popped into my head out of nowhere as I drove back to DC from Atlanta. I was returning home after visiting my brother and his family for Thanksgiving; and road trips, along with the ocean seem to create space for my brain to think, process, and almost breathe deeply. However, because I always process and mull over things intensely, I began to think through how change was probably more my own self, and not from God. You see, not only am I accustomed to change, I love it (see all my random hair changes). I am used to major life change happening every couple of years, so I wasn’t confident that the word wasn’t just constructed by me. Yet, as I prayed over change, it seemed less of a tangible change (like previously it was new jobs, moving, etc..), and more of this feeling to “Watch and See the change around you. Change that I Am is going to do before your eyes without you controlling it.” – Yet, change just felt like my comfort zone word. So, after a week or so of praying over it, I decided to reach out to three girlfriends, and I asked them to pray for me/over me for my word or theme for 2018. I explained to them that I maybe had the word, but I was really uncertain, so without telling them my word, I wanted them to pray and come back to me and let me know what God spoke to them.

For the record… I very much love this accidental practice of asking other people to pray over/for you for your word/theme for the coming year; I will probably continue it in the future.

Four days later, the first girlfriend, in the middle of a conversation talking about something totally different, suddenly stopped and said, “Ok, the Lord told me that I have to share this word with you. I had that sudden check in my spirit and pit in my stomach.. So I have to tell you the word…” She had been praying for days and felt like she had a word, but also didn’t think it made sense and kept trying to pray for a different word; but in that moment, she was confident that the Holy Spirit wanted her to share it.

Watch. As in, step back and watch, observe and see all that God is going to do with anticipation.

Instantly, I knew that both Change and Watch were so interconnected that they were accurate. Confirmation. The feel descriptions that came with both words rolled one to the other exactly right and I knew that these two words had settled for 2018.

About a day later, the second girlfriend came and said, “I have three words.” (oh gosh)

The first is Re-Make. As in, let God remake you, remake and cultivate your foundation, changing who you are. Which you and He are already doing, but will continue and look different in 2018.
The second is Anticipant. – I don’t know that I’ve ever said the word Anticipant in my whole life. But, you need to be anticipant of what the Lord is going to do. Which leads to the third word, I think both of these words are going to restore Hope in you.
So, the third is Hope. God is going to remake your Hope, and you need to be open and anticipant of what He’s doing.

Change. Watch. Remake. Anticipant. Hope.

Are you noticing a theme?

The next day, the third girlfriend came and said, “I have two words.” (And then the next day said, “Actually, I have a third word, but I didn’t want to tell you the last one and wasn’t sure about it, so I needed to pray over it some more.“)

Open. Open-minded, Open-hearted, Open-handed. All three require dependence on him, abiding in following, and humility/soft heart. Which you’ve been doing, and I’ve seen start being more of a consistent trait in you.
Cultivate. Similar to open in that God has been helping you cultivate a bridge between your head and your heart. But it’s also a 2.0 feeling of cultivating new: community, career, you’re own voice, how you follow Him, hear His voice, and your character.
Pruning. One of my favorite explanations of pruning is that it doesn’t have anything to do with cutting or getting rid of what’s dead or not growing. Pruning has to do with there’s a limited amount of healthy supply and nutrients a plant can divide up. So pruning is all about prioritizing what is healthy and what/who gets your resources to remain healthy and balanced. Maintaining that balance takes cultivating.

In all honesty, the word Pruning gave me a little bit of ptsd from the end of 2013, and the entire year of 2014. Easily the hardest year and a half of my life, and one that took me almost all of 2015 to heal and recover from. Yet, after talking through it, it would seem that this pruning is more about creating space for God to do and move the way He wants to, creating a more healthy me in the process… Not so much the pain involved in severe pruning like 2014 was for me.

Change. Watch. Remake. Anticipant. Hope. Open. Cultivate. Pruning.

One of the things that is I think the most unusual thing about this whole process and these words, is that with each word and the description of the feelings behind them rolled right into each of the next words. I talked more about these words with the three of my girlfriends together after I had all of the words, and it seems pretty clear that this year will be So intense. So challenging. – But not painful in an injury way.

Like, the difference between something being difficult and getting hurt vs being difficult and getting injured. Maybe a better way to say is it will be the type of pain involved when you exercise; you are breaking down muscles, making them sore and tired, but ultimately building them up and becoming stronger with more endurance in the process.

I believe very much that 2018 will be challenging, and full of intense growth, but that it will not be the type of painful that injures me; instead, I think this year will be the type of pain that comes with exercising.

I have passages of scripture for six of the eight the words for 2018:

Change – Romans 11:29 (ISV), 1 Samuel 10:6
Watch – Micah 7:7
Remake – Colossians 3:10
Anticipant – Psalm 40:1
Hope – Romans 4:18
Open
Cultivate – Psalm 90:12, 37:3
Pruning

                       The 8 of 2018.

I cannot even begin to pretend like I know all (or any) of what the Lord will do this year. I wish so much that I could have specifics, know exactly what I’m working towards.

Because I am who I am,
I want to grow faster and do better in this process.

But, that’s actually the point… growing faster and doing better isn’t at all what 2018 is going to be about.

What I do know, is that these eight words are the areas that God is going to work on in me and through me.
He has every intention of rebuilding the areas of my heart where Trust in Him and His faithfulness is broken or simply not there.
He plans to use 2018 to completely change me, and make me more into the woman that He has intended for me to be all along.
He plans to use this year as a banner year to look back on, point to all the things that He did, and because of 2018, I will better be able to give Him honor and glory.
This year, I also have no doubt that I will learn how to hear Him and follow Him better.

But mostly, this year I will learn to Trust Him and believe in His complete Faithfulness.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:6-8

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,  and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:4-8

 

Doubting God…

This is a really long post, but it is worth it for you to take the time to read through all of it. – Especially if you are working through doubting God.

I’ve mentioned this before, but somewhere back in June I began asking God to reveal the lies I had been believing, and the hope I had lost. – It was a challenge *I think* issued to our staff from our lead Pastor, but… It could have been one of our other pastors as well… I am not entirely sure the accurate genesis of this whole process for me.

While on mission and leading a team in Uganda, God began to do just that, He began to sift through my heart and show me primarily one area that I was believing total lies couched in actually accurate logic; plus, super fun: The hope I had lost was directly connected to the lies.

*shocking to no one*

Almost six months later, God and I are still working through these lies. The intensity, the clarity, confusion, processing, mulling things over, and emotions that are connected to working through these lies and hope lost varies day-to-day and week-to-week. Some days it is just overwhelming and I cannot possibly do anymore thinking or praying or processing through my heart with God. Other days there are incredible amounts of revelation and clarity, soon followed by so much thankfulness to God for His patience and graciousness to me.

Last week, while I was reading through scripture – which primarily is currently working my way through the Psalms, I found myself for no real reason flipping to James 1 (this is the NLT version) again. I have found myself bouncing back to James regularly lately, so I began to read once more… Only this time I was stuck on this one passage:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” – James 1:5-8 (NASB version)

What kind of doubting is being talked about here? Is it all doubts that you’re praying through? Is there a Greek wording context that I’m missing?

What I knew is that I am struggling with doubting God in one particular area of my life. We have been working on this area since the summer, but the reality is I am still afraid, I still doubt, and while I know in many areas of my life that God is so gracious and full of love and tenderness… In this *one little area* I seem to believe to my core that God isn’t for me, that He will pull the rug out from underneath me, and that I will be left hurting again.

(I’m leaving the area I struggle with purposefully vague, because I want you to be able to identify your own area of struggle, not get distracted by the particular area where I struggle to trust God.)

So, as with all things that I want to know every possible expounding bit of information about, I reached out to my dad and posted on his Facebook wall, because surely someone else would benefit from this info too!

I wanted to share what my dad said because this matters, and the solution is of the utmost importance.

My actual post to his wall:
Pappersan!

I’m reading James 1.. (Which I seem to come back to lately about once a week haha)

Ok, so question about a couple verses:

James 1:5-8 (ISV)
“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without any doubts, for the one who has doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. Such a person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he undertakes.”

I’m assuming that he isn’t talking about basic doubts, but a deeper/larger doubts here? – Because it would seem contradictory to ask in faith, to press in and pray for/through things without also working on the human side of struggling and doubting on a basic level.

I ask for wisdom CONSTANTLY in my prayers, and have my whole life… but I also know that I struggle with doubts. I don’t at all see the problem with that since in my doubting and struggling and trying to cling onto faith I am turning to God with all of this…

So, my question then is what type of doubts is he saying makes you double minded? Because this would seem to be contradictory to the working out our faith in fear and trembling idea.

Here is the response from my Dad, along with his answer to my follow-up question about what scripture says we can do/need to do to overcome our doubts:

OK, first, there are a lot of different types of “doubting,” some of them distinguished by different words, some by context. Unfortunately, many translations use the same word for all of these.

1) “Unbelief” (ἀπιστία – literally, “not faith”). This is being confident that it will not happen. This is actually having a very strong faith that something is not true, or will not happen. Example: Thomas.

Thomas, one of the Twelve (called the Twin), wasn’t with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he told them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger into them, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe!” A week later his disciples were again inside, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were shut, Jesus came, stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he told Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Take your hand, and put it into my side. Stop DOUBTING [literally, “Stop unbelieving”], but believe.”
(Joh 20:24-27)

2) Waiver back and forth (διστάζω – literally “duplicate, think twice”). This word is derived from the word “twice,” which is derived from the word “two.” This is when you literally waiver back and forth in the moment, trusting God, and then immediately not trusting Him. You can’t make up your mind, wavering back and forth. Example: Peter.

“Have courage!” Jesus immediately told them. “It’s me. Stop being afraid!” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come on!” So Peter got down out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came to Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he was frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, save me!” At once Jesus reached out his hand, caught him, and asked him, “You who have so little faith, why did you DOUBT [literally “waiver back and forth”]?”
(Mat 14:27-31)

3) Talk yourself out of believing (διαλογισμός – literally “through reason” or “through thinking”). We sometimes call this “over thinking” something. This is when you often start out having faith, but gradually talk yourself out of that faith, think through the reasons why God probably won’t answer, and logically conclude that it probably won’t happen. Example: Disciples

While they were all talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and told them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost. But Jesus told them, “What’s frightening you? And why are you DOUBTING [literally “talking yourself out of believing”]?
(Luk 24:36-38)

4) Separate your faith from yourself (διακρίνω – literally “to make a judgment” or “to distinguish between yourself”). This is the most common word for doubt, and is used two ways: of general doubts about the faith, and of specific doubts about a specific situation. The implication here is that you actually have faith, and are not being true to yourself and what you KNOW that you believe. 

Everyone has general doubts from time to time. What we are supposed to overcome are the specific doubts.

A) General doubts.
Example: New Believers

But you, dear friends, must continue to build your most holy faith for your own benefit. Furthermore, continue to pray in the Holy Spirit. Remain in God’s love as you look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, which brings eternal life. Show mercy to those who have DOUBTS.
(Jud 1:20-22)

B) Specific doubts.
Example: Praying believers

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without any DOUBTS, for the one who has DOUBTS is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
(Jas 1:5-6)

The idea on this last one is that we are actually insulting God, or treating Him like he is not trustworthy or faithful. This is when we pray for something, but deep down inside, we don’t really believe He’s going to answer this specific prayer. He might answer other prayers, but not this one.

This is akin to telling someone that they can call you at any time, and you will help them. And when they do call you, it is clear from their attitude and tone that they do NOT actually believe you are going to follow through. 

THAT is what James is talking about. When we KNOW God is faithful, and will answer this particular prayer, but we doubt Him ANYWAY!

Solutions found in scripture:

OK, the solutions to the problems of doubting.

It does not appear that the various kinds of doubting have different solutions. From the strong doubts that are actually negative faith, being certain it won’t happen (unbelief) to the common general doubts, there are the same recommendations. In other words, the principles for building faith are pretty much the same no matter what kind of doubts you have.

1) Fasting and prayer. We are encouraged to fast and pray in areas where we might have doubts, so that our doubts can be overcome, and our faith gradually take over.

As they approached the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, knelt down in front of him, and said, “Sir, have mercy on my son, because he is an epileptic and suffers terribly. Often he falls into fire and often into water. I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.” Jesus replied, “You unbelieving and perverted generation! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me!” Then Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him, and the boy was healed that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He told them, “Because of your LACK OF FAITH [1) unbelief]. I tell you with certainty, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.”
(Mat 17:14-21)

2) Listen to and be encouraged by the testimony of those who have experienced God’s faithfulness. We are encouraged to use the testimony of God’s faithfulness in other people to build our own faith, and silence our doubts.

After Jesus had risen early on the first day of that week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Jesus and who now were grieving and crying. When they heard that he was alive and that he had been seen by her, they REFUSED TO BELIEVE Mary [1) unbelief]. After this, Jesus appeared in a different form to two disciples as they were walking into the country. They went back and told the others, who didn’t believe them, either. Finally he appeared to his eleven disciples while they were eating. He rebuked them for their UNBELIEF [1) unbelief] and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who had seen him after he had risen.
(Mar 16:9-14)

3) ACT on what we know to be true, in areas where we do have faith. If we act on the faith that we do have, it will silence the doubts in other areas, and build our overall faith.

Now the apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the gentiles had also accepted the word of God. But when Peter went up to Jerusalem, those who emphasized circumcision disagreed with him. They said, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” Then Peter began to explain to them point by point what had happened. He said, “I was in the town of Joppa praying when in a trance I saw a vision: Something like a large linen sheet descended down from heaven, lowered by its four corners, and it came right down to me. When I examined it closely, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter! Kill something and eat it.’ But I replied, ‘Absolutely not, Lord, for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ Then the voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘You must stop calling common what God has made clean!’ This happened three times. Then everything was pulled back up to heaven. “At that very moment three men arrived at the house where we were staying. They had been sent to me from Caesarea. The Spirit told me to go with them WITHOUT HESITATING [4) Separate your faith from yourself]. These six brothers went with me, too, and we entered the house of the man from Caesarea.
(Act 11:1-12)

Warning on number 3: This is specifically about acting on those areas where we have faith, so that our faith can be built up. That is NOT the same as acting on areas where we have serious struggles with doubt. We are actually warned NOT to act if we have unbelief. The scripture does NOT teach that if we do not believe, we just need to jump out there and do it, and pretend that we believe, and eventually we will believe. It actually teaches the opposite: if we have serious doubts, or unbelief about something, then it won’t happen, no matter what we DO.

We are told to act in areas where we have faith, and that will build our trust in God in areas where we have doubt.

In other words, scripture does not teach us to take blind “leaps of faith” when we are struggling with unbelief. If there is an area where we have serious doubts, scripture teaches us to first build our faith, and once our faith has been built up, then STEP OUT IN FAITH in areas where we USED to have doubts.

As for the faith you do have, have it as your own conviction before God. How blessed is the person who has no reason to condemn himself because of what he approves! But the person who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not act in faith; and anything that is not done in faith is sin.
(Rom 14:22-23)

4) Refuse to let circumstances dictate our faith. Discipline our mind to rule our emotions.

His faith did not weaken when he thought about his own body (which was already as good as dead now that he was about a hundred years old) or about Sarah’s inability to have children, nor did he doubt [4) separate your faith from yourself] God’s promise out of a lack of faith [1) unbelief]. Instead, his faith became stronger and he gave glory to God, being absolutely convinced that God would do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now the words “it was credited to him” were written not only for him but also for us. Our faith will be regarded in the same way, if we believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was sentenced to death because of our sins and raised to life to justify us.
(Rom 4:19-25)

5) Cry out to God for help in areas where we continue to struggle with doubt. God listens to desperate cries for help.

So they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into convulsions. He fell on the ground and kept rolling around and foaming at the mouth. Then Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He said, “Since he was a child. The spirit has often thrown him into fire and into water to destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us!” Jesus told him, “‘If you are able?’ Everything is possible for the person who believes!” With tears flowing, the child’s father at once cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that won’t let him talk or hear—I command you to come out of him and never enter him again!” The spirit screamed, shook the child violently, and came out. The boy was like a corpse, and many said that he was dead. But Jesus took his hand and helped him up, and he stood up.
(Mar 9:20-27)

6) Remain faithful to God during trials, and they will harden and strengthen your faith.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you are involved in various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But you must let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
(Jas 1:2-4)

7) Regularly feed yourself with the Word of God, then the Holy Spirit will bring it alive, this will water your faith, and help it to grow.

Then the tempter came. “Since you are the Son of God,” he said, “tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One must not live on bread alone, but on every word coming out of the mouth of God.'”
(Mat 4:3-4)

I am hands down, all the struggle of the third type of doubting.
I “logically” talk myself out of faith in God.

It. Is. Terrible.

God has been speaking to me a lot since the summer; as in a whole heck of a lot. He has answered prayers, and spoken to me in the ways I’ve asked to confirm what I’m praying for/over/through (via dreams, fasting, words from friends, scripture etc..). The problem is, it always starts out renewing my faith and trust, and then, over time I begin to fear again and doubt if what I heard was just me wishful thinking. – This is why journaling my prayers has been crucial to this whole process for me, it allows me to go back and re-read the exact day. I get to read through the prayers, what I asked, how I asked for Him to speak, and the answers I have gotten along the way.

This is when you often start out having faith, but gradually talk yourself out of that faith, think through the reasons why God probably won’t answer, and logically conclude that it probably won’t happen.” – This is me in my struggle to work through the lies that have found themselves entrenched deeply within my heart. Or maybe, a better way to say it is, I start out hopeful, and as God speaks to me I find my hope full, yet as time goes, I find myself struggling to not grasp fully onto my fear and desire for control. I desire to protect and keep myself safe rather than fully and totally trusting God, His timing, and His plan.

I have begun to detail out and write down explicitly the fears and doubts I have. I have started telling God every bit of what I think is going to happen in my fear, with my lack of trust in Him, the areas I do not believe He is for me, and how I feel regardless of what I know to be true about Him in other areas of my life. I have also started begging Him to help me see these things, face them, and then give them over to Him totally.

  • Just because God’s timing is not mine, that does not make Him untrustworthy.
  • Just because I experience pain, that does not mean that God is cruel.
  • Just because I pray a lot for something, that doesn’t mean that God is going to do things my way.
  • Just because I ask God to release me from something, that does not mean it is what is best for me.
  • Just because I don’t understand, that does not mean that God doesn’t have the whole picture clearly before Him.
  • Just because I hear God speak clearly in one part of the journey does not mean He will explain every bit of it to me.
  • Just because God tells me something months ago, and then hasn’t updated anything, that does not mean what He said is no longer valid.
  • Just because I am afraid and doubt, that does not mean that God is not tender and patient and faithful to me and my process.

If you are doubting, if you are losing faith:
Renew your process and press into our Savior. Jesus is there with the Holy Spirit to meet you. But, be aware, letting go of doubts is not easy, nor is it a pretty process; it’s raw, and very painful. And, never forget that the enemy of your soul is plotting against you with carefully crafted tactics to prevent this process from taking place. – Because the enemy of our soul is an @$$hole.

Yet, even still, our Lord is tender, patient, gracious, merciful and so incredibly faithful and trustworthy to you and your process. He wants to be a part of you giving your doubts, fears, and struggles to Him; no part of this is meant for you to do alone without His help.

You are not without hope in your doubting.

Changing Slowly…

Lately I have been taking time to reflect on where I am internally compared to where I was almost five months ago.

Throughout each year, there are markers that serve as points to pause, reflect and compare to a year ago… Yet, this time, rather than reflecting on a year ago, I find myself processing how much has happened inside of me since July of this year. I went into Uganda struggling very much internally, but not even really in a place to recognize it because of how hard and hectic May and June had been in every regard.

Before we left, I had begun asking God to reveal the lies I had been believing, and to restore hope where I had lost it… Then I closed that box of my heart, and got on a plane and launched myself to another continent.

Twice on the flight over I was asked how my heart was doing because people who know me, are aware of how much I struggle and have to actively work to link my head and heart well. I have had a habit of locking my heart up and setting it aside, especially if I am uncertain or overwhelmed by what I’m feeling.

Perfectly timed, around that same time before we left for Uganda, I also began asking God to help me navigate my head and heart well together. I had started to realize that Grace and Truth as well as Head and Heart are the balance of the Holy Spirit. God is perfectly both sides in unison, and in order to be more like Him, and more sensitive to His guidance, I too needed to start learning how to balance these things rather than setting one aside.

I was not prepared for the answer God was going to give me, nor the longevity of what it would mean to get the answers to these prayers.

I actually think if I had known how long and hard this all would be, I would have peaced out and quit right from the beginning. I am fairly confident I  would have shut my heart down and opted out of the process to protect my heart had I known the pain and struggle involved. Yet, one of the many graces in this whole journey has actually been my lack of knowing God’s timing. – I struggle with it all the time (as in allllll the time), but not knowing has also created a reliance on Him that I simply did not have before. Not knowing God’s timing has been so good too because I was unaware of the depths of intensity it would take to fix and heal certain areas of my heart, and just what it would mean to restore the trust and hope in God that I had lost. – Back in July it was as though my prayer for help balancing my head and heart caused God to lock my heart in the open position; it has been exhausting and overwhelming almost every single day since.

Even still, almost five months later, I regularly feel overwhelmed by how I am feeling, the ways I am changing, and how far I still have to grow. About once a week I have a late night meltdown over how exhausted and weary I feel internally due to actively processing every day. I am given the option to choose to grow and learn more about who I am supposed to be in Christ, and to face the ways in which I lack in trust/faith/fruit of the spirit (throw a dart at some character trait and I’m probably working on that too)… I assure you, it is Not. Easy. Nor. Fun.

But, God does not force me, He allows me the freedom to choose to face these things or quit… However, because of who God has made me, I will not give up, and I will choose to daily engage in this process of growth and change.

My journal of prayers is getting record use (literally). The current one (each one is 40 sheets/80 pages) is my 4th one in just about four months…

But so that there is no patting me on the back with congratulations: My prayer journal just makes me look like a crazy person.

Seriously, going back and reading the day-to-day prayers, they just swing widely back and forth, it’s embarrassing, but also they are incredibly intimate and real. These prayers reflect my struggle, my anxiety, my fears, my heart wide open and effort that it all takes, but also the ever so slow changes that are taking place, and just about every emotion possible finds its way into my prayers.

These journals are very how I am choosing to press closer to God and processing all of my tension, thoughts, and emotions.. But, in all honesty, they just really make me look like a wackadoodle. I wish I could share about how sweet the prayers are, but no. The sheer level of back and forth my prayers exhibit is ridiculous; the overwhelming emotions, the joy, thankfulness, the over analyzing things, the confusion and uncertainty, the copied scripture trying to help me grasp onto solid truth amidst the chaos of feelings, the waffling ebb and flow with how I feel vs what my head knows… EXHAUSTING.

Yet, I am also currently reading through the book of Psalms: I feel like my journal looks a bit like David’s prayers and hymns.

Some are so sweet, loving, encouraging, full of thanksgiving, while others are all raging and demanding that God do something (usually an overreaction to an emotion or situation). Some are declarations of praise, faith, love, and hope, while others are full of anger, sorrow, and despair. – This could literally be the description of my prayer journals AND the book of Psalms… So, I guess that is comforting?

At the end of every journal (about every six weeks currently), I go back and review it. I re-read things I have prayed for, asked God about, passages of scripture I copied, and then compare them to my calendar and remember what was going on that day. Every few weeks I am amazed at all that the Lord has done, how I feel about those days after the fact or in light of things that happened a few days later. I marvel and thank God again for answers to prayers, and for His continued patience, grace, and tenderness as I try to press in, learn, and grow.

But, let’s be honest: It. Is. So. Hard.

Several months ago I felt like God told me three things:
Hold Steadfast.
Persevere.
Be Obedient.

Then about a month ago I felt like God added Faith, Hope, Love.

As I review my journals, I am amazed at what it looks like to hold steadfast, persevere, and be obedient, and how these three things play out (and don’t). Previously I never would have been able to accurately identify what it truly looks like to hold steadfast and persevere, because I struggle each day with them. – Before all of this, I would have felt as though the level of my struggle daily would clearly indicate I was not in fact holding steadfast; yet as I go back over my prayer journals, I realize in the long haul it absolutely does. Holding steadfast and persevering doesn’t mean a lack of experiencing emotions or struggle, it means turning to God with every single little bit of it, and remaining there with Him.

I have learned that holding steadfast and persevering throughout scripture leads to faith, hope and love… but also proven character. It is in the journey, the long haul, the process that we refine, create, and prove who we are at our foundational core. But, let’s not dismiss how much proving character takes time, and is incredibly difficult and oh so awkward of an imperfect process.

In the last couple of months I have begun to see the transformation, and just how much I am changed forever because of the time pressing into the Holy Spirit and expressing all the things to God. Choosing to return back to Him with every little thing has changed the way in which I handle joy, hope, failures or despair on a daily basis. Because of the difficulty of modifying who I am on the inside, there has been an increase in desire to spend dedicated time every day with God; I am not entirely sure I can name any period of time in my entire life that I felt this way for months on end… I am so incredibly grateful (and hope it continues, recognizing seasons of life and all).

I long for connection with God, I need time to tell Him how I am, ask for what I want, and process everything that I’m struggling with. Every day there is a nuance to the areas He is work on growing in me, and whatever is heavy on my heart or mulling around in my head that day also gets some much-needed time laid before Him.

Now months into this whole process, I realized this week, on one particularly intense and emotional day full of stress, frustration, anxiety etc.. I still had the clarity and presence of mind to actively choose my responses. I was not swept away in any explosion of emotion and even the intensity with which I experienced my feelings was still there just like before, but despite it all, I found myself able to actively chose grace and patience. – Well that’s new… and not easy.

I have started to realize over the last couple of weeks that the force with which I feel and experience my emotions has not changed at all. God has not lessened who I am or the passion and intensity that I process, feel or express things; instead, He has changed my ability to see perspective, have understanding, and respond in grace and love. It is as though the spring that feeds into my heart-well is different, and therefore what is coming out is also distinctively changed, but that I am who I have always been in many ways, just a better version of that person.

A couple small excerpts from one of my prayers at the end of a particularly difficult day recently:
Thank you for being with me and giving me the extra measure of grace, patience, and presence of mind to choose my responses…
Help me to follow your leading better tomorrow. Give me more wisdom and understanding, and bless me with a greater capacity to love well…
Forgive me for the things I said and did today that did not line up with you. Forgive me for the things I missed…
Show me how to trust you more and be confident in your faithfulness more…

It has been an interesting experience reading through my prayers over the last few months, I would never have chosen this ahead of time had I known how hard it would be. I also have realized that I would never have been able to predict beforehand the ways in which I would respond (good or bad) to how God would grow and make me new. Yet, through it all, I am starting to recognize the small ways He has shown up and proven Himself trustworthy and faithful. But, above all, recognizing this gaining familiarity with Him as I spend more time communicating with Him. His presence and “voice” feel different to me now than they did in July (or previous to that).

My daily struggle to hold steadfast, persevere, and be obedient is still going strong.
Learning how to love well is not easy.
Finding and growing my faith and hope feels ambiguous, but slowly I am realizing that it is creating a foundation I did not have previously.
Making decisions against my own insecurities, and choosing to share my heart rather than shut it down and set it aside is still incredibly hard.

I am not the same person I was a few months ago.
My heart has changed. I have changed.

It has been a slow sometimes arduous process, and it certainly is nowhere near complete, but I am also incredibly grateful… and exhausted.

I am learning that the process and journey is full of challenges and pain (there are good and joyful times too, but let’s be honest, we don’t need people to identify with our good times as much), but it is worth it to become more of who God intends for you to be.

Choose to face it all head on, experience every emotion, and sift through them with the creator of your heart; it will change you forever and it will be so good.

Getting Your Want Back…

A while ago I posted about the intense and intimate season God and I are in… I have had several people ask me what I’ve done to “get” that…

The honest answer: Go through a hard season and press into Jesus at the same time.

I’ve been through rough seasons before… Some way worse and others not as bad. Some I started in a super healthy place, and others I felt like I was dragging and clawing my way into the desert season already starving and dying.

Maybe you feel like you’re in pain and He’s absent or silent.
The passion has turned mundane or boring and bland.
The overwhelming feelings are negative… or maybe just a deep feeling of ambivalence.
Praying is more rote than meaningful.

Let’s be honest here, going through the motions suck (I would venture to use other descriptive words too.. but you get the idea), but when you don’t know what else to do… you sort of just keep plugging forward hoping something eventually gives or sticks and makes you feel differently. (Or maybe that’s just me)

It was probably 4-5 years that I ebbed and flowed between feeling nothing particularly interesting in my spiritual walk, a few moments of connection with the Lord, a few seasons of intense pain and struggling, and then grateful to feel pretty much just “ok” about God and I… But, honestly, nothing particularly fulfilling or satisfying, much less internally all-encompassing and changing.

My heart and soul were definitely in a drought season… and it was sprinkled with some rains to keep the well surviving, but definitely not life abundantly.

Don’t get me wrong, life had these amazing moments, incredibly fun weeks full of laughter and satisfaction; but, deep down, there was no deep and moving elements impacting my relationship with God… It just sorta, was there; plugging along like normal, mostly mundane and comfortably boring, but it was dedicated and persevering none the less.

I hated that.

I was also coming off of an intensely painful season of life, and it took me a long (long) time to find my way back to healthy. – Then it took me an even longer time (almost a full year) to desire to wrestle through how I felt about the idea that “The Best is Yet to Come” or that God wanted me to live a life of abundance that is full of joy… I really had totally forgotten what it felt like to feel overwhelming joy and peace that could only come from the Lord anyway.

Slowly, over the course of about a year and a half (2016 and into the beginning or 2017), I started desiring God again. I wanted to want a close intimate relationship with him again…

Here is where I’m supposed to actually tell you how to get your “want” back with the Lord… How to turn around from your struggles of connecting, to suddenly (realistically slowly) begin to rebuild and make it all better… To find that meaningful connection with God.

But, let’s be honest, as much as I wish I had a three-step process for you or a formula that is simple, the reality is, it just isn’t simple.
My journey isn’t yours.
My season isn’t where you find yourself.
My struggles are not where you are.
What worked for me isn’t a three-step process… It was much more all-encompassing.
The only thing I know is that I had to choose to press into the Lord no matter how I feel. – That was the biggest shift.

I had decided that no matter the time it took me each day, I needed God’s face in mine to deal with this season I was/am in.

Our heart, and our journey is complex; it’s hard and complicated, sometimes overwhelming, and full of sorrows. But, when it all boils down to it, when you’re ready, you have to desire a healthy relationship with our Lord more than you desire Netflix, dinner with friends, or any other activity or distraction. It takes determination, but mostly it takes setting aside of your pride and own selfishness.

If you have decided that in your pain, sorrow or struggle and with all of your feelings that you won’t turn to God and force it all onto Him… Then your pride is still in your way. What have I learned and continued to fight for? God to speak to me. Each day it looks more like an emotional, mental, physical $h!tshow that really isn’t pretty, but over time God is changing me, changing our communication, He is healing and slowly restoring what was broken and hurt.

So, no matter how you feel: You. Need. God. To. Fix. It.

How do you get your want back?
I don’t know, but I can share what I am doing now, and what I have been doing the last few months that HAS actually helped me get my want and desire back from the Lord.

God is speaking to me more in the last few months than He has maybe ever in my entire life. – But, I am also trying to connect with Him each day.

Music.

Sometimes. Eh, no, actually probably most of the time, worship music gives my heart, soul and spirit words to connect my emotions to my Sweet Savior that I just do not have on my own. I feel like in the dark and hard times of life, in the grateful, overwhelmed, and everything in between, worship music fills the air with the spirit and presence of God. When I’m hurting the most, I likely do not have the words to speak, but my emotions need to express anyway, and music creates a way to do that.

I believe that the Holy Spirit meets us in those moments and spaces where life just is hard and hurts… Or maybe we are longing and struggling. When we are trying to press into the Lord more, but just feel lost, abandoned, or maybe just too numb to feel Him there at all. – I think worship music creates a safe place for rest and is a salve to our raw hearts.

Recently I have found that my heart is struggling to choose Faith, Hope, and Love… and peace over anxiety and fear. The most tangible way I have found to calm the fear and anxiety is by playing worship music; when it is playing, my mind is paying attention and reciting the words, and subsequently, I’m not paying attention to the struggling, but rather speaking life into my own mind. It feels a bit like the words are washing over and through me.

So, find new worship music for whatever season you find yourself in, and let it wash over you and speak for your heart. – Ask me if you need some fresh recommendations.

Journaling.

The church I attend, is huge on journaling, taking notes, listing gratitudes, and writing down prayers. – I journal prayers.

Why?: Because we often forget our prayers, and then later lose track of being able to thank God for what He has done, and we are unable to give Him honor and glory later or point to the journey, process and miracles He did along the way.

Journaling prayers also makes me feel less crazy… And my prayers are more focused.

I have realized in the last year alone that I have written prayers on specific days or long forgotten prayers that the Lord amazingly showed up; He answered, He proved Himself faithful, He was present and He carried me through. And yet, I had forgotten all about the prayers and would never again remember them if I hadn’t written them down. Going back and re-reading them, I also didn’t realize I was lining my prayers up ahead of time for a specific reason or season… The level of awe and honor that God got and gets for how He worked in those seasons simply wouldn’t be possible without having written them down.

On the flip side, one of my absolute biggest regrets from the most painful season of my life (so far) was that I did not journal my prayers. I have no record of the nuances of ways that the Lord showed up and was present in my suffering. I cannot tell you the little ways that my Sweet Savior carried me when I was too numb to notice. I actually had to go back and spend some time apologizing to God for this, and now I tell everyone to journal prayers no matter how they feel! – God deserves the credit, but you’ll never see it in the midst of the pain, only afterwards will you find yourself blown away and grateful for what He did and how He showed up.

Praying.

Sounds simple, but prayer matters.. and not just prayer, but prayer on behalf of others, prayer every day for the same thing; repeatedly going to God over and over. Absolutely pray for yourself, but don’t forget petition for others, like pray as if their life depended on it (because it might).

There is just something about the needs and urgency of praying for and over other people that will put a bit more weight behind my prayers. More yearning and desiring for the Lord to answer and His faithfulness to shine through.

Read Yo Bible.

Yes, I know, seems obvious and maybe cliché, and you’re probably doing that already. – Unless you’re in a season like I was a few years ago, and I just Could. Not. Read. My. Bible.

But truly, find a topic, press in.
Find a book and begin – Psalms, Isaiah, Timothy, Ephesians, Philippians, John.. Somewhere, just start.

OR… Find themes/topics and research them.

The last couple of months for me has looked like this:
Find a word/theme,
Look up the definition for the word, then write down all the synonyms,
Biblegateway.com the word – usually in multiple version of the Bible,
Read through ALL of the different passages that have that word in it,
Expand some of the verses to get context or read the whole chapter,
Then, copy the pertinent verses into my journal…
Sometimes copy the passage in my journal in a couple different versions

It takes a long time. It’s worth it.

Fast.

Listen, I. Am. Bad. At. Fasting.

Actually, I’m pretty much just bad at fasting food… Everything else is pretty easy; which means I need to continue to fast food. *facepalm*

Like seriously, I’ve been legit practicing fasting over the last year or so… Thankfully, I’ve gotten significantly better, but dag yo, it’s hard. I’ve had to make clear rules and guidelines for myself to help me learn how to do it better. I’ve done just about everything wrong as I learn how to fast, including the “I actually just starved myself today because I forgot to pray or read my Bible while I fasted.” – Terrible.

It’s called a spiritual practice for a reason… You have to practice it in order to perfect it and get good.

Also, know SPECIFICALLY what you are fasting for. Unless you are an expert at fasting, you need something to focus all your prayers towards.

Have a plan. Set reminders, spend your lunch walking and praying… Make decisions ahead of time to help you succeed on this day of fasting!

Also, it’s helpful to know, often my fasting days are really hard and frustrating days. I get annoyed very easily. – Neat.

Find a Study or Book.

Sometimes, when you just cannot pull it together in your head, finding a study helps. A book or study that someone else has done all the research and reading to craft and create for you on a topic or need. Dig in.

Listen to Sermons.

I happen to think my church has some amazing sermons, on a plethora of topics (no really, you can go back YEARS and look for series’ that sound interesting or speak to your season.)
But, so does Northpoint, Elevation, LifeChurch, Crosspoint, Newspring etc..

Find Community.

Genuine and authentic community makes all the difference. Choose some people and don’t do this alone.

Don’t let your own struggle and pride be what keeps you in this season any longer than you’re supposed to be.

Some of the most healing, restoring, encouraging, and challenging things for me are found sitting around a table with food, drinks and talking through hard, authentic, and complex life things with people I trust and love. It takes vulnerability and it takes courage, but it is worth it. – If you do not have people in your life who can do this or be this for you, let’s talk.

Change Up Your Routine.

Changing the timing of what I do, the place I do things, the cadence to my time with Jesus has also been a huge help. My pastor Mark Batterson always says “Change of pace, plus change of place, equals change of perspective.” – It has absolutely been true for me in this season of learning how to press in each day no matter how I’m feeling.

Find your grit to get back to the Lord.
He will meet you there.

Also, I want you to know, none of these things I list mean that each day hasn’t been hard… Different types of challenges, new graces, new words, emotions and tears.. But, you must find your perseverance and determination to dig in and grip with everything you are to our Lord. Decide you won’t let go until God speaks to you and meets you there. He will meet you there, but never when or how you expect Him to.

Prove your grit and character; you can do it and He is faithful.

While I cannot say with absolute certainty that these methods that sparked my own “want to get closer to God” again will work for you, I’m also willing to bet that you might be stubborn enough to try it for three or four months… And if that is the case, I’m actually confident that your spiritual life will never look the same.

Learn everything you can, steward this time and season well.
Don’t let what you are going through go to waste or be for naught.
Don’t be prideful enough not to need God or anyone else to get through this.
Don’t blame anyone else, even if your situation is someone else’s fault, it is up to you and God to dig in and do the work to get through this season and heal.
Don’t let where you are now prevent you from going to God in all the rawness and authenticity.

Also, for the record, this list of things doesn’t mean that it won’t also be a $h!tshow. – It is likely to still be hard and painful, exhausting, overwhelming, but also full of peace and love. It may be the hardest season of life you have ever fully engaged in… It will be all of the things as you work out your faith and salvation with love, fear and trembling.

For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
– Isaiah 43:19

Love is Patient…

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I shared on instagram a couple days ago about how the Lord and I have been in this intense and intimate season over the last couple months. – Fear not, there are no signs that it is slowing down anytime soon.

I have had several people ask me about what I do or have been doing to create this intense and intimate season with the Lord… That’s actually another blog for another day that I am working on; but, I will say, it requires a choice to press in rather than continue as is or pull away. You must choose to create space to communicate a lot throughout the day with our Sweet Savior, remove distractions (I haven’t watched Netflix in months.. and I haven’t been listening to the radio in the car either). – Write. Down. Your. Prayers. – Just do it, and copy impactful scripture into your journal. Everything else I will talk more about later in a different blog.

Ok, onto the actual Love is Patient portion of this…

Yesterday, I was fasting (apparently something that I am actually getting better at compared to the beginning of the year). At the beginning of this year I realized how absolutely terrible I am at fasting, but I have continued to press in and practice, and can say that I am actually beginning to feel like I am connecting with the Lord differently than I used to. (Yasss!)

So, I took my lunch time and went to just sit on a park bench to soak in the sun, attempt to dwell and abide in the Lord, and pray through a slew of different things turning over in my head and heart.

I can honestly say there was no overwhelming sweet or intensely confident “the Lord told me this” moment… But, what I do know is the feeling in my heart and stomach when the Holy Spirit meets me. Sometimes I have a hard time telling the difference between what is just my creative mind thinking as I pray and what is a picture from God. – I wish I could tell you how to do this, but I really I am just a baby in my figuring this out, so I cannot share much wisdom here. (However, you can go listen to my church’s series Whisper, it’s about hearing the voice of God. It’s very good.)

Yet, even when I don’t know specifically if something is inspired by God, or inspired by my creativity, I feel like it’s worth writing in my journal and revisiting until I have a sense for the accuracy of it!

So, back to the park bench… I “got” three separate things that I feel like are probably inspired by the Lord… Even if I didn’t get anything close to a confident assurance or audible voice.

Here are the three things:

1st thing:
Was a mental “picture” of me standing in front of a closed door.
I was getting ready to open it, to step into the next thing/season. I was full of anticipation and excitement, but I had paused to stop and take a deep breath to calm my nerves.

God or my own creative brain? I dunno actually, but does it matter? – Is there anything right or wrong with this mental picture? I do not think so at all, so I copied it into my journal to continue to pray over. But, maybe one day I will look back and see what that door was, what season was beyond it, and will be able to point to that park bench conversation and praise the Lord for this picture.

Or maybe it was my stomach just excited about dinner 😉 haha

The 2nd thing:
1 Corinthians 13
If you are not at all familiar, this is known as “the love chapter”… Basically everything you need to know about love: actions, attitude, perspective etc.. are all spelled out here in this chapter.

The 3rd thing:
The ending of “Faith, Hope, and Love” – This actually hit me as I was standing up from the park bench to walk back, and it felt a little like a resounding gong in my head.

So, before I had even got back to my desk to dig into this more, I found myself reciting what I knew from this passage, and then pulling out my phone to read through all of the things that “love” is.

As I walked back, I settled that the Lord’s answer to the things I had been praying through on the park bench boiled down to this: Faith, Hope, Love.

I was both happy, full of peace, and had a bit of an “well crap” moment all rolled into one.

Once I got back to my desk, I proceeded to look up the main portion of 1 Corinthians 13 in several different versions. My favorite two versions for this passage are the ISV and NLT, and while I read the whole chapter, I focused mainly on verses 4-7 & 13.

However to make it easy for you, the ISV version of these passages reads like this:

Love is always patient;
Love is always kind;
Love is never envious or arrogant with pride.

Nor is she conceited, and she is never rude;
She never thinks just of herself or ever gets annoyed.

She never is resentful; is never glad with sin;
She’s always glad to side with truth, and pleased that truth will win.

She bears up under everything; believes the best in all;
There is no limit to her hope, and never will she fall.
Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Can you insert yourself into this and it still hold up? – I can’t. At least not all of the things, and certainly not every day.

Humorously, after all was said and done and the day was over, one of my prayers as I laid in bed was:
“Lord, I don’t want to be patient anymore…” – Which is super fun given my conversation on the park bench earlier that day with God.
For a chuckle, be sure to read my blog post from just 2 weeks ago on cultivating patient endurance.

What has struck me the most is that Love is always patient. Period. – I am certainly not even consistently the FIRST THING mentioned as to what love looks like and how it tangibly plays out.

I have so far to grow.

Just so we’re clear though, I do not believe I am the exception, and this doesn’t mean I am beating myself up over my failures, nor does it make me think that everyone around me does this well. What this all does is highlight for myself once again that no matter what anyone else is or isn’t doing, I am responsible to carry out the command of Jesus to love Him and love others (well).

I like the ISV version of this passage, because love is described as “she”, so it is easier for me to see and connect these actions to myself for comparison.

Some of the areas where I realize I actually need a lot of work:
I am not patient (even if I am working on it),
I often think just of myself,
I definitely can get easily annoyed,
I for sure get arrogant with pride (the “I don’t need you” kind of pride),
I really do not believe the best in everyone all the time,
and there may possibly be a limit to my hope.

However, these three remain:
Faith, Hope, Love.

The greatest is love; because Jesus is Love. He died, resurrected, and since He is love: Love restores me every single day.

Now cycle back through the list…
Jesus is Patient.
Jesus is Kind.

Jesus is never envious or arrogant with pride.

Nor is Jesus conceited, and Jesus is never rude;
Jesus never thinks just of himself or ever gets annoyed.

Jesus never is resentful; is never glad with sin;
Jesus is always glad to side with truth, and pleased that truth will win.

Jesus bears up under everything; believes the best in all;
There is no limit to Jesus’ hope, and never will Jesus fall.
Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and Jesus. But the greatest of these is Jesus.

If Jesus is restoring me every day, if His mercies are constantly new (because He is constantly making morning somewhere), then I too am love and patient and kind and my hope knows no limit (and on and on)…

The difference between me, left to my own, and who I am in Christ is astounding.

If you experience love and patience from me, I can most certainly assure you it is the change that has occurred through my Sweet Savior.

Because I believe honesty is essential…. My prayer stands, “Lord, I don’t want to be patient.” – Yet, even still, I will choose to follow Him and do my best to choose patient endurance too.

He has told me to cling to Faith. Hope. and Love. With this means more of the Fruit of His Spirit must be learned and cultivated within me so that I can endure through a myriad of life’s seasons and relationships. My want and desire to succumb to my impatience doesn’t get to be what guides me, obedience to what He has told me is what guides me and ultimately determines what I will do.

Cultivating Patient Endurance…

I have always said “I am not known for my patience…”

I don’t recommend identifying yourself as even a simple thing that is not from the Lord.

I naturally tend towards the side of being a bit of a whirlwind, charge ahead, figure it out as I go, and fly by the seat of my pants type person. I like to keep moving, feeling progress, and feeling stuck or stagnant feels more like jail than anything else. Can you imagine how I feel when God forces me to stop, pause, dwell, abide, and wait on Him?

Struggle.

On one hand, I desperately want to be obedient. But, on the other it is fighting my natural instincts. I feel a bit like a caged horse just anxious to move, to do something, to go, to take off and make progress.

Ahhh, but you see, patience is essential. Patient endurance is actually key to life with the Lord. – Crap.

I have been learning so much over the last couple of months, my themes get progressively harder and more nuanced. Each theme takes on a compounding weight with the previous themes…

But, true to form, here I am to share some of what I am learning.

Patient Endurance – It means the tolerant and even-tempered perseverance. It is the capacity or state of withstanding a hardship or stress, the act of persevering. The fact or power of bearing pain, hardship, or adversity.

If you have not, you may want to go read more about what I have been learning about Perseverance and Grit, or just a few of the themes God has given me to process.

For the longest time (aka pretty much my entire life) I have sorta separated out the Fruit of the Spirit. I have split them into two categories: the ones I am good at, and the ones I’m bad at. Naturally a lot of my life and actions are done through the lens of Kindness (pre-meditated thoughtfulness, consideration, and care for those around me)… Every single day, I am typically keenly aware of how what I do impacts those around me (sometimes for the worse, but also for the better).

Because honesty matters; what Fruit of the Spirit am I naturally bad at? Gentleness and Patience. – Shocked is no one ever.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, depending on the day, if I’m in a particularly unhealthy place, I’m bad at most of the Fruit of the Spirit!.. But, overall, on average, Gentleness and Patience are the struggles.

(A couple of years ago, my church did an “Elements” series. It was awesome, and I highly recommend checking it out to give you a good starting place too!)

So, I keep coming back to this:

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
– Galatians 5:25

When we are in-tune with the Holy Spirit, the evidence of that is each and every one of these descriptors:
Love,
Joy,
Peace,
Patience,
Kindness,
Goodness,
Faithfulness,

Gentleness,
and Self-control

Yet, throughout scripture I’m realizing that these qualities are not all equal. Some Fruit of the Spirit are gifted, others you actually have to work towards diligently, still others are primarily an overflow of time abiding with God, unfortunately some are straight up a willful decision in moments and situations, and then some are just cultivated over time.

Awesome. Not easy.

Self-control is cultivated.
Gentleness is a choice response; usually after wisdom and compassion have had a chance to work in and through us.
Patience, oh sweet dear patience is cultivated through difficulties. Repeatedly throughout scripture patience is linked to humility, gentleness, kindness, tribulations, proven character, hope, faith and love. – Ouch. There’s really no great and wonderful rainbows and butterflies; this one is a matter of grit.

Patience is cultivated.
Patience is learned and created through difficult situations, learning, growing and choosing the response.
Patience is born out of some of the worst seasons of our life that create compassion and love for others.

Also, just so we are clear, there is a huge element of patience that is connected to pressing into the presence of God. I have started to actually see the shift and change within me as I continue to spend more time abiding, dwelling, and going to God open-handed with every bit of who I am with the situations I am facing.

Here are a few things about patience that I am learning about in this accidental growth in patience processing season:

Patience cultivation is so freaking hard. – Like truly, learning patience means being aware of your mindset, your heart, the stress and situations you are facing, and being aware enough to know how to respond well… Even if that means actually not responding at all.

Patience is equated with perseverance, which means there is a longevity associated with it. There is nothing quick about patience cultivation.

Patience is a process. As in, I have realized that as I respond poorly in situations with little or no patience, I absolutely must spend some time processing what and why I didn’t have patience and learn from it.

I have realized that when I do not have capacity for patience, I am stress and overwhelmed, and likely tapped out. My only option and saving grace is for me to force space for myself to spend some time with God. – Over the last couple months, I have come to realize, no matter how busy I am or how pressed I feel, if I do not create daily time and space with God, patience is going to dwindle alarmingly quickly for me.

God is continuing to tell me to hold steadfast, to persevere, and then issuing the challenge of “are you going to be obedient?”… Only, the challenge has shifted slightly to “do you have the patient endurance to persevere through the process?”

What process?

This process; the re-shaping, learning, growing, and creating a new foundation within me.
This process is changing me intensely and incredibly from the core of who I am outward.
God has changed the game, He has adjusted the way He and I communicate, and He is teaching me about patient endurance day by day.
A huge part of this process has been God restoring the credibility I didn’t know had been damaged. I have started learning how to recognize my need for time with Him first before reaching out to someone else for comfort… It’s a huge step for me.

Each day, I feel as though I am living out and learning that in order to actually have patient endurance, I have no choice but to live by the, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” command in Matthew 6.

What’s coming soon, the stress of tomorrow or two weeks from now, it is literally too much to handle and it sends my fear, stress and anxiety over the edge… And graciously, lovingly with more tenderness than I realize, the Lord calls me back to today, to this moment, to Him, and asks me to Trust Him. – Allow Him to navigate the process and restore my faith and His credibility as I learn patient endurance. Some days, I easily do this with the feeling of contentment and grace, other days I am a waffling crazy person in my head and heart…. Who’s to say which way I will go each day!

Patient Endurance is intensely difficult because there’s a decision to choose steadiness that requires me to resolutely and dutifully hold firm and unwavering regardless of how I feel or see before me.

Patient Endurance begins to create a peace within your soul because of the time needed in abiding and dwelling with my Sweet Savior.

Patient Endurance forces me to confront my fears and the things I do not have control over and hand them over to the Lord trusting that His timing is better.

Patient Endurance changes you and slowly creates a calm confidence that God can be trusted.

God can be trusted. His timing is better than mine.

It will all be worth it in the end.

Wisdom and Foolishness

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
– James 1:5

“The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord.”
– Proverbs 19:3

Since I was a child, literally 11 years old, I can remember praying for two things for and over myself: Wisdom and Understanding. – If that gives any insight into the type of child and person I am! haha I realize and love that I’m a bit of a weirdo haha

I remember, and continue to feel like if only I have more wisdom and understanding, then I can and will do better at life. I will handle situations better, I will see people differently, I can assess and respond to various things that I encounter more effectively, I can keep the best and most important things in perspective… But, ultimately, I can just love others well.

Occasionally, I will also swap into my prayer mix, clarity and knowledge for myself before the Lord.

The opposite side of wisdom is foolishness, so it is no surprise that I want to perpetually stay as far away from that as possible.
One of the big things I process and struggle through before making decisions is wanting as much information and perspective as I can get to ensure that I do not make a foolish decision. – I don’t want to ever look back and feel like I had been foolish, hasty, thoughtless, or stupid in my decisions or actions.

So, given the way the Lord and I are working through things lately, Foolishness was the theme a few days ago, and Wisdom was soon to follow… As in, the next day.

I was amazed to realize that when you look up “foolish” in scripture, and when you read through the passages one right after another; it is actually very clear about who is considered foolish and what is considered foolish! And then, because God has a sense of humor, there’s one section of verses that throw a little wrench into what man considers wise vs foolish and what God does. (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Just so we are all on the same page, other descriptors of foolishness are: thoughtless, senseless, stupid, mindless, unwise or incautious actions… The level with which I do not want to be or ever be described as these things is intense within me.

So, I began to dig deeper in scripture to get a handle on what it means, and compare myself authentically to see if I am foolish.

Here are some of the things I learned reading through the 88 passages that talk about foolishness in scripture:
Those who are foolish don’t even try to understand or seek wise counsel.
Foolish people are quick-tempered.
The Foolish have eyes but do not see, ears but do not year, and they do not honor or give thanks to God even though they know him.
Foolish people speculate futilely knowing it will lead to arguments and strife.
The foolish seek riches, fame.
Foolish people, who do not believe and follow Christ are actually enslaved to their evil thoughts, coveting, deceit, sensuality, adulteries, envy, slander, and pride… They are even described as having qualities that are evil and proceed from within them.
Foolishness is something that comes from within, it produces actions that harm ourselves or others, and entirely disregard the Lord.
Foolish people operate in pride and don’t even attempt to see or care about what is right, nor do they give thanks to the Lord and honor him in any way.

But also, interestingly enough, believers and followers of Christ are described as righteous, and that they previously were foolish but are no more…

However, I find it interesting that Paul won’t let believers sidestep people who are foolish. We must seek after them with love too. He says that we are actually under obligation to both Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and foolish. We must love and follow hard after our Lord making disciples of all people and all nations.

(You can read more about where I’m getting this information from here.)

One of my favorite things about the really hard, and honestly exhausting season that the Lord and I are currently in together right now is that I spend all day every day mulling and praying through things that He is teaching me. I feel as though in my head, in conversations, in my prayers, and journaling, in my seeking, in my rising and laying down I am working out my salvation with the God of the Universe. That, while He has already saved me, He is taking this season, and making me new. On a foundational level we are re-evaluating things and removing lies and insecurities, and also replacing and building new hope and faith in the process. – It is draining in every possible sense of the word, but it is intensely good and rich.

I feel like daily I am consumed by this season. I spend every spare moment reading and digging deeper. Exhausting.

As I get my Theme’s of the day and begin to dig deeper and try to wrap my mind around them, I have realized there are a lot of thoughts and assumptions that I have that are not actually described in scripture… or better yet, other things that are incredibly clearly defined that I was totally ignorant of!

There was so much internal sigh of relief when I realized that while I certainly have plenty of foolish moments and have done foolish things, *I* am not foolish by any stretch of the imagination.

This whole internal process of mulling and praying my way through this topic was sparked because I have been trying to figure out whether it is considered foolish to hope and pray for things that are more just “wishful thinking” when I do not know if it falls within the will of God.

My everyday struggle is that, I want intensely to do things well in the eyes of the Lord. I want to follow the Lord, and pursue Him with everything I am. I desire for my prayers and actions to be in alignment with him.

So, what did I find out as I dug deeper into wisdom and foolishness?

No, it is not foolish in the slightest to hope and pray for things that we don’t know whether they are or aren’t in the will of God… There is actually nowhere in scripture that foolishness even comes close to touching praying and hoping for things in the Lord. – Instead, it is actually the opposite, wisdom and understanding slide up right next to hoping and praying for things we want. It honors God when we go to Him, foolish people do not give Him honor, nor do they care about the things of His kingdom.

Throughout scripture, wisdom and understanding are intimately acquainted with every type of communication between us and the Lord.

In fact, the more we press in, the more we seek and ask for wisdom, the more we are actually changed by the Spirit. We find ourselves in alignment with Him as part of the process, and even if we don’t get what we want, we are content and continue to hope and build our faith throughout the journey.

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom… But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”
– James 3:13 & 17

I do not know that I’ll every consider myself “wise” but, the more I learn about wisdom, the more I want to pursue it and also just find it fascinating. I seek the Spirit of Wisdom that is talked about throughout scripture. I want the blessings that come with having knowledge and understanding that is only given from the Creator of the Universe.

I also find it interesting that wisdom is given a gender, and that gender is female.
I also find it interesting that wisdom is ranked above coral, crystal, silver, gold, and any other riches or desirable things cannot compare.

Also, I very much am drawn to the fact that the righteous utter wisdom and their tongue speaks justice.

If your mouth speaks wisdom, then the meditations of your heart will be understanding.

Fearing the Lord is the start of wisdom, and it is pleasant to the soul within you.

Did you know that in scripture, wisdom is better than weapons of war?

And, just when I didn’t think it could get any better, the wise make the most of every day and every opportunity, especially with people who are not believers of who Christ is.

So, what is the biggest key marker between wisdom and foolishness? One seeks the Lord, the other does not care in the slightest.

My loves, be wise in all that you do.