Trading doubt in myself for the fear of the Lord.

Doubt. Fear. Questioning.

As I sat there holding my new nephew, I was hit with an onslaught of negative emotions causing the tears to fall down my cheeks. In my arms, my nephew sighed contently, blissfully unaware of the turmoil that was suddenly raging through my heart and my mind.

Was I actually good enough to make this my career? I’m not good enough. I’m going to make a fool of myself, embarrass all of those who have stuck their neck out as a reference for me and my work. What was I thinking taking this on?

With each tear that fell, I felt the fear rising up again and again like waves crashing against the security walls surrounding my confidence.

Where this came from is clear enough. Satan hates dreams. His are selfish and solely focused on dominations and destruction, through any means necessary. Dreams that God gives us are in direct conflict with Satan’s schemes. The dreams that come from God are those that don’t serve to uplift that individual, but make tremendous impact on the Kingdom of God. They are selfless and never self-promoting. They focus on God and His wonder and glory. They are a form of worship.

My fears were regarding my dream of being a professional writer and speaker. I found myself scared of being made to look a fool despite my assurance that this desire was given to me by God.

So I did what I do in times like these; I wrote. I wrote my prayer—the cry of my heart. I wrote this post—a processing mechanism to empty my brain from the roller coaster of emotions and thoughts.

This—writing—is my God-given method of processing and worshiping. This is my dream, coming alive with each letter that is typed, each post that is published, each heart that is affected by the sharing of my story.

If the fear of the Lord is my strength, I need not fear anything else.

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1 ESV)

I can have this assurance because I know without a shadow of doubt that I am a child of God. I was chosen and created for a specific purpose. The process of refinement can be tedious, but the end result is the culmination of my dream: that God be glorified through my life.

We all have this assurance. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. That love which surpassed even supernatural limitations when God sent His son to live a perfect life and then serve as the intercessory for all of mankind. The penalty has been paid in full and by the blood of Christ Jesus, we have been saved and can now be called children of God.

All that we are, all that we long to be, is by the grace of God alone. Through His love. Through His mercy. Through His sacrifice.

My fear is built on lies from the pit of hell. My self-doubt is Satan’s attempts to sideline me from all that God has called me to do—for the glory of His Kingdom.

  • What fears do you find yourself dealing with, and sometimes succumbing to?
  • Knowing that your identity is built in Jesus, what confidence can you take to stand strong on the dreams that God has given you?

Aud Lang Syne

A year ago, my family and I were still living in Orlando. Florida– not in Texas.

A year ago, I never dreamed that I would actually have a physical copy of my book not only completed, but published by a highly reputable Christian publisher.

A year ago, I never imagined all of the spiritual growth I would experience in only a year’s time.

A year seems like so long ago–distant memories dancing through my mind more like a dream than a reality already lived. But in that time my dreams began to materialize into reality. Those ideas which seemed impossible are starting to form into a career that I only ever dreamed of.

As we close 2014 and usher in 2015, it is easy to default to the old resolutions that never make it past noon on January 1st.

  • Lose x amount of pounds and have the body I had when I was 18
  • exercise daily and eat only healthy foods–no exceptions
  • never speak out of anger–especially when I’m tired, sick, exhausted…
  • memorize the entire Bible–every last word

I’ve never taken to the idea of New Year’s resolutions. That’s not to say that I don’t see the advantage of setting goals and the new year is as good a time as any to do just that. I just don’t see the point of making goals that I know the second I make them I am going to break them. That’s not to say I don’t set God-sized goals and dreams–I just trust God for them rather than myself.

Would I like to lose another 5 pounds or so, work out daily to improve my health, and have enough will-power to not love Chick-fil-a and peppermint ice cream as much as I do? Of course, but I also believe that everything should be done in moderation–including the good stuff. Focusing on my weight versus my health clouds my self-image and causes me to be more judgmental of my post-baby body than I should ever be. Forcing myself to work out every day for an hour would actually cause more stress than it would release. A better option would be to set practical goals that don’t just add one more thing onto my list. And Chick-fil-a is just a gift from God so…you know, moderation.

But my goals and dreams are more than that. They are an expression of my soul. They are those things that I admit only to myself, for fear that I will get laughed at if I were to tell them to anyone else. Things like getting my book published. Things like my longing to become a speaker that empowers women in their identity in Christ. Those are dreams that I think about at times like New Years Eve. Those are the dreams that I can not achieve through any power of my own, but only by God’s grace and will for my life. Those are the dreams that I must continually give back to God, knowing that whatever His will is for my dreams, that will be the very best thing for me.

What are your impossible dreams? You know, those things you only admit to yourself and God? I want to challenge you to take some time and pray about those dreams. The biggest challenge I face is to truly submit them back to God, knowing that He may choose to change my path. But I know that if God doesn’t want that for me, I shouldn’t want it for myself either.

I pray that you all have a blessed 2015.

If you’d like prayer and accountability in your dreams, please feel free to share them in the comments! I’d love to pray for my readers as we enter the new year!

Purpose and Passion–A snapshot from the Pink WILD retreat

This weekend I am at a retreat in east Texas for WILD (Women in leadership development). It is an awesome program and curriculum created and presented by Pink at Gateway. The entire focus for the weekend is identifying your passions and purpose. It’s all about stirring up the pot of who God has made you to be and revealing those little gems that make you you!

I promised myself that I would disconnect this weekend. No Facebook updates, no posting pictures on Instagram, no witty tweets on Twitter. Even email is off limits. So far, so good–except this post. Whoops 🙂 I can’t help myself. I’m taking my free time this weekend to write and I just want to pose a couple questions to each of you for a bit of thought and reflection. Just two things to ask God, I promise. You ready? Okay, here we go:

  1. Show me who you are.
  2. Show me who I am.

That’s it. (I’m kind of laughing at that sentence just because the depth of those two points is rocking my world right now.)

But in all seriousness, take some time in prayer. Approach the throne of grace and ask God to reveal Himself to you. It has the potential to change everything.

The life of a rose

my sister and I cutting roses with Mama Ruthie (my great grandmother)

my sister and I cutting roses with Mama Ruthie (my great grandmother)

I realize that I have gained quite a few new followers as of late. I’m ecstatic to grow that “following” (I don’t actually know what to call it. Fan base is the other phrasing but it’s weird to think of having fans.) But as the readership grows, I recognize that many of you know little to nothing about me. Of course, I recommend going to my about page, but I want to share a little of my heart with all of you.

My dream is to be an author and speaker. While my first book is in it’s final design phase (SUPER exciting BTW), the speaker thing is still in it’s infancy. As a mother of two young girls, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is a lot going on but I will welcome the opportunities when they do come to fruition. Within both of those realms, one thing that I never want to loose is the genuine sincerity that I feel toward the things that I write about and the topics I speak on. When I write and when I speak, I ask God to reveal himself through my words. That’s the goal. In everything I say, whether through the written word or spoken, I want to bring God glory.

So I view my life kind of like a rose bush. You see, when you first come upon a rose bush it is–for all intensive purposes–a thorn bush. People are put off by it. No one particularly goes out of their way to buy, let alone plant a thorn bush in their yards and gardens. But then as it begins to mature, buds begin to develop. When they first reveal themselves, they are often muted in color but precious and beautiful. They can be perceived as innocent and untouched. Then the excitement really sets in as they open up into a mature rose. Colors radiate and astonish, varying in degrees of pinks, reds, purples, oranges, yellows, and white. The smells are unique to the variety and almost intoxicating. But I especially love as they continue in their maturity, just before they begin to wilt.

My great-grandmother loved roses. She had a rose garden on the side of her home, in full view from the Florida room so they could be enjoyed no matter the weather. Because of this, she often had roses in different vases and dishes throughout her home. A few were still just buds, but what I remember seeing the most were the ones who had been cut and initially displayed at the peak of their maturity. Though, as time passed, they continued to mature and open to that point just before wilting and eventually browning. The color wasn’t as vibrant as it once was. You can see where insects or frost have damaged some of the petals. But in that state, open to the world, there is a genuine peace that is displayed. The rose has grown, matured and fully blossomed. It’s as if it is saying, I’ve fulfilled my purpose and I am completely satisfied in the life I’ve lived.

This is how I understand my life. When I was born, I was born into a world of thorn bushes. We all were (are) a little rough around the edges and if handled incorrectly, we won’t hesitate to prick you. But when I accepted Jesus as my Savior and began to mature, innocent and precious buds began to form. They brought excitement and energy–there’s hope for her after all! But what I am so excited about is that while I am no longer a rose bud, I know that I still have yet to show the true brilliance of colors that God has designed for me. The unique fragrance of my passions and dreams. They splendor that is shown when opened up to the world at just the right moment. Even beyond that, what I look forward to is in the years to come, long after that splendor fades. I look forward to those moments, like my great-grandmother’s roses, when I have matured and allowed God to utilize me for His glory. I look forward to resting peacefully in that satisfaction that while I may have some bruises and signs of wear and tear, I have done what God has called me to do to the very best of my ability.

So as I continue on this journey, and as I invite you to come along with me, know that my desire is to be real, genuine, and sincere. Sometimes that shows itself through my thorns and for that I apologize up front (kind of–depends on what it’s about). But I want you to know that I am so grateful to have people to journey with.

Shifting from Victim to Victorious

It’s easy to victimize yourself for any wrong doing. Someone cut you off in traffic. A friend had an honest conversation with you. A co-worker started a rumor about you in the office. Any one of these is basis enough to host a pity party or respond with resound frustration and hurt.

But feelings are a fickle thing. They are fleeting and often deceptive. The challenge we face is that we tend to base a significant amount of our identity in our feelings for others and other people’s feelings toward us. When the two don’t align we victimize ourselves and begin to doubt everything from relationships to our purpose.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In Job we read about a man who was righteous in every way and consequently blessed by God. He was wealthy, had a large family, and good standing among those who knew him. Then everything changed. His children were killed; he lost all of his livestock and subsequent wealth; he was plagued with sickness and even his wife advised him to curse God and die (Job 2:9). Yet in all of these trials, Job did not sin against God. In doing so despite the extreme loss he faced, Job shifted from the victim to being victorious.

And you can too. Here are four realizations that will help you make that shift.

  1. Accept that it’s not about you. It’s all about Jesus.

When we cry victim, we draw the focus on to ourselves. It’s a “woe is me” mentality and we want to have those around us show pity and feel sorry for us. Nothing in life is about us. Everything in our lives should point to Jesus.

I am where I am, not by my own power, but by Jesus. The gifts and talents I have are because God gave them to me. The family and home I have is a blessing from God. All I am and all I have is because of God and consequently He should be the focus of my life.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. (Romans 12:3 MSG)

  1. Believe God is (was, and will be) all He says He is.

Bad things happen to good people. Unfortunately, that is the reality of living in a broken world. But that’s not how God wanted it to be.

He has proven Himself worthy of our trust. Part of His character is that he is immutable. He cannot go against His own character and because of that we know that He will never change and He will always be who He says He is.

 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:16-19 ESV)

  1. Claim that you have been given unique and amazing purpose in life with confidence

We aren’t created by accident. Each person is uniquely designed to do something amazing. Some are made to be brilliant doctors. Others are made to be able to reach a specific person with the love of Jesus. No matter what your skills or talents, they were given to you with a distinct purpose.

What is it that makes you different from everyone else? How can you utilize that to glorify God?

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for well-being and not for trouble, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

  1. Take peace in that you were made for so much more than this world could ever offer.

This world likes to tempt us by prioritizing life for us. Money is a necessity and the more you have the better off you’ll be. Fame is to be desired, no matter the cost. But God gives us a different set of priorities: Love God and love people.

Everything that the world tries to offer you will keep you bound as a victim. Fame leads to false accusations for the sake of a cover story. Money can lead to losing your identity in the pile of materialism that results from excess.

But when we look beyond this world and into eternity, those two commands that God gave can make us more victorious than any material or notoriety. Victory isn’t about winning or being conceived as the best. Victory comes from allowing God to defeat the enemy of lies in our lives. Only then can we truly leave the victim behind and stand proudly in the light of a life of victory in Jesus.

Be careful that no one changes your mind and faith by much learning and big sounding ideas. Those things are what men dream up. They are always trying to make new religions. These leave out Christ. For Christ is not only God-like, He is God in human flesh. When you have Christ, you are complete. He is the head over all leaders and powers. When you became a Christian, you were set free from the sinful things of the world. This was not done by human hands. You were set free from the sins of your old self by what was done in Christ’s body. (Colossians 2:8-11 NLT)

Sometimes, we just need a trim.

picture credit: aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/citrus/pruning/hedging.jpg

I got my manuscript back from my editor yesterday! It’s this awful, wonderful mix of excitement and fear. Like anything you pour your heart and soul into, you long for a good response. It’s the people pleaser in all of us that cries out, “Please like me! Please like my work!” I do have quite a bit of work ahead of me, but I wanted to be accountable to all of you gracious readers and take the time to share a piece of my heart with you this week.

Just as I am “trimming” up my manuscript, God is continually working on “trimming” up other areas of my life.

I’ve mentioned before that I grew up as the daughter of a farmer. My family grows citrus in Florida. I have wonderful memories from those groves ranging from my first summer jobs herbiciding and sprouting to learning to drive my dad’s pick-up truck. It’s the source of my childhood home and my favorite smell in the world: orange blossoms. But like any farm, you can’t help but notice the machinery that is used for any number of tasks.

Like people, trees benefit from a good “hair cut.” While the extension reasoning is slightly different, the result is the same: it makes them healthier. You see, there have been multiple studies about the production from a tree in relation to it’s proximity to other trees, as well as it’s size. As the trees grew, their proximity to each other shrank and the trees began to produce fruit at the very tops of their branches. This fruit was obviously miserably difficult to reach, but the reality was that the trees were not producing as much fruit as they possibly could. By trimming both the sides (called hedging) and top (called topping <–original huh?), the citrus trees actually had a higher yield and were in fact, a healthier tree.

We aren’t so different from these citrus trees. The trees were growing and reaching high, producing fruit and showing growth. In their own right, these were very good things. But they weren’t producing as much fruit as they could.

I think that there are times that we fully believe that because we are growing and reaching as high as we can, we are healthy and doing all that God wants us to do. We say, “Here is the proof! I have produced fruit, so the Spirit must be blessing me!” I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just saying that sometimes God responds with, “Yes, that’s good, but I have something better…” and proceeds to “trim” us. We are hedged and topped and it feels like we’ve been demoted. But over time, as we continue to grow and learn, we see that we are producing more fruit than we ever imagined possible. We experience a true, healthy spiritual life.

I should warn you, hedging and topping citrus trees often resulted in quite a mess. Limbs flew everywhere; leaves scattered; sometimes fruit was lost. But look at the end result. When we experience a similar process from God, it may feel like everything is a mess and that those pieces that you worked so hard to grow are thrown aside. But trust me, the end result is healthy, and beautiful, and so much greater than anything you could have ever accomplished on your own.

  • What areas of your life have experienced “trimming” from God?
  • Have you seen the subsequent fruit that followed?
  • How much healthier are you today because of it?

As always, I would love to hear your experiences! Please feel free to comment below or share this with someone you feel would benefit from it.

A letter to the church girls.

**I know I already posted this week, but this has be mulling over in my mind for a little while and feel like it needs to be shared today. Please share this with your friends, moms and dads-share this with your daughters, pastors-share this with your students. They need to hear it and believe in their role within their faith and church community. If our girls can’t be confident in their roles within the church, how on earth are they supposed to be able to be confident in their role in the world? It’s time to empower our young ladies the same way we empower our young men. They have a purpose and a calling on their lives and they need to be confident enough to believe in it.**

“Let no one look down on you because you are young.” –or because you are “just” a girl.

To all of the church girls,

It’s occurred to me that we have done a great disservice to you. While I may be only slightly older than you, I am just as responsible for this as those who have come before me. We have allowed our girls to fester in confusion in understanding what our role looks like within the church.

The feminist movements, both in America and around the world, vary widely on what is motivating them. Is it actual freedom from persecution and a lower class? Or is it a method of undermining a God-ordained system that may seem archaic and out-dated?

You need to know that I struggled with this as I was growing up. I was always (overly) confident in who I was as a girl and as I grew up into a woman. But I had no idea what that actually meant when translated into the “church community.” Was I supposed to be more submissive or was I given a voice to speak out? No one ever told me.

Let me justify that with a clarification that my parents always supported my tenacious nature. They nurtured a strong-willed little girl and encouraged me to learn how to harness that gift to be able to use it for God’s glory—not my own.

When I say that no one ever told me how this translated into my faith, I am referring to the church as a whole.

You see, girls, we are being pulled in two very drastically different directions. Like many other polarizing topics, the church doesn’t always do the best job in guiding us as the Bible leads.  There are some views that would tell you that a woman should never speak in the church. After all, there are verses that appear to support this stance. There are others who stand by the cultural norm that views male leadership as something that was only in place to bolster the male ego and that women should take over with force if men aren’t willing to give up that leadership role.

But it’s not that simple. God did establish a hierarchy between men and women, but not to diminish the importance or capabilities of women, rather to encourage it and replicate the hierarchy that is between Christ and His church.

So where does that leave us? I believe that it leaves us with a bunch of amazing female leaders who are too scared to step up into the roles of leadership that God has specially designed for them.

YES, women can lead men.

YES, women can be given a powerful word that is relevant to more than children and women’s groups.

YES, God can (and will) use women to affect the hearts of many, including those of men.

We are blessed and gifted in so many ways. YOU are blessed and gifted in so many ways.

Sweet girl, hear me when I say, that you can make a difference for the Kingdom of God. It’s what you were created to do. Women in the Bible, while culturally submissive, were strong and vitally important to the story that we read and that we are still a part of.

Without Esther standing up for her people despite the risks, the Hebrews would have been destroyed at the hand of a selfish and spurned man.

Without Rahab, the spies would have never made it out alive.

Deborah was a prophet, judge, and a strong leader.

Priscilla was monumental in helping build the early church.

Believe in your calling. Know that God will equip you to serve Him in amazing ways. Stay humble before Him and be gracious to the male leaders who are trying their best (I promise they really are doing the best they can).

Don’t shrink back from opportunities to speak truth as God leads you. Trust Him to create your platform and know He can overcome any prejudices that exist. But always act like a lady and respect everyone, no matter how they treat you.

I am praying for all of the future female leaders that are in the church. I am so excited to see how God uses you to reach your generation. You can be beautiful and humble and powerful all at the same time.

Love from a fellow church girl.