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?

It Only Takes a Single Word

Aliyah, my two-year-old daughter, has already proven herself to own a tenacious streak that rears its head from time to time. Recognizing that characteristic to have come from me, I (kind of) know what to expect when it displays itself in a negative light– a battle of the wills.

We had one such battle this morning. Both girls are recovering from a nasty sickness that overtook our home for the past week, leaving us all a little grumpy and anxious to get back to our routines. In response to me telling Aliyah not to touch all of the electronics on my night stand (all being a total of two: my cell phone and my Kindle Fire), she decided to tap (hit) me in the face. It wasn’t hard and it is along the lines of a game the she and her daddy play from time to time, however, there was a need for consequence. In all, she ended up in time out and was required to apologize to me.

A single word, that’s all it would take for her to be released from her spot in the corner. After a couple minutes I would direct her to say, “I’m sorry Mommy,” or even just, “sorry.” Tears would come, kisses would be offered, giggles would tried, but no ounce of “sorry” was uttered. So she would be put back into timeout. Again. And again.

I’m humbled when I consider how often I react this way to God. I’ll act out, find myself dealing with the consequences, and all that needs to happen to change my circumstance is to acknowledge my mistake and cry out to God. In a single word, I could find forgiveness. But instead, I defiantly stand in my corner, complaining but never doing the one simple thing that would release me– crying out to God.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:17-18, NIV)

When we cry out to God, He hears and answers us. When Aliyah finally said sorry, I held her tightly in my arms assuring her that I forgave her and that I loved her. God responds the same way, if only we resolve to throw away out pride and cry out to Him.

How Great our Joy

When I was in middle school, I was a part of the youth choir at my church. I distinctly remember singing a song called How Great Our Joy around Christmas time. What is funny about this particular memory is that I recall being instructed to sing “joy” as “choy” (the j sound gets muddled and when a choir sings “j” sounds as “ch” sounds it is heard as the desired “j” sound…go figure).

This song is an old German hymn that talks about joy in direct relation to praise, especially in celebrating the promise of our King and Savior.

Joy is a word that is easily thrown around, especially within Christian circles.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)

“Count it all joy my brothers…” (James 1:2)

We say that we are joyful when I think a lot of times what we are is happy. Joy and happiness are not the same and can (and do) exist outside of one another. Happiness is an emotion, contingent on your circumstances. Joy on the other hand, is contingent on nothing outside of God–that’s how it can be a fruit of the Spirit (whereas happiness is not). It’s easily confused considering the dictionary even defines joy as a feeling of happiness (noun). Though, the verb form is defined as rejoice.

We can rejoice when we are happy, but we can also rejoice when we are brokenhearted. We rejoice when our life is filled with blessings and we rejoice when our life is no where what we want it to be.

Joy goes beyond just a feeling. It plugs into the depth of who God is and what He gives each and every one of us. Joy redirects our feelings from ourselves toward God. It sees past the temporal and looks into the all that is in the eternal. That eternal with God that will be filled with pure, unadulterated joy.

Clearly, week three of advent is about the joy that came through the birth of Jesus and the joy we have to look forward to in eternity if spent with God.

Where can you refocus your joy this week? As we get closer to Christmas, I am finding myself more bogged down with the “to-do” list and trying to remember what I may be forgetting. Instead, take a few moments to relish in the “wonders of His love” this season. Take the time to remember that joy goes so much deeper than just a feeling. Joy is eternal and wonderful and gives us reason to rejoice, no matter our circumstances.

 

More than a Feeling

The second week of advent is quickly coming to a close. And despite no real change of schedule, I find myself anxious and stressed. My groups have paused their meetings for “Christmas break.” My oldest has one more week before she has a break from school. I have most gifts already purchased and wrapped, hiding in my closet so my daughters don’t decide to open them as readily as they open the candy canes that were hanging on the tree (notice that is past tense. They have since been removed to keep my children from eating them all.) In all typical aspects of preparation, I’m ahead of the game and yet, I don’t feel ready. I don’t feel the hope of the season resonating within me. I don’t feel the excessive joy that should accompany this time of year. But I have faith.

The focus of the second week of advent is traditionally faith. Faith in the coming of a King, a Savior to the world. Faith in the promises that were fulfilled prior to the birth of Jesus, including the birth of the messenger who would lead the way for Jesus’ ministry (his cousin, John the Baptist).

For me, that faith resides in the promise that what I believe is so much more than a feeling. The faith that this belief changes lives each and every day. A faith that doesn’t need tangible evidence for me to accept it as truth.

When I’m anxious or stressed, it’s challenging to “feel” like having joy and sharing the love of God. When I find myself overwhelmed by nothing (and everything), it’s challenging to “feel” the presence of God around me. Because I feel tired and exhausted. I feel drained. What I don’t feel is faith.

Faith is so much more than a feeling. It is a lifestyle. It’s how I approach my daily life despite how I feel. It’s taking myself out of the number one position and allowing God to direct me throughout my day–often through experiences I would have missed on my own merit.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain in what we do not see.” Just as the first week of advent is focused on hope (that hope in the coming of a Savior), week two’s focus on faith is grounded in that hope.

I can’t give you Jesus’ facebook account for you to stealthily stalk Him before you decide to accept Him at His word. I can’t take you out to lunch to arrange a mutual meeting. He is with us through the Holy Spirit and He is not a physical being that can be proven by sight or physical touch. He is like the wind. You can not see the wind, but you see the affects of the wind and that is proof of it’s validity. Likewise, Holy Spirit works in and through us everyday that “people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20). He makes Himself known, but we still must exhibit faith. We must cling to the faith that tells us that because we know and have accepted Jesus as our Savior, acknowledging the work that was done on the cross for all of our sake, we are redeemed and sanctified. We will spend eternity glorifying the one who made a way for us. Who created that way for us, knowing all that we would do against Him. He is so faithful to us and He simply asks us to be faithful to Him.

So if you are like me and feeling all of the stress of the season as opposed to the wonder, have faith. Have faith that the one we are celebrating is worthy of all of our praise. Have faith that there is so much more than “feeling it.” Have faith that in those times when you aren’t “feeling it,” He is always faithful.

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.

Believing in the Impossible

picture credit to Author Solutions (https://plus.google.com/104839451103703850821/videos)

picture credit to Author Solutions (https://plus.google.com/104839451103703850821/videos)

I don’t think it will come as any real surprise but I consider myself a dreamer. I’ll play out an entire conversation of company pitches, possible speaking topics, and even conversations that may have the potential of taking a negative turn. I’ll imagine opportunities and dream of what our family will look like five to ten years down the road.

When I submitted my manuscript to WestBow press, I never imagined what may come from it. But when presented with the cover proofs, seeing my name actually gracing the cover of a book or the chance to have a full blown marketing campaign to promote me and my book to the world I find myself humbled to the point of dumbstruck.

It’s a quandary that I don’t know that I’ve experienced before. Essentially, I trust wholeheartedly in God’s ability to provide exactly what we need, I just don’t know what route to choose. To believe but to just not know what to do next is such a weird juxtaposition. The dreamer side wants to jump into the deep end and experience EVERYTHING. The logistical and (somewhat) practical side wants to take smaller steps within our means and abilities.

So when do we as believers jump in, trusting in God’s provision and when do we take baby steps, being good stewards of that which God has already blessed us with.

In the midst of my dumbstruck response the other day, I found myself on my knees in prayer. God directed me to a verse that He spoke to me about a month ago over a slightly different (yet connected) situation.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV)

There were some of the last words that Moses spoke to the Hebrews. He had just named Joshua as the next leader and knew that he would never step foot into the promised land.

Do you remember the story of the spies? When they first went into the land promised to them by God they saw a multitude of obstacles that were impossible to overcome on their own. They ran back, stirred up fear and lost all faith that God would ever allow them to enter into the land. All of them, except for Joshua. Joshua believed in the promises of God and in his first address to the Israelites following the death of Moses, he calls them to this same level of courage.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9 NIV)

I long to live a life of bold faith. I want to teach my children to not just go through the motions in their relationship with God but to trust Him and know that He wants an active relationship with each and every one of us. I know that God called me to finish the book, to seek a publisher, and to jump in, believing in Him every step of the way–including in the places that seem impossible.

What areas of your life do you need to step out in faith and trust that God will go before you?

I pray that each of you will experience the strength and courage that can only come from God. Trust in the promise that Moses shared with a terrified group of people, “He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Confidence in Prayer #livingwonderstruck

there is such power in prayer.

there is such power in prayer.

I’m in the midst of a bible study called Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg (#livingwonderstruck). In one particular session on prayer, I was struck by a verse that I’ve read so many times before, but never noticed the phrasing.

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe you sent me.” (John 11:41-42 NIV)

That’s where the prayer began—that you have heard me. Do you realize the implications of that sentence? Jesus has verbally confirmed what will later be said in Romans 8:27, “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (NIV) Jesus didn’t verbalize his prayer to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew that God had heard the cry of his heart and thanked him accordingly.

I have to ask myself if I have that same confidence in my prayers. Do I thank God that he has heard the cries of my heart long before I can formulate the words to reflect them?

There is something so great and so inviting about the confidence that this can give believers. As Jesus wept at the news of his friends death (John 11:35), God heard his request. Through his tears and anguish, Jesus’ heart requested that he might use the power of God to raise Lazarus from the dead, proving to those around him that he was in fact sent by God. It wasn’t a selfish desire to simply restore life to his friend, but an opportunity to show the glory of God that those who were there might believe.

We are given this same confidence. God wants us to be audacious in our prayers. He wants us to continue to ask Him for the impossible. But He also wants us to ask in the right mind (heart) set.

Do you have confidence to pray impossible prayers?

Do you believe that God has heard the desires of your heart before you are even able to speak them?

Are you asking for your own benefit or for the glory of God?

Prayer is such an amazing and powerful gift from God. It’s a direct line to speak with Him. USE IT! And know that even if you are unable to verbalize your prayer, God has heard the cries of your heart. Believe in confidence as you approach the throne knowing that He loves you desperately and longs to hear from you and speak directly to you, wherever you’re at in life.