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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My bed is uncomfortable & blah blah blah

There are so many emotions stirring in me.  I along with my team of 7 (5 women and 2 teenagers) from my church as well as some others from others parts of NC and Texas served a group of girls from an orphanage in Honduras. I played basketball full court (which was hilarious) I played duck duck goose (using the Spanish version) and I also cheated and ran through the circle because I was going to get tagged. I swam in my clothes in freezing cold water. I had my hair braided almost daily and I had tiny hands in mine as we walked from one activity to another.  

There are too many stories to tell and images forever burned in my mind. God has awakened my soul and awakened my eyes to the ugly in not only my heart but the blindness that surrounds me in America. I flew home fighting the bitterness in me because I experienced fullness from a place that had nothing and yet I live in a place of most people having it all and yet still most feel empty. It bothers me and moves me at the same time.  So for the next few weeks I'm going to use my blog to process my emotions, Gods word and I hope you will come along side me and share your stories as well. 

Week 1 
My bed is not comfortable 

When we arrived at the camp we were staying at for the week I grabbed a bottom bunk. I doubled the mattress to ensure comfort and then proceeded to make my bed up with silky sheets and my extremely comfortable pillow.  As the days progressed the comfy sheets no longer mattered because the boards that lay under the mattress (both) were hard and so uncomfortable that I spent most of the night changing positions and tossing and turning until morning.  

What I realize now because I'm a visual learner is that Honduras were the boards that tossed me around and the comfort of my sheets was my comfortable Christianity that I didn't know still existed in me because I'm a far removed legalist.  I also have trusted people to a fault at times. I am the person who could care less if they take the $ I gave them to buy beer because I just do it out of a place of God said so.  I'm not saying I'm perfect remember I just said I was once a legalist.  

For example the day before we left for Honduras Rachel and I were in a hurry coming out of Walmart and a lady approached her. I was already in the car and Rachel was putting away the buggy. The lady proceeds to walk her to the car and she bends down and tells me this long story about how she didn't have any money and that she needed food and a piece for her washing machine and honestly I heard blah blah blah. I said ok let me run to the teller and I'll be right back. Trust me the flesh in me said go you are in a hurry she will never know but the Holy Spirit that is also is in me said give her 20$. I often hate that tug of war because I often lose. I went back and complained about how I didn't want to do it all the while Rachel was watching and holding a bag full of stuff for our mission trip on her lap. 

So now you know I am not perfect. 

While I was in Honduras I read in John throughout the whole week. The morning after our first night I came across John 9.  I was convinced this story was about the orphan girls and how they needed to tell their stories and then it hit me this story was for me. 

John 9 1-2
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked him saying "Rabbi who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

As embarrassed as I am I was the disciples that day in the parking lot in Walmart. The thoughts of why she was at this point and needed the money. God positioned her perfectly because he knew that as I would enter Honduras my mind would be blown by things I would see and He would become the focal point so in order for Him to fully get the glory He had to shine the light on an ugly area of my heart.

 Comfort is not always bad it just blinds us from seeing God and also a world that is hurting. I don't always assume the worst in people but on that day she messed up my routine and pushed me from comfort because I had somewhere to be.  The disciples never spoke to that man and yet assumed it was his sin or his parents sin that got him there but Jesus response blew me away and I'm sure his disciples. 

John 9:3 
Jesus answered, "NEITHER this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 

This is the part where I turn and walk away with my head down like a kid being told no.  The morning I read this it was around 4:30am and the sun was already coming up and the sky was such a beautiful shade of  blue. The trees were tall and were swaying with the wind. I was thanking God for the opportunity to even be there and boom John 9:3 punched me.  I had to have that moment of self realization that nothing I do or will ever do can be about me or someone else no matter the circumstance. Every move I make must be hidden in the beauty of Gods power.  Every smile I share or hug I hand out, to every dollar I give to a homeless person standing off a ramp is to bring God glory IN THAT EXACT MOMENT that He sets up.  

As I process the week my first thing I learned right off the bat is that comfort is something that keeps so many Christ followers on the edge of their seats never fully standing and yet never fully experiencing the power of God. I am praying and will continue to pray for God to burn in me passion for His people. It's easy to be bitter towards Americans when you see the way some live in Honduras but there are families all across my city that are in need of food, love and a smile.  The disconnect I felt towards that lady in Walmart was brought to my heart the moment I read John 9 and I knew that God totally set me up!  

Today I see things a little more clearer but first please hear me say that having nice stuff isn't bad trust me I want a new car badly.  I just believe that just like that blind man who struggled his entire life with not being able to see there are people all over the world including our cities that represent blindness by needing food, encouragement, forgiveness, clothes or maybe 20$ and because of comfort our hearts become blind and if we aren't careful we will never step out of our circles of influence, or never fully love people without expectation. We can't stiff arm uncomfortable moments that stretch our faith and every fiber of our being to trust a God that heals, protects, provides and does all of that in the very moment that will bring Him the most glory. 

My bed was so uncomfortable the entire week but it caused me to get up earlier each day.  My prayer is that the area of comfort you are hiding in will be uncomfortable this week and cause you to get up.  God is choosing to use you and I to SEE His sons and daughters in need in the moments He has designed to bring Him the most glory.  Clayton King said this "punch fear in the face by putting your faith in Jesus." Let this be your call to bravery today. Choose to get up and stand up behind the power of the Creator. 

I was blind but now I see. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Am I afraid? YES

Last night on Facebook I asked what people's favorite television shows were. I saw some that were funny shows but most were things like Criminal minds, The first 48, or scandal. It's as if we crave danger yet  we only want to keep it on a screen away from the reality of our worlds.  

The heartless crime that took place last week in Charleston stills saddens me however the families of those victims one by one standing before the killer forgiving him is what moves me the most.  When I think about the word fearlessly loving people or fearlessly proclaiming Jesus to this world my heart beats a little faster because there are traces of fear still in me.  

The word fearless is defined by Webster as; FREE from fear.  I'm not talking about the fear that comes when you watch your favorite show or the fear that follows that moment in which you feel scared. I'm talking about the bold, gutsy, stouthearted and brave moments of showing people Gods love.  Those Charleston families define bravery to me because not only did that killer feel the weight of those words but America watched over and over the love of Jesus being made known through their words of forgiveness and I too felt the weight of their words. 

I began thinking about Saul in Acts chapter 9. He persecuted Christ followers and approved of them being murdered and yet after he encountered Jesus he began to preach with such boldness. There were some who believed him but it also said the disciples were scared of him and wanted nothing to do with him. Saul's fearlessness wasn't birthed out of approval addiction it was birthed from an inward igniting of a God that's holy and powerful.  

Acts 9:27... "And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road and that He had spoken to Him and how he had preached fearlessly at Damascus in the name of Jesus."

He encountered God and something was set off inside him like fireworks. He went from breathing murderous threats to fearlessly proclaiming the name of Jesus.  In Mark Batterson's Going All in book it says this powerful statement.

"Jesus didn't die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous." 

I can't think of a single story in the bible that doesn't have some type of sacrifice, bravery, pain or bold moments with the purpose of moving the name of Jesus forward.  Fear has no power in the presence of the Crestor! God knew that someone like Saul had passion and zeal because He created him. He rocked His world and transformed those things to bring glory to Him. The New Testament is basically written by a redeemed jerk who hated Christians.   As I speak to girls and women my passion is for them to embrace and walk in FREEDOM so why wouldn't I forever be fighting the bondage of food, body image and shame. Saul had people plotting to Kill him and he would get out before they could strike.  I choose to remove those thoughts in my mind or even more disarm the enemy by speaking louder.  Today my challenge is that you no longer play it safe. Look to those in front of you in all areas of your life from day in and day out and ask yourself.. How can I boldly, gutsy, fearlessly show them the love of Jesus?  For some of you it's a call to forgive. For others it's a call to go ALL in with your heart so you can follow Jesus with your life. Maybe it's declaring freedom even when you know bondage is always lurking. 

Tomorrow I leave for my first foreign mission trip. I am excited to fly. I am excited to eat new food. I am excited to be going with people I adore but am I afraid? The answer is Yes but I refuse to let the enemy keep me from declaring this over my trip NO MATTER WHAT! 

Ephesians 6:19,20 
"Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will FEARLESSLY make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it FEARLESSLY, as I should." 

Be YOU! 

God is a very BIG God! 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

God I am mad at you ...

These last 4 days have been a whirlwind. Rebekah graduated and had the most amazing Lily Pulitzer graduation party. Her friends and family showed her so much love and so she went to bed with a smile on her face and the anticipation of getting up the next morning and heading to New York City.  The next morning we arrived at the Charlotte airport and what was meant to be an easy breezy process quickly turned into a long waiting game of whether or not we would make it on a flight to New York. A long 18 hours of waiting, 
waiting and more waiting. I kept asking God to please let our names be called and yet never once did we hear our names. I had to keep it together for Rebekah by smiling a lot, making jokes, and creating opportunities for fun in the airport. As the day progressed my frustration turned into anger and I began asking God why. I had bought the hotel on groupon to save money and it was a steal because it was right in the center of time square. I had purchased our tours and I was ready for when we arrived in New York but we never made it. I had to go to the bathroom at one point to hide my frustration, tears and anger. I just sat in the stall praying and yet telling God how I felt. I heard nothing back from Him and felt no comfort from Him. I finally walked outside and told Rebekah that the last flight was full and that we had two options. The first was to spend the night in the airport and be ready to check in around 4am or to go home get 3 hours of sleep and be back at the airport by 4am. We chose to come home and to sleep for a few hours.  When Monday rolled around we grabbed our things and headed to the airport. By the time we made it through security and into the waiting area I knew there wasn't a chance of us getting on that first flight. She insisted we wait and so we did.  She slept for about an hour and when she woke up I had to finally just give her the real deal and yet also a choice of waiting again for another entire day.  She cried and it broke my heart and I was so frustrated and I felt such a blah feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I called out to God and He still said nothing.  Rebekah walked out of the airport with her head held high and yet my heart was hurting with every beat. Not only had I basically flushed 800$ down the toilet but my daughter was having to come home without a story to share about New York.  When we arrived back at our house it was around 7:30 am.  We decided to drive to Charleston (her second favorite place) and just spend time at the beach and pool and eat yummy food. 

I tell you all of this because my heart is still broken. We bonded and we had a wonderful time. She didn't act like a diva and she thanked me a lot. She even bought me a starfish Alex and Ani bracelet for me to remember her grad week. I'm still frustrated tonight and little by little I'm releasing it. I don't know why but I do know that for some crazy reason God did everything to keep us off that plane and out of New York. The guy who got us the buddy passes even said "it's like a dark cloud over the Charlotte airport".  What was God protecting us from? What was He pulling out of me? The truth is I may never know.  As I read a verse my mom sent me yesterday I keep reminding myself of Gods goodness. 

Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope! I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles".  Zechariah 9:13. 

Tonight I am choosing to walk out of these thoughts of defeat and frustration with my heart positioned and ready to embrace the only thing that remains constant even when my thoughts, emotions and feelings toward Him waver.  It's not my emotions that bring the disconnect it's my response to His ways that either pulls me in or distances my heart from His. No matter how I feel towards Him His love never changes, His protection never stops, & His pursuit of me never goes away because His ways are perfect. I am mad at Him but it is His love for me that changes my perspective.  God I am coming back to the only thing that is safe & that is You because I know that no matter how I feel you are faithful even when I am not. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I use to stuff my bra

When I was a little girl I loved putting on makeup especially lipstick. I would climb up on the bathroom counter with my feet planted in the sink and my rear on the edge and talk to myself in the mirror. I would stick my lips out a little further and it would help me feel like a woman (at the age of 8). That bright red lipstick would make me feel confident and in my mind I could take on the world.  I have many childhood memories that were moments of escape for me. My life didn't warrant an escape of reality but the desire to feel beautiful started very early for me. I remember in the 4th grade I would stuff my bra because I needed to be noticed and somehow down deep it made me feel pretty and equal to the other girls. Now whether that's was way too much information or not sorry it is the truth.  I believe If we were being honest don't we do the very same things now just maybe not with our bras? 

We chase money to stuff our bank accounts because it helps us to feel accomplished some how. We stuff our faces to escape the reality of pain and emotions that aren't comfortable. We stuff relationships with plastic conversations because we are afraid of how they may perceive us when they walk away. We stuff our prayers with empty promises because being real with God means change has to come. Now here me say I am not bashing any of those things because we all do it but over the last 10 years I have had some tough realizations in my own life.  

1. I am me 
2. I am Gods

When I embrace the truth of Gods word I have to also embrace that I am me because of who He is. 

 1 Corinthians 15:10 "but by the grace of God I am what I am"

You see what started with stuffing my bra as a 4th grad girl quickly transferred to stuffing my ego of chasing things and people to fill my cup of needing to be known and wanted. I had a hole and I thought that if I filled the empty pockets surrounding my heart I would somehow fill whole.

BUT by the grace of God He reached in cracked my plastic answers, the plastic smiles and said stop being who they need you to be and simply JUST BE. 

My mom is notorious for taking bad angle pictures. She will always capture the mid smile or the double chin picture. I always say "now mom before you post that let me check it" but what I really mean is let me pose for it.  When we are trying to become someone who doesn't care what others think or just be who God created us to be we must catch ourselves before we pose.  This will only come when you choose to saturate yourself in Gods word. It's being you in Him that creates opportunities for others to only see Him and because of that our authenticity becomes contagious and others become authentic. 

As my oldest daughter walked into school this morning I reflected on the last 13 years of school. She hasn't always made A's or even the honor roll but she has consistently been a light for others to see. She may be a diva sometimes and drive me crazy with her love for insanely pricey clothes but she knows what she likes and what she doesn't . She may drive me crazy by dancing to every annoying song on the radio but she dances. If there is one thing I have learned about Rebekah she is simply Rebekah. Girls/women whether we choose to wear high heels, flats or tennis shoes just be you! If you like country music, rap or classic opera it DOES NOT matter because God wants you to just be you!  

1 Corinthians 15:10 "but by the grace of God I am what I am. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Stop racing against the clock

This week I started a 90 day reading through the bible plan with leading and loving it. The first day I was overwhelmed at how many chapters I had to read.  I contemplated several times about even starting because of my fear of not finishing. I had posted it on social media and I didn't want to look like one of "those" who start but never finish.  As I started reading through the creation story my heart begin to shift and I couldn't put it down. How is it that a book as old as the bible have new and exciting twist and turns in stories that I have heard so many times? I realized that God's ways are never old.  The way He draws us in to a deeper intimacy with Him is always consistent and ever changing based on where we are. We are never meant to live our lives with the mindset of a constant routine. If we allow our lives to be dictated by our planners and the task at hand we WILL miss the mystery and awe of God.  Show me someone who lives life with such perfected edges and I promise they will tell you they struggle with finding the awe of God. I am not bashing type A personalities I thank God for them because I am super type B. I just know that when I live day to day through the filter of what has to be done I miss moments with my girls, my husband and friendships simply because I was trying to check off a list to make me feel accomplished. I call that pride because it's about me. 

I was so moved by the story of Adam and Eve yesterday.  Literally God describes all that they can have and that ONE THING is what they couldn't keep their eyes off that derailed them.  I asked myself the question why couldn't they have that tree and even questioned why God didn't strike satan when he began to whisper distorted truths into Eve's ear. As I asked those questions I reminded myself of past sin and current sin of choosing what's in front of me now rather than waiting on Gods perfect way.  I believe we like to blame God for the outcome of our disobedience or others disobedience because we mistaken His power.  We tend to forget the beauty of His grace and the choice He gives us. We respond out of the condition of our hearts and because the enemy is always working to distort Gods truth we end up blaming him.  

God wants you to know that even in your season of drought, pain, numbness or doubt He is still in control. For you type A people He is in control. For you type B all over the place people He is in control. It's not his lack of power that keeps Him from moving in our circumstances instead it may be our desire to be in control.  That is hard to swallow at times because no amount of worship music, bible studies or serving can win the favor of God because He is already in awe of us. You don't have to work to please Him.  I believe the impossible happens when our faith is stretched, our resources have dried up and we have fully surrendered OUR plans. 

God is for you. Let that truth resonate in you today as you race against the clock. God is for you even In the middle of what seems to be your darkest season. As I read these Old Testament stories from Abraham's wife to Jacob and Esau to the story about the Tower of Babel it was one theme that was reflected in each story.  They couldn't wait on God. From pregnancy to birth rights to trying to be like God the timing for them moved them to take matters into their own hands. What is it that you need God to move in? Is it your lack of finances? Is it that your marriage is falling apart? Girls is it your lack of approval that you desire from peers or a guy? Maybe it's what the scales display and you can't get past that number today.  I know that it hurts in those seasons of question but I also know we serve a very faithful God whose ways exceed our ways.  He can handle whatever it is I promise so let Him take it from here. 

Be encouraged!  

Genesis 21:1-3
1Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised. 2Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

God isn't Santa Clause

As I laid in bed before daylight this morning I didn't want to get up and I couldn't go back to sleep. I tossed and turned and decided to spend the next few quiet moments taking some much needed things to Jesus.  I asked for some pretty bold things, repented of some things and while I was talking to Him I thought how I must sound like a broken record at times.  I picture God saying "well here comes Holly again with the same thing she asked me for just a few days ago".  Now I know that God isn't like this but when I am asking Him for the very same things over and over I often wonder what He thinks.  I am learning a few things about my prayer life as well as prayer in general and I want to share with you. 

#1 It's not the words that you use that move the hand of God - 

Matthew 6:7

"When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again."

When we pray with empty words and promises to do something in order to get God to bend to our request we have made it about us. It's easy to pray for other people because we want them to change rather than loving them where they are and praying for our words, actions and lives to be an instrument of hope and change in their lives. Praying with intent of allowing God to do what He wants and wills is an act of surrender. Prayers laced with surrender takes the power out of your hands of trying to manipulate and rightfully places God in charge no matter the outcome.  When we pray for others we essentially stand in the gap for them therefore we must make sure our motives in praying reflect that. I never want my prayers to sound like a never ending song. I have so many women surrounding me that are numb, or their marriage seems to be failing apart along with others who have no desire to pursue Jesus any longer based on what seems His inactivity.  I believe that when we let our words reflect the desperation of our hearts God reaches in and our hearts begin to shift.  Pray with words that are not rooted in religion but instead rooted in the very love you have for Jesus. 

2. Prayer is essential to your growth

I want nothing more than to see my church grow, to lose weight, to get a new car and to have my girls grow in their passion for Jesus. I pray on a regular basis about my needs and the things I want to happen not realizing all that God is doing in me through this season I am in. I believe it's the things that keep us in desperation for Him that also brings maturity to our faith. We grow when we are depending fully on Gods strength & His provision to carry us, mold us and grow us into who He created us to be.  When you feel as if you have no words to reach the heavens know that God already knows,  so just praise Him and thank Him for the process.  We crave completion and prayer is our connection to the ONE and only completion we will ever obtain. God doesn't allow us to stay where we are instead He uses every word spoken or not spoken, every tear cried on an altar or words written in a journal to move us and to grow us so we must allow our prayers to stretch us. 

3. What is it that you truly need

God isn't Santa clause. That's a tough reality for many including myself to swallow at times. When you need healing to come or a financial miracle to take place it's easy to beg God with open arms for the result we want. For the girl who wants that perfect guy to the guy who needs that acceptance letter to prove himself to his parents that he is enough I get it. We crave to be known in a world that pushes that concept in every area of social media to books that line the shelves in every store. We need for things to workout and through prayer our wants become the very driving force of our communication with God. The depth of our faith is measured by how much we trust God. When I lose, or when I don't get what I want my response clearly shows the condition of my heart and just how much I truly trust my Creator. He tells us in Romans 8:28 that ALL things work together and yet we usually forget that when things don't go the way we plan. If I am honest with myself I have wanted some pretty shallow material things and while praying I have tucked them in between the words of my needs. If I ask myself what it is that I truly need it's not those things at all. When we allow our need to be known to connect with a want we will eventually be in the danger zone of pride.  

4. Pray as if you are free 

So many times I find myself saying I'm sorry for past sins and yet live as if I was never forgiven. Freedom is the very reason Jesus died (Galatians 5:1) and we have to come boldly Into His presence and stand in our redemption.  Struggles are real but Gods redeeming grace and love will always win. 

These are just a few truths that God seems to be showing me in this season of my life.  There are days where we can feel the weight of our daily stress or thoughts that push us towards defeat and instead of throwing our hands up in complete surrender we ball our fist and shake it at God. The beautiful thing about freedom is that it blooms out of our surrender. God wants you to freely walk in the fullness of His power and presence. Defeat is not an option when you are choosing to walk in the One who has already won!   

How can I pray for you today? 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.....

Kids are so curious and yet have no idea how much they inwardly crave boundaries to ensure safety.  Teenagers know boundaries ensure safety yet push them with intent to bend them.  As adults we create them within the context of how they benefit us by acting as if they don’t exist or enforcing them with the intent of measuring others by them.  As I was writing this morning I was listening to Oceans in the background and as I heard  “spirit lead me where my trust is without borders” my heart began to surface the areas of distrust in my own life and as I began to confess those areas of unbelief tears began to stream down my face.  You see God isn’t mad at me when I don’t trust Him nor does He ever do anything to spite me because I choose not to trust.  To trust God without borders simply means there is absolutely NOTHING out of His reach.  There is no sin that can’t be redeemed. There is no marriage that can’t be restored. There is no sexual past that can’t be healed. There is no hole that He can’t fill. Our longing for more is what creates boundaries within our hearts. We seek to fill the shallow places within our lives that only leave us with a deeper longing for more of something else.  When we choose to allow our unbelief to guide the direction of our words and ultimately our feet we will never end up in a place of contentment. Jesus has to be our go to when everything falls apart and when everything is going incredible.  We can fake happiness by wearing a plastic smile all day or we can let our love for the Creator be the driving force behind our unstoppable and relentless Joy. Circumstances can crumble but Joy will not be shaken. Circumstances can leave you sobbing in desperation buy Joy will not be shaken. God’s protection over His children is something we can’t fathom to the point we fill like we have to stick our nosey selves in and begin manipulating the outcomes of our lives.  

My heart aches this week for so many women who have expressed such frustration towards God. They look at the walls closing in on them as a punishment from God.  Ladies hear me say that God’s silence in your chaos isn’t punishment but a call to trust Him without borders.  Ladies your marriage that seems to be falling apart isn’t a punishment from God but a call to trust Him without borders. To the girl who is starving herself because her peers are telling her she isn’t good enough and the mirror reinforces it God isn’t mad at you, He is calling you to trust Him without borders. 

In the beginning of time the enemy distorted God’s truth and today he uses religion to distort the beauty of God’s word in our lives by creating this expectancy of perfection that is paired with rules.   When we begin pursuing God alone we can identify truth and we can identify the lies from the enemy. We respond differently in every situation no matter chaotic or not. We can’t be shaken or moved because our deepest roots are within a God that will never be shaken.  Today I believe some of you including myself have to lay down manipulation once and for all. By creating boundaries that only benefit us blurs the beauty of the immeasurably more that is just around the corner. 

Trusting God without borders is calling you and I into deeper waters and that is scary.  Psalm 34:4 says “ I sought the Lord and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”  What represents your “deeper water” this morning?  Maybe it is finally forgiving someone that hurt you in ways that have left you wounded. I am so sorry for that pain but I know that God is a God that heals and provides restoration.  Maybe it is finally letting your money be His money.  I know you need things and want things to better your family and so does God.  Maybe it is embracing a new season without fear of “what if”. God loves you more than you could ever imagine and He wants you to walk out of this season and into a new one with your heart positioned to hear from Him and to just walk with Him and I promise your faith will deepen.

 Lets trust Him ladies without any strings attached. I believe that when we do a joy that is unexplainable begins to stir within us and passions are birthed and dreams take flight. Others are blessed because our lives aren’t about us but about God. Our families are strengthened and our marriages gain momentum.  God isn’t calling you out where He isn’t but instead He is taken you places you can never imagine. My prayer for you is that those borders you are afraid to come to or to cross over will become land to possess in JESUS NAME! 

Joshua 1:9 “ Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you WHEVEVER YOU GO.”  

Thursday, May 7, 2015

God uses silly things including photo booths

Last week Richard and I made a trip to my home away from home Anderson SC. We went there to help celebrate 20 years of Clayton King ministries. His faithfulness to loving God and loving people blows me away & Sharie's heart is no different. They are literally changing the world!  It was decorated so beautifully and the food was outstanding. They also had a photo booth with lots of props. Richard and I along with Joseph (Clayton and Sharie's youngest son) grabbed a few things and I would say whether to smile or to make a face. We laughed through most of the pictures and not one picture had all of us actually smiling.  A few days passed and I found the pictures I had taken and as I looked at them I started laughing and I also learned a few things. The way I took the first set of pictures is how I often treat God.  He will show me clarity and direction and because I'm fearful or can't understand or see the end result I often choose to do what makes me happy or feels comfortable acting as if I heard nothing at all. I remember looking at the screen and saying "ok on this next picture smile" but because I was looking at my body and making sure I was standing at an ok angle I missed the flash and Joseph and Rich we're smiling and I looked like a zombie hahaha. I had a desired outcome and yet it was the opposite that actually happened. 

I am also learning that Gods provision is a step of trust without questioning His means. I must choose not to manipulate the areas I can or can't see. In the picture I would try and position a prop to hide certain areas and I realized that it has nothing to do with what people can see but everything to do with my heart. We try and maneuver and change things to fit into our lives the way we think God should provide but we really can't manipulate the hand of God no matter how hard we try.  Today there may be areas of your life that you don't trust God and I believe He is calling you to let go of the unbelief because you will never move forward until you do.  

Later in the evening my friend Mollie and I decided to jump in the photo booth. We grabbed glasses. hats, and a sign and because we had done it before we knew how long to wait before the flash and we knew how to get the pictures we wanted & yes they were so cute. I believe that when we know God in a way that requires ultimate surrender the outcome just flows out of that and because the anticipation of that outcome is removed you enjoy the moment. We step back and no longer chase a dream we just chase our Creator. Your dream is not what defines you nor should it dictate your attitude and the posture of how you worship God. Instead those dreams are a tool designed to bring glory to God and to deepen your trust and love for Him. 

God used something as simple as a photo booth with silly pictures to remind me that no matter where I stand,  I stand with my heart surrendered and positioned for whatever the outcome may be. So choose to smile today because you have a God that loves you more than you could ever imagine! 

Psalm 34:5 those who look to Him are radiant with Joy, their faces will never be ashamed. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

a burning bush told me just the other day...

The Story about Moses and the burning bush is one of my favorite stories in the Old Testament. I am such a visual learner and I like to insert myself into the story imagining what it must have looked like on that mountain, or how Moses felt when God revealed Himself through a bush.  God uses whatever it takes to get our attention and sometimes we see Him in the rainbows that follow downpours, or sunsets or sunrises over mountains and beaches but when our circumstances are out of control we begin to grasp on to whatever it is that will make us feel better. For some its addictions, for some its the comfort of remaining where you are. For others it may be the fear of whatever it is you know you are called to do and because you feel that pressure you let go of that life long dream. After reading this passage of scripture I pulled out 4 things that I want to share with you.

Exodus 3: 1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father,[a] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God

1. God Positioned Moses in the midst of Chaos
Moses was centered in the middle of what I am sure felt like complete chaos. Keeping a flock of sheep together, making sure they were being protected because they weren't his sheep. They were his father in law's and that had to add even more pressure of doing a good job.  Isn't that a lot like our own lives. We may not have a bunch of sheep but we have busy lives, financial stress, tons of work among other pressures that bring chaos into our lives. Just like God strategically placed Moses on that mountain  I have to remind myself that the chaos that surrounds me isn't by mistake whether brought on by myself or by someone else. God will use that chaos to draw me in and I just have to be ready to respond.

2. God got his attention where he was.
There are days where I can hear God's voice loudly and there are days I am desperate for even a whisper. I look at Moses and in the middle of that chaos God chose to use a burning bush to get his attention. It wasn't in bible study, or in the temple or on his knees worshiping it was on the side of the mountain with a bunch of sheep.  I believe we miss so many opportunities meeting with God because we try and manipulate the very hand of God reducing His presence to Sundays or in small group time. God wants our attention at all times.  I thought to myself I wonder if Jethro his father in law would have ran if he had seen a fire taking place especially with all his sheep around.  Moses was intrigued and the angel of the Lord spoke.

3. Moses turned away from the chaos to see God.
When the Angel of the Lord appeared it said that Moses saw that the bush was not being consumed so he went over there and when the Lord saw that Moses had gone to look He called out to him. This gave me chills. I have spent so much time in the past trying to see God, hear His voice and yet my eyes and heart never left the chaos of my circumstance. Moses turned away from those sheep to lock eyes on this burning bush.  God saw Him and it wasn't the angel who called out to Him but it was God himself. Don't we long to hear our names being called out of where we are. Out of a job, out of a relationship, our out of financial ruin? God wants you to shift your eyes away from the Chaos and on to Him. 

4. Reverence happened
Reverence is defined; honor, respect that is felt or shown to someone or something. (Webster)
When God called out to Moses and he responded God asked him to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. He showed reverence to a very holy God by taking off  his shoes. As I began to let that sink in I realized that just like Moses had to take something off to stand in the presence of God we are also called to holiness not perfection.  Our marriages are holy grounds and our attitudes, apathy and the way we choose to treat our spouses can be things that need to come off so we can gain a deeper intimacy with them.  Our friendships, work places, ministries, dreams, school and on an on are also areas that represents holy ground in our lives. Our response to those areas are how we seek out the holiness of God and His power is made known to those around us.  They see Jesus simply because you chose to remove something to gain a clearer picture of who God is.

In the Old Testament God's presence was in places like the temple or the ark of the covenant and when Jesus came that access to God's presence opened up a deeper level of intimacy with Him. As you stand in the middle of your chaos today what represents your sandals? What needs to come off in order for you to see God in a new way. I told you I like to insert myself into scripture because for someone reason it makes it more real to me.  I want to challenge you to do the same thing with this ...

When the Lord saw that HOLLY had gone over to look, God called to her from within the bush, “HOLLY! HOLLY!”
And  Holly said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your __FEAR_____, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

What would you insert? Pride? Sexual sin? Apathy? Disobedience? Fear? Insecurity?

Remember we serve a God that makes all things NEW and He will draw you into His presence in the craziest ways so keep your eyes open and be ready to SEE God in your own burning bush moment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My backyard is like a symphony

The grass is green. The trees sway in tune to the breeze. Birds hop from branch to branch chirping with such intensity as they gather twigs to maintain or build their nest.  A squirrel comes on the scene running down the tree on high alert. He jumps into the next tree and then goes out on to the power line. He moves slowly across then stands and listens to what's ahead in the tree in front of him and it felt like he counted to 10 and then leaped forward.  As I sat in my car with the door open soaking up the gorgeous morning sunshine it hit me. I was still and alert and looking for the beauty of my Creator in my surroundings when He spoke. I realized that listening is one of our greatest tools into the hearts of the broken or to gain clarity and perspective.  God whispered into my heart and said "I see what you see in this moment and I created it to pull you into Me."  I got out of my car lifted my hands to the sky and simply said thank You. He then said "you desire provision and I am your provider & you want to change the world, I created it and I want that too."  I was speechless and all I could do was listen to this amazing symphony in my backyard.  There are so many who people surround us on a daily basis that are broken and searching for something to change their circumstances. 

Before Easter I gave up social media on Tuesdays. I have never participated in lent but I felt like God was calling me to give it up and spend time in prayer in order to prepare for my writing and blogging day which is Wednesday. There were some Tuesday's I would grab my phone and almost hit the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or snapchat app. It is such a habit for me. From standing in the line at the store or walking through Target.  I miss so much. God seems to be continually showing me how many blessings there are literally right in front of me.  Since Easter I no longer have my phone in my bedroom and I am trying to keep it in the seat beside me when I'm driving rather than on my lap.  Something as small as a beep from an email coming through can trigger my thoughts into a "to do" list mode.  I then go to bed thinking about all I need to be doing rather than allowing God to consume my thoughts. 

Listening is one of the greatest qualities in a marriage or friendship. We tend to get so frustrated by our spouses, friends or kids when we think they are ignoring us or not listening. After reading about David's rash behavior of killing and ravaging towns simply because he couldn't see Gods hand I felt somewhat normal. What I know is that when I perceive God to be silent it's really Him calling me to press a little harder into my Him and to trust Him.  Just like David acted rash we often take matters into our own hands and then emptiness and sin or disappointment sets in.  How many of you have begged God to heal someone, take an addiction away or provide blessings among many other request? All of us have begged God at some point and when He appeared quiet or ignoring us we acted rash and interrupted His perfect plan.   Psalm 10 has been said to be the cry of David's heart during that time frame where he felt abandoned by God.  I love that he still recognizes Gods sovereignty as he questions where He is- 

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalms 10:1 ESV)

The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear (Psalms 10:1, 16, 17 ESV)

Ladies I promise He hears your every cry. He sees your anger and knows your fears. But He is YOUR King forever and ever.  Nothing will lessen or stop His deep pursuit of your heart.  Keep pressing in and wait with expectation because change is coming so don't interrupt it. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord ! (Psalms 27:14 ESV) 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

pelicans, wet bottoms and self control

A few days ago I took the girls to Pelicans. This is a hot spot in Gastonia from spring all the way until fall. It serves a ton of different flavors of shaved ice and there is almost always a long line. I sat in the car while they stood in line and I watched a family walk up to the picnic tables and for the next few moments I just sat and watched them. The man walked up first and behind him was his wife and two daughters. One looked to be around 3 the other maybe a month old. He had a long beard and faded blue jeans on with a nice button down shirt. It had been raining so he sat down and slid across the bench to dry it for his family.  He then took the baby from the mom’s arms and held her so tightly while she cried and never once did he take a bite of his fast melting shaved ice.  His daughter then picked up her oversized what looked like to be grape slushy and the top fell off. He jumped up and scooped it back into her cup and wiped her face with his sleeve.  I had tears feel my eyes when we drove off because I was reminded of how much that sweet father reminded me of Jesus. His sovereignty blows me away because never once do I go unnoticed even when I can't feel, see or hear Him.  It is His attentiveness to my dreams, circumstances and doubt that sustains me when downpours come.   That father responded gently to the spills, cries and wet seats. His little girl smiled with every bite and it was as if she felt that it was the very presence of her father that made that slushy trip worth it all. There are times we feel so apathetic, numb and overwhelmed by the big and small things that we face day to day and we forget about the presence of our Creator. We respond with panic and run and then we miss out on what God has for us.  We allow our unedited emotions that are triggered by our daily circumstances to determine our choices of walking in obedience and how much we will love God and love His people.  We think it is up to us to control the things around us. Self control is one of the fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians.  I believe that this is one of the hardest areas to walk in because we like to make everything about us.  If we succeed at something we walk in this inflated since of accomplishment. When things crumble we blame ourselves or others. We make everything about US.  Self control isn’t about us. Its exercising the power of the holy spirit in us as we choose to make decisions, walk in obedience or let things go that we know isn’t going to glorify God.  One of the definitions I found in the Holman bible dictionary regarding self control was this “dispassionate approach to life” which simply means that we aren’t influenced or affected by emotions.  What if we allowed the pursuit of God and His love for us to be our only deciding factor when it comes to EVERY area of our lives?  A heart that is surrendered is a life that is positioned for God to immeasurably more.   When we aren’t exercising self control chaos will always set in and steal our joy, laughter and peace of mind.  We desire blessings and a harvest and tend forget about the process of growth in between.

Psalm 126:4-6 (Message)

And now, God, do it again-bring rains to our drought-stricken lives so those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest.  So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, armloads of blessing.

Today your drought is not the end result. Your financial ruin is not your end result. Your loneliness is not the end result. Your weight issues are not the end result. Your broken marriage is not the end result. Your past is not the end result. The list could go on and on and you need to hear that whatever is taunting you it is NOT your end result.  Your father in heaven is ready to wipe your tears, pick up your mess and bless you beyond measure. Will you choose to let your emotions run the show or will you yield to your Creator that has placed within you the power to do immeasurably MORE in His name? Choose Jesus.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Was Judas a jerk?

This week as we move towards Easter Sunday I have so many different emotions stirring in me. I am free. I am redeemed. I am loved. I have eternal security. I feel sad & I have determination.  

I have been reading about the events leading up to the cross and I couldn't help but think about the part Judas played. He was a disciple and he walked with Jesus and saw the power that was behind His love and ongoing pursuit of people all around him and yet he chose to betray Him. 

John 12: 1Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead,[a] whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

This struck a cord in me.  I have seen Gods power displayed in my own life through prayers being answered to dreams being birthed in me. I have watched His hand guide me and I have felt His pursuit and yet I chose to ignore Him.  At first I had such anger towards Judas and then it hit me God knew it and He wasn't surprised by it and He still chose to cover those moments with His blood.  Easter forces us to remember the cross because it is what brings us hope and the comfort that Jesus covers all sin. I am surrounded by so many people who are struggling with their marriages, money, their past and current circumstances this week and those things are big and yet all seem to be bigger than the cross. The enemy likes to keep you measuring Gods power because it keeps you constantly feeling like you aren't enough or God isn't big enough to handle the depth of your chaos. The cross should fill our hearts with new passion because satan is a liar and no matter what he throws at you what Jesus did on the cross will always be bigger. Some of you need to hear that you are beautiful, redeemed, set free, made new, protected and provided for. Whatever it is you are in need of today I promise that the cross is where you begin.  It's often our biggest perceived failures that position our hearts to embrace Gods greatest miracles.  Just like the enemy smiled and thought he had won when Jesus took His last breathe on the cross he awaits for you to crumble at the foot of your brokenness. God breathed new life into His son and He got up and walked out of that tomb. God is calling you out of your disobedience, your self hatred, addiction or whatever it is that is causing darkness to lurk around you because He wants you to experience His power of redemption like never before. Be set FREE! 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Saved by the bell...literally

This morning I spoke to some teenage girls at a local high school. I asked them what some of their biggest fears were. I heard tornados, rats, failure, finding a dead body to achieving success, heights and a few other things.  I wanted them to leave with a new understanding of how fear immobilizes their dreams and moving things forward. This one particular girl raised her hand and said "how do I face the fear of finding family members who are alcoholics dead?" As soon as she asked me the bell rang and I thought to myself wow that's what being saved by the bell looks like.   As I thought more about the bell ringing in the exact moment I was at a loss for words it reminded me of Gods timing.  His faithfulness blows me away at times and yet it also can frustrate me beyond words. There have been moments I have needed insight and wisdom His silence felt like crickets chirping on a breezy summers night.  What I realized is that in those moments of begging God to move I had shifted my attention and affection away from Him and instead locked in on what it was I needing Him to fix.  We measure everything we do and that can become so toxic in all we do.  For years I would measure my success by other peoples standards and yet somehow I would always come up short.  When I began to embrace the freedom I have in Christ that measuring stick had to be thrown into the trashcan.  In Joshua 7 I am reminded of how many times I have ended up in the hands of the enemy asking God what in the world was going on by questioning His sovereignty in my life. What a brat I am and have been. 

Joshua 7: 12 that is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. 13 "Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, 'consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies UNTIL YOU REMOVE IT." 

Removing things in our hearts that will lead to destruction is a painful process.  I have taken God off the throne and replaced Him with food along with other things many times. I begged God for years to give me freedom and victory but it wasn't until I admitted it and then surrendered it to my Father in Heaven that I could feel the release it had on my heart. It had nothing to do with Gods timing but everything to do with my repentance.  For some maybe its your job and the pursuit of "success" that your devoted to and it consumes your time and causes you to miss out on life. For some its your weight,body image and appearance you are devoting every single thought to and the desire to look and feel a certain way. I had to remove the things I was devoted to in order to stand before my enemy and embrace the freedom my heart longed for. Today what needs to be removed from your heart in order for you to claim victory and avoid destruction from the giants in your life? Gods redeeming and saving grace isn't based on His timing but our embracing.  It's time you stop waiting on a perfect moment to let go or a saved by the bell moment and just walk in the beauty of the cross. Forgiveness and redemption awaits. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Abandoned house, cracked windows & Cadbury eggs

Cadbury eggs are such a weakness for me this time of year.  The chocolate on the outside filled when the creamy middle ahhh so delicious. At one point in my life eating just one wasn't an option I had to have like 3 or 4.  It seems like struggling with self control is where we all find ourselves in spring because we all know that summer is coming. This morning I was reminded that God wants good for me. He protects me by giving me only bits and pieces of my purpose and future as I choose to live for Him fully along the way. He wants me to fully trust Him. Fully surrendering requires me to fully obey and let go of all control as I walk in self control. He has to be enough for me. Lamentations 3:24
I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."
When God becomes my completion nothing else will satisfy and self control will be something that I no longer am fighting against but instead it becomes a result of my obedience. 

My youngest daughter got a really nice camera for Christmas. She wants to start getting into photography.  So this past week a friend of mine who is a professional photographer along with another one of my friends who pours into her took her to an abandon house with a spooky yet cute & vintage appeal to get some experience. As I looked at the house it was literally an absolute mess. Some of the windows were cracked and there would be no way I would spend the night in that house. It's crazy how much we rely on the windows of our house to protect us, or to let the sun in or to keep the cold out.  The windows give the outside world a glimpse into our home. I saw this verse in Proverbs and the message version was a haunting revelation because the condition of my heart is the window to my soul and how I follow Jesus. 

A person without self-control is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out. (Proverbs 25:28 MSG) 

Our steps of obedience is a direct result of how deep our faith is. When we have little faith we obey less.  No matter how big a house is, or how decorated it is when you have no door or windows the house becomes vulnerable and the stuff on the inside is up for the taking. Our lives are no different. Our only protection comes from Gods word. It's lavishing ourselves in His truth in order to identify the toxins that come our way.   My prayer for you today is that Jesus becomes enough for you. When you fall in love with the Creator your faith not only increases but your desire to obey will flow out of your love for Him.  I used to worship food because I was trying to fulfill a desire & also choke the pain of not feeling like I was good enough. I had no self control because my life was about me. We have to wrap our hearts around the truth that following Him shouldn't be about behavior modification but instead it should be a life that is driven by simply choosing Jesus over yourself.  

Let Him be your enough.