Sunday, May 14, 2017

When God changes your trajectory...

For some people, Mother's Day is a difficult day. For me, it can be bittersweet. Don't get me wrong...I have an amazing mom and an amazing sister who show me everyday what it means to love unconditionally. I am thankful everyday for the relationship I share with them. However, sometimes Mother's Day reminds me that I may never have children of my own and that makes my heart hurt. 

When I was 21 years old, I was diagnosed with a condition that changed my life forever. I found out that I may never be able to have children of my own and I was heartbroken. When I was in college, all I wanted was to get married and have children and all I could see at that time was my whole life crumbling before my eyes. I couldn't understand why God would take the one dream I had for my life. Didn't He hear my prayers? Didn't He understand that my whole identity was tied up in someday being a mother? 

As I got older, my prayers changed. I began to find my identity in Jesus and began embracing the season I was in. A couple of weeks ago, my mom and I had a long heart to heart on a Friday night about this season I currently am in, where I am single, no closer to being married, and with no kids. She asked me if I ever found myself upset at the diagnosis I had been given and I was honest and said that while at one time I had been distraught at the idea of never carrying my own biological children, I realized there are so many kids in need that being a mom someday is still not out of the question. 

A year and a half ago, I began asking God to mold my heart, to break off the pieces of my life that didn't reflect His glory, and to shape me into the woman He created me to be. I began with my finances, allowing friends I trusted with everything to speak truth into a very sensitive area. Since then, I have watched God continue to trim off the pieces of my life that don't reflect His glory and He's given me a heart that wants to be like Him. 

I find at times that I feel lonely and question why God has never given me a husband or kids, knowing that is still what I desire, even 11 years post diagnosis. When the loneliness sets in, I reach out to friends who understand this part of me, friends who are sitting in this same season or who have been in my spot, and I spend a lot of time in Scripture, allowing God to speak gentle truths to my life. I question whether this desire is mine, or a desire that God has given to me. I have always been told that if God gives you a desire, He will fulfill it, just in His timing. I haven't figured out if this desire for marriage or kids is mine, or if it's one from God that eventually He will fulfill, but I trust Him enough to sit in this season and to continue chasing after Him. At the end of the day, all I want is to be more like Jesus, whether that's chasing after Him with a husband and kids by my side, or if it's as a single person. I know He has good plans for my life and I trust that.

Since the night my mom and I had the conversation about my diagnosis and being a mom, I have been thinking about all the kids who don't have the luxury of being part of a loving family. Someday I hope to be a foster parent, and eventually I would like to adopt but until then, I will enjoy this season of being single and loving the kids currently in my life.

This weekend at Crossroads was Compassion weekend. Brian Tome gave a message about the good samaritan and then challenged us to take a step of faith to sponsor a child in need. Going into service tonight at Uptown, I had ZERO plans to sponsor a child. I had given it a little thought this week knowing the service was coming, but I hadn't really stopped to pray about it. Today, I was putting money into my envelope system and looking at my finances, and it hit me that God has blessed me abundantly since stepping out in faith a year and a half ago to get my finances under control. He has given more to me than I deserve and I have been looking for ways to give back what He has given me. As I sat in service tonight listening to the message, I could feel the Holy Spirit nudging me, reminding me of the conversation I had had with my mom a few weeks ago where I had mentioned there were other ways of being a parent and other ways of caring for children and I knew what was going to happen by the end of service. When the worship band launched into Good, Good Father, I was done for. I got up out of my seat, walked to the wall, and picked up an envelope. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I filled out the packet, walked up on stage, and made a commitment in front of the entire Uptown community that I was going to sponsor and care for this child until they turned 18. 

Meet Sharon. She is 4 years old and lives in Nicaragua. She loves art, drawing, playing with dolls, and playing house. She also loves Sunday school, doing arts and crafts, learning about God, and getting to eat snacks. I am so excited that for the next 14 years...yes FOURTEEN years, I will be sponsoring her monthly. The money I sponsor each month will provide her with Biblical teaching, health screenings, supplemental food, counseling, community service opportunities, vocational training, and educational assistance. 

I may not physically be a parent, but by sponsoring Sharon, I am giving her the opportunity to grow, flourish, and be successful. I can help point her to Jesus and give her a solid foundation for her future. My heart is overflowing with love, joy, and peace. Please join me in praying for Sharon and her family. I can't wait to start writing her letters and to someday, travel to Nicaragua and meet her. 

God is a good, good Father and I am so thankful for the ways He continues to mold me into His image. 

"Then when you call and the Lord will answer. "Yes I am here," he will quickly reply. "Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever flowing spring."
--Isaiah 58:9-11 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Growing pains

Crossroads is smack dab in the middle of the I Am Journey and already I feel as if I am learning so much about myself. I can see the ways God is moving, and how He is slowly changing my heart and how I view myself. I think I have complained every single year for the past three years about the journey because I know it's in those intense six weeks that I am going to learn the most about myself and it's also in those six weeks that God is going to intentionally move in my heart. There's a lot of fear in intentionally letting God into those areas that you've clung to for so long and allowing Him to work a miracle. But oh the sweet freedom that comes with surrender. So while I have complained, these are some of the times I love the most at Crossroads.

Two weeks ago, I ran away to Gatlinburg for a solo trip. I needed a long weekend to recharge and refocus my energy where I knew I needed it to be. I have always wanted to take a solo trip and decided that Gatlinburg was a good place to do that since it was close enough to home to be doable, but far enough away for it to be an actual getaway. I worked a ton of crazy hours leading up to the day I left so I was able to leave work early that afternoon and I made the drive down. As soon as I crossed the state line, I felt myself relax for the first time in a long time. I didn't realize just how tense I was until I fully relaxed during that weekend. I was able to go at my own pace, do my own thing, and not have to worry about what other people wanted to do. I slept in late each morning, I went on random drives through the mountains, and I sat in the sun and people watched. I even ate dinners alone at actual sit down restaurants...and I enjoyed it!

I learned a lot about myself on that weekend and decided I would blog about some of the lessons I feel as if I walked away with, which ironically enough line up really well with the I Am journey.

1. I make a lot of excuses for myself.
I have realized that I have a lot of fear surrounding trying new things, whether it's food, getting out of my comfort zone to go someplace new, or even as simple as working out. I make excuses and tell myself that I can't do it, that I won't like it, and that others are watching me and I can't disappoint them so I might as well not even try. Some of my greatest adventures in life have come from saying yes to things and from getting out of my comfort zone. I went to Haiti four and a half years ago on my very first mission trip and it changed my life. I switched churches three years ago and found some of the greatest friends and community that I could ask for. I went to New Orleans last summer and was baptized and able to let go of my past. I quit a job that I was at for eight years to take a job at a non-profit and now I'm in my dream job.

These are all situations I never would have found myself in had I not said yes to them. However, even in the midst of the times I've said yes, they are followed closely by all the times I've said no and made excuses. I KNOW that I am capable of anything I put my mind to. Logically I know this. But in my heart...I still listen to that little voice that tells me I can't do something and so I will listen to that small voice versus listening to the voice that tells me I CAN. Letting go of control and fear is hard. It's something I am working on in my discipling relationship but in the meantime...I still make a lot of excuses for myself. I am hoping this is a habit I can kick by the end of 2017.

2. I project a lot of what I think others see in me on myself.
Does that make sense? I look at myself in a mirror and I am very, very hard on myself. I tell myself (and I am NOT fishing for compliments...this is just me being honest) that other women my age are prettier and skinnier than I am, that people see me and question why I don't work out, why I don't dress a certain way, etc. It's HARD. It's a hard place to find yourself. The only person who has room to have any opinion over me is God and it says in Psalm 139:14 "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." I am WONDERFULLY made. I am created in God's image and yet...I struggle with seeing it. I hold back around others because I fear what they are thinking. I assume that people think the worst and so it's easier to tell myself that than to do anything else. I can't take a compliment to save my life and always have some kind of rebuttal for it. This is something I need to STOP doing because it is killing my self-image and self-esteem. I "fake it till I make it" regularly and it needs to stop.

3. I find a lot of my self-worth in my performance and what I do. 
I was challenged recently by the woman discipling me to stop and examine how I introduce myself to someone. Where do I find my identity? What is the first thing I say to someone new when I introduce myself? I realized that when you think about small talk, it always comes down to the same things: What do you do for a living? What do you enjoy doing for fun? Where did you go to school? These are the places people jump to and that's where a lot of my identity comes from. I love my job and I'm quite honestly doing what I've always dreamed of doing: working with students. But yet...I doubt. A lot. I look at where my program was when I was first hired on and where it is now and see how it's grown. But yet...I doubt. I question whether I am good enough to do this job. I question whether someone else could do my job better than I could. I question the impact I am having on my students. I question whether I am driving the teachers and staff members crazy when I ask questions. My identity is NOT tied to whether I succeed at my job or not. My identity is NOT tied to numbers. My identity is NOT tied to needing constant affirmation that I'm good at what I do. My identity is rooted in Christ, and that's all that matters.

So much doubt. So much struggle. much freedom. When Jesus was up on that cross He knew that someday, these would be the battles raging inside of me and He took those battles to the Cross with Him and He gave me victory over them. The more I pour myself into my relationship with Jesus, the more freedom and victory I will see in my life. I am thankful for that long weekend away. I am thankful for the quiet times and the words of truth spoken into my life during those quiet times. I am thankful for my discipling relationship and how Stephanie speaks honest, hard truth into my life and loves me in the midst of my struggles. I am thankful for the people who surround me and see past the flaws in my life. I am thankful for these struggles because I know that not only will they make me stronger, but they will also give me a wonderful story to share with people someday.

"But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image."
--2 Corinthians 3:16-18 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Reflections on 2016

Man, I can't believe it is February already! Once again, my blog has gone to the wayside as life has kept me crazy busy since the last time I posted in July. I wanted to share some of what I learned in 2016 and talk about my goals and hopes for 2017.

I never imagined going into 2016 that it would be a year that flipped my life upside down. I started 2016 by baring my soul to two people I trusted very dearly. I sat at their kitchen table and wept over my finances and the control they held over my life. I told them I was tired of calls from collection agencies and I was tired of living paycheck to paycheck and worrying how I was going to make it. Over several weeks, I laid it all out on the table. I listed out all the debt I owed, from my credit cards to my student loan debt. We made a plan to get everything into repayment: no more defaulting on student loans, plans to have credit cards paid off, and money to go into my savings. I allowed Kate and Chad to create a budget spreadsheet for me, one that they had access to at anytime through google docs. The accountability was terrifying, but something I knew I desperately needed.

I'm not going to lie: the first couple of months were HARD! We had to tweak numbers but before I knew it, several months in, I was seeing everything in my budget stay in the green and I was slowly adding money to my savings account. I was tithing on a regular basis to my church, which I love, and  the collection calls finally STOPPED! On top of that, I purchased health insurance, something I had never been able to afford on my own before! I had gone years without having coverage so this was a major breakthrough. It wasn't the greatest coverage, but I had it and it'll keep me from paying an awful penalty when I file my taxes. Not only was I able to purchase health insurance, but I also paid off not one, but TWO credit cards in 2016. I have one left that will be paid off in about three months and once that's paid off, it'll be just my car and my student loans!

I love looking at my spreadsheet and watching the columns turn green as I come in right at budget or even under what we allotted. My impulse spending has come under control because I know I'm going to have to enter all of those receipts into my spreadsheet and I never want to go over what I have allotted in certain categories. I even love having my envelope system. Each envelope has money tucked away for serious things like car repairs to fun things like vacations. I have a system that works and I LOVE it! I never, ever thought I would enjoy budgeting but there has been so much growth in my attitude over the past year and knowing that I am living comfortably, my debt is shrinking, and I have a savings account. Who ever thought I would get to this point? I definitely never did!

One of the greatest victories that came out of freedom from my finances was going full time at my dream job, something we had spent a YEAR praying for. From the time I was hired on in the fall of 2015 to the time I went full time in October of 2016, we prayed for God to move mountains and open doors and my honest belief is that because I chose to walk in obedience and trust Him with what He had given to me, He rewarded me with more than I could ever imagine. On top of going full time at my job (which obviously came with more money), I now find myself in a position where my friends are asking for finance help and suggestions for budgeting. ME! I NEVER would have been able to say that a year ago. It's crazy how God moves mountains friends.

In my last blog I talked about the freedom I found in New Orleans on a Go trip when I finally decided to let go of my past. While there are still things about my past I am wrestling with, I no longer carry around anger, hurt, or bitterness on a daily basis. I look at my past and I think about the lessons it taught me and the strength I have because of it. Since New Orleans, I have been in a discipling relationship with one of the trip leaders. She holds me accountable in numerous areas of my life and is pushing me to overcome some of the strongholds that I've had for far too long. Having someone constantly praying for me and checking in with me is a comfort and having that spiritual push has been so good for my faith.

What else happened in 2016? I finished my second half marathon alongside some great friends. It was painful, but I crossed that finish line! As soon as I crossed the finish line I fell into my friend's arms and burst into tears. I had never wanted something so badly so even though I didn't train properly I finished. It wasn't without a panic/anxiety attack at mile five but I did it. I was so thankful for my amazing roommate who stayed by my side the entire time. She could have finished way before I did but she stayed with me and cheered me on when I honestly, literally could not go any further. With each mile I threatened to sit down and give up, she kept me going. She even entertained my fan girl moment at mile 6 when we ran into my favorite B105 personalities and I had to introduce myself to them! I could not have finished that race without her next to me.

I moved home in May to be closer to work. I miss living with Jamie dearly. I miss coming home to her funny stories. I miss binge watching shows on Netflix and ordering pizza on Friday nights. I miss her laughing at my dumb stories and our random adventures for milkshakes and ice cream cones at McDonald's at 10 o clock at night. It's been hard going from seeing someone every day to having to schedule time together but I am thankful for the nine months we lived together and the growth I saw in my life from having her as my friend.

I bought a car two days before Christmas that I fell in love with. Because I had worked so diligently on my finances, my credit score was better than I expected and my interest rate is lower than I expected. I am thankful to have a reliable car, especially since I spend four days a week driving around the county to different schools.

My work program is exploding and I love my job dearly. I work alongside some amazing women who want to change the world and I get to work alongside one of my best friends, something I am thankful for everyday. It's comforting to know that when I need to fall apart she is there and she encourages me when I still struggle with doubts about things in my life.

So what does 2017 hold? I decided that 2017 was going to be a continued year of growth. Each year I pray for a word that becomes my theme for the year. I don't know that I chose a word specifically in 2016 but looking back, I truly believe my theme was freedom because of the freedom that came in numerous areas of my life. This year, I hear God calling me to LISTEN. I don't 100% know how that is going to translate this year, but it's already showing up in words my friends have said to me. My friends speak some serious truth into my life and it's up to me to listen to what I believe God is saying to me through them.

Along with that, I am hearing Him ask me to listen and embrace these various seasons that He has me in. One area I have struggled with as I inch closer to my mid-30s is the fact that I am still single. I used to look at my singleness as a curse, asking God over and over again why He has asked me to continue being "alone" while all of my friends are getting married and having babies (or their second or third babies) and I realized at the end of 2016 that there were areas of my life (like my finances) that I needed to relinquish control over before I could move forward. This season of being single is not a curse. It's a joy and I want to revel in it. I get to travel and see new places. I get to grow my close friendships. I pour myself into a job I love, where I get to mentor an incredible group of high school students. I get to spoil my nieces and nephews. I get to grow and become confident in who I am as an individual.

I think I see being single as a curse because I know there are things I'm not "good at" or that I "can't do" alone. That's part of the discipleship relationship I'm in. I told the woman mentoring me that I want to learn to be independent and do things on my own. What does that look like? I have NO idea! Right now, it's starting small. I am working on a small craft project for our fall Disney trip. I booked a solo trip to Gatlinburg for next weekend over the long weekend where I am staying in a hotel, sleeping in, spending some time with my Bible and journal, and even having a sit down dinner...alone! I want to learn how to embrace doing things solo and on my own. I don't want to sit and watch life pass me by because I am waiting for a man to be my side to complete me.

I don't know if God has marriage in the cards for me. If He does, great. If He doesn't, I want that to be okay too! I want my life to reflect Jesus and the desires that He has for my life. I don't want to follow the plans I have for myself. I want to follow the plans that He places in my life. 2017 is going to be a year of growth and listening to what He is asking of me. It's about going out on new adventures and trying new things. My prayer is that when I look back a year from now, I will be able to see all the places that God called me to LISTEN and I obeyed and walked by faith. we go! :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Whatever pleases you will be my path

The last time I opened my blog was four months ago. The last blog post I made was about struggling with the concept of forgiveness towards a person I was convinced didn't deserve it. I didn't think I would ever understand or be able to forgive this person for hurting me.

Then...I went to New Orleans. I signed up months ago, but the whole time I went through the process, I was wavering on whether I thought this is what God was truly calling me to. I made excuses saying I couldn't afford the deposit...and then my roommate cut my rent in half for that month. I sent out support letters, convinced the money wouldn't come in, especially as it came down to the last week before the final money deadline...and I ended up going over the amount that we were supposed to raise. The extra money I raised went towards sending another person in my Go Group on the trip.

I could clearly see God at work, and even still, I doubted the timing of the trip. I found out just before we left that I could be losing my job when I got back and asked myself if it was financially responsible to be leaving for a week when I didn't know what my job situation would be like when I got back. Right before we left I learned we would make payroll and that I was going to be okay. God provided, even as I doubted.

At the beginning of the week, we found out that one of my really good friends was no longer in remission from the cancer she had battled the year before. I was numb, not understanding why it seemed as if one hit after another kept coming. The night before we left, one of the guys in our Go Group was in the hospital with food poisoning. The first day in New Orleans, another guy in our group was bit by fire ants and dealt with issues from those all week. It seemed as if everywhere we turned that week, Satan was attacking our group.

He was attacking because he knew what God was going to do. God went before us on that trip and the victories that came out of New Orleans still make me cry tears of happiness. On our second to last night in NOLA, we had a night of encouragement with our Go Groups. That was the night I finally admitted to my team that I felt like I hadn't led them the way I thought a good leader had, that I had let all the things bothering me bring me down. This amazing, amazing group of people were quick to love on me and build me up, in a moment where I truly felt like I had nothing left in me.

That same night, my best friend of 14 years decided that he wanted to be baptized. The change I had seen in him over the course of the week we were in New Orleans was incredible. It was so humbling to watch God knock down barriers in his life and to see the freedom that was coming to the surface. Little did I know what God had planned for the following day.

At the end of Friday, we had a celebration service to celebrate all the good things that had been done that week. The celebration service was also going to include the baptism celebration. Throughout that service, we were encouraged to have a conversation with God about what He wanted us to hear from Him. Then, the song Good, Good Father came on and all my walls came down. I knew I was not the person that my biological father had said I was all those years ago. I was not the identity that I had carried for years. I was a loved, cherished, beautiful daughter of the King, of a Father who loved me and showed me grace, even when I didn't know what it looked like. After worship, we were encouraged to write out a prayer to God, to tell Him what was on our hearts. I wrote a heartfelt apology, telling God that my identity was not what I had carried for years, but that I now knew what it meant to accept love and grace. I told him that I didn't want to carry around the anger and bitterness and pain I had grown up with. I wanted Him to free my heart to move past what had bound me for so long.

After we wrote out what we wanted to tell God, we put our cards in a bowl and selected a Scripture verse. Mine said something like "I loved you before you even knew it." I was done. I sat in that pew and cried my little eyes out because I now understood just how much God loved me as a Father. For months prior to Go NOLA, I had felt God calling me to be baptized, to make a public declaration of my faith in Him. I kept saying the timing wasn't right and always had an excuse to not do it. Our trip director got up and spoke and kept saying "Why wait?" and I heard God asking me "Why do you keep waiting to do the things I have asked of you?" I knew in that moment I had to be baptized that day. I sent my roommate a text and told her I thought I wanted to be baptized and she asked if I wanted her to do it. I couldn't even see through my tears so I put my phone down, found her eyes in the pew, and nodded my head yes. Even as I had made this decision, all I could still about was how I didn't want to overshadow the decision that my best friend had made. I asked him if he would be upset if I chose to be baptized that day too, and his response was to tell me to shut up! He told me that he would never tell me no and then even went on to tell me it was meant to be because I had packed extra clothes in my bag thinking I was going to be the one baptizing him. That set off a fresh new round of tears as I realized that God knew even before I did what would happen that day.

I had struggled with the decision to be baptized because I had been baptized in high school after being told it was just the next thing to do after I became a Christian. I never fully understood what baptism signified until this year and that's when I could hear God asking me to walk in obedience to be baptized. I am so glad I finally listened to that calling because when I came up out of that water, I knew I was a brand new person. Everything from my past has been washed clean and I have a clean slate to start over on. That identity I carried for so long doesn't exist anymore and I can now fully say that I forgive my dad for what happened in my past and that I pray someday he has the peace that I do through Jesus.

Not only did I have the blessing of being baptized alongside my best friend, but I also had the honor of baptizing one of the girls in my small group. Friday was a day full of tears and freedom and I learned just how good God is. People told me going to New Orleans would change my life, but I never knew just how much was going to change. I can't wait to go back next year.

So what happens from here? I continue to walk in obedience and trust God. I still don't know what's going to happen with my job, but I know that God has a plan. I also put myself out on the line and asked for someone to disciple me, someone I had met while in New Orleans last week. That was another area that I had fought God on and I'm tired of fighting. I want to trust Him and I want to walk in obedience because I have seen the fruit and the freedom that come from it. He is a good, good Father.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Life lessons and messy hearts

My desk is a mess, much like my heart is. My calendar is full, showing how busy life has been keeping me these past several months. But it is here, in the midst of the busyness and mess that God is pruning me and teaching me what it means to kneel at the Cross.

The last time I sat down with an empty page on my blog was over a year ago. In that moment, I was so excited about all the changes that were happening in my life. God was bringing me into a new season, a season I very much fought against initially. That season in my life lasted close to a year, full of one change after the next. I grew as a person, as a leader, and most of all, as a follower of Christ. I sit here, over a year later, thankful for what I saw God do in those months as a I struggled to stay above water and I struggled to learn how to lead an amazing group of women that He blessed me with. I am thankful for the group of women He has given me on Saturday mornings that I can wrestle through the messy parts of my life with and know that at the end of the day, they still love me despite the mess.

Over the course of the past year, I learned how to be a leader. I learned how to make myself vulnerable to a group of strangers so that they could grow and get to know Jesus on a deeper level. One of these women became my roommate, someone I am so incredibly thankful for on a daily basis. I don't tell her enough, but I appreciate her so much for listening to me when I know she has to be sick of my stories, for seeing me cry, for knowing when to be silent, but also knowing when I need her to lovingly speak the truth into my life, no matter how much it hurts. She pushes me outside of my comfort zone on a regular basis and watching her grow has pushed me to chase after Jesus in a way I never knew I could do before.

Over the course of the last year, I learned how to make myself vulnerable financially. Back in the fall, Crossroads began the I'm In Campaign. For nights I went over and over my budget, looking for all the ways I could scale back so I could lovingly give to this church that I love to call home. As I did that, I learned what it means to lay your finances out on the line and to allow people you are close to speak truth into them. I am thankful every day for one of my married couple friends who sat down with me and have taken numerous nights out of their busy schedules to make sure I am financially secure.

Over the course of the last year, I learned how to step out of the boat and take a chance. Back in the fall I was offered a job at an organization that is now so near and dear to my heart. I heard God calling me to seek out a change and I am so glad that I did. Not only do I love getting up and going to work daily, but I love that I work with two of my closest friends. I love that I can come to work and be honest about when I am struggling and to know that they love me anyway. I am thankful that my job allows for the flexibility of family and the things that come with being in a family. I love that I can (for the most part) make my own hours and work around the different things that unexpectedly pop up in my life. I am thankful that these two amazing women who are now not only my friends, but my coworkers, took a chance on me and are teaching me to be confident in my job. They push me when I need it but through them, I have learned to fly on my own and love what I do.

In all the good moments, it is easy to think that you are on top of a mountain. It's easy to stay in that contented zone of things being good and thinking how blessed you are because of how God has provided. But it's in that moment, that very moment when we get comfortable, that God tells us "Not so fast. I'm not done with you yet," and presents us with moments for growth. I am in that season right now. Things have been so good and yet, there is still one area of my life that I have never given God full access to and that area is my childhood and the pain that went along with it. Things have happened over the past several months that have led to the pain of those wounds being reopened and instead of pushing that pain away and forgetting about it, I am learning how to deal with it. I am learning what it means to lay my burdens at the Cross on a daily basis and allowing Jesus to take care of the things I can't tackle on my own.

I sit here, surrounded by my to-do list, my calendar, and the many amazing people in my life and yet...I feel very much alone. I know for me that it is my way of coping and I am glad that I am not allowing myself to wallow in that aloneness. I am reaching out and seeking out people who are holding me accountable and pushing me to work towards forgiveness to a person I never wanted to give forgiveness to. I was so sure that people were sick of hearing about my "drama" and seeing me cry, but they are proving me wrong. This core group of people I surround myself with love me DESPITE the mess of my heart and are pushing me to seek Jesus in these moments that I want to wallow in the pain.

Does it make it hurt any less? No, definitely not. There is still pain and tears and brokenness but from that comes beauty. God is going to redeem my heart in a way that only He can. There isn't a single person on this earth that can offer me redemption and freedom. Those come only from seeking after Jesus and allowing Him to make a change in my heart. I want that freedom. I want it so badly that I can taste it but there is also fear in wanting that freedom. There is fear in the unknown. But I know, at the end of the day, no matter what happens, I have Jesus and that makes every fear and every unknown worth it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Walking in obedience

For the past several weeks, I have been blown away time and time again by how faithful God is as I continue to walk in obedience and follow the path He is setting out before me. A few weeks ago, I blogged about how I was give an opportunity that I never thought I wanted, one that I found myself praying over. Well, since then, I very distinctly had friends speak truth into my life that only confirmed what I knew God was calling me to do.

When I first started at Crossroads and got involved at crux, I repeatedly told my friends that I was in a season of my life where I was only meant to receive. I had spent the past five years serving and pouring into others and I thought for sure this was going to be my season of rest and receiving to build back up where I felt I was struggling. Well, it wasn't but a few months of being involved with crux before my friend Laura reached out to me and asked me to facilitate a small group of girls within our pod. We were growing exponentially and we were becoming too big to stay together and really be able to dig into what we were learning at crux. I very hesitantly agreed and found out that facilitating came naturally to me. I enjoyed the small group of girls I got to do life with each week and loved that we checked in with each other over the course of the week and were praying for each other outside of crux. I remember telling Laura that even though I was facilitating, I most definitely did NOT feel called to be a pod leader. I was comfortable where I was and I was finally starting to form relationships with the people I had spent months running from. Surely God wouldn't ask me to give that up...would He?

Well, imagine my surprise when Laura and Josh approached me in February and told me that they thought I was ready to be a pod leader. I had to have had the most dumbfounded look on my face because I knew there was NO way that was ever going to happen! They told me to think about it and pray about it and to see where God took it. I immediately (and I mean not even 24 hours went by) sought out three very close friends that I go to for spiritual advice and asked them what they thought and all three were in agreement that they thought this was a good move for me. They had seen what God was doing in my life through crux and Crossroads and they thought I was ready for something more. 

I spent another two weeks praying about it before I found myself spilling everything out to Megan via text messaging one afternoon while sitting in the middle of a Panera praying and listening to worship music. It's funny how God uses people and brings them back into your life at a moment when you need them most. Megan and I have been friends FOREVER and even when we go months without talking, somehow God puts us back together when we need each other the most. I found myself telling her all about how I was wrestling with God over being a leader and how I was unsure I was qualified to do it and kept coming up with one dumb reason after another for why it wouldn't work. She told me to take the song Oceans by Hillsong and to use that song as a prayer. She knew I was headed to meet with someone in leadership that night and knew that song would give me the answers I would need, which is funny because that's one of the first songs that played during a Saturday night service when I first started at Crossroads last spring and it quickly became my anthem. All I wanted was for God to lead me deeper than my own feet could take me and that's exactly how this past year has played out. 

The night I said yes to being a pod leader, we were doing a worship and community night at crux and Oceans just happened to come on over the loudspeaker as we were moving to our first rotation. As soon as that song started, I felt a peace that could have only come from God. I immediately pulled out my phone and text Megan, who of course told me I was having a God moment! As we moved from one rotation to the next, Laura commented to me that she thought I looked peaceful and I realized in that moment that I was. I knew by saying yes to being a pod leader and stretching out of my comfort zone, that I was walking in obedience and doing what God was asking me to do. 

Over the past two weeks, I've had moments where I know I'm exactly where God wants me to be. It's still weird to me to not be with the group that I spent the past year developing relationships and growing with, but I know I'm where I'm supposed to be. I thought for sure no one could love me the way the girls from my old pod did, but last night, the girls in my new pod, the ones I'm supposed to be leading, made me cry and loved on me in a way I never expected. We were talking about repentance and the things we were struggling with and I found myself getting antsy, knowing I was feeling nudged by the Holy Spirit to be vulnerable and share something very personal with them. As I found myself spilling out this moment of intensity, I was inwardly kicking myself for opening up so quickly. Imagine my surprise when these amazing women immediately asked if they could lay hands on me and pray over me. 

As I sat there with my head bowed, all I could do was sniffle back tears at how good and how faithful the Lord is. I wanted this to be a year where I was stretched out of my comfort zone and it certainly has already been that way. I tried to put my own timeline on God's plans and He very gently turned that timeline around to what He wanted. I am so excited to do life with these incredible ladies (well and the guys too...but especially the girls!) and I know God has big plans for our pod for this year. 

I am especially thankful for the friends who aren't afraid to speak truth and love into my life and know me better than I know myself. They make me strive to be a better person and to run after the Lord wholeheartedly. It's a blessing to have people I can chase Jesus with and to know that they love me and will have my back when I need them the most. Walking in obedience isn't always easy, but the rewards are oh so sweet. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Fear and restoration

During my cruise back over New Year's, I spent a lot of time alone, staring out over the ocean, and praying about whatever came to mind. A lot of times, my prayers were focused on a specific area of my life, something I have been praying about for YEARS. In those moments, all I heard was silence. All I continue to hear is silence. I know God isn't ready for me to have an answer about that area of my life so I can continue to be patient.

However, in these moments, I also prayed for ways to be stretched and thrown outside of my comfort zone in 2015. I thought part of stepping outside of my comfort zone was going to be going on a Go trip with Crossroads until there were too many conflicts with the dates that kept me from being able to sign up. I wasn't sure where God would lead me to stretch my faith this year so in my quiet times, I continued praying for ways to step outside of my comfort zone.

I have been battling some major anxieties and insecurities since the fall when I finally gave up my battle of running and realized that God wanted me at Crossroads. I got plugged into my pod and started facilitating a small group of women who I love so much. It is such an encouragement to spend Thursday evenings with them, breaking down the message of what we're taught at Crux and pushing each other to set goals for the week. We check in with each other during the week and know that we're praying for each other even when we're apart. On top of facilitating on Thursdays, I've been leading a ladies Bible study where we've been working through the book of John. There's nothing like stepping up as a leader that brings all of your fears and insecurities to the surface. I even told my friend Laura when I agreed to facilitate that while I was okay doing so in our pod, I had no desire to become a pod leader because I just didn't think I had what it takes to lead a huge group of people.

You would think by now that I would learn that when I tell God what I'm NOT going to do, He'll turn right around and tell me what I AM going to do. This week at Crux I was given an opportunity that I never thought I wanted.  It left my mind flustered and all of my insecurities immediately came to the surface. By the time our small group time wound up on Thursday night, all I wanted to do was cry. How could God be asking me to walk away from the place that has finally become comfortable? How could He be asking me to start all over again?

I've spent the last 48 hours thinking and praying through this and seeking the guidance of people who know me better than I know myself. In the midst of my quiet prayer time, all I could hear in my mind was "I can't do this. I'm too afraid. I don't want to start all over again." I feel as if I spend my whole life in fear. The only time my fear doesn't seem to get the best of me is when I travel. My stepdad likes to joke with me that I won't do many things, but yet I'll run off to a foreign country no question asked...and it's true. Yet in my day to day life, I quiver inside with fear at the prospect of change and doing new things.

It's part of what kept from even looking for school counseling jobs last year. It's what keeps me from really stepping up and being a leader. It's why I don't push myself to be the best at something. In the back of my mind, I always think that there's someone who is way more qualified than I ever could be. I tell myself that I'm not knowledgeable enough, not smart enough, etc, etc. There's always a reason for me to NOT do something so I don't.

I know that I'm not supposed to be afraid. I also know that God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called. But yet, here I sit, with my mind in 500 million places, thinking to myself that this is what I get for praying for growth. My friends Brian and Kate both told me that they think I could rock being a leader. It's funny how I went to both of them for advice and both of them used that same exact phrase. I am so thankful for them, for the fact that they encouraged me, listened to me talk out all of my fears, and then told me exactly what I needed to hear. They weren't afraid to call me on my insecurities and my doubts and both are pushing me towards this road.

I'm so tired of living my life in fear. During my vacation, as I spent time praying over my words for the year, I could hear God whispering "Restore. Healing. Whole." I know that He can heal me of this fear and these insecurities that I allow to get the best of me. I know that I need to trust Him and dig into the Word every time I start to struggle. He doesn't want me to be afraid. He wants me to run after Him with reckless abandon, trusting that He would never take me down a road where He hasn't already gone. To be able to do that, I know that I need to let down my walls and barriers that allow this fear to take over. I need to surround myself with truth and light and let those speak into my life to overshadow the fear when it creeps in.

I want to live. I want my life to reflect His goodness and His truth. I don't want to be the one cowering in a corner as life passes me by. I want to be right in the middle of it, dancing in the rain and enjoying every moment of sunshine that crosses my path.

2015. The year of healing, wholeness, and restoration.