When God Leads You To A New Place

Someone asked me recently if I’d unfriended them because they haven’t received a post in their feed from me in so long. If you have wondered the same thing, let me assure you I haven’t removed you from my list. Our family has been in a bit of a whirlwind since the last post I wrote.

My husband’s job is taking us from North Carolina to Nebraska, and we are soon on the move again. This will be our third move since 2008. We are incredibly excited for this new adventure the Lord is taking us on.

Toward the end of January we knew we were moving. From the moment we received the green light, we’ve been in preparation and preparing mode. With supernatural speed, God has miraculously opened up doors only He could open in a span of time that has our heads spinning. We’ve known less than one month that we are leaving, and in that short span of time, we’ve prepared our house for the market, listed the house, sold the house, visited Omaha, placed a contract on a house, and here we are only weeks away from leaving.

In God’s kindness He prepared sweet gifts for me on the front and back end of this first phase whirlwind. A cruise before we came home to the storm of activity. And a retreat on the back end. One in which I spoke at and wondered initially what God was thinking having me speaking at a retreat in the process of preparing for a cross country move. Now I see His kindness in giving me time to rest in Him while experiencing the miracles He always performs at women’s retreats.

Weeks before we left on our cruise in January, I had a dream that we were on the cruise and found out Steve received a new job and we were moving. That was before I knew his new position was even open. As we approached vacation, and he began the process of interviewing for this new role, I knew he was getting the job because I knew God had shown me in my dream.

I believe God revealed that to me to give me the complete assurance and confidence that He was leading our family. When you know that God is opening doors, you can’t help but feel the excitement bubbling forth.

Within days of returning from our vacation, the flurry of activity began. Painting the house, purging, cleaning, rearranging, meeting with person after person. With each person along the process, God brought a gift of some sort. We began seeing God everywhere we turned.

In a span of two weeks, we had the house ready to list. The listing activated on a Friday. The same Friday Steve and I hopped on a plane to check out Omaha and search for our new home. Over the weekend, the house was shown 18 times. By the time I returned to North Carolina, we had multiple offers waiting. And we had found the house we wanted in Omaha. How like God.

On a Monday morning we signed contracts on the sell of our home and the purchase of another.

If I had planned for an entire year I couldn’t have put together the pieces the way God has. I couldn’t have worked out the timing with such perfection.

I’ve wondered if God has performed so many miracles to continue to give me peace in a transition of this magnitude. People have asked my husband how I feel about this move. His response is something along the lines, “Renee, would go to China if she knew God was leading us there.”

There is truth in that. When we see God’s faithfulness day in and day out, you begin to trust that no matter where He leads you, He won’t leave you. He is a good Father. He leads His people where He wants them and asks us to follow Him wherever that may be. No matter where I am, He is with me.

I pray constantly that God will lead my husband and trust that God leads me well through him. That He will give my husband wisdom and discernment. That He will use Him in mighty ways. And God is faithful. He does that. When God leads my husband, I desire to follow that leading.

Change can be both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Leaving the comfort and “safety” in what we know forces us to rely not on ourselves but on our Father. Our independence and self-sufficiency begin to decrease. Walking into unknown territory primes our hearts to hear from God in new ways. It sensitizes us to His voice if we allow our circumstances to soften us rather than harden us.

I will miss much about North Carolina. Our church, our friends, our ministries, the beach, the mountains. So much. But. I trust God. I trust in His goodness, His faithfulness, His kindness. He is doing a new thing in our family. It’s time to grow in new ways in Him. It’s time for new borders and territories. And I can’t wait to see what God will do.

One thing I’m most excited about is having more time to write when we move. I won’t have a social life or a women’s ministry to lead, so I’m guessing you will hear from me quite a bit more.

I would love your prayers for our family during this time. Our move is mid-March!

When God’s Blessing Looks Like Vomit

“I don’t feel like eating dinner.”

“You don’t have to eat, but you need to at least sit with us,” I responded to Andrew who all day had little to no appetite and seemed not quite himself. We were on Day 3 of a 7 day cruise where food surrounds you 24 hours a day.

Stepping one foot into Johnny Rocket’s, Andrew moaned, “Oh no, I can’t smell this food.”

“You are fine. Just sit with us.” We continued ignoring his moans believing he simply didn’t want to be there. Minutes after ordering dinner, Andrew continued complaining that he felt like he was going to be sick.

Steve ushered him out of the restaurant to sit outside with him in the fresh air, away from the smells of french fry grease and apple pie.

The rest of of our family, including Steve’s parents, waited on our order to arrive. While waiting, I decided to check on Andrew and Steve. I exited the restaurant and scanned the Boardwalk. Glancing to my left, my body froze. Andrew hunched over vomiting all over boardwalk. It was no dainty affair.

I bolted inside to tell the rest of the family the nightmare happening outside then rushed back to assist Steve in the embarrassing task of moving our vomiting child through a mass of people attempting to enjoy their own dinner.

It’s one of those moments where you feel time stops and everyone around you is frozen. I dared to dart my eyes to the tables near us and saw the shocked and horrified expressions on the couple who couldn’t take their eyes off of us. I can’t blame them. After the vomiting ended I tried to take a cup of water to wash the vomit off Andrew’s feet only to have Steve and I arguing about what is more acceptable – to walk through a cruise ship trailing vomit on your feet or to wash it right there at the scene of the crime which happens to be where people are eating.

As Andrew and I walked back to the room, he said, “Mom, God answered my prayer. I asked Him to please let me throw up and get this feeling out of me. I know He did that, and I know I won’t throw up again because there is no after burn and now I feel fine.”

Andrew was right in that he never threw up again on the trip. He wasn’t himself either, having little appetite for the majority of the trip.

The following morning we had booked an excursion in Jamaica that would require being away from the ship for 7 hours. We were hesitant to take Andrew when he was well simply because he is fearful of many things, but particularly heights or any risk-taking activity. This particular excursion was jumping from cliffs and waterfalls into natural pools. However, the minimum age was 6, and he said he wanted to do it. Having been sick, we decided it wasn’t worth the risk to take him.

The excursion began with about an hour and 45 minute drive, which the description failed to include. Immediately we were grateful we didn’t have Andrew. But when we arrived at Blue Hole, I literally began thanking God for Andrew’s vomit episode. Andrew would have absolutely hated the excursion and quite possibly would have ruined it for everyone.

Fear tends to bring out the worst in him. And if I’m honest, it brings out the worst in me as well.

Our tendency can often pivot to looking at our situations and circumstances in a negative light. We tend to ask why something bad is happening to us. We often feel our particular situation is unfair. But when we know who God is, His unchanging character and always faithful love, we begin to view every situation in a different light.

Yes it is true that not everything we experience comes from God. We have a very real enemy prowling, lurking, attacking, and accusing without ceasing. However, God’s Word also tells us that He uses all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

That means that even the vomiting episodes in front of a cruise ship audience, God can and will use for our good.

I wonder how many blessings from God I’ve failed to recognize simply because I saw only the vomit.

Dear Lord, thank you that You are for us and not against us. Thank you that you promise never to leave us. Thank you that you tell us that when we are afraid, we can trust in You. Thank you for blessings of many kinds. Give us eyes to see you in all of our life. The moments that smell like roses and the moments that don’t. Because you never leave us, we know that you are with us in all things.  Amen

 

A Letter To My Middle Schooler- I hope you aren’t cool

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Dear Boys,

When I was in middle school, all I wanted was to be cool. In my day cool looked much different than it looks today. Cool comes with a cost. Know what you are buying when you make that exchange.

Most middle schoolers want to fit in in such a way so they will not stand out. They want to be cool in their own way. Cool for one may not be cool for another.

Begin by defining cool for yourself. Don’t let the world define cool for you. The world may say cool is what God calls rebellion. The world may say cool is to love things that aren’t lovely or pure. The world may say cool is to be someone God wants to protect you from being. The world may call cool what God calls idolatrous or foolish.

The world may say it’s cool to have a girlfriend when you know that having a girlfriend will lead you into areas of temptation you aren’t prepared to fight. All your friends may have girlfriends and say you are weird if you don’t. Don’t believe that lie. The ways of the world are foolish to God. 1 Cor 3:19 “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”;

The world may say it’s cool to wear designer clothes and name brand shoes. But God’s Word says in Col 3:2 “Set your mind on things above not on earthly things.”

The world may say it’s cool to watch certain shows and movies or read certain books that are the latest craze. Your friends will stand in lines at bookstores or go to midnight showings. They may religiously watch a weekly show that in your spirit you know something isn’t right. It’s because you know God’s Word tells you in Phil 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

The world may say it’s cool to use curse words. God’s Word says in Eph 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

The world may say it’s cool to talk bad about your friends or say unkind things about people who are different from you. But God’s Word says in Proverbs 16:28 “A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends.” and in Proverbs 21:23 “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.”

The world will offer you many definitions of cool, but you don’t need to accept any definition other than the one that aligns to a Biblical standard. You have known the words of the Lord. Walk in truth. Walk with Him. The world will do all it can to show you an alternate path. It will take truth and twist it ever so slightly creating a path that will lead you off the one God has paved for you to walk. It’s what satan did in the garden. He took truth and twisted it creating a lie. If you don’t know God’s Word, you won’t be able to discern between the truth and the twisted truth.

The world does not define you. Your friends do not define you. No one has a right to label you as cool, weird, nerdy, etc. They will try to define you, but you don’t allow anyone to define you. God already defined you. He created you and He is the only One who has the right to define who you are.

You are His. Here is who He says you are.

Eph 2:10 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Galatians 4:11 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

During your middle school years, you will look for where you fit in. You will seek to find your worth and value in friends, academics, sports, all kinds of areas. Your friends don’t complete you, your grades don’t make you, your talents don’t define you. These are simply gifts from God. Enjoy them, delight in them. Thank God for them. But don’t let them become who you are.

You are a child of God. As a child of God, you are free. Totally, completely free. Free to walk in the Spirit. Free to live released of the pressure to be a certain way or to walk a certain line. You are free to be the one He created you to be.

When you choose this road, the one of being a true follower a Christ, a true disciple, you will stand out. You won’t blend in. His desire is that you are set apart. You are set apart for His good purposes. When you are set apart, you will not be liked by everyone.

This is why it’s ok for everyone to not like you.

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

My prayer for you is that you seek to be like Jesus who didn’t get in with the cool crowd. In fact, he was radical and forever changed the world.

Since birth I’ve prayed for you to be a man after God’s own heart. I’ve prayed for you to love God more than anything in this entire world. I’ve prayed that you would follow God so hard you would strike fear in the eyes of the enemy.

Stand strong. Be bold. Choose courage.

Anyone can be like the world. It’s takes courage and strength to become the man of God He wants you to be. Walk in your calling. Be who He created you to be not who the world says you are. You are a child of God. Only God can define you.

His Love Pursues You. Will You Let Him Catch You Today?

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Psalm 27:8

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.

“Mom, I’m setting up an incentive chart. If I fill up 100 boxes, can I earn a camp out alone with Dad?”

“I think that is an awesome idea.”

I walked by his room later that day and saw his handmade chart hanging on the wall. Throughout the day, when he felt proud of some accomplishment, he’d ask me if he could reward himself a sticker on his chart.

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I wasn’t around when Zachary told Steve about the reward he was working toward, but after the kids were in bed Steve mentioned to me their conversation. He concluded, “It’s done. Any one of my children who wants to spend time with me, they’ve got it. We will have a backyard camp out tomorrow night. He doesn’t need to earn time with me. If he wants me, he’s got me.”

“But it’s a work night. And a school night.”

“So,” he shrugged off my practicalities and chose intentionality instead.

When Zachary awoke the following morning, he found this note waiting for him from his daddy. An invitation to time alone. Just father and son. Campfire, tents, telling stories, sharing snacks, and watching the stars.

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The entire day I noticed a drastic difference in Zachary. An excitement, a lightness, a quiet confidence, a sweet joy. He knew his father longed to spend time with him as much as he longed for it. As soon as his father learned of his desire, he reached his daddy arms out to him and pulled him in. He’s always reaching towards his children, but most of the time they miss seeing it through the activity of life.  This time he noticed his daddy dropped everything to be with his son simply because his son wanted it.

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Our Father stands with arms stretched wide to us. Desiring we run into His waiting arms. We forget at times that our Father desires to spend time with us. Sharing stories with Him as we watch the stars He placed in the sky for us.

He desires our love. Our wholehearted devotion to Him. He delights in us.

Psalm 149:4 For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.

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Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Our Father’s love is a pursuing a love. It never stops chasing and longing for us. He takes delight in us. He created us for His good pleasure that we may glorify Him. When we slow our souls, we become aware of His pursuit. We find He’s not running the pace we run. He stands with extended arms towards His children waiting for us to run to Him rather than running to anything else.

What our souls need most is to sit in His lap. To let Him quiet us with His love. To sing over us.

Instead we run to other things to fill us, to entertain us. We are enticed away from our first love and find ourselves depleted and empty. Our souls cry out for what we really need, but we keep running away. Like Zachary, we set ourselves up to earn His love, forgetting that it’s a gift that needs no earning. An undeserved gift that awaits us moment by moment.

When we stop running from Him, stop running to substitutes for His love, and we look around us, we will see He has placed love notes all around us inviting us to steal away with Him under the stars, tucked away from the chaos of life. To hide away in His love.

He’s waiting to fill your love tank right now. Will you allow Him to lavish you with His love today?

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God Told My Son To Follow Him, So I Went Too

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Yesterday I shared how God confirmed we weren’t to wait for my birthday to start celebrating. If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, start there. We dropped Andrew at one of his educational therapies, and the two older boys and I headed to the library. On the way we made a stop at Dunkin Donuts.

“Alright boys, let’s pray. Whoever God brings to the window I’m telling them about Jesus.” Ya’ll, this is how I see the power of God so vividly. You would’ve thought I had told the boys I was buying them each their own dozen donuts.

With racing hearts, we prayed as we drove, “God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for salvation. Thank you that we can share that gift with others. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who enables us with power. Jesus said that greater than having him with us is having the Holy Spirit in us. Thank you. We pray that you would bring to the window the person you have for us to share the gospel with. We pray that right now you soften their hearts and prepare them to hear your words. Give us the words. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

I ended praying and Jacob said, “Mom! You just missed the turn!! Now it’s going to take us forever to get back out.”

Immediately, I thought to how we just prayed for God to bring the right person to that window.

“Boys, do you not think me missing that turn is part of God’s plan to order the circumstances so that the right person comes to the window?”

We turned in just after another car got in before us.

“Mom, don’t say it through the microphone.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be sure we are face to face.”

I placed our order. Waited for our turn at the window. My heart began to pound. Louder than it pounded the first year I began speaking in front of groups of people. What in the world?

He came to the window, early twenties maybe. Doing 3 jobs at once. I saw the line piling up behind us. Felt the pressure of the rush hour time of the coffee shop.

The timing feels off. No. The timing is always perfect.

Hastily, he grabbed my credit card and disappeared back inside the window. He appeared moments later, thrust the card back at me, and disappeared again. The window opened again as he handed one coffee, then a hot chocolate. The window closed again.

“Ok, mom, this is it.”

We watched as another lady made the smoothie and it appeared she would come to the window.

Lord, is it her and not him?

She handed the smoothie to our guy, he opened the window, handed the smoothie over while saying, “Have a great day.”

“Can I ask you a question?”

He smiled, “Sure.”

“Do you know Jesus?”

Time froze. His expression, as Jacob would say, looked confuzelled.

“What did you say?” He leaned out of the window closer to my car.

“Do you know Jesus?”

He paused. His eyes held mine as he said, “Yes.”

“Awesome! Well, would you pass this along to someone today who you might think doesn’t know Jesus?”

He took the Bible tract from my hand and placed it on the counter next to the register. “Sure.”

As we pulled away from the window, the boys began immediately chattering. Do you think he really knew Jesus or just knows about Jesus? I wonder if he will read it? I wonder if he will give it away.

I began the process of self-criticism. Why did I say ‘Do you know Jesus’? We live in America. It’s easy to say yes to that and still be living a life separated from God. Why did I take the easy way out.

“Mom, that was awesome!”

“That felt completely clumsy, awkward, and totally unnatural. I wish I could’ve shared what Jesus has done in my life.”

Then I stopped. This is what the enemy wants me to do. Focus on me, myself, and my words. Forget it. We prayed for the power and the work of the Holy Spirit.

“You know what, boys. It doesn’t matter what we said. We prayed that we would be a vessel. God has the power to change how he perceived that exchange. We did what He asked and the rest is up to God. He might open that thing in a year. Or today. He might leave it there for the person who God wanted it to get to finds it. We don’t know. And we never will know. But that is not what it’s about.”

We got to the library and settled into our work. Jacob decided he would share the gospel with someone in the library. I looked at him in wonderment. “The next person that God brings to us, I’m going to share with.”

Moments later an older woman appeared steps from our table perusing the books at the end of an aisle. He raised his head, eyebrows raised at me. He darted his eyes back and forth from her to me asking without words, “Is she the one?”

I shrugged my shoulders, silently affirming that he would be guided by God not me.

He leaned over and whispered, “Does she work here?”

“I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter.”

“I’ll be right back.” He left the table and came back within a few minutes holding Bible tracts. He slid them under his Logic book and went back to his work keeping one eye on the woman at the end of the aisle.

She disappeared and he said, “If God brings her back I’ll share with her.”

Minutes went by and she didn’t come back. Jacob jumped up from his seat and darted away. Seconds later he rushed back, picked up his Logic book, grabbed the tracts in hiding, and raced away.

Several minutes passed before he made his way back. His face glowed. Literally glowed. His face told me everything. He had just obeyed God and felt the blessing of obedience.

“Mom, I did it.”

“No you didn’t!”

“Yes, I did!”

“What? When? How? I didn’t hear you!”

“I followed her to her car.” (Side note, we are now praying for wisdom and discernment and discussions of not going to cars.)

“And???”

“I asked her if she knew Jesus. She stopped and just looked at me at first. Then she said yes.”

Sounded exactly like our first exchange.

“I shouldn’t have said that to her. I should’ve asked her if she has a relationship with Jesus. Or something else.”

“It’s ok. God will use your offering however inadequate it seems. You obeyed Him, which is the most important thing. And you gave her the gospel to take home with her. Now our job is to keep praying for these two people. We don’t know if they will end up reading it, realizing they need a Savior, and give their life to Christ.”

The adrenaline was flowing through him. Now it was contagious. Zachary wanted to find someone. Andrew wanted to find someone. When we picked Andrew up from therapy and told him, he said, “You know, you don’t have to give them one of those things. Just tell them who Jesus is.” I love his simplicity.

Sharing the gospel itself isn’t uncomfortable or new to me. Sharing the gospel with total strangers- this is new. I can share the gospel all day long with someone I’ve built a relationship with, a friend or a family member. Someone I know something about their life and can see how God is drawing them. But a stranger I know nothing about. That is a different story.

I can muster up a dozen or more excuses why I shouldn’t tell the cashier about Jesus. What if she’s already a christian? What if I feel the pressure of the line behind me and stumble over my words? What if she is offended by my words?

These are terrible excuses. I had a knowledge of God my entire life. I never disbelieved in Him, but I never had a personal, saving relationship with him until after I got married. Same with my husband. What if all the people in my life held back sharing the greatest gift I’ve ever received because they didn’t want to offend me. Or what if they held back because they were more filled with themselves than they were with a love for seeing me enter into eternity with them?

A month of darkness God used to speak many things to me. One being that my self sins are great. If I’m honest, the thing that holds me back from telling every person I see that Jesus saves is my “self”. It is more of a concern of if I say the right thing, what I will look like, if I will be humiliated in the face of their rejection. And God is asking me to lay down myself. He is asking me to love Him more than I love anything else in this entire world.

A radical love for Christ leads to a radical love of people.

So here’s my confession to you. I don’t love people well. If I really look into my heart, I can’t deny it. If I loved people the way God desires I love people, you wouldn’t be able to stop me. His love would pour through me all over each person I encountered.

I pour out love in the easy ways. The comfortable ways. Meeting a need, helping a friend, sharing a word of encouragement. These are necessary and good. But they take little from me. I didn’t really lay aside much of myself. Because the much of myself in need of laying aside is my pride, my fear of rejection, my fear of offending. These do not come from God.

Years ago I sent a dear friend a Bible. The rejection scarred my heart. Jacob encouraged me to send this friend, an atheist, a Bible. He stood over my shoulder as her email landed in my inbox. We silently read her angry words lashing out at me. Telling me how dare I send her a Bible knowing she doesn’t believe there is a God. Her final words to me told me she was ending our friendship.

It hurt. I cried. And Jacob looked on in utter astonishment. I explained to him that the Bible tells us the gospel offends. It’s not my friend that is rejecting me, it’s the enemy at work rejecting the Word of Truth. The results are not up to us. We are responsible for sharing the gift we hold, but we are not responsible for the person choosing to accept or reject the gift.

Yesterday I shared how God has asked me to mark my 40th birthday. I want to be very clear with you. I’m not sharing for a pat on the back. I’m not sharing so you think I’m a super christian. I’m sharing for you to see two things. The power of God is unbelievable and moveable in ways we can’t understand. And I want you to hold me accountable. If I kept this secret, I fear I would begin to tell myself things like, “Maybe that isn’t what God told me to do.” Or “No one knows I’m supposed to be doing this anyway, so it doesn’t matter.” It matters. Jesus could return today. Or the next person I come in contact could die in the next hour.

I am also asking for your prayers for the next 40 days. I am asking you to pray bold prayers as our family seeks to walk the life of a missionary on its home turf. Our desire is to see lives transformed. To see the gospel advance. We lose sight of the need for salvation right here in our own neighborhoods. I’m surrounded by people living in darkness and I hold a light to share with them. I’m praying for courage and boldness. For a deep love for people. For wisdom and discernment. For mercy and compassion. For divine opportunities.

And I pray that walking in obedience with my children will teach them more about obedience to God than any devotion I can read them or any lecture I can give them.

 

 

How God Wants Me To Radically Celebrate My 40th Birthday

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My 40th birthday is around the corner. We talked as a family about how to celebrate. Nothing seemed to feel right to me. We have lots of trips planned around my birthday, so that was out. I’m not a big party person, so that is out. Dinner with friends? Yes, but we do that regularly. We tabled it for the day.

In the Bible 40 often signifies a time of testing or trial. A time of probation.

A few days prior to the 40th celebration discussion, Jacob asked me a question that continued stirring in me for days.

“Mom, if you knew Jesus was coming back in 2 days, what would you do?” He looked at me with inquisitive eyes as if testing me to see if I held the right answer.
“I’d begin telling everyone I know about Jesus.”
“I know. Me too. But we don’t know when He is coming. So we should be telling people all the time.”

He’s right. So why don’t we? For fear of offending? For fear of rejection? It really makes no sense though. It’s the greatest gift ever given to humanity. A hurting world that can’t seem to get along, that slays each other, that devours each other, that spews hate. We are holding the answer and we hold back.

I pondered his question. The thing is it wasn’t the first time he’s made me think in the last couple of weeks.

He sat in a church service recently and a verse entered his mind. Matthew 4:19. He didn’t know the verse but looked it up at his first opportunity.

“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

I see God moving him to share the gospel. It was because of this same child that Steve and I ended up in Haiti where we experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and watched a woman surrender her life to Christ as He led us to her in order to share the gospel.

When we heard the news of Jose Fernandez, his first comment was, “I hope he knew Jesus.” And a heavy weight descended on his heart. A burden and a hurt for the lost. Because we’ve all been lost. None of us were born Christians. He can’t remember a time of not “knowing” Jesus, but there came a time where he surrendered his life to Jesus and knowing about Jesus turned to a personal relationship with His Savior.

Since God impressed Matthew 4:19 on him, God’s been tossing it around in my own heart too. I am feeling the burden I am watching my son experience.

We’ve been reading Tramp for the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom. The boys now say things like, “I want a faith like that.” Or “I want to experience the same miracles she experienced.” (Side note- this is a great family read aloud after you’ve read The Hiding Place. There is a young reader’s edition.)

Corrie said yes to God at every turn. If I’m honest, I am selective with my yes’s. I’ll say yes as long as it doesn’t infringe on my comfort zone. As long as I don’t have to sacrifice too greatly.

I shared recently about what God showed me in the pit. He’s been refining me, killing off my self-sins. The process is painful. I had no idea how full of self I was until He began showing me the depths of my heart I’d never seen.

The day following our family discussion about how to mark my 40th, God spoke to me about what to do. “Give your birthday away. To me. Selflessly.”

What does that look like? In a split second, He made it very clear it was not to do a list of good deeds. My first thought went to how I could do 40 acts of kindness or 40 good things for God. He said no. That would be too self-promoting, too easy to grow self-righteous. Too close to all those self-sins He’s working out of me ever so painfully.

I knew why He told me no. He’s teaching me that if I want to really love Him more, then I will love His people. And if I love His people, I will begin telling His people who He is. To do that, I must put myself away. Get myself out of the picture. My “self” stands in the way and cares about what people may say or think. And He says, “Lay down your self.”

So that afternoon I sat with my family on the porch and told them that God showed me how I am to celebrate my 40th birthday. It’s by giving away 40 gifts. Giving away the message of the hope I have to 40 people. I wasn’t exactly sure except that somehow or in some way I was to mark 40 by sharing the gospel. Not sharing good deeds, but sharing the good news.

As Steve and the other boys nodded along, Jacob’s eyes lit up. “Mom, I love that idea!”

The next morning I began to sense God telling me not to wait for my birthday. To begin to mark my 40th birthday now. We are a little less than 40 days away, and He said go. God confirmed through Jacob when he said, “Why don’t we just start now instead of waiting. For the next 40 days, let’s share Jesus everywhere we go.”

When God says move, He means move. When God places a desire in your heart, He won’t let it die. When the desire makes you squirm with discomfort because your pride is being poked, you can be sure God won’t stop until you learn that humility is the true seat of honor.

If I’m honest, it’s my pride that seals my lips from shouting the gospel message everywhere I go. I justify by saying that I live the gospel out for others to see. And while this is true at times, He also said “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” And “Go make disciples.”

So Jacob nudged because God bumped.

This goes right along with what He’s been showing me for the last year. No platform must be built to make Him known. We can make Him known with no stage, platform, or audience. We make Him known to the very next person we encounter.

Join me for the follow up to this post (hopefully tomorrow??). Jacob and I decided that if God said start celebrating 40 now, we must obey. I’ve walked in disobedience when God asked me to follow Him, and it’s not pretty. We are choosing obedience and sharing with you here for two reasons. 1- I am now accountable to you. 2- To encourage you to let God poke you to share with the very next person the hope you have….in front of your kids.

While 40 signifies a time of testing and trial, I’ve also seen how powerful developing habits that turn into lifestyle can shape in 40 days. Day 1-10 are pretty tough. As you edge closer to 40, the discomfort is gone and it’s simply part of your life. Maybe that is why God is asking me to celebrate my 40th birthday for 40 days by giving it away. So that every day of my life becomes less about me and more about Him. Not just here where it’s comfortable, but out there in the world.

What God Showed Me When I Lay in the Pit

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I am not a private person. I am an open book, completely transparent and energized by friends and people who are real. Who are willing to say, “I struggle with this. I need help here. Can you pray about this.” Because we know anyway, so why fake it? What’s the point?

The last 4 weeks I’ve not been myself. I shared a little in my last post. Honestly, I would’ve shared more if I had more time to write.

It slithered from the shadows and descended upon me in the dark of night, and when I woke, the world looked different.

A sadness lay over me like a weighted blanket. The sadness would lift ever so slightly and with no warning would swoop back with an agenda. To hold me captive. To torment and taunt.

Initially, I battled in my own strength. Nothing had happened in my life to cause this. Nothing had changed. I’m not currently experiencing grief or trauma. I had no “reason” to live in this soul darkness. I spoke reason and logic to my mind. It didn’t help.

I tried to push it into the depths of my heart, away from the world. If I pushed hard enough, surely it would disappear into some soul abyss. Then I would feel “normal” again.

I felt far from God. So very far. I know truth. I know He didn’t leave me. My prayers became breath prayers. “Lord, help!”

My perspective was gone. My passion. Gone. Desires. Gone. Motivation. Gone. I didn’t recognize me anymore, and I began to panic. The black would come in hurricane sized waves.

I tried to talk about it but had zero words. Nothing made sense. How could I explain this to anyone when I didn’t understand it myself. But I tried to explain to Steve. He listened without trying to fix me or solve my problems.

It simply felt like an attack from satan. One unlike any I’d ever experienced before.

I told Steve I know truth. I know I have a million reasons to feel joy, to be thankful, to praise God. But I couldn’t do it. I know scripture. I know the lies that are being whispered to me by satan. I know I am hearing the lies louder than truth. I’m fighting it, but it’s so hard to fight in the dark. Every move feels labored.

Steve asked me who I had praying for me. I said no one specifically about this because I don’t even know what to ask for. And I feel ridiculous because I have not one single, microscopic reason to feel this way. My friends are dealing with real problems, real issues, real grief. How can I ask them to pray for something so ridiculous? However, I know many who pray for me regularly as the Spirit leads.

It’s what satan wanted. He wanted me to isolate myself from the fellowship of believers. Because he knows they would battle for me with the sword of truth, they would hold the shield of faith on my behalf.

Steve took my phone in his hand and told me if I didn’t reach out to my dear friend and mentor immediately, he would call her for me. So I did. Then I ran into a friend at church. I tried to get in and out. I can’t fake it. What you see is what you get with me. There is no happy face when I’m not happy. She stopped me and said I didn’t seem myself. My eyes welled up, and I blurted it all over her. Steve began asking people to pray for me. And I know many of you prayed for me after my last post.

The thing is on the outside, no one could really tell what was happening in my heart and mind. Though I’m not a fake it person, I swallowed hard to appear “normal”, to go through the motions, to keep taking steps forward.

Several weeks ago I wrote this in my journal:

I don’t feel like myself anymore. Or am I more myself than I’ve ever been? I’m confused. That’s what I feel. And lonely, which is weird because I’m never alone these days. The boys are with me around the clock. I’ve lost the time I used to have to reflect. Yet I stand inside the greater gift. That of constant experience. I know God’s still here, but I used to sense His Presence so powerfully. Now, I pray desperate breath prayers.

No more simmering of Him in my soul. My pride and self-sufficiency are being burned in the Refiner’s fire. I must surrender it all to Him. To let go and be still. To open my hands. To breathe.

After writing that in my journal a friend sent me a message about how something I posted encouraged her. I shared how it had spoken to me because I feel I’m in a dark place away from God. She responded to me by sharing a story about Mother Theresa being certain God had called her to ministry in India. As years passed she began to feel she couldn’t “hear” God anymore and couldn’t feel His Presence. Yet she remained obedient. After 19 years the Holy Spirit revealed to her that how could she minister to “abandoned” people if she herself never experienced what it felt like to be “abandoned”. And possibly in my ministry to women, God is allowing me go into the dark pit so that I can empathize with my sweet sisters in the Lord in a deeper, more intimate way.

Over the course of days which turned into weeks, God began to show me that He wants my whole heart. It’s what He spoke to me last year. Wholehearted woman.

To get my whole heart, I had to remove the sins of my self-sufficiency first. I had to realize that though I don’t recognize it, I need Him in a desperate way every breathing moment of my life.

He began to show me sins that were not sins I commit (as A.W Tozer puts it) but sins that are part of who I am. As they began to crawl out of me, it was disgusting. And the more disgusted I became with myself over sins that I never named as sins, I wanted to turn my face from God. I wanted to run and hide from Him.

But He wouldn’t let me. Instead, He let me sit in the dark of the pit, seeing the depth of sin and depravity that reside inside the human heart. My own heart. But then.

Cracks of light emerged. In the still of the dark, I began to hear His whispers. His truths. His Word.

Keep praying. Keep serving my people. Keep loving. I love you.

I’ve been tucked in His wings the entire time. Covered by His feathers.

More light entered. But my vision was still blurry for me eyes had been in the dark. I could see shadows now. He is here.

Our ENTIRE life is spiritual. Every second of the physical is spiritual. There are forces of darkness that seek to destroy. My life is held in the Father’s hand and nothing can snatch me out of His hand. But the enemy will use his demonic forces to cover us with the dark in order to hide the light.

His Word tells me that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. I claim that truth.

I began praying His Word.

Psalm 17:6-9

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
    turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
    you who save by your right hand
    those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
    hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,

Within 2 days of asking for prayers, I was overwhelmed by God. Friends began sending encouragement around the clock. Articles were slipped into my inbox that seemed like words from God meant for my heart alone. 36 hours after frantic calls for prayer, the deep, dark, wet blanket lifted.

Psalm 40:2 “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

He lifted me from the slimy pit. Praise God.

The day He pulled me from the pit, I opened my eyes and the world looked familiar again. Nothing like it had looked for weeks.

I was afraid to claim victory yet. So I hesitantly moved through the days. Five days later, I spoke it out loud to Steve and my friend and mentor. “I’m back.”

Four terrifying and dark weeks, and I see God differently now. I love Him in a new way. He’s still refining me in His fire. He’s still pulling yuck out of me so I can be a vessel for Him. But. He’s answered a prayer that I’ve been praying for a year. “Lord, let me love you more.”

I love Him more. My passion is reignited.

Satan hopes my pride and claim to “privacy” will prevent me from sharing any of this with you. But I must share with you where I’ve been the last month because I’m convinced many reading this know exactly what I’m writing about. I’m convinced that many live in a dark place and are desperate for the light.

Prior to this experience I couldn’t relate to many of my sisters who struggle silently in the pit. Now, you will be in my prayers.

If you are in the pit, if you feel abandoned, keep speaking truth to the lies. Don’t stop praying. Claim victory in Christ. Share with a friend even if you feel ridiculous or misunderstood. Keep speaking truth and moving forward.

The pit feels as far as we can be from God, but I now believe it might be the closest we ever are to Him.