Month: July 2020

  • Pursuing Our Dreams in God’s Timing

    The hot San Diego air blew against my back as I unloaded my 8-month-old from her car seat. Together we slipped through the doors of the pregnancy support center into the cool, friendly room. I was excited to start my first day of volunteering– something I’d wanted to do for a long time.

    That day the center had an immediate need for help in the clothing closet. My daughter and I headed over, and after brief instructions from the receptionist, we started organizing clothes into the vast wall of bins.

    That’s when everything went sideways.

    The more bins I organized, the more my daughter tried to “un-organize.” She dug into low lying bins and spread clothes all over the floor. While I’d first been excited to help, I suddenly only wanted to get my little one out of there before she caused more chaos.

    That day I left discouraged and frustrated. My dreams and hopes for getting involved went flitting away like a hummingbird from a feeder. Poof. Gone. Not only that, but I knew it could be a long time before I could volunteer in a helpful way again.

    I felt like my child was getting in the way of following God’s call on my heart. However, I soon realized that wasn’t true at all.

    My husband is in the military, and a few months before the above clothes-bin incident, when we were packing to move from Norfolk, VA to San Diego, California, I had found an old journal. As I flipped through the pages, I’d realized a theme that I’d overlooked for years.

    At every duty station we’d been to, I had the desire to volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. I had looked at websites and mulled it over, but I’d never done it. After this realization, I committed to act on that desire once we got to San Diego.

    In my mind, after all the times I hadn’t gotten involved, I felt like I had to act on that dream NOW. But after that day with my daughter, the door of active volunteering seemed to slam shut in my face.

    I could still donate clothes and supplies, but I wanted to do more.

    But throughout this process, I started to realize something important: Just because things don’t work out NOW, doesn’t mean the desire is not from God or that we have to let go of those dreams.

    It’s easy to doubt God, to doubt if that passion is really from Him or if He wants us to pursue it. And it’s easy to give up on a dream when we realize that something is more important in the moment– for me, like caring for the children God blessed me with.

    But that doesn’t mean those callings will take a back seat forever.

    God formed us with a true identity built into us. He put us here for a reason, equipped with passions and gifts. And I started to see that God has a way of bringing things to fruition in the proper time.

    Seasons change, and as they do, so will our activities.

    Just a month after my crazy volunteer day, I got a huge surprise: I was pregnant with my third daughter. That was a complete miracle since fertility treatments and miscarriages surrounded the births of my older two. Not to mention, due to the timing, we realized my husband would be deployed when the baby was due. Plus, I knew I would need a C-section.

    The next year was a whirlwind. My husband deployed when I was 7 months pregnant, and I was home with two young kids. Two months into deployment, baby number three arrived and I spent a few months recovering from my surgery.

    That year was probably the most crazy, busy, intense year of my entire life. And the Lord knew that I needed to focus on my growing family through it all. Even though I had desperately wanted to help at the pregnancy center, it wasn’t God’s timing in that season. The dream of helping women in challenging situations hasn’t died. I’m finding ways to pursue it now as my kids get older and we’re living in another state.

    I am learning continually that God’s timing is greater than our own. I’m learning to trust His timing and that He gives us our dreams for a reason. And best of all, that He walks with us through every season and brings His peace and purpose into the midst of our normal, everyday existence.

    Whether we think we’re “accomplishing” our dreams or not, we can trust that He is always working out His good and perfect will in our lives. Even when it seems like twists and turns in life keep you from pursuing your dreams in the ways you hope, God’s timing is perfect. He will sustain us and give us purpose and peace in every season, and faithfully fulfill the desires of our hearts.

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  • Believing God Loves Me

    “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them…We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:15-16,19 (NIV)

    Do you know and believe that God loves you? I know that can be a tough question. It’s one that’s worth asking because it’s where our identity in Christ begins–with us believing in, and relying on His love for us. 

    For a long time, I didn’t really grasp just how much God loves me. I knew it in my head, but somehow I imagined there would have to be part of me that was worthy of it to really experience it. I felt blessed just to be in the room with Him, and rarely felt worthy of a place next to Him at the table. After all, who am I that He should take notice of me, let alone esteem me as a beloved friend? 

    As I grew in my relationship with God, He gave me a sense of belonging with Him. He showed me through his faithfulness that He loves me truly and fiercely. It’s then that I began to see evidence of His love in everyday things, great and small.  Because of Christ, I started to see myself through His eyes and gained confidence as His beloved daughter, redeemed and made whole. 

    I continue to be inspired and encouraged by the story of apostle John in the Bible. He was someone who really embraced his identity as one whom God loved. In fact, John more than once describes himself throughout the gospels as “The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved”. 

    That bold of a statement might seem a little strange and maybe even a bit self-important. But in reality, when John talked about himself as the disciple whom God loved, he was carefully choosing words to describe what was most important about him.

    John’s core identity, how he saw himself and interacted with the world, was completely founded on His relationship with Jesus. We will always surrender our lives to whatever the defining love or influence is in our life, and for John, Jesus was the defining influence in his life. 

    One example of this is in John 13:23, where Jesus is talking with the disciples. We read that John was sitting right next to Jesus, which at a glance could have seemed a bit bold perhaps. But John was confidently sitting at the feet of Jesus because he knows he belongs there. He believes and relies on the love Jesus has for him. John is secure in where his identity is. He picks the seat closest to Jesus because it’s where he belongs as one loved by Jesus. 

    I recently learned something really cool about the phrase “The disciple whom Jesus loved”.  The Greek for loved here can literally be translated as the disciple whom Jesus keeps on loving. His love for us isn’t conditional. It’s not past tense, it is new every morning. It is evergreen and unwavering. 

    Whether we overcommit and underdeliver, whether we say yes or no, if we get it all right or if we get it all wrong, we are the ones that Jesus keeps on loving. We don’t have to wonder everyday, “does he still love me?” The answer will always be, “Yes! Now get on over there and sit next to Jesus because you are someone whom Jesus keeps on loving. There’s nothing we can do to change His love, nothing we can do to lose it. God is love, and we are His beloved. 

    As we begin to see ourselves this way, as one that Jesus keeps on loving, everything changes. When our relationship with Jesus is the defining influence in our lives, every other decision, big or little, all passes through that filter. 

    John 4:19 says “we love because He first loved us.” Our love for God begins with letting Him love us. When we allow God’s love to sink into our very being, it transforms us. When we believe in and rely on His love, we find a peace and joy that transcends our circumstances. It defines and shapes our identity and how we move in the world. It gives us security and confidence. It is a firm foundation upon which to build our lives. When we experience God’s radical love, it changes everything. 

    You are God’s beloved. It is who you are. He created you, He sees you and He loves you so much. Believe in that, spend time with God and learn to trust in His love and rely on it. He will never fail you or abandon you. He has planned ahead every detail of your life and will provide for you. Take your spot at the table next to Him, as one loved by God. He is happy to have you close to Him, right where you will always belong. 

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  • Safe, Significant and Strong

    I came across a meme the other day that said, “I thought my anxiety had imagined every worst case scenario, but this year has given it some new material to work with.” With all that is going on in the world right now, it’s easy to feel like we live in an unsafe and scary world. Everywhere we turn there seems to be a new threat. There is an invisible virus that threatens to take those we love. There is hatred and violence; hunger and poverty; loss and grief; instability of jobs and resources; relationship conflicts, and don’t even get me started on the murder hornets!

    We have so many questions about what is safe, how the future will look, when will all this end and go back to normal, but we have so few answers. Looking around at this earthly kingdom, everything seems to be shaken to its core. And while we can acknowledge that good things can and will come from these difficult times, it’s challenging to see how and when.

    One thing I’ve learned is that the direction of our attention decides what we will focus on. I’ve found that the more we focus on all the hardships going on around us, the more fear and anxiety can well up in our souls. More times than I care to admit, I have been caught up in the grip of fear as my anxieties overflow. When our focus is on our fears, they can become all we see. Fear will keep us wrapped up in our anxieties and away from the peace that we long for.

    Our fear keeps us from seeing the truth of God’s reality for us. The truth is, even though the world can feel like an unsafe place to be, we are safe because we belong to the unshakable kingdom of God.

    “The kingdom of God is never in trouble, the kingdom of God never runs out of resources and the kingdom of God is never lacking in power. Therefore, those who live with God in this available kingdom are never in trouble, never lack provision, and never lack power. In the kingdom of God, I discover that I am safe, significant, and strong.”

    James Bryan Smith, Eternal Living

    In God’s kingdom we are safe, significant and strong because His kingdom stands secure. It does not waiver in adversity, or topple under pressure, or change with the wind. God’s kingdom is steadfast, as He is steadfast. When we are being tossed about by waves of fear and anxiety, He gently reminds us of what is true.

    As beloved children of God, we live in the available, powerful and provisional kingdom of God. This isn’t a distant hope that is only available to us for the afterlife, but it’s a real and present reality in the here and now. God has been, is still, and always will be the great I AM and Jesus has overcome the dangers and turmoil of this world for good.

    “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son…” – Colossians 1:13

    “Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.” – Hebrews 12:28

    We don’t have to strain or yell to be heard by Him. We don’t have to engineer our status in His kingdom or make our case for acceptance and love. We have all the provisions of His kingdom at our disposal because we belong to Him. He guards our hearts and minds and plans ahead for us. This is our reality no matter what new threat appears in our news feed. No matter what happens in this world, this reality is still true. We have nothing to fear, for we have the great King on our side. He loves to provide all we need as we seek to live in His unshakable Kingdom.

    “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” – Matthew 6:33

    Even if this world threatens to destroy us, to scare us or to steal our joy, we live in a kingdom that cannot be destroyed. It is a kingdom where we find steady peace, abounding joy, unconditional love, and the powerful presence of God. He is always by our side and fighting for our cause. He is pouring out His love and provision on our behalf. His perfect love drives out all fear.

    Remember who you are–beloved, daughter of the King! When we focus on our identity in Christ as citizens of God’s kingdom, we will find peace and freedom even in the midst of our fears and anxieties. Because even if the very foundations of the earth should tremble, God’s kingdom and our place in it will always stand firm.

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