Category Archives: Blog

Broken Dreams

Broken Dreams

What do you do when your dreams are broken?

When we are starting out in life, we have dreams- dreams for us and dreams for those we love. We dream about how we ‘think’ life will turn out. We have our dream college, while in college we ponder about our dream job, once out in the workforce (with sometimes our less than dream job) we have more dreams. We dream about our future spouse and what our future will hold. Once married with kids, we have dreams for our kids. We see them thriving and loving God and following a certain path.

None of us would ever dream about the loss of a marriage or the adult-child that has made decisions that were definitely not part of our dreams. None of us would have imagined our broken financial situation or perhaps that loved one with their addictions.

But no matter how perfectly we try to set these dreams up or do all the right things, man has free will. And something I always have to remind myself of, I am not in control.

So many questions….

What do we do with our broken dreams? How can we not only cope, but still choose to thrive in the midst of our broken places? How did we get here? How did God allow this to happen? Can our broken places be used for anything? Did we make a mistake?

When dreams for us or our loved ones feel broken and shattered, fear creeps in. Fear tries to tell us what we could have done differently or looking back, what we should have done. This fear will try to get you to question everything, racking your brain, losing sleep, and asking all the whys. And it will rob you of your peace and joy.

Sometimes we think of worst-case scenarios and honestly, sometimes we just need to go there. What’s the worst-case scenario in your situation? I promise you that even if that fear came to pass, that God would give you what you needed to get through.

I don’t know why you’re walking through what you’re walking through, but I do know this- He redeems everything, in His perfect timing He restores, and He uses these things that cause us our greatest pain to draw us closer to Him.

What Can God Give us in the Midst of our Broken Dreams?:

  • He gives perspective: What if God is wanting to take these broken places and instead of giving you all the answers, He wants to give you perspective? What if instead of asking “Why?” or “How did we get here?”, you ask, “Lord, what do you want to do through this?” Every trial, every battle, and every situation has the ability to make us stronger and prepare us for the next battle. “Use it Lord…”
  • He gives peace: It’s easy to have peace when everything is going our way. But the real challenge is to trust Him to give you supernatural peace when our biggest fears are a reality. My friend recently walked through something where her adult son was in the hospital for over a week. I can tell you that her peace during those times of uncertainty was nothing short of supernatural. God’s peace carried her. I know it did. And it can carry you too.
  • He gives purpose: Even though it’s hard to see how a bad situation can ever have purpose, it can. That’s what God does. He gives us purpose in our pain. He uses that thing that the enemy tried to use for our downfall, and turns it around and does something beautiful through it.

When Joseph was thrown into a pit and sold as a slave, one could never have imagined how God could use that situation for good. In the natural, it looked hopeless. That is God’s specialty!  Because of what happened to him, God was able to set him up in a place of leadership and he was not only able to save his family, but he saved many. Only God.

Genesis 50:20 (NIV)- You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Growing up, I used to wonder why I had to suffer so much pain. I look back now and see how God is using those things I had to walk through to help other people. And perhaps that will be the story of your pain as well. Although you would have never wished for this situation in a million years, God can use it. He can send people your way that are walking through similar pain so that you can minister and bring comfort to them. Nothing is wasted. Nothing.

In God’s hands intended evil becomes eventual good. –Max Lucado

  • He gives His presence: Here’s the truth- you might never get the answers to all of your questions. Sigh. I know. But what I also know is that if you choose to lean in to Him during this time, He will show up and make His presence known. He’s good like that. Some of my hardest battles made for some of my most intimate times with God.

Psalms 34:18 (NLT)- The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Sometimes, out of our desperation and pain, we feel like God owes us answers. He owes us nothing- and yet chooses to give us everything. In my own life, as I’ve walked through various trials and battles, I’ve had to make peace with the simple fact that I can ask God anything I want- but that doesn’t mean I’ll get all the answers I want. I still choose to praise Him regardless. In the good and the bad, He is still worthy to be praised and I surrender to Him control over my life…. Not because I understand everything, but ultimately, because I trust Him.

When Job lost everything, this was his response in Job 13:15– “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.”

When King Nebuchadnezzar was about to throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace, this was their response in Daniel 3:17-18- 17 “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

We know He is able, but even if not, I will praise Him.

I’m not sure what you’re walking through today, but I can tell you this- He can give you perspective, peace, purpose, and most comforting of all, His presence.

Lord, You are able to use anything! You can take the darkest situation and turn it around and shine powerfully through it. We surrender this to You. Show us what You want us to do through it. What is our part? Lord, we choose to worship You regardless of our situation… You are still good, even when we don’t understand or have all the answers. We ask that You would show up and show off and that we would see miracles! With men, it might look impossible, but with You, ALL things are possible! Thank-You Lord, that You give us the strength to walk through any situation. There is NOTHING that is too difficult for You… nothing. You are faithful to complete the work that You have started in our lives and in the lives of those we love. Not my will, but Your will be done. In Jesus name, amen.

Are You Under Attack?

We need to discuss those attacks on your life. We need to discuss those attacks on my life. The enemy has come out of the gates and strong in January. I mean strong. Ugh.

Let’s talk.

I used to not be much of a dog person. True story. That is until I met a Pug named Latte, and my hardened-towards-dogs-heart quickly turned to mush from the moment I held him. Over the past 11 ½ years, Latte has taught me, us, what it means to forgive quickly and how to love unconditionally, no matter what. He has been a faithful companion and was with our little family through some very hard things. And we will be forever grateful for the honor to have loved him well. Last Friday night was just a normal night. I was pulling out of my driveway like I had for the past 2 and ½ years when I felt a ‘thump-thump’. I thought I ran over some bricks, as we have many bricks in this particular area. When I got out to check my tire, I saw my precious Pug. (I will spare you the details, as I’ve already shared them on my personal Facebook page and I don’t want to get distracted from the point of this post.) We lost Latte that night and our lives are forever changed because of that accident.

I realized right away that the enemy was trying to use this accident to distract me. He wanted me to stay in the pain of sadness and regret. I started hearing, “If you hadn’t….” “If only you…..” then your precious fur baby would still be here. And I had to fight the images that were scrolling through my head about how he died. Even though I knew it was an accident, the enemy was having a field day with this, hoping to fully throw me off course. Because if he could get me down and keep me down, he wins.

I not only recognized this as an attack, I also had a few friends message me with confirmation that the enemy was trying to detour and distract me.

One friend wrote, “I felt like the Holy Spirit was showing me the strategy of the enemy in this. That he was using the image and “replaying” of the way the accident happened- to try to guilt and distract you from the call on your life right now. He can’t get you to give it up so he is just trying to distract you from it. I will continue to pray that you tell him to shut up!” (Thank you Karla).

God has put some things on my heart and has been renewing my passion for ministering to women. And as many of you know, my husband and I have a non-profit, Big Red’s Ranch. We are so blessed to be able to minister to kids and families throughout the year. The enemy has already been trying to distract us in regards to some changes in the ministry, but we know we must keep pressing on- not for us, but for all of the people that will be impacted through our ministry.

Sunday morning- one week after my Pug passed away, I went out to feed the animals like I do every morning at 7am. I heard a very loud barking noise, it sounded like a big dog and it sounded very close. I peered around the corner and saw a large German Shepherd frantically barking. Again, I will spare the details, but it was a long morning. He was in the area with our 4 goats. We think he was someone’s dog, got loose, and swam through the water up to our property. He killed 3 out of our 4 goats. One of those goats was Chester, my first goat ever. For over 2 years I have worked very hard to take care of these goats, feed and care for them, and get them to trust me. And within a couple of hours, they were gone. We’ve lived on this ranch for 2 ½ years and this was just a freak thing- nothing like this has ever happened. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve dealt with our share of loss living here. Raccoons, bobcats, and vultures. We’ve lost more chickens and bunnies than I care to recount. But this is different. I know it is in my spirit.

The enemy is trying to distract.

BE ON ALERT//DON’T GET DISTRACTED

Now let’s talk about you. That attack on your life has little to do with what is happening (what is seen) and much more to do with the future. And not just your future, but others as well. The enemy knows that if he can bring out his best weapons against us, the things that hit closest to home, we might easily become distracted and paralyzed. Be on alert to those areas that are closest to your heart. Family, marriage, close relationships, hurts and pain- the enemy is on the lookout, seeking to distract and destroy our lives. John 10:10a says the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. We need to be alert because we are in a spiritual battle. 1 Peter 5:8 says Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

But we don’t need to walk in fear. In Isaiah 54:17 the Bible says that no weapon formed against us will prosper and in 1 Corinthians 15:57 & Romans 8:37 we learn that we have the victory!

After our goats had been attacked, our staff member Bianca wrote on Facebook: “What the enemy can’t destroy, he’ll distract.”

He knows if he can get you distracted, he wins. It doesn’t just affect you.

There are people in your life that you are called to cross paths with. God has people for you to minister to, to love on, reach out to, and to encourage. If you stay down and get distracted, you will miss it. Please don’t misunderstand me- we all have things that make us sad or break our heart, all of us. John 6:33 tells us that in this world we will have trouble. And we all need to allow ourselves however much time to heal. And we know healing is a process. But here’s the good news: The second half of John 6:33 tells us to take heart because He has overcome the world.

There is a spiritual battle going on. The enemy would love to keep you down. Don’t stay there!

  • Stay alert
  • Don’t get distracted
  • Recognize the enemy’s attacks
  • Use God’s Word to fight the enemy
  • Don’t stay down
  • Know that you are stronger than you think

Fight with God’s Word: Ephesians 6:12-13  12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

Submit your will to God: James 4:7- Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

(Prayer from Philippians 3:13-14) Lord God, help me to focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which You, through Christ Jesus, is calling each of us to. Amen.

Some additional Resources for you:

Havilah Cunnington wrote an incredible book that I highly recommend. It’s called Stronger Than the Struggle, Uncomplicating Your Spiritual Battle. (<—Click here)

Here’s a powerful talk (youtube) Havilah Cinnington did on Stronger than the Struggle. (<—–Click here)

My friend Amy Martinez wrote a book called Becoming a Victory Girl (<——-Click here)

 

Bye 2017, Hello 2018

Do you feel that? It’s a New Year bursting on the scene. I feel it. I smell it. Everything within wants to follow it. New found hope is about to bust out and I think i like it!

Many of you are so incredibly over the hard-fought battles of 2017. You are ready for your fresh start. Before we sweep 2017 under the rug, can we stop for a moment and allow it to be our teacher first? It would be a mistake to not allow our struggles to teach us a lesson or two that we can bring into 2018- like a trophy of grace. My personal challenge to you as we close this chapter would be to ask God what He wants to teach you from 2017. We lift up our sleeves and see the scars that no one else sees, but we know they’re there. Let’s carry with us the truths from them- that God has brought us through another year. Some of us feel weary from battle- we drag our war-torn bodies over the finish line, thirsty for a fresh start. If that’s you, my bruised friend, my hope for you is that God will whisper ever so gently… that His mercies are new… fresh. That He alone can speak into those places that feel weary and battered, and that He will remind you and I once again, that He has fresh living water, ready to pour it out on all who come to Him. And that we can enter a place of rest when we enter His presence.

Matthew 11:28 (NLT)- Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Jeremiah 31:25 (NIV)- “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”

I have encountered many skeptical hearts on social media lately- they call themselves the rebels. I hear them chant, “No new words for the new year, forget the resolutions, no goal-setting.” And I get it. I understand their disillusioned hearts- the heart that has been burned and discouraged from all the many years of goal-setting and broken dreams. But I still hear His call… His call to dream, His call to new beginnings, His call to fresh vision…. And it whispers into my tired heart, Come away with Me and dream for my mercies are new every morning.. and I am not only intrigued by His whispers, I am hungry for more.

Call them whatever you want- dreams, visions, goals, resolutions- I call it a hope for a new year with some direction to spur me on to more with Him. But in order to not become disenfranchised, I need to make peace with 2017.

My Mantra: Let it go and shake it off

Dear 2017,

I write this to make peace with you so I can move forward and dream in 2018. I cannot carry into my new year any baggage of the previous year. As the popular Frozen song shouts, I’m letting go. I forgive those who have hurt me. I forgive those who either willingly or perhaps unknowingly have offended or hurt me. I let it go and shake it off. I will allow 2017 to be my greatest of teachers. Those things that are unfinished from 2017, I shake it off. I did would I could and whatever I didn’t do, I didn’t do. Instead of beating myself over the head about it, I make peace with it because I am not perfect, and my plan in moving forward is to not carry it with me into the new year. It’s time for a fresh start. I will dream new dreams and have new visions for the New Year. I also carry with me all of the incredible memories I did make in 2017. I will not forget all the things that God did in my life, my family, and our ministry… so many testimonies of God’s faithfulness! So good-bye 2017. Thank you for it all. Now, let’s get to this business of a New Year! 2018- I’m ready for you! Let’s do this!!

Sincerely, forever hopeful, always a dreamer…. Celeste

NEW YEAR, NEW WORD:

Every year I pray about my word for the new year. It’s a word that helps guide me and gives me vision and focus throughout the year. Some people ask me how to get their word. I just start praying about it sometime in December, I see what my previous year looked like, and I ask the Lord to stir something in me for the new year. This was probably the quickest I’ve ever received my word. I wasn’t even in a time of prayer, but was sitting at my desk, working on Christmas cards, and in my spirit I heard RESET. I’m not even joking- I quickly scribbled it down on the back of my address labels and said to myself, “Hmmm… that was strange.” And it stayed with me like scented perfume. I couldn’t shake it. I just knew it, that it was lingering for a reason. And there you have it- my word. I am ready for a reset in my prayer life (Spiritual disciplines), a reset in my physical body (hello treadmill and weights and healthier eating), a reset in my writing goals (already printed my editorial calendar so I can have some focus), a reset in my priorities, and finally, a reset in my home (January will be purge month and I couldn’t be more excited).  #reset #oneword2018

Praying for you, that God will show you a word or words that will help guide and direct you in the new year! If you already have your word, I would love to hear it!!

END OF THE YEAR RESOURCES!!!

Finally, I have found some wonderful resources to help you reflect on the year and start getting excited about the new year. I hope you enjoy these resources as much as I did!

Kristin Bonin’s Dream It, Do it Printables

Lara Casey’s Power Sheets

Jennie Allen’s Dream Guide

Amy Stockstill’s Year in Review

ibloom 10 End of the Year Reflection Questions

My Review of Lara Casey’s PowerSheets-

Just wanted to end this year saying THANK-YOU so much for sticking with me and being an incredible support and encouragement as I have wanted this space to be a place of growth and encouragement for YOU!!! I am looking forward to growing together in 2018!! Happy New Year friends!! Be Blessed!!

 

Fearless Women

I’d like to start by saying welcome to my new friends on here from Northwood Church!! Last week I was honored to speak for their Women’s Retreat and then on Sunday morning. The theme for the retreat was Fearless. I was reminded afresh of God’s faithfulness to his people. I met so many fearless women- women that spend their days caring for loved ones, making quilts for those in need, baking cookies to raise money to give coats for those in need, giving out journals that others might be blessed, and living to be a blessing to others with their time and resources. I went there to serve, as all speakers should, and left feeling overwhelmed by God’s great love and faithfulness.

When I was riding in the elevator, God spoke to me. He reminded me of how He restores all things. When I was living in Palm Springs, CA. I was broken, hurting, and lost. I was working at the Westin Mission Hills Resort at the time. Then, after I surrendered my heart to the Lord, I moved to Dallas, Texas and went to Bible College at Christ for the Nations, where I also got a job at the Westin Galleria. And here I was, some 22 years later, speaking, sharing my stories…. and they booked me a room at the Westin. It was no coincidence.

It was God sweetly reminding me, “Dear child, I use everything, in my Kingdom nothing is wasted. I redeem and restore. I make all things new. Surrender to me all those places and spaces, and watch Me do what only I can do.” Thank you Lord.

Although you really need to hear the talk in full to get the full message, here’s some notes from my talk.

6 Practical ways we can fight our fears and go from being fearful to faithful (Friday Night):

1) Fight your fears by praying.

2) Fight your fears by doing it afraid.

3) Fight your fears by meditating on God’s Word.

4) Fight your fears by worshiping God.

5) Fight your fears by surrendering to God.

6) Fight your fears by journaling.

Fearless Women (Saturday):

1) Fearless Women embrace their season.

2) Fearless Women don’t compare.

3) Fearless Women get their strength from Him.

4) Fearless Women are okay with saying no.

5) Fearless Women trust that God will get them through.

6) Fearless Women don’t dread.

Obviously there’s WAY more to my talks than this! This is just a sample. To hear more, you can either come to one of my talks or feel free to book me! I am starting to take bookings for 2018! I love to speak to women’s groups, whether that be brunches or lunches, or dinners, or moms groups, or retreats! {See Speaking tab on website}.

Thank you Northwood Church for your hospitality, your outpouring of love to one another (and to me), and your detail to excellence! It was in incredible weekend and God was and is faithful!!

Here’s a link to the Sunday Morning message on discipleship. I share a little bit of my testimony towards the end.

Discipleship Message

Here’s a link to all of the pictures I posted on facebook! 

You Should Read Me

You Should Read Me

“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” — Anne Lamott

Confession: I used to be a terrible reader. It would take me forever to read a book. I was a great book ‘buyer’, almost a collector of sorts. I was even pretty good at starting books. That was my strong suit. But my attention span was limited, and if it didn’t really pull me in, well then, I was out.

Times have changed. I still feel like I take longer than most to read a book. But the good news is that I actually make myself finish a book before I will reward myself with reading another (unless it’s just completely boring or horrible and then I give myself permission to be out). I’ve noticed the more I read, the better of a reader I become. And the more I read, the more I enjoy the process and journey of learning, growing, and getting lost in a good story. My writing also benefits from reading a lot of books.

Something else I’ve learned is that I can NOT read in bed at night. This is a big no-no for me. I will be asleep in 4 minutes flat. True story. Over the past couple of years I’ve been blessed to be on multiple book launch teams. Sometimes the publishers house will send you the book and other times they send it through a pdf. It’s been so fun reading some incredible books lately, I just had to share a few of my favorites!

Some of my favorite reads from the past year:


Memoir-

All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth

All the Pretty Things“I don’t know how old I was the night the trailer burned down, or if the rumor was true that Daddy was the one who set it on fire.”

For a long time, Edie thought she had escaped. It started in an Appalachian trailer park, where a young girl dreamed of becoming a doctor. But every day, Edie woke up to her reality:a poverty-stricken world full of alcohol and violence, where getting out seemed impossible. She taught herself to drive a stick shift truck at twelve years oldso she could get her drunk daddy home from the bar.  She spent Saturdays at Brushy Mountain prison visiting her incarcerated cousin.  She watched adults eat while her stomach gnawed and then there was torching of the family trailer, where she dug through the ashes to try to salvage her most prized possession–her Tammy Wynette album.

And at the center of it all was her charismatic daddy. She never knew when he would show up but when he did he was usually drunk; she learned the hard way that she couldn’t count on him to protect her.  So she told herself it didn’t matter.  All she wanted was to make him proud. Against all odds, Edie “made doctor,” achieving everything that had once seemed beyond her reach. Only, it was too late, because her Daddy died a year before she graduated medical school. She split the cost of his funeral with her sister.

When her past finally caught up with her, it was all too much so she did what her Daddy would have done–she set it all on fire.
It would take her whole life burning down once again for Edie to be finally able to face the truth about herself, her family, and her relationship with God. Readers of The Glass Castle will treasure this refreshing and raw redemption story, a memoir for anyone who has ever hungered for home, forgiveness, and the safe embrace of a father’s love.

The Polygamist’s Daughter by Anna Le Baron (to be released March 21st)

The Polygamist's DaughterMy father had thirteen wives and more than fifty children . . .
This is the haunting memoir of Anna LeBaron, daughter of the notorious polygamist and murderer Ervil LeBaron. Ervil’s criminal activity kept Anna and her siblings constantly on the run from the FBI. Often starving, the children lived in a perpetual state of fear―and despite their numbers, Anna always felt alone. Would she ever find a place she truly belonged? Would she ever be anything other than the polygamist’s daughter?

Filled with murder, fear, and betrayal, The Polygamist’s Daughter is the harrowing, heart-wrenching story of a fatherless girl and her unwavering search for love, faith, and a place to call home.

The Con-Man’s Daughter by Candace Curry (to be released May 16th)

The Con Man's DaughterWhen Candice Curry was a little girl, she put her hand in her father’s back pocket so that she wouldn’t get lost in large crowds. Little did she know that as she followed him, he was plying his trade: conning people. Her family drove stolen cars, lived in stolen houses, and shopped with stolen credit cards. Drug use was regular, as were visits from strange people who were trying to track her father down. Though she eventually cut ties with her father, Candice could not ignore the scars that were left from her childhood.

This is her story, one steeped in secrets but one that, ultimately, led her to a place of forgiveness and freedom. As she struggles to understand her criminal father, as well as her own imperfect life, Candice comes to realize that we are not defined by our circumstances but rather by how we react to those circumstances. She’s found peace in the knowledge that God doesn’t love us because we’re perfect–but because he is.

Learning to Ride Again by Amanda Stephens

Learning to RideOn a lazy Saturday in autumn, a vintage bicycle was rescued from the cobwebs and adopted by an eager young couple with plans of romantic, post-restoration rides and life adventures. Mere months later, tragedy took the life of the husband days after their first anniversary, leaving the bike and anticipated future in pieces. The twenty-seven-year-old newlywed faced the harsh reality of a world without her husband, void of dreams yet still with the promise of hope. From debut author, Amanda Stephens, Learning to Ride Again is a powerfully poetic memoir that explores the painful shock and wondrous awe of learning to live beyond unexpected sorrow. From the night of the tragic call in Texas, to the dreamy hills of California for a cathartic goodbye, this deeply heartfelt story records the intensely personal yet universal experience: A portrait of love, loss and faith.

Christian Living-

Fear Fighting by Kelly Balarie

We all live with fear. It hangs around, whispering in our ears, reminding us of all we can’t do or will never be. But that’s not the end of the story. We also have a God who draws close to say, Fear not. I am with you. This Spirit transforms us into fear fighters–women breaking free of trepidation to find bold dedication to God’s peace-, purpose- and joy-filled callings.

With remarkable compassion born from personal experience, Kelly Balarie shows women how to

· Cultivate unstoppable faith by harnessing God’s Word and promptings
· Pray panic-, blood pressure- and stress-reducing prayers to usher in lasting peace
· Discover clear and immediate action plans to exchange worry for God’s greatest gifts
· Implement daily bravery decrees to stand armed through the day
· Participate in a 12-week study guide to foster new courageous habits

Kelly pulls back the curtain of fear so you can find the beautiful woman God created you to be.

Love Lives Here by Maria Goff (to be released March 22nd)

Love Lives HereThis is a book about discovering what we really need.

There are a lot of second-best options, but we weren’t made to live a second-best life. Finding what we actually need is different than what we are often offered. There are many books full of opinions, steps and programs. This isn’t one of them. This is about craving the things that matter. Things that don’t just work, but last.

In a life that may seem to be all fun and games with an endless supply of balloons, author Maria Goff shows how this life is also lived with intentionality, passionate purpose, and a little planning—all of which make a life rich in legacy. But she had to figure out the help she needed first in order to live the beautiful life God wanted for her and wants for us.

Love Lives Here is a collection of stories that include the ways Maria and her husband, Bob, navigated family their way, without clear instructions or a road map. It’s about what they learned to make their lives meaningful and whimsical and how they created a space for their family to grow together while they reached outward.

Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen

Nothing to ProveNo More Pretending. No More Performing. No More Fighting to Prove Yourself. Are you trying your best to measure up—yet you still feel as if you’re losing ground? You are not alone.

Jennie Allen understands the daily struggle so many of us face with the fear that we are not enough. And she invites us into a different experience, one in which our souls overflow with contentment and joy. In Nothing to Prove she calls us to…

* Find freedom from self-induced pressure by admitting we’re not enough—but Jesus is.
* Admit our greatest needs and watch them be filled by the only One who can meet them.
* Make it our goal to know and love Jesus, then watch what He does in and through us.

As you wade into the refreshing truth of the more-than-enough life Jesus offers, you’ll experience the joyous freedom that comes to those who are determined to discover what God can do through a soul completely in love with Him.

Discover the answer to your soul-deep thirst

Too many of us have bought into the lie that our cravings will be satisfied if we are enough and if we have enough. So we chase image, answers, things, and people—and we wonder all the while, Why am I still thirsty?

My single goal with this book is to lead your thirsty soul to the only source of lasting fulfillment: Jesus. He is the living water, a limitless supply that will not only quench your thirst but will fill you and then come pouring out of you into a thirsty world.

Because of Him, you are loved. You are known. You can take a deep breath.
Because you have nothing to prove.
—Jennie

For Real by Kerrie Oles

For RealIn a culture that values shiny images, and perfect selfies; there’s a whole mess of us that are aching for another way to live: Real.

In For Real, author and sought-after speaker, Kerrie Oles helps us understand how to navigate through the turbulent seas of this life with great faith, and there was no better story to be the back-drop of her book; than the story of Job. Through her  humorous style, and spiritual wisdom, she will lead you through a journey that offers encouragement, and life-transforming insights to how God will reveal His faithfulness and build our faith through each and every trial.

How do we take an age old story, and make it real to us?

Kerrie Oles, does just that. Job’s story is all of our story. We suffer in this life, but inside each of us is an overcomer, that can grow from hurtful experiences, and be equipped and empowered to help others. And, along the way, to our destination, it will build great faith!

Come with us. Get on board, let’s journey to being-For Real.

Devotional-

I Am by Michele Cushatt

I AmFrom the moment a woman wakes until she falls, exhausted, on her pillow, one question plagues her at every turn:

Am I enough?

The pressure to do more, be more has never been more intense. Online marketing. Self-help books. Movies, magazines and gym memberships. Even church attendance and social media streams have become a means of comparing ourselves to impossible standards. Am I pretty enough? Hip enough? Spiritual enough?

We fear the answer is “No.”

When a brutal bout with cancer changed how she looked, talked, and lived, Michele Cushatt embarked on a soul-deep journey to rediscover herself. The typical self-esteem strategies and positivity plans weren’t enough. Instead, she needed a new foundation, one that wouldn’t prove flimsy when faced with the onslaught of day-to-day life.

With raw personal stories, rock-solid biblical teaching, and radical truths on which to rebuild your life, I Am will help you:

  • End the barrage of negative self-talk with an empowering new narrative.
  • Refuse to ride the roller-coaster of others’ opinions and start believing what God’s says about you.
  • Stop agonizing over past regrets and failures and make peace with God’s sovereign plan for your life.
  • Leave insecurity behind as you exchange temporary fixes for an identity established on God’s unchanging affection.

I Am reminds us that our value isn’t found in our talents, achievements, relationships, or appearance. It is instead found in a God who chose us, sent us, and promised to be with us—forever.

Happy Reading!!!

**Disclaimer: There are many good books that I have read. This is by no means a comprehensive and exhaustive list! If you are an author and have a book out, please note that I could not list every single book out there, but just picking a few! Thank you so much for understanding!

Prayer Journal

Spending time with God through prayer and His Word is a prerequisite for having a great life and fulfilling your purpose. -Joyce Meyer
Prayer Journal
 

I’ve had several requests to share my prayer journal. This is my first year to make a prayer journal like this, but I think I’m going to start this at the beginning of each year.  I’ve had many (oh, so many) journals over the past 20 years, and I’ve had a few in those first few years of my young Christian walk that were more organized like this. I love the idea of making a new prayer journal for each year. I’ve included some photos and links of what I’ve done, and at the end I have included a video I made so you can see it! Have a blessed day!

 

Goals, schedule, routine

What you see when you first open prayer journal.

 

table of contents

Prayer for spousePrayer for Spouse

prayer for sons and daughters

Prayer for son

Prayer for son & daughter

prayer pocket 2

back of pocket

soak

Soak- Bible study method <—Click here to find more details about the SOAK method from Good Morning Girls

God SaysYou Say… God Says..

I am prayersI Am

Here’s the video: My prayer Journal    

If you have a prayer journal or want to start one, I would love to hear about it!

Here’s my board on Pinterest for a lot of great ideas for your prayer journal- Pinterest Prayer Journals

Favorite Things

Have you ever watched Oprah’s Favorite Things? Well, let me just say, this is NOT Oprah’s Favorite Things…lol. But, I think this is way more beneficial for you! Many of you have expressed the desire to really grow more in this new year. I am here to share with you some of my personal favorites with links to make them easy for you to find! I am a forever student and love to live life growing- in my craft, in my relationships, and more than anything, in my walk with the Lord. Let’s not waste any time, let’s dive right in!

Podcasts

Christian Growth-

Elevation Church (Steven Furtick)

Joyce Meyers

Havilah Cunnington

Celeste Barnard Be Your Best Brave

Karla Swanigan

Writing/Brand/Story-

The Portfolio Life (Jeff Goins)

This is Your Best Life (Michael Hyatt)

Author Audience (Shelley Hitz)

Restory Show (Mary DeMuth)

Hope*Writers

 Building a Story Brand (Donald Miller)

Phone Apps

Joyce Meyer 

SheReadsTruth

Elevation Church

First5

Bethel

Living Proof Ministries (Beth Moore)

Favorite albums to write to:

Bethel Without Words

Without Words: Synesthesia Bethel Music

 Worship Music I Love

(Btw….PLEASE recommend some new worship music in the comments! I’m needing some new stuff!)

 Psalms 91 Shane & Shane

Brave New World Bethel Music

Have it All Bethel Music

Housefires 11

Hillsong United Empires

If these resources have been helpful, please share with your friends and sign-up on the top right corner of this blog to get these emails delivered straight to your email box so you don’t miss a thing! ♥

Coming soon- My favorite Reads!

**Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, and that if I have missed your podcast, or music, or app. PLEASE know that these are just a few of my favorites! I could have spent all day listing all of the apps, music, and podcasts I enjoy!! If you have a favorite go-to app, book, podcast, or worship music, please share the love in the comments!

 

My Word- 2017

one-word-2017

Every year I get a word that is ‘my word’ for the year. It’s like having a theme-something specific you know the Lord wants you to focus on. It has helped me over the years to have a specific word because my word serves as a guide when life gets overwhelming and I’m struggling to figure out if this thing I ‘could’ do is lining up with my season and what I feel like God wants me to focus on.

Here’s some I found from the past few years:

2014- Authentic Faith

2015- Digging In & Dreaming

2016- Learn

And as I prayed about this year’s word I thought it was intimacy, but then after further study and prayer, I have my word for 2017….Drum roll please……

Relationships. That’s right, relationships. That’s the direction I feel like the Lord is leading me for 2017. Growing closer to God, with my spouse, and my kids. Growing in relationships with our Big Red family- so that we feel more like a family. Growing in relationships with my friends so that I learn how to walk out what it looks like to get closer- like being okay with no make-up days, when I’m overwhelmed days, and overall just being more true to who I am with others and not worrying about if I look tired (because maybe I am) or if I look put together or whatever it is. Authentic and transparent. I want that. Sometimes I stay safe and hidden because it feels easier and it’s less work (I said it)- but I crave closeness. I know that’s how God has wired us.

Hebrews 10:24-25- 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Here’s 3 ways I hope to put my word into action for 2017:

  1. Invest. I always say people before projects but I don’t always live it. People are the most important thing and I want my life to reflect that. I want to invest in the lives of others around me, because I know the investment is worth it. Investing in others produces a closeness with others, a bond, trust, and it just feels good. Sometimes we get so busy and distracted with ‘life’ we often find that we don’t have time for others… but what if we go into 2017 with the mindset that people are life? Same with my kids- I want to be intentional about investing in them this year, not putting everything else the world deems as important in front of them. And my daughter is going to be a senior next year! I won’t get this time back.
  2. Intentional. I want to be intentional about making the phone calls, stopping by for the visit, inviting others over for the coffee, or sitting down and doing something with my kids. I want to ask the Lord each morning, “How can I be intentional today and put others first?” I want to stop making excuses because I‘ve gotten stuck in my comfort zone and set out to connect with those around me.
  3. Initiate. Have you ever been scrolling through Facebook and saw pictures of ladies just having fun together and thought to yourself, “I wish I had a few girlfriends to go see a movie with or have coffee with”? If we want to have better relationships in the new year we need to learn to initiate. We need to stop sitting around waiting for someone to invite us and be the one doing the inviting. Initiate and ask someone to join you for a fun outing. I know it can feel awkward or it might be a stretch outside your comfort zone, but you’ll be so glad you did! You and I need to reach out and initiate that get-together or coffee night, friends game night, family outing, or date night. And if you’ve gotten in a rut at home, initiate a game or movie night or maybe have a night where the kids pick a meal and then they get to cook it. Initiate change!

I know I’m not going to get it right 100% of the time. I’m going to have my days where I just have to follow through on deadlines and get things done. But I also realize that any steps towards bettering the relationships in my life and making them a priority are far better than no steps at all. And I believe that God will honor that and meet me in that place.

I encourage you this year to invest in others, be intentional in putting others first (especially your time with God), and be the one to initiate some things instead of just waiting for things to happen. There will be no greater joy for me than to get to the end of 2017 and know that I have put first things first. When we get to the end of our lives, we don’t get to take any of our things or accolades with us. The most important things that I believe will last for eternity are our relationship with God and our relationships with each other.

Here’s to a brand New Year!

What about you? What’s your word for 2017? I would love to hear it!

At the end of your life you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child or a parent.” Barbara Bush, Reflections: Life After the White House

 

 

 

Fight Dancer, Fight

fight-dancer-fightIf I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. – C.S. Lewis, Made for Heaven  

I’m hungry for Heaven. Yet thrust into this world like a newborn child. The lights are bright, and the noise is deafening. I am called here, yet my heart aches for another place. I am granted momentary pleasures; glimpses of joy. Yet, in the same breath I feel an ache. A pain that can only be explained as shards of glass being placed back together to create a stunning mosaic. This world we live in is beautifully broken. The longer I remain the more I am aware.

And run from it, I wont. I am not called to hide any longer, but to feel. And when I park in the shallow echos of my heart, I am allowing God to piece together the parts of my brokenness to make me more alive and awake to who I’m supposed to be. I don’t even pretend to understand this beauty in the broken places, but I do know that it is worth it. Every morning, every rise, every push, every sunset- this gift called life- it is worth it.

It is worth the fight.

We fight forward, each day pressing closer to Heaven knowing with blessed assurance that this journey, this fight…it is never in vain. Hidden underneath our clothing, we wear our scrapes, our bruises, and our pains. But we press on.

We press on.

We press on for those around us, we press on for those who watch us, we press on for those who will follow after us, and we press on for us. We press on to leave something of greater value.

I don’t for one minute claim to know anything about what it will look like when my journey here is done. I only know I’m not afraid. With each sunrise, I am one day closer to my forever home. And it is with each waking breath that I am more aware that my time here on earth not only matters, but it is also fleeting. It is imperative that I realize my piece of the puzzle, my contribution to this world, no matter how small I find it. My part; my piece- It is important and needed.

….And so I press on.

I dance on.

I dance on. Sometimes my dance is hurried and clumsy, other days it’s slow and reluctant, but it’s my dance nonetheless- the only one I’m accountable for. And as long as I have breath I will stumble my way through the dark, knowing He is my light. He is my steady place. He is my forever home.

It is my prayer that my dance on this earth, as awkward as my dance moves may be, will lead others into accepting their own invitation to fight through each twirl, to get out here on the dance floor with the King of Kings.

Here’s a little advice from a clumsy, fighting dancer:

When you’re not sure what the next step is….

  • Just show up
  • Do the right thing
  • Make your life count
  • Don’t be afraid to jump
  • Stop living to please other people
  • Live brave
  • Dance freely
  • Find your voice
  • You leave your imprint
  • And I’ll leave mine
  • Kick fear in the gut
  • Do it anyways
  • Play your part
  • And don’t forget why you started

……it.is.worth.it.

In life, as in dance, grace glides on blistered feet. -Author unknown

1 Timothy 6:12 (NLT)- Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.

Philippians 3:14 (NIV)- I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

 

It’s Ministry

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2 Corinthians 3:5- It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.

Webster’s definition of ministry-

  • Ministry (noun)

    the act of ministering;

After an incredible summer full of camps we are faced with some big decisions on how to keep the ranch and this ministry afloat during off season. We discussed birthday parties, although we always said we didn’t think we would do birthday parties because we didn’t want to get distracted from ministry.

I have a friend, Sharon, who owns a farm and they have an incredible barn and do weddings almost every weekend. She is a speaker and travels often but says this is part of her ministry (and the Lord is able to provide through it). You will often find her praying for the bride and groom before each wedding. It’s not just an event- it’s ministry. People come to that property that might never step foot in a church. And she’s been given an open door into their hearts to share God’s love.

Last week on facebook she posted something and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. She said, “God, I’m so busy working our wedding venue, I don’t even have time to do what you called me to do.” He spoke directly to her and said, “Remember who you are.” Then the phone rang. The couple had to cancel their wedding as they had just received devastating news. They were sobbing. Immediately prayer arose from her spirit. At the end of the prayer the man said through his tears that her prayer was exactly what they both needed… Jesus. Wow. Guess what? That right there- that’s ministry.

When you go to work everyday and ask the Lord to give you a ministry, look around. I have a feeling He’s placed some people around you that just might need to know God’s love for them. That’s ministry. When you speak with love and compassion to a child who might have a dysfunctional home environment- that’s ministry. When you are complaining because you don’t feel like cleaning or cooking (which may or may not have happened here) the Lord quickly reminds us, “Hey, that’s ministry.” Many times ministry is not what everyone sees. As a matter of a fact, ministry is often found in those thankless things we do day after day. When my kids come home from school and it feels clean and smells good, they probably won’t say a thing, but I know it feels good. I’ve partaken in this holy offering of bringing a sacrifice for my family. Being there for a friend- my goodness, that’s ministry. When your spouse is struggling and you have to carry more of the load at home- instead of complaining ask the Lord to give you compassion for your spouse. Ask Him to make you faithful in this ministry He has given to you.

I have been reminded this week how much my family still needs me. Yes, my kids are older, but they need me differently now than they did when they were young. There will be a time for even more speaking and writing opportunities, but I really do need to focus on this ministry right here under my roof. My kids will only live under this roof for a designated time and I want to be all here. I want them to know that I’m a safe place and that when the time comes where they need to share something really big or really private that they would feel like I’m a safe place. Your time here on earth as a parent- That’s ministry. (No, I’m not stepping down from anything in particular; I’m just also not in such a hurry to get there either.) It’s that struggle between calling and home; that tension, because both are in fact ministry. I need to keep first things first. You see, ministry flows so much more when I have my priorities in order. God honors that. I’ve seen it time and time again.

Every camp, every birthday party, every field trip, every moms group, every retreat, and/or event that has ever and will ever take place here at Big Red’s Ranch- that’s ministry. I’m reminded that we have been given a great responsibility for anyone who steps on to this property- not just to have fun, although I assure you, that will happen, but also that no matter what the particular event is, it’s ministry. We are called to be a light and to share God’s love wherever we go and whatever we do.

Oh, that we would stop worrying about who does what and who gets the credit. I promise you that some of the people that are most used by God are not those who you will ever read about or those who stand on a stage- It’s those who decided a long time ago to make their life’s work about kingdom living- not worried about what everyone else is (or isn’t) doing, not worried about a title, but it’s those who go about their lives with a kingdom living mindset. They live their lives to bring a smile to someone’s face or to encourage those who are hurting. These are the people who realize that everyday they are given ministry assignments. They’re not caught up in who sees. It’s all ministry.

Do you want to do ministry? Many of you already are and don’t even realize it. Your interaction with others, your classroom, your Bible study, those you work with, those who work in places you frequent, how you treat others, cleaning that house, cooking those meals, mowing that lawn, watching a friend’s kid, making a meal for a new mom, sending someone a card, texting someone an encouraging word, taking someone out to coffee, working with kids, doing homework with your child, picking up your kids day after day (after day), praying over your kids…

Congratulations. That’s ministry.

2 Chronicles 15:7- But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.

Galatians 6:9- Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up!

 

 

We Belong

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1 John 4:4 (NLT)– But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

Maybe it stems from my rocky childhood, or perhaps the lies had been fed to me so much that by the time I became an adult, and somewhere it transferred over as truth. I’m not sure. As I have grown older and grown in my walk with the Lord, I would see it. It looked like doubt, fear, isolation, and sometimes even unaware self -sabotage.

I would see it on social media. I am a part of many groups on social media and love the connection with other women. But sometimes I would feel like I didn’t belong, or that everyone else knew each other and I was watching from the sidelines, or that I needed to say something or post something that was worthy of everyone’s time or attention, like saying, “Hey, look at me!”

We feel we need to achieve some level of success in order to be worthy of everyone’s time and attention. If I could just write that one piece that goes viral or if I could just get so many shares from my article. It almost feels like High School all over again, trying to do something that proves I’m worthy to be seen; worthy of a follow; worthy of sitting with the cool kids at the lunch table.

But I thought this was settled already? As a matter of fact, I know this to be true. 2000 years ago Jesus died on the cross for me. Yes, me. And you. And when He did this, He leveled the playing field. He said we are all important, regardless of our status, our standings, our family history, and our background. We are all worthy, we are all covered and we are all His children. That’s it. No fighting for who’s at what level in this thing, no comparing who does what better. And darn it, no more sitting alone at the lunch table! We are all family! I don’t have to write one more thing to prove I’m worthy of your view, or your like, or your follow. As a matter of fact, we would all do good to focus more on getting people to follow Him, than to follow us.

It’s not really anyone’s fault. No one from any group said or didn’t say something to cause me to feel small or inadequate. If I were to blame anyone I would blame the enemy. He is the one who takes pleasure in getting us to believe these lies. Sometimes we feel this way when we visit a Bible study or new church, go to a moms group, or we’re invited with a group of people we don’t really know that well. The enemy tells us things like, “Your questions are dumb, don’t ask them,” or “these people are so much further in their walk than you, you have nothing to add to the conversation.” Or what about this one, “There’s no one here like you, why do you keep coming?” Lies, all lies.

I want you to know, we are all the cool kids, because we are His kids, and everyone is invited to the table. No one is left behind. Bullying will not be tolerated in the Kingdom, and watch out if you mess with my sisters. We have all been given different gifts, talents, and abilities and ALL are great and needed in the kingdom. You belong. I belong. And we have something to say. It doesn’t matter how known or unknown you are to others, the most beautiful thing that I want you to get a hold of today is that you are known, oh, so intimately known and loved by your Savior. He wants to read your posts, He wants to hear you speak, He wants to see your photography, He wants to see your art, He is delighted by your song. And all are done as a beautiful, fragrant offering up to Him.

And guess what else? He knows when we’re feeling a bit awkward- hello…He made us. I wonder what would happen if we began to embrace our differences in ourselves and in each other, stopped obsessing over the numbers, and instead of comparing, we celebrated our differences? What if instead of comparing our gifts and talents with others, we could learn from others and respect the gift inside of them but also know that our gift is of equal importance- just different.

Please hear me. Please. You absolutely unequivocally belong- with your scars, with your past, new Christian, on the fence, seasoned author, shaky writer, scared mamma, empty nester- we belong. When will we stop this petty drama that has no place in the Kingdom, and stand up for one another and instead of judgment offer grace, instead of competing offer applause, instead of being concerned who’s at what level in this thing, remember the playing field has already been leveled. Sister, we belong. Red, yellow, blue, green, small, big, short, and awkward… let’s have each other’s back. I believe the Lord is beginning to unite us like never before but we’ve got to have each other’s back. And we’ve got to know our place, all of us….

  • You belong.
  • I belong.
  • We Belong.

 Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12:16- Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

 

 

More Blessed to Give than Receive

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A life not lived for others is not a life.
― Mother Teresa

When we are doing something to serve and to be a blessing to others, we find ourselves being much more blessed in the process than the person or group we came to bless. I’ve seen it throughout my life. Every camp we have done where we want to change lives and bless others, we in return find ourselves overwhelmed by the many blessings we receive. We are often humbled by the lives of these kids that cross our path. They come from hard places, and yet are so open to receiving what God has for them. Their smiles and their joy are contagious. And I realize what an honor and a privilege it is to minister to them because these kids have been hurt in the past by others, and for them to let us in is no small thing.

I have had friends come back from missions’ trips, and they share their stories through tears. Stories of brokenness and beauty all intermingled. But even more than the stories of what they taught the people, they share the stories of what the people taught them. How thankful these families were for small things like books or pots and pans. And how we so easily grumble and complain when things don’t go our way. My friends share the beautiful lessons they were taught when they themselves came to be the teachers.

When you give, and give out of a pure heart, without expecting anything in return, God does something so beautiful with your offering. You come as the teacher and you leave as the student.

Last week I was the one in need. Hope and I were driving along the freeway in the McAllen area. I noticed a lot of cars stopping ahead, and then I noticed many cars pulling off the freeway. I made a quick decision to pull off of the freeway with the others to avoid the traffic ahead. What I didn’t notice was the large curb my minivan would have to drive over. My van is low, very low. So I went really fast so I didn’t get stuck. The good new was that it scraped but I didn’t get stuck; the bad news was that it hit so hard when my van hit the pavement that it popped my tire. I could feel the thump thump from my tire, and pulled off the road quickly. There was an O’Reilly Auto Parts Store about a block up. I walked over to ask if they could help fix my flat, to which they said that they didn’t fix flats. Bummer. I felt about as deflated as that tire. Here I was stranded in the middle of nowhere, Jon was right in the middle of camp, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. (It’s always so much easier to help someone else than to be the one needing help.)

This man overheard my dilemma and said he could help me. Yes! The Lord sent me an angel!! He drove over to where my van was parked. He was a mechanic so he had everything in his truck. He tried to fill up my tire, but it was punctured, so he put the spare tire on. I gave him $15- and thanked him profusely. He saved me!

He then went on to tell me that at that auto store, after buying what he needed, he only had $2.50 left to his name, and he was going to use it to buy himself 2 tacos for lunch. He said he was a Christian and now he had $15 more to his name. He said, “God bless you” and that I helped him. I then felt led to give him whatever else I could find in my purse, because, hello! And here I thought he was sent to help me, and come to find out, God had also wanted to use me to help him. We were both almost in tears, because it was just a really cool God moment.

In those moments that you feel like you are sent to help someone else, keep your heart open to God moments and you will find that the they are also sent to help you. And in the moments where others are sent to help you, don’t let your pride rob them of their blessing- let them help you. And you will see that both, the helper and the helped, the teacher and the student, walk away with an even greater blessing.

 Acts 20:35- And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Don’t Trade Freedom for the Familiar

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We’ve been a little laxed lately with my daughter’s bunny. She usually lets her out at night to roam around the game room and get a little exercise and then in a few hours, back in the cage she goes. But recently we left her out for two days. Not good. What we discovered upon further examination was that she ate through all of Noah’s computer cables to his gaming computer (that he paid for with his own money). The cables and wires were completely chewed through and his gaming keyboard cable was severed in several places and we had to just call that one a loss.

My husband and daughter fenced in our little side yard because we knew bunny’s roaming days in the house were over. The outside will be perfect for her- she can get plenty of exercise and roam in the green grass and hop (and chew) wherever she wants.

They were able to get her out. She looked around and quickly hopped back into the house. At first, it was hard for my daughter, Hope, to get her back out. She’s been contained and indoors for all these years and now we offer her freedom, but she hesitates. Why? She was a bit scared and apprehensive about this big new world. Was this a trap?  There was a whole new world out there just waiting to be explored, but she wanted to stay in the house. It took some convincing (and lettuce) but my daughter finally got her outside. And after realizing this wasn’t some sort of trick, she began to slowly explore this new territory. She discovered that she really enjoyed her newfound freedom, even though it was a bit scary at first.

See the house for her represented what was comfortable. It was all that she knew. We opened the door to freedom, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to leave her safe and comfortable environment to see what was on the other side.

I’ve done that. The Lord has shown me a new way, something grand and beautiful, but I wanted to stay in the comfortable, where I thought I was safe. I used to think it was safer if I just kept doing what I always did- consistency, you know? But then when the Lord asked me to step out, and even though it looked vaguely like something I had been praying for, I was still scared to leave the familiar.

I’m no bunny, but I can only imagine some of her fears. “What if I get eaten by something? What if I get lost? What if I get hurt?” They are all good questions. Sometimes when the Lord opens a door, He doesn’t show us every single step we’re supposed to take. He just wants us to take one step, and then another, and then another, one obedient step at a time. See, bunny will probably find a few holes or bumps in the dirt. Does that mean she shouldn’t have gone through the door? No, it means she’s learning, and she’ll remember next time not to go that way. It’s the same for us- we seem to want to avoid every single mistake possible before we go through the next door, but it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes that’s how we have to learn, by stepping out and making mistakes and learning what not to do next time.

It is better to do something than to do nothing at all.

By the way, the bunny’s name is Love. So today, let’s follow Love’s example, and when the Lord shows us a door He’s asking us to go through, may we recognize it for what it is.

One more door to our freedom.

One more step to that thing He’s calling us to do.

He’s got a beautiful place of freedom and joy and it’s got our calling all over it, but we’ve got to stop being afraid to leave our comfort zone. We’ve got to step out into some unfamiliar land, not having all the answers and trusting Him to give us what we need when we need it. We take that first step with shaky knees, imperfect and messy, and He meets us in that place. The more imperfect but necessary steps we take, the more we allow ourselves the chance to step into the freedom and destiny He’s calling us into.

 

 

The Calling- The Blessing and The Burden

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How do you know you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing?

I said yes to a speaking engagement with only a week’s notice (on top of our already busy schedule that week). I was lying in bed somewhat stressed about all that needed to get done and stressed because my message wasn’t coming together as quickly as I would have liked it to. My husband said to me, “Do you regret saying yes?” Me, without even a pause or a moments hesitation, “No, not at all.” I could tell he was somewhat surprised at my quick response.

I would do it all again next week because as I’m preparing my message I think of those women. And I count it a privilege and an honor that the Lord would choose me to bring encouragement through His Word to those ladies.

Is there a cost to doing what I do? Absolutely. Every time. You should see my house during speaking weeks…or not. It is emotional, mental, spiritual, and when I’m in my message-prep zone, it consumes me (just ask my husband and kids). And the enemy almost always tries to attack me.

But I would do it all again next week (and actually as I type this I will be doing it all again next week). Why do I do this to myself? Because no matter how nervous or stressed I get, it’s what I know I was created to do.

The Lord continues to open the doors, and I continue to walk through them. It’s the one thing in my life where I know that it has absolutely nothing to do with me and that it’s ALL Him. I have to be completely dependent on Him. If He doesn’t show up, then it’s merely just a talk. But as I depend on Him and trust Him for His peace and for all the words, He takes over. And it’s His presence and His Holy Spirit that changes and encourages hearts, not me. I just have to be obedient.

Sometimes we think life would be easier if we just stopped doing this or that- but last time I checked, God didn’t call me to living the easier life. He called me to be obedient. I know we all have something that the Lord calls us to do, and it might feel uncomfortable or awkward or hard. But then when we step out in faith and do that thing, even through the struggles to get there, we just know…. this.is.it.

The calling, His calling- it is a blessing and a burden, but it is also a great honor. And we carry on, doing what we know He’s called us to do. Not by my might or by my strength but by His Spirit (Zech. 4:6).

 

 

Suffering on the Side of the Road

picjumbo.com_HNCK06251 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

I dropped my boys off at school, as I do every morning. Headed home to start my day, my mind was going in a thousand different directions. What I saw next happened so quickly and literally took my breath away. Near an exit on the side of the freeway I saw a woman. She was wearing a loose white shirt. The morning sun reflected off of her golden blonde hair. And she was kneeling at a cross near the exit. She wasn’t trying to hide her pain, but was visibly mourning the loss of someone right there, on the side of the freeway, for all those passing by to witness. Although I only caught a glimpse, I could see the anguish and pain in her face. For a brief moment I shared in this stranger’s pain.

We walk around on this earth and we encounter many things that bring us to our knees. There are many of us who stand upright on the outside but on the inside are kneeled, crouched low, in fetal position, aching for something… someone. It’s what we do. We suffer loss, but we have to carry on- for ourselves, for our children, and for our loved ones. But every now and then, most likely in the privacy of our own homes, we like the woman, kneel in a place of brokenness and pain. And we cry out for what is lost and what is unseen and the unknown. Because we don’t know. And not knowing is scary. And not knowing hurts. And sometimes we smile because the world is moving on and we feel like we need to smile. People are getting promotions and celebrating holidays and having birthdays…  but we ache inside because it still hurts. It hurts to watch the world move on when we don’t feel like moving on. We don’t feel like celebrating sometimes. Sometimes feel like we’re lost in the sea of people and we can’t quite find our place, we can’t seem to get a grip on our new normal, because it’s not exactly what we want.

What I want to say to this woman and what I want to say to you is that He sees. He sees you when you are inwardly wrapped in the fetal position and everyone around you is smiling and laughing. He sees your loneliness and how quiet and sometimes cold it feels in the inner chambers of your heart. He knows when you’re at a social gathering because you know you should be there and it takes everything you have to engage because honestly, all you want to do is run and get away. You despise the small talk and want to shout, “Doesn’t anyone see me, doesn’t anyone know I’m hurting.” And they might but they find their own comfort in the smallness of the moment and the small talk that surrounds them.

No one teaches us how to gather together and talk about the things that hurt, the things that weigh heavy on our hearts. And we tend to even feel selfish for bringing it up. “This is an awesome lunch, by the way I’m having a really hard day and don’t really feel like being here today.” How does one do that without feeling guilty for feeling like they’ve brought everyone else down?

We are definitely progressing on being authentic and real, but still have miles to go. The reality is this- whether you are the woman on the side of the road who is openly suffering or, like many of us, the one who silently just has some really hard days but smiles because everyone else seems to be smiling- God sees and hears and He gets us. He knows those things that keep us awake at night. He knows the ones that fight privately with their spouse but show up at every event smiling and together, because it’s what you do. I mean, how would we respond if we said to a couple in passing, “How are you guys?” and have them reply, “Honestly, we are not doing good. We’ve been fighting really bad lately.”  And so we keep moving on, pressing forward, some of us, quietly in our pain.

The Lord sees every single tear that’s fallen from your face. Many suffer quietly. The Lord sees every broken place. Sometimes we’re so wound up that we have trouble just letting Him in and we fight Him until it is all that we can do to drop to our knees. And when we do that, He tenderly and gently rocks us… back and forth, knowing we just need a good cry and His loving arms around us.

Because when no one else knows or understands- He does. And those secret things we think we’re so good at hiding, He sees. And although I don’t have all the answers for you today, there is one thing I am certain of- He can be trusted with our hearts. When no one else feels safe enough to let in to the deepest places of our soul, He is that safe place.

He is our refuge.

People are not always going to know how to comfort or have all the right things to say. That is okay because there is someone who does have answers and He knows exactly how to calm our anxious thoughts and heal our broken places.

Lord, we are believing, trusting, and praying that through the brokenness and the struggles and the pain and uncertainty for what lies ahead, that You will show yourself and bring healing and that through these things that we walk through, that it would only cause us to grow closer to You. Thank You that Your mercies are new every. single. morning. In Jesus name. Amen.

Here are some scriptures to bring hope and comfort. I’ve underlined the action verbs that reveal what He does. He redeems, He lifts, He is aware, He carries, He saves, He sees, He listens, He hears, He encourages, He comforts, and He is not only aware of our sufferings, but He preserves our life and wants to set us free.

  • Isaiah 63:9- In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.
  • Exodus 3:7- The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.
  • Isaiah 49:15- Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
  • Psalms 10:17- You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.
  • Psalms 118:5- In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free.
  • Psalms 22:24- For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
  • Psalms 119:50- My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.
  • Romans 8:18- I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be joy revealed in us.
  • 2 Cor. 1:5- For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

 

My Word- 2016

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I love getting a new word for the beginning of each year. It intrigues me as I’m praying to finally see what will end up being my word. Last year it was Digging in & Dreaming in 2015. For the most part it was right on. I’ve been anxious to see where the Lord was going to take me. I watched as many other friends got such beautiful words like abide, peace, joy, remain, etc. I wanted a pretty word that would look nice on a cup written in cursive with swirls. But my word isn’t fancy, and I’m not even sure I can find a scripture to go with it, but I know it’s right for me and it’s right for my current season.

Drum Roll…

Learn-

  • · to gain knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something
  • · to cause (something) to be in your memory by studying it

I know, I know. Nothing super spiritual or fancy, but I know in my knower that it is right. Other words that go along with my word for the new year are: teachable, student, grow, disciple, disciplined, sponge (soak it all in), apprentice, to be taught, master, study, absorb, prepare, specialize in, take course in, and acquire information.

I am going to focus this year on learning and improving my craft (speaking and writing).

We all know that a writer’s conference is a great place to learn and meet other authors. I am praying that I can attend at least one conference. These are my top picks:

I have a goal/dream of learning the art of magazine article writing. There is a plethora of information out there via books (many of which I already own), podcasts, YouTube, paid online courses, etc. I shall learn all about the art of magazine article writing this year.

I want to learn evernote this year. I get by with it, but I really want to learn all that I can do with it. Michael Hyatt has written extensively on the many great uses for evernote.

This year I want to take some online courses for topics and areas that I’m passionate and excited about. Here’s a couple I’ve already signed up for:

  • Make Over Your Mornings, a 14-day Online Course by Crystal Paine
  • Brene’ Brown has online video classes and I’ve signed up for the free one, The Anatomy of Trust. The other classes are: Living Brave, Daring Leadership, and Leaders Rising.

I am also going to be more intentional with my time. When I’m cleaning and driving I’m going to continue to listen to podcasts. A few of my favorites are:

 

I also want to be more intentional in my book reading this year. Confession: It takes me forever to read a book. The last book I read was by Bob Goff, Love Does. It was such an inspiring read, but it still took me forever! I’m going to try and read a little every night before I go to bed and see if having a set time each day helps (hopefully I don’t fall asleep- I am so NOT a night person). My husband also has an Audible account that I’m going to start using so I can listen to books when I’m driving. Like the saying goes, good readers are good writers. I like to learn from other authors- I observe their intros, story-line, flow, and their voice. I highlight, asterisk, and underline as I read. Some books on my ‘to-read’ list for 2016 are:

I also have many other books on the craft of writing and communication that I will be going through. And of course Bible studies and devotional reads.

So there you have it. I’m excited to be learning in 2016 and growing in those things that I love to do. I’ll blog about all that I’m learning throughout the year. My next blog will be on goals for 2016.

What about you? Do you pray about getting a fresh word for the New Year? I would love to hear what your word is! If you’re not even sure how to get a word over you and your new year, I usually just pray about it and see over the next few days or weeks if God confirms it. Sometimes I keep reading about that word or things keep coming up that have to do with that word.

Praying you have a Happy New Year and that God gives you a fresh new word as your word for 2016. Praying He will guide and direct your steps. May we press on towards the goal of knowing Him more and making Him known. And whatever gifts He’s given us, may we be faithful stewards, doing our work as unto Him.

Colossians 3:23-24- 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

 

 

 

Wrestling Changes Everything

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Jeremiah 24:7I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

Little boys love to wrestle with their daddies. It’s this sweet, sometimes rough (but fun) bonding that is inbred in some boys. Many of them start out at a young age wanting to tackle everybody. My son Joel would do this all the time with my husband.

There’s also another kind of wrestling that we experience. In our walk with God we go through our own seasons of wrestling. We wrestle with our faith, we wrestle with unanswered prayers, we wrestle for God to show Himself, or perhaps we wrestle through pain- to find meaning in it. Each of us at some point in our lives will be called to wrestle.

Let’s look at a few heroes of the faith who experienced their own wrestling.

Job, in the Old Testament, was a man who was blameless and devoted to God. Job was a blessed man, who loved his family and lived righteously. Job went through a season where the Lord removed His protection (read the story in more detail in the book of Job). He lost all 10 of his children and all of his wealth. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was also afflicted with a horrible skin disease. Job had shown honor to God in response to his suffering. In Job’s heart God was his most precious treasure, even more precious than his health. What’s interesting is that God didn’t answer all of Jobs pleas for help right away. As a matter of fact, Job suffered a great deal. The Bible is unclear on the exact amount of time Job suffered. We know it was less than a year but that it lasted at least several months. I can only concede that it must have felt like forever. God didn’t restore everything right away. Job, knowing the nature and character of God, wrestled with the whys, yet he still told God he would worship Him no matter what. After many months of loneliness, sadness, and loss Job came out of his wrestling with these words, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes– Job 42:5. Before wrestling with his suffering, he knew about God, but after the wrestling He knew God and felt a closer intimacy with Him. He was a changed man. He had seen God.

Our wrestling with God serves a purpose. It causes our own faith and walk with the Lord to be grounded and personal. It changes us.

Another hero of the faith that wrestled was Moses. The story is found in Exodus chapters 3 and 4. Moses wrestled with God’s calling on his life. Moses was called to lead the people out of slavery and into the Promised Land. He told God that He must have the wrong guy. Moses felt very under-qualified. But God knew what He was doing. Moses wasn’t confident in speaking and leading. You would think that if God spoke to you from a burning bush that that would be enough confirmation (Exodus 3:4). But no. Moses had to wrestle through his own fears and insecurities. Listen to some of the things Moses said and you can hear Him wrestle with his calling: “But who am I, how do you expect me to lead, they won’t believe me, they won’t do what I tell them to do, I’m not a good speaker, I’m clumsy with words.” Moses had to wrestle through what he thought he could do compared to what God could actually do through him. Once he began to obey God and step out into his calling, God performed many miracles through him. If there were any doubts in the beginning, Moses was able to witness and experience firsthand the faithfulness of God.

There is only one person in the Bible who actually ‘physically’ wrestled and that was Jacob. Jacob’s life up to this point had been one of many struggles. Although God had promised to make many nations from Jacob, he, like Moses, was a man filled with many fears. We pick up his story in Genesis 32. He had fled from his father-in-law Laban because of the awful treatment he received only to encounter his bitter brother Esau who wanted to kill him. In Genesis 32:6 we learn that Esau was on his way with an army of 400 men. Genesis 32:7-8- In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups,and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group,the group that is left may escape.” Genesis 32:20b- for he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.”

During the night he took his wives, servants, and sons and crossed the Jabbok River. And then he sent over all his possessions. This put Jacob in an interesting position. At this point he was completely exhausted, had nothing left to give, and felt like he had no fight left in him. He sent ahead those things in which represented his riches and he was left all alone in the wilderness. Genesis 32:24- So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. It is believed to be an angel of God that wrestled with Jacob that night. Jacob and the angel struggled throughout the night until the angel could not overpower him. When the man (the angel) asked Jacob to let him go, Jacob said he would not let go without a blessing. Jacob would never forget this wrestle because not only did the angel bless him, but he also knocked his hip out of his socket and Jacob walked with a limp for the rest of his life.   

What’s the point of wrestling with God? Surely there is purpose and meaning in and through it. When Jacob came out of that experience of wrestling with God, he was a changed man. He was no longer the same person that he was before he entered the ring. To further demonstrate that he was no longer the same man, God changed his name from Jacob to Israel. “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” he said. “It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” Gen. 32:28

The King James Bible Commentary says this: “The conflict brought to a head the battling and groping of a lifetime, and Jacob’s desperate embrace vividly expressed his ambivalent attitude to God, of love and enmity, defiance and dependence. It was against Him, not Esau or Laban, that he had been pitting his strength, as he now discovered; yet the initiative had been God’s as it was this night, to chasten his pride and challenge his tenacity. The crippling and the naming show that God’s ends were still the same: He would have all of Jacob’s will to win, to attain and obtain, yet purged of self-sufficiency and redirected to the proper object of man’s love, God Himself.”

Our wrestling breaks us down to realize that without God we are nothing. It’s about wiping away all of who we think we are, our self-sufficiency, and putting us in a place where we have to hash out all those things we don’t really want to face- our insecurities, our anger at something that’s happened, our questions about our own faith, and all of our fears.

When you wrestle with God, you come out changed. There is something about struggling and wrestling through that solidifies your relationship with the Lord. You enter in with so many questions, and you come out knowing that He is real and that regardless of how things turn out, He is for you, and that He desires a close relationship with you. When you come out of your wrestle you might not have all of your questions answered, but you get to a place of trust, where your desire to be close to Him is greater than your desire for all of the answers. 

What about you? Have you been in a place of wrestling with some things? Are you wrestling for your faith? Are you feeling discouraged?  Are you in a place like Job where you’re wrestling with suffering? Or do you relate more to Moses where you are wrestling with your fears and insecurities? Or perhaps your wrestle is more like Jacob, where God is initiating a wrestle with you and you think your frustration is about all these other things, when really God is fighting for you heart?

I want to encourage you this week to get alone with God- seek after Him. Write out your questions and frustrations. Give Him your pain. God can handle our questions. As a matter of fact, He already knows them. But He’s waiting to hear from you personally. Spend time in the scriptures. Cry out to Him in that secret place. And just like Jacob, you will be touched, you will be changed, and you will be blessed.

Jeremiah 29:12-13 (ESV) 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

This article was originally posted in print form (in Spanish) from World Missions Outreach.  

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Stop Living Small

Cat With Lion Reflection in MirrorPhoto Credit @depositphotos

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

We were giving some friends a tour of the new ranch. The koi fish, as much work as they are, are my husband’s labor of love. They really are beautiful. They are over ten years old- big and fat and intriguing. He says they’re scaredy-cats. Whenever he goes to feed them, they stay low and wait for him to walk away, and then they’ll go and get their food once he’s out of sight. He thinks maybe since this property hasn’t had someone actually living on it for quite some time that something might have happened that scared them. Perhaps an animal in the past has tried to eat them.

It’s so cute, every morning and every night he tries to see if they’ll come up to him for their food. He’s researched the koi fish, watched many videos and as of recently, even joined a support group for koi owners. Okay, it’s an online ‘forum’ but I call it his fish support group.

As we walked with our friends over to the koi pond and told them that the fish were still frightened and apprehensive about people, my husband said something that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. As we all stood and admired their beauty he said, “They still think they’re so small. If only they realized how big they were.” Saying this still gives me goose bumps, or as our friends from the South like to call it, chicken skin.

I wonder how many of us are still living like we’re small and walking afraid of what might happen?

We think were small and easy prey for the enemy, but the Lord sees us differently. We see a small lion cub in the mirror and He sees a fierce, mighty lioness. We are still living our lives like we are small.

Maybe……

Maybe you’ve been hurt before in the past, and when you look in the mirror you still see the victim. And you’re hiding, thinking that if you stay hidden nothing can hurt you. Rise up, you are more than a conqueror. He has healed you and made you victorious.

Maybe you were the runt in the family, and your whole life you’ve been trying to prove to people your worth. You are mighty. You have to prove yourself to no one. You are God’s child and that is enough. He has made you for great things. Man looks at the outward appearance, but He look at the heart.

Maybe you did terrible in school growing up and you are desperately trying to prove to the world that you are smart enough. You are enough and behold, He has made all things new. You are transformed by the renewing of your mind in His Word. Dwell no longer on those things of days prior, but grab hold of His promises and of the great future that He has for you.

Maybe you have a dream in your heart, but have believed in the lie that dreams only happen to other people. You think it’s your role to play it small. You were meant for greatness; you were meant to shine like the stars. While you only look at those areas where you are weak, He looks at those areas surrendered to Him. It does you no good to focus on your lack. Surrender it to Him and watch Him take those places where you are weak and He will use them, so that others will see and be quick to give Him all the glory.

Maybe you have felt different and awkward, like perhaps you don’t fit in. He has fashioned you and formed you just like you are, unique and set aside for His purposes. Share your story, bring it to the light, and watch Him bring freedom and healing to others through your story. There are others who feel exactly like you do, but need the courage to talk about it.

It is possible that those koi fish were attacked many years ago when they were smaller. And although they have grown, they don’t realize how big they really are. And they have trust issues. Many of us walk around just like those fish- very careful, protective, and guarded. And it’s so obvious to all of us walking around on the outside, but perhaps to them it has just become a way of life. But we know that once they start trusting us, that the relationship can only get better and that they can be free- no longer fearing what could happen and instead freely swimming in trust with us as their master, knowing we have good intentions towards them.

I encourage you to search your heart today. Ask the Lord if any of the above scenarios apply to you or if you have trust issues and live your life guarded. He wants you to be completely free, trusting in His love for you and trusting that He has good intentions towards you. He will protect you and cover you in the shelter of His almighty wings. You were not meant to live small; you were made for great things. Do you believe that? Once we start living like we actually believe that, we can stop living to please people, we can stop worrying about what others will say and do, we can stop living in shame from our past but believing God had redeemed and restored, and we can be free to live big for Him.

Lord, I want to live to please you and you alone, fully trusting in your plan for me. I want to feel that freedom of not worrying about what other people think. Remind me again afresh who I am in You. And use me to bring you glory! Amen.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” -Psalms 139:14

Listen to this song and be reminded that you are all that He says you are!

Back To School Prayer

 

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1 Peter 5:7- Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.

Lord, as we send our kids off to school, we say today that we trust You. Ultimately, they are in Your hands. Calm our anxious thoughts; speak peace to our emotions. We surrender them into your care. Protect them and give them peace. Help them to be a friend to others and to make some new friendships. Help them to not feel overwhelmed with so much new information. Give them things throughout the day to bring them joy. Give them favor with their peers and all of their teachers. Help them to not get distracted and to be good listeners. May this be the best year yet- a year of growth, a year of strength, a year of learning to trust You more, and a year of surrendering fears and overcoming much.

We also pray for the teachers today. May you fill their hearts with joy and give them all that they need to start this new year. Instead of seeing a child as disruptive or a troublemaker, may you give them eyes to see each child how you see them, with compassion and grace. We pray that these teachers will feel appreciated, encouraged, and loved. We pray that You, Lord, would help them to connect to each student individually. Give them wisdom for each situation that they might encounter and give them patience.

Give the students and the teachers strength- praying that this truly would be the best year yet! We surrender our schedules, our plans, and our agendas, and say, Lord, have Your way. Help us all, students, teachers, and parents, to work together for one common goal. Help us all to communicate effectively and to have grace for one another, knowing that even though we all have different roles, we are working together to make this a great year.

You are good Lord, and we know that there’s nothing that will happen this year that You can’t handle. You are the One who calms our anxious hearts and gives us exactly what we need when we need it. We look to You to be our helper for this new school year. Every project, every homework assignment, every tough situation, every challenge- You’ve got this and we put our hope and our trust in You, and You alone. In Jesus name, Amen.

He will keep watch over our children and keep them from harm (paraphrased from Psalm 121:7).

The Lord protects and preserves them– they are counted among the blessed in the land– he does not give them over to the desire of their foes. Psalms 41:2

 

 

 

Being Vulnerable and Growing with Your Tribe

Young Women's Bible Study

“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” Brene’ Brown

My friend Christina was trying to get to know me a bit when we first moved to South Texas. “Are you easy to get to know or more private?” “Oh, I’m an open book,” I said with pride. I’ve always thought I was an open book. But as the years go by, I realize that I am an extrovert with introvert qualities. And I’m harder to get to know than I once thought.

I like to be home. I like to do my thing. I will share with you something that only a few people know about me- I don’t like to talk on the phone and I actually have had some serious phone anxieties in the past. Once I’m on the phone, I’m fine. I feel like I’m doing so much better with it now, but still have a ways to go. But I could go forever before I called someone back. I know…it’s terrible. And it’s mainly with people far away or that I don’t see anymore. Text me and we’re good. I’ve avoided Skype and Facetime because it made me feel awkward and I felt like I needed to be more put together than I was.

And in the past I’ve missed different events or outings because I didn’t feel comfortable or like I needed to be there. I just wanted to stay home and hide. It feels safe when I’m at home. Messy hair, don’t care, pjs on and no drama. And that’s good to have a place of safety and refuge- but I know I can’t stay here all the time. I know I’ve been called to be a light and so have you. What I have to remember is that when I call people or go hang out with people, that I’m needed. I know that might sound weird, but you and I are needed! The Lord wants to use us to encourage others and build relationships. I know I can’t exactly do that hiding behind my keyboard (or whatever that thing is for you that it’s so easy to hide behind).

 “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Brene’ Brown

At the end of the day, we’re all a little awkward, a little inward, but mostly we’re all perfectly imperfect… together. Every time I’ve done something that I almost missed because I was going to stay home, I come home feeling filled up, blessed and thankful for those experiences. And I tell my husband, “We need to that more often!” We were meant for fellowship, whether phone or in person, this I know. I think that’s why the enemy loves to give so many people anxieties in this area, because the enemy wants us to isolate ourselves. I have a lot of friends that are dealing with anxiety and it’s very isolating. The one thing I know that I have going for me is that I really love people. Like really. I’ve said it before after meeting up with someone at Starbucks or talking with a good friend I haven’t talked to in a while- I love people. And the other irony is that I’m called to be a speaker, so there’s that.

We have a friend who’s moving and the one thing I noticed about her (and I told her this) was that from the moment she got here, she gave it all and held nothing back. I admired the way she jumped into friendships and did life with people. She will be so very missed because she gave people the most precious thing she had, time.

I want to encourage you, as I take my own advice, to not let this year get by without digging your roots in a little deeper. I’ve been so blessed to do several girl getaways this year. I always come back with a deep love and respect for each of those ladies, as we’ve been able to peel away our masks and just be us… real. We laugh together, see our no-make-up self’s, and share personal stories that make us who we are today. There’s something to be said about not only getting to know them, but it feels good letting them get to know parts of me too.

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” Brene’ Brown

So be sensitive to God, what He’s calling you to do in this next season, the people He wants you to reach out to, the relationships that are important to you that you need to continue to invest in, the people you haven’t called in a while (just do it!), and perhaps the places that He will call you to go that you might not always ‘feel’ like going, but you’ll always be glad you went!  Look for opportunities to grow, serve, and be apart of what God is doing and build your community- because your community, your tribe, that’s where the good stuff grows, amen.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15

Fill Up Your Spiritual Tank

Alps travel

A few weeks ago we went on this crazy, fun road trip to see my brother get married in California. The drive from Brownsville, Texas to Roseville, California is 2,025 miles. We broke the trip up into drivable days and a mix between cheap hotels, friends and family, and camping. It was such a fun adventure!

There are 3 things we always try to do when we make a stop- bathroom, gas, and food. If we don’t get food, at some point we all start to get hungry and cranky. And we need gas of course! I remember at one point in our trip where the gas was incredibly low and we were literally in the middle of nowhere. Not a gas station (or anything else for that matter) in sight. When you drive across Texas there are patches where there’s no food and gas for literally hours. It’s so important when we travel on road trips like this that we fill up at the gas station when we can. My gaslight was on and it felt like forever before we finally found a gas station. I was imagining what would happen if we ran out of gas in what felt like the desert, and it would not be good!

Life can be compared to a long road trip. We have places to go and people to see. We’re going to go through patches in our lives that are dry and desolate and suck the very life out of us. It is so important to fill up your spiritual gas tank everyday, because it’s a scary thing when we start to run on fumes. We get cranky, we’re short with people, and exhaustion is just miles away.

Fill up! God’s Word is life giving- it renews us, it refreshes us, and it equips us for the journey. So the next time you find yourself running out of gas, pull over, fill up your tank with God’s Word, and get back on the road! And Enjoy the journey!

Romans 15:4- For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

1 Timothy 4:13- Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

Psalms 119:105- Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Joshua 1:8- This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Church- It’s Not Just About Me

Good ShepherdPhoto credit: @Good Shepherd Community Church

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. Acts 20:28

This past weekend was 4th of July weekend. We went out to South Padre Island to spend time with family and watch the fireworks. We talked, we ate S’mores, some of the cousins played kickball, we prayed together, and then we were prayed for. I love our family and the way we all love each other. They prayed for us, as we are about to start Kids Camp tomorrow. There were some words spoken over our family and for the future of Big Red Ministries. It was refreshing and uplifting. We needed it. Then we drove home- it normally takes about 45 minutes to get home, but because of the holiday traffic it took 2 hours! I know. I know.

We got in around 1:30am and we were all so very tired on Sunday morning. I knew that I was going to need to wake my kids up in order to make it to church on time (on time for us). There was a struggle in my body that morning. Yes, the struggle was real. I was just exhausted. I knew I could just stay home with the kids and we could read the Bible together and the Lord would still love me. 😉 But something in me felt like I needed to be there. I can’t explain it other than the Holy Spirit. I made a decision that we were going to church, regardless of my tired man inside.

I woke the kids up and of course there was some resistance. My daughter said, “Mom, we’re all tired, right?” “Let’s just stay home today.” And thankfully I had already made up my mind or I would have been easily swayed. “Nope, we’re going,” I said.

I was running late but I learned a long time ago that God’s timing is perfect- as it was perfect on this particular morning. We rushed in, and thankfully I didn’t rush in too quick, as a woman was standing off to the left, next to the coffee, and she looked intently at me. “Celeste, right?” she said nervously.

She pulled me aside and we talked for a while. She was really struggling and I was able to speak into that thing and then pray over her. I felt His presence as we prayed. I quickly realized that this was exactly why I was supposed to be there and that this was why the enemy was trying to keep me from going to church. Which by the way, the enemy is really good at using our feelings to deceive us (just a side note).

The Lord spoke to my heart and reminded me that when I come to church it’s for me, but it’s not just for me. He has a plan that is so far beyond us just hearing hearing a good sermon (although we do get to hear some great messages). Sometimes people church hop because they’re looking for the perfect church that will meet their every need (by the way, only God does that). Some people want to sit in the pew, hear a feel good sermon, and then move on. Church is messy, imperfect, and beautiful.

If we’re only going to see what we can get out of it, then we are totally missing what church was meant to be.

And yes, I know, we are the church.

He rocked me yesterday morning, realizing that I am guilty of this very thing- sometimes I just want to get in and out. And what’s for lunch? Lord, forgive me. The very thing that the church is meant to be, connection with God and connection with others, and learning to use our gifts to serve, is exactly what we miss when we’re so focused on us and how we’re feeling.

I want to challenge you today, as I was challenged, to go to church not only to learn and grow, but with intention. Ask the Lord to lead you to someone that might need prayer, even if you are not comfortable praying with people (He will give you the words). Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to someone that just might need a hug or an encouraging word.

We need each other.

May we not be so focused on the next thing that we miss the main thing! Amen! (click to tweet)