A Dream Deferred is not a Dream Destroyed

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Today I was thinking about dreams. Hopes, dreams, goals, and things we want to happen. We talk a great deal about our dreams and what we hope to achieve in this life. I have gone through times when the dreams I have for myself are right in front of my face. For instance, my writing. I have dreamed of being a writer for a long time. A few years ago, I started to see this opportunity come to life as a friend asked me to write for her website. It turned into a weekly gig, and eventually two published devotions! I was sure it would continue to ramp up and I would be writing regularly from then on…not so much.

The website was sold off and I shifted to a homeschool mom who had too much on her plate to really give writing the proper attention it needed. I was frustrated and a little disheartened. It’s not that I doubted that God put that dream in my heart, but it turns out that that specific path was not a straight shot to a career. I know that it played a crucial part in my journey, and I trust that I will have other writing opportunities in my life. But when a path has an end, we have to make a choice: we can see it as a part of our big picture, or we can be consumed by the end of it. I am so glad that the Bible has so many examples of deferred dreams. because I am sure the enemy salivates at the open opportunity that exists at the end of a path.


Biblical Examples

Joseph: pretty sure he had the opportunity to lose all hope sitting at the bottom of a cave that his brothers threw him in. I mean didn’t he just dream about them bowing down to him?

David: Hearing you will be king of Israel is great…but it’s hard to firmly accept while spending years continuing to be a shepherd and then being hunted my the current king.

Ruth: Marriage usually means a new chapter and the beginning of a family, but Ruth experienced loss and displacement well before her arms held her own baby.


 

There are more, but I think it is key to remember that none of us are immune from a deferred dream. If you are in the midst of a dream deferral I would love to encourage you to make sure you are pressing into the Father’s love and comfort during disappointment…or even during redirection. God wastes nothing. He will always use the opportunity to grow your faith, reestablish priorities, draw you closer to himself, set the stage for a bigger dream, or even give you a wake up call that that dream is not HIS best for you. Obviously, there are lots of things God could be doing while you are being rerouted or put in a holding pattern. The best thing to do is seek HIM! He will reveal, in His most perfect timing, some (or maybe all) of the reasons that you are not going at the pace or in the exact direction you anticipated going. Intimacy with Him is ALWAYS a part of it for Him.  Seeking God in a time of delay or rerouting will always be a good thing. Remember the infallible truth that God is good. It is as untouchable as His love for you. You can reject it (just like His love), but it doesn’t make it any less true.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5 

My challenge to you today is simple: spend time talking to God about your dreams. Then, spend time letting all the “missed opportunities” or “finished paths” go and ask God to make the next step in the journey clear. Then listen, write down what you hear. The thoughts that are higher than your own that come in your heart with a banner of love are those of the Holy Spirit. We hear from Him more often than we realize, and He is creative and full of hope.

The Reality of Change

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I am sitting in the last few days before I go back to work  add another bullet point to my job description. I am a wife, mother of 3, facilitator of everything in the home, and now I will be working outside of the home (at my husband’s office…our office) for many of my “free” hours each week. This feels big. The reason for this shift was explained in my last post, but let me back it up to begin the story from a few years ago. See this new change is not just a cut and dry move. It is one that has been developing for years. God has been working behind the scenes and I am seeing now how seemingly unrelated changes have paved the way to today.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly when I started really asking God to show me how to be submissive. Or more selfishly put, for God to raise my husband up as the spiritual leader in our home. To his credit, he is a Godly man who has always sought to be in relationship with God. His faith was one of the major things I loved about him when we were dating and it is still a huge part of why we work. However, I grew up in a home that was predominantly run by my mother (for lots of reasons that made sense and it is a much bigger story than a blog post so suffice it to say, I love my parents and they provided a wonderful home where I felt provided for, safe, and loved). Anyway, she made the spiritual decisions and lead the family in faith. I am forever grateful for my mom giving me an amazing faith foundation. It is not perfect, but I consider it to be a most excellent starting point. With that said, I knew how to dig deep and follow what I believed to be God’s will for my life. This gave me confidence in the area of faith and in my ability to raise up my children in the ways of a believer.

The problem is when two become one, their individual faith journeys also become one…and sometimes this makes for murky waters. We have different backgrounds and the lens in which we view our faith. We agree on so much, but if we are not diligent, we slip into old, learned behaviors or even the mindset we had when we were single and only worried about our own journey. This has been a bigger part of this aspect of our relationship than I care to admit. Obviously I didn’t forget I was married, but when it came to growing in God, I get really single lady about it. I think about only my own growth and how fast I can go alone. Not intentionally, but the reality is, we are one and I cannot run miles and miles ahead of him. And I won’t if I am giving God room to whisper ways to serve my family in my growth. This is the hard part of change. It isn’t just me. It is my family. I have to work out my renewed mind in the context of wife and mother…which also means that the enemy will absolutely use those avenues to attack me and make me doubt the new thing God is doing in my life.

Attacks we encounter in our daily life may not be from where you think, or for the reasons you think. Sometimes the sole mission of the attack is to give life to doubt. This doubt can start small and begin in the most obscure of ways, but before you know it, you have accepted the invitation down the rabbit hole and you are now unsure of your ability to do anything you once thought God called you to do. Take heart, friend. A moment of true worship of the Father can wipe away much doubt.  Doubt whispers a false reality. Maybe it is a failed moment with your kids or a sour conversation you had with your spouse. You replay them in your mind and doubt begins to try to prove to you that you have not changed, or that this new thing is not going well. Doubt tries to burrow in and take root in your heart, but let’s pause and  worship. What happens? You begin to shift your focus on your imperfect existence and you are reminded of whose you are. You are swept up in love for God which He immediately showers you with the unwavering love that He has had for you from before you were born. It is unchanging and it is not intimidated by your imperfection or the enemy’s tactics to emphasize your flaws.

So remember, change is the constant companion of the journey into the Father’s heart. He changes our mind (Romans 12:2) he heals us (Psalm 147:3), and he will never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). Change is wrought with uncertainty in the non-eternal details, but the big picture is constant, in your favor, and good. The God kind of good, not the world kind of good. Be steadfast and refuse to reserve a seat for Doubt at the table of your heart.

I Get By with a Little Help

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I met with a friend today. It was your typical playdate with preschool-aged kids. There was milked poured, sibling squabbles, and Daniel Tiger in the background. I loved it. Not because of any of those things, but because this friend and I get each other. We don’t need to pretend that this phase of life is more glamorous (or horrible) than it is. We had honest talk about the kids and the husbands. We shared encouragement and days of woe. We wondered openly about whether our parents dealt with the pressures we do to be the best parent. I believe they did not.

Social media has made an in-your-face approach to parenthood the norm. I do believe however, that the core of parents in decades past still struggled with the same questions at night.

Am I a fit mother?

Am I screwing up my kids?

Did I go too far in that punishment today?

Did I feed them well?

Are they going to like me when they are older?

Am I actually ‘ruining their life’ like they claim?

The reality is we are all getting it right in some areas and wrong in others. We never really know how this whole thing is going to turn out until it does—and then it’s too late. Too late to go back and undo the things, unsay things, and un-choose things. Sure, we can apologize and change behavior moving forward, and God has a way of redeeming things beyond our wildest dreams, but it doesn’t erase our choices.

This harsh reality is all the more reason for abundant grace. Grace for the mom who looks a little worse for wear. Grace for the mom who needs two extra set of arms (and maybe a latte). Grace for all. Grace for the ones you hear about over the internet that experienced a tragedy and you even think about making a public opinion about a family you’ve never met in a situation that you did not witness personally. Think grace.

When God put all this in motion, he did not set limits on who could be reached by his grace and love. He set out to prove that he could love anyone or anything. He did it in the supernatural capacity as well as within the confines of human skin. He has poured out his spirit on all flesh (meaning that Holy Spirit indwells in all who begin a relationship with Jesus) so that we could tap in to the awesome power that gave Jesus the capability to love all so well.

Here is a challenge for all my mom friends. Next time you are tempted to think something that is less than helpful towards another mom, do this instead: ask Holy Spirit, “What is God saying about (insert her name)?” Then listen. God only has love for everyone. He isn’t going to celebrate a sin in their life, he will highlight their heart or a strength they have. He doesn’t gossip about other moms to you…the Enemy might though.

I left my friend’s house today feeling filled up. We built each other up and didn’t need to tear anyone down. We agreed to keep each other accountable in our prayer life and I gave her a “It gets better” speech, because that sweet woman is knee-deep in three kids four and under and that is not for the faint of heart, ya’ll!

Find a way to be a friend to another mom this week. Reach out, send that text, plan that playdate. “I get by with a little help from my friends” isn’t just the title of a song used in the opening credits of The Wonder Years. It is a truth. We need our friendships. We need the “me too” of a friend who gets it. The reality is no one quite knows the plight of motherhood like another mother, and it creates this quiet bond between women. A bond that is constantly being buried under a mound of insecurity, comparison, and tough days. But in the end, we are all mothering to the best of our ability. Let’s harbor compassion not comparison.

Trust the Process

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This is my favorite verse. I chose it as my life verse a few years back. It reminds me of the truth that we are all on a journey. Salvation is immediate, the rest is a process as unique as you. The common denominator that we all have as believers is Jesus and Holy Spirit. Our struggles, our temptations in this life will vary greatly from person to person and from season to season. The constant is Jesus and Holy Spirit. They are always wooing you and pursuing you. They are singing love over you and pulling your true identity out from underneath the world’s chains of sin and shame.

Our time to meet our maker is set. Jesus knows what his timeframe is with you. Be confident that as long as you are open to his work in you, the pace is perfect. I often get frustrated that I don’t have victory in a certain area when I would think I should. It is good to keep pressing on, but let’s not forget who is doing the work. Sometimes, we just have to trust the process and fall in step with Holy Spirit as he guides us to truth and revelation.

Here is a perfect example of my own frustrations and my need to be reminded of that verse. I have anger issues. I have struggled with them for most of my life. In my past I have flown into rages and by God’s grace was able to keep my distance from pounding on the offender. I have put my face to the ground more than once in anguish over this shortcoming in my life. I feel anger well up so quickly sometimes that I am shocked that before you know it, I am consumed with annoyance and sometimes rage.

Why? Why can’t I get total victory over this in my life? I have given it to God more times than I can count. There must be a piece missing. Or maybe it is a proverbial thorn that my insides will always have to deal with, yet God will give me the grace and power to squelch it before it comes to the surface. Maybe it will be the one thing that constantly reminds me of my need for a savior (Jesus) and a helper (Holy Spirit).
It has improved over the years and having three small children definitely gives me ample practice with controlling the issue. I have lost my temper with my children and had to go to them and apologize. This has given me great opportunities to talk about how we are not perfect, but Jesus loves us anyway. Isn’t He good?

He is supplying me with grace, knowledge, and confidence that HE IS WORKING in my life!

I can take stock of my life and see progress and know that Philippians 1:6 is true for me!

Is Love Winning in the Church?

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Lately, my focus has drifted to how Christianity has come to be known as a religion. Furthermore, how did we become defined by ourselves and the world by the tasks we do (or don’t do). If you stopped someone on the street and simply asked them “What is a Christian?” what do you think they would say? If you asked a hundred individuals this same question, do you think the majority would rattle off a list of things that Christians (should) do? Or is is something that is simple?

Isn’t a Christian a follower of Christ?

Yet in the western culture (probably not exclusively, but I would hate to lump the whole world into something that I can only speak of for certain in the culture in which I live) we have all of these preferences and requirements within our church walls. We are afraid of tainting the integrity of our church culture so much that we have actually tainted our reputation of love. The intent of this trend was—I believe—humble and beautiful to start. But the Enemy in his cunning ways, has partnered with the church in the name of keeping pure. He has polluted the Church into genocide mentality of keeping out those who can’t live up to the standards of the ideal Christian. People are being cast aside for their dirty sins because somewhere along the line come as you are lost its importance.

Although this seems like I am hating on the Church, I am not. I LOVE church. I am a lifer. I was raised in church and for all its warts and scars, I find it to be one of my favorite places to be. But I am pursuing it with eyes wide open. No church is perfect. As long as people are leading people, it will be done with flaws included.

The coolest thing to me is that Jesus chooses to use broken people to lead broken people. I think it is to show off His glory, but I could be totally wrong. I mean if we succeed in life change at all, and we see people choose eternity with God through anything we do. Well if that doesn’t declare miracle at work I don’t know what does! And by our efforts I mean our actions coupled with God. Our efforts—in my mind—actually taint God’s perfect ways, yet He lets us be involved anyway.

This makes me think of when I let my kids cook with me. I can execute a recipe without their help at all. As a matter of fact, it will turn out better if I do not have to involve them in the preparation at all. But when I let them help, I risk mistakes and things not turning out the way they were supposed to. But the joy of letting them help and be involved in the process multiplies the joy of the whole project. See, we are God’s kids and he wants to let us help. Not because he needs our help, but He enjoys joining forces and doing it with us. The memories created and the intimate moments of coming alongside each other are priceless. They are the heart of God. Intimacy, co-creating, being WITH Him. He craves our relationship.

Which brings me back to the start. If you are following a religion, where is the fun in that? What is the purpose? I am a Christian because I fell in love with Jesus and have been eagerly trying to live a life that pleases Him. As I dive into scripture recalling the life of Jesus, love seemed to be the highest thing on His list of things to focus on. He even set love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength as the most important command. One of the key parts of loving God is allowing Him to love you. Opening your heart to His love will be the most life changing thing you ever do. I promise!

As the Church, we have work to do. But Jesus is patient and kind and cheering on our progress.

Summer is a Time to Simmer

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As I wrap up my 4 week theme of “Summer is…” I hope you have enjoyed them. I have some talented friends when it comes to writing and although it is hard to follow their lead, I leave you with the final piece. Summer is now in it’s twilight week as we start school next Wednesday. I have already begun to work on homeschool days with my oldest and am trying not to think about the fact that my middle child is entering the world of Kindergarten…I swear I had these babies mere months ago! Our summer has been pretty awesome. Not because of any mega-extravagant thing we did, but because the days of daily naps died over the spring…it’s a life changer, people. We carpe’d the snot out of this summer! I was also in an interesting place in my journey with the Lord. This summer was about the simmer. The fall is going to bring some changes–some I know of and some I just feel in my spirit. Read below for more on the simmering summer and feel free to comment about what one word (or a few words, I know, one word requests just kill some of us) would you use to describe your summer?


I love to cook! I hate to clean it all up, but that is another post for another time. I am not much for baking, but dinner…savory, colorful dinner…oh yeah. I LOVE to get inspiration from a recipe and then make it my own. As a matter of fact, I have trouble following a recipe to a T (hence the I am not into baking thing). I always seem to put my own touch on whatever it is I am creating. Even when someone else has taken a lot of time and effort to put together a beautiful list of ingredients and a step-by-step process to get me from a package of chicken, herbs and veggies to a plate of perfection steaming in the center of my table, I still insert my own flair. It may be as simple as a few extra doses of a listed seasoning or a sprinkle of lemon juice at the end to brighten the overall flavor (I am a lemon enthusiast some might say).

One of my favorite things to make is soup. I make it every week in the cooler months and no two soups are identical. I like watching all the many ingredients come together in such culinary harmony. I often take little taste tests throughout the process and improve on the base flavor as I go. Then when it seems just right I let it simmer for 20-30 minutes (if I get a chance) before I serve it. In the simmer, all the individual ingredients get a chance to blend and decide on the overarching taste of the soup. Sure you still taste the individual components of the soup, but they fade to the background as the unified taste comes to the forefront. The individual breaks down to become the sum of the whole.

The home cooked goodness of a made-from-scratch soup just can’t happen instantly. I can’t stick all the chopped veggies and broth into a microwave and zap it into a simmered-to-perfection state. I can’t make changes and taste along the way. I would be stuck with whatever mush came out after my allotted time and rotations.

The simmer is the key. In the simmer things become clear, different flavors bond to create a new one. I am in a simmer season of life too. I have so many components of my life. They are all breaking down and melding to create the final product. I am learning to yield to the chef and accept any seasoning he want so throw in to enhance me.

The art of trusting him is what I am learning most right now. I am hungry for a new revelation and to experience more of his power in my life. The sticky part is accepting the challenges in my life that might bring about the revelation and deeper level that I am craving.

So what do you do in the simmer?

You talk to the chef.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 1:5

The nature of God is good. He is only light and there is no darkness in Him. If there are hard circumstances in your life you get to be assured of two things:

He did not cause them.

He wants to use them.

So in the simmer you wait, you ask for wisdom, you worship, and you listen. He has something for you. It may be a greater understanding of who He is. It may be an impartation of His power to work through you to conquer your circumstances. It may be a refinement of your character. It may be all of thee above. He is just that creative.

So what one word would you use to describe your summer?

The Cost of Truth

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I have this fresh perspective on my life. I am not sure how one achieves such a season. I would like to think I conjured it up in the hours I spend with God. I would like to think I have somehow earned it through holy behavior. But the truth of the matter is God has some perfect timing and now is when he is choosing to bring a wave of change in my heart. I have been asking for this for a while now, but I just wasn’t ready. I couldn’t tell you the exact thing that I needed in order to flip the switch. But nonetheless, I am here—in this space. I have cast fear aside and have been allowing my feet to go beyond the borders of my human possibilities. It is strangely comforting to know that I am totally dependent on the Creator. My success and failure in the world’s eyes is irrelevant. I am successful because I said yes.

This journey—a life lived in relationship with the Creator of the Universe—is so much deeper than I could have imagined when I was an innocent 10 year-old girl kneeling at the altar at church camp in the summer of ’94. I remember saying to God that he could have me. I was choosing him for my own. Up until then, I was riding on my parents’ religious coat tails. I had faith by family inheritance. Now I wanted my own connection with God. Even though I made my own declaration, I still followed the path set before me. I related to God the only ways I knew how—by way of religion. I went to church, I tithed 10% of all money that came my way, and I repented fervently of my terrible sins. I lived in a constant cycle of trying to clean up my act as a human to have a chance at an encounter with the Presence. I welcomed guilt and shame as part of the conviction package. I was so grateful to receive salvation that I worked every day as if it had to be earned anew. I was stricken with spiritual poverty. I had nothing to give because I was hoarding all I had to simply sustain my own righteousness.

Ten years later my world was blown to bits. My marriage of two years ended with adultery and church drama beyond my comprehension. I saw members of church staff turn their backs on me. I trusted people in God’s ministry and I was left to heal from the wounds, they inflicted, by myself. Although this is easily labeled as the hardest time in my life, I can say the timing to accept the responsibility of truth God had for me was, in fact, perfect.

It was in that season that I learned that all people are susceptible to sin. And if we are being honest, those in positions of influence for the Kingdom come under greater attack than we as onlookers can understand. I also learned that forgiveness is possible regardless of the offense. For forgiveness sets the offended free regardless of the offender’s remorse. These truths came at a great cost, but the lessons that I learned will benefit me for the rest of my life.

My perspective on God, and Christianity, changed in that hard season. I tore down the religious beams holding up my faith and beliefs. I started over.

When hard times hit, please press into what truths God has for you. He hides truth for us not from us. He has such beautiful timing and he wastes nothing. No hurt will ever go without truth. We can overlook it because we can only focus on our pain. We have free will to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to God’s part, or worse we can blame God for the bad. It is not in the nature of God to do bad things. I’m sorry if that upsets you, but he just isn’t wired for evil. We live in a fallen world and until we leave this planet, we will be doing battle with the Evil One. The choice we have is to either ask God for his truth in the situation or focus on the pain. He is eager to impart the payoff to your costly wound. No hurt is for nothing. Romans 8:28 assures us that, “God works all things to the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This doesn’t mean you will look back on a painful event with joy. You may never be glad that thing happened. But it does mean that he can redeem aspects of that event with his truth and his goodness. So that you can look back at an event and at least put some part of it in the good column. Again, this is a choice. He won’t force you to see good. He will, however, invite you to. He longs for you to embrace his goodness in this harsh world. Brokenness is often times God’s greatest hour. He floods into the cracks of your heart at your invitation and not a moment sooner. He pursues you with all his might to a point and waits with high anticipation for the go ahead to invade your heart and soul!

If you have wounds, please go after his truth in those moments in time. He can still redeem that situation and do miracles beyond your imagination. I cling to Ephesians 3:20 when I am hurt, scared, nervous, or really any time is a good time to declare this verse.


Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or

imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.


He transcends our human minds and hearts. He can do the impossible. He will work all things to good. We only need to ask and believe.

My Everything

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On Wednesdays I get the opportunity to gather with a pretty amazing group of women. These are the deep wells I have mentioned before. I cherish these women and they may never fully know what spending time with them has done for me and my journey with God. Each meeting consists of time to just soak in the Father’s presence. As we listen to music we are encouraged to feel safe and free to be with Him in our own way. Some leave the room to dance and sway to the music, others lie down and just rest in Him, while others may write or close their eyes and sing. I love catching a glimpse of these Daughters of the Kingdom embracing intimacy with their Creator. It is breathtaking and soul shaking.

This week, I was in a weird place mentally and having trouble quieting my mind enough to just be. I began thinking about my kids and the meaning of their names (something we had done when first choosing their names). I puttered on my phone, looking up each one and writing down the significance and the Hebrew spelling (if they had it) and then praying over each child. I was declaring the good attributes over them and remembering why we chose each beautiful name. I then felt a little guilty, like I was missing out on my opportunity to worship and quiet myself before the Lord without my children to interrupt (a true gift in my current season). I put all stuff aside and closed my eyes. I was going to press past the mind clutter and burrow into his presence. I was there for what seemed like a nanosecond when the chorus of the song playing sliced through and caused me to take note:

Come to Me, I’m all you need.
Come to Me, I’m everything
Come to Me, I’m all you need.
Come to Me, I’m your everything
Come to Me by Jenn Johnson and John Hendrickson

The word everything was seemingly so loud it filled my soul. I kept hearing it long after the singer had moved on. It just carried such weight to it. I began to wonder what the Hebrew word for “everything” was. I entered “everything in Hebrew” into the search, and this is what I discovered:

my everything

 

 

To put this into English we would say Kol (pronounced coal). Each individual symbol also has meaning. As I began writing these down, a beautiful picture emerged in my mind. K (kaf as we would spell it) is the first symbol and it means “an open hand.” The O (vav) means “a nail”, and the l (lamed) means “a shepherd’s crook” (staff). Wow!

The word everything when put together creates such a cool picture. An open hand (invitation, offering of something, vulnerability), a nail (sacrifice), and a shepherd’s crook (guidance, leadership, protection). In this one word, we see that God truly is our everything. He is all that you need, he is all that you could hope, think, or imagine. Intimacy with him is “kol.” It isn’t the laws or the religion and it never will be. You cannot “religion” yourself into the heart of the Father. But intimacy with the Father is our source to everything. It doesn’t have to look a certain way, it simply needs to be sincere.

Hope: A Give Away

The lovely Heather Bixler (heatherbixler.com) is having a give away of her four-week mini Bible study on hope. Enter below!

 

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Enter for your chance to win 1 of 25 FREE audible copies of the audiobook “Hope – Four Week Mini Bible Study: Becoming Press Mini Bible Studies by Heather Bixler!

About the Book

“Then I think about my own little desires. The desire that my husband would be completely healed from his disease, and how he is still suffering through this every day. It is all hurting my heart, and then I think about hope…”

Take this four week journey to challenge and renew your thoughts on hope.

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