This is how Jesus is rewriting my story

IMG_8201Have you ever been tossed into an impossible situation? One in which you didn’t see a way forward?

An I-didn’t-plan-this-part-of-my-life-and-and-don’t-know-how-I-will-face-it kind of scenario?

I have.

You see, that’s just the kind of place where our faith ends and God begins.

I believe the Lord allows us to walk through impossible situations so he can show us he is the God of the impossible.

Last fall, I faced the ending of a relationship with my boyfriend of one year.

It was my longest relationship. That may not sound very long to some of you, but for me, it was.

So when we broke up, I thought it was the end of everything, even though I knew it was not God’s will for me to continue forward in that relationship.

In my newfound singleness, I wasn’t sure where to start.

I should mention that this occurred a month after my 30th birthday. Not exactly the way I wanted to start my 30th year of life, especially when I thought marriage and kids were going to be in my near future.

To add to my devastation, my relationship with my family had been rocky for some time, so I felt like I had no one. I wasn’t sure anything good could come out of this.

In the midst of my despair, I remember thinking, “Well I guess I’m heading into a dark season.”

But then I heard a gentle, familiar whisper say, “Actually, you’re heading into a season of light.”

I love when the Spirit speaks futuristic words like that, because though it was confusing then, now I understand what he meant.

But at the time, I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t know how to start my life over. I’d never been in a situation like that.

It was a place of pain with so much sadness and disappointment that I felt like I couldn’t move. But what I discovered was that I didn’t need to. God met me right where I was.

He’s the King of Heaven, but He’s also the king who comes low. He always meets us right where we are. It doesn’t matter how far away you feel.

The following month was a series of nights spent crying alone in my bathroom at home.

One of those nights, I was on the phone with my sister, Meghan, and asked her how to deal with the situation. She’d been in a difficult time with her career a few years back, and I asked her how she got through it.

“Where did you start?” I asked.

Her answer was simple, but it meant the world.

“Well, I spent a lot of time just being really still before God and listening to the ‘Surrounded (Fight My Battles)’ song from Upper Room on YouTube.”

This was right before I started attending Upper Room, a small spirit-filled church in Dallas. At that time,  I’d never watched their worship on YouTube. Until that night anyway.

I’m so sure that right there, as I sat watching that video on the cold tile floor, was when God started to change me.

If you go listen to the song, you’ll know why. The message of the song is that worship is warfare; that being in God’s presence is how we fight. We just need to be still before Him and praise Him. He fights for us.

It’s in this new journey that I’m only beginning to see that God’s timing, while hard to accept, is truly better than my own.

Though this season has been painful, it’s also beautiful, because it’s here where God is rewriting my story for His glory.

I will sing till the miracle comes

If the headline resonates, you’re probably familiar with the lyrics from the song “Even When It Hurts (Praise Song),” by Hillsong United.

I’ve been listening to it a lot lately.

The song about praising God in the midst of pain, sorrow or suffering. There’s even one line that goes, “Even when it hurts like hell, I’ll praise You. Even when it makes no sense to sing, louder than I’ll sing Your praise.”

I’m in the middle of a season where those words really resonate.

To the rest of the world, it probably looks pretty crazy to praise God when we’re hurting or are still waiting on an answer to prayer. But that’s exactly what the Bible tells us to do.

It also serves as a testimony of God’s faithfulness, that we would even still want to praise Him.

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

I’m not going to tell you that’s an easy thing to do. But in my own experience, I’ve found that staying mad and frustrated about my circumstances only gets me so far.

It kind of feels good to be mad at first, I’ll admit. Just to say, God, I’m mad at you. This isn’t fair. But then what? I’ll tell you one thing, the enemy would love for you to stay in that place — just stay discouraged, don’t even try to get back up on your feet and worship the Lord.

The good news is, you don’t even have to get all the way to your feet. Just get on your knees. Start praying. Start praising His great name for all He’s done in your life.

Prayer and praise provide a way for us to endure trials. I believe that’s precisely why God tells us to praise him no matter the circumstances.

For one thing, it draws us closer to Him. He provides comfort during our hardest moments. He also provides peace.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)

He’s not just our savior but our friend and comforter. He loves us. It could take being down in the depths to realize just how much.

That’s been true in my own experience. I can honestly say I’ve reached my lowest point, and God was still there. He always provides the grace to get through.

And through praising Him each day, no matter how difficult my circumstance, He’s brought me closer to Him and shown me that my life is not my own. Everything I’m facing is simply a testament to be used for God’s glory.

God loves you and desires a relationship with you. Just go to Him with a heart of praise and thanksgiving. He hears your prayers, and always brings about the right thing in His timing.

Maybe what He wants to show you right now is how to sing until the miracle comes.

How do you fully surrender it all?

What does it mean to surrender everything to God?

Sure, you hear pastors preach about it, we sing about it and even use it in conversations with other believers.

It’s so easy to talk about surrendering, but how do we actually put it into practice?

Upon doing some research for this post (which I came up with after a colleague asked me that very question, and I realized I needed a better understanding of this topic), I found a video of one Joyce Meyer’s messages on surrender.

She says you can either surrender to the devil or surrender to God. That’s the choice.

I think James 4:7 illustrates this point well.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

So when we’re surrendering to God, we are in essence, resisting the will of Satan.

But back to my original question of how to surrender.

Joyce Meyer describes surrendering as simply letting go. We stop fighting our circumstances, fighting ourselves and fighting all the things people to do us that we don’t like and fighting the place God has put us.

We stop trying to everything our own way, letting God handle things instead.

For one thing, it’s a lot less work, because God already has a plan, so why not just go ahead and let him do it? He’s going to accomplish His work either way.

Take it from me — it is an exhausting way to live.

But for so many years, that was exactly how I lived. There were things in my life that I had spent years praying for that still hadn’t happened — and I was pretty convinced God had accidentally left them off his to-do list.

So what did I do? Try to do them myself, of course! And as you may have guessed, that method failed.

I began this year with a 21-day fast that has in some ways changed the course of my spiritual walk. (If you’ve never fasted, I highly encourage it. I’ll be writing a post about it soon!) For me, that was the beginning of surrendering.

Much of my journey this year has been mentally giving up trying to make things happen my own way, and just simply thanking God to be alive each day; thanking him for my family, friends, job and everything He’s given me.

It’s resulted in an attitude change, which also feels a lot like surrendering.

I’ve been focusing on staying in the Word and praying intentionally throughout the day every day (this includes starting each day in prayer, telling the Lord that I surrender the day to Him and asking to let His will be done, even in the small day-to-day things). It makes a difference.

I’ve also worked on Bible verse memorization, although I’ve fallen off the wagon on this more recently. But it’s a great way to get God’s word in your mind and your heart.

Ultimately, this year has been a fresh commitment to strive to live a God-honoring life. It’s consisted of sincere prayers and real honesty with God — some days, that has meant confessing that I’m mad at him.

After all, if we can’t tell God how we really feel, what kind of relationship is that? He loves us through it all, and always directs us back on track.

For me, surrender was a change in attitude toward God and life. More than anything, God is teaching me to be more thankful for what I have. And in turn, I have learned to love Him even more and see the beauty in all situations.

I still don’t have it all figured out, but I can assure you of this: Despite what the world tells you, surrendering to God is the most freeing thing you’ll ever do.

Every season is beautiful

Fall is a beautiful time of year, isn’t it? Here in North Texas, temperatures still feel like summertime (but we’ll just wake up one day and suddenly need a coat and mittens, as those of us here know).

But nonetheless, signs of the new season have arrived — leaves turning to red and brown, college football, post-season baseball (my Rangers lost yesterday; please console me), boots, crisp air, shorter days and of course, pumpkin spice everything. You might argue it’s getting out of hand, but that hasn’t kept me from getting on the pumpkin bandwagon. I even have a pumpkin muffin recipe I’m going to make in a couple weeks.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m rarely seen without a Starbucks cup in hand, so as you could guess, I may have had a few too many pumpkin spice lattes already this year. If I consume any more pumpkin, I might turn into one! Not that that would necessarily stop me.

What is it about a new season that’s so welcome and refreshing? Is it that we’re ready for a weather change, or perhaps we’re simply bored of the current season? Whatever it is, I think we can draw a parallel between the cycle of calendar seasons and the seasons of our lives.

Sometimes, frankly, we’re in a season we don’t like very much. Much like winter when the trees lose their leaves, our lives feel bare. Maybe finances are not in a good place, God has taken a loved one or we’re waiting for a life event that we felt would happen long before now.

God uses these seasons laden with challenges to strengthen our faith — so when we get to the next season, whether it’s easy, hard or somewhere in between — we’ll trust Him more.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. -James 1:2-3

Unlike the calendar which tells us when we can expect the next season, life isn’t like that. We can’t predict when trials will end, but we know they can’t last forever.

I’ve learned that there’s beauty in every season, even the hard ones — because God created all of them. The most beautiful thing I’ve experienced is when God extends his grace during difficult days, and when it feels like there’s nothing to praise Him for in my actual situation, I find myself praising Him for who He is and what he’s going to do. Put simply, He’s teaching me to live by faith.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. -Ecclesiastes 3:1

So take in this beautiful fall around us. Don’t let it pass you by, because before you know it, we’ll be in a new season!

Let His grace be enough for today

Are you trying to do it all on your own? I think you know what I’m talking about here. You think that if you keep trying to make things happen your way, eventually they will.

I’ve been through the cycle over and over. I pray for God to meet a need, and then I wait. Nothing happens. So I pray a little more. Still nothing happens. My thoughts go something like this: “OK God… come on. I’ve prayed, I’ve been faithful and now I’m getting really bored. What am I supposed to do? Actually you know what? Since you’re not really moving in this situation, let me see what I can do about it myself. I’ll handle this.”

And whether consciously or not, I proceed to try and change the situation myself. Oh, how I try. For a while, it actually seems to work. “Yes!” I think. Things are happening. But then you know what happens? They fall apart, just like they always do. And there I am again, on my knees because I wondered how I ever thought I could possibly do this on my own.

Admittedly, I probably try again at least a few more times myself. I fail again. God is probably shaking His head at this point. And I don’t know exactly when or how, but there comes a point where I surrender it all to God, because I just can’t do it. Once I realize how well He can take care of me and meet every need in exactly the right timing, it’s a beautiful surrender at the feet of Jesus.

I’m still not there yet. I haven’t gotten to where I feel I should be in life. But apparently, I am exactly where God feels I need to be. He’ll direct my steps and get me to the right place at the right time.

It’s really all about letting His grace be enough for us in this moment, and in every moment. His grace is all we need, which is why I love the following verse.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. -2 Corinthians 12:9

Don’t get so impatient that you forget that the Lord is working in your situation at this very moment, even though it’s not always visible. For now, let His grace guide you through whatever you are facing. He will always be faithful.

Reaching the end of myself

The other day, I actually thought I might be dreaming. Shuffling into the break room at work to get some coffee,  I remembered, wait, I don’t even like the coffee here. What am I doing? And coupled with the fact that I’ve already had my double shot drink from Starbucks this morning, let’s see, I probably don’t need anymore caffeine. I might end up in the hospital if I keep consuming it at this rate. Or from an exhaustion breakdown. Whichever comes first. But I need energy! So let’s get some coffee. Actually no, bad idea… wait, is this a dream?

I pause my jumbled thoughts and give myself a little pinch to realize that no, it’s not a dream. Darn it.

I’ve been so overtaken by exhaustion and burnout lately that I’m not sure sometimes if I’m awake or asleep.

Everything inside me feels numb. I forget if I’m hungry, thirsty or neither. Exhaustion overtakes all of it – the desire to sleep for a very long time is all I can feel.

I think at some point all of us have become so exhausted we feel like we’re barely functioning, and we’re more or less going through the motions.

I can’t tell you how many times lately I’ve desperately cried out to God, praying for strength. There have been some tears. But usually, that’s when I feel Him wrap me in His loving embrace and tell me it’s going to be OK, that work will get easier and this is just a phase.

It’s amazing how when you reach the end of yourself – you’re totally dry with nothing left to give – that’s where the Lord can really work. You realize that He’s all you ever needed anyway. You can’t complete you. Only God can. It doesn’t matter how empty you have become, how deprived of strength you are.  He can fill you up completely. He is the only strength you need. He will carry you through.

Each time I’ve prayed these last few weeks, I’m reminded that God is in control, and that if I would just lay my burdens at His feet, He will take better care of those things better than I ever could.

Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. -Psalm 55:22

The Lord has also been reminding me that when we go through hard times, it builds character, shaping us into the man or woman we need to become to do even greater things for His Kingdom. There there is so much more ahead than this moment. He has a plan for your life, even though hard time are part of it.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. -Romans 5:4

When you can put it into perspective and realize that difficult things – exhaustion, heartbreak, physical or emotional pain – whatever it may be, are all part of the journey to carry out God’s plan for our lives, it’s easier to push through.

I can already see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not going to give up now. And no matter how long it takes me to get there, my God is walking alongside me 100 percent of the way.

Joy is a choice

It is. God gives us joy, but we have to choose to receive it.

You can choose to become consumed by your circumstances and wallow in them – looking primarily at the here and the now – or you can choose to look up to God, showing gratitude for all He’s done in your life and trusting that he is in control. That’s real joy.

Joy is so much deeper than happiness. It’s not circumstantial. Happiness will come in your life, certainly, but it’ll also fade. Notice how you can be on a cloud one day and down in a ditch the next?

Joy isn’t like that. It never fades. We can have it regardless of our circumstances. It comes from God and it lives deep within us. It’s an outcome of our relationship with the Lord, and it can give us strength to get through whatever we’re facing.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy,and with my song I praise him. -Psalm 28:7

One of my own tendencies is to allow others to control my joy. If they do something that makes me unhappy, frustrated or leaves me otherwise unsatisfied, I’m ready to throw the towel in. Ever been there?

But as Joyce Meyer says, “My joy is not someone else’s responsibility. It’s my responsibility!”

You have to consistently choose not to let others drag you down. Because believe me, if you let them, they will.

When you depend on God, though, and believe He’s going to provide for your needs, it’s a lot easier to live in joy.

You can choose to live joyfully, allowing God to direct your heart, or you can live in fear. It’s your own choice. But here’s the thing: You’re going to have to face your current situation regardless of what you decide.

For me, joy usually starts with being thankful for what God has already given me. He has provided so much, yet I find myself continually looking at what I don’t have and what I still need. But when I focus on everything He’s done in my life so far, I’m just overwhelmed with thankfulness, and that leads to joy.

Joy also begins with letting go of things I can’t control. This happened to me recently. I have been holding on to something so tightly – something that I want to be within my control, but it isn’t. I’ve been praying about it every day. And I don’t know how it happened, but one day I just woke up and wondered what would happen if I decided to give it to God, be happy and quit worrying about it.

Can I just say, wow. I changed my attitude and God did the rest. He has given me so much joy and peace about it ever since.

It’s not that the situation has gotten any easier. Nothing has changed around me. It’s just I have one less burden because I know my God can handle it much better than I ever could. The change happened in my heart, and it was all because I chose to let go and let God work. When we just trust him, he gives us unexplainable joy.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. -1 Peter 1:8

What is it you need to lay at the feet of Jesus? He can give you joy beyond your circumstances. And he will, if you just pray to Him and trust that He’s got you in the palm of His hand.

Unkind people need your kindness most

Someone has been unkind to you in the past, haven’t they? Maybe intentionally, maybe not. But we’ve all been hurt by someone.

I’m sure you can recall exactly who it was and how they made you feel – and probably, what you wanted to say back, whether you said it or not.

One of the hardest things we face as Christians is being Christ-like to those who, quite frankly, don’t deserve any kindness.

Last week, I faced that very situation. Someone was extremely rude to me via text message. I am talking the kind of comments that are meant to purposely tear someone down and make them cry. That kind of unkind.

I did not know this person very well, so it was hard to take the insults very seriously. Still, they were hurtful things that spoke directly to my own fears and insecurities.

I know who I am in Christ, and a few intentionally mean comments aren’t going to change that. I’m a daughter of the King. He loves me, so why does it matter what someone else thinks?

My initial reaction was to write a text telling him where to go. Really. I almost wrote those three words. Yes, I am still shocked at myself.

At the time, I was busy and couldn’t respond immediately. It’s a good thing I didn’t, because then I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me. I felt that he wanted me to respond kindly, so I did.

Wouldn’t Jesus do the same thing?

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil for evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. -1 Peter 3:3-9

If we’re kind to our enemies, God will bless us. This is so counter intuitive to our nature.  But if we want the light of Jesus to shine through us, we have to live out Christ’s love daily. This means being kind to people who do not treat us with the same courtesy.

I’m not saying you should let people walk all over you. There is a point at which we all need to stand up for ourselves. But I think there’s a way to still do that while letting the love of Christ shine through us.

I agree the people who intentionally hurt us don’t deserve kindness or love. But how will they see Christ in us if we only love those who love us back?

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? -Matthew 5:43-46

When Jesus lived and died on this earth, he was hated and persecuted by the very people he came to save. We didn’t deserve His love, but He gave it anyway. When we adopt this mindset in our actions toward others, we become a little more like Christ.

In this life, we’re going to be faced with tough situations like this, but I believe the Lord tests us to see what we’ll do. In a way, I’m thankful He allows these things to happen, otherwise I wouldn’t have a chance to really let others see how He lives in me.

And in the process, God continues to show that nothing could change His love for me or you.

The uphill climb isn’t over yet

When God finally does something amazing in our lives, there are no words to describe how good He truly is. When he shows up, he really shows up.

He’s just that good.

But here’s the thing. I don’t know about you, but I have this misconception that once God finally answers a long-awaited prayer, that’s it! Everything is going to be perfect. Or at least as close to perfect as you can get.

It’s pretty much like I’ve arrived at my destination. My thoughts may go something like, “So here I am God. Thanks for all your help. I’ve got this now!”

Except it isn’t very long after I get “the thing” that I realize something  – this thing comes with challenges all its own.

Well, darn it. I just climbed one mountain. Now I have to go up another one?

And suddenly, there I am again, standing at the bottom of a mountain I cannot possibly climb. Once again, as I’m rendered helpless, I fall on my knees, realizing just how much I need a great big God.

Not that I ever didn’t.

It’s then I must come to terms with something: I may never arrive at my “destination” here on this earth. It’s all a journey.

While the mountains we face look impossible, God can make a way even when there doesn’t appear to be one. He can give us the strength to do it.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:29-31

We may be at the bottom of a mountain, but we don’t have to climb it alone. I don’t know how we could. When we need strength, Jesus is there to pull us along. Some days he even picks us up and carries us.

And have you noticed how when you fix your eyes on God instead of the situation you’re facing, that mountain starts to shrink?

God allows trials to come into our lives not only so we grow in our faith, but so He can show us His goodness and grace along the way.

I encourage you to pray for peace, strength and wisdom to see beyond the four narrow walls we tend to build around our situations. Pray that the Lord would help you see the bigger picture. He knows the future, and it will all come together for His glory if you follow Him.

And you know what happens after we get through it?

We have a testimony! And that, my friends, is the most powerful thing of all.

All you have to do is ask

I hate admitting this, but I can really be a worrier sometimes. Maybe you can relate.

Usually, the thing I’m fretting over is something that’s not within my reach of control. But somehow, it seems that by sitting there worrying about it, that’s totally going to fix things, right?

I can’t even count the number of instances I’ve wrung my hands for some amount of time before it occurred to me that I haven’t even prayed or sought God on the issue yet.

And how often do we worry about something that’s not even real? We conjure up fears in our minds and worry about all the “what ifs.” I know I do.

Come to think of it, this happened to me the other day. Fear crept into my mind about something totally nonexistent but hypothetical. All in my head. Then I felt God’s gentle nudge, reminding me he was there.

When I finally prayed to Him, I felt relief. He gives a peace that passes understanding, and it’s amazing.

We tend to complicate this concept. But it’s so simple: Just ask Him. He wants to hear what’s on your heart. You’re His child and He would love nothing more than to just talk with you. It’ true God already knows what you need, but He wants you to tell Him.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. -Matthew 7:7-8

Isn’t that a great promise? If we just seek Him and His will, He’ll provide for us. No concern is too big or too small.  But worrying in the meantime isn’t going to get us there any faster.

I can equate this to something I do often – running on a treadmill. It’s a good way to exhaust yourself without actually going anywhere. Worrying is exactly the same thing.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? -Matthew 6:25-27

The Lord continually reminds me of the last part of that verse. It seems so obvious – how could we add a single hour to our lives by worrying? But if you’re like me, you may forget!

A good reminder of this is to think back to a time when I felt fear about a particular situation and how worrying didn’t improve anything. Then I think of what God did. And you know what? He always came through. He is so faithful.

Sometimes I can’t believe how good God has been to me. I’m so undeserving, yet he continually provides more than I ask for. So why did I worry so much? True faith is trusting that God isn’t going to let us down. He never does.

He isn’t going to let you down either. Just ask Him for help. He wants to intervene in your situation and give you a peace that passes all understanding.