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To be honest, I don’t really know where this is about to go. Typically, when I write, a thought pops into my mind and I think about it for a few days before typing it out when it feels right. But right now, I just feel the need to write.

About what? I don’t really know. Why? Because I have been following the lead of my Creator for long enough to know when He is working something out within me. For what reason? I don’t know yet. Sometimes I never find the answer to that last question, but I’m kind of amazed by that. Amazed  by the idea that these words have power beyond my understanding. That by taking the time to just let the Lord do His thing through me, I could be used to bring glory to the God of all creation…somehow.

Let me be very clear, in my own right I am not worthy. I am not worthy of any clever phrase or well-structured sentence credited to my name (not many of those here, I’m afraid…grammar was never my strongest subject) .  I am not worthy to even think the name of Yahweh.

But y’all. God is. He is worthy of so much more than these words can express. He is worthy of every ounce of praise we shout and every prayer we pray, spoken or not. He is worthy of more glory and adoration than I could ever give.

Because He is God. Redeemer of the lost. Healer of the sick. Helper of the poor. Savior of the world. Creator of all things. Restorer of the broken. Sustainer of sanity. Pursuer of hearts. Answerer of prayers. Provider of needs. Father to the fatherless. Planner of futures. Worker of miracles. Friend to the lonely. Sovereign in all situations. Shelter for the weak. Bearer of heavy loads. King of all kings. Transformer of hearts and lives… and this is only scratching the surface because my human brain cannot comprehend all that He is. These are just the glimpses of Himself He has graciously allowed me to see.

So this is it. Maybe you’re still not sold on this whole “God thing.” Maybe you’ve never experienced the Lord in your own life. Maybe you’ve heard all about it but you want to know Him personally. Maybe you needed to be reminded of one of these attributes. Maybe you have another you’d like to add the the list.

Whatever your case is, bring it to God.

Please. I may have only seen glimpses, but I know that He is worthy of your time and capable of handling your circumstances, whatever they may be.

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JOY

2018 – What a year. One of my favorite things to do as the year comes to a close is think about where I am now compared to where I was when this year began, and this year has by far been the most challenging and rewarding years I have ever experienced. There has been stress, suffering, and lots of searching for answers I may never find on this side of heaven, but there has also been strength. There has been more strength than I knew possible, more love than I am worthy of, and more joy than I can hold in my heart…

It’s no secret that I am Christmas crazy, and while I sadly have already safely packed away most of my Christmas decorations, I’m still caught on the joy that surrounds this season. Because of the gift sent to us all those Christmas’s ago, there is JOY to be found in this season and in every day to come. So as you read the descriptions of joy I have found to be true this year, my prayer is that the joy of the Lord will fill your spirit so completely that this joy will overflow into the world around you each and every day.

Joy is independent of circumstance. It is not restricted by what is going on in your life. As believers, we are called to “always be full of joy in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4) and to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Joy is possible in all moments because it is found in our Lord, not our circumstances.

Joy is found in the presence of the Holy Spirit. King David said “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence…” (Psalm 16:11). This same joy is offered to each of us today through the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit.  The Creator of the world is with you, living within your heart. When your circumstances don’t leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, lean into the joy found in His presence. He will always be there.

Joy is found in trusting that your Creator is working out his purposes for your life. He is working for your good and for His glory.  God created you, uniquely and intentionally, for a specific purpose that He wants you to fulfill. When you trust the plan he has so carefully laid out for you, there is joy to be found in knowing that “God, who began a good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).


“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13


Joy is meant to be as steadfast as the faithfulness of our God. It may not always be as visible as it’s worldly counterpart of happiness, but joy will always be found when you remember that our God is faithful. Psalm 126:3 says, “The Lord has done  great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”  Isaiah 35:10 says, “Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” David says in Psalm 71:23, “I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me.” Jude 24-25 reminds us of the faithful promise that God “will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.”

Throughout the Bible are examples of believers who have no reason to be happy, but every reason to be filled with joy at the redeeming power of God.  As you reflect on the last year and look forward to what the next has to hold, remember what the Lord has done for you / what he has brought you through / how he has lifted you, and be filled with overflowing joy.

Joy is not a fleeting feeling, escaping you when the pain is just too bad or the hurt is just too deep. Joy is the strength that carries you through the pain, the grief, and the struggle as you hold tight to the hand of your Deliverer, your Protector, and your Healer. One of my favorite reminders of this is Nehemiah 8:10, which tells us that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The entire book of Job is a testimony of joy that can be found in the most difficult of circumstances – he endured every trial and every sadness and at his lowest point, when he no longer wanted to live, still maintained “my joy in unrelenting pain–that I had not denied the words of the Holy One” (Job 6:10).

Additional reminders of strength in joy are found in the Psalms, including Psalm 21:1 which says “How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord! He shouts with joy because you give him victory.” and Psalm 94:19 which says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Joy is the knowledge of unchanging Truth – You are loved by the Everlasting Father (Romans 8:38-39). You are forgiven through the Prince of Peace (Ephesians 2:8). You have been adopted as a son of the Most High God. You have been made a daughter of the King of kings (Romans 8:15-17). You have been brought to life by the gift of the Perfect Savior (John 3:16-17).

Joy is for all believers…not just believers with sunny dispositions and optimistic attitudes. Remember what the angel told the shepherds on that holy night? He said to them, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior–yes, the Messiah, the Lord–has been born today…” (Luke 2:10).

Jesus is our joy.  He came for us, all of us. Immanuel. Joy to the world.

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Jehovah-Rapha

*This may be a futile attempt to explain what has been going through my mind since the day I realized that healing had (finally) found me, but here is my best shot…*


restoration – freedom – joy

These are words I’ve heard, I’ve spoken, and I’ve studied in my walk with Christ, but through my journey over the past 6 months, and especially in the past month, Jesus has brought them to life.  Recently I was telling a few people a piece of my story, and I realized in that moment that I had hit the 6 month post-op mark, and honestly it took me a lot of restraint not to cry ugly tears of joy that the struggle is over. But one question that has lingered (after abandoning the “why did this happen” question) is “What if this hadn’t happened?”

Without going through the sleepless nights, the tear-filled mornings (and afternoons and nights), the unrelenting pain, and the darkness that seemed to surround me throughout the days, would I have found my way to knowing my Jesus as I do today?

Because today, I feel alive.  I feel as though I have seen and experienced the Lord in ways I never knew were possible. And in response, I want to shout to the world that my God is so good. My God is powerful.  My God is Jehovah-Rapha, the God who heals.

In the pain and the recovery I’ve walked through these past 6 months, I’ve accepted that I will never get back to the me that I was when this year began. I’ve realized that God has not only restored my physical health; He has done a new thing in my spiritual life…and Hallelujah for that because y’all I am overflowing with gratitude and joy like never before. So I’ve come to this place of accepting that I won’t be who I was, and the incredible thing is – I don’t want to. I wouldn’t trade this closeness that I feel with my Healer, even if the trade was to never have gone through what I did.

I’m thankful for that part of my life. I’m thankful for this newness in my spirit that I can only explain as the Holy Spirit filling more of my heart than I honestly thought possible. I’ve realized that even in the absolute misery and pain I felt, God was carrying and sustaining me (Isaiah 46:4). Every minute of every day He would pick me up and guide my feet as I put one foot in front of the other to just keep moving.

As amazing as it is to look back and see the strength of God keeping me going, I felt a little (or a lot) uncomfortable being in that state of dependence. Being someone who loves control and independence, it was difficult to feel as though I was giving that up because it felt like I was giving up my freedom along with it.  But let me tell you now how completely wrong I was.

The freedom I gained by realizing that God can handle me (all of me) much better than I can handle myself is far, far greater than the appearance of independence I felt before. He can handle my life. He can handle my pain. He can handle the honesty of my anger and frustration. Realizing this helped me to see that the independence I claimed as freedom for so long was just another chain keeping my heart away from the very One who knit it together (Psalm 139:13).  I don’t need independence, I just need God. This is freedom.

So I want to encourage you. You who lives in pain, temporary or chronic. You who is weary or weak. You who is fighting to stay above the waves. You who is struggling with anxiety or depression. Trust in God. Abide in His presence. Hold tight to His promises. And whenever you, like myself, catch yourself thinking “I can almost see the light at the end of this dark tunnel” please just look up. There is not only light at the end of the tunnel, there is light more powerful than any darkness in the tunnel right where you are. You are not alone. Depend on the Lord of your life, and when He leads you out of that tunnel, remember that you now have a testimony to share. You now have a reason to walk outside, freedom in hand, and shout to anyone who will listen “Look how He lifted me.”

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new year, same God

For the past few years, I have sworn off New Year’s resolutions.  Not because I think they’re a bad idea, but because someone once told me to pick one word. Not a list, but one single word that will define your new year, because it’s much easier to keep up with one word than a whole list of resolutions.

In 2017, my word was peace.  In a year where I would leave the USA for the first time, start a job, finish my exams, and manage to get my Masters degree, peace was just what I needed.  And I found it…and then lost it (my fault)…and then found it again.

Through it all, the biggest thing I learned was that peace, true peace that comes only from God, is really just a whisper away.  It’s amazing and it’s completely insane and I don’t think I could ever explain it well enough to do it justice, but there is something so incredible and so humbling about being  able to literally say the name of Jesus and feel a peace in your soul that tells you He is there. He has always been there.

Even in the struggles and the moments where it seems like you take one hit after another, the peace that can be found in the presence of the Holy Spirit remains steadfast.  The key is not God giving His peace to you because He did that long, long ago. You have to accept it. You have to choose it. You have to trust Him.

Thinking of this new year and what my word would be for 2018, I began praying…because as much as I like to think otherwise I really don’t know anything about what this next year will hold, but God does. He’s already laid out each day with more care and more love than I could ever deserve. And that’s when I was reminded of part of a devotion I read a few months back:

“Linger with me.” 

So as I continued praying about what my word should be, it was as if God kept reminding me of this little sentence and then one word started popping up…

Abide: to wait for…to accept without objection…to remain stable…to continue in a place…to conform to…to dwell…to stay or live somewhere...

In 2018, I want to wait for my Jesus and for His perfect timing. I want to “stand still and see the great thing the Lord is about to do before my eyes.” (1 Samuel 12:16, Psalm 27:13-14, Psalm 130:5)

I want to believe and trust with all my heart that God is exactly who He says He is. I want to accept without objection that freedom and forgiveness and grace can be found through Christ because of a love too great to understand. (John 3:16-17, Romans 8:2, 1 John 4:10)

I want to remain in His love, to dwell in the shelter of the Most High God, to linger in His presence, to rest in His promises, and to seek his peace and hope and joy in every moment. (Psalm 91:1, Romans 8:28, John 15:9, Ephesians 3:16-19)

I want to live the life He has called me to live, becoming more and more like Him with each passing day. (Ephesians 2: 10, Romans 12:2)

In a life full of brokenness and uncertainty and so much darkness, I want to abide in the One who shines so brightly the darkness disappears.  The One who redeems and restores the broken. The One who speaks life and shows grace to every child He created. The One whose power is unmatched and whose presence is as steadfast as His love.

I want to abide in God–reverently, wholeheartedly, intentionally–as He so lovingly and faithfully abides in me.


“Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” – John 15:4

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full

To be completely honest, the majority of this post has been written in moments of insecurity. In moments where I don’t feel like I’m enough. In moments where I feel like I don’t measure up to the unspoken standards in my life. In moments that I struggle with doubting my potential and whether I can live up to the expectations of people or (more importantly) the plans of God.

So why would I think it’s a good idea to publish all these moments and reveal that as much as I like to pretend to have it all together, I really, really don’t? Maybe it’s because I’ve lost my mind (real possibility), or maybe it’s because I’m guessing I’m not the only one who struggles with insecurity.

But y’all the biggest reason I want to write this is because this is life. Sometimes life is great and everything works out exactly the way you want it to, but other times life can absolutely kick you in the rear end…and then kick you one more time just to be sure you felt it.  It’s with this in mind that I need to remind myself (and anyone willing to read this) that even in the dark corner of insecurity and comparison and uncertainty, there is God.

“For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” – Colossians 2:9-10

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” -Ephesians 3:16-19 

So with these verses, here’s what I’ve been reminding myself of:

Because God is full, I can be too–not by my own abilities, but by His.

Because He is faithfull.
Because He is wonderfull.
Because He is all-powerfull.
Because He is mercifull.
Because He is full of hope and joy and love and patience and kindness and goodness, I can be too.

To clarify: He is full, 100% complete, lacking nothing, needing nothing.  And He is mine.  He is my God, my Savior, my Lord, my Comforter, my Guide, my Maker.  In His fullness there is no room for insecurity and no desire for comparison.  God has made every effort to pursue my heart and pour Himself into me so that I could experience the fullness of Him who stopped at nothing–not even death–to make me His own.

God, in all His fullness, chooses me.  He wants me and calls me His beloved and His child.  He offers to fill me with all of Himself–His love, His grace, His strength, His presence– knowing all too well that I am not even worthy of a drop of His sweat.  Knowing that I will never in my own power be deserving enough to call on His name, He calls mine.  Hallelujah.  There is nothing more powerfully secure than this.


ps- if you have similar struggles, say these words to yourself as if you had written them. Lift up your cup (aka-your heart), watch Him fill it up, and then watch it overflow with all that He is.

 

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Expecting the Expected

“No matter how well we may know God, the great lesson to learn is that He may break in at any minute.”

How would life look if we lived in a constant state of expectancy?  If we made an effort to look for God’s presence and His fingerprints each and every day of our lives?  Because this is something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks now, I didn’t want to just pose the question. I wanted to see it through and share the result, and let me tell y’all that there are results (praise Jesus).  So for the past week, my goal has been to “live in a constant state of holy expectancy.”  I wanted to seek the Lord first, depend on His promises, and expect that He will reveal Himself (in His way and in His time) in even the smallest moments…

*side notes- I only go through 5 days because if I did any more than that y’all would get tired of reading this post. (because God is good & I could go on and on about this topic)*


Day 1: Intent and attitude.  It’s only been one day, but it quickly became clear to me that holy expectancy begins with intent and attitude.  I must be intentional in seeking the Lord and expecting Him to do great things in my life.  My attitude must be one of humility and awe.  I must realize that I have no good thing apart from God, and I must believe in all that He is and was and will be.

Day 2: It’s day two, and y’all I’m kind of already shocked.  No shining lights from heaven or visits in the middle of the night from an angel, but I can honestly say that I cannot remember even a moment where an anxious thought held me captive.  This isn’t to say I didn’t have an anxious thought (the enemy knows my struggles well), but these thoughts didn’t linger and steal my peace.  This may not sound like a big revelation or victory, but for someone who has often struggled with worry/anxiety, there is no other explanation for the unhindered joy I’ve felt than God himself.

Day 3: The only word I can use to describe this day is joy.  Pure, not circumstantial, carefree joy, and it. feels. GREAT!  There is something so powerful about seeking the Lord’s presence and believing that He will be found each time I turn my eyes His way.  My day may have had a few bumps, but even with the bumps I found myself overflowing with joy with the help of this reminder of the greatness of our God and His love for me (and you):

“There is nothing that can ever separate us from Your love.  No life, no death, of this I am convinced: You, My God, are greater still.”  -The Greatness of our God, Hillsong United

Simple and to the point but so, so good to hear time and time again.

Day 4: Today was not my best.  Nothing ‘bad’ happened, but my mind was not Christ-focused for much of the day.  I let my focus slip, until I got in my car to drive home from work…sitting on the interstate, surrounded by people, with road rage building in my veins, I was gently reminded (shout-out to the K-Love radio station) that more than being loved by God, I am renewed, I am cleansed, I am restored, and I am free to dive into the depths of His love for me.  His love expresses itself in grace the moment my thoughts turn back to Him. The road rage that quickly rang through my mind can be even more quickly replaced with thankfulness at the reminder of God’s grace for sinners like me.  This is the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is the purpose of me working on holy expectancy.  He is working, even when I am slipping.

Day 5: Today I wanted to focus on what “holy expectancy” was all about… Walking by faith and expecting God to show up in all moments, not just in the moments we most clearly see our need for Him.  Believing that promises made thousands of years ago still remain  (Romans 8:28).  Waking up with the knowledge that you will one day literally stand before the King of kings and Lord of lords and hear Him graciously welcome you home (John 10:27-29).  Believing that the Almighty, all-powerful God is exactly who he says he is (Revelation 1:8, Psalm 95:1-7).


With these things in mind, holy expectancy simply put is believing that God will do God things.  He has split the seas, healed the sick, raised the dead, opened the eyes of the blind, freed his people, and the list goes on.  He is God, and He will do great things, but if we are not tuned into Him we will miss His fingerprints and the blessing that comes in recognizing His presence and power over our lives.  This past week has truly been eye-opening, and if you (like me) haven’t really put much thought into this concept of expectancy until now, I encourage you do so.  However that looks for you, please take a step in faith and expect the Most High God to do things that only He can do.

If you listen, He will speak.

“Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do right before your eyes!” – 1 Samuel 12:16

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peace

For the past month, I have been praying for answers.  What will I do after school? Where will I live? What will my life look like 6 months down the road?  These are things I have worried and stressed about for months, but over this past month of prayer I finally realized what my answer is:

“just wait.”

What months ago seemed like the dreaded answer I knew I would get but didn’t want to accept has now become one of the greatest blessings in disguise.

You see, one of the things I’ve learned in my walk with Christ is that God does his own thing, and he does it better than anyone ever could.  His timing, his plan, and his faithfulness all remain in perfect condition.

In finding that I am just going to have to be patient and wait for His plan to unfold, God somehow managed to show a new depth to his faithfulness in giving me the answer to a question I didn’t even realize I was asking.

He gave me peace. And y’all let me just say that I have never in my life been so overwhelmed with pure, hopeful joy as I have these past few weeks.   I have no answers to where my life will be this time next year, but I have been given something so much greater.

I didn’t intend for this post to be all about me, but as much as I read and hear and speak about the peace God offers, I feel as if I am only now experiencing it in truth.  The peace God offers is different.  His peace is capable of melting every worry from your soul, every wound you still hold tight, and every single anxious thought that tries to crowd out what you know to be true in Christ.  His peace replaces any doubt with a trust that burns so deep it seems as if nothing could break it.

And the joy.  Of all things His peace has brought into my heart, the joy is priceless.  Even now, as I sit and wait for one of the most important exam scores of my life (really), I find myself full of joy because I have his peace.

Tonight I pray you find the same peace.  I hope that as you pray for whatever it is your heart desires, you take the time to listen.  He may not give you the answer you want, but He will answer.  He will answer in His way, in His time, and it will be exactly what you need because He is good and He is sovereign.


 Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:6-7

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
– Romans 15:13

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
-Isaiah 26:3

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