2017

2017

I haven’t blogged in so long.

2017 was an interesting year. I don’t remember much of the year other than the ups and downs. I definitely struggled more this year than in other not-so-eventful years, but I’m grateful to God for His sustaining grace and that He has been gracious to help me turn things around, ending on a high note and excited for all He has in store.

I’d say the themes of this year were hope amidst darkness and God’s sustaining grace for all of us and for most of all me.

I struggled in life and in ministry. I struggled with the weight of comparison and coveting. I struggled with the magnitude of our ministry commitments (which is odd because just a few years ago I was struggling with not having much ministry at all). I struggled to heed God’s voice and obey.

I struggled relationally. I don’t think Kenny and I have ever disagreed as much as this year. I reevaluated friendships and struggled to give unconditional love. I struggled to truly love others, being unoffendable in spirit, and continued my struggle with people-pleasing and doing things not for the sake of God, but for the sake of appearance and performance and the affirmation of man.

For the first time, this year, I felt the impact of death. The deaths were not the closest in relational proximity, but I saw Christian leaders and little ones and friends be called home and to the full healing of Heaven by the Lord.

Yet in all these things, in the struggle, in the doing of “the stuff” as Carol Wimber called it (sadly, the only book I think I read this year… though if I was to only finish one book, I sure am glad it was this one— a real page turner it was as Renee Rector said!), I can see God’s grace and His hand extending to me, reaching out, meeting me where I am, sometimes in the muck, saying “Here I AM. I AM here. Believe in Me.”

So amidst pain and struggle and refining, I see light. I see that God is a God who is gentle, who meets us in our weakness, who loves to help those who need His mercy, those who are weak, weak like me.

“A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.”

Isaiah 42:3

One of my favorite verses of all time. And He proves it to me over and over and over again.

The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, so then being poor in spirit, the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to people like me. How good, how gracious, how wonderful is this great reversal? How beautiful the exchange God gives to a sinner turned Saint, like me?

Amidst the struggle and darkness this year, I found hope. The hope of His light, the hope of His goodness, the hope of His work still being done in me.

Amidst relational strife, I found healing and release from living a life bound by the fear of other people’s opinions of me. I found God willing to meet me in my weakness, giving me supernatural love and the ability to forgive when I cried out to Him, telling Him I could no longer brute force love, but needed Him to help me. I found greater intimacy and belonging in being able to better voice my feelings and desires to Kenny. I found our relationship growing healthier and healthier in light of conflict, or rather because of it. I found the power of the light and iron sharpening iron, as I opened myself up to deep heart-level accountability, taking a plunge that was truly frightening, exposing my deepest darkest sins and mentalities. What I found was that I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t the only one struggling, and that being so open and vulnerable about my need for Jesus started to stir a greater fire in all of us for righteousness, for light, for fervor, for healing. I found what I think are the beginnings of true fellowship and Christian community.

In the highs and lows of ministry,  I found God’s faithfulness. In 2017, God called Erika, an 18-year-old, recent high school graduate, to become Seeds of Life’s first international short/medium-ish (is 6 months medium-ish?) term missionary. Kenny and I received a lot of praise. And though it is affirming and encouraging seeing Erika living so passionately for Jesus, it is humbling knowing that as much as we may have had something very small to do with it, we also had nothing to do with it at all as only God can stir up a fire for His name. And conversely in the struggles, in the feelings of “why are we doing this” and “are we really making an impact” and “does this even matter,” I can rest in Jesus. I can be at peace knowing that He does see us and He is faithful and He is at work behind the scenes, doing amazingly wonderful things we don’t dare ask or even dream.

Amidst death, I find that as this article puts it, death is a profound teacher. This verse is currently up on our whiteboard, our family verse for January:

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12

Teach us to number our days. Death truly has brought to light this truth to me.

Our lives are short whether they are 1 year or 10 or 100, life goes quickly. And to be honest it’s disheartening to see the faithful be called home to the Lord. I struggled this year asking why him, why her? Why is God calling home these people who seem to have so much life ahead and so much potential, who seem to be doing so much for the Lord? I don’t have answers, but what I’ve seen through death and life this year are men and women who were faithful. Men and women who ran hard not just in health, but in illness, in great pain.

One of the women who went home to be with the Lord this December was Debra Williams. Debra was a friend and co-worker at Door of Hope. Debra was a pastor, a mom, a woman of the Lord. She ran hard, harder than most of us could ever know. Her memorial service proved that as person after person got up to share how Debra impacted them personally and their community. We thought her ministry stopped at Door of Hope and her church and her family, but Debra’s impact extended far beyond these sectors. What I saw in Debra was someone who preached the Gospel and God’s goodness when she was in health, and who preached them all the more after she became sick. One story that I hope will forever impact me was told by her pastoral mentor, another gifted preacher who shared at her memorial. She said on the night Debra was to move back home for hospice, she sat up in her bed, frail, but determined to sing out to Jesus. As she sang at the top of her lungs, her mentor tried to discern the song she was signing. After a few verses, she realized this song was not one she had heard before and that Debra was sing-writing her own last worship song. In her song, she spoke of her weakness and frailty, but in her song she also sang of God’s strength asking Him to help her stay near and help her finish her race.

As Ms. Almaz exhorted me when we spoke about Debra’s passing (among other things) on New Year’s Day morning,

“God doesn’t need any more lukewarm Christians.”

Harsh words perhaps, but convicting. I don’t want to be lukewarm. I don’t want to be like the virgin whose lamp stand is not filled with oil. I don’t want to be on the sidelines. I don’t want to be disqualified from the race. Like Debra, I want to be found faithful. And I can only be found faithful by His grace.

2017 was a year of ups and downs. But 2017 was another year of God’s tremendous grace and God’s goodness. And I would be remiss to not end it by singing songs of praise.

As my darling Eva loved to sing this past year (among Frozen and Moana and Baby Shark and many other things),

Let the King of my heart be the mountain where I run
The fountain I drink from; oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart be the shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life; oh He is my song

You are good, good oh
You are good, good oh

Let the King of my heart be the wind inside my sails
The anchor in the waves; oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart be the fire inside my veins
The echo of my days; oh He is my song

You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down

When the night is holding onto me
God is holding on

God, You are good and in Your grace, You hold onto me. Help me grow in 2018. Continue to strike down my unbelief. Continue to stir up a great passion and all-consuming fire inside of me. I need Your goodness, I need Your mercy, I need Your grace. Oh, how You hold onto me. Help me to keep the faith. Help me to keep burning. I lean in. I am available. I want to love You, to know Your love, and to do Your will. Be glorified in me. Be glorified in our family. Be glorified in this world.

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Worship

“One discovery that, for me, has made all the difference in the world is that the reason God does not like being taken for granted is not only that it robs him of glory, but also that it robs me of joy. And perhaps the greatest discovery of all is that these two goals — God’s goal to be glorified and my desire to be satisfied — are not at odds. That’s the Gospel to me. And they come together in one silmultaneous experience: worship.”

John Piper

Preaching on fire!

Video

Give Me Faith

Give me faith
To trust what You say
That You’re good
And Your love is great

I may be weak
Your Spirit’s strong in me
My flesh may fail
My God You never will

This song has been speaking to me so much over the past week. I am so limited in my obedience and faith. Yet, I take heart in the work of the Holy Spirit and in God’s grace.

How blessed am I that He allows someone like me to partner with Him in all the wonderful and amazing things that He is doing? And in all the difficult and trying things that are still waiting to be redeemed?

Trusting Him in all things: the good and the bad, the praises and the difficulties. Believing in Him for myself, for friends, and for family.

Week 22 + Practice of the Presence of God

Week 22 + Practice of the Presence of God

Where has November gone!? Totally missed making a week 21 post and barely squeezing in this week 22 as today’s the last week 22 day!

How do I feel?

Sooo much better in general! No more nausea! Finally!! Still tired, but not as much as before.

It’s mind boggling that we are more than halfway there! Been feeling a wee bit overwhelmed because it seems like we’ve barely done anything to prep for the baby. I was looking at Baby Registry sites and it hit me that I know SO LITTLE about babies! Making the Wedding Registry was fun because we both had an idea about things we wanted for our first place together (what were necessities, what were nice to haves, and what were our pie in the sky items [ex. Vitamix!! which we did not get haha]), however with the Baby Registry I truly have NO IDEA what it takes to raise a little one. Eek!

In addition, there’s been a few moments here and there when I start worrying again about the baby. I used to think that when I could feel her I’d have less anxiety because I’d get a little kick now and then that lets me know she’s still there. But now that I feel her every day, I worry during the times when she’s not moving. Is she still okay?? The doctor said around week 28 I should be able to feel movement more consistently and we can start kick counting then, but all this anxiety made me think once again that there will always be things to worry about, and really I need to practice EVEN NOW putting everything regarding my baby into God’s hands.

Overall though, the moments of anxiety are few and mostly I’ve just been very happy. SO happy. Especially with Kenny haha. I’ve been feeling so grateful for him and I’ve been trying to enjoy this last season of just us for a LONG time (Lord willing!) as much as I possibly can. Also we recently heard some exciting news… can’t share yet, but so thankful for the community we’re sharing life with!

What’s God saying?

The one area I feel like I’ve been preparing fairly well in though is my walk with God. I feel like knowing our little baby is coming has made me focus on getting in shape spiritually. Like I better start building up my walk NOW before life takes on such a major change.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live a lifestyle of worship and to practice the presence of God (shout out to the Kairos days when we studied Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God… even if I was super irresponsible and didn’t read all of it! Side note… when I told Kenny this he was like “that’s pretty bad. You’re never going to find a Christian book shorter that that one.” Sigh. My irresponsible college days!!).

What would it look like use every single part of my day as worship to God? What would it look like to spend every single moment in communion with Him? How much more joy, freedom, and peace would I have if I truly spent every moment communing with Him?

Short tidbit about Brother Lawrence… based on what people told me haha (though seriously, just read his book– it’s not that long and I just might do the same over the holidays): Brother Lawrence was a cook in a monastery. Now I don’t know much about monastery hierarchies, but I’m guessing this means he wasn’t at all a big shot, just a humble cook. Of course he was a monk, so that’s gotta be saying something, but I’m not picturing him as the spiritual all-star of the monastery.

Basically, Brother Lawrence’s whole deal was that he strove to spend all of his time focusing on God and communing with Him throughout the day. As he grew in this practice, he came to the point where set aside times of prayer were unnecessary to him because he communed with God just as much during those set apart prayer times as he did when he was preparing the food or washing the dishes.

This is what I want in my life. So what if I’ve now (by God’s grace) been able to set apart consistent devo times at night? Big hoot. That’s such a TINY amount of time. It’s not enough!!!

I’m also blessed to witness this in part in Ms. A’s Christian life. What comes to mind is a funny memory (and a telling one!), but one time Ms. A told our Program Manager she’d shred all of his confidential documents. We’re talking BAGS of confidential papers that he had been stashing. As she sat in my office with the shredder, she started praying aloud as she was shredding. “Jesus, make our lives like this basket– overflowing with blessings!” as she emptied the shred basket out. She even prayed for the machine when it overheated and stopped working haha.

Another example that comes to mind is a friend who was telling Kenny how to improve his coffee. As He extolled the Hario Coffee Grinder (he said it would make Kenny’s french press 4x better lol), he also shared with us about a friend who wrote a liturgy to recite every morning as he made his coffee. (Ex. “I crush these beans as Your body was broken and crushed for me.”) Again, comical, but this is the kind of communion and constancy I want to have in my life!!!

Lord, give me a greater desire for Your presence. I want to live life aware of and in constant communion with You. I want my whole life to be a life of worship to You. So help me, Lord. For I cannot press into Your presence on my own, and my flesh will fight it as much as I want it. Give me more of You in my life.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Romans 12:1

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Ever Be Bethel Music

Your love is devoted like a ring of solid gold
Like a vow that is tested like a covenant of old
Your love is enduring through the winter rain
And beyond the horizon with mercy for today

Faithful You have been and faithful you will be
You pledge yourself to me and it’s why I sing

Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips

You Father the orphan
Your kindness makes us whole
You shoulder our weakness
And Your strength becomes our own

You’re making me like you
Clothing me in white
Bringing beauty from ashes
For You will have Your bride

Free of all her guilt and rid of all her shame
And known by her true name and it’s why I sing

You will be praised You will be praised
With angels and saints we sing worthy are You Lord
You will be praised You will be praised
With angels and saints we sing worthy are You Lord

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Show Us Christ Sovereign Grace

Prepare our hearts, O God
Help us to receive
Break the hard and stony ground
Help our unbelief
Plant Your Word down deep in us
Cause it to bear fruit
Open up our ears to hear
Lead us in Your truth

Show us Christ, show us Christ
O God, reveal Your glory
Through the preaching of Your Word
Until every heart confesses Christ is Lord

Your Word is living light
Upon our darkened eyes
Guards us through temptations
Makes the simple wise
Your Word is food for famished ones
Freedom for the slave
Riches for the needy soul
Come speak to us today

Where else can we go, Lord
Where else can we go
You have the words of eternal life

LOVING this song lately. I know it’s very elementary, but over the past few months God has been reminding me and reteaching me to really treasure His Word and invest in it. To be honest I haven’t spent much time in the Word for a while, but there is truly no replacement for it. I want to live and breathe the Word. I want the Lord to plant it deep in my heart that I might be empowered to live for Him.

“Words” (as we call it, or I guess better described as prophetic messages?) are great and it’s fantastic that God continues to speak to His people, but how do we treat God’s true and living Word? Do we value and treasure the Bible as much as we do the prophetic? Paul tells us that it is a great thing to desire prophesy and the prophetic is absolutely a gift from God, but have we put so much emphasis on the sensationalized aspects of Christianity that we’re willing to make the study of the Bible as lesser discipline?

What encourages me though is that one of the most widely recognized Spirit-filled leaders, Mike Bickle, is a HUGE lover of the Word (that fact comes from KY though as he has spent much more time than me listening to sermons from the IHOP leader). Mike Bickle lives and breathes the Word, which is what empowers Him to walk in the Spirit. And on a much lesser level, one of the most Spirit-filled friends of Kenny and myself is also the peer I see who is the most involved in the intense study of the Word.

All that to say, if I want to be a lover of Christ, then I MUST be a love of His Word, for He is the Word, and the Word is all about Him as this song says.

Lord, help me…

(And on a side note, I know Sovereign Grace has some well I won’t say haters, but “non-fans” [a couple are the people I’m closest too haha], but I just LOVE this album and I love how their songs from end to end speak scripture and are filled with the Word. Just a side note I guess!)