Posted in My Thoughts

Overwhelmed

If you follow me on social media at all, you’ve seen that the past few days I’ve posted some pictures and updates about my upcoming move. Tomorrow is that day. This week I’ve been taking smaller items and boxes that can fit in my car to the house, and tomorrow (Saturday, December 9th) all my furniture and anything else that has not been moved there will be taken to my new house, and I will officially begin living there.

This week, the idea of the move has been overwhelming. A few days ago I was unpacking dishes and putting them in the cabinets in the kitchen, and I sent a text to a friend about how there is more cabinet space than dishes I have to fill them…the space is overwhelming. As I’ve moved things to the house and made decisions on what furniture would go into what room, I felt so overwhelmed with how much space this house has…and how little furniture I have to fill it. Last Sunday my kids and I had our first meal in the house, we prayed to thank God for blessing us with this house, and then they picked their rooms and made signs for their doors. It was a great day, and very overwhelming.

It is all overwhelming because for 2 years I’ve lived in small spaces. I briefly had a small 1 bedroom apartment, and the rest of the time I’ve lived with different people who allowed me to stay in  a room in their house. I’ve grown accustomed to having very little furniture and living in a small space. When my kids came to stay with me, they would all sleep in the same room, because it was the only room I had for them. And now, this house I’m moving into has a kitchen with more cabinets than I can fill, more rooms than I have furniture for, and enough bedrooms that the kids can have their own rooms (Hope and Kate chose to share a room).

Overwhelmed

Today as I was making a couple trips to the house with more boxes and smaller items, I began to think back over the past 2 years. To be honest, my life today looks absolutely nothing like I expected it to look like just a few years ago. A few years ago, I was married with 4 children, living in a nice house with my family, working in a ministry I loved, and honestly just enjoying my life, thinking I had it all.

And then 2 1/2 years ago my world began to come crashing down as I discovered I was about to lose it all. After months of doing everything I could to try and hold it all together, my biggest fears happened. I lost my marriage, lost the ability to see my kids everyday, lost getting to live with my family, and lost the ministry I loved. My world came crashing down hard, and I was broken. It was all very overwhelming!

For 2 years since all of that happened, I have been wondering what my future would look like. What would it be like to live in my own house again, what would being in ministry again be like, and even the idea of what a future relationship might look like. Just thinking about it all and not knowing when or how it would happen, as well as still questioning at times why I was in this place to begin with, would just get overwhelming to think about.

Then, after a long time of waiting and wondering, God began to lead me into my future. 4 months ago I began working in ministry again. It started off a bit rocky, but I quickly settled into doing what God has given me a passion to do again. What a blessing that was!

And then, I was offered the church parsonage…a house! A house I can call home. Where my kids can come and spread out and we can be a family in our own space. What an incredible blessing!

I’m overwhelmed by God’s blessings! And excited for the future that God is leading me into!

BUT

I have also come to realize that God never stopped blessing me and taking care of me during the 2 years prior to this.

  • For 2 years I have not been able to afford a place to stay, yet I have not been homeless even one day.
  • For 2 years I have struggled to make ends meet, yet I’ve always had food to eat, gas money, jobs to make money, and several people have been generous to me through financial gifts.
  • For 2 years I have had Christian brothers and sisters take care of me, provide for me, help me, and be there for me in ways I didn’t even realize I would need.
  • During those 2 years, men stepped up to disciple me and council me through the darkest days I have ever experienced…sometimes days that were so dark I just wanted to give up on everything.

For 2 years as I wondered why my world had fallen apart, God was working in my life to teach me, equip me, restore me, and prepare me for the future he had in store. And while the past 2 years have been by far the hardest I’ve ever experienced, the truth is God was blessing me the whole time while preparing me for my future. God has had a plan for me all along, and he has continued to bring that plan to fruition while walking with me on the journey.

SO OVERWHELMED!

So as I begin to step into what God has next for me, I would be remiss if I did not also remember how God blessed me and took care of me during the past 2 years.

  • to all who provided me a place to live
  • to all who helped me with financial gifts so I could continue to cover basic needs
  • to all who have provided me with a job
  • to all who provided a listening ear for me to talk to
  • to all who reached out to me and my children
  • to all who challenged me to live for God even when I was struggling in my faith
  • to all from my former church who continued to stay connected to me and my children
  • to all from my new church family who have made me and my children feel loved and accepted
  • to all the new people I have met through different circumstances and for different reasons over the past 2 years that I probably would not have met had I not been in this position
  • and to all of those from my childhood whom I have since reconnected with during this time

I will never be able to say thank you enough for allowing God to use you in my life to be a blessing. God has truly been good to me by bringing each of you into my life, and I am beyond thankful. God has used you to teach me what he wanted me to learn through this, and to bless me as he carried me through the storm.

As I move into the future God has for me, I look forward to seeing what God will do next. I have learned through all of this that I can never imagine what God has in store, but if I just seek to follow where he leads, he will continue to lead me step by step in the direction he wants me to go. It might not be what I expect…but after watching God provide and care for and bless me during these past 2 years, I know that wherever he may lead, he will be there with me for each step of the journey. And after the past 2 years, I’ve learned that if it’s God’s plan, I want to be a part of it…and if it’s not God’s plan, I don’t want to waste my time.

God’s blessings are truly overwhelming!

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Posted in Bible Study

Feeling stuck?

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck? Like you’re stuck in a season of life that you want out of but you can’t seem to get out of? Stuck having the details of something painful replay in your mind over and over, and you can’t seem to escape it? It’s as if your legs are stuck in thick mud or clay…you’re trying and trying to get free, but little progress seems to be happening? You’ve cried out to God over and over, asking for help…but you’re still stuck. Ever feel that way?

That is exactly how I’ve been feeling for a while now.

When I first lost my marriage and job a couple years ago, I was just focused on recovering and healing from the pain of being rejected by the person I had loved and chosen to spend my life with, as well as losing a job that I was passionate about and thoroughly enjoyed. For the first year, my focus was just on allowing myself to heal from it all. I wasn’t thinking about what the future held or how to move forward, I was just focusing on surviving a day at a time.

After a year or so of that, as God began to bring healing to my heart and mind, I began to think about the future and what it would look like for me. I started praying for more than continued grace and healing for both me and my children (who unfortunately also have to learn to live in this new reality), which is what my prayer life had been focused on up to that point. As I began to look forward to my future, I began to pray for that future; prayers for getting back into ministry, being able to be financial stable again, paying off debt that I’d accrued from the divorce, getting my confidence back (it’s amazing how rejection like this can take all confidence from you), being able to not have my mind be overrun at times with the pain of what happened, and so on.

But, after a long time praying for those things, most of them have still not happened. Yes, I’m back in ministry…God answered that prayer a couple of months ago! But I’m still stuck in debt, struggling with finances, working to get my confidence back, and honestly there are days my mind is still overrun with the painful memories. Recently, I was struggling so much with the pain of it all that I just decided to go to bed really early, so I could end the day and not think about things anymore.

I still feel very much stuck.

A few days ago, I decided to look up different verses/passages in scripture that talk about patience. I am definitely struggling with patience, but I also know I need to be patient as I wait for God to lead me into a future. If I continue to try and work out of things myself, struggling with all my might to get unstuck, I’m going to just exhaust myself.

Yesterday, I read Psalm 40:1-4

I waited patiently for the Lordhe inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LordBlessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!

In this passage, a few truths stuck out to me that I needed to be reminded of…

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined and heard my cry.” – The Lord heard the author’s cry for help…but he didn’t respond immediately. The author of this psalm starts by saying they ‘waited patiently’.

When we are crying out to God and not getting the answer we want when we want, it is so easy to get impatient and feel as though God isn’t listening. God hears our cries…we just have to learn to wait patiently for God to respond. How long do we wait? Until he responds. His timing is perfect…we don’t like to wait and may not understand his timing, but it is perfect and we just need to continue to be patient.

“He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock.” – The author definitely felt stuck. They even give a pretty strong description…pit of destruction. That’s strong language to describe a very difficult and overwhelming feeling of being stuck. But, the author also says that God drew them out of that place of being overwhelmingly stuck, and set them on a rock…a place that is solid and secure.

When we are stuck, it’s so hard to see or even imagine not being stuck again. It can get so overwhelming that seeing a future that’s different than the present is so hard to do or believe will happen. But God is so much more powerful than even the most difficult of circumstances, and he can draw us out of any pit and place us on solid ground again. While we are in the pit and feeling overwhelmed, we just need to keep our focus on the truth that someday we won’t be stuck anymore, because God will draw us up and out.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God” – A new song implies that there was a song before this new one. Perhaps the author had been complaining a lot to God, or singing a “woe is me” type of song as they were stuck. But when God showed up and drew them out of the pit, he also put a new song in the mouth of the author…a song of praise.

It can sometimes be so hard to not complain when we are in the midst of being stuck, down in that pit we so desperately want out of. And if we aren’t careful, our complaining or “woe is me” attitude can overtake our heart and what comes out of our mouths. But when God draws us out of the pit, we see such a contrast from where we were to where God has put us, that we can’t help but praise him! Perhaps that’s part of the reason he waits to draw us out, so that we properly appreciate all that he does for us when he does draw us out.

“Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust” – The author realizes that, through their struggle and having to wait patiently on God to respond, it is the one who continues to trust in God even while in the midst of the struggle that will be blessed.

It is so easy to place our trust in man made ways of trying to fix our struggle or deal with our situation. There’s so many different voices in this world that say “do this” or “do that”, and honestly we begin to be tempted to follow after those ideas rather than wait on God…because we get impatient. Trust requires patience. Trust that God will eventually answer and draw us out, trust that God’s timing and plan is better than our ideas, and trust that God hasn’t abandoned us in the pit.

When we feel stuck, overwhelmingly stuck, and unable to see any way out, may we continue to wait patiently on God to respond at just the right time, knowing that his timing is perfect. May we remember to trust him, even when we are struggling so much that it takes all of our energy and strength to do so…because it is the one who trusts in the Lord that will be blessed.

Posted in Bible Study, My Thoughts

While in the wilderness

Promise. Blessing. Abundance. These words describe what the Promised Land represents. They are opposite, however, of what the wilderness represents.

In Exodus 3, we see that God has seen the affliction of his people Israel. They were slaves in Egypt, and they had been crying out for him to deliver them. In verses 7 and 8 of chapter 3 is says Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”

“A good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey”. The Promised Land. A place that is good, full of promise and blessing and even abundance.

However, before Israel was able to get into this land that God told them of, they had to make their way through the wilderness. A place that would not be described as good and full of promise and blessing and abundance. Words that describe what the wilderness represents would include difficulty and scarcity.

One thing that makes the wilderness a difficult place is the scarcity of proper food and water. In chapters 15-17 of Exodus, we see this played out in the lives of the Israelites…they needed water and there was no good source for them, and they needed food and there wasn’t anything adequate for them.

We also see something else played out in these chapters. God took care of them, performing miracles to provide and bless them with the water and food they needed. When water was bitter, he made it sweet and drinkable (Exodus 15:22-25). When there was no water at all, he provided it miraculously (Exodus 17:1-7). And when there was no food, God delivered again.

In Chapter 16 of Exodus, it tells us that God sent Quail into the camp of Israel for meat, and provided a flake-like substance they called “manna” that could be used for bread. In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. ” (Exodus 16:13-15) 

The Israelites were commanded to only take what they needed for that day, and each day more would be there for them to collect. If they collected too much, the excess went bad. They had to trust God each day for what they needed, and each day God delivered. Even though they were in the wilderness, where food and water were scarce, the Israelites had what they needed for the day to survive.

The Promised Land was where the journey was leading. That is the land that is good, the land that provided promise and had abundance. However, to get to that place, they first had to travel through the wilderness.

If you read the story of Israel in the wilderness, you see a few different consistent themes happening. One of them is that Israel consistently complained. To be honest, I get that. I’m pretty sure I would have complained too! We all would have. No one likes to be in a place that is best described by words such as scarcity and difficulty. Like Israel, we too would want to get to that place that is described as good and full of abundance.

The second thing you see happening consistently is that God continually provided for them, often in miraculous ways. He knew they needed water, and he provided when there was no water. He knew they needed to eat, so he provided food for them when there was no food around.

 

We all go through seasons in life that are best described as a wilderness. It seems as though everything is surrounded by difficulty, and often the things we need to get through life are in scarce supply. Bills are hard to cover. Often debt begins to mount up. Purchasing things such as food and gas, basic necessities of life, are way more stressful than we would like them to be. We never have enough time to take care of all the things in our life that we need to. We have minimal energy, little time for fun, good friends seem to be in short supply, and so on. During the wilderness season of life, it’s honestly a daily struggle just to survive.

During that season of life, it is very easy and tempting for us to long for the time when we will reach the Promised Land…the season of life that is full of promise and blessing and even abundance. We see others around us being able to pay for things, go on trips and afford fun, have times of rest, and truly thriving in life rather than just surviving. We see that, and we long for it. If only we could get to a place where we have everything we want, and life seems to be under control, then everything would be so much better and life wouldn’t be such a struggle.

BUT

While we are in the wilderness, if we only spend our time longing for the Promised Land, we will miss out on seeing something amazing. We will miss seeing and recognizing that even in the wilderness, God still provides us with blessings.

God provided water and food for Israel while they were in the wilderness. And God will provide for us too.

How do I know this to be true? Because I’ve been in the wilderness the past 2 years, and while I do look forward to someday reaching whatever the Promised Land may be in my life, I can’t deny the fact that God has continually provided me with what I’ve needed to survive. I’ve had to learn what true needs are and what really aren’t needs during this time as well, which hasn’t been easy. However, my true needs, God has provided for…sometimes seemingly out of thin air. 

God still blesses us, even while we are in the wilderness. His blessings don’t stop just because we are in a difficult place. And, our journey through the wilderness also helps us learn to trust God for everything we need that he blesses us with, as well as to be thankful for every blessing he gives us.

May we not miss out on seeing God’s blessings while in the wilderness. May our eyes be open so we can recognize all that God is doing in our lives, even while in the wilderness of life. May we see, recognize, and be thankful for his blessings.

Posted in Helpful Passages of Scripture

I pray God uses these stories to encourage you…

When I was a kid, one of my favorite verses was Hebrews 13:5…specifically this phrase in that verse:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I loved the truth that no matter what, God promised he would never leave me or forget about me. The biggest reason I loved that promise is that as a kid my family moved around, A LOT! By 8th grade, I had lived in 9 different states. Because of that, I don’t have any childhood friends…life long friends from before I was in Jr High…since I moved too much to make any strong lasting friendships. I’m not upset about it, it’s my life…and honestly the experiences of moving a lot have helped me in my life now, so I know God used it to prepare me for the life he was going to call me to live. But, when I was younger, it was really hard!

I distinctly remember when we moved from Colorado to Louisiana between my 7th and 8th grade years…I really struggled. Not because I had some issue with where we were moving, but because I didn’t want to leave the friends I had made. I remember laying in my bed crying and crying, because I was going to lose the friendships I had formed…again! My dad came in and talked to me for a while, which helped. But I was still really sad.

So this verse, and the promise from God that he would never leave or forget about me, became a powerful truth for me to cling to in my young years. No matter where I moved, and no matter how many friendships I lost or were forgotten along the way, God would always be with me, because he would never leave me or forget about me.

I will never leave you or forget about you

 

In college, Psalm 46:10 became one of my favorite verses.

I had gone through a particularly difficult season my sophomore year, and I was just overwhelmed and exhausted and discouraged and unsure of what to do about it. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t seem to fix things the way I wanted to, or get out of the valley I was seemingly stuck in.

I’ll spare you the long version of this story, but one weekend we had a soccer tournament out of town. The morning we left I missed the bus, and the team didn’t realize I wasn’t with them until several hours into the trip. Yea… when it rains it pours! So I borrowed a car, got the address of the hotel, and drove the 8 hours by myself to meet the team. It was, needless to say, a llloooonnnnggggg drive. Especially because everything I had been struggling with, all my exhaustion and discouragement, was ready to explode…and this ignited that explosion!

On that drive, I had it out with God. And on that drive he spoke to me in a powerful way. As I was driving, and just unloading all of my frustration and pain to God, Psalm 46:10 kept repeating in my head. Over and over, louder and louder and louder, until I couldn’t think of anything else.

“Be Still”. Stop trying! Quit exhausting yourself trying to fix things on your own! Be still, and know that I am God.

He is God, I am not. He can handle any situation in this life, I wasn’t meant to try and handle them alone. I have weaknesses and limitations on my own. I need God’s strength. I needed to rely on him, and allow him and his strength to help and carry me. I was exhausting myself, when I simply needed to be still and trust in God.

Be still, and know that I am God 

 

Maybe you are in a season of life where you feel as though you’ve been abandoned or forgotten, or maybe you’ve lost something or someone very important to you, and it is overwhelming and exhausting. Or perhaps you aren’t in a season like that at this moment. No matter where you are, I want to encourage you with these truths that God used to encourage me, strengthen me, and carry me.

God will never leave or forget about you. NEVER. When you become a Follower of Christ, you become a child of God…you join his family. He is a father who is always there for you, no matter what. He will never leave or forget about you. If you ever think he has, remember that your thoughts and feelings can be fickle and deceive you, but God’s truths are rock solid…so cling to the truth!

Be still and know that he is God. Life can be overwhelming enough without adding to it by trying to control or fix things yourself. God is the one who can handle anything in this life, because he is God. So slow down, step back, be still, and rest in him and his strength. Whatever life throws your way, remember to rely on God…cling to him!

There are honestly so many more verses that God has used to speak to me at times in my life…verses that have so much meaning to me…that to share all of them would honestly require writing a book. But I wanted to share these particular two, because they have been on my mind lately. The truth contained in them, and how God used them in my past, continue to help me even in present.

My prayer is that what I have shared will be used by God in your life. I pray these truths and stories can be a source of encouragement and strength to you, or anyone you share this blog with.

I want to end this blog with the song “I Will” by Citizen Way.

Posted in My Thoughts

Praising God, or the moment?

This afternoon, as I was out driving, a wave of discouragement came over me. I had been in a fine mood all day, just taking care of things I needed to. Then while I was driving home, that all changed. And it happened in such a way that it was like I could see my mood change…as if, like when a gust of wind hits you, discouragement suddenly just blew into my life at that moment. At that moment, my whole demeanor changed.

I’ve always been one to wear my emotions on my sleeve for the most part, so I can only image what my face and body language was like when this discouragement came over me…good thing I was in the car alone. While I wasn’t looking at myself to see what my face looked like at that moment, I definitely knew how I felt. Sad. Discouraged. Defeated. Hopeless. In my mind I felt like just complaining to God about everything. And even though I was listening to Praise Songs at that time, I sure didn’t want to praise God in that moment…

…and then this song started to play: The Doxology. This is a song I know well, and have sung in church for years. This particular time I was listening to the version by Phil Wickham (his version is called Doxology/Amen). The opening lyrics are “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” The entire Doxology calls us to Praise God, but it was that first line that really hit me in that moment.

There I was, complaining to God in my head and feeling completely discouraged, and I was being reminded to praise God. I began to think how I love to praise God when things are going well in my life, or at the very least I’m not struggling with feeling discouraged. But at this moment, I really did not feel like praising God because I was tired of life being hard and feeling very discouraged. And as I was thinking that, a moment of truth pierced through the discouragement and hit me hard.

If I can’t praise God when things are not as I want them to be, then what does that say about when I am praising God? If I can’t praise God in the bad, am I really praising God in the good…or am I actually praising the good God is allowing in my life? If I only choose to praise God when things are good, then am I praising God, or praising the moment?

That truth and the challenge from that truth hit me hard. I love God, and I want to be one who can praise God for who he is and what he has already done for me, even if in the current moment things are difficult. God deserves praise simply because he is God. He deserves praise because he offers us salvation when we don’t deserve it. God deserves praise because he has offered me a love that I cannot get from anyone else, and he never stops loving me even when others do.

Regardless of how good or difficult life is at this particular moment, God is the same and deserves praise the same. If I can’t praise him when the moment is hard, but I can when the moment is good, then the reality is that I’m potentially praising the moment more than I am praising God.

Consider Job. God allowed him to lose everything. Yet despite the discourage and defeat and hopelessness he was feeling, it didn’t change his ability to praise God.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” – Job 1:20-21

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”. Job was known as a man of God before his life went from good to horrible. And then after he lost everything, he still chose to praise God.

When we sing praise songs to God in church, are we only able to do so if our life is good? Can we stand there and praise God through song even when our life is difficult? When we pray, are we only able to say “blessed be the name of the Lord” when things are comfortable for us, or can we also say that when life is currently uncomfortable? Can we say “thank you God, for you are good” in all circumstances, or only when our life is as we would want it to be?

May we realize that God deserves praise, no matter what our life situation is. May we realize the truth that if we can only praise God when things are good at that moment, then perhaps we are praising the moment more than God. May we desire to praise God simply because he is God, regardless of what the moment looks like. May we truly praise God in all situations.

 

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised – Psalm 96:4

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. – Psalm 69:30

Praise the LordPraise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. – Psalm 146:1-2

Posted in My Thoughts

My annual beach trip

Today I made my 3rd annual trip to the beach. No, it’s not the only time of the year I go to the beach…I went a few times this summer. This particular beach trip is for a much different reason than a normal trip. It’s has a very focused purpose.

The purpose is to spend time praying, reflecting, listening, and seeking wisdom from God for my future.

This now annual trip began 3 years ago, in November of 2015. That first trip was to seek God concerning my future, because after 5 months of fighting hard to hold onto my marriage, I had run out of ideas and hope, so I took a day to seek God for wisdom and guidance. I chose to go to the beach because I actually don’t really like the beach very much. I mean it’s ok…I’m just not a fan of the sand, of all the things in the ocean that can eat you, or of how crowded it can get with people. So I chose to go to the beach because it represented a place I don’t really like…and at that time I didn’t like where my life was at, so it was fitting.

I didn’t plan on it becoming an annual trip, but the next year I ended up making a trip back to the same beach on Christmas Day of 2016. The purpose that time was not so much to seek God for my future, but rather to simply spend time praying and reflecting, as well as take time to listen to God. It had been a year since I had lost my marriage, family, and ministry, and at that time I was simply trying to be patient and heal from all of that loss. And just like the first trip, God encouraged me with words of wisdom and scripture, and he also challenged me to remain faithful to him in ways that I needed to be at that time.

Again, I wasn’t planning to make this an annual thing…but today I decided it was time to make my 3rd trip to the beach. This trip was much more like the first one…a focused time of prayer, reflection, and seeking God for my future. My life situation now is a bit different than that first trip; I haven’t spent the past 5 months fighting for my marriage, I lost it 2 years ago now and the divorce has been official for a year and a half. But, the past few months have been difficult in their own right, and I’ve definitely been struggling lately.

The struggle I’ve been having lately has been largely due to finances. My financial situation is very tough right now…actually it has been for a while, which I know is part of what a person who goes through being divorced must deal with…but lately it seems that no matter what I do, more bills keep piling up and I keep feeling more and more overwhelmed. I now have 2 steady jobs, which I thought would help. But this past month I’ve had knee issues that has kept me from being able to work my second job, so that just makes another difficulty in the world of my finances.

As I continue to struggle with this, it has been getting harder and harder to be positive. I’ve been struggling more and more with feeling so overwhelmed that I just want to give up, as well as struggling to believe that God has any kind of a future for me that is better than where I’m currently at in this moment. Despair has been on my heart more, and faith and trust and been harder to hold onto.

So this morning when I woke up, and honestly didn’t even want to get out of bed because it felt as though the burdens were just too much to face, I decided I needed to go back to the beach again…the same place I have gone the past 2 years when I needed a special word and encouragement from God.

And, just like the past 2 years, God gave me just the word of encouragement and challenge that I needed.

(Now, before I continue, I want to say that I’m not sharing any of this so that whoever reads this can feel sorry for me. I’ve always believed that God wants me to be willing to use my life to both encourage and challenge others…so that’s why I’m willing to share personal things. And I know I’m not the only one struggling either, so I don’t think I’m special. I’m simply being open and transparent as God leads me to be.)

As I sat there on the beach, on this October day, praying and listening to God, he shared 2 things with me that I needed at that moment.

One of them had to do with faithfulness, which is something I’ve been focusing on a lot lately in my life. I’ve been praying constantly that I would have the strength to remain faithful…I even wrote a blog about it recently. One of the struggles in my mind lately has been having the thought “God, I’ve been faithful the past 2 years despite all that has happened to me. When are you going to recognize that and begin to bless me with what I need so that I can move into a better future?” Yes, I admit that this thought is a bit selfish, that’s why I’ve been struggling with it. But it continues to come back into my mind regularly.

This is the word I received from God concerning faithfulness: Before you can be called faithful, and thus rewarded for your faithfulness, you must first remain faithful. And it’s not you who determines if you are being faithful, it’s the one who will reward you that determines if you are truly faithful. I needed that. It’s not me who decides if I’ve been faithful or how I should be rewarded for it. God is the one who knows and decides that I’ve been faithful, and he is the one who will decide when and how to reward that faithfulness. I am simply to continue to be faithful.

The other one had to do with my future…specifically my inability to see it and the discouragement growing in my heart as a result of that. As I was sitting on the beach looking out on the ocean, I noticed that it was quite foggy, so I wasn’t able to see very far. But I didn’t doubt that the ocean continued on beyond what I could see, I knew the ocean still existed beyond what I saw at that moment. And then I received the following word from God as an encouragement…

This verse accompanied that word of encouragement: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Romans 8:18

There were a few other verses that God brought to my mind, all of which were just what I needed. This trip to the beach was certainly just what I needed. PRAISE GOD! 

My hope and prayer in sharing this is to encourage anyone else who may be struggling right now; encourage them specifically with the words God gave to me, as well as encourage them to find a time and place to seek God themselves. Don’t only seek God and listen to him once a year…have a regular time of reading his Word and praying. But, definitely also have special times set aside to go and intentionally do nothing more than spend time praying, reflecting, listening, and seeking wisdom from God.

Posted in Bible Study, My Thoughts

Faithful above all else

What does it mean to be successful? I mean what does it REALLY mean…past the ideas we often first think of like becoming popular/famous, making lots of money, or receiving accolades. Beyond all of that, what is the deeper meaning of success?

Several years ago I defined success in my life as having a strong marriage and family, being the leader of a growing and vibrant ministry, being asked to speak at conferences/events/camps/etc, having people read my blogs and books and think of me as a gifted teacher, and making enough money to cover bills and be comfortable as well. These were many of the ways I defined being successful. When they were accomplished, or as I believed they were being accomplished, I would see myself and my life as being a success.

I think it’s safe to say that nothing in that list is a bad dream or desire to have. It is good to have dreams and desires for your life. And none of what I listed above would be considered sinful, so those things I shared are all good things to aspire for. 

But, are those dreams and desires, or rather the accomplishment of those dreams and desires, what defines success?

I honestly used to think so. But then I lost my marriage despite all I did to try and save it, I lost my ministry and most of the opportunities that came with it, and I lost my ability to be financially sound and comfortable. In the span of 5 months near the end of 2015, I went from defining my life as successful to not knowing how to define my life or what being successful looked like anymore. And it took me another 23 months of recovering, healing, searching, and growing before I was able to finally change my mindset and be able to see and understand the deeper meaning of success. 


That is how true success is really defined. Success that goes beyond fame, money, and accolades. Success that isn’t dependent on our accomplishments, nor affected by life’s difficult circumstances.

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful – 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

A faithful man will abound with blessingsbut whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. – Proverbs 28:20

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. – Luke 16:10

The success of my life is not determined by what I am able to accomplish. It is not determined by how many people I know or the number of people who follow my teaching or buy my books. It’s not determined by how much money I make, where I live, or what job I have. The real success of my life will be determined by my faithfulness. My faithfulness to what I’ve made commitments to, faithfulness to not giving into what is wrong when doing what is right is hard, faithfulness to take serious my role as a Pastor and teacher to those I have been given the opportunity and privilege to minister to. Ultimately, it is determined by my faithfulness to God.

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  – Matthew 25:21 (and 23)

In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells the parable of a master who entrusts a different amount of ‘talents’ to 3 of his servants. After the master returns from a long journey, he asks each servant to give an account of what they did with what he entrusted to them. Two of the servants share how they used what he gave them and gained more, and the verse above is the masters response to both of them. The third servant shares how he didn’t do anything with what he had been entrusted, and the master condemns him. 

This parable is an example of us and God. God entrusts to each of his servants, those who are followers of Christ, with doing his will in this life. In the parable, the two servants didn’t accomplish the same amount as each other, but because they were faithful with what they had been entrusted with, they both received the same praise from their Master. Because it’s not about what we accomplish, but rather our faithfulness with what he has entrusted us with. 

Not all of us are entrusted with the same things in this life (although when we read scripture, we see that we are all entrusted with many of the same things: loving others, sharing the gospel, living righteously, serving God by serving those around us, trusting God, etc). However, we are all to be faithful with what we have been entrusted with in this life. And true success is not determined by what we have been specifically entrusted with, or what exactly we accomplish, but rather if we are faithful.

All the things I listed at the beginning are great dreams and desires, and it is always good to have dreams and desires in this life. But, they are not what define success. They are blessings the Lord can choose to give me because of my faithfulness, but I must be faithful first. And even if he chooses to withhold some of those blessings…or take them away, I must still remain faithful. Because true success is determined by my faithfulness. 

Regardless of the hand we are dealt in this life, we are to remain faithful to God above all else. No matter how large or small of a ministry or sphere of influence God gives us, we are to simply be faithful with what God has given us. In the midst of great tragedy, even when we don’t understand why, our focus must continue to be on faithfully living for our Lord and Savior. 

When being faithful above all else is how we seek to live, then no matter what we do or do not accomplish, and no matter what circumstances we deal with in this life, we can be confident that our lives have been successful.