Archive | September 2015

Redefining Success, Choosing Joy, Learning Grace

I’m reading a book called “Single & Free to Be Me” by Dr. Clarence Shuler. In it he shares a counseling session he has with a 40 year-old single, successful business woman. She tells him she does not feel successful as a person and he helps her to see that she feels like a failure b/c she is basing her value on her relationship status. He then leads her in redefining success in a sense. This takes several sessions I’m sure but his approach at “peeling back the layers” assists me in my own self-evaluation.  
How do I define success for myself? Instantly I know that I would easily define success by my career. Yet God has led me these 10 years on a path to remove that type of thinking from my mindset. I cannot feel successful in my career even though I really would like to. And of course, there is the relationship status. But since I cannot go to those things to find success, b/c Holy Spirit has been and is teaching me those are not sturdy foundations, I went to Him.  

How does God define success? And here is what I wrote:

1) Success to Him is doing the Father’s will (obedience).

2) Success to Him is perseverance (long suffering, patience).

3) Success to Him is faith.

And after discussing these things with a friend, I will add that success to God is when we evolve and manifest wholeness. When we learn and grow each day.  

Upon further reflection I realize that my tendency is to place value on temporary things and the outward demonstration of talent, gifts, and accomplishments. Yet God values what is inside. The inner being. He values character and maturity and mindsets. Understanding His definition of success makes me feel like more of a successful individual and I’m sure helps to expose lies I have believed, just as I’m sure Dr. Shuler’s client experienced in his office.

3 days ago I woke up full of joy. The whole day I had such joy and it was unexplainable. I had a very “normal” day, like many days in this season. I went to work, ran a few errands after work, cooked, did dishes, and watched a movie. But every single event was filled with joy. I was enjoying the Lord. I was enjoying myself. I was in such a great mood and I knew it was the joy of the Spirit. I knew God was teaching me that the fear and anxiety I have been battling in this season is the real enemy. My circumstances had not changed one bit yet I was able to feel elated and led to celebrate the day. I’m learning that I have to fight for joy. My personality is more melancholy, serious and reflective which serves its purpose in my own self-evolvement but also can lead to pessimism and anxiety. Being type A does the same thing. Knowing this about myself, and realizing b/c I have absolutely no control over changing my circumstances in life, well, I must choose joy if I want to enjoy the life I have been given. I actually have to fight for it as joy is not a natural tendency for me.  

You have probably heard me talk a little bit about grace on this blog lately. That is another revelation I have been getting. I am seeing it is the Father’s grace that I have had joy these 3 days. I realize that whatever life He has called me to, He has given me grace to walk it out. He has given me grace to stay and wait. That grace can look like joy in the midst of frustration. It can look like the disappearance of anxiety and sorrow. It can look like peace where there used to be fear. 

His grace is amazing.

I was caught in such a dark place of anxiety and I did not know how to escape. Anxiety gave me a false sense of control and it was an illusion that entangled me in an addiction of worrying. But He humbled me which allowed me to release control.  

He met me. He heard my cry. And He showed me the way to peace. And hope. And joy.

Gal 5:22-23

Psalm 18

SHALOM

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Insights on Self Reliance

The other day while checking out at the grocery store the cashier checked my i.d and noticed my b day. He said “Ah, so an Aries. That means you are strong-willed and independent”. And while I’m not an advocate for horoscopes I could not deny the accuracy of that information. “Yes, well, that’s what my mom says” I offered with a smile. But mentally I was already dissecting those descriptors. Strong-willed, in other words, prideful and stubborn. Independent, easily meaning being self-reliant. Self-reliance was a huge issue on my heart yesterday. I kept feeling Holy Spirit highlight this tendency in me as being a hindrance to His plan for my life.  
While on 1 of 3 planes heading home from Haiti I sat next to a Haitian man. He and I dabbled in a conversation mixed with broken English, French and Creole. I would say his understanding of English far surpassed mine of Creole and French, though he would disagree. He asked me about myself and was so shocked to find that I was a single, working woman living on my own. No family. No children. Just me. I can’t even imagine how shocking that is to someone living in a culture where a random family member can move in with you with no end in sight simply b/c they have no means of providing for themselves. But God so ordained this season just for that. Me living on my own. Me doing my own thing. And I know several of my sisters doing the same thing.

A friend once told me that our strengths can also serve as our weaknesses. I think that is true. My ability to be independent, take care of myself, be firm in my convictions, beliefs and even lead others can hinder the need to surrender to the Father’s will when it differs from my own.

Yesterday I heard a really good sermon about Jacob wrestling with God. The minister said that the reason God did not prevail against Jacob (Gen 32:25) was b/c the fight was actually against Jacob’s will. God will not override our will. We must relinquish it. It was a really good word about Jacob relying on his ability to manipulate and deceive others. There were promises over his life but when it looked like they were not going to come to pass he took matters into his own hands and relied on his ability to deceive. He was self-reliant. His way of deception was actually a misuse of his gift of influence and leadership. Lucky for him he chose to be changed, though he had to fight for that change. Change is never easy, especially when you are learning a new way of functioning.

There are promises over my life which are tied to my gifts. But these gifts are being purified and sanctified in the journey so that they will not also be weaknesses. Humility is a sanctifier. Waiting and stillness bring forth humility.  

I am reminded of a word I received years ago. Deut 9: 4-5 

Do not think in your heart, after the Lord your God has cast them out before you, saying ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out from before you. It is not because of your righteousness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the Lord swore to your fathers…”

I am reminded that it is not my righteousness that will cause me to complete His call. His call will be fulfilled in me b/c of His great plan for humanity. And His faithfulness in fulfilling His word over me. 

On another note, Happy first day of Fall!!! Here is a pic I took this morning in celebration of this new season 😉.  

 Also if you would like to check out the sermon I referenced earlier click here.

SHALOM!

 

Lord Help My Unbelief

  

Faith can be a tricky thing. The world’s view of a Christian’s faith is that of a person declaring they believe in Christ as Lord as opposed to Allah or following the teachings of Buddha or the many other religions that are out there. Even some churches may hold the view that faith is a onetime profession that gets you into the pearly gates securing your afterlife of pure bliss. But I’m learning, faith is a journey. One that takes you from glory to glory. In my journey it has been evident that there is no onetime anything. It is day to day. Test to test. A flow of happenings eventually pieced together to paint a picture of His intention toward me. A good intention, but one that simply can’t be accomplished w/o the power of Holy Spirit. To my discouragement. As I typically, subconsciously will try to do the works of Holy Spirit myself only to learn it’s impossible w/o Him.  I need His faith (Gal 2:20).  Not just the faith that gave me salvation as a child and filled me with the power of the Holy Spirit at age 19. But a faith that is cultivated and deepened in an unashamed dependency on Him b/c where I am weak, He is strong. So when I found myself in the arms of a perfect stranger, letting him do what it is men do in those circumstances, I had to take a step back. How did I get in this position? Because these things don’t just happen. At least not with someone who has been intentionally single. Sure there is the typical issue of lust and human desire and even pride. But as I let Holy Spirit lead me in reflection of peeling back the layers there was one answer that was staring boldly at me.  
Unbelief.  

I fell due to unbelief. As the days turned into months and the months turned into years, His promises that were so clear to me last year faded away. I became once again self-reliant and my self-reliance puffed me up and my pride gave way to disbelief.

There is such a delicate balance waiting upon the Lord and living a life of fullness and purpose. How do you fully engage in your present and still have expectation of your future? That is always my struggle and I’m not sure if anyone has the answer. Everyone’s story seems to be so different. As much as I desire there is no one else I can go to. I have to walk this out.  

My friend told me no one wants a perfect story. Others can relate to failure. In my head I know that’s true but my heart still doesn’t get it. I hate being messy. I hate flaws. I hate failing.  

I want the perfect story.

But even today I keep hearing Him say, “I don’t see your weaknesses the way that you see them. I see your weaknesses as opportunity.”

It is in this opportunity He is being glorified. Through my story. The one that is so not perfect.

He is faithful.  

I came across a pretty good discussion on singles and sexuality you can check out here if you’re interested.

 SHALOM

Purpose in the Cube

There is one word on my heart today. It is “purpose”. I walk down the same aisles in the same building I have walked down for 8 years. I sit in the same cubicle, turn on the same screen, and follow my same routine. “Purpose”. What is my purpose? How do I find purpose in the routine? In the mundane? In the cubicle? I know I am challenged by the Creator to do this as He is clearly the one ordering my steps.
I read an amazing article last night, hidden in the pages of my latest issue of Vogue magazine. While I fully expected to be lost in high fashion, stealing ideas of fall trends, instead I was touched and educated by the story of one woman. This woman was only 30-years-old and yet had traveled to a variety of countries to tend to those in need in her short adult life. The organization she is a part of is a relief organization and her skills at being a nurse were used daily. She shares about being in Haiti in 2010 and rocking a premature baby in her arms as the child takes its last breath. Her life is filled with stories like these. She has LIVED. I’m not sure that woman knows God, but she is surely walking in purpose.

I read a blog post today about another world traveler. She beautifully captured the tension of needing to stay but wanting to leave. It is true, we simply cannot have the best of both worlds. We cannot have the appetite for excitement and travel fulfilled and the safety and security the cubicle offers. But still, we yearn.

Ten years ago I had great dreams of traveling. I had great desires to be on the go much like that 30-year old-woman, losing myself in meeting the needs of others. That was how I thought I could best please my Maker. Instead, He asked me to stay.

Staying is brave. Responsibility and dependability can be brave.

Boring. But brave.

You know what’s funny? At one point in life I really wanted this cubicle. My heart yearned for it. Now it takes everything in me to keep from tears when I realize that though the season is shifting it is not really changing. I am called to continue in the staying.

I am called to continue being still. Psalm 46:10…

I think about my ancestors. The ones oppressed by slavery. I think about how they sang in the fields to get through the day. I think about how they acquired faith b/c the present was so horrendous they needed to believe that one day their suffering would end and they would have a better life. I think about how they sang songs and gave each other hope even in their oppression b/c they needed purpose. We all need purpose. Even those in the sex trade. Even children being used for child labor. Even Haitians who suffer from a 90% unemployment rate.

Maybe one day my staying will be used for something greater like the 30-year-old woman in Vogue. Even now, maybe it is cultivating empathy in me to identify with those less fortunate.

Only the Maker knows. But one day, I will know too.

I will finally know why He asked me to stay.

Rosh Hashanah 2015

Happy Rosh Hashanah!! Well I’m a little late since technically Rosh Hashanah ended Tuesday but I wanted to at least address this holiday as God has spoken so much to me this last year about the importance of knowing His times and seasons. For the uniformed Rosh Hashanah is a Jewish holiday celebrating the beginning of a new year. While western culture tells time by the sun, Jewish culture tells time by the moon. God showed me how as a result of our time system, in western culture we can miss His appointed seasons of blessings simply b/c we are operating on a different time system than He originally intended.  
The most interesting thing happened to me a few days ago. It was on my heart to reach out to my brother who is a Messianic Jew and see if he was “hearing” anything in regards to this new season. Just as I was sending him a message on FB I received another social media notification from a minister I follow about Rosh Hashanah. The minister shared about knowing God’s times and seasons and fasting for 10 days during this new season to hear what God is saying. Crazy. And that stuff has been happening a lot recently where I get INSTANT confirmation from Jesus. It’s like He stalks us or something 😁. Anyways, I chose to fast from negative thoughts and even as I was entertaining this idea I was thinking, “There’s no way I can do that”. I know. I know. Pretty negative. And then I was reminded that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. So I’m on Day 3 and it is definitely a CHALLENGE. I really struggle with anxiety and fear and so that has been the battle. BUT at least the fast is helping me to be more aware of my thoughts and helps me not to indulge in them like I normally would. I also know from experience I have received the biggest break-throughs during “unorthodox” types of fasts. Basically when I fast from things other than food, especially unhealthy relationships. So I’m looking forward to any insights/revelations on this fast for that reason.

I have been feeling God’s presence a lot the last few days and I know its b/c He cares so deeply for His children. He has moved so much in this last season I can’t even imagine what things He has in store for the next. There is movement happening on the job as well, though it is not the movement I would have wanted. But I know the changes in the dept. are even a reflection of the change in seasons. I feel God was touching on my international call in the last season and even slipped in my trip to Haiti at the last second to confirm it. We will see if there are any other open doors in this upcoming season internationally. I know I have some financial goals I want to meet. Other than that, I am an open book. I’m learning to hold this life loosely and hold my goals/desires just as loosely. I’m learning to trust Him even when I don’t agree or it doesn’t look the way I would want. It seems I am always learning that lesson.

Blessings to you in this new season of life! May He reveal Himself in deeper ways as you continue moving forward in His purposes for you.

SHALOM

Wednesday Reflection

This morning on the drive into work I was reminded by Holy Spirit how important relationship is to Him. He is all about it. That is difficult for me b/c I am all about the formula. Without me realizing it I fall into the formula. A + B = C. It gets tricky b/c the formula is a works-based approach to life. If I do this then I get this. If I do that than I get that. But that is not how God is. He is relationship. That means the goal is really to engage with Him in this life experience and out of that engaging we bear fruit. Often I drift away from the engaging and I start thinking the blessings are coming b/c of my works. Though I do believe in the principle of sowing and reaping, I know there is a fine line.  I love to accumulate knowledge. I love to learn. But with an increase in knowledge comes with it the danger of pride. On the contrary relationship heals and offers love. Love covers a multitude of sins. Over and over again. That is the beauty in relationship.

I am reminded that before the world began I was called. That means in spite of all of my weaknesses and issues He chose me. I did not choose Him. Pride leads me into thinking I chose Him. Pride leads me into believing that somehow I can earn my way into the calling He has on my life. Until I fall. And realize the burden must be on Him to complete that work He started in me. He gets glory in my weakness and makes it His strength.

There are so many blessings in my life in this season. This year He has done exceedingly, abundantly above all I could ask or think. He has given me the desires of my heart. He has kept me. He has made His heart known toward me on a daily basis. He has hedged me in. And even though I have a record of His faithfulness in my life to look back on, anxiety brings torment.

I trust Him that in this relationship He will bring victory over torment as He has done so many times in the past. Maybe it will take a while. Like so many other things have taken a while. But I’m sure it will come.

A formula cannot possibly be applicable to this life journey with Him when we are all so different. What works for one cannot work for another. No one else has my personality and life experience or world outlook. No one else relates to the Father in exactly the way I do. And no one else can speak into me or my calling accurately unless the Holy Spirit gives that person insight into me and His plans for me. Instead the Potter who is intimately acquainted with all of our ways tailor makes the journey to fit His intended end in each of us. If nothing else gives us security, that should.  

The Potter molding and shaping and teaching.  

The One who knows us best leading us.  

(Psalm 23) “He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me besides the still waters…”

SHALOM.

 

Hope for Haiti

I arrive after my 3rd and final flight. I’m here. I was emotional crossing the Atlantic as this was my first real trip out of the country. But I made it. I successfully make my way through customs, even dodging the $10 fee as I was mistaken for a Haitian. That would be the first time of many during my visit. It’s not until I make my way to baggage claim that I realize my bag more than likely is not there. I had only received 2 flight tickets during my travels and had to ask for the 3rd at the 2nd stop. That meant, my bag had only made it to the 2nd location. I am on the phone with my friend who I came to visit explaining all of this, panicking and freaking out. Then all of a sudden she is there in person and my frustration and anxiety are mixed with elation. But there is little time for a sweet reunion as we are now on a mission to find my bag. Lucky for me my friend speaks fluent Creole and is able to assist a lady at the service desk in locating my bag and scheduling it to be delivered the next day. I feel God’s presence and pray fervently that my bag and all of its contents will make it. My friend and I make our way through the crowd of people standing outside the airport and I follow her to the vehicle of choice. We then ride around with our driver and make our way into this new world I’ve never explored before. We drop off my carryon and I know this is the perfect time for a proper reunion which can only be completed with a picture.    
The first of over 600.  

I’m introduced to my friend’s friends as we make our way from one place to the next, finally settling down at a local restaurant. There was no electricity at this particular site and I was advised not to use the bathroom there. Or in many places for that matter. We wait over an hour for food and I am told that is normal. We make conversation as I sample the local beer called Prestige. I would have several Prestiges during my trip. The food arrives and we eat by the light of our iPhone apps. We solidify the evening with another picture.    

That evening we attend a Haitian night club and I learn what sensual people Haitians are. I also learn to not go into a dark room with a good looking man unless I’m ready for what comes with that. Always learning. My friend and I stay at a really nice hotel that night and I’m blessed they serve coffee in the morning. It’s a coffee unlike any in the States and I soon become addicted during my stay. The German owner of the hotel who personally delivered the coffee shares a little bit of his story and his heart for Haiti. “If we as believers are called to move mountains, than what is a country?” I am moved b/c I hear Holy Spirit in his words and I meet the revelation of the eternals in his eyes.  

God is here.  

We make our way to the airport to pick up my bag. We then meet with another friend of a friend and are served lunch at his house. We go sight-seeing, hangout and take more pictures. I also pick up some souvenirs. Each day I spend in Haiti is surreal. So many moments of bliss. There is poverty, but I am not as affected as I thought I would be. I look out the window of our vehicle at the streets through eyes not of a prideful American, but a lowly Haitian. Eyes I would have been given had I been born in Haiti. We cannot choose where we are born or the family we are born to. For that reason, I realize I could easily have been born into poverty and therefore what seems abnormal to me as an American would be my normal. I think I am also able to make this connection b/c on the outside I look Haitian and am often received as a Haitian. We stay in resort type places where they serve you fresh seafood in chairs overlooking the ocean. I am met with peace and quiet and catch my breath when I walk outside each morning b/c of the beauty that surrounds me. It is stuff I’ve only seen it movies. It is paradise. My friend knows it and that’s why she brings me here. I can’t get over how quiet it is. It is quiet b/c tourism is low and not many locals can afford these premises. We visit the beach where we negotiate a fair price for souvenirs. Negotiation is vital and my friend is stellar at it. We lounge and relax, drinking water from a coconut and I am on vacation. 

 
We eat lobster on the beach and take more pictures. At some point we visit my favorite place of all. “Bassin Bleu”. Quite the little hidden jewel. We are guided by locals, leaping over water and carefully walking across slippery rocks. The danger in falling is evident and I trust God is ordering my footsteps. We successfully make it under the waterfall, and my iPhone successfully makes it too (due to much prayer I’m sure!!).    

    
 That evening I witness more of the manifested presence of God as my friend and a pastor pass out gifts to local children. The kids are taught that the larger gift is in fact Jesus and I am touched beyond words at the gospel being shared. Each package was carefully put together by donors all over the country. If only they could see the kids’ faces when they received their gifts!  

Seeing those faces make the heat more bearable as the church has no air conditioning and I am feeling sick at one point b/c of the heat and the long day. My friend and I relax that night and the next day make our way to the mountains where I am touched again by the quiet and beauty. I also end up meeting my friend’s girls. She mentors them once a week and they are precious. They ask me questions in English while I struggle to ask them questions in Creole/French. My friend translates and we take more pictures.   

 The very last night of my stay I am sitting with my friend, her pastor and his wife. They are pouring into us. He is speaking eternal words and I have tears forming b/c I know the Father is letting Himself be known again. I realize that the only way I can possibly fulfill the calling on my life is to walk so closely to the Father that I cannot easily be distracted from purpose. I am told that in order to walk with Him I must agree with Him. I have not been agreeing. But even in my frustration and difficulty, He is still caring for me. He is blatantly showing me on this trip that I am favored and I am His. He is teaching me many things.  

My friend’s pastor shares his heart for his country. He shares that even in the midst of the poverty and the struggle, there is hope. He knows this country is in a season of transformation. I am reminded that I am a prophetic person, and it could be that my trip itself is prophetic. It could be that my exposure to the beauty of this place is just a glimpse of what others will see in the coming season. Even as we were traveling one of our drivers uncharacteristically began sharing his heart about Haiti in Creole. Up until that point he had been so silent, but then his words began pouring out and I could not help but think God was speaking through him. “So many come to this country and they see its beauty but then they go back to their own, and they only speak of the negative things. They only speak of the poverty. They make it seem like Haiti is dangerous and scary”. Even though I needed my friend to translate his words, I still felt his pain at being falsely labeled.  

It’s difficult to summarize my experience in Haiti. My friend made sure I saw all its different parts. The city, the country, the beauty and the poverty. I took it all in, knowing this is a once in a lifetime experience. I learned how much a country forms and shapes ones’ identity. I learned to adjust my expectations that were cultural. I learned how some things are the same no matter where you go. I learned how important having order on the road is and paved streets. I learned that just because someone is different, doesn’t mean they are lesser than. I think that is something Americans have ingrained in them. I think the missionaries that come to Haiti have good intentions, but I don’t know if their tactics are the most effective. I think my friend who has adopted this country and their people and their ways is going to be more effective than a thousand well-intentioned missionaries simply b/c she is not trying to change the people, but help them. A country suffering with a 90% unemployment rate, needs more than a few missionaries visiting and passing out tracks every now and then. I could see that the Haitians are well acquainted with religion and Christianity as exhibited in the references to Jesus and scripture on most public buildings and transportation vehicles. More religion is not going to help this country. I don’t believe religion helps any country. They need people coming alongside them, helping to create sustainable change and opportunity. There are so many who are educated and talented and b/c they do not have opportunity their gifts are wasted. I can’t imagine how purposeless one would feel with no open door to use the God given talents they were given. Religion is not needed. Relationship is needed.

I was in awe of my friend who has traded her middle class, secure, comfortable life for these people. She reminds me of Ruth in the Bible. I can’t imagine loving someone or something so much that you shed your own identity for them/it. It is God to put this mission in her heart and it’s simply amazing. I’m blessed He has given me this opportunity to see His heart for another part of this world and to meet the people who share His heart.     

   
There is hope for this generation, no matter where we live b/c God is with us. This trip confirmed that to me more than anything.  

There is hope for Haiti.   

   
SHALOM!