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Monday, November 16, 2015

Your Future Is Bright

Over the weekend, I've been trying my best to process what is happening in our world. The evident evil taking over otherwise happy, everyday moments of so many lives in so many places. From threats of terror to movie theater and school shootings, life can really feel unpretty these days. Like the rest of the world, my heart was aching the moment I heard about attacks of concert goers and city dwellers in Paris. My heart was aching and my mind was fearful. Then articles started pouring in about suicide bombings in Beirut. And hashtags start switching from #prayforparis to #prayfortheworld as people around the world began letting their voice be heard of their own tragedy.

Everytime I hear of a mass attack on humanity by any means, two things automatically cross my mind. One, what happened to these people? These were once someone's tiny sweet innocent babies, full of life and purpose. How did they get to this place where this was okay in their mind? And second, why oh why have I brought children into this world? I am just one person and can only protect them so far, so how do I protect them from things like this, because it seems to me, no one is immune.

In the midst of all our facebook filters and hashtags rallying support around others that have had tragedy strike, we either live in fear or we keep convincing ourselves to just keep living fearlessly, because we may as well make the best of our life, do the most that we can, while we still have breath to breathe. We know our true future is in Heaven, but what about now?

My 12 year old son was showing some concern on and off over the weekend for the "what ifs?" What if it happened here?  How do we arm ourselves and our families? How do we not show up at the wrong place at that wrong time? And as I was looking to the Lord, he showed me that our only answer is to know His voice. We need to know the voice of God's spirit. We need to learn how to let it lead us, how to let it stop us and how to let it give us the go ahead. The Holy Spirit was given to us as our comforter and helper, to reveal to us the deep things of God and to show us things to come.
1 Corinthians 2:10, John 16:13.

In times like these people tend to think that God doesn't care, but the fact remains that he gave men dominion of this world for this time period. They do with this world what they wish. For some, it's evil. For other's its selfishness. For others, it may be just living life oblivious to what we are truly here for. But while he gave mankind dominion, He gave believers the Holy Spirit so that they would allow Him to lead them and guide them throughout their life. And we better have our ears tuned in to His voice, because our future and life depends on it.

It frustrates me at times, watching the enemy working on the lives of Christians, getting them to a place where they compromise truth for lies. They compromise living lives in close communion with the Lord to living lives based off quotes and memes on the internet. Honestly, when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter how inspirational a person or his words are, if it's not the whole word of God, it's not truth. And memes and quotes aren't going to save anyone when the enemy is working on someone's mind to blow a up a building that you just walked into. Being led by God's spirit and knowing His voice is our only hope and comfort in this time. We need to know Him and be willing to obey his leading. We need to stop getting in our own way, stop playing the devils games and get serious about this life, friends. Clearly the devil is serious. He means business. He is at constant war with humanity because his sole enemy is the God who created them. So why do we play games in a world he's infiltrating?

I know this is a serious post, but this is a serious time we live in. And sometimes I fear for people that want to say as long as we love Jesus, everything is okay. Love Jesus or not, if we don't know His voice, how will He ever warn us or show us things we need to know? Time away from this 'world' and spent soaking in God's presence is key. I believe God will and does show all kinds of people all kinds of things they need to know for their future, but if you are too busy following all the other voices that are beckoning you in this world, online, in books, on youtube or even in our own mind... you will always second guess or flat out disobey his voice--His voice that was trying to show you things that will protect or bless you and your family.

I get tired of the gross darkness that is attempting to cover our world and even infiltrate the body of Christ. And I just had to say it. It's deceptive. It's sneaky. And It's meant as a distraction to water down the power and presence and anointing of God in our lives. And ultimately, it's meant to deter the body of Christ from hearing His voice and doing what they are called to do. God's love is bigger than acceptance which seems to be the mantra these days . Jesus came to set people free from the things that hold us captive, to give us authority over the enemy, and then He left us with His Spirit to keep us growing, moving, protected & guided. All incredible acts of His incredible love.

And right now I'm thanking God for all the tools He's provided for me. I'm thanking God I don't have to live in fear. And it's my hearts purpose to make better use of what He left for me to use, both for myself and for the world around me... I'm thanking God my future is bright. My kids future is bright. My husbands future is bright...

And yours can be bright too, friend.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, October 12, 2015

Leaving the Ninety-Nine

Over the past few years, I've discovered a lot inside myself that I enjoy and love, actually. That sounds weird to say, but I don't think it's crazy to love the things God has stirred and placed inside of you. I don't think it's crazy for you to love YOU. Especially when the you that you are loving is really just the things He put on the inside of you. All those things that make you, YOU... are really just Him.

A few weeks ago, I spoke at a women's breakfast we had at our church. Public speaking is still semi new to me and I've only engaged in it a hand full of times. I'm still in the place of feeling completely awkward, but also "Okay, I can do this." I've sort of fallen into the role of coordinating our ladies ministry, but never really feel comfortable saying "Ok, listen up Ladies. I've got something to say and I think you need to hear it." I'm fairly confident when I hear from the Lord, but I'm never sure of other people's confidence in me, so I hesitate. I step in and sort of just micro manage all the event details of this area in our small church without really having to 'teach' for fear of "What if I'm wrong?"  

But at the same time, I know when I'm hearing from the Lord. I'm careful as to when I speak up or when to keep silent because God is speaking just to me. I've learned over the years when to...and when not to... You live and learn.
I was weighing (overthinking) all the pros and cons of  stepping on stage with a mic in hand and all my notes in front of me, saying "God said...". I told a friend my hesitancy both because I was unsure, but also because I told her I didn't want people to think that I thought I knew it all, because I don't. 
(that darn fear of people).

And her reply stuck with me...

"It's okay to be confident in yourself and your abilities. It's okay to know you are good at something. It's okay to do something  you believe in with boldness and anticipation. It's okay to know you hear from God."

That was the jist of it. It's okay to believe in yourself.
It's okay to love who God made you.

I've done a lot of digging these past few years, deep within myself, and I have to say , I love where God is taking me. It's not big and flashy. It's not really bold and sassy. But it's me and it's Him. And it's unique. It's beautiful. And it's ours. And I love that. 
Sharing my heart, using way too many words, dancing with creativity-I love it all.

And it's okay to love who He made me.

I truly thrive and find such purpose in being used by the Lord to speak truth and life and encourage others. I love watching Him work, not because I am so great, but because I am willing.
And it's okay. 

It's okay for us to be happy and excited with where God has us. It's okay if He promotes us to different or or even monumental spheres of influence. And it's also okay to want to be used more and more by Him. I don't shy away from it as much as I used to , because more than anything, I know if I can't do it, He can... and He's just using my life and my story and my mouth to tell His story. 
His story of redemption. 

But what I keep finding out over and over....and what I keep hearing the Lord ask me is, "Is it okay if I keep you here for awhile? Is it okay if this is just your season, if this is just your place for awhile? Are you okay with just being a friend? Are you okay with just encouraging people with a smile or a conversation? Are you okay with letting your small be  my great?" 

Taking giant leaps in life doesn't always glitter or feel snazzy. Maybe just a few see you sparkle from close up. Maybe no one sees you sparkle at all. Or maybe you don't feel like anyone sees you, because not enough see you. Are you okay with just letting him use you in His way? Not yours?

I was reading the 'parable of the ninety-nine' earlier this week in Luke 15 and it struck me in a new way. In this parable, Jesus talks about the shepherd who had one hundred sheep (or one hundred followers, if you will) and he lost one, but he left his ninety-nine in search of the lost one. That lost sheep was valuable. Clearly, he was a wanderer. He was probably dirty and smelly, which isn't cool. He didn't follow the crowd and wasn't in the corner coffee shop sipping on a chai tea latte keeping tabs on hipster subculture. But he was important enough to leave the ninety-nine that were...
In this technology savvy culture we live in, where we shine our bright lights on the small hand held screens of our peers and our fans, would we be okay leaving our 'ninety-nine' to reach the one lost and hurting one? Or have we so exhausted ourselves undertaking the masses or even just the busy-ness of life, that the small lost sheep gets shuffled aside? 
It spoke something fierce to me. I'm just like the rest of you. We all want people to notice us, our hard work, our deep thought out sentiment, our creativity... but would we leave all our likes and favorites and follows behind, would we pause our busy lives if there was just one small person that needed us? Would we notice them?

And that is where I got stuck all week. Am I noticing them?

God was saying, "Who is that one person that you've been thinking of lately? Are  you willing to take the time to step away from the hype and glam to reach just that one person? Are you willing to use your influence for something small? Are you ready to stop being too busy? Because if you are, what you might deem as small and perhaps insignificant, I am calling great. 
I want to open my life for God to use me, but I'm just more and more seeing that His ways are so much more grand than mine. His thoughts are higher than mine. And we are filled with so much contentment, satisfaction and everlasting joy-- when we aren't getting in the way of his big work in us and through us in seemingly small ways.

Matthew 25:23
His Master said to him 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little. I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.

"We long to see God's power and glory, the miraculous and supernatural breaking into the temporal. But let's not forget the one. Don't forget the one next to you-the person to whom you can be Jesus' hands of compassion. In God's economy, the person who just reaches out to one and sees that one find grace is just as important as the evangelist who leads thousands to Christ."-Heidi Baker

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Discovering Beauty Under Pressure

Hello From Awkward to Art readers!
I am so honored to have this opportunity to share about a brand new blog launching September 20th, for ladies just like you. My name is Rachel and I am the co-founder of The Pearl Press. I am on a team of 14 ladies who are 100% committed to living life as God intended it to be. So just briefly let me share with you what The Pearl Press is all about.

Every week on The Pearl Press we will share 3 posts addressing our spirit, soul, and body. Below is a post focused on cultivating our souls and is very similar to something you would read on The Pearl Press every Tuesday.


Inevitably at some point in our lives, we all ponder the meaning and the purpose of life. It turns out, life is meant for a whole lot of livingNot just the kind of living where you breathe in and breathe out and go through the motions of life day after day, after day.

The sort of living where every day is a new day and a fresh opportunity to make the most of the one life you've been given. The kind of living that looks for the extraordinary in any old, ordinary, day! The kind of living that can always find a reason to celebrate, because after all, every day has the potential to be a special occasion. Living with joy and passion and might I even say, a little zest !

Maybe it's a bit silly that I celebrate things like National Teddy Bear Day, Make your own Pizza Day, and the birth of the precious little Prince Georgie over in London. Perhaps I would have scored a few points higher on my final exams in college had I not been up all night with the girls on my hall eating crackers and sipping tea in dresses while we watched the Royal Wedding. And maybe my fluffy little puppy doesn't need homemade puppy cookies and cupcakes for every single birthday. But it is in those little occasions where life is the fullest.

If I reach the end of a year and in reflection can only remember a lot of check marks on a lot of lists, then did I actually do anything at all? Sure, I got a lot of stuff done, but did I make any memories or grow closer to any friends? Do I remember the times I laughed, the times I cried, or the times I thought I didn't want to remember? Because I can tell you this much, while To Do lists are a necessary part of life (and believe me I love them) they do not add or fulfill the purpose of our life. Our itemized lists are full of stuff that truly have purpose, but none of them are our purpose. The stuff we have to accomplish every day is simply that… stuff. All of it is merely part of the greater, grander story!

Slowly I've gotten myself in the habit of expanding the concept of a To Do list. Now I don't simply include tasks that need to be accomplished, I also include living on them. Here's what a sample list might look like for me:

I laughed back in college when I made this discovery, but now I see I may have actually been onto something! I used to put "nap" on my To Do lists every now and again so that when I woke up I could cross something off. I wanted to feel as though I had accomplished something, and not wasted time. I guess it was silly, but now I see that there was something fundamentally right about that. Maybe if we would start including these seemingly silly things on our To Do lists, we would actually be convinced that in the simplest parts of life we are indeed accomplishing GREAT things! They may not be physical, tangible things that we can see or touch, but they are the things that truly bring purpose and joy to living. 

I admit it! I am so guilty of being a Do-er...I always need to feel like I am doing something or getting something checked off of a list. However, I have learned that far better than doing is being; allowing ourselves to simply be present in every moment. Doing often causes us to become unaware of our surroundings, causing us to miss out on a lot of beauty in life. But being, on the other hand, allows us to embrace and take in that beauty, fueling all the doing that must still be done.

It's official now. I am (over) a quarter of a century old. Every single day I am closer to 30 than I am to 20. On one hand, that's a little scary, but on the other I'm pretty okay with it. When I look at what Jesus and I have managed to squeeze into 27 short years, I feel like we're on a roll! I am thankful for the one life He has given me and for the grace He has given that allows me to live it to the fullest. He has filled this world and our lives with endless amounts of beauty and joy, more than we could ever possibly even begin to see in one lifetime. So let's get to it. See all your eyes can capture. Feel all your hands can hold. Breathe in as much as your lungs can hold. I can assure you there will be more living to do every single day. Enough to fill an infinite amount of To Do lists. Fill them if you must, but fill them with a whole lot of living.

We hope you stop by The Pearl Press. Remember September 20th is the big day! Until then you can find us on Facebook. We would LOVE to connect with you! And a HUGE thank you to Julie for letting us share today and for your amazing support!


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