‘My timing is not His timing. My plans are not His plans. My ways are not His ways. My good for His Great.’ Words you keep telling yourself when you know something is coming, but you have no idea what it is.

I am a planner. I like to know that things have been thought through and planned, so I know what to expect. No surprises. Because, well, I hate surprises.

Let me elaborate. I don’t mind being surprised, but I can’t stand knowing there is one coming. If I am going to be surprised, I would prefer to be completely in the dark until it is fully revealed. I guess that is why I dislike scary movies or scary anything for that matter. I know I am going to be scared, I just don’t know when it’s coming, and that irritates the crud out of me.

I truly believe God finds this characteristic of mine amusing. Because although He is a planner as well, He does not always divulge His plans to His children. He gives us our daily bread. He wants us to depend on Him, trusting that He indeed has it all worked out. Giving us too much might make us greedy; giving us too little, would be leaving us wanting more.

Five years ago, God told me something was happening in my 40th year. That’s all He said, something. No details. No specifics. Not even a category. I already knew that my 40th year would include Jake graduating, but I knew that wasn’t going to be all.

When I first heard that message, I spent months imagining what it could be. Was I getting married? Was I moving to Guatemala? Or back to Florida? Was I getting married? (Oh, did I say that already?) I tried to find answers in everything. I was frustrated that I knew something was going to happen, but I didn’t know what.

As the years passed, the desire to know dwindled. I got busy and caught in the present that I forgot about the future, per say. Plus, it was so far off, it kind of seemed out of reach. Well, as my 40th year got closer, the anxiety and desire to know rekindled and it was stronger than ever. Jake graduated, knew where he was going to school and it was all paid for (PRAISE JESUS!!). But what about me? What was I going to do?

Well, some things worked themselves out and I ended up spending my 40th birthday back home in Florida. I spent 10 wonderful days with friends from throughout the 15 years Jake and I had lived there. Person after person asked when I was coming back. Of course, that was my desire, but I wasn’t certain if it was God’s will, so I just asked people to pray.

When I got back to Thomasville, I was renewed. Not knowing wasn’t scary anymore, it was just unnerving. I prayed and prayed. Begging for an answer. Begging for some huge revelation of the remainder of “the plan”, and it came, sort of. It wasn’t a huge revelation, but it was a huge storm. Hurricane Irma was on its way to crush my home and all I wanted was to be there with my friends. As crazy as it sounds, I wanted to weather the storm with them.

The Friday and Saturday prior to the storm hitting, I was literally sick. My anxiety was causing my body to go haywire. Then God did something amazing. He made the hurricane fall apart. As the days passed, yes, there was evidence of a storm, but there was a sense of gratefulness for God and His never-ending mercy.

After a week of anxiety, anticipating the worst storm in history, there were deep breaths and sighs of relief. I was also relieved. Relieved my friends and their homes were spared, but my anxiety had made a shift. I now knew what my next step was to be.

And this is where I am today. At the crossroad of this next step, a new chapter. I have given a “I’m leaving, but not sure when” notice at work and know that I am moving back to Florida at some point, but that is as far as I know. I am looking diligently for a job. Applying for whatever opportunity crosses my path and praying for God’s direction every step of the way. Would I like the entire plan laid out before me? Of course, but for right now I will do my best to be satisfied with the daily bread He provides and try not to get too caught up in the fact that I still, in fact, hate surprises.

But God…

I was recently reminded that often when we are tested and tempted, it could be a sign that a reward for our faithfulness could be right around the corner. That with God and the Holy Spirit within us, there is always victory no matter how often we doubt and stumble.

She awaited the revelation, the appointed time, which spoke of the end and would not be proven false. Though it lingered, she waited for it because she knew it would certainly come and would not delay[1]. She had always prayed for falsehood and lies to be kept from her; she wanted neither poverty nor riches, but only her daily bread. Because she knew if she had too much she would disown her God. Or too little, she would steal and dishonor His name [2]. Yet she sat alone looking out the window, thinking, longing, “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish? In Your love You kept me from the pit of destruction; You have put all my sins behind Your back”[3].

He reminded her that He knew her deeds, her love and faith, her service and perseverance, and that she was now doing more than she did at first[4]. “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach; for I am your Maker, your Husband”[5]. Though once comforting, His words now seemed distant, unattainable. Knowing her heart so well, He continued, “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you now perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland”[6].

His words reminded her that He was faithful to all of His promises and loving toward all He has made. He was near to all who called on Him[7]. That if she delighted herself in Him, He would delight in her ways and make her steps firm. Though she stumbled, He would not fail her and give her the desires of her heart[8].

In her anguish, she cried out to the Lord and He answered by setting her free[9]. She then knew that if she only put her hope in Him, her strength and her spirit would always be renewed[10]. For perhaps the reason they were separated for this short while, was that they may be together forever[11].

[1] Habakkuk 2:3
[2] Proverbs 30:8-9
[3] Isaiah 38:17
[4] Revelation 2:19
[5] Isaiah 54:4-5
[6] Isaiah 43:18-19
[7] Psalms 145:13, 18
[8] Psalms 37:4, 23-24
[9] Psalms 118:5
[10] Isaiah 40:31
[11] Philemon 15

Changing My Heart

“Sometimes God doesn’t change your situation because He’s trying to change your heart”

Ever hear words that cut so deep into your heart, it takes your breath away? That is how I felt when I read this quote today. I have heard it before, but where I am in my life at this moment, they are the exact words I needed to hear so I could stop playing the victim…

As far back as I could remember, I have never had enough to pay my bills. At times it was because I would manage the money given to me incorrectly and selfishly. When I made an offering to the church, it was not my first fruits and I did not give it with a cheerful heart. It was such a burden for me to give to the church because they had plenty of it and I “needed” it more than they did.

It was not until a few months ago that I confessed to a friend of mine how tired I am of the constant financial struggle I am in. I let her know that I was just tired of being poor. Her question to me was “is it a sin issue?” I immediately responded “of course, it is.”

Money has always been my nemesis. I never have enough of it. I live beyond my means. I struggle with being a good steward with the provision God has given me. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 teaches how we need to be good steward even with the little we may have. This was (and unfortunately still is) a major sin issue in my life.

Since that conversation just a few months ago, I have been pretty consistent with my tithing. It s the first fruit of my labor and although still difficult to part with that percentage since I could definitely use it, I choose to be obedient and trust God to bless me for it.

As Jake and I prepare to move to another city not to far from here, I am feeling the constrictions of my financial status becoming quite overwhelming. It is like this chapter can’t close soon enough. This week, especially, has been extremely difficult for me to bear. I find myself in a sinking pit of despair and depression; not seeing light through the drowning mud. Prayer, Scripture, worship, nothing seems to help. I know that there is a greater purpose for this, but I do not want any part of it. I know God has provided in the past, but could He just provide just once and for all and let me be? Then through the darkness, through the mud, I see those words: “Sometimes God doesn’t change your situation because He’s trying to change your heart.” 

Once again I am reminded that although I have done good for a short while, it doesn’t mean I will always be good. I am reminded that my strength and my faith are not as strong as I believe them to be. I do not trust Him enough to provide when I need it. I do not trust Him to keep me from the darkest pits. I simply do not trust His love for me. And yet His love for me has never changed.

He continues to see the woman He created me to be. He sees the woman I will one day be. He sees the desire of my heart to follow Him wholeheartedly. He sees nothing else. He is not discouraged by the long, hard road because the destination is far too amazing to be overshadowed by the cares of today. He is using this situation, this struggle, this season of my life to change my heart. His love for me is far too grand for Him to allow me to remain as I am.

I am not all better. I am still angry, frustrated and tired of this financial state I am still in, but I am recognizing that I will remain here until my heart has indeed changed. And by my attitude and short temper, I have a long way to go.

The Gift

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

She laid in her bed, waiting for him to wake up. It had been years since she had this feeling. The first time in a long time she was anxious for Christmas morning to arrive. Would he like his presents? Would they fit? Would he get swept up in the material things and forget all they had learned the past few years? 

She couldn’t wait any longer. It was 7:30 a.m., plenty of “sleeping in” time. She ran into his room shouting “It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!” “Mother” he groaned.  While he slowly got up, dressed, brushed his teeth, she paced in the hall. Finally! He walked into the living room.

He gathered “the boys” (aka the cats) and opened their gift first. They were just as pleased with the wrapping paper than the actual gift. He then gave her the gifts he had gotten for her. She was with him when he purchased them, so it wasn’t a surprised, but that didn’t stop her from acting otherwise.

One by one he opened his gifts. His excitement filled her heart with joy and humility. There was no way she would be able to have done any of this if it wasn’t for her Heavenly Father prompting others to provide the means. It was simply overwhelming, yet her heart was still heavy.

As the last gift was opened and “the boys” played in their new playground of boxes and wrapping paper, she asked him to pray with her; he opened, she closed. His words were simple, but appreciative. Of course, he was grateful for the gifts, but he seemed more grateful for the many Blessings His Heavenly Father had showered them with, especially their precious Savior. On this glorious morn, filled with wanted, yet unnecessary material gifts, he had remembered to be thankful for the Giver not just the gifts.

She had taught him right, but why was her heart still heavy? There was still a deep longing for something more. Like the gifts she had received which could not be wrapped or placed under a tree, she longed for the one tangible gift her heart desired.  She was confident it was still yet to come for she had been showered with glimpses of a future filled with fulfillment, laughter, and love. Nevertheless this was not the year she would receive it.

As the day continued, the emotions of the gifts received (and those not yet received) had subsided, but the joy in their hearts remained. For the gifts unwrapped today, those of yesterday and even those yet to come could not compare to the gift that was given to them many years ago in the little town of Bethlehem when a King, their Savior, was born; The Greatest Gift of all!

“Let Stand”

However much I like to cook and try new recipes, needing to marinade overnight and tons of ingredients and preparation is not for me. Quick and easy recipes have always been my kind of cooking.  With that being said, my ever favorite recipe are the “break and bake” cookies. They are so easy; pre-heat the oven, break, place, bake, let stand, and enjoy. The only downside of this recipe is the “let stand” step. When you just want to “enjoy”, those extra few minutes can be excruciating.

Though excruciating and seemingly unnecessary, those few minutes determine the final product. If you let the cookies stand too long, they will be too hard; and letting them stand for too little time, will cause the cookies to fall apart when you try to serve them. Now, some people don’t mind their cookies hard or falling apart, but I believe most people enjoy them when they are firm around the edges with a soft center. YUM! Want a cookie, yet?

Life is the same way. We aren’t always sure of all of the ingredients, prep and cook time required. Yet, we can be certain that as long as we are cooking with the Master Chef, whatever is cooking will be delectable.

A year ago today, Jake and I started a new recipe of our own.

1 cup of fear
2 cups of excitement
1 Tbsp of anxiety
1 semi-ripe teenager
1 semi-ripe adult
100 cups of faith
Mix first 5 ingredients with 5 cups of faith in pre-loaded car. Blend for 10 hours.
Let stand until further notice. Sprinkle faith throughout as needed.

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29)

Goes Without Saying

As I do everyday, I prayed for you today. They may not be as specific as I would like, but I pray what I know. I pray for you to be bold, strong, courageous and fearless. I pray for your faith and knowledge of God to increase everyday. I pray for your heart to yearn for Him as it never has. I pray the people currently in your life are drawing you closer to Him and, selfishly of course, I pray for those relationships to draw you closer to me as well.

I pray that you are not like some people who “always avoid things that are costly, or things that require self-denial, self-restraint, and self-sacrifice” (Streams in the Desert).  For seeking such things will not lead you to greatness. An easier life doesn’t develop a strong person. I don’t recall stories of God’s great men travelling in calm and smooth seas. They were in storms, floods, and even shipwrecks, but those are the ones who found joy, contentment, and peace. They fought the good fight and ran the race. They were willing to risk it all. Friends, family, stability, and safety meant nothing if it kept them from God and His will for their lives. This is my prayer for you — seek His will without hesitation.

When you seek Him with all your heart that is when you will find Him. But when you seek, I pray you also see. See what He brings before your eyes. Carefully consider the thoughts that cross your mind. The “sightings” you have may be a word from Him and not just a fleeting memory.

Everyday you are closer to the man He has created you to be; the man I have prayed for you to become. I may not be able to witness this progression in your life, but I have faith it is happening and will continue praying you through each moment, especially the difficult times that I am sure will come, if you are not already in the midst of them.

As Philip Brooks states, I do not pray for your life to be easy, for an easy life would not build boldness and strength. I do not pray for your tasks to be equal to your power, but for your power to grow equal to your tasks. Because then doing your work will not be a miracle, but through it all, you will become the miracle.

I know this goes without saying, but I love you! I never stopped and I don’t believe I ever will!

Though it linger

Noah was told to build an ark because a flood was coming. Abraham was promised he would be the father of many nations. Moses was told he would lead the Israelites out of slavery. Joseph had a dream his brothers would bow down to him. David was told he would be king. What do they all have in common? The Lord made them all a promise…and they all had to wait!

Like all of these, many of us have heard God’s promises for our own life, but are discouraged when they do not happen immediately. We feel like we were either hearing things or God was just messing with us when neither is the case. Unfortunately, instead of waiting it out, we often try to expedite the promise and fall flat on our face in our attempt. However, despite our impatience, we can be confident that those promises the Lord has made to us will come true. The only catch is, it is hardly ever on our timing…

Noah waited 100 years for it to rain. Abraham did not have the child promised to him until he was 100 years old. It took Moses 40 years from hearing God at the burning bush until he went back to Egypt to talk to the Pharaoh. Joseph waited 27 years for his dream to come true (He was 17 when he had the dream, 30 when he went to work for the Pharaoh, and then 14 more years passed before his dream came true). David waited around 15 years to become king (He was anointed when he was a teenager and became king at 30).

I get it! Sometimes it takes time, but it still doesn’t make me any less impatient. I do, however, can hold tight and rest assured that though it linger, I will wait for it. For it will certainly come and will not delay (Habakkuk 2:3). For my God is not human, that he should lie or a human being that he should change his mind (Numbers 23:19).

Safety Bar

What do you do the second you are about to be hurled down a huge roller coaster drop? If you are like me, you avoid roller coasters at all costs, but on the rare occasion I do get on, I grab the safety bar and hold on tight…

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a doctor or a nurse practitioner, so in 2010, I decided to quit my job and pursue the more attainable goal of nursing. I quit my job in June of that year, took a nursing assistant course and became certified just a few months later in October. By December, I was working in a hospital. It was like a dream, I was not yet a nurse, but the passion and the desire had been reignited and it was burning strong. It wasn’t only a dream now, it was something I knew, through experience and the encouragement of so many, was something I could do. I prayed for a long time and felt that pursuing a nursing degree was the direction I should take. I attempted to go back to school, but due to previous failed attempts and deferred loans, I did not qualify for financial aid. I was discouraged, but not defeated. It just wasn’t the time, again.

You see, I have started and stopped the process of going back to school a couple of times, but something always seemed to get in the way….Right after high school, I went to Messiah College with the hopes of doing something in the medical field. I was torn between pre-med and psychology, but never really got to choose because 3 semesters in, I was kicked out because my tuition had not been paid. Several years later, I wanted to go back to school for nursing, but decided to go for Marketing instead because that was a degree my job would pay for. After 3 classes, however, I was laid off from that job and was not able to afford to continue school.  The desire never left me, but I had failed enough times, I was taking it as a sign that I wasn’t meant to go to school.

This year, however, a portion of my tax return paid off the balance of those deferred loans. So, I decided to go to Alabama Southern Community College here in Thomasville and see what I could do. I was told to apply to the college, for financial aid, request transcripts from high school and colleges and provide proof of state residency. Three weeks ago, I was accepted to the school and today received notice that I was approved for a Pell Grant. In my excitement, I went to the school to see what were my next steps (placement test on May 2nd and that will determine what courses I need to begin with), but in speaking with the student adviser, I was told that because I am still missing a transcript from the school I originally went almost 20 years ago, I would only be able to attend school for 1 semester. This was disheartening because the reason I do not have that transcript is because there is still a balance of over $8,000.

Now, let me tell you that $8,000 stipulation would have stopped me before. I would have been discouraged and would have shelved the idea, but this time it’s different; I am different. I know that this…is…the…time! I have no doubt the Lord has declared this is the time for me to go back to school. He has provided the financial aid, the motivation and the time to go to school. How can it not be the right time? So, I will take my placement test, complete the semester I can do and pray all the while that the Lord will reveal how that balance will be paid.

I am learning that sometimes things come in our way to keep us from going down a wrong road. Other times, God uses obstacles to let us know to wait on Him. And yet other times, obstacles are placed in our path so we can hold on tight and watch God bust right through them. Let’s just say this is one of those times, so I am holding on tight to my safety bar…Jesus!