Words like Arrows

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“Lord, I ask that today, when I open my mouth to speak, my default is encouragement and not sarcasm.”

 This has been my prayer of late. It’s a desire that my heart is chasing on a daily basis.

Believe me when I say, I have come a very long way over the years. A few years ago, in particular, the Lord began to speak to me on the topic. He showed me the impact that an encouraging word brings and how they open a door for the recipient to receive His truth.

Words that heal and not harm.

Words that build up and not tear down.

Words that shift atmospheres and cause the darkness to flee.

This is what I want.

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I look back and think about the times when I have been the recipient of sarcasm. Sure, some of those words made me laugh in the moment, but there’s always those moments that linger. The ones that make you wonder if there was any truth behind them.

And yes, it’s usually something really stupid, but . . .

You can’t help but think to yourself, when the lights go out and you’re alone, staring up at the ceiling in your bed,

“Is that how they really see me? Is that who I am?”

 Of course, it’s not like we can control how people receive our words. But I suppose what I’m getting at is this:

“Lord, give me strategies on how to speak in a way that is intentional and with grace.”

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 We all experience times when the enemy seems to be shooting lies, like arrows, over and over. Attacking our insecurities and identities.

I don’t want to contribute to THOSE arrows.

I want my arrows to be the ones that attack the arrows of the enemy. Strategically sent out. Splitting the lies before they hit their target.

This is something I know can only be accomplished if I am taking the time to sit with the Lord. I need His heart for people.

His heart.

That’s where you get the power to shift atmospheres just by walking into the room.

His heart.

I want His heart.

I was reading in Matthew 12 this morning:

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

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 So, I cry out . . .

“Lord, I need Your heart.”

I may have shared this before, but a very dear friend of mine passed away a few years ago. It’s still sad, but I have such joy because the last conversation we had was epic.

They took the time in that moment to share how proud they were of me and what God has done in my life, and I was able to do the same and tell them how much they have contributed to my story in a positive way.

When I think about how they are no longer here, this is the memory I have.

On the other hand, not all of my last conversations with people have been this positive. I realize, I can’t always control that and sometimes it was completely out of my control because I was on the receiving end. But . . .

That one positive conclusion to my friendship with that dear person makes me want to take every opportunity to do that for someone else.

We don’t always know when a moment with someone is going to be our last. Sometimes life happens and you lose touch. Sometimes it’s with a stranger in Walmart and you may never see them again—as much as I rant about hating Walmart, I did have an opportunity to speak life into someone there the other day.

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The point is that we don’t know, which is why we should try (if we can) to not leave loose ends. To do our part, at least, and allow God to move through us.

I want His heart.

The Call of Love

I picked up a book this morning that I haven’t read in a bit. In fact, I finally unpacked my box of books a week ago for the first time since we moved last summer.

It’s called, “Come Away My Beloved” by Frances J. Roberts. My mother gave me the devotional for Christmas nearly a decade ago.   It is written in old English. So, bare with me if you are not as big a nerd as myself—I am, after all, the girl who decided to read all the works of Shakespeare one summer in high school (for fun).

I turned to the first section:

The Call of Love

I read it a few times, underlining a particular paragraph that I felt led to share with you today:

“Tarry not for an opportunity to have more time to be alone with Me. Take it, though ye leave the tasks at hand. Nothing will suffer. Things are of less importance than ye think. Our time together is like a garden full of flowers, whereas the time ye give to things is as a field full of stubble.”

I made a huge change recently. That change was unplugging from the internet more than 80% of the day. I used to multitask to the point where it was becoming detrimental to my routine.

When I left my day job to make Awake to Dream Studios my full time job, I had to eliminate everything that would keep me from staying focused.

It probably sounds odd.

I mean, everything I do is internet based and requires access to social media. But I learned the value of pouring all of my brainpower into the tasks at hand. I began to plan out my posts and online strategies well in advance. I scheduled my updates to post automatically, which freed up my hands to work elsewhere.

In the end, I didn’t need my phone pinging every time I had a message or notification. I found out I could be much more productive by checking my profiles and email at a specific time in the day, and then moving on with my projects.

What did I end up with?

Quality time in my studio and more finished projects.

Also, my prayer life has greatly increased without the added distractions. That, to me, is way more important than any of my other endeavors. If that area suffers, so does every other part of my life.

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So, I pondered that paragraph, waited on the Lord for a moment and turned to Proverbs.

I laughed as I read the title of the chapter in my bible:

The Call of Wisdom

“Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:

“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? 

If you turn at my reproof, behold I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.”

—Proverbs 1:20-23

“Tarry not.”

All that we are longing for can be made fulfilled in His presence. Whatever we need, He already has supplied.

This is a call to a higher standard of living. He has already reached out, and is waiting, to meet with us.

The present is all we have, as we watch time melt away without delay.

These temporal things that capture our attention are nothing in comparison to the love and the wisdom that calls out to each one of us.

There is no promise of tomorrow. There is only today.

“Nothing will suffer. Things are of less importance than ye think.”

Loving Beyond My Comfort Zone

 

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This year my resolution is simple.

I want to love people more than I love my comfort zone.

You’re right, it’s not actually simple.  It requires me to step out in the face of discomfort and embrace the awkward moments.

You know what I’m talking about.

Those moments when you get an itch to take action in a way that feels completely out of the box.  You may appear crazy, but I guess . . . who cares if you look crazy?

I don’t.

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As I get older, each year has brought an increased revelation of the fragility of life.  People have told me, all my life, that time seems to go faster with each season.

Life is too short to not take the risk of feeling awkward.

And people are worth more than time and energy combined.  They are precious.

The world is full of diamonds in the rough.

We can’t reach them all, I know.  But we can start by being faithful with the ones we have the pleasure of knowing.  Even if it’s only for a blip on the radar of our lives.  That blip matters.

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Just by loving them more than your comfort zone.

Maybe your love will heal some of their brokenness.

 

Do What Scares You

Tell me your greatest fear
and I will tell you of a love
that is far greater.

A love that will cover every doubt
in your mind
until you find
the fear no longer there.

One of my favorite quotes this year has been,

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

It has been a reminder that fear doesn’t always have to be a negative force in our lives.  Fear can be the very thing that propels us straight into freedom unimaginable.

I’m not talking about reckless behavior.  I’m talking about making decisions that will no longer enable us to live in a paralyzing complacency, and to stop allowing our emotions to dictate the course of our destiny.

For several months, I have been struggling back and forth on finishing up a project.  A spoken word written on the topic of body image.  It’s a large part of my testimony.

It all started one Sunday at church.  The idea came to me in an instant, but excitement was followed by fear.  I would be going into territory that was unknown and new,  while being completely vulnerable with my story.

Every once in awhile, I would pace around my room and begin to write phrase after phrase.  In between those times, I admit I tried to find as many other projects to attempt to start instead.  And then, I would have the same weighty feeling come over me.  Again and again.

I was afraid, but I knew it was something I needed to follow through with, because maybe there was one person in the universe who needed to hear my story.

And for that one person, it would be worth pushing through the fear.

I had a dream a  couple years ago that had a tremendous impact on how I see the world.  In the dream, I found myself speaking with a woman who had a dark past.  I took her hands and said, with great relief and joy,

“Had I been afraid, you would not be here.”

When I woke from the dream, I had a new perspective.  I began to think about how my decisions to choose love over fear, on a daily basis, affects not only my life course but the lives of people I may not even know yet.

Every single day, I try to ask myself,

What if fear was no longer holding you back?

What would I do with my time?  How would I choose to speak and act?  How would it affect the lives of those in my sphere of influence?

By God’s grace, I finished writing the spoken word this week.  I plan to compose and record the audio shortly, as well as begin filming the visuals.  I’m glad I didn’t let myself stay afraid, and I trust that He will see me through the rest of the creative process.

What about you?

What is something that scares you, but you know in your heart it will set you free?

 

Praying by Faith, Not by Sight

Yesterday evening, a group of us gathered together on a ranch.  The purpose was to seek His face, with no agenda other than to experience His Glory.

As we worshipped, I felt the Lord impress upon me to make out a list of desires and present needs to surrender at His feet.  I also felt I was to revisit the list and write out the testimonies of what God did the following week.  As I wrote it out, I felt my faith increase, and I truly expected His hand to move upon each item listed.

Have you ever felt as if a situation became worse the moment you began to make it your focus in prayer?

I have.  In fact, I felt that way this morning.

When I awoke, it wasn’t long before I saw several of the items attacked, and for a moment my heart was discouraged.  Until . . .

I made the decision to not let what I saw affect my faith.

I prayed once more and surrendered it all at His feet, as I did yesterday evening.  I took a look from a new angle.

Instead of seeing my prayers as the reason for the attacks, I realized that perhaps . . .

God knew the attacks were going to come, so He gave me the strategies ahead of time to prepare my heart to stand firm and believe for victory.

We need God’s eyes.  We need to see things from His point of view.

So, before we ever make an assumption on what He is doing . . .

All we have to do is ask for His perspective.

 

Walking in the Spirit

When we walk in the natural, there is a certain level of control we feel over our lives, but that feeling of control is merely an illusion.  We fabricate our own plans and build a false sense of stability by trusting in our own abilities, all the while limiting God to whatever our flesh wants and desires.

Sometimes, without realizing, we create a God in our own image.  A God who accepts, even encourages, our behavior and justifies the choices we make.  With this frame of mind, we block out the voice of truth, and everything is filtered through what looks and feels right to us.

We may even find ourselves praying prayers that are rooted in manipulation.   Instead of surrendering to the Spirit, we already know what we want and choose to ignore His voice.

While saying,

“Your will be done”,

We are truly saying,

“Make this work out according to my will, Lord”

Walking in the natural may not involve a lifestyle of blatant sin.  It can be a life of settling for less than God’s best and staying in our comfort zones.  It trusts fear rather than love.

When we walk in the Spirit, we come face to face with the feeling of being out of control, as we hand all of our control over to God.   We put ourselves in the position of relying fully on Him to reveal His plans and choosing to not lean on our own understanding.  This goes against everything we are taught in the natural.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” —Galatians 5:16

All our lives, society tells us to put our trust in what will secure our future.  We are told to make decisions based off of what has worked for others, rather than being the unique individuals God created us to be.

To walk in the Spirit is freedom.  While the world focuses on what will be lost and what can no longer be done, the reality remains that there is much more to gain in the never-ending possibilities found in the Spirit.

Walking in the Spirit removes all boundaries and allows God to have complete access to change and rearrange our lives . . . as He wills.

A scary thought at times.

Even so, the thought of being outside of His will is much scarier to me than the feeling of being out of control.

It is much scarier for me to think about holding even a single part of my heart back from Him.

One thought I had this afternoon was about how Christians often say things like,

“Don’t pray for patience, or God will give it to you.”

It’s said in a negative tone.  You know what I’m talking about, right?

I admit, I’ve said it in the past.  I’ve also have many people say it to me.   Often it appears to be said in a joking manner, but still there is quite a bit of honestly written between the lines.  Excuse me for stepping on some toes (including my own) . . .

Isn’t patience one of the Fruits of the Spirit? (Galatians 5:22-23)

I suppose what I am getting at is that we can’t truly experience the deeper things of God, if we attempt to live a life of picking and choosing what we want of Him based off our level of comfort and how easy it will be for us to walk it out.

Total surrender does not involve us holding back any part of ourselves from Him.  When we ask Him to have His will in our lives, except for one or two things . . . we are still trying to be in control.

It’s a journey, friends.  It involves taking one step at a time with Him.  Allowing Him to reveal His truth to our hearts.  To make decisions to obey Him even when it feels uncomfortable, even when it hurts.  Learning to trust that the pain of missing out on even one aspect of who He is, is far greater than the pain of dying to ourselves.

I believe it is His plan for us to constantly be moving from glory to glory.  It is His will for us not to stay where we are, but to be continually growing our roots deeper into Him.

Lord, teach me how to walk not according to my flesh, but to walk wholeheartedly according to Your Spirit.  To rely on You, to trust You, above my own instincts, desires, hopes and dreams.  To listen to Your voice before I receive a word from any other.  

To stay in Your presence.

Soften my heart to Yours, so that my desire will be to hold nothing back from You.  Let my life be aligned with Your plans and purposes.

 Not my will, but Your will be done.

Never, Never, Never Give Up

I remember it like it was yesterday.  It wasn’t a special occasion to warrant a gift, yet my mother quietly came to my door and handed me a small token.  A silent plea, perhaps.

Never, never, never give up,

the small, decorative plaque read.

Though I felt I had already given up entirely, I hung it on my wall.  Right next to the closet I had been secretly defacing.  Carving out my suicidal thoughts with razors deep into the walls.

I thought for sure I was going to die and that everything would disappear the moment I did.  I figured if the eating disorder didn’t take my life, I would do it myself.

I felt I had given up.

I felt all hope was lost.

It’s been seven years since the last time I pressed a blade into my skin,
yet rarely do I ever go a day without thinking about the scars that remain.

I used to get discouraged because I’d often have the same old thoughts try to return and haunt me.  Telling me I hadn’t actually changed and that my testimony wasn’t real.  Telling me I was worthless because of the damage I had done to my body.

It took years for me to get rid of the shame attached to the constant reminder of my past, and today I realized I no longer see it the same way.

Instead of shame, I choose to see hope.

In this moment, as I write out this simple post, I can’t shake the feeling that there is someone else (more than one) who needs to have these words handed to them, as my mom did that day.  I know I cannot convince you of anything, but I do have a small gift of hope to offer.

Hope that there is always a way through whatever darkness you are facing.

Hope that freedom is real and available to you.

Hope that your past, and even your present, doesn’t have to define your future.

Hope that you don’t have to give up.

Dear one . . .

Hello from Kansas!

This morning I woke up at a truck stop in Emporia, Kansas. By eight o’clock, I had successfully cleaned myself up and had many a conversation with lady truck drivers and fellow travelers. One in particular happened to be from California. We chatted a bit while we brushed our teeth. It felt strange, yet normal.

After living on a shuttle bus for almost two weeks, I feel like I could live anyway and live off of much less than I ever imagined. I can’t help but think that God has been preparing me for this all along, as I reflect and look back at all the steps that have led me here. From all of my mission trips, to my days as a street performer, leaving home, resigning from good paying jobs on a whim, following His light straight into the dark. I am watching in amazement as God uses every experience to strengthen and prepare me for each adventure.

His mercies are new every morning, and He has been supplying me with grace upon grace. As each wall of my comfort zone is stripped away, I find an even greater depth of intimacy with Him. Even in the midst of recuperating from a cold, I have seen His sovereign hand resting upon me. In my moments of exhaustion, He has met me here.

I’m a shower-every-single-day kind of girl. I like my hair to be clean and I like to smell nice. It’s been a couple days since my last shower and I have now become quite accustomed to bathing with baby wipes and washing my face in the Walmart restroom. It honestly makes me laugh. I welcome the awkward and the uncomfortable. Life is much more joyful.

We are now on the final stretch of the tour. Our last stop is in Dallas, Texas. The closest I’ve been to Texas has been the airport, so I am rather excited to see a bit more of the state before I head home on Monday.

Special thanks to all of the truckers who put up with me running around the parking lot with my camera. Also, special thanks to the Flying J truck stop for providing me with the opportunity of purchasing this crazy wolf shirt that I am wearing today.

All Things are Possible

As of today, I have now been to the same amount of states as days I’ve been traveling.  Tomorrow will be a week since my trip first began.

Where am I now?  Wisconsin.

I had the lovely pleasure of dipping my feet into Lake Michigan in Kenosha this afternoon.  It was stress relieving to walk barefoot on the beach while shooting photographs.  Most of this trip has involved driving, so it was a nice change to get outside with my camera and unwind a bit.

As much as possible, I’ve been spending most of my alone time in silence.  It’s a refreshing change, bringing healing to my soul, after many months spent in a chaotic environment.

I am reveling in simply being present in His glorious presence, allowing His glory waves to remove the debris of yesterday.  Ever so gently, He reminds me of who I am and who He is.  He helps me to remember that I am never alone and that He is more real than the sand beneath my feet.

I close my eyes.

I wait.

I listen.

Holy Spirit, wash over me and remove everything that hinders my heart from hearing Your truth.

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My heart comes back to life, as He reaffirms every dream found within me.  The deeper things that only He and I share.  And just as I begin to think I can’t dream any bigger, Heaven opens wide and I find myself being taken higher and higher.

Higher and higher into Kingdom reality.

Lord, the place where You dwell does not have a ceiling.  Teach me to live in Your Kingdom reality.  A place where all things are possible.

Align My Eyes with Yours

We made it safely to St. Louis, Missouri yesterday evening.  I admit that most of the days are starting to blur together and I find myself constantly going back to my schedule to figure out the day and the state we are currently in.

That said, I am adjusting well.  I am getting used to sleeping in my tiny bunk, which is a top bunk.  I am hitting my head less on the ceiling and figuring out more efficient ways to change my clothes while horizontal.  It’s strangely comforting, even though it reminds me of what it would be like to sleep inside an MRI machine.

I am at peace.  My mind is clear.  I feel like I am returning to my usual self, for the first time in awhile.  More and more, I am realizing how stressful my job was and I am so thankful God brought me out of that situation.

Lord, You are good.

I tell people all the time how important it is to get away and gain new perspective.  To step away and refocus.  Sometimes our dreams are right in front of us, but we can’t see them until we look at them from a different angle.

“Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.”—Psalm 25:4-5

This is where I’m at.  Throughout the last six days of traveling, God has been solidifying the answers to decisions I have been praying about and revealing His plans for me in a way I wasn’t able to see before I refocused.

Regardless of how long this trip lasts, I know I will be returning with restored vision and a fresh confidence to walk boldly into the direction He is calling me.

“Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.”—Psalm 86:11

Unite my heart to fear Your name.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so reveal to me Your holiness.  Bind my heart with Your wisdom.  

“O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling places.”—Psalm 43:3

Let Your truth be the filter that guards my mind.  Lord, let me not worry about any other voice but Yours.  

Align my eyes with Yours.  Give me eyes to see what You see.