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.

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When the Secrets Come Out . . .

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This past weekend, I had the privilege of ministering at a women’s retreat.  To be honest, I don’t tend to go out of my way to attend women’s retreats.

Most of the ones I have participated in, I would find myself feeling very out of place and flooded with social anxiety.  As far as the women’s retreats I have ministered at, I would usually disappear immediately after the sessions.

Funny thing is, most of the women I spoke with this weekend had similar stories.

However, this one was different.  I expected God to show up and do amazing things—He always does!  But I did not expect Him to bring me so much personal breakthrough, as He did, starting the first night.

Toward the end of the first session, we were encouraged to ask God if there were any lies about ourselves (or Him) that we were still believing.  And if so, to ask Him to show us the truth, and then perhaps to share what He showed us with the women at our table.

I was sitting there, jotting some things down in my journal.  I asked the question, but I don’t think I expected an answer like the one He gave me.  In fact, I really expected I’d be mainly spending those moments that followed speaking into the ladies who shared what God had shown them.

I did not expect that I would be crying and sharing something so deep.  Something I had no idea was still lingering in my heart—I thought I had already dealt with this!

The phrase that popped into my head, when I asked the question, was this:

You are not disposable.

I felt the tears begin to form.  Everyone else was still praying around me.  A million thoughts rushed into my head.  Not in chaos, but in complete clarity.

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You see, I was in a very long, unhealthy, abusive relationship in my early twenties.  I thought I already healed from the roots that came from that time, but the reality was clear to me in that moment.

Because of what was done to me, and because of how it made me see myself, I still carried fear of being disposed, not seen, and rejected.

This weekend was my first time away from my husband since we got married over a year ago, and I realized that fear was still influencing me now.  Regardless of how amazing he is, I was still living in a certain state (at the back of my mind) of anxiety and fear of being disposed.

I started to write down scripture after scripture, and promise after promise.  I wrote about how God is trustworthy and that He will never leave me.  I wrote about how He will protect my heart and that I can let Him be in control.  I was never in control anyhow.  But I realized there was a certain part of my heart I wasn’t allowing my husband to see because I was still being affected by those lies from that previous relationship.

I looked up from my journal.  The ladies began to share.  I felt a lump form in my throat.  I felt my feet try to drag, and I thought for a second,

“I don’t want to share this right now.  I am totally going to start sobbing.”

But I did share, and I did cry.  A lot.  And after I shared, I knew it was a defining moment for me.  I knew it was a necessary piece of my story and that God had shown up once again with His mercy.

The more I share this testimony, the more freedom I find.  I had no idea what these feelings were for years, but now that I have a label for them, they can be addressed.  There has been a certain level of inferiority I have been carrying around, and that has manifested itself in anxiety for way too long.

Praise God, He is so faithful.

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I am writing this because I know we all have stories and we all have things in our hearts that try to hide in the shadows.  But . . .

When the secrets come out, the enemy can no longer dangle them over our heads.

Once the light shines in, the darkness has to flee.

There is restoration in vulnerability.

Friends, I encourage you.  If there is ANYTHING, any lie, any struggle, that is keeping you from walking in the fullness that God has for you . . . lay it down before His throne of grace!

We were created to walk in His freedom.  Let Him into those deep and tender places.  Let Him heal your heart.

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?

 

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 . . .

Creating an Atmosphere of Faith

I’ve been back in California for around six days now.  Up until yesterday, most of my time has been spent sleeping, as well as settling into my temporary home.  My mobile office/recording studio is now ready to go.  I even started to work on finishing up a single I began before moving a few weeks ago.  My goal is to get it out to you all within the next month.

This week has been set aside for much needed rest, even though I did spend an hour recording yesterday [oops].  I plan to hit the ground running next week and move forward with the things God has been burning in my heart.  I am excited and scared to be freelancing—that is the easiest way for me to sum up what I am doing.  [Side note: If any locals are in need of portraits, my camera and I are looking for more gigs!  Contact me for more details.]

So far, I have come to realize that I am even more tired than I thought.  It’s interesting how one often doesn’t know how tired they are until they stop for a moment.  It turns out, I truly needed to sleep and sleep, and sleep some more.  I needed to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen without any distractions.  I am so thankful that He provided me with a safe place to catch my breath and be restored.

It’s odd that most of my possessions can now fit inside one room.  It feels terrific.  During my recent travels, I walked away with a fresh desire to lighten my load and live off of less.  For over two weeks, I lived out of a suitcase and my camera bag.  To the best of my ability, I am aiming to keep my life as minimalistic as possible.  When God tells me it’s time to move on, I want to be able to go quickly and easily.

So, what’s next?  I have some projects to finish up and a vacation to look forward to in September.  You can expect to see a much more consistent flow of new audio and visual content coming from me in the days ahead—now that I am freelancing and making my passions my job!

This being my first week [in quite some time] without the promise of an actual paycheck, I’ve already wrestled with fear once or twice.  One of the keys to winning a match against fear is to make a list [in your head or on paper] of all of the ways God has come through thus far.  Fear cannot survive in an atmosphere of faith.

Another key is to not allow your heart to linger past today.  Don’t allow yourself to worry about tomorrow [Matthew 6:34].  If your focus is fixed on what has not been provided tomorrow, you will miss out entirely on the provisions found in today. [Check out one of my older posts titled, Enough for Today]

Living life in such a way is impossible without His presence.  So, I continue to press into  His presence which never runs out.  It is only in His presence where true faith is born.

Lord, teach me how to create an atmosphere of faith wherever I go.  Let my heart trust in You more than I trust my fears.  Let me be quick to count each blessing and miracle, remembering all that You have done.

 

 

 

 

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.