Culture has a hard time listening. Every day we have messages bombarding us from all over the place. We are glued to our phones, checking notifications and refreshing apps to see what everyone is doing. The TV is typically just on, endlessly playing Netflix. It just gets tough. With all the noise in our lives, we rarely have quiet moments. Even now, as I write this, I find myself looking at my phone. It’s so frustrating, it’s time to stop and learn to listen. I laugh at myself sometimes. Okay, a lot of times, because I tend to do silly things. I’ll get sucked into a TV show that isn’t even that good and then know waaay too much about it (Shouts out to Vampire Diaries and its’ nonsense). I also do things that are a bit more ridiculous. I’m in a season of some unknowns and having to trust God, and many times I find myself saying, “I just can’t hear God.” The truth is, and this truth is the same for you as well, I’m not allowing myself time to listen.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
During this season of prayer and fasting, our church holds a morning prayer time throughout the week. One morning as we began worship, I saw a man take his seat. The thing I noticed about the man, was that he was shadow boxing as he got to his seat. It’s a small thing, something that can be easily disregarded, but that picture stuck with me. So, I prayed into that picture, asked God what he was trying to say to me. Then it clicked. Prayer is often looked at like a small part of our walk with Christ, that it’s an asking of God to get the things we want. This is so wrong, prayer is not small, prayer is not to be overlooked, prayer is communication with the creator of the universe.
What a wild season it has been so far. I’ve started doing these journey updates, a kind of informal blog about what has been happening in my life with a mixture of what God has been speaking during my changing seasons. My current season has been wild. I got engaged, and that has been just a powerful blessing. We are not only engaged, but we wanted a quick engagement, and we are getting married in September! We are so excited, and things are coming together. Sometimes it can be hard to enjoy this season fully because we are so busy. Not so much with wedding planning, but with life. Life has a way of going all wild and crazy, it becomes difficult to keep my head above it all. This season has been filled with a lot of stressors. Many things keep flying at me and it’s hard to block all of it. I feel like Batman running through a gauntlet of rogues, just trying to make it through to be the hero a city desperately needs. Stress has become a norm in my life, and I’m not a huge fan of that. Sure, one could say that it “builds character” or “just hold on,” but it doesn’t lessen the frustration. I’ve been struggling with it a lot, but this season has also taught me to have trust. A deep, meaningful trust in my savior.
Some of my favorite descriptions of words, phrases, and grammar come from Lemony Snicket. I gushed about his books a couple weeks ago, so check it out if you haven’t. One of the descriptions he talks of is the saying, “in the belly of the beast.” It speaks of a figurative feeling one gets when in the middle of an unfortunate circumstance, but in scripture, there is a literal event where one particular individual is in, “the belly of the beast.” Jonah was a man who God called for a great mission, but he trusted his own power and not God’s. Because of this, he believed he could not accomplish it, so he ran. Isn’t that a perfect picture of what we do in our own lives? I’m a victim of it, we have a situation we think we can’t overcome, so we run, we retreat from the promise on the other side of facing great peril. The truth is, we rely too much on our own strength when we should be trusting God. We have a God who created the universe and loves us. You’re right thinking you can’t get through it, but God can. No matter what you’re facing, God can. The calling that looks too big? God can. The mountain in your life? God can. When it feels like the world is against you and there is no hope? God can. We can learn much from Jonah, we can learn how to act in the belly of the beast.
“The message I give you waits for the time I have appointed. It speaks about what is going to happen. And all of it will come true. It might take a while. But wait for it. You can be sure it will come. It will happen when I want it to.”
I dream a lot. My mind often wanders about things I want to achieve in life, things that I feel a burning in my soul to accomplish. As a kid, I loved going outside to play. I would create vast worlds in my mind a live out a series of stories and adventures. Sometimes it was being a superhero or Jedi having to face great odds, a villain bent on destroying all of existence. Other times I would be a knight or samurai, a part of an army keeping the land safe. I dreamed awake, creating ideas and solving issue of the world. As I grew up, I continued to dream, talking about the future and the things that I was going to accomplish and save the world from. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received, was from a girl named Ellen in high school. She told me she wanted to join my group project in science because I was always dreaming and creating things. As I’ve grown in my walk with Christ, my dreams have shifted. I used to want to be a screenwriter making movies with beautiful stories, I wanted to create stories that spoke to the core of others and impacted them, but the Holy Spirit had more in store. The Holy Spirit shifted my mind, it was hard and my flesh didn’t know how to handle it, but my eyes were opened. God made me this way, not to be a screen writer, but a pastor. A mentor, someone who empowers others; a dreamer for a kingdom minded world. God made me a dreamer, and the truth is, he wants us all to dream bigger.
“Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for what is right. They will be filled.”
I recently started reading Ernest Hemingway’s, A Moveable Feast. The book is really a memoir of his time in Paris during the 20’s. Paris during this time was a hub for artists to gather together, they lived in community and shared ideas. Basically, an introvert’s dream (and this INFJ is in love). Hemingway captures some of his experiences during his time, and as I was reading, there was a moment that stood out to me, the Holy Spirit was telling me to look deeper. There is a chapter where he speaks about hunger being a good discipline. As many artists and creators, there were days he wasn’t able to have food, he speaks of how devastating this was in Paris especially. He remarks how when he looked at the paintings of Cézanne, they felt different and he understood them more clearly. That was the moment the Holy Spirit told me to think about this. You see, we all hunger and thirst for more, we have a craving for deeper meaning in life, and this comes from an active pursuit of our creator.
Life is moving fast. It seems like nothing stays still for too long. We have good days and bad days that seem to come and go way too quickly. I think 2017 was a head spinning year for many of us, so much seemed to happen and the year moved at an alarming rate. In 2017 I finished college, and started a part time job. Then changes quickly came up at my church and there was some possibility to help with a transition in our youth. I’ve now stepped into another part time job and been placed in a higher leadership role, which has been exciting and daunting all at the same time. It’s felt like my life has been racing past my eyes and caused me to questions and evaluate everything. So many questions race through my mind, am I in the right spot? Have I made a good decision? Is this my will or God’s will? Should I stay or go? Is this what will benefit me in my calling? In the midst of all these questions I have been crying out to God, asking over and over, just guide me through it all. In all of life speeding past me, he reminded me to pray hard, he told me to pray for the sun to stand still and keep moving forward.
Have you ever been in a funk? You know, like you don’t feel quite like yourself, your mind tends to not be as focused as much, and you feel like you aren’t making any ground in your endeavors. I’ve been in a funk. The past couple of weeks have been kinda sloggy when I sit down ready to move, my brain decides it doesn’t want to go as fast as my heart. It’s hard, especially being a writer and loving to do creative things, but it’s not just with being a writer. My spiritual walk has felt this way too. I sit down and ask God to speak, but I end up reading the words and not hearing. I ask if something is wrong with me, I wonder if I’ve upset God in some way, or focus on my past rather than trusting God in my future. I felt like I was doing something wrong, and I was beginning to feel depressed. Many of us have faced times like this in our lives. Asking if we are doing the right thing or if we are where we’re supposed to be. We need to step back. You are exactly where you are meant to be. I am exactly where I need to be. The enemy moves to steal, kill, and destroy. He doesn’t want the good things that God is doing in our lives to encourage us, he wants us dead. We need to break free.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Life is hard. That’s the simple and sad truth about it. We go through struggles on a daily basis, life is nonstop and ever-changing, and this can become an increasing struggle that we all face. The truth is, we all have a very real enemy and he does not want us to win. I like winning, winning is fun, losing hurts. Losing makes us question our identity and who we are to the very core of our beings. I’m not simply talking about losing at a sport or at a game of jenga, I’m talking about the moments when we feel we have lost in life. Our hope starts to fade because of that person who hurt you. Each month we can’t understand how to get out of simply scraping to get by. The overwhelming events that life starts to throw our way start to pull at us. Losing hurts. In my life, it can be easy to let drown in my losses, to let it simply control my attitude and outlook on every small detail. The truth is that there is hope, because we have a creator that doesn’t lose, and even if we lost the battle, we have a God that won the war.
This past summer has been absolutely wild. I’ve finished school, gone to an amazing camp with Kids, been able to serve on a mission trip, and had God give me a vision for my city. Not only that, but more opportunities are coming up over the next few months. I have been able to truly feel the fullness of God’s faith in me. I’ve been looking back and am being blown away at how God has been faithful to me in my life. My church is in a season of prayer called, 21 days of prayer. We are able to come together and pray each morning at 6 am so we can encounter God and pray over our lives. During this time, God has brought this one word up over and over again in my heart, faithful. Not just faithful, but faithFULL. Yes, I know that isn’t how you spell it, but I accidentally misspelled in my journal (don’t judge, we all fall short). As I looked over it, it made me realize the truth in that, I am full in faith because God has continually shown up and radically altered my life in the most incredible ways. God uses me, even when I fear that I’ll never be used, God never gives up on me. The thing is, God never gives up on you either.