This week I feel like I discovered just how jealous God is for me. And as devastated as I was in an earthly way, part of me has never felt so loved by God. Pain in the night, followed by joy in the morning- how true that was this week. I had been asking God over and over to be in the middle of a situation, and while it had seemed that He’d been a bit silent for a few weeks, just in an instant He showed up big time. Not in an angel’s singing, sunshine and smiles kind of way- more of a… wait no, no don’t take that from me kind of way, you know? That’s just what loving Fathers do though, this I am slowly learning.
It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with podcasts from my favorite churches (Elevation, Northpoint, Passion, etc.). Everyone grows in their relationship with God in a different way, but for me I definitely connect with hearing truth explained to me… over and over again. Many times I find myself hearing sentences from these podcasts playing in my head during turning points in life. Lately it’s been- “Salvation is free, it will cost you nothing. Following Jesus will cost you something.” (Andy Stanley).
It’s true, it does cost you something. Which means at several points in life you will definitely be a place where you’re just a little mad at God. But no matter where I’m at in life, no matter what decision I’m making, I always try to keep my prayer life so open and honest with God that He knows that He is it for me. Period. Even when my actions just suck, or my heart hurts, or I start doubting His plan- I just go ahead and tell Him it all.
For example… “God, I’m not gonna lie- tonight I’m impatient, and I’m choosing some wrong things, and I’m worried the end of my story isn’t good. I’m afraid, I’m sad, I’m tired, I’m mad you’re making me wait.. But I’m crazy in love with You. I know despite all these human emotions.. You are good, all the time. So know that is what I feel, but know that I am Yours, always. You are it.”
I feel like this honesty invites Him to be apart of every aspect of my life. It invites Him to be jealous for me, to fight for me, to fight for the very best He has for me. And He totally does (as I was recently reminded). How can I be mad at that? How can I be mad at a God that is fighting for me? That is healing me, growing me, preparing me, and loving me unconditionally.
Life is just such a messy ordeal, you know? I keep thinking that around another turn in life I’ll have this greater understanding or view of everything. But really what I keep coming back to is just.. grace. Just take it. Stay close to God and keep believing just how big His grace is.
“Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They will walk beside quiet streams and on smooth paths where they will not stumble..” -Jeremiah 31:9
I think along the way we all naturally lose sight, at times, of what we are fighting for, waiting for, working for, hoping for or believing in. It’s like we wake up one day, and think.. wait, what? What’s the point? I give up. And just like that, we make a choice to not care for a moment, a day, a month, or season in life. Usually that season ends up containing our biggest regrets. Crazy enough, I’ve experienced this more than once in life, and that still doesn’t stop me from finding myself in this place at times. Recently, I’ve been face to face with it too often.
Tonight I was reminded of what is always available to me, grace. And what grace does to me.. creates hope. And what hope does to me.. renews my vision and drive to be what God has so intentionally and perfectly planned. Sometimes I think we forget what we’re working for. But God is so good to me, and puts things in my path to pull me back close and encourage my heart. I am so blessed. Thankful that tonight I was reminded of the importance of showing and being willing to accept grace.
The title of this blog post has been rolling around my mind for weeks now. I’ve essentially known what I want to write.. but how do I explain the simplicity of.. remain in God! Always! THAT’S how you stay whole! But alas, tonight I will write what’s on my heart.
I have known of God pretty much my entire life, but I didn’t venture into a relationship with Jesus and begin living life fully alive until a little over 3 years ago. So I was an adult when I surrendered, which sure did leave a lot of time in my late teens/early 20’s to create some awesome scars for God to redeem. Which brought me to the question that I think we all face some mornings, how can I feel whole.. when I have so many holes from life?
The cool thing about building a relationship with Jesus, in my opinion, is that as you spend time with Him, and pour into getting to know Him better, He begins to KNOW you. Like, really know you. You’ve opened the door for Him to work, and the more you just plaster yourself face down at His feet, the more that He feels He can work in your life.
So on the days that you wake up feeling full of holes, feeling hopeless, feeling old hurts, feeling in a serious funk, He wants to remain directly in front of you until you have no other choice than to see Him… over and over again, for as long as it take for you to realize that He is enough. And in that moment that you see Him, in that moment where you realize how much someone must love you to do that.. you will feel whole. You will feel loved. You will feel like it is enough, period.
I love the way Hillsong says it in Forever Reign… “You are here, You are here. In Your presence I’m made whole. You are God, You are God…of all else I’m letting go.”
Honestly, sometimes life just hurts. Sometimes tears are impossible to stop, and when those days come I can’t help but feel like somewhat of a failure when I succumb to pain. When in all reality, when we are in those weak places is when God can do his best work. ”…My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness…” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
But it’s so hard to remember that though when I’m preoccupied beating myself up about not having enough faith to stay cheerful 24/7. Yes, really.. these are thoughts I have! I somehow convince myself that if my faith were just a little bigger or if I prayed a little bit more then I wouldn’t EVER feel sad, hopeless, or hurt.
The amazing thing about God though, is that in these times, HE SHOWS UP! Seriously, I look back to the most desperate nights in life where I cried out to Him, and those nights always ended with unexplainable peace and a renewed hope. How incredible that we have experiences like that to look back on and know with 100% certainty that He will always come through. Always.
Loving Jesus doesn’t exempt you from avoiding all sadness, hurt, and bad days… but the truth is that He already knows the end of your story, and if you stay close to Him then He will lead you to the VERY best. I love the lyrics to this song by Jeremy Riddle “His love is deep, His love is wide, And it covers us. His love is fierce, His love is strong, It is furious. His love is sweet, His love is wild, and it’s waking hearts to life.” I think about God loving us that much and I’m reminded that He loves me with such passion that He refuses to leave me as I am.. He refuses to let His child be anything less than what He planned.
I’ve been dealing with seemingly endless anxiety lately, but God keeps reminding me of this truth. There is meaning to the suffering that we go through.
A couple weeks ago I woke up in a funk, feeling so bogged down with worry and a load of other blah emotions. So I did the one thing that always helps, I turned on the latest message from NorthPoint Community Church and sat down at my sewing machine to try and distract myself into bliss.
Before I know it, what I thought was just another message on the “climates in our relationships” turns into the pastor reading out of Romans 5. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-6.
I can’t imagine more perfect verses to hear in that moment. And as tears streamed down my face I had no doubt about God’s intentional love towards me. Beauty .. from my breakdown. An incredible intimate moment with God that was more fulfilling that anything else I’d reached out for all week long.
More than anything, I think that the only thing we all want to know is.. are we enough? And the beauty of these moments of suffering… the moments of incredible intimacy with God.. is that we know…we know that while we did nothing to deserve His love, His grace, His comfort.. it’s ours. And we are enough. He loves us just as we are. Not only that, but He loves us enough to not let us stay just as we are. Thus, this is the painful process of asking God to rip out of our lives the things that stand in our way of full surrender.
A breakdown, or two.. or three. Turned into a beautiful chance for God to love on me.
I am blessed.
Tonight I was reminded of how incredible endurance can be in our lives. I am guilty, almost daily, of complaining about the hurts of life. The temptation, the loneliness, the abandonment, the everything. But looking back to where I’ve been, and where I am today, I am so grateful that God loved me enough to build endurance in my life.. slowly.. painfully.. but lovingly.
What an amazing Father. I can’t imagine how it breaks His heart to hear us cry out to him amidst our hurts. Yet, He knows that the battles won’t end, and He know that we must be strong enough to endure this world.
A couple years ago, somebody gave me a devotional book (Streams in the Desert- Cowman) written in what I interpreted as crazy old english and convoluted language, but it has become my absolute favorite daily devotional book. This quote has kept me encouraged so many times in the past year.
“So suffering is rough and hard to bear; but it hides beneath it discipline, education, possibilities, which not only leave us nobler, but perfect us to help others. Do not fret, or set your teeth, or wait doggedly for the suffering to pass; but get out of it all that you can, both for yourself and for your service to your generation, according to the will of God.”
I can’t say that my first thought is to “get all that I can out of suffering” while I’m going through tough times. But it encourages me so much to think about the fact that one day I’m going to encourage someone with this story. I’m gonna cry with them and tell them I made it through the same thing, and then I will be filled with unbelievable gratitude at the memory of what God has brought me through.
Faith. Patience…. Endurance.
We all picture the way we think things will look in our lives. And while I’ve learned by now that things usually don’t end up as we picture, it doesn’t make it any easier while being in the waiting zone. Some days the thought of needing to know the ending entirely consumes me.
But in my case, I know the end of the story. Heaven.. God… gold roads… eternal life.. you know? You’ve heard about it I’m sure. Pretty sweet deal really, makes me feel pretty silly for complaining in the meantime.
I’ve been putting something off for a really long time. I thought if I finally just sat down tonight and dealt with it that it’d be “all better!” “good as new!”. However, those aren’t phrases I’d use to describe my evening.
So tonight is messy. It’s not what I thought it’d look like. But good news, Jesus is still here. Sitting in the mess with me. I am at peace knowing that even amidst a mess, I am not alone. He’s not giving up on me, I’m not giving up on Him. Excellent news really, no one’s giving up and I get the comfort from a perfect Father in the meantime.
“Troubles surround me, chaos abounding, my soul will rest in you. I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm. My help is on the way, my help is on the way.”- Kristian Stanfill
Meet my sisters. They are my best friends, and I know I’m biased, but they’re ridiculously beautiful, smart, and just all out amazing. I’m a lucky little sis.
(the first photo is by my crazy talented sis Geni www.pinkowlphotography.com)
Back to basics. That’s what I’m being reminded of tonight.
Today, much like several days lately, I said the wrong things. Acted the wrong way. Thought the wrong thoughts. I was sad. Overwhelmed. Tired. Grouchy. And by the end of the day, I was just overall disappointed in myself. Not feeling like myself, not feeling at peace. Wanting to crawl into a hole somewhere and take a mental vacation from life. (Did I mention I’m an accountant? And um it’s March 19th. Awesome right?)
I found myself ending my day at the gym. As I was sprawled out on the ground after a round of crunches, I thought.. I should really go home and spend some time with God. For the first time in weeks, I heard Him say.. “You can walk towards, or you can walk away from me.” I won’t get into my opinions on “hearing God’s voice”. But I feel like His presence in my life has been black and white to the point of when He’s near, it’s such an instant peace. Even when it’s not what I want to hear, even when it’s not the answer I want. Just the thought of knowing He’s there.. changes everything.
I thought “I’m in love with you, of course I want to spend time with you.” It’s that simple. God’s unconditional love for us is poured out without hesitation. How could we not respond to that love?
Most days I stumble along pretty clueless, not sure how to be the “perfect Christian”. But the days where God has worked the most in my life are the days where I’ve taken it back to basics. Putting it in his hands, admitting I have no defense other than clinging close to Him and letting Him lead, love, and calm.
I think sometimes I work it up in my head to being so much more than it is. Find a way to be close to God. As often as you can. Without ceasing. Every moment. Through music, prayer, sitting quietly with Him, sharing Him, sharing with Him, listening to podcasts, thanking Him, asking Him, loving Him. Take it .. back.. to.. basics..
“…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33.