Praise In The Storm?

I’ve been struggling with the goodness of God lately. Who doesn’t? Life has been hard with my adopted brother…So these are the questions I’ve been asking:

How is God good when the hard seems to continue for longer than you can bear? Doesn’t the bible say He will never give us more than we can handle?

How is God good when you aren’t finding beauty in the ashes? Doesn’t the bible say He will restore?

How is God good when life doesn’t feel livable?

How are we supposed to praise God in the storm when we aren’t seeing anything to praise Him for?

However, C.S Lewis said it best, “In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

When we praise God for who He is, it’s not because He’s like the people we know who want to be praised because of their insecurities.

He wants us to praise him:

…so that we can experience more of Him.

…so that we can be filled again and again and again.

…so that in His continual pursual of our hearts we can find beauty in the ashes.

…so that, when life seems unbearable, He makes it more than bearable.

~The truth is that God is FOR us NOT AGAINST us.~

And there is beauty in the ashes of the broken beautiful

Stories.

Everything ends with a story. Have you ever thought about that? Everything that ever happens in our life can be told in story form. Our whole life is a story.

I found myself thinking the other night about people’s stories. I was in a large group setting and I wondered about something. If everyone’s deepest, darkest secret, their struggle, was displayed above their head on a continual basis, how different would we treat them?

We as humans tend to do a really good job at covering up whatever we are going through and pretending everything is good. We voice that too.

“How are you?”

“Good. How are you?”

“Good.”

This conversation is repeated over and over again everyday.

We don’t want to show our weakness because we don’t want to be vulnerable. 

 Vulnerability is a scary thing. We crave it so that we can feel whole and loved. However, we fear the people that will make us feel unloved, when we are vulnerable.

So we choose not to risk it.

What if we were to remember that everyone does have a deep,dark secret, a struggle that they’ve told no one about?

What if our words, thoughts, and actions changed in knowing that truth and believing that truth?

What if we stopped pretending that we are all good?

What if the act of vulnerability became just a little bit more normal?

What if we believed that there is a story behind every person?

Living In The Present

Sometimes… my mind drifts off to thoughts about my future. And oh how hard it is to keep those thoughts under control.

I want to know.

I want to know what college I will be going to, what career I will have, what the man of my dreams will be like, and the personalities of my future little ones.

Am I being honest when I say, “I Trust that He has bigger plans than I could ever ask for or imagine?” Am I being honest when I tell the person I’m enjoying having coffee with that I know everything will work out and be alright?

Satan’s lies are deceiving and they want you to feel like a failure. Like you will never know what’s it’s like to have the healing you crave or be redeemed and restored like you desire.

I heard once that the devil turns up the heat 7 times hotter when he feels like you are a threat.

That’s what keeps me going. The idea that all the things that hurt happen because Satan sees little, ordinary me as a threat.  

He wants so badly for me to break. But I will only bend.

Because I know that “the testing of my faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish it’s work so ‘I’ may be complete, not lacking anything.”

He knows.

He sees.

He hears.

I need to BELIEVE.

One thing

In May of last year I wrote an entry in my journal. The words were written out of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Fear of not being in control. I was in a season of peace and worried about the next obstacle in my life.

Even though I had no idea what the hard would be.

I had no idea what it would be like. I had no idea what I would go through. And yet I feared. I feared in my season of peace. Instead of enjoying a time of awe at the new things God was doing in my life. I was already resisting and holding on for dear life about what could possibly go wrong next. Why? I didn’t have courage and I wasn’t trusting.

That hard time did come the beginning of October.

It wrecked me.

I was devestated at the fact that God had done something that I thought was so drastic.

I questioned and doubted Him.

But back in May or even that unexpected day in October I had no need to fear…

You see… I had never thought about or questioned the beauty that would come out of the storm.

My focus was on the rubble. Never on the light at the end of the tunnel.

I dwelled on the hard that would eventually happen instead of the good that would come from the hard in the holiness.

I would be lying if I told you that the good coming from that breaking point has made anything easier. But it has made it more bearable to overcome and forget.

Last night my pastor talked about the one thing. 

The one thing that God wants us to hold on to… His Promise for us. 

Everyone has their own unique promise. The blind man’s promise in John 9 was being able to see for the first time and realize that he had so much more than he thought. Paul’s in Philippians 3 was to forget about the past and to press on. My pastor said, “Our past shapes us but our future defines us. If the Devil can’t get you to sin, he will keep you busy. Busy keeping your mind content in continuing to remember the choices that Satan wants us to believe define us.” Peter’s one thing in 2 Peter 3 was patience and the fact that God desires for EVERYONE to come to repentence.

I think that the promise God has illustrated in my life is a mix of all three: He tells me that my eyes have been opened to see his blessings and to not dwell on the difficulty of the shaping part of my story but to embrace the fact that God is patient and that the story has only just begun.

What is your one thing?

The Swing with My Beloved

I was swinging at a playground. The only color I saw was that of the yellow seat of the swing. On one side of the swing God stood. His arms were stretched out to me but I couldn’t totally see him. On the other side of the swing stood tall all that I had been putting my hope and time and pleasure in. That- I could see clearly. I sat on the swing moving back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, between what I wanted and felt like I needed to then what I actually needed and knew deep down in my heart that I desired and longed for. 

Jesus whispered. . .

“Come to me my child. Jump!”

“But I can’t Daddy. I don’t know how.”

“Just jump! I will catch you.” 

~About three weeks later~

Kylie, I see you swinging. You’re swinging in a field of flowers. It’s just you and Jesus. You’re on a rope swing. And Kylie, I feel like Jesus is saying to you, “I am enjoying spending time with you.” And Kylie, you are happy.”

I had to jump. God has been revealing to me in the past few weeks that He has been longing to be with me. I haven’t been taking time for Him. That breaks His heart. And you know what? My heart has been breaking because of it too.

He has continued to just tell me to TRUST Him. But of course, in the beginning, the questioning began, “But what does that look like? I don’t know how. Is that really what’s best? Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

His answer, “Trust. Trust me by thanking me for each day as it comes. Thank me in the little things. Thank me when you feel like the day couldn’t get any worse. Trust me when you’re heart is breaking. You know in your heart that I know what’s best and that My plans are better for you than you could ever ask for or imagine. Just come to me,my beloved.”

His words were not harsh. There was no condemnation, no angry sound, no disgusted “here we go again” sort of feel to them.

Only Grace and Love.

I am learning.

Learning what it really means to trust Him, to trust Him enough to be weak. Because it’s o.k. to be weak. It’s o.k. to not have it all together or look like you have it all together. It’s o.k. to lie your head on the pillow at night after having been crying for the last half hour and to wake up and cry in the morning as well. It’s o.k. to not be normal…When people ask how you’re doing you are honest. It’s o.k. to not be o.k. Because you know what?

He will sustain you. . . Isaiah 46:4- “I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

He will give you rest . . . Matthew 11:28- “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

His mercies are new every morning. . . Lamentations 3:22-24- The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.The Lord is my portion, says my soul,Therefore I have hope in Him.The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,To the person who seeks Him.

He takes great delight in you… Luke 3:22- and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

And He is calling you His beloved. He is longing to be with you. . . Song of Solomon 6:3- “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he browses among the lilies. 

His promises are filled with Truth. And oh how special and heart-warming that is.

Courage

Jesus took time to see the lives behind the people. ~a friend inspired me with this quote

Sometimes we get so caught up in what we’re feeling that we don’t see the lives behind the people. We don’t take the time to dig deeper… We make excuses… And life goes on… What if we decided not to make excuses? What if we really believed that the only thing that matters is our identity in Christ and impacting the lives of others? What if we weren’t afraid of failure? What if? A smile makes a difference in someones life! An encouraging word… A meaningful, intentional conversation. What does it take for us to be intentional? Why does it have to take feelings of shame in not being intentional to be intentional? We have the power to change someone’s life. There is always that one person in your life you know needs a friend. Be that friend for them! 

Why follow the status quo when you have the power through Jesus to make a difference?

Here’s an example of something you can do to brighten someone’s day:

          Last Friday my friend and I were out shopping. We passed by a lady that was sitting on a bench and she looked like she was having the worst day ever!  Like everybody, else my friend and I continued to walk by and head to the next store. We entered the next store and the image of the lady sitting all by herself continued to reappear in my head. It wouldn’t stop. I had to do something! I told my friend we needed to do something! I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass by! Well we walked around for about 5 minutes wondering what we could do…. And let me tell you…. We were scared! What would the lady think of us? Would she even be there when we left the store? What if I was wasting my money on something that wasn’t even going to happen? What if the lady just laughed? What if? What if? Well we hurried to get something so that she would hopefully still be there sitting on her bench and all the while I’m thinking… What am I doing? I’ve never done something like this! My friend and I chose a card that, on the, front was decorated with rainbow stripes and said ” You have got this.” Inside, the card read, “You’re stronger than you think.” We also bought some pens to write in it and a small Hersheys chocolate bar because who doesn’t want chocolate? After buying all of this we hurriedly wrote some encouragement in the card(You are loved, Job 11:18, and something like “We hope this brightens your day:)”). Then, we left the store…SHE WAS STILL SITTING ON THE BENCH… but now someone else was sitting next to her. We assumed she worked at one of the stores and was on a break talking to a coworker.

     My friend and I walked into a different store to wait. I called my mom and told her what we were planning on doing. She encouraged us and told us she would be praying:) Well now my thoughts were What if the lady leaves? We can’t go up to both of them because we only have a card for one of them? When we looked again BOTH ladies were gone so we decided to go into the store where we assumed the lady worked. We saw her at first and then she went into the back of the store. Long story short, we never saw her again. At this point we were about to give up. We waited in the store a long time and continued to pray that if God wanted us to give the card to her she would come back out. 

     Then, we saw another lady in the store who had two young kids with her. One was screaming at the top of her lungs! The younger one started to cry because of it. . . Let’s just say the mom looked like she could use some encouragement. After finally coming to the conclusion that the lady we had seen on the bench probably wouldn’t show up again we decided to give the young, stressed out mom the gift. We walked outside of the store and waited for her to come out… not creepily! Haha. She finally showed up and we felt courageous. We walked up to the lady and I handed her the card and said, “We felt led to give this to you today.” Her response was, “Thank you.” And we never saw her again. 

     My main point to this story was that WE CAN BE COURAGEOUS THROUGH HIM! God put on my heart the idea of not just walking by the lady and He gave me the opportunity to make a difference and obey. Each time my friend and I questioned if we were supposed to be doing what we were doing, He continued to tell us that He was with us and that He would work through us! 

     And we will continue to pray for BOTH ladies and that their hearts would continue to be softened and that one day they would be able to declare Him as their Lord and Savior.

Our Adoption Story

Without adoption…. 
I wouldn’t be the person I am today if my family hadn’t of adopted.
I wouldn’t know some of the people I know today and I wouldn’t have as deep of a relationship as I do with some people today. I wouldn’t have certain families asking me to watch their kids, without adoption. Without adoption, some of the intentional relationships I have or will have with adopted and biological kids would not be. Without adoption, I wouldn’t be able to share certain joys and struggles with people that I have had. Without adoption I would not have anything to be real about with adoptive and foster parents. Without adoption, my heart for people would not be as big. Without adoption, MY FAITH WOULD NOT BE WHAT IT IS TODAY!!! Without adoption, I wouldn’t understand how broken people can be. With adoption, I know what it feels like to go into my room and cry and not know exactly why I’m crying. With adoption, I have experienced an anger towards God I had never had before. With adoption, I have experienced trauma. AND with adoption, I truly know what it looks like to love. With adoption, I know what healing looks like. With adoption, my family is complete. With adoption, my heart is full. With adoption, I can truly grasp what “caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you”(James1:27) means! 

Adoption was His calling for my family! He had planned this from the very beginning! And if I can’t say that then that means I really don’t believe He has amazing plans for my life and that I am living out the story he wrote for me. 

God CHOSE to adopt us as his children. We were broken and hurting and he took us in anyway… Wanted to take us in… Desperately wanted us to have life! And have it to the fullest. Our story of adoption into His family is the greatest ever written. We can learn from His example. 

You dont know what adoption really looks like if you think it’s just picking out a cute little kid on a waiting list and saying I want to have them. Its so much more than that! First, it’s being called to do so. You need to know without a doubt that it is what God is calling you to do! So many people just decide to adopt when really they don’t take the time to think about how it will affect them. You don’t truly know what adoption is like if you haven’t experienced it. 

There are so many other things you can do to care for orphans! Like supporting adopting families and praying for adopting families. 

The story doesn’t end when the little kid is home and the court papers have been signed. God has now given you a choice. A choice to live out the hands and feet of Jesus. Putting others needs before your own. Knowing that the broken, hurting, child you have made your own has feelings and a heart and fears and joys and backgrounds that WILL take time to fully understand. And KNOWING WITHOUT A DOUBT THAT ADOPTION ISN’T EASY. 
God adopted each and every one of us into his family knowing we were broken and sometimes we stray far from the path. He still loves us though. He gives UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. 

With adoption, God has taught me what unconditional love looks like. And thank you Jesus for that sweet truth!

Grace

We all go through hard circumstances. . . Sometimes we feel like we are never going to get through it…. But we do. I believe that some people, including myself, at times, go to church to escape from daily life and be with God. Does this mean that we just try to find Him at church? Are we believing that He exists in some places but not in others? The most commonly asked question in the Bible is, “God, where are you?”
JESUS IS PRESENT IN THE ABSENCE.
The most common command in the bible is, “Do not be afraid, I am with you.” Isn’t that crazy? The truth is God doesn’t meet us at the end of our overwhelming circumstances when we are all put back together! He is there through it all! We can say, “Lord we do not know what to do but our eyes are on you.” There are two kinds of shepherds: good and bad. The bad shepherds use their sheep to earn a profit, and when they arrive at the dark valleys with their sheep they tell them to go, go, go and scare them. If one sheep dies, who cares? But the good shepherds know their sheep by name, and when they get to the tunnel of chaos with their sheep they say, “Here we go. Let’s do this together.” And the good shepherd stays by their side the whole time! He is there in the darkness with them protecting them from all enemies.
All in all, God gives us grace. Grace: getting something you don’t deserve. God believes we are better than our mistakes. Fear cripples us though…. Fear: false experiences/events appearing real. Grace gives us courage to put that fear aside.
There is nothing like a crisis to show what is really in our hearts. What is our instinctive in a crisis? Do we run to God first? The choice in how we respond is ours.
“My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Oceans

“Spirit lead me where MY TRUST IS WITHOUT BORDERS.”

I heard this song by Hillsong for the first time at youth camp this summer. We sang it again and again and again and God spoke to me through the words.I wanted the Spirit to lead me. I knew and know that the Lord has called me to something greater. I want my faith to not be shaken. But what does this look like? How do I walk upon the waters He has called me to? What if I don’t want to be in the great unknown where I may fail? But then I realized: If He layed down His life for ME, why can’t I lay down my life for Him? Why can’t I live out the story He has already written for me? Why can’t I die to myself and take up my cross and follow Him? And so I prayed: Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours. Open my eyes to see what you see. Use me for your kingdom come Lord. Show me Father. Here I am Lord. Send me.