Thursday, January 29, 2015

dear Lord, make me brave // a post where I share all my big giant scary dreams

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I got in the shower after a long and exhausting week. I closed my eyes and began to pray, "Dear Lord, make me brave." That's it. That was my prayer. That is what came out without even thinking. That is what had been buried in my heart and needed to be said.

Because that is precisely what I need right now.

I need the Lord to make me brave. Because on my own, let's face it, I'm a coward. I'm scared. I'm afraid.

But in Christ, I am brave. He makes me brave.

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Me? I'm a dreamer. A big dreamer. I can dream big and I can scheme big. Give me 10 minutes in the shower and I come out with 15 new ideas (just ask Ben who, every time I text him with a new idea he asks, "did you just take a shower?"). But that's just how I am. Sometimes my ideas and dreams are just fleeting thoughts and nothing will come of them. They aren't from the Lord and so they aren't worth the time and energy.

But some of my dreams, they are the ones that I know without a doubt that God has placed on my heart and continues to whisper into my life, "I made you to do this." Those are the dreams that no matter what I do, no matter what corner I turn, no matter how much I put on top of them, they always resurface. Little things (or big things) happen that serve to confirm that He is truly calling me to pursue these things.

And yet, I'm still so easily frozen. The ideas are there. The dreams are vivid and alive. I know what needs to be done. I can even make really precise lists of the next steps. But it's actually taking those steps where I fall flat. I know nothing is going to happen unless I step out, step by step, little by little, and pursue the things He has called me to. But I need the courage to take those steps.

Besides, I don't want my children to grow up seeing a mother who is too afraid to actually trust the sovereign God she teaches them about day in and day out. I want them to watch me and see my life as a living example of what it means to actually believe God, to actually trust that He is in control, to put aside fear and live instead in His strength. I want to be an example of what it means to be brave.

Not because I have it within myself to be brave. We addressed that already and I assure you, it's not in there. I've looked.

But because I serve a God, we serve a God who makes us brave; Who has given us a Spirit of power (2 Tim 1:7), a Spirit who allows us to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:7). A Spirit who enables us to take heart (or as the ESV puts it, we can let our hearts take courage).

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:24

Ultimately it's not about me or anything I do. The last thing I want is for my children to see me do scary things and say, "My mommy is great. My mommy does great things." No, instead I want them to see me do scary things and say, "My mommy does great things for God because she trusts Him. She believes in Him. And we have seen His power through her and through the things that she has done for Him."

Now, I want to be brave (obviously, I just wrote a whole post about it) but I also don't think that means I have to do everything right here, right now. Do I want to? Sure do! Is that reasonable? Sure ain't. I have small children in my home to attend to. I have a husband to care for. I have a home to keep. There are a lot of people who depend on me for a lot of things right now. That is the season God has placed me in. Which means, some of my dreams are going to take some time. Some of my dreams are going to have to wait for another season altogether. Some of my dreams may have to be sacrificed so that I can focus on what is important right now.

And that kinda, sorta hurts. Because besides being scared, I'm also selfish.

But I think waiting is another aspect of being brave. It's a part of obedience. It means trusting God that He's placed me in a specific season right now even though He's also placed other things on my heart. It means trusting that He, not I, knows the full, finished, complete plan.

{I think back to that time when God had etched into my heart "mother" and yet year after year, miscarriage after miscarriage, I would wonder how it was all going to fit together. I didn't know. But He certainly did.}

God knows. I don't. But I'm going to be brave and obedient and trust Him to lead me.

Because you know what, sometimes God says "do this" and then He says, "but it's going to take some time" or "first I need to prepare you." And it's o.k. I bring this up because I think it's easy to look around and see others doing really big things and we start to wonder why something isn't happening right now for us too. Or we wonder if maybe we're pursuing the wrong things. And maybe that's true. But also, maybe it's not. Maybe the timing isn't right now for that thing. Maybe the timing is when God says. Maybe the timing is later, next month, next year, or in the next season of life.

Wait for the Lordbe strongand let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14 (emphasis mine)

So this is where the coward in me says I should just end this post. But instead of listening to that, I'm going to share my big giant scary dreams right here and right now. I'm going to say my dreams out loud (or write them on a blog which is basically the equivalent, right?). Do I think that is the magic key to seeing them happen? Nope. I'm just hoping that maybe this will encourage even one person to step out and pursue the scary things that God is calling him or her to. (I was recently encouraged by something a friend said to be more vocal about my dreams and so here it goes!)

*start a monthly/weekly/regular podcast that features brave moms who are doing hard things to make a big difference (specifically in the areas of injustice and serving other people)

*launch a crafting event held in different parts of the country, hosted by different bloggers that will raise money to benefit local pregnancy resource centers and in turn save the lives of babies and serve hurting mothers

*open a pregnancy resource center here in Las Vegas that would also offer birth support and services (midwives, doulas) and maybe even a birth center, adoption services, prenatal care, lactation assistance, material assistance, education and a myriad of other services. Basically this facility would serve the whole woman and her family

*write a book for Christian mothers-in-waiting about childbirth in light of the gospel. It's basically the book I searched for during 3 of my pregnancies but could never find. It is meant to encourage mothers to leave all of their sin and the burdens holding them down at the feet of Jesus and rely solely on the Spirit for the power and courage to labor obediently in bringing their precious children into the world

*connect churches and specifically the Evangelical community to pro-life ministry in the Las Vegas valley. I desire with my whole heart to see the church speak up about the injustice of abortion and then to actually do something about it, whether that means sidewalk counseling outside of an abortion clinic, opening up their home to a young pregnant mom with no place to go, saying yes to adoption and fostering or simply committing to fasting multiple times a year and pleading with God to end the slaughter of innocent babes. If the church would stand up and say "no more" with their prayers, their words and their actions, it will end.

And so there you have it. Some big dreams, some semi-big dreams. I pray often that God would make it plain to me the things that He is building and is calling me to join in on. And these are the things that continue to show. I said before that my word for the year is obedience. He's not calling me to do all the work. He is doing the work (and I've seen it time and time again). He's simply calling me to obey Him and follow Him; do the things He says to do. He'll do the heavy lifting, put the right people in the right place, prepare hearts, lay the foundations. My job is to listen, hear, obey, repeat. And be brave.

Lord, make me brave.

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Psalm 127:1

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

you were intimately designed and created for a purpose

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

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Let’s talk about knitting, shall we? I’m not a knitter but I sorta, kinda understand the basics of what goes into such a process. I know it takes time and patience. It is a process after all. It doesn't complete itself. Work and forethought are required. Before you even begin to knit you’ll need to decide what you’re making- a blanket, a sweater, socks? Or even if you're just knitting to knit, you have to first decide to do that!

And then you'll need to decide on yarn- how thick, what color, what material. You should also have an idea of the color scheme and pattern you will be using. Will you alternate stripes? Will you do blocks of random colors? Will your sweater be all one color or will the sleeves and collar be a contrasting color? You’ll also need to determine your method: English? Continental? (add any other types of stitches here, because these are the only 2 I've heard of. also, are they called stitches? what are they called?)

Lots of forethought. Lots of planning.

And then you begin the actual work. After the planning is complete and the work begins, it takes precious time. Each stitch is important and will contribute to the work as a whole. Each stitch is intentional. It’s an intimate process in which you use your hands. You understand and know your work intimately. You know every single stitch.

The point I’m making is this: you don’t just start knitting without any idea of what you’re making or what yarn you’re using or how you desire for it to turn out. You have all of this in mind from the beginning and throughout the process (even if any of those things change in the midst of the knitting project). You are intentional. You have a purpose in mind from the very beginning and that purpose drives every decision you make, every stitch you make, everything you do in the process of creating the beautiful thing that you are creating.

And that’s precisely what it’s like with God and us.

When He knits us together in our mother’s womb, He is intimately creating and making us with a purpose in mind. He has an end-goal and so He makes us in a very specific and individual way- in a way that is specific to the purpose He has for each and every one of us.

He has a purpose for you and so He made you one way.

He has a purpose for me and so He made me this way.

Ephesians 2:10 says it like this: “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Handiwork, as in, made by hand. You are a creation, a product, a work of His hand. And He made you with good works in mind. You were intentional. He knew what He had for you to do on this earth and so He made you in a way that would allow you to do those very things and do them well. He prepared those works in advance and then He made you specifically to do those very things.

This is why human beings are so valuable, from the moment of conception on. Each is made by God and each has a distinct purpose.

In Galations, Paul makes a similar statement about himself, but we can also apply it to ourselves. He says, “But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace…” The statement Paul is making is similar to the one we read in Ephesians. We are set apart in the womb. This is to mean that He ordains us for a specific purpose, work,or office, while we are in the womb being knit together. While God is making us, He is also determining what we will be called to do.

And actually, Jeremiah tells us that God has a purpose in mind before we are ever made.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart Jeremiah 1:5

Now, we could argue until the cows come home whether or not that verse was just for Jeremiah or if it applies to all of us, but considering what we read in the rest of scripture, I think it’s safe to say that God does the same for every single person. We certainly won’t all be set apart as prophets, but we will be set apart for some distinct purpose.

This purpose, however, will not be entirely fulfilled unless we become a child of God, committed to Him and His kingdom. After all, not only did He create us for a specific purpose, He creates us for His specific purpose. Ultimately we are made for His glory, not our own.

The Lord who formed us, knows for what particular services and purposes he intended us. But unless he sanctify us by his new-creating Spirit, we shall neither be fit for his holy service on earth, nor his holy happiness in heaven. -Matthew Henry

Now, we each have a set of skills specific to our purpose- the purpose that God determined. And we can certainly use those skills apart from God. I think that is quite obvious. But, in order for us to see those skills used for their ultimate intended purpose, we must know Jesus. It is only by the Holy Spirit living and working through us that our abilities, skills and talents will be used effectively and thoroughly and completely in the purpose and work ordained for us by God, for God.

I love the footnote in the ESV bible for Psalm 139:14. It says, "I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" with the footnote: "I am fearfully set apart." It's just like Paul says in Galations and just like Jeremiah says in the Old Testament. God doesn't just make you. He sets you apart. He ordains you with a purpose. You were designed with a purpose in mind. You weren't just made to be made. You didn't just happen. He didn't make you and then say, "oh no! What is she going to do with her life? I hope she figures something out!"

Friend, you are intentional. You are no accident. God took time and effort and intention and purpose and love and heart and created you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. And not only that, He purposefully placed you in this specific time and in your geographical location (Acts 17:26). You have been set apart. You have a role to play, works to do, a job specific to you. You have a purpose in God's kingdom.

But, if you are going to fill that role and be used fully for His purpose, you must know Him and live fully for Him.

He has called you through His grace. What will your answer be?