Keep Hope Alive

Hope is a dangerous thing.

I remember my favorite actor, Morgan Freeman, saying that in one of my favorite movies, “The Shawshank Redemption.”

In the movie, all of the lead stars were prisoners, in prison with long sentences ahead of them. Most had been in there their entire adult lives.

Freeman’s character, “Red”, was telling a new inmate that for those imprisoned with no end or liberty in sight, hope can be a dangerous thing. It can cause you to go crazy – waiting on and anxiously anticipating the unseen.

But the “new fish” in the cell block, “Andy”, rebuffed that analysis. He countered that in fact, in times of imprisonment, hope is the strongest tool one has to not just make it, to survive, but to do so with some peace and even confidence.

There are so many imprisoned today. Not just in the literal sense of serving time, but in the figurative as well.

There are those who feel trapped in dead-end jobs, relationships, circumstances, and storms.

Some feel like they’ll never crawl from beneath the boulder of debt (raises both hands), fear, guilt, or shame crushing them.

There are those who’ve been fighting for liberty from injustices and past wrongs; addictions and disappointments; pain and sadness.

If that’s you, and you’re reading this desperate for some sign that God has not forgotten you in your struggle, I say to you, KEEP HOPE ALIVE.

Hope is what keeps you open and aware during your struggle so that when your breakthrough comes you’ll know it, you’ll be expecting it, and you won’t prolong your stay going through hell.

Hope is what drives you to pray harder, work smarter, and zero in on what lies ahead with expectation and faith-filled promise that tomorrow will be better than your today.

I’d agree with Red, too, and say that hope is indeed a dangerous thing. It sets you apart from others, giving you a divine confidence. Hope will make you creative and bold. It’ll give you wisdom and reveal new levels of faith.

Hope was how Peter, Paul, Silas, Daniel, and 3 Hebrew Boys not only made it out of their trials, their prisons, but remained standing throughout their ordeals.

And it’s how you are and will, too.

Allow yourself to hope in the Lord. That hope, that belief in your gut that God didn’t bring you all the way here to leave you, to let this one situation take you out, is where you’ll draw the strength you need to stand.

Hope in the Lord. Hope for better days in your finances, your health, your relationships, your jobs, and your prayers. Hope because you know His promises and because His word is still true: He will never leave you, never forsake you.

Hope even when the people behind you and around you say you’re crazy and look at you funny.

Hope when the devil tries to make things even worse.

Hope when you’ve done all that you know how to.

Hope when your last dollar was gone days ago and it feels like you’ve got nowhere to turn.

Hope because it gives God a clear path to show up and show off on your behalf, in your situation.

Hope because when you’re cornered God stands before you to fight your battle and lead you clear out.

Hope.

Because hope, you see, holds the key to your breakthrough.

Hope makes you dangerous because when you’ve decided to not accept what you see as the end then there’s nothing around you that can hurt you or hold you back anymore.

I HOPE that something I’ve written here confirms for you that God has heard your prayers and seen your tears.

He knows the bills are due.

He knows what the doctors have said.

He knows you don’t want to be alone, that you want to have a child.

He knows you’re tired and lonely and sad.

He knows.

He sees you.

He cares.

And all He needs to turn it all around for you is your hope.

So, as the Bible says in Romans‬ ‭15‬:‭13‬ AMP, may the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.

Live dangerously today. Keep your hope alive.

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Dealing With Disappointment

Some of you may remember that last Thursday I finally brought to fruition a God idea nearly a year in the making.

But what no one knows (save my husband and my Mama) is that the day before my big event was bookmarked with disappointment.

The day started with me receiving word that I had not won a Chase Mission Main Street small business grant for my small business.

Disappointed is an understatement for how I felt. I felt abandoned, alone, angry, sad and overwhelmed all at once.

Just like that, the way I thought God was going to move in my life had changed. And I was left with the overwhelming heaviness of the reality of my situation. My goals for my business, the debt my family had amassed supporting my business, they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I cried a lot that morning. I couldn’t sleep I was so grief-stricken. And when I got into the shower, I broke down. The tears and the anger and the hurt all flowed freely. I was overcome.

But somehow, mid-rant, I found myself humming this song: “Lord You are good and your mercy endureth forever. Lord You are good and your mercy endureth forever!…I worship you! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Even now, a week later, I remember clearly the puzzled look that crept across my face when I realized the dichotomy of the moment: here I am sobbing into the shower stream on the outside, but my Spirit was praising God.

The reality is that nowhere does God say we won’t be disappointed. Similarly, nowhere does He say we aren’t allowed to feel, to have emotional, human responses to the changes in our lives.

So even as our flesh mourns, if we stay prayed up, our Spirit will minister to us…even without out participation.

In fact, as I reflect now, I smile at the thought of a scripture that the Lord brought me to in my devotion.  It was Job talking, chapter 13, verse 15a: “God may kill me, but I will trust Him…”  That’s how I felt in that shower, ranting about how sad and disappointed I was.  Reminding God of His word and His promises.  (He’d later – much more politely, I might add – remind me that HOW He plans to fulfill the promises of His word is none of my business.  My only responsibility is to believe and expect that He will.)

The corresponding disappointment bookmark came later that Thursday evening. My day ended with my best subcontractor giving me 30 days notice. She’d gotten a job offer for a job that was perfect for her and where she wanted to go. For months, I’d been praying that God would enable me to hire her full-time. But, it wasn’t to be.

But I didn’t take this second spate of news as hard as I’d taken the morning news. And the reason why is because in between the two events I stumbled across the Feels Like Home blog; specifically this entry on 13 Bible Verses and 6 Steps to Deal with Disappointment.

Here’s the part that pulled me out of my pity party and put my day in perspective, directly from the blog:

13 Bible Verses & 6 Steps to Overcome Disappointment

Believe in God’s plan. Our God is a miracle worker. He can part waters, move boulders, heal the dead (not just the sick, remember, the dead), save, destroy, bless, and curse. He can do anything, everything, things beyond our comprehension.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

When I say you have to believe, I mean you have to believe that God has got this thing in His hands. He is looking out for you. He is working out a plan that is bigger than you, and you are going to be better for it in the end.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Sometimes, it takes a painful disappointment to teach us a skill or strengthen our faith or to put us in the right place at the right time. We don’t know His ways or His thoughts. We just have to believe in His promise.

Grieve. Things have not gone the way you wanted. Your hopes and expectations have been defeated. You need to spend some quiet time being sad, mourning the way you thought things would be.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Cry. Exercise. Read. Do whatever it is that releases the sadness, the disappointment, the defeat.

And then, eventually, you have to stop grieving and move on.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

Disappointment is not meant to define you, my friend. It is not meant to hold you hostage or weigh you down into the mire of depression. Don’t give it that power.

Pray. You had to know this was coming, right? Spend some time talking to your Heavenly Father. Tell Him your heartache. Tell Him about the plans you had and ask Him to show you why He’s taken them away. I promise you that He has good in this for you, and it’s okay to ask Him what that good is.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

Talk to Him like you’d talk to your best friend. Your prayer doesn’t have to be pretty or sound like one at your church. It just has to be honest and come from your heart.

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22

You, my friend, are the godly. You are chasing after God, trying to do the right thing, seeking a better understanding of Him. Aren’t you? He’s talking about you.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Listen and wait. Big things happen when we pray. Sometimes, they are blessings beyond our expectations.

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

Sometimes they happen right away, but usually they happen later when we least expect them. Keep waiting. You’ll know when your prayer has been answered.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalms 27:14

Search for the good. This is a miserable time to try to be thankful. I don’t know about you, but all I want to do is wallow in self pity of my dreams deferred (or dreams lost). This is the time when it’s hardest – and most important – to find the good, grab onto it with both hands, and celebrate it. You need to.

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

In beginning this post in the middle of the night, I came to understand that it wouldn’t have happened if my plans had worked out. I wouldn’t have been sleeping fitfully. I wouldn’t have jumped out of bed to write these words. It was God’s plan for me to write these words. (It has been an incredibly soothing and cathartic process). It is also His plan for you to be reading them right now. I am thankful that He chose me.

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19b-20

Believe in yourself. You too are part of God’s great plan. He is preparing you to do His work right now, even in this time of disappointment. No matter what burden comes, know that He will help you stand underneath it, carry it up the hill, and triumph over it in the end.*

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

God believes in you. You may not feel equipped to handle this on your own, but He’ll give you what you need to get through it.

For I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

*The triumph doesn’t always happen when we think it should. Sometimes, we only triumph over our struggles as we leave this broken world. A conversation I had with my pastor illustrates this point:

“Tara, God will heal her.”

“I just don’t know that He will. She is so sick. She hardly gets out of bed.”

“He is going to heal her. He might heal her body now, or He might heal her soul in heaven, but you can trust Him to heal her.”

Wow. The simplicity and immensity of that statement left me with many tears but complete peace. We can trust Him to defeat our disappointment, no matter what it is.

Look, I don’t know where your disappointment lies.

Maybe it’s in a relationship that ended, or never took off. A professional opportunity that passed you by. Or a personal dream that has yet to come to fruition.

Whatever it is, I hope these passages encourage you. No matter how disappointed we feel, nothing has changed with God: He’s still just as in love with us; just as dedicated to our success and peace and joy; just as committed to giving us “hope and a future.”

Sometimes, just sometimes, we have to go through the disappointment to get closer to our destiny.

Because sometimes the thing we really wanted wasn’t God’s best for us. And what is yet to come is infinitely better.

Unbowed

As time does, today finds us acknowledging that time has swiftly passed.

It seems as though it was just summer…just autumn…just Christmas. And now, we’re embarking on a brand new year.

For a lot of folks, the New Year is filled with the hope of what’s to come. There’s so much possibility in the coming days, weeks and months. I’m excited, too.

But what I feel in addition to excitement is a renewed confidence. A belief that no matter what comes or what the future holds, God brought me this far. I know He won’t leave me.

Much like the line from “Invictus,” we’ve made it “bloodied but unbowed.”

Last year was hard for so many. Folks lost loved ones and jobs. They fought physical, spiritual and mental illnesses. They sacrificed, nearly succumbing to hell all around them.

So while many are facing this new year with excitement and optimism, there are a great many still who are simply relieved. Those who are glad to be done with a year that tested and tried us — our patience, our faith, our fortitude.

We were bent to near breaking last year. We often felt as though we cried more than we smiled. Worried more than we hoped. Fought more than we simply lived.

We struggled and scratched and clawed through layoffs and loss, debt and depression, sadness and sacrifice. We prayed and pursued. We protested and proclaimed. We worked and waited.

Many of us made it to 2015 only by the grace of God. And we’re relieved just to have made it.

If this is you. If all you feel about 2015 so far is relief that 2014 is over, know this: you made it.

The storms that the enemy thought would take you out only made you stronger. The traps the devil meant to harm you only catapulted you forward with more focus and greater determination. What would have literally caused someone else to lose their mind motivated you to keep going, to not give up.

And you’re here, standing at the dawn of a new year. Bloodied, but unbowed. Bent, but unbroken. A little weary, but still a battle-ready warrior.

To you I say own your stripes. There’s a courage, a confidence, and a determination that comes with overcoming. Yours is a testimony no one else can give because they haven’t walked in your shoes, haven’t fought the battles you’ve won.

To you I say stand tall and proud. Because while others were too busy wishing away their todays hoping for tomorrows, you lived and breathed every moment — the good, the bad and the unbearable.

To you I say don’t shrink back. Don’t be so overcome with relief that you forget the strength, the faith, and the resilience your trials earned you. Yes, you may be bloodied, but you remain unbowed.

To you I say this is a new day. A day ordained for your victory; predestined for your triumph.

This day. This week. This year is a year of restoration for you.

God saw every test, every trial, and every tear. He heard every prayer and every plea. And for you He has worked in the background to bless you in the open.

Time will not slow down. It won’t ease because we’re tired or overwhelmed or overcome. But it is the knowledge of what we’ve already been through – and beat! – that spurs us on in our weakest moments.

My prayer for you is that even as you make resolutions, that you’ll also make it a point to count your blessings and your wins. In all of your forward thinking, look back long enough to claim your hard-earned strength and faith and fight.

Own your stripes, your bruises. And honor the important parts of the “old” you in this new year.

Bloodied, but unbowed. Bruised, but unbroken. And blessed in spite of it all.

*A version of this post appeared on The Huffington Post yesterday.  You can check it out here.

Huffington Post Blog: On Bedside Baptist

I can’t remember how many times I’ve learned – and relearned! – the lesson about the pitfalls of busyness. (Check out one of those times here.)

But a few days ago I found myself in that space again: suddenly realizing the toll overcommitting was having; this time not just on me, but my family as well.

Head on over to the Huffington Post to check out my latest post on my membership-in-good-standing at Bedside Baptist and, most importantly, the liberty I found there.

Own Your Story

I have purposely tried to not include details about my personal life on this blog.  My thinking has been that all of you have so many of your own challenges that you’re facing; surely, your life is complicated enough without the added details of mine.

I thought that by keeping my story to myself I could best encourage you as you go through.  And up until now that’s worked.  But as I think back on where God took me in my career a few weeks ago – and in my life overall –  the Lord told me plainly that my story is not just for me, but for others as well.

So while I won’t make this a habit, I do want to share a bit more about myself with you; believing God that doing so will help you keep the faith, renew your hope, and restore your expectation.

Currently, I own a boutique media and communications firm in Washington, DC.  I’m a consultant working to get my clients on TV, on the radio, in newspapers, or wherever else they need to be to get their messages out.  I also write for my clients – op-eds, press releases, brochures, etc.  I’m gifted to do it and passionate about giving voice to folks’ visions™.

A few weeks ago, God gave me the awesome opportunity to begin working with A+E on a number of programs as a subcontractor for one of my clients. As a result of my client’s opportunity, I had the chance to do some publicity work for Lifetime TV on its promotion of the movie “A Trip to Bountiful,” the TV adaptation of the award-winning Broadway play.

After lining up a few interviews for the movie’s stars, I was invited to staff those interviews in NYC for the day.  The stars?  THE incomparable Ms. Cicely Tyson, Ms. Vanessa Williams, Mr. Blair Underwood and Ms. KeKe Palmer.

I spent an entire day in their presence; listening to their reflections on the importance of their craft, the significance of Women’s History Month, and all kinds of things.  Just in awe of where God had me and grateful, supremely grateful.

Proverbs 18:16 keep running through my Spirit:

Proverbs 18:16

New International Version (NIV)

16 A gift opens the way
and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.

Certainly, operating in my God-given gifts were the reason why I was there with such great people.  It was God’s will that the gifts He gave me would land me smack dab in the presence of greatness.  I was very clear on that.

In fact, that day was, to date, one of the biggest days of my professional career (followed SUPER CLOSELY by the day the Honorable Elijah E. Cummings allowed me to join his team as his press secretary and the day I resigned from another job to protect my character with nary a back-up plan in sight).

So imagine my excitement when a few days later I found myself on a cross-country flight to California for the first time. Working with another VPI client there, God revealed new talents to me and gave me fresh revelation about some existing strengths.

This is the essence of the God WE serve: He wants to take us to more places, give us greater blessings, and use us in more profound ways than we allow ourselves to dream.

But what God really showed me in New York and California, and what I’ve been reflecting on and reveling in since, is this truth: I could not have experienced such highs without having gone through ALL I’ve come through.

I had to go through to get to where God wanted me.

I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to leave the “security” of a consistent paycheck to hunt-and-gather for clients.  But it took every mistake of my past, every moment of disobedience, and every misstep in my story – and all of the good stuff, too! – to get here.

I spent many years of my career trying to fit into offices; trying to be the right square peg for the right square hole.

I had great jobs, too.  I’ve worked with Judy Smith (the inspiration for Olivia Pope’s character in “Scandal”), Anita Dunn, Members of Congress, Presidential Advisors, and the lightening-rod education reformer Michelle Rhee, to name a few.

But it never failed: I’d always reach a point where I was restless, inexplicably.  And so the search for professional fulfillment began anew.

God’s been faithful, too.  Every time I’ve sought, asked and knocked, He’s opened doors that I never knew existed and certainly never expected to walk through.  Heck, He even gave me jobs that weren’t His will simply because I asked Him for them.

And every time, no matter how great the job or boss (or how terrible), I ended up reaching a place where I felt like I should be on my own, doing my own thing, and applying everything I’d learned to building the dreams God’s given me.

I had to have every bad boss I ever had to know how to be a good one.

I had to be picked over, promoted over, and passed over to know how to validate and value the gifts of others.

I had to endure insecurity and out-right mean-spiritedness in colleagues to know how to strive to walk daily in love and empathy.

I had to make mistakes to know how to groom others through theirs.

And I had to be willing to walk away from the world’s definition of security to become truly secure in my only Source: God.

My life hasn’t been easy.  And I haven’t always been as reflective as I am now.

And even now, I’m still learning about the cause for which God’s created me. This is just the beginning! …for me and you!

In the coming weeks and months you’ll see a lot of changes here: the site will be redesigned, some of the content will be changed, and some new information will be added.

As I continue to be groomed by God, through faith, I know that I’ll be used in new and exciting ways to encourage you to own your story, validate your vision, and expect even more from God.™

There are Cicely Tyson moments in your future! There are places God wants to take you, people He wants to introduce you to, and work He wants to do through you.

Don’t be discouraged by your current circumstances: they’re temporary and won’t look like what is really yours in the Spirit.

But decide today that you deserve your dream™, and everything that God has for you.

Stop trying to fit in when God made you to stand out and stand up!

You’ve earned every strip and scar. You’re stronger because of it, wiser and more powerful.

God knows it. And when you accept that about yourself, you’ll begin to see God’s favor and orchestration unfurling in your life in ways you never imagined before.

I’m excited for YOU because there’s so much God has for you this year. ;

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Brokenness

glass__lucent_heart_by_raingarden

I had an experience last week that I’ve shared pretty widely on my personal social media channels, but whose impact was/is so profound on me that I wanted to share with you all.

glass__lucent_heart_by_raingardenI have three children, two daughters (5- and almost-4-years-old) and a son who is 2.  Last week, my younger daughter ended up getting glasses quite unexpectedly.  As a result, my husband and I thought it best if we have her older sister checked out, too.  Just to be safe, y’know?

Neither girl had ever complained of eye or head issues.  Teachers never perceived challenges seeing the board or things across the room.  And the girls themselves never mentioned not being able to see or having issues seeing.

So imagine my surprise when my oldest daughter tested with a vision of 130/20 in one of her eyes.  (For comparison’s sake, healthy, non-impaired vision for young children is about 30/20. )  The other eye saw nearly perfectly and has been compensating for this weaker eye for her entire life.

I sat stunned as my daughter’s exam continued.  Even the doctor, assistant, and later the eyeglass provider remarked at how remarkably vast the difference was in her two eyes, and how unbelievable it was that she’d never complained.

My daughter would end the night sporting brand new purple specs.  I would still be thinking about the experience days later.

That stuck with me was this idea that what the world would deem as inoperable, no good, legally blind, or some other trite categorization God had blessed to be perfect.

With the vision my daughter has in her weaker eye, it is truly a miracle that she doesn’t have many more scrapes, bumps, bruises and injuries.  But because of the power of God, to touch an imperfect thing, she’s seeing as close to 20/20 as a child can.

We all have broken places in our lives.  Relationships that left us wounded and scarred.  Bad experiences and past mistakes that have broken our faith, our expectation and motivation.

But God wants to give us peace for our pieces.  He wants to put back together that which the world would say is beyond saving, beyond repairing, beyond earthly good.

God specializes in taking all of our nothingness and making it something.  He is a master at perfecting the imperfect and blessing the unbelievable.

You may think that your situation is too far gone.  The debt is too high.  Your income is too low.  You’ve been hurt too many times; abused too many times.  You’ve made too many bad choices, too many wrong decisions.  You might even believe that now, because of all you’ve been through, you’re no good to anyone.  You’ll never be loved.  You’ll never get promoted.  You’ll never see increase.  You’ll never know peace.  That child will never come home.  That spouse will never act right.

Whatever your never is, I urge you to give it all to God.  The Bible urges us to cast our cares on Him once and for all because He cares for us passionately.

Give all of your broken places and pieces to the one Potter who can put them all together again.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been walking through life feeling victimized and handicapped.  Perhaps you, like my daughter, have only known one way, one view on life.  You’ve only every known setbacks, let-downs and disappointments.

If you’ll keep walking the path He has for you with joy and gratitude, letting Him have all that you have, He’ll give you perfection.  He’ll give you clarity.  He’ll give you vision.  He’ll give you all the tools you need to walk into a new season with Him and for Him.

You are enough just the way you; broken pieces and all.  And it matter not whether the world sees it or says it.  Heck, it doesn’t even matter whether you see it.  All that matters is that you believe that God sees perfection in you His imperfect being.  And it’s His heart’s desire that you experience abundance – divine perfection and clarity – in every area of your life.

***

My daughter loves her glasses .  She loves the color and how she looks in them.  She doesn’t quite understand why she needed them – she’d always been OK with how she was seeing.  But isn’t just like God to show us better when we can show him that we’re grateful for all we already have?

Seek God for the blessing in your brokenness.  There’s one there, if you’d just give the pieces over to Him.

Huffington Post Blog: On Being Radical

I’m pretty sure my latest piece for the HuffPost is going to piss some folks off. I’m almost certain of that.

But, it had to be done.

I get so tired of Christians crying victim, living and walking a “woe is me,” “I’m just getting by lifestyle.” The reality is that God has more for us, gave us the power to get more, and wants us to expect more. Period.

The simple truth is: believing and asking God for small things isn’t noble or humble. That doesn’t honor the God who created everything. So do you really want to insult Him in the name of humility?

So, check out my latest post, “On Being Radical,” and share your thoughts with me. (And while you’re there, read all of my HuffPost pieces here).

You can also take a look below.

Huffington Post: On Being Radical

Timidity doesn’t honor God.

There, I said it.

I’ve given a lot of thought to how often followers of Christ find themselves – or more accurately, place themselves – in the role of victim.

Text messages change our moods. What someone said about us ruins our day. We pray fervently the same prayers, pleading with God to bless us in some area of our lives. Or, we allow ourselves only the most modest of dreams in a misguided attempt to be humble.

Yes, the Bible talks frequently of the blessings of humility. And Jesus Himself extols the virtue as one of the most desired traits of those seeking to live like Him. But nowhere have I seen a verse that says, “Think small, dream small and pray small. These things make God happy.”

In fact, I would venture to say that the opposite is accurate: big, bold prayers and dreams honor God.

On the basest of levels, followers of Christ, those seeking to model their lives after His example, must admit that our Savior was radical.

He flipped tables. He preached and healed on “forbidden” days. He hung out with the outcasts. I mean, come on: Jesus was our first maverick.

Yet somehow, centuries later, many of us have accepted a role of inferiority. We’ve come to accept mediocrity and “just getting by” as the life we should lead, and happily.

I disagree.

The Bible clearly states that the riches of the wicked are stored up for the righteous. In Psalms 35:27, we’re told that the Lord delights in blessing His children. And Mark 11:24 explicitly says that if the children of God pray, believing that they have received, God is faithful to do anything they ask in Jesus’ name.

Where in those scriptures does it say “accept whatever the world gives you”? To the contrary, we’re encouraged to command our day in Job 38:12, and we’re told that have authority over all the power that the enemy possesses in Luke 10:19.

Time after time, God reiterates through scripture His desire for his children to be bold, to have divine confidence, and to walk open to and expecting abundance in every area of our lives.

So, it’s far time those of us who aspire to be like Christ accept this simple fact: to be radical is to be like Christ.

Yes, be humble. Seek God’s will for your life, and walk that path with love and temperance. But don’t make yourself, your dreams or your abilities smaller than they are to make others comfortable; out of fear; or because you think that pleases God.

God knew what you’d be capable of when He made you. He knows your personality and the dreams He’s placed in you. He formed you with the express intent of fulfilling the purpose and dreams He placed in you.

So do it. Do you.

Be confident in your uniqueness. Embrace the big dreams God’s given you, and the great ministry He’s placed in you.

Accept that you’re different (Heck, we all are. We were made that way: to stand out, to be a remnant). Love you for you, and then live your God-given life out loud.

It’s what God wants. It’s honoring God by being and doing and dreaming all that He wants you to, the way He wants you to.

Last year for the Lenten season, I read “Draw The Circle,” a prayer challenge authored by Pastor Mark Batterson. I still remember the entry for day 31, “What Do You Want Me to Do For You?,” which talked all about praying and believing God for big, explicit prayers as an act of honoring how great and powerful He truly is.

That very day I decided I would seek God and write down (just like they tell us in Habakkuk) all of the visions He’d given me. And man, they were bigger than anything I’d allow myself to think of.

Almost a year later, I remain determined and passionate about living each day as radically as my Savior did: confident in who I am and what I’m gifted and called to do. It has given me a peace beyond my understanding and freedom previously unattainable.

The season of mundane Christian life is over. Be bold and be radical in whatever God’s called you to do. Evangelize with passion. Work with divine confidence. And live with Christ-like love and humility. Expect good things in your life daily, and decide right now that yesterday was the last day you’d take whatever this life gives to you.

You are an heir to the King. Walk in that power. It pleases God for you to do so.

Huffington Post Blog: On Keeping the Faith

Recently I was asked to pen a guest blog post for another Saved Mama, Wife and Blogger that might inspire others.  After writing that post (details coming soon!), I thought long and hard about what would most inspire people whose lives look like mine, or who aspire to have a family and career.

When I really boiled it down, the greatest truth I discovered was that often walking out my faith is less about insurance on my eternal home and more about just keeping me sane today, right now.

So, I’d be honored if you’d check out my latest Huffington Post blog on just that: the sanity that comes with being saved.  While you’re there, check out my two other HuffPost Pieces, “On Millennials and Faith” and “On Not Ruining Christmas.”

I’d welcome your feedback, and greatly appreciate your likes, shares and Tweets.

Be blessed and keep keepin’ on!

On Keeping the Faith

I’m not sure if it was between my first and second child, or my second and third, that I literally thanked God for Jesus.

Sure, I’d heard church mothers say it before, but somewhere along my journey of parenthood I realized that without faith I’d most certainly lose my mind.

Before our first child arrived, my husband and I sat down at our kitchen table with pen and paper to plan our family.

We would have four children (because I like even numbers).

We wouldn’t speak to our children in “baby talk.” Instead, we’d speak to them like little people. Accordingly, we’d also empower them to disagree with us — respectfully! — and express that disagreement in the spirit of raising confident little people.

We wouldn’t teach about Santa Claus, choosing instead to teach only the story of Christ’s birth as the reason for the season.

And, before we broke our huddle, we agreed that we’d have our children back-to-back, because only then, we deduced (with all of the wisdom that two 24-year-olds could muster), would we have any shot at having a life together after the kids were out of the house.

And that was that.

But, when our first child was delivered by emergency C-section, my husband and I quickly realized the true meaning behind that trite saying, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.”

Despite all of our best-laid plans, my husband and I have come to the realization that the only way we are still “clothed and in our right minds” is because of our faith.

It’s faith that keeps us from releasing blood-curdling screams when our son trips down the stairs or falls off the bed.

It’s faith that opened my tightly clasped hands the first time we saw our little ones off to preschool.

And it’s faith that helps me hold my peace during the never-ending chorus of “MaMa” that has become white noise in our home.

Truly, if it weren’t for my belief in a higher purpose, I’d question who thought it a good idea to allow me to parent at all.

After all, we are our worst critics. For every mistake, bad choice and misstep I’ve made in my life, I nary think I’m worthy of the air I’m breathing. But God…

I’ve done things I’m not proud of. I’ve said things I’m not proud of. I’ve gone all-in on bad bets and taken risks I should have avoided. But God.

Even now, I raise my voice at my children more than I’d like. I’m not always patient. Sometimes I wish I could close my bathroom door without seeing little fingers wiggle beneath its jamb. And there have been times when the most I could find the energy to offer my family for dinner is microwaveable pancakes or oatmeal.

But God.

Or, is it because of God?

Because of God I know that all things work together for my good. Because of God I know that there is no weapon (nor tantrum, fussy baby or explosive diaper) formed against me that will prosper. And, most importantly, because of God I know that His grace is sufficient to get me through any and everything I will face daily.

Parenting is tough. Being married is tough. Running a household — whether solo or with a partner — is hard work. But I believe that I was created to do exactly what I’m doing right now. And so were you.

There is no one alive who could love your partner the way you do; care for your kids the way you do; kick butt in the office the way you do; or walk in your shoes. Period.

The same God that blessed you and I with the spouse, the kids, the home and the careers knows what it takes to keep everyone of those balls in the air. He knows our limits and He knows our every shortcoming.

And in spite of all of this, He keeps blessing us, pouring out His favor and grace and mercy on us every day.

This is why we keep at it. This is why we don’t throw in the towel. Because at the end of the day, we know in our hearts that we were built for this. We know that God made us specifically to overcome every obstacle that comes our way.

And He made us to win.

It’s not going to be easy. It almost never is. But, just in case no one has told you today, you are a freakin’ rock star. You are kickin’ butts and taking names as a parent, a professional, a friend, a servant and in whatever else you’re doing.

And thanks to God, you’re doing it all and making it look like a piece of cake.

So, parents-, spouses- and professionals-in-arms, hold on to your faith. If nothing else, it’s keeping you sane, keeping you motivated, and helping you keep it moving.

How ya living?

During my reading and journaling this morning I found myself – dare I say it – complaining. ::gasp:: Yes, on the first day of the new year, I was rattling off all of the problems I was facing. I was quoting to God HIS own words and promises and demanding He tell me where He was in all of my problems.

Imagine my surprise when He literally cut me off mid-sentence, “I know about your situation. You made the decisions that put you in these circumstances. I did my part. I upheld my word. Now do your part!”

I sat for a while in silence. Ironically, or at least unexpectedly, I was grateful for His candor and response, even though it pinned the blame squarely on me. And as I sat there, repenting and walking through how He’d have me to right the ship, a peace washed over me.

But somewhere, in the darker recesses of my mind and heart, I still felt pangs of anger and frustration and accusation. A victim mentality that was bubbling up seeking to usurp the peace I’d just had restored.

So I asked God, “What about this anger? This frustration?”

I didn’t actually have to ask really. He saw me struggling and offered this answer:

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
[22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

…and I read on, with verse 25 hitting me like a ton of bricks:

Galatians 5:25 AMP
[25] If we live by the Holy Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.

It said I IF we live by the Holy Spirit.

Look, this may not be the “new year! new you” message you were looking for, but the truth is that I don’t believe we can simply and cleanly walk into 2014 by forgetting 2013. There are people like me who still are learning from 2013. Who are still waiting on promises from 2013, walking through tests that began in 2013, and are still seeking truths and new direction from decisions we don’t want to repeat this year.

If this is you, you could be, like me, finding yourself feeling left behind, left out of the jubilant celebrating of the new year of those around you. You could feel frustration and wonder where God is in your new year when you lost sight of him last year.

If you aren’t seeing the manifestation of God’s promises in your life, I’ll ask you like God asked me this morning: How ya living?

Are you seeking his kingdom first, striving to show others and yourself the fruit of the Spirit?

Or have you, like me, found yourself mired in what feels like unending fatigue, frustration, impatience and overall blahness?

If we live by the Holy Spirit…

If you closed out 2013 feeling like God was far away, know that it is you who moved. Somewhere along the lines your focus shifted and we met a new calendar year stuck in our last spiritual year.

But we don’t have to remain stuck. I took God’s loving rebuke this morning, accepted that I’d stopped chasing him to pursue other things. And realized that those pursuits are what caused the distance and the darkness.

I am excited this morning to know that although I may not have rang in a new year in my Spirit when the clock struck 12, I have now turned the page on 2013 in my heart and can move forward in peace and with expectation now.

I walked away from my quiet time this morning with these takeaways:

    God’s promises and plans for our lives don’t change because we walked away/got off track. He’s still faithful and still wants to bless me.

    The only thing standing in the way of God manifesting me seeing God’s blessings in my life is me.

    IF I live by the Spirit, I am seeking Him first and He WILL add all good things unto me.

    God wants to demonstrate his immeasurable, limitless and surpassing grace and blessings in my life. (Ephesians 2:7,10)

    Per Joel Osteen’s I Declare, ” I will see an explosion of God’s goodness, a sudden widespread increase.”

You can have all of this, too. In fact, I believe God wants you to. But you’ve first gotta do some real soul-searching to find out…

How are you living?

Because how you’re living will dictate what you see manifested of God’s giving.