Embrace Calling

Embrace Calling

Since I was a teenager, probably around 7th grade, I have wanted to be a counselor. It switched a couple times over the years, but I always came back. Now, 12 years later at age 25, that dream, that calling that I felt on my life WAY BACK then, is becoming a reality. On May 5th, I graduated from Grace University with my Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I remember in high school, a visitor at church spoke the prophetic word of counselor over me, and I cherished that moment, thinking how could he know- it must be God.  

At a staff meeting a little while ago, two people got a similar word and said that it was a word for more than just one person.

They said that the things you have been persevering for, will finally come to fruition.

At first, I didn’t think it really applied to me, until I got that little nudge that said, “that’s YOU.” It is me. This long awaited goal, 12 years in the making, is about to be realized.

Now that I think about it, I have no idea what I would do now, if I set a 12 year goal. Somehow, because I took it in small chunks, it seemed like a breeze. Plus, life happens while we are setting and achieving goals.

Life happens in the midst of realizing our dreams.

God gave me this dream. In some ways I had absolutely no idea how much work or how long it would take to get to this point. It definitely did NOT look the way I had envisioned it looking. I didn’t know I would stay in Omaha this long, or even find a church family and job to help me through grad school. I had no idea that I would get married towards the end (I thought it would be way sooner… and then thought maybe way later).

Nonetheless, I persisted, and God carried me through. Through heartache, numerous jobs, friends, living arrangements, and travels. Through doubt, wanting to have some kind of quick fix, or to stop accumulating school bills. I’m naturally an achiever, but this was a long term achievement, one that will even now extends long past graduation. I wanted to achieve things NOW– in the workplace or finances or family – yet everyone else around me had already begun living their focus. Mine was still a little farther off.

I’ve heard it said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” (Theadore Roosevelt), and at times, I let those comparisons steal my joy. When I was up late doing homework, seeing other friends or acquaintances going out. I was working hard and paying school bills on top of regular life expenses, when others were working towards buying houses or new cars.

Your season may not be the same as another’s, and your calling is absolutely unique to you and who God has created you to be.

Do you have a long term dream or goal?

Has something been placed within you long ago that is slowly coming to fruition?

What are the baby steps you need to take to get there? How can you EMBRACE CALLING in your life today?

Embrace Self-Care

Embrace Self-Care

What comes to your mind when you hear the words “Self Care”?

Some in our world would say “Treat Yo-Self”! Others may say, go ahead, you deserve it. On the other end of the spectrum, you have people saying self-care is selfish. Care for others more than yourself, etc. Personally, I have found that taking the time to nurture and care for myself actually helps me to give more and pour into others.

I am at a point in my life where I am extremely busy and getting ready to step into what I have felt was my calling for the past 12 years- to be a mental health counselor. It is exciting and full, but it is also exhausting.

I have had to learn to listen to others like never before. I have learned to be present each hour of the day as I sit with the next person and they unload their burdens. I am learning the art of listening to the Holy Spirit and sensing where he is leading these individuals, whether they know him or not. I am also learning my own limits as a human being and when I need to say no, and take care of myself.

Self Care.

Something that usually comes easily for me, but in a season like this, seems like the last thing I want to do with all that “has” to be done.

At the beginning of last semester, I was preparing for a “busy season” and strategically started writing encouraging reminders to myself in a card. Each one was a verse or a time when I felt God confirmed my calling to me through interaction with other people. Those reminders helped that semester breeze by. In addition to that, I had an amazing group of women who were going through the same process with me, and almost every day, we would encourage one another, sharing verses, prayers, and insight into each others’ situations.

This semester seemed like it would be more of the same. With my internships both being squeezed into one semester, I knew it would be a difficult schedule, perhaps more than the last, but I thought I had made the necessary changes to balance it all out. Turns out that while those changes did help practically, I had forgotten some very important emotional and spiritual resources to keep me going.

I found myself feeling alone and close to burn out.

Thankfully, I had an opportune moment to share some of my feelings with some friends who encouraged me and kept me on track. Then I found that same card that I had written to myself months ago, and read through it again. In order to continue to give to each person coming to see me, I knew (and still know) that I needed to be full.

We see in Scripture that Jesus rested in the midst of the storm when his disciples grew fearful (Matt 8:24), he went up on mountaintops and prayed (Luke 6:12), and he even “withdrew to lonely places to pray” (Luke 5:16). With Jesus, it seemed that rest and prayer were key components in his times away- his self-care was a lifestyle.

Maybe the world’s definition of self care means doing things you enjoy because it will help you maintain mental stability- that can be part of it but is it all of it?

What if the purpose of self-care is to help us achieve a greater purpose?

Sometimes it means seeking to encourage yourself through prayer and communion with God, and sometimes it can mean choosing to encourage others in the midst of your mess (think- those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. Prov. 11:25). Maybe it means enjoying nature or taking a nap. What fills you up and renews your purpose?

What do you do for self care? Is it helping you achieve your greater purpose? Is it an integral part of your daily, weekly, or yearly way of life?

How can you choose better health for yourself mentally, spiritually, physically, and relationally?

As we know from Jesus’ life, seeking solace and time to nurture his soul was part of his lifestyle. It was intentional and an investment that kept him going. Every so often he chose to get away from the crowds that were constantly vying for his attention and healing touch, and we can take the time to set aside everyday demands to nurture our souls as well.

Embrace “Otro Oportunidad”

Embrace “Otro Oportunidad”

“Otro opotunidad! Otro oportunidad! Otro oportunidad!” the children chanted as their classmates got one more chance at the game they were playing. I had never heard the phrase chanted, though I knew what it meant. Another opportunity, one more chance, one more try. As I chanted it for the next round of children to try again, I couldn’t help but think how that is often the chant of my heart. Give me another opportunity, one more chance, let me try again.

I recently returned from a missions trip to Mexico. It was not the typical go to a different country and build something kind of missions trip. It was more relational in a way that I completely loved and embraced. We got the opportunity to learn from, meet, and encourage the believers in Mexico. We also had the chance to share some of what we are learning and doing back in the US. It was all around Better Together and I LOVED it.

It pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, test out my Spanish skills, try new things, and live differently than I had before.

As our leader for the trip would always say, “Not better, but DIFFERENT.”

His goal for years has been to help the church get out of their seats and into the streets. To live out what it means to tangibly love your neighbor in real life. This normally means getting out of your comfort zone.

It’s something I’ve been learning my entire life, and now, as a lighthouse leader, it is something I pray often. Give me another chance, God. Let me be a light this time.

So many times I have missed the opportunity only to pray for another, or offer an encouraging word. One more time. One more opportunity.

In the counseling office, I’ve started to learn not to hold back. Working with transient populations can do that to you. With you one week and gone the next. Some sessions end up being their last, and I miss an opportunity to encourage or speak life into their situation. I’ve learned to build them up throughout the process, not just when I see progress. I don’t know if I will see them next week, so I share the words today.

My mother raised us to live each day as your last and to never miss an opportunity to say I love you, always trying to end on a positive note. My sister and I joke that we do it almost obsessively sometimes.

If only I lived that way with everyone that I encountered, instead of just my loved ones. To speak that word that God lays on your heart. Give the hug, share the smile.

What can you do today? What does someone need from you?

God is giving you another opportunity each time you wake, each time you step out of that door, or go to the store.

1 Peter 3:15 NLT

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

The beautiful thing about God is that you cannot mess up his plan. When you fail, he gives you another opportunity. Your mistakes or missed opportunities are NOT bigger than God. BUT he is inviting you to be a part of his work.

Embrace 2018

Embrace 2018

2018.

EMBRACE.

To fully and enthusiastically accept.

All that this year has to offer, all that God has to offer, and MORE.

Embracing calling, identity, challenges, celebrations, and the small moments.

Embracing love, joy, and peace in ALL things.

Embracing courage, fearlessness, and boldness.

Embracing who I am, imperfections and all,

BUT Not letting who I am go unchanged, instead embracing growth!

I choose to welcome others with open arms,

Grace, and a smile on my face.

A warm embrace.

Mark 11:23-25 The Message (MSG)

22-25 Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. This mountain, for instance: Just say, ‘Go jump in the lake’—no shuffling or shilly-shallying—and it’s as good as done. That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything. And when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”

My Hope Story- 3 Years Ago to Now

My Hope Story- 3 Years Ago to Now

If I looked at my life 3 years ago, at this time I was in the midst of chaos and panic. My new fiancé at the time had just told me he felt a block in his heart for me, on my birthday, which I felt was the worst possible timing.  We had experienced problems on and off, but always had hope that we would eventually work things out. We were both committed and loyal, yet often it seemed that we were trying to force it to work. The entire Christmas season was a roller coaster of emotions, something I had never experienced. The holidays (and my birthday) had always been a time full of love, security, hope, and generosity. That year, it seemed like my heart was being ripped out of me over and over again.

I wrote in my journal, “Why is life so hard? Why do I have to wallow in self pity like I do? Why can’t i be free and happy like I used to be? Why is it so complicated and hurtful?”

Later that year, I would go on to take a break, and eventually break off the engagement and relationship, after having exhausted all options of help and repair. It was one of the hardest and most weighty decisions I had ever made. I wrestled with fear of what others would think, say, or if I would ever be able to love again. I didn’t know if anyone would want to be with me if I had already called off an engagement with another guy. Yet I knew I could not continue to live the way things were going for another few months, let alone an entire lifetime. When I finally made the decision and followed through, it was like a weight was released from my shoulders. I finally felt like my free and happy self again, after so many months of despair.

Little did I know, was that in about 9 more months, I would experience more freedom, and eventually I would go on a date with the person who would be my husband- right around the same season where I felt it all first fall apart the year before. THEN, a year later, I would be marrying him. And now, another year later, and 3 years total after that desperate season, I am almost a year married, and finding it hard to believe that life can really be this good again.

I KNOW there will be depths yet to come (such is life), BUT I also KNOW God follows through on His promises. He is GOOD (ALL THE TIME), and will not leave me alone, even at the depths of the most confusing of moments. I know a breakup is not the most hopeless of moments, but as Victor Frankl says,

“… suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.”

What are you suffering through today? Can you remember a time when you had greater suffering? What about greater hope?

Can you imagine where your life could be just 1, 2, or 3 years from now? We do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds our future.

There is HOPE!

Longings Fulfilled

Longings Fulfilled

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

It’s amazing to me how true this verse is. I feel like lately, God has been fulfilling several of my longings (or maybe I’ve just been more aware).  I longed to have a husband who loved and cared for me radically, and have enjoyed being married to God’s gift of a husband to me for the past 9 months. Not all of the longings are as big as marriage though. I longed to do yoga in a Christian environment, and just recently got to experience the beautiful fulfillment, that keeps going! Also, I longed to provide a space for women to be: be themselves, write truth, experience peace, and so much more. This past Saturday was a small start at doing just that, in light of a larger longing that God has placed within me.

As I was filled with joy and life at each of these fulfilled longings, I realized something more. Not only did God fulfill these hopes, these longings of mine, but he was also the one who GAVE me the longings in the first place.

It is said that God will give you the desires of your heart when you delight in him (Psalm 37:4), but he is also the one who places many of those desires in there to begin with!

It’s like God gives us double gifts when he gifts us with deep desires or soul longings, and then he gifts us again when he satisfies and fulfills those longings.

It gives me hope for my longings yet to be fulfilled. The ones that have been deferred for a while, but my heart has not grown sick, because I’ve experienced so much life from other longings fulfilled.

What are some longings that you have? In what ways has God fulfilled some of your longings already? Have you delighted in God, and has he given you desires that have yet to be fulfilled?

Pray with me:

Father, thank you for being the giver of good gifts. Thank you for the many longings you have fulfilled in my life. Thank you for the desires, the dreams, and callings you have placed within me. I pray I can rejoice at these gifts, and steward them well. I pray I can be patient with the process you have me in to reach the fulfillment. May you get all the glory as you fulfill the deepest longings of our soul.

Amen.

Rest for the Best

Rest for the Best

Are You Resting?

Rest. White Space. Down Time. Be Still. Quiet Your Soul. Free Time.

Whatever you want to call it, for some of us, it seems elusive and unattainable.

My husband and I have enjoyed over a year of great health, that we believe is mostly due to the Paleo lifestyle (which in large is due to the lack of sugars). However, last night, as we started off our date night, it was clear that our streak of great health had been interrupted. After paying and taking the food to go, we found ourselves seeking some good old REST at home for the rest of the evening, and now into today.

I have this theory about rest…

If we don’t take the time to seek rest in our schedules, our bodies will make it happen one way or another. I have experienced this several times in my life, and each time, I remember my theory, and dutifully obey my body, and let it rest. I believe this is a God-designed function in our lives to a) keep us humble and b) keep us healthy.  So often we think we are invincible and can go without stopping.

As I read this morning, God decided to make it even more clear:

“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” Psalm 127:2

I am his LOVED ONE.

YOU are his LOVED ONE.

HE will GIVE US REST.

If only WE give him our time.

Now maybe this may not be your problem. Maybe you have too much rest in your life and need to get off your booty and get going? This is not the post for you.

I am writing specifically to those of us who cannot stop, who have this achiever drive in them to constantly go harder, do more, be better, aim higher.

It is not a bad drive within us! HOWEVER, we do need to remind ourselves of WHO our ultimate goal is. Jesus took time to rest, time to pray, and time to eat.

I think we can all fit a little More of LESS in our schedules.

Factory of Truth

Factory of Truth

I heard the buzzer sound, signifying the start of another work day. The whir of the machines and the lights flickering to illuminate the warehouse full of information. Some was stored in shelves reaching all the way to the ceiling. Other information was spilled out as if it had popped off the shelf unexpectedly. Then it started rolling towards me. My job was to decide whether or not it was useful, true, a lie, or if it was completely irrelevant and needed to be destroyed altogether. Loads and loads of information came my way and not too long into the day, I realized I was starting to run behind. It’s not that my hands and mind weren’t fast enough to keep up, but some of the information was so deceptively sneaky that I had a hard time deciphering if it was actually truth or a lie. Some things had a little truth in them, but there would be something that just didn’t seem right about it. The more I tossed, the more I saw just how much junk was accumulating.

Every once in awhile, I would think back to something I had tossed earlier in the day, dig through the discarded items until I found it, and re-examine it. Why was this so hard? I had the rest of my life to work at this factory and I can’t even get the job done for a couple hours without backtracking, rethinking, and reevaluating.

Soon, I started to feel overwhelmed with the noise of the machines and the constant load of information that came my way for me to decipher through and sort.

I found if I turned off the tv for most of the day, there seemed to be a lighter stream of info. This made the job a little more bearable, but also a little more real since I didn’t have funny stories or intriguing dramas to keep me occupied.

As the days and weeks wore on, I noticed that when I intentionally started my morning with information that I knew was the truth, I found it easier to recognize more truth throughout the day, and stay focused.

Eventually, I realized I had a helper standing next to me the whole time who was willing to help if I only asked. As I turned to gaze upon the face of this glorious helper, I saw wisdom, love, and compassion. Here was the answer to my prayers, the one that would help me discern the truth, keep the truth and discard the lies.

We have hoards of information coming our way every single day. It is up to us to decide what is truth and what is not. Sometimes we are spot on, and other times we let lies creep in thinking they are truth. What we often forget is that it is not our job alone. We have the Holy Spirit as our helper who intimately knows us and expansively knows the truth. We can rely on him to help us sort the lies from the truth. Sometimes we need to remove the distractions, remove the outpouring of lies from the start and give ourselves a little space to breath, to discern, and to listen to the Holy Spirit.

Praying truth into your day today, and all the discernment to find it.

 

Simple Things in the Neighborhood

Simple Things in the Neighborhood

This past weekend, we went into the neighborhoods to pick up trash, pass out flyers and candy, and pray with neighbors. Some would say these things are simple and ineffective, but as the day progressed, we noticed the difference we were starting to make.

Not only did the area start to look a little cleaner, neighbors were out, they were actually opening their doors for us, and they actually had prayer requests that we prayed for.

One woman who had driven by us a couple times, decided to purchase some waters for us because she so appreciated what we were doing. She purchased enough flavored water for all 15 of us to have a water bottle.

The group that was with me was not from Omaha, and not even from Nebraska. IT was a group of middle school students from a youth group in Iowa. They were able to knock on doors and pray with neighbors.

One such moment was unforgettable and will forever stay with me. A group of three or four students walked up to a house, knocked on the door and offered their flyer and bag of candy. The elderly woman gladly accepted and when they kids asked if they could pray, she requested prayer for her family to grow closer together. One kid prayed for her and then it seemed like they were coming to a close when a girl asked if she could jump in. She prayed passionately for this woman and her family and spoke of how important and special family are. By the time she was finished, both the woman and I had tears in our eyes.

One small prayer can be effective. One small act can be effective. A knock on a door or a little bag of candy can be effective.

We need to stop searching for so many big things to transform, and discover how small you can get.

The simple things this past weekend didn’t just affect the neighborhood and the people we encountered. They affected me, and each one of the people who were with me. We saw and experienced the power of a simple prayer, a simple kind act of picking up trash.

You will be surprised at who will say yes when you ask if you can pray. Try it!

Praying for the courage to step out in small ways and see how God will move.

Our Morning Without Water

Our Morning Without Water

Water is a necessity we all use daily, to drink, to shower, to cook and clean. When it’s taken away, we wonder how we will live or get ready for work, or wash those dishes in the sink. Yesterday our water was missing from our lives for just a few short hours.

They had been working on the pipe up the street since three in the morning, yet must have ran into some complications because it was not finished when they (or we) would have liked. My husband found out when he went to wash his hands and there was nothing there. A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door with one of the workers explaining what happened and that they hoped to have the water flowing by 1pm.

I found out by my husband coming up the stairs, asking how he was supposed to get ready with no water. He had been expecting to take a shower, brush his teeth and potentially do some of those dishes, among other things. As we discussed how we were to manage with no water for a bit, I was surprisingly unflinching.

I had a little water in my cup from the night before and gave it to him to brush his teeth. I had a full water bottle that I keep for class that he was able to use to “wash” his body.

I had face wipes I use for traveling that we could use to wash our faces.

I had dry shampoo to keep my hair fresh.

Just the day before I received a free one liter water from Influenster that would satisfy my needs for the morning.

There was an almost untouched cup of tea that I simply reheated in the microwave.

ALL OF THESE THINGS we had on hand, when just minutes before we wondered what we would do to prepare for the day of work. God knew- and it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

HOWEVER, (and this is where it gets a little more real) there are so many who do not have water daily, whether it is not clean, or they live in a place that the water is so far away that a day’s journey can only happen every so often. There are people who get water and other utilities shut off because they are unable to pay. Some say they made bad decisions and that’s why they are unable to pay for water. What about you? Should you get punished for every bad decision you make with something as extreme as a daily need of water?

Our water actually was turned back on by 10am and it was nothing more than an odd couple of hours where we had to come up with creative solutions. BUT some people don’t have that luxury. Some don’t have the water leftover from the day before because there was none the day before.

I’m not writing this post because I think YOU need to change your mindset or open your eyes to the realities that many in our world face. I AM writing this post to let you know how my perspectives and ideas about the world and how it works are shifting. I believe it is a good shift, and I am thankful for the shift, even when it is uncomfortable-like not having water.

I AM writing this post to let you know how my perspectives and ideas about the world and how it works are shifting. I believe it is a good shift, and I am thankful for the shift, even when it is uncomfortable-like not having water.

It only happens when I get uncomfortable, when life is interrupted and I’m not able to do what I normally do, but instead am forced to be still, think and pray and ponder on things that go beyond myself. Things out of my control.

I AM praying that you will allow yourself the opportunity to get uncomfortable, to allow yourself to comprehend another’s reality, and to sit and ponder and pray about what that means for you in your own context.