testing God’s will

Not too long ago I wrote an entire post about the challenge of saying no to a good opportunity because I felt like it wasn’t what God was calling me to. Well, I’m going to be a bit transparent here and confess that I have a bit of a follow up story that I feel compelled to share about. If you didn’t catch it, you can read up on the first part of this story here (otherwise this post won’t make as much sense). Once you’re caught up, here’s part two…

The story picks up when I realized that I unintentionally left my husband out of the decision making process about not pursuing this job opportunity. I had resolved so quickly that I heard God tell me this wasn’t the path for me that I seemingly already had my mind made up by the time I spoke to him (which just so happened to be the day before the initial post about it went live). But in our conversation, he pointed out how he wished he would have been included in the decision. I felt crushed because he was right. I totally didn’t mean to leave him out, but in doing so, I hurt him. As we talked it out and resolved our conflict, we were able to come to a better understanding with each other, but as I processed through where my head was at with him, I felt even more confused about my decision. I was still struggling so much with insecurity over my job status (or lack thereof) and uncertainty of God’s path for me. Which led me to wrestle even more with whether I heard from God, or if it was just my doubts or insecurities getting louder in my head. My word of the year has been obedience, and in this situation I was struggling to determine what the right step was. I kept dwelling on how perfect of an opportunity this would be in our transient life; how fitting of a job it was for me; and how passionate I was about the business I could potentially work for. But I didn’t want to disobey God if He told me no. And to be truly transparent, I wrestled through feeling hypocritical by posting about something on my blog and then following through in the complete opposite way (talk about a twisted form of accountability). But if this was an opportunity God did actually have for me, I didn’t want to miss out just because I spoke too soon. I also uncovered the faltering confidence I had in myself to follow through on what God was calling me to.

If this all sounds like a jumbled, back and forth, mess, then welcome to the fairly normal state of my brain :). As I processed these thoughts on my own and with my husband (don’t worry, I didn’t make the same mistake twice here), it all boiled down to one question for me: Would I be disobedient if I at least tried to pursue this job and see what would happen? Then I could know for sure one way or the other if this was what God had for me.

I decided to pray about it over that weekend to ask for direction on what to do. I prayed expectantly, knowing that if God wanted to be clear with me, then He would be. So I prayed for an obvious answer to whether or not it would be okay for me to apply for the job and let the results that would come be my answer. I prayed over that weekend for God to shut it down or make it really evident if He did not want me to pursue that route. And come Sunday night, I still didn’t have a clear answer one way or the other. So I felt like I was in the clear to go for it, still praying along the way for God to close the door at any point that I would be stepping out of His will.

I spent the next two days putting together my application, updating my resume, and filming an intro video to fulfill the requested requirements, and the more I put into it, the more I became passionate about this job. While I continued to pray through it that God’s will would be done, I expressed to God many times how much I really wanted this job. But because staying in line with God’s will for me felt more important than getting my way, I also prayed that if this was not where God intended me to be right now that He would essentially hide me from the view of the hiring team. And while I felt like the role was perfect for me, I prayed for them to find the person that was perfect for them. I tried my best to go into this with open hands, because I knew that I was essentially testing the waters with it, so I recognized the possibility that the answer would be “no”. And I prayed through my fears with that too. I knew it was going to be so hard to put in all this effort just to get turned down. But the door remained open, so I kept at it until I officially submitted my application and left it in God’s hands.

And then…I waited. The timing of my application fell right amidst a big launch season for the business, so I patiently and anxiously waited for them to wade through this busy time before they turned their attention to filling this position, all the while remaining hopeful about my possible future. After waiting for about 4 weeks, I finally heard from them regarding my application. And as much as I wish this story had a fairy tale ending, I was informed of their decision to go with another candidate. I didn’t even get an interview. I’ll be honest, I was so bummed. I spent the past month and a half thinking and growing passionate about the possibilities of this job. And I didn’t even get a call back. I told my husband, cried it out for about two minutes, and then I laid it all before God. I finally had my clear answer.

In the end, even though it wasn’t the answer I came to hope for, I was still thankful for a decision, because the limbo of it was starting to stress me out. I thought back to my prayers as I entered into this endeavor. I was confident in being the perfect candidate for the position, so I trusted that if I didn’t get the job, it would surely be God closing the door (that may sound a bit prideful, but I just had a lot of confidence in my experience and skills to fit this position). And that’s exactly what He did. He didn’t drag me along through the interview process only to fall more in love with the idea of working for this business and for the amazing woman that runs it. He didn’t lead me to a job offer that He didn’t want me to take in the first place. He gently shut the door and affirmed that the answer was no, at least for now. And I accepted that. It took me a day or two to really leave behind the weight of it, but I accepted it, because I had nothing but truth to turn to anytime I started to feel down about it.

I don’t regret applying. I don’t regret testing God’s will. I think it can feel a little sticky to do that – like, who am I to question God? And is it unfaithful of me to still go for something when I think I heard God say no? I don’t think the answer to that is very clear cut. It’s very gray. Just like so much of life. And at the end of it all, I think I did well to act obediently, even when things were uncertain.

Here’s the thing, God doesn’t give us an exact road map of every step He thinks we should take. If He did, He’d be domineering and abrasive, and we’d be more like robots than humans, and that’s not the God I know. He gave us this gift of free will so that we could choose our own paths, with the hope and desire for us to recognize Him and choose Him anyhow. And without going into a full-on theological discussion about free will, I just want to make the point that God often doesn’t speak clearly about what we’re supposed to do. He equips us to lean on Him and make the best decision possible. In this specific circumstance, I relied on my faith in God’s truths, prayer, and my husband’s insight to determine whether or not this was His path for me – all of which are good things that He has gifted me with to utilize in this life.

The rule follower in me sure wishes I had a black and white instruction manual so I could please God and do everything right in life. But that’s not what God created me for. And that’s not what God saved me for. Jesus is my perfection. And if I don’t have weaknesses; if I don’t make mistakes; if I don’t have some missteps; then I miss out on the wonderful grace and redemption of God. I miss out on the full picture of who God is and who He created me to be.

So even though I took a long detour to get back to an answer that God initially gave me, I came away with more certainty in that answer, and with more certainty that God is for me. He wants good for me. He doesn’t hold out on me. He offers me abundance and wants me to take hold of it. And if I believe all of that, then I can trust that the path He’s leading me on is far better for me in the end than any plan I could create myself. Will there be bumps on that path? Oh I’m sure. It’s typically through the bumps and dips and stumbling blocks that I learn and grow most, which leads me to look even just a bit more like Jesus and glorify Him all the more. That’s the sanctifying journey He’s got me on.

So I share this story to say that sometimes it’s okay to test God’s will. Sometimes it’s okay to explore options to try to determine the best decision. It’s definitely okay to ask God for directions. And sometimes He’ll give them (turns out Him telling me no on the first day this job position came to my attention was accurate), but sometimes He won’t. But as long as we continue to seek Him in the process I think that He will honor the path we’re taking. Of course I want to be a wholehearted, faithful servant always, but sometimes I’m a bit like Thomas, who needed to see the holes in Jesus’ hands and feel the hole in Jesus’ side for himself after the resurrection to confirm his faith (John 20:24-29). Sometimes we feel a need for a little extra evidence to make sense of this God who is so magnificent and wild that our human minds can’t fully understand Him. And even if we don’t get all that we’re looking for, we can still trust that He is good.

I still stand behind what I said in part one of this story, and I 100% believe that we can say no to good things without testing them. But I also believe that God isn’t going to smite me for wanting to be sure of His answer if my end goal is to be obedient. Like I said, there’s no clear cut way to approach situations like this. This situation is unique to me in this exact season of life I’m in. So the same approach likely won’t even work for myself in a different circumstance of life. Just like my approach to this isn’t a step by step process for you to follow in your own life either. But I hope that my experiences, both of saying no to something good, as well as second guessing that no and testing out God’s will for me anyhow, leads you to examine your own approach to life. I pray that you would seek God and long for His plans for you to unfold and trust that they are good, and the rest will eventually fall into place.

Have you ever had a time when you tested God’s will in your life? What was the end result? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Until next time friends,

the one practice that has benefitted my faith & my mental health most

A few days ago I filled up the last page of another prayer journal. As I did, I looked back to the first page, back to September 12th – almost exactly five months ago. I scanned over the words I wrote to God when I asked Him to meet me within the pages of this journal. I had asked with anticipation for Him to lead me and guide me through whatever would come my way. Little did I know what those five months would hold. I considered how much has changed since I wrote that prayer on the first page. And then I considered how much of that change was processed and recorded within the pages that followed. The processing of decisions about our future, the downward spiral of the gym I worked for, the uncertainty of my next steps after job loss, finding and settling into new routines, further establishing our sense of community where we live – all of this and much, much more were processed at length. And while the processing wasn’t always pretty, and the outcomes of some situations weren’t always tied up with a neat bow, I was still able to fill the last lines of this journal with thanksgiving towards God for the way He has helped me through it all. I was able to say with certainty and with joy that the Lord is faithful.

While journaling my prayers has become a life altering habit in my faith and life, there’s a specific practice within it that has been the ultimate game changer for me. It’s what prayer journaling allows me the space to do. It’s what led me from the first page to the last page of this journal with an ever increasing trust in the Lord, despite a rollercoaster of circumstances. And it’s what has ultimately allowed about the greatest transformation in my heart. What I want to share about with you today is the concept of getting real with God.

What do I mean by that? Well, I mean sharing your whole and complete self with God. I mean opening up and letting Him into the lightest and brightest, as well as the deepest and darkest crevices of your soul. I mean putting it all out on the table – mess and all. I believe that prayer is a gift we’ve been given as a means to communicate with our Father and Creator, Redeemer and Savior. And if we don’t utilize it, we are the ones missing out. If all we do is say fluffy or repetitive or extravagant or forced words that we don’t even really mean, then are we actually communicating? Or, if all we do is have surface level conversations with God, constantly asking Him for things, but we hide our real hurts or wicked thoughts, are we really allowing God to change our hearts?

So I’ve learned to bare it all out there and confess who I am, exactly as I am. I say learned, because it’s often not easy. I don’t enjoy being vulnerable. As an enneagram 1, I don’t like facing my mistakes. I don’t like revealing the messy sides of me. I’d much rather talk about the neat and tidy parts of life. But I started to accept that if I can’t bring my full, whole self before God, who loves me unconditionally and more than anyone else, then I’m never going to be able to share my full, whole self with anyone. We used to attend a church that often said, “Bring the mess, Jesus can handle it.” And while we didn’t stick around that church long for unrelated reasons, that idea has stuck with me. If anyone can handle the worst parts of me, it’s Jesus. And so there is no safer place for me to be real. He already knows my heart and my thoughts anyways – and more deeply than I do at that. He’s not shocked by my sins and secrets. And He already went to the cross on behalf of them. So why not lay them before Him and ask Him to help me deal with them, rather than be consumed with worry that I’m going to be found out?

So I do that by being raw and honest with God when we chat. Sometimes that means I’m overjoyed and full of gratitude, so I pour out my thanksgiving and praise. But other times I boil over in anger, I cry out in sorrow, I dump out my overwhelm, I own up to my failures, I wrestle with my disappointment, I confess my fears, I demand change in what I deem unjust situations, I ask Him “why?”, I beg for miracles. Most emotions humans are capable of, I’ve probably hashed out with God at some point. And if you look back through that list, you can probably guess that it doesn’t always look pretty.

But the more I’ve opened up about the real stuff, the more He has cleared out the crud and transformed my heart. And the more He’s done that, the more I’ve seen His gentleness, and faithfulness, and patience, and grace. I’ve gotten to experience God’s love and mercy for me amidst my harshest moments. And as a result, my faith has grown exponentially as I’ve experienced what feels like His miracle work in my life. There is no specific method to it. There are no magic words to say. There’s no right or wrong strategy. It’s just me laying myself bare and coming before the throne of my Savior and King to seek His guidance.

I firmly believe that by inviting God in, He more easily brings deep change in my heart and life, because I’m no longer resisting. It has given me an incredibly fresh and real meaning to Jesus as my Wonderful Counselor. Because there have been times that I’ve walked away from journaling feeling like I just came straight out of a therapy session.

It’s through this practice and allowing the Holy Spirit to really have His way with me that I’ve realized how much I have a fear of failure. I’ve had my eyes opened to how much of an idol I’ve made of comfort in my life. I’ve recognized my shortcomings in communicating in my marriage and found ways to strengthen it. I’ve found hope and direction in the face of unknown. I’ve gained better understanding of other people in my life, and I’ve definitely gained better understanding of myself. I’ve had the opportunity to see God pull all of the loose threads together in so many situations to complete the fuller picture. I’ve also had the opportunity of finding peace while the threads are all still loose.

By offering up the junk and the mess and the mire within me, God has taken it and used it to teach me, grow me, change me, transform me, and ultimately bring me into His freedom. He knows that there are times I’ve needed gentle correction, and other times that have required a not-so-subtle kick in the pants. Of course there are messy feelings and words that come out that aren’t so honoring to God, but by giving it all over to Him, I have a safe place to sort through them, rather than let them bubble over in even greater sin, and possibly making it worse. By acknowledging that my heart isn’t always in the place it’s “supposed” to be, I’m able to give God the room to mold it and shape it to make it new. THIS is how I become more like Jesus – not by striving to obtain a certain character trait through practice (though that’s not necessarily a bad thing). But by handing over the deepest, darkest parts of myself and letting God do His redeeming work – letting Him get to be the hero that He is. Sometimes that means He eradicates the tough stuff, and sometimes that means He shines through it.

So however you pray, I urge you to be completely and wholly honest with God. Give Him it all. Each and every emotion. Each and every light and heavy thought. Each and every shortcoming and failure. I promise you, He wants to hear from you. He wants to shine light in those dark corners you’ve been working so hard to hide – not to embarrass you or to hurt you, but to set you free. It might still feel uncomfortable to be exposed, but there is no safer place than in the shadow of God’s wings. He is the most wonderful counselor I’ve ever known. I hope you can know Him as that too.

What about you? How do you best connect with God? Do you feel like you could get a little more real with Him when you talk to Him? Or have you experienced His work in your heart because of a time you were real with Him? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Until next time,

saying no to good things

Last week I saw a job posting for the pilates platform that I’ve been using and loving for the last month. It intrigued me, especially because literally moments before I saw it I was on a walk with our pups listening to a podcast interview with the founder/CEO and daydreaming about what it could look like to work for her and her business someday. So I took a look at the job description and qualifications. As I scanned over the details I considered how perfect of a fit this could be for me. It’s a mobile position that could be done from anywhere; it would only be 20-30 hours a week; the pay is more than what I was making in my previous job; the work itself seemed doable and enjoyable; I’m perfectly qualified for the position in just about every way; and most significantly to me, it’s a business that I can wholeheartedly get behind – one that encapsulates many of my recent passions, experiences, and interests. I don’t know if I could quite call it a dream job, but it sure felt like a dream opportunity.

But before I could even consider clicking the button to “Apply Here” I felt a pause within me – a stop in my mind reminding me of what God has called me to in this season. A calling that I have been so sure of because He has affirmed it over and over again. And He again affirmed me of it on this day when I considered an alternative route. A route that seems to be crafted just for me. A route that would surely allow me to work for the good of others and the glory of God. A route that appears to be a good and exciting opportunity.

And yet, it would be a route different from the one that God has so strategically paved for me. The route that I seemingly lost my job for. The route that has given me fresh faith and hope in the midst of a confusing season. The route that has me so closely clinging to Jesus amidst unknowns and doubts and fears. The route that has roots that go at least six years deep. The route that I feel strongly the Lord has assured me great abundance through.

It’s not that I think God wouldn’t want me to pursue a good opportunity like this because He doesn’t want me to have something good. I don’t think that He’s trying to hold out on me. What I do think is that He doesn’t want me to pursue this opportunity because He’s trying to help me be obedient to the one He’s already placed before me.

Remember that word of obedience I felt so confident the Lord had given me for this year? He’s been extraordinarily clear that it’s been from Him because it keeps coming up over and over again. In podcasts and books, in sermons and instagram posts. The Lord has been remarkably timely in His assurance to me of what my focus is to be right now. Like, so timely that I’ll be experiencing some doubts or fears, and within hours, or even minutes, I come across some words that speak directly against them. I’m not even kidding that it happened via my instagram feed when I was taking a break (cough procrastinating cough) writing this post. You wanna know what it said?

“Oof, ohhhhkay,” I said audibly as I read that and set my phone down, feeling slightly like someone just read my mind.

God has been so gracious to me. In all of my life, but especially in this recent season. He’s been teaching me so much, and uncovering so much within me, it’s almost overwhelming. And it’s established my trust in Him all the more. Because of that trust, I believe that writing and working on this blog is the assignment He’s given me right now. I believe that through this assignment, He is leading me on a path towards abundance. Where it leads and what that abundance looks like, I still have no idea. But when God speaks so loudly and plainly and clearly to you, it means He has a plan. And He’s God, so you know it’s going to be good in the end.

So I told myself ‘no’ to this seemingly great opportunity. And it hasn’t been easy to do so. I could start numerous other conversations about how I’ve felt guilty for not contributing financially to our family, or how I’ve wrestled with insecurity over identifying as ‘unemployed,’ or as a ‘blogger,’ or how I’ve felt bad for having so much free time to do things I enjoy while my husband goes to work each day; so this job could help solve all of those issues. But I’ve considered in Matthew 4 where the devil tempted Jesus by suggesting He do things that altogether weren’t bad and would, in theory, glorify God. But Jesus rebuked the devil because if He was to do any of those things, He would have faltered away from God’s ultimate rescue plan for us (Matthew 4:1-11). It would have completely changed the endgame. I wouldn’t quite consider this job posting I saw as a temptation from the devil, but my reasons for pursuing it would certainly be fueled by fear and doubt and a distrust that God has good plans for me where I’m at.

Saying no can be a hard thing to do in general. Whether it’s not wanting to disappoint someone, or there’s a fear of missing out, it’s just not always a natural thing to do. But it is easier when the option before you is a no brainer. It’s easier when there’s an obvious reason that an option is not the right fit for you, or it doesn’t line up with your plans or vision. However, I’m finding it most challenging when the option sounds like a good one. It’s challenging when it lines up with your passions or it has the potential to be really fruitful.

This job could be a truly wonderful opportunity, but I’m settled in the choice that it’s just not what I’m called to right now. So I’m holding onto the sure promise to those that follow God that, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1: 3-4). And that inheritance is going to be better than anything we can imagine.

I’m hopeful that I made the right choice.


What about you friends? Is there something good that you’ve had to say no to in order to remain obedient to what God is calling you to? Or is there something you think maybe you need to start saying no to in order to give God your ultimate yes? Surely I can’t be the only one in the trenches of this. I’d truly love to hear from you in the comments.

Until next time,

the girl for the job

Hi friends! I know it’s been a bit quiet around here over the summer and the past months. And rather than just pick up where I left off and pretend like it never happened – which trust me, I kind of wanted to do – I feel compelled to share with you why.

I’ve been in a confusing spot when it comes to this blog. It’s been on my mind consistently – whether I’m thinking of ideas for posts, or I’m just thinking about how I haven’t produced much for it. It’s something I truly want to be investing in. And yet, I haven’t been making time for it.

One reason why comes down to distraction. The biggest culprits of time fillers in my life lately are scrolling on my phone or binge watching Survivor, making my schedule feel deceptively more “busy” than it actually is.

A similar reason why comes down to procrastination. Putting it off until the time feels right. Until I’m in the mood. Until everything else on my never ending to-do list is done first so that all of my distractions are diminished. Until I have more time and more focus.

But truthfully, what it really comes down to is fear.

What if no one reads what I write? I put so much thought and attention into what I put on here, so if no one really engages with what I share, that can be really disappointing.

What if people do read it and don’t like it? All the more disappointing.

What if I’m a fool for thinking that I have anything original or unique to share?

What if people think I’m being “extra” for being a blogger? I mean, I already feel silly enough mentioning to someone that I have a blog. Extra is one of the last things I want to be.

Or what if it people do read it? What if what I share from my heart and about my life is put out there and complete strangers know too much? What if I don’t set good enough boundaries and I find myself too vulnerable? I mean, the internet is a scary place these days.

And what if I make it about me? I know the Lord has called me to write for this blog, but what if instead of Him getting the glory, I miss the point and become a distraction from the gospel?

And the biggest whopper of them all – the one that encompasses them all – what if I fail?

Whether those “what ifs” are reasonable or not, they have been real thoughts and fears in my mind. They are thoughts and fears that I have had to wrestle with. They are still thoughts and fears that I have to fight with.

My general fear of failure came to light in my life in big ways last year, but it has shape-shifted a bit when it comes to blogging. As strange as it feels sometimes, I truly believe this blog is something God has called me to. I don’t think it’s coincidental that after all these years, whether I have been posting or not, that this space is regularly on my mind. Through many prayers about it, I have felt nothing but affirmation that this is an open door God has placed before me. It feels like a natural way for me to utilize some of my God given gifts. It’s felt like that since the conception of this space.

With that in mind, this blog is not something I want to take lightly. I don’t want to treat it passively, but very intentionally. If it’s meant to be for the glory of God, then I want to do it well (a perspective that I hope one day reflects all capacities of my life). But with that perspective I unintentionally put pressure on myself when I rely on my own strength, and it gives way to my fear of doing it wrong, because I feel like there’s more on the line.

Towards the end of the summer, amidst wrestling with some of these lingering fears, I joined in on the launch team for Jess Connolly‘s latest book “You Are The Girl For The Job.” If you are unfamiliar with Jess, she is one of my favorite authors and truth speakers (I highly recommend following her on instagram for a daily dose of truth and encouragement). But I digress…To be honest, I was excited for this book simply because it was written by Jess, and I liked what I saw of the build up for what it was about, but I didn’t realize just how much it was for me. It ended up exposing some of these fears I had been facing, and it spoke straight to them – or against them, I should say. It unveiled a lot of deep rooted reasons I was holding myself back from truly running on mission for Jesus, and it equipped and spurred me on to choose obedience in all capacities of life, INCLUDING this blog, so I could glorify God, benefit others, and in the process experience the Lord’s abundance.

I could share quote after quote from this book (trust me, I have literally half of the pages underlined), but in correlation with what I’m sharing here, this was one excerpt that literally took my breath away and almost left me in tears:

“I need the gentle reminder that I can’t fail God because He never put me on a pedestal. Not once has God gotten our relationship confused and expected me to be the perfect one. Not once has God put pressure on me to produce something worthy of His affection. Not once in my entire existence has He forgotten that I am the workmanship and He is the creator. I often forget that, but He never does…Jesus cannot be disappointed by your failure, because (A) He is all-knowing and chose you anyhow, seeing all your wins and all your losses, and (B) He has never put pressure on you to produce. You are HIS workmanship, and the rest is worship.”

These words cut me to my core in the most disarming and freeing ways. I think because they speak against so many of my natural thought processes (I’m a 1 on the enneagram if that helps explain anything). I’m still working to let these words, and so many others from YATGFTJ, change me, and a step in that for me is through choosing obedience when it comes to this blog.

I’m fighting to believe that this is something the Lord has called me to and equipped me for. And because that belief has carried on from the day I started thinking about starting a blog, I’m fighting to believe that He has abundance in store through it. The truth is, I’m doing it wrong if I don’t even try. God isn’t going to be glorified by this blog if I sit back and shirk away from an opportunity He has given to me specifically. He will certainly go on and continue to be glorified in other ways, but then I miss out on the abundance I could experience by joining in.

I’m tired of missing out. I’m tired of having fun ideas to post about and letting too much time pass and it’s no longer relevant. I’m tired of getting excited about sharing something the Lord’s put on my heart and talking myself out of doing so. I’m tired of thinking, and not doing.

So I’m stepping out. Stepping out from the fear because I won’t let it be king anymore, and instead stepping out in faith, because if the Lord has called me to this, then whom (or what) shall I fear? Stepping out because I am the girl for the job. There will certainly be failure and setbacks and flops along the way, but “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

I’ll leave you all with this, in case you need the encouragement to fight your own fears as well:

“Let’s…not be limited by what might come our way. Let’s be…defined by action and activated faith, trusting God and His Word over how things look, how we feel, or what we fear.” -Jess Connolly

Until next time,

P.S. I cannot recommend You Are The Girl For The Job enough for you ladies. You can find out more about the book and order a copy for yourself here.

weakness, not perfection

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I have a hard time with vulnerability. Like, real vulnerability. The kind of vulnerability that sheds light on my deepest weaknesses, heaviest burdens, and darkest sins. It takes the right time, place, and person for me to really open up about those things, and even when I do it’s likely weeks, months, or maybe years, after I’ve already been dealing with the weight of it.

You see, somewhere along the line I started to believe the perception that a mature Christian should be able to get through the tough stuff – that someone who is following Jesus shouldn’t be so easily tripped up by the little things. I believe this lie that I should be able to handle things on my own. Most of the things I have dealt with, or do deal with, in life do not seem that big compared to the people I know (& don’t know) that go through so much hardship and struggle, so much pain and heartbreak, so much heaviness. And so I don’t want to burden people with the things that I’m facing.

At the root of it, my natural tendencies towards perfectionism lead me to believe that as a Christian I’m supposed to be all put together. I’m supposed to live a life unlike those of this world. I’m supposed to live a life redeemed by Jesus and so I should show how I rise above it. But a problem enters in when I don’t have it all put together. When I’m hurting or feeling weak. When I’m dealing with my own sins. And I’m too prideful to ask for help. Because then I hold it all in. And it piles up and entangles. And then I can’t even make sense of it when it does comes bursting out. So my persona of perfection is shattered, and I’m left feeling broken and confused.

I wrote about all of this in my journal back when we first arrived to North Dakota in October. I was flipping through the other night and re-read the words that I wrote, and they still resonate. I added some additional thoughts in the margins, and out of nowhere I was reminded of the concept that God is made perfect in my weakness. So I opened my Bible and found the Scripture that went along with this. This is what I read:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecution, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. [2 Corinthians 12:9-10]

This is Paul speaking to the Corinthians in response to some people within their community that were boasting of their accomplishments, their heritage, and their experiences. Paul was so agitated that the only way he knew to get through to the people who were hearing these things was to boast back. So he told of the hardship he has faced while following Jesus. Then he started to speak of this heavenly vision or experience (he said himself he’s not sure what it was) that he had. But he stopped himself and explained that he was not allowed to share the details of it so that no one may think more of him. And a thorn was put in his flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. He pleaded with God to remove it three times, and God’s response was what I read in verse 9. And Paul went on to explain his understanding in verse 10. [You can check out the entire context in 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10]. I dug deeper into these words and looked into our study bible and found this explanation:

“Paul was not allowed to speak about his heavenly revelations, but he quotes Christ’s declaration to underscore that his earthy weaknesses (not his revelations) would be the platform for perfecting and demonstrating the Lord’s power.”

So I began to think about if I don’t boast of my weaknesses, how will people know my need for Jesus? And if I don’t boast of my weaknesses, how will people know God’s grace in my life? If I don’t speak of the things that are messy and hard, people won’t know God’s transformative work in my life. They will only see that I’m put together and maybe that I’m a “good person.” And He is therefore robbed of that glory that He deserves.

If we boast of ourselves, we ask for eyes to be on us. If I emphasize all that I have done, I’m not pointing to Jesus, I’m pointing to myself. And in comparison to Jesus, who the heck cares what I do? I am nothing without Christ. I accomplish nothing of worth apart from Jesus. My greatest triumphs in this world are meaningless and worthless unless they give complete glory to God. My grades in school, my past accomplishments in sports, the job that I have, the amount of my salary, the size of my house, the quality of things that I own, the health of my marriage, the car that I drive, the number that shows up on the scale – none of it means anything a part from Jesus. There’s a reason God never really permitted for me to be number one at anything. Yes, I’ve finished at the top of the line up in many things, but never quite first place. And I understand why now. If I had done so, I would find all the more reason to boast in myself. Any bit of seniority I’ve ever had has gone to my head. And it has ultimately seeped through the fingers of my grip. Leaving me empty, with nothing. Because the only thing worth holding onto is Jesus. When I do that, I might receive blessing alongside of it (or maybe not), but regardless both of my hands should be gripped on him. Both of my eyes should be focused on Him. The words that I speak should speak of Him. Because nothing else matters. Period.

Folks, I’m a mess. I make mistakes. A lot. I have so many flaws and quirks that still need refining. I choose to reach for things that steal my affections from Jesus. Daily. And all with the knowledge of the things that stir my affections for Him. I turn my back on Him even when I know that nothing is sweeter than throwing myself into His arms. I hurt people with my words. Sometimes to their face. Most times behind their backs. Sometimes unintentionally, sometimes unconsciously, but the scary part is many times on purpose. Only Jesus and I are aware of just how much, and how quickly, my mind and heart turn towards judging and criticizing others, but you can trust me when I say it’s a lot. I fight my natural tendencies towards pride on a daily basis. And then when I recognize the pride, I fight the tendencies to lean into insecurities. I hold grudges, especially against those that hurt me in ways that I hurt others. I expect perfection of others, but then don’t hold myself to the same standards. I’m a walking contradiction. At the root of it all, I’m terribly selfishness. Terribly, terribly selfish. Who I am on my own taints the picture of Jesus that I claim to represent. And to be honest guys, all of this doesn’t even begin to cover it.

So the moral of the story: I need Jesus. Desperately. And that is why I get chills and my eyes fill with tears every time I sing of his amazing grace in my life. I need that grace. Daily. Hourly. Minutely. And it is ONLY by that grace that I have been redeemed and washed cleaned. I’ve been purchased and my sins have been pardoned by the blood of Christ and His resurrection. It has nothing to do with who I am or what I have done. So I need to stop holding onto my idea of my own perfection and embrace my mess so that God may be glorified, not me. It has everything to do with Jesus. And so it is HIM that I praise. It is only in HIM that I can boast. And so I boast of Him today to you, in the hopes that you may know that He is capable of doing the same thing in you that He has done in me.

when God’s will doesn’t match up with my own

ORGANIC (2)

This weekend Timehop reminded me through a Tweet I posted last year that we were embarking in a significant season of transition. “The walls are getting whiter,” said year-ago Kelly. I remember it well. I was preparing for our apartment to get packed up by movers. And my heart was experiencing all kinds of emotions. Let me give you the back story:

A year ago we received the news that our world was being flipped upside down faster than we expected. Our anticipated September move to California for Adam’s training was moved up to May. Not only that, but we would need to leave the day immediately following his graduation. Not only that, but we received word of this all just shy of a month before we would need to leave. Talk about overwhelming.

Now May was the initial time frame for our departure when we first found out what Adam’s job would be in the Air Force. At first we were prepared for it. We were excited to know that his career would start right off the bat as he finished up his undergrad years.

Then somewhere in-between it was pushed back to September. This was disappointing news for about a split second, but the more we thought about it, the better it seemed. September meant that Adam would have a brief period of rest after 4 years of late nights and hard work. September meant that we could spend the summer getting together with friends and family that we hadn’t seen much of throughout our newlywed year. September meant we had plenty of time for goodbyes before we turned the page. September meant that we had a few extra months of life in Carbondale. September meant we had a few extra months of time at Vine Church, where we were growing, learning, investing. September became perfect.

And then in typical Air Force fashion: a last minute change of plans. They pulled a major “just kidding” on us and pulled our leave date back to May. No more time off for Adam. No more time to see loved ones and say goodbye. No more time left with our friends or our church in Carbondale. April to May quickly became a whirlwind of a month. Adam had to scramble to accomplish all the minor tasks to prepare for going active duty – all while finishing up his final semester of college. I immediately had to put in my two weeks notice at work, and I scrambled to get my cases in as much order as possible so that I could transition everything off well for the caseworker that would take over them. We prepared our apartment to be packed up strategically for a cross country move. We planned our road trip across the states – being sure to make it to our new base in time, while still making time to see some landmarks along the way. We made space in the midst of the craziness to host some last minute visits from some family. We said goodbyes. Many goodbyes. Many difficult and rushed goodbyes. Adam graduated. He commissioned. And we were off. Just like that.

In a span of 4 years for Adam, and less than a year for me, Carbondale, Illinois became our home. There’s nothing overly extravagant about the college town on paper, but it has become a place that I will forever love to return to. It was the setting for the start of our life together. It was a town filled with so many unique adventures – most of which we didn’t have time to explore. It was where we could get the world’s greatest fruit slushes at QQ Bubble Tea and the best chicken fried rice at Thai Taste. It was a place where our faith grew exponentially in the midst of new challenges and lessons. And it felt like it was being ripped away from us far too quickly. Why did we have to leave so soon? Why couldn’t we stay just a little bit longer? It’s not like we were getting too comfortable or becoming stagnant there. We were growing. We were serving. We were being challenged. And yet the Air Force and God still bid us onward.

The ONLY thing that kept me moving forward, and resisting every urge to cling to it all and never let go, was that God assured me countless times that this was His will for us. He orchestrated it all. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t want it – at least not yet. But whatever the circumstances would bring – both good or bad – it was his desire for us to move onward. And therefore, that is what would be best for us. It’s a scary thing to admit complete trust in God. Never in my life did I have to cling so tightly to His promises to get me through. I tried, for His sake (and His glory) to point to Him in it all. To let people know that although my heart wanted something else, I was still going to follow God where He wanted me to go. Granted I probably repeated that so often to people because I was trying to convince myself more than I was trying to convince them. But He knows far more than I do. And He knows what I need to be sharpened and refined.

It’s been almost a year since we left. I remember the emotions of that time like it was yesterday. The fear, the disappointment, the excitement, the nervousness, the instability, the peace. It was nothing short of overwhelming. And I remember when the novelty of it all wore off. A short way into our time in California we were missing Illinois like crazy. It was much easier for me to focus on the hardship and the aches that my heart felt than it was for me to focus on God’s plan. Another move later and I still find myself doubting and asking “why?” I still question this even when my heart is far more at ease than it ever was in California. Although I still haven’t figured out the direct answer, God keeps bringing me back to the truth that this has all been a part of His will, and this is what is best for me, for us, and for His glory. And I learn to accept that (keyword: learn). I may have to continuously reaccept it, but it’s where I keep getting brought back to.

Because we are exactly where God wants us to be. We are in a place we begged and pleaded not to go to, and yet it has turned out to be far greater than we imagined. I still miss Carbondale. I still miss home. But it becomes much lighter when I give the weight of it all back to Jesus and rest in the assurance that we have purpose here. More likely than not, purpose far beyond ourselves.

As someone who trusts that God is who He says He is, I can confidently and firmly believe that His will is better than my own. Even if I don’t see it now, even if I don’t see it in 20 years, even if I don’t see it ever in this life, He knows far more about what is best for me in this life than I do. My vision most often is shortsighted and selfish. His vision is all knowing, all wise, & all encompassing. He sees beyond me because He knows it’s not about me. Therefore when He calls me onward to something (or tells me to stay put), I want to trust Him that despite what good or bad may come that it is best for my well being and for His glory. He never promised Christ followers an easy life. He never promised anyone an easy life for that matter. He never told us that we deserve great things – we came up with that mindset on our own. But what he has ensured us of is that in our sinful nature and natural rebellion of Him we deserve eternal punishment. But He took care of that on the cross and opened the door for us to have the undeserved and unearned opportunity to find freedom and grace in Him. And as I have come to accept that and believe that, I turn towards Him with a heart of repentance, respect, and love. In doing so I’ve accepted that we are all broken humans filled with flaws due to our sinful nature that need to be refined in the fire of the Holy Spirit. Refinement is a hard pressing process. It means difficult things are inevitable. But refinement can help rid us of the things in our hearts and lives that don’t belong. It can chip away at the dark pieces within us to make more room for Jesus.

And I don’t know about you, but I want more of Jesus. He’s the only thing that has ever been, and will ever be, worth giving up everything for. In doing so, that means giving up my own will, and following His – even when it doesn’t make sense, and especially when it doesn’t match up with my own.

from comparison to contentment

From Comparison to Contentment: a new blog series on The Pruim Life

Within the past two years I’ve been made aware of how much I’ve been stuck in a battle between pride and insecurity. Of vanity and a lack of self esteem. It’s a battle that I lose regardless of which side I land on. Because neither are where I want to be, or where I’m meant to be. I had a hard time grasping onto an understanding of how I can struggle with such opposing attributes. I couldn’t understand how to address my pride when on the other end of the spectrum I also needed to address my insecurities. And it wasn’t until more recently that I realized that my sin goes deeper. That it’s more complicated than simply being conceited or lacking confidence. It’s because of what I measure myself to. It’s because of a competition I’ve created between myself and the rest of the world. It’s because I compare everything I have, and everything I am, to everything else.

I’m not sure when it starts. When do we learn to try to “keep up with the Joneses”? Or do we even learn it? Is it a part of our human nature to look at what other people have in comparison to what we do? I sure feel that way sometimes. Maybe it’s just me. But maybe not.

Our appearance, our homes, our relationships, our experiences, our clothes, our stuff, our whole lives too often get rated in relation to someone else’s. Sometimes we “measure up” and have the better of the bunch. We’re above the rest. We’re encouraged because we’re coming out on top (Enter in the foothold for pride & vanity. Other times we miss the mark and what we have isn’t good enough. We feel like we’re losing (Enter in the foothold for insecurities and low self esteem).

From Comparison to Contentment: a new blog series on The Pruim Life

I don’t know about you, but comparison wrecks my heart. It either lessens the worth of me, my life, and all that I have been blessed with. Or it inflates my head into a pompous attitude. Either I’m not good enough, or I’m looking down on others because I let myself believe that what I’ve got is better. And both leave me frustrated, ugly, broken, and hurting. It’s the kind of broken that I’ve felt on those mornings when none of my clothes look good, my hair does everything that I don’t want it to, and my tired eyes can’t be covered up, so I’m led to tears because it feels like there’s no hope. Real tears, over what on the surface appears to be nonsense, but point to a much deeper heart matter that took me far too long to notice in my life.

The truth of the matter is this: I’m a sinner. We’re all sinners. Born into sin in a sinful world. Our natural human nature is flawed because of it. The human race fell short long ago. All because one devious snake convinced a woman to compare who she was with God. All because the first couple on the planet compared what they had with what they could have had. And as a result, thousands of years later, we’re still naturally inclined to look to others and want what they have. I find it too easy to look away from all of the ways that God has been at work in my life and poured out more blessings than I could ever deserve as I look to the ways that God is working in others’ lives and how he is pouring out blessings on them. But just because that may be our natural inclination, doesn’t mean it’s right. It doesn’t mean that’s what’s best for us.

Ever feel like your sin takes you over sometimes? That you feel like you’re in an identity crisis because you know that you know that you know that there are lies being whispered into your ears, yet they still sink in to your heart and affect how you see yourself and the world. My tendency to compare has brought out the worst in me – even if others don’t see it. I can think of moments that I’ve found it hard to rejoice with loved ones over exciting opportunities, simply because my opportunities don’t seem as great in comparison. I put on a face of support, yet I’m envying what they have. I can think of moments that I’ve felt a [ugly] tweak of happiness at someone’s downfall, because that means I’m coming out ahead of them. But am I really? I can think of moments that I’ve looked past other people’s hurts because I’m too preoccupied with my own life – my own self. I can think of moments that I’ve talked down about someone just because I don’t like that something is happening for them that I wish was happening for me. And I can think of moments that I’ve been angry with the people that get the things that I want – just like a child that gets upset when someone else gets the toy that they wanted. Yes, I’m like an immature child. Because all of this is wrong, wrong, wrong. & I know it.

You see, it’s a downward spiral of selfishness, vanity, envy, doubt, insecurity, pride, gossip – things that Scripture tells us to turn away from. I can praise God for the Holy Spirit and His work in me. Because of Him, these attributes do not have to define me. Because of that, these attributes come up in flares, rather than consume my everyday. But those days that they do fill me up, I just need more and more Jesus to push them out.

What Jesus accomplished on the cross covered these sins of ours (as well as all the rest). His death and resurrection have given us the opportunity to conquer these sins; to put them to death and never have to look back. Becoming more aware of these sinful tendencies of mine has been hard. It’s been overwhelming and exhausting to address a tangled web of sins that have infected my life for longer than I even realize. Like weeds that have taken root and hurt to pull up. But it’s been so worth it to endure. Because Jesus is so worth it. And finding contentment in Him brings my heart, mind, and soul the peace, rest, and satisfaction it aches for. It’s the only kind of satisfaction I will ever need. And one day, I hope to be able to confidently say that without any inch of reservation. Without looking back to the things of this world that try to steal my joy. Because that’s what comparison does. It is the thief of joy. It steals my attention away from the God that sacrificed everything for my freedom. And typing that last sentence out just makes me shake my head at myself as that truth saturates itself into my heart. Because what could be better than that kind of all consuming love? I’ll give you a hint: nothing.

From Comparison to Contentment: a new blog series on The Pruim Life

These struggles, these thoughts, these heartaches have been at the core of my being for years. Sometimes without me even knowing it. But more recently, they have been the inspiration for me to make changes – to turn to Jesus and find true contentment and satisfaction in who He is. And as a result, my heart longs to share the truths I have learned, am learning, and have yet to learn, with you. Because I KNOW that I am not alone in this. I know that this internal sin is one that in some way, shape, or form, attempts to infect us all. This is the topic that I’ve been brainstorming about since October. This is the series that I’ve wanted to introduce to you all for so long, but have been seeking for the right words to say. I’m all kinds of excited/nervous/anxious to finally be getting it out in the open. I’ve almost felt unworthy of speaking on such topics, because in no way, shape, or form have I mastered this. But that’s the beauty of it, isn’t it? That in Christ’s redemption of my heart I can share my struggles, my failures, my triumphs, my hurts, and my joys alongside of you all as we can come together to find true everlasting contentment in the One who gives us more than enough, and who is more than enough. So trust me when I say that there is so much more to come. This is only the beginning.

Will you join me in turning away from comparison, and running towards Jesus, and as a result, running towards contentment?