Fan the Flames

I remember the day I met with my beautiful publishing friend. She asked me what I had been writing and I told her all of the excuses I had for why I wasn’t. She sat there nicely and listened. The final excuse I gave was that I didn’t have a laptop or computer anymore. She promptly got up, walked into a closet and came out with a pen and some yellow legal pads. She plopped them in my lap and said “You cannot bring God glory if you do not use your gift.” She said it because she loves and cares about me but boy did it sting. That moment has haunted me for the last few years.

I would like to say I left her office with a new resolve and desire to write, but I didn’t. I left her office feeling like my writing ship had sailed and no one seemed to understand that. I had stepped out in faith only to hit what I believed to be a dead end one too many times and I didn’t have the faith or the heart to try again.

It says in 2 Timothy 1:6-7 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a Spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self discipline.

Though I have read these two scriptures many times over the years, it wasn’t until this weekend that I put them together. I think many of us fail to use our gifts in the way God intended because we are filled with fear, doubt, and insecurity. We lack the discipline go the distance and fight against the obstacles that will inevitably arise whenever we attempt to live the life God called us to.

That is why Paul reminds Timothy that all of the things he may be feeling are not valid excuses for not using his gifts. His feelings are valid, but the Spirit of God living and dwelling inside of Timothy gives him everything he needs to overcome what he may be feeling. The same is true for all of us.

Paul also encourages Timothy to fan into flames his gift. Though I had an idea of what that meant, I looked it up online to make sure and this is what I found: to intensify or stir up feelings, exacerbate and explosive situation. 

It is often referenced in a way that makes a situation worse. However, when read in the context of Paul’s letter I see it as encouragement. I believe Paul is telling us that we need to keep using our gifts so when the time comes we are ready to ignite with full power the gifts we have been given.

You cannot run a marathon without training. You cannot even run a sprint without training (without hurting yourself anyway). That is why we need to fan the flames of our gift. We need to train and practice our gifts so when the time comes for us to operate in all of it’s power, we are ready to ignite. When we find ourselves in this place, fear and timidity do not stand a chance!

If your fiery gifts have been rained on, I encourage you to take a step of faith and start using them again. Stir up those dreams! Stir up the visions God gave you! Stir up the passionate desires you once had! Whatever let downs you may have had in the past no longer matter. Leave it in the past. All that matters now is what lies ahead. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that it’s good!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your fierce love of me! Thank you for the gifts and talents you have placed within me. Thank you for giving me the courage to fan the flames again. Give me a renewed sense of hope, purpose, and desire to use my gifts. Bring me opportunities to use my gifts. Ignite my gifts in an explosive way that changes the lives of those around me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Explosive Gifts,

Jen

 

 

 

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From a Whisper to a Scream

I said I was going to listen to my own advice. I was going to listen for the gentle whisper of the Lord in the decision I needed to make. I quote “I am going to resist the urge to try to figure it out. I am going to trust God’s word that says he delights in the details of my life. Most of all, I will stay in his Word. The answers to the smallest questions are often found in the perfect Word at the perfect time.

I meant it. I was not going to think about the job I was considering applying for. I was not going to churn it in my mind until it became butter. I was going to “cease striving and relax and know that He is God” as Psalm 46:10 instructs us to do.

As I laid my head on my pillow Monday night I felt as though I heard the Lord whisper to my heart and assure me that everything was going to be fine when I returned to work the next morning. I thought I had my answer. I shouldn’t apply for the job.

As I drove to work I prayed and gave myself the same motivational pep talk I often give myself on my way to work. I assured myself that it was going to be a great year. I reminded myself that reentry is always tough the first week or so returning from summer break. I couldn’t judge the year by the first week.

As I got nearer to the door I felt my steps getting heavier and heavier. I opened the door and took a few steps in. I stopped at the secretary’s desk and just stood there. One of my friends was at the desk also. I just froze. They asked what was wrong. I told them “I can’t do it. I can’t do this again. I want to get back into my car and drive home”. I stood there for a minute feeling as though I might have a panic attack.

Is that what a gentle whisper sounds like? It felt more like a violent internal scream! I just sat at my desk, staring at my computer and my blinking message light on my phone. All I kept thinking is “I can’t do it. My heart is no longer in it.”

I understand this may sound dramatic to you. I understand that many people find a job and stay there content, happy, and thankful. I admire those people. I am not one of them. I get upset with myself for not being one of them but that really does me no good. I am who I am and I need to feel passionate about the work I do and the places I spend my time and energy.

Is the extreme discontent the sound of a gentle whisper, or is it the scream of a big baby that needs to grow up, be thankful for what she has and stop sniveling? I don’t know…

I do know this. I know it says in Proverbs 16:9 A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life] But the LORD directs his steps and establishes them.

Sometimes we don’t hear the gentle whisper because our own desires are screaming too loud. Sometimes the screaming desires are the ones the Lord has given us and that is in fact what is directing us. I know it is confusing. I wish it was as neat and tidy as I made it seem on Monday. It’s not. Sometimes faith is messy, and confusing, and try as we might we just do not know 100% what we are supposed to do.

Here’s what I do know. I know God is good and He loves us even when we aren’t sure which end is up. He knows our heart and if we make a move in error He will bring us back to our proper path. He will not let us go astray to “teach us a lesson”. If we diligently seek Him and are unsure, we simply make plans as best we can as we journey through life, and trust that He will direct and establish our steps.

I applied for the job. I am excited and nervous. My friend and I prayed prior to hitting the submit button that God would open the door if it is right and close it if it is incorrect. If I missed the whisper then I trust He will give me fresh grace for another year right where I am at.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for directing and establishing my steps. Thank you for your Word that promises you will bring us to the proper path and plan for our lives. Thank you for bringing me peace in the process. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Established Steps For Us All,

Jen

 

 

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The Smoke In Our Lives

One of my favorite things to do at the cabin is to sit outside at night and gaze at the moon and stars. The moon is huge and the stars are brighter than anywhere else I have ever been. It feels like if I took a running start and jumped off the diving board I could grab hold and swing from one.

Due to the forest fires north of us I have not seem a single star in the the nine days we have been here. Tonight the smoke is so bad I cannot even see the moon. It is pitch black outside when there would normally be moon and star reflections dancing on the water. The smoke has stolen my vision.

In Calvin Miller’s book Into the Depths With God he writes “In 1 Corinthians 6:12, the apostle Paul reminds us that while all things may be permitted some things aren’t good for us. Those things that steal my vision for God are not good for me.”

The question I have been asking God  is “Is there anything in my life that needs to go (or needs to start) in order to live the life you created me to live?” In other words “Is there any smoke in my life that is stealing my vision?”

I return to work next week. I also return to being a youth leader, a mom with kids in activities, and all that goes with it.  Last year I was so busy and often overwhelmed that I didn’t even, couldn’t even, think of writing. I also didn’t have much time to take care of myself. I cannot have another year at that pace.

The thing is- I don’t feel like I spent time doing wasteful things. I am not a tv or Netflix person, and this blog is my only form of social media. Those are the two most common time wasters. I am lucky if I can get through a chapter of a book without falling asleep at night. When I looked at my schedule it seemed as though everything I spent my time on was good and/or necessary. I didn’t know what I could cut out.

As my last days of summer go by I am seeking God for wisdom and direction. I cannot afford to have any smoke stealing my vision for God. Neither can you. I encourage you to ask God the same question. The stars and the moon that are waiting behind the smoke are worth a million times more than anything the smoke can offer!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for who you are. Thank you for loving me. Thank you caring about the intimate details of my life. Thank you knowing what is best for me. I ask you to show me anything in my life that is taking me away from the call you have on my life. I want nothing more than to have you be the center of my vision. Speak to my heart and show me what changes I need to make in order to live my life to the full measure you have created me to live. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Smoke Free Life To You All,

Jen

 

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She’s Living My Life!

I am currently on our annual family vacation to Washington. We are here for twelve days and the forecast is high 90’s every day without a single cloud. I am so thankful we are right on the lake!

We flew this year so I could not bring my paddle board. I was bummed but there is still plenty to do here so I wasn’t too concerned about it. We arrived Tuesday around noon and the first thing I noticed was that the entire lake was pure glass. It is never like that during the day! Usually you need to go out first thing in the morning or wait until after dinner to get water like that, and even then there are usually still ripples in places.

I just stood there on the dock staring at the water. It felt like it was taunting me. How dare it be so calm midday when my paddle board is two thousand miles away? It is never like this in Minnesota either. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity (in my dramatic mind anyway). It remained smooth as glass all day and night. I couldn’t believe it.

I was so thankful on Wednesday to see that the lake was it’s normal rippling self. No more taunting and teasing. Tuesday had simply been a fluke. Or so I thought.

I woke up today and once again the lake was pure glass. It really is something. It is so calm and serene and looks like a postcard. I don’t know why I find it so fascinating but I do. I had come to terms with the fact that I did not have my board and rather than lamenting anymore (probably because no one seemed to feel sorry for me )I sat on the deck marveling at the view in awe. I was content in the moment, appreciating that I had nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Then I saw her. Off in the distance there was a paddle boarder. “How dare she” I said to my daughter who just rolled her eyes at my ridiculousness. I just stared at her out on her board. “Not fair!” I thought. “She is living my life! That is what I should be doing right now!” I was so jealous.

I have felt that “No fair! She is living my life” feeling many times before. Every time I see a woman my age publishing a book, writing a Bible study, or speaking at women’s groups I have that feeling. I will read a book or a devotional and think “I could have written that” (it is not said in disrespect- it is just that often I read something and it sounds like the person literally spent time in my head or read all of my journals) and then I go on to wonder why I hadn’t.

Do I lack faith? Discipline? Did I give up too soon? Did I make this whole dream up in my head? Did I miss the boat? Am I just some egomaniac that craves the stage? Is my writing just for me?

These thoughts used to drag me down into a depressive pit. I would wallow in self pity and jealousy. It has taken me a long time to simply rejoice in another woman’s ability to encourage us women. Thank God for them! I have benefitted from these women and they have carried me through a lot of difficult times. I have come to a place where I know that if it is God’s will for me to write for more than my own benefit it will happen- as long as I don’t crawl back into the tent :).

And what if my writing is just for me? Is that so bad? What if God has given me a creative way of drawing close to Him and seeing Him in everyday life. I think that is pretty sweet. Don’t misunderstand me though- I would love nothing more than to share his sweetness with others :).

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. Galatians 6:9

Love, Grace, and A Right Time For Us All,

Jen

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Playground Life

I received a comment that sparked a follow up blog for today. If you ever have a comment you feel like leaving- please do! You never know, it may be just the thing I need to spark my Word for the day. If you do not want your comment posted, just indicate that and it will remain between you and me 🙂

The comment read “What a great analogy to coincide with dreams. I am not sure where I am at on the slide, but it gives me time to pray and ask God”. I started thinking about my friend that left the comment. She is the mom I was at the playground with the other day.

I thought back to what life was like when my kids where ages two and infant. It was a crazy, busy, exciting, sweet, exhausting, precious and often overwhelming time. I don’t know that I did much dreaming during those early years. I think my dreams at the time were to be able to sleep long enough to have an actual dream, and to take an uninterrupted shower.

Revisiting those years got me thinking how life is kind of like a giant playground. There are many stages in our adult lives and they all have a piece of playground equipment that coincides with that stage. There are the college years, otherwise known as the monkey bars. You are focused on going from point a to b barely hanging on and hoping you can make it across. Then you are off to the sandbox where you try to build a life for yourself with your own little castle.

Next comes the merry go round. This is how I felt at times when my kiddos were little. The days sort of blended together and it seemed like the hours between waking and sleeping had me dizzy from running in circles all day chasing after the kids. As the kids got older and I went back to work I hopped on to the teeter totter. There I try desperately to balance work, family, friends, and all of the hats us women wear. I am hoping this year I can get that teeter totter to balance out!

Finally there are the swings. The swings represent the retirement years. The swings are when you get to kick back and watch over all of the other people on the playground and enjoy the different stages they are in. Though you are still active, you are not in a rush to get anywhere.

So where does the slide fit in? The slide is for all stages. We should run over to the slide often while we are in our different life stages. Our dreams will look different at each stage, but we should always be dreaming. We dream of our future, we dream for our kids, we dream about our career path, and through it all we discover the dreams God places within us. Once we have those dreams we will go in and out of seasons where we get to play on the slide. Sometimes it is only a quick ride. Other times we get to hang out there for a long while.

If you find yourself on a part of the playground you are not enjoying, take some time to visit the slide. Do as my friend is and pray and ask God what you should be dreaming about, and what if anything you should be doing to move towards them at this time. You may discover it’s time to spend more time on the slide, or you may find you are in a another season of life and right now you should enjoy that season while visiting the slide when you can.

There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Love, Grace, and a Playground Life For Us All,

Jen

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Big Girl Slide

Yesterday I went to the park with my friend and her two boys. Gibson, who is not quite two and a half was excited to show me how he could go down the big boy slide. When we got to the park I pointed to the slide and said “This slide?”. Gibson nodded his head and said “This slide!” I was surprised, as the slide seemed pretty big and just a month ago I had to coax, beg, and plead for him to go down a slide half it’s size. He had obviously grown into his new role as big brother in the last month.

I watched him climb up the ladder, his mom following him to make sure he did not fall backwards. He was all smiles as he climbed up. Once he got to the top his mom walked to the bottom of the slide to catch him as he came down. “Wave hi to Auntie Jen”, his mom said. He turned to wave at me and suddenly his face changed. He went from excitement and smiles to apprehension. He looked down towards the ground on the left side of the slide, and then to the right. He suddenly realized he was up high, and he was all alone. He sat there still as can be taking it all in, not sure what to do.

His mom was at the bottom encouraging him to come down, assuring him she would catch him. He kept asking her to come closer until finally she was standing with her arm reached as high as she could so he could touch her hand. Once Gibson was assured he was not on his own he went down the slide.

As Gibson sat at the top of the slide looking to the left and to the right, I got an image of what Peter must have done when he got out of the boat to walk on the water towards Jesus. He took his first step out of the boat with confidence and excitement. Then the sound of the waves caused him to look around and he realized that at that very moment he was on his on his own. Even though he could see Jesus, he wasn’t sure he could do it and panicked. As he started to sink and cried out to Jesus, Jesus grabbed him by the hand and pulled him safely onto the boat.

At a recent writer’s conference Susie Larsen said something to the effect of “When God first puts a dream in your heart you want to run after it with everything you’ve got. You keep telling God you are ready for it, but He assures you that you are not. Then suddenly one day God tells you it’s time. You are ready, at which point you panic and assure God you are not.”

I think about that statement a lot. For years I tried to tell God that I was ready for whatever He had planned for me. I was ready to live life big. Lately however, I see myself panicking a little at the thought of my dreams actually coming true. It was all fun daydreams before. What if it suddenly gets real? What would I do? Would I sit at the top of my big girl slide turning my head from the left to the right looking down? Would I suddenly realize that if I were to fall flat on my face it would hurt- bad? Would I trust that God was there to catch me at the bottom?

It says in Psalm 139:5 You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Just as Lia walked up the slide behind Gibson, and then immediately went to the front to catch him at the bottom, God also climbs with us in the high places, and will catch us in the low places. He even holds your hand on the way down. That verse came to life for me yesterday as I watched the interaction between mother and son. She was all around him, assuring him of his safety and being ready to help him in any way.

What about you? What will you do when you get to the top of your big girl slide? What will you do when God assures you that you have what it takes to make it on your own? Will you trust that He is there, cheering you on and ready to catch you? I know one thing- it’s a lot easier to slide down the big girl slide than it is to try to climb back down the ladder…

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for going before me and following me. Thank you that you are with me every step of my journey. Help me to be aware of your presence at all times. Give me the faith to climb and to enjoy every good thing you place before me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Big Girl Slide For Us All,

Jen

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Don’t Quit!

I am currently reading a novel titled Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. It is the story of a young African couple that worked very hard to come to America to live the American Dream. The husband moved to America first and worked for two years just to save enough money to bring his wife and son to America. Though it is a novel, I believe it is very common for many immigrants seeking to move to America to live their dream.

This young couple is working so hard to make it in New York. They both work multiple jobs and the wife is also going to school in hopes of becoming a pharmacist. Though life is tough for them, their excitement of what lies ahead for them keeps them moving forward.

Then a series of obstacles arise. One thing after another goes wrong and despite their best efforts they find themselves moving backwards rather than forwards. It is a very difficult time for them. Then suddenly one day the husband announces that they are moving back to their homeland. When I read this I had the same reaction as the wife in the story- NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

I was shocked by the turn of events and I was also shocked by my reaction to it. I was so upset. I felt so sad for him. I especially felt sad for the wife who did not want to give up and go home. With each chapter I remained hopeful that something would happen to change things around. I have 24 pages left in the book, and as far as I can see, they will be leaving America as well as their dreams behind.

There is something so sad about watching someone give up on their dreams. You see them suffer through hard times and you so desperately want them to come out on the other side of it. Often times life gets the best of people and you watch them slowly fade away from the vibrant excited person they once were to a smaller sadder version of themselves. You can’t help but share in their grief, despair, and brokenness.

Even though I was reading about fictional characters I kept finding myself trying to give them a pep talk. I didn’t want them to quit. I wanted them to hang in there a little longer. I wanted to tell them to simply play it through until the end was the end and not to quit until they were forced to. And even though with just 24 pages to go I do not see them turning things around, I will hold on that hope until I get to the end.

Can you think of someone in need of a dream pep talk? Is there someone that has been tossed around by life and they are now a smaller sadder version of who you know they truly are? It says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Now encourage each other and build each other up. The best part of encouraging someone else in there dreams is that you get to share in their joy when they achieve them rather than share in their sadness when they give up. I have been on both sides and I pick sharing dreams every time!

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for putting dreams in my heart. Thank you for putting people in my life to both share in my sorrows and to encourage me in my dreams. Use me to be a light and a blessing in someones life. Show me those that need encouragement. Thank you for your faithfulness and for your promises. Give me increased faith to believe what you have planned for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Tenacious Dreams,

Jen

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Stuck in The Tent

Last week we talked about a couple of the reasons we experience delays in the fulfillment of our dreams. For those of you that have a memory like mine (can remember what I wore to the first day of kindergarten but can’t remember what I ate for dinner tonight) I will briefly review them.

The two reasons we looked at were both delays put in place by God. The first was for our own protection as he prepares us for the battles we will encounter on the road to our dreams. We read how God took the Israelites the long way out of Egypt because if they went the short way they would right away have to go up against the Philistines. God knew the Israelites would most likely run back to Egypt in the face of battle so He took them the longer way. They still had to face battles along the way but God had time to work with them and in them to prepare them.

The other delay we looked at was for practical reasons such as not having everything in place that needs to be in place for us to manage our dream once we get there. We saw this in the plan God had for the Israelites to conquer their enemies and take their land. He told them He would have them do it little by little because if they conquered all of their enemies at once the wild animals would multiple quicker than the Israelites and over take them. God had them take the land piece by piece as they grew in numbers and could fill the land.

When we read the account of the Israelites exodus it is easy to think “I can’t believe they grumbled, complained, and disobeyed as much as they did. God was totally taking care of them and had their best interest at heart.” It is easy for us to see the whole picture because it is recorded with the details and reasoning God had. It’s one thing to read an account and quite another to live it don’t you think?

These two delays were not the only delays the Israelites encountered on their way to the Promised Land. They had many perceived setbacks. As time went on they became increasingly disgruntled, disobedient, and eventually lost their faith. It says in Psalm 106:24-25 The people refused to enter the pleasant land for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them. Instead they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey the LORD.”

Those verses always make me feel so sad. After all they had been through together with God. After all of the miracles they had witnessed regarding Gods protection and provision, they still got to a place where they no longer believed God would bring them to the Promised Land. They literally sat in their tents refusing to move any further.

I myself became a tent dweller last year. After years of taking one step forward and two steps back in my writing I gave up. I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to talk about it. I tried to tell myself that my days of writing and speaking were behind me, that they were just for a season and that season was over. I tried to find peace and satisfaction in my job, but I couldn’t. I enjoy my job, but I am not doing what makes me tick. What makes me tick is writing, speaking, and encouraging women to live life big. That’s hard to do when you find yourself living yours so small.

The more I tried to run from it, the more my discontentment grew. I complained a lot. I grumbled a lot. I found fault in others more. I tried not to do or be these things but the harder I tried, the more frustrated I got. I knew what my problem was but I didn’t have a solution. I knew I had lost faith in the dreams I once had. What I didn’t know was how to either get rid of the dreams, or restore my faith in them. Having nowhere to go, I stayed in the tent.

It’s not easy getting out of the tent. As miserable as I was in the tent, I was afraid to get out. I didn’t want to “get my hopes up” anymore. I just wanted to be content with where I was at. I finally realized that was never going to happen. I am not meant to live in a tent. Neither are you. We are created to walk by faith one step at a time in the direction we believe the Lord is calling us to. The rest is up to Him.

Are you sitting in your own tent of unbelief? How about you come out for a little fresh air with me as we take a step together? I would be happy to pray for you if you want to fill out a prayer request.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for loving me even on the days I refuse to get out of the tent. Please help me get out of the tent and take a step of faith. Thank you for restoring my faith. Thank you for the plans you have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and No More Tents,

Jen

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When the Excitement Wears Off

Think of a time when you were excited about something new in your life. A new job. A new marriage. A new home. A new baby. Remember the excitement and anticipation you had about this new opportunity and fresh start? It was all you could think about. You daydreamed and painted pictures in your head of what this new adventure would look like. It was such an exciting time.

And then something happened. You started living this exciting chapter in your life, only to discover that it wasn’t that exciting at all. Once the initial excitement passed you realized it was work. Hard work. And it was full of challenges and feelings you did not anticipate such as fear, discouragement, frustration, and pain.

When the reality of our new exciting adventure sets in we lament about the good old days. We wish we could go back. Remember when I didn’t have so much space to clean? Remember when I could sleep through the night? Remember when I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted? The funny thing about our lamenting is often the good old days were not that good! They were simply predictable, known, and therefore comfortable.

We have all been there. We have all experienced getting exactly what we wanted and then when it doesn’t go as we had planned we wonder if we made the right decision.The Promised Land is never what we think it will be. Actually, the journey to the Promised Land is never what we think it will be. However, if we keep moving forward on our journey I believe the Promised Land will be even better than we could ever imagine. The journey itself is what prepares us for that land, and that is why it is so difficult at times.

Take the Israelites for example. When God delivered them out of Egypt they left on a major high note. God had just protected every household. The Egyptians had just been given them all the gold, silver, clothing, and livestock they could handle. God healed each and every one of them so there was not one feeble among them. After being in Egypt for 430 years, two million strong, healthy, and fully provided for people were on the move to the Promised Land- how exciting!

Well that excitement lasted about one chapter. It says in Exodus 12:51 “On that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt like an army”. In Exodus 14:10-13 we read “As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the LORD, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!'”

Guess how long it took them to forget the miracles God had done to bring them out of Egypt? Twenty five days! The time from them leaving Egypt to camping at the Red Sea was about seventeen days (according to what I found online anyway). The day they crossed the Red Sea was around day twenty-five. Less than a month to forget all they had seen and experienced firsthand. Less than a month of being excited about all they were promised. Less than a month and they wanted to go back to a life of slavery!

If you find yourself lamenting about the good old days, stir your faith up by bringing to mind some of the ways the Lord has proven himself faithful in your life. I am sure looking back you will see many ways he has protected you, provided for you, healed you, and delivered you from the many trials of this life. He didn’t bring you this far to turn His back on you now. Go ahead, get excited about your dreams again. Your personal Promised Land will be seen!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the many times you have delivered me from the trails, temptations, and bondages of this life. Thank you for your faithfulness and provision. Thank you for loving me during my times of lamenting. Thank you for stirring up the dreams you have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Fresh Excitement For Us All,

Jen

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Practical Delays

We are currently taking a look at some of the reasons it often feels like we are wandering in the wilderness of our personal dreams. Yesterday we saw that God often delays fulfillment for our own protection. There are battles we will have to face on our journey. Battles that we need to be emotionally, and spiritually ready for. Today we will look at another reason our dreams do not come to pass overnight.

For the last two years I have been a volunteer leader in our churches’ youth ministry. I confess it is not what I would call my “sweet spot”. I have always been involved in women’s ministry and switching over to youth has been a big change for me. The blank stares, eye rolls, and texting while I speak is new to me. I think one of the reasons God has me there is to work out any pride or insecurity I have about speaking, as there is nothing like 150 teenagers to bring out every insecurity. Despite not being in my comfort zone I have loved (for the most part) being a part of this group.

I especially love the youth pastor, his amazing wife, and their sweetest two boys. If God put me on the youth team for no other reason than to get to know them, it is worth it! They have passion, excitement, and a heart for God that draws you to them. While fasting last year, the Lord spoke to JD’s heart and gave him a vision of having 250 students by the end of the 2018 school year. At the time we were at about 130. To double a ministry in eighteen months is unheard of. There is no way we could do it on our own. However, when God puts something in your heart it means you will not be doing it on your own. He has already made a way for us. Our job is to continue to walk by faith, spend time in prayer and in his Word, and seek his wisdom. It’s that easy…

Ok so maybe it is not that EASY. Hearing a dream or vision from God (and by vision I do not mean a trance like vision, I simply mean where you know as you know God is speaking to your heart) is very exciting at first. It is exciting to share with others close to you. It is exciting to day dream about. It is exciting to pray about. It is exciting to talk about.

Then slowly the excitement fades. The desire is still there but as time passes on little things start to chip away at the excitement that was there in the beginning. Little things like when people that said they were all in suddenly can’t be found, or people respond to you in such a way that lets you know they think your vision is “nice” but not really believing it. And then the doubt tries to creep in making you wonder if you really heard from God or if you just made it up in your pizza deprived state of fasting. The worst part- waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Until you get the “next step” from the Lord.

It’s really the waiting that is the hardest part. It is during the waiting that all the battles come our way. It is in the waiting that we are tempted with doubt, fatigue, distractions, loneliness, and discouragement. It happens to everyone. I have never heard anyone say “My favorite part about the fulfillment of my dreams or achieving my goals is the waiting. I wish I could wait a little longer.”

Sure, they may say that AFTER they reach their dreams because AFTER you get there you can look back and see how God was with you the whole time and why certain things had to happen the way they did. However, rarely do we get to see or understand them during the wait.

That is why we need to spend time with God in his Word and in prayer. When we spend time in his Word we see that there are reasons for the delays. Some delays are for protection and some delays are for very practical reasons. Take today’s verses for example. They are found in Exodus 23:29-30. God is telling the Israelites how and when to take their Promised Land. “But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply and threaten you. I will drive them out a little at a time until your population has increased enough to take possession of the land”.

God promised to drive out all of their enemies, but He had a specific plan and a purpose to His plan, and they needed to trust that plan. You might think they had it easy because they knew the plan and purpose. However, just nine chapters later the Israelites are worshipping a golden calf because they got sick of waiting for Moses to come down the mountain from his time with God. Waiting isn’t easy for anyone!

I sent those two verses to JD our youth pastor. I thought it was fitting for us as we seek God this summer for His plan to grow our youth group. It is a perfect reminder that if we feel there is a delay to the progress, it is simply because God does not want us leaders to be overtaken by the animals 🙂

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your perfect timing. Thank you for working in ways that I cannot see. I ask you to give me the gift of faith while I wait for you to speak my next step into my heart. Thank you for your protection. Thank you for your wisdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Practical Delay,

Jen

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