From a Dead End to Deliverance

Then the Lord gave these instructions to Moses: “Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon.- Exodus 14:1-2

Have you ever found yourself at a dead end in your life? Have you ever believed with all your heart that you have followed the direction of the Lord only to find yourself at a place where not only could you not go any further, but you actually had to turn around and retrace your steps? I know I have.

I also know I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. I didn’t understand it. And I spent a lot of time crying and grumbling about it. I sure wish I would’ve read today’s account in Exodus with greater revelation and understanding instead of wasting time letting doubt, fear, disappointment, and discouragement settle in.

Praise God! It’s never too late. Though I may have extended my time in the wilderness with all my crying and complaining, the Lord is now revealing important truths to us so we can get on out of the wilderness and cross over into our Promised Land! Let’s take a close look at why God allows dead ends in our lives, by studying this account in Exodus.

The Lord had brought the Israelites out of Egypt. He brought them out with the money of Egypt. He brought them out in divine health. He brought them out the roundabout way so they would not be afraid of the giants in the land. He had been leading them as a pillar of fire by night and as a cloud by day. When the fire or cloud moved, they moved. When the fire or cloud stayed, they stayed.

It was a pretty sweet set up until they hit a dead end. They could go no further. We read in Exodus 14:1-2 that the Lord tells Moses to tell the people to turn back. He gives Moses very specific instructions. They are to retrace their steps and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol, and the sea. They are to camp facing Baal-zephon. We learn in verse 21 that this is the place where the Lord parts the Red Sea.

Now we can skim over the hard to pronounce names and move right to the excitement of the parting of the sea, OR, we could stop and ask the Lord why He did what He did. Why did He first lead them to a dead end? Why did He tell them to turn around and retrace their steps? Why did He have them set up camp facing Baal-zephon, between the sea and Migdol, by Pi-hahiroth?

The first two questions are easily answered when you continue reading Exodus 14. It says in verses 3-4 Then Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’ And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you.[a] I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord!” So the Israelites camped there as they were told.

That dead end you may find yourself in- it’s not about you. It’s not about you “missing it”. It’s not about you not being good enough. It’s not about your shortcomings or mistakes. Though it feels as though it is very much about you- it isn’t. It is about the glory of God being revealed.

I know that is easy for me to say in this moment. I also know that when I have hit a dead end my first response has never been “Sweet! I bet God is about to reveal His glory through me in this moment!” Ha. Far from it. My first response usually looks something like this “What did I do wrong? Where did I miss it? Why did I even try again? What is wrong with me?”

I. I. I. Me. Me. Me. Inward thinking. Talk about a dead end. Answers to those questions never come. The don’t come because it is not about us! It is about the glory of God!

Now I am not saying that there is not a place for self examination. We are to examine our hearts daily. The Word also says we are to go to God and ask Him to search our heart and reveal any offense within us. When we hit a wall- a dead end- it is good to go before God and ask Him about it.

However- that is not what we do. Usually we skip the “going to God” part and go straight to looking inward asking ourselves questions. As soon as we do that, the snake comes and adds fuel to the fire with his “Did God really say?” doubt-filled thoughts. We go from “God leading and loving us” to “God leaving and abandoning us”.

It was the same with the Israelites. It says in Exodus 14 11-12 Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What is this that you have done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Did we not say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians [as slaves] than to die in the wilderness.” This is even after the Lord made it clear in verse 3-4 that He was about to display his glory!

No one enjoys a dead end. No one enjoys retracing their steps. No one wants to take one step forward and two steps back. I have felt that way in regards to my writing for years. Dead ends. Steps retraced. Tormented by the enemy whispering lies and accusations. It hurts. It stinks. It has caused me many tears of doubt and frustration as I have responded like the Israelites, “Why don’t you just take this desire away? Why did you lead me to believe this time would be different? Why do I find myself in this same place over and over again?! I AM NOT GOING BACK! I AM NOT RETRACING THESE STEPS AGAIN. I HAVE BEEN THERE. DONE THAT. I AM DYING HERE…

Yet here I am. Taking another step. I would be lying if I said I have overcome all of the doubt, disappointment, and discouragement of past attempts at writing and ministry. I would be lying if I said I have it all figured out. Even now as I type the enemy whispers “Why are you wasting your time? How is this going to be any different than the other times? Who do you think you are and what do you hope to accomplish?”

I silence the enemy with every word typed. I silence the accuser every time I hit the publish button and post something new. I ignore the snake and I say “God- may your glory be revealed through me in every situation, even when I don’t understand”.

There is a reason why God had the Israelites camp at the mouth of water, facing the god of the storm and sea, by the watchtower. It is also important for us to camp in this place for awhile as well. We will dive into that next time. Until then, I encourage you to go to God with the dead ends in your life. Ask him to show you the dead ends from His perspective. I believe you will find peace and rest to your weary soul as you allow the King of glory to minister to you.

Heavenly Father, thank you for being a good, good Father. Forgive us for forgetting your goodness when things don’t go the way we expected them to. Forgive for thinking you have lead us into the wilderness to die, when you tell us time and time again that you have come to give us life in abundance. Holy Spirit I ask you to show me with kingdom eyes the dead ends in my life. Show me what you see. Show me the places I have allowed doubt, discouragement, and disappointment to creep in and leave me feeling abandoned and unloved. Thank you for breathing your breath of life into me and resurrecting the dead ends in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Finding Grace in the Dead End,

Jen

 

 

 

 

 

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ThanksOver

And Moses said “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out of this place” -Exodus 13:3 NKJV

This morning I was reading about the first Passover meal. The Passover meal was the last meal the Israelites ate in Egypt. The Lord gave Moses very specific instructions regarding the Passover meal. He provided in great detail instructions on the selection, preparation, consumption, and disposal of the entire meal from start to finish.

This meal was unlike any other meal the Israelites had eaten. This meal was their freedom meal. It was the meal that would bring them out of slavery and bondage. It was a meal that showed their faith in God and His promise to bring them out of Egypt.

God is faithful! The morning after the Israelites ate their Passover meal Pharaoh and all the Egyptians went to the Israelites and pretty much begged them to leave. They even brought them silver, gold, and clothing so they would have all they needed on their journey. They brought so much provision that the Word says the Israelites plundered the Egyptians!

Later on the Lord reviewed with Moses all of the instructions for the Passover meal. This meal is to be made each year as remembrance of what the Lord had done for them. Every year, even now, the Jewish people celebrate the miracles God performed in order to free them from the slavery and bondage of Egypt.

I spent most of the day preparing my home for our Thanksgiving meal tomorrow. Normally things like washing dishes and silverware that only get used once a year, dusting, and cleaning would not be what I consider to be fun. Today, however it was. It was a day full of joy and thanksgiving for me.

Having read about the Passover meal and the way the Lord brought his people out of bondage, I couldn’t help but think of how God has brought me out of different forms of slavery and bondage over the years. I am no longer a slave to sin. I am not longer in the bondage of depression. I am no longer a slave to performance. I am no longer in bondage to body image issues. I am no longer a slave to past hurts, pains, and negative experiences. I am free!

I AM FREE!

I can honestly say I am free! Wow! There was once a time when I didn’t think it was possible to be free from those things. I thought I would carry some of those things with me forever. Over the years, the more I have learned to trust that God is good, I have been able to yield and surrender all of those things to Him, and He has been faithful to heal them.

Now I am by no means perfect, but I also no longer strive to be perfect! That alone is a freedom I never thought possible! That alone put a smile on my face and a song in my heart even as I looked down at my filthy, stained, never-gonna-get-its-true-color- back carpet and thought “oh well”…

I do love Thanksgiving. I think it may be my favorite holiday. Maybe because it was my dad’s favorite holiday. Maybe because it was the last holiday I had with him. Maybe it is simply because I realize just how much I have to be thankful for. As much as I hate to mess with a perfect thing, this year, instead of celebrating Thanksgiving, I am going to celebrate ThanksOver. It is my way of “remembering this day in which I went out of Egypt”.

As you busy yourself preparing for Thanksgiving, I encourage you to take a few moments to thank God for the many ways He has delivered you out of bondage and slavery. And go ahead and thank Him for the ones that you may not be totally free from yet, knowing that HE IS FAITHFUL to complete the work, and He will NOT leave any parts of your life in Egypt!

Heavenly Father, I thank you and praise you for all you have done for me and my family! Thank you for your goodness! Thank you for your grace! Thank you for your mercy! Thank you for delivering me out of Egypt in so many ways! Thank you for the deliverance that is yet to come! Thank you for Jesus, our Passover lamb! Thank you for your promises that are Yes! and Amen! Thank you for this day of remembrance! Thank you for our loved ones, both with us, and not. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! In Jesus most precious and holy name, Amen!

Happy ThanksOver,

Jen

 

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Leave It Behind!

Now [in Haran] the Lord said to Abram, Go for yourself [for your own advantage] away from your country, from your relatives and your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. -Genesis 12:1 AMPC

I don’t know about you, but these seem like some pretty clear directions. In verse one of chapter twelve, God spoke to Abram (later to be renamed Abraham) and gave him 4 directives:

  1. Go away from your country
  2. Go away from your relatives
  3. Go away from your father’s house
  4. Go to the land I will show you

We read three things Abram was to go away from, and one thing he was to go to. Not only was he given these clear directives but he was also told what would happen if he followed them. Verse 2-3 is filled with great promises of blessing, abundance, protection, and more.

Despite the clear directives (leave country, leave relatives, leave father’s house) we read in verse 4: So Abram departed, as the Lord had directed him; and Lot [his nephew] went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.

Wait. What? And Lot his nephew went with him? Is it just me, or isn’t a nephew considered a relative?

This account has puzzled me for years. It puzzles me because verse 4 says that Abram departed as God had directed him, yet we also read that his nephew (relative) went with him. In my understanding those two statements contradict each other. God said no relatives. Yet Lot went with him…

I have always assumed the Abram told Lot to come with him. Lot’s father had died and perhaps Abram felt a certain responsibility towards him. Maybe he felt sorry for him leaving him behind, even though there were still many relatives remaining in Abram’s father’s house.

This morning I saw this account play out differently. I see it going down something like this:

Abram is packing up his wife, servants, and possessions to follow God’s directives. Lot comes up to him and says “Uncle Abram, I would like to come with you.” Abram says, “I am sorry Lot but God made it clear that I am to leave my country, my relatives, and my fathers house.”

Lot replied with “Did God really say you are to leave all your relatives?”

There entered the snake of doubt, compromise, and questioning of what Abram knew the Lord had spoken to him!

I don’t believe that Abram actually gave Lot permission to come along. I think Lot packed up his stuff and followed him, and Abram failed to stand his ground. I see Abram saying to himself “What can I do if Lot follows me? I am doing what God told me to do. I can’t help it if others follow. Besides, would God really have me leave my nephew behind? Surely I should watch over my brothers son…”

I am convinced it went down something like that because I see it going down like that in my life, and in the lives of others. We get clear directives from the Lord. We grab hold of it with excitement and “pack our things” in preparation to move forward, and then it comes. The snake. It comes through our thoughts. It comes through another person. It comes in the form of “Did God really say…”

It says in today’s verse that it was to Abram’s advantage that he leave his country, his relatives, and his fathers house. God was giving him the clearest, cleanest, fastest way to his promise. However, just like us, Abram responded in partial obedience by failing to hold his ground when the snake came. If you read the accounts of Lot you will see that he caused Abram much time and trouble and took him off course more than once.

BUT God is GOOD! All the time! In God’s goodness he continued to bless Abram and even though Abram lost some time in battles that were never intended for him to fight, the Lord fulfilled EVERY promise He made to Abram that day when he told him to leave his country.

I find comfort in that because like Abram, I have often answered God’s directives with partial obedience. I have listened to the snake of doubt, fear, unbelief, compromise, and more as I entertained the “Did God really say…” thoughts from myself and others. I have held on to stuff (feelings, people, hurts, actual things, and more) when God has clearly told me to let go of, and move away from them, so I could move forward into the place he has prepared for me. Thank you Jesus that you promise to bring us back to the proper path for our life when we go astray! (Psalm 25:8)

My question for you today is this: Are there any areas of your life that you are living in partial obedience to God’s written or spoken Word for your life?

If there is, simply ask the Lord for forgiveness and ask Him to place you back on the proper path for your life. He will answer the cry of a willing and surrendered heart. He will never ever leave us off course if we ask Him to bring us back! We simply need to admit we listened to the snake and we need help from our Father God, who is a good good Father!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being a good, good Father. Thank you for your mercy and grace that endure forever. WE come to you today Lord asking for your wisdom and direction. Holy Spirit reveal to us any areas of our lives that we are living in partial obedience to your written or spoken Word. Remove the blinders of doubt, fear, compromise, and every other thing that the snake has brought into our lives. Forgive our partial obedience and set us back on the proper path for our lives so we can do the good works you have created us to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Moving forward in full obedience,

Jen

 

 

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Tiggerish Faith

May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father    Colossians 1:12

When my kids were little they used to love watching Winnie the Pooh while I was driving. Actually they loved watching just about any DVD while I was driving. However, as the driver, there were certain DVD’s that I could tolerate listening to more than others. Even remembering those days for a moment has me singing the map song from Dora the Explorer….ugh!

Winnie the Pooh was easy on the ears. There were no annoying songs, voices or catch phrases (Elmo likes to help) to get stuck in my head. My favorite character was Eeyore. Now those of you that know me well might take me for a Tigger kind of Girl. I do tend to bounce around full of energy, looking for fun, in my seemingly happy go lucky sort of way. Just like Tigger, nothing stops me in my tracks faster than someone that needs a little cheering up.

Yes, I like Tigger; but Eeyore is the one that makes me smile the most. His glass is so empty that I am not sure he even has a glass anymore. Though most of the words that come out of his mouth are depressing and filled with self-pity, there is just something likable about him.

“If it is a good morning, which I doubt” is a familiar phrase of his. I think it’s cute when he says it. Funny thing is, I know a lot of real life Eeyores, and they are not so cute.

You know who I am talking about right? They are the people at work who have a permanent scowl. They are the people who when you walk by, smile, and say “good morning”, they stare straight ahead and don’t say anything (who does that?!) They are the people who you share good news with and their response makes you wish you would’ve kept your mouth shut.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that we need to act all Tiggerish all the time. We all have bad days and seasons of true sadness. I am not talking about the person that is struggling with real life. I am talking about the ones that could win the lottery and their response would be “My luck, I will die tomorrow”.

Though we all have Eeyore days, as Christians we really should be more on the Tiggerish side when it comes to our faith. We should be so full with the joy of our salvation that we can’t help but bounce around sharing the Good News with others don’t you think?

It’s not that easy though is it? Life often seems to get in the way of the joy. That is probably why it is one of the things Paul prays for the church about. He prays that the believers may be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. If it came naturally, I am guessing he wouldn’t have felt the need to pray for them about it.

What if you switched the verse around to read always thanking the Father fills you with joy. I am not suggesting Paul got it wrong. I am suggesting that one way to be filled with joy is to stop and think of all of the things God has done for us. When I still myself long enough to meditate on all of the blessings in my life, big and small, I cannot help but feel joy for what a good good Father our God truly is.

When we fail to recognize the many things we have to be thankful for, it is easy to fall into Eeyore Christian mode. Our outlook becomes “at least I get to go to heaven someday” (you need to say it in Eeyore’s voice to get the full effect).

If you are feeling like you have lost your bounce, put on a little worship music (may I suggest Bethel Worship) and take a moment to thank God for all He has done and continues to do in your life. I guarantee you will start feeling a little better. If something is weighing you done please fill out prayer request. I would consider it an honor and privilege to pray for you.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me on my best days and my worst days. Thank you for all you have done for me. Fill me with joy to the overflow so I may be a light and a blessing to others. Help me let go of the pain and hurts that weigh me down. Restore my joy so I may share the Good News of your love with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Tiggerish Day To You All,

Jen

 

 

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A Life That Pleases

Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. -Colossians 1:10

In the last post we started the first of many of Paul’s prayers for the church. We saw Paul praying that the the people of Colosse would know what God wanted them to do, and that they would be filled with the wisdom and understanding that the Holy Spirit brings. We also read a brief account of the story of Solomon, the wisest man that ever ruled. We saw that it pleases God when we ask for wisdom. Today’s verse reveals to us why.

According to Colossians 1:10, having spiritual wisdom and understanding does four things. It enables us to live a life that honors and pleases the Lord, it produces good fruit in our lives, it helps us grow, and it allows us to know God better and better.

What does a life that honors and pleases the Lord look like? In addition to asking God for wisdom and understanding, what pleases God? In Paul’s day they needed spiritual wisdom and understanding to even know what pleases God. Today, in addition to the Holy Spirit we have the benefit of being able to look to all of the scriptures to see what the Word says about living a life that pleases and honors God.

Here are a few things that I found that please the Lord:

1-Praise and thanksgiving Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. For this will please the Lord more than sacrificing cattle, more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves. -Psalm 69:30-31

2- Fear, awe, worship, and obedience He does not delight in the strength (military power) of the horse, Nor does He take pleasure in the legs (strength) of a man. The Lord favors those who fear and worship Him [with awe-inspired reverence and obedience], Those who wait for His mercy and lovingkindness. -Psalm 147:10-11

3- Godliness and justice It pleases God more when we demonstrate godliness and justice than when we merely offer him a sacrifice. -Proverbs 21:3

4- Us! For it was always in his perfect plan to adopt us as his delightful children, through our union with Jesus, the Anointed One, so that his tremendous love that cascades over us would glorify his grace—for the same love he has for his Beloved One, Jesus, he has for us. And this unfolding plan brings him great pleasure! -Ephesians 1:5

5- Faith And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. -Hebrews 11:6

Notice there are no verses that say “Thou must be perfect. Thou must maketh no mistakes. Thou must get it right at all times or thou wilst be abandoned.”

No! The list is pretty clear. We are to live godly lives as we praise and worship the Lord with thankful hearts. We are to live in obedience to His Word and to the things He places in our hearts. We are to understand how much it pleases Him that we are his daughters. Lastly, we are to have faith in Jesus, that when we fail to do the things that please God, the grace of our Lord, covers our shortcomings, mistakes, and failures. As if that is not enough, we also have the Holy Spirit living and dwelling within us to guide us in these things as well!

Girls, as you go about your day, remember that the fact that you belong to Him pleases Him! If you were to do nothing else than simply be His daughter, He would be pleased. Stop striving and straining to earn a love that has already been freely given to you!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for taking pleasure in me being your daughter. Thank you for guiding me in the details of my life. Help me to remember the simple things that bring you pleasure that I may live a life that honors you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Life That Pleases The Lord,

Jen

 

 

 

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Gonna Need a Little Help Here!

He’s informed us of the many wonderful ways love is being demonstrated through your lives by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  -Colossians 1:8

Yesterday I said I was going to spend next year loving more, rather than doing more. It felt good to declare it. I meant every word of it. I, Jen Gilbert, am going to be known for my love. Yes- they will know I’m a Christian by my love, by my love. Then I left the house…

I don’t know about you, but I find it much easier to love others when I am all alone in the comforts of my home. It’s a totally different story once I actually come into contact with people. Sometimes I don’t even have to come into contact with them. They can irritate me by screwing up the parent drop off line, or with an annoying email, or heaven forbid my voicemail message light is on when I get to work.

Cleary, if I am going to truly love others more, I am going to need a little help!

Praise God for today’s verse that assures us that the ability to love others does not come from our own striving and self effort. The ability to love others comes from the Holy Spirit. We are told in John 14:17 that the Holy Spirit leads us in all truth, and that we know him because he lives and dwells within us.

It’s that still small voice that says “don’t say it” when you want to saw something snarky to your husband. It’s that still small voice that says “go tell that woman you love her sweater” even though you don’t even know her. It’s that still small voice that whispers “write her a note of encouragement” even though you haven’t spoken to that person in months.

We are guided daily by that still small voice. Unfortunately, we often ignore it. We just HAVE TO get that little jab into our hubby because really, he “deserves” it. We feel too silly to walk up to a stranger and give them a compliment. We don’t have time to write a note to someone who probably doesn’t want to hear from us anyway.

Sometimes we miss the guidance altogether because we are too lost in our own thoughts. There is no room for guidance when our mind is racing through our next errand, email, and carpool assignment. We are in mental overdrive and their is no space for a new thought.

The Holy Spirit is the least understood part of the Godhead. We understand God the Father because for the most part we have all had a father figure in our lives. We understand Jesus being His son because we are sons and daughters. But who is this Holy Spirit character? How are we supposed to understand and relate to Him?

I know I don’t fully understand Him. Even as I write this I am filled with questions and doubts as to if I am presenting the truth accurately. The internet is no help. I did a little research and there are clearly some that have been led far far astray in their understanding of the three persons of the Godhead!

I will leave it at this- I believe the Holy Spirit lives and dwells within us and guides us in all truth. As much as I believe that I know I don’t fully grasp it. I know this because if I truly understood that God himself, as the Holy Spirit, lives and dwells within me I wouldn’t dare ignore one word of his advice. Yet I do. All the time!

Though I don’t have all the answers, I do know that if I am going to truly love others more I am going to need a little (okay a LOT) of help. I also know that the Holy Spirit empowered the people in Colosse to love at a level that they were famous for. I believe what He did for them, He will do for any of us that truly desire His help.

As you go about your day, remember that it is the little acts of love that often matter the most. We all want to do big things for God. Sometimes those BIG THINGS come in a series of small seemingly insignificant events. They come in compliments, notecards, and tongue biting :).

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your extravagant love for me. I want to show others the love that you have shown me. I thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Empower me through your Spirit to love others in big and small ways each and every day. Give me ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart to receive the guidance you give. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Holy Spirit Empowerment for Us All,

Jen

 

 

 

 

 

 

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His Purpose Prevails

A couple weeks ago I went walking at a county park that I often walk at. I am very familiar with the paths at this park as I have been there many times over the years. However, earlier this summer on the way back to my car, I noticed a path that I had never noticed before. I walked down it just a little ways to check it out but had to turn back before I got too far in as I was supposed to meet my kids back at the car.

So a couple weeks ago when I went for my walk, without thinking about it, I headed straight to this new path I had discovered earlier this summer. I wanted to know where it lead- especially because it headed in the complete opposite direction of the paths I normally take.

I liked the new path. It was hard packed dirt instead of pavement like the other paths. I enjoyed the sense of adventure as the trail turned throughout the woods. I liked that I didn’t really know where I was going. It was fun being somewhere new.

This was the same week that I applied for the new job. I thought about how my new job would be like this path. It would be new and full of unknowns. Though I would be on a path, it would be new to me and I wouldn’t necessarily know exactly where I was going or what I was doing. The new change could be fun and exciting. I became even more excited (and nervous) at the thought of a new job, but I still wondered if I had made the right decision in applying.

I was on the trail for about forty-five minutes when I suddenly recognized where I was. I realized I was going to end up in the EXACT SAME PLACE I always do when I am on the other trails! I started laughing to myself. I felt as though the Lord was speaking to my heart and saying that regardless of what job I have, or what path I am on, I will end up at the exact place He has planned for me when the time is right.

It says in Proverbs 19:21 Many plans are in a man’s mind, But it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand (be carried out).

I have had two interviews for the new job. The longer the wait goes on, the crazier I feel for wanting to subject myself to something new and unknown. I have spent the last three years getting to a place in my current job where I actually feel like I know what I am doing. At least with my current job I know everyone. I know what I like and what I don’t like. I know what I am doing.

As I waited to go into my second interview Thursday afternoon I thought “What am I doing?”. I was tempted to get up and leave. I didn’t though. I did my best at the interview and felt like it went much better than the first one did. On my way home I prayed (for the millionth time I think) to God and asked Him to make the decision for me. I prayed He would shut the door if it is not what is best for me and my family. If it is the right path, or an equally good path, and the job is offered to me, I will accept it.

Most of all, I will trust that the Lord’s purpose for my life will be carried out. In the end, that is what truly matters to me.

If you find yourself struggling over a decision in your life that you have already prayed about, I encourage you to meditate on today’s verse. I believe it will bring you comfort in knowing that regardless of the plans we make, God will bring us to the place we need to be and His plans and purpose for our lives will be carried out!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for the plans you have for me. I want to fulfill the purpose you have on my life. Thank you for your Word that promises that you will see to it that the purpose for my life is carried out. Increase the gift of faith in my life. Give me courage to walk on whatever path you set before me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Carried Out Purpose For Us All,

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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Prisoner of Hope

About eight years ago I taught a two part series at a large women’s group. It was only my third time teaching but afterwards I knew as I knew that I had found one of my main speaking themes. The first part was titled Dare to Dream. In it I encouraged the Girls to look beyond their current situations and circumstances and to start spending time with the Lord each day dreaming about the big plans God had for them and their families. Many of us in the group had multiple kids under the age of five so our idea of a big dream was being able to take an uninterrupted shower and to sleep long enough at night to actually have a dream.

The following week I taught part two, I’ve Got Big Dreams…Now What?”In it I spoke about the things that happen between the time we first identify our dream and the actual fulfillment of the dream. As most of us have experienced, dreams, especially God given dreams, do not happen overnight. There is a process. I have often heard it described in terms of a pregnant woman and the stages she goes through until giving birth to the dream. Similar to pregnancy and delivery, though all woman must go through the same stages, no two stories are alike. I wonder if dreamers like to tell their dream delivery story as much as women like to tell their labor and delivery story. Have you ever noticed that? But I digress…

I had so much fun preparing and delivering that two part teaching. It blessed me so much because it truly spoke to the Girls in our group. I give God the glory for that, as there was something special about that teaching. It seemed to flow out of me easily unlike some that I have had to labor and struggle over. Over the following weeks and months I would have someone come up to me and tell me things like “I am going back to Grad school because of your teaching”, or “Your teaching gave me the courage to start my own business.” Again I say, to God be the glory!

I was so excited that God would allow me to be a part of these ladies’ dreams. I thought for sure I was going straight to my dreams as well. I was going to be the Dream Lady. I would travel and speak and encourage women to live life big and pursue their dreams. It was a very exciting time for me. I knew the path I was on and where I was heading, and it was good.

And then life happened. I won’t go into the details now but there was a five year period of struggles, loss, pain, and uncertainty. It was one thing after another. Just when I could muster up enough hope that things were looking up, something would come along and knock the wind right back out of my sails. There was no more dreaming for me. My only dream during that time was to wake up from the nightmare we were living in.

Even though we have come through the pain, loss and uncertainty- Praise God- I have found it difficult to build my faith back up in the area of my personal dreams. I have gained momentum here and there but it doesn’t seem to take much to get me off track and giving up. My once feisty and tenacious hope had grown scared and timid. My heart has been fragile and I have been guarding it pretty tight.

As Dr Phil would say “How’s that working for ya?” It isn’t. Not one bit. The pain of running from my dreams finally outweighed the pain of loss, defeat and setbacks. I decided last Saturday that if I had to experience pain regarding my dreams, I may as well chose the pain. I would rather look back on my life and see failures and setbacks than regret. Regret has got to be one of the most painful feelings of all.

So I am back to where I started over eight years ago. I’ve Got Big Dreams….Now What? I don’t know what the end looks like or what the journey entails. What I do know is that I am taking one step a day, no matter how small, towards my dreams. Today’s step is found in Zechariah 9:12 NIV Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. The New Living Translation reads I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles.

I am a prisoner of hope. Now matter how hard I tried I could not free myself from the dreams in my heart. I am returning to my fortress of faith and I anxiously anticipate the blessings that are promised to those who have confident expectations in what the Lord has promised. There is plenty of room in the fortress if anyone would like to join me :).

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being my refuge and fortress in times of trouble. Thank you for holding me safely as a prisoner of hope. Thank you watching over me, protecting me, and for protecting the dreams in my heart. I let go of all the past pain, loss, and setbacks. I thank you for blessing my work and restoring back to me double for my trouble. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Return to the Fortress For You All,

Jen

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