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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