What the Chaos Teaches Us About the Creator

A few weeks ago we had one of those rains where it seems like the whole sky opens up. Trees bent under the weight of it. Birds scurried to find shelter.

Every living creature seemed to realize the need to stay dry except my dog, who I inadvertently left out while running errands. She just laid there sopping wet, hanging her face when I remembered to let her inside.

She had a huge covered porch where she could stay covered, but she chose to take a cold shower.

Afternoon came and the rain stopped but the storm clouds stayed. I drove to the bus stop and was struck by the scene around me.

Trees and flowers and glowed against a backdrop of stormy sky, their leaves all sparkling and wet. It was beautiful.

The dark clouds provided a canvas that illuminated creation. Living, thriving. Not in spite of the storm, but because of it.

It reminded me of situations I’m facing now and the lives of dear friends. Storms are everywhere, and yet life goes on.

I ache for those who fill my conversations and enter my prayers. I curse the devil and wish he’d go away, never to threaten those I hold close.

And then I see my dog laying there in the rain. I see the God’s creation flickering in the storm.

I know his greatness is not limited by these clouds, these distortions to my vision.

Sometimes instead of evading the storm, we have to let it drench us.

We have to let it hit us with all the life lessons, the cold, and even the pain. We can grieve for what’s stripped away from us in the hard rain and we can yell when we don’t understand it, but we have to let it do its work.

And when we do, our roots grow deep. They aren’t ripped up by the tide rushing around us, but are held tightly by promises that surpass all the temporary things of this world.

Christ’s hope doesn’t equal the absence of chaos. It’s found right there in the thick of it. In the tears, the sleepless nights and the questions.

It’s then that we hear him whispering, “Come to me.”

Don’t wait until you have it all figured out and your life is perfect. Come to me in your mess. Come to when when you’re weary and burdened.

And when we do, we find he brings beauty right there in the middle of our storm. He doesn’t wait until the clouds pass and the sun breaks through. His Light shines in the darkness.

His glory isn’t hidden in the chaos. As we draw near, it’s illuminated because of it.

 

Advertisements

When Your Dream Becomes Too Heavy

If I’m honest, there are times when I wish this writing dream would die.

When I began blogging several years ago, I dove in with both feet. I had no idea what I was doing or how many people would read what I wrote. All I knew was how good it felt to get the words out there. There was no middle man, editor or someone who deemed whether the syllables I strung together were good enough to print. It was just me, the laptop and the reader.

And I liked that.

But to pursue dreams and goals, we can’t remain in one place. We have to keep challenging ourselves to step outside what’s comfortable.

So I looked into the publishing world. I bought a writer’s market guide, took online classes and talked to successful writers. I learned what it took to get a publishing house to notice you, and I got my first taste of disillusionment with the industry.

Platform. Numbers. Followers and email subscribers. At first it seemed easy enough, until I heard numbers far exceeding anything I’d imagined.

I looked at other writers around me and thought I had to keep their rhythm and pace. Then I wondered why I was frustrated. I wondered why something I used to love felt heavy and burdensome.

I wanted my dream to go away, but it wouldn’t.

Every time I was tempted to close my computer and never see that cursor flashing again, a message would pop into my inbox. Or a comment would show up on my blog. A note of encouragement. A reader saying the words reached her at just the right time.

I knew this dream was so much bigger than me. I realized it wasn’t about me at all, really.

It was about the One who placed it in my heart. It was about the readers He brought here. Some close, and some in continents I may never step foot in.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched an Amazon original show that follows the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. Or as he called her, “Z.” She was his muse, his inspiration, and the woman who kept him going when he was temped to give up.

In one of the opening episodes, Zelda’s father, who is a well-to-do judge in Alabama, drills Fitzgerald about his writing, asserting that it is not a viable career. Fitzgerald fights back, saying Mark Twain was a millionaire.

Zelda’s father laughs.

“So you’re going to be the next Mark Twain?” he jokes.

“No,” Fitzgerald says. “I’m going to be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald.”

And he was. He was a writer in his own right, with his own voice. He didn’t have to be anyone else, because his message was recognized as unique. It stood on its own.

Now, I’ll be completely honest. I am not an F. Scott Fitzgerald or The Great Gatsby fan. (astonishing, I know) But I have a fascination with these classic, early 20th century writers. I’m captivated by the fact that they would pursue something most people thought was completely absurd. That they were willing to go against the status quo and take a risk.

As I reflected on the scene from “Z,” what I felt like God was saying to me was this:

“You don’t have to be like anyone else. Just be Abby. Just be the writer I created you to be.”

My job is to put the words to the keyboard. God’s is to do what only he can do.

So to you, dear reader, I deliver this message:

  • When you’re tempted to look in the other lane, remember only you can run your race.
  • When you’re tempted to give up, remember your pace may not look like the person to your right or your left.
  • When you’re rejected, remember He can use each “no” to lead you to the perfect “yes.”

Your journey won’t look like anyone else’s. Because your journey was assigned by a limitless Creator.

 

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup, #RechargeWednesday

A Promise for When God Seems Far Away

When I was five, my best friend locked the two of us in the trunk of his dad’s car. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why the heck would he do that, right?

Good question. I still wonder about it, myself. If memory serves me correctly, we were pretending as kids often do. Our story involved being kidnapped by an awful person who threw us into the trunk of his car.

Of course, we had to climb into a trunk for effect. My friend didn’t intend to for it to latch, but it did.

Oh, crap.

Wonder why I’m still claustrophobic? Yeah, that’s the reason.

My friend and I were not big kids but that trunk was cramped. It was dark. The air was musty.

But do you know what I still remember? The little streak of light that shined through the crack in the door. It was bright. It illuminated the small space and we could see outside.

We could see neighbors riding by on their bikes. We could see the driveway and the trees.

This little pencil beam of light gave hope we would be found. It made me believe I wouldn’t take my last breath cursing my friend who decided this was a good idea.

We weren’t sure if anyone could hear us, but we called out for help. When someone didn’t come the first time, we continued yelling.

The past few months, I’ve felt like that little girl all over again.

I see the little streak of light and I’m calling. And even when the answer doesn’t come I keep lifting my voice.

Last Sunday I was putting on make-up, getting ready for church and I told my husband how I felt: overwhelmed. Like I’m wading through quicksand and I can’t seem to get a good foundation underneath me. Everyday tasks like getting the kids to the bus stop are more difficult than usual, not to mention the big projects that seem larger than life.

But the most frustrating part of it all is spiritual. When I come to God, my prayers feel sluggish. Like I’m fumbling through the dark, trying to find my way.

When I’m going through these times I love to read the Psalms because David didn’t hold anything back. He put it all out there, crying out to God with his soul deep needs.

One of my all-time favorites is Psalm 40. It starts with David doing something we followers of Christ loathe. Waiting. Waiting patiently for the Lord.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

Psalm 40:1

We aren’t patient people, are we? We want God to sweep us out of the pit right now and give us the answer to the prayer, desire or need.

But God is refining us. We are being pressed from every side but we don’t despair.

The crushed vessel still shines because of what’s inside of it: Christ.

It shines because the Spirit inside keeps calling out. Abba, Father.

That little streak of light I see? It’s the things I know about God. The aspects of his character I hold onto. His faithfulness, his perfect, unchanging love, and the many times he’s delivered me in the past.

We are not orphans, friends. God hasn’t abandoned you or forgotten you. You are his daughter, and he stands in the fire with you.

There is nothing you are walking through that he hasn’t already delivered you from.

My friend and I? Someone heard us. After a few minutes his dad came out looking and saved us from the imaginary kidnapper.

Just like David, our persistent cries brought an answer. They brought relief and comfort.

No matter how distant God seems today, keep crying out. No matter how grim your situation seems, keep coming to him.

If you can’t see the pencil streak of light, grab a hold of another believer’s hand and simply say his name. The answer will come.

I can guarantee it.

The One Truth That Can Silence the Voice of Doubt

silence-doubt

“You’re always my number one,” my hubby said.

I put my head against his chest and let his affirmation sink in, resting in his strong embrace.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been so tired. Adjusting to life with three kids and finding balance was a struggle. I was flailing in a sea of failed expectations in others, but also fighting to maintain healthy expectations in myself.

When I forgot to sign my son’s homework, I felt defeated. When I was unable to spend as much time with my boys, I felt guilt.

As we encounter difficulty navigating new seasons in life, the voices of doubt often creep in.

You can’t get this mom-of-three-kids thing down. Why did you ever think it was a good idea?

 That book proposal will never get done. You may as well not even try.

 And the scary part is, we often listen to that voice-the one who confirms our worst fears and dark thoughts we don’t talk about with others. The one who brings out the worst version of ourselves.

Instead of pursuing our dreams, we convince ourselves failure is inevitable. We shrink away from the edge of the next leap of faith before we even see the drop off.

silence-the-voice-of-doubt

So what do we do? How do we silence the voice of doubt when our eyelids are heavy and the road is weary?

If we want to drown the source of lies, we must look to the source of all truth- Jesus. He didn’t just speak truth. He lived it.

When I look at his life I often wonder, how did he keep discouragement and doubt at bay? When the Pharisees and naysayers questioned his every move, how did he stay strong? It’s quite simple, really.

Jesus knew who he was.

I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.

John 16:28 ESV

He not only knew who he was, but who he is, and is to come. One with the Father. His Son. The One he was “well pleased” with.

And when he looks at you and me, he’s pleased too. Not because we’re perfect or flawless, but because he sees his perfect Son.

You don’t have to compete for God’s attention. Like my husband said to me, you’re his number one.

When we face a mountain of doubt and discouragement, we can choose to listen his thoughts about us instead of the lies that invade our peace. Even when others around us are pointing out our flaws or being negative, we can immerse ourselves in the voice that speaks truth and love.

And when we abide in him, he calls us daughters. He gives us a crown and says, “Come to me, you who are weary.”

I don’t know about you, but those voices of lies are making me weary. Let’s come to the only One who can give us true rest today.

Let’s follow Jesus’ example and remember not only who we are, but Whose we are today.

Are You a People Pleaser? {A Guest Post}

kellypic

Today I am delighted to share the words of my dear friend Kelly Balarie with you. I can’t tell you the number of times this woman has encouraged me to be brave in my walk with Christ. I’ve been blessed to be part of the Purposeful Faith family over at Kelly’s website for the past two years, and it’s been an honor to watch the community grow as Lord moves and transforms hearts. Today Kelly releases her first book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears! Make sure you check it out and please give her a warm welcome!

Are You a People Pleaser?

God told me to pray with all my heart. So, I did. I don’t think they liked it very much.

I think they had thoughts about it. Opinions. Perspectives. Perceptions.

Ouch!

What do you do when God prompts your heart, but man judges it? They may not say it. They may not whisper it. They may not even admit it, but somehow you know, under the cover of their Christian guise it brews. What do you do with that?

This is what I’ve been considering. Do I take care of man or do I take care to follow God’s lead?

There’s risk, big risk, in following God. Moving outside norms, beyond bounds or having an air of “different” can feel like a punishment waiting to happen.  It can feel like you’re letting people down. It can feel like their charge over you marks you condemned.

Even more, the fear of being judged, ostracized or talked about behind your back – is real. It is really real. Even worse, in some cases, it is likely to happen. Add that to the enemy, who spits out ugly words, like: “Bad child, you are messing things up and stirring up problems,” and, at this point, you can be thrown into the sea of doubt, in a split-second.

Still, I want to do what is right by God, don’t you? I want to live for Him – first. I want to answer to Him – above all. I want to be like Christ – in every way.

God knows, I want to be brave. I think he sees my heart. So, like a gracious father, He leads me, his child, to truth; He brings me to these words:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Gal. 1:10

please-god

I can either with the approval of man. It’s fleeting and tiring.

Or, I can win the approval of God. It’s enduring and up building.

I can either please people. It’s short-lived and peace-depleting.

Or, I can serve Christ. It’s long-lasting and peace-giving.

What man gives today, is gone tomorrow. What you put in to satiating him, is eaten up by his desires for more – the next day. However, the will of God, does not waver. It does not grow old. It does not change course. It has a destination. There, lives joy, His glory and grand purpose.

Will we push into it? We can’t do it if we are sitting on man’s lap and eating up the delight of his face of approval. Jesus didn’t get a face of approval on the cross. His on-fire pursuit of doing God’s appeared nuts to man. It appeared worthy of their highest condemnation.

Still, Jesus didn’t change course. He stood fast to his belief in what his Father had called him to. He walked the road assigned to him, anyway.

What road do you need to walk anyway? What person’s demands do you need to release? What calling of love do you need to pursue?

“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” Jo. 12:26


Paperback3DTemplates_5.5x8.5.inddAuthor and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day.

About Kelly Balarie:

Kelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear at http://www.fearfightingbook.com/.

Hope on the Horizon {Anchored Souls Series}

anchor-series

As we continue our Anchored Souls series, I am excited to welcome my friend Katie Reid back to the blog. One of the many things I love about Katie is how she moves past small talk and quickly dives into the deep, spiritual topics of life. It is refreshing and endearing, and when I met her in person a few years ago, I knew I’d found a like-minded soul. Katie’s writing is much like her personality, and isn’t afraid to address the tough questions of life. I always leave her with a nugget of wisdom or truth, and I know you’ll be blessed by her words here today.

Hope on the Horizon

Tangled in roots, I tromp through field with limping gait. It’s as if I am walking through inky molasses—held back by worry that chokes oxygen from limbs and lungs.

I long to spin freely on a carpet of wild flower, but briars adhere to the hem of my garment. The mud coats my feet as I struggle forward, breathing shallow.

Weeds of disappointment leave blisters as glorious freedom taunts on the horizon—just out of reach.

As the shadows close in, it becomes difficult to keep eyes fixed on hope.

Determined not to get stuck, I keep going, one foot in front of the other. Freedom awaits, and I want to feel it, to know it as kin.

Somewhere along the journey I pick up stones that turn to baggage. I stumble with worry as I focus on fear instead of faith. I trip over self-sufficiency and lose sight of the need to be led.

Have you found yourself in a similar place?

Do you feel paralyzed in your ability to break free from a mindset, circumstance, or sin? Do you ache for a better country yet find yourself in wandering desert? Is your heart tethered to despair as hope faintly flickers?

Sometimes we feel lost in times of transition. Sometimes our faith is shaken as painful circumstances scrap at our heels.

Yet, as we remember that we are not orphans but daughters, not paupers but heirs, not abandoned but Beloved, our posture changes—even if our situation does not.

notorphanbutdaughter

Our head clears as we grab hold of the inheritance that is already ours. This inheritance doesn’t perish, spoil, or fade away (see 1 Peter 1:3-4). The riches of God’s grace are not just on the horizon, but at hand.

In the midst of the journey we discover that freedom is already here, at our feet, in our lungs, written on soul.

We start to spin, slowly at first, then faster—twirling as a smile spreads wide across this face, sculpted in secret.

Yes, the land of Freedom is there on the horizon, but it’s also within.

Child, even here in wild field, amidst briar, Jesus is within.

Sing the song of grace Beloved. Sing and spin, and breathe fresh air. Let that air give oxygen to hope as it bursts into flame and spreads —a beacon of glory amidst the untamed.

Child, you are free—even when you feel chains clawing at your feet. The chains cannot clasp shut, for Jesus overthrew the power of sin, once and for all. If you have believed and received the Savior, then you walk unfettered.

No sin, loss, or trial can trump the victory gained through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through the blood of Jesus, you can live clean. He paid for your freedom. The grave was thrust open to prove His love for you.

The lavish gift of grace, under the New Covenant, is enough to unshackle you, both now and for eternity.

Dance in the field of glory, freedom is already yours.

1 Peter 1:3-7

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.


katiemreidheadshotbridgeclosesKatie M. Reid is a writer and speaker who encourages others to find grace in the unraveling of life. She delights in her hubby, five children, and their life in ministry. Cut-to-the-chase conversation over hot or iced tea is one of Katie’s favorite things. Connect with Katie at katiemreid.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

When We Run Ahead of God {Anchored Souls Series}

anchor-series

Today my dear friend Tiffany Parry joins us on the blog as we continue our Anchored Souls series. Tiffany’s heart for real conversations drew me into her writing instantly. She leaves pretense at the door, and isn’t afraid to talk about the messy, often confusing parts of our walk with Christ. Her writing challenges me to dig deep and ask hard questions, and I am continually grateful God chose to align our paths in the writing world. I hope you will give her a warm welcome today as she talks about those seasons when God gives us a tough direction to follow.

When We Run Ahead of God

Just be a girl. God wrote the words over my heart.

After a season of struggle and difficulty, heartbreak and confusion, those words should have sounded like an invitation to freedom and rest. But for a “girl” who was used to doing, and going, and being so much more than “just” it felt like I was being placed on a shelf to collect dust.

God had called me out of ministry, out of labor and the business of caring for others. When my natural inclination might have been to search for a need to fill or a job to sink myself into, God said, just be.

It’s a humbling moment when the Creator of the universe gives you direction to simply stop.

I’ll be the first to admit that change isn’t easy. When, like me, you crave routine and detailed order, change feels a whole lot like the deep and wide unknown. But only to us.

“Jesus replied, ‘You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.’”
John 13:7 NLT

God sees, and He knows exactly when to cast light into the deep unknown and bring certainty out of the shadows.

So I waited…watched…listened…worshipped…communed…healed…stood still.

And then I was done. Yup. I decided my season of “just being” was over and it was time I leap right back into what I left behind. Notice all the “I’s” in that sentence?

Let’s pause for a minute. It bears mentioning that my season of wait encompassed over a year of my life. A year of change and adjustment, of new beginnings in new places. It was a necessary season of rest and refreshment in the Lord, and it wasn’t mind to end.

The changing of the seasons are never in our hands.

On a crisp fall evening, I donned brave and strong and marched [or more like crept into the corner] of a Women’s Ministry meeting at my new church. Certain that it was time to reignite my passions and reengage my gifts, I [there “I” am again] decided signing up for the smallest of small jobs would be harmless.

My pastor’s wife shared her vision for the women of the church—kindness, love, authenticity. She filled my heart in places I had no idea craved care and attention. At the end of the meeting I approached, lifted my hand to shake hers, and nearly slipped on my own puddle of tears as I poured out as much of my story as would fit around hiccups and sobs. Messy, but quite real.

Do you know what she said to me? “Just be a girl.”

Her words echoed God’s and assured me that it was simply too soon.

when-we-run-ahead-of-god

He was in the room that night. Even when we run ahead of God, He still stands by our side.

So I waited…watched…listened…worshipped…communed…healed some more and kept standing still.

And it was hard. But it was good. It still is. Rather than run ahead, I’ve taken baby steps and God has met each one. He has shined a great light into that deep unknown and has revealed certain truth, unwavering promise, abounding grace, and the most tender provision.

There have been moments I’ve wondered if perhaps God would forever leave me in a holding pattern. But just when I think I’m forgotten, God proves that He has been working all along—transforming, refining, equipping, molding me into the person He needs me to become.

We are His—dearly loved, held close, deeply treasured—and we are NEVER forgotten.

There are places we will soon walk that God has not yet revealed because He hasn’t fully prepared us for them. The stillness, the quiet, the seeming unknown are not indications of His absence, but simply the promise that His best is yet to come.

Let’s “just be” a people who willingly wait, who stand expectant, of God’s very best.

 


tiffany-headshot2Tiffany is marveled by the endless grace and relentless love of her Savior in this life that can be so messy, too busy, and entirely imperfect. Her heart is to share God’s precious promises of grace and love with others and invite them into honest and authentic conversations about faith and life. Tiffany welcomes you to join the journey at her blog, Simply for One, or on Facebook and Instagram.