3 Reasons Why God’s Promises Go Further Than Our Dreams

The comment popped into my inbox, and it was as though the reader saw directly into my heart. Tears formed and I knew God was speaking.

“Go to the conference with a song in your heart, holding lightly to your hopes and dreams and tightly to God’s promises. Sounds like the two work against each other, but His promises go further than our dreams.”

I knew this woman spoke the truth, but I didn’t hold my dream lightly. I grasped it for dear life, afraid if I let it go it would disappear. With mere months standing between me and my first writers’ conference, I worked feverishly on a book proposal. My publisher’s appointment was scheduled, and the plan was to walk away with a contract in the works.

In the months that followed, my dream became an idol. Although I didn’t see it at the time, it took the place of the God who gave it life. But since he is an ever-loving and patient giver, he put it back in its rightful place.

Whether this reader who commented on my blog realized it or not, she was speaking words I would need in the months to come. When I questioned God’s call and wondered whether I should continue writing, I came back to her insight. What did she mean? Did I trust God’s promises more than I trusted my plans?

The truth was, I didn’t.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at iBelieve about how I discovered that God’s promises do, indeed, go further than our dreams. You can read the rest of my post here.

 

Linking up here: #ChasingCommunity

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

When You’re Afraid You’ll Never Reach Your Goals

afraid-youll-never-reach-your-goals

I listened to the interview with the popular Christian writer, my mind reeling with questions. But the one that kept repeating itself over and over was, “How?”

This woman had a slew of kids running around, and she homeschooled all of them. Her writing was not shoddy. Each syllable sang with an effortless harmony as you read.

So how? How were there enough hours in the day? Did she have on a superwoman cape I couldn’t see as I listened to the podcast?

At the time I had two kids. Now I have three, the last one two months young. There are days I barely get the laundry done and the food made, much less worry about doing anything creative.

I see women on social media who, in all the bright lights and glow of the computer screen, are pursuing their goals and dreams. They are achieving milestones I dare to think about as I’m nursing my sweet babe at night.

Before daybreak, the fear takes over and says, “You’ll never get there.”

Comparison is such a lonely place to live.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at PurposefulFaith.com. God met me in my place of discouragement, and I’d love to share what he showed me. You can read the rest of my post here.

The Question Every Dreamer Asks: God, Should I Continue?

the-question-every-dreamer-asks

I didn’t want the open the email. The subject line said it all.

“Thank you…”

After a few years pursuing this writing stuff, I knew what those two words meant.

“Thank you but no thank you.”

“Thank you but this doesn’t meet our needs at this time.”

“Thank you, and please try again.”

My finger hovered over the delete button before sending the words off into cyber space oblivion. I opened the Word document for an article I was finishing and the cursor blinked, mocking me.

Why do you continue with this craziness? It’s not going anywhere. You’re wasting your time.

I slammed the laptop shut and busied myself with chores. At least I could do something right. After an hour the laundry was done, the dishes were put away and I was ready to pick up my youngest from school. And I was on time, a tiny miracle all by itself.

But I still couldn’t get the nagging voices of doubt out of my head. I knew instead of mulling over the situation and getting nowhere, I should bring it before God.

Do I continue to pursue this dream, God? Is this something you want?

the-question-every-dreamer-asks-god-do-you

I was deathly afraid the answer would be “no,” but I asked anyway. I needed to know, one way or the other.

Sometimes when we come face to face with our fears, God speaks to us through a friend. Other times it’s through a song or a sermon.

The ways He speaks are as limitless as He is, but he’s always trying to reach our hearts.

On this particular day, He spoke to me through a story. And this storyteller loves stories.

It takes place during the years of the Old Testament when Samuel led the Israelites, and they’re facing an intimidating enemy who won’t stop pursuing them: the Philistines. In a moment of desperation Samuel cries out to God, and God delivers the Israelites from battle. (1 Samuel 7:9)

While this victory was impressive all by itself, God doesn’t stop there. Scripture tells us that for the the rest of Samuel’s reign, God suppresses the Philistines and there is peace.

To celebrate their victory, Samuel doesn’t just praise God and thank Him. He doesn’t count his blessings and move on. He builds a memorial.

He builds an altar to the Lord and names it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12)

As I read over this testimony of God’s faithfulness, I knew what God was asking me to do.

Stop focusing on the mountain in front of you and look at what I’ve brought you through.

We often get so focused on the obstacles, the next hurdle or project that we forget how far we’ve come. We forget to celebrate. We forget to slow down and take stock of the blessings God has poured into our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I need to stop obsessing over roadblocks and start building altars. More reminders that even when the cards seem stacked against me, God is faithful.

If I could attain each goal on my own, I wouldn’t need God. I wouldn’t need faith. And God wouldn’t get the glory, which is why I went down this crazy path in the first place.

Friend, the next time God brings you through a battle, remember to stop and take notice. Then, create a reminder. Build an altar, write it in your journal, or mark the date on your calendar. Do whatever it takes to commit it to memory.

The next trial will surely come, but we can face it with sureness of God’s power.

When we remember what God helped us overcome, the mountain in front of us goes from threatening to surmountable.

 

GIVEAWAY:

Congrats to Elaine Tomasello! You are the winner of last week’s giveaway and will be receiving a smart power bank and Hope & Joy mirror keychain! I will be contacting you soon to get your shipping info. Thanks for reading!

Drawing a Line with People Who Suck the Oxygen Out of Your Tank

drawing a line with people who deflate us

“Almost buddy! Try again. There you go!”

I watched other parents coach my eight-year-old through his first time in a batting cage and a smile crept across my face. They saw the areas where he was struggling, and they each worked together to help him improve.

“Put your right arm up a little bit. Spread your legs out more. There, nice hit!”

With each shout of encouragement, my son got better. His confidence grew, and within a few minutes he was hitting the ball with more often.

On the way home later that evening, he gave a coy little smile and asked Daddy, “So, did you like watching me hit the ball in that batting cage?”

He already knew the answer. But he loved hearing it.

Watching him reminded me how those little pushes from the people who surround us can change the trajectory of our whole lives. Although I know my son will discover his gifts lie in certain areas as he gets older, I never want to discourage him from trying new things.

I never want him to look back on his life and say, “If only I had tried this…”

Recently I shared with some friends how it was their encouragement, accountability and reinforcement that helped me reach new goals in my writing. They rallied behind me as I strove for things I never would have dreamed possible five or six years ago and never once said, “Don’t get your hopes up,” or “Do you think you’re being unrealistic?”

People who speak life make us seize life with both hands. They make us attempt to do what we never thought we would, not because we’re able, but because God is.

But there’s a flip-side to those life-giving words and people, isn’t there? There’s that person we hesitate to share the good news with or discuss dreams with because we know as soon as we do, our hopes will deflate.

limit the negativity 2

Like a balloon getting stuffed into a freezer, the enthusiasm that filled us instantly shrinks. Instead of reaching for the moon, we suddenly feel the need to defend ourselves.

Now, I don’t know who, as my eight-year-old likes to say, has “sucked the oxygen out of your tank” today (thank you, Lego Movie). But I do know a few truths that have helped me face those situations. We will always have some naysayers in our lives, but can I speak a little truth to you? The next time you’re feeling deflated, remember:

  1. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. If God gave you a dream to pursue, he is able to see it through. There isn’t a person on this planet who can stand in his way.
  1. You can limit the negative in your life. If there is a certain person who speaks discouragement every time you share good news, it may be time to find someone else to share your victories with.
  1. You can choose the people you do life with. Like I stated before, I don’t think I would be where I can without the positive influence of friends who have pushed me beyond the limits I placed on myself. When we hear people saying, “I believe in you,” it makes us believe in ourselves.

Always remember to extend grace. You never know what someone who speaks discouragement may be going through. But choose your tribe wisely.

Surround yourself with others who believe the same God who spoke the stars into existence can sustain you as you reach for them. Shine on, and give our Creator all the glory.

 

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory

When You Think You’ve Missed the Boat

When You Think You've Missed the Boat

Last night I talked to a friend who told me she turned off Messenger notifications on her phone. After I asked about a message I’d sent several weeks ago, she realized it had gotten buried under piles of other messages and she’d never seen it.

I completely understood. If she’s anything like me, she’s familiar with the epidemic of “now.”

I have severe anxiety over that little “1” which shows up on your phone. And since the notification is showing now, I have to respond now and have an answer now. Sometimes I’m not even sure how to respond, but I figure if I type something they’ll at least see those little dots moving…

Those dots mean you’re thinking, right? Or do they mean you’re typing? In any case, they mean a response is coming and that you haven’t forgotten about the urgent message which needs an immediate response.

Or does it?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about priorities. And many of the things I consider a priority should be nowhere near the top of my list. Like those little “1”s that show up on my phone and drive me crazy.

I get so wrapped up in the “now,” I forget there is also a “later.” I forget this season is not the season for every project, pursuit or endeavor. I forget how God-given dreams don’t have an expiration date.

A couple of years ago, I sensed God calling me to go on a grand adventure with Him. I knew he wanted me to write and share with others, to step out of my comfort zone and walk with Him into unknown waters.

Every step along the journey has been beautiful. Even the missteps where I’ve fallen and needed grace to stand have molded and shaped me into the woman I am today.

But you know what? Not every piece of the grander vision is meant to be attained right now.

Sometimes, God gives us a glimpse of the future to give us endurance in the present. (Tweet that!)

did you miss the boat?

He desires to keep us moving forward. He wants to let us know our labor is not in vain, and that he has plans and promises which stretch further than our imagination can take us.

But now is not the only season. And everything can’t be accomplished in one day. So why do I stress myself out, thinking I’ve missed the invisible boat?

We’ve all heard the saying. “Don’t miss the boat.”

We think this boat holds all of our hopes and dreams, and sets sail for some far off land, never to be seen again if we’re not on it.

Let me get a little southern here and tell you something. It’s hogwash. It’s a made up figment of some person’s imagination, and it serves no purpose other than to cause anxiety over God’s timing, which can’t be controlled.

Paul says it right here in Romans:

For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Romans 11:29 NIV

God did not call you, purpose you and place his gifts within you to simply throw them away. He who called you is more than able to see his plans through. And what do we do? Take the next step of obedience. Not ten steps or twenty, but the next one.

If the mistakes of humanity could revoke God’s plan, He would not be sovereign. (Tweet that!)

So take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and wave farewell to the invisible boat. If you were meant to be on it, you would be.

 

Linking up with these communities: #LiveFreeThursday, #ThankfulThursdays, #IntentionalTuesday

Chasing Someone Else’s Dream

life unstuck intro

Two nights ago, my oldest son turned our kitchen into a dance floor. With moves I’d never seen or knew he had, he moved around our little rancher with joy.

It turns out, he’d been learning dances like the Sid Shuffle and the Cha Cha at school during what his teacher calls, “brain breaks.” My husband and I could not contain our laughter and smiles as we asked each other, “Where did he get this?”

My hubby and I are not known for our dance moves. Chris affectionately refers to my dancing persona as Elaine from Seinfeld. And if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, Google it to give yourself a good laugh.

Turns out, coordination is not one of the gifts God gave me. Marching in the school band and playing instruments is more in my wheelhouse, although I happily move around the floor with my son and join the fun.

What struck me as I watched my son strut around our kitchen is this: he was being himself, complete and unwavering. And if he can carry that carefree abandon with him for the rest of his life, I will be a content Mama.

As a girl, I remember watching a live production of the Nutcracker. Dancers glided across the stage with perfect grace and poise and my soul drank it in like parched soil in need of water.

And as much as I loved every minute of the performance, what filled me most was a sense of longing. A sense that these performers had something deep within them that I lacked.

What I didn’t realize at the time was I didn’t lack anything. I was simply chasing after the wrong dream.

chase

God apportions each one of us with gifts and grace to reflect his glory. When we chase someone else’s gift, our souls darken a light created to shine.

When I pursue someone else’s gift or talent, I become stuck because I can’t see I already have. We are each unique creations made to tell a story of God’s love, but when we compare and are jealous, we turn his story into a competition.

Do you know what our gifts are supposed to create? Unity. Not envy or clamoring for what someone else has, but a complete, full and functioning church working together to spread his love to the ends of the earth.

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ephesians 4:16 NIV

God, help us. Helps us to see the grace and good gifts you’ve given to each one of us according to your plan and the story began weaving before the foundation of the earth.

May we work together instead of against each other. May we be a reflection of your glory and not a stumbling stone for others.

GIVEAWAY

Congratulations Patsy! You are the winner of one copy of The Key to Everything by Matt Keller. Thank you for participating.

 

*This post is part of the #Write31Days challenge. You can find all posts for this series here.

*Linking up these communities: Grace & Truth, #LiveFreeThursday

The Answer That Changes Everything

Spirit of God

“I believe in you.”

Four powerful words can propel us. We step into the unknown and take endeavors we never dreamed possible with a little push of encouragement.

But often our dreams are met with skepticism and negativity. We want to do a “new thing,” but when we mention it to those close to us we receive raised eyebrows or glossed over looks of boredom.

Sometimes this lack of understanding can freeze us in our tracks. Fear and self-doubt take over, and we figure we fooled ourselves by thinking we could make a difference in this big, vast world.

I get it. I’ve been there one too many times. But I also know it only takes once voice, one word of affirmation that rises above the others to change the course of our steps forever.

Do you know what the God of the universe says about you? You were created on purpose, for a purpose.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV

The actual Greek word used here for “masterpiece” is “poema,” which has a similar meaning to our English word, “poem.” In other words, God is writing a poem to the world through you.

Did you get that? The same person who spoke the galaxies into existence is writing a poem to the world through you.

No one can write it in the same way you can, because each of us was created with a unique message, purpose and way of conveying God’s love.

When I started this blog two years ago, blogging was the last thing on my radar. I had no desire to start a website and was writing fiction. I was slowly submitting short stories to various publications and making little headway.

Something inside me ached to reach others right where they were, with no middle man deciding whether my words were worthy to be printed. I yearned to glorify my Creator by sharing my experiences with others, letting them know they weren’t alone in their struggles with insecurity, loneliness and striving.

Even though I knew God was calling me to write, I froze. For months I came up with excuses and reasons why I couldn’t move forward.

Often, the biggest doubter we have to overcome is the one playing on repeat in our heads.

Then one day in the face of my hesitancy, a few voices rose above the noise. And I went for it.

The Spirit of God is not one of complacency. He is ever on the move.

And when we move with him, beautiful happens. As we go forth in sync with the Spirit, there is no limit to what God do in us and through us.

Can I tell you something today? I believe in you. I believe God created you on purpose. And I believe he has a plan for your life that no one else on this earth has the ability to achieve but you.

Will you believe with me? The future of your life depends on it.

 

*Linking up with Kelly BalarieJennifer Dukes Lee and Holley Gerth to encourage and be encouraged. Come join us.

When Our Offerings Become Idols

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Sometimes our altars to the Lord can become idols.

When I started this blog two years ago, it was an offering to my Creator. I moved past my fears of being judged and stepped out in faith. I tossed aside my stereotypes and prideful assumptions about blogging and embraced humility.

The more I shared truth and was vulnerable with my readers, the more I realized I wasn’t alone. My story was my testimony to God’s redemptive power.

Through his grace and love God used me to shine his light into dark places. The more authentic I was, the brighter the light became.

Dreams I didn’t know I had came alive. I connected to people across the globe and formed relationships with women who became sisters.

Something inside me awakened and for the first time in years, I felt God was using me to make a difference in this big, beautiful world.

But somewhere along the way, my vision was skewed. I heard the word “platform” for the first time. When I realized in the publishing world this concept is a big deal, I became obsessed with the numbers, comments, and likes. Anxiousness consumed me some days.

I wondered if I’d heard God wrong.

Then two weeks ago I attended a life changing conference. I was surrounded by women who sought God’s will for their lives and he showed me some of the ugly insecurities I’d allowed to take root in my heart.

When I returned, my computer died. My tool for pouring out words to each of you was gone, and despite the noise of a house filled with boys, I sensed God speak.

The gift can never become more important than the Giver.

I had become so focused on performance that the altar I’d built to the Lord was forgotten. Instead of offering up my words in an act of worship, I’d become a machine, thinking if I stopped to rest I would drown.

When the only words we write are the ones we share, we become depleted. This working out our salvation becomes about the audience instead of the Spirit.

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But the audience of readers cannot replace the audience of One.

So for the past two weeks, I’ve realigned my heart. I’ve journaled for the first time in months and found that space of quiet: just me and God.

It hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies and he’s shown me some dark places in myself.

But when we bring the dark spots to the Ultimate Light Giver, the real working out of our salvation begins. We can change, heal and grow.

So today, I come to you refreshed. I share not out of a need to perform, but out of a deep desire to share his grace.

Through our weaknesses, he’s able to do his most brilliant work. When we lay it all at his feet, his transforms those idols into testimonies of redemption.

 

 

Through the Eyes of a Child: Leave It Behind Series

leave it behind series

Friends, I cannot thank you enough for joining us over the past couple of weeks for this series. It has been a true blessing to read stories of lives being changed in ways which could only be in and through the mighty God we serve. I will be closing out this series with my story of leaving behind my endless pile of excuses not to pursue my dream to write and trading them for the promises of God. I traded what I could see for the unknown, and I’ve never once looked back in regret.

Through the Eyes of a Child

“I’m going to be a pilot when I grow up,” my six-year-old said confidently.

He flew his Lego airplane high over his head and made his best jet engine noise. My husband and I looked at each other and smiled. It was the first time our son had stated his choice for a future vocation without being prompted.

As I watched him play with his younger brother, I saw how the declaration fit his personality. And he owned it. There was no question or hesitancy in his voice.

He made the statement, and that was it.

I prayed for his future and longed for him to keep his resolve. Even though I knew his interests might change, I wanted him to keep this certainty that he could achieve whatever he set his mind to, through God’s power and strength in him.

So often, we reach the age of adulthood and decide to settle. For many years, I did too and no, I’m not talking about settling down from the partying or the clubs, buying a home or starting a family.

I settled for going through the motions of life. I lived with a constant longing for the next vacation or the next break and I forgot to look at what was missing from my life right there in the everyday.

I believe God creates each one of us with a passion and a purpose, but often we bury it under a sea of self-doubt, excuses and procrastination.

There is a reason why Jesus tells us to have the faith of a child.

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:3 NIV

In the eyes of a child, imagination is the limit. They don’t see the same obstacles we do as adults. As we grow older, we often bury any inkling of creativity under a pile of fear and self-defeat.

A couple of years ago, I decided life was too short not to chase after the dream God placed in my heart. I left behind my endless list of excuses and stepped forward in faith.

Although the road hasn’t always been easy, I wouldn’t trade it with the aimless wandering and empty soul I once had. I can’t always see the progress and the results I yearn for, but I know God is working. And his work is always good.

trading the seen

When we trade hope in the seen for the unseen, God trades our ashes for a crown.

He molds me and continues to transform me into someone who is willing to follow Him into the unknown, even when it’s uncomfortable. Some of the sharp edges are being chafed down to reveal new facets, made to reflect his glory.

He’s revealing new pieces of his plan to me each day, and often I’m impatient in the waiting and the slow process of the reveal. But I know his will for me is far greater than anything I could conceive on my own.

Each day, I’m learning. I’m growing. I look back on this adventure, see how far he’s brought me, and I can’t help but lift my hands in praise.

Photo 1 credit (text added): kendoman26 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo 2 credit (texted added): Stuck in Customs / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

*Linking up with Suzie Eller’s #LiveFreeThursday. Come join us and be inspired.