What is Ahead

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

-Philippians 3:13-14

 

What is ahead? Along the road I can’t see, what my mind can’t envision, through the mystery and uncertainty? I am a traveler, journeying down the valleys, up the mountains’ rocky paths, and winding around stubborn knots in the road. A sojourner, seeking Jesus, seeking life in my body, breath in my spirit. Forgetting what is behind, I cannot look back, cannot fear what has stalled me before. It is in trust where I turn my face from the shadows and decide to look for God in the unseen and unknown. What is ahead? Propel my feet forward, let curiosity lead me. Let hope light the way. Let my ears pick up that Voice from the faraway echo that beckons, “Come to Me, find your rest, find Me.”

Find my rest with Him. Find Him, whom my heart seeks. What is ahead is where I am moving, slow as my pace may be. But I am moving, progression, many breaks in between, for I am not fit for this journey. But there is grace in plenty, enough to relax and restore me for the next leg of this pilgrimage. I set out with the wind at my back, that Voice again calling me through the veined tree line of forest into what I can’t see, admiring the twist of leaves and sound of birds just out of reach.

What is ahead? I have no idea, and I want to. I want to know where this all leads, know I’ll reach whatever is ahead safely and with joy in my heart. But I have no guarantees, and this is what gives hesitation. Will I make it out OK? Where is my God as I am wandering this path? I do not like to live in such uncertainty, but this is faith I’m forging, too. Venturing to territories I’ve never been, terrain I’m not used it. It’s exhausting and terrifying, and I don’t know how much longer I can keep moving.

God, move with me. Move in me. How can I keep this up, when it’s been so long and the journey looks like it just keeps going, mountain upon mountain, valley to valley? Give me eyes to see, Give me trust, that You see where I am, what is ahead, and You are watching over me and will not let my foot stumble or body tumble or mind lose its way. Walk alongside me, tenderly, wisely, certainly. For I am not certain in the least, but cling to Your promise that You won’t leave me and that You know the way for me to walk. Oh my God, make Yourself known in the brambles and deep shades of night, when the way is blurred and my heart is weary. Match my steps, still my mind, rest my heart. For one more step, one more day.

I travel on, to what is ahead, choose to still trust this Voice of the One who watches my every step and keeps me aligned to where is best for me to go.

Time, Uninterrupted

But as for me, it is good to be near
God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord
my refuge;
I will tell of all Your deeds.
-Psalm 73:28

 

This is what I’ve missed.

Quiet time with You. Uninterrupted. Stretching the length of the day. Slow, simple, simply beautiful.

I’ve forgotten how my soul best sits with You when I am alone in body, thought, and heart. I’ve asked for more of You, and to listen for You. And You have lulled me away to a quiet, secret space that has sat overgrown and forgotten for a while, as I’ve learned to love another and learn my rhythm in this new world.

But I have left You, my first love, waiting, watching, waiting for me to find You in this place once again. Clear voiced, focused gaze, here I meet You and remember how sweet it is to be with You in the ways I am made.

Before, I’ve been distracted, slammed by the world and thrown off my cadence, breathing in all the wrong air. But You are patient, and know what I need, how I need it.

God, it is good to be with You. It is good to hear You without static. It is good to sit close, smell You, see what You see, listen to what You say.

This is the way I’m meant to live—wide awake and found in You. Set in Your kindness, the levels of Your eyes like the great lake, arms spread wide like the canyon, love vast like the valley.

Thank You for catching me before I fell completely, and for carrying me back to the shelter of Your embrace. You are gentle, You are strong. I reset my gaze to where You are, relax my shoulders, and release an exhale I’ve been holding far too long. This is where I’m meant to be, truly myself, alone with You. This is sacred time. It is good to be near You. Good to make You my shelter once more, draw closer, breathe You in.

I will not forget. I will remember, I will make room for the quiet; lead me more into Your love, Your beauty, more moments like these. For these are the moments, You are the moon’s soft glow in my hallowed night. I stare up in wonder, allow You to illuminate.

 

Read Again:

But as for me, it is good to be near
God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord
my refuge;
I will tell of all Your deeds.
-Psalm 73:28

 

Linger:

How can I allow God to slow me down to experience His love?
What does His gentleness mean to me?
God, what are You saying to me through this verse?

 

More of You, Lord. More moments with You, more of Your goodness, Your love, more gentleness within my soul. Thank You that You’ve never left or forgotten me, and how You always draw me back to Your heart. I want to make more room for you, always. Amen.

 

Choosing Fact Over Feeling

I wake with a jolt, heart shocked alert, mind reeling and running a hundred marathons in minutes. The room around me, black like spilled ink, douses my thoughts with slick lies and unreasonable worries. I’ve been wracked by anxiety for the last few weeks, fallout from trauma of three ER visits in a month, my husband and I sick with COVID and absolute terror of the unknown.

I can’t relax, can’t get myself back to sleep for the fear that pushes me awake, taunting that this is all there is, a new way of living that allows me no rest.

In mental anguish, wracked with the worries that stack on top of one another like cement blocks, I blink and call out to God in the night, repeating promises that He has given to me:

I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for You alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8 (NIV)

The thoughts don’t slow, but somehow, His words slip through the stream of scared thinking and my running anxiety. Here, I hold to Him who I can’t see, but believe is at work fighting on my behalf. My husband relays this confirmation as we sit in bed, and I breathe.

**

So incredibly honored to be published in another Proverbs 31 devotion book. This one is especially close to my heart as it’s all about sleeping peacefully in a world full of worry.  You can pick up a copy–FREE–with a donation to P31 Ministries. I know you’ll be blessed by the beautiful devotions and prayers in this book by some incredible women.

What lays heaviest on your heart as you lay your head on your pillow? We understand the anxieties that come right before we go to sleep. That’s why we wrote our newest devotional: Clear Mind, Peaceful Heart: Prayers and Devotions for Sleeping Well in a World Full of Worry. Written by women just like you, these devotions will help you remember the true source of help when you feel anxious and unsteady through reading God’s Word, prayers, and the stories of fellow sisters in Christ. For a limited time, you can get a copy FREE with a donation of your choice to Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Get your copy here!

 

Holy Even Here

… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.
-Romans 5:3-5

 

Here I am, again with my heart trembling before you. Here I am, holding myself out to Your great love, which is unfailing and on which I stake my hope. It’s been a long road; a hardness threatens to take hold of me. After prolonged time of hurt and pain and feeling so disconnected and far from You, I long for a response from Your mouth.

Yet You lead me in new ways, stretch my faith and grow my character, because suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And not just a singular hope, but one that does not disappoint, because You pour out Your love for me, directly into my own heart. How I long for that direct love deep inside, but I fear I will not have the closeness I once felt with you before.

Let my faith be greater than my fear. Let my heart be gentle, tender, open to You love, open to experiencing Your love in greater ways. You do speak, one way or another. In the care and words of those close to me, in the cobalt lake on a day where the sky spreads wide and clear; in Your word that digest, even if it’s only one or two verses at a time. You make Yourself known; You still make Your way towards me.

Let Your words be soft and gentle to my scratched and dry soul, water my parched places with the right words that will tend to my brittle soil. Let them be purposeful and perfect for my deep needs.

Allow me room to breathe, to fall into Your goodness. There has been so much barrenness, pain, fear. So much straining to stay up and hold to a blind faith when I could not feel. And how I love to feel the expanse of emotions! I’ve told myself of Your truth when my head couldn’t hear or believe, set what weak belief I had on Your character and promises. I’ve pleaded with You to hold onto me because I was too weak and tired to hold onto You.

You are my sustaining power, my grace again and again. My burden becomes my blessing because I encounter You when I am at my lowest; there You lay with me, heart against heart, for You, too, know what it is to bleed. The suffering, the mystery, the unanswered questions—here I let go and lean into the things suspended, breathe into the pause, and clear a space for You to sit with me when I can’t hold still.

It is hard, but it is holy, because You are here. The One who is no stranger to suffering willingly stakes His life to mine. Nothing can separate me from the expanse of Your love, the deep, rich, high and beyond love that has chosen to stay. Even when I run, when I flail, even when it feels futile, terrified of what You’ll find inside, here You are, Your gaze unwavering.

Surrender the fear, You whisper. Surrender the shame, the guilt, the fear of control. Let go, and let Me in.

Surrender can begin to stitch me whole. Here I am, all of me, exposed. Letting You in to where only You can go. Grace. Goodness. Glory. All grab hold of my heart as I entrust my mind to You. I receive You in; now hold me near and guide me closer.

Rest. Truth. Trust.

Greater are You who are in me than he who is in this world. Holy even here. Your death, giving me life. My life, given to You. We are here, in the hard, becoming holy, building hope. Yes, Your holiness is healing, yes, holy even here.

 

Read Again:

… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.

-Romans 5:3-5

 

Linger:

Where have I been keeping my heart and mind closed to You?
How can I find holy even here, in the hard?
God, what are You saying to me through these verses?

 

Abba Father, You have been with me through so much pain, confusion, hopelessness, and hurt, and yet You’ve never once left me. You are the God who stays, who sees, who heals. I want to give You these hidden places in me, where I am fearful and weary and unsure what will play out, but I am trusting You to keep making a way, making hard things holy. In Jesus’s name, amen.

 

Listen To:

Make Room by The Church Will Sing

Light and Salvation

The LORD is my light and my
salvation—whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of
my life—of whom shall I
be afraid?
-Psalm 27:1

 

Truths to rest my heart:

God’s light saves me from the dark.
He is my salvation and with Him, there is nothing to fear. Light exposes shadow; salvation saves from death. Beautiful positives.

God is my life’s stronghold—He holds me firmly and securely, with love, so I remain steady amidst all the shaking. Things in and around me may be unsteady, but the LORD is my sure footing. I am anchored in Him.

He is steady, He is full of goodness and light, and He is for me.

 

Takeaway:

Hold to His strength, rest that He is holding me.

The LORD is my steady place.

Hope Grows Slow

Hope: that long-buried seed you forget about because it’s dormant. Hearing nothing, seeing less.

Weeks pass, then months, and you get used to the feeling of emptiness, a lack of expectation. It becomes your regular as you begin to wonder if this will be reality.

Has the frost destroyed the soil of your heart? Will this always be the way, living muted, on auto pilot, surviving day by day?

You even wonder whether God intends for this new normal and long for His presence and love that seems to lack.

Where, in these barren fields, is He?

**

This winter doesn’t seem to end, even when the first days of spring officially arrive. The ground is still frozen, grass lay brown and brittle, miles of bare branches and zero signs of life. Snow and sleet still pour down, relentless, and the cold is a constant companion.

You get used to the monochrome.

But you cannot underestimate the determination of the seed, deep buried underground. It is meant to do what it was made for; it listens to the One who first dropped it into the earth of such a fledgling heart.

Though it tarries, wait. You cannot rush the work, the becoming. You do not know when or how, but that is not up to you anyway.

Perhaps that seed you wait on is waiting on its own orders, its own cultivation.

**

Hope grows slow. An important metamorphosis is happening in these slogging, messy months and it cannot be rushed. God is all seasons and shaping and for deep and good transformation, and He does not adhere to time like how you cling to it. For Him, the seed is hidden in a safe place, nurtured, protected from the elements until it is ready for release.

God has been saving you.

God has been savoring you.

God has not stopped caring for you every step of the way.

 

**

It’s a joy to be featured over at Agape Review with my creative essay, “Hope Grows Slow” — I would love for you to read and find a seed of hope for yourself: Hope Grows Slow

To Give of My Love

Perfect love casts out fear.  -1 John 4:19

 

“Keep holding out your heart,” You say to me. As if this suggestion will suddenly solve all the pain I’ve worked so hard to ease.

To hang my heart suspended, open, revealed and flesh tender offers it up for continuous misalignment? Not what I have wanted. We have come so far for me to retreat and hide away the core of me, though what You are calling me to is not easy.

To tell the truth, it’s excruciating. To give of my love when it is not returned in the way I desire, to gently encourage another, see them through their own difficulties, when my heart breaks every day because I’ve asked from the start how could it ever end without a battered heart? But I bleed, again and again, for the sake of Your perfect love casting out the fear to flee.

Yet how long, O Lord, will You call me to this constant exposure, this continual brokenness as I bare my soul for the sake of another?

You still hover, motionless, in pause. I still wait, pensive, willing Your move.

How the wait hurts. When there is nothing I can do, simply sit with heart throbbing, worn from its unraveling. The old me has been razed to the ground, leveled, pitched into an abyss. I am not who I was when I said yes to this life, however reluctantly, unaware of the fight and burns that lay ahead.

But I have been as brave as I’ve dared, searching my scorched spaces and staying in the discomfort, digging in to the secrets of my heart and bringing my fears to the table, the timid self that has not been allowed a voice. You’ve coaxed me to admit my desires, to get desperate before you, soul parched for my deepest needs. And You began to bring a newness to my heart I didn’t recognize I needed until one day the veil dissolved before my eyes and I saw in front of me the desires you knit deep inside before my time began.

And now, just as I air my heart’s importance to the front of my days, You hold off on completing my request. Heart hung in uncertainty, clarity of path erased so I literally cannot see the next step in front of me. I feel stuck, though I know You mean for me to move forward with the tender beats of my heart still willing to shine Your love towards the source of sun.

I cannot come out unscathed. Already shaped into someone I do not recognize, I do not remember how my heart beat before it broke. So here I am, told to love as You do, selfless, for another’s wellbeing before my own.

I am willing, but I am also naked before the breath of my heart’s bravery, this hurt as it breaks every day, over again. A cycle of cries begging to be released from this season of extended wait, disappearance of the love I hoped to receive. This is where You tell me to settle. Into the unknown, into the softening of my heart’s skin to believe that You are indeed over that which is completely out of my control.

To love without expectation of return. To steady the flow of blood that streams from my private places and fall onto Your grace when I live and love and have to stare my unfulfilled dreams in the face every day. To trust that You have plans for unfolding my heart inside out, upside down.

But it had better be beautiful. You’d best be breathing it back to life.

Your hovering irritates my already raw heart, as all I feel is the prickle of Your presence. I am not yet stirred to action, yet I don’t know if there ever will be the answer I long to hear.

How long must I love without condition, without return? How long must I be brave to bring my hope and hurt to the life You usher me towards, stay in this undefined state where my heart refuses to fold back into itself?

If I continue to offer my heart open, how will You respond?

Give me strength to love what is now before me, how to gently coax my tender fears, gentle hope to continue when I cannot see, when You call me to face beyond understanding the ways of the heart.

 

Reflection Time:

What does perfect love look like?

How can I combat the fears I have with God’s perfect love?

God, what are You saying to me through this verse?

 

Here I am again, Father, heart hanging in the balance. Again in the unknown, forging forward to live a life I never expected, one I don’t quite know how to handle. Help me, please, to keep my heart open, even when it hurts. Help me to trust You, to know that You are in control over all things. That includes my life, and all that is deep within me. Heal me in this newness, my Lord. Amen.

 

 

Watch Expectantly

But as for me, I will watch expectantly
for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my
salvation.
My God will hear me.

– Micah 7:7

 

Truths to rest my heart:

Watch expectantly – with hope and anticipation.
Wait for the God who saves me.
He keeps telling us to wait for Him.

My God will hear me.
That is a promise.

He tells me to watch expectantly for Him, and to wait for Him.
He hears me.

He is faithful and trustworthy.
He comes through for His children.

 

Takeaway:

Take heart and trust that He hears me. That He is working out this season.

The Lord hears and answers. Watch expectantly.

 

 

He Who Holds the Pillars Firm

When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.” Psalm 75:3 (NIV)

It’s been a roller-coaster time for my family: My 2-month-old nephew has been hospitalized for bacterial meningitis.

His sweet little body flush with fever. Swelling in the brain, at the base by his spinal cord. A PICC line to better receive antibiotics rather than struggle with his tiny veins.

The days drag, slow, uncertain. We don’t have answers to most of our questions, just prayer and possibility, and I feel helpless that I can’t make his body better.

Sometimes, it’s torture to wait. I pray in every style I know how, and still I can’t quite grasp God’s presence in this. I know in my head that He’s here, but the knowledge doesn’t fully make its way to my heart. My heart — my heart is on shaky ground, grasping for sure footing.

What do we hold to in times like these?

With no solid ground beneath our feet, we stand on the Word of God, build our faith on who He is and the pillars of His protection.

  • God is, above all, loving. Our Abba loves us with a fierce, delicate and selfless love that stretches from one corner of the cross to the other.  His affection is gentle, and His tenderness is great. His love is pure.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8, NIV)

  • God is faithful. His eyes never stray; His heart stays fixed on us, and He tenderly keeps us close with unwavering loyalty. From the beginning, God made and kept His promise to never leave nor forsake us. God has our good in mind, and there is nothing that can separate us from Him.
 
 
Incredibly honored and excited to be sharing about this experience over at Proverbs 31 today. Will you join me in standing on the Word of God for a firm foundation when our world is shaky?

Just Believe

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
-Mark 5:36

It’s a simple thing, You say. To have faith. Faith in the smallest measure moves mountains, makes a way. Faith is honored, acknowledged, and in faith, I can come closer to You.

But I believe I have a brittle faith, one that still shakes and tremors. I pull into myself, bow my head and make myself unseen, not daring to lift my eyes and open my mouth to agree with You in faith for the deep things of my heart.

Why can’t I just believe? Why am I afraid to believe? I am afraid that if I release myself into freedom of believing You, I’m just tricking myself into creating an excuse to go after what I want.

I cannot equate the way I feel with anything that could be from You.

“Do not be afraid; just believe.” Your words, meant to soothe and build trust, strengthen faith. In context, You raise a man’s dead daughter. You do the impossible like it is simply Your everyday way. Because it is.

I can feel like the man’s dead daughter, lifeless, unmoving. Frozen in fear that what I want doesn’t line up with you, and if I open up to my deepest desires, I’ll be falling into sin and away from Your best for my life. I do not want to sin for the sake of my desires. Though what really calls to me the deepest are those places of desire and need nestled carefully in my tender heart. You tell me to believe, to follow You, and You give me just enough light to see the next step. But how do I know if it is You I am following when where I’m going couldn’t possibly make sense, couldn’t possibly be a part of Your plan? Even when my heart cries desperately otherwise.

Slow down. Remember to breathe. I am still breathing, and You are still here. You tell me to stop thinking, just believe, that I am missing the mark when I manifest my fears and diminish my faith.

Look to You. Look to who You are, who You have shown Yourself to be. Faithful. True. Loving. Kind. You do not want me to torment myself with wondering where I should draw my line on belief, how I should rate myself on my perspective of faith. I’ve already spent too much energy on worry that won’t come to life because it’s all in my thoughts, nothing has happened. I make it a mess and don’t sit still long enough for you to untangle me.

I am tangled, yes; my heart has slowed, yes. But I do not want to stay like this. I will sit still for You to carefully pull apart my confused thoughts, quiet me with Your love, and remind me I am fully Yours and because You are, I am.

You bring my belief back to life when I quiet myself and choose to believe my desires and heart align with Yours. Because we are connected, because I long for what You long for, because my heart beats for what Yours beats for.

It is a new awakening, holding on to hope. Lifting my face and meeting Your eyes, my heart jumping with expectancy.

Don’t be afraid; just believe.

Sometimes, my faith falters and I find myself doubting. But You know my heart, and You know who I can be in You. Thank You that You love me enough to still my racing thoughts and untangle the mess I make in my disbelief. Thank You that You fill me with trust in You, to remember Your character and how You love, and that You align my heart with Yours. Help me to hold tight to You, to stretch my faith and choose to believe Your truth over any fears I may have. I love You. Amen.