The Blessing of Uncomfortable

My husband and I decided to go camping for our anniversary a few years ago in March. When someone says they are going “camping,” it could mean many different things. When I say camping, I mean grab the tent, air mattress, some blankets, the propane camp stove, an ice chest with food, fire starter, and the “chuck box” with everything we need to cook and clean dishes. With packing complete, we headed a few hours out to a State Park, found a great spot to reserve, and set up camp. This was going to be amazing!

As we started setting up our tent, I began to get cold. It was nearing the end of the day and the sun was setting. When we finished, I was ready to find some heat so we went to a nearby town to have dinner. I hadn’t thought about the temperature much before this trip because during the day, it had been nice! I now started to realize what lied ahead of us… COLD.

As we drove back to camp that night, we discussed how cold it was going to be and how to handle it in our tent. We had no heat source other than the warm bodies of each other, some clothing, and a few blankets. When we arrived, we immediately went to our tent. The wind outside was a little too chilly to even sit around a fire. It had been a long day and we were ready to go to sleep anyway. 

We crawled under our blankets and held each other tight, waiting for the night to pass. 

That night was absolutely miserable, reaching a temperature in the low 20’s. I was so cold I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to move so my body started hurting from laying in one spot for so long. I had a thought to get up and put on more clothing. I had a nice soft jacket that was really warm across the tent in my bag. But I didn’t want to get out of the only warmth I had to go get it. So I laid there for hours, in my misery. Around 4am, something else forced me out of bed. I needed to go to the bathroom. So I got up, put my soft jacket on and some other clothing, and made the trek outside to the campground bathroom. Brrr……

When I returned, I crawled back into bed and snuggled next to my husband who’d been patiently putting up with me all night. I begin to feel a bit warmer. In fact, the extra clothes I had retrieved during my brief trip across the campground made me more comfortable. I still wasn’t as warm as I would have liked but it certainly was better than it was. I wondered why I hadn’t taken the step to become more uncomfortable for the chance at finally being able to rest.

Recently, our Life Group has been doing a study on the Holy Spirit and I’ve realized that I will do just about anything to create a comfort zone. But you know what? My comfort zone is not where I’ve heard from the Holy Spirit most clearly. It’s in the moments that I’ve been uncomfortable. It’s in the trials of life. It’s in the times that I choose not to let fear smother me but rise to overcome it with Jesus’ help. It’s in the cold nights and hard seasons. 

So why do I resist moving so much? Why do I nestle in, satisfied with where I am? 

Do you experience this as well? When is the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone:

  • to reach for a lost soul?
  • to listen to someone who needs you when you are busy?
  • to do something for your health that is hard but beneficial?
  • to step out on the stage and sing praises to Him?
  • to volunteer to help in your church even though you’re busy?
  • to start writing from a prompting in your spirit?
  • to pray with the lady at the restaurant who is crying even though you don’t know her?
  • to walk into a Life Group or join virtually even though you don’t know anyone?
  • to tell someone about what God has done in your life?

And those are just the little things. You could be called to sell all you have and follow God’s leading full time into missions, or quit your job to follow a different calling He has on your life, or something else. Whatever it may be, big or small, there’s one thing we can be sure of – If God calls you to do something, He will equip you. And when you start living this way, you will see that in the middle of the uncomfortable is where you will find the greatest reward.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

The Strength of Togetherness

It was just one of those weeks. A hard decision, season of change, tears shed, past mistakes showing up again, people hurting, depression looming, sleepless nights. I sent a text to a few friends that I was not well and to pray for me. I also told them I couldn’t talk right now. You know that feeling? To talk means to face my feelings and lose control of the emotions I’m trying so hard to keep in check. At this point, if I do that, I might fall into that abyss of depression and never return (dramatic huh?). I don’t know about you but when I am struggling, my first natural reaction is to isolate myself. 

“Come on Angie, pick yourself up. The enemy is fighting you and you need to stand your ground. Arm yourself with My armor. You’ve seen Me perform miracles time and time again and I will do it again.”

I meant to look up the verses on the armor of God but was in the middle of work and had to get back to it. So thinking I would do that later, I dismissed it for now. 

A few days later I was preparing for my Life Group and I opened my Bible. Guess where it opened to? Exactly on the page where it lays out the armor of God. I had forgotten to go back to it but apparently this is really important for me to get right now. 

I read through it a few times – belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the spirit. And then I saw what He wanted me to see – there was no protection for my back. So, no turning and running away from the battle at hand. Face it, stand firm, armed with His armor, and He will be with me.

But I also noticed something else too as I read about the breastplate. It protected the chest in battle and Roman soldiers were to face forward, side by side, so that the armor only needed to protect their front. 

Not only do I need to stand firm and face the enemy to protect my back, I also need to have my friends beside me, locking arms, armed with the same armor. Otherwise, I’m still vulnerable to attack from behind.

Whoa.  

As I consider this passage in Ephesians 6, and what I am learning, I realize again how important it is for us to have a tribe of believers around us, locking arms, fighting with and for us. Our strength comes when we are together. It’s important to not isolate yourself when times are hard but to reach out to those you know will lift you up in prayer and stand strong with you. When we become isolated, separated from the church, is when our backs are vulnerable and our weak spot exposed. 

God created the church for many reasons. One of them is to do battle together against the evil one. Despite all seasons, good or bad, let’s hang tight together! We need it perhaps now more than ever. 

My One Word for 2019

Life for me is a whirlwind of emotions. 2018 held its fair share of laughter and tears, joy and sadness, hope and despair. I drew closer to Jesus. But the closer I draw to Jesus, the more I am attacked. The more I am tempted to worry and become anxious. The more my past is thrown in my face. The more I am tempted to be self-centered, afraid that if I don’t speak up about my own needs, they will get lost in a sea of servanthood. And I will be lost forever.

It sounds dramatic, doesn’t it?

And though it sounds ridiculous as I write it, this is why I do what I do. This is the whole reason I started writing about transparency. Let’s just all be real. Because the struggle certainly is.

As I considered my One Word for 2019, I thought about this turbulency in my life. I wanted an all-encompassing word to describe letting go of what is wrong in my past and the current pain it still causes others, what is wrong in my family and marriage, serving others when it seems I don’t receive anything in return, releasing the struggle to get everything accomplished that is on my list, praying to let go of worries and trusting the Holy Spirit to prompt me if and when I need to act, in His time.

That is a big list. What word could possibly address all that’s messed up in my inner world?

As I shared with my oldest son my dilemma and described to him this list, as soon as I finished he simply said “Peace.”

Could this be? I hadn’t even considered this particular word. But as he said it, it settled deep in my soul. I felt tears sting my eyes at the truth of it.

I need more peace. My emotions, inner battles, thoughts. They need a huge dose of the peace that passes understanding.

“Thank you son. That is exactly what I need.” And I remember how God can use the youth of today just as much as He can use us.

Matthew 8:23-27

‘Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”’

As I started reading passages that address peace, I came across this often-read story of Jesus and his disciples. A few things stood out to me.

  1. These are Jesus’ disciples. They’ve followed him into the boat. They trusted him to lead them. And still, at the first sign of a storm, they faltered in their ability to trust him. The storm was sudden and their first reaction was fear and unrest. Isn’t that how it usually is in our lives too? I want better. I want peace to rule so deeply that the sudden storm doesn’t worry me at all. I’ve followed Jesus into the boat and I’m trusting Him with the storm.
  2. Jesus slept and didn’t immediately act. The storm doesn’t mean Jesus should immediately take action. It also doesn’t mean we should immediately take action. Sometimes, He just wants us to be at peace despite the high waves, swirling winds, and rocking boat, understanding that the winds and waves obey him. That he is in control.
  3. Jesus calmed the storm after their request. I wonder what would have happened if the disciples would have had faith. Was the request wrong? Absolutely not. We should always bring our requests to Him. However, the motive behind the request was to calm the storm so they would be safe.They didn’t think they would be safe in the middle of the storm.  It revealed a lack of faith. I want my prayer to be more on the side of “Father, help me to trust you. Help me to grow through this storm. And if it be your will, it would be great if you would deliver me from it. But above all, may your will be done.” And I want to truly mean it. I wonder if I can ever get to that point. It’s easy to think I can when the waves are calm. But what happens when they’re not? I’m trusting God this year to help me grow in this area.

When life becomes turbulent, I’m going to be seeking PEACE. I can already feel the difference God is making in my life this year simply from the first few weeks of praying and reading about it.

What about you? What word do you want more of in your life this year?

When Sadness Hits

I’m sad, heartbroken, and my emotions are once again balancing on the scales between out of control and covered up. The heartbreak of my life has struck once again and my defense was down. The pain came searing through me like a knife through my heart. Why do I ever let my guard down? I’m so much stronger than I used to be but occasionally, when I get too relaxed, it gets through to the depth of me. And knocks me down for a few days.

I’m in the middle of those few days now. The fight to hang onto my sanity is strong as I wonder if this will ever get any easier. I feel as if I’m on the edge of falling into the abyss of heartache, never to recover again. I’m fighting to just hang on. And I haven’t told but one person until now because I’m afraid if anyone says anything to me about it, I’ll start crying and not be able to stop.

As tempting as it is to not write these words because of how crazy I sound, I peck at the keyboard anyway. The words coming out are like balm to my soul as I release some of the pain I feel. I know Jesus is here with me, using this for His good, somehow, someway. But it doesn’t take away the fact that sadness is overwhelming me in this moment.

So how can I shift my thinking? How can I allow God to use this exact moment in my life for His glory? How can I encourage someone else even though I’m broken myself?

Let me shift my mindset:

I want to learn more of God’s heart through even the tough parts of life. In fact, I think we have a more clear picture of His heart during these moments if we take the time to open our eyes and see things beyond ourselves. We can’t see God if all we’re looking at is our pain.

He pursues us. He pursues our hearts. Even when we reject Him. Even when we’re hurt and we are struggling to see beyond our own situation.

There have been many times I’ve rejected Him. He has leaned into me, pulling me to Him, trying to show me that I was pulling away from Him, only to be pushed away even further. I have turned my back to Him, stiffening myself to His love, grace and mercy. I wanted to do things my own way. I wanted to continue lying to myself about how “good” I was and following Him but not really let Him take complete control of my life.

And HE NEVER STOPPED loving me.

It comforts me to know that He knows the pain I feel.  He has been in my shoes and knows the pain of rejection from even His own children. He knows the pain of rejection from me.

Despite not wanting to admit it today, I’m thankful for the lessons I learn through my pain.

From what heartache in your life can you take a step back and look at in a different perspective? Can you alter your perspective to see God’s heart through what you may be experiencing today? Can you shift your mindset with me?

It’s never easy to overcome sadness and pain. Let yourself feel it, walk through those emotions, ask God what it is you can learn from it. Then let Him pick you back up and keep right on going with your head held high.

I’ll be there soon… 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4–8

Stop Telling What God Has Done Through You

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I sat there as he talked about how great God was and all He had done through him. Story after story, I heard of how He heard the Holy Spirit, followed His direction, and how God had worked through him.

What I felt surprised me. It made my story of transformation pale in comparison. And I wanted to shrink into my seat. I felt as if I had nothing to contribute to the conversation.

I left with a spirit I can’t explain. It wasn’t positive and uplifting but like a dark cloud hanging over me. And I wondered why.

Why was it I didn’t celebrate and joyfully accept what God had done through him? There was something that didn’t set right and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I prayed, asking God what I could learn from the experience. He gently whispered, “Daughter, your story, your testimony, should be more about what I’ve done inside of you than what I’m doing through you.” As I begin to think about that, it made perfect sense. There’s a humility that comes with admitting how God has worked in your life, chiseling the sharp spots and fine tuning me into the woman He created me to be. People respond to humility, identify with the struggle to truly follow Christ, and they can put themselves in that same position.

Telling of how God has used you to reach others doesn’t necessarily have the same positive influence. If done in a spirit of haughtiness, it actually can turn people away even though it’s not our intent. Or it makes them wonder why God isn’t doing the same through them.  If God is working THROUGH your life, others already know it, they SEE it. The fruit of His hand is on display for all to see and rarely does anything need to be said about it.

Many times, when God is working inside of you, it isn’t seen. There’s an intimacy in this relationship experience and some of these moments are meant to be private, viewed as a personal experience with God that only you share with Him. For instance, in your relationship with your spouse, if you shared every meaningful moment you had together with others, it would cheapen the value of your experiences together. What makes a relationship truly intimate are those personal, private moments that only the two of us share. I view that to be true in our relationship with God as well.

But I have no doubt there are times when He wants us to share with others what He is doing in our life. He wants us to be vulnerable and real with them in a way they can relate. When this is shared with a spirit of humility, everything you say points back to the Holy Spirit at work in your life.

There is significantly more power in a testimony that is wholly about God and His hand in your life than in a testimony that is about what you have done.

I’m not saying that I think you should never tell others what God is doing through you, but I believe there takes a considerable amount of wisdom when you do. This is not at all about us and there never needs to be any hint that it is.

God has worked both inside my life and through my life. But what I have learned recently is that I am going to focus on sharing what God has done inside of me. I’m going to use my life stories, experiences, and heart talks with Him to show others what a deep relationship with our Father can be. I’m going to admit my shortcomings and tell of times when God used scripture, other people, or situations to speak directly to my heart and what I learned from these experiences. And in an effort to protect against pride, both real and perceived, I’m going to pray and seek His wisdom before I talk about what He has done through me.

Before you speak, always ask: Is what I’m about to say going to focus so much on my life of obedience that Jesus is overshadowed? If so, Stop. Tell them instead about what He has done inside of you.

The Flower Bed Failure that Changed My Life

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“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

As I pulled harder and harder, it finally broke and I fell with a thud to the ground. With stickered vines surrounding me, I cried. I had been pulling at them for what seemed like hours and they only seemed to be multiplying. They were deeply rooted and I had to dig and pull, and dig and pull some more to free one single root. It was maddening! This flower bed around a beautifully established shade tree near the front of our 5 acres had been neglected far too long and the weeds had taken over. It didn’t happen overnight but a little at a time, this once vibrant garden had reduced to a big pile of overgrown weeds, choking out the beauty and life. As I sat on the ground, with scratched up arms, frustrated, I felt a gentle whisper through the breeze, “This is your life. And this is your struggle.”

Over the last year, I had turned my life back to God and was seeking Him again. I was trying to clean up the mess I’d created but still hadn’t internalized that I couldn’t do it. Pulling up my own weeds, I wasn’t getting anywhere at all. In fact, the thorns were hurting me, piercing me with regret. I realized in that moment as my Father wrapped me in His arms and gently spoke, that I needed Him to use His supernatural gardening skills to make me beautiful again. He was my only hope. He was the protection from the pain of the thorns. He had forgiven me and was waiting for me to allow Him to have complete control. I could think I’d pulled up a weed but the root was still there, festering and growing, waiting to rear its ugly thorns once again.

When sin is rooted deep in your life and you’ve left it there for long periods of time, it chokes out the beauty. We can pull it up, but most of the time, there are still underlying roots that lie dormant for a time. We can feverishly work at cleaning our lives up but if we don’t let Christ do it for us, the weeds of sin will at some point come to the surface again.

In that moment, I released all control. I asked my Father to take the reins in cleaning up my life and acknowledged that He was my only hope.  I asked Him to plant in me good roots and to nurture them as they grew deeper and deeper, so that I would stand firm in all seasons of my life. The tension released and a calm come over me that is unexplainable. Sobbing, I sat in silence for a long while thinking about what I’d learned. What HE had taught me.

As I sat on the ground, dirty, sweaty, and in need of Him, He found me and loved me where I was.

Peace. It had been a long time, but I was finally at peace.

I picked myself up and cleaned up the mess around me but I never worked in that flower bed again. To this day, it is a reminder to me of the damage that weedy roots can have in my life. Sin, anger, bitterness, hopelessness, and depression have NO room to take root when the life of Jesus completely fills me. So every day, I give my life to Him. I pray for protection. I pray for Him to have complete control.

And I thank Him for the the flower bed failure that changed my life. 

What roots have you bound?  Jesus is the only one able to pull them up. Will you let Him?

The Calling of Everyday Ministry

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You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

There’s something I want to share with you that only a small handful of people have heard until now. God has called me into full-time ministry. This calling has happened over the last year and during a time of recent fasting and prayer, I finally knew that it was real and truly from God.

So, after that realization, I thought it might be time to share my concerns with my almighty Father, who just happens to know the future, everything about me, all the pieces that will fit together, and has the ultimate plan. <insert eye roll at my lack of faith>

  • How can this happen?
  • We can’t afford it.
  • When will this happen?
  • I’m not equipped. I’m not ready.

In not so many words, my faith was shaken.

You see, when I think of “ministry,” I think of quitting my job, reading my Bible and studying a lot more than I have time for right now, meeting with people to share Jesus with them, maybe working for my church and through the ministries they have, writing full-time, and even possibly speaking (Yikes! Scary…). All these things could be a “full-time” ministry but let me share with you what Jesus has shown me in the last few weeks.

As a child of God, I am always in full-time ministry.


In the job I hold now, I am in ministry. There are people there that need the love of Jesus shown to them and I have the unique opportunity to be the light of the world to someone who may not see it anywhere else in their life.

At the grocery store when I see a lady in the parking lot crying because of a hard time she’s going through, I am in ministry.

At home, when my family is gathered around the table for dinner, I am in ministry.

At a school event for my children, when there are hurting people all around me, I am in ministry.

At a restaurant, when the individual serving us might be struggling to make ends meet and wondering where God is, I am in ministry.


As Christians, we are to be a LIGHT in this dark world and give our Father glory for what He has done in our lives. We can do this wherever we are.

It’s so tempting for me to think that I can’t be in full-time ministry when I still have a secular job and too many responsibilities to have the time. But this is so far from the truth! I can be a light right where I am, in this very season of life.

And you can also be a light right where you are, in this very season of life.

Allow Jesus to be integrated into every area of your life. See Him not as an addition or in a separate box, but as your Father, your friend, that you take with you wherever you are. Be a full time minister of the good news of Jesus and what He’s done in your life. It’s our calling.

When you see the next hurting person in your everyday world, remind yourself that THIS is your everyday ministry. When all of us light up the world within our reach, together we will light up the world.

 

If you would like to connect with me, please feel free to do so! I’d love to hear from you. ~Angie