You Are Not a Robot

 

I was bathing my then 4 year old daughter one evening after dinner. Earlier that day she had been to preschool at our church where they were rehearsing some songs for the end of the year program. As she slid all over the bathtub, she belted out from the top of her lungs a song they were teaching her.

She sang “I am a friend of God, I am a friend of GOOOOOOOD…I am a friend of GOOOOD…He calls me NAMES!”

She kept singing, totally oblivious to the fact she had messed up the lyrics. The real lyrics are “I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God He calls me friend.” Not only did she add an extra UMPH to the word God, but she also said He calls her names. I tried not to hurt her feeling by bursting out loud with laughter, but it was too hard to keep it in.

She heard me laugh and said “Mommy, what’s so funny?”

“Nothing baby.” I replied with a big ole’ smile on my face. “I like the way you sing that song.”

The song in it’s original form reminded me of a prayer I had prayed to God earlier that same year. I attended my very first Bible study and for the first time I heard the video teacher say we can be friends with God. Friends with God? That was a weird and uncomfortable statement for me, but there it was in plain view. Right there in the Bible, James 2:23 “And the scripture was fulfilled that says “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend”

Wait, what? God as a friend? Up until that point, it had never even crossed my mind that God could be a friend. I always thought He was too big, too powerful, too boss/master like to be a friend. But I thought I’d ask Him if we could be friends anyway.  

Fast forward to now. My sweet little preschool baby girl is now in middle school and I am now fully receiving my friendship status with God.

A few months ago I wrote a post on depression. (Feelings Vs. Truth) I was in a pretty nasty slump and found myself sleeping all day, eating tons of junk food and getting little to no exercise.

I told him “Father, you’ve got to help me out of this. I have no structure in my life now that I’m not working. I need you to tell me what time I need to get up, what to eat and when, when to exercise. I need you to function. I don’t want to just sleep my days away anymore. I need rules to be a better me!”

protocol-robot-ms294-2He replied “You are not a robot and I am not your programmer.”

I instantly got it. Our relationship is much more personal than that! He’s not my boss, he’s my friend.  Over the years, we’ve grown into friendship with each other. My prayer had been answered and I didn’t even know it.

I realized how our relationship has progressed from the beginning to where we are today. I went from slave, to servant, to friend. A sermon from Bethel Church (God on Mute) illustrates this beautifully. I’ll try to paraphrase – “As a slave, we receive a list of to-do’s from our master. As a servant, we spend some time with the master and maybe even go into his house, but we still carry out the to-do’s. As friends…we hang out together, eat meals together. We dream up new things together, tell each other secrets and share a personal intimacy. There are still things to be done, but now we are co-laborers and we do it together. ”  

Friends don’t set rules for each other. Friends dream together. Friends plan for their future together. Friends become like each other.

Don’t get me wrong. God is still fully God. Still the creator of the universe, and I do submit to his authority, but our relationship has reached a whole new level. We dream together now. There are things I’ve wanted to do for a very long time with him that align with who he is. In fact, right now, in this very moment of our relationship, we’re dreaming up something HUGE together and I can’t wait to share it! It’s too early still, but when the time is right, you bet I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops! 

I dream and create with God because he is more than a master, he is my friend.

I realize he didn’t give me a list of rules on how to be a better me like I wanted him to, not because he was being cold or distant, but because he trusts me in our relationship. He knows I’ll listen to him if I’m getting off track. He knows I’ll come to him if I need help or guidance. He’s equipped me to make decisions and because we are in constant contact, my decisions will be influenced by him because we are friends.

I pray that you too receive your identity as a friend of God. I pray that you live in the freedom of knowing you’re a son or a daughter of not only the best Father in the world, but the best Friend in the world too. I pray you walk in confidence, a confidence that can only come from God. I pray you know he is your biggest fan and he will never leave you. I pray you dream BIG dreams with him! Dreams that impact your world and the people you know and love forever. I pray you spend lots of time at his table hanging out, remembering how he’s always been a faithful friend. I pray the two of you talk about your future and most importantly, grow in your friendship.  

What’s Your Favorite Color?

“What is your favorite color?” This was a question God asked me a few years ago and I honestly couldn’t answer it. When asked this question before, I had always answered “blue” or “green” because these were my parent’s favorite colors. Seriously, I had no clue. As I started to think on the question God put in my heart, it began to bother me that I really didn’t know the answer! What IS my favorite color?

Rainbow Crayons

 

Realizing I didn’t know my favorite color was just the beginning of an incredible journey of discovering who I am and who God created me to be. Just recently something shifted and I gained a whole new understanding of my identity.

I realized I believed a lie. A lie that Christians are supposed to be extroverts, bubbly socialites who can talk to anyone anywhere and share their personal stories and with others. After all, as a Christian, this is what I’m called to do right?!

There’s a problem here. Saying all Christians are supposed to be extroverted, and bubbly socialites isn’t true. I had, for far too long, believed I wasn’t a good Christian because I couldn’t be quite as outgoing as everyone else. See, I’m more of an introvert kind of girl. I believed I wasn’t reaching people or doing what God wanted me to do if I wasn’t out making friends daily, having hordes of women over to my house on a weekly basis for small group, or talking to EVERY single person I’ve ever seen in public and sharing Jesus with them.

The pressure I was putting on myself was creating debilitating insecurities and awkwardness, stealing my joy, confidence and sense of community. The lie was growing into an even bigger one and I began to believe I was losing my mind. For real. I tried to be someone I’m not for so long, I began to believe there wasn’t a place for me anywhere but alone in my home with my own thoughts.

A few months ago, my church (Valley Creek Church) did a series called “Alignment“. The series focus was on unity as a church, as God’s people and with God. My prayer throughout the whole series was for God to unify our church, our family and myself with Him. He began to show me a few places in my life where I was believing a lie and not in alignment with Him. This lie / false belief about my identity surfaced. I believed I wasn’t good enough because I struggled so much to be an outgoing Christian. I was letting down God, my church, my family and myself. I wasn’t living up to my potential and I wasn’t living out my purpose.

Ahh, but then God. He began to speak to me about some of the things about myself I’ve considered “quirky” or “weird”. Stuff like my tendency to daydream. I will think on something so intently and for so long, I lose track of time and certain tasks. As a kid (and an adult), this was super inconvenient and got me into a heap of trouble. I was labeled imaginative, dreamer, idealist, believer, hopeful and not in a good way. I would spend hours chastising myself for getting too carried away with ridiculous thoughts. I’d tell myself “Stop dreaming, you’re supposed to be working!”, but God spoke life into me. He told me this was how He created me. He made me to think on things, to go down those rabbit trails and invite Him along on the journey so He can reveal His secrets to me. It’s OK to be WILD with my imagination. What I thought was a flaw, is actually the thing that connects me to God in one of the most intimate ways. I’m born to dream and imagine with Him. There’s so much peace and freedom from this. I can’t wait to see where He takes me from here. We’ve already started dreaming something  up together. I can’t wait to share, but in the mean time, here’s my prayer for you!

I pray you ask Him to align your heart with His. I pray you receive the identity as a son or a daughter He has just for you. From that place of receiving identity, I pray you grow in your relationship with Him and the two of you carry out His kingdom advancing purposes hand in hand. I pray you find the true freedom that only He can bring. I pray you discover your identity in Him and you are restored to His original design for you. I pray He reveals lies from the enemy that may have made you feel like you weren’t good enough. I pray you become who He says you are and not what the world says. And for those of you who don’t know, I pray you find out your favorite color…Mine’s red. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feelings Vs. Truth

As I sit here writing this, my body is trying to call the shots. The anxiety I used to battle several years ago, has annoyingly and tormentingly crept back into my life. The very real feelings of hopelessness, chest pains, feeling boxed in, like there’s no way out and fighting just to breathe have become something I deal with from time to time.

Before we go any further, I want you to know I am writing about my own personal battle of “Feelings Vs. Truth”. Yours may look similar or completely different than mine. Either way, this is my journey and I hope and pray you are encouraged by it and know that you are not alone.

Anxiety and it’s cousin depression are stupid little parasites that creep into your life when you’re already down and at your worst. They come in like little thieves, rob you of your joy and purpose and make you doubt what you once believed in.  They know when to rear their ugly little heads to torment you, and when to lay low so you think you’ve finally beat them. I hate them, wish I’d never met them, and admittedly get sucked into their downward spiral from time to time.

I’m a “feelings” kind of person. I  have BIG feelings. My mother used to tell me I was sensitive as I was growing up. Something I learned to hate about myself. As a kid, big reactions became a direct response to my big feelings. I was over the top, explosive and emotional. All of which were frowned upon. Add emotional experiences and instability to my upbringing, and you’ve got a recipe for some less than healthy coping skills.

Eventually, I decided it would be better to take those big feelings and stuff them down somewhere where they wouldn’t come up and cause a scene. It hurt too much. I started to deny my feelings instead of acknowledge them. I started to ignore them instead of hold them to God’s truth. I built walls around them to keep people from hurting them and hurting me. But depression and anxiety kept feeding and getting bigger, as I kept their buffet fully stocked. I became miserable.

Depression and anxiety are greedy. They aren’t content with the free ride I was giving them and they wanted more. But, their cover was blown with a simple prayer. “Lord Awaken My Heart…”

Last year my family and I participated in a church wide time of prayer and fasting. The prayer for our church was for God to awaken our hearts, revive the places where we’ve gone numb. (“Awaken My Heart” message.I was blown away as God began to reveal to me the exact moment in time when I chose to turn my feelings off. The problem is, feelings can’t be turned off. God didn’t design us that way. They can however be ignored, misplaced and/or elevated as idols in our lives. I have done all three.

But wait, there’s good news! God has a plan for our feelings! He wants them. He wants us to take them to Him where He can acknowledge them, tell us how to use them, and hold them up to His truth. When we submit our feelings to God, He brings truth and clarity.

Does this make the feelings go away? No, not always. I believed a lie that just because I prayed about my feelings, the good ones would be comforting and empowering and the bad or hurtful ones would disappear. God deals with things differently that I do, and differently than I’d like. Through these past few months of staying at home, I’ve learned that I can’t manipulate God with my feelings. I can’t say “I don’t FEEL you!” just to get Him to show up. While He cares about my feelings, they don’t always call the shots.

A few months ago, depression hit me hard. I laid in bed, begging God to pull me out of it. I begged Him to be able to FEEL His presence again like I have so many time before. Nothing…. I got nothing. The little depression demon began to whisper in my ear, “Where is He when you really need Him? This whole God, Jesus Christian thing is a joke…a big ole’ stretch to make yourself feel better when things seem out of control. Made up, nonsense. Where is He now?”.

I went to bed that night and cried myself to sleep. In the morning, I woke up with a song in my head. “Soon” by Hillsong serenaded me from the moment I opened my eyes until I realized this is what He had for me today. It wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted a hug, an embrace, but it was enough. Despite the song in my heart, for a long moment, I got caught up in the lies. My mind went to the darkest place it could go. A life without God. It broke me. I cried out to Him and told Him, “If I don’t have You, I have nothing. My whole life is based on You and who You say You are. I don’t want to live if I don’t have You.”

Then, somehow I knew I’d be alright. I can’t explain it. It took being at that bottom to realize how much He means to me.  No, the depression didn’t go away. I still felt lost and hopeless, but I had SOMETHING to hold onto. A song. I reached for my phone, pulled it up and let it wash over me. “Soon and very soon my King is coming” played over and over. Each time I let it sink in a little bit deeper. Eventually, I had enough to get out of bed. Even though He gave me this, I was still mad. It wasn’t enough. I felt like He was holding out on me. I told Him so. (If anything, I’ve learned that God doesn’t care if I’m angry. At Him or anything/one else. All He wants is for me to talk to Him about it.) He still didn’t give me what I wanted.

I had weeks with just a song and the support of my husband and Godly friends. They listened to me as I worked this thing out with God. I can tell you that now, I’m ok. I’m still waiting on that embrace I wanted so desperately, (even though I now know why He didn’t give it to me). I know depression and anxiety will eventually try their tricks on me again, but what God taught me in the process of the last battle, will get me through the next one. I’ll even go as far as to say that I am grateful for it. Grateful for the battle because it taught me more about Him, more about me and ultimately brought us closer together.

He showed me, feelings NEVER change the truth of any situation. His truth is solid fact, no matter what I may be feeling.

My feelings said “He’s not here”. His truth says “…Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. – Joshua 1:9

My feelings said “I’m going crazy. Depression is stealing my joy!” His truth says “I’ve given you a sound mind. The enemy wants to steal your joy. All he does is steal kill and destroy.” – 2 Timothy 1:7, – John 10:10

My feelings said “You left me, and abandoned me when I needed you most”. His truth says “Never will I leave you or forsake you. Just because you can’t feel me, doesn’t mean I’m not there.” – Hebrews 13:5

The truth is, no matter what I’m feeling, He remains. His truth trumps my feelings every time.  I will probably write about this again because I’m constantly learning in this area. I’m trusting in Him to lead me in a life where I am not ruled by my feelings. I want to be led by Him, not riding on my roller coaster of emotions! He is the constant…I am not. He is always there whether I feel Him or not. I am grateful for a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

 

A Million Thanks

I had the BEST time going through the letters the kids wrote before mailing them off to the A Million Thanks Organization . A part of my then job was to pick out a mission for the kids. Every quarter I chose some type of mission to help the kids put feet to their faith. This one was probably my most favorite. Why? Because I got to see the children’s interpretation of what they 164403_10200694074375061_1579201348_nwere receiving from God through the lessons every week. They poured out their hearts on paper, wrote some of the most sweetest, inspiring and FUNNY little letters and cards I have ever read. A million little pictures, letters and homemade cards for me to pour through and bundle up to deliver to unsuspecting soldiers.

I took a picture of this one for a few reasons. First, it’s so stinkin’ cute. “Vally Creak”?! Com’on! That’s precious. Also because the child that wrote it, was telling the super blessed soldier that was going to receive this letter how much he/she loved our church. My thoughts exactly sweet kiddo. I love “Vally Creak” too.

That’s why the past few months have been so hard. I knew this was going to change me. Stepping off staff has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. It really was my dream job. I had influence over nearly 1,000 kids every single weekend. Incredible. Something I’d prayed for after I gave my life to Christ.  He intrusted me with this assignment and when He said it was time to move on, my heart broke.

It was through a four month process when I realized a part of why He was calling me away.

On January 1, 2015 I woke up at my mother’s house at 5:00am to the smell of fresh cut grass and a picture in my mind of barefoot feet walking through some beautifully green grass. Then I heard the Lord say to me “In His heart, a man plans His course, but the Lord orders his steps.” Proverbs 16:9. A little bit confused, I fell back asleep and didn’t really think much more about it.

After returning home and getting back into our post holiday routine, we attended the first service of the new year at church. In this message titled “First”  (give it a listen sometime…good stuff!) a certain scripture was shared. Betcha can guess which one…yep, Proverbs 16:9. God gave me further revelation and showed  me that I had been doing things my own way for a while, and it was time to give Him back the job of leading and controlling my life.

So much easier said than done! The next few months were spent in deep prayer and many conversations with my husband and trusted friends. The end result? God was asking me to step down from my dream job to take a season of rest and receiving. Something I’ve NEVER done before.

August 27, 2015 was my last day on staff at Valley Creek. One of the most challenging, joy filled, spiritually growing jobs I have ever had. I miss a part of it every day. Now that I am into my 4th month of learning how to receive, I know I made the right decision to “follow the cloud”, and it does get better as time goes on, but I miss it. I miss the people, the mission, and the joy of bringing the gospel message to hundreds of kids every weekend.

This new adventure has already taught me countless lessons that I wouldn’t have been able to receive had I ignored God and stayed, so I wouldn’t trade a single second of it for anything, but it has been hard. I look forward to writing future blog posts about these lessons. So, stay tuned for more!

In the meantime, I want to say…A million thanks to God, for knowing my heart, and for asking me to let go of the good so I can receive the great. A million thanks to my VCC friends/former co-workers and leaders, you guys amaze me and your hearts for Jesus are so contagious! And to my family and closest friends…A million thanks for praying along side of me, supporting me and talking this WHOLE entire process  out with me (even still) as I’ve gone through the incredible ups and downs in this past season. I can’t wait to see how this thing ends and what incredible blessings He’ll have for us all in it!