Tonight after my mom and I spent time in preparation for my move on Wednesday I was in the mood to write something. But this time I was finally feeling like myself again… for the first time in weeks. My heart finally felt free again. So I asked Jesus tonight what I should write on and I heard that phrase, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” I knew this was somewhere in the Bible but I couldn’t recall where so I looked it up and found it quoted in Nehemiah 8:10.
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
I think as Christians we can ponder too much on how hard things are. Especially when we are going through difficult circumstances. We try to turn it into this huge teaching lesson. We think that going through temptations and trials will make us holier… more righteous… that these tough situations will make us stronger. But the truth is, dwelling on the yucky stuff just makes us more miserable. We might be resisting the enemy but just barely. We let our hearts remain sick and in despair actually thinking that it will be to our benefit someday. That is soooo messed up!!!!
In this passage in Nehemiah, the people of Israel realized how much they had strayed from the purposes and plans God had for them. They realized they had missed out on so much by not walking in His will and under His protection. They were devastated! And what do you do when you are devastated? You scream and cry and get really really sad! But Nehemiah saw their despair and knew that what would benefit them more was rejoicing in who God is. God had come to their rescue and this was something to get excited about. New things were happening in Israel. They were starting over again and God was providing everything they needed to walk in His will from there forward.
I started to think about how much I had been focused on the hard stuff and wasn’t taking the time to get excited and enjoy all of the awesome things God was doing in my life. There is a lot going on right now that I should be joyful about. I now see that focusing on what’s ahead instead of what I’m leaving behind is going to be worth it. As I dwell on all of these hopes and awesome plans God has for me, my heart is strengthened and I feel might breaking in on my heart.
Whatever you are going through and whatever choices you face, just know that there is something so much better waiting around the corner for you. If you feel that you are settling for something far below what you know Jesus has spoken to you about, put your hope in the joy that is ahead. Don’t give up.
This past month has been one of the best that I have had in a long time. I’m finding my life reflecting the title of this blog. Life is coming full circle. How strange. Eight years ago this month I was moving from Little Rock (the town that I now live in), wanting to escape a relationship break-up. I know I’ve covered most of the journey the Lord has led me on but I find it so strange and coincidental how much has changed in my heart and yet how there seem to be so many links and connections to significant moments in my life… it seems to all be coming together.
If I went into all of the strange things that have been happening this month or this summer even I would probably take up most of the space on this entire blog. So I’ll spare you most of the details. Connections between old friends and new friends, old dreams (since high school) that He has replanted in my heart, relationships that he is helping me to evaluate, and new prospective relationships that I am learning to enjoy and relax in… I am really taking joy in my life right now.
I went to World Mandate this weekend. It’s a church planting conference in Waco, Texas which is the fourth one that I have attended over the years. Antioch Community Church has planted house churches all over the world and it wasn’t until this fourth time in attendance that my heart was actually stirred toward what the Lord was doing on the earth… though I am thinking about these things for the future, I realize I’m not entirely ready for whatever my role is in this.
Instead, I had my usual favor from God that I seem to be getting a lot of lately. I had heard that there would be sign-up sheet for prophecy rooms at this conference and signed up for a slot on Saturday afternoon. I just needed encouragement, direction… anything that might help me to move forward. The fascinating situation I discovered but was not told until later, was that these rooms were only for pastors and missionaries. I asked my friend, a leader at Antioch if I should go back and take my name off the list. She encouraged me to keep it on, thinking it was probably just a ‘God thing’ that no one had told me the rules.
So I did go to the rooms on Saturday and basically wept through the entire ordeal. No direction really… just a confirmation of my calling, His heart for me, my identity in Him, divine protection over my life (yes please!), and a specific anointing that was called out again and confirmed (music). There was an even an incredibly awkward moment where all of the people in the room stood up and applauded me and celebrated me, signifying how proud the Father was of me and how He delighted in me. Yes, I blushed a little but I very much needed that awkward moment.
I guess right now I’m not excited about all of the adventures He has in the future… or the tasks or assignments He has for me… or the leadership positions He might give me or the bands that I get to sing with. I’m just excited that I get to rest in His arms and be loved by Him. I’m excited about the ways He is going to meet me in the future. I’m excited for the late nights I’ll get to spend with Him speaking to me in my dreams. I’m excited for the ways He’s going to speak to me through others and how I’ll hear His heart for them as well. I’m excited for all of the people He is placing in my life right now and how we’re walking out our friendship with Him together. I’m excited about the increase of joy I’m receiving just because He’s beside me.
Even though my dreams from high school might be very similar to the ones I have now, they are coming from a different place in my heart… a different place of rest… a more developed purpose. And some day, I will share with you exactly what those dreams were/are.
Since I was a little girl I’ve had this strange tendency to see the bad in what everyone sees as good and see the good in people that are perceived as “bad” by others. I’m sure the negative side of this has partly to do with my own flesh and fallen nature and partly to do with the black and white nature of a prophetic person. I’ve always been the one to cheer on the underdog– the people that everyone has cast aside as useless and bothersome yet I have a somewhat abrasive side when it comes to the injustice I see in the lives of people around me, particularly those with power… and yet I have compassion for them too. Compassion in that I know, especially if they are leaders, that they will have to answer to the Lord for how they lead others. That is very scary business.
The problem with this, however, is that it has become kind of unbalanced in my life… to the point that I have become extremely distracted by the problems I see rather than depending on the Lord for breakthrough in certain situations. Instead of finding enjoyment in the flawed people around me (and remembering that I too am flawed), I have clung to self-preservation and become dull to the workings of God in my own life.
Coming back to Little Rock, where my family lives, revealed just how darkened my heart had become to these issues in my life. I didn’t want to return to Little Rock at first and would have much rather have bypassed this area and gone straight to Texas to be with my friends. However, I realize that God has me right where He wants me right now. Living near my family made me a little nervous. I didn’t want to deal with possible drama from certain members but as I have spent the last week here, I have come to realize how grateful I am for them. My family is a blast to be around and it has honestly been a very healing week for me. And who knows what kind of impact I can make on the family members I struggle with? I have true hope for restoration in their lives.
Living in the south again brought on a whole other set of issues. I don’t really care for the south, and never really did (except for Texas, which I enjoy a ton!). Okay so the food is out of this world (catfish, barbecue, fried chicken, hushpuppies) but in my head I was griping about the lack of decent churches in Little Rock, what I thought of as obnoxious southern people, the humidity, and the fact that I really didn’t know anyone in this city anymore after 8 years of being away. In essence, I realized I was a ‘snob’ of sorts. I was just as snobby as some of the other southern people I was accusing of being snobby. I also realized how much of a drag I must be to be around sometimes if I can’t seem to find the things Jesus sees as beautiful in others. This began to change when I visited a new church yesterday called The Summit in North Little Rock. I felt so much sincerity from the people and pastor and so much genuine hunger for intimacy with the Lord that I was overwhelmed by the presence of God in that place. My pre-conceived notions about the city which I now live in began to fall away as I sensed such a raw passion from the pastor for people to encounter God and to know Him intimately. And I sensed that He Himself knew God and had a real relationship with Him– despite the fact that He lived… ahem… in the south.
In essence, I know my heart needs to be changed. Somehow, I have to balance truth and obey the Lord in the things He has called me to speak out with a heart of true gratefulness and humility. To appreciate those around me, not looking at things with rose-colored glasses necessarily, but having the mind and eyes of Christ. I want to learn how to receive the grace to restrain my tongue when I need to and to perceive all things through the lense of hope. What the Holy Spirit is teaching me, really, is that the steps I need to take in walking in this hope all begin with the “F Word”– Forgiveness. But that’s a whole other blog.
I was in second grade in Mrs. Franklin’s class when she directed us to write a fictional story about our class discovering dinosaur bones on a field trip. I remember the excitement I felt as I penned sixteen pages of glorious second-grade prose into my spiral notebook. I created an elaborate story, complete with dinosaur bones coming alive and scaring old Mrs. Franklin. I had never felt more awake in my young life than I did as I crafted that imaginary story.
In school I was not the mathematician or the scientist. I never did well in those areas but when it came to writing and literature, my teachers would often tell my parents “encourage her with this! she has a gift!”. I was a daydreamer and instead of listening intently during 4th grade math, I would spin fairy stories in my head, come up with character names and even details about their 19th century clothing. This daydreaming would come back to bite me when I received my report card but it paid off when I would win the county creative writing contest or win awards in the Duluth News Tribune for my creative narrative and eventually, in high school, become student editor of Speak Out, a column for local teens in the Ashland Daily Press.
I went on to study English Literature at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock but three years into my degree, a personal tragedy struck and I dropped out of college, heart-broken. It would be years before I was able to be focused enough to write again… or would even have the desire to do so.
Being in the prayer room while on staff at the International House of Prayer began to stir something in me that was akin to that feeling I had in second grade. That feeling of heat in my belly, probably even aroused by Holy Spirit, that would urge me to communicate ideas that were on His heart. I began writing in a blog truths that the Lord had been teaching me, but in my head, was still hesitant to acknowledge myself as a writer again.
After moving to Ottertail, Minnesota and joining the Firestarters writers group, I felt a pressure to create that I had not felt in a long time. Unfortunately, working full-time as a legal secretary, didn’t offer me a lot of time to ponder and think and create. I felt miserable at my job, exhausted all the time, and trapped into doing something that I hated just so that I could get by with my very meager income.
Then it began with a dream (as it usually does). I walked into a bedroom where both of my parents (who are no longer married to each other) were sitting on a bed. They asked me what I was reading and I responded that I was reading Journey of Desire by John Eldredge and Dreaming With God by Bill Johnson. My mom began asking me what I wanted to do with my life and in the dream I replied that I wanted to write and preach the Gospel. My mom then informed me that I needed to quit my job and said some other things that I don’t care to write about at the moment. Huh. Well I couldn’t just quit my job…. could I?
A couple weeks after that dream I had another. It was simply a snapshot dream where my boss came to me and let me go from my job. I woke up, knowing I would be let go, and that it was for a specific purpose. Three weeks later, it was exactly as I expected… my boss pulled me into his office and told me I was no longer needed at the office. Instead of distress I felt absolutely relieved. I knew it was the Lord directing me into a better path… one that fit me perfectly.
Days after my last day at the law office I traveled to Kansas City, where I still am, for a time of prayer and re-focusing. Thoughts of inadequacy plagued my mind. I’m not good enough to do this. How can I ever pull this off? Does God really desire to bless me enough that I actually get to do something that I love to do for a living? At the Awakening Service on Wednesday night, a woman from the prophecy teams spoke to me and said that she saw something creative around me. She said that I didn’t feel that I was good enough to do what He was calling me to do. I knodded in agreement. She looked me straight in the eyes and firmly told me that what I did was powerful and it would impact many. If that wasn’t enough, the Lord knew I needed some specific confirmation. So this morning, I went to check my email and noticed a message from a nightwatch leader at the House of Prayer. This is not someone that I communicate with much at all and in the email he tells me he has a prophetic word for me and that he has been thinking about it all week long. He blatantly tells me that I am called to be a writer. How is that for confirmation?
I am very eager and excited to start this journey and I know from this day forward, my life will never be the same. Aside from my primary calling as a lover of God, this is the day I know myself as a writer. And that, my friends, is my journey into this knowledge.
I feel as though I’ve been buried under rubble all of my life and in the last couple of weeks hope has come and lifted off of me the weight of the world and the even greater wait of hopelessness that has been the tiger on my back all of my life. Part of this lifting began as I hid myself in the secret place; a dark bedroom with a dim lamp, a few candles and the Holy Spirit. Instead of repeating to myself over and over (like I have my entire life) “you’re so stupid”, “you’re worthless” , “you can’t do anything right”, “you’re ugly” and even the weird conundrum of “all you are is a pretty face”… I’m actually praying scripture… truth about who God is… that He is kind, patient, mighty to save, good, generous, attentive, caring and loving. I’ve been praying scriptures about who I am to Him with truth such as “His delight”, “separated and kept”, “dark but lovely”, “the object of His desire”, “belonging to Him”, “recipient of His loving devotion”, “the joy set before Him”, “the apple of His eye”, His special treasure”.
I use to have doubts that tongue held so much power as James 3 speaks about but it really does. Speaking forth truth to a precious God who is attentive and loves hearing our voices does wonders for identity issues. And when we speak these things out and wait to hear His observations on this truth… that’s when He comes. This is when He makes His love known and whispers mysteries that shift things in our hearts. For the first time in my life I’ve been able to separate the truths from the lies as He speaks to me about how He is making me strong. He speaks to me about His great passion to make tragedies into something profoundly breathtaking and glorious and He does not withhold this from anyone who comes to Him in faith. NOT FROM ANYONE (even from me). He loves the great exchange of His life and love for our pain and despair. And He loves weaving it into an ornate tapestry of the charecter of God and His tenderness and kindness and compassion toward human beings.
To end I will share a rather tender dream that I have been holding onto for awhile. In it, I was standing in the back bookstore office talking to a friend and co-worker. There were other people in the room which gave it a “public” feel (which I realized now represents the prayer room). She was rebuking me for speaking rudely and unkindly to someone she loved. In that moment I felt the grief of having caused someone else pain. I repented for my behaviour and became frustrated with myself. I began telling my friend that I was so sorry and explained to her various things that had happened in my childhood and how I still sometimes act out of that deep pain. She started walking out of the room and beckoned me to come follow her. We walked into a hidden storage area (that actually does not exist in reality). She turned around to get something behind her and when she stood to face me again, I could see tears running down her face. She was weeping for me. I could see the compassion in her eyes as she understood and knew the things that I had experienced. She felt my pain. In her hands were a pair of pants and on top of them was my Bible. The dream ended.
I woke up wondering at first what in the world the pants were for. What did all of this mean? As I met her (representing the Holy Spirit) in the secret place she was covering my shame… with TRUTH. I was seeing the Holy Spirit’s compassion over my life and identifying with it in a deep way. Yes… He is wild and untamed but He’s also gentle and tender with our hearts. He “knows we are but dust”. He’s been there and experienced pain much more profoundly than anything we have experienced.
Last summer I was given a word that I had my finger on a particular country and that the Lord would be sending me there. She said she saw Jesus and He had this sheath at His side, where you would normally put a sword. She saw me inside the sheath and that it represented IHOP and that the Lord had me hanging out here until He was ready to draw me out.
Last night, day six of the fast I was in the prayer room late at around 11pm. I had been pacing most of the night, feeling the Lord wanting to speak to me about something while feeling a little bit antsy. I sat down and almost immediately felt the weight of the Spirit on me. I then had a vision of a man standing and at His side was a sword and he drew the sword out and held it in the air. The Lord then spoke to me and said “I keep my promises.” I knew I would be leaving IHOP in the somewhat near future. The time was drawing close.
I whipped out of that chair like a firecracker. I’m so not ready to leave this place. Jesus I’m scared! But as I calmed down I knew it was still at least a year off. I already have an idea of what the next assignment is that the Lord has me on. I believe it is one of two options that I have had rolling around in my head for awhile. I’m not ready to reveal those options yet. These two options have to do with a series of prophetic dreams the Lord has given me over this past year.
I know that IHOP is my wilderness season and that is what I am here for. To meet God in the wilderness and be made whole and perfected in love. This fast in particular is crucial to the places God is taking me to. I am so grateful for His perfect leadership in my life.
“Therefore I will block her paths with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'” Hosea 2:2-7
I had a long conversation with an old friend last night. I was so encouraged to hear about the process she was in with the Lord because I saw myself two years ago in the same process (that is still continuing, by the way). It reminded me of the goodness of God in my life. It reminded me of His perfect, loving leadership and His jealous pursuit of my heart. I see the same things happening to her that happened to me. He is walling her in, hedging her in with thorns, teaching her wisdom. He’s putting road blocks up time after time so that He can take away everything that keeps her from falling in love with Him and hinders full maturity in her life. It is obvious that the Lord’s hand is on her life.
During the entire couple hours of conversation it reminded me time and again why I left everything, my friends, my church, and yes, boyfriends to follow Him. He’s just that wonderful, even more wonderful than I understand.