The part of my story that I’ve never shared but you need to read

Today, I want to tell my story- the part of my story most of you don’t know. I’m going to tell the part of my story I didn’t think I’d ever share- the painful part, the beautiful part, and God’s faithfulness through it all.

I believe that me sharing this part of my life will encourage a lot of people, especially those people who are waiting on the promises of God, the promises that are so big and the promises that they often doubt. This story will help those waiting on the all-elusive “one,” their prince charming or perfect bride.

Some of you, very close to me, know this part of my story, and some of you thought I was crazy for hanging on. There were so many times when this part of my story just didn’t make sense. There were times when I was broken before God, full of confusion and doubt, on my knees with heart-felt, Hannah- like prayers. The biblical Hannah pleaded with God for a son, and time and time again, I pleaded those prayers for a spouse.

My story begins in 2007, when I began dating my high school boyfriend at the time. We dated for over two and a half years, and I was convinced that he was it, the one I would marry. Trust me, I didn’t settle. He really loved the Lord, my family welcomed him as their own, and we seemed to be involved in the same type of ministry. Breaking up was never an option during that time. But long-distance can be rough. A twelve to fourteen hour drive is really rough. Not knowing the next time you’ll see each other is also rough. Long story short, we did break up, and about six months after we did, I started to consider once again that he was the one for me. Years of tension followed, three to be exact. Three years. Three whole years. Can you imagine how much I struggled, how much my heart broke, as time and time again we would discuss old feelings and consider the possibility of getting back together? Many times I walked away from our conversations feeling like my heart had been played with once again. This continued until my senior year of college when the Lord finally, completely shut that door and gave me peace that I wasn’t missing His will for my life. Now you have to understand some back story… We had both thought we were the Lord’s will for each other’s lives, and many times I thought the Lord was speaking to me to wait on him. So if you can imagine, I spent many nights frustrated with God, broken before Him, and angry with Him, so very angry. I asked God why He would trick me like that, why He would dangle this promise of love before me just to rip it away. I wanted so badly to love someone passionate about me and even more passionate about Christ and doing His work. The thing that hurt the most wasn’t the loss of the person, however. It was the brutal doubt that creeped in, leading me to believe that I obviously didn’t know how to hear God’s voice. So after all this, I went through a season of bitterness, where I doubted God, my ability to hear and discern His voice, and where I was angry at all the times people had prophesied that this thing would come around. Now let me leave this paragraph with this thought: “Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.”

Here’s the good news. Here’s where things began to change. There was a beautiful moment when I looked back and realized that those years were not a tease. There was a glorious second when I realized I could, indeed, trust God and that He was up to deeper things. There was a tremendous excitement in seeing that my experience was a part of His plan all along. First off, God knew this would be a part of my story and my testimony. He knew I would help others, broken-hearted over what looks like the loss of their promise. He knew my story would encourage those whose promise seems just a little too out of reach, a little too impossible. He knew that someone would need to trust Him for their dreams, when there seemed to be absolutely no time left for those dreams to be realized. Well, if you read Scripture, you might recall that Sarah, Abraham’s wife, had a child way after she was of child bearing age, and Hannah had a child when she was doomed to be childless. I have found that God loves to operate outside of our time frames. He loves to do the impossible, and he loves to show off. He loves to perform when, by all natural means, it is FAR too late. My God loves this! Why? Because when He works in the impossible, we are forced to acknowledge that we had no part in the act. We are forced to realize that it was only by Him and through Him. We are better able to fully relinquish all the glory back to Him.

This is how this part of the story ends. I was able to look back and be thankful for the years of heartbreak. Yes, thankful, and this is why. All of that drama and all of that pain led me to my husband, the man who is not perfect but who is perfect for me, the man that God intended for me all along. I believe that God knew that James and I were not yet ready for one another. A lot had to happen to get our hearts prepared and to even get us in the same city at the same time. Also, knowing what I had in my high school boyfriend and wondering if he was still “the one” protected me from so much! It enabled me to walk away many times from what would have been settling for me. It gave me the strength to wait for a godly man who unashamedly pursued Christ with all that he had and who sacrificed himself daily to love me like Christ loves the church. Time and time again I walked away from potential relationships knowing that they didn’t quite compare to my high school boyfriend, and this kept me many times from compromising. I didn’t want to walk away from something to walk into something less. I believed that if he wasn’t my person, then God had someone EVEN BETTER for me. Now, that was hard to imagine at first but then came James. I walked into the frozen yogurt store on our first date and had to keep my jaw from hitting the floor. Ok, so that might be a slight exaggeration, but seriously he was so cute and so handsome! And it just kept getting better… Besides the fact that we had SO much in common, he has a passion for the Lord that blew my mind. Over the course of a few months I was able to see that every moment I waited, I had waited for him. Every prayer I had prayed over my future husband, I had prayed over him. In fact, when I met him, I felt like I had known him all my life; and I honestly believe it was because I had spent my whole life praying for him. He was everything I had prayed for, so in that sense, I already knew his heart. And the beautiful part is that he felt the exact same way. About a week and a half into our relationship, James looked at me and said that he thought he was going to marry me. Instead of the usual fear and panic when a guy would bring up commitment, I quickly said back in full sass mode, “I know.”

I tell you all of this to encourage you. I want to encourage you that God does honor His Word, that He does work all things for good for those who love Him and are called unto His purpose, that He does have your best interest and His glory in mind, and that He does fulfill all the crazy big dreams He’s placed in your heart. The bigger and the more impossible the dream, the more likely that God placed it there. My God loves to show off. He didn’t need to, but in so many faithful ways, He has won my trust, and He has won my heart.

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How can I walk away? What if there’s not better out there? What if this was my only chance?

We always fear letting go. We’re scared to walk away from what we have, because what if there’s nothing else out there? What if there’s nothing better? But what if I could trust God? What if I could trust that He is good and does only good? What if I could trust that he strips away only to give better? Then when I had to let go I would rejoice instead of wallow in sorrow. But do we do that? Not often. At least, I don’t.

I’ve often walked away from relationships, “trusting” that God had better, all while wallowing in self-pity. Now that I’m marrying the man of my dreams, it’s easy to look back and say, “Yes, God! You did it! You had better for me all along. You knew what you were doing.” But in the moment, in the pain, we may say we trust, but we don’t live like it. Shouldn’t we instead be excited about what is to come? Shouldn’t we rejoice at his goodness and kindness in delivering us out of our own plans? So many times I mourn over a lost thing…

Today, God used a silly example to remind me that I can trust Him and His intentions toward me. I can trust His heart. I can trust that He is a God who gives and takes away and a God who ALWAYS has better in store for me when He asks me to die to self. Lord, I pray that as I delight myself in you that you would give me the desires that I should have. I pray that you would shape the desires of my heart, so that wherever you lead me, I would go forward with joy.

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Living a Lie

How many times do we live a lie? How many times do we simply go through the motions, because it’s what is expected of us, because it’s all we know? We know no other way. That isn’t to say it’s never real, but that when it becomes fake, we just keep going with it. We say the right things and do the right things, all while feeling dead inside. How many times do we trust what other people say God is saying instead of seeking Him for ourselves? Sometimes, when I get frustrated spiritually, I just give up. Instead of digging harder into God’s Word and presence, I simply stop trying. I still pray, read my Bible, and talk to others about Him; but I stop talking TO Him. There’s a subtle difference. It’s not the same thing to talk about God as it is to talk to Him. I still poured out my list of concerns and questions, only to zoom on to the next obligation or activity. I never stopped and waited for an answer. I didn’t listen for the still, small voice. I didn’t want to, because I didn’t want to put forth the effort.

I was used to the lies and guilt of the enemy. It trapped me within a pit of despair where I felt lethargic and unable to escape. I then tried to compensate for this with works. I read my Bible more, prayed more, and talked about Him more, still while ignoring His beautiful voice. Frustrated, I confided in a godly friend. I poured out my heart to her. She had me walk through everything step by step, and I came to this simple conclusion. I miss Him. I miss His intimacy. I miss knowing Him on a deep, personal level and telling Him that I am His favorite. Frankly, I miss believing that I am His favorite; because there was a time, not too long ago, where I really did believe it, with all my heart. Our God is such a personal, jealous God. Now, I’m not saying that I consider myself of more importance to God than someone else. I know, however, that He loves me, intimately and personally, not just humanity as a whole. This helps me to connect closely with Him. I was reminded of times when I sacrificed so much to know Him better. I gave up movies, sacrificed relationships, and did countless other things, all while even Christian friends told me I was crazy or that my actions were unnecessary. The truth of it all was that my heart was to please my Father. If He didn’t want me watching tv shows or movies that promoted cursing, taking His name in vain, or sexual immorality, then I sure wasn’t going to watch it. For one, I did not want to do anything to offend or hurt His heart. Secondly, since the Holy Spirit lives inside me, anything I sit down to watch, I’m causing Him to be subjected to, as well. How selfish of me!

Overall, I’m just brought back to what matters. I’m brought back to the importance of an intimacy with my first love, Jesus Christ. It is, after all, all about Him. I’m not content to live a “typical” Christian life where I show up to church on Sundays and Wednesdays and simply do what everyone else considers the safe, “right” thing. I want to live out a radical, personal relationship with Christ. I am choosing to sit before Him and simply listen. I am going back to the seasons in which I live my life constantly in the uncomfortable, completely dependent upon Him for my every step. I am going back to the moments where I do not just read His word, say a few words, and call it a day. I am going to listen for His voice, because He is my shepherd, and I know His voice. I am going back to an intimate relationship where God not only guides me and gives me wisdom but also shares His heart with me. Tonight, I’m going back to the basics.

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In honor of Tom

Today is such a mix of happy and sad, of gain and of loss. I lost my grandpa on December 23rd, a couple of years ago. He was my role model and my guide in my search for “the one.” I modeled what I wanted and what I was looking for after him. I wanted to marry someone just like him, so I waited for that person. I passed over other options with the hope that one day my “Tom” would come along. I always knew I wanted a husband who acted like him.

Now, I’m very aware that my God is a God of timing. Two days ago, James proposed. He is the embodiment of all my wishes and dreams for a spouse. He is like my grandpa in so many ways. He looks at me like my grandpa looked at my grandma, and he treats me with the same awe and care. It is no accident that God would choose this week for the departure of someone I love so much and the arrival of someone else who I have also come to love in a way that I never even thought possible. So today, although I am filled with the sadness of loss, I am also filled with joy. I have joy in the knowledge that my God wastes nothing, that He ordains our steps, and that everything is in His sovereign control. In spite of the pain, I rejoice.

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I wasn’t aware He was there

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.'” Genesis 28:15-16

So neat that even when we feel alone- when we feel like we are single-handedly taking on this world- God is with us. He is for us. He is watching over us and will accomplish that which He said He would do. He will fulfill the promises He has made to us. He is the God who does exceedingly, abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine. I love Jacob’s response to the Lord. It echoes the cry of my heart in those circumstances. It’s like saying, ” Oh there you are, Lord. I didn’t realize You would really stay through it all.” Even when we are not aware of His presence, He is there, in every sense of the word.

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I’m supposed to be thankful? Thankful for what? This mess?

Lately, a lot has been going on. Wait… when is a lot NOT going on? It always feels like we’ve got to get through the next thing. If I can just get through this trial, I’ll have it made, right? Wrong… Life will always present its challenges and trials, BUT life also offers up unending blessings from God; we just have to be more aware of the blessings than the struggles. Let’s think on Peter as he walked on the water. When his eyes were on Christ, he walked on the water with confidence and ease. When he began to be more aware of his scary and discouraging circumstances instead of the deliverer of those circumstances, he began to sink. How often do we do that? We begin valiantly in a trial thinking that God will bring us through. We then begin to look around us, however, and we get discouraged. Once we’ve looked at our surroundings instead of Christ, we sink! We lose hope. Surely our God will not deliver us from this. He’s moving too slowly! Or so we think… Peter may have thought so too as he grasped his last breath, preparing to sink to his death, feeling the inability of God to help him more deeply than the depths of the ocean. BUT THEN, came Jesus. He lifted him once again and reprimanded him for his loss of faith. I can SO relate to Peter, because I’ve done this to God all too often. The moment I feel like things are going downhill, I drop my faith and pick up desperation. It’s so hard for me to see the good and hang on to my faith when all I can see is what’s around me in the natural. I begin to cling to self-pity and despair.

Psalm 50:14-15 “Offer to God the SACRIFICE¬†of thanksgiving. Pay your vows to the Most High. Call on me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

Now let’s look at this verse. Offer to God WHAT? God, you expect me to THANK you in the midst of some of the greatest pains of life? You expect me to thank you for what? My misery? How is it that God, who knows what we walk through, expects us to offer up thanksgiving, a joyful, trusting heart, when we walk through the sadness, pain, and trials of this life? God asks for our thanksgiving BEFORE the deliverance. If we look at the order of the above verse, thanksgiving comes first, then we call on Him for help, then he delivers us, and lastly, we honor Him with more thanksgiving. We give Him the glory. Many of us would think that the order is a little reversed. He should deliver us, and then we should thank Him, because we’re so thankful that He has saved us from our sufferings. WRONG. We’ve got to praise before we’ll ever see the victory. When God had the Israelites walk around Jericho seven times, the last thing He had them do was offer up a shout of praise and victory. They did this BEFORE the walls came tumbling down. We’ve got to offer up a cry of victory and trust in Him before we’ll ever see our battles won. I don’t want to barely make it through the battles of life with an attitude of defeat. I do not want to merely survive. I want to thrive! And the best part is, we can! To do this, however, I must offer up thanksgiving in advance, knowing my God’s got this, regardless of how the outcome appears in the natural.

Psalm 116:17 “I will SACRIFICE a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.”

Let’s look at one other aspect- the idea of this process being a sacrifice. He doesn’t say it will be easy. That’s why it is continually expressed in the Psalms as an offering or a sacrifice of thanksgiving. It’s often difficult to praise and give thanks when you feel like God is working against you and not for you. His Word assures us, however, that He is for us and not against us. We’ve got to trust in these promises in His Word. If His Word is not our ULTIMATE standard of truth, what is? If we say we believe His Word, we must trust all the promises of God including that one, even when we feel deserted.

Lastly, the hardest part about offering up thanksgiving in our trials is that trials strip us of almost everything- everything but one thing. The one thing we have left is our despair and our right to self-pity over what we have lost or been deprived of. And that’s the one thing God asks of us! The one thing we have left, that the trial didn’t take from us, He requires! How can He take that from us too? It’s our right to complain! Well, we must sacrifice our right to complain if we are to truly see our victory in Him. We must offer up thanksgiving to Him, though we don’t understand why we’re walking through such a mess. Our job is not to wait until He delivers and then say, “Oh God, thank you for what you’ve done!” Far before we see His hand of deliverance, far before we even see Him at work, we must cry, “God, I remember the works of your hands. Thank you for what you’ve already done, and thank you for what you WILL do. I trust you. I trust your ways, no matter the end result.”

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Here I go again

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I feel that all too often I have to come before the Lord and say, “Here I am again, Lord. I need your help. I’m still dealing with this issue.” Recently, I prayed a rather brave prayer. I asked the Lord to increase my dependence on Him. I didn’t want to only get in the Word in the sense of reading a verse or two a day. I wanted to actively pursue His PRESENCE daily. I wanted to literally spend quality time with Him each day. So I asked Him to make my days without Him miserable, to show me that I really can’t do this life on my own. Boy, did he answer that plea. The past two weeks have been so busy. Because of this, I was not in the Word or in His presence like I promised Him I would be, and I COMPLETELY felt the affects. I felt broken, useless, stressed, and unable to do anything worth noting. I cried out before Him asking Him why life was so difficult, and He gently brought that prayer of mine to mind. He brought to my remembrance a plea to Him to strip me of all else if I did not have Him as my first priority. Praise God that He answers the tough prayers! I’m thankful for a God who actively pursues my time and affection. He wants to shape my heart, but I need to allow Him to do so by spending time with Him. I’ve got to seek Him and His power. Without being plugged in to the ultimate source of power, I quickly run out of energy. Prayerfully, this lesson sticks with me a little longer this time.

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Oh wait… You don’t like me?

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galations 1:10

What a hard lesson to learn! I find myself daily devastated when someone doesn’t like me or approve of my actions. I become shocked when I learn that I don’t have someone’s approval, and it hurts my heart. I have to remember, however, that I am living for the approval of One. If I live my life trying to please everyone, I’ll wind up pleasing everyone but Him. We must operate through discernment, the Spirit’s leading, and the Word of God.

“Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!” 1 Peter 3:17

People will often condemn us when we walk out what God has for us. The Word even warns us that if He was condemned, we would be, as well. He didn’t promise that this life would be easy and free from suffering. He did promise us, however, an abundant life if we walk in His presence.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Today my prayer is that the Lord would help me to value His Word over the lies of the enemy. It’s time to lay down pride, to deny myself, and to boldly carry the cross, knowing where the most important approval comes from.

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When seduction is what attracts…

I’ve been thinking about what I could say to today’s generation of girls and women, in a culture that is so captivated by sexual and seductive behavior. How could I persuade them that it’s not right and that it’s not worth it to live that way when everyone cries out, “It’s what men want!”? Well, the Holy Spirit gently spoke His answer into my heart. In response to the claim, “It’s what men want!”, the reply He gives me is this: “Maybe, but it’s not what God wants, and that’s what matters.” Although a godly man may be tempted by or attracted to a woman acting in a seductive manner, he will cherish a woman who acts in a godly and pure way. He can see the value of that girl’s heart more clearly, because He can see God so clearly within her.

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One Day My Prince Will Come

Every little girl learns at a young age to look, long, and hope for a knight in shining armor, the prince that will make her feel captivating and loved. Every little girl knows that she must wait…. But I’ve been thinking…. I don’t just want to hold out on the hope that “one day my prince will come.” I want to be so in love with the Prince of peace, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords , that it won’t matter if my earthly prince ever comes. My heavenly prince must be more than enough. So here’s the deal….. Ladies, we must wait, but we must not only wait. We must also use this time of waiting to pursue God with all our heart, because a prince will only pursue a princess. If we are to have a prince and not just a geek in aluminum foil, we must be completely lost in the heart of God, for that is what captures the hearts of his sons. And honestly ladies, we are princesses worth pursuing, because the perfect prince already did the ultimate act of pursuance- He laid down His life through death on a cross in the hopes of spending eternity with us. Now that’s love… The kind of love Disney will NEVER be able to outshine or outdo.

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