Fruit at Your Fingertips, and Strength When You Need It

This has been my year of abiding. I’ve written about it before – about how Ben tricked me into getting up early every morning, so that I would have time to pray, journal, and read my Bible before my family got up, because I read that when we abide, we give the Holy Spirit the chance to change us in ways we can’t change ourselves. My year of abiding is coming to an end soon, and I wonder how much has changed. It becomes clear how much I need a lifetime of abiding, not just 12 months, and maybe I’m not that different than I was a year ago, except for this: I’m aware of how much I need this time each day. I’ve felt empty on the few days I missed it, because of sickness, or the couple of times when the alarm didn’t wake me up.

So if nothing more, I’ve developed a habit of making time for abiding each morning, and that’s worth a lot.

When I’m finished my quiet time on the couch, I spend half an hour stretching and exercising while I listen to a message, usually from Bridgetown Church (if we ever have to move, please let it be to Portland!). I just started a fantastic series about the Holy Spirit (which you can find here), and it fits well with this year of soaking in God’s presence. It’s a different way of looking at things for me – less doing and trying, and more just being and quietly focusing.

A strange and beautiful picture came to my mind the other day as I was praying and thinking about living my day in the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was as though I was leaning against the trunk of a huge tree, and I could see massive, leafy branches spreading out thickly about my head, loaded with fruit, hanging there ready for me to pick whenever I needed the Fruit of the Spirit (give me all the “patience” apples!!!!). And when I looked down at my feet, it was as though I could see deep roots growing far down into the ground beneath me, giving me strength and depth, securely grounding me in all the power available to me in the Spirit.

It gave me a feeling that’s hard to describe – like the strength was already there, filling me up, and the fruit was so close, right within my reach at any time I might need it. In my mind, as I saw this picture, there was such a feeling of steadiness, security, and relief – I knew I didn’t need to do this on my own, it wasn’t up to me to try to produce patience, kindness, or faithfulness, because it was all right there, ready and waiting to be picked at any moment.

I’m trying to remember this picture everyday. One of my lovely, adorable children has decided to express all anger with screaming instead of words, and there’s often bad attitudes or conflict to work through with three kids in the house all day. I try to picture that fruit right within my reach. I try to remember the feeling of leaning against a thick, strong trunk, knowing those roots are beneath me.

This was the picture I got, but maybe it can be a picture for you, too. If you close your eyes, can you imagine that beautiful fruit, already waiting for you to pick it during those tough moments? Can you feel rough bark, a strong trunk to lean against when the craziness of getting back into the routine of the week is sapping you of all your strength? Do you feel the strength that flows into you because you are rooted in Christ, and He is grounding you, holding you steady, and keeping you strong in every single moment?

Let’s not pretend for a second that this always comes easily. I weathered an hour and a half long tantrum this morning – my sweet child was exhausted by the end of it, and so was I. It’s always difficult for me to be in the middle of a tense situation, and I tend to take on the emotion of people around me. But this morning was different. I kept leaning into that strength, and continued to remind myself to be the peace and calming in the midst of the chaos. I don’t always remember, but today I did, so we celebrate the progress, and know that if things don’t go so well next time, there is still growth.

So whatever your Monday holds for you today, know that you can picture yourself with that sweet fruit of the Spirit in your hand, its juiciness dribbling down your chin, and your feet firmly planted, because you are His, and He’s got you covered.


Ready For Battle

I was reading Bible stories to Kaylia and Everett a few nights ago. We started at the beginning with the story of creation, and moved on to the Garden of Eden and the snake with the fruit. I’ve read those stories so many times, it’s easy to go into auto-pilot, and not even think about what I’m reading, but Kaylia pulled a question out from the depths of her mind which stopped me in my tracks. Our conversation went a little like this:

Kaylia: “Why did Eve listen to the serpent?”

Me: “Well, he lied to her and tricked her.”

Kaylia: “Does that mean I will listen to Satan, and he will trick me like he tricked Eve?”

Me: “Sometimes we do get tricked, but we have Jesus to help us.”

Kaylia: “But didn’t Adam and Eve spend time with God? Why didn’t He help them?”

Me: “Hmm. Well, yes, they did spend time with God – He went into the garden and walked with them all the time.”

Kaylia: “If He spent time with them, but they were still tricked, how will Jesus help me not to get tricked?”

This has stayed with me. Although I remember the conversation clearly up to this point, I can’t actually remember what I said in response to this, because I was suddenly aware of a new realization: I see myself as smarter than Adam and Eve. Somehow, in my great familiarity of this story, I’ve stopped putting myself into it, and started seeing myself above it. Obviously, I wouldn’t make the same mistake – I would see right through the lies, and choose to stay close to God instead! Wouldn’t I?!

But Kaylia’s question brought it down to the root of it all – how are we any different? Isn’t this the story of humanity? We long for God, but we have doubts. We start to think, “Does God really love me? Is He holding anything back from me? I need to take control, because I feel safer when I am at the wheel.”

How will we avoid Satan’s schemes and see through the little lies he whispers to us in those moments of weakness? It’s only by the grace of God, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. This is interesting, because in my mind, actually walking in the Garden of Eden with God sounds as close to heaven as we could get on this earth, and yet the Bible tells us it’s better to have the Spirit right inside of us. But how often do I take that for granted? The Holy Spirit covering me, protecting me, opening my eyes to truth, softening my heart, increasing my sensitivity, growing my hunger for the things of God, causing me to long for more awareness of His presence?

It’s the only thing making me any different from Adam and Eve. It’s the only thing, and it’s everything.

I’ve been stuck on the Armour of God passage in Ephesians for the last week, and Kaylia’s question has made me think about how I take God’s protection for granted. A wise friend of mine prays this passage over her family every day, and I’ve started to do the same – not out of fear, but rather with joy and confidence. How much stronger and more intentional could I be each day if I purposely, intentionally put on the protection of the Holy Spirit?

The passage starts with this verse: “Finally, be strong in the Lord….” Not my own strength. The point was never to make it on my own. I stand firm against the devil’s schemes because I’m ready for battle. I’m not smarter, I’m not stronger, I’m not more deserving. I’m just ready, because I have the Holy Spirit.

strong in the Lordsource

I love how The Message says it:

“So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way….Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them.”

Tools waiting to be used, set out before me, available at any moment. But I’ve taken God’s truth and peace for granted, and I haven’t been using these weapons to their full potential. I do use them, but not the same way a seasoned warrior would – not with the same earnestness as if I were really seeing this struggle as a fight, every moment. But thoughts, temptations, little annoyances and frustrations of life are all able to pull me away from the presence of Jesus, to distract me from what truly matters, and get my attention off the things of Christ. I don’t want that anymore. I want to be strong, focused, intentional, while still being joyful, peaceful, and full of grace. Isn’t that such an interesting combination?!

I was reading a book about a warrior to Kaylia last night, and it described him as feeling fully alive and charged up as he prepared for a fight, because “it was what he’d been made to do.” He didn’t feel fear or doubt and uncertainty. He felt the rush of adrenaline and confidence as he got ready for what was to come, fulfilling his destiny and purpose.

So this morning, like every morning, I take up my weapons. I choose to focus on the feelings of joy and confidence, because the final battle has already been won, but there’s these daily fights I need to rise up against. I’m made to do this, with the Holy Spirit inside of me, and God’s weapons laid out for me. It’s a good fight.





When I’m Parenting a Rutabaga Instead of a Pumpkin

A few years ago, I was at a conference and heard a speaker say something I still think about regularly. He was talking about parenting, and said,

“We don’t get to choose the seeds we grow. God gives us the seed, and it’s up to us to water it, make sure it gets the sunlight it needs, and care for it in every way we can, but we don’t get to control what kind of plant it grows up to be. If God has given you a rutabaga seed, but you want to grow a pumpkin, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you will never get a pumpkin to grow from that rutabaga seed.”

I love my rutabagas very much, but there are still times when I have to fight back the pumpkin urges. Sometimes I think about what an awesome parent I would be if everything were perfectly organized and under control, with my three perfect little pumpkins all in a row. But I’m raising children, not pumpkins, and life gets crazy and wild, and how I react in the heat of the moment is more important than it’s ever been.

kidsI feel like parenting is a magnifying glass for all of my strengths and weaknesses – it provides a glaringly obvious look at my spiritual, emotional, and social health. Things which might be a bit of an issue for me with other people is going to come up with my kids, multiplied times ten. I can be socially acceptable in public for short periods of time, but you stick me at home with three kids, in the midst of homeschooling, housework, busy schedules, tantrums, lack of sleep, whatever else, and suddenly those pesky little personality flaws become crystal clear.

I have my own ideas of how a situation should be handled, and they have theirs, and suddenly I’m feeling the tension of a rutabaga. They are each their own little person, and I don’t get to control how they react or think. The only thing I have control over is how I react. It would be so much more convenient if I could change them instead of myself!

But I keep remembering this quote I shared a few weeks ago:

quoteI was thinking about it in relation to people in general, but Ben and I have been talking lately about how it applies to raising kids. Ben says we still have the responsibility to try our best as parents – the Bible tells us to train our children in the way they should go. But who gets to determine that way? We can guide our children, but how much can we really change them?

Ben has told me stories about his horrible temper when he was younger, and I find it almost impossible to believe, because Ben never loses his temper now. And although I am sure his parents did many awesome things in raising him, there was only so much they could do. It took maturity and deep conviction on Ben’s part to finally make a life change when he was in college.

This reminds me of a few truths to hang on to:

  1. God has a beautiful plan for my rutabagas.
  2. I need to be faithful as a parent, but also trust the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Between trying to change myself, and learning to entrust my kids to the Holy Spirit, I have plenty to keep me busy without trying to control my children.
  4. I’ve never tried rutabagas, but they could be fabulous, and I might like them better than pumpkins.

As I just reread that list, I mentally changed it from parenting to relationships in general, and they all apply! I am never “just” a stay-at-home mom – I’m learning, growing, and being challenged every single day, as are my sweet kids.

We can all be rutabagas together. Pumpkins are so overrated!


I’ve Been Trying to Squeeze Out Some Fruit of the Spirit on My Own

Like any good parent, I think I have the sweetest, most amazing children in the world, but somehow, we still occasionally have days around here when paradise feels like it must be in some other home. (I know, with this much sweetness, how could we NOT always have the happiest home EVER?!)

Kaylia and Everett

But Monday was a day like that. Oh, my goodness, I was tired. I really think my patience gets refilled during the sleep that happens after 6 am. I’ve been missing that chunk, recently.

So we plowed through homeschooling, Everett decided that naps were a waste of his time, my head was aching, and by the time Ben got home, the introvert in me wanted COMPLETE SILENCE FOR THE REST OF THE DAY.

On days like that, I want to be so much better. I want to try harder, and love harder, and just be more awesome, but for the last few weeks, I’ve had these verses hanging around in my head:

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

It doesn’t matter how much I try, it’s just not happening that way – I only bear fruit when I remain in Jesus.

Years ago, I heard a message about the Fruit of the Spirit that still comes to mind all the time. The pastor explained how the Fruit of the Spirit is just that: fruit. It’s the product of the Holy Spirit growing and thriving inside of us. We don’t start with the fruit, or focus on the fruit – it’s what we enjoy when we’ve gone through the hard work of growing.

It would be silly to get frustrated because there are no apples to eat in our backyard, when we haven’t even planted any apple trees yet.

In the same way, I need to focus on the planting, instead of the produce. I can’t be frustrated with myself over a lack of fruit – I need to get busy planting.


But I want apples! Right now!!! And when I want those awesome Fruits of the Spirit, and get impatient with myself for not being more self-controlled, or kind, or whatever, my natural reaction is to try harder, to muster up all the self-discipline I may have inside of myself, and squeeze out some fruit with sheer force.

That’s not really how it’s supposed to work, though. That self-discipline leads to…nothing.

So I’m trying to change the way I think. When I notice a lack in patience or whatever else, I’m trying to take it as a sign that there’s actually a lack of a connection with the Holy Spirit. I don’t need to try harder – I need to ask for more help. I need to get alone to pray. (Quick, 30 second cries to Jesus for help while I’m in the bathroom have seemed helpful!) I need to memorize Scripture.

And I need to stop beating myself up. That’s a big one. I can be so hard on myself, but really, I need to stop stressing about the apples, and focus on what really matters.

In the end, I just want to be consumed with the Spirit, abiding and remaining in Him until I become a healthy, growing, flourishing branch.


Casting Lots, Some Wet Fleece, and a Crystal Ball

I came across a random, interesting fact as I was doing some reading on the book of Acts yesterday.

It had to do with the practice of “casting lots” in the Bible, which I never really understood as a kid. It always seemed strange to me that major decisions were made using different lengths of sticks, or whatever it was that they did, exactly.

As I got older, and had to start making major decisions about my own life, suddenly the idea of casting lots started to look a lot more appealing. An obvious, visible sign of what I should choose to do with my life? Yes, please! Those lucky people in the Old Testament, with their sticks and stones.

But that brings me back to my fun fact of the day:

In the Old Testament, “casting lots” is mentioned 70 times, but in the New Testament, it is only mentioned 7 times.

That is an extreme difference. And guess when the practice came to an abrupt end?

It was when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost.

Isn’t that amazing? When the Holy Spirit came, there was suddenly no further need for games of chance. In a moment, everything changed for Christians forever, and we were given everything we need to guide us in any decision we will ever face in this lifetime.

Now that we have the completed Word of God, as well as the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us, there is no reason to be using games of chance to make decisions. The Word, the Spirit, and prayer are sufficient for discerning God’s will today—not casting lots, rolling dice, or flipping a coin. (source)

So why is it still so appealing for us to beg for a sign? We talk about “laying out a fleece”, or joke about lightning bolts from Heaven that will make all things clear.

I could not count the number of times I’ve had conversations with people who are desperate to know God’s will, and don’t have a clue how to find out what it might be. We long for enlightenment, and certainty in decisions.

And yet, I keep thinking about the abrupt ending to “outside” methods of determining God’s will. It became all about the heart, and drawing close to Jesus – growing more dependent on Him, seeking after Him.

I came across an interesting question the other day: Do I really want to know God’s will, or do I just want to know the future?

Do I want to draw closer to God, or am I actually just longing for a gypsy with a crystal ball to tell me what’s coming next?

And do I really need to know what’s coming next, if I’m drawing close to Jesus?

Love DoesI love what Bob Goff writes in his book, Love Does:

I think God passes by me a lot, and it serves to show me the direction He’s going. We don’t always know where He’s headed or what to expect along the way. But I think direction is the point, the part, and the whole of it. He wants followers, not just onlookers or people taking notes. Plus, I think God know that if I found out more than just the direction He was going, I’d probably try to beat Him there. 

If we live life with the Spirit inside of us, and we continue to get really close to Jesus, and we keep asking for His desires to be put into our hearts so that we can follow Him, I think we end up going in the right direction.

And I think it’s okay if we don’t know much beyond that.

Oh, there is a part of me that still longs for a sopping wet piece of fleece, and I’m a little jealous of Gideon, who kept asking for all those specific signs – he got them all, PLUS he got an angel!

But he didn’t have the Holy Spirit. And that makes all the difference.

So these days, I’m trying to silence the questions that want to pop up, because most of the time, they have more to do with wanting to know the future than with getting close to God.

If I live in this moment, in this day, I already know what God’s will is for me:

It’s to know Him, and glorify Him in all I do.

It’s to think about today, and not worry about tomorrow.

His will is for me to care for my family, and for orphans and widows.

His will is for me to love a lot, to be joyful, to pray without ceasing, to have a thankful heart.

It’s to do what is before me, to keep heading in the direction He’s going, and to stay flexible, so that if another opportunity pops up unexpectedly from Him, I’ll be ready to put down the “To Do” list, and follow Him.

If I start with all that, I’ve got enough to keep me busy for awhile. I guess I don’t really need some sticks to show me what to do next!


What do you think? Do you ever wish you could still cast lots, or pray for some wet fleece?!

Dear Homeless Person, Please Take My Scarf.

I was sitting in a Tim Hortons a few weeks ago, having coffee with a friend, when I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder, and heard someone say, “Hi, there!”

I turned around, and tried my very hardest to figure out who the man might be who was standing there, grinning down at me as though he knew me.

But then he started talking, and it took about two seconds to realize this would be one of “those” conversations – the kind you know you will have if you don’t walk very quickly past the person begging on the street, along with the feelings you are guaranteed to have if you happen to be the first car in line at a red light, and happen to make eye contact with the homeless man standing there with his cardboard sign, asking for your help.

I do not have a lot of experience with these types of interactions. I don’t spend much time in places where they happen. We don’t have a lot of homeless people in Niverville.

I used to believe the best thing to do was to get out of the situation as quickly as possible, and I never used to think I should actually give my money, because we all know how it will get spent , right??

Whatever. I’m not sure at what point I finally learned that it’s none of my business what it gets spent on. If I have loose change, I give it, and I let God take care of the rest.

I’ve rolled down my window at a red light, and dumped my collection of dimes and nickels into the hands of a very grateful elderly man. He was also extremely thankful for my leftover lunch.

I have felt those nudges from the Holy Spirit, and have known what it’s like to listen, to give my time and my money, even when I don’t exactly feel like it.

So when this man came over at Tim Horton’s, I thought things would go okay, even if I don’t have a ton of experience with those types of situations.

He asked if he could sit down and talk with us. Seeing as the table right beside us was empty, I figured it wouldn’t make much difference whether I said yes or no – he’d sit down beside us anyway.

He made himself comfortable, and started talking. And talking and talking. I was still doing okay, because I kept thinking about how I could easily give a few minutes of my day to listen.

But then he started talking about how much he wanted a girlfriend, and asked me out on a date. When I turned him down, he tried my friend, which was equally unsuccessful. He wanted numerous hugs, and that’s about the point where I shut down.

Suddenly, I didn’t care about giving my time or a listening ear. I had reached the limit of my comfort zone.

I just wanted out.

He kept asking us for stuff. He wanted me to give him something from my purse – nail polish or lipstick. I honestly told him I didn’t have any. So he asked my friend if she had any, and she said no, but she had almonds.

He was very happy for almonds, but then he wanted the bracelet she was wearing, so she took it off and gave it to him.

In my mind, I was thinking, “No, no, no, get me out of here! This is not cool anymore.”

So when he asked me for my scarf, the first thing that popped out of my mouth was “no”.

There were a few things I was thinking when he asked for my scarf:

1) He has a good-quality jacket, and a very warm winter hat. He doesn’t need my scarf.

2) No, no, no, get me out of here!

3) This is my most favorite scarf. I use it all the time.

Nope. No scarf.

And I didn’t even feel guilty for saying no. There was absolutely no nudge from the Holy Spirit on that one.

My friend and I left soon after that, because there was no way we could finish our conversation in the restaurant, so we went and talked in my car.

She had to catch her bus soon after that, and I drove home, thinking the whole way about how she had handed over those almonds with absolutely no hesitation.

And I felt ridiculous. It was a scarf, for crying out loud. Could I not have gone out and bought another one?

I kept arguing with myself – I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit telling me to give it. I would have, if I’d felt the nudge. Obviously.

But I’m not sure when I would have heard any heavenly direction, amidst my “No, no, no, get me out of here!”

Since then, it seems as though every single sermon illustration, or Bible study topic, or verse, or anything, has to do with giving stuff to the poor.

It’s to the point where a homeless person would only need to look at my scarf, and I would hand it over. The joy has kinda gone out of wearing it.

I’ve hashed this out with Ben, numerous times. He’s better at these kinds of things.

I keep asking him, “How do you know? Do you always need to give? I didn’t hear the Holy Spirit! The man looked warm! And it’s my favorite!”

And Ben just says, “It’s never wrong to give.

(My favorite green scarf. Photo by Jillian Tree.)

I still don’t know how this all works. I know there are people out there who know exactly how to act in situations like mine. But I also know there are people who probably feel as clueless and uncomfortable as I do.

And I know that I need practice. I need to go to soup kitchens or to other organizations that bridge this awkward gap. I need to get out of my comfort zone, and learn to give and love and share.

I need to go out and find someone who needs my scarf. I need a second chance.

I forgot that it was really Jesus asking for my scarf.

I was naked and you clothed me…


How do you do this? How do you give, and get out of your comfort zone? Do you ever wish you could go back and try again?

When Dreams Are Marinating

Thanks so much to everyone for your comments and thoughts on dreams this week. It seems there are two main thoughts which keep surfacing: 1) It can be difficult to determine which dreams come from God, and which ones are our own, and 2) It can be difficult to wait on God to see those dreams fulfilled.

On Wednesday, I shared a few thoughts on clarifying which dreams come from God, and today, I want to talk about the dreams that require some waiting and patience!

Reading Heather‘s book, Dream Big, has gotten me thinking a lot about the balance between actively pursuing our dreams, and staying still while prayerfully waiting for the time of completion.

Over the last few years, I’ve gone through a number of experiences which felt as though God was teaching me about the art of waiting – to stop planning, and stop pursuing, and just learning to abide in Him.

This does not come naturally for me. I am a planner, and I like to be in control of my schedule and my life. Learning to let go of “The Plan” was difficult for me, and is something I wrote about in a blog series called, “Chucking the Five Year Plan” (Part 1, 2, 3, 4)

It has been an interesting challenge for me to process Heather’s thoughts and suggestions for having a one year, and five year plan, and being intentional about pursuing dreams. As I read her book, and worked through her exercises for coming up with a plan, I realized how much I’ve allowed myself to swing to the “No Plan” side of things, as I’ve tried to leave room for God to take the lead. I admire Heather’s wisdom in allowing God to do things in His time, while actively and intentionally preparing yourself to be ready for the time when He starts to move in more noticeable ways.

She writes,

When God plants His dreams in us, we often have to wait to see them fulfilled. However, this doesn’t mean we sit around watching TV, checking Facebook, and waiting for our big dreams to come knocking. There are little opportunities every day…that God uses to prepare us for our big dreams. If only we weren’t so easily distracted.

I know how tempting it can be to try to force our dreams to happen. I know how it feels to believe in something so much, to be so sure it is from God, and to be completely confused as to His timing and what He is doing to bring it about.

Sometimes, seeing ourselves in a time of preparation is a very difficult thing. Waiting for seemingly endless amounts of time can be very hard. I have not always faced my times of waiting, the seasons of “marinating” in my life, with as much grace and patience as I wish I had.

The most difficult season of waiting I have ever experienced was before Kaylia was born.

I had two amazing experiences when I felt as though God was clearly telling me we would someday have a baby girl. In the moment, those times were powerful, but by the next morning, doubts would always set in, and it was hard to believe God had really spoken to me.

There were times when the waiting was almost unbearable, and I didn’t know how to be faithful in the waiting. I was so blinded by my desire for a baby, I couldn’t see the opportunities for growth or preparation in that time.

We were asked a number of times during those years why we didn’t just adopt a baby. Part of me wanted to pursue adoption, but part of me was held back in a way I couldn’t understand or explain.

I remember one weekend in particular, when my thoughts and feelings reached a climax. I was tired of waiting for God, and I was tired of the longing and unhappiness in my life. Would it be so wrong for us to take the situation into our own hands, and just go adopt a baby? (That makes adoption sound easy, but I realize it’s not! It just seemed much more possible than pregnancy at that point.)

The weekend of this emotional climax happened to be Family Camp at Red Rock Bible Camp, and I attended a chapel session one evening. The speaker was talking about the Bible story of Abraham and Sarah, and as he was speaking, I got caught up in the story, reading farther along. I read about how God promised them a baby, and then nothing happened – for years, and years, and years….

Because they are Bible characters, it is easy to assume they handled this well, but they really didn’t. Sarah decided to take things into her own hands, and made Abraham sleep with her maid so they could finally get that promised baby.

But it wasn’t the promised baby.

It was the maid’s baby, and as that child grew up, he caused a lot of grief for everyone involved. It was unnecessary, avoidable grief, because it was wrong for the whole situation to ever have happened. If Abraham and Sarah would just have waited with faith and trust, Isaac would eventually have come along.

As I sat there in that chapel, it suddenly struck me how tempted I was  to be a little like Sarah. I really wanted to adopt a baby, not because Ben and I felt called to adoption at that point, but because I wanted to be in control. I was tired of waiting on God, and since adoption is not a sinful thing to do, surely it would be okay to pursue.

Except that deep down in my heart, I knew God was saying “no”. We weren’t meant to adopt our “promised” baby. I still felt God had spoken to me years before, and His words had been, “Wait on me.” But in my times of doubt, it was hard to keep believing, and extremely tempting to start thinking like Sarah.

And so we waited. I have no idea what would have happened if we hadn’t, but I am so thankful and happy and blessed because of the life we have now.


So how do you know? How do you know when it’s time to take action, and when it’s time to just sit tight, because God is up to something whether we know what it is or not?

When do we “marinate” in all that confusion and waiting, longing for these dreams we have deep in our hearts?

I am still working on the answer to those questions, because I think it’s different in each situation, but I’m starting to realize that the answer might be in the “how”.

How am I taking action?

Are my actions pure? (Sleeping with the maid…not so much!)

Do I feel peaceful about my steps forward, or am I just getting a “no” from God?

Is there a deeper reason why I might be held back from taking action?

I felt frustration whenever I was held back from actively pursuing my dreams, but looking back, I can see growth and purpose during those times of “marinating”. Sometimes we need an extended period of time to just sit, soaking it all in, learning to live in the tension.

Reading Heather’s book has enabled me to better define what I choose to do during a season of “dream marination”. 🙂

Sometimes, the pain and struggle of living in the tension IS the preparation. I don’t think I could have handled a five year plan in that season of my life.

But I’ve moved into a different season, and I can see how the dreams I have now could benefit from an intentional plan of preparation.

Just as I couldn’t force God’s timing when it came to having a baby, I cannot force God in His timing for my new dreams.

I’m starting to see the peace that can be there for us in the season of marinating.

I believe that allowing God to control the timing of our dreams is just as important as allowing Him to determine what those dreams are in the first place.


Okay, everybody, last chance to comment, and have a chance to win Heather’s new book!

My question for today is this: How’s the marinating going? Are you able to “actively wait”, with intention, peace, and purpose, or do you struggle with impatience?

The Power of Words

Yesterday I spent some time talking with the Pursuit students about labels.

I’ve written about this before on my blog – it’s something that I think about often.

We use so many words in a day. We’re bombarded by so many words in a day. We speak, we think, we listen, we read – books, magazines, emails, texts, endless amounts of stuff on the internet. (Ha, as I write these words, both of my girls are talking, and we’ve got music playing. Words are coming at me from all directions!)

I feel that with all the communication going on around us, it is very easy to become desensitized to the power of words. But as I prepared for my class yesterday, I was struck once again by how important words are in the Bible.

If you flip your Bible open to the very beginning, it says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” If you keep reading down to verse three, this is what we find:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”

How amazing is it that the God who loves us, and hears every single word we say, and cares deeply about every aspect of our lives, has the power to simply speak, and create something from nothing.

Now I know there are many people who do not believe that Genesis is a literal account of Creation. To me, it doesn’t make much difference in this case – I believe that God has the power to do this, and His words carry so much power that Genesis chapter one goes on to say “And God said…” nine times.

I would say that’s fairly significant.

And God said, and God said, and God said…

I also find it really interesting that every time He spoke something into being, He called it good, and then He named it. If words carry significance in the Bible, then names even more so.

If you’ve ever named a child, you know what we’re talking about here. There are so many things to think about – this is for life, and it becomes such an important part of someone’s identity. And every time you stick your head out the door to call your child in for lunch, you are speaking that name over them, again and again and again.

To some people, a name might not mean anything beyond just being a name. I believe that my girls’ names are a chance for me to bless them and speak over them something important that was chosen just for them.

“Anika Elisabeth Joy” means beautiful  and woman of God (and the “Joy” is kinda self-explanatory!) “Kaylia Isabelle Hope” means purity and the fulfillment of God’s promise.

That’s a big deal to me. (That’s why if I had a son, I would not name him “Caleb”, because it means dog. For some people, that might be a great meaning, but I really, really don’t like dogs.)

Anyway. Names are a big deal. So God named everything after proclaiming it “good”. He named a lot of things in the beginning.

Until chapter 2. And then He stops naming things. The Bible says,

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. (Genesis 2: 19-20, emphasis mine)

After all of the speaking and naming God had done, He stepped back, and handed off the responsibility to Adam. And whatever Adam called each animal, that was its name.

God has given that responsibility to each of us as well, every single day. He gives us the gift of communication, which does so much good, but it can also do much harm.

We name things all the time, often without realizing it. More importantly, we name other people, and we name ourselves.

Have you ever said things like,

“I’m a perfectionist.”

“I’m not a patient person.”

Or thought things about frustrating people? “He’s such a jerk.” Or the one we’re personally hearing all the time right now: “Don’t worry about it – she’s just going through the Terrible Twos.”

Really? This entire year of Kaylia’s life will be labelled as terrible? I don’t think so. I think it’s pretty enchanting. I absolutely love seeing her toddling around, discovering the world and learning how to use words to communicate. And yes, there are some tantrums, and she screams and tries to figure out how to communicate that she’s angry beyond reason about having to wear runners outside instead of slippers.

And sometimes, my patience is struggling to rise to the occasion, but I absolutely refuse to use the term “Terrible Twos.” Her twos are wonderful and sometimes hard, but why would I choose to label them in a negative way, over and over and over again?

Think it doesn’t make a difference? You should try it out – there is a big difference in saying, “I’m such an impatient person!!” or saying, “I’m struggling with having enough patience right now.”

It becomes one situation, instead of a label that you stamp on your whole life, and keep using repeatedly.

Because guess what? The Holy Spirit is in each and every believer, and that means that we all have the Fruit of the Spirit. There are some pretty great things included in that Fruit. Like patience.

If I’m going to name myself, I would like it to go like this: “I am loving. I am joyful. I am peaceful….” Through the power of the Spirit, those words are absolutely true. Try saying them out loud sometime. It does very good things. And pray like crazy that God would make it so, in each and every moment.

If we’re going to name something, make it good. God declared over and over again that what He made was good.

Let’s agree with Him!

Food For Thought – Part Two

As promised, Reason Number Two for fasting: wanting the Holy Spirit to control my body, not my stomach.

Until we actually give food up, we have absolutely no idea how much it controls us. That is what I’ve been learning the last four years.

Four years ago, some health problems I’d been having for 12 years were finally diagnosed, and I was told that I needed to give up dairy, gluten, and sugar.

Dairy was no problem, but gluten and sugar? Oh, my word. For the first two weeks, I thought I would go completely crazy. I would lie awake in bed at night, wanting bread or sugar. Or both. It was awful. I couldn’t think about anything else, all day long. I actually cried about it.

But I also prayed about it. It really bothered me that my will and self-control was so weak. It was food, for crying out loud. Could I not give it up? Every time I wanted sweets, I was reminded again and again that self-control is a Fruit of the Spirit, and I obviously needed more of it in my life.

I’ve read that it takes two months of never eating sugar for the cravings to go away completely. Cheat even a little bit, and you’re back at square one.

But the really amazing part is that they actually DO go away completely. The girl who used to inhale Fudgee-O’s and chocolate ice cream does not crave sugar anymore – ever! There are moments when delicious desserts are passed around at the lodge here at camp, and I feel a slight longing sometimes, but it goes away immediately, and I don’t find it hard to turn that stuff down anymore.

Now, I have a lot more motivation than the average person – I know that all sorts of heartburn, stomachaches, and discomfort await me if I ever cheat. But I’ve learned a few things:

  • I am stronger than I think I am (in the Holy Spirit, because of self-control being a Fruit of the Spirit)
  • It is MUCH easier for me to never cheat than to just cheat a little bit here and there. Example: A few years ago, I was doing some Christmas baking, and baked a large cookie sheet of squares. I was cutting the edges off, and decided to pop a piece in my mouth. And then I decided to do that again. And again. And suddenly I looked down at my pan, and realized that I had eaten all the edges around the entire pan. I can’t do just a little bit. It’s all or nothing.
  • The moment of temptation lasts for as long as the item is in reach. I did not keep baked sweets in our house for a long time. Now it doesn’t bother me.
  • It gets easier with time.
  • When your husband also stops eating sugar (and loses 10 pounds, just like that!), it makes it even easier!
  • My body started craving other things. Now, a bowl of fruit is a treat for me. Fresh berries are all the dessert I need.

It is not easy. But it is definitely possible.

And it’s not “just food”. To me, it had to become spiritual. I had to go to God with my physical needs, I had to admit that food was controlling my body in ways that it should not be allowed to do.

While I was eating whatever I felt like, I would crave things all the time, and thought it was normal. Now I don’t really crave things at all, and it is an incredibly wonderful, freeing feeling. I enjoy eating entirely different things than before, and I love it. If I were miraculously healed, and were able to eat absolutely anything I wanted to, I wouldn’t go back. I would never have believed that was possible, but that’s how different my body feels now.

But I do have to clarify that I struggle with self-control in other areas, if not sugar. Corn chips get me every time, and then there are all the non-food things, like gossip, critical comments, etc. I’m kinda hoping that self-control “flows” into other areas with time….

So, maybe I don’t know a ton about fasting, as in “going without any food for an extended period of time”, but I do know about giving up some kinds of food. I’ve also tried fasting from other things, like the internet, reading fiction, anything that has gotten out of balance, and started to control too much of my life.

Ben got me to read about fasting in one of his textbooks, and I came across the following quote:

Fasting is an opportunity to lay down an appetite – an appetite for food, for media, for shopping. This act of self-denial may not seem huge – it’s just a meal or a trip to the mall – but it brings us face to face with the hunger at the core of our being….Through self-denial we begin to recognize that controls us. Our small denials of the self show us how little taste we actually have for sacrifice or time with God. (“Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us”, by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun)

So those are my thoughts. You can gladly leave your thoughts in the comment section! I’m curious how other people feel about fasting.

Bonus Tidbit: If you want extra reading about what sugar is actually doing to your body, check out this article. Interesting, disturbing reading!

How to Have More of the Holy Spirit In Your Life

So like I promised yesterday, today I’m going to write about some stuff I’ve learned about the Holy Spirit in every day life.

And like I said yesterday, I do not have all the answers, but I have some. (Learned from people who are much wiser than me.)

Three ways to get more of the Holy Spirit:

1) Ask for it!

So simple, hey? But here’s the thing: God really wants you to be experiencing a powerful, dynamic relationship with Him. He wants you to be filled with His Spirit. He wants your life to be changed. He wants other people’s lives to be changed because of you, on a regular basis.

So if I pray, “God, today I want You to move in, and overwhelm my life. I want You to change me and take over. Fill me completely with Your power today,” God is not going to be sitting there in heaven, thinking, “Hmm…should I answer Kendra’s prayer? I don’t know if I really want to do that….”

No! He is wanting all of that for me, and if I’m wanting all of that for me, and I ask for it, He is going to answer that prayer.

Now, every single person already has the Holy Spirit – you get it the day you become a Christian.

But if you look at Christians around you, I bet you’ve seen some who are ON FIRE, and some who are just kind of a spark. I’m not talking about judging them, but rather just observing the fact that there will be fruit on the apple trees that are growing healthy and strong, and then there are  some apple trees that just don’t have very many apples.

Whatever metaphor you use, I want the one that involves lots. Lots of fire, lots of apples. Lots of the Holy Spirit. Bring it on.

photo © 2005 liz west | more info (via: Wylio)

2) Listen to it.

When you think you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, listen to it! Do what it says! (As long as it agrees with Scripture.)

I heard once that when we listen to the voice of the Spirit, it’s like turning up the volume. It will become louder and louder in our lives. But when we don’t listen to it, it gets quieter.

I want it nice and loud!

The problem is that sometimes that voice will ask you to do strange or uncomfortable things. Reaching out to random strangers, or doing things that might be out of your comfort zone. And you are faced with a choice: Do you want your nice, comfortable, safe life, or do you want the exciting, fiery, apple-filled life?

3) Take Off the Old, Put on the New

Every single day, we will mess up, and make mistakes, and sin, because we’re human. If we ignore all that, and just keep plugging along, the load is going to get very heavy. The Holy Spirit is not going to be able to flow through everything in an unhindered way, because things are going to get a little clogged.

So we need to clean us up regularly, and then ask God to fill us up with the good stuff.

My mentor, whom I love dearly and learn a ton from, gave me her tips for how to start the day off right, and keep things clean and tidy.

Every morning, I try to start off by praying, “This is the day that the Lord has made. Father, I want you to fill this day. I pray that you would crucify every sinful desire in me. I ask you to destroy any critical spirit, judgmental spirit, selfishness, pride, etc, etc,….in my life. I pray that you would forgive me for the ways in which I mess up and allow sin back into my life. I pray that you would fill me with Your Spirit. Fill me with a loving, gentle, encouraging spirit. Fill me with unselfishness, humility, etc, etc….I pray that my life would glorify You today.”

Important Thing to Mention: I don’t believe there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to pray. There is not a formula or magic words that will turn you into a better Christian. Praying is just talking to God. You can say whatever you want – it all works. But what I have found over and over again is that sometimes, there are really great things that I could pray for that I just don’t think of asking for! For years, I never thought of asking God to fill me more. I never thought to ask Him, on a daily basis, to clean me out and fill me up. There are so many good and wonderful blessings in this life that God wants to give us. He will still bless us in many incredible ways, even if we don’t ask for it. But it just makes sense to me that we can ask for it.

So look out, fire and apples. I’m coming to get you. (That’s my version of “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8)