What We Do With Our Mistakes

Recently, a friend shared a story with me about how she had publicly messed up, and exposed an area of weakness in her life. I had to laugh at the humorous way in which she related the story, but my heart ached with her as she went on to share how the guilt of that mistake has continued to hang over her life, and bring her shame.

I was reminded of one of my own more painful memories of public mistakes I’ve made…

It happened when we were living at camp, during the spring, when our “spring staff” came to work during the months of May and June – about a dozen college-age kids. It was always my favorite time of the year, because we were able to work closely with the spring staff, mentoring them and meeting for weekly Bible studies and worship times.

lake

During one of those weekly meetings, we had an issue to discuss as a group, and needed to reach a decision together. I had previously spent a lot of time thinking about what the best outcome might be for this decision, but we needed to agree as a group. Everyone took turns sharing their thoughts, and there was quite a bit of disagreement about what should happen, which caused me to feel more and more frustrated.

My annoyance reached a climax when one of the spring staff members shared his opinion in what I felt (in the heat of the moment) was an inappropriate way, and I plowed into him. In front of the whole group, I shared exactly what I thought of his opinion and his way of expressing it, and I was most definitely not kind or tactful.

It took about two second for me to start feeling incredibly ashamed about what I’d just done, and by the time Ben and I went home from the meeting, I had beaten myself up for it, numerous times.

As Ben and I were talking together that evening, and getting ready to pray before going to bed, I began to cry and completely give in to all that guilt and shame that was hanging over me so heavily. I felt bad for potentially hurting the guy’s feelings, but my pride was really hurt, as well. I couldn’t believe how badly I’d messed up in front of all those people – I was the camp director’s wife, and wanted to play an important role in encouraging and mentoring the staff in their spiritual growth, but I had behaved in a very unspiritual manner.

Ben quietly listened to me go on for awhile, and then he said something I will never forget:

Your spiritual example will not be strong because you’re perfect and never make mistakes – it will show the strongest when you make mistakes, by how you respond and clean up after them.

I had to chew on that for a long time. I wanted to appear perfect, such an awesome example of a strong Christian that I would never mess up, but I began to see how unrealistic and prideful such a goal was.

How much better to have a soft heart, open to learning from Jesus, as well as from my mistakes, and to apologize for messing up and giving in to the sinful habits in my life.

I knew what I had to do – I needed to apologize as publicly as I had messed up, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as a Christian. To confess in a group like that is harder than covering up, and acting as though I never did anything wrong.

I continue to think of Ben’s words these days, especially as I parent. I mess up so often, and I have to apologize so often. I don’t know how that will affect my girls in the long run, but I’m hoping they will learn humility, vulnerability, and the ability to confess mistakes, rather than hide them, or pass the blame onto another person.

And so when my friend shared her story, I knew how she felt – and I knew how badly she needed the healing only God can bring. So I prayed for her, and asked God, “What do you want to say to her?” And I felt as though this great excitement, of all things, was growing up inside me, for her, because it felt as though God was saying, “Her light will shine brighter because of that mistake. People will see what it looks like to confess, and ask forgiveness, and maybe they haven’t seen that much before.”

I got the sense that He will be able to do more through her soft, humble heart, than He ever could through a performance of perfection.

When we put up a perfect front, it gives others the impression that there is a wide chasm that separates us from them. Why would anyone want something so seemingly unattainable and untouchable? It makes sense to me that Jesus filling in my gaps, bridging over my flaws, would be far more encouraging for others to see – more appealing and real.

Be real.

Say sorry.

Try again.

Many times a day!:) And I keep hanging on to the promise that what Jesus has started, He will carry on to completion! I may have a long way to go, but we will get there yet!

3 Reasons Why I Say “No” to God (And what I’m choosing to do about it!)

On Wednesday, I wrote a post about saying “yes” to God, but I’ve been thinking since then about the times when I’ve said “no”, and missed out on really awesome opportunities.

I figure that if I’m aware of what tempts me to say “no”, maybe I’ll be more aware of what I’m doing, and catch myself in the midst of it! Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1) I’m Afraid.

This is a big one for me! I’m scared that I heard wrong, and maybe it’s not God speaking to me. I’m scared of what other people will think of me – that they’ll think I’m doing stuff just to act more spiritual, and doubt my sincerity. Or I’m scared they’ll think I’m weird.

I’m scared that things won’t work out, or I won’t have what it takes to do what I’ve been asked to do. I’m scared I’ll make a mistake.

As I see God provide again and again, the fear begins to grow quieter. My faith is growing, a little bit more each time I say “yes”…

2) I’m too comfy.

I liked my life the way it was. This reason is starting to lose it’s grip on me more and more, as I experience the awesomeness of saying “yes” to God – I’m starting to crave His work in my life so much, I’m becoming more willing to be uncomfortable. But there is definitely still a part of me that likes things safe, predictable, controlled, and comfortable.

3) I doubt.

Beth Moore says, “If you don’t trust God, you are saying He’s untrustworthy.”

Well, now. I wouldn’t go that far – I just doubt God. But what am I actually saying by doubting Him? If I doubt Him, I’m not trusting Him. I’ve always seen that as my problem – there’s nothing wrong with God, there’s just a trust issue with me.

But if I truly believe He is trustworthy, which I would say I do believe, then there should be nothing holding me back. All in. Right now. Can I trust Him?

****************************

All of these things are lies from Satan. Crazy how he gets so much done with a bunch of lies, and no new tricks, hey? He’s not all that creative. I’m still struggling with the very same lies that Christians have fought against since Jesus first came to Earth to set us free.

Where is my freedom to be found?!

Well, I’m finding it in God’s Word, and I have something fantastic to share with you today! It’s a list of verses from Beth Moore’s blog, and I’ve been using it for about a year now. It’s a collection of verses to use when fighting back doubt and fear. Beth Moore says that whenever she’s going through a tough time in her life, she writes down every verse she can find that pertains to the topic at hand, and memorizes them until every negative thought can be fought down with Scripture she’s downloaded into her heart.

Ann Voskamp says,

IMG_9092_2

Well, let’s get healed! No more lies, and no more fear! Here’s the link to Beth Moore’s awesome resource:

Fear and Courage Verses

What makes you want to say “no” to God?

It Could Be Life-Giving

At the risk of losing whatever male audience I may have, I feel the strong need to share the following quote from the move Ever After:

Ever AfterThis quote has been on my mind recently, because I am struck with how similar I’ve felt in the past about obeying Jesus. That might seem like a stretch, but hear me out!:)

I used to think I needed to live my perfectly controlled little life, and never let the Holy Spirit loose, because everything would get completely crazy and overwhelming. If I started obeying whatever God asked me to do, I would have to do everything. I would feel tired, frazzled, and overwhelmed, and it would suck the life right out of me.

I hear that same concern from people fairly often – listening to God will lead to an exhausting list of things to accomplish.

And yet, in these past six months since I’ve started saying “yes” to God, I have experienced the most wonderful, life-giving freedom. I’ve done things I’d never dreamed of doing in the past. I’ve done things that I thought would exhaust me, and things that have taken me far out of my comfort zone. But instead of feeling drained and depleted, I feel more energy and life flowing through me than what I ever knew before.

We seem to think letting go will mean craziness and stress – controlling everything ourselves will bring rest and comfort.

But God is teaching me a new definition of “comfort”. Turns out, I had no idea what could truly bring me comfort, rest, and joy.

The day I started to let go, the day I started saying “yes” to God without holding back, was the day that He began pouring a new joy and freedom into my life.

When we find our true purpose, it gives us freedom.

And doesn’t that make sense? God’s words bring life and hope, not stress and discomfort.

My Father made me, He knows me, He holds me, and He loves me. Why wouldn’t I trust that He knows what’s best for me?

Do you ever feel afraid to “let God loose” in your life?

God Goes Before Us (Or “My Last Prophecy Class”!)

Oh, friends!! I have so much to share, and don’t even know how to put words to it all, so we’ll see how this goes…:)

Way back in September, I shared with you that I was going out of my comfort zone, and attending a prophecy class at Church of the Rock. It has been such an amazing, stretching experience, and I feel as though I’ve learned and experienced so much. I could go on and on with all the stories, but the one experience that stands out the most leads up to the last class we had, yesterday evening.

About a month ago, I was paired up with someone I didn’t know, and we had to pray for each other. God gave this person an absolutely amazing message for me about how He is always with me, even if I pass through the flood and the fire.

About a week after that, my friend Sarah felt as though God was leading her to give me this song as His message to me:

It’s an incredible song, but when it got to the part about God being with us in the fire and the flood, I just burst into tears. I cannot even begin to describe that moment!

Well, last night I arrived at our prophecy class with eager expectation.

My secret wish: to be prophesied over by the pastor leading the class. And by “secret wish”, I mean a wild, passionate longing to hear from Jesus. I was really, really, really hoping something great would happen.

The pastor had casually mentioned a few weeks back that one time, he ended a class by prophesying over everyone in the class, and from that moment, I wanted the same thing! Really badly.

So it’s our last class, and he wraps up the teaching time, and says, “Now let’s move into the practical application part of this class.”

And I lean over and whisper to Sarah, “And….let’s prophecy over everyone in the class! Hooray!!”

She said, “Yeah, right, you wish!!”

Yes, I did wish!!

The pastor said we were all going to circle around one person from the class, and pray over them, asking God to give us a word for them. And then he called up a lady I didn’t know. I knew it was totally wrong to be jealous of her, but honestly, I think I felt a little bit like Charlie from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, when the other children kept getting golden tickets, but he didn’t….

I tried to set everything selfish out of my mind, and just focused on that dear lady in the chair. God did speak in awesome, powerful ways, and had all kinds of really great things to say to her through the rest of us as we prayed over her. So amazing.

And then….the pastor said, “Kendra, why don’t you go next?”

AHHHH! It was the moment I’d been waiting and hoping and longing for! I could have burst into tears on the spot.

But then….THEN he started praying and prophesying, and OH, MY WORD! God is so amazing!!

I cannot describe what it’s like to be surrounded by a bunch of people who don’t know you, yet they are saying all these things that have to be from the God who knows all. There is NO WAY they could make up anything that would fit me and what I’m going through right now, so perfectly.

The pastor and some of the people in the class spoke a lot about healing – not just physical healing, but all of me becoming new and changed. So much of it had to do with incredible new things happening in me and through me. And they didn’t know!! They did not know what this December has meant for me.

Then, the pastor started speaking those words from Isaiah – about passing through the flood and fire. WHAT?! That’s the third time those specific words have come up for me. I’d been crying straight through it all, but the flood and fire made me lose it.

And then, he started talking about how I would find so much beauty in the little things. He said I was the kind of person who found beauty in the bark of a tree, and in the shadows of a snowdrift.

Sarah said she lost it at the tree bark! And all I could think about was this:

treeAnd this:

snowAnd God said that I will find that beauty in the small things, and it will speak to the people around me, and they will see the beauty, too.

There was so much more, but it was pouring over me like a flood, and it was like I was cupping my hands under a waterfall, trying to capture even some of it, but there was just so much of it, I couldn’t hang on to it all, so I prayed, “Help me to remember this, God! Don’t let any of these words slip away! Let me remember…”

I could have cried all over again when, at the end of it, I saw that the pastor had recorded it all, and said he would send it to me. I feel like I can’t even fully chew on yet, because there’s so much I don’t remember.

Well. You’d think after all that, I would be flying. At first, I felt as though I would explode with sheer joy, but on the way home, it felt like I hit a brick wall. Suddenly, every horrible, awful lie that has ever crept into my mind was raging in full force. It was like this huge battle in my mind, and I knew it was all lies, but I couldn’t even get above it enough to remember any truth.

I felt so broken down and worthless, without one good thing in me worthy of love. I felt so insecure, I hardly knew what to do with myself, and suddenly I was questioning absolutely every good thing in my life. It was insane to go from so much good, to so much horribleness, in such a short time, and yet it makes sense – it felt as though Satan was trying to squash everything that had just happened at that prophesy class.

I needed Scripture to hang on to, and suddenly it hit me: the passage in Isaiah about the flood and fire. It’s been given to me three times, so you’d think I’d have looked it up by now!

Well, you’ll never believe what it says:

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

And then further down, it calls God’s people “precious” and “honored”.

Not only is He with me through everything, He has formed me, created me, loved me, and calls me precious.

How amazing are His ways! How awesome are the words that He speaks! I am so filled with joy because of His promise to bring about new things in my life, and I am so thankful for His presence in the midst of fears and doubts – He is with me! He summons me, and calls my name.

And He does the same for you!!

He speaks to you! He knows you – everything about you. If he can tell a complete that I find beauty in tree bark and snowdrifts, imagine what He can speak into your life!! He made you, and holds you, and delights in you being exactly who you are. I need to hang on to those words today, myself!

And that’s the end of the prophecy class…for now. The second level happens next fall, and you better believe I’ll be there, with bells on.

So that’s my story, and I have no idea how that can impact you, but here’s hoping that somehow, you can live vicariously through my experience, and that we’ll all keep our ears open for the things God longs to say to us!

Things Are About to Get Crazy Around Here…

Well, friends, it’s time for a hard post.

Hard, because I love to share openly after I’ve gone through a struggle – I don’t mind telling you the deep, difficult stuff on this little blog, but I prefer to wrestle through it privately before sharing it publicly.

This time, however, I have an urge to share during struggle. I have a feeling there will be a whole lot of joy in the struggle, as well, and that’s the part I don’t want you to miss.

Here’s the deal:

I’ve written before about how I deal with different health issues. I live with constant pain, which is so normal to me that I can’t actually imagine not being in a ton of pain, every moment of every day.

In order for me to keep the pain under control, I go to a lot of appointments. Each week, I’m juggling a schedule of massage, physiotherapy, chiropractic, and reflexology appointments, as well as some exercise and movement classes.

It’s slightly crazy, and really expensive. About a quarter of our monthly budget goes into keeping my creaky body running as smoothly as possible.

For the past few years, I have felt very strongly that God is going to heal me, at some point. He has told me so, numerous times, and I’ve been prayed over on a number of different occasions. I’ve had some amazing experiences of hearing different things from God that have filled me with a lot of hope and joy.

But no healing, as of yet.

In spring, I had another such experience, and I felt as though God was asking me to trust Him for healing, by stepping out in faith and stopping all of my weekly appointments. I pretended I didn’t hear Him. I don’t really know how I would survive without my little team of therapists, each of whom I really love.

Two weeks ago, it happened again. I was home alone, planning a relaxing evening of watching Downton Abbey, but while I was waiting for it to download on my computer, I felt God telling me to get down on my knees and pray. So I did, and it was awesome, and when I was finished, I got back on the couch.

But God said, “Do it again.”

So I did. And then sat down again.

And God said, “You’re not done. Do it again.”

The third time was the most intense time, and that time, God gave me a very specific message. It came to my mind, one word at a time: “Sheddai….will…..heal….all……..Trust….me.”

It was amazing. I can’t even describe it, because my feeble words would ruin the moment. It was awesome.

So I sat there, thinking, “Now what? God, how do I trust you?”

And immediately, the thought came, “Cancel all your appointments.”

To which I immediately said, “Oh, that’s ridiculous. I’ll keep trusting God WHILE I go to the appointments, and I’ll stop going after He heals me.” Totally shoved that thought out of my mind, and moved on to more comfortable things.

Until a week later, at the weekly prayer class I’m leading. A lady came up to me and told me an amazing story about her relative who had felt God saying He would heal her eyesight, but when she prayed, nothing happened. When she asked why, she felt as though God said, “You never took off your glasses.” When she did, her eyesight was immediately healed.

The moment the lady said the part about taking off the glasses, I felt as though someone had punched me in the stomach.

I knew. I knew, like I knew that Ben was supposed to go to B.C., and I would give birth to our baby without him. I just knew what I was supposed to do.

I went to an empty Sunday school room in our church, and fought it out with God.

First, I cried for a really, really long time.

Then, I started coming up with excuses. But it didn’t matter what I came up with, I knew what God was saying to me.

And that’s the thing – I’m not saying He heals everyone, and I’m not saying that everyone should stop wearing glasses, or stop going for physiotherapy. I just know what He said to ME, in that moment. I felt as though I was supposed to give up ALL appointments for one month.

So I said, “God, if this is for real, tell Ben, too. I can’t do this on my own. He needs to be in agreement with this.”

After church, I told Ben the whole story, and asked him to pray like crazy. I said, “If I’m going to do this, I need God to tell you, too. If I’m wrong, and this is crazy, there is no chance I can go through with it. We both need to hear it.”

And Ben said, “I’ve actually felt a number of times, over the last while, that if we truly believe in God’s healing, that you should stop going to appointments.”

So that was that. And we’re doing this.

Part of me is wicked scared. I don’t want to live through the pain that could build up over the next month. I don’t want to be disappointed if God doesn’t show up and do something awesome.

But I guess I don’t really need to worry about that, because I feel as though He is ALREADY doing something. The peace and joy in my heart when I finally surrendered was already worth whatever comes of the next month. I’m so excited.

And I need your prayers. I need prayer like I haven’t needed it for a long, long time. I’m doing this in the faith that God will heal me, but somehow, it doesn’t seem to really matter what happens. I want to live in complete surrender and obedience to Him, and the more I do this, the more awesome life becomes.

Last night, I asked Ben, “If prayer is the only thing I have to face the pain this month, can you imagine how much harder I’ll pray?”

It’s like a huge month of fasting, for me. It’s stripping away everything I’ve come to depend on.

I don’t know how much I’ll share about it along the way. I have no idea how this will go. But if you think of it, and want to pray, please pray that the pain would be gone. Pray that I wouldn’t get cranky at my family, as I often do when things are hurting a lot. Pray that I will have the strength to hang on to Jesus and nothing else.

The other day, my friend said to me, “Sometimes the truest prayers come during the times of deepest suffering.”

It seems slightly idiotic to purposefully put myself in the place of deep suffering, and yet, that’s what fasting is, right? It’s going without what we truly need, to teach ourselves to truly need Jesus.

Oh boy, am I ever going to need Him. It’s like jumping off a cliff and trusting that He’ll catch me.

Any words of wisdom out there from those who are experienced with jumping off cliffs in faith?!

What I Want to Do, I Do Not Do…

A few weeks ago, I was praying about parenting. I was especially frustrated that day, because it felt as though I repeat myself to my children over and over again, every single day, and I don’t really see much progress.

I was so fed up, I said to God, with much passion and annoyance, “WHEN will Anika listen to me???! Why can’t she learn to obey me??”

And God said, deep in my heart, “When will YOU learn to obey me? What keeps YOU from listening to ME?”

I thought about that for a bit, and finally realized: It’s my heart that keeps me from obeying God. I know what I need to do, but I do not have the strength to follow through. My heart needs to change in order for me to obey Him.

I was sharing this experience with Anika last night, and as I tried to explain it, the verses from Romans came to mind:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it….What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 7:15-20, 25)

Bible

Jesus rescues me. Jesus teaches me how to obey, and transforms me inside so that I start to do the good I truly want to do.

Trying to explain that to Anika in a way she could easily understand made me want to weep with relief, as I was reminded all over again that I am saved from this mess, and I do not need to do it on my own. “Thanks be to God…!”

Trying to force my children to obey me has not been working very well. I can get as annoyed and frustrated and angry as I want, but disobedience is only a symptom of the true problem – I need to keep praying for their hearts. I need to keep remembering that it is Christ who gives us and our children the strength to do what He wants us to do!

How can I be impatient with my girls, when I turn around, and there is God, waiting to teach me the very thing my children need to learn, as well?

So, Anika and I decided to try all over again the next day. We prayed about it, and we thanked God for second chances and fresh starts, and we will keep going for the heart.

This Awesome, Special Life, Full of Rainbows and Unicorns…

I came across an amazing blog post recently. It was called “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy”, and if I were the boss of this world, I would make it mandatory reading for everyone. Or at least everyone born between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s.

This article seems so brilliant to me, because it’s something Ben and I have talked about a lot since moving away from camp, so I kinda wish I’d written it myself, because it gives words to many thoughts and questions I’ve had, plus it’s got awesome graphs and illustrations. You should most definitely check it out.

For those of you who won’t read it, I’ll give a basic summary: The idea is that because our parents, the Baby Boomers, have lived such awesome lives, they’ve been really  happy – life has exceeded their expectations. So we’ve been taught that life will be even better for us. Plus, we’ve been taught that we’re really, really special. Well, just me. I am special.

But you’ve been taught that you’re very special, too. So all of us are apparently very special, but in reality..we’re all pretty normal. We’re just people.

So anyway, we think life will be AWESOME, and we are soooo special, and we will fulfill all the dreams we have for our future.

But then…life isn’t always awesome and magical, and sometimes we don’t feel very special. Life doesn’t exceed, or sometimes even meet our expectations, so we feel unhappy.

Add to that….social media. Now we have countless ways to see how other people are living the awesome, magical, special life we expected, so we feel even more unhappy. Meanwhile, there is a very good chance that they aren’t living it either, but are putting lots of effort into making it look as though they are living that awesome, perfect life.

It’s all a bit of a mess. And I didn’t use any stick figure diagrams or unicorn graphs to help explain all of this, which is why I really recommend reading the original article.

But in the meantime, I’ll give you the version Ben and I discussed when we left camp:

First of all, I thought we ended up at Red Rock Bible Camp because we were “special” – Ben was hired because God must have some amazing purpose for us there that no one else could possibly fill, and we would do great and wonderful things. (Ben says that makes him sound very cocky and full of himself, but that’s not what I mean. What I’m trying to say is that I had totally bought into the idea that God did have a really amazing plan for us, and obviously we must have been created for just such an opportunity, and of course it would be more than we could ask or imagine, and all that other stuff we’d been fed in the Christian culture.)

But when we felt it was time to leave camp, and I looked back on our time there, nothing stood out as being earth-shatteringly wonderful. We had done our best, we weathered some hard times, we loved the good times, we enjoyed that season of life very much.

sunset

God definitely did some great things, and we enjoyed many wonderful relationships full of blessings and growth. But there were no unicorns.

I had always thought that when we left camp, we would move on to bigger and better ministry opportunities, because that’s how it goes, right? Always onward and upward.

But then we felt called to do something other than full-time ministry.

So Ben started working with his dad, which was good…but not magical. He spent a lot of time at a desk, and learned a ton of stuff, but it didn’t make him feel very special, or very miraculously gifted. He wasn’t really changing the world, although he was bringing home a paycheck.

It was a hard transition to go from a job that was easy and natural for him, involving tons of interaction with people, to a job that was completely unfamiliar for him, and didn’t provide the social interaction he had grown so accustomed to at camp. It wasn’t something we’d dreamed about, and it didn’t have anything to do with the full-time ministry opportunities we’d imagined for our future.

During those first months, we talked a lot about how work has changed over the years. It used to be that if your dad was a farmer, you’d grow up to be a farmer. None of this “What was I created for? How can I fulfill my unique, special, awesome purpose?”

It was as though we needed to learn that life is what you make it, and getting a paycheck is actually a huge blessing. And maybe Ben was not fulfilling every rainbow-coloured dream behind a desk, but he was learning, and spending time with his dad, and he was stepping forward in the opportunity that presented itself. Fortunately, building houses is something he was interested in. If it hadn’t been, could he have been content?

It feels as though we’ve been bombarded with this message that success means having a really good paying job which you love so much, you’d do it for free. It means God will bless you wildly, and life will always exceed your expectations, and your influence will know no bounds, and you’d better have huge dreams, because God will fill them all.

And this seems to be a common idea – Ben and I have had many conversations with people who truly believe that if life isn’t wildly awesome, they must be in the wrong place.

But on Sunday, the speaker at church shared about how 150 doctors recently felt called to go Syria to serve. Less than 40 of them have survived, and now another 150 have stepped forward, saying God has called them to go, as well. What future awaits them? It doesn’t seem to look too promising.

How does that fit with this awesome life we’re all supposed to have? If God would call me to go straight into danger, right now, and I would know there was little chance of surviving, would I go? Would I feel as though my life-purpose had been fulfilled at the age of 35?

I’m having trouble figuring out how to fit this all into my brain.

Basically, it comes down to this:

1) I don’t have a clue.

My spoiled, sheltered, comfortable life has gotten me thinking that this is the way it is – that all this wonderful, super privileged life may not even be good enough for me. I need to dream bigger dreams, and expect better things from God.

What??! Tell that to doctors sacrificing their life, because God asks them to. I have much to learn.

2) I’m not special.

I’m a regular person, living life with a lot of other regular people.

But I’m God’s child. Whatever happens to come my way, whether it’s what I hoped for or not, will pass through His hand, and that’s more than enough for me.

3) God is in everything.

We’re not living the flashy, dramatic, awesomely exciting ministry-filled life I dreamed about. Normal life seems to keep happening, and blessings keep coming, but sometimes they’re really small. We have to keep our eyes open, or we might miss them.

Ben’s job is a blessing, his paycheck is a blessing, this normal life is a blessing, and this last year and a half has shown us that we can be joyful anywhere, no matter what we’re doing. Our dreams for the future may come to pass, and they may not. There may not be unicorns or rainbows. And that’s okay. “Normal” is actually quite awesome. “Flashy” can be very overrated.

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Now I’m curious: What are your thoughts on this? Is there too much emphasis on being special, and living a big, exciting life? Are you able to be content with very normal, everyday circumstances, or do you find yourself wishing for more rainbows and unicorns?

What I’ve Learned From Living at Camp

It’s hard to sum up five years of life, but I wanted to try. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, and tying up of mental loose ends. I love that quote from the movie “Hitch” when he says, “You can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”

To get off to a good new start, I feel like I need to be intentional about figuring out what’s changed, what’s important, and what we’ve learned from our camp experience.

Here goes:

1) When things don’t go according to my plan, it means God is doing things according to His plan (which is always better!).

When Ben and I moved to Red Rock Bible Camp five years ago, we came with big dreams.

It was a time of feeling so alive, and anticipating the future with great expectation. We felt so ready for new challenges, and we had all these ideas of what we hoped would come out of our time at camp.

And then life happened.

Lots and lots of life!

As I sit here reflecting on the last five years, I can see that our time out here has been very different than what I expected, and that’s not a bad thing.

Although we’ve been blessed to see exciting things happening at camp, it has often felt as though God was teaching us a whole lot more than we were teaching anyone else.

Once, during a struggle we were facing here at camp, I said to Ben, “I was so sure God led us here because camp needed us.”

And Ben said, “Maybe God brought us here because we needed it.”

The lessons we have learned are huge, and we are different people than when we first came here. I don’t know how much it shows on the outside, but I feel different on the inside.

I needed this experience. And if we were able to do any good along the way, that’s awesome.

But at the very least, we were changed. We have seen God, and He has been good.

2) We were created for community.

We need to keep people close, but sometimes that cramps our style. It can be good, and it can be hard, but it is always rich.

I don’t always want to be in community, but I was still made for it.

I need to be in a setting where my rough edges are rubbing against other people, wearing me down. I need to be uncomfortable, I need to be kept from the perfect little world I would form around myself if I never had to deal with people.

There is so much love and growth and grace needed when we live in community.

I have not always appreciated this, but it will be one of the things I miss the most about camp. I will miss how easy it is for people to be part of absolutely everything I do, whether it’s doing the laundry, hanging out in our yard, or eating meals together every day.

The other afternoon, our family wandered into the backyard to find our neighbors doing spring cleaning. The entire contents of their shed were spread out over the yard, the kids were playing, the bonfire was going.

We hadn’t been planning a shed party, but we joined in, spurred on by their motivation, and spent a wonderful afternoon, working side by side. More camp families wandered over, and we ended the whole thing with a wiener roast.

And I sat there thinking, “I am going to miss this.”

3) It is all about discipleship.

We came to camp thinking we were passionate about discipleship. We leave camp knowing that we are. It’s what we want to do for the rest of our lives – we want to be mentored, and we want to mentor others.

We want to be part of deep, intense, honest relationships which challenge us to the point of discomfort, and cause us to learn and grow in the most unpredictable ways.

We have loved every relationship we could be a part of here at camp that reached this level, and we are so thankful for every staff member who went there with us.

4) God loves people more than trees.

I can hardly stand the thought of living my life away from the lake and the trees. It is so beautiful here, sometimes I think we’re completely crazy for leaving.

But we didn’t come here for the trees, and we can’t stay here for the trees, and it was always about the people, anyway. We have loved the people here at camp, but we are so looking forward to having relationships that are less “binge and purge” style – with people every second of the day in the summer, and isolated in the winter.

I have loved living in a never-ending vacation. Even taking out the garbage gives me a glimpse of the lake, and there you go: instantly on vacation.

photo credit: Victoria James

But seeing as it’s not about the lake or the trees, we will embrace whatever view comes next.

5) God, Family, Ministry.

Very early on in our marriage and our involvement with full-time ministry, we realized we would need to set some pretty serious boundaries in order to keep life somewhat balanced.

When we came to camp, it was our goal to continue on with those boundaries to protect our family time. Being here has helped me to see, more than ever, how important this is. Living where Ben works has brought a lot of challenges, but I am so, so thankful that as we leave camp, I get to take all my favorite people with me, and we love each other just as much as ever.

Our family relationships are healthy, and I don’t feel as though our family has suffered from this adventure. This last winter was very tough, with Ben’s involvement in the discipleship program and the traveling involved – we could not continue at that pace, but we’re leaving at a good time, family intact.

photo credit: Morgan Braun

God has blessed us in so many ways during these past five years, and I am very thankful for the experience we’ve been able to have. Looking back on everything, I would have to call it a success!

Up next on my list for mental processing: What makes me most nervous about moving back to civilization. I’ll write it, and see if it’s fit for the public or not! 😉

Beautiful People

I came across this in Blogland yesterday, and loved it.

found here

It made me remember the Christmas my first boyfriend dumped me.

His present was wrapped and waiting under the Christmas tree, but when he came home from college, he never called.

I remember going to church on Christmas eve, and feeling like I hated the girl who said to me, “Oh, well, there are plenty of other fish in the sea!”

Like I was looking for quantity.

When we got home, my mom told me she had talked with two of her friends about the disappointment I was going through. They both promised to pray for me.

My mom said, “And they’re the kind of ladies who really know how to pray!”

Both of them had experienced great suffering and disappointment in their own lives. My little break-up wasn’t a big deal compared to the things they had weathered, and yet they didn’t treat it as small.

And you know what? It wasn’t.

Because that is the night I went to my room and thought good and hard about what I wanted the rest of my life to be like.

I thought about those women, strong, caring, prayer warriors, and I knew I wanted to be like them when I was older.

But I also knew that night what it would take to get there – it was their hardships that had made them strong. Rough winds had taught them how to bend without breaking, and their roots went down deep.

That night, I knew what I wanted did not come cheap or easy…but I knew, without a doubt, I wanted it anyway.

I knelt by my bed, and I prayed that God would give me depth. That He would teach me how to be strong and true, no matter what life brought my way. Or maybe because of what life brought my way.

And although it scared me like crazy, I asked Him to do whatever it took to teach me to be like those women. I was young, and maybe I didn’t fully understand what I was praying, but I definitely had a glimpse that night, with my broken heart and my desperate hunger for more of Jesus.

It’s funny, because I do not desire hard or difficult things to come into my life, but I crave the growth that happens. It seems as though some growth can only happen along with the pain – pruning is followed by new life.

You can see it in people, can’t you? You know when you’re with someone who has been through the depths. How true it is that beautiful people don’t just happen.

Jesus happens to them. And they choose Him, over and over again, no matter what they suffer, because they know it’s not about this life anyway. They choose joy, because experience has taught them that pain can always be followed by something wonderful.

I want to be like that!

Killing the Worry Habit

Keeping my thoughts under control is the biggest struggle of my life. By far.

It’s such a slippery thing, because I can be going about my day, appearing for all the world as though I’m a completely normal person, capably living life, and yet inside I can be following thought patterns that are rapidly spiraling out of control.

For me, it’s worry and anxiety that have held me captive for many, many years.

Sheesh, that sounds dramatic. And yet recently, as God has been convicting, teaching, and enlightening me over the last few months, I’m thinking that words like “captive” are pretty accurate. I keep begging for freedom.

There are a few reasons why I have felt it is absolutely necessary for me to develop a healthier thought life:

1. Worry is sin. It doesn’t seem as sinful as some of the other things I could be doing, but I’ve been seeing that it is just as destructive for my life.

2. Worry is the root of most of my health issues. I’ve been told that the stomach holds the stress. I don’t have any kind of series illness, I just have a lot of issues with digestion, as well as tension throughout my body that is inhibiting me from function in a normal, relaxed way.

3. Worry is holding me back from where I want to be in my life. I want to be in a place of trust. I want my prayer life to grow. I want to be growing by leaps and bounds in my relationship with God. I want to be fully present in my life as a wife and mom. I want to be relaxed and happy.

I used to think that I would easily be able to stop worrying once my problems went away. I had legitimate reasons for feeling worried and anxious. Surely anyone would feel anxious if they found themselves dealing with the stuff I was dealing with.

Uh, hello. My life will never be free of problems. It would be much easier to deal with those same problems if I wasn’t mentally freaking out all the time. I make my problems about twenty times bigger than they actually are.

Absence of worry does not equal absence of problems. It just means absence of worrying. I will stop worrying when I stop worrying, not when I stop having problems.

Because if worrying is a sin, and Jesus commands us not to do it, that would mean that we are fully equipped to stop doing it RIGHT NOW.

Yes, please. I would like some of that.

How do you get it?

Which brings us to the fantastic book I promised to tell you about.

It is presently changing my life. That also sounds dramatic, but it’s true.

It’s called “Loving God With All Your Mind”, by Elizabeth George.

My sister gave it to me awhile back, and I started reading it, but I usually have about five books on the go, which means I don’t get anywhere fast. My goal is to finish one fantastic book before I delve into another one. After I finished “So Long, Insecurity”, by Beth Moore, it was time for Elizabeth George’s book to get a little love.

Oh, my word. If you struggle with worry, go get that book.

Funny thing is, my first impression was, “This is kind of basic. I know this stuff already.”

But I don’t. If I did, I wouldn’t be worrying about everything from morning until night.

It’s time for that to stop. I’m feeling motivated, convicted, challenged and inspired. So off we go.

It’s hard work. There’s a reason why they say, “Old habits die hard.” Yes, they do.

But I’m ready to dig in. And I’ll tell you all about it next time!

Right now I have an old habit to kill… And a fantastic book to read!