Wednesday, October 5, 2016

In the morning...

"In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus."

For the longest time, I've been struggling with getting up in the mornings for work.  It seemed no matter what I did, I was always rushing.  Recently at Bible study, we were asked to pick a Bible verse we wanted to claim over this new season.  I had totally forgotten to look for one so I quickly scrolled through my camera roll looking at all the special verses God had given me throughout the year. But inside I knew that those verses were verses for those seasons and God wanted to present me with something new.  My mind flashed back to that moment in worship earlier when I was talking with God scrambling for answers to everything. And like He's been reminding me over and over, He said, "I love you.  Is that not enough?"

I thumbed over the pages of my Bible with a short prayer, "I know this never works, but God could you just let me open to the verse you want me to have?"  Not wanting to end up in Psalms like every single time I've randomly opened the Bible before, I stopped over the New Testament and opened.  Immediately, my eyes were drawn to one section, the verse wasn't underlined but it might as well have been, I could see the pen sneaking through from the other side:

Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us."  John 14:8

I love you. I love you. I love you.  I guess you could say I'm pretty stubborn and sometimes I don't really listen, because this is all He's really been answering lately.   Of course, there's a lot going on and of course, it's just natural to want the solutions just handed down to us, but that's not what He wants. He wants me to understand that everything is irrelevant when I understand how much He truly loves me.  If He loves me, then nothing else really matters.

As I've been fighting a cold this past week, I've had a lot more time to just relax and listen.  I can't spend countless hours singing and playing guitar, dancing to the point of over-exhaustion, and I can't talk.  So I've been forced to spend my time reading, enjoying His presence, and just being still. And surprisingly despite the fact that I've had so much more time to let my mind roam around and wander, I've found myself to be less confused about life.  He loves me, which means that everything else will make sense in due time.

Maybe it's been all the extra sleep I've been getting lately, but as I learn about the importance and power of prayer and choose to be silent, it's been easier to wake up.  Rather than getting up and immediately checking out the news on fb, I've been choosing to open up my "First Five" devotional and then just sit in my bed, Bible open, waiting to hear what He's saying.  Overall, my whole days have felt lighter, less stressed, and more fulfilling.  I've even began trying to take walks around our school campus before having to clock in.  Yes, it does require waking up earlier, but to feel that cool, crisp autumn air filling my lungs and see the beautiful sunrise, I'd wake up whenever He asks me. Waking up doesn't feel quite so burdensome when waking up with Jesus. And the constant prayer I find myself saying as I circle our campus in the morning is, "In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus..." cause there is nothing as beautiful as time spent with Him.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Stepping into the Faith Zone

"Delight yourself in the Lord, 
and He will give you the desires of your heart."  
Psalms 37:4

During my trip to Bethel, I picked up the book "The Faith Zone" by Steve Long, where the author describes faith as "acting on a revelation."   And he calls the Faith Zone, the point where we step out on a revelation from God see miracles happen.

Throughout this year, God has been repeating Psalms 37:4 everywhere, from the random artwork I bought myself on New Years, the prophetic word I got from a girl at church, or the verse my friend wrote in the cover of the book she gave me as a gift.  It's been popping up everywhere! "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."

I used to believe that meant He would shift our desires to be Godly ones, which He does, but I didn't know that meant we'd actually be given our desires. Just this past week at Bible study, one of the girls spoke on how our dreams must die for God to resurrect them in their glorified state.  And I've come to find that when I finally hold my dreams with open palms, God usually doesn't take them away from me.  Rather in surrendering them to Him, He rewards my obedience with everything I wanted and more!

A few weeks ago, a guest speaker came from out of state to speak for our generations night at church.  On my drive over, I found the financial challenge card I had picked up when I visited my former church on my brother's birthday the week before.  It read, "Giving: Pay for a stranger's meal."   As I read it, I could already feel the urge to throw out the card and pretend I didn't read it. But instead, I shot up a quick prayer, "God, I'll know who's meal to get, because you will let me know."  Throughout that night, the speaker mentioned various times how much he wanted In'n'Out, so when the service ended and no love offering was received I knew what I needed to do.  I tossed the idea in my mind of checking my car for a smaller bill than the one in pocket, when I heard that stern voice in my head scold me for my stinginess. God is calling you to bless someone. So bless them.

I felt pretty accomplished afterwards and thought my job was done, but lo' and behold, there he was again the very next day speaking for our main service.  Not too long before the tithe was collected he mentioned how "God will restore in seven fold what the devil has taken."  And there it was in bright big words in my mind.  SEVEN FOLD.  "Take yesterday's number and multiply it by seven."  Ahh! The horror!! I had just taken a two week vacation from work and was already going to be earning less than in the usual school year, AND I had just given him money yesterday, but I knew who was speaking to me.  If faith is acting on a revelation from God, then, how could I not obey?

As I sat calculating my finances later that week, I couldn't help but wonder what God was planning and why He was asking me to take huge leaps of faith.  That very week, I attained two new students for tutoring, I was unexpectedly called into my school's office and given an amazing financial blessing, and had a phone interview for my dream job!!! to teach dance to little kids at a Christian dance studio!

It would be amazing if it was all that easy, but it wasn't. I was in the faith zone, where God likes to work what we call "miracles."  I heard back from the dance studio, a few days earlier than expected and was scheduled a follow-up interview--the technical interview, where I would dance for them and show them a sample of choreography appropriate for young dancers and another routine to demonstrate my style as a dancer.  Well, I was terrified.  I already knew because of the timing and all the dandelions, that this job was exactly where I was supposed to be, but I still couldn't help but be so scared.  And of course, four days before the interview I sprain my foot jumping and dancing during morning recess with my students.    But there was no way I was about to reschedule the interview and no way I wouldn't practice for it, this job was a dream come true for me. Just the opportunity to try for it was more than I ever imagined, I could ever receive.

I was trying to choreograph a routine to "Thy Will" by Hillary Scott (lead singer of Lady Antebellum), and it was really hard. I remember hearing the line repeat in my head "it's hard to count it all joy, distracted by the noise..." as I would painfully land my grande jete on my exhausted feet.  "Thy will be done."  I prayed and prayed and even asked others to pray for my foot.  All week, I was teaching class after class of dance with my students and constantly walking back and forth across campus watching recess and running errands.  Why did I have to get injured now?   That night before the interview, I prayed something different. I prayed that if God would not heal my foot, that He would grant me the strength to dance through it, so that all the glory may go to Him. And that night, I was given a different song.  He told me, I want you to dance to "Feathers" by Lilah Burger.  He wanted all the glory to be His.

"He will cover you with his feathers, 
and under his wings you will find refuge."
Psalms 91:4

The next morning, I wrapped my hurt feet and slid on my dance shoes.  I helped assist the mini camp, and then had a fifteen minute break to rehearse the choreography God had given me the night before.  I was so nervous. I had barely gotten a chance to practice this routine, and it seemed too "simple".

But it was all a blessing, the whole preparation and interview process.  During the interview, they asked why I wanted to teach dance and I admitted that my training was not as much as I would like, but I loved dance and kids and that I believed that God had been blessing me with dandelions and asking me to dream bigger. Wiping tears from her eyes, one of the ladies responded saying, "Well, we believe that you are God's answer to our prayers, because we have been praying for someone with a heart like yours."

And that is how, God worked the most beautiful miracle in my life, that while I felt unqualified and scared and even injured, He was able to do what I believed was impossible.  Now I will get to teach ballet and tap dance to little three year olds starting in August, and I am completely overjoyed.  I was disappointed when it seemed like the door I believe would open didn't, but that's because God had something even more beautiful in the making.   Dreams really do come true!

Sees the invisible
Believes the unbelievable
And receives the impossible

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Dandelion Seeds

You're never to old to wish on dandelion seeds.

A few months ago during a walk with my best friend, we stumbled across a single dandelion.  It was the beginning to my journey with dandelion seeds.  For as long as I could remember, every birthday candle, penny tossed into a wishing well, and every dandelion seed I blew were spent asking God for the same thing. (which I can't obviously say, cause that's against the rules of wishes) But this time, I finally chose to ask for something different. It kind of went like this, "I want, Lord, what you want."

I had always been a pretty big dreamer, specifically a day dreamer with huge aspirations!  I wanted to write books and music. I wanted to inspire the younger generations and change the world.  I'm not exactly sure when I gave up on dreaming, but I do remember a point in life when I considered myself dumb for dreaming.   I don't think it was a coincidence that it was around the same time I was tied down to my race against time.  It wasn't until I could finally break off those chains that I felt it was okay to dream again.   When my womens' Bible study prayed for me last year, one of their prophetic words for me was that God was going to give me dreams again, dreams I had since birth and new ones He had yet to grow in my heart.  And that's what He's been doing for me.

I really like how Stasi Eldredge said it, "When you let God's love overwhelm your fears, He replaces them with desires and dreams."  (Becoming Myself)  As I read her books, "Becoming Myself" and "Captivating" I realized that our dreams are not dumb, they are what makes us unique. They are our God-given desires for our lives.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

I found myself a few weeks later I was with my friend again talking.  It seemed that life was turning upside down for both of us.  Doors that had seemed to open were shutting on us, and things were not going the way we planned or hoped.  We were about to end our conversation feeling a bit discouraged, when there again was one single dandelion waiting for us to wish on.  We already knew what the next step would have to be.  We may not be sure of where we're headed, but we wanted to have the courage to follow God when He did reveal our path.

And even when everything seems up in the air, don't stop dreaming,
because one day all those wishes will land exactly where God has planned.

A few days later, I went on a nine mile hike up in the canyons with some church friends.  Being out of reception it felt like the perfect place to be still and listen to God speak.  So He sent me dandelions. But not the cute normal fluffy ones.  These ones were huge and silver with spiky seeds.  At first there was one, then another, and another.  I knew exactly what He was telling me. Because I knew that deep inside I was too afraid to ask God for what I really wanted.  It's not because I didn't believe He could do it, but I didn't believe He would do it, because I feel many time undeserving.  But here I was on a nine mile hike with Him surrounded by hundreds, maybe thousands of dandelions.  Too many, I couldn't even possibly have that many wishes.  It was like He was telling me, I don't want to give you just one dandelion, all of these are for you.  You can never ask too much.

And when you think your dreams are too big or too much to ask God for,
He says, dream bigger.

Over and over again, He has brought me to full on tears, just completely overwhelmed with how much He loves me and wants me to dream.

Just this past weekend, I was with my bestfriend again, but this time in Redding visiting Bethel Church.  I was looking forward to a weekend of crazy spiritual encounters and who knows what else God would send my way.  I had a coupon for the bookstore, so there I was, searching every nook and cranny in that place for my gift from Jesus.  Just like my times at Ross, I knew it would be evident when I found the book.  And there were so many.  Books on having faith, interpreting dreams, starting a dance team at your church, etc. etc.  whatever you could think of, they had it. I kept picking up book after book, without any hope.  So in my mind, I said, I'll know I have found my book because it will have a dandelion on it.  I had searched the whole store, disappointed that I was obviously wrong again.  Maybe I wasn't so good at hearing God.  My friend called me over to check out their journal section, pulling out a single journal. This looks like you're type of journal.  I barely glanced over, and suddenly waterfalls poured from my eyes.

There it was.  The book God promised me.  Through unrelenting sobs I quietly squeaked out, "It has a dandelion."  Nothing was too much, nothing was too dumb to ask.  Here I was overcome that God loved me so much as to grant me such a petty petition.  Keep dreaming He told me.

Knowing God, I'm sure I'll continue to have more dandelion experiences, but I thought I'd share the few I encountered today.

When your dreams seem broken, maybe it's because some of them have finally taken flight.

And my favorite so far, the dandelion-covered field waiting right outside our hotel room.

He spoke to me through dandelions seeds, blowing in the wind,
On the gentlest of breezes, in the rose-colored sunsets.
And He whispered in my ear, "Darling, dream again."

Friday, April 15, 2016

Discovering Your Dreams

"Dreams!  He will show you dreams that have yet to be unraveled."

Let me just start by saying, God is absolutely amazing.  I have a thing for dates and numbers, and for whatever reason I like to keep track of them.  February last year, our ladies Bible study prayed over me, many beautiful prophetic words and pictures. Today as I sat down to reread the notes taken from that prayer, I read the date, "February 12, 2015."  Something so simple, but it brought tears to my eyes, because for me, February 12 became the day this year, where I let my anger and fears determine my actions and ruin something God had been working in my life.  It also became the beginning to what has been a wonderful journey of discovering who God made me to be.

During these past two months, I've grown leaps and bounds in my relationship with Christ.  From dancing in the rain, singing for hours on end, and drawing and coloring; I've come to understand so much more what it means to rest in God's embrace.  Every day, I grow a little stronger and gain a little more patience, and every week something new occurs trying its hardest to bring me down.

Monday hit me like a tidal wave. I was enjoying the sunniest most joyful day I've had in months, when discouragement reared it's ugly head, again. It left me shaking and in tears, and with a tremendous craving for vanilla ice cream.  But having listened to Candace Cameron Bure's book "Reshaping It All" over the weekend, I knew food was the wrong choice.  Because food, even friends, are not where we should find our refuge.  So I ran to God.


I put on my running shoes, my headphones, and ran. And for the next hour, I cried, I prayed, and then I listened.  And He answered:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:6-7)

So despite the pain and discouragement I was feeling, I chose to get on my knees and praise God for all knew to be true about Him. That He is good. He is faithful. And most importantly, that He loves me.

That night, I began a new prayer.  I started by thanking Him, and I asked not only for His peace, but that He would teach me to be content no matter the surrounding circumstances (Phil. 4:11).  I chose to fight back differently.  I realized that my battle was not against the people around me, but against the lies the devil feeds us.  I began coloring and coloring and coloring some more. Like a little kid, I hung the Bible verses I drew on my closet door, colored in pencil, crayola marker, and crayons.  And over the next few days, my whole perspective shifted.  My heart found peace in areas of my life I had been struggling to release or understand.  And there was so much joy in my heart.  Like the doors to all my biggest dreams were being thrown wide open. And requests I believed were too much to ask of God were being offered to me!  

In the audio book "Becoming Myself"  I'm currently listening to, the author Stasi Eldredge mentions that when we allow God's love to overwhelm our fears, He replaces our fears with desire--those intrinsic desires that make us unique.  In quieting my mind this week and focusing my eyes on God's truth. I've come to discover more of these desires and even see them become realities.  

I've always wanted to paint! As a kid, I would spend my weekend mornings watching Bob Ross create beautiful landscapes. I never took a single art class, but God blessed me with the creativity and good enough cursive to make some pretty cool calligraphy, and it turns out I'm a decent painter when I try.  I also loooove dance. Of course, I would love to be more trained and have had years and years of classes as a child, but for me, I dance because God blessed me with dancing feet and a passion for it.  Never in a million years would I realistically think I could ask God for the opportunity to teach dance, and yet, here I was this week spending everyday of spring break in our school's day camp sharing my passion for dance with my students. My heart could not be any more content.  As I step back and let God sit in the driver seat, it allows me to look out the window and enjoy the scenery around me. To see the leaves blowing in the wind, enjoy the flowers blossoming around me, and feel His presence in every moment of my life.

Discovering God is a beautiful thing because He is beautiful.  But it is also beautiful, because in discovering Him, we discover who we are as well.  As I let His peace and love drive away fear, my soul is satisfied and my being is filled with overflowing joy.  My hope is to be so grounded in Christ that one day, I can say Psalms 31:25 describes the type of woman I am.  Leading a fearless life. Living boldly. Laughing without fear of the future, because I know it rests in His hands.  

 proverbs 31:

I told my friend just yesterday, and I pray I can continue to believe this statement just as profoundly as I did that night:  "I know God is faithful. So, if I heard Him correctly, I know He will make things work. And if I was wrong and I heard incorrectly, then I know God has something even better in store."

Fight the lies with God's truth and always remember:
He is Good. 
He is Faithful.
And He Loves You.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Oh Lover of My Soul, You Have Filled My Heart with Greater Greater Joy

"A woman's heart must be so lost in God that a man must seek Him in order to find her.":

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."
Matthew 13:44

For the longest time, people had been telling me, just take it to God. Ask Him.  And I wanted to, but in all honesty I didn't know how. How do I know where He wants me to go? How do I know if it's Him or just my mind making things up like before? This year has already been quite an adventure.  From pages and pages of letters to God, silent dances under the stars in my church's empty parking lot, and many many tears.  Life feels like a rollercoaster of ups and downs, many which don't make sense now, and perhaps never will.  Last year, God had to let me wander into deep waters to grasp how much deeper His grace is, and ultimately how much deeper His love is. For most of my life, I've known Jesus as my God.  Last year, He became my Savior, and now my love.  It may seem crazy to talk about the Lord of Lords as my lover, but He is, and we are His bride.   As I let His grace erase my shame and heal my deepest hurts, it's opened the doors to know God in a much more intimate manner.

No one will ever understand our hearts and deepest desires the way God does, after all He made them all.  Since I've entered this chapter with Him, I've seen His provision in so many ways. Whether it's something trivial like a $10 bill the floor right outside the ice cream shop or something big like the refund check in the mail that came in the week my car broke down, He's always watching over me and providing. I see His beauty and guidance in every step. I've had multiple times when I was about to buy something at the store that wasn't quite what I was hoping for and stopped because I heard His silent nudge to wait. Sure enough, not too long later, Jesus would bring me across what I actually wanted. Little reminders, that even my silliest desires are important to Him.  I could write for my whole life and never ever run out of words to describe how amazing being in love with Jesus is.  If you don't know Him this way, let me urge you to open the door to your heart and let Him woo you. 

As a girl, my biggest dream has always been to marry one day, to find someone to love and love me back. Seeing so many of my friends now getting engaged and married makes it so much harder to be patient.  But that's what this year has proven to be about, learning patience.  Not just in relationships, but in every aspect: my dreams, my future, my music.  Patience for me has been one of the hardest things to learn, because it takes time.  As a person, who spent a good portion of my life living in my past and running a race against time, sitting still and letting God be in control is not easy.  At first, I thought patience just meant waiting it out.  I realized pretty quickly it wasn't. Patience isn't just waiting, but releasing the outcomes to Him and trusting God to do what He knows is best.  

The crazy beautiful thing is the closer I draw to God, the more tangible He becomes.  After being a grooms-woman in one of my friend's weddings, I couldn't help but repost everything wedding related on pinterest and listening to any possible love song about waiting or weddings I found on my spotify.  My best friend warned me to be careful with my daydreams, because as much as God wants to give us our desires, we don't want to obsess over it and lose focus.  But the more and more I heard these songs, the more comforted I felt. Because I no longer found myself dreaming about my future husband, but delighting myself in being Christ's bride. It's like every waltz I'd dance was being led by Jesus.  No one else may see Him, but I know He's there, because I can feel his arms around me, and there's so much peace in my soul. What He speaks in my heart resonates so deeply, I just know it's Him.  

Never in my life have I felt so loved and beautiful, as in those silent moments, spinning like a little girl with dreams of being a princess one day to the lyrics, "You are my beloved, and I am yours to keep. Take my heart forever, You have captured me." Now when I'm asked if I've prayed about whatever is going on. I can say with confidence, "yes" and really know that I have. God tends to answer us in three ways: yes, no, and wait.  So when things don't go my way, I can rest assured in what God has revealed to me already and know that He is faithful, and it will all come together as it should, but in His time.  

I can't say it all makes sense now, or that it's even easy.  I still struggle with patience, but the overwhelming peace inside I have when I let Him wrap His arms around me brings much joy despite the fear that comes with seasons of transition.  In being silent and waiting, God's been able to lead me into some beautiful new beginnings.  After twenty-two years, I started attending a different church. I've returned to helping lead worship after a five month break. I sang in our choir today! I'm helping direct my school's spring performance. I've even decided to finally return to school for a Masters degree. And my songwriting inspiration has returned.   So many things, I probably wouldn't have received or done on my own.  But He gives me courage to push past my fears and past hurts and to follow confidently.  

I think the point where it finally clicked for me was one day lying on my bed, when God asked me, "What do you fear most? ...and even if that happens, what do you know to be true?" 

"That You love me, and I am valuable."  
Then wrapping His arms around my broken self, 
He held me and whispered in my ear, 
"Then You're going to be okay."

Have patience and trust in the Lord always.  "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!"  Luke 1:45