Dream Guide 2019

Welcome to 2019!

It’s become an annual tradition for me to fill out Jennie Allen’s Dream Guide each year! I love it simply because it’s a great opportunity to reflect on some specific areas of my life in ways God has grown me in the past year as well as how I hope God will grow me throughout the coming year.

I would love for you to join me in this dreaming journey! The two main questions she asks us to reflect on in each are of our lives are: 1. How did you grow in the last year? And 2. What are your goals for 2019?


I am thankful for:

  1. My God who speaks to me!
  2. Family and Friends
  3. NorthWoods Church
  4. South Middle School
  5. The Little Sweet House on Villa
  6. Proper Coffee
  7. The Baristas at Starbucks–especially the ones in Henderson, KY
  8. Being able to Travel
  9. Books about Jesus
  10. Still Moments

Spiritual

Alone Time//Connect With God

I’ve said this before, but having a daily quiet time literally was the hardest thing for me to obtain. It seemed there wasn’t enough time in the day to read, and even if there was time, Netflix or hanging out with friends always sounded better. There was a great shift in my heart in 2016 when I really learned how to be still with God. Since then, I’ve been able to maintain a regular quiet time with the Lord. Let me tell you, this is only by God’s grace alone. This is not a desire I initially had, but rather something over time God placed in my heart.

My alone time with God has become the thing I look forward to the most. In different seasons of life it’s at different times of the day–sometimes multiple times a day. But if you haven’t gotten into a regular rhythm of spending time with the Lord, please let me encourage you–God speaks when we listen. 2018 was a hard year. Things I wanted to happen haven’t happened; and things I didn’t expect to happen (aka buying a house) happened. I couldn’t have prepared for or processed anything without the time I spent with God. He carried me through everything 2018 brought. I say all that to say that God is in control. He literally made me a conqueror through Him.

At the end of 2017, I knew the upcoming year was going to be a challenge, yet God knew what I needed to learn. God talked to me and prepared me. He told me in everything I went through I would be a conqueror through Him. Although I didn’t grasp this concept the minute God spoke it to me, it was something I learned over time. I watched God tell me, “You can do this through me because I love you.” I watched God teach me His love. I watched Him show me He never changes–He is the same. I watched God be what I needed when I needed it. I watched Him carry me in everything life threw at me.

So similar to what happened in 2017, I did the same thing at the end of 2018. I started praying about what God wanted me to focus on for 2019. My mentor gave me this great book to read through Advent and one of the first passages to read was Psalm 27. I’m not sure how this exactly related to Advent, but it was most certainly what I needed. There’s so much Truth about who God is and what He will do in this one chapter. There’s so much about how we should interact with God. There’s hope. There’s joy. There’s pain. And through it all, it says “I will sing and make melody to the Lord,” and I knew God was revealing a theme of celebration in every season.

2019 will be a year of celebration.

This was later confirmed–unexpectedly at that–while I listened to Louie Giglio preach a sermon live from Passion 2019. I went into listening with the hope God would affirm Psalm 27 as the focus for my 2019, and that’s exactly what He did. I always love it when God speaks so clearly. His graciousness is overwhelming!

In my year of celebration, I know life is still going to happen. But I’m looking forward to celebrating God’s goodness and His faithfulness in whatever the year brings.

As far as meeting and setting goals, last year, I wanted to work on memorizing Scripture. I started off working through different verses. I think I was able to memorize eight different passages, but come April or May–I slacked. I would definitely love to continue to memorize more of Scripture, specifically Psalm 27. But with the theme of the year, I want to be able to celebrate God every day.

Church//Serve//Tithe

Church

Our focus as a church in 2018 was to have 1000 Gospel conversations. We wanted to actually share the gift God had given us! The accountability aspect of this totally pushed me to share my faith more than usual. I knew I talked about Jesus, but actually sharing the Gospel on a weekly basis was pretty cool. Each week in church we would have a space on our connect card (a paper apart of our bulletin) to check if we had a Gospel conversation and how many. Each time I had a conversation, I remember being so excited to celebrate the opportunity God created!

This year our focus is on ONE. Who is our one person that we want to be intentional with? We have a card with a blank. I’m not sure who my ONE is yet, but I have a couple of names floating around in my head. Regardless, I love to be intentional with the people God places in my life. I feel like they are there for a reason, so I need to be intentional in those spaces.

Serve

The big areas of my life that I serve in are Student Ministry and a little bit in Women’s Ministry. Last year, I finished up the spring semester leading a small group on Wednesday nights, but due to grad school classes, I didn’t get to serve there in ministry. So this year, I’m so ready to get back in the swing of things. It’s going to be a bit different than in the past, instead of teaching a small group; I actually will be teaching our middle school students on a weekly basis. I’m excited to serve in this area, but also praying God will speak.

Beyond just the big areas of service, I really want to be looking for the little areas as well. How can I serve the people I am around on a daily basis? Maybe this is helping a student with homework or getting a teacher’s copies at work for them. Regardless, I want to extend the hand of service to them with a joyful heart. I’m praying my attitude will not be one of inconvenience, but rather gratitude.

Tithe

Money is scary if we let it control our lives. Speaking as someone who took a long time to surrender my fiances to the Lord, I missed out on God’s provision. But since letting God be God over my fiances, I have watched Him consistently provide for me. This year alone, He gifted me a house that is within my monthly budget, a brand new refrigerator FOR FREE (the original was growing mold on the inside of it), a trip to Ecuador, all these other little trips to go see friends or to be in community with others, and a way to pay for grad school. It’s literally amazing what happens when you let God be in control of your fiances. He is God over all, and now I’m just praying for finances for a roof–my house has to get a new one this year–and my plumbing needs to be looked at.

Outreach//Ministry

For me outreach and ministry go hand and hand. As I’ve stated before, I try to be intentional with everyone the Lord has me around. My biggest sphere of influence is at my school. I’ve had students ask me about my relationship with God every year, but in the Fall of 2018, I know there were even more conversations than usual. Part of me thinks so many kids are desperate for truth , they want it wherever they can get it. I even have conversations with different co-workers. I love being able to talk about Jesus because He gave me life. It’s this great gift!

I’ve also started to minister to some of the girls at Starbucks on my way to work. It’s not much at a time because our interaction is sometimes only a “Good Morning, have a great day!” but I love the crew there! I would love to be able to actually get to know them more and hear more about their stories! They definitely make my day by providing coffee, and I do want to serve and love them well.

My goal last year wasn’t really a “me” goal, but a God goal. I wanted to see God save 30 people, and I know He did just that. It was crazy to look back on all that God accomplished through the year, but even people I didn’t know, I was able to hear story after story of salvations. I love watching God work!

Discipleship//Mentorship

I have said for so long that effective discipleship is consistent discipleship. I firmly believe that. Part of consistency allows the opportunity to speak life. In 2018, I had several different ladies that I got to meet with, but I also hung out with some other girls as well. The intentional living was apart of our time together no matter how long or how short. In 2019, I want to focus more on celebrating all that my girls are doing really well at. I think sometimes I forget to celebrate what God is doing in them and that’s what I want to focus on this year. Find ways to celebrate them in all that they do and be more of an encouragement as we go through life.


Relational

Friendships//Friends I Need//Friends Who Need Me 

I have been fortunate enough to find a great group of friends from Proper Coffee. It seems every year we add more to our little group, but it’s so great to be able to do life with them. We are learning to be more intentional though because seasons are changing and we have to actually make an effort to hang out with each other.

I definitely want to make having friends over at my house a priority this year. Life is way more enjoyable when I have my people doing life with me rather than by myself.

Extended Family//Neighbors//Coworkers 

With my family, we’ve spent more time together, which has been really great. They’ve been such a blessing with my house and I’m thankful for that. I also was able to vacation with my sister, which was a cheap little get away. Any chance for us to get away somewhere warm and next to the beach is one of my favorite things to do! Bring on 2019 and hopefully another getaway!

I actually have neighbors! It’s so weird growing up in a neighborhood where you knew everyone, to living on a street where you only know one neighbor. I don’t exactly know how to go about being present to my neighbors, especially when I’m rarely home. Yet, I really would like to spend more time getting to know them!

I spend so much time with my coworkers and being able to serve them better is one thing I want to do better. I want to find ways to encourage them more and lift them up. We spend so much time together and sometimes it’s hard, but having each other makes it easier.


Personal

Food//Exercise//Health

A couple of years ago, I had a dream of losing 25 pounds and last year the dream was to keep it off. I managed to keep off the weight! In the past I have had a fear of gyms and became a member of Planet Fitness and really enjoy my time there! I like being able to work out! I still don’t like to sweat or even the moments of working out, but I enjoy the results of working out! There’s so many spiritual ties to that concept it’s not even funny! I’ll save that for later. But for 2019, I want to make it apart of my weekly life to go to the gym. I had my moments in 2018 that were good in consistent (like waking up at 5am everyday and worked out at home), but then stopped after straining my neck. This year, the goal is to find a routine that isn’t leaving me exhausted, but is still toning the little muscles I have!

Books to Read

Ahhh!!! There are so many great books out there that I want to soak up. Right now, I’m in the middle of Wild and Free and I love it. But I have so many others that I want to read on my shelf. Last year I was able to read two of Jen Wilken’s books and a couple of other ones. Grad school takes away some of my reading time right now, but that will be over come the summer! YEAH!!

Dreams//Memories to Make

Personally last year was all about the seasonal memories. I honestly forgot about that dream until rereading it, but it actually happened. I didn’t get to go ice skating though, but everything else was in there. I had all the seasonal memories! Maybe this year, I’ll take it up a notch now that I have a house! I love it when the house is all decorated for each season! Something about the little decorations just make it feel like home!

I also want to write a book some day! Maybe that will happen some year, I don’t know. Part of me is a little scared to do it because of criticism. It just doesn’t seem like it will happen. I would love to write and speak, but only God knows what my platform will be.

This year, I have so many friends having babies and getting married! I’m excited to be apart of all the celebrations and to celebrate new season in life! I can’t wait for one of best friends to get married! She’s been a huge part of my life the last five or so years and now I get to watch her marry her best friend! It’s so cool! Ahh!!! Cannot wait!

Travel

I remember last year people telling me every time they got on any sort of social media they found me in a different place. The more I started to think about it, the more truth I saw in that statement. I do travel quite a bit even for short little day trips to visit some of my friends or even to just do what we call a “picture trip”, but there’s something about being in the car and jamming to worship music that brings people together.

I’m not sure what this year looks like, after all, I started this blog in Nashville! And I received an invite to visit my friend in Chicago for her birthday! More little trips are probably on the horizon! Hopefully even a trip to Ecuador again! Last year, we had problems with our flight so we didn’t get to go, but hoping this year to go back!


Work

Finances

I hit on this already, but everything is already God’s. He owns everything. all I have to do is be faithful with what He provides. I know grad school is expensive as well as a new roof, but God will make a way! He has been faithful in providing me with a fill time job I love! I even get the opportunity to work at my church part time! God just keeps providing! It’s what He does! And He’s way better at it than I will ever be!

Personal Growth//Education

This section is super cool for me to talk about because God is capable of doing so much! Last year, I started my Masters in English in January. This month I start two more classes, and hopefully, this time next year I will be completely finished with my Masters! I have to take a test to finish it up; but otherwise, I have it almost finished. God is so good!

In addition to completing my Masters, I have started cooking so much at my house! During the school year, I rarely eat out (minus the weekends). I have a habit of meal prepping that works and I love it! There’s really nothing like a home-cooked meal! I’ve been able to try new things that I otherwise wouldn’t try! I even meal prep my breakfast! No more $5+a week for Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches–I make my own! 🙂

I have even blogged more in 2018 than I did in 2017! So I’m at a high right now! I’m excited to see what God will continue to do through this blog! Hopefully this year, there will be even more!

Projects

I keep talking about this Remembrance Board that I have yet to be completed. But with owning a home, there are so many projects! I want flooring in the basement, trim needs to be painted in the bedroom, hang some pictures, paint the vanity, paint the closet doors, build a bar for downstairs, and the list just keeps going on! Those are just some of the things on the inside of the house, and the outside I want to plant flowers and make it look all cute like it is on the inside!


Celebrate

No matter what, God has taught me I am a conqueror because of His love for me! There’s so much on the “To-Do” List for 2019, but I want to find ways to celebrate all that God has done throughout the whole year! I want to rejoice and make melody to the Lord because of His great Name! I want to wait well! I want to know and believe He is working a good plan for my life! I want to seek Him more!

All of these things are mentioned in Psalm 27. I’ve made this my chapter for the year. It has 14 verses, and I want to write two verses per day; in total that would mean that I have written this chapter once every week! Already, God points out different words or phrases each day! I’m into week 2 now, and God shows up!

Here’s to 2019 and all the work God will accomplish this year!

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
    to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
    it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
    in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
    above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
    sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
    be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
    “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
    Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
    O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
    O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
    but the Lord will take me in.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    and lead me on a level path
    because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
    for false witnesses have risen against me,
    and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

Plugged-In to Shine

bf746174-8526-410e-b2bf-1b583dd2277f-1I love having my Christmas tree up! There’s something about the Christmas tree with all the ornaments, garland, and lights that just make any place feel a little more like a home. It seems to warm the place up and make it more inviting. But when the lights aren’t plugged in, the tree sits there almost lifeless. The lights are on the tree, but since they aren’t plugged in, the tree isn’t the same. It’s not as inviting. BUT the lights (when plugged in) give the tree its life. It’s almost as if the lights only have purpose when plugged into the power source.

The more I thought about the lights on the tree, the more I started to see this in my relationship with Christ. I know that sounds a little farfetched, but here’s the analogy:

When we (as lights) are not plugged into Jesus (our power source), we sit in a world of darkness (the tree when the lights aren’t plugged in) forgetting our purpose.

BUT when we (as lights) are plugged into Jesus (our power source), we sit in a world of darkness bringing light (the tree when the lights are plugged in) remembering our purpose.

Now I know all of that is a mouth full, but read it again. And again. And again.

I so desperately want you to see this picture, so let me break this down.

Jesus is the Light

The first thing about these statements is whether or not the lights are plugged into a power source. The lights are giving off life and have purpose to the tree when the lights are actually plugged into the power source. Without the power source, there is the absence of light. I’m sure someone with more of an electrical background could help communicate this better, but basically there’s some kind of current running between the outlet and the lights. I know that’s not super descriptive, but I do know the power source is the ultimate light.

In the same way, Jesus is our power source. In John 8:12 Jesus declares this when He says, “I am the light of the world.” There is no greater light than Jesus. In fact, in Isaiah 60:19-20 we are told twice, “the Lord will be your everlasting light.” This is an incredible truth that we can hold onto. God is not EVER going to run out of energy. He’s never going to burn out. He does not tire. He is an everlasting light.

The awesome thing about John 8:12 though, is that it doesn’t stop with Jesus declaring He is the light; but it continues on with Jesus offering us His light.

Jesus’ Light Calls Us Out of Darkness

I think we can all agree the world is a dark place. We are at the end of the year, and some reflecting back through their year can think through all the horrific events that have occurred. It’s been a dark year. Or maybe the year hasn’t been dark, but you can just see the corruption of the world all around and it’s dark. But our hearts and bodies long for light. We don’t want to be in darkness, we want to be in the light. So after Jesus declares He is the light, he doesn’t say, “Na Na Na Na Boo Boo, you can’t have it,” but rather, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus provides a way out of darkness by following His light.

What’s this darkness?

For clarification, I’m not just talking about dark, pitch black, middle of the night kind of darkness; but rather I’m talking about the darkness of sin that rules over our hearts. God’s Word teaches our darkness is due to that fact that we were dead in sin, following the ways of the world because of the disobedience we were born into. This sin came in Genesis 3, when man disobeyed God. Ever since, that one act of disobedience has forever separated us from God. There was no way out. We couldn’t ever invent a time machine to erase that mistake. We couldn’t do enough good things to remove our sins. We couldn’t do it ourselves. The only thing our sin did was create darkness and separation from God, which ultimately is death.

Yet, we see in John 8:12 a gracious and loving Savior, someone who doesn’t want us to be separated, someone who doesn’t want us to be in darkness. We see Jesus offering a way out. He’s providing a light. Being full of mercy, Jesus let’s us know His light is the way we are no longer in darkness AND it’s the way we have life. He wants us to be alive in the light. 1 Peter 2:9 proclaims that we are called “out of darkness into his marvelous light,” but whether or not you accept the light is up to you.

You can choose to stay in the darkness of death, or you can choose to accept the light of life.

Going back to my Christmas tree for just a second, without the power source, the lights are useless. But when they are plugged in, the tree lights up and there is life to the tree. But if I go and unplug my lights from the power source, it doesn’t take but maybe a millisecond for the lights to go out.

So what about this idea with our spiritual lives?

I don’t believe you can lose your salvation, so if you’ve accepted the light I honestly believe you can’t lose that; but I also believe you need to stay plugged in. Similar to the lights on my Christmas tree, when you’re not plugged in, the light grows dull and darkness starts to grow.

Stay Plugged-In to Jesus’ Light

Jesus didn’t use Christmas tree lights to explain the importance of staying plugged into the power source, but rather he uses a vine and branches. Jesus tells us in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” What Jesus says here is we are connected to Him like branches are connected to vines. When we are that connected to Him, we will bare fruit. If we aren’t connected to Him, we can’t do anything. Don’t run to quick past that because I think so often we fall into the lie that we can do it all on our own. Jesus literally tells us we can’t.

Unfortunately the part of living in a dark world that is unavoidable is brokenness. It’s everywhere. It’s not just the culture or the bad things you hear being reported through news and social media, but the brokenness is in us. Think about how many of us try to be perfect. We think we have it all together. We try and do it all on our own because asking for help is seen as a weakness. Or what about the lack of being accepted we feel, so we try really hard to be accepted by others so we do more things to get that attention or acceptance? How about seeking control? We are tired of things spinning out, so whatever we can control must be controlled because we can do it all. Or even the idea you can erase your darkness. You start thinking if you do one more good thing maybe that would eliminate that sin.

Newsflash: You can’t. You cannot do it all. You cannot save yourself. You can never be good enough. You will never be perfect. BUT JESUS IS!

When we abide in him, when we are plugged into Him; that’s when we are able to go about the broken and dark world and not let it overcome us.

What does this practically look like?

04b4bdc3-1f6e-4081-8226-c853c14d1534Read your bible. It’s that simple. Psalm 119:105 makes it even more clear to us that “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We have God’s Word right at our fingertips. It’s readily available to show us the direction we should go in every season of our lives–single, married, kids, empty-nesters, etc. It’s all in there. God literally addresses everything. He lights the way before us so we don’t ever have to step into darkness because He is the light. Open it and read it. Stay plugged into Him. He can’t and won’t leave you. When you have Him as your light, He’s there with you at all times. Will you talk to Him? Will you let Him speak into your life? Will you hear what He has to say through the reading of His word? Will you be bold enough to share the light of His word to others?

Shine the Light

When I’m hanging my Christmas lights up on the tree, I plug the lights into the outlet. But when I run out of lights on one strand, I just plug another strand of lights into the lights that are plugged into the outlet. And you know what, the power continues to run to those lights as well. The light spreads, creating more light.

Y’all here’s the great news–Jesus is the light that calls us out of darkness and when we accept His gift of life, we become light. We radiate wherever we go. We cannot hide the light, but we shine the light we have received to others. When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:14-16 says He calls us “the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others.” We can’t hide the light we have received, but we shine the light.

 

If you have never been to a candlelight service, let me encourage you to go to one today. If you’re in Evansville, my church (NorthWoods) has one tonight at 7pm and I would love for you to come join! This whole concept of us shining our lights to a dark world is demonstrated. During the service, all the lights go out in the sanctuary. It’s dark. But then the pastor lights one candle. This represents Jesus as THE light of the world. The pastor will walk over to someone in the congregation and lights their candle, and that person shares the light with someone else and within minutes, everyone in the sanctuary has a lit candle. Everyone shares the light with those around them. It’s a beautiful picture of Jesus being the light of the world and us sharing His light to those around us.

Looking back at Matthew 5, pay attention to what Jesus says. He calls all of us who have received the light to be a light to the world. He says we can’t hide, yet so many of us hide. We don’t want people to know we have the light of life. This would be like if you received the candlelight in the service and didn’t share it. You would basically be saying, I have this awesome light, but you can’t; but just so you know, that’s the opposite of what Jesus says. Yet so many of us live in that hiding phase. We want the life of the light, but we don’t want to shine the light. You cannot have the life, the freedom from darkness, without having a light. And if you have the light of life, Jesus tells us to let our lights shine before others.

This idea of letting light shine is not only towards pastors or leaders in your churches, but everyone who has received the light. Paul writes in Acts 13:47, “For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” This commandment is for anyone who has received salvation. If you have received the light, you are to shine it. Don’t be afraid to share the light. You’re plugged into the great source of light. He is the one who shines. He does it all. All you have to do is be obedient to faithfully shine His light.

What Now?

I don’t know the status of your heart, only God knows that. But I want to challenge you to think about these questions and actually do something with them. Don’t let this be another blog you read, but actually let God do a work in you. The new year is about to start and it would be awesome to start that shift in your heart now to be plugged-in to the light and let it shine.

  • Do you believe Jesus is the light?
  • If not, what’s holding you back?
  • If you believe Jesus is the light, have you accepted Him to be light of you life? to be Lord and Savior?
  • Are you allowing Jesus’ light to expose any areas of darkness (sin) in your life?
  • Have you sought forgiveness for your sin?
  • How plugged in are you to God’s Word?
  • Are you listening to God? Are you willing to listen?
  • Are you letting His light direct your path?
  • Who are you shining His light?

“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” -Ephesians 5:8

 

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Happy Thanksgiving Every Day

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thankfulness is one of those things that shouldn’t just be one day a year! Don’t get me wrong, I love that we pick one day a year to gather the people we love the most to tell each other what we are thankful for, but imagine what life would be like if we shared what we are thankful for each day.

If your thanksgiving is anything like the ones I participate in, hearing what everyone is thankful for is so encouraging to me. I spend Thanksgiving Lunch with one of my mentors, and at the end of everyone sharing what they’re thankful for, she looks at each person at the table and explains why she is thankful for that person. This is radically encouraging to me, yet it’s so simple. Again, imagine what it would be like if we celebrated thanksgiving each day.

Scripture reminds us to be thankful each day in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where Paul tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Did you catch that? It’s the will of God for us to give thanks. I don’t know about you, but I want to walk in the will of the Lord. But let’s be honest, there are times where it is challenging to find something we are thankful for. Some of you, maybe even today are struggling to find something you’re thankful for. Paul reminds believers since we’ve “received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Paul tells us that we have something to be thankful for–receiving Christ. Even if every circumstance has been challenging this year, remember that you have received Christ. Christ willingly gave up his luxurious life to come dwell in this broken. Thankfully (did you catch that), He didn’t come to be OF the world, but to SAVE the world from their sins, my sins, YOUR sins. If you believe this in your heart and declare Him as Savior and Lord, then you have a reason to be thankful! In fact, your thankfulness is abounding. There is no limit to all that you could possibly be thankful for.

Now here’s the thing, when we gather together and share all that we are thankful for, we actually are remembering all that God has graciously blessed us with; even if that’s a roof over your head and food in your belly. But we also remember what God has done. See remembrance and thankfulness go hand and hand. When we remember what God has done, we become thankful. In those moments, we are reminded of our human limitations and how much we need an infinite God who is limitless! Which is why Jesus is capable of living the perfect life, to die the death you and I deserve, and graciously gives us life.

That is something to remember and be thankful for!

This idea of remembering and being thankful is not a new concept. When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Moses told them to remember how God saved them from their old life in slavery; which led to a heart posture of thankfulness and turned into worship. Another example of this is when Jesus came, He told us to remember His sacrifice through the Lord’s supper; but then even while He called the disciples to remember, He told them to give thanks!

My challenge to you today as you’re eating your turkey, or spending time on your phones shopping; to remember, to be thankful, and then to worship.

We have an abundance to be thankful for, so let’s celebrate everyday and not just today! Let’s have a Happy Thanksgiving every day!!

Why? For Your Good and His Glory

Why?

The question we all want answered.

We start asking the question pretty much when we learn to talk and it grows into adulthood. We want to know: why the grass is green, why I can’t walk on the street, why I have to help set the table, why do I need to be quiet, why I have to clean, why I have to do homework, why It hurts, why bad things happen, why, why, why, why, why?

I think we can all agree that when we’ve been asked these questions, our responses can vary. There are those moments when we stop and actually give a genuine, thoughtful response; yet, other times we rush and give a short answer.

I think if someone asked me why the grass is green, I would say something like “I don’t know” but I definitely accept that it’s green. I just don’t put a lot of thought into knowing the answer simply because I’m not super worried about why the grass is green. It’s always green. Now, I may look it up eventually in order to answer that question, but it’s not something I care about, so I can accept that the grass is green. The answer to that why doesn’t change anything about my present, I just accept it.

But then there are those “growth” why questions: why I can’t walk on the street, why I have to help set the table, why do I need to be quiet, why I have to clean, why I have to do homework, etc. I know I asked these questions growing up, and there would be times where my parents would say, “because I said so,” and other times they would provide a reason. If it was about walking on the street, it was for my protection. If it was being quiet (this was usually in church), I was disturbing other people. If it was cleaning, I was told I was a member of the house and needed to do my share, and it was also preparing me for my future. If it was homework, it was to learn. In each instance, there was a definite reason as to why each circumstance took place. Each thing I begrudgingly did (walking on the sidewalk, being quiet, cleaning, or homework) was for my good and for my growth. These things were not to harm me or to make me miserable, but to shape me and prepare me for the next stage of life.

Then there are those questions from a state of pain: why does it hurt or why did this terrible thing happen? We want answers so there’s an explanation for the pain whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.

Quite honestly, I don’t have the answers. I rarely know the answers to my own “why” questions, but WHAT IF the painful why questions are just a different growth question? We’ve learned the answers to walking on the sidewalk, cleaning, and doing homework; but could it be that the new level of WHY is really just a new level of growth that we have yet to see come to be answered? Here’s the thing, I cannot tell you WHY anything happens, but I do know that God teaches us a very clear truth:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

Did you catch that?

God is working it all together for your good. You may not know your why answer, but think about the good that God has promised. Whatever circumstance you’re in the midst of, I can promise you because it’s a promise from God that he’s working it for your good.

Let’s take a moment and be real:

It hurts.

We can’t see the immediate answers to our questions which hurts. Often times the reasons we are asking why are based out of loss, grief, pain, suffering, or unexplained waiting.

I think the question becomes: what do we do when we hurt from unanswered questions?

RUN TO THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN GIVE YOU ANSWERS.

I think so often we run to things we think will provide answers like our friends and family, social media, news, ourselves, and so on. But don’t run to those because at some point they will let you down.

The only thing that promises to work for your good is God.

Run to him.

What happens if he doesn’t answer right away?

You’re in good company.

Job lost his whole family and begged God and pleaded with God for answers and it had absolutely nothing to do with Job, but rather the spiritual realm that Job couldn’t see. God blessed Job more than Job could imagine because of his faithfulness. God worked the loss for Job’s good and for God’s glory.

Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years before having Isaac. They took their unanswered questions into their own hands, but even with that choice, God grew their faithfulness. God demonstrated that He was faithful to fulfill His word. God worked it all for their good and His glory.

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. After many other things, he goes to jail for something he didn’t do. Yet God saw the whole thing. God didn’t give immediate answers to Josephs’s questions, but later Jospeh interprets a dream and is able to save Egypt from famine. It was through the famine that God brought Joseph’s family back together. God worked it out for everyone’s good and His glory.

These are just from Scripture…. but look at this….

Rachel Clark (yes this is me) didn’t get the job she wanted in Bowling Green. The plans she had set for herself and thought God wanted for her didn’t happen. Instead she moved home, got a job and started volunteering in the church. She met some pretty amazing girls and discipled one for a long time. That girl came to know Jesus and is now going on the mission field. Likewise, Rachel is still waiting for God to fulfill His word, but in the meantime she’s gotten to travel to Ecuador and be apart of the global church, intern at a church, and almost earn a masters degree in English that she still doesn’t know why she’s getting it. But through it all, God is working it for her good and His glory.

Run to God. Find your rest in Him. It’s only through Him can you continue on when it’s harder than you could have imagined!

Why is this happening? I don’t know, but remember God is working it to be for your good and for His glory!!

God is For You

I’ve said this before, but I want you to know there is way more to my social media than what is actually displayed. I want to be transparent in that because I think it’s so easy for us to look at each other’s feeds and start comparing and coveting, wanting what everyone else has, not really content with what God has placed before us. And since we are being honest here, I need you to know that I struggle with this myself. I see my friends living the life I dreamed I would be living; and instead, I’m not anywhere close. I struggle just like you. I–in no way, shape, or form–have this all figured out. I am literally living the daily battle with you.

I wanted to start here because I want us on the same page. I don’t want you to think you’re going through this life alone. I don’t want you to think you’re the only one struggling. I don’t want you to think you’re unloved. I really just want you to be able to stand your ground in Christ.

So why here?

Quite honestly, I’ve been living in the midst of the battle. Nothing crazy has happened. I’ve just been waiting on the Lord for quite sometime, and waiting well is hard work. See there are two categories of waiters: those who wait well and those who DO NOT wait well. I’m sure you can guess which category I fall into, but I’m most certainly in the DO NOT category.

I can’t really tell you the reason behind this, but while I wait on the Lord for life to happen according to His time table and not my own, I get impatient. I want what I want, when I want it. Read that again. And again. It sounds like a preschooler doesn’t it? If you answered no, thank you for being so kind to me, but the answer is YES! It does sound like a preschooler, or maybe even an ungrateful kid. But y’all, this is me! I pray these prayers all the time asking God when the waiting will be over because I am discontent in my present.

That’s my battle (at least right now)–DISCONTENTMENT.

Discontentment gives Satan a wedge to start speaking lies into life, the heart, and the mind. And with full disclosure, when I start letting those lies be the thing I hear, I turn into an even bigger mess. It’s. A. Vicious. Cycle.

The only way out of this cycle is laying the lies at the feet of Jesus.

This is so hard for me to do. You would think that believing the truth is easy because there’s evidence in my life that says God is for me and He is with me; He will not let me down. But it is so easy for me to believe the lies. Culture is very loud and can easily drown out God’s truth. My own selfishness is loud and can drown God out. Expectations others have (said or unsaid) can also be that thing that speaks so loudly.

Yet, God’s voice is still, consistent, and calm.

So right now in a place of discontentment, I find myself needing more time to be still with God. That’s hard right now because life is busy. I’m teaching full time, taking 6 hours of grad school, discipling some girls from church, trying to update my house, and at some point hang out with some friends.

How do you balance it all?

Since we are being real, you need to know that I’m not really good at this. Some months are better than others, and right now it’s not been a great one. Because things have been hectic, being still and just spending time with God has been more like a checklist thing, and even in my checklist mindset the goodness of God is so good. He literally will take my unmotivated heart and soften it to really hear, and other days my exhaustion is so loud that I make myself deaf to the tenderness of God’s words. Regardless, God still speaks to me even when my motivation is out of discipline instead of desire.

Now, the longer I make my quiet time just something to check off, the greater discontentment swells in my heart. Renewing that rest with the Lord requires me laying my control of circumstances I’m waiting to change down. It’s saying, “Lord, I admit I can’t do this. I need you to help me!” When that happens, when I actually let go, the discontent stops swelling inside of me, opening me up to hear from the Lord with ears ready to hear.

But it takes confession.

This confession usually happens after I’ve spent sometime worshipping. For me, worshipping is the way my heart stops focusing on me and draws my focus up to God. It redirects my path of sight not on the things before me, but rather the things above. And you know the last time I consciously made a choice to worship instead of watching tv was while cleaning. Usually I would have turned the tv on as background noise, but instead I put the worship playlist on. It was in the midst of cleaning and worshipping that I was able to realign my heart to God.

In case you were wondering, this was super recent–as in a week ago. I was just in a funk.

But it took this worship/cleaning session to remember that God is for me. I need to stop looking around and look up (In case you haven’t heard about it, check out Lauren Daigle’s new album “Look Up Child” it’s literally all about getting your eyes up).

When you get your eyes off the circumstances around you and focus on the God who saved you, you will (I will) remember that God is for you.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

Don’t let those lies speak into you. Instead rest on the one who is FOR YOU!

Worship Him not because of your circumstances, but because He is your Father, Savior, Redeemer, Creator, and the Name Above All Names.

Following Jesus

A couple of months ago The Go Project contacted me about writing for their blog and asked me one question: What does it mean to follow Jesus? Take a look at their website, and check out what I wrote for them below or click here!

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

I think this is one of the greatest questions to ask only because at some point there’s going to be a crossroads and you’re going to decide Jesus or that something else.

See the Gospel is a recognition of Jesus Christ as Savior AND Lord. I think most people don’t have a problem with Jesus being their Savior; who doesn’t want Heaven? But for most people the hang up when deciding to follow Jesus is accepting Him as Lord over your life. This means you’re making Him the BOSS over your life. You’re saying, “God, whatever you want to do with my life, I’m okay with that, even if it’s nothing like I plan or dream,” and this statement is difficult.

For me, I made the decision to follow Jesus when I was 7. Yes, I know I was young, but I was absolutely convinced that I was sinful and in need of a Savior and I knew I needed God to direct my life.

But this acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord is a daily thing for me. It’s a daily acceptance that I am not in charge of my life. I, by no means, am perfect at this. In fact, I’m far from perfect! I love my dreams and I love my own ideas, so surrendering what I love most is extremely difficult.

But here’s what I’ve learned: each time I’ve given up a dream or plan, Jesus was (and is) with me, and His plans and dreams for my life are immeasurably better than anything I could possibly imagine for myself.

Really?? Is this really true??

Yes!!

Back in 2015, I was faced with a decision: what will I put first—the things of God or the things of this world? I knew I said God you’re first in all things, but what does that look like for God to actually be first? That means giving up anything that gets in the way of Him.

Let me be honest, I battled with this for a solid 6 months. I would challenge God and ask the WHY question multiple times! I wanted an immediate, easy fix, but that is not what God had in mind (and now I’m so thankful for this long journey). After many nights of tears, meeting with mentors and counselors, and earnestly seeking after God, I gave it all up to Him. Anything that was above Him, I separated myself from that—and I’m talking about lifelong relationships and physical objects. This was not easy, but each step of the way, God was there. He proved Himself faithful in each place of surrender.

Was there immediate blessing because of obedience? Yes, but it was much smaller than I thought it would be. I think we are so used to receiving BIG rewards for our own goodness that anything less than that disappoints us. That was me. I thought because I acted in obedience, God would allow me to slay my own Goliath, but no. The blessings I received were just little moments here and there—such as finding it amazing that God speaks to me in my quiet time or God providing a meal for me. These were huge blessings. I didn’t need to slay Goliath in order to be blessed big time and that was something God was teaching me—the little blessings are big time blessings!!

It was through this time I really started to enjoy God. And God kept me in this place for about 2 years. It was a place of getting to know God, allowing Him to get to know me, and resting in who He is.

When 2017 rolled around, God was pushing me out of this new found comfort and on into a new push in ministry. I knew by now if God was calling me to it, it was easier to just do it. I gave God 2017 and just told Him I wanted to see Him be big.

Now here’s the cool part: God showed up! He showed up immeasurably more than I could have imagined. Saying YES to giving it all up ended in an immeasurable amount of blessing—and it’s still happening. Deciding to give it all up, gave the God all the space to do immeasurably more in my life.

In 2017, I was scared to start a Bible study with women from school, but knew that’s what God wanted. I sent an email to 8 ladies and 20 bought the book we studied. Even still to this day those ladies are more involved in the local church, and a couple of them are now leading Bible studies!

I even took a trip to Ecuador and watched God move in the hearts of the Ecuadorians, but even in my own life God challenged me in forgiving others and grew me in ways I didn’t even know needed growth.

But the mundane was even a blessing. The student I discipled for 3 years was graduating high school and taking big leaps in her faith to trust the Lord in everything. Even when she left for college, God provided 3 new girls to start meeting with regularly. Watching these ladies grow in their faith is quite possibly one of the biggest blessings of all. There is nothing like watching others in the faith follow Jesus with everything!

All of this is simply the beginning of whatever God has in store for my life. He’s up to a far better story than I could ever write for myself. Each time He asks me to do something hard, He always provides the peace, courage, and strength to do it. Some I begrudgingly do, but after walking in obedience with Him, I know it’s far better than anything I could dream up, and somewhere along the journey my begrudgingly attitude changes.

Following Jesus is difficult. If anyone says it’s easy—they are lying. But it is WORTH IT! Every bit of it, it’s worth it.

The relationship with God can be summed up into multiple words, but I think it can be ultimately traced back to Matthew 28:18-20 when Jesus gave a command to the disciples to GO! It doesn’t matter if God is calling you to give something up, GO for it. If God is calling you into a realm of ministry, GO! If God is calling you into a deeper relationship, GO! If you’re like I’ve never made Jesus my Savior AND Lord, GO! If God is calling you into a season of waiting, GO there.

Living a life with Jesus is one of action! It’s not one of sitting, but rather a journey of GOING wherever the Lord leads.

I firmly believe living a life with Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior will be the best decision you could ever make in this life. Jesus brings you the life you ultimately need! Yes, it’s hard, but it’s totally worth it.

GO.

Doesn’t Matter the Cost

I have this really great co-worker–who I’m thankful is now my friend–Carrie. She is my go to person when I’m out shopping. I need her approval for basically every new thing I buy. But even if I’m a little bit nervous about a new outfit combination, she’s the person I text. She’s also hilarious! I’m not sure if it’s just her laughing at herself that makes it fun, but I know when I’m around her, I can always count on laughing! Then she has this thing where she places THE before a place; for example if she needs to go by Walmart and pick up groceries, she says, “I’m going to THE Walmart.” But here within the last year, she has developed a passion–quite possibly an obsession–with Rae Dunn.

I didn’t really know anything about this obsession until December. A random day after school, Carrie, our friend Jill, and myself all ended up going to THE TJ Maxx to find this Rae Dunn. Now remember this is the first time I’m hearing about Rae Dunn, and if this is your first time hearing about Rae Dunn let me just pause and catch you up to speed. Rae Dunn is this adorable pottery (now she’s making glassware as well), but it’s super cute! There’s all different styles and I could go on to describe them, but Pinterest will do better justice than I ever could. Each piece is super rare though, and of course the pieces you really want are always the hardest to find.

So we are at THE TJ Maxx looking for these hard to find, rare pieces of pottery. We go up and down the aisles, picking up plates, mugs, canisters, etc. just to see if it’s the right thing. We are looking in all the different aisles because apparently other Rae Dunn shoppers will leave their findings in other places throughout the store to hide it. While there, we find different pieces that are exactly what Carrie is looking for! Then right when I think we’ve found all the possibilities, Carrie walks over to this rack with random things on it that’s full of boxes. And she finds her TREASURE. In that moment, she radiates with excitement and wants every bit of Rae Dunn that is already in her cart as well as every piece on this rack. She made the statement, “I want it all!! It doesn’t matter the cost, I love it so much; I just want it all!”

Little did she know, this moment would speak profoundly into my heart.


See, there are times in life where God just puts us in these seasons of waiting. We don’t know why it’s occurring or what the purpose of the waiting will be, but we are called to wait. I would definitely say that I’m in this waiting. And it’s easy for me in this season of waiting to be child-like in the sense of questioning my Parental figure’s choices. Can anyone else identify with this (please don’t let me be alone)?

I’m not a parent yet, but as a teacher, I know I will tell my students to wait simply because I need to teach them something first. I’m not saying no to their request, but rather telling them to wait. And I cannot tell you how often I hear these questions or statements of “Ms. Clark, why are you making me wait?” Or “Ms. Clark doesn’t love me anymore; she won’t let me…” I can only imagine kids do this same thing to their parents. Kids question the decisions parents communicate; they just don’t understand why something is happening that way. It’s in these moments, love is hard to see. Mainly because it feels like there is no love–we aren’t getting what we want or we aren’t getting an answer.

This is so me. In my season of waiting, it’s easy for me to turn into one of my students, or maybe one of your kids. I say things like “God, why are you making me wait?” or “God just doesn’t love me anymore because He’s making me wait.” I’ve asked God several times why I’m waiting and God responds gently and patiently to my questions. But then when I begin to question God’s love for me, He brings me back to this simple truth: I love you.

That day I went shopping with Carrie I was in a doubtful mindset, but God used her love and obsession for Rae Dunn to speak this simple truth into my life right in the midst of THE TJ Maxx. When Carrie said, “I want it all!! It doesn’t matter the cost, I love it so much; I just want it all!” It hit me hard. Everything that Carrie is doing to find Rae Dunn is exactly what God is doing to me and YOU!

Carrie lives about a thirty minute drive from THE TJ Maxx, yet it’s worth the cost of driving to even see if anything is there. She may not find anything at all, but it’s worth the drive.

God was completely separated by man’s sinfulness, yet Jesus made the distance to come save us.

Carrie wants every last bit of Rae Dunn because she absolutely loves it and has to have it.

God wants every last bit of us because He love us! He doesn’t just want some of us, He wants every piece of us.

Carrie is willing to pay any cost in order to have Rae Dunn. She sees value in it because she loves it so much. She sees the unique blemishes each piece of pottery has and says it’s valuable because it’s all different. She loves this stuff!

God paid the ultimate cost by sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sin. God sees great value in each of us because of His love. He looks at each of us even in our sinfulness and says the payment of death is worth the cost because of my love for you!! He loves us so much!

Carrie chases this stuff down. The Rae Dunn doesn’t even know she’s coming for it, and then she just shows up. On the shelf it’s just Rae Dunn, but when she takes it home and puts it all together, it’s this gorgeous collection of imperfect pieces but together it literally has purpose.

God literally chases us down. We often don’t even know God is coming for us, and then God shows up–claiming us as His Own. By ourselves we are just like Rae Dunn sitting on a shelf, purposeless unless there’s payment for us to have purpose. God takes us into His dwelling place and gives us purpose and when combined with other believers, there’s great beauty in the collective body.

One shopping trip with Carrie, and God revitalized my heart. No longer did I doubt God’s love for me or question His Parental choice of placing me in this season of waiting because what Carrie is doing to have Rae Dunn, God did so much more to have me. He loves me so much it’s undeniable, and His love is completely obvious–it’s not hidden. God looked at me and He looks at you and it doesn’t matter the cost--He loves me and you and will do anything to have us!

Where are you right now with God’s love?

Do you see yourself as a piece of Rae Dunn pottery sitting on a shelf purposeless? Are you waiting for the purpose? If this is you, let me just encourage you that the payment has already been paid. God saw your blemishes and imperfections and said, “I want you. I will pay for you. I will give your purpose.” So He sent Jesus to be the payment for us. Paul, the author of Romans, says it like this:

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

Christ made the one and only payment so we could be with God. There’s nothing left to do because Christ did it all on the cross. God chases us down because He loves us so much. He paid our payment in order to give us life.

But you can choose to accept that payment or you can choose to reject that payment. It’s up to you. God doesn’t force anyone to love Him back that why we have this choice.

Or maybe you’re reading this going, “I’m in a waiting season too!” Can I please encourage you to keep waiting? God is in the process of working it all out. I know that because He’s completely perfect. It may not make sense, but God has this. Continue to wait. Earnestly seek after Him–not the things He gives, but HIM. He won’t leave you empty.

One of my favorite verses right now comes from the Pslams. See in this particular Pslam, David is rejoicing after waiting for a long time. God told David he would be king one day, but there was a king already in place when God gave David this promise. So David waited while God worked and eventually David was pronounced King after being delivered from his enemies. Look at what David says:

This God-his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. – Psalm 18:30

Keep going. Keep waiting. God’s love for you is real and when you forget His love, think about ALL He’s already done for you. You won’t be disappointed, but you will be rejuvenated–maybe in the middle of some store while your shopping.

Wherever you are, remember God paid for you.

God gave himself up for you.

That is love.

Rest in His love for you.