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!!

(in)courage

I’ve been meeting with a few ladies lately and there seems to be a consistent need–REST. We are worried people who need to find rest in the Lord. God desires us to come to Him and find rest. It’s just a matter of creating space. God wants you to be with Him. But what I see across the board, and even in my own life, is life getting busy and full and that leaves little space for us to find rest. Sometimes it’s just a lack of unwillingness to be still before God. However, the times we do find rest in Him, we actually get to see God be God over our lives and we leave feelings encouraged.

The question–are you willing?

Can I please just beg you to be willing? I promise the freedom you will experience in Christ is well worth it all. He provides you with rest when everything else seems to be bogging your down. Coming to the feet of Jesus and recognizing just how weak I really am is the only place I find peace and strength.


There are plenty of great resources out there for you to get invested into God’s Word. I want you to feel equipped so I try to share different resources with you. If you aren’t quite sure where to start with the whole Bible reading, click on this link and it will give you some insight.

I want to share with you another resource that I’ve come across. Quite honestly, this one is different than several other Bibles I’ve come in contact with. In fact, I would say if you’re looking for a Bible that includes devotions that help you rest in God, this is the PERFECT Bible resource for you.

The (in)courage Devotional Bible is more or less an aid in helping you create that space to find rest and as the title suggests–encouragement.img_6023

img_6025The Bible begins with a place for you to commit yourself to studying God’s Word and finding people to study with. Community is a key part of finding rest in God. We do it independently, but there’s something that happens in our hearts when we get to share what God is teaching us with others. I love that the Bible even gives you an opportunity to write out those people.

Not only does this Bible offer the Word, but it has built in devotions. There are ten different devotional themes to guide you through your reading. What is unique about these devotions is that they are color coordinated (if you’re anything like me, you will love that), and the devotions give you questions you can journal through.img_6030

Speaking of journalling, I think one of my favorite parts of the Bible other than that it’s super colorful, there is space for you to journal. I write in my Bible so much, so the fact there’s space to actual write out what God is teaching me as I rest in Him is a great feature. It combines the Journal Bible to this Devotional Bible.

The other neat feature in this Bible that sticks out before the others is the highlights of the different females throughout the Bible. As you come across different women in the Bible, there’s this little extra devotional to help further your study. It’s a great feature to really help you see God’s faithfulness in every season whether it be in blessing or a time of repentance. img_6029

Regardless of where you are in your walk with the Lord, it is my encouragement to you to get in the Word. It really is the food for our hearts and the air we need to survive. It is the only thing that keeps me going. It’s not by accident that the publishers of this Bible title it (in)courage because the only way I ever feel encouraged is by getting IN the Word.

If you’re looking for those people to help you commit to reading, let me know! There’s nothing I love doing more than reading through Scripture!

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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.

A Powerful God in a Crazy Life

About a month ago, I stood with my feet sinking deep into the sand of the ocean. As far as my eyes could see there was water, which eventually met the sky. I remember feeling so small in comparison to the vastness of the ocean. I even talked to one of my friends about God’s size and how He is so infinite that I will never be able to understand His power.

img_0419I sat along the shore just watching the waves come in. I remembered Jesus calming the storm and the disciples taking a mental note that even the winds and waves obey Him. I remember confessing to the Lord that I am not as obedient as a wave. If God tells me to do something, I reluctantly do it after being told to do it. But watching the waves come in, I was reminded of my disobedience.

The ocean (and I would even say the mountains) has this ability to draw me out of my self-absorbed pit because when I’m there, I’m reminded of God and all that He’s capable of doing. But I don’t live next to an ocean. I can’t go see it everyday. I have a beautiful backyard, but there aren’t mountains or an ocean–just a barn and some trees.

When I got back from the ocean, the power of God seemed to disappear as we drove away from Florida. The closer we got to home, the pressure of getting everything done increased. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to go back to my self-absorbed pit.

I was greeted with the enormous pressure of grad school. My friends who read this know exactly what I’m going to say–it’s kicking my butt. From the very beginning of the class, I have felt like an elementary student taking a graduate level class in poetry, British poetry at that. Poetry is it’s own language, with its own terms, and I’m completely clueless. I’m convinced that it takes me double time what it takes everyone else because other than Dr. Suess or Shel Silverstein, I’m completely inexperienced. But it is hard and taking up pretty much all of my free time.

Then it’s summer time and I do multiple things with our church during the summer! I absolutely love it! The relationships we get to build with our students is probably one of my favorite things about the whole year! The depth of community that’s built in the summer and watching God work in the lives of our students is literally one of the greatest joys.

Oh and I bought a house in April, so I’ve been slowly updating and changing some things here and there. Nothing super major, but just things like putting cabinets back on, organizing things, or hanging some sweet patio lights.

But all of these things take time. And the lack of time with an increase of pressure, created a greater self-absorbed me and a powerful God being squished to fit into a small time-frame. In essence, I started seeing my circumstances and present situation as something that held more power than God.

DISCLAIMER: I know that sounds ridiculous. And if anything you should just stop reading this blog, because I’m telling you I have absolutely nothing to offer you. I literally just confessed to you that I saw the pressures of life greater than God.

And that’s true about what I felt, but completely not true about God. I was believing (and still struggle with this) a LIE. I literally saw my present stressors greater than God and I believed this lie.

The fact that I believed God was smaller than my present situation started eating at my soul. Things that are foundational to my faith, I started to question:

  • God, how can you be good?
  • God, how are you loving me? I can’t feel it. Show me your love for me. I literally cannot see it.
  • God, I don’t think you’re faithful. I don’t think you’re true to your word.

And let me be super honest with you, I came home from the beach, June 1 and as I’m writing this it’s June 25. So we are talking less than a month I went from being absolutely certain that God is good, God is loving, and God is faithful to God isn’t good, God isn’t loving, and God isn’t faithful.

What changed?

I can promise you it wasn’t God. Scripture promises us that God does not change. Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.” Even Malachi echoes this with “For I the Lord do not change.” It’s impossible for God to change.

What changed? ME!

Sitting at the ocean, I had all the time in the world to rejuvenate and rest in the power of God’s presence. Then when I came home, God’s presence was (and is) here, but the pressure of life caved in. I was still in the Word, but I was going to God with a very anxious heart and not leaving the pressures at His feet. I wasn’t allowing myself to find rest in God mainly because I thought I had the power over life.

I distinctly remember three occasions over the last month where I created space and clearly heard God’s voice. One occurred on my back patio, and the other two happened in the midst of my nightly quiet time. It never ceases to amaze me just how patient God is with me because even in my questioning of God, He still speaks.

How gracious is God for Him to speak to me?

I literally had just finished praying asking the Lord to reveal to me His goodness, His love, and His faithfulness to me. He quickly responded with His power, but that was exactly what I needed to hear! My daily quiet time was in Acts 12.

Again, remember I literally have nothing to offer you, but God’s Word is so amazing and full of Truth that this is what y’all need to listen to–not my words.

Just a little background on the passage: the church is brand spanking new, and it’s spreading like wild fire. But as the church is growing, persecution is also taking place. King Herod started going after believers. In fact, right before this passage he murders James and arrests Peter. But God’s work is not done–it’s simply beginning. Check this out from Acts 12:6-11:

Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him.When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

Wow!! Not that the pressure of a busy schedule quite compares to Peter being bound in chains to two guards behind an iron gate, but being completely real and vulnerable…. I totally feel like this in life. It feels like the chains of life are just so much stronger. But there’s good news–God is our rescuer.

God is CLEARLY powerful and COMPLETELY in control.

It’s crazy to think that I had just seen God’s overwhelming power by watching the waves and the winds obey Him in Florida, but it’s hard to see God’s power back here at home. But then this passage came along, and God made His power quite possibly more known to me through this passage than at the ocean. Here’s what God showed me:

1. It doesn’t matter what you’re chained to.

Peter was chained to two men. The passage doesn’t say that they were giant, but I’m guessing they had to be pretty large. King Herod really wanted Peter gone because Peter sharing the gospel was a threat to King Herod’s kingdom, so it makes sense that he had the biggest men watching Peter. But even big men were not a problem for God. Verse 7 says, “And the chains fell off his hands.”

When I read this, I was awestruck. I’ve been feeling so weighed down with grad school and life, that I just came to accept the weight. But Christ wants us to give Him our burdens. Jesus told us in Matthew 11:28-29 to “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” When we actually allow God the time and space and we surrender any power we feel we have over our chains, God moves. He makes the chains fall, and we can finally see who holds the Power.

2. After the chains fall and you face an iron gate, God is still with you because He goes before you.

It’s so easy once our chains fall and we experience that freedom to completely freak out when we get to that closed door, but God is not at all surprised by that gate. We like to spend time analyzing how to open the gate and question how God could even open it, but we completely miss God’s power when we do that (this is me by the way!). God is at work. He knew the gate was going to be there for Peter; He knew the Red Sea was going to be there for the Israelites running out of Egypt; and He knows your personal gate before you get there. He’s God. It’s when the gate comes, we get to see God’s power when HE opens it.

Can you imagine this scene, the angel and Peter escaping 2 soldiers and now walk up to an iron gate and verse 10 says the gate “opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street.” That’s power. God is not just in control over the wind and the waves, but even the gates that are in our lives. God didn’t need Peter to sit and analyze how to open the gate, God just opened it. God is in control. Paul puts it this way, “he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” God has us. He is with us. When we can finally see that God goes before us and holding all things together, we are reminded of who holds the power–it’s not me and it’s not you; it’s God.

3. Seeing God’s power over the chains and the gates assures us of God’s goodness, God’s love, and God’s faithfulness.

I don’t know about you, but like I mentioned earlier, all I ever do is question the chains or question the gate that are currently present in my life. I don’t understand why I’m being chained and that creates doubt of God’s character. But it’s in the deliverance from the chains that I see God’s power in a completely new light that causes me to walk in a more surrendered life. Being set free from my chains allows me to see God’s power in a new way that brings me life–it strengthens what I believe about God.

When I read Peter’s experience, I can’t help but hear his reaction to this great rescue: “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod.” Peter is set free and he vocalizes that He is reassured this is a work from the Lord and not just a vision. I’m not quite sure if Peter struggled to see God’s goodness, love, or faithfulness, but I am sure that Peter recognized God’s power.

So what happens when we recognize who holds the power?

Our chains and our gates may be a way for God to demonstrate His great power over our lives, which allows us to see God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness towards us in a much deeper way.

Now here’s the thing, I’m definitely not perfect at this. I still don’t understand just how God’s power works in my life, but what I do know is that when I prayed, “Lord, this life is too crazy right now–set me free,” God revealed to me His power. The Holy Spirit was telling me: Rachel, I see where you are. I see you working on grad school, I see you doing ministry, I see this house. I’m here with you and just like I set Peter free from the weight of the chains, I’m here setting you free. I’m here providing you rest. Come to me. Rest in the power of my hand.

Just to be clear, when God set me free, my circumstances didn’t change, but what changed was my perspective. Before reading this passage, I thought I held the power. I thought I was the one having to do this all by myself. I thought I was the one searching for a key, trying to get out of the gate.

But what I was set free from was a mindset of control. I don’t have control, God does.

So yes, life is still crazy and grad school is still hard.

But the chains of thinking I have to control it all has been released because I know God holds the power.


P.S. If you made it this far, congratulations! But I wanted to show you one more example of God’s power. It’s simply the ending to the story with King Herod. See King Herod wanted people to look at him as a god, and Acts 12:23 says, “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” If that’s not a demonstration of power, I’m not sure what is.

God is simply using His Word to tell me to breathe because He’s all-powerful and can get someone eaten by worms.