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!

Through Him–A Year in Review

Last year when the Top Nine came out, it got me thinking about the whole year. I went back and reread what I wrote last year to refresh my memory and to kind of kick start the writing for this year. In 2017, I started with the importance of remembrance and how it’s a Biblical truth for us to remember. But there are some years where it’s just difficult and painful to remember. I can’t say this year was crazy difficult or painful, but it was full of change, yet so much maintained the same. The spiritual battle of doubt was strong, maybe even more than usual, so this whole idea of looking backward is definitely more challenging this year than it was last year. As I read through last year’s review, it was almost as if 2017 Rachel was preparing 2018 Rachel for the “A Year in Review” Blog:

But what if, the year in review wasn’t just about our life’s circumstances but about what God did? What would a year in review be like then?

It is a Biblical truth for us to remember what God has done in and through our lives. All throughout the Bible, God calls His people to remember all that He has done.

Remembering what God has done for you, helps you remember God is mighty–even in the midst of seasons of sorrow.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

This year may not have been the easiest, but God is still in control. He’s still good. He’s still consistent. Just because change occurred or things maintained the same, God is still working–whether I’m actively aware of it or not. Knowing seasons come and go, I knew the blessing of 2017 as sweet as it was wouldn’t last forever because there has to be be a change in season at some point. And sometimes season changes are hard.

Similar to the seasons we experience in nature, things are bright and enjoyable like summer. Then fall occurs, and we have the changing colors which is beautiful, but the leaves are falling. With winter, the tree only has branches and plants are in hibernation. Snow comes and may even kill off some plants. Yet spring is right around the corner. The colors are coming back and there’s new life in the plants that once were dead.

The same is true for our lives. Each season offers something different, whether in summer or winter, or the years full of blessing or heartache; there’s something necessary about each season.

Where is God working in each season? How is He working in you? me?

At the end of 2017, God prepared me for the season to change. He showed me Romans 8:37 which says, “in all these things we are more than conquerors though Him who loved us.” This verse became my prayer, my anthem, and my reminder for 2018. The more I started to meditate on this verse, I thought about it backwards:

  • Him who loved us“–Wow! God loves me! This was huge. When the season changes, this can be the first thing we forget, but yet God shares His love to us–to me! This was a midst in walking through a changing season. Remembering that no matter what, God’s love is consistent and never changing and always there.
  • through Him“–This was huge for me! I came to the realization that I can’t do it. I can’t change life. I can’t fight the war against doubt on my own. I can’t serve in the church in my own strength. I can’t do it!! But God said, it’s only THROUGH HIM. In fact, this was so influential on me, I have it painted above my bed. Through Him because He loved me! Not because I offered anything, but just because of who God is.
  • we are more than conquerors through Him“–God gives all who trust in Him a name here: CONQUERORS. This is a battle word. It’s not a dainty, “let’s go have a cup of tea” kind of word, but a word with vivid imagery of strength and winning after a battle. Season changes are hard sometimes because we have to fight things–maybe sin, relationships, temptations, or difficult circumstances. But I learned this year I am conqueror not because I’m super awesome. But because He loved me! It doesn’t say I’m a conqueror because of all the effort I placed fighting my sin or manipulating my circumstances, but rather God’s Word says I’m a conqueror through Him because He loved me.
  • in ALL these things“–All may be a small word, but it includes everything. No matter what the season brings, it ALL works out for my good and for His glory. When I face the change, that’s included in the word ALL. I can be a conqueror of change because it’s through Him who loves me. When I face consistency and I just want it to change, I can wait knowing I’m a conqueror through Him who loves me.

Regardless of season, God is GOOD! Rejoice in who He is and remember all He has done! Take a look with me through 2018, and I would love to hear what God did in your year! Let me know by leaving a comment!


Friends and Community

I’m super thankful for the group of friends God placed in my life through the coffee shop! They seriously are a safe haven! We don’t get together as much as I would like to see everyone because the season is changing. We have married, engaged, and dating couples and us who are single! There have been new jobs or promotions. Our Bible study didn’t happen like it did last year, but not knowing when I would see everyone next, made me cherish the moments we did get together. We had a random dinner at Azzip at the beginning of the year, moving me, Pumpkin Carving, and Gingerbread House Decorating.

 

One special shout out to Taylor. She and I joke, but it’s so true, that our friendship is life. We don’t stop and take pictures together because our moments together are us processing through what God teaches us, it’s the hard and celebratory conversations. This year, I bought a house (more on that below), and Taylor was in the works of doing the same thing. I bought a house in April, and shortly after, her and her husband Noah put an offer in on one they really loved. We paused and just prayed over the offer. They both really wanted it to be accepted, but we prayed for God’s will to be done, but I was quite confident (whether it was the house we prayed over or not) they would be less than a mile away. The offer was not accepted, but literally a month later, they found the BEST house and it’s 0.7 miles from my house! It’s awesome and there’s nothing like having a godly friend to walk through the difficult with and celebrate the joys! She is beyond a blessing! God has used her in ways to encourage and uplift my faith with her encouraging notes and texts. She speaks hard truth to me that’s grounded in God’s Word.

 

img_4064I could go on and on about the friendships that have happened from the coffee shop: The Beales being such a huge encouragement through Grad School and Ministry. They are just incredible people! They also bought a house this year (seemed to be in the air). I know I’m leaving people out, but know you are important and I am so grateful for you! No matter where the friends came from, they are the ones that I know that at any moment, they would encourage me in Truth.

If:Gathering

I love any chance to gather people together to worship, learn, and be in community. If:Gathering was and is that! Last year, we had about 50+ women gather together. It was absolutely beautiful. This was one of those faithful moments where God totally outshines Himself. Most people don’t know, but I contacted the church about hosting in November and needed to make a few more contacts before given the seal of approval. I hadn’t heard anything, so I went ahead and signed up thinking I would host people at my house because I was knew I should host the event! Literally on Christmas Eve 2017, I got approval and the event was in about a month. Planning kicked off quick as well as registration! And let me tell you, what I thought was only going to be a small gathering in my house ended up being a church/community event for women in the area to grow in their faith!

img_0301Not to mention the event itself was over the battle between doubt and faith. Things I had been battling spiritually were confronted head on through different speakers. Doubting God’s ability to change circumstances in the midst of everything changing, I started to doubt God. One of the speakers taught over Paul and Silas when they were in chains and I remember her saying worship was their battle cry. Since then, I’ve worship through the circumstances to see the Lord more clearly inspire of circumstances not changing.

Grad School

img_0518Oh the joy! NOT! This has been a true test of faith from beginning to present time. A couple of years ago, I started feeling the Lord press on my heart writing. I didn’t know what this meant as to whether or not I would be writing a book someday or simply working in publishing. But also as a teacher in Kentucky, I knew eventually I would need my Masters to keep my license, but I didn’t want to waste money until I knew it was what God wanted. I started looking into different jobs in writing and the job description requested a Masters in English–which makes sense. After searching through all the different degree programs in Kentucky, there was only one place to go–Murray State. I applied. I was accepted. I enrolled.

img_5414-1So as you read through all these different moments, remember I took classes through all this. I cannot do any of it–especially grad school–without God. I knew I would fail if I didn’t keep Him at the center. And taking these classes, I’ve had the opportunity to talk about faith whether that be analyzing Matt Chandler’s sermons or poetry (thank you Lord for taking that class).

Here’s the irony, and really how you know God wants me to get a degree in English–I completed 6 hours of classes in the Spring Term, 9 hours of classes over the Summer, and then took another 6 hours of classes in the Fall Term. Now, to keep my teaching license in Kentucky, I needed 15 hours of coursework by Spring of 2019. Then an email was sent to everyone in the state in September stating a Masters degree is no longer required to keep teaching. LOL. Really? So here I am, three classes and a test shy of a degree. Don’t worry. God’s made it clear I need the degree. It will be finished! But you have to love the humor!

Concerts

Worship is a huge part of my heart! This year, I was able to see Rend Collective, the Outcry Tour, and Lauren Daigle–not including the concerts I have on the weekly basis blaring the radio in the car or in my room.

img_0925There’s something about worshiping the Lord with others that is a glimpse of heaven. Rend Collective released their album Good News and hearing the album live was incredible! With life changing, their song “Weep With Me” stuck out to me so much. Their concerts are so full of celebration in God’s glory, but they took a second and understood not every season feels like a party, yet God is still good and can be glorified.

Outcry was great! So many different artists all in one place, but the worship was so real and authentic. Praising God focuses my mind on Him and not on the things around me. With so many new things in buying a house and grad school, and then things not changing, I was (am) desperate for God. Worship is a cure for my aching heart! Not to mention going with some good friends from church was a blast!

 

Lauren Daigle. I feel like that’s all I need to say! My friend Austin is her Production Manager and hooked me up with tickets! Although I missed his wife coming with me, it was fun to go with my sister! It was a great way to kick off the Christmas season, but I was so thankful she ended with “How Can it Be” and “You Say”! Two of my favorite songs from her that claim so much truth in them!

 

Church

img_1428Where do I start? I literally L.O.V.E. my church. The people are incredible. Don’t get me wrong we’re sinners, definitely not perfect, but they are so great! We had a church wide emphasis on sharing the Gospel. Can we just take a moment and celebrate a church encouraging and providing a means of accountability for the church to share the Gospel? It’s so awesome! The goal was to have 1000 Gospel conversations this year and as of December 23, we had 1198 conversations. This is exciting!

Our Women’s Ministry is awesome! Julie Greenbank does an awesome job organizing different events for all of us to get together. I went to Los Bravos a couple of times and to the big summer party at Julie’s house for a cookout! These women offer so much knowledge and wisdom coming from all different perspectives and places in life!

 

Student Ministry is a giant blessing as always! Pouring out to the students each week is always a highlight. We occasionally change up a Wednesday night for a worship/prayer night and those are some of the most powerful nights because students get an hour to pray, worship, and read scripture. They are so focused on God that He is able to speak to them! This year, I’ve watch our students lead whether that be at Easter Egg Hunts, VBS, or helping in the nursery. I’ve seen them grow at Crossings Camp–which is always full of memories including a Bob Ross birthday party for Matt, Goodwill Dance Party, and Trevor’s farts in cans! Also, we could potentially have the best dancers of the Church Clap!

 

No matter what event was being held whether I was leading, volunteering, or participating, God continued the theme of me being a conquerer through Him. Each Gospel conversation was a reminder of God’s love demonstrated on the cross. It didn’t matter what came my way because God’s love was and is always there.

 

NEW House

img_0895In January, I started looking for a new place to live because the gracious family I lived with for two years needed the barn for baseball practice (they alone are a blessing from the Lord). I cannot tell you how great it was to live there! The barn holds so many dear memories from tricycle rides to the kids coming down and making desserts! But after looking at several different houses, I settled on the perfect house! I knew from the moment I walked in the house, it was my house!

img_0900I closed on the house on April 4th and immediately started renovations. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted and with the help of my parents, the Gartons, and a few friends the updates were completed in two weeks. Literally in one night the house went from dirty yellow walls to an uplifted gray with white molding. Everything happened so fast and by April 14th, it was time for move-in. I had quite the little army helping me move from the barn to the house! It’s amazing how God provides the people in every season.

Even though the house is still going through a facelift, it’s no longer the scary house that Emily and Lauren first visited; but now it’s a home. It’s been a great place to host people and I’m so excited to see what the Lord does through this house. Since I started looking for a house, my prayer has been God would make it a place of refuge and strength for anyone who walks in. It’s seriously not my house because I never saw myself buying a home by myself, so clearly this was a God thing! It’s not mine; it’s His! I’m excited to see what He does!

 

Adventures

This year was so full of so many adventures. Every time I get out of Evansville, I try so hard to use it as a chance to rest my heart. I’ve learned over the years I have to find rest in God alone. As the seasons change, it’s so important for me to find those moments wherever I go, and sometimes it’s nice to get away. I went to Nashville and visited my dear friend Nichole! Although we aren’t together much, we pick up where we left off and she encourages me along the way. Together, we went to The Belonging Church, and it never ceases to amaze me how God speaks exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it. He used this mini adventure as a way to speak truth into my heart!

Fast forward to the summer, I made my second trip to The Keys with Mikayla and Drew and our friend Nick joined us. We drove this year. Note to self–it’s worth the money to fly! Don’t worry, I didn’t fry myself like I did last year! The landscape was slightly different with the hurricane that blew through the year before. It was crazy to compare pictures of our trip in 2017 to 2018. The highlight of the trip was watching Drew propose to Mikayla! Of course she said yes! I’m so excited to celebrate their marriage this upcoming year!

 

I ended summer with a quick trip to Chicago with Mikayla. We stayed with my friend from college, Kalli! I love every chance to see her. She was a mentor/best friend in college  so she was great to talk to about the transitions in life! She provides such godly wisdom no matter how difficult it is to hear. Kalli has this way of challenging me to be better and the questions she asks get me to think about the posture of my heart.

 

Fall Break my sister and I loaded up the car and went to Myrtle Beach. The Hurricane was coming through so we only had a couple sunny days at the beach, but we made the most of it by playing tourist and reading on the balcony. It’s crazy what God will teach you when you put away the phones and rest. I was amazed at how big God is. When I think about my circumstances being big, the oceans raging remind me God is bigger and in control. This was especially encouraging in this season of transition; just being at rest with who God is and resting in Him instead of anything I can bring to the table.

 

Right at the beginning of Christmas Break; Drew, Mikayla, Mikayla’s mom, and myself loaded up for a quick trip to Chicago to wedding dress shop! Chicago is already beautiful, but seeing Chicago at Christmas takes it up a whole different level. Before the dress appointment, we walked around the city, completed with a trip to The Bean. Shopping was a huge success for Mikayla landing a beautiful wedding dress! I’m so thankful to be apart of these moments as she prepares for her wedding.

 

Discipleship

If you’re ever wondering whether or not you should disciple someone, the answer should be a yes! There are so many benefits to it, including strengthening your own faith.  In the spring, I was able to lead our high school girls small group! I love them all so much! It doesn’t take long before they become a big part of my life!

img_1855Emily and Lauren graduated from North this year leaving our small group, but our friendship goes on! At this point, my house is like their second home! I love having them over, even if they take “Welcome to Rachel’s NEW House” videos! No matter what I can count on them for a life.

cbc4d048-6693-4d2c-a025-01b132c6e667One-on-one discipleship continued with Macci. She started her senior year in the fall and has applied for college (I’m only crying that another one of my girls is graduating and about to head off to college). It’s been awesome watching her wrestle with God over her future. I’ve watched her surround her plans to whatever He has in store! Her boldness in her faith, encourages me to be just as bold.

img_5823I also started meeting with Ashley this year! She’s so talented and way more intelligent than me! I have to ask her sometimes to dumb it down for me! Regardless, God is doing some mighty things through her. One of my favorite things about Ashley is her heart for people. It doesn’t matter age, intelligence, beliefs, or whatever else about you; she wants you to know you are loved and she offers it so well. She is gracious and kind. If anything, God has used Ashley to teach me how to be kind to myself and accept grace and compassion.

One very unexpected discipleship relationship happened with a long-time friend from high school, Sam. Sam and I have known each other for 12 years. We’ve not been intentional all those years mainly because she was a senior when I was a freshman. It was an unlikely friendship in high school, but God had such bigger plans. Here we are 12 years later, and I get the opportunity to go through Ephesians with her. It’s been a giant blessing, but we don’t have any pictures together yet! 😦 What went from high school, to random hellos, to an intentional coffee date, is now weekly discipleship. So many things have happened in those 12 years for us to be where we are today, but God used Sam to show me He is always at work behind the scenes. Literally, everything in life is on purpose and there’s not one thing God doesn’t see.

Salvations

I prayed last year that I wanted  to see God save 30 people this year–and I did. Our church saw so many salvations in Ecuador through the three mission trips there, and then at camp, I watched student after student stand proclaiming Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But personally I’ve seen God save 12 people I’m close with!

img_0054Shawn kicked off the year by getting baptized in January. Although baptism doesn’t save you, Shawn proclaimed Jesus as His Lord and Savior. Since then, he’s gone to be with the Lord, but watching Shawn share his story through writing was a commonality between the two of us.

img_0340I will never forget the day Ashley came to know Jesus. It was a random snow day and Lauren called me to come talk to a couple of her friends about Jesus; Ashley was there but wasn’t the one we were actually talking to. However, it was through this conversation God worked and revealed to her she wasn’t a believer. Ashley and I were in the car headed to Azzip when she said she needed Christ as her Savior and Lord.

img_6340Kayley is a special one! This sweet girl came to visit me in December at my classroom. I knew then she wanted to have a serious conversation, but I brushed it off. I left that conversation super convicted because I felt God encouraging me to have a spiritual conversation with her. It took until February for us to meet up, but when we did, she chose to place her faith in Christ!

img_0975Joe came to know Christ through Ashely’s story. When they say the multiplication process happens when you come to know the Lord–it’s real! You can’t help but tell others about what Jesus has done in your life.

img_5470Alex is a former SMS teacher and I love hanging out with him and his wife McKenzie at Proper. They are regulars as much as I am. But I got a text from McKenzie saying Alex had decided to follow Christ and was getting baptized! Of course, I had to be there! I loved celebrating and being God’s work in their family! I love them so much and am so thankful to do life with them–even if it’s the occasional basketball game or coffee!

Drake, Maelee, and Tristan! All three of these students were saved at camp this year! Drake and Maelee both came to know the Lord on the same day by talking to a leader. In both instances, they knew they could never do anything to save themselves, and they trusted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Tristan is a cool story! His sister, Chloe, shared the Gospel with Him outside and he put his faith and trust in the Lord, but I don’t have a picture with him either.

 

img_5890Alaina, Sophia, Kylin, and McKenna are two sweet girls! I’ve known Alaina for a couple of years now as she has come to multiple retreats and camps. She stopped me in the middle of our worship/prayer night and wanted to pray to receive Christ. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have someone stop you after praying and reading Scripture on their own and for you to see God move in them. It’s obvious and God can’t be stopped. His work is too mighty! Alaina was the first that night, shortly followed by Sophia. I don’t know Sophia super well, but she was one that after talking with her and Dana, she came to know Christ as her personal Savior and Lord. While conversations with Alaina and Sophia were taking place, Rachel got to have a conversation with Kylin and Matt had a conversation with McKenna. At the end of both conversations, they both came to know Christ!


I’m not quite sure what God has in store for 2019, but I have come to the place in life where God is it! He’s the greatest and most important. Nothing compares to Him. For awhile that was just something I sang until I believed it, but now I can sing it and proclaim it as truth for my life.

I’ve learned that no matter what the year brings, God has called me a conqueror because of who He is and what He has finished through the work on the cross. Life is going to bring curveballs because we live in a broken word, but the God over ALL holds it ALL. It doesn’t matter if the war is waging, God goes before, He’s with me during, and He comes behind me. I am not alone. All I have is Christ, and for that, I can truly say I am a conqueror through Him!

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.

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.

This. Is. War.

“in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him, who loved us.”

Romans 8:37

I was scared (quite possibly terrified) about what the new year would bring simply because 2017 was a sweet year. Sure there were struggles, but overall, God did some really big things in my life (Ecuador) that I would have never imagined, and I wasn’t ready to be done with that. For me personally, 2017 was peaceful. There weren’t big changes, nothing really blew up; sure I still battled my own personal idols and sinfulness, but overall there was peace–it didn’t feel like a battle. It was a season of rest. A season where I got to see God as gentle, loving, and caring. So when I was finally Brutally Honest with God about my fear for 2018, He spoke Romans 8:37. Right then, it provided peace. And it still does today–just in a different way.

Over the last month, I have read this verse so many times because I find myself creeping back into a place of doubting “Did God really say…”, a place of “I can do it all” mentality, a place of “is this really worth it”, or even a place of caring more about what people think instead of what God says about me.

And I bring these thoughts before the Lord and He reminds me of Romans 8:37.

And He reminds me of the word conqueror.

And then it hit me.

Conqueror is a battle word.

God reminded me of one simple truth:

This. Is. War.

Paul says it like this in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

This war that we are fighting is not against the flesh. This is spiritual war against a very real darkness–Satan and all his little followers.

When 2018 came, those places I was telling you about are the darkness. Doubting God, thinking I can handle everything, questioning whether or not it’s all worth it, or even caring about what others say–those are lies from Satan. Jesus declared that Satan “is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). This battle is real. This war is real.

I would talk to God about this during my quiet time. I would pray asking God to take away the darkness. I asked the Lord to fight for me–again, I don’t feel strong enough to do anything. And those four thoughts continued running through my head and they were (and can be still) so loud. Because the darkness was so overwhelmingly loud, I found myself starting to believe these lies.

At church, we are going through Matthew, and of course, just like God, He timed everything just perfectly. The darkness was particularly loud this day, and we just so happened to be reading Matthew 4 where Jesus was tempted.

See Jesus was at the starting place of His ministry. Within three years, He would conquer death, save people, heal the sick, provide the way for sinners, and so much more. Jesus was just beginning. And yet the darkness came. The darkness tried to stop Jesus from what He came to do.

Here I am in the midst of my own ministry, expecting God to do big things this year. I want to see Him do more things in the students I disciple, I want to see 30 people saved, I want to have more gospel conversations, I want to look more like Jesus this year than I did last year. And right in the midst of my ministry, in the midst of my walk with Jesus, the darkness arrived.

Just like Jesus, I had a choice–will I believe the lies of Satan or believe the truth of God?

If Jesus had believed the lies of Satan, then His ministry would have been gone. People would be dying and going to Hell–which is exactly what Satan wants. Satan does not want people to experience freedom; Satan wants people to remain in bondage. But if Satan stopped Jesus, then Jesus’ ministry would have been stopped.

Jesus didn’t succumb to Satan’s lies. Instead Jesus fought back the darkness with the Truth of God’s Word. Jesus’ ministry continued and Jesus did make the way to life for every person.

So what about me? What about you?

In the midst of our ministry, if we choose to believe the lies of Satan, then our personal ministries will be gone. We will stop sharing the gospel, we won’t see people’s lives changed from death to life, and we won’t see the kingdom of God expand.

Isn’t this why Satan tries so hard to destroy us?

Satan knows if he can convince us to doubt God’s character (the very loving, gentle, and caring God that I just met in 2017), then we will doubt our purpose and we will stop fighting back the darkness. Satan has one mission: “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). And chances are, Satan is not going to come after the people who are already being destroyed, but those of us who are actively fighting against the destruction. He’s going to come against those proclaiming the way to freedom.

Just since the start of January, I’ve had some really great conversations with some really great friends who are actively fighting back the darkness in their spaces. Each space looks different–some are youth leaders, pastors, baristas, teachers, college students, and so on–and Satan is doing everything he can to convince these Jesus loving people to stop fighting the darkness. Satan is speaking the very lies he speaks to me, to them as well.

And there are days, where my friends and I sit around the table and we ask each other “What’s the point? Darkness keeps winning. When is it going to change? When will we see Jesus as victorious?” In the midst of these questions, we look each other in the eye and remind each other of the Truth of the Gospel. We remember the hope we have in Christ. We remember Romans 8:37 when we are called conquerors.

In this season, it may feel like I’m being destroyed. It may feel like everything I have is being stolen. It may feel like I’m at times being killed. But the truth is found in God’s Word–not in what I feel.

My prayer for my friends and the prayer I have for even myself is found in Psalm 40:1-3:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

Right now, some of my friends and I are in this waiting period. We feel as if we have been defeated and we are in this pit of destruction. And we are anxiously awaiting the day for God to set us upon the rock and make our steps secure.

But the truth is, Satan is trying to convince my friends and I that we are never going to be rescued from the pit. And if we actually believe that we won’t be rescued, then many will never see and many will never put their trust in the Lord.

Isn’t that why Satan is trying to get us to believe his lies?

We are in war.

We are fighting a battle of life and death–not of flesh and blood. And the army of God is out fighting against the darkness. And when the darkness presses in, we have to gather and remind each other of the truth of God’s Word.

God’s promise are true! The last half of John 10:10 brings life–it doesn’t bring death. Jesus says, “I came that they [that’s you and me] may have life and have it abundantly.” While Satan is trying to kill us, Jesus brings a message of life.

Let’s stand together. Let’s fight together.

Yes, the darkness is real. Yes, the darkness will come.

But NO.

The darkness does not have to define us.

We are conquerors through Christ.

Jesus even equips us to stand firm against the darkness. If we look back to Ephesians 6, God gives us our battle clothes:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

So we gather together so we can stand firm together. We remind each other of the gospel. We encourage each other in faith so Satan cannot throw flaming arrows our way. We worship together. We pray together. We do life together.

We are not alone in this war.

Satan is going to do everything he can to convince us otherwise, but let’s be ready to stand firm together. Let’s remember the truth of God’s Word instead of hearing the lies of the darkness.

Let’s stand firm on the truth we know. Let’s disciple each other, sharpening each other in the faith. Let’s fight for those who do not know Jesus yet. Let’s boldly proclaim the good news so many will come to know Jesus. Let’s be conquerors. Let’s hold fast to Jesus because only He can make our steps secure; only He can pick us up from the pit of destruction.

This. Is. War.

But I am a conqueror through Him and I will stand firm.