When It Feels Like God Is Taking Your Dreams

img_1682Blessed and highly favored.

That’s what the angel Gabriel called Mary when he showed up with the news. The news that God was about to turn her whole life upside down.

And I can’t help but wonder what she had been doing in the moments before he arrived. Had she been thinking about Joseph? Was she wondering what life with him was going to be like? Was she planning out how she would make their home a sanctuary? Maybe even pondering how many children they would one day have?

When she heard the news from Gabriel – when he told her that she, a virgin, was going to conceive a child – she had to know. She had to know in an instant that she stood to lose everything.

Not just any dreams she had of being a wife.
Not just any dreams she had of bearing Joseph’s children.
Not just any dreams she had of a home spilling over with love.

She would possibly lose her own life – stoned to death by those who would question the swelling abdomen of a young girl not yet married.

And her “yes”… her full surrender … it humbles me more than I can say.

Because who among us, when God asks us to stretch ourselves, when He asks us to lay down everything we have been dreaming of, when He asks us to exchange our plans for His, consider ourselves blessed or highly favored?

No. We don’t tend to deal well with detours from our carefully laid out plans. We don’t tend to respond with joy when we find out God may possibly be taking away the very thing we’ve been longing for, for years.

But Mary.

She chooses to believe. She chooses to trust. She makes this holy exchange. Her willingness a kind of prophetic foreshadowing of what her Son will one day say in His own exchange. A “not My will, but Yours” kind of moment.

And, oh, the power and the beauty of her exchange.

Her will. Her plans. Her dreams. She empties herself of every single one. All to make room for His. And in the space of her surrender, God is able to bring forth the One who will not only be our salvation, but Mary’s as well.

All because her heart’s response to Him is one of trust.

I trust You. Completely. Even though I can’t see how this will all work out. Even though I stand to lose everything. Even though my heart is full of ideas on how I want my life to turn out. I trust You.

Oh, to trust Him like this. To believe we are BLESSED when He asks us to relinquish our plans and dreams. To see that giving up actually leads to gaining. That turning our world upside down for Him really means finding ourselves better off than we ever were before. That what seems like the end to all that we hoped for is actually the beginning of more than we ever would have dared to dream.

I love Eugene Peterson’s version of Ephesians 3:17-20 in The Message:

“And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”

We can hold on to our own plans. We can give God our firm and fear-filled “no.” Or we can trust His love for us completely. We can experience the breadth of it and test its length and plumb its depths as we humbly say “yes” to Him.

What we’ll end up with is what Mary ended up with – a fullness beyond what we could have ever planned for ourselves.

Because God isn’t asking us for everything so He can leave us empty.
He’s asking us for everything so He can make us full.   

Much love, dear friends.
Kimberly 

What if Your Dreams DON’T Come True?

Image-1 (3)Have you ever felt offended on behalf of someone in the Bible?

I know. That sounds like straight up heresy.

Because shouldn’t we read every line of Scripture through the lens of “God is good. God is sovereign. And who am I to question how He does things?”

But when it’s just you, the Word of God, and all of your hurt and mess, sometimes your gut-reactions may not be so neat and tidy. I confess that was me as I sat with the story of Moses not too long ago.

Me, Moses, and my messy reactions.

In the portion of Scripture I was reading, Moses was speaking life and encouragement over Joshua, the man who would get to lead God’s people into the Promised Land instead of Moses (Deuteronomy 31:1-8). Telling him not to fear. Encouraging him to trust God and keep on keepin’ on. And I found my insides starting to feel a little bristly.

Honestly, I would have struggled with that assignment. And not just the part about being an encourager in the face of my own disappointment thing. I would have struggled with not getting to enter the Promised Land. Because while my head knows a case of disobedience on the part of Moses is what kept him from entering in, my heart cries out, “But he worked so HARD. He deserves to go into the Promised Land.” {Yikes. Entitlement issues, anyone?} 

And Moses had worked hard. He had gone in front of hard-hearted Pharaoh again and again and again. He had led a stiff-necked, complaining bunch of people for forty years. But did he pout, shake his fist at God and throw in the towel when he first found out he wouldn’t be the one to officially lead the people in? Nope.

He. Still. Followed.
He. Still. Led.
He. Still. Encouraged.

And I felt the Lord impress some motive-checking questions on my heart…

Kimberly, if I told you right now that the dreams you are holding onto will never come to fruition, that the things you think you want, even think you deserve, will never come your way – would you still follow Me? If I told you that you will never reap for yourself some of the things you are sowing, would you still obey Me?

And while I wanted to immediately answer, “Yes, Lord. Of course!”… the truth is, I know my heart and flesh would struggle. In great big ways.

This struggle demands I take a closer look at Moses. Search for clues about what kept him following and serving the Lord in the midst of a disappointment that could have shut him down. And what I discovered are truths that I believe will help me keep pressing on with God no matter what too. Truths that make me ask a few questions of myself.

Here is what I discovered:

1 – Moses had truly experienced God.

Not someone else’s story. No. He had his own burning bush, sea parting, mountaintop meeting, face glowing story. Am I experiencing God for myself? Not just once in a while, but continually?

2 – He trusted God.

Seriously. If you read all about Moses, you will see that God asked Moses to do some crazy things. And Moses obeyed. There was obviously a deep level of trust there. Do I really and truly trust God, His plans and His love?

3 – He cared more about God’s presence than “arriving.”

See Exodus 33:15 – I will not go without Your presence. What is it I want most? God or a certain place/achievement/position?

4 – He made God’s will his goal instead of his own personal glory.

Not only would he not be the one to lead the people into the Promised Land, he had to purposefully encourage the next leader. Am I encouraging people who may go farther than me?

5 – He was willing to carry a vision that was about someone other than himself, thinking and acting generationally instead of selfishly.

Ummmmm… Wow. Am I willing to sow where I may never see the harvest this side of heaven?

How these truths challenge me in the best of ways. They tell me that Moses wouldn’t want me to be offended for him. He would want me to learn from him. Because this life? It’s not all about me and my own personal pursuits. And there is no destination, no dream, and no personal desire that will ever fill me like an intimate, daily walk with my God.

Father God, how thankful I am that You love this stiff-necked woman. Forgive me for all of the times I have pulled back from You when things haven’t gone my way. Help me to be more like Moses, Lord. Help me to follow You even in the midst of disappointment. Help me to willingly sow into others – even when they’re doing what I long to do. And help me to delight in You daily instead of living with my eyes fixed on some distant destination. I want to live a life where I am less “entitled” and more obedient and faithful, less “arrival”-minded and more right now presence enjoying, less about me and more about Your Kingdom, less grumbly and more life-speaking no matter what. Today, I say “yes.” Even if the dreams I am carrying right now are never realized, I will follow You. Amen. 

Praying for us all today. That God would indeed be our deepest desire and our greatest pursuit. Because the promise of His presence is far sweeter than any “promised land” where we may long to go.

Much Love,
Kimberly

Three Things You DON’T Have to Do When It Comes to Your Calling

Image-1 (1)Sometimes life can feel like one great big, unending to-do list.

You have to do this.
You need to do that.
You must finish all of these things.

And on top of all of your daily stuff, you also have dreams tucked away in your heart.

Things you want to do.
Things you long to do.
Things you feel called to do but are fearful you may never get to do.

So I thought I would share a list with you. A list of the things you don’t have to do today. A list that is gently ushering peace and rest into my soul. And I’m hoping it will do the same for you. Because God doesn’t want us to be frantic today. Especially about the good things He plans to do in and through our lives.

Three Things You DON’T Have to Do When It Comes to Your Calling:

1 – You don’t have to apologize for it.

If God has called you to paint? Paint. If He has called you to write? Write. If He has called you to crunch numbers, teach, serve overseas, or nurse people back to health? You can simply do those things – all to the glory of God, no apologies necessary, no worrying that some other call is greater or nobler.

The enemy wants you to think you are “less than” because he knows your life matters. But God created you on purpose and with purpose. And who He created you to be is lovely and needed and good (Psalm 139:13-16).

So no more apologies for who He designed you to be, okay? (And if you need more help with celebrating who you are instead of apologizing for who you are, you can read THIS post.) 

2 – You don’t have to compete for it.

Your calling is your calling. “Her” calling is her calling. There’s no competition. Even if your callings are similar. You have a unique personality, a unique life story, and a unique set of people only you can reach.

God didn’t place something on your heart only to say, “Oh, wait… she does it better than you. So sorry. I’ve changed My mind.” No! He placed you where you are and made you who you are on purpose. And He will work through your life in His own timing, in His own ways, as you stay surrendered to Him – no competition needed.

3 – You don’t have to be anxious about it.

God tells us to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6-7). NOTHING. That means not even our callings.

Because God knows what He’s doing.

He knows how to develop your calling, and He knows how to develop you. He knows what connections you need to make, what doors you need opened, what doors you need closed and what provision you will need along the way.

His every “yes,” “no,” and “not yet” are perfectly timed and can absolutely be trusted. He wants you in His will even more than you want to be in His will, and so your heart can be at rest as you trust Him day by day. Trusting Him with every single detail and feeling released from the need to manipulate any of those details.

***

I don’t know about you, but I love having a list of things I DON’T have to do. With all that I do have to do today, it gives my heart such peace to know I don’t have to apologize, compete or be anxious about the dreams God has placed in my heart. I can simply press in, follow Him and delight in His presence as He leads the way. And I can let all of the places where I feel frantic about my calling clue me in to the fact I may be trying to make things happen on my own.

May we let our hearts rest in His love, in His ways and in His plans today, friends. He is for us. And He has great purpose tucked inside of each and every one of us.

Much Love,
Kimberly

Why You Can’t Keep Lions on Leashes {For When God Doesn’t Feel Very Safe}

Lion

“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

So, there are these days where you realize maybe you’ve been trying to walk the Lion on a leash.

This Jesus.

This King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

This Lion of Judah.

You realize you’ve been trying to tame Him, to control Him, to crack your whip and make Him do what you want Him to do.

But then you run hard up against the truth that He can’t be tamed. And He isn’t here to perform tricks for us. He isn’t here to jump through our hoops or to sit at our command. He isn’t here for us to use Him to show off. To show others just how great we are.

And then you end up feeling not quite sure what to do with Him… because while He is utterly safe, He’s also wholly and wildly unsafe. As in, He isn’t going to do what we want Him to do just to make our lives happy and easy. He is good, but He is also sovereign. His ways and His thoughts, they are so much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).

And I had a day like this yesterday. One where I was feeling heartbroken over things I can’t fix. Over things I can’t change. Over circumstances I can’t control. Over pain I just don’t understand in the life of a dear friend. And when I asked Him, “What do I do with You now?”… the only answer that immediately came was to let Him roam free. To give Him free roam of my life.

No trying to control Him.

No trying to manipulate Him.

No trying to use Him for my own glory.

Simply following His lead. Resting in His love. Trusting in His plans. Believing He can protect me so much better than I can protect myself.

I don’t know who else needs this. But maybe someone does. Maybe you need to repent like I have had to do. Maybe you need to humbly hand Him the leash, the flaming hoops you keep trying to get Him to jump through to prove Himself to you, or the impressive Lion-taming get-up you keep putting on to try prove to the world you are a somebody. Maybe you need to hand it all over and simply let His mighty and His loving ROAR go out across the whole of your life.

I don’t know exactly what this is going to look like other than a whole lot of surrender and a whole lot of trust. So thankful to know that, at the end of each and every day, He really is worthy of our trust.

So Much Love,

Kimberly

When You Aren’t Where You Want to Be or Where You Think You Should Be

Paul could have been angry.

He could have been wounded.

He could have pouted and refused to do a single thing for God until He agreed to move in mighty and obvious ways on Paul’s behalf.

Instead, Paul ended up writing letters that would become the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon in the Bible. All while he was in prison.

In PRISON.

There the enemy was, working overtime to try to shut Paul up and to keep him from preaching and teaching about Jesus Christ, and what did Paul do? He chose to be still, to listen, to receive, to pen some of the most powerful words known to man. Words I turn to continually in my own walk with the Lord.

Words of freedom written from a place of captivity.

And Paul certainly could have been offended about his “sidelining.” He was doing great things for the Kingdom. But instead of complaining, instead of pouting as I have been known to do, he sought God right where he was. And here we are, still being blessed by his surrender and his seeking to this day.

I don’t know where you are in your life right now. Maybe you’re feeling sidelined. Maybe you’re feeling forgotten and abandoned by God. Maybe you’re nowhere near where you hope to be or where you want to be. But I want you to know this…

Wherever you are, whatever you’re going through, God can redeem it. God can use it – in your life and in the lives of others.

And He is right there with you. In the midst of what feels like the end of your dreams, His Spirit is there. His goodness is there. His peace is there. His wisdom is there. His hope is there. He is there {Psalm 139}.

I confess I laughed a little as I turned to Psalm 139 for encouragement about His unending Presence. Apparently He also wanted to offer me a little side-helping of convicting truth. Because He also tells us that He knows us. As in, He knows us knows us. Knowing every word we are going to speak before we even speak it and being well-acquainted with all of our ways (Psalm 139:1-4). So if He allows us to be sidelined, it may be for that very reason.

Because He knows us.
Because He knows the best way to reach us.
Because He knows what the stillness will work in us and then bring out of us. 

You see, Paul wasn’t being punished by God. He wasn’t forsaken by God. He was actually perfectly positioned to receive from a God who had never left his side. How crazy to think that he may have never penned those mighty words had he not been forced to be still.

He was, quite literally, a captive audience to the Holy Spirit.

And maybe, just maybe, in our places of obscurity and in our own places of hiddenness, He wants us to be a captive audience too.

May we relax in the Father’s embrace. Even if we aren’t where we want to be. Even if we aren’t where we think we should be. May we press in to Him and simply sit with Him – fixing our gaze squarely upon His face instead of straining to see how we can get to wherever it is we think we want to go.

May we ask Him for treasures in the dark places, in the hard places, in our hidden seasons. Not that we stop praying for God to move in our circumstances. It’s just that we decide we are going to seek Him right where we are until things do change. Because who knows how far the ripples of our surrender and our seeking may reach one day. What the enemy intends for evil in our lives? God can use for good. For our good and for the good of others.

So keep seeking Him, friends. And keep holding on to hope.

There is great purpose in your present position.

And these places that feel like captivity? They may hold the keys to incredible freedom… if only we would be still and listen for His voice.

Much Love,

Kimberly

Before You Fly Headlong into 2016…

photo-1429260350537-7db124ce78acYou can’t just hop on a plane and take whatever you want.

There are weight limits.

There are lists of what you can and cannot pack.

There are rules and regulations. For your safety. For the safety of others.

And so you think about your destination and you pack wisely. You pack carefully. You read over the lists and remove what simply cannot go with you. Because you know. You know they are going to be checking your bags.

And before we fly headlong into this new year, I sense the Father calling us to pause. I sense Him asking us to let Him “check our bags” before we move into 2016…

  • Because we may be carrying some things that are just too heavy for us. Worries and fears and burdens we need to release to Him.
  • Because we may be carrying things the Word clearly tells us to let go of. Things like bitterness and pride, selfishness and unforgiveness. Thoughts and attitudes that are harmful to us and to those traveling with us.
  •  Because we may be trying to pack too much into our lives. Activities that are technically “good,” but we need to acknowledge that the season for those things is simply and quite honestly over.
  • And because the enemy may be trying to sneak a few things into our “bags.” Lies we need the Lord to shine a light on and help us pull right out – making sure they don’t travel with us into the new year.

May we take some time this week to sit down with the Lord and allow Him to “check our bags.” He knows where we are going. He knows what we need. He loves us and the people traveling with us.

And we can trust Him.

We can trust His heart toward us and His plans for us as He unpacks and then repacks our bags.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Blessings, dear friends. May this new year be a year free of a lot of the same old baggage!

Kimberly

Close Enough to Conceive {A Call to Intimacy with Our Savior}

Image-1-1

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20

I positioned myself near the front of the sanctuary as we worshiped on Sunday morning. I wanted to be close to Him. I longed to hear His voice.

When He spoke, it was a reminder. The reminder that we have as much of Him as we want. And as I continued to worship, I sensed a call to “open wide.” And with His nudge to open wide, He showed me the image of a door. I was standing on the inside of the door, and there was a chain lock on it. One of those small ones that allows you to open it just a crack. One where you can peek out at whoever is knocking, but they still can’t come in. One where you get to determine whether or not the person is safe before you grant them entrance. And I felt like He was saying that is what we so often do with Him.

We open our hearts and our lives to Him just a crack. Just enough to catch a glimpse of Him. Just enough for our hands to brush His while He passes us small tokens of His love. Just enough for our ears to hear His gentle whispers of love and affection.

But He wants us to open wide the door.

To let Him in fully.

Because Jesus did not save us for glimpses and mere hand-brushes; He died for the FULL EMBRACE.

He died so we can have intimacy with Him. So we can know Him and be known.

And I want to stop with the imagery there. I want to stop at a nice, neat and clean illustration that won’t offend anyone.

Hey, Jesus wants to dine with you – so let Him in.

But He wants even more than that. He wants more than a casual cup of coffee and a stale slice of coffee cake with you.

He longs for intimacy.

Deep intimacy.

Heart to heart intimacy.

The kind where seeds are planted and dreams are birthed.

And just as there cannot be conception with my spouse if there is not some {ahem} “closeness”, the Lord cannot plant the things He desires to plant in my heart if I do not have totally honest, heart-fully-bared times of intimacy with Him.

And while I may hesitate to share this next bit of revelation with you, I feel it is too important to keep to myself.

You see – this world provides methods of “protection.” Ways for a husband and a wife to be intimate but not conceive. And the Lord tenderly opened my eyes to see one day that, even though I have been choosing to spend intimate time with Him, I have been placing a protective layer around my heart.

“Birth control,” so to speak.

Yes, Lord, I love You. Yes, Lord, I long to be close to You. But I’m going to draw the line right here. Because I’m afraid. I’m afraid to dream with You.

 I’m afraid my dreams might be selfish.

I’m afraid my dreams might fail.

I’m afraid I might look foolish.

I’m afraid I might make YOU look foolish.

I’m afraid to get my hopes up.

So I’ll spend intimate time with You, but I’m still going to guard my heart. So no dream planting, okay?

This is such HUGE revelation for me. Because deep down I DO want to dream with God. I DO want to be all that He purposefully designed me to be. I DO want Him to do exceedingly abundantly above and beyond all that I can possibly ask or imagine according to His power at work within me (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Apparently, though, there are still days I keep a chain on my heart. One that only allows for small exchanges with my Savior. A chain with the word “fear” written on it. And on the days I do take that chain down and let Him close, apparently I still have another layer of protection up. One that is also spelled “f-e-a-r.”

And since that isn’t the life I really want – a safe and sterile one where I never experience true dream-planting intimacy with the One who loves me the most – I am going to have to choose to trust Him. Trusting His love. Trusting His plans. Trusting His ways. Trusting Him enough to spend times of true heart to heart intimacy with Him.

And when I unlock the door to let Him in? I also need to “lock the door” behind Him to keep other things out. I need to protect my time with Him. No phone checking. No computer checking. No allowing distractions to keep me from connecting with Him intimately.

I know this is kind of a risky post. Have. Mercy. Spiritual birth control?!?! But I think it is worth the risk if it causes even one other woman to let her guard down with the Lord. It is worth it if it encourages even one other person to get close enough to Him to “conceive.”

Today, I pray we will remember these truths:

He loves us. He loves us with a love that is safe and good and holy and pure.

He’s for us – always working all things together for our good. 

And His intentions towards us? They can be trusted.

I love you, dear friends. I pray that you will take some time to ask Him today what is keeping your heart locked to Him, what is keeping Your heart guarded when it comes to Him. Is it fear? Doubt? Past hurts? Offense? Lies you are believing about yourself or about Him? Past failed dreams? Ask Him. Ask Him to show you. And then ask Him to help you move those things out of the way.

Because you are beautiful to Him.

And He wants to birth great beauty – in you and through you.

He’s standing at the door knocking. Will you let Him in?

Much, much love,

Kimberly

{And if you want to read more about daring to dream, Glynnis Whitwer has an incredibly encouraging devotion HERE.}