When God Asks You to Exchange Your Good for His Best.

For the past several weeks I have been reading through the book of Acts.  It's actually my first time studying through the whole book at one time and I am really loving the powerful accounts of the Apostles.  The history of the Church is truly rich.  It is certainly, at times, harrowing but it points to a God of promise.  We get to see His gospel spread among nations by the Holy Spirit and through men and women in miraculous ways.

It ultimately has my heart shouting:  send me!

In chapter 19 I cam across an interesting story and I hope that I can do it justice by sharing it with you because it really stuck with me.  To give some context we need to go back to John 14:12.  It's here that Jesus says this:  "Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do.  And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father." 

These works would be made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit whom the Father sent as a helper after the ascension of Jesus.  We see accounts of Jesus' followers performing mighty acts of healing all throughout the New Testament but for now, let's focus on Paul.

"God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul's hands, so that even facecloths or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them." -Acts 19:11-12

In the very next passage we read the account of some traveling exorcists who tried to mimic Paul in casting out evil spirits.  The difference between Paul and these traveling men was that Paul healed by the Holy Spirit.  These men were lacking in faith and also in integrity.  They were looking to feed their own personal gain.  Even an evil spirit recognized their dishonesty as it responded:

"I know Jesus and recognize Paul -- But who are you?" -Acts 19:15 

Evil flees at the sign of Jesus but because the evil spirit saw that the men's lives were void of the markings of a Savior it overcame them until they were rendered naked and wounded.

Now, as if that weren't enough drama, it's what happens next that really got me thinking.

"When this became known to everyone who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, they became afraid, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high esteem.  And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone.  So they calculated their value and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver.  In this way the word of the Lord flourished and prevailed." -Acts 19:17-20 

I want to point out the practicers of magic.  These people had heard this story of the men mentioned earlier and in turn they had a radical encounter with the Holy Spirit.  So radical that they decided to burn all of their spell books in front of everyone.  That's amazing!  To put it into a perspective fit for our modern era, fifty thousand pieces of silver is equivalent to several million dollars.  Can you imagine cooking up a big ol bonfire just to chuck a couple million dollars into its flames?  That's a hard scenario to conjure up.

But the reality is that when we have an encounter with Christ He is going to ask us to give up the things that don't align with His truth.  That's a battle in itself but what happens when God also asks us to give up something good?
Yes, we are called to set flame to the things that don't align with God's truth but then there also may come a time when you need to let go of something good and honorable in the Lord's eyes so that He can lead you into something better.  So that He can lead you into something that He has specifically set you apart to do.

I had a conversation with my brother once and I can remember him saying to me:  "What ever it is that God has planned for your life, it is going to be the very best for you."  

This was years ago and in hindsight it means more to me now then it did then because it has taken me  a long time to lean into that truth.  But now, at almost 28 years old I can feel God strengthening my faith and I have learned that it is ok to let go of things that I worked really, really hard for in order to prepare for what I believe He is truly calling me into.

That thing for me is my degree in Fashion.

I fell in love with fashion around the age of ten when I watched my very first episode of Lizzie McGuire.  Call my crazy, but that girl had style and I absolutely adored her (to this day I still watch the Lizzie McGuire Movie on a regular basis with zero shame...zero).  Lizzie just wasn't afraid to express herself through the way she dressed so I tried to mimic that in my own life.  In sixth grade when we had to do career projects mine always centered on fashion design and then my senior year of high school I designed my own prom dress (which looking back...yikes! but at least I made the effort!)

All this to say, I really wanted a career in fashion but when it came to applying for college (after five years in the Army) I decided that I would focus my degree on the business side, more behind the scenes.  I ended up being accepted to the Art Institute and thus began my three and a half year journey towards my degree in Fashion Marketing.  

Right away I fell in love with curating moods boards.  I know that in this day in age curating can kind of get a bad wrap but I absolutely love it.  I love being creative, its just hardwired into me, and pulling together different elements to make something beautiful makes me so happy.

Because of this I started to really think about seriously looking for work as a visual merchandiser/stylist. If you have ever stood in front of a dreamy window display at Anthropologie that will give you an idea of what I wanted to do.

After three and a half years of hard, hard work I was getting ready to graduate when I went on a trip to Israel.  I won't get into that story because I have already written a separate post on it here.  But as a quick recap, I came home knowing that fashion wasn't going to be what I pursued anymore.

But I was so good at it.  I went through school as a stay-at-home mom with a toddler and at one point a new born.  I wrote on average four papers a week on top of creating mood boards and other visual presentations and still managed to graduate with honors.  And to top things off my portfolio won best in show among my graduating class.  I am not sharing this to be vain, only to tell you that I put a lot of hard work into something that I truly loved.

I have no doubt that I could have gone on to have a career in fashion and God would have called it good but I believe that He has best in store outside of it.

Is there something in your life that you feel it is time to let go of even though you have put in the hard work?  Maybe its a relationship, or a career, or something else entirely.  Please hear me say this:  I'm not suggesting you do something like this on a whim but if you know that you have been hearing from the Lord and yet resisting that's where I urge you to give it thought.

May we be a people who strive for the great faith of those described in Acts 19.  When we have a radical encounter with God, may we be willing to shed all that goes against His truth and His will for our lives, even after much time and effort has been invested.

Sometimes God will ask you to exchange your good for His best and dear reader, there is no safer place to be than the place where He is leading you.

Worthy of Purpose

Lately, I have been struggling with insecurity...big time!  To be honest I have struggled with it almost my entire life but there is something about my life at the moment that has made it feel extra heavy.

For me, writing has always been therapeutic so I want you to know that everything to come are things that I am still working out for myself but I wanted to share my struggle with insecurity but also my great hope to overcome it.  Maybe if you are reading this and you feel your own insecurity pressing in then you will see that you are not alone in it, at least that's my hope.

Insecurity.  It has a goal and that is to eat us alive.  It's been gnawing away at my own flesh for far too  long and I think its time to finally face it.  Insecurity comes in many different forms but for me it's a fear of not being seen, which eventually morphs itself into this fear of my life having no capacity to serve a larger purpose.  

Let me explain.

I have always been extremely shy and a lot a bit awkward.  So much so that approaching people I don't know makes me coil inward.  It's not because I don't love people its because I am afraid that they won't love me.  In my mind I have myself chalked up as being unremarkable and unmemorable, unworthy of anyone's time.

I was in the military for five years and as an enlisted soldier it is customary to salute an officer should you pass one by while you are outside.  Over the course of five years I can probably count on one hand how many times I saluted an officer.  It's not because their presence is lacking, the army is crawling with them.  No, it's because outside of a covered building I avoided them like the plague.  Why?  Because I was deadly afraid that they would not see me, like I would extend this sign of respect only to be ignored.

It's been four years since I've had to worry about saluting an officer but that creature of insecurity has continued to cling to me in other ways.  If it was my first time meeting someone on a Sunday morning at church, chances are the following week I won't go out of my way to greet them again.  Why?  Because I am afraid they won't have remembered me from the week before.

To someone on the outside of my brain it might seem a little bit dramatic but I am just trying to tell the honest truth of it.  Put me around new people and this sense of unworthiness wells up thick in the pit of my stomach.

So how does this get wrapped up into my desire for purpose?  I'll explain that too.

If I can't trust in people to see me then how can I trust in God, the creator of the entire universe to see me and ultimately, how can I trust Him to want to use me for the better of His Kingdom?

In November of 2017 I had the opportunity to travel to Israel and it absolutely rocked my world.  I got on the plane so excited to just check another country off of my bucket list, that's how it started.  But over the course of my time there I developed a deep, deep love for this place.  I mean a head over heels kind of love.  It's been nearly a year and a half and there are even certain scents that will put me right back on its soil and I will often times find myself in tears.  Don't believe me?  Just ask my husband.  I'm a deep feeler, y'all!

Long story short, I'm in Israel, I'm on a bus ride out to the Dead Sea and suddenly all at once I am filled with this desire to do whatever it is that God asks me to do or more importantly what He asks my family and I to do.

I'll never be able to put words to that experience but I can say that it was tangible.  And this was a big deal for me because if you know me personally then you will know that I have done my fair share of making my "own" plans and trying to play my cards just right to see them through.

During my trip I was in my final months of college where I was studying Fashion Marketing and I knew that I would go home and graduate but that I most likely would no longer be pursuing a career that stemmed from my major (blog post coming on this soon, stay tuned!)

When my plane landed back in Seattle I got in the car with my husband and unloaded everything all in one breath.  At the time he was probably pretty overwhelmed because he didn't get to experience it with me.  But I will tell you that together we have been dreaming, and visualizing, and seeking, and praying about the future of our family mission ever since.  I won't get into the details because there are several facets but the dreaming is big and it doesn't have anything to do with fashion (although I will always love and enjoy it!)

By that you might think that I have much confidence and there is some truth to that but more so I would say that I have grown deeply passionate but also deeply skeptical.  These insecurities often outweigh the days of confidence because I ask myself over and over again.  Were these passions constructed out of my own desires or were they given to me by a God who has placed purpose over my life?

That's the question.

Because how could God want to use me?  A girl who can barley speak to people.  A girl who feels unremarkable and therefore unqualified to make an impact.  I feel inadequate and so there is tension in this place of calling.

But here is the conclusion I keep coming to:  Over and over again I have taken this family vision to God and I have asked Him to take it from me if it is not in His will.  Because I cannot bear to hold so tightly to a passion if it is not meant to be mine.  It would break my heart.  So I've had to let it go, to surrender it into God's hands and say, "do with it what you will and if it's not meant for me then give me the grace to let it be"  And you know what?  Time and time again He has returned the vision back to me.  I just cannot shake it and through many many many prayers I feel confirmed that my family and I are moving in the right direction.

Maybe that's why there is tension and insecurity, because I feel on the cusp of something, like I am in the midst of preparation for something that I simply cannot and will not do on my own.  God is opening up a way and there is an enemy that senses that.

But I have to lean into what God is doing.  God who calls me worthy because of who He is and what He is capable of doing.  And that means taking a quite church mouse of a girl and transforming her into a woman who has a confident roar for His Kingdom.

With that, I am reminded of Paul. 

The apostle Paul was...

1. a tent maker i.e. unremarkable 

2. a condemner of Christians i.e. unfit 

"Now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.  He went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem." 
- Acts 9:1-2

After reading that, Saul seems like the least likely but the Lord swept him up, gave him a new name, and sent him on mission.  Paul went on to be a leading catalyst in forming and growing the early church and would eventually die a martyr for the name of Jesus whom he once rejected.

God gave Paul what he didn't have.  He gave Paul passion, courage, community, stamina, and a voice of both truth and confidence.  God gave Paul purpose and what's more is that Paul had been set apart for such a purpose long before he was even ready to receive it.

"I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born.  I appointed you a prophet to the nations." 
- Jeremiah 1:5

Like Paul, you and I were appointed for a specific purpose and when you begin to feel called to something it can get scary really quick.  It's easy to look around and feel inadequate but listen to this:

The Lord will use who. He. will.  

The Bible is filled to the brim with misfits, Paul just happened to be one of them.  So let's just rest in the confidence that God knows what He is doing.  Maybe your insecurities grow from a different place than mine.  Maybe you aren't afraid of not being seen, maybe you are afraid that God has seen too much.  Regardless of where it stems God calls the unremarkable, God calls the unfit and it's by His grace that you are deemed worthy and equipped to do great works for His glory.

I want to let God lead me through insecurity so He can then lead me into purpose.

I'm ready for that.  Are you?

Easter Basket Favorites for Little Girls!

Easter is just around the corner and something I look forward to doing every year is pulling together some cute Easter basket ideas!  This will actually be my last year of just little girl ideas since we are expecting our little boy at the end of the summer.  Next year you guys will get two!  It's going to be so much fun!

This year I clearly went with a theme but I couldn't help it!  I am so beyond ready for Spring and Summer and well, just WARM weather.  At the end of the day, everything I have shown here are of course just general ideas but I did provide links to similar pieces of everything pictured as well.  Just to give some variety!

One // I am swoooooooning over this suit right now!  Do they have one in my size?  I just love the sweet ruffles and the simplicity of the strips, oh and that color!  It's on the pricey side but I couldn't not include it.  I found one that is just as swoon worthy here too! 

Two // Anyone just as excited as me that Jellys have made a come back?!  I'm loving this version from Old Navy as well, plus they smell like strawberries! 

Three // Is there anything cuter than mini cat eye sunglasses?  I am totally getting Audrey Hepburn vibes!  If you're not into cat eyes I found a super sweet pair from both Target and Gap that are shaped like flowers. 

Four //  Both of my girls, especially my oldest, are so into all things hair right now.  I can't even sit on the couch for five seconds without Ezrah coming over to give me a new hair do.  So I didn't think I could go wrong with new hair bows.  I'm loving this super Springy color! 

Five //  I loved the idea of a little beach bag.  They can pack up all their goodies and help bring it all to the beach or the pool this spring and summer.  In fact if you wanted to you could use the actual bag as an Easter basket just to change things up.  Here is another cute option from Old Navy that is complete with pom-poms!

Six //  If you are taking your kiddos to the pool or the beach or the park then maybe you will want to bring a little light reading!  I personally love any children's book about Jane Austen but I am also eyeing these books too, here and here.

Well I hope this gives some fun Easter basket ideas for your little girlies and I hope you have a wonderful weekend celebrating our risen Christ!