Facing your walls

“When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.”
‭‭Joshua‬ ‭6:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Recently, I was listening to a sermon given by Christine Caine titled “Possessing the Promise.” The subject material pointed to the walls of Jericho in Joshua chapter 6. Christine talks about how when the Israelites entered the promised land, they encountered the last thing they would expect…looming, formidable walls…seemingly insurmountable walls.

Some times we experience victory, we triumph, only to realize that there are still battles to be fought, even though we have entered the territory that God promised us. Even though we are doing the right things. Even though we have seen so much answered prayer. Sometimes we enter the promises of God and we hit a wall. Things get hard. Transitions get messy. And we could be left to wonder, if God really led me here shouldn’t everything go smoothly? Not necessarily.

So what do you do? You keep marching. In the case of the Israelites, they had to march around those city walls for seven days. For us that means that we continue to move forward in prayer, faith, hope and obedience. Christine says in her sermon that we keep making laps around God’s promises until we see those walls fall down.

This message really resonated with me. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned this year (and there have been plenty) is the importance of standing in faith and keeping your hope alive, regardless of how things might look. This year God really challenged me to put my nose to the plow and begin to contend in faith for things I couldn’t see (at all!) in the natural and not to stop no matter how desperate my circumstances became. This put me in a position of needing to put my faith and the words God had spoken to me above the opinion of others. It forced me to dry my eyes and look ahead with confident expectation toward a hopeful future.

I am still in that place of contending today and while I may not yet be fully where I would like to be, I have already seen God bring so much restoration to my life and bring beauty from the ashes of my brokenness. More than anything I’ve learned that He is oh so faithful.

What walls are you facing today? Keep on marching. Sooner or later those bad boys will come tumbling down.

Behind and Before

You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. (Ps. 139:5)

Life is full of transitions.  Transitions can be scary, but they are a whole lot less scary when we put our firm trust and confidence, in our navigator Jesus Christ.  In the above-referenced verse, we are told that God “hems us in behind and before.”

God covers our past and leads the way into our future.  He redeems past mistakes, hurts, wounds and trials.  He weaves our history into a story of redemption that makes way for a legacy that will continue long after we have passed on from this life.  He is the God of beauty from ashes and grace from shame.  He is the voice behind us whispering in our ear, “This is the way to go.  Step here my child.”

He is also the God that takes us by the hand and leads us forward into our destiny.  In Proverbs 16:9, we are told, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”  God is our faithful and trustworthy guide.  As we set our gaze on Him, He is sure to show us the right path to take.  With each step, we can rest in full confidence and reliance on Him.

Today, whatever change or transition you might be facing, be assured that God has already made the way.  The past is behind us.  The future lies before us.  Can you hear His voice?  Take a step today.

My Delight.

Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your heart’s desires. (Ps. 37:4)

Recently, I have been doing a lot of study pertaining to our thoughts and the mind.  In a short span of time, I have read Breaking Free by Beth Moore, Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer and Heart Made Whole by Christa Gifford.  (All excellent reads!)  God is bringing me through the process of rewiring my brain, in order that old pathways of fear and insecurity can be rerouted in the ways of faith, expectation and unconditional love.

Through this process, God continues to speak to me of His great love for me.  He loves me for the sake of loving me.  I am guilty of coming before God always trying to improve something, change something, do something, but God is showing me over and over again that He simply desires to hang out with me, because He delights in me.  In Psalm 149:4-5, we are told, “For the Lord delights in His people; he crowns the humble with victory.  Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them.  Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds.”

This understanding has deepened my level of intimacy with Christ.  Although I continue to study the word, pray and worship, (all necessary, vital and of utmost importance), I also take time to sit with Jesus, to admire the beauty of creation with Him, to go for walks together and to sit in silence, knowing He sits with me.  There have always been painful things in my life I have needed to confront.  There has always been some degree of chaos around me.  The problem is I have too often been guilty of letting the chaos going on around me get inside of me.  Too many times I have allowed circumstances and people to rob my joy.  This knowledge of the God who so immensely enjoys me, empowers me to have a good day no matter what situation I am facing.  I made a decision recently that no matter what goes on around me, I would make the choice to choose joy, even if that means getting away from the crowd to enjoy a sunset with Jesus, after a long stressful day.  It fills my heart with joy, acceptance and belonging to know that He doesn’t require me to come with words, a plan or a course of action.  He just wants me to come with my heart, in whatever shape that it’s in, so He can mend any places it has been torn and give strength to those parts that have been made weak.

I put this to the test the other day.  Due to some circumstances outside of my control, I was up all through the night. I felt angry, worried, exhausted, you name it.  After finally getting some sleep.  I got up and decided in my heart what kind of day I was going to have.  My day would be a good day.  Because I was going to spend it with Jesus.  I got together with a really good friend of mine who asked me what I wanted to do.  Although I really wanted to visit a beautiful park I had heard of and never been to, I told my friend we should go to the orchard that was closeby.  The park was a long drive away and I figured it would be more convenient to go to the orchard instead.  We stopped by the orchard but didn’t stay very long.  My friend said we should leave.  Not thinking too much of it, I got back into the car.  Next thing I knew, we were on a long drive thorugh the country.  I let all my circumstances melt away and began to reflect on God’s goodness and love towards me, as I watched the sun shine through the trees.  I took in all the beauty and allowed myself to let go, relax and rest in Jesus.  I felt Him massaging my heart back to good health and felt truly joyful.  Although I enjoyed the time with my friend, I so enjoyed knowing that Jesus had made that trip with us.  Eventually, the car turned into the very park I had wanted to visit, but had never expressed.  Jesus had used my friend to give me that gift.  Everything about my day perfectly met my heart’s desires.  From the beauty of the park, to the places we stopped on the way home, to the flavor of ice cream I ate, I felt that God had designed it all to show me His love in a special way.  He delighted in being with me throughout the day and setting up these fun surprises.

It tells us in Psalm 37:4  that when we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts.  When our delight is God, He gives us more of Himself.  He gives us more of an understanding of who He is, His nature and His heart towards us.  He gives us a greater desire and capacity to know Him better.  The more He becomes our delight the less other things will be able to take away our joy.  When your joy is in the one who will never leave you or forsake you, the one who remains the same yesterday, today and forever, you are undaunted and unshakeable.  And while things won’t always go the way we thought or planned, and while we will have those hard, tough days, this God delights in surprising us.  He takes joy in making our dreams come true, dreams He gave us to begin with.  He loves to draw us to Himself, wooing us and romancing us.  His heart is always to do in our lives more than we can ever dare, ask, think or imagine (Eph. 3:20).

Make Him your delight.  Enjoy Him with every breathe.  Open your eyes to His love notes all around you.  Find yourself in the center of His heart.

Limitless Love

Limitless Love

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.  Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him.  Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.  May you experience the love of Christ though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  (Eph. 3:16-20)

Recently, an experience of God’s love restored to me my awareness of my identity as a beloved daughter of God.  In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul makes it clear that it is by experiencing the love of Christ that we are made complete and brought to wholeness.  I went away this summer to find direction, to regain focus and to come away with an action plan.  Although those things did come, what I found during my time away more than anything else was love itself.

To be honest, I felt as though God orchestrated that whole trip to speak to my heart over and over again, “You were made for love.  You were made to love and be loved in return..” The messages I heard of God’s love were simple yet profound and struck a deep chord in my heart.  One girl challenged us to consider a time when a person’s gifts or words made us feel particulary adored and cherished.  She pointed out that God intended for us to feel adored and cherished every day of our lives…because we are!

Another leader on campus shared a story about how he watched a dream he had one night unfold in real life.  Mike came to YWAM lost, looking for a better way, but unsure of the reality of God.  He had grown up in the church, but was deeply affected by the hypocrisy he found.  He had turned to alcohol, drugs and partying as a means of escape.  He came to YWAM a complete mess, but God was pursuing his heart.  As he sat on his bed one day, he watched a dream God had given him play out before his eyes, as a young man presented Him with a sea shell, saying “Mike, God wants you to have this.  He loves you so much.”

Reflecting on all this one night, during time with the Lord, I felt God saying to me, “Theresa, I want you to treat this journey with me more like an adventure in Disneyland and less like a stroll through the trail of terror.”  I realized that I have spent far too much time waiting for the ax to drop, terrified at what might jump out at me.  I couldn’t see that God intended this journey with him to be the greatest adventure.  I couldn’t understand that although I may come across some dark forests or steep mountains, every challenging passage was intended to strengthen and develop my warrior heart.  Each opposition God allowed, to prepare me for future chapters up ahead.  I became so focused on the challenges that I lost sight of the fact that the road before me was bursting with exciting surprises, endless opportunities and saturated with the limitless, unconditional love of my Father.  Here I was a princess whose heart was being pursued by my King, a girl loved and cherished.  Somewhere along the way, I had laid down my crown, tooken up the position of a frightened servant and forgotten my identity as a beloved bride.

As God spoke to my inner core, “Daughter, don’t you realize, I just want to love you?,” I reclaimed my  crown.  I stood up and once more assumed my proper position as a daughter of  the creator.  I felt myself becoming me again.  Life began to seep into my heart.  Joy washed over my soul and once more I became pregnant with hope.

True to the passage referenced above, I found strength in my inner being.  Instead of being easily shaken, I found myself anchored with roots that grew deep down into God’s love and acceptance for me.  I began to understand a fraction more of God’s unlimited, matchless, passionate love for me.  And in this love, I found myself complete and whole.

Do you hear the gentle whisper of God’s voice today in the inner recesses of your spirit, saying “Son, daughter, don’t you see I just want to love you?”  Let the adventure commence.

 

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For I am with You

Yesterday marked a significant milestone in my life. I was ordained at my home church, Dwelling Place Northeast, as a pastor. Since I was 13 years old, I have felt the call of God to do ministry full-time. Since then, I have sought out opportunity, after opportunity to engage in ministry and to learn the ropes from other men and women of God that God has placed in my life.

Yesterday, after the ordination service and a full day of celebrating with friends and family, I finally climbed into my bed and tears of joy came trickling down my face. I so was overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God. The way that God loves me and fathers me became so real to me in that moment. The God that is aware of all of my flaws and imperfections saw it fit to bring to fruition the dream of a 13 year old girl. He has spent the last 15 years refining me and preparing me for this moment. At times I thought the process might kill me, because sometimes preparation involves embracing pain and moving forward. God has used this season to stretch, grow and mature me. But I never thought this would be my year to see this particular dream fulfilled. Looking at my circumstances and my feelings, it just never occured to me that God was setting me up for this huge blessing.

As my pastors prayed over me, my pastor said, “God has known all along that August 27th, 2017 would be the day that he would fulfill this dream.” With that one line, the tears began to flow. This year started off rough. It was a defining season, but at times it felt like the weight of it would crush me. Even then God knew all that He was preparing me for, all that He intended to bless me with. And I remember a simple sentence He spoke to my heart, as I wondered and prayed about the pain I was going through. He whispered to my heart, “It’s not permanent.” Another night, as I cryed myself to sleep, He repeated over and over in my spirit, “From the breaking point to the breakthrough…from the breaking point to the breakthrough.” Yesterday, as I stood before friends and family to celebrate God’s faithfulness, I recognized that right in this moment, I am breaking through.

The thing that God marked my heart with more than anything else yesterday was that He is with me. The night before Sunday service, I was feeling all sorts of emotions. I wanted the moment to be perfect, special because it meant so much to me. It dawned on me that although many friends and family would be there to celebrate this moment, there would be someone present who has been there through every moment, both good and bad, and that someone is Jesus Himself. It occured to me that whoever else showed up, whoever else would be in the crowd or part of the festivities afterwards, my constant partner and supporter, the one who has been my cheerleader through all the ups and downs would be standing right by my side. This was our moment. A special moment between a girl and her heavenly daddy. I pictured it as though I was standing at the microphone and He was right at my side, holding my hand and whispering in my ear, “You did it baby girl.” And this is what I prayed. I prayed that He would take that position right next to me, even though I knew in my heart that I didn’t even need to ask. He would already be there.

When the service ended, my Father, who has shared this dream with me all these years and who had no idea of the prayers of His neverous daughter the night before, told me, “When you were up there, I knew that Jesus was standing right beside you, holding your hand.” I simply smiled and told my dad, “Yes. I asked him to be there.”

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isa. 41:10).

Tear the Roof Off

A little over two weeks ago, I began leading a women’s Bible Study for my church based on the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer.  The book’s focus is how, as women, we can become more strategic and deliberate about prayer.  It’s a book I enjoyed reading for myself and have been enjoying reading with the ladies at church as well.  In the first chapter of the book, the author points out that many of us don’t pray like we should, because we have lost our passion.  She emphasizes the point that our passion only comes from God to begin with and encourages the reader: “Praying-reaching outward and upward to Him-is the only way that passion comes down.  Even prayers that begin with the blunt edge of willpower, dragging your heart along kicking and screaming can soon begin to shine with the cutting edge of hope, faith and passionate confidence in Christ.”  Passionate confidence in Christ…that’s what I’m after.

Priscilla Shirer challenges the reader with various scriptures.  One scripture caught my eye and I looked it up in several translations, choosing the Message version as my favorite.  The verse was Deuteronomy 30:6: “God, your God, will cut away the thick callouses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live.”  God has been speaking to me alot lately about what it means to be free to love God with everything I am.

While I was away in Kona, Hawaii recently, serving at YWAM’s University of the Nations, I woke up one morning with so much heaviness that I could feel it in my body.  I felt very flu-like symptoms, every joint and muscle labored to move and it was a huge challenge just to get out of bed.  Nevertheless, I knew something spiritual was going on, so I managed to get up and get going.  Although I had planned to attend a group outing to the beach, instead I chose to participate in a women’s conference being held on campus.  After the conference, I took advantage of the prayer room to rest and to reflect on what God could possibly be speaking to me through all that had transpired that day.  As I laid spread out on the prayer room floor, I felt the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart.  I felt God was saying that the same weight that I felt in my body that morning was the same weight I have been feeling both mentally and emotionally.  He told me that I had allowed various things to drag me down and that I had been walking around carrying and holding unto things He never intended for me to carry.  God showed me that I had not been living to the 100% potential of who He has called me to be.  The reasons for that are numerous: fear, insecurity, shame over my past, feelings of inadequacy…I had allowed all these things to hold me back.  I had been afraid to step out to far, afraid to take big risks, petrified of making mistakes.  So I held back, keeping myself within parameters I felt were safe.  Now God was telling me it was time to knock the walls down and tear the roof off of the limitations that kept me engaging in life with only half of my heart.

God will cut away the thick callouses on your heart…freeing you to love your God with your whole heart…and live, really live.  That’s what I want…to live…REALLY LIVE!  I have asked God to help me to freely love Him and to truly live.  When I show up somewhere, I want to show up 100%.  I want to be fully present and engaged with each person in front of me and in each task I put my hands to.  I want to live with the kind of passionate confidence in Christ that doesn’t depend on my circumstances, but stirs and grows as it reflects and meditates on the promises God has made in His Word.  Every morning, when my feet hit the floor, I want to carry the confident expectation that God is going to do something amazing that day.  I want to move in my life with such mountain-shaking faith that people and situations around me can’t help but to align themselves with the truth of God.  And when I can’t see the change, when all appears to be the same, I want my bold prayers to touch and move the heart of God, until what I am praying for in the spirit, becomes visible in my natural surroundings.  I want to persist no matter how long it takes, because I am so convinced of God’s power, so undone by His love for me, so aware of His presence and His faithfulness.  I want to drop the lies that have been holding me back like a bad habit and press into the plans and the purposes of God.  It’s time to tear the roof off.

In Luke chapter 5, we find the story of a paralyzed man who is healed by Jesus.  Men came carrying the man on a matt, but they were unable to get inside the place where Jesus was preaching because of the crowd.  Everything was standing in the way of this man getting his healing.  He was paralyzed.  There were literal walls between Him and Jesus.  The crowd was in the way.  So what did these men do?  They tore the roof off.  With persistance and tenacity, they tore down the barriers standing between them and destiny, between them and freedom.

What barriers have been standing in your way?  What lies have you allowed to limit your capacity and keep you living for less than what God designed you for?  It’s time to tear the roof off and to live…really live.

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Blossom

Recently, I returned from a trip to Kona, Hawaii where I served as a part of the Missions Builders Program at Youth with a Mission’s (YWAM) University of the Nations.  For the next several weeks, my blog posts will focus on all that God spoke to my heart during my time there.

One particular night in Kona, as I was lying in bed, I began to fade into that fuzzy place between wakefulness and sleep.  Floating through my head came a stream of images, all of flowers in bloom.  I roused myself awake and asked God what He was saying to me about blossoming.  Over the past several weeks, God has continued to speak to my heart on this topic.

I was led to the following two passages of scripture:

And why worry about your clothing?  Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow.  They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.  Why do you have so little faith?  “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat?  What will we drink?  What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matt. 6:28-34 NLT)

My lover has gone down to his garden, to his spice beds, to browse in the gardens and gather the lilies.  I am my lover’s, and my lover is mine.  He browses among the lilies. (Song of Songs 6:2-3)

These passages highlighted such beautiful truths to me about how God’s love towards me provokes my life and my heart to erupt and blossom into the fullness of beauty before my Heavenly bridegroom.  I blossom as I put my trust in Jesus.  The less I worry about the cares of this life and the more I choose to place my focus on Him, the more my heart opens up before Him, the more my character as a woman after His heart develops and the more the path of my life unfolds in accordance with His desires for me.  In Matthew chapter 6, we are compared to the lilies of the field growing, beautifully dressed and wonderfully cared for.  We are reminded of the simple but transformational truth that God loves to watch us grow in the fields He has planted us.  He loves to dress us up and cause us to radiate His beauty.  He delights in the way the sparkle in our eyes and the warmth of our smile can so clearly express and communicate His love.  And His care and concern for us is wonderful.  As we seek God above all else, He promises to provide everything we need to sustain and to bring about more growth in our lives.  He asks us to focus on what it means to appreciate and celebrate the beauty of each moment. As we continue in faith day by day, our lives unfold delicately and delightfully before Him, according to the rhythms of His grace.  As we do this, He is faithful to come into our garden.  He comes to enjoy us, to love us, to be with us.  In this place of intimacy, openness and transparency before Him, He whispers to our tender hearts, “I am yours and you are mine.”

During my time in Kona, the Lord convicted me that I was not living to the 100% potential of who He has called me, fashioned me and created me to be.  I was allowing worry, fear, my past, my weaknesses and my own sense of inadequacy to keep me in a holding pattern of living a life with limits.  I was keeping far too much of my potential locked inside and hidden away from the world.

I recently read the following beautiful quote by Anais Nin: “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.”  I did my research on the author of this quote and while I don’t think I would agree with the majority of her work (as it does not glorify God), I did find the words expressed above to be beautifully articulated.  They express something I have begun to feel stirring from the deepest parts of myself.  Now is that time for me.  The risk of keeping myself locked away, only living to half who God has called me to be, is far greater than the risk of blooming before Him, fully trusting Him and allowing my whole heart to give way to His passion and purposes for my life.

I wonder how many of us are living closed lives, tight in our buds, afraid to open our hearts fully, afraid to fully engage in life, afraid to take risks and afraid of what might happen if we actually trusted God to direct us and guide us in His purposes and plan.  I believe the time has come to blossom.  Invite the King of your heart to step inside your garden.  Find out how wonderfully He cares for you.

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From the Breaking Point to the Breakthrough

Do you ever have those perfect storm moments in life?  Those moments when everything seems to come crashing down all at once?  I have experienced several of those moments over the course of my life.  God reminded me recently of one particular time I struggled through a perfect storm.  I came home one night and crawled into my bed.  As I tossed and turned through the night, in the middle ground between sleep and consciousness, I remember this one thought playing on loop in my mind: From the breaking point to the breakthrough, from the breaking point to the breakthrough, from the breaking point to the breakthrough.  I know that was the whisper of the Holy Spirit speaking directly to my heart.  I certainly didn’t feel anything remotely like breakthrough was happening, but I was aware that I had reached my breaking point.

Although I surely hate the breaking point seasons of life, there is a lesson God is repeatedly teaching me: Breaking is good and God wants us broken.  It is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true.  I have learned that God wants to break my self-will and my self-reliance.  He wants to bring me to the point of recognizing my limitations and realizing that the weight is too much to carry on my own.  He wants to get me to the place that I am willing to admit that I have no idea what I’m doing, I don’t have it all together and that I have more questions than answers.  He wants to expose my faulty patterns of thinking and relating to my circumstances and make me aware of the holding patterns that have kept me in bondage.

In my brokenness, I am able to truly humble myself before my creator.  I am able to surrender the reigns of control to my heavenly Father.  I am able to lay down my agenda and my own will, to fully pursue and follow His purpose and plan for my life.  When the Lord strips me bear of every false comfort and causes me to look at myself for who I truly am, I am able to recognize my need for my Savior to govern and watch over every single area of my life.  When I am broken, I am able to lay down my pride and be honest before God and others, regarding my true heart condition.

This place of brokenness, honesty and humility is the breeding ground for breakthrough.  God breaks us of every chain that has held us back and hindered us.  He breaks every curse and strategy of the enemy.  He breaks every branch that is not bearing fruit, in order that we can thrive, grow and flourish in ways unimaginable.

Brokenness is a tool that God uses.  Unfortunately, the enemy uses it to.  He has a way of distorting our perceptions, so that all we see in our brokenness is pain.  When all we see is our pain, our brokenness feels dark.  It feels ugly.  It feels forever.  It feels like an end.  It is not.  If we allow it to, our brokenness will be the point through which God shines most brightly in our life.  He will bring beauty out of the ashes.  And what feels like an end will only be the beginning of the amazing work God plans to do in and through you.

If you will allow it, God will use your perfect storm moments in life to display His perfect power in the midst of your biggest weaknesses.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor. 12:9)

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Finding Dory and the Prodigal Son

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20

Not too long ago, I watched Finding Dory for the first time. I live with my pastors and their two ridiculously cute children. So, I get lots of opportunities to watch kids movies and I love them. It might sound a little ridiculous, but by the time the movie was over, I was in tears…overcome with emotions.

The premise of the story (spoiler alert!) is that Dory loses her family. She suffers from memory loss and can’t remember her way back home. At one point, she can’t remember anything about her family. She just knows that somewhere out there her parents must exist. Dory has a flashback of her family that gives her just enough information to begin her journey back home. She perseveres through the dangers of the deep blue sea and despite all odds, makes her way back to her family. When she finally makes it to her parents, she discovers that they have been waiting in the same place patiently for her, believing that one day she would remember where she came from and make her way back to them. They had carefully laid out paths of shells in every direction, so that their beloved daughter would be able to find her way back. That hit me hard. This story reminded me so much of the story of the Prodigal Son referenced above. After arriving at his lowest point, the son remembers the home and the Father he came from. He finds his way back and when he arrives, His Father is already waiting with open arms.

Sometimes we get so caught up and distracted by the cares of this life that we can suffer from memory loss too. We forget our identity in Christ. We forget who we are. We can lose our way. Sometimes we get so caught up we don’t even realize what we have forgotten. But God is so faithful. He patiently waits for us, waiting for us to have the slightest glimpse of remembrance. He carefully lays the path before us to follow, a path that lands us right into His embrace. Despite the fact that I have been a Christian my whole adult life, there are times I get caught up doing things my own way. I try to carve out my own path, but God always brings me to the point of remembering what I have forgotten. I hear the gentle reminder deep within my Spirit, you have forgotten your first love (Rev. 2:4). He lights up the path before me and brings me back to Him.

There was another lesson I drew from Dory. We all have people in our lives that we love and desire the best for. There are people in our lives that we want to sit down, shake by the shoulders and say, “Remember who you are!” This scene served as a powerful reminder to me that I can trust God to lay out the paths for my loved ones to follow home. I can trust that God could lay out paths that I never could, paths that are uniquely suited and designed for that specific individual. God knows if the path needs to go through the valley or the wilderness. He knows all the bends and curves that are necessary and while I may not understand the paths he chooses, or allows, for myself or my loved ones, I can know they are always right. As Dory points out to her parents, she was never alone throughout the whole process. So it is with us. We are never alone.

The motto of the Marine Life Institute, where Dory goes to find her family, is “Rescue. Rehabilitate. Release.” Those three small words made an impact on my heart. It is God’s job to rescue and his job to rehabilitate the brokenness in my own heart and the brokenness that surrounds me. It is my job to release every worry, concern and care into His hands. He is more than able and more than faithful to bring restoration and redemption to the places of my deepest needs and longings and even to my hurts.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

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A Season of Hope and Expectation

At one point several months ago, I was talking with a friend about seasons of waiting. All of us can relate to the feeling of waiting on God for answers to prayers that as of yet, go unanswered, or at least as far as we can tell.  These seasons can be long and painful.  Wrestling with physical and emotional pain, unmet longings and unfulfilled dreams for prolonged periods of time can wear on us and challenge our faith.

As my friend and I prayed for one another, I began to think about Christmas.  Christmas comes every year on December 25th.  The actual celebration of Christmas is a one day event.  However, we celebrate Christmas beginning the day after Thanksgiving and throughout all of December.  Before we ever open or exchange any gifts, we prepare for more than an entire month.  We go shopping.  We decorate.  We bake cookies.  We sing carols.  We celebrate in anticipation of the moment when Christmas morning will finally arrive.  How different would this time be if instead of celebrating, we spent our time complaining that we couldn’t open our gifts yet?  What if we spent our time doubting that there would even be a gift with our name on it under the tree?  It would certainly dampen our excitement and expectation.

I know that God is challenging me to view my seasons of waiting as seasons of celebration.  We are told in Matthew 7:11, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  If I’m truthful, I spend too much time complaining in my seasons of waiting, rather than rejoicing in what is to come.  I lose sight of the fact that I serve a good God, who gives good gifts.  What He has for me is good.  He has a hope and a future for me that are good.  He works all things out for my good.  I don’t have to question that what He has in store is, in fact, good!  The gifts may not come on my time schedule and they might not come in the wrapping paper I would have picked out, but I can be assured that my Father in heaven knows how to pick out gifts that are perfectly suited and right for me.  The gifts He blesses me with are better than anything I would have picked out for myself.  And what’s more, He knows the best timing and the best manner to present me with the gifts He has for me.  I have often heard it said that it’s all about the presentation.  I think of a marriage proposal.  I think about the planning and consideration that a man goes through when he proposes to the girl he loves.  He considers the date, the setting, the atmosphere, the audience, the ring.  All of these details work together to make the proposal of marriage even more special.  How much more does our heavenly Father consider the perfect timing and manner in which to present us with the special blessings he has for us?

I am challenged to mark my season of waiting as a season of hope and expectation.  I have my mind made up to celebrate all season long.  This is no time to give in to doubt and fear.  I want to usher in the new thing God is doing with an attitude of rejoicing, because I can know with confidence that my blessings are on the way.

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:24-25)

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