Posts in Scripture
Cultivating What Matters: My 2018 Goals
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My focal verse for this year is Mark 12:30 (AMP), and I am writing all of my goals with this verse in mind.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength.”

I want to live 2018 completely devoted to Christ, loving, knowing, and serving Him with my entire being.

With that in mind, I've created the vision board below and settled on the following goals for the year ahead...

1. Know God more and trust Him more.

Why: I want my pursuit of knowing God to be the center of everything I do. And as I grow in knowledge of Him, my trust and confidence in Him will also grow. I've also realized I have been struggling to trust Him with some of my deepest desires (like marriage), and I want to completely surrender that desire into His Hands this year and TRUST that He has a good plan for my life AND for those desires specifically.

Starting Steps (how):

  • Join the Well Watered Women community and commit to Word Before World this year
  • Study the Bible with my heart and my mind (Jen Wilkin); I hope to focus much of my study time this year in the Old Testament, since I completed a study on the New Testament last year
  • Study the attributes of God (and choose one attribute each month to study and meditate on)
  • Pray the promises of God
  • Cultivate an expectant faith (and write and publish my devotional on that topic)
  • Memorize scripture (see "practice praise" goal for more on this)
  • Learn more about fasting and consider a fast at the beginning of the year to draw near to God and hear His voice (“There are walls of intercession that will never be scaled by dispassionate religious service. But when you take steps to break out of the ordinary and worship Him as He deserves, you will begin to see facets of His being you never knew existed. He will begin to share secrets with you about Himself, His plans, His desires for you. When you worship God as He deserves, He is magnified.” Jentezen Franklin)

2. Grow STRONGER (mentally, physically, and spiritually).

Why: I LOVE what my sweet friend Bailey had to say about building strength: " I want the Lord’s best for my life, and I want to be able to wholeheartedly run after the dreams HE has for my life as best as I can for as long as He calls me to it.” YES and AMEN. And I love how the Amplified translation speaks about this very idea in Proverbs 31:17: "She equips herself with strength [spiritual, mental, and physical fitness for her God-given task] And makes her arms strong." I want to do all I can to be equipped for everything God calls me to.

Starting Steps (how):

  • Continue working with my personal trainer twice a week
  • Incorporate at least one day of cardio each week
  • Yoga
  • Choose foods that nourish and fuel my body; consider doing Whole30 and/or Daniel diet fasting plan at the beginning of the year

3. Practice praise.

Why: Praise is powerful, and I want to make it a more regular part of my life (especially in prayer). “Praise is really the most vital preparatory ministry to the working of miracles. Miracles are wrought by spiritual power. Spiritual power is always proportioned to our faith.” Dr. Jowett, Streams in the Desert

Starting Steps (how):

  • Choose an attribute of God each month to include in the Adoration section of my prayer journal; spend the month learning more about this attribute of God and praising Him in prayer for it
  • Memorize scripture that correlates with the attribute I am studying each month
  • Practice praising Him in prayer before I've seen the answers; praise Him with confidence that He WILL answer and that the way in which He answers will be GOOD because HE is good
  • Fill out my praise reports each month in my The Best is Yet to Come Planner from Horacio Printing
  • Fill out the answered prayer section of my Val Marie Paper prayer journal each month, and take the time to pray a prayer of thanksgiving for all God did and provided

4. Be humble, willing, and faithful right where God has me.

Why: I have been so encouraged reading about Ruth and Mary these past few months. They were both women who were humble and willing to be faithful right where they were, trusting God and being obedient, even in the face of hardship, unknowns, and lots of uncertainty. I want to live with this kind of heart posture this year...I want to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and brave to take action when prompted. I want to be faithful right where I am, making the most of every day and every opportunity all for Him and His glory. And I don't want to miss out on the season I'm in because my eyes and heart are too focused on what's ahead. "Where you are right now is God's place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there."  1 Cor 7:17 MSG There are so many adventures to be had, ways to serve, and opportunities to fall more in love with Jesus right where I am.

Starting Steps (how):

  • Be a good steward of all the blessings, gifts, and margin in my life (this will sound familiar as it was one of my main 2017 goals!); I feel it’s vitally important that I continue to intentionally steward my life and resources for Him
  • Simplify at home (clothing, office, books, etc.)
  • Create a new monthly budget (and be more intentional with saving, spending, and giving)
  • Continue to explore the calling and dreams I have to study and teach His word as a Light Giver in the Kingdom through creating devotionals, blogs, journals, online studies, and being a part of the women's ministry team at my church
  • Prioritize people + relationships (focus on building strong, meaningful relationships and connections with others); continue to disciple women at my church

5. Wait well (purposefully, not passively).

Why: "Love is patient..." I have been reminded recently that it truly is an honor to wait and pray for my future husband. I don't want to lose sight of that when the waiting gets hard and frustrating. And while it's true that I don't know when or if my waiting in singleness will end, I do know it is changing me in the process and teaching me to rely on the Lord more completely. And I know that if I am blessed with marriage, this season of waiting will have shaped me into the wife I will be.

Starting Steps (how):

  • Continue to pray through the book 31 Prayers For My Future Husband (January marks my ninth month of praying this daily!)
  • Live fully for God right where I am (a purposeful life NOW, not a passive one)! Use Natalie's Wholeheartedly Devoted collection for encouragement in this! (See goal #4 for more on this)
  • Surrender my future daily into His Hands, trusting that He will always know better than I know
  • Pray and wait for the story that gives Him the most glory — even if it looks different than what I or culture — expect (be open to new possibilities)
  • Date intentionally (always keeping Christ at the center)

 

So there you have it! My five main goals for 2018. :) I'm so excited to get these written and to be looking at the year ahead with faith and hope. My heart and hands are open to his leading, and I'm excited to see all He has in store.

Did you set goals for the year? If so, I'd love to hear about them!

 

When Freedom Writes Our Stories

I recently did exactly what Lauren Daigle sings so beautifully about in her song Trust in You.

I let go of every dream and laid them at His feet.

And I discovered a freedom and a hope I'd truly never experienced before.


A few months ago, I discovered the book I Don't Wait Anymore by Grace Thornton. The question on the back was about the only incentive I needed to pick it up.

Have you been waiting for life to turn out the way you expected?

If I was honest, I had.

In all my years of wrestling with God over my singleness, I hadn't realized just how tightly I was still holding on to my own dreams, ideas, and expectations for my life.

I almost don't even have the words for how good this book is. I've already recommended it to so many of my friends (and not just those who are single). I Don't Wait Anymore is a hope-filled invitation to freedom, an invitation to see just how big and good and wise our God is and just how great a plan He has for us.

In I Don't Wait Anymore, Grace inspires you to seek God more earnestly and to seek Him for Him — not just for the blessings or answers He can bring.

Her words are raw and honest, but also full of poetry and possibility.

 

The section that may have impacted me most was when she asks her readers to consider what unmet desires are hidden in their hearts.

She goes on to encourage them to ask this question: "If [God] never fulfilled that desire, would I be able to be content? If I walk a road where those things never happen, would I be filled with joy knowing I would get Him at the end?"

As I got quiet and good and honest with myself, I realized that while I had been living that yes on the outside, the answer was still a no inside my heart.

But there was hope.

Her next invitation?

To ask myself why God was smaller in my heart than the life I wanted.

And to ask Him to show me who He really was.

This beautiful book is a journey through that process, and I honestly can't recommend it enough. Grace brought me back to who God really is. She shook up the dreams and expectations I've been carrying around and woke me up to the freedom of true surrender.

And it was truly different than anything I'd ever felt before.

Because when God gets in our hearts and replaces our dreams with Himself,  "our hearts become blank canvases where He can paint pictures of His love, fill us up with His Spirit, and change our desires and hurts from the inside out. It feels different. We begin to see Him write a new story. One with a whole lot of freedom."

What I've Been Reading: Life is ___. Forty-Day Experience

Morning quiet times have been a welcome re-addition to my daily schedule. I love brewing a cup of coffee, adding my favorite soy vanilla creamer, and cozying up with a few devotionals and journals.

One of the devotions I've been reading lately is Life Is _____ Forty-Day Experience: A Devotional Journey Through God's Illogical Love by Judah Smith. Smith's focus is to share with readers that "the meaning of life is found in loving and being loved, in enjoying God to the fullest, in trusting Him in every moment, and remaining at peace with God, others, and ourselves."

The book is organized into four sections based on those topics:

  • Life is to Be Loved and to Love
  • Life is to Trust God in Every Moment
  • Life is to Be at Peace With God and Yourself
  • Life is to Enjoy God

While I love the concept of this book, it just didn't grab me the way some of my favorite devotionals have. The content fell a bit flat for me, possibly because the writing style isn't one I normally prefer. I had a hard time engaging and connecting with Smith's reflections. I did like the book's format of scripture, devotional reading, and questions to consider each day, though.

Even though the writing style didn't particularly appeal to me, I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to spend some time meditating on God's immense love for us and how it impacts every aspect of our lives.

My review: 3 stars

*Book for review provided by BookLook

I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring.

This post is dedicated to all those who find themselves in a season of quiet, question marks, and, at times, restless expectation. This post is especially dedicated to my single friends who are figuring out how to embrace where they are and live each and every moment to its fullest, trusting God to pave the path they are traveling. IMG_3107

A few days ago, I read an awesome page in Jesus Calling. The very first sentence was (in all caps); YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT PATH.

Wow, did my heart need those words — more than I even realized!

And then this powerful reminder from Him followed: Listen more to me and less to your doubts. I'm leading you along the path I've designed just for YOU.

It can be so hard to keep our eyes on our own path. But when we compare, when we doubt, when we question, we are MISSING OUT on all God has for us right where we are.

Comparison cheats us of the opportunity to see and appreciate the adventure to be found in the dips and turns and twists of our own journey.

And when we doubt and fear and question, we are taking on burdens we are not meant to carry.

If we are following Him, we can trust that we are where we are meant to be. We can trust that He knows what today AND tomorrow holds, and that He is working to bring the best out of our current and future circumstances.

I'll be honest, I have reached the point in my own season of singleness where really the only thing left to do is truly let go and let God.  I have listened to others' success stories and tried what they've tried, I've read the articles, and I've prayed the prayers — all to no avail.

But I'm beginning to think that maybe I'm not meant to plan or pray or work my way out of this season. Maybe I'm meant to really look at it with new, grateful eyes that are free to see the possibilities it holds. Maybe I'm meant to embrace it with excitement and faithfulness and HOPE.

I used to fear that if I was too content or "successful" in my singleness that maybe God would decide to just leave me in it forever. It seems silly now to believe such a thing, but I have, time and time again. And tonight, I've realized that when I'm believing lies like that what I'm really doing is listening to my doubt more than I'm listening to God.

So, tonight, I'm ready to say goodbye to all of that doubt, and I'm ready to listen to what HE has to say about my season instead . I'm ready to fully surrender my hope for marriage to Him (trusting that in His perfect time and way He will lead me into whatever new season awaits).

I'm ready to turn my attention back to today — to the stack of books waiting to be read, the new paints that will soon brighten up a blank canvas, and the words that might find their way into a poem.

Today is right in front of me, exactly as He designed it, planned it, and purposed it. Today is right in front of me, and I choose to call it good. I'm ready to embrace it and make each of its moments count.

I am ready to be and go and do exactly what He has planned for me in this beautiful and sometimes unexpected season, ready to live both with contentment and expectation (if I may borrow that phrase from the fabulous Lindsay Sherbondy).

And it's true that I may not know where I'm going from here, or when or how I'll get there...

But He does.

And I promise it won't be boring.

Neither will today.

P.S. I snagged this post's title from a piece of art in the new Messy Box from A Beautiful Mess.
Heart of the Word: Ephesians 1-2:13

bible My apologies for this late link-up, friends! It was quite a busy week, and I'm just now able to sit down and gather my thoughts. (Whew!) :)

How are you enjoying the Heart of the Word study so far? Have you linked up over on Rachel's blog yet?

(Psst. If you haven't joined us yet, and you'd like to, you can find out more about the study over at Bailey's blog.)

Ephesians is one of my favorite books, and  I'm excited to see what new goodness the Lord will reveal to my heart through this study! 

In the last week, I've read through this first section a few times, both the NIV and Message translations, and I've been soaking in the familiar passages that have been highlighted and underlined many times.

One of my favorite verses in Ephesians is verse 2:10 (For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.)

I love the reminder that He's already planned our path and that He created us with unique gifts and purposes to be used for His glory. It's so incredibly humbling that God wants to partner with US! He could absolutely accomplish everything on His own, but He chooses to partner with us; He chooses to invite us to help Him build His Kingdom. I think that's pretty incredible, don't you? :)

I pray that on days when you're hit with discouragement, doubt, or uncertainty, that you would be reminded of this truth, my friends. You were created to do good things through Christ, and God has already planned these in advance. Draw near to Him, seek Him, and trust that He will lead the way and equip you for whatever it is that He is calling you to today.

I look forward to hearing about the verses that have been speaking to you! (Remember that you can also connect with us on Instagram using the hashtags #heartoftheword and #heartofephesians.)

Five-Minute Friday: Tree

IMG_4138 On my drive home the last few days, I haven't been able to keep my eyes off of the bright red trees that line the road. They are so assured in their color, so confident, even though surely they know that soon they'll lose all of their beautiful, rich color and stand still and silent and bare over the winter months. They remain the same during the changing seasons, though, standing tall and sure, whether they are full and green and sunshine-filled during the summer, bright and attention-grabbing during the autumn, stark and simple during the winter, or beginning to grow buds of hope during the spring.

So I hope to be in my faith.

Like a tree with its roots planted firmly in the ground, I seek to remain firmly rooted in Him and firmly rooted in my faith.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,     whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water     that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes;     its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought     and never fails to bear fruit.

Jer. 17:7-8

Five Minute Friday

Jesus Time Link-Up with Lily & Light

JesusTimeLinky-1 I was so excited when Kristin suggested we host a Jesus Time link-up. I think it's so inspiring to see and read how and what the Lord is speaking to each of our hearts.

And by sharing these small glimpses into our own journeys, I believe we can encourage and spur one another on in our seeking.

As Kristin so beautifully wrote:

Some love coffee.  Some love tea.

Some sit outside.  Some cuddle in bed.

Some read with their friends.  Some read alone.

Some do it all!  

 How do YOU spend time with Jesus?

This link-up doesn't require much writing at all.  Just snap a pic of your Jesus Time and link it here.  Include all the mess; the pens, the notes, the highlighters, the journals.  Show off your bookmarks, your favorite underlined passages, and anything special you use as bookmarks.  

Tell us what you are studying, how long you study, what kinds of supplemental information you use, and anything you find to be a peculiar joy in the way the Lord speaks to you.  

Also, take this moment to pray over your sacred space, and the space of those who are sharing as well.  This is sacred time with our Savior, and girls, it sure is beautiful :)

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In my own quiet time, I'm a highlighter, a journaler, an underliner, and a star-er. I've also been known to add hearts and dates to different passages that hit my heart in different seasons. It means a lot to me to look back through the months and years and see what the Lord has spoken to me through His Word.

Currently, I've going through a YouVersion Deeper Into Scripture study on Hebrews with a friend of mine. I'm looking forward to learning all He has to say through this time with Him. Hebrews is such a great book on hope and faith!

Can't wait to link up with you all of you sweet ladies and hear/see what you're learning in this season.

(You can join the link-up below, and be sure to visit Kristin's beautiful blog, too!)

Belief & Prayer

IMG_3628 Yesterday, I read Sarah Sandel's beautiful three-part series on prayer.

And I just sunk into her words.

Because yesterday was a day I fought discouragement and discontent, a day I felt tender and more than a little uncertain about the plan God is weaving in my life.

He has been faithful to teach me how to handle those days, though, how to press into Him, pour out my heart, and refocus.

And yesterday, He brought such refreshment through Sarah's words, reminding me of the beautiful power of sharing our stories and experiences. Because while we can't (and shouldn't) compare the plans He's writing for each of our lives, we can relate and understand and share.

In one of her posts, Sarah encouraged me with these questions about prayer:

When I pray, am I...

  • believing that God can move on my behalf? (Matt 21:22, Jas 5:15)
  • praying for things consistent with the will of God? (1 John 5:14)
  • asking with a pure heart? (James 4:3, Jas 5:16, Ps 66:18, Jn 15:7, Matthew 6:14-15) 
  • being persistent in petitioning Him? (Luke 11:5-8, Col 4:2, Romans 12:12)

After reading those, the first one in particular stayed with me. All day, I kept thinking: God can move in MIGHTY ways. Which got me thinking ... am I TRULY believing that? Am I surrendering all those questions I wrestle with, all the unanswered prayers, hopes, and dreams I sometimes hold too tightly to? Am I surrendering them, BELIEVING that God can and WILL move on my behalf?

Sometimes, I think we're too afraid to fully surrender, because we want to control those things we hold closest to our hearts. We think we know best, and we worry that if we give up control, He will do something with them that we don't want or like. So, we clutch onto them, feeling stuck and frustrated and wondering why God isn't moving.

But you know what? He probably WILL do something unexpected, but it will be the kind of unexpected that opens up new doors, the kind of unexpected that changes us and grows us and takes us to a deeper place in our faith.

This morning, I read one of my favorite promises He gives us:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,
 and He will make your paths straight.

I also like The Message translation:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
 don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
 Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; 
He's the one who will keep you on track.

We can trust Him with our deepest dreams, friends.

Because He is a God who moves mightily on our behalf.

 

::For the month of October, I’m participating in The Nester’s #31Days blog writing challenge. My topic? Big BELIEF. For the next 31 days, I’ll be writing about three main things: 1. BELIEVING in His good plan for my life, 2. BELIEVING in the dreams He’s placed on my heart, and 3.BELIEVING in who He is and what He promises. So, what do you say? Will you join me? Will you open your heart to Him and allow Him to grow your belief over these next 31 days? You can read all my #31Days posts,here.::

 
Building My Belief: Part 2

img_1504 So, picking up where I left off yesterday...

There I was, learning what it looked like to follow the Lord and discovering His character, creativity, and compassion. That season was a beautiful adventure in so many ways, but more and more, I became aware of how much I missed home. So, I slowly started to pray for an opportunity to move back closer to my family.

Of course, losing my job wasn't the road I would have picked, but after praying for a while, it's the one I found myself on. And while I'll never know all of God's reasons for allowing that, I do know that in walking out that waiting with Him, He taught me more about His character than I had ever seen or felt before, and He began building a belief that was bigger than the unknowns I was facing.

Every day of that waiting I prayed, keeping my eyes on Him expectantly.

Because despite doubts and frustrations, I believed He would come through. Looking back, I'm almost a bit surprised at the certainty I felt that God would move. But I held onto that belief, and I held onto Him. And while I wrestled through a lot during that time, I continued to bring it all before the Lord, trusting Him to remind me that He was still there, working all things for good, and making plans that I couldn't see.

Yesterday morning, I read this verse, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him."

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I think I found a bigger belief in that season of waiting, because I was earnestly seeking. I NEEDED to believe. And so, every day, I poured out my heart, told him exactly how I felt, and asked for His provision.

And here's the thing, while He didn't answer right away — at least not the answers I was asking for —  every day, He did provide.

He provided me precious time with my grandmother and gave me the chance to serve and love her during a season she needed me. He provided me with new friendships and church community and freelance work. He provided me time for rest and time with Him and the chance to get to know him on a deeper level.

I know I can learn something from that waiting and from those provisions.

Sometimes, I get lazy in the seeking. I read a quick verse here, say a quick prayer there, and call that my quiet time. But I need only look back on seasons where He was building my belief to remember the blessings to be found when I'm earnestly seeking. I need only remember how much I needed that belief to be reminded that I still do — and that He's still building it even now.

Ask. Seek. Knock. Ask for what you want and God will mold your heart till what you want is the same as what He wants. That is a beautiful profound thing and the power of prayer. We commune with Him and learn from Him when we just simply spend time talking to Him... His plans never fail. Ever. And sometimes things take a long time because God wants to change you in the journey. Life happens in the waiting. ~ Lara Casey

 

::For the month of October, I’m participating in The Nester’s #31Days blog writing challenge. My topic? Big BELIEF. For the next 31 days, I’ll be writing about three main things: 1. BELIEVING in His good plan for my life, 2. BELIEVING in the dreams He’s placed on my heart, and 3.BELIEVING in who He is and what He promises. So, what do you say? Will you join me? Will you open your heart to Him and allow Him to grow your belief over these next 31 days? You can read all my #31Days posts,here.::

 
Blessed by Belief

blessedisshewhobelieves

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her! (Luke 1:45)

Our belief changes us.

It opens us up to His way, breaks down our doubts, and fills our heart with all that's possible.

When we have big belief, we're free — not stuck or bound by our own limitations, fears, or insecurities.

We're blessed by the knowledge that He is present and working in all things and that we can trust what He is doing, even when — especially when — we don't understand it.

Over the next few days, I want to unpack this verse a little bit, reflecting on my own journey to believe and the ebb and flow of that in my life.

Part of the reason I chose this topic for my 31 Days challenge is I wanted to see Him grow and strengthen my belief. I wanted to see what would happen after 31 days of writing about belief, asking Him about belief, and praying about belief.

The truth is this challenge is hard. Harder than I initially thought it would be. I can't always find the words, and I worry and wonder if all of my rambling and reflecting will somehow come together and make any sense at all.

But I'm not writing this to tell you HOW to believe. I'm writing this because I'm right next to you on the journey...learning with you, praying with you, growing with you — believing WITH you.

So, thanks for sticking with me.

 

::For the month of October, I’m participating in The Nester’s #31Days blog writing challenge. My topic? Big BELIEF. For the next 31 days, I’ll be writing about three main things: 1. BELIEVING in His good plan for my life, 2. BELIEVING in the dreams He’s placed on my heart, and 3. BELIEVING in who He is and what He promises. So, what do you say? Will you join me? Will you open your heart to Him and allow Him to grow your belief over these next 31 days? You can read all my #31Days posts, here.::