Asking for Promises

Stop asking me to make more promises as if the ones I’ve already laid out are not enough.

I heard that, loud and clear. As I was making goals a few weeks ago, I began almost scared to write anything down on the paper. What if God asks us to move again? What if something terrible happens to someone in our family? What if we lose all of our savings somehow?

I was praying through these, not in an all-spiritual kind of way, but in an “OH CRAP please no please no please no” type of way. I was suddenly almost frantic as I thought about the vast unknowns we could be walking into.

And then I felt in my spirit a stern, but loving, voice tell me that He’s promised lots of things that I can cling to. 100% security and rest all the time is not one of them, because He has much better promises. Promises that He has a plan and a purpose. A promise that He will never leave me. A promise that I will see miraculous things come to pass. A promise that He will do whatever is best for those who love Him.

I can’t ask God to make promises merely for the sake of my comfort. He has literally done everything possible for me. He has moved mountains. He have never left me (Deuteronomy 31:6). He promises I don’t have to worry (Hebrews 13:5). He has guaranteed salvation and written my name on His hands (Romans 10:9, Isaiah 49:16). He has promised to bear my yoke. He says He will give me victory and rest and peace (Romans 8:37, Matthew 11:29, John 14:7).

So God won’t promise I will live in the same house for the rest of my life—but what He does promise is so much bigger and better. If I cling to my own perceptions and desires and wait to be vulnerable and dig into community until I have this one little promise, I will miss out on so much of what He has called me to do.

This year, as I set my goals and intentions, I am believing God is going to do huge things. I am believing for healing in an area of my life that I’ve been harboring for years and years. I am asking boldly for purpose and strength. I’m learning I can’t reasonably ask for these things and also ask for everything to remain exactly the same. And I am learning I can be not just okay with that, but overjoyed in the promises of what is to come.

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Setting Goals with Grace: The Goal Part

I’m so pumped about goal setting this year that I outlined the process in a new workbook: Goals with Grace. It includes five days of worksheets guiding you to set goals with God’s plans in mind. Click here to sign up for this FREE workbook!

Part I: The Year of…

Part II: Setting Guides

After setting my verse guides for the year and boldly praying over them, I was itching to set actual goals! Since SO much can change in a year, I am holding off setting goals for the entire year. I have an idea of where I want to go and things I want to accomplish, but I am going to take one month at a time.

Something one of my professors in college talked about was setting SMART goals. Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound. So a non-SMART goal would be to get healthy. A SMART goal would be to, say, only drink water for the month of January.  I typically try to follow this in goal setting.

My first list of goals for January had about 20 goals….blah. Since I’m trying not to fail the first month out, I kept myself to 5 fairly simple goals I want to accomplish in January:

Read a marriage book about supporting your spouse. I checked out Power of a Praying Wife last week and have already started reading! This is definitely an area I need to grow in.

Blog 3 times a week. If you’re reading this, the first week’s accomplished!

Pray intentionally for the youth group. Daily.

Only eat out one dinner a week. This weekend I made 4 freezer meals to help prepare for this—too bad I want to eat them all ASAP. (I made a version of The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Pot Pies and Annette’s Enchiladas from Shauna Neiquist’s book Bread and Wine).

Memorize Romans 15:13. This is my “guide” for my personal growth in 2016.

In addition to these goals, I am going to continue praying my guide verses and see where that leads me. Looking at the list, it seems like kind of a lot, but it’s all things I’m looking forward to. At the beginning of next month I’ll update you on how I did!

What are your goals for this month? I’d love to pray you through them! Leave a comment or shoot email to lifemeetsgrace@gmail.com!

Setting Goals with Grace: Guiding the Way

This week I’m talking about what happened when I prayed for my goal meeting process to meet grace. Stay tuned to the end of the post for a F-R-E-E workbook outlining how you can follow this process, too!

I do love setting goals every year, but don’t always/hardly ever meet them. This year, instead of putting together a huge list of resolutions, I wanted to really submit everything in prayer before I made my list of things to change. This seems so simple now that I’m writing it, but I don’t think that I’ve ever spent time in prayer before setting goals or guides for the year. I typically make my list of things I know I need to change (“Eat healthier” “Pray more”), then maybe pray one time over them. But this year, without really setting out to, I took a different approach.

I think my heart was prepping for this for a while—my year of dwelling really set my heart in a place where I just know I need God in able to do anything. I feel like my tendencies for perfectionism, while still tangled in this heart of mine, have been loosened as I spent this year learning about God and myself.

The very first thing I did, again, unintentionally, was start praying about a fresh start in early December. Nothing crazy, just a quick “God, please guide me to start fresh where you want me to this next year.”

Then early last week, when the word try wouldn’t leave my mind and before my work day started, I got out a piece of paper and wrote TRY in the middle, then wrote out categories for my life: Personal, Marriage, Finances, Spiritual, Creativity, Career, and Health. Throughout the day as I worked, I would write whatever came to my mind for these areas. All of them were realistic, but some were more ideas that goals. When I went home from work and looked over the paper, I saw some really broad ideas that made me so excited and hopeful.

I pared down these ideas into what I’m calling guides. For instance, under Spiritual Goals, I wrote that I really just want to fall in love with Jesus. That’s not really measureable or specific, but it really shows what I want to happen in my heart this year. All the other goals I wrote down in that category fall under this general idea.  So that was my guide for Spiritual Growth in 2016—all of my goals and ideas throughout the year, I want to help me fall in love with Jesus more.

My guides looked like this:

Spiritual: Fall in love with Jesus.

Health: Be strong.

Personal: Have joy.

Creativity: Commit to consistency.

Marriage: Be a support.

Career: Work diligently.

Finances: Be faithful.

Missions: Serve my community.

I mulled these over for a few days and talked about them with Chris, too (let me tell you, he absolutely LOVES goal talk…NOT!).  I really really didn’t want these goals to be just from or for me, another way I would keep striving to become the “Perfect” Woman. Instead I want to listen to what the Lord is asking from me, in my career or with my creativity or marriage and allow him to refine me. I want to be intentional to accomplish things that I feel like God is asking from me.

So, last Saturday, I woke up and instead of turning on the Pioneer Woman, I pressed record and then sat with my Bible, my journal, and my guides. I felt really great about the guides I had written out, so I set out to find verses that would match these and put them into perspective (aka about God’s glory and not about mine). I used Google search and my Bible to search these out, and here’s what I’ve got:

Spiritual: Isaiah 61:10 “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul will exult my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”

Personal: Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Creativity: 1 Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

Marriage: Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.”  (Side note: I was surprised by how much I really wanted to find a different verse, but this is what God stuck on my heart and wouldn’t budge from. Looks like I have some learning to do in this area)

Career: Colossians 3:1 and 3:23 “Seek the things that are above…whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord.”

Finances: Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he had said, ‘Never will I leave you nor forsake you.’”

Missions: 1 Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

You’ll see Health is missing, because I’m struggling to find one there! I don’t want to take a verse out of context (i.e. Philipians 4:13 isn’t at all talking about working out), so I’m waiting on that one.

I was really surprised to see how God allowed me to find the perfect verses that really summarized what I wanted to ask for this year. And ask is right—I am going to put a lot of work in, but this year one thing I am trying is to pray boldly and frequently. I have a feeling God is going to move some mountains in my personal life this year, and my expectations are through the roof.

Another thing about these guides is that I am going to use the verses, instead of the original words I wrote, as my guides for goal setting in 2016. That way, each month when I look these over, I am reminded that God is the source of change and refinement in my life, not me.

I’m so pumped about goal setting this year that I outlined the process in a new workbook: Goals with Grace. It includes five days of worksheets guiding you to set goals with God’s plans in mind. Click here to sign up for this FREE workbook!

 

Setting Goals with Grace: The Year of…

Towards the end of December, I started thinking and praying about a word for this next year or season to focus on. I wanted something that I could really sink into, whether that meant reading lots of books, word studies in Scripture, whatever. And what I came up with is super not that, and I love it.

I was reading this article by Kelsey Humphreys where she talks about dreams, and this paragraph really stuck out to me:

“When you start a blog, no one reads it but your mom. When you start performing at coffee shops, only your friends show up. When you start writing your novel, you’ll only have a few measly pages at first. Technology and the internet make everything seem fast and simple, but anything worth doing takes time and effort. I have seen many an excited dreamer start on their new project only to bail one month in because they didn’t anticipate just how lame starting actually is.” Source

It’s like she was giving me personal permission to put something out there that…isn’t super awesome at first. I can figure it out and get better as I go. And I know it’s kind of lame, but this year I am going to hold onto that. This year I am just going to…try.

To me, this means:

Not being afraid of being vulnerable or lame.

Having the self-discipline to follow through.

Trying something and not committing.

Being okay with lameness for a while.

This year I accidentally set some guides and goals for the year in a way that hasn’t left me overwhelmed or striving. Instead I am so hopeful and excited for what God’s going to do in 2016. Over the upcoming week, I want to outline the process I unintentionally did this year that I probably will carry into years to come. Part II of Setting Goals with Grace will come your way this Wednesday!

2015 Recap

In January God laid the word dwell on my heart, and it really set the tone for the year.

In February we invested in this space and bought a domain, and I volunteered at IF: Gathering in Austin.

In March we celebrated 4 years together.

In April I saw the most beautiful city in America.

In May I got to meet some amazing missionaries in Prague, Vienna, Trieste, Bologna, and Venice.

In June we celebrated 2 years of marriage laughing at the worst resort ever.

In July we relaxed and just enjoyed one another and a break in the travel schedule.

In August we celebrated birthdays in San Antonio and hung out at Jen Hatmaker’s farmhouse.

In September we lost someone we love.

We love and miss you, Derek. Thank you for being an amazing friend, truly the very best, to Chris.
We love and miss you, Derek. Thank you for being an amazing friend, truly the very best, to Chris.

In October I headed to Spain and Portugal and Chris began a new job. 

In November we fell in love with our new church and community, and I got to hang out with my high school best friends at Disney World.

In December we celebrated another year in love, a new house, living in our callings, and, most importantly, we’ve started The Office at episode 1.

Favorite Books in 2015

I am an avid reader, and with all the traveling this year, I got to read some really great ones. Here are some of my favs I read in 2015:

After You//The Boston Girl//The Butterfly and the Violin//Everything I Never Told You//Fates and Furies//For the Love//The Good Girl//Just Mercy//Lunch in Paris

If You’re Only Going to Read One: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is a fabulous book. He is an amazing and heartbreaking storyteller who really changed some of my long-standing opinions by showing some realities of the justice system.

Best Written Book: Fates and Furies is the best written book I have ever read. It tells the story of a marriage between two very interesting people, and Groff’s writing style throughout the book perfectly reflects the narrative and characters. I need all y’all to read this because I am still having a hard time processing it all, but I absolutely loved this one. (Disclaimer: very adult content)

Best Quick Read: I read The Boston Girl in one afternoon. 85 year old Addie Baum tells her story of growing up in the early 20th Century to immigrant parents in Boston to her granddaughter, and it is funny and sad and flirty and inspiring.

Solid Christian Fiction: The Butterfly and the Violin is a historical Christian fiction novel set during WWII. I avoid most Christian fiction because some of it is…not great. I accidentally picked this one up at the library and was impressed with the story and the writing. This is Cambron’s first book, and I really enjoyed it. The story is catching, and I look forward to reading her future books.

If You’re Going for Suspense: The Good Girl is a really well-written story that will keep you guessing until the end. I can’t give anything away, but it’s good.

If You Love Food: Lunch in Paris is an adorable memoir about an American falling in love in Paris (with a man and the food) and figuring out how to find home.

If You Need Jesus and Some Laughs: For the Love is hilarious and hands out grace in handfuls. 

For Those Late to the Party: Everything I Never Told You won lots of awards in 2014, but I just got around to it this year. It’s a compelling and heartbreaking story, something that will definitely leave you thinking.

Best Sequel: Me Before You is one of my all-time favorite books, so I was a little weary when I heard After You was the sequel. Jojo Moyes, though, is a great writer, and I enjoyed this one a lot, even if it wasn’t quite the immediate favorite Me Before You was.

What were your favorite books of 2015?

10 Ways to Support a Missionary

Good morning! Today I’m over on TEAM’s blog talking about my favorite topic–encouraging missionaries! Here’s a little excerpt, and you can click over to see the whole blog below.

Source
Source

For many missionaries, the Christmas season is full of opportunities to share the gospel with people in their community. While the holidays bring many joyful activities, they can also magnify feelings of homesickness for some missionaries. We’ve put together a list below of 10 unique ways to give your missionary support this Christmas.

Read more here…

Three Simple Ways to Do #GivingTuesday

When I say Black Friday, I think fights over a big screen TV. When I say Cyber Monday, I think of the big sale Birchbox had yesterday that gave me my favorite dry shampoo for 25% off. When I say Giving Tuesday, I hear… *crickets*

We’ve all probably spent a little too much this weekend (and maybe eaten a little too much, too), but today is #GivingTuesday, a day where we put aside our own (really fun and awesome) wish lists and focus on giving to the needs around us. This Giving Tuesday, here are three super simple ways you can give to those around you.

1.       Up your monthly support for December.  A one-time gift to a missionary your church supports this month could be huge! Think of all the extra little expenses you have around the holidays—missionaries aren’t exempt, and a gift of even as much as $15 could help an overseas worker this month.

2.       Switch it up. If you mostly support global missions, why not give to a local outreach? If you’re all about helping people locally, why not support a global organization today? (If you’re looking to partner with a new nonprofit, check out this post on simple ways to vet them before you give). What a great way to remember helping people is not about a certain zip code or country name, but about loving anyone and everyone you can.

3.       Choose from the catalog. I think just about everyone remembers circling toys in a catalog around Christmastime. An even more awesome activity is looking over the Wish List of your favorite nonprofit organization. Wish Lists typically list specific gifts you can give. For instance, you might be able to buy a meal for an orphaned child for $6, or purchase a coat for a homeless veteran for $30. I know kids that absolutely love looking over wish lists and picking out projects to support. Since the gift prices can start so low, it is a great way to make an unplanned donation!

This Christmas, it can be so easy to focus on the stress and the wrapping paper and the decorations, but I encourage us all to take just a few minutes today to focus our heart on the gifts of the season and donate to an organization doing some awesome work (You can find some of my favorites here!).

Happy #GivingTuesday!

When Hiding Our Eyes Isn’t Working

I wholeheartedly think that ISIS has continued to grow because of the lack of Christian knowledge and action to fight the spread of Islam around the world. It’s a multi-faceted issue, for sure, but the longer Christians sit with our eyes closed the more expansive this issue will become.  This hits close to home for me for multiple reasons.

1)      As a believer, and the idea that the areas where Paul and Peter and the apostles planted churches in the first century are now strongholds of the Islamic faith breaks my heart.

2)      The last time I went to Ghana, a place I deeply love, I could see a visual difference in the number of Muslims as compared to the first time I visited only two years before. (Just last week, Ghana had its first documented ISIS recruit). 

3)      ISIS recruits in areas with low education and high poverty rates, taking advantage of those in poverty.  They recruit from refugee camps, places with minimal opportunities for young adults, and prey on lonely people online.  ISIS is the one offering a sick, sick version of hope to people in need. This infuriates me, that they would take advantage of this. But it also infuriates me because Christians, the ones with the real hope, have not been sharing our faith with Muslims.  ISIS is a radical version of Islam, so I do not believe their views and actions are indicative of the entire religion of Islam. However, only 15% of ALL MUSLIMS have EVER even HEARD the Gospel. That means, most likely, ISIS members who are completing these atrocious acts have NEVER HEARD THE GOSPEL. They have never even had a CHANCE to know REAL HOPE.

So what can we do? Because we HAVE to do something.

It starts with your backyard: at your college, in your apartment complex, in a suburb of your city, there are most likely Muslims. Befriend them. Talk to them. And share the Gospel with them in your actions and with your words. Most likely they are not extremists or ISIS related. But spreading hope can help stop the spread of evil.

Secondly, and I mean this in love, get your head out of your behind and start reading the news. Read the articles that make you want to throw up, because that is the Holy Spirit grieving inside of you, and He will stir you into action. Learn about the history and makeup of ISIS. Learn about the Islamic faith and what makes extremists different from other Muslims. Follow reporters who focus on ISIS on Twitter (Rukmini Callimachi is a MUST follow). Watch Half the Sky and Girl Rising on Netflix to learn more about the culture of developing countries and how it affects women and crime.

Thirdly, pray against ISIS. Pray for the women ISIS is systematically raping and selling as slaves as an act of worship. Pray at noon everyday along with the women of Hillsong. Pray the leaders of ISIS would get visions from the Lord that what they are doing is wrong. Pray for your Muslim friends in Jesus’ name. Pray that Christians, including yourself and myself, would have an undeniable passion for sharing the Gospel. Pray for the refugee crisis, that those in camps would be protected from recruitment.

Lastly, support organizations that work with the refugee crisis or ministry in the Middle East (the only ones I am familiar enough with to recommend are World Vision and iHOPE Ministries, but I know there have to be others. If you know of any, please comment below with the name).

I may sound a little harsh and ranting, but this is the issue of our generation, and I can’t keep hiding my eyes because the pictures break my heart, or because the idea of ISIS continuing to spread is the scariest thing I can think of. We need to do something.

 

Further (Much More Helpful and Educated) Reading

ISIS’ American Recruiting Tactics by Rukmini Callimachi for the New York Times

What Can Be Done About Isis? by Johnnie Moore for Relevant.com

Let’s Turn on the Light for Syrian and Iraqi Refugees by Lynn Hybels

ISIS Recruiting Next Generation Fighters by Hari Sreenivasan for PBS

ISIS and Relative Deprivation by Ömer Taşpınar for Huffington Post

5 Ways to Stand Up and Be the Church by Ann Voskamp

 

**I’d like to note that I touch on several different issues that ISIS effects, in a very simple way. As I said, each issue is multi-faceted, and I encourage you to keep reading and researching the issues that can allow such a group to come into power, and the issues a group like this brings as it continues to grow in power (and I promise to do the same)**

hello, September.

Hello, September.  I am ecstatic to see you.  August was pretty good to me, but I have a feeling September is going to be even better.

This month instead of my usual goals, I’m aiming for three things in all areas: self-discipline, peace, and love.

Self-discipline in health by cutting down that sugar (August meant lots of wedding/birthday/because it’s Saturday cupcakes). Self-discipline in a project I’m working on by creating a schedule and sticking to it. This month I am going to attack some hard things, and I am actually looking forward to them.

I’m creating space for peace, starting with cutting the podcasts from my morning walks (*the horror*). I need some silent space for breathing and talking with the Lord, and an hour long walk in the morning seems like a great start.

Love in that I want to stop and listen. I want to really look people in the eyes as they are talking, from the grocery store cashier to my husband.

September, we are going to have a great time, I think.

What are you hoping for this month? Any words or specific areas you want to grow in?