Everything Changes…

ImageIf we trust our feelings, or previous experiences where we have felt worthless in the outcome, would we be afraid to try again, but do it differently?

I feel, that often, we (as in I) base the outcome of situations on our previous experiences (both positive or negative). If there was a positive outcome when I was courageous and brave…I may try the same “formula” again and expect the same results. If there was a negative outcome when I was courageous and brave…I may not ever try again in fear of the same results: pain, embarrasment, etc. Even in positive experiences, where we saw an awesome outcome, we often hesitate to try something new because we know the “formula” works. If we do “this” then “that” will happen and we will be rewarded. This is also true for negative experiences. If we do “this” then “that” negative thing will happen. Often we are afraid to try again because of the not-so-fun outcome. We then begin to live life stuck in fear and with the inability to trust that the outcome may be different. To trust in the unknown without fear is a common cycle in many people’s lives… *hand raises*… yeah, in mine too. It can be hard to trust the unknown and not live in fear of the “what ifs” and past experiences. We only know life based on our experiences. Well, it might be better to say that our life is shaped by our experiences, both positive and negative. It takes courage, trust, and obedience to try something new, to try again, to get up and believe again, and not let fear creep in. If we never try, we will never know, and then we would live in the ever crazy consuming spiral of the “what ifs”. What if, as babies, we never tried to walk, or stopped trying because when we tried, we fell, it hurt and we cried? If we trusted our feelings of hurt and fear, a lot of people would not be walking today. What a different world it would be! Imagine a bunch of adults, never moving and requiring other adults (who, literally, walked past fear and pain) to carry them around. It’s a pretty silly picture, right?

So, trust our feelings…trust our past experiences will be the same always? NO! Even positive experiences, after a while, can have different outcomes. Each time we  try something, we trust, we believe. We have a choice to believe the hurt will happen again, or we have the choice to believe that the outcome will be different. We have a choice to believe that this time our hope will be restored, our love will be restored, our trust will be restored, our heart may get hurt again but it will heal. I believe this. I am choosing to take courage, to trust, to hope, because I believe that the Lord has a plan for me:

“Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” {Jeremiah 29:11-13}

Why do I choose to believe this? Because, I would rather believe than live in fear. Believing is hard and sometimes unbelievable, but it’s way better than stupid fear, stupid fast fear.

We sang a song yesterday during church by Bryan and Katie Torwalt, “When You Walk into the Room”:

When You walk into the room, everything changes
Darkness starts to tremble at the light that you bring
When You walk into the room, every heart starts burning
And nothing matters more than just to sit here at Your feet and worship You

For me, it was a reminder that, when we Jesus walks into the room, when we call Him in, everything changes.  Invite Him in when that stupid fast fear creeps in and tries to remind you “it won’t work”, “that will never happen”, “you will end up disappointed…again”. Invited HIM in, invite in Him to reveal the TRUTH of situation, into the experience.  Even if you don’t hear Him, see Him, invite Him in and just rest, don’t try but believe He is there…and trust everything will change and you can try again, with hope and trust that everything will change.

“{Befriending Faithfulness}

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“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.”

{Psalm 37:3, ESV}

This past Sunday, one of my pastors, Eric Johnson, talked a little bit about how most often our faith has been about what we know will happen but he feels that there is about to be a wave of Faith that is going to be about the Unknown.  Similar to what Martin Luther King Jr. said that “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase”.  Embrace the unknown…the mystery.
This idea…this word, faith made me think of the verse,

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.”

{Psalm 37:3, ESV}

To befriend someone is the simple act of becoming their friend. Often you do not know this person first…but you choose to pursue and get to know them.  A friend is by definition (from Webster) is one attached to another by affection. What if we befriended faithfulness? That we would be attached to faithfulness to the Lord.  We simply become affectionate toward trusting the Lord and steadfast towards Him, especially in the unknown.  I want to become a friend of Faith in the Unknown  I want to delight myself in the Lord.  Trust the Lord. Dwell in the land of trust and faithfulness. Sounds good to me.

One of the Senior Leaders at my church spoke on Hope and Faith a while back.  He explained faith in a way that just has stuck with me.  He said, “Hope is a feeling and faith is seeing”.
Hebrews 11:1  says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. ”  Having faith is having confidence, hope and assurance. That’s a good friend when you are walking into mystery…out into the unknown.
My top 5 strengths, well according to Clifton StrengthsFinder Test, are: communication, futuristic, restorative, woo and belief. As a futuristic strength person I may  “intentionally take steps to be the mastermind of my own future. You refuse to leave my destiny to chance. I probably resist placing it in someone else’s hands.” (definition from StrengthsFinder Test). Makes me sound awesome right?! Well, I am awesome, but the truth is, sometimes our greatest strength can become our weakness if we do not learn to properly use our strength.

I like plans. I like structure. I find freedom within the structure. Give me a plan and I am willing to be flexible with the plan, change the plan, change the structure of the plan…just give me a plan so I have some sort of direction and control. In my life I have learned to be flexible and adapt to situations, but usually I have had a plan. Since I began my relationship with the Lord in 1997, He speaks to me often. We chat about life, what I love, who to pray for and of course what I am doing with my life.  Going into college, I really started to develop a deep connection with the Lord and sought Him for all my decisions, really desiring to hear Him and what His best was for me. I knew He loved me so of course He has the best for me. I always had a plan. The Lord usually would tell me His plans in advanced, so I could plan. It was the way we worked…it was the way I worked. Before I began my bachelors degree, I knew months in advance and I  planned out my year. I knew 8 months before I moved to Redding. I had a lot of time to plan (find housing, job, etc)

Now, in 2013 …I am learning a new thing…How to not see the whole staircase, but only parts of it at a time and believe that it’s leading me somewhere amazing. I am learning how to not plan but embrace the mystery of the unknown… (S-C-A-R-Y) but yet to be flexible with out a plan and a bit spontaneous and to learn to trust. Learn to believe and trust that with each step I take the Lord will reveal the next step to me. That I don’t have to have it all planned out before I take a step, but as I take a step the plan will be revealed.  I had some “Peter” moments last year, where the Lord said to me, “Sarah, do you trust me?” I would say yes, and I had to put my words into action. I had not plan of action on how to handle the situation or what I was feeling except to trust the Lord and “watch what He would do”. Usually the Lord will give me a vision an over all pictures and bout the time it will happen.

It’s kind of like a new relationship. I am always so eager to know EVERYTHING about this wonderful person in front of me. I want to know every detail of their life. Stranger’s are just friends I haven’t met yet. Sometimes, I can ask a bazillion questions because I want to know all about the right away…instead of slowing down, and learning who they are step by step. Each encounter with that person is seeing a new part of who they are …in this case another part of the staircase.

The Lord have been giving me hints for the past few months of new things coming, but since he didn’t say “Sarah, move to _________”, I didn’t think I was hearing right. All he was giving me was things are changing. …hmmm ok Lord. Last Winter, I really felt like the Lord was leading me to make some declarations of my 2013. Who do I want to become, how do I want my life to be like, who do I want in my life, who do I want to be intentional with, how do I want to spend my time? As I began to explore these questions, some of my dreams that I left about 4 years ago started coming alive again, and I began to wonder. what if? What if I go after these dreams? Is it time to pick them back up? A few months ago the thought of pursuing new dreams or even old dreams scared me gave me anxiety because some would mean I might have to move or change the way I live day in day out, and the change was coming with out an eight month plan! I freaked out and couldn’t handle it so put all those thoughts away. But as the Lord does, He speaks to us gentle and prompts us. When he brought up these new things over Christmas, I realized, I was anxious about them but actually was excited and had peace.

It’s about FAITH, it’s about believing and hoping in the Lord. So I don’t know what the next year, month, day, hour has to hold, or where I will be in 8 months or who I will be surrounded by in 8 months but what I do know is that I will take the first step of this staircase and see what the next step has to offer and believe that there, the Lord will show me the next step.. He makes my paths straight, sets my hinds feet on high places.

I don’t know what it looks like yet to even take the first steps…but I have faith and believe the Holy Spirit will guide me.

Reflections of a ditch jumper…

ImageBe brave. Do not be afraid. Be brave. Holy Spirit has been prompting me with those phrases and speaking to me about fears in my life and constantly encouraging me to live a fearless and risk full lifestyle with the Lord. While talking to the Lord about some fears I had, He brought me to two verses:

John 14:27 “let not your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control

Again… Do not be afraid…I, God, am with you… Do not be afraid. Give everything to me, your fears, your doubt, your troubles, not understanding, your control… And trust Me… Trust Me…trust Me…keep moving forward and you’ll see I am there before you…I haven’t left you behind…you are brave … Trust Me … Trust Me.. Trust me

Overcoming fear and trusting reminded me of a little story. One Friday evening, a friend and I ended up exploring a near by monastery/vineyard after a fun trip to Chico (because we wanted to be a monk for an hour and check out of the vineyards). As we began to explore the monastery grounds we notice a vineyard off in the distance and decided to go walk around in it (take in mind it was dark). When we got closer to the vineyard we found an obstacle in our way and the hopes of exploring the vineyard were crushed (well…not really). My friend took his iphone out to assess the situation and it was a ditch, about 5 ft wide (maybe..) and full of water! Now, in my mind, I was done, obstacle in the way = not crossing and joy of frolicking in a vineyard at 10pm at night… vanished. While I was looking down the ditch to “see” (it was dark) if the ditch narrowed down the way, I turn back to say something to my friend and he had already hopped over the ditch to the other side!

Darn…now I have to…well I want to…can I do it? No I can’t…I’m scared…but he just hopped over…why can’t I just hop over…come on Sarah, be brave…it will be fun…but what if I don’t make it…what if my legs aren’t strong enough… what if my foot slips and I fall in the water…what if I totally eat it…that would be embarrassing…oh man…is there another way around…nope..aaaahhh…I can do this…look at the vineyard…it’s calling our names…it wants us to hang out with it…I can’t let my friend hang out by himself…I don’t want to be the party killer…my legs are strong…I can do this…wait….

The voice inside my head stops as I hear my friend is saying, “You got this, you can make it” and other very encouraging words. He reaches out his hand to help me. I begin to step across and He says, “Sarah, you have to jump”. OOOH YEAH! haha..wow…at this point, I was shaking. I have NO idea why all this fear and doubt came over me. I knew I was physically strong enough to jump across…it was only 5 feet! I had this mental block and the connection between my mind and physical body was not connecting or agreeing very well. After a little pacing back and forth, my very very affirming, encouraging friend not giving up on me and me making declarations (in my head) over myself, that I can conquer my fears, I am a good jumper, my body is strong enough, etc. So, I went for it, took a risk and jumped. If I get wet and scratched up…it will make for a good story and I will have conquered the obstacle that was in my way from “my desire” and my goal of getting to the vineyard.

Now, I know some of you probably read all that and need to go take a nap because you are exhausted from my indecisiveness and probably thought, “Girl, just jump! It’s only 5 feet!”. OH I wish it was that easy for me in the moment. Honestly, I think it took me five minutes to push aside my fear and doubt and believe that what my friend was saying was true, that I could make it and believe in myself (Thank You Joe for being so patient).

After this excursion, I began to realize a few things about myself:

#1 – I take forever to make decisions! I thought I was a spontanous-decision-making person but looked back at other decisions I have had to make and saw that I stop…assess (for far to long)…and usually end up not crossing the obstacle that’s in my way because of fear and doubt.

#2 – Risk-taker, that I am not when I do not know the outcome. If I can see the big-picture and am familiar with the steps then I’ll risk…but is that really risking? If I risk…once I take a step, I have no control of what happens next…

#3 – Sometimes it takes me awhile to warm up to ideas. Ask my roommates, we will make a change in decorations in the house and at first…I do not like them…but then slowly I warm up to the layout/decorations and I am ok.

#4 – I still live with some fear and want to live with more freedom and trust!

Well, you may be wondering, did I actually make it across safely. The answer is YES! Once I put my mind to it, made the commitment, risked, I jumped and my friend was patiently waiting for me and grabbed my hand as I “hopped” over. Honestly it was exhilarating. I felt like I had conquered the world as I conquered jumping over the ditch! I looked back at the ditch and thought “hmm, eventually we have to cross back over,” but I stopped my thoughts before I started to assess again…I didn’t let my mind go there. I had already won. I wanted to move forward, towards our goal… to hanging out in the vineyard.

This has just been part of a journey the Lord has had me on with Him in trusting and not fearing. He is showing me what it means to risk with Him. How to not be afraid when there is an obstacle in the way as I pursue my dreams, my passions, my desires. I found that my thought pattern was, if their is an obstacle in the way of my dream/goal then it must not be God’s desire for me. Or if a situation didn’t play out as I thought it must not be from God. Or if my life didn’t follow the agenda I thought it should then it’s defiantly not from God. In the Bible there were a lot people who had obstacles, that seemed bigger then themselves, in the way as they pursued dreams and passions. Jonah lived in whale. Abraham had to leave home. Paul was put in prison. David had to fight Goliath. None of them let their obstacle get in the way of pursing what God had before them.

Tonight I heard a phrase, “If you want to see change…Get out of your comfort zone.” I had to get out of my comfort zone to change from one side of the ditch to the other. I had to believe truths about myself and not letting fear tell me who I was. “Perfect love casts out all fear”. God’s agape love, His perfect love, casts out all fear.

When you know what you want or where you are heading, yes, obstacles while come your way. You have to ask yourself, are you going to let the obstacles keep you from pursuing, even if it seems hard to over come the obstacle or will you risk and “jump” over the obstacle and let perfect love cast out all the fear? It may not be easy for all (you may take time to assess the situation), but also in the process surround yourself with amazing friends who believe in you and won’t let a “ditch” keep you from living your life.

I choose love. I choose trust. I choose risk.

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