30 days in my Toms® : Day 11 ~ I am not too young

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I used to believe that with age came confidence. Growing up, I was always incredibly shy. In fact, I still am.

Confidence is not one of my strengths, but I am still capable of genuine leadership.

Stepping into several leadership positions, one thing I come up against frequently is the issue of my age. I am only 23, I have not yet completed my degree, and I lack any previous ministry or leadership experience. I should just wear a name tag that reads, “very likely to fail.”

Over the past several months, God has dramatically challenged my own beliefs about my age.

1. Age is not a disqualifying factor. Ever. Experience is gained through circumstance, not years. And within ministry, faith trumps age limits every time. My mission is not to wait until I am older to live with intention, but to live as an example of what God can do in someone who trusts Him wholeheartedly. This someone just happens to be young.

2. Defying the age-related stereotypes brings God victory. There is no greater way for God’s light to shine than in an individual who braved the impossible and brought God glory in the victory. The definition of victory is any conclusion that follows a risk. Even failures can be a victory when pursuing God-sized plans.

3. I have a story to tell that cannot wait. I have personally seen how when I am willing to take risks and step out in faith to share my heart, my passion, and my story, God steps in to use me to inspire, encourage and challenge believers of all ages. This is not by own ability to get it right, (because I definitely get it wrong more than I ever get it right), but it is through God in me, transforming me and molding me into the Christ follower and leader He has designed me to be. The moment we commit to Christ, we become an example for others, so why not use our every “disqualifying factor” we have to defy the stereotypes and to bring glory to God!

I have learned that when I succumb to the pressures of fitting into an age-appropriate stereotype, I am not only denying myself the ability to watch God work, but I am denying others the opportunity to see God move. We all have the ability to lead, to inspire and to change this world for Christ. The only qualifying factor required is faith.

Confidence does not come with age; it comes through faith. I can only imagine the light that would shine if our younger generations accepted the challenge to live boldly and brilliantly for Christ. So let’s start today, challenge accepted.

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30 days in my Toms® : Day 10~ Road Trip

This past week, I travel across the spanse of two time zones to visit my little sister in Oregon and road trip with her to Colorado to bring her home for the summer. Our wild adventure took us through the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, across a portion of Idaho, the vast expanse of Utah and through Wyoming. After a wonderful night spent visiting our oldest sister and little nephews, we set out on the ever familiar journey from Cheyenne to Colorado Springs- a stretch of highway we have traveled since the time we were babies. It’s been years since I have made that trip and the familiar landmarks and cities brought back a whole slew of memories. 

One of my favorite memories of that journey is the series of landmarks we would pass that would become our milemarkers for the 3 hour journey. They were landmarks our parents had selected to dodge the never ending questions, “are we there yet?” First was Castle Rock, a giant rock attop a hill that was the pride of the small city nestled below. The second was the Denver skyline, beautiful both in the middle of the day or in the dead of night. Third was the “buffalo.” A large metal buffalo silouhette atop a large hill that symbolized the entrance into the great state of Wyoming. And fourth was the “fire.” A large tower in the middle of a power plant that always burned- our beacon that we had entered Cheyenne. For years, this was a game. Who could spot the next landmark. 

Driving down this road years later, I was reminded how much I looked forward to spying this familiar sights. Not only did they help us visualize how far we had left to travel, but they became the physical proof of the progress we had made. And our parents were our cheerleaders. “We’re halfway there! You can do it!” “You’ve almost made it!” 

Our life journey is like that roadtrip. Although our strength comes from God, our ability to endure is dependent upon our focus. If we focus on the struggle, the fatigue and the distance, we are more inclined to give up. But if we learn to focus on the author of our strength, on the encouraging support from our cheerleaders and  on the landmarks that symbolize the progress we have made- the impossible becomes possible. 

My dear friend and the founder and director of LeadHer Ministry, Christie Love shared in a recent teaching video, “Discipline allows you to celebrate your progress.” 

The distance may seem immeasurable, but the progress made no matter how insignificant is worthy of celebration. So I encourage you to scout out the milemarkers on your journey and allow them to give you a reason to celebrate and a reason to endure.

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“So much in life seems inflexible and unchangeable, and part of the joy of running and especially racing is the realization that improvement and progress can be achieved.”
    -Nancy Anderson

30 days in my Toms® : Day 9 ~ My Knight in Shining Armor

     After one of my dear friends met my boyfriend, she sent me a Facebook message telling me how she was talking to her husband about me and my marital plans. (My boyfriend and I had decided to be married only after 2 months of dating). His response, “what is she thinking?” Of course, I have asked myself this same question countless times. 2 months prior, I would have told you that it was just me and Jesus, that I was never getting married, and that if God would bring a man into my life, it would have to be when I was at least 30.  I had made up my mind, and then God changed it dramatically. 

     When my boyfriend and I met, it was clearly a God thing. Neither of us were looking for a relationship. God had called me to change churches abruptly and out of nowhere, and I fell into this church, quickly became a youth leader and with every youth event, I began falling head over heels for the extremely handsome and charming youth pastor. Little did I know that he was falling for me too. It took a youth all nighter for me to put my guard down and flirt back a little which finally gave him the hint that I was interested. Still, only after a couple days of spending time together with friends did he ask me out. I said yes and the rest is history. We were official the next day after our first date and within a week, we both had voiced that we believed God intended for this relationship to end in marriage. 

     My sweet friend responded to her husbands realistic question by pointing out that she had been a mess when she met her husband and she never would have found complete healing without him, and that like her relationship, maybe my boyfriend was my knight in shining armor. When she told me this, I had to smile, our relationship was very much like that. He immediately took over the job of looking after me (because yes, even at 22, I needed a lot of looking after), protecting me, and loving me shamelessly and respectfully. He respected my boundaries and my body without me ever having to tell him to stop. He told me I was worth it and that I was beautiful. I struggled at first to accept his love. He was such a good guy and how could a guy like him really love me? I struggled with believing his words and I fought him at first, but I learned to trust him incredibly fast and instead of fighting him, I began to fight for him and for our relationship. And when we choose to fight together, God fights for us. When we choose to fight each other, it leaves a gap where either God or Satan can intercede depending on the condition of our hearts. 

     I chose to keep my heart pure and focus on serving my King. Before I ever met my boyfriend, I found myself in a season of love and being romanced by my Savior. It was the first time that I was made to feel like a Princess, but it wasn’t a knight that swept me off my feet but my Prince. I realized that I was royalty because my God was royalty. He was my father the king, my romancer the prince, and my ultimate royal defender. Who was there to stand against me? The one role left empty was the role of the knight. Not because God wasn’t noble to fill it but because God chose to provide for me an individual to come alongside me to be my counterpart. I was already complete in Jesus but he called for this princess to meet a knight. I realized the importance however of never mistaking my knight for a prince. Regardless of our relationship status, Christ should always be first. He is the only one who completes and makes us whole. I had been given complete confidence in my relationship with my boyfriend because I knew it was a relationship of God and I knew that both our hearts were 100% set on serving God first and foremost and then supporting and loving each other. 

     I believe that so many relationships struggle because the relationship becomes humanity centered. People place too much expectation on the other and replace their trust in God with their trust in man. No matter how good the condition of a person’s heart, sin will still disappoint and failure will cause distrust. Just because the relationship status changes does not mean God’s law changes. In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus lays out the law, reciting the first two commandments,

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him,“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (ESV). 

     We are called to love the God completely before we are to love each other. If God has written a knight in shining armor into your love story, allow him to sweep you off your feet and live your fairy tale with your whole heart. But never forget  that your Prince died for you to give you eternal life. Your roots as royalty are not to be forgotten but to be the source of life which will direct your relationship, your work, and your purpose. God’s purpose for you as his princess is too good to miss out on. 

 

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30 days in my Toms® : Day 8 ~ Clay Pots

        The other night I had a dream. I was sitting at a potters wheel with a mound of clay- a formless, shapeless idenitity that resembled a mess more than creation. I set to work making the clay into a pot- bent over with hands covered in a mixture of water and mud, I poured my heart into my creation. But no matter how much care I put into the deatail and how much time I took to shape and define it, the clay piece always crumbled in my hands. Every effort I made was destroyed by the very hands that were attempting to build.
         
        At last, I collapsed. Frustrated, I started to cry. Why can’t I do this? This project has my whole heart- why can these hands only create brokenness? 

        And then Jesus handed me a clay pot. It was beautifully crafted- the design was so intricate and the detail was breathtaking. But the pot was covered in cracks and there were places where the light shown through. I looked at Him confused. Why could such a perfect, beautiful pot be treated so carelessly when my attempt at a pot was handled with so much care? I looked at Him with question. 

        He gently took the pot and examined it. His touch was so gentle and His gaze, compassionate. I stared at Him in amazement. He loved this pot-in all it’s brokenness. He then began to speak. 

        This piece of beautiful artwork was purposed long ago. It took time and great care to create. I put into it my heart and soul and graced it with beauty. And then I entrusted this pot to a new caretaker who never understood it’s worth and value. Time and time again, the pot was thrown on the ground, shattered and chipped. Though each and everytime, the caretaker returned to me with the pieces and I lovingly put it back together. 

   Confused again, I asked why The Lord didn’t simply create a new pot to give back to the caretaker- one without flaws and scars. 

        Holly- this clay pot is your heart and you are the caretaker. I entrusted it to you with the longing that you would entrust it to me to protect. But I desire you heart out of your desire for mine, not out of mere obligation. I cannot create a new heart because this is the heart I created for you-and yes, it may be covered in scars- but it’s in those scars that my glory shines because each healed scar shows the world how much I truly love you. 

         I looked down at the pot, now flustered and self conscious. I was so careless with my heart- giving it to other people, to addictions and to worldly desires. And only in heartbreak did I return it to it’s creator. Ashamed, I hid my gaze and mumbled a heartfelt apology. 

        You know, have never loved this clay pot more than I do now. Do you know why? 

        I shook my head. 

        Because every scar and every crack represents every moment of surrender when you again entrusted me with your heart and returned to my protective care. Its in those moments that I find joy because my deepest desire is to know you, to love you and to be the keeper of your beautiful, healed heart. 

        

30 days in my Toms® : Day 7 ~ Free

This year- I decided to make a valiant effort at reading my way through the Bible. Currently, I am in 2 Samuel, but I also decided that I wanted to spend the entire year reading through the gospels at the same time. Tonight I was finishing the book of John and as I read through the resurrection, I was gripped by the role of Mary Magdalene during this last scene of the gospel. While Peter and John perceived the empty tomb to be the fulfilling of Jesus’ promise to rise again, Mary is stricken with grief. As a follower of Christ, I’m sure she heard the promise of His resurrection, but during this time, she is so broken hearted at his death that she cannot grasp that hope. She is a typical woman- she has followed her heart, her passions and her beliefs and risked everything for them. At this moment, she is lost. 

But she becomes the first individual to see Jesus alive. 

Mary represents so many of us. She is a sinner who was so lost in a sinful, evil world that she never could have credited her righteousness to her own good works. Her possession by a demon is no different than today’s drug addicts, alcoholics, teen cutters, adulterers, depression sufferers, girls with eating disorders, victims of abuse or rape, criminals or victims of bullying. What these people all have in common is bondage, whether it be through addiction, bad choices, chemical imbalances or circumstances beyond their control, they are weighed down by the chains of shame, fear and guilt and on their own, they can never be free. 

But Jesus came to set the captives free (Isaiah 61:1). 

There is nothing quite like experiencing the freedom that comes from faith in Jesus. Freedom that is so real that it can almost be touched. It is felt, seen and experienced over and over again. It is the kind of freedom that brings joy and laughter back into a broken heart, the kind of freedom that reunites and restores broken families, and the kind of freedom that ignites a passion that becomes fuel for the world changing fires. Mary understood this kind of freedom. And it was for Mary and for millions of others like her that Jesus came. 

So when Jesus appeared to her, it was not to comfort a broken heart, or simply because she was still present at the tomb. Jesus appeared to Mary because Mary uniquely needed Jesus. She was nothing without Christ, and she knew it. Her act of surrender through the  washing of Jesus’ feet with perfume was her way of showing Christ that He was her identity, her worth and following Him was her life’s sole purpose. She knew she needed Jesus. Her acknowledgement of this need is what set her apart, and what I believe gave her the opportunity to see Jesus first. She was the very reason Jesus died and rose again and Jesus wanted to prove to her that she was worth it all. 

In Galatians 5:13  Paul writes that we are “called to live in freedom.” What chains are still holding you back and keeping you from living in your freedom? 

Do you believe that you are worth dying for? 

Freedom is not earned, it is given. You simply have to choose to live in it.  

30 days in my Toms® : Day 6 ~ Release

ImageRelease.
A word that has lingered in my mind for the past couple days.
It began with a blog written by a sweet friend who shared the ability to finally release her past and her insecurity- a choice she made to let go and in essence, be herself. 
The word lingered in a conversation I had with my fiancé- a conversation stained with fears but released to soon gain trust. 
And then a night at small group spent reminiscing and sharing testimonies and stories. Each individual sacrificing vulnerability for a small piece of his or her heart. A chance to truly be known. 
Release.

I used to hold my past with white knuckles. Afraid that letting go would release a monster that I could not contain. Who knew what losses I risked in that release- possibly reputation, friendships, trust, a chance to ever become somebody, a chance to find love. Even a chance to heal. 

But what I did not realize that by clinging to the past, I was defining my future. Unwilling to release, I was choosing to dwell and to become the person I wanted so badly to hide. 

Release is a gift. The freedom with which we can open our hands to let go of that which is most dirty, most secretive, most painful, and most defining is an action bathed in the blood of Christ. His sacrifice gave us the opportunity to sacrifice what was once most sacred to us in exchange for healing, joy and peace. It gave us the freedom to find freedom. 

Our stories are laced with this truth. Last night as I took in each story, I was amazed at the struggles that once defined the individuals of my small group because each agonizing tear, shameful mistake or bitter frustration was absent from my perceptions of them. Yet, I also found myself wondering how often those very factors became a burden they often returned to carry. 

I am a prime offender of this. I love to replace my beautiful, clean garments with the dirty, soiled laundry from years past. Then parading around in shame, I struggle to own my worth. Wondering why the struggle is so great, I hardly recognize that I have made the exchange of a new beginning for an old ending. I often still try to own my past. 

But we are owners of one thing alone. And that is freedom. God owned our shame so we wouldn’t have to. To pick those burdens back up is to tell God that He didn’t do a good enough job, or that His sacrifice was not good enough for our faults. We attempt to deliver the problem on our own, but deliverance is given, not discovered, and prayed for, not willed. So it is in those moments of ownership that we have a choice to make. With remembrance comes the choice to redress or to release. 

Choose release. And own what God’s mercy has made rightfully yours, freedom. 

30 days in my Toms® : Day 5 ~ Good Enough

I am small. 
I am young. 
I am shy.
I struggle with fear.
I struggle with self esteem.
I can’t cook. 
I do not have a degree.
I am clumsy. 
I cry too much. 
I laugh too much. 
I daydream.
I like to be alone sometimes.
I am not a morning person.
I am terrified of spiders.
I do not have a great memory.
I am a perfectionist to a fault.
I struggle with forgiving myself.
I struggle with believing in myself. 

But I am me. 

God purposed us for things greater than our capabilities. He expects performance from us greater than our talents. And He calls us to more than we believe we have within us. We will never meet His expectations because we are not good enough …
                                                                     …alone. 

With God..

I can fight giants.
I gain wisdom because I ask for it.
I have been called to love people with God-like love.
I can still walk on water, though I am afraid. 
I am beautiful.
I am not afraid to fail. 
I am successful when I am obedient. 
I am who God created me to be.
I have a heart that breaks for what breaks the heart of God.
I know joy. 
I am learning how to pray. 
I have a God who is jealous for my time.
I am learning discipline. 
I do not have to be afraid. (God is much bigger than the spiders:) 
I have hidden His word in my heart.
I do not settle for good when I am promised great.
I have been forgiven. 
I have a God who believes in me. 
                                    ….and I am never alone. 

God does not call us because we are good enough to serve in His army. He calls us because He loves to make beautiful what’s been broken. He longs to redeem what has been ruined. And He longs to use our weaknesses to display His strength. We are living testimonies of God’s glory because we are not good enough on our own. It is by faith we move mountains, not our own two hands. It is by vision we plant churches, not mere ideas. And it is through forgiveness we have hope, not our own attempts to be good enough. 

When we say yes to Jesus, we sacrifice good enough for eternity. 

You are enough because you are forgiven.
You are enough because you are loved.
You are enough because you are God’s.

You are enough for God because you are you.