Finding Hope In Unlikely Places

 

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The morning was not panning out to be all that I hoped it would.

Frustrating conversations were being tossed around between four of our five kids and honestly my husband and I struggled to get on the same page. Long days and nights of living in the “between” phase was causing us all to be a little weary.

I know I’m not alone here friends…

My heart was mentally trying to prepare for a meeting that afternoon with a mom who was loosing her every loving mind – sound familiar?

I was so looking forward to hearing her story, and cheering her on in the struggle to walk out her daily mission…except I also needed that pep talk.

Heaven help us gals who love to be used to minister to others, but right before we step into a hard conversation or difficult meeting…our own lives falls apart.

This was one of those days where I felt like I had no hope to offer another human, and I was actually the one in need of the counseling.

God was not surprised that day when he orchestrated my sitting in the company of a gal who needed to share the hard and the ugly. I knew He was up to something really good when He called me into account just minutes before we sat down.

My well was completely dried up. There were no beaming eyes or an overflowing heart that I could even share with her. Nothing.

In my frustration and pride, I admitted that my connection with God was weak and in desperate need of refueling.

 When we try to live our lives ahead of God and His voice – we miss out. He so desperately wants to be in tight community with us, to be welcomed to the hard conversations and to be trusted with our struggling.

Somehow in the stress of living in a motor home with my family of seven (I know – crazy), and being jobless for four months had me in perfect position for my own major meltdown.

He spoke to me about my running and serving on empty.

“Jenny. This morning was rough because you set me aside. In all of your thinking and planning for leading someone else– you didn’t restore your own broken with me. I set this assignment up and you must tap into my hope, not rely on your own.”

We desire to serve Him fully and to use our own experiences to encourage…but sometimes our light is just too dim to have lasting impact.

I love the truth and wisdom offered in this Proverb…

“Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.”  – Proverbs 15:30

 As my friend began to unpack to harsh realities of raising two little ones with a husband who was away for months at a time – God did what He does best.

He started to whisper the truth that I needed, at the same time I was sadly attempting to add  value to this woman’s hard work.

Maybe it’s the same for you.

The moments that we devote to connecting with God, are the moments when He makes us new, and gives us freedom to be okay with where He is leading us.

 After an hour and a half had passed and our conversation hit all the tender spots, God used that time to remind me that I needed him. Like REALLY needed His grace, strength, and humility in my own life.

That day, hope appeared – but it wasn’t in my words of wisdom. As my friend unpacked her hardships, my own became doable.

How often do we reach out to another in need of a life line and our own perspective becomes clear and all the hardships grow into possibilities?

Thankfully, when we head out on our own strength, He chooses to guide us back into His wisdom, rest, and comfort…and what a sweet spot that is.

I love that connecting with God is not so much a future list of to – do’s but more of a list of right-now’s. His availability is not limited and He can handle all the overwhelming things.

Sometimes hope is found in the unlikely moments. The ones where we have nothing to offer but love and understanding of someone else in desperate need.

 

 

 

 

 

When We Crave Connection + Give Away!

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We headed out for a quick-lunch break hike through the pines and on the frozen trails. A fast friendship with a staff gal that I have gotten to know during our time here, just fell into place perfectly.

She encouraged me as I mothered in the holding pattern of transition and I got to be a sounding board for her mom heart.

I needed her perspective and she needed mine. A two-way street that we could both invest in and grow from.

Beautiful and unexpected.

 Friendships are hard work and go through many seasons of good and exhausting, and sometimes we are far too tired to keep the pace.

We’ve all been there right?

The pouring out of our souls, only to be left broken and betrayed.

The deep commitment for years, only to be uprooted and transplanted to a new sea of faces.

The joys and laughter and memories that have marked us forever.

Our three months of camp living in a motor home has developed a whole new family of relationships and I’m thankful.

I am in this new place of desperately missing my friendships in Tennessee and praying about new relationships here in Washington. Maybe you’ve been here friends. I am living the tension of in-between and I’m doing my best to embrace it.

This is not the first time that God has uprooted my heart and moved me to a new land with fresh faces, but that doesn’t make it any easier right?

I am a lover of people and my heart naturally wants to reach out and relate. To agree with the hard stuff and encourage gals to keep marching onward, but it takes work.

So often we want the benefits of a dear kindred soul, but we are too worn out to put in the combined effort.

Other times, we have tried for SO long and SO hard but the friend we are desperately seeking is nowhere to be found.

All of it…the ups and downs, the beginnings and endings, and the bravery of starting over is an amazing gift we call connecting.

If you are at all like me, you appreciate honest words and the understanding of others who desire the healthy and strong kind of friendships.

A couple of months ago, I was invited to be an ambassador for a new and timely resource written with honesty and love for you and I, by the contributors over at (in)courage

The challenging stories of real life have walked with me these past few weeks and I’m so grateful – that I want to you guys to dive in and read along with me.

You will be welcomed and invited and finding yourself saying,”I get that” over and over.

“We all long for meaningful relationships, the Colossians 3:14 kind that fulfill our desire for unity and connection with God, our friends, and our community. But where do we start? Craving Connection is a journey where (in)courage writers share real-life stories, practical Scripture application, and connection challenges…”

– Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real Life Engagement

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So if you find yourself craving connection and looking for meaningful friendships you will love reading the real life stories from other women and engaging in truth along the way.

Grab your cozy sweater, your coffee and tea, and find the words speaking hope and encouragement to you – just as timely as they have for me! (You can order your copy through the (in)courage site here!)

My little hike today affirmed just how powerful connecting with God and connecting with others really is. 

Here’s to a new season of fresh opportunity to embrace the lives God will place in my path, and yours too.

GIVE AWAY TIME! 

At the end of each chapter you will find super helpful questions to help you process and engage.

Answer the question below in the comments to be entered into a drawing to win both of these fun items from (in)courage and Dayspring! 

Q: How is God asking you to show up for someone today? (From the chapter by Lisa-Jo Baker)

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When Guests Become the Greatest Gifts

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It had to be a crazy exchange of conversation. Mary in awe-stricken wonder mixed with fear by an unannounced visitor.

Heaven help us gals who are lovers of company, but always receive it at not the perfect moments.

The angel delivered a message that fell upon the heart and ears of the mother to be.

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

I love that the angel came right out of the gate saying, “The Lord is with you.” Doesn’t that speak to Mary and her relationship with her God already – that He deeply knew her heart?

Gabriel explains, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.” What an honor and a fright at the same time!

He continues to lay out the epic news that would bring hope to the entire world.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.” Conceive a son?

The story unfolds to her surprise.

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

Mary just needs some clarity. “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” To which Gabe answers…” The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…”

What a powerful truth that we overlook. We all know that the Holy Spirit spoke the baby into conception…but so often we don’t have the hope that He will see us through December.

I love that Mary was spoken to in this way. God knew she might be afraid and the words would bring her some comfort so she could entertain the idea of becoming the Momma to the Savior of the World.

We fear don’t we?

The health of a pregnancy.

The unknowns of our futures.

The paths our children might choose.

The ever-loving possibility of change.

The influence of our ministries.

The ups and downs of our marriages.

Let Mary be hopeful and let us spread out the hope offered in the “Do not be afraid!”.

We know Jesus is trustworthy – but we are weakened by fear. We trust that He is AHEAD of us, but lose sight that He is also BEFORE us.

He was before Mary that day and He is before you and I this season of celebration.

 The hustle, the lists, and all of the planning to make things sweet. He is both before our plans and He is up ahead after the lights grow dim.

God in His infinite love and wisdom gave Mary a heads up didn’t He?

The greatest gift she could have received was the unannounced visitor bringing her life changing words. I love that Mary had time to receive the news, worship and wait for His perfect package.

He does this for us friends. He visits us and offers hope in every season.

Let’s be ones who hope even when the temptation to be afraid rises.

Let’s be ones who see a guest as a gift and not an inconvenience.

Even when unexpected news comes at us, and especially while we await the birth of the King!

Merry Christmas Friends!

*This post was written for Anna Rendell and was first published at her beautiful blog home here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Hard Times Make Meaningful Gifts

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When our family of seven arrived at the camp almost two months ago, we had no clue that our Christmas holiday would be spent living in an RV and still searching for the job that God was calling us too.

Every bit of our life (including all the Christmas decorations) were tucked away in a storage unit in Tennessee. I was dreading not having a home to settle in to begin a new season filled with new stories.

Jesus in His compassionate love, had much deeper plans for us. Isn’t that always the truth?

Sometimes (all the time) us Mommas worry about every single thing He has already taken care of.

Thankfully the Spirit is faithful to remind me that our five kids belong to Him first. Nothing He allows in their life is without His sifting and approval.

***Today I have the honor of being a guest over at the MOB Society! Come on over and read the rest of the Christmas post right here!  You’ll love all the encouragement for Moms…especially their ministry to Moms of Boys!

 

 

When Simple Celebrations Become the Most Stunning

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A chilly breeze found its way through the cracks of the window, as my toddler son cuddled in close. Christmas was in the air, but everything was strangely out-of-place.

The rest of the family began to stir, which meant that the motor home started to sway back and forth like being out to sea.

Was it really Christmastime and was this my real life?

Somehow these days of waiting on God during the holidays aren’t full of sparkle like I envisioned they might.

Today I have the honor of being a Christmas series guest author over at Crystal Stine’s beautiful blog home! Hop over and join us to finish the story right here! See you soon friends.

 

Why Jesus Doesn’t Need Our Perfect Christmas Everything.

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Lets be very real sisters…”Tis the season for scrolling through all the feeds fa la la la la – la la la la.”

Social media channels of dear friends and stunning strangers are filled with perfectly placed mantles, front door wreaths, and fires blazing in the comfiest of living rooms right?

Holidays are my favorite and the blissful scenes usher in all the emotions.

Sometimes I walk away from the scrolling with a dim spirit that wishes I had “that ship-lap”, “her gifts of textures – HOW?”, and enough money to buy everyone matching plaid jammies.

I’m thinking maybe you do too.

It’s the sparkling time of year where Moms start stressing about Christmas cards and the perfect picture.

We all love getting cards in the mail and covering our home with the faces we love (but sometimes the comparison game wins).

Us gals have to consistently remind our hearts that the season is here for a reason. That reason is NOT about our gifts of perfect everything.

It is not

perfect image,

perfect children,

perfect outfits,

perfect shopping,

or perfect parties.

The only perfect you can bank on is perfect Jesus. The end.

It is the most beautiful time of year. The cozy feel of home and the God-given break for normal routine. It’s all so traditional and memorable.

This Christmas, our family is going without the…

perfectly trimmed everything,

glows of lights and candles,

beautifully decorated trees,

and a calendar full of parties.

It honestly has really been something for me to work through this season – but it is okay.

We don’t have to pretend to love hard times, but we get to choose to embrace them.

I trust that the same God who sent the Messiah to rescue mankind – is fully aware of our living in a motor home, serving at a camp, and praying for our next ministry assignment.

He is in this season with us and with you.

Our living as minimalist as possible has me force quitting the wishing – but turning up the hoping, and I like that.

If I am gaining anything from this temporary living arrangement, it is that there is a difference in what we think we want and what we is actually good for us.

Somehow we are not list making for things this year. We just can’t.

Not even our kids (gasp). I mean they would receive gifts happily but they know that we are not celebrating like everyone else as far as the wishing goes.

And you know what? It is STILL Christmas .

Blessings as you await the perfect gift! The One who gives life-like none other.

How tragic to miss Him in the midst of lighting up everything else in our lives.

“The true light  that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” John 1:9

Friends…this year, lets recognize the birth of Jesus as more than enough!

 

 

 

When Your Struggle Is Serving Someone Else

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Stories of the faithful wandering in the desert, along with their conversations of “Now what God?” have been traveling with me these past few months.

Thank God for His good company!

Some days I feel like I am living out some Old Testament chapter (I mean…no where close but I’ve felt glimpses.)

Those families trusted the unseen, believed in what was to come, and even in moments of weakness – they consistently rose to the promise of deliverance.

If I take anything from this adventure, I hope that my admiration for those walking in the wilderness has me forever changed.

I also hope that our story has offered hope and inspired others to trust from a deeper well. We can’t help but believe good is ahead with the faithful track record He has left for us.

” I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.” Exodus 6:6-8

For I am the Lord. Why do we even need more than that?

I am so thankful that there are stories of others before me. There is something calming about knowing someone else has made it to the other side right?

How completely exhausting for them!

All the relocating.

Every hardship endured.

The sickness.

The cheers of defeat.

Fearing the enemy.

I’m guessing there may have been some “enough already God we get it” words spoken.There is power in traveling a rough road because chances are, you are never alone.

The journey that God allows for us… isn’t just for us. Just like the Israelites journey wasn’t just for them.

What a bunch of hard-core, believing people. By their example, I can walk out my own journey to God’s best and so can you.

Sometimes our hard times can be for the benefit of others and not even on purpose… but for a purpose. 

“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Exodus 9:16

Hands down, one of the greatest encouragements to me as we wait for our next job assignment and home has been those whose faith is stronger because of our story.

We never intended for our stepping out to be “for” others, but God is using our faith to add to the journey of many.

The texts and messages continue to roll in from others who are in some kind of waiting and have gained courage through our family in this crazy time.

I love that God is speaking to me through them.

I promise you, I never once thought during our decision process to leave our church and home that we loved…”We should do this because others need to see that God is faithful.”

I mean, I was hopeful that we could shine a light on His faithfulness, but honestly in the moment I was more concerned with our survival.

The road you are on is not pointless friends…

Chances are that you are paving the way for someone else.

For fear to be conquered.

To deepen your own trust well.

To  continually be reminded that you are never, ever alone in your search for whats next.

Looking back we see God’s faithful love as He leads us to the exact places that will shape our souls to trust Him with less fear and more abandon.

 

 

 

 

When Things Don’t Go Just As You’ve Planned

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It was just the setting I needed to park my camp chair and be still.

Twenty minutes of heaven existed at the RV park with unobstructed views of pine trees and mountain sides.

Please tell me you have prayed for God to move and he did, but it turned out nothing like you pictured?

So often we get hung up on what we think Gods plan should look like and we miss the present joy. Anyone with me?

Maybe your today looks nothing like you hoped it would – or maybe it’s so much better.

Our current living conditions include a 32 foot motor home with our family of seven aboard.

It’s honestly so perfect and comical. We needed a place to live that got us out living life and not just stuck waiting for phone calls and emails to come through.

We’ve all been there…sitting on the couch, taking out a bag of Doritos and drinking Coke because our heart was a mess and we were too nervous to step out into the light of day.

The motor home allows for tight spaces, non stop cooking and conversation, with the sound of rain hitting the roof and the smell of campfire close by.

It literally has me all lit up.

It’s obviously not ideal (enter zero privacy, co sleeping with a toddler, 3 tall teenage boys stuffed into sleeping bags, a little girl missing her toys, and a kitchen smaller than your bathroom) but its most definitely memorable and is adding much to our family story.

In my camp chair moment, God spoke to me over and over again about how this journey to whats next for our family is a gift, a privilege, and exactly what we need.

Why are we so stubborn and slow to believe?

I have found my heart telling God that this would be a lot easier to revel in if I just knew the answers to all of my questions (weak faith I know – total bargain girl over here).

We suffer when we crave answers more than anything else Jesus has to offer.

He always has a way of working our lazy hearts over – right?

We did the unfathomable and stepped out in total faith (sold our home, put life in storage, and left all that we loved without landing a job or a destination) because we heard God clearly leading us.

We listened…we are still tracking down His call.

Am I the only one who make deals with God? 

“God, if you let us get this job – I promise to only rejoice on the hard days and not question your will.”

“God, if you let my doctors report come back clear…I will lose 20 pounds and exercise twice a day and vow to never touch another Oreo!”

“God if you can pay our bills – we commit to never buying any more crap  non essentials ever again.”

“God – if you clear up this argument, I vow I will only pray and not respond in hard conversations (LOL).”

“God, if I can have the heart of my kid back…I will be diligent to take her out to lunch every Saturday.”

It’s crazy how much better we “believe” life might be if only everything were under control and perfectly in order.

It’s just never true for long. There is always more.

There have been plenty of seasons in our lives when things were calm and easy – but we still found a way to be discontent and wanting something different.

The lesson in front of me continues to be more about my appreciation of the journey and less about exactly where we are going to end up.

Oh my word, I fail!

Living in the unknown forces our hearts to let go in order to reach out for God’s itinerary. 

I honestly have no clue what kind of deals you have made, or currently have in the works but please trust me…

There is nothing you could possible want more than being in the direct center of His will for your today.

Nothing will make life sweeter than His love.

Nothing will calm your heart permanently than His presence.

Nothing you could possible ask Him for will heal your wounds but His grace.

And for heaven’s sake NOTHING will speed up or slow down His timeline.

I don’t know about you, but there is comfort in dropping the deal making and receiving what He has on the table today.

He is for you. He is with you. He wants to be everything you need.

Go strong, even if its hard and especially if it means that your neighborhood is an RV park.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Risking is Winning [Even When Its Hard]

 

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Toddler chasing and trying to keep the middle two kids busy and not missing Dad and the older brothers – had me finished.

Stretched out and collapsed into the chair alone, I finally had a moment to close my eyes and give God a few thoughts on this week – as of He was in the dark.

I realize He thinks I’m crazy. Its true.

Nearly two months and two days have passed since leaving our home, church, and community behind in Tennessee.

We have road-tripped the entire western United States making memories along the journey. Some days it feels short, other days an eternity!

Well meaning souls have attempted to counsel about how moving is not a big deal…everyone moves, changes jobs, starts over, “try being in the military”.

We wouldn’t say to a friend who has suffered a miscarriage, ” listen – it happens to 1 in 3 and its not really a big deal…you’ll be fine.”

Chances are, you can’t fix a person by trying to make something they are experiencing easier because it wasn’t hard for you.

Friends, lets not minimize someone elses hardship no matter how graceful we may have waded through it. Amen?

We very much have an army of support and hopeful people waiting and believing right along with us – and we are thankful! Our landing spot will surface as long as we are faithful to wait.

I find myself “in-between” the good of the past and the unknown great of the future, but can’t decide if I love this time or if I am over it.

The upbeat,

confident in Jesus,

and die-hard optimist in this Momma,

embraces this time. Seeing each day as an opportunity to rest from ministry responsibility, to do new things with our kids, and to really search my heart and the heart of God for what He desires from me. That happens on the good days.

The tired,

worn thin,

losing hope,

and disappointed in God Momma,

caves and crumbles under the stress of not having a home, or a church, or a community to set up camp and dig in roots. This is a familiar hard day.

We are learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable for the sake of obeying the Spirit’s leading us in the search.

Is there doubt? Yes. Have people questioned our stepping out? Yes.

Loved this quote I came across this week.

“Why not go out on a limb? That is where the fruit is.” – Mark Twain

Let me be the first to tell you that just like any good thing, the limb allows for major tests of trust.

There are also sturdy moments where we see the beauty in all of this and can smile at what is to come with great confidence in an unfailing God.

But the fruit? It lives out on the limb doesnt it?

Do we always have to risk to grow? I believe yes. The best lasting growth comes from risk taking.

Our kids are living out a complete walk of faith.

It’s not glamorous and they have seen and heard it all. We just can’t fast forward ahead to all the ways Jesus will use this season for His fame in the lives of our five…because He will. He is.

Their frustrated yet determined Dad who is working so hard every day to lead strong and search for the best landing spot for the seven of us.

They see him encouraged and soaring at the bite on a resume or after a strong interview.

They’ve witnessed him low and at a loss for words at a closed-door, even though we believe it leads us closer to home.

They experience a discouraged Mom who just wants to make someplace home, rearrange some furniture, dive into ministry, and fill the table with friends.

There are also days where they catch glimpses of Mom listening outside of the bedroom door as Dad interviews on the phone… cheering with a racing heart!

Each day a chance to trust.

Every moment an opportunity for hope.

Whatever season we find ourselves in this week…maybe we are lovers of comfort and routine and not so much fans of change… but sense a different direction coming.

You do not step out alone!

Jesus knows all these emotions. His heart celebrates and sobbs with ours along the journey to whats next. In that I find great comfort in today – and maybe you can too.

Lets stay out on the limbs friends. Its where Jesus serves the best fruit.

 

 

 

The Holy Moments of Waiting

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Eyes half-open and trying to see through the contacts I slept in, I stumbled over a pile of shoes. Things were already not looking so bright.

I was chasing (well not really…more like tripping) my way down the hall after the toddler  in what appeared to be pitch dark.

You know what that means? It was 5 a.m. people.

In my leaning over to tidy up the entry way I mumbled,”Okay Jesus. You win.”

Which was a silly statement because I was stating the obvious.

He is winning, He has won, and He will continue to win.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I say something to Him like that I get immediate feedback…which I usually appreciate – just not so much early in the morning when I’ve already hit the ground.

I’d rather hear some agreement and even more sympathy!

You?

I love this chapter in Jeremiah verses 5-8. God is giving a message in response to Judah’s sin encouraging them to find dependence in Him alone. Oh man – get ready.

“Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, Who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight.

He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.

But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God.

They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers, never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf.

Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.”

Cursed is the strong one. Ouch…you know the one that thinks they can do it on their own?

I desperately want to be that Eden woman who sticks with God.

The one who never worries in the hottest of summers (except I totally do because heat stroke and I loathe the heat index), the one who is deeply rooted (but at times I only sink in half of my roots just to exercise some freedom) and refreshed always, so my leaves never drop off (I do love refreshment).

The word in all of this passage that we must talk about, that does NOT describe me is SERENE. I actually chuckled out loud just now at Starbucks…I’ve never been described as serene.

Confident and courageous and laid back mostly…yes. But serene speaks of peace. Something I lose sight of often when times are a little shady.

His encouragement to me on that way-to-early of a morning was this:

“You will preserve.

I’ve brought you this far.

It would be better for you to run hard until the finish line.

Don’t tire out yet Jenny.

I am the beginning of your story and I will also be the final page. 

My word is sure, I am about to flood you with blessing. Do not bail now.”

It’s usually the end of a long journey that we tire right?

We try our very best to keep our eyes up to make it to the next week, or day, or minute…

For me it is this 8 week road trip full of incredible blessing and beauty. Full of walking in obedience and stepping into opportunities to see if God may be leading us there.

I feel like we are at the end of the adventure and hanging on for final answers.

I am full of hope and nerves sitting on the edge of my seat. I find myself fully trusting Jesus and His word to us about doing a new thing in our lives and ministry.

I also find myself asking the scary fearful question, “What if this doesn’t work out. Then what?” You’ve asked that question haven’t you? We all have.

I’m not feeling excited about persevering any more and I can sense God stretching this out just for the sake of really blowing my trust out of the water.

“Exactly HOW long can and will you walk closely with me?”, He whispers.

Maybe this is you too.

I’m thinking there are loads of us waiting and hoping and dreaming for answered prayer and fulfillment of promises.

What is God asking you to trust Him with y’all?

Surely we can live in a way that shouts His praise because He will win in our lives and He will have His way.

Lets live out whatever journey He has us on like Eden women. Deeply rooted in Him, calm and trusting and continuing to bear much fruit.

Huge challenge? Yes. Am I dying to know? Yes.

The end of a journey is the holiest of moments where hope and trust meet on His watch.