What do you do when you’ve tried everything?

Have you ever had a dream that you try to make happen on your own but it just won’t work? You try everything you know to do: you apply, you work-work-work, you pray, you talk to people who have done it, you cry yourself to sleep and shout at the ceiling, you give up and try to stop caring.

But no matter what you try or don’t try, the dream feels impossible, elusive, and sometimes, it even feels like it’s taunting you.

What do you do when that happens? Most of us shift between working really hard to make a dream happen and then giving up and getting apathetic and cynical. But there’s a better – more challenging but also more honest – way to handle these dreams that are beyond our control.

Here’s the thing: the dreams that are beyond our control are usually connected to our deepest longings and our truest selves. This is why we work so hard and feel so much pain when they don’t happen. We need to pay attention to these big desires because they are telling you about WHO you are and WHY you are here on the earth. It’s a Big Deal.

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I did a short video training on how to respond to these dreams that are so core to who we are, and yet no matter what we do, we can’t seem to get them to materialize. It’s a painful moment, but it’s almost universal to us as humans. You catch my training here.

Are you stuck in this work hard – give up – work hard – give up cycle? I’m offering my community the opportunity to get unstuck and shift into a more peaceful and liberated state of mind and heart with the freedom to desire without . It’s a short-term coaching package called The Breakthrough Sessions, which is 3 coaching sessions PLUS one strategy sessions for only $217, normally $450. I LOVE being part of someone’s breakthrough, and I’d love to do this with you. I only have three packages available because my schedule is almost full so message me at sarahsidersconsulting(at)gmail.com or comment below to get started.

I also want to share this with you, a poem I wrote 8 years ago when we were trying to conceive our first child. I was exhausted from holding the dream out and “trying” to have a baby when there was almost nothing – aside from the obvious 😉 – that I could do to make it happen. This poem has encouraged others who have felt the tension of longing, and I hope it encourages you too.

 

Hope, the Foolish Child

The child, Hope, is unrelenting in optimism;

Wakes up and says, “Today’s the day”, every day,

Even though It hasn’t happened yet.

With odds against the whole thing,

Hope seems blind to reality.

A starving Pollyanna,

Hope is a survivalist.

In a concentration camp of pain,

Hope is a finger of grass, poking through the asphalt.

Sometimes you want to strangle her neck,

Silence this thing that seems only to bring disappointment.

But she walks blindly, dodging death and famine,

Evading what seems to be true,

Believing in something that is nowhere in sight.

What shall I do with Hope, this child I can’t stop feeding?

I want to kill her, but she says the sweetest things.

She knows my desire,

Keeps telling me it’s coming, it’s coming.

I start to think she might be a liar.

And just when I’m about to stop standing there like a fool,

Hand over my eyes,

Staring into that thin horizon line,

Just then she points, shouts,

“Here It comes!”

I squint into the light and sure enough,

Here comes my Longing.

I reach over to hug Hope, that bouncing child.

But she’s gone,

Gone to lay claim to a new desire.

I wonder,

What if I’d given her up?

What if I’d sold her for a clever book title,

Something for the cynics’ best seller list?
What if I’d held her down and shut her up,

Put my hand over her mouth and made her quiet for good?

Disappointment would have moved in.

Skepticism would have been my neighbor,

Resentment shacked up on the couch.

I wouldn’t have been at the end of the drive that day.

I would have missed my Longing as It rode by.

My Cynicism proven right,

I would have looked haughtily from my balcony,

Confident my Self-Righteousness saved me much wasted time.

I would never have known.

I would’ve been right, sort of, but I would have never held Joy.

I thought of all these things.

And then I stood there one more day,

Stood waiting with Hope, holding her tiny hand.

I was there when the Longing came by.

I welcomed the Longing, gladly,

Snatched It up and planted It in the yard:

A Tree of Life for all to see.

A Tree of Life to remind me.

For those who will wait,

Who believe enough to stand out in all that weather:

She does not lie.

No, and Hope does not disappoint.

[by Sarah Siders. Written August 2009]

Just Leap

You’re making it too hard. Don’t overthink it. 

If you’re like most of us, you don’t have an impulsivity problem – you have a fear problem.

When you make a decision and it’s a good one, you learn to make more like that. When you make a decision and it goes to crap, you evaluate and figure out how to never do that again. Hopefully. 

[Photo credit: http://www.theskooloflife.com]

Decision-making is really just a learning process. People who move fast aren’t necessarily brash or super smart – they are just deciding they want to learn their lessons at a faster rate. The rest of us are snailing along, fearful of doing this and that wrong and permanently damaging the course of our entire existence.

When we move quickly, we learn quickly – we adjust the sails and learn to navigate our internal waters faster. We teach ourselves confidence. We learn that failure won’t kill us. And maybe we do some awesome things too. 

So think fast. Then act. Then learn. Then act again.

When in doubt, make a decision. If you make a wrong decision, make another decision. -My Dad

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How To Know The Story’s Not Over

I am the most ridiculous person to watch a movie with. I get so wrapped up in the character’s lives, I don’t even know where I am. I make friends with the hero and heroine. I laugh when they laugh. I cry when they cry. Their story is mine too.

When I was 16, my friend and I went to the second Scream movie in the theater. At some point, the bad guy crashes a police car in an alleyway, and our heroes have to climb over him to get out of the car.

They were doomed. Since I was now in the story too, we were doomed. I was frozen in fear. Well, almost frozen. In fact, I had lost myself so completely in the moment, I was getting out of my seat and starting to climb over the theater seat in front of me.

Somehow I reoriented myself to the moment, and there I was, standing and clutching the seat in front of me. Because as soon as Neve Campbell’s character climbed over the seat, it was my turn. Or so I thought.

Embarrassed, I slunk down into my chair, grateful to discover plush leather beneath my behind, and no murderers in sight.

Yes, it’s bad. My reality testing is nil in the midst of a good suspense flick. And as you might expect, I’ve completely nixed horror from my entertainment roster.

Getting involved with the lives of movie characters is easy for me. It’s easy to fear a terrible ending, even if someone already told me how the story goes.

Sometimes I watch a movie for the second or third time, and although I know what’s coming, the suspense always gets me for a little while. But that second time, I have the upper hand. I know something the characters don’t know. I know the end of the story.

I find myself in the character’s darkest hour, and I’m scared right with them. But I hunker on down and whisper to myself how the end really goes. That this moment of betrayal and death is not the end. The end is, in fact, redemption and hope and life. And hopefully love.

In real life, it’s worse than a movie because we can’t just leave. We can’t get a refund from the theater. We can’t walk out at the scary parts. We have to stay. And God, sometimes I just want to run. Ya know?

But we can’t. We have to keep our feet on the earth and put one of those terrified feet in front of the other one and face our fears, one at a time. I don’t ever want to.

But I can because in this story of Life, just like a movie watched for a second time, I have an advantage. 

I know the end of the story.

Right now, when the darkness is dark and it feels like it’s closing in around us, coming in to choke us at the throat and snuff out our tiny lights, I’m telling you, this is not the end of the story.

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You don’t know it? Well, let me just spoil it: the good guy comes back for the girl and the bad guy dies. Dead. A bloody glorious ending. The actors: Jesus, as the good guy. The church, me and you, as the girl. And the bad guy, well, he will go uncredited.

The story we Christians tell is no fairytale. I wish it was. Between the news and the Scriptures, it’s easy to conclude creation is made more of guts and gore then glory. But he gave us a preview, a foretelling of future history. It’s right there at the end of the book, in Revelation.

Before it gets good, it gets strangely dark. Even in heaven, God’s people ask, “How long are you going to wait to act, Lord?” But he does. He moves heavens and earth. He comes down kicking in doors, Liam Neeson-style, and with expert aim, nothing will stop his reunion with his loved ones.

But some of us in the church have forgotten how the story ends. We look around and we see the grand theater of the world playing out before us, and it looks in the moment before the climax as if the bad guy is surely going to win. It looks as if the good guy is down for the count. He isn’t strong enough. He’s not in the game anymore.

Satan wants us to think he’s already won, because then we will stop praying and instead accept doom or prophesy judgment. He wants us to think that God wants it to go badly for America. And for the world. He wants us to lose hope so we will begin predicting our own downfall.

But God never wants to judge. His judgment is only for a moment but his mercy last forever. Mercy is always his preference. But it is the praying church that releases God’s mercy.

1 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray…I will turn and forgive and heal their land.” He’s not talking about all the people who don’t know him yet. He’s talking about us, his people. The ones who wear his name. His adopted kids. Me and you.

We are the ones who can pray and bring healing. It’s our humility and prayer, our turning from patterns and routines that separate us from God, that will open the door for him to respond with healing and restoration for our nation and world.

But in order to even pray first, we have to believe God still wants this healing. And in order to believe, we have to know the story. The end of the story. We have to know that redemption and restoration are not just wishes. They are future history.

We, my friends, are the lights, the Hope Bringers. We are the Salt, the preservation and flavor. 

It’s time to stop getting defeated by our bad predictions and assumptions about ourselves and God. He wants our good. He has a hope and future for us. We just have to believe we know how the story ends, and then we have to ask for the good things now. We have to turn around toward him to get the mercy we want. We have to believe he wants to give it. Because he does.

So, my friends, when it’s good and especially when it’s bad, when it’s really freaking horrible out there, and you want to give up because you just cannot go on any longer like this, that’s when you know you have to keep going. Because as long as the bad guy still looks like he’s strong, as long as the victory score is not playing loud from heaven, as long as God’s love alchemy is not stretched from sky to earth, then you can be sure: the story is not over. 

Keep praying. Keep dreaming. Keep risking. Keep adventuring. Keep hoping. I’m in it with you.

Need more inspiration and encouragement these days? Me too. I’ll be bringing it your way. Sign up here so you don’t miss it.

It’s Always Opposite Day In Hell

I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a while, but hell was beating me up. Just like it’s been beating you up. I finally got ahead in the past several days, but I am tired. It is 2:00 in the morning as I write today, the first time I’ve been simultaneously awake, coherent and motivated enough to get the words out.

I want you to know what’s going on in the world, and why it feels so bad right now. Why you can barely take a breath without anxiety clutching the air out of your lungs. Why despair and depression are clouds over each of us, seeming to form one giant rain cloud none of us can escape.

For weeks I read the news – this was my first mistake – and each story of terror and fear fell around me like prison bars of horror, trapping me inside my mind. I tried to escape, but the images, the anxiety, lurked around every corner, every empty moment where my mind wandered.

But ten days ago, something shifted for me when I sneaked into an old Catholic church and read the mass of the day. God knew I was coming, and he met me there.

Something shifted again when I finally told my friends and my husband what was going on inside my head. How horrible I felt every day. I had an epiphany, just from talking, and relief swept in.

And then again, more breakthrough flooded my soul when I sought counsel and prayer from a woman who could lead me straight to God when I could no longer find him.

I want you to know what is going on so you can find the real God too. I want you to have the upper hand in the battle for your peace, your security, your hope and faith.

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First, you must know it is always Opposite Day in hell. Whatever God wants to do in heaven, Satan directly opposes by releasing the opposite. That’s because Satan cannot create anything new – he can only distort the good God has already made. Here’s what that looks and feels like in our lives:

  • When God is about to give you breakthrough, Satan throws up a wall so you feel like you will be stuck forever. You may have been fighting this fight for months or even years, but right before you’re about to crash through to the glorious other side, it will always feel hardest. The moment you want to give up most is the moment you MUST keep going.
  • If you find yourself fighting anxiety and fear all the time, or just at certain times, it’s because God wants you to walk in a divine level of peace and confidence. It is likely that you have the gift of faith that Satan wants to snuff out because he knows the effectiveness you would live with should you live with this faith.
  • The joy of the Lord is our strength, the Bible tell us, but depression renders us weak and feeble. In despair, we feel joy is a liar. But joy is contagious and brings great healing to you and to others.

The reason we don’t receive the hope, joy, peace and confidence at any given point is because when Satan gets to us first, we tend to agree with him. The despair and fear sidle up to us like trusted friends, and we grow wary of this cheerfully optimistic God. We assume he is powerless or blind to stop the pain in the world because otherwise, he would not be acting like everything is okay.

The truth is that we cannot be both hopeless and hopeful, both anxious and trusting. We cannot possess both fear and peace.

A room can only be light or dark. Darkness is the absence of light, and once light comes in, darkness is no longer there. But in our hearts, we have to hand over the darkness. We have to invite in light. Truth.

You do not have because you do not ask, Jesus said. And so we must ask. Boldly.

If you want peace, you have to hand Jesus your fear and anxiety, and ask for peace and faith.

If you want hope, you have to hand Jesus your despair and ask for hope.

The most important thing to know about hell’s Opposite Day is this: If you struggle with a certain thing, it’s because part of your calling and destiny is to release the opposite into the world. 

It doesn’t matter how bad your fear or despair, lust, loneliness or compulsion is, these are not evidence of how messed up and hopeless you are. These are actually signs of what your calling is. Your fear means you are to carry great peace. Your lust or addiction problem, which are both a form of distorted worship, means you have a calling for purity and worship.

So what’s tripping you up? Instead of asking God to just take away your addiction or your fear, thank him for your calling to release the opposite into the world. Then hand over your distorted, dark version and let him give you the beautiful torch you were meant to carry. 

If you want to get your world rocked a little more with God’s perspective, I want to introduce you to Bob Hartley, one of God’s greatest messengers of hope in our time. I resonate with him so much. Read this article about God’s hope for the United States, and other nations in the earth.

 

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{God is speaking during this wild time in our world’s history. I have more to say on this, and I will be sharing it in the next few weeks. I want you to know what is going on. Pray and let him speak to you. But also join me as we learn to live with hope and courage together.

Subscribe to the blog today, and I’ll send you two FREE eBooks to help you do just that.}

Two Traits You Absolutely Must Possess If You Want to Fulfill Your Calling

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This is Andrew. Click his face to see what he’s all about.
{In honor of the release of Called To Come Alive, we are talking about calling all week on the blog. Today I am pleased to introduce Andrew Gilmore as my guest. He’s a blogger friend of mine with a passion for the Bible, and how it practically applies to our lives. He’s not preachy though – he communicates in a relaxed, down-to-earth style that still calls you out. He recently released his first book, Do No Work, and if you ever feel like you’re doing too much and don’t have permission to slow down, like we all do, this is a must-read. Right now the book is a steal on Kindle for only $.99. I highly recommend you pick it up. And without further ado, here’s Andrew on two essential traits to living our calling.}

Do you ever feel like you’ve hit a wall when it comes to achieving your dream?

You have a call from God, some kind of lofty goal or mission, but life keeps getting in the way. You get so frustrated because you’re short on time, money, or other resources necessary to make your dream a reality.

Or maybe you’re facing fierce opposition from a rival, a foe, or even a loved one.

That’s bad. But what are your options? Quitting would be even worse because it means giving up on your dreams, selling your birthright for a mere cup of soup.

But you can’t keep trudging along at a snail’s pace. You can’t keep getting beat up by those opposed to your calling.

Or can you?

Here Are the Two Traits

For every worthwhile goal or dream, there are two essential traits you must possess.

And I’m sorry if you expected lilacs and sugar plums, but neither one is particularly pleasant. But they are requirements.

1. Passion

This one is obvious, and we romanticize it.

It’s that fire in your gut, the drive that keeps you going. Passion casts you headlong into pursuing your dream. It consumes your thoughts.

If you don’t have passion for your dream, will anyone else?

2. Patience

Where passion might evoke excitement, patience is just plain boring. And frustrating. But it is just as important as passion. Why? Passion will wane at times. That fire will die down. It’s at this point that many people quit and move on to the next thing. The next hobby or career or ministry. They want that passion back.

But those who persevere by applying patience are those who win.

 

Uphill Struggle

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Allow Me to Let You in on a Little Secret

Passion and patience are actually the same thing, just by varying degrees.Both words come from the same Latin root, pati, meaning to suffer. Now you know why the King James Version of the Holy Bible translates patience as “long-suffering”. Passion is an intense form, patience is the long, drawn out form of endurance. (I told you it wasn’t going to be pleasant.)

You must be so passionate about your dream that you are willing to suffer, to be criticized, to put yourself at risk.

And you must have patience to see your dream through even though waiting can feel so frustrating.

The Ultimate Case Study

No one better exemplifies these two things than Jesus Christ. For thirty years He patiently studied the Scriptures, worked as a carpenter, and grew in the Lord (Luke 2:52). How hard that must have been knowing that He was ordained by God to redeem the world.

Then, when His time had come, He took on the passion. He taught, healed, lambasted the Pharisees, and overturned the moneychanging tables in a whirlwind of a three-year period. His passion culminated in a brutal crucifixion at the hands of the Romans and the approval of the Sanhedrin—the ultimate form of suffering.

Praise God that He does not call you to that degree of suffering. But make no mistake, He has called you to something.

The question is, are you willing to suffer for it?

Buy Do No Work, right here, right now
Bam! That was intense. Now I’m uncomfortable. Thanks for making us appropriately squirmy while still inspiring us, Andrew. We even got a Latin lesson. Excellent stuff! 
Please leave Andrew a comment below and tell him the thing you’re most passionate about that is also requiring your patience – I know he’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!
Andrew Gilmore is the author of Do No Work, a book that helps Christians beat down stress and draw nearer to God through the study and proper application of the Sabbath commandment. He and his wife Katie spend most of their time raising their four children in Norman, Oklahoma. Neither one has slept since 2010. You can catch up with Andrew at andrewgilmore.net. 

SPECIAL EXTRA-AWESOME ANNOUNCEMENT:

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Called To Come Alive comes out this Friday, July 11. This eBook is designed to help you discover what makes you come alive and how to live it out in your every day. I am so excited about this book because helping you uncover your purpose and calling is my favorite thing.

It is available for FREE for a limited time, but I am only releasing it to subscribers.

Be sure to get your copy – just add your name and email RIGHT HERE, and I will send it to you this week. You’ll also get my inspirational eBook, My Birthright For Soup, because I am such a giver. 

What Your Response To Someone Else’s Success Says About You

It was almost two years ago the night I stayed late after our small group to chat with my friend. As we stood in her living room, I noticed the good-news smile on her face. Before she spoke, I already knew what she would say. The problem: I didn’t quite want to hear it. “We’re pregnant,” she announced. “I knew it,” I tried to smile back, wanting badly to be happy for her when she had what I wanted. “I’m so happy for you,” I semi-lied. I was happy, but you know, I wasn’t happy for myself.

It was confusing. So I went home and cried. I wanted a baby too. I felt left out, failed, short-changed. My friend’s happy news became all about my lack.

But this was no isolated incident. I’ve always struggled to be happy when my friends received what what I wanted for myself. Whether it was a new relationship, a baby, a career success, or something else I coveted, I felt they were stealing from the Blessing Pool.

After all, there are only so many Good Things to go around. If someone takes one, that’s one less for me.

That’s Scarcity talking though. The fear that if someone else gets a blessing, a victory or a breakthrough, then I may have to go without.

When someone else gets what we want, it’s easy to get cranky, huh? [Click photo for credit]

Fortunately, there are two ways to view someone else’s success. Scarcity is not our only option. 

The other perspective, the view from God’s economy, is that another person’s present breakthrough or victory is a sign of my future breakthrough. We don’t learn this in school, though. We need a connection with a generous and eternal God to even comprehend this idea.

The world views Good Things from a limited time only perspective. We experience blessing as something that is only available to a few, first-come, first-served. The rest of us are out of luck.

But God, not bound by time or quantity, offers us the opportunity to trust him when we hear the success story of another. Here’s how it works: when I hear someone else’s story of success or breakthrough, and it’s something I want or need for myself, I can reach out and take the story as mine. The other person’s story becomes my prayer, my future history. I tell myself, “If God can give them (the thing they wanted or desired or needed), then he can give me what I need as well.”

What a paradigm shift, huh? I no longer have to be in competition with my friends and family, fighting for the limited resources of heaven and earth. Instead, someone else’s success means God does this kind of thing, whatever it is, for his people. If I need a companion or friend, a health breakthrough, financial supply, anything, I can listen with gratitude and joy to my friends as they share their own stories, relying on God to do for me what he has done for others.

My response to someone else’s breakthrough, especially one I’m also looking for myself, will come from a place of fear or hope. There is no in-between. I will either be delighted for them and myself, knowing this can be my story as well. Or I will let fear come and steal their joy and mine, believing they’ve just taken the one thing away that I could have had for myself.

As far as heaven is concerned, there are more than enough companions and babies, money and dreams to go around.

Finally, my response to someone else’s breakthrough enables – or disables – my ability to receive the thing I’m looking for. If I respond in fear and scarcity, believing my friend just got the last Good Thing I wanted, I am not as likely to pray and ask for it for myself.

But Jesus tells us we don’t have things because we don’t ask for them. So when I respond with hope and faith, believing that someone else’s story could be mine, I am more likely to ask for it. And therefore, more likely to receive it.

Sure, your response to someone else’s success is a sign of your character. But it’s not just that. It’s also a self-filling prophecy.

So next time someone shares with you the news they received something you want or need, pay attention to your heart. Are you responding with fear or hope? Can you be genuinely happy for them or do you feel jealous and competitive? Knowing God can do for us what he does for others may inspire you to rejoice with your friends’ happy news while claiming these breakthroughs as your own future history.

Happy Dreaming! 

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{My inspirational eBook, My Birthright For Soup, is all about our human fight between fear and hope, and how to let hope win. You can get it FREE when you become a subscriber. Just click here, and I will send it over to you right away. If you’re already a subscriber, look for the download link in the very top or bottom of your email.}

Will The Next Mr. Mandela Please Stand Up?

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When I was born, Mr. Mandela was still in prison serving a life sentence with other anti-apartheid activists. And he would be there for nine more years.

I didn’t know about him and his fight when I was still young, didn’t know he sat in jail for 27 years while the country brawled around him. His chains represented the apartheid on his people.

From childhood, Nelson hoped to impact the fight for freedom in Africa. But he never sought to be an activist for black people especially; he longed for racial equality most of all. In his Speech from the Dock in 1964, he said,

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Despite knowing his oppressors were white, he never made them the enemy. A profoundly gracious and wise soul, he transcended the small minds who warred against him, making enemies of racism and inequality instead.

“A free and democratic society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities…an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Nelson, this is what I want too. Most of the sane among us agree. Yet while I believe in this virtue, is it an ideal for which I am prepared to die?

Many of us are angry about ageism and sexism and racism and all the other -isms that plague our hearts, though we don’t want to admit them.

I believe I don’t want anyone to be treated with disrespect because of things they cannot control, or choices they make that are not harmful to others. I believe people should be free to safely and freely practice the religions of their choice.

But I am afraid. And because of my fear, I am outside the fight. I am still not prepared to die. Or would I be, if the choice were presented to me?

Martin Luther King Jr. died for this cause. Nelson never had to. But both men were prepared to die.

And now in the passing of this Mr. Mandela’s great presence from our earth, the torch is passed to you and me.

Am I prepared to die for what I love and believe in, for Jesus, for freedom, for equality? Or am I still terrified of what I lose?

Do I remember that someone died for me first to free me from this crippling prison of fear?

And what about you? Are you ready to die for your freedom ideals? What would make you say ‘Yes’?

{Let’s grow our courage together. Subscribe to the blog for free updates and a first copy of my book, Dream or Die, at its release early next year. And stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.}

Why We Are So Tired Right Now

There’s a trend going around lately, and I don’t like it. Its a trend of severe, pandemic exhaustion.

Talking with co-workers, friends and family, I hear the same familiar laments. We are all tired.

For much of the year, Josh and I felt this way. This year beat us up pretty bad, but we stayed in the mess. Until the past few weeks.

The tiredness we all feel right now is the worn out feeling of laboring without results. It is a hard and difficult work without reward or breakthrough.

It feels like we are getting up every day for more of the same. There is little to look forward to since our labors produced little yesterday. There is a sense of wandering, a lostness or purposelessness. We don’t know why we are here or if what we do each day is worth it.

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Can you relate to that feeling?

As I thought of my own story and heard that of others, I wondered where the rest went. Why can we not rest?

At a prayer meeting a couple weeks ago, I think I learned the answer.

I want to suggest that the feeling of tiredness and exhaustion we are experiencing is a lack of gratitude and awareness of God, resulting in a lack of breakthrough.

We forgot what God has done for us in the past, and we have become our own saviors. We rely on ourselves for the results because forgetting God’s work in our lives causes us to also forget his trustworthiness. We become orphan-minded, with a Me Against The World mentality.

How do we recover rest and trust and meaning and all the good stuff?

Psalm 37:3 tells us to “dwell in the land and feed on God’s faithfulness”.

Feeding on the faithfulness of God is to allow ourselves be nurtured and nourished by his faithfulness, by the things that he’s done in the past and present. It is meditating on God’s big and little interventions in our lives. It is consciously and gratefully taking in, eating, enjoying the fruit of God’s provision.

This act stirs up gratitude and thankfulness in my heart, which actually results in a calming response in my mind. “If I could trust God then and see him intervene on my behalf, I can trust him to do the same now.”

This sense of well-being and trust puts us in a position to do what verse 4 says: “Delight yourself in The Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” From a place of resting and delight, we are positioned to receive the breakthrough we desire and the longings of our heart, which before we were laboring for with no results.

So here is where we get the breakthrough: we dwell in the land, we feed and nurture ourselves on the faithfulness of God we meditate on the things that he’s done, and we are put in a position to be delighted by God and get results.

When God and his kingdom and his rest become our focus, Jesus made a promise to us: he said that “when we seek first the kingdom, all these things will be added to you. All these things are our most basic necessities and our wildest desires.

Isn’t this awesome? This is changing everything for me.

It’s Thanksgiving month here in the US. We eat and give thanks, but then it’s over.

What if gratitude wasn’t a holiday but a regular life rhythm?

Let’s practice conscious thankfulness and delight from now on. Here’s how I am going to be doing it:

1. Making regular lists of how I saw God work in my life each week.

2. Decreasing my intake of media that is whiny and self-centered. Instead, I am listening to sermon podcasts while I drive or keeping the 24/7 IHOP Prayer Room webstream going.

3. Telling other people about what God does for me, rather than complaining about what is wrong as much.

How will you maintain a heart of rest through gratitude? Share your practices below.

[photo credit: ericstarkey.com]

People Who See The Past and Future You

I am one of those lucky people who seems to have friendships that never end. My bridesmaids were nearly all women I’d known and been close with for the better part of a decade, if not longer. And we are all still friends.

L-R: Ingrid, Holly, Jen, Ica, Rachel and Jazzy. [Photo credit: Sara Tafoya Photography]

L-R: Ingrid, Holly (my sister), Jen, Ica, Rachel and Jazzy. [Photo credit: Sara Tafoya Photography]

I met Jazzy on the playground when we were 12. My cousin, Jen, helped me leave the party scene and (try to) stay on the straight and narrow the summer before I turned 17. I met Rachel in high school, and Ica in youth group. Ingrid was my newest, college friend, but by my wedding, we already had a few years behind us.

Each of these friends in their own way grounded and stabilized me. I could look into my past and see how each of these women helped shape and define me, dreamed with me about our future husbands and lives, splashed my canvas with creativity and fun, and helped deepen my love for God, giving me someone to walk life with.

[click photo for credit]

These friendships are foundational for me. In many ways, they are the launch pad of my life, the shoulders I stand on. They know the old me, the historic Sarah who changed her major at least three times and finally pulled the last major out of a cereal bowl in indecisive desperation. They knew what I looked like after too much to drink, they talked me out of bad relationships and consoled me when I couldn’t make people think I was cool. We shared wardrobes and bad ideas, midnight road trips and slumber parties.

They know me well. But in many ways, they know the old me best.

I am so thankful for these friends who are still integral in my life, but I also needed friends who didn’t just know my past. I needed friends who could see my future.

During the past two years, I’ve developed friendships with two women who have been brave enough to believe in me in an unprecedented way. They don’t just know I’m a writer – they read my blog regularly. They tell me they know I’m going to make it, that I will be an author some day. They tell me God wants me to write, that my “words will set the word on fire”.

These friends know little about my past, but they see the future me. They know the today-me struggles with discipline and self-doubt. They know sometimes I get writer’s block. They see my insecurity. And yet, they believe in me. They remind me of the God-breathed, Spirit-enhanced version of me.

[click photo for credit]

And I can see this in them as well. In these friendships without years of history, we only have a short collection of months to go on. But in getting to know each other, we are intentional to listen in to heaven and see what God says about the other, to not let one another dwell in the painful present but to call out the gifts and destiny in each woman.

No one friendship is better than the other. I need all these women. I need all these friendships. I need the foundational, grounding voices, the ones who know my past. And I need the friends with binoculars who know that what I only dream about is really my future history.

I am so thankful for the effortless friendships of the women who’ve known me in every season. And I am grateful for my new friends with their confident, reassuring voices of what’s to come.

As I write, I remember the importance of aiming my eyes toward the future for all my friends, no matter how long I’ve known them. We all need someone to see the giant in us when we feel next to invisible.

We will always need shoulders to stand on and eyes to see the future we are afraid to dream of for ourselves.

So let’s be intentional to nurture all our relationships, the old and the new. We can’t neglect any of them.

Do you have both kinds of friends? What can you do to cultivate these friendships in your life? Tell me in the Comments below.

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When It Seems Like God Can’t Be Trusted

It’s already been three weeks since I announced my pregnancy with our second baby. I’ve been thrilled about the news and the process – pregnancy is such a crazy mystery to me. But this has also been one of the most difficult seasons of my life. I’ve had to fight so many times to believe everything would be okay.

It started with the strange circumstances around the pregnancy. I shouldn’t have been able to get pregnant when I did. I didn’t expect to be pregnant when I took the test. It seemed like a fluke, or just a giant gift from God. And I’ve spent the last two months since I learned the news trying to decide which one it was.

I remember trying to guess how far along I was, and I had no idea. Since I work in a hospital, one of my co-workers offered me an ultrasound. I took her up on it. But as I laid down on the bed, I prepared myself for a blank screen. Sad news.

Instead, this is what I saw.

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Relief washed from head to toe. The size of a blueberry, or some tiny fruit, the ultrasound said baby was about seven weeks along. Close to my estimations.

Two weeks later, we visited the doctor for our first official ultrasound. We brought John along to see the baby. Again, fear rushed into my mind. What if the baby’s gone? What if there’s no heartbeat? I wouldn’t even have symptoms.

The wand glided over my belly, and we saw a tiny body, with the teeniest arm and leg buds, swimming, spinning, moving so fast. I couldn’t believe it. Still there.

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Then the bleeding came. It wasn’t much according to medical terms, but it felt like my insides were going to fall out. Stunned, I sat in the bathroom and envisioned how I would announce our loss to our excited friends and family, how they would be disappointed, and we would want to be left alone. How I would finally understand grief in a new way.

Isn’t miscarriage a rite of passage, I thought? Don’t I have to go through this somehow? It’s happened to your friends – what makes you think you’re exempt?

I sent a text to a few friends for prayer, but my heart was pounding. It was hard to breathe. I crawled in bed, a less than subtle act of surrender.

And then something happened. I decided to fight. I had to fight the anxiety, but more than that, I had to fight for the baby. I had to change my inner monologue.

NO. I prayed for this baby. I prayed for over a year. I held up my seedling of faith and the answer came at an unlikely time. This is not some fluke. This is my baby. This is a gift. And I’m not just going to let him or her go that easily.

I whispered all the protection prayers I knew, and over the phone, I let my mom and one of my best friends breathe them over me with power. Prayers like life flooded in through text as I tried to ignore the cramps.

Breathe.

But in the back of my head, I always know God’s not obligated to give me what I want, that Yes and Amen to my every wish aren’t always the best way to tell my story.

When it seems like my dreams might delayed or dissolve completely, I’ve learned to tell myself the deepest truths. I remind myself so gently of the three essentials to my existence, and that no matter what I give up or who I lose or the ache in my heart, these three things will always be true. So when the doubt crept in and the prayers lost hold, I said to myself:

1. Sarah, if we lose the baby, you will be okay. You will survive. You will not die.

2. No matter what, you will never be alone. That’s a promise. You can lean on it.

3. God is good, even if the baby dies. Or even if there’s a problem. Or something goes terribly wrong. God is good. He will always be good.

These little phrases floated up from the summer of 2009. That’s when I read The Shack and found myself arguing with God. I can’t trust you unless you protect me from pain. I don’t want life to hurt. Tell me it won’t hurt, and I will let go.

But he reminded me he didn’t even protect his son from pain. He never promised a life free of pain. He just promised he will never leave me.

So these three reminders, that I will survive, that I will never be alone, and that God is good, these come from the reality that life is pain at times, but it is also beautiful.

And it is safe to trust in God and life because of these things. These are what I hold onto, even when everything I know fails to stand.

So here are pictures from this week – the story and the baby are still being told. The amazing thing is, my fear didn’t ruin anything. I had another ultrasound at work this week. And this tiny, lovely body is what I saw, curled up inside me although I rarely feel it.

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I absolutely love this picture. It looks like the baby is rolled over, away from me, like s/he’s saying, “Five more minutes, Mom.” All the detail here with the little arm, leg and ear and the spine are so wonderful.
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A slightly less clear profile shot, but quite clearly a baby. Such a good, good thing.

It matters what we tell ourselves when things are going badly. What do you tell yourself when the world feels like it’s caving in?