Have you ever found yourself in a place where you didn’t think it was possible for you to get any more confused? It makes you feel stuck, doesn’t it? You just want to show up where God has placed you, but it’s so hard to find freedom from the very thing that’s holding you back.
Maybe you find yourself here today because of that breakup you thought you’d be over by now, but when you’re honest with yourself you aren’t. Or maybe you feel confused because you feel like God is calling you somewhere else, but nothing else is working out. Or maybe you feel stuck because you’re in living in what you thought was your dream only to find out it was nothing like you pictured and you aren’t sure what to do next. The list could go on and on, but please know you’re in good company.
It’s time to spill the tea! Just when I thought I had reached the peak of my confusion, it got worse. What in the world was going on? What was God up to?
The door that I thought I had a shoo-in slammed right in my face. The more I replayed it all in my head the more confusing it felt.
I had asked Him to slam the door shut on the opportunity if He had other plans for me, but why did the slamming sting so much?
It didn’t happen. I didn’t get the job.
I never pictured my career at this company ending that way. I had been there five years and gone all in. We moved here for this company. Why did I have to leave? Why was there likely going to have to be a financial sacrifice involved? What in the world did He have for me next?
Just to paint the picture, all of this went down while I was on maternity leave with my daughter Remi. I had no idea what was next and you know the anxiety and fear that comes with this, don’t you friend?
The only thing clear to me was that He wasn’t calling me back to the place I was in. This stung more than I thought it would. I didn’t realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in this job – this was just what I had always done post-grad and it became a part of who I was to others.
I started freaking out. I don’t know about you, but when I freak out… I start striving. I start craving control. For a few weeks, this is what I did. I thought of everything from opening up my own business to trying to book speaking engagements. The more I pushed, the more I felt like I was up against a huge brick wall.
After weeks of doing this, I decided I just needed to trust God… not just say I trusted Him, but truly trust Him. I called my husband and told him that I didn’t feel called back to the job I was in. Since that was the only thing I knew, surrendering that over to God had to be the first step.
The second step was to stop striving. When God plans to open a door, you can’t stop Him or His timing. That afternoon I told myself that God not only knew where to find me when He was calling me to somewhere next, He had placed me in this very spot. The rest of this story blows my mind.
The next day I checked my e-mail and had an e-mail from someone who I had connected with three years prior at a company that was literally my dream place to work. This person was coming into town in a few weeks (which was very random) and wanted to connect. The rest is history now.
Isn’t it just like Him to open a door that was three years in the making and create an opportunity that in the past I was told wasn’t possible?
It would take days to tell you everything God did and all of the ways He showed up. Seamless interview logistics is just one example. It is wild, but my last interview needed to be in the city where this organization is. Prior to ever even going through the interview process, Will and I had already planned to be in this city on that day for personal reasons.
I don’t know where you are today, but I do know that God is in the details. Someday you’ll look back on this season and say:
What felt like a rejection was God’s redirection.
When God felt silent, He was not only listening… He was making a way that felt impossible.
If I hadn’t gone through that, I wouldn’t be ready for this.
What felt like a delay was actually His perfect timing.
From someone on the other side of this, if you don’t know where to start, try out the two steps:
First surrender over the one thing that God is making clear to you.
Then stop striving and invite Him into it.
Don’t forget that He not only knows where you are today, He placed you there. Nothing can stop Him and His plans for your life. This season is going to be game changing, friend.
Keep leaning in because confusion has nothing on what God has for you. Your purpose doesn’t pause and He’s cultivating a way for you to press play in your everyday like never before!
Hope Reagan Harris is a wife to Will, mom to Remi Claire, coffee connoisseur, author, and product manager for YouVersion on a mission to encourage you where God has you.
If there was one thing that she’d want you to remember, it is that your purpose doesn’t pause. She is passionate about helping women break free from confusion so they can get unstuck and show up where God has placed them each and every day. She’s so passionate about you finding freedom from what’s holding you back that she wrote a book on this for you called “Purpose Doesn’t Pause” and you can pre-order it here today!
In a time where we are in need of prayer more than ever… I honestly think we so overcomplicate it.
Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever felt not equipped? Like when you’re asked to pray out loud, or when you tell someone you’re gonna pray for them… but you totally forget, andddd it never happens?
Yeah. I’ve been there too.
As intentional as we are with keeping up with the newest social media trends (like Treads LOL) or making sure we keep our nails filled, our hair touched up, or all caught up with our favorite shows…
We should be all the more intentional with what trullyyy matters most.
And loving His people.
And with Loving God AND people… How can we love someone we don’t even spend time getting to know? We’ve gotta interact with them! We have to know what’s going on in their lives, by sharing what’s going on in ours, alongside knowing what they like, + what they don’t. & this comes from a little time + vulnerability + intentionality!
IF IM HONEST…
Before having a true friendship with the Lord, I only came to God if I was in a pickle, or reallllyyy wanted/needed something.
I never came to just… hangout.
What about you??
Friend, if you grew up in the Church, or even you’re a new believer of Jesus, PRAYER is such a churchy word that is so very commonly thrown around. But have we never stopped to really think about what PRAYER is?
In its simplest form…
Prayer is… a two way conversation between YOU & God.
Where you actively participate in sharing your life with Him while also listening to Him through His Word, and by His Spirit.
Prayer is… a miracle! Where you break through the natural and step into Heavens Hotline, having direct access to The Creator of the universe. Your Heavenly Father.
SoooOoOOo why should we pray?
Let’s be honest. We NEED help. Heaven is home, but here on earth… it’s a little crazy. As we know, allllll sin and fall short of the glory of the Lord, so we making mistakes is a part of the journey. Some mess-ups are private. Some become more public than others. Some are small. And some are way bigger than others. And as we try to navigate this adventure we call, “life” well, we need something greater…SOMEONE greater to help us.
We have a Heavenly Hope.
We have someone who understands.
As Jesus walked this earth as our perfect example, showing us that He is the Way the Truth, and the Life, and that no-one can come to the Father except through Him… Jesus displayed His Kingdom here as He walked with His homies, (the disciples!) As they journeyed from town to town—they. saw. it. all. From the blind seeing, to the deaf hearing, to demons being legit cast out, to 5 fish & 2 loaves feeding 5,000 people… they saw what was impossible, become POSSIBLE right before their very eyes because of JESUS.
The Savior of the World. The One who walked with them, talked with them, taught them… but also then hung on a cross for them, and rose three days later.
Oopppps, I hope I didn’t spoil the story for ya (LOL!)
We serve this Risen Savior!
BUT! Out of ALLLL the incredible things He did while on earth, there was only ONE THING the disciples actually asked Jesus to teach them…
Nope, it wasn’t to do a miracle, or multiply food.
The disciples actually wanted Jesus to teach them HOW to pray.
In Luke 11:1-2 we read about this…
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
“‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come…”
I love that it doesn’t say IF.
Not, “if you pray”
As God’s girls, we SHOULD be praying. We SHOULD be talking to God to strengthen this friendship with Him!!
SISTERS + FRIENDS.
When I got real with God, He got real with me.
And I hate to say that it had to get to this point… but something happened to a friend.
When I was in college, one of my besties told me she had gotten taken advantage of at a party. I was devastated. As we sat on the couch, I froze. I didn’t know what to say, or do.
At this point in my walk with Jesus, I didn’t even feel confident enough to pray out loud over someone, so… I just gave her a big hug.
As I made my way from the living room back into my little shoe box of an apartment, I remembered a movie I had recently seen. Maybe you’ve seen it. It’s called, “War Room”. It’s about how a prayer strategy saved a hurting family. This precious older woman faithfully prayed in her closet. Up until this point in my life, I did NOTTTT have a walk in closet. But here, in this tiny apartment, I did.
Somehow my feet made their way into the closet, and I shut the door. And I sat. & ever so brokenly, I called upon the Father with such honesty. I was so sad I couldn’t really do anything to fix this situation. I needed someone higher. I needed Him. I needed Heaven. I needed God. So I wrote a prayer out for this friend on a notecard, and then I stuck it on the wall. Then after my sleeves dried my tears, I got up.
And everyday since then, I have prayed in my closet.
I’m no longer in college, nor living in that apartment, but praying in brokenness on the behalf of another believer built my relationship with Jesus deeper.
I pray our hearts would be broken and built by what breaks & pleases His.
And we find out what He loves and what He doesn’t through spending time with Him in His word, and in hanging out with Him. HONESTLY coming.
I never thought I’d have the chance to share my very own prayer journey with you. Honestly sis… that wasn’t on my radar. But GOD, am I right?!
I am so excited to share with you my VERY FIRST devotional, “Hi God, it’s Me: 20 Days to a Stronger more Powerful Prayer Life” releases ONE WEEK FROM TODAY everywhere books are sold!
The most important thing to me is your relationship with Jesus.
Keep on talkin to Jesus. He wants to hear from you.
By the time I got to college, my struggle with the Church and my faith, like many of my Christian peers, was silent. I wasn’t crying out for help or rebelling to get attention, but every day I was wrestling with big questions that I didn’t have the guts to ask anyone. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t certain of exactly what I believed or why. I wasn’t surrounded by lifelong Christians.
Every day I met people with different religious backgrounds and moral belief systems who aggressively challenged mine, and I was embarrassed when I couldn’t defend why I didn’t drink, sleep with my boyfriend, or cheat on exams.
Because of these new relationships and intentional conversations, I found myself questioning the rules and religious rituals I had adopted growing up simply by association. I felt more loved by perfect strangers than those in my church community back home.
I attended standing-room-only campus events with classmates where topics were debated as students sat in open windows and listened from the lawn. I would leave those gatherings asking really important questions. Why did I believe what I believe? What if I was wrong? What if all these other people who were living without so many rules were actually right? Is heaven real? Is God real? Is the Bible relevant for today’s world? Did God really say that?
For the first time, I was wandering. It was messy, uncomfortable, clumsy, and emotional as I tried to detangle myself from religion and still hold on to the Jesus I knew.
Sometimes, even when others can’t see it, our wandering is the very thing that is meant to lead us home to God. I think of the story in Luke 2:41–52, where Jesus, just a boy, knew he had a call on his life, a mandate, a specific assignment that only he could fulfill, and he found himself on a journey with his parents to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. At twelve years old he didn’t need a career day to figure out where his life was headed; he was drawn to the temple and the teachers and he wandered from his parents to sit and learn from those doing the very thing he knew he was called to do.
The whole time Jesus was in the temple, of course, his parents were searching all over for him, assuming he was somewhere among the pilgrims, relatives, or friends. They were furious that he’d run off and they were frantic to find him. People panic when others wander. And yet the passage notes that “the teachers were all quite taken with [Jesus], impressed with the sharpness of his answers” (v. 47 MSG). Those on the outside were looking for a lost Jesus, but those to whom he had wandered welcomed him in. What a validating moment it must have been for Jesus to finally feel like he was sitting among those who understood him! Even these scholars could see that at twelve years old, Jesus had something special and unique.
I think many of us wander off to find our people, who we are, what we believe, and if anyone believes in us. We’re not looking to go rogue; we’re looking to be heard, validated, and understood.
I don’t think any of us start this process of wondering and wandering hoping to get lost. While I’m not suggesting we spend our entire lives in this place, I am suggesting we give ourselves and others grace and time to find the answers we’re looking for, and that we trust God knows exactly where we are.
We are all at different points in our wandering with Jesus. We each have different experiences, unique passions and personalities that impact our journey, and nobody can do this hard and holy work for us. We walk through wrong doors, sometimes by accident and other times by choice, and every single time he meets us on the other side.
He will leave the ninety-nine to find the one.
It’s okay if sometimes we’re the one.
We all wander off from time to time, and God does not give up on us if we’re gone a day or fifty years.
He doesn’t shame us or scold us. He celebrates our return because what was lost has been found.
He still calls us son and daughter.
The good news for you and me is that even in our wandering God has never changed his mind about us. He is so very sure of who we are in him and who he has created us to be, even on the days we feel lost, unheard, or like we’re being held back.
The beauty of wandering is that we find all sorts of things we didn’t expect to find along the way, and the journey becomes a part of our unique story. My own personal wandering would lead me from the classroom back into the sanctuary, where I met some incredible people—some who knew Jesus, some who were getting to know him, and others who were walking away. Part of my journey was finding that I really did love God and the Church, even though I carried scars and wounds that were still actively healing.
I learned to listen to people, really listen to where they were and to help them detangle and unravel from some of the very lies I had believed that had led to my own wandering and wondering. When we as the Church embark on our own faith journey and admit to having our own big questions and doubts, it’s amazing how much grace and patience we carry for those in the middle of their own.
I don’t know where you are in your wandering, but I want you to know that you are deeply loved and seen by God. There are a lot of voices speaking over you as you scroll social media looking for those who will listen to you and validate your season or assignment. Many voices will point fingers at people who hurt you and encourage you to do the same, but I challenge you to look for those who will sit with you and remind you who you are in Christ.
Who are those people you admire? Who walks with Jesus in a way that doesn’t make you feel judged but embraces your part of the journey and wants to join you on the adventure? Who shows you a Jesus who is patient and kind, slow to anger and quick in love? These are the people we look for along the way.
Natalie Runion is an author, speaker, worship leader, songwriter and the founder of Raised to Stay, a ministry for those raised in the church who are finding their own healing, calling and voice in church leadership. Natalie and Tony Runion live with their daughters in Colorado Springs, CO, and they attend New Life Church where Natalie recently served as a pastor. Natalie is the host of the Raised to Stay Podcast and the author of a forthcoming book entitled Raised to Stay: Persevering in Ministry When You Have a Million Reasons to Walk Away. www.RaisedtoStay.com
My name is Darcy Clark, I have been a part of Team LO for almost a year, I am twenty-two years old, I have moved around a couple times in different states following God’s lead and saying yes to the adventure He has me set on. Today, I want to tell you a story. It is broken, it is messy, but He has stepped in and made it beautiful. I want to tell you about a time in my life (long before I joined Team LO) where I lost control, and in exchange found Jesus.
On September 24, 2019 here are some notes I jotted down.
Think about what I say and what I do.
Be a sister and friend. No pressure – just love others.
Purpose is not a position it is the posture of my heart.
Purpose is who I am, it is something I can give the world.
What can I give the world?
Hebrews 10:35 says this, “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward.” – How confidently am I trusting in the Lord?
You can’t be confident in things that can be shaken. Be confident in the Lord.
We look for confidence in the wrong things and that is why we fail.
Life is inconsistent – stay grounded in faith.
Just because things/seasons change – who I am does not have to change.
Remain the same when the world changes.
Authenticity is HUGE. Be vulnerable with others – if I want to make real friends, be authentic.
Encourage friends to be their best – be a good friend to others if I want to find community.
Don’t let fear hold you back. – Fear locks you up, we let things we go through lock us up. Vulnerability can break that.
Be a light in the world and look beyond yourself.
Surround yourself with persistent people and be a persistent friend in grace and love.
You should become more joyful with who you are with, not less.
If it is a win for the Kingdom, it is a win for me.
Who I marry should be pursuing and running toward God with me.
Make time for God. He is my main relationship.
These nuggets of truth, of wisdom, of advice – are from a Delta Gamma Sisterhood night on campus at Texas A&M University, Sadie, and another teammate of mine Steph, came to College Station, Texas on September 24, 2019, of my freshman year of college for a Q&A.
At this point in time, I did not know them – I was 18 and like I said a freshman in college. I had no clue what the overarching story God was beginning to write in my life. I had freshly surrendered all control of my life to God, making Jesus the Lord of my life fully and finally – following 9 years of convincing myself that I had already given God lordship over every single part of my life. But the reality was that I still had parts of my life that I was holding onto and not wanting to hand over control of.
Before I left the auditorium that night writing those notes and listening to their Q&A, in my seat I wrote this prayer: God, I am made for something more. I am praying for where I am called. I am praying for my purpose and what I can give to the world to further the Kingdom. Amen – and then funny enough in this season I had this thing where I would sign my prayers at the end because I meant business – I wanted to be a part of His story of rescue and redemption for all of humanity, I had experienced it in my own life and still to this day that is my heart.
That part of the night wrapped up around 8:30 PM, I got up from my seat with my friend and we walked outside as we were preparing to head to a Tuesday night service for a ministry called Breakaway – maybe some of you have heard of Breakaway Ministries.
Naturally as one does when walking one place to the next, I pull out my phone, refresh my notifications and begin to open a few. I open snapchat and I am pulled into this group chat with a good chunk of old high school friends and others I graduated with.
They had found my mugshot that at that point in time was 5 days old, they sent the photo in there and everyone got to have a moment to speak their mind. One of the first messages that went along with the photo was from a guy and it said: “Look who is first to fall.” Another message said: “Way to go Darcy.” And they just went on making fun, but overall tearing me down.
To preface in middle school and high school I was the girl and the friend who loved everybody, I regularly got nominated for things from homecoming court to class president, I was a dual sport athlete, I was a part of starting FCA in both my middle school and my high school, I went to church – served and spent most of my time there. I loved Jesus and had even known since seventh grade that my calling was to step into vocational girl’s ministry.
I also loved control. I loved to people please. I loved being friends with everybody so much that I would know when to act a certain way and when to not. I would pick and choose when I wanted to follow Jesus, I had convinced myself that this is what following Jesus looked like. I could have my fun and He could most definitely have my Sunday mornings. I craved a dating relationship that was “relationship goals”, so much so that I sacrificed beliefs for appearance – I mean as long as it looked like he was a good guy and at least knew of the name Jesus, I will check that box. From Sunday mornings leading worship to Saturday night abandoning all boundaries that God’s word commanded I follow. This was the double life I lived, one foot in and one foot out.
I loved control so much that I had made my life into this pie graph, saying okay Jesus you take this part, and I am going to get the rest. That is not how God operates, He wants you and He wants all of you. You are His child, and He has the best plans for you – but He is not going to force you into a relationship with Him.
A steady, committed, unwavering relationship where God was Lord of my life and I was not, is what I lacked. Through all the mess, the broken pieces, the hurt – He never stopped loving me, He never stopped pursuing me.
On September 19, 2019, I made Jesus the Lord of my life. Not just Lord over parts of my life. Lord over my whole life.
Now back to the part where I had mentioned the mugshot – It was a Thursday morning I woke up for class, went about my day, and as the night rolled around I was serving a student organization called Youth Impact, that was affiliated with a church in the area and we partnered with children who lived in government housing and would become family to them, building close relationships and treating them like our younger sisters and brothers, we would play games then transition into a message and breakout groups. Every single Thursday we shared the gospel with these kids. I was a group leader and all that meant was I would lead discussion, pick up kids, and was responsible for a basket filled of bibles and random toys.
When Youth Impact ended that night, I went out to eat with some of those people, put the basket of bibles in my passenger seat, and after headed by to my place to change clothes and get ready for the night.
Almost every weekend leading up to this point my life it felt like some sort of tug of war or game of hide and seek – I had just begun to make incredible Christian community, the semester had just started, they all got busy with their schedules jumping into new things and well to be honest I felt alone, friendless, and confused.
I remember being told in this same season, “college is the best time of your life”, “these are the days to get it all out of your system”, or “you are supposed to party – it is college – no one cares”. I got tired of continuing to go to church alone, I had been there almost a month nothing was clicking (more like I was not giving anything time to grow and I was expecting community to just magically happen), so I re-kindled friendships with one of my previous best friends from high school who I had just naturally fallen off with because we were living different lives, she wanted to party and live the “college experience” and meet guys, and at the start that is just not where my head was at.
She had invited me out a few times and on this final time, she invited me to one of our hometown friends’ birthdays. So, after serving youth, I got ready and met them at this house. When I got there the pregaming began, girls were changing to wear less to go out – I even changed, I drank with them because I thought that is what I was supposed to do – I did not want to be the odd one out – it seemed fun, and I loved to people please. After a while my heart sank, we were getting ready to go out to the local college bar and I didn’t want too anymore. I had this moment where I realized this is not how I want to live my life and that these were not my people.
So, I grabbed my keys and made my exit forcibly. As I was driving home, I was 1 minute from my townhome and in a double turn lane I hugged the inside and as I did, I got hit on my right. The last thing that you want to have happen, an inconvenient accident as you are so close to getting home. And to make the circumstance even worse, I am 18, brand new in a college town, a minor with alcohol in my system. Me and this guy pull of, there is little damage, and we swap insurance – the whole thing. As we are doing that a third car pulls up, a guy jumps out and lets me know that he has witnessed this all and he has called a cop to come help.
I am panicked and desperate for a way out – I know that I am in the wrong, so I called my brother (who at the time, was not following Jesus and was studying criminology at another university) and he told me to lie. Deny everything I had been doing and lie. I had no peace with that advice even though it was from a place of love and protection, I even glanced over at the basket of bibles thinking for a second – “Surely this officer will see this basket of bibles on my passenger seat and know that I am a good person and let me off easy.”
I began to pray and ask God for help, in my heart and mind begging for Him to speak to me. He did. As clear as ever and I will never forget it. He said, “I can do everything with your honesty, but I will do nothing with your dishonesty.” That is it, that was the word. So, what do I do when the officer walks up to me? I tell him everything, and I say it honestly.
Long story short, he lets the other guy go, but as for me I was not done being dealt with. He arrests me and takes me back to the station to breathalyze me and confirm that I indeed had alcohol in my system. I am convicted with a DUI and spent the night sitting in a chair in a holding center. I got to make phone calls to see if anyone could come bail me out, but like Adam and Eve – I hid from my earthly Father, I didn’t call anyone in my family. But I started to call people in town from new friends to current roommates, no one answered. After trying to make some calls, the front desk lady looked at me, whispered, “I know you are not supposed to be in here. This is not who you are, this is just something that happened,” and then she slid me a bail bondsman number to call and get me out.
That night as I sat there, I was as low as you can get. From feeling humiliated, like a failure, to just utterly defeated. I thought of the verse, “There is a way that seems right to man but ends in death.” – Proverbs 16:25
The bible doesn’t just say God’s way leads to everlasting life, and the enemy’s way leads to death – because it sounds good or make a great plot. God’s word says it because it is clear cut truth. I knew that if I continued down the path, I was on that it would legitimately perhaps lead to my death for actions that do not bear life.
The days and months after that night were difficult, I am not going to tell you it was easy. But it was an easy choice for me to finally make and say, “God I see that my way will surely lead me to death, but your way leads me to everlasting life. I want your way. I want you in the driver seat. I want you to be the Lord of my life because my way without you will lead me to death.”
My record weeks later got cleared because the officer who conducted evidence against me committed an assault and was fired from his position. My case was dropped and the time of COVID 19 aka the world’s lock down began, all I wanted was to sit in God’s word and get to know more of Him. He is love. His is the only way to everlasting life. He has the best plans in mind for you. But you have to make the choice to surrender all control and say, “Lord Jesus I want your ways because I know where mine will take me.”
I wrote a poem inspired from that season that I want to leave you with today –
I think that God lets us navigate life in sharp turns, narrow paths, curvy roads,
and gut-wrenching drives
because if He only allowed us to navigate life on one straight path,
our affection for Him may be lessened.
So, we are given a choice.
A choice to love.
A choice to choose what turn we make.
These choices are what make life a journey.
Some drives aren’t fun, some you are used to, some will take you breath away, and some will make your heart break.
I’m thankful we are not left alone to navigate our way back from the paths we take that perhaps were not the right turn.
It is through my lack of understanding in which road to take that God uses to boost my dependence on Him.
It’s not an easy journey, but I will choose this every day.
And, for the times I don’t or stray away there’s an unending grace from Jesus.
Won’t you come back?
Friend, whatever you think is counting you out is the exact thing God is pointing at and saying that is exactly what is counting you in. He loves you and is everyday inviting you into the best story we could ever get to be a part of. Do not let the enemy convince you that you are too far gone or unusable by God – that is a lie. The broken pieces of your story that are picked up and placed by together by your Heavenly Father, create a far more beautiful story than one you could ever write.
Darcy Clark is a member of Team LO! She is a Jesus follower and friend to many. She enjoys coffee sipping, exploring, and writing. She is an aspiring author, current dreamer. Darcy spent two years at Texas A&M University before stepping into girls ministry full time in multiple states and has since moved to Louisiana to be a part of Team LO.
If it’s true God often uses the body of Christ—by that I mean a community of fellow believers—to tell us what he wants from us, what he wanted from me in my early twenties was leg warmers. I was a new mom when the aerobics craze took America by sweat and storm. A handful of women at my church decided we needed a class and I was just the person to lead it. Why, you ask?
“Didn’t you do drill team, Beth?”
“Well, yes, but that’s not the same thing as—”
“Fabulous! When’s the kickoff?”
“I’m going to have to give this some thought,” I explained, “because I promised God that, whatever I did, I’d do as ministry.”
Unimpressed, they retorted, “So, do it as ministry.”
I turned the idea over and over in my head. “Maybe I could figure a way to use Christian music.”
To their credit, they affirmed the idea, though I could plainly see from their expressions that they pictured us stretching in our tights and leotards to “Rock of Ages.”
“I need to actually learn how to do aerobics.”
Exasperated, they asked, “Well, how long is that gonna take?”
It didn’t take long. I enrolled in an aerobics class not far from my home to get the hang of it and, lo and behold, loved it. This was 1980, when Christian contemporary music was just beginning to get airplay on local Christian radio stations. Songs were coming out weekly by artists like Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Leon Patillo, and groups like the Imperials, Petra, Harvest, Farrell and Farrell, and White Heart that were clearly begging for choreography. The music was there if I had enough imagination.
For better and for worse, imagination happens to be one of my strong suits. With a baby on a blanket beside me, kicking her little legs to the beat, I started choreographing aerobic exercises to Christian contemporary music. We announced a kickoff in the church bulletin and on posters in the halls and women’s restrooms a month later. The church let us use a small room if we’d remove the chairs ourselves and put them back afterward, and by the first night, we were already short on space.
Eight people was one thing. What’s a few lunges between friends? But when the class kept growing, I got antsy. I needed to know what I was doing. I contacted Houston’s renowned First Baptist Church because, according to hearsay, they’d spent a small fortune building, of all scandalous things, what they called a Christian Life Center. It was complete with an indoor track, basketball and racquetball courts, a weight room, a café, a bowling alley, and locker rooms with showers. This was a fancy outfit. A friend of mine had seen the women’s locker room with her own eyes and claimed they even furnished handheld hair dryers.
I’d end up overseeing the program and teaching multiple classes a week—advanced and intermediate—in that “Christian Life Center” for twelve years and cry like there was no tomorrow when the time came to give it up. I’ve never in my ministry life done anything that was a bigger riot. If pure fun qualified as fruit of the Spirit, we were as Spirit-filled as women in tights get. We laughed and carried on, tripped over our own feet, crunched our stomach muscles, worked our thighs until we felt the burn, danced our hearts out, sang loud to every song, and dripped with enough sweat to swim to the parking lot.
Ironically, the most important element of my new part-time job was the part I didn’t want.
“I’d like you to pray about moving your letter here to First Baptist.”
The request came from my new boss moments after he told me I was hired. Moving your letter was something Southern Baptists did when we transferred our membership from one church to another. In our world, it went without saying that moving one’s letter was something that occurred laterally between two Southern Baptist churches. If you were moving from a Baptist church to, say, a Methodist church, you were indeed moving somewhere, but it was down. This I write without a whit of meanness. I can’t even work up any cynicism. This was our culture, and I was contentedly at home in it. I find comfort in the blessed assurance that other denominations surely had their own forms of exclusivity.
“We prayed about it and feel led to just stay in our neighborhood church,” I said to my new boss a week later by phone. I loved our smaller church and had not one inclination to budge, hair dryers or no hair dryers. The other line went silent for about fifteen seconds, then he said, “Well, then, I may not have made the offer as clear as I should have. I apologize for that. It’s part of the offer. I hope that’s not too inconvenient.”
I took this crisis with great haste to the Lord in prayer, to which the Lord responded with equal haste by moving our letter to First Baptist Church.
My first official opportunity to stand in front of a group and speak occurred at First Baptist’s annual women’s retreat when I was still in my early twenties. I’d been asked to do a breakout session on, you guessed it, aerobics. I entitled the fifty-minute message “Making Fitness Count for Christ.” I spoke for the first thirty, then slapped a cassette tape in my boom box and got them on their feet the last twenty. Granted, the choreography had to be carefully crafted to accommodate attire since, in those days, most women came to church retreats at fancy hotels in dresses and navy-blue hosiery.
The gift our young selves give to our old selves, if we’re lucky, is pure absurdity. I have hated the young woman I used to be many times for many reasons, but I can only love a woman who takes herself seriously reading from a Bible while wearing a sweatband.
At the end of the first of a jillion breakout sessions I’d do in my young speaking life, a woman named Marge Caldwell approached me. Among the sages of Houston’s First Baptist Church, warm and charming and funny, she was probably the most popular Christian motivational speaker in our denomination even at almost seventy. Women speakers in the conservative church world were only slightly scarcer than unicorns. Marge had served all over the United States and in multiple foreign countries. She was the keynote speaker at the retreat.
The embodiment of grace and poise, Marge reached out her hand and introduced herself to me.
“Beth,” she said, her blue eyes narrowing, “I think you’re called to do this.”
I assumed she meant teaching aerobics. I felt a bead of sweat run from under my thick hair down my spine.
“No, no, I don’t mean this so much,” she quickly followed up, shooting a glance toward my three-pound hand weights. “I mean, I think you’re called to speak.”
The first time I encountered Jesus face-to-face was in the middle of a run. Running had become my escape. I was running and crying and talking to him. I knew I couldn’t live any real life in the tension of an affair. It was too dissonant. This life wasn’t me; it was deceptive and disgusting. Except it was me. I felt trapped and didn’t know how to get out. I knew the level of ruin I was looking at. Something stopped me right there on the sidewalk. I fell to my knees and said, “Get me out. However you need to. Break me.”
Those words had bounced around in my head for weeks. I knew they had been planted there by the Holy Spirit. I had a sense that they were serious, that I should not say them lightly. I knew they somehow signaled that I was ready for his plan and his way of busting in to come get me. Sounded scary. And ugly. And out of my control.
My first “yes” to Jesus in years was in those two little words. Two weeks after I dared say them out loud, a chain of events went down that led to my confession. I went home one day and told my husband about the affair. The relationship was also exposed around that time at work. I knew God was behind it all. I knew the crash was coming before it came. I knew it when I said those words to God. As painful as it was, I had a strange certainty it was part of something that had to be done. And I was right. The old foundation just wasn’t strong enough.
The weeks that followed were terrible. I felt more guilt, pain, hopelessness, and fear than I thought one person could take. I couldn’t eat. The only peace I had was the split second as I opened my eyes each morning before my reality all came crashing down on me again. For months after, I wondered daily if my husband would even come home. I was a pariah at work. The “house” I thought I was building was in a heap at my feet.
But the God I encountered in that time changed my whole life. In my worst and weakest moment, I found something much, much stronger, kinder, and better to stand on. I found the truth, compassion, and power of a living God who can hold up any life and rebuild after any fall. The first act of kindness was a vision I had one night while lying in bed. Alone. While I was wondering if “alone” would be my new normal, I felt God’s arms around me. I saw a picture—sort of like a daydream—of two long, welcoming, strong, warm arms reaching down and encircling my entire home. Not just for me but for my husband, who was sleeping in the room next to mine. I felt warm and held and, for a moment, I knew he was there.
I caught another glimpse of this God in the mirror one day. I paused, studying my own reflection. I told her the ugly truth: “Alli, you’re a liar, a terrible friend, a dishonest employee, and the worst wife.” I stood looking in the mirror, sobbing at the truth of it all. But something else happened. Right there, in the painful truth of that confession, I also felt a rush of reassurance and relief that I didn’t have to hold myself an inch above collapse anymore. I could let go and trust him instead of myself to hold it all together. I also felt his promise that one day I wouldn’t even recognize this person I saw in the mirror. I knew deep down she wasn’t me anyway.
I saw this amazing God again in a small room with the HR woman who I’d tried so hard to avoid. She was talking about what would happen to me at work—my reputation was another pile of rocks at my feet. I was crying; I couldn’t look her in the eyes. She paused awkwardly and gently said, “Could I pray for you right now?” My head snapped up and my eyes got wide as the room filled with the presence of God. Even in my shame and heartbreak, Jesus got down underneath me to hold me up.
Every one of these moments was a beam driven into my crumbling foundation. Jesus took the time and care to convince me when I felt worthless that he is a God who does not agree. He showed me over and over that he meant his words: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Jesus seemed to want me to come to him especially in the places where I wasn’t on solid ground. It was in those spots he offered to let me stand on him.
He did that for the apostle Paul too. Paul had a huge collapse, but Jesus gave him a new foundation. You can read the story starting in Acts 9. Later, as Paul thought about the Jesus who chased him down with grace when he was at his worst, he recognized there was always a plan to rebuild his life. He wrote letters to the churches he planted about his own experiences with Jesus and how there was a plan in place for his life way before he knew it: “When God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles”(Gal. 1:15–16). God picked Paul even before his worst days, knowing they would come. God showed him the real Jesus so Paul could go on and tell others how to find this incredible strength and grace too.
It was during this time, the lowest time in my life, that I stumbled into the everyday habits of this book—coming broken to him, trying to read the Bible again, and risking actual moves of faith. Because I had nothing to lose, I told the truth to every question I was asked. I didn’t have the energy to pretend anymore. It was obvious who I was, and it wasn’t pretty. I confessed, apologized, took responsibility, and repented. I prayed every day—pretty much all day. I told God I was willing to follow him anywhere. And I really tried to do that. What I didn’t know was that I was slowly uncovering the key of life as a disciple: taking risks on God. I risked telling the absolute truth and found forgiveness. I risked destroying the last bit of trust when I confessed and instead earned a tiny bit back. I risked a no when I asked, “Can you forgive me?” Instead, I heard a yes. Life as a Jesus follower is full of all kinds of risks to convince us of the truth:
“Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and puts them into practice—I will show you what he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep, and laid the foundation on bedrock.” (Luke 6:47–48 NET)
There’s a life and a strength for you far beyond your own. There’s a better foundation for your life than you or your money, your reputation, your connections, your adventures, your intelligence, or your morality and goodness. Paul and I and many others have preached the same gospel: Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead according to the everlasting plans of God so that you could be offered a life that will never end, standing firm on the only foundation that’s strong enough to last. And it’s all by his grace. You will never deserve it. Whatever you build on him will stand. Nothing else will hold.
It’s all about the foundation.
The good news is that no matter where you are when you start this book, Jesus can build or rebuild anything. He fills in cracks, adds steel beams, and drives piers through your old concrete. And you can meet him in three simple rhythms of faith.
Come to him. Hear his word. Practice it in your life.
Today is a day you either widen a crack or fill one in. Let’s dig deep and build on rock.
Alli Patterson is passionate about helping others build a life on the firm foundation of Jesus’s truth and grace. She holds a master’s degree in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and is a teaching pastor at Crossroads Church. She lives with her husband, Bill, their four children, and one very bratty cat. Alli is a fan of Mexican food, Ohio State football, geeky Bible maps and timelines, pedicures, long runs, and good books.
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