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Finding Your Purpose

Finding Your Purpose

Before I found freedom through forgiveness, I was often consumed with the heartache of what was happening at home. Our family issues seemed to get worse every year instead of better. We lived from one crisis to another. One night, while I was at home writing a paper and trying to study, I was overwhelmed with sadness from all the issues that kept piling up. I fell on my knees and pleaded with the Lord to fix my family and to make everything normal in my home. I was so sick of the fighting and the turbulence.

I was tired of the family dinner nights that turned into verbal boxing matches. I hated how sad my parents were all the time, which affected the atmosphere of our house. I was the only child still living at home at this time, yet it felt as if everyone’s problems still lived with us. My parents were so preoccupied with my brothers that I didn’t want to upset them or bother them with anything else, because it wouldn’t have ended well for me. I had no one to talk to and felt very alone in my house.

I mentioned in the first chapter that the word special was spoken over my life as a newborn, but that word felt like a mockery to me. It seemed that this word would follow me all the days of my life repeating itself over and over, yet I could not accept the word as applicable to me. I was not special. I was unplanned. My family was far from special, so why on earth would people say that I was special? It was as if I had some sort of muffler on my ears that blocked me from receiving the word. The Enemy had distorted my understanding of who I was. The Lord was trying to tell me something, but I wasn’t listening—until the night I cried out to God and asked Him: “Why was I born? Why put me in this situation when I wasn’t even wanted?”

I blamed God for everything I was going through. Even though I was a Christian—and studying to be a minister— deep down, I felt hopeless and did not want to live anymore. I lay on the floor and wept bitterly, wondering if I would ever amount to anything in my life. I had made so many mistakes, I had no idea who I was and why I was here; I felt aimless. I was studying to become a minister, but I felt like a fraud. I was trying to do all the right things because I thought maybe if I earned the title of pastor and had a title on my door, then I would finally feel as though I had a purpose and people would affirm and respect me. Maybe if I could help someone else’s problems, then doing so would diminish my own.

At that moment of desperation, I knew I needed an answer from God. The Bible says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). I began seeking God because He was my only option. I opened the Bible and read this passage of Scripture as tears rolled down my cheeks.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13–16)

The Enemy had pierced my heart every time he repeated the lie that I was not wanted: Why are you here? You are just a nuisance. You’re stupid. These words shaped how I viewed myself for the next two decades. Yet while reading Psalm 139, a warmth that felt like healing oil moved through my body. I felt as if I was being held in the arms of my Creator, who was whispering the truth into my ear. Every word of Scripture was destroying every lie that was ever spoken over my heart and mind. I was being set free by God’s Word.

In that moment, I realized that God used my parents to get me here, but God my Father had always planned for me to be here. He knew me. He saw me. He knit every fiber of who I am in the secret place where no one else could see. He was writing my future in His book before I took my first breath. He chose me to be His and to leave a mark on this earth—the kind of mark that no one can make but me. It was as if the scales had fallen from my eyes, and I could see clearly for the first time.

I wept for hours that night, leaving behind every evil word that was meant to poison me. The Enemy had a plan to kill, steal, and destroy me (John 10:10)—but I discovered the secret to who I truly was. I was a daughter who belonged to my Father God. It was time to allow Him to go to the deepest recesses of my heart and heal every wound and every word. He needed to replace Satan’s lies with His truth. I read Psalm 139 over and over again until it became my truth. These living words were sharper and more effective than any surgery (Hebrews 4:12), and they cut out the cancer of self-hate.

I felt different. I felt clean, and for the first time I felt special. I felt special because even though I was a surprise to my parents, God had me in mind before the foundations of the earth. So now I had a reason to live: to discover my purpose according to Psalm 139:16, which says God had all of my days ordained to mean something. Specifically, it says, “all the days ordained for me were written in your book”—so I had to study the book He gave me, which is His Word. To walk in true freedom, I had to renew my mind. I had to transform the old patterns of thinking with new patterns of thinking, and the only way I could do that was by meditating on scriptures that declared the opposite of what had been spoken over my life for years. I had to replace every lie with God’s truth until it became my normal pattern of thinking.

The Bible is clear when it says: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). Instead of conforming to what feels most natural or familiar according to our feeling and emotions, we need to renew our minds daily in the Word of God and God’s way of thinking. This can only happen as we spend time reading and meditating on His Word, pondering over and over what it means and how it applies to our lives. This will change the way we view ourselves and others, and it will also change how we behave.

There is a reason why people hurt others. It is because they are hurt and broken on the inside. Once I received healing by forgiving my mother, I could see her through a different lens. The lens I now looked through was one of love and forgiveness, which helped me comprehend how my mother had been a victim of abuse and negativity from her own mother. I understood that her actions toward me were not against me personally. It was a generational pattern that had not been broken, and I had to decide to put a stop to the cycle of control, manipulation, anger, fear, emotional breakdown, and gossip.

I am weary of seeing men and women who are bound up by their circumstances, refusing to let go of their pride and hurt in order to find freedom. You can do all things through Christ, who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13). The Holy Spirit is at work in your life. You just have to choose whether to obey His will or yours. It’s that simple.

Alex Seeley is a passionate communicator and teacher of the Word. Through her boldness and tenacity, Alex shares openly about how the power of God has proven real in her own life. She loves to see people’s lives transformed by the power of Holy Spirit.

Alongside her husband, Henry, she co-leads and pastors The Belonging Co, a thriving church that has quickly become known as a place for people to find freedom and experience Jesus in an authentic way that affects every area of their life. She continues to travel and write books equipping the body of Christ everywhere.

Alex and Henry call Nashville home where they live with their two children, Holly and Taylor.

A Sickness With No Name

A Sickness With No Name

An excerpt from a blog I wrote when I was in a hard struggle with forms of disordered eating and insecurities around body image:   

How do I begin? It’s another slow morning. The best kinds of mornings, with a cozy blanket and a good cup of coffee. But there’s that horrid nagging in the back of my head and heart. Body image… a sickness with no name, she comes and goes whenever she pleases, far more often than a simple, unwanted guest. 

She tries to deplete my ability to love others, to enjoy my life, to do the things I love, to be confident, to chase my dreams. She tells me I cannot when I KNOW I can. She tells me I will not as if her will is my command. 

She depletes my excitement for life far more than any human ever could. She becomes my entire thought process some days. I give her more than I would ever admit. 

Her sickness and contagion strikes yet again with a double tap on a post of a friend I am supposed to love but instead I hate because she says they are better” than me and I can never even compete. I can’t win, I lose to her every time. 

Not today. I refuse to listen. I refuse to go numb to my senses, my love, my excitement, my the life my Father in Heaven has given me. She knows she isn’t smarter than Heaven, she just wants me to keep me believing she is. She wants me to keep believing this repetitive cycle is my life and I can’t choose anything else. 

Not today. My thoughts around any form of food or exercise begin to diminish as I reach for the only words that seem to help when my immune system gets weak. She tries to convince me I am unworthy of these Holy words I’ve cried over myself night after night after night. Stating that they will not be my assistant no matter how many times I read them. 

Trying to read my Bible I make my weak reach again, again, Oh, God, in fire and wind come and do it again. Open up the gates, let Heaven on in, come rest on me. Come down, Spirit when you move you make my heart pound, you’re here and I know you are moving, I’m here and I know you will fill me” (Rest On Us, Upper Room). I know He is the only one who saves, He’s bottled up my tears every other time she’s come, I just let her stay for far too long. Not today. 

My song is not one of defeat. Yours is not either. I know it seems she has the authority, but in reality that voice in your head gets no say. Every time we believe a word from the enemy we are damaging our spiritual immune system, our spirit gets sick. 

God come fight our battles, we know you make us well. We invite you in, come and bottle up our tears again. Resting our heads on our Father’s chest, His heart beat is good. His heart beat is for me. This is how we fight our battles, sisters. 

blessings, kat 

_________

Hey sisters, If you are reading this I wish I could give you a hug and tell you how for you I am today! If you read the above and it resonated with you I hope you find some encouragement here. I started to struggle with slight forms of disordered eating and insecurity towards the end of high school. By the time I was a freshman in college I struggled with pretty bad restricting and binging patterns around food and exercise. It got to the point where I was depressed, anxious, hated my body and felt ashamed of myself. When people ask me why I care about girls with eating disorders and insecurities I say because of ‘her’” in relation to the girl who is me” my freshman year of college who cried herself to sleep each night. I call those nights of struggle dark nights” now in messages/blogs I write. If you are in a dark night” season right now and the devil’s lies seem true, I want to share with you three things I wish I had used to fight against him during those hard times.  

We have all heard the saying that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He comes to steal our joy, kill our hope, and destroy our light. I believe he comes to steal our joy through comparison because it truly is the thief of all joy. For me personally I remember struggling with comparison with an acquaintance of mine for a long time and it went from slowly comparing, to jealousy, to wanting to find things she was doing wrong, to gossiping about her, to not liking her as a friend anymore, and finding myself thinking about how mad I was that she was successful literally all the time. One day at a time the enemy used this comparison to suck the joy out of my life. I truly felt miserable because I was so jealous of her life. This is not a fruit of the Spirit and truly not what God has for us. Comparison is a distraction from the God given purpose we have. 

The second thing the enemy comes to do is to kill our hope. I believe especially with struggles like insecurities or patterns we are ashamed of he tries to convince us that it is always going to be this way.” When I was in the peak of my struggles the biggest lie that kept me depressed and hopeless and un-goal oriented was that I truly could not imagine my life without this struggle. I had convinced myself I was not strong enough to get the help and do the things I needed to do to switch my mentality and patterns away from these disordered eating patterns. There was so much abundant life waiting for me, I just did not see it. If you are in your dark night” season right now where your biggest fear is tomorrow feeling as hard as today was, I just want you to know, you have a God who surrounds you with angels on assignments, who comes into that dark night and says, the darkness is not dark to me” (Psalm 139:11-12). I look back on those nights where I cried myself to sleep every night asking God for hope and strength and help and I see Him holding me tighter than He ever has. Know you are never alone in the dark and it does not have to stay dark because the darkness is as light with Him. (Psalm 139:11-12) 

And Lastly, I believe the enemies #1 goal is to destroy your light. You might say, well Kathryn, Jesus died on the cross and already won, the devil cannot destroy that light. And to that I would say you are absolutely right, but he still wants to convince you that you are not worthy of carrying that light, that maybe the light of the world is not really worth following, or maybe that He is not even real. He does everything he can to get that light out of you and as far away from you as possible. He uses the stealing of your joy and killing of your hope to slowly but surely diminish that light from its purpose, to convince you that you are not the city on a hill Scripture talks about.  

I remember when I was a little kid, my dad and I would snuggle and read the Bible each morning. Our verse was Isaiah 52:7, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him who brings good news, who proclaims to Zion, your God reigns!” He called me pretty feet” from that verse. A little over a year ago God called me to start doing retreats for girls who struggle with body image and insecurities and I felt like He wanted me to do this as the theme verse for the ministry. I knew it would not make too much sense because it did not have to do with body image but I just had a feeling that was our verse. A few months later, I heard a pastor talk about the context of this time period in Isaiah. Basically anytime they went to battle they sent a messenger with a scroll and his only job was to bring back the scroll after the battle with it saying whether they won or lost the battle. He would get the scroll from whoever was above him and run home to the town he was from as fast as he could to deliver the news. And in this instance he was bringing GOOD news that they had won the battle. He was returning home with the good news that the husbands and sons and friends would be returning home because they WON the battle.  

Well, friend, just like we said earlier we know that Jesus already won on the cross so the enemy cannot destroy the light, right? The reason that messenger’s feet are beautiful upon the mountains in Isaiah 52 is because He is carrying good news. The message he carries is what the people in the town will be celebrating. What if the good news we carry, the light of the world, is the most beautiful thing about us too? What if the reason my dad called me pretty feet when I was little was not just some cute saying, but a beautiful picture of the fact that I am most beautiful or pretty when my feet are going and proclaiming the good news? The world and the enemy are doing everything they can to distract you from what truly makes you feel the most purpose filled, loved, shame free, and beautiful. If we can be convinced away from spreading this good news, our bodies will still be beautiful because God made us in His image and knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139). BUT, no matter how beautiful we are on the outside, we will always struggle on the inside with insecurities and toxic patterns if we do not decide to dwell on the thing that makes us most beautiful and say no to the enemy’s lies by fixing our eyes on our Jesus and asking Him to be our light in the dark night.  

One of my favorite Instagram encouraging message writers did a post a while back that said How beautiful are the feet, if only they would go.” When we stay stuck in our insecurity and doubt our purpose, it stops us from having the courage to do the thing God is calling us to do. So, friend, there is healing to be fought for, it will not come overnight, but with day by day surrender and hard work. Will you be the feet upon the mountains? Will you say no to the devil’s lies and bring the good news anyways? Will you step into the MOST beautiful thing about you? I pray you do, because Jesus considered the purpose He has for you and me worth dying for. And man, is that a God worth living for.  

so much love and grace friend,  

kathryn <3 

Kat and her husband Casey live in Atlanta Georgia and run a company called He Would Love First (HWLF), answering the question, What Would Jesus Do (WWJD). She has a ministry called Be a Blessing for girls with disordered eating and insecurities around body image to help girls learn how to have God confidence over self confidence. She loves all things coffee, fitness, nature, and Jesus. Kat ran in college and dealt with disordered eating and lots of health issues and has a heart to help girls out of hard things & hard seasons from that. I Hope this blog encourages you in whatever season you are in!

How Being a Foster Mom Strengthened my Faith  

How Being a Foster Mom Strengthened my Faith  

My husband, Luke, and I attended our first foster-parent training with Child and Family Services in 2002, bringing only our experience working with orphaned children in Guatemala, our good intentions sprinkled in faith, and the hazy concept of foster care gained from a safe distance. Little did I know twenty years ago that becoming a foster parent would consistently illuminate this truth on this winding journey: God is always with me, before me and behind me.  

When Luke and I finished our ten-week training in Buffalo, New York, our intention was to ease into foster care by doing weekend respite care. We were both twenty-five, had no kids, and lived in a two-bedroom apartment. Little did we know that there’s no such thing as “easing in.” It would be a helicopter drop in the middle of the ocean.  

Because Luke and I each had a pulse and no criminal records, we were immediately granted status as caregivers to meet the urgent need in our community at the end of our ten-week training. We were tapped on the shoulder and asked to consider “therapeutic” foster care. While a case could be made that any child brought into state custody needs a high level of attention and care from a team of foster parents and professionals, “therapeutic” is the label reserved for cases when trauma manifests in high behavioral needs. This requires extra skill. We were a bit flattered at this invitation, and curiosity piqued our interest. Luke and I were not overly confident—we knew this wouldn’t be a breeze—but we were willing to say yes in our youthful optimism and energy, motivated by our understanding of what it meant to put our faith into action.  

With the ink still drying on our foster certificate, I said yes to the phone call asking us to take nine-year-old Dion and his six-year-old brother, Royal, who were in the therapeutic foster care program. The state vehicle pulled into our long driveway with two boys buckled in the back seat. I hospitably held the garbage bags holding their few possessions as I swung open our front door and helped the boys inside. As my heart pounded behind my welcoming smile, I showed them their room with new comforters on the beds and a brightly colored rug. I watched as they took it all in, their eyes darting around the room. I gave them a tour of the kitchen, stopping at the fully stocked snack cupboard. Not more than an hour after the caseworker dropped them off, I snapped a picture of Royal licking gooey brownie batter off spoons. That afternoon and evening included a game, dinner around the table, a TV show, and several bedtime stories. “How does it feel to be a mom?” a friend asked me on the phone after I said good night to the boys. “So far so good” was my happy, confident reply, seven hours in. 

At 3:00 a.m., the wall between our bedroom and the boys’ reverberated with gleeful shouting. I put on my robe and opened their door. The floor, pillowcases, and bedspreads were completely covered in a sea of white, waxy paper strips. Both boys were jumping on their beds, throwing Fruit-by-the-Foot snack wrappers in the air like confetti. Just a few hours after I had prayed for the boys to feel love and safety in our home and had drifted off to sleep, they silently tiptoed into the kitchen, and joyfully devoured a month’s worth of individually wrapped treats. I took a deep breath. We had learned about the prevalence of food hoarding in our training class, a response to chronic food scarcity that so many children have faced. This would be the first of countless times I’d be exposed to the difference between neatly taking notes in a journal during a training class and staring at the lived reality. I gently told the boys, their mouths full of snacks, “Let’s get you back in bed. We’ll clean up the wrappers in the morning.” It was 3:15. 

As the weeks went by, we discovered that Royal had lots of energy that kept us on our toes, but he also had a tenderness to him. Despite our best efforts to engage Dion, he overtly indicated to us that he was not interested. He figuratively spit venom and literally spit on both his brother and us. He ran away and the police had to be called to find him. Even though I know this had everything to do with the trauma-filled cards life had dealt him, I felt like a total failure.  

Luke and I curled up on our bed, completely at the end of ourselves, praying for strength and wisdom to engage the myriad of unexpected things foster parenting had already thrown our way.  We were a relatively comfortable, educated, well-adjusted couple with a “can do” attitude, but in barely no time at all, foster care had disabused us of our faulty belief that we were self-reliant. Staring at the ceiling, we wondered, How do people do this? I had expected many things in my life to shift naturally now that our focus was on parenting, but my life as I’d known it had been thrown off a cliff. We didn’t realize it at the time, but God was opening our eyes to see—really see—vulnerable people in hard places.   

Growing up in church, I’d always had a heart for vulnerable people living on the margins, but I wasn’t actually close to anyone who fit this description. Church seemed to be a place made up of people whose lives looked more or less like mine, living in the same neighborhood, with a heavy emphasis on having a respectable family and a good job. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it didn’t occur to me until decades later to ask the salient question, “Who’s not present, and why don’t they feel welcome here?”   

In the absence of proximity to people whose burdens are often more than they can bear, I oversimplified their struggles to fit within my narrow paradigm. Though I can’t recall having this exact thought, it wouldn’t have been too far off for me to believe at that point in my life that if parents who have kids in foster care could “just get it together, stop choosing drugs over their kids, get into church, and surround themselves with community,” they’d be on the right track! To be clear, I believe in the utmost power of belonging and true community as primary ways that Love shows up! I must confess, however, that my head-shaking, judgy “just get it together” sentiment did exist. I too easily made a linear connection between the redemption of people’s souls and the prosperity of their lives.  

Upward mobility and Luke’s and my own ability to “make life work for us” was like a buffet of privilege spread out before us, where faith could very well be a side dish, not the main course. The two of us already had a helping of “looks like you’re on the right track in life” piling up high on our plates with ease—with our graduate degrees, our burgeoning ability to provide financially for ourselves, and our sense of connectedness in multiple settings. Sure, we had God, but also, up until that point, we’d been able to dine until we were full on our own self-reliance. 

This parenting road, however, toppled that plate off the table, and it cracked on the floor. I didn’t have a single friend who was fostering. While we had supportive friends and family, I felt lonely and in way over my head. Sipping a latte from the coffee bar at church began to feel isolating. If someone had said to me, “Just get it together,” or worse yet, “You got yourself into this situation so you can get yourself out of it,” I would have been infuriated by the over-simplification of the struggle.  

Diving into parenting kids from hard places was disrupting life as I knew it. But even in the wreckage, I knew God hadn’t abandoned us. “God, help me to trust you as if my very life depended on it and not as a feel-good aside,” I prayed. In the past I had prayed for help on a test or for writing my master’s thesis. Now, “Help me!” was a cry that reflected a deep need born out of the inability to make things right on my own. Before I could pull out my holey parachute of self-reliance, I was swept out into the sky and free-falling, grasping only a cord of faith that promises strength amidst weakness, a faith that can hold the tension of injustice with no easy answers, and a faith that clings to humility when navigating the mountain of things I have not experienced. Proximity to those with vastly different stories than mine is a significant way that I have witnessed God moving in my life, giving me the gift of being in relationship with others, and not simply focusing on outward results. It’s reminded me of the steadfast promise that God is with me, no matter what. Foster care was my first personal, handwritten invitation to meet people, places, and situations I’d never encountered, wrecking my life as I knew it while saving me from unexamined privilege. 

Adapted from A Love-Stretched Life: Stories on Wrangling Hope, Embracing the Unexpected, and Discovering the Meaning of Family by Jillana Goble, releasing from Tyndale House Publishers June 2022.  

In A Love-Stretched Life, Jillana writes about parenting Royal for one year and then losing touch with him for thirteen years. They reconnected five years ago when he was a nineteen-year-old young man and today fully claim one another as family. The full, unfolding story is shared in ALove-Stretched Life. 

Jillana Goble is the founder of Every Child, a non-profit committed to uplifting those impacted by foster care. Five children call her Mom, ranging from preteen to young adult. For more information, visit Jillana-goble.com

Community Saved My Daughters Life

Community Saved My Daughters Life

I remember every detail of the drive on that April morning. In a way, it felt as if Zach and I were actors in a movie. Since the day I was born Easter Sunday began the same way – ironing dresses, curling my hair, polishing my church shoes back when that was a thing. Truly, this was the day to look my “Sunday best.” Yet, here I was speeding down the interstate with no make-up, my hair was not brushed, and I would later discover that in my rush to get out the door, I threw on my 10-year-old son’s t-shirt (I was 40.) It was windy that day, and I can remember our minivan swaying against the force of the wind as we drove in silence. The silence was deafening, but amidst the chaos, there was a peace that can only be explained by the presence of the Holy Spirit.  

One hour before this road trip began, our family of six was bundled up on the porch watching the sun come up as we read the story of the resurrection. We started the tradition of an Easter Sunrise time of devotion eight years before, and not once during the early hours of the morning was I interrupted by my phone. Most of the world was still asleep, and so, when my phone began buzzing at 6:45am on Easter Sunday, I was moved to check it but quickly recanted. Something about checking my phone while reading about the resurrected Savior didn’t feel right. Minutes later, as our devotional came to a close, I read the words “CALL ME ASAP” from the birth mother of the child we committed to adopt.

This is not meant to be a blog about our adoption story, so I will save the specifics of this story and that particular call for another setting. However, to help paint the picture of the seriousness of our situation, you should know that the birth mother was only 27 weeks pregnant and began hemorrhaging. She was rushed via ambulance to the closest hospital to her and would undergo an emergency C-section. We were two and half hours from this hospital, and as we were flying down the interstate, I was fighting the urge to begin googling “all the possible scenarios.” I could muster only stillness. I was frozen in the passenger seat, praying silently for the safety of this child that I knew was meant to live.

The silence was broken as the ringing of my phone blared through the car speakers. The number ringing was very close to this situation, and for a split second, I hesitated to answer. Bracing myself, I hit the green button and answered, “Hello.”

Am I on speaker phone?” 

Me: “Yes.”

Would you mind taking me off and handing the phone to Zach?”

Me: “Sure.” 

I watched Zach’s facial expressions, knowing within my heart that the words he would relay to me were not good. 

Zach: “She was unresponsive at birth, and he doesn’t think she made it.” 

Me: Silence. 

I picked up my phone, and the only thing I could think to do was to call on my community. I began texting everyone: “She was born not breathing; they are trying to revive her now; pray.” I copied and pasted those 13 words to everyone I knew at 10:38am Easter morning, which just so happens to be when most of my community was in church. At 10:58am, I texted: “She’s stable.” 

I could bring this blog to a close in a few short sentences. I could recall how so many of my friends told stories of their churches stopping to pray in this moment. I could highlight the beauty of a community that would stop to pray for my daughter. I would definitely love to quote a verse that I simply read over the years in my quiet time but now understand it to be truly true. 

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” James 5:16-18. Prayer matters.  

I believe with all my heart that God heard the prayers of His people on that Sunday morning, and Ruth Harvest Dasher was resurrected on Easter Sunday 2021.  

But if I stopped here, it would be a dishonor to the God who works all things for the good of those who love him. If you peered into my life and heart just five short years before this Easter Sunday, you would see a shell of a girl who was ready to write off community. You would see an exhausted wife and mother who was hurt by community and wanted nothing to do with people. For years, I was the poster child for community to the point that I allowed “my community” to become an idol. Idols never work and people are far too weak to be placed on such mighty pedestals. Surely, the answer is to batten down the hatches of your life and let no one into the inner sanctuaries of your heart. Keep everyone at arm’s length. Just sit on the pew. Don’t lead, don’t get involved in peoples’ lives; just coast and keep it all in the family. Surely, this is the answer. 

I tried the “no community” life, and to be honest, it felt safe. If my relationships are only surface level, then no one can get hurt, right? Wrong. Safety cannot replace our intrinsic desire to be known and loved. We were made in the image of a relational God. Three in One. Three separate beings perfectly loving one another. God within Himself is community, and because of this, we all, even if we bury it, desire community in our lives. 

If you are hurt by community and are reading this right now, I want you to know that I deeply feel your pain. I deeply understand your fear and get your desire to crawl into a hole and swear off community. While affirming the pain you experience, I want to simultaneously challenge you to consider a thought. If you wall off your potential to be hurt by keeping everyone at arm’s length, then are you not also preventing yourself from being loved by the very people who will one day stop everything they are doing to pray for you? 

Yes, the likelihood that you will be hurt somewhere down the road by someone in your community is very high, and likewise, you will, more than once, be the cause of pain in someone else’s life. We are all broken vessels navigating dangerous waters, but still, we are better at navigating together. 

Your communities may change and that’s okay. I’m reminded of the scripture in Acts 15 where Paul and Barnabas decided to go separate ways, due to a “sharp disagreement,” but neither of them went alone. You need others and others need you. As you begin to open your heart to community once again, make sure you are not building with bricks of division. It’s easy to come out of a community gone wrong situation and allow your anger and frustration to become the DNA of your new community. This is a trap from the evil one. Communities built on division will never last. In other words, build or rebuild communities that are “FOR” and not “AGAINST.” 

Finally, to the one who is thriving in their community. Yay! Community is good because God is good, and He loves when His people live in unity. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” Psalm 133:1. As with all good things, Satan schemes to distort them for his great pleasure. One way He attempts to do this is by elevating our “community” to a place that should only be reserved for God. He does this by creating closed circles of people that become so close that there is no room for anyone else. Communities led by the Holy Spirit always have room for one more because, as God’s people, we understand that ultimately, our “community” is far and wide. Our community crosses mountains and oceans; to the ends of the earth, we are God’s people, and through His blood, we will forever be connected. 

I’m so thankful that God pulled me out of my pit of despair all those years ago. I’m thankful for my intimate community and the community of God’s people at large. To every person who prayed for us on that Easter morning just shy of a year ago, I cannot begin to thank you enough, but still, thank you. God is good. He is healer – healer of broken hearts and healer of hearts that have yet to begin beating. 

Jill Dasher is the author of the brand new book SHALLOW, drowning in the shallow end of people’s approval. She is a blogger and Christian speaker who is passionate about sharing the freedom that exists when you refuse to live in hiding & freely submit all of your fears, flaws, & failures to the God who made you. She resides in the mountains of NC with her husband and five children.

Use code LOSISTER15 for a 15% discount off Jill’s book SHALLOW!

Getting Honest Enough to Admit…

Getting Honest Enough to Admit…

“Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:1-3 

I rolled over and looked at the clock. Another day. Beyond all reason and rationality, I slid out of bed and stripped off everything that might weigh even the slightest ounce as I headed to the scale.

I thought, “Maybe today will be the day the scale will be my friend and not reveal my secrets. Maybe somehow overnight the molecular structure of my body shifted and today I will magically weigh less.” 

I yanked out my ponytail holder – hey, it’s gotta weigh something – and decided to try again. But the scale didn’t change its mind the second time. It was not my friend this day. 

Vowing to do better, eat healthier, and make good choices, I headed to the kitchen only to have my resolve melt like the icing on the cinnamon rolls my daughter just pulled from the oven. Oh, who cares what the scale says when this roll speaks such love and deliciousness.

Two and a half cinnamon rolls later, I decided tomorrow would be a much better day to keep my promises to eat healthier. But tomorrow wasn’t the day. Or the next. Or the next. 

I knew I needed to make changes. Because this wasn’t really about the scale or what clothing size I was; it was about this battle that raged in my heart. I thought about, craved, and arranged my life too much around food. So much so, I knew it was something God was challenging me to surrender to His control. Surrender to the point where I’d make changes for the sake of my spiritual health perhaps even more than my physical health.

I had to get honest enough to admit it: I relied on food more than I relied on God. I craved food more than I craved God. Food was my comfort. Food was my reward. Food was my joy. Food was what I turned to in times of stress, sadness, and even in times of happiness.

I knew this battle would be hard. But through it all I determined to make God, rather than food, my focus. Each time I craved something I knew wasn’t part of my healthy eating plan, I used that craving as a prompt to pray. I craved a lot. So, I found myself praying a lot.

Sometimes I wound up on the floor of my closet, praying with tears running down my face. And I gave myself permission to cry, just like the psalmist in Psalm 5:1-3, Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God,  for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”  

And that is literally what I did each day. Laid my requests before God and waited in expectation. Moment by moment, week by week, month by month, I made the conscious (and many times, painful) choice to surrender my desires to the transformative power the Lord wanted to work in and through my life.  

Then, one morning, it finally happened. I got up and for the first time in a long while, I felt incredibly empowered. I still did the same crazy routine with the scale, no clothes, no ponytail holder. The numbers hadn’t changed much, but my heart had. One day of victory tasted better than any of that food I’d given up ever could. I had waited in expectation using prayer as my guide and I did it.

Have there still been hard moments after that victorious morning? Yes. Have there also been great signs of progress? Absolutely!

I can’t promise you there won’t be any more tears. There will. And I can’t promise the scale magically drops as quickly as you wish it would. It probably won’t. But it will be a start. A really good start.

Lysa TerKeurst is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her latest book is I’ll Start Again Monday (January 2022). Lysa lives with her family in North Carolina. Connect with her at LysaTerKeurst.com or on social media @LysaTerKeurst.

What Are You Working For?

What Are You Working For?

Since the 2022 Winter Paralympics have just finished up, I thought this would be a great time to share a bit about my own Paralympic experience in Tokyo. For those of you who arent familiar with my little story, I swim for Team Canada and this past summer God fulfilled a dream that has taken 13 years and many miles of going back and forth in the pool to accomplish! But hey, we made it! Although, what most of the world and social media doesnt know, was that going to Tokyo and being at the Paralympics was at times really awful. Yup, you read that correctly.

Youd think that fulfilling a life long dream would go as smooth as the peanut butter I put on my toast this morning. Youd assume that if God was gifting you with a reward like this, that hed make sure there was 100% no drama and everything would be exactly how you dreamed it would beyeah, not so much. A girl can dream and I thought this dream was pretty valid. Have you ever wanted a dream to go smoothly? 

There were some days in the athletes village where the only thing that got me through the day, was reminding myself that I was currently sitting in a gift. I was literally standing in the middle of an answered prayer, but why was it nothing like I imagined? Why did it feel so overwhelming and heavy? Now dont get me wrong, competing for Canada at that level was one of the most incredible experiences of my life! I loved every second of my race, walking out to the blocks, soaking it all in, feeling completely at peace and no pressure to perform. Knowing that I wasnt there to perform for the world but there because God takes pleasure in watching me swim, that hits different.

That one moment was everything and more. I became a Paralympian on August 28th, 2021, the day God intended.

But other than that, the whole experience was super difficult. Emotions where high, performances and medals were top priority. Have you noticed how people lose themselves when they are put in a high stress environment? My teammates who I thought had my back, just didnt. Everyone was on edge, emotions were driving peoples assumptions, lack of leadership made for a chaotic atmosphere and to top it all off, being thousands of miles away from your friends and family was harder than I thought. 

I left Tokyo feeling like my gift came with a price. And in all honesty, I felt like God made me pay for it myself.

Yes, I was given what I always wanted, but in the theme of full transparency, all the work I had done felt like it should have produced a more comfortable reward. If youve ever felt this way about something that youve worked for, a dream that youve had, or an opportunity that you earned, I am right there with you. Its not a fun place to be in yet in all honesty its a human place. But the good news is that I believe God can handle getting us out of it!

My friends, does life ever go exactly how wed like it to? (Let me know if it has for you because Id love to meet you one day and find out your secret!) Although for now I think we can agree that most often life does not go as wed like. For example, relationships face their reality checks when the person youre with shows you that even they are human too. Even the most handsome boy in school isnt perfect. Our jobs seem great on paper, but good grief if Karen from accounting sends me one more email! Even dreams dont always play out in the way we thought they would or in our ideal time frame for that matter (anyone getting Joseph vibes?). We dream of having kids, and one day they make decisions that we definitely told God we didnt want them to make. We commit to a company and we know the work weve done is worth a raise, but that raise and recognition never comes. The bottom line is that sometimes what we work for doesnt end up how we thought it would. 

In that case, if were ever going to figure out how to make it through our time on earth, let alone make it through our time well, I believe we need to find an answer to one simple question: 

What are you working for?

Its no question that human beings have always worked. In fact, the act of working and the concept of work itself is seen in the beginning of the Bible. Genesis 2:15 says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Working is biblical, and God has designed us with an ability to work.  

Writer Annie Dillard famously said, How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.In fact, a simple google search will tell you that the average person spends about 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime — we are no strangers to work. John Mark Comer raised an interesting point in his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, saying that to be seen as successful in todays world, is to be busy. If you are constantly working then you are living your life well, or at least thats what we have started to think. If this is the case, what we are working for should matter, shouldnt it? If we are to spend 90,000 hours of life at work, then whatever we are working for should add up to something. But what if it doesnt? What happens when we have worked for something and it leaves us exhausted with unmet expectations? What happens when we get what we wanted, but theres still an emptiness thats lingering? What happens when the answered prayer comes with a little more heaviness than we anticipated?  

If this is the case, then it is becoming more important than ever to answer the question. 1 Corinthians 15:58 is the framework for us to find this answer:So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 

Now, the word immovable can be defined as something thats not changed in purpose; unshaken; firm. To be immovable is to be rooted in the purpose of God, to be strong in who He says He is, and to stand firm when life throws its best punches at you. To be immovable in your work is to be unwavering in the knowledge that your work, whatever it may be, is for the glory of God and God alone. We partake in the Kingdom of God by doing the work that He has assigned for each of us, and that work (and level of worldly success) is going to be different for everyone.

Now the next part of the verse, Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, is a little tougher. You might be saying to yourself, Doesnt God know that my work isnt always easy? Has he not seen the stress Im under?Now these are valid feelings and God definitely sees you and understands what youre going through, but what this verse is telling us is not that we should work enthusiastically for the title, the dream, the money, the fame etc., but that we are to work enthusiastically for the Lord.

Your work is the means by which you get to serve God. We are called to work enthusiastically for the Lord because He is the one who created us to work for him in the first place! Remember Genesis 2:15? God has placed us in our unique spheres of influence to work for him, not for the things of the earth. Yes, there are many things we will achieve while we work and likewise, many dreams will be accomplished while we commit to working for them. But what I want to remind us of today, is that if we are working for anything other than God, as good as the gift might be, it will never be enough. 

Then lastly, why is it okay to work enthusiastically for the Lord? Because Nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. I realized that I was in Tokyo for something greater than my own comfort and personal achievements. God had given me a dream, and after years of work he was kind enough to make it happen. He will never waste what He ordained for purpose. 

When you choose to work for the Lord, nothing you do will ever be useless. When your dreams arent met, or when they turn out a little different than expected, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you can choose to be immovable and stand firm, because your work is not only for you, but instead for the glory of God. When we work enthusiastically for the Lord, I have a feeling that we will begin to see our dreams as a means to draw closer to God, and not as a way to gain the world. 

My name is Dee, I’m a born and raised Canadian, and I swim for Team Canada! I recently competed at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympic Games, and I have a passion for encouraging people to embrace their unique differences. I’ve got a youtube channel called This Little Light, and you can usually find me drinking an iced coffee and making short jokes. We’ve all got a unique light inside of us to shine, and I think it would be fun to shine them together! 

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