I wanted to publicly share the news about what God has called my husband and I into... Here is one of my weekly Insider's Scoop Emails that I sent out telling them our story of how we were called. I hope you'll join me over there, friend!
I FINALLY got the go ahead from God to completely SHARE the craziness that’s been happening in Mike and I’s life! I can’t tell you how excited I am to let you in on this one, boo…. Cause there’s no denying Him in it.
Are you ready for this roller coaster ride? Cause it’s a really, really cool one… like the kind with loops and drops and twisty-turns. Gaaaaaaah! Even the verse I heard when whether I could write and tell you today is amazing. Wanna start there?
I prayed and asked the Lord if this was the week to share Mike and I’s big news and He gave me this verse: Joshua 1:9.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” ESV
I was worried about sharing our story because I didn’t know if it was the right time and if the right people would hear it. He reassured me in every way and told me to assume command of my story and share it with others so that they too can see the glories and wonders He is doing. And yes, I got alllll that in prayer time… pretty cool, right?
So, I’m gonna do a writer’s no-no and give you the ending before I start… the thing we’ve been praying for? The thing I’ve had on my heart for over four months? A trip to Israel….
WE’RE GOING TO ISRAEL Y’ALL….. THIS JUNE!!!!!!!!
Yep, you heard me right… Israel… the holy land… Mike and I are heading out in just a month and a half to the place Jesus did the largest portion of His ministry and I am BEYOND excited.
So, wanna hear how it happened? I started praying and hearing the Lord call me to Israel last year in December. Mike and I were feeling drawn to “the mountains”, unaware of where these mountains were. We started considering vacationing back in Colorado, where our first child was born, but every time we considered it, it just didn’t “feel” right. It didn’t feel like these were the mountains we were drawn to. We traveled back to Lynchburg, where Mike and I met, where we went to school, because the Blue Ridge Mountains hold such a special place in our hearts and lives. Still, the yearning for the mountains was still there.
I brought up back in January that I felt we were being called to Israel, not having any idea if the mountains we were both feeling lead to had anything to do with Israel. For all I knew, Israel was a dessert and maybe had some sand dunes. I seriously had no insight or even a draw to this country before I began praying into it.
When God spoke to me through His word for the very first time I was sitting around a little farmhouse table with a select few women whom I didn’t really know all that well. He promised to redeem and restore me, regardless of the things that had happened in my past. Isaiah 61 has been tattooed on my heart ever since that precious day. My redeemer took all the knowledge I’d learned in therapy and finally aligned my heart with it, showing me just how real and alive He is.
I didn’t see it that day, but Isaiah 61 came back up when I was praying about the mountains I felt drawn to.
“to grant to those who mourn in Zion- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified” Isaiah 61:3, ESV.
This verse stuck out. Zion is defined as “the HILL of Jerusaleum on which the city of David was built” or “the heavenly city or kingdom of heaven”. I knew, right then and there, the Holy Spirit was calling me to Mt. Zion, I just didn’t know when. As I prayed and looked at different trips offered by our church, I originally thought January would be a good time to go, but it was too soon. I prayed again and asked if I was to go on my own and the holy spirit spoke to me in a vision…
I saw Mike and I walking up a path on a hill, hand-in-hand, and I knew we were to go together. But Mike felt otherwise. Not only did he have absolutely no draw to Israel, but it made Him almost mad when I would bring it up. The more I prayed the desire to go this June grew in my heart and the calling became louder.
I was so confused. The Lord was doing so much in our lives at that point. He was calling us away from our current church home into another, I was working on my book, Mike was looking at traveling to other places, and every time I would bring it up it seemed to cause discord and division between him and I.
I prayed one last time and God simply told me to “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10, ESV.
Good Lord if you only knew how hard that was for this girl. I wanted so desperately to talk about it with Mike, but it was like the Lord zipped my mouth closed.
During the same month, January, Mike and I invited our dear friends and now pastors over to our home. Mike wanted to know how I was hearing from the Lord and I suggested having them come and just sit with us for him to ask questions.
By the end of that meeting, I’ll never forget what my husband said, “Wow, I feel like I’ve found a new toy (in reference to the bible).”
He heard the Lord speak to him through the bible for the first time ever and He gave Mike Amos 3:11.
Both of our responses were, “Amos? Is that even a book in the bible?”. Ha… but that’s how the holy spirit works. We both had never even heard of that book in the bible before that particular night.
“Therefore, says the Lord God: An adversary shall surround the land and bring down your defenses from you, and your strongholds shall be plundered.” Amos 3:11, ESV.
This verse spoke something so powerful over my husband. God told him, that night, January seventh, 2019 that He would begin to break strongholds in his life, and He has been, ever since. The man I know today is completely different than the man I knew, even just a few short months ago. He’s always been the man of my dreams, but He’s now the spiritual leader and man of God I always knew He would be.
Mike wasn’t the only one who heard from the Lord that night. God spoke something so very clearly to me through Amos.
Above the verse Mike heard in verse nine it states, “Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt, and to say, “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria, and see the great tumults within her, and the oppressed in her midst.” ESV
Ashdod is located in Israel and so are the mountains of Samaria. I knew these were the mountains the Lord was calling us to, but I knew I had to wait.
The deadline for the trip drew near and Mike and I had to pray and ask the Lord if June was the time for us to go, but every time we’d try, it would result in the Lord restoring and revealing strongholds in our hearts that needed to be dealt with. I lost almost all hope. I thought I heard Him so clearly yet every time I tried to talk about it with Mike, we’d hit a wall.
I gave up. My heart sank. I would pray in my quiet time every day and ask the Lord to remove the desire to go on this trip, but instead, it grew. It was one of the most frustrating things I’ve had to deal with in a long time. I mean, I would literally be sitting watching a movie with my kiddos and some random commercial would come on about traveling to Tel Aviv. I was so upset yet God kept placing it in front of me, in both my quiet time with Him and throughout moments of my day. I was getting a little irritated, not gonna lie.
So, the deadline of the trip passed and about two weeks ago, Mike sat me down in our pub and talked through the possibly of saving up for a family trip to Ireland in about three years. I sat and listened but my heart was hardened toward him and his aspirations for any family vacation. I wanted so desperately to forget about Israel, I obliged him and talked about the possibility of going to Ireland.
Fastforward to the day after easter weekend. I was exhausted, my kids were all off from school, coming down from a very large sugar rush, and I planned on catching up on all things that involved housework and laundry. A friend was suppose to come over and talk and I seriously didn’t intend on getting out of my jammies that day.
Mike called me about four times in a row, desperate sounding when I finally picked up the phone.
“Babe, you need to come meet me for lunch today. Something has happened and I need to talk with you about it” he said with excitement.
I fought him for a while but could hear the urgency in his voice, so I reluctantly agreed. I called my friend, got my kids dressed, and threw on some shades and a half decent outfit and headed out the door.
My husband has a pretty regular routine in the morning. He gets out of bed, washes his mouth out, starts the pot of coffee, and goes to the bathroom where he sits and either reads the news or dabbles a little on pinterest. That morning, he was pinning two different pictures of Ireland to his Ireland board he created solely for the purpose of planning our family trip we had discussed. He said just as he was about to pin them, he heard loud and clear, “Why are you looking at Ireland when I’ve called you to Israel?”
He was shook up. He said in that moment, every picture he had been yearning to pin and eventually go see suddenly fell dull.
“It was the equivalent of placing a bland cracker in your mouth” he told me, sitting across from the table at lunch.
I sat, listening and wondering where he was going with this story. He continued. On his way in to work, he began to pray and tell the Lord all the reasons why we couldn’t go to Israel. The deadline had passed, we didn’t have childcare, and we most certainly didn’t have the funds, so why would he speak that over him now? The Lord called Him to ask just one more time if we were suppose to go to Israel in June.
Before he could finish the question he heard a verse.
“Behold Zion, the city of our appointed feasts! Your eyes will see Jerusalem, an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken” Isaiah 33:20, ESV.
I about spit my water out laughing so hard when I heard him say this. Shocked, overwhelmed, and a bit numb to what was happening, I sat with a grin and a napkin balled in my fist, ready to catch every tear about to burst out of my eyes.
Mike continued on saying he STILL needed confirmation from the Lord, that this verse wasn’t enough.
“Did the Lord strike you down right then and there?” was my reaction. That’s all I would’ve needed to hear, but not Mike.
So, he asked the Lord, “Ok, I know you’re calling us to Israel, but are you calling me in June, Lord?”
Again, before he could finish the question, another verse pops in his head.
“But this command I gave them: Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you” Jeremiah 7:23, ESV.
Again, my response was nothing but a whole lot of laughing, combined with crying and excitement. In ONE MORNING, the Lord not only answered my prayers and silenced my doubts that I’d never really heard Him call me to Israel, but He called Mike to Israel at a time and in a way that there’d be NO other way he could assume it was anyone other than the Lord calling Him.
So, before calling to tell me everything God spoke to him, Mike called his father. As he walked through the events that morning, he brought up all the things that would keep him from going, starting with childcare. His father stopped him and immediately told him that him and Mike’s mom had been wanting to take the kids and spend time with them this summer, and they’d be so happy to watch them.
Then, Mike gets off the phone with his father, and calls our pastor, Michael Hines. He runs through the events of the morning with him and Michael just starts laughing. Evidently, just six days before, Michael had been praying with another couple and he felt the Lord leading him to request for another bus on the June trip, allowing more space for people to come. So, not only was there room for Mike and I, but more people would begin to hear from the Lord and feel called to go this June.
Lastly, the funds. We still don’t know exactly how we’re going to pay for this trip. We have four kids, a mortgage, a pool liner that needs to be replaced, and a conference I’m going to in July that still isn’t paid for. The funny part about this portion, is I had been praying for the $8,000 to come through our IRS return (which, we NEVER get money back on our return, we either pay money back or come out even because we work for a family business and usually get raked over the coals when it comes to our tax bracket and returns… but that’s for a different discussion). Without me knowing, Mike had been praying for that exact amount too, to pay for our pool liner (about $4500.00 and to pay for some credit card debt that had been hovering over us for the past couple of years).
We both got the answers we were praying for. Our tax return was almost exactly $8,000.00, to the penny. So, my husband prayed and heard a while ago that we were to pay our debts off with the return (getting a scripture about paying debts down in Romans). I thought this was the end of the discussion about traveling to Israel, because he had gotten this verse before he heard the Lord call him to Israel.
So, now, we know the Lord is calling us to pay down our debt and the pool liner with the return, but we’re still unsure of where the money for the Israel trip will come from… and we’re leaving very, very soon. HA!
But you wanna know what’s cool? Neither of us are worried. We know the Lord will provide when He calls us into something. We know the money will come and as long as we trust and obey Him, He will provide the very amount we need exactly when we need it.
So, this is my God story… so far. Jesus is aligning my husband and I’s hearts through this process and giving us the ability to speak about how He’s moving in our lives to so many others. He is going to do transformative things for both Mike and I individually and for us, as a couple. For me, God will replace my season of mourning with the oil of gladness and praise for my faint spirit. He will anoint me with a beautiful headdress instead of the ashes I bore for so long. For Mike, He will stand on the mountain we’ve been called to for so long and proclaim the strongholds God has been breaking in him.
There won’t be a defense that can bring us down, a stronghold that can plunder our lives, or an ounce of mourning left in my body. He is gifting us friendships founded on the principles of Him, peace and comfort even when we don’t have all the answers, and restoring hope in our marriage and lives by leading us to a place where we will learn so much about Him and His call on our lives.
If the beginning of this journey is as sweet as it is, I can’t even imagine what He’s planning to do once we’re there.
I hope this story, so far, is a blessing and a testament to just how real and alive Jesus is… and if you want your own God story, all you have to do is begin to lend your ear toward His word.
As always, I hope this gets you through til’ Friday! Until next week, have a great rest of yours!
Also please be praying for me...
Pray for continued increase in our faith as we walk out the details and the financial pieces of our trip. God's not done writing our story and we're so excited to see how He makes this happen!
THINGS TO CELEBRATE:
(I'm a firm believer that celebrating milestones, no matter how big or small is pivotal in the process we're in. It acknowledges our achievements and reminds us of how much we've learned since starting out on our journeys...)
My book proposal is COMPLETED and ready to be sent out to literary agents! I'll be starting on that THIS WEEK!!!! EEEEEK!
There is so much preparation that goes into the start of football season. I got to see how much time, energy, and effort my husband invested in to become the best version of himself. We began dating in college, where he was the starting center for Liberty University. Dating a football player had its perks, like free club seat tickets, but it also came with its hardships.
There wasn’t a whole lot of free time to go and “do” like other students. When regular students got out of class, they often got together to hang out. My husband hurried off to practice and then headed home to do homework, for both football and school. He understood that his position required more of him, and he worked hard to be the best version of himself for it, because he considered it a privilege and an honor. He was a full scholarship athlete and knew he had to work to earn his pay, because a number of other guys were ready and willing to take the position if he wasn’t.
The time he spent practicing paid off with success and perfected skill, but it required focus and drive. The energy he used in practice would be pushed to its limits, especially during summer two-a-days. Most, if not all the players, ended up vomiting from suicide drills and sheer physical exhaustion. Those days ended in full body ice baths and a whole bunch of taped ankles and physical therapy. The effort he put in, both on and off the field, set him up for success when the pressures of a game begged him to quit.
The process of spiritual maturation is no different than the one my husband so faithfully demonstrated in his collegiate football career. His growth as a player greatly depended on his ability to listen to his coach’s instruction and then learn how to apply it practically. Sometimes that meant hours’ worth of time and energy spent in the weight room and other times it meant hours of diligently studying playbooks and game film. It also required him to know when to rest and when to work, when to listen and when to act, and eventually, when to learn and when to lead.
He started all four years as the center for LU, and his growth and success landed him the captain position his senior year. There were so many game nights players would come off the field with a win, gearing up to celebrate into the wee-hours of the night. Not Mike. He knew as a leader, he had to sacrifice what he once participated in, to be an example for those who looked up to him. To lead requires great sacrifice but yields great dividends.
I’ve wrestled with this truth in my own life recently. As I gain followers, as I lead women in ministry, and as I lead my own children in to their futures, the weight of my actions and decisions have gotten heavier. I have more eyes and more responsibilities pressing on me than when I wasn’t pursuing God’s call on my life. I had more freedom and liberty to do without repercussion, and if I’m honest, I miss that freedom sometimes. It was easier.
But I’m recognizing that as I step into the calling of leadership, the things God is stripping me of, He replaces with a greater desire for Him. It doesn’t come naturally to sit down and ask God to “search my heart” for anything that may be driving a wedge between Him and I. The old phrase, “be careful what you pray for” comes to mind. But as I trust in His voice and obey His command, He gently corrects my wrongs and grows me from the spiritual milk I once drank to the solid food of relationship He has for me. And believe me, a big, fat juicy steak tastes so much better than a bottle of milk.
To learn how to lead well is to continue to die to oneself so He can begin to replace the old with the new. It changes who I am in the most literal sense. I am not the same as I was even a minute ago. My desires, goals, and aspirations all shift and change. This changes the dynamics of my friendships, my marriage, and my daily routine.
“…Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” 1 Corinthians 5:6-7, NIV.
Paul is appealing and warning the church of Corinth to imitate himself by setting an example for others. He was able to make such a bold statement because of how closely he walked with God, how much time he spent in the word and in prayer, and was always aware of God’s presence in his life. God was Paul’s example; therefore, Paul’s life could be an example to other Christians. Paul wasn’t expecting others to imitate everything he did, but they should imitate those aspects of his beliefs and conduct that were modeling Christ’s way of living. Paul was exemplifying what a great leader in Christ looks like.
The yeast Paul speaks of represents sin. As the Hebrews prepared for their exodus from slavery in Egypt, they were commanded to prepare bread without yeast because they didn’t have time to wait for it to rise. And because yeast also was a symbol of sin, they were commanded to sweep all of it out of the house (Exodus 12:15, 13:7). Christ is our Passover lamb, the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Because he has delivered us from the slavery of sin, we should have nothing to do with the sins of the past, or as Paul describes to the church of Corinth, “old yeast”. To grow as a leader, we must be willing to give up the sins of our past and present to move into the giftings in our future.
Whether we’re leading in life in our place of work, church, home, or community, we all need to recognize that the maturation process may be difficult, even painful at times, but it’s necessary for growth and success. If we focus on our hearts and the corrections the holy spirit is lovingly revealing, we will continue to move into the things God has for us. We will continue to get stronger, making us more capable of the things He has in store.
If God has called you to be a leader, you must submit your whole life over to Him so you can become the person who is capable of handling that position. Great leaders go first, sacrifice much, and in return, gain access to the Kingdom of God.
I sat crying this morning as I prayed on a bar stool in my pub. I felt like a failure. I felt alone, scared, and utterly disgusted with myself for feeling guilty about my tears. As I spoke out in prayer how broken and wounded I felt, I clutched my bible close to my chest.
“Lord, what’s wrong with me?” I shouted.
The need to hear and feel Him close was stronger than anything else. The words Isaiah 61 repeated in my mind, getting louder and clearer as I sobbed. I pulled the bible away from my chest, unclenched my fingers from its spine, and fumbled my way to Isaiah. My eyes landed on chapter 61 through blurry vision and tear-soaked hands.
“Remember my promise,” He whispered as I wiped my nose on the collar of my t-shirt.
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” Isaiah 61:1-4, ESV.
There are days I smile and laugh more than most, these days encouragement comes so easy. Then there are days where I cry and wonder what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. More often than most, my days consist of a coexistence of both.
But this is what growth looks like, this is the reality of pursuing a dream. I am called to bring good news to those who are imprisoned in the same shame and fear I once sat in. He has given me a desire to comfort those who mourn, to speak for those who are silenced by their past.
I’d be lying if I said that on my worst days I don’t second guess everything I’m doing, feeling more like a hypocrite than a leader. How can I lead and bring others to Christ when I still deal with so much sorrow and pain? How can I write when I can't even figure out the difference between a run-on sentence and one that's well-crafted?
I want to quit. Throw in the towel. Give every stinkin' voice that told me "you can't" a reason to say "I told you so". So, I do. I bury myself in anger and frustration as I lay my head on my garage bar and weep.
Then a vision of me running in the hot sun, ear buds in, sweat trickling down my neck appears. It was me, on a break between my counseling appointment and my neurofeedback appointment a mere year-and-a-half ago. I had to get in at least a three-mile run or I’d miss a workout, and if I missed a workout, I spiraled into worthlessness and shame. The music in my ears was angry, the blood beneath my skin boiling, and the drive behind my steps was sheer punishment.
I hated who I was. I ran and ran until my feet bled and my throat produced nothing but hot breath. Food was restricted so I could feel the pangs of hunger, to punish myself further for being so weak and needy. The desire to stop, to over indulge on things that would numb the pain, they begged and begged until I caved. Then I would hate myself more for giving in, feeling weaker than before. A never-ending cycle of punishment. This was my reality as I walked through trauma counseling. This was the constant difficulty I faced as I stumbled through healing the wound of sexual abuse that festered and grew for over twenty years.
“Jesus, I can’t go back there,” slowly trickled out in broken, weak syllables as I sat on my bar stool.
The vision of that run combined with Isaiah 61 reminded me of just how much I needed Him. I wept as I read the passage out loud. Without Him, I’m weak, surrounded by sin that relentlessly beckons me back in the shackles of exhaustion and pain.
I won’t lie to you. I will be open and honest about the journey I’m on. There are good days and there are bad. The good ones are still mixed with tears and pain, triggers that make me want to clutch to bourbon and long runs rather than Jesus.
Then- there are days that are simply just bad. I struggle to get out of bed, find any joy, and I find myself curled up in the fetal position in a pool of tears. I isolate myself from people, drown my sorrow in self-doubt and contempt, and it takes every bit of energy to muster up the word “Jesus”.
But in the middle of this season, I am reminded that the coexistence of both the good and the bad isn’t just okay, but normal. Life is filled with challenges I’ve either just overcome, am in the midst of, or just about to embark on. And I have a choice with each one to face them, or not. I’m realizing that facing them is harder than not.
Facing the fears, the doubts, the hardship is all apart of growing and becoming the person God is shaping me to become. He’s lovingly pressing, shaping, and mulling me into the oil I am becoming so I can walk into the promise He has for me. And that kind of process is difficult, to say the least.
When I turn my eyes upon Him, my tears still spill down my cheeks, but in gratitude for His presence. The holy spirit reminded me that my strength comes from Him, not myself. Fear will continue to reappear, but if I face it with Him, it won’t win. He will. I will. We will move on, press on, becoming stronger and closer than the season before.
When I choose to take my faint spirit to Him, He replaces it with a garment of praise. He exchanges my mourning for the oil of gladness and places a beautiful headdress upon my head to replace the ashes that once covered me.
This journey isn’t easy. There are moments of doubt and fear, but as I continue to cling to Him, He continues to replace my shame with His everlasting love. I am choosing to put on His garment of salvation instead of the chains of bondage. I am holding tight to the promises He gave, instead of retreating to the ashes that once consumed me.
In Him, I am strong. In Him, I am capable. In Him, I am equipped. And in Him, I find freedom. I am not a hypocrite, but a leader. I am not bound by fear and doubt. I have hope because I have a father that loves me, right where I’m at. And so do you.