God Sees You

Do you ever feel invisible?

Are you tempted to believe that the work, the sacrifice, the struggle you experience on a daily basis goes unnoticed?

If we feel that way when it comes to a clean house that goes unrecognized or completing a work project that goes unrecognized, imagine the thoughts swirling around in the Israelites as they suffered brutal bondage to Egypt for years. We can only imagine how confused, forgotten, and cast aside this nation—chosen by God—must have felt.

During those many days, the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

-Exodus 2:23-25

I cannot get past verse 25: God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

God saw every struggle, heartache, question, and longing. And God knows.

He knows what it feels like to be unnoticed and cast aside. He knows exactly how you feel and why you feel that way. But He also knows exactly what to do about it.

The story of Moses’ birth and rescue is told in the earlier verses of Chapter 2, showing us that He is always weaving a story we can’t see. The Israelites were groaning, crying out to God to rescue them and God’s rescue plan was already underway. Before He could save the nation of Israel, He had to save a baby boy and years down the road, that baby boy would grow up and lead Israel to freedom.

Whatever you’re going through today, however small or big your circumstance—the one that makes you feel forgotten—remember that God sees you and God knows you. He knows just what to do with your life, and He is already moving…even if you can’t see it yet.

God Is Always Working (Exodus 1)

Need a reminder that God is at work in your life? Read Exodus Chapter 1 and consider these two truths:

  1. We should never act out of fear.
  2. Growth can happen in the midst of oppression.

Exodus 1 picks up with the death of Joseph, the reign of a new King who did not know Joseph or believe in Israel’s God. Concerned about the number of Israelites that lived in Egypt, and fearful they would compromise his leadership, Pharoah enslaved the entire nation.

“Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore, they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They build for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses.  -Exodus 1: 10-11

This reminds us to act from a position of faith rather than fear.

We often respond to situations in life like Pharoah. No, we don’t enslave people, but we become so afraid of a potential outcome that we manipulate the circumstances and people around us to protect ourselves.

But God is bigger than the plans and fear of man. And thank goodness He is!

But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. -Exodus 1:12

This verse is a glimmer of hope in a paragraph of despair for the Israelites. In the middle of their pain, God was protecting them and providing for them. He reveals that growth can still happen in the midst of oppression.

A season of oppression can look different for every person. Regardless of your specific situation, this time can feel hopeless, exhausting, and lonely. These are the seasons we are tempted to give up and yet this same season is an opportunity for God to show up. He can thwart the plans of men, do the miraculous, and bring beauty from ashes—and He will.

If you find yourself in a season of physical, emotional, or spiritual oppression, God is on the move. He will bring growth, provision, and protection—you just may not be able to see it yet!

Is there a situation in your life where you are responding out of fear rather than faith that God is in control?

How might your response to uncertain situations look different if you acted out of faith instead of fear? 

What ways can you pray and anticipate growth and provision in the middle of your oppression? 

Take Note

“Therefore, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” -Hebrews 2:1

I am familiar with the story of Moses, the Israelites’ exodus out of Egypt, the 40 years of wandering, the manna from Heaven. But familiar doesn’t feel like enough.

The mention of these things is scattered throughout the Bible and it keeps popping up in both corporate and personal study. That typically means it’s important. So this year I’m going to pay much closer attention to it.

I shared this on Instagram in January. At the time, I was three chapters into this incredible book and was already learning new truths, challenged to dig deeper, and overwhelmed by how personal God is when speaking to me through Old Testament stories.

I realize that we’re almost five months into the year and I should be way past chapter 18, but such is life. I’m grateful for a gracious God who doesn’t wait on me with disappointment in his eyes, tapping his toe, and shaking his head when I open up to a chapter in a book I told Him I would have finished by now. Instead, he says, “Welcome back! Let’s pick up where we left off,” and he teaches me more of his faithfulness.

The same is true for you. Whether it’s been a day or two, or a month or two, you can sit down with your Bible, talk to God, and pick up right where you left off. If you’re looking for some direction or accountability, you can join me in Exodus!

Each week I’ll summarize a chapter of Exodus, show you a Truth I discovered while reading, a fun fact I didn’t know before, or a question that I couldn’t ignore. It’s not going to be a Bible study or necessarily a form of teaching, but hopefully, it will start a conversation and give you something to think about. (And it will keep me accountable to finish this book before January 2020!)

Let’s all start this week in Exodus chapter 1 and see what God has to say!

Finding God This Christmas

“God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” – Genesis 1:31

I always thought those words, “It is good” came from a place of pride. That God looked down on his creation and gave himself a pat on the back for the beauty and creativity and innocence and perfection. But I think I was wrong.

Nolan

I watch my son wake up from a nap. He’s like his mama. He loves to wake up slow. We believe easing into sitting up, not rushing to turn on lights, and gently facing the day is the best way to wake up. So I just lean into the door frame and watch him wake up slowly. He rolls around, watches the fan, babbles and coos. My heart wants to burst at the sight of this squishy, innocent, beautiful little boy. My mom always told me that one day I would understand the love a parent has for her child. I knew it would be big. But I couldn’t fathom this. A love so strong; certainly unconditional. I love him simply because I do, not because of anything he has done.

And I think this might be a small picture of what God did after He created humanity. He watched His creation, His children, with a smile on His face, love bursting out of His heart. And He said it is very good. Not from a place of pride, but from love. This beautiful, innocent, perfect human being—the human that would one day break His heart—He looked at with unconditional, overwhelming love.

This how He looks at you, now. Even on the days you break His heart, He is filled with love for you.

I can’t imagine it! Except that in a small way, I can. I know Nolan will grow up and will most likely say or do something that breaks my heart. Last week, he didn’t break my heart but he did make me feel overwhelmingly tired and frustrated. But even on my hardest days with Nolan, I can’t wait to hold him, sing to him, kiss his squishy cheeks, and give him what he needs.

God doesn’t get weary physically, but I know I’m not His easiest child. I don’t always listen. I disobey. I try to do things on my own rather than ask Him for help He is eagerly waiting to give. And while I can’t project human emotion on a perfect God, I’m sure that’s frustrating.

Even though you and I are not perfectly behaved children, our Father can’t wait to hold us, sing to us, comfort us, and give us what we need. Even on our worst days, we can climb into the Father’s lap and let his love wash over us. His love is more unconditional than we can even fathom!

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, will not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

As you move towards Christmas Day, look for the evidence of God’s love. Recognize that by sending Jesus to earth, God proclaimed his overwhelming love for you. He literally moved heaven and earth to show you just how deep His love goes—not because of anything you did but because of who He is. Will you receive His love today? Will you reach out to Him and let Him quiet your anxious thoughts and fill your heart with songs of rejoicing? Will you ask him to rescue you, or simply just be with you?

Today is a new day (thank goodness!) and He’s still here, still watching you with love in his eyes, still confident that you are worth it, still claiming, “it is good.”

To help you find focus in your time with the Lord, I’m offering you a Christmas Quiet Time Guide. I hope it brings you joy and peace that can only be found through Jesus.

What attribute of God is most evident to you this Christmas?

 

Whatever You Think About Matters

I was having “one of those days.” It was a Tuesday. Nolan was at Mother’s Day Out and I was supposed to be writing. The morning started out promising—a steaming cup of coffee, uninterrupted time with the Lord, minimal distractions so I could start ticking items off my to-do list. Except I was bothered by everything. I was feeling anxious about nothing, yet all of life—all of it. I just couldn’t seem to shake it, so my to-do list sat there without any glorious, thick black lines marking it up. I watched the clock speed through every minute feeling more frustrated and inadequate by the second. That’s when Drew walked through the door to grab lunch.

He noticed my foul mood (I wasn’t hiding it very well), could sense my anxiety, and timidly asked me, “Have you spent time with God?” Not an accusatory question by any means. In fact, the answer to that question is usually the barometer for my emotions. He asked in such a way that would typically prompt me to drop everything and refocus. Only this time, I had. “I have spent time with God. And that’s the problem,” I shot back at him. His face could have been comical if I was receptive to funny things. It was absurd to think that spending time with God was the reason behind my anxiety and frustration. But at that moment, I genuinely believed that by spending time with God, I had put a target on my back. The enemy had opened fire and I was feeling defeated.

Does it ever feel that way to you? You do the right thing, you make the right choice, you walk in obedience, you put on the armor, but you’re still in the battle. Sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t make life easier the way we hoped it would. I wasn’t mad at God. I’ve been here before. The more closely I walk with God, the more obedient I am to Him, the greater threat I am to the enemy. In some ways, I am concerned if I don’t feel a bit under attack. The enemy doesn’t bother with complacent Christians. But he sure was bothering me on that Tuesday. And I wasn’t fighting back very diligently. Isn’t that ironic? My last post, about a week prior to this particular Tuesday, was all about pushing back against the enemy’s lies with Scripture. I knew what to do, I just wasn’t doing it.

As Drew and I talked about this, he pulled out his phone, opened his Bible app and read Philippians 4:8. And then he said, “tell me something that’s true.”

I couldn’t believe it. Because a few days before this conversation, I wrote week 2 for the Quiet Time Guide. I suggested we should build our own “whatever list.” To give specific names to the things we should think about according to Philippians 4:8. Drew did not know this.

Without saying anything about this part in the Quiet Time Guide, I took a breath and told him something that was true. (I was actually still feeling a little snarky, so I said, “Today is Tuesday.” But then I started taking it more seriously and it was amazing how my attitude began to shift.) We walked through that entire verse and Drew told me to think about those things so the enemy wouldn’t have a foothold. (I know, he’s such a good man!)

When Scripture, themes, or words of encouragement seem to repeat in our lives, we should lean in. Clearly, God is trying to get our attention, trying to teach us something. God was showing me that if I was going to suggest other people reflect on His Word in this way, I needed to, first. It was another reminder that thinking on the things of God mattered. It mattered in my spiritual walk and it also mattered to my family. 

That particular practice of giving specific names to things that are excellent, true, and praiseworthy has great value. It helps us make Scripture personal and gives us a better understanding of the things we are meant to think about. When we are dwelling on things that are lovely and pure, true and honorable, our attitude and our outlook change for the better. It can fend off the enemy, place a guard around our hearts, and refocus our minds. Those thoughts help ground us when we feel chaotic, and offer hope when we feel hopeless.

So I challenge you to build your “whatever list” today. Let it play on repeat in the corners of your mind.

Whatever is true. Whatever is Honorable. Whatever is Just. Whatever is Pure. Whatever is Lovely. Whatever is Commendable. Whatever is Excellent. Whatever is Worthy of Praise. Think about these things.

Here’s how I’m building my list today:  

What’s True? God is with me.

What’s honorable? Selflessness.

What’s just? Mosquitoes die in the cold. (If there is something more just than that, I don’t know it!)

What’s pure? God’s love.

What’s lovely? Colorful trees.

What’s commendable? Doing hard things.

What’s excellent? A hot cup of coffee.

What’s worthy of praise? Second chances.

God is with me. Acts of selflessness. Dying mosquitoes. God’s unfailing love. Brightly colored trees. Doing hard things. Hot, creamy coffee. The gift of a second chance. Those are the things I will think about today. Those are the things that make me smile, and push me gently towards Jesus.

Take that, Satan.

What’s on your list today? I’d love to hear it!

 

Stop Believing You’re Not Good Enough

I didn’t make the show choir in seventh grade. I wanted so badly to wear the character shoes, shiny black skirts, and blue sequined vests. If you weren’t in show choir you got to wear a horrendous green plaid, itchy skirt with a white long-sleeve button-down blouse. It was the furthest thing from cute. But during my audition, I knew I wasn’t going to make the show choir. Have you ever had a moment like that? You know you’re failing as you’re doing something, but you can’t walk away? I was so off-key during my audition that I distracted myself and forgot the dance moves. It was embarrassing. It was disappointing. And it wasn’t the first time I didn’t make a team (even if it was the show choir team). Thankfully, I survived middle school, itchy choir concerts, and made it into adulthood thriving. The only real reason that audition stands out to me so clearly was that it was the day I surrendered my dreams of Broadway. I’d heard it was hard to make it to Broadway if you can’t carry a tune.

My vivid recollection of that moment may cause you to look at me questioningly when I tell you, I haven’t thought about that audition in such a long time—but it’s true. I only thought about it after a discussion in Bible study with a group of freshman girls.

The lesson was on the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4, when Satan attempts to deceive Jesus into doubting his identity as the Son of God. In our small group, we passed around index cards and asked the girls to honestly (and anonymously) write down the lie Satan uses most often to attack their identity. The common thread linking them all—including adult leaders? “You’re not good enough.”

These girls are high school athletes, cheerleaders, honor roll students, girls cast in The Nutcracker and school plays. These girls are friendly, smart, and fun to be around. I don’t think anyone has actually ever spoken the words, “you’re not good enough” directly to them. No one has spoken those words to me, yet I wrote “not talented enough to be used by God” on my index card. Satan is not creative. I believe that is the front-runner of all lies. “You’re not good enough”— that’s his go-to. And while it’s lazy, it’s effective. We start to hear it when we’re kids, wonder if it’s true when we’re teenagers, and continue to fight it when we’re adults. 

It was that Sunday morning when the show choir memory popped up. Because my 7th grade audition is not what I think of when I hear the enemy whisper, trying to coax me into fear and insecurity. The enemy’s words are not usually centered around our failure to make a team, or getting passed over for the promotion, the job, or the call-back. It’s a deep seeded, inner voice convincing us that someone out there knows, despite all of our masks, that we’re not good enough.

But it is a lie.

The enemy knows that if you are a child of God, he cannot touch you. He has no authority to disqualify you from doing the very thing God created you to do. So because he can’t touch you, he attempts to deceive you into doubting your identity as a child of God. When you doubt who you are in Christ, when you doubt God’s calling on your life, you often take yourself out of the game. You assume God can’t use you, or worse, doesn’t want to. So you quit before you even get started. 

What chapter in the Bible captures the story of a man who tells God he’d like to confront a world leader and free God’s people from slavery, and God says, “Sorry, you’re not good enough”? Or a woman who asks Jesus if it’s okay if she goes into her village to tell everyone that He is the Messiah, and Jesus says, “Sorry, you’re not good enough.” You won’t find that chapter because it doesn’t exist. Instead, you find the opposite. You find people telling God, “I’m not good enough,” and God saying, “But I am. And I’m choosing you to do this with Me.” You find Jesus befriending, loving, healing, and sharing meals with—especially with—those who believed they were not good enough.

The enemy whispers a lie and without even realizing it, we determine that we’ll never measure up to the lofty picture we’ve painted for ourselves—some worldly standard of success or task that’s too big for us to accomplish. It’s as if we’re a child standing up as straight as possible, only to determine we’re not tall enough to ride the rollercoaster. So we walk away dejected, never hearing the Father calling us, inviting us to join Him on the ride.

But if we look to the One whose opinion matters most, we find strength in our weaknesses, grace in our failures, love despite our unlovable tendencies. We have a new name, a new mission, a new standard of success. We are given affirmation and acceptance. Because of Jesus. Jesus loves you with an unexplainable love that crushes every feeling of inadequacy and replaces it with the fullness of his power.

So, the next time you hear the lie that you’re not good enough, dismiss it and claim the Truth.

The Truth is:

I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)

I am free from condemnation  (Romans 8:1)

I am a child of God (John 1:12)

I am significant (Philippians 3:20)

I have access to God through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:6)

I am a member of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27)

I am a personal witness of Christ (Acts 1:8)

I can never be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39)

I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)

I can do all things through Christ’s strength (Philippians 4:13)

I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)

I am capable because God is with me (Joshua 1:9)

I have been chosen (John 15:16)

Following Jesus’ example in Matthew 4, we have to combat every lie, every deception the enemy shouts, with Scripture. We have a God that loves us deeply and longs to speak life-giving Truth into our hearts and minds. So instead of comparing ourselves to arbitrary measures of success only to retreat into self-condemnation, let’s rest in who God says we are.

Live today like His opinion of you is the most important one. He proudly says that in Jesus, you are enough. And through Jesus, you can do anything He asks you to do.

 

May 19th and the Events Leading Up To It

The Background

In September of 2017, I thought that I just might be pregnant. Still struggling from the miscarriage 5 months earlier, I was filled with excitement and excruciating anxiety. I did not want to relive the experience of waiting eight weeks before seeing a doctor, only to hear, “there is no heartbeat.” So my doctor graciously allowed me to come in at six weeks for an ultrasound. She made sure I knew that in most cases, a heartbeat cannot be determined at six weeks, but they could at least ensure that the pregnancy was viable. Tears rolled down my face as the ultrasound technician pressed a button that allowed the faint sound of a beating heart to fill the room. At that moment, I felt God promise that I would carry this baby full-term.” Such a sweet gift!

And then, after announcing and celebrating our pregnancy with friends and family, I was told I needed to read the book, Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize. Intrigued, I ordered this small book and read it in one sitting. And then read it over and over again while Nolan grew inside of me. This woman talked about God’s revelation to her about the misconceptions about childbirth, Scriptures to cling to, and promises to anticipate. This book changed the way I viewed labor and delivery, but more importantly, it changed the way I viewed prayer.

In regards to labor and delivery, Mize unpacks Genesis 3 and the curse on Eve. She challenged my understanding of this Scripture by revealing that in the original language, God’s curse intended sorrow for women who must now bring children into a sinful world, not physical pain. And then she settles in Isaiah 53 and Galatians 3.

Genesis 3:16 – To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your [sorrow] in childbearing; in [sorrow] you shall bring forth children.”

Isaiah 53:4-5 – Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our [sorrows]; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His wounds, we are healed.

Galatians 3:13 – Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us.

Mize poses this thought: as Christians, we believe that Jesus’ death on the cross brings complete, immediate redemption to anyone who accepts Him. By confessing Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you receive instant and total forgiveness, immediate access to the Father, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the assurance of eternity. So why do we assume that we receive all of these things except for redemption from the original curse on mankind? Especially when Scripture clearly states that Jesus became that curse for us. He took on every grief, sorrow, and sin. Why? So that we don’t have to bear it. After much prayer, personal time in Scripture, and conversations with Drew, I began to claim that this was true for me, too. That Jesus took the sorrow and even the physical pain associated with childbirth on the cross. That His intention for the birthing process is one filled with grace, beauty, and awe.

In this book, Scriptures about prayer were also unpacked. Scriptures with which I was familiar, but had never put into practice.

Mark 11: 24 – Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

John 14:14 – If you ask me anything in my Name, I will do it.

What if I prayed big, bold prayers and actually believed that God would answer them? I honestly don’t know if I have ever prayed with such confidence. I’ve asked God of things earnestly like I’ve asked Him to allow me to carry a baby full term, to give me wisdom about what choice to make, to bless my marriage, to heal a friend. But I don’t know, until this point, if I had ever asked God of something with the faith that He would actually do it. And so, for the remaining six months of my pregnancy, I prayed boldly, specifically, and confidently every day that God would allow me to have a “fast and easy labor and delivery with no medication, free of pain and complications, in the Name of Jesus.” I believed that this would absolutely happen for us and I even had a dream that confirmed it. I was not fearful of labor and anticipated God to show up in a powerful way using Nolan’s delivery to display His goodness. And that’s what happened!

The Birth

On May 18th, we spend the afternoon going on easy hikes to show an out of town guest the sights of Chattanooga. I am certainly winded, take multiple breaks on our walks, and notice that Braxton Hicks contractions become more frequent as the day goes on. We enjoy a delicious Italian dinner, run to the car in the rain, and watch a movie when we get home. By midnight the contractions are happening every 30 minutes. Nolan is not due for another week and just that morning my doctor assured me I was not any closer to labor, so I blame the contractions on hiking and try to get some sleep. I continue to wake up every half hour from midnight until 5am. At 5:15am I wake Drew up, grab my What to Expect When You’re Expecting book, flip to the chapter on labor and delivery and become confident Nolan is on his way. At 6:30am we start timing contractions. They last for a minute and a half, coming every five minutes for an hour. We load up the car and drive to the hospital.

At this point, the contractions are increasingly more intense. My body is working so hard, the muscles in my abdomen getting tighter and tighter, but it is not painful. Think about holding a plank for longer than a minute (or even 30 seconds!) Every muscle is tight, you may even be shaking, it’s extremely uncomfortable, but it doesn’t hurt. (Note: My contractions are way more intense than holding a plank for a minute, but you get the drift!) On the drive, I focus on breathing and relaxing my body. In between phone calls to our parents, I repeat the Scriptures I had memorized and claim 1 John 4:18 like my life depends on it. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” I have nothing to be afraid of. God is faithful and we are about to have this baby without any pain or any complications.

We arrive at the hospital, get checked in, and settle into a triage room about 8:30am. The nurse informs me that I am only dilated to three centimeters and since many first time moms can go several days before labor progresses, she would give me an hour before sending me home. But I know I’m not going home without a baby. So I lay down, close my eyes, focus on breathing, praying, and listening as Drew reads the Scriptures we were claiming over me.

An hour later, she comes back into the room and panic sweeps over her face as she realizes I was now dilated 8.5 cm. She picks up my bags, yells to the other nurses, and quickly ushers me into a delivery room. By the time I lay down in the delivery room, I feel the urge to push. A nurse has me lay on my side, holds down my hips, and tells me we need to wait for the doctor. I continue to breathe slow, even breaths, fight against the fear as the contractions become more and more intense, believing that there will be no pain and no complications as Nolan makes his way into the world.

By 10:34am, only two afters after arriving at the hospital, Nolan is born and placed gently in my arms. The nurses can’t believe how fast Nolan arrived. “Two hours for your first labor with no medication?” they wonder aloud. That’s what we had prayed for we tell them! We tell them we trusted that God could do something miraculous if we asked Him and believed He would do it. We tell them that for the past six months we prayed for a fast, easy, painless labor and delivery with no complications and no need for medication. They could see that God had absolutely answered every detail of our prayers!

Our little man is now almost four months old and I still cannot get over how good, how gracious, how powerful God is. In Nolan, I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness. I’m reminded that He cares 1,000% about the details of our life. I’m reminded that my prayers never go unanswered, even, or maybe especially, the big ones. My pregnancy and labor with Nolan challenge me to dive deep into Scripture, to believe that my God is more powerful than I realize, and to ask—and expect—Him to do bold things in my life. If you and I commit to believing God’s Word is true and actually pray big, specific prayers, I wonder what miracles we might witness!