Lessons Learned From the Life of Hannah

Have you ever felt like you’ve just stumbled on a passage of Scripture, later to discover that was actually divinely orchestrated? That just happened to me. Recently coming out of a season of prayer and fasting, it was like the Lord opened my Bible to 1 Samuel and guided my reading.

For more context to the thoughts scribed below, read 1 Samuel, chapter one here.

As I first read through Hannah’s story, I felt like my insides were gasping. Her story seemed to jump off the pages and became my story. I felt great empathy towards her. It was like I could feel her anguish and her heartache. Her hopelessness felt real. I asked God to speak and then I read it again.

Hannah was childless. Not only was she childless, but her husband’s other wife (let’s not get into that…) who had children of her own provoked her to tears. That sounds awful. The interesting thing about this passage is that it clearly states that the Lord closed Hannah’s womb. And, He kept it closed when Hannah brought her petition(s) before the Him.

Children: a sign of blessing, more children signified a bigger blessing. Children carried on your family name, they learned your trade, they were your insurance policy and cared for you when you grew older.

Zooming out on the story, there are several things that I love about what the author’s penned about Hannah.

Hannah prayed… earnestly. The text uses the verbiage whenever Hannah went to the temple. This implies that this wasn’t a one-time pleading. She continually brought her requests before the Lord, regardless of the unchanging nature of her circumstance, regardless of the time lapsed and her emotions felt.

Hannah was real about her needs, her heartache and where she was at. Hannah wept. She pleaded for the Lord to look upon her misery. The Bible describes her as praying so hard that she caught the priest’s attention, in fact, she prayed so hard that he thought she was drunk.

Hannah recognized who God was and that He was able to do anything. In her inability to produce, she ran to the source of life. She didn’t let her faith cripple her.

Hannah believed the word of the Lord. Eli must have seen her faith. He spoke to her inability—to the hopes and dreams she was unable to produce on her own—to the dead place in her life and promised new life. He spoke to her of things that seemed impossible, what probably felt impossible to hope for, let alone believe in. Yet, Hannah believed. In fact, I think she believed with her whole heart. As she left, her countenance changed. She knew that God was going to grant her request as the prophet promised. After all, God’s Word never returns void.

The last thing I that stands out to me about this passage is actually the part I love the most. Hannah brought honor where honor was due. Hannah conceived and bore a son. And get this, she named her babe Samuel. Why is that significant? Because Samuel means the Lord provides.

Her blessing, her namesake, her insurance policy. The Lord provides.

How great is that? Literally every time Samuel’s name was spoken, Hannah’s story, Samuel’s story…God’s story was retold.

Sometimes, the Lord closes or pauses something so He can open or un-pause it later. The things God did in Hannah—the heart that grew in her during the asking—was one that wouldn’t have grown if she would’ve have been granted on her first ask. Or, if it’d been given without her having to ask at all.

What if Hannah would have kept the baby? He may not have grown up to be God’s mouthpiece. He wouldn’t wouldn’t have anointed King David; the lineage of Christ, the throne God promised to last forever. God knows what’s best. He sees the whole big, beautiful picture. Giving us what we ask for the first time we ask for it isn’t always best.

The question I’ve found myself asking over the past week is this: What am I pleading God for? And what should I be asking for? Have I given up on things God’s promised, simply because they don’t fit into the timeline I think they should?

My challenge today for me, and maybe for you too is to ask. Then expect and believe and give God the credit.

The Gift of Christmas

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I LOVE this time of year. The crisp air (everywhere besides South Florida, that is…), the brightly-lit houses, the sound of family gathered around, the fragrance of pine, the festive food, the tinsel and bows and the beautifully wrapped gifts.

But, lets be real. The gifts are my favorite. I love beautifully-wrapped, color coordinated presents with hand-tied bows. I love the look of delight and anticipation on the faces of the receiver and the giver. But more than the gift itself, I love the intentionality, thought and effort that goes into gift-giving. Gifts are so personal.

For me, when I take a minute to think about it, as cliché as it sounds, my favorite gift is one that really can’t be wrapped. The ultimate, most beautiful gift is Christ himself.

The Bible calls Jesus Immanuel, which means God with us. Jesus is literally God, with skin on (that’s crazy, right?). He came into the earth as we did—a helpless babe, completely dependent on the care of others. Jesus came and lived an ordinary life. He came and lived among us, choosing to identify with us.

The Bible says that the Word who spoke the world into existence chose to dwell among us. That’s pretty powerful.

While Jesus was “God with us” during His time on earth, He is “God with us” now too. He’s in the big things, but He’s also in the microscopic details. He understands your hardships and your joys. He see the things that make you uniquely you. And He loves you. He wants to walk with you, through both the good stuff and the bad stuff.

Christmas celebrates that.

This season, I encourage you to look for Jesus. So as you enjoy the eggnog and the brightly-lit houses, take some time and slow down to reflect on the gift of Jesus. While getting and giving are both fun, He is the only gift really worth getting.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. –John 1:14

 

The Journey Matters

Today I booked a plane ticket.

(I know, yay me…)

While the process of actually booking a flight wasn’t completely out of my ordinary, today’s purchasing process was: it was for a long flight in a short, specific time window. While struggling to locate a plane that could transport me to (and from) the correct location in a timely manner, I was reminded of something:

The journey matters.

Oftentimes, I shape my life around my dream destinations. I compare myself with where others are, and where I think I should be. I focus on the next big thing, the next skill set or the next stage of life, forgetting what it takes to get there. But that’s not how you or I was designed to live.

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Details matter to God. Process matters to God. The moments and the steps are important. Why you ask? Because it’s the small things that add up to the big things. It’s the moments, the habits formed and the thoughts and actions taken that not only bring us to a destination, but that form us into being the person we were created to be. It’s also not usually about us. The steps we take affect those around us.

I’m a firm believe that we are all called to live a life bigger than ourselves. That means that we are all called to dream big, and to take big strides in directions that can at times seem downright scary. But, my fear is that, when we focus solely on the end destination we alienate those around us rather than seeing them for what they really are: gifts. You and I weren’t made to do life in a vacuum. We were made it live it out fully with others.

Ernest Hemingway once penned the phrase, “it happens gradually, then suddenly”. While Hemingway’s quote was meant for a different topic, I think that his intention is still relevant to this process. Journeying often seems gradual, uneventful and meaningless, and then suddenly, you’re there.

So go, enjoy the journey. Ask God to show you destinations, but don’t fixate on them. Learn to walk hand in hand with Him, appreciating the scenery and the people He’s gifting you with along the way. Remember, the steps taken dictate your destination.

Here I Am {to Worship}

Questions can feel heavy. Sometimes, they seem to bring us anxiety, nervousness or frustration. It’s hard to face them when the answers feel far off or unsure. I’ve been a part of some pretty weighty discussions lately. It seems like most people, sometime or another are wrestling with something.

What’s my purpose? Where do I go from here? How do I know if what’s from God and what’s me? Am I pleasing Him? How do I respond when life seems too difficult? How do I impact a world, a culture that is seemingly falling apart all around me?

Lately, I have been working to be more intentional about bringing my questions to the Lord. Realizing that the answer, or solution, is often far out of my reach, I am beginning to learn that these types of questions are best answered through prayer and a posture of worship.

Looking back to the Garden, we meet a God who created humans in His image. He fashioned man to know Him freely and to commune with Him in the coolness of the day. When we chose to disobey God, we broke our perfect communion with Him.

Throughout the story of the Bible, we see a God who beautifully pursues His people, culminating on the cross and beating death. Scripture and history illustrate a perfect God who deeply desires for us to both know Him and to be known by Him. He created you and me, beautifully unique, each with purpose and value found only fully in Him.

Last week, in the middle of a situation that seemed bigger than I could handle, I was reminded of a friend of mine who travels fairly extensively. I was drowning in the details, feeling completely overwhelmed when a song (you know, one of those “oldies but goodies”) popped into my head:

Here I am to worship

Here I am to bow down

Here I am to say that You’re my God

You’re all together lovely

All together worthy

All together wonderful to me

My friend once told me that he often sings this song when he travels, dedicating his trip and actions to the Lord as worship. It’s his way of outwardly acknowledging what’s most important–Jesus. The details seemed less overwhelming as I began to realign my heart, positioning it towards Jesus.

How powerful would it be if I approached my circumstances with the intent to bring praise? What if I chose to acknowledge the worth of my Creator in all areas of my life? How would that change me? How would that change my world around me? How would that allow God to work around me?

I dare to say it’d be a game changer.

The crazy thing about choosing to worship the Lord in every area of our lives is that the questions listed above start to seem less daunting. We begin to realize that it’s okay to not have the answers or to see the entire picture, because we’re choosing to run towards the One who does.

My challenge to myself (and to you, if you’d like it to be) is just that: to wake up each morning with this song as a prayer. To see each portion of my day as it is, a chance to acknowledge the beauty, power and perfection of Jesus; giving Him permission to move and work amidst the moments of my day.

Florida: One Year Down!

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This week marks one year in Florida. How did that happen?

Feeling a little sentimental, I’ve intentionally set aside some time to reflect over the past 365 days, to re-walk my blessings and to see God’s hand in the midst of the hard times. While I will always consider myself a Washingtonian, I am learning that my home is where my heart is. And I’m choosing to plant it here, investing and trusting that’s here I’ll stay until I die, or God moves me.

Looking back over the past year, here are few nuggets that stand out to me:

  • Obeying and trusting God isn’t always easy, but He’s always good
  • Keep an open mind and be willing to learn
  • Asking questions is wise
  • Community is important
  • Building lasting relationships take time and effort
  • Skype and FaceTime are awesome
  • I have a really great group of friends
  • Never say never…
  • With time, my hair actually adjusts to humid climates
  • I really love sharing the Gospel with children
  • God is always faithful

I’m so thankful for the life I’ve been given. I really do feel like I have much more than I deserve. Thank you to all of you who pray for me, encourage me, challenge me, make me laugh, buy me coffee and are consistently in my corner. I love you guys, and I wouldn’t be where or who I am without you. Community is a gift. And you play a huge part in that.

What about Bob?

I worked in the coffee industry for close to seven years.

During my time slinging espresso, it wasn’t unusual for people to open up and tell me seemingly every detail about their lives, from their kids to their jobs–the happiest of moments to the darkest. It didn’t really seem to matter where I worked, or who I came in contact with, people just seemed to open up. It was almost like someone had pinned a “Hi! You can tell me anything…” badge on my apron without me noticing.

Through the years, I’ve learned the art of striking up conversations with nearly anyone; but more importantly, I’ve learned to listen and seen how powerful it can be to simply notice the individual who seems to be lost in the crowd.

A little over a month ago, I met a friend of mine for coffee at a Starbucks in my favorite South Floridian beach town. After ordering my usual (an unsweetened iced coffee with 2%), I routinely made my way to the handoff bar to pick up my treat and to meet my friend. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a well dressed elderly man walking my direction. I turned to him and smiled.

As we both waited for our drinks (he had ordered a venti vanilla bean frappuccino, incase you were wondering…), he began telling me about his life in advertising and marketing. He worked many years in The Big Apple, climbing the corporate ladder and sacrificing much to land large profile accounts.

Bob, he later introduced himself as, looked like he had it all. He was well dressed, drove a nice car, had plenty of money to spare and wrote copy for a famous standup comedian. But, after spending more than a couple minutes listening, you could hear in his voice and see it in his eyes he deeply felt lacking.

Bob went on about his life. Slowly, his conversation shifted from work to his wife. “She is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” Bob trailed off with tears in his eyes. “If I could change anything, it’d be to change places with her. I’ve got all the money in the world and I can’t make her better.”

Bob’s wife suffers from Alzheimer’s. He watches her as she slowly slips away, forgetting who he is and the life they’ve built together. He feels helpless. “Chelsea, if you find someone you love, grab them. Hold on and never let go. They’re the things that really make life worth living.”

As Bob and I continued to talk, I couldn’t help but feel thankful.

Thankful for my Jesus and His beautiful reminder to slow down and to take the time to see others; thankful for the opportunity to reflect His character to those who are hurting and thankful for those He has placed in my life–these are the things that really make life worth living.

Since my coffee interaction last month, I have often found myself asking, “How many people like Bob–put together on the outside but falling apart in the inside, do I miss everyday?”

My prayer today is that I would learn to see others as Jesus does; slowing down to take time to add value to others and to reflect His sweet nature to those who are hurting. May I learn to live in the present, grateful for what I have and who I get to share life with.

 

Thoughts on Trust from a Hot Mess

Wow. First off, how is it already October? And second, have I really not blogged since April? My secret inner social media guru just did the math on how long it’s been since my last post… And she’s embarrassed.

What happened?

Life happened. New job, new state, new church, new roommate, new friendships. Sunny South Florida has seemed to invade my calm, routine life, replacing it with a whirlwind of newness. It’s been an adventure. It’s been exciting. It’s been fruitful. It’s been really fun.

And truthfully at times, it’s been really difficult, painful and lonely.

Several weeks ago I went home to Washington State for the second time since my cross country move. Because my first visit back went off without a hitch, I wrongfully assumed this would be the same. In reality it wasn’t. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that I returned a bit of a hot mess.

But, do you know what? Amidst my mess was Jesus. He so tenderly loved me and spoke to me both through His Word, through circumstance and through others. It was if every conversation breathed the same central message, “Trust Me. I’ve got you.”

God has never promised me an easy life. He’s never said I’d have one without heartache, grief or confusion. And truthfully told, walking out life with Jesus is often a bit difficult.

But it’s always best. Jesus is most concerned with the condition of my heart rather than my state of comfort. He desires that I love Him well and in turn love others as He does. He longs for me to trust Him, not because He is power hungry, but because He knows me intimately; because He is not constrained by time, distance, resources or circumstance. Because regardless of my restrictions, He remains faithful.

Wherever I reside, whether that be in the Northwest or the Southeast, my desire truly is that God would be glorified in me, around me and because of me regardless of how I interpret my surroundings.

And lastly, if you have interacted with me within the last several weeks, thank you. More than likely God has used your words and actions to breathe new life into me. I truly feel like God has hand picked each person in my life. I am thankful for you each.

My prayer for you is the same as it is for myself. May we learn to trust Jesus regardless of what we feel like. May we learn to lean on His promises and walk them out as Abraham did–as truth before they even seem possible.

Social {Media} Butterflies

I’m a social butterfly.

Like, I really love people.

People watching, meeting new friends, connecting and reconnecting with people I hold dear, hearing stories, laughing at life, and creating adventure, simply put, my life is deeply enriched when it’s surrounded by others.

My mother says I’ve been like this sense I was an infant. I’ve always enjoyed being the life of the party, telling stories and making others laugh. I’m a firm believer that life should be shared well with others (and that it should also be documented well through pictures). But recently, I’ve found myself asking,

Am I missing out on life because I’m spending too much time staring at my iPhone?

My phone serves as filler in the spaces of silence, downtime and awkwardness. I find myself, often out of habit, opening and “connecting” with people on social media, rather than intentionally reaching out in real life. In doing this, I fear I am beginning to know a lot about people, rather than really knowing people. There’s a disconnect.

Does anyone else ever feel like this?

Relationships take work. They take time and effort on both sides. They take trust and vulnerability, something most of us would rather bypass by creating half-hearted online connections.

I see its effects in my relationship with Christ as well.

The Holy Spirit often speaks to us in the times we are still. It’s in the silent moments we hear His whisper the clearest. I, like many in my generation, tend to fill as many of those moments as possible with other things. Honestly, sometimes the silence and stillness makes me uncomfortable. It’s not glitzy or entertaining. I don’t always hear God’s voice, and sometimes when I do, I don’t like what He has to say.

But, God is always good. And like earthly relationships, developing one with Him takes time, energy, vulnerability and trust. I can’t know Him, love Him or trust Him if I don’t make the effort to spent time in His presence. If the Holy Spirit speaks in the silence, I need to create those moments for Him to speak in.

My challenge to myself, and to you, is to make conscious efforts to put down our phones. Just because I am a social butterfly doesn’t mean I constantly need to be a social media butterfly. I want to be a person who is fully vested in the lives of the people I am with. I want to be a daughter who spends quality time with her Abba Daddy.

Let’s live the life God’s placed us in. Let’s be a people who invest in our communities, who take time to get to know those around us and who intentionally place ourselves in the presence of God, hearing His voice and doing what He asks of us. May we become far more interested in leaving legacies than status updates.

Becoming the Very Best Wine

Are you living, really living?

Have you ever thought of the fact that maybe we’ve become blind to the beauty surrounding us and become okay with the normal and the mundane? Is it possible that we are confusing what it means to be alive with what it means to exist?

As a race, we’re losing sight to what is truly beautiful. We’ve become accustomed to being much less than we were created to be.

The first 12 verses of John 2 tell us the story of Jesus’ first miracle. Through Jesus’ actions, we are shown a glimpse into the heart of an artisan. Jesus not only turned water into wine, He turned water into the best wine. Oftentimes, when we replay the miracle of the wedding banquet, we gloss over something rather significant. He also had created the water. Years before, Jesus spoke water into existence.

Jesus could have created the very best wine out of nothing. Instead, he invited others along in the journey and asked them to fill all the jars they could find with water. The servants watched the water transform into wine and then took it to the master of the banquet who claimed it to be the best wine he’d ever had.

While the servants knew where the wine came from, their master did not. He was unaware he was drinking a miracle, but he tasted it’s greatness. 

I love this.

Oftentimes, we as Christians feel the need to label what we are doing for Christ. We take mediocre actions and events and slap Christ’s name on them. Instead, we should be focusing on developing a relationship with the Authentic Artisan and allowing Him to create through us. You create from what’s inside you. When you are full of love, joy and light, you naturally create authentically beautiful things.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t see a problem with placing God’s name on products and programs when things are done with excellence. I work for an organization that does that and I think it’s both wonderful and powerful. What I am feeling challenged by is the temptation to create something mediocre and unoriginal, and justifying the process by slapping on a Jesus label and  saying it’ll be ‘good enough.’ God calls us to do what we can do and then to bring it to Him. He then touches it and makes it into something only He can do. When we partner with Jesus, He creates extraordinary things, things only He can create.

When others taste my life I want them to taste Jesus, the best of the best. I want Jesus and His works to be so evident in my life that I don’t have to slap His label all over me, because He’s already marked me. I don’t want to create mediocre things and try to justify them. And I don’t want to become a person who is okay with settling for ordinary. I want to create things that are new and beautiful, things that attract others to the heart of Jesus.

In the story of the wedding banquet, you and I are simply the water. God created us to create and imagined us to imagine. You and I have the ability to truly create the beautiful when we are brought to Christ. He then makes us into wine. The best wine.

From Apples to Oranges

apple to orangeMany of you have heard the rumors and murmurings  regarding what my next life step is, but for those of you who haven’t (and as a fairly decent excuse as to why I have been neglecting my blog…) here it is:

I’m moving to Florida!

I have taken a position with OneHope, an international ministry with the mission of providing every child with God’s Word. Currently, I am cleaning out closets, packing, storing and donating more stuff than one wants…

I head out the beginning of February.

If you think about it, I’d love for you to keep me in your prayers over the course of the next month or two as I make this transition. While I am both excited for what’s to come, I am also a bit heartbroken and overwhelmed as to what I am leaving behind.

All in all, I can’t wait to see what doors God opens. May He prove Himself faithful in my life and in the lives of others again and again.

Oh, and if you’re in the area, I’d love to see you before I head off!