Monday, August 7, 2017

Walk On Water


In the Bible there is a story of how Jesus called out to Peter and told Him to step out of the boat, to trust Jesus. Peter steps out in obedience and begins to walk, but when the wind hits his face He begins to doubt, he starts to sink and calls out "Lord, save me!" and Jesus reaches out His hand to rescue Him.

I listened to a sermon tonight where this particular story was explained in a new way.  God speaks direction into our lives and asks that we obediently follow Him, to stay close, to trust Him, to not doubt.  And what is so beautiful of this particular story is that as Peter was sinking and he said "Lord, save me!" Jesus reached out immediately and saved him. Immediately.  Jesus said "You of little faith."  "Why do you doubt?" as He reached in and saved Peter before He sank, not when He had sunk, but as He was sinking.  

Jesus was able to reach out immediately and save Peter because Peter was close enough to be caught in His grip.  Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation church says "The problem with most of us is that we wont stay close enough for God to get us in His grip."  If God calls us to step out of the boat, to walk on the water, to come to Him, He isn't going to let us sink.  He knows what is before as us because He directs our steps.  We have no reason to doubt Jesus because He already knows what obstacles lie ahead, this isn't a surprise to Him.  

When we doubt and take steps backward I can't help but think that God says "What are you doing? Don't you see I called you to this because I know...I know what is good for you, I know the bumps along the way, I know you can walk on water because I said you can. What are you doing, just trust me."  When we stay close to God and follow Him closely we will not sink, we will not perish, we will always be in His grip, safely tucked away. 

This week I am asking myself what is my "Walk On Water" request from The Lord.  Where is He asking me to trust, not doubt, that He is in control and He will save me if I begin to sink.  What is your "Walk On Water" request from the Lord? 

Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church: When Anxiety Attacks




Saturday, August 5, 2017

Let Go, Give In, and Turn Back

Photo Cred: Struse Photography


Regardless of how far we fall, we are never too far gone.

This I have learned over the past week, though it really begins three months ago when I began to fall away from Christ. If I'm being honest there is something that pulls back in side me when I talk about this, because I never in a million years thought that I would question my faith.  I have always had a pretty sound (or so I thought) view on who Christ is.  Over the past three months I have grown to shy away from anything that relates to my religion, I wasn't reading my Bible, I didn't go to church, I didn't pray, I stopped everything.  I didn't see a point and became bitter towards it all. Many words could describe the way the atmosphere changed...but I think that the word dark is a good fit.

When you live without Christ, you literally lose a light.  Everything seems purposeless, you have no greater hope to pour into when you need wisdom or direction, you have yourself and that is it.  It's a lonely place to be, but I think that the valleys - the dark, lonely, horrible valleys - are so important.  No, I don't think living a life lost in yourself and living selfishly is important, but I do think it is important to question what you believe and really grasp why you believe it.

Over these last few months I began to think that I would be okay to live the rest of my life lukewarm, halfheartedly giving myself to Christ, but mostly just doing what I wanted.  Because then I only had to answer to myself, I didn't have to do scary things, I didn't have to follow "rules", I didn't have to attend church, I could stay where I was comfortable and live my life the way I had planned.  It seemed glorious in the beginning, to be in charge of my own destiny, until later on down the road when I realized how absolutely pointless and purposeless it was.  You walk through life with only yourself. Having a rough day and need some hope? Well you have yourself.  Discouraged because of health problems? I'm sure you would love to consult yourself for some encouragement. Having nightmares the keep you up? Be your own light because...well... you've shut out everything else.  It's lonely y'all, it's dark, it's not the place the be.

Now I don't say all of this to be negative because there is absolute positive that came from this.  I say this all to show that 1) Selfish living gets you know where. 2) It's OKAY to question what you believe, I'm actually convinced that in some way it's healthy. 3) You're not alone.  I believe in transparency, I think that it helps people not feel so alone to know that - hey, I'm going through that too.

But something that I don't think I realized before is that while it's optional for us to choose the path God has for us, His presence isn't optional.  Even when we walk away, push Him away, fight Him, choose other things over Him, He is still there with us.  He doesn't leave, even though we do. He is constant, He ask us to hard scary things because they are for our benefit and our good...not because He's not capable of doing them Himself, but because he doesn't want us to miss out on the growth.

He is there and He is waiting for us to give up and give in.  He'll reach down and pull us out of the valley, He'll help us make the trek back to the top, He'll remind us that we are valuable prized possessions of the God of the universe and all He ever wanted was for us to choose Him. Because He never left, He never abandon us, and He never stopped loving us. He pursues...over, and over, and over again.

Let go, give in, and turn back.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Valley



It's been a hot minute since I've written a post. I haven't felt like I've had much to say as I've been in a valley with my walk with Christ. As you all know I'm a big fan of transparency, I think that it helps others feel not so alone to know that we all go through rough patches.

Lately, I've been wrestling with where exactly I stand in my relationship with Christ and what exactly that relationship should look like.  The beginning of the year I hit this place where I wondered what the point  was if I had to make decisions on my own anyways, without truly knowing if it is indeed where God wanted me, why change things in my life if it didn't actually matter.  But since hitting that rough place, or valley as some may call it, I have had the time to reflect and answer big questions to figure out exactly where I stand and what my  relationship with Christ should look like.

I think that it is so absolutely important to not get caught up in the good deeds and good life choices, while it is vital that our lives resemble Christ I think far too many times we get caught up in acts/deeds.  Our choices should reflect Christ, that without a doubt is so true, but I think it's also important to remember that there is absolutely nothing that we can do to be worthy of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us when He died on the cross.  There is no action or lifestyle that can make us "good enough", which is why God's grace and wholeness is here...to make us enough.  In Romans it talks about how we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we all have mistakes, brokenness, discontentment, discouragement, failures, whatever it may look like...we all have it in some form.

But after much soul searching, question asking, soaking in answers and insight, I've come to realize that there is no specific image for my walk with Christ.  Our walks with Christ all look completely different, as we're all in different seasons and God has different paths for each of us.  We have to decide how our relationship with Christ should look, by reading the Bible and seeking Him He will reveal Himself to each of us and convict us how He sees fit. There are core values and principals, but God convicts each of us differently and it's up to each of us to pursue the Lord and follow the convictions He sends our way.

----

Trying to find my place is something else that I have fought with. I have always had a goal or path that I was pursuing and for the first time in my life, I had no direction.  I was lost and discouraged. But lately, again after much seeking, praying, question asking, and soaking in answers and insight, I have learned something:

"The good news about Christ is that you don't always have to be doing something for Him. Sometimes He just wants to sit with you and hold your hand. He understands it when we're too weary to run full-out after Him." - E

My dear friend spoke directly to my heart. God gets it when we're just too weary, when we want to just be content working a part time job, soaking in family time, just being quiet. He gets it and He is okay with it.  Sometimes that is the only thing that He asks of us, is to be quiet, to rest, to let Him work.  To be here now.

I have decided that I am praying contentment over my life, I'm praying that even though God may not be asking me to pursue big things that I can still be content in the everyday, day to day life that He has so graciously blessed me with.  I wish to be like Paul, to take my current life setting and be joyful in every moment, whether it's what I want my life to look like or not.  I am only here to serve as Christ served and that may mean serving at my job while I make pizza for four hours.  Whatever it may be, wherever it may be, Lord make my heart content in a constant state of surrender and praise, following your lead and releasing according to your convictions.






Thursday, May 4, 2017

Transparency

I haven't written in weeks, mainly because I can't find words to write.  In the past month I've made big decisions and have also faced some challenges that I have yet to overcome.  Life isn't all daisies and sunshine, though I really wish it was.

I am no longer attending the fall DTS with YWAM.  Yes, again.  After much searching, I've slowly found myself and realized that many things I thought that I wanted...aren't actually what I want.  Full time missions being one of those things. I'm seeing that I don't have the personality or drive to be a full time missionary, I think it's a blessing for me to realize that now, instead of when I'm in the middle of a 6 month long missions trip.  I'm not fully sure what's next for me, though I've put some options on the table.

This past month I've also been struggling with where exactly I stand in my relationship with Christ, which is strange for me to question because I've always been so grounded in what I believe. It's so difficult when you feel like God isn't listening, or responding, it gets discouraging.  I've begun to wonder what exactly the point is, if I have to make choices on my own anyways.  While I know that this is something I will overcome and work through, it has still been so draining.  I have always been one to be transparent with you all, as you have supported me in the many endeavors that I have grasped and ran with, I feel as though I owe it to you all.   While I'm sure that I will get negative comments, I hope that you all will accept this with grace.  Life is hard and messy, relationships with the Lord are hard and messy, because we are human.  We fall short, we make mistakes, we mess up, and it's okay.  Because as it turns out... The Lord loves me regardless of all of that, in fact He openly embraces me even when I push away.

Right now, I'm just coasting. Not running, not walking, just being where I am and taking what comes, because that is honestly all my worn out heart can endure at the moment.  I've started a new job with no real goals, my relationship with the Lord is lacking, and I'm tired, weary, exhausted...aany of the above would suit my current state.  I'm in a rough season of life and I don't know what comes next. Thankfully, none of this is a surprise to The Lord, He knew these things before they came about and He knows what's next.  So while I sit and question Him, exhausted and worn out, I would greatly covet your prayers and encouragement.

With love,
Alyssa

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Extended Grace


I don't know why I am so discouraged and worried, but the date of my DTS has been "pushed back" to start in September instead of June. The staff in Wylie has prayed and feels that a Fall DTS will be better for everyone, I'm so grateful that they're making decisions that they feel will be the absolute best.

Though at first I felt like it was just another road block, I'm beginning to think that it's an answer to a prayer. My last night in Mexico I was having trouble sleeping. Tossing and turning all night, laying awake in the very early hours of the morning, stressing about my job situation...or lack thereof. In the midst of my worrying, I stopped myself and chose to pray. I prayed for peace and a solution for my job situation. (For those of you who didn't know, I am no longer a nanny. The family found a better fit for their life dynamic.)

 Fast forward to yesterday afternoon, I received a message from Kayla letting me know that there would no longer be a DTS in June, but instead in September. At first, my heart was in my stomach and I was discouraged, but God slowly reminded me of my prayer the night before and it felt like He was extending me grace. I now had five months to work and save/raise more money for school, instead of three. While it originally felt like a set back, now it feels more like a blessing.

 One of my initial worries was that I would lose support because yet again, something was changing. But Kayla reminded me to trust in God's plan, and my dad reminded me of Proverbs 16:9 || The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. || If it is God's will for me to attend this DTS, no set backs, no hurdles, no date change will prevent His plans from becoming whole and complete. 

What a journey this has been and will be.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Crazy Good



Leader. Prepared.

Two words that I would never in a million years use to describe myself or my life.  I am the most unprepared, shy, reserved, follower, that you'll ever meet.  Until recently I would have never done anything that required me to step outside of my comfort zone and be the "center of attention".  I never speak my mind, I rarely stand up for myself, I don't typically join in group conversation, I keep to myself and have never been interested in being a leader, nor do I think I would be a good leader.

I knew God brought me home from Texas because my heart wasn't in a position of surrender, I wasn't willing to let Him work in and through me because I am a naturally stubborn person and I wasn't about to give that up.  So when I'm told that God says he has prepared me and that He has plans for me to be a leader, I'm in absolute disbelief.

This past Wednesday I went to lift group again for the first time in weeks, the topic was Identity and finding ourselves in Christ.  It spoke to me as that is something that has been on my heart lately, I've always been one to struggle with identity and worth, continually "finding" it in the wrong places.  God has placed a sense of overwhelming worth and purpose in my heart these past few weeks and I almost can't grasp it.  It came time for prayer requests and the room filled with voices and requests, we prayed and as the prayers quieted Caitlin's dad spoke and asked to cover Caitlin and I in prayers.  He explained Caitlin's outreach in Cambodia, and how I would soon be leaving in June.

The first thought in my head when he made the request to pray over us, was one of undeserving.  I thought I don't deserve prayers, I came home, I didn't stay, this second shot doesn't deserve this. But as he came to an end with his explanation, Melody asked if they could lay hands on me, and if she could anoint me with oil. Of course, I accepted and sat at their feet.  I've never been anointed with oil before, but they explained the significance and began to pray for me. My head, hands, and feet were anointed with oil, and God spoke through these leaders directly to my heart.  God wants to use me in grand ways, and he assured Melody that I was prepared.  Which is humorous to me because I feel like the most unprepared person, especially when it comes to my DTS.  I'm stressed and worried about so many of the details, but God laughs and says "No, honey.  You're prepared."  God says He wants to build me into a leader, but I have trouble speaking out and being bold.  I would say I'm excited, but in all honestly I'm a little nervous of what He is going to bring me to and through to get me to the place I need to be.

I don't have the slightest clue how any of this is going to play out, but what I do know is that I love seeing God work in my life.  He has been continually faithful, I trust that His plans for me are plenty and grand.

Because God is crazy good.

With Love,
Alyssa


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Gentle Truths




Finding my identity in Christ has been the biggest milestone that I have reached. For years I've struggled with the opinions of others and who they said that I am. I let their words stick to my life like labels, I tried my hardest to live in ways that I thought were pleasing to other people. It was exhausting, and some days I still struggle with this. Feeling like I'm not enough, or that I don't have purpose, or worth because I'm 20 and single, I haven't gone to traditional college, I live with my parents, I work part time as a nanny, to the average eye I don't have anything of significance to give me worth.

But over the last 3 1/2 months I've come to learn that who I am as a person is enough.  Which sounds like a cliche quote that you'd see on Pinterest, and it is. Though I've taken time lately to think deep on those words, while they may be cliche there is much truth attached to them. I am enough, because Christ says that I am enough. As a young person I often feel like I need to do or be something that gives me a place in this world or makes me standout in a crowd of confused 20-somethings.

God has opened my heart to the truths He continually speaks, that I am enough, just as I am.  Without a relationship, without a big shot job, without a 4 year degree, without my own house, I am enough. As I am. I do not need to add or subtract anything to give my life meaning, purpose, and worth.  Even with my struggles, shortcomings, and sometimes bad decisions, I am still enough.  God relentlessly pours these words into my soul, and every morning I believe them a little bit more.  Regardless of life's circumstances we are enough just as we are.

God picks up our broken pieces and mends them together, gently whispering to our hearts that in Him, though we may fall short, we are always enough.  This life has a way of wearing us out, and essentially kicking us when we're down.  It's easy to give in and believe that we'll never be enough or that we don't have anything to offer, but those are lies.  Since learning to hear God's voice, I hear Him almost every day.  Not in an audible voice, but in song lyrics, texts, and little thoughts that are full of truth, He reminds me daily that I will always be enough.

"Jesus came to announce to us that an identity based on success, popularity and power is a false identity-an illusion! Loudly and clearly he says: 'You are not what the world makes you; but you are children of God." - Henri J.M. Nouwen

With love,
Alyssa

Monday, January 2, 2017

Lean In - Let Go




Photo Cred: Kaysie Lynne Photography


God has been so faithful.  I am a worrier, and often I get so consumed in it that I talk myself out of many opportunities. Something that I had worried about greatly was the money for school.  I remember the better part of the year before I left for Texas, I was consumed by worry. "What if the money doesn't come?" "What if I can't go to my DTS?" "What if God doesn't provide?"  No matter what anyone told me, I worried.  All day. All night. I lost sleep, I was sick to my stomach, I second guessed whether I should go to the DTS. I was consumed and I didn't wholeheartedly believe that God could and would provide.

An overwhelming peace has swept over me these past few weeks, I no longer worry about the money and it's an odd feeling for me.  While in the past, I liked to think I trusted God with every worry and doubt, I now see that I didn't.  I didn't really trust Him with anything.  I let my fears and doubts consume me to the point of paralyzation, I had truly convinced myself that there wasn't a point in fundraising because the money wasn't going to come anyways.  I lacked faith and trust in God and how powerful He is.

I've been learning that God doesn't need  me to do anything, He is perfectly capable of accomplishing anything and everything without my help or input. Since learning what it means to live out my faith and place my trust in God, peace has been a very present part of my life.  I have no worries or doubts about the funds, He has already shown Himself faithful in providing money thus far. He has continued to reiterate that He is only asking me to be willing and He will do the rest.

He is big and mighty, He needs no help accomplishing amazing things. This I am slowly realizing.  Trust Him. Lean in. Let go. Pray. Have faith.  He knows. He hears. He sees.  He's got this, and that should be more than enough for me.  As I mention in almost every post, He is moving in my life and I am still amazed with it all.  God is so good.

With love,
Alyssa

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Surrender


I don't know that I've ever felt more at peace about a decision, than I do when continually say yes to returning to Wylie.

I was thinking about it the other morning, when I came home from Texas I was dead set on not returning, and never pursuing another DTS.  I convinced myself that it just wasn't for me and chose to focus on and pursue things like the Mexico ministry.  I remember right after I came home I committed to participating in 2 separate Mexico trips down to Casa (the orphanage we work with), I also remember a few weeks later being in tears because neither of them worked out.  I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do and it was eating at me.  There was also a point when I was absolutely sure that I was going to pursue nursing school.  I set out to be a Labor and Delivery Nurse, but literally walked into the community college, looked at the consultants office and walked right back out of the building.

I couldn't do it.  I couldn't pursue a college degree that didn't send my heart up in flames of passion, it just didn't feel right. I adore Mexico (with every inch of my tiny little heart), but God put road blocks in my way so that I couldn't pursue that either.  At the time I had absolutely no idea what He was doing, I was unhappy and angry with Him.  It didn't make sense to me why He would let me pursue and work towards something for almost a year, only to pry it from my hands as it was finally given to me.

Over the last several weeks I've come to see more and more that living a life of surrender means living life with our hands open and in a position of praise. God gives, but He also takes.  He knows what is good and what is better.  He knows when it's enough, and when we need more.  He knows when we're ready and when we still need time. See that was the thing...I needed time, my heart needed time, my mind needed time.  I wasn't ready for YWAM Wylie, God knew it was good...but He also knew that it would be better if He took it away and made me wait.  He gave me time, He gave me Himself and that was enough.  I learned and am still learning to live with open hands in a position of surrender.  He has continued to quiet my fears and clear my head of doubts, He has shown me that He has been eagerly pursuing me and that He wants me.  He has given me peace and spoken to my heart with a love song that has me swooning, He has romanced my broken heart back into relationship with Him and it is beautiful.

I am at peace with my decision to return to Wylie, because I know that God has so gently turned my gaze to Him so that I might choose the path that He has set out for my life.  I'm glad that He broke my heart and brought me home because otherwise I may have never seen Him.

With love,
Alyssa

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Awaken


I arrived at YWAM Wylie we each had a "Welcome Basket" at the foot of our beds. In it were sweet little gifts, highlighters, notebooks, candy, and a hand written note from the staff. The note was filled with words of wisdom and encouragement that God had spoken to the staff about each student. My card spoke of the story of Deborah. The staff believed that God wanted to AWAKEN me as God had awakened Deborah. The first night in Wylie, I opened my Bible and read the story of Deborah. I was confused because I didn't see how it related to my life.

 The next day when I left Wylie, I took that note with me. I wanted to keep it because I thought that it was nice of the staff to pray over me and speak those words into my life, but I was so sure that God wouldn't AWAKEN me now that I was leaving Wylie. I figured that since I was no longer at my DTS that God wouldn't do the work He had set out to do.

Two weeks after I got home from Texas I found the note and again I opened my Bible and read the story of Deborah, not once but 4 times.  I still didn't see how it applied to me and I didn't believe that God would AWAKEN me. I put it in the front of my Bible where I keep sentimental things, and forgot about it.

Fast forward to the beginning of last week, I found it...again.  I sat down I opened my Bible and I read the story of Deborah again.  This time it made a little bit more sense, as I had recommitted to returning to Wylie, and had heard God speak to me multiple times.  I was learning to be a vessel and I was learning to be a "Yes!" girl like Deborah, as she went obediently with Barak to defeat an army. I started to see how I could relate to this story, but I still didn't see how God would AWAKEN me.

Last Wednesday I attended Connect group and shared my testimony (You can read about that here: Don't You See, I Love You), afterwards I got to sit with two lovely ladies and they spoke to my heart.  At one point a story was shared, and I cannot for the life of me remember exactly what it was, but I know that after hearing that story God said "Don't you see? I AM AWAKENING YOU."  I thought back to the note, I thought back to Deborah, and I realized...God doesn't need circumstances to work. He has no limits or boundaries, He is infinite and all powerful. He awakened my heart and He knew all along that I wouldn't be in Texas when He did.

I continue to come to realizations of His power and His glory, I am continually amazed.  God has become so much bigger these past 12 weeks and my heart can hardly contain the work He is doing. I always knew God was capable of grand things, never did I think that He would choose to preform such things in my life.  But now I see that when we are willing to be obedient vessels He will use us in ways that we never could've imagined.

Guys, God has AWAKENED my heart and I am EXCITED.

With love,
Alyssa

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Don't You See, I Love You


I feel like I need to be continuously writing about the things God is doing in my life, I'm in absolute awe of what He is revealing.

Last night (12/7/2016) I was late to my connect group (Bible study through my church).  I haven't gone to Connect Group in months, but had been promising my second family that I would come this week.  I walked in late and while I missed most of the study I heard God almost immediately after sitting down.

We were going over the story of Mary and how God spoke through Gabriel saying that she would give birth to a baby boy and would name him Jesus. We talked about Mary hearing God and being obedient even though what He was asking her to do was 1) Impossible in her mind and 2) One of the toughest things to commit to, but she said "Behold, I am the servant of The Lord; let it be to me according to your word." Obedience. She chose obedience in a difficult situation. Which leads us to where I so clearly heard God speak to my heart.

Mr.Waterbury, who leads the study, posed the question "Have any of you ever heard from God or been given signs or confirmation that He was speaking to you?"  As he posed that question I so clearly heard "Be bold." over and over again.  I knew that God was asking me to step out of my shy withdrawn personality and be bold in sharing the work He is doing in my life.  I struggled for a moment, but reminded myself "This is where you surrender to Him." and when it came time Mrs.Waterbury (This family has so graciously accepted me as their adopted daughter.) turned and looked at me and with a smirk said "What about you? Has God spoken to you?" fully knowing what I had gone through these past 11 weeks, and so I began to share my testimony.

It was honestly the greatest privilege to me to be able to share that God is in fact working, actively working, in my life.  I've grown up in a strong Christian home, I've had an easy life and when I was 6 I got to choose to accept Christ as my savior because it's what I was raised in.  I've never had a testimony to share, I've never felt like I had anything worth while to say and honestly, up until recently...I have never clearly heard God speak to me.  I'm in awe of everything that He's doing and I just want to share it with everyone.  I can't even describe what He is doing in my heart but oh man, is it beautiful.

I shared my testimony and felt absolutely wonderful. I sat after group with Mrs.Waterbury and another wonderful woman, Melody, and they just listened to me share my heart and ministered to me.  They made me feel so loved and it was such a blessing to see other people excited for the things that God is doing in my life.

These 11 weeks I have gained an entirely new trust in God and I'm beginning to see Him in a brand new light.  He is bigger than I ever imagined and everyday I get to experience new sides of Him because He wrecked my heart, absolutely destroyed it, and said "Don't you see, I love you and I want you. I have so much to show you. Please, Love, just let me in. Let me work." He's actively pursing me and I'm actively learning to how lean into Him and let Him work.

I still can't get over the fact that He is actively pursuing my heart even when I push away and want nothing to do with Him.

He is relentless, and He is swooning my heart back into a deeper relationship with Him.

With love,
Alyssa