Let’s Just Agree to Agree

There is a story in the Bible about a woman who spent 12 years of her life suffering from an inexplicable disorder that caused her to hemorrhage. Mark 5:25-34 details her ordeal–years of doctors, medicines, holistic remedies and most likely, desperation. Verse 26 says that she’d “endured much at the hands of many physicians and had spent all she had…but had grown worse.”

Could you imagine what it would be like to live 12 years suffering from a constant hemorrhage? I can’t. I mean, let’s be honest, I can barely stand having a cold for a few days. She must have been so weak, probably not able to do much on her own. Not to mention the psychological effects of the social stigma of being considered an “unclean” person.

I picture this woman searching tirelessly for remedies. Maybe having her hopes raised when she would go to a doctor who promised her a cure. Having people tell her about a new remedy that would be sure to heal her situation. I could also imagine her utter disappointment, frustration and despair when nothing worked. Doctor after doctor telling her this or that, health experts, family remedies, etc. and yet nothing changed for the better. In fact, the passage states that she’d only grown worse. I imagine her thinking to herself each time, maybe this is it? Maybe this is what will fix me?

Then Jesus came along. There was so much chatter about this man, this Rabbi, who had become so well known for performing miracles. A healer. A prophet. The real deal. Jesus. He’d been traveling and healing people. Forgiving them. Freeing them from their afflictions. Giving people with no hope a new lease on life. She, like many people in her time, was determined to meet this man who could very well be the answer she’d been looking for.

Stop and picture it for a minute…Jesus was a sensation. No one had seen anyone like him. Wherever he went, he drew crowds of hundreds and thousands. He preached messages that turned people’s ideology and theology on its head. The last would be first, the least of the these were the greatest. He spoke about loving enemies and turning cheeks. Picture this woman, unclean by Jewish standards–a pariah. Socially she was unqualified, seemingly undignified and certainly undeserving of any particular attention. And yet, here was her chance. This Rabbi who had dinner with tax collectors and had ex-prostitutes as friends….well, just maybe he’d have mercy on someone like her?

And then it happened. Verse 27 says, “after hearing about Jesus, she went up in the crowd behind him and touched his cloak.” I imagine her making her way through the obstacle of the multitude: falling, crawling, pushing and wrestling her way through the roaring crowd, with the sole intention of touching this man whom she knew to be her healer. Consider the intensity of her intention. She had to get to Jesus. She had to, because he was her last hope–her only hope.

What a remarkable moment, right? The story goes on to tell that after all the pushing and her relentless determination, she gets to Jesus and touching his cloak she was healed instantly. Jesus tells her that her faith had made her well. There’s so much at work here, but what always strikes me the most is that there was an interaction of faith–an agreement of sorts–that literally changed the course of her life.

Agreement seems like a strange word to use to describe her act of faith, but “agreement” by definition means: harmony or accordance in opinion; the absence of incompatibility between two things; consistency. You see, this woman had spent a whole lot of her life agreeing with, or in harmony and accordance in opinion with the wrong things, the wrong diagnoses and the wrong healers. That is, until she found the healer, the savior and then actively aligned herself with his truth and by faith received her healing.

Her agreement, her belief and her conviction lead her to act. She didn’t just believe, she pressed, intent on experiencing for herself the things that he said he could do. And what is faith if not taking God at his word? And as faith without works is dead, then what is faith without acting on it, living by it and pressing forward because of it?

Her’s may seem like an extreme case, but I think we find ourselves in similar situations, don’t we? Desperate for relief and seeking answers, we sometimes come into agreement with the wrong things. Thoughts like: I come from a poor family, so I’ll never experience financial health. My mom, her mom and her mom before that, suffered with depression and anxiety; that’s why I’ll always suffer with it, too. I can only attract men with emotional issues, that’s why all my relationships have failed. I’m not worthy. I can’t do better.I can’t have better. In need of an intervention, in need of healing, financial provision, hope, love, peace, inspiration, we search for a remedy everywhere.

Even as Christians, you know, “the people with all the answers” (HA!), we can often find ourselves running down a rabbit hole of faith-sucking thought processes. Thought processes that skew our view of God, our view of ourselves and those around us. Thought processes that, a lot like the woman in our story, leave us depleted and spent, yet in no better shape than when we started. But Romans 12:2 says:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

What does this mean for us? We get to renew our minds by replacing our flawed thoughts with the truth of his word. We get to renew our minds and exercise our faith by aligning our thoughts with his truth, by coming into agreement or harmony with his word. Leaving behind those things that leave us feeling empty, depleted, desperate, and worse off, we get to grab hold of the “hem” of Jesus’s life changing truth.

So, this week, let’s begin to consider our agreements. Where can we be more intentional about believing God’s word over anything else? What does God say about you? What does he say about the situations that you’re in? What does he say about who He is in your life?

Here are just a few Biblical truths that we can start to come into agreement with this week:

-You don’t have to back down or retreat in the face of a challenge or difficulty. You are more than a conqueror. Romans 8:37

-There is no illness or diagnosis he can’t heal. By His wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

-You aren’t alone or forgotten. He’s always with you. You are never forsaken. Deuteronomy 31:6

-In times of grief and pain, loneliness and hurt, he comes to our aid. The Holy Spirit is your comforter. John 14:26

-You are worthy. You are seen. You are enough. You are the head and not the tail. Deuteronomy 28:13

-When you feel alone, abandoned or rejected, He is closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

-In moments of anxiety, worry, despair. When you don’t know how you’ll make it through. His peace surpasses all understanding, all reasoning in every situation. Philippians 4:6-7

I believe whole-heartedly that there are agreements that need to be made in every area of our lives. God has said a lot of things concerning you and I. Let’s start agreeing with God on these things, even if it feels like no one else agrees with you for it. Agree with God for your health. Agree with God for your marriage. Agree with God for your children. Agree with God for your financial situation. Agree with God for your family’s salvation. Agree with God for your dreams.

But understand that agreeing is more than a yes, it has to be active. The woman with the issue of blood had to actively push her way through the crowd, through the naysayers, through her physical and emotional fatigue to get to the hem of Christ. For us, that can look like stepping out in faith into something you feel God has called you to–a business venture, an act of generosity, forgiving someone, taking on that new assignment, committing to getting healthier…it can also mean hoping against all hope that he’ll reconcile that relationship, heal that illness, open up doors for that dream job. Truth is, it doesn’t matter what our “issue of blood” is because at the end of the day there is a timeless truth that we can come into agreement with and grab the hem of, and that is that everything we’ll ever need is in Jesus.

So, friends, I just want to encourage today to lean in, press in, push past the obstacles and grab hold of his truth. God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly beyond what we can ever hope, dream or imagine–let’s agree with him on that and live like it.

COLOUR YOUR WORLD

Hey Friends,

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This past weekend was Hillsong Colour Conference here in NYC—it’s a global gathering of women that meets annually all over the world. Colour is always my very favorite because the heart of it is to champion, empower, equip and value women. I mean, what’s not to love, right?!⠀⠀⠀

On my way to the conference venue I got a glimpse of this stunning mosaic water tower while crossing the Brooklyn Bridge (Tom Fruin: WATERTOWER). The tower immediately caught both my eyes and my heart. This beautiful piece of art made up of different pieces of colorful glass reminded me a lot of what God can do with our broken lives. It reminded me of how he is constantly making beautiful all the broken pieces of my own life. It was also a picture of the gathering of women that I was about to walk into: a colorful room of women from all different backgrounds, ages, sizes, ethnicities, nationalities and socioeconomic backgrounds, coming together like a beautiful mosaic and in so many ways forming a metaphorical water tower. Gathered together catching everything that God would pour out on us that weekend…catching it and being filled so that we can in turn pour out into our own unique worlds.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry a teensy bit as my heart absolutely leapt in anticipation of all that would take place over the weekend—it felt like actual summersaults in my chest! I love that God tugs at our hearts that way and that he meets our anticipation and exceeds our expectations. I look forward to sharing some of what God did in my own life this past weekend with you all soon.

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x

Just a Girl #SheBrave

I never really thought of myself as brave. To me, brave meant being daring–jumping out of planes, enjoying the stomach churning fright of a rollercoaster, bungee jumping…If you can’t sense the theme yet, I’m really afraid of heights. How afraid, you ask? Let’s just say I don’t even like climbing ladders.

Brave were the people who’d fearlessly run in the direction of their dreams. Brave were the confident people. Brave were the people who with no notice, were able to stand in front of a crowd and speak. I was just ordinary. Brave was definitely not me.

I didn’t consider myself to be a coward, but I just didn’t see myself as brave. Brave people had themselves figured out. They had their lives figured out. I really wanted to be like that, but there were a ton of insecurities standing in the way. The funny thing about insecurity is that it seeps into the way you portray yourself. My insecurity stemming from feelings of inadequacy made me self-conscious. So to combat the self-consciousness, I did what I could to avoid being “seen”. For me, that meant putting up a wall: a well-decorated facade that was just thick enough to keep others right where I wanted them–on the outside, unable to see all the things about me that I felt were so inadequate.

I was pretty good at it for a while, but at the heart of it, “facade” is just a fancy way of saying something’s inauthentic. And, guess what? Inauthenticity is exhausting. I wanted so much to live my ideal I-have-it-all-together-life, but what I didn’t realize was that it was coming at the expense of being who God actually made me to be.

I remember having a particularly rough time one day, I don’t even remember what it was about, but I remember I was being really hard on myself. Sometimes our instinct when we are feeling vulnerable and insecure is to be hard on ourselves, isn’t it? I remember in that moment God speaking to my heart these words that literally stopped me in my tracks and honestly changed my life, he said, You’re just a girl.

Hear me out…He wasn’t saying that I was just a girl in some backhanded, dismissive way hinting that I was inadequate, unqualified or unworthy. He was telling me that the opposite was true. He was saying, you’re just a girl…you don’t need to be Superwoman. You don’t need to have it all figured out; you don’t need to have all your ducks in a row at all times. You’re just a girl. You don’t need to be perfect–you can stop trying to be. You’re adequate just as you are.  It was a defining moment for me because not only was it freeing in the way that only God’s truth can be, but it also set me on the path to that brave life that I always wanted.

You see, I came to understand, not only on that day, but many days since, that being brave is less of an outward thing and more of an inward decision. Being brave, for me, became about giving myself the grace to be transparent and being ok with people seeing what is on the inside of me. It meant knowing that I am fearfully and wonderfully and purposefully made. That God invested in the world when he made me (and when he made YOU). Being brave meant being ok with being vulnerable and even embracing my vulnerability because, after all, I’m just a girl!

Empowered by that truth, I decided to take up arms against my insecurities and areas of non-braveness by flexing my “brave” muscle and I’d do that by embracing everything that God made me to be. I’d do it by embracing all the different parts of me: the gifts he’s given me, my weird personality quirks (I’ve got a quite a few, ha!), my strengths, my weaknesses–all of it. I wasn’t going to run and I wasn’t going to hide, instead, I was going to set my life to do the things that I was made for.

It’s a journey that I’m on and its still unfolding before me. I’m learning new ways to be brave every day. I’m fighting against the urge to retreat and let old insecurities intimidate me. I don’t always win, but I’m committed to the fight. Why? Because I know there’s so much at stake and I know there’s so much on the other side of my brave.

There’s a saying that goes something like: Do it scared. If you’re not scared, you can’t be brave. I love this because it means to be brave is to overcome something. Brave is  accepting a challenge. Brave looks like saying yes even when saying no may be more comfortable or more “safe”. Brave looks like fighting to love someone who’s difficult to love. Brave is not backing down when things don’t go as planned. Brave is being willing to be flexible enough to go on the adventure with God that isn’t always what we planned for ourselves. Its accepting that there isn’t always an itinerary with dates and times and details for your life-story, and it’s learning to be ok with that! It means accepting that something may be difficult to do, but doing it anyway.

As I’m continuing to learn how to embrace brave, I’ve decided that one way I’m going to do it is by saying “yes.” I’m saying yes to the things that scare me and intimidate me–particularly to the things that are going to grow me and are a part of what God is wanting to do in my life. NO, you won’t find me bungee jumping or sky diving any time in my future–I do not believe that is God’s plan for my life, ha! However, I will embrace and exercise brave by stepping out of my comfort zone and by using my unique gifts, my awkward personality, and my God-given passions in life. I know there is no way I could ever do this on my own. I also know that I have and will fail many times, but guess what? Brave is also getting up after we fall. Brave is dusting ourselves off when we trip over our own feet. Most importantly, though, I know that God is the one who’s making me brave because he’s the one who’s called me to this life he’s set before me. He’s called you to yours too! Brave is knowing when to stop striving and learning to lean into the momentum of God’s grace.

Not long ago, I was talking to a friend about some leadership goals that we had for a group of women we were leading. I shared with her a few passages that I think are particularly encouraging for the season we were heading into:

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” Galatians 5:25MSG

I love that we not only choose this life of the Spirit, but that we get to live out the implications of it in every detail of our lives. In other words, this isn’t just a notion or a lofty idea, but rather we get to live this out authentically and empowered by God. Working out the implications of our brave, working our “yes”, working our conviction and commitment to being who God’s called us to be into every detail of our lives. How can we do it? I think that’s something we can learn from the process of sowing and reaping.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 says: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided (CHOSEN) in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 

In this context, we usually look at this when talking about our financial giving, but I believe the principle holds true across all areas of our lives. If we reap bountifully what we sow bountifully and reap sparingly what we sow sparingly, then I think we should be asking ourselves: What have I decided (chosen) in my heart to give (sow)? And how have I been sowing it? Everything I’ve been given has been given to me for the sole purpose of giving it back. Whatever God puts in me has to come through me and he doesn’t want me to sow it sparingly! He knows that he’s placed great things in all of us, beautiful things, unique things, but we need to be brave enough to sow it bountifully–not allowing insecurities or fear to hold us back from giving it all.

It’s going to look different for all of us. My brave won’t look like yours. It doesn’t have to and it shouldn’t! We all have our own facades to tear down and our own insecurities to overcome. But, we also get to sow our brave (our gifts, our talents, our creativity, our yeses, our dreams, our lives, our finances, our surrender) bountifully and cheerfully knowing that our brave makes room for things to grow and makes room for others. We can bountifully sow our brave because we’re promised a harvest that’s just as and even more bountiful.

So friends, what does brave look like for you? How can you flex your brave? How can you sow it bountifully? Can I encourage you today that you don’t have to have it all figured out, you don’t have to try to measure up to any ideal or standard, you don’t have to have all your ducks in a row–after all, you’re just a girl, and there was a girl, around two thousand years ago, who’s brave “yes brought about the biggest blessing our world has ever and will ever see. Let’s choose this year to find out just what’s on the other side of our brave.

Don’t Stop Believing!

Have you ever felt challenged to do something, like God was sending you a message loud and clear and he was using everything around you to do it? Let me give you an example: On Mondays I attend an evening class on Biblical doctrine, theology, etc. Our professor, who’s also a pastor at my church, is this super brilliant, hilarious, genius, Bible-ninja and every so often, he’ll hit us with a challenge. As we were discussing John 16:24, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full,” he challenged us to write down three things that we would dare to ask God for this week. He spoke about how too often we don’t ask God for things and when we do ask, we ask for a toned down version of what we want either because we feel unworthy of the thing, unworthy of even asking or because we feel like the ask itself is just too big. Guys, that’s me in a nutshell!🙋🏾‍♀️

I started trying to think of some things that I would ask God for, but I found myself struggling to make that list, so I told myself that I’d do it later. That evening after class while preparing a SOAP that I was asked to share with my Connect Group the next morning, I found myself being challenged again. I was looking through some scriptures that I had highlighted in my Bible (well…in my Bible App, which totally still counts!) and I came across a note that I’d made about Matthew 8:5-10,13:

5When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6″Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith….13And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

The words, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” stirred me deep down inside and I was hit with the thought: If Jesus were to say to me right now, “Go and let it be done for you as you have believed,” what exactly would be done for me? For the centurion who believed in Jesus’s authority and healing power, his servant’s healing was on the other side of Jesus’s words. What would be on the other side of His words in my life? What are you believing for? Message received, God!

I believe whole-heartedly that God wants our faith (Hebrews 11:6) and that he is absolutely doing miracles everyday, but what are we believing him for? What are we asking him for? We forget that God wants to do miracles in our lives and in the people around us, but he’s asking us to believe and he’s asking us to ASK.

 ask

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. Matthew 21:22

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

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:24

I think its important to note that believing is more than “name it and claim it”, its more than “good vibes” and “good thoughts”. Faith is believing what God has said and responding to it with hope and expectation; its believing that Jesus is who he says he says he is and does what he says does and that he’ll do what he says he will. And because God is who he says he is (our Father, our provider, our healer, our help, our friend, our way-maker, the list goes on…), we can ask him for what we need with total confidence and even audaciousness.

Recently a famous music artist, in anticipation of an album release, took it upon himself to do a series of philanthropic deeds. One of these deeds was going to a supermarket and announcing that he would pick up the tab on everyone’s grocery haul. Sweet deal, right? Super generous! There was a lot of buzz around it and before long there were memes about how people should have made a mad dash in the supermarket picking up the most expensive items and filling their carts to the brim (a la Supermarket Sweep). Its funny, but its also exactly as it should be with our faith! Its the perfect picture of the challenge before us to have a “God is going to pick up the tab on this, so let me fill up my cart” mentality. He’s got the unlimited resources to cover even my most “extravagant” prayers–I can believe him for this!

As we wrap up this month talking about intentionality (and in this case, being intentional about believing), I’d like to share two things that we can all be believing as we move into the rest of this year:

1-We can believe that he is not finished: THE BEST IS YET TO COME: He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it (Phil 1:6). The latter will be greater than the former (Hag 2:9). There’s more for all of us–this isn’t just a feel-good slogan, y’all. God is doing more and wanting to do more. There’s more fruit to be produced in our lives. There are more people he will use us to influence. There are more dreams to be realized. More people to be saved, more lives to be changed. We get to partner with him in faith, walking in the abundant life that he has for us. We can ask for more because thereis more and because he’s not finished! Let’s believe for more and for greater!

2-We can believe that he is not wasteful. THERE’S NOTHING HE CAN’T USE. He’s the ultimate redeemer of our life, of our time and of our experiences. He works all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). No matter where you are in life, no matter your experience, no matter your age, there’s nothing that God can’t redeem. There’s no wasted time in God. We can believe despite disappointment and we can hope against all hope, because no moment spent waiting will be wasted!

So, friends, what are you believing for? What are some things that you are choosing to have faith for? What are some things that God has spoken over your life that you’re choosing to believe today? What are some things that you’re going to ask for in faith? Luke 1:45 says, Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promise to her. John 11:40 says, Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God. What would happen if we ALL started asking and believing? How different our world could be! Let’s commit today to be audacious askers and audacious believers and let’s watch as God far exceeds anything that we can ask for or imagine.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! Ephesians 3:20 (MSG)

When Small Doesn’t Fit #MoveOut

Isn’t it nice to have something that fits just like a glove? I mean that perfect fit that’s like, wow, this was made just for me! On the other hand, how much does it suck when something that used to fit us perfectly starts to feel a bit tight and constricted (R.I.P. to my favorite jacket). It’s frustrating and uncomfortable, isn’t it? This is what I thought of when I recently read about Lot and Abraham, both of whom had experience with outgrowing their spaces.

Genesis 19 tells the story of Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his family. He was one of the family members that Abraham took with him when he was called by God to leave his home to go to the land that God had promised him. He lived with Abraham until their possessions and families grew too big to live in one area together. Abraham suggested they split and allowed Lot to have first pick of land to settle in. Lot chose to live in the land of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Sodom and Gomorrah was a historical city notorious for being a place of uninhibited wickedness. To this day its used a metaphor to describe places of moral corruption.

At one point, Lot is visited by two angels who come to “scope out” the land, assessing the level of depravity. Once it was decided that destruction was the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, the angels told Lot to get his family and head for the mountains far outside the city in order to spare them from the destruction. Lot complained about the difficulty of getting to the mountains and his fear of being swept away. He begged to be allowed to go to a tiny town nearby called Zoar. The angels allowed him to head there with his family in the meantime.

There’s so much to this story and there’s a ton of different angles that we can look at this, but as we focus this month on “intentionality,” I want to zero in on the three places mentioned in this story and how they can relate to our lives.

Sodom & Gomorrah / Zoar / The Mountains 

Sodom and Gomorrah represents a lot of different things to each of us. Historically, it was a place of complete moral corruption. It was overrun with sin; a place of separation from God. As Christians, it represents the life that God called us out of and saved us from. I believe we all have a Sodom and Gomorrah that we’ve been saved from, but where we go next is what’s really important.

The second place mentioned was Zoar–the place that Lot begged to go to in verse 20 saying:

“See, there is a small village nearby. Please let me go there instead; don’t you see how small it is? Then my life will be saved.” Genesis 19:20

Zoar was a small city outside of Sodom and Gomorrah just far enough that it wasn’t involved in the destruction. It wasn’t the place God told Lot to go to, but it ended up being a refuge for Lot and his family along the way. The name Zoar means “small”. Lot mentioned this a couple of times in the verse above. This description is very important when we look at what Zoar represents to us in this context.

Firstly, in order to fully understand how we can apply this to our lives, we have to look at Zoar in comparison to someplace else. As I mentioned before, it wasn’t a part of Sodom and Gomorrah, but it also wasn’t as far as the mountains that God had sent Lot to. It was someplace in between the two, likely closer to Sodom and Gomorrah.

So what does this all mean to us? Zoar is a place that isn’t where God is taking us, but its a spot along the way. Its that small victory in our lives, its that first step out of where we used to be. God told Lot to go to the mountains, but Lot, like a lot of us, asked for someplace closer/easier, in the meantime.

Zoar, or small, in itself is not a bad place; it serves its purpose as a stepping stone. The danger in Zoar is when we get complacent and start to settle there. We’ve been called to great things. YOU were MADE for great things, but if you’re anything like me, sometimes those big things seem so far off…so difficult to get to, a lot like the mountains that God was telling Lot to go to.

We have these God-dreams in our hearts, put there by our Father who made us for it, equipped us for it and calls us to it, but sometimes it seems so far, so costly–so dangerous even, that we run to Zoar instead. We take steps out of that old place, that dead place and we run to a place, which might be ok for now, but its too small to stay there. We forget or ignore that it was only meant to be temporary; that it isn’t the wide-open space that God has for us–its only a small city along the way.

In other words, don’t stay in Zoar–its small and small doesn’t fit!

God’s purpose for you isn’t small. It can’t be contained by Zoar. The Bible says that Lot began to feel uncomfortable/afraid to stay in Zoar (19:30) so he gathered his things and left to settle in the mountains. Many of us are experiencing that discomfort. Its a tugging at our hearts and a stirring in our spirit. God is calling us to pack up and keep moving forward–forward into the things he’s called us to, forward into those big God-dreams in our hearts. Zoar is NOT our home. Small is NOT our home. God wants to take us higher, he wants to take us to another level and we’re going to have to be intentional in our pursuit of it by leaving behind the old, ill-fitting spaces we’re in.

ask

This brings us to the third place in this story: the mountains.

Historically and Biblically the mountains have been a place where men go to be near God. Moses went up to the mountain to speak with God. Jesus went to the mountain to pray. The mountain represents closeness, it represents intimacy, it represents victory and the fullness of God’s promise. God called Lot to the mountain and today I believe he is calling us to it as well.

Friend, is there something in your heart that you’ve maybe set aside as “too far off” or “too difficult to achieve”? Have you taken steps in the direction that God has set before you, but have found yourself, like Lot and like many of us, settled in a small place along the way? I can think of a few areas in my life where I’m feeling the strain of small, the constriction of the small place that is Zoar.

Maybe you’ve been finding yourself with a Zoar-mentality–thinking small, limiting your dreams, drive or creativity because you’re afraid to dream too big or do what hasn’t been done before. Small doesn’t fit–move out! Don’t rein in your dreams, make room for them! I believe this is the time to, like Isaiah 54:2-3 says, enlarge the place of our tent or dwelling; to stretch out and make room–not holding back!

“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.”
Isaiah 54: 2-3 

The growth that God is bringing about in our lives cannot be contained by Zoar any longer–small doesn’t fit! Toss that small mentality. Leave behind that temporary fix. There’s a whole generation that you’re making a way for. Whatever your God-dream looks like, whatever passion burns your heart–let’s be intentional about moving forward into the wide open spaces that God has set for us up ahead. This year as we focus and commit to growing healthily and steadily, let’s be sure that we aren’t settling into small, but in the mountains ahead that God is leading us to.

HER:STORIES – Samara Catherine

This week on the blog we’re rolling out something that’s very special to me—HER:STORIES! HER:STORIES is a space designed to share the lives of amazing, everyday women through interviews and round-table chats. It tells the stories of women who are impacting the world in their own ways; women just like YOU!


This past weekend, out in beautiful Ocean City, NJ while celebrating our mom’s 60th birthday, I got to sit down and chat with one of my most favorite people in the world: my big sister, Samara Catherine, who is undeniably a real life Superwoman. She is an all-around powerhouse: a scholar (with the degrees and nerdiness to match), a brilliant entrepreneur with a full time career, a makeup artist, a devoted wife and a loving and empowering mother of FOUR beautiful girls. She’s all these things and more!

This month as we delve into the topic of intentional living, I thought it would be great to interview Samara Catherine about what living with intention means to her.


Karen Cecilia: So, I know you have a very full life—tell me about what you have going on at this stage or season in your life.

Samara Catherine: At this stage in my life I am a very full-time mom. Four children. Four girls—adolescent and kid aged. I’m also employed full time. I’m a wife…

KC: And your job is an “involved” type of job, right?

SC: …well, yes, it’s a senior level position, if you want to say that. I’m also a leader in my church, leading a group of young girls…

KC: MORE young girls!

SC: Haha, yes girls are the story of my life! And they’re my passion actually. I am also…I wouldn’t say an aspiring entrepreneur…but I’m an entrepreneur in the beginnings of a cosmetic company.

KC: Well that’s a mouth full.

SC: It is, haha, it’s a very busy, very full life.

KC: It definitely is. Speaking of which, I’m talking about intentional living on the blog this month and I know recently you were talking to me about how the word “margins” kept coming to you—becoming a theme, almost. In the context of your life, that’s clearly very full-on, what does creating margin look like for you? What is it like for you to try to find margin?

SC: Oh boy! Actually, a couple of weeks ago, maybe a month, I was telling God that I felt like I was giving a little bit of effort to everything, but not doing anything fully. I was saying, “God, I just don’t have enough time!”

But he gave me the realization that there are only 24 hours in the day. I’m not going to get any more; that’s the allotted time. And so I basically had to treat my time like a budget.

He had me do this really tedious task of writing out what I’m doing every hour of the day. So, I wrote out my 24-hour day and I started to fill in everything I was doing—even when I slept. I noticed there was only 3 hours out of 24 hours that was in the “budget” for me to do things outside of working or wifely duties or parenting. There’s 3 hours for me to do anything I want to do: personal development, going to the gym…. I really didn’t have much time in the day. So he had me look at this and start to cross off things that weren’t important or productive… wasted time. Time spent watching TV and surfing internet. I had to weed out these things to try to accommodate the time for things that I want to do.

So, for me creating margins is just that: looking at the time you have, looking at the things you need to do and want to do, accommodating your schedule and omitting things that are wasted time. With a budget you have income and expenses, if you don’t watch it, you can spend more than you have. And so basically that’s what I’m doing right now, learning to budget my time and steward my time.

KC: That’s great you mention that. In my last blog post I touched on that a little bit. I talked about how sometimes doing less in general gives us space to do more in particular—intentionally making time to do things that we’re meant to be doing with our lives. In that vein, what are some things that you feel you’re meant to be doing with your life in this particular season?

SC: At this time in my life, I mentioned, I have two “grown” children and two smaller ones, so I feel like I’m not at the point where I was a couple of years ago when I was really hands on with the kids. I’ve freed up my time a bit where I can focus on different passions. In the last couple of months I took on this ministry with the young girls. I know that God has put a passion in my heart to work with young girls and women. I’ve taken some of that freed up time to start ministering to young girls in church. I’m also focusing on personal development, I’m a self-help…

KC: Yes you are!

SC: …Hahaha, Yes I love anything self-help! I am really into the Bible right now. I’m taking a lot of free courses and group studies on-line. I’m working on different online communities engaging with the Bible and other women.

KC: That’s awesome!

KC: You have four girls, as we mentioned before, I want to talk about that for a second. Raising girls in this day and age, what are some of your heart-dreams for them? What are some of the things in your heart for them as young women growing up now?

SC: What I see for my girls, what I want for them is I want them to know who they are. To know their identity in Christ. In this age of social media and television and magazines and books, they get all these images of what girls are supposed to be or what they should look like, sound like and what they should be doing. I want my girls to be able to stand up against that and know who they are in Christ and that it’s not found in these things that are fleeting. I want them to be the unique individuals that God has created them to be. You know, they’re siblings, but they’re very, very different. They’re growing up in the same household and with the same parents, but they’re unique and I want them to embrace their uniqueness and not think that they’re lesser than each other or anyone else. They’re special and they have their God-given brilliance and they can live in that and walk in it!

KC: That’s so beautiful and I feel like all of that ties into the heart of what you’re doing entrepreneurially with your company, Ella Es Cosmetics. This idea of women knowing who they are and embracing their beauty. Can you just share a little about what Ella Es Cosmetics is and what your heart is for it?

SC: Ella Es is a love project, I’d say. It came about when I realized the need that women of color in my country (Panama) had in finding cosmetics for themselves, in their shades. It made me think about not being accepted for who you are. I felt that these women had to almost live vicariously through others and they couldn’t experience the fun of finding makeup for themselves. They probably even find themselves wishing they were someone else, unable to embrace who they are. And so the idea behind Ella Es Cosmetics is to provide shades of cosmetics that aren’t being served in these countries to women of color. It’s also a project to get women and girls to accept who they are. In Panama, women often wear lighter foundation because they can’t find foundation for themselves and so this is an answer to that. They could go to the store and find something that’s for them. They’re important and their beauty needs should be met. Also, behind Ella Es Cosmetics, is the feeling of why wait for someone else to do it for me?Why wait for a cosmetics company to recognize and serve my need? Why not do it for ourselves? I’m educated, I have a degree in business, and I have the over-all idea of how it can be done. Why not me? Why shouldn’t I initiate it and go after it myself?

KC: Wow! Yes, yes, yes! My next question was going to be in what way do you hope to affect change in your sphere of life and community, but I feel like you answered a lot of that already in terms of Ella Es and even in terms of your girls. Is there anything else you want to add to that?

SC: Yeah. There are three words that Ella Es Cosmetics lives by: recognize, educate and celebrate. Everything that E.E.C. does has these 3 components in it; we recognize the needs of us women of color. We educate by informing and providing information and education surrounding beauty, the industry and techniques. We celebrate by providing a platform where women can see others who look like them represented in a beautiful way.

KC: Amazing and that’s so, so necessary.

 KC: I want to shift gears a bit so let’s talk 2018, hey. We’re already approaching the mid-point of the year. What is your biggest win so far this year?

 SC: My biggest win?

KC: Yep, your biggest triumph. What are you the most happy about or proud of?

SC: So far my biggest win was to actually accept the call that God has given me with young girls. Because of the lack of margin in my life (because I was in another period of life raising small children) I couldn’t do it before. But I always knew in my heart that it’s a calling on my life from God. It’s something I take so much pleasure in. That by far has been my biggest win, just to be able to commit to it. Actually doing it and getting past the fear of the commitment. Just jumping in and doing it.

KC-That’s a great one! What would you say is one of your biggest lessons this year?

SC: One of the biggest lessons…I’d have to go back to time. I was never very respectful of time, haha. That analogy that God showed me about time as a budget was pretty insightful for me. I’m a person who was always late. I just didn’t respect time. So being able to put it on paper and see what I had and what I didn’t have. It was huge for me. I’ve become so much more mindful of it. I have to steward it appropriately.

KC: Yeah, that’s really good. Ok so, fun question: If money were not a factor, what would you spend your days doing?

SC: What I enjoy most are three things that I consider to be my sweet-spot: anything to do with women empowerment…

KC: SAME!

SC: …education, and entrepreneurship. So the cross-section of those three–I’d do it all day for no money! It excites me, it motivates me! To be able to help women develop themselves using business. Yeah!

KC: That’s great and I feel like that’s not even an if money weren’t a factor kind of thing, but it’s a do it anyway thing and you’re already doing it! OK, last question and it’s a heavy one…

What do you want to be remembered for?

SC: I have a quote in my closet that says “she leaves a little bit of sparkle wherever she goes”. When people think of Samara, I want them to think she added something to my life. Whether its an associate or a friend, she added something to my life. That takes a lot of intentionality.

KC: Yep, that’s the word of the month!

SC: Yeah, its been the word of the past 5 years for me, really. Haha! Sometimes in our daily busy-ness we don’t take the time to stop and engage with people and give them attention. Real attention. This past week I was in an elevator with someone and I asked them how they were doing and they said “Agh. Here…” and I said, “Oh that’s good,” and I kept walking. Did I listen to her? I didn’t listen to her! Clearly the way she answered it wasn’t good. And I felt really bad, I said to myself, Samara, you can’t ask someone how they’re doing and not listen to them. Listen to what they have to say. I want to stop and connect with people. I don’t want to just go through the motions in life. I want to be known for always providing a life-giving word. Encouraging and imparting hope to others comes naturally to me. I want people to say she always made me feel hopeful.


I’d like to say thank you, Sam, for doing this. I have an enormous amount of LOVE and admiration for you and I’m really excited to share a bit about your story. Not speaking from bias at all here…you definitely have been a source of encouragement and hope for me and I know the same holds true for your girls and the one’s you’re leading in church. Cheering you on, always! x


Hey Friends,

I hope you enjoyed our very first HER:STORIES feature with Samara Catherine! You can find her on Instagram: @samaracatherinemua @ellaescosmetics

See you all next week!

x KC

Every Last Drop

What do you intend to do with your life?

That’s a question that gets us looking forward and outward, isn’t it? We think of those dreams in our hearts that seem just out of reach or what we wish we could be doing a few years from now. Very rarely does it ever get me talking about what I’m doing now–like, today. In fact, how often do we find ourselves walking through the days, weeks, and months of our lives in what almost seems like an unconscious, monotonous biding of time? It’s what I call living with the Someday mentality.

Someday, when I’m making enough money, I’d like to be generous and donate my money or time to X-cause. Someday, when my life is less busy, I’ll go back to school and get that degree in that area of study that I’ve always been interested in. Someday, I’ll start that blog that I’ve been thinking about starting. Someday, I’ll volunteer. Someday, I’ll write that book. Someday, I’ll do that thing.

I was a Someday girl for a very long time. Like…a. very. long. time. It never quite felt like the right time to do the things that I wanted to do. Even when it did, I’d second guess myself right into inaction, often by falling into the trap of comparison. For example, I started a blog a few years ago. Actually, I should say I “started” a blog a few years ago, because I posted about once every 4-6 months (yes…two-three times a year) and I never really kept up with it. I became a slave to comparison, and NOTHING kills creativity and confidence like comparison does. You know what I mean, don’t you? That small (but loud!) voice that says what do you have to say that’s so important? Isn’t she saying it better than you could? Her blog looks better. She’s much prettier. She’s got more friends than you do–she’s way more popular! Do you really think you have what it takes? I struggled with it for a while until I just gave up. I thought to myself, someday…just not today. Someday.

The issue with a someday mentality is that it makes us forget that life isn’t an arbitrary stringing together of events; there’s God-purpose in every day! The Someday mentality is the opposite of the Every Last Drop mentality. The heart of the Every Last Drop mentality is that every single day matters. NOT that we are perfect everyday, but that we use the grace that’s for today, today. What does that mean? It means not trying to store it up for later (i.e. someday) or for when all our ducks are in a row. Right now is the time for something and we’ll only live our “every last drop” life if we use today what’s meant for today (which makes room for what’s to come tomorrow).  It means that we live each day with a sense of intentionality and an understanding that there’s no such thing as wasted time because our time is valuable. All of it! It means living life with the goal that when we are face-to-face with God, we can say, “I used it all, Lord. Everything you poured into me, I used it all.”

Firstly (and its really important that we hear this), living an every last drop kind of life does NOT mean trying to do it all or be all things to all people. Sometimes we get so caught up trying to do everything, and we get so busy being busy that we miss the main thing! My Pastor often says, “If the devil can’t kill you by getting you to do bad things, he will distract you by keeping you busy doing good things.” Come on somebody! *praise hands* Neither does it mean living an Instagram-inspiration life where we only speak in affirmations and smile. Living an every-last-drop kind of life is more about creating margins in our life that allow us to live with deep-rooted intention. So, while “every last drop” can sound a lot like “doing more,” oftentimes its just the opposite. It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes doing less, in general, allows us to do more, in particular. It lets us be more intentional with our time and with our lives. It lets us be more purposeful.

in·ten·tion·al
adjective
  1. done on purpose.
pur·pose
noun
  1. the reason for which something is created or for which something exists.

By definition, living our every-last-drop (intentional) life means: living a life that reflects what we were created for/the reason we exist!

A few weeks ago I was offered a new position at my fairly new job that would place a higher demand on me in a few different ways. It would also come with a raise and a few perks. Coming out of a very full season at my old job and going into a more restful and restorative one (a season that is undoubtedly God-ordained), I struggled with deciding what to do. The restfulness that I’ve been experiencing has been making room for me to be more intentional with being a part of building our church (my life’s passion) and is giving me time to invest in some heart-goals, like my writing. I knew that the perks of the job would be good, but ultimately I had to make an intentional decision to turn down the offer and honor the margins that this specific season is creating in my life.

It’s not always easy–we’ll be faced with tough choices, especially in this world full of options. One thing I’m certain of, though, is that the end result will be beautiful and oh-so worth it. I know there will be very full days ahead, but for now, this is the season I’m in and I’m choosing to get out of it everything that I’m supposed to. These margins are giving me space to grow in ways that is making me fruitful now and is also setting me up for my God-purposed future–readying me for what’s ahead.

Recently, I caught a glimpse of a taxi cab that had the words “Always Ready” painted across the side and it hit me like a ton of bricks (the words, not the cab). You see, these words are at the very center of the Every Last Drop mentality!  They reminded me of Jesus and how he’s always ready to forgive, always ready to embrace and always ready to refresh a weary soul (thank God for that!). Jesus was always ready, because he lived every single day of his life here on Earth with intention! He truly gave every last drop because he made every day count by living with his Earthly purpose in mind.

When we truly begin to understand that God has purpose for our every day lives, not just our “someday” lives, we learn to take hold of the moments that we have now. We learn to live our present with intention which in turn keeps us ready for whatever’s ahead.

With that in mind, I made a list of things that I want to be intentional about so that I will always be ready to live this every last drop kind of life. I’d love to share a few with you.

I want to be:

  • Intentionally kind. Always ready to treat people with kindness, even when (especially when) it means swallowing my pride. 
  • Intentionally generous. Always ready to be a giver when it comes to my life, my time and my finances.
  • Intentionally loving. Always ready to love. Everyone. Even when they seem unlovable. Especially when they seem unlovable. 
  • Intentionally encouraging. Always ready to look for opportunities to refresh those around me.
  • Intentionally graceful. Always ready to practice patience.
  • Intentionally forgiving. Always ready overlook or let go of offenses.
  • Intentionally welcoming. Always ready to live life with wide open arms.

It’s a tall order, I know. I’m constantly falling short and I’m sure will take me the rest of my life this side of eternity, but as Paul says in Philippians 3:12 :

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been perfected, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

So, friends, I’ll ask you again: what do you intend to do with your life? Because it all starts with what you intend to do with today. Are you living today with your purpose in mind? How can you get every last drop out of today?