Your Dream. Your Anointing.

 
Dreams & Anointings.png
 

Dreams. Goals. Whether big or small, we all have them. We dream of financial freedom, breaking professional records, and traveling the globe to see some of the world’s many wonders. Some give their lives to fight for their dream of social justice, whilst some dream of marriage, children, and enough money to buy a house one day. We need our dreams to keep us motivated. We need our goals to give us direction. We need our dreams to focus us in times of adversity.

And whilst I am an advocate for dreaming, we also need to consider how our dreams can become our own worst enemy. We can get so obsessed with our dreams that we can easily miss out on the bigger picture. 

Unbeknownst to us, our dreams can become our identity. And when faced with letting our dreams go, it seems too hard to let go of all that we have invested and all that we have worked towards. In some ways, our Christian experience has not helped. Many of us have been taught that the spiritual life is instantaneous. Many of us learned to, “name it and claim it” and that we, “possess what we confess”. So we fixate on our dreams. We pray for our dreams. We ask God to give us all we need to make our dreams come true. We assume that the things we pray for, the goals we have set for our lives, are going to be given to us miraculously and quickly. And when our dreams don’t come to pass in the expected timing, we shut down and allow disappointment to drown us.

But there is weight given in the wait. There is wisdom, hope, and truth found as we embrace the process.

Look at Joseph. He may have been one of his dad’s favorite kids, but he was pretty much the runt of the family. In an age where the first-born son was given rank and honor, he was son number eleven, and far from the head of the pecking order. So who could blame him for lauding it over his brothers when he had a dream that he would rule over them? And while he had a dream to rule over his brothers, God had actually anointed him to lead, manage, and administrate a nation.

The road to this God-dream was tough. He was betrayed, sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, and pretty much left to die in prison. But this was not the end for Joseph. When his brothers journeyed to Egypt during the famine, when Joseph’s dream of ruling over his brothers had come to pass, Joseph said to them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Genesis 50:20 (NLT) 

Back home in Canaan, I don’t think it ever entered Joseph’s thinking that his dream actually meant that thousands of lives would be spared from famine. I don’t think it had occurred to Joseph that there was a bigger dream, a God-given anointing on his life. And like Joseph, our dreams are never as big as our God-given anointing. Just like Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:20, God is able, “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” It’s so hard to comprehend, but God can take a slave with a criminal record and turn him into second in command of a powerful nation.

But when a dream has been our motivation, our focus, and our inspiration, it can be too hard to it let go. We have made life-altering decisions for those dreams. For me, I gave up my home country and moved to the USA (a country I had not even visited) for my dream of being a TV and film producer. I removed myself from a career in the PR industry to start at the bottom in the TV industry. So when the time came for me to loosen my grip on my dreams, I fought back HARD. Producing was who I was. Producing was all I had sacrificed and worked for. My ability to shape a story, administrate a video shoot, and lead others was my identity.

I read in Chip and Joanna Gaines’ “The Magnolia Story” that Joanna knows what it is to let go of a dream. Before HGTV’s “Fixer Upper”, before creating a home design empire, before becoming one of America’s most famous interior designers, she owned a small home décor store called, “Magnolia”. She loved her little store and found a way to juggle motherhood and her dreams. But after had her first two children, she felt a nudge from God to shut her store to focus on her family. At first she resisted, but it wasn’t long until she relented and she loosened her grip on her company, “Magnolia”.  

Her story whispers hope to me. The once small store owner now owns one of the biggest home design brands in the USA. Their “Magnolia” empire attracts hundreds and thousands of visitors to Waco, TX and creates millions of dollars. Their show, “Fixer Upper” was one of the most successful on HGTV. And now they are launching their own channel! They’ve published multiple books, opened a big store, managed a successful real estate company, the list goes on and on because Magnolia is HUGE! 

Like Joseph, Joanna Gaines let go. She discovered that God’s dreams, God’s anointing for her was so much bigger than she could have asked or imagined. But the only way to get there was to loosen her grip and trust that as she obeyed God, everything would be OK. 

Sometimes we are holding on so tight that we are choking our destiny. Sometimes we have to get out of the way of ourselves. Sometimes we have to let go of our expectations, hard work, and dreams in order to move forward. My prayer today is that we follow Joseph and Joanna Gaines’ example. May we have the strength to lay down our dreams, to let go of the trajectory of our goals, and follow the One who wants to give us more than we ask or imagine.

Nothing Missing Nothing Lacking

It’s kinda cute when you watch those videos on YouTube of kids talking about what they want to be when they grow up. If you would have asked a five-year-old me, my profession of choice ranged from doctor to princess (married to Princes William or Harry of course). But our ambitions soon evolve from cute dreams to real-life goals. We figure out our strengths and weaknesses. I struggled with science in school and after confusing the word feces and fetus I finally realized my medical ambitions were over! We make career goals, which ebb and flow with our personal goals. We want to find our soul mate, whilst having financial stability and a fulfilling career. Maybe add a nice house, a good car, some little kiddos, and a strong community around us.

But many of us struggle to keep up with the timeline of our dreams. By the time we hit our late twenties and then into our thirties and forties, some are stuck in dead end jobs, some are longing for marriage, and others are dealing with bankruptcy. It’s so easy to feel like we are in lack and that our lives look nothing like what we had hoped or imagined.

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown writes about the concept of “scarcity”. She describes how we live in a culture of “never enough”. From the moment we wake up in the morning, we immediately tell ourselves that we did not get enough sleep, which soon slips into believing that we do not have enough time to get things done. “Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack. Everything from safety and love to money and resources feels restricted or lacking.” (Page 26)

Brene is right – scarcity is so embedded into our thinking that it is a discipline to consider that we are actually living in success and plenty.

2 Peter 1:3 says that God’s “divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” The Bible is not saying that we are in lack, but in fact God has given us everything we need for life (money, skills, resources, housing, food, toys for the kids etc.) and godliness (the spiritual stuff so we can actually have a relationship with God and grow as spiritual beings). Everything. Nothing missing. Nothing lacking. We have everything we need.

And please note, the Bible is not saying that God has given us all we need to keep up with the Jones’, or even our projected life-plan. Yes, the Jones’ seem to have their life on track with their dreams; they have the money, the career, and the seemingly well-behaved kids, but maybe it’s time to let go of the expectations we have put on ourselves? For the sake of our sanity, maybe we need to let go of the time-sensitive agenda and be content with our little houses, or our frugal budgets that mean we can’t always buy organic produce? Maybe it’s time to surrender the dreams of annual family vacations and be happy with taking day trips to the beach or the mountains, and packing homemade sandwiches?

And as we shift our perspective, may we see that a lack of money, relationships, or career doesn’t mean we have failed or that we are inferior to others. Sometimes the seasons of tight finances, tough work environments, or pressured family relationships are about us recalibrating our hearts. It’s not that we deny the lack, but we surrender the shortfalls and choose to believe that our story is not over. We have been given everything we need to get through today and the next season is not too far away

So today, my prayer for us all surrender scarcity and embrace contentment. Our current situations are not forever. As we press forward, our lives will look oh so different in one year, five years, and ten years. Let us not look at what others are doing, let us not compare. Let us forgo our own expectations of our lives and let us look at the good, cherish the gifts, and let go of the pressure to have more. Let’s be a people who engage our hearts in the present rather than self-medicate on fantasies of what the future could bring. 

May we see that God has given us all we need for life and godliness! But may we also have the grace to accept that it might not be enough to keep up with the Jones’, or even our own expectations.

A Longing Fulfilled

I talk to a lot of people who would describe themselves as being in a time of “waiting”. It can be a hard season, where you struggle to accept the longings of your heart and it’s too easy to fall into comparison and disappointment. Some people are waiting for their bodies to be healed, some are waiting to meet their spouse, some are waiting to be free from the label ‘infertile’, some are waiting for family drama to subside, while some are waiting for their finances to increase. The list is endless but the frustration in that time is real. 

This season is not unfamiliar territory for me. I didn’t get married until I was 32 (and I wanted to marry from the moment I was born!!). After that, my husband and I walked through two years of recurrent miscarriages. And on top of that, my husband’s career experienced many bumps in the road! No matter what I was “waiting” for, whether marriage, children, or financial stability, people would try and encourage me to not give up on God. I was confused, disheartened, and sometimes angry. And a common piece of advice I’d receive was, “God will give you what you want when you’re not looking for it”. These people were well meaning, but instead of feeling encouraged or empowered, I felt like their words punished me for having dreams and heart’s desires.  

I understand that for some, their heart’s desires become an obsession. But a big indicator of the health of dreams is how they are affecting our behavior. Are you stabbing coworkers in the back to climb the corporate ladder? Are you embezzling money to build your business? Are you abandoning your own beliefs in order to find or keep a date? If the answers to these questions are ‘no’, then you can be confident that you are not dominated by your heart’s desires. Your prayers, your wants are not destroying you – in fact they may have been given to you by God so that He can lead you in the path that He has for you! Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV). This is incredibly practical advice! He’s saying that as long as you are putting God first (His values, His love for you, His love for others), everything will be given to you. Heck, HE WANTS TO GIVE IT TO YOU! 

In the book of Proverbs, it is written, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12, NKJV). Hmmm…. That’s interesting. It doesn’t say, “Stop desiring, stop hoping, stop longing, because only then can you be given what you want.” No! The Bible actually acknowledges that delayed hope, delayed dreams make your heart suffer. BUT WHEN IT COMES, IT WILL BE A TREE OF LIFE. 

My husband loves trees. He always notices them wherever we go. Whilst I am glued to the GPS on my iPhone, he’s taking in the clouds in the sky and the trees that surround us. He often tells me that trees are a firm part of our landscape. Trees don’t just come and go like little plants, they grow over years and decades, and remain for centuries. And trees don’t need much care. They soak up the sun, absorb the rain, and do what they do during all four seasons. And they are a shelter. You can hide under a tree and find shade. I should probably pay more attention because my husband’s right - trees are awesome!

And we rarely consider how long it takes to grow a tree. They slowly grow roots into the earth and with equal speed, grow upwards. It takes decades for a tree to be established. And the answers to our prayers can often come at the same pace.  

But despite their tarried arrival, when our heart’s desires arrive, the things we have longed for, they will be a longstanding shelter and shade in our lives. They won’t be high-maintenance areas of our lives that constantly need tending. Our heart’s desires will be a place of rest, a place of peace. They will be a tree of life! 

So don’t fight your dreams. Stop feeling guilty that you want marriage, children, a career, family reconciliation, or financial gain. These are all good things. Just seek God first and let everything else be added, because when they come, they will be a tree of life.

Good Friday - It is not the end

Good Friday is an awkward day in the Christian calendar. Typically, Holidays are times of celebration, freedom, and joy. But not Good Friday. It’s a day to remember that disappointment, grief, and pain are all a part of faith. We remember that Jesus wept so hard he sweated blood. We remember that He begged in prayer, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” And yet He yielded His heart to God’s plan and He surrendered Himself over to the authorities. (Matt 26:39). We remember that the disciples were utterly confused as to what was going on. We remember that Peter cut off one of the soldiers ears, and promised to never deny Jesus only to deny Him hours later. We remember that this band of misfits who loved and followed Jesus watched him die a torturous criminal’s death.

Nothing made sense on Good Friday. Years of following Jesus seemed wasted. There was only death. Death of hopes and dreams. Death of a teacher, friend, and savior. Death.

But it wasn’t the end. Guys, we know that only three days later they would discover the tomb was empty. But a couple of millennium ago, they had no idea what the future would hold.

For many of us, we have experienced an anesthetized Christian faith where we have had little permission to feel pain, loss, or anger. There’s almost a guilt attached to negative emotions like we are failing at the Christian faith if we are not joyful at all times. 

But remember Good Friday. Remember the day when the followers of Jesus only knew sorrow and heartache. Remember no matter how far they ran, doubted, or hid, Jesus came through for them. Remember that they didn't have to "get it right", or even understand what was going on, because resurrection was only three days away.

No. Good Friday was not the end. 

The Best Wine

"I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (John 15:5)

You don’t have to be a horticultural expert to know that a branch cut from the vine will die. The vine gives life to the branches enabling them to grow.

As Christians, we are happy to remain connected to our Vine, God, when life is going well. We have the job we want, the spouse we love, and the finances we desire. We praise Him. We go to church with smiles on our faces and thankfulness in our hearts.

But when we are in pain, when we are disappointed or depressed, we tend to back away from God. We try to hide or suppress our hurt from Him as if we are only acceptable when life is great. We try to fake it because we tell ourselves that we need the happy feelings to succeed at the Christian life. And, somehow, without the happy feels, we are failing. So we lose connection.

But you don’t have to be OK. You don’t have to mask your true self. You don’t have to bury pain in order to be acceptable. Honestly – God wants all of you. Good. Bad. High. Low. Quiet. Loud. He wants it all. Just remain in Him. Keep connected to Him. Pray. Cry. Yell. Just stay connected.

In the world of Sommeliers, it is commonly known that wine made from vines that have suffered make the best wine. Through storms and droughts the roots have gone deep into the ground and the grapes produced give a rich, creative, flavor-filled wine. These vines and branches have been tried and tested, and refused to die. And the fruit they produce are distinctive and are very much sought after. These are the wines that are some of the rarest and most expensive you can find.

As we suffer, don’t shut down our hearts. The Vine Himself is suffering with us. He is digging deep wells in the spirit to sustain and nourish us. He is making us exceptional. And the fruit we produce together is going to be rich, outstanding, and priceless.

Remain in Him and you will bear much fruit. And not just OK fruit, but the best, most excellent fruit.

Just remain.

 

I believe in miracles - my first blog

In the words of the 70’s pop sensation, Hot Chocolate, I believe in miracles. The Bible is filled with amazing supernatural stories that stirs my heart to see how big and loving God is. He parted seas, raised the dead, and (my personal favorite) turned water into wine. Knowing that my God has done this and so much more, builds my faith. If He did these things in the past, He will do them again today!

Recently I realized that I was not always walking in faith. I had become what I now call, a spiritual smart a*se. I was living my life believing that as a Christian, God would always come and save me, answer my prayers and do what I asked. And I mean, why not? I pray. I serve others. I worship Him. I try my best to live my life as the Bible shows us to live. Don’t judge. Show mercy. Take care of the lonely and the uncared for. I give money to the church. I do my part, so God will do His.

Now don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t trying to manipulate God. I just thought this was the Christian life. Do what He says and life will be ‘awesome’ or ‘amazing’.

But for the last 12 months, my doctrine has been tested. Last year was tough. Josh and I lost two babies in the first trimester of pregnancy. The first we lost at 9 weeks, which resulted in surgery. And the second miscarriage happened only the next month. It was a difficult time in our lives, but we got through it together.

We both want to start our family, so every month we hoped to conceive. And on July 1st, I peed on a stick and found out we were expecting!

I cut out wine. I started to tell a few of our closest friends. I began my wish-list at Babies R Us. I was choosing the color I wanted Josh to paint the nursery. I was nervous, but I chose to trust a miracle working God and everything would be OK.

We saw the little peanut at 5 weeks. All was well. For the next few weeks I was nauseous, exhausted and totally off all meat. These were all good signs! This baby was growing!!!

But at an 8 week ultrasound, the little one only measured 6 weeks and her heartbeat was weak. My heart sank. “Could this be really happening again??” I thought. But like a good English girl, I kept calm and I carried on.

For the next week, sweet friends would call me or text me trying to encourage me not to give up. Someone I worked with said, “You are in the place where God can give you a miracle”. For a moment, my heart leapt. “Yes!!” I thought. “God is a miracle working God. He can give life to this little one!” So I prayed at many different decibels over my belly. I drank lots of water and dandelion tea to help clean my blood. I prayed more. I worshiped. I kept the faith….

But to no avail. The following week there was no heartbeat. There had been no ‘miracle’ to speak of. No seeming intervention of God. And this miscarriage did not end quickly. I waited 5 weeks to pass the baby, and in the end I had surgery to remove all the tissue. This was far from a miracle. This was a nightmare.

As I have begun to heal, my eyes have been opened. I have experienced love and support in ways I could not have imagined. Sometimes the miracle is not the miracle we expect. The miracle is found when your seamstress won’t charge you for a dress fitting, because she says that no woman should have to pay for a fitting because she lost a baby. The miracle is found when a friend sits with you for 8 hours so you are not alone as you prepare for surgery. The miracle is found when the heavily pregnant friend comes with her active toddler, to your house, just to pray with you and give you dinner. The miracle is found when the busy mum and grandma from church stops everything so they can be there when you wake up after surgery.

These are my miracles. And I really do believe in miracles.