The Latest from our Life
What has happened, what we are seeing, and what God has done.
Everyone come meet his face with a thankful heart. Don’t hold back your praises; make him great by your shouts of joy! Psalm 95:2 (TPT)
I know it is Thanksgiving and there are lots of posts and things about gratitude and thanks, but I don’t think it’s possible to have too much gratitude so I want to share on the impact of gratitude this month. It has been something that has been on my heart the last several weeks as I have been reading through Psalms.
I have been reading through the New Testament so reading Psalms after reading what those guys went through then seeing what they’re saying in Psalms about and while being in the circumstances they were in, has been eye-opening to me. I know that some of the Psalms just seem like a lot of complaining or just wanting certain people to get justice or die, but really when you read it through the lens of the people writing it and what they’ve been through and their view on life, it’s very challenging to us today. I mean really, David was not even initially brought to be looked at as a potential candidate to be king when Samuel came to his house and he was the youngest one in his household, he was then mocked about being able to defeat Goliath, Saul attempted to kill him multiple times, his son (from Uriah) died, and the story goes on and on. So in the “natural”, David has every reason to not be one of gratitude and constant praise – we would excuse him. But, he CHOSE to be gracious in all things anyway. And this is the first thing I want to speak on.
1) Gratitude is a CHOICE.
No matter what circumstances you are in, how they affect you and how you view them are your choice. Bill Johnson says, “When difficult things happen, don’t respond according to the circumstances, respond according to the nature of God.”
So why choose to complain and be grumpy to only have it result in multiplication of others joining you and making life be about complaining, pointing fingers, jealousy, and only asking God for things or coming to him only when you need something. Which brings me to point 2…
2) Spend some time in gratitude and praise in His presence.
Think about a child that is fed, clothed, given good gifts, loved, cherished, and is so so special to his parents, but every time he talks to them he only asks for more things or goes to them when he is needing something from them, not out of love or relationship? I think this is what we (myself being included) do sometimes with the Lord. We don’t tell him thank you for all He does, not to mention who He is and His character, and His gift of the Holy Spirit that we can live with Him inside of us every single day – living, guiding, and being there for, with, and in us! It doesn’t matter what circumstance you find yourself, I challenge you to find at least 10 things you’re grateful for and just sit with the Father and pour out your praises to Him, because He is so worthy!
3) Gratitude is contagious!
When you are a person of gratitude, especially in difficult circumstances and even more, all the time, people may look at you weird or think something is wrong with you, or others may think your life is just peachy (for non-Texans, that means it’s great). But it stirs something inside of them and they are challenged, and even those people in the grocery store or restaurant that you can’t ever seem to even get a smile out of, will eventually smile (and if they don’t, a seed is still being planted inside of them every time you choose to show them unusual kindness and gratitude anyway). Your gratitude and joy are contagious – so don’t keep it in, share it with others and watch it change their lives and the ones they encounter after you…and the gratitude cycle continues!
4) Without gratitude’s relationship to grace, we cannot understand true gratitude.
Through the Greek translation (charis and eucharistian) of 2 Corinthians 4:15, it can be translated as, “It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase gratitude to the glory of God.” Gratitude and thanks have very different definitions – gratitude is a genuine feeling, not just an act of saying thanks. It is from the heart and from an act of giving. Gratitude is a response to grace and Romans 5:17 says we can “receive the abundance of grace…” so we have no reason to not be people overflowing with gratitude.
So I challenge you this week to read Psalms (even just 5 or 10 chapters a day) and practice some gratitude in your life every day this week. We have so much to be grateful for, so let’s not keep it inside of us or choose to be people that don’t acknowledge it.
For the Lord’s greatness is beyond description and he deserves all the *praise that comes to him. He is our King-God and it’s right to be in holy awe of him. Psalm 96:4 (TPT)
This past weekend, I had the honor to be in the UK at !Audacious Church for a women’s conference, Luminous. The first evening Pastor Sophia Barrett shared on being part of the collective verse individualism, the myths about you, personally, having to be the whole package, and seeing others through God’s lenses instead of as a threat.
“So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” (Romans 12:6, MSG)
She then shared her isolation story and her struggles and as the conference progressed, we heard many leaders’ isolation stories and it was so freeing.
When you think about sharing your isolation story and being vulnerable with someone, even your spouse or best friend, shame, thoughts of never being good enough, frustration, increased heart rate, flushing of the skin, upset stomach, and fear start to take over usually causing us to push it down and hold it in – not letting others see what’s really going on inside of us. But that is exactly what the enemy wants you to do – to stay isolated, to stay living in fear and having feelings of never enough, not seeing yourself as God sees you, and definitely not to share with someone and they be encouraged and freed from something in their own lives through what God is doing in your life. So what’s the solution – BE VULNERABLE, SHARE YOUR ISOLATION STORY! You don’t need to share it on podiums or with every acquaintance you have – just one friend. Might they reject you or see you differently? Possibly, BUT possibly not. We are built to do life together – your weaknesses are their strengths, your strengths are their weaknesses. One leader at the conference was saying, “I often pray to God about situations in my life and the answer, is actually the women right next to me.” When you don’t see others, specifically women, as a threat, you don’t compare, you don’t compete, and you don’t tear others down. You support each other, you lift each other up, your words are full of life and not death, and you live free! “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). None of us are running in the same lane, we each have our lane – so stay in your lane, but run together!
So the first evening, I went forward as the Holy Spirit showed me some chains of isolation that I had (that I thought I had already dealt with and that hadn’t returned). It was feelings of isolation in living in Poland – of feeling alone, pointed at as a foreigner, immense pressure and frustration with the language and trying to immerse myself in their culture, feeling like I dressed differently, and just feeling like I could never be accepted here (by others or by myself). But the Lord spoke to me these words: “Remember My promises! Remember me telling you 3 years ago that Kraków would be your home. And in a home, you are accepted. You are at home. You are supposed to be there, you don’t try to fit in when you are at home, you’re just home. You belong there. Kraków needs you, I NEED YOU THERE. And you are not alone, look around – it’s my Kingdom, you fit right in, it’s family, you’re surrounded with others. Look at the situation and yourself through My eyes, not in the natural.” I later shared this with Magda and Marta, from KDM, as we attended the conference together and in just sharing my story, there was freedom – chains were broken and I felt lighter that I wasn’t carrying this baggage around trying to look like I had things together, and especially to women that I had often compared myself with.
This is freedom – this is natural in the Kingdom! God did not create us to live alone, to live isolated, and trying to fix everything ourselves yet pretend to others that things are okay. So go to a friend this week, share your isolation story and let the Holy Spirit replace the lies with truth, fill you with love and not fear, experience being a victor and not the victim, and lift others to their miracles through sharing what God is doing inside of you (the good, the bad, and the ugly)!
“If you have a relationship with perfect God, you can have a relationship with imperfect people – they aren’t a threat.” ~Hannah Adkins (!Audacious Church)
Thinking about your thoughts? Choosing to stop and rest? Evaluating your schedule and habits? Stopping to take some deep breaths?
I would say these words sound foreign or weird/new-age to some, but I feel are so important to address. First, I am so thankful for a husband that is not afraid to ask me questions, encourage me to ask myself questions, and one that cares so much about my soul. If you don’t have someone that will ask you the hard questions, challenge you to think about your thoughts, and give you honest evaluations, then find someone. Because life is much better when you’re on a journey with someone than when you are all alone.
So why am I talking about this? Because I have seen so much in myself and all around me in different countries that it is an issue. And I believe it directly impacts how we see ourselves therefore how we view God and if we are living our lives full of faith verses fear. So many people (myself included) are always TIRED. You know the question and what seems the automatic answer of “How are you?….wait for it…tired and/or busy.” There seems to never be enough hours in a day to get things done, not enough weeks or even days in a year for holidays, too many thoughts at night to sleep well, and the list goes on and on. But I want to challenge you with something my wise husband reminds me of: who is in charge of your schedule and if you think there are not enough hours in a day to check-off what you want to get done, maybe your list and expectations are not accurate and need adjusting? YOU choose your schedule, YOU control your day.
This can start with simple, small changes. Like for me, it’s choosing to not clean the house as often as I used to and instead choose to stop and read a book for 15 minutes that day or maybe while in the bus on my way to work, to not play music, not study Polish, not answer e-mails or texts, and choose to just be still to listen to God, absorb the beauty of creation around me, or just take some deep breaths! And I have learned that constantly going all the time doesn’t refuel me, but choosing to slow down, energizes me and I can do the things I want to do with more clarity, more joy, and more efficiently.
Do you think about your thoughts? I didn’t think about this so much until I read Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book The Perfect You with a friend and realized the importance of thinking about your thoughts. Yes, I have heard and read the numerous Bible verses like Romans 12:2 or Philippians 4:8 that give us the truth about the importance of our thoughts, taking our thoughts captive AKA thinking about your thoughts, and how changes and discerning God’s will starts with renewing our mind but when I started doing this, I experienced the impact it had on my identity, having faith verse fear in any situation, having joy throughout the day, and being connected to what stirs God’s heart and what the Holy Spirit is doing around me – it points me to Him and actually keeps me focused on Him and His strength, His grace, His power, His control, and His love, not on MY lists, my issues, my frustrations, my sadness, or my exhaustion.
I was reading earlier in 1 Samuel 4 how when the Israelites were defeated the first time by the Philistines, they decided to take the ark of the covenant of the Lord into the battlefield to try to defeat the Philistines, but it didn’t work. 30,000 soldiers died and the ark of God was captured by the Philistines. Why? Because they treated the ark of God as a thing, not a person. The ark of God was never about being an object, it was about the presence and power of God. Just as you and I are not meant to just be labeled as “Christians”, or people that have a bumper sticker, wear a necklace, or hang crosses in our homes (not that I’m against those or think they are bad necessarily), but it is more than that. Life is not about just dying to eventually get to heaven one day, it’s about bringing heaven to earth! And heaven is not people running around exhausted all the time 🙂 We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us; He is a person, not a thing. Cultivating a relationship with Him is so beautiful and when we INTENTIONALLY CHOOSE to press into and desire God’s Presence (meeting face to face), our days won’t be the same, our thoughts won’t be the same, our actions won’t be the same, which in turn makes the world around us not the same. When we take our thoughts captive and replace our thoughts with His thoughts, everything changes. Bill Johnson frequently says “I can’t afford to have thoughts in my head about me, that God doesn’t have in His.”
So I leave you with a challenge that I am challenging myself to as well: CHOOSE to stop for 3 minutes, talk with the Lord about what His thoughts are and see if your thoughts align with His thoughts. Fill your mind with truth from His living Word and throughout the day if you start to feel anxious, fearful, frustrated, etc., CHOOSE to immediately stop and reset.
Let’s let others see what God sees in us, them, and the world we live in.
Let’s be people that live FROM a place of rest, not living TO a place of rest.
For those who live according to the flesh set their MINDS on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their MINDS on the things of the SPIRIT. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is LIFE and PEACE.” Romans 8:5-6
Testing sounds bad until you realize it’s a privilege – God’s got an agenda and you’re involved in His great plans…Testing is reserved for those with the greatest destinies.”
About 9 months ago, I started listening to a podcast, “Forty”, by Toby Slough at Cross Timbers Church. It was an extensive series (over 20 weeks) on the book of Exodus. I highly recommend it, no matter what season of life you’re walking through, but in the last 3 months I decided to read through the Old Testament, so I read through Exodus again. I have read books, listened to other podcasts, attended a recent conference, and this concept of embracing the wilderness and walking THROUGH the wilderness has been so evident so I want to share my journey and what God has been teaching me.
We have now lived in Kraków for over 6 months and in many ways, I feel like I have been walking through the wilderness. Almost everything I do, say, and hear is different than what I used to do, say, and hear and some days have just been plain out hard. But each day, I have a choice: Am I going to stay in the wilderness or walk THROUGH the wilderness? And what will be my outlook: Will I feed faith or fear today? Am I expecting the worse or giving hope a chance? Will I just grudge on, complaining along the way, just surviving, and just waiting to finally get to the other side so things are better and maybe there is “peace,” or will I live through the unexpected with joy, peace, and hope standing firm in who God is, not focusing on just what is going on around me, but knowing that He is good and wants to use this season to develop who I am for what He’s calling me to on the other side?
I love that God is not stagnant. I am learning that we never arrive and there is always more to experience because He wants to continue to use us to bring heaven to earth, but that only requires more trust in the Father. He is a God of next. He walks through the wilderness with us, never leaving us. And as I look back, when I’ve walked through the wilderness, I have grown closer to Him and He always takes me to another level with Him and within myself that only prepares me for what He is calling me to next. So why do we still reject the idea of walking through the wilderness?
In Exodus, the Israelites just wanted to get to the Promised Land and could have been there in a 2 weeks journey (Exodus 13:17), but God “did not lead them by way of the land.” What was delay, was God’s protection. In the wilderness, God is in control. He is not in a hurry – His promises don’t have expiration dates. He has your best interest in mind. Toby said, “God is not nearly concerned with where you are (circumstances). He is far more concerned with who you are becoming.” The Israelites needed to go through the wilderness to renew their minds regarding their slave mentality as well as trust God’s character and promises before they were ready to enter the Promised Land. And as the story continues, we see the Israelites progress in their thinking and dependence on His presence in Exodus 33 and again in Numbers 9 in that they refuse to go without His presence. Even when an angel was offered by God to be sent, they still said no, we will not go without you. And when the cloud remained for “two days, or a month, or a longer time…the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out.” Which results in asking the question that Eric Johnson inquired: “Am I just chasing His presence or His promises?” Recently, I find myself wrapped up in the doing, even if good things, and in asking God what He can do which is good, but my focus should be on living in who He is. “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). What? They’re going to give up getting to the Promised Land, even with an angel? Presence over promises!
The next thing I’ve really been challenged with is embracing this time and the unexpected. It seems we constantly are chasing around the idea that “when life calms down, or after this happens then I will have time to rest, or if only nothing out of the ordinary happens today, etc…” However, life is unexpected and I have yet to really reach a time when that “perfect day or time in life” happens (“Beloved friends, if life gets extremely difficult, with many tests, don’t be bewildered as though something strange were overwhelming you” 1 Peter 4:12). Christine Caine states, “We need to realize that He never expected us to live boring and predictable lives, even though we work hard to create regular routines.” So then the question becomes, “How do I function in the unexpected, living life full of joy and peace instead of frustration and stress?” I think the answer is focusing on His presence and not the circumstances; it’s not about denying reality, just its power to control me. When I look at people like Jack Taylor that seem so steady even during wilderness times, I see people that confidently trust in who God is, therefore, not much seems to ruffle their feathers (John 16:33). They don’t become easily frustrated, offended, or caught off guard by daily unexpected events, but instead are so aware of His presence, resting in His character and promises, and asking themselves, “ok Father, what are you trying to show me in this? What are you doing in this?” The focus becomes on Him and what He is doing and saying. He is walking with us through it and knows what’s on the other side; the unexpected is not a surprise to Him (“…You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way…” Psalm 23:4). So learning how to not get frustrated when we can’t see ahead, or trying to run ahead when we are meant to walk hand in hand with the Father is vital. It all starts with a continual awareness of His presence and living life from His Kingdom perspective instead of what we can only see in the natural.
Lastly, I have learned that we all go through wilderness times and “weakness is not sin.” If you look through the Old and New Testament, it’s full of times in the wilderness – even for Jesus. I think we often view times of hardship as negative, but when you look back and even think about creation, nothing grows without disruption and interruption—without the unexpected. And if we focus on God and what HE can do more than the unexpected circumstances, like Moses did so many times in Exodus, then what God sees and thinks will reign in our hearts and minds and the fruit of the Spirit will be our natural response. The wilderness is an opportunity to let go of our desire to control, and embrace more of God (“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” Isaiah 43:19). These are the times to press into His presence, give up our pride of control and independence, and times for honest conversations with the Father about what is going on in our own hearts. “God wants us to learn how to accept every unexpected event as an invitation to trust Jesus and his Word, to expect His goodness all the way through. A life lived like that is one of the most powerful forces on the planet—because there’s a momentum of courage and faith that propels us into new places” (Christine Caine, Unexpected). “So now we must cling tightly to the hope that lives within us, knowing that God always keeps his promises!” (Hebrews 10:23)
Every time God unsettles you it’s to bring you to a place of greater purpose.”
“I had been operating as an orphan rather than a son. I was doing things so I could have something, and hoping to have something so I could become something.”
These words in Leif Hetland’s book, Called to Reign, have been penetrating my heart and thoughts and feel like a punch in the stomach honestly. It is frustrating. I have been down this road many times, but the last two weeks I have really felt identity and performance issues resurface. Questioning my effectiveness here, not having quantitative results in what I am doing, feeling like I’m failing at times, feeling overwhelmed and defeated with learning the language, trying to figure out my place here, feeling guilty for spending time learning the language and not doing “ministry”, and being asked and told by some that I should be using my degree that I spent years dreaming about and thousands of dollars investing into.
As a kid I remember wearing things that didn’t match, doing things that others didn’t like but always saying, “I don’t care what people think about me.” I kept this mantra and wore it proudly on the outside through my high school and college years, but I have recently discovered that I don’t think that’s really how I felt on the inside. Since living in Krakow, I have felt the need for other’s approval more than ever before. And guess what? I don’t measure up to everyone and it doesn’t fulfill my longings of identity….BECAUSE IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO. My identity cannot come from what others think of me. I heard someone say: Jesus imparts identity in you based on what He has done. You do it based on what you’ve done.
I like to do things well…really well. I don’t like to not meet people’s expectations. I want to please others. I want them to like me…just typing that and letting others see this feels so vulnerable, yet freeing, yet full of fear and daunting. This all sounds great, but how can I not let my performance control me? Because it does…it’s what my thoughts and actions revolve around. But thanks to time with the Lord and a dear friend, here is what I am learning right now to fight this battle:
1) It will take some time and some grace
It will take some time and some grace for you to let Him reveal who He says you are now, in this place that He has taken you.
Some time Brandi…so this means don’t be frustrated if it’s not all fixed tomorrow when you wake up and again next week when the enemy starts questioning you with lies about your identity.
And grace for YOU. God gives us grace that is new every morning, so give yourself grace. It’s a complete transformation of thinking – it’s okay, expect some disappointment.
And who is God saying you are now? Right now? God is not boring, He is always doing a new thing and it’s not a secret He is keeping from you. Are we aware of it and asking Him, “what is it YOU are doing Lord?”
2) Press into His pleasure
Press into His pleasure for you alone! Not what you do or can accomplish but just because you are His absolute delight!
“We are the people of his pleasure (Psalm 100:3).” You please the Father. Put your name in this, make it personal!! _____, you please God. “For the source of your pleasure is not in my performance”, but because I am His daughter/son and His absolute delight! (Psalm 51:16)
3) There is always a battle for new things
This battle right here is why most people say no to trying new things and moving to new places. They don’t want to have to question all over again who they are and what is their purpose. It is a worthy battle!
Are we not stepping into things because we fear change? Fear of not being approved by others? Fear of what God might call us to do? Fear of “failing” (to the world’s standards)? Just wanting to live a “comfortable and easy life?” Not wanting to be faced with the reality of our own hearts?
Let’s look at Jesus, the enemy wanted him to question his identity, “f you are the son of God then…” Eve: “Did God actually say…” And the list continues with this scheme of the enemy trying to get us to question our identity. Why? Because he knows when you truly discover who you are in Him and live FROM that truth, God will use you in a big way to bring His Kingdom to earth. You are not failing when the enemy starts trying to get you to question what you are doing and who you are again. I am learning right now that I am vulnerable (everything is new, it’s like I’m living in the wilderness) and the enemy knows that he fails when I start living out my true identity in Christ.
4) You’re not just “doing stuff”
You’re not just “doing stuff”, you have influence and because of the Holy Spirit living in you, you are bringing the Kingdom to every place you step foot into.
This is head knowledge right now for me, but I am getting it into my heart. Josiah was encouraging me last week and asked, “maybe the Lord isn’t into all that you’re doing right now, but trying to get you to see what He is doing inside of you?” A very wise missions pastor that I know (and live with) says and has seen: it is vital the first year to have time to adapt to culture to have long-term success. And we carry the Kingdom so just our presence changes the atmosphere bringing joy, gratitude, peace, love, kindness, etc. and though I feel I don’t see the fruit right now, the roots are being established and growing. So whether you are a teacher, a doctor, a stay at home mom, a student, a business man or woman, a missionary, or retired, YOU HAVE INFLUENCE and you are a conduit of the Kingdom! Ian Green told me this past weekend: “Europe is a better continent because you moved here.” I told Josiah this in the car on the ride home from having dinner with them and just started crying…it wasn’t just words from Ian, that’s how God sees me. He is happy I moved here, He is pleased I moved here, and He is pleased in just my ‘being.’
You have influence and you are a conduit of the Kingdom!
So if you’re one that the enemy has tried or probably continues to try to trap you in your doing and performance, defeat him. Declare who God says you are, receive your identity, enter into His intimacy, be in relationship not one way communication, have friends that are speaking truth over you, receive and give yourself grace, dive into something new without having the how answered, ask the Lord what He sees in you right now, and walk in confidence that every place you step is changed (not because of your doing), but because He lives inside of you and that place will never be the same because His Kingdom invaded hearts!
Who is God and Who am I?
These two questions seem so simple, but have been running through my mind for several months now and I have learned that how you answer these questions (not in your head, but in your heart) change everything.
I recently attended the Audacious Conference in the UK and what several pastors spoke about and what has been stirring inside of me for months now was summed up at this conference. So much so that the exact chapter of a book I read on the flight over, a podcast I’ve been listening to on the study of Exodus, the first message at the conference by Sophia Barrett, and two separate text messages of encouragement from friends back in the U.S. while at the conference about what they had heard from the Lord all revolved around these two questions so I think it is pretty clear what the Lord is trying to get through to me right now 🙂
what comes to mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you
How you answer the second question is dependent on your first answer, but what comes to mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you. I have really learned over the past several months through more transitions than I can count on my hands and feet, is that if I truly don’t know and/or believe that God is who He says He is then I don’t know who I am therefore how I live my life daily from “finding my purpose” to how I feel about myself, to fears and worries, to choices I make, to how I act and react towards others, to dreams is all seen through the wrong pair of lenses. But when we see and experience who God is, then we will discover who we are. It is only out of His identity that we can see our own identity and walk in that identity. And I grew up in church all of my life so could tell you in words who God is and that He is good, and has good things for us, and loves us, and sent His son on the cross so we could have eternal life and so on, but to truly know down deep and have experienced His goodness, His heart towards me as a Father, His faithfulness to every promise and what His promises are, to how great His love for me and this world is, to the abundance and authority He has called us to walk in on this earth not just wishing for the day we get to heaven changes everything!
Glyn Barrett said at the conference: “The moment you realize who you are, you live free. It’s not who you are that holds you back; it’s who you think you’re not.” I have lived in the jealousy, comparison, not good enough mindset for years and especially when it comes to “spiritual things.” But at this conference, God spoke down deep to my heart: “ I am confident in you…you have to be confident in what I want to do through you.” When I began to look again at who God is and to focus on Him and declaring for Him to have His way, He began to download identity, gifts and dreams into me faster than I could write them down and tears began to flow because these weren’t gifts I thought I had and honestly, some were fears I had been living with for years or things I didn’t want to step into. But when my focus is on Him and who He is, the lens I began to look through, the possibilities I see, and the way I began to see things changed my reality because my perception was different. But it all starts and ends with the two questions…”WHO IS GOD AND WHO AM I?”
Language MattersThis was weeks ago, and honestly, if I would have had the very limited grasp of language I have now, I probably could have figured out at gas station #1 that I needed to buy a bottle first to exchange. But since my language and their language was not the same, it lead to a complete breakdown and I could not become a part of their system. Is our language different? When people engage with us, do people look at us with a little bit of bewilderment at how we speak?. When we speak, is there a bit of Jesus coming out of us?
“He has so much hope, so much joy”. “He dreams impossible, ridiculous dreams. But seems to have the faith that they will happen.” “He has such confidence, such peace. It doesn’t make sense.”****I’d like to give a full disclaimer that I am not talking about the Christianese we can easily slip into which no one has a clue what you are talking about. When we speak and think with a Kingdom mindset, people are attracted to it. When we speak Christianese, people are just confused. In Kraków, I hope and am working at grasping the Polish language one day. In reality, I know that I probably will always be understood as a foreigner because my accent will give me away. As followers of Jesus, we better always have a Kingdom accent.
The System is DifferentMost of the time in the U.S., at least in my experience, anywhere there were propane bottles, I could exchange them or flat out buy them. This system did not make sense (and doesn’t make sense to Polish people either). It honestly still does not make sense because in my head, three companies lost my business that fateful drive home that afternoon. But the system is different and something I was not able to understand. Do we find the world’s system odd? Shouldn’t we be saying, “It would make more sense if…” Do we allow ourselves to let the systems of the world become normal for us?
It Takes Energy to Live as a ForeignerThere have been days that Brandi and I have felt like our brains are scrambled eggs (this usually occurred after 3.5 hours of Polish lessons Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in September). Getting into the propane game was… tiring. As we make this place our home, we understand that some days, it’s just going to be exhausting doing basic, normal tasks because as a foreigner, we just don’t know. Brandi does a great job exploring this more. Jesus was always with people during His ministry. It was an onslaught of Kingdom culture and a model of a new way of living on the old system. But you can see in Scripture, Jesus gets tired. You can see this in two ways. First, He is asleep in the boat in the middle of the storms. Why? Yes, He walked in peace and was confident in the Father, but also, He was tired. Secondly, you often see Jesus withdrawing to be alone with the Father. And we have no record of Jesus from age twelve to thirty. What was He doing? I think He was discovering the Kingdom He was about to explode on the earth. And He withdrew to pray… I believe Jesus was often times perplexed at why people didn’t get it yet. It was draining. “How long am I to be with you…”, “He looked out at the crowds with compassion, for they were like sheep without a shepherd”, “O you of little faith…”, etc., etc., etc. We have the privilege of thinking differently, of being from a different system, and intentionally living as foreigners in this world. The joys we have when we encounter people that speak our language, the challenges we have in understanding the system people live in, and the opportunity to pour our lives out to energetically change people. For we are foreigners in this world… Let us act as so!
My divinely loved friends, since you are resident aliens and foreigners in this world… 1 Peter 2:11 (TPT)
We have been living in Krakow for 6 weeks and it has been quite the adventure. I look around and there are trees (and a forest!), a castle (I get to see almost everyday going to school or work), this thing called rain that happens frequently, cooler temperatures, beautiful old buildings, and a huge river…so that’s been amazing and obviously I’m not in Abilene anymore. It’s been so good and I frequently stop, look around and think to myself “I live here…I really live here, this is home?!?” However, the last week or so has not been easy if I’m honest…I’ve cried several times and have been frustrated trying to figure out what’s going on. I was processing my emotions with Josiah a few nights ago as I have just felt this sadness recently that I was having difficulty pinpointing. I have felt out of place here, like I don’t belong. I can’t speak the language to communicate with people on the buses or trams, some people in the office at KDM, some of the baristas working at Spotkawie or the guests, the cashiers at the grocery store, etc. I can’t read simple messages on a door of a business that tells you to go to the next door to enter, important messages on the gate in your neighborhood, or what items are in the grocery store. Living here just feels exhausting (at least 80% of my daily life feels like it is not like it used to be). I know it’s unrealistic to think we would be fluent in Polish after only 4 weeks of intensive language school, and I didn’t have that expectation on myself, but I want to have the feeling of being “at home” here. After all, God told me He wanted us to call this place “home.”
In discussing this with Josiah, he used this phrase above in 1 Peter 2:11 with me to discuss how believers in the Bible were called aliens in a foreign land, because they were called to live different lives than those around them…to think differently, to act differently, etc. That’s it! That’s what I’ve been feeling…like an alien in a foreign world. I have felt attacked by the enemy in this, but also discovered I am putting unnecessary pressure on myself to “fit in” and trying to do things “perfectly” to be accepted here, and not giving myself really any grace of being a foreigner in this land. I have not been relying on God to help me with this transition; I have been trying to strive, figure out everything, and conquer the language (that is estimated to take 1100 hours to achieve language proficiency, not 30 hours :D). But was gently and sweetly reminded by the Lord through I Hear His Whisper – TPT that “When I give you a task, I GIVE YOU the grace to accomplish it. I will never send you to fail or give you a mission only to make you fall. I will strengthen you in the quiet place and bring My transcendent presence to calm your soul.” I don’t have to or need to do this alone or expect myself to be “perfect” transitioning living in a completely new country…I need to give myself grace, accept His grace…remind myself that I am not failing and God sent me here, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be…but trying to do this all on my own is exhausting because I wasn’t made to do it alone. So the past couple of days, I have made declarations over myself of who I am and the promises God has spoken over me about being here and what He wants to do in this place, but also learning to embrace the process. And take my Josiah’s wise advice of just laughing through the process and giving myself grace, because God’s goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life…His authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of His love takes away my fear. And I’ll never be lonely, for He is near. (Psalm 23:4,6 TPT).
1 Peter 2 continues stating “Live honorable lives as you mix with unbelievers (vs 12).” This also spoke to me to not try to avoid speaking to others, attempting my broken Polish with locals, avoiding going to new places in fear of looking dumb for not understanding “simple” things, and just being discouraged letting the enemy have this battle. No! God can and is still using me to show His love to those around me in this city, even during this transition. And accepting that I am going to be different because the Holy Spirit lives in me! `So I leave you with this encouragement…
“Don’t give up, don’t be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting – for he will never disappoint you!” Psalm 27:14
I close my eyes and I can see A world that’s waiting up for me That I call my own Through the dark, through the door Through where no one’s been before But it feels like home… Cause every night I lie in bed The brightest colors fill my head A million dreams are keeping me awake -A Million DreamsThese are the lyrics in a movie, “The Greatest Showman”, and as I watched this movie in English then Polish on my flight from Dallas to Frankfurt yesterday, tears were welling up. When I heard the Lord tell me Krakow would be our home over 2 years ago, I have not stopped thinking about it since. From adoption to public speaking, the Lord has given me dreams (and I hardly recall dreams at night) that have challenged me, sent me running deeper into the heart of the Father, and have given me such hope for what’s to come. However, it has not been all bright colors and happiness to get here. Selling everything we owned and worked so hard for, leaving a dream home and neighborhood, saying goodbye and not knowing the next time we will see a community that we loved, quitting wonderful jobs and ones that were more than we expected at this time in our life, and saying see you later and giving one last hug and waving goodbye to so many family members has been really hard and I think I’ve shed enough tears the last 3 months to fill an ocean (but as my mother-in-law reminded me, God has seen and held each one). But how could I not act on these dreams that He has given me that keep me awake at night and longing for this place He wants me to call home? So many unknowns that we are stepping into and the enemy constantly trying to fill us with fear and doubt but He is faithful and just reminds me, “take a step, I’m with you and I’m before you.”
take a step, I’m with you and I’m before you.God simply asked Moses to raise his stick, Peter to just take a step on the water, and the disciples just to see how many loaves of bread and fish they had. So many stories in the Bible demonstrate not knowing the end, not knowing the how when or where but of someone just taking one step, even if it’s small, trusting that the Father really is who He says He is and Him always coming through and being glorified. Relocating your life and family across the ocean is not something everyone is called to do, but I do believe every day is an opportunity to intentionally carry God’s presence in every room we walk into, plant or water a seed in someone else’s life, and take steps of discomfort “to become a beacon of life for the nations and release salvation to the ends of the earth!” (Acts 13:47, TPT). God hasn’t called us to be stagnant in any season of our life, He calls us to new seasons that require greater revelations, truth, trust, and peace of who He is to accelerate the changes He is bringing to earth. “The season of change has come, My child. You have heard it before, but know I declare it again: you will never be the same again, for I have placed My hands upon you, My church, My bride” (excerpt from “I hear his whisper…” from The Passion Translation).
The Story of Selling our HouseOne of the goals Brandi and I had as we embarked on this journey to move to Poland is to be open and honest with people as we move overseas, as we live overseas, and hopefully, as we make an impact in a part of the world that we pray will be our own. Often times, you get to hear great stories, or tragic stories, at the completion of the story. We felt it was important to express our experiences in the now. As a result, one of our bigger challenges so far was the sell of our home, and the struggle I had personally with that. It’s well documented and you can read about it here. This is the story of what ended up happening. It’s a pretty lengthy one. Let me backtrack a bit. Our house was a beautiful home that we redid in a really nice neighborhood of Abilene. Unfortunately, we had bought the house about five months before our first trip together to Poland in June 2016. By the end of June 2016, we knew God’s next step for our life was going to be in Krakow. So that means we only enjoyed our home for a little over two years. During that time, it really became a home for us. I don’t know if I have felt that at home in a house since maybe high school. We’ve had hundreds through that door. It’s been a place of refuge for us and for me, especially. As I told you earlier, to have struggled selling our house was the last thing on our checklist of potential headaches as we transitioned to Poland. Yet, almost four months in, there we were, still owning a home. That leads us to a series of events that only the Lord could have put in place. By the end of May, I had started to come out of the “why God?” Phase and into a more confident “God is going to come through/This is going to be a good testimony/Nothing worth having is without a price. A key part of this was a word given to us by one of the Beltway Elders as they prayed over us. It had to do with resources and the ability to push in for more than what is expected. As he spoke this word over us, I felt the Lord prompt me that the house was our sowing into this promise. It’s been one of the best resources we have had over the past two years. It was a reminder of the scope of God’s perspective verse our limited understanding. Couple this word with the night before, a group of friends came together to pray over the house and there was a consensus that God was going to do something great. As one of our friends put it, “God is going to do something cool.” So armed with this renewed confidence that God was going to do something great, we prayed and trusted through uneventful showings. Fast forward only about a week or so, we had a scheduled meeting with the Beltway AV team. Originally planned at our house, we had to switch it up and have the meeting at the church office. While there, I happened to run into the guy that took my place, Berry. We happened to end up on our house, and I mentioned that we were going to probably drop the price again, this time to x. After leaving the office, we had another meeting across town and I get a call from Berry. He said at the new price, it made perfect sense for them to pursue our house. Immediately, I remembered the word given to us a couple of weeks prior. I smiled at the symmetry of God’s plan. What better way for us to “sow” into the future nations that would be impacted coming out of Abilene than to transfer our house to a couple that would do that. To leave a legacy in Abilene and to be apart of an incredible God story for both us and for Berry and his family, it’s like God has a plan. As we closed, and looking back just nine days before we leave for Poland, I realize how perfect God’s timing was. We sold it on the perfect day for that to happen. The day we signed the papers, took one last walk through our neighborhood, and said goodbye to our house was one of the more challenging things we have done as a couple. As Brandi aptly put it, “We aren’t just walking away from the house, it’s like we are leaving the American Dream behind. Good, fulfilling jobs, beautiful home, and life as we know it has disappeared”. That’s the beauty of Jesus, taking us on the unexpected journey of selling a home to purge us of the assumption we were capable of doing it ourselves, redeeming our frustration with a legacy well beyond what we hoped for, and proving that once again, His timing is perfect. As we close this season of preparation, a couple of things have really stuck out to me:
- You will never be fully ready for what God has for you. We leave for Poland in nine days. The last four days, I don’t think I’ve been more excited nor terrified of anything in my life. And I know so little/should’ve done more/am nowhere near qualified to be doing this. And I think that’s probably a good thing.
- God really is in control… and you are not. I’ve helped a lot of people step onto the mission field in the past few years. We put a great plan into place over the past two years. And the amount of stuff out of our control despite that is overwhelming to name. Despite that, I couldn’t be happier with how God has orchestrated everything. It really is Him. And when you walk through some of those interesting moments, you come out of them shaking your head and asking, what just happened? How did God do that? It’s pretty powerful.
- Pain is not necessarily bad. We intensified this journey to the mission field at the end of January. Over the past seven months, we’ve hurt. Our emotions went through a Six Flags of roller coasters. Our understanding of the faithfulness of God was challenged, and He came through. Dismantling the life we have built together in Abilene, and selling everything but the dog (and six boxes) is not a joyful process. And looking back now, the resolve that we have, the team of people with us, and the sacrifices that are necessary to put ourselves where God has called us to be are lessons I would not trade for the world.