Friday, December 29, 2017

In the Midst of the Storm

  I love sharing stories of what God has done in my life. However, I love sharing them after they are complete. I like having resolutions. I like when the mess is cleaned up. It is easy to share my story then. It is so much harder to share what God is doing when He is STILL working, when I do not know what the finish line looks like.

  My pastor recently spoke on Peace, in the MIDST of the storm. He was reminding us that peace is not the absence of problems. However, it is something God brings to us while we are still facing problems. That being said, I felt God asking me to share a struggle with you that I am currently dealing with. I do not have a pretty bow wrapped on the situation. I am struggling to put my trust in the Lord, daily. I have no idea how it will turn out. This post is part of my declaration of faith. I know that God will come through for me. I do not know how or when, but I know that He WILL. He always has before, so why should He fail me now? He won't, so I chose to trust in Him.

  In case you missed the news, I am pregnant. 8 months pregnant to be exact. As I type this my due date is less than one month away. Baby McNeal will be here in the upcoming year and Jeremy and I are so excited to meet our little one!! However, I am not sure how we are going to pay for this precious gift. I had insurance when I first found out I was pregnant and that insurance ended a few months into the pregnancy. I took my time doing research and when I finally decided where to start the enrollment process they told me I was not eligible to enroll. Thus I had to wait until open enrollment. I picked an insurance plan that is to start on January 1st. As baby is not due to arrive until the end of the month this should be okay, right? ;-)

  The bad news is that my insurance plan does not accept all hospitals in the area. Due to unfortunate circumstances in the marketplace there were only two options, neither of them that great. The plan I chose is the better of the two, but, at the moment, it still does not accept the clinic I am planning to give birth at. I have already switched my doctor/hospital around once and I really do not want to do so again, this late in the pregnancy. I chose my insurance plan because the clinic said they would get this insurance. The process has proven more difficult than we all originally thought it would be. The insurance company is not wanting to take the time to prioritize the clinic, thus I am left in a waiting game. Do I stay where I am, knowing that I do not personally have the money to pay for this entire birth without insurance? Do I change doctors/hospitals yet again, in this last month? Do I stay or do I wait?

  At the moment I am choosing to wait, yet it is a terrifying feeling. I do not know how exactly we will pay for this birth. Even if they allow us to pay the fees in stages, we will not have the income to pay for those later payments. We are trying to find a way to afford insurance for all three of us as it is. Our finances are tight. Extremely tight. We will basically be able to pay our bills and nothing else. No wiggle room. Lots of trusting in the Lord.

  A question my pastor asked recently is whether I am trusting in God or in money. This hit me SO hard. I truly enjoy saving money for the future. When that money gets taken away and the option to save gets taken away, I get uncomfortable. Sadly, I prefer trusting in my own ability to save money more than I prefer to trust in God for my finances. I feel safer relying on myself. I have NO idea why. My finances are limited. They are finite. God is limitless. He is infinite. He is beyond my comprehension. His power and His resources know no end.

  Thus, as I do not know how God is going to come through, I choose to trust in Him. His answer may mean that I switch doctors once again. His answer may mean that I have to let go of my desire to have the baby in a birth clinic rather than a hospital. His answer may mean that we go into debt that we do not know how to pay back. His answer may mean that He opens the door for my insurance to work with my clinic. It may mean so many different things. No matter what it means, I choose to trust in Him. My faithful provider. My father who has never let me down. I choose to to trust in what I cannot see. Even if....

  What are the big obstacles in your way right now? What circumstance, what situation, are you facing that you have no solution for? What can you let go of and give to God? Let us trust together for the impossible to happen! Let us choose to embrace His peace in the MIDST of the storm.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Was That REALLY You God?

  Have you ever wondered if that brilliant idea in your head was really from God, or if it was just an idea you came up with on your own? I have, countless times. Sometimes it happens with really small things, like holding the door open for someone or saying a word of encouragement. Sometimes it happens with bigger things like asking someone if I can pray with them. Then, sometimes it happens with things that I feel are REALLY big, like deciding where to live.

  Last year, in October, Jeremy and I felt the Lord calling us to step into the unknown with our housing situation. We had heard of this incredible housing opportunity from friends, a cooperation, and we really believed God was asking us to try and get into it. If you have never heard of a housing cooperation before, it is a mix between renting and owning. You pay an equity down on the townhouse, kind of like a mini mortgage, and then you pay super cheap rent (compared to the area). The benefits of both of these options merged together is that you can treat the townhouse a lot like your own, making changes to it where you so desire. You do need permission for bigger changes like tearing out flooring or a wall. However, you also receive benefits of renting, with basic maintenance needs like furnace servicing, lawn mowing and leaf removal being taken care of for you. For young families starting out, it is a GREAT option. You pay a lower rent so you can save for a down payment on a house and you get a great amount of space for the price you pay.

  Jeremy and I were living in a one-bedroom apartment at the time. A small one-bedroom apartment with little to no storage space. We were trying to save money for our future, yet not having a ton of leeway to do so. As we approached the middle of our lease on our apartment we felt God stretching us into this new opportunity. I call it stretching because it really is not usually so simple to move into this cooperation. Rather, you have to go door-to-door passing out flyers to let people know you want to move in. Or, you have to know someone moving out. There is a 'waiting' list, but it isn't used, and the office really does not like working from it.

  And so, we began a journey of going door-to-door to pass out flyers and speaking with those living in the townhouses already. This was extremely taxing on our marriage. To say it was difficult was putting it nicely. I was mostly uncomfortable talking to strangers, but my husband was extremely uncomfortable with the idea, and would not do it at first. We learned how to work with our strengths and get through the process. We tried this two times with literally NO results. We waited a month or so in between, thus cutting down the time we had left on our apartment lease.

  We had also felt the Lord asking us to prayer circles around our request. This idea was spurred on by The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. Thus, we began a nightly walk around the cooperation, praying for God's will to be done and praying as well for the people who lived in the cooperation and the person/family that would allow us to move into their townhouse. We did this for a few months and did not see physical results. However, we began to fall in love with the neighborhood. We met several incredible individuals along the way that we built a little relationship with. We stretched ourselves and were obedient to the Lord.

  Yet, we did NOT "see" results. We reached the date where we had to put a notice in at our apartment for our lease, to renew or cancel. We still felt called in this new direction, thus we chose not to renew our lease. After another two months with no leads we had to go back to the office and ask for a small extension on our lease. We were definitely struggling to believe that we had originally heard from God. To make things more difficult, we talked with several friends, or strangers, who had moved into the cooperation. Their stories made it so evident that God had literally opened the door for them to move in. That was not the case for us. It was discouraging. We wanted to give up. But giving up did not seem right. We are not quitters.

  Thus, we prayed and decided we would give it one more go around. We told God that we thought we were acting in faith, but we had not seen any answers. Thus, if He wanted us to live at Westerfield He had to open the door for us. We could not do it on our own. He needed to prove Himself, or we would let go of our dream, trusting that it meant He wanted something different for us.

  I passed out flyers on last time on my own during the week, Ash Wednesday, to be exact. Our church had a service that evening that we attended. I was in tears the entire service and felt frustrated and hopeless. Yet I also felt freedom, in knowing that we had left the dream in God's hands. It was up to Him, yea or nea.

 A week later Jeremy had a phone call from a young lady who was moving out. She wanted to meet with us. We went to her home and by the end of the visit we all knew that this was exactly the home God had for us. The lady had literally been praying for a young Christian couple who was just starting out to be the ones to move in. We were/are exactly that. God had answered our prayers!!  

 Several months later we moved in. The timing was definitely NOT what we had expected or hoped for. We had difficulties in timing even after we found the right place and had to find temporary housing while we waited even longer. Nothing about this journey went the way we had hoped or desired. However, it went exactly the way it was supposed to. God knew/knows what we need so much more than we do. The day we moved into our townhouse it felt like home. The place was covered in boxes, yet it was home in a way that our apartment never was.

 We absolutely love our home now. It has a second room, perfect for the arrival of our new baby. It has storage space we did not have before. It has a kitchen that is 3-4 times the size of the one in our apartment. We have a basement. We have a designated parking spot. We have neighbors that we love and are building friendships with. It has everything we hoped for, and so much more.

  It is exactly what God had in mind for us. If we had not spent so much time waiting, trusting in the Lord, passing out flyers, and praying around Westerfield, we would not love it as we do. Our timing was definitely not God's timing. His timing was so much better. We learned about the Lord's faithfulness, timing, and provision through this experience. We learned anew what it means to trust in Him daily. We struggled to believe we had heard from the Lord. Once we truly let go and let Him take over, we saw the fruit in our lives. This has been a hard journey, but one we would never exchange for something easier.

  Are you feeling like God has given you hopes and dreams, promises for the future, yet you have not seen any results yet? Please, do not give up. Ask Him to reveal Himself in a different way. Ask Him to show you what is in the way. The answer could honestly be that it is not in His plan for you. Maybe God has something different in store for you. I promise you, if it is different than what you have in your head, it will be so much better. God does not have it in His nature to disappoint us. His promises are yes and amen. He always takes care of His children. You, my friend, are His child, whether you think so or not. He loves you and He will take care of you. I promise. :-)

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Perspective Shift

  This past year has been a year of abundance. However, it has also been one of the hardest years of my life. SO much has changed for me, all in a short period of time. (I got married. I moved cities, away from family. I switched jobs. I started an internship. I had to make new friends. I transitioned from a house to an apartment. I switched churches) I am one who takes time to adjust to change. I welcome it, yet I fight it. This time I fought hard, although at the time I did not realize how hard I fought it. I could not find the sense of peace or gratitude that I knew I should have had. I was too busy focusing on my lack thereof and my longings for the old, rather than embracing the new.

  My dear husband had the patience to stand with me through it all and offer me the best support he could. However, he was not the key to my change. What I needed most was to change my thoughts. To continually hand them over to God and take in His truth for my life. I needed to trust in my heavenly Father, knowing that He has NEVER failed me before, so why should He suddenly do so now? He did not and He would not have. It's just not in His nature. Yet I forgot because I was focused on the difficult time I was in, rather than embracing the change for what it was and what God had in store for me.

  A month ago I realized that my perspective had finally shifted. Gradually, little by little, I was able to turn to God. I was able to fight against the lies of the enemy that told me I did not belong where I was. The lies that told me to go "home". Go back to where I came. Give up. Let go. Stop trying to fit in where you do not belong. No one wants to be your friend. Do not embrace the change; it will only hurt you. Such ugly lies, yet I felt trapped in them.

 I am a new person now. Nothing much has changed, yet everything has. Here is a sample into a recent journal entry I wrote to God about the change.

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(Don't mind the extra stuff in the photo)
 Hi there God! It's a little after 5am. I've been up since 4:30am and I can't sleep. This Wednesday is the Living Hope Membership class, take 2 for me. Thus my mind and thoughts have been centered on this past year. God, you have taken me so far in this past year. So far. I LOVE where I am! I love my husband. I love this city (I seriously want an Olathe proud t-shirt). I love my church. I love my pastor. I love this baby growing inside of me. I even love my job! I love the friends I am building here. I love that I can stretch myself again as I used to be able to. I can find people at church that I don't know and introduce myself. I can build relationships. I can create belonging. I can walk peacefully and confidently in what you have for me. I can connect with neighbors. I can invite/encourage other women to attend the retreat. I can host a small group gathering at my house. I can create belonging wherever I go. I can connect with strangers at the store. I can thrive where I am. I can love the place you have called me to! I am abundantly blessed. And the funny thing is, I have no idea when all of this changed inside of me. I just know that it has. Thank you Lord. From the deepest places of my heart, thank you!
  My pastor is doing a sermon series called "Metamorphosis" right now about breaking out of the cocoons we have gotten stuck in, be they emotionally, spiritually, relationally, etc. Something he has said a couple of times has truly resonated with me after this past year I have had. "The way I think determines how I feel. How I feel determines how I act."

Image result for butterly flyinh  So much truth packed into those two sentences. We hold ourselves prisoners to our circumstances so often, when we do NOT need to. What are you holding on to right now that is unnecessary? That is holding you back? Is it a lie? Is it a past experience? Is it a lack of something? Is it a fear? A failure? Doubts? Ask God to open your eyes to what it is. He will not fail you. He will walk you through and help you to overcome. He wants you to live, to Really live and thrive, rather than remain trapped inside of your cocoons. Let us be butterflies rather than caterpillars.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Music Monday // Peace Be Still

   I have been really wanting to/feeling led by the Lord to get back into blog writing. I do not know how often it will be, but I aim to be more consistent. I know my struggles, my trials, and the things God does in and through them can be a source of encouragement to others. So, why would I keep them to myself?

   To start off, I thought I'd share a song I literally just encountered today. Ironically, the timing could not be more perfect. It's all God. The song is "Peace Be Still" by The Belonging Co (feat. Lauren Daigle). This season, and today in particular, I am in the midst of the unknown. I have no insurance, and not for lack of trying. I am 24 weeks pregnant (so wonderful!!), so I kind of really need it. I have a REALLY expensive heart doctor appointment next week that I am not quite sure how I am going to pay. I have a few things to stress me out in this time. And yet, I hear the Lord telling me "peace be still."
   My heart cry is just as the song says "I don't want to be afraid every time I face the waves....I don't want to fear the storm just because I hear it roar." I want to declare God's truth. I want to cling to His promises and rest in His peace. Not my own lack of it. "Peace be still...I'm not gonna be afraid 'cause these waves are only waves....I'm not gonna fear the storm, you are greater than it's roar..."

  May you be encouraged by this song today, just as I was and I am. Turn your eyes away from the storm you may be facing. Rest upon promises and reminders of God's peace, strength, and power in your life. Today and always. No matter how big or small your storm is. He is peace. Be still. 

Peace Be Still
The Belonging Co
feat. Lauren Daigle

I don't want to be afraid
Every time I face the waves
I don't want to be afraid, I don't want to be afraid
I don't want to fear the storm just because I hear the roar
I don't want to fear the storm, I don't want to fear the storm

Peace be still
Say the word and I will
Set my feet upon the sea, till I'm dancing in the deep
Peace be still
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can't see, I will trust the voice that speaks

I'm not gonna be afraid 'cause these waves are only waves
I'm not gonna be afraid, I'm not gonna be afraid
I'm not gonna fear the storm
You are greater than its roar
I'm not gonna fear the storm
I'm not gonna fear at all

Peace be still
Say the word and I will
Set my feet upon the sea, till I'm dancing in the deep
Peace be still
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can't see, I will trust the voice that speaks
Peace, peace
Over me

Let faith rise up
Oh heart, believe
Let faith rise up in me (x4)

Peace be still
Say the word and I will
Set my feet upon the sea, till I'm dancing in the deep
Peace be still
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can't see, I will trust the voice that speaks
Peace, peace
Over me
Peace, peace
Over me

We don't have to fear, we don't have to worry
'Cause He is good, all the time (x2)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Faith + Fear = Normal

Here are some thoughts from my journal that I wanted to share with you.

Abraham's life is full of faith, yet it is also full of fear.

He trusted the Lord enough to leave his family and head to a foreign land. He traveled over 1000 miles, never to return. Family visits were not an option for him. He left with the confidence that he would never see his relatives, including his own parents, again. He trusted the Lord enough to offer up his promised son, Isaac. This son was supposed to be the key to Abraham's numerous descendants. This was the son that had caused Abraham and Sarah to wait over twenty-five years from the time of the Lord's promise to the time of Isaac's birth. Abraham trusted God. Abraham had faith enough to be willing to offer his son to the Lord (the Lord spared Isaac's life in a wonderful turn of events).


....he (Abraham) was fearful and failed to trust the Lord to protect him and his wife as they entered new lands, so he lied and said that Sarah was only his sister. Multiple times. Abraham was afraid. He failed to trust in the Lord. Abraham also doubted the Lord's promise of numerous descendants and slept with his wife's maidservant when Sarah suggested that was the key to the fulfillment of the Lord's promise, rather than actually waiting on the Lord. He was afraid that the Lord would not fulfill His promise.

Through all of the doubts, Abraham is known as a man of faith. He even makes it into Hebrews 11, the "faith chapter." However, he did not make it in because he was perfect or because he was never afraid.

This is such a reminder that God does not only look at our faults and our failures. He sees our heart. What is the yearning of our heart? Is it to live life as we see fit or is it to strive for obedience to the Lord, amidst our doubts, insecurities, and imperfections?

I, for one, am so thankful that God sees not only my actions, but also my heart. He does not focus on the fact that I may have failed Him one thousand times before. He sees that I desire Him. He sees that I desire to honor Him, to seek Him, and to obey Him. That is what matters to the Lord. The fear factor is not the end all, be all. God sees my heart.

He sees yours as well. Do you feel like you have failed too many times? Take heart. Even the most well known biblical characters are full of regrets, fears, and failures. Yet God used them! :)

He'll use you and me as well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Worth the Wait

It's been a while since my last post....over a year in fact. I thought it was time for an update on my life now. If you've read any old posts of mine, I've talked about my struggle with waiting on the Lord. It has not always been an easy journey. Sometimes I could understand what the Lord was asking me to do. Other times I did not see His plan at work or understand and I was tired of waiting (in regards to dating in particular).

Well, all of my waiting was entirely WORTH THE WAIT. Every single moment of it. The Lord has blessed me with the most incredible man in my life. My husband, Jeremy. We have been married six and a half months now and every day I feel incredibly blessed. I am constantly blown away by the Lord. By the MAN He has given me. I did not have to settle for a boy who does not know how to treat me. I found a man who loves the Lord, loves me, and my family. He respects me. He is kind. He is patient. He is loyal. He is a servant (he cooks and cleans and is so helpful around the house). He encourages me. He sticks by my side through all of my moods. He takes care of me when I am sick. I am blessed and I am blown away by the Lord's faithfulness. He is never failing. He is always at work. He gives me far more than I could ever hope for or imagine. He truly does fight for me.

 He'll do the same for you as well. He is not slow in keeping His promises. He never forgets. When it feels like He has forgotten, hold on. He is there. I watched a movie last night that had a great line in it: "When you're going through something really hard, the teacher is always quiet during the test." It does not mean that God is not with you. He is there, but sometimes we have to push through. Sometimes we have to wait it out. The reward is so much sweeter when we do. We need to be ready. We may not understand why the timing is not our own. But know this, the Lord knows. He truly does. He has a far better imagination and plan than we could even dream up. So trust in Him. If you feel He is far away or He is failing you, ask Him to remind you of His hand at work in your life. He will do it. He is faithful. His plan is ALWAYS worth the wait.

"God can do anything, you know
- far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request
in your wildest dreams! 
He does it not by pushing us around
but by working within us,
His Spirit deeply and gently within us."
Ephesians 3:20 (Message)

 *Photos compliments of Molly Harmon Photography*