Surrender the Building Plans

 “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”

– Psalm 127:1

“Spirit break out, break our walls down!  Spirit break out, Heaven come down!”

– Kim Walker-Smith


I’ve come to realize recently that the most interesting stories tend to be the most drawn out, detailed, and delayed.  I don’t know why things seem to happen so slowly sometimes, but in relation to my personal story that seems to be a little bit delayed at the moment, my mom (one of my very best friends) shared something with me recently that has been hitting me hard.  I would like to share it with you:


“Maybe the reason you haven’t seen your dreams come to fruition yet is because God is wanting to bless you even more as a result of the delay.”


Wow.  What a crazy thought.  Even the possibility of this being the case is truly amazing to me.  I’ve personally struggled with the delays, but isn’t the God of the Bible beautiful?  I can know without a shadow of a doubt that He is a Rewarder of the one who diligently seeks Him, and that He will reward me (Hebrews 11:6).  My short life with my short-lived frustrations really shouldn’t affect Him at all, however, for some reason, what I feel affects Him, and more than just let it affect Him, He takes it ON.  He has forever linked Himself to me, and is not ashamed to call me family (Hebrews 2:11).  He created me for a purpose – life and life abundant, and He does not desire or have any less for me (John 10:10).


Abundant life doesn’t mean a life lived on my own pleasure, but a life that is lived to love and serve Him, and somehow in between that in His great kindness, all of my truest and deepest desires are fulfilled in Him (Psalm 37:4).  This is what it looks like to be a Christian.  I lay down my life for who and what I can’t see yet, but know and have already been made confident of, and I wait until the day when all will be manifested fully.  That doesn’t mean however that I don’t, just like the rest of the world, struggle sometimes not being able to see it yet.  With that being said, I want to share a dream the Lord gave me a year and a half ago that He recently reminded me of:


One morning, as it was just about time for me to get up, I had a dream that I was holding a blueprint in my left hand, and a list of building materials in my right hand.  The blueprint in my left hand looked like it was just a quick, sketch drawing of a wall, and the only building material listed on the page in my right hand that I could see was lumber.  I then looked up to the sky with these two papers in my hand, and said, “God, this is how I want You to build the Tabernacle!”


I immediately woke up, shocked at myself for my audacity towards God in my dream, but I somehow felt that He was convicting me of something more than what I had just dreamt about.  Since my philosophy is to listen to the Lord’s voice whenever He reveals something to me, even if it hurts, I began to genuinely ask Him what my dream could mean for His and my relationship.  Here is what He gently showed me:


The Tabernacle in the Bible was not just a structure or a building.  It was built for the sole purpose of hosting God’s Glory and Presence, and was therefore specifically and meticulously described in detail by the Lord to His people in order to truly bring Him the most glory.  Every single detail was chosen by God and spoken to Moses on the mountain, exactly the way that it was supposed to be done (see Exodus 25-31).  God hands didn’t necessarily do the work, but He did perfectly and powerfully equip His people to do it with His skill and creativity (Exodus 35-39).


Why all the detail?  What was the significance?


The Tabernacle on earth was meant to be a prophetic representation of what was in Heaven – every detail filled with overflowing beauty, power, and meaning.  Every detail mirrored who God was and is, and He was to be absolutely, 100%, completely glorified in it.


So, how does this relate to my story, or to me?


The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that my body is a temple (or Tabernacle) of the Holy Spirit, who is in me, who I have received from God, and that I am not my own.  I have the Holy Spirit so that I can hear His voice, and I am not meant to just hear Him, but to follow Him.  Therefore the Lord made it clear to me that again, like the Tabernacle, He has ordained me for great purposes – I am called to bring Him great glory.  Every detail of my life is significant, and He has beautiful plans for all of them.  I do have free will to make my own choices, and I don’t have to be afraid, if I’m trying to do the right thing, of making mistakes that will forever alter my fate (see 3rd blog post on La La Land), however, if I really want the best that God has for me, I will wait and listen for His voice in all things.  I will obey Him in every detail.


This revelation rocked my world.  Why?  Because I realized that what I truly desire from the Lord is already mine, and will be reflected on the earth as I take every step in Him.  He really does have what’s best for me, and He wants it for me more than I could ever even want it for myself.  I just have to keep my eyes fixed on Him for every detail, and every step, of my every day.  Is this exhausting?  No, because the commands of the Lord are not burdensome (1 John 5:3)!  Psalm 119:45 says “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out Your precepts.” Following God’s steps for my life is actually what removes all burdens and hindrances from me.  The things that used to chain me up and drag me down can no longer do so when I get my perspective right and really line my steps up with what He is asking me to do.  When I seek God’s will for my life, and not my own, yes, I may experience some uncomfortable delays, but they are never unnecessary because they truly bring me to the best that I’ve been desiring! 


I also realized that God is the One who is supposed to give the steps…not me.  Did I mention that, in my dream, the blueprint that I was telling the Lord I wanted my Tabernacle to look like was actually a sketch of a wall?  I boldly and with audacity looked up to God and basically said, “I don’t care what it is You’re doing, or what You have for me.  Even though this Tabernacle is actually for You, all I can see is what I want right now, and this is what it is.”


A wall.


Really?  If I relate my life to this sketch, a wall is quick to build and easy to put up.  A wall takes no effort, no time, no planning, no perspective, and no passion.  A wall is basically useless outside of a building.  Why would I want my life to resemble a wall?  What I really want is a life filled to the brim and completely overflowing with the MOST meaning, the MOST purpose, the MOST passion, and intentionality, and beauty.  If that is what I truly want then, why would I ever settle for just a wall?


God is showing me through my Pastor (Dustin Bates), through my parents, and through my experiences, that when I really want the best and am willing to wait on Him, He will give it to me little by little so that I am strong enough to actually carry it, I know what it is I am waiting for, and I will not settle for less (Exodus 23:30).  I will NOT settle for less.  It is an honor for me to allow the Lord to knock down all of my petty walls (my low-level expectations) when I realize that He has so much more and so much better for me.  He wants to blow me away, and I believe Him!  Why would I not?  I have seen what it looks like to try to attain things my own way, and even if I attain them for a season, it never lasts.


If you want the best, you want a story that will last.  There’s nothing better than the true fulfillment of a promise.  So, I am here to remind you:


Don’t give up too soon.  God is building the foundation of your Tabernacle so that the rest can stand firm, and you can keep what He gives you.  In time, you’ll see His wisdom and kindness in making you wait while He grew your character and patience in Him.


He is faithful, and He will be faithful to you.  Surrender the building plans.


Blog Pic: A random building in Wylie, Texas

When the Lord Gives and Takes Away

How I was healed of a broken heart last Valentine’s Day…


When I began my walk with the Lord, I really believed and understood that He was kind and good and loving.  I began to share my faith with others and would seemingly always find myself counseling and speaking into other people’s lives about the goodness of God.  I trusted Him wholeheartedly, and when He spoke to me, I listened.  I don’t know how I learned it, but I began to ask Him about everything, even the smallest details of my day.  I also learned quickly that He would always answer me because I simply believed Him, so I would just listen and obey, automatically moving forward in the direction He led me in without hesitation.  Whether it was immediate, or much later, I would always ultimately see why He led me in that decision and experience His blessing from following it.  For many years, I never really had a reason to doubt the goodness of God, or His leading in my life…until a reason came.


The Test

When I began to ask Him about my future and not just my day, He started showing me things that actually kind of shocked me.  What was I asking the Lord about, you ask?  Yeah, I was definitely asking Him about my future husband.  I know…super girly and dramatic, but don’t judge me just yet.  I genuinely wanted to know what the will of the Lord was for my life and I genuinely believe that we can all hear the voice of God.  I wanted to hear His voice and know and just follow.  Basically, I wanted to cut out all the drama of getting my feelings hurt with “going after” guys in my heart that weren’t for me, and let God tell me who to choose.  Simple!


The thing is: when I began to surrender my choice to Him in this area, crazy things started to happen.  The Lord put someone on my heart.  The next thing I know, I’m asking God for a sign…and He gives it!  I’m asking Him for confirmation…and He gives it!  I’m asking Him to give me a prophetic word through someone else or SOMETHING to make sure that I’m really hearing Him right, and He not only speaks this guy’s name to me in the craziest of ways (it’s quite an elaborate story), but He literally causes me to hear/see his name almost everywhere I go after that, every week for an entire summer.  None of this had ever happened to me before!  At first, this really freaked me out, but because I would more often than not hear this person’s name during sermons, stories, and even worship at my church, I knew this was from God and not just some sign from my own imagination or thoughts.  He was endorsing something, and because I was truly seeking Him and not this relationship, I knew that He was speaking to me.


So, I prayed for this person for nine months.  I wanted to make sure that this was from God, and not something that I was cooking up on my own.  Since things weren’t happening right away, I held fast to the confirmations that the Lord had already given me and prayed for this guy until suddenly, one day, God tells me that he is going to ask me out.  It happens that day.  Then, a month later, God tells me that he is going to ask me to be his girlfriend.  It happens that day.  So, here I am.  You can imagine that I was literally in awe of God.  I was freaking out because not only had I had this person on my mind for almost a year, and felt like I was a crazy person because of it, but God had actually fulfilled all of the things that He had spoken to me, and I couldn’t deny it.  I had been given an active part in this story, solely by praying and listening to God.  This was insanity to me, but it was my life, and I was amazed.


You can also imagine that I was completely sure of this relationship.  I had stepped into this, not the day the relationship started, or even the day that he told me he liked me, but nine months before.  I had started this with God, and I was determined to finish it.  Let me tell you that there was not a doubt in my mind that this was it – he was my husband.  You can imagine my utter despair then, when the exact opposite of what I was expecting and believing for happened.  The relationship ended.  I definitely wasn’t going to be the one to end it myself because of all of the confirmations God gave me, but when the other person ends things, you really have no choice in the matter.


I was so confused.  I felt betrayed and embarrassed.  I was devastated and in shock.  I thought, “How could this be happening to me if I was literally led into this by You, God?  Why did You allow me to believe that this person was my husband for so long if he actually wasn’t?  Why did You give me all of those signs and confirmations for nothing?  Why did You allow me to waste my year?”  All of these thoughts were swirling in my head, but this is what I heard in my spirit immediately after it happened:


“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”


Let me be the first to say that I did NOT want to receive these words, which is why I knew it was from God and not from me.  I could not believe how God could give me something as drawn out as this, and be telling me so simply that He was taking it away.  However, as much as I wanted this to be what God had for me, I truly DID want what He had.  I was willing to let go.  In fact, I was unwilling to hold onto this if it wasn’t it.  So, I genuinely spoke those words out loud when I heard them, and I prayed and asked God to heal me.  I am not kidding when I tell you that I was healed in five days from a nine month process.  I’m not going to write about all of the details of that here today, but I do want to share with you what I learned from it, especially because it’s Valentine’s Day, and many of you may be in a situation similar to the one I found myself in over a year ago.


The Lesson

My experience after this was not necessarily easy or pleasant.  There was deep, deep grief in my heart, and I needed the comfort of God.  I knew that this was either going to kill me, or cause me to come alive in God more.  There were only two options.  I had to deal with the nagging question of why God would lead me with full faith into something that wasn’t mine.  Was He actually good?  Was He trying to deceive me?  Why would He allow my heart to be broken when I didn’t do anything to deserve it, but I actually trusted Him through all of it?  I ultimately had to come to the conclusion that if God is not real and present in my pain, then He is not real or present at all.  I realized that, because this relationship was made so clear to me, it was from God, and if God is truly good, He wouldn’t have given this nine month process to me if there wasn’t something good in it.  So, I became a glutton for the goodness of God.  I desperately needed His comfort, and I was not going to go a day without it.


Would you believe that even quicker and clearer than God spoke to lead me into that relationship, He spoke to emotionally lead me out of it, enough that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this guy was not, and would never be, my husband?  I ended up looking up the words that the Lord spoke to me right after the relationship ended – the very words of Job in the Bible, a man acquainted with a loss much greater than mine:


‘“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’” Job 1:21


What blew my mind was not just that he said this immediately after he was in unbearable pain, but also the fact that I had never noticed the next verse:


“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 1:22


WHOA.  Let’s pick that apart for a second.  First, God Himself gave me what I desired and what I asked for.  Check.  Next, God Himself took it away.  Unfortunate check.  However, am I entitled because of this to charge God with wrongdoing?  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  God showed me that I cannot accuse Him of wrongdoing because He is incapable of doing wrong.


With this on my mind, I began to reason and ask Him: “Why then, did You allow me to believe a lie?”  What I say here may surprise you.  I realized that, in that entire nine month process, even though God gave me so many signs and confirmations of my prayers – more than I even asked for, I was never told by God that this guy was my husband.  You may be saying, “Um, yeah, you basically were,” but no, actually, I wasn’t.  You see, I took the signs that God gave me and I ran with them.  I interpreted them how I wanted to interpret them, and I didn’t really leave a lot of room for any other interpretation like: maybe this person was just a good example of a relatively healthy relationship for a season, or maybe there were lessons that I needed to learn in this that I couldn’t learn any other way?


Looking back, I realized that there were many times that I could have, with a clear mind, seen why this wasn’t going to work out, but I ignored those things by recalling the signs that God had first given me to lead me into the relationship, which were what I really wanted to hear.  I had stopped listening to what He was saying in the moment.  I had to repent for my unforgiveness towards Him in believing that He had led me astray, and praise the Lord that it was His “kindness” that led me to repentance, not His anger or wrath or judgment against me for being angry.  God understood what I was going through, and He understood my pain.  He was not angry with me for feeling the way I felt.  He just wanted to show me that He had a better way, and if I was willing to truly trust Him and let go, He could show me.


Through this I learned that God never, ever deceives us, HOWEVER, God is not afraid of our temporary disillusionment if it leads us into our eternal reward.  Just take a look at the disciples after Jesus died on the cross.  They thought He was dead and gone for three whole days!  However, He was willing to let them think that because He knew how they would ultimately be the most blessed by His raising from the dead.  He not only resurrected Himself and resurrected His disciples as well, but He still resurrects the dead dreams and desires of His children today.


I came to the conclusion that if I couldn’t reconcile this experience according to God’s goodness, how could I ever trust Him again?  I needed to KNOW that He was with me in this because even though I was set free from grieving over the person, I still had to grieve the dream.  In the months after this, God spoke to me, cleared my head, and comforted me like never before.  I heard His voice in deeper ways, and I felt His love and peace like never before in my entire life.  He showed me that I cannot resist Him and His love, no matter how hard I try, and even if I have to experience delays or extra development in my dreams, I still want Him more than whatever it is I’m asking Him for.


Job didn’t earn his beautiful family and all of his earthly goods due to his own efforts.  They were a gift from God.  And Job didn’t lose his beautiful family and all of his earthly goods due to his own failures.  God was still with him and was not only his comfort during this season, but his restoration.  Job didn’t earn everything back to him in double of what he had before due to his own efforts or piety or goodness either.  It was still a gift from God.  You see, we can never earn any of the things that God gives us, but even if He takes them away, we can trust that He knows what He’s doing.  Maybe He just wants to give us more.  🙂


Through this experience, I learned that if I am keeping my hands closed tightly over everything that I have, I will miss being able to embrace the double that He wants to bless me with – not including all of the encouragement of knowing that He is still good and has a purpose even in my most discouraging seasons.  I learned that sometimes healthy relationships don’t end in marriage, while some unhealthy relationships actually do.  Why would I want the latter half to be my story?  Even if I have to wait, or I have to suffer a painful season or two, isn’t receiving what God has for me worth it?


You may not always get why things work out the way they do in your life in this area, but whatever you do, don’t blame God.  He is sovereign and He is good, and He is not going to allow anything to happen in your life that has not first gone through His hands – because He is still holding you.  You see, I can think up a billion stories of how I want my life to turn out, but what I really want is the story that God has for me because I know He loves me!  So, I’m still letting Him choose for me, and I’m not saying that is always the easiest decision, but I know that I will see the lasting fruit of it – it will be my life, and I will be amazed.  🙂


“The blessing of the Lord—it makes [truly] rich, and He adds no sorrow with it [neither does toiling increase it].” Proverbs 10:22

Here’s to the Ones who Dream (Inspired by La La Land)

I saw the movie La La Land two nights ago, and I absolutely loved it.  I thought it was beautiful, powerful, emotional, theatrical, just all the “uls”; and maybe I’m a sappy romantic, but I totally saw myself in it.  Especially at the end.


***Spoiler Alert***


Everyone told me to prepare myself for the ending because it was so sad, but for some reason, I felt completely fine once it was over.  It was actually more like the complete and perfect peace of God immediately washed over me.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  The story IS sad.  I mean, who doesn’t love to wonder and dream sometimes about the way things could have been?  It’s a fun alternative to living in the way things are now.


But we were created to dream.  We were NOT created to regret.  And dreaming about what could have happened in the past is regret because it is not reality.  It is fantasy.


I realized at the end of this movie that, unlike Sebastian, I don’t have to imagine how my life “could have” been or what “could have” happened with sorrow.  Why not?  Because, if I truly want God’s will for my life (and I do), and if I have truly tried to be obedient to His still small voice in all things (I have), what’s in the past is in the past.  I may not have fully understood it, but He saved me from it: particularly in Him cutting people out of my life that weren’t supposed to be there, and in Him leading ME to cut people out of my life that weren’t supposed to be there.  If I have heard His voice and followed Him, what is there to look back on?


Regret is a fear-filled word.  Similar to Sebastian’s scenario, it comes from fear and sorrow that you have made a wrong decision.  But wait a second.  Doesn’t the Bible say that God’s perfect love literally casts out fear?  Perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment (1 John 4:18).  Torment that you’ve done something – anything – to completely alter the trajectory of your entire life.  Things were supposed to go one way, but now, thanks to you, everything is wrong.


No.  I’m sorry, but THAT’S wrong.  You are not powerful enough to wreck God’s plans for your life.   How do I know that?  Because He says that His plans are to prosper you, and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11).  He also says, “I the Lord do not change; therefore, you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed,” or destroyed by your failures (Malachi 3:6).  No matter what decisions I make, He leads me in the way I should go because I trust in Him (Isaiah 48:17).  Whether I turn to the right or to the left, sincerely trying to follow His will for my life, my ears are going to hear His voice behind me saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).


I have a loving God who sees me and knows me.  He knows the desires of my heart, and He not only is intimately acquainted with all of my ways, but He knows the end from the beginning of all that there ever was to know, and His plans for me are good!  Are you kidding me?  To top that, I have His Holy Spirit – God Himself – literally living inside of me, which means I have 100% and 24/7 access to a Resource of wisdom and understanding that is far beyond anything I could ever attain or achieve for myself in this world.  I don’t even have the capacity to figure my future out on my own, yet God not only already KNOWS what is best for me and is leading me into that, but He wants what’s best for me even more than I do.  This means that, if I am living inside of His will, I don’t EVER have to live inside of any regrets.  His ways are higher than my simple ways, and His thoughts are higher than my simple thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).


I love the Lord because I don’t ever have to strive to figure things out.  I just get to walk in obedience.  And He doesn’t leave me alone.  When I seek Him, He will always lead me into what I’m supposed to do, where I’m supposed to go, and who I’m supposed to be.  The world will always be afraid of missing it, but I don’t have to be.  My Pastor (Pastor Dustin Bates) sums it up by saying: “What looks like risk to the world, is obedience to God.”


I still want to dream, but not in a way that pulls me back into a past that is over and done, and from things that He’s already set me free from.  The reason why I felt God’s perfect peace after watching La La Land, even in the saddest scene, was because He was gently showing me that I am in the center of His will for me and moreover, that He also still protects and blesses those who are not in His will for me.  Therefore, I will continue to be obedient to His voice in all things, I will continue to move forward, and I will continue to dream.  I know that I will see the fruit of it in my future.


Blog Pic: Driving past the Dallas skyline