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

My Journey into the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, God declares, that I will pour out of My Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy [telling forth the divine counsels] and your young men shall see visions (divinely granted appearances), and your old men shall dream [divinely suggested] dreams.  Yes, and on My menservants also and on My maidservants in those days I will pour out of My Spirit, and they shall prophesy [telling forth the divine counsels and predicting future events pertaining especially to God’s kingdom].” Acts 2:17-18


As I’ve already written and explained a little bit of my story of WHY I am a Christian, I also felt led to write a little something to say that my journey into more of God did not stop there.  Here’s my personal story of when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit.  May it be encouraging and inspiring for your own journey into more of God.


Since I became a Christian, and once I really started getting to know God, I always experienced Him (and still always do) by reading His Word.  I never felt disappointed in my experience of God, and I was always very happy in my relationship with Him.  However, there was always this one nagging question on my mind:


What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and is it for me? 


I read in Acts the stories of the disciples waiting in Jerusalem until they received it – that for some reason, Jesus thought this was so important that they stayed and waited before they went out into all the world to preach the Gospel, which was His original mandate to them.  The disciples waited and He followed through on His promise, coming like the sound of a mighty rushing wind and with fire, equipping the disciples to serve and minister more than they ever had before, with a boldness as well as an effective power that actually made a lasting difference.  They began to have a dynamic relationship with God that came with His authority, allowing them to hear His voice clearer and walk more in step with Him (just like Jesus did).  Miracles happened everywhere they went, and their preaching was not just a matter of talk, but of power!  God was bringing His disciples closer to Him than they ever thought was possible, even though they had walked closely with Jesus IN PERSON for three years.  His Spirit was illuminating things of His Word and things in His world (people that needed to be healed and assignments that needed to be fulfilled) to them in order to bring more of His Kingdom to the earth.


Now, reading about this in your Bible is one thing, but I also had friends that had experienced God in this way and who actively walked in the gifts of the Spirit (prophecy, tongues, praying for healing)!  These things weren’t only words on a page in history, but real, genuine, personal stories and interactions with the God of the Universe that empowered people to draw closer to and be used by Him in a deeper way.  These things were still happening today!  As I was surrounded by these friends, I first thought that they were just more spiritual than I was, but as I got to know them more, I realized that they were completely normal.  They just believed God.  This led me to pray: “If this is from You, God, then I believe it.  If I believe it, then I want it.  I’m not going to hold back – I will take as much as You are willing to give me.”  I wanted to know and be empowered myself, so I began to search through the Scriptures to find out what God says about this baptism.  This is what I learned:

“I (John the Baptist) indeed baptize you in (with) water because of repentance [that is, because of your changing your minds for the better, heartily amending your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins]. But He Who is coming after me is mightier than I, Whose sandals I am not worthy or fit to take off or carry; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Matthew 3:11


John the Baptist says here that after the baptism of repentance in water, Jesus is the One who is going to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire (just like the disciples in the Upper Room).  Then, Jesus Himself tells us this:

“If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!” Luke 11:13


He wants us to have an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, along with the gifts of the Spirit, even more than we do!  He says He specifically wants us to ask for it, and He will give it!  I realized that if this was true, He was going to give this to me eventually if I asked Him.  I KNOW my God is not a God who holds out on me, or dangles things that are not for me or that He is not wanting to give me in front of my face to tempt me.  I just knew that, for some reason, I was having to wait for it.  Jesus says to ask and continue to ask, so, I waited, and I prayed, and I asked…for nine months.  Obviously, not every day, but every time I would think of it, I reminded God what I was waiting for, and I reminded myself that He would give it.  What happened next is one of the most beautiful stories God has given me in my walk with Him thus far…


Towards the end of the nine months, I went to a prayer/worship night where one of my best friends came up to me and asked me if there was something I wanted prayer for.  I wasn’t thinking about this topic at the time, so I said no, but she felt like God gave her a picture (just an image in her mind’s eye) of my heart that she wanted to share with me.  She said that inside of my heart, there was a box, and inside of the box was something like a marble.  She asked me what the marble could be, and asked (in a completely loving, non-intrusive way) if there was something that I was possibly keeping in my heart from the Lord.  I couldn’t think of anything at the time, but right when she said the word “marble”, I heard in my spirit, “Pearl, Mother of Pearl.”


Super weird, but track with me…


I then get home and tell my Dad on the phone about the picture from my friend, and he said, “Amanda, I think the box is a Treasure Box” – even before I had told him about the Pearl!  So, like any child who is seeking and wanting to learn something, I began to ask my Heavenly Father.  I asked Him what the Treasure Box meant, as well as what the Pearl was in my heart.  I also did some Googling.  😉  This is what I found:


Treasure Box – a box in which to keep all things regarded as valuable and precious

Pearl – jewelry that originates from a living creature, also called nacre; shimmering and sought after, tough and resilient, relatively soft and easily scratched


The amazing thing I learned about Pearls and Mother of Pearl is that they are created over time from mollusks that internally build layers in order to protect themselves!  This constant effort from the mollusk insulates them from infection, parasites, and damage, sometimes creating Mother of Pearl, which is a calloused irregularity inside of the shell, and other times creating an unattached, spherical structure that is much prized by humans as a Pearl.  I still didn’t fully understand it, but this prompted me to ask the Lord again, “What is the Pearl inside of my heart?”


About a week later, I went to church with my family for their Sunday night service and Pastor Steve Collins was preaching.  Referencing a beautiful story in Matthew 26, Pastor Collins said: “The woman BROKE her alabaster jar at Jesus’ feet.”  Immediately, I heard the Holy Spirit ask me: “Why did she break the jar?”  I genuinely wondered why.  He then said, “So she would never be able to pick it back up and take it for herself.”  It was now forever broken at His feet, and surrendered to Him.  That was all He needed to say to me.  On the way back home, I told the Lord that I was breaking my Treasure Box before Him, and whatever the Pearl was inside, I was giving it unreservedly to Him.  It was then that He spoke to me again…


“The Pearl is the best of you.”


…WHAT.  How can one sentence that seems so simple and small, be so profound that it actually changes your life?  I realized in that moment that I used to be afraid of the Holy Spirit.  I was afraid of what He would do to me, or make me do, and I didn’t really trust His heart or character.  Therefore, I had shut myself out to Him doing something deeper in my life without even realizing it!  I had kept the most vulnerable parts of who I was separate from Him, and instead, let merely the knowledge of Him replace my experience of Him.  Knowledge is wonderful and absolutely necessary, but if you could also have experience to back it up, would you not take it?  Both knowledge and experience of God are essential – especially in times of doubt or confusion.  Wanting to experience God is never bad, or wrong to ask for.  Why would He be disappointed in you for genuinely wanting to seek and know Him more?  The Bible says, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).  Don’t ever let a lie keep you from your destiny.


God did not call what was inside of me due to my actions of protecting myself from going deeper with Him a calloused irregularity (like the Mother of Pearl), but He called what I had to offer, and in fact who I was, a precious and valuable Pearl that He desired.  So, I told the Lord that He could have the best of me.  I was giving Him full permission and access to the most vulnerable, and as He said, “the best” part of who I am, and I was not going to be afraid.  I was surrendering my heart and my life fully to His will.


I wish I could say that immediately at that moment, God showed up and gave me what I was praying for, but no…I simply began to ask the Lord for greater depth in our relationship with greater fervency than I ever had before.  For seven days I locked myself away in my room any chance I could get and prayed and sought His face alone.  I was asking for God’s gifts to be awakened and activated in my life, knowing that He was going to answer me, and seven days later, through the prayer and laying on of hands of a friend, He met me in one of the most powerful moments with Him that, to this day, I have had.  It was always about encountering His love.  Because I sought Him first, He encountered me in a completely new way.



I believe that the moment we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have access to His Holy Spirit.  He comes to dwell inside of us (to literally take up residence inside of our hearts) and we begin to be led by His desires and into a life of purity and holiness the more that we submit to His will.


After Jesus was resurrected from the dead, He appeared to the disciples and said, “Peace to you! [Just] as the Father has sent Me forth, so I am sending you.  And having said this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit!” (John 20:21-22).  The disciples ALREADY had the Holy Spirit living inside of them, because Jesus had given Him to them once they believed!  However, what is amazing to me is that He still told them, rather “commanded them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised” (Acts 1:4)!  He said, “For John baptized with water, but not many days from now you shall be baptized with (placed in, introduced into) the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).


This shows me that there is an immediate deposit of the Spirit inside of us once we believe in Jesus (in His death and resurrection), but that there is also a deeper fellowship with His Spirit that takes place by praying and seeking.  It is for those who want it.  Sometimes it just takes asking and continuing to ask.  The disciples at the time didn’t even know what to ask for, but once they encountered God in this way, they realized that this was a direct fulfillment of Joel 2:28-29 (brought up again by Peter in Acts 2:17-18).  And this wasn’t even the last time!  We see that there is a continual refilling of the Holy Spirit throughout the disciples lives in the book of Acts that proves that the more they wanted, the more God poured out.  The more they asked for, the more He gave.  And this is still happening today.


Once I prayed to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, God not only opened my eyes to show me how much He loves and cares for me in order to answer my prayers in this way, but He also opened my eyes to the Scriptures in a way that I could never understand before.  His Word came alive in my life as I began to see myself in it, and realize that the promises of more of His Spirit were always for me.  I began to understand more of the gifts of the Spirit, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12, and see how God was, and is still, giving them to me to be used when and how He desires.  In fact, I believe they were already mine, much like the disciples in the Upper Room who had already received the Holy Spirit.  God just wanted me to wait and pray for them to be activated in a deeper way in my life for His glory and my story.  He was waiting for me to be hungry enough so that He could fulfill my hunger and expectancy for more of Him.


I’m still learning, and I’m still growing, but I am continually opening myself up to more of Him, more of the facets of His Spirit and His Word, and I have seen Him fill me in a way that I did not think was possible for me (see my testimony post on Why I’m a Christian).  I believe that “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (1 Peter 1:3), but there are still such deeper places to go in our constant pursuit of the more of who He is, and there is even greater fellowship with Him that is possible for us.


I will leave you with this: If this is something that you want or are wondering about, why not ask God to take you on a journey into more of Him much like I did (and still do every day)?  His heart is kind, and He loves you more than you know.  He will never hurt you, or make you ashamed or embarrassed.  You can never lose when you are seeking to know Him more.  🙂


Some Helpful Resources:

  • Experiencing the Spirit by Robert Heidler is a book I read the week before I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. Written by a Baptist Pastor who previously didn’t believe in the gifts, but who was radically touched by God, I picked it up and couldn’t put it down for three whole days.  When I finished reading it, I had all of my biggest questions answered about the gifts and what the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was.
  • Hosting the Presence by Bill Johnson is a beautiful book that is all about living in closer communion with God. It talks about how the “gifts are free, but maturity is expensive.”  God’s gifts are for everyone who believes Him enough to ask for them, but there is still always more to grow and mature in once you receive them.  We are continually on a journey into more of Him!


Blog Pic: Bella Donna Chapel in McKinney, Texas

Why I’m a Christian

When I think back over the years of being raised in a Christian home, with loving parents that understand and accept me, who are proud of me and have always taught me about God and His love for me, I can understand why people would think that I am a Christian because I was brought up that way.  I can understand why people think that I am joyful because I am a positive person.  I look at the glass half-full (I always have) and I see how someone could think that I am just a friendly, happy person that doesn’t really have need of much proof or that I am simple and don’t require much thought to believe what I believe.  I can understand that someone could look at me and think that I just simply have childlike faith, that I don’t read or know much about philosophy, or that I don’t have much of an understanding about the way the world works or about politics or other religions.  I can even understand how someone might look at me during worship and think, “She’s just feeling the music”, “She just likes to dance and sing”, or “She’s just an extrovert that feels comfortable on a stage.”  Why I am the way I am is just a little something that I want to expound upon today.


Elementary School:

I was brought up in a Christian home.  I have always been a part of a church – even before I lived in Texas when my family was in Paris and London for my dad’s job.  It’s just the way I was raised.  However, I never felt God.  I never felt Him, understood Him, loved Him, or knew Him.  In fact, I was very afraid of Him.  I was afraid of the largeness of who He was.  I was afraid of the things He thought of me, the way He was looking at me down from Heaven.  I was afraid of the things He would say to me because I didn’t feel comfortable with Him.  Even in elementary school, I was afraid to die.  I was afraid of being before Him and not knowing what to say or do, having nothing to prove that I was good enough to be saved or go to Heaven.  I was too afraid to move or pray or think about it.  I didn’t love God, and I thought I never, ever would.


However, one day, my mom told me that when she was a little girl, she didn’t love God.  She questioned how she could if she didn’t know Him.  She then prayed and asked Him to help her to love Him more.  This got me thinking.  First, I was amazed that my mom had explained my exact experience without ever knowing that was how I felt.  Second, I had never tried this before.  I wanted to believe Him if He was real.  I wanted to know Him if He was real.  I wanted to love Him if He was real.  I have always had a little bit of FOMO, so I was willing to test this out and see if it would change anything.


Middle School:

What’s funny is this really only opened the door.  I began to have a thirst for knowledge, to really want to understand the things I felt I believed, though nothing really had changed.  Even though I didn’t really understand much, I had a deep desire to, and I was open.  Then, I ended up meeting a girl who hosted a Bible study at her house through her Methodist Church.  She invited me to it, and I started to go.  Every Friday for 2 and a half years I would go to this group with friends and read the Bible, ask and answer questions (typical group discussion stuff), and hang out.  As I kept going though, I began to realize that no one (especially me) was really learning, growing, or changing that much, and it didn’t really seem that anyone had a desire to.  One day however, in our Bible study through James, I was really struck by James 1:23-25: ”Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it–not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it–they will be blessed in what they do.”  I realized that it’s not just knowledge that is supposed to fill me up, back me up, and make me strong in what I believe.  It’s practically acting it out.


High School:

I ended up leaving that Bible study because, among other reasons, I wanted to really try this.  I wanted to see if I could learn and grow in a way that was actually according to the Word that I was supposed to act out.  And for that, I had to separate myself.  This was an extremely difficult decision as all of these people were truly my only friends at the time, and when I soon realized that they simply moved on, I was left totally and completely alone.  I was on MySpace at the time (yeah, this was 2007), and I was so beyond depressed.  Depressed enough that I was afraid to hold knives in the kitchen because I didn’t know what I was capable of doing to myself.  I felt I had nothing to live for and there was no purpose to my life.  I was super friendly and “happy” at school, where no one would know there was anything wrong, but at home, I was completely despondent.  Then one day, I got fed up with everything.  I was on MySpace, looking at my old friend’s pages and comparing myself to lives I didn’t have, reading about and seeing pictures of how they had moved on without me and were having fun, and I had had enough.  I turned off the computer and ran upstairs to my room.  I sat on my bed and I talked loudly and openly to God.  I remember saying, “God, if You’re real, this is how I feel right now…” and proceeded to explain every single detail of my life up until that point.  I explained how lonely and angry I felt.  How unimportant and insignificant.  How passed over and ignored.  How it seemed I didn’t have what everyone else had: boyfriends, cool clothes, exciting experiences, and unique/funny personalities.  I spoke out loud until I couldn’t think of anything else that was hurting me.  Then, I was silent.


What happened next is something I can’t really explain adequately, but I know that it happened and it marked me.  I heard God.  For the first time in my life.  And I didn’t hear Him say anything spectacular.  It wasn’t Scripture.  It was a three word sentence that I had never heard anyone else say before.  “Delete your MySpace.”  That was it.  It wasn’t outside of me.  It was inside of my head.  However, I knew that it wasn’t me that said it.  I would have never thought that due to the fact that my MySpace was all I had.  That was my one link to my friends, and really, to culture and community in general as every day after school, I would just come home and immediately get on the computer.  The only thing was that it had been killing me.  Slowly but surely, I was becoming more and more isolated, even though this thing was supposed to keep me more and more connected to the world.  It didn’t take me long to realize that I had a decision to make; a risk to take…and I was going to take it.  I let go.  I immediately went downstairs, and almost without thinking about it, I did it.  I deleted all I had left in my life that described and held who I was to a whole bunch of people who didn’t really care, and I decided to take a chance on Someone who I didn’t understand or really know how much He cared.  This was the beginning of change for me.  Instead of spending time reading or hearing other people’s thoughts and opinions and experiences, I started to read, and I mean really read, what the God of the Bible had to say.  I read with openness and a willingness to learn and listen and believe and trust.  I wanted to hear what He had to say and was tired of trying to figure things out on my own about Him.  If I was going to take steps in this direction, I at least had to understand what that meant.  I had to give Him a chance to change me.  I had to let Him in, and be willing to embrace whatever that looked like.  That is, if I was going to be intellectually honest as a seeker.


This is when more and more prayers began to be answered.  I was genuinely wanting to know the answers to my questions and I was expectant to hear them.  I was also willing to accept what I heard.  I’m not talking about from my Pastor, or from my parents.  I’m talking about straight from God’s Word to me.  People have their opinions and their independent conversations.  However, if this Bible was something that God had truly given me to know and understand who He is and what He is like, I was going to open myself up to learn as much as I could from it, while allowing myself to truly think it through.  I didn’t understand everything, but I believed and I wanted to learn more, so I prayed for God to give me an opportunity to learn more of His Word.  Then, almost a week later, a leader in my Youth Group at church reached out to me for ice-cream.  She told me that I stood out to her, that she saw me as a leader, and that she wanted to offer the opportunity to disciple me if I was willing.  I so was because I knew this was the answer to my prayer.


We met every week for 16 weeks to go through the book of Romans in the Bible.  For the first time, I began to really understand who Jesus was.  I learned what His death meant for me.  I used to think that talking about Jesus’ blood was gory and dramatic, and that the phrase “Jesus died on the cross for you” was super cliché.  I didn’t think that “sin” was that big of a deal.  I wanted to learn more things about the Word of God that were more important and that I could really grab hold of.  However, being open to God and God’s Word, I learned that my philosophy was wrong.  Jesus’ death was not some isolated incident that I could move on from or ignore.  This was a one-time act that my entire life, and truly the entire purpose of my life hinged upon.  My life has no meaning apart from His death on the cross.  Why?  Because there is nothing, and no one that can save me or make my life complete on this earth.  Save me from what?  My deep seated longing to know why I’m here and where I’m going.  I can live a normal life – a monotonous, day to day, simple life.  However, where am I going?  When this is over, what’s going to happen to me, and will what I did here mean anything at all?  Will it last?


Then there was the sin thing.  I hadn’t done things that were that bad (obviously, as I already said, I was raised in church and in a Christian home.  I was public schooled, but never did or wanted to do anything crazy).  I wondered why sin was such a big deal.  Then, I learned that everyone has sinned (lying, cheating, stealing, being jealous, hating), and that no matter how small it is or who it was done against, every time we sin, it is not really against another person.  It’s against God Himself.  We are disobeying His law, which is summed up in the Ten Commandments.  The only thing is, we can’t keep it.  If you think about it, no one, no matter how hard they try, is or can be perfect.  It’s impossible.  Romans 3:10-18 says that there is no one who is good, no one who has ever fully followed these commands, and no one who can.


Then, here comes Jesus.  He is fully human, yet fully God (I’m not asking you to think about or question the philosophy here, but to be open to the possibility).  He says that He chooses to die.  That no one can take His life from Him, but He willingly and voluntarily lays it down.  Out of love.  Why?  What does that mean for me 2,000 years later?  If He is perfect; if He fully and completely – perfectly fulfilled the Law of God in His life on earth, then He can choose to be my Sacrifice.  He can choose to die so that I can experience forgiveness from my sins and be free from having to fulfill a Law that I was never, ever even close to being able to fulfill.  And why did I have to fulfill it?  Because if I didn’t, I was going to die in my sin.  I had no hope.  Nothing I could do was going to be good enough to save me from my destination, which was dying separated from a perfect God who could not accept me in my imperfection, no matter how much He loved me.  So He died.  He died.  He died for me.  If He was the One to die, then if I could believe and accept His sacrifice, nothing could ever separate me from His love again.  And He gave me time.  He gave me the time and ability to listen and learn so that I could fully come to believe and accept Him.  He always has and He always will.



It’s been 10 years since I first began my real walk with God.  I was raised in church, but I wasn’t a strong follower until I met Him for myself.  Until I heard His voice for me.  Until I realized that He wasn’t mad or disappointed in me for not knowing Him, but in love, He was waiting until I was willing enough to let Him show me.  And that wasn’t the last time either.  I have been set on a (day to day) lifetime of discovering more of who He is.  I read the Bible every day, not to gain knowledge of it or facts and figures, but to really know Him.  To know His character and what He thinks, how He thinks.  I talk to Him every day, and I have heard His voice many more times over the years as well as had many more and more impactful experiences with Him.  Each one better than the last.  And I have fallen deeper in love with Him than I thought was possible for myself.  I didn’t know I ever would or ever could, and yet, I am now the one leading worship, singing songs of genuine adoration and love to a God that I have never seen.  But I know Him.  I feel that I know Him better than I know my best friend on earth.  And I love Him.


You may not understand fully what all this means, but I want you to know that I believe what I’ve written here wholeheartedly.  This is not jargon, or these are not cliché or meaningless words, but words that have been crafted out of a heart that believes.  And I want you to know for yourself what I know.  That I am saved and set free from loneliness and fear of being alone.  If you are in a place where I once was, give yourself the freedom and ability to seek Him.  Even if it means cutting other things out of your life.  Otherwise, how will you ever really know if you aren’t willing to give Him a chance to show you?  You never know until you seek.


“What I say to you in the dark (privately), tell in the light (publicly); and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops [to many people].” – Matthew 10:27


Blog pic: On the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland