Not So Different After All

Happy Tuesday! Hope Monday was good to you…or at least all right. Mine was better than expected and given last week’s insanity, that was fine by me. Though it was of course far from perfect.
Perfect Monday anyone…? NO, really. It does happen…and if it happened for you, PLEASE share in the comments below! I think we would all benefit from the reminder that “perfect” days do happen. Even on Mondays!
That being said let me be super real with you. Is that okay?
I’ve been struggling lately with my attitude. My attitude about work, my attitude about my students, my attitude about Mexico…. (I currently live in Mexico in case you missed that.)
I’ve been negative and I’ve complained SO much more than I would ever like to admit. I dislike grading, I dislike extra time spent after school, I dislike taking work home and feeling as if it’s just never done. Ever. Honestly, teaching is not quite my niche (and that’s a nice way to put it.) It has been nothing short of challenging and humbling and often times exhausting and draining on a whole new level since I arrived in Mexico nearly two years ago.
Which brings us to last Tuesday.
I was so frustrated. Done. Fed up. I was ready to walk into that classroom and put them in their places. To make sure they knew that I was not there to be nice because nice had gotten us nowhere. They had taken advantage of my niceness and used it as an excuse to do whatever they wanted and to disregard pretty much everything in our classroom. They were being rude and rolling their eyes and consistently doing pretty much nothing and endlessly complaining about the little that they did do…I had run the speech over and over in my head that morning. I was grading their projects and getting angrier by the minute.
And then, I felt it.
Or heard it?
I’m not certain which came first.
The little nudge on my shoulder. The gentle whisper close to my ear.
And almost instantly, I was humbled. Broken even.
So much of what I was thinking and saying about them, the things that were frustrating me the most, were exactly things I had been doing. My attitude had honestly not been much better than theirs and I had been carelessly complaining to my friends and to God and I’m pretty sure rolling my eyes at the sky. Who was I to be frustrated with these kids?
Had God been any less kind to me? Had God come storming into my prayer time and laid down the law, given me a cold, harsh speech about how I needed to fix my attitude or else!? Had He pulled away from me or changed His demeanor with me? Was His grace and love any less available to me? Had His opinion of me changed because I kept complaining or rolling my eyes? Had He written me off because I had been lazy with my prayer and devotional time?
I didn’t have an answer.
Just tears welling up in my eyes.
Of course the answer was no.
He hadn’t. He hadn’t changed one bit. His love for me was exactly the same, perhaps even deeper than ever before. His grace was as available as ever, probably even more so as He could see my desperate need. He still thought the world of me and when I prayed (even complaining and rolling my eyes) He smiled, glad to meet me there. He had not been cold or harsh and the truth was that He was as warm and as near as always. The kindest.
So who on earth did I think I was?
I needed from Him exactly what these students needed from me.
His unconditional love.
His limitless grace.
His endless patience.
His genuine kindness.
His careful discipline.
His kind and gentle correction.
His ever available presence.
His  understanding.
His consistency.
His security and His guidance.
How long had it been since I had prayed for these students? As a group? As individuals? When was the last time I had asked God to use me in that classroom, to represent Him to them each day? Had I ever looked at them as individuals created by God for His plans and His purposes and prayed that He would work and move in each life? How long had I been taking for granted this opportunity, this privilege, this responsibility He had placed in my hands?
You follow?
So. Broken and humbled, and a little ashamed, I began to pray. First for my own heart. That God would change my perspective and my outlook and attitude. That I would remember what it was He had called me here to do. To help students in Mexico encounter Him, know Him, and learn His Word. That I would see them through His eyes and love them with His heart.

And then I prayed for them. That God would invade their hearts. That they would long to know Him more and to learn more of who He is. That He would change their attitudes and outlooks also and that He would help them to connect with me so that together we could better connect with Him.
And believe me, the change of attitude and perspective and approach was not as instant. I was still dreading walking into that class, and they were just as rough as ever. But, now I had a plan. There were steps to take, things to tell myself in the hardest moments. Individual chats with students who could sense that I was “off” that day. The chance to explain grace and to be real and authentic with them. To show them that yes, I am the Bible teacher, but also, I am human. I am a child of God, and I need all of them same things from Him always.
I think this is a lesson that we won’t ever stop learning.
That we are not any better off than the person we dislike the most. The person who brings the worst out of us and frustrates us beyond words.
We’re actually the same.
Just dust.
In need of someone who will love us anyways. In spite of all of the awful things that we are.
It’s hard to hear. Harder to accept. Even harder to change and break the cycle and learn to love those people. For me, those students. But, I can guarantee that someone in their prayer time is struggling to love me that way. That I am frustrating beyond words to someone (at least) on this planet.
But Jesus. He doesn’t struggle to love any of us. It’s easy for Him. A joy for Him. His complete delight.

So, instead of ranting and raving to Him today about all of the things that frustrate us, all of the people that frustrate us, let’s use our time to ask for heart change. Let’s tell Him how desperate we are for His grace and His love and that when we receive it, He would help us to extend it to others.
I had that class again yesterday. After a week apart.
They were different children. I’m not kidding.
They were quieter. They rolled their eyes less.
They asked if we could start class with prayer.
I was different. I was calmer. I was gentler. I heard them and I saw them. Each of them. I was looking to see how God was going to work. How He would respond to my prayers.
He was so evidently and obviously present in that classroom.
And all of a sudden, the people I showed up to teach about Jesus, are somehow teaching me about Him. And I was not annoyed or angry about that, I was humbled. I was thankful.
For them.
For Him.
For grace exemplified in the way that He loves.
For this year that He has called us together to learn from each other and to understand more of who He is in the process.

Living for Applause

I think it is a common desire to be noticed. Everyone wants to be recognized for what they are doing especially when it comes to their work. Regardless of where you are working, for a big company or for your family, you want your work to be noticed, appreciated, and commended. It's normal! However, it is something we often get hung up on.

I can be honest and say too many times I have gotten my feeling hurt by the thanks that wasn't given, my hard work that didn't get the recognition, the time spent that didn't get acknowledged. Can you relate? Somehow I think we let others' response elevate or diminish our effort. And it's frustrating! It's something we may call a friend and vent about. 

"They didn't even notice!" 
"He took all the credit for what I did!" 
"I guess I am not really that great because no one ever says anything." 
"I worked so hard, and for what?"

It is a mind game that we too often buy into. What we do, who we are, must not be that important because it isn't verbally appreciated or acknowledged. You see, as long as we wait for someone else to validate what we do and who we are we will live in insecurity and in a mindset that we are working to please others. The apostle Paul fought this battle, and he came to the correct conclusion:

One conclusion I have come to through my own battle is if I am focused on all that I have done already I will get burned out, lose passion, lose focus, and become ineffective. But rather than focusing on all that I have done (without the recognition I feel it deserves), I must focus on all that still needs to be done. For you that may mean rather than killing yourself to prove to anyone how great of a mother you are, focus on the mothering that is left to be done. Instead of thinking of all that you do that your boss doesn't see, think about more ways to serve your boss and your company. If you can do this you will stay more encouraged, more inspired, and more passionate about accomplishing what God has put in your hands.

You see we shouldn't be living and working for anyone's pat on the back. We should be doing what we believe is the right thing to do. We should be working for what we believe in. People will always disappoint us. We will always feel under-appreciated at times, but as long as we are working for the purpose of pleasing God, we won't be disappointed with ourselves. I can recover from someone being let down, but if I let myself down that is a true tragedy. 

I encourage you to live and work and fight for what you believe in. Live on purpose. Live with a purpose. Not for the purpose of pleasing and impressing others, but to please and impress God. The Bible tells us that God sees what we do in secret and rewards us openly (Matthew 6:4). You see, God's approval is the only one we need. And when He applauds everyone hears it.

Here's a quote that I have always loved and think it is a great thought to live with.

Have you ever struggled with this? We would love to hear about it. 
Share your story in the comments below.

Hey there galentine

I used to call it V Day. It was funny to me because it sounded so much like D Day, and to me the two were rather closely associated. I only did that because I was trying to make light of how much the day hurt every single year. No one ever secretly sent me chocolate or flowers or put a love line in the school paper to me. I was forever the friend, never chosen, never adored, and as far as I was concerned, why on earth did we need a day specifically to remind me of that?

I know. You think it’s cheesy and so incredibly commercialized. You are way too mature and hipster to participate in a corporate holiday.

Okay, I’ll give you that the whole thing has gone in a rather cheesy direction, but let me encourage you today. You are so loved. Did you know that? I’m sure by many, but I’m certain by God. And you are not only loved, you are cared for and attended to so kindly and so personally. He pursues you and blesses you. He provides for you. He hears you and He responds to you. He died for you. He rescued you.

Is that, if nothing or no one else, not worth celebrating? This year, set aside anger and bitterness in regards to what this day may have meant or represented before. Change. Your mind, your heart, your perspective. Embrace love. The purest expression of it in the history of forever and the fact that you’re on the receiving end of it.

Happy Valentine’s Day dear friend. Do your best to process that thought and not roll your eyes at me ;)

He is near. Don’t believe for one millisecond that He is not.

Loneliness is a liar. It will isolate you and try to drown you. It will convince you that this is it for you. That you have lost love and companionship forever. That no one else is coming. That you are on your own and you cannot, should not, need anyone else ever. It will whisper that it’s better that way. You are better on your own anyways. Moment after moment it will drop those seeds into your mind and your heart, and before you know it, bitterness over all that you have lost and how cold and lonely the world has become will have taken root and suffocated all the rest.

Don’t let it. He is near. You are not alone. This is not the end for you. Love and companionship are not lost forever, they are just taking on new forms in new seasons and they will show up in unlikely places and people. Do not believe the lies that loneliness tells you. It is not better to stay alone. It is not better to push everyone away. You do need people. Open your heart to them. Learn to love again. To love differently and to find joy in new love and new seasons. Bite bitterness in the butt. Don’t let even the tiniest root plant itself in you.

Breathe deeply and move forward. Keep your eyes and your heart open to the love that God is trying to offer you today in the form of Himself and in the midst of new seasons and souls. 

You are magnificent. Truly. I know the waiting is hard. That it feels endless. I know you are so tempted to stop hoping, dreaming, longing. Perhaps you already have. I know you feel trapped in your thoughts, surrounded by dead dreams and empty hopes as the days and months and years whiz by. I know you think there’s something wrong with you. That there must be to have ended up here. I know you struggle to believe, really believe that God is still good and kind in all things.

Sweet friend, He is. All good and all kind.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with Him and how good and kind He is. His refusals are always His mercies. There is time. Perfect time. His time. He is waiting because He loves you so dearly, so deeply and He longs for you to know that and to cling to it.

Dream again. Desire and long and hope. Let them take roots within the deepest places of your heart and soul and let them bloom there because You know He watches over them and tends to them with great, tender care.

Happy Valentines Day beloved sister. May it be filled with the sweetness of renewed hope and trust in the One who always has been and always will be, and is right now, the only love you need.

I get it. Valentines is probably a big deal for you. It is fun and special and exciting. You may have some pretty high expectations of grand gestures and sweet expressions. You may be looking forward to making memories and the special attention. You are so worth it, girl. You are worth the time and the attention and the special planning. Just remember whether things live up to your expectations or not, you are loved regardless.

Maybe you are under the "taken" category, but aren't looking forward to the Valentines festivities. Maybe things have been shakey with your man for a while. You wonder if it will just be going through the motions, or maybe awkward tension with few words exchanged. If this is you this Valentines, let me encourage you to intentionally give love and intentionally receive love. 

Sure you may feel like you are just going through the motions, writing cards and buying gifts out of obligation, but do it anyway. Love even though it is hard, and love fiercely. The more you practice showing love the more real it will become. And receive love! Don't let hurts and your record of rights and wrongs push away the love that is poured on you. Just receive it and know you are worthy of that love. 

Hey lovely, Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Valentine’s Day, to you, the one who feels like you never are chosen. To the one who feels undesirable, unloved, and alone. To the one who feels rejected, set aside, and forgotten. To the one who has those lies whispered into your ear until they take root in your heart and you believe them to be a part of your identity. You need to know something. This is NOT who you are. YOU are desired. YOU are loved. YOU are not alone. You, yes YOU, are being relentlessly pursued by the Almighty God who created this magnificent universe we live in. The Creator of the balmy blue Caribbean, the majestic Swiss Alps, and the tranquil Black Forest, intentionally created YOU. Your deepest sense of identity can be rooted in the truth that the Savior of the world is passionately pursuing your heart and seeing your value. You may not have a date today, but you most assuredly are not unwanted and alone.

I know that the last thing you want is for someone to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. I’m certain it only stings to think of it. The posts, the flowers, the chocolates... the lack of them. I know you only want to stay still for fear that if you move in any direction you’ll be confronted with the sharp, shattered, scattered pieces of your heart. I know you are paralyzed by the aching and the thought that your heart will never be whole again. How you will even begin to pick up the pieces, let alone put them back together is a thought you simply cannot face. How will you ever love again, trust again, smile again, live again?

I get it. Really, I do. I’ve been there. More than once. My heart broken by many different people, words, circumstances, tragedies, my own choices….

It does get better. You will breathe again. You will live again and love again and trust again and smile again. Don’t worry about finding all of the pieces and don’t try to put them back together on your own. Hand whatever you have left in your hands to Him. The creator and the caretaker of your heart. He is a puzzle master. There is no amount of broken that he cannot fix, no shattered beyond repair. He will most certainly put every aching piece back in place and perhaps even rearrange them in an even better way. At any rate, you will be whole again, because He is the God, your God, of restoration and healing. He is the ultimate source of life and joy, of peace and comfort.

Broken hearted one, rest in Him today. In His love for you. Let go of fear, let go of fixing. Just be still and leave the rest to your dear, skillful Creator. The expert in all things regarding your heart.

That's right, I am talking to you an amazing lady! You are glamorous! You are fabulous! You are significant! Sure you feel like you have lived life and it is all down hill from here, but you are far from done. You have so much love to give, so much wisdom to share, so much life to live. So many look to you for guidance. They come to you for comfort. They come to you for love. If you haven't been told lately let me tell you know, you are so loved. 

Never doubt your importance. While we all believe that at some point life will get easier, it never does. You may be in unchartered territory, out of your comfort zone, at the moment, but even in these dim, dark waters, trust the One who has never failed. His love for you will never fail. Be strengthened by His great, strong, unending love this Valentines Day. Remember His goodness and treasure His grace. 

I know right now you might feel chained to hope. Like you just want the hope to end, so the waiting can end, because if hope would just let go so could the waiting. And so could the pain. But hope is something we can't escape. It's in us. It surrounds us. And hope is wrapped in the love of Jesus.

So embrace hope. Embrace the waiting. And embrace the pain. Remember, somehow, in all of the hope and waiting and pain, the purpose of Christ is in it all. His purpose doesn't make it easier. There will still be loneliness. There will still be moments where you doubt yourself, your worth, even God. The nights will not be easier. The long, hard, work-filled days will not be easier. But His purpose makes it worth it.

This Valentines you are wrapped in purpose. You are surrounded in love. You are chained to hope. You are wrapped in the arms of Christ.

Change it.

Change. I’m pretty familiar with this word. There have been many times when it has felt all too familiar...perhaps too much so. The last few years have been years full of change, but 2016 took the cake. Painful yet healthy change. I cannot say that I have always gone through change gracefully, but I can look back now, thankful for it. I remember crying out to God in desperation just begging to be done with the change and the transitions, but in every instance He would whisper with such gentleness, “Trust me, my dear one.”

I was sitting in a counseling session when I knew things had to change. Counseling was one of the healthiest things that I’ve ever done for myself. But it was in the midst of those moments when God began to stir things up and where a new season began.

I was so tired of new seasons. I was so tired of hard moments. I was so worn out from months of battling the darkness that seemed to control my mind. I felt like I should be able to push through it all and pull myself up by the bootstraps and keep moving. But that’s not what God was asking of me. He was asking me to trust. To listen. To move forward. To walk away from things that I so deeply loved.

He was asking me to change.

On June 6, 2016, some of my first and closest friends in Phoenix surrounded me as I said goodbye. I wept tears of sadness and longing to stay. It wasn’t fully real to me yet, but I physically ached from months of pain and change. This city that I loved, as if it had been mine my whole life, was now in my rearview mirror as I drove up I-17 and out of the valley. Landing back in my hometown in the midst of another new season, I knew meant braving the unknown. Only the Lord knew that I would live that unknown for the next five months.

Why am I telling you this? Because change is hard. Because we look at this world and the lives of others so often with rose colored glasses and secretly question why we are the only ones struggling. My dear sister, you are not alone in the midst of your struggle You are not alone in the midst of growth and change.. But please hear me, the change is necessary. God will never change and will forever be a refuge, but He is asking us to move forward. To sometimes say goodbye to the things we never thought we would have to leave behind, often the things that we have loved most.

He is asking us to trust.

So this year I’m choosing to trust. To be present. To not get too ahead of myself. To be still and enjoy this season. To not question God’s best for my life. To live a life of freedom. To constantly be reminded of God’s goodness and His saving grace. To not let my Type A personality of needing to plan get in the way of having some fun. To take new opportunities. To be still and follow.

To not be afraid of change but to welcome it with open arms. To change the way I view my present season. To change some bad habits to good habits. To change my view of change. To not be afraid or anxious about it.

This next week, take a few moments to list three things that you can or want to change. Then take one step at a time to change just one thing. That could be as simple as waking up 15 minutes earlier in the morning to be able to spend a few more moments with Jesus so that He can change or set up your perspective for the day. Or even changing your plans so that you can bless someone else. Whatever it is, make change happen this week!

Please share with us what God is doing and changing in your life or what changes you are making one day at a time. Here at The Pearl Press, we are ALL about #beautyunderpressure. We know that most change is painful and hard and sometimes long, but the reward in the end is a lustrous pearl. We want to see you thrive through that change and that pressure and we want to walk it with you! There’s a pearl in there, we’re certain of it, and we want to help you live up to your pearly potential! 

The thing about grief...

Grief is a weird thing. I know, because I have experienced a great deal of loss the past couple of years. Last year, we lost our Papa and my precious Mimi, and a close friend’s mother passed away unexpectedly. The year before that, I lost a dear lady who I loved deeply, my best friend’s mother. In each of these instances everyone who was affected by these deaths reacted differently. Some went on with life as if nothing happened. Others were mad. Sad. Confused. And some, like me, found themselves in this “awkward” stage. Trying to act like nothing had happened, all the while knowing deep down that something huge really had.

It was hard losing all those people. The most recent pained me the most though—my Mimi. She was a mom to me. I could crawl up on her lap and just sit there talking to her. My sister and I would spend so many nights with her. In fact, most of our childhood was spent with her. When she died it felt like a whole piece of my childhood died with her. She was the one who kept us all centered together. I don’t think anyone is ever prepared for the death of a loved one. I remember the doctors telling us she was to be sent home on hospice and then rushing to get to Bernie. When I got there she was in the hospital bed talking away. For the next couple of days she was laughing, talking, eating, and asking to go to Walmart (one of her favorite places to go). It was nice to have those days with her but it gave my heart a false hope that somehow the doctors had misdiagnosed her. Maybe, just maybe, she would pull through and live longer than they expected. And she thought the same. She kept asking the hospice nurse how it was possible that she was doing so well. The truth was, she was doing so well because we were all there with her. She had her whole family with her and it was really the only thing she had always wanted. She pushed through and fought so hard. And then, just like that, she went downhill.

Here is where death and grief get weird. My grandma began to suffer, and it was so painful to watch. I cried and secretly (although I feel guilty for doing this) prayed that God would take her to Heaven because my heart ached to see her in pain; to see her struggle and to watch as her whole body began to deteriorate. Truthfully, I wasn’t ready to let my grandma go just yet. I wanted her with me. I wanted her to watch my children grow up. I wanted to come home to Bernie and walk in seeing her in her chair watching one of her shows with a smile on her face when she saw me. I wanted to tell her everything happening in my life and to hear her tell me how proud she was of me, or brag about how amazing of a husband I have (she was always his biggest fan!). I wanted to have many more days of shopping at every dollar store, Goodwill and Walmart she could find. My grandma was that person in my life I didn’t expect to die. I just thought she would always be there. Really, I just wanted her to always be there.

You see, everyone grieves differently. For the past two months I haven’t been able to feel anything. I didn’t even cry at her funeral. But now, I miss her with every part of me. It has hit me like this big gushing wave. I think about her when I’m driving and instinctively want to dial her number. I think about her when I go shopping. I think about her when I feel like I’ve accomplished something she would be proud of. I think about her when my children do something that would have amazed her. I think about her when I’m sick and I need someone to just listen to me feel sorry for myself. I miss her telling me she loves me and misses me…

Oh, I miss her…really miss her. 

The problem with grief is that not everyone understands it. Because we all grieve differently we all have opinions on how others should grieve. I’ve been guilty of this. How could that person move on so fast? Why is that person “still” grieving? And I’ve also been on the other end where I’ve questioned my own grieving. “Is it okay to talk about my grandma dying?” “Is it okay if others know I miss her and that it hurts?” “Should I be over it by now?” This process of grieving is why I’m writing this particular article. I know one day I will see my grandma again, and I cannot wait until that day. This assurance is what gives me hope. Because Jesus made a way, and I’m so very thankful He did, my heart can be filled with joy knowing that we will be reunited. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss her right now. It doesn’t mean I don’t hurt or get frustrated. It doesn’t mean I’m okay right now. And that’s okay.

When my best friend lost her mom, I felt this incredible pain with her because I loved Mrs. Joy so very much. At times, I didn’t know what to say to help her. I was completely lost on what to do. But there was one thing I said to her that she repeated back to me just today: “Remember, it’s okay to not be okay.” You don’t have to have it all together. You don’t have to always be strong in front of others. You can cry. Please cry. You can laugh, yes you can even laugh at the funeral, after the funeral, weeks later, months later. You can get mad (just don’t stay mad). You can be okay, but it’s also okay to not be okay. And if you’re reading this and you’ve never experienced losing a loved one… give grace to those who have. Lots of it. Don’t judge. Please don’t judge. Let them decide whether they are okay or not, because in a world where we can put on a fake smile and post a picture to Facebook for everyone to see how great we are doing, we need to be able to just not be okay sometimes. Is that “okay?”

So if there’s one thing that my loss has shown me I need to change this year it’s to cling to Jesus (He will see you through at all times), make lots of memories, love with all you have, judge less, and allow yourself the freedom to “not be okay” from time to time.

The Year of Living Adventurous

I am called to live and adventurous life.

At the end of 2016, I found myself plopped on my bed with my journal in front of me. I was taking an inventory of my life. The inventory wasn't necessarily about achievements or memorable moments or regrets. My time was spent reflecting on how I lived my life that year. The truth was plain and simple: my life lacked adventure. I began to talk avidly about living 2017 adventurously.

One of the first things God taught me this year came through the second chapter in Genesis. I am a workaholic who often laments the fact that I don't have enough adventures in life. I was compelled to look all the way back to the very beginning and look at God's initial plan, His blueprints for our existence. In Genesis 2:8-14, the author painted a beautiful picture of the environment in which God placed human beings. In verse 15 he writes, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and care of it" (NIV). Work was initially created as something to be enjoyed.

People spend a lot of time during and after work hours complaining about the amount of work that still needs to be done. Work is presently a word that has some messed up emotions attached to it. Workaholics view work as an addiction; the work-averse view it as a cruel slave-master. We need to put food on the table! Even reading the word "work" makes us feel exhausted and depleted.

In the beginning, work didn't come with a curse. God's idea of work has always been about good stewardship of what belongs to Him. We are created to develop and take care of the world around us- natural and man-made. God's purpose of work comes with the freedom and the encouragement to enjoy the blessings he has provided.

It is easy to fall into the trap of viewing our jobs and our work as something contrasting to an adventurous life. Work is boring and considered a burden, while adventures are enjoyable, fun, and exciting.

Adventure doesn't come in one size fits all package. Adventures don't always mean traveling the world or trying new activities. Our work can be an adventure with God as well! If we invite Him to guide us in His way and for His purpose. Our work can be an adventure where we fulfill God's purposes in our lives and enjoy the freedom to take pleasure in the blessings we have been given.

How can we view our work as an adventure with God?

God has been challenging me to think as a life that is dependent on God and one that dares respond to God's often inexplainable plans with a firm "Yes!" even when we don't quite understand what He's getting at.

Going back to the passage in Genesis, it continues saying, "And the Lord commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die,'" (Genesis 2:16017, NIV).

If we look at the episode with Adam and Eve and the incident with the fruit from Genesis 3, we know that they both decided to eat the fruit God placed a restriction on. It is easy for both Adam and Eve to think that the real adventure would come if they eat the forbidden fruit. Our very purposeful and good God must have had a plan for placing the fruit there, and obediently waiting for Him to unveil His marvelous plans would probably lead to the greatest adventure Adam and Eve embark on with God.

Trust and obedience of waiting. What if those peculiar items make up an amazing, adventurous life with God? We might be living in a season of waiting, in a season of always having to remind ourselves to trust God's promises in our lives. To trust God's call on our lives. And let's be honest for a second, waiting is hard! It's messy and kind of frustratingly agonizing. However, God is not done with your story yet! Stories of adventure always have a lot of suspense and a lot of uncertainty. It's part of the adventure! What if obediently and trustingly waiting is part of our grand adventure with God?

How would we live our lives differently if we know that the waiting and the obedience is part of our adventure with God?

I have no clue what will happen in 2017. I don't know what to expect globally, nationally, or personally. A lot might happen. But God is still in control. Why don't we dare ourselves this year to live adventurously with God?

He Will Come

I don't know about you guys, but I began this year feeling weak, discouraged, and saddened. 2016 did not go the way I thought it would. My plan was to work as much as I possibly could all year, saving as much as I could for grad school. Although the last few months of the year ended with me doing that, many frustrating job searches, transitions, and uncertainty had occupied most of the year, and I was nowhere near where I wanted to be. Additionally, I felt spiritually dry and distant from God, through no one's fault but my own. I was bitter and frustrated, as though God had owed me something and failed to deliver, when in fact I was the one who hadn't been faithful.

But I didn't - and I don't - want to stay that way. I want to have the desire I once had to be near to the Lord; to be utterly consumed by the need to know Him and make Him known.

Maybe you're familiar with the story of Hosea. He was an Old Testament prophet who served God during a time when Israel was unfaithful to the Lord. God famously asked of Hosea something that seemed ludicrous: go and marry a prostitute. Then, after they'd had children and she was unfaithful to Hosea, God asked again: forgive her. Take her back. Their entire relationship was a picture of what the people of Israel repeatedly did to the Lord. Again and again, Israel turned away from God, and again and again, God invited his people to return. In the middle of the book comes this beautiful plea:

We are Hosea's wife. We constantly turn to other things and people to satisfy us. As Augustine said, our hearts are idol factories. But when we are faithless, God is faithful. He promises that when we turn to Him, He will come. Just as we can be sure that the sun will rise, we can bank on the fact that God will draw near to us when we draw near to Him.

He will come. He will revive. He will restore.

Does the power to change come from our own strength or willpower? Are we the ones who bring life and who renew ourselves? What is the work that God asks of us?

The work is to believe. In John 6:29, Jesus tells the crowds following Him, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." God's invitation to us remains the same. Come to Me. Believe in Me. Place your trust and hope in Me and press on to know Me.

If we believe that God is who He says he is and that He does what He says He will do, we will give everything to know him. We will draw near. And when we do, He promises that He will come.