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Reflecting on 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer

For the last 21 days our church has corporately led us in fasting and prayer. I was cautiously optimistic when I learned our staff would be facilitating this 21-day challenge in January.

Our lead pastor resigned in November, leaving us in a time of transition. His resignation came in a season where God had already begun to shift the culture at our church. We’d gone from a harvest season to a sowing season to what was beginning to look like a desert season.

I’ve never fasted outside of Lent or from food, but God laid heavy on my heart His desire for me to commit fully to this fast. Not to check it off a Christian to-do list but to truly draw near to Him in a time of so many unknowns for our church family and for me personally.

January 13 we kicked off our 21 days.
February 3 we celebrated all God did and will continue to do.

I went in weary, worn out, ready to quit. Entering the fast, I had very specific prayers and petitions to bring before God. I did my best to hold these petitions out humbly, knowing fasting increases our awareness of our need for God to revive our hearts.

Revival. That’s what we need. That’s what I need.

The enemy swooped in with various schemes early in the 21 days. I could not press on any longer. Tears like a river came flowing one Sunday morning during service and my mentor took notice. As a woman who’s been in ministry for many years, she’s always faithful to point me back to God and the scriptures. 

What she said that day stuck with me the duration of our 21 days. 
She said: God is conditioning you character.

Really, it felt more like God was scrubbing away at my character. Sin and pride were revealed, repented of and handed over to the One that revives the broken and contrite heart.

Though I had a list of specific petitions, I began to simply pray:
God, align my affections with your will. I don’t know what to do but my eyes are on you.

The scriptures reminded me the battle isn’t mine, it’s God’s (2 Chronicles 20). I needed to stop striving and step back into rhythm with the Spirit with praise and thanksgiving. When we’re in the family of God, we don’t fight for victory rather we’re fighting from a place of victory. 

We can call on the name of the Most High and He will hear us from heaven and is faithful to respond. When fasting we rely on the steadfast love of God to bring us deliverance. The same is true for our daily lives. We can stand firm, hold our position and see the salvation of the Lord on our behalf all the while praising His great name.

The way God answers or instructs His people isn't often the answer they expected or even in the realm of what they requested. God’s response will always be one that accomplishes His eternal mission, and for that I’m so thankful. Such was the same for my time of fasting and prayer.

So often the specific solutions I propose to the God of the Universe would only satisfy my current discomfort. How prideful of me; yet, how kind of God to gently lead me to a place of deeper instruction. A place where my contrite heart is revived and redirected toward His greater purposes amidst afflictions.

Over and over God met my pleas and prayers with affirmation and resolution. In His goodness, He provided just the smallest revelations to allow understanding in the right next step. I easily forget that little by little is so often the way God instructs us to move forward.

There are still many unknowns at the close of these 21 days, but there has been a shift in my heart and mind. Where disconnect and despair ran ramped, there’s renewed unity from myself to God and especially from myself to our local church. And that, friends, is wholly the work of the Spirit.

My greatest takeaway from 21 days of fasting and prayer with my local church would be this:

God is more loving and more holy than I can ever imagine.

Year of Abundance

The year of abundance all started with wanting to feel His presence more than I had been. I knew from 2017 that He is an ever present Shepherd continually caring to my needs and preparing the way. So, it was a simple prayer: Lord, let me see you.

In the smallest ways I wanted to see Him show up. And He did.

In laughter with my husband. In heartfelt conversations with my son. In the timeliness of decisions at work. In the women who showed up for bible study week after week with great eagerness to know Him more. I felt my heart and mind being transformed little by little as He began to answer this prayer.

But I didn’t want to just see Him more, I wanted to understand His movements in a new way. It’s no small thing to ask the Creator of the universe, the Great Almighty, I Am, to see what He sees, feel what He feels, to understand His view of this abundant life more.

Abundance was my word of the year, the focus of my days. Jesus’ abandoned life for my abundant life. But what really did this mean for me specifically? With a holy fear I brought this petition before Him believing He’d be gentle in His response. That’s how a Shepherd tends to His sheep, with gentleness and intention. I was ready to discern and walk in this answer with Him.

From the Desk of a Seemingly Silent Writer

Guilt covered my heart as I came back to this place to process what God’s done this year. With one click the browser opens. Another click, the drafts tab opens. It’s all a reminder God told me to get back to writing, yet the year is almost done and the page refreshes with only a couple half-hearted published posts and some wholehearted unpublished posts.

There’s this flip-side that comes along with the gift of writing. I’ve heard it echoed by other writers the more I’ve leaned in to really listen this year. With the gift of words comes a surrendering of ourselves to others. In the context of a believer, we ask words to come from the Father and that He’d direct them as needed. And as sweet a communion as this may be, it means writers are often asked to share some of their most intimate moments with the Lord, the messiest parts of their hearts, all while trusting it’s for their good and His glory. 

In the still of my office I can’t help but ask God to show me what He did through my writing this year.

Learning to Lead

God told me this year would be different. I could feel it in my bones in January. He was clear: leadership would change and I’d need my gaze up to change with Him.

Even still, I couldn’t imagine what He’d do in this arena over the next 342 days.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

The way He moved so faithfully and kindly would ingrain these words from Paul into my heart for all time. I couldn’t imagine how God intended to move, but I knew it’d start with my own understanding of leading.

February brought the first instance of hearing a sermon that’s message was: 
Start where you are. 
Use what you have.
Do what you can.
Trust Jesus as the multiplier. 

This was the first of three times this message would be preached over me this year. In the ebb and flow of this ministry year, God knew I’d need to be reminded over and over it’s not my striving but my surrender He needs most. 

You see, the call to women’s ministry is one I still didn’t quite get. Why would God call up a woman who struggles with female friendships to lead the women of her church family? As such, I’ve been hesitant to claim myself as the women’s ministry leader. For several seasons I got away with the excuse I didn’t want to step on toes of teammates. We’d finally found our rhythm after a season of stumbling as a team. Surely God wouldn’t want me to throw a wrench in this gift of new rhythm. Right?

I’m thinking wrong. 

By October God stripped me of my team. Every last one of them. Might I add: they stepped aside for all the right reasons, too. He gave me no option in the matter. There I was. The last woman standing. And so it was: I was - am - the women’s ministry leader.

A Note to Jackson: Your 7th Birthday

Keep being who God created you to be; don’t shy away from the way He created you. This was my prayer on the eve of your birthday last year. In your year of being 6, I prayed you’d lean into this wild, caring soul you are.

You see, even at age 6 I’ve seen this world press on your heart to conform, but baby this world is not our home and being fully who you are in Christ means you’re going to stand out a little.

Even still, this year I saw you fight for comfort in your own skin. You set goals, developed skills, sought out new friends and claimed the freedom to be fully you. As your mama, it’s a hard yet rewarding season to see you step into.