Testimony Tuesday: Thank You

Maybe, just maybe, calling today’s post a true “testimony” is a little bit of a stretch. Perhaps I should call it more of a rambling… a stream of consciousness, if you will. Although, even that isn’t a proper term. Because what this really is, what I was truly called to write today, is a thank you letter.

Yes, you read that right. Today’s testimony is, rather simply, a thank you letter.

I’ve felt so called lately to listen. And by lately, I really mean for the past several years. As I’ve been aching to move on, move forward, everything has told me – or, in some cases, forced me to – slow down, be still, and open my ears and heart to what the Lord was trying to tell me. Sometimes, particularly at the beginning, it was listening to Him tell me what He wanted me to do. Other times, more recently, it’s been Him trying to show me why.

I’m humbled, embarrassed, and elated to say that finally, finally, I did just that. I listened. Maybe it was because I’ve hit the two-year mark since jumping into full-time adult life (aka, graduating) and that’s hit me in ways I could never imagine, or maybe it’s something I can’t even fathom, or maybe it’s literally just me listening to Your beckoning and obeying. Whatever it is, I finally listened.

And all that I can think to say in response, Lord, is “thank you.”

Thank you, Lord.

Thank you for calling me to dwell in the desert a little longer, even though I had the opportunity and a nagging desire to go elsewhere. Thank you for putting me in the internship that became my full-time position and for showing me that this was not just something I did for a desire to be comfortable and secure. You brought it to me as something that was exciting, a goal to work towards, a job I love. That, I’ve realized, was You offering me an opportunity for growth, for learning, and for forging relationships that I otherwise would have missed out on.

Thank you for keeping me close to my family, immediate and extended. It was so, so needed these past two years, in both the best ways and the worst.

Thank you for pulling me further into the church, further into a relationship with You. I admit that I falter here sometimes. I prioritize earthly duties and desires over the spiritual obligation of attendance, but I know that You are beside me even in those times. I know that now because of the way You brought me back. I know that straying for a week, a month, a year, does not mean I’m lost. You love us all, You love me always.

I’ve said this one a million and ten times, but thank you for the boy and for every wonderful, glorious thing that has happened because of him. Thank you for giving me an everyday example of the person I long to be, through the person I most wish to be that for.

Thank you for giving me a newfound appreciation for the city I call home. I fallen in love the way the mountains look when painted against your purple night sky. I have learned to appreciate the smell of the creosote after a rainstorm even more than I did when we first moved here, all those years ago. I have grown to appreciate the grid of the wide streets and avenues, an the eccentricities of them, like how the east valley stops numbering and Grand Avenue cuts up the squares with its diagonal direction.

Thank you for the courage to start this blog and an outlet to proclaim my love for You and my lessons along the way. Thank you for helping me grasp at what is still a murky balance of finding myself and finding my faith, and for reminding me again that mistakes are always okay. Just learn from them.

Lord, I’ve learned so much in the past two years and I don’t think I would have had I hopped on a plane to Boston right away. I’m so thankful for the opportunity you gave me to stay here, even if I questioned that.

So, okay. Maybe this wasn’t a true testimony… but then again, maybe it really was. Because Your hand is so clear to me now, Your presence throughout all of this.

I am so humbled, and so grateful.

Thank you.

Testimony Tuesday: Keeping Still

The Lord will fight for you,
and you have only to keep still.

– Exodus 14:14

Keeping still.

It’s never been my strongest attribute.

I fidget, constantly. I play with my hair, gnaw at my nails, tap my foot. I do almost anything to keep from keeping still, actually.

And yet, in the grander scheme of things, it has so seemed like that’s exactly what the Lord is asking me to do right now. Keep still, He whispers to me. I feel called to keep still in life, in location, in all of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see this as a bad thing. In fact, I’m fairly certain that this is the most still I’ve felt in ages… perhaps my entire life, though I only have twenty-three years to base that judgement off of.

I feel like your twenties are such an uncertain, ever changing age. Perhaps we don’t all face the hostilities of Moses and his people as they fled from Egypt, but we can all learn from it. I feel like there’s some sort of metaphor there…

As if, in our twenties, we are inclined, even tempted, to flee from our childhoods, and whatever we may associate with it. For some, that’s a town, or a mindset, or a relationship. But the Lord, ever so gently, so wisely, is urging us to keep still. Don’t be rash. Pray. Trust.

He will continue to fight for us, for the life He knows we ought to live.

I know the conflicted feeling so well – the feeling of wanting to go one way, but feeling as if you should go another. It’s in that conflict that I hear the Lord. He is the one on my heart telling me what I should do, and right now, I’m in a season on stillness. And even though I might have friends galavanting across foreign countries, or whisking away into the wilderness, or jumping head-first into some other terrifying, thrilling thing… the Lord is calling me to keep still.

To stay put.

To listen.

To trust.

And you know what?

That is perfectly okay. 

I resign myself to it, to His will, to listening, and to obeying. I resign myself to keeping still.

For all I know, stillness may end up being the best gift He’s ever given me.

National Day of Prayer

When I think of the National Day of Prayer, I think of a large group of my fellow high school students gathering around the flag pole the protruded from the gravel in front of our school, hands held, heads bowed, voices off. It was always a brief moment, but a profound one. I knew I could go to it each year. I won’t say that I participated, but as a teenaged girl who grew up in a Christian household, I loved knowing that I could go there.

Granted, I didn’t find the Lord again until college. Not that I didn’t always believe, but my true spiritual journey moved beyond the adolescent “yes, I believe in Jesus because that’s how I was raised” towards “yes, I believe in Jesus, plain and simple” during my later years of college.

However, in a slightly ironic turn of events, since coming back to the church, I’ve actually paid less attention to National Day of Prayer.

Until this year.

It came onto my Twitter feed, actually, because of Chris Tomlin. And I decided to do some research. See, I guess I never really registered what this day was about. So I Googled it, as any curious millennial is prone to do, and came across the National Day of Prayer website, with an article about 4 prayer priorities for America this year.

The 4 priorities are simple, but I thought it might make more sense if I created my own original prayer for each priority as opposed to reciting what is written (I’ve never felt overly connected to that). This year’s National Day of Prayer might not be, for me, about meeting around a flagpole, but I can certainly get on board with joining our nation in a moment of humbleness and prayer, focusing on these 4 things:

  1. Ask God to bless the United States of America.
    Lord, I pray that You continue to press this country so abundantly. So fiercely. I pray that You continue to offer us a vast land with so many resources, and that You bless us with people who understand the best, most ethical, most sustainable way to use those resources so that we may continue to use and glorify Your creation for years to come. May we find a way to set aside differences, even momentarily, in order to seek a better future for us all.
  2. Pray for unity in America.
    Lord, this one is so close to my heart these days. I pray that Your constant presence helps lead us all, those who believe and those who are still seeking, towards unity, peace, and forward movement. May You give every single one of us an open heart and mind, and the desire to unite and move forward to better Your nation. May You continue to come to each of us as You intend to, as You know we will best receive Your love, grace, mercy, and wisdom.
  3. Pray for the centers of influence in America.
    Lord, may we know our idols, recognize them, and set them aside in pursuit of You and only You. May we have education that is centered around knowing You and Your world even better, and may You shine Your light on all of those educators, especially in such a trying time for them. May we all strive to be truth bearers, whether we are known or quiet, whether we have media influence or not. And as we look to ingest our own information, may we look for those sources who already do have influence who guide us closer and closer to You.
  4. Ask God for the National Day of Prayer to be a catalytic spiritual movement across America.
    Lord, I pray that You help us know You. I pray that You come through each and every one of us, in some way, in the way that You deem most worthy and relevant and power. Lord, I pray that You move us all in that moment, on that day, so every one of us – whether we already know You or are continuing to seek You – finds a calling toward You.

I pray for these things so deeply, every day, and especially tomorrow on the National Day of Prayer, May 3.

I’d love to pray for you, readers, as well… today, tomorrow, and every day. How can I pray for you?

Testimony Tuesday: Spiritual vs. Social

Okay, guys, I’ve got a confession to make: I’m terrible at making plans.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m terrible at keeping plans, and I know this. I get very ambitious with my social schedule, but when the time comes, I look at the three nights in a row that I’ve got things planned, and I ache for a bit of a reprieve in the middle.

Sometimes, I’ll admit, this also extends to church activities. Most recently, I’ve fallen out of the habit of attending my small group, which is rather upsetting to me because they are a wonderful group of some of the kindest, most God-seeking, God-loving people with the biggest hearts. I admit that my lack of attendance has nothing to do with them, and honestly nothing to do with my proclaimed “busyness,” but rather to do with a lack of prioritization.

However, it’s not necessarily that I don’t feel as if I am not prioritizing God. Most of the time, when I skip group (or, let’s be honest, “since I stopped attending it” is the more accurate way to say it), I’ve spent those evenings in solitude with the Lord. And I love that. I love diving into his Word and taking to my journal to decipher and pray and understand.

Now I now – I know – that there is a distinct call for community. Community is such a key part of our relationship with God, and I get that.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

– 1 John 1:7

For where two or three are gathered in my name,
there am I among them.
– Matthew 18:2

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
– Galatians 6:2

But it seems that this calling is where I struggle most. I always seem to be fighting an internal battle over whether my obligation to small group, and other such community groups, feels like a social obligation or a spiritual one. And, quite frankly, sometimes it feels like the former, where I know that it should feel much more like the latter.

And, okay. Perhaps I’m just making excuses. It’s not exactly like when I was 12, and church consisted of being there 8 hours a day on Sundays, from my 8 am choir practice through my 5 pm Christmas play rehearsal. That was certainly more social.

Maybe this is just a crutch I’m falling back on to justify my lack of prioritizing community.

I can’t imagine I am the only one who feels this way, but it’s just such a hard line for me to draw. Where do you find that balance between feeling like you have to be somewhere for the sake of appearances, and feeling like you have to be there for the sake of your soul? Is this just another one of those tests, where the Lord is asking to see how much effort I am willing to put forth for His glory? Or is my hesitation about all of this genuinely stemming from a well-intended, but conflicted place?

I’m full of questions today, and I can only keep praying, praying, praying that the Lord will guide me towards a resolution.

Amen.

Testimony Tuesday: The 5 Year Plan

It seems that everybody has a 5 year plan, and we are no different. We spent some time talking about our plan when we were driving back from California, a place that we both adore and would love to live in one day. In fact, that, in a nutshell, is what we discussed: where we would go.

The boy loves San Diego, and I like just about any place west of the Arizona border. I wouldn’t mind if we were in Northern or Southern – I’m a California girl at heart and I’ve come to the official conclusion that I always will be. That said, I’m from the North. I was born in Sacramento, where my dad still lives, but the majority of the family is in the wine country, and it’s there that I think of when I think of “home.”

So, needless to say, when the boy said that he thinks it would make the most sense for us to move there, so we could be close to family, my heart swelled. I may have cried a little behind my mirrored sunglasses. I don’t know if it’s possible for me to love him more than I did in that moment (although, I’m sure I’ll get proven wrong about that).

That said, it makes my heart so happy and hopeful to know that we are on the same page about where we’d like to end up. Even if it’s not in five years exactly, or even if it never actually happens, having that sort of synergy with someone is an incredible feeling.

And I’m so thankful to the Lord for bringing the boy to me.

The thing is, I could have left right after college. I could have ignored what I felt God was truly calling me to do – that is, to stay planted – and run after a job opportunity across the country. And for a while, after choosing to stay in Phoenix, I wondered if I was actually going against God’s will. I questioned if I actually stayed because it was comfortable, if I was just too scared to take the leap.

It was an uncomfortable place to be, to be frank. I felt like God’s reasons for keeping me in Phoenix were unclear. Sure, it was great to be close to my mom, and I found a church community that I loved. But I also felt sort of stuck, and disappointed in myself for not being the girl who left after college, like I always thought I would.

And then I met the boy.

Now, I know that sounds kind of lovesick and I’m not afraid to admit that it probably is. But I was really cautious at first. I was so scared of getting hurt again, but the Lord made it so easy to see exactly why opening my heart to the boy was the right choice. The Lord even gave me the opportunity to look at what “could have been” had I made some different choices in that time, and I have to say that I’m so thankful for that too. I’m a bad “what if”-er, and the Father knew that. I know that’s why he gave me the chance to see, even for a day, what could have happened had I made a different choice.

I’m so thankful that I didn’t.

Looking back, it’s so easy to see that God kept me in Phoenix to meet the boy. It’s so clear to me now, but that’s how perspective often is, isn’t it? I was clearly meant to grow roots here, at least for now. That growth has gone beyond my relationship, though, and extended to my family, my career, my finances, even my relationship with the Lord Himself. I’m so thankful that I listened to His calling. I’m so grateful that I stayed.

That said, that’s really what the 5 year plan is, too. Sure, we have an idea of where we want to go, but I also wanted to end up on the East Coast or across the pond as soon as I could after throwing my graduation cap in the air. And yet, here I am: happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. I have Him to thank for that and no one else, and I know that if we trust in Him to guide us through the next 5 years, He will provide with exactly what we need. Whether that’s in the Valley of the Sun, or in the lush hills of the wine country, or somewhere else entirely, it’s just a matter of trust.

It’s always a matter of trust. Trust, and love for the Lord above all else. The Lord may have opened my heart for a romantic love, but He has also shown his grace and power and kindness so fiercely for me in these past 2 years, that my love for Him, the King of kings, has only swelled infinitely as well.

Amen.

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith
– Matthew 21:22

Testimony Tuesday: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Taylor

Okay, so that post title is a little dramatic, and to be honest, I never read the book it’s based on (or if I did, it was a long, long time ago and I can’t quite recall). But that’s not the point.

The point is, sometimes, it’s really, really hard to hear the Father. Whether that’s because we just aren’t listening, or because the world is just too loud… sometimes, it’s difficult to focus.

Again, this is an inherent part of being a sinful human, and we are so blessed that our Lord doesn’t fret or condemn when we can’t hear Him properly. Instead, He just keeps speaking to us, guiding us, being beside us, even when we aren’t equipped to see His hand in things.

Which is exactly where another key element in a strong relationship with God comes in… trust.

Now, I’ve spoken and written and ranted on before about how trust is one my biggest demons sometimes – or rather, how doubt is. And all of that is still true. I will likely wrangle with the sin of doubt for my entire life. Again, an unfortunate side effect of being human.

In the past few weeks, I’ve become more comfortable with the idea of blindness; more specifically, blindness in trust. I can feel, so strongly, the Lord calling me to trust him even in moments where my human sight can’t see, where my mortal ears can’t hear, where my doubt would usually otherwise overcome me. Sure, blind trust is uncomfortable and reckless… but so is the Father’s love.

We owe Him the same recklessness that He shows us each and every moment of each and every single day.

I am so unspeakably grateful for His gracious, blind trust in me, so why would I not offer Him the same in return? Besides, being able to let go of my uncertainties and trust that He is always there, above the noise, is a comfort and warmth so great, it overwhelms any discomfort that my sinful doubt might bring.

Thank you, Father, for trusting me to trust in You. Thank You for standing beside me even when I cannot see You. Thank You for speaking to me and guiding me when my ears cannot hear above the noise. Thank You for never letting go of me, even when I question if You have. Amen.

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
— Joshua 1:9