Engaging Our True Enemy

marital discord huffpost.com

So… the enemy has a very sneaky tactic he tries to weave into our relationships. I was just talking with a friend a couple nights ago about this. What is it? My husband calls it “Divide & conquer”.

We fight with others. We bicker. We think angry thoughts. We think we’re winning this war and say, I’ll show him! 

But do we even realize what the real problem is here?

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

~Ephesians 6

We’re fighting the wrong enemy!! Our battles are fleshly… yet God said in His word that we are barking up the wrong tree. No wonder so many couples & families never find resolution to their battles: They’re trying to one-up each other instead of realizing THEY ARE ONE. They need to UNITE, not FIGHT. Oh man, though, what a hard thing to put into practice each day…

The deal is this: Our enemy is smart. He knows how to taunt us into a fight. He pokes our wounds, pushes our buttons, & plays on our fears. When we react emotionally to the misdeeds of our loved ones, coworkers, or neighbors, we’ve already halfway lost the war.

Why? Because it was never about them anyway. It never has been. We have to look beyond the humanity in front of us and engage the spirit realm. We must fight the battle in prayer BEFORE we ever open our mouths. We must also ARREST our thoughts & tongues from thinking & speaking words that would only fuel the fire.

But. It’s SO HARD.

I so KNOW. But we have a choice with each provocation we face: Will we be willing to “lose” a battle so that we can “win” the war {with our true enemy}? Or will we keep getting drawn into arguments with the ones we’re supposed to be working WITH?

This requires getting a handle on our hurts & the “why’s” behind our emotional triggers AHEAD OF TIME. We can’t wait til we’re in the heat of the moment, licking old wounds, to make a wise decision. We need to be proactive with our ‘hot buttons’.

Then – once we are emotionally clear & can see the situation level-headedly – we’ll realize there is a very real enemy behind our frustrations and know who to attack. When we recognize our true enemy, we’ll be more likely to bite our tongues with others, extend forgiveness when necessary, & ask for it from others (that’s hard!). These tactics are the best firehose to douse hell’s flames. They’re more effective than our best one-liners ever could be :)

A soft answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
    but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

~Prov. 15

So what do we do? For starters, here’s a great prayer to pray:

Lord, please help me to see the real enemy in this situation. Help me not to attack people & instead engage my true enemy. Give me eyes to see & ears to hear. Help me to not be “easily provoked”.

Biblically, here is a good solution:

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For

“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

~1 Peter 3

20140101_141201

Our Perfectly Imperfect 2014 ♡

With the close of 2014, it’s good practice to take inventory of the events we just lived through & see how far we’ve come, how we grew, and all we have to be grateful for :)

This past year has been a life-changing one for my husband & I in many ways! We experienced some wonderful blessings, including:

1. Celebrating the holidays/our 3rd anniversary with our parents (Taos, NM).

We rang in the new year in a great new way: with BOTH sets of our parents in Taos, NM. This place holds so many special memories for us, especially because we fell in love & got married there :) Three years later we relived this experience with the very people who were with us that blessed day. It was a wonderful vacation & restful time together!

2. A new season of service.

Brian & I have spent many wonderful hours – most of our marriage actually – serving our local church together. We LOVE it & have grown so much through our involvement there!! Being invested in the church has blessed us & made us richer than we could have EVER fathomed. We are so thankful for this time we’ve had to serve & lead & be involved in a place God is working at.

2014 in particular was a new time for us in service… Leading a GREAT group of Young Married couples (which was incredibly rewarding, fun, & demanding) and as Team Coordinators for several Sunday service teams. I also felt the call to organize a women’s group over the summer so we could let our hair down, be real with each other, & share our stories. This was an intimidating role to play, but I LOVED the group of women who came, and I’ve seen great fruit come from this special time we had together!

summer girls group

Each of these roles was enjoyable and at times challenging & overwhelming, but both Brian & I grew through the process. More importantly, we hope our service made an impact at our church & that people’s lives are better for it :)

We are surprised, thankful & honored to have served in such wonderful capacities! 2014 in ministry was full of times when we felt like “We were made to do this”. For this we are SO grateful.

God guides us into His Kingdom purpose through our simple, everyday availability to Him… all we must do is say “yes” & show up :) This year we sensed Him steering us with intention. Time will tell how this year fits into His overall plan for our lives.

3. A new home in a lovely little community!

Credit: thetexasgolfinsider.com

Credit: thetexasgolfinsider.com

When I first moved to Austin 4 years ago, I visited a new friend in her beautiful neighborhood. As I drove around I kept thinking, WOW! I’d love to live in this community ~ it’s gorgeous! I kept telling her how lucky she was to have landed there, but little did I know that (fast-forward 3 years) & I’d find myself in that same neighborhood.

My hubby & I took the plunge this past spring and moved across the city to this community we LOVE. Gorgeous trees, friendly neighbors, community-wide races & events, a beautiful greenbelt & golf course, walking/running trails around a lake… we feel very blessed to be here!

One of our first nights after settling in, we went on a long walk to take in our new community. We kept pinching ourselves & exclaiming how we could hardly believe we now lived there! We even had numerous generous friends help us move in, without being asked. Wow :) Never did we think people would wanna help us (& so willingly). This was a time when we kept saying “Thanks God!”

4. Visiting two of our besties in Southern Cali!

b&b and hummer!

 

Hollywood. The “City of Angels”. Laguna Beach. The OC.

These places have spawned TV shows & movies, so visiting them in person was “surreal” to put it lightly. This long-awaited trip was one of the biggest surprises of 2014 because it actually happened. 

My hubby’s best friend / Best Man moved to L.A. in the summer of 2013… which just so happens to be where one of my Bridesmaids (& favorite people) lives! So we booked our flights to see them…

Unbeknownst to us we were about to get the biggest surprise ever: Our two friends started DATING in the weeks leading up to our trip!! By the time we landed in SoCal, they were official… which made for some of the funnest double dates ever. We were in a new city, at a gorgeous time of year, with 2 of our closest friends who love Jesus & were falling for each other more every day. Crazy cool & serendipitous, wouldn’t you say?

The four of us sushi-ed, beached, wined, dined, ran, gelato-ed, brunch-ed, church-ed, & hiked it up, and even had some pretty amazing convos about God & life together. I must say this trip was one of the highlights of our year, which really struck me as Brian & I walked along Laguna Beach one glorious night under the stars! What a magical time, thank You Lord :)

We packed so much fun into that week & just enjoyed being with our two friends again. Such an adventure. I can’t wait to go back one day (maybe for the wedding? ;).

4. My hubby’s MBA pursuit & new job!

Concordia University Texas Logo

All last year we felt a stirring that Brian’s career was in transition somehow. We weren’t sure how, but it seemed God was changing the landscape of his work situation (or at least the landscape of our hearts in this area). He’d been working at the same company for 6 years, and we felt a growing sense that things were about to change…

In April, we decided that Brian should pursue his MBA degree for career advancement… but little did we know that within 6 months, this decision would open the door for his new job at a WONDERFUL company in Austin!! We’d been praying, applying, & seeking the right opportunity for him, but when the time was right, this company found HIM. If that’s not evidence of God working on our behalf, I don’t know what is. We are so grateful!!! His new job has been such an unexpected blessing of 2014, and we are thrilled.

5. A blossoming, creative business venture {TBA hopefully soon!}.

Last year was also a special year for me professionally because God started putting some major pieces of my career puzzle together. I’ve had several things piquing my interest, but one night God laid on my heart a vision to do something new that absolutely THRILLED me. As the year marched on, more of this “vision” unfolded with research, prayer, and brainstorms. He also connected me to numerous people to collaborate with on some fantastic projects!! I had such a blast working in 2014, and I hope this trend continues in the years to come.

I’m still working out some of the fine print of this new venture, but I believe God may be nudging me to move forward in a creative field I LOVE. I’m excited for the future & am grateful to Him for revealing this new purpose to me!!

6. Growing closer to family & friends :)

This year has marked our marriage significantly with the depth & strength we’ve experienced as we learned to walk through life with REAL, genuine, DEEP friendships – the kind that you could call “accountability partners” who know your deepest fears, marital struggles, & can truly celebrate your victories with you. Unless someone’s faced your fears alongside you, they can’t fully appreciate your victories. I’ve wanted such friendships my whole life and have had many forms of them, but never at this level. To call them a blessing would be an understatement ~ and we’ve grown SO much as a result.

I’m also incredibly thankful at how close my family is becoming! Sometimes it takes distance or time or just maturity for families to be open with each other… and that’s what I’ve experienced this year. It doesn’t always mean conversations flow perfectly (or are full of grace), but there is nothing like family. Since I’ve hit 30, the preciousness of family has become so real to me. I never want to lose sight of it again :)

7. A very European Christmas!!

Spending the holidays (& our 4-year anniversary) in the Swiss / French Alps? Not a chance…

I would’ve said the same a year ago, when we first started rolling around the idea. Yet some MAGICAL way, God made this absolute DREAM vacation possible!!! What a humungous blessing after such an intense, emotional, & change-filled year that we could spend 3.5 weeks with our parents & almost entire family in a beautiful European destination.

I have SO many thoughts & feelings about this trip (& even more photos!), but for now these will have to suffice :) We are very grateful for this “chance of a lifetime” to watch my nieces & nephews learn how to ski, to traipse around Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy & England with each other and our families, to eat such incredibly delicious food (& so much of it!) that we may burst, and to see God’s stunning creation halfway around the world…

What a special way to end a very special year. We are grateful beyond words.

Blessings in Disguise? 

Lest you think our 2014 was perfectly charmed, I want to share that not everything went smoothly this year! We’ve gone through some challenging times, ones that have made a deep impression on us, like the following:

1. A challenging roommate.

Our desire was to bless her life. Things didn’t go as planned, and to make a long story short, this time spent under the same roof ended a lifelong friendship.

This experience has taught me some valuable lessons, caused me to grow in character (& hopefully wisdom)… and shown me what it means to bless someone who curses you. That hasn’t been the most pleasant lesson, but one that shows me what love truly means.

2. Taxes.

Just kidding. They happen every year :)

3. Trying to conceive.

Ahhh, “TTC” as they call it in online forums.

I could’ve labeled this section “Infertility”, but I TRULY DO NOT believe that’s what we’re dealing with. I’m not denying reality… but in my heart, I feel a peace that God is in control & that this season of wanting children (& not yet receiving them) has a purpose. I don’t believe there is a physical condition that’s causing the delay – I believe it’s His divine plan. Yes, my patience has worn thin. My hope dissolved in thin air. I had to trust a God I didn’t believe was “for me”. I’ve never experienced such heartbreak in my entire life… and I never expected to say that either. My lifelong dream has been to be a mother, so after trying for 2+ years now & experiencing losses, I’ve been devastated.

One of the greatest blessings that has come out of this (besides MAJOR refining of my heart!!) is that it’s allowed me to open up to others about what we’re struggling with [new territory for me! :)] & watching so many people step up to encourage, pray for, & strengthen us. I would’ve NEVER imagined so many people would help us “carry our burden” when we literally couldn’t anymore. This has been like experiencing God’s heart for us in a new way – through His people.

The last few months of 2014 have been trial by fire, no doubt. This experience has been teaching me to TRUST GOD ABOVE ALL – that He is doing something even when I think He is punishing me – & that I desperately need HIS strength & the love & encouragement He provides through His body. There have been many days I’ve just asked Him to infuse me with His strength because I had none; I’d run out a long time ago.

Although this isn’t the greatest challenge I’ve ever walked through, it’s certainly been the most heartbreaking. My former trials forged a deep faith in my heart, but this recent season of seeming “barrenness” has made me question my hope, God’s promises, & if I’ll always be in a season of “waiting”. It’s not been a pretty journey for me. I’ve been so angry at God I asked Him to stop talking to me, and so heartbroken I could barely feed myself. He has given me hope again, and for that I am grateful – even if it doesn’t look like I’d supposed (does it ever? :). That is a gift in itself.

4. Doubts & questions…

I’ve questioned God, His Word, and my belief system more in this year than any other combined. I can’t explain why – from the time I gave my heart to Jesus as a toddler – I’ve always had child-like faith. God’s granted me a large measure of faith, and I’m VERY THANKFUL for that. Until recently, I haven’t understood people’s questions and doubts… but maybe that’s because my faith was never rocked like this before.

After years of struggle in certain areas, I’ve come to a point where I’m not sure these things will ever improve or go away. That’s been a hard place to be, & even harder when I recognize that God ALLOWS these things. Yes, the doubts have been bigger than my faith some days, and that is new to me. I don’t like this place of vulnerability in what I believe… I don’t trust wavering convictions… but I just have to go back to the place of what I DO know to be true & that’s God and His Word. He is who He says He is, and He will do what He said He will do [Beth Moore shout-out! :)]. That’s all we can trust, especially in uncertain & changing times like these days we live in!

As I look back over the last 365 days, I’m thankful for a FANTASTIC year with my sweet husband, for God giving us 4 fabulous years of married life together – years that have far exceeded my expectations!! – & for His blessings every day. I am grateful for His grace even in my trials. I am grateful for His voice, which is so necessary to our daily journey with Him, and for His faithfulness to His word.

I am also grateful He’s given us so much freedom in our lives to makes choices and go places and pursue goals… to create and experience the height / depth / breadth of life… to swim and travel and love others, and even sometimes get our hearts broken. It’s all part of being alive, & I’d rather live a life on fire than one without passion.

Thanks, Father, for a cool, mind-blowing, heart-breaking, trust-stretching year. I’m looking forward to the next one (maybe lighter on the heartbreak though? :).

♡, Summer

Scriptures When You’re Afraid…

Thinking Woman - Unsplash . com Sunset Girl

Credit: Unsplash.com, Sunset Girl

When you & I feel afraid of outcomes, situations or people, we must fill our minds with God’s word, not what we see & feel. Our faith has a great reward!

Fear opposes faith, so we must choose to focus on believing our good Father even when we can’t see what He’s up to. God’s got this. He’s turning everything around for our good ~ so there’s nothing to fear!

Here are some great Scriptures to think about & confess when we’re facing fear. Write these down or memorize them for those times when fear seems to surround us, & put on your favorite worship music! [Some Scriptures taken from Above & Beyond Christian Counseling].

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. (Psalm 23:4)

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deut. 31:6)

For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)

The Lord is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

The fear of man brings a snare: but whoever puts his trust in the LORD shall be safe. (Prov. 29:25)

Elevation Church worship

Jesus You’re Greater! [Guest Post]

Y’all… I am HONORED to have my very own big brother Aaron writing today’s post! He is a gifted writer & very entertaining to be around :) I am so proud to call him my big bro, and I’ve been asking him to write something for my blog for quite some time now (cuz he’s awesome).

I hope this speaks to all of you, especially any gentlemen reading this. Thank you Aaron for writing!


“Sin was strong, but
Jesus You’re stronger
Our shame was great, but
Jesus You’re greater”

~Elevation Worship, “Raised to Life”

This morning I was thinking about an instance in which I was tempted awhile back. I say tempted because that is where it started & ended. My mind began down a path of thoughts that was visualizing what “could have been” had I acted on my temptation.

As soon as I realized the thought pattern my mind was on (about a total of 10 seconds), I began to feel guilt & shame about even feeling/thinking about “what could have been”. I started thinking, “What kind of man / Christian / husband / father etc. would even think of such things? Only a man with evil desires in his heart.” Oh the guilt was coming on me now.

Then I realized something with Great Joy! I realized that my tempter (Satan) & my source of guilt, or if you’d prefer (my accuser), were one & the same. I also realized that I had no reason to feel guilty at all because I had won.

Scoreboard Satan! You lose! You lost when you tempted me, & you lose again because I will not feel guilty about a temptation I had and overcame! I will not feel guilt about having 2nd thoughts now about “what could have been” because I choose now not to dwell on those thoughts, & I’ll choose again to triumph over that sort of temptation, if it arrives in my path again.

I say this with confidence that God has given me through helping me (His imperfect servant) to overcome temptation in the past. “If I must boast, let me boast in the Lord Jesus” for He helps me to overcome.

Even Jesus was tempted, but like the song says: “He was Greater, He was Stronger.” The end of the song just happened to be on repeat as I worked this morning :) & it says…

“Raised to Life | with Christ the Savior | in His name, a new Creation | now our song will rise | adoring Christ the Lord”

Prayer:

Thank You Jesus for not only helping me to overcome my temptation, but also to have the wisdom to recognize both tempter & accuser are both derived from Satan. Thank You God for helping me to feel “Raised to Life” & to feel like a “New Creation” a “Renewed Creation”…. and not a guilt laden person who is frozen by failure & triumph, but rather strengthened by Grace!

[Isn’t my bro awesome? If you have a moment, could you leave him a comment below to let him know you enjoyed his post today? Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!]

 

Credit: Lightstock, Pearl

Financial Provision Prayer!

Credit: Lightstock, Pearl

Credit: Lightstock, Pearl

First off, happy All Saint’s Day! I hope you’re recovering from your sugar hangovers & enjoying a brand-new month. Hard to believe 2014 is winding down, isn’t it?

I’d like to start off the Thankfulness month with something my husband & I are extremely grateful for: Great friends! A true friend should encourage you, support you, challenge you to grow (especially in areas you need it), & most vitally (perhaps) – pray for you. 

I’ve tested this myself for many years and noticed that God responds rapidly to our prayers for others. Sometimes we don’t see breakthrough when we pray alone for ourselves, but when someone else does, it moves the heavens. It’s an interesting concept & one I’m still trying to understand. All I know is that intercession is one of the most powerful things you can do for those around you. It’s one of my absolute favorite ways to love on the people in my life, and it has the power to transform their lives (even without them knowing why).

Two good friends of ours are Kalen & his beautiful wife Alysia. When we were struggling with recent career/financial decisions, Kalen prayed a powerful prayer over us for provision & direction… in a time when we didn’t know what to pray, he really blessed us by stepping up & praying on our behalf. Isn’t that amazing?

And guess what? Ever since Kalen prayed this over our family (& we echoed it), we’ve seen some very significant financial breakthroughs. All glory to God!

I encourage you to grab a friend, church or family member and pray this prayer when you & your loved ones need breakthrough in your finances and ALSO to rededicate your heart & money to God. It all belongs to Him anyway, & sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that. Who knows what big things God will do when we ask for His help together? Remember this scripture:

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” ~Jesus (Matt. 18)

I’m posting Kalen’s prayer here with his permission, so enjoy!

Dear God,

We need Your hand, and all the miraculous works attributed to it, to guide us in our career paths. Father, we are waiting for answers about what direction You want us to go. We are intimidated by the responsibility of starting a new direction after recent changes at work. God we need You! Lord, I need You to use Your power in my life to make me obey Your will.

God we submit our lives to You. Do as You will. We submit our worries to You. Fill us with peace. We know these things are easy for You, THE MOST HIGH GOD. Speak to us, give us ears to hear. Show us, give us eyes to see.

We love You, we know You want good for us. Fortify our faith in Your sovereign plan and path for us. God we want to be where You want us, and do what You will. Help us Father. We plea to You through Jesus’ authority. God thank You, we know You will come through. We will be ready to bend to Your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.

What a beautiful prayer. Can you see why God would love to respond to such an honest, humble request for His help? I loved it. I hope it blesses you & your family, and feel free to share it with those who may need to hear it.

Thank You Lord for caring for us so deeply, including about our every need. You know the number of hairs on our heads, and You certainly can handle every bill & impending need we have. Thank You for using us to be Your provision for others, too, Lord in Jesus’ name, Amen.