Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Striving to Remember

The following post is a guest blog from Amy's intern--ME! I am thrilled to be spending time with her this semester, and grateful she is giving me a chance to occupy her blog for awhile. For those who are consistent readers, friends, and family, you KNOW she is a delight! I hope you harvest some truth from my stream of thoughts.
In Him,
Lauren Holley 

No, God, I can’t…I won’t.

In the depth of a prayer, have you ever uttered these defiant words? Have you felt that tug—the pull of what you know God is telling you that you need—but you tighten your grip around the thing that you want? We all have tendency to approach God with an attitude that is somewhat like: “Hi, God.  So, here is what I want. Your will be done…within reason.” Silly, right? How can we train our hearts to fully surrender our plans—not just in a pragmatic “God-is-good” way, but in a “I-have-joy-in-God’s-divine-intervention” sort of way?

When I was a sophomore in college, I encountered God’s intervention in my desires. As a budding undergraduate, I was eager to answer that looming question: “What’s your major?” I knew what I wanted. So, I chose: Leisure, Sport, and Tourism Studies.  


Yup. It was a major in outdoor recreation leadership: a dreamy prospect. For two summers, I had immersed myself in the realm of recreation leadership at a camp for girls in Alabama. I was smitten. I loved everything about camp: the relationships, challenges, teachable moments, being outside, the planning, and the teamwork involved. So, naturally, when faced with a decision to choose my major, I convinced my parents that this was it. The one. The only. Reluctantly, they gave me the reigns, and I cheerfully steered my educational trajectory onto the trail of outdoor education. This was what I wanted… but God had something else in mind.  

God whisked me away to work at another camp in Colorado. Prior to Colorado, a tiny acorn of doubt had seeded in my heart. For six months, it had been growing into a sapling of noticeable discomfort. A voice was breaking through the stubborn soil of my resolved decision. 

Change my major.
Change my major?  

Should I change my major? I couldn’t change my major. No, I thought. I’m halfway through, and if I switch degrees, I will be in school an extra year, which would mean a heaping helping of loans to compensate for ended scholarships. Nope. No, no, nope. It doesn’t make sense, God.  

I was counting fears, and they deafened my spiritual ears. One night before I left for Colorado, God and I had a little meeting. 

Okay, Lord, if you want me to change my major, you MUST push me. Flat out, full on, PUSH. You must give me peace, or I won’t do it. I can’t. I absolutely can’t. 

Three weeks passed, during which I completed my training in Colorado. One night after training, I was sitting outside of my cabin, reflecting on my fears and doubts. Then, in a single moment, God pushed me: a flat out, full on, PUSH. The sapling of discomfort in my heart had somehow morphed into an oak tree of peace: I needed…no, I wanted to change my major. Whaaaaaat? God had graciously prepared my heart to desire this change. I had no fear. I felt God pressing on my heart to be an English major. This had been suggested to me on multiple occasions by different people, but I had ignored them. It was obvious, really: I loved reading, thinking, and writing. Of course: God was leading me into something I enjoyed and had been gifted in. 

But He wasn’t done rerouting me. While I was in Colorado, I got a call from my best friend (and roommate), letting me know that the YMCA (where we worked, and which had so graciously allowed me to leave for the summer) was closing. “And there’s more,” she said. Uh oh.
Through a series of events, our housing situation had dissolved; following this dissolution, the Lord had called her to Washington state. 

Oh, okay God. Wait…no, not okay! What are you doing? 

So, not only was I potentially facing a new major with an extra year of college and student loans, I was facing unemployment and no housing. And the cherry on top? I wouldn’t be back to Tennessee until August, so all my searching would have to be done over the phone or internet. 
Through the miracle of Facebook and word-of-mouth, August greeted me with a nanny job, an adorable house, and two roommates (whom I hadn’t met). Things were looking decent.  Good, even. Close call, God. But he had one more curveball for me.  

The day I arrived home from Colorado—a Monday—I received a text from my anticipated employer saying she had willy-nilly hired someone else. My heart sank. I had to sign my new lease on Friday. 

Lord, we have four days. FOUR DAYS. GOOD GRIEF. Work a miracle. 

Tuesday, I walked into my favorite coffee shop to put in an application, mentioning that my nanny job had fallen through. The girl tilted her head and said, “I know someone looking for a nanny. Do you want me to give her your number?” And no sooner than I had walked out of the coffee shop,I received a text asking if I could interview for that very nanny job. 

I interviewed on Thursday. 

Holy cow, you are cutting it close, God.
Friday at 4:20 p.m., I received a text: “You’re our nanny if you want to be!” 

I called my new roommates. I had a job. I could sign the lease.

As it turned out, I thrived in my new home, fell in love with the children I nannied, adored my newfound roommates, and am graduating ON TIME with no extra loans. My diploma will note my English degree with a double minor: Theater, and… Leisure, Sport, and Tourism. God is so faithful, ya’ll. His provision exceeded my expectations. 

I still manage to forget God’s faithfulness, though. Like…everyday. Don’t we all? But I've learned that instead of pleading with God in uncertainty, stubbornness, and doubt, I must remember his past provisions: they are my signposts, like Passover's blood on the doorframe and the rainbow in the clouds. 

And what about the Sabbath? It is a blessed day—a sign from God for His children—to remember His strength and provision in their life, and to rest in His goodness. And don’t forget the Last Supper, when Jesus called his disciples and future believers to remember by breaking bread and saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22: 19). Each of these signs held physical and spiritual implications of deliverance, saving God’s people from Earthly destruction and pointing them toward a heavenly hope. 

There are things in my life I never would have chosen (or would have originally wanted); but God is bigger than our preferences. In fact, 1 John 3:20 says God is bigger than our hearts – “and he knows everything”!! He does not always fulfill desires in the sense that we would anticipate; that is, giving us what we want. Rather, in His sovereignty, He takes our hearts, listens to what we want, and gently replaces it with what we actually need. He is gracious to deliver us from our misguided desires and lead us into the Promised Land of His perfect will.  

So let us strive to remember—with our baskets full of “gimme gimme-s”—God’s hand full of blessings. Let us step stone-to-stone across the shallows of life’s uncertainties, asking for grace to accept when things don’t go our way, peace to embrace change, and joy in newfound, God-given desires. Stop counting fears. Open those clenched fists (and those baskets) so the Lord can put His gifts into them--and give you JOY in His divine intervention.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37:4

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

RELEASE DAY: The Plans I Have for You Bible!!!


You know how authors like, oh, Max Lucado and Sarah Young and Dr. John MacArthur have their own Bibles? Like Bibles with their names on them? Yeah. So when Zondervan emailed me about a Bible based on my Plans I Have for You series, naturally, I said, "Sure. Whatever." 

HA. NO. NO, I DID NOT. I believe my exact words to my agent were, "What in the world? WHAT in the world? WHAT IN THE WORLD?!?!?" And yet, here it is, for the whole world to see: The Plans I Have for You Bible (in both hardcover and a cool, leather-like cover). 

Only God, y'all. Only God. 

When I told my mom (still in freak-out mode), she answered calmly, as only my mom could, "Well, if you think about it, what else is the Bible but God's plans for us?" 

And that's the only way I can explain it. 

So, without further ado, the full-text NIV, The Plans He Has for You, with lots of fun inserts from yours truly. Releasing today!

If you haven't seen the rest of The Plans I Have for You series . . .

Check out the full trio, including the picture book (and board book), journal, and devotional