Staying strong in the struggle

“Walking around these walls, I thought by now they’d fall – but You have never failed me yet.”
I’ve heard it said that prayer is like chopping down a tree – one or two whacks won’t do it, it takes strength, commitment, and persistence. I’m sure that doesn’t come as a surprise to you 🙂

 

And, we’ve seen that – haven’t we? When we are in the midst of the struggle and pray without ceasing for a month, or two, or twelve – and it takes what feels like an eternity – BUT! The answer does come, and it is indeed miraculous. What happens, though, when one year turns into three? Or five? In the spirit of complete honesty, there’s one thing that I’ve been praying for – passionately and persistently – for the past seven years. And, if anything, it feels like more of an impossibility today than it did seven years ago.

 

My heart feels like it’s been on the losing side of a fistfight and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t found myself crying on the bathroom floor a few times over recent years. So what happens when God feels distant, and we start to doubt His promises to us? Well, first – is He being distant, or are we? Have we grown skeptical, and started to pull away? Have we become so fixated on this one request that we’re blind to the blessings that He’s poured out in other areas of our lives? Do we doubt His power because He hasn’t yet answered one request, while we forget the hundreds of miracles and past prayers that He’s answered? The times He made a way when there was NO WAY? Do we doubt His goodness because we don’t see “the goods”? Do we doubt His timing and develop a preference for our limited understanding? Yes, it hurts when it feels like the cries of our hearts are unmet, and it’s desperately lonely in that place. It HURTS. And oh, dear heart, yes the loneliness hurts too. God doesn’t discount that – not for a minute.

 

But, He does ask us to trust. To bask in the overwhelming evidence that He IS good, and is always on our side. So tonight I make the resolution that how I feel won’t dictate how I follow. Will you join me?

 

“Your promise still stands, great is Your faithfulness. I’m still in your hands. This is my confidence – you’ve never failed me yet.”

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What my heartbeat means.

What a weekend. It feels like, overall, these last couple days flew by in a heartbeat – yet, there were a few moments where it felt like time stopped. Those moments when you feel like you’re almost able to step back out of the present and appreciate all that’s past, while realizing that there’s so many possibilities to come.

I’m starting to see and more fully appreciate how God is working in my life, how absolutely everything over the past few years – actually, my lifetime – have led up to this moment.  If you’ve ever played sports or an instrument – preparing for a big game or show – you understand the feeling: that sentiment as you step out onto the field, the crowd roars, and you realize that all of your preparation will pay off in that single moment.

 

Except, today, it’s a little different. I don’t mean “this moment” figuratively or in a monumental sense, per se. I mean right here, right now – sitting here in bed, holding steaming tea with one hand and typing this with the other. I’m realizing how every nuance of my life has been orchestrated. Tomorrow, I’ll take a breath and my heart will beat. The interaction of these two steps will cause a reaction in my muscles, which will in turn enable me to propel myself out of bed, extend my fingers to grab my steaming mug of coffee, receive the jolt of caffeine needed to start my day…and the cycle continues. But you know the humbling thing: I don’t have control over whether or not my heart will take its next beat, or my body will breathe its next breath.

 

I don’t say that to be morbid, but to make the point that there is One who loves me so desperately that He’s already measured my life in the number of heartbeats I’ll have or breaths I’ll take. He makes my heart beat for me, He reminds my body to breathe in the fresh air. This means He’s already with me, working within and around me, moment to moment. He’s already accounted for all the decisions I’ll make of my own accord, and of the times I’ll let Him lead. In merely existing, my heart is innately intertwined in a divine, sacred romance with the Creator of the Universe.

 

It’s beautiful. As I consider decisions, as I sit here now contemplating how what I’ll do today will affect what options I’ll have tomorrow – I know that He actually wants to free me from that worry. If He has orchestrated my very existence and keeps me alive from second to second, He can surely be trusted to lead me towards the most Epic life he has waiting.

 

 

“I lift my hands to Heaven, hear my heart surrender.

I tell my soul again, You are Lord of all.

Though the seas are raging, You will speak and tame them.

In You I find my rest, You are in control.”

~ In Control, Hillsong Worship

Living the Epic.

“We live in a world of magic and mystery, of deep darkness and flickering starlight. It is a world where terrible things happen—and wonderful things, too. It is a world where goodness is pitted against evil, love against hate, order against chaos, in a great struggle…Yet for all of its confusion and wildness, it is a world where the battle goes ultimately to the good, who live happily every after. That is the fairy tale of the Gospel with, of course, one crucial difference from all other fairy takes, which is the claim that it is true. That it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still.” ~ Frederick Buechner

 

“Christianity tells us that He has set our hearts’ longings within us, for he has made us to live in an Epic.” ~ John Eldredge

 

 

I fully intend to live an epic life.

 

I grew up taking amazing adventure roadtrips with my family. We’d all jump in the car, pick a direction on the map (e.g., “North!”) and take off for weeks without a definitive destination—just on a search for adventure. So, I grew up learning about the pirates on the North Carolina coast, exploring outlaw hideouts in the Badlands, or following the trail of Louis and Clark. I’d ride horses through the mountains of Wyoming and daydream that I was riding with cowboys, or fly biplanes and feel like I was the pilot of a fighter jet.

 

I realized at a young age that adventure is what makes a great story. Not just a great story—an EPIC story.

 

So, at the age of 16, wandering through Durango, CO, I turned to my mom and said, “I fully intend to live an epic life.”

 

It’s been my life mantra ever since.

 

Epic stories are woven into my heritage—my very being. Shakespeare wrote Macbeth about my Scottish relatives. My great, great, great, great, great grandfather was a pirate who sailed with Blackbeard. My great, great, great grandmother was a Cherokee princess. My grandmother left her hometown at age 16, went to Washington D.C. with only a suitcase, and started working with the FBI. To this day, she still has a letter written personally to her signed by J. Edgar Hoover.

 

But I think my deep desire to “Live Epic” goes deeper than that.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has set eternity in their heart.” There’s something more we were created for—we feel a longing, a desire for something more. It’s like that twilight between night and day—in our most intimate moments, we feel like we’re on the precipice of something monumental, we sense that something epic is happening, and we’re supposed to—no, we long to—have a role in it.

 

That’s because there is an epic story going on right now. A battle between light and darkness, with a Villain who will stop at nothing and a victorious Hero who romances our hearts. In this very moment—right here, right now—a war is being waged for that which is most sacred to us, our hearts.

 

God has placed this desire within my heart, this intimate longing for something more because it exists—it’s out there, and He has it waiting. He wants you to embrace the call to Live Epic.

 

So, here’s the challenge. We live in a world that strongly encourages us to think differently about this. To go for what’s comfortable and familiar.

 

Have you ever met a little girl that dreamed, “When I grow up, I just want to find someone I’m comfortable with and settle down.” Or a little boy that said, “When I’m older, I just want to find a job that pays the bills.”

 

Oh goodness, I sincerely hope not.

 

But, I was recently talking with a friend of mine the night before her wedding. “Have you found your Prince?” I asked. She paused (which I didn’t expect). “I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know if I could say I’m in love with him, but he’s comfortable.”

 

Friends, when did we reach a point in life where we sacrificed our calling for what’s comfortable?

 

It’s so easy to slip into the mindset of “settling”—and so easy, in fact, we might not even realize we’re doing it.

 

When did we lose sight of the story?

 

I’m speaking from experience here. And, a moment of honesty—I’ve always desired for my epic life to include an epic romance.

 

But, when you find yourself at home on a Friday night while one friend is out with her husband, another is wedding-planning with a fiancé, and even your parents are out to dinner, it’s easy to slip into a mentality of, “Okay, so I said ‘epic’, but maybe ‘epic’ really means that guy from across the hall that’s mostly okay?” And soon, you don’t even realize that you’re settling because you’ve totally lost your place in the story. You even strive to settle. And, oh, dear, that never works out well.

 

Everything has its place in the story.

 

My mom is a musical theater director, so when I was little, we used to have a closet full of costumes. I’d spend DAYS dressing up like Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia or Robin Hood or Piratica—turning my couch into a pirate ship or blankets into a fort deep within Sherwood Forest.

 

What if Aslan had given his life for Edmund at the beginning of the story? Would it have had the same meaning? Would it even make sense?

 

What if Belle had met the Beast, well, before he was the Beast? The Prince would never have been transformed, and the Kingdom would have never been saved. She might have even decided that he was a mostly selfish jerk with no manners and never have gone on a second date.

 

When you lose sight of the Epic story, you compromise your Epic life.

 

I’m working on trusting God. It’s something I always think I have under control, then an event will happen and I’ll be like, “Mmmmm okay maybe not.” I’ve even fallen into the trap of, “Maybe after I learn this lesson, this will happen!” or “Maybe I haven’t prayed hard enough.”

 

But really, maybe it’s just not the right time in the Story. My Kingdom focus—winning the war—has been compromised over a single battle.

 

To be honest, I have no idea. But I do know that Living the Epic Life I’ve always desired means allowing the Author to write the story. Surrendering to His timeline, because He who set and fuels the desires of my heart will be faithful to fulfill them.

 

Live Epic. Always.

Jesus may not be who you think.

There are two types of people you cannot fool: kids and drunks.

 

So says Bill Murray. And Charlie Chaplin. AND Pastor Carl Lentz of Hillsong NYC.

 

And these people—who can sniff out a “faker” from a mile away and run the other direction—loved being around Jesus.

 

Evidence? Matthew 12:14. Matthew 8:1. Mark 5:21. Luke 9:11. Luke 14:25. And many more.

 

The big mystery—why?

 

 

The problem with my past perspective.

 

I’ll be real—when I used to read Jesus’ words in the Bible, my interpretation of them was tainted by the fact that I didn’t fully understand the person—or personality—behind them. The voice in my head was coming from the Jesus dressed in white robes, with a calm voice that had minimal inflection. He wasn’t always relatable to me, like a friend.

 

I understood who Jesus was in a religious sense—that He was the Son of God, lived a perfect life, and loved me enough to die on the cross for my sins. I could apply His words to my day-to-day.

 

But then it felt like I hit a wall. Religion? Got it. Relationship? …working on it.

 

If that Jesus in my mind would have suddenly materialzed and asked me to hang out on a Friday night, I would probably have said, “Um, okay.” It would have been more obligation than celebration.

 

It may just be me, but I’d venture to say a lot of Christians have been there.

 

 

The small thing that changes EVERYTHING

 

But why did kids and drunks and businessmen and families and hosts of other people love to spend time with Jesus?

 

I’d like to propose that it’s because there’s a little detail that will change your entire worldview…

 

Jesus has a personality.

 

WOAH. That’s what I felt like when someone said that to me. I realized that, until that point, reading my Bible had been like reading a text message without knowing the person who wrote it. Was that a snarky, “Be right there?” Was their, “You would” comment a joke or exasperation? How do I respond? THE STRESS.

 

So, Jesus has a personality…what does that mean?

 

My interpretation? Jesus laughed—often and out loud. That He was fun. That He would joke around with His disciples.

 

Look at John 21. The disciples, following Christ’s crucifixion, are feeling a bit aimless. What do they do? They go back to what they know—they go fishing.

 

Let’s pick up the story: “So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’”

 

Jesus had just conquered death and risen again and could have come back with trumpets blasting and horns blaring, surrounded by battalions of angels.

 

Instead, He casually stands on the shore, hands in His pockets and calls out to them. He knows they haven’t caught anything. He’s probably smiling a bit as He asks, knowing that they don’t even recognize what’s in front of them.

 

Once they do, He says, “Come and have breakfast.” And, He’s already got a campfire with breakfast cooking set up on the beach.

 

This Jesus spends bro time. This Jesus is extremely likeable.

 

In a recent study, researchers at UCLA asked subjects to rate over 500 adjectives based on their perceived significance to likeability. Contrary to popular belief, the highest ranked adjectives were not “gregarious”, “intelligent”, or “attractive”—they were “sincerity”, “transparency”, and “capacity for understanding another person”.

 

Based on UCLA’s findings, Forbes suggested innate behaviors that the most likeable people seemed to have:

  • They ask questions
  • They are genuine
  • They aren’t judgmental
  • They are consistent
  • They smile
  • They balance passion and fun

 

Jesus was sincere, transparent, understandable, inquisitive, genuine, smiling, passionate, and fun.

 

…am I allowed to think about Jesus with a personality? Is that sacrilegious?

 

OF COURSE YOU ARE. And NOT AT ALL.

 

The Bible says we were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). The short version: we have a personality. Logic then says that God has a personality. God tells us to be cheerful. God is cheerful. And so on.

 

My original view of Jesus was like a car without an ignition. I could sit with it all I wanted to, but it wasn’t going anywhere.

 

Having the right view of Jesus makes relationship possible. He laughs with me, cries with me, passionately loves me. He’s not just the Jesus of my Sunday mornings, but of my Friday and Saturday nights. He’s not just the one I owe my life to, but the one I want to do my whole life with.

 

That’s my Jesus. Who’s yours?

Free falling

The hatch on the side of the plane slid open, and the wind rushed in with a strong “whoosh”. I held up one hand to shield my eyes against the blaze of sunlight, and felt someone firmly take hold of the other.

“Step forward now, a little closer to the edge,” shouted my companion over the roar of the plane’s engines. He must have sensed my hesitancy, because he put his arm around my shoulders and whispered, “Don’t be scared, I’m jumping with you.”

“Now, are you ready?” he asked. I steeled myself and stepped towards the edge.

“1…2…3…GO!” He took my hand and, together, we leapt out of the plane.

*                          *                     *                     *                   *                  *                  *                   *

“Are you ready?”

This story illustrates the state of my life for the last three months or so. I took the proverbial leap—one week, I was signing a lease to stay in NYC for another year. The next, I was moving halfway across the country. Certainties had evaporated, and impossibilities were not only becoming probable—but had taken the shape of contracts and dotted lines.

Never would I have thought that I would be where I am now.

I’ve never been more sure that where I am now is in the midst of His plan – poised for what comes next.

 

I’m not the same person I was four months ago. There have been times of almost unbearable pain and hardship. There have been victories beyond belief.

 

In the coming weeks, I’ve dedicated myself to writing it all down so that the miraculous will never become overshadowed by the mundane.

 

Thank you in advance for journeying with me. Peace & Blessings, Kenzi.

 

 

 

 

Kenzi on Blogs by Christian Women!

Loves, I’m so excited to tell you that one of the posts that’s nearest and dearest to my heart is up on Blogs by Christian Women today! In “How to trust God when nothing is going right”, I share a little about my personal journey and the beauty of God’s loyalty. Here’s a little of the story…

 

“Time to be honest, friends. For me, the last two months have been filled with unexpected setbacks and uncertainty. My heart’s felt a little beaten and bruised. And despite my best efforts, I don’t know what the next weeks or months hold.

Oh, and I got pooped on by a pigeon. That happened, too.

In the midst of this trying time, one of my favorite jams has been “Loyal” by Lauren Daigle. There’s a line in it that says, “More faithful than the rising sun, this grace for me, I can’t outrun.” That particular line resonates with me – it represents one of the most challenging yet comforting biblical truths I’ve ever encountered…”

 

Read the rest of the story here, and keep checking Blogs by Christian Women for great posts for daily inspiration.

xoxo – Kenzie

 

Photo courtesy of Blogs by Christian Women

 

 

Undone by love.

“I will sing until the miracle comes.” ~ Hillsong United

 

As I write this, I’m about 20,000 feet above the ground, somewhere between New York and Pennsylvania. The sun has just set, and the horizon outside my window looks like it’s on fire. The tears on my cheeks aren’t yet dry, and I’m at a loss for words.

 

My fellow passengers have sent me sympathetic glances here and there—I can only imagine they assume I’m crying because someone broke up with me or something catastrophic has happened. But that could not be further from the truth.

 

Before this month, I never knew that peace could bring you to tears. But now, it’s happened to me twice in the last two weeks. I’m awestruck by His desperate, astounding, unshaking love for me—love that delights in surprising me, and continues to go above and beyond to provide a future that isn’t just good, but is absolutely amazing. He loves me in a way that eliminates any need to strive, and so brings freedom, fills me with joy, and inspires confidence. He invites me to rest with Him, and to enjoy living in relationship with Him. I am in love with Him because of this love. It’s a love that can be trusted.

 

His love brings tears to my eyes, and I’m so thankful for the journey that has brought me here.

 

Don’t misunderstand me—these past few months have been full of challenges I never thought I’d face and battles I never thought I’d fight. Some have found me on my knees in prayer and others have driven me all the way down to the ground, lying flat before Him, with tears falling onto my bedroom floor.

 

Someone very wise once told me, “It’s okay to let God know you’re angry and frustrated. He’s big enough to take it.” I understand what that means now. Just like my earthly father, there are times I feel like I need something now and don’t see him working on it or moving quickly enough, so I make the entirely unfounded assumption that it’s not on his radar. That somehow, what’s important to me isn’t important to him anymore. Every time, my father will patiently listen to my ridiculous reasoning and desperation and, every time, answers me with one question: “Do you trust me?” “Yes, but—“ I’ll answer. “Ah,” he cuts me off. “No ‘but’. Do you trust me?”

 

For the past 23 years, each and every time I’ve jumped to the conclusion that my dad isn’t on the case, he has proved me to be egregiously wrong. He’s always working behind the scenes, going above and beyond to make sure don’t just have everything I need, but everything I could possibly dream of. My earthly father delights in surprising me and ensuring I always have more than I need, and the same is so true for my heavenly Father.

 

“Do you trust me?” That’s the question that I’ve found God asking me over and over in the last year. Sitting here on this plane right now, I can say, “Yes” without any hesitation or reservation.

 

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice!” That’s the key to life there, friends. I’ve met other Christians who seem entirely empty of joy—that they find no happiness or fun or excitement in their faith (and, some even seem to find it offensive that others do!). It’s the difference between religion and relationship. You can’t wholeheartedly trust someone that you don’t have a deep relationship with. And did you know—God wants better things for us than we want for ourselves! But, His ability to bring these things to us is entirely dependent on our faith in Him and His nature.

 

He loves us so desperately that He didn’t want to live without us, so He came down and took the pain we deserved so we could spend eternity with Him. He made this sacrifice for me, so I freely give Him my life.

 

I’m crying on a plane because He has written a story for me that is better than I could ever imagine, and I could not be more excited or confident to take this next step with Him.

 

“There isn’t any fear here, there isn’t any fear in love when You come.

There isn’t any heart here that you don’t want to overwhelm when you come.

I am speechless, but I can’t keep quiet.

I am wordless, but I can’t keep silent.

I’m lost for words to say. You take my breath away.

There isn’t any rush here, so I’m just going to wait on you and linger longer,

Because every time I find you, I’m a little more undone.

You move me, and I can’t define it.

You consume me, and I can’t describe it.

I am speechless, but I can’t keep quiet.

I am wordless, but I can’t keep silent.”

Wordless, Lauren Daigle

 

Thank you, Abba.