Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Tale of Two Cities

Have you ever been so certain that you've heard from God, but then things don't go as planned? I'm weathering through a season of confusion right now. My husband and I were positive that the Lord was opening a door for us to go back home to help plant a new church. (We have been living in Plainfield for about 2 years now and although we love the area, our hearts are back home in Freeport.) 

So, long story short...
About two and a half years ago, God called us here to get out of our comfort zones. It was a test of our faith and after much prayer, a little fear, and several confirmations, we left the comfort of family and friends to follow God in obedience. Since living here, Brian has started classes to become a pastor. He's well on his way to being certified. Our daughter, Kendell was born and we've made some life-long friendships. God has been good to us and apparently, He still has a purpose for us here.

Here's where the confusion sets in...
Through a connection at church, we were informed that the Illinois District Council of Assemblies of God churches wanted to church plant in our hometown, Freeport. In hearing this, we thought, "this is the opportunity we've been waiting for!" In fact, God started opening doors to pave the way. We met with the leaders of the launch team and instantly clicked. We were casting vision and dreaming big dreams! Then a job opened up for Brian! It seemed like all the pieces were coming together. 

And then...it didn't. 
The job offer wasn't right for our family and my family (who are strong believers and people who hear from the Lord) were revealing some concerns. After seeking wisdom and a lot of prayer, we thought we heard the Lord say "stay". Clearly, not a word I wanted to hear! I wanted to be involved in this church plant to improve a community that I will always call home. Additionally, I wanted Kendell to be closer to her grandparents. When I heard the word "stay" I became angry, confused, and sad. Questions and uncertainty flooded my thoughts. I was a basket case! Have you been there? In searching for answers, I came across a journal entry I had written about a month prior. It read:

If God doesn't give us what we want or ask for, is my faith strong enough to say "not my will, but Yours?" Bible reference Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

BAM! There it was. In my own handwriting! Although some confusion remains and answers are unclear, I will trust Him. This is an opportunity for my faith and trust to grow. Even though, I don't really like the outcome of the situation, God has given me peace. We still have gained a great connection with the church plant leaders and are able to serve them from a distance. I gained an enormous amount of respect and admiration for my husband as I watched Him pray over this decision. I will follow him anywhere. Lastly, I gained the opportunity to be a part of this blog and to continue growing the friendships that God has blessed me with in Plainfield! 

We all struggle, especially in situations that disappoint us. The key is having the courage to say "not my will, but Yours". So as I "stay" where the Lord has placed me, here's my new prayer. 

Show me God. Show me what I'm supposed to do with this. What are you preparing me for? How am I supposed to use this experience? Help me to use this time productively so that it just doesn't turn out to be a void in my life. Help me to be a better, wiser, and stronger person in every possible way I could be. ~ Amen

I've also adopted a new saying and maybe it will help you as you make decisions. It helps with the confusion and turns my eyes back to Christ. Sometimes you have to say no to the good things, so you can say yes to the great things!                                                         Anticipating the great things! 


Monday, March 24, 2014

Courageous- The Art of Letting Go

This year's GEM Conference theme was, "Courageous." (hosted by our church)  It was a powerful night in God's Presence, standing united with our sisters in Christ, seeking His face and worshipping Him in Spirit and in Truth.

One part of the night that really stood out to me was writing down what we needed to surrender in order to be "Courageous."  Let's face it, surrendering IS an act of courage, as well as it is of faith and obedience!  And without it, we can't walk the path Christ laid out for us. 

What I wrote down for my surrender was "control."  I like having the security of knowing what's what, and that everything is well-planned and within my reach to "fix" if necessary.  The problem is, I find myself trusting in only my plans, and not fully trusting God to take care of the scary unknown.  I believe in this season, this chapter of my life, "letting go" is going to involve many things:

  •    Letting my seven year old go to Summer camp for the first time-by himself.
  •    The possibility of never seeing a certain foster child again, whom I love like my own.
  •    Letting go of the harsh criticisms from those I love most.

The list goes on...  You see, hanging onto these things cripple my faith and weaken my testimony.  It also greatly hinders my walk.  I want my life to scream that God is very much alive and moving, and that He is really all I need to sustain me during difficult times.  God's Word tells us that His power is made PERFECT in weakness.  My weakness is having no control--no power to change what others think of me, or never seeing a little girl whom I love, ever again.  Also, no power to change the outcome.

Esther, a woman I greatly admire, and probably the most brave woman in all of history, had to surrender.  She had to be willing to die in order to save her people.  That takes guts!  If she had not surrendered her will to God, and had not gone into the presence of the King, a generation of people would have been gone-lost forever.  In the same way, we have to carry our cross daily and follow Him.  I believe God is raising up a generation of Esthers for such a time as this!  Dear sisters, what would happen to this generation if we didn't leave a legacy of faith by surrendering?  Would it be gone?  That is a very sobering thought!  So, in closing, I'd like to challenge you: "What do you need to surrender to God today?"

Shannon :)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Esther Generation Poem

Back in February I attended IF Gathering that brought thousands of women together across the country and around the world.  It was an incredible time of hearing from many different women who are living lives of obedience - whatever the cost.

It was a time for me where God began to break down some barriers.  I realized that while we may appear to have absolutely nothing in common, because we are in different places and walks of life, when you boil it down and we start to tell our stories, we wrestle with so many of the same issues!  We really are not that different at all.  We have the same fears, and deal with the same struggles.  Connecting on that level gave me a renewed sense of connection and empowerment.

On the first night after we came back from dinner, Amena Brown Owen and Ann Voskamp read a poem called Esther Generation that they had penned.  It was so powerful the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck where standing straight up.  God stirred my heart to begin to collaborate with Emily and Shannon to put this blog together. 

In the poem there is a statement "There is a whole Esther Generation rising up right here and now and it is us!"  That statement is the heart of this blog, and out of it came the name EstherGEN because we want to be a generation of  women, who like Esther, will rise up and say, "We are done being defeated by fears!"  Who will say, "Now is the time for brave faith!"

That we may BELIEVE
and PRAY
and REST
and LOVE!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Be the STAR of your own story

Star: definitions include a heavenly body, celebrated, prominent, distinguished, to shine, brilliant

No matter how you define star; it is glorious. God made you to be a star. Our tag line for this blog is: Be the star of your own story. Taking a look at the life of Esther (which means star), you will notice that she is indeed the star of her own story. We are told that she was quite the "heavenly body" if you know what I mean! She got the attention of the king and was chosen by him. But before she was chosen by him, she was chosen by The King! Set apart for a special work that only she could do! She was the star of her own story. She was courageous and obedient. That's all she needed to be for God to cast her as the star. YOU are courageous! YOU can choose to be obedient! You are a strong, capable woman with valuable ideas, talents, and gifts, all given to you by the one who created you to be a star!  We pray that this blog will be an encouragement to you. That it will be a place where you find others who are like you, share in your struggles and celebrate your victories. Together let's be the stars of our own story!