Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Courage to Pursue My Passion

by Ashley Kelsey

As a senior in high school, trying to figure my future out, I was no stranger to stress. Surrounding adults were often curious to know what I was going to do with my life. Quite frequently I would force a smile and respond as coolly as possible to their inquisitions with an “I don’t know”. 

Discussing your future can be exciting when you have it all figured out but it is certainly overwhelming when you don’t. The lack of direction in my future was depressing. I cried often in frustration and it was horribly draining.

In my final year of high school I just began filling out college applications because that’s what everyone else was doing. Once I finally paused among the chaos and stress of the hoards of applications and scholarship essays, God spoke. He told me to stop my college application process and I realized that I hadn’t been seeking Him in my endeavors of future planning. I saw that I was just following the crowd and wasn’t bothering to ask my Creator what His plans were for me.

I needed to stop and take a minute to consider the passions that God had placed in my heart and where He wanted to take me with them. It took a serious push to give me the courage to pursue my passions. My parents basically sat me down and had an intervention. They recognized the lack of fire in my eyes and the unrest in my spirit and wanted better for me. They saw me aligning my steps to coincide with what’s acceptable to society. Thank God they stopped me! I needed their encouragement to be brave enough to step out, regardless of societal norms or other’s approval.

{It’s important to state that I certainly am not against attending college. Who knows, I could likely end up there one day! My issue was not with the institution of college but rather with my lack of consideration of God’s plan for my life.}

I was creating a false security in a diploma when I serve a God who is not limited by a piece of paper or earthly credentials. I completely stopped my college application process and began to focus all my attention on what God wanted me to do next. After I finally released my control to God, He began to uncover and nurture a strong facet of creativity in me. I learned more and more about myself and unleashed my strong pull toward the beauty industry. My stress level decreased dramatically and I found joy in discovering what I am passionate about.

Though I was on the right track, I still encountered difficulty. I found that as I shared my plans, some would criticize my unconventional journey beyond high school. I listened to many speeches about why my change in plans was foolish. I know that every piece of advice I received was given in love but still it was not helpful. I had to decide to be brave enough to pursue my passions despite the opposition or disapproval of others. I also had to place value on the passions of my heart regardless of what anyone else thought. My draw toward beauty and fashion is valuable and God can and already has used it for His kingdom!

Even though it was scary and I needed a bit of a push, I jumped! It was so worth it! I was mindlessly following what everyone else said I should do but I found so much more joy in waiting for my Heavenly Father to reveal what He specially crafted me to do.  He continues to uncover bit by bit where He wants me to go next and when I become doubtful or impatient I meditate on His truths. God is Sovereign, He is Good, and He has plans to prosper me and give me hope and a future! I don’t know all that God has in store for me, and I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but I have found a much sweeter way of living by trusting God to guide me to His perfect plan.

Meet the author:

Ashley Kelsey is a Keller High School graduate class of 2014. God told her not to go right into college so she has been pursuing her passions outside of school. She recently has started her own business of closet organizing and styling and when she isn't doing that, she's helping nanny for a precious family. Ashley loves connecting with women and helping them to see their own unique beauty. She thrives on helping others see themselves the way God sees them.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Does God Still Speak?

Have you ever been in a season where you wish God would just part the clouds and speak in a booming voice?  I have been, and am in, a season like that right now.  

Tonight I was faced with a moral dilemma when my husband offered to take our kids swimming so I could stay home and have a little alone time(clearly he could see I needed it).  Everything in my flesh said "Finally, you have the entire house to yourself, grab a bag of popcorn and plop down in front of the couch and watch some mindless show with no one interrupting you!"  But as I began to munch on a bag of kettlecorn the Lord quietly whispered in my heart "would you rather spend time with that popcorn than me?"  I know it sounds funny(obviously the Lord knows my sense of humor) but it really got my attention.  The truth was that in that moment the answer was "yes Lord, please leave me alone so I can eat my popcorn in peace!"  But that answer really grieved my heart so I put away the popcorn, grabbed my Bible and picked up where I had left off in my chronological Bible reading plan.  

As you might imagine my attitude wasn't exactly pretty when I first started to read.  But then the Lord quickly reminded me that we don't have to be put together to come and spend time with Him.  In fact, not being pretty and having it all together is WHY we come spend time with Him.  I watched as my spirit shifted from "poor me, God doesn't listen or answer anyway so why bother" to "wow you just gave me HUGE revelation in ONE chapter of the Bible!".  I don't know why I ever doubt God but unfortunately I do.  I LOVE how He doesn't let me stay there though.  

Here's what God showed me in just one chapter in to my quiet time with Him:

1. God is not a man.  

If you are a parent you know how draining kids can be at times.  "Mommy, mommy, mommy....I went poop in my pants, I'm hungry, will you play with me?, sissy hit me..."  The constant chatter and begging for answers and needs to be met really is unending.  Most days I practice really great patience but then I have my days that I melt down and tell them mommy can't handle it anymore and go lock myself in the bathroom for some alone time(true story).  

In 2 Samuel 24:14 David says to Gad(the prophet) "I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands."

The scripture jumped out to me because it reminded me of a moment when I was praying a few nights ago and I stopped and said "Lord I am so sorry for whining over all these little things. I would much rather you took care of other people who need more immediate help then me".  Immediately the Lord answered "I don't have to pick and choose who I can help. I can take care of ALL my kids at the same time and still have enough left over."

Often we compare our earthly parenting to our heavenly Father and all of the sudden we think he has limits because we do.  I may not be able to be there for every moment of my kids lives or provide every little thing they need, but He can.  He reminded me again today that there is no such thing as Him running out of blessings.  Instead of being jealous of someone else being blessed we need to get excited because we saw the hand of God move on them and He can do the same for us. 

2. It's not a sacrifice if it didn't cost you anything. 

We all want answers in our lives but very few of us are willing to sacrifice something to hear God.  Tonight, I "sacrificed" my self loathing time to spend time with God instead.  If I had chosen to stick to my original plan I would have missed His voice in my life.  He still speaks but we do have to sit still long enough to listen and be obedient when He calls.  

In 2 Samuel 24:24 David was preparing to make a sacrifice to God and Araunah offered him everything he needed to make the sacrifice all at no cost to David.  But David responded "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."  

What is God calling you to sacrifice today?  Time, money, food?  Only you know what he is asking you to lay down for a moment, or a season, in order to hear Him more clearly.  

So do I think God still speaks? The answer is yes.  If you don't believe me, walk away from the computer, get alone with God and ask Him to speak.  He may ask you to sit in silence, journal, read the Bible, pray, go for a walk or listen to worship music.  Follow Him and He will take you places you never dreamed were possible.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Lead Where You Are

by Karen Harmon
For some, the word “leader” can bring feelings of purpose and confidence. For others, it can bring feelings of intimidation and inadequacy. As followers of Jesus, we are called to LEAD others to Christ, which means we are called to lead in all our spheres of influence. How can we lead effectively in every role and season of our lives?

Be confident of your identity in Christ.
(Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:13-17; Colossians 3:10-14)

Our identity should not be rooted in WHAT we DO but in WHO He created us to BE.  In 2007, I became a stay-at-home mom. Everything I knew about leadership and purpose changed. Previously, I was working full-time as a physical therapist and serving regularly on the worship team. I could lead patients and support staff in my career. I could lead people into the presence of the Lord as a worship leader; but I had no idea what leadership meant in this new role. With no paying job or ministry that I loved, I completely lost my identity and learned a valuable lesson. I cannot be the effective leader God has called me to be without first knowing who I am in Christ. In order to find my Christ-given identity, I had to let go of my past expectations and failures and embrace the present. I had to believe in the potential God placed inside of me by releasing fear, comparisons, and ideals. I had to trust and be confident in God and in myself. I had to dig into the Word of God and seek His face like never before. Knowing our identity in Christ is the foundation of our leadership identity. Our leadership identity may look different at times depending on vocation, but our identity in Christ is a constant regardless of vocation.

Be bold with your passion, purpose, and vision.
(Jeremiah 29:11-13; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 3:23-24)

Unlocking your passion will lead to your purpose which will clarify your vision. We are all uniquely created with different interests and talents, and have had various life experiences. Use these things to help ignite passion. Are you being a wise steward of the one life that God has given you? I love the example of Esther in the Bible. I call her the “unsuspecting leader.” According to Scripture, her primary role before she became queen was taking part in daily beauty treatments for a whole year, so she would be ready when it was her time with the king. To me, that does not seem like Leadership Training 101, and Esther didn’t seem like she possessed naturally strong leadership abilities (as evidenced by the frequent pep talks from Mordecai). However, she became the queen, risked her life to go before the king unannounced, and saved the Jews from death. Sometimes, it just takes a small, brave step forward to discover what you’re capable of doing. Your vision may be to start a small group, open a new business or non-profit, go back to school, start a blog, or simply be more attentive to those you encounter. Whatever it is, combining your passion, purpose, and vision, will help define your leadership identity. Once you have a vision, writing down action steps will help you chart your course with more direction and boldness. This can include listing priorities, creating goals, and organizing a support system. One of the biggest lies that Christian women believe is that we should ignore our God-given abilities, talents, and callings for the sake of a primary role. In order to further God’s work here on earth, it is vital we walk in ALL God created us to be.

Be intentional with your influence.  
(Matthew 20:26; I Thessalonians 5:11; II Timothy 4:2)

The greatest leaders serve unselfishly, lead by example, and develop other leaders. Jesus’ life is the ultimate leadership guide. Draw out the potential and purpose in those around you, and let them shine. Nothing means more to people than when someone takes the time to see them, validate them, and encourage them. Sometimes a little push or a word of encouragement will go a long way. Your most important ministry may not be off a platform to thousands, but in daily life to a few. You have influence, with or without a leadership title.

I often tell my kids, “You may be the only Jesus that somebody ever meets.” Be intentional with how you interact with others. Look for opportunities to show the love of Christ, and pour into people. Be a loud encourager and a gentle corrector when needed. No matter your current roles…whether you are young, old, single, married, a mother, work outside or in the home…you have greatness inside of you, given by God, to influence others. You have purpose in all aspects of your life. You are equipped with certain abilities, talents, dreams, and resources to positively impact the world around you. Walk boldly in who God created you to be…a leader!

Meet the author:  

Karen Harmon is a wife, homeschooling mom, and physical therapist who actively serves her church in worship, life groups, and media. She is passionate about encouraging women to fully and intentionally live and lead in all their many roles. You can follow her on Instagram @KarenHarmon360