When God Closes a Door but Doesn’t Open a Window: Hali’s Story 2.0

Being a mentor to students has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. There is no greater blessing than having a front row seat to the journey from awkward and insecure middle schooler to graceful and confident young woman. I’m so honored to call so many of these ladies friends and to be a part, even if ever so small, of their story. Today I’m pleased to turn the blog over to one of these young women, Hali. I shared part of her story a few weeks ago in a blog entitled Hali’s Story: Obedience, Pursuit of Passion, and God’s Calling. Today you get to hear her version, with a little update on what has occurred since. Though the story begins with pain and confusion, it ends with hope and assurance and it is a story we all need to hear. So, here’s Hali’s Story: 2.0! ~Karen


Moving backwards…inadequate…lacking skill…behind…disappointment…failure…shame. Words…these words specifically, are words that have been circling through my thoughts for the past couple of weeks along with the emotions that come with them. I’m an achiever, through and through. But recently I withdrew from school…again…which has made me feel like anything but a success.

Most people don’t know that I’ve been enrolled in three different colleges since graduating from high school three years ago. As a senior in high school I was planning on being a physical therapist or a physician, but the door to the school I wanted to attend closed. Next I thought nursing was what God was calling me into, but it only took one semester to realize it wasn’t my passion either. Most recently I enrolled in a ministry program, which made perfect sense. After a year with YWAM and two years working at a church, it seemed to be the perfect choice, but it didn’t come to fruition either. I now faced another closed door with no obvious open windows.


Growing up I was pretty good at a variety of things. I was a varsity athlete and a good student. I was fortunate to succeed in a lot of what I pursued. So my natural thought coming out of high school was that I would go to college, then graduate school and live life for Jesus in the midst of a fulfilling and successful career. But that was my plan, not God’s. He had something different in mind, something that would refine me and challenge what I was finding my worth and value in. You see, I like to do things well, and I like to excel in everything I do. Those aren’t necessarily bad things. But it becomes problematic when I start to place my worth in my achievements. My plan was to succeed according to worldly standards. But God had different things in store. As a matter of fact three times now God has had different things in store.


God has different things in store…those words, as awesome as they seem, are hard for me to swallow. All around me people are doing what seems to be “something” with their lives. My peers are graduating college this year (if they haven’t already), going to graduate school, finding a “real” job and succeeding. Everyone seems to be doing what most people do when they are 22 – embarking on the beginning of a journey towards significance and doing things that will make a difference.

I observe these things, and it irks me inside. I begin to compare my life with everyone else’s, and I feel behind or like I’m doing something wrong. When I look at myself, I see a failure. I see someone in a constant state of limbo. I see someone who went from having a lot of potential when they were younger to someone who HAS to do something to prove they are worth anything at all. Bottom line, I’ve got a problem people, and it may be a problem that some of you have as well. I’ve believed lies, and I’ve let them into my thoughts and heart. Here’s the thing though, these lies bring confusion instead of peace, sorrow instead of joy, despair instead of hope, and doubt instead of faith.

But these lies have no right to plant themselves in us, they have no right to cause us pain, not when we are sons and daughters of the Most High. No way! Psalm 139 tells us that God knit us together in our mother’s womb, He knew us before we were born, His thoughts about us are precious, He is with us where ever we may go. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says He has good plans for us, that when we pray He will listen. He hears us and He sees us. We are approved by Him, there is no greater thing in life than to be His son or daughter. And if that is all I ever am, that is enough. The LORD will work out the details in our lives. My story is not MY story for MY glory or satisfaction, it is HIS story for HIS glory.

In Matthew 14 the disciples are caught in a storm, and Jesus comes to them walking on water. Peter tells Jesus to call for him to come if it is truly him, so Jesus calls Peter out of the boat. Peter, with faith and courage, gets out of the boat and he walks on water (so sick) towards Jesus. But the second he takes his eyes off of Jesus, he starts to sink. Jesus says to Peter in verse 31b (paraphrased) “You have so little faith, why did you doubt me?”


“Why did you doubt me?” Why do I doubt Him? Why do I focus on the storm around me instead of my Savior in front of me? Why do I put my worth and value in worldly things when I have a Father who loves me enough to send his Son to the earth to die for my sins? I’m a broken human being, I’m a sinner, but I am not a failure and I do not have to cower or succumb to the lies that are thrown at me…and neither do you.

My worth is not measured by a degree, my worth is measured by my King. If following Him means giving up achieving the ways I think I need to achieve then I’m going to come to terms with it (no matter how long the journey and with the help of the Holy Spirit I am sure). I’m learning to lay down comparing myself to the world and those around me. I’m learning to lay down achieving for worldly approval. I’m learning to lay down my fear so I can learn to better focus on Jesus and walk on water with him in faith like Peter did for those brief moments. It sucks sometimes and it hurts sometimes, but dang it will be worth it in the end. I don’t have to force open a closed door or crawl through a broken window. I just have to faithfully follow where the Holy Spirit leads me and trust He has the key to any door that I’m called to walk through.


So what do you need to lay down that is causing you to focus on the storm and not Jesus? What lies are you believing right now? Where are you comparing where you don’t need to be?

393628_10150574449565490_1776402262_nHali is keeping her eyes faithfully on Jesus while following where the Holy Spirit leads, trusting the right door will open in time. She’s a rock star EMT, loves farm life, is my personal Su chef, and prefers “love punches” to hugs to show affection. Thanks for sharing your heart Hali!

Why My Actions Make Me Angry

 “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.* I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:15-20

Boy can I relate to Paul lately! He penned these words as someone desperately following Jesus at great personal cost and yet feeling inadequate all along the way. Why is it that the very things that are so bad for us are often the things that are so attractive? They draw us in and seem to be so much easier to do than all that is healthy and truly good for us.


And though I’ve even written about the benefit of a disciplined life, I still struggle to live one at times. I watch TV instead of working out. I choose cookies instead of carrots. I spend time on Facebook instead of studying Scripture. I stay up late when I should rest. I sleep in when I should wake up. And everything seems to take priority over spending time with my Savior. What comfort to know that I am not alone, that even the apostle Paul struggled with his undisciplined sinful side!

The truth is that making choices is a very difficult process. There are always two sides at work in each of us. These two sides have been battling from the moment of creation and will continue to contradict one another until Jesus returns. By God’s grace, through faith, I have been justified and forgiven. My sin has been wiped away. The old has truly gone, the new is truly here. And yet, my old, sinful self desperately sticks around and stubbornly refuses to completely die.


And so I need help. And God knew we would all need help. He gave us the Holy Spirit as an advocate and more importantly, as God Himself alive in us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, my sinful nature is put to death a little more each day and my heart looks a little more like Jesus. This process, called sanctification, is a lifelong journey. There are times it feels like I’m running in the right direction, there are times I feel I’m running in the wrong direction, and there are times it feels like I’m just standing still. And regardless of the pace of the progress, God promises to complete the good work that He started in each of us. The Holy Spirit is the source of the strength to keep journeying, even when the reality of sin discourages and slows us down.

Though the battle between my saved self and my sinful self wages on, the war has already been won. Jesus ensured victory through His shed blood on the cross and in leaving the Holy Spirit as our helper.  It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to become more like Jesus. If I rely on my own will power, I will certainly fail. Like a hamster on a wheel, I all be exhausted, but I won’t get anywhere. Relying on the Holy Spirit turns selfishness into self-control, anger into kindness, irritability into joy, anxiety into peace, busyness into patience, and loathing into love. We cannot become more like Jesus on our own. No one is talented enough, smart enough, or strong enough to fight the power of sin in our lives. Only God can make us more like God. We must rely on His strength, His wisdom, and His grace. That alone can defeat sin’s grip on us.

In what ways does your sinful nature frustrate you? What can you do today to allow the Holy Spirit to work through your life and make you more like Jesus?

romans 715

Pruning: Trusting the Master Gardener to Make the Right Cuts

Pruning (v): The targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, overgrown, or otherwise unwanted tissue of a plant, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.


Pruning is a difficult but necessary process and I’ve had to do some pruning recently. And though it was a painful process, once the branch had been snipped, I felt a tremendous amount of freedom and relief. The reality is that endings are as necessary as beginnings!

Pruning serves several purposes. It is necessary to improve or maintain health. Pruning increases the quantity or improves the quality of the fruit being produced. Finally, pruning improves the overall strength of the plant or tree so it can withstand nature’s storms. Here’s what is interesting about pruning: it isn’t always about cutting away that which is already dead, often it requires trimming away branches and buds that are very much alive.

We often have to cut away the good in our lives, maybe even some of the better things in our lives, in order to make room for the best things in life. It can be difficult to say no to the things that are not good in our life. It is even MORE difficult to say no to things that seem good! This is especially difficult to do when so much of our identity tends to come from the things we give our time and energy to. It is difficult to allow God to prune away those things that seem to define us and bring worth and value to our lives!

However, God is the master gardener and longs for us to reach our full potential, which takes pruning. In the gospel of John, Jesus says, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” (John 15:1-4) Look at verse two in the above passage, “He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”

God is not satisfied with our current production or our current growth. He loves us as we are but desires to make us better. As master gardener, He is constantly trimming and pruning our branches in order to improve our health, increase the fruit we produce, and make us stronger to withstand life’s storms. The process may be painful at times. We may have to let go of branches we’ve grown to love. We have to allow God to strip us of the familiar and we have to be willing to step out into the unknown. This takes trusting that God really does know what is best and believing that he knows exactly which branches to snip. And when we finally give up control and allow God to prune us, we find that the process, although painful, is also beautiful.

It is often said that all good things must come to an end, and allowing God to prune those things in His timing frees us up to move onto greater things. It is possible to end well. It is possible to give thanks for the purpose the branches and buds served at the time and to let them go when the time comes knowing that new buds and branches will replace them.

So, what areas of your life need pruning? Where is God longing to trim back some branches and create space for better fruit? Where is God longing to cut out dead branches so new growth can come forth? What branches feel weak and need to be removed so you can become stronger? Are you ready to release whatever God asks of you and trust that he is a good gardener and wants to replace the good with something great?

art of pruning