Category Archives: Identity in Christ

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

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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“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.

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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!

When Failure Strengthens Faith

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I bombed. Absolutely, positively, bombed. I had an opportunity to speak in front of a speaker’s coach at a conference. It was a simple 5 minute speech. I’ve been speaking since high school and have given hundreds of speeches. and I bombed. And I had prepared! Diligently I had poured over my words and rehearsed them countless times. This was going to be awesome! I’d deliver my speech with authority and excitement in my voice. I’d capture my audience and take them on a journey with me. Except…I bombed.

I choked.

I failed.

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My nerves got the best of me. The room set up suddenly didn’t work. The kind, caring eyes of my fellow group members suddenly became judgmental (although only in my mind). My voice flattened to monotone. I fumbled with my script. I lost my place. I made every rookie mistake I thought I’d overcome over the years. It wasn’t my best. It wasn’t even my average. It wasn’t even me.

Ever have something similar happen to you?

As I headed back to my hotel room, head hung low, I couldn’t help but focus on the long list of things that had gone wrong and the opportunity it seemed I had failed to seize.

Then it hit me. I suddenly remembered the essence of the message I had attempted to communicate just moments earlier.  I am desperate for people to understand that their true worth comes from God’s love and nothing else. I was now in a position to live my message or be a hypocrite. Would I claim my identity as God’s precious and beloved daughter? Or would I continue to try to find my worth in my ability to perform and achieve? Would I rest in the reality that God (and my group members for that matter!) did not love or care about me any less because of this failure? Or would I only be satisfied once I had the approval and affirmation of others? Would I live out the truth that my value is secure in the love of my Savior? Or would I choose to chase value through worldly riches?

The former offered freedom – freedom to live boldly, love fully, and carry out God’s calling confidently. The latter seemed to offer only insecurity, disappointment, and anxiety. The former offered authenticity. The latter offered a shaky façade ready to crumble at any moment. The former offered relationship. The latter offered only isolation. The former offered community. The latter offered competition.

And so I made my choice…

I experienced 71 hours and 55 minutes of wonderful and 5 minutes of awful throughout the 72 hour conference. And yet I learned more in those miserable 5 minutes than the rest of the time combined. I have to live my message. I have to rest in the loving arms of my heavenly Father and trust that my worth and value are secure. I have to walk humbly in my own abilities and confidently stay connected to God’s strength and Spirit in me. I need to live like I really truly believe that His love for me is so great that He sacrificed His only son to be in relationship with me. That kind of love is not based on achievement or accolades or accumulation. It doesn’t increase when I do well and decrease when I do wrong. God’s love never waivers and never changes. God’s kind of love frees from prisons of performance and praise. God’s love changes lives, and changes the world.

Yes, I bombed. And it was beautiful…

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God Chooses to Adopt You

Derek and Kristen remember the moment God confirmed their call to adopt internationally. After weeks of questioning, the title of the sermon that fateful Sunday morning read, “God Adopts Us into His Family.” Seven months later, after countless prayers, fundraising, and mountains of paperwork, they received confirmation that two beautiful children awaited them in Uganda. Let me introduce you to Viola and Gideon.

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The journey had just begun. It would take nearly all of their emotional, mental, and financial resources, plus 73 days in Uganda attending court hearings and completing more paperwork before Derek and Kristen could bring their children home. Despite all it took, Kristen has said, “I love that adoption is the way I became a mother.” It has been nearly two years and Viola and Gideon are happy, healthy, and secure in their forever home. They have a new sense of belonging and they have received new identities.

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God uses the imagery of adoption to help us understand the relationship He offers and desires to have with us.

In Romans 8:15-17 the apostle Paul says, “You see, you have not received a spirit that returns you to slavery, so you have nothing to fear. The Spirit you have received adopts you and welcomes you into God’s own family. That’s why we call out to Him, ‘Abba! Father!’ as we would address a loving daddy. Through that prayer, God’s Spirit confirms in our spirits that we are His children. If we are God’s children, that means we are His heirs along with the Anointed, set to inherit everything that is His.”

Just like Derek and Kristen chose Gideon and Viola, GOD CHOSE YOU. Derek and Kristen went to great lengths to adopt. God has gone to even greater lengths – sacrificing the son He already had in order to make us His children too. Just like Viola and Gideon could do nothing to earn or deserve their parents’ love, we can do nothing to earn God’s love and we certainly do not deserve His grace. Just like Gideon and Viola received new identities, we receive new identities in Christ. And even though Viola and Gideon are adopted, they have the same rights as a biological child. Similarly, as God’s adopted beloved children, we receive the same inheritance as Christ.

God chose to adopt us! Our worth is found in our true identity as God’s beloved children! But like Viola and Gideon were once orphans, before we accept God’s grace and love, we are spiritual orphans. If you have ever been to an orphanage, you may have noticed that after the initial shyness has worn off, the children tend to compete with one another for whatever you have to offer. As spiritual orphans, we tend to do the same thing. In fact, Henri Nouwen says that we try to earn worth through what we do, what we have, or what others say about us.

Listen, true worth is only found in receiving our identity as God’s beloved. Look at 1 John 3:1-2, which says, “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us – He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize Him, the world does not recognize us either. My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now.”

Beloved means “dearly loved or favorite.” You are God’s favorite! So, my question is this: Are you living as a beloved child of God or are you still living with orphan mentality?

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An orphan is hopeless. A daughter is hopeful. An orphan is unsure and anxious. A son is assured and confident. An orphan simply survives. A daughter thrives. An orphan competes. A son is content. An orphan has no father to provide a name and therefore creates his own identity from the outside and hopes no one finds out what is on the inside. A daughter receives her name from her daddy and confidently shares what’s inside with others.

The only source of identity and worth that truly satisfies is receiving our adoption into God’s family as His beloved child. The action step is actually not what we need to do, but what we need to stop doing. Stop trying to earn God’s love. Stop looking for worth or identity in what you do, what you have or what others say about you. Viola and Gideon are no longer nameless. They are now Viola and Gideon Kimball. Live confidently out of the name your Heavenly father has given you, the name Beloved.