Monday, January 30, 2017

Never Assume

"The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom..."
- Isaiah 35: 1

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Assumptions, much like expectations, can have devastating consequences. Even in its definition, the word has similarity to expectation: 'a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.'

Whether big or small in size, assumptions can make us not only look foolish but feel foolish. Feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, and discouragement to name but a few of the 'side effects' of assumptions gone rogue.

Like expectations, I used to assume alot about, well, alot. If the weather person said it was going to be a sunny day, their word was their bond. However, the assumption that predicting weather was accurate became, at best, consistently inconsistent.

Our assumptions about the weather often pales in comparison to the larger ones we can easily get caught up in. Like assuming every Muslim is an extremist, every woman is out to manipulate, or every guy is a dog.

Perhaps you have been on the receiving end of other people's assumptions about you, maybe wrong assumptions, which resulted in heartbreak and self-consciousness. Then leading you to doubt who you are. I know I have.

Before Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came on the scene, over 2000 years ago, there was an obvious build up that a Messiah was coming. The people of that time assumed that this Messiah would finally release them from the oppression they had been facing.

That He, perhaps, would be a mighty warrior, riding on a white horse, brandishing a massive sword, and annihilate the Roman Empire and its armies in one fell swoop.

That all would be made right. That justice would be served. It turned out to be the biggest wrong assumption ever made.

Instead, Jesus came as a baby in a manger instead of a handsome knight on a horse and his weapon was not a sword but love. Love and mercy for every person He encountered. Acceptance of every race, creed, and color all without assumption.

He invited people to follow Him but never assumed they would. He taught what was right but never assumed anyone would listen to or do the things He preached. Jesus was the most unassuming, unexpectant, loving person to walk the Earth.

He was never disappointed when others rejected Him continuously. He was never surprised when those closest to Him denied ever knowing Him. Jesus was the embodiment of what many of us desire to be, whether Christian or not.

His resilience never stopped Him from being vulnerable in loving others or the toughness preventing Him from grieving openly. Nor intelligence causing hesitation to mingle with all levels of society.

Jesus never put up walls. He never placed restrictions . He possessed an openness to receive people, to love people, without expectation or assumption.

That is who I desire to be. A woman who holds nothing back so that others can know they are loved, appreciated, and encouraged to be their best. All while making no assumptions or holding any expectations as to the results.

It is my goal that both assumptions and expectations will continue to fall to the floor so that room can be made to live more freely and abundantly. These things, in my experience, have been key to living worry free and enjoying every moment in this life journey.

Encouragement for the week:

Do you sometimes make wrong assumptions about things or people? Have the results left you feeling or looking foolish?

Or did these wrong assumptions bring a deeper, more hurtful result of disappointment or discouragement?

I want to encourage you this week to do away with assumptions. Whether big or small, right or wrong, get rid of them and free yourself up for other things. Greater things. Pleasing things.

Things that could change your perspective, entirely, about a situation or person that you may not have considered had you made assumptions.

Think of it as beginning a scavenger hunt, no outcome assumed, and only excited to find the hidden and unexpected treasures.

Monday, January 23, 2017

What Did You Expect?

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you,
saying, "This is the way; walk in it." - Isaiah 30:21

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Expectations. The dictionary defines this word as follows: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future; a feeling or belief about how successful, good, etc., someone or something will be.

Expectations can, sometimes, seem impossible to meet. Especially when they don't come from ourselves. It can be something as small as being on time to an event with a friend, to the pressure of following in the professional footsteps of one our parents.

They can be both realistic and unrealistic. A realistic expectation could be that of a child about the secure and loving upbringing of his/her parents. An unrealistic one could be seeing your spouse as the solution to all your insecurities and fears.

Whether realistic or not, expectations can hold us captive to an ever growing list of what should or shouldn't happen in our lives. Any unfulfilled expectation can result in the crushing weight of disappointment.

A feeling that nothing or no one can ever rise to the challenge of giving us the inner confidence of being counted on. It's been my experience that this can be a very dangerous place to be.

I used to have great expectations of things/events and people for years, until the destructive nature of disappointment left me teetering on the brink of depression.

Suddenly, the belief that everything and everyone would line up with what was conceived as being necessary to self-preservation and happiness, collapsed, leaving emptiness and distrust.

It took a long time to figure out that not only was it unrealistic to have certain expectations but having them rule over my feelings would be at the demise of all joy, happiness, and peace.

Slowly, over time, grand and miniscule expectations fell away and so did the looming hammer of disappointment. People and things would not be held accountable. Roller-coaster emotions no more the leader.

A heart that, though loving and caring, would no longer expect others to care, reach out, offer solutions or lend a helping hand in times of difficulty.

The cycle of being set up for disappointment was broken once and for all and it was liberating. There was freedom from the hurt and pain of disappointment.

Whether or not a caring note or phone call came, whether a friend or family member visited, the knowledge of having removed those expectations brought peace.

Life became breathable and leaving disappointment behind, refreshing, which then allowed the opportunity to be free to reach out to and do for others without expecting anything in return.

While expectations in our lives can be difficult to navigate, much like a mine field, there is One who expects nothing from us. God. He doesn't even expect us to love Him even though He first loved us by sending His Son to die on a Cross for the sins of you and I.

The book of Psalms, in the Bible, says,"In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly." - Psalm 5:3

This statement came from a king named David who had a very close relationship with God. So close, that David had come to fully trust in God and expect great things from Him. These great things are the promises of God.

Promises like peace, joy, answered prayer, protection, and wisdom. Promises told to David from God. Those same promises, along with so many more, are available to us as Christians.

We are told to have expectations of God. That He will reveal Himself to us when we wait expectantly like David did. That God will be faithful to His promises to us because, well, God is faithful.

So while I may not have any expectations of things and people around me, I can have expectations of God, according to His Word (the Bible). That is an incredibly freeing truth.

Encouragement for the week:

Do you feel like you are being held captive by your own expectations of things/events and people, maybe even of yourself?

Are you constantly riddled with disappointment because of those unfulfilled expectations?

I want to encourage you this week to let your expectations of, well, everything, fall away completely. Free yourself of both the realistic and unrealistic expectations and I can promise you that you might be pleasantly surprised in what you experience.

If you are a Christian, God calls us to expect great things in Him. Wait, in expectation, on the Lord and see what He will do.

If you are not a Christian, and you have been stung by the bite of disappointment, look for Jesus, who has no expectations of you but has the best in mind beyond any expectation you could ever imagine.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Don't Do It

"Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.
The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns
and put it on his head..." - John 19: 1-2

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Sometimes other people's dreams, goals, and aspirations seem ridiculous, impossible, or even crazy to us. We may even be ignorant to their heart to the point of dismissiveness. Nothing kills a dream faster than the doubting tongue of someone close to us.

Recently, a friend of mine asked if I would go skydiving with her this spring. Without hesitation, the reply text included, "Are you nuts?", followed by another sentence saying, "Actually...I might."

There was a sudden awareness that even though the thought of willfully jumping out of a plane and plummeting to the earth at break neck speeds wasn't exactly exciting to me, it was an experience that was exciting to her.

It was something she gave careful thought to. Perhaps as part of a realization that was now a desire in order to break out of her comfort zone. To do something so...crazy, in order to bring life out of complacency.

Remembering back years ago, there were things that others conceived to be insane and nutty when announcing that I would be embarking on inner dreams.

Things like going to Uganda, alone, for two weeks to work in an orphanage and doing a working vacation in Italy for two months.

Then years later, I would take another, even crazier, journey. Five months at YWAM in Costa Rica with people almost half my age. It's not called Youth With A Mission for nothing.

Community living with hyper and Christ loving youth, numbering in the hundreds, was not overly appealing to a, then, 38 year old woman who was very comfortable in life. What lay ahead was nerve wracking and nauseating and ridicule from others only added to the building anxiety.

However, the desire to go was prompted only by the fact that God was calling me there and, in light of my own crazy thoughts about going, being obedient to God's call was crucial. Even in the face of knowing what I would be leaving behind.

Things like giving up a cozy apartment, selling a reliable car, and saying goodbye to someone I deeply loved. It also meant staring the death of my great desire for marriage in the face and, tearily, saying, "Farewell".

In all honesty, as hard as it was to say goodbye to the things of the heart, ignoring the aspiration growing within was impossible. It was a God given calling and desire, the best to receive because they are true, real, and promised to be fulfilled by Him.

Just like the dream to be married. There is no greater gift than to receive and believe that this covenant was hand picked. A promise that waits to be fulfilled. A desire that continues to grow, at times, to overwhelming proportions.

So, looking back to my friend's aspiration to push beyond the boundaries of discomfort and move toward what calls within, deserves applause, not ridicule.

Whether you are a Christian or not, there are great things that reside within you. Things both God given and ambition given. Things to stretch and mature beyond the confines of doubt and fear.

Glorious things believed and pursued because of an inner conviction. Big dreams being dreamed. The impossible becoming possible. Great or small, the desire erupts and calls for action.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was often told not to do the things He did in the Bible. Don't preach, don't teach, don't heal. Even His disciples told Him not to go to the Cross but Jesus' God given desire and His obedience to heal, forgive, and save the world never stopped Him even though suffering, rejection, and death awaited Him.

Don't let the words, "Don't do it", take hold. The desire to do what is inside you is there for a reason. Trust in God and let Him take you there.

Encouragement for the week:

You have goals, dreams, and aspirations. Maybe it's to lose weight, be healthier, or have a more intimate relationship with God.

Maybe it is something really big that, when mentioned, has only brought words of ridicule or mockery from your closest of friends. Maybe the word 'crazy' was even mentioned.

Dreams and desires are in you for a reason. Only you know what that reason might be. What's for sure is that they have been there a long time.

Whether you believe in God or not, those dreams and desires were given to you, waiting to be explored. You'll never know their true importance until you decide to take a step out and see where that dream/desire takes you.

Even if that step means believing in it or going out and making it a reality. Don't let someone tell you that you can't do it. Don't let someone shame you out of doing it.

If you are a Christian, these dreams and desires are God given. Trust Him to bring you into them and enjoy the journey along the way.

If you are not a Christian, your dreams and desires were given to you. Look for Jesus and He will bring you into those dreams and desires in a way that will be beyond your own imagination.

Monday, January 9, 2017


What breaks your heart? This was the question that came at the end of a TV message yesterday. It was more of a challenge to the audience to dig deeper.

To search for something more than the obvious. Obvious like children starving or murder. Not that these things are lessened by any means, but the question's answer was meant to come from a deeper, more personal place within.

For me, it took some time of reflection on my life before coming up with answers.

Here are a few that, quickly, came to mind:

  • Sin. First and foremost, my own.
  • The evil in the world as a result of sin.
  • The lost and broken people who don't know Jesus.
  • Saying goodbye to a loved one.
In all honesty, these things, along with many others, bring tears. Sometimes sobbing. A while back, the great desire for marriage would have topped the list but after careful searching, it is the idolatry of marriage that was a greater heart break. Hence, sin, taking the top spot.

While the desire is still very much real and the tears from it not yet fulfilled, plenty, it has been more important to deal with the reasons it became an idol in the first place.

Becoming consumed with something that holds no value or benefit for our spiritual, emotional, mental, or psychological growth/health can hold back the blessings that God wants for us.

You can relate to this, hopefully, even if you are not a Christian. You may be able to recognize the very things in your life, today, that hold you back from enjoying each day.

Stumbling blocks like resentment, unforgiveness, sexual immorality, and others. For me, the fear of rejection, sexual compromise, and resentment were things preventing forward and positive progress.

They were things that robbed me from enjoying and engaging life and, as a result, kept breaking my heart. The door had to be opened to a path of healing which meant facing the 'demons' and doing whatever it took to slay the dragons, as it were.

That only started to happen when a choice to surrender, to let go, all that had been consuming. The desires, the sin, the stubbornness...all of it, had to be put aside because the desire for freedom was far greater.

Greater than the stained, torn, and smelly blankie that I toted around for decades. Granted, as the experience of healing happened over the years and the freedoms afforded by God continued, there is still a sizeable piece of blankie left.

However, the past three months led me, via aloneness and solitude, into a very honest and humbling place where sin no longer felt warm and fuzzy to me. I wanted change and it came, it's still coming. I know that I am imperfect and sinful which means, thankfully, I will always need God.

What breaks my heart? The undone, the cast aside. The I'll-get-to-it-when-I-want-to. I want to get smashed, broken into pieces. I want to be dessimated so that I can become the right woman and walk in freedom. I want to get to that place where I delight in burning my blankie and you are all invited to the bonfire.

Encouragement for the week:

What breaks your heart? What do you struggle with to get past?

Is it worth the misery you're living in right now? 

Heart break can be good in situations such as helping someone who is homeless get back on their feet, donating food to the local food bank, or sitting with someone who just lost a loved one. 

Heart break that holds you captive to unhealthy feelings and actions is not good. It can prevent you from living a full, productive, and enjoyable life. A life that Christ died to give you. An abundant life.

Whether you are a Christian or not, the principle stands the same. Negative holds us back. Positive brings growth and change.

I'd like to encourage you this week to dig deep. Think about the things in your life that are stopping you from becoming who you truly are supposed to be. Someone beautiful.

Take a step toward healing and experience the freedom that comes in getting smashed.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Fresh Start

"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, 
or with the breadth of his hand marked off 
the heavens?..." - Isaiah 40:12

**Photography by Melissa Talbot

On New Years eve, I had the opportunity to be part of a conversation around new years resolutions. I'm not one to make resolutions when a new year starts but introspective thoughts started to come.

When it was my turn, it became clear what should happen in the coming year. It's to be engaged. To be intentional about actions, words, and decisions.

Being intentional about reading more, both in the Bible and other genres of interest, in order to expand knowledge that will lend to better writing.

Intentional about being present, in the here and now, whether in nature alone or spending time in conversation with loved ones and friends. Being in each moment because that moment will never happen that way again. When it's gone, it's gone.

The intent to allow the fullness of life, and all that surrounds me, take hold and fill me to overflowing. No matter what that looks like. If it's moving through sorrow or experiencing joy, each situation has the potential to teach something that will bear fruit.

The intent to have no regrets about anything. Whether it's speaking from the heart, taking action to help someone or walking alongside a friend or foe who is hurting.

This new year is a fresh start. An extraordinary opportunity to do away with spiritual, physical, and mental compromise. To allow God to do all the refining and changes within that are of no benefit or outside of His will and best for me.

It is an unknown road entered with a complete awareness that struggle, sorrow, joy, and difficulty will happen. A journey that will bring lessons only learned if submission, obedience, and trust are included.

In light of all this, for me, it is a better road traveled with God than without. Even during the lonely times. Even during the can't-stop-crying, hard-to-breathe moments when the white knuckle grip is front and centre.

A better road traveled than not. A road I need to travel in light of the fear that exists deep down.

Encouragement for the week:

What does the new year look like to you? Is it a clean slate with an opportunity to do things differently and be kinder to yourself?

Is it a chance to be more intentional about your time and actions?

Whatever the new year holds and the hopes you have for it, protect that hope. It will mean the difference between being open to learning and growing or cratering from the lies believed in times of disappointment.

If you are a Christian reading this, it is my hope that you will be open to learning the lessons God has for you this year.

If you are not a Christian reading this, it is my hope that you will look for Jesus and find Him, stepping into the great hope He brings by knowing Him, making this year the best year ever.