the other side of If Only.
Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Yesterday, I wrote on the last page of a journal that began in January. Today, I closed the cover and opened a brand new journal. A common occurrence, I know, especially for those who are diligent in journaling. But when you begin to see and hear God in everything, an act as simple as closing one book and opening another becomes a very significant message. As I was praying this morning, I knew this particular transition was something different and it was anything but common - something the Lord was highlighting for me in the moment..and in the new season that He has waiting just inside the new journal cover.
The journal I’ve been writing in for the past six months is all black with gold flecks dotted across the cover in a pattern. On the inside of each page, written at the bottom, is the word "greenroom." It's not an amazing journal by any standards, but it did the job. I don't know if any of you feel the same but, to me, the physical characteristics of the journal matter. The colors, the look, the feel, the kind of paper inside - it's all very important and can often launch a major journal search, stalling out the actual journaling part. I couldn't quite figure out this particular journal. I'm not actually sure why I even got it. I think I was drawn to the gold that stood out against the contrasting dark color of the background. Other than that, it's not a journal I would have normally picked. But I did. And I guess in looking back at the words that filled those pages, the journal now makes a whole lot more sense. The pages tell of some tough spiritual warfare, battled out in prayer, much of it matching the dark hue of the journal. As I look back over each daily entry and drawings of visions, I see the tears, the hurt, brokenness, cries to the Lord and pleas to stop the enemy in his tracks. But it also paints a picture of what the Lord has been doing in and to my heart through His whispers each morning and I kind of like to think of those moments as the gold flecks that stand out against the darkest background.
Looking back through the pages, I see the picture it painted of a hard, lonely season. Not the kind of hard that so many have to endure in the physical, the kind that begs heartache from others like dealing with sickness or the loss of loved ones... and not the kind of lonely that desires a lot of friendships surrounding me. But the kind of hard and lonely that happens when you are fighting a battle in the spirit that many don't understand. When you realize there’s more in this life that the Lord is calling you to and it begins to separate you from the world. Not because you are "special", but because there just isn't a box labeled "normal" in this kind of battle. It’s a different way of battling things, where there isn't an easy understanding or a simple manual of written instructions. And so the reality of my new normal - the space I live in where the battles that rage in the spirit are every bit as real as the battles I face in the physical - is what fills my black journal with gold flecks.
There was a song I randomly heard on Pandora about a month ago called "Fear No More" - with lyrics that say - "I’m wishing I could see the finish line, where this ends, where it lands. Guess I lost my vision when the pain set in. Can I believe, when I don’t see, can I really let it be out of my hands - when it’s out of my hands. This isn’t what I’d choose, but it’s where I’m finding You. When I’m broken and undone, Your mercy’s just begun. You overcome my doubt, Your hands are reaching out, You hold me through the storm, and I will fear no more. Can’t look into the future but, I know where you have been - before me, after and always within. Can I believe, when I don’t see, can I really let it be out of my hands, cause it’s out of my hands. I’m not giving up, I’m giving in, to what You’ve planned, for Your Glory." As I listened to that song over and over...and over, it quickly became the only song I could listen to. It was so strange, but I seriously didn't feel like I could listen to anything else. I’m sure to my kids, the repetitiveness was weird and annoying. And to everyone else I sent the link to. But for some reason deep inside, it was that important to me. I didn't understand it right away, but over the next couple weeks, the Lord slowly began to reveal why. And I actually believe it was His way of preparing me for what was to come. Each time the group sang out the lyrics, I remember thinking, I wonder how they got ahold of the script that is my life? A little like my black journal, it's not a song on a normal day I would have necessarily gravitated toward, but God did something in my spirit with that song...for a solid two weeks. At the time, it didn't make much sense, but it does now.
There was so much truth in that song for me. I can definitely say that season of time isn't where I would have chosen to be. I didn't ask to be thrown into those battles. I didn't choose to be broken and undone. I think it's safe to say none of us ever do. I was right in the middle of a spiritual battle (that I'm still trying to understand) and yet, it's there that I found something in my relationship with the Lord that I wouldn't give up for anything. And honestly it's where I needed to be to understand the importance of abiding in Him. It's truly where I found Him in a way I never had before. The brokenness was what nestled me in the crook of His lap, my head against His chest, where I found His heartbeat. And where I found His voice, His reach, His eyes. And I found pieces of the blueprints He has for my life and those He's called me to intercede for. Those little gold flecks that God graciously sprinkled in along the way, giving light and purpose to the darker days. The song Fear No More, played for weeks, on the physical side of my world, just before God walked me right into the spiritual side of the song. I believe it was His way of preparing me ahead of time - my little black journal in the form of a song. And He was holding my hand the whole way...
Over the course of the last couple years, two different people each gave me a singe word - Freedom. They were both people I know heard from the Lord. And they both wrote it on a piece of paper, giving it to me, instead of just speaking it to me. I’d like to think the Lord knew I needed it as a constant reminder in front of me, for the season that awaited me. It was also two years ago that I knew the Lord was asking me to do something specific in my life. And I didn’t do it. Fear of failure? Fear of man? Fear of the unknown? Take your pick, I guess. But I knew what the Lord was saying and I kind of danced around it, making it fit my world instead of the other way around. Looking back, I understand now why those words of "Freedom" came sprinkled in the middle of the two years. The Lord was giving me an indication of what could and would come if only I was obedient. And in the middle of it all, as a final word of confirmation from the Lord, He gave me a vision of someone with outstretched arms, reaching toward Him with an intense passion. The words I heard in my spirit from the Lord, as I watched the picture in front of my eyes, was If Only. I knew immediately that the Lord was saying If Only we would extend our hands toward Him with that intense passion and open surrender - He has so much more for us. If Only. Big words. Big because they can represent our regrets if we allow them. If Only I had or hadn't... Or they can represent the the world of possibility that lies on the other side of them. If Only, then...wow! I don’t think the Lord was hitting me with regrets, I actually believe He was trying to help me to see what was on the other side of my If Only. Through filling a journal with prayers and visions, the Lord began to move me toward my If Only. And then in one really powerful moment, the Lord used the obedience of one man, to call me out amongst 500 others, and move me once and for all in the direction of obedience.
Our team was in Uganda at the time the word was given to me, attending a youth rally one evening. After a time of worship, the main speaker, a man from California, took the stage. His message was about Abraham, Isaac and the sacrifice that the Lord knew he was capable of. A story, really, of the ultimate sacrifice, and a picture of what it looks like to truly live a life where everything belongs to the Lord. Nothing is ours. The message was something the Lord had been speaking to me over the past few months and I was praying through the confirmation, thanking the Lord for what He was showing me. Completely in my own world and not paying any attention to what was happening around me, I was startled when suddenly the speaker was standing in front of me sharing a message to me, from the Lord. I instantly began weeping, the overwhelming feeling of love from the Lord hitting me like a gigantic tidal wave. As I cried, the man spoke. And there were four very specific things I heard him speak out from the Lord that burned in my heart. There was more than just the four words, but these were the things that stuck with me and have stirred something inside of me. Since that night, I've spent time praying through it all and this is what I’ve surmised from what was said to me...
The Lord gives and takes away ministry.
Nothing is ours. It’s the Lord's. Every single thing. Even the the good things that we love. Probably especially those. He can do with it whatever He pleases and what He knows is the absolute best for us. If we're angry that He pulls things from us, then maybe it's something we're holding onto too tightly as our own? It was one little random sentence that has caused me to examine everything in my life and ask the Lord, what am I holding onto as my own? I believe freedom for me comes in being able to let go on God's command... anything and everything.
Stop asking - Why would You use me?
Trust that you have purpose and significance and that God would want to use you. Because you do have purpose and the Lord does want to use you. The Lord scolded me in this, and I knew exactly why...because for the longest time, I questioned why on earth He would want to use me. It's time to trust, so that the Lord can use me to the fullest. I believe He wants that for you too.
I’ve called you as a Prophet to the nations.
Whatever the Lord is calling you to - believe it. He happens to know you way better than you do and is calling you to be greater than you think you're capable of being. Others might not believe or maybe even scoff at what we know the Lord has called us to, but what matters only is what the Lord believes of us. And He believes bigger and better than we could ever imagine. So trust what you hear Him calling you to and then walk boldly into it. We need it in this world now more than ever. For me, I've known for a while what He's called me to - and now I finally believe it.
If you do what I’ve already told you to do, I’ll give you more.
That was a big one for me. He’s already told you, already told me. Are you willing to do it? Am I? I don't think I was then. But I am now. And guess what? He has more for us on the other side of our If Only. And in case you were wondering what the more is - it’s Freedom.
From a song played on repeat. From words of Freedom written on pieces of paper. And from a word spoken out in a church in Uganda - I began to see the story of Elijah unfold. A Prophet called to hear the Lord's voice, crying out for the people to listen, only to be broken and battled by the enemy chasing after him. Until the Lord calls him away from the dry brook and to the mountain where the promise of blessing is found in the obedience of a widowed woman - the Lord's promise for more for him if he was willing to take the bold walk. Have you ever noticed the pattern in scripture when God wants to shake things up a bit? He calls people to leave where they are and go toward the more. Run, walk, flee, climb the mountain. I saw the story of Joshua - "Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel." I saw the story of Esther where God's command to go meant risking her life before the king so that her people might be saved from death - a short walk down a hallway, but one that could have been costly. All of these stories have something in common...they lived out their If Only. If Only Elijah would leave the dry brook. He did. If Only Joshua would cross the Jordan. He did. If Only Esther would stand before the king. She did. And they all found their "more" that God had for them...the freedom that lies waiting on the blank pages of the new journal.
For me, my If Only you do what I've already asked you to do, I'll give you more - is that trek to the mountain. It’s putting myself out there, walking in obedience and sharing what the Lord is whispering to my heart. And being willing to get hit a few times by the arrows of the enemy in the process. If we believe the enemy exists, then we better believe he’s going to do everything he possibly can to keep you on this side of your If Only. And I'm just not willing to let him win that battle anymore.
So when I realized my black journal was full, I knew exactly which journal I was supposed to open next. It's a creamy white one, with the word Freedom written across the front in a pretty golden script. Ready for me to begin writing my prayers in, starting today. I know it isn't a coincidence. I know that God is giving me a picture of the freedom He has ahead for me and it begins on the first day of a month that represents the biggest kind of freedom there is. I'm pretty excited to write on the blank pages of my new journal, on paper and in life. Sure, it's a bit scary, but if there's one thing I'm learning to recognize, it's that when I hear a command from the Lord to go, I go. If it's to do, I do. If it's to stop, I stop. Whatever it is. It might all be harder in the moment, but it's way sweeter in the end. That's the beauty of learning from the times I didn't listen. And it's honestly how you can find the "gold flecks in the black journal" times in life. Because it isn't about giving up. It's about giving in. To what He has planned - for His glory.
It’s a different season. I believe it's a new, blank page kind of season in which the Lord is calling us to be bold and live out the things He's already asked us to do. Walking toward that ominous mountain, even if it puts us in the line of fire and smack dab in the middle of a black journal. Being willing to sacrifice everything to get to where God is telling you to go. It’s hard. It hurts. But it’s fun and it’s rewarding. The last page of my black journal holds a vision the Lord gave me, that makes me smile and inspires me to jump, with everything I have, into what He has for me. It was a picture of a bunch of wild green sprouts reaching toward Heaven, planted by the Lord. I had no idea at the time that a very similar image graced the cover of my soon to be Freedom journal.
If only we would let go. If only we reach out our hands. If only we would believe that God wants to use us. If only we would leave the dry brook and walk boldly in front of our enemy, trusting for the more. If only...
From gold flecks on a black journal to one scripted with the word Freedom - the other side of If Only.
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” - John 6:38