At the end of every night…

I’m not a morning person, never have been and have no desire to be. But on the rare occasion that I have to wake up early, I’ve been able to witness the darkness of night as it’s suddenly overcome with light. Colors streak across the sky in a way that only happens twice a day. When the night is over, dawn arrives.

With winter approaching, the hours of daylight shorten in this area of the earth, making some nights seem longer than others. The cycle of day and night was one of the first things established when God created the earth. It’s more than just a natural phenomenon of the earth’s rotation though; it’s symbolic of the seasons in our own lives.

Sometimes in life it seems like the night is never ending, and you’re waiting for the light to come make things better. Time after time in the Psalms, the writer(s) make references to salvation and rescue coming like the dawn. Even Lamentations describes God’s mercies as being new every morning. The sunrise is the very thing that many of us are waiting for. Dawn always comes.

I’m not a morning person, but I appreciate the coming of dawn and all it represents. I might be a night owl at heart, and that may never change. The dawn of salvation though can change everything. I know I can always count on God to come.

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Target, (noun): a goal to be reached

Believe it or not, I’m a fan of archery. Though I’m fairly inexperienced at it, the little time I have spent with a bow and arrow, I’ve actually fared well. Target practice with a gun is a different story though. No matter how many times I shoot, I always miss the bullseye. At least with an arrow, I stand a better chance. Whatever your weapon of choice though, they would all be irrelevant without a target.

Most great accomplishments would have never been completed if there weren’t some sort of target or goal in mind. For me, setting a goal is often the motivation I need in order to make sure things happen. It’s part of the reason I took the leap and joined NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this month.

I’m going to be honest—I didn’t think I could actually make the insane 50,000 word goal. But just because the target is further away than I would have liked doesn’t mean I shouldn’t still shoot. And while the final goal seems ridiculously high, the fact that every day is broken up into smaller, more attainable goals make the grand target less formidable. I don’t hit the goal every day just like you won’t always hit the bullseye, but the times that I do make it are worth the effort.

Have a dream? Create goals and set targets. Your aim might be off at first, but if you never start practicing, you’ll never improve. Record that song, write that book, make those travel plans. Just don’t let the fear of failure keep you from trying. So what if you don’t hit the bullseye; at least you’re getting closer to the target.

(P.S. I’m actually on track to reach the 50,000 by the end of the month.)

GPS and how not to get lost

Maybe I’m not the only one who experiences frustration with road work, especially when it’s happening all over the city. It’s one thing if there’s one lane closed and the traffic congestion increases. Backroads are optional at that point because it’s really up to me how long I want my commute home to take. It’s the road work that closes bridges and causes complete detours that have me scrambling for my GPS (or the app on my phone).

For as long as I’ve been driving, GPS has been existent and fairly easy to have at my disposal. To be honest, I can get most places I need to go now without using it. But every once in a while, I find myself in a bind, driving down a road without any inclination of where to turn next. Sometimes in life, we’re thrown into detours we never anticipated.

Part of the adventure of life is that we don’t always know the route to our destination. Actually, a big part of living by faith is driving and trusting God to give us directions as we need them. If we stop listening, we’re likely to get lost and have to turn around. As long as we pay attention to our next turn and which lane we should be in to make that turn though, we’ll get to where we need to be when we should.

God and His Word are the GPS for our lives. There might be situations where we know what we need to do and where to go, things that are elementary from repetition. Inevitably though, we’ll come across road construction and closed bridges. When in doubt, consult the GPS for timely arrival.

Beauty from ashes

Many years ago, I discovered an aspect of God that I needed to help me through the days of teenage crises and emotions. I often looked at who I was and saw ashes, as if I had been burned beyond my own recognition. When I learned what it meant for God to be a Restorer, to create beauty from ashes, to bring life from death, it gave me hope that my life could be different. And now it is.

He is still and always has been the God who is more than capable of restoring any situation, no matter how impossible it seems. He’s restored cities and nations overnight, and the fact that Israel is a nation today is evidence of that. Every day I’m reminded of the God who makes all things new. But there’s a role that I have in all that He’s doing.

I’m naturally inclined to want to be in control, and that often means holding onto things that I should let God handle. In Hebrews, He’s described as the all-consuming fire, meaning there’s nothing left that He doesn’t overtake. For there to be ashes to begin with, it means there was a fire. If you’re anything like me, you’ve prayed for beauty to come from something that hasn’t even been made ashes yet. You’ve held on so tightly that His fire hasn’t even touched it to do what’s necessary.

I can’t expect beauty from ashes in a situation that I haven’t allowed His fire to consume yet. It’s a process with an order. Sometimes restoration hasn’t come yet because we’re still standing in the way of how God wants to bring it about. Faith means letting go and trusting Him to do it His way and in His timing. We have to relinquish control so He can fully consume.

Jubilee: the law of restoration

Depending on your church background or denomination, you may or may not be familiar with the Biblical term “jubilee” or what it meant to the people of Israel. The book of Leviticus is filled with laws and guidelines, leaving no room for confusion as to how to handle certain situations. God was giving former slaves instructions on how to live as free people, people set apart from the other groups.

Every seven years, the land was to be given a time of rest, following the Genesis pattern of the seventh day (the Sabbath). Jubilee occurred every fifty years. Jubilee meant that land was restored to the original owner and debts were cancelled. Slaves were freed, and those who had been living in bondage could be restored. No chain was permanent.

Jubilee is proof that God is a God who desires to free people and restore. He doesn’t just restore our health, but He restores everything that was robbed. He’s a God who makes things right and assures that His people will be vindicated. Jubilee is a time of celebration because it’s a new beginning for everyone.

Part of the beauty of jubilee is that it doesn’t just apply to one person, but to the whole group. No person was left out or exempt from the benefits of recovery. In fact, the whole group had to participate in order for it to work. It’s part of why I love my church; we’re always fighting for freedom and restoration for each other. We only have jubilee if we all have it together.

How far I’ve come…

Seven years ago, October was the month that I finally reached rock bottom. After months of downward spiraling, I’d come to the end, staring at the ashes of my identity. I couldn’t see a way out, a way to get to what I wanted. I was reaping the consequences of selling my soul, and I was left empty and broken.

Seven years ago October, I got my hope back. All it took was one chat with someone who had it, real hope, and I started to see that things could get better. I started to see that I would survive, and that I could be someone different. Outwardly, nothing had really changed. But inside me, a seed had been planted that is still growing today.

Whenever I look back on the past seven years of my life, I know one thing for certain: every situation that the enemy meant for harm, God intervened and turned it to good. If I hadn’t reached the point of desperation that I did, I wouldn’t have had that conversation. That one conversation started a friendship set me on the path I’m on today. My greatest failure became God’s victory.

Whenever I need a reminder that He still makes beauty from ashes, I just look at how far He’s brought me, how far I’ve come. I’m definitely still on the journey, but I know that as long as I keep my eyes on Him, He’s going to finish what He started.

In the eye of the storm…

Ever since I was four years old, I’ve lived in the Midwest. While I’ve experienced my fair share of tornado warnings and basement nights, I’ve never had to experience what it’s like being in a hurricane. My parents, on the other hand, grew up in the Caribbean and have stories of what it’s like. But just because I’ve never experienced a physical hurricane doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced an emotional or spiritual one.

It’s pretty much inevitable that throughout life, we’ll weather many storms, some of which are of our own volition, but some that are out of our control. While every storm is different, there’s one thing that’s consistent among hurricanes: the eye, the center. In the midst of every storm is a place of calm, a rest from the winds. God never promised smooth sailing, but He has promised that we can find peace in the midst.

Some people would rather brave the winds than make God the center, but I won’t take my chances. Choosing anything but Him will ultimately shipwreck us, if not in this storm, then in the next. He doesn’t cause the storms, but those to run to Him can find protection and strength in the midst of them.

Right now, I feel like I’m the eye of a storm, watching the winds and waves churn, but knowing that I’m anchored in place by my hope in Him. I feel the peace, and I know that even as the other half of the storm moves closer, the end will be a time of rebuilding and restoration. With every storm, I learn something new that helps me when the next storm shows up on my radar.