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The Danger in a Word.

Define ideal.

According to Google, ideal means one of three things: 1. Satisfying one’s conception of what is perfect; most suitable. 2. Existing only in the imagination; desirable or perfect but not likely to become a reality. 3. A person or thing regarded as perfect; a standard of perfection or principal to be aimed at.

This is troubling. I think because I have a tendency to use the word ‘ideal’ rather flippantly. In ways that seem harmless at the surface. Like when I say, “ya, it’s not IDEAL that he can’t hear…” or “the situation isn’t my IDEAL, but….” So, what is the problem with that you ask? When I throw that word around, I am subconsciously hoping for basically MY idea of what is perfect. Rather than saying, what does God want? What does He have for me in this situation? How is He trying to do what is best for me, while bringing HIM glory—REGARDLESS of, that icky word thought—what I think is IDEAL? This word has all new meaning to me now.

This morning as I was making time to be with the Lord in a moment of quiet…I opened my devotional to what couldn’t have been more perfect for where I’m at lately. Without going into things in great detail, I have become greatly aware (yet again) of things in my life which I would consider a big fat thorn in my flesh. Things that I’m sure don’t even pale in comparison to Paul’s thorn he spoke of in 2 Corinthians. But things which make me go in one of two ways. Either away from God in frustration and anger that He would allow it to continue. Or running towards Him as fast as I can so that, in my weakness, He might show His strength. All of us have thorns. All of us have a choice to make. Towards Him, or away.

I mention this because when I start talking about ‘ideals’…my mind begins down a slippery slope of running away. I start to hope for things which seem like a pretty package on the outside. But on the inside, they’re nasty. They cause me to miss out on an intimate, fully dependent relationship with my Savior. They cause me to want to bring glory to myself/my own strength—rather than Him. Because I don’t know about you, but typically, my ideals are an easy way out of a hard situation. My ideals are an escape. A path which seems like it makes ‘more sense’. An idea which will only lead to a quick fix and not a GOD SIZED victory/display of His glory and goodness!!!

Typically, our thorns are not something we immediately would call IDEAL. The world we live in definitely tells us otherwise. I know that if I’m not careful my thorns make me want to curl up in a ball and cry. Or fight. Or be mad at God for not taking them away. BUT it is there that God gently whispers to me. “Keeley, in spite of these thorns…do you still trust me? Do you know I am good? Do you still love me? And most of all, do you know that because I entrusted these to you, it actually shows just how much I love you?”

Any of you who know me well, or even maybe just a little, know I am an eternal optimist. If there’s a silver lining hidden…I’m your girl. I’ll find it. So don’t get me wrong when I say to you, ideals suck! They will literally suck the life right out of you. Because they pull you farther away from God than you can even imagine. Find your thorns. It is there, God will bring you to life. Either by removing them, healing you fully and restoring those (or some of those) marks. Because He’s just that powerful and able!!! Or, He will do as He did for Paul. He will leave that thorn (or maybe more than one) lodged in your side, so that, you can remind this world that God’s goodness isn’t found in our ideals. It’s found when we let them go.

So today, let us choose to release out idealistic thought that life would be better without our thorns. Without our difficulties. I am so thankful because God has chosen to fully and amazingly heal SO many things in my life. Things I didn’t even know needed to be brought to the surface, let alone made new. But the more I get to know Him, the more I believe that there are some things in this life which I might not ever be fully healed from. And that’s okay. That isn’t what He promises to us in this world. Do I believe God could heal those lingering things if He chose to. Absolutely. Have I done the work to try and make that happen. You bet. Does it mean I have a right to be angry or disappointed. NO! In fact, like Paul, I am hearing God say:

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Corinthians 12, The Message

Thank you, Jesus. For healing the areas you know we need healed. And allowing difficulties to remain for our utmost good. My heart wants you…more than the healing!


God Told Us So

On Monday morning, April 2nd…I missed a phone call from our adoption agency. In most of the mornings prior to this week, I had my phone glued to my hip just waiting to hear something. Anything. But when I talked to our family coordinator the Thursday before Easter (March 29th) she said she really figured on not hearing anything for a couple of weeks yet because of our dossier being submitted right before the huge Chinese New Year celebrations/shut downs. But she also knew that we had enlisted several prayer warriors to pray specifically for our LOA to be issued by the end of March! So when I talked to her on Thursday and she said there were no updates to our file—I won’t lie, I felt a surge of disappointment run through my body.

But it was also in that disappointment I heard God say, trust me…my timing is perfect. I heard your bold prayer for an LOA by the end of March. But maybe my timing is better?! Do you still trust me? Did you hear that word, STILL? Because you see, we have to pray specifically and boldly. God actually wants us to! But when He answers—which He always does in some way—what does that do to our faith? Does it decrease it simply because it looks different than what we asked for or desired? Or is there possibility that it can catapult our faith because we know without a shadow of a doubt, He can be trusted and knows best?! That ultimately, His will IS best?


So, after that Thursday phone call…a great lunch date with a girlfriend reflecting on the goodness of Jesus…and celebrating our risen King for Easter—-I was 110% back in. Without a doubt, I STILL trust you, Lord! Stubborn faith, round 537 for our boy. There was no holding back. I took the time to think about everything God has done in my life, Justin’s life and through the course of time—and through grateful and humble tears said, Lord, you called us to this. Long ago. You also promise to never leave nor forsake us in anything we might face. I trust you and what you are doing. More than anything, I love you. Now…let’s bring our boy home already!

So, all that to say. Monday, April 2nd (THREE days later), I missed a call from our agency and literally gasped when I saw their number on our phone. I couldn’t dial it back quick enough and had to actually sit down as I listened to our family coordinator say, “I’m calling with really good news.” She was calling to tell us that just that morning she received electronic notice that our LOA was issued! Ecstatic. Relieved. Overjoyed. Amazed. Grateful. These are just a few of the words to describe my feelings in that moment. Complete awe.

Now, while a part of me wishes the LOA would have had the actual date of March 31st—I also just chuckle and am grateful for the date of April 2nd because that is SO God and will forever be a reminder to us of His faithfulness despite whether we see Him working. Someone clearly made the decision to say yes to us before the end of March! So in all actuality—He did answer our bold prayer for it to be a yes by the end of March—but I really think He wanted to increase our faith BEFORE we knew that it was answered! In fact, I had resolved that because we didn’t hear before the weekend, it was a no to that specific prayer request. And by Friday, March 30th, I was totally OK with that! But it was in that thinking that it actually catapulted our faith into remembering the truth of who God is and that He can be trusted!

So today as I reflect on the timing of all of this, I see God everywhere. All throughout history, God has this profound tendency to work mightily in the last minute. That eleventh hour. Abraham & Isaac. Moses standing before the Red Sea. Jesus rising from the dead. The list goes on and on. Maybe to us it seems like the eleventh hour and to God, really, it’s His first minute. Either way, it’s awesome. Because what a faith filled and radical trust He asks us to have! And in that faith and trust…He blesses us beyond our wildest imaginations.

Introducing….our son, Arie Chang Ritter.

Arie means Lion of God, and Chang means an unhindered spirit. Which in all honesty and bold assurance—we know are true of this little man. Why? Because God told us so. And the last time He told us something, He delivered.

On a jet plane…

Can I just say one thing right now?! HALLELUJAH!!! Our stack of paperwork for our adoption(otherwise known as a dossier) is officially on a jet plane on it’s way to China! This means that all of the paperwork, appointments, authentications and certifications for this portion of this journey is COMPLETE!!! Done. Hear the sound of us (especially me, as I was primarily the one doing the paperwork portion of things) taking a HUGE sigh of relief. For those not familiar with international adoption process, this is a giant step in the journey and is something that deserves a celebration and little dance party. Both of which, I have done! Can you say ice cream and Zach Williams Old Church Choir?!

By Monday, the CCCWA (China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption) should have our paperwork, hopefully logging us in quickly to begin the process of translating and reviewing our documents to issue us the real big one. The LOA (letter of approval). While we have already been given what is considered a pre-approval for our little guy, what we really need now to move forward and bring him home is this LOA. Please be praying with us that God continues to work swiftly and in His mighty ways to bring this little boy home soon. We know that God has already moved mountains out of the way for us to adopt this precious little man and we are trusting Him fully in each part of this process—timing and all. So with that said, perhaps prayers for us to continue to rest in that peace of God is more needed than anything! 🙂

In fact, it’s quite crazy how much this reminds me of when I was pregnant and getting down to those final weeks/months. I was SO excited to meet our newest family member, but yet LOVED being pregnant and didn’t want it to end at times. I knew that so many things needed to be prepared and happen before each of our babies could be born, even though I didn’t always know exactly what those things were. And this is no different—except this time, our son is already born and we know God is preparing his heart, our hearts, and doing things for this adoption and joining of lives that we don’t even know need to happen, but do! And believe it or not…I have loved this process much like I loved being pregnant—and not because it’s all rainbows and roses, but because amidst the challenges and pain, the feats and the fears, the ups and the downs—God has shown Himself faithful, every. single. time. It has strengthened and grown each of us in ways we didn’t even know we needed to grow.

While we know this journey is actually just beginning as we get so much closer to meeting our son…we just had to take a minute to rejoice, praise, and share our excitement in what a huge step has been accomplished! All glory to God, truly, because this is 100% His story. We hope in next month and a half or so to share the wonderful news of our LOA, as well as our son’s name, photo and perhaps even a video which we have been given by his orphanage. Stay tuned!!!


What If?

Sometimes I spring awake at night with thoughts…good ones, bad ones, indifferent ones. I’m not really sure why, but I know I’m not alone in this. Most recently it happened a few nights ago. God had put something on my heart earlier that day…I had somewhat shoved it aside and went about my business…and I believe that night he brought it right to my attention again. And while I’m not fully sure why He wants me to hear this so loudly, point is, He does. So with that, here’s today’s challenge:

What IF…we called on God as much as we called on ourselves, our friends, Facebook or Google? What IF…we became as dependent on him as we depend on ourselves?

I heard something recently that was quite intriguing to me. There have apparently been studies done that show when we have our cell phones in the room with us, we are actually dumber. How ironic is that?! When we have our ‘smart phones’ in our back pocket, we’re actually less intelligent?? Go figure. We have endless amounts of information and knowledge and our fingertips—and yet it’s actually becoming a detriment to our society. I believe there are so many reasons for this—but the one I think the one that is hurting us the most is exactly what God put in front of me the other day.

What if for every time you check your Facebook feed, you follow it up with a moment in prayer? For every text you send, memorize a scripture. Every new pin on Pinterest, reach out to a neighbor. For every thing you ask Google—what if we asked God what He thinks instead? Can I tell you right now, we would be a much wiser and spirit filled world. I think God is asking us to immerse ourselves in as much of Him as we are in the ‘things’ of today’s world. In particular, screens and technology.

Now while I know many would argue that screens and the internet has changed our world for the better—and provided us with a faster, easier and all around more efficient way to work…I would say this…you’re right. In and of itself, the internet and screens are not a bad thing. Just like ice cream. An occasional dish of it isn’t a bad thing either. But I guarantee you if you eat it all day, everyday, you’re going to have a problem. But our problem *could just call it addiction for lack of better terminology* with screens, in my opinion, is becoming much worse than an overindulgence of a delectable dairy delight.

Not only are they making us actually less intelligent—but I believe they are killing our relationships. Not only with God, but with others. I am as guilty as most when it comes to this…texting. It’s quick. Easy. And a total time suck. Not to mention impersonal. We are losing the ability to healthily communicate with other humans because most people resort to doing it through texting. We think it’s ‘the same’ but I am here to tell you IT ISN’T. Or how about the one’s we’re with day-to-day who don’t get all of us because we’re too busy “quickly” texting ten people, staring at our phones. For me, it’s my children and my spouse. I don’t think most of us realize how often we are staring at our screens, neglecting our most valuable relationships.

While I don’t want to make this entire post about screens and the idols which we have made them into—I do just want to say this. I believe God pressed that question and challenge upon my heart not just for me…but for others as well. We have so many ways to be self sufficient and smart that it’s actually hindering us. It is hindering us because we are becoming so dependent on technology and ourselves that it is taking us so far away from the One who we actually need the most. And just like being unable to notice right away how often we’re staring on our screens—it’s a slippery slope when it comes to sliding away from God as well. Not because He takes a step away from us either—but because we allow ourselves to slip away from HIM.

So I will end by saying this. While yes, we can Google anything and find an answer…….I wonder what knowing that answer is really going to do for us? Are we going to use it for some greater good—or to glorify God? Or are we going to use it to glorify ourselves? Our texts and Snapchats (I think that’s what its called) we’re sending…are they one’s you would be okay with your spouse seeing? Your parents? As we become more dependent on technology and the ‘benefits’ of it—I think we need to be made aware very often of the dangers that also come with it. That is all I’m saying.

We all will be accountable of our choices at one point or another. Either while we walk this earth, or when we kneel before God. I know technology isn’t going to go away—–but I’m here to tell you, neither will our need of a God who saves and desires our whole hearts devotion. My prayer for all of us is that we desire to turn to God as frequently as we turn to our technology. Replace our addiction of feed updates, new texts and pins, with hearts that long to know Him in a more real way than any answer Google can ever give us.

It’s a Fact

On the eve of Thanksgiving—my most favorite holiday—it seemed appropriate to have a blog post about my gratitude and also, a simple, yet great reminder for someone today…

God’s love for you is a fact!

As I was SO frustrated with one of our children’s sinful choices to be disrespectful, disobedient and downright mean because of the uncontrolled emotion of anger today—it struck me. Even in that second, my love for this kiddo doesn’t sway. Even on our worst days and in our worst moments, that’s exactly how God feels about us. His love is a fact. According to the dictionary, a fact is a thing that is indisputably the case. And as I reminded one of our children of that today after a not so hot little human moment…it was as much to me as it was to them. Even though our poor decisions make us ‘feel’ as though we aren’t loved—that feeling couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Our sin and consequences can most definitely separate us from that ‘feeling’ of love, yes—but that’s the beauty of a parent/child love and even more so—the beauty of God’s love for each of His children…the feeling might sway, but the fact never does. Which is why when our children mess up—and then fess up—they are always reminded of these seven words: this doesn’t change my love for you.

So as we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, above all else…I am grateful for the indisputable case that I am loved by a God who wants me to not only feel His love, but KNOW His love! Regardless of my past. My present. Or the future. There is nothing we have to do to earn that love either. It is the greatest gift each one of us can humbly receive. My prayer is that every one of you today remember that indisputable case for your life as well. You. Are. Loved.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

Living Surrendered

OK, so yesterday was apparently “World Adoption Day” and I’m a day late to post this…but then someone informed me it’s actually “National Adoption Month”—phew—I’m not actually late at all. 🙂


We decided to enter into the China adoption program with America World Adoption Agency (AWAA) this summer. It has been a complete answer to prayer and we know without hesitation, EXACTLY where God wants us to be! Without writing a novel, I will tell you this:

July 26th – Approval to be a part of the China program with AWAA (a miracle in and of itself…will explain at a later time)

August 1st (yes, SIX days later) – they asked us if we wanted to review the file of a little boy that they instantly thought of our family for. Of course, we immediately said yes!

August 11th – submitted what is called a letter of intent (LOI) to China—which basically says, we want to adopt this little boy!

August 18th – Pre-approval granted to complete the steps to adopt our little boy from China and to begin the home study process and our paperwork chase!

November 2nd – Home study report complete

So what’s next? We will submit our paperwork and home study for a bunch of authentications and certifications. Then we will be granted pre-approval from USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services) to bring our son into the United States. Once those steps are complete, we submit a GIANT stack of paperwork (known as a ‘dossier’) to China to receive our official approval (known as an LOA) to come and get our boy! We hope to travel in early 2018 and are trusting God for His perfect timing!

His hand has been all over this decision. Everywhere. We have seen Him move quickly and efficiently (for international adoption, our timeline has gone lightning fast!). We have witnessed miracles in the process—and in our son! Things have happened that can only be because of God. And we know, it’s totally because of prayer!

You see, before we entered AWAA’s program, we both began to pray for God to clearly show us the child He has chosen for us (along with asking our friends/family to pray that same thing)! Plant him/her in our lap, more or less. And boy, did He. Justin and I have been one hundred percent on the same page since stepping into this decision and have had such peace. Peace that transcends all understanding. Peace that allows us to say yes to very unknown possibilities. Peace that can only come from our perfect Father.

And while this process has been nothing short of incredible. Emotional. Time consuming. Exciting. Amazing. Faith building. And expensive. It’s totally and completely worth it!!! I’m not kidding you, we have seen miracles! Miracles that would make even the most skeptical of skeptics stop and ponder. But we almost missed it! Had we given up or given in when the adoption process took a huge turn of events earlier this year…we would have missed this. I honestly feel as though we would have missed His best for us!

Which, mind you, that phrase ‘best for us’ isn’t always in the way we think it is going to come. For us, it has been from our hearts being completely broken for all of the stories behind the faces of waiting children we’ve seen. It has been letting go of a little boy in Korea whom we dearly loved and were calling son and brother. It has been having conversations with our children (and each other) about how trusting God doesn’t mean we always know ‘the next step’ or the ‘why’ behind His decision. His best has meant keeping our hearts open and soft, with the complete possibility of them being broken again—all while knowing that He always works for His glory and our good. His best has meant having to be totally and shamelessly honest about my past, knowing that in that honesty, the possibility of adopting internationally could be over. It has been in the form of trust and then miracles. Small and HUGE. His best has taken us to the most beautiful little 4 year old boy, that is forever going to be a part of our family.

And while I wish I could share his precious face with you today, I can’t just yet…but know it’s coming soon! And until then, just know, God wants to bless each one of us with His best for our lives. We just have to realize that His best isn’t always ‘our way’ or our first chosen path. It might take a sharp turn to the left or the right to find it—maybe you’ve even heard it referred to as a ‘wrong’ turn. But, take it from me—do not be dismayed or discouraged when the path you could have sworn was His chosen path for you completely halts. Swerves. Or leaves you wondering, why or what on earth was that for?! Pray. Trust. And persevere.

Remembering always that Romans 5 is God’s spoken truth when it says, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” It’s impossible to fail or take a ‘wrong’ turn when you’re walking with and surrendered to God. Even the paths that end up suddenly ending or taking an abrupt turn of events are likely because He sees the bigger picture. He sees things from a Kingdom view. A perfect view. A view that always says, “I want what is best for you…which ultimately, is ME.”

So, I ask you this…is your life surrendered to a God who not only knows best, but loves you with an everlasting love and WANTS what is best for you, not just in this life…but eternity?

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. – Hebrews 10:36

Bridging the Gap

Today I want to enlighten you to the fact God is always working. If you have yet to make the decision to follow God, He’s at work right now to soften your heart to Him! And if you have already made the decision to be a follower of Christ, He’s at work right now within you! Refining. Forgiving. Loving. Sanctifying. Encouraging. Teaching. Comforting. But in today’s world, if you haven’t noticed, the common theme is busyness. Or perhaps better yet, distractedness! That is why if I can get one person, for one minute today, to stop and think about the condition of their soul…I rejoice! Because when we stop to think about our soul, and life beyond the here and now…we begin to have a ripple effect on the rest of the world! Therefore, I believe God is challenging me to include a simple question that can change lives. So with every blog post I am going to be adding something called the “One Minute, Forever Changed” challenge. Something that takes less than a minute to read, and is going to rock your world (and hopefully other’s)!

So today’s question/challenge is this: Where is God calling you to allow Him to build a bridge of faith?

“The Lord only builds a bridge of faith directly under the feet of a faithful traveler. He never builds the bridge a few steps ahead, for then it would not be one of faith.” -L.B. Cowman

Think about it. ANYONE can walk on a bridge that they know has an engineer’s stamp of approval. Or perhaps they have seen others walk on. We can look at master plans and make an educated decision on whether or not it is structurally sound. Then walk. But when God is increasing people’s faith—which He has been in the business of doing since the beginning of time—He asks us to simply know Him, trust His goodness, and boldly walk forward in that knowledge. Because when we do that, it is then, our bridge of faith is built!

Right now, my husband and I are walking this out regarding God’s calling to our lives in adopting a child. I was adopted as an infant, so I’ve always wanted to do the same for someone else. And my hubby, well, God gave him the desire to adopt from the time he was a young man. Then, God so graciously put us together and we’ve always known we would. We just didn’t know when. Earlier this year we both individually sought God on this topic and came together in the decision that it was time. We know we aren’t getting any younger, and simply put, God showed us, the time is now.

So we began the process not knowing whether we would go into an infant adoption here in the US, or travel abroad to bring home a toddler. We were (and still are) open to anything. But can I tell you something right now? Our faith has been tested several times throughout the past few months. It’s as though we take a step, and He firmly plants our foot on the next segment of the bridge…then something unexpected happens in a direction we weren’t ‘planning’, and we take a couple back. Only to walk forward again onto what was just built, remembering His goodness, knowing this is His calling for our life and taking another step. Remembering that this isn’t a swaying suspension bridge—but a solidly built structure on God’s promises.

You see, due to the fact I went to counseling and treatment for my struggle with alcohol, it is actually disqualifying us from several countries. We fell utterly in love with a little boy in Korea. Only to then be told no, due to the fact this healing for me came less than 5 years ago. We really believed He was meant for our family. Our faith took us into an agency for him and now our faith takes us elsewhere. Because even though we can’t see the plan, or even understand the reason why we had to go through that heartache…we know, God is good. He is all powerful. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. He could have changed minds in Korea and they could have given us an exception. But He didn’t.

So now we have a choice. We can throw our hands up in the air. Complain to God about it all. And wonder why on earth, something that was so positive—me receiving healing—is now being held against us in a sense. Do you hear the quiet tone of ‘poor me’ in that thought? Which I’m not going to sit here and act all high and mighty and tell you I didn’t do just that. I definitely had a day or two where I really struggled in this. I felt discouraged. Sad. Irritated. Even mad at times. For many reasons! Thankfully, God gifted me a spouse who in these moments when I’m wavering, reminds me of truth. Why can’t God still do something good with it? Who’s to say he hasn’t already? Which is when I hit my knees in repentance.

So now I am standing back up, forgiven and free, to move onward and ask God to give us the strength to continue to build our bridge of faith, one baby step at a time. It is not a flawless process, and PRAISE GOD he is gentle and kind. Forgiving us any time we do regrettably take a step or two backward. He has our best interest in heart. He wants to bless us and others through this process. We know it’s His deal, not ours. We know He loves that little boy in Korea more than we do. So with all that knowledge of truth, who are we to say no thank you to HOW He wants to build our bridge?

I learned something interesting recently…many years ago, there were actually automatic gates used on some country roads. These gates would open only if the oncoming vehicle continued to drive right towards it. The weight would compress the springs below the roadway and allow him to pass through. If the vehicle stopped moving too soon, it wouldn’t open! In my mind, I want to think that is the most ridiculous design ever. When in all actuality, it is the most creative. Just like those old country gates, God wants us to keep moving onward and upward toward these paths of service to Him. Even when barriers present themselves, drive right towards it and know that the most loving gatekeeper is going to fling that thing open so far and wide it will make your (and other’s) head spin!

So today, God is calling each of us to a place of service. Where is God calling you to allow Him to build a bridge of faith? Maybe it’s in simply saying yes to Him being your Lord and Savior. Maybe it’s in taking the step to recommit your life to Him. Or maybe, it’s to something which seems impossible to our limited human minds—but He’s just waiting for a yes from you so He can move mountains. Whatever it is, my prayer is ultimately for you to spend time with God today. Get to know Him in a way you haven’t before. And what better way to get to know Him than taking a step in faith and seeing how He responds? Knowing all well that faith is the bridge between where we are and the place He’s taking us!

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1


The Edge of the Promised Land

So this morning as I was reading scripture, I found myself looking in the appendix for something pertaining to ‘contemplation’ or ‘wrestling’…and while there wasn’t something on either of those topics, my eye did scan across the words FOCUS. Then right underneath that title was the subtitle asking, “do you focus more on the negative than the positive”….followed by a page number and verse. Side note here–while I do not find myself to be a glass half empty type of person at all…sometimes, when you’re in the middle of big decisions and giant leaps of faith, my fear (which often times translates to negativity) wants to rear its ugly head and win the battle! So while I was hoping the scripture I was being led to was going to be printed in red and straight from the lips of Jesus, what I found was even better!!!

Numbers 13:25-30

25 At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land. 26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land.27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country;and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.” 30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

So here is a time where God told the Israelites that the promised land was rich and fertile. And that this land would be theirs! GOD HIMSELF had spoken to Moses to send a group of Israelite men to first hand explore the land of Canaan (the promised land) and to then enter it. Now remember, up until this point, God had miraculously led them out of slavery, through the desert, protected them, fed them and fulfilled every single one of his promises. Yet how interesting that even then, these men were so quick to stop trusting God in the face of something scary. They even can see that this land is exactly what God said it would be…….but they became fearful and voiced their opinion loudly:

31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anakcome from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

So now we have a small group of men who were feeling defeat before even entering the battle. They saw things that scared them and made it seem to be an impossible undertaking. Oh how quick they were to forget what God had already done for them. They became so focused on their fears rather than their faith that it actually led to their demise. Their negative opinion and humanistic view of a GIANT AND NEVER CHANGING GOD caused not only their death but that of many others. These ten men caused such a great rebellion among the people that they lost perspective. It caused all of them (except two) to focus on someone’s opinion rather than on the fact and truth of WHO God is. Their defeat spread like wildfire and caused so many to feel discouraged as well! In fact, Caleb was the only one willing to take the unpopular stand and go against the crowd! In case you missed it previously, here is the profoundness in this verse:

30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

Caleb had seen the land himself, he had the right attitude because of His trust in God and he proclaimed exactly what the truth translates to…’for we can certainly do it.’ He knew this wasn’t something they could do alone–but he knew with God, anything was possible.

So today I urge you, use caution when you grumble. Make sure you have prayerfully considered voicing a negative/fearful opinion. As the ramifications for it can be much larger than you realize. And if you find yourself in a situation where there seems to be a chorus of despair and everyone is joining in. Be like Caleb. Know God’s truth and stand firm in it. Remember the fact that God will never leave nor forsake you. It is only when we lose perspective and begin to focus on ourselves and our problems when we feel what we might call distance from God. He will not bring you to the edge of the promised land to then not let you in. Trust and wait in great expectancy of His promises to be fulfilled!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Podium Finish

Wow. 9 months. It has literally been 9 months since I have blogged. It’s not as though I haven’t wrote—because Lord knows I can’t go for months without doing that, but it has been a season of change. A season of challenges. Forgiveness. Healing. Learning how to fully live in God’s mercy. Let’s just say it’s been a huge season of growth and as hard as it has been, I wouldn’t change a minute of it. But it did take stepping back from things in which are truly good to make sure they weren’t taking first place in my life. Or even sneakily becoming a crutch or a very temporary replacement for a very permanent God. Maybe we can just chalk it up to a time of assessment and examination—-because truly, life has a way of sneaking up on you if you’re not careful about where and how you’re spending your days.

On October 23rd, 2016 I took a leap of what I now call faith and reached out to our senior pastor. Someone whom we respected and admired immensely as his way of teaching and showing God’s love to others was incredible. Simply put…he’s a true testament to a man living on fire for Jesus. He is so inspiring and I knew God was asking me to reach out for help….but from HIM, I couldn’t possibly understand why! I was more than OK just being a person he knew on a first name basis from church and coincidentally, neighbors with. I didn’t really want to expose the turmoil and angst that was really inside of me at that time. Gah. Vulnerability. Again. So I thought, OK…I’ll reach out to him. He’s had a ton of life experience and I’m sure he’ll be able to guide me in the exact direction I need to go. This guy is FULL of wisdom so I’m sure he’s got a little extra for me. I’m sure he has the answers…………………………

I’ll never forget the look on his face as he listened to me pour out my heart. From me there were no tears. No emotion. Just numb words coming from an empty pit. I was at a place of such brokenness that I didn’t see the way out of this hole. But there Pastor Steve sat, with such compassion. Such grace. Taking in every word and making me feel as if I was the only person on his agenda that day. Which we all know isn’t true…but what a gift. I was expecting him to answer my questions. How long does one really need counseling? How do I know when it’s time to take a break from it? What do I do? Because I felt stuck. Like I had gotten to a certain place in my healing journey and I wasn’t getting any farther. In fact, in this moment, I was lower than I had ever been. What was I doing wrong?! I couldn’t figure it out and I wanted him to for me. But in that moment. He looked up at me, reached out his hand in return for mine and said the most profound thing anyone has ever said….”Honestly, I do not know what you need right now. I don’t have all of the answers, but I know the One who does. And I know He is going to get you through this. I have no doubt.” As a gentle tear was on his face he began praying in that moment and I knew right then and there. I came looking to a man I deeply respected for answers and I didn’t get it. Not right then anyway. But as the next few days unfolded, I saw I couldn’t have gotten a clearer answer.

Seven short days after this meeting with our pastor, I made a decision. No more counseling. No more AA meetings. No more conversations feeling the need to force healing when perhaps it wasn’t the right time. Or maybe I already was healed on many levels and I couldn’t see it! My husband affirmed me in my decision…which was a total God thing in my eyes as I was fearful he was going to see the fact that he had been physically helping me get out of bed that week due to where I was at mentally and say I was crazy. But he didn’t. He said, “I agree completely.” Wow! Can you see God moving hugely in these 7 days? Here I thought God was leading me to our pastor for the answers. When really, God knew I needed to go to the most inspirational man of God I knew to be pointed back directly to HIM—-to God himself. And THAT is how I came to my decision. Me pulling the plug at that moment on counseling wasn’t quitting. It was seeing that when you meet people (my counselor one of them as well) who are very connected to God and also someone you look up to…sometimes we want to run to them first when in pain. Or trouble. Or even excitement. It can happen in any relationship actually. A child to their parent. A sister to their sister. A wife to her husband or vice versa. And what I learned from this interaction between my pastor and myself was God was in fact calling me deeper. To Himself.

And in that pull, God said precisely this: Keeley, you are farther along than you realize. These people I have most definitely placed in your life to help you get to this point. All the way back to even before going to treatment! But now. Now you have to depend more on me. I am not saying you have to do life on your own. But what I am saying, is this final piece of healing you are longing for is going to come from intimate dependence on me. Not others. It is going to come from trusting that I am going to put people in your path who need to see the light. The light which is me shining through you. Just like you saw in your counselor, your pastor, your friends. It wasn’t themselves that drew you in. It was me. So now go, be the light. Live in victory. Proclaim my goodness. Always.

Can I tell you this right now. From that moment it has been a slow and steady climb out of that hole which had swallowed me up. The hole that the enemy wanted me to lie down in forever and be defeated. I can firmly, humbly and excitedly say that I am free!!! I am more than a conqueror through Christ and I carry ZERO condemnation that once held firmly over my life. There have been times in the past couple of years in which I have tasted a moment of this freedom…just go back and read some of my prior blogs…but somehow I would slide back down into a dark, stinky pit. So to be where I am today….FOUR months (to the day) past that meeting of desperation with our pastor is a huge accomplishment and something to be praised!!! This is more than a moment of freedom….I have lived enough days in it now where there is no turning back!

I know though that it doesn’t mean the old me won’t want to slip back up every now and again and feel defeated by my past or even my present—-but it does mean that I have been given such a strong foundation to build on, that in those moments I go straight to truth. I offset every lie with something that God says and I truly believe it! I don’t argue with Him. I know He created me for a purpose much greater than living under a blanket of fear, condemnation and guilt.

I am just so thankful and feel as though I just won a championship race and I’m standing on a podium. So of course…I have to thank my sponsors. 🙂 I couldn’t have made it this far without many patient people always pointing me back to Jesus. A pastor who knew how to teach the truth in the most humbling and profound way. A husband who has never once left my side. A family who has loved me through it all. And ultimately, because of the most beautiful God who LONGS for every, single, one of us…..to be FREE!

11 Lessons – Aboard a KTM

So a couple of weekends ago my hubby and I were blessed with the gift of a weekend away. Just the two of us. Alone. In the uninterrupted, lazy, no agenda type of way. It was amazing. We haven’t had that in a LONG while (too long) and honestly, it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. As you can see from this blog…in a nutshell…our life has been nothing but crazy over the past year and a half. Well, really, long before that if I’m being truthful…but the past while stands out to me for some reason. Maybe because I’m sober now. Or maybe because things are changing—in such a new, needed and much overdue way—very similar to our time away this weekend. Very overdue, and very needed. But all that aside, something really cool came of it for me. Aside from the obvious……did I mention we did whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted?! I’m talking eating breakfast at 10am. Dinner at 10pm. That hasn’t happened since, well, maybe ever. 🙂 We even took the long way to get to those stops just to explore the scenery and area! What?! Now we’re just crazy talking. No, but seriously. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on our time away and I think aside from all of fun we had rekindling our friendship and marriage—God did something pretty awesome on top of that. I’m going to try to explain it the best I can…

So for those of you who don’t know this about my husband, he loves dirt bike riding. Anything motorcycle related really. But dirt biking is what I would call a passion of his. Most people call him a quiet and reserved man, but ask him about riding and you’ll see his face light up and words flow freely. It’s so cool! I have always loved hearing about his trail riding excursions when he comes home and every time, I sit quietly and cherish each story. Each treacherous hill climb or switchback. Each obstacle that he faces on the journey and in his determined fashion, typically overcomes. Each description of the mountain they’re on or vista they came to. It’s beyond anything I can explain well, but just know, it’s really awesome! But I’m going to share something else…deep down inside, there’s always been a part of me that wants to experience that with him. Not in the same treacherous hill climb or switchback type of way…but I’d sure love to see those vistas and lookouts. Or even watch him as he overcomes what appear to be impossible paths to make it through. I’ve always wanted to get a glimpse into that part of his life——and this same weekend we got to go away together, I got to do just that. And what God is teaching me from that adventure—-well, it’s incredible.

Pre-Lesson: dirt bike riding is WAY harder than it appears. I’m not going to lie. I felt pretty cool in J’s riding boots, pants, helmet, chest protector and gloves. I even felt cool saddling up (is that what dirt bike riders do?!) and heading away from the truck. Ya sure, my nerves were at an all time high and I’m pretty sure I was scared as all get out—-but I was SO excited. I never had the courage to do this before, so just overcoming that hurdle alone was a lesson in and of itself. Lesson #1fear has no place…you can do things you never thought you could! So as we’re heading out I spot him leaving the parking lot and beginning our journey. The trail was muddy, full of giant water holes that you can’t see the bottom of…and in my eyes—ridiculous. Within the first 5 minutes I’m panicking….if this is the easiest trail (which he told me it was), then I’m hosed I said to myself—literally out loud in my helmet. Here I was, trying to get used to a bike I’d never ridden and also attempting not to look like a complete fool just leaving the parking lot. Before I knew it I’m alone on this trail trying to figure out the best way to handle this overly powerful machine without injuring myself—or worse yet, someone else. Then I realized something…Keeley, breathe. Stop fighting this the bike so much. Let it do it’s thing….and just hang on. Stop thinking about everything so much and just have fun. Lesson #2: surrender and enjoy the ride. Pretty soon I see J waiting for me. I pull up next to him sucking the most wind I have in a long time…now mind you, I’ve been working out diligently for the past 6 months…often times, 4 to 5 days a week. So to say I was SHOCKED to find myself so out of breath was an understatement. I think he was too. I remember trying to slow my breathing down and explain to him I have NO idea how this bike functions and I’m struggling to remember to breathe. I think in his helmet at this point, he’s probably thinking…oh boy, this is definitely going to be a long day. But have I mentioned how full of grace this man is?! Well, I’ll say it now…..of any human being I know, God has given this man the biggest portion of grace I’ve ever seen or gotten to experience. Instead of saying any of the things that may or may not have flitted through his mind—-instead, he offered me a drink and asked if I was doing okay. He could have laughed at me or called it a day right then and there. But nope….instead he then proceeded to give me a couple of pointers about riding this powerful KTM and the best way to navigate the trail. I can’t remember everything he said but there is one thing that sticks out to me and that is this…it matters a lot more where your front tire hits than your rear. Just focus your front tire on where you WANT to go and the rest will follow. Lesson #3: listen. And I mean really hear what people are saying to you! Especially to those who have many years of experience or wisdom in some area of life you might be struggling in. Because the couple of things I did in fact hear—saved my hide over and over that day. We decided it would be best to hit a gravel road for a little while so I could give my nerve ridden body and mind a rest. I was surprised yet again how quickly I recovered. Within 5 minutes of riding this road I was thinking, good heavens, this is boring. Let’s find another trail. Lesson #4: even the things in life we once thought were treacherous and difficult will no longer seem so bad…they actually give us the strength and confidence to walk head on into something else. Pretty soon we were headed back up another trail. I was pumped. My nerves definitely calmed down and I was no longer breathing like I had just sprinted for some sort of Olympic qualifier. My mind, body and even my soul were ready. Let’s do this. Already it was going SO much better. I was surprising myself left and right with what I could now cross. Honestly, I was actually starting to enjoy the challenge of what was around the next corner. Lesson #5: fear has no place. Okay so that was actually the first lesson—-but it was a common theme for the day and I guess I feel like many of us need to be reminded of that fact. Pretty soon, he was stopped again. This time he was signaling for me to stop after he had just crossed something and was laying his bike down to come cross it for me. I pulled up to it, stopped and checked it out. Sure, it looked hard for a newbie like myself…but I had gained just enough confidence that I wanted to try it. So instead of getting off the bike to let him do it…I simply asked him the best way to approach it. His direction was clear and straight forward. Exactly what I needed. I sat there for a minute and looked to the side of this particular crossing. Ditches were on each side and I had a fairly narrow trail and a rather large (to me) obstacle to get over. Perhaps I can’t do this I thought. Then I heard this small, yet powerful voice inside telling me to stop thinking and just try. So I did. And guess what happened. Yup, I crashed……………no, no, no. I’m kidding…….amazingly, I made it! I couldn’t hardly believe it. I’m sure it wasn’t the prettiest of attempts—but by golly, I did it and was so glad I did! Lesson #6: don’t let your insecurities of how you might look while doing something keep you from trying—you’ll miss out on life waiting to look good! Had I not tried and looked probably a little silly doing it, I never would have shown myself I actually COULD do it! But can I also just focus on one more thing right now? And that’s on my husband….for being so kind to come and help me. I didn’t recognize even at the time what a sweet gesture that was—-but in hindsight, I’m so thankful for his considerate heart. Seriously, I know not all men would do that—heck, a lot probably wouldn’t even take their wives out with them. So all that to say, I’m thankful to you J! Lesson #7: appreciate your spouse. For everything…even if it’s just a caring intention. It’s not always the things that you say that hurt a relationship—-but for so many of us, it’s the things that don’t get said, but desperately need to that kill it. So speak it out to them! No matter how small it might seem. I know I often times have avoided saying things that were on my mind or heart because I was afraid of conflict that might have come from it. But anymore, I’m more afraid of the resentment and wedge that the seemingly small and unsaid thing places between us than handling the conflict which may or may not arise from it. This is a hard one—but ever so critical for every marriage…or any relationship for that matter!

Anyway, as the day continued I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having. And I couldn’t believe how easily J could just fly over every trail, rock, creek, hill or obstacle that crossed the path. He even would go OFF the path to find something to go over. It was so fun to watch. On one of his ‘guy’ riding days he would be on much different terrain, so this particular outing for him was much like a walk in the park, I’m sure. But nevertheless, very fun for me to see him in his element. It made the stories I’ve heard come that much more to life. But you know something? Even more than enjoying watching him and spending this time together, something very clear came forward to me as we continued along the trail that day. And looking back on it now, I know without hesitation it was such an important lesson for us both…..well, for sure for me….and I’m sure once he sees it explained like this he’ll agree. 😉 You see, every time an obstacle was coming that he thought I would struggle on or possibly need help…he’d stop just past it to either tell me how to do it, offer to help me across or just do it for me. Again, the intention was pure and insanely kind……but I began to realize something. Every time I could see him ahead stopped, my nerves would shoot through my helmet again and I’d begin to wonder….what am I going to have to cross now?! FEAR! Lesson #8: THIS is why God doesn’t allow us to see even a second into the future. Our minds cannot handle it! Suddenly, I was faced with a challenge of communicating something well to him that I prayed would go over the way it was intended. I kindly asked him in that moment to not stop every time he was concerned about me struggling because it was psyching me out and causing me too much anxiety. So guess what, he granted my request. And there were times I regretted that request—but overall, I knew that was the best thing for me. It was like he wanted to protect me—but in that protection he was actually causing more harm than good. I couldn’t reach my full potential in that place. Much like in life. Many times we want to protect those we love from any type of harm—and sometimes we might even rather do something hard for them so they don’t have to do it themselves. Sometimes, we think they’re dependent on us in a sense—and maybe they have been—but I realized in this moment that I am no longer am dependent on my husband in that way. I was no longer dependent on seeing him stop ahead of something hard to help me across because God has replaced the role I had put my husband in for far too long. A role that he couldn’t fill—-to be my savior, my rock…my healer. My identity is no longer lost in a man I admire and love more deeply today than I ever have before, but found in the God who created me. And how cool that God showed me this again on such a fun adventure together. How cool it is that he reminded me that we don’t learn through other people’s mistakes. We don’t learn through someone else doing things for us all of the time. And we certainly don’t learn from living in a constant state of fear and not at least trying to overcome our difficulties. Lesson #9: walking through the fire is hard——-but the refining that is done there is unlike anywhere else we can experience. So back to that trail…….I was at a point I was cruising along pretty good and keeping my eyes just in front of me—not way down the trail—but also not right below my nose…it just was that ‘right’ place to focus apparently because before I knew it I came up to my biggest hurdle yet and I didn’t even have time to think. I leaned back (another tip from J) to take the weight off the front shock, kept a relatively steady pace and went for it. Making darn sure if nothing else to place my front tire in that ‘right’ place I learned of previously. I flew up it with little effort and literally had no time to even realize what I just did. That is until I got clear up and over this obstacle to find my hubby sitting on his bike, looking back and holding his thumb up in the air—signaling his approval of how awesome I just did! I stopped and began laughing. We were both chuckling when he said, “I figured I’d wait up here, where you couldn’t see me”…….. 🙂 No words. We were both slightly shocked and amazed at how well that worked though……him waiting (and probably praying) to make sure I was OK….but not in a place where I could actually see him waiting since that would only fill me full of trepidation of an impending possibility of crashing. It was a win-win. He gave me the room to grow, yet I knew (and so did he) that during the occasional obstacle I got hung up on….he wasn’t so far ahead that he wouldn’t know I was struggling……a simple over rev of the bike was a dead give away to my problems. So in those times I did need his teaching/tips of how to do something….he was only a bike rev away. 🙂 But here’s the deal, even on the times I got stuck and needed a moment of instruction—I approached those places of the trail MUCH differently than had I seen him sitting there because of what that told my brain. It’s like I saw him stopped and thought ‘DANGER AHEAD’…and who really is going to feel confident about facing danger?! I’m sure there’s a few adrenaline junkies out there who might jump at that opportunity—-but not this girl. Nope. No way, no how. Yet, here’s the awesome thing—I was able to not only face, but actually overcome obstacles on that trail that I might not have had I had more time to ponder the dangers of it and convince myself it was too risky. Don’t you think that’s what life is like? I do. I realized there’s good reason for not seeing too far down the trail—whether riding or in life. I realized there’s good reason for not needing my husband to stop at places he knew I’d struggle—because had he continued to do that all day, I don’t think I would had grown in the way I did. And most of all, I learned Lesson #10…Don’t try looking too far ahead. And most definitely don’t look only in the past. Find that ‘right’ place. That balance of recognizing things in the past and how they’re helping you today and will continue to help you and others in the future. He showed me that the trails I had been on were lessons. Learning adventures. Yes, they were in the past—and some of them harder than others, but they were all preparing me for what was yet to come that day. Without those trails at the beginning completely pushing me outside of my comfort zone and ultimately to be a better rider—I never would have made it up the hills, obstacles and challenges to come. Which by the way, that same trail we ventured out on is the same one we returned on at the end of the day and the words I mumbled under my sweaty helmet this time were much different. “I thought THIS was hard?! Look at how far you’ve come in only 4 hours—-this is SO FUN!!!”

God is so good. SO SO GOOD!!! I love that He used the man He gave me to help teach me so many things about himself and about life in this day. I love that He genuinely can use any one and any adventure to bring glory to himself! And most of all, I love what was whispered to me in Lesson #11—“no matter what you have to face in the future….today…or maybe even still from the past—-I am here. No matter what you get stuck on. No matter what you feel you can’t climb. No matter how many times you crash. I’ll be here. Whether that be to guide you with words of wisdom and truth….pick you up when you fall….or comfort you when you hurt. I’m waiting…….just far enough ahead to give you the opportunity to grow—-but not so far I can’t hear you—-sort of like that bike rev away. Confidently place your trust in me. I care for you in ways you cannot possibly understand. I will always stop along the trail, ask you how you are and offer you my living water. Confidently ride forward while always remembering just how far we have already come together. And please don’t forget lesson #1&2…..fear has no place here………keep surrendering and enjoy the ride.” – God.