The Journey of Contentment

Surveying opportunities for adventure

Do you know what your heart deeply longs for?

Are you willing to skim off you surface junk and get to the core?
Get to the stuff that might make you realize something’s missing.

The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.” Genesis 18:10-15

Sarah lived in a culture where much or all of a woman’s worth is tied up in her ability to bear children. Her heart must have ached for a child. The early months and years of her marriage must have been lived in expectation and hope. Then when she could not get pregnant, came the feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, disappointment, fear, anger and so many more. She became familiar with shame. A shame that said there was something wrong with who she is at her core. A horrible lie began to define her.

Her life circumstances had left her heart longing for more, longing for fulfillment in a child. Her whole life she had longed… at some point I have to know she became afraid of even the longing. “After I am worn out and my Lord is old, shall I  have this pleasure?” It had let her down before. It was too good to come true. Hope no longer sustained her. Doubt crept in.

Double Rainbow on Lake Clark

Then the Lord comes with a promise that spoke directly to her heart, a promise to fulfill her deepest heart longing. A child. It’s unthinkable in her age. Quite impossible, really. And to let that hope ignite again…what would that feel like? It shook her. It scared her. Some One, the Mighty One, had spoken directly into her heart and said He knew her and would not only give her heart’s desire but bless her beyond what she or her husband could imagine. He gave a promise that would change the world.

But she laughed in her heart.
She was afraid of her longing.
She was afraid of the hope.
She doubted her worth.
She was afraid of the Lord’s love.

Shimmering water

The Lord revealed he knew her heart. He knew the fear, doubt and the shame that had too long shrouded her life. He brought to light the doubt in her heart. She was in awe and I believe wrestled at that moment with choosing doubt or belief. Her husband lived in belief; she certainly had seen it acted out in their life. Perhaps she longed for it but was too wounded in her heart to be able to let the Father’s love heal her heart.

Then God’s loving kindness and mighty power were offered when he said, “Is anything to hard or too wonderful for the Lord?” And he affirms the promise.
Affirms that she is chosen.
Demonstrates his love for her.
Gives her a chance to walk in belief.

Surveying opportunities for adventure

God revealed this story to me in a new light last fall. During a time when I realized I too was afraid of the longings in my heart. The longings God gave to me and everyone, to be deeply known and loved. I long to be married. I too had experienced a shame, which told me I am of no worth and beyond even the love of God.

But my heart healing had begun and the Lord used this story to show me that even Sarah was afraid of her longing, yet the Lord pursued her, chose her and met that longing. Not only met it but exceeded it and blessed a nation because of her. Despite her fears and doubts.

Is anything to hard or too wonderful for the Lord?

No. Nothing.

What a comfort. What a promise. What a chance to BELIEVE.

He wants me to find contentment in Him alone. Only he can fill my heart longing and desires to, but it’s bigger still. He has chosen me for a purpose. Contentment in Him is a radical thing. Radical to this world of self. A life changer. A faith builder. It means choosing each day to live in belief. It means living for eternity, living for the unseen.

In Hebrews after the list of those who lived by great faith, it says…

“These people all died controlled and sustained by their faith, but not having received the tangible fulfillment of [God’s] promises, only having seen it and greeted it from a great distance by faith, and all the while acknowledging and confessing that they were strangers and temporary residents and exiles upon the earth.” Hebrews 11:13

They lived focused on belief and on eternity, not focused on, “hurry up God, give me that promise now. Please?”

Is anything to hard or too wonderful for the Lord?

No. Nothing.

The morning after I got Heart Naked, the Lord took me back to this story. The promise he gave me when he looked directly into my heart and said, “I know. I love you more than you can imagine.” He took me back three times in a week. Three different angles that all point to the promise that contentment is found in Him, not in being married. He knows my longings and I believe has promised he will bless them, but my deepest needs can only be met by Him. Finding contentment in Him takes a world of BELIEF but gives me a world filled with peace and hope. Nothing like three powerful times of truth pointing me to His promise. Rock my world? Yes. I think so.

Is anything to hard or too wonderful for the Lord?

No. Nothing.

“But our way is not that of those who draw back to eternal misery (perdition) and are utterly destroyed, but we are of those who believe [who cleave to and trust in and rely on God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah] and by faith preserve the soul.”
Hebrews 10:39

Reflection on Lake Clark

Heart Naked

Heart Rock

We sit around sharing our hearts, asking for prayer. Eight women joined together journeying through life together in our small, remote Alaskan village. Connection is the ingredient for survival in the harsh climate of “bush living.” Together drinking in the streams of Living Water.

Everyone shares. I’m last. Each a wife, a mother, a business partner… many with multiple children from babies to teenagers all demanding of their time day and night. The never-ending sacrifices of being a wife and mother. We share our hearts; we share the load. We give it to our Heavenly Father.

Heart Rock

The comparisons in my mind start to add up quickly. I become very small and insignificant stacked up to these women. I am single. The glaring comparison is always smack infrontofmyface. I have no one to directly care for, no one who demands of my time, no one to pick up after school, no screaming baby to drive me mad. I have my computer, my to-do list… and ummm…laundry is done in a two hours? Oh and I had a four-hour outdoor adventure on Saturday. And Sunday. *wince* Don’t hate me?

My turn comes. Bummer. I’m very aware of the battle raging in my mind. The flaming arrows of the enemy trying to take me down hard and fast. But I choose freedom and life! I expose the liar and the false claims. I share exactly the battle in my mind and what’s stirring in my heart.I listen to the lie that I’m nothing and lead a worthless life in comparison. That I’m worthless because these women have all been “chosen,” they are married and I am not, thus there is something inherently wrong with me. The biggest fattest lie of them all. The liar tells me I shouldn’t even be in this group. I give ground to the idea that if I share, I’ll assume they’ll think… “Well, isn’t that nice. I don’t know when the last time was that I had a free, quite moment to myself!” I believe it will divide our friendship. I believe they will be jealous and reject me. I start hoping they forget me and we move into prayer time. My eyes turn inward, my heart spiraling downward. The Deceiver cloaking my heart with ugly lies and unbelief.

Winter birch branch

Getting heart naked is hard sometimes. But healing healing and freedom in confession to another soul is thirst quenching. I have recently experienced this healing and freedom on a grand scale and it has changed my life, and I determined not to go back to the darkness. That dry and arid land.

I drink the water of truth. I know I am of great worth. I know God’s purpose in the now is singleness. I know my heart cries are valid. I know these women love me. I know they are not judging. Most importantly, I can be heart naked because I know my identity and worth is not rooted in all of these and so many more lies I have been hooked with before.

As I share, it brings up the root of self-worth, the ugly comparison that is a slow death. It strikes a deep heart longing. My desire to one day be married and have a family. The struggle of being one of three single women in Port Alsworth among a sea of families is sometimes overwhelming. 

A sister loves me boldly enough to speak into my heart. I fight it at first, but truly I’m grateful for it and let the exposure bring healing. They cover me up, affirm me and accept me. I leave free and deeper connected to my lifeline, my sisters. Reminded my identity is not rooted in a worth I can contrive, “the lack of” or in fear of in being judged for sharing. My identity is rooted in Jesus Christ, the soul quenching Living Water.

Tanalian Falls in March

There is such freedom in being heart naked when I know my heart roots are planted by streams of Living Water. A freedom newly found and newly lived and full of rejoicing!

“Cursed is the strong man who trusts in and relies on frail man,
making weak human flesh his arm,
and whose mind and heart turn aside from the Lord.
For he shall be like a shrub or a person naked and destitute in the desert;
and he shall not see any good come,
but shall dwell in the parched places in the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed is the man who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the Lord,
and whose hope and confidence the Lord is.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters
that spreads out its roots by the river;
and it shall not see and fear when heat comes;
but its leaf shall be green.
It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought,
nor shall it cease yielding fruit.”

- Jeremiah 17:5-8

Ice Biking on Lake Clark

Ice biking on Lake Clark

I can’t quite describe the joy that comes to my heart when Lake Clark freezes over and opens up an entirely new playground. My heart sings and I’m like a helium balloon being tied down to my chair, waiting to be released.

Maybe it’s like when I lived in Seattle and would go to Nordstrom and slip my feet into a new pair of red patent high heels *squeal.* The exploding joy!

Really, my feelings would be best described in an interpretive dance.

Lake Clark ice pressure crack Lake Clark ice formation from pressure crack

These amazing formations come when the ice cracks, pulls apart and comes back together again. Tectonic plates-esk action in real life. There are several big pressure cracks that will go from shore to shore. As the ice warms, it thaws from below and will crack and separate, creating more pressure cracks as it breaks up. It creates some beautiful formations! This year the ice only 6-8 inches thick. The “Epic Year” (at least in my four short winters) we had 3 feet of ice.

Lake Clark frozen solid

The nights have been hovering around zero and with the marvelous march sun’s rays are finally heating the days up 20-30 degrees. This causes the lake to heave, pop, groan, ping and sing. It’s the most amazing thing to hear. All day it was loud and a little unnerving when it reverberates right under your front bike tire and you watch a “crack” form as you whiz along. No, I’m not an adrenaline junky. Why do you ask?

Ice biking on Lake Clark

Ice biking on Lake Clark Studded tires for ice biking

This particular Sunday afternoon, we rallied the troops and headed up the lake for some woodcutting, bonfire, s’mores, and some good ole Alaskan fun. I somehow managed to get out of the woodcutting and ride my bike. Getting out of work? Weird…must be a youngest thing… Either way it was a spectacular way to spend an afternoon! Can’t beat the March sun!

Group woodcutting photo Woodcutting on Lake Clark

Alaskan Tough

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How could I not capture this moment.
A true Alaskan boy, loving the -16 degree weather.

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I Judge You

Beaver Pond Lookout at Sunset

I have come face to face with judgment lately.

I judge. I judge you. I judge others. I judge those I don’t know at all. I judge wrongly.

And it’s ugly. It makes me ugly. It reveals my heart, the part of my heart I’d rather not show the world, but I confess judgment has been a big part of my life. It became normal to find something about someone that I can judge so I elevate myself, or compare, or use as an excuse not to let them into my heart.

What a prideful, damaging thing judgment is.

But I’ve recently been freed from that knee-jerk reaction to judge. My heart now has peace and patience is being built up. I’m learning a new normal. Heart PeaceIMG_3045

What leads up to judgment is worse than the final gavel.

The opposite of patience with another, is judgment.
Patience with people is driven by mercy. And there is no mercy in judgment.

James, Jesus’ little brother, calls me out in chapter 4:2.

“You are jealous and covet and your desires go unfulfilled; so you become murders [to hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned]. You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek, so you fight and war.”

I can be self focused, filled with and driven hard by my desire to obtain contentment and happiness. And doing everything in my grasp to find it on my own leads me to envy, jealousy, selfish ambition, anger and ultimately JUDGEMENT.

“You do not have because you do not ask. Or you ask God for them and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil and selfish motives.” James 4:3

I ask selfishly far too often. Anyone else?

I want contentment and happiness and gratification on my terms. My life. My plan. My longings fulfilled the way I think they should be, on my time frame. Pride envelops me and turns my eyes inward, hot with judgment on others. A dry and arid place.

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There’s my ugliness out on the table.

“Therefore you have no excuse or defense or justification. O man, whoever you are who judges and condemns another. For in posing as judge and passing sentence on another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge are habitually practicing the very same things that you censure and denounce.” Romans 2:1

Gut punch. I will be judged with the measure I judge. Let God do the judging…and instead of judging he offers MERCY. He waits patiently. He offers peace.

“Or are you so blind as to trifle with and presume upon and despise and underestimate the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and long-suffering patience?” 2:2

Yes, I’ve been so blind at times. I have presumed upon his kindness and patience for me…but have not given that to others. Long-suffering is not really full of dancing and rainbows and pretty things. The word makes my mouth dry just saying it. Yet I’ve been given that kindness, forbearance and LOTS of patience in all that ugly junk I just laid out on the table before you.

“Are you unmindful or actually ignorant of the fact that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent? 2:2

“But he gives more grace…” James 4:6

God’s patience with me, his mercy, his kindness is the trump card in all my ugliness. I can choose to be unmindful, ignorant of it and live in the bondage of Judgment and all it’s ugly associates, in lock down, wishing I could find heart peace.

Accept the kindness, accept the mercy, accept the grace… it will lead to heart peace.

“Come close to God and He will come close to you. Recognize that you are sinners, get your soiled hands clean; realize you have been disloyal wavering individuals with divided interests and purify your hearts… Humble yourselves, feel very insignificant in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you, He will lift you up and make your lives significant.” James 4:8-10

I think those Words of Life speak for themself. Heart peace and patience is not found without the submission to the Prince of Peace.

The amount of peace in my life is directly related to the amount of my life I’m submitting to the Prince of Peace.

Beaver Pond Lookout at SunsetPatience and kindness can only replace my judgment and be offered to another when I walk in broken humility. Not living out of my unmindful, ignorant heart that leads me to the bondage of judgment.

“But glory and honor and heart peace shall be awarded to everyone who habitually does good…” Romans 2:10

I have tasted this heart peace recently. It’s more satisfying than I can describe. It’s truly the “peace that passes all understanding.” It’s life changing. It’s free of judgment. It allows me to look at people and not find that one thing to hold against them. I can see them as an Image Bearer.

Stop the war and ask for more of Him.

Broken Ice on Lake Clark

In this season…

In the quick weeks of February, not “a lot” has happened since my last update. Administration carries little pizzaz, plunking away at emails, organizing timelines, learning more about non-profits and the legalities involved. In the midst of the administrative to-do’s I’ve been able to build rich relationships with those within Tanalian and within our community. Jesus always put people first. Relationships always won over the paperwork. Sometimes it’s hard for me to shift focus and have a deep heart conversation, but always the reward is far beyond the check mark on my to-do list. My relationship with Jesus has been rich these last few weeks too.

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I’ve been learning a few things about…

  • Finding heart peace in the storm called “overwhelmed” through submitting to the Prince of Peace. Living out of a new calm in my heart is truly the “peace that passes all understanding.” It’s life changing.
  • Understanding that in our close relationships Jesus wants to bring the “worst out in us” so that we can be refined. It’s one thing to know it in my head and quite another to see relationships through this perspective and pursue those hard relationships with commitment.
  • Belief has no doubt. No doubt! I have been praying big, in full belief God will accomplish far beyond what I can even pray, dream or imagine…and thanking him in advance for it. It’s the praying in belief he wants to use to build my faith, and then my heart is set in belief with Him and his greatness vs. focusing in on if this big prayer will come true or not. It’s not about the outcome, but the faith built in the process. Then my faith is strengthened when he does choose to bless the request above and beyond!

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Prayer Requests

  • TLC Students: Focus in the final two months, to continue pursuing the Lord and growth. The up coming guest speakers coming would have an impact in their life.
  • Summer Camp Prep: The next three months will be very focused on all of the summer camp prep details. Please pray as I walk forward in many new areas and for the Lord’s provision financially and with volunteers.

Giving Update

Thank you to those who faithfully give for me to be able to serve here at Tanalian. I cannot tell you how important the support has been! Your prayers mean a tremendous amount.

We now have the capability to receive donations through Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). It’s easy to set up, and is an efficient way to give. Please call me to set it up or visit www.tanalianleadershipcenter.org/give