In January, our church leadership team attended a retreat. We stayed in a nice hotel with a big cozy bed and we got away together as a team. It was a truly refreshing time.
In session 1, we re-evaluated our 2016 year and how we were doing in our souls. I rated my year and soul as a 9. I felt that I had run the race well that year and I was joyful on this inside. However, I had 3 things I was still carrying in my heart.
- A desire to see my husband move on to new work.
- To see our HYC teens go to a deeper level in the Lord.
- To lead the leaders I lead well in a greater capacity.
What I felt the Lord was saying to me for 2017 was to: Keep balanced and Follow Him!
In session 2, we were asked to speak words of encouragement to our fellow members. I remember feeling surprised by Trent saying “I believe in Starla Smith. You are a really good youth leader.” Trent was the newest member of our group. He was interning at the time with the youth group and worship team. He has since joined us. I am truly grateful to have him and his wife at our church. They are true blessings and wonderful gifts to our church from God. We also took time to pray for each other and speak words of prophecy and what we see in each other. This was spoken over me: My banner of you is FAITHFULNESS!” You are a leader of leaders and a revivalist. Dig the well deeper. The Lord wants to take you to a place that will surprise you.
That month we started the teens at HYC on spending time in the silence with Jesus. We started with just 30 seconds. Digging the well deeper!
In February, I began to feel a trembling in the air. It was as if the Lord was beginning to shake the foundations of my life. I sensed uneasiness. My mind was distracted. I couldn’t focus very well on the main things but I had no trouble dining on facebook, news and other mental junk. I began to feel the tendrils of fear creep in, particularly the fear of what other people think. This is the slippery slope to sin for me. When my heart begins to tremble in this way. I know the enemy is in the room, God is up to something new and I had better get my eyes on the Lord or the enemy would take me out with his old stinky bait to my soul.
We have to remember the enemy has NO power, so he has to come to us with lies to convince us to use the power Jesus gave us, against ourselves!
In March, I started a Lent study. I could sense that I needed to be close to the Lord. What better way than to walk with Him in remembering why He came to save us. It was a beautiful time in the Lord. Then sometime in the middle of the month, my husband hurt his knee at work pretty bad. He was still on partial unemployment. They were not quite back to work full-time. He ended up not being able to return to that job. I had been praying for years for him to find new work. That wasn’t quite the way I would have liked it to happen. He was in a lot of pain and it still is not full strength. The shaking in our life continued as the Lord talked to me about my pride, my need for control and how I like to think I got this!
I can’t control the waves. I know I can’t. And yet, when life presents those walk-to-the-edge-of-the-jetty opportunities, I’m game. I get “brave,” then act as if I can control what happens next. As soon as something gets uncomfortable—like those waves crashing a little too high for my liking—I want to take control. It seems like this is all God wants to talk to me about these days: control, and my lack of it. And my continual persistence in trying to prove to Him that I’ve got everything under control, thankyouverymuch. But I don’t. So I constantly find myself returning to Him, confessing those moments when I grasp for the reins, then gently allowing His Word, His voice, to remind me that me being out of control isn’t all that bad. Because in reality, He’s been in control all along. Admitting my lack of control is just an admission of what’s true: God controls all the things. Nothing is out of His grasp or view. Not oceans or governments, the weather or my heart. I’m never really flailing or falling—I’m held, kept. No matter how chaotic life feels, the waves will not overtake me. The One whose hand stretched out over the ocean waters—the One who created them—can surely calm them (Isaiah 23:20; 48:13). Nothing moves without His knowledge. I can’t stand before the sea and tell the waves which way to roll. But He can. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in my life (Romans 8:11). I can’t heal my own heart, save the lost, right the wrongs, or calm the storm—in me, in my home, or in the world. But He can. And He does. Because He holds all things together.
In April, I continued with my Lent study. I learned so much and God was so sweet to me. But to be honest, I was worried because the unemployment supplement would run out and husbands knee wasn’t healing very quickly. I was holding on the promise I had heard in January “My banner over you is Faithfulness!” We had previously bought my husband’s dream car in November of 2016. We discussed over lunch whether this is something we would do. I had been praying about it and heard the Lord clearly say “say yes, let me deal with the rest!” My husband had said a few other things at the lunch he had been dreaming of us driving together in this car. He wanted a new job. He wanted to quit smoking after 20 years. I remember smiling on the inside but holding my breath. April 28th we took possession. It is a canary yellow, 1965 Chevy Malibu SS. This car has been the tangible wheel my husband holds onto when he too worries about what is going to happen. This car screams God’s promise is ‘He is Faithful!’
My father in law is always bringing some odd thing over to the house to share with my husband or my son. This time it was a weird little pod that he thought was an empty bee nest. It wasn’t. It was a loaded preying mantis nest. We had hundreds of baby preying mantis in our kitchen. I have learned when weird things happen like that to look for meaning. God often has spoken to me in these odd moments. This time was no different.
Mantis is from the Greek word Mantid meaning prophet seer. It is a symbol of stillness and Patience. It was very clear to me that the Lord was sending me a word to see. I was going to need to cultivate stillness and be patient. I had no idea at that time how much I was going to need that.
In May, I started a new devotional from She Reads Truth and trying to get some kind of Sabbath into my life. That was not an easy process. Our world will give us a raise if we work 7 days a week. Gotta work, work, work, and hustle. But that was not the life I wanted. In January at the retreat, I heard “to keep it balanced and follow the Lord.” I was beginning to see that balance required stopping, resting, and stillness. And I had no idea how to do that! I don’t know how to throw my mind into neutral. I don’t know how to stop working at it, doing more, looking for answers, finding ways to save myself. I am always on go mode in my mind, always! I was beginning to go into survival mode and God showed up speaking more to me. I was feeling ragged. I wasn’t about to quit and bow out. I was at worship practice. We were singing the song “Good Good Father” and I had been choking back my emotions all day. I was barely hanging on when the lyrics “You are perfect in all of Your ways” totally undid me. I ended up crying my eyes out with my face buried in a friends chest.
I am walking a test and trial. I have been calling on the Lord for relief. How long? God, How long until I am out of this waiting room? Then, I get that one song for church on Sunday that challenges my faith in this moment….
Ripping at my foundations.
Rocking my pillars.
This song called me deeper into that place in my heart…Challenging me…. Do I really believe what I am singing right now?
Yeah… Totally undid me.
Then the Lord gave this monkey minded girl a nugget to help for finding Sabbath…stillness…. He said, “Abiding in truth is an active stillness.” That month was also the month my husband found new work. We were thankful. It was great pay and it was work he enjoyed doing. His dream of being in new work had come true and he also quit smoking cigarettes. Life was good.
In June, I found myself in a mental and emotional funk. It’s strange and stupid how you can get what you have been asking for (husband finally had a job) and then boom you just go on back to lala land. I have about a month of emptiness in my journal where I had been writing every day. I was becoming increasingly more angry and frustrated with life. It is like I forgot how to keep it balanced. I started ignoring my need for quiet and stillness. Life got emotionally unfun at my house. Then I suddenly woke up to the fact that I am more prayerless that I care to admit simply because I was even trying to control prayer.
I am not a gimme pray-er! I pray what I think is possible. I don’t like to seem needy, so I don’t ask for much. But God wants me to understand that I can’t base my prayers on what’s possible if I intend to pray to the God of “nothing is impossible.” Prayer becomes a limit when I’m praying what is possible. I have not because I ask not. I am a thank pray-er. Thankful for what is. Pointing out what is and has been but I don’t “speak what is not as though it was.” That takes a level of faith. I think it is because I feel that I should be content so that I will not complain but more than that I also will not be disappointed if “whatever it is” doesn’t show up.
I see I am in a dilemma of “settle for is versus faith for more.” That song Waiting Here For You has got me thinking. This is not the time to be content with what is. The atmosphere is ripe with fruit and anticipation. This is the time to be expectant. The Lord of all creation knows our hearts He has saved us and He’s loved us and if faith can move the mountains, the mountains will move if we come with expectation while we’re waiting with Jesus.
I would come to understand this strange and false type of “be content” keeps me from what the Father wants to give me. It’s just another facet of a survival mode that I have been living since I was a kid. This is a chain and I was fighting for the freedom Christ came to give me.
In July, it was by far the hardest month. On July 3rd one of my oldest friends husband suffered a burst blood vessel in his brain. He was airlifted to the University Hospital for surgery to remove part of his skull to relieve pressure on his brain. He hasn’t been the same since. Then the day I was set to leave for a 4 hr. drive to take my youth group to camp my husband called me and said: “they just fired me.” I was stunned. All I could say was it will be ok. I lied to a friend in a moment of fear. My feeling got hurt by another. I literally didn’t write a thing in my journal that month. But when I look back on my Facebook page we spent a lot of time distracting ourselves from reality. We took drives in the car, visited friends, ate out for dinner. I think I was trying to be positive. I was trying to hang on. I was trying to walk by faith. Really I had just given up on holding on to the promise. I was just done. Then the Lord broke through my walls:
What I hear the Father saying:
In this season, even today’s business (busy-ness) requires agility, not adaptability. Adaptability means to stop and allow alterations and that is not what is needed at this time, that was in the last season. Agility is the ability to move in a certain direction with readiness. In your day-to-day tasks and your occupation, even when the cares of this world and the anxiety within come Be Agile To be agile means to be light-footed and quick to be graceful when you have been hurt and disappointed by others. Be ready to perceive others with mercy and grace. Learn to move into petitioning the Lord for your needs and to pray on behalf of those who hurt you. Engage your mind with the word of God to overcome your emotions and be still. If you will be loving and kind you will reap the reward. Choose to have the Father’s Heart above your own rights. Love and bless even those who look right through you as if you are not there. And I, the Father will accelerate your path. It’s time to go higher don’t get stuck in the distractions.
He pretty much snapped me out of my trance. Thank you, Lord, for your Faithfulness.
In August, My kids and I go camping every year with my sister and my mom. It is always a much needed time of rest and time away. I received a little reimbursement check from the youth camp trip. It was literally all the money I had to go on the trip. Everything else had to pay bills and car gas. Before I left I was asked if there was anything I could use for my trip. I said, ” No, I do not need anything.” They pressed me a little more saying ” I would like to bless you.” But I still said, “No, I am good.” This person knows me pretty well and rebuked me for not accepting their blessings and choosing to live in survival mode. I stopped refusing. I can see now that the Lord had to use a close friend and a frying pan to break me out of my “I can do this on my own and I am content with what is.” I had no idea that the Lord was about to take me out of my comfort zone and through test and trial he would use His people to bless me and my family. We liked being the people to help others. This other side on the receiving end is not an easy place to be. The fear of looking weak and needy is a type of prison of the heart. God grace is amazing. That month I learned to ask Him and He answers. I struggled with being in need. He blessed us with groceries, school supplies, clothes and a haircut for my son’s school year, people handed us money that helped us pay bills. Grace will take you places hustling can’t! My husband was still out of work and was working in the garage doing small engines. I was working but no amount of work could make up the deficit that God filled.
Maybe the reason we struggle with looking those with NEED in the eyes is that we don’t want to admit that we have NEED too. Jesus fulfill – You are Faithful!
Don’t ever doubt Jesus’s ability to provide. Pray! Ask for what you need. Then watch Him show up through His people with joyful hearts.
Why don’t we pray and ask more?
It’s not because He doesn’t answer.
It’s because we believe that having need is weak.
Our self sufficient, don’t need anybody culture drives a prayerless generation. We pray when we are down, cause it is then that we look up and admit we are in need.
Philippians 4:19 my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in Glory by Christ Jesus
In September, I laid awake one night while my mind was telling me that ‘I was lonely.’ It told me a story of how I don’t have any true connection with friends. Isn’t it just like the enemy to come in the night and speak lies to get you to agree with him and leave off knowing that last month the Lord proved Himself Faithful, God hears you and His people love you. I remember laying there thinking “I am not alone. God is with me. He is closer than my breath.” Just then I took a deep slow breath thinking to myself “Christ came to fill the room, to fill even the whole house so that o one would fell as Mary and Joseph did that there is no room for them.” Where does loneliness come from? For me, it is rush and task. Rush stops me from finding time for eye to eye. Task skips over moments of delight. This month I have really worked at Sabbath. Resting and Abiding. I have been doing things that create for me, delight. I started walking more. Listening to books and taking the time to write. Something that I desperately need in order to make sense of life, unplug my heart and sort of my soul. I spend intentional time with my family. I am finding peace in the waiting. And yes we are still waiting. No employment yet. But God is good.
I don’t want to just survive anymore. I want to fly. For me to fly I have to find Him in the waiting! So take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul. He’s in the waiting!
We shoot for happiness but it is suffering that forms us and has the most potential for creating in us real change. What is your reference point for what is good? If yours is not God, then yours is constantly moving. Where ever you find yourself hiding, those are the places God wants you to stop building shelters to cover yourself and rather stand in the light of His glory and grace, fully assured HE’s got you! BE FREE! Be COURAGEOUS! You can let it be redemptive or you can hide in fear! We often think that if we know Jesus we are guaranteed to feel UP all the time. The truth is we are guaranteed mountain tops and valleys and that is how we grow!
Listen, we are not meant for scarcity we were made for abundance!
We haven’t made it out of this valley yet. But one thing is for sure. God is Faithful!
PS: Also, we are up to 3mins. and 30 seconds of silence with Jesus at HYC. What a sweet time we have with the Lord. This month we started Core groups. Our leaders now lead their own small groups. YAY! Leading leaders well will mean that we are training them to lead others well.
FEARLESS, FAITHFUL, FORWARD,