Tear It Down

by Ashley Lauren McClain

Last year, my husband and I bought an old farmhouse that was built in 1929. I fell in love with this house. It sits on a beautiful piece of land with a creek flowing through it. The driveway is lined with trees that make my heart smile every time I look at them. Our plan was to restore and remodel it. You know, Chip and Joanna style (cue all of the shiplap.)

After purchasing the house, it was funny to see the reaction of friends and family when they came to see it. They had no vision. All they could see was a dilapidated 100-year-old house. In their defense, they were correct. But in my mind, I could envision its future. I pictured us raising our family in that house. I saw our kids running in and out of the back door of the kitchen, while I watched out the window. It was my dream home.

As we began the restoration process, problems started to pop up, as you can imagine. But my husband and I had our hearts so set on that house, we continued trying to push forward and make it work. Until it just wouldn’t. Several professionals told us that it would be best to tear it down and start over. We didn’t want to hear it.

It wasn’t just a house they were talking about…it was our dream.

I decided to fast and pray over this decision. At the end of it, God had given both my husband and I both peace; tearing it down was the right thing to do. Peace doesn’t always mean happiness and joy. In my peace, I was still sad that the house had to go.

At the end of that fast, the Lord also showed me something even more important than tearing down that house. He showed me the dreams and plans in my heart that He was asking me to tear down. He showed me places that I was pushing for my plan and not listening for His.

He reminded me in His Word of these verses:

Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert (Isaiah 4:19 CSB).

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9 CSB).

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 CSB).

My mind knew all of these well, but I hadn’t yet taken them to heart. Did I really believe them?

So as I watched my dream house come down, I found the walls of my heart coming down as well. I opened myself up to what the Lord has for me. In that surrender, I found extreme kindness from the Lord and beauty in all of it. How kind of Him to give me an external example of what was happening internally for me. How kind of Him to allow me to watch the old go away and see the beauty and excitement of the new that is coming.

We all have plans and dreams for our lives. I know for me, when those things aren’t realized, I find myself easily pulled into disappointment. I want to flip that script in my life. I imagine you may want to as well. I want to trust what those verses say with all of my heart. I want to know and trust that His plan, His story for my life, is the best.

Is the Lord asking you to tear down your house? Let down those walls and surrender those dreams to Him? My prayer for us all is that we let Him in and allow Him to do what only He can do in our lives. I pray that we can open up our eyes and hearts to see the beauty of restoration. The beauty of letting go of the old and rebuilding the new. His ways are higher, His ways are better, His ways are good… all the time.

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Tear It Down – encouragement from Ashley McClain on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ashley McClainAbout the author: Ashley McClain is a girl with big dreams and a blog to encourage women in their journey through this life, given by the greatest Gift Giver. She loves to read, write, drink coffee, and spend time with the hubby & puppies! Connect with Ashley on her website ashleylmcclain.com. She would love to hear about your journey too!

Join the conversation: Is God asking you to tear down the walls of your dreams?

 

From Bitterness to Beauty

by Ashley Lauren McClain

I recently saw a quote going around social media. “God doesn’t always change our circumstances. He sometimes changes us.”

Have you ever prayed for something with such confidence that you just knew God would do it…that it was just a matter of time before He came through and answered your prayer? I have.

My husband and I had recently walked together through a really hard season at our church. I was ready to go, and he was determined to stay. Month after month I woke with the same prayer first thing on my mind.  “God, change his heart to go, or give me peace to stay.”

Of course, I was fully confident that the Lord was going to change my husband’s heart and waited with full anticipation for Him to do so. But He didn’t. He changed my heart instead. He did that by showing me that I had allowed unresolved conflict to become bitterness.

As the writer of Hebrews encouraged his readers to live lives in holiness and peace, he also warned them of things NOT to do. Living with a root of bitterness was on this list. “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many” (Hebrews 12:15 NLT).

If you have ever lived with a root of bitterness in your life, you know that poisonous is the perfect word to describe what it does to us. My hatefulness had affected every aspect of my life, just as literal poison spreads in the body. There was no peace… in any situation. And worse, I had allowed my anger to spread to others, causing corruption in them as well.

For a long time I felt totally justified, until the Lord began to reveal the extent of my issue. As He did, He proceeded to change me, unexpectedly softening my heart towards the situation. His grace and mercy completely amazed and overwhelmed me. Had I preemptively run away from the situation, I would never have experienced His healing power. I would have missed Him taking me from bitterness to beauty and freedom that ONLY the Lord could have done. Trust me. I was very determined I would not change my mind.

There is no way to even begin to explain the beauty that is on the other side of bitterness if we are just willing to walk through the process with the Lord.

He is so kind to not let us stay there, because He has so much more for us. I will be the first to raise my hand and say that this is not easy, but I will also be the first to raise both of my hands and say “Thank you Jesus for not letting me stay in camp bitterness. Thank you for loving me so much that you didn’t answer my prayer the way that I wanted you to. Thank you for wanting so much more for me than I could ever have imagined for myself. Thank you for being so good.”

I don’t know where you may find yourself today. But I do know if you find yourself in camp bitterness where I was living, the very best thing you can do is to give that burden to the Lord.

I encourage you to let Him change your heart, to willingly walk through that process with Him.

Let Him free your heart and show you what unspeakable beauty, freedom, and joy that is waiting for you. He wants so much more for us. Sometimes we just have to be willing to let Him change us, as hard and as humbling as that may be. It is so very worth it.

 “…giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”  Isaiah 61:3 NASB

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From Bitterness to Beauty – encouragement from Ashley Lauren McClain on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ashley McClainAbout the author: Ashley McClain is a girl with big dreams and a blog to encourage women in their journey through this life we have been given by the greatest Gift Giver there is! She loves to read, write, drink coffee, and spend time with the hubby & puppies! Connect with Ashley on her website ashleymcclain.org. She would love to hear about your journey too!

Join the conversation: Has God ever healed you from the root of bitterness? Please share!

Peace in the Process

by Ashley Lauren McClain

 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

This has always been one of my favorite verses. God first said those words to His people, who were living in exile in Babylon as a punishment for turning away from Him to worship idols. He said them to give the people hope: their exile would not last forever. In seventy years, He would bring them back to their homeland. “I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back… For I know the plans I have for you…they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

The same God who promised good to His people, even while they were in the middle of experiencing His judgment, is the God I serve. He loves His people perfectly and will never abandon us, and always has our good in mind. This thought fills me with so much hope and excitement that this big dreamer girl’s heart has taken and run with it!

But in the process of sprinting ahead, I have sometimes found myself exhausted and disappointed. Why? I believe I have finally figured out two answers to that question.

The first is in the very first words. The Lord says He knows the plans HE has for us. He is not confirming the plan we have for ourselves. Nor are His intentions determined by the expectations others have on us. God’s plans are exceedingly and abundantly greater than anything we could dream up for ourselves.

Again, my big dreamer hearts loves this…but there is a second caveat. God also has His own time table for when He will bring those plans to fruition. His timing is perfect, which means often we find ourselves impatiently waiting for Him to act.

Not yet. Those two words are the source of so much struggle and angst in my life! Not yet. After getting myself in line with His agenda, finally being willing to lay down my plans and go with His, the only thing I hear is Not Yet. Seriously?

But when I finally decide to end the personal pity party, I remember that He most often works through a process, a much-needed process, which will grow our faith and bring us to maturity.

And if we can walk with Him in the midst of that process, we can find peace.

Peace in the process also comes from understanding that there is no title, job, or calling that will define us. The Lord alone defines us. Our greatest joy and highest calling in our lives is to follow Christ and share His love with others. I need to come to a place where I desire His name to be known more than mine.

I have learned that if I will determine to trust Him for my life, even though it may look totally different than what I thought it would be… I can have peace knowing it will be so much more fulfilling and better than anything I could have dreamed of for myself.

As you begin your day today, join me in laying down those unrealistic expectations. Rather than striving and chasing, concentrate on walking with Him, and truly live the peace-filled, abundant life that He has planned.

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Peace in the Process – insight from Ashley Lauren McClain on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ashley McClainAbout the author: Ashley McClain is a girl with big dreams and a blog to encourage women in their journey through this life we have been given by the greatest Gift Giver there is! She loves to read, write, drink coffee, and spend time with the hubby & puppies! Connect with Ashley on her website ashleymcclain.org. She would love to hear about your journey too!

Join the conversation: Can you recall a time when you experienced peace in the process? Please share!

Is God Still Good?

by Ashley Lauren McClain

The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:9 NASB

Our front yard has always been one of my favorite things about our house. It’s beautiful. Our house sits back off of the road, there is a weeping willow tree, a white fence with horses and a barn, and a perfect place to watch the sunrise every morning. I remember sitting on that front porch before we bought our house and looking out at that front yard, dreaming about the wonderful life we would live there.

This morning as I sat on our couch looking out the window, I could see the “coming soon” sign recently erected out front. That sign represents so much excitement about the future and our new home, but it also represents those dreams that are now gone.

I always pictured children playing in that yard or sitting on that ugly living room carpet. I thought I would someday show them pictures of Mommy & Daddy’s first house where they lived part of their happy childhood.

But sitting here today I now there is no possible way for that ever to happen. Those children never came. Why God? I prayed for that. Why didn’t you do it?

I wish I could tell you that my faith is so strong, I don’t ever question Him. That I know He is sovereign, and His plans are the best plans for my life. I DO know that to be true. But I still sometimes ask Him questions… and you know what? He is not mad or even disappointed in me for doing so, not one bit.

Even in my questioning, I know He still loves me. Even in my disappointment, I know He is still good.

Maybe today you are not moving on and leaving behind unfulfilled dreams. Maybe your struggle involves a recent diagnosis, an unexpected death, the loss of a job; maybe it is hurt recent or from your past, or plans you had that never came to fruition.

But you know what? He is still good.

That can be hard to believe in the midst of some of our greatest challenges. But it is true. I know that His Word tells me that He will NEVER leave me or forsake me, and I believe it. I know His Word tells me that He has GOOD plans for my future, and I believe it.

When the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, they faced some of the biggest challenges possible. The land was filled with strongly fortified cities, fierce warriors, and impressive kingdoms. Not much had changed since their parents had balked in fear and refused to go in forty years earlier. But God had once again promised to go before them. He would give them the victory and eventually the land. And as they prepared for what lay ahead, He reassured them once more: “The Lord will deliver them up before you…Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:5-6 NASB). God had their good in mind. And unlike their parents, they chose to believe in His goodness.

It was the right choice.

He is the same God today. I am sorry for the pain, the hopelessness, the frustration, or loneliness you may feel today. I am sorry for whatever dream you may have had to lay to rest. I get it. I am laying down one of mine with you today.

But here is what we can know: God is good all the time. No matter what you may have to face today, know that you are facing it with the strong & trustworthy presence of Jesus Christ living in you.

The plans that the Lord has for my life and yours are greater than any dreams we have for ourselves. Does that mean they will look exactly like we thought or wanted them to be? No. But we can trust in His goodness. Because He is good. Always.

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Is God Still Good? – thoughts on #GodsLove from Ashley Lauren McClain on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ashley McClainAbout the author: Ashley McClain is a girl with big dreams and a blog to encourage women in their journey through this life we have been given by the greatest Gift Giver there is! She loves to read, write, drink coffee, and spend time with the hubby & puppies! Connect with Ashley on her website ashleymcclain.org. She would love to hear about your journey too!

Join the conversation: What dreams have you had to lay down? What did God give you instead?

 

Give Your Life Away?

by Ashley Lauren McClain

“Give your life away.” I remember when I heard my Pastor say this in a sermon. He said it as a statement, but in my mind, it immediately became a question. Give my life away?

What about MY dreams, and MY purpose and MY calling? What about ME? How does giving my life away get me any closer to the goals and ambition I have for my life?

Can I just say I wish I had taken his words as truth all those years ago?

I believe the chasing, striving, disappointments, and my many failures could have gone so differently. If only I had taken his words to heart the first time I heard them.

My problem? My focus was on me. I loved the Lord, but I was more wrapped up in my dreams and plans than in Him. Give it all away? Who would I be if not the girl with the big dreams? Who would I be if I laid them down to serve God by sharing the gospel and His love with others?

Answer: I would be the girl fully walking in the calling that the Lord has on her life.

Maybe you find yourself today caught up in the chasing and striving in life: nothing you do is good enough or fulfilling enough. If you do, I get it. I lived there a long time. But I made a decision to not stay in that place anymore. I am hoping maybe you will join me.

Am I telling you to give up on your dreams and things you are passionate about? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that the focus has to come off of ourselves and placed on Him.

What good would my dream be if it didn’t bring any glory to Him? If it failed to bring anyone who is lost and hopeless to Him? I would be living a life, that in reality, I don’t want to live. I have to believe that it is probably one that you wouldn’t want to live either.

In Matthew we read the Lord’s “Great Commission”: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 CSB).

I love how The Message translation explains verse 20:

“Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 MSG).

Day after day. If we are truly followers of Christ, sharing His love and His work in our lives with others, it will never get old. This is where life is best lived.

That is where the fulfillment I have longed for is found. It is found in taking the lessons we have learned and using them to benefit others. It is found in being vulnerable with our failures and transparent with our lives. It is found in pointing people who have no hope to the One who is the Giver of Hope.

It is found when my focus shifts from me and my to Him and them.

Will you join me today in giving up our own goals? And instead focus on God’s agenda: reaching out to the world around us? We can live a life filled with amazing, life-changing dreams. But we have to first be willing to lay down our empty ones, get our eyes off of ourselves, and lock them on Him.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other…”  Matthew 6:24 NASB

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Give Your Life Away? insight on #FollowingGod from Ashley Lauren McClain on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ashley McClainAbout the author: Ashley McClain is a girl with big dreams, a blog, & a heart to encourage women in their journey through this gift of life we have been given by the greatest Gift Giver there is! She loves to read, write, drink coffee, and spend time with the hubby & puppies! Connect with Ashley on her website ashleymcclain.org. She would love to hear about your journey too!

Join the conversation: Have you had a dream fulfilled? How did that effect you? Was it worth it?