Friday, January 31, 2014

The Art of (re) Finding Myself

This blog begins with a girl in search of who she is. I've been pondering so much the last few days. So much has happened in the last few years, especially since I moved to Redding. While so much of it has been good, and much more than I ever could have expected, I'm realizing how much of it has been so very hard. Along with this move came an unexpected twist of going back to school.

On many fronts, this has been the single most life-changing experience ever. The teaching I get on a day-to-day basis is enough to make even the most intelligent mind spin. Because of school I've been given space with Him to hear in a way that I haven't ever before. Because of school I was able to really see what I was truely made for, and to travel to that place in order to forever fall in love. 

But along with the sacrifice that school has been economically, it has been a massive sacrifice on the front of time and self. This year it has not been rare for me to work 30-35 hours, very early in the morning, then turn around and go to school 5 days a week. In the midst of that I've been trying, often unsuccessfully, to cultivate the few relationships that I do have and the other hours of the day I am usually sleeping or exhausted. 

I realized the last few days, that in the midst of that, I have, in a way lost myself...and not in a good way. I read back over the early days of when I was first really falling in love with Jesus. The things I wrote, the songs I sang, they were profound and are definitely the reason I am sitting here, 1900 miles away from anything I saw as normal before. 

Since Christmas I've been in a funk. There are many reasons why, but I think that this has a massive reason to do with it as well. Somewhere, in the midst of the crazy, the good and the bad...I lost myself. It wasn't that I was being mean to myself, or purposefully neglecting...but I forgot to give myself permission to just be me. To write for hours, to go on an adventure, to draw, to create just for the sake of creating. 

And sadly so, I allowed what other people said and did affect what I decided to say or do. I stopped writing because it wasn't 'profound.' I stopped singing because it wasn't my 'call.' I stopped adventuring because I had a list of 15 other seemingly more important things to do. I stopped loving because it wasn't the best form of love I knew I could give. 

It's fascinating and sad how different we function when we aren't just fully who He's made us to be. I don't write to impress someone else, I write because of Him. I don't sing because others can hear, I sing because I love Him and I want to let Him know. I don't paint or cook or love because I want a pat on the back, I do it because it's within me and it is a pure expression of Him in and through me.
 
We owe the world an encounter. We owe them a taste of His goodness, of His love, of His extravagance. But the truth is, though, that we cannot possibly give the world anything unless we have fully come to terms with who we are and when we decide to love that. 

I may never write anything profound in my life. I may never travel, or cook another meal. But one thing is for sure; I am done worrying or thinking about what people think. I want to be who God made me to be, and I want to take time and make space to express that. When I love who He's made me to be, that's when the world gets their encounter. True and authentic expression will release the kingdom everywhere I go. 

This blog ends with a girl relearning to truely love herself. With a girl that just simply wants to delight in the way that her daddy created her. It ends with a girl who wants to learn, as my dear friend Brenda would say, 'to love herself to life' and because she will be fully alive, love others to life as well. 

Lara 

(check out Brenda's Blog @ http://www.bespokeninternational.com )

                                  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

update of a very full life...

This Update has been overdue for many, many months. To my friends, family and church specifically those in Iowa, I apologize for how concise this needs to be, but it is an update nonetheless. I remind you that you can email, call or text any time if you'd love to catch up! :) I will put you on my schedule!

Some "facts from Lara's Life" bullet points for you:
-I'm in my 2nd year at BSSM here in Redding, California. I am absolutely loving it and getting challenged to the core. This year is focused intensely on leadership training. 
-In January I will have been living in Redding for 2 years! Feels just like yesterday that my nervous little self got in my car and made the 29 hour journey over the mountains by myself. 
-I currently work 25-30 hours every week at Target. I'm in charge of the cosmetics department and really love the detail work that includes. (thankfully)
-My current schedule of life is 4:00am-11:15 work, then off to school until around 6:00pm. It's full, but I really do enjoy it. That is a HUGE change from last year and something I thank God for every day. While I would love to not keep this crazy schedule all year long, it's my honor to work and do school in this environment. 
-I help Brenda VanWinkle once a week because unfortunately that's all my schedule allows for currently. I would love to help her more as she continues to press in for Ireland.
-Every Monday night I take Arabic class through the church here in Redding. Such a beautiful language.
-I am currently filing paperwork to become a part of World Indigenous Missions. This way I will be under a covering, family-wise, prayer-wise, and financially-wise by the time I am ready to make missions and ministry my profession vocationally. They are an amazing organization and you should look them up! :)
-Next week my parents will be here in Redding for a visit! I'm SO very excited! :)
-I still love coffee (just seeing if you're still reading)
-The week after Thanksgiving I will be traveling to Texas with one of our pastors at the Church to be on their ministry team. It is a huge honor to be one of six picked for this trip. For those of you who gave towards my tuition, THANK YOU! This is part of our tuition this year, and I so appreciate that. It's going to be a blast!
-I'm not 100% sure I will be home for Christmas yet. Tickets are PRICEY! yikes. But if I was home I would squeeze all of your necks!
-In March of next year I plan on traveling to Turkey for a missions trip for 10 days. We will be serving in Izmir in an international church, serving them however we can. We will have the honor of coming alongside of some missionaries there and the people who minister to the Turkish people every day. We will also perhaps get to serve some Syrian Refugees in the area (which is what my heart beats for). This trip will cost $2200 for those of you asking that question.
-After falling in love with the Middle East even more last year in Lebanon, it is SUCH a joy to travel back to the area and to Turkey where so much of the New Testament occured. The leader of my trip is someone I consider an Apostle of the region and it is my honor to learn from her. 
-I have the honor of taking a class here next semester for long-term missions here at Bethel Church.
-Brenda will be traveling to Ireland next Spring for about 6 weeks. It is my hope to join her at some point in that 6 weeks to travel with her, and add support so she isn't by herself. The last time we went over plane tickets were about $1000 plus food and lodging, etc, for those of you asking that question again.
-If all goes as planned, I will be traveling to Texas after graduation to do my W.I.M. training at their head quarters. 
-I'm looking for someone who illustrates children's books, specifically birds. I'm trying to get one together before next Summer and have no idea how to do so. 
-I am so super honored to be serving Iris Ministries every week and have been learning so many powerful things and truths that I have been tucking away for the future. 
-I have begun the process of looking for a new vehicle. We've figured out that with as much as we've put into it, it's no longer the best investment, that being said, I'm a LONG way to being able to purchase a new(er) car and it's been in my heart a long time to be able to give this one away to someone I've had in mind for a long time. 
-Life is beautiful, I've never experienced the depths of His peace, and love and presence like I have in this season.
-Yes, I'm still single. ;) I know someone was asking or thinking it. 
-I am blessed with the most amazing family in the world: shout out to all of you. Mom, Dad, Jb, Carla, Noah, Mussie and Greta. Tim, Kim and Alena. Matt and Ilona. I really, absolutely couldn't do anything without them and their support.

Just as a reminder, my email is larahochstetler@gmail.com. If you mail me I'll get you my number, address or whatever else you need to stay in touch! I love you all and am so honored to know you. I hope this helps you feel more 'connected' with all that's going on in my life! Bethel Menno, an update is coming soon!

Peace and Many Blessings,
Lara

Sunday, November 10, 2013

We are never powerless: choosing our response.

       So realistically at this point with 30+ hours of work and full-time school and homework, I cannot possibly get mad at myself for not posting much as of late. However, I do want you, whoever you are, to still feel connected to my life in some way so...here it is! Sometimes I write things and they mean nothing to me, and sometimes I write and have no idea what I'm writing until I come back to it and it challenges me to my core. This was one of those things. This is from some of my homework for school this year. I wrote it for a book report, and I wanted to share it with you. It seems like a lot of people I talk to in my life are walking through this. To choose joy and hope inspite of not seeing our promises come true is one of the hardest, yet essential things we do as believers. I hope that you will join me on this journey as we learn to live well and full of His LIFE.

"God is creating a way for you to be complete, not lacking anything. Your job in this season is to grab hold of hope and not let go! Like a farmer who labors to produce a crop, your joy lies in the hope of the harvest to come.
"We have to appoint ourselves as the keeper of our lives and the protector of our hearts. We choose our moods, actions and belief systems; therefore, we are powerful enough to change them!" (Supernatural Power of Forgiveness, Kris and Jason Vallotton)
        
        So for me, at this point in my life these 2 quotes go together. Something I'm walking through at the moment, and I think will continue to walk through is, what we do with the promises The Lord has given us that have not yet come to pass? How do we posture our heart when it genuinely hurts to pray for something that we honestly don't want to pray anymore for? How do we choose hope in the moments when our hearts are sick because of hope deferred? At times I think that I have walked through things thinking that I couldn't have 'fullness' of joy until I saw that thing I had hoped for fulfilled. But I'm finding more and more that if I live with that mindset it makes me powerless. That if I am dependent on that promise happening to live in fullness of joy than my joy is then dependent on my circumstances, and not on the very one that is my source of joy.
        Realistically, I think that sometimes it's much easier to just blame circumstances for internal hurts. I think it's easier to find fault in other people, on their actions or lack thereof. But this second quote says it all. We are the keeper of our hearts and lives. We actually have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to choose how we respond to things. And we have been given the ability to walk through pain, not denying that it's there, but choosing joy, and peace in spite of the pain. It's an act of worship, I think. I was just today faced again with an ongoing situation in which in my mind I feel I have the right to choose offense, but instead I have chosen to choose joy, not because my pain doesn't exist, but because I know that it's actually a healthy way to protect my heart, and those around me in my life. Basically, I want to move into a place where I am complete, where I have ownership for my life and I have the ability to hold onto the promises, keeping my heart healthy and full of hope at the same time.

        Something I have been walking through as of late is this: I have set my heart on Him. I am determined, that no matter what, no matter what God does or 'doesn't' do for me, I will never withhold myself from Him. When we learn to move past our offenses and choose to worship Him instead, it always makes us powerful. I have determined within me that no matter how tired, how frustrated, how broken I 'feel', He is and always will be worth all of my attention, and all of my affections...and that my friends has filled me with more hope, steady joy, passion and energy than ever before. It really is our choice, our powerful, free choice of how we respond to Him. And while I have a LONG way to go, hope builds every day, making it worth the sacrifice that it is most days.

God bless you on your journey to becoming whole, and realizing that He wants us to be full of life, and life abundantly. He is for us, and not against us. Will we choose to live in that reality today?

L

                                       

Friday, October 4, 2013

A small Challenge...

This past week one day in worship I was struck by how often I live out of awareness of the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead. That there is fullness of victory over everything He died on the cross for; sickness, pain, sin, death, sorrow, seperation, depravity, poverty, and lack in general. 

Would I, living in full awareness fear poverty, lack of energy, hoplessness, or anything ever again? Would I ever choose fear over peace? Would I ever choose to feal overwhelmed over stopping and staring Him in the face instead?

I really would like to think the answer to all of those questions would be an overwhelming, NO! That, to choose those things actually would be maddness. 

So why do I, and why do SO many Christians choose to live in this perpetual state of unbelief? Why do we choose to live in this place of powerlessness that takes the air right out of our 'holy ghost' tires? I have a few concepts, and would love to hear yours, but for now I have the keyboard. 

Something that went through my mind on Monday was that I feel like so many Christians don't want to live completely empowered. I don't know how to explain it, but the more I'm alive, the more I'm realizing that it's way easier to live when you don't have to take any responsibility for your faith. When you live in denial of the fact that His blood did pay for EVERYTHING, you don't really have to do much. But when you fully believe that you are, in essence, responsible to live as a representation of Jesus' victory it's all or nothing. I'm not talking about weird, false pressure, look-at-me sort of stuff but I am talking about the fact that I am here to make Jesus famous in ALL that I do, and my life had better reflect that. 

The more you see of Him, the more you want to give yourself completely to Him. And the more that you do that, it seems, the more that is required of you. He doesn't just want part, after all, He's looking for everything.

I'm finding, sadly, that a lot of people don't want to take responsibility for all that Jesus called us to as His followers. And sadly, in many places, we are leaving the world wanting. Because this world, She really wants Jesus.

I came accross a quote today that reiterrated this, and has been messing me up every time I reread it. It's what I want as the anthem of my life. And it's what I challenge every one of my beautiful brothers and sisters to as we try to represent Him to the world. Let's not give them a Jesus who is dead, but THE Jesus who is fully alive, and wanting to meet each one of their needs fully-mind, soul AND body. Let's not give them part of the gospel, let's not give them the cross; let's give them the fullness, the Jesus who has risen, and the saints who are living and acting accordingly. 

"This lifestyle thrives on the impossible. Our delight is seeing the impossiblities of life bend their knee to the name of Jesus over and over again. Those who encounter Him on this level are much more prone to take risks so that miracles would happen. The absence of the supernatural is intolerable. When you consider the amazing provision of The Lord for those who surrender all, powerlessness becomes inexcusable."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Embracing Process

"Except when you don't. Because, sometimes, you won't."

I hate when I don't make adequate time to write. Especially blog. So much has happened in the past few weeks that I found myself thinking, "I want to blog about that! Oh, no I want to blog about that!" multiple times. This causes me to sit at my computer and generally just think about mush when I actually do make time to write. So today I made time to write...and this is the only thing I can think about. Actually, it started this morning. It was 5am at Target and I just got done running a repack all the way to the other end of the store. I was walking back to my department to continue pushing my freight and this phrase started running through my head over and over again.

This line comes from one of my favorite children's books. It was the book I got the first day I started kindergarten. It was the book I reread at high school graduation and cried because although I obviously had no idea at the time exactly the places God would take me, the Spirit within leapt at the thought that there could be more, and that I could actually have it. The premise of the book is that there are amazing places that each person is going to go. Amazing things that will happen, all in due time. That we will move mountains and see things in our lifetime that we can't even imagine.

This phrase is sprinkled in. "Except when you don't. Because, sometimes, you won't." Just looking at this phrase I kind of wondered, "Lord, why this phrase?" Just looking at it makes you feel a bit defeated. It makes you wonder why you failed. This morning it was bouncing around in my head, not in a sad tune as you might imagine, but rather in a happy, bouncy tune. Now, call it lack of sleep, or just plain the strange way my brain works, but this phrase made hope and passion rise up inside of me.

If there's one thing I constantly struggle with, one thing that i wish we didn't have to do-it's process. I realized at the beginning of this Summer that this one little word had almsot become my least favorite word/meaning in the english language. I've spent almost my whole life trying to become this person that seemed so far off from my reality that the concept of loving process just seemed like such a contradiction to what was possible. Fact is, God loves process. He loves the journey. He loves us at every stage just like parents love their children at every stage. So why do we hate process so very much?

I was liberated this morning when this little phrase danced around my head because I think that when we fall, when we have moments when we 'don't' and when we have moments when we 'won't'; when we have moments in our process that we would deem faliures, it actually gives us moments that we can turn into momentum. It causes opportunities to create a deeper relationship with God. I don't know how to explain it, but the history that we get to create with The Lord in moments like this is so precious to His heart. The fact that even in 'failures' i get to choose relationship and I get to take on what God thinks of me releases joy and such blessing, it's unexplainable.

It's in those 'except when you don't. Because sometimes, you won't" moments that we get to see His strength in our weakness and praise Him for it. It's in those moments that you have deeper revelations of His grace, His strength, His power, His goodness, His mercy, His compassion, etc. And it leaves you wanting to be a better person, not because of how bad you are, but because of how drawn by His goodness you are. They are special opportunites, these moments when you've come to the end of you're own earthly power and realize that you are a part of something much greater, much bigger than yourself.

Embrace these moments. Embrace and love this process. It is so not about having everything in order. It's all about coming under HIS order. It's so not about you getting everything right, but being humbled under HIS rightness so that you can become His righteousness.

"Except when you don't, because sometimes you won't." What beautiful moments to create precious, intimate times with Him. What beautiful moments to see yourself/your situations as He sees them. Not moments to be frustrated at your process, but to celebrate the deeper, more intimate connection you're getting to have because of them. Just another weapon to destroy the works of the enemy. Causing what we used to deem 'failure' as greater opportunity for deeper relationship. Wow. Can't think of anything more disarming or liberating.

So go for it! Because, really in the arms of the one you can trust. What can you lose? "Oh, the Place You'll go!"

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fall and what comes along with it...school

Well, the Halloween candy is set at Target, fall cosmetic shades are being stocked, and pumpkin spice lates will soon be tempting me every time I drive past a Starbucks. Yes, fall is here and along with it school and all of the busy-ness that seems to come simultaneously.

For me, one week from today I will have the honor of starting my 2nd year at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry here in Redding, Ca. I say honor, because the honor really is mine. Sure, I will walk out next spring having learned and experienced so much. And no doubt I will learn more in one year than a seemingly longer period elsewhere. But the honor really is mine. To sit under this calober of teaching. To go to a church where so much is happening. Where miracles and signs and wonders are just a natural part of the DNA. A church where on any given Sunday I go and meet people from nations all over the world. Where I look around and there are doctors, former gang members, teachers, the homeless. People from every walk of life in a glorious, beautiful mess...people who are passionate about The Lord and making Him known.

This year of school is so different for me. Last year as I walked into 1st year I had no idea what to expect. I had no expectations. I literally went to 1st year out of obedience to The Lord. In my mind I was done with school. I wanted to go DO something. But The Lord had other plans and it is safe to say that I learned things about my life, my future, that I would have never learned had I not been there. 2nd year is different. As I walk in next week I feel that I have a very clear picture of what I'm going after, what I hope to see. I'm sure God will change some or all of that because that's kind of how I operate with Him. But I am so excited to see all that awaits me there.

This blog is to serve as an update for those who care to know...
-I start 2nd year next week, September 3rd.
-2nd year is designed to do more leadership develop, offering more leadership opportunities, including the chance to travel with pastors from the church here.
-in 2nd year there's more freedom to choose more focused classes on specific things.

I believe part of this year includes for me:
-gaining vision for future ministry including a vision for what my role is in the Middle East of just in general.
-opportunity to make connections with people all over the world that I will be working alongside for years to come.
-learning as much as I can from leadership here, more of an opportunity to connect and glean from them.
-chances to lead worship again and hopefully travel to speak, etc.
-beginning to learn Arabic.

Other things I have going on:
-helping in a ministry that works overseas in Ireland. Being as involved in this as I can.
-working 30 hours at Target, one evening a week at a bakery to subsidize.
-in the process of joining a missions board so that when I'm out of school I am covered and ready to begin in the area of my life.

So yes, this is what's going on. Life is very full, but very good. I would love if you would pray that I get everything out of this year of schooling as I possibly can and everything that I'm supposed to. Pray that work wouldn't be overwhelming for me, that The Lord would provide pockets of time and energy to develop deep, strong relationships. And that when its His timing I would be able to step out of work and into ministry as a vocation.

I am still in the process of raising funds for school. It is my dream that school would be paid by day 1. This way I wouldn't have to worry at all, and I would immediately be able to start traveling (a certain portion of our tuition goes to traveling).

Thank you so much for loving me and standing with me in prayer. If you do feel like you would like to give towards tuition I would so appreciate it. Thank you for partnering with me in whatever way The Lord leads.

Much love,
Lara

To give:
Go to ibssm.org, on the bottom click on "give to tuition" type my name in. Push give towards tuition. Or you can send a check to Bethel Church ATTN: BSSM Tuition 933 College View Drive,  Redding, CA  96003 and put a note in with my name.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We are not, nor can we be forgotten.

We all have moments of weakness. Moments when we take our eyes off of The Lord, off of all that He's done for us, all that He is. Last night I found myself in one of those moments. I found my myself journaling and in one instance wrote the following line, "papa God, please don't forget me."

This, of course made me stop. How could God ever forget me? Why was I believing the lie that He could forget me? And what was making me feel that way? You see, we have a choosing to make when we recognize that there is a lie in our minds that is winning over the truth. We have a choice to make; believe the lie and listen to our emotions, or replace the lie with the truth and no matter what the emotions or feelings, believe that truth.

Last night, feeling like I was forgotten by The Lord was the lie that was trying to gain ground in my mind and heart. It would have been really easy to look into my life and find proof to support that lie. I could have found ground to justify my feelings. But instead, I went looking for the truth. And I didn't have to look far.

I first went to the 'fear nots' of Isaiah.
Isaiah 41:10 "fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
41:13 "for I, The Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, 'fear not, I am the one who helps you.'"
43:1-2 "but now thus says The Lord, he who created you, o Jacob, he who formed you, o Israel; 'fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you will not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."
54:4-5 "fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded for you will not be disgraced; for you  will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood, you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is his name; and the holy one of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth He is called."

After Isaiah I was reading a book assigned for 2nd year and there was this quote: "We should live in such perfect love (with The Lord) that we could not even imagine His failing us or forgetting us."

Next The Lord reminded me of this thought of Jesus:
"Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfect of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2) I can't think of anyone who had more grounds to feel 'forgotten' by the father. Carrying the sins of the world, dying AS sin even though He knew no sin. And yet He did it, and why? Because of the joy set before Him. That joy is me. That joy is you.

Needless to say, I repented of feeling forgotten and I've changed the way that I think. We are locked in His slight, we are before His gaze. We just need to remind ourselves of that. As we press in to go deeper in relationship with Him, we will have to remind ourselves of that even more. He does not abandon us, He does not set us up to fail, and He cannot possibly forget about us. If you find yourself here, in the place where it would be easy to prove the point that The Lord has somehow forgotten you, I can tell you with great confidence that He has not. He cannot. He is love, and love does not reject, does not neglect, and does not forget how to love.

You are not forgotten.


L

I woke up this morning of news that proved this. It is an amazing testimony of Gods goodness yet again. He hears our cries and our prayers and knows exactly what we need and when we need it.