Friday, October 17, 2014

Praise for Heaviness

Heavy.
If I had one word to describe my last 2 weeks, it would be heavy. Though I am absolutely loving everything I'm doing, everything I'm learning and the people around me-everything I've been doing has felt heavy. It's like I've been walking through muck. This probably has nothing to do at all with my circumstances and everything to do with the fact that I can't seem to get 2 nights in a row that I actually sleep. It's crazy how lack of sleep can make everything feel so much worse than it actually is.

So. For this blog I've decided that I need to do or write something that's not heavy. We'll see how it goes...

Gratitude has this way of disarming things that seem to be threatening our growth or current circumstances. Gratitude has this way of taking our focus off of what's not happening and placing it on the extravagant things that are happening. Gratitude, I believe, is one of the things that our generation is missing on a fundamental level, and may just be the key to us becoming all that we want to be.

So, come on a journey with me. Think of your life right now, and no matter how 'bad' things feel work to look for the things you can and should be outrageously grateful and thankful for. Make a list and cultivate it in your life every day. I think you will be amazed and surprised at the dreams you are currently living out that you didn't even know you had. I know I am living out some things that I wouldn't have even known to ask the Lord for to begin with...but that's another blog for another time.

Let's cultivate gratitude.

Today...I am beyond grateful for:

  • My love for really good coffee and people that make it for me.
  • Beginning to put legs to my dreams concerning mission work
  • my brain; the way I think, organize, strategize and even obsess over certain things. I am learning that I love the way that I think and that when I use my mind under the leadership of the Holy Spirit it is a powerful tool. 
  • Being able to serve a Father at my church. I am learning so much just watching, observing and interacting with Paul
  • My beautiful mission agency who loves so well, asks all of my questions and gives such beautiful covering.
  • How the lord is providing in interesting, though unpredictable ways. The fact that for the first time in my life I don't have a physically taxing job that hurts my body. That though I have the lowest amount of income I've ever had, I still have enough to pay bills and eat well.
  • My crazy awesome, incredibly talented fellow intern team. I mean, we are the dream team and could probably conquer the world with our gift mixes. Just saying.
  • The power of healthy confrontation. It is so good for us to grow deeper through confrontation and holding 'accounts' for our abilities. It's uncomfortable but I am so thankful that God is teaching me to voice needs, concerns and to go to a deeper level with people. 
  • My family...the promises we are walking into and even that there is nothing that can keep us away from each other.
  • Getting to go to beautiful places.
  • Friends who love to walk excessive miles and talk excessively while doing it. 
  • Having a Christmas coming up that I will NOT be working retail for. (PTL!)
  • My inherited ability to be able to bake, cook and create in that way....food should NOT be boring.
  • Resounding hope that never stops because it is anchored in eternity.
  • IT'S FINALLY FALL!
  • The ability to grow, and God's grace when we get it wrong.
  • My Swiss sister and our Saturday Skypes. She is constantly challenging me to be better and loving me when I'm not better. 
These are just a few of mine today...what are some of yours? It seems silly but I just feel like it's so necessary. For me, it's all too easy to constantly see what's not right, to see what I'd love to be different or to change. But today, may you see the potential everywhere because you see all the things that you are blessed with. 

I kind of view it as beauty for ashes. I know God is the one that exchanges beauty for ashes in our circumstances but I think it's time that we (and I'm talking to ME!) stop focusing on the 'ashes' of our lives, and start to focus on the beauty. Let's see the beauty and know that the ashes aren't too big for God to overcome. Let's exchange our heaviness for Praise. Let's be thankful and grateful for what is and continue to go on a journey trust Him for what is not yet.

Let's be overwhelmed not by heaviness, but by gratefulness today.

Blessings,
Lara


Friday, October 3, 2014

I submit.


I’ve been doing a lot of planning lately. Planning my own schedule is something I don’t think I’ve ever been able to do, at least not fully. I’ve always had a consistent job, school, church obligations, etc. And now, besides 2 meetings every week I can do whatever I want to, whenever. I’ve been absolutely loving it, finding so much joy and freedom in being able to pursue whatever I’d like to in the best parts of my day. Sleep works wonders for the soul and most of the time though I work on things for 8-10 hours a day, I don’t feel as though I’ve worked at all.

It’s a joy, and yet every night I have a deeper and deeper revelation that I can’t plan my way out of a paper bag. Administration is one of my strongest gifts and I love to create structure…I’m a builder, organizer and creator by nature. Details are something I can’t not see…trust me, I’ve tried (anal is the word that comes to mind). So it’s not that I’m not good at planning, it’s just that without this great big gift submitted the one who’s given it, it yields absolutely nothing of value.

It’s funny and sad at how often we forget what's important in the kingdom. I am sad to say that there are so many days that I’ve administrated myself right out of having to love people, out of sacrificing my energy and time to care for those around me. I get so busy with 'stuff' (that might be important) that I forget that the kingdom is all about people, not tasks.

In a previous blog I wrote about the fact that I am the biggest and deepest dreamer I know. I have crazy and extravagant dreams and this is one of the first seasons of my life that I’ve had time and energy to begin to put my attention on making them a reality. But, without this beautiful gift in full submission to the one who owns it, excellence can quickly turn into criticism, cynicism and an overwhelming sense of seeing every detail that is wrong with anything. But under submission, oh, what a beautiful thing. Building structures to house and sustain His glory. Putting feet to dreams, excellence, etc.

No matter what your giftings, may we all work hard to use them with wisdom and in full submission to the one who gave that gift to begin with. It’s not enough to simply submit our weaknesses to Him, we must submit all of who we are-especially the parts of us that we think are strong.

I came across a prayer that I wrote out a few years ago. While it’s simple, I was struck by the profoundness of how I need to pray this even more now that I am actually coming alive and able to use my strengths. For most of my life I’ve seen God’s power because I was operating in areas of my personal weaknesses, but now that I am hitting my stride like never before…I recognize my need for Him even more in every moment.

I submit to your timings.
I submit to your knowing.
I submit to the control of your Spirit.
I submit my dreams and longings, all to your will for the glory of your name.
I submit my heart; it's aches and its joys.
I submit my mind; every thought and perception.
I submit my whole self to you, oh God, a willing servant to the cause of your kingdom. 
Every breath, every tear, every word and song shall ever be written for eternity.
This is my sacrifice, the only thing good enough to give; here's my life.
Amen.


I am profoundly humbled, more vulnerable than ever with my strengths showing because without Him in authority over them, I could never be enough. But when fully submitted, it will beautiful to watch His strength being expressed through me.

L

Monday, September 29, 2014

Where are we Going Again?

This one is written for all of my friends, the ones that find themselves in seasons where they often find themselves asking the Lord, "So, where am I going again?" Perhaps it's just my personality and the way that I function, but I find it hard to give of myself, my time and my energy if I don't see the bigger picture and purpose. If I don't see how this is having a positive effect, or how it is taking me to where I want to get to at times it could be tempting to feel like I am doing nothing 'of value.'

But the fact is that we are not on the way to a perfected destination; to a perfect place, job, ministry, or personality. Rather we are on a journey towards a person, and His name is Jesus. He longs for us to be as close as possible to Him, with no space in between. I guarantee that if we live our lives with our pursuit being solely towards Him, we will live a life that is full. A life that is beautiful and accomplishes more than we ever could with our best energy in pursuit of 'all that he has for us.' Tell me, how can we know what he has for us, if we are not pursuing him relentlessly?

This way of thinking has revolutionized my life. I have always been a destination person. I felt, when I was in high school that my life would be so much better when I got done, graduated and moved on. I felt that when I was in college that once I was married that I would feel a sense of fulfillment, and deeper joy. I felt that once I was out of college, if I would find a job where I was actually using my skill set and getting paid well then I would know that I was on the right track. I felt like once I was in Redding my life would make so much more sense and I would know where I was going with every plan and purpose mapped out.

That's just silly, I know, but how many of us live like this? We ask little kids, 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' I love this because I am a huge fan of dreaming and dreamers, I have not met a bigger one. But I never, ever want to put any pursuit or any dream above the simple dream of pursuing Him at any cost, and the desire to be as close to Him as possible. He accomplished everything on the cross, and did so so that He could dwell within us. But it is still our choice daily to pursue Him in all that we do and to realize that as we do that, we are doing the most valuable thing that there is.

And as we pursue Him, we watch as our dreams come true. We watch as things click into alignment for us in ways we'd never expect and watch as we stop underestimating His power in us and through us. I wonder how many of us are in seasons that frustrate us simply because our focus is totally wrong?

I have decided that for the rest of my life, He is my ultimate pursuit. This has refocused me, humbled me, made me repent, and made me come alive in a completely new way. We are on a journey toward a person do not allow any dream or circumstance to overtake that awareness.

All else will fade away. He will remain.

L

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Great Motivator

I've heard people say that fear is a powerful motivation for change.

In the past few weeks I've been in a place where I've been made aware of how much I would love to see change both in my external and my internal world. And yet....this statement makes me laugh. For true and powerful change I cannot think of a worse motivator than fear. Fear of the lord, perhaps, but certainly not any other kind of fear.

Today, as I was processing through a bit I had a really deep revelation, one that has begun to wash over me like warm oil in the deepest parts of my heart, mind and emotions. I'm entering a season in which every single thing I'm facing is absolutely new. I am starting an internship, starting training for missions work, and I have no job with bills that pretty much I cannot pay....and yet, I realized I have no fear of what's to come.

Have you ever had crazy situations like that? Where you should be totally petrified, but yet you're not at all? Like not even an ounce of fear? For me, those are some of the most powerful moments that show me that not only is God real, but He's very near, and very kind. He is so good to us.

This made me think of a few verses that He's been pounding into me in this last season of life:
"Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!" (Psalm 27:14)
and again,
"Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!" (Psalm 31:24)

Such a simple command and yet profound...at times, we have to LET our hearts take courage. If God feels the need to remind us to do this...it must mean the opposite is true. It isn't circumstances or even the forces of evil that cause us to fear...it's US allowing ourselves to fear. If we have to let our hearts take courage and be strong, we must be the ones that allow ourselves to fear and be afraid. I realize that there are powerful things that happen, but the choice is always still ours.

Could we have the strength and courage to stop worrying, to stop stressing over burdens that are not ours, over things that do not matter and just turn into Jesus? Could we just run to His refuge and actually believe that He really is enough? What would Christians talk about if we didn't pass worry and fear off as prayer points, caution or even wisdom?

But that's a whole other blog for another time...bringing this back into my journey of the day. I realized today that fear is a terrible motivator. I'd like to suggest that we readjust ourselves towards His kindness. If Romans is true and it's 'His kindness that is intended to lead us to repentance'...then surely this means that His kindness will cause us to make the best of decisions.

God's kindness is the best motivator. That's my statement today, the whole point of all of this blabbing. I hope, that for those of you who are in the midst of change, which is pretty much everyone I know, that you will find your purpose, your motivation, your courage within His kindness. If you are motivated by that, how can you choose wrong?

If you've been struggling with fear, or have fallen into a place where you have passed it off as 'normal' repeat and declare this prayer over yourself:

Father, I allow myself to feel freedom from any unnecessary load that I feel I need to bare. I extend grace, not only to others but to myself. Oh lord, keep me from passing any blame to anyone, even myself for my feelings. 

And oh lord, help me to treat myself with the kindness of heaven. The kindness that nourishes us, that makes us alive to your beauty and love. The kindness that heals even the deepest of hurts. The kindness that protects our already-secure identity that is found in your eyes. 

I choose your kindness, this day, as my motivation towards change and towards hope. I choose this day to allow my heart to take courage, knowing that you are able to take care of any mistakes I may make. 

Fear is but a shadow of what could be if you have the courage and strength to look beyond the vail. It is my prayer that we, as Christians, in this season of our lives will live in the fullness we can have for the sake of the lives we are meant to influence.

L

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Awaiting Adventures

I am settling back into life here in very hot, sunny California! I have had an amazing summer, with the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my family, church family back in Iowa and many friends. It has been such a blessing and time of refreshing.

I started my Summer, as you know, training with a missions organization called World Indigenous Missions (WIM) out of New Braunfels, Tx. WIM’s mission is “Discipling the Nations to reach the world.” They are a small missions organization and really are a big family. While I am officially a WIM missionary I will continue to do my pre-field training for them throughout the year including taking the perspectives course online. When I am done with pre-field training I will look for a place to do my on-field training with an already established missionary. When that is done and I feel released to do so I will be off to language school.

I have a long-term goal of working in the Middle East. While I don’t know the exact timing of that, or what I will be doing, exactly, it is where my heart is and it is a place that is desperately in need of light. It is my belief that the Middle East’s best days are in front of her and I will do whatever I can to help fulfill the great commission in that region of the world.  As you look all over scriptures, you see that the Lord will be known and exalted all over the earth and I am thankful for the part that I get to play in that.

Myself and the 5 others that trained with WIM this year. They will serve in Africa, Palestine/Israel and Central America.

This year I will continue to help Jim and Brenda VanWinkle with their ministry Bespoken International; which works primarily in leadership training and ministry in Ireland as well as the fact that Brenda is an author. I help them with some office needs as well as ministering when we travel. Brenda and I are actually travelling to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland 2 weeks from tomorrow! This is primarily why I wrote today. We will be in the Belfast September 4-8 attending and participating in a conference that is for all the Celtic Nations. (The Gathering of the Clans) We then will travel to the Republic September 8-15 to meet and minister with several groups of people and individuals.  Please keep us in your prayers as we prepare to go and as we travel. Also, please pray that all costs will be taken care of on this trip.

Upon return from Ireland I will be jumping straight into my 3rd year at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. I will be interning this year with one of my pastors, Paul Manwaring. I don’t know what that will all entail yet but I know that God has good things in store. I have opportunities to travel with him, as well, this year and am praying about which trips to pursue.

This year is filled with opportunities and I am so thankful for everything that God has put in front of me. While I know I have a lot of hard choices to make, I am excited about the adventure. Thank you for being a part of my story and my life. God is up to so many good things in the world, and what an honor that we get to be a part.

In Him,
Lara



To give through WIM:
Make checks payable to:
World Indigenous Missions (or WIM)
PO Box 310627
New Braunfels, Tx 78131-0627
I am Missionary #276 (put in memo line or on a note with the check. DO NOT put my name on the check)
(I have envelopes available)
Or give online at:

There are several ways you can keep up with me this year as I adventure. 
-Email me:
larahochstetler@gmail.com
-Read my Blog:





Thursday, August 14, 2014

Twenty Six and Time for a New Level

If there is one thing that I know, it's that trust certainly is a journey. No matter how confident we become in our relationship with the Lord He is constantly drawing us deeper and further in. As I like to put it, He longs for there to be absolutely no space between us. He wants to be as close as possible in every aspect of our lives. We all know that He's done His part, that's why Jesus came and why He left us the most precious gift ever given in the Holy Spirit. But, we as humans are bombarded with things; choices, circumstance, illness, the news; all of which can distract us.. And if we are not in the practice of renewing our minds, consciously being aware of His presence in every moment and not allowing ourselves to get too busy we unfortunately allow distance to come in-between us and the most important relationship that we have. I'm certainly guilty of this.

In different seasons of our lives, trust will certainly look different and as we grow stronger in faith more is demanded of us. Not demanded in a harsh, dictator sort of way but because if our relationship is healthy, we will long to give God more and to not withhold anything from Him. We will want to make decisions with Him, as He would make them. That's the way love works, is it not? If you totally trust someone, aren't you willing, out of that love, to do anything to protect, value and strengthen that relationship? We don't grow in trust because we have to perform for His love, but rather, we grow in trust because no matter what we do, the Lord is constantly proven trustworthy. He is always proven faithful. Who wouldn't want to eliminate the space that exists with someone who is love Himself and has proven Himself over and over?

And yet, it's a journey. It's a constant choosing, often against every emotion in our body to say 'yes' and to trust against every circumstance, every emotion and often times the doubts of those closest to us. I want my life to sing a constant and consistent 'yes' to Him. I have for the past 3 years asked myself, "What can He do through someone who is simply willing?" I think I have yet to see most of the answer to that question, but I do know this: groundwork is being laid in my life that I know cannot be shifted easily by circumstances. No lack of money or resources can withhold me from trusting a most trustworthy Father. And despite any fear or doubt...I am certain that because I am pursuing Him, ground is constantly being taken for the kingdom.

The last year of my life has been a wild one. This day last year feels like a moment ago, a blink of time and yet as I process my 25th year I see that it has grown me in ways that I hadn't anticipated. I have done so much when the temptation all year I felt was the belief that I was doing so little. I have travelled more than a lot of people do in 5 years; ministering to people I never dreamed I could, I have completed my 2nd year of ministry school. I survived working 25-35 hours a week while doing school. I have joined a mission organization. I quit my job. I've made a lot of life decisions that should have been very hard, and yet...they really weren't. It's amazing how decisions that could rattle us don't any longer when we understand where our lives are, which is in the palm of His almighty, trustworthy, faithful hand.

But this is my journey, and your journey is going to look different. The Lord probably isn't asking you to quit your job, or give your life to minister to others, though He might be. He might be asking you to raise your family, to work and gain resources and favor. He might be asking you to take a risk and talk to your neighbors, to influence the school systems, to be faithful where you are. No matter where you are, He is asking you to trust Him in a deeper way, and in a deeper capacity. It's time we go to another level, all of us. Not because we have to, but because He's inviting us to an even greater place in relationship. As I look to start my 26th year of life I challenge you, and myself to pursue an even greater level of trust understanding that it will be another journey. A journey that will surely take us closer to His heart....

In every moment, let us resolve to trust Him...at times warring against the fear we feel and any doubt. Is He not faithful? Will He not do exceedingly more than we can ask or imagine? Is He not worthy of our trust? Let's look at life square on in full confidence that He is who He says He is. Let us pursue Him with the knowledge that we are completely loved, completely valued and completely believed in. Let's do this.

Let's show the world what people who trust the Lord unreservedly look like.

L

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Just" a song.

So I had posted this on July 23rd...or so I thought. My apologies for anyone who had tried to read it but couldn't. Now here it is! 


This song. 

I just can't stop singing it. I know it's not perfect. I know my voice is less than amazing and impressive. I know I use the same chord structure over and over. I know I have recording equipment that is...well, an ipad. But, goodness...it's just where I am. I can't stop singing it. I won't ever stop singing it.

I'm so glad that God makes beauty out of ugly. That He makes clean and pure out of dirt. He is so, ridiculously good to us. His grace really is sufficient for us. And His grace is completely scandelous. It makes me love Him more, it makes me want to live pure and holy...set apart unto Him. It gives me courage and hope to live in a way that may not make sense to anyone else...a life that I know pleases Him. 

In weeks where I feel like I've failed, or in times when I feel like my life isn't moving forward or like I have nothing to 'show' or 'prove' my worth, or my successes; I am reminded that Jesus is the one that gives me all of that. Kingdoms may come and go, but He never passes away. And as I told my church this week; I, in myself have absolutely nothing to offer. I cannot give you anything, but I have the one who has everything. I know the one who knows all things...I can offer you that-and that is the most beautiful gift anyone could offer. 

This song. I cannot stop singing it. And I pray I never do. No matter the wisdom I gain. No matter the awards. No matter the spotlight. No matter all of my accomplishments, or lack thereof:


I lean not on my own understanding, my life is in the hands of the maker of heaven.
I give it all to you God, trusting that you'll make something beautiful out of me.
I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open.
There's nothing I hold onto.
My heart is wide open to you.


https://soundcloud.com/unrestedrejoice/enough
(click this if you want to hear it)